Output list





franciman's (franciman on UKA) UKArchive
454 Archived submissions found.
Title
Golgotha (posted on: 17-06-16)
It's not really poetry. It's born of grief, burning anger and despair. The assassination of Jo Cox is a direct consequence of politicians being adept at practising on our base, venal beliefs and fears. They should be ashamed; but then, so should we all...

The Devil came to Yorkshire. A baseball-capped Dark Angel, listening to voices, making choices between Philistine and Maccabee. The Song of Ruth is stilled. Our politicians willed this crucifixion that killed one more pascal lamb. They preached Crusade and lied. Made capital from plebiscite born of vested interest; to cleave the soul of a Sceptred Isle. Jesus weeps and Jo Cox sleeps among the righteous. It gives us pause yet will not cause the death of this infernal Referendum.

Archived comments for Golgotha
Mikeverdi on 17-06-2016
Golgotha
Never a truer word written. Well penned Jim. The bile spread like jam in this campaign is a complete disgrace to all parties involved. No one comes out with clean hands.
Mike

Author's Reply:

sweetwater on 18-06-2016
Golgotha
A very fitting summing up of the whole sorry mess the politicians have created bringing shame upon themselves, and the horrific and untimely death of a young wife and mother. I am disgusted by the way this whole campaign has been handled, it is possibly the most important decision in our lifetime but has been treated as a farce by those running it. These are hard hitting and truthful words beautifully expressed. Sue.

Author's Reply:

Savvi on 18-06-2016
Golgotha
Expressive and weighted Jim, a portal into the abhorrent reality that surrounds us. Best Keith

Author's Reply:

pdemitchell on 19-06-2016
Golgotha
I have had some of this as a local councillor with people being told in a recent election that I, personally, am building hosues on school fields for illegal immigrants!. People believe it without the most basic of research. Well writ expose, Jim, of the worst excesses of the human soul. Mitch

Author's Reply:

Pronto on 20-06-2016
Golgotha
A well written poem sir. I did not agree with her politics maybe I would have argued with her over them had I had the chance but never would I have harmed her. She was passionate in her beliefs and actions. That a sick twisted individual committed such a heinous crime out of hatred saddens me immeasurably.

Author's Reply:

gwirionedd on 01-07-2016
Golgotha
Are you suggesting that politicians, or the real powers-that-be, were behind her murder?



Author's Reply:
No, mate. I'm not a conspiracy theorist. I simply feel that both sides of brexit referendum talked up crude and biased xenophobia. Jo Cox was a casualty of their lies and deceit...


The Visitor (posted on: 02-05-16)
Giving a modern day Pilgrim a bed. It is the single most cogent reason I have for walking the Pilgrim Path from my home in France to Santiago de Compostella. This year or next, health permitting.

He asked me for shelter, I gave it him gladly. He'd walked a long way since the dawn's early light. With miles still to travel he viewed his map sadly. I offered a meal and a bed for the night. He appeared to be wary, but even more weary. He looked at the clouds and the darkening sky. Then nodded agreement, though his eyes held a query. He'd not see the chance of a bed pass him by. Lowering the pack and guitar from his shoulders, he gazed at the fire that lighted the hearth. I heated some soup, and gave him a brandy. I said it was fine if he wanted a bath. He sat in the comfort of my simple cottage. He spoke of his parents; the family back home. He told me his life for a small mess of potage. Then back on the road in the morning, alone.
Archived comments for The Visitor
sweetwater on 02-05-2016
The Visitor
Superb writing, the rhythm and flow for me are perfect. Sue.

Author's Reply:
Thank you so much Sue.
Pleased you enjoyed this, and gratified that you chose it as a favourite. This was one of my fondest memories; a young Dutchman walking from Rotterdam to Toulouse. He still writes to let us know where he's at.
cheers,
Jim x

pdemitchell on 04-05-2016
The Visitor
A gently ebby flowy lazy young Dutchman homage with potage whimsically rhymed with cottage. Who could want for more, Jim? except maybe a vase of tulips and a glass of schnapps.

Author's Reply:

pdemitchell on 04-05-2016
The Visitor
A gently ebby flowy lazy hazy daisy young Dutchman homage with potage whimsically rhymed with cottage. Who could want for more, Jim? except maybe a vase of tulips and a glass of schnapps.

Author's Reply:

Mikeverdi on 06-05-2016
The Visitor
A pilgrims progress, great story well told. You mention your own pilgrimage, would this be without Jackie? 😊
Mike

Author's Reply:


This Chequer-board of Nights and Days (posted on: 02-05-16)
The first draft of my first ever manuscript is now complete. This extract is from the final quarter.

'But helpless pieces of the game He plays upon this chequer-board of Nights and days; hither and thither moves, and checks and slays, And one by one back in the closet lays.' Jimmy cleared his throat, a reflex, self-conscious and self-effacing. 'You know it, Sir? Omar Khayyam? The Rubaiyat?' Alastair Aird sat stone-faced; impervious. Jimmy shrugged off his disappointment, making ready to explain the relevance. 'Again, Jimmy. Recite it again, please.' As he worked at nuance and articulation, Aird smiled in recognition of the message. 'Yes Yes, your Arab is he Arab? 'Persian, Sir. A long time dead.' The Colonel's head tilted; the action of a quizzical schoolboy. 'Well your ancient Persian might well have caught the complex absurdity of this filthy war. That was your your point? No?' 'Indeed, Sir. Although to be fair it was the Sergeant Major who mentioned the passage to me.' 'Smith? The CSM?' Aird snorted his disbelief. Brodie had been promoted a few short weeks before. 'He's very well read, Sir. Courtesy of Private Morrison who encouraged the interest in literature.' 'I don't understand these men as you do.' Jimmy stood to ponder that supposition. 'They can't be my brothers, sir, but they consider me one of theirs'. My face gives me entry. It makes me an equal. I suppose that's the nature of our comradeship.' 'They are brave. They're good soldiers. But that is simply what we expect from all our Highlanders.' He makes his case as though he were wading through this Flanders' slurry, thought Jimmy Drummond. He brought them back to solid ground, standing crouched in the dugout. 'I'll take a last trundle round our sentries, Sir.' He saluted. A debonair attempt to lighten the mood. 'Shall I have Gourlay summon up some char?' The nodded reply was peremptory, and Jimmy bent his frame to clear the dugout. Stewart had been made batman to them both, and had settled to the task. **** The rain had stopped. The silence loud with the steady drip of water on all sides. Jimmy Drummond poured whisky into tin cups for himself, Douglas and Rab Niven. The piper sat beneath a square of wet canvas, the fiddle tucked beneath his chin. Music floated above the trench, making slow turns in the heavy air. Lilting, longing, piercing the sodden consciousness of the listeners. The Captain handed him a mug as he brought the fiddle on to his knee. 'That was wonderful, Niven. Does it have a name?' Rab took a long pull on the whisky. 'It's called 'Hector The Hero'. Do you know the story of General Hector Maclean, sir? 'As a matter of fact, I do. From the Island of Lewis. Enlisted a Private and rose to the rank of Major General. Twice decorated for bravery and a brilliant record in command.' He stopped, aware that the two soldiers looked on in fascination. 'Committed suicide. Driven to it by a trumped up accusation of homosexuality.' The silence was complete. He let the stillness creep over the small sandbagged space. 'Jealousy, gentlemen. Fellow officers, comrades; low men who saw Sir Hector flying higher than they. The subsequent investigation found no case to answer.' Jimmy gulped down the whisky. 'Your music does the man great credit, Niven.' He lifted the flask. 'I'll save this for Brodie.' He found the fisherman in a shallow alcove. Brodie propped up the corner wall. He snored. A soft, sawing noise. He seems smaller. Fragile and at risk without his pal. The thoughts raced. The best soldier I have ever met. A tower of strength who never seems less than in charge: who has carried his pals through a living hell. 'Oh Fuck!' He said it, and was shocked. Startled, like the Sergeant Major. 'Captain Drummond?' Brodie got to his feet. 'Sorry, Sir, I just sat down for a minute...' 'For God's sake man, be at rest.' Jimmy pushed him back onto the plank. 'Sleep is all the innocence we have left, Brodie. We must learn to cherish it. Here.' He produced the flask. 'Lagavullin?' 'Afraid not old bean. Hence why I can be so free with it amongst the peasants.' Brodie felt the whisky heat spread across his belly; smiling in spite of himself. 'How much more will they ask of us, sir? We're willing. Of course we are. And brave; it's our trademark. But we're faded. Exhausted; mourning and wounded.' He was ill at ease. It's the side of Brodie that no-one else sees. Jimmy's unspoken thought made him aware of the privilege. He took a long, laboured breath. 'You don't need me to tell you what lies in front of us, Brodie. Two divisions of Guard Grenadiers. The Germans' finest. And they don't want us to open a gap in their line.' He paused. 'The ground is going to swallow us up. Men will drown unnoticed.' 'We need to get them ready then? Lots of new men. Green and cabbage-looking. We're missing the very best.' He paused to allow remembrance. 'Billy, Martin, Davy Gourlay...' 'And Fitz. A braver man I've yet to meet.' He held Brodie's gaze. 'Oddly shaped; a thing of shreds and patches, truly.' They laughed. 'But valiant beyond question.' Brodie raised the flask. 'Fitz. And the Rifles.' **** A week since the last rain. New islands emerged in the Flanders sea. Causeways offering safe, dry footing but leading nowhere. Broken promises; havens for cravens, Jimmy Drummond called them. The Third Battle of Ypres would be launched on the empty optimism of dry weather. Norman Barrington brought gifts. 'The wine is from St Emilion, Jimmy. Puisseguin. Do you know it? Really good Bordeaux. The Division Quartermaster has an old friend down on the Gironde.' There were two dozen bottles in the bed of the car. They sat alongside a large, hessian sack brim full of fresh bread. 'There are these as well.' Norman held aloft a string of sausages. 'Les Veritables saucisson. A gift from Monsieur Saunier, the baker.' Alastair Aird broke a loaf in two, absorbed in the smell, and sound of the crisp crust. 'Wonderful, isn't it, Alastair? I'm billeted on the poor man. He turns these out every morning in life.' Battalion HQ was the shell of a Farmhouse between the first and second-line trenches, the island reachable via a plank bridge. Harsh sun drew foul vapours, and the ruins appeared to float on the mist. 'Perhaps you might advise your chums at Division Intelligence, Norman. A couple of the Royal Navy's dreadnoughts might be the ideal assault force.' The smile was evil; destructive. 'Or an amphibian division - men with webbed feet only.' 'You'll have to excuse his lordship, Norman. He's no great respecter of Staff officers; or staff-work for that matter.' Aird's urge to forgive lacked conviction. The major was surprised. He imagined a different relationship between them. 'Jimmy knows full well that we will prosecute our orders with the usual dedication. I expect no less of these men.' 'Thank you Alastair. Sorry. Colonel, Sir. Your father would have been so proud. I realise that might sound patronising, but he would have; his son the Colonel of the 7th Battalion, Black Watch Highlanders.' Alastair Aird chewed on the fresh bread, the action ponderous, automatic. Barrington faltered to uncomfortable silence. **** 'Give it to the men, Jimmy. It will take more than a fancy Bordeaux to frighten them.' Barrington had gone long since; duty done. The wine and victuals had been a genuine act of kindness. Jimmy lifted the wooden crate. 'Perhaps it's the tin mug, Sir? God awful way to treat a St Emillion, no?' He smiled. 'I walked through the cemetery at St.Valery. A summer's evening, getting on for dusk.' Alastair spoke to the horizon. 'You know the place? Under the hill?' He paused. 'Well, never mind. The point, I suppose, is that we all die. It's how we pay the debts we're due.' Aird lapsed into another silence; letting it stretch into an echoing void. 'You never met my father?' Jimmy shook his head as Alastair Aird harkened to his own echo. 'He died on a monstrous iron spiggot. I couldn't wrest dad's body from that rusting scrap metal ' Grief shone in his eyes, spilling unchecked. 'At St Valery, all the fathers lie at peace in these glass tombs, d'ye see? Their sons come to place flowers. They sit in the glass shelter and talk of their day; their triumphs; their pain. Peace that's denied my father and I.' 'I do understand, sir. Even by the foul standards of this interminable war, it must be a terrible memory?' Jimmy waited for reaction, Aird lost in memory. The splash of strong spirit brought him back. 'I'm afraid there won't be so many French sons visiting their father's grave. Though I do believe that contact will be maintained, no matter what.' Alastair took the whisky in a single gulp, ending the discussion. **** Alise stood behind the shoulder of the nurse. 'She says the stump is healing well. She asks that we rub surgical spirit over the surface... to build a callous; a thick, strong pad of flesh.' The nurse spoke in rapid French. Alise translated all but the last emphatic statement. Billy lay against the pillows, his gaze caught by everything except his handless arms. Doctor Tardeau took the nurse by the shoulder. They walked to the door; two French conspirators,Billy excluded from his own prognosis. A month,then. Four weeks of silence; sullen unrelenting silence. Alise spoke little. She left him with space to fill. It was an unspoken invitation to communicate. She acknowledged no time limit and yet... he frustrated her. She had read him the letter from a girl back home in Scotland. It had moved her. It should have moved him. Some sign. Anger. Regret. Remorse? Billy had stared at his truncated arms. **** The Rifles shared a similar silence. Men had fallen all the way across the mud plastered ridge. They stood in a circle. Wide-eyed, inclusive, a small besmirched fellowship. 'Oh to have Billy here.' Brodie scanned the group, nodding to the Colonel and passing on. 'He would have had the words. Verse tae make us proud of ourselves; beggin' your pardon, sir?' Aird turned to leave and found Jimmy Drummond's hand on his arm. 'What the devil...' Aird removed his adjutant's hand. Jimmy held the colonel's eye, then glanced at the men. 'They want you here, sir.' It was whispered, peremptory. 'Please.' Alastair walked from the circle as the noise intruded once again. 'It's tough for the Colonel, men.' Jimmy paused for thought. 'He's really grateful, no... proud; proud of all of you. Trust me, he's just not too good at showing it in front of you all. Sergeant Major. Stand the men down, will you?'He walked the C.S.M out of earshot.'Let's get them some hot food and a spot of rum, yes? And Brodie? For god's sake tell them we're pleased with them. Damn pleased.' **** The pencil lay on the table. Alise had left it. She hadn't lifted it along with the notebook. Billy sat through the afternoon, the only movement that of his head marking the passage of sunlight across the far end of the room. As the light touched the far wall he leaned forward and caught the pencil between both wrists. After three failed attempts he took the pencil between his teeth. He left the room as the light faded. Etched in the wood of the table was one word - 'Billy'
Archived comments for This Chequer-board of Nights and Days
pdemitchell on 04-05-2016
This Chequer-board of Nights and Days
I enjoyed this imaginitive ahuffle of snapshots in sepia and khaki ending with the tale of Handless Billy leaving his mark on a table. For a 'first ever' it is a well polished style although not a story per se but a series of eavesdroppings of a terrible War and enjoyable for a' that. Well done. Mitch

Author's Reply:

Mikeverdi on 06-05-2016
This Chequer-board of Nights and Days
So it's done then.... What now? Will you rush to publish? Oh the pain and the anguish starts.

It's a fine story Jim, you know that. I wish you well, and the rifles too.
Mike

Author's Reply:


Redemption (posted on: 22-04-16)
Based on an incredibly sad historical event...

The crisp staccato tap of heels on marble echoed in the high-ceilinged room. The wife of the Mayor of Clermont-Ferrand, was a beautiful woman. She carried herself with flair and poise. 'Nadine, it's been too long,' said the man behind the oversized desk. 'If you had made an appointment I could have allowed us more time.' 'There is no more time, Gabriel. You're sitting in Paul's office; you must know about this?' She thrust the paper at him. The Deputy Mayor edged around the desk. 'Don't touch me.' A sibilant whisper, 'You owe him that at least; as do I, God help me.' 'All I know is that our German Masters asked me to take over as Mayor.' Gabriel stood where her warning had halted him. 'Liar! The Germans never concern themselves with local politics. Everyone knows that.' 'Now you're being naive. God, do you know what it means to refuse them?' 'I know what it costs to be in bed with them,' she said as Gabriel retreated behind his desk. 'And I know what it cost to reach your bed, ma cherie.' 'Gabriel, I took you to my bed freely. Though not my bed - his bed, my husband's bed-our marriage bed. You once held my heart in the palm of your hand,' Her fingers formed a claw. 'You could have bunched your fingers and had me dead in front of your eyes.' She placed her hands on the desk. 'Now what? Does the smell of Jew offend you Gabriel?' She leaned close. 'You can't look me in the eye?' Gabriel Montpied kept his eyes on the dossier in front of him. 'Nadine.' he said, 'Nadine? Believe me it is a simple transfer; a political move; nothing more.' 'So you did know about it?' 'But of course, Nadine. It had to be validated by my office. It's there at the bottom of the order.' He pointed at the document in her hand. 'Monsieur Pochet-Lagaye and all family members are to be ready to travel on August 16th to a Jewish Labour Colony as directed. A deportation order?' She towered over him. 'His wife; mother; two daughters; even his sister? A patient in the Mental Asylum at Montferrand, Gabriel?' 'It's simple form Nadine; it's how they speak. You know they have this prejudice about the Jews. It's ridiculous; but what can we do?' 'Paul is French. He had to be for election to this office. His grandfather was Mayor here. He's the third member of the family to hold the office. What can you do?' she hissed. 'You can act like the man I once took you for, Gabriel. If not because it's the right thing, then for me. Because of the love you once felt for me,' 'I still love you Nadine.' 'Then save my husband. Our family.' 'I can't Nadine. It's too much; they would have me shot. I can get you out, but that is all.' When he looked up from his desk she was gone, the tap of her heels beating a dignified retreat. The wife of the ex-mayor was ignored. Employees and associates turned their backs. She met them with defiance, but the pain was in her eyes. The buildings around the Hotel de Ville were white in the bright, August sunlight. As she descended the steps she heard her name called. 'Madame Pochet-Lagaye, please a moment.' It was Yvette, her husband's secretary; ex-secretary now, she supposed. 'Please take this.' She handed Nadine a plain envelope, 'God be with you, and with Monsieur le Mayor.' She grasped both of Nadine's hands in her's before re-mounting the steps. Sitting in the back of the car, Nadine opened the envelope. A letter of safe passage and a rail ticket to Annecy on the Swiss border. It was in the name of M. Pochet-Lagaye, and signed by Gabriel. Not Monsieur or Madame, simply 'M'. Was her ex-lover giving her a choice, or was it simply a clerical error? When she arrived home, Paul paced the floor of their drawing room. 'Nadine darling. Thank God you're here.' He took her by the shoulders, sat her on the chair. 'I've tried everyone I know. It's impossible. I can't get you and the girls to safety. No-one will help. All our people here in the city have been shipped off East. Except those lucky enough to get out beforehand.' 'We won't leave without you. That's out of the question,' She took his hand. Paul knelt in front of his wife. 'You must go to Gabriel. He will surely save you?' After a long pause, Nadine looked at her husband. 'You know?' she whispered. Paul nodded wordless. 'You knew and you said nothing. Why Paul? You should have thrown me out; you should have denounced Gabriel. Why?' 'Because I love you,'. Nadine wept quietly. 'It was a mistake Paul. I thought I was in love with him; that he was a better man than you. Such a mistake. I don't deserve your love,' she said through the tears. 'Nevertheless, it is your's Nadine.' He stood once more, helping her to her feet. 'Now you must go to him for help.' 'Paul, you must take this. You must go tonight. Once you're safe I will go back to Gabriel. He will look after the girls and I.' She handed him the papers. 'It's the only way to get you out. We will be safe with Gabriel. The War will end soon and we can be together again.' Paul shook his head, but they knew it was the only answer. On the evening of 15th August, Nadine received a telegram. It simply said, 'Arrived Safe.' Suitcases and chests were piled in the corner of the drawing room. Dust covers draped over all the furniture. Dust motes swirled in the beams of early evening sunlight, and Nadine permitted herself a moment of smiling reflection. Soon she had gathered her two daughters and walked with them to their bedroom. Nadine's phone call had taken Gabriel by surprise. He found the girls and their mother dead in the bedroom. Nadine still held Paul's photograph. A week later Gabriel resigned as Mayor and the municipal administration followed suit. The Jewish community which had persisted in Clermont since 400 AD had gone forever.
Archived comments for Redemption
pdemitchell on 24-04-2016
Redemption
"the tap of her heels beating a dignified retreat." Didn't ring true in this otherwise powerful Vichy descriptive. Why a dignified retreat? The fading steps should tap-tap-tap at his conscience, not hers.

Tense error in " When she arrived home, Paul paced the floor of their drawing room." Was pacing - as the past progressive is better or " she found Paul pacing the floor".

The later paragraphs mix actions and words by Nadine and Paul which confuses the reader and some of them are abrupt. However sharp and poignant snapshot of the cruelty and rampant anti-Semitism in Vichy France. Mitch

Author's Reply:
Thanks Mitch, and sorry for taking so long to reply.

I will fix the 'tense' error. Also the instance of both people speaking in the one paragraph. The abruptness is a stratagem to introduce more tension into the dialogue. Wood for trees from me!
The dignified retreat thing:- if there was one person with dignity in the scene it was Nadine, surely?
I appreciate the feedback, and I'm glad you enjoyed the piece.
cheers,
Jim

Mikeverdi on 25-04-2016
Redemption
I'll leave the critique as it's already sorted. I think the story is so worth while it's worth continued effort. I expect a re-post.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Thanks Mike.
I'll take another look, though it is a revised piece as it stands. In the meantime I've changed the two bits mentioned by Mitch. I don't intend extending the piece as it was written as a short/elongated flash.
Sorry I was late in replying, been busy finishing of the manuscipt.
cheers,
Jim


Above the Fireplace (posted on: 22-04-16)
The most telling reminder of a lost generation...

The thick serge manhood on display below some playful childhood in my eyes; fears of finding fellowship in death, so poses in its undernourished pride. I am a product of my place. A wide-eyed, coal-crust collier lad. A brawny, brantub, golden-harvest yeoman. A force-fed scholar, full of Bede and Falstaff. Believing as I do, Britannia needs me; I'll wrest undying glory from the mud. Then rest; assured my death serves purpose, the shredded carcass draped across her feet. Mum and Dad are promised sure; they do not lose a son, but rather gain a marble-mounted martyr. And I will be forever cast in stone. But that is for the morrow; Anglo-Saxon sorrow of my ancient line. Today, in polished frame I stand, a lion. The errant knight not yet a pascal lamb.
Archived comments for Above the Fireplace
pdemitchell on 24-04-2016
Above the Fireplace
Ever the soldier, ever the shadow: the line scratched on board and wrest in stone.... why the pascal (sic) or paschal lamb as a Hebrew sacrifice of an Anglo-Saxon knight? Lost me on the last line a tad but powerful stuff there! Mitch

Author's Reply:
Thanks Mitch.
The allusion is to the sacrificial lamb (pesach/passover in Aramaic and pacha, sacrificial dance in Babylonian) Christianity uses the lamb of God (Pascal Lamb)as the divine mystery explicit in Christ's crucifixion. My intention was also the allegorical nature of The Lion and the Lamb, often used in classical literature.
All to often we have called death in battle the ultimate sacrifice. Personally I call it the futile sacrifice, not subscribing to the notion of God,King and country.
Anyway, I'm now down off my soapbox!
cheers,
Jim

Mikeverdi on 25-04-2016
Above the Fireplace
Can't say I truly get the whole picture here, although as always it's a meaningful write. The triple 'A' in the drop down of the first verse...really? Not sure about that.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Hi Mike,
I'm a little disappointed you didn't get this. See my reply to Mitch for a bit of an explanation. The triplet below the first verse is the whole crux of the poem for me, though if you, the reader, don't get it, then it loses its impetus and value. c'est la vie, buddy! We can't win with them all...
Cheers for reading and commenting as always. There's not a lot of critique about these days.
Jim x


The Edge of Heaven (posted on: 08-04-16)
Such a Parcel o' Rogues in a Nation....

We have a tradition, it seems. Obscene dreams of grandeur. Frank Victorian superiority, that claims affinity with God. Our Empire, tenacious pink; draped across the dark continents. A puritan's shroud in an Anglican straitjacket. Underfoot, the natives stir the philosophical underground; where gods are found who will not save the queen. Echoes riccochet East and West. White settlers, knowing best, take time to grow unrest and populate the Commonwealth. It's not enough for some. Ireland leaves, in part. India tears her heart in two, and Scotland steals her stone. There's more to come. Some talk of different flags. The stalwarts of dominion out-perform the homeland. And all the time; along the edge of heaven, tax havens build small replicas of a late, great Britain..
Archived comments for The Edge of Heaven
gwirionedd on 08-04-2016
The Edge of Heaven
As bad as Nationalism may smell, it is still nonetheless infinitely preferable to the future that the EU, Merkel, and ten million self-hating, ethno-masochistic, pseudo-Leftist twats with their "Terrorists Welcome" and "Please Rape my Wife" banners have mapped out for us.

Nationalism is the new Socialism.

So, God save the rotting, ridiculous Queen.



Author's Reply:


Gaun Hame (posted on: 08-04-16)
I'm taking up dancing

There is a recent, strong revival of the Scots tongue. A lyrical language, derived from similar roots to English, that has survived almost exclusively in spoken Scots. It has been beaten out of my countrymen over a two hundred year period of 'Standard English' dominance. Until the mid 18th century it enjoyed a high literary reputation throughout Europe. Robert Burns gave it world renown in choosing to write magnificent verse in both tongues. Henceforth, my meagre contribution shall be to write bilingually. This piece is by way of a thrown gauntlet. To borrow the words of William Wallace at the Battle of Falkirk: I've brocht ye tae the ring. Gin ye daur dance? My first faltering steps... Gaun Hame Ma name comes frae these airts. This man o' pairts kens weel his place. I'll lie alang these stanes. Ain day when Mercy caws me hame. And folk will say 'y'iv din us proud. Tho' lad yer awfy keen and blithe tae jine the rest. Mither, lathe tae let me go, will hud me tae her breest, an' croon thae lang syne tunes. Tho faither wull just tut, an mutter that 'the coal needs gettin' in.' I hiv it tae look forrat tae. Wan day when twilicht's thru. But sure it isnae yet a while; a've ither fields tae pleugh
Archived comments for Gaun Hame
gwirionedd on 08-04-2016
Gaun Hame
Beautiful stuff, Jim. The Scots language is lovely, and needs a revival.

Shouldn't "twilight" be "twilicht"? It's a braw, bricht, muinlicht nicht the nicht that the Awmichtie has brocht after aw. That's what I thocht anyways.

I cannae speak the Doric mesel, but I've tried scriving in it.

Wid ye mind having a wee look at this?...

https://ukauthors.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=35327

...and telling me if it makes a scrap of sense to you whatsoever?



Author's Reply:
Archie, you are very kind. I have commented on Dalriada in its own box. It puts my much vaunted initial piece to shame. Love the verse, the sentiments and the love of lyric verse that comes across. It's couthie, cantie and aboun the Maist o' us.
Cheers,
Jim

Mikeverdi on 08-04-2016
Gaun Hame
You're on your own here Jim, I haven't a clue what's going on.
HaHaHa! 😁
Mike

Author's Reply:
Thanks anyway, you have my sympathies!
Cheers,
Jim

stormwolf on 09-04-2016
Gaun Hame

Great to see you venture into this style Jim. You do it exceedingly well. I am also not surprised that Archie appreciates it too as he also has a real love affair with language.
It's a dying art so great to see you resurrect it!
I came to love the Doric after many years in Aberdeen but more from living amongst the farming people for two special years. It has words that cannot even be translated to anything equivalent in English..it's more an emotion / feeling contained in a word.
Well done
Alison x


Author's Reply:

sweetwater on 09-04-2016
Gaun Hame
I have read this several times, as the more I read the more I can actually read ( if you get my meaning ) I love the use of the tradition language it fascinates me, and the poem itself has such a lovely feel of belonging, I especially enjoyed the last two verses. Sue.

Author's Reply:


Home and Hearth (posted on: 08-04-16)    
It's as near as I'll ever get to 50 Shades of Gray...

'It's not home.' Billy smiled as he said it. 'Home is back there. God help us; the arsehole of the Empire.' They both laughed. It prolonged the holiday mood in the old coastal bus. Jimmy Hughes wore his new civvie suit. Two days old and as jagged as a thistle. Shirt, shoes, collars and studs; all new. The gift of a grateful sovereign said the barracks sergeant. And with all due credit to the King, he had a great many de-mob gifts to buy. Which explained the cheapness of the cut. He saw Billy clean the window with his elbow. The action caught his attention. 'Is it my stump, Jimmy? you must have seen plenty of these back at Kirkliston.' 'I'm sorry Billy... it's just... well, how does it feel? I mean... 0h Christ, I don't know what I mean... if you know what I mean?' Jimmy's appeal had them laughing again. Until the racking cough brought it all to an embarrassed end. 'Where will you stay, Billy? Jennifer and I could put ye up..' 'Ta for the offer pal, but I'm sure you two need the space to be together again.' Jimmy looked at the wide expanse of the river Forth and Billy gave him time to consider. 'Up here,' Billy tapped his head. 'Here my hand still exists. I feel it. God, I see it..' The smile was forced. 'Ye know that everybody we know will notice the wounds. They don't live with the damages like we do. We have to give them time to come to terms with us. We're the ones who've changed, Jimmy.' 'Jennifer visited twice. She was afraid to hold me. You mustn't do that Jimmy. Please Jimmy, think of your condition.' His head was on his chest. Billy leaned close to catch the rest. 'After eighteen months apart I thought we would... well you know? She wanted none of it. Sex, Billy. My... wife wouldn't. And it was something we enjoyed before. Before this.' The roiling cough gave emphasis to the whispered confession. 'Give her time, man. She hasn't changed. Maybe she just feels guilty she didn't try hard enough to keep you at home? But now the two of you have the rest of your lives. One o' the lucky ones, eh?' 'The medics don't share your confidence. One lung, Private Hughes. One lung, and that not the best.' The imitation was accurate; a theatrical caricature meant to lighten the mood. It failed. 'I think it's a punishment.' A low, agonised whisper. 'For Ewan Campbell. Helping tae kill a brither.' 'Leave it now, Jimmy. That cannae be laid at your door. You have to stop it now; before you get hame tae Jennifer.' All talk ceased, as both men digested the cold reality of life hereafter. Billy got out at Pittenweem.. He rose from his seat and pushed something into Jimmy's top pocket. 'Smile Jimmy. Big smiles when you meet the wife. Mind now. Safe hame.' Jimmy Hughes held the Five Pound note in both hands. He stared long and hard at the bounty until his tears blurred the vision. **** It was what they called "A braw drying day" The wind barrelled in from the sea; cloud chasing, quick cooling. Billy had been crushed in Mrs Black's embrace. Her old lodger, the returning hero, 0f course she had a room for him. He felt the quickening, surprised at the strength of his excitement. May sunlight raced across the fields. Film shuttering from the cinema that Billy could almost hear. And Anstruther slumbered in the crease of the bay. 'Aye lad. It's a grand day, is it no?' The two old fishermen knew him only as a fighting Scot. It was enough for a casual greeting. Billy hesitated. The Haven; he hadn't been here since January 1915. Still it was an easier option than facing Anne. He would face her after a pint or two of Sandy Guthrie's magic ale. The big, bluff landlord had seen all the returning youngsters. He was well placed to observe and compare. It had made him a very successful businessman. He knew his customers. 'Is there a story, Billy?' Sandy gestured toward the stump. 'Or will we leave it there for the moment?' **** 'Muriel Gardner got a letter from her boy saying you had been killed. Can you imagine what that news did tae Our Anne?' Mary Smith poured more tea for him. 'She's strong, son. There's steel in her spine; like Brodie she is.' Billy nodded in acknowledgement. 'But it damn near killed her. She kindae curled up in a ball. Stopped eating; wouldnae speak tae anybody.' Silence was uncomfortable for both of them. Mary watched him fiddle with the teacup. He studied the clouds rolling across the firth. 'She wants you something fierce, Billy.' The pause had the intended effect. 'If you cannae give her any cause tae hope, then leave now. Wae my blessing Billy, but now. Go now.' 'Mrs Smith... I came home with Jimmy Hughes. He's a wreck of a man. Changed, flawed; not the young man who enlisted with all his pals.' It was Billy's turn to pause. 'We've left Davy Gourlay, Martin Robertson, your brother-in-law Colin Aird, English John, all these Neukers and countless others. Young men changed by death. And their deaths have changed us. This unspeakable war has taken our youth from us. Now the best part of me is here. And now, poor specimen that I am, I need to discover if there's enough of me left to offer your daughter a future.' Mary noted the stumped arm that lay across her table. She reached out and caressed the wooden facing which served as the end of his arm. 'Aye well ye deserve that at least, eh? But go gently with ma bairn. Leave her her pride and don't break her heart.' She stood. 'Now you better go fetch her hame, it's nearly her finish time.' **** She smiled. It was sunrise over the May Island, he thought. Her eyes, widening, drawing in all the light. A moribund heart leapt, and then the slow subsidence of disbelief. The small voice that spoke of unworthiness, that whispered his infidelity. 'Billy? Billy Thank God you're safe.' She reached as if to touch his face, then faltered. He read a depth of sorrow in her eyes. Oh but you're all woman now Anne, he thought. They walked along the front, away from home. It met their need for neutral ground. 'And what of Lady Marjorie? Are you still together, Billy?' They walked shoulder grazing shoulder. It raised awareness in both of them. 'I'm sorry... I shouldn't pry so much.' He knew in that moment what it was that had turned her into such a remarkable woman. It was the sorrow. She had consumed it, transformed it, turned inherent dignity into beauty. 'We're not together. She humiliated me; drove me away.' He stopped and drew her round to face him. 'She wanted to make it easier for me. She knew we would need to part eventually. And she loved me enough to spare me the trauma of ending it.' 'And would you have? Ended it I mean.' She waited, standing eye to eye. 'If it takes this long to consider, then I already have the answer, Billy.' They spoke of other, more trivial things as they retraced their steps. In the evening they sat on the rocks out beyond the harbour. They remained shoulder to shoulder. Natural, and so unremarked and unremarkable for both. 'I'm not like Maggie. I can't follow my man to France, even if I had such a man.' She turned to study the effect of her words. 'It would be a mistake to think I haven't got passion. If I were yours then my love would scald you; would flay the skin from the bones of you. For someone so intelligent, so perceptive, you can be incredibly blind, Billy.' She prepared to let it penetrate as they watched the soft spray of an incoming tide break against the rocks below. 'What will they do With this, Billy?' She lifted his mutilated hand into her lap. 'They noticed I liked to pick my nose - so they're giving me a long, thin finger.' Their laughter lightened the gloom. 'Before I go back they'll fit me a wooden hand. I'll be able to hold things, move stuff around.' She drew a pocket-book from her coat. Billy saw it was a book of Burns' Poetry. 'You like Burns too?' 'I've always loved poetry; great poetry. Do you remember this?' She lifted a folded sheet from the centre of the book. Billy read it through as if for the first time. 'You kept it then? Lonely Tomorrows. I'm no longer the man who wrote this.' The smile couldn't hide his sorrow. ' I so much want to be, Anne. For both our sakes.' She leaned across. The kiss was gentle on his cheek, yet challenging in its way. 'Meet me tomorrow Billy. After work. Please?' **** She lay in the crook of his arm. Billy drew heavily on a cigarette, the world contracted into their small intimate space. 'Was I any good, Billy?' 'Now c'mon lass: what sort of question is that?' He pulled at her ear lobe. 'How do I compare?' She turned within his arms. Her gaze was direct and challenging. 'How far short do I fall from Lady Anstruther?' 'Don't go on Anne. It's not like you.' 'Of course it's like me.' Her voice rose, her colour too. Billy winced at the anger. 'I'm a woman. No more, no less than any noblewoman. I'm flesh and blood, running hot like the rest.' She threw her thigh across his, pressing flesh to flesh. His grin might have kindled her anger. It had quite another effect. She answered with a grin of her own. 'God but you look truly wicked. A hussy.' She felt his arousal as he stirred against her thigh. Later, in early evening dusk they walked by the beaching surf. They were comfortable in their silence. It had all been said. That was Billy's impression. 'I can't follow you like Maggie has with our Brodie. Ye see, I'm needed here. I have the library, yes and it's important work but it doesn't define me.' Billy smiled to himself. He marvelled at the changes wrought in this slip of a girl. He laughed now at that once held definition. 'I'm a member of the Suffragette movement, Billy. Women should have the vote in this day and age. It's my other passion. Did you know that women in New Zealand have had the vote for the past twenty five years? Western Australia too. Don't laugh, Billy. Please.' "I'm laughing at me, Anne. My definition of you was so patronising. You're no slip of a girl after all. You're a bloody tiger.' **** Discovery now followed discovery. Intimacy fuelled their curiosity and Anne blossomed in such warm air. Time raced. 'I want no promises, Billy. Rather... I want only this one' Her face was stern. 'Promise me that you'll only return if it's to be with me. If you don't want me, don't come back to Pittenweem. Promise me, Billy.' He nodded, wordless. She didn't press for verbal declaration. The coastal bus battled on through heavy wind and rain. It seemed ominous, portents of what awaited him across the channel.
Archived comments for Home and Hearth
Mikeverdi on 08-04-2016
Home and Hearth
Reading this has shown me how much I have to learn, how far I have to go. There is depth in this I'm not sure I can ever reach. It's fine writing Jim, the best. All I can do is offer my thanks for sharing it with us, and nominate it. I hope more read it, it deserves a wider audience.
Mike
ps. I take it it's from the book.

Author's Reply:
Sorry for the late response, Mike. Busy trying to save the planet... Thanks for the comments and,of course, the nomination.. This was part of my revised last quarter of the book. With so many characters it was necessary to fully resolve all the story arcs, et voila! 8000 words to go...
Cheers,
Jim
P.s. I'm thinking of inciting a riot on my subs. See if I can attract more of a readership/following !!!


A Tragedy (posted on: 01-04-16)    
Act III, and I've only just learned to project...

Life in Act III and fast approaching Curtain A player, vaguely played, and stuttering his lines. Til mutters fill the feral Upper Circle venting pity dressed as shitty platitudes The play's the thing, of course; the drama. A panorama laid before the crowd. And also bared, the naked soul of someone who cannot see the writing on his wall. 'Bums on seats' is not just theatre parlance. It's down and outs, whose worn souls are holed. Who bay for blood from down at heel performers. And rend a player's garments with sharp tongues. This act become a study in contrition is bathed in light beyond the darkened stalls The penitent is drowned within a teardrop or dies in shame at silent curtain calls
Archived comments for A Tragedy
Mikeverdi on 02-04-2016
A Tragedy
Why hasn't this attracted more attention, I think it's brilliant writing. You really are back to your best Jim.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Thanks Mike,
I'm not the best communicator mate. It's not entirely surprising that so few visit my work. Kindred spirits and good friends always do though.
cheers,
Jim

stormwolf on 03-04-2016
A Tragedy
I dont know how I missed this but it's incredible. The rhythm reminds me of 'Fresh Flowers' which was one of my all time favs from you. This really deserves to be read far more widely as do all your poems. I will be first in line for your book.
The title perfect and it held me to the very last line.
Alison x

A wee nom 😉

Author's Reply:
Hi Alison,
Would you like to be my Agent?
So glad you liked this, I felt sure that you would. You have a rare gift for reading into the depths of my verse. In reality, I'm much more shallow than my verse. LOL!
Greatly appreciate the Nom..
cheers,
Jim x


Sing A Song of Sixpence (posted on: 01-04-16)
****

I've never marked my deficit. Indeed, no need or burning desire Could fire such curious usury. I read no dire projections. The urge to circumspection Leaves me cold as winter leaves. It's such a crock of shit Not gold, but cold as base metal And redolent of human waste. I have no taste for economics. The fast, polemic utterance of investment merchants. The vest wearing stock exchange jousters. Give me and mine the solid commerce, The wheat and eggs and staple coin Whose value is written in visible worth. These much vaulted vaults of bankerspeak Are fairytales the wankers, sleek and fat Would have us swallow wholesale. I will no longer buy-in to the fantasy. Ancestry alone enough to grant epiphany And granny would agree and just shout ' fuck them.'

Archived comments for Sing A Song of Sixpence
stormwolf on 02-04-2016
Sing A Song of Sixpence
Fuck them indeed! I share every single word of it. So many houses built on sand, so many totally unaware they are being shafted right left and center. Makes me sick.

Aliosn xx

Author's Reply:
Thanks Alison,
We sing from the same sheet. We have to nurture the nausea, it's what drives us on.
cheers,
Jim x

pdemitchell on 03-04-2016
Sing A Song of Sixpence
Yo, Sir Jim! Is it "much vaunted vaults?" in this sharp expose of pin-striped pin-headed hard-hatted greed and indeed we all know what rhymes so well with 'banker'. Loved the phonemes of 'curious usery'- Mitch

Author's Reply:
I've made the very necessary amendment. You're right too, Banker is such a lyrical gift for us!
cheers,
Jim


Old Men (posted on: 01-04-16)    
Mikeverdi said I could do better with this one. So when an inferior gets all superior with you, best to revise then! I hope to god you like it now Michael?

Beauty lies in lines across hard hands, And in the shallow creases of old eyes. Life is written large on withered brows, The brutal knowledge graving old men wise. Youthful once, each man's untroubled skin; Its optimism smooth as all naive. Now lined to mark the compromises made, That broke the heart he wore upon his sleeve. Bread won, brood raised, the task is almost over. though late they do not see themselves as old. A young ambition squandered on their children, The story of their lives already told. An old man's smile is such a living beauty. Benign, it blunts the fear and salves our pain. Though given free his sons cannot inherit, As all must pay for knowing smiles again.

Archived comments for Old Men
Supratik on 01-04-2016
Old Men
"An old man's smile
is such a living beauty.
Benign, it blunts the fear
and salves our pain.
Though given free
his sons cannot inherit,
As all must pay
for knowing smiles again."

Brilliant!

Author's Reply:
Sorry to take so long to get back. Story of my life, at the moment!
Thanks for the really kind comment.
cheers,
Jim

Mikeverdi on 01-04-2016
Old Men
Bloody cheek😂😂😂

No complaints with this beautifully composed piece. A little more tutoring from me and you'll get it right every time Jim😁

Mike

Author's Reply:
Modesty becomes you, Mike.
So glad I reviewed this one. You were right, surprisingly!!
cheers,
Jim

stormwolf on 02-04-2016
Old Men
Beautiful poetry that speaks of the beauty of a well-lived face. The wisdom that cannot be inherited but has to be earned. Jim at his best.
Alison x

Author's Reply:
Thanks Alison,
Having joined the ranks of the Damned (old, sorry) I have become more sympathetic in my verse?
cheers,
Jim x

pdemitchell on 03-04-2016
Old Men
I became aware of the bags under my eyes reading this and the salt n peper of my sixtieth year. Bravo. Mitch

Author's Reply:
Hi Mitch,
64 and rising here. Almost invariably I am the hero in my own verse!
cheers,
Jim

Zoya on 03-04-2016
Old Men
Lot of empathy goes in to this deeply felt piece of poetry!
Yes, what experience can earn, youth cannot comprehend!
Old faces always tell a story!
Enjoyed this!
Zoya

Author's Reply:
Hi Zoya,
Glad you dropped by and left such a positive comment.
cheers,
Jim

Zoya on 03-04-2016
Old Men
Lot of empathy goes in to this deeply felt piece of poetry!
Yes, what experience can earn, youth cannot comprehend!
Old faces always tell a story!
Enjoyed this!
Zoya

Author's Reply:

Zoya on 03-04-2016
Old Men
Lot of empathy goes in to this deeply felt piece of poetry!
Yes, what experience can earn, youth cannot comprehend!
Old faces always tell a story!
Enjoyed this!
Zoya

Author's Reply:


Independence Day (posted on: 28-03-16)
It is coming, but it should have been celebrated last week...

I watched the fractured visions. Saw promise break from weight of expectation. No pledge unkept - but surely undernournished. As once proud men were blithe to check their purse. I heard the dream's demise. The cries, the pain, the death of all their futures. With all our yesterdays the same. Oh prick us and we bleed. But pay them all full pensions and they shout God Save the Queen. I felt the death of hope. It tore apart the heart of me, precious as it's meant to be, our freedom has it's price. Near half of Scotland chose to pay and still bereft they weep. A greater number clap the loss and cheer their own defeat.
Archived comments for Independence Day
stormwolf on 28-03-2016
Independence Day
'Near half of Scotland chose to pay
and still bereft they weep.
A greater number clap the loss
and cheer their own defeat.'

Oh I hear you loud and clear! We are in total agreement!!!

Alison x

Author's Reply:

Mikeverdi on 29-03-2016
Independence Day
A subject that burns within you Jim, you return to it like an itch. It's terrific writing.
Mike

Author's Reply:

Weefatfella on 29-03-2016
Independence Day
People are afraid of change Jim. I truly believe Scotland will be independent, but not in my lifetime.

Aye, as with Judas it was all down to the promise of siller.
Very well put Jim.
Weefatfella.

Author's Reply:

pdemitchell on 29-03-2016
Independence Day
Hi Jim - powerful stuff and the last four lines just blew me away! Bravo. Mitch

Author's Reply:


We Happy Few (posted on: 28-03-16)
This is so 'Jim and Jackie Archibald'....

Cutting the strings is our true consummation. Floating free of former goods and chattels Borne on fickle winds; turned toward unseen horizons. The trick is in refusal to look down, or back. Sleight of hand that hides all apprehension. A conjurer's cheap technique and magic in brief discovery of life beyond the bend. We wind down the clock yet jettison the lifebelts. And so - we'll miss the last boat to Eden. Mendicant souls, lost to eternity.
Archived comments for We Happy Few
stormwolf on 28-03-2016
We Happy Few
Sounds like heaven. Only the brave step out in faith and are seldom unrewarded for their courage. In many ways, belongings etc are simply burdens.
Most of mine were taken away by fate but I was able to see the teachings in it.
May the wind be at your back.

Alison x

Author's Reply:

Mikeverdi on 29-03-2016
We Happy Few
Many can do this for two weeks...a month maybe. You have a Gypsy sole Jim, the wanderlust runs in your veins.
Mike

Author's Reply:


Contemplation (posted on: 25-03-16)
A version of ancient Greece's Goat Song. So Chore, my muse, says!!

News of my death will catch me unawares. Unpacked and unprepared, I'll be late for my own funeral, missing entirely the contemplation of my end. I'll have no change To give the boatman; having robbed Peter in order to pay the lone piper who will play a mis-spelt Peabroch over my expectant grave. My Will will willingly clear my Bill; my Tab; my Slate. And thus on taking leave of life, I'll leave my wife a large Debt of gratitude and little Else; my by-blow of a daughter, begotten on a mid-wife; standing somewhere between my first wife and my last. The sons of the Father, by which they mean Jesus and James, will be visited on my sons, for my sins. And I shall visit them myself, not in earthly form but in the shape of a shade. No sun-shade, a useful garden furnishing, but after dark as befits a night-shade, though not a deadly one. Dead nonetheless; trapped on the Western Shore for want of wherewithall to pay Charon, the Ferryman. Not Sharon the Ferry, man; as Dylan would say, but the Boatman of the Styx. Friend and familiar of the Grim Reaper, whose task is to warn me of impending doom. Leaving no room for doubt by blowing out my small and feeble light. Amen
Archived comments for Contemplation
Gothicman on 25-03-2016
Contemplation
Yes, it feels very ancient, but a skilled and humorous piece of writing, nevertheless, Jim. It certainly exemplifies your brilliance as an accomplished wordsmith, being both tragic and comical which isn't easy to achieve with such conciseness! A feel of Shakespearian wit here too. Much enjoyed read!
Trevor

Author's Reply:
Hi Trevor,
Thanks for the really kind comments. Chuffed that you would rate this.
cheers,
Jim

pdemitchell on 25-03-2016
Contemplation
Well constructed and whimsy but far from flimsy. Can't pick out any favourite lines or stanzas as they are all good but being a cuckold thrice over, a "debt of gratitude" resonated with me! Best. Paul

Author's Reply:
Thanks Paul,
This was real fun to write. I am never sure where my Muse will take me.
cheers,
Jim

stormwolf on 25-03-2016
Contemplation
A very wry observation given in a very witty style with some pointed points. (Does that make sense?)
I can relate. I have promised my three grown kids to treat them all with fairness on my departure for hopefully better shores....An equal third of all my debt. I cannot say fairer than that.
I keep some change handy for The Ferryman though, just as I do for my Lidl's trolley. I was never a boyscout but I do like trying to be prepared 😉

Yah!
Alison x


Author's Reply:
Jist keep yir haunds oan yir change wumman!
I'll meet ye on the further shore...
cheers,
Jim x

Mikeverdi on 25-03-2016
Contemplation
Sorry missed this one on my first pass. You are stepping out from your normal... and I like it HaHa! The combination of amusing failure "News of my death will catch me unawares" Well we would all want that😊
Mike

Author's Reply:
Believe me Mike, this is my normal. I'm a slave to Chore, my muse.
cheers,
Jim

Supratik on 27-03-2016
Contemplation
I felt as though I am a shepherd singing the lines under a tree with my herd grazing. A beautiful sketch I'd say. Well done. Supratik

Author's Reply:
Yes, it is a little 'Omar Khayyam' I know. Thanks for the positive comment.
cheers,
Jim

Bozzz on 27-03-2016
Contemplation
This expresses all my feelings rolled into a charming bundle, except perhaps that I always seem to find a lost dollar in my lesser used pockets (usually for the little packet things bought from machines at the exit from good pubs) for he ferryman. A truly enjoyable write Jim - among your very best...David

Author's Reply:
David, as usual you are too kind. Thanks for reading and for making such positive comment, I am chuffed with the last part in especial.
cheers,
Jim


Under the Radar (posted on: 25-03-16)    
A departure for me....

'This is the last time, Jimmy. It's getting a bit iffy, you know what they're like?' He threw it onto the table. Wrapped, discreet in its work-a-day brown envelope. 'Retirement? Or some misguided ethical conundrum?' I lifted the package from the table. 'Do I need to check it?' I held the parcel at arm's length. He didn't answer, didn't need to. The disdainful smile told me all I needed to know. 'My best work. South African. He was taken to A and E straight from the plane. Dead on arrival at Hounslow. Details from another unlucky springbok, this one dead in Johannesburg. A clean identity, verified by my man inside the embassy.' Old Jacob wasn't always this talkative. For old time's sake then. He seemed relieved when I didn't prolong the goodbyes. The beer was warm and flat. I sat at the one vacant table. Friday night and the Pig and Whistle was revving for the off. Marius Clausen. Well it sounded authentic. I balanced it on my tongue, washed it down with thin ale, whispered it into my pint glass. It would do. The old Jew said it was his best work. I believed him. I flew the shuttle to Glasgow. Surrounded by cheap suits and wannabe executives; jumped up Jocks, knocked-back Home Counties' chaps, a spotting of neds from out of season Ibiza. Perfect cover... I'd make New York without a tail. 'What the...?' It was on page three, among Tory back-spin. Jacob Weinstein, aged 72, shot three times at close range. There was a whole lot more but I was busy sucking strength from the meagre gin and T. On landing I went to the airport bar. Four large, muscular G&T and I started a more studied analysis. I made my way to check-in. I supposed old Jacob had any number of enemies. He lived and worked outside the Pale, in that grey margin. I saw no connection. 'Ainsi va la vie.' 'Hello Jimmy.' It was a voice type I recognised. Eton and Oxbridge, though you could perm any two houses of privilege. British intelligence. Now there was an oxymoron. He wasn't young. Military type; brush moustache, gray sidewall hair. At my back two younger suits confined me to the boss's intimate space. I didn't need to check the ID, but I did. Peter Proctor, MI6. I held the card between finger and thumb, then turned it over. The smile was wolfish. It said, 'have your little joke, Jimmy.' He knew I was playing for time, so plucked the card from my fingers. The action was delicate. A showman, then? 'Your passport, Mister Clausen? Please?' He held out his hand, the gesture smooth, urbane. No callouses, no broken nails. A desk jockey, then; but not in the past. The eyes spoke of brutal prior experience. He handed the passport to one of the minions. 'It'll have to be a much later flight, Jimmy. Sorry and all that; but we need you to fill in some of the blanks for us. You understand, I'm sure?' The foot soldiers pressed me toward the exit. I felt the weight of their persuasion in my lower spine. Heckler-Koch, surely. The routine was flawless. Within minutes we were cutting through afternoon traffic, Glasgow glowering on the horizon. Proctor sat up front with the driver. His right arm hung over the back of the seat; his face, in profile, more sinister than before. I was pinned between the two escorts. I resisted the urge to ask where we were headed. He was ahead of me there, though. 'A safe house, Jimmy; close to home for you. Easterhouse.' They must have felt me stiffen, try as I might to remain nonchalant. Easterhouse was from a long-buried past. Where I'd left my morals, my scruples. The flat was above the papershop in Green Street. Nondescript, unlived-in, unloved. I sat at the table, the two youngsters opposite. No explanations. Proctor was elsewhere, though I could hear the low rumble of his voice. His phone voice by the tone. 'Well now.' The entrance was pure theatre. He pulled the chair and sat alongside me. 'James Drummond, itinerant Scot.' He spat that unclean title. 'One-time employee of the dirty end of River House.' 'Just get to the blanks. We both know who I am, who I was.' 'No blanks, Jimmy, this is an exercise in live firing.' I was his spider. He'd pull my legs off, one by one. I knew the type so well - wiring Ragheads by the testicles, pulling nails amongst the wails of submission. He broke the silence. 'The Jew had a rare sense of humour; of irony I suppose. Devious fuckers, your kikes.' Pretence fell away. This man had a real hair up his arse. He gestured to the troops, who rose and walked to the door. It was taking all of my resolve to resist watching them leave. 'Marius Clausen? What japes! Do you really believe Jacob worked for the good guys?' He slipped his ID onto the table. 'Great work, isn't it? Forgery, of course, yet who could tell?' He slid my passport in front of me. 'Mr Clausen is my boss, Jimmy. You'd know him by a different name; but you'd recognise him if you saw him, your target.' I felt cold metal pressed behind my ear. 'Only you won't now be seeing him, Jimmy......
Archived comments for Under the Radar
Mikeverdi on 25-03-2016
Under the Radar
Just love this Jim, it's my kind of read. I've been waiting to see what you would come back with after the first world war finished HaHa! You handled this with ease, Webber is going to have to recruit you. 😁
Please accept my Nomination
Mike


Author's Reply:
So glad you rate this Mike. It's a departure for me, as you know. Disappointed in the number of reads, but that's probably as you say, a lean spell for the site.
On another note, I like the idea of the new site... it gives us a forum on the same site as the submissions, and works much more smoothly. If you want to put a flame under UKA, this is the place to start, in my vey humble view.
cheers,
Jim

Pronto on 26-03-2016
Under the Radar
Very well written mate good intrigue and tension build up. It leaves us wanting more as it should.

Author's Reply:
Thanks pal,
Glad you enjoyed. Nervous of this new genre for me!
cheers,
Jim

Mikeverdi on 29-03-2016
Under the Radar
Hello again Jim, I wonder if the size of the text on this one put some people off reading. I found it difficult to read and had to change to my main frame from tablet. I wouldn't be the story itself that's for sure. Maybe try and change it.
Mike

Author's Reply:


The Valley of the Shadow (posted on: 11-03-16)
****

A wreath of pall cloth sky to shrive the shrivelled soul. Hodden gray and hooded, the rood screen of the hill above the altar-cold town. No, not for me. Send me off in sunlight. Along a road in keeping with our salad youth. A magnificent corruscating tapestry of ambition, laid to a single line of verse. Else in terse benediction they'll place me in a grave, stone chalice. Amid the smouldering ashes of my passions. So scatter me. Return me to warm,friable earth. A second birthing more viable than the first; that yet might slake the thirst of this sometime benevolent God
Archived comments for The Valley of the Shadow
Mikeverdi on 11-03-2016
The Valley of the Shadow
Bugger, that's rich in verbal challenges for an uneducated devon lad. Great stuff Jim.
Mike

Author's Reply:

sweetwater on 12-03-2016
The Valley of the Shadow
Wow I second what Mike said about verbal challenges, an evening with my dictionary I think, so that I can understand what I have just enjoyed. Sue. 🙂

Author's Reply:


Et In Arcadia Ego (posted on: 11-03-16)    
Proof that Christ did not die on the cross was reputedly found in the old church of Rennes-le-chateau, in South West France, at the turn of the 1910s.

'Please take a seat Father Saunier. Can we get you something? Tea perhaps, some wine?' The priest slumped into the chair, shaking his head in refusal. Behind a wide mahogany desk, the speaker sat at ease. Cardinal Jacques Doueze, Papal Nuncio, leaned his scarlet clad elbows on the desk, interlacing the fingers of both hands in front of his face. 'Perhaps Father Remigius might find you a bed for the night? You look exhausted Father. We could meet tomorrow?' "Please your Eminence, it must be now. I have to...it is too heavy..' He rested his head in his open palms. 'As you wish my son, let it be now. But Father Remigius here will tell you I have a very busy schedule. We must be... expeditious, No?' He gazed out the window, watching Paris take itself seriously in the April sunshine. He returned to contemplation of the young priest when it became obvious that Saunier was reluctant to speak. 'Father?' he whispered. The priest stared at the floor. 'Father Saunier, the Archbishop of Toulouse asked me to see you, at your request, on a matter of pressing importance.' 'I must speak with you alone, Eminenence,' a hoarse whisper, 'For the safety of my immortal soul. Your's also, I fear.' 'Father Remigius please.' The Cardinal gave a flick of his wrist. The secretary glanced at the taciturn priest then left. 'Now Father, what is this grave matter you wish to tell me, eh?' 'How would we fare without the knowledge that the Lord rose from the Dead, Your Eminence? What are we without the Resurrection?' The Cardinal heard the edge of hysteria. 'Your crisis of conscience is hardly important enough to take up my time, Father. My son if you have lost your faith, you must speak to your own superior,' he said in a softer tone. 'With the greatest respect, Eminence, it's not my faith, but our faith. The question is for the Holy Father himself.' Realising this last had been shouted, the priest put forward his hands in supplication. He drew both palms together in the attitude of prayer. 'Believe me Eminence, I don't want to know what I know. I want to return to the simple faith of my childhood. Until recently I could do this with ease. Such simple steps are forbidden me now.' The whisper.was almost inaudible. The Cardinal leaned over the desk. 'Father Saunier, you are an ordained priest of Christ. Of course you are forbidden to return to a childhood faith; we all are.' Jacques Doueze shook his head in exasperation. 'We aren't here to serve mankind Saunier, we are here to serve Holy Mother Church.' He banged a fist on the desk. 'Now tell me what you bring to my attention, and not the whining of a child. Do not anger me further.' In the instant, the priest shed his heavy burden. He stooped to the bag at his feet and brought out a tube of hammered metal. The tube looked blue in the light, as the priest removed a cap from one end to lift out a rolled parchment. He walked across the intervening space to place the scroll on the desk. 'And what exactly is this Father?' The Cardinal gestured with a beringed hand. 'We are rebuilding the Eastern wall of my church, Eminence. We found this, and others, in a lidded recess within the old foundations.' 'Others? You mean there are more of these?' He peered from beneath furrowed brows. 'Yes, Eminenence. A further six. All from the same recess.' 'You have them here?' 'No. I felt it prudent to leave them somewhere safe, Eminence.' 'Safe? From whom? From me?' The anger was plain.. 'Do not play games with me Father. Where are they?' 'Please Eminence.' Saunier pinned the scroll with one hand, rolling it open with the other, 'Please read the scroll.' Saunier walked to the tall window looking out over the Rue Rivoli. Silence crept tiptoe into the high-ceilinged room, and the priest was aware of the Cardinal's measured breathing. The crackle of the scroll re-rolling caught Saunier's attention. The Cardinal looked pale. He took a cigarette from an ornate box on the desk. 'Cigarette Father?' The voice had turned old and chilled. He rang a small bell. When Father Remigius entered, both churchmen were obscured in a veil of blue smoke. 'Father Remigius will find you a bed on the premises and I will speak with you later. Would you be so kind as to bring me a magnifying glass Father, and a comprehensive Latin dictionary? I wish to remain undisturbed until further notice.' The Cardinal sat there, long after the two priests had left. He slumped in the chair, elbow on the desk supporting his head. With an effort he roused himself and reached for the telephone. 'Can you put me through to Cardinal Montefalcone please? It's Cardinal Doueze, the Papal Nuncio.' The Cardinal lit another cigarette, aware as he did so that it was the third such in less than twenty minutes. 'Lorenzo, it's Jacques here. It has finally happened. As we have long discussed.' The silence seemed to vibrate. 'Et in Arcadia Ego.' Jacques Doueze looked all of his seventy years. One week later to the day, Father Saunier was again travelling by train. The late morning train from Paris to Toulouse. In his overnight bag was a small box of fine Belgian chocolates for Marie, his young housekeeper. Also in there was a promisory note to draw on the bank for a budget of Five Hundred Thousand Francs to rejuvenate his ailing Parish. In the same misssive was a guarantee of a further Five Million Francs to be drawn against the Vatican Bank. The priest fondled the crucifix hanging from his neck. A well dressed, elderly woman sat opposite, watching him with some interest. Saunier pulled the crucifix from his neck. He studied the brutalised Christ lying in the palm of his hand, before tossing it through the open window. 'You have lost your faith, Little Father?' The old lady's voice was full of concern, of compassion. 'No Madame,' he said, a beautific smile on his face. 'I have simply lost my chains.'
Archived comments for Et In Arcadia Ego
Mikeverdi on 11-03-2016
Et In Arcadia Ego
A theme you return to, but never better than this. You at your brilliant best. It held me from the start, the description of Paris...
Well done Jim.
Mike

Author's Reply:

pdemitchell on 11-03-2016
Et In Arcadia Ego
Yo, Jim! Perfectly weighted last line to round off a well-flowed narrative. A corker, my son, he said genuflecting. Paul

Author's Reply:


Old School Ties (posted on: 07-03-16)    
****

Balding-Young minor was promoted a Major in the ranks of the Grenadier Guards. Yes, he was de-bagged here; a really nice fag dear; yet he never once wavered or cried. I read in the paper, sent out here by mater In the mess drinking claret, he died. Yes it's true; such a bugger! He was rotten at rugger But terribly good with a bat. Seems the claret was stolen made his airway quite swollen So he died at the Front, and that's that. There's some talk of a medal Seems he downed several bottles even after his Regiment fled. He's a credit to Eton To Oxbridge and England. It's really a pity he's dead. Isn't that so ironic, but in the same paper On the Somme Sixty thousand have died. There's no call to be tearful. There was no-one from College So I doubt if they're on the same side.
Archived comments for Old School Ties
Mikeverdi on 07-03-2016
Old School Ties
This is just first class, upper class even HaHa! It's got you all over it mate. I've nominated it.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Cheers Mike,
Can I just say, you're a fine judge of talent!
cheers,
Jim

Savvi on 07-03-2016
Old School Ties
A cut above the hoi polloi Jim, very much enjoyed the end and internal rhyming well above par. I would have another look at S4 something feels off with the rhyme, but it could be me. Best Keith

Author's Reply:
Thanks Keith,
It doesn't quite scan does it? I will look again.
cheers,
Jim

pdemitchell on 08-03-2016
Old School Ties
The hundred thousand ghosts at Haig's dinner table would have enjoyed and related to this fine rolling ode. Paul

Author's Reply:
Hi Paul,
Glad you enjoyed along with the rest!
cheers,
Jim

stormwolf on 09-03-2016
Old School Ties
Pure Jim! Pure dead brilliant an' aw. 👍
Alison x

Author's Reply:
Aw!! I thought I'd done a guid joab o' disguising ma voice? Naw?
Glad to hear from you again. Looking forward to the Meet.
cheers,
Jim XX

Pronto on 09-03-2016
Old School Ties
loved it Jim. I hope you kept a stiff upper lip as you penned this piece!

Author's Reply:
My wife often says I should bite my lip, if not my tongue. I'm sure she feels I have too much to say. Probably true..
cheers,
Jim

Pronto on 09-03-2016
Old School Ties
loved it Jim. I hope you kept a stiff upper lip as you penned this piece!

Author's Reply:

sweetwater on 10-03-2016
Old School Ties
I agree with all the above comments, just wanted to add my name to the admirer's list, great, great write. Sue.

Author's Reply:
Duly noted Sue!
I am really glad you enjoyed it, it was a pleasure to write.
cheers,
Jim x


Release (posted on: 07-03-16)
****

How often had he walked these streets? Gazed through the steaming, moist windows of the downtown bus. Stirred the sidewalk dust in his battered old chevvy. He needed more time. What do you say to a son you've never seen? How to explain where you've been all this time; and still make it believable? The cab driver kept up a relentless monologue. After a few minutes Tom managed to wedge in one short statement. 'Listen pal, I've been away for a while.' He should have saved his breath. The man was a fast-talking news board. Tom had no idea what the man was talking about. How could he? So he let the ceaseless litany rattle against the closed window of his mind. It was something he'd learned in the Navy. But no use here. He needed to think, to reflect. The irony wasn't lost on him. He'd had six months to prepare for today, and he wasn't prepared. Tom felt safe in the back of the cab.. Out there was a different story. He felt unsettled out there. He had a problem with space since his return. He had a problem with too many people. They'd argued on that last night. Sally had told him how selfish he was. 'Why now, Tom? You're leaving me with a three year old child and another baby on the way. And don't give me the 'no choice' speech, Tom. We have the power to choose.' He'd slept in the guest room, and left wordless the next morning. Of course Sally had apologised, more than once, in her Emails. She'd said, ' we're ok, aren't we?' She blamed it on her pregnancy; but then she would. He'd missed her terribly. It had added to his sense of confinement. They arrived at the house much too soon. He paid and got out. The fresh air made him gasp. He had passed a rigorous medical prior to release; yet still he felt faint. His breathing quickened. He saw her come fast toward him, arms wide. It was how he'd dreamed it for so long. Six months on the Space Station made everyone feel like this he supposed And then she was in his arms.
Archived comments for Release
Mikeverdi on 07-03-2016
Release
HaHaHa! I never expected that! Clearly fiction as the welcome would under the spotlights. I none the less enjoyed the read, thought he was back from a stretch in prison LOL
Mike

Author's Reply:

Rab on 07-03-2016
Release
I didn't expect the twist at the end either. Flash fiction's a good exercise in squeezing as much as possible from few words, paring the story down to its essentials; you do it well.

Author's Reply:

Pronto on 09-03-2016
Release
I'm afraid I did see the end this was a bit more than foreshadowing for me "He had a problem with space since his return. He had a problem with too many people" Still a good tale well told as usual Jim.

Author's Reply:


Luck (posted on: 04-03-16)
Fate hangs on fine thread ...

Again he heard the dry bounce and rub of metal on wood. Dry wood. The notable feature; dry wood at the bottom of a water butt. A fine yellow line appeared on the horizon and the man muttered neath his breath. A prayer repeated? A childlike catechism? The ship's mate, a Venetian, thought it had the cadence and form of a scientific formula. 'Watch your course there,' he shouted. 'Aye Captain.' Peering back at the wheel, the man realised he had located the erring sailor from memory. The quarterdeck remained in darkness, even in the broadening dawn. Not even the hint of fear, or servility in your voice, thought the man. The same lack of respect was evident throughout the crew. Two or three of the hands leaned over the ship's water barrel. Fear robbed their faces of disappointment. A few days ago, they would not have risked his displeasure lounging on the quarterdeck. But that was when the water had run out. He'd removed the sentry from the barrel. Guarding an empty store was a fruitless exercise. The sand in the glass had run out too. Promises unfulfilled. A month ago he had asked for their forbearance. Asked, not commanded. 'Give me your patience, your trust, and I will make landfall within a month,' he'd said. The three Portuguese sailors, a deputation from the crew, had stood face to face with him and Pierro the Mate, in his own cramped quarters. The new day shone bright upon the sails. It pierced the corners of the upper deck, and it pierced the armour of the man's resolve. 'The last day,' he whispered. The helmsman exchanged a glance with the group of sailors around the water barrel. Pierro heard it, saw the changing expressions on the faces of the crew. Fear. Anger too, and a sudden fierce resolve. The whispered admission had called down the Furies. In disbelief, The Mate saw the weapon in each sailor's hand. 'Deck there. Land Ho!' The man resumed the soft, murmured catechism.
Archived comments for Luck
e-griff on 04-03-2016
Luck
Enjoyed this. Short but packed with story. Stands out.

Author's Reply:
thanks John,
Glad you enjoyed this.
cheers,
Jim

Mikeverdi on 04-03-2016
Luck
Yep, I agree. A stand out piece Jim.
Mike

Author's Reply:


Lachlan (posted on: 04-03-16)
My youngest Son.

It's that something fae his mither. Aw that unrelenting truth. It strikes fear, or else it heartens. His Doc Martens; his ain mooth. He jist says it as he sees it frae that narrow visual field. And he's right, how could he no be? such conviction; he'll no yield. Still; I luv his stiff-necked candour. Disnae waver or concede. Then he's fine wae ye next morning when queer notions leave his heid.
Archived comments for Lachlan
Savvi on 04-03-2016
Lachlan
Like the DM foot in his own mouth and it's good to read all is reset the next day I bear people that carry grudges. Best Keith

Author's Reply:
Thanks again Keith.
I try not to bear grudges - not always successful...
cheers,
Jim

Mikeverdi on 04-03-2016
Lachlan
Somehow I think maybe not all from his mother HaHa! Great piece Jim. I hope he likes it.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Hi Mike,
Me and Unrelenting truth have long syne parted. Any kind of truth, truth be told!
cheers,
Jim

pdemitchell on 05-03-2016
Lachlan
This resonates even more with me as a single Dad. Open gob, insert DM-clad foot. Paul

Author's Reply:
Quite right Paul,
Though eventuallly you'll learn where to put your foot!
cheers,
Jim

Bozzz on 05-03-2016
Lachlan
Ah yes, ‘queer notions’ are like sacred cows that moo and are then gone. Actually mine appear on waking but both types are quickly drowned in the mudslide of porage – the true purpose of the cereal. Cheers…David. Much enjoyed.

Author's Reply:
I have my own sacred cow David. But she never goes... No, never.
Glad you enjoyed.
cheers,
Jim

stormwolf on 09-03-2016
Lachlan
Just made m smile. The love shines through, the understanding too.

Alison X 👍

Author's Reply:
So perceptive, as usual, Alison.
This is my youngest (of three). He's Tom Kitchin's head chef and responsible for the Michelin Stars, he tells me. Banned from most of the pubs in Edinburgh too. He gets the mouth from his Dad, though the blinding truth from his Mother...
cheers,
Jim XX


Electric John (posted on: 29-02-16)    
Based on a character I once knew...

He was fed and nourished from the lives of others having no discernible life of his own. To the cast members of The Rugby Players he was 'Electric John', responsible for Lights, Limes and Spots. The Stage Crew called him 'John' for some unfathomable reason. Being artistic and believing ourselves blessed with a waspish sense of humour, we felt it terribly witty to use such an adjective on a man possessed of no dynamism whatsoever. Electric's stories had enough height to clear two-storey buildings, although they were told in such a monotonic drone that people weren't there at the end. Rugby Repertory Theatre is hardly London West End, but we're all professional actors nonetheless Darling. Electric said he was of Jewish extraction. Incongruous as that seemed we nevertheless used him in an advisory capacity during our run of "Fiddler on The Roof". Marjorie Proups on Props asked Electric for advice on Bagels. Always use two for hunting and never let them inside the house, was the sage reply. And so the legend was born. "I played Othello to rave reviews at the Adelphi theatre when Jonathan Millar had to pull out with haemorrhoids." "I was part of the team which made the first successful ascent of the gully on Mount Everest." "I used to date Helen Mirren." All this from a six foot two stick insect with a pointed, bald head and a nose for opening beer bottles. Now I may be naive, but it takes a certain amount of charisma to accomplish any one of these notable feats. What I found most admirable however, was the conviction with which Electric made these assertions. I miss him. And you know we never had cause to complain about the lights. An important part of theatre; lights. I only ever remember one faulty lighting-cue. In "Lady Angela's Bloomers". Hands still wet from ice-sculpting "The Thinker", Electric trained the spotlight stage left. An incredible flash of blue light arced through luckless John's body as Lady Angela's Bloomers plunged into darkness. Electric John would have been proud of such an exit.
Archived comments for Electric John
Mikeverdi on 29-02-2016
Electric John
Just loved this Jim, made my day reading it. Please accept my nomination to go with the Nib. I would love to read this out at The Word.
Mike

Author's Reply:
You are much too kind Mike! Cheers for the nom and the great comment. If you're serious about reading it, then be my guest. I am flattered you would consider it.
Cheers,
Jim

Pronto on 02-03-2016
Electric John
Endearing character shone through this of a man familiar yet unknown. So many 'Electrics'in this world. Loved it.

Author's Reply:
Thanks for the read and the generous rating.
cheers,
Jim

Savvi on 04-03-2016
Electric John
Super read thanks Jim, right up my street glad it's been nominated. Keith

Author's Reply:


The Guinea Stamp (posted on: 29-02-16)
It seemed right to pitch this in the Scot's Tongue.

Yon' sleekit suckling-pig, The Secretary o' State for Scotland; said in a statement, wae a singular slant 'the Treasury trough is overflowing.' Tho' only the knowing; the King's Men, the proper parliamentarians; thae Hame Counties' Aryans, shaped by Upper School, shuid sit thir snouts o'er the lip o' the Public Purse. What's worse the poe-faced erse, claims commonality and Scottish birth.
Archived comments for The Guinea Stamp
pdemitchell on 29-02-2016
The Guinea Stamp
A nice fiscal scorching scotching that had me reachin' fer ma whusky an' ma Burnsie. "Wee, sleekit, cow'rin, tim'rous beastie" the noo. Paul

Author's Reply:
Thanks my man.
cheers,
Jim

Supratik on 01-03-2016
The Guinea Stamp
Enjoyed!
"What's worse
the poe-faced erse,
claims commonality
and Scottish birth."

Author's Reply:
I'm glad you liked it.
cheers,
Jim

sweetwater on 03-03-2016
The Guinea Stamp
Loved it, a refreshing change to the usual style of our foot stamping over the ridiculous ' posh toffs' that ruin our country. Sue 🙂

Author's Reply:
Thanks Sue.
It comes from the heart.
cheers,
Jim x


There's Nothing Beats a Threesome (posted on: 26-02-16)
I hope you get the connection.

A lady of uncertain provenance, draws blood from vodka and tomato. Such red fruit rises to her cheeks; to add real colour to a painted face. She has a story too. One you might purchase with a top-up. It's a history in instalments you must purchase at the bar. She will whisper thanks and simper like Lolita. Like a dupe you think she's sweeter than her years. And the band of gold that hangs about her shoulders is youth's halo that has slipped below her ears. Still the eyes deceive when you receive the message. And Bacchus paints the lustre on her skin. Any sobering thoughts can wait until tomorrow. You're both old enough to kid yourself tonight **** I quickly donned my blue suede shoes and slowly walked away. As softly played the morning news; I loudly said "good-day." She kissed me lightly on the cheek, then heavily she spoke; Outside the noise of this new week, inside her veil of smoke. She used a fancy metaphor but stated plain 'I'd miss her.' She wounded with a shout before she killed me with a whisper. **** Her fingers ran beneath my lapel. A whisper drawing me near, close to the falluting red cape of expensive scent. She sensed me stamp the dust; my flaring bovine nostrils. Her heat rose in nacre cheeks and silk slid in electric fusion neath soft suffusing cloth. The matador; my mother's friend, rose on satin tip-toe and segued past my horns.
Archived comments for There's Nothing Beats a Threesome
Mikeverdi on 26-02-2016
Theres Nothing Beats a Threesome
'She wounded with a shout before she killed me with a whisper'
Oh that's good! This is terrific Jim, I'm not going to pretend I get the whole story, just enough. More please😀
Mike

Author's Reply:
Hi Mike,
Glad you enjoyed. Nice to see you writing again. Be positive, they say - you're writing rubbish Mike, but at least your writing? lol, I think.
cheers,
Jim

pdemitchell on 26-02-2016
Theres Nothing Beats a Threesome
Good stuff, Jim! I like the mix of poetic styles and agree with Mike about the killer couplet but the last four lines were extraordinary and fancied my Spanish tickle no end. Paul

Author's Reply:
What more can a writer ask for Paul? Cited for tickling another's fancy, and on line!
cheers,
Jim

Gothicman on 28-02-2016
Theres Nothing Beats a Threesome
Yes, Jim,the mix of styles is good, this T.S. Elliot approach always makes for an intriguing and rewarding read. Still wondering about your intro, re-read the poem several times but still not sure what you mean. I thought "cigarette addiction" or "whisky", trying to break the habit, or at least annoyed with its hold on you. It'll fall in place as soon as you say it! Great skilful read.
Trevor

Author's Reply:
Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment,Trevor. Looking at my intro in the cold light, I must confess to having no idea what I meant. Even I'm mislead.
cheers,
Jim


A Right Honourable Member (posted on: 26-02-16)
Over in a flash

It was the best move he'd ever made. A Yorkshire farmhouse, way out of range without the Parliamentary expenses. It was the anchor that fixed Monica to the Dales. 'Beautiful,' he whispered. 'But only for a weekend.' The voice was sotto voce. Well you never knew who was listening these days, even in first class. Especially first class. He reached for the instruction manual. We'll use a Browning minimagic. Wide eye Ricoh lens and mayhap a yellow ochre filter. But, and there was ever a but, first the cross-party committee on financial irresponsibility. 'What a mess. An Eton Mess.' He sniggered at the trenchant wit. 'Why can't they tip-toe round the limits, like the rest of us?' The G and T scrubbed away any apprehensions he felt. He was a small bird, with a tiny beak, thankfully. He drew the Gucchi notebook from his jacket, and dropped it in a cavalier manner onto the table. Lifting its silk ribbon, the book opened at it's target. He ran a finger along the inner spine. A tactile gesture. He held the fanciful belief that he'd Gypsy in his blood. His ears pinked and he took a guilty look around. Debbie. Tall, fleshy; Reubens would have loved her. Junoesque. That was the term. Junoesque. He drew the curves on his notebook, then picked up a mobile. Punching in the numbers, he turned to check that the compartment was empty. Oliver was twenty something. He reached up to fondle the red, paisley cravat. Then the frown. Well he felt twenty, sounded it too. Maybe thirty. His Carnaby Street voice. 'What size are you Debs? I need to provide a few props. Kimono/Sarong, that kind of thing.' Still holding his tie, the First Secretary to the Treasury burned with indignation. It was a thousand miles from Macclesfield to Carnaby St. '36D? Marvellous. 26 inch waist? Good.' The Sixties' Swinger steadied his battered craft. 'I think that should cover it. Now to get everything in shape.' He ordered another drink. **** The bloody Reds had ambushed them. That avuncular Scots bastard. Still, Debbie was here. They'd shared a few drinks. The Coke had been her idea. She noticed how uptight he'd been surely. Anyway, she was crashed out in the lounge. He pulled on the small silk triangle of her panties. Then the camisole top, arms raised to allow its fall over his head. Cool sensual friction and then, oh then, the warm spicy scent of her under his nose. He was aware that his testicles nestled in her thin cotton gusset. Hard arousal followed. The self-timing flash went off. He ejaculated as the heel snapped on his gold slingback shoe, and he was thrown into the corner. 'It's gone off all by itself,' he whimpered, seeing the lurid tabloid headlines as he passed into oblivion.
Archived comments for A Right Honourable Member
Rab on 26-02-2016
A Right Honourable Member
Wow. Just who was the right hon? A great piece of flash, telling more than its 470 words. (Could have earned you a Golden Egg in the flash challenge...)

Author's Reply:
Cheers Rab, glad you enjoyed.
I used to be a mainstay of the Weekly Challenge. Unfortunately, we keep asking members what they want in a challenge, then we tell them that's not what we intended at the outset. It doesn't make for dedicated contributors. I admire your determination to stick with it Ross, and wish you well.
cheers,
Jim

Mikeverdi on 26-02-2016
A Right Honourable Member
Agree with Ross, great writing mate. So who was it based on then 😁😆
Mike

Author's Reply:
Where should I start, Mate? Rather, which conservative grandee should I start with?
Glad you enjoyed.
cheers,
Jim

Weefatfella on 26-02-2016
A Right Honourable Member
 photo 89f4a5d0-5f15-4509-881e-443a08debcc5_zps272a8411.jpg

Aye! You move in mysterious circles Jim. This reads more like a memory. Maybe one day we'll see the picture?
Weefatfella.

Author's Reply:
You've got to get beyond my propensity for cross-dressing, Paul!
Glad you enjoyed.
cheers,
Jim

pdemitchell on 26-02-2016
A Right Honourable Member
This got me thinking of J Edgar Hoover (shudders). Very concise flash about Members and a little feel that it may be the real deal somewhere a la Ron Davies, Portillo etc

Author's Reply:
Thank you, my man. I'm so glad it got you thinking. J. Edgar Hoover? (shudder indeed)
cheers,
Jim


Glad Tidings (posted on: 14-12-15)
Tis the season...

Two bodies in the arch of heaven stand above the day. The rising sun, gold on cold, white snow. The waning moon, Whispering platitudes to pallid clouds. There's one more, The unseen Morning Star, waxing bright tonight, to guide the Magi here. Imagine the Redeemer come a second time. Christ from the glowing East, through orange dawn. No print to mark a stumbling path. Granting benediction with pierced, torn hands. He stoops to touch a refugee. 'Your fellow man,' says the mendicant Messiah, Stooping to offer kindness, You'll feel the wondrous star-light on your back.
Archived comments for Glad Tidings
Bozzz on 14-12-2015
Glad Tidings
Stooping to conquer, the world needs example, but would that it always worked. Sometimes it is a temptation to those who would kick your arse or grope you. The glitter and story in church windows inspires many. Great write as usual Jim..David

Author's Reply:

Gee on 14-12-2015
Glad Tidings
Kindness is seriously underrated.
Beautiful words. Once again a great write from you.

Author's Reply:


Mille Cherubini in Coro (posted on: 14-12-15)
Tis the season...

The piano was unusual. It had lain undisturbed behind boxed cargo. The soiled tarpaulin told of a decade's neglect. It would have remained undiscovered but for the highlanders' committed quest for alcohol. Rab Niven lavished attention on it and, from unpromising beginnings, he brought it to life. 'Gie us The Intermezzo Rab. You ken the wan.' The small, malformed Glaswegian was a private in the HLI. The audience of mixed Highlanders endorsed the request; everyone's favourite, from Cavalleria Rusticana. Rab Niven let the silence settle upon the large warehouse. The opening bars were ponderous, soft and slow. Expectancy pulled at them all as Rab raised a tension in the piece. Then the sleight of hand, the flourish on the worn keys. He heard the gasp, the involuntary sob, the catching breath that made him smile in triumph. Over a hundred Scots were lifted to the sun-drenched coast of Sicily. Wondrous heat on sallow skin; a salt tang in the air. Billy stood on the periphery, on his way to town but unable to walk away from the haunting music. Alan and Eck stood hand in hand; in a place more liberal in its beliefs. Far removed from Amiens. Removed from reality, their clasped hands a figment of the music. Stewart felt anew the loss of his brother, and wished he could find a way to approach Black Douglas. A way that would spare his own battered dignity. Palermo or Picardy. A long thousand miles from Pittenweem, Billy thought as he left the compound. She watched him from the top of the stairs. Nausea curled in the pit of her stomach as she steeled herself for their encounter. It collided with the frisson of lust that shared the same lower abdomen. She frowned at this physical betrayal; weakness when she most needed strength. 'Billy. Not here,' she stretched her hands, palms out, holding him at a distance. He was breathless from the stairs, she from first sight of him. 'Let's go outside; the covered courtyard.' She eased past, leaving him to follow. They were not alone in the courtyard and he had pulled her through an open arch at the rear of the cloister. He kissed her. Savage, needy; his lips cold and hard. Her lips blossomed on his and the tension fled. He broke the moist contact, leaning against the wall to search for his cigarettes. 'Do you want one?' He presented the packet of fags. 'Please Billy.' He lit two cigarettes and passed her one, though he wasn't at all sure that that had been Marjorie's request. He drew on his own fag, pulling the sharp settling smoke into his lungs, voice gone high. 'You've seen him then?' He watched a solitary snowflake, precursor of a new fall. 'Brodie told me. It must have been upsetting? Seeing him like that. Torn; vulnerable. I've seen the compassion you have. It's one of your most attractive features.' He turned toward her. 'And you're not the only one with a conundrum to solve, your ladyship.' 'You mean Anne? Brodie Smith's sister?' Her attempt at detachment was betrayed by the note of appeal in her question. 'Perhaps I do, but.. ..maybe I feel some sympathy for Lord Snootie. He's brave I grant you, and fair according to his lights.' He snorted, amused by his own sense of confusion. 'No sooner do I take his measure than he changes my mind again.' He turned once more to the contemplation of snowflakes. He spoke into the night sky. 'In all truth.. .. I feel guilty Marjorie. Ashamed of my actions in his eyes and that wee lassie's back home.' Marjorie stood in silence. She cupped her right elbow in her left hand, right arm vertical, two fingers around the smoking cigarette. The pose seemed alien to Billy who begged her response. 'God! How tedious. The heart of a poet in the narrow mind of a presbyterian minister. Jimmy was right. And you don't have the backbone of your friend Brodie either.' She gazed at him down the length of a patrician nose. 'I believe you should leave now, Private Morrison.' He balled his fists, the urge to hit out welling up inside. And then he relaxed. His smile cut to her core as wordless he walked into the night. 'I love him - Billy Morrison, God help me.' She threw it at a deaf, uncomprehending world. She wondered if it were possible to claim her heart belonged to both. It hurt too much to laugh it off and she swallowed down her bitter repast. Billy was drunk. The speed with which he achieved that state made his mind whirl. The vin plonk helped too, he mused, laughing like an imbecile. The Rue Malmaison was empty. He heard the dull echo of his boots against the cobbles. Entranced by the notion that it resembled his empty heartbeat he stopped. He found himself staring at the darkened facade of the Hotel Victor Hugo. 'Last Christmas. In there we met. A year ago. Marjorie and that bastard Drummond and me; a dumb, dirty private soldier. And now we're all damaged and twisted Anne.' He spewed. Bile, sharp and acid. Burning his throat, his heart. Scalding the cobbles. 'Oh Anne, Anne,' he cried, the prayer lost in the vomit. **** Alise watched the two officers in the big room opposite. Captain Brune was animated, talkative. He felt comfortable in the company of the young Scots lord. It was Jimmy Drummond's gift, his ease with people. But she had seen the man without his mask. The diffidence, the horror he saw reflected in the eyes of others. Both of her patients had that mutilated side. She felt perhaps that each warrior guarded the weak, exposed side of the other. She smiled at the allusion, whilst finding some truth in the rationale. As the sky darkened into night, they left the chateau. In the winter months Alise used a pony and trap to journey between work and home at the auberge. A short trip, snow notwithstanding, and on arrival a Dickensian scene. Cheery, festive light spilled across the courtyard, reminding Jimmy there were worse things than a ravaged face. **** 'You have a healthy appetite for one so so slim mademoiselle.' He smiled. A conscious action, no longer a simple reflex. And it saddened her. 'A misguided observation, Alise,' his single eye fixed her. 'Not flattery, I assure you.' 'I am the daughter of a rich peasant. I don't stray far from the tree.' They shared a plate of leeks, boiled and coated in butter. The small dish of mayonnaise had the same rich sheen, and she spread it along the stem of a leek then speared it with her fork. Her own impish smile from shining, buttery lips, reminded him he was still a man. He leaned forward to wipe her mouth with his napkin. Reflex this time. She found his lips under her own; aware of the hard wooden edge of the face-mask. He pulled away, his hand going to the mask, feeling along the inner edge. 'I'm sorry Jimmy.' She reached for his hand, drawing it away from the mask. 'These vegetables. They remind me of how intolerable the lack of colour can be at the Front.' He split a leek with his knife, probing the vivid green top, immersed in the vitality of colour. 'You don't have to return to the War. Norman Barrington is convinced that, with your father's influence, you could have a posting in England Jimmy.' Her voice dropped. 'Think of it. A return to a world full of colour.' 'Scotland; not England Alise. It's where all lame and unfashionable highlanders are sent.' His breathing was heavy and laboured. 'Do you remember your Shakespeare? Richard the Third, Alise? ''Sent into this breathing world scarce half made up. And that so lamely and unfashionable that dogs bark at me, as I halt by them.'' Do you see.. .. ..' He saw her compassion. His contrition was born of a belief that he didn't deserve it. 'I'm sorry. Self-indulgent clap-trap Alise.' A nerve shivered as he tried to force a smile. 'You aren't your mask, Captain. It doesn't hide the man Jimmy; just the torn part of an outer facade.' The smile was warm. 'I'm a doctor after all. You should heed my advice. No?' They shared the plump breast of a mallard duck, accompanied by small, crisp sautd potatoes. Jimmy Drummond escaped the constraints of his mask for a time. The noise of a log dropping to ash in the big fireplace, took him back to the company trench. 'They are such remarkable people Alise. You would like them. They call themselves the East Neuk Rifles.' A smile, the first natural reflex. They both recognised it. 'I have a Sergeant who knows more of leadership than the entire division staff. I have well, let's just say I'm blessed with a grand body of men. Men who take care of their brothers. Men who miss their homes, their families; who wouldn't be anywhere but with their group.' 'I can see how you might miss them Jimmy. You do them proud when you speak of them so.' She smiled at her own perception. 'Perhaps they would understand that you have made your sacrifice, that for you the War is over?' Jimmy nodded, acknowledging her honest attempt at resolution. 'This awful war will change everything. Is changing everything. A lot of what I hold dear will be lost, society turned on its head. And what will be the consequence do you think? Will the world be all we hope it will be?' Alise saw a very different man. Gone the playboy, the bon vivant. Despite his wounded face, the new Lord Elcho was impressive. 'Probably not, old thing. But it must be better, mustn't it? Not for the ambitious, petty minded types. The Alastair Airds of this world. But for Jimmy Hughes, and Brodie Smith, and the countless thousands for whom I never spared a second glance.' The shivering smile again. 'God, it's shell-shock Doctor. After-shock maybe?' He paused, then burst into laughter. Alise heard the desperate edge to it as he said, 'No. It's loss of face, Isn't it?' Barrington arrived on the morning of Christmas Eve. Jimmy would join his father in Amiens before travelling home on leave. Alise did not believe the rehabilitation complete. They had argued and their last day together had seen a growing distance. The weather had turned to rain. Water dropped from every roof, and ledge, and overhang. 'Thank you Alise; for everything.' He shook her hand then seemed reluctant to let go. 'If they allow you to return to the regiment Jimmy, I would like to see you first?' It was a question when she was entitled to make it a requirement. They both knew it. He nodded. 'Yes of course, Doctor.' On the journey to Amiens, he regretted the formality of his departure. **** The Highland Division made merry. Few men ventured into town. Brodie visited Maggie - a wonderful, un-looked for Christmas. The rest closed the doors against a cold winter and celebrated the birth of a saviour they no longer believed in.
Archived comments for Mille Cherubini in Coro
Gee on 14-12-2015
Mille Cherubini in Coro
I believe this is part of a longer story - a novel perhaps? I'm very intrigued about your characters and their relationships and stories. It definitely kept my interest all the way through and wanting more.

Author's Reply:


At the Close (posted on: 11-12-15)    
Tis the season...

The lake, in widow's weeds of change, lies beneath the lilac dawn. The petals of the winter flowering sun; like a company of strangers, float on the mirror surface. Mother Nature and her children sit drinking wine. They pour libation to the Boreal gods of Closing Time. Who with a sigh, a cry, a hivernal chant evoke the Winter Solstice.

