Saturday, 7 September 2013

A NEW WORLD

A wave of excitement swept through the ship and everyone was suddenly caught up in a euphoric feeling of optimism. It even reached Elani, as she toiled in the greenhouses, way down in the depths of the vessel. Oyam had rushed in with the thrilling news. Lifting her up, he had spun her round , scattering the seeds she had been gathering from the ovary of the giant poppy flower, that bloomed brightly under the huge, arc lights.

" We've entered a new galaxy !" he laughed, "and all the sensors indicate that this may be 'THE ONE' !"

Elani gasped, dizzy from the spinning and breathless from Oyam's enthusiastic hug, which had almost crushed her ribs. She set down her wicker basket and looked up at Oyam's happy face; a face she had come to love. Then she smiled and, gently touching his arm, to calm him, she asked,

" Can this really be true ? After all these years of wandering ?"

It seemed as though they had been travelling for ever, in this huge ship. This ark. Travelling forever, across the universe in search of a home.

There had been three identical ships, at the start, Twenty long years ago. Elani had been just twelve years old when she was selected for the trip. She could still remember the day she said goodbye to family and friends, not realising that she would never see them again. But the planet was dying, nothing would survive. Nuclear wars and pollution had poisoned the air. All the natural resources had been, greedily, depleted. Soon the power would fail and those who were not already sick, would die of starvation and cold. A black cloud was beginning to engulf the world, blocking out the sunlight and killing every living thing. The world leaders realised, too late, the consequences of their selfish actions. There was no way the earth could be saved, so, in an attempt to salvage some of the population, huge ships had been built, but time had run out and only three were completed. A hasty 'Selection' had begun. Scientists, teachers, doctors and architects had been chosen. Builders, farmers, the strong and the fit, but most of all the young. All would be required to colonise and populate another world. Plants, crops and animals were needed too. Oxen to pull ploughs, horses for transport. Dogs for hunting and protection. Pigs, cows, goats and chickens for food and milk. All entered the giant arks. Elani had no idea how or why she was selected, but she had found herself grouped with others of her age and assigned to vessel number two .... The Elpis.

so, the three ships had left the dying planet and set off on their epic voyage to find a suitable home. On and on they travelled, searching, in vain, for somewhere that could sustain life, somewhere that had light and water and clean air. But so many planets were inhospitable, lifeless and barren.

The first ship .... The Pistis, had been destroyed when it had strayed into an asteroid belt, during the first year of the voyage. Elani and her friend, Nuulah, had clutched each other in terror as they witnessed the gigantic explosion that had threatened to engulf the Elpis, too. There had been an air of melancholy for weeks after and the whole ship was subdued. But there was no turning back, so on they went. Day after day, week after week.

Life on board the ship was, pretty much, how life must have been on their old planet, before they had been so careless with it. Everyone had jobs and tasks to perform. Children attended lessons in the large 'Education Centre'. A new world would need a well-educated population. It was here that Elani had first met Oyam. One of the brightest and best, on their home planet, he had been assigned a teaching job. Under his tutelage, Elani had blossomed and a special relationship had built up, over the years. When the third ship .... The Eos, had disappeared into a 'black hole', it had been Oyam who comforted Elani. Oyam who had held her while she cried herself to sleep. Her brother, Degan, had been on The Eos.

So, The Elpis had been left, all alone. The hopes and dreams of an entire world, contained in a single vessel. Huge as it was, it still felt very lonely as it journeyed through space.

But now, it seemed, they had a reason to rejoice,

" Come, Elani, come to the viewing deck, let us see this new galaxy !" smiled Oyam, as he took her hand and led her to the lift.

Up on the viewing deck, people were gazing out at the spectacle before them. The galaxy was, indeed, beautiful. Milky white nebula and bright moons, orbited the planets and, in turn, the planets orbited a huge sun.

" Everything is so big, it's enormous !" cried Elani and she clutched Oyam's arm in delight, " Surely there will be a suitable planet here ?"

One of the scientists, Argav Henor, joined them,

" The first couple of planets in this system have been far too cold, we could never hope to settle on them," he said, " But, fear not, this system is very similar to our own galaxy. The wily old foxes on the bridge are, even now, steering the vessel towards a promising planet. Look !! "

Elani and Oyam looked.

" There, past that huge, red planet ! Can you see it ?"

They peered and then Oyam exclaimed,

" Oh yes, yes! I see it! It is huge!"

Elani squinted out, into the black void and .... yes .... there it was!

" Oh, it looks like home. It looks just like our own planet used to be, before...... "

Her voice broke, with emotion and she crumpled a little. Oyam put his arm around her,

I know, Elani, I know " he comforted her with a kiss on her cheek and whispered, " See how it glows, so blue. There must be water there!"

It seemed that the Commander shared Oyam's theory, because a decision was made. Sensor robots were sent down and reports came back. There was water, lots and lots of water. More water than they could have ever dreamed. Excitement rushed through the 10,000 souls on board The Elpis. They had found a home, at last.

On the flight deck, Commander Obavran ordered a descent. They had orbited this new world for hours now, trying to select a landing site. The sheer size of the planet and the vast expanses of water made it rather tricky but, finally, he selected a spot in the middle of a gigantic area of land.

The gravitational pull of the planet was very strong and the enormous ship glowed bright with heat and flames as they entered the atmosphere. Everyone was crowded onto the viewing decks. Their jobs abandoned, their lessons forgotten, in their eagerness to catch a glimpse of their new home. The Elpis hurtled towards the ground so rapidly that they could barely see a thing. Everything flashed by so fast, a blur of clouds; sky; blue, blue, sky and then green; green; brown and green.

Commander Obavran ordered reverse thrust and the vessel slowed and hovered a little and then was brought to rest beside, what looked like, a lake in the middle of a huge forest, of some sort. Everyone cheered and hugged each other. They were safe. Space-travellers no longer. Soon, they would tread on solid ground.

An exploratory team, of six men, was assembled. They were dressed in protective suits and helmets, because, even though the sensors had indicated that the air was pure and full of oxygen, no-one wanted to take any chances. Not now ! Carefully, they entered the airlocks and, as the outer doors swung open, the six, intrepid men, stepped out onto the planet.

All around, tall green, pole-like trees were swaying in a hurricane force wind. It was difficult to push through the trees but they cleared a way with their machetes. A little way off, they could see a flat, brown plain, leading down to the lake. Yes ! Water; vegetation; this was the perfect planet !

The hunter had been stalking the cougar for over an hour now. He was sure it had run across this patch of scrubby grass and on, beyond those rocks. He was hot, in the sun and the gentle breeze did little to cool him. He wiped the sweat from his brow and strode on, stepping over a puddle, a remnant of last night's rain. As his foot came down in the grass, he heard a sort of "Crunch". Looking down, he saw something metallic on the ground. It looked as though it had once been spherical, goodness knows what it was.

" Probably some kids toy, " he thought. Though what the heck it was doing here in the Rockies, he couldn't possibly imagine. Anyway, it was squashed flat, now .....................


You can find details, rules, regulations and, quite possibly, alien space-craft, on Matt's blog, http://miblodelcarpio.blog.co.uk

This week the words to be included in the story are;

TREAD, OVARY, GROUPED, FOXES, ANOTHER, COUGAR, REASON, ACTIONS, FLAMES.