Archived comments for At the Close
Gee on 11-12-2015
At the Close
Such wonderful descriptive words. I particularly liked the beginning
"The lake,
in widow's weeds
of change, "
as it definitely set the tone for the rest of the poem.


Author's Reply:
Hi Gillian,
There's a little lochan near the top of Arthur's Seat. It looks out over the Forth, like an infinity pool, in a way. That was the inspiration for this one winter's morning around 8 o'clock.
cheers,
Jim x

swissterrace on 11-12-2015
At the Close
This is what making writing fascinating, the different way we interpret events with words. I like the image of strangers floating on, a really nice line. Carl

Author's Reply:
Hi Carl,
Really pleased you liked and commented on this piece. As a writer of nice lines and striking images yourself, it means a lot to hear you mention them.
cheers,
Jim

swissterrace on 11-12-2015
At the Close
This is what making writing fascinating, the different way we interpret events with words. I like the image of strangers floating on, a really nice line. Carl

Author's Reply:

Bozzz on 12-12-2015
At the Close
'The widows weeds' brilliant not only for the obvious double entendre, but also because lakes are often stagnant water and grow old and stale because of that. Keep the nibs flowing my friend, even if the water does not ! Yours David.

Author's Reply:

Pronto on 13-12-2015
At the Close
"The lake,
in widow's weeds
of change,
lies beneath
the lilac dawn."

I, too, loved this opening. Very clever penmanship indeed.

Author's Reply:

sweetwater on 13-12-2015
At the Close
I think the above comments have said it all, so I will just add that it was stunningly beautiful, and I just wanted to read it over and over again. Sue.

Author's Reply:


Jimmy the Rhymer (posted on: 11-12-15)    
Written as a performance piece.

'Fuck we're gaun tae drop the baw.' Billy Gilfedden looks like he's not all there. We say glaikit, because it's colourful. Patois with a patina. Language that sits in the throat till you throw it on the pavement. The suit on the telly spouts a language so far removed, he might as well leave it to the subtitles. Dundee said YES two hours ago. A luminescent memory before the flatline. 'What will we do now?' Billy reverts to the professional language he uses at Curtis Brown. Junior publishing agents dinnae say cannie, or is it cannie say dinnae? Whatever, he's not as glaikit as he looks. Four in the morning and the sun will soon hit the bottom of Leith Walk. Skelp its arse more like. Punished for the recalcitrant children we are. We're drinking Negronis. Again Billy's idea. Is it a sign of Edinburgh's new cosmopolitan? Christ, I don't know. It's strong. It's sophisticated. Try saying that after six of these things. Try saying anything coherent. The Negronis had just been chasers in the early part of the night. Back when we thought we might win the damn referendum. Equal measures of Gin, Campari, and Martini Rosso. Equal fuckin' measures. It's what we voted Yes for. Fat chance wae aw the auld yins worried for their pensions. We've had many more than six. And they're not helping. But they haven't left the sour taste. That's something else. Billy's looking for a fight. There is never an Englishman when you want one, though. And we all want one. Oh aye. You see we're ashamed. Deep down. In that basement place, where conscience picks at our scabs. Deep down ashamed. Our city said NO. Billy feels it more than me. Well he would, wouldn't he? His folk have been here since before the Romans. He's a son o' the Rock. God, I'm blootered. How else would I blether such pish? "What the fuck d'you find to write about in that bloody notebook, ya wee shite?'. Billy's not looking for an Englishman. It seems I might suit him better. Here I am hoping his animosity will spend on me, but the five Rangers supporters who've just come in, they're his natural prey. His enemies of choice you could say. But five to two at ten to five in the morning? Well 'I suppose you blue-nosed bastards are proud of yerselves? Loyal Orange Order my arsehole.' The pub has gone quiet. That heavy, oppressive silence before the thunder.The Orangemen take on much needed E numbers - Tennants - the chemical equivalent of PCP. They turn like a formation dance team. Billy Gilfedden was born in the Canongate. His forefathers were here to throw the Vikings out. A Warrior then, braver than his brains. The prods? They have many more than four fathers, and brainless enough to be a real threat. Children once ran barefoot down its cobbled span. Like sewer rats they fed on shit and shavings; the crumbs from noble tables being food for rich men's dogs. They paddled in the gutters of high-crowned, Scotia's spine. Watched better men sell birthrights bought by the blood and tears of their own mean ancestors. Earlier children of the hill. This venal patrimony gifted them but one great, liberal freedom. The World entire, the land below the hill. No land of Canaan; sure, yet still a favourable prospect when shoeless on the Royal Mile. It sums Billy up. His is a nobility born in the gutter, but it's nobility. It's why I wrote the poetry. Trouble is it's not a poet Billy needs, it's another warrior. Their champion is enormous, and ugly. He pumps his chest above a foul black heart as they move towards us. Oh Shit! The monster pulls the Rangers' shirt over his head. It's a gift to Billy, and he plants his forehead in the fertile soil of the monster's nose. I took Lizzie Guthrie to the beach last week. Portobello beach. I thought a declaration of undying love might get me into her knickers. Fat chance. I'm a great lover in iambic pentameter, but Lizzie wanted to know what it might take to have Billy fumbling in her underwear. Still, enough o' that. I picked up this piece of glass. Abraided by years of roiling tides. Smooth it was; perfect in form and substance, and opaque. I could see my fingers through it. It reminded me of Billy Gilfedden. Of all the Gilfeddens. Shaped and formed by a turbulent past. Easy to rub against but with a keen sharp edge that can split hairs with the best of them. And the transparency? They're as honest as a long day and incapable of subterfuge. For Billy it's both blessing and curse and I love him for the enigma. My warrior prince has clay feet. Don't we all? The fight? It ends as all such must, with good men standing to be counted. Joe the Pole who works on the bins. Electric John, the mild mannered Englishman who works the lighting at the Playhouse. Me? I didn't land a single blow against the forces of darkness. I fight paper battles. In the watered light that passes for morning sunshine, we're standing beneath the War memorial half way up the hill. As always, Billy's transfixed. There are Gilfeddens up there. Three from the Great War. Now there's an exaggerated title for ye. And his grandfather - face down in the sand of Normandy. Billy emanates turbulent silence. His father died in Iraq. He's not with his ancestors. His name is on some worthy monument elsewhere. 'But then he didn't die for freedom,' Billy says. 'He died for cheap petrol and coca cola.' Billy's not ashamed of his father, he's ashamed of the people who's greed put Dad's name on an alien cenotaph. He recites in silence. I'm a rhymer. I wrote my pal's favourite ode to battle. It's called the Floo'ers o' the Forest. Death whispers across the ether. It's shaded, indistinct form clings to the shadows, and calls the roll from the steps of the Mercat Cross. The Flowers of the Forest are summoned up by name. The stain of futile death is placed upon each pillow; like cattle marked for slaughter on the morn. Whilst gilded youth sleeps sound and dreams it's bound for glory, the ground in Northern France fills with wilted blossom. Billy thinks he's a warrior without a fight. Way off the mark. His fight has yet to come. At the bottom of the Canongate we part company. These are his cobbles, not mine. 'I'll see ye tomorrow Billy.' 'Tomorrow?' God knows what he's seeing across the width of the Forth. 'Aye, Tomorrow' A whispered prayer and he's out there in his City, way beyond my reach.....
Archived comments for Jimmy the Rhymer
Gee on 11-12-2015
Jimmy the Rhymer
As I read this, I was there watching. That's how beautifully you've written it. So many great phrases too and I loved the poetry within the story.
In my opinion, f you haven't tried to have this published, please do.
A great read. One I can find absolutely no fault in.

Author's Reply:
Thanks Gillian. For the nomination too?
I wrote this for a Fiction performance with Mike Green, in Plymouth. It was written as a stand alone piece, but I intend to use it as the introduction to a novel I'm writing about Edinburgh through the ages. Billy and his ancestors are central to the story, and Jimmy will be the narrator, the continuity man if you will.
Again, thank you,
Jim x

Mikeverdi on 11-12-2015
Jimmy the Rhymer
Faultless, I love this. For me this is you at your very best. I remember you reading it, I liked it then. On reflection it needs more recognition than this can give it, it's that good.

Mike

Author's Reply:
Thanks Mike,
I'll always be grateful for the chance to perform it live. I'd like to have another go if you ever have the space!
cheers,
Jim


Be Not Afraid (posted on: 07-12-15)
Let's get the flock out of here...

My eyes water. The pain in my nose sharpens as the cartilage snaps into place. I want to sneeze, but experience says it will be agony. My back is in contact with the cold earth and I'm looking at the stars. In my peripheral vision, I can make out a wing, bent at an impossible angle. 'You're brave to come back here after everything you said that night.' 'What are you talking about? You bloody, mindless savage.' I'm urbane and articulate; but the sudden blow is unwelcome. In my line of business people generally give me a fair measure of respect. This great lout looks kind of familiar though. Then again, the mean and lowly all look the same to me. 'Glad tidings of great joy! To you and all mankind. What utter crap; talking down to us like we were nothin'. I should have smacked you then.' He looms over me then spits on the ground. As I turn my head to mark the phlegm splash, I notice other booted feet behind me. The rancid smell of the common herd is in my tender nostrils. 'That was two thousand years ago. And it wasn't me; it was Gabriel, the Archangel.' 'Bloody liar,' he shouts in a light spray of saliva. 'I was there. In the cold fields abiding. And I never forget a face.' 'It wasn't me. Alright, I was there. I was a Cherub then, one of the Cherubim. We didn't have specific tasks. We acted in a body Praising God in the highest, as I recall.' God, what a team we were then. We could all handle ourselves; and we had to. We had to share the skies with the Seraphim; and they were no angels, let me tell you. Nor were we of course. That's what I'm trying to get through to this moron. Well, of course I am now. After two thousand years with the Heavenly Host you'd expect to be, wouldn't you? My mentor, the Angel Reuben, said I should avoid contact with mankind if at all possible. How right he was. Now there's an interesting man. He was in charge of Heavenly Pyrotechnics. The Burning Bush? - Reuben. Jacob's Fiery Chariot? - Reuben. The Chief's random bolts of lightning, all the work of your man Reuben. A former Cherub like myself, he taught me that Seraphs were good at only one thing; blowing their own trumpets. Of course, once Lucifer and the others had been chucked out, the big seven were all Seraphim. Michael, Gabriel, Uriel, Raphael and the rest; Trumpet blowers, movers and shakers, the Sultans of Spin. You'll have to excuse me, but I really must deal with these agriculturals. 'Can you ask your pal to step off my starboard wing?' 'Bert, stand aside. He wants to flex his wings,' says the pugilist, a life-long atheist. 'OK you celestial sparrow; who are you if you're not Gabriel?' Where is my wingman when I need him? I'm supposed to have two of your basic, run-of-the-mill angels watching my back, unseen. My feeble efforts to rise destroy what's left of my dignity. You're wondering how the meek and lowly can incapacitate one of Heaven's Finest? It's simple. One of the Chief's immutable laws is that we appear in human form when dealing direct with mankind. Of course as a Cherub of the first sphere, I don't normally get asked to do this low-flying work. I'm more your facilitator than your hands-on courier. But it was an archangel the last time; and they're keen not to demean the message. I'm not an archangel, but then with just seven positions at the top, it's dead man's shoes. And what are the chances of that? One of the agriculturals has hoisted me to my feet by the simple expedient of hooking his fingers in the back of my waistband and heaving. The blood rushes to my brain, my eyes water, and I feel like heaving myself. My mutilated wing slams into place like a Glasgow Ned closing a switchblade. The chances of an angelic hover would appear to have diminished. 'My name is Muriel, and I am an Angel of the Lord. Be not afraid, for I bring you Glad...........' 'Whoa, whoa! Don't start that again. You think your nose is sore now?' My heart's fluttering louder than my wings. 'Would you hit a woman?' I say in a spineless whisper. 'Well no, of course not,' He stands on his dignity. I give him my best Mary Magdalene. The tossed head, the arched brows, pouting breasts. What? What?? Listen; I haven't lasted this long by acting the saint. If I were allowed to appear to these rustics in my real guise; all four wings and breathing fire; I wouldn't be in this predicament. 'Then I'll start again. Be not afraid, for I bring you Glad Tidings of great joy.. For unto you...' 'You're talking in the wrong direction Tinkerbell. We're over here.' 'Be not afraid...........' 'Change the record, spacewoman. This is 21st century mankind you're talking too. We've come a long way from the bare Judean Hills. We've got the technology for us all to act like angels. It's how we filled in the time waiting for the Messiah.'. I don't know what to say to these people. The message is exactly the same. We haven't learned a damned thing in two millennia. Look how we treated the old cherubs. Take Reuben. His eventual promotion has to be dominion over a country. So where do they send the Prince of Pyrotechnics? Iceland! Seriously. We're no different from the Masons; or the Vatican. What people don't know they make up. Now if I'm being honest, I'd have to say we were always on dangerous ground with the premise that the Chief's humble born son would save mankind from sin. Primitive man's first question is why can't the angels keep the sinners from sinning? A perfectly logical question. Their second question; why God going to the trouble of being born as man and then dying on the cross, is an effective solution? These boys have moved on. The Sacrificial Lamb thing won't wash. I'll have to improvise. It's time to hover. 'Friends, you see suspended in the very air above your heads, the Celestial messenger Muriel. I'm here to assure you that the boys upstairs are going to be looking at a more effective strategy for mankind 2016.' They're looking a bit skeptical, but no-one's thrown a punch yet. Somebody's awake up there though; for the heavens are alive with choirs of angels. The heavenly host praising god in the highest and on earth peace and goodwill. Now the fun will start.
Archived comments for Be Not Afraid
Mikeverdi on 08-12-2015
Be Not Afraid
I love it, the whole concept appeals to my warped sence of humour. Great phraseology through out. Some very different stuff from you this week HaHa!
Mike

Author's Reply:
It's all this Weinachtsmarkt thing. It will make a Lutheran of me yet.
Will ring when I get to Cologne. Sorry about interruption when you called. Molly doesn't understand my schoolboy German. Nor did the Polish lady who approached me at the time!
Guten Tag,
Jim

teifii on 09-12-2015
Be Not Afraid
Irresistible. Quite made my day so I saved it to enjoy again.
Daffni

Author's Reply:
Thanks Daffni, and for making it a favourite. So glad you liked it.
cheers,
Jim x

Gee on 10-12-2015
Be Not Afraid
I really enjoyed reading this and I would love to read more. Please tell me you're going to go on with this story?

Author's Reply:
Hi Gee,
So glad you liked this. I'm toying with the idea of expanding it, though it's a different style from my normal. Watch this space... or the Sky!
cheers,
Jim x


A Virgin Shall Conceive (posted on: 07-12-15)
Tis the season!

How must it have felt to Mary the Maid on the day she first found she was blessed? When an Angel appeared, in a prism of gold, and softly her maidenhead pressed. For that Angel transcendent in heavenly light placed the embryo Christ soft inside her; And left her to carry the Light of The World with only her conscience to guide her. How awesome the task she was handed that day, and how heavy the burden she carried; For the Chosen of God by immutable Law, said that all mothers had to be married. And again when the child lay content in her arms did she think of mankind in the darkness? Or aware of the fate of her well-beloved son, was she constantly shadowed in sadness? And how did she feel as she stood neath that beam, with her son hanging nailed to the tree? Did she truly believe he was Godhead made flesh, simply hung there to save you and me? Did the pain of his birth; as a man here on earth, echo deep in the wall of her womb? When she swathed him in cloth; as she had at his birth; before laying him deep in the tomb.
Archived comments for A Virgin Shall Conceive
gwirionedd on 07-12-2015
A Virgin Shall Conceive
Wow, this is an exceptionally well-written piece!

Just two things I would change:

1. Not sure about the darkness/sadness rhyme

2. The unnatural syntax of "softly her maidenhead pressed". You mean of course "softly pressed her maidenhead".

Jim, you are far too good a poet to be putting words in the wrong order just to make a line rhyme. I beg you to reconsider this line. It spoils an otherwise brilliant poem.





Author's Reply:
Hi Archie,

Thanks for the comments. I will look at the changes you suggest, though softly her maidenhead was designed to give it a classical, biblical feel. I'm a writer of prose in the main, so your assessment of me as a poet is very affirming. Poetry is something I do as an aside.
cheers,
Jim

Supratik on 07-12-2015
A Virgin Shall Conceive
Very striking. A pleasure to read. 'How must it have felt' goes as a poetic license I believe. Supratik

Author's Reply:
Thank you,
I tend to take a lot of licence with my poetry!
cheers,
Jim

ifyouplease on 07-12-2015
A Virgin Shall Conceive
Very nice

Author's Reply:
Thank you.

Mikeverdi on 08-12-2015
A Virgin Shall Conceive
I'm not sure how to respond to this one Jim, on the one hand it's great writing....Maybe that's all I need to say.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Nuff said, Mike!
cheers,
Jim

Elfstone on 09-12-2015
A Virgin Shall Conceive
You have excellent rhythm and rhyme in this, which forces me to ask - why disguise it? Elfstone

Author's Reply:
Hi Elf,
Poetry isn't my first language, I'm more into fiction. Ironic though that I used to write poetry only in rhyme!
cheers,
Jim x

teifii on 09-12-2015
A Virgin Shall Conceive
The only nativity poem I've read without growling. Excellent, and I don't think English language actually objects to an inversion like 'maidenhead pressed'. Not so sure about darkness / sadness as it holds up the scanning. But I expect you will get a good idea one day to edit. Anyway it's a brilliant poem.
Daffni

Author's Reply:
Thanks Daffni,
I'm gratified by your comment. I set out to write a poem that highlights the conundrum that is god made flesh etc. I am a Christian sceptic, at best. Humanist certainly, but with no great faith in mankind, just a muted hope.
cheers,
Jim x

Bozzz on 09-12-2015
A Virgin Shall Conceive
Considering the amount of mystique that has surrounded this occasion, good to record in elegant style the practicalities of the that must have arisen. An excellent gift to believers and deserving of praise from all....David.

Author's Reply:
Thanks David,
In German Thuringia at present. Hand-crafted Nativities on sale everywhere!
cheers,
Jim


The First Snowfall (posted on: 04-12-15)
Seems topical

Bright white light at dead of night, splashed across the orchard floor. Marks the snowfall's quiet arrival, unannounced at Winter's door. Huddled thick and deep in corners, scattered thin and sparse on trees. Shows the path of wild creatures, free to wander where they please. Silver-coating winter berries; sugar-frosting sheltered lanes. Powder dusting window ledges; nicely icing window panes. Daylight sketching crystal rainbows, sunlight drawing red the edge; Snow shifts swiftly on the breezes, snow dips curtsies on the hedge. Dawn comes in on padded footstep. Utters only muffled sounds. Filters through the gaps in fences; has no limits, knows no bounds. Gathers round the sides of buildings; rolls unhindered from the tiles; Spills from steps and stoops and standings; congregates in great soft piles.
Archived comments for The First Snowfall
Bozzz on 04-12-2015
The First Snowfall
A classic, Jim, a lesson to all in descriptive rhyming verse, but Jim, forgive me if I say that for me the last line merits your attention. Yours aye...David

Author's Reply:
Thanks David,
This is one of my favourites. I see what you mean about the last line. I'm on to it!
cheers,
Jim

sweetwater on 04-12-2015
The First Snowfall
This is a beautifully painted picture, all images as crisp as the newly fallen snow. I love the ' snow dips curtsies.' I too think the last line needs a tweak, which seems a pity as I do really like it. 🙂 Sue.

Author's Reply:
Thank you Sue,
As usual, David is right. I am in the throes of changing the last rhyming couplet.
cheers,
Jim x

Pronto on 05-12-2015
The First Snowfall
Paints pictures as pretty as those of Jack Frost himself. Great alliteration and rhyme. loved it.

Author's Reply:
thanks, mate.
cheers,
Jim


Witness (posted on: 04-12-15)
****

Ibn Ghadd studied the dark mushroom of smoke. On the escarpment, the shockwave of explosion had been brief but violent. The man pulled on the purple tasselled bridle. 'Quiet Galadriel, soft now.' He patted the slick neck of the desert horse. Down on the floor of the wadi the armoured jeep billowed thick, black smoke. Scattered amongst the torn pieces of the vehicle, were the bodies of Israeli soldiers. All in one piece? You couldn't tell, but surely all dead. He pulled a cigarette from inside the folds of his robe, then felt the acrid bite; inhaling deep and pushing grey smoke from his nose. He had the hawk-like nose of his people, the dark smouldering eyes. Eyes that followed the group of three Arabs who were waiting for the kill. Not desert warriors. Men from the squalid, crowded suburbs of Gaza. Experienced nevertheless; a kill squad of three, drilled on the Eastern European rocket launcher they carried to safety. He turned the pony's head. 'Come Galadriel, let us see what they have left for us' His sure-footed mount stepped down the steep path; rear almost touching the ground as it slid on the loose scree. He could see the Israeli sergeant, the one who had given him the cigarettes. The man was draped over the front door of the vehicle but had lost his head. Reaching level ground he dismounted and strode toward the vehicle. Within minutes he'd emptied all their pockets. The man tucked two sidearms into the bags under his saddle. Taking the expensive lighter found in the sergeant's pocket, he lit another cigarette. 'Here they come Galadriel. Just in time to bury their brothers.' The Israeli troop-carrier drew to a halt, throwing out a cordon around the vehicle. The young officer offered Ibn Ghadd a pack of cigarettes and spoke in broken, but understandable Bedouin. The desert traveller accepted the gift as his right, then gave the Israeli the position of the Arab kill squad. Caressing the gold-plated lighter, he heard the start of the gun battle beyond the escarpment. 'Come Galadriel, soft now.'
Archived comments for Witness
Bozzz on 04-12-2015
Witness
A vulture among the dead. There is no true impartiality - always three sides in every conflict. So well written, Jim, with telling understatement....David.

Author's Reply:

Bozzz on 04-12-2015
Witness
In my view Jim, this story is well worth a nib. I regret not saying this to you in my first comment on this excellent piece.
Bozzz.

Author's Reply:
Thanks David,
My shorts are never as well received as the poetry. Strange but true, as they say! Ainsi va la vie. That doesn't lessen the impact of your very kind comments, my friend.
cheers,
Jim

Pronto on 05-12-2015
Witness
It was an excellent story of treachery and greed human weakness exposed to the desert sunlight. Well told sir.
I see from your previous response Jim the problem you have but not the reason for it.(Who can tell?) I write on an American site if the title involves sex I'm inundated if not barely 10 reads and two comments. Such s life.

Author's Reply:


The Eye of the Storm (posted on: 30-11-15)
For Bozz. You had to have been there...

Have you ever stood inside the growing storm? At the very epicentre of the blast? Prematurely clad in midnight, tasting brimstone on the air, Whilst a wind that whips the trees goes howling past? Have you seen Saint Elmo's Fire upon the hillside? Heard the rumble as the sky begins to fracture? With the lightening's rip and tear, felt the static in your hair, Sensed the elemental power of Mother Nature? Did it make you shout and rage against the tempest? Standing small against the tumult all around. Did one bright, celestial spark touch your spirit in the dark? Leave you moved and yet unmoving on the ground. Were you awestruck by the silence that then followed? When the wind died with a whisper on the air. As the tears of heaven fell, and the thunder rent the veil, Did you say a prayer of thanks for being there?
Archived comments for The Eye of the Storm
sweetwater on 30-11-2015
The Eye of the Storm
Stunning imagery and powerful lines, a breathtaking write. It's going straight into favourites. Sue xx

Author's Reply:
Hi Sue,
Thanks so much for favouriting this. This piece means a lot to me.
cheers,
Jim x

Bozzz on 02-12-2015
The Eye of the Storm
Thank you Jim – a really great poem – and a great honour and surprise. Have I been there – why yes of course and I would include man-made mental whirlwinds (trouble at mill !) as well as some of nature’s physical ones. My inadequate reply is sitting waiting for Friday. Yours, David

Author's Reply:
Hi David,
Really glad you liked this one. Poetry not prosetry IMHO!
And you are so right about mental tempests - I've seen my share as you might imagine.
cheers,
Jim

ValDohren on 02-12-2015
The Eye of the Storm
Great write Jim, love the rhyme scheme - a little different for you ?
Val

Author's Reply:
Hi Val,
I used to write exclusively in rhyme. I fell in love with the rhythmic nature of different schemes. On changing form, I forget about the buzz I got from regular rhythm. Thank you for that.
cheers,
Jim x


The Angels Weep (posted on: 30-11-15)
I'm a closet Socialist. Maybe it's time I stood in the light!

Whatever happened to the Dream; the Vision; democracy made flesh? Where stand those sons? The Bevin-birthed men; grime-black collier boys, and brown girls on the Land. They're left to limp behind the Righteous Kings of Not in My Big Acres. True blue Britons who bomb for Britannia, and boast in false economy, of Anglican supremacy. Bright, socialist sun is fleeting at best, the rest of days is sleeting cloud and loud-mouthed Tory bombast that cries his NHS to death. He was world-wide Welsh clad in homespun. Someone who stood for any nobody. A French trench foot soldier, a ground down worker. Pulling thistles, daffodils and roses, he turned us into flowering fields. But privilege sacked the gardener and ploughed his children back to dirt. I've borrowed from his passion. His words, but mine to say. He made us men of iron we turned them into clay. We still vote in the piper but fail to call the tune. and in his careworn tomb Ny Bevin weeps.

Archived comments for The Angels Weep
Bozzz on 30-11-2015
The Angels Weep
Stirring read. With the words of Bevan and Bevin still echoing in my ears I worked for several years in a factory in the Rhondda valley - next valley near Merthyr in fact and felt wiser for that experience, nearer earth. Welcome from your closet. With you too, Jim.....Yours, David

Author's Reply:
Hi David,
I really should spell-check! Thanks for the comment my good man, it was dark in that closet methinks.
cheers,
Jim

Mikeverdi on 30-11-2015
The Angels Weep
Brilliant writing Jim, don't have to be a socialist to appreciate the class.
Mike

Author's Reply:
No. But I might grow to like you if you were, mate!
Joking pal. Your personality is more important than your persuasion, so maybe change that first?
cheers,
Jim x

Elfstone on 01-12-2015
The Angels Weep
Another powerful poem. "We still vote in the piper but fail to call the tune. " - so true!
May I mention layout again? I feel this has been forced into 4 line stanzas and while that looks 'neat', it constrains the poem I think. I fiddled with it in Appleworks and a different layout allows the potent thoughts and words to shine. For your consideration only - it's *your* poem. 🙂 Elfstone

Author's Reply:
Hi there,
Yes you are right. At the time I deliberately changed the layout. Trying to appear clever, I think. I've loosened it up and, on re-reading, I find it flows and has more lyric value. Would you see what you think of the edit please? I value your opinion.
cheers,
Jim

shadow on 01-12-2015
The Angels Weep
What happened to the dream? It got lost in the 'neo-liberal consensus' - ugh! There did seem to be a glimmer of hope for a while, but now it's all fizzling out again ...

Author's Reply:
Hi Moya,
The result from Oldham does a little to restore my belief. Nil illigitime carborundum. (Neither classical nor proper Latin; but pertinent nontheless)
cheers,
Jim x

Pronto on 02-12-2015
The Angels Weep
I agree with Mikeverdi Jim. We have lost a lot of people with integrity. Where are the Manny Shinwells? The Bessie Braddocks of today?

These were politicians of strength, character and passionate commitment whether one agreed with them or not one always respected them.

All they seem to do today is ask 'what's in it me for me?'

Author's Reply:
Hi Tony,
Thanks for dropping by. I want independence for Scotland, though I'm a socialist by nature. We have enough shared political history to admire the greats of all persuasions, and I agree with you entirely, especially as regards the quality and integrity of today's politicians.
God! I do go on...
cheers,
Jim

gwirionedd on 04-12-2015
The Angels Weep
Socialism will return to the island of Britain... but in order to make that happen, you Scots need to go your own way.

Please take northern England with you too.



Author's Reply:
Hi pal,
We need the thirteen plagues and the parting of the Red Sea for that to happen. The English have always been welcome so long as they come in peace, and leave their mainstream media at the border. Oh, and take back their BBC Scotland!
cheers mate,
Jim

Elfstone on 04-12-2015
The Angels Weep
Much better!!! and remarkably close to my 'fiddlings'. It reads much better like this I think. I'm so glad you weren't offended by my crit - one always has to tread gently with others' work. 🙂 Elfstone

Author's Reply:


The Canyons of the Moon (posted on: 27-11-15)    
****

The sun dips to kiss a cactus as it stoops to conquer night, And deep coyote silence crowns the shadows. Broken orange fingers flowing swiftly over rock, See the vultures fly in silent witness. The pale milk whiteness of the dawning early light, High above the burnt ochre desert floor, Paints a jaundiced eyeline round a lizard's eye, And a red kite cries in endless circles. It's the breaking morning in the Canyons of the Moon. And the cacti stand in shortening shadow. Watching scorpions dancing as the heat gets in their tails, And the hoopoes rise in warning flight.
Archived comments for The Canyons of the Moon
Mikeverdi on 27-11-2015
The Canyons of the Moon
Beautiful, your words paint a picture with every line. I loved this one.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Glad you liked it. Written a couple of years ago.
cheers,
Jim

ValDohren on 27-11-2015
The Canyons of the Moon
A very eloquent and inspired piece Jim, you have a wonderful way with words. Great stuff.
Val x

Author's Reply:
Thanks Val,
It's really good to see you back on the site.
cheers,
Jim x

Bozzz on 29-11-2015
The Canyons of the Moon
Redolent of my visits to Arizona. Though I prefer to write in rhyme myself, for me this prose piece is as good of its form as it gets. Excellent - Bravo Jim....Best wishes, David

Author's Reply:
David, you are a true gentleman. Even though you are but a poor restrained rhymer!
cheers,
Jim

Bozzz on 30-11-2015
The Canyons of the Moon
Hi Friend Jim, I much enjoyed your delicate reply to my comment on your poem and most grateful that you prevented a 'storm' by allowing the word 'poor' to precede the word 'restricted'! Yours....David
P.S. I will respond to your latest kind storm poem in due course



Author's Reply:


The Underbelly (posted on: 27-11-15)
An Old One

The undernourished ribs of Paris are seen around the Gare du Nord. Her empty stomach echoes to the beat of down at heel stilettos. The peticheal rash of brash, neon-flash name tags, gives First Empire shabby-chic a bad name. Whilst the muted flatulence of Indie Rock and urban decayed rap drowns the ghost of Edith's laryngeal sparrow. The clash and crash of cultures paints a cosmopolitan veneer that erodes as streetlight night falls on acoustic, cavitating cobbles.
Archived comments for The Underbelly
Mikeverdi on 27-11-2015
The Underbelly
Great stripped back writing Jim, I loved it.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Yes the soft underbelly as it turns out.
cheers Mate,
Jim

Texasgreg on 27-11-2015
The Underbelly
Aye Jim,



As our world shrinks, we shirk.

What to do but remember for ourselves and pray/hope for our children. The more we change, all the more it seems we resist and resent it both for reason and not.



The principle of change says all things change...Resistance is futile. 😉



Very Good!



Greg 🙂



 photo Gunspincowboy.gif





Author's Reply:
Thanks Greg,
Great to see your gun toting cowboy again.
Jim

gwirionedd on 28-11-2015
The Underbelly
Very good poem, Jim. However, I hope you're not falling into the old "what's this rubbish the youngsters are all listening to nowadays?" trap...



Author's Reply:
Naw, I'm cool man!
cheers,
Jim


Beyond Reach (posted on: 23-11-15)
For the challenge - Absent Friends

Someone I was proud to call friend, escaped life's brutal straps. If you'll permit a metaphor for such a selfish act: He sank beneath the surface of a sea of futile hope; reaching the end of a line gone slack and threadbare. We're born to touch the sky; yet no-one tells us how. Some find the firmament too high and dip below the horizon. They call for help locked within a soul grown cold; each beseeching cry beating on unyielding walls. Holding friendship cheap, we blame ourselves for deafness and paucity of thought. Forgetting we're fallible and human. It's a frailty we share along with belief that in the teeth of dilemma, friends will see our pain and stop us being swallowed.
Archived comments for Beyond Reach
Bozzz on 25-11-2015
Beyond Reach
As a man clutching at the last bare thread of life, I loved this piece. It runs easy on the tongue - a deft poem Jim....David

Author's Reply:
You just keep a tight hold, David!
cheers,
Jim


A Potted Scotland (posted on: 23-11-15)
Epic saga style is tribute to Barbour's 'The Bruce' and Blind Harry's 'Wallace'. The English might need Google!

She's dead, the Maid. A poor wee royal lass in a vast Northern Sea. She never knew her folks, a guiltless heir to barbarous times. Proud Longshanks, puissant Edward, puts honour to the sword. His word made slave to vaunting ambition, and Scotland wears an empty coat Tis fealty we must pay today and ever after. The laughter of cold lords affords the conqueror the power of ridicule,. with Scotland in the dirt Toom Tabard acts the man at last. A spark ignites the blasted Scots; too little and too late for fate to save a Baliol king. Our stone beneath a foreign throne Symbolic Scotia slain and thorn removed from high-flown English sides. So much for destiny. A native sprig pulls Alba from her knees. Wallace of Elderslie cries crimson slaughter on England's grim regime. A Guardian is born, a noble common title uniting all our houses. A finite cause combining man and master Communitas Scotorum. The cause is crushed neath English heavy horse; Communitas downtrod, yet not destroyed. A fallow ground awaits rebellion's plough. William betrayed, is laid along the gory altar of noble England's justice; and guttering flame is fanned to conflagration. Through anger's red mist Red Comyn is gutted on the Greyfriars' slabs. A righteous murder, pardoned by a partial church, to clear the path to our empty throne. From dilettante to stout defender, Robert Bruce, grandson of an old Competitor, is crowned in haste, to beat the Bull of Roman excommunication. Struggle then, the only coronation promise. Unremitting toil and strife the price to pay for freedom and God preserve a heaven-blighted King. Dread Edward dies, and leaves a soft, silk substitute upon his iron-clad throne. Hard captains grieve their Spartan loss; and feral Scotland rises. Seven long, sanguine years while Edward and Despenser dally. Divided Scots rally to their God-shunned King. Destiny now shaped from native rock. And on the pows and plains of Stirling, a broad, divergent culture consummates the notion of a once and forever Nation of Scotland.
Archived comments for A Potted Scotland
Mikeverdi on 23-11-2015
A Potted Scotland
Great History lesson Jim,well written. I knew some of it from various TV programs, I need to look up the rest. I found it both interesting and instructional.
Mike

Author's Reply:


Variety (posted on: 20-11-15)
The challenge was VARIETY...

The dark rum no longer hit the spot. Maybe it's been too long in the flask, Archie thought. It had been a long time since the alcohol had been stronger than The Great Suprendo's apathy. 'There's no more magic.' He faced his own hazy, broken reflection. 'Smoke and mirrors is all.' His balding, freckled head turned toward a disembodied voice. 'You're talking to yourself?' The pause was theatrical; affected. The man was confused. Lost. 'Get a grip Archie Greeley. Honestly! You're acting like a first-timer at the Glasgow Playhouse.' The laughter was sour. 'Half your life spent cutting ladies in half, and now all you want is to split hairs.' He struggled to rise, then headed for the poster. The London Palladium - a long time gone - top billing. Leaning his hands on either side of the frame, his liver-spotted forehead touched the glass. 'You should have retired when the houses were still full, Archibald.' Returning to the mirror was merciless. A jaundiced hand applied the make-up these past years. 'Like bloody Palliaccho.' He scrubbed at the greasepaint. 'A sad, old clown.' 'Five minutes, Mr Greeley.' Archie left off the scrubbing. Later, the stage caller looked upon a room stripped bare. Colourless, lacking the old magician's presence and parts. He walked toward the one item that remained. The Palladium poster - an unsteady hand - a scrawled message: "Don't forget to feed the Rabbit"
Archived comments for Variety
shadow on 21-11-2015
Variety
Really felt the pathos in this one - very nicely done.

Author's Reply:
Thank you,
I'm glad someone liked it. Please excuse the frustration, I realise I'm aiming my barb at the wrong person!
cheers,
Jim


Saddle Tramp (posted on: 20-11-15)
For the Weekly Challenge - Absent Friends

A wooden bar ran the length of the room. Vinyl-topped stools said it wasn't Dodge City. I checked my watch. Six o'clock and we mustered three customers, including the barman. Gogo was the third. I'd recognised him when I came in. Not difficult.. Classic ugly; jug ears and full fat lower lip. Protruding eyes behind plate-glass specs. His real name was Gordon but, in the cruel manner of all young boys, we christened him Gogo because of a hilarious stutter. As kids, Gogo was always the cowboy without a name. Without a gun - the perennial baddie. He always died in a hail of bullets. At an early age, Gogo settled to the one thing he was good at - Alcohol. There were still vestiges of that lone gunslinger in the way he shot down vodka. He had a slick action, though by now he was slumped in his saddle at the end of the bar. Animated conversation, loud and intrusive, heralded the arrival of five young men from the hood. The runt of the litter bought the drinks, whilst his fellow braves took possession of the pool table. He had that belligerent short-reach look. The bandana and the sleeveless vest told us old-timers he was an Apache; a renegade from the Lower East Side. Seeing the off-whites of his eyes, the barman and I circled the wagons. In an act of unthinking bravery I pulled Gogo into the defensive circle just as the War dance started. He never did thank me. I heard much later, that he'd been gunned down by a bigger, faster bottle of vodka. Poor Gogo. It might have been kinder to let him fall to the savages.
Archived comments for Saddle Tramp
Mikeverdi on 20-11-2015
Saddle Tramp
Great story, great metaphor. You are certainly back with a bang Jim, so pleased.
Mike




Author's Reply:
Thanks Mate,
Bit quiet on here innit?
cheers,
Jim


Mankind (posted on: 16-11-15)
****

Allah didn't will this. What God would? Omnipotence precludes such mindless slaughter. Jehovah? Not he, nor yet Jahweh; and Robespierre's Divine Reason? Non! But they're not blameless, leastways not in name. Their Cant is all the same, and creed a vile excuse for foul murder. The mark of Cain is on us all until we stand in guilt's bright beam and link hands with each other

Archived comments for Mankind
stormwolf on 16-11-2015
Mankind
Perhaps.....but I cannot see it happening any time soon. The war mongers and the elites who create division and arm radicals for personal power will never allow the dream of Robert Burns to ever be .

In truth, I think we are far too easily manipulated , and war is a loser's game but when human life means nothing at all to those who engineer bloodshed, and an indulged generation forget the sacrifice of their forefathers....we have indeed a disaster coming of biblical proportions.
We could put the world to rights ( at least for an hour or two over a dram or two)
Alison xx

Author's Reply:
Hi Alison,
I'm not entirely sure the world deserves saving. I know I can't look at the image of a refugee child without seeing my grandchild. It's pretty much past my ability to write tyhese particular demons away.
A couple of drams sounds good though...
cheers,
Jim x

Pronto on 16-11-2015
Mankind
This poem underlines the need for mankind to evolve, mature and rid himself of all religious superstitions. As a species we may yet cause our own extinction wishing we had.

Author's Reply:
Hi Pronto,
I don't always write the doom and gloom stuff, you know? However, our evolution does seem to have stalled. Thanks for dropping by.
cheers,
Jim


In the Kidron Valley (posted on: 16-11-15)    
Written in anger

Sangatte burns to salve the naked grief of France. A Carmagnole: the Ca Ira; and Muslims hang from lamp-posts. Along the Champs Elysee, uneasy Franks take to their wind-swept boulevard. To swallow a hard truth: that Western youth can die in the pursuit of happiness. Sodom falls and tomorrow Gomorrah will follow. It's just a line. Shared scripture passage. Yet such iron-clad credo calls massacre upon our innocents
Archived comments for In the Kidron Valley
stormwolf on 16-11-2015
In the Kidron Valley
Bravo! Bravo!
Glad you managed to find the words to voice that anger. I am struck dumb with fury!
I dare say I may manage to write one day but it will not be politically correct.
Alison x

Author's Reply:
Thanks Alison,
It's by no means the finished article but the rawness speaks to the anger in me.
cheers,
Jim x

Pronto on 16-11-2015
In the Kidron Valley
Great words and we have every right to be angry. Ironically two days before Paris over two hundred and forty were killed in Beirut by car bombs but here in the West it was just a bye-line. Sad times. Thanks for writing this.

Author's Reply:
Hi Pronto,
You are so right, and yet the PC brigade will have us believe it is in bad taste to make the contrast. We forget the Russian souls lost the previous week too.
cheers,
Jim

Mikeverdi on 16-11-2015
In the Kidron Valley
The writing is on the wall if those in power could only see. Maybe send your excellent words. We will all need to hold our nerve as the Arab Spring turns into a Winter of Discontent.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Hi Mike,
The minute we lose our compassion we really are lost. And damned.
cheers mate,
Jim

gwirionedd on 16-11-2015
In the Kidron Valley
The next stage of World War Three, which began in 2001, was marked last Friday, I believe. I wonder what Nostradamus said about this filthy rape of his homeland...

What do you mean with "Musulmen bound for lamp-posts"?


Author's Reply:
Hi Archie,
I am about to change the line to read 'Muslims hang from lamp-posts'. In revolutionary France, in the lead up to The Terror, so called enemies of the people were hung from the lamp-posts. The poem is as much about the two parallels as anything else. Hope I'm not teaching you to suck eggs?
cheers,
Jim


Chambon sur Voueize 1940 (posted on: 13-11-15)
****

La Poste, of course. It made perfect sense, the symbol Paysan of Republic become Nazi nucleus. Not the enemy. Aging tillers and stockmen know but one foe; an unappeased Mother Nature. Pastis stills peasant animosity. And German youth, no worse than young Parisians, might stand a man a glass. The infants of France. They see a different Teuton; the bottom of a wine glass will not restore their pride. Sons and daughters. The partisans and plotters of post-Revolutionary France, will pay the price in blood. Brothers and sisters. Murdering sisters and brothers; the internecine battle for the splintered soul of France. The cost of liberation? Blood enough to heal the rift, whilst old men shift upon their seat, and pour another Pernod.
Archived comments for Chambon sur Voueize 1940
Mikeverdi on 15-11-2015
Chambon sur Voueize 1940
You write about a time of turmoil, a time of virtual civil war. Those who thought there country sold for a quiet life fought on never knowing who to trust. We watched an excellent TV faction series recently (sub titled). Your story could have added to the script. Great stuff Jim.
Mike

Author's Reply:


Blood Price (posted on: 13-11-15)    
****

Souls lost to mortal sight float in eternal remembrance. On a gilded barque that harks at a Golden Age. Their page is penned In classic script. Ripped untimely from some Latin fable unable to tell the tale, or toll the bell, for unrequited youth. In truth, such grey and sallow days but prove it a world long fled. Our dead serve to point a maxim long forgot: That common man is nought but coin for shysters and the realms they bought

Archived comments for Blood Price
stormwolf on 13-11-2015
Blood Price
Oh God yes!
I share the rage! Wonderfully expressed with your usual muted passion and righteous anger.
Alison X

Author's Reply:
Thank you my Dear.
We have a lot in common, I fear!
cheers,
Jim x

sweetwater on 14-11-2015
Blood Price
Wonderful words leading us to the bitter truth of why wars exist, and the sad fact that money is truly at the heart of these barbarous actions. Sue.

Author's Reply:
Thanks Sue,
So glad this spoke to you.
cheers,
Jim x

Elfstone on 14-11-2015
Blood Price
This is very good - I love poems which drip a kind of acid truth and anger. And how good to see a poem well set on the page.
If I may be nit-picky, the upper case "T" in "To point a maxim" seems out of place and the layout of those few lines might be slightly altered to good effect.
Elfstone

Author's Reply:
So glad you dropped by and gave critique. I have minisculed the T and placed the closing lines in their own space. Thanks, it does look better.
cheers,
Jim x

Mikeverdi on 15-11-2015
Blood Price
That is fine writing Jim, sorry to be so long before commenting. Particularly like that last stanza:
That common man is naught but coin....
Mike

Author's Reply:
I'll make a socialist of ye yet, you fat cat Capitalist, you!
Thanks for the fine comments.
cheers,
Jim xx


The Storyteller (posted on: 09-11-15)
####

The Walrus talks of many things; of fabled Isles and Seas; And though we know he's never been, these fantasies still please. He doesn't need a photograph to show what waits out there; He draws and paints with every word that he, with us might share. He tells of mermaids fair and false, of Lorelei and Sirens; Of Clippers, Galleons, Sloops and Gigs; of Chinese Junks and Triremes. He gives the tale of Moby Dick, of Davy Jones and Sinbad; The story of the Albatross, the Legend of the Naiad. He talks politely of the Seal, the Kittyhawk, the Lobster; In muted words he soon reveals the Pearl inside the Oyster. He speaks of Aphrodite walking naked from the sea; The legendary Jason and the fair Calliope. Though schools of fish, like schools of thought, might treat him with disdain; He softly talks of Viking Longships tossed upon the Main. And realising as he does, the life that's in his story; He paints the Sea so in our eyes, it shines in all its glory.
Archived comments for The Storyteller
Pronto on 09-11-2015
The Storyteller
I love the Lewis Carroll flavour of this. I can almost taste the oysters! Well penned sir1

Author's Reply:
Thanks Pronto,
I've always loved the belief that the Walrus is the storyteller of the sea.
cheers,
Jim

shadow on 12-11-2015
The Storyteller
I think I may have met him . . . nice poem.

Author's Reply:
Hi there,
I shared a messdeck with him, truth be told!
cheers,
Jim

Mikeverdi on 12-11-2015
The Storyteller
I think there's more than a fairy tale in this,the metaphor. ... it's terrific writing.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Hi Mike,
The only thing your missing is the drooping moustache. You would make the perfect nautical tale-teller. Lighten up! it's meant to be a compliment.
cheers,
Jim the Jock Frog


An American in Paris (posted on: 09-11-15)
Based on an actual encounter

Sporting the thickest of skin and the thinnest of cotton; This Yank called Frank, offspring of a hothouse flower and a merchant banker, segued to a halt. Dabbing at my chest with a hand like a palm frond; This catamite asked in the way that a cat might. "Are you the author? Please tell me it's you. I bet you've read Babylon Revisited? Oh Fitzgerald! I mean the man knew Paris. Right?" Well I lifted the palm frond, still pinned to my chest. Did my best then to swallow a quip. Letting rip was the instinct I had to rethink; which I did with the hint of a smile. A country mile from ambivalence I asked him, in my own twist on a limp wrist. "Who the fuck is Fitzgerald?"
Archived comments for An American in Paris
Ionicus on 09-11-2015
An American in Paris
Dear Jim,

you kindly nominated a poem of mine which is included in the forthcoming anthology (https://ukauthors.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=23015) coincidentally titled 'An American in Paris'though the texts are completely different.
I very much like your version and in particular the play on words i.e catamite/ a cat might etc.
Very enjoyable,
Luigi.

Author's Reply:
Thanks a lot, Luigi.
I always thought An American in Paris a facetious remark. The place is stuffed full of them!
cheers,
Jim

Pronto on 09-11-2015
An American in Paris
Catamite and sodomite this perverse verse a great delight. Loved the word play.

Author's Reply:
Cheers Pronto,
A real encounter I felt compelled to describe.
Jim

Andrea on 09-11-2015
An American in Paris
Ha! Brilliant!

Author's Reply:
Thanks Boss,
Don't you just love cultured Americans?
cheers,
Jim x

sweetwater on 12-11-2015
An American in Paris
Fun poem, I love the palm frond hand, perfect description.

Author's Reply:
Hi Sue,
A bit different from my normal, but a pleasure to write.
cheers,
Jim

Nemo on 13-11-2015
An American in Paris
Hi Jim. You've got this type off to a tee. I bet he was loud, too. Enjoyed your skill with word-play.
Gerald.

Author's Reply:


Pretence Over Substance (posted on: 06-11-15)
^^^^

It's pukka, pidgen English, the dialect of compassion. The patter of tiny responses, the goo goo of shattering sobs. It drains a life of dignity this baby in the bath water. I ought to be more muscular in my supporting shoulder Yet I don't quite get the empathy. I'm riddled with apathy instead and ready to throw in his towel. Call me a friend. No don't I can't be the pillar he'll lean on. I've been on the courses but of course he's a mate; there's no abstract intention in death.
Archived comments for Pretence Over Substance
Mikeverdi on 06-11-2015
Pretence Over Substance
It's strong, it's well written, but what and who is it about? In truth, do I really need to know...if I do I think you may have to kill me. Great to see you writing on here again, I love it.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Thanks Mike,
It was written in realisation that none of us are particularly good at empathy, especially with friends.
cheers,
Jim

stormwolf on 08-11-2015
Pretence Over Substance
Hi Jim,
I don't quite get this one. It's a bit abstract but there is no mistaking the strength of the voice behind it. You have that ability to call a spade a spade, that's what I like.
I think I would know your work out of a hundred pieces.
Alison X


Author's Reply:
Alison, as always you reinforce my belief in what i'm doing. It was written in frustration at not being the effective counsel i expected myself to be. Deep, what?!
cheers,
Jim x


The Tears of Alexanderr (posted on: 06-11-15)
An older one

New Cossacks keep the borders around the nation's pride. Kerensky runs the girls; he helps to fleece the tourists; and controls the cockney whites. Less cultured Slavs, once spearmen of Macedon, replay Sikander's Funeral Games. Inflamed by fortified wine and fragile self-respect, they practise pogroms on Old London's streets; against new semites unaware they may have crossed The Pale. Tis said that Alexander wept when there were no more worlds to conquer. He might have spared his tears and marched upon 'The Smoke'.
Archived comments for The Tears of Alexanderr
Mikeverdi on 06-11-2015
The Tears of Alexanderr
I remember this one, the contrast of date lines. I like it Jim, a sad reflection but none the less true.
Mike

Author's Reply:
cheers Mike, i maybe should have explained the background to this.
thanks,
Jim

gwirionedd on 06-11-2015
The Tears of Alexanderr
This sounds like it could be a very interesting poem, but the truth is that I don't really know what you're talking about. Any chance you could maybe chuck us a clue?...

By the way, did you know that in the Middle Ages, there was talk of re-naming London "New Troy" (Troynovant)?

Thankfully nothing came of the plan.



Author's Reply:
hi there,
I wrote this following a visit to London. It seemed that Eastern European males were everywhere, including running security at Macdonald's. I'm not racist at all, I simply looked at this with the vision of Alexander the Great having reached India.
thanks for taking the trouble to read and quiz the inspiration.
cheers,
Jim

Bozzz on 06-11-2015
The Tears of Alexanderr
Smoke? Surely not the fog of London's East End? Oh to define a modern pogrom? I too am puzzled, but truly the wording is magnificent. Tally Ho, Jim...Yours aye, David

Author's Reply:
thanks David,
cheers
Jim

sweetwater on 07-11-2015
The Tears of Alexanderr
I found this a fascinating poem to read, I too did not fully understand it, but that did not spoil my enjoyment. Sue 🙂

Author's Reply:
Thanks Sue,
You'll see from the comments above I hope, the inspiration for the piece. Glad you enjoyed the lyric quality.
cheers,
Jim

stormwolf on 07-11-2015
The Tears of Alexanderr
Hi Jim,
I think I would need to have a better understanding of the Soviets to get to grips with this poem. Like Sue, I don't have to understand it to enjoy the use of language you employ so powerfully.
Alison x

Author's Reply:
hi Alison,
See the above for a clearer picture. It was written in haste and maybe trying to be a bit too clever.
Thanks for reading and commenting.
cheers,
Jim x


Beyond The Wall (posted on: 25-09-15)
A concept chapter for my next epic...

'Fuck we're gaun tae drop the baw.' Billy Gilfedden looks like he's not all there. We say glaikit because it's colourful. Patois with a patina. Language that sits in the throat till you throw it on the pavement. The suit on the telly spouts a language so far removed, he might as well leave it to the subtitles. Dundee said YES two hours ago. A luminescent memory before the flatline. 'What will we do now?' Billy reverts to the professional language he uses at Curtis Brown. Junior publishing agents Dinnae say cannie, or is it cannie say dinnae? Whatever, he's not as glaikit as he looks. Four in the morning and the sun will soon hit the bottom of Leith Walk. Skelp its arse more like. Punished for the recalcitrant children we are. We're drinking Negronis. Again Billy's idea. A sign of Edinburgh's new cosmopolitan? Christ, I don't know! It's strong. It's sophisticated. Try saying that after six of these things. Try saying anything coherent! The Negronis had just been chasers in the early part of the night. Back when we thought we might win the damn referendum. Equal measures of Gin, Campari, and Martini Rosso. Equal fuckin' measures. It's what we voted Yes for. Fat chance wae aw the auld yins worried for their pensions. We've had many more than six. And they're no helping. But they haven't left the sour taste. That's something else. Billy wants tae fight. There is never an Englishman when you want one, though. And we all want one. Oh aye! You see we're ashamed. Deep down. In that basement place, where conscience picks at our scabs. Deep down ashamed. Our city said NO. Billy feels it mair than me. Well he would, wouldn't he? His folk have been here since before the New Town. He's a son o' the Rock. God, am blootered. How else would I blether such pish? "What the fuck d'you find to write about in that bloody notebook, ya wee shite?'. Billy's no lookin' for an Englishman. It seems I might suit him better.
Archived comments for Beyond The Wall
Mikeverdi on 25-09-2015
Beyond The Wall
Not my world, but the writing is. Your traveling has given the writing an edginess, back to your best in my opinion, you always were able to shake the tree but now....
Mike

Author's Reply:
Thanks mate,
It's a lot of years since I shook down any coconuts!
cheers,
Jim

Pronto on 26-09-2015
Beyond The Wall
Very well written. I really enjoyed the read it left me wanting more and that's very good. very well deserved nib.

Author's Reply:
Hi there,
Thank you very much for the positive comment. This is a sort of new style for me. The concept is an account of Edinburgh through the centuries. Well they've done it for London, Paris etc. The narrator is central, but nameless and faceless throughout, i.e. Roman, Viking, Norman; and Billy's ancestors hold the story line. This scene is by way of introducing the book.
Hark at me! BOOK? it's barely a paragraph at present.
cheers,
Jim


A Disjointed Gasconade (posted on: 18-09-15)
****

Biscayne Rollers; Paseo strollers; Bergaus Pelegrinos. Ancient tourists in verdant Asturias. Where peeling grandeur and Iberico swagger favours cerveza over German lager. Frank plays Bilbao for a sucker. Yet the artful fucker filled their space with grace and gabled corners. Still; it's foreigners, who guzzle Rioja Crianza and Rel soccer, that pay for Gehry's Tilt at Basque bravado
Archived comments for A Disjointed Gasconade
Mikeverdi on 19-09-2015
A Disjointed Gasconade
So the trip to Spain is going well then? 😊

Author's Reply:
Ola!
Loving it Mike and reluctant to return.
cheers,
Jim

deadpoet on 27-09-2015
A Disjointed Gasconade
Oh- Spain- you seem to know the country well- Nice with a piece on/of Spain today-- made me want to be there right now!
Your own special touch Franciman-- loved it.

Pia xx

Author's Reply:
Hi Pia,
Thanks for the mention. My first visit to Spain proper. I was really after capturing the fresh, first impression nature of my thoughts. Spain does tend to throw it all at you in the moment! The Guggenheim in Bilbao is a wow, and I don't really know why.
cheers,
Jim x


TFI Friday (posted on: 18-09-15)    
****

These shivering adolescents Try to get from here to there; All four limbs bare. And hair a hoary rime Of ice on perfumed mist; Lips unkissed as yet, When pissed and wet, Will form a lifeless smile. Miles walked on pinch-toed feet, The young and sweet Will stale-breathed youth become. And maladjusted, maudlin drunk, will caper in a graceless dance. Or prance on fouled paving, Craving popular attention, Showing bits, not fit to mention Hapless trollops, tactless tripping up the street.
Archived comments for TFI Friday
sweetwater on 19-09-2015
TFI Friday
You have caught the atmosphere completely here, I can see those silly, chilly and at the evenings end, disgraceful and slovenly girls in my minds eye, the boys drunk before they even start the evening. How has an evening out become this disgusting circus in every town? Love the wording of your last four lines especially. Sue,

Author's Reply:
Hi Sue,
Sorry for taking so long to reply. On the high Sierra in Spain. Thanks for your kind comments and for making it a favourite. I'm lucky, I have three boys and but one self willed girl!
Cheers,
Jim

Bozzz on 19-09-2015
TFI Friday
I like it Jim - your words make a delicious meal of the scene....David

Author's Reply:
Hi David,
How are you? Glad to hear from you again. Thanks for the kind comments. A gentleman as ever.
Cheers,
Jim

deadpoet on 19-09-2015
TFI Friday
Yes you have used very poignant words to describe these unfortunate young girls- I am sure they are not always happy and therefore the drunken behaviour. I feel sorry for them.They are certainly feeling neglected and always have been , maybe always will be.
A very good poem.
Pia

Author's Reply:
Hi Pia,
Sorry for delay in replying. Off touring at present. Glad you like this. I admire your work, so take great encouragement from your comments.
Cheers,
Jim

Mikeverdi on 19-09-2015
TFI Friday
There is a bitter sweetness to this fine piece Jim, the sweetness is in the intensity of your writing, the bitterness is that it's true. Great writing.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Mike, you old philanderer! Really good to hear from you, though to be honest any break in communications is down to me. Again I am in the deserts of western Europe. Hope to visit 21 and 22 October if that is suitable. In depth literary workshops and Good Janner patter would do us both some good, methinks. Your well deserved nomination for the dream thingy leads me to believe we need to get pissed together!!
Cheers,
Jim


Tragedy (posted on: 24-08-15)
A metaphor for my life so far?

Life in Act III and fast approaching Curtain A player - vaguely played - who stutters still the lines. Until mutters fill the feral Upper Circle venting pity dressed as shitty platitudes The play's the thing, of course; the drama. A panorama laid before the crowd. And also bare, the naked soul of someone who cannot see the writing on his wall. 'Bums on seats' is not just theatre parlance. It's down and outs, whose worn souls are holed. Who bay for blood from down at heel performers. And rend a player's garments with sharp tongues. This act become a study in contrition is bathed in light beyond the darkened stalls The penitent is drowned within a teardrop or dies in shame at silent curtain calls
Archived comments for Tragedy
Mikeverdi on 24-08-2015
Tragedy
I love the writing, it's you at your best...but don't expect me to agree with the sentiment in your case. If you have stumbled, then this should raise you up. Anyone who can write like this need not fear the writing on his wall.
Mike

Author's Reply:

stormwolf on 25-08-2015
Tragedy
I agree with Mike 100%
Fab as ever

Alison x

Author's Reply:


The Piraeus of the North (posted on: 24-08-15)
It's festival time again

Leith's no lady, no Magdalene redeemed. Beneath clean white linen, her face still seamed and pitted, cries pay me for fake climax. The welcome smile lacks warmth, and yet? The petulance is playing to the crowd. It's here that Mary landed. A French princess with good Scot's dirt beneath her nails. Yet history fails to paint her human. It's airbrushed heritage a little like the Thomas Cook deceit that Leith is pretty. It's shitty, gritty and workaday porridge. With a vital heartbeat neath an Arthurian seat.
Archived comments for The Piraeus of the North
Mikeverdi on 24-08-2015
The Piraeus of the North
Written in your own 'dirt beneath the nails way' Great to see you on here again Jim....but keep your thieving hands off King Arthur, he's Cornish 🙂
Mike

Author's Reply:

deadpoet on 30-08-2015
The Piraeus of the North
Had to look at a map. Nothing like a bit of history- love it! Bloody Mary Queen of Scots. And a harbour town. Any shipyard- anymore? They all seem to have moved to South-East Asia-None left in my country! And Glasgow's is shut down too I believe. Pity!
Great description.
Pia

Author's Reply:


Die Fahne Hoch (posted on: 17-08-15)
^^^^

Felix sucked each finger in turn. The noise irritated the big blacksmith who stared under lowering brows. Jacques never ate at the Lion D'Or; a cheese and potato man with no time for fanciful food, nor the people who delighted in it. Felix removed the serviette from inside his shirt collar. He dabbed at pursed lips, the gesture almost lady-like, as Gaston the proprietor hovered nearby. Jacques frowned into his glass. Checking the level, he downed the remaining Pastis and called for more. Gaston though, was busy. He segued around the tables, tray held high, balancing a single coffee and bound for the fastidious diner. Philippe came to his friend's rescue. He laid two glasses on the table, reversed the chair, and draped himself over the high back. 'I know, I know. Monsieur Gourmand is under your skin again?' The little postman rested his chin upon the chair as he smirked at Jacques. Everyone knew the Blacksmith for a dangerous man. Passionate, violent and changeable. To be avoided they all said. But Philippe had the measure of the man. He played jester to the giant; pulling him from the dark humours and dancing around the clenched fists. 'I have a secret, my friend.' He tapped a finger to the side of his nose. 'Messire Felix has friends in Germany, eh? Another parcel this morning.' The whisper was conspiratorial. 'Couldn't wait to shut the door on me and tear it open.' He waited for reaction, but Jacques was occupied in study of his enemy. In front of Felix was a box. They watched as he removed the lid to peer inside. The cherries were draped in fine, dark chocolate. Felix withdrew a leather wallet from inside his jacket. He selected a long silver pin with two tines. The weapon hovered above the box then, selection made, it dipped below the rim. Jacques salivated. He had an uncultured sweet tooth and his nostrils flared like an overwrought horse at sight of the plump chocolate cherry. He groaned as Felix consumed the sweet confection then drained the demi-tasse of strong coffee. Philippe held the large blacksmith in his seat as Felix made great show of his departure. 'Later Jacques. Tonight perhaps?' The curt statement brought a smile to both men. **** They'd worked the catch on the rotting sash window. Jacques pulled his small confederate aside and stepped across the sill. In the darkness behind the house, Philippe saw nothing more than his friend's bright grin. He gave Jacques ten minutes then followed him inside. When consciousness returned, Philippe gazed upon a warm, bright parlour. He shivered in cold realisation, feeling the tight, constricting band around his brow. Movement was impossible despite his best efforts; despite the strength of the fear which ebbed away in his struggle with the unseen bonds. He saw Felix step over the body on the floor, in his hand the box of chocolate cherries. The petite Frenchman had a strong grip. Philippe felt his jaw open under the pressure, before his mouth closed upon the cherry. 'Wonderful, isn't it? Soft. Sweet. The slight resistence in the bite?' Philippe swallowed. Fear and cherry both, though he found the fear indigestible. 'Not to your fat friend's liking. A mule; stolid and unimaginative. Not at all like you Monsieur Le Facteur. ' The smile was playful. The eyes however... 'Don't struggle Philippe - you'll need your strength.' He turned then, a little like a spinning ballerina, the box and the silver fork in opposite hands. One fastidious step across the body then the theatrical stoop to lift the lifeless head. 'I suppose I should finish with this shit first?' The expletive seemed unnatural in Felix's mouth. Perhaps it explained Philippe's heightened fear. Jacques had an empty eye-socket, the blood congealing on his cheek. The postman vomitted. With a dexterous flick of the wrist, Felix took the other eyeball then dropped it into the sweet-box. He had his audience in the palm of his hand. 'A little music, I think.' His back to the postman he wound the old gramaphone, the movement again balletic, full of grace. 'Die Fahne Hoch!' He laid the stylus onto the turning disc. 'Don't you just love Horst Wessel?' He turned, his back to the dresser. The imaginary baton weaved with the melody. 'My old comrades in the Waffen S.S. always did do it justice, did they not?' He stepped across the dead, sightless blacksmith. 'Now you shall have the other little treat. A moment gourmande before we discuss your appalling lack of professionalism.' The silver fork dipped into the box
Archived comments for Die Fahne Hoch
Mikeverdi on 18-08-2015
Dei Fannen Hoch
marvellous, I loved the story, horror washed down with a little cherry brandy. Thanks for posting again Jim.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Cheers Mike,
Glad you enjoyed. How are you? Jackie and I in England mid October, are you up for a visit?
Your fickle, infrequent pal,
Jim..

Pronto on 19-08-2015
Dei Fannen Hoch
Very well written and deserving of a golden nib if such a thing was possible. The sweet horror of this tale enthralled me.

Well done.

Author's Reply:
Blown away by the critique. I really enjoyed writing this.
Cheers,
Jim

Nomenklatura on 22-08-2015
Dei Fannen Hoch
Hi Jim, cracking tale.
It should be 'Die Fahne Hoch' which means literally 'The Flag High' as in "Raise the Flag High". Die, the feminine singular definite article here is pronounced "dee". Any 'ei' in German is pronounced like the English word 'eye' or 'I'.
Hence 'Mein Bier' - meaning "my beer" - sounds like "mine beer"

The Nazis were a fascinating lot weren't they? I hope we'll never see their like again.

Great story, would have nibbed it myself too.

Author's Reply:
Thanks Ewan,
I've made the changes. I have a recording sung by officers of the Waffen SS that inspired the piece.
bitte broder!
Jim


Drawing Down the Blinds (posted on: 17-08-15)
Still not sure of this one

Moonlight drops quilted darkness over all the tops. A smothering hush, lush from Nature's palette knife stops the chatter. Its syrup smooth to soothe barking dogs and sweeten savage tempers. It spans but a heartbeat. An asystolic silence. A drawn breath before the death of Eros. Mankind, no wiser for his years, still fears the cruel cadence that severs day and dusk. Life breaks the spell; Night's creatures crying triumph. Neath Obsidian black, the scarlet hue of slaughter will paint man's inner eye. And try, though well he might, to pass the night in slumber, he'll ponder if he's seen the death of light.
Archived comments for Drawing Down the Blinds
Mikeverdi on 17-08-2015
Drawing Down the Blinds
Well I like it Jim 🙂 The last three lines...perfect. It's early and I will read again.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Cheers Mike,
Glad you liked it. Speak soon, not enough days as at the moment

sweetwater on 17-08-2015
Drawing Down the Blinds
So much to enjoy and imagine in this sumptuous poem. No matter that we can summon light at the flick of a switch I believe we still carry our ancestors primal fears of the night. Sue.

Author's Reply:
Sue, you are too kind. I really had a lot of doubts about this one.
Cheers,
Jim

Pronto on 18-08-2015
Drawing Down the Blinds
Such rich, velvety-smooth poetic language employed. I like it even though the waxing moon plays hell with my tinnitus.
🙂


Author's Reply:
Thanks mate,
Innit tinnitus that bothers us at the minute thus?
Glad you enjoyed despite the disturbance.
Cheers,
Jim

deadpoet on 20-08-2015
Drawing Down the Blinds
A beautiful poem Franciman- I think man is made for the day and animals for the night. Someone said smooth- I agree - all these velvety soothe quilted- yes lies like a duvet over you the night- and smothers your senses.
very much enjoyed and nice to read again and again to soak up all the metaphors.
Pia

Author's Reply:
Hi Pie,
So glad this spoke to you. What poet doesn't like the notion of work being repeatedly read?
Thank you,
Jim

Kipper on 22-08-2015
Drawing Down the Blinds
It made me think of the darkness we don't see any more in the cities, and the black peppered skies which I remember as a child.
Thank you for those memories and for the other images of night time.
Michael.

Author's Reply:
Hi Michael,
The sky around here is always unpolluted. Darkness means just that. It inspires the fear that over rides this poem.
Cheers,
Jim

stormwolf on 23-08-2015
Drawing Down the Blinds
OMG Another that I wish I had written!

Should this have an apostrophe?

Its syrup smooth (It's syrup smooth)

I relate to the whole feeling of this poem as you may know I would. Alas, we are witnessing the death of light but pray the transition will not be overly long.

"It spans but a heartbeat.

An asystolic silence.

A drawn breath

before the death of Eros.

Mankind, no wiser

for his years,

still fears the cruel cadence

that severs day and dusk. "



IMHO this is poetry of the highest form. Simply superb in its dark portrayal of what so many now feel viscerally but also fear to give voice, as though to do so, would somehow hasten it in.



Wonderfully and powerfully awfull in its insight.



Alison x





Author's Reply:
Hi Alison,
As always you see the message clear. This was an unsuccessful poetry entry and i was convinced it missed the mark. Thank you. The passage you highlight nose seems to be a poem in its own right, and more powerful in that shortened form. I always did gild the lily!
Cheers midear.
Jim xx

Sorry neither of us will be at the meet. Maybe next year?


Something for the Weekend (posted on: 03-07-15)
Inspired by my new home, just West of Toulon.

From the lands of far Cathay! Marco Polo's oriental paradiso? Both premise and promise are dark-skinned; given by a Panyol extra, gifted in Nioise hyperbole. Black wood exotica. Ivory-tipped; how very Sixties! Rhinoceros, of course, the fabled horned horse. Traded on the Cote d'Azur for sweet hashish, or something worse. Ah. underneath the stall instead, a bedside bonus. The Horn - grated, inflames a flaccid penis, as irritated skin increases girth and gusto. At least that's what Jean Francois says; and he should know, he's Southern French...
Archived comments for Something for the Weekend
Nomenklatura on 03-07-2015
Something for the Weekend
Hahaha... cheered me up no end for the weekend.

Author's Reply:

ParsonThru on 03-07-2015
Something for the Weekend
Available in UK stockists?

Author's Reply:

Mikeverdi on 03-07-2015
Something for the Weekend
Bugger! France is having an effect on you 🙂
Mike

Author's Reply:

deadpoet on 03-07-2015
Something for the Weekend
Have a great weekend and life in your new home. Inspiring words. Didn't "get" that much of it but loved the atmosphere-

Author's Reply:

stormwolf on 04-07-2015
Something for the Weekend
Try a wee bit of Tigerbalm....but be very sparing mind..

I've never seen a man run so fast;-)
Alison x

Author's Reply:

chant_z on 04-07-2015
Something for the Weekend
I didn't see that end coming. Very witty. Been looking my full at pictures from Lyon and that area near Toulon. Wonderful.

Author's Reply:


Irish Coffee (posted on: 03-07-15)
^^^^

I missed it. I mime my request for a repeat; my ear to an imaginary conch shell. I thumb my dismissal at the steam-drenched hiss of the espresso machine. Pain turns ugly in her eyes. The untipped cigarette pulling at the brushed pearl of her lower lip. 'Just tell me what you want.' She picks at her laceration; a monkey pulling fleas from the fur of its mate. I mist over, in sympathy with the paned glass of the Cafe Fenelon . Miasma Arabica she calls it, my inability to make a choice. She has no idea why I'm smiling. But then she doesn't know I have her knickers in my inside pocket. They still have that warm, spicy perfume. I slip my hand in, looking for my wallet, she thinks. The hard bone buttons are sharp between my fingers. Her curiosity unanswered she stares off into the dingy interior. She's stunning in profile, my sometime spotter. We've worked together before, which gives our occasional lovemaking that sense of marital comfort. I withdraw my hand, thinking it doesn't do to dwell; that I owe her a decision. The target is a lump of a man. Owen Flannery, philosopher. Darling of the Rive Gauche; purveyor of bullshit dressed as mohair; gobshite. Irish gobshite, the worst kind. One scathing aside too many Owen. Turning Irish freedom into pissant, pearls to cast before French swine, is it? You've angered the Brotherhood, my man. Not clever at all, despite your reputation. Miasma Arabica; no, Miasma Robusta - that's what it is. Maeve spares me a quick glance in soundless repetition of her question, then draws a lungful of acrid, biting smoke. It's mannish but very sexy. Not as sexy as getting paid to put a bullet in your man's knee-cap, mind. But sexy. He wears a mouldering, brown cardigan and an unkempt, juvenile beard to match. No socks I see, though I can smell his feet. And his unwashed body - the body of a crucified Christ - discernible above the aromas of coffee and pastry. He catches Maeve's casual glance and preens himself. You won't ever have her French drawers in your pocket Paddy. Well? Are you ready now?' She screws the butt of her cigarette into the saucer. I reach for my pocket. 'Pain au Chocolat,' I whisper as my fingers find the electric friction of the warm satin.
Archived comments for Irish Coffee
amman on 03-07-2015
Irish Coffee
This seems like an extract from a larger narrative, Jim, although sufficient in itself. Very poetic word picture with clever, sharp observances.
Cheers.
Tony.


Author's Reply:

Rab on 03-07-2015
Irish Coffee
Nice. I like the muted interplay of violence and sex (which looks creepy as hell now that I've written it, but you know what I mean)

Ross

Author's Reply:

Mikeverdi on 03-07-2015
Irish Coffee
Oh yes, that's good...great even. I hope it is part of something bigger as I want to read it!
Mike

Author's Reply:

deadpoet on 03-07-2015
Irish Coffee
This was tantilizing for my imagination. I think you said enough- brilliant to catch s much in this little piece- a whole long story in a few hundred words. That is extremely clever. Thank you for a good read this evening.
xx

Author's Reply:

Nomenklatura on 06-07-2015
Irish Coffee
Is this a re-post Jim, or something you've reworked? I'm sure I remember something like it from a weekly challenge quite a while ago.
It's good either way.

Author's Reply:


Atonement (posted on: 29-06-15)
****

The rocking stopped. Becalmed by their windless, soundless island fortress, Our heroines groped toward a tacit understanding. Roped together by chance and circumstance, they hoped to gather the diverse strings that bound yet separated. A mutual wish all found upon the premise that their chemistry was love. If sound; it was the mutual ground they needed to sustain it. Yet like the sand along the strand, in front of the veranda; it might contrary shift, and sift unheeded through their fingers. The rocking stopped. Their island stilled. And flaring bright in the westering light; their vanity burned to ash
Archived comments for Atonement
Mikeverdi on 02-07-2015
Atonement
If I'm right...this is a bit rude 🙂 If I'm wrong, then I liked it anyway.
Mike

Author's Reply:


Seduction (posted on: 29-06-15)
****

She moved in circles, high above his head. Yet still beneath her feet he caught her eye. The spice-hot breath, a whisper to her ear; made clear the deep-felt strength of the attraction. This lustrous truth blazed pink upon her cheeks. She gave the lie, yet in her sigh he heard it. Sun bleached, salt clean he broke her limpid surface ; and beached his craft above her virgin sand. The Sailor's smile will always win the maiden. He lays such peppered sweetmeats on her tongue. His silken touch would serve to tempt an angel. And draw her deep beneath a raging sea.
Archived comments for Seduction
chant_z on 29-06-2015
Seduction
Very pictureque...

Author's Reply:

stormwolf on 30-06-2015
Seduction
Hi Jim,
a beautiful poem that I saw in my inner vision. The roles were reversed and the sailor was under the sea already as the mermaid was on the rock doing her siren song.
Incredible reversal of roles that can be read ( to me at least) in several different ways.
Do sailors really have a girl in every port? The sound like a right randy lot to me.
The poem starts off calmly as the waters she views him through and ends by being dragged into stormy waters. I loved it on so many levels it was exquisitely expressive and passionate.
Alison xx

Author's Reply:

sweetwater on 30-06-2015
Seduction
Really enjoyed this very sensuous poem, every phrase flowed like liquid honey from the pen. Particularly enjoyed the line beginning ' She gave the lie...' Loved too the images it summoned in my mind. Sue.

Author's Reply:

Bozzz on 02-07-2015
Seduction
A soft docking indeed - sandbags and all. Brilliant Jim.
Yours aye, David

Author's Reply:

Mikeverdi on 02-07-2015
Seduction
Bugger....that's a bit of all right Jim 🙂
Mike

Author's Reply:

e-griff on 02-07-2015
Seduction
using this to get an e-mail to you, Jim. Pse judge the weekly challenge, its overdue .. 🙂

Author's Reply:


Inventing Hell (posted on: 26-06-15)
For the last Weekly challenge.

Camille felt the sun across his shoulders. Mother had sent him to the Widow to chop wood. She'd accepted his favour without grace, offering only a wizened apple at midday. His stomach growled in reminiscence as he rolled his shoulders, easing the overworked muscles. He'd go to the War. In October. Men from the Prefecture had made that clear to his Maman. He'd seen the wreckage of men who had survived. He shared their belief that it might be better to die. Not today, though. Here he walked in sunshine. At home there'd be cheese and potatoes, bread and sausage. He held the feverish picture of his cousin Babette in his mind's eye. He saw firm breasts; smooth, white skin above the hem of her dress. The motor car drove his ribcage into lungs and heart. He heard his spine snap. A soldier sat behind the wheel of the car, engine stalled and dust in a cloud over the bonnet. The boy sat against the hedgerow. There was absolute silence. He got out to check the car for damage. It was clear the boy was dead. Had to be after such an impact. He knelt by the boy; a rag doll without structure, left by the roadside. The sigh pitched him back onto his elbows, staring as the boy's head lifted. Eyes flickered then flared open. He seemed about to speak, but expired in a loud soughing of breath. The soldier ran to the car. In haste.he dropped the starting handle His eyes moved from the handle on the ground, to the dead boy, the gesture thorough in its scrutiny. Tears sprung to his eyes as he wound the engine to life. Further up the road, the warrior allowed himself to believe that his tears were for the dead boy.
Archived comments for Inventing Hell
Mikeverdi on 28-06-2015
Inventing Hell
Jim I'm struggling with this, not the story, just the punctuation. For me of all people to say that HaHa! I'm seeing something in the flickering and expiring as a connection to the starting handle; of course this could be totally wrong. I still don't get the punctuation.
Mike

Author's Reply:


The Flowers That Bloom in the Spring Tra La! (posted on: 26-06-15)
****

I've lived with flowers. In maternity; in maturity. In the absurdity of claiming them peripheral, ephemeral, and feminine, of course. False messages I've meant by them. The money I have spent is then a passionless deceit. The dead I've wreathed in sentiment. A supine, shop-bought testament that understates a life. Now bending to their perfume, I ruminate on the necessity of colour in a garden, while hardening my heart against a petal-soft discovery that Nature blooms eternal.
Archived comments for The Flowers That Bloom in the Spring Tra La!
sweetwater on 26-06-2015
The Flowers That Bloom in the Spring Tra La!
Greatly enjoyed this poem covering all the different facets of flower giving and enjoying, very nice 🙂 Sue.

Author's Reply:

chant_z on 27-06-2015
The Flowers That Bloom in the Spring Tra La!
Maturity takes years. How many, I don't know ... ;).

On a more serious note there's a very strong voice to the poem that I like a lot. Thanks!

Author's Reply:

Mikeverdi on 28-06-2015
The Flowers That Bloom in the Spring Tra La!
Still working on this one Jim, some I get.. the rest needs 'cultivating'
Mike

Author's Reply:


Waterloo (posted on: 19-06-15)
****

Close run - that thing on Mont St Jean. Where standing crops were trampled in the mire, with fire faced and given in return. Burning hot - the lead that pierced soft flesh. Fresh-faced, the Gilded youth performed and passed away - A bloody day that scoured Corinthian innocence and marred the fine pretence of glory. It's gory, bloody and deceitful - Death upon a battlefield; limbs laid along the carcass of the Rights of Man. Reputations made - Kings and Captains depart; as Prometheus is tethered to the Rock of Saint Helena. The world's no place for one-legged artisans. Though partisan politicians say we're heroes, they won't remember come tomorrow. 'That's the sorrow, Jack.' Back home we're dross, yet lessened by a victory...
Archived comments for Waterloo
Mikeverdi on 19-06-2015
Waterloo
Excellent, and just the time to post it! So much on the box about this battle. I wonder on the outcome if Blucher and the Prussians hadn't turned up in time.
Mike

Author's Reply:


Al Fresco (posted on: 19-06-15)
****

Sunday ticks; talking down the minutes of our Golden Age. Pages fill; files of rasping dialogue in a fading sound-bite. Senses dull; overheated sentiment seeps through leather skin. Sleep comes; so youthful sap is bountiful in reverie. And All-in-All; life fits us for our age. .
Archived comments for Al Fresco
Mikeverdi on 19-06-2015
Al Fresco
Life fits us for our age.... Great observational piece Jim. A thinking man's poem, and I would expect nothing less. 🙂
Mike

Author's Reply:

amman on 20-06-2015
Al Fresco
Hi Jim.
We're as young as we want to be in dreams/sleep and as old and wise as we deserve in reality. Cleverly observed sentiments. Good alliteration.
Cheers.
Tony.

Author's Reply:


Bring it On! (posted on: 19-06-15)
Jackie and I are selling up and moving to the Cote d'Azur. We no longer want to be tied to property, and will rent to give us more unrestricted ability to travel. The sun on our shoulders is the thing.

Cutting the strings is our consummation. Floating free of former goods and chattels Borne on fickle winds; turned toward unseen horizons. The trick is in refusal to look down, or back. Sleight of hand that hides all apprehension. A conjurer's cheap technique and magic in brief discovery of life beyond the bend. We wind down the clock yet jettison the lifebelts. Mayhap we'll miss the last boat to heaven? Mendicant souls, lost to eternity.
Archived comments for Bring it On!
ParsonThru on 19-06-2015
Bring it On!
Great timing franciman. In the middle of a similar change. Good for you and thanks for the shot in the arm. Nicely said.

Author's Reply:
Cheers Mate,
Glad it strikes a chord. Good luck with the changes; it gets easier all the time.
Jim

Mikeverdi on 19-06-2015
Bring it On!
Bugger...and there was me thinking you already lived the dream. If it gets any better we may have to move in with you 🙂 Nice piece Jim, wish you would come to Bristol with Jackie. It would be do good to see you both again.
Mike

Author's Reply:
You'll both be most welcome Mike. The final move will be early next year. We are moving to Sanary-sur-Mer at the bottom of the Cote d'Azur, close to Toulon. Well I am an old Matelot!
Not given up on coming to Bristol, just difficult fitting everything in. Spain and Portugal next week.
cheers,
Jim

Savvi on 19-06-2015
Bring it On!
Some excellent phrases here Jim the poem does give a sense of an impending journey and makes me long for warmer, dryer air, Loved the closing two lines they make the piece turn with a greater purpose that just to travel. Greta stuff, Keith

Author's Reply:
Hi Keith,
Thanks for the comment. Nice to hear from you again. I intend to be a bit more active on the site, now.
See you in the trenches!
cheers,
Jim

pommer on 19-06-2015
Bring it On!
Wish you both luck Keith.great poem.I can see you both cutting loose and continuing life to the full without looking back. Peter.

Author's Reply:
Cheers Pommer. Here's hoping;
Jim

Andrea on 20-06-2015
Bring it On!
Hoorah! Well done, Jim - most people wouldn't dare 🙂

Author's Reply:
Thanks Boss,
There's many a slip twixt cup and lip, though. Only joking!
cheers,
Jim

amman on 20-06-2015
Bring it On!
Bon Voyage my friend. The poem is is so redolent of your mercantile background; choice words and phrasing. Quite envious re. your proposed HQ. We moved to the north Island of NZ 3 months ago and it's been pissing down here for the past 2 weeks.
Ciao.
Tony.

Author's Reply:
Grazie Mio Amico.
The only trouble with my Sunshine haven is that it is full of retired oldies!
Mustn't complain.
cheers,
Jim


The Dumb Waiter (posted on: 16-03-15)
My one and only monologue

Hi, I'm Buddy. I'm an actor. School of Performing Arts, New York. Community Theatre in Lappsville, Winsconsin. My One Man Hamlet at Benny's in the Village; Greenwich Village that is, was a one-night sell-out. I'm slowly getting an airing in the movies. I've had a number of very successful screen tests. I was the black street sweeper in "Driving Miss Daisy". A White Russian in the 2001 Spanish remake of Dr Zhivago; and you could just make me out being buried by a building in "Inception". My agent is confident of getting me an important cameo role in Shrek Seven; though in the meantime he has lined me up with a run of Men's Skin Care Ads, playing the part of a well used Scottish Movie actor who appears in Skin Care ads. Well, that's the breaks. When you're waiting on your big break, it's better than waiting on tables. Which is what I used to do whilst waiting on my big break. Now when I wait on tables, I tell everyone that I'm studying waiting on tables whilst waiting for my big acting break; just in case a part comes along for an actor waiting on his big break, waiting on tables. Well I'm a method actor; and I could also play the cameo role of a passenger waiting on a Greyhound Bus; or a struggling young method actor, waiting to be devoured over several set meals by Dr Hannibal Lecter. Are you here for the auditions? Me too. I've been waiting here for about four hours. Not waiting professionally that is; nor in an acting sense you understand; just waiting to be seen, or heard. And even this is good experience. You never know when they might need someone to play the part of a waiting man - in a waiting room, say. Wait; your not waiting to be seen? I'm waiting. There's nothing else waiting for me. And who knows? My big break may be waiting in there. If not I can always go back to waiting on tables.
Archived comments for The Dumb Waiter
Mikeverdi on 19-03-2015
The Dumb Waiter
Well that's different Jim 🙂 It felt sad and lost to me, I guess that's what it must be like, living that role in life. This must mean that I get the point of the write, not too dissimilar to writers waiting for someone to 'like' their story/poem...maybe that's why I get it.
Mike

Author's Reply:

sweetwater on 19-03-2015
The Dumb Waiter
Oh gosh, I was so sorry for the desperation the actor is feeling, telling himself things are, or soon will be happening for him. I felt there was a sense of panic bubbling under the surface. Trying to make ' not much of anything into something.' While ' waiting ' is the main theme running through his life. Very interesting and enlightening read. Sue.x

Author's Reply:


We Are For the Dark
(posted on: 16-03-15)
A line from Shakespeare's Anthony and Cleopatra

My brothers follow the prophet. We struggle over principle yet practice in fraternity. We stand corrected, scars of schooling open to the gaze of all encouraged others. Life is impromptu theatre. Grease-painted players with worn, hackneyed lines, putting twists on Aesop's fables. To gratify the bums who fill the seats, and feed upon The Beggars' Opera where Everyman is equal.

Archived comments for
We Are For the Dark


No comments archives found!
House of Cards (posted on: 13-03-15)
Inspired by the TV Drama

I ponder, even wonder, who was the moodier Tudor? Was it Seven? The bean-counting, Beaufort inspired, Welsh usurper. Or the great Eight? The faithless Defender of the Roman Faith, turned barbarous despot. Perhaps Mary? The scary, faery Queen, barren, bitter, burning to bring death to dissenters. Surely not Golden Elizabeth? Last of the spurious line; vicariously Virginal, weak bodied woman in a hard-hearted man. Does it really matter, in the world of Royalist chatter, twitter and blog? Well; No, I don't suppose it does; except to point a moral, both moribund and monumental; that the accidental monarch is indubitably flawed..
Archived comments for House of Cards
Mikeverdi on 13-03-2015
House of Cards
Wonderful read... well constructed, pithy with just a hint of malice. HaHa!
Mike

Author's Reply:


Shadow (posted on: 13-03-15)
For the weekly challenge.

I hear it in my sleep. The orgiastic feast in an empty room below. Memory plays at paranoia in the lair of the Minotaur. Beyond the fall of light The Sibyl cries, 'You've always known' and whip cracks my Xray. Where backlit king crabs gorge upon the shadow of a blighted lung.
Archived comments for Shadow
Mikeverdi on 13-03-2015
Shadow
Bloody hell! I've just been for my PSA blood test...
Another cracking read Jim. 'you've always known'.... yes I think we do sadly.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Sorry mate, Hope your PSA is ok?
cheers,
Jim

pommer on 14-03-2015
Shadow
A good read Jim.I've just had a letter from Haematology.It seems the crab is at it again. Peter.

Author's Reply:
Sorry to hear that Peter. I was an intensive care nurse, so I wrote this from observation rather than experience.
Keep your chin up.
Jim

stormwolf on 14-03-2015
Shadow
Brilliant piece of work. Rich, descriptive and imaginative.
Every line counts......
I just so hope it's not written from fact.
Alison xxx

Author's Reply:
Thanks so much for the comments, Alison. Not written from fact although, like most men, I have the fairly venomous belief that I have any number of Grade A diseases. It's a silence of the night thing.
cheers,
Jim xx

sweetwater on 15-03-2015
Shadow
Such a beautifully worded backdrop to a terrifying set of circumstances.
The horror outcome that haunts us all in mind, if not actually in body. Young or old. Writing perfection to me. Sue x

Author's Reply:


The Last American Buffalo (posted on: 09-03-15)
. . . .

Bleached white bones; the remains of our day in the sun. Such is the carcass of hope. Full-fleshed, it filled a far forever. Hand fed it grew to manhood, till hobbled by compromise, it settled for domestication and promises of greener grass. Years pass and pasture turns to dust. Enough to have the sun upon our back and tell tall tales to younger bulls, of fields beyond the hill. Soon comes the end of days. We lie along our birth earth, and watch our flaming sun fall down the sky.
Archived comments for The Last American Buffalo
Mikeverdi on 09-03-2015
The Last American Buffalo
It's good Jim...but I think it could be better (said the pupil to the master). I've read enough of your work to make that comment; so I hope you take it as it's meant...in friendship.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Hi Mike,
You may be right. It was written in the dead of night and never revised.
And how could l ever take offence at you Mike?
cheers,
Jim


ifyouplease on 09-03-2015
The Last American Buffalo
wow, very good, very visual.

Author's Reply:
Thank you, Really pleased it spoke to you.
cheers,
Jim

stormwolf on 09-03-2015
The Last American Buffalo
Loved it. The voice behind the words is so incredibly strong..sage-like
The imagery shifts from white bones and carcasses to the full fleshed younger years and the many pitfalls in between.
I wondered before I read it what it could be about. I never expected it to render me all emotional but I should have known 😜
You've taken metaphor and imagery and interwoven it with well picked words and lashings of feeling, pathos...bittersweet ness
A poem to be read over and over.
It left me feeling sad but with that strange fullness of spirit that comes with knowing you have read something meaningful for so many of us.
It also speaks of what has befallen America although that may have been the original aim and my reading the story of life and all its stages may not have been intentional. Either way, left me very moved.
Into favs and nominated.
Exceptional poetry in my humble opinion.
Alison x




Author's Reply:
Over the moon with the nom and the critique.
what pleases me the most though, is that you got that it was about life. The title seemed appropriate to the theme and the metaphor.
Never trust a man wearing your brother's skin as a coat!
cheers,
Jim xx

sweetwater on 11-03-2015
The Last American Buffalo
So many images, a full life story tied up in sixteen inspired lines. Great read, very much enjoyed. Sue.

Author's Reply:

Nemo on 11-03-2015
The Last American Buffalo
Reminds me of the plight of the American Indians. The first two lines are awesome and 'hobbled by compromise' is masterly. Great poem, Jim.
In reverence,
Gerald.




Author's Reply:


Funded by UK Government (posted on: 06-03-15)
Funded by UK Taxpayers would not have bothered us.

Balefires of Insanity, plaques placed on parks and ponts. Empire's fiery crosses; her losses left unfelt amongst the unfeeling right. Her gains? Britannia's face new-found. Her Pound retained until a US Treasury takes leisurely aim. And then, oh then - How stands the sceptred South my gentle lords? and lobbying access peaking at one Dollar. And how my noble Commons? Gone South for half that price.
Archived comments for Funded by UK Government

No comments archives found!
Eine Kleine Nachtsmusik (posted on: 06-03-15)
Simpler than it sounds

Late night strolls in on high stiletto heels, The click, clack, click of purpose fracturing the silence. And neon lights that wink in arch complicity, Throw feather boas over small hours' shoulders. The tumbleweed of newsprint and the urbane urban fox, Perform the Dance Macabre close to walls. To the tempo beat of bottles that have fallen on hard times, Playing double time Flamenco on the cobbles. It's a syncopated Nocturne with the beat before the bar, Just a little like the Sally Army play; When the fallen sisters come to meet the risen son of man. With the same bored introspection as the tourist. Then the dancers who are clinging to their space against the wall. Who are driven by their want for wanton partners. Get to fumbling for the funding in the pockets, neath their coat. And each fallen angel swallows hard and smiles.
Archived comments for Eine Kleine Nachtsmusik
Mikeverdi on 06-03-2015
Eine Kleine Nachtsmusik
This is just brilliant in my opinion, there's nothing simple about it Jim. Your use of metaphor through out weaves a magic carpet ride for us to enjoy. Great lines , too many to quote them all...'Throw feather boas over small hours shoulders' just one of many.
Please accept my Nomination.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Thanks Mike, and especially for the nomination. It's interesting, but when posted this before it had little in the way of reads and comment.
cheers,
Jim

Bozzz on 06-03-2015
Eine Kleine Nachtsmusik
True prose, but you cannot but feel the rhythm - not constant, but there when it matters where it matters. But where was Mike? Dreaming? Surely the "and" in the last line must go? Much enjoyed - as indeed Strauss Khan might have felt likewise - a promising start to proceedings anyway. Yes I too would have pushed the Nom button....David

Author's Reply:
Thanks David. You're right too; where is Mike when you need him?
cheers,
Jim

sweetwater on 08-03-2015
Eine Kleine Nachtsmusik
Amazing write, truly a waltze of words. Sue.

Author's Reply:
Thanks Sue. I am really pleased you enjoyed it.
cheers,
Jim

stormwolf on 08-03-2015
Eine Kleine Nachtsmusik
I really enjoyed this as I have done with every single one of your poems.
There is no waffling. no redundant words.
My problem was that I felt that it was a rhyming poem that did not in fact rhyme...if that makes any sense at all?

I have read it several times and feel the fact it's divided into 4 lines verses shows some structure that usually goes with a meter and rhyme. So reading out loud I was thrown here and there but I always love the way you make each word count and the voice behind the poem always comes over loud, clear and as one who has seen a lot in their day if you catch my drift.

Alison x


Author's Reply:


William McIlvanney (posted on: 02-03-15)
A moment on the road to Damascus for me

I watched an older McIlvanney carve words from Glasgow ether. He spoke as Laidlaw would, of neeps, and nips, and nepotism in the BBC; yet baulked at ill-conceived pettiness. He taught that authors, like biblical prophets, might not be welcome at the Saracen's Heid. Nor gettin' in wae folk. He claimed lifelong socialism, but saw it necessary to explain the concept. I valued the distinction. It said, 'I'm no a label, just a traveller sharing Babel with every other man.' He granted me a moment, a modicum of insight. Not once did Wullie, in sandstone, city voice, call writing grievous work. Nor give the Olympian view that it's harvested over two or many decades. He said; Lord love him, as so do I - it's putting it to paper every day. Now I walk his walk, and talk his talk. It's what writers do. Walk; talk; and tell a story - Journeys on our paths less trodden. And wearing still the hodden grey, we show the Coat has Many Colours.
Archived comments for William McIlvanney
Mikeverdi on 02-03-2015
William McIlvanney
To my shame I didn't know of him....I do now.

Great writing Jim, I looked him up and will read more. You say He granted you a moment, a modicum of insight; how wonderful. Its what writers do...walk, talk and tell a story. You told one here, and you told it well.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Hi Mike.
If you were the only girl in the world, and I were the only boy. It feels a bit like that though, don't it?
Thanks for the great comment,
Greatly appreciated.
cheers,
Jim

Andrea on 03-03-2015
William McIlvanney
I hadn't heard of him, either. Here he is for interested parties --> William_McIlvanney

Wonderful alliteration, as always 🙂

Author's Reply:
thanks for dropping by Boss.
cheers,
Jim


Pastimes (posted on: 02-03-15)
For last week's challenge -PASTIMES

It was the best move he'd ever made. The Yorkshire farmhouse would have been way out of range without the Parliamentary expenses. It was the anchor that fixed Monica to the Yorkshire Dales. 'Beautiful,' he whispered. 'But only for a weekend.' The voice was sotto voce. Well you never knew who was listening these days, even in first class. Especially first class. He reached for the instruction manual. He would use a Browning minimagic. Wide eye Ricoh lens and mayhap a yellow ochre filter. But. And there was ever a but; first the cross-party committee on financial irresponsibility. 'What a mess. An Eton Mess.' He sniggered at his trenchant wit. 'Why couldn't they tip-toe round the limits, like the rest of us?' The G and T scrubbed away any apprehensions he felt. He was a small bird, with a tiny beak, thankfully. He drew the Gucchi notebook from his jacket, and dropped it in a cavalier manner, onto the table. Lifting its silk ribbon, the book opened at his target. He ran a finger along the inner spine. A tactile gesture. He held the fanciful belief that he'd Gypsy in his blood. His ears pinked and he took a guilty look around. Debbie. Tall, fleshy; Reubens would have loved her. Junoesque. That was the term. Junoesque. He drew the curves on his notebook, then picked up his mobile. He punched in the numbers turning to check that the compartment was otherwise empty. Oliver was twenty something. He reached up to fondle the red, paisley cravat. Then the frown. Well he felt twenty, sounded it too. Maybe thirty. His Carnaby Street voice. 'What size are you Debs? I need to provide a few props. Kimono/Sarong, that kind of thing.' Still holding his tie, the First Secretary to the Treasury burned with indignation. It was a thousand miles from Macclesfield to Carnaby St. '36D? Marvellous. 26 inch waist? Good.' The Sixties' Swinger steadied his battered craft. 'I think that should cover it. Now to get everything in shape.' He'd take another drink. The bloody reds had ambushed them. That avuncular Scots bastard. Still, Debbie was here. They'd shared a few drinks. The Coke had been her idea. She noticed how uptight he'd been surely. Anyway, she was crashed out in the lounge. He pulled on the small silk triangle of her panties. Then the camisole top, arms raised to allow its fall over his head. Cool sensual friction and then, oh then, the warm spicy scent of her under his nose. He was aware that his testicles nestled in her thin cotton gusset. Hard arousal followed. The self-timing flash went off. He ejaculated as the heel snapped on his gold slingback shoe, and he was thrown into the corner. 'It's gone off all by itself,' he whimpered as he entered oblivion.
Archived comments for Pastimes
Mikeverdi on 02-03-2015
Pastimes
So this comes under the heading of 'Pastimes'.. Oh Dear 🙂
I loved it Jim, the whole thing was just titillating enough without going over the top on the sex angle.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Hi Mike,
23 years in the Royal Navy wasn't all wasted then? Really pleased you liked this one.
cheers,
Jim


Murder (posted on: 27-02-15)
This was the true Massacre of Innocents.

This youth of my acquaintance was a German. We'd met, not really face to face, but surely toe to toe, midst the flooded chaos of the Flanders' plain. We shared a single dream. A vision of dry feet, dry clothes, the warm caress of home. Above the tide reach of this wretched sea. We might in fellowship, have raised a pint o' tuppeny best. We could have thrown quoits or bowled at skittles. But I killed him dead. A bayonet through the socket of his eye, That in drier times would win a British cheer. But it's not like beer and skittles, where the loser buys the pints, It's Christ's bitter cup that's poured for us anew.
Archived comments for Murder
Mikeverdi on 27-02-2015
Murder
So much in this one Jim, you touch on something that much has been written about (the game of football) but seldom bettered. It must surely cross many a mind in the aftermath. Truly great writing.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Thanks mate. This is one of my favourites.
cheers,
Jim

Savvi on 28-02-2015
Murder
Truly the end of all innocence, very well written Jim, it does every thing I could ask of a poem and more. Best Keith

Author's Reply:
Very much appreciated, Keith. And if you were responsible for the nom, thank you.
cheers,
Jim


Gie us the Giftae (posted on: 23-02-15)
In Standard English or Doric Scots, the man was a genius.

A ploughboy from a hillside farm wrote chorus for the angels. He spoke the wisdom ancient in homespun, native tongue. He constant roved in search of love, turned strumpets into ladies. Made pigs of men; but with his pen drew other folk immortal. He took the measure of the Church; the State; the wanton greed of nations. He drafted simple honesty transmuted into gold. He held a mountain daisy high above a world of treasure, saying pleasure at such blossom was the hallmark of a man.
Archived comments for Gie us the Giftae
Nomenklatura on 23-02-2015
Gie us the Giftae
In spite of what fans of The Simpsons may say, there is, and will always be, only one Mr Burns.

...To see oursels as ithers see us!

Author's Reply:
Would that more of us might heed the advice!
cheers,
Jim

stormwolf on 23-02-2015
Gie us the Giftae
Only you can write like this m'dear.
Put me down for a signed copy of your poetry book when you get around to it 😜
Alison xx

Author's Reply:
Cheers m'dear. Have you got a Paypal account? LoL.
cheers,
Jim xx

Bozzz on 24-02-2015
Gie us the Giftae
A fitting summary tribute in readable English - very well done my friend as usual. As a matter of interest, Farquharsons run rampant in our family tree, but I have never discovered the sin they are supposed to have committed at or after Culloden - any ideas and was it forgiveable ? Yours aye, David

Author's Reply:

franciman on 24-02-2015
Gie us the Giftae
I think they stole the Tea Boat Money, David.
I'm on to it meantime.
cheers,
Jim

Author's Reply:


Cambridge Circus (posted on: 23-02-15)
The last act.

They sat in the Pillars of Hercules nursing tonic water. The pub was empty, as theatre-goers hurried to beat curtain up. Jamil watched his hand tremble as he lifted the glass. He put it back on the table. Kamal smiled at his companion and tapped Jamil's wrist. 'It will be fine Jamil. Angels guide your steps.' 'You're not afraid? How can you be so calm? What if it goes wrong?' 'Jamil, I do this twice a day in the circus. It is no great thing.' Jamil nodded, keeping his hands below the level of the table. 'You are fortunate Brother. You look like an English son of Shaitan. You won't be noticed Jamil.' He glanced at his watch. 'It is time.' He got to his feet. Jamil followed. Kamal frowned . He shook his head. As he passed his hand rested on his companion's shoulder. 'Till we meet in Paradise.' An hour later Jamil walked along Greek Street, then turned down the side of the Palace Theatre. Barnum, Musical of the great American showman, played in West End whimsy. Ten minutes after final curtain he had been told. He murmured Surah 67, the familiar words fortifying him for the task ahead. He saw the crowd in the open space. He heard the hum of excited chatter. Packed shoulder to shoulder, Jamil had to squeeze through. He looked to the sky, an innocent tourist scanning the stars. Pride welled within him. Kamal walked on a thin wire high above the theatre. The wire a permanent feature, used to advertise the show. But this show had caught the imagination. No safety net and Kamal, a consummate artiste standing; turning; pirouetting and bending, high above the crowd. Jamil heard the sirens, knowing there was still time. The police would have to force their way through the crowd. Kamal bowed from the waist.. 'Till we meet in paradise.' Smiling at the heavens, Jamil pressed the detonator.
Archived comments for Cambridge Circus
Mikeverdi on 23-02-2015
Cambridge Circus
Love this one Jim, everything in 322 words. We are told this is on the cards at any time.This makes your story all the more chilling.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Thanks Mike. Not many around today? or maybe I've l.st the bulk of my readers. Not surprised given my recent lack of contribution.
cheers,
Jim


Maggie's Men (posted on: 20-02-15)
Saving The Empire

Jimmy was soaked from just below the knees. His top half steamed under the jacket and assault pack. At his side, another young Guardsman was nestled into position. The sky alternated between black and lilac pink as the rocket flares went up. 'Hey Rab, Rab. Are you scared?' 'Of course I'm fuckin scared. Are you no? That wiz Billy Sneddon back thair, half his bluidy head missin'. Can ye believe they wanted us tae dae this in daylight?' 'We widnae be up tae oor knees in shite then, wid we,Rab?' 'No.' Rab was a Glaswegian; a realist. 'We'd be up tae oor knees in the blood o' oor pals. Even the Argies couldnae miss us ploutering around in this peat bog.' 'Four Section move out. Double there Thompson.' 'Aye sarge,' A disembodied voice. 0ut front of the two Scots. 'Here Rab, I'm glad it's no oor turn yet. They Argies will be sleeping by the time we move up.' 'And could you sleep in this freezing cauld, ya daft bastard? When we get up thair, they'll be waiting for us. They're no faird o' the dark. They're Marines fer Christ sake. They'll hae padded jaickets, and night vision glesses. Anyway, they'll hear us comin' fae a mile aff.' 'D'ye think Sneddon felt anything? D'ye think it wiz instant?' 'I dinnae ken. Mind you it looked sore, but. Here, he owes me a tenner. Bastard!' The silence stretched before them; a hard silence, coated in frost. Guardsman Robert Mitchell fought his chattering teeth. It took him back to childhood and the wide expanse of Blackpool beach. 'Hey Rab, Rab.' 'What?' 'Dinnae leave me lying if a get hit, wid ye no? I'll dae the same fur you. Honest. Okay Rab?' 'Casualty coming through - it's Thompson, a gut shot.' 'Aw Christ Rab; a dinnae want tae dae this. What are we here for onyway?' 'Because wur sodgers Jimmy, that's why. Scottish sodgers.' 'So we're gaun then?' 'Aye... It's why wur here, but...'
Archived comments for Maggie's Men
Mikeverdi on 20-02-2015
Maggies Men
Is this the start? It feels like it. I remember this war, they left from Plymouth. We lined the motorway bridges when they came back, flags waving. You write with authority Jim as always.....more please.
Mike

Maybe a bigger gap between the full stop and the next word in places, seems to run together at times. Could be just me 🙂

Author's Reply:
This is it in entirety, Mike. Flash fiction. Though I can see what you mean about something bigger. yes, I was there.
cheers,
Jim


The Doubtful Shepherd (posted on: 20-02-15)
I found this in my notebook. Must have written it before Christmas but after a few tots I think.

I'm in my habitual, hivernal position. The one midwinter shepherd left upon the barren hills. My doubts and dark standings see me out beyond the splash of that wondrous, supernal light. My belief is beggared by the one vagrant thought: Why a caring Godhead might have appetite for sacrifice? Or considers his only son sufficient blood-price? And yet, some part of me needs the Christ child's promise. He'll talk of love and die upon a tree. And me? I hear the message but deny the power of his cross. I saw Calvary in Peshawar. His Passion there in George Square. Yes, I get the message. Next time I'll follow the star to see a prophet in his swaddling.
Archived comments for The Doubtful Shepherd
Mikeverdi on 20-02-2015
The Doubtful Shepherd
I can see you writing this, an empty bottle next to you HaHa! I think you have it right...and I like it 🙂
Mike

Author's Reply:

Bozzz on 21-02-2015
The Doubtful Shepherd
Enjoyed it Jim. Alcoholic doubts are user-friendly. Another of your charming travels through mystery and confusion - you are the world's entertainer that needs no stage. Cheers...David

Author's Reply:

Nemo on 22-02-2015
The Doubtful Shepherd
Careful, Jim. You'll be kneeling on your prie-dieu next or taking up Pascal's wager.
Gerald

Author's Reply:


Sandy Guthrie (posted on: 16-02-15)
written on the 100th anniversary of the death by firing squad of a young Scot.

He's a youngster is our Sandy, in the Royal Scots Fusiliers. Still a scholar when they called for volunteers. He's gone grey about the temples 'cause of everything he's seen; like his best pal lying headless in a German trench latrine. He's just hanging from a gate post in that first hour after dawn. Bleedin' crying for his mother, whilst his comrades stand and yawn. He's a coward says the Colonel, left his brothers in the mud. Now he's heart-shot by a fraction and forsaken by our God. He's a message sacrificial, pumping sanguine; heavy bled. Lingers on till the Lieutenant puts a bullet through his head. He was young, was Sandy Guthrie. Weren't we all?
Archived comments for Sandy Guthrie
Rab on 16-02-2015
Sandy Guthrie
Lovely poem, Jim, and a fitting memorial to another needless death. I read about this in the paper last week; the fist Scottish soldier to be executed by his own side in WW1. He had gone out for provisions for the company and didn't go back.

Author's Reply:
Some things just take your breath away. Thanks Rab.
cheers,
Jim

sweetwater on 18-02-2015
Sandy Guthrie
Such a sad, needless waste of a young life, what right had they to take his life like that, he was obviously, literally out of his mind at the horror, he needed help not extermination. Truly dreadful to read, but if poems from perspectives such as yours are not written how are we ever to learn? Sue.

Author's Reply:


Pri Dieu (posted on: 16-02-15)
One more voice in the wilderness.

Habit alone made me say "My God." A system of belief; a code of practice, ingrained despite the abrasions of doubt, made me call upon the jealous Diety, who came to the City of Mammon dressed in his other face. This so-called God of the Hebrew. Of the Christian and the Muslim. Who descended to the foibles of the Olympians. Who like Oedipus put out his own eye,in petulence; and blinded all the Nations. Though not before they witnessed The Destruction of the Temple; The Fall of Souls; the Bonfire of the Vanities. I shall not say "My God" again.
Archived comments for Pri Dieu
Mikeverdi on 16-02-2015
Prié Dieu
Another Gem, your use of words is excellent as always Jim. One of your best.
Mike

Author's Reply:

Bozzz on 16-02-2015
Prié Dieu
Jim, I did not read this cleverly worded piece until after I had replied to your comment on my own attempt. I appreciate both better now. Unsurprisingly both works are in response to news bulletins, both end in sharp, grim reactions to the chosen situations. An understandable and excellently framed riposte to yourself as well as to the reader. Yours aye, David

Author's Reply:

Nemo on 17-02-2015
Prié Dieu
Hope you don't mind, Jim. I'm pasting here what I've just sent David in response to his poem. Your poem echoes the despair I feel too. The voice of reason has been crying out for centuries. Even Voltaire said 'Si Dieu n'existait pas, il faudrait l'inventer.' If only our expensively educated and clever politicians would speak out but no, they still allow berobed clerics to officiate and perpetuate the myth at our ceremonies of national mourning and gatherings to commemorate the dead in disasters, mutilations and traffic accidents. It is no better in schools. My four year old grandson was made an innkeeper at Christmas. There were several Josephs and a number of donkeys as well. The trouble is atheists have no temples or churches in which to intone their chants of non-credo, no charismatic leader drawing in the multitudes. What is to be done?
Brother Gerald
(I'm pretty certain there is no accent on Prie Dieu.)

Author's Reply:


A Glasgow Bar Mitzvah (posted on: 06-02-15)


He pierced my darkness - A one word question. No smile, just bile to soften my resistance. Fear made me discreet. His tiger on paper feet demanded my I.D. I acquiesced. I passed the test. So on a roll, ordered a pint of Heavy. He spat the metaphor, 'I don't serve minors.' As Thatcher smiled in sepia, beneath her tarnished frame.
Archived comments for A Glasgow Bar Mitzvah
stormwolf on 07-02-2015
A Glasgow Bar Mitzvah
Ha ha. I remember sitting in a bar in Forres aged 14 with my big sister aged 16. We drank half pints of snakebite and i guess the barman knew but back then business was business.
Every word well thought out as in the best poetry.


Alison x

Author's Reply:

Bozzz on 07-02-2015
A Glasgow Bar Mitzvah
Hi Jim, brings back one for me too. In a San Fransisco bar I asked for a Dubonnet. Sorry sir, we don't stock that. Voice from across the room "He means a Dubbo net". Ah well.
I am sure as poets we all survive big put downs in life - a tidy and concise poem - enjoyed... Yours aye, David

Author's Reply:

Ionicus on 08-02-2015
A Glasgow Bar Mitzvah
"‘I don’t serve minors.’
As Thatcher smiled in sepia,
beneath her tarnished frame."
Very droll, Jim.


Author's Reply:


In The Moment (posted on: 06-02-15)
C'mon... just one wee dram.

I'm drunk again. Seven sheets and legless. Dripping pearls of wisdom down a drooping chin. In my cups it seems. Imagining my figments paginating pigments of perfect, purple prose. To erstwhile evangelists who castigate a poor, pissed poet; I mention only this - My Muse - ill-used and overworked, is not amused when do-good demi-gods say we mustn't party.
Archived comments for In The Moment
amman on 06-02-2015
In The Moment
I'll drink to that, Jim. Bollocks to the party poopers. Nice alliteration in your perfect, purple prose et al.
Cheers.
Tony.

Author's Reply:
Hi Tony,
Been without internet all week. thanks for the kind comments.
Chinchin !
Jim

stormwolf on 07-02-2015
In The Moment
Hi Jim
You know I love your work. Said so many times and this is no exception. Can I risk your ire to ask why you do not reply to comments?
EEK!
I just feel it's detrimental and makes one perhaps reluctant to read.
People have nominated you still no reply. ;/
You are in my top 5 without doubt but reading and evaluating takes time and effort surely a reply is not too much?
I do hope to meet you again and hope a swift 'Glesga kiss' is not required 😉
Alison x



Author's Reply:
Hi Alison,
We're never too old for a smack. I've been guilty of being 'too busy' with my writing. The belief that I am a more important writer than everyone else is immature and arrogant and I apologise accordingly. I will try harder, indeed I must, or turn into the kind of writer I myself find insufferable.
See you on the factory floor!
cheers,
Jim x

Ionicus on 08-02-2015
In The Moment
Quite right. Let's drink and be merry.
Skol, Luigi.

Author's Reply:
Sante, mon brave
cheers,
Jim


The Veterans' Christmas (posted on: 30-01-15)
That bit closer to the end. A follow on from 'Independence'

On the 22nd of December it snowed all day. The temperature plummeted in the evening, and the Highland Division were pleased to have solid billets secure from the storm. At Beaumont Hamel, the Highland Division had earned their place as Primary Assault Unit of the British Expeditionary Force. They were much sought after, and the Highlanders were under orders of transfer to General Allenby's Third Army at Arras. In preparation for this, The Rifles were billeted in the railway marshalling yards; permanent stone buildings to the North of the city. The piano was unusual. It had lain undisturbed behind boxed cargo. The soiled tarpaulin told of a decade's neglect. It would have remained undiscovered but for the highlanders' committed quest for alcohol. Rab Niven lavished attention on it and, from unpromising beginnings, he brought it to life. 'Gie us The Intermezzo Rab. You ken the wan.' The small, malformed Glaswegian was a private in the HLI. The audience of mixed Highlanders endorsed the request; everyone's favourite, from Cavallerie Rusticana. Rab Niven let the silence settle upon the large warehouse. The opening bars were ponderous, soft and slow. Expectancy pulled at them all as Rab raised a tension in the piece. Then the sleight of hand, the flourish on the worn keys. He heard the gasp, the involuntary sob, the catching breath that made him smile in triumph. Over a hundred Scots were lifted to the sun-drenched coast of Sicily. Wondrous heat on sallow skin; a salt tang in the air. Billy stood on the periphery, on his way to town but unable to walk away from the haunting music. Alan and Eck stood hand in hand; in a place more liberal in its beliefs. Far removed from Amiens. Removed from reality, their clasped hands a figment of the music. Stewart felt anew the loss of his brother, and wished he could find a way to approach Black Douglas. A way that would spare his own battered dignity. Palermo or Picardy. A long thousand miles from Pittenweem, Billy thought as he left the compound. She watched him from the top of the stairs. Nausea curled in the pit of her stomach as she steeled herself for their encounter. It collided with the frisson of lust that shared the same lower abdomen. She frowned at this physical betrayal; weakness when she most needed strength. 'Billy. Not here,' she stretched her hands, palms out, holding him at a distance. He was breathless from the stairs, she from first sight of him. 'Let's go outside; the covered courtyard.' She eased past, leaving him to follow. They were not alone in the courtyard and he had pulled her through an open arch at the rear of the cloister. He kissed her. Savage, needy; his lips cold and hard. Her lips blossomed on his and the tension fled. He broke the moist contact, leaning against the wall to search for his cigarettes. 'Do you want one?' He presented the packet of fags. 'Please Billy.' He lit two cigarettes and passed her one, though he wasn't at all sure that that had been Marjorie's request. He drew on his own fag, pulling the sharp settling smoke into his lungs, voice gone high. 'You've seen him then?' He watched a solitary snowflake, precursor of a new fall. 'Brodie told me. It must have been upsetting? Seeing him like that. Torn; vulnerable. I've seen the compassion you have. It's one of your most attractive features.' He turned toward her. 'And you're not the only one with a conundrum to solve, your ladyship.' 'You mean Anne? Brodie Smith's sister?' Her attempt at detachment was betrayed by the note of appeal in her question. 'Perhaps I do, but.. ..maybe I feel some sympathy for Lord Snootie. He's brave I grant you, and fair according to his lights.' He snorted, amused by his own sense of confusion. 'No sooner do I take his measure than he changes my mind again.' He turned once more to the contemplation of snowflakes. He spoke into the night sky. 'In all truth.. .. I feel guilty Marjorie. Ashamed of my actions in his eyes and that wee lassie's back home.' Marjorie stood in silence. She cupped her right elbow in her left hand, right arm vertical, two fingers around the smoking cigarette. The pose seemed alien to Billy who begged her response. 'God! How tedious. The heart of a poet in the narrow mind of a presbyterian minister. Jimmy was right. And you don't have the backbone of your friend Brodie either.' She gazed at him down the length of a patrician nose. 'I believe you should leave now, Private Morrison.' He balled his fists, the urge to hit out welling up inside. And then he relaxed. His smile cut to her core as wordless he walked into the night. 'I love him - Billy Morrison, God help me.' She threw it at a deaf, uncomprehending world. She wondered if it were possible to claim her heart belonged to both. It hurt too much to laugh it off and she swallowed down her bitter repast. Billy was drunk. The speed with which he achieved that state made his mind whirl. The vin plonk helped too, he mused, laughing like an imbecile. The Rue Malmaison was empty. He heard the dull echo of his boots against the cobbles. Entranced by the notion that it resembled his empty heartbeat he stopped. He found himself staring at the darkened facade of the Hotel Victor Hugo. 'Last Christmas. In there we met. A year ago. Marjorie and that bastard Drummond - and me; a dumb, dirty private soldier. And now we're all damaged and twisted Anne.' He spewed. Bile, sharp and acid. Burning his throat, his heart. Scalding the cobbles. 'Oh Anne, Anne,' he cried, the prayer lost in the vomit. **** Alise watched the two officers in the big room opposite. Captain Brune was animated, talkative. He felt comfortable in the company of the young Scots lord. It was Jimmy Drummond's gift, his ease with people. But she had seen the man without his mask. The diffidence, the horror he saw reflected in the eyes of others. Both of her patients had that mutilated side. She felt perhaps that each warrior guarded the weak, exposed side of the other. She smiled at the allusion, whilst finding some truth in the rationale. As the sky darkened into night, they left the chateau. In the winter months Alise used a pony and trap to journey between work and home at the auberge. A short trip, snow notwithstanding, and on arrival a Dickensian scene. Cheery, festive light spilled across the courtyard, reminding Jimmy there were worse things than a ravaged face. **** 'You have a healthy appetite for one so so slim mademoiselle.' He smiled. A conscious action, no longer a simple reflex. And it saddened her. 'A misguided observation, Alise,' his single eye fixed her. 'Not flattery, I assure you.' 'I am the daughter of a rich peasant. I don't stray far from the tree.' They shared a plate of leeks, boiled and coated in butter. The small dish of mayonnaise had the same rich sheen, and she spread it along the stem of a leek then speared it with her fork. Her own impish smile from shining, buttery lips, reminded him he was still a man. He leaned forward to wipe her mouth with his napkin. Reflex this time. She found his lips under her own; aware of the hard wooden edge of the face-mask. He pulled away, his hand going to the mask, feeling along the inner edge. 'I'm sorry Jimmy.' She reached for his hand, drawing it away from the mask. 'These vegetables. They remind me of how intolerable the lack of colour can be at the Front.' He split a leek with his knife, probing the vivid green top, immersed in the vitality of colour. 'You don't have to return to the War. Norman Barrington is convinced that, with your father's influence, you could have a posting in England Jimmy.' Her voice dropped. 'Think of it. A return to a world full of colour.' 'Scotland; not England Alise. It's where all lame and unfashionable highlanders are sent.' His breathing was heavy and laboured. 'Do you remember your Shakespeare? Richard the Third, Alise? ''Sent into this breathing world scarce half made up. And that so lamely and unfashionable that dogs bark at me, as I halt by them.'' Do you see.. .. ..' He saw her compassion. His contrition was born of a belief that he didn't deserve it. 'I'm sorry. Self-indulgent clap-trap Alise.' A nerve shivered as he tried to force a smile. 'You aren't your mask, Captain. It doesn't hide the man Jimmy; just the torn part of an outer facade.' The smile was warm. 'I'm a doctor after all. You should heed my advice. No?' They shared the plump breast of a mallard duck, accompanied by small, crisp sautd potatoes. Jimmy Drummond escaped the constraints of his mask for a time. The noise of a log dropping to ash in the big fireplace, took him back to the company trench. 'They are such remarkable people Alise. You would like them. They call themselves the East Neuk Rifles.' A smile, the first natural reflex. They both recognised it. 'I have a Sergeant who knows more of leadership than the entire division staff. I have well, let's just say I'm blessed with a grand body of men. Men who take care of their brothers. Men who miss their homes, their families; who wouldn't be anywhere but with their group.' 'I can see how you might miss them Jimmy. You do them proud when you speak of them so.' She smiled at her own perception. 'Perhaps they would understand that you have made your sacrifice, that for you the War is over?' Jimmy nodded, acknowledging her honest attempt at resolution. 'This awful war will change everything. Is changing everything. A lot of what I hold dear will be lost, society turned on its head. And what will be the consequence do you think? Will the world be all we hope it will be?' Alise saw a very different man. Gone the playboy, the bon vivant. Despite his wounded face, the new Lord Elcho was impressive. 'Probably not, old thing. But it must be better, mustn't it? Not for the ambitious, petty minded types. The Alastair Airds of this world. But for Jimmy Hughes, and Brodie Smith, and the countless thousands for whom I never spared a second glance.' The shivering smile again. 'God, it's shell-shock Doctor. After-shock maybe?' He paused, then burst into laughter. Alise heard the desperate edge to it as he said, 'No. It's loss of face, Isn't it?' Barrington arrived on the morning of Christmas Eve. Jimmy would join his father in Amiens before travelling home on leave. Alise did not believe the rehabilitation complete. They had argued and their last day together had seen a growing distance. The weather had turned to rain. Water dropped from every roof, and ledge, and overhang. 'Thank you Alise; for everything.' He shook her hand then seemed reluctant to let go. 'If they allow you to return to the regiment Jimmy, I would like to see you first?' It was a question when she was entitled to make it a requirement. They both knew it. He nodded. 'Yes of course, Doctor.' On the journey to Amiens, he regretted the formality of his departure. **** The Highland Division made merry. Few men ventured into town. Brodie visited Maggie - a wonderful, un-looked for Christmas. The rest closed the doors against a cold winter and celebrated the birth of a saviour they no longer believed in.
Archived comments for The Veterans' Christmas
Mikeverdi on 30-01-2015
The Veterans Christmas
Wonderful.
Mike

Author's Reply:


Independence (posted on: 30-01-15)
This is the manuscript with 5,000 words to go.

He watched her approach. Reluctance in her step as she walked between the long row of beds. His breath caught and held. It snagged on his weakness; on the vapid admission that he loved her. A tear running neath the bandage came close to unmanning him as he realised the impossibility of such an event. A teardrop from an empty eye-socket? What you might call a tribal memory, he thought; hearing her song again, from their last meeting, the concert. She stopped, unsure. He raised a hand and beckoned her close. She came then at a rush, the wide cape hiding her frantic movements. 'Oh Jimmy, Jimmy. What have they done to you?' Her hand hovered above the torn face, uncertain. 'I didn't know, you must believe me.' She bit her lip, sinking to her knees alongside the bed. 'Brodie brought me word. Brodie Smith. I came straight away. He's waiting outside - your sergeant. I've known him since we were children.' She stopped. Her hand went to his arm lying along the bed. 'Just listen to me, prattling like a like a slip of a girl, whilst you Are you in lots of pain my poor darling?' 'It's not so bad old girl. I can still walk and talk and see.' He spoke in mangled English, enunciating each word; muffled but lucid. 'I'll be able to play golf; to drive and dance; everything except smile and wink I should imagine.' He laughed then. Marjorie saw the rictus as laughter at least. 'The bits you can see are pretty good. Pretty being the operative word, d'ye see?' He had her unblinking attention. 'I've lost an eye but then who needs two?' He hurried on. 'The piece of hun metal broke my jaw; the front of my skull; and the bridge of my nose. This side of my face is like a ploughed field.' He gestured with his hand, the languid movement so recognisable to Marjorie. 'Now don't cry my dear. I never could stand syrup and sympathy.' 'Jimmy. What I said the last time; I . . .' 'Please .. . Old Girl.' It was a plea for understanding dredged from the depth of his being. 'You're right of course. I mean; could you really see me married?' The ensuing silence soon filled the high open spaces of the hospital ward. It forced her to speak. 'When will they send you home?' 'I'm not going home Marjorie. There's talk of a mask once repairs are finished. All to be done here. Dr Lobau, the surgeon engaged by my father. So, home for a spot of leave and then back to the front I expect. A Staff job at the very least.' 'Jimmy. Can I still visit you? See how you are doing?' They both heard it in her voice, the little girl asking to stay up a bit longer. He nodded and gave the same smiling grimace. 'I'll leave now if I may? I'll send Brodie in to see you, yes?' Bending to kiss his cheek she couldn't know how close she came to stopping his heart. **** 'You can go in Brodie. He's waiting to see you.' 'Lady M? Can I ask you something?' She nodded, still preoccupied. 'It's kinda personal your ladyship. But I do have tae ask.' 'Of course Brodie.' She smiled then. Sad, wistful, but yes a smile. 'It's about Billy, isn't it?' 'What happens now with the Skipper? Sorry his lordship? I mean where does this,' he gestured to the ward, 'where does it leave the two of you? She took time to answer. 'It doesn't leave us anywhere Sergeant Smith. It won't change anything.' 'Because of Billy Morrison?' 'Because I love him - Jimmy Drummond, God help me.' Her sad smile touched the big fisherman. 'And I'm much too late.' 'But why? He needs you now.' 'All he has is his pride Brodie. He doesn't want me now; it would seem like pity.' Brodie moved close, resisting the urge to hold her. 'You mustn't gie up on him lass, if you'll pardon the impertinence. Jist be there for him eh?' She reached to touch his cheek as the nature of her smile changed. 'Thank you Brodie.' She turned and fled the building. Brodie stood for long seconds, considering the variable nature of love. **** 'He was a great man the colonel. A loss we can't afford. I have no idea what passed between him and your man Robertson, but I do know the strength of feeling your friend had for him. He will take it hard?' 'And what of you Sir?' Brodie looked uncomfortable with the question but was determined to ask. 'Begging your pardon, but is there no future for you and her ladyship?' 'Come along Brodie. We're not so different you and I. Would you be happy to be second choice?' Brodie was less adept at recognising Drummond's smile. 'Take my word for it sergeant Smith, I am smiling.' 'There are times you know, when I could kill Billy Morrison.' He shot the Captain a glance. 'And I'm not smiling you'll gather sir?' Jimmy Drummond's laughter was agony for his facial muscles. Brodie fed on the positivity of such a reaction. As the pain subsided, Jimmy grabbed his sergeant's arm. 'Jimmy Hughes. How bad is it?' Their eyes locked. 'It's his lungs sir. It seems he now has just the one and that one isn't the greatest. He's on his way home sir.' He watched the darkness drift over Drummond's eyes. Brodie bent to hear the whisper. 'He was shot from behind Smith. I'm sure of it.' His grip was savage as he pulled Brodie close. 'It was Aird, Brodie. That murdering savage Aird. There's no proof,' he spat, 'but we know; and we have to tread wary, we three.' The eyes were desperate. 'You, me, and Billy Morrison, god damn him!' **** 'Here Brodie, you've had a visitor.' Eck seemed to have shed the gloom of the offensive much quicker than his older pals. He saw the grinding tiredness in the sergeant, the lethargy of his movements. 'Ye might need a drink before I tell ye man. Honest ye'll no believe it.' 'Just tell me Eck. It's been a shite of a day.' 'Maggie Livingstone was here. Would ye believe it? Maggie, a nurse.' He paused for effect. 'She came tae see you. Really upset ye weren't here, she was.' Eck displayed his growing perplexity. 'Do you hear what I'm saying? Maggie?' 'Maggiein this hellish place?' He sank to the bench, body melting into the seat. The voice soft,spiritual. 'Oh hell.' Eck handed him the bottle and went off to find Alan. **** Brodie lay fully dressed on top of his bed, ruffled from sleep. Douglas stood in the door of the tent. 'It's been three days. He went to find Lisette in town. Yesterday I asked Billy to check at the estaminet. He couldn't find them and no-one seems to know anything. Martin's gone, Lise too.' 'Right, get the lads together infifteen minutes. Let's see what we can come up with.' 'Sorry sarge, you need to talk to Billy here.' 'What?' Billy squeezed into the opening alongside Douglas. 'Maggie. That's what. Douglas and I will see about Martin. You concentrate on Nurse Maggie Livingstone.' Billy sat with him while Douglas mustered the Rifles. 'What am I going to say to her? She's such a strong-minded woman.' He had his head in his hands. 'And I treated her like a hoor the last time I saw her.' He glared at Billy, naked appeal in his eyes. 'You have all the words, don't you?' 'You devour every book I give you to read. You must have all the words now.' Billy's smile was infectious. 'Pierre Behuzov. That's who I am. War and Peace, you know. Big, clumsy, ..guid natured, but shite with women.' 'So you saw her then?' 'Who?' 'Lady Marjorie. You went to tell her about Drummond.' He sat on the edge of his seat. 'C'mon you're not sworn to secrecy pal.' 'I took her to see the Skipper.' Brodie paused to consider his next remark. 'Billy. What do you intend to do about her? Where are we going wae this?' 'I wish I knew. It was me that reached that sad bastard first his face torn open like that. I can't forget the way he looked at me like he'd given her up in that moment.' Billy looked confused, lost. Brodie reached for the bottle. 'Here. This'll help.' He poured a dram into the tin mug. Billy shot down the rough spirit and took a deep breath. 'Do you want the truth? I want to go hame. Hame Brodie; Scotland. The same as every man oot there.' He pointed for emphasis. 'And I've got less right than any of them. What I wouldn't give to be speaking to Anne. It's not you pal. But she understands me.' His head dropped and his voice. Brodie strained to hear the rest. 'God help me, she loves me yet. Still. After all I've told her to the contrary.' Billy stood, sudden and determined. 'I'm acting like a young boy. Fuck. This is how Eck behaves; not me.' 'Look.. Billy ' Billy raised a hand. 'Let's concentrate on one thing at a time, eh? You need to face the formidable Miss Livingstone. And Black Douglas and I will try and locate Martin. If we can get him back before tomorrow we might just be able to save him.' **** He was an amputee; fresh from the operating table. Brodie could see the arched cradle over the space where his leg had been. He had watched her from the alcove as she supervised the transfer from theatre and made the soldier comfortable. Now she stood with two assistants, briefing them at length. He was overwhelmed. At sight of her. At the changes wrought in her. At the magnificent woman she'd become. 'Sergeant Smith? Here again so soon?' 'Lady Marjorie. No. That is, not to see your ladyship. I've come to see Maggie Livingstone, Nurse Livingstone - newly arrived?' 'My new colleague. So you know each other, Brodie?' 'We were to have been married Ma'm.' Marjorie's smile died on her lips at the tone of his voice. 'I haven't spoken to her since; nor heard from her till yesterday.' 'Oh Brodie, what is this reluctance to engage that inflicts you soldiers? Go speak to her. I feel sure you're the reason she's here in France. No?' 'She's a strong-willed lassie, and that's for sure.' 'Aren't we all Sergeant Smith? She smiled. 'Nurse Livingstone, Maggie. You have a visitor.' Her hand went to Brodie's shoulder. 'Deep breaths now.' He saw her turn. Saw the colour rise to her cheeks. His tongue caught behind his teeth 'Brodie?' Her voice stabbed at his chest. She took two or three steps before faltering to a halt. She turned to her assistants. 'That will be all for now girls.' When she turned back, Brodie had closed the gap. It took her by surprise. 'By God Maggieyou look you look like a lady.' You look so clean too, he thought. He was aware of his own damp, earthy smell. 'Eck told me when I got back that you'd been. I didn't believe it. You. Here?' he whispered. He scratched at his knee below the heavy kilt. A reflex action, noted by both; a well-remembered mannerism. She smiled at the familiar and his slow smile followed. 'It's not lice, lass. We've all been treated.' 'Now why would you think that that would be important to me Brodie Smith?' The exasperation was all Maggie, he acknowledged. 'I have travelled a long road to reach you here. I made the decision on the day we heard of Rab Watson's death.' Her voice broke on this declaration. 'Ye might just remember that day. No?' The big man stood in silence. The startling clarity from this tall, powerful girl left him cowed, humbled. 'Would you like me to look after things here Maggie? You could spend a little time with the sergeant.' Marjorie smirked at Brodie. 'Cat got your tongue?' He lowered his eyes before the broad front of sisterhood. Early December but they found a space along the warm sunlit wall behind the wards. She kissed him then. Full on the lips and with her small hands on either shoulder. He stirred beneath the kilt and felt guilty at his arousal. 'I don't want a saint Brodie; nor a gentleman. God forbid, there are enough of them in Amiens.' Her head tilted in query as she clasped both his shoulders. 'Listen to me.' She leaned close to his ear.. 'I've felt you inside me. Nothing else comes close to feeling so right. D'you hear me you great barbarian; it's perfectly natural to get excited.' Her smile was brazen. 'I want the man I love to feel like that.' 'Maggie I was wrong; so very wrong.' She put fingers to his lips. She thought to prevent his denial, but he held firm. 'I was angry with my sister. I hit her, for Christ's sake. And because of that I made your love seem like something dirty.' 'If it makes you feel any better Brodie, I hated you for all of twenty-four hours. After you left I set my mind to becoming a nurse. All to get me out here.' He smiled then. For the first time she saw her man as he was in her memory. She wept. Cleansing tears; the joy of arrival after so long on the road. Brodie seemed set on crushing the breath from her. His all-consuming embrace a catharsis for both. **** The two men met at Solange's estaminet, behind the station. Billy had no good news for his friend. 'They've both gone. The Jews here have been leaving in great numbers. Driven out by people who have been told the Jews started the war.' Both men drained the glasses of rough wine. 'I would think they would move North. Lisette is from Belgium, though maybe it isn't the best place to be at the moment.' 'Martin has to make it clean away this time.' Brodie filled both glasses. 'If they catch him he'll be executed for sure.' 'Merry Bloody Christmas.' Billy raised his glass, the smile not touching his eyes. 'I wonder if Martin realises that if they manage to get away, he can never go hame?' 'Can you remember the excitement we felt back there? None of us thought we'd still be out here in the middle of France, much beyond last Christmas.' He drained the glass and stared at Billy. 'God Bless us, everyone'
Archived comments for Independence
Mikeverdi on 30-01-2015
Independence
It just gets better Jim, both the story and your writing. I look forwards to you publishing this one. I would stand in line for a copy.
Mike

Author's Reply:


A Christmas Triptych (posted on: 02-01-15)
Based on the three panelled triptych found in many churches

Left Panel Birds cry wolf And chase the Sun to sleep. Green-sleeved trees don biblical coats. as many colours paint the shortening days. Life buttons up And battens down. Leaves crackle underfoot To shape-shift in a whisper. Broadly speaking, Nature Narrows down the year. As ebbing Autumn Flows into December Central Panel News!News! From Cherubim Choirs, From Gabriel carolling Joy! To a world of doubts and dark standings. Laid beyond the celestial light. A young untutored family, Cast central to God's purpose, Beggars the innocence of shepherds. From a simple, tribal hope God made Flesh is born. A tiny prophet rendered in swaddling Draws Eastern wizard Kings Come West to worship And changes all life hereafter. If only I'd stood witness to the birth; I might see the merit in a sacrificial death. On such small detail Hangs the faith of all the World. Right Panel The Bells are in the sky. Cold chimes and Christmas Carillons. Whilst Venus ventures near the Earth, Her sisters settle round the moon. A hush before the harlequin dance. The gaudy minstrel of Yuletide Who sings Wassail! With earthy, Saxon skill. It's spice and fruit; pudding, punch and pinelogs. The larder laid to feast. The fire laid to flame. The table laid to banquet. And Earth receives a King.
Archived comments for A Christmas Triptych
Mikeverdi on 04-01-2015
A Christmas Triptych
Great writing Jim, I like the way it works. I can see the three windows, very visual.
Thanks for posting.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Thanks Mike. How are you and Lesley? Hope you had a good Christmas and wish you a better New Year.
Cheers,

Jim


Searching For St Matthew (posted on: 24-11-14)
I went back to see it this year - still the same.

I came for Caravaggio in the Contarelli Chapel. The cycle of St Matthew in a French church behind the Piazza Navona. The ceiling caught my breath, my attention held on tip-t. My Calvinist vision blurred by the vaulted arch of a Holy Roman heaven. Ancient cardinals sleep in marble, stretched below gilded altars. And I sighed at the sight of art that loves its own beauty. But then behind the crowd, beyond the reach of the frescd firmament, I saw sanctity articulate. A wordly cherub entices an ageing Apostle; Saint Matthew's frolicsome inspiration in blazing, orange robes. Outside the toilets, behind the sacristy, a wooden Christ hangs from the tree; His beauty lost on the visitors.
Archived comments for Searching For St Matthew
Mikeverdi on 24-11-2014
Searching For St Matthew
Great writing Jim, as you know I love Rome. So much to see and wonder at.
Mike

Author's Reply:


Still Needing War Poets (posted on: 24-11-14)
When Terpsichore gets a bee in her bonnet. Well, you know what these Muses are like?

Today's perjured Government, a rat upon shredded corpses, scans the sanguine, frontline trench of the poor and working class. They call the numbers; they count the shots; they crow in victory and pass the butcher's Bill that Jock and Tommie pay. The foreign field that we perforce call home, belongs to gilded parasites. The knights and nobs; benighted snobs, and 'pass the port' brigade. Single brain-cell cretins polished in Upper School. We, with souls scoured bright, are called to fight for their estate. Our fate, to die in dumb obedience, with preference given to the obscenity of our moribund monarchy. Indeed We are the Fallen; but waiting to be told We are the Dead.
Archived comments for Still Needing War Poets
Mikeverdi on 24-11-2014
Still Needing War Poets
Great writing, I could take issue with the sentiment...but not the writing; and you do make your point 🙂
Mike

Author's Reply:

Andrea on 24-11-2014
Still Needing War Poets
Brilliant! And personally I applaud the sentiment 🙂

Author's Reply:

pommer on 24-11-2014
Still Needing War Poets
Absolutely brilliant.I too must applaud the sentiment.

Author's Reply:

Bozzz on 24-11-2014
Still Needing War Poets
Not only the sentiment, but the accuracy in description of our rotting state. The real problem is not Europe, or the emigrants or politicians - it is the system which ensures that the rich/poor divide grows out of control - that money makes money. The world is now run as a profit centre. Bravo Jim.

Author's Reply:

Ionicus on 25-11-2014
Still Needing War Poets
Dear Jim, you have expressed a point of view which seems a cogent argument.
One of the expressions that Italians use quite often is: “Piove, governo ladro!“, which can be translated as “It rains, shame to the government!”.
I see that this way of thinking is not only prevalent in Italy but here too, in the UK. It looks as if we must find a scapegoat for all the ills that may beset the country, be it the government, the monarchy or the upper classes. It seems irrelevant that the government was elected by the people. Is it not a case of 'mea culpa'?
Best wishes, Luigi.


Author's Reply:


Bitter Fruit (posted on: 10-11-14)
A farewell submission

He works around the edges. Manipulating shadows of doubt. Shifting the order of business. He stands on his dignity. Clay feet obscured by smoke and mirrors, always, the mirrors. Author of my downfall, my downside. He understands my idle indecision and sidles through my thoughts. He fuels unbridled rage and like a fool, the unschooled kind it's cool to pull apart; I rant on every cant and creed he spouts. He might indeed have beat my fires out. You'll read this when my star's already dead. And him? He feeds instead, on one more stellar spark.
Archived comments for Bitter Fruit
Mikeverdi on 11-11-2014
Bitter Fruit
I guess the devil is in the detail Jim, though no amount of metaphor can hide your bitter message. The Nib speaks volumes. The loss of you and your wonderful writing will echo around this site, be sure the message will not fall on deaf ears.
Mike

Author's Reply:

Ionicus on 11-11-2014
Bitter Fruit
It could be the last spark before he too disappears into a black hole.

Author's Reply:


We Are The Dead (posted on: 10-11-14)
My Farewell Submissions

Such smooth-faced remembrance won't allay our horror at needless death. This crowded grave is cold in all but comradeship, and hot for coming home at Christmas. We, the dead, are burdened by the weight of pride; the mealy, monstrous musings of state poetry; and music set to maudlin lyrics. All lie beneath an emblematic bloom where we make room for Hun and Helmand hero. Poor Blighty sees her glory in a paper flower, and our todays held sterile in dog-eared photography. Pray, please cheer, yet don't forget; leave your poppy propped against our pristine, chiselled stone; and Smile, Smile, Smile.
Archived comments for We Are The Dead
Mikeverdi on 11-11-2014
We Are The Dead
'This crowded grave is cold in all but comradeship'

Wonderful writing Jim, congrats on the Nib.
Mike

Author's Reply:

Ionicus on 11-11-2014
We Are The Dead
Excellent work, Jim.

Author's Reply:

Elfstone on 11-11-2014
We Are The Dead
I came back to this, having read it yesterday. It is very good - packs a punch and says so much so succinctly. I wonder though, if I might suggest that a different layout would do it better justice? For your consideration 🙂 Elfstone

Author's Reply:

sweetwater on 12-11-2014
We Are The Dead
A beautiful poem about a far from beautiful subject. The thought of the dead feeling burdened with our pride and all the ceremony that goes with it was a new perspective for me. Sue.x

Author's Reply:


Sparring With Auld Nick (posted on: 31-10-14)
My Dearest shipmate, who found civvie street so empty he took his own life. Written on the 9th Anniversary of his passing.

'Whae's like us?' he would say And lift a pint of dark home brew. 'Damn few',we'd shout in unison; two pals devouring life's red meat. His smile, a grinning whiskered gap, would raise the spirits of the dead. It said 'deil take us if ye can. You'll have to put your Duke's up man'. And me? I felt the warmth in the toast. No boast, just 'you're alright with me', as safe I stood behind a pal. But all this happy life I have is poorer for his passing. And I must box auld Beelzebub masel'
Archived comments for Sparring With Auld Nick
amman on 31-10-2014
Sparring With Auld Nick
Jim. You do your auld mate honour with your stirring yet eloquent words. Down to earth, colloquial language mixed with deeper, subtle phrasing gives the tribute a potent, lifelike feel. His smile, a grinning whiskered gap..brilliant.
We never forget our auld mates, do we.
Another one for favs.
Cheers.
Tony.

Author's Reply:

Mikeverdi on 31-10-2014
Sparring With Auld Nick
Wonderful stuff Jim, of your very best; he would be proud. Life doesn't always bring us what we want, or expect; we just have to deal with it day by day. So sorry he's not there for you still. Good friends are hard to find... and harder to lose.
Mike

Author's Reply:

Ionicus on 01-11-2014
Sparring With Auld Nick
A moving eulogy for a departed friend sorely missed by his comrade.

Luigi

Author's Reply:

sweetwater on 01-11-2014
Sparring With Auld Nick
Life can make us scared to become too close to people such as your friend, they are so unique it somehow makes it extra hard to lose them. Sue.

Author's Reply:


Fracking - It's Fucking Mother Earth Without a Condom (posted on: 27-10-14)
Written in despair, revised in cold anger, styled to draw attention.

Enlightened society murders Mother Nature for her riches. Whilst burdened as we are with guilt, the lesser blessed look on. The gold beneath our native soil is stolen still by tricksters. Who feel plundering such pickings is the measure of a man. The pity is the city sees the margin of clear profit. Fit but feckless we stand fearful, yes and futile on the edge. Whilst the ledgers bulge the hedgers trim the odds upon the betting; letting poisons pour dispassionate through pitfalls at our feet. The power lies with people who have pillaged us for centuries Who pull the wool that lulls us into soft-soap lathered sleep. The tears we spill won't dry until the shame that overwhelms us turns our ripples on the water into towering waves of ire. Come the fire, comes the reckoning; with the rising of the worthless. And the hopeless, and the homeless, with the hapless and the woeful. And the Eastern Europeans and the Western Euro Sceptics. All the lowlife, downside people will come topside for the fight. Yes it's coming never doubt it, we're all bound for hell without it. A universal wake up call, you mustn't miss the battle. We'll be meeting the oppressor; it's a date you'll want to dress for. Let's say 'Stop the Fucking Fracking' and get cracking on reform.
Archived comments for Fracking - It's Fucking Mother Earth Without a Condom
Bozzz on 27-10-2014
Fracking - Its Fucking Mother Earth Without a Condom
Professor Quatermass is alive and well, motive unchanged - the destruction of the human race. Room for an illustrative cartoon to go with the title of this ebullient piece! Great gallivant through society - though not in Edmonton. let's call it 'Franciman's ride' - man it was that died. Much needed JIm - my thanks

Author's Reply:

sweetwater on 28-10-2014
Fracking - Its Fucking Mother Earth Without a Condom
Ticks on every line all the way down from me. Great rampaging rhythm , wonderful wording. sue x.

Author's Reply:

stormwolf on 29-10-2014
Fracking - Its Fucking Mother Earth Without a Condom
A fracking good poem if you ask me.
( I love when you get all fired up! ) 😜😛😀
Alison x

Author's Reply:

gwirionedd on 12-06-2015
Fracking - Its Fucking Mother Earth Without a Condom
This is my favourite poem of yours that I've read so far. Excellent tumbling rhythms and rhymes and alliteration. Expresses the anger very well.

In fact I will nominate it for the anthology.

Author's Reply:


Cold Coffee (posted on: 27-10-14)
An old piece. Spot the serious flaw.

She sits in contemplation like a nicotined Madonna, Her life-light shrouded by her tired eyes. Her hardened features cut the bull, the crap, the smoke, the contact. In tortured isolation she survives. She's sold away her future in small parcels of affection, Those rubber-wrapped invasions of her soul. Her soundless gaze has pierced the ceilinged curtain of the Heavens, As ruthlessly she mastered self-control. The scales new fallen from her eyes, reveal a shattered skyline; A transitory beauty long decayed. Her coffee-cup a bitter gall, no longer pinks her cheekbones, Her once erotic promise overplayed. If she doesn't stir your pity, then nor should she pique your hatred; All men contribute in spirit to her fall. Given beauty in extravagance she sold the pleasure cheaply, Giving love in soiled instalments to us all.
Archived comments for Cold Coffee
Mikeverdi on 28-10-2014
Cold Coffee
TOO MANY 'HER'S' you would have flogged me for that 🙂
Mike

Author's Reply:

Bozzz on 28-10-2014
Cold Coffee
Testicles feel no guilt, it is arriere pensee for the mind. You have painted the truth and sadness with skill and clarity. Good poem Jim.....David

Author's Reply:

stormwolf on 28-10-2014
Cold Coffee
Bloody brilliant!
What more can I say'?
I remember this one and cannot see the flaw .
A very forthright and damning portrait of life and how it can go spectacularly wrong in so many different ways.
You caught her in stark relief. So many like her...we wonder 'what if? ' but there are no answers.

Happy to nominate it.
Alison x

Author's Reply:

Texasgreg on 29-10-2014
Cold Coffee
Aye, and a cup of coffee is all that is left for her. Shame, but yes I've seen it as well. Your piece puts me there Jim, and does cause me to pause and wonder...why?

Greg 🙂

 photo Gunspincowboy.gif

Author's Reply:


2014 (posted on: 17-10-14)
A date carved in my tribal memory.

I watched the death of dreams. Saw promise break from weight of expectation. No pledge unkept - but surely undernournished. As once proud men were blithe to check their purse. I heard the dream's demise. The cries, the pain, the death of all their futures. With all our yesterdays the same. Oh prick us and we bleed. But pay us our full pensions and we shout God Save the Queen. I felt the death of hope. It tore apart the heart of me, that precious though it's meant to be, our freedom has it's price. Near half my country chose to pay and still bereft they weep. The greater number clap the loss and cheer their own defeat.
Archived comments for 2014
Mikeverdi on 17-10-2014
2014
You and many others Jim, fine writing.
Mike

Author's Reply:

stormwolf on 19-10-2014
2014
Hi Jim
Boy do I share those sentiments. A mixture of fear and a disgustingly biased press swayed the fence-sitters and plunged me into gloom 😜
Alison x


Author's Reply:


Modena (posted on: 17-10-14)
A truly memorable encounter.

What do I know of Modena? Nothing, or rather only that Mary of Modena was the wife of James VII of Scotland. We took the kids. Lachlan and Rowan worked in Perugia for a season and so know the North very well. Modena was still lacking a tick in their To Do book. It's the birthplace of Luciano Pavarotti; hard to miss with his face on every poster and his voice heard round each corner. A much loved son, still sorely missed, who's death was being remembered in a 'Concert for Peace' the following Saturday. It's the home of Ferrari, and Maserati, and De Tomaso, which explains why it is and appears to be one of the most affluent cities in Italy. The Cathedral which sits in the main Piazza is a study in Renaissance Gone Wild. The architecture borrows from many styles. Strange mythical beasts adorn the upper structure. Satanic symbols too. Most bizarre. It is beautiful mind you. My favourites were the red marble lions with the head of a seal, which guard the main entrance. Food was Lachlan's Grail Quest. Modena is also the home of Balsamic Vinegar. Twenty euros for a bottle that might last four salads. Well, it kept him happy. We had a late lunch in a back-street osteria. Piadine - wonderful warm flat bread. A large platter of local salami, proscuitto crudo, and lardo. The wine was a Lambrusco. Yes - Lambrusco. I discovered it in its native form in La Spezia, when my ship docked there in the 70's. Of course it bears little relation to the Lambrusco/Lambrini we developed for the party market. The proprietor was a young man with a real pride in his local produce. It was an entertainment in itself as he discussed food with our Michelin starred son. They became brothers in arms and the afternoon was a delight. The highlight for me was the excavated Roman farms on the far side of the football stadium. I assume the Ancient Romans of Mutina bulldozed the farms in order to create a carpark for the stadium! The funeral/commemorative stones of these farmers were in pink stone. They were obviously men of some substance and the stones speak across the divide. Returning to Verona at night, we were all glad we had made the journey. Perhaps that is the best of epitaphs - a surprising pleasure. I touched a Roman farmer, cold and passed, neath Traventine marble. One single, signal moment trapped in pink soapstone. In fellowship he asked after his land; his ancient livestock; what news of the forum? I left a lot unsaid. But Rome was still The Eternal City - Yes; and corn still held its price. He smiled and left his warmth on mellow stone; And gifted me my share of immortality.
Archived comments for Modena
Mikeverdi on 17-10-2014
Modena
For an Italy fanatic that was wonderful, the prose and the poetry; and I loved the poetry.
Thanks mate.
Mike

Author's Reply:

Nemo on 19-10-2014
Modena
Thanks for the entertaining and informative read, Jim. I'm a mezzogiorno tourist: must do the north sometime.
Regards, Gerald.

Author's Reply:

Mikeverdi on 23-10-2015
Modena
Weird that we were discussing this one, and it's popped up on the home page this morning. It's seems I did comment, it seems I was also right...you never reply 😀😁😂
Mike

Author's Reply:


Wherefore Art Thou? (posted on: 17-10-14)
Inspired by our recent visit to Verona

I pass one hundred Romeos. They swagger, timeless, through old Verona streets. No figments these, no playwright's braggarts yet boastful nonetheless. They drink espresso and wish for red Ferraris. While Juliet naked on her balcony might not raise their head; nor yet their manhood. How I might wish the play were better played.
Archived comments for Wherefore Art Thou?
Mikeverdi on 17-10-2014
Wherefore Art Thou?
Italy is working its magic on you Jim 🙂 We caught the train up from Venice, spent the day; Juliet was out to lunch.
Mike

Author's Reply:


Losing the Flock (posted on: 10-10-14)
Following a visit to Orvieto.

Beauty and art in a cathedral shell. It's primary-colored religion, a message lost on humanity. The church of Rome sits along the wall - the elderly aunt who prattles papal infallibility whilst her nephews sell new indulgences, and confess their liking for sin. The poor need bread not promises. A life hereafter is misery prolonged. Artistic idyll - Nero playing fiddle. While middling shepherds only care for style. When all mankind Needs reborn Christianity They give us Renaissance art.
Archived comments for Losing the Flock
Supratik on 10-10-2014
Losing the Flock
"The poor need bread
not promises."

Excellent!

Author's Reply:
Thank you for reading and taking time to comment.
Cheers,
Jim

Mikeverdi on 10-10-2014
Losing the Flock
I can hear you reading this Jim, not a spare word in sight. Great stuff... and welcome back.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Hi Mike,
Just back from 8 week tour of northern Italy. Glad you enjoyed this. How are you doing?
Cheers,
Jim

Bozzz on 10-10-2014
Losing the Flock
My first pause was perhaps whether losing the 'frock' at your firm hands was as appropriate as losing the 'flock' at the church's errant hands. Taut and apt as usual from your pen.
Greetings, David

Author's Reply:
Hi David,
Thanks for dropping by. Am still getting back into the swing of things but this one felt like a good one to start with.
Cheers,
Jim

amman on 11-10-2014
Losing the Flock
Hi Jim.
You get around to some picturesque places and I enjoy googleing them to vicariously share the pleasure of your travels. The cathedral is very ornate in a stunning setting but can't help endorsing your poetic sentiments re. style over substance, infallibility and dogma over common humanity.
Particularly telling 'A life hereafter/is misery prolonged' as are the last 3 lines. Someone needs to nib this 'cause I am certainly going to nominate.
Thanks, Jim. I am now inclined to start writing again.
Regards.
Tony.



Author's Reply:
Hi Tony,
Really glad you are still with us. Thank you so much for nomination. I am flattered that my writing might entice you. Three honest truth is that you should be writing. You have the gift and should be using it!
Cheers,
Jim

Savvi on 11-10-2014
Losing the Flock
Cathedral shell made me think of Gaudi and Sagrada Familia but then you took me to Rome. Great to see you posting again Jim this is a fine piece Thanks for the journey, best Keith

Author's Reply:
Hi Keith,
Glad you enjoyed. Just back from 8 weeks in Italy. After Christmas its 8 weeks in Spain, so it will be your Spaniard next.
Cheers,
Jim


Festival Follies (posted on: 01-08-14)
Because it's that time again and I am heading home to be part of it.

Giggling rainwater gathers its strength and shape-shifts dancing debris. It brims over the rims and runnels of furrowed cobbles, in response to the ancient gravitational pull of Castle Esplanade. The Firth of Forth, cloud shrouded 'neath Leith Walk takes shallow flat grey breaths. Their navigation hit or miss, cars and taxis spit and hiss at sandal-shod Orientals. Bubble-wrapped in plastic Macs they look for Deacon Brodie, with their backs turned to St Giles. Whiles bigger, brash Americans begin the endless search for tartan cloth. More polished Europeans queue behind steaming glass at Ensign Ewart's Chip shop. One common bond - a washed pale sun returned beyond Haymarket, artful gilds Auld Reekie's stone. And sodden, cloying cotton chills the Summer tourist.
Archived comments for Festival Follies

No comments archives found!
Jack (posted on: 01-08-14)
Celebration of my dog's life.

Jack took the road. Duty done he asked release then left us one warm breath. It drew a tear, a souvenir of joy brief touched by sadness. A rogue possessed of lion's heart angel to terrier in one fell stride, and woe betide the laggard. He gained our love and for return he gave us his whole lifetime. Jack took the road but left us countless memories. He'll find a place, a space beside the fire. We'll each one find eternal youth and meet again for sure.
Archived comments for Jack

No comments archives found!
Tragedy (posted on: 30-05-14)
Life is but a stage.

Life in Act III and fast approaching Curtain A player - vaguely played - who stutters still the lines. Until mutters fill the feral Upper Circle venting pity dressed as shitty platitude The play's the thing, of course; the drama. A panorama laid before the crowd. Laying bare the naked soul of someone who cannot see the writing on his wall. 'Bums on seats' is not just theatre parlance. It's down and outs, whose worn souls are holed. Who bay for blood from down at heel performers. And rend a player's garments with sharp tongues. This act, become a study in contrition, is bathed in light beyond the darkened stalls. The penitent is drowned within a teardrop or dies in shame at silent curtain calls.
Archived comments for Tragedy
stormwolf on 30-05-2014
Tragedy
Wonderful to read you again Jim. Your work is simply superb,this is no exception.

Alison x
be back for a nomination 😉

Author's Reply:
Hi Alison,
Great to be in contact again. Again, thank you for the wonderful comments. Been really busy and I have simply dipped in and out again. After next week I will have more time to spend reading and commenting. You know me, I'm a charlatan and a snake oil salesman!
cheers,
Jim

Mikeverdi on 30-05-2014
Tragedy
You are an act few can follow...even less surpass. May the curtain never come down Jim.
Your friend
Mike

Author's Reply:
G'wan Mike, you old theatre fruit you!
Be in touch Monday or Tuesday - not a promise mind!
cheers,
Jim

Bozzz on 30-05-2014
Tragedy
No applause for bravery - sad but true. What do we say about dyslexic poem? Good piece Jim.

Author's Reply:
We say wall dine, Buzz!
cheers,
Jim

Savvi on 30-05-2014
Tragedy
Back in the saddle Jim, it gets better with each read and the sprinkle of alteration and assonance means we get treated to a real corker. Def a keeper into fav.

Author's Reply:
Savvi,
You are a gentleman, a scholar, and a very good judge of poetry! Thanks for dropping by and for the great comments. Also for electing this a fav.
cheers,
Jim

QBall on 31-05-2014
Tragedy
Excellent choice of words. Exceptional thinking.has gone into this.

Author's Reply:
Hi Q,
I am overwhelmed that you can see the thinking behind this piece. What you see is what my Muse gave me out of a clear blue sky! Thank you also for the very generous rating - I am aware of the controversy behind the rating system at present.
cheers,
Jim

sweetwater on 01-06-2014
Tragedy
Just adding my admiration and appreciation of a wonderful write. 🙂 Sue.

Author's Reply:
Hi Sue,
I don't think we have touched before so welcome to the gathering. Thank you so much for reading, commenting and rating this piece. It is the first piece of poetry I have written in a while and I felt a little rusty if truth be told. As I said to Alison, I am being a bit cheeky in posting and not reading and reviewing other pieces. This will change after next weekend. I do know of you by repute.
cheers,
Jim


Cavalleria Rusticana (posted on: 04-04-14)
I'm hoping this is still enjoyable for readers without the backstory. It is near the end of the novel now.

On the 22nd of December it snowed all day. The temperature plummeted in the evening, and the Highland Division were pleased to have solid billets secure from the storm. At Beaumont Hamel, the Highland Division had earned their place as Primary Assault Unit of the British Expeditionary Force. They were much sought after, and the Highlanders were under orders of transfer to General Allenby's Third Army. In preparation for this, The Rifles were billeted in the railway marshalling yards; permanent stone buildings to the North of the city. The piano was unusual. It had lain undisturbed behind boxed cargo. The soiled tarpaulin told of a decade's neglect. It would have remained undiscovered but for the highlanders' committed quest for alcohol. Rab Niven lavished attention on it and, from unpromising beginnings, he brought it to life. 'Gie us The Intermezzo Rab. You ken the wan.' The small, malformed Glaswegian was a private in the HLI. The audience of mixed Highlanders endorsed the request; everyone's favourite, from Cavalleria Rusticana. Rab Niven let the silence settle upon the large warehouse. The opening bars were ponderous, soft and slow. Expectancy pulled at them all as Rab raised a tension in the piece. Then the sleight of hand, the flourish on the worn keys. He heard the gasp, the involuntary sob, the catching breath that made him smile in triumph. Over a hundred Scots were lifted to the sun-drenched coast of Sicily. Wondrous heat on sallow skin; a salt tang in the air. Billy stood on the periphery, on his way to town but unable to walk away from the haunting music. Alan and Eck stood hand in hand; in a place more liberal in its beliefs. Far removed from Amiens. Removed from reality, their clasped hands a figment of the music. Stewart felt anew the loss of his brother, and wished he could find a way to approach Black Douglas. A way that would spare his own battered dignity. Palermo or Picardy. A long thousand miles from Pittenweem, Billy thought as he left the compound. She watched him from the top of the stairs. Nausea curled in the pit of her stomach as she steeled herself for their encounter. It collided with the frisson of lust that shared the same lower abdomen. She frowned at this physical betrayal; weakness when she most needed strength. 'Billy. Not here,' she stretched her hands, palms out, holding him at a distance. He was breathless from the stairs, she from first sight of him. 'Let's go outside; the covered courtyard.' She eased past, leaving him to follow. They were not alone in the courtyard and he had pulled her through an open arch at the rear of the cloister. He kissed her. Savage, needy; his lips cold and hard. Her lips blossomed on his and the tension fled. He broke the moist contact, leaning against the wall to search for his cigarettes. 'Do you want one?' He presented the packet of fags. 'Please Billy.' He lit two cigarettes and passed her one, though he wasn't at all sure that that had been Marjorie's request. He drew on his own fag, pulling the sharp settling smoke into his lungs, voice gone high. 'You've seen him then?' He watched a solitary snowflake, precursor of a new fall. 'Brodie told me. It must have been upsetting? Seeing him like that. Torn; vulnerable. I've seen the compassion you have. It's one of your most attractive features.' He turned toward her. 'And you're not the only one with a conundrum to solve, your ladyship.' 'You mean Anne? Brodie Smith's sister?' Her attempt at detachment was betrayed by the note of appeal in her question. 'Perhaps I do, but.. ..maybe I feel some sympathy for Lord Snootie. He's brave I grant you, and fair according to his lights.' He snorted, amused by his own sense of confusion. 'No sooner do I take his measure than he changes my mind again.' He turned again to the contemplation of snowflakes. He spoke into the night sky. 'In all truth.. .. I feel guilty Marjorie. Ashamed of my actions in his eyes and that wee lassie's back home.' Marjorie stood in silence. She cupped her right elbow in her left hand, right arm vertical, two fingers around the smoking cigarette. The pose seemed alien to Billy who begged her response. 'God! How tedious. The heart of a poet in the narrow mind of a presbyterian minister. Jimmy was right. And you don't have the backbone of your friend Brodie either.' She gazed at him down the length of a patrician nose. 'I believe you should leave now, Private Morrison.' He balled his fists, the urge to hit out welling up inside. And then he relaxed. His smile cut to her core as wordless he walked into the night. 'I love him - Billy Morrison, God help me.' She threw it at a deaf, uncomprehending world. She wondered if it were possible to claim her heart belonged to both. It hurt too much to laugh it off and she swallowed down her bitter repast. Billy was drunk. The speed with which he achieved that state made his mind whirl. The vin plonk helped too, he mused, laughing like an imbecile. The Rue Malmaison was empty. He heard the dull echo of his boots against the cobbles. Entranced by the notion that it resembled his empty heartbeat he stopped. He found himself staring at the darkened facade of the Hotel Victor Hugo. 'Last Christmas. In there we met. A year ago. Marjorie and that bastard Drummond and me; a dumb, dirty private soldier. And now we're all damaged and twisted Anne.' He spewed. Bile, sharp and acid. Burning his throat, his heart. Scalding the cobbles. 'Oh Anne, Anne,' he cried, the prayer lost in the vomit. **** Alise watched the two officers in the big room opposite. Captain Brune was animated, talkative. He felt comfortable in the company of the young Scots lord. It was Jimmy Drummond's gift, his ease with people. But she had seen the man without his mask. The diffidence, the horror he saw reflected in the eyes of others. Both of her patients had that mutilated side. She felt perhaps that each warrior guarded the weak, exposed side of the other. She smiled at the allusion, whilst finding some truth in the rationale. As the sky darkened into night, they left the chateau. In the winter months Alise used a pony and trap to journey between work and home at the auberge. A short trip, snow notwithstanding, and on arrival a Dickensian scene. Cheery, festive light spilled across the courtyard, reminding Jimmy there were worse things than a ravaged face. **** 'You have a healthy appetite for one so so slim mademoiselle.' He smiled. A conscious action, no longer a simple reflex. And it saddened her. 'A misguided observation, Alise,' his single eye fixed her. 'Not flattery, I assure you.' 'I am the daughter of a rich peasant. I don't stray far from the tree.' They shared a plate of leeks, boiled and coated in butter. The small dish of mayonnaise had the same rich sheen, and she spread it along the stem of a leek then speared it with her fork. Her own impish smile from shining, buttery lips, reminded him he was still a man. He leaned forward to wipe her mouth with his napkin. Reflex this time. She found his lips under her own; aware of the hard wooden edge of the face-mask. He pulled away, his hand going to the mask, feeling along the inner edge. 'I'm sorry Jimmy.' She reached for his hand, drawing it away from the mask. 'These vegetables. They remind me of how intolerable the lack of colour can be at the Front.' He split a leek with his knife, probing the vivid green top, immersed in the vitality of colour. 'You don't have to return to the War. Norman Barrington is convinced that, with your father's influence, you could have a posting in England Jimmy.' Her voice dropped. 'Think of it. A return to a world full of colour.' 'Scotland; not England Alise. It's where all lame and unfashionable highlanders are sent.' His breathing was heavy and laboured. 'Do you remember your Shakespeare? Richard the Third, Alise? ''Sent into this breathing world scarce half made up. And that so lamely and unfashionable that dogs bark at me, as I halt by them.'' Do you see.. .. ..' He saw her compassion. His contrition was born of a belief that he didn't deserve it. 'I'm sorry. Self-indulgent clap-trap Alise.' A nerve shivered as he tried to force a smile. 'You aren't your mask, Captain. It doesn't hide the man Jimmy; just the torn part of an outer facade.' The smile was warm. 'I'm a doctor after all. You should heed my advice. No?' They shared the plump breast of a mallard duck, accompanied by small, crisp sautd potatoes. Jimmy Drummond escaped the constraints of his mask for a time. The noise of a log dropping to ash in the big fireplace, took him back to the company trench. 'They are such remarkable people Alise. You would like them. They call themselves the East Neuk Rifles.' A smile, the first natural reflex. They both recognised it. 'I have a Sergeant who knows more of leadership than the entire division staff. I have well, let's just say I'm blessed with a grand body of men. Men who take care of their brothers. Men who miss their homes, their families; who wouldn't be anywhere but with their group.' 'I can see how you might miss them Jimmy. You do them proud when you speak of them so.' She smiled at her own perception. 'Perhaps they would understand that you have made your sacrifice, that for you the War is over?' Jimmy nodded, acknowledging her honest attempt at resolution. 'This awful war will change everything. Is changing everything. A lot of what I hold dear will be lost, society turned on its head. And what will be the consequence do you think? Will the world be all we hope it will be?' Alise saw a very different man. Gone the playboy, the bon vivant. Despite his wounded face, the new Lord Elcho was impressive. 'Probably not, old thing. But it must be better, mustn't it? Not for the ambitious, petty minded types. The Alastair Airds of this world. But for Jimmy Hughes, and Brodie Smith, and the countless thousands for whom I never spared a second glance.' The shivering smile again. 'God, it's shell-shock Doctor. After-shock maybe?' He paused, then burst into laughter. Alise heard the desperate edge to it as he said, 'No. It's loss of face.' Barrington arrived on the morning of Christmas Eve. Jimmy would join his father in Amiens before travelling home on leave. Alise did not believe the rehabilitation complete. They had argued and their last day together had seen a growing distance. The weather had turned to rain. Water dropped from every roof, and ledge, and overhang. 'Thank you Alise; for everything.' He shook her hand then seemed reluctant to let go. 'If they allow you to return to the regiment Jimmy, I would like to see you first?' It was a question when she was entitled to make it a requirement. They both knew it. He nodded. 'Yes of course, Doctor.' On the journey to Amiens, he regretted the formality of his departure. **** The Highland Division made merry. Few men ventured into town. Brodie visited Maggie - a wonderful, un-looked for Christmas. The rest closed the doors against a cold winter and celebrated the birth of a saviour they no longer believed in.
Archived comments for Cavalleria Rusticana
Rab on 04-04-2014
Cavalleria Rusticana
Quality stuff, as ever Jim. I missed the interplay between the members of the unit, but I know it's going to make a good story when you put it all together.

Ross

Author's Reply:

Mikeverdi on 07-04-2014
Cavalleria Rusticana
Wonderful stuff again Jim, your writing improves with each chapter. I remember when the intimacy parts were hard for you; now they flow effortlessly. The story grows in stature...as you do.
Mike

Author's Reply:


Chambon-sur-Voueize 1940 (posted on: 04-04-14)
Many of the older inhabitants of our village remember the arrival of the Germans. Opinion is still mixed.

La Poste, of course. It made perfect sense, the symbol Paysan of Republic become Nazi nucleus. Not the enemy. Aging tillers and stockmen know but one foe; an unappeased Mother Nature. Pastis stills peasant animosity. And German youth, no worse than young Parisians, might stand a man a glass. The infants of France. They see a different Teuton; the bottom of a wine glass will not restore their pride. Sons and daughters. The partisans and plotters of post-Revolutionary France, will pay the price in blood. Brothers and sisters. Murdering sisters and brothers; the internecine battle for the splintered soul of France. The cost of liberation? Blood enough to heal the rift, whilst old men shift upon their seat, and pour another Pernod.
Archived comments for Chambon-sur-Voueize 1940
Nomenklatura on 04-04-2014
Chambon-sur-Voueize 1940
Quality work, as always. I can smell the aniseed reek of the Pernod and Pastis.

Author's Reply:

Mikeverdi on 04-04-2014
Chambon-sur-Voueize 1940
Jim, you always write from the heart, it shines through in his one like so many others. An emotive subject for one who sits in the village in Question.
Mike

Author's Reply:

QBall on 04-04-2014
Chambon-sur-Voueize 1940
Wartime memories are always the strongest IMO.
Good job.

Author's Reply:


Perspective (posted on: 31-03-14)
The life inside a raindrop

I am life and in that guise the sky's the limit, init? The ground beneath each leaf I turn will earn its place, and leave a space for seeds. It's nature's way that making hay is sweeter in the sunshine; and hey is making love so different? It's all the same and vain, that in the name of Life, we play the game that's rife in Darwin's evolution. It's revolutionary in its way.
Archived comments for Perspective
sweetwater on 31-03-2014
Perspective
I like the coils in this work, words wrapping around each other, very nice, amusing too - love the limit, init? Sue 🙂

Author's Reply:

Mikeverdi on 31-03-2014
Perspective
That's clever stuff Jim, the play on seed planting; I like it.
Mike

Author's Reply:

QBall on 01-04-2014
Perspective
I think it is all wet! Well written, sorry about my stupid take!
Les Q.

Author's Reply:


The Tides of War - Part 1 (posted on: 17-03-14)
****

'Aird has become some sort of hero.' Stewart Gourlay stood in the body of the trench. 'They've done everything except pin a great big medal on him. New Commanding Officer my arse.' 'We're all going to have tae get used tae it.' Brodie swallowed a large spoonful of stew, blowing on the hot, fatty content then grimacing as it burned the back of his throat. 'Aird will be confirmed. Mark my words.' He spat a large lump of gristle at the floor of the trench. 'He took us up that hill back there. If that had been the skipper, we'd be saying he deserved a medal for his bravery.' He pointed with his spoon. 'He has every reason to dislike us. We just have to be sure to give him nae excuses. D'ye all hear me? You especially Martin, and you tae Stewart.' Rab spoke into the silence. 'It's a funny thing about Jimmy.' He looked around the rifles, ensuring he had their attention. 'I was directly behind him and the skipper when he was hit. The shot threw him on his face ye know. When Drummond turned him, the wound in his front was enormous. The bullet came oot through his chest.' His eyes held a query, direct and intense. 'How could that be?' He paused. 'Only if he was shot from behind.' His voice dropped pitch and he looked about him. In the stunned silence that followed, Billy got to his feet and left the trench. 'What are you saying Rab? There was no-one behind us. Are you saying it was one of us?' Brodie shouted in anger, though his attention was on Billy, walking out toward the last of the buildings. 'Billy! Come back here ya daft bugger.' 'What have I done noo?' Rab stood up alongside the sergeant. 'I thought Billy and I were aw square. We were past aw that surely?' 'Well it disnae look like he's past it.' He gave a grim smile. 'Give him time. He's still got a lot on his plate.' The rest of the rifles concentrated on the hot stew, as Brodie shrugged his shoulders at Rab. Sometimes it's difficult to know if you're even facing in the right direction, thought the disgruntled piper. Billy watched in listless fascination as the medics brought the badly wounded through the fold in the hills. A young Lieutenant of the Gordons, lifeless on a stretcher, caught his attention. He was reminded of Jimmy Drummond's torn face and the taste of bile was overpowering. He dashed a tear from his eyes, blaming it on the wave of nausea; and the sudden loneliness on the cooling of his recent battle lust. Thoughts took flight and he hurried back to the warmth of his pals. **** The moon hadn't risen, the darkness near complete beyond the picket post. Billy, mood black as the sky, was sure it was reluctant to shine upon the slaughter. It was cold. The earth beneath his feet was friable with frost, his fingers aching and stiff. 'I've brought ye a wee toddy, Billy.' Brodie held a mess tin. The heavy smell of rum filled the small trench, its contents steaming; inviting. 'Thanks pal.' Billy sipped, sighed and smiled. Brodie sat at the back whilst his friend concentrated on the ground out in front. 'Aird was behind us, wasn't he? Niven was right about what he saw; about Jimmy's wound.' The silence stretched and Billy stole a glance behind him. 'Well?' 'Keep yer voice doon for fuck'sake. Just think about what yer saying. Anyway, how could you prove it was Aird?' He stood alongside Billy. 'And just remember, you, me and Aird are the only ones who know about Ewan Campbell. Let's keep it that way eh?' The following day the battalion moved back to the offensive. Aird took charge as they moved into the long tunnel formed by the gap in the German front line. Casualties continued to mount as the enemy on both flanks strove to close the corridor. By midday the battalion caught up to the rest of the brigade and the death toll rose once more. It was a mid-afternoon dusk. All forward movement ceased and the Highland Division organised a defensive line at the head of the salient. To both flanks they could see the opening phase of supporting offensives. The light show looked set to last through the night. 'What's the matter Alan? You've hardly said a word all day.' 'It's nothing really just all this killing ye know?' 'Do me a favour; don't lie to me Alan. My friendship this friendship deserves better than that.' Alan got to his feet leaving Eck to crane his neck to see him. 'Oh so it's like that then?' Alan pulled him to his feet, nothing gentle in the action. 'You stupid boy. What makes you imagine I could find brute cruelty in any way attractive?' He let go of Eck and spun to face the sky. 'What is wrong wae us? You! Martin! Acting like animals. We're no different than the people who think our relationship is dirty.' There was no reply. There is no answer, thought Eck, the same belief coming unbidden to Alan. The battalion were called to stand-to around midnight. The Rifles came together to watch the corruscating sky, yet remained separate, fragmented somehow. They were relieved by the Reserve Brigade in the pre-dawn gloom. The unblooded regiments were spared the gory sight of their exhausted comrades. The survivors of sixteen battalions were mustered and accounted for behind the village of Beaumont Hamel. They were to remain on the ground that had cost the lives of so many of their pals. Tradition. The warriors building the panoply of their trophies; the arms and flags of the defeated. A tented camp formed around the village, whilst the battle seemed to rage on either flank. Everyone knew the offensive was over though no-one had yet made the decision. The man who would make it, Field Marshal Haig, was due in Beaumont Hamel the next day. 'Right lads, gather round. I have good news.' Brodie had been to Brigade HQ. 'Jimmy made it out o' the dressing station. He's down in Amiens. Bill Gillies reckons it's a ticket hame as he only has one guid lung.' He was narked at their lack of response. 'Still he's alive for Christ's sake lighten up.' 'And Drummond?' Billy's first words since the withdrawal. 'Alive, thank God.' Brodie shook his head. 'His old man will pay for a top French surgeon to do something about his face. I can't see his father allowing him to come back even if it were possible. Can you?' 'D'ye think Marjorie will know? He'd go through Amiens surely?' 'I don't know Billy. I really don't know.' None of the Rifles laid eyes on the C-in-C. That men who had but recently been in combat, should be forced to polish and clean for the event, was preposterous. That the great man should fail to show himself to the men, was unfeeling and unforgiveable. The following day the Division moved to Amiens in general reserve **** Bone tired they were. Listless, overwrought and drawn in on themselves. The march back through Amiens should have been a triumphal procession. The Highland Division had scored the first major success on the Western Front. The absence of friends at their shoulder told the men of the 51st a different story. No civilian billets this time; the Division was encamped under canvas on the outskirts of the city. The Rifles prayed for mild winter weather whilst breaking the ice on the surface of the water supply. Martin was seldom seen around the Rifles. When he did appear his was a brooding, inhibiting presence. Douglas persevered and was rewarded with monosyllabic dialogue and little or no congress. Martin prowled night and day. Never at peace, no respite; each day realising anew that Cummins was dead. 'Stewart.' Black Douglas stood in the door of the tent. 'I have something to tell you. I promised Davy up on High Wood.' He was ill at ease and it showed. 'Alan, Eck, could you leave us for a minute?' 'Whatever ye hiv tae say ye can say in front o' my pals Corporal.' The voice was thick with contempt, the use of the rank as well. 'We'll clear out Stewart; give you two some privacy eh?' Alan nodded toward the door. 'C'mon Eck.' 'No. Yer awright. We'll jist have a word ootside the tent. O.K. Corp?' Stewart saluted the big African, the exaggerated gesture not lost on anyone. Outside the tent Douglas bent to the smaller Scotsman. Alan and Eck heard the deep, muffled voice then the silence. 'You lying black bastard.' Stewart's punch caught Douglas unawares and he dropped to the earth. He swarmed all over the corporal whilst he still held an advantage. Douglas rose to his knees and then his feet, with Stewart still clinging and raining blows on him. 'Break this up Smith. Now.' Brodie stepped in with difficulty, persistence gave him an edge and the two men were soon separated by his broad shoulders. Major Aird stood with a young Second Lieutenant. 'Gourlay; I might have known. Sergeant Smith, arrest this man. I will see him tomorrow. Assaulting a non-commissioned officer will see you in a military prison Gourlay.' 'Sir? Begging your pardon Sir, but Private Gourlay and I were simply sparring. Practising if you will. The platoon have long believed he would make a good contender for the battalion boxing team at middleweight.' Douglas looked to Brodie for confirmation. Aird sniffed his disbelief. 'Do you seriously expect me to believe that Corporal Emboya?' 'We do have high hopes for Gourlay Sir. The Corporal boxed at University,' said Brodie, 'so agreed to coach our man.' Aird sneered at the group. Whether in disbelief or at mention of the corporal's university days, his distaste was evident. 'Very well. Dismiss them both Smith.' He turned to the young officer, whose new clean uniform gave him the look of a schoolboy. 'This is what comes of getting too close to the private soldier Gray. Remember this lesson.' Aird walked off without further word. 'Well done Douglas. You can lie wae the best o' them; Missionary Boy indeed!' Brodie clapped him on the shoulder. 'Off ye go and get cleaned up.' He rapped his knuckles on Stewart's chest. 'And you, ya fiery wee bastard; you'll be coming with me.' Once clear of the tents, Stewart Gourlay ran to keep up with his sergeant. 'I'll not allow that black devil tae talk tae me like he does. If you knew what he tried to say to me Brodie. Supposed tae be Davy's last words.. .. Why would Davy send me a message by that darkie?' Brodie turned, spun to face the offended soldier. 'He told you that your brother forgave you, didn't he? That he knew you'd stolen the fishing boat's victualling fund. Davy knew you were fiddling the books. Something like that wasn't it?' 'How the , how did you know?' Stewart was uncomfortable, keeping his eyes on the ground. 'I've always known. Jimmy Hughes too. Nobody else though.' The voice was soft, non-judgemental. 'Oh, and the man ye dislike so much; he's known for months. Davy told him in confidence and he kept that secret for your ears alone.' Stewart took a savage bite at his lip. He had the grace to show remorse and Brodie saw the proximity of his tears. 'You might like to dwell on how close you came to being put behind bars. Not sure I would have done the same in Douglas' place.' 'Yes awright. I ken. Why did he dae that, the bastard?' Stewart Gourlay hurried away, shoulders bowed. Brodie smiled despite himself.
Archived comments for The Tides of War - Part 1
Rab on 17-03-2014
The Tides of War - Part 1
A welcome return for Black Douglas. Excellent writing as ever, really atmospheric and has the feeling of truth. I look forward to the next installment.