Just in case you are interested, the names of the ships are;

..... Greek for Hope

Pistis .....Greek for Faith

Eos ........Greek for Dawn


QV SKINCARE TRIAL

The Backrgound Story

I used to be a dog-groomer, both professionally and privately. I groomed my own show dogs and pets for over 30 years and clients dogs, in my grooming salon for over 15 years.

My hands were constantly wet and covered in various shampoos and conditioners. For years I was never without either comb, brush or scissors in my hands. Add to that, a naturally delicate, dry skin and you have a recipe for disaster. I cannot work in rubber gloves; I have to 'feel' the hair; have contact with the dogs and so, my poor hands suffered.

Strangely, while I was actually, grooming everyday, I managed to keep my skin hydrated with ordinary handcreams, only suffering the occasional breakout of sore patches. However, now I have retired, a weird thing has happened. For the last couple of years, I have suffered with outbreaks of a type of eczema, or some sort of dermatitis. The areas affected have been all the places where the brushes and combs used to chafe my skin. Also, my thumb and and fingers, where the scissors rubbed, also break out in sore patches. It is as though my skin is acting like a kind of 'memory foam' and remembering old injuries.

Naturally, I have visited my GP. I have been prescribed steroid creams and, more or less, dismissed. Stress, the wrong food, washing up liquid and detergents .... all the usual suspects .... have been cited as the cause and it has all been dismissed as something unimportant.

Sometimes my hands are fine, but then, they begin to itch and the skin becomes very dry. No amount of moisturiser seems to alleviate the dryness. Then the skin cracks and becomes red, sore and, at times, extremely painful. The prescribed steroid cream has to be used so sparingly, only once a day, that it doesn't seem to help and I am left in the vicious 'itch, scratch, itch' cycle. There have been times when my fingers have been bleeding and too painful to use.

QV Skincare

Last week, on Twitter, I noticed a request for people with eczema or psoriasis to test some creams and blog about the results. I messaged the Twitter account and explained my problem. I said I would be happy to try something new, I really need to find a solution, as I am becoming very depressed about the situation.

On Thursday I received a huge box of products to trial and blog about. So, I intend to post a weekly blog, a factual account of my experiences and results. I hope that some of you may find this interesting. Some of you may be suffering similar symptoms.

I used the cream for the first time, yesterday ( Friday 6th Sept.) and I was impressed to see that it moisturised my hands without leaving them greasy. Usually, hand creams soak into my thirsty skin, immediately, meaning I have to re-apply, often. However, my skin was still supple and hydrated a couple of hours later. I used the bath oil and body lotion before bed and was equally delighted with the results. I have found that I don't have to use great dollops of the creams, a little goes a long way.

So, I will continue regular use all week and report my findings in 7 days time.

The products being tested are;

1) QV Cream .... for dry skin conditions.

2) QV Intensive Ointment .... for very dry skin conditions.

3) QV Gentle Wash .... soap alternative for dry skin conditions.

4) QV Bath Oil .... for dry, itching skin conditions.

5) QV Skin Lotion .... for dry skin conditions.

All the products are non-steroidal and are free from fragrance, colour, lanolin, propylene glycol and sodium laury lsulphate.

Laguna Beach

Yeah, it was, oh, way back. You know, huh ? A good coupla years, anyway. Well, I had this job. Quite good, really, with this little Indy Computer company. They made games and stuff and every time they came up with a new video game, I had to write a caption for it. You know .... a tag line. Crazy, right ? Yeah, I know !

Man, it was cool, though. I was in this place, way down in Orange County. Er, Laguna Beach way, I think. Someplace like that ! Jeez, it was hotter 'n' hell and I spent hours on the beach. Just chillin', right ? What .... no, wait. Ah, yeah, well this time me and Jimi, yeah ? He was a life-guard ! I know, right ? What, how did we meet ? Yeah well, he was stationed just up the beach. Sort of "poised", you know ? Watching the surfers and swimmers, in case they got into any trouble ! Cool, eh ?

Haha, fat lot of good he woulda been ! I mean, yeah, right. Oh man, I wager he must have been stoned most of the time. Man, he was out of it ! Well, this one time, I was trying to come up with some smart-ass line. Some words that would grab the attention of those geeky gamers. You know ....the ones who have those pony-tails and jabber on about Linux and stuff. Yeah, I know .... right !

Well, one of those show-girls, you know .... the ones that dance in that thing down in San Diego .... er .... The Follies .... right ? Well she was larking in the surf. Skipping about, showing off her tits and ass, you know ? Making sure everyone was gawping, right. Well, she went out too far and just sort of .... went under. Man, it was crazy ! Everyone started shouting that she musta been caught by one of those rip-tides ! I dunno, right.

Anyways, Jimi wakes up from whatever he had inhaled that morning and tumbles down the ladder ! You know .... from the life-guard chair. High, it was .... man, real high. He landed right at my feet. Laugh ? Oh, jeez, we laughed ! Anyways, he sets off to rescue this little girl .... after I had pointed him in the right direction, of course. It was so funny, because he hasn't even got more than two yards , when, surprise surprise .... she comes splashing onto the shore in a huge wave ! All dazed and all, she was ! Dang me if the tide hadn't brought her in ! I know, right ?

So me and Jimi just roared and roared and I helped him back to his seat. We drank and smoked and got real friendly after that.

Anyways, what was I saying ? Oh yeah. This one time, we went down to Mexico. Jimi had a job to do, some collection and delivery job. We took a few days and, oh man, we had a ball. We drank tequila and screwed all day and lay on the beach and partied, real hard. Man, Mexico was wild ! What ? Oh, yeah, right.

Well, on the way back, we had this big old Buick. I grant you, it wasn't new, but it sure could cruise. Well, there we were, whooping it up, and the Border looming fast. We had no worries,right. Jimi said we would get through customs easy. Said monies had been paid to smooth the way, right. Said we would never be stopped and searched. I know, right ? ..... WRONG !!!


This is my offering for the Word game, this week. The game was invented by Matt and rules and examples of previous games can be found on his blog page http://miblodelcarpio.blog.co.uk

This week the words to be included were,

POISED, GRANT, STATIONED, MONIES, CAPTION, HOURS, GAMERS, INHALED, WAGER, FOLLIES


Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Moorland

The wind caught her hair as she drove the open-topped car down the slip-road. She was pleased to be leaving behind the busy dual-carriageway and its hoards of day-trippers, all making their way, lemming-like, to the coast.

The road rose slowly up from the verdant, fertile Vale of York. Up through fields and sleepy hamlets, to the market town of Pickering. It was a pretty drive; the hedgerows lined with tall rosebay willowherb and cow parsley. In the fields, delicate scarlet poppies bloomed, profusely, among the tall, golden stalks of wheat. The farmers would curse, but it looked so beautiful. It was very hot; the sun beat down, mercilessly and rivulets of tar ran off the road and lay in dark, glistening pools by the road-side. It would be cooler up on the moors.

She drove through Pickering and took a minor road. A rugged ascent up the escarpment and onto the Dalby plateau. Hare's-tail and sheep's sorrel were abundant in the fields and the broad-leaved trees such as sycamore and beech, gave way to hawthorn, hazel and briar scrub. In the Autumn, blackberries would stain the local children's fingers purple, but now, blossom still clung to the bushes and butterflies and bees were busy, flitting from flower to flower.

At the crest of the hill the road divides and the wider, more important route, leads to Scarborough and all the faded, genteel Victorian buildings of a typical seaside town. It passes the fascinating and peculiar hollow, known as the " Hole of Horcum" and then wends onwards to Whitby. Ah, that lovely picturesque town, with its hauntingly beautiful ruin of an Abbey, its steep-sided, cobbled streets and fishing boats moored in the harbour.

But she did not take this route. She preferred the road "less travelled". She wanted to find somewhere far removed from the tourists. She wanted to be alone. And so she steered the little car down a narrow road that was barely more than a track. It was much stonier than the main road and the car bounced and swayed as she headed, slowly, across the moors.

She loved this place. To the casual, untrained eye, it could sometimes appear desolate and bleak, but she knew that foxes, badgers and little lizards were hidden among the crags on the hillsides and ling and bracken covered the ground in thick pink and green drifts. Here, the oranges and purples of gorse and heather were more beautiful than any formal, Chelsea Flower Show, display. Nature, hearty, raw and wild ! Here there was no guile, no artifice.

The broad floors of the moorland valleys are occupied by small streams and, today, they tinkled and bubbled and sparkled like silver ribbon, in the hot Summer sun. But she had seen them become raging torrents; tumbling and crashing over the rocks as rain, or melting snow, sent the water rushing towards the foss* and the rivers far below these lonely moors.

She passed the cutest little cottage, no doubt a sheep farmer's abode. Its barns and outhouses were weather-beaten but the walls of the house were whitewashed and the garden was full of bright flowers. A picket fence surrounded the pretty garden, to protect the plants from the roaming, moorland sheep. But huge, drowsy, pink cabbage roses hung their fragrant heads over the boundary and two intrepid lambs were nibbling at the drooping stems.

By now, her head was throbbing. The sun was high in the sky and she needed to stop, to rest, to think. She pushed down, hard, on the accelerator and the engine roared and carried the little car, swiftly up the steep track and back onto the top of the moor. There was an area of ground that had been made into a rough sort of lay-by and, here, she brought the car to a halt and unbuckled her seat belt. Beside the road there were some grey outcrops of stone, marbled with lichen and moss. She got out of her vehicle and leaned against the cool rock as she sipped from her water bottle. Taking a sandwich from her tiny picnic hamper, she gazed around at her surroundings. A sky-lark high in the cloudless, blue sky and a startled red grouse, that fluttered and bustled its disapproval, were her only companions. She was master of all she surveyed.

At last she had found a place to think,to mull things over in her head. She had been feeling trapped, pulled hither and thither by opposing forces; torn between two choices. Here, where everything was simple; no phones, no internet, no distractions. Here she could make a decision.

*foss .... a waterfall.


The above piece is my offering for this week's Countdown Word Game. This is the game that was invented by Matt and details can be found on his page at http:/miblodelcarpio.blog.co.uk

This week, the words to be included were;

REMOVED, HEARTY, MASTER, CUTEST, BLOOMED, ORANGES, HAMPER, STONIER, BOUNCED, THROBBING


v

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Skidby Scarecrow Festival .... 2013

So, what do you get if you mix over 50 imaginatively created Scarecrows, with a Jazz Band; Falconry and a Bouncy castle ? Then stir in a little Fire-eating; a Pimms Tent and a Brass Band and serve the whole lot up in a beautiful East Yorkshire Village on a hot Summer's day ?

......... Skidby Scarecrow Festival, of course !!!..............

Today was the second day of this fun, traditional Festival and visitors were out in force. Crowds of happy sightseers thronged the narrow pavements and paths, eager to catch a glimpse of the wonderful Scarecrows that had been created by the talented villagers.

The Festival is in its 4th year now and continues to grow in popularity. Originally started to bring the village together and highlight the artistic talent in Skidby, it is now an essential part of the Summer calendar in this delightful village.

All proceeds go towards the upkeep of the Village Hall. The hall receives no funding from East Yorkshire Council and exists purely on fund-raising and booking fees. And yet this friendly, little hall provides a venue for a multitude of activities throughout the year and is in use almost daily.

And now we come to the photos of the "main attraction".......... THE SCARECROWS !!

This is just a sample of the variety and inventiveness of the exhibits.

And what a variety we have. There is Laurel and Hardy and Worzel and aunt Sally. Scarecrow workmen and Bo-Peep and her sheep. Pirates and guard dogs and even "Prince William" with the royal baby. Not forgetting my favourite, this year..........Ant and "Deck" !!

I hope you enjoy them and maybe you will feel inspired to begin your own Scarecrow Festival, in your little corner of the World. IMG-20130713-01062IMG-20130713-01061IMG-20130713-01060IMG-20130713-01058IMG-20130713-01057IMG-20130713-01056IMG-20130713-01050IMG-20130713-01051IMG-20130713-01055IMG-20130713-01049IMG-20130713-01046IMG-20130713-01043

Windfall

Trudy pulled on the awning pole and the faded, tattered, striped canvas shade rolled out over the large windows. It was 8am on a Tuesday morning , in the height of Summer and, already, the sun was blazing down, making the peeling paint on the window frames appear even more discoloured and scruffy.

She stood at the edge of the pavement with a pained expression on her face. Her little hairdressing salon had seen better days. It could certainly do with a lick of paint, something to cover the grime that had built up over the years. In fact the whole place needed renovating and bringing into the 21st century. She had been promising to do it for years, but she had never managed to save enough money. However, something had occurred over the weekend. Something wonderful and exciting. Something that would mean that she could afford to move away from these dingy surroundings; maybe even this town. She could leave her miserable, lazy husband, branch out on her own and escape the bondage of a loveless marriage to a man that did nothing but whine and spend all her, hard-earned, money on beer and fags.

She walked out of the sunshine and into the cool shade of her salon. A smile lit up her tired face as she thought of her good fortune. Her mind wandered back to Saturday evening. Jim had gone out to the pub and she had tuned in to the Lottery results on TV. She had, rather half-heartedly, checked the numbers, as she did every week. It was pointless really, because, in all the years that she had been buying a ticket, she had never won a pound. In fact, she only continued out of sheer habit. Her husband was a pessimistic doubter and didn't approve of her wasting money on such nonsense. Especially when he considered that every spare penny belonged to him.

Five numbers !! She had only gone and got FIVE bloody numbers !!

Trudy was stunned. She had waited until Monday, the day that the salon was always closed, before enquiring about the amount of her windfall. It had been a double-rollover week and she had won £5,500 ! And, even better, Jim knew nothing about it. She was longing to tell someone, but she knew she must keep this quiet for a while. She had to consider her options.

She was startled out of her reverie by the arrival of her staff, or, at least, two of them in the form of Pauline and Trudy's nephew, Jason.

"Hiya, Trude ! We have the bridal party in a few minutes, don't we ? " asked Pauline, who avoided Trudy's eyes and donned her nylon overall.