Ross

Author's Reply:

Mikeverdi on 17-03-2014
The Tides of War - Part 1
Another great chapter, so much to applaud Jim. Congrats on the Nibs.
Mike


Author's Reply:


The Tides of War - Part 2 (posted on: 17-03-14)
Attempts at writing of the human condition

He watched her approach. Reluctance in her step as she walked between the long row of beds. His breath caught and held. It snagged on his weakness; on the vapid admission that he loved her. A tear running neath the bandage came close to unmanning him as he realised the impossibility of such an event. A teardrop from an empty eye-socket? What you might call a tribal memory, he thought; hearing her song again, from their last meeting, the concert. She stopped, unsure. He raised a hand and beckoned her close. She came then at a rush, the wide cape; hiding her frantic movements. 'Oh Jimmy, Jimmy. What have they done to you?' Her hand hovered above the torn face, uncertain. 'I didn't know, you must believe me.' She bit her lip, sinking to her knees alongside the bed. 'Brodie brought me word. Brodie Smith. I came straight away. He's waiting outside - your sergeant. I've known him since we were children.' She stopped. Her hand went to his arm lying along the bed. 'Just listen to me, prattling like a like a slip of a girl, whilst you Are you in lots of pain my poor darling?' 'It's not so bad old girl. I can still walk and talk and see.' He spoke in mangled English, enunciating each word; muffled but lucid. 'I'll be able to play golf; to drive and dance; everything except smile and wink I should imagine.' He laughed then. Marjorie saw the rictus as laughter at least. 'The bits you can see are pretty good. Pretty being the operative word, d'ye see?' He had her unblinking attention. 'I've lost an eye but then who needs two?' He hurried on. 'The piece of hun metal broke my jaw; the front of my skull; and the bridge of my nose. This side of my face is like a ploughed field.' He gestured with his hand, the languid movement so recognisable to Marjorie. 'Now don't cry my dear. I never could stand syrup and sympathy.' 'Jimmy. What I said the last time; I . . .' 'Please .. . Old Girl.' It was a plea for understanding dredged from the depth of his being. 'You're right of course. I mean; could you really see me married?' The ensuing silence soon filled the high open spaces of the hospital ward. It forced her to speak. 'When will they send you home?' 'I'm not going home Marjorie. There's talk of a mask once repairs are finished. All to be done here. Dr Lobau, the surgeon engaged by my father. So, home for a spot of leave and then back to the front I expect. A Staff job at the very least.' 'Jimmy. Can I visit you? See how you are doing?' They both heard it in her voice, the little girl asking to stay up a bit longer. He nodded and gave the same smiling grimace. 'I'll leave now if I may? I'll send Brodie in to see you, yes?' Bending to kiss his cheek she couldn't know how close she came to stopping his heart. **** 'You can go in Brodie. He's waiting to see you.' 'Lady M? Can I ask you something?' She nodded, still preoccupied. 'It's kinda personal your ladyship. But I do have tae ask.' 'Of course Brodie.' She smiled then. Sad, wistful, but yes a smile. 'It's about Billy, isn't it?' 'What happens now with the Skipper? Sorry his lordship? I mean where does this,' he gestured to the ward, 'where does it leave the two of you? She took time to answer. 'It doesn't leave us anywhere Sergeant Smith. It won't change anything.' 'Because of Billy Morrison?' 'Because I love him - Jimmy Drummond, God help me.' Her sad smile touched the big fisherman. 'And I'm much too late.' 'But why? He needs you now.' 'All he has is his pride Brodie. He doesn't want me now; it would seem like pity.' Brodie moved close, resisting the urge to hold her. 'You mustn't gie up on him lass, if you'll pardon the impertinence. Jist be there for him eh?' She reached to touch his cheek as the nature of her smile changed. 'Thank you Brodie.' She turned and fled the building. Brodie stood for long seconds, considering the variable nature of love. **** He was a great man the colonel. A loss we can't afford. I have no idea what passed between him and your man Robertson, but I do know the strength of feeling your friend had for him. He will take it hard?' 'And what of you Sir?' Brodie looked uncomfortable with the question but was determined to ask. 'Begging your pardon, but is there no future for you and her ladyship?' 'Come along Brodie. We're not so different you and I. Would you be happy to be second choice?' Brodie was less adept at recognising Drummond's smile. 'Take my word for it sergeant Smith, I am smiling.' 'There are times you know, when I could kill Billy Morrison.' He shot the Captain a glance. 'And I'm not smiling you'll gather sir?' Jimmy Drummond's laughter was agony for his facial muscles. Brodie fed on the positivity of such a reaction. As the pain subsided, Jimmy grabbed his sergeant's arm. 'Jimmy Hughes. How bad is it?' Their eyes locked. 'It's his lungs sir. It seems he now has just the one and that one isn't the greatest. He's on his way home sir.' He watched the darkness drift over Drummond's eyes. Brodie bent to hear the whisper. 'He was shot from behind Smith. I'm sure of it.' His grip was savage as he pulled Brodie close. 'It was Aird, Brodie. That murdering savage Aird. There's no proof,' he spat, 'but we know; and we have to tread wary, we three.' The eyes were desperate. 'You, me, and Billy Morrison, god damn him!' **** 'Here Brodie, you've had a visitor.' Eck seemed to have shed the gloom of the offensive much quicker than his older pals. He saw the grinding tiredness in the sergeant, the lethargy of his movements. 'Ye might need a drink before I tell ye man. Honest ye'll no believe it.' 'Just tell me Eck. It's been a shite of a day.' 'Maggie Livingstone was here. Would ye believe it? Maggie, a nurse.' He paused for effect. 'She came tae see you. Really upset ye weren't here, she was.' Eck displayed his growing perplexity. 'Do you hear what I'm saying? Maggie?' 'Maggiein this hellish place?' He sank to the bench, body melting into the seat. The voice soft,spiritual. 'Oh hell.' Eck handed him the bottle and went off to find Alan. **** Brodie lay fully dressed on top of his bed, ruffled from sleep. Douglas stood in the door of the tent. 'It's been three days. He went to find Lisette in town. Yesterday I asked Billy to check at the estaminet. He couldn't find them and no-one seems to know anything. Martin's gone, Lise too.' 'Right, get the lads together infifteen minutes. Let's see what we can come up with.' 'Sorry sarge, you need to talk to Billy here.' 'What?' Billy squeezed into the opening alongside Douglas. 'Maggie. That's what. Douglas and I will see about Martin. You concentrate on Nurse Maggie Livingstone.' Billy sat with him while Douglas mustered the Rifles. 'What am I going to say to her? She's such a strong-minded woman.' He had his head in his hands. 'And I treated her like a hoor the last time I saw her.' He glared at Billy, naked appeal in his eyes. 'You have all the words, don't you?' 'You devour every book I give you to read. You must have all the words now.' Billy's smile was infectious. 'Pierre Behuzov. That's who I am. War and Peace, you know. Big, clumsy, ..guid natured, but shite with women.' 'So you saw her then?' 'Who?' 'Lady Marjorie. You went to tell her about Drummond.' He sat on the edge of his seat. 'C'mon you're not sworn to secrecy pal.' 'I took her to see the Skipper.' Brodie paused to consider his next remark. 'Billy. What do you intend to do about her? Where are we going wae this?' 'I wish I knew. It was me that reached that sad bastard first his face torn open like that. I can't forget the way he looked at me like he'd given her up in that moment.' Billy looked confused, lost. Brodie reached for the bottle. 'Here. This'll help.' He poured a dram into the tin mug. Billy shot down the rough spirit and took a deep breath. 'Do you want the truth? I want to go hame. Hame Brodie; Scotland. The same as every man oot there.' He pointed for emphasis. 'And I've got less right than any of them. What I wouldn't give to be speaking to Anne. It's not you pal. But she understands me.' His head dropped and his voice. Brodie strained to hear the rest. 'God help me, she loves me yet. Still. After all I've told her to the contrary.' Billy stood, sudden and determined. I'm acting like a young boy. Fuck. This is how Eck behaves; not me. 'Look.. Billy ' Billy raised a hand. Let's concentrate on one thing at a time, eh? You need to face the formidable Miss Livingstone. And Black Douglas and I will try and locate Martin. If we can get him back before tomorrow we might just be able to save him.' **** He was an amputee; fresh from the operating table. Brodie could see the arched cradle over the space where his leg had been. He had watched her from the alcove as she supervised the transfer from theatre and made the soldier comfortable. Now she stood with two assistants, briefing them at length. He was overwhelmed. At sight of her. At the changes wrought in her. At the magnificent woman she'd become. 'Sergeant Smith? Here again so soon?' 'Lady Marjorie. No. That is, not to see your ladyship. I've come to see Maggie Livingstone, Nurse Livingstone - newly arrived?' 'My new colleague. So you know each other, Brodie?' 'We were to have been married Ma'm.' Marjorie's smile died on her lips at the tone of his voice. 'I haven't spoken to her since; nor heard from her till yesterday.' 'Oh Brodie, what is this reluctance to engage that inflicts you soldiers? Go speak to her. I feel sure you're the reason she's here in France. No?' 'She's a strong-willed lassie, and that's for sure.' 'Aren't we all Sergeant Smith? She smiled. 'Nurse Livingstone, Maggie. You have a visitor.' Her hand went to Brodie's shoulder. 'Deep breaths now.' He saw her turn. Saw the colour rise to her cheeks. His tongue caught behind his teeth 'Brodie?' Her voice stabbed at his chest. She took two or three steps before faltering to a halt. She turned to her assistants. 'That will be all for now girls.' When she turned back, Brodie had closed the gap. It took her by surprise. 'By God Maggieyou look you look like a lady.' You look so clean too, he thought. He was aware of his own damp, earthy smell. 'Eck told me when I got back that you'd been. I didn't believe it. You; here,' he whispered. He scratched at his knee below the heavy kilt. A reflex action, noted by both; a well-remembered mannerism. She smiled at the familiar and his slow smile followed. 'It's not lice, lass. We've all been treated.' 'Now why would you think that that would be important to me Brodie Smith?' The exasperation was all Maggie, he acknowledged. 'I have travelled a long road to reach you here. I made the decision on the day we heard of Rab Watson's death.' Her voice broke on this declaration. 'Ye might just remember that day. No?' The big man stood in silence. The startling clarity from this slight yet powerful girl left him cowed, humbled. 'Would you like me to look after things here Maggie? You could spend a little time with the sergeant.' Marjorie smirked at Brodie. 'Cat got your tongue?' He lowered his eyes before the broad front of sisterhood. Early December but they found a space along the warm sunlit wall behind the wards. She kissed him then. Full on the lips and with her small hands on either shoulder. He stirred beneath the kilt and felt guilty at his arousal. 'I don't want a saint Brodie; nor a gentleman. God forbid, there are enough of them in Amiens.' Her head tilted in query as she clasped both his shoulders. 'Listen to me.' She leaned close to his ear.. 'I've felt you inside me. Nothing else comes close to feeling so right. D'you hear me you great barbarian; it's perfectly natural to get excited.' Her smile was brazen. I want the man I love to feel like that.' 'Maggie I was wrong; so very wrong.' She put fingers to his lips. She thought to prevent his denial, but he held firm. 'I was angry with my sister. I hit her, for Christ's sake. And because of that I made your love seem like something dirty.' 'If it makes you feel any better Brodie, I hated you for all of twenty-four hours. After you left I set my mind to becoming a nurse. All to get me out here.' He smiled then. For the first time she saw her man as he was in her memory. She wept. Cleansing tears; the joy of arrival after so long on the road. Brodie seemed set on crushing the breath from her. His all-consuming embrace a catharsis for both. **** The two men met at Solange's estaminet, behind the station. Billy had no good news for his friend. 'They've both gone. The Jews here have been leaving in great numbers. Driven out by people who have been told the Jews started the war.' Both men drained the glasses of rough wine. 'I would think they would move North. Lisette is from Belgium, though maybe it isn't the best place to be at the moment.' 'Martin has to make it clean away this time.' Brodie filled both glasses. 'If they catch him he'll be executed for sure.' 'Merry Bloody Christmas.' Billy raised his glass, the smile not touching his eyes. 'I wonder if Martin realises that if they manage to get away, he can never go hame?' 'Can you remember the excitement we felt back there? None of us thought we'd still be out here in the middle of France, much beyond last Christmas.' He drained the glass and stared at Billy. 'God Bless us, everyone'
Archived comments for The Tides of War - Part 2
Mikeverdi on 18-03-2014
The Tides of War - Part 2
You must be bored, with me telling you how good this story is, but it is good. I would buy and read this were I able; and I will when you publish. I am a little confused by a passage, not the story, but the punctuation; this is not unusual for me as you know 🙂 I will try and cut /paste and send it, perhaps you will explain it to me.
Mike

Author's Reply:


Beaumont Hamel - Part 2 (posted on: 14-03-14)
More of the same.

The noise was horrendous. The Argylls and the HLI were approaching the front line trenches. The Germans were withdrawn from the front line, leaving small parties of troops to defend the area. The Brigade was peppered with artillery fire and well-sighted machine-guns. 'The boys are taking a pounding up there. Listen tae that.' Stewart Gourlay tilted his head to the rim of the ravine. 'They cannae see us doon here.' As if to give the lie to Stewart's belief, incoming fire began to punch holes in the advancing line. German pickets spread along the wall of the ravine couldn't fail to find a target. Major Aird marched alone behind the 6th battalion. In front of him he could see Jimmy Hughes following his Captain across the valley floor. He drew his pistol along with all the other officers. Jimmy was still in front of him, in plain sight. Twice he sighted the weapon, drawing a bead on his former batman. Each time he gave a small tight smile before firing at the Germans on the ridge. The bullet took Jimmy Hughes high on the right shoulder to the side of his spine. It tore through the top of the lung before smashing out of his ribcage. Captain Drummond saw it pitch Jimmy on to his face. 'Jimmy, Jimmy?' Drummond dropped to one knee and turned his man by the shoulder. The exit wound was enormous. 'Stretcher bearer; over here.' The Captain got back to his feet and hurried to rejoin the men. Aird held his pistol down by his side following the third shot. Hurrying across the pitted ground, he smiled to himself as he passed the stricken Private. Wolfgang Vollen felt like a God. The new conscript was huddled against the side of the ravine. He was spoiled for targets, even mis-sighted shots finding a kilted warrior. His father, dead alongside his gun, reached out of the ether and murdered his eldest son. Vollen's misfired shell detonated six feet above Wolfgang's head. The six man detail was vapourised. The shell then found its last victim. The jagged shell-casing carved through the chin of Captain James Drummond, the Lord Elcho. It sliced through flesh and sinew, splitting his eye and ricocheting off his brow. He dropped in front of Rab Niven. Billy reached him first and bent to speak. 'Oh God...Fucking Christ Almighty.' Jimmy Drummond's face was covered in blood. Yellow fat shone in the wide slice, the flesh falling across his nose. His eye hung upon a single filament. Billy vomitted. 'You must keep going forward Morrison.' Billy looked unsure; but it was what he thought he had heard from the bubbling, bloody lips. 'Just let me see to this first, Sir.' He unrolled the field-dressing and wound it round the Captain's torn face. As he rose to his feet Aird trotted past. He faltered at sight of his rival, then was off to take charge of the men. 'Stretcher bearers are on their way, Sir.' Billy stood for a moment then he too was gone. The pain crept into Jimmy Drummond's conscious thought. A cold, inhuman pain sapping the last reserves; pulling his focus from a lost love and a cherished duty of care to his Rifles. He laughed at the irony. His vision darkened into blessed oblivion. The advance slowed as the ground sloped up toward the far ridge. Aird saw the hesitation; men unable to contemplate that ascent into the jaws of death. He laughed at the height of his own hyperbole. The highlanders heard the insanity in the laughter. They were all attention now, and he called them forward, urging them up the forbidding slope. Away to their left Colonel Cummins made the same call upon their resolve and the battalion rose from the ravine. 'That's the Argylls. They've got there before us.' Stewart Gourlay pointed off to their right, where their sister brigade was moving beyond the German frontline. Machine-guns swept the crest of the ravine. Field mortars blew ragged gaps in the line. Heavy artillery threw the soil of Picardy into a sky gone feral. But blood was up. Pals grinned at each other. They had the look of Carribean Pirates; berserking Vikings who felt no fear, just the ancient joy of battle. Aird met the Colonel on the ridge. 'Their blood's up, Major. It fits our purpose but it won't last for too long.' The old warrior's grin was as fierce as the men's. 'We must use it now. Keep pushing on; the Huns will break and run Aird. You can feel it.' He screamed like an Irish Banshee, his men taking up the war-cry. Alastair waved the Rifles on. As they surged forward he glanced at his watch. 0640. Less than an hour and they were behind the German lines. Minutes later they were moving downhill on the back slope of the ridge. Brodie could see farm buildings and beyond that the steeple of a church. They approached Beaumont Hamel at speed, spotting retreating grey figures all along the line of their advance. Brigade runners sprinted towards the fighting battalions. A halt was called short of the village, as Colonel Cummins called his officers together and they reformed the scattered regiment. The Rifles found places against the wall of the farmstead, their excitement dissipating fast. 'Jimmy's gone, I tell ye. He had a hole the size o' a soup bowl in his chest.' Eck was in the backwash of battle-lust; talkative, on edge, unable to sit alongside his pals. 'He was picked up by the stretcher party.' Brodie threw the cigarette butt in front of him. 'He'll have tae take his chances like the rest o' us.' He lit another fag, noting with interest the tremor in his hand. 'Let's just keep fingers crossed.' 'And the skipper? The ither Jimmy?' Stewart Gourlay stood and dipped into the inside of his battledress. 'You went to him Billy, did ye no?' He jogged across to where Rab Niven was still playing the pipes. He tapped on the piper's shoulder and gave him a cigarette. He turned back to the group. 'Will he live, Billy?' Billy studied the cigarette cupped in his hand; his head down. 'Drummond? ....' He blew through his lips, then for a long moment was silent. 'I think it's touch and go...He's lost half his face...he was still all about when I left him... though he might no be pleased to be alive, poor sod.' Aird and the Colonel walked toward the farmstead. **** They walked like bowed old men. Battle lust cooled. It curled like woodsmoke in the pit of the stomach. Bone and sinew stiffening. Cummins watched the energy of the advance congeal. He felt the same ache at his core. 'Right Lads, hear me, hear me now.' The voice carried across the line of advance. 'Let's finish it now; let's break the bastard huns. After them boys.' He shouted something Gaelic and incoherent and brought his pistol to bear on the horizon. The line surged forward and the Pipes threw 'Scotland the Brave' at the ragged German retreat. 'See ye doon there boys.' Stewart Gourlay's laughter was demented but infectious. God, it reminds me o' watching the fitba' at Bayview. Billy considered the fleeting thought. 'C'mon East Fife!' The following roar carried them on toward the opposing goal. This second assault saw them in amongst the buildings of a substantial village. Beaumont Hamel; long the centre of the German Line in the area, now a ragged hole in their defences. 'Would ye look at that, Alan?' Wee Eck pointed to a group of Germans. They sat or lay strewn across the ground in front of the village school. They held arms aloft, their appeals in German lost on the Scots. 'They're surrendering. They've had enough.' Billy didn't need to speak the language to know what they said. Fifty or so pitiful humans who had once been soldiers. They cowered in fear as Eck strode into their midst. A white-faced teenager reached up in supplication. Eck hummed a tuneless song. He lifted his rifle into the air and brought the butt down across the German's head. The off-key singing didn't miss a beat. 'What is that daft bastard up to?' Billy pointed to the young Scot now marching in a tight circle around the ring of terrified Huns. Brodie glared at his pal. 'He's singing.' Brodie shook his head. 'It's the bloody Blaydon Races.' He ran to the crowd of Germans, motioning with his raised rifle, pushing Eck out of the circle. 'Get the fuck oot o' there ya wee tink.' 'That was from the Geordies ya cringing arseholes.' Alan pulled him by the webbing belt; out of range of the irate Sergeant. 'Very eloquent, young man.' Billy smiled. An ugly grin of a smile. 'You're not normally sae lively when faced by grey uniforms Eck. Easy when you have the only weapon, isn't it?' 'Leave it Billy.' Alan stood between them. 'You know what brought this on. You were there; you saw them laddies.' Alan was on the balls of his feet. 'It's a sair heid; no a bullet in the brain. His war's over, lucky bastard.' Alan herded his friend around the corner of the building. Brodie shrugged his indifference. Shoals of German prisoners were being escorted to the rear. The village appeared empty, the French still in hiding. The prisoners were poor excuse for soldiers. The Rifles' uninformed opinion was born of the first toe to toe meeting with their enemy. They dismissed the memory of the implacable enemy they'd fought with on High Wood. At their peril. The seasoned troops of Von Bulow's Fifth Army had made orderly retreat; retiring by stages, controlled and supported. Any who remained in the captured village were dangerous. Rolf Zieten was dangerous. Sixteen years old but hardened in six month's of conflict. Finding himself isolated, he had fallen in with a fearsome Sergeant of Grenadiers. The man had braced the youngster. He'd fed the boy's resentment, called upon a long forgotten schoolboy pride. He left the boy, creeping forward to bolster resistance elsewhere. Rolf prepared to sell his life in the fashion demanded by the Sergeant. Midday and the village wrapped itself in aftermath silence. Sporadic gunfire drew brief attention as the two Brigades formed a new offensive line along the Eastern edge of Beaumont Hamel. Martin took station behind his colonel. Cummins had chosen him as his battalion runner and Martin knew a fierce pride, an almost spiritual devotion to the old warrior. 'The Old Man's taking it badly.' Brodie stood with Douglas and Billy. 'The casualty estimates; he's counting the cost. He's feeling the loss of his children, isn't he?' 'For all he's a regular, we forget this is his first action.' Billy choked on his words then drew a savage lungful of cigarette smoke. The bite of the nicotine stilled his emotions. 'Colin McIvor tells me he served in South Africa as a subaltern in the War. Fought on the North West Frontier too.' Brodie shook his head. 'Nothing like this though Aird's father, the Major, was a grand man but the Colonel, well.he's made us a family, has he no?' Cummins knew how great their losses had been. He had walked the length of the line, stopping to murmur thanks or commiseration to his tired, bloodied men. The official figures were confirmation of the knowledge; they compounded his grief. He wore that grief for all to see; it aged him, stooped proud shoulders. Zieten saw all this and more. He saw the marks of rank, the deference accorded the colonel. Incited ambition drove him from cover. He knelt in the threshold of a building ten yards to the rear of the Scots' front line. He levelled the rifle. With an effort of will, Cummins pulled himself together and squared his shoulders. The bullet entering behind his ear brought this last act of defiance to an end. The colonel dropped and the young German froze in the frame of the doorway. Martin's agonised scream shredded the silence. Rolf Zieten knew the inevitability of violent death. He became a spectator along with the assembled Scots. A player yes, but one who hadn't learned his lines; whose value to the piece was in his death. Martin closed the distance, oblivious to the detachment of the kneeling German. The bayonet severed Zieten's spinal chord. The butt of his rifle smashed the bridge of Rolf's nose. And then he gouged bright gobbets of flesh and blood from the dead man's body. When the gory rhythm slackened, he shed his rifle, put his head in his hands and howled his despair. Douglas broke the spell. 'Martin?' He pulled the grieving man's head against his thigh. 'Leave him now friend.' The voice was soft; redolent of understanding, and Martin heard Lisette at the edge of his awareness. 'Pick up your rifle and let's get back to the boys, eh?' Martin rose from his knees, not once looking at the ruined body in the doorway. The Old Man was dead. They'd covered the body and his orderly knelt by his side. Aird saw the entire episode from the Dress Circle. That was certainly how it felt. He saw naked grief and loss on the faces of the men. Shock too. It robbed them of motivation; of spirit. He noted the same look on the face of the monster. Martin Robertson, who had torn a young German to bloody pieces. No-one deserved to die like that, he thought. And no-one could be so admired and respected that their death might inspire such savagery and anger. Robertson's a beast; mindless and unrestrained. The battalion would advance no further. On hearing of Cummins' death, Brigade ordered Major Aird to hold the ground to the East of the captured village. By late afternoon they were scattered in disconnected trenches along the old German reserve line. Hot food arrived along with cautious, sight-seeing staff officers.
Archived comments for Beaumont Hamel - Part 2
Savvi on 14-03-2014
Beaumont Hamel - Part 2
Flipping eck that was quick, I shall have to come back to do it justice. Keith

Author's Reply:

Mikeverdi on 15-03-2014
Beaumont Hamel - Part 2
Bloody brilliant Jim, just bloody brilliant mate. Its a sorry state when work like this doesn't get the plaudits it deserves. I hope that when you publish this novel you get you're due rewards.
Mike

Author's Reply:


Beaumont Hamel - Part 1 (posted on: 14-03-14)
Just part of my ongoing saga.

'O God, whose strength setteth fast the mountains. Lord of the Hills to whom we lift our eyes. Grant us grace that we, of the Black Watch. Once chosen to watch the mountains of an earthly kingdom. May stand fast in the faith, and be strong. Until we come to the heavenly kingdom of him. Who has bidden us watch and pray. Thy Son, our Saviour and Lord. Amen' The voice came out of the darkness. The Chaplain, girding his highlanders for the battle. Five a.m. and men fresh from troubled sleep. The fact that so many men heard the Regimental Collect was testament to the Padre's strong, presbyterian voice. The creeping barrage was rising to crescendo, this section falling under the guns three hours ago. By the flaring light men found their friends. 'So who wants tae propose the toast?' Brodie stared into the depth of his canteen, the rest of the Rifles repeating the process. This has more of a religious feel than any prayer we'll hear today. The heady effects of the rough, dark rum were the prompt to the big Sergeant's musing. 'It's like being in The Haven without the lights on,' he whispered; breaking the spell of high suspense. Martin raised his tin cup. 'OK. Here's to our wee unbreakable circle.' His eyes sparked in the flash of falling ordnance. Eyes locked across the divide. 'Let's meet again over there,' he said. The dark spirits sealed the bargain. The silence within the circle was complete. Small smiles, tight reflective smiles that spoke of brotherhood, and resolve. 'Billy? You must have some words for us, No?' 'C'mon Brodie. I don't have the words for this. Who could gie this any sort of meaning?' 'If you cannae, then none of us can. Just something with a bit of feeling.' All eyes followed the exchange, still the only features visible in the flaring gloom. 'Weave us some magic pal. It might be yer last chance.' The tight smiles spread and softened. 'OK, there is this one. It's called Jock Tamson's Bairns.' Billy spoke much too loud as the preparatory bombardment faltered then fell silent. Itinerant Scots, vital sons of optimism, Made the world a smaller, safer place. Life's blood of the Bloody British Empire. Such an ethnic aberration for a Jock gave birth to countless smaller nations. Pulled them to their feet and left them standing tall. It's a source of pride, tae bide amang their children. For we're all of us Jock's Bairns underneath. We've the head for trade, the head for heights, and hands to guide a ploughshare. The eyes to see injustice, and the drive to set men free. It's true we cry when singing of our country. So our neighbour thinks we're decadent and weak. Haven't got the wealth, yet wrote "The Wealth of Nations". Haven't got the strength, yet won't kneel in defeat. Yet we boast the pen that made us mankind's brother. One another, that's the Guinea stamp; not crowns. 'God that's grand Billy.' Everyone nodded in agreement. 'Rabbie Burns would be proud of you, young man.' Colonel Cummins stood with Aird and Drummond on the skirts of the group. 'You have a gift there Private ......?' 'Morrison Sir.' Billy lifted his tin mug to the lip of his helmet. 'Quite right Private Morrison. Another round of drinks.' He looked over his shoulder. 'Sergeant Major? A little more rum for the lads here.' Within minutes canteens were filled and the Colonel was on the inside of the group. Jimmy Drummond watched the Old Man go about his work. He saw the effect it had on his Rifles. A bravura performance from a professional soldier who knows what it takes to lead such men as these, thought the Captain. Alastair Aird didn't drink the rum. Among the highly-charged highlanders of the 6th battalion he stood an aloof island. Jimmy Hughes was fixed on his former charge. From the far side of the circle, he made intense study of the new Major over the rim of his mug. 'Bottoms up, Hughes.' Captain Drummond raised his cup to his batman, curiosity in his smile. 'We'll be off soon.' Jimmy returned the toast, although his eyes stayed upon his former master. And then Aird turned to speak. 'So how are you, Private Hughes? Ready for the fight that's before us?' He smiled. The smile had the cruel, hard quality of a bird of prey hovering above the earth. Jimmy Hughes took to the role of victim and mumbled an incomprehensible reply. 'Perhaps you might consider returning to service as my man, eh?' The smile blossomed. 'I'm sure his Lordship would spare you.' Jimmy was rescued by the Colonel who, glancing at his wristwatch, called on his staff to move on up the trench. 'More rum on the other side, lads.' A last informal salute and he was gone. Jimmy's bayonet was in his hand at the level of his waist. His eyes hard, the spark of steel on steel, he stepped toward Aird who had turned to follow the Old Man. 'There's better work for that where we are going, Jimmy.' Douglas whispered close to the soldier's ear; his huge hand closing on Jimmy's wrist. 'Whatever he has done to you, you can't put right by taking his blood. Think Jimmy; please.' He took the bayonet from a hand gone slack and stood in front of his friend, blocking the view of Aird's departure. 'He's a game auld bastard, that's for sure.' Stewart Gourlay drained his mug then shook out the dregs. Agreement was general within the group, which once again turned its back on the outside world. 'Thirty more minutes.' Brodie studied his watch then raised his eyes to his pals. Douglas slipped the bayonet back into Jimmy's belt. 'Thanks, Douglas.' Jimmy's eyes were on the floor of the trench. 'I would've stuck him - the bastard.' Douglas nodded, wordless. Jimmy would later appreciate the absence of questions from the big Kenyan. Ladders were placed all along the line of the trench. The eight battalions of the 153rd Brigade formed sections beneath the ladders and the thin line of dawn formed along the far horizon. The Rifles stood on the firing step and studied the killing ground in front of them. 'D'ye see that tree oot there? Ye cannae miss it, it's the only one left. Ye see it?' Martin held all their attention. 'That's as far as the Newfoundlanders got. Three out of every five men never made it back here.' They considered the numbers in sick fascination. 'The 31st Division in the positions on our right; didn't even get out of their trenches.' 'That was the first day of the offensive. We were standing below the ridge at Thiepval. God, ye must remember that.' Eck looked both ways, eager to remind his pals. 'They poor Geordie boys.' Jimmy Drummond arrived below the step. He stood for a time, respecting his men's silence. Brodie turned to find the Captain there. 'Right Lads; let's join the dancing.' The company formed in front of Jimmy, and Brodie his sergeant. Rab Niven found his bagpipes and moved behind the Captain. 'Fifteen minutes after the mine is detonated we move off. Once we are up on the surface we need to advance smartly away to our left.' Drummond paused for effect. 'We will push on through the ravine. We should be in good cover at this point; almost unseen till we reach the German front line trench. We don't stop lads. We keep going forward. Small detachments of the Gordon Highlanders will guide us through the gaps in the wire, God willing.' He smiled. A warrior's smile, seen by all the other warriors. Returned by men who could see beneath the noble veneer. 'You heard the Skipper, boys. Keep going forward. Don't stop for a wounded pal. Don't bunch together, it jist provides the Hun wae a target. Keep going and we'll meet o'er the other side.' One of the novel elements of the War in France was the informal gathering of troops before going over the top. Pals stood toe to toe or shoulder to shoulder. The knowledge of coming carnage brought men close. They dropped their guard and wore their emotions in public. This was how the explosion found them. The mine tore Hawthorne Ridge apart. Earth and bedrock thrust two hundred feet into the dark, unquiet sky. The noise rent the air above their heads. Expanding pressure beat and receded about their ears. Men grinned from ear to ear. It was child-like and unintentional; and it reverberated slowly into an even more profound silence. 'Fifteen minutes Lads.' 'Good Luck Jimmy.' Captain Drummond grabbed the hand of his batman and namesake. 'I'm very grateful for all you do, and I often feel I don't tell you enough?' Jimmy Hughes looked uncomfortable but he smiled in acknowledgement. You've become such a big part of my life out here, he thought. When the Captain turned he saw his men reach out to each other; the need for contact and the closeness of friends. 'I'm not ashamed of us, Eck.' Alan and Eck stood shoulder to shoulder. Eck felt his hand being grasped. 'I don't know how else to say how I feel about ye. Just know that I'll always be here for ye.' Martin saw the clasped hands. He smiled to himself and nodded in agreement with some internal dialogue. Stewart and Martin stood together in silent communion. Douglas, on the other side of the group, forced his way through the packed ranks and stood in front of Stewart Gourlay. 'I have a message for you Stewart.' The fisherman turned toward Martin, showing Douglas his back. 'It's from you brother...from Davie.' Stewart looked over his shoulder. 'Fuck off. You only get to talk tae me when yer giving me orders, so fuck off, corporal.' 'You are such a stupid man, Stewart Gourlay.' Douglas grabbed a fistful of battledress and Stewart rose to the extent of his toes. 'Davie was twice the man you are.' Stewart twisted and snarled as Douglas bent closer to his face. 'When we reach the other side, Gourlay...on the other side of this field, I will give you your brother's message. Do with it as you will!' 'OK Douglas, he gets yer message pal.' Martin broke the corporal's grasp on his pal's jacket. Douglas' smile was grim as he turned to rejoin Brodie and Billy. Billy's fingers were through the back of Brodie's webbing belt. Both men felt comfort in the touch. 'You look after yourself up there. You're a big target Brodie. What would I say to Maggie if I came back withoot ye?' Brodie laughed. 'Do me a favour Coal Boy. Make yer peace wae Rab...we need to be one unit. That's the beast waiting out there.' 'Two minutes, men.' Lord Elcho bent close to the face of his watch. Rab Niven moved toward the ladder. Billy arrived there first. He put out his hand to stop the piper. 'Keep yer head down up there, Niven.' Rab's smile was born of both surprise and relief. As Drummond raised the whistle towards his lips, Rab Niven launched into 'Johnnie Cope'. White faces, raised to study the purpling sky, grimaced at the harsh notes of the whistle. The two Brigades were up and clear of the trenches. The third brigade of the Highland Division stood as reserve in the vacated trench. Each unit rallied around their piper and then in loose lines they made their way forward over the difficult ground. 'Steady boys...a nice steady pace and keep the line.' Brodie faced his charges, walking with his back to the enemy, making a virtue out of his apparent disregard for safety. It worked, and nerves settled. German shells began to pepper the thin, continuous line of the highlanders. **** Rutger Vollen stooped to the breech chamber of the massive fieldgun. The cordite smelt strange; more acidic, a chemical decomposition. For long seconds he pondered the phenomenon that had brought him. He had been called from sleep, though sleep did not come easy to him. His son Wolfgang, standing close to manhood in a Germany grown needy, had been pressed into service. He was now only three miles in front of his father's position. Hauptfeldwebel Vollen's preoccupation caused him to miss the brackish liquid oozing from beneath the cordite stack. He moved behind the breech to watch his gunners at work. The mission had lasted twenty minutes. A damnable English offensive below Beaumont Hamel. The tenth shell killed the entire gun team. A misfire tore apart the massive field-gun, altering the trajectory of its last shell, sending the worried father and his men to oblivion.
Archived comments for Beaumont Hamel - Part 1
jdm4454 on 14-03-2014
Beaumont Hamel - Part 1
Bering on part 2--- jim

Author's Reply:

Savvi on 14-03-2014
Beaumont Hamel - Part 1
This is really very good Jim I will watch out for the next installment. Best Keith

Author's Reply:

Mikeverdi on 15-03-2014
Beaumont Hamel - Part 1
I bow to the master of his trade, superb Jim. Your knowledge makes it all the more believable. You may have noticed that I plied my trade in this direction; after reading this....
I note part two is on, so I shall move to it; I'm pleased you are back with this one again.
Mike

Author's Reply:


Columbine (posted on: 28-02-14)
The Columbine High School shootings

Mass media and mass murderers find it easy to find each other. A brother, a son, yes either one, armed with a gun, becomes a modern Herod. The parallel is drawn in pages torn from the Book of Isaiah. And the Innocents are pulled from the obscurity of Bible belt America, and culled in the security of a school. Senseless life is used to excuse such futile death. And parents, still untouched are scared as much by teenage angst; as once by Space Age Reds. Beware the urban terror in your midst; for it did once murder a flower.
Archived comments for Columbine
Elfstone on 28-02-2014
Columbine
A powerful poem Franciman. I didn't quite follow the Isaiah reference - perhaps I need chapter and verse? How time passes - it seem ages since the Columbine incident and sadly such things go on happening. Elfstone

Author's Reply:

ValDohren on 28-02-2014
Columbine
It is beyond me to understand why such events happen - what is wrong with people ?!!! There is so much anger and hatred in the world, and children suffer. Very well penned Jim - Bible belt America, yes indeed.
Val


Author's Reply:

Bozzz on 01-03-2014
Columbine
Parents so scared they still want to keep guns. A perennial Catch 22. Who or what will ever save Americans from their collective folly? Well said Jim....David

Author's Reply:

Ionicus on 02-03-2014
Columbine
Jim, this piece sounds familiar but it is still relevant.
The right to bear arms conferred to Americans by their Constitution is their excuse to equip themselves with an arsenal of deadly weapons and rejecting any suggestion of reforms. I expressed my point of view in my poem 'After Columbine' in 2012 following the Connecticut shooting, but my argument was rebutted by a fellow American author.


Author's Reply:

Buschell on 02-03-2014
Columbine
Psychotropic drugs and firearms. Who introduced these two? Why not? Who cares? You I reckon and it shows. Dazza.

Author's Reply:

Kat on 03-03-2014
Columbine
Excellent.

Kat

Author's Reply:

Mikeverdi on 05-03-2014
Columbine
The first American President to introduce gun law throughout the United States will either be shot or win the Nobel peace prize...guess which. Good writing Jim.
Mike

Author's Reply:


French Fancy (posted on: 28-02-14)
****

I missed it. I mime, ear to an imaginary conch shell. I thumb toward the steam-drenched espresso machine. Pain turns ugly in her eyes, the cigarette pulling at the flesh of her lower lip. 'What do you want?' She picks at her laceration. I mist over, like the glass of the Cafe Fenelon . Miasma Arabica she calls it, my inability to make a choice. She's no idea why I'm smiling. She doesn't know I've her knickers in my pocket. They've a warm, spicy perfume. I slip my hand in, the buttons sharp between my fingers. Curiosity unanswered, she stares off-stage. Stunning in profile, my sometime spotter. We've worked together before, which gives occasional lovemaking that sense of marital comfort. It doesn't do to dwell; I owe her a decision. The target is a ruin. Owen Flannery, philosopher. Darling of the Rive Gauche; purveyor of bullshit dressed as mohair; gobshite. Irish gobshite, the worst kind. One scathing aside too many. Turning Irish freedom into pissant, pearls cast before swine. You've angered the Brotherhood, my man. Not clever, despite your reputation. Miasma Arabica? Miasma Robusta - is what it is. Maeve spares a quick glance, a soundless repetition of her question, then draws a lungful of biting smoke. Mannish but very sexy. Not as sexy as being paid to put a bullet in your man's knee-cap, mind. He wears a mouldering cardigan and an unkempt beard. No socks, and I smell his feet. The unwashed body - body of a crucified Christ - discernible above the aroma of coffee. He catches Maeve's glance and preens himself. You won't ever have her drawers in your pocket Paddy. Well?' She screws the cigarette into the saucer. I reach for my pocket. 'Pain au Chocolat,' I whisper, finding the electric friction of warm satin.
Archived comments for French Fancy
Nomenklatura on 28-02-2014
French Fancy
Short, sharp, chilling, atmospheric.
And very good.
Regards
Ewan

Author's Reply:
Sorry it's taken me so long to get back to you. Thanks for reading and commenting, and if you nominated me profuse thanks!
cheers,
Jim

jdm4454 on 28-02-2014
French Fancy
What he said --- absolutely a "great read"...thanks..jim


Author's Reply:
Hi Jim,
Sorry it's taken me so long to get back to you. Thanks for reading and commenting, and if you nominated me profuse thanks!
cheers,
Jim,

Rab on 28-02-2014
French Fancy
Had to read it twice to get the full impact; excellent, as ever, Jim.

Ross

Author's Reply:
Hi Ross,
Thanks mate.
cheers,
Jim

Mikeverdi on 01-03-2014
French Fancy
You at you're best, definitely one to keep. Well worth all the plaudits Jim.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Hi Mike,
Sorry for the delay in replying; very busy at present.
Thank you for the comment and the vote.
cheers,
Jim

Jaybee on 12-03-2014
French Fancy
Excellent piece, the sense of slight erotica, the warm aroma of coffee and the setting all came to life.

I can imagine you wrote this almost with your tongue in your cheek so to speak.

Maybe not many words, but in that short space you packed a lot into it.

Excellent reading!

Jaybee

Author's Reply:
Hi Jaybee,
Thanks for reading my work. I am buoyed by the positive comments. You are right about the tongue in cheek element, certainly it was very enjoyable to write. Inspired by notes I took when in the Cafe Fenelon in Paris last year. The target was at the next table to mine!
cheers,
Jim


The Unlikely Samaritan (posted on: 24-02-14)
****

Out of diesel smoke; way out of place; a long way out of focus. Standing inside my bitter personal space, she filled that vacant, empty metaphor and exquisite agony of my heart. The four-twenty to London picked up speed and litter, crying strangled farewell; hurling the spent passion of passing upon the grimed glass sky of Waverley Station. Small, uniformed, black as the future. She veiled the departure of a life once led, now leaden, and dead. That febrile figment dissipating like diesel fumes as my memories imploded in locomotive tailwind. Christ hung on the roof of her cleavage. A palpitating, pascal-lamb message that: All was never lost. My All knew full well her destination. The Black Madonna nodded, knowing. Her benediction: 'Never mind Pet; there's another one due shortly.'
Archived comments for The Unlikely Samaritan
Mikeverdi on 24-02-2014
The Unlikely Samaritan
First let me say I really like this...I feel however that poetry is the wrong box. For me this is a story, it reads like one that begs to be enlarged; I need to know more. In saying this, it means I was engrossed; and as a writer you would want this. Others may disagree, as you may; it's just the way I see it.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Hi Mike,
Really glad you liked this. I have no strong feelings either way as to a label, though I wrote it as a piece of verse to be honest.
cheers,
Jim

ValDohren on 24-02-2014
The Unlikely Samaritan
Brilliant as always Jim, very well constructed. Regarding Mike's comment, maybe it comes under the prosetry category ?
Val


Author's Reply:
Hi Val,
Thank you for the read and the generous score. It's good to see you writing again.
cheers,
Jim

Nemo on 25-02-2014
The Unlikely Samaritan
Quite a disturbing phrase that: 'black as the future'! There are lots of little gems like that in this, Jim. The rest of the third stanza sounds good but is defeating me but your turning missing a train into an existential treatise deserves many more grapples. I'd call it an extraordinary poem.

Gerald

Author's Reply:
Hi Gerald,
I'll settle for extraordinary, thanks! The third stanza is fairly prosaic in nature; the mundane world of the railway guard finding itself in the wreckage of the narrator's emotional life.
cheers,
Jim

Bozzz on 26-02-2014
The Unlikely Samaritan
Excess inhalation of diesel fumes makes the mind wander. Check out "Train buffs' syndrome".
But I enjoyed this slipstream ride. A good one Jim.



Author's Reply:
Hi David,
Thank you. Inhalation of fumes has always been a downfall of mine!
cheers,
Jim

jdm4454 on 26-02-2014
The Unlikely Samaritan
I don't mean to sound captious, but I have graded so many papers in my life.... in the 3rd stanza you write:
"She veiled the departure
of a life once lead,
now leaden, and dead." where you use the word 'lead' are you to imply the weight of life or a pun? Or are you referring to the life once led?
I also have to tell you how much I enjoy the description of the antogonist as: small, uniformed and black as the future.........that is good....jim

Author's Reply:
Hi Jim,
Thanks for that. I have amended to 'led' as I simply intended a play on words.
cheers,
Jim


Kiev (posted on: 24-02-14)
The only viable contribution I can make, which is desperately unfortunate.

Kiev Freedom burns her children in imitation of Christ's Passion. Rational conclusion to iron-curtained theatre; the illusion that liberty was ever worth its price. The west; in lip-sync to the creed. The sermon on the mount gifts heaven to the weak; built upon the cult of celebrity The pity in the city spent upon the Somerset levels. But rip away the rhetoric. The esoteric mantra for the masses. Paucity that passes for charity, and conscience has no place to hide. So wide-eyed innocence looks just once upon its shrivelled soul. The world turns a country burns and Christ returns to hang beneath the nails.
Archived comments for Kiev
barenib on 24-02-2014
Kiev
Well you have made a contribution, and it's certainly a viable one, so I for one am pleased that it's been made, especially having been to Kiev before! John.

Author's Reply:
Hi John,
I kinda thought you might have been there. I remember your piece on Ugliche...quality.
cheers,
Jim

Leila on 24-02-2014
Kiev
Thank you for posting this, I watch the news and wonder about 'our world'...Leila

Author's Reply:
Hi Leila,
Thank you for taking the time to comment.
cheers,
Jim

Ionicus on 24-02-2014
Kiev
Whenever I hear of 'freedom' and 'revolutions' I become more and more cynical, Jim. Here we have a country that consists of three regions and varying beliefs and on the verge of economic collapse. The need of a financial rescue is, to my mind, the driver for such unrest, not an ideological choice. Whatever the reason, this is a dire situation.
The irony is that other countries, like the U.K., rather than being attracted to the European Union are actually thinking of distancing themselves from it.


Author's Reply:
Hi Luigi,
I hear what you say and I agree in the main. What is notable about the situation is that our youngsters have been drawn to the plight of their counterparts which can only be a good thing for us all.
cheers,
Jim

jdm4454 on 25-02-2014
Kiev
Politics is not my thing, but this poem is beautiful even if I'd never heard of Kiev. I learned my lessons in my country during the 1960s when our leaders decided their children would not fill the ranks of our soldiers anymore. In every war before and up to Vietnam most of the soldiers fighting were white people, the sons and daughters of our best and finest. Blacks were relegated to kitchen and cleaning service...so they decided to do away with the draft, begin the Great Society welfare programs intended not to help poor people, but to keep them dependent, poor and ignorant --- even pay them more money for each new child they added to the rolls. Perfect cannon fodder for the Military Industrial Complex and the prison system's profit.

Your writing is right on, but I would make one small change.....and it is really not necessary, just me --- but in the first line of the second stanza you say: "The west; in lip-sync to the creed." Maybe -- The West: in lip service to the creed.

Just a thought -- the poem is really good....jim

Author's Reply:
Hi Jim,
Really pleased this poem spoke to you. I am of a similar persuasion when it comes to the political motives behind 'welfare reform' and poverty.
cheers,
Jim

Bozzz on 26-02-2014
Kiev
Jim. You make many good points. Rebellions are good at destroying but poor at creating - a fundamental problem. After years of soviet rule, I doubt whether religion really comes into it on the streets. Great and stirring poem.... David

Author's Reply:
Hi David,
Thanks for reading and commenting so favorably. I agree with your principle, though believe that rebellion is a necessary evil if you then want to create.
cheers,
Jim


One More Dead Soldier (posted on: 17-02-14)
I may have posted this already

One More Dead Soldier I drop one more dead soldier in the bin. The Lord of the lsles, an amber song-smith; whose meter, like a burn over pebbles, gave wings to my own nocturnal verse. A smoke-rich, peaty, heady broth it was. The lees of which I threw into the bowl In imitation of the rite of Kottabos, The drunken calling of a lover's name. It rubbed away the pain for me; Writ large upon my shrivelled soul. etched deep within my moribund heart. smarting, stinging, cleansed in fire. The life it brings is short and sweet. Defeating as it surely will all traces of a life fulfilled, replacing raw feeling with well-finished memory. The pleasure's in the bite, behind the throat. The measure of the malting in it's depth. And quietly, in reflection, sitting comfy in my chair; I reach and pull the cork out of another.
Archived comments for One More Dead Soldier
stormwolf on 17-02-2014
One More Dead Soldier
Hi Jim
If you have posted this already, I have surely missed it. You at your finest!
In my humble opinion each stanza competing with the rest for excellence. Made me smile too, as my ex husband always called them 'dead soldiers' and now all my kids do too;-)

SO much in this poem and we all have our fav kinds of poems and poets but this is surely mine. Rich, meaningful and bold!
You have intermingled real life scenarios with incredible imagery, pathos and realism.

The Lord of the lsles, an amber song-smith;
whose meter, like a burn over pebbles,
gave wings to my own nocturnal verse.

Boy, I can relate on occasion (I am sure most of us can)

It rubbed away the pain for me;
Writ large upon my shrivelled soul.
etched deep within my moribund heart.
smarting, stinging, cleansed in fire.


As they say in Glesga "pure dead brilliant"

I have taken a break from rating but this would be a ten. Although I do not care for over fulsome praise unless it is due that does not apply here. 😉
Happy to nominate it and taken into favs.
If we ever make it to another UKA live I request it on your list for recitation.

Alison x

Author's Reply:
Hi Alison,
Sorry for taking so long to get back to you. If I ever get to go to another UKAway event, I will certainly honour your request. I see it recited under the benefit of two or three large drams!
Thanks for the nomination, it was one I had high hopes for.
cheers,
Jim x

Mikeverdi on 17-02-2014
One More Dead Soldier
If Alison hadn't nominated this wonderful poetry I would have. As I can't it will have to be a ten to show my appreciation.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Hi Mike,
You are a diamond. Or is it a diamond geezer? Or is it a geezer?
cheers pal,
Jim

We could bury a few dead soldiers ourselves if you ever get out here!

Nemo on 19-02-2014
One More Dead Soldier
A heady brew of intoxicating feats of language with a sobering aftertaste of assuaged pain. This is what I call a poem, Jim. Regards, Gerald.

Author's Reply:
Gerald, you are a gentleman and a scholar. Oh! and an obvious connoisseur of fine bevvy.
cheers,
Jim


On The Lea Rig (posted on: 17-02-14)
It's jist what it is!

It stood against the dark of the forest floor. 'Lizzie, o' Lizzie. Where have they taken Ye?' The man spoke in a whisper, the whisper lost in the rustle of leaves against hide boots. A scrap of cloth, blue like a mallard's egg, fluttered on the sharp spur of a hazel twig. The sweat rolled beneath the collar of his jerkin. It was hot neath the canopy of the trees. The sun pierced the glade in spears of light, reminding him that it wasn't yet noon. She'd been wearing a blue dress when they had met up here, beyond the lea rig. 'You were all the light in this place Lizzie. Behind my eyes you saw a dark, dismal soul. And you; an angel in a peasant's dress, you saw things in me I didn't know myself.' The man bent to study the scrap. He ran a calloused finger down its length but left it upon the twig. The pain of loss gnawed at his belly. It diminished the ache from his shoulder. It numbed the sting of his butchered, shredded flesh. It threatened to unman him and he drew a loud, deep breath. 'Steady man. Take a grip on yourself. She needs you at your best.' The man stood, the boiled leather of his outfit creaking, the sword-blade ringing against the path. He'd not eaten in three days, yet he had no hunger. 'What I wouldn't give for just an hour's undisturbed sleep.' It sounded like a prayer. An overstretched human beseeching an uncaring creator for the gift of peaceful slumber. Yet each time he had closed his eyes, demons whispered of fear he couldn't dare acknowledge. The battle was lost long before Sandy Seaton had taken to his heels. He had stood astride the body of his friend. Simon lay on his face, the feathered shaft of an arrow buried in the notch of his shoulder. The barb had found his heart. Sandy stood inside a hollow square of his countrymen, watching it contract upon itself. Standing alongside his friend, he had heard William Wallace's booming war-cry. 'I've brought you to the ring. Now let's see if ye can dance.' They had danced in thousands, transfixed by English arrows. With Sim staring into eternity, Sandy broke and ran. Clambering up the further side of the hill he heard the thunder of hooves as English cavalry rode down the last of the Scots. He made the safety of the woods, but not before a strong, swinging weapon had colloped the flesh from his shoulder. 'And what would the Laird's only son want with me?' Her mocking smile had drawn a smile to his own lips. 'See, you can smile. You're so much more handsome when your not glowering at folks.' She had laid her hand upon his upper arm. 'It nearly stopped my breath,' he whispered, gently flexing the stiff, sore shoulder. She was the daughter of the blacksmith at Tarbolton. His father was Lord of the same name. A hard man his father; Sir Alexander Seaton. 'She's not for you Sandy Seaton,' he'd said in that harsh voice of his. His crusader voice Sandy called it. 'Bed her, by all means. Take your fill of her, but then leave her for some landless ploughboy to wed.' Despite their many meetings here, in the wood above the learig, Lizzie remained intact. He would wed her. He lifted his head from study of the trampled floor of the woods. 'I will marry ye lass,' he said, in loud confirmation, the promise serving to steel his resolve. Most of the Nobles in the West of Scotland were vassals of Edward of England, Sandy's father amongst them. They would not support William Wallace, a tenant of the High Steward, even though he was the lawful Guardian of the Realm. 'We will not go to war for a baseborn Renfrewshire farmer. You heed me Sandy. You won't wed a peasant and nor will you follow one.' The last words he'd had of his father. 'You must do what your heart tells you Sandy.' She had lifted his hand between her own and kissed his palm, before closing his fingers around that kiss. "You can't marry me. You know it full well.' She raised her eyes to his. 'But know this too, my heart. I'll love you long beyond this life.' In the morning he left for Stirling and the Guardian's assembly. The blacksmith of Tarbolton stood amidst the ruins of his cottage. 'You've killed my Lizzie. As sure as if ye had plunged your sword in her breast.' Dead eyes flared at Sandy then dropped to the ashen floor of the Smithy. 'Your father and his men took my Lizzie not an hour back. If you run you'll catch them. They're up there," he said then dropped to his knees. Sandy stopped where the forest floor angled uphill. High above him he sensed a presence. Something blue, mallard blue. He smelled it then, the harsh metallic smell of blood. His tongue, coated in a greasy film, cleaved to the roof of his mouth. She was tied to a tree. Bound around the shoulders and again at her knees. A leather thong held her head upright and she smiled. A well remember smile at her lips and below; the grinning, gaping mouth cut deep across her throat. Sandy screamed. His father's men-at-arms felt their skin crawl at the silence of the scream. The disembodied voice of his father rebounded off the trees. 'She's gone Sandy. As she had to. Bedding her was robbing you of sense man. Now you'll return to your duty and we won't give English Edward any more excuse to displace us.' The silent scream made mock of the Lord of Tarbolton. 'say your farewells and then you can come down off the hill and kiss my hand in simple obedience.' Sandy remained on his knees long after his father had gone. 'Lizzie. Lizzie.' Two words, screamed at the range of his voice, robbing him of breath, snot at his nose, phlegm at his chin. He fumbled at his waist, fighting to free the sword from its leather scabbard. He placed the hilt on the ground, point uppermost, and laid his chest to the blade. He became aware of the damp settling on his clothes. Above the smell of leaf mould he sensed something. It was a scent, a well remembered fragrance. His eyes opened on leaves, twigs, his brow and nose touching the forest floor. 'Lizzie?' He sensed the heat of her body in that scent. He felt her fingers in his hair and he settled like an over-wrought pony. 'You'll be a great man, my love. You'll be remembered as a patriot. A king will come Sandy, one of our own, a Scot who'll be King of all Scots. And you'll be one of his strong supports.' Sandy felt the hard edge of the sword underneath his body. He didn't move. He was afraid that movement would break the spell. Rising in the cool, damp morning, he knew she would be gone. The tree was empty. But that scent, that sense of her heat, her presence, remained with him. He knew it always would.
Archived comments for On The Lea Rig
Mikeverdi on 17-02-2014
On The Lea Rig
A different time, a different war; the strength in you're writing remains the same. I like the love story, it's been told many times by many authors; you're version stands with the best... I could have read more. One point,you have joined lee&rig in one paragraph, I'm not sure if you meant too (as the rest are not).
Mike

Author's Reply:
Thanks Mike,
I appreciate the comment and vote. Another one which took a lot of flak when posted for the Prose Workshop challenge.
cheers,
Jim

ruadh on 21-02-2014
On The Lea Rig
I thoroughly enjoyed this. A great read.

Author's Reply:
Thanks ruadh, it is great to get such a comment. It tells me what my reader thinks rather than my colleague, if that makes sense?
cheers,
Jim


An Absence of Belief (posted on: 10-02-14)
An extract from my work in progress

'What? Ye dinnae believe?' said Alan Bowman. 'Ye can sit in the middle o' all this, and ask me that?' said Billy. 'What kind o' god would sink the world in this shite?' 'It's them bastards wae the money what have put us here.' Martin spat onto his thumb, clearing the sight on his rifle barrel. Billy watched the way the man fondled the rifle. They had been in their new trench for over ten days. They had rebuilt the firing step to face the other way. The only evidence of its former occupants were the trophies the rifles had secreted in their kit-bags. Billy had a Pickelhaube, the spiked German helmet. The reason they hid their trophies was the collective belief that they had not won them. They had simply found them concealed amongst the dead bodies they had lifted from the trench floor, the day after the offensive. The supporting role had cost the Highland Division fifteen hundred men. In little over an hour. 'Yer on your own Billy,' said Davy. 'We're fishermen,' said Stewart. 'We all believe.' 'Aye. Ye must remember that aw the disciples were fisher-folk,' said Jimmy, free this afternoon to be with his pals. Billy shook his head. 'So how do you explain this?' He gestured with open palms. 'What part does a merciful god play in all of this, eh?' Brodie and Eck were on the firing step, rifles resting on the lip of the trench. Both men wore helmets, and were slowly broiling under the hot steel. 'If you'd ever rode oot a storm just south of the Faeroe Islands, you would believe in God, Billy my boy,' said Brodie with a big smile. 'You're a Missionary Boy Douglas, what do you say?' Billy was well aware of his friend's determination to involve Douglas. He also knew that Douglas was feeling the brunt of the Gourlays dislike. The big African took a long time to answer. 'For me there is no mystery. I am sure in faith alone.' Billy grimaced, Martin snorted in less subtle disbelief. 'My people lived in absolute poverty before the arrival of the missionaries,' he said in his deep, resonant voice. 'If love of God could send them eight thousand miles to preach his message, that's a potent faith.' He took a deep breath. 'And although all of this goes against Christ's teachings, it is his message that brought me here today.' He rose to his feet, smiling. Billy thought it the saddest and most painful expression he had seen within his group, as the big man walked away. 'And you boys call yerselves Christians?' growled Brodie looking back at them over his shoulder. 'Well I don't believe in God,' said Eck. 'And for much the same reasons as Billy.' 'Don't talk fucking stupid, ya daft boy,' said Brodie turning and grabbing his cousin by his shirt front 'Jist cause you're a soldier doesn't make ye an adult. What wid yer mother say if she could hear ye?' 'Wait a minute Brodie,' said Alan. 'Eck has as much right to express his opinion as anybody else.' 'Stay out of it Bowman. Take a telling Alan.' 'No Brodie, you take a telling,' said Alan, low voiced. 'You're quick at jumping in to defend Black Douglas's rights.' He rose to his feet and stood in the floor of the trench looking up at the big fisherman. 'You're just as bad as these two,' he said pointing at the Gourlay brothers. 'What the fuck does that mean Alan?' shouted Davy Gourlay. 'Just shut-up Davy,' said Brodie. 'You know exactly what he means.' He jumped down into the trench. 'Keep yer eyes peeled Eck, I'm just here. Alan; we've been friends for a long time now, don't spoil it.' 'Then treat me like a friend, and Eck too.' Brodie shook his head and returned to the firing step. 'I don't believe in Jesus either,' said English John. 'But then I'm Jewish.' 'Don't talk shite John,' said Martin. 'You're no more Jewish than I am. You need brains tae be a Jew, so that wid let you out, wouldn't it?' **** Lieutenant Aird leaned forward across an empty ammunition crate, attempting to write a letter. Jimmy stood stooped in the furthest corner of the dugout, the roof lowering toward the rear. He was no more successful in brushing the Lieutenant's greatcoat. Every few seconds, loud caroming explosions shook the dugout and brought down earth and debris from amongst the roof beams. After dawn stand-to it had started to rain, bringing that peculiar yet satisfying smell of water on warm earth. Then came the thunder. Not the natural consequence of the prolonged hot spell, but the overture to the long awaited German counter-offensive. Standing under these two phenomena, every man felt small, inconsequential. The battalion was due to go into reserve in forty-eight hours, current situation permitting. That was the problem. It was now mid-afternoon, and the shelling had slowly but inexorably grown in intensity. Jimmy brushed with vigour. He appeared unmoved by the storm outside. An officer with more imagination than Alastair Aird, might have drawn strength and comfort from his batman's steady, methodical approach and calm demeanour. Aird sat tense in anticipation between the blasts. He would violently scrub the paper in front of him, then write in tight haste, before raising his restless eyes to the ceiling. 'Would you like a cup of tea Sir?' said Jimmy as a violent explosion guttered the candles and showered every surface with a trickling patter of rubble. Alastair Aird lifted the letter close to his eyes, rubbing softly with his hand before biting his thumb in intense contemplation. 'Tea sir? Tea and a wee tot o' black magic?' 'One mention of The Haven Hughes, just one; and I will have you digging latrines for the rest of your time in France,' said the Lieutenant coiled tight and breathing like a bull. 'Right Sir, Tea and rum it is, and nae homespun wisdom.' Before he could stop himself, Jimmy gave his superior a theatrical wink, then quickly turned toward the water, boiling over a small nub of candle. **** The rain and the smoke brought the day to a premature close. Eight p.m. And the bombardment had been ongoing for twelve continuous hours. Rain still fell with determination and effect. The Rifles sat in the body of the trench, finding the enclosed, cramped dugout an unpalatable haven under the storm of shell and shot. Their bodies were hidden beneath rubber capes, their heads neath tin helmets. The rattling noise of the falling rain meant they had to shout to be heard. 'It will still be light back hame. About eight o'clock, isn't it?' 'Yea. Saturday Night. Yer Mum's Stovies for supper. A walk along the quay. A glass o' Sandy Guthrie's dark beer wae a big head on it.' 'No,' whispered Martin. 'Up amongst the whins on the Billy Ness. Rolling aboot wae Rhona Barnett.' 'Aye well that's fine till some lassie's big brither catches ye, and boots yer bollocks into yer throat.' Martin laughed in seeming content. 'In halls we would toast crumpets and drink ginger beer,' said Douglas. The group grew quiet, as each of the rifles pictured Saturday at home. 'And what did ye dae back hame in the jungle? Did ye no toast white men and eat them? Just on a Saturday like?' Douglas came quickly to his feet and Davy Gourlay did the same. 'We don't have days of the week in the bush. And my people are too poor to have week-ends.' Brodie watched a tear-drop run down the big African's cheek. It dropped unseen into the heavy rain drops that coursed down the rubber cape. Douglas took a step forward, and Stewart Gourlay stood shoulder to shoulder with his brother. The rim of Davy's helmet shaved the skin from Billy's fist as it smashed into Davy's nose and cheek. Billy uttered an explosive oath and clasped his injured hand to his chest. Davy Gourlay disappeared in the bottom of the trench, and Brodie stood nose to nose with Stewart. 'You two won't learn, will you?' 'You're taking his side against two o' yer pals? A fuckin' da an African.' 'A Rifle, Stewart. And more of a man than either of you two will ever be. Now you better take a look at yer brother.' Douglas had left the group unnoticed. 'Here, let me have a look at that hand Billy.' The two pals moved across to the dugout. 'You're going to have to do something about those two,' said Billy, as Brodie wrapped the damaged knuckles in a strip of bandage. 'And what do you want me to do Billy? Some of our Great grandfathers sailed on slave ships. The belief that black men are jist beasts of burden, gets into their blood. They don't know any better,' he said. 'We can only do so much. The rest is up tae Douglas.' **** The rain lost its battle for supremacy around midnight. The onslaught continued unabated. By the next morning a watery blue sky showed around the edges of the banks of smoke. The thick clay soil made it hard for the rainwater to drain away. The bottoms of the trenches held a foot of water. The Rifles huddled in the trench, shoulders and heads dipping in anticipation of the constant bombardment. Heavy clothing steamed. Everyone smoked fags in a constant cycle. Small-talk was desultory, and Brodie watched them all, noticing the ones who would remain silent, drawing in on themselves. 'The Lieutenant should be here wae the men. This is part of his job' thought Brodie. 'This reminds me of cutting peat in the Fens,' said English John. 'We used to...' The rest was lost in noise; unbearable noise, brief searing heat and a ball of radiant light. Just as swiftly, a smothering silence settled on the trench. Warm, damp soil lay in a single mound at the centre of the small crater. Billy sensed a pink mist above the earth. John's voice still echoed, though the source had simply disappeared. Billy saw Eck put his hand up to his cheek. Seeing what was on his fingertips, his eyes moved from the sight to meet Billy's, then back to his hand. 'Here Eck, don't look at it,' said Brodie. 'Let's wipe it away, OK?' Pressed against the trench wall, Alan wept, eyes tight shut, arms clasping his body. 'It's his brains, man. John's brains,' 'I know, I know.' Brodie took the boy's hand and wiped it with the canvas rag. 'C'mon, sit doon here.' 'What happened, what wiz it?' he said.'Where's John fer fuck's sake? Brodie cleaned Eck's face, his eyes watching Billy. Billy stood looking at strangers. There was no noise except for a dull buzzing in his head; it was like being under water. Someone had been talking...the Englishman...what's his name? 'Here Eck, take this,' said Brodie, placing the lighted cigarette between the boy's lips. 'What's his fuckin' name?' Billy stood in the middle of the trench, staring at Brodie. 'The English laddie, his name..?' 'Billy. It was John, John Sharpe. One of us,' said Brodie. 'A Rifle.' 'Oh aye, that's right.' Billy felt around the collar of his shirt. He lifted something out then studied it in the palm of his hand. 'He's left me something tae remember him by. Look,' he said, as he burst into laughter. The manic laughter took hold and soon the entire section joined in. Brodie flicked the remains of his cigarette against the trench wall, before crossing the divide to knock the piece of butchered flesh out of his friend's hand. As they stood eye-to-eye, it was Billy who broke the stare and pushed past the big fisherman. Martin Robertson rose to follow. 'No Martin,' snapped Brodie.'Leave him.' Less than a minute later, a larger piece of ordnance cut the trench in two. The shock wave was terrific and the black sodden earth, lifted into the air, ripped them all from the sides of the trench. Everyone was accounted for except Billy, who had walked off in the direction of the blast. Brodie stood looking at a black wall of earth. It lay over the entrance to the Lieutenant's dugout. 'Jimmy's in there, and maybe Billy.' Brodie shouted his friend's name. There was no response. 'Get a hold o' some spades. Anything to dig with,' he said. 'You picked a fine time to stop talking to me Billy.' Brodie stooped at the black wall and began to pull earth away with both hands. When the rifles returned the earth was cleared enough to expose the opening of the Lieutenant's dugout. There were men digging on the far side of the blocked trench. 'C'mon Billy, where are ye?' Brodie hoisted himself over the edge of the trench. His pals could see him silhouetted against the shell bursts. 'Is Billy Morrison on that side?' 'There's a hand there, look.' Brodie jumped into the other side of the trench, desperate to sight the hand. He pulled men away from the landslide. 'Billy, Billy,' he shouted as he dropped to his knees to see the hand. 'It's Billy.' Brodie could clearly see the dressing he'd applied; but the hand made no movement. 'Take it easy fer fuck sake, my pal's under here.' The men used their hands to scoop away the dirt, and the body slowly appeared. Brodie heaved on the damaged hand and Billy's body rose from the earth, the rubble falling away. 'C'mon Billy, breath.' Wullie, the piper, pushed Brodie aside and, kneeling at Billy's head, forced open the mouth and scooped with his fingers at the earth inside. He then raised Billy and turned him over to face the ground. 'Bang his back Brodie, we've got to get him tae cough it out.' The heavy pummelling had no effect. They laid him face- up. There was not a flicker of life. 'I think he's gone,' said Wullie patting Brodie's shoulder. 'Why did ye walk off? Ye said we'd go through it aw together. Ye've left me on my own, ya bastard.' Brodie spat the words at Billy's lifeless form, gripping the front of his shirt and shaking him. 'Come here ya daft sod,' he whispered, holding Billy close to his chest. The others in the trench looked away, moved away, took their attention elsewhere, unwilling to witness the big corporal's grief. The door to the Lieutenant's dugout had been sealed by the landslide, trapping the two soldiers inside. They were now standing unharmed outside the dugout. Douglas made his way over to where Brodie knelt on the floor of the trench. Billy's head dangled over Brodie's arm. As the big African squeezed his Corporal's shoulder, their dead pal's head jerked forward. In a paroxysm of coughing, Billy rid himself of debris and phlegm. 'Where's John?'he shouted at Brodie. **** Two hours after the landslide, and English voices filled the trench. The Cheshires had arrived to relieve them, brought up early in anticipation of the German offensive. The Rifles were packed and ready to leave. Billy and Brodie sat on the firing step, bent forward under the awkward weight of their packs. 'John's dead Billy. Do you really not remember? He was blown into fragments before all our eyes.' 'But I saw him, further up the trench. He stood in front of me and said I couldn't go that way.' Billy had softened into whispers. 'Imagine; that windy little bastard told me I had to go back.' 'Up on yer feet boys,' said the sergeant. 'Hot food and bed for us. Not too bad, eh?'
Archived comments for An Absence of Belief
Mikeverdi on 10-02-2014
An Absence of Belief
You already know how much I enjoy this story, just to say another well done. I can't wait to read the finished novel Jim. Mike

Author's Reply:

Buschell on 28-02-2014
An Absence of Belief
Occupation-Author. Yep. Dazza.

Author's Reply:
Hi Dazza,
Sorry to take so long to reply to your comment. Working on the 'Novel'!!
Occupied - yep. Author? Not yet but still kicking!
Thank you. It is a major commitment being asked to read such a large piece.
cheers,
Jim


The Old Photo (posted on: 10-02-14)
****

Thick serge manhood on display below some playful childhood in my eyes; fears of finding fellowship in death, so poses in its undernourished pride. I am a product of my place. A wide-eyed, coal-crust collier lad. A brawny, brantub, golden-harvest yeoman. A force-fed scholar, full of Bede and Falstaff. Believing as I do, Britannia needs me; I'll wrest undying glory from the mud. Then rest; assured my death serves purpose, the shredded carcass draped across her feet. Mum and Dad are promised sure; they do not lose a son, but rather gain a marble-mounted martyr. And I will be forever cast in stone. But that is for the morrow; Anglo-Saxon sorrow of my ancient line. Today, in polished frame I stand, a leopard; the errant knight not yet a pascal lamb.
Archived comments for The Old Photo
Mikeverdi on 10-02-2014
The Old Photo
This is fine writing Jim, I need to read it some more; I will add more comment after.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Thanks Mike,
will be interested in your comments.
cheers,
Jim (0033587245011)

Nemo on 10-02-2014
The Old Photo
Almost as though he knew what his death would mean, the bitterness and the irony are very palpable in this pice, Jim. Strong writing, congrats on the nib. Regards, Gerald.

Author's Reply:
Hi Gerald,
Thanks for dropping by. Nice to have the Nib, but I had high expectations with this one and am a little mystified at lack of hits recently. Perhaps it's the same across the board.
cheers,
Jim

Ionicus on 11-02-2014
The Old Photo
Thankfully 'not yet a pascal lamb'. Unfortunately the fate that awaited a legion of young lads thrust into combat in that war that was supposed to stop all wars.
A deep, meaningful piece, Jim.
Luigi

Author's Reply:
Hi Luigi,
It seems the Great War is my sole source of inspiration at the moment. I need to get out more, I think!
cheers,
Jim

jdm4454 on 12-02-2014
The Old Photo
whatever the muse, it's working... this is a miserably common story of brave young men, brave parents, and greedy old men's exploitation of both....... we believed the same while dying in the rice paddies of SE Asia...continued to believe it for years after, trying to convince ourselves our country needed us, we could make a difference -- sadly to justify your statement:
"Mum and Dad are promised sure;
they do not lose a son, but rather
gain a marble-mounted martyr."
Well done........especially for those of us who also carry that weight...thank you-......jim

Author's Reply:
Hi Jim,
Thank you for reading, commenting and generously voting. My muse is happy to work with what she's got, which is a bonus for me! I look at these photographs from the Great War and marvel at the way they suggest they know they will soon become casualties. There is a false bravado in the pose too. Vietnam GIs seem remarkably similar in their photos. The horror of it all is in the innocence of the pics.
cheers,
Jim (yes, me too!)

stormwolf on 13-02-2014
The Old Photo
Hi Jim,
I really feel you have indeed a very strong bond with the suffering of this time. At the risk of being controversial (who me?) lol 😉 I believe in re-incarnation, I see it time and again in some other's work. This intense ability to 'tune in' and write with real meaning, not second-hand judgement.
Whether this is true or not, nobody knows of course.... but I DO think you do your muse proud.

Alison x

Author's Reply:
Hi Alison,
Thank you for the very strong vote of confidence. Did Terpsichore put you up to it?
I hold a similar view on re-incarnation. My creed has no defined, sharp edges; but I believe I was a Captain of Light Hussars in the Emperor Napoleon's Grand Armee.
Jackie my Bidey In is convinced I was a worm in a previous life, too! I find it impossible to believe that art, music, nature, love can be the product of a universe without soul, or souls. The rest of my belief revolves around the nature of the soul.
Here endeth the lesson!!
cheers,
Jim x


D'ye Want Me Tae Paint Ye a Picture? (posted on: 07-02-14)
For the weekly challenge - PAINT

'Fuck It', like La Giaconda, wears enigmatic raiment. A Glaswegian curse with an eye for detail. 'Bollocks' throw convoluting Baroque curves, part the Red Sea. and pull aside the curtained shroud of New Romantic PC. 'Ya Bastard' the dark pigment of Old Dutch Masters. The finger plugging fissures in the Dyke 'Shite' the homespun daub of the existential excrementalist. A cubist's rudest bullshit; the anecdote illuminating crap. 'Go Fuck yersel' the Sistine ceiling over the heads of those who already have; or don't know how.
Archived comments for D'ye Want Me Tae Paint Ye a Picture?
Mikeverdi on 07-02-2014
Dye Want Me Tae Paint Ye a Picture?
Oh Jim, this is so you... again I know nothing about the challenge; but I love this. Existential excrementalists... Anybody I know? :-). Mike

Author's Reply:
Hi Mike,
Thanks for that. Then again, using obscenity is fairly easy; no fine brushstrokes!
cheers,
Jim

Nemo on 08-02-2014
Dye Want Me Tae Paint Ye a Picture?
This is damn clever and witty, deserving of greater recogntion. I love 'fingers plugging fissures in the Dyke.' Brilliant! Cheers, Gerald.

Author's Reply:
Hi Gerald,
Thank you for the read and the generous comments. I think content puts people off?
cheers,
Jim

Nomenklatura on 09-02-2014
Dye Want Me Tae Paint Ye a Picture?
Ay, the femmis Weegie Art Critic Wullie Lykit. Good stuff.
regards Ewan

Author's Reply:
Hi Ewan,
Thank you, it is good to be back.
cheers,
Jim


The Gentle Light That Wakes Me (posted on: 03-02-14)
Inspired by a modern Shetland Fiddle tune from Ally Bain and Phil Cunningham.

She rises sleepy from far blue hills. In gentleness, a light that wakes me; that bleaches darkness from each dying night. 'She comes; She comes' Harsh seabirds cry. Upon the wing, Above a breaking surf, beneath yon glancing beam; as Nature draws soft breath. Day breaks and noises from The Sound run round our muted bay. The hissing, sucking tide, and wide-mouthed basking shark cry 'Hark the morn is near' Much later to the feast, bell-tongued humanity Intones old Celtic Matins. Dawn flattens into morning; and dying darkness sighs behind the hill.
Archived comments for The Gentle Light That Wakes Me
Nemo on 04-02-2014
The Gentle Light That Wakes Me
Oh ho, this is fabulous, especially the last three lines. This deserves many more hits and heaps of admiration, Jim. Cheers, Gerald.

Author's Reply:
Hi Gerald,
Thank you for the great comments. I tried to post the music on here but not successful.
cheers,
Jim

Bozzz on 04-02-2014
The Gentle Light That Wakes Me
The complete picture, Jim - a common subject turned into what for me is truly a work of poetic art. A ten in admiration and my nomination....David

Author's Reply:
David you are much too kind.
I wish I could have posted the music here. Now that truly is a work of art.
Many thanks for the nomination.
cheers,
Jim

barenib on 04-02-2014
The Gentle Light That Wakes Me
This is very enjoyable and the use of the language and context is spot on with the use of song - John.

Author's Reply:
Hi John,
Thank you for the read and the kind comment. I love the Western Highlands and their sea lochs. Dawn is the very best time to see them and I was engaged by the picture the fiddle tune painted.
Again,
cheers,
Jim

barenib on 04-02-2014
The Gentle Light That Wakes Me
This is very enjoyable and the use of the language and context is spot on with the use of song - John.

Author's Reply:

pdemitchell on 04-02-2014
The Gentle Light That Wakes Me
Wow, Jim, you have been well nib-bled and prolific. I loved this though the archaic 'hark, morn & yon' seemed a little odd to me but I would love to hear the song to see how they fit - however, the last stanza simply blew my badly-darned and stripey socks off. Kudos cubed. Mitch

Author's Reply:
Hi Mitch,
Thanks for the diced Kudos; I'll add them to my diminishing store of scruples. Take the point about the archaic language although I think it comes with the Shetland fiddle.
cheers,
Jim


The Loblolly Boy (posted on: 03-02-14)
For a recent Poetry Challenge. Using the words: Loblolly lallygag gangle contrail instauration

The Loblolly boy has a pure, clean soul. The colour of new fallen snow. As he holds the hand of a dying mate; on the orlop deck when the surgeon's late; and they cannot stem the bleeding. Now the weather rail is a splintered wreck, where he'd lallygag on the whetstoned deck. And the duck egg sky once above his head, is now shot with shell and contrails red. With no hope of instauration. He was such a lad was 'is poor mate Bill Whipcord thin and his limbs a gangle. Being laid like a rag in his canvas bag and stitched through his nose with sailmaker's twine that the bosun says will hold 'im.
Archived comments for The Loblolly Boy
Mikeverdi on 03-02-2014
The Loblolly Boy
This is SO GOOD Jim, The stitch through the nose, it's all spot on mate. I don't know about the Poetry challenge, this would hold it's own anywhere. Mike

Author's Reply:
Thanks Mike,
I'm afraid it didn't gain a single vote or comment, and there were only three entries. Maybe the judges needed the stitch through their nose to see if they were still alive?
cheers,
Jim

Savvi on 04-02-2014
The Loblolly Boy
You did a great job on this one Jim, I had to google everything just to check the technicalities but you would of had my vote. Best Keith

Author's Reply:

Bozzz on 04-02-2014
The Loblolly Boy
When I die, I'd rather be cast whole into the sea - payback for landing so many sole. Sadly they will have to make do with my phosphates - mainly calcium - in powdered form. I am no sailor, but glad that fighting ships were available for those that love the job. Obviously well-researched. Jim. Cheers...David.

Author's Reply:

barenib on 04-02-2014
The Loblolly Boy
A very admirable job on what definitely seems to me like a difficult task to make good! John.

Author's Reply:


Sleeping With the Light On (posted on: 13-01-14)
A bit dark for me

Slips a bloodless moon behind tortured oak. Silver limbs beg mercy of the subtle orb and creeping nature stirs. Hitchcock soundtrack a la Marc Chigalle. Plucked strings and punch-drunk drum; the nocturne turns staccato. Death lives beneath the window, whose blank-eyed stare mirrors each petty slaughter till blind in morning's light. The world turns as all worlds must. With life and death, and birdsong dawn and dusk.
Archived comments for Sleeping With the Light On
barenib on 13-01-2014
Sleeping With the Light On
This is very well done and packs an interesting punch - I particularly like the last verse. The only thing I'm not sure about is Chagall, (my spelling) the artist who I think of as being rather dreamy and Freudian rather than dark? Good stuff, John.

Author's Reply:

Mikeverdi on 13-01-2014
Sleeping With the Light On
Love it. Mike

Author's Reply:

Savvi on 13-01-2014
Sleeping With the Light On
Now that's what I'm talking about, I was a little worried after reading your other submission for no other reason than my fondness of your trademark verse. You did me proud here thanks. Keith

Author's Reply:


You Always Say I Never Send You Flowers (posted on: 13-01-14)
A tribute to Jackie. She's even more important than my Muse.

Every day I'm astonished to be sitting in this little corner of France. I'm where I've long wanted to be. Doing what I always wanted to do. Its easy to be philosophical when you live on your own too. You have lots of time to turn your dream on its head and its side. Its my dream, so I know it from every angle. And I can see it doesn't yet fit all four corners. Reality doesn't yet fill the limits of my dream. But that 's not why it feels empty. I take great pleasure in the wine and the sun; the cheese, bread and birdsong; the spontaneous, yet polite friendliness of my French neighbours; the empty road outside my cottage; and the view from my hammock. But intuition tells me it will be some time before reality fulfils my expectations. I'm getting warmer. Now I claim intuition,whilst appearing perplexed as to why happiness has a hollow ring. I didn't get to this point by myself. I don't deserve to be here on my own merits. The one person who shares my dream only shares its reality one week in five. Now I'm much warmer, There's one constant in my life. She has stood alongside me in the darkness and the desert. She has held my hand in the cold, and the crash, and the crisis. Though I 've always been her protector; she has always kept me safe. I haven't had to look to know that she is there. Until now I realise all the rhetoric about inner happiness is just that.. We each radiate happiness. But we need someone to act as mirror and reflect it back.. Happiness isn't worth a damn unless you share it. 'Saying it with flowers', is a soundless, soul-less gesture at best. And have you seen the price of them?
Archived comments for You Always Say I Never Send You Flowers
Andrea on 13-01-2014
You Always Say I Never Send You Flowers
Lovely! I feel a song coming on...




Author's Reply:

Mikeverdi on 13-01-2014
You Always Say I Never Send You Flowers
Beautifully done Jim. Mike

Author's Reply:

Savvi on 13-01-2014
You Always Say I Never Send You Flowers
A fitting tribute penned very nicely.

Author's Reply:

Bozzz on 15-01-2014
You Always Say I Never Send You Flowers
Jim, I had the same experience. Living in London and working in Devon for 5 years. Regular time apart can enhance the joy of togetherness for some - but destroy a relationship for others. You are right, the secret is how we rate happiness. Greetings friend....David

Author's Reply:


St Andrews - A Promise Unfulfilled (posted on: 10-01-14)
You can tell I've been home for the holidays.

The holy reek of reformed martyr coats the windswept waste of South Street. Grey, Calvin-hard cobbles, cavitate to rain-washed English patois. Sartorial golf amid off-hand, third world charity shops, paint the Anglican triumph. Flint-sharp conscience is bought for penny pittance; and Knox's trumpet lies neath Wishart's embers.
Archived comments for St Andrews - A Promise Unfulfilled
Elfstone on 10-01-2014
St Andrews - A Promise Unfulfilled
Hmm - I recognise what you describe here! I had to google "cavitate" (thought you'd mis-spelled "gravitate") - not a word I'd ever heard. My thanks for an interesting read. Elfstone

Author's Reply:
Really pleased you are able to recognise St Andrews in this.
cheers,
Jim x

Rab on 10-01-2014
St Andrews - A Promise Unfulfilled
I love St Andrews and this is a wonderful evocation of it, particularly the grey, Calvin-hard cobbles. But 'English patois'?

Author's Reply:
Hi Rab,
Glad you enjoyed this - a first after a barren period in my poetry. Re: English Patois - for me, the prevalent voice in St Andrews is, and always has been, the tortured English spoken in the Home counties. I am forever amazed at the Anglican influence in such a Presbyterian cradle.
Enough, I waffle!
cheers,
Jim

stormwolf on 10-01-2014
St Andrews - A Promise Unfulfilled
I swear i could hear you reciting this in my mind Jim
You to a tee. Enjoyed it.
Alison x

Author's Reply:
Thanks Aliison,
I think I'm a descendant of one of John Knox's by-blows!
cheers,
Jim Archibald (A Lord of the Congregation) xx

Nemo on 12-01-2014
St Andrews - A Promise Unfulfilled
Great, especially the first four lines. I've not been there except in your poem! Cheers, Gerald.

Author's Reply:
Thanks Gerald,
You can strike it from your to do list now!
cheers,
Jim


The Annual Christmas Message (posted on: 10-01-14)
But then we all do; don't we?

We don't feel any older. Colder, yes; and thinner on the top. But thicker skinned above our greying pride. The Auld Yins, say our boys. A badge of honour taken such and given so. Although we're kids within a vintage frame. Children made responsible; yet clinging to belief in Santa Claus.
Archived comments for The Annual Christmas Message
stormwolf on 10-01-2014
The Annual Christmas Message
Hi Jim
I have missed you and your work. This is so true. We are all just children inside who have learned (or not as the case may be) to knuckle down and not rock the boat, so as to appear 'adult'
Well, bugger that for a laugh! lol 😉
Really enjoyed this and the brevity and truth of the lines.

Alison x

Author's Reply:
Hi Alison,
Our first Christmas as guests of honour to our sons in Scotland inspired the verse. An uplifting experience in the main.
cheers,
Jim x

Elfstone on 10-01-2014
The Annual Christmas Message
This is very good - says so much in a few well chosen words. I really like wee poems that pack a punch. Elfstone

Author's Reply:
Thank you Elf.
I only do wee poems as a rule, and even they stretch my limited abilities!
cheers,
Jim x

Mikeverdi on 12-01-2014
The Annual Christmas Message
Welcome back Jim, as always with you're writing I sense a little undercurrent; I've read this several times... But it eludes me. You've been missed. Mike

Author's Reply:
Thanks Mike,
This poem is really as simple as it looks. I'm a very inexperienced adult and yes, I do believe in Santa!
Good to be back.
cheers,
Jim

Nemo on 12-01-2014
The Annual Christmas Message
I saw Santa Claus doing his magic for for my grandson. Course, I believe in him, Jim. Cheers, Gerald.

Author's Reply:
Thanks Gerald,
A kindred spirit then?
cheers,
Jim

Bradene on 12-01-2014
The Annual Christmas Message
My God, How true. It hits the spot precisely. Happy new year Valx

Author's Reply:
I'm glad this spoke to you (well your inner child!)
Happy New Year to you to Val
cheers,
Jim x


Remembrance Day (posted on: 11-11-13)
An older one, but I like it. I also like the discreet nature of the small memorial. For all the sombre nature of the place it is one of my favourite places.

Whisper my name to the small cathedral of my friends. Call them to remembrance, in the sunken corner of this foreign field. Bid them tread the duckboards I will lay, to point the way, cross pasture laid to corn. Where once we wore the Saviour's Crown of Thorns. The rest of the Division lies majestically at rest. In the Garden of Gethsemane, below the Menin Road. Where the children of our children are sent to learn the lesson which we never had ourselves. But they never visit us, small and sheltered as we are. Un-named crosses, un-mapped graves below the road. Fifteen crosses, all young Scotsmen, not forgotten just unseen. And the farmer places flowers on them all.
Archived comments for Remembrance Day
Ionicus on 11-11-2013
Remembrance Day
'Where the children of our children
are sent to learn the lesson
which we never had ourselves.'
But are these lessons being learned, my friend? I am very sceptical somehow but hope for the best.
A plaintive recollection of past sacrifices and the reassuring message that they are not forgotten:
'Fifteen crosses, all young Scotsmen,
not forgotten just unseen.
And the farmer places flowers on them all.'
Good poem, well done.


Author's Reply:
Hi Luigi,
Thanks for dropping by and for the comments.
cheers,
Jim

Bozzz on 11-11-2013
Remembrance Day
A touching piece, catches the memory in freefall - beautifully and simply worded and structured, Jim.....David

Author's Reply:
Hi David,
Thanks for commenting and letting me know what works for you.
cheers,
Jim

Mikeverdi on 11-11-2013
Remembrance Day
Written with all the feeling I would expect from you. Mike
I wondered 'but they never visit us'...is the but really necessary?

Author's Reply:
Hi Mike,
I always have trouble with my but!
Thanks, and yes I get the message
Much appreciated,
Jim

Pronto on 12-11-2013
Remembrance Day
Very well composed my friend well done.

Author's Reply:
Hi Pronto,
Thanks for visiting and for commenting. Much appreciated.
cheers,
Jim

pommer on 12-11-2013
Remembrance Day
Very well composed . written with feeling. Pommer

Author's Reply:
Hi Pommer,
Thanks for commenting. The feeling is prompted by a sense of loss. A sailor for 23 years I have lost my share of friends.
cheers,
Jim

EmotiveSoul on 12-11-2013
Remembrance Day
Wow, you pull the heart strings with your powerful imagery. Excellent write. Daz

Author's Reply:
Hi Daz,
I am so pleased to hear your kind comments.
Much appreciated,
cheers,
Jim


Remembrance - The Musical (posted on: 11-11-13)
Written in horror at the misuse of Remembrance. When are we going to wake up?

Remembrance become soundbite. Victory, means to any end. Singers, tell-tale politicos; snake oil sellers, small, precocious cadets; make crass capital from absurd sacrifice. Land of hopeless glory. Built upon the demise of our common fodder; mercilessly misplayed by occult personalities shaped in theatrical ether. My people died under star-shell; not the generous limelight of a plastic-seated Pantheon. Their badge a simple Belgian bloom. Not the curtain-call bouquets thrown to vacuous divas. Hear the loud silence, the tumbling wild blossoms; remember only this: The price of our death is life to all our children; not comfort in the dress circle.
Archived comments for Remembrance - The Musical
Nemo on 13-11-2013
Remembrance - The Musical
'Human kind cannot bear very much reality' - is this why the horror of trench warfare gets turned into a musical? You are right to keep raging, Jim. Best wishes, Jim.

Author's Reply:
Hi Gerald,
Thanks for the comments and the vote. I was despairing of any kind of reaction for this piece given the lack of readers. You very accurately identify the rage with which this is written. I'm a real believer that it's my duty as a writer to pose the unpalatable and probe the pomposity of the establishment. The promises made to our grandparents died in the trenches in my humble opinion. Gawd! Don't I go on?
cheers,
Jim

bo_duke99 on 13-11-2013
Remembrance - The Musical
some really (really) interesting allusions in this - when will we wake indeed Jim

Author's Reply:

bo_duke99 on 13-11-2013
Remembrance - The Musical
some really (really) interesting allusions in this - when will we wake indeed Jim

Author's Reply:


The Vagrant (posted on: 08-11-13)
It's what it is.

Leaving before sunrise, baleful moonlight paints his escape. Black-faced morning hides fugitive deceit we'll understand such stygian reason. Dawn leaves her bed and breaks unhappy day over new-shed skin. Coming night falls upon its sword. And him? He's footloose; free outside the empty shell
Archived comments for The Vagrant
orangedream on 08-11-2013
The Vagrant
The clipped poetic style you have used here works so very well in context. Atmospheric and emotive.

Tina

Author's Reply:

Ionicus on 09-11-2013
The Vagrant
Yes, full of character, Jim. Good closing lines.

Author's Reply:

amman on 09-11-2013
The Vagrant
Hi Jim. I'm back. Great wordplay in this sad commentary, buried at the back of the pack (but so many entries in this cycle). I like it a lot.
Cheers.
Tony.

Author's Reply:

Bozzz on 10-11-2013
The Vagrant
Hi Jim, good subject, great acute angled style for obtuse approach. Personally I think the burka'd woman was a deliberate decoy and he is still in the church being looked after until the hunt dies down. What say you?

Author's Reply:

Andrea on 16-11-2013
The Vagrant
Jim, I don't think your audio's working...

Author's Reply:
Hi Boss,
I uploaded the audio again. The system says it is in place, but when I press the listen button, it doesn't work. Maybe better to delete it?
cheers,
Jim x

Andrea on 16-11-2013
The Vagrant
Dunno - are you doing something wrong? All the other ones seem to work...

Author's Reply:
You could ask that about virtually everything I'm doing on UKA at the moment Andrea.
Seriously though, my audio is a wav that works on my PC but not on site?
Not sure what I can do, as I am not technically IT gifted.
cheers,
Jim x

Andrea on 16-11-2013
The Vagrant
Ask Alison, she's a whizz at it 🙂

Author's Reply:


Peredelkino (posted on: 28-10-13)
Peredelkino was the country home of Boris Pasternak and so the setting for Doctor Zhivago.

I hear your voices, held inside the wind. The chant is hollow, empty as the Steppes. Love veiled but everlasting; my ancestry revealed, as starry-eyed I see into the past. You whisper needs left unfulfilled; appetites beyond the ken of mortal sight; and anger at lives lost, still incomplete. Behind this bitter song the sweetest melody is carried by the leafless silver birch. A balalaika croons the old refrain, rippling chords, vibrate against my heart. And a chestnut's fallen leaves chatter like a child again, 'Come back to me, come back my darling boy'. You urge my step to pierce the darkling veil. And yet within your own sweet dulcet tone, resounds a prayer much older than creation. That you might leave behind the vale of shadows. Is it that you would live in place of me?
Archived comments for Peredelkino
Ionicus on 28-10-2013
Peredelkino
It is surprising that no one has commented yet on this atmospheric poem. One can almost visualise the interior of a dacha where the occupant relaxes in front of a vast open fire,
singing to the accompaniment of a balalaika, reminiscing about the dark past. Could it be Lara lamenting the loss of Yuri?
A very accomplished poem, Jim, full of lyricism.

Author's Reply:
Thanks Luigi,
and for the generous rating. My street cred is suffering at the minute. Disappointing, but not off-putting. In any event it is the quality and provender of the comment my friend.
cheers,
Jim

Mikeverdi on 29-10-2013
Peredelkino
Nothing wrong with your writing Jim, as always it's first class. Mike

Author's Reply:

Nemo on 29-10-2013
Peredelkino
A very evocative and reverie-provoking poem. An insight into the writer's mind. Well done, Jim. Cheers, Gerald.

Author's Reply:

deadpoet on 30-10-2013
Peredelkino
I remember from the film that the house was ice covered inside and out- this poem brought this back to me though it's a warmer picture you paint- slightly desolate-yes lovely pictures you conjure up.

Author's Reply:


Na Zdorovie (posted on: 28-10-13)
Based on a true event.