" Yeah, the bride and two bridesmaids," replied Trudy. " I hope they remember to bring their head-dresses. We haven't got time for hanging about. We have three perms and a ........ Christ, Pauline, what's up with your face ?"

Pauline turned round and it was immediately evident that she had a "shiner". The left side of her face was swollen and beginning to turn a funny colour.

" Jeez, Pauline !" exclaimed Jason, as he peered at the unfortunate woman's face, " If that gets any mauver, it will match old Mrs. Wilson's hair !"

" Hold the fort, Jason, " murmured Trudy, as three, very excited young women entered the salon. Then she took Pauline's arm and led her into the little back room which led onto the tiny kitchen.

" You have really got to leave that bastard, " she said, as she began smearing makeup over the bruise. " He is too handy with his fists, always has been. He put you in hospital last time, remember. He will kill you if you don't get out "

" Oh, Trude " wailed Pauline, " Where would I go ? I haven't got anywhere else to live, renting a place costs so much ..... I have no choice "

Trudy sighed, but said nothing. She was itching to tell Pauline about her win, but now was not the time.

Laughter came drifting through from the salon. 'Good old Jason' she thought. He was camping it up for the clients. When she got her new premises, he would be such an asset. At the moment he worked part-time, fitting in his salon work with his course in "Hairdressing and Manicure" at the local College. She knew he was hoping to find employment at one of the more fashionable salons in the city. But, surely he could be persuaded to stay if she had a more up-market place ? He would bring in a much trendier clientele.

Pauline had recovered her composure and the bruising was nicely disguised and so the two women began work, washing and drying the hair of the two 'bridesmaids' as Jason moussed and styled the bleached locks of the 'bride-to-be'.

" Where the hell is Leanne ?" He whispered, as he arranged curls around a rather over-embellished tiara.

Leanne was the young 'trainee', which meant she washed hair, swept up and made tea. She was, possibly, the slowest trainee Trudy had ever had, but she was willing, polite and very eager to learn and, when allowed to help with hair styling, she appeared to have a natural flair. Trudy liked her, but, just recently, she had taken to coming in late. Jason, who knew all the gossip, said it was because Leanne had a new boyfriend. Apparently he was foreign and only had a smatter of English. Pauline had wondered how they communicated and Jason had looked at her, with those wickedly suggestive eyes, arched his perfectly plucked eyebrows and said,

" Oh, darling ! How do you think ..... ?"

" But she's only 16 " Pauline had gasped and Trudy had just shaken her head and smiled.

" Talk of the devil," muttered Pauline and in ran a pale Leanne, who mumbled her apologies and rushed up the ricketty back stairs to the bathroom. Then sounds of retching drifted down to the room below.

" Hangover !" grinned Jason, as he turned on a drier. Trudy nodded, but she frowned and, as she took the coat of the next client, Mrs Patterson, she was deep in thought again. Leanne appeared, breathless and pasty-faced and began to shampoo Mrs Patterson's hair.

" Go and make yourself a hot drink " said Trudy and, as Leanne gratefully complied, Trudy took over the shampooing in her stead. Pauline and Trudy exchanged glances over the heads of their clients and, although she had quite a few thoughts, Trudy said nothing.

Leanne returned after a few minutes and jousted, good-naturedly, with Jason, but her eyes were red, despite the heavy kohl eyeliner and her face was pale beneath the rouge. The morning progressed in a bustle of clients. A frenzy of perming, rollering, shampooing, blow-drying, lacquer spraying activity. Trudy was in the back room, mixing up a blue rinse for one of the long succession of pensioners that frequented the salon. Her prices were cheap and she offered a concession for the over 60s. Her mind wandered to her lottery win. It would be so good to have somewhere new. So good to be styling the fashionable women and cutting the latest styles. She longed to get away from the tackier side of town, to cater for the 'yummy mummies' instead of the old ladies and the girls from the nearby, run-down Council estate. She had served this community for 25 years, surely it was time to move on.

The delivery guy strolled into the back room with the weekly supply of 20% volume Peroxide bleach and boxes of 'Easy Meche'.

" Hi there, sexy !" he grinned, as he plonked his lanky frame onto a paint-splattered, wooden stool. " When are we running off together ? Its about time you left that ungrateful sod of a husband," he laughed and touched her hand, gently, as he handed her the invoice.

" Oh, get away," she replied, " I'm old enough to be your Mother " but she let her gaze linger on his muscular arms. She knew he wasn't joking and her cheeks burned as she remembered last Christmas and their passionate encounter in the back of his van. She liked him a lot and knew the feeling was mutual.

" Just say the word, Trudy, you know I'm serious about you. I've decided that I'm going abroad to work, soon, this country has had it. Come with me ! Please think about it." then he kissed her cheek and was gone.

That could be a possibility. Dare she take the plunge ? Five and a half thousand pounds would take them far enough away to start a new life somewhere. She certainly had a lot to think about. She was just about to return to her client when Leanne entered and went through to the kitchen to put the kettle on.

" Everyone wants tea " she said, " Do we have plenty of biscuits ?"

Trudy gestured towards the Custard Creams and Chocolate Hobnobs and then asked,

" What's up, Leanne. You don't look happy "

The girl sighed and a tear slid down her pale cheek.

" Its Pavel ! He's gone back to Poland, he's going to be a soldier. I will never see him again" She brushed away the tear and then swallowed hard and ran up the stairs. Once again the sounds of retching floated down.

Trudy made the tea and carried it through to the others. Then she began to apply the colour to Mrs Howard's sparse, grey hair, carefully lifting the tresses with the spinier end of her plastic tail-comb. The salon was being entertained by old Mrs Graham, as she told the story of her first ... and last... visit to a tanning salon.

" I had to stand there in skimpy paper pants and lift up me boobs ! Can you imagine ?" she croaked, " Me daughter thought it would be a treat for me, before me 'olidays. I'm only going to Bognor, not the bleedin' Maldives." she cackled. " I were mortified, me lovies, mortified !! And the girl what sprayed me had the longest fingernails. Every bloomin' talon was painted a different colour !"

Everyone laughed and Pauline grimaced a little. The makeup was wearing off and Trudy could see that her face was badly swollen.

" Oh, Trudy, I love coming here ! We all do " giggled Mrs Patterson, " It's a home from home. I don't know what we would do without you "

" You know, Aunty. Mrs Patterson is right. We have a lovely friendly place here, It's not like work. I could stay on a bit longer, if you like. Do my exams and stay here for a year or so. A rolling stone gathers no moss " Then he hugged her and continued to attend to Mrs Moffat's perm.

Trudy began to put foils into Mrs Howard's hair. Her mind was made up. Her windfall could do so much here. The two rooms upstairs, that, at the moment just lay empty, gathering dust, could be turned into a flat for Pauline. She would be safe there, away from her abusive husband. Trudy could paint and decorate the salon and make a glamourous little area for Jason to do manicures. And the back room would be a safe and secure nursery for Leanne's baby, when the time comes.