The leather coat was an affectation. Zhukov believed it gave him added stature; the warrior fresh from battling the Capitalist beast. In reality the beast was a chimera he came across in the darker recesses of his General Officers' minds. He was the Political commissar of Left Flank Army, Corps Five and Six. One hundred and thirty thousand Red Army assault troops. His coat creaked against the softer leather of the staff car's interior each time they hit a pot-hole on the broken Prussian roads. One almost feels at home, mused Zhukov, his senses centred on such small sounds for want of stimulation beyond the darkened windows. 'How much further?' he barked. The driver's steadfast refusal to communicate, tore at the Commissar's nerve ends. He fumbled for a cigarette, then pulled hard on the harsh, acrid smoke of the poor quality tobacco. What he would not give for a pack of Lucky Strikes. At that moment his political congregation was establishing a bridgehead on the West bank of the Oder. Berlin would soon be in their grasp. The wolf's lair; and a Soviet foothold in the West. So why did the Chief want to see him? He had purged the officers of both Army Corps; from white haired generals to baby-faced second lieutenants. A sluggish offensive would not be tolerated. The executions had taken place in full view of the troops. Shootings beyond counting; a drain on the senses. Zhukov was flung into the corner of his seat as the car left the highway. He heard the crunch of gravel and caught sight of heavy undergrowth in the headlights. A minute later the car scraped to a halt. A checkpoint. Showcase troops thought Zhukov, tall blond Cossacks, The Leader's Boys. The salute was delivered with a snap and they passed into well-groomed parkland. Light spilled from every window of the great house. A line of limousines queued on the curved drive. The driver took the motor straight to the front of the line, halting below the sweep of the marble staircase. The door was held open by a young Lieutenant, and as Zhukov stepped out the car drove away. 'Lieutenant Kamensky, Comrade Commissar.' He gave a smart salute. 'The Boss asked me to take you straight in. We are in the Grand Ballroom.' Zhukov's anxiety always announced itself as worsening dyspepsia, the gut-wrenching heartburn that crippled him for days. He burped softly, feeling the acid leap at the back of his throat. 'How is the Comrade Chairman tonight?' 'Comrade Stalin is in wonderful form. Quite, quite wonderful. He is entertaining Marshal Popov and his staff.' Zhukov was conscious of trotting in obedience behind the young warrior prince. He stopped at the top of the steps. 'And do you know why he would wish to see me at this time of night?' Kamensky shrugged, then ushered the Commissar through the open door. 'Young man. I am not without influence. It would be well to remember that before you dismiss my inquiry in such a manner.' 'I'm sorry Comrade Zhukov.' He made an elegant bow. 'Comrade Stalin does not confide such things to me. I can tell you that the Chairman is in boyish high spirits. A return to his peasant roots, if you will.' Zhukov's windpipe caught fire, the discomfort spreading throughout his chest. In the subtlest way possible, this young officer had put him in his place. 'Just take me to him Kamensky.' The Commissar, clenched his fists; fighting the impulse to strike the upstart. 'Certainly Comrade, this way please.' The Lieutenant lead him through a maze of smaller salons, drawn by the clamour and buzz at the rear of the house. The lesser rooms were full of high ranking Officers and civil servants. All were in high spirits which boded well for the Commissar's reception. Nonetheless, his gastric system bubbled and fizzed. Through the grand double doors and into a scene from Belshazzar's Feast. Cossacks, bare-chested and muscular, danced amid the ensemble. Tables were piled high with lobster and beef and caviar. A suckling pig, already half devoured, lay forlorn and abandoned. Champagne in crystal was evident everywhere. A silver haired Divisional General gulped down wine from a decorative beer stein. Zhukov, reminded of the length of time since he had eaten, felt the bitter gall flood his palate, his stomach burning. At the far end of the ballroom on a raised dias, sat a large man in a gray peasant shirt and baggy trousers tucked into leather boots. The Chairman. A broad, coarse-featured face topped by black hair, scraped back from the prominent forehead. He sat legs planted, cradling a silver flask which he repeatedly drank from. One of the Boss's inner circle had spotted Zhukov. He leant to Stalin's ear and whispered. The Comrade Chairman gave a short laugh. 'Ah Zhukov. Come forward man, don't skulk in the background. Come to heel you sober dog.' The Commissar felt sure they would see the flames that licked at his innards. His hand went to his chest as he mounted the dias. 'Comrade Chairman. You wanted to see me?' 'Did I? Do you know, I don't recall that I did.' Zhukov's mouth fell open, he was pinned, not knowing whether to come on or retire. 'Comrade Stalin I....' 'Don't cringe man, take a seat.' With a negligent sweep of the hand he indicated a vacant chair. 'Vodka for the Commissar, the flask there Kamensky. You'll like this Zhukov, from my own village in Georgia.' Zhukov baulked as he smelled the eye-watering miasma of the raw alcohol. 'Can I have a glass?' he asked of the Lieutenant. 'Bugger the glass you poor excuse for a Russian. Drink, drink you maggot.' Stalin pounded the table to punctuate his assault. 'All my boys you ordered shot could manage a little village vodka,' Stalin shouted, his spittle arching across the intervening space. The Commissar put the flask to his lips. The vapour made him cough, the vodka surging down his throat. The pain was excruciating. 'More, more, more,' shouted Stalin, banging the table, the beat being taken up by the rest of his intimates. By this time Zhukov had tilted the flask, swallowing what he could whilst allowing the remainder to trickle down his jawline and into his shirt. The Chairman laughed, earthy and hearty. 'Bring him some water Kamensky.' Stalin rose and slapped the Commissar across the back. 'Never mind Comrade Commissar; I've remembered now why I sent for you,' he bellowed. Zhukov drained the large glass of water. The flames receded but also spread along his lower gut. He dabbed at his lips with the spotless napkin Kamensky had brought. 'Yes Comrade Chairman?' 'How are my Boys doing in Frankfurt? Huh, Commissar Zhukov. Did Raevsky's shooting give them a kick up the arse? You promised it would Comrade, promised no less.' Zhukov's first disloyal and probably fatal thought, was that Stalin could have found out simply by lifting the telephone or asking his staff. He killed the thought, showing no mercy. 'We are established in force across the Oder, Comrade Chairman. Frankfurt is subdued and under our control. We hope to move on Berlin within the next forty-eight hours.' 'And fucking German women, Zhukov? Or rape as you put it; a problem with my Boys having fun with defeated Nazis?' The Chairman's voice had a low, icy tone. 'Take your time Comrade. Kamensky, another flask of vodka for the Commissar here,' he said his voice rising. 'Drink up Zhukov. When you've drained the flask you may answer my question.' Stalin sat down, the jovial mood broken. The others on the dias fell silent and all eyes were on the drowning Commissar. Again Zhukov drained the flask, the fire in his stomach not one of bravery. 'Official figures show over three thousand cases of rape in or around Frankfurt Comrade Stalin.' 'So? People should understand if a soldier, who has crossed thousands of kilometres through blood and fire and death, has fun with a woman or takes some trifle.' Others on the dias nodded and murmured in approval, though Zhukov noticed that young Kamensky looked shocked. 'But if this happens once we occupy Berlin, Comrade Chairman, what will happen to discipline and control?' 'We lecture our soldiers too much, Zhukov; let them have their fun' said the Leader, turning to all in that immense room. 'Drink Boys, drink. Na Zdorovie, Na Zdorovie. Come my beloved Commissar. One more flask of liquid magic before you make that long return journey.' Zhukov was so relieved to be off the hook, as the Americans say, that he drained the flask without quibble. The Leader scarcely noticed Zhukov's abject exit. Young Kamensky whistled up another staff car. 'Godspeed, Comrade Zhukov,' he said as he closed the door. The Commissar was moved by the look of genuine compassion on the young officer's face. As the car sped into the Prussian darkness, Zhukov fought the agonising pain of dyspepsia whilst contemplating the equally agonising defeat of his complaints to the Boss. 'Stop the Car, now damn you,' he shouted. Bent almost double with the pain and with the acrid sting of bile in his nose, Zhukov saw that his coat was stained in vomit.
Archived comments for Na Zdorovie
Rab on 29-10-2013
Na Zdorovie
Has the feeling of being true; you've filled out what we know of events at that time really well. The fear that even someone as exalted as Zhukov felt comes through perfectly.

Author's Reply:


The Baker of Vaugirard - Part II (posted on: 25-10-13)
My published Short Story in Two Parts

Our son Remy is born in June of the following year. Good years; full of the ordinary commerce of daily life. Vaugirard remains on the fringes of the artist community of Montparnasse. America descends on Paris. Young, headstrong, confident Americans, enjoying the freedom from censure that life in old Europe brings. Remy has his mother's nature. For one so young he has boundless patience. Our weekly visits to the family seat take on the nature of picnics. Only two things spoil the Farsat Golden Age. Despite our great desire, we are not blessed with any more children. Then in 1934, following a short illness, my Mama leaves us to be with Papa. She makes the journey with a willing heart. **** "Remy, Remy, what is it? What's the matter? Are you ill?" "It's over Papa. The War is lost. Can you believe it? We've surrendered," then in an impassioned whisper, "They've given up Paris." Colette takes our son in her arms. It is her way. She absorbs his pain, just as if she were salving a grazed leg or cooling a fevered brow. The radio, which takes an age to warm up, crackles into life. "In order to gain an Armistice, Marshal Petain and myself have formed a new government. In the dark days that lie ahead........" General Weygand; so different from Gallieni who galvanised resistance as the Boche approached the city in 1914. "What should I do, Papa?" My son's voice is full of the pain of betrayal. "You must listen to your heart, Remy, but think with this," I say tapping the side of my head."They'll disband the Army. They may even force you into a labour battalion. You must give it much thought. France will need all of her sons; and daughters," I say, catching Colette's intent gaze. Remy had been called into service with his classmates in the months leading up to the outbreak of war. He belonged to the Paris Garrison; young Parisians who must now stand by while an invader entered their beloved city unchallenged. **** It is June 18th, and we have heard nothing further from Remy. Like many of our neighbours we have taken to listening to the English news broadcasts, the B.B.C. "Turn it up Gaston, please." Colette is worried about the lack of contact from Remy. "I, General de Gaulle, currently in London, invite the officers and the French soldiers who are located in British territory or who might end up here, with their weapons or without their weapons, to put themselves in contact with me. Whatever happens, the flame of the French resistance must not be extinguished and will not be extinguished. Tomorrow, as today, I will speak on the radio from London." In the numb silence that follows I switch off the radio. The harsh roar of heavy traffic draws us both to the window. "They're here then, the Boche." Traffic noise breaks the awful silence. "There are so many of them Gaston," gasps my wonderful little Colette. She is correct, of course. An endless procession of canvas topped trucks thunders through Vaugirard from the Porte de Versailles. From the open tail of each truck, curious German soldiers peer out at our forlorn city. Just before midnight the rear of the column disappears down the Rue du Vaugirard. The silence it leaves is more deafening than its progress. Into that void seeps the soft tread of someone on the lower landing. "Gaston, it's Remy, downstairs." I marvel at her certainty, yet when I open the door I catch sight of our son as he mounts the stairs. "It's me, Papa," he whispers, as he hugs me close and kisses both cheeks. Once his mother has fussed over him and satisfied herself that he's safe and well, he tells us of his decision. "Some of us are going to try for a boat up on the coast. Most of the Garrison has already gone; just dispersed, gone home many of them. I have all I need in my bag. We have decided to join the General in England, God willing." Colette remains resolute. We have decided that Remy must do as he thinks best. As we say our farewells, it is she who pronounces our benediction: "Remy, your Papa and I are very proud of you. You've grown to be the man we both wished for. It would be very easy to try and persuade you to remain here; but we agree that you be allowed to fight for France as your conscience dictates. Godspeed, my son," she whispers as I take our son downstairs to see him safely away. At the outer door, he holds me tight. I can sense his tension. "Give me your blessing Papa," he says, in the voice of a young child. "God bless you Remy, you make us both proud. Stay safe if you can; get word to us when you can, Au revoir, et a bientot, Mon Brave." And then he is gone into dark and forbidding night. One week later in a cruel twist of fate, we come face to face with Adolph Hitler. We have always visited the bench on the anniversary of our first meeting; 28th June. The City is full of troops, both on duty and off; soldiers and tourists, but always conquerors. We decide to set off early to avoid the unpleasantness. At nine a.m. out on the Rue de Rivoli, a cavalcade of large, luxury motorcars pulls to the side. As the occupants disembark, soldiers and civilians rush toward the cross path of the Orangerie. They are Germans, anxious to see and photograph Das Fuhrer, who is now walking in our direction. He is quite small, slim and very pale. Although the sky is overcast, it is late June and warm, and he is buttoned into a long, heavy coat and wearing gloves. I will not stand up for this barbarian. He appears neither fierce nor unfriendly. As he passes he raises a hand to the rim of his cap and smiles. As the procession passes, a young junior officer strides across to the bench. Towering above me, he draws back his hand and slaps my face. It is loud and painful, and accompanied by a guttural exclamation in German. The young man then turns on his heels and rushes after the Furher's party. Blood trickles from the corner of my mouth and I ache along the line of my jaw. I feel my Papa beside me on our bench; Colette on my other side, both smiling. It is three and a half years since that fateful encounter. I'm busy; engaged in sweeping the bakery floor, work almost done for the day. At the street door I spot Fabien, whose father Auguste owns the Dairy. He brings me a letter, passed hand to hand, from England. Duty done he departs and I almost tear the letter in half in my haste to read news of my Remy. Seconds later the open letter lies on the floor at my feet. After a considerable pause I stoop to pick it up. 'your son Remy Farsat died of wounds received at Kasserine Pass, North Africa. He was a fine sergeant of courage and fortitude, and a faithful soldier of France ..........' And now I must mount the stairs and face my beloved with the news of our son's death. "Gaston, you're late tonight, sit down and I'll get your coffee. Gaston, you look as though you've seen a ghost. Gaston speak to me, what is it? Tell me." "It's Remy, Colette he's.......our boy is......." speechless and broken I slump to my knees. Colette joins me on the floor and holds me while I weep. I find a sense of peace at the core of my being, and am able to tell Remy's mother how he died. We speak of our boy and then Colette leans forward and kisses my forehead. "Thank you for sharing, Gaston." On 8th May 1945, we come here to celebrate the end of the War for France. Once again the people are ecstatic, the celebrations a joy to witness. For us though joy is tempered with a profound sadness in the death of our Remy. We sit on the family bench and remember the life of our son, a Soldier of France. **** In reality how can life ever be good again? And yet it is. We think of our boy every day, how could it be otherwise? But peace returns slowly to Vaugirard, bringing with it new life. We've managed to piece together Remy's war years from the recollections of comrades who came to visit. We were able to peruse his military records at the Ministry; we have his medals in a box. There is now a new Baker of Vaugirard. In 1960, Colette's cousin's boy, Gaston Vassiviere, took over the bakery. We still live upstairs and I help out in the bakery. Three times a week we visit the Tuilleries. The tourists see us there. They take photographs of the quaint old couple. Colette jokes that we are as famous as the gardens. We exist as part of the Tuilleries; people expect to see us. By the mid sixties, our life has become synonymous with our bench. In 1972 we begin to fear that there may be a problem with Colette's health. After a year of hospital appointments; meetings with Consultants; the tension-filled waiting for results, we are suddenly faced with a heart-stopping diagnosis. "Gaston, I'm not afraid. Leaving you alone here is my one regret. If we only have a year, let's spend it here. No tears. Promise me we won't count off the days." "I promise, sweetheart; but don't tell me to be brave, not to cry. I survived the loss of this arm, I'm not sure I can survive the loss of my heart" "I want to come here every day." Colette leans to whisper in my ear, "I would as soon die here as in bed; or heaven forbid, in Hospital." "Then we need to husband our strength," I say to my little chit of a girl. I know it's not practical but it's what we both want. It's the decision of two wilful children, and we laugh walking back to the Metro. **** For two years we have made the daily pilgrimage to the gardens. I manage to obtain a folding wheelchair. We wrap up in the winter and tote flasks of coffee and rich pastries made by the Baker of Vaugirard. In summer we dress ourselves and our salads, lightly. And we talk, and talk. Today, Colette is bright and vivacious despite her illness and her seventy seven years. I push her up the ramp at Solferino Metro, down onto the Quai D'Orsay, and across the Pont Royal. We sit on the bench, side by side. Bright sunlight, blue skies and a stiff little breeze. "I need you to be brave Gaston," she says. "It will be today, I think." I help her into her wheelchair, getting ready for our return home. She stops me, a hand on my arm. "Not yet Gaston, let's stay here, for me please." "What should I do, Colette? "Just hold me, Gaston.'' She stares off into the distance. ''You know, about twenty years ago I met Marie Antoinette here on this very bench. She lived in the palace that stood over there. A really nice lady. Said that we shared a common bond; that we'd both given a son for France. Then she patted my hand, got up and walked off." Her voice softens and slows. "Please Colette." My lifelong partner and friend simply squeezes my hand and whispers, "Thank you for sharing Gaston." I now make the daily trip alone. For four long years I've sat on the bench. I wait for death and grow impatient. I also grow more infirm. My nephew, Gaston is always urging me to stop; but how can I? I am the last Farsat. My Papa left me the bench and the duty. On the way here today I thought I'd caught a glimpse of my Colette. Impossible, of course. Fixing me with her eyes and with a squeeze of my hand, she left me four years ago. We're still together though, in here. She knows every inch of my heart. She lives there since that day so long ago, and that is where she stays. Besides, the lady at the cafe was in her twenties. "It's just that; well, I was hoping that..... Well I'm older than I care to remember, and weaker. I don't know that I can manage the trip any more Papa. I need you to tell me it's alright." I'm sitting now at the cafe. I know the owner; I know most of the staff, and yet I've never taken coffee here. Traffic on the Rue de Rivoli is very heavy, tourists throng in Place du Carrousel. The heat is making me drowsy, even after two marvellous coffees. I wonder what Adolph Hitler..... "Monsieur, are you alright? Monsieur, Monsieur! Is there a Doctor here?" **** Messires et Mesdames, Dear readers. You've come a very long way with us. Thank you for sharing, but Gaston isn't here any more. If you look over by the large stone basin you'll see an old public bench. Can you see it? Do you see the dapper little Frenchman with the wonderful waxed moustache? The handsome young man he has just gathered in his arms is my husband, Gaston. Can I introduce our son, Remy? Perhaps you could join us after taking a coffee? We're just over there. We need but a minute; I'm taking Remy to meet his father......
Archived comments for The Baker of Vaugirard - Part II
Nomenklatura on 25-10-2013
The Baker of Vaugirard - Part II
I liked this very much,
cheers
Ewan

Author's Reply:
Thanks for staying with it Ewan. Much appreciated.
cheers,
Jim

Rab on 25-10-2013
The Baker of Vaugirard - Part II
Very moving, and touching, and well worthy of a nomination.

I liked it a lot, and definitely feel that there's a magnificent family saga there that could fill a novel...

Ross

Author's Reply:
Hi Ross,
Thank you so much. And the nomination I suspect may have been from you?
cheers,
Jim

OldPeculier on 25-10-2013
The Baker of Vaugirard - Part II
Love it. A very good read.

Author's Reply:

Mikeverdi on 25-10-2013
The Baker of Vaugirard - Part II
Thanks for this beautiful story Jim. Mike

Author's Reply:


The Baker of Vaugirard - Part I (posted on: 25-10-13)
My published Short Story in Two Parts

Adolph Hitler was small. He looked pale, thin and bowed under the weight of his recent success. Not a Valkyrie; though surrounded by field-grey warriors who believed they were. I am sitting on an old wrought iron bench, gazing across the almost empty Tuilleries Gardens. In the near distance the Louvre basks in the warm August sunshine, the Pyramid refracting rainbow lights. It's still difficult to grasp the detail of that day in June 1940. We sat on this, the family bench. Colette held tight to my arm, expecting at any moment to be swept from the bench by Nazi Officers, young Teutonic knights; armed with cameras, boisterous and excited. I insisted we shouldn't move. It was but a weak defiance; a gesture lost in German euphoria. It has always been the family bench. Grandfather Remy, the baker of Vaugirard, had taken possession way back in the time of the War against the Prussians. His son Albert became the local baker in his turn, and in accordance with Salic Law, the proud possessor of the bench. My Papa, Albert, was a weekly visitor, walking the ten kilometre round trip each Monday. He would sit here through the blustering cold winds of February and March; the watery sunshine of April; and on through the growing oppressive heat of July and August. He braved the brutal cold, the frost-rimed, leafless days of mid-winter. The gardens were full of public entertainments; puppet theatres, lemonade stalls, donkey rides and acrobats. The people of Vaugirard still thought of themselves as villagers, but not Papa. He was a Parisian; this was his city. He belonged to Paris in the way the bench belonged to him. Both bequeathed by his father, already the village baker when Vaugirard and the other communities around Montparnasse were incorporated into the suburbs of the great City. Papa never was much for church. It was fitting then, that it was to the bench, rather than the church, that he came to celebrate my birth, his only child, in 1898. I first saw the bench in August 1900. We approached from the direction of the Place de La Concorde; with me riding on Papa's shoulders. People filled the paths and terraces, desperate for sight of an Olympic athlete. This was Paris 1900, the second Olympiad; the fencing competition taking place in these very gardens. I sat legs dangling, responding to every noise, every vision, each and every gesture and action; gurgling with delight. Without a single word, Papa gifted me Paris. It's my earliest memory. A dapper, little suburban Boulanger, with a wonderful waxed moustache and pouting smile, saying, "This is all for you little one - the Farsat family seat, all yours." I grew up in a Paris suburb still coming to realise it was no longer a village. New age artists populated the ateliers and cold dirty garrets of Montparnasse. The drift from Montmartre peaked with the arrival of Modigliani, Picasso, and Matisse. Indulged by two doting parents, I imbibed the heady wine of this artistic society. Papa made it clear that as long as I followed him in the bakery, I was free to take my education as far as I should wish. I was an eager and diligent scholar, blessed with boundless curiosity. I was like one of the famous Perigord truffle pigs, snuffling around the edges of the cafe society, breathing deep that rarified Bohemian atmosphere. Papa still visited the bench. I often accompanied him, but also visited the seat on my own. I enjoyed the solitude, though nothing compared with sharing the bench with Papa. From his throne he was the Lord of the City. It was here, on a warm May afternoon in 1913, I decided to leave school at term's end, to work with my father. Papa was often unwell. He had a chronic cough and a rattling, railing chest. Mama feared consumption though the subject was never broached with Papa. He would blame it on his lifelong exposure to flour. He no longer walked to the Tuilleries. But then there was no need as the Metro now reached far into the southern suburbs. Vaugirard had had its own underground station since 1910. It was I, Gaston who now walked the ten kilometres each Monday on my day off. **** The man looks a lot like Papa. He pouts when he smiles; he has the habit of twitching the end of his thin, waxed moustache. Or maybe he's just winking his left eye. He lifts a fine, slim hand and flicks an unseen speck from the lapel of his jacket. He has wonderful eyes, marred at present by deep dark hollows. Eyes that have seen the beast. It's me,of course. My reflection; in the bathroom mirror. I'm not smiling; yet I have the strange feeling that he is. Papa passed away three years ago, just a month after the War started. Perhaps that's his ghost in the mirror. They already call it the Great War, the War to End All Wars. But will it ever end I wonder? "Come,come Gaston. You're home now." I awoke in my own bed this morning. I lay in the corn-yellow sunlight, pushing my feet into the cooler reaches of the bed, feeling the soft cushion of goose feathers under my neck. Mama brought breakfast upstairs. Yesterday's bread, soft butter and half a pot of long cherished mirabelle jam. The warm milk couldn't mask the taste of the poor coffee. Mama now stands at the main door, watching me stride out along the Rue de Vaugirard, dressed in my own good suit of clothes. My return after sixteen months at the Front, still seems like a dream to her. In front of me is the Hotel des Invalides. With its shining dome and sanded courtyards it reminds me a little of a photograph of the Taj Mahal. I sit in the outer courtyard, just beyond the arched gate. In the main courtyard I hear strong youthful voices singing in harmony. It is 'Le chant du Depart', a Soldiers' song. I can't see the singers, but they must be Officer cadets. It's a haunting sound; it dances barefoot over the hairs at the nape of my neck. I hear in the high passages the voices of my comrades, dead in front of Douaumont. Ripped from existence with mechanical disregard. Torn, flayed and scattered; but no longer tormented; as I that am left. I dash away the welling tears, unable or unwilling to sustain the remembrance. The sparkling river has an audible swish. As I walk in the shade of the buildings along the Quai d'Orsay, my demons recede. Crossing the Seine on the Pont de la Concorde, with the sun on my back, I feel the City wrap her arms around me and I'm home. The gardens are full of people. Blending with the delighted squeals of the young is a low hum of animated talk; the click-clack of ice-cream dishes and coffee cups; the metallic melody of a hand-wound organ. But this brave gaiety can't shut out the War. There are men in uniform everywhere, whole men and crippled, all with old men's eyes, like mine. Above the sound of the promenaders, above the honky-tonk Viennese waltz is the low rumble of the guns, no more than seventy kilometres away. Down on the Marne or over in Picardy, men are still dying. Skirting the wide basin of the smaller fountain, I spot journey's end. This isn't right. This isn't how I've pictured it all these months. A stranger has taken possession of my bench. A girl; a chit of a girl, rich and spoiled looking. I stand inert, swaying on the balls of my feet, my tongue turned to stone in my mouth. "Can I help you, monsieur?" She has auburn hair, cut short in the fashion of today. The slim column of her neck lifts her head above the collar of her long, thin coat. Her eyes are a startling pale blue and the look is direct through the long fringe of her lashes. "No." I say. She's supposed to be the spoiled brat, so why do I feel it's me that's acting the part? Her head moves in animation like that of a little bird. It's enthralling and I don't wish to take my eyes away. She smiles, her eyes creasing. The corners of her mouth lift exposing pearly teeth. Before I can soften my curt response, she offers me a seat, gesturing with a graceful hand toward the vacant end. Still in stationary motion, I hesitate. "Please. For me," her voice sculpting music from the naked air. I nod, still in battle with my first impression, then sit on the bench. "You're a soldier, aren't you?" I agree. "On leave from the front?" I become aware of the light hand resting on my upper arm. "Yes, how can you tell?" Her hand grasps my arm, the sudden warmth radiating up through shoulder and neck. "I see it in your eyes", she whispers. "You have really nice eyes. People always used to say, the Baker's boy has lovely eyes." She smiles at my confusion. "Have I offended you?" ''You know me? Have we met before? I don't....I'm not...." I feel cheated, and angry at being made to look foolish. "Do you know me?" I bark. "No...yes; Yes... But I've only just realised that." She raises her hand to the hollow of her throat. It's the action of a small animal, startled and about to bolt. It stops my breath. "I can't explain it, but when you blinked I caught a glimpse of the Farsat boy, from Vaugirard, from home. But it's as if your eyes are shutting something terrible out". "It's Gaston, Gaston Farsat. And Vaugirard is your home too?'' "Yes, sorry, it's Colette Vassiviere." She turns on the bench to kiss me on both cheeks. It's formal and proper, yet seems to hold a promise. "So your father is....." "Yes, ...was the Notary. He was killed in action at Fricourt in the first year of this terrible war.. They said he was a good officer, brave and loyal," she says, with her chin on her chest. It isn't a statement, more of a question. "If they said that, then it must be so." I take her hand. We both talk at once, amazed and amused that we have this shared background and yet haven't met. We share family stories, lost in discovery of each other. "Tell me about it. The War, Gaston, please tell me. You have to tell someone; you have to let it out. I'd like it to be me." Our knees are touching, her hand on my shoulder, our gaze locked. It's as though I look deep into her soul. I find it disturbing, comforting too. I'm telling it all. I'm watching her eyes as her pupils dilate in sympathy and contract in shock. She listens with her whole being; absorbing the horror, drawing out the poison. I garble and stutter in my need to lay it all before this little wisp of a girl. I've finished now. My voice is hoarse. I'm drained. Colette leans across to kiss my forehead. "Thank you, Gaston." Colette's compassion overwhelms me. A single involuntary sob signals release. Silent my tears fall, whilst Colette tells me of her dreams, her hopes. She fills the vacated spaces of my mind with happy trivia. "This is my bench you know? It belonged to my father; and his father before that." She smiles the already familiar smile. "Thank you for sharing, Gaston." The bells of The Madeleine and the Church of Saint-Roch strike six o'clock. We can't believe we've been sitting so long. We rise and stroll west through the gardens. Colette takes my arm. The gardens, which seem to empty and fill like the tide, are still noisy with people. Eiffel's Tower is in front, seeming nearer than it is, and the guns still rumble. **** I never did return to the Front. Having survived the Verdun trenches for sixteen months, I fall victim to Spanish Influenza. For eight weeks I cling to life. A piece of shrapnel in my right arm becomes gangrenous; in order to save my life a military surgeon amputates the arm at the shoulder. Colette barely leaves my side. She takes her share of my ordeal, preventing me from going under. Her uncle, a member of the Assembly, arranges for us to be married in hospital. I'm discharged from the Army. By the time I'm restored to fitness, the nature of the War has changed. America is pouring troops and resources into a war that's now mobile, the battle-lines receding in all directions. On a blustery day in February, with Paris in the grip of an unnatural iron-hard winter, Colette and I reclaim the bench. Colette sits close against my side. We have the promise of a future, and l must return to the Bakery. Mama will live with us and keep house while Colette does accounts and runs the shop. Knowing the War is ending, it is still a surprise when the news comes. Monsieur Vincent, from the Cafe du Commerce, hears it on the radio. He becomes Vaugirard's most prominent citizen for all of that day. "A ceasefire at eleven o'clock tomorrow, We've won! Can you believe that Gaston? It's over", he says as he leaves to spread the news. **** Its not Monday but we're sitting on our bench, waiting. The sun is warm for a November morning. The gardens overflow with people waiting,expectant, strolling without purpose. And yet there is a hush, even the traffic is subdued. Gentlemen check their pocket-watches; people talk in whispers. They slow to a standstill, gazing skyward. I'm very aware of my breathing, Colette's too. Its as if we are breathing as one. A single bell peals out, from La Madeleine. And then from all around the others join in. The great Carillon of Notre Dame beats at the air. The churches of the city play beneath the clamour, softer, more capricious. People are mad with joy. Colette and I stroll through a city in ecstasy. We will take the Metro, you see Colette is expecting our first child. I won't ever forget this day. Seconds before eleven o'clock, such a profound silence. As if all the world was holding its breath.
Archived comments for The Baker of Vaugirard - Part I
Nomenklatura on 25-10-2013
The Baker of Vaugirard - Part I
Go on, post the other half... (I haven't missed it, have I?)

Where is it published? Somewhere good I expect. This is splendid.
Regards
Ewan

Author's Reply:
Hi Ewan,
Thank you for reading and being kind enough to comment.
Part II is further down the batting order. It was published in the paperback 'Best Paris Stories' by Summertime Publications; one of eleven stories about Paris. I did think of a novel in extension of this.
cheers,
Jim

p.s. Now there's hubris for you!

Rab on 25-10-2013
The Baker of Vaugirard - Part I
Brilliant, Jim, thanks for posting it. I look forward to reading part 2, and yes, I think there's a longer story in this; it reads at times like a precis of a bigger story. The characters are well drawn for such a short piece, but a longer tale would give you an opportunity to flesh them out.

Again, I love the little flourishes, like the song 'dancing barefoot on the hairs at the nape of Gaston's neck'.

Author's Reply:
Hi Ross,
Thanks for the great comments, and the commitment to read such a large piece. I feel like I'm cheating a little as it is an already published piece; but I do want my contemporaries to read it.
cheers,
Jim

Mikeverdi on 25-10-2013
The Baker of Vaugirard - Part I
Jim, this is magnificent, again your attention to detail draws the reader in; giving us confidence that this will be special. I only wish I had half your talent. Thanks for posting. Mike

Author's Reply:
Thanks Mike. And if you don't have the other half of my talent, who does?
Honoured and humbled by your comment and vote.
cheers,
Jim


La Bodega Rose (posted on: 21-10-13)
****

The heat beat upon the stones. Pascale stopped climbing for a moment to watch two red kites circling far above the cliff face. Sweat stung his eyes, and he blinked to clear his vision. The effort made him look down, way down below his feet; the dizzying drop robbing him of willpower. 'My Lady Mary hear me,' he whispered. 'Do not let me fall.' He felt above his head with his right hand. Summoning the last of his strength, he heaved himself onto the narrow ledge of rock. A fissure in the face of the rock was wide enough for him to turn and sit. Within minutes his breathing steadied and his strength returned. Far below, the waters of the Dordogne rumbled through the gorge, softening on the plain below Rocamadour, laying still in the meadows below his home. It wasn't his imagination; the melody was much clearer now. The magical bleating of pipes - hypnotic and enchanting - drawing him ever higher. Again his eyes stung, but this time with tears, tears of remembrance. 'Pascale, you must be brave. From henceforth you are the head of the family,' his father said, holding the boy's upturned face in his two strong, calloused hands. 'Do not grieve for me my son, death is simply the beginning.' They left Carcassone by the Northern Gate, the fleshers' Gate. Once behind the French lines they regrouped. His mother brought them all together. She spoke to each one in their turn, in soft and earnest tone. Then it was Pascale's turn. His mother Mary pulled him close. 'My oath, given years ago is to your father. A Troubador, brother to Gui d'Ussel, your uncle. He will die a Parfait, a pure and obedient being. I go to join him, my birthright, my wedding vow.' She kissed his brow, just once. 'Honour him,' she said, and then was gone. Pascale held the image close. An image of blood and tears; and yet more, the sweet smell of wild thyme, of lavender, and the perfume of orange blossom. It was the Goddess smell, Christ's bride, the Magdalene. He began to climb, resolution in every stretch. And so he reached the high plateau, and the source of the magic air. The old man sitting in the lee of the rock, looked as if he had been carved from the same stone. Despite his great age, the eyes were alive; bright and questioning. His smile was the balm of Gilead. Pascale paused, unsure of the source of this last observation. All he could say with certainty, was that the old man's gaze held him in a soft, warming caress. Looking closer, Pascale could see that the man's costume was a red and yellow patchwork of cloth diamonds. The colours were faded, indeed the short doublet and the breeches were threadbare, almost worn through in places. He wore brown boots, of soft leather. There was ruffled cotton at his cuffs and at his boot tops. 'Come Pascale, sit here beside me,' he said, 'you will want to see the music which brought you here.' 'No,' he shouted. ' Who are you? How do you know my name?' 'Come boy, sit. If I meant you harm need I go to all this trouble?' Pascale must have looked doubtful, for the old man took him gently by the shoulder. 'I'm your Uncle, your Uncle Gui, your father's brother.' 'My uncle? said the boy. 'I heard the music. It called me on; it spoke to me.' The old man sat and from behind his back drew out a bodega, the native French bagpipe. It appeared to be made of a very shiny black wood, though the bag itself was of soft brown leather. 'La Bodega Rose,' said Gui, as though saying a prayer. 'La Bodega Rose,' repeated the boy, 'But why? It isn't even pink.' 'Maybe it once belonged to La Rose,' said the old man, his eyebrows rising in query. 'Well?' Pascale ran his fingers along the aged wood. 'It is very old,' The boy peered closely 'And it has these strange marks.' 'It is Aramaic. The language of the Holy Land.' Gui placed the bufet between his lips and blew. As the bagpipe filled with air he placed his fingers on the graile and began the haunting melody from earlier. It came to Pascale in that moment. 'My parents always called her La Rose - Our Lady Mary; Mary the Magdalene. This is her Bodega?' Gazing up from under the rim of his velvet cap, the old Troubador smiled. 'Come play her. This is your birth-right, Pascale de Carcassone.' The old man's eyes brimmed with tears. 'You must take the message to our people. We are scattered across the breadth of France. You are a Troubador of The Cathars. Your verse will speak to our people in the dark night of their soul,' he said. 'They will hear you and be heartened.' As a sixteen year old farm labourer, the boy hadn't the leisure to learn anything of music. It had been eight years since he'd heard the word Cathar mentioned. In that shadow world before the French Crusade. And yet he put the bufet to his lips without hesitation. His fingers danced on the graile, and the haunting melody echoed in the lee of the rocks. The old man nodded his approval then reached into the rear of the rock. 'These were your father's,' he whispered, handing the boy a stout canvas sack. Pascale drew out a pair of soft leather boots, then a lawn shirt with ruffled cuffs. Finally he drew forth a costume similar to the old man's; only the red and yellow diamond patches were new and bright. 'Put them on Pascale and honour your father's wish.' In an instant the young peasant was transformed. Gui reached inside his doublet and drew out a piece of polished metal. Pascale caught his breath as he saw in the reflection, his father, as a young man. He looked across at the old man, as if seeking approval. 'Pascale de Carcassone, the Rose Troubadour.' The old man prowled around the young minstrel poet. 'There's something missing,' he said, frowning. He bent to the Bodega and slung it over the young man's shoulder. 'No,' he shook his head. 'It's still not right.' Pascale looked downcast as he studied himself carefully. 'Please Uncle, what's the matter?' The old man stood in front of the boy, then reached up and ruffled Pascale's hair. He smiled as he removed his blue velvet cap. He straightened the brooch, an egg of pearly-white soapstone, then smoothed the peacock feather with his fingertips. Positioning the cap on the boy's head, he stood back and with a flourish dipped a swaggering bow. 'I did the same for my brother. I had no son to succeed me. You look so like your father,' said the old man with a shake of the head. 'Now you must return to the valley before nightfall. Come, I will show you the path.' At the head of the narrow goat path, the old man gathered Pascale in his arms. 'I can go no further,' he said kissing the boy on the forehead. He brought his mouth close to Pascale's ear. 'Long may you prosper Troubadour.' Long afterwards, down on the valley floor, Pascale pondered the old man's words. 'I did the same for my brother, I had no son to succeed me.' No, it was something his own father had told him; but what? He swung the Bodega across his chest, feeling a strange warmth in the contact; a hand reaching over the ages. Pascale stopped and turned to face the mountain. 'You were born in the year your uncle, the great Gui d'Ussel died.' The haunting melody seemed to fill the wide valley floor.
Archived comments for La Bodega Rose
Nomenklatura on 21-10-2013
La Bodega Rose
Dream-like, almost mythic, full of atmosphere.
A fine read.

Author's Reply:
Thanks Ewan,
I like the whole world of Cathar belief and the medieaval troubadours. Hope it shows.
cheers,
Jim

Mikeverdi on 21-10-2013
La Bodega Rose
Mesmerising, truly beautiful story telling. Mike

Author's Reply:
Hi Mike,
Thank you for the wonderful comments on both my short stories. I leave for Scotland on 30 October, so hope to send you your max opus!
cheers, love to Lesley
Jim

Ionicus on 22-10-2013
La Bodega Rose
A nice piece of prose, Jim. Highly imaginative and original.
I usually read and comment on poetry but the narrative of this gripped me and held me enthralled. Thank you.

Author's Reply:

OldPeculier on 23-10-2013
La Bodega Rose
Very unusual and very well told.

Author's Reply:


Cold Coffee (posted on: 18-10-13)
****

She sits in contemplation like a nicotined Madonna, Her life-light shrouded by her tired eyes. The hardened features cut the bull, the crap, the smoke, the contact. In tortured isolation she survives. She's sold away her future in small parcels of affection, Those rubber-wrapped invasions of her soul. Her soundless gaze has pierced the ceilinged curtain of the Heavens, As ruthlessly she mastered self-control. The scales new fallen from her eyes, reveal a shattered skyline; A transitory beauty long decayed. Her coffee-cup a bitter gall, no longer pinks her cheekbones, Her once erotic promise overplayed. If she doesn't stir your pity, then nor should she pique your hatred; All men contribute in spirit to her fall. Given beauty in extravagance she sold the pleasure cheaply, Giving love in soiled instalments to us all.
Archived comments for Cold Coffee
Mikeverdi on 18-10-2013
Cold Coffee
Really strong writing, I have a comment for you to think about (or throw in the bin). It's something you don't normally do. I feel there is an over use of the words 'her & has'. Maybe in the second line for instance? anyway it's your words. I loved it anyway Jim. Mike

Author's Reply:

ValDohren on 18-10-2013
Cold Coffee
Brilliant Jim. Too many great lines to quote. Cannot fault.
Val

Author's Reply:

Bozzz on 18-10-2013
Cold Coffee
A soul lost from the start - very sad and this sadness beautifully expressed. Good Jim...David

Author's Reply:

Ionicus on 20-10-2013
Cold Coffee
"She's sold away her future in small parcels of affection,
Those rubber-wrapped invasions of her soul."
One of my favourite lines from this strong and expressive poem, Jim, which is another example of your versatility.

Best, Luigi

Author's Reply:

stormwolf on 24-10-2013
Cold Coffee
Absolutely stunning in content, meter and insight.

another nom coming your way.

Alison x

Into favs

Author's Reply:
Thank you so much for the nom, vote, fav and gracious comments.
Means a great deal.
cheers,
Jim xx


The Holy Glimmer of Goodbyes - Concluding Part (posted on: 18-10-13)
Part II of the Short Story posted on Monday.

When Campbell emerged from the dugout it was raining. Big drops,.noisy and boisterous. McGuire and Sneddon were huddled close together in the trench bottom, the rain ricocheting from their broad helmets. 'Right men, we have to pick up two replacements and then get back to the platoon.' 'Twa men sir? Will they baith huv rifles?' growled Willie. 'Come on Corporal McGuire; you know there's no shortage of rifles, just riflemen.' 'Aye Sir. We best get them soonest, or you'll be lookin fer a new batman.' 'Why?' . 'The CSM has it in fer oor Private Sneddon here. Wae a vengeance.' 'We best be off then Corporal.' In the Reserve trench they soon located the replacement pool. 'Replacements for First Platoon?' said Willie to the duty NCO. 'This is them,' he replied, pulling forward two clean, well-equipped soldiers. 'Millar and Sneddon.' 'Jimmy? Jimmy? Is that you?' Davie came forward to get a closer look. 'Whit are you daein here, yer no auld enough?' 'Is this ony wey tae welcome yer brither?' The tall young man stood in front of Davie. 'God it's guid tae see ye ya daft bugger,' cried Davie, pulling his brother close in a smothering embrace. He then held him at arm's length, gripped by both shoulders. 'But ye cannae be here'. Willie grabbed the open-mouthed Millar. 'C'mon son, we'll take ye tae meet the rest o' the boys.' 'Mr Campbell, Sir; this is my young brither Jimmy. Sorry, Private James Sneddon, Sir.' Campbell acknowledged the soldiers' salutes. 'Good to have you with us Private Sneddon. Let's get back to the lines and you can see your brother settled in. . I won't need you again today.Sneddon.' 'But Sir, he's no auld enough.' 'I am sir, I'm seventeen. Tell the truth Davie, fer God sake man. I've a right tae fight fer ma country tae.' 'Well Sneddon? The truth now.' 'Awright Sir, legally he's auld enough, but there's jist the two o' us. Please Sir, send him tae the rear. I dinnae want him going o'er the tap the morra. Please Sir.' 'You will have to speak to him Sneddon, not me. Speak with your brother.' **** 'Jimmy, this is nae big adventure.' Davie, glaried at his brother across the tight space of the dugout. 'They lied tae us aw. They said we were fightin' fer oor country and oor families. That wis shite, Jimmy. It wiz shite then; and it's shite noo.' 'That's easy fer you tae say. You've had yer go, Davie.' 'It's no a game Jimmy; when ye're oot yer oot. And ye're deid.' Jimmy emptied his kit bag, whilst his brother gazed off into space. 'Annie's married Davie. A man frae Cowdenbeath; a one-armed artilleryman.' Jimmy waited for an answer, but Davie sat speechless. 'She loved ye, Davie. She wid huv waited fer ye; fer as long as it took. Ye only had tae ask her, ya stubborn bastard.' 'Have ye heard nuthin' I've said?' shouted Davie. 'When they transferred us tae this sector we were at full strength; four thoosand men. There's less than a hundred o' us noo.' It was Jimmy's turn to stand silent. 'There are half a million Annies waitin fer their men tae come back. But they're no coming back Jimmy; they're lying oot there in the mud and the water. That's a five month butcher's bill. Four hundred thoosand o' us, and two hundred and fifty thoosand o' them. And the morn, two full divisions o' Canadians will try tae take Paschendaele itsel'. Like we were supposed tae dae five months ago.' 'OK Davie, I hear whit yer saying.' 'Naw, Jimmy, no yet. D'ye know why we huv tae take Paschendaele?' Jimmy shook his head. 'Because it's there. Because aw oor pals lost their lives tae take it. It's also why the Germans huv tae haud oan tae it. They've lost too many men jist keeping a haud o' it.' 'And dae ye think I could go back tae Dunfermline without making this attack the morn?' Jimmy spoke in a low voice. 'Wid I be able tae walk intae the Wheatsheaf wae my heid held high? No. So there ye huv it, brither.' 'Ye don't know whit yer talkin' aboot, Jimmy,' Davie said as he stormed out of the dugout. Jimmy stood at the rear of the dugout until his reverie was broken by a friendly voice. 'Right Jimmy, son; come and get acquainted wae the rest o' the boys. C'mon noo,' said Willie. **** Lieutenant Campbell was trying to take his pistol apart for cleaning when Davie entered the dugout. He stood watching. The officer, deep in concentration, was not aware of his batman's presence. Davie shook his head. 'Here, Sir let me dae that,' said Davie stepping across the dugout. He took the pistol, undid the release spring, and the pistol fell into its separate parts. 'I'm sorry Sneddon, I was sure I remembered how it was done. I've watched you do it often enough surely?' Campbell sprang from the seat. 'Would you like tea? I've made tea, Sneddon. Here, let me get you a mug.' Davie watched as the Lieutenant went through the motions before handing him a steaming mug of tea. 'Thank you,Sir,' moved by the gesture. 'It's guid, Sir.' 'Here, take a seat. Tell me how it went with your brother. Drink it up now, whilst it's hot.' 'He's jist like me, Sir. Stubborn, hard-faced; willnae listen tae advice.' Campbell said nothing. 'He's no wantin' tae die fer his country. He thinks he'll be dying tae preserve his guid name. The Yanks are here noo, Sir. This fucking War will end. Excuse ma language Sir. And I know that aw o' us wid stand up and say 'nae mair' if it wisnae for fear o' lookin' like cowards, Sir.' The Lieutenant nodded. 'Mebbe if you spoke tae him, Mr Campbell, Sir. You've got the words fer it. You could make him see sense, Sir.' 'He's a grown man Davie. He has his own opinions on this. Doesn't he?' Davie remained silent. 'Besides, even at this late stage, I'm still his Officer. I can't be persuading him to sit this offensive out.' 'Ye could find him a job back at the rear. Ye could mebbe even give him a job in the forward trench. Anythin' tae keep him oot o' the attack. Look Sir; I'm beggin' ye. I've never asked ye fer anything, Mr Campbell. But I am noo. Save ma brither, Sir. Please.' Campbell put his hand on Davie's shoulder. 'You know that what you ask is impossible Davie. And yet... I will do it for you. I'll give him a job to keep him out of tomorrow's assault. But on one condition.' 'Anything, Sir. Anything.' 'Your brother has to agree to it. This can't be your decision. You couldn't face your brother if you spared him the assault against his wishes.' Davie ran his fingers through his hair. 'Thank you, Sir. I'll make him see sense. Leave it tae me Sir.' He rose and hurried out of the dugout. An hour later Davie returned to the dugout. He started to get his charge's battle kit ready. He didn't speak, and Campbell who was writing a letter home, left him to his silence. Outside, Campbell could hear Corporal McGuire going through the assault routine with the two replacements. Day slipped into night bringing a heavy silence which would last until the barrage opened up at 0500. **** Pals were huddled together all along the trench. Davie saw Willie McGuire, head bowed talking to Jimmy. 'Jist keep behind me, awright.' 'OK Corp,' whispered Jimmy, 'behind ye, aye.' 'Look Jimmy; there's goin' tae be a lot o' noise oot there. You'll no hear yersel think' Davie turned the other way. The same exchange of letters, watches, confidences. The Lieutenant, alone amid the crowd, stared across the gap. 'Private Sneddon, a minute please,' he said; bending to the flame of his lighter. Davie watched the flame flicker and jump as it tried to make contact with the twitching cigarette. He reached out and steadied the young officer's hand. 'There ye go sir,' he whispered. . Campbell's eyes, over the now lighted cigarette, were wide like an overwrought horse. He quietened at the soldier's touch. 'Thank you,' he said hoarsely; drawing on the fag. 'Davie?' 'Aye, Sir.' Davie felt the warm flush spread from his chest. Of course he loved his brother; though it wasn't something you said or showed. What he felt for Campbell was different, more elemental. 'It's OK sir, I know.' All along the trench soldiers shook hands; held hands, touched and shuffled closer. 'No Davie, you don't this time. I won't come back from this. I won't get a Blighty, a ticket home. I think I'll buy the big single ticket,' he laughed. It was hollow and haunted. 'I'll need you with me when we go.' He looked away. Far away. 'You're the closest person I have out here.' 'Aye Sir. And if that's true then I need tae tell ye that you're talking shite, Sir. We'll get through this,' said Davie, so low it was inaudible outside the tight circle of the two men. He pulled down on the shoulder strap of Campbell's belt, his knuckles against the Lieutenant's chest. Both men felt the same strange comfort in the touch. The rattle and bang of kit and equipment was unnatural and loud in the steep trench. Davie saw Wilson and Donaldson hug each other in a last embrace. Dundee men, re-affirming brotherhood but not sure why; pontoon buddies and little else. 'You need to speak to your brother. You can't let him go over like this. Go on, make your peace Davie.' **** Davie made his way along the trench, and Campbell was again struck by the deference shown to Davie by all of the platoon. 'Jimmy. Look, I know I wiz wrang. I'm sorry. OK?' Jimmy smiled. 'Of course it's aw right, Davie. Ye were jist trying tae be ma brither.' 'Aye, an that's no easy noo,' said Davie, shaking his head. 'Yer a man and ye huv tae find oot fer yersel'. I realise that; tho that disnae mean I have tae be happy about it.' 'Davie. Mam said a wiz tae find ye. She said it wiz time somebody in this family looked oot fer you. She gave the job tae me.' Jimmy tapped fingers against his chest. 'Jimmy, listen tae me. Listen close. What we're facin' here is like nothin' ye've ever come across before.' 'It's OK, Davie. I know.' 'No ye dinnae. Listen tae me,' hissed Davie, pulling him by his lapels. 'Keep yer eyes in front, whatever is goin' on at either side o' ye. Plant yer feet. D'ye hear me?' 'Aye, I hear ye, awright?' 'Stay clear o' the water. Once yer in there ye'll droon, OK?' Jimmy nodded, his eyes flaring. 'And whatever else ye dae; tuck in behind Willie. That way he'll cushion ony bullets meant fer you.' Davie gave a short laugh.. 'That's no funny, Sneddon,' shouted the stout Corporal. 'Anyway, there's nae room behind me cause your always there.' 'Take care Willie. I'll see ye o'er there, right?' 'Aye OK pal.' The two soldiers embraced, before pulling apart and nodding to each other. 'I'll see you tae, Jimmy.' Davie crushed him in an embrace that Jimmy had to break. 'Thanks Davie,' he whispered before turning to follow his Corporal up the trench. **** 'Two minutes men,' shouted Campbell, as Davie made it back to his side. 'Yer gloves, Sir.' Davie handed him the heavy woollens. 'Ye'll need them the day.' 'Thank you Davie. For these,' he said donning the gloves, 'for everything you do; and for being here beside me, especially today.' Davie offered his hand. Campbell took it, but drew his batman into a close embrace. 'You have to make it back Davie.' He whispered low-voiced in Sneddon's ear, then pushed the whistle between his lips. The shrill blast sent them all to the ladders, as the sharp rat-tat-tat of heavy machine-guns tore the air apart. Willie McGuire and young Jimmy Sneddon cleared the trench ladder, with Lieutenant Campbell following. As Davie got to the lip of the trench, a spiraling body carried him from the ladder to the floor of the trench far below. 'Jimmy, god Jimmy. What will oor mither say?' Davie tried to take his brother's limp body across his knees. Mud and blood made his fingers slip. Jimmy's helmet rim was sharp and awkward. 'Oh Jimmy, this isnae supposed tae happen tae young boys. I'm supposed tae look efter ye, ya silly sod.' And then the tears; hot salt, scalding. All the needless death summed up by overwhelming loss. 'Sneddon. Pick up your rifle and join your platoon, you sniveling fucker.' The CSM's boot caught him between the shoulder blades. 'Move it, now.' 'But sir, he's ma young brither. He only joined us yesterday.' Davie's weeping made his nose run. 'You rotten bastard, you ken I'm nae coward.' 'I'll count to three, Sneddon.' 'Dae what ye like. I'll no leave him. I'm supposed to take care o' him.' The barrel of the rifle, pressed behind his left ear, ended Davie's ordeal. Fine bone and blood sprayed his dead brother, as their steel helmets came together with a loud bang. 'Yellow bastard,' snarled the red-faced NCO, grounding the rifle. 'I just saved them a court-martial.' Within minutes the walking wounded, the stunned and the psychologically under-motivated, were sliding back across the rim of the trench. Standing on the lip, Robert Campbell spotted the Sneddon brothers. 'Davie, Davie?' He leapt two-footed into the trench. He lifted his batman's head, seeing the small entry hole behind his left ear. He knew instinctively the damage he would find at the other side. He gazed for long moments at the gaping wound, the absence of recognisable feature. A low howl of agony rose from the once young Lieutenant. 'Steady there, Mr Campbell,' shouted Major Fitzroy-Stewart. 'We have enlisted men here.' 'I shot Sneddon, Mr Campbell,' said Pollock, 'cowardice in the face of the enemy. Clear case, and deserved.' 'You mindless bastard,' cried Campbell, trying to grab the stocky NCO by the collar. Pollock fended off the enraged officer. Campbell fumbled at the stud on his pistol holster, at length cocking his weapon to level at the CSM. 'He was the best man I have ever known; and you slaughtered him like an animal.' As the pistol came level, Major Fitzroy-Stewart stepped into the gap. 'Holster your weapon Lieutenant Campbell. Now, damn you.' As the high calibre bullet carved a bloody hole in the Major's chest, an unearthly quiet descended the tortured valley. Along the trench, the pipes played ''Scotland The Brave".
Archived comments for The Holy Glimmer of Goodbyes - Concluding Part
Mikeverdi on 18-10-2013
The Holy Glimmer of Goodbyes - Concluding Part
Jim, its a mystery to me why I have arrived here to find I am the first to congratulate you on this fine writing. I enjoyed the first part and this is it's equal. A mini series of you opus. Mike

Author's Reply:

Rab on 19-10-2013
The Holy Glimmer of Goodbyes - Concluding Part
Wonderful. The tension of waiing to go over the top was almost too much to bear. Really powerful writing.

Author's Reply:


After the Silence (posted on: 14-10-13)
****

The Pipes, they played that tune you like. The one about the Floo'ers. The song that honours Scotia's dead; we whistled it for hours. Until, one day you weren't there. You dipped beneath the surface. I cut your name along a cross; Just Private Wullie Wallace. And now, the clouds have long since fled. We march triumphant through the toon. We stand at ease and hold our breath; While Flanders poppies patter doon. My pal, you were, you are; and you were missed. Though gaps within the ranks are filled. The floo'ers all are wede awa; the finest blooms untimely killed. The Pipes, as we head hame will play, We're No Awa Tae Bide Awa. And rubbing shoulders you and me; we'll daunder up tae Dundee Law.
Archived comments for After the Silence
Bozzz on 14-10-2013
After the Silence
As a humble Sassenach I am struggling to march with you - your giant caber-length strides leave me as the army's slowest man....Sorry JIm......David

Author's Reply:
Hi David,
Sorry you can't keep up. Not sure that the occasional use of Doric Scots would make it hard to understand? Must be my inability to turn a poetic phrase.
cheers,
Jim

JackCrowe on 14-10-2013
After the Silence
This is great to read Jim, I can almost hear it. I would certainly use it as a toast with a drop of malt to honour the floo'ers. Loved it.

Author's Reply:
Hi Ian,
Thanks. Glad you liked this. It was inspired by 'To a Private Soldier' by A.E. Mackinnon. I love all his work - a Scottish Wilfred Owen.
cheers,
Jim

stormwolf on 15-10-2013
After the Silence
Hi Jim,
You amaze me the way you keep churning out high quality poems. This one moved me from the very title which was perfect. I think many people let their poems down by choosing a half-baked title (almost as an afterthought) when to me at least, the title is incredibly important .
I also like the layout again, can really enhance the reading if done well. Very moving and made me think of my dad.

Alison x

Author's Reply:
Hi Alison,
You are too kind my dear. Credit goes to A.E. Mackinnon for the inspiration; the rest as they say was simple! I love the lyrical, reflective nature of silence as a gesture. It still overwhelms me the depth of silence there must have been after four years of bloody war. Or maybe it's just being a Celt that gives us that sensation?
cheers,
Jim x

Ionicus on 15-10-2013
After the Silence
I am not a Scot, Jim, nor a Sassenach, but I understood the pathos of this poem. It is a piece of high quality with a resonant voice. Thanks for this.

Author's Reply:


The Holy Glimmers of Goodbye - Part 1 (posted on: 14-10-13)
Part 1 of a 2 part Short Story.

Davie heard the harsh sobs above the clamour of stand-to. Further on the pipes played 'We're No Awa Tae Bide Awa'. The tune from embarkation day, two years before. He thought it was a promise unfulfilled. He stooped at his dugout. A Corporal sat in the dark corner, tears carving channels in his muddy cheeks. Davie walked on. **** 'Right men, gather round.' The speaker was clean shaven, and the dirty uniform had been brushed. 'Right boys, you heard Lieutenant Campbell,' barked Willie McGuire. The twenty-one men of First Platoon shuffled into a huddled formation. 'We won't be going today men. This rain... clearly makes it impossible for us to advance. HQ have re-scheduled for 0900 tomorrow. 'Fer fuck sake, in broad daylight Sir?' 'Hold yer tongue, Wilson,' hissed the Corporal. 'Yes Wilson,. Advancing out there in darkness would be suicide.' 'It's bluidy suicide at any time,' said Archie Donaldson under his breath. The Lieutenant continued with the briefing. Objectives, support, equipment, wire cutting, preliminary bombardment. Muttering and shuffling became pronounced and the Lieutenant drew the briefing to a close. The men dispersed; sluggish, reluctant. 'Still the same shite Willie?' 'You've been oot here as long as I huv Davie. So you tell me,' said the Corporal. The two soldiers stood in the trench, up to mid-calf in water. They were coated in mud; fresh in places, dry in others. Their coats and kilts were heavy with rain.. 'I had the jitters a wee while back,' whispered Willie peering under the brim of his helmet. 'Greetin' like a woman I was.' They stood close together, water running from the tilted brims of their steel helmets. Davie placed two fags between his lips, then lit them despite the downpour. He cupped one in the palm of a filthy hand and offered it to his pal. 'Ye'll be fine man. Wan day this will aw be over wae. We'll be standing in the Wheatsheaf wae a pint o' heavy in oor haunds. We'll be laughing at the thought o' two daft buggers without enough sense tae get in oot o' the rain.' 'What if it happens during the assault?' 'Then young Mister Campbell will order me tae put a bullet in yer brain. So ye'll be safe ya brainless bastard.' Davie punched the Corporal on the shoulder. As McGuire went to check on the men, Davie jumped on to the firing step alongside the Lieutenant. 'Are ye OK sir? They dinnae mean anything by it. They're jist keyed up.' 'And you Sneddon; are you keyed up?' 'Well aye sir; I wis kinda expecting tae be hanging in the wire about this time. Watching ma blood water the earth.' 'You mustn't say that Sneddon. It's defeatist, and I'm your officer.' 'I'm sorry sir.' Davie smiled, not looking at all sorry. 'You're a poet sir?. What is it Rabbie says? 'A man's a man for aw' that. Eh?' 'Sneddon; isn't there something you should be doing?.' Davie studied the young officer, whose hands were laid on the sodden sandbags at the trench edge. The hands, like the eyes, were very fine. He thought Campbell a beautiful young man; that beauty marred by the tic at his left eye. His hands were purple at the extremities. 'If I bring yer gloves; will ye wear them sir?' Campbell gave a soft laugh. 'If it means I get the firing step to myself, Private Sneddon.' Once Davie was satisfied that his charge wore the heavy woollen gloves, he headed for the Lieutenant's dugout. 'Is that you awa tae dae yer housework, Davie?' An old joke; but the men laughed just the same. **** 'Tea sir? I've put a belt o' rum in it.. Keep ye gaun till the Wheatsheaf opens.' 'Thank you Sneddon. A bit early for hard liquor. No?' The Lieutenant sniffed at the enamel mug, gazing at his batman through the steam, enjoying the re-awakening feeling in his hands. 'How about you?' 'It's never too early for me, beggin yer pardon sir.' 'No, Sneddon. I meant have you got a mug of this?' He held out the mug. 'Aye sir; now drink it while it's hot.' The Lieutenant smiled. 'How old are you Private Sneddon?' 'Twenty four.' 'The same age as I am; and yet you sound like my mother.' 'Sir?' 'It's OK Sneddon. What I'm trying to say is.... thank you for all you do for me'. The evidence of his Batman's care was all too obvious to Campbell. The dugout was as warm as circumstances allowed. Given the constant rain of the last few months in the shallow valley below the Flanders town of Passchendaele, it was also dry. Water ping, ping, pinged into a myriad of old tin cans; placed by Sneddon. There was always hot water for tea, for shaving. Equipment was dry and clean. Clothing dry; wonderfully, amazingly dry, even on bitter cold November mornings. And there was the bullybeef fat, harvested by this ingenious soldier. Every morning they rubbed the mellifluous substance into their feet. It made effective waterproofing. Robert Campbell laughed to himself. When was the last time he had used a word like mellifluous? It was from another world, another time. That world blown into a thousand muddy puddles that sucked the life out of both armies. 'Something funny sir?' asked Davie, brushing mud from the Lieutenant's greatcoat 'I was thinking of school, Sneddon. Did you enjoy school?' 'Me Sir? School Sir? No Sir.' 'You didn't learn anything?' 'Oh yes Sir. We learned tae mind oor Ps and Qs. We learned tae say the Lord's Prayer. We learned that an Englishman recognises naebody as his equal.' 'I'm sorry Sneddon. Truly.' 'Why sir? Beggin yer pardon, but I got the education that best suited me then. Mebbe not now though.' 'Yes, this awful War will change us all.' 'Aye Sir. But just think how few o' us will come back fae this? Things'll have tae change noo, will they no Sir?' 'What will you do when it's over Sneddon? You've a lot to offer; I've watched you with the men. They look up to you.' 'I dinnae want tae tempt fate sir; but I wid like tae go tae college, technical college ye know?' 'Davie, you could do almost anything with your life. You could teach, or write. Dammit man, you could manage a Linen Mill, not just work on the shop floor.' 'My sights are no set sae high Sir. I'd jist as soon be the potman at the Wheatsheaf.' 'You know I'm ashamed; really ashamed. Before the War I would never have shared a single word with any of the men I've led out here.' 'And yet the boys huv always respected ye Sir. Even as a new Second Lieutenant. It's no easy tae get their respect, Sir.' 'I can't think why they should, Sneddon.' 'Oh C'mon Mr Campbell, Sir. Ye dinnae talk doon tae us. We aw feel like we're valued in the platoon. You gie us that belief.' 'You know Sneddon, I spend more time with you than with anyone else. Two years we've been together. And I don't know the first thing about your life outside this damnable War.' 'There isnae sae much tae tell, Sir.' 'That isn't the point though, is it? Well is it man? Answer me for God's sake.' Davie laid down the greatcoat and stood in silence. Campbell sprang to his feet and crossed the dugout. 'Sneddon, I'm sorry. Forgive me Davie. Please.' He offered his hand. 'Dinnae worry aboot it, Sir.' Davie took the proffered hand. 'Ye huv enough tae dae without listenin' tae me rattle oan about mysel', Sir.' 'Here,' said Campbell, pulling out a box, 'Sit here. Sit with me and pretend we're sitting in your famous Wheatsheaf.' The Lieutenant sat down and patted the ammo box opposite him. 'Call me Robert. Please, Davie.' 'My faither's deid Sir...sorry... Robert. He wiz killed in a pit accident when I wiz seventeen. Ma brither Tam is the eldest; but he's simple. A kind soul though. My ither brither Jimmy; he's jist seventeen. He works at the Linen Mill, along wae ma five sisters,' said Davie. 'And then there's ma Maw.' There was a long pause before Davie gave Campbell a rueful smile. 'I envy you Davie. To have all these brothers and sisters.. I'm an only child. I wanted for nothing; except maybe company.' 'But ye must huv friends, Sir. Or a young lady maybe; a Sweetheart?' 'No... Once maybe, Irene. But when we met on my leave she found me changed. All of this no doubt. I have to admit I spent those seven days impatient to get back here. Well you can see why,' he said with a harsh laugh. 'It's funny Sir, but I felt the same when I wiz hame. I missed the boys. It wisnae real back there. This is whaur it's real.' The Lieutenant nodded. 'Go and fetch Corporal McGuire. You two can come with me to Company HQ for final orders.' 'You'll need these, Sir.' 'Yes Sneddon thank you. I will need my gloves.' **** The dugout was warm and well ordered. The Lieutenant looked out of place, as if he'd brought trench mud into his mother's parlour. Private Govan, the Major's batman, handed him a large, tin mug. 'Tea, Sir? There's a wee tot o' rum in it tae keep oot the cauld.' 'Thank you Govan. Are you having some?' 'Aw No sir, no fer me. The Major says I'm T-Total noo.' He winked and tapped the side of his nose. The canvas curtain was dragged aside and the Major came in pulling off gloves, cap and scarf. 'Tea, Govan; quickly man, quickly,' he shouted clapping his hands. 'Ah Campbell, good, good.' He looked up at the dugout opening as the Battalion adjutant, Captain Millington entered. 'Pull up a chair Barry; young Campbell is up for any orders for the morrow.' **** 'Thanks Rab,' said Davie and Willie in concert as they examined the large hunks of bread in their hands. 'Its jist bully beef boys, but there's some o' the Major's mustard on it,' he whispered before dipping back into the dugout. The Company Commander's batman had enlisted with the two pals. The Corporal had his teeth into the huge sandwich. 'Aye, ye've a face for grub Willie,' said Davie examining the sandwich held out in front of him. He didn't notice the Company Sergeant Major on his way down the trench until too late. The food was knocked from his hands onto the duckboards. At the same instant the CSM's well planted boot trod it into the mud. 'Bastard!' 'What was that Sneddon?' growled the thickset NCO. 'Mustard, CSM. I wiz jist saying it wisnae ony guid without mustard.' 'Don't get fuckin' smart with me Sneddon. I'm not young Mr Campbell,' he whispered, their foreheads touching. Davie remained silent, his eyes fixed somewhere above the CSM's head. 'McGuire, drop the bloody sandwich and take charge of your section.' He struck the sandwich from the Corporal's hand and shoved Davie against the wall of the trench. He then swung around and barreled out of sight. 'God Davie, he really hates you. Passionately, I wid say.' He slapped him on the back **** 'I just don't understand why there's a need for us to be supporting the Canadians' offensive, Sir.' 'Orders, Campbell, Orders. Better minds than our's Lieutenant,' said the Major. 'It's something of an honour, old man. These Colonials will be reassured by the sight of the 42nd on their flank,' said the adjutant, patting Campbell's knee. 'But we've less than a hundred effectives. How are we going to make a difference, Sir?' 'Look Campbell, we're simply providing flanking support.' 'Simple stuff, old bean,' said Millington. 'Once the whole of the Canadian 5th Division has made its objectives; it's job done.' 'What can they be thinking sir? A Battalion of one hundred men, two half strength platoons. One company and two officers. Back in July we were 4,000 men. It makes no sense.' Major Fitzroy-Stewart slapped hands to his thighs. 'It makes sense to Division. That's what's important here Robert.' The Lieutenant shook his head. 'It's pure and simple murder, Sir. I can't look my men in the face. They've done so much for us; they don't deserve this.' 'Captain Millington. The whisky please.' The Captain produced a bottle from a curtained recess. The Major poured a stiff jolt into a tin cup and handed it to the young Lieutenant. 'Drink Robert, and for god's sake don't let Govan find out.'
Archived comments for The Holy Glimmers of Goodbye - Part 1
JackCrowe on 14-10-2013
The Holy Glimmers of Goodbye - Part 1
Very engaging, and all that dialogue was great to read. I look forward to reading the second part.

Ian/Jack

Author's Reply:
Hi Ian,
Thanks for reading and commenting. I wrote the short story for a competition 18 months ago. Submitting it here meant reviewing and editing it, which has resulted in a leaner, more readable story I think. Glad you enjoyed the dialogue. An area I have been working on. Part 2 will post on Friday.
cheers,
Jim

Mikeverdi on 15-10-2013
The Holy Glimmers of Goodbye - Part 1
Another great read on a subject you know so well Jim, I look forwards to part two. Mike

Author's Reply:
Hi Mike,
Thanks for reading and commenting. Too busy to do new stuff at the moment! This has benefited from review though. I'm on a high today, my grand-daughter Alexis was born yesterday.
cheers Pal,
Jim

Kipper on 16-10-2013
The Holy Glimmers of Goodbye - Part 1
For many of your older readers, your story will have evoked some stark memories. I too was much engaged with the dialogue, and also the dialect - once I had the hang of it. Looking forward to part two.
Best regards, Michael


Author's Reply:


Redemption (posted on: 11-10-13)
Based on true events.

The crisp, staccato tap of her heels on the marble floor of the Mayor's office, echoed in the high-ceilinged room. Nadine, the wife of the Mayor of Clermont-Ferrand, was a striking, beautiful woman. She carried herself with flair and poise. 'Nadine, it's been too long,' said the man behind the oversized desk. 'If you had made an appointment I could have allowed us more time.' 'There is no more time, Gabriel. You're sitting in Paul's office; you must know about this?' She thrust the paper out in front of her. Gabriel Montpied the Deputy Mayor, rose and hurried round the desk. 'Don't touch me,' she said in a sibilant whisper. 'You owe him that at least; as do I, God help me.' 'All I know is that our German Masters asked me to take over as Mayor.' Gabriel stood where her warning had halted him, at the corner of the desk. 'Liar!' she cried, 'the Germans never concern themselves in local politics. Everyone knows that.' 'Now you're being naive. God, do you know what it means to refuse them?' 'I know what it costs to be in bed with them.' Gabriel retreated behind his desk. 'Just as I know what it cost to reach your bed, my love.' 'Gabriel, I took you to my bed freely. Though not my bed; his bed, my husband's bed; our marriage bed. You once held my heart in the palm of your hand,' she whispered, her fingers turning to a claw. 'You could have bunched your fingers and had me dead in front of your eyes.' She leaned both hands on the desk. 'Now what? Does the smell of Jew offend you Gabriel?' She leaned in close. 'You can't look me in the eye?' Gabriel kept his eyes on the dossier in front of him. 'Nadine...Nadine. Believe me it is a simple transfer; a political move; nothing more.' 'So you do know about it?' 'Of course I do Nadine. It had to be validated by my office. It's there at the bottom of the order,'' He pointed at the document in her hand. 'Monsieur Pochet-Lagaye and all family members mentioned below are to be ready to travel on August 16th to a Jewish Labour Colony as directed by this deportation order,' she read. 'His wife, his mother, his two daughters, even his sister who is at present a patient in the Mental Asylum at Montferrand?' 'It's simple form Nadine; it's how they speak. And you know they have this prejudice about the Jews. It's ridiculous; but what can we do?' 'Paul is French. He had to be to be elected to this office. His grandfather was Mayor here. He's the third member of the family to hold the office. What can you do?' The shout rang off the walls. 'You can act like the man I once took you for Gabriel. If not because it's the right thing, then for me. Because of the love you once felt for me.' Her voice fell away. 'But I still love you Nadine.' 'Then save my husband, and our family.' 'I can't Nadine. It's too much; they would have me shot. I can get you out, but that's all.' When he looked up she was gone, the staccato tap of her heels beating a dignified retreat. The wife of the ex-mayor was ignored. Employees and associates turned their backs to her. She stared defiance at those she met, but the hurt was in her eyes. The buildings around the Hotel de Ville were dazzling white in the bright, August sunlight. As she came down the first of the outside steps she heard her name called. 'Madame Pochet-Lagaye, please a moment.'. It was Yvette, her husband's secretary; ex-secretary now, she supposed. 'Please take this.' She handed Nadine a plain envelope. 'God be with you, and with Monsieur le Mayor.' She grasped Nadine's hands in hers before re-mounting the steps. Sitting in the back of the car, Nadine opened the envelope. A letter of safe passage and a rail ticket to Annency on the Swiss border. It was in the name of M. Pochet-Lagaye, and signed by Gabriel. Not Monsieur or Madame, simply 'M'. Was her ex-lover giving her a choice, or was it simply a clerical error? When she arrived home, Paul was pacing the floor of the drawing room. 'Ah, Nadine darling. Thank God you're here.' He took her by the shoulders and sat her on the chair. 'I've tried everyone I know. It's impossible. I can't get you and the girls to safety. No-one will help. All our people here in the city have been shipped off East; except those lucky enough to get out beforehand.' 'We won't leave without you. That's out of the question,' she said taking his hand. Paul knelt in front of her. 'You must go to Gabriel. He will surely save you?' After a long pause, Nadine looked at him and whispered. 'You know?' Paul nodded. 'You knew and yet you said nothing. Why Paul? You should have thrown me out; you should have denounced Gabriel. Why?' 'Because I love you.' She wept quietly. 'It was a mistake Paul. I thought I loved him; that he was a better man than you. Such a mistake,' she said through the sobs. 'I don't deserve your love.' 'Nevertheless, it's yours Nadine.' He stood once more, helping her to her feet. 'Now you must go to him for help.' 'Paul, you must take this. You must go tonight. Once you're safe I will go back to Gabriel. He will look after the girls and I.' She handed him the papers. 'It's the only way to get you out. We'll be safe with him. The War will end soon and we can be together again.' Although Paul shook his head, they knew it was the only answer. On the evening of 15th August, Nadine received a telegram. It said, ''Arrived Safe.'' Suitcases and chests were piled in the corner of the drawing room. Dust covers were draped over all the furniture. Dust motes swirled in the beams of early evening sunlight, and she permitted herself a moment of smiling reflection. Soon she had gathered her two daughters and walked them to their bedroom. Nadine's phone call had taken Gabriel by surprise. He found the three of them in the bedroom. Nadine held Paul's photograph. They had made their escape. A week later Gabriel resigned as Mayor. His entire staff followed suit.
Archived comments for Redemption
Mikeverdi on 12-10-2013
Redemption
Powerful writing Jim, I was not expecting that ending; came as a shock. I guess that's how you wanted it. Mike

Author's Reply:

deadpoet on 12-10-2013
Redemption
I agree with Mike.

Author's Reply:


Menu du Jour (posted on: 11-10-13)
The Life of an Itinerant Scot.

I'm a typical canny, penny-pinching Scotsman. I know at all times what the prevailing exchange rate is for the Euro. So ten Euros is 8.20 to me; today at least. Now there is a hand-written sign I pass every time I drive toward Evaux les Bains which says, "Menu du Jour - 10 Euros" Its written on a wooden board, and yet its magnetic. Well it draws my eye for sure. It stands at the end of a dirt road which leads to a restored watermill complex at the opening of a deep gorge on the Tardes river. This road does have another claim to fame. It leads to the viaduct over the gorge which was built by Alexandre Gustave Eiffel. He's the Frenchman who designed and built the Eiffel Tower and also the inner structure of the Statue of Liberty. Now if I needed an incentive to venture this road, the 8 lunch did that. However, it would appear that I had the chance to kill two birds with one stone. The clincher though, was my wife's monthly visit to our French house and our Wedding Anniversary. This unusual alignment of the planets enabled me to suggest a romantic venue that appeared both well planned and thoughtfully considered. About 1pm we neared the Auberge through a leafy tunnel of dirt road and found it amidst a tiny cluster of buildings. The auberge is perched over the river bank. It is picture postcard perfect and it transmits a busy hum of happy conversation. Back in Scotland, we have two options. Pub grub, which is relatively expensive, predictable in choice, but at least its informal; or:- Restaurant fare, which is expensive for a less predictable choice and usually pretentious. The Auberge resembled neither venue and none of the aforementioned particulars. It was pretty full, with a mixed bag clientele. There were two parties of pensioners; two large family groups, a pair of highway workers and four or five couples. Casually removing my Raybans; which I really should have done outside, and which would have prevented me colliding with the ornate coatrack; I asked, in French, for a table for two. The Lady of the House, in rippling, melodic French, asked if we would like the table under the Gonfalon. Noting that there was only one empty table, I nodded in Gallic nonchalance, and headed with purpose toward it. It sat in front of a large, empty fireplace with a metal coat of arms on the chimney. A Gonfalon - I suppose. Madame was not fooled. She knew we were foreign and had been lured by the roadside promise of an 8 lunch menu. Although there were two much more expensive lunch formulae, she suggested the 10 euro menu du jour, we both said yes please, and I heaved a misanthropic sigh of relief. Lunch was superb. It was well-balanced, well cooked, well presented and well within budget! Four courses which ended with a creme caramel that was lighter even than the final bill. We had basketfuls of bread; a carafe of light, caramel-coloured rose; and coffee to finish. These sundries added two euros fifty centimes to the bill. Eighteen pounds for a four course lunch for two, with drinks. Yet pleasant as that was, it could not compare with the pleasure of dining in such a relaxed atmosphere, absent of pretentiousness and overstated social etiquette. The other diners nodded or spoke. We were left to linger over our empty plates. There wasn't a tie or a cocktail dress in sight. It was almost like sitting at the kitchen table! . We left after 3.30pm; happily surprised that time had flown so quickly. We arrived home; too early for sex, and too late to start gardening. We dozed in the late afternoon sunshine; my wife no doubt dreaming of her romantic, thoughtful husband.
Archived comments for Menu du Jour
Mikeverdi on 11-10-2013
Menu du Jour
A young Man like you? It's never to early for sex 🙂 very descriptive as we have come to expect Jim. Great writing. Mike

Author's Reply:

deadpoet on 11-10-2013
Menu du Jour
A pleasure to read such eloquent a tale. Nice descriptions and I got a good picture of the settings.

Happy Anniversary.

Author's Reply:

OldWolf on 27-05-2014
Menu du Jour
Lovely short story. As an ex-expat, that brought back a few memories of my own.

Author's Reply:
Hi OldWolf and welcome to UKA.
I'm not often on site these days as I have heavy commitments elsewhere. You will enjoy it here though. Thanks for dropping by to read my story and for the great comment. Is that French ex-pat?
cheers,
Jim


Et in Arcadia Ego (posted on: 30-09-13)
All the elements of this story purport to be true.

"Please take a seat Father Saunier. Can we get you something? Tea perhaps, some wine?" The travelworn Priest slumped into the chair, shaking his head in refusal. On the other side of the wide mahogany desk, the speaker sat at his ease. Cardinal Jacques Doueze, the Papal Nuncio, leaned his scarlet clad elbows on the desk, interlacing the fingers of both hands in front of his face. "Perhaps Father Remigius might find you a bed for the night? You look exhausted Father. We could meet tomorrow?" "Please your Eminence, it must be now. I have to...it is too heavy Eminence," he said, resting his head in his open palms. "Okay my son, let it be now. But Father Remigius here will tell you I have a very busy schedule. We must be... expeditious, No? He gazed out of the large window, watching Paris take itself seriously in the April sunshine. He returned to contemplation of the young priest when it became obvious that Saunier seemed reluctant to speak. "Father?" He received no response. The priest stared with determination at the floor. "Father Saunier, the Archbishop of Toulouse asked me to see you, at your request, on a matter of pressing importance." "I must speak with you alone, Eminenence," said the priest in a hoarse whisper. "For the safety of my immortal soul. Your's also, I fear." "Father Remigius please," said the Cardinal, with a flick of his wrist. The secretary glanced at the taciturn priest then left. "Now Father, what is this grave matter you wish to tell me, eh?" "How would we fare without the knowledge that the Lord rose from the Dead, Your Eminence? What are we without the Resurrection? The Cardinal could hear the edge of hysteria in the question. "Your crisis of conscience is hardly important enough to take up my time Father. You should speak to your own superior if you have lost your faith my son," said the Prelate in a softer tone. "With the greatest respect Eminence it's not my faith, but our faith. My question is really for the Holy Father himself." Realising this last had been shouted, the priest put forward his hands in supplication. Slowly he drew both palms together in the attitude of prayer. "Believe me Eminence, I don't want to know what I know. I want to return to the simple faith of my childhood. Until recently I used to be able to do this with ease. Such simple steps are forbidden me now," he said ending in a whisper. The Cardinal leaned forward over the broad desk. "Father Saunier, you are an ordained priest of Christ. Of course you are forbidden to return to a childhood faith; we all are." Jacques Doueze shook his head in exasperation. "We aren't here to serve mankind Saunier, we are here to serve Holy Mother Church." He banged his fist on the desk. "Now tell me what you bring to my attention, and not the whining of a child. Do not anger me further." In that instant the priest seemed to shed a heavy burden. He stooped to the black bag at his feet and brought out a tube of hammered metal. The tube looked blue in the light, as the priest removed a cap from one end and lifted out a rolled parchment. He walked across the intervening space to place the scroll on the desk. "And what exactly is this Father?" said the Cardinal gesturing with his beringed right hand. "We are rebuilding the Eastern wall of my church at Rennes-le-Chateau, Eminence. We found this and others in a lidded recess within the old foundations." "Others? What others? You mean there are more tubes, more scrolls?" He peered from beneath furrowed brows. "Yes, Eminenence. A further six tubes, all from the same recess." "You have them here?" "No. I felt it prudent to leave them somewhere safe, Eminence." "Safe? From whom? From me?" The anger was plain.. "Do not play games with me Father. Where are they?" "Please Eminence." Saunier pinned the scroll with one hand, rolling it open with the other, "Please read the scroll." Saunier walked to the tall window looking out over the Rue Rivoli. Silence crept tiptoe into the large high-ceilinged room and the priest became aware of the Cardinal's measured breathing. The crackle of the scroll re-rolling caught Saunier's attention. The Cardinal looked pale. He took a cigarette from an ornate box on the desk. "Cigarette Father?" he said in a voice turned old and chilled, at the same time ringing a small bell. When Father Remigius entered the room both churchmen were obscured in a veil of blue smoke. "Father Remigius will find you a bed on the premises and I will speak with you later. Would you be so kind as to bring me a magnifying glass Father, and a comprehensive Latin dictionary? And I wish to remain undisturbed until further notice." The Cardinal sat on long after the two priests had left. He slumped in the chair, his elbow on the desk supporting his head. With a physical effort he roused himself and reached for the telephone. "Can you put me through to Cardinal Montefalcone please? It's Cardinal Doueze, the Papal Nuncio." The Cardinal lit another cigarette, aware as he did so that it was the third such in less than twenty minutes. "Lorenzo, it's Jacques here. It has finally happened, as we have long discussed. Et in Arcadia Ego." One week later to the day, Father Saunier was again travelling by train. The late morning train from Paris to Toulouse. In his overnight bag was a small box of fine Belgian chocolates for Marie Denaudan, his young housekeeper. Also in there was a promisory note to draw on the bank for a budget of Five Hundred Thousand Francs to rejuvenate his ailing Parish. In the same misssive was a guarantee of a further Five Million Francs to be drawn against the Vatican Bank. The priest fondled the crucifix hanging from his neck. A well dressed, elderly woman sat opposite, watching him with some interest. Saunier pulled the crucifix from his neck. He studied the brutalised Christ lying in the palm of his hand, before tossing it through the open window. "You have lost your faith, Little Father?" said the old lady her voice full of concern, of compassion. "No Madame," he said, a beautific smile on his face, "I have simply lost my chains."
Archived comments for Et in Arcadia Ego
Rab on 30-09-2013
Et in Arcadia Ego
Intriguing story, and I love some of the flourishes you bring - 'watching Paris take itself seriously in the April sunshine'; a lovely turn of phrase that paints a real picture.

Author's Reply:
Hi Ross,
Thanks for dropping by and for the positive comment. Not many visitors for some reason, unless it's the big word count.
cheers,
Jim

bo_duke99 on 01-10-2013
Et in Arcadia Ego
drew me in with the mannered opening, good finish

Author's Reply:

Mikeverdi on 05-10-2013
Et in Arcadia Ego
I'm with Rab, terrific line Jim. It all works for me. Mike

Author's Reply:


The Garden of the Gods (posted on: 27-09-13)
One I wrote last year.

Bagoas laid aromatic leaves on the altar fire in the portico of the sacred gardens. He paused, breathing deep of the comingled scents of lavender and hysop. Soon the smoke intruded and he began his evening prayer to Ahura Mazda. The young priest could hear the intonations of the priests in the Temple of Zarathustra, below his balcony. The combined prayers rising toward the setting sun, never failed to thrill him. He watched entranced, as the Medean city of Ecbathana turned to purple shadow in the sunset. In the gathering gloom, he returned to picking the bright blue flowers of Borage, which he intended to mix with yellow Camomile blossom and bruised Sage leaves. An infusion of this fine powder soothed the nerves. From below on the Temple ramp, Bagoas could hear a growing commotion. Greek voices; angry, fraught. It was apparent that the loud group of Macedonians was making for the Physic Gardens. The priest laid aside his bowl, wiped his hands against his tunic, and walked back to the portico. "Hurry boy, fetch a priest. King Alexander is on his way." The speaker framed in the archway, was a singular specimen. Thick black hair and beard, like a mongrel dog. This black pelt also covered arms, legs and feet. The contrast against the short, white tunic was startling, made even more so by the black patch which covered one eye. "I am a priest, sire," he said."I shall receive his Majesty, I am an Initiate." "And can you perform the service he will ask of you Boy?" Cleitus looked back over his shoulder. "Can you bring the Chiliarch, Hephaestion back to life? Can you?" "I am a priest of Zoroaster, Sire. I can raise prayers of intercession to the Omniscient One." "Listen boy, I mean this kindly. Alexander will ask you to restore breath to his beloved," said the Greek in a whisper, as the dead prince of Macedon was carried into the gardens. Hephaestion lay on a low divan, draped in blue silk. Six Macedonians lowered the makeshift bier from their shoulders. All high-born, dressed in the Persian court style, Iskander's Companions. Bagoas recognised the tall figure of Ptolemy, one of the victors of Gaugamela; and the King's slim, swarthy, Greek secretary Eumenes. And then the Great King Alexander, entered. He's just a boy, thought Bagoas, a beautiful boy given leave to work his will on his elders. Alexander hurried to the divan and sank to his knees. Placing his hands on the edge he lowered his head upon the breast of his dead love. Damp, corn-yellow curls hid the famous blue eyes. His face was puffy, cheeks wet and alabaster white in the early dusk. He looks older like this, thought the priest, seeing for the first time the large puckered scar on the King's right thigh, below the hem of the short tunic. ''Speak Hephaestion. The King, your friend has need of you.'' He ran his fingers along his dead love's jawline. ''Speak to me, I command it,'' he shouted. Ptolemy stepped forward and touched the king's shoulder. ''Come Alexander, you must allow his wife to prepare him for the journey.'' ''No,'' said the King, rising to his feet. Bagoas could see the naked grief in the young living god's eyes. He was reminded of the ancient wisdom; 'Those whom the Gods would destroy, they first make mad'. He could see this in Alexander's eyes. He wanted to still the King's sobs which ripped at everyone in the garden.`Alexander gripped the neck of his tunic and tore it to the navel. Bagoas gasped as he saw the many wounds that marked the body of the King of the Worlds. ''Sire; Majesty. You do us great honour by your attendance here today.'' The speaker, wearing the triple tiara of High Priest, walked to within touching distance of the Great King, then bowed in deep obeisance. Bagoas had great respect for his superior, but was not convinced that Mithridates would understand the special complexities of the King's grief. ''Sire, it is not fitting that a King should weep so. The King of All the Worlds is above the petty weaknesses of men.'' Rising to his feet, Bagoas could see that Mithridates' face held a look of disdain. ''Come Majesty, recollect who you are.'' Alexander dropped to his knees, clutching at the High Priest's clasped hands. ''Father, you must use all your power. My love is cast in darkness,'' he said, in the soft voice of a child. ''Of whom do you speak, Sire?'' said the Priest. ''Of the friend of my childhood, my strong right arm. See here,'' he said, indicating the body with a sweep of an arm. ''My Hephaestion. Patrocles to my Achilles; dead in my stead.'' ''And you would have us pray for his departing spirit, Sire?'' ''I would have him restored to me Father. You must ask a price of the Sun. You must tell Ahura Mazda that I would spend my Kingdom in this bargain. You must use your power.''? ''Sire, this is foolish. Your friend is dead, his race run. Only a child would believe he can bargain with the Gods.'' ''But I am a God,'' Alexander said. ''Made divine by you Medes. I am the all-conquering God of Babylon. Yet I can't restore the life of Hephaestion? What good is divinity of that sort? Tell me Father.'' ''This is hubris Sire. Darius, the Great King on whose throne you now sit, would not act so. Your friend was simply a man, a mortal. Don't waste your power on so paltry a task.'' With a cry of absolute despair, Alexander spun round on Cleitus. He reached for the short-bladed sword at his companion's belt and, in one swift, sight-blurring movement, brought it down in a vicious slash across the priest's upper chest. The blade sliced through the heavy vestments and parted flesh and sinew in a diagonal tear from throat to hip. Blood sprayed in a high arc across Alexander's face and body. Mithridates toppled to the side. As he flopped onto his back, blood gurgled far back in his throat. The sword still hung limp in Alexander's grasp. Cleitus quickly disarmed his monarch and with a single, efficient, battleground thrust to the throat he cut the man's life-force. The shocked immobility now broken, Alexander's friends surrounded him, hiding the Great King from Bagoas' gaze. The priest knelt and closed Mithridates' eyes, the features frozen in a grimace of shock and horror that Bagoas felt sure was etched on his own face. Before getting back to his feet, he took the prayer-shawl from around his shoulders and covered the face of his superior. Taking a deep breath, the priest parted the circle of the King's friends. He found Alexander seated on the edge of Hephaestion's divan. Head bowed, he stared at his empty, bloodstained hands. ''Sire, I have an infusion you should drink. It will ease your grief.'' Alexander looked up with sightless eyes, the drying blood of the High Priest painted across his waxen face. He nodded, then returned to contemplation of his hands. Working quickly, Bagoas retrieved his bowl. Using a heavy pestle he ground the contents to a powder, before adding hot water drawn from the altar-fire. The scent was heavy and sweet, and Alexander raised his head at the priest's approach. Bagoas knelt in front of the King. ''Drink this Sire, then we can talk together.'' ''But I have slain your master. Here in the Garden of the Gods I have murdered their High Priest.'' ''First drink Sire. There will be time to talk all too soon.'' ''What's in this, Priest? said Cleitus, indicating the cup, ''speak truth if you value your life.'' ''Herbs and blossom, sir. It will help the King. You must trust me.'' Alexander drained the cup. As he looked directly at the priest, Bagoas could see a little colour in the King's cheeks. There was life behind the eyes too. ''I killed him you know? There is always a blood price for dishonouring the Gods.'' ''My master presumed too much on your patience and forbearance, Sire. He mis-spoke your love in his own pride and vanity. And you were not in your right mind. I absolve you in the name of my dread lord Zoroaster.'' ''No, you don't understand. I killed my beloved friend. His body lies there, bereft of life, by my actions. Hephaestion is my blood price, paid in full.'' ''But Sire, your friend died of a fever contracted in the marshlands of the Euphrates. You are blameless.'' ''Hephaestion lies here because I ordered the murder of my father's friend; my ablest general. I sent Cleitus here, and his band of cut-throats to kill Parmenion because of his son's treason. Parmenion was slain here in Ecbathana, only a year ago. This is the price of my sin.'' ''No sire. What you talk of is expediency. Kings are not like other mortals. They have to safeguard their throne. You cannot be judged as other men. The Gods do not call you to account for taking lives in protection of your throne.'' ''The priest is right Alexander. We all loved Parmenion, he was our brother-in-arms too. But he had to die. It was in his stars,'' said Ptolemy. Bagoas took a wet cloth and wiped Mithridates' blood from the King's face. ''Leave your friend with me, Sire. I will help Princess Drypetis prepare her husband for the afterlife. We will stand together alongside Hephaestion when you light his funeral pyre. Yes?'' The King nodded. As he rose from the divan, his fingers again lingered on his friend's cheek. Bending quickly, Alexander kissed Hephaestion on the mouth ''Goodbye my heart,'' he whispered before walking out beyond the temple arch. Cleitus approached the priest. ''What is your name, priest?'' he said in his loud soldier's voice. ''Bagoas, Sir.'' ''I shall remember that name Bagoas,'' he said, clutching the priest's shoulder. Then he too was gone. The darkness over Ecbathana was now complete. Bagoas stood in the flickering torchlight gazing down at the famous Macedonian. ''You have done well Father,'' said a voice from the shadows. A woman's voice, gruff with age. Bagoas turned at the sound. ''Queen Sisygambis. Majesty.'' He bowed, placing his clasped hands out in front ''We must work quickly to remove any signs of the poison,'' she said, opening Hephaestion's mouth to examine the tongue. ''Since marrying the daughter of my dead son, this Greek Princeling claims me as his Mother. We will clasp him to our breast. His star still rises. We will have of him a Prince of Royal Persian blood. More certain now with the removal of this his handsome lover.'' The old woman gave a short, ugly laugh. ''And your other grand-daughter, Princess Drypetis. How does she fare in her grief? Bagoas struggled to keep the distaste from his voice. ''She knows it is the price she must pay for the survival of her family. Perhaps some Digitalis rubbed on his tongue,'' she said, peering down the dead man's gullet with her thumb jambed against his upper palate. The young priest nodded. Sisygambis prodded Mithridates' body with her foot. ''He will need replacing Bagoas, and your name is already on the Great King's tongue.'' With that still hanging in the air, the Queen departed, leaving the priest alone for the first time that evening. In the hissing silence, Bagoas thought he could hear bitter laughter.
Archived comments for The Garden of the Gods

No comments archives found!
Day-Tripping The Trenches (posted on: 27-09-13)
It happened on a research trip last year.