This is my entry for the Countdown Word Game, as invented by Matt Mascarenhas. You can find details on his blog page at http://miblodelcarpio.blog.co.uk . This week, because Matt had been busy with Theatre business and was unable to post his usual weekly Scorecard, we have double the amount of words and here they are;

PAINED, MOUSSED, TACKIER,GRIME, SHINER, TALON, SLOWEST, MAUVER, WHINE, STEAD, PAINT, GATHERS, SMEARING, TUNED, SPINIER, BONDAGE, JOUSTED, SOLDIER, SMATTER, DOUBTER.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Piper Alpha ....25 Years

Twenty-five years ago, today, the Piper Alpha oil and gas production platform was destroyed by a series of massive explosions. The platform was situated in the North Sea, approximately 140 miles East of Aberdeen. At the time of the disaster, Piper A was the World's most prolific, single platform, producing 340,000 barrels of oil per day from 36 wells. The loss of the platform was the World's worst off-shore disaster and 167 souls lost their lives. This terrible event has been well documented. There are videos and timelines of the disaster, readily available on the internet. Inquiries have been held, books have been written and safety issues and recommendations have been raised. So, I have no need to add to all of that, this blog is an account of my husband's experiences on that dreadful night and of the impact it had on our family.

Time may, thankfully, have dimmed the memory of some of the worst aspects of the event, but everything herein is completely factual.

I would also like to pay tribute to my husband, Ian, for allowing me to finally write, publicly, about this event. I know how much he has valued his anonymity. Also a huge thank you to him for allowing me to drag up some painful memories.


WEDNESDAY 6th of JULY.

Wednesday, 6th of July, 1988, was a beautiful Summer's day. I had been into Inverurie, approximately 5 miles from our home near Monymusk in Aberdeenshire. I had wandered around the little market town, buying a few treats in readiness for my husband's return from Piper A, the next day. He worked a "week on/week off" rota and I always picked him up at the Heliport in Dyce. It was one of those lovely, hot, still days and Inverurie was very quiet, with hardly anyone around. I didn't realise that it was the quiet before the storm. In a few short hours so many lives would be changed, forever.

Thursday morning dawned, bright and clear; another lovely Summer's day. Crew change days are always hectic and this was no exception and so my Mother, phoning at about 7.30am was a really unwelcome intrusion, as I battled to serve breakfast to a yawning 17yr old son and a prattling 9yr old daughter. I'm afraid I was rather impatient as my Mum asked if Ian was home. Then she mumbled, incoherently, something about the news on TV.

" No,Mum," I sighed, " I don't watch TV in the morning. There are too many distractions already, without some cheery presenters on an over-stuffed sofa !"

Then she asked if I knew there had been an accident on an oil rig.

" Is it the one Ian is on?" she added, " It looks pretty serious, there are helicopters and rescue attempts !"

All of this went in one ear and out the other, as I balanced the phone on my shoulder and tried to brush the knots out of Louisa's hair.

'My Mother always got the wrong end of the stick,' I reasoned to myself, everything was always a drama.

And so I said I would have a look and that I really had to go. I told her I would phone later and we could have a proper chat, but now I was really busy, I had to take Chris to work and Louisa to school and I was running late. Then the telephone rang again. This time it was my best friend, Esther, who lived a couple of miles away in Kemnay. We used to live next door to her and we had become very close.

" Is Ian home ?" she casually enquired and when I said,

" No, he comes home today" she calmly, but very carefully said,

" Well, switch on the TV now and sit down and, if you need me, I will come straight over. There has been a huge explosion on Piper"

And that was it ! As simple as that !

I turned on the TV and it was full of it. Full of shots of helicopters landing at Aberdeen. Of flames covering the sea and of grim-faced presenters, speculating on the number of fatalities. Harrowing scenes of huddled, bewildered figures, their faces etched with horror and streaked with grime, wrapped in silver-foil, survival blankets. A disaster movie being played out, in real life, on breakfast TV.

I stared at the screen. I felt numb and couldn't take it in. It wasn't happening; it wasn't that serious ! I would have heard about it before now. Been officially informed. Someone from Occidental would have phoned me. I was suddenly aware of Chris, my son, entering the room and asking if anything was wrong and this brought me out of my trance. I remembered that poor Esther was still hanging on the phone, so I thanked her and hung up. Then I returned to the morning's preparations, bustling about and urging the kids to,

" Hurry up !!"

But something inside me would not settle. I picked up the phone, once more and dialled the number for Occidental's offices in Aberdeen. They would know what was happening; they would tell me that everything was okay.

On Piper Alpha, of the 226 men on board, approximately 80% were 'contract' workers, employed by various companies within the industry. But Ian was employed directly by the owner/operators of the oil platform, Occidental Oil Company. They were an an American company, based in Bakersfield, California, but had a huge office building and head-quarters in Bridge of Don, near Aberdeen. So, I phoned them and, of course, the number was engaged. Looking back, I should imagine their switchboard was completely jammed with anxious relatives, oil executives and the press and media from around the World. But I was in denial at the time and also in a state of shock, so I didn't think of that. I became angry and frustrated and bustled the kids, roughly, into the car. I would take Chris to work; it would all be alright. I put on a brave face but I was increasingly having to fight back a feeling of panic, nausea and impending doom.

I have no idea why I took Chris to work, that day. Perhaps it was because the routine was comforting. Perhaps because I was trying to shield him from unpleasant events or to give him something to occupy his mind .... I really don't know. But I think it was because I didn't know what else to do. On my return I, once again, tried to get through to Occidental and, this time, I succeeded. The girl at reception could tell me nothing, so I demanded to be put through to someone who could help. And they could tell me nothing, either. They only had very sketchy information. There were very few survivors. That was all they knew, I would have to phone back. And, at that moment, it hit me; I began to shake and I knew that I would not be taking Louisa to school, I was too upset to drive.

The phone kept ringing. Each time it was friends or family and I could give them no information. I felt completely helpless. I phoned Occidental again. This time I was told that they didn't have Ian's name on any list of survivors. However, a group of 10 men had been picked up by a standby vessel, the " Silver Pit" and were now being transported, by helicopter, to Aberdeen. He could be among those survivors and Occidental said that they would phone me as soon as they knew. And so, I waited .... and waited.

Finally, the phone rang at approximately 11.00 and a faltering voice said,

" Soni ?"

It was Ian ! He was safe and was at Foresterhill Hospital, Aberdeen. And he was uninjured; physically, at least. Apparently, after they had been picked up by the ship, they had spent the rest of the night on board and been transferred to a support barge, the "Tharos", as soon as it was daylight. From there they had been flown by helicopter, straight to the hospital, to be examined and treated for any injuries. Now, the ones who were fit enough, were being taken to the Skean Dhu hotel at Dyce. This was, presumably, to avoid congestion at Foresterhill.

The entrance to the Skean Dhu was swamped with people. Cameras were set up on the steps and media people skulked around, pushing microphones and close-up lenses into the faces of anyone who entered or exited. I left Louisa in the car, I had no idea what sort of a "circus" lay waiting, inside. She didn't need to see this. The foyer of the hotel was unusually hushed; the staff more deferential than usual. The ballroom was also quiet, everyone speaking in whispers. Police officers were talking to people who were standing around in little, stunned, groups and I noticed a huge pile of clothing, heaped in the centre of the room. And then I saw Ian, in brand new overalls, face grey and drawn beneath the grime. Wordlessly, we hugged and made to leave, but were stopped at the door. It appeared that the police had not finished interviewing everyone .... I think our body language indicated that, as far as we were concerned, they had ! We pushed through the crowd and out into the foyer to face the gang of reporters on the steps. Microphones were held up and the journalists began to ask questions; Ian's face resembled that of a hunted animal. Taking a deep breath, I pushed forward, held up my hand and shouted,

" NO !!" and the Press cleared out of our way.

On the way home, Ian kept repeating the story of the night's events, over and over and it was clear that he was far from "okay". Also, he kept telling me that he had been trying to telephone me, but, because he had no cash on him, the staff of the hotel would nor let him use the phone. He had to demand the Manager, before the staff acquiesced. We had a cuppa and I ran him a bath and got out fresh clothes, he was shaking and very pale and I was reluctant to leave him alone. While he was bathing, visitors arrived in the form of two policemen. They had been sent to let me know about the explosion and to reassure me that my husband was one of the survivors. I told them that he was actually upstairs, taking a bath and they then asked if they could stay and interview him, but I refused to allow that; he was in no state for questions, so I told them that they would have to return at another time. During the evening Ian swithered between tears and vivid recollections and, although I tried to switch it off, he stared at the TV and shook violently whenever the news coverage mentioned Piper A. And the damn phone kept ringing and ringing.

Early the next morning, Esther phoned to tell me that the local newspaper had printed the names and addresses of all the survivors. I happened to be near the sitting room window and I casually glanced out and shuddered. We lived just outside the tiny village of Monymusk, miles from anywhere, on a very narrow minor road. In fact, the road was so narrow that it had "passing places". There was a passing place opposite the house and there was a car parked in it and the eyes of the occupants were trained on our house ! And so, Esther and her husband, Mervyn, came to our rescue and we spent most of the day at their home, far away from the prying eyes of the public and the ever-present media. I will always be grateful for their intervention, because Mervyn sat with Ian and listened, over and over, to Ian's story, Esther kept the tea and sandwiches flowing and I didn't feel quite so helpless. And all the while the news kept churning out its terrible tale, as the full horror of the night before unfolded. .... 226 men on board Piper A, 167 lost ( 2 were rescuers, killed when their tiny vessel drifted under the burning oil platform and was engulfed in a huge fireball) 61 survivors (only 6 of which were Occidental employees) The platform was totally destroyed, the well-heads and gas lines were burning out of control and it eventually took the expertise of Red Adair and his team to extinguish the fire, three weeks later.

The police came to interview Ian that evening and, once again, I observed how distressed Ian became. I had no idea how to cope with this, it was something serious, something frightening. The weekend came and Ian was increasingly withdrawn, but strangely restless. We showed Afghan Hounds and were due to be at a show on Sunday. I didn't mention it, but felt we needed to do something, so when Ian noticed the date marked on the calendar, I asked if he felt up to attending. Ian was keen to get out of the house, but sat, silently, as I drove. The road took us alongside the coast and he became very agitated and upset. He had always loved the sea, but now the sight of it terrified him and I suggested that we should return home, but he just shook his head as tears rolled down his cheeks. And I was helpless once again. The show passed without Ian saying a word. Friends and fellow exhibitors were very kind and left him alone with his thoughts. Even when our puppy, Joe, won Best Puppy in Show, Ian still didn't react and on the way home, he kept saying that he felt guilty because he had been out "enjoying" himself, when so many had died.

He insisted on going into the office on the Monday morning; well, he had not been told otherwise. Occidental had not been in touch and he had no idea what was required of him. He only lasted half a day before someone from Occidental telephoned me. Could I please get a taxi over to Aberdeen, Ian wanted to come home but was unable to drive. Apparently, when he arrived at the headquarters, he had been ushered into a room. This was the "incident room" and the walls were covered with huge photos of the accident; almost minute by minute, in vivid colour and detail. Photos of bodies and lists of the missing and dead were also on display. This was when Ian finally had a breakdown.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was not really recognised in the UK before Piper A. Soldiers had "shell shock" and any mental illness was regarded as a "lack of moral fibre" and to mention it was definitely taboo. But Occidental was an American company and, luckily, things were different there. Along with the acceptance of PTSD, the Americans also had a huge "compensation" culture and so we suddenly found ourselves caught up in all of that. But, before anything could be agreed, there had to be guidelines laid down for the British courts .... and what a circus that became. But, I'm getting ahead of myself ! First I had to get Ian to the local GP because, believe it or not, Occidental insisted on "sick notes" to excuse Ian from work.

Our GP was very understanding and prescribed anti-depressants and sleeping pills, but was completely out of his depth when it came to any treatments, he had never encountered anything like this. He did, however, advise us to consult our solicitor .... Hah ! We didn't even HAVE a solicitor. The first one we contacted could not act for us as he was representing Occidental, but he gave us the name of another and so it began.

Every day we were bombarded with newspaper stories and TV reports about Piper, but we were able to turn off the TV and stop taking the newspapers. What was more difficult to ignore, was the brown envelope that plopped onto the mat, almost daily. Bodies were still being recovered from the sea, although at this point there were still many missing and, as I was still to learn, some that would never be found. Occidental, in their wisdom, decided that it would be a good idea to send a notification of every body that was found and identified. This was a source of great distress for Ian, because he insisted on reading every letter. On top of that, our house became a "tourist attraction". Cars parked daily in the "passing place" and people got out and photographed the house. Unbelievably, I discovered that the local tour buses were diverting down our narrow road, so that the drivers could point out the "home of a Piper Alpha survivor" to the visiting tourists. I don't know what they expected to see; someone horribly burned, I expect. Ghouls, all of them. People at their worst. And the fact that he had suffered no burns was something that Ian felt the most guilt about. To the outsider, he was unharmed. Apart from a few cuts and bruises, he had been physically unhurt. Many of the survivors were badly burned and I have heard that they were better able to cope than those whose scars were mental. I don't know if that is true, I can only speak about what I know, but I am sure that Ian would have felt better if he had visible scars.

Our solicitor began the lengthy compensation claim. this was not something that we instigated, we had not even thought about it. Back in those innocent days before the "Personal Injury Claim" adverts you just got on with things, no-one expected compensation. However, Occidental was going to take full responsibility and compensate the survivors and the bereaved families. Of course, we now know that, after the Cullen Inquiry, another company was found guilty of negligence and Oxy took them to court to make a counter-claim for all they had paid out. Nevertheless, despite this acceptance of culpability, Ian still had to jump through hoops to prove that he really was suffering from PTSD.

He was now seeing a psychiatrist each week, especially after another incident at Oxy's offices. A colleague decided to book Ian on a helicopter flight to go out to see what was left of Piper (which was very little). The guy thought that it would "bring Ian to his senses", Thankfully Ian didn't go ! Our solicitor wanted Ian to be assessed by a Consultant and so we travelled to Glasgow, to Gartnaval Hospital, where Ian was put through an extensive examination and a series of tests. The results were quite horrifying and I think that Oxy didn't like that at all, because they asked for a second opinion and sent us down to Northampton, to St. Andrew's. This was a really scary experience. It was a "secure" mental hospital, like something out of a Stephen King novel, with huge, barred and locked doors and clanking keys on chains. And, unsurprisingly, the results were even worse.