His hard, dry, muddy surface broke to crack a savage smile as he leaned upon his rifle like a watchman at the gates. Then he pointed down a greensward line of duckboard pave'd trench. Cocked an ear to hear the laughter of his mates. As I moved along the covert path, the verdant verdure died; and whistling finch gave way to screaming shell. So 'Keep the Home Fires Burning' turned to 'Burn Baby Burn'. Leaving Heaven's Door become The Gates of Hell. Then I huddled in a muddle, with a puddle at my feet. Felt the ancient god of battle kiss my brow. Fought a sudden urge to purge myself, just kept my insides in, crying 'mum please hold me in your safe arms now.' This was meant to be a field trip. Added colour to my book. Not an exercise in Nemesis for boys. Yet malevolence and violence kill the obsequies of silence. Throwing earth in awful shovelfuls of noise. Surging round a sandbagged corner, I ran into men I knew. My creations, out of figment, birthed for death. So well-written, now hard-bitten faced the beast and stood the test. Looking old my slaughtered children, faint corruption on their breath. The enigma was the stigma. Each man carried one the same. Neath their battledress there hung a loop of bowel. Tripes that fall from youthful stomachs sliding over bayonet blades. Kneeling deep in blood and water I lift up my head and howl. Running mad from my creations My young host, his pose a picture, used to sell a news That's so far from the truth, stood there waiting smile intact. Same stigmata, bowel splatter, mud-stained, blood-drained, tattered martyr; emblem of our murdered youth.
Archived comments for Day-Tripping The Trenches
cooky on 29-09-2013
Day-Tripping The Trenches
The horrors of battle always leave their mark on a piece of land. The air seems heavier and you never feel alone in such places. Excellent write.

Author's Reply:
Hi Cooky,
Thanks for dropping by and for the generous vote. We share a belief in the unquiet silence of such places, I think.
cheers,
Jim


The Tears of Alexander (posted on: 23-09-13)
I wrote this following one of my rare trips to the UK. I had a great time at the UKA Live event in London but was horrified with what I found. I hasten to add that I am in no way racist nor Nationalist as a political persuasion. Those who know me will already vouch for that.

New Cossacks keep the borders around the nation's pride. Kerensky runs the girls; he helps to fleece the tourists; and controls the cockney whites. Less cultured Slavs, once spearmen of Macedon, replay Sikander's Funeral Games. Inflamed by fortified wine and fragile self-respect, they practise pogroms on Old London's streets; against new semitics unaware they may have crossed The Pale. Tis said that Alexander wept when there were no more worlds to conquer. He might have spared his tears and marched upon 'The Smoke'.
Archived comments for The Tears of Alexander
Andrea on 23-09-2013
The Tears of Alexander
Wood Green is a notorious dump.

Glad you enjoyed the do and wish you would say so on the forums, where there are several rants about London transport (for which UKA not responsible :)).

Your observations are pretty damning and I, for one, can't blame you. Me, the Cockney, is a dying breed, alas.

Author's Reply:

amman on 25-09-2013
The Tears of Alexander
A bleak indictment, Jim. Saw your reading (on u tube) at the UK live do. Enjoyed. Very articulate.
Cheers.
Tony.

Author's Reply:

Pronto on 25-09-2013
The Tears of Alexander
Welcome to the New Jerusalem of social engineering!
Good write and keen observation.

Author's Reply:

Hekkus on 25-09-2013
The Tears of Alexander
An intriguing poem. Political, but with some things hinted, not stated. Very thought-provoking. There's a fine line between tolerance and being taken for a sucker...maybe in this country we tend too much to the latter. This was quite an erudite piece, with its reference to the Persian name for Alexander, and the history between Jews/Cossacks in Eastern Europe.

Author's Reply:


Chapter 5 (posted on: 20-09-13)
Posted before my departure for London and the UKA Live event.

The priest's house lay opposite the church. It stood detached from the rest of the square, resting on three floors. As Jean-Luc and his deputy emerged from the Operations Room, the square which had been busy with the curious and the suspicious, now emptied. Shadows slithered round corners; housewives bustled over cobbles; knots of onlookers swiftly untied. A black cat loped along the enclosing wall of the Manse. Death and tragedy exercised hypnotic powers here in the countryside. 'Aren't we supposed to have the Archbishop's approval beforehand?' asked Benjamin. '-We're much more likely to get their cooperation at the end of the day.' The Captain replied as he walked, not breaking stride. 'I'm not compromising this investigation by dancing to their tune, Lieutenant. What would the Church have to hide? Why should they be protected from the nasty policemen? And while you're formulating a response Benjamin, ask yourself if it's safe to assume this isn't a serial killer embarking on a mission. There is a need for speedy answers here.' Jean-Luc glanced over his shoulder at the dark mass of the church. The Housekeeper ushered the Gendarmes into a sitting room, and asked them to wait. Benjamin sat whilst the Captain paced the small space. He's really pissed, thought the Lieutenant. This doesn't bode well for the interview. He could hear General Revillon summing up the reasons for his short notice appointment. Jean-Luc had started to show signs of the weaknesses the General had warned of. They were here to interview a churchman without the prior approval of the Archbishop. 'Sorry to keep you waiting gentlemen,' said Father Egidius, gliding into the room, walking around the desk and taking a seat. In that single instant he had taken charge of the meeting. The two policemen were in front of his desk; he was in the chair. In the next moment, Benjamin was forced to reverse his earlier opinion of his Boss. Jean-Luc walked off to the side of the desk, and stood looking out of the window. The priest was forced to turn away from the desk to engage with him. 'I am Captain Vincent, this is my Deputy Lieutenant Lagasse. We are the Regional Gendarme Murder Research Unit responsible for the investigation of the death of Etienne Maillot. We have some questions for you Father'" Jean-Luc turned back towards the room. The priest sat like an old maiden aunt, his hands, one on the other, resting in his lap. The pose was at odds with the man's Spartan appearance. 'I am entirely at your disposal Captain Vincent, though I do have one question; a question of protocol I suppose. May I?' 'Of course Father.' 'You have the General's permission; or indeed Archbishop Doueze's approval to interview me, I assume?' The phrase, like the pose, jarred on Benjamin, who was monitoring his superior very closely. Jean-Luc remained calm, equitable and thoughtful. 'I repeat father, that I am a Captain of Gendarmes. The powers granted me by the Constitution include arrest, custody and investigation. I don't need prior approval Father Egidius.' 'Very well Captain; you may ask your questions; but be assured I will be consulting with my Archbishop.' 'You are the Priest of Marsat, and the custodian of St Valery, over there?' 'Yes Captain, for twenty years now.' 'And your connection to the Maillot boy, Father. Through your position as priest?' Benjamin was taking notes; leaving Jean-Luc free to study the hardbitten cleric. 'Yvette Maillot is a local girl. She was a good girl until she met that wastrel of a husband. When they came to live in town, she and the children returned to the church. Etienne attends the Lycee, he attends catechism classes, he is a member of the church youth club.' Father Egidius reached across the desk and withdrew an untipped cigarette from a gilt box. He raised it in an open handed manner, showing it to Jean-Luc. 'Does anyone mind if I smoke?' Benjamin shrugged. 'It's your house Father,' said Jean-Luc, glad of the suggestion. He took out a battered tin and began to roll a cigarette. 'Please, Captain Vincent, have one of these.' 'Thank you but no. I'll keep to these,' he said, showing his cigarette in the same manner, before bending to the flame of his lighter. 'Can you take us through the events of this morning? In your own time.' Benjamin was amazed to find both men relaxing behind their thin, blue veil of smoke. 'I rose at ahem..six-thirty as usual. I check-in on Madame Farsat at the church on a Saturday morning. Just before eight, I was standing here in my kitchen having coffee, when I heard screams from the church. I went across straight away. When I entered the church the screaming had stopped. Madame Farsat was on her knees down by the Sanctuary steps and Etienne sitting in the faraway stall, on the right.' The Priest paused, sitting still for some moments, before crossing himself and raising his head. 'I went to Etienne but I could see he was long dead, God Rest His Soul!' 'Was anyone else present Father?' 'Oh, right at the end Ma'mselle Gramont entered the church. She took poor Madame Farsat to my house whilst I rang the authorities.' 'Did you disturb the body at all; or move anything, or indeed remove anything?' 'I closed the boy's eyes. I said a prayer for his already departed soul; my simple pastoral duty,' said the Priest in defiance. 'Indeed,' the Captain said, dry-voiced. He nodded to Benjamin, who picked up on the signal. 'Can you think of anyone who might have wished Etienne harm Father? Someone with a grudge; against him or the family perhaps.' 'He was a fourteen year old boy, Lieutenant. Who could wish him this much harm?' 'Alright, the Church. Could anyone want to discredit or soil the church in this manner?' Father Egidius stood up, bracing his arms on the desk in front of him. 'I have already said more than my brief from the Archbishop allows. I will not discuss my church further Lieutenant Lagasse.' 'Sit down Father Exodus,' barked the Captain. 'If you attempt to obstruct me; I will take you into custody and interview you at Limoges. Now sit down... Please,' he added as an afterthought, and in a much calmer voice. As the cleric subsided into his chair, Benjamin felt the tension untighten. 'Now Father, can you explain to us where you stand in the church organisation? Let's say... who is responsible to you, and to whom are you responsible in turn?' 'The curate, Father Gramont is responsible to me. I am responsible to His grace, Bishop Magloire at Limoges. He in turn is responsible to his eminence the Archbishop of Poitiers.' 'I see. So why, if His Grace is your superior, did it take you an hour to inform him? And the Local Gendarmes father; to inform them of a murder?' The Captain fixed the priest with an unblinking stare. 'My first duty is to the Church universally and particularly in the case of St Valery. I can best do that under the protection of the Archbishop. He was informed before I even left the Church.' The Captain screwed the smouldering end of his cigarette into the ashtray on the priest's desk. His calm, dead voice was more threatening than any shouting could have been. 'If you obstruct this investigation in even the most innocuous way Father, I will have you arrested and charged. You had better understand that. Thank you for your time,' he said as he swung the door open; holding it there for his Lieutenant to go first. Outside in the square, the car was sitting idling; waiting to take them to the Local Gendarmes Barracks down by the river. Rooms had been prepared for the team. As the Captain stooped to enter the vehicle, a young, handsome priest came through the Manse gate. 'Captain Vincent, please a moment.' The Captain straightened as the priest came level with the car. 'I am Father Louis Gramont, Curate to Father Egidius,' he announced in a very light, piping voice. 'We need to know if we can hold the Sunday service in the Church?' 'There is no real reason why not, Father; except that the Scene of crime tape and the area inside it will be in full view of the congregation. That would be entirely up to you and Father Egidius.' 'Thank you Captain, and sorry to trouble you.' The young cleric swung away, but not before shooting a smile at Benjamin seated in the vehicle.
Archived comments for Chapter 5

No comments archives found!
New Tricks (posted on: 20-09-13)
I want to try again with this one.

The keen edge of passion blunts in the passing of the years. Green youths, all burnished steel and shimmer, perceive our waning glimmer and clash amongst the ashes of our fire. Such verdant folly, such ardent hope, we once held up as truth; till ruthless years threw spears of indecision; and slew the flawless vision of the land we planned to build. But we are only dull, not dead. And gilded infants must sift my cold, lifeless embers at their peril. This seasoned hound is sharp to shave by still.
Archived comments for New Tricks
deadpoet on 20-09-2013
New Tricks
I think I understand this. I find young people inspiring but I haven't given up the fight yet even though I am almost in my 60's.

Author's Reply:

Bozzz on 20-09-2013
New Tricks
Men keep on trying. Seasoned hounds do well, but slippered pantaloons like me can only watch and admire your conquests - and maybe your verse.. Pour encourager les autres? ....Fun without fury lives... great stuff Jim....David



Author's Reply:

Andrea on 20-09-2013
New Tricks
Getting old sucks. Big time.

Forgot to say, imo a very astute, perceptive and powerful write. Well worthy of the nib.

Author's Reply:

Savvi on 21-09-2013
New Tricks
The doctor said it aint right, for a man my age to fight. He don't get it, he aint in it, I'm pushed to the limit. Kiss my ass I'm still alive.

Jim this is an excellent poem, deft use of alliteration that carries the theme full of imagery and serves as a warning to the youth, we are old and we know were to bite. Love it. S



Author's Reply:

roger303 on 21-09-2013
New Tricks
It brings to mind the old tale of the ageing bull who stands with a young bullock as they gaze at a field of cows in the valley, below.

"Let's run down there and **** a cow!" The eager young blade suggests.

"Let's walk down and **** 'em all" the old boy suggests.



With age comes wisdom - there have to be some benefits!

Loved it.

Regards,

Roger

Author's Reply:

Mikeverdi on 22-09-2013
New Tricks
That will do for me Jim. Mike


Author's Reply:

Hekkus on 22-09-2013
New Tricks
I think the theme is a good one. My criticism would be that in parts it is a bit overwritten. I think your writing is very descriptive, but you could pare down some of it and that would actually the piece stronger. But it's a personal opinion - it's your poem, and it's very readable as it is.

Author's Reply:

pommer on 22-09-2013
New Tricks
OK for me, Like it. Pommer.

Author's Reply:


Chapter 4 (posted on: 16-09-13)
For anyone still managing to stay with the plot!

God this is deep in the sticks, thought Jean-Luc as they left the National Road and headed toward Marsat. It had been a culture shock moving from Marseilles to Limoges. Despite himself, the Captain was taken with La France Profonde. He felt the sense of scale, of space. No-one lived on top of you, or under you, or cheek by jowl with you. Seen from the ridge above, Marsat was a jewel of a place; nestled into the small river valley, made almost an island by the two converging rivers. And then they spotted the Church, prominent against a background of mis-shaped, mediaeval roofs. 'I'll do the talking,' said Jean-Luc. 'If you have doubts or misgivings, you keep them for when we're alone. Have you got that?' Benjamin nodded, not trusting himself to speak. They crossed the river on an old picturesque bridge. The streets were deserted, and yet they were observed. Benjamin spotted the population behind glass, beneath eaves and inside thresholds. He turned toward his new Boss. 'Yes Lieutenant, I see them.' They made a sharp turn into the market square; the largest open space in the town, now filled with Gendarme vehicles plus their own substantial convoy. They were soon surrounded by the local Gendarmes. 'Good afternoon sir'' A short,stocky Sergeant snapped off a smart salute. 'Sergeant Maigret, from the local barracks.' 'Afternoon Sergeant. The church and the body first, if you please. We can talk with the first officer on scene as we walk?' Maigret rattled off a series of orders then gestured for the Captain and the team to follow. 'I was first on the scene Captain. So far all we've done is sealed the scene and kept it secure. Just here to your right, at the end of the street.' The road on the right of the square lead to the church. They walked back five hundred years in a few metres. The square was irregular cobbles. It was long and narrow with the large blank wall of the church on one side, and a row of medieaval houses opposite. The church door sat underneath the arches of a bell-tower. Two Gendarmes were stationed in the open porch. The small party stood in the porch, stamping feet and clapping gloved hands against the iron hard cold. The crime scene vehicle arrived, starting a chain reaction which culminated in their assembly in the foyer. Everyone donned paper overalls and plastic shoe covers. From her makeshift office in the old bakery, Gaelle Gramont watched the arrival of the Research Team. The tall, well dressed man couldn't be in charge, not old enough. He appeared to stand outside of the group. No, the smaller, older, shabbier man was in charge. His eyes registered everything within the extent of his view. He acknowledged all they said to him; everything registered, recorded, retained. The image of the stricken Maillot boy remained with her. Both scene and setting pricked at her sensibilities. Not least, a long standing sense of something wrong, something rotten, at the heart of the small community. Gaelle shook herself from the reverie. When she looked again at the church, the team had gone. The silence inside the old church was complete; but with the team's entry it proved brittle and fragile. Footfall boomed and caroomed off the walls. Murmured conversation lent a jarring undertone; the moving of equipment brought loud, industrial noise. Though aware of the sanctified nature of the old church; restraint couldn't lessen the encroachment. 'Benjamin, check out the victim; I'm going to take a look at the church. Sergeant Maigret, I want security maintained here. I'll also need to speak with the cleaner.......Madame......Farsat? And anyone else who approached the scene.' Lagasse walked toward the sanctuary, confused by Jean-Luc's use of his first name. Was it a genuine attempt to forge some sort of bond, or simply introducing the front they should present to the outside world? Conjecture was cut short by the thud of a heavy door. It stilled the murmur, as everyone turned toward the sound. 'Captain, Captain, what is going on here? Explain yourself, please,' shouted the priest who strode up the aisle. 'This is a House of God and I'm its custodian; responsible for everything in here,' the priest gave a grandiose sweep of his arm. 'And are you responsible for that?' said the policeman, jabbing his right arm at the waxen body huddled in the choir stalls. 'It would save us a great deal of work Father, if that were indeed the case.' Father Egidius' fury turned to ice. 'How dare you. The boy is one of my flock; as this is my Church.' 'This is a crime scene, a murder scene; and I'm the Officer in charge of its investigation. Now,' said Jean-Luc, 'if you'll excuse me Father, I'll get on with my investigation. The Captain left the priest standing in isolation, impotent and furious. 'Please remain available. We will wish to interview you when we're finished here.' The priest spun in the Captain's direction. 'The Archbishop shall hear about this; be sure of that.' He walked to the foyer and out. The sound of the abused door thundered again through the church. So that's the link to the Archbishop, thought Jean-Luc meandering through the outer chancels of the large building. It was beautiful. The Captain had to remind himself why he was here, his conscience pricked by the realisation that in his peripheral vision, his team were marking and recording a murder scene. He passed through a magnificent wooden, carved screen into the Sanctuary. The Pathologist was a civilian; on the staff of the Magistrate, permanently attached to the Research Team. He looked like a pixie, a court jester. He was small, rosy-cheeked, and wore a perpetual smile; though not at that moment. 'A teenage boy Jean, already identified as Etienne Maillot; cause of death overwhelming blood loss from a deep wound to the carotid thorax. I can approximate death at eight to ten hours, maybe less, but I'll need to work it all up.' Jean-Luc knew the matter-of-fact briefing was the pathologist's way of coming to terms with the horror of the young boy's death. 'Thanks Alain. So that would put death roughly between four and eight am? We know he was dead on discovery around eight. Anything else, so far?' 'I can tell you it was a very sharp knife; broad-blade. The right tool for the job; severed the spine. A thinner blade would have decapitated him in the act of cutting the spinal column.' The pathologist, a grandfather, took some time to consider what he'd just said. 'That's a horrific image Jean,' whispered the older man, before leaving the church, shoulders bent. Jean-Luc stepped up to the stall. There was the familiar metallic smell. His tongue felt thick and fuzzy, leaving a greasy film on the roof of his mouth. The boy's skin was drawn tight across small bones. It looked like cold wax, tinged blue over the prominences. The blood had dried and congealed around the great wound in the boy's throat. The Captain could see the yellow white cartiledge at the centre. The T-shirt was black cardboard. The stall-seat a black, gelatinous mass. Under the bare feet, the wooden floor was stained the same tarry black. 'There's nothing at the back of this stall, Sir.' Benjamin studied the carved wooden wall, a simple continuation of the rear stalls. 'You couldn't cut a throat with any kind of accuracy from here, in front of the boy.' Benjamin mimed the horrific act. 'You'd have to be standing... behind... Like they teach you in the military.' The Captain nodded, following the track of his deputy's thoughts. 'The body was placed here after the throat was cut,' said Jean. 'Yes sir.' Benjamin looked jubilant. 'So there must be blood. Somewhere in here, and on the killer.' Lagasse was on a roll. 'You three, in here. Tread carefully, but check everywhere.' He summoned the remaining two Gendarmes. 'I need you to check all the ways into this area. We're looking for blood.' With that he peered into the middle distance. 'Benjamin,' said Vincent, 'I need you to get hold of that Priest. Arrange to go with him and inform the family.' Benjamin nodded and started toward the door. 'And Lieutenant. That was well spotted.' Jean-Luc smiled. 'Now the bad part of the Deputy's job.' Twenty minutes later Benjamin was back. On the way he passed the enclosed trolley taking Etienne Maillot out. The monks' stalls were empty and forlorn, the SOC tape serving to isolate the area from the rest of the church. Valadou lead him to a spot in the front row of stalls where chemical residue highlighted a tiny splash of what they deduced to be arterial blood. Jean-Luca, seated in the Abbot's chair at the nearer end of the stalls, was deep in thought. 'The Maillots were with the priest Sir. They already knew." ' Jean-Luc took time to break out of his deep contemplation. 'The Ops Room van is here sir, they've located in the square just outside.' Benjamin referred to the Research Unit's incident room on wheels, now engaged in establishing contact and linking to Headquarters. Jean-Luc stared; as if seeing the Lieutenant for the first time. 'Right, let's get in there,' he said. "So how did the Maillots seem to you? Do we gain anything from interviewing them at this stage?' 'The father maybe merits closer inspection. We'd want to know why young Etienne was out of the house so late, Sir. Wouldn't we?' Vincent remained non-committal. 'Such a small blood spray Lieutenant. What would you say that tells us? About the murderer?' He gave his Deputy time to dwell on it. 'The right tool for the job; the absence of blood spray?' Lagasse cogitated. 'A professional killing?' suggested the Captain. 'Of course. If it were an impulse; in the heat of the moment...' The Lieutenant paused, 'There would be more of a mess...more confusion...a botched job.' Benjamin slowed, as Jean-Luc nodded in approval. 'But where does that leave us?' 'It leaves us with a murdered fourteen year old in a beautiful country church, all being monitored by the Boss and his well-to-do friends, Lieutenant Lagasse.' As his boss mounted the three steps and entered the Ops Room, Benjamin could see the frustration at the limitations placed on him. Sergeant Maigret stopped Benjamin on the steps and handed him a briefing pad. 'All the witnesses are assembled here sir. Father Egidius, the Parish Priest; Father Gramont, his Curate; and Madame Farsat, who discovered the boy, are all at the Manse. Mademoiselle Gramont, the Archeologist is just there in her office at the Old Bakery. The Maillots are with the Father." He saluted and then in sheepdog fashion herded up the groups of interested onlookers dotted around the square. Benjamin saw that the pad contained all the details of the discovery and the initial findings of the local Gendarmeres on arrival. There were details for all of the witnesses, and a thoughtfully produced precis of each of the personalities. It was already growing dark outside. A deep valley, three o'clock, and the sun was disappearing. Jean-Luc spun his chair away from the window as the Lieutenant started the initial briefing. The room was full. The SOC team had packed up and returned to Limoges; but the four Gendarmes were there; plus Vlad; the two Officers; Sergeant Maigret and one of his own men - nine in all. On the board were pictures of the scene, a floor plan of the church, and a school photo of the dead boy. The brief was short. Details from the morning, little new. 'Victim is an Etienne Maillot, fourteen year old scholar at the local Lycee up on the hill. Mother is a local girl, Yvette Peletier, father is one Jacques Maillot, from Limoges. Farm labourer, unemployed at present. The family live in public housing in Marsat. The body was discovered by Madame Jeanne Farsat, the church cleaner, when she arrived for work at 8am. The Parish priest, Father Egidius and Madamoiselle Gramont, St Valery's resident Archeologist, arrived on the scene shortly after.' Benjamin sat down his task complete. 'So the body was discovered at around eight?' said the Captain. 'But then you, Sergeant, didn't receive the phone call from Father Egidius till gone nine o'clock?' 'That's right sir; and then I called HQ.' 'But why the delay? What was the priest doing all that time? Lieutenant?' Benjamin shrugged. 'We need to interview him sir.'
Archived comments for Chapter 4
Rab on 16-09-2013
Chapter 4
It grows more interesting with each episode; it's got me hooked!

Author's Reply:

Weefatfella on 16-09-2013
Chapter 4
 photo 89f4a5d0-5f15-4509-881e-443a08debcc5_zps272a8411.jpg And so the investigation begins. Brilliant!
Weefatfella.

Author's Reply:

Mikeverdi on 19-09-2013
Chapter 4
That roll we all said you were on...it's still going. Well done Jim, the story is a good one and your attention to the detail is as usual excellent. I like the way the cast are introduced to us giving time to get a feel of them, form a picture of them and their place in the plot. Mike

Author's Reply:


Old Masters (posted on: 16-09-13)
An old one, but I like it!

Old Master "Well Archibald, I'm curious; yes curious," he said. Yet in point of fact he wasn't that at all. He was arrogant and purulent and fat from gorging fear, Which he drew like sap from scholars in his care. He said, "Tell me boy, yes tell me."but he didn't want to know, As he rolled his tongue around my nascent terror. He indulged his petty fantasy on me his petit four Robbing me of any taste for erudition. "I am waiting boy, still waiting," he said, finger like a skewer. As he urged me to succumb to his kebab; Which had speared the hearts of children for a dozen fetid years, Softly simmered in his vitriolic stew. I said,"tell me Sir, what gives with you? For I am curious too." He had clearly whet my appetite to know. But the feast his eyes had hungered for had walked into the room. So he dropped me like a crumb beneath his plate. When I met him in his dotage he was thin as watered wine, He'd not dined on plump young scholar for a while. My revenge congealed to pity dropping siller in his lap, For the little he had taught me I should pay.
Archived comments for Old Masters
Andrea on 16-09-2013
Old Masters
I had a teacher once - Mr Madison - I'll never forget him. He said 'You are a thorn in my flesh, Lowne' as he beat me with a cane. It was allowed in those days. A curse on Mr Madison.

Author's Reply:

deadpoet on 18-09-2013
Old Masters
I had one too- Mr Turnbull- he beat everyone with the cane. He was a monster and I never laughed at his jokes. I hated him as did most of the pupils.

Author's Reply:

Nemo on 19-09-2013
Old Masters
I'm enjoying the dietary metaphor running through this. Jim. I was a teacher for 44 years - I hope my pupils don't think this badly of me! Cheers, Gerald

Author's Reply:

stormwolf on 19-09-2013
Old Masters
Hi Jim
I remember this one from first time round. I think it's absolutely incredible.
I had a teacher like that too. My Latin teacher, with a face like a plate of cold porridge. He hated my guts and the feeling was mutual. I learned later that he had been a prisoner of the Japs during the war and had suffered terribly.
I never viewed him in the same light again.
I am delighted to nominate this one.
Everything, from the title to the repetition, just as I say, incredible!!!

Alison x

Author's Reply:


Storm (posted on: 13-09-13)
A bit different for me

Birdsong stilled; clamorous silence croons the praise-song of the boreal wind. Brimstone filled; the fetid breath of fracturing friction talks of the coming tumult. Nature thrilled; naive in her belief the storm will bring deluvial,dispassionate relief. Strong willed; the thunder cracks the whip and slips the sky god's leash. Well drilled; the ranks and banks of cloud march shoulder close to shoulder. Blood chilled; to hear the scowling howls of rolling thunder. Light spilled; the riven clouds are driven far below the skyline. Song shrilled; a Banshee screams and shattered dreams fly down a black horizon.
Archived comments for Storm
stormwolf on 15-09-2013
Storm
Hi Jim
Yes, a different style and good to leave your comfort zone. I thought the layout was brave and skilled.
Amazing you could get so many words that rhymed and yet did not look forced.
Great alliteration and the last line was genius.
Alison x


Author's Reply:

orangedream on 15-09-2013
Storm
Loved the imagery in this one, Jim and admire the penmanship. Especially:-

'the ranks and banks of cloud march shoulder close to shoulder.
Blood chilled;
to hear the scowling howls of rolling thunder.
Light spilled; '

Amazing stuff;-)

Tina


Author's Reply:

Andrea on 15-09-2013
Storm
Alliteration...*swoons*

Author's Reply:

Texasgreg on 16-09-2013
Storm
It seems you and Alison are kindred spirits, Jim. 😉

We get some pretty good storm brews here. Many fear 'em, but I love to watch 'em and listen as long as trees aren't coming down...

Greg 🙂

 photo Gunspincowboy.gif

Author's Reply:


Chapter 3 (posted on: 13-09-13)
Still trying to build a case.

The solitary man in the rear of the car moved to the motion of the vehicle. Traffic was light on the N145; two lanes of empty motorway in front of Gendarme Valadou. He had been the Captain-in-charge's driver for over two years. He enjoyed it. The Captain was one of the good guys. Moody at times; autocratic at times; ironic, intelligent, prone to wild drunkenness, prone to random acts of kindness. Valadou chuckled; he was a bit of everything really. He had come to them from Marseilles. Ruthless and impassioned, he had turned the Regional Murder Research Unit into an efficient and effective team. We all have to hustle to keep up, thought his driver. The object of the Policeman's regard was short, slim and dark-haired. He had a young face; though it was off-set by the silver grey streaks at his temples. The face elastic and mobile, was as likely to laugh as cry. Captain of Gendarmes Jean-Luc Vincent, en route from Headquarters in Limoges to the town of Marsat sur Tardes, 130kms distant. Of a sudden, the eyes snapped open. Green eyes, bright, intelligent and questioning. Jean-Luc closed them once more and replayed his first encounter of the morning. He had been on his way to answer the call from Marsat. On his way out he was hailed by one of the Regional Staff Officers. 'General Revillon wants to see you Vincent. Straight away.' Having presented himself, Jean-Luc was left sitting outside with the Commandant's secretary. Thirty minutes later he was ushered into the presence. The Captain walked to the desk and saluted. 'Captain Vincent, Good Morning,' boomed the large soldier behind the desk. More soldier than policeman, thought Jean-Luc; but still worthy of respect. 'Take a seat,' he gestured, to the chair in front of the desk. The Captain sat to the front of the chair, trying hard not to be the naughty schoolboy in front of the Master. 'You're taking your team to this unfortunate business near Aubusson, Captain?' 'Yes Sir.' 'His Eminence, Archbishop Doueze. You know him? The Archbishop of Poitiers? He's keen to keep this unfortunate business out of the National Press. When I spoke with him earlier, it was to assure him I would have my best men on the case. Yes?' 'As always sir,' said Jean-Luc, struggling to keep the irony out of his voice. 'You don't believe in God, Vincent?' It wasn't a question. 'I wouldn't like that to colour your judgement. I don't want people upset; country people are close to their church.' Of course he didn't say country people, he said paysans. It was said with a barely detectable sneer. Jean-Luc heard it nonetheless. 'I do believe in God, Sir. What I don't believe in is religion. I don't have a problem with staying impartial; I'll investigate this like any other case.' 'No, Captain you won't,' the General said, his smile tight 'I want you to keep me posted at all stages. No arrests, no high profile interviews without informing me first. You know the kind of close liaison I mean, I'm sure Captain Vincent?' The hard eyes made reply unnecessary. 'I trust we are clear? Good; I won't detain you then Vincent.' The General's finger was on the intercom, 'One last thing Captain.' Again the soul-less eyes. 'Please seek the Archbishop's prior approval if you plan to interview churchmen.' 'Not Bishop Magloire, Sir? ... After all it is one of his Parishes.' 'No Captain, His Eminence please.' Deep in thought, Jean-Luc found a young man standing directly in his path. 'Good Morning Sir.' A smart salute. 'Lieutenant Lagasse.' A training manual greeting. 'Benjamin Lagasse, your new Second, Sir.' He was a tall young man, in his late twenties, Jean-Luc thought. More German than Frank; short-cropped blonde hair, broad shoulders; blue eyes the Captain would wager. 'I wasn't aware I'd a vacancy for a second.' Jean-Luc fought the impulse to rise on his toes. 'I assume that if they were to up my complement... they would consult me first?' He gestured to the seats lined up in the reception hall. 'When were you drafted to me, Lagasse?' 'This morning Sir. I only found out an hour ago. Yesterday I was with Internal Affairs, and today....,' he ended with a shrug of his shoulders. 'There's something I'm not getting here, Lieutenant. Why would they do this at short notice? Did you ask for the transfer? What? The young man looked perplexed and something more, thought Jean-Luc; something intangible. 'I've always wanted the Murder Unit, it's why I joined, Sir.' It sounded lame, they both knew it, but it was the truth. 'And your experience, Lieutenant Lagasse?' 'Two years a Gendarme since leaving the Sorbonne, sir. A First in Criminology.' 'And all of this in Internal Affairs? Ha... How does that qualify you as 2IC in a Murder Research Unit? Can you tell me that Lieutenant?' Jean-Luc rested his forehead in an open right hand. 'Have you any good news for me Lieutenant Lagasse? I realise I'm clutching at straws here.' Benjamin looked beaten. A morning that had started off with such promise, turning into nightmare. 'I'm really keen to learn sir,' he said at last. 'OK, I need coffee. You cut along to my office and pick up the Marsat file on my desk; then join me in the canteen. You have a steep learning curve, Lieutenant.' Jean-Luc rose and pointed down the long corridor. 'My name is on the door,' he said over his shoulder. Benjamin took a deep, tremulous breath then headed in the opposite direction. ''Three vehicles set off for Marsat half an hour later. His Gendarmes in the lead, Jean-Luc was in the middle vehicle, the crime scene team in the van at the rear. Benjamin sat up front with the driver, the Captain on his own in the back. Valadou closed the plexiglas window, shutting off sound to Jean-Luc. 'He takes a bit of time to get to know you Sir. You mustn't be offended if he seems a bit abrupt, it's just his way.' The driver watched Benjamin out the corner of his eye. You could never tell with young Officers. Friendly advice was often mistaken for insolence. Valadou had a proprietorial stake in his Captain and couldn't keep quiet. The lieutenant nodded, his grin weak and fleeting. 'I once had a Boss called Lagasse, General Louis Lagasse?' 'My Uncle.' 'And there was General...' 'My father,' said the Lieutenant. 'Does the Captain know sir?' 'No. I assume he soon will though Valadou.' 'Not from me sir. It would be best for you to tell him yourself.' The driver turned on the Radio. For the last three days, the news had been of the worsening relations between The United States and Iran. Tensions were as much about Nuclear capability as they were National differences. Iran's recent treaty of Alliance with North Korea was being seen as a direct threat to US interests. There was a knock on the plexiglas The Captain motioned to Lieutenant Lagasse to open the sliding window. 'Stop the car Pierre. I want the Lieutenant to join me in the back,' said Jean-Luc. Benjamin settled in to the seat alongside his new Boss. 'We should be there in half an hour Sir.' The Captain gave the briefest nod of acknowledgement. 'If you're going to be my deputy Lieutenant, we really should lay down a few ground rules, yes?' 'Yes sir.' 'Your job is to allocate resources to tasks as set by me. You have that?' 'Yes sir.' 'You filter all reports. Scene of Crime, Pathologist, witness statements, local Gendarmerie reports. I then see everything you feel it's important for me to see. Can you deal with that?' 'Yes sir.' Jean-Luc turned his head and looked at his Lieutenant for long moments. 'To begin with, show me everything. Okay? That way you'll get a feel for what I really need to see. Everything else, we'll tackle as we meet it.' 'Thanks Sir, I'd appreciate that.' He wanted to say more. He wanted to say 'I won't let you down' or something that might demonstrate respect. The compulsion was strong. 'And Lagasse. Don't believe everything Valadou tells you.' Jean-Luc once again closed his eyes. Jean-Luc slept for the next ten minutes. Benjamin was able to examine his new C.O. up close. For the first time since their uncomfortable meeting, it was luxury not having to field probing questions, not having to defend himself; not being made to feel inadequate. Asleep like this he didn't seem at all dangerous. He looked what he was; an early middle-aged Gendarme with the fresh faced looks of a much younger man. This was a plain clothes appointment. He himself was dressed in a gray suit, white shirt and blue tie. Dressed to impress his mother would have said. Vincent on the other hand wore a black suit that had seen better days. It lay over a black shirt that was so washed and faded it looked gray. No tie, no polish on the shoes. Benjamin's long-suffering mother, who had a description for everything, would say clean but crumpled. And of course she would be right. Father and Uncle Louis would not care for Vincent. After what he had been told by General Revillon he should feel the same. For reasons he couldn't fathom he wanted to impress his new Boss. He wanted to be a confidante, a confederate; not a no account young Lieutenant with influential friends. He stared out of the window. 'Do you know the Archbishop of Poitiers?' The Captain spoke without opening his eyes. 'Sorry, Sir.?' Jean-Luc opened his eyes. 'The Archbishop of Poitiers; do you know him Lieutenant? Have you had much dealings with the church?' 'No, I don't know him sir, but I'm a churchgoer. Why do you ask?' 'Doesn't it seem strange to you that we are asked to speak to him and not Bishop Magloire?' 'Do you know Bishop Magloire, sir? I do. He's very devout, a real christian; but he's no prince of the church. The Archbishop is much more worldly, a political animal if you know what I mean.' 'I thought you said you didn't know him?' 'What I meant was...' 'Yet you suggest he's a better choice to deal with this.' The Captain turned Benjamin by hauling on his jacket lapel; an index finger pointing directly at the Lieutenant. 'Well speak, damn you.' Despite his superior height and weight; despite his more youthful, athletic physique, Benjamin quailed before the forceful presence of the angry Captain. Eventually he pushed Jean-Luc's tight-gripped hand from his jacket. 'Alright,' he snarled, 'Archbishop Doueze is a friend of my father's... I've met him socially... And before you ask; my father is General Benjamin Lagasse, or rather he was, he's retired now.' 'The Lagasse brothers. Of course, I should have recognised the name.' Shaking his head, Jean-Luc rounded on the young officer. 'This answers a few questions, doesn't it? My meeting with the Chief; being warned away from investigation of high priests. Your sudden, unannounced appointment.' 'It's not like that you arrogant bastard I've been after this appointment for months.' White-lipped with anger, the Lieutenant held Jean-Luc's gaze. Several seconds passed before returning blood and retreating bravado broke the younger man's stare. 'I need a Deputy I can trust. I can't afford to be constantly looking over my shoulder.' The Captain was no fool. He couldn't rescind the appointment. It didn't work that way. 'If there's something you aren't telling me Lieutenant, you've got a big decision to make.' With that Jean-Luc fell silent and returned to gazing from the window. Benjamin's day just kept getting better and better. The man alongside him was seriously pissed off.
Archived comments for Chapter 3

No comments archives found!
Prie Dieu (posted on: 09-09-13)
A conditioning effect

Habit alone made me say "My God." A system of belief, a code of practice, Ingrained despite the abrasions of doubt; Made me call upon the jealous Diety, who came to the City of Mammon dressed in his other face. This so-called God of the Hebrew. Of the Christian and the Muslim. Who descended to the foibles of the Olympians, And like Oedipus put out his own eye, In petulence; and blinded all the Nations. Though not before they witnessed The destruction of the temple; The fall of souls; the Bonfire of the Vanities. I shall not say "My God" again
Archived comments for Prie Dieu
Ionicus on 09-09-2013
Prie Dieu
It's a habit that many of us have, Jim, regardless of our beliefs.
Are you sure you meant Diety and not Deity?
I find that, without the spellchecker, I have to read my text twice over for fear of typos.

Author's Reply:

stormwolf on 10-09-2013
Prie Dieu
oops, almost missed you way down here! 😉

stamped with the usual concentrated feeling.

Though not before they witnessed
The destruction of the temple;
The fall of souls; the Bonfire of the Vanities.

Happening as we speak. I am a believer and I also see biblical prophesy being lived out daily. The world does seem a more Godforsaken place every day and to my mind, great evil is unleashed but I hold fast to a new dawn.

Alison x

Author's Reply:

barenib on 10-09-2013
Prie Dieu
Enjoyed this, nicely done - John.

Author's Reply:

deadpoet on 10-09-2013
Prie Dieu
You sure put a lot into those 2 words in this poem. I like it. But as an exclamation it's okay to say it, even priests do. Being an atheist I stick to more hard hitting profanities- there's no god only the truly mythical ones like our Nordic Gods and Goddesses.Your Pagan Gods! Pia 🙂

Author's Reply:

Andrea on 10-09-2013
Prie Dieu
Quite right, too! I always think the same thing when I say it. I'm much more fond of 'Jaysus wept' 🙂

Author's Reply:


The Establishment (posted on: 09-09-13)
Chapter 2

When the priest returned to his house Madame Farsat was in bed in the guest room. Gaelle Gramont and Doctor Caffrey, the village's Irish GP, were deep in conversation at the door to the room. Father Egidius nodded in acknowledgement of the medic, then made for his study. Over the course of the next five minutes he spoke to the local Gendarme Barracks, the Bishop's Vicar General at Limoges, and his own curate, Father Louis Gramont. He re-emerged in time to speak to the departing GP. ''Well Donal, how is Madame Farsat? Should I have someone take her home?'' ''Oh I wouldn't know about that Father. I've given her enough sedative to floor a horse,'' he replied in heavily accented, Hibernian French. ''She'll sleep soundly for a few hours yet.'' The priest snorted in reply, displeasure creasing his brow. ''Surely Madame Farsat will need to remain available for the Gendarmes, Father?'' said Gaelle, gazing at the churchman. ''Not at all, Mam'selle, I will be able to tell them all they need to know.'' Gaelle and Doctor Caffrey exchanged puzzled looks, before the GP took his leave. The silence was profound, stilted and uncomfortable. They had never been on friendly terms, these two, but they had always managed to relate in a professional capacity. Not now. It was as if they had passed some unseen barrier back in the church. ''I've spoken to your brother, he will be here soon. Perhaps you would be kind enough to stay with Madame Farsat until the Gendarmes arrive; I have much work to do here.'' Before entering the guest room, Gaelle hesitated. ''What was it you found on young Etienne's body, Father?'' ''What on earth makes you think I found something, Mam'selle,'' he replied, shaking his head. ''My duty is clear in all this. I do not need guidance from the laity in how to achieve that. Your family name has no standing within the walls of this manse or that church, Mam'selle - now please excuse me.'' Before he had finished speaking he was through the door of his study. Gaelle was aware that her family connection played on the aesthetic Parish Priest. She even considered it natural in a way. Her father had been the Marquis de Gravereux until his death three years previously. Her brother Louis would have succeeded but for his prior ordination as a priest. Her uncle had been the next nearest male heir and was now the Marquis. The Gramonts were nobles de l'epee, pre-revolution aristocracy who had survived the reign of terror and returned after Napoleon's defeat. In these country areas they were still held in great esteem, although less of a force than in ages past. The Gramonts had become Merchant Bankers, landowners and developers, and money underpinned their prestige. Gaelle heard the throaty growl of a Porche Cabriolet resound against the houses in the narrow church lane. She could recognise a Porche; her brother had driven one for the past two years. So much for the poverty of the simple clergy, she thought as she moved to the window. The young priest who emerged from the car was fleshy, pink, and fastidiously dressed. Having locked the car remotely, he inspected his long tailored cassock and brushed some imaginary fleck or fibre from the cloth before heading for the manse. As he walked neath the lee of the building he looked up and spotted his sister at the window. His smile was pensive. A casual observer would immediately note the marked difference between the two siblings. Louis Augustine Gramont, curate of Marsat sur Tardes did not look like nobility. He was well-dressed and well-heeled but had the soft plump cheeks of a renaissance cherub. His mouth was too large and full for the small nose and there was the telling absence of a chin. ''Gaelle, what a to-do. Have you seen Father Egidius?'' His voice was light, almost feminine, and there was the hint of a lisp. Gaelle pointed wordless at the closed door of the study. Louis gave a Gallic shrug and looked in puzzlement at his sister before knocking and entering. Standing at the window, Gaelle spotted two Gendarme vehicles enter the church square. She turned from the window to go down and admit them. ''No M'amselle, we shall see to the Gendarmes. Don't let us keep you from your own work.'' said Father Egidius as he emerged from the study, her brother in close attendance. He ushered Gaelle out as he welcomed the Sergeant of Gendarmes in. She walked across the square to the old village bakery; now her office and the home of the Archeological dig. Both her assistants were at work and she settled to her own daily routine and to await a call from the investigators.
Archived comments for The Establishment
Mikeverdi on 09-09-2013
The Establishment
Building nicely Jim, I look forwards to the next. Mike

Author's Reply:

Weefatfella on 10-09-2013
The Establishment
 photo 89f4a5d0-5f15-4509-881e-443a08debcc5_zps272a8411.jpg Aye. The Louis character I like. He has depth. Not of course to imply the other characters have not. He just stands out for me. The tale is interestingly mysterious and gripping.
Weefatfella.

Author's Reply:

Rab on 11-09-2013
The Establishment
Interesting...look forward to the next instalment

Ross

Author's Reply:


An Odour of Sanctity - Chapter One (posted on: 06-09-13)
From my next great Opus!

Dawn graced the ridge of hills to the East of the small town. Madame Farsat, draped in her winter layers, merged with the buildings at the far side of the old Roman bridge. The low mist on the bed of the river played havoc with her breathing, her rattling cough harsh. The towers of St Valery stood dark against the lightening sky, the small square to the side of the Abbatical church still black as pitch. She heard the resounding echo of her footsteps on the old stones. It was Saturday. By 10.30 she'd be home awaiting the weekly call from her grandchildren in Australia. 'Oh Lord, no,' she cried as a dark shape sprang from the edges of night . Her would-be assailant landed on four feet. 'Bad cat Bernard,' she shouted, making the sign of the cross. Moving across the belltower court, she thrust open the inset door and fumbled for the light switch. From the foyer, Madame Farsat dipped a swift obeisance toward the high altar and stepped through the service door. The dawning light spilled across the floor of the 12th century church. As it touched the far wall, scripture scenes painted there came alive in the shifting shadows. Madame always stopped to admire the phenomenon. With a bucket of hot water in one hand and a hard scrubber in the other she strode towards the sanctuary. The carved, wooden monks' stalls were the abbey church's pride. 'Etienne, what are you doing here?' The boy sat in the furthest stall. He stared up at the stained glass windows. He didn't acknowledge Madame Farsat. 'Etienne, Etiennne, answer me.'The youth of Marsat were a respectful, polite lot.'What's the matter, boy? Why are you here so early?' He was pale. His head at an acute angle. When she saw what covered his T-shirt, her screams rebounded from the arched wooden roof. The Parish Priest, Father Egidius, stood in his kitchen savoring the jolt of strong coffee.Before him on the bench was a large diary. He considered this with one eye on the small, engaging miracle of dawn. He was a tall man, thin and austere. A long blade of a nose seemed to part the air in front of him as he moved. It was his eyes his parishioners most remembered. From their smoky depths the penetrating intensity pierced a man's soul. 'Ah Bernard, there you are.' The black cat smoozed between his braced arms. Named after the renaissance Holy Inquisitor, Bernardo Gui, born in the Limousine, his congregation thought of the animal as the priest's familiar. As if to confirm peasant belief, Bernard lowered his sleek, meaty haunches on Sunday's page of the diary, smothering the Bishop's details neath his heathen rump. The priest laughed at the impiety. The Bishop was due to say Mass on Sunday; 'Pater Noster with a mouthful of cat's arse.' The screams rang against the enclosed walls of the church square. Father Egidius stroked the cat down its undulating back. He lingered in the moment, then turned on his heels making for the door. 'Bastard,' she shouted, 'Imbecile!' Monsieur Ladepayre, the butcher waved cheerfully and with his other hand pulled the van back toward the right. Gaelle Gramont's hands were on the wheel of the BMW; driven at speed down the twisting gorge road. Even seated Gaelle was tall. She had lustrous black hair, worn to the shoulder, and deep, brown eyes.Slim, feminine hands gave an impression of strength and control. Her headlights raked the buildings on the edge of town. She arrived with the promise of sun at her back, the church square still in shadow. She switched off her lights, spotting the priest coming from his house. He came on fast. Getting out of the car she heard the screaming; recognising in the high register the voice of Madame Farsat. She turned toward the sound, but Father Egidius caught her by the arm. 'No Mademoiselle, wait here please.' He broke into a lumbering run. Madame Farsat was down on one knee, facing the Sanctuary, her screaming stopped. As the priest laid his hand upon her shoulder, he saw the boy in the furthest stall. He lifted the stricken woman and lead her to a pew, then turned to the Sanctuary. Etienne Maillot was beyond earthly reach. From the steps, fifty feet away, Father Egidius saw the deep gash across the young man's throat. He edged forward, as the girl entered the great church. 'Etienne. Etienne Maillot?' she cried. 'M'amselle Gramont, I told you to stay outside. Now you're here take her outside,' he shouted, pointing to the stricken cleaner. He mounted the steps to the Sanctuary, and slowed on reaching the end stall. Gaelle sat alongside the cleaner, making no effort to leave. Egidius reached out, touching the boy on the shoulder. The contact made the head flip backwards. 'Like a cigarette pack', thought the priest as he examined the boy. The boy's T-shirt was black and stiff with blood. The blood had pooled around him on the centuries old wood. It pit, pit, pitted onto the stone floor beneath the stall. Gaelle noticed chubby white toes neath the seat; each pit, pit, pitting saw it splash across the instep. She watched transfixed as the priest closed the boy's eyes. It seemed a very formal act, though she felt sure it was interfering with evidence. She thought she saw the priest lift something from the stall and secrete it in his cassock, before turning to face her 'Please take Madame Farsat to my house, Mam'selle; I must notify the authorities.' 'Of course, Father.' Her gaze fixed the priest as she led Madame Farsat from the church.Emerging into the square, Gaelle saw that dawn had arrived. Along with the dawn was a small assembly of townspeople, drawn by the strange to-ing and fro-ing. Father Egidius checked the other stalls then strode to the foyer, dialling the number on the desk phone. 'Good Morning, this is Father Egidius from Marsat speaking. Can you put me through to the Archbishop's Secretary please? It's most important. Yes I'll hold.' He took out a cigarette, the phone couched between shoulder and cheek whilst lighting it. His Grace the Metropolitan Archbishop of Poitiers looked like a successful night club owner. Jacques Doueze was small and elegant. He wore a blue pin-stripe suit. His white hair was thick, lustrous and extravagantly barbered. His banded collar; his 'dog collar', was slim, white, and set off a dark burgundy shirt. He was at home in the dark oak-panelled office. He studied a thin, grey curl of smoke from the expensive untipped cigarette balanced in his fingers. Maybe it was the play of light on the opulent Episcopal ring that fascinated. At any event, he was satisfied with what he saw. He pressed the button on his intercom. 'Can you get me General Revillon at Limoges, please Father?'' ' Then in an afterthought. 'Oh, and ask Bishop Magloire to speak to me soonest.' The Archbishop went back to contemplation of the trappings of his success.Within minutes, the telecom announced that General Revillon was on the line. 'Ah Bertrand, Good Morning,' he said with a smile, 'How are you old friend?'
Archived comments for An Odour of Sanctity - Chapter One
Mikeverdi on 06-09-2013
An Odour of Sanctity - Chapter One
This is good stuff Jim, for me it reads like the script for a T.V. drama in a dozen parts; Its good to see you in another time frame. As always your attention to the detail is commendable, you are a writer of great skill, thanks for posting this; more please! Mike

Author's Reply:

Weefatfella on 06-09-2013
An Odour of Sanctity - Chapter One
Weefatfella BGBS photo b75165e4-7600-48cb-b7fd-9f85d6470df7_zps4cd05353.jpg
A good start to something.
I found it Very Frederick Forsyth-ish. A couple of things.

>'Etienne, Etiennne, answer me.'<

I also feel the use of the phrase >The youth of Marsat were a respectful, polite lot.< takes away from the feel of the piece. It's just me and it's just an opinion/( What do I know?).

I enjoyed the read and there are a few hooks I would like to follow up on, interesting.
Weefatfella.

Author's Reply:

amman on 07-09-2013
An Odour of Sanctity - Chapter One
You paint a graphic picture in this whodunnit like tale, Jim. Good characterization of unfeeling clergy and the more normal responses of the others. Good title too; something rotten in this ecclesiastical place. Really looking forward to the continuation.
Cheers.
Tony.

Author's Reply:


Monumental Folly (posted on: 06-09-13)
This was written for the BBC Proms Poetry Competition. Had to be inspired by something in this year's programme.

Lutyens' heavy testament to Empire, does not bid our fallen soldiers welcome. Nor will they tread its porch in comfort when clad in rags and muddy boots. In Imperial purple, Thiepval's torn ridge is become Mycenae's Lion Gate. An arched proscenium that holds the vaulted melody of Elgar's work. Such is the forbidding nature of any Mausoleum. No place for the dead, who lie instead, cramped in the brooding shadow of circumstance and pride. Self-deception, enshrined in a music-hall ditty, still disfigures the work of genius. Insanity is in the vanity of noble death; and the pity is that Tommy sleeps beneath Majestic feet.
Archived comments for Monumental Folly
amman on 07-09-2013
Monumental Folly
Outstanding. You have skillfully referenced ancient Greece, ww1 and the music of Elgar to bemoan the fate of the poor British Tommy. No vaulted resting place for him, just the killing fields of of the Somme in France' in that obscene conflict.

Did you get a prize?
Cheers.
Tony.


Author's Reply:
Hi Tony,
Thank you for the vote and the nomination. No prizes for this; I think they were looking for uplifting verse.
cheers,
Jim

Bozzz on 07-09-2013
Monumental Folly
Yes, we still erect tombs and monuments to the responsible follied politicians and generals and wooden sticks for the heroes they create. Great write Jim ... A deserving 10 ... David

Author's Reply:
Hi David,
Thank you for the generous comment and vote. The visit to Thiepval left me terribly angry at the monstrous allusion to Empire. Monumental ingratitude I believe.
cheers,
Jim

cooky on 08-09-2013
Monumental Folly
Top notch writing. The power of music to deceive the futile ambitions o man.

Author's Reply:
Hi Cooky,
Thanks for the comments and the generous vote. I am really happy that this spoke to you.
cheers,
Jim

stormwolf on 08-09-2013
Monumental Folly
Hi Jim
I have to be honest here and say I found many words here a bit heavy going and had me wanting to get the old dictionary out. The first two stanzas were off putting for me and made the poem a tad ....how can I say....pretentious (sorry)
That was my impression but the second two compensated and the barely concealed rage is always there.
Alison x

Author's Reply:
Hi Alison,
Thanks for reading and commenting. Apology is unnecessary. I am always assured of your honesty in critiqueing my work. The pretention you speak of is deliberate in a way, so I'm glad it said that to you.
If you think this is pretentious, wait till you meet me in the flesh!
cheers,
Jim xx


Building Trust (posted on: 02-09-13)
Scene 58

Jimmy Hughes was silent, powerless to lift the brooding mood of his Captain. He spooned a heavy load of sugar into the tin cup, the rattling spoon breaking the silence on his behalf. 'Yer tea, sir.' He stood above the figure slumped at the makeshift table. Captain Drummond had returned to the billet the previous afternoon. Jimmy felt slighted, in a vague manner, that his officer had not let him know of his return. 'Thank you Hughes,' he said, breaking the long spent pause. 'Anything happen in my absence? Anything to break the wonderful monotony of soldiering, what?' The smile was weak. Had laboured to be produced, Hughes noted. 'Morning gentlemen - Back from town already Jimmy?' The colonel bristled with good health, the vitality evident in his face and the pinking skin of his knees beneath the hem of his kilt. 'Cup of tea sir?' 'No thank you, Hughes. Excellent idea, but....' he waved off Drummond's salute. "Take a walk with me Jimmy? Blood pumping and all that? Need to put our heads together.' He stood aside to let the Captain lead the way. 'How are all you Rifles, Private Hughes? Ready for the Big Push?' 'Oh yes sir. Rarin' tae go..' 'Good man. Don't let your tea go cold.' He pointed with the swagger stick and was gone. Game auld bastard, Jimmy said below his breath. Minutes later he sat with Brodie Smith. They shared cigarettes and a blether; that East Neuk equivalent of the English chin wag. **** Alastair Aird was quiet throughout the visit to the chateau. Alise steered him through the workrooms and dormitories, letting him find his own flavour of the work she did. They sat for a time with Captain Brune. The two officers soon found the common ground of soldiering. Alastair had to huddle close to hear the Frenchman's soft and stilted speech. It made him loud and contentious. It drove Brune further in on himself, and Alise rose to her feet intending to bring the encounter to a close. Too late she came to his aid. Aird reared at the smell of Brune's evacuating bowels. She saw the disgust of the Scotsman and fought the urge to slap his face. Aird fled. He vaulted the stone balcony and strode toward the trees, stumbling in his efforts to light a cigarette. Later, Alise found him among the trees, his demeanour like that of a schoolboy afraid of the Master, Alise saw. 'Is that why you brought me here?' The cold, venomous voice at odds with the heat in his cheeks 'An object lesson in my own weakness?' He winced at the memory. 'Et voila - the brittle nature of the modern warrior; grist for your wondrous psychiatric mill.' His hands shook as he lit another cigarette from the dying embers of the previous one. 'You have no notion of what it's like.' He ground the heel of his hand against his temple. "I'm not like that poor devil in there. Don't presume to analyse me, mam'selle.' Alise stood in silence, arm around a slender silver birch. It began to rain; heavy drops smacking against the leaves, all noise and very little effect. They both stood, held in place by their silence. 'I'm sorry Alise.' The voice of the schoolboy. 'Sorry I forgot myself. I simply don't want you to view me as a patient.' He kept his eyes on the ground. 'I imagine that's why you brought me here. No?' 'No Alastair. That was not my intention.' She felt her tongue stumble over such a half truth. His hand under her chin lifted her eyes to his face. An imminent kiss, she thought. Still uncomfortable in her deception, her eyes shifted and Alastair withdrew the advance. 'I'd like to leave, Alise. And return to the Auberge. Please..' Rain trickled down the Doctor's upturned face. **** The rain drove Brodie Smith and Jimmy Hughes into shelter. They stood under a canvas roof, looking out over the large expanse of the makeshift parade ground. 'He's been in a foul mood since he got back from Amiens. It's not like him,' said Jimmy, studying the deepening red mud. Brodie flicked the spent fag into the rain. 'It's bloody Amiens. Or women mebbe. Billy's been the exact same.' He gave a humourless laugh. 'Like two dogs over the one bone.' 'And it's his lordship's bone too.' Jimmy's head tilted in contemplation. 'Though mebbe it isnae any more.' 'Heard from Jennifer recently?' 'Oh aye. Every week she writes. Well; you know Jenny she...' Realisation etched the private's face. 'Sorry pal. Me and my big mouth.' 'It's awright Jimmy, Maggie was always her own master. She'll be in touch when she's ready.' Brodie returned to watching the rain. 'We'll need to see about getting you some leave after the big Push eh?' 'Don't bother for me. I'm not going home till this is all over.' Brodie caught the quiet determination in the voice. 'Jennifer's your wife, for fuck sake. 0f course you'll go hame to see her.' 'No I won't Brodie. I'll no go hame, I tell ye!' Desperation plain on his face, Jimmy strode to the far corner of the shelter. 'We're back to this then Jimmy? This... thing, this... shameful thing ye've done. Something to do with that arsehole Aird. Isn't it?' Jimmy held onto the canvas roof. Both hands clenched around the edge of the shelter. His breath in short, noisy gasps of air. 'Tell me Jimmy. For Christ sake man, let it go; it's killing ye.' Ten minutes later, and part of the big Sergeant was sorry he'd asked. He had it now, at last; the sequence, the cause, the poor excuse for a murder. A young man of some consequence; the reluctant parent of so many infant soldiers, killed for just doing his job. 'What are you going to do Brodie? If you tell them, then Aird will say that I did it. He's a Captain. I'm just the man that cleaned his kit.' He had a hold of his pal by the cloth of his battledress. He was desperate. Desperate and abject in defeat. "They'll hang me. And Jenn will get nothing; no payout for a murderer...' 'Calm doon,Jimmy. I need to talk this over with Billy. You know he's the brains o' the outfit and I need to hear his thoughts. ok?' Brodie clapped him on the shoulder. 'I'll be back in a bit.' **** 'Is that more poetry Billy? He was hunched over an ammo box, pencil stub in hand. Brodie had found him; alone, absorbed. 'No. It's nothing. Just scribbling.' He screwed the paper in a ball and dropped it to the floor. Brodie stood for long moments, waiting for his friend to raise his head. 'Are you avoiding me Billy? All your other friends an' all.' 'What friends? What friends would that be Sergeant Smith?' The smile was ugly. The tone uglier still, thought Brodie. 'You can be such a bairn Morrison. What did Rab do that was such a crime, man?' He kicked the box, pushing it away from the seated soldier. The noise grated on them both. 'You might like to consider what that boy does every day we spend at the front. And when we stand in the depths of the trench waiting for the whistle, he's up there piping away and dodging bullets.' The next kick burst the lid and field dressings spilled across the floor. 'Grow up Billy. It's what we dae out here that counts.' He marched to the door, leaving Billy bent collecting the spilled dressings. Then turned back. 'When you come to yer senses, I need to speak to you. We have a problem.' He left as Billy straightened up, hands full of bandages. After a pause, he dropped them in the box. The smile, not for public consumption, was born more of recognition of the Sergeant's anger than of any contrition he might be feeling. I suppose I'm lucky he didn't belt me, thought Billy as he made to follow his pal. **** Billy watched his friend. He saw how the strain of knowing Jimmy's secret nibbled at his conscience. All of a sudden I'm the oracle, he thought. 'Everything has to be so black and white with you.' He smiled through lips gone thin; he shook his head. 'We have to protect Jimmy. That bastard Aird will simply walk away smelling o' roses. You know that. Jimmy can't tell anyone. We have to go to somebody with a bit of clout.' He lowered his voice. 'Someone with influence up at Division.' He paused to consider. 'The Auld Man maybe?' 'OK. But we need to speak to Captain Drummond first.' Brodie checked his pal for reaction. Billy made to reply. 'Now before you start; you're the only one with a problem. He's a grand bloke, and a great officer.' He checked again. "You don't like him because of her Ladyship. Marjorie, bloody, Anstruther. Well you'll have to swallow your pride, or Jimmy will swing.' He allowed his message to penetrate. 'So? Do we go and see him?' **** 'And Hughes doesn't know you're here? Is that right?' Jimmy Drummond looked from Brodie to Billy, then ran his fingers through his hair. 'He trusted you enough to confess this... murder of your platoon sergeant? ... Sergeant Campbell; killed in action in the spring.' He paused. "Yes, I can see how he would. You're all very close.' Billy broke the ensuing silence. From his place at the door, alert for the appearance of the Captain's batman. 'Captain Drummond, sir. Jimmy's not a murderer. You must at least have learned that about him. He doesn't lie either.' 'Quite, Morrison.' He looked to Brodie. ' The problem is how we prove this and yet convince Division where the true murderer stands.' He turned his gaze to Billy. 'Now if it were you Private Morrison, I would have no problem.' He laughed. It was curt, humourless and quickly swallowed. 'And Hughes, sir?' Brodie said, his voice soft yet peremptory. 'What now?' 'My apologies, Sergeant Smith. You are right of course, we must do our best for Hughes.' He smiled at Billy. 'We needs must forget our differences, Private Morrison. For Jimmy's sake. You must both leave this with me.' The voice brooked no interference. 'I had best speak with Hughes now.' The rain had stopped as the two pals walked toward their billet. "I hope you're right about that bastard, Brodie.'
Archived comments for Building Trust
Weefatfella on 02-09-2013
Building Trust
 photo b75165e4-7600-48cb-b7fd-9f85d6470df7_zps4cd05353.jpg
Aye, I worry now that when this is complete, I won't be able to fully enjoy it.
It's coming along nicely Jim.
In My humble etc..
Weefatfella.

Author's Reply:
Thanks Paul,
I've been working toward the pivotal chapters in the book. I'm 75% through, and the next two chapters are the big offensive for the Highland Division. The war then takes more of a back seat. The chapters I posted were really about love and other human interaction; something fairly new to me, and so I needed affirmation that I was going in the right direction. If it ever makes it into print, there will be a lot you haven't read.
Thanks for sticking with it on these chapters. It has been a great help. See you at the bash.
cheers,
Jim

Rab on 03-09-2013
Building Trust
The story continues...well up to the usual standard Jim. You'll have a cracking book by the end of it.

Ross

Author's Reply:
Thanks Ross,
I am grateful that you have kept up with these posts. See the comments to WFF for a better idea of what these subs have been all about.
Cheers again,
Jim

Mikeverdi on 04-09-2013
Building Trust
Immense depth in this story Jim, it continues to hold the reader; another cracking chapter. Mike

Author's Reply:
Cheers Pal,
You'll see from my comments to WFF that these chapters have been a departure for me, and so all feedback is gratefully received. You've stuck with me longer than anyone else, and I value that Mike.
Looking forward to meeting you and Leslie soon.
cheers,
Jim


Birthright (posted on: 02-09-13)
Are royal princes born majestic?

A simple baby, no more complex than the next. No cabalistic number neath the hairline; and mortal clay to fashion both its feet. I wish it well, as well I may; but right to rule I challenge. If God exists, as I suppose he should; Why would he choose one infant from another? Do we believe that Royalty, like Deity, has blue-blood DNA? That patents of Nobility are chromosonal strings? Such things are way beyond my ken. My own impious flaw is thus: All babies look the same to me; As Darwin says they must...
Archived comments for Birthright
deadpoet on 02-09-2013
Birthright
I agree. There are other things that create fairy tales than monarchy.

Author's Reply:

Bradene on 02-09-2013
Birthright
I keep getting in a right old mess this morning, sorry about all this. ?Right I'll have another go.

I think this is a clever poem, not that I agree absolutely with what you are saying but you do have the right to say it and you say it brilliantly. Well done Jim. Valx

Author's Reply:

amman on 02-09-2013
Birthright
Totally agree, Jim but, hey, can keep the the rotten job. Who wants to live in a goldfish bowl.
Cheers.
Tony.

Author's Reply:

Mikeverdi on 02-09-2013
Birthright
Maybe if the baby was from North of the wall and wore a kilt? Ah speed bonny boat! Mike

Author's Reply:

Bozzz on 03-09-2013
Birthright
The intellect of a slave is of no consequence when he is a dancing bear. Any baby will do - even me or you !

Author's Reply:

anth2014ed on 04-09-2013
Birthright
Jim, sorry this is not a comment, but could you provide permission for works to go in the Anth (see forums and FP)

Author's Reply:

orangedream on 05-09-2013
Birthright
Couldn't agree more, Jim. Well said;-)

Tina

Author's Reply:


The Sailor and the Maiden (posted on: 30-08-13)
who says I miss it?

She moved in circles, high above his head. Yet still beneath her feet he caught her eye. The spice-hot breath, a whisper to her ear; made clear the deep-felt strength of the attraction. This lustrous truth blazed pink upon her cheeks. She gave the lie, yet in her sigh he heard it. Sun bleached, salt clean he broke her limpid surface ; and beached his craft above her virgin sand. The Sailor's smile will always win the maiden. He lays such peppered sweetmeats on her tongue. His silken touch would serve to tempt an angel. And draw her deep beneath a raging sea.
Archived comments for The Sailor and the Maiden
Bozzz on 31-08-2013
The Sailor and the Maiden
Would that all who beach their craft upon our precious prey do so with such grace and touch. Excellent prose - and elegant metaphor, Ewan. Personally I feel that reducing lines 1 and 7 by one beat would make it delightful poetry and for me, be a surefire 10.

Author's Reply:
Hi David,
Thank you so much for the wonderful appraisal. I have reduced the beat as you suggested and it does read better.
cheers,
Jim

Ionicus on 01-09-2013
The Sailor and the Maiden
A Stylish and metaphorical poem, Jim, which shows that the old salt still retain an affection for the maiden.

Author's Reply:

Bozzz on 01-09-2013
The Sailor and the Maiden
As promised. Sorry about the nomenclaturic Ewan. ...David

Author's Reply:

Mikeverdi on 02-09-2013
The Sailor and the Maiden
Excellent writing Jim. Mike

Author's Reply:

Mikeverdi on 02-09-2013
The Sailor and the Maiden
Excellent writing Jim. Mike

Author's Reply:

amman on 02-09-2013
The Sailor and the Maiden
Simply stunning poetry. A class above.

Author's Reply:


Shipmate (posted on: 30-08-13)
It's the brotherhood. What else?

I can't remember the last time Nobby spoke. There was a time you couldn't shut him up. A right one for the ladies. Other men's ladies. 'I want it understood up front I'm not one for commitment,' he'd say. Gawd the nerve of 'im. And they loved him for it. Strike me, but they did. A big, handsome bastard. Must have been first in the queue at mealtimes when he was growing up. And now a little runt like me has to hold him up. To keep his head above water. 'Hold me up?' he'd say. 'You couldn't hold up my tot glass Lofty.' Not that he ever grudged me 'sippers'. Even 'gulpers' on my birthday. Always generous with his rum, he was. Generous with everything really. It's why the ladies loved him. 'Touch your collar for luck Jack,' they'd say. Water's definitely colder. I've got pins and needles in my legs; and my feet are numb. The sun's up there somewhere; though this smoke is so thick we can't see the sky. I suppose that means they can't see us down here, if they're looking for survivors. It must be a good two hours since the old girl went to the bottom. Took everything I had in the world with her she did. What? Oh yes. Now where was I? Ah, 'Touch your collar for luck.' That was it. Only, they wanted to touch more than a Sailor's collar with Nobby. Oh yes... What a boy. 'Nobby, Nobby. C'mon wake up shipmate. This isn't Nelson Barracks, we're in the bloody Atlantic, and the Hood's gone.' I think he's dead. I'm more than half dead myself. We were running a fire-hose along the port waist and the blast threw us into the water. When we came too, we were hanging on to each other for grim death. Just about then the ship's magazine exploded. 'Fuck me, yes. Did you see the fireworks Lofty?' 'Nobby, Nobby. I thought you were dead.' 'No. You kept falling asleep. I thought you'd drown. I've been holding your head clear of the 'oggin' for ages.'
Archived comments for Shipmate
Nomenklatura on 30-08-2013
Shipmate
Evocative, atmospheric. Dialogue authentic - I've been on the receiving end of 'Harry Sippers' many times in any mess fortunate enough to have RN personnel visiting. As a reminder of the days before grog was abolished at every formal 'do', the Fish-heads would roll out the rum-barrel.



I liked this.

Author's Reply:
Thanks Ewan.

Rab on 30-08-2013
Shipmate
A perfect mini-saga, which tells you much more than its 368 words. I wonder if they made it?

Ross

Author's Reply:
Thanks Ross.
lf they did it would be together.
cheers,
Jim

Mikeverdi on 02-09-2013
Shipmate
Your attention to the detail is, as always, commendable Jim. Another great story, I could have done with more. Mike

Author's Reply:


A Second Chance (posted on: 26-08-13)
Scenes 56 and 57

'Martin goes before the Old Man tomorrow. Then it'll go on up the line, a court martial for sure.' Brodie watched the effect of his words play on the faces at the table. 'They've become more comfortable with the death penalty for desertion. And that's the nub o' the matter; what do they charge him with?' 'They can't shoot him. Not Martin; he's a hero. Look what he did up on High Wood.' Wee Eck scanned the faces of the other Rifles. 'Oh aye they can Eck.' Alan's smile was thoughtful, his voice full of regret. 'They can do just about anything, up there at HQ.' They swallowed down the cheap white wine. The only anaesthetic available, and not at all effective at allaying their fears for their pal. **** 'Robertson's a good soldier sir. A bit wild, to be frank... but brave as a lion...' Drummond watched his Colonel, deep in contemplation. 'He is the kind of soldier you've said we will need in this campaign.' He paused, 'Perhaps if I were to make his case up at Division, Sir?' The Colonel gave an audible expiration of breath. 'Captain Drummond. There's a subject I've been intending to keep for a more opportune time. Though I believe we have now found the opportunity.' Cummins tapped the folder beneath his hand. 'I have here a commendation Lord Elcho. My recommendation that you be promoted to Major. Long overdue I'd say.' He opened the folder, the pages splayed in front of him. 'Have you a German mother, perhaps? A family member in the Irish Republican Brotherhood?' Cummins gave a self-contained laugh. 'You're Persona non grata at Division Jimmy' He poked his finger at the page. 'Unsuitable for further advancement at this time.' He used the same finger to flip the folder shut then slammed the palm of his hand on top. 'You need your father to exert some influence, my boy. They really don't like you up at the castle.' 'Father would ah... agree that I'm too foot-loose and flighty to... take charge of anything more complicated than a fast motor-car.' Jimmy looked troubled. 'I'm sorry ... It doesn't help Robertson though. Does it sir?' Let's just have him in Jimmy. I'll see him tomorrow.' The Colonel put the folder back in the drawer. 'Will you tell the RSM? After breakfast should do it. Nine ack emma; Yes?' He smiled, like a man with a plan, thought Jimmy. **** Martin stood at parade rest, eyes fixed on a point somewhere beyond the Colonel's head. His cap was tucked neath his arm, his face a grim mask of detachment, lacking animation. 'Have you any idea how desperate your situation is Robertson? Captain Drummond has told us you're a good soldier; he speaks highly of your courage under fire.' Cummins sighed, his frustration only just contained. 'Speak man; damn you!' His shout elicited no response from Martin. 'When this goes up to Division; they will shoot you, at dawn, in some forgotten yard behind HQ.' Martin shifted his gaze, focusing on the bare, wooden boards beneath the C.O.'s feet. 'That might just be a blessing Sir. All of our names are on thae bullets flying around on that wee bit hill' As Martin raised his eyes to look at his Commanding Officer, Jimmy was left to ponder the simple dignity in his man's response. 'Captain Drummond. Sergeant Major. Please spare Robertson and I a few minutes in private.' Both men made immediate protest and Cummins waved them aside. 'I'll be perfectly safe. Robertson too, I would hazard. I'll call you in when you're required.' No-one ever knew what had been said in those ten minutes Martin spent with his C.O. When the hearing reconvened Martin was charged with Absence from Place of Duty. He was awarded fourteen days confined to barracks, to be served on his return from an appointment with the Brigade Medical Staff. Cummins' report to the Provost Marshal would contain an affidavit from the Medics, that Martin was still under medical supervision when he went absent, and not in an operational posting. 'I'm sorry Jimmy. I know you're curious; but that young man and I have taken a vow of silence.' The old soldier laughed. It was a rich, warm laugh. A peacetime laugh, Jimmy felt; the laughter of a schoolboy playing truant. When Martin came down the steps adjusting his Glengarry, he found his pals lurking at the bottom. The Captain stood at the top of the steps. 'Corporal Emboya. Get these men back to work. And make sure Robertson here does his fair share.' He wore a broad grin as he re-entered Battalion HQ, but no broader than that on the faces of the Rifles. 'Fourteen days CB. Would you believe it?' Martin was surrounded by his pals. 'You must have an Uncle in Parliament, ya lucky bastard,' Stewart shouted. 'How did ye get that leather-faced auld bugger tae let ye off?' 'He's a good man. A fair man.' Martin let it sink in. 'When a man gives you your life back... you have an obligation to him. He'll do for me,' he said in a much quieter voice. Rab Niven clapped Martin on the shoulder. 'Welcome back pal. We've missed ye.' 'What does that mean Niven? We've missed ye,' Billy gave a sing-song impression of the young piper. 'Fuck off! You're no one of us, nor ever will be.' Rab stumbled under the impact of Billy's push; and Billy stood over him legs apart. He was surprised by the negative reaction of the other rifles. It made him uncomfortable. He flushed, cheeks red, vivid. Stewart pulled the piper to his feet. He brushed himself down then made to leave. Billy pulled him by the shoulder, fuelling the slow burning anger, provoking response. The heavy Kilt flared as Rab spun around; a centrifugal force with his fist in the same orbit. Billy took the blow in mid stride, falling to the dirt and boiling back to his feet in the same movement. In a furious clinch they both fell to grubbing in the dirt, whilst the Rifles spread to form a loose circle. Brodie Smith broke into the impromptu arena. 'What the fuck is happening here?' The fighters paused; a momentary lull. Douglas spoke to the Sergeant, his back to the fight. 'Aye, sort it out the two of ye,' said Brodie. It appeared to the Rifles that Billy gave up at that point. At any event, Rab gained the upper hand and Brodie pulled the two apart with his Corporal's help. They stood, dirty, dishevelled, bloodied. Heads hung like fighting bulls at an impasse. Then Billy raised his eyes to his friend. A heavy, spun out silence lingered after he turned and left the embarrassed circle of highlanders. **** Jimmy Drummond stood outside the arc of the lights. Guilt was the determining factor. He was whole, unmarked, free to move under his own volition. Surrounded by crippled, nerve-torn soldiers: he was the spectre at the feast. He watched in sick fascination as a legless Lieutenant of the Welsh Guards, moved to syncopation by the jazz quartet, beat time with his stumps. A benefit concert for the wounded Tommies of Amiens. He needed to hear them howl their protest, but instead they moved to the beat of Gaslight jazz, and he squirmed in discomfort. She moved among the broken warriors, stopping to speak here; comfort there; summon help and encourage. He could see that her behaviour was unaffected, and marvelled at the transformation. She's supposed to be a rich man's plaything, He acknowledged the empiric nature of his thoughts. By birth, by breeding: an embroiderer, a caterer for shooting parties. And yet watching her in the element to which she had adapted, he knew one thing. I don't know her at all. Jimmy sat on a rickety rattan chair. A private, from an undisclosed Ulster regiment, picked at the bandaged stump of his arm. Jimmy passed him cigarettes and fought his own urge to give sympathy. The medical staff sang a medley of Scottish and Irish airs. Self indulgent garbage, thought Jimmy, as he bent to light another fag for his wounded neighbour. He raised his head in the sudden hush. Marjorie now stood before the audience. High colour in her cheeks and a twitching tremor in one hand. Her vulnerability touched him. It moved him in a way her normal composure never would. He loved her in that moment; the acknowledgement cracking the fine veneer of his public persona. 'When o'er the hill the Eastern Star, tells baughtin time is near my Jo.' She sang to the accompaniment of a fiddle. It was Robert Burns' The Lea Rig; old and powerful. The tones of wistful longing stilled the company. She had a clear, sweet voice which sat above the mournful notes of the fiddle. 'I'll meet thee on the lea rig; My ain kind dearie o' The Ulsterman stopped picking at his dressing. The silence lay thick upon the gathering; and Jimmy was conscious of holding his breath. 'Jimmy. So nice to see you.' She stooped to look at a bandaged fusilier. 'Please wait for me,' She gazed upward, fixing him with a single look. 'I may be a time, but we might have supper? It's been so long since we last spent time together.' He felt out of place; a warrior amongst broken warriors; and useless to them in their obvious need. He began to push a wounded soldier, slumped limbless in a wheelchair. The man would have none of his help, and the fuss and noise drew the ferocious attentions of the others. 'Why don't you wait for me in the lobby Jimmy?' She touched his upper arm and smiled her sympathy. This is her environment; it's where she makes her life, he mused, his mind a confusion of awe and distaste. How formidable she seems. Gone, the giddy daughter of a noble house. She used to be a bit of a tomboy, truth be told. Made an ill-fitting debutante too; beautiful sure, but in a challenging, toe-to-toe sort of way. Now she's... she's... He remembered the song. Now that will stay with me, he thought. Lighting his cigarette he crossed to the wide doors and stood to hear the thunder of the guns down on the floor of the Somme. She ate supper with a hearty need, her conversation swallowed with the same driving appetite. Jimmy picked at the food and ordered champagne. 'Needful employment suits you, old girl.' 'Why, thank you, your Lordship. Though a little more human biology and a lot less pianoforte might have stood me in better stead.' She smiled as she wiped her fingers with the napkin. 'This is an indulgence at such a time,' she said, lifting her glass to the light. 'But, God I had forgotten how wonderful it feels.' 'Once we're married you can bathe in the old juice, my love.' Marjorie swallowed the contents and Jimmy's eyes never left her face as he refilled the glass. 'Please, Jimmy... I don't want to think about life back there. I need to hold a focus on what I'm doing...' She looked at him; an appeal for understanding, unable to put it all into words. 'You won't get by on milk stout and salt herring, old girl.' Jimmy peered into the middle distance as he brought the lighter to a cigarette. 'It's perfectly acceptable to read collier poets. God knows we laud them high enough. But you can't live with them. How would that look?' She rose from her seat, glass untouched. 'He's twice the man you are Jimmy. Twice the man and twice the gentleman.' Jimmy grabbed at her hand. 'I'm sorry Marjorie.' He paused to consider. 'Please. Don't go. Not like this.' At length she sat. She reached for his cigarette case and withdrew a cigarette. 'Would you light it for me?' She smiled; a shyness in the look. 'Yet another habit father wouldn't approve of.' As she leaned to the flame of his lighter, Jimmy saw the same fragile vulnerability he'd noticed earlier. She drew the smoke deep, almost mannish in her actions. She drained the champagne before motioning a silent request for refill; and he knew enough to give her time and space. 'You mustn't make it difficult for him Jimmy. He knows we haven't a future; we both do.' Again, the noisy intake of smoke; the bite of the tobacco showing in her eyes. 'I'm the weak one. I can't let him go. Not yet anyway.' 'Marjory. I...' 'You don't need me Jimmy.' She sounded abrupt, and knew it on the instant. Extinguishing the cigarette, she reached for his outstretched hand. ' We are affectionate, yes; but... you can have any high born lady who takes your fancy. And I don't think I could ever give you what you're really looking for.' She tightened her grip on his hands. 'Let's stay good friends Jimmy, please.' After she'd gone Drummond summoned the waiter. Climbing the stairs to his hotel room, Jimmy held a bottle of American Bourbon whisky by the neck. Hours later, the whisky more than half gone, Jimmy laughed in the darkness. A poor excuse for a whisky, drunk by a poor excuse for a man; the whimsical thought that humored him to sleep. Marjorie sat at her open window. The laughter she was hearing sounded no less bitter. The laughter of the Gods, she thought. The image of Jimmy Drummond, sitting across the table, came back to haunt her. Not the impeccable, handsome playboy, Lord Elcho. The real man. A very different animal. The man underneath; I've been given a glimpse of him much too late. She wept then, without knowing for whom.
Archived comments for A Second Chance
Weefatfella on 26-08-2013
A Second Chance
 photo b75165e4-7600-48cb-b7fd-9f85d6470df7_zps4cd05353.jpg
Goad Jim! it's getting better all the time.
The consistency is there. I can see you're working very hard with this and it shows.
Your characters have depth.
Your descriptive writing is so good here.(She drew the smoke deep, almost mannish in her actions.) Followed by...{Again, the noisy intake of smoke; the bite of the tobacco showing in her eyes.}

I've been stopped for four years.
This nearly had me hooked again.
I'm not being sycophantic here Jim.
This is good stuff, and in my very humble opinion, worthy of the work you are putting in. Mair power tae yir elba big man.
It will be worth it. I'm sure.
Weefatfella.

Author's Reply:

OldPeculier on 27-08-2013
A Second Chance
More great stuff from the front.

I enjoy the soldiering and the romance too!

I particually liked the scene in the hospital with the guilt at being unhurt among the wounded.

Author's Reply:

Mikeverdi on 27-08-2013
A Second Chance
I was reading this allowed to Lesley, the last section that is; 'she moved among the broken warriors'. The dialog between Jimmy and Marjory is so touching, I could feel the stilted silences as if I was in the scene. I echo Paul , this is top quality Jim. Mike

Author's Reply:

Rab on 28-08-2013
A Second Chance
Totally agree with Paul as well; it's getting better all the time. Good description, good characterisation, great writing.

Ross

Author's Reply:


Pour Encourager Les Autres (posted on: 26-08-13)
For the Prose Workshop Challenge.

Lambert wouldn't stop crying. He was a Parisiene gamine; street-wise and quick-fingered,who knew the inside of everyone's field kit. Mucous hung from his nose, blotted by the sad excuse for a moustache which pulled down the sides of a petulant mouth. In that moment, Jean hated him with an intensity he had not experienced before. It was black outside. Way after midnight, Jean guessed. He and Lambert were the only ones still awake. The other four, all French peasants, were asleep on the straw of the floor. Their last night on earth, and these bumpkins would sleep till the firing squad arrived. The two Mathieus, both from the Limousin; and Alphonse. the shepherd from Corsica, were in Jean's section. Lambert and a lumbering oaf from the Auvergne had been unknown to Jean before yesterday's military Tribunal. Corporal Jean Sallanche, conscripted along with his peers in 1914. The son of the notary from Tourraine was at home in the Regiment du Berry. A prolonged war of attrition had whittled away Jean's classmates. Ripped from existence by machine guns and high explosive shells, their replacements were young men from the North. Pale, consumptive creatures with no attachment to Berry. And yet they had held, against every expectation. Jean had seen them winnowed in rows, and still pressing on. But that high point had been last year. 1916. A million men, French and German, lay out there between the trenches. Empty shells of houses clustered around the battered fort, marked the prosperous Lorraine village of Douamont. It stood at the centre of the Verdun defences; his home for the past eighteen months. Jean, twenty one years old, looked middle-aged. On the table were the remains of a passable meal. A garlicky cassoulet of soft creamy beans wrapping tough, tasty pork. Fresh pears, one between two; devoured in reverend silence. Six bottles of red wine, gifted by Colonel Defoy; carried in his own arms. 'Very good wine,' he said. It was bizarre, and to Jean's mind surreal. Was this his way of compensating men marked for death in the morning?. Selected, one in every hundred, to be punished for the battalion's recent retreat. The theatrical tears wouldn't see him past the sentries on the door. He'd be sitting sipping cognac with that bloodsoaked old bastard, the Divisional General; who had demanded that justice be served on the representatives of a disgraced regiment. Jean walked across to the sobbing boy. He gripped Lambert's shoulder as the weight of his own compassion threatened to overwhelm him. 'Come Pierre, home soon,' he said, rolling a bruised but ripe plum into the boy's hands. He turned as the guard Sergeant barreled through the door. 'Jean, that son of a whore, Chapulet wants to see you.' 'What's the time sarge?' 'Half an hour to go, Jean,' said the old sergeant. Jean could see the lightening in the sky above the roofs of the village. What could Captain Chapulet want at this hour? They stooped through the door of the Captain's billet. The Sergeant saluted and left. 'Ah, Sallanche; one moment, please.' The Captain sat in deep contemplation of an open file. He raised his hand without raising his head. Jean watched dawn's arrival, the clock in his head counting down his last hour. 'It says here that you are Jewish.' Only then did he lift his eyes towards Jean. 'Is that true?' 'Yes Sir. ' Jean understood in that moment, the total shipwreck that was shell shock. 'It's never been a secret. ' 'Then you shouldn't have been selected.' The statement was an accusation. It spoke of disappointment, disgust even. 'What with Dreyfus and the Zionists, we can't bear the scandal.' Captain Eustace Chapulet bore the same marks of shell shock. 'You've to be pardoned.' Jean felt light-headed; stunned; speechless. Without permission he slumped into the chair before the table. 'Let me get this right,' whispered the bone weary soldier. 'I am selected by a simple, mathematical process to represent my cowardly regiment? As a private soldier of France I am considered fit to be shot,' he shouted 'As an example?' Spit arched silver in the light of the billet's candle. 'Yet on discovering that I am a Jew; you Sir; conclude that I am not fit to represent my regiment?' The chair clattered backwards as Jean rose. 'Liberty, Equality, Fraternity?' He spat the revolutionary motto into the howling silence.'Where is the equality and brotherhood in this? I must join my brothers,' he shouted and ripped open the door. He was aware of the Captain shouting orders behind him as he passed through the door. He felt the tug of the sergeant's bayonet at his navel, and again the grate of the bayonet tip against the wall as it exited his spine. As the sergeant withdrew the steel, Jean slipped to the ground. He could see his five comrades being marched away. He tried to shout, as the Captain knelt and put the cold barrel of the revolver to his head. Jean took the well remembered road home in a last, brilliant flash of light.
Archived comments for Pour Encourager Les Autres
orangedream on 26-08-2013
Pour Encourager Les Autres
This one had me hooked from start to finish. Nice writing.

Tina

Author's Reply:

SirClip on 26-08-2013
Pour Encourager Les Autres
Powerful stuff indeed!

The Great War is obviously a passion of yours and it shows. An intelligent write that sets the scene perfectly without patronising or telling the reader how to think.

It raises all sorts of questions about duty, pride, guilt.

Very good stuff.

Author's Reply:

bluepootle on 26-08-2013
Pour Encourager Les Autres
It's a great set-up, with lovely descriptive writing. To be honest I wasn't sure what happened at the end there - why did he get bayoneted rather than pardoned? After the careful set-up maybe that bit was too fast. Or maybe it's just me having a slow day.

I think the first four paragraphs are really good though.

Author's Reply:

Weefatfella on 26-08-2013
Pour Encourager Les Autres
 photo b75165e4-7600-48cb-b7fd-9f85d6470df7_zps4cd05353.jpg
You're on a roll Jim.
Marvellous stuff.
Weefatfella.

Author's Reply:

Mikeverdi on 27-08-2013
Pour Encourager Les Autres
Another wonderful write about a subject you have made your own. Mike

Author's Reply:

Rab on 27-08-2013
Pour Encourager Les Autres
Wow - powerful stuff, and great storytelling.

Ross

Author's Reply:

amman on 28-08-2013
Pour Encourager Les Autres
I echo the last comment; great storytelling, well paced and very natural dialogue and atmosphere. You had me hooked throughout. I actually get the ending. It's all about pride and prejudice.
Cheers.
Tony.

Author's Reply:

TheBigBadG on 28-08-2013
Pour Encourager Les Autres
Couple of typos to start (can't help myself!); ,you need a space in 'quick-fingered,who', there's an extra period in 'death in the morning?.' and I'd hyphenate 'bone weary'.

I have to say I agree with Blue here. The opening is excellent, as every you have a real knack for setting these scenes, laying out the tableau and sketching real, tangible characters. I seem to remember saying something similar about the piece you wrote about the Pope some time ago. Your narrator is strongly defined, clearly a proud and stoic man doing his best to deal with the incomprehensible. Your historical knowledge shines through as ever as well (is it the Somme? Or was I only taught about one battle at school?)

The thing I can't really understand from what you tell us here is why he can't be executed through due process because of the scandal, but it's ok to gut him for a single instance of insubordination. The suddenness is absolutely fine with me as a stylistic decision, the problem is that I don't see what changed to allow it. I'd say it needs more, either about Jean or Chapulet depending on how you handle it, to justify that final violence.

Author's Reply:

Nemo on 28-08-2013
Pour Encourager Les Autres
Reminds me of some of Maupassant's stories set in the Franco-Prussian war - have you read any? Fascinating, the amount of research you must have done to get the feel of the French trenches. I have no problem with how you kill off Jean but with the fact that you manage to be in his head and know his thoughts, including his dying vision! I mean I know we have to go along with suspension of disbelief and but sometimes we can't reach the hook to hang it on. . . Just the one reservation, then, about a fine piece of work. (Hope you don't mind my pointing out: Parisian gamin -gamine is feminine - or in French a 'gamin parisien' - also lightning.) Gerald

Author's Reply:


The Taste of Failure (posted on: 23-08-13)
Born from the disappointment of not being recognised. It's all about self discovery.

A dish of humble pie is preferable to the just dessert of sour grapes. So 'bon appetite' my green faced petit. Eat crow you must; sure as dust is dust. The crust you'll find upon life's jaded palette, is wrapped around self-effacing pastry.

Archived comments for The Taste of Failure
Nomenklatura on 23-08-2013
The Taste of Failure
A bitter taste, but often the inspiration for a poem. I keep mine off-line, nowadays, but only because they're not very good. However, I liked this one very much.

Author's Reply:
Hi Ewan,
Now isn't that the truth? Glad you enjoyed it.
cheers,
Jim

stormwolf on 23-08-2013
The Taste of Failure
Hi Jim

Loved the layout. Like to see words being given more power by spacing creatively. 🙂

Alison x

Author's Reply:
Hi Alison,
I don't have any problems with layout; just with substance! The poem is really about my own small-mindedness; though the fact I can write about it is therapeutic.
cheers m' dear
Jim x

amman on 24-08-2013
The Taste of Failure
Love the trickle-down composition of the tongue-in-cheek and dark humour of this mildly sardonic poem, Jim. Really appealed to my darker sensibilities. Should have won the challenge.
Cheers.
Tony.

Author's Reply:
Thanks Tony, but not entirely true. you were a deserved winner of said ovum.
Glad you enjoyed.
cheers,
Jim

Bradene on 27-08-2013
The Taste of Failure
Ooo this could apply to many people these days Jim. I like the format here it's very different from the rest of your work. Interesting. Love Valx

Author's Reply:


The Flowers o' the Forest (posted on: 23-08-13)
Scenes 45 to 47

'They're not coming any more.' Brodie spoke in soft, measured tone. 'We're safer here than trying to withdraw in daylight; so it looks like we'll go hungry tonight.' He guessed correctly, that the Division had no more troops to throw into the assault. The second, third and fourth waves had all broken on the exposed plateau of High Wood. The bodies of over five thousand young Scots lay at this high-tide mark. 0ff to his left, Lieutenant Aird and Captain Drummond lay alongside a major of the Seaforth Highlanders as they made plans to hold the woods. 'Check each other for wounds,' Douglas shouted. 'What?' 'What for?' 'Douglas is right,' said Brodie. 'Take a look at us, we're covered.' Alan and Eck stared in fascination at each other. They were spattered in blood. They all were. Blood and gobbets of tissue; lumps of glistening human flesh carved from living bodies. Bullets and metal fragments flying from all sides had shredded the flesh from the assault troops. Murder at a distance; impersonal and impartial. 'Jesus Christ! Am I hit?' Martin rubbed at his face and studied his fingers. The action was compulsive, and soon everyone was swiping the gory debris from their person. 'C'mon somebody, check me oot.' 'You're fine Martin. Ok?' Billy was shocked at Martin's reaction. He had never seen him become agitated in this manner. He leaned across and shook his shoulder. 'Honestly. You're alright.' Martin calmed down and a slow smile lifted the panic in his face. 'Thanks Billy. I don't know what got intae me.' Martin put his helmet back on his head. The dazzling smile was still there as a loud metallic bang struck him deaf. Billy watched horrified as Martin's head flopped to the side, the smile now gone. Martin slid down the side of the shallow trench. Billy could see that his eyes were closed. The side of the helmet was buckled from the force of the bullet. 'Thank God. The bullet hit his helmet. He's still breathing, just unconscious the lucky bastard.' Billy removed the steel hat and studied his friend's head. 'He'll have one hell of a bruise and a real sair heid.' Aird and Drummond, running at an awkward crouch, made their way back to the Rifles. An unkind breeze lifting the heavy veil of smoke, allowed the sun to highlight the shattered remnants of an entire Division. The piles of corpses steamed in the late morning sunshine. All across the charnel house of High Wood, furtive movement disturbed the heaps, the barely living buried with the newly dead. 'Now listen men, we have to hold this line. We can expect a strong counterattack from Jerry,' Aird shouted. 'It will come quite quickly sergeant Smith, so I want this section from here to here to be alert and ready.' The area indicated by the Lieutenant was roughly one hundred yards long. Brodie nodded. 'Yes Sir, alert and ready we'll be,' he said. Drummond bent to Aird's ear and spoke in a sibilant whisper. Awkward silence followed before the Lieutenant addressed the men. 'Hmm... well done men.' Short, stilted and begrudged, the words hung ill-formed in the space above the men. The two officers then made their way along the trench. After ten yards, Jimmy Drummond stood up, stretched his cramped shoulders, and walked back toward the Rifles. He drew all eyes, standing in full view of the enemy guns. Divine madness, thought Brodie as he lurched to his feet and faced the young Scots Lord. 'It has been a privilege gentlemen,' he said. 'We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.' A slow smile and a studied turn of the wrist. 'Not me. William Shakespeare. And now I know what he meant. Hey Ho.' As he turned to leave he pushed Brodie down by the shoulders. 'Be sure to keep your head down Sarn't Smith.' Brodie saw the effects of the Captain's performance. He saw the light behind the eyes of his pals, the broad grins,the back-slapping, 'Hark at His Majesty, jumped up noble bastard.' 'C'mon Billy, he's a damn sight better than bloody Aird.' Billy spat between his boots. 'What is it wae you and him? What exactly happened in Amiens Billy?' The enquiry was cut short as mortar shells began dropping on the trench line. Four hours later and the bombardment fell with the same ferocity as it started. Individuals were driven crazy, having to be pinned to the bottom of the trench by their friends. It had all begun with Eck. It had taken Alan and the two Gourlays to hold the youngster down. It had come to nearly all of them, one after another. Now it was Eck lying across Alan whispering encouragement as the older man went limp. Jimmy Hughes lay in the bottom of the trench, his nose three or four inches from the mud. This is the real smell of death. The stench of war, he thought. Fifty yards away Black Douglas and Martin Robertson lay in the same position. 'The smell is awful. It's like nothing I've smelled before, no even in St Monan's,' said Martin looking at Douglas beside him. The big African shook his head. 'It's corruption. Human flesh and blood rotting into the soil.' 'Aw thanks pal. That makes it smell like floo'ers and eau de cologne, doesn't it?' 'I think it's God's intention. His way of making sure we don't learn to love war.' Douglas fixed large, wide eyes on his smaller companion. 'How's your head now Martin? Does it hurt much?' 'Only when some bastard starts preaching Christianity.' They both laughed. It was the only normal and natural sound all across that exposed plateau. 'Here comes the Hate,' shouted Martin as the bombardment intensified, and heavy ordnance fell upon the trench line. For fifteen minutes the beleaguered Scots lay with their faces buried in the foul soil of High Wood plateau. When silence fell the Scots peered in caution over the surviving lip of the trench. 'Aw, for the love o' Christ wid ye look at that.' A wide crater had appeared in front of the trench. But it was what was on the other side of the crater that drew all eyes. Seen at this level and at this place in time, it horrified men to whom horror had become a simple daily consequence. A highlander lay on his face, kilt over his head, and his stark, white, bare arse smiled at them across the gap. Compassion soon stifled smiles and turned shock and horror to anger. Unreasoning, blind anger, born of this indignity heaped on a dead comrade. The chattering dit-dit-dit of german machine guns from their front and their right,forced heads down beneath the lip of the trench. All except Martin who continued to look on in sick fascination. 'Martin get down. Your helmet won't save you a second time,' shouted Douglas with head bent and his back to the wall of the trench. For a further minute or so Martin remained exposed, oblivious to all warnings. With a speed which few would later credit, he bent to grab a canvas sheet then rose from the trench at a crouching run. Machine-gun fire intensified as the Germans targeted the kilted runner. At the other side of the crater Martin fell to his knees, oblivious to the interlacing automatic fire. He wrapped the man's exposed buttocks in the canvas sheet,the gesture one of unhurried reverence. Jimmy Drummond held his breath as if it might afford his man some protection. That communal breath was then let out as the men watched Martin bend and vomit into the desecrated soil. Pursued by the German guns, Martin rose from his knees and sprinted for the trench. In what could only be a gesture of respect, the German guns fell silent, pulling down the curtain on one more drama on that foul front. Martin covered the rest of the distance in safety, and with the cheers of the Division ringing in his ears. 'Splendid stuff Robertson; Well done,' cried Captain Drummond. He again rose to his feet and walked along the line of kneeling, cheering soldiers. The German guns zipped in fury above the trenchline as the young lord held himself upright in tight-lipped concentration. Crouched with knees bent and facing Martin Robertson, he stretched out and grasped his Private's hand. 'Congratulations Robertson,' he said and in his other hand he produced a small silver hipflask. 'Single malt, Glen Guthrie, distilled and bottled for old Pater. Take a big scoop now; honour of the Regiment this.' Martin swallowed hard then took a generous pull. Coughing, smiling and eyes watering, Martin mumbled his thanks. Late in the afternoon, the rain fell. The Rifles huddled shoulder to shoulder. 'You would think that was a terrible way to die, wae your bare arse in the air. Wouldn't ye?' Martin pulled his sleeve in a savage swipe across his face. 'Do you know why I was sick? Cause he had a big hole where his weddin' tackle should have been. His dick and baws... they'd been blawn off.' Using the chanter from his pipes, Rab sat against the trench side and played 'The Flowers o' The Forest'. 'The Germans have brought their machine-gun companies forward. They are firing directly into the trench.' Aird spoke close to Brodie's ear, the chatter of the guns making normal speech impossible. 'It may be necessary to send an assault section out there after them,' said the Lieutenant, swinging his arm up to point into the gathering gloom. Aird continued along the trench, stopping to whisper a similar message to each NCO in turn. The Rifles watched their Sergeant. Brodie's face couldn't keep the secret and they expected the news to be bad. 'It's the thin end again pal,yeah?' Billy stared at his friend. 'We're going after the machine-guns aren't we?' Brodie took time to answer. 'It might come tae that; we're taking a real hammering. Though I'm not sure the boys will follow an order like that?' Billy winked an eye at the big Sergeant. 'Let's hope you never find oot.' Alan and Eck sat shoulder to shoulder. There's something re-assuring about feeling another human being so close. It's warm and makes you feel safe, thought Eck with a laugh to himself. Alan felt the imperceptible movement and smiled in his turn. What would I do if I lost this boy now? he mused. Heavy shells ripping into the wall of the trench caught everyone's attention. A section of Seaforth Highlanders, sixteen men and a Lieutenant, were assembled opposite the German machine guns. All along the trench the highlanders laid down a hail of covering fire and the Seaforths cleared the trench and rushed the first German emplacement. Above the noise of the covering fire, the dat-da-dat of the Hun machine-guns carried across the gap. 'Cease Fire. Cease Fire.' The rifles stuttered into silence. Brodie peered over the top. 'They've gone. Cut tae pieces.' 'All o' them?' asked Billy. 'Surely no.' 'Seventeen men,' Brodie clicked his raised fingers. 'Just like that.' As if they had waited on such an obvious signal, the machine-guns recommenced that steady killing rate of fire. Three more section assaults were launched. Men died whilst still in the partial shelter of the trench. Futility overcame frustration and the assaults en masse were stopped. The killings continued, though at a slower rate, death now random in its selection. 'We're going to get ourselves one o' them machine-gun nests.' Brodie ducked beneath the level of the trench. 'D'ye hear me Douglas? We're like fish in a barrel here,'he shouted. 'Right boys, let's figure out how we can dae this.' They all moved to the front of the trench. The nearest machinegun crew lay a hundred yards to their front. Douglas turned toward the trench and slid down the front wall. 'What is it Douglas?' said Billy sliding to a sitting position next to his Corporal. 'We can't go out there. We need to wait till dark.' Brodie and the rest of the rifles huddled down around Billy and Douglas. 'If we wait till dark there'll be none of us left,' said Brodie. They all exchanged looks; looks difficult to read, impossible to decipher. Stewart Gourlay's eyes flashed a challenge at the Black Corporal. He winked at his brother and then scrambled over the front of the trench. 'No Stewart.' shouted Davy 'Come back here ya daft bastard.' Heads rose all along the trench. The dread fascination of watching a fellow creature meet his end. Stewart crawled across the broken ground before pushing to his feet and running toward the startled German gunners. 'You need tae watch this," snarled Davy Gourlay. dragging Douglas to his feet by the man's shoulder strap. 'This is what bravery looks like you yellow, black bastard.' 'Leave him Davy, that's no fair,'said Billy, though he saw the look on all of their faces. Stewart shuddered to a halt, clutching at his shoulder. The Division again held its breath, riveted by the sight of one of their own exposed, wounded, at the mercy of the gods of battle. Stewart's arm arched and then flew forward, launching a Mills bomb into the German trench. As the explosion threw the two huns into the air, Stewart pushed on toward the next gun team. The 51st Division came to its feet. It's like the crowd at Bayview when Fast Fife score a goal, thought Eck. Wild cheering signalled the destruction of two further machine-guns and then the line of highlanders moved forward en masse. By the time the impetus died, the machine guns were silent. The few remaining officers urged their men back to the relative safety of the trench. 'If only they'd send an assault wave up now,' Drummond shouted across to Alastair Aird. 'We'd take this whole plateau and hold it.' From further along the line the order was sent to evacuate any but walking wounded back to the rear. 'You'll go back like a tell ye,' said Davy at the same time pushing his brother Stewart back on the stretcher. 'And if you ever decide tae play the hero again, I'll shoot ye myself.' Captain Drummond appeared at the side of the stretcher. 'Make sure you take really good care of this man.' He leaned in closer,' I'm recommending you for a medal Private Gourlay. What you did here was very special and in the best traditions of the 42nd. Now you let them take care of you and leave your brother's welfare to me.' He lightly brushed stray hair from Stewart's eyes. 'I'll keep him safe. I promise.' 'Martin; you're going back as well. You get them tae have a look at that head of your's,' said Brodie. 'Aw Brodie, man I'm fine...' 'Ye heard me Robertson. That's an order.' The Sergeant looked out into the gloom. 'We'll be doon the hill soon enough, with or without your help. So go.' It was quiet after the wounded left. The mood was flat and the men drawn in on themselves. The excitement of the day bled into the already soaked ground. A single tenor voice floated over the lines. I've heard the lilting, at the yowe-milking, Lassies a-lilting before dawn o' day; But now they are moaning on ilka green loaning; "The Flowers of the Forest are a' wede away". Rab reached for his pipes but Brodie put out a hand to stop him and gave a short shake of his head. Out in the darkness the Flowers lay in cut piles, as Alastair Aird passed his hip-flask to his weeping batman. Bone weary, hungry and wet, the Scots held the forward ridge of High Wood through the black hours of the night. Rab Niven pulled a small harmonica from his battledress. Brodie nodded silent approval and Rab softly played the music of their childhood. 'They must push us frae here,' said Brodie. 'They have to do it early, before we can be reinforced.' He frowned in concentration, calling to mind all that had been said at Captain Drummond's briefing. He scanned the faces of the Rifles. 'We have to hold on at all costs. This position is vital to both sides.' He shook his head and paused. 'I'll no lie to you... this fight that's coming could be the finish o' us.' Rab put the harmonica to his mouth and broke the long silence. In the hour before dawn Jimmy Hughes arrived in the section. Davy Gourlay and Black Douglas crouched against the trench wall, on watch. Brodie and Billy sat back to back while Billy peered, eyes closeup, at a well worn notebook. Rab played a slow air which Jimmy recognised as one of Billy's favourites. He smiled as he saw Eck curled fast asleep against Alan's shoulder, his hand held inside Alan's own. 'Brodie.' 'I jist wanted tae be wae my pals. Aird said awright; surprise, surprise.' 'Take a seat. It'll be light soon enough.' 'Can you no play something else Niven?' Billy hissed. 'Is that no your favourite Billy?' asked Jimmy, as Rab stopped playing. 'It is when it's played well.' Brodie shook his head and grimaced at Jimmy. 'What's in the notebook?" Billy gave a rueful smile. 'Would you believe it's... poetry?' 'Are ye gaun tae read it tae us? Billy shook his head. 'G'wan, just for us eh?' Billy opened the notebook and all the Rifles moved closer. 'Christ! I thought you were aw sleeping.' 'Billy. Just read it,' said Brodie. 'It's called "The Floo'ers o' the Forest"... because that's maybe us.' He spoke in a clear, soft voice. Death whispers across the ether. It's shaded, indistinct form clings to the shadows, and calls the roll from the steps of the Mercat Cross. The Flowers of the Forest are summoned up by name. The stain of futile death is placed upon each pillow; like cattle marked for slaughter on the morn. Whilst gilded youth sleeps sound and dreams it's bound for glory, the ground in Northern France fills with wilted blossom. Sad, small smiles lit every face. The Rifles nodded; wordless. Brodie saw the faces of The Bruce's men at Bannockburn. General Wolfe's highlanders on the heights above Quebec. Hair rose at the nape of his neck as he recognised his ancestors gathered in his place and time. 'I suppose it's enough that we're here together,' said Billy closing the notebook. 'Now might be the time tae start believing in God Billy.' Brodie threw his arm across his friend's shoulder. Alan let go of Eck's hand as Davy Gourlay shot the pair a questioning look, and Rab lifted his pipes to call them all to the dance.
Archived comments for The Flowers o' the Forest
Mikeverdi on 23-08-2013
The Flowers o the Forest
Superb. Mike

Author's Reply:
Mike, as ever you do me too much credit. Thank you for the vote of confidence.
cheers pal,
Jim

OldPeculier on 23-08-2013
The Flowers o the Forest
Love it.

Great characters with enough description to bring the story to life without it getting bogged down and slowing the pace.

One very minor point. It may be worth putting an extra double space break between the different scenes, just to break it up for the reader.

Looking forward to more.

Author's Reply:
Hi O.P.,
I am so glad this spoke to you. Feedback helps convince me I am on the right track.
I take the point about dividers. The trouble is that because I know where the breaks are, I assume everyone else does too!
cheers,
Jim

Weefatfella on 23-08-2013
The Flowers o the Forest
 photo 915e0b75-fce7-4fc2-9921-556099197c13_zps1f6b3c50.jpg
An Absolutely superb write and wonderfully named piece.
I enjoyed every word Jim.
Congratulations.
The dialogue was perfectly balanced, and complimented the descriptive writing, which was excellent.
A thoroughly enjoyable experience.
I have no hesitation in nominating this piece for next years Anthology.
Weefatfella.

Author's Reply:
Hi Paul,
Lost for words really. you have no idea how affirming your comments are. It's the kind of feedback that makes me believe I am on the right track.
The nomination is a real bonus and a wonderful surprise. Thanks mate; I'm in danger of making an Oscar speech here!
cheers,
Jim

amman on 25-08-2013
The Flowers o the Forest
Hi Jim. I was not particularly complimentary when critiquing an earlier chapter but, this time, I feel you have got the balance between dialogue, action and place just right. The dialogue is soldierly authentic and I could smell the stench and feel the desolation of the battle ground in an almost visceral way. The poem at the end is a beautiful touch. Are these your own words? Look forward to reading more.


Cheers.


Tony.

Author's Reply:

Rab on 25-08-2013
The Flowers o the Forest
Excellent as always, Jim. How long is the whole story going to be?

Ross

Author's Reply:


The Far Country (posted on: 19-08-13)
Another section of the 'Novel'

After four days on the straight pavs of Northern France, the Rifles reached their billet in the small town of Richebourg. The company were quartered in a large farm on the outskirts of town, the officers in the farmhouse and the men in the labourers' cottages and the barns. The Rifles had the upper floor of a grain and feed barn, with Jimmy Hughes up at the house with the Lieutenant. The Rifles were perched on crates, lounging on grain-sacks, just inside the wide, open doors of the barn. Shirts were unbuttoned. Some were in vests. All were barefoot. The sweet, dry smell of hay and straw was overlaid with the warm smell of chickens, and cow-shit seemed to whisper on the soft breeze. 'If ye can smell that, ye're no deid,' said Stewart Gourlay taking a deep theatrical breath. 'Aye, this is living is it no Eck?' said Alan, prodding the dozing youngster with his toe. 'Who'd want to stay at hame? Eh?' 'Or scrub their cousin's underwear,' whispered Eck. 'Jist keep your eye on our Alastair,' said Brodie. 'He'll have it in for you, mark my words.' 'See. That's what I told you. You have tae tread careful,' said Alan. 'Would you look at that,' Billy nodded toward where Martin was carrying two buckets, accompanied by one of the farm girls. She was dark and buxom, a languid swing to her step; eyes fixed on the young Scotsman. 'How does he do it?' said Stewart, his tone born of two mothers; jealousy and frank admiration. By the end of the first week the war was almost forgotten. The Gourlay brothers soon joined Martin in helping with the chores around the farm. The rest followed and most of the company helped to harvest the new potatoes, the peas and the other spring vegetables. Farm labour earned them all a place at the large outside tables in the main yard. They fed on fresh vegetables,on herbed potatoes, pork and chicken; all washed down with farm cider and white beer. Wullie Wood, the Company piper, had found a home with the Rifles. He was regular army, from St Andrews originally, and a good friend of Ewan Campbell their platoon Sergeant.What had won him a place in the men's hearts wasn't his accomplished piping, but his gifted playing of the old fiddle he carried with him. He entranced both French and Scots alike with his jigs, strathspeys, reels and rants. In that soft, luminous part of summer evenings, his slow Scottish airs tip-toed barefoot through the mind's eye. Wullie drew the old tune to a close; though faint echoes remained on the ether. It was a favourite, especially at the drawing -in of twilight. 'Has it got a name Wullie?' 'Naw Billy. It's by Neil Gow, oor greatest Fiddler. He wrote it the night his second wife died.' Wullie slung his fiddle and lit a woodbine. Billy rose and trotted up the stairway to the barn. An hour later Billy sat by the feeble lantern light, a scrap of paper in his hands. He silently mouthed the words he'd written. He hadn't read or written poetry for years, not since school. But the tune was in the verse. He sucked in a trembling breath as he saw the loss of Anne Smith and how it would leave him, then he read it again. Neil Gow's slow Scots air at the Death of his Wife; Was written in silence and sorrow. It tells through a fiddle the joy of their life; And the loneliness coming tomorrow. I hear it each time as if hearing anew; This old Fiddler's prayer of Thanksgiving. And I ask, could I write it if I had lost you? And I was the partner still living. It speaks from the strings,from the fret and the bow; Redeeming a promised hereafter. His wife can be heard when the music dips low; With the tears they have shared and the laughter. It's a story of longing, belonging, regret; Which proclaims that his love never wavers. You can tell that her voice still remains with him yet; Whispered softly in minims and quavers. Billy transferred the poem to a clean sheet of paper. He entitled it 'Lonely Tomorrows', then placed it inside his letter home. Sitting with a last cigarette before turning in, Billy folded the scrap of paper and placed it in his wallet. **** These halcyon days passed slowly, one day seeping into the next. Later, they couldn't remember when Douglas had joined them. It had been a warm summer's day, yes. Dust motes had stirred in fractured beams of sunlight. Straw got stuck in collars, sharp, nagging, annoying. The Rifles were at their ease around the farmyard table. 'We've broken up two companies to make up the numbers in the rest,' said the Sergeant. 'So you have a new Rifle. He's jist stowing his gear.' 'It's not just as easy as that to get into the Rifles Sarge,' said David. 'Dinnae worry, he's from St Andrews. Get yourself doon here Douglas,' shouted Campbell. The figure descending the staircase stilled all conversation. He was easily the tallest, broadest man they had seen; and black. As they said in their end of Fife,'as black as the Earl of Hell's Waistcoat.' 'A black Rifle,' said English John, his hopeful tone imploring the end of his own segregated minority. 'He's a bloody darkie,'whispered Stewart. 'Shut up man,' said Brodie rising and moving toward the black highlander. 'Welcome tae the Section. I'm Brodie,' he said extending his hand. 'Douglas. Douglas Emboya,' he said in a deep bass voice. 'I'm afraid I'm not Scottish.' 'You don't say.' Brodie chuckled as he felt the pressure of the big man's grip. 'Let me introduce the rest of the Rifles.' 'Rifles?' 'I'll explain later,' said Brodie before introducing all the boys. As soon as he had finished, the two Gourlays left the table. 'I am from Kenya. You know - Kenya East Africa? Church of Scotland missionaries taught me to read and write. They taught me well,' he said, though not boasting Billy thought, 'They sent me to St Andrews on a church scholarship. It is my second year at Saint Salvator's College. Scotland has been good to me. It is my privilege and my pride to fight for her.' Billy shook his head in disbelief, maybe also admiration. 'Smith, here a minute,' said Campbell walking Brodie out beyond the farmyard. Once clear of the rest, Ewan Campbell produced his fags and offered one to Brodie. They sat in companionable silence on a low wall. 'We'll be in action soon Brodie. I need you to help me get the boys in shape. I want you to take charge of the section.' 'But what about Billy? He's ' 'No. Not Morrison, you Brodie. I've watched you, your a leader. Billy can inspire them, make them believe anything. But it's you they'll want to see standing there when they're on the verge o' panic, when they want to run.' Brodie watched the young veteran intently. 'I was lifted out of the trenches with a big piece of metal sticking out of my armpit. I know what it's like, but a can't explain it. All I can tell you is the experience will change you all. Some won't make it; maybe none of us will. So sew this on your arm and help me get them ready.' He stubbed out the fag, nodded briefly at the new Corporal, and left. Brodie remained still for a long time staring at the strip of cloth. Two weeks later their kit was on the transport. In mid-morning sunshine they sat at the barn door, lacing boots, adjusting straps. Billy read a letter from Anne. Jimmy was back amongst the Rifles. He pondered the sight of young Eck standing alongside The Black Douglas. Billy had had to explain that The Black Douglas was a real Scottish Hero from the past, and not a mark of derogation. Brodie was not sure that the Gourlays recognised the distinction, and knew he would have to have it out with them. By the time their boots hit the pave, they all realised that this small paradise wouldn't come again. As the re-assembled Division left Richebourg behind, the pipes played 'Johnnie Cope' -
Archived comments for The Far Country
Mikeverdi on 19-08-2013
The Far Country
It's always good Jim, I never feel the need to question the authenticity of your places and descriptions, I just wait for the next installment. Mike

Author's Reply:
Thanks Mike.
cheers,
Jim

Weefatfella on 19-08-2013
The Far Country
 photo 915e0b75-fce7-4fc2-9921-556099197c13_zps1f6b3c50.jpg
A very emotional write Jim.
The poem was in keeping with the feel of the piece.
Some of the descriptive writing drew on your poetic leanings to make the whole a very tender and enjoyable read.
I laughed with you on the Black Douglas.
I never took you for a Jacobite Jim.
God bless the gentleman in the black velvet jacket.
Thank you Jim.
Weefatfella.

Author's Reply:
Thanks Paul,
I need these softer passages to contrast with the horror of the war they are about to engage in.
God, that sounds patronising. The author condescends!
Cheers for sticking with it. It's not in chronological order unfortunately.
Ta,
Jim

Rab on 21-08-2013
The Far Country
Another strong section of what's shaping up to be quite a novel! The introduction of the Black Douglas thew me a bit until I saw your response to Paul; any chance of numbering them so we can read them in sequence?

Author's Reply:
Hi Rab,
Thank you for reading this extract. The trouble with them is that each chapter is 3,500 words and so it is a major commit for most members. I have now taken to subbing scenes instead, but of course my earlier chapter have been subbed already. This is Scene 12, the previous scenes dealing with the formation of the Rifles (Nine men from the same town on the Fife Coast).
The story now tells itself to be honest. I have characters whose intentions are no longer mine.
Thanks again for showing interest; I will continue to sub the scenes as long as people want to read them.
cheers,
Jim


The Simplon Pass (posted on: 19-08-13)
If you've been there you'll know.

Travellers don't debate the choice of colour. They spill from coach to car park intent on cake and coffee, then harken to the peal of hefted cowbells. Moonfaced across an Alpine meadow, the ancient hospice tells of belief in sacrifice, of Christian determination; the triumph of faith over good sense.. A Roman eagle; granite taloned, grey slate feathered, hovers above the unsuspecting serpent of the Col de Simplon. It faces the Swiss perfected City of Brig, and the marshalled banks of the River Rhone; pencilled on the Val de Valais, far below its beak. Variegated, modern pilgrims marvel at the Palladian excellence of the Cafe de Simplon. Fed and watered in the round, they exit the single-storeyed, signal circle and gaze upon a jolting,pink exterior; etched clear upon the bleached blue, eternal, Italian sky.
Archived comments for The Simplon Pass
Nomenklatura on 19-08-2013
The Simplon Pass
Splendid! (Yes I have been; your poem does it justice)

Author's Reply:
Hi Ewan,
The Café stays in the memory. Doesn't it?
cheers,
Jim

Mikeverdi on 19-08-2013
The Simplon Pass
Haven't been... but your poetry makes me want too; I think that says it all. Mike

Author's Reply:
Cheers Mike,
It's the surface of the moon with a shocking pink Café in the middle! you have to see it.
Ta,
Jim

Savvi on 21-08-2013
The Simplon Pass
I do like a good café pass me fork if there's any cake left. You bring the place alive, I shall have to go. S

Author's Reply:

Nemo on 22-08-2013
The Simplon Pass
'the triumph of faith over good sense' - love this line. I don't need to go there, Jim, your poem's got me there already. Great work! Gerald

Author's Reply:

Leila on 22-08-2013
The Simplon Pass
Really well executed immediate piece of writing, much enjoyed. I hope you don't mind if I suggest that I would remove the word eternal in the last line, but that's just me...Leila

Author's Reply:


Evensong (posted on: 16-08-13)
An entry for the recent Open Poetry comp.

Moonlight drops quilted darkness over all the tops. A smothering hush, lush from Nature's palette knife, stops the chatter. Its syrup drops to soothe barking dogs and sweeten savage tempers. It spans but a heartbeat. An asystolic silence. A drawn breath before the death of Eros. Mankind, no wiser for its years, still fears the cruel cadence that severs day and dusk. Life breaks the spell; Night's creatures crying triumph. Neath Obsidian black the scarlet hue of slaughter will paint man's inner eye. And try though he might to pass the night in slumber, he'll ponder if he's seen the death of light.
Archived comments for Evensong
teifii on 17-08-2013
Evensong
Very beautiful and atmospheric.

Author's Reply:

orangedream on 18-08-2013
Evensong
Some enviable imagery here. A delight to read.

Tina

Author's Reply:

deadpoet on 18-09-2013
Evensong
I love the way you weave superstition into the dusk and darkness- something we mortals never will be rid of despite our claim to sensibility and sanity. I have nominated this for the Anthology as it speaks to me.

Author's Reply:


Bread Winners (posted on: 16-08-13)
An entry for the recent Open Poetry Comp.

Winning bread sounds somehow romantic. Earning the crusts a consummation wished upon the working class. My Dad took pride in fulfilling the role. But not so proud as wear his cap indoors. Nor speak in aught but reverence of my Ma. He gave her every penny on any given Friday. And smiled; replete when bending down, so she might kiss his cheek. The memory sustains me. That Mum and Dad who won our bread begrudge us not one crumb. But lie at peace and know their job is done.
Archived comments for Bread Winners
Bozzz on 17-08-2013
Bread Winners
Hi Jim, Terse verse gets the job done - as the Jews said to their Rabbi - "Eucalyptus" or was it "Juniper"? Strange that we both chose bread for this week. But I went for the middle class - at length ! Greetings... David






Author's Reply:

amman on 18-08-2013
Bread Winners
A winsome poem, Jim so redolent of the 50's. The second and third verses remind me of my Auntie and Uncle in South Wales. He was a tough as teak miner but he knew his place in the household. Fond memories, indeed. Thank you for those.
Cheers.
Tony.

Author's Reply:

Ionicus on 18-08-2013
Bread Winners
Sweet memories that linger on. I like the play on words and association with bread. A good poem, Jim.

Author's Reply:


Calum (posted on: 12-08-13)
A dedication

My boy is now the man I always wanted for a son. His values are his own yet they're everything we share. He's a clown of course, a jester; but beneath the playful shell is a man of stern commitment you'd be glad to call your friend. A chip off our familial block, The rock to build a house on. Our future safe within his hands, He's someone to be proud of.
Archived comments for Calum
orangedream on 12-08-2013
Calum
An emotive and touching poem, which oozes pride in the best possible way;-)

Tina

Author's Reply:
Thanks Tina,
A bit of indulgence on my part, but the sentiment is real.
cheers,
Jim

amman on 13-08-2013
Calum
Jim. A touching and very personal poem. I'm moved by the obvious pride you have in your son. I hope you give him a copy of this.
Keep well.
Tony.

Author's Reply:
Thanks Tony,
I wrote this when I discovered that talking to my son was like talking to my Dad. I came over all maudlin It was the good red wine we were drinking I think.
cheers,
Jim

Bozzz on 13-08-2013
Calum
This is a big lesson - multum in parvo. A message like this is worth ten hailing his various achievements in life....well spoken Jim...salutations...David

Author's Reply:

Andrea on 13-08-2013
Calum
Absolutely lovely - I feel exactly the same way about my Jess, now 24 🙂

Author's Reply:

Savvi on 14-08-2013
Calum
I'm ok, I'm ok I'm not going to cry, no I'm not Bwaaaaaa



A lovely tribute about all the right things, nice one. Keith

Author's Reply:

stormwolf on 15-08-2013
Calum
Just lovely poetry and a very moving dedication, Jim. One of the things I love about your writing is the restrained power that is a hallmark of it. It runs through it like the name in Blackpool rock (if you catch my drift) 😉

Insipid you could never be!
That's what I love.
Alison x

Author's Reply:


Dream Come True (posted on: 12-08-13)
Success at any price?

It's a crackling sound. It sounds like old parchment. How appropriate for the Tomb of the Holy Father. But wait. I get ahead of myself. I know the sound; it's within me. The dry crackling flexion of my lungs. The parchment paper lungs of Christ's Vicar on Earth. 'Holy Father. Holy Father. Some water perhaps?' Ah Sofia. The dear companion of my final days. A broad-faced, wide-beamed peasant from the Mezzogiorno. I still find it impossible to believe that the world Press might speculate on sexual misadventure between this stolid, plodding mule and myself. Sister Sofia, younger, much younger than I, and yet smelling of old, dry linen; dried, wrinkled, redolent of rosewater and vapour rub. If they but knew how much of a relief the celibacy of the Holy Father was. Gianni Contadini, a street thief and pimp from the North. A venal, immoral child of the streets of Aosta. Light years from Pope Sextus VI. And yet the root, the life-line runs through both unique entities to end here, curtailed in this impossibly large bedroom. 'For pity's sake. open the curtains. The curtains ... some light.' For some reason they don't understand what I'm saying. My bedchamber is full of people. They merge with the shadows, they shift in the guilty manner of supplicants. I hear them and it takes my attention. I want to see the sky. The long narrow slice of blue glimpsed above the tall, ancient corridors of Aosta. 'More light' Mehr Licht. Goethe's last words. Who would have thought it, Gianni? A pick-pocket who can speak five languages, who can quote a long dead German Poet. After ruling the Roman Catholic World for twenty-five years, I learn at the hour of my death, why this chamber is so large. It must accommodate all these privileged spectators to the death of St Peter's successor. My death is the main event. 'Eminence. His Holiness is trying to speak.' She speaks to that bumbling old saint Henri. Here he comes, Cardinal Fourchet, my Secretary of State. I wanted a St Paul as my strong right hand. Instead I had a St Francis. A wonderful shepherd; but no Prince, no Iron chancellor. 'Holy Father. It is I; Cardinal Fourchet.' I know that you old French fool. I haven't said that of course. Can you imagine sitting throughout eternity having departed life with that sobriquet? 'Open the curtains.' I'm shouting at the top of my voice. It's quite undignified but I hear the slough of sand in the glass. Henri looks at me in the same way he gaped at my Private Secretary's mobile phone, back when we thought we might change the world. Over Fourchet's uncertain shoulder the Holy See shifts. Come, come Gianni? Gratuitous hyperbole at this late hour? What I mean is that I have spotted the opposition party. There in the shadows I see their sharp, expectant features. Cardinal Ancelloti. The full, fleshy face of a Borgia; the thin rapier brain of Macchievelli. The Papal choice of the Italians. What will the world make of the new Pope's mistress? Contessa Farinese, the darling of the Paparazzi. And next to the old Roman Satyr? The American. That bloody American Thomas O'Shaunnessy. Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago; Panderer to the Mob. Money launderer too. There must be a good half dozen of them huddled in the shadows. The 'Must live in the Real World' men. When they move away they will leave an oily slick on the wall. Am I to leave St Peter's throne to these peddlars and perverts Lord? Old Henri takes refuge with the Third World I see. The Africans, 0rientals, South Americans, even the beleaguered British. Not the Glaswegian Cardinal? Not that night club comedian, laughing boy Desmond. He's become Ancelloti's court Jester. There he is, practising his homespun patter on that handsome civilian in the dark suit. Who is that, I wonder? 'Holy Father what is it you want?' Henri has begun my absolution. 'Ego te absolvo, in nomine patrie...' The rattling in my chest has stopped. Sofia stop blubbering please. I can hardly hear myself breathe. 'Au Revoir, my old friend.' Henri, I'm still here. I can see you, you bumbling old fool. Don't do that. Don't shut my eyes. I need to see... #### I'm still here. In my cavern of a bedchamber. Dear God I am so confused. Am I dead? Is this Purgatory? Have I been allowed direct entry to Paradise? What? 'Well, well. So we're finally here?' 'Do I know you sir? Have we met before, perhaps?' No I'd remember. It's the gentleman in the dark suit. From Ancelloti's little clique. But why him? Where are the others? 'Oh come now Gianni; of course you know me.' I don't know him... and yet. He's much older than his looks. Handsome. Compelling in a strange 'Renaissance' way. I could imagine him in silks and lace. His hair much longer maybe. 'You think I'm handsome, Your Holiness? Here, let me stand out of the shadows. Better?' The dark hair is swept back from a sharp peak in the middle of his brow. The eyebrows thick, lustrous. The fleshy, bee-stung lips of a Titian cherub. He talks with his hands. Long tapered hands that compel the listener. It's what he does once your fixed. It's a shyster's cheap trick and yet I can't but follow the beat and swoop. 'I'm dead, that's it, isn't it? And you... you're... an angel?' 'Dead - yes of course. Angel - No. But then you know that already. Deep down you recognise me.' He spins like a dancer. He's pulled the heavy curtain wide. My eyes. The pain of the light. 'Close the drapes, please. Please, it hurts my eyes.' 'But you wanted your hour in the Sun, Gianni. You asked me; begged me to place you here.' 'That was a dream. That wasn't real, just the fevered imagining of a young man. I... I....' He's smiling. I remember the smile. Oh God I remember the smile. 'Monsignor Contadini, Bishop of Perugia.' His hands shape the words. 'But you wanted so much more Gianni. Non e Vero?' He has moved. The sun slants directly at the bed. The pain is unbearable. 'Come Holy Father I have the transaction here.' He beckons to a side table. He is nearing the bed, pressing me to take his hand. I must rise it seems. It's a broad, heavy ledger. Tooled leather and creamy, velIum pages. I recall it from my dream, and sure enough the memory is accurate. Too accurate. 'It was a dream... a dream that's all. Vivid I grant you but still just a dream.' 'Turn the page Gianni. Go on Your Holiness, look at the result of your dream.' The unctuous bastard shoots his cuffs and then puts dream in quotes with two fingers of each hand. The vellum is cool to the touch. The open page shows the signature of the Pope immediately before my predecessor. 'You bought the Throne of St. Peter with your soul Gianni. Not something one would readily forget. Turn the page.' I don't need to look round I can hear his smile. The page gives a crack as it turns and it's there before my eyes. My own bold, looping signature; the contract in Latin, the price for a promise made and kept, God help me. 'I did all of this for God. He will not forsake me now.' I sound more confident than I feel, though it has no outward effect on Satan. There, I've dared to put a name to my tormentor. 'Now what part of God's work was your becoming the Supreme Pontiff? I mean really Gianni... you sold your immortal soul to advance God's purpose? What delusion. Tell me your Holiness; who am I?' There's that smile again. Gentle, wistful, benevolent even. 'Come now Gianni; I need to hear you say it.' 'Get thee behind me Satan.' I hear the reverberations of my shouted command. 'Satan? You think I'm Satan?' His laughter has a high, feminine quality. 'Do you believe good and evil to be two sides of the same coin? Do you believe in the eternal battle between right and wrong, the light and the darkness?' He leans toward me and I can see silver white in the black hair at his temples. 'With such a weight of evidence at your disposal here, Holy Father, you can't recognise the dual nature of God?' "You mean... you mean you're...' 'Yes Gianni. Just so." A small brazier burns on a table behind his shoulder. I haven't noticed it before. "Your soul is a gift from me. A gift you thought so little of that you sold it to gain the world.' His hand is passing unobstructed through my chest. Impossible surely. It has re-appeared, closed as a fist. A light seeps through the fingers, and now he drops it onto the brazier. It burns swift and bright. Some of the colour seems to have been drawn from the room. He leads me by the shoulder, propelling me toward the window. 'This is the world you have bought Gianni.' A legion of grey faces peer up at me. Faces I recognise, all with the same thing in common. Eternal life in the grey, soul-less world of our own choosing.
Archived comments for Dream Come True
orangedream on 12-08-2013
Dream Come True
Some great writing here. More than deserving of its nib. Very much enjoyed;-)

Tina

Author's Reply:
Hi Tina,
Thanks for dropping by; glad you enjoyed.
cheers,
Jim x

Weefatfella on 12-08-2013
Dream Come True
 photo 915e0b75-fce7-4fc2-9921-556099197c13_zps1f6b3c50.jpg
In a word Jim, Brilliant.
The paradox is honest.
Strangely, I think it's the truth.
Weefatfella.

Author's Reply:
Hi Paul,
Really glad you liked this. Even happier that you were engaged by the paradox.
cheers,
Jim

Mikeverdi on 12-08-2013
Dream Come True
I think I read in a previous review of yours that you were 'on a roll'... this would seem to be the case; great writing Jim I was enthralled from the start. Mike

Author's Reply:
Hi Mike,
I'm not sure how long these rolls last; but I'm happy to ride the wave whilst it lasts.
cheers pal,
Jim

Rab on 12-08-2013
Dream Come True
I'm in awe; absolutely brilliant. Loved every word. Thank you Jim.

Ross

Author's Reply:
Hi Ross,
Thanks for the really positive comments. this was a short story I had fun writing.
cheers,
Jim

OldPeculier on 15-08-2013
Dream Come True
Very good. An interesting take on the 'Big Question' of life after death.

Well crafted with just the right amount of detail and humor.

Author's Reply:


1916 (posted on: 09-08-13)
Another Chapter from my Draft.

'Naw, please. Ma Maw's frae Edinburgh,'screamed the cowering bundle beneath Martin's bayonet. 'What the fuck!' 'Stick um, bluidy stick um,' shouted Brodie. 'He's wan o' ours, Brodie man,' said Martin. 'He said he wis fae Edinburgh.' 'I am, honest.' The German rose to his feet, both arms above his head. Brodie brought the butt of his rifle down on the man's skull. 'Right, well you carry him back,' he said, jerking his thumb in the direction of their own lines. It could never be truly dark this close to mid-summer. Down in the depression below the ridge at Thiepval, shadows blurred the edges, and plunging, indistinct progress made the reconnaissance a nightmare. The small village of Authuille belonged to neither side, a salient in the long, combative line of the Ancre valley. It was a conduit through which reciprocal patrols moved;given an importance far beyond its strategic worth. It was why the Rifles were here. To prepare the way for the forthcoming offensive; to ensure safe passage of the conduit. Brodie, Martin and the Gourlay brothers fell back toward the rest of the platoon, waiting with Aird at the lower end of the village. Out of the darkness the scud, scud, scud of a German heavy machine-gun made them rush for cover. They made the comparative safety of a slit trench in front of a small cluster of houses. as a high flare turned night to day. Martin landed heavily on the unconscious German. 'I'm coming in.' It was Douglas, running courier. And then he slid down the back wall of the trench. 'Aird wants you to set up here Brodie.' The black highlander merged with the night. Lost in the darkness. Martin smiled, reflecting on how much of Douglas's veneer had been scraped away by their association. Douglas and the two Gourlays exchanged curt nods. The groaning then caught everyone's attention. ' I think ye've broke ma airm.' 'Who on earth is that?' said Douglas. Brodie hauled the man across the trench. ' It's jist some German fae Edinburgh,' Martin shrugged. 'Wid ye credit that?' The man strove to break the Corporal's grip on his jacket front. ' Right you, oot with it' Brodie's face was inches from his, noses almost brushing. ' I'm frae Fountainbridge. This is my faither's idea,' he said pointing at his chest. He gave a tight smile. 'He's the German, no me and no ma mither. A wis a milk-boy wae the Co-op before aw this, for Christ's Sake!' 'Well your luck's in noo. You're a prisoner: they'll send ye back hame.' Martin smiled at his own suggestion. 'Don't be sae daft. He's a German sodger. If they find out he's Scottish, they'll fuckin' shoot him.' Davy Gourlay handed the prisoner a lighted cigarette. 'What's yer name then? Fritz?' The two brothers rolled about laughing. 'It's Bobby. Bobby Hiesler. And this isnae fuckin' funny.' 'It's aw right Bobby. Brodie can sort it oot,' said Martin. 'Ye will, won't ye Brodie? Ye cannae let them shoot him, no when he's one o' us.' 'Calm doon and watch your front There's a lot of his pals out there.' Brodie took a position at the front of the trench. still with half an ear to the conversation between the two young Scotsmen. Ten minutes later he turned his head and spoke. 'Bobby When we get the order to withdraw, you stay here. Your own people will find you.' ' Thanks Brodie. I'll no forget this.' 'Your a good man, Brodie.' said Martin his voice gone high. 'And Bobby,' he said, once more looking over his shoulder. 'If we meet again, there's no second chances.' Silence fell on the trench. Everyone turned toward the noise of battle all around. Thirty minutes before dawn and Brodie did a last round of the rifles. They were all tense, expectant, ready for the word to fall back. Brodie gave the word and the section scrambled up the rear of the trench. One by one they shook the prisoner's shoulder. The gesture of good luck. Stay safe. Brodie left the trench before Martin who was huddled close in conversation with Bobby. Going over the ledge, he leant back and dragged.his pal up after him. The Edinburgh man peered after his countrymen, now moving in single file along the side of the hamlet. 'Martin, Martin.' Crouched behind a boulder, Martin turned to his new friend. 'We'll have to meet. Efter the war.' Martin saw him in stark silhouette. He opened his mouth to shout a warning. His mouth closed with an audible snap as he saw Bobby's chest rip apart under the impact of the heavy calibre bullet. **** Way over on the left, high on the ridge, a tall fountain of earth was thrown into the sky. The following explosion was deafening, a fissure opening in the earth's surface. Billy felt small as he followed the billowing cloud, before it tumbled back to earth. 'It's too early,' said Brodie. He appeared to have spoken to himself. He shook the watch at his wrist then looked again. 'Seven Twenty; it's ten minutes too soon. The Germans will know our boys are coming.' A section of Northumberland Fusiliers trotted across the front of the Rifles. 'What are they saying?' asked Eck. 'They're a scouting patrol. They say the wire is still in one piece,' snarled Brodie. 'The bloody bombardment hasnae worked.' The air filled with the sound of whistles. All along the line they could see the first wave rise from cover. Within a hundred feet the advance slowed as the men started the stiff climb to the ridge. 'Poor bastards. How can we ask men to climb up there?' Billy watched in morbid fascination. Douglas spoke the Lord's Prayer, the whispered plea carrying across the shallow trench. Eck wept. Already they could see the gaps torn in the line of flesh and blood. 'Seven minutes. It's taken just seven minutes,' Martin slid down the trench and started lighting cigarettes for them all. Brodie checked his watch and nodded. The remains of the first wave had faltered to a standstill. 'They're gunning them down for sport, the bastards.' Jimmy Hughes dropped his eyes to the foot of the trench, embarrassed by his role as onlooker. 'Oh My God,'said Davy drawing heavily on his fag. And the second wave rose from the earth. The silence in the trench was profound and palpable. 0830, and all three assault waves were gone. 'We've got to dae something. We hiv tae help them.' Eck screamed at the sky. The rifles were galvanised; like leashed dogs. ' Sir? Sir?' said Brodie. Aird stared straight ahead, head rigid, eyes darting in all directions. 'Alastair.' Jimmy Drummond jogged along the trench. 'Let's get the company up on the line.' Aird gazed in incomprehension. 'We've got to give those poor lads something to fall back behind. Now stir yourself.' Almost before he finished the Rifles were above the trench-line. As they moved over the broken ground beyond the front-line trench, more and more piles of bodies lay scattered around. Young men. Men who looked like they might have been good fun in life. No smiles here though. No sick jokes. No queue jumpers. Just young men robbed of dignity, robbed of life. Poorly served by older men who should know better. Eck cried on, unchecked. Martin kicked the lifeless, grey earth: feeling useless. The dada-dat, dada-dat of the German guns sounded hot and tired as they slowly subsided. Gusts of wind whipped up sudden whorls of dust; and the wire hummed low-key. Smoke shifted in banks of brown, grey end black, and shadowy figures emerged; old men caught sleeping by the fire-side. One of these ancients, a Fusilier by his badge, walked in ponderous fashion toward Billy. He held his rifle at the high port, bayonet fixed, no flicker of recognition on his face or in his eyes. Billy put out his arm to halt him. Immediately the bayonet was swung level with Billy's chest. 'Watch him, for Christ's Sake. He'll stick ye.' Brodie moved toward his friend, catching the Fusilier's attention. Billy Morison drew back the butt of his weapon and aimed it at the stranger's head. Dropping to his knees, he jettisoned his rifle and cringed neath Billy's weapon. 'Away the Lads you should have seen them gannin ...' Open-mouthed, Billy stopped his downward thrust. 'What the fuck's he dae'in?' shouted Davy. 'The Blaydon Races. It's a Geordie song. He's singing,' said Billy, a catch in his voice. The singing stopped. Like a pebble in a still pool, the man's manic laughter filled the awkward silence. Others emerged from the smoke as if drawn by the eerie sound. All eighteen to twenty year olds like the kneeling Fusilier, aged forty years in as many minutes. A wrenching sob convulsed the young Geordie, soon overcome by his grief. The Rifles looked away. 'It's awright,' said Eck. His crying stopped, he dropped to his knees and took the Englishman in his arms. 'It's finished,' he whispered. The survivors gathered around the two youngsters. The cries of the wounded rose in that howling silence; and in that twenty three mile angle above the Somme, sixty thousand casualties lay on the torn earth. 'Get these men back behind the lines,' shouted Captain Drummond, nodding in approval as the highlanders took the old men by the arm. 'It'll never finish,' whispered the Fusilier, his eyes fixed on young Eck. Twice more the Rifles stood out front. Rab Niven paced behind, piping out a rallying call. The remnants of two further assault waves ghosted past, comforted by the sight of the compact line of kilted soldiers. In premature dusk, the Rifles fell back. No one else would appear through the smoke. The smoke that stung their tired eyes. Eyes that watered and spilled down grimy cheeks. Billy felt guilty. Hot food had arrived. He spooned it steadily down, feeling the bully beef and potatoes spread warm and comforting through his belly. He met the gaze of his pals, saw his guilt mirrored in their eyes. Alan dropped his spoon into the metal dixie. 'How can we sit here eating? Even now I can't believe what happened oot there. 'He lunged across the gap, dipping his tin cup into the rum ration. He swallowed down the whole cup, tiny rivulets of liquor running through the dirt below his chin. 'Has anybody wondered why the hot grub is so plentiful the night?' asked Martin. 'They aren't normally this good tae us.' **** 'Three days we've attacked that wood up there. And three divisions they've sent. Most o' them are still lying up there; deid' Martin swept them all with his eyes. 'Now they say it's up to us. 0or chance tae shine.' He gave a dismissive shake of his head. 'We'll be left lying up there tae. Bare-arsed and lifeless. you see if I'm no right.' As Billy cupped his hands around a lighted match, Brodie bent and lit a cigarette. He glanced up through the acrid smoke. 'It's what we joined for. And I'll lend you a pair o' mine if yer worried about catching a bullet wae nae drawers on.' They all laughed, but it sounded forced, as if there was no effort in it. 'I'm not sure Smith is entirely reliable. As a sergeant I mean.' Jimmy Hughes convulsed in a coughing fit and Aird spun to face him. 'Yes Private Hughes?' 'Come along Alastair, I mean really. Corporal Smith is the absolute best we have,' said Captain Drummond. 'I think Hughes sums it up nicely. No?' 'I have reservations sir. And I... I would like them noted.' As Aird spoke, Drummond noticed Jimmy Hughes' shake of the head. 'Duly noted Lieutenant. But we will have the promotion. Now if you please; it will do wonders for the men.' He made a point of stepping aside. 'After you, shall we?' 'Congratulations Smith,' said Aird, the voice shrill and brittle, the pursed lips giving the lie to the sentiment. Billy and Captain Drummond exchanged a tight cheerless nod. "Tea Hughes,' barked the Lieutenant, tramping off down the trench. Jimmy lingered in the company of his pals. 'Now Hughes. Tea today would be good.' Jimmy smiled in resignation before trotting after Aird. 'Well, Sergeant Smith,' said Billy with his arm around his friend's shoulder. ' And what would you like for your tea?' Walking back to his HQ, the Captain smiled to himself as he heard the happy clamour of the Rifles and their Sergeant. After dark the Brigade assembled for the short transfer to the "jumping off" point below Bazentin ridge. 'Right boys pay attention.' 'Certainly Sergeant Smith. We're all ears,' said Martin. 'OK, ok.' Brodie waited until they were all gathered close. 'I've decided to give the Corporal's stripes tae Douglas here. Noo make sure you all give him your support.' 'That cannae be right. It should be Billy... or maybe Jimmy, but no this black bastard,' shouted Davy. 'I'll no follow him Brodie man.' Stewart moved shoulder to shoulder with his brother. 'Oh ye will. All of you. I don't need your help to make decisions. I've picked Douglas and that's it.' 'I didn't want the job boys,' Billy made a show of sitting Douglas's helmet straight. 'So Douglas is the next best choice, eh?' There were nodded heads but no-one else spoke. Douglas was left to make of it what he could. Brodie swiftly formed up the platoon and they moved off behind Jimmy and his Lieutenant. They had stood in pre-dawn silence for twenty minutes. There would be no creeping barrage because shell trajectory was all wrong for the shallow ridge up in front. Brodie spoke low-voiced to his two corporals. Alan and Eck, helmet rim to helmet rim , spoke softly across the void. Billy scribbled in a notebook. Everyone was still and yet the platoon heaved and shifted. Rab put the chanter reed to his mouth and gave his bag-pipes a cautionary squeeze. 'Highland laddie' floated down the line and heads and shoulders lifted. The long practised tribal response made light of the 32 kgs of equipment the men carried. Aird's whistle cut the tension line and the highlanders surged forward. Brodie moved out in front, walking with his back to the slope. 'I'll see you all at the top of the hill.' Rab the piper was already way ahead, his boots digging into the loose soil as he started his ascent. German artillery began to flirt along the edges of the advance. Blind firing with the assault troops still not in view at the foot of the slope. 'They must have panicked when they heard it was the Black Watch coming,' shouted Martin, as they exchanged puzzled glances. At that moment, as the first of the squads gained the ridge, machine-guns ripped the air asunder. Cartwheeling bodies tumbled toward the rifles. Blood and tissue shone on the ground, and piles of bodies littered the earth all around. The remains of three divisions strewn carelessly at the feet of the advancing Scots. A hot wind grazed their faces, the salty tang of metal touched their lungs, and cloying black smoke stung their eyes. Crossing the ridge in front of High Wood, the men were exposed to the German machineguns on their right. Billy watched intently as the man in front of him took a high calibre bullet at the level of his waist. Head and feet stayed in line whilst the rest of his body angled sharply to the left. Billy heard the sharp, sickening crack of breaking bone, then saw the bullet re-emerge below the poor man's armpit, before exploding in pink mist from his shoulder. 'What is that smell?' shouted Eck. 'It's fuckin' awful.' Billy ran his tongue along the roof of his month, tasting the slick layer of grease. God it's making me sick, he thought, noticing for the first time the dead horses scattered over the ground. 'It's the Indian Cavalry; what's left of it. Poor bastards. The horses' bellies are full of gas. That's the smell.' The Indian cavalrymen had lain dead for five days, their skin turning black, yellow lines where corruption burst the surface. 'We have to get inside the tree-line,' shouted Douglas. ' Quick men, that's it just up ahead.' Aird and Jimmy reached the wood ahead of the Rifles, everyone remarkably unscathed. 'We stay low from here. We crawl to that trench-line up ahead.' Aird swung round on Brodie. "Get them moving Smith.' Everyone could hear the second wave as they left the foot of the ridge, the pipes sounding thin in the overheated air above them. The battalion shared the trenches with a battalion of Gordons; twelve hundred men reduced to four hundred on that exposed plateau. As the new assault crested the hill, the four remaining pipers stood clear of the blood soaked trench and played "Bonnie Dundee."
Archived comments for 1916
Mikeverdi on 10-08-2013
1916
I think you have grown writing this and the story has grown with you; both in depth and in magnitude. The first part of this section was magnificent in my opinion, it had a shock value that hit home like one of the 303 bullets. I hope to read the book one day in its entirety, don't leave it too long. Mike

Author's Reply:
Hi Mike,
Humbled by your comments, and grateful that you have read all I have posted on the East Neuk Rifles.
cheers,
Jim

Rab on 14-08-2013
1916
Powerful writing - the start with the German soldier from Edinburgh got my attention and the quality of the writing kept it. I'm going to read the other parts now.

Ross

Author's Reply:
Hi Ross,
Thanks for the positive comment and for your perseverance!
cheers,
Jim


Sign Language for the Blind (posted on: 09-08-13)
For the Weekly Challenge - IGNORANCE

Explaining existence is no metaphor for life. Defining nature's influence on unnatural impulse, is securing the gate once barbed steeds have bolted. The mathematical structure of melody, dsn't act upon the fine hair at my nape. Nor, in defence of Art, ds genius function in a test-tube. We are what we would be. We see what we might see, through the dingy glasses of life, not roses. A space less ordinary, the beggar of belief. And modern, moribund, mis-shapen masterminds, who claim to turn gravel into gold, can kiss my rosy, rounded cherub's ass. Whilst I contemplate my navel In the toilet of infinity.
Archived comments for Sign Language for the Blind
amman on 09-08-2013
Sign Language for the Blind
You are on a roll at the moment, Jim. It's no wonder this one won the challenge. An impassioned, scholarly rant with the final, alliterated non-PC verse the standout. I wish I had written that.
Regards.
Tony.

Author's Reply:
Hi Tony,
Thanks mate, but I really need to bring that passion to the more reflective, less bolshie side of the house, I think. Don't get me wrong, I love writing it: and I'm really pleased you like it; I'd just like to scribble the occasional sonnet!
cheers,
Jim

Corin on 09-08-2013
Sign Language for the Blind
Congratulations Jim on the Golden Egg. A lovely philosophical piece. Aye we are all ignorant:-

ἓν οἶδα ὅτι οὐδὲν οἶδα hèn oîda hóti oudèn oîda.

"I know one thing: that I know nothing” Socrates, A famous paradox.

Dave



Author's Reply:
Hi Dave,
Thank you for that. Socrates is the man ] would most like to spend an hour with given the chance. Oh, and Wayne Rooney of course?
cheers,
Jim

stormwolf on 09-08-2013
Sign Language for the Blind
Oh this was just fab!
Loved to hear you recite it with your lovely Scottish twang. 😉
The biting sarcasm was just so good and your alliteration powerful as always.
Alison x
congrats on the nib and the Golden Egg!
allow me to add a Nomination to your collection. 😉

Author's Reply:
Hi Alison,
But here I am a chosen sample,
to show thy grace is great and ample.
I'm here a pillar o' thy temple',
strong as an ox.
A guide, a buckler and example
tae aw thy flock.

I just wish I could write sonnets and love-songs wae the same vinegar!
Huge thanks for the nom, ya wee supernatural hussy ye.
cheers,
Jim xx

ChairmanWow on 10-08-2013
Sign Language for the Blind
LOve the combo of attitude and alliteration. Sometimes think that our knowledge of this universe just doesn't cut the mustard.

Ralph

Author's Reply:

stormwolf on 10-08-2013
Sign Language for the Blind
wee supernatural hussy!
That's the nicest thing I've been called for mony a lang year 😉
x

Author's Reply:

Mikeverdi on 10-08-2013
Sign Language for the Blind
As Alison said , it was great to here you read this, I loved it... and agree, the last verse was indeed priceless!

Author's Reply:

Bozzz on 10-08-2013
Sign Language for the Blind
I am sure there's many a bluebottle would kiss your arse - if only for the chance to savour the pheronomes of bardic excellence. Keep delight coming for the rest of us... David

Author's Reply:

Andrea on 10-08-2013
Sign Language for the Blind
'And modern, moribund,


mis-shapen masterminds'
....Oh, deary me - I fair fainted with joy 🙂


I do think 'misshapen' is one word, though.

Mind you, it does seem to be okay as far as Billy Boy is concerned '"Thou mis-shapen dick!"
(5.5.35)
- Henry V I believe 🙂

Author's Reply:

ValDohren on 10-08-2013
Sign Language for the Blind
A poem with attitude Jim - have you really got a rosy, rounded cherub"s ass? Congrats on the nib and nom.

Val

Author's Reply:

Savvi on 14-08-2013
Sign Language for the Blind
Well deserved egg Jim there is so much to like in this one to say nothing of the tone it really puts us in our place the last Stanza is perfect summation. Best Keith

Author's Reply:


Swansong (posted on: 05-08-13)
Drinking gin always has this effect on me!

The triumph of our days comes down to what we leave behind. And those yet to come, who would know us, do so only by those remnants we write large upon the sky. The hollow brass of loud, maintained belief; that empty vessel whose truth will not survive the light of reason; echoes only in our empty tomb. Life is indeed that strolling player we know from Shakespeare's pen. The troubadour, aware the lines are false, who yet will sing the song. So write your lyrics, set them to your tune; and make your parting melody your own.
Archived comments for Swansong
amman on 05-08-2013
Swansong
Very Shakespearean and profound, Jim. I wish the demon drink had that effect on me.
Cheers.
Tony.

Author's Reply:
Cheers Tony,
you know what they say:- you have to embrace your demons!
Jim

Bozzz on 05-08-2013
Swansong
Your gorgeous delirium is too full of truth and as the wine writer would say, tinged with mouthfuls of plummy strawberry with a gooseberry finish - ad inf. I love this one Jim...David

Author's Reply:
Hi David.
So very pleased with your positive comments.
cheers,
Jim

ChairmanWow on 07-08-2013
Swansong
Sounds like one of those drink yourself sober moments. THe Bard of Avon still speaks to us (maybe sometimes through us?)after all this time. Nicely done, Jim.

Ralph

Author's Reply:
Hi Ralph,
They do say that drinkers make the best poets. At least I hope they do!
cheers,
Jim

Nemo on 07-08-2013
Swansong
I like the play with existential profundity in this, Jim. I wonder of 'what' would work better than 'that' in line 2. Gerald.

Author's Reply:
Hi Gerald,
Thanks for reading and commenting. I have made the change you suggest. It does scan better.
cheers,
Jim

stormwolf on 07-08-2013
Swansong
Ah 'Mother's Ruin' I always heard it made ye 'greetin' drunk' lol
I do feel the mood in this poem that has a profundity about it in keeping with the subject matter and the length is just right.
the only bit I was not sure about was the very start.
The triumph of our days comes down
to ( that ) we leave behind.
And those who, yet to come, would know us,
do so only by those remnants

I feel that this does not read well...should it not be 'that which' ?
Anyway, another gem ..pass the bottle I could do with some inspiration 😉
Alison x

Author's Reply:
Hi Alison,
Thanks for the pertinent comments. I have reworked the first section. It didn't read right, which begs the question why did I leave it in in the first place? Well that's gin for ye!
yes greetin drunk on many occasions. I remember one Auld year's Night in Capetown .. ...
cheers,
Jim x

cooky on 07-08-2013
Swansong
I love this one. Full of wisdom gained in life.

Author's Reply:
Hi Cooky,
Delighted with the comment and the vote, pal.

Wisdom? Moi?
cheers,
Jim

Bozzz on 08-08-2013
Swansong
I forgot to mention that by now you should be well and truly 'ruined', as Hardy put it.

"The principle sin
Of gin
Is, among others.
Ruining mothers."



Author's Reply:

Andrea on 08-08-2013
Swansong
Brilliant! Much food for thought. Must buy some gin...

Author's Reply:


The Cafe du Commerce (posted on: 05-08-13)
For the weekly challenge - Careless Error

I have my own little corner of France. Oh it's not what you're thinking. It's about 25 kms from my little bit of god's green acre; my bit of heaven here on earth; my home in La France Profonde. The Cafe du Commerce in Aubusson sits on that corner. And it's become my local. I use it every Saturday after visiting the market. I'm also in Aubusson for one thing or another, and I always call in. Like many places in France, Aubusson got started due to its proximity to water. In this case the fast flowing river Creuse which carves its path deep in the surrounding hills. Aubusson fits comfortably into a deep, looping bend; seeming to spill from above through the many shallow gorges that border the North bank. It's a World Heritage site. Famous for its Tapisserie, its wall hung carpets; the best of which have made the grade as works of art and hang in the Louvre. It is no architectural gem. It's that eclectic mix of late-medieaval charm, French Empire chic, and industrial practicality that blends very well together. But enough of the Travelog; I'm heading for the Cafe du Commerce. My first visit was a disaster. It was early March and already hot and sunny. I wanted to be taken for a Frenchman, or at least a cosmopolitan foreigner. I sat at the outside table to the left of the Cafe door. It's now my table; I always sit there. Strange as it might seem, I've never been inside the Cafe. The long cherished dream, that movie in my head, said Coffee. The cooling beads of sweat around my hat band said Beer. "Un Cafe et une biere, s'il vous plait." Madame is mid sixties, both in age and in dress. French and classy, she carries the attractive patina of age with grace. Though you have to get behind the workday clothes and manner to see that. "Both for you" she says, peering at me from beneath arched eyesbrows, "together?" It's clearly not done; I've blown my cover. "If that's ok," I say, giving her what remains of my boyish grin. She smiles, understated, Gallic, enigmatic. She says "c'est tout?" - "Is that all?" The "Commerce" is a grey stone, three storey building with a plain front and square symmetrical windows. It sits at the end of a long, winding street which contains many more fashionable cafes, bistro and brasseries. On this corner, the road curves into the distance of the Rue du Commerce. I'm still curious as to what's around the corner, even though I've been down there many times. Occasionally a car emerges from my right, from the old town by the river. But road traffic is light and the scene is pedestrian French. So what attracts me? I don't know. The Cafe sits like a well dressed, elderly French lady who has just winked at me from under her beret. I smile and walk to my table. I always order "un cafe et une biere". Many a French eyebrow is arched over the pastis, the cafe, and the eau minerale. "Both for you?" she still asks, with a complicit smile; then an arch look at all her French customers. It would appear that I'm now the Commerce's very own foreigner. Well; it is my local.
Archived comments for The Cafe du Commerce
Mikeverdi on 05-08-2013
The Cafe du Commerce
As always, you paint the picture perfectly with your words. Mike

Author's Reply:
Cheers Mike,
Glad you enjoyed it.
Jim

Nomenklatura on 05-08-2013
The Cafe du Commerce
I recognise this feeling. You may be a foreigner, but you are their foreigner. Besides, when they complain about les etrangers, they don't mean you, M'sieu Franciman!

A gentle, entertaining read.

Author's Reply:
Hi Ewan,
I'm glad it struck a chord.
cheers,
Jim

amman on 05-08-2013
The Cafe du Commerce
So pleased you posted this on the main site, Jim. Totally endorse Ewan's comments; a perfect summation. In my opinion, this is some of your very best writing and the story made me smile when I needed a smile. Excellente.
Meilleures salutations.
Tony.

Author's Reply:
Hi Tony,
Thanks for the kind comment and, I suspect, the nomination. Living here in France brought me to writing in the first place. Something about the atmosphere I think.
cheers mate.
Jim

Corin on 05-08-2013
The Cafe du Commerce
Hi Jim, This is a great story, it gave me geat problems judging the Golden Egg for the Challenge. - hoping to hear you read it UKALive this year at the Big Green Book Shop in London see:-

https://ukauthors.com/phorum5/read.php?94,219923

Dave


Author's Reply:
Hi Dave,
Thank your I am seriously considering flying over for the occasion. will let you know.
cheers,
Jim

Ionicus on 06-08-2013
The Cafe du Commerce
Jim, a great atmospheric piece. It's odd how difficult it is to become a native. There is always something that distinguishes us from the local population even though we think that we have achieved total integration.
Well done on the nib and nomination.

Author's Reply:
Hi Luigi,
Thanks for reading and commenting. You are so right about the foreign acceptance business. Mind you my Frenchis nowhere near as good as I pretend it is in my writing!
cheers,
Jim

Rab on 08-08-2013
The Cafe du Commerce
I really liked this little gem of a piece, especially the flourishes - the movie in your head that said coffee; Madame carrying the attractive patina of age with grace - lovely. And i envy you your table at the Cafe de Commerce!

Author's Reply:
Hi Rab,
So glad you liked this. Very reminiscent of your tale of the Bistro. I gather you are oft in France? Feel free to call in next time you come. I'll send you the address.
Beer and a coffee isn't it?
cheers,
Jim


Officers and Gentlemen (posted on: 02-08-13)
Another passage from my novel, as I get in deeper; so deep I might soon be out of my depth.

For three days. A ceaseless cycle. Assault equipment. Officers' Mess stores. Heavy shells. Lift, shift, strip down and sort. The late August heat seared their pumping lungs. Red dust crunched under their teeth, their thick tongues, the thickening mucous of their nostrils. 'Right boys, take ten minutes.' Brodie watched them drop to the earth bank at the side of the depot square. Pearl white eye sockets stared out of red clay highlanders. Alan Bowman beat at the heavy red kilt, and Brodie saw the thick powder rise into the fetid air then resettle on the soldier. 'Three fuckin days. What has this got tae dae wae being a sodger?' The Rifles were startled. It was Stewart Gourlay's first complaint, pronouncement or sign of involvement since Davie had died at High Wood. 'Would ye rather be sitting in a hole in the ground up at Byzantium?' 'It's Ba-zen-tin ya brainless wee shite Eck,' snarled Stewart. 'Hark at the professor. Your university education wasn't aw wasted then?' Billy's theatrical raised eyebrow took the sting out of the retort. 'That's something you and Douglas have in common.' Billy's gaze flitted between the two men, the suggestion clear to both. 'And dae ye think I would attend any school that taught Africans no tae pick their toe nails? Douglas remained silent; though he caught the appeal in Billy's eyes and the imperceptible shake of his head. 'Jimmy, Jimmy, we're over here.' Brodie waved at his pal, who had appeared in the corner of the depot. Jimmy Hughes trotted across the hard-baked surface, a wooden box under his arm. Stopping alongside the big Sergeant, Jimmy pulled off the lid of the box. 'Look at what I've got for ye,' he said with a flourish. **** Captain Drummond levered off the lid of the wooden box. He smiled in contemplation of the bottle he lifted from the straw lining. 'Ah yes,' he whispered, running his thumb across the label. 'Hughes? .... Hughes, I wonder....' He gave his batman a rueful smile. 'Would you take these two bottles to the men? It's a mark of appreciation for all their hard work...You know? To say thank you.' He paused, staring off into the corner of the tent. 'It might come better from you.' 'Yes Sir.' Jimmy took the bottle, gazing in wonder at the label, until Drummond handed him the second one. 'Whisky?' The question, in his eyes too, sought confirmation. 'Contraband Hughes.' The theatrical tension rose in his voice. 'Liberated from the Officers' Mess up at Division HQ. General Harper's private stock; I shouldn't wonder.' His music hall wink brought a tight smile from the private. 'They do drink Whisky?' 'Oh yes Sir. It's jist...well it's pub whisky we drink. You know? It doesn't have a label.' He laughed. 'It disnae even have a name ... sir.' 'They will like this then Hughes. It's Lagavulin. Single Malt whisky. From the Islands of North West Scotland.' His explanation slowed as he looked across the tent. His batman stood unsmiling, sullen. 'Now I'm simply sounding like dear old pater.' The rueful smile again. 'But then he does rather treasure malt whisky. Who wouldn't?' He became sullen and unsmiling in his turn. 'Well.... the men obviously.' He lifted the two bottles out of the private's hands, to replace them in the box. 'I'll see if I can't get some cheap spirits from the Quartermaster.' God. Now I've gone and made him feel bad about this, thought Jimmy. 'Please Sir, you know me and my big mouth. What would I know about it?' He smiled and lifted the box. 'The boys will love it.... Mark my words Sir... And thank you Sir...On behalf of all the Rifles.' 'If you're sure then Hughes...' Jimmy lifted the box and the awkwardness faded as he left the tent. **** 'It's whisky that's made wae ...malt. It's got peat in it too. The Captain says it's really guid and very expensive.' 'Yes, typical o' the man... swaggering shite,' Billy spat the words at his pal Jimmy. 'He's just trying to buy us all. Who the fuck does he think he is?' 'He's Captain James Drummond. Lord Echo, son of the Duke of Perth, Billy.' Brodie called the roll in a loud voice; then softer, 'He's your Officer, and a decent human being who 'thinks' it's the right thing to thank his men for work well done.' He stood above Billy Morrison, as the world seemed to hold its breath. 'You might like to consider the spirit o' the gift, instead of the cost. For that's also typical of the man.' 'That's bollocks,' Billy shouted, though he had lost his audience. The Rifles were all engaged in events at the far end of the depot. 'Oh Christ! It's Martin.' 'They're Redcaps are they no?' 'Jesus! They'll shoot the poor bastard.' Martin stood inside the protective square of four Military Policemen. He wore nondescript cord trousers and a cotton smock style shirt. His skin an unhealthy white, he appeared dead behind his dark-ringed eyes. Billy stepped toward the tight formation. 'Are ye alright Martin? Have they mistreated ye?' 'Just take a step back Jock. Or you'll discover what mistreatment really is.' The dialect was pure Yorkshire, thickly accented. 'This is a police detail with an Army deserter in custody. And you are just a sodding Scotchman in the King's Army.' He emphasised the warning with the narrow end of his pace-stick thrust at Billy's face. 'Step back Billy.' Brodie moved between Billy and the stick. They were of a size, these two, and Brodie moved forward against the stick. 'I'm Sergeant Smith of the 7th Battalion of The Black Watch. This man, this sodding Scotsman, is a member of my platoon and I 'will' speak to him. Not least to enquire about his health and wellbeing.' He stared unwavering at the Yorkshireman. 'Now put yer fancy stick away before I do it myself.' The Rifles stood in silence a few minutes later as Martin was lead away. He had seemed little concerned for himself but very worried about the effect of his arrest on Lisette. Rooted to the spot after the detail disappeared from sight, no-one seemed prepared to break the silence. 'All whisky is made from malted barley.' They turned in a single body to look at Alan Bowman. 'What?' 'Single malt whisky is unlike the rubbish we drink at hame. It isn't a mixture of whiskies, it's a single whisky turned into alcohol when you boil malted barley and highland water.' 'Alcohol is it? Stewart Gourlay's voice rose along with his eyebrows. 'It should be straw coloured. It should smell of sharp, heather honey, and it should taste smoky like the peat the water filters through.' Alan watched Eck's jaw drop, delighted by the look of awe in his pal's face. 'What are we waiting for then?' Billy grabbed a bottle from Jimmy's hands and pulled the cork. The Rifles surrounded him. 'Wait,' shouted Alan. 'You hiv tae drink it wae water. Half and half. Tae release the natural oils and that.' 'Natural oils ma arse!' Stewart swallowed, sighed, swallowed then passed the bottle to the next man. Jimmy took time to consider his earlier belief that the Rifles might not appreciate upper-class whisky. **** Alastair Aird stood on the wide, green pathway above St Valery. The silence roared through his mind, drowning the birdsong, the heavy buzz of insects, the slow cadence of French rural life. His skin felt cold; clammy. It crawled; at the picture of Private Davy Gourlay, sitting above the shredded remains of both his legs. You won't talk ill of me anymore, you stupid,unimaginative fisherman. Will you? he thought, though guilt gave him pause; made him breathe deep, mastering the rising tide of nausea. The view, the place, had sustained him on the furrowed ground above High Wood. Alise; the talisman he clung to, in the absence of an anchor amongst the Rifles. He knew they had given themselves the fanciful title - The East Neuk Rifles. He laughed at the conceit and yet felt excluded, denied the fellowship it provided. They had arrived at the Inn during the late afternoon, he and Norman Barrington. Her father had said Alise was at the chateau hospital and would not return till morning. They had drunk much too much; and still Aird had risen in the early morning to come here, above the slumbering village of St Valery les Mines. The pain behind his eyes had increased with the rising horror of his thoughts. It had killed the mood of excited anticipation and he walked at pace, down the near slope. Alise stood in the ring of village girls at the well in the square. Talk was animated but she looked over their heads at the young, Scots officer. Her smile lit Alastair's world. He stopped. I'm smiling like an imbecile. His short laugh was genuine. It warmed the clammy flesh and stilled the rebellious stomach. She left the group. As she approached him, the bevvy of village girls took stock of the uniformed stranger. He felt himself flush pink at their frank appraisal and the wanton nature of their shouted invitation. 'Bonjour monsieur, comment allez vous?' Aird's pleasure, physical and intense, robbed him of breath. 'Don't mind them, they are much less bold than they seem.' She swept long, slim fingers across the insignia at his shoulder. 'You have been...' Alise groped for the correct word. 'Promoted? To Capitaine I think. No?' 'Captain. Staff Captain actually,' Alastair's hand went to the epaulette at his shoulder. His face marked his displeasure as Alise's hand dropped to her side. He saw her tight smile mirror her hurt. As he stood there impotent, she brightened and took a firm hold of his upper arm. 'Come Alastair, we have so much to tell each other.' She turned them toward the Auberge. 'A bien tot,' she called to her friends, over the back of Aird's shoulders. ***** They sat under a harvest moon, the shadows at the edge of the garden thrown into darkness by the light splashed across the grass. Norman Barrington had excused himself over coffee, claiming the need for an early night. He had squeezed the younger man's shoulder as he passed behind Alastair's chair. The implied encouragement had sent Aird out into the moonlight, arm in arm with the woman designed by nature and circumstance to overawe him. Forgetting this honest and frank assessment in a juvenile flush of confidence, Alastair allowed Alise to draw him out about life away from the War. 'My father was a wonderful man.' He pulled the garden chair from beneath its table and gestured for Alise to sit. 'Everyone loved him. Not just my Mother.' As he took the chair alongside her he put his hand on her bare arm. 'All the professional men. The people of substance.' He drew his hand away, marvelling at the fine golden hairs rising along the length of her arm. 'Even the ordinary fishing folk,' he whispered, breath held in his throat; testament to his growing arousal. 'You must miss him Alastair. It cannot have been easy for you?' Her voice, like that of his mother, pulled him back to the tranquility of the moment. He found himself a disembodied observer, his father's death played out before his eyes. Alise heard him catch at a sob in his throat; saw the glistening jewel of a tear and noticed the tight clasp of his fingers along the arms of the chair. Alastair Aird didn't hear what Alise said. In the time to come he would have no recollection of what she told him. It was the sound of the sea on a shingle beach and it back lit the magic lantern show; the brutal transfixion of his father. Once he started to tell the story there was no stopping, and he brought the events to life in the catharsis of the moment. 'It gives Hughes this hold over me.' His hand, open-palmed in front of him, curled into a tight fist. 'If he ever....' Aird became aware of the girl's silence. He lowered the hand, his gaze dropping too, searching the lawn beneath his feet. It seemed to him that the silence stretched on and on; that the moment was frozen in time; that they might stay in that position forever. He might even settle for that. Daring to meet her eye, he looked up to find her sitting in the same position, gaze soft, no evidence of tension or horror in her demeanour. 'Say something, please.' He got to his feet, clumsy in his movement. 'What kind of monster am I? I shot an innocent man. They'll hang me.' 'Sit down Alastair, please.' She took the hand dangling by his side and squeezed. He found time to marvel at the cool strength in that slim grasp. 'Come now. Sit.' An hour later, with the moon passing behind the cloud, Alise took her leave. She stooped to his ear 'Good Night dear Alastair.' Her lips blossomed upon his cheek and she was gone. He smelled the flowered perfume of her passing and perhaps should have smiled. She's a Doctor, he thought, and I'm certainly an interesting case. Enough of a curiosity to practise her art upon. Almost at once he felt uncomfortable with the thought. He squirmed in contrition, remembering the soft flavour of her kiss, but the insistent voice of doubt speared at the warmer thoughts. The moon, emerging from the clouds, threw cold light on the seated figure. He retreated to his room under the moon's baleful influence. **** La Sioule cut through the granite folds in the landscape. The river had stepped its way down the ravines and gullies, filling each natural stone basin then spilling over smooth lips to the basin below. Its waters were clouded and green, greying under the sunlight that filtered through the trees at its banks. They had brought a picnic; walking three miles to this enclosed meadow, before spreading their bright blanket over the flowering clover. Alise had looped a string round the top of a bottle of white wine, before dropping it into the still cool water. Aird shook his head, smiling in recognition of the relaxed, euphoric mood he was in. After last night I have no right to feel this way, he thought to himself. Walking home in the late afternoon heat should have been a delight. Aird was aware of it and guessed that Alise must be too. The hours spent in that sunlit meadow had been the perfect opportunity for growing intimacy. And we have drawn very close, he thought, she relishes my company, is opening up to me... and yet. Alise was aware of the unseen barrier between them. Walking so close, side-by-side, and yet I can almost touch the screen that separates us. She reached to take his arm, he lurched against the gentle slope of the hill, and the moment passed. Conversation blossomed in long spells then faded to comfortable, companionable silence. Aird would later muse on his strange notion that he could hear the gentle movement of the girl's body beneath the linen of her dress. If was a heady notion that fuelled his blood. 'Oh Alastair. Look at that wonderful rose bush.' Alise took his upper arm and tugged him to where a rambling rose clung to the side of a cottage. ' Beautiful,' he said, taking her hand in his.' Truly beautiful.' He smiled at his small triumph; and I still have four more days. he thought. He held her hand all the way through St Valery, where a uniformed figure sat outside the auberge. Aird didn't recognise the man, but Alise pulled her hand free and ran toward the inn. Jimmy Drummond stood up at the girl's approach. The serious demeanour; the cap held before him; the rigid stance, all spoke to the business-like nature of his visit. Her pleasure at seeing him changed all that, and he grinned despite himself. Alise pulled up short, a momentary frown, fleeting and gone. She turned back to Alastair. 'Look Alastair; we have another visitor.' 'Captain.' Aird gave a short nod of his head. Alise spun round to face Jimmy. 'It is so nice when friends come to visit.' They kissed on both cheeks in the local fashion. 'So how long can you stay, Jimmy?' 'If you will both excuse me," said Aird, his voice gone tight in formality. 'I must go and scrub away this infernal dust.' 'Alastair,' she said, watching him pass into the lobby 'We must bid our friend, Jimmy, welcome. No?' She coloured, looking perplexed. "I must apologise for Alastair, Jimmy. The heat perhaps? **** Drummond grimaced at the sharp sting of fruit flavoured alcohol. He tipped the glass and gave a baleful stare. 'Bloody awful stuff isn't it?' Norman Barrington smiled and swirled the clear liquor around his glass. 'Eau de Vie. Made with pears, would you believe?' The three officers awaited the arrived of their hostess - Alise. 'Listen, old man,' Jimmy drawled. 'I need a private word with Alastair. Company stuff,' he smiled 'Boring as all hell, but there you have it. Would you mind?' 'Yes, not my area of expertise.' He smiled at both men. 'I'll just see how dinner is coming along. shall I?' After he had gone, the two younger men sat in an oppressive, uncomfortable silence. The eau de vie, the noxious substance of minutes ago, was now treated with the deference of vintage champagne. 'How is Private Hughes?' The question took Jimmy by surprise. "I feel a little guilty, your lordship. I might have taken him with me you see? He might be somewhat... disappointed; yes...disappointed.' Aird faltered into silence. 'Alastair. I'm here to talk about another of my men. Your men once.' Drummond cleared his throat, taking time to consider his next words. 'He's important enough to bring me all this way for just the one night' He rose from the chair and stood facing the still seated Staff Captain. 'Gourlay,the younger one, Stewart. Whose brother fell up on High Wood? I recommended him for the Military Medal. Actually, he deserves the V.C., though the Old Man felt it would be more realistic to ask for the M.M.' Jimmy studied the deserted street out in front of the auberge. "It's been two months Alastair.' 'And why should it concern me Lord Elcho?' 'When I enquired at HQ, they said that you refused to endorse the commendation.' Jimmy frowned. 'I need to know why, Alastair. Why you won't endorse the outstanding gallantry of one of your men.' Aird sniggered.'And you came all this way for that? Nothing to do with the opportunity to visit Miss Tardeu, I suppose?' Jimmy caught the aggressive tone, and the way Aird sat pushed forward in his chair. He took a deep breath, real and metaphoric. 'I simply want to hear your reason for refusing this award. Colonel Archie and I feel that not only is the medal deserved; it will do the company a great deal of good.' 'I'm sorry, of course, Captain. However, as I said to the Chief of Staff, we must allocate such decorations as best suits our objectives. There isn't a case here; ir is simply the performance we expect from our Highlanders.' Jimmy was poised to reply. With an effort he swallowed the retort and stood, breath expelled, loud and stentorian. Aird smiled as the young lord formulated his second thoughts. 'I won't beg Alastair. Though I suspect that might grant you no small pleasure?' Aird's smile gave the lie to his vigorous shake of the head. 'We both know what the men are capable of: and we both witnessed an act of bravery way beyond that norm. I'll leave ir to your conscience Captain Aird.' Jimmy used the deplorable Eau de vie to wash the foul taste from his mouth. 'And Private Hughes? Your Lordship? You never did say how he was doing.' He bent to light a cigarette. 'Not the ideal batman, but he was remarkably good natured.' Oh I find him to my liking Alastair. A good man Hughes. Competent, imaginative; we get along very nicely together.' The smile shifted behind Aird's eyes. 'He's your man. Your batman? I'd imagine he doesn't speak well of me, then?' The question seemed quite tense to Jimmy, loaded somehow, he thought. Before he could reply, Alise and Barrington arrived, and Jimmy left his fellow Captain to wonder for himself.
Archived comments for Officers and Gentlemen
mageorge on 02-08-2013
Officers and Gentlemen
I started to read this piece, but my microwave started bleeping.. I would gladly read it all if it was posted in slightly smaller sections.
My very best wishes,
Mark

Author's Reply:

Mikeverdi on 03-08-2013
Officers and Gentlemen
Another excellent read, you are indeed a writer Jim; I agree with Paul, the poet always comes through. A couple of typo's but who am I to complain Ha Ha! The last section dealing with the medal . As always I enjoyed every word. Mike

Author's Reply:


Write On Footsie (posted on: 26-07-13)
I wrote this on hearing the sad news but was unable to post earlier due to loss of Internet.

He wrote in sharp, sardonic humour; life seen at a keen angle, cute, clever and tricksy. He made light of the heavy, brittle nature of belief; and saw in his own reflection the frailty of his fellows. He brought the gleam of truth to our own dark corners; yet suffered in the light he threw and spilled. Above all else he really spoke my language. So far too late I'd like to claim him friend.
Archived comments for Write On Footsie
Bozzz on 26-07-2013
Write On Footsie
Hi Jim, if I knew who you were writing about, I am sure that, alongside his relatives, I would be delighted at your elegant prose. RIP for your friend - perhaps he was a journalist for a daily paper and know I would miss a few of the best that I read with admiring pleasure..... Bozzz

Author's Reply:

Bozzz on 26-07-2013
Write On Footsie
Hi Jim, if I knew who you were writing about, I am sure that, alongside his relatives, I would be delighted at your elegant prose. RIP for your friend - perhaps he was a journalist for a daily paper and know I would miss a few of the best that I read with admiring pleasure..... Bozzz

Author's Reply:

Andrea on 26-07-2013
Write On Footsie
Absolutely heart-rending, Jim. Foots would have thanked you. I do too.

Author's Reply:

deadpoet on 26-07-2013
Write On Footsie
I cried at this one- it's beautiful and a fitting tribute- he was indeed a wonderful person and writer. I don't believe I'll ever meet his like in my lifetime. Thank you for posting this. kind regards from one of Footsie's close friends-dp

Author's Reply:

Ionicus on 26-07-2013
Write On Footsie
A sensitive elegy for the late Paul Chappell also known as Footsie or FTSE100 who treated UKA's readers with inimitable humour.
Thanks, Jim, for this tribute.

Author's Reply:

littleditty on 28-07-2013
Write On Footsie
for Footsie, bright spark - a poem of light - he's missed. Thanks for the read..

Author's Reply:


My Ma (posted on: 15-07-13)
For the POETRY CHALLENGE

She was a looker and a cook, a singer and a seamstress. She stitched the fabric of my years and gave me leave to laugh at her foibles. The faded seams are torn, but my life is still intact. Along with the shared laughter and a song remembered.
Archived comments for My Ma
e-griff on 15-07-2013
My Ma
Nice! Neat evocation of mother. Good parallel with sewing/cloth, not over the top, thoughtful.

Author's Reply:
Thanks John,
Glad you enjoyed it.
cheers,
Jim

Mikeverdi on 15-07-2013
My Ma
I like this Jim, I like it a lot. Just a thought, for me the lines 'she stitched the fabric of my years and gave me leave to laugh at her foibles' stands on its own; it comes under the heading of 'I wish I'd said that'. The poem would have been conpleate with just that... for me. Mike

Author's Reply:
Cheers Mike,
I am touched by your comment, Mate.
Jim

Andrea on 15-07-2013
My Ma
As I've said many time before, I do so love a blokie who loves his mummy 🙂

Author's Reply:
Hi Andrea,
She was a better 'run ashore' than I could ever be.
cheers,
Jim

stormwolf on 15-07-2013
My Ma
Everything a short poem should be. The emotion condensed like a fine distillation of a loving brew.
Alison x

Author's Reply:
Alison, you are always too kind.
However, on this occasion I fully agree lol (I believe they say)
cheers,
Jim x

Savvi on 17-07-2013
My Ma
Two for the price of one, I prefer this one. simple and heart felt and feels very honest, some great lines and no words wasted. S

Author's Reply:

Andrea on 17-07-2013
My Ma
No offence Jim, but it put me in mind of this 🙂





Alas I am an Eminem fan 🙂

Author's Reply:

deadpoet on 18-07-2013
My Ma
I really like this- having a lovely son myself and hoping I can give him some good memories- just like these! DP

Author's Reply:


In Vino Veritas (posted on: 15-07-13)
For the POETRY CHALLENGE

So deep imbibe the arms-wide embrace of rough, rapscallion rouge. That flirting, fetid flavour raising flaccid flesh; flush with success, to pour libation to the whore of passion. Who shows her garters, despite the knowing titters, of those who take the waters of the Goat God Pan.
Archived comments for In Vino Veritas
e-griff on 15-07-2013
In Vino Veritas
'well-rounded' as they say ...

don't think you need quotes round 'knowing'.

a lot of alliteration. maybe a bit forced in places, but that's the style .. interesting choice of 'loved one'! 🙂

Author's Reply:
Hi John,
You are right about knowing, I have amended it. I also tend to agree about it being a bit forced, though as you also say, that is the style of the piece; well the intention anyway!
cheers,
Jim

Andrea on 15-07-2013
In Vino Veritas
Ah, quite - couldn't agree more (pity my liver doesn't)

LOVE the alliteration (as always)

Author's Reply:
Hi Andrea,
My alliterative nature gets me into so much trouble - as you might imagine. But oh I do enjoy it!
cheers,
Jim

Mikeverdi on 15-07-2013
In Vino Veritas
I'll raise a glass to that one Jim. Mike

Author's Reply:
Hi Mike,
My favourite tipple at the moment is a Fitou from the South West; well, when I can't get scrumpy that is!
cheers!
Jim

stormwolf on 15-07-2013
In Vino Veritas
Had a touch of Omar Khyyam for me.
That flirting, fetid flavour
raising flaccid flesh;

Aye, in the early part of the night maybe... lol Super entry Jim well deserving of the nib.