Each time Ian was examined, I had to be interviewed by the psychiatrist, too. Apparently, I was "helping" them with their understanding of PTSD. Giving them a valuable insight into what it was like to live with someone who had that mental illness. Many of my responses are now in medical text-books but, at the time, it was all so new to the psychiatrists here, all they had to work with were some notes and guidelines that had been sent over from America. And so I told them everything that I had observed. I described how Ian would be restless and ask to go out, but that, when we were out, he wanted to return home. How he would rush out across a busy road, ignoring traffic,because he thought he saw a colleague, who had, in reality, perished in the fire. I told of his nightmares and violent dreams, of the lashing out and shouting. Of sleepwalking and wandering around like a ghost. Of long bouts of crying and overwhelming sadness and of sitting silently, as though in some sort of trance. I said that it was like dealing with a willful toddler, but a toddler that had the size and strength of an adult. It was a situation that I would not wish on my own worst enemy. Many survivor's marriages and relationships had broken up. Ours survived, but sometimes it was difficult. And all the time the insensitivity continued. The newspapers seemed incapable of printing anything else. The TV seemed to show graphic video footage almost 'on a loop'. And we continued to be treated like exhibits in a fairground 'freak show'. Even Louisa suffered at school when the Scottish children began to bully and taunt her, saying that they wished her dad had died because he was English. I know that most Scottish people are not racist, but it is difficult to see your child in tears each day.

The Cullen Inquiry was another ordeal to be endured. Once again we were flung into the glare of the media, as every survivor had to give evidence and were also afforded the chance to "have their say". Lord Cullen was a lovely man and allowed the survivors to sit while in the witness box. He also allowed wives or a chosen companion to accompany them and I held Ian's hand as he falteringly gave his evidence. He broke down at one point and had to be given a few minutes to recover his composure, before returning to the box to give his personal comments. He said that he thought "Tharos", which was a huge Support/Firefighting vessel, was the "biggest white elephant in the North Sea" because it had been totally ineffective on the night of July 6th. His comment was picked up by the media and reported widely and, once again, we were in the spotlight and Ian receded more deeply into his shell.

The mind plays funny tricks and the "sightings" of dead colleagues continued. Ian had returned to his old hobby of fishing, but kept wading out to "talk" to imaginary people, that turned out to be overhanging branches or trees on the opposite riverbank. This was exacerbated in late 1988, when the accommodation module was finally lifted from the sea-bed, where it had fallen on that awful night. 87 bodies were recovered and 87 families were finally able to say " Goodbye".

People deal with trauma and tragedy in different ways. Some of the survivors who lived fairly locally, formed a Support Group and this also included any bereaved families. I think many of them found comfort there and were able to feel a sense of cameraderie. Ian tried it a couple of times and I accompanied him, but it was not what he was looking for and actually set him back, mentally. The constant spotlight was beginning to take its toll and a sort of "social divide" was also rearing its head. Because we lived so close to Aberdeen; the centre of any Piper-related events, we could not escape attention and we found people began to treat us differently. Maybe they simply didn't know what to say. Perhaps it was a type of embarrassment, a worry that they may do or say the wrong thing; I don't know. But even some close friends began to abandon us. The media did not help matters, either. Speculation about compensation payments was rife and huge sums were being bandied about and so, I suppose, jealousy played a large part, too. Of course, the figures were all greatly exaggerated, but if it was "in the papers", it must be true !

By the middle of 1989 to 1990 Ian was treated almost like an outcast by Oxy. They had moved on. The recovery of all bodies had long been completed and the remains of Piper Alpha, which had been considered a danger to shipping, had been destroyed by a controlled explosion. Now, Ian and the five other Oxy survivors, were more or less an embarrassment; a constant reminder of a costly incident. In the cold, hard oil industry it all comes down to dollars and cents. It was obvious that, to give Ian a chance to begin to recover, we had to move away. We had to get out of the "goldfish bowl". So, thanks to the compensation payment, which was finally agreed in 1991, we were able to move to a little village near York. At last we could find a little peace and precious anonymity.

PTSD never goes away, it just recedes a little and the tiniest thing can bring it rushing back into focus. We had been living in Yorkshire for about 18 months when Ian was summoned to give evidence at a hearing in Edinburgh. Occidental was taking court action against the company that had been named in the Cullen Inquiry and, as Ian had spoken out against the support vessel, "Tharos" and criticised some of Oxy's safety procedures, he was asked to testify against them. Awkward, indeed. And, of course, it brought back all the old fears and feelings.

One of the things that helped Ian the most was the companionship of our dogs. He spent a lot of time with them, with no fear of being treated differently. To them, he was just "Dad". We attended many dog shows too, and, although a few people were aware of Piper, the dogs were the centre of attention, people watched them, not Ian. I am very grateful to all our 'dog show' friends, they helped to bring a little normality into our lives.

And twenty five years on ............?

Well, Ian still has nightmares. Sometimes very violent and loud. And there are aspects of his life that have been affected, permanently. But we take each day as it arrives and Piper is rarely mentioned. We now live a boring, anonymous life .... thank goodness. Only a few friends know about Piper and I'm sure that most of them have forgotten all about it. New neighbours and friends have no idea about it and I am only being allowed to write this because, although it will go out into the World via the internet, we will still remain practically unknown. The events on the night of July 6th 1988 were terrible and lives were changed forever, but we didn't let it destroy us. We saw it through, as a family. Christopher and Louisa became fiercely protective of their father and I'm sure that helped to mould them into the kind, caring adults that they are today. I am proud of my family and especially proud of my brave husband, Ian.

And, for those who wish to know, here is a brief account of his experiences on that fateful night. I am not using any names of others who were involved as I have not sought their permission.

THE NIGHT OF JULY 6th 1988.

Ian was working the night shift when the first explosion occurred. He was in a small office which was attached to the Workshop. The explosion caused the walls to cave in and the ceiling collapsed on top of him, burying him and a co-worker with debris. They battled through the rubble and got into the Workshop and managed to get out of the door and make their way up some stairs to the Control room. Fires had already started and they intended to go through the Control room to the Fire pumps. However, the Control room was almost completely destroyed and totally impassable. Ian saw that one of his best friends had been injured and was in a dazed state, so he helped him stand and guided him down the stairs and found a relatively safe place at one of the corners of the platform. He left his friend in the safe place while he went to assess the situation. There was fire and smoke everywhere and, although the lifeboats were a mere 10 yards away, it was impossible to reach them because of the flames. Ian returned to the corner and opened a Survival box that was situated in the area, took out a life-jacket and put it on his injured friend. Then they tried to get down to a lower level, but this, too, was impassable. It was expected that, in an emergency, the fire and support barge "Tharos" would move closer and train its hoses on any fire, but this did not happen, The barge was slow and unwieldy and completely ineffective. Ian and his pal returned to the corner to find that a few more men had gathered there, it was fast becoming the only safe place. They threw a life-raft pod into the water, but it failed to inflate. The situation was becoming more urgent and dangerous; huge sparks , flames and acrid, black smoke filled the air and it was becoming difficult to breathe. There was a knotted rope in the survival box and, when another explosion rocked the platform, they decided that the rope was their only way of escape. One chap went down first, to secure it at the bottom and then they all made their way down to the 20ft level. Ian had to almost carry his friend as his shoulder was injured, he later learned that it was broken. They were now on a grated walkway and the fire was raging overhead. Luckily, they were spotted by men in an inflatable Zodiac. The rescuers steered the small craft in as close as they dared and the men jumped into it, one by one, as a huge explosion and fireball engulfed the platform. All around them huge pieces of burning debris splashed into the sea and bodies too, of men so desperate to escape that they chose to jump from the Helideck, 140 feet in the air. Unbelievably, many survived such a drop. Ian and the others were taken to a Standby boat, the "Silver Pit", which was, basically, a converted trawler. The "Silver Pit" began to search for more survivors and Ian stayed on deck, helping to pull people from the water. The sea was now covered in a deadly blanket of burning oil. Then the engines of the vessel failed and, to their horror, they began to drift back towards the burning platform. The ship got so close to the blaze that an inflatable dinghy that was stowed on the deck, began to melt. Ian, who was an engineer and another guy, went below and worked furiously to restore the engines and, in the nick of time, they were able to pull back to a safer distance.