Alison x


Author's Reply:
When dawn's left hand was in the sky,
I heard a voice within the Tavern cry:
Arise, oh Little Ones and fill the cup;
before the liquor in life's cup be dry.

You can pay me no greater compliment Alison, than compare me however slightly to the great and noble Omar. Now there's the way to live your life.
cheers,
Jim xx

ChairmanWow on 17-07-2013
In Vino Veritas
Interesting word combinations like "that flirting, fetid flavor" evokes some unique experience (and the alliteration was well done). Not into wine myself, prefer a hearty stout...

Ralph

Author's Reply:

Savvi on 17-07-2013
In Vino Veritas
Aye Jim, I'll raise a glass to this one the internal rhymes propel the voice that is slurred and brash and fits perfectly. S

Author's Reply:

Shywolf on 19-07-2013
In Vino Veritas
Very Dionysian, Jim. I like that in a poet. We should get drunk sometime and let loose on the Parisian women at the Moulin Rouge. Whoever blushes first, picks up the tab.

Glenn

Author's Reply:


New Tricks (posted on: 05-07-13)
*****

The keen edge of passion blunts in the passing of the years. Green youths, all burnished steel and shimmer, perceive our waning glimmer and clash amongst the ashes of our fire. Such verdant folly, such ardent hope, we once held up as truth; till ruthless years threw spears of indecision; and slew the flawless vision of the land we planned to build. But we are only dull, not dead. And gilded infants must sift my cold, lifeless embers at their peril. This seasoned hound is sharp to shave by still.
Archived comments for New Tricks

No comments archives found!
The Banquet of Vanity (posted on: 05-07-13)
Not sure about this. My Muse's idea really.

They go to bed with Satan but every dawn cry rape hiding the incriminating stain of carnal faux-virginity. Trading souls for elevation tearing holes in the fabric of long benighted faith. A dogma no less venal than its reformed precursor. Selling indulgence to the richest sinner making penitence a scandal redolent of hell's bowels. They purchase heaven here on Earth, to find the dish unpalatable, and in their famished howls the poor shall hear the Laughter of the Gods.
Archived comments for The Banquet of Vanity
Nomenklatura on 05-07-2013
The Banquet of Vanity
Yes, a striking poem. Very fire and brimstone. If it were my poem (and it's not, of course). I'd think about removing the two rhymes 'security/purity' 'sinner,dinner'.

The first four lines are a terrific opening.

Author's Reply:
Hi Ewan,
Thank you for that. You are right of course and I think I was in danger of appearing too clever. I have removed both rhymes and I reckon it does read better.
Thank You,
Jim

deadpoet on 05-07-2013
The Banquet of Vanity
I loved your vocabulary though I faltered slightly over the rhyme and rhythm- but a good expression. Your muse is very friendly. So inspiring!

Author's Reply:
Hi DP,
Thank you for reading and commenting. I have changed it a little, removing the internal rhymes, but I prefer to leave the rhythm to the reader, if you can see what I mean? My Muse can be very friendly - frisky even! She also has a terrific temper and an intolerant streak. There again she is a dancer.
cheers,
Jim

stormwolf on 06-07-2013
The Banquet of Vanity
When I read your work I always feel the passion behind it like a coiled spring. It's hard to define but it's there and I totally respond to it.
It actually gets the blood flowing...
the first two lines set the pace..
They go to bed with Satan
but every dawn cry rape

in those two lines there is a world of truth, insight, resentment and simmering fury
How could I not resonate with it?

I was going to highlight other lines that got me going but realised they ALL did.
och! to hell man!
Its a 10 lol
Alison x

Author's Reply:
Hi Alison,
My internet is variable at the moment and so I am late in my replies. A lame excuse I know!
Thank you so much for the comment and excellent score (who said size doesn't matter?).
I have more time to spend in submissions now, and so hope to get round more of the subs than I have been recently.
cheers,
Jim x

Texasgreg on 07-07-2013
The Banquet of Vanity
Aye! I liked this 'un. As a former Jarhead, I get it. 😉

They purchase heaven
here on Earth,
to find the dish unpalatable.



Missed yer merry muse, Jim!



Greg 🙂



 photo Gunspincowboy.gif





Author's Reply:
Hi Greg,

A Jarrhead and a cowboy? Now that's a potent mixture mate.
cheers,
Jim

cooky on 07-07-2013
The Banquet of Vanity
There is a brilliant beginning and a terrific ending in this work. that makes it a ten in my book.

Author's Reply:
Hi Cooky,
What a terrific score. I am flattered that it spoke to you, and chuffed!
cheers,
Jim


When I Reach Heaven (posted on: 01-07-13)
Honest, I wasn't wearing underwear.

I knew a sheep, back in Scotland, by the name of Lorne. What made this sheep stand out from the rest of the flock? She was convinced she was a dog. Not a sheepdog, you understand. I met her on a small holding in Argyll, on the lower slopes of Ben Cruachan. On hearing her name called, she detached herself from the flock, careened down the hillside, planted her forelegs on top of the fence, and wagged her tail. Lorne's mother had abandoned her. The small-holder's wife found her and brought her to the house. She stayed with the family. On reaching puberty, she was taken to the upper pasture and told she was a sheep. Upbringing told her otherwise. The point is that we become what we are conditioned by life to become. Not simply what we were born to be. No amount of argument would make Lorne a sheep. She was a dog. The irony is I was born a free-thinker, shaped by life into believing I was a sheep. I have built my life link on link, like Jacob Marley's chains. At the age of sixty I examined the links. I'm still swirling in the wake of momentous discovery. Rid of the meaningless links; the chain is shorter, lighter and more flexible. I swim free while anchored to a safe, secure shore. You will notice that I mix my metaphors with abandon. Now that's real freedom. The change isn't complete. Last night on my patio, wearing no underwear, I listened to "Rigoletto", I drank mineral water. In luminescent darkness I gazed across the gorge. Gilda, near to death, sang; "When I reach Heaven". The moment was heartbreaking and heartwarming. Simple pleasure. I no longer assume it's a sheep, when looking at a sheep.
Archived comments for When I Reach Heaven
stormwolf on 02-07-2013
When I Reach Heaven
Now that's what I call waking up! Bravo!

A lovely tale and it is my confirmed belief we do not begin to understand animals as they really are. yes, conditioning runs very deep but liberation, when it comes, is wonderful.
Alison x

BTW you did not notice me nearby with my binoculars did you?

Author's Reply:

Savvi on 04-07-2013
When I Reach Heaven
Maaaavolous quite liberating and sad at the same time it has a tinge of regret that adds weight to the idea behind the text. I will never look at a sheep the same way again. S

Author's Reply:

Rab on 05-07-2013
When I Reach Heaven
Nice piece. We're all free thinkers, aren't we, if we'd only realise it! Although I suppose it's about courage as well.

Author's Reply:

Andrea on 05-07-2013
When I Reach Heaven
Ha! Brilliant. A rose by any other name, etc.

Small niggle. I think small holding should be smallholding.

Author's Reply:


The Mermaid (posted on: 01-07-13)
The result of a long French lunch!

The Mermaid The sailor laid salt lips along the flower. Soft spiced he whispered love against her shell. The promise in the loving cup he gave her was the dying breath upon the ocean swell. In small ebbing waves he drew from her a promise. As the surf pulled all resistance from the sand. Then he held aloft in triumph all her treasures wading naked through the reef beyond the strand.
Archived comments for The Mermaid
deadpoet on 01-07-2013
The Mermaid
I wanted more- so lyrical..

Author's Reply:

stormwolf on 02-07-2013
The Mermaid
Inspired.
Beautiful inner picture came to mind. Mind you I love Mermaids and all things mythical. If this is the result of a long French lunch you should have them more often...but then you must do for your creativity never wanes.
Alison x

Author's Reply:


Shifting Civilizations (posted on: 28-06-13)
The surreal brotherhood of Celts.

These warriors of Gaul lacked only the winged helmets to help identify them. There were eight of them. They emerged from a large, grey people-carrier in the car park of Poitiers Airport. I was on my way back to Scotland for a family visit and a 90th birthday party. Being my first visit in 3 months, I was very excited. I was busily checking that my jeep was secure, when I first spotted them broiling out of the rear of their vehicle. They hauled a large tea urn out with them, which they swiftly set up on the tailgate of the Renault. Asterix, most obviously their leader, adroitly poured two quarter litre plastic cups of vin rouge. He rapidly closed the distance between us. As he reached me, he thrust a brimming cup into my left hand, grabbed my right hand, and enquired if I was Scottish. We shook hands, I answered yes, and he then asked if I was on holiday. The wine was of great quality and quickly loosened my French tongue! In passable French, I explained that I now lived in France. We spoke of where I lived, and how much I was enjoying it.. One of his sub-kings brought two further foaming cups; as the air was filled with Gallic war-cries, and we voiced mutual distrust of the Romans and the English! Celts it seems are simply distant cousins to the Gauls of the Massif Central. Asterix, whose real name was Guy, was the leader of eight former school chums who had started to meet up again three years ago. They had talked of a trip to Scotland, and this was the culmination of three years planning. This particular tribe of wanderers was from the Haute Vienne, just north of Limoges. Their excitement and joy was palpable. The wine was their libation to pagan gods who had seen them safely through life thus far. They also seemed capable of forming a tight, defensive circle if threatened. Their first encounter with the Ryanairians promised to be interesting. In the event, it was something of an anticlimax. Using me as a decoy, they were swiftly over the border in force! Of course this is a parody. But it is a very close one. Two weeks ago, my wife and I visited the large hamlet of Gouzognat. It was to be a Foire de Gaulloise, and we were curious as to what that entailed. We entered a large, handsome village with a main street which climbed up and over the southern escarpment. The street was lined with brocante stalls which spilled over into side streets and even small squares and spaces. The upper village was all Gaul though. Men in baggy, blue and white striped trousers, sported long moustaches. Their women were in bright smocks and striped dresses; with their hair plaited into two pigtails. There was also a large contingent of young, and powerful looking Roman Legionaries. We encountered a small number of Egyptians, mostly dark-haired and sun-blistered. Full figure sculptures, Funerary busts, and the odd Sphinx lay in wait around unlikely corners. It was a wonderfully surreal step back in time. The Romans loved Gaul. The land was extremely fertile, the climate pleasant, the roads already straight as an arrow. You see, as Western Europeans we have always been brought up to believe that the Romans invented the straight road. Aux Contraire! It was just one of the myriad of things they learned from the Gauls. Yet the Gauls prospered under Roman rule. They took everything the Romans offered, adapted it to their own purpose, and became the great civilization they are today. The Egyptian sailor, whose acquaintance I made at the makeshift bar, behind the Sphinx; told me that! I don't know what pleased me more; being made welcome as just another citizen of the Roman Empire; or discovering that Gaul is still essentially unchanged through two millennia.
Archived comments for Shifting Civilizations
amman on 30-06-2013
Shifting Civilizations
I really enjoyed reading this, Jim. You give us a colourful story full of modern Gallic characters, illuminated by historical reference to early Roman occupation. Very informative. As a side issue, I found the prose much tighter than your 'Maiden and Warrior' chapter, but then it's so much more difficult to write authentic sounding dialogue. This is from one who's crap at writing dialogue. Very impressive.
Cheers from a fellow Celt.
Tony.


Author's Reply:


Paschendaele (posted on: 28-06-13)
For the Weekly challenge - Midsummer

What price the longest day when we are mired in Hell? in Poelkapelle, where Wullie fell and Jock as well. Where bullets took the place of drowning death. Why celebrate the birth of one more Summer Solstice. Another vain, pathetic golden orb; that even yet cannot relieve the wet and mildewed flesh of men; nor warm the grave-cold faces of the upturned dead. Tread worshipful amongst those Druid stones. In reverent tones, chant; ring the Beltane bell. What price the longest day when we are mired in Hell?
Archived comments for Paschendaele
Bozzz on 28-06-2013
Paschendaele
Mired, but admired. Yes, you are right - why celebrate a solstice, it is the staid daughter of chance - an overweight number. Stay out of the rain in the visitor centre - soft drinks available.... Brilliant poem on a despicable subject...David

Author's Reply:

Bozzz on 28-06-2013
Paschendaele
Mired, but admired. Yes, you are right - why celebrate a solstice, it is the staid daughter of chance - an overweight number. Stay out of the rain in the visitor centre - soft drinks available.... Brilliant poem on a despicable subject...David

Author's Reply:

cooky on 28-06-2013
Paschendaele
I like this. A reality check on life and perhaps this our sentence to be mired in hell.

Author's Reply:

Mikeverdi on 28-06-2013
Paschendaele
Great writing Jim, superb last line says it all. Mike

Author's Reply:

amman on 30-06-2013
Paschendaele
Powerful writing, Jim. To me, the third line 'where bullets took the place of drowning death' sums up the senseless lunacy of that despicable war.
Regards.
Tony.

Author's Reply:


The Deconstructed Muse (posted on: 24-06-13)
Just writing away my demons

He works around the edges. Manipulating shadows of doubt. Shifting the order of business. He stands on his dignity. Clay feet obscured by smoke and mirrors, always, the mirrors. Author of my downfall, my downside. He understands my idle indecision and sidles through my thoughts. He fuels unbridled rage and like a fool, the unschooled kind it's cool to pull apart; I rant on every cant and creed he spouts. He might indeed have beat my fires out. You'll read this when my star's already dead. And him? He feeds instead, on one more stellar spark.

Archived comments for The Deconstructed Muse
deadpoet on 24-06-2013
The Deconstructed Muse
Wow- a poem from the heart-it's moving and I feel you got something out. Very expressive.

Author's Reply:
Hi DP,
Thanks for dropping by and for the perceptive comment.
cheers,
Jim

Bozzz on 24-06-2013
The Deconstructed Muse
The uncomfortable feel of this poem hits the nail of good writing - squirming before self is a sort of mental bulimia. Bravo Jim for challenging your devils by exposure.... David

Author's Reply:
Hi David,
Thanks for reading and the generous vote. Glad you enjoyed it.
cheers,
Jim

teifii on 24-06-2013
The Deconstructed Muse
Help! Some muse. Do you have a spare, kinder one in a cupboard for when necessary?
Daffni

Author's Reply:
Hi Daffni,
My muse is Terpsichore, the muse of the dance. The deconstructed diva is someone who usurps Chore's place but is more my nemesis.
Ainsi va la vie!
Jim x

Savvi on 24-06-2013
The Deconstructed Muse
This is extremely well written, and paints a damming picture of your muse, love the end lines and as ever the perfectly balanced internal rhymes. When I read this one out loud it makes me angry so I would say that's a damn fine piece of writing. S

Author's Reply:
Hi Savvi,
Overwhelmed by your score and the very perceptive nature of your comments.
cheers, pal
Jim

cooky on 25-06-2013
The Deconstructed Muse
The doubt behind the talent. I like this, top writing.

Author's Reply:
Hi Cooky,
Thanks for the comment and for taking the time to read this. Very happy you enjoyed it.
cheers,
Jim

ValDohren on 25-06-2013
The Deconstructed Muse
Very clever Jim, your Muse does you proud.
Val

Author's Reply:
Thanks Val,
Really nice to hear from you.
cheers,
Jim

Nomenklatura on 26-06-2013
The Deconstructed Muse
Hmmm... we are not a muse!

Beautifully done, Jim.

Author's Reply:
Hi Ewan,
Thanks for that; I think you really got the message in this.
cheers,
Jim

amman on 26-06-2013
The Deconstructed Muse
Hi Jim. I can guess what was the catalyst for these strident/biting words. Another study in the art of writing spare, meaningful poetry. Thank you for the lesson and if you've got any inspiration to spare, feel free to send some my way.

Regards.

Tony.

Author's Reply:
Hi Tony,
Thanks for the comment and the generous vote. You may be right about the catalyst but I couldn't possibly comment. lol! My real muse, Terpsichore, keeps all the inspiration. She normally transmits at 5am unfortunately.
cheers mate,
Jim

Mikeverdi on 27-06-2013
The Deconstructed Muse
It's all been said, excellent writing Jim. I think maybe this was the Nib for me. Mike

Author's Reply:
Hi Mike,
Really glad you enjoyed this.
cheers,
Jim

orangedream on 27-06-2013
The Deconstructed Muse
Great stuff, well deserving of the nib;-)

Tina

Author's Reply:
Hi Tina,
That means a lot coming from you.
cheers,
Jim x


The Devil's in the Detail (posted on: 24-06-13)
And they say philosophy is dead!

The path of least resistance isn't ever paved with gold. It's a point most worthy of consideration. On the other hand it's smooth and slick, and you're not prone to fail, Nor are you like to find the inspiration. To say you won't conform will put you on the rocky road. The left turn not the right one say the fellows. Making compromise an art form they'd not recognise their butt, From a single rectum in a line of elbows. So I'll stand a little longer at this cross-roads in my life. Juggling pro and con, and right or wrong or maybe. I'll read Kant and Jung, and Mystic Meg, the Mighty Quinn and Plato Then I'll use the sense my Mum and Dad both gave me. So you think you're reading poetry? or sophistry at best? Have you never heard of world wide web or Yahoo? I just put a destination in the search box on my phone, And the road you take's already chosen for you.

Archived comments for The Devil's in the Detail
deadpoet on 24-06-2013
The Devils in the Detail
I'm not sure I agree with this philosophy and I think you expressed a feeling of giving up or in. Don't do that! As long as you have your imagination you'll go places not predestined.
All the best
dp

Author's Reply:
Hi DP,
Thanks again for reading this and taking the time to comment.
cheers,
Jim

geordietaf on 25-06-2013
The Devils in the Detail
'they'd not recognise their butt,
From a single rectum in a line of elbows'

Lovely 🙂

Author's Reply:
Hi Geordie,
I'm sure you would recognise a rectum; and I'm the elbow to the right of course!
cheers,
Jim

Pronto on 26-06-2013
The Devils in the Detail
"I'll read Kant and Jung, and Mystic Meg, the Mighty Quinn and Plato. Then I'll use the sense my Mum and Dad both gave me."
I loved this and, methinks, you'll do best with the latter!




Author's Reply:
Hi Pronto,
Thanks for dropping by and for the kind comments. My mum would have given any of them a run for their money.
cheers,
Jim

Mikeverdi on 26-06-2013
The Devils in the Detail
Jim, I'm reading anger and frustration in your recent writing, it makes for good and interesting reading... But I wonder about it's source. Mike

Author's Reply:
Hi Mike,
Thanks for the comments. The enger comes directly from frustration, and once I write the frustration it disappears thankfully.
cheers,
Jim


The Frog Prince's Bride (posted on: 17-06-13)
For the Poetry Workshop Challenge

Marie Antoinette They called her Austrian whore and such. Too much she took this slight to heart; the Right of Kings no longer runs in France. I am a woman too, she cried. Yet other mothers knew and gave the lie to such a Royal truth. My only home is France, she said. and when I'm dead, in warm French soil, my bed is laid for me. Grand Passions were my vice, she said. The lice upon my head were fed on skin beneath my wigs. So louse, and lice, and lowly subjects feed upon a Queen until insurgent death defaults the feast. Hair shorn, dress torn about the neck, she begged the French remember her; Then knelt beneath the blade.
Archived comments for The Frog Prince's Bride
Savvi on 18-06-2013
The Frog Princes Bride
Great title, you must have used a shoe horn to squeeze this one into the challenge !!! It could be my understanding but something doesn't feel right with the last line of S2. Other than that a great piece with subtle rhymes, that completely misses the criteria for the challenge 😉 S

Author's Reply:

e-griff on 18-06-2013
The Frog Princes Bride
A good theme, in many places well expressed.

For me though, it lacked consistency and flow, with seemingly random bursts of rhyme and rhythm which are not repeated or sustained.

Eg. Said/dead/ bed, but next verse vice/lice and no third. Previous page too/knew. First verse no rhyme. Whether you intend a pattern or not, the appearance of a pattern hooks a reader and could confuse.

Author's Reply:

amman on 18-06-2013
The Frog Princes Bride
It works for me. I agree the Royal truth line is a tad confusing.
The 4th stanza is great and the 5th positively Shakespearean. All in all, an edifying read.
Cheers.
Tony.


Author's Reply:


La Vie Philosophique (posted on: 17-06-13)
It is what it is.

Backdrop to a life well worn, the lyrical quiet of rural morn, bids me rest a while. A style that fits my years. Yet having slept, the world that kept me in its thrall will pale. And I must rend the veil of indolence that smothers all invention. I say this with a heavy heart; as part of me, replete in pastoral caress, would tarry longer. But yonder, in the splendour of the pasture, lies more verdant grass.
Archived comments for La Vie Philosophique
ChairmanWow on 17-06-2013
La Vie Philosophique
Yes, time to move on. Grass is always greener. This life can be pleasant though...

Ralph

Author's Reply:

amman on 18-06-2013
La Vie Philosophique
Jim, this is so reminiscent of the Frank Sinatra song 'My way'.
Contentment, yet a certain yearning for, perhaps, a former life, or new challenges. The poem has a whimsical quality that I like a lot. Thank you for the lesson in spare and meaningful poetic craft.
Cheers.
Tony.


Author's Reply:

Savvi on 19-06-2013
La Vie Philosophique
Lush and bathed in the early light of a rural morn, not sure you need the word French as it tells us what our vision should be. Very much enjoyed and managed to wander off in there for a while. Thanks S



Author's Reply:

Texasgreg on 23-06-2013
La Vie Philosophique
Jim,
I was wondering if your use of the word verdant was intentional and decided that it must have been, knowing you.

Super piece, though it makes me feel guilty to live in a place and time relatively free of strife. I have little patience for those who have it all, (figuratively), yet refuse to see their wealth.

Thanks for the reminder...

Greg 🙂

Author's Reply:


Columbine (posted on: 07-06-13)
For the Weekly challenge

Mass media and mass murderers find it easy to find each other. A brother, a son, yes either one, armed with a gun, becomes a modern Herod. The parallel is drawn in pages torn from the Book of Isaiah. And the Innocents are pulled from the obscurity of Bible belt America, and culled in the security of a school. Senseless life is used to excuse such futile death. And parents, still untouched are scared as much by teenage angst; as once by Space Age Reds. Beware the urban terror in your midst; for it did once murder a flower.
Archived comments for Columbine
amman on 07-06-2013
Columbine
The first two lines set the tone for, as you say, the urban terror in our midst. Comparing modern day atrocity with those of biblical times emphasises man's ongoing, senseless inhumanity. Don't understand the last two lines, but then I'm probably thick.
Cheers.
Tony.

Author's Reply:
Hi Tony,
Thanks for dropping by and commenting. You're not thick, the allusion is maybe a little tenuous. This is about the Columbine High School attack in Colorado. The Columbine, a flower in the shape of a dove, is the state flower of Colorado.
Easy for me to say! I researched it for the challenge.
cheers,
Jim

Savvi on 07-06-2013
Columbine
This was my fav Jim you create a smooth flow and capture the horror and the reality of social instability.

And the Innocents
are pulled from the obscurity
of Bible belt America,
and culled
in the security of a school

This is such a powerful statement that is punched out by your masterful use of enjambment. great stuff S

Author's Reply:


Catechism (posted on: 07-06-13)
Because sometimes blind faith is an abomination

Make me small enough to know that I'm not God Yet big enough to know that nor are you. Give me faith in myself, my neighbour and mankind and I won't need to pray for faith in you. If I share the poor conceit I'm in your image, I might as well be God along with you. The son of man may bear the mark of Cain, But I'm not Abel's murderer - it's You.
Archived comments for Catechism
amman on 07-06-2013
Catechism
Aptly and succinctly stated, Jim. The almost bellicose (perhaps that's too strong a word) tone together with the repetitions add punch to your words. Personally, I believe only in 'treat your neighbour.....'.
Regards.
Tony.

Author's Reply:
Merci beaucoup mon ami,

Glad you interpreted my tone as you did; my intention was to demonstrate frustration and frank disbelief, whilst folding the invective into a prayer to an omniscient super being.
Gawd, I wax philosophical?
cheers,
Jim

Savvi on 07-06-2013
Catechism
I like the tone in the voice and it delivers, I notice you say prayer in your reply to amman, I was reading as a hymn but I suppose they are much the same thing. Thanks S

Author's Reply:


The Shows (posted on: 24-05-13)
In Scotland we call the funfair 'The Shows'.

Shy coconuts and dodgey dodgems, Mingle with a tingle of anticipation. Meeting in Mirrored Halls, with Carnival dolls; Who, later seen in crystal balls, Will dance the Helter Skelter. Sharing the new powdered floor With Waltzers and Big Wheelers. Or rubbing elbows at the bar With flossy Candy dealers. There they discuss the Summer Fete, And bet that only a skeleton staff Will man the ghostly train. Especially in the pouring rain, You only get at Funfairs.
Archived comments for The Shows
Nomenklatura on 24-05-2013
The Shows
Yep, I remember the shows and the rain. From Saltcoats in Scotland to Saltburn in the NE of England, always the damn rain.
I liked the wordplay in this very much.
Ewan

Author's Reply:

orangedream on 25-05-2013
The Shows
I too enjoyed this very much. The wordplay, fantastic;-)

Tina

Author's Reply:

amman on 26-05-2013
The Shows
Totally agree with Tina on this one, Jim. Great (the word not used lightly) wordplay and alliteration. This is so atmospheric; can almost hear the barkers extolling their offerings. Into favs it goes. Dunno why it ain't been nibbed.


Cheers.


Tony.



Will comment on your prose piece separately. Hopefully the 'Prose Club' will get around to offering cogent critique.



Author's Reply:

japanesewind on 26-05-2013
The Shows
I too enjoyed the playful wording, and this line below


"flossy candy dealers, made me think of "addicts lining up" which brought a smile.....





my take on the fair below.





Mallet strikes lever,


lever flings puck,


puck struck bell pings


strongman wins, teddy-bear and girl.


In the shadowy stink


of hot dogs and onions


brilliantined hair and cut-throat razors


win the fight.





regards...Jim..

Author's Reply:


The Maiden and the Warrior (posted on: 24-05-13)
This is a goodly part of a chapter from my Novel the East Neuk Rifles. I'm not yet practiced at writing of the human condition, and would value comment and opinion.

Dear Billy, I was very happy to receive a letter from you. I liked Davy Gourlay, ha was always kind and ever ready for a laugh. People here at home are reluctant to pick up a newspaper for fear of seeing a name in the casualty lists. We're all glad you boys are way behind the lines. In reserve. Isn't that what they say? Maggie Livingstone has left the East Neuk. No-one is supposed to know where she is, but she called to see me and said she was living in Glasgow. She asked me not to tell anyone and so I will keep her secret. I have written to let Brodie know. I felt it was the right thing to do but I know he will be hurt and worried. Please look after him Billy, tell him that Maggie loves him; she told me that before she left. We have never been close, but she was kind to me when I lost Rab, and I do know she worships my big brother. I know of Lady Marjorie, who doesn't? You will be careful Billy? I won't tell you she is from a different class, you know I don't believe in all that nonsense. But I do urge you to be aware of the reactions of her kind. You could find yourself in trouble. Please write soon as I am very happy to be in contact with you, however distant that might be. Take care, Anne Billy folded the letter and slid it into his jacket. Minutes later he had it in his hands. Nothing. Not one word of affection, he mused. And why should I care about that? I don't. Of course I don't. Alan watched him out of the corner of his eye. He caught Billy reading the same letter time and again over the days following. ***** 'He should have been here two days ago.' Brodie looked worried. Standing above the Rifles he was able to see the effect of his news. 'The Medics said he had been a bit off. Delayed reaction they called it. Apparently it goes in time; rest and something to absorb the patient, fit in all other respects. I don't think,' he growled, turning to squint into the late August sun. 'Martin will come back when his money runs oot.' Eck smiled across at Alan. 'There will be a woman somewhere, nae doubt.' 'Don't talk sae stupid man.' Billy threw a mess-tin at the boy. 'They'll say it's desertion. He wouldn't be the first to be shot; so stop talking like a bairn.' A retort rose to Eck's lips, until he saw Alan's warning head-shake. 'Where's Stewart?' No-one volunteered an answer or seemed to know. 'Now didn't I say tae keep an eye on him?' Hissed the Sergeant. 'He likes his privacy. He can't bear to be with the rest of us. He's a grown man Brodie,' said Billy. 'And he's spoiling for a fight. Ask Douglas.' Brodie beckoned his friend with a nod of his head, and they walked out of earshot of the rest. 'I think you and I should pay a visit to Amiens. Ian Bruce from C Company was in hospital wae Martin. He thinks Martin used to visit a Belgian lassie who lodges somewhere behind the station.' Brodie lit two cigarettes, handing one to his pal. 'I'll get the Captain tae grant us both leave. Yes?' Billy nodded. 'I could maybe visit Marjorie while we're there.' Brodie didn't acknowledge his friend. **** 'You must get him back here Sergeant Smith. Two days isn't too serious, but you know how they begin to take a dim view, especially if there's action in the offing.' The Captain gave Billy a barely perceptible nod, the long grey ash of his cigarette, shaken by the movement, spilled onto the paperwork in front of him. 'Both you and Morrison here, have two day passes. And Private Morrison; you won't find our comrade in the Hotel Victor Hugo.' The smile died as he gave the two men a loose salute. 'Good luck Sergeant Smith'. **** They sat in a loud, crowded estaminet across the wide space in front of the station. White wine in glasses gone frosty with age sat on the table. 'Maggie's gone,' Brodie lifted his glass and swirled the contents, not looking at his pal. 'Nobody knows where, my ma says. But Anne says she's living in Glasgow.' He drained the glass before slopping more into both their tumblers. 'Why would she go there Billy? Alright, I hurt her when I was home,' The second glass went the way of the first. 'She's angry wae me. Punishing me for treating her like a hoor.' Again the savage splash of refill. 'Say something Billy. You're never lost for words, short of an opinion. Weave yer magic - tell me why.' 'Ye sound like a daft, wee boy.' Billy's tone was savage. 'She loves you, ya big stupid bastard.' He grabbed the bigger man's wrist, preventing him from lifting the glass to his lips. 'Whatever she's doing, it's for you, not because of you.' He let go of the wrist and Brodie lifted his glass. 'Anne told me that Maggie was in Glasgow, and that she loves you, despite your great stupidity.' 'She told you? She said that?' 'Aye. Not your great stupidity. Everybody knows that though.' Billy smiled, eyebrows raised and Brodie lowered the glass. **** The area behind the station was a warren of low-ceilinged, one-roomed dwellings. Only the poorest lived this close to the rail track. Refugees from the far north, washed here in the undertow of war. Venal commerce lived in the narrow corridors. Black markets, brothels, slave labour; all feeding from Western Europe's Great Enterprise. That's how Billy's creative brain recorded the visit. He smiled. A grim rictus, in recognition of the high-flown nature of his imagination. The Patroness at the estaminet had known Martin at once, from the description Brodie had given of the handsome wounded Highlander with the generous smile and nature. 'Monsieur Robertson, but of course. A wonderful fellow, very genereuse.' She had sent them here. The home of Lise, a Belgian seamstress. They turned down a narrow passageway, emerging into a small open square with tall buildings on all four sides. These tall tenements allowed little daylight and the many doorways remained dark and indistinct. 'This one then,' Billy pointed at the door in the corner. Brodie reached out to knock as the door was pulled open from within. A young woman stood in the doorway. A beautiful, tall, dark-haired woman; long hair gathered under her ear. God Martin can really pick them, thought Billy, admiring the dark sheen of her skin. 'Can I help you sir?' The polite, generous nature of her question put the two Scots at a disadvantage. Billy stared, Brodie blustered, the girl stood, bright eyes questing, gentle. 'Martin Robertson, is he here?' The Sergeant's tone was aggressive. He looked as though he knew it and winced at the realisation. 'He's our friend mam'selle. - Martin's in our group. We need to know he's alright.' Billy clapped Brodie's shoulder.' My friend doesn't mean to be so fierce. He's worried is all.' He gave what he hoped was a reassuring smile. He still had time to marvel at the girl's ability to speak English. 'Wait,' she said, before crossing to the mouth of the close. She peered along the passage then turned back to the door. 'Come.' She held the door ajar and ushered them inside. The room was low-ceilinged. Light came from the single window looking onto the small square by the door. The girl walked to the stove before a graceful turn left her face to face with the two Scots. 'Can I ask your name sir? Please.' Billy again marvelled at the calm, gentle character of the girl. 'It's Smith. Brodie Smith. And this is Billy Morrison. We're both pals of Martin's. 'It's alright Lise, I know these two jokers.' Martin stood in the curtained opening. An alcove they hadn't seen. He'd always been slim, wiry yet strong; now he was pencil-thin, white, drawn, wasted away somehow. "This is Lisette boys.' He moved alongside the girl and pulled her to him 'Lise for short, and the better part of me.' 'Please, sit.' She ushered the three men to the table then turned to the cupboard. Martin and Billy sat, arms forward, across the table. Brodie stood, eyes fixed on Martin. 'This isn't a social call Martin. We're here tae take ye back.' Billy sat in silence, the savoury smell from the big pot on Lise's stove winding around his heart. 'Well?' Brodie's voice echoed in the small room. 'Let's eat first, or you'll offend Lisette.' The girl put a straw flask and four glasses on the table. "It's tripe and onions. You'll no believe how guid it is.' Brodie sat as she put the plates on the table. He stared through the steam as the stew was ladled onto his dish. The first spoonful silenced the three men. The best meal we've tasted in many months, thought Billy, his avid appreciation of the dusky skinned Lisette piqued by the aromatic stew. Martin poured the rough red wine and the atmosphere mellowed around the battered table. 'I never intended staying away Brodie. We just needed a wee while to ourselves.' Lisette rose and brought a coffee pot to the table. 'I love her Brodie. Wid ye believe that? Me?' Lisette stood behind his chair, her hands light on his shoulders. Billy felt himself smile. Alongside him his friend frowned. "I want tae wed her but she says no. All because she's a Jew. Do ye ken what a Jew is boys?' He spread his arms wide. 'I've dodged lassies aw my life.' He smiled. 'Now when I ask one tae marry me she says no.' 'The honeymoon's finished Robertson.' Brodie pushed the stool back and stood adjusting his cap. 'Get yer head round this.' He pointed at the seated soldier. 'You're a private in the Black Watch. On active service and absent without leave. What d'ye imagine the Army call that? In wartime?' The silence drew on. Billy made to speak, then paused to reconsider. Martin's head nestled in Lisette's bosom as she stood behind him, her hands kneading his shoulders. 'Desertion,' he whispered, reaching to take the girl's hand about his shoulder. Brodie's 'Aye, desertion,' was emphatic. His tone softened. 'You have till tonight to say your farewells. If ye return wae us in good time, they might no shoot ye.' He gave a grim little smile and a brief shake of his head. 'You'll be fine as long as you're ready to return when we come back for you tonight.' 'C'mon Brodie man. We have 48 hour passes; you said I could visit Marjorie. We can gie him till the morning, surely?' Martin looked from one to the other. Brodie in frowning concentration, Billy in mute appeal. 'Right then.' It was what the Rifles most admired in their Sergeant - his readiness to make decisions. Billy grinned at Martin. 'We'll be at the Red Cross Hostel. You meet us there in the morning.' Brodie met Lisette's gaze, above Martin's head. 'Thank you for everything, the food was ... great.' The warmth of his smile belied the stern exterior. 'Make sure he's there in the morning Lass.' ****** She turned from conversation with her colleague. The smile, which started in her eyes, came close to blinding him. There's no mistaking the strength of her feelings, thought Billy, still pinned in the radiance of her gaze. 'Ma'am.'Bright eyes rose and he nodded. 'Cat got your tongue, your Ladyship?' He smiled at her silence. He caught the glint of a tear. Her hand, a moment of reflex, reached for his chest. It lingered long enough to embarrass her, before she turned to her colleague, knowing that she coloured as she did so. 'A message from my fiance,'she said with a hand gesture to Billy. 'I'll see you in the morning, Nurse Gibson.' A light pirouette brought them face to face again. 'Let's get out of here.' Bound by convention they walked apart whilst revelling in the close contact of shoulder against shoulder. The streets were crowded nearer the heart of the city. Weaving amongst groups of soldiers brought them even closer, both thrilling at the clandestine touch of the other. Marjorie drove them on; urgent, expectant; her excitement written in the colour at her cheek. 'But tomorrow Billy. It's not fair; that's no time at all.' Billy stopped, swinging round to face her. 'It's all the time we have, Your ladyship.' Then the smile. 'If you want a dance partner, you'll need to find a well born Staff Captain. A Lord maybe.' She laughed then. It broke the heavy protocol and Billy laid his hand along the fine edge of her cheek. 'Oh lass, lass!' She caught his thumb between her teeth and bit down. Such a wanton look for a lady, thought Billy, surprised at the disquiet he felt in the moment. 'We better run then,' she said, her hand behind his elbow. ****** Billy lay on his belly, his head on an outstretched arm. He had spread himself across the double bed, the thin sheet across his lower half. Marjorie had dressed and gone out to fetch supper. The sun lay across the floor, the block of sunlight narrowing in the descent to dusk. He watched the dust motes dance in the golden light and moved his tired muscles in the residual heat. 'Just where do ye think you can go with this?' He'd said it in his head, or so he thought. On impulse he looked around; searching for the disembodied voice. Laughing at his own question, he turned over and stared at the ceiling. She found him in the same position when she returned. On the table she placed a bottle of wine, a crusty loaf, some cheese and two pears. She turned like a music-hall player waiting for applause. 'Billy.' An appeal for his attention, still fixed on the ceiling. He turned his head at mention of his name, the gaze still blank, devoid of animation. As the light returned to his eyes, he pushed up on his elbows. He watched her appeal turn to expectancy, then confusion, and full circle to appeal. Seeking approval, he thought, she wants to be the wee woman, her man's tea on the table. He swung his legs to the floor; still in his underwear, new purchased to spare her blushes. 'We're way beyond embarrassment.' She looked confused and he realised that he'd spoken aloud again. He grinned, an inane grin; covering his tracks. 'Where did your Ladyship learn all this self sufficiency?' She coloured in pleasure, leaving Billy to muse on his easy escape. 'Are you hungry?' 'What do you think Ma'am?' He closed the gap between them. ***** Billy sat on the edge of the bed. He swallowed the hard runt of the pear then licked the sticky juice from his fingers. Marjorie stood to the side of the open window, her cape covering her near nakedness. She peered into the darkness of the square beneath. 'So how will this read in your memories Marge? He reached for the wine. 'I was a private soldier's strumpet.' The silence stretched out and he realised she was crying; he saw it in the movement of her head, the clench of her hands. You bastard. You're punishing her because you feel guilty. This time the thought wasn't spoken out loud, or if it were it had been lost under the oppressive stillness of the moment. 'It's Marjorie. My name's Marjorie Billy.' She didn't turn. 'You have to deal with that. And my title. You're not beneath me but... maybe you find that I'm beneath you. Beneath the warrior poet from the Fife coalfields?' He flinched at the lacerating bite in her words. 'Why would you believe that well born ladies are somehow different? Don't you have someone back home who shares my passion for you?' She turned then, as he rose to go to her, denial on his lips. The No froze in his throat and Anne's face came to his mind's eye. No disapproval, no contempt; the face from the fishermen's dance. No more,no less. Marjorie turned again to the window.
Archived comments for The Maiden and the Warrior
OldPeculier on 24-05-2013
The Maiden and the Warrior
I enjoyed this. At times it was a little confusing but I think that is because I do not know the players in the story and their relationships with one another rather than because of the writting.

The scene with Martin and Lisette was good and very believable. I like the way the two soldiers feel they are tresspassing in their friends private world.

I think the last paragraph is very powerful and really says a lot about the characters.

Author's Reply:
Thanks OP.
You have no idea how much encouragement I take from your comments, especially the part about what it says about the characters. The relationship business, especially man/woman, is still shifting sand for me!
I also know it's a big ask to read so many words in a sub.
cheers,
Jim

amman on 26-05-2013
The Maiden and the Warrior
Hi Jim. At first reading I found it quite hard to work out the relationships between the characters, probably because they were established earlier in the novel. Likewise, the fleshing out of the characters. Those relationships became clearer on further readings. Personally, I would have introduced more narrative (perhaps description of surroundings and personal characteristics) to break up the dialogue. This is a very wordy chapter. The Scots dialect is a particular strength and you write well when employing shorter sentences. You've obviously elected to write in in an everyday, plain mode but I wouldn't be afraid to chuck a bit of lyricism in here and there to spice up the narrative. (Have a look at my prose piece 'Solitary confinement' to see too much stream of consciousness lyricism!!) A fair bit of grammatical tidying up needed, but that that will obviously come at the editing stage. A little prosaic in parts. Careful with personal pronouns..he mused, he growled, the Sergeant hissed. Sometimes these aren't needed. Anyway, all in all, an enjoyable read. Keep at it.

Regards.

Tony.



Author's Reply:

Mikeverdi on 28-05-2013
The Maiden and the Warrior
Hello Jim, it's good to read from your novel again; things seemed to have moved on a bit. I found the relationship between Billy and Lady Marjorie a bit 'out there' I was thinking Mellors and Chatterley. I would like to read more and I think that's what all authors want from their readers. The relationship between the men holds strong,and you know the war as well as anyone. I look forwards to more when you are ready. Mike

Author's Reply:


American Odyssey (posted on: 20-05-13)
For the Weekly Challenge - WHITE GLOVES

Magicians and black minstrels wore pristine, pearl-buttoned gloves. Thus pure white pioneers might marvel at a mendicant, monochrome hand upon a banjo. A sleight of hand similarly shown in egg-white cotton could cozen Caucasian customers. Selling snake oil tonic to the chronic bigot; like Pilate's simple, symbolic rinse, accomplished with clean hands.
Archived comments for American Odyssey
Savvi on 20-05-2013
American Odyssey
I think you know my thoughts on this one Jim, excellent piece well deserving of the coveted golden egg.

Author's Reply:
Cheers My Man.
I'm a little disappointed at the paucity of visitors to the piece. This was one I was quite proud of.
cheers,
Jim


When the Parades End (posted on: 20-05-13)
For the Poetry Workshop Challenge

She waits for word, long beyond the end of the parade. She wants to feel his hand upon her shoulder; the way he holds her, and folds her in his arms. But unlike all the others, the mothers and the sweethearts, she doesn't have the blessing of his name. And so she waits, not knowing if he's ever coming home. She stands outside the crowd. She's not allowed the room beside the wives. Though in her womb he left his seed; And now she needs to know that he's alive.
Archived comments for When the Parades End
amman on 20-05-2013
When the Parades End
Jim. You convey very succinctly an atmosphere of celebration but, most of all, the bitter-sweet feeling of an outsider's isolation, expectation and longing. I find this very pictorial and also very touching.
Thank you.
Tony.

Author's Reply:
Hi Tony,
Thanks for reading and for the very positive comment. Glad you dropped by. Other participants are at 50+ reads which is a bit depressing!
Still we just have to keep going, though I don't need to tell you that.
cheers and a belated welcome back.
Jim

Jolen on 20-05-2013
When the Parades End
Hi Jim:

I think you touched quite well on a situation not often discussed. It's clever and interesting and I appreciate your bringing a different view to us.

blessings,
jolen

Author's Reply:
Hi jolen,
thanks for the visit,
cheers,
Jim

Slovitt on 20-05-2013
When the Parades End
jim: a good, understated poem, the lines taking their time and building to "...his seed;/and now she needs to know/that he's alive."/. you've featured her outside of the comfort of others, and it's not much of a leap to feel her pain. swep

Author's Reply:
Thanks Swep,
much appreciated.
cheers,
Jim

Shywolf on 20-05-2013
When the Parades End
You've painted a simple scene of social exclusion with such warm colors, I feel I know that woman. I like how you've ended on a realistic but hopeful note by giving us one answer to her question, is he alive or not: yes, he is, inside her.

The parade also lends itself quite well to being a metaphor for life, all that hustle and bustle, excitement and disappointment, and worst of all, waiting.

(Minor typo: 'and folds her his arms.' is missing the preposition 'in' between 'her' and 'his'.)

Glenn






Author's Reply:
Thank you very much Glenn.
I didn't intend the metaphor, but I see it and agree wholeheartedly. It gives the piece yet another dimension. Amended the typo, ta.
cheers,
Jim

Savvi on 20-05-2013
When the Parades End
Hi Jim, very much enjoyed this piece it carries well the feeling of outside looking in, feels like a military homecoming with the wives at the inner circle love how you put over the sense of displacement. S

Author's Reply:

stormwolf on 20-05-2013
When the Parades End
You do it every time...just move me. I am fair emotional today and so I feel this easily. The title was so perfect and others have beat me to many things I could have said and Shy mentioning that fact that the parade could be a metaphor for life.
The sense of exclusion is there too, cushioned by the knowlege that a part of him will always remain but adding to her fear too that he may not come back.
Alison x

Author's Reply:
Hi Alison,
Coming from an ex-nurse, like what I am too, I hope you don't mean I am something of a laxative!
Thanks for the positive reception.
cheers,
Jim x

karen123 on 21-05-2013
When the Parades End
A beautifully sad poem. It is hard to feel her aloneness as she stands just outside all those welcoming a loved one home, knowing but not wanting to accept that she may never see hers again

Author's Reply:
Hi Karen,
Great challenge and looking forward to more.
Glad it spoke to you.
cheers,
Jim x

Mikeverdi on 21-05-2013
When the Parades End
I can only agree with the comments already left. You have hit the spot with this one Jim, it's quite brilliant and very touching; my kind of writing. Mike

Author's Reply:
Hi Mike,
Long time no see. Hope you are keeping well and thanks for the great review.
cheers,
Jim

ruadh on 21-05-2013
When the Parades End
Sad, thought provoking, I feel her pain. Nicely done.

Author's Reply:
Hi Ruadh,
Thanks for dropping by and the comment.
cheers,
Jim

freya on 22-05-2013
When the Parades End
Jim, sense a proverbial play on your title and setting which I like a lot: when it's over (and I so wanted your parade to be over instead of ended!) there your protagonist is, standing alone.

I like this. Its understatement- in the language used - adds to the unvarnished reality of the situation: this is what it is folks, she's unmarried and pregnant. As readers we have no idea whether the 'he' responsible for this situation is married to someone else or is even still alive, and I think it extremely effective that those facts are withheld, from us as well as from her. In this way we are brought to our emotional knees in feeling her dilemma, her isolation, her pain.

For your consideration, Jim, a couple of suggestions:

But unlike all the others,
the mothers and the sweethearts,
she doesn't have the blessing of his name. would the sweethearts have his name either? Perhaps something like: doesn't have the blessing of name or promise?

Maybe it's just the difference between UK and US expression, but I thought :She's not allowed [the room] (to stand) beside the wives,

Of course, that choice would then necessitate a tiny change in the line above to avoid repetition: perhaps, she stays on the outside of the crowd ?


Has anyone else pointed out that there's a typo in your 5th line? A very evocative piece, Jim. Shelagh


Author's Reply:
Hi Freya,
I value your critique and welcome your suggestions. Because it's an old piece, it has been published and so I won't now act on your great suggestions (this time!)
It's getting harder to write these scenes in verse now that media coverage is all consuming. Difficult to evoke with an imagery that is in any way obtuse, don't you think?
cheers,
Jim x


The Gift (posted on: 10-05-13)
My Mum and Dad's gift was not my birth; but my certain place in the world. They also gave me the ability to discern that fact, albeit a little belatedly.

My Mother, in a single patriotic gesture, gave Scotland yet another restless son. From womb to world, my journey to light; brought forth to seek the earth entire. Dipped in Calvin's cauld, acerbic font. My father gave me the namesake of kings. My family bade me welcome in the ring, And only then, did sing in praise of Christ. One cradle song remembered told the story of the glory of a country rendered free. So I slept, kept safe throughout the lonely watches. Then awoke to hear the ancient chant anew. A childhood flown, grown in a band of brothers. My mother's gift the story of my race. My father stood example to my future. My sister wore a younger mother's face. My parents are now woven in my story. And stand amongst the elders of my line. Lang syne I've known I have a place beside them. And when it's time then they will take me home. But now they've laid another path before me. The World spilled undiscovered at my feet. The beating pulse of blood-line speeds each footstep. O'er horizons through each arching dawn to dusk. I've yet to meet the betters of my people. Not a man who could stand higher than my Dad. Inconceivable I'd find my mother's equal; though my brother I find daily on the road. If I'm gifted, it's the gift my father gave me. My Mother taught the priceless act of love. So I'm cherished, blessed and given leave to wander; Till the day's end waiting yonder, with them both.
Archived comments for The Gift
amman on 10-05-2013
The Gift
This is stirring stuff, Jim, both patriotic and a song of praise to upbringing and the strength of family values. I like the relentless rhythm which adds emphasis and strength to your words.
I would be tempted to lose 'kept' in the third verse (seems like a word too many) and use 'Nor' instead of 'Not' in the penultimate verse.
Welcome back.
Cheers.
Tony.

Author's Reply:

Jolen on 10-05-2013
The Gift
I agree, an excellent poem on pride of place in both ancestry and geography. Poems like these, when well done, as yours is move the reader and make us want to walk those thistle-covered glens as well as the highlands, or this one anyway. I was just in Scotland and fell in love with it all over again. Thanks for keeping it fresh in my memory.

blessings,
jolen

Author's Reply:

stormwolf on 11-05-2013
The Gift
Hi jim
If i ever forget that you are among my top 3 poets if not the top...i need only to tune in to the passion that runs throughout your work.
I know you know i identify with it as a fellow Scot.
They can say anything but that passion is what is stamped on our nation for all time.
I loved this and will take it into favs to enjoy later.
Slainte
Alison x

Author's Reply:


Night's Candles (posted on: 10-05-13)
My muse roused me at 5am, but I fashioned the verse myself; as you can no doubt tell!

Darkness ebbs into the Western skyline. It's the writer's byline for dawn; the stifled yawn, as orange morn displaces torn night. And sight renewed, imbued with daylight raiment, asks payment of the poet for the gift of precious verse. The freshest earth in which he dips his quill, will crave from him a paean or a simpler psalm; in praise of flame-tipped nature. So switching the alarm off, with muffled cough, we stretch and scribe another jocund day.
Archived comments for Night's Candles
orangedream on 10-05-2013
Nights Candles
A well crafted poem, evocative and inspiring.

Maybe have a think about word order in the line, 'So switching the alarm off...'

If you were to have, 'So switching off the alarm', it would still have the same synergy with the line below, but perhaps read a touch more smoothly. Hence:-

'So switching off the alarm
with muffled cough...'

Just a thought;-)

Love 'flame-tipped nature'. Beautiful imagery.

Very much enjoyed.

Tina

Author's Reply:

teifii on 10-05-2013
Nights Candles
Like the scattered rhymes and the imagery, especially 'torn night'.

Author's Reply:

ValDohren on 10-05-2013
Nights Candles
Muses have a habit of showing up at the most inconvenient times, though at 5:OO am mine is nowhere to be seen !! A lovely write, and I also like 'flame-tipped nature' and the images it conjures up.

Val

Author's Reply:

Savvi on 10-05-2013
Nights Candles
This carries that sleepy morning feel and nails the moment that poets write about, painters paint, photographers shoot. topped of with some fine alliteration and great visual lines. Thanks S

Author's Reply:

Ionicus on 11-05-2013
Nights Candles
A nice, flowing poem that reads well, Jim. I too like the scattered rhymes 'skyline/byline', 'dawn/yawn', 'renewed/imbued', etc.
Cheers.

Author's Reply:


Biting Britons (posted on: 05-04-13)
Just exercising a few demons having become exposed at Limoges airport.

Extended exposure to expatriate countrymen; which follows disclosure of my Scottish ancestry. Puts unbearable pressure on my span of interest; and leads to my censure for taking great pleasure, in attacking the homeland they all seem to treasure.
Archived comments for Biting Britons
geordietaf on 05-04-2013
Biting Britons
Just what did you say to them. Something suitably short and sharp, like this piece?

Author's Reply:

Nomenklatura on 05-04-2013
Biting Britons
There's none so fond of the homeland as those who have left it. Many people here in Spain remind me of Greene's remittance men; chancers fleecing fellow exiles, whilst boasting of improbable success that for some unknown reason they have left behind in Blighty. HAH!
I hope you gave them laldy!

Author's Reply:


The Curse of Art (posted on: 05-04-13)
Because there are times when Art Lovers get stuck in my nasal passages!

'Shite' like La Giaconda, wears enigmatic raiment. A Glaswegian curse with an eye for detail. 'Ya Bastard' throws Baroque curves; parts the Red Sea; and with the dark pigment of an Old Dutch Master, pulls aside the curtain of New Romantic PC. 'Arsehole' Not an existentialist, an excrementalist; Not the homespun daub of bullshit, but the sharp, illuminating antidote to crap. 'Go Fuck yersel' the Sistine ceiling over the heads of those who already have.
Archived comments for The Curse of Art
geordietaf on 05-04-2013
The Curse of Art
Another nicely cranky contribution.

Author's Reply:

shadow on 05-04-2013
The Curse of Art
Very nicely put. I mean I like (some) art, but people talk such bollocks about it . . .

Author's Reply:

stormwolf on 07-04-2013
The Curse of Art
OMG! 'Breath of fresh air' does not even begin to describe it!
The Emporor's New Clothes Syndrome is absolutely everywhere and seems that people as a whole are learning never to rock the boat or even speak their truth!

Great to see this nibbed as the bold exposure it is,
Alison x



Author's Reply:


Fellowship (posted on: 05-04-13)
My muse is a Suffragist.

The sum of all my days is not so great a number. My worth would not tip positive against a grain of sand. And yet on two strong legs I stand the same as any other, alongside of my brother, linked united hand in hand.

Archived comments for Fellowship
Hekkus on 05-04-2013
Fellowship
A neat poem with a strong message. Maybe timely in these days of increasing individualism.

Author's Reply:

amman on 05-04-2013
Fellowship
Good poetry, Jim, with a positive affirmation of strength through unity. Excellent composition. I might be tempted to lose 'of ' from the 10th line for better rhythm.
Cheers.
Tony.

Author's Reply:

cooky on 05-04-2013
Fellowship
Excellent poetry.Strong and uplifting. i like this

Author's Reply:

Fox-Cragg on 05-04-2013
Fellowship
Band of Brothers comes straight to mind, good write.
Solid and sweet.
Thanks, Paul

Author's Reply:

Nomenklatura on 05-04-2013
Fellowship
Succinct, nice-looking on the virtual page and a lot from a little. Splendid

Author's Reply:

Ionicus on 06-04-2013
Fellowship
Fellowship rules OK, Jim. Nicely said.

Author's Reply:

stormwolf on 06-04-2013
Fellowship
Power-filled which goes to show we do not have to go on at length to make a point. In fact, well chosen words, sent forth from the heart and the guts....arrive on target. *thumbs up*
Alison x

Author's Reply:

Mikeverdi on 06-04-2013
Fellowship
Its good writing Jim as all have said, I would like to know what prompted it? Mike

Author's Reply:

mageorge on 02-08-2013
Fellowship
A very strong message of unity. This is the aptitude of a 'Special Forces' soldier.. IMO a great read well worthy of a 10 rating!
Mark.

Author's Reply:


Hyperbolus Variegatum (posted on: 22-03-13)
An attempt at a deconstructed Sijo (Korean I believe)

Beneath a leaden sky ******* above the distant hum of traffic Outside my line of sight ******* inside my mind's eye The Mother of Invention ******* gives birth to a conflict of interest.
Archived comments for Hyperbolus Variegatum
Nomenklatura on 22-03-2013
Hyperbolus Variegatum
Splendid.

Author's Reply:

Andrea on 22-03-2013
Hyperbolus Variegatum
Needless to say I had to look it up 🙂

Sijo (/ˈʃiːdʒoʊ/; Korean pronunciation: [ɕidʑo]) is a Korean poetic form.[1] Bucolic, metaphysical and cosmological themes are often explored. The three lines average 14-16 syllables, for a total of 44-46: theme (3, 4,4,4); elaboration (3,4,4,4); counter-theme (3,5) and completion (4,3). -- SIJO

Er...right. None the wiser alas. I kind of get it though 🙂 I'm sure, as Ewan says, it's splendid 🙂

Author's Reply:

Ionicus on 23-03-2013
Hyperbolus Variegatum
Much too clever for me, Jim. It went above my head.
Carry on regardless.

Author's Reply:


My Ma (posted on: 22-03-13)
Because the gift of life is given unreservedly...

She was a 'looker' and a cook, a songster and a seamstress. She stitched the fabric of my formative years and gave me leave to laugh at her foibles. The seams may now be torn and faded, but my life is still intact. Along with the shared laughter and a song remembered.
Archived comments for My Ma
amman on 22-03-2013
My Ma
Beautifully and eloquently expressed, Jim. A moving tribute to your Ma. Very clever wordplay. Into favs it goes.
Cheers.
Tony.

Author's Reply:
What can I say Tony?
Thank you for the vote, the favouriting, and unless I'm mistaken, the nomination!
cheers,
Jim

Andrea on 22-03-2013
My Ma
There's nothing I love more than a man who loves his mummy 🙂

Author's Reply:
To be honest Boss, she gave me the meagre gift of verse that allows me to write of her. You would have liked her, I am sure.
cheers,
Jim x

Fox-Cragg on 23-03-2013
My Ma
Real cracker this one, speaks for many of us.
Thanks. Paul

Author's Reply:
Hi Paul,
I am really happy you enjoyed this tribute. Thank you for the positive comment.
cheers,
Jim

stormwolf on 23-03-2013
My Ma
A good mother is a gift beyod measure, as is a son who understnds that. Lovely.
Alison x

Author's Reply:
Hi Alison.
Not sure I achieved that understanding till after she left us; but thank you nonetheless.
Not around as much these days, but will try to get around some of my favourite authors.
Love your stance on Money and its blatant destruction of our world. We just have to keep calling foul; even if it consigns us to the margins.
cheers,
Jim xx

Texasgreg on 24-03-2013
My Ma
Aye, Jim!

Your mum evidently did her job well and it shows.

I'm gonna send this on to my mummy... photo Mommummy_zps057ca62d.jpg

Good Job!

Greg 🙂

Author's Reply:


The House of Tudor (posted on: 22-03-13)
A product of my childlike, naive understanding of history

I ponder, even wonder, who was the moodier Tudor? Was it Seven? The bean-counting, Beaufort inspired, Welsh usurper. Or the great Eight? The faithless Defender of the Roman Faith, turned barbarous despot. Perhaps Mary? The scary, faery Queen, barren, bitter, burning to bring death to dissenters. Surely not Golden Elizabeth? Last of the spurious line; vicariously Virginal, weak bodied woman in a hard-hearted man. Does it really matter, in the world of Royalist chatter, twitter and blog? Well; No, I don't suppose it does; except to point a moral, both moribund and monumental, that the accidental monarch is indubitably flawed..
Archived comments for The House of Tudor
Andrea on 22-03-2013
The House of Tudor
Ooooh, brilliant! My fave period and I do go quite faint over your alliteration!

Author's Reply:
Oh that I had known the power of alliteration as a sex-crazed youth.
cheers Boss,
Jim x

Fox-Cragg on 22-03-2013
The House of Tudor
Great read. More of The Templar period myself, but you got them all tidied up nicely. It took multiple DVDs to do the same.
Paul

Author's Reply:
That's me Paul; long on bullshit, short on detail!
Thanks for reading and the positive comment mate.
cheers,
Jim

Savvi on 22-03-2013
The House of Tudor
A lesson in aliteration and history very well done. S

Author's Reply:
Thank you kindly. It is a period of history that fascinates me.
cheers,
Jim

Ionicus on 23-03-2013
The House of Tudor
Excellent write, Jim. I am refreshing my knowledge of that period; having read 'Wolf Hall' I am now nearing the end of 'Bring up the bodies'.

Author's Reply:
Thanks Luigi,
I have heard such a lot about Wolf Hall, and will surely have to read. Thanks for reading and commenting,
cheers,
Jim

Pronto on 24-03-2013
The House of Tudor
A great read mate and yup, the alliteration is superb.

Good ink poet!

Author's Reply:
Thanks Pronto, I am really glad you enjoyed this.
cheers mate,
Jim


The Unlikely Samaritan (posted on: 08-03-13)
For the weekly challenge - PET. A new, free form style for me, which I lay falteringly on the altar!

Out of diesel smoke way out of place a long way out of focus standing rooted inside my bitter personal space, she filled the recently vacated, empty metaphor for the exquisite agony of my heart. The four-twenty to London, picked up speed and litter crying strangled farewell hurling the spent passion of passing upon the grimed glass sky of Waverley Station. Small, uniformed, black as the future, she veiled the departure of a life once lead, now leaden, now dead that febrile figment dissipating like diesel fumes as my memories imploded in locomotive tailwind. Christ hung large on the roof of her cleavage A palpitating, pascal-lamb message that: all was never lost His Black Madonna nodded, knowing. My All, not lost, knew full well her destination; and in excess of predestination, the conductress touched my empty arms in benediction: 'Never mind Pet; there will be another one along shortly.'
Archived comments for The Unlikely Samaritan
Nomenklatura on 09-03-2013
The Unlikely Samaritan
Hi, Jim,

atmospheric and vivid as usual. One minor thing (and this is most likely a purely subjective thing on my part) You start with the 'out of' repetitions and I was sort of disappointed that you didn't try to echo this form later in the poem. Not with 'out of- whatever but just another repeated phrase used in a similar way, as the beginning of lines in stanza 3.



The Lead, leaden, now dead line was beautifully done.



Anyway, good writing, as always

PS DOH!!! Free Form!

Author's Reply:

Mikeverdi on 11-03-2013
The Unlikely Samaritan
I like this a lot, it works for me, but then it would. A question for you... did it work for you? the free form that is. Mike

Author's Reply:


Beyond Reach (posted on: 04-03-13)
The daughter of a very close friend took her own life, just a few days ago. I am unsure if my verse is inspired by anger or grief.

A young woman I was proud to call friend, escaped life's brutal straps. If you'll permit a metaphor for such a selfish act. She sank beneath the surface of a sea of futile hope; reaching the end of a line gone slack and threadbare. We're born to touch the sky; yet no-one tells us how. Some find the firmament too high and dip below the horizon. They call for help locked within a soul grown cold; each beseeching cry beating on unyielding walls. Holding friendship cheap, we blame ourselves for deafness and paucity of thought. Forgetting we're fallible and human. It's a frailty we share along with belief that in the teeth of dilemma, friends will see our pain and stop us being swallowed.
Archived comments for Beyond Reach
Mikeverdi on 04-03-2013
Beyond Reach
Sorry to hear of the loss Jim. I understand the mixed feelings; also the guilt associated with them. Your writing expresses them well my friend.

Author's Reply:
Hi Mike,
Sorry for being so lax in replying. Lots going on at the moment and my time online is rationed as I get to completion on my Novel.
Thanks for commenting. This piece means a great deal to me.
cheers,
Jim


All Just Words (posted on: 04-03-13)
Do you have days like this? A precocious muse who wants you to chase her barefoot through the long grass; pouting promises she won't keep, saying you never bring her flowers, cutting your manhood by asking if that's all you can manage?

Words lost, abused, ill-used or trite; sit loosely on my tongue tonight. Sit fat as monks; the Trappist kind. Speak not of love or life, I find; yet whisper loud among themselves. A chattering clique of fractious elves; who simply flatter to deceive, a writer who cannot believe, his muted muse won't speak. Lost words, once found on inspiration; now founder deep in desperation. Their arms flail above the surface to no avail and little purpose. Thus smothered in this sea of chaos; our Muse will cut their chains and free us. And floating once more on the current, no longer trapped in soundless torment, Our lyric muse will sing.
Archived comments for All Just Words
stormwolf on 04-03-2013
All Just Words
Nowt wrong with your muse I reckon...

yet whisper loud among themselves.
A chattering clique of fractious elves;

pure dead brilliant!
Alison x

Author's Reply:
Thanks Alison.
I've not been around much recently, other fish to fry! I'm surprised at how many subs there are and it's all too easy to get stuck right at the back. Never mind, we soldier on
cheers,
Jim x

stormwolf on 04-03-2013
All Just Words
Oh I sure know what you mean! ;-( I understand it's the luck of the draw but I seem to be permanently more than half way down if not almost at the bottom. It does affect the readership I think. Things are certainly busier so I think I will concentrate on my fav poets as I cannot read everyone.

Alison x

Author's Reply:

Savvi on 04-03-2013
All Just Words
Lol you cant beat me I'm at the back, It's dropped of the list its gonna get missed, Tee Hee can you hear them fractious elves, so much to love about the truth of this piece, I enjoy reading your poems out loud as they just roll away. What can I say back or notI will seek you out, actually you and Alison. S

Author's Reply:
Thank you, you are extremely kind. As to sub placement, what they say is 'all things will pass!'
cheers,
Jim

Mikeverdi on 04-03-2013
All Just Words
You will always be on my list, your words have meaning. Mike

Author's Reply:
Cheers Mike,
I appreciate your visits and comments.
Jim

Nemo on 07-03-2013
All Just Words
I enjoyed this - is there a way to make your muse sing? Word that 'sit fat as monks; the Trappist kind' - what a superb phrase! nemo

Author's Reply:
Hi there,
Terpsichore, my muse, sings all the time. My problem is getting her to sing in tune!
Thank you for commenting; I am so glad you enjoyed it.
cheers,
Jim


The Simplon Pass (posted on: 25-02-13)
A breathtaking coffee stop.

Travellers don't debate the choice of colour. They spill from coach to car park, intent on cake and coffee, then harken to the peal of hefted cowbells. Moonfaced across an Alpine meadow, the ancient hospice tells of belief in sacrifice, of Christian determination, the triumph of faith over good sense.. A Roman eagle; granite taloned, grey slate feathered; hovers above the unsuspecting serpent of the Col de Simplon. It faces the Swiss perfected City of Brig and the marshalled banks of the River Rhone pencilled on the Val de Valais, far below its beak. Variegated, modern pilgrims fed and watered in the round marvel at the Palladian excellence of the Cafe de Simplon. They exit the single-storeyed, signal circle, and gaze upon a jolting pink exterior; etched clear upon the bleached blue, eternal, Italian sky.
Archived comments for The Simplon Pass
geordietaf on 25-02-2013
The Simplon Pass
You have a great gift for creating mind pictures. Excellent poem that makes me want to be there.

Author's Reply:

Mikeverdi on 25-02-2013
The Simplon Pass
You should have posted this in the travel section; I want to go see this place as well! Mike

Author's Reply:

Kat on 25-02-2013
The Simplon Pass
A lovely write - wonderful use of language and very evocative.

Kat x

Author's Reply:

Texasgreg on 27-02-2013
The Simplon Pass
Aye! Reminds me of my days in Naples where I learned the love of truly good cappuccino and espresso as well as architecture of the old. I recall that I was so excited to be coming home after being gone two years and having a sense of longing to return after counter-culture shock set in.

Wonderful!

Greg 🙂

Author's Reply:


On the Road to Damascus (posted on: 25-02-13)
Based on a 'Woman's Own' Valentine verse I read.

A wet, empty Valentine's Day. I woke to the cold, bleak vision of a celibate future. Bride of Christ fashioned from the earthy clay of a table-topping, CanCan dancer. Do you remember 'A Mule for Sister Sarah'? That was I; on a rain-battered motorway hard-shoulder; my sorry-ass motor, dead on the way to the Nunnery. He sat astride a broad-backed BMW, my bright'n shiny knight. His smile around the damp cheroot, bade Downton Abbey take a hike. He said 'get up behind me Sister' I draped across his throbbing bike. I clung for safety to the stranger, my cleavage pressed across his back. He smelled of Brut and warm wet leather I soon forgot my God attack. Clint said he was a freelance joiner We went inside for Home Improvement.
Archived comments for On the Road to Damascus
Nomenklatura on 25-02-2013
On the Road to Damascus
Wryly funny. Home Improvement indeed. 🙂

Author's Reply:

Mikeverdi on 25-02-2013
On the Road to Damascus
Another brilliant write Jim, some great images 'draped across his throbbing bike'. mIKE

Author's Reply:

Texasgreg on 26-02-2013
On the Road to Damascus
Aye, what is it about bikes and horses with women? 😉

Happy to see ya save a good woman from herself, Lol.



Super!



Greg 🙂
Has to do with a different kind of ride, but thought you might enjoy...



Photobucket.

Author's Reply:

amman on 26-02-2013
On the Road to Damascus
I think this may be a tad more articulate than the Woman's Own
version, Jim. The first verse hints at drama and then segues to humour as the 1st person narrator is converted to a
more secular immediacy. So many good lines..sorry-ass motor..I draped across his throbbing bike. Great, wryly funny stuff, indeed.
Cheers.
Tony.

Author's Reply:

Ionicus on 26-02-2013
On the Road to Damascus
A delight to read, Jim. Very enjoyable.

Author's Reply:


Printemps Cergy-Pontoise (posted on: 22-02-13)
Spring has arrived.

Harsh crust riven by soft-coiled leaf, the Rites of Spring proclaimed in snowdrop; as fragile beauty, in robust robes, coaxes a smile.
Archived comments for Printemps Cergy-Pontoise
Kat on 22-02-2013
Printemps en Cergy-Pontoise
That is me! I recently picked snowdrops outside of my son's kindergarten and they coaxed a big smile. They sit in a wee blue/green glass behind me.

Lovely poem.

Kat x

Author's Reply:
Thanks Kat,
They do raise a smile, don't they?
cheers,
Jim x

Nomenklatura on 22-02-2013
Printemps en Cergy-Pontoise
I love the bucolic feel of some of your poetry.

Author's Reply:
Thanks Ewan,
I had to look up Bucolic!
cheers,
Jim

amman on 22-02-2013
Printemps en Cergy-Pontoise
Description delicate de l'arrivee du printemps.
Cergy-Pontoise looks very modern in its architecture.
Cordiales salutations.

Author's Reply:
Thanks Tony,
I am just about to read your sub. It's nice to be able to say that mate.
cheers,
Jim

p.s. I live in La France Profonde. (The Creuse - a million miles from Paris)

Nemo on 22-02-2013
Printemps en Cergy-Pontoise
Hi, how frenetic is spring over there? The Rites of Spring - could cause a riot. Thinking about your title - rule: à plus a town.
Printemps à Cergy-Pontoise?

Author's Reply:
Bonjour mon ami,
Je parle pas Francais tres bien malheureusement. Merci beaucoup pour ton suggestion j'ai-t-il changèe.
At this point my French gives out, but just like to say thank you for reading and commenting on my piece. This word-shy style is new to me.
cheers,
Jim

Mikeverdi on 22-02-2013
Printemps à Cergy-Pontoise
The style may be new to you but word shy you're not. Great stuff Jim.

Author's Reply:

geordietaf on 23-02-2013
Printemps à Cergy-Pontoise
A great example of 'less is more'. Very effective

Author's Reply:

Andrea on 23-02-2013
Printemps à Cergy-Pontoise
I had to look up 'bucolic' too - it sounded like indigestion!

Spotted loads of snowdrops the other day, and some little yellow things (no idea what they were, but they were def spring-like) which bought a smile, as did your pome 🙂

Author's Reply:


Making an Entrance (posted on: 18-02-13)
Ever conscious of the need to make a good first impression.

The Admiralty Cutter, HMS Cleaver, lay at anchor close to the breakwater of Portsmouth Harbour. Lieutenant The Honourable Kimberley Diamond stepped from the warmth of the London coach clutching his boat cloak close to his chest; his eyes fixed on the sleek lines of the warship. The snow of the last few days now fell as rain. Cold, hard rain which penetrated the clothing and chilled the flesh beneath. The waterfront was deserted, battered by sea and sky. 'What Joy?' said Kim, 'My first command and I'm left standing on the shore like some damned, drowned, French cockerel.' At the head of the breakwater, the young Lieutenant spotted a brief flash of colour. Something cowered in the lee of the breakwater. There it was again. He strode out towards the cringing presence, gathering his rain-washed dignity in a negligent embrace. As he drew closer he realised that the figure drawn tight against the harbour wall was a child; a boy in his earliest teens. 'Here boy, to me, lively now.' The youngster's eyes flared wide; yet in conditioned response he rose and ran toward the Naval officer. 'Aye, Aye Sir,' he shouted in a high, piping voice, knuckles to his forehead. 'Milsom, sir; Bosun's Mate HMS Cleaver.' Diamond returned the salute, expecting to hear this pinched, blue urchin give voice to a seasonal carol and hold out his cap in anticipation. 'Signal Cleaver then Milsom. Let them know the Captain has arrived,' said the drenched Lieutenant, trying to summon a paternal smile. Within minutes Kimberley Diamond was sitting in the stern of the ship's jollyboat. Conscious of the need for a dignified entry as the new Captain, he did what he could to smarten his appearance. Milsom smiled in encouragement as the boat bumped gently against the warship. Diamond rose to his feet and let the boat-cloak slip revealing the new tailored uniform beneath. He was aware of the ship's company standing on the upper deck awaiting his arrival. Milsom held the ship's ladder steady for his new commanding officer. It was the realisation of a long-held dream. Pipes shrilled in salute and Kim's eyes closed in pleasure. Cleaver's new Captain plunged into the strip of water between the cutter and the jollyboat. As young Milsom scooped the bicorne hat from the surface, the Captain bobbed into the gap.
Archived comments for Making an Entrance
amman on 18-02-2013
Making an Entrance
Some entrance. A salutary tale indeed.
Cheers.

Author's Reply:


Inspired by A Farewell to Lucasta (posted on: 18-02-13)
In imitation of Loveless's peerless poem from the English Civil War.

My lips will not relinquish thine; not of their own volition. A sweet-spun thread of nectar, stretches passion still. The down upon thy cheeks will harvest every teardrop; and I must take my leave against thy will. These tear-stained cheeks will show no mark tomorrow. Instead their jewelled waters bathe my soul. And soothe the blood-fed passions of a soldier; While proving me the poor half of the whole. This heart is thine, which leaves me but mine honour; And honour calls me on to face the foe. And so I break this lip-linked span between us; Bright armed in love's sure mantle, now I go.
Archived comments for Inspired by A Farewell to Lucasta
cooky on 18-02-2013
Inspired by A Farewell to Lucasta
I like this. Unusual but bloody good.

Author's Reply:
Cheers mate, that will do for me!
Jim

Mikeverdi on 20-02-2013
Inspired by A Farewell to Lucasta
Well this is different, I agree with Cooky; it's bloody good.

Author's Reply:
Cheers Mike,
I think I was a romantic in a previous existence!
Jim


I Camera (posted on: 15-02-13)
The Prose Workshop challenge is CAMERA, and I'm not up to prose at the moment, so...

Inventive as they always are, the Japanese made me. So I could be mistaken for a matchbox sized TV. They used a Space Age metal, Thinking that would make me strong; With flimsy plastic handles, so they really got it wrong. For what they fail to realise because they're Oriental, Is that Westerners are often thick, and can be temperamental. They push the button twenty times if they don't get reaction; A tiny pause, before the click, can drive them to distraction. They say that I'm unbreakable; at least that's what they reckoned; That I could fall from outer space at a hundred miles a second. But if my works are stoppered by a single grain of sand; Any pressure on the button sees it shatter in your hand. I have my own white balance, tele-lens and auto focus; Mini tripod, mega pixel, multi function hocus pocus. They felt that I'd need arms and legs, so I'd be truly mobile. Then made them so they fold away and thus don't spoil my profile. My inventor called me short-ass, when he saw me with my legs off; But my owner calls me axeman, Often cutting peoples' heads off. Yet I do look good, in my softskin snood, with my built in Geo-mapper So the ad men say, in that smarmy way, "I'm a really dapper snapper".
Archived comments for I Camera
orangedream on 15-02-2013
I Camera
Like this franciman...a lot;-

Tina

Author's Reply:
Hi Tina,
Glad you approve.
cheers,
Jim x

Savvi on 17-02-2013
I Camera
Lol This is great, who needs prose ? really like that your the camera and your use of pace changes, a lesson. thanks S

Author's Reply:


The Crown (posted on: 15-02-13)
My entry, too late for the challenge - CROWN.

Truth embroidered in royal blue Velvet; falsehood fashioned in regal gold leaf. Bending a People's History to purpose; forceful suspension of native belief. One ancient House more noble than another. Blood-line traced to mist before the Flood. Purity incomparable, like the Saviour. Oil anointed, God appointed Lord Uneasy lies this diadem of kingship. A weighty metaphor: the nation's expectation. The Dynasty secure is bought in murder. Fratricide, Regicide and brute incarceration. All that Majesty a mystery forging chains to hold the hopeless. Where the workings of a Godhead in this puerile, servile process?
Archived comments for The Crown
cooky on 16-02-2013
The Crown
I like this sums up royalty to a tee

Author's Reply:
Thanks Cooky,
Really glad you liked it.
Cheers,
Jim

Ionicus on 16-02-2013
The Crown
I have no problem with the argument, Jim.
I just want to be the usual pedant and point out a typo in the last line: purile should be puerile. Also shouldn't the question mark be placed after 'servile process'?
Cheers.

Author's Reply:
Hi Luigi,
Amendments made. I really didn't know puerile was spent like that. See, you live to learn.
cheers,
Jim


Fresh Flowers (posted on: 11-02-13)
Made legible for my English colleagues

'I would have been his widow, if he'd wed me; But he feared that I'd be grieving all my life. For I loved him more than you might rightly fathom. Loved him sore as if I had've been his wife.' There she knelt and placed bright flowers on his gravestone. All the Flo'ers o' the forest in full bloom; And she kissed spread fingertips, lifted gently to her lips. Then caressed his name carved on the granite tomb. 'It would be true to say we each one knew the other. I mean knowing in the Holy Bible sense. But we held that knowledge closely to our bosom; Though we found it hard to master the pretence.' 'He's my Tam, as sure as if we'd had the blessing. One o' millions that were hung upon the cross. Spilling blood in Flanders mud, dying for the greater good; But without his name you'll not discern my loss.' In her Nineties; I could see that she must struggle. So I asked if she'd return again next year. With a smile she said, 'Next week, as I've done for sixty years. For each week I bring fresh flowers you see, my dear.'
Archived comments for Fresh Flowers
Mikeverdi on 11-02-2013
Fresh Flowers
Oh Jim, that's just so beautiful. some great poetry this week and this is up there with them. Mike

Author's Reply:

stormwolf on 11-02-2013
Fresh Flowers
I remember this one from before. It made me cry then and it has not lost its power .

Supremely moving. poetry at its best.

Alison x

Nominated and taken into favs.

Author's Reply:

Ionicus on 12-02-2013
Fresh Flowers
Excellent poetry. Very poignant, Jim.

Author's Reply:


Tribe (posted on: 11-02-13)
Inspired by the music of this year's Celtic Connections.

I hear their song in the long silences between strong Hebridean sunsets and soft Border dawns. Incantation of my many fathers over field and forest and fairy-haunted Eildon Hills. Lilting music in the murmur of a hundred mothers; cradle song of my ancient race and promise of a place for me at the primordial fire My life is but a fraction of my story. One fragment in the patchwork and heartfelt pride in finding I'm a Celt.
Archived comments for Tribe
amman on 11-02-2013
Tribe
Greetings from one Celt (albeit a Welsh one) to another.
Fine poetry, especially the 3rd verse with its allusion to mother love.
Regards.
Tony.

Author's Reply:

Mikeverdi on 11-02-2013
Tribe
I love it, I know nothing about 'Celts' but I feel how much it could mean in this. For me it comes across as softly spoken , and is all the stronger for it. Mike

Author's Reply:

stormwolf on 11-02-2013
Tribe
I love being a Celt as well. Our heritage is so rich in myth and legends.
I felt that this line would have been better broken up
promise of a place for me
at the primordial fire


not just because it makes the lines more balanced but also that it highlights both the 'place for you' and the 'promordial fire' but it's a tiny thing.

Alison x

Author's Reply:

Ionicus on 12-02-2013
Tribe
I am not a Celt, Jim, but I can appreciate the sense of belonging and pride in one's long established race.
A well crafted poem.

Luigi

Author's Reply:


The Small Print (posted on: 08-02-13)
For the Weekly challenge - INSIDE Written because the challenge seemed to be issued to poets only!

Inside the ring of poets a solitary Flasher stood, head bloodied but unbowed. The Master of the Revels, in quieting the vocal versifiers, stood beside the varlet toe to ragged toe. Well formed he was, yet small and slightly Scottish; with a petrel feather quill behind his ear. He'd withstood the bardic banter of the forums, and was adamant his sub should be placed here. Now the Master was well used to pusillanimy. He referred the small Jock scribbler to the rules. But wee Jock said 'Folk' It disnae say nae stories, Do you take us part-time writers all for fools?
Archived comments for The Small Print
Andrea on 08-02-2013
The Small Print
Haha - loved it!

Author's Reply:

Bozzz on 08-02-2013
The Small Print
Burns rumbles on. Now that Scotland has a space programme may I expect a "slightly Scottish" horse offal haggis from Mars at next year's bash. You canny guys.... Bozzz.

Author's Reply:


Age Concern (posted on: 08-02-13)
For the weekly challenge - INSIDE

Something went in my head, years ago. I ran out of words. My right hand doesn't work. Some Doctor stood within my intimate space mouthing the diagnosis. I understand what people say to me. I'm not daft, but it's what they say amongst themselves. I'd answer, if we just agree a simple system. That won't happen; people don't interact any more.. Lack of progress frustrated them. I've not been marginalised; just placed beyond the scope of their care. I could read if they'd get my eyes tested, and I could blink away tears. I cry a lot. I still do that. I cry because they no longer speak to me. My wife, Babs, never asks after my welfare. She still smiles. Occasionally she takes my hand. She's got Altzheimer's so she's in here with me. She doesn't remember me, and I get emotional. We slept side by side for forty years. Now we don't even share a room. We're at different ends of a corridor. Babs walks the corridor. She polishes the handrail. Once in a while her lights go on. I see it in her face. She touches my cheek; sorts my collar. I get emotional so they take her away. There's a bookshelf behind her. On the shelf is Great Expectations. I love Dickens. I'd read it If they'd put it in front of me and turn the pages. If I'd spectacles. When I first came, they'd clean my specs and put them on, ready for another day. Then they decided there was little point in my wearing them. I'm a mute witness. Evidence written on the parchment of my mind's eye. Will I wake tomorrow believing Babs is my Mum or my Daughter? If you read this you'd ask, 'would it make any difference? Yes, yes, yes! I live in hope, faint but breathing, that someone might catch my glimmering light and bring that book. Tomorrow I might lose this guttering spark. I feel tears again. I remember Dylan Thomas: 'Old age should burn and rave at close of day' Then it's gone, like my testimony.
Archived comments for Age Concern
Kazzmoss on 08-02-2013
Age Concern
How sad. It really pulled at the heart strings.

Author's Reply:

Andrea on 08-02-2013
Age Concern
There's no doubt about it, getting old sucks.

*sigh*

Author's Reply:

Miel on 08-02-2013
Age Concern
A write that definitely rattles the reader and brings a tear.

Author's Reply:

Pronto on 08-02-2013
Age Concern
This was a very real and sad write poet and it still goes on too.
Getting old is fine getting ill is what sucks.

Author's Reply:

Mikeverdi on 08-02-2013
Age Concern
Jim that was so bloody sad (but a great write) Mike

Author's Reply:

Savvi on 08-02-2013
Age Concern
Have allraedy comemnted in the forum, just wanted to say I really enjoyed the craft within this piece, you show us sadness and tell us when to cry.

Author's Reply:

Mikeverdi on 08-02-2013
Age Concern
Not sure what happened I thought I rated 9. sorry!

Author's Reply:

Weefatfella on 09-02-2013
Age Concern
Weefatfella hush! photo 9ad8726c-7f7a-4a2e-81de-dc998460bbc4_zps95bf80a2.jpg


Alzheimer's is a devastating and demoralising disease both for the sufferer and the loved ones.


I have experienced the effects.


The sooner we find a cure the better.


Thank you Jim for highlighting this with your well written emotive piece.


Weefatfella.

Author's Reply:

cooky on 09-02-2013
Age Concern
Bloody good write.

Author's Reply:

amman on 10-02-2013
Age Concern
Jim, this really touched me. Narrating in the first-person allows a really intimate look inside a still lucid mind as referenced with thoughts of Dickens and Dylan Thomas. The story is beautifully woven. Terrific.
Regards.
Tony

Author's Reply:


Road to Nowhere (posted on: 04-02-13)
Just what it says

I've been a wild rover all over it seems. Dreams followed; life swallowed; oats sown. My own way; come what may; feet deep in my boots. No roots; no relations; no home. It's freedom when seen from a younger man's eyes. Bright sunrise over high-rise or hill. Bill Bailey, who daily, is asked to come home. Yet doesn't, and hasn't the will. Keep running; wheels turning; no moss on my stone. Lone Ranger; dark stranger; lost soul. On this road to nowhere I know where I am. A tumbleweed still on a roll.
Archived comments for Road to Nowhere
Texasgreg on 04-02-2013
Road to Nowhere
Hehe, ya capture the heart of the free man well. Been there and considered a return myself...

For you...



Author's Reply:

stormwolf on 04-02-2013
Road to Nowhere
A different style for you but the same intensity in those short lines.
I reckon I am a tumbleweed too .

Alison x

Author's Reply:

Corin on 04-02-2013
Road to Nowhere
Nice ending. Did you see David Attenborough's story of a Saharan tumbleweed in his Africa series? Someyimes dried up Old Balls sow some great seeds:-)



Dave



Author's Reply:

Andrea on 04-02-2013
Road to Nowhere
Good stuff! Alas, I roam no more 🙁 I see Greg's sent you a song, so I will too!




Author's Reply:

Bozzz on 04-02-2013
Road to Nowhere
Where you are now is not nowhere unless you are planning to move on again. Most stones do not roll. Where do you charge your laptop when on a roll?. A very moving poem. Rating 8.5.

Author's Reply:

bo_duke99 on 04-02-2013
Road to Nowhere
wow, that was immense

Author's Reply:


The Devil is in the Detail (posted on: 04-02-13)
The wisdom of stray thoughts

The path of least resistance isn't ever paved with gold. It's a point most worthy of consideration. On the other hand it's smooth and slick, and you're not prone to fail. Nor are you like to find the inspiration. To say you won't conform will put you on the rocky road. The left turn not the right one, say the fellows. Making compromise an art form, they'd not recognise their butt, from a single rectum in a line of elbows. So I'll stand a little longer at this cross-roads in my life. Juggling pro and con, or right and wrong or maybe. I'll read Kant and Jung, and Mystic Meg, the Mighty Quinn and Plato; Then use the sense my Mum and Dad both gave me. So you think you're reading poetry? or sophistry at best? Have you never heard of world wide web or Yahoo? I just put a destination in the search box on my phone, so the road you take's already chosen for you.
Archived comments for The Devil is in the Detail
Texasgreg on 04-02-2013
The Devil is in the Detail
I say there are three kinds of people who dwell on this earth. There are leaders, followers and trailblazers. The first two both have it easy...the third has no choice as it is in their blood.

Greg 🙂

Author's Reply:

bo_duke99 on 04-02-2013
The Devil is in the Detail
The Mighty Quinn and Plato ;o)

Author's Reply:

Andrea on 04-02-2013
The Devil is in the Detail
Just brilliant! What a clever chap you are, to be sure.

Author's Reply:

Ionicus on 04-02-2013
The Devil is in the Detail
Kant and Jung are not a patch on Mystic Meg. She could predict your destination without resorting to Google or Yahoo.
An enjoyable read.

Author's Reply:

Mikeverdi on 04-02-2013
The Devil is in the Detail
Great stuff again Jim, never know what to expect next 🙂 mike

Author's Reply:

KristerJones on 04-02-2013
The Devil is in the Detail
Loved the line "...single rectum in a line of elbows". Nicely done 🙂

Author's Reply:

ChairmanWow on 05-02-2013
The Devil is in the Detail
Agree with all comments above. Sometimes I think defiance is the key to existence; life against all the dead rock and empty space. But that's maybe overdoing your point. Enjoyed the poem.

Ralph

Author's Reply:

Savvi on 05-02-2013
The Devil is in the Detail
path of least resistace is for the elements not a thing that thinks, I say struggle, true wisdom is knowing you know nothing and in this I'm fortunate. great write thanks S

Author's Reply:

Pronto on 07-02-2013
The Devil is in the Detail
Loved the way you wove Mystic Meg into it!! Very well constucted poem also I really enjoyed the 'adventure of thought.'

Author's Reply:

Miel on 08-02-2013
The Devil is in the Detail
Just brilliantly written

Author's Reply:

teifii on 10-02-2013
The Devil is in the Detail
I thoroughly enjoyed this, especially first two lines --- and this
Making compromise an art form,
they'd not recognise their butt,
from a single rectum in a line of elbows.

Author's Reply:


The Homecoming (posted on: 01-02-13)
For the Weekly challenge - FUGITIVE

Cold winter let fall night's curtain on the village. Lives had been lost in unsustainable numbers for a small community. Cattle had been driven off. Young women sat on the edge of families with greater loss to mourn than virginity. The church a smouldering pile, its priest nailed to the door in parody of Christ's passion. On the far side of the burn; in the shadow of the trees, Lachlan pulled himself into a sitting position. He gnawed at lips drained of blood. The wound beneath his armpit was dark and crusted. It didn't hurt, the pain blunted by the cold. His Uncle lay across the threshold, head tilted at an improbable angle. A MacDonald laird, his cottage was the only stone building in the village. Draped over his legs was Lachlan's Aunt, gutted like a river trout; blood now gelatinous. The shouts and laughter faded up at the Inn, the butchers succumbing to the embrace of Donald's ale. They were soldiers of The King; Campbells. The slaughter had started in the dark hours of morning, before Lachlan's return from the cattle fair. The flat clouds of smoke over the village had hastened his steps. With the smell of burning wood in his nostrils, Lachlan failed to spot the Redcoat picket The highlander rose out of the heather, bayoneted musket levelled at Lachlan's chest. He saw bodies strewn along the path. A boy of six or seven lay nearest, a bloody crust obscuring his face. His hands were cupped in unanswered prayer. Lachlan reared in horror, the soldier responding with a deep thrust below the armpit. The force of it sent Lachlan backward over the crest. He bounced over folds in the ground ending in the swift burn far below. Two musket shots caroomed off the rocks then the soldiers withdrew. As the winter dusk settled over the glen, Lachlan used the bed of the burn to get close. From the shelter of the woods he could see the smoking ruins. In that moment of despair, Lachlan became aware that he wasn't alone. In the thicket sat others. Spectral, hollow-eyed, grave-cloth creatures. Faces once known to him. His fevered brain couldn't decide if they were living or dead.
Archived comments for The Homecoming
expat on 02-02-2013
The Homecoming
Competent writing as usual, Jim, but I think it could be improved a little by keeping the voice active, such as:
Lachlan reared in horror, the soldier responding with a deep thrust below the armpit.
Lachlan reared in horror. The soldier responded with a deep thrust below the armpit.
There's a lot going on for a short piece - it's nicely condensed if you were planning on a sub-500-word entry.
I've never heard the term 'grave-cloth creatures' before but it suits the scene perfectly.
Best wishes,
Steve

Author's Reply:

Texasgreg on 04-02-2013
The Homecoming
Aye, Jim!
Your mind sees the horrors and bloodlust equally well as any marriage between the two is doomed from the beginning. So long as we have writing of this quality in any sort of quantity, we have hope of peace.

Greg 🙂

Author's Reply:


The Lea Rig (posted on: 01-02-13)
For the Weekly Challenge - MAGICAL

His pages bathed in lost