Ian saw sights that night, that no-one should ever see. Bodies of men, blackened by fire, floating in the sea. Colleagues, melting like candles, trapped in the searing heat of the stricken platform and the distressing experience of helping to pull a French diver out of the sea. This man was so badly burned and injured and calling, in French, for water. But they were unable to offer him any as it was obvious, from his injuries, that he could not drink. The poor soul died, a few days later, in Aberdeen hospital. The final fatality of the Piper Alpha disaster.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Down the rabbit hole .... Part I

We were three days out when the storm hit us. The brisk wind, that had moaned in the rigging and sent the spinnaker soaring, pulling us over waves as though we were flying, turned into a raging hurricane that whipped the sea into a frenzy. Gigantic waves crashed onto the decks and threatened to swamp us at any moment. The tempest tore at the rigging; sails and spars creaking, ominously, as we battled with the cordage in a vain attempt to lower some of the sails. Barrels, that had been lashed to the handrails, broke free and, as the vessel plummeted into a trough, they rolled ever closer to me and I feared I would be flattened beneath them. The twins saw the island first; silhouetted in the luminous, lightning flashes and hope caught in my throat. Miraculously, the storm was blowing us towards the beach and sanctuary. Fearing that a reef may lie between us and safety, the Knave sank to his knees and prayed for deliverance. But I trusted no god and, listening to the creaks and rattles of the craft, I stared into the darkness at the fast approaching shore. Thus far, I had led a charmed life, often nearing disaster, but never quite succumbing.

The vessel came to ground on a sandbank, a few yards from the shore, listing precariously in the shallow water. I scooped up the Dormouse, shoving him into the band of my elastic- waisted, gypsy skirt. Then, a pause, as I checked that the twins had tucked the Cheshire cat safely into his basket. We swiftly gathered all we could carry and slid into the water. As we waded through the foaming waves and onto the beach, our battered vessel fell onto its side and the main-mast was wrenched in two. Then, as suddenly as it had appeared, the storm abated and we fell, exhausted, onto the silver sands. The pale moon rose in the sky and stars twinkled like diamonds studded in midnight-blue velvet. The Fisher-King cast his net of dreams and we slept where we lay.

" I'm late, I'm late " the Birds-of-Paradise seemed to say, to the harmonious accompaniment of the burring wings of the Hummingbird. The morning sun kissed our faces and Tweedledum and Tweedledee made nettle tea, so we sat on the sand, by the lagoon, sipping the aromatic beverage and, as the playing cards floated in and out on the tide, we thought of home. ______________________________________________________________________________________________

The above is my entry for this weeks Word Game, famously invented by the marvellous Matt. All details can be found on his blog at http://miblodelcarpio.blog.co.uk

This is a slight departure from my usual offering and probably confirms your suspicions about the state of my mind. I'm sure you could come up with something either equally weird or, infinitely more sensible, so please do 'have a bash' ! Just remember to include the following words;

CHARMED, MOANED, NETTLE, SOARING, CLOSER, TWINS, PAUSE, DREAMS, BURRING, WAISTED, RATTLES.

This was first published on http://tearose.blog.co.uk in January 2013

Down the rabbit hole ...... Part II

The nettle tea was restorative and, as it always imbues our band of travellers with a feeling of positivity, I was pleased that the twins had the foresight to prepare a large pitcher of the delicious beverage. I sipped slowly and considered our plight.

The day had dawned clear, thus far, but ominous dark clouds, in the West, were fast approaching and the island had little in the way of shelter. Palm trees, bent double by previous storms, were of little use should the tempest return. We needed to leave this place; find a safe harbour. Our situation was desperate, but even the wariest of us could not fail to be amused, when the Crab king ventured across the beach and, in a squeaky but eminently polite voice offered to help us refloat the ship.

This would normally have been a hopeless task, but I had become used to accomplishing seemingly impossible things and called for the others to assist. The vessel lay, on its side, in the surf. Waves foamed over the barnacled hull, washing mussels and cockles and sending them scurrying for cover under a large, brightly striped umbrella. Young dolphins had appeared, with their chalk and slates and were now sketching the whole sorry spectacle, under the watchful eye of the Walrus, who sat, leering, on his rocky dais.

The crabs marched, purposefully, down the shoreline, their claws "click, clicking" on the silver sand. Tumbling into the turquoise waters, they scrambled under the immersed port-side and clambered, one on top of the other, to form a wedge shape. Together they pushed and pushed as the Knave and I pulled and pulled, but we needed more strength.

I shouted out to the playing cards, who were still drifting, listlessly, back and forth on the tide. One by one, they floated to the shore and shook themselves. Some of the soggier ones ran about until they were drier and their cardboard was strong once more. Then, working as a pack, they heaved and heaved and, just as we were almost collapsing with the effort, there was a huge "SLUUURRRPPPP" and the ship was righted !

Tweedledum and Tweedledee triumphantly carried the only straight palm tree, proudly, across the sand-bank .... we had our main mast ! Working swiftly, eyeing the ever approaching clouds, the Dormouse secured the 'mast' and tightened the bolts with the handy torque-wrench, that he always carried in his hip pocket. Thank goodness for the Dormouse and his capacious, hip pocket.

Fat raindrops began to fall and splatter onto the deck as we loaded the Cheshire Cat and our meagre rations. Then we hoisted the spinnaker. We must outrun this storm. The Knave had now been demoted to First officer and so he set to work, checking that the barrels were lashed and the sheets were secure in their cleats. In my new capacity as Captain, I took the wheel and, with a final salute to the crabs, I turned the ship into the wind. The sails filled and the ship sprung to life, scudding swiftly away from the island, as storm petrels flew high across the fast disappearing sun. And all the while, the unseen maelstrom dragged us ever nearer to its depths and the rabbit hole yawned down at us, from its unattainable height, high in the sky. I could never reach it. Would I ever see Dinah again ? ______________________________________________________________________________________

The above nonsense is my entry for this week's Word Game. As you can see, I adore "Alice in Wonderland"!!!Although, I doubt Lewis Carroll would ever forgive me.

You can find the rules and more sensible examples of the game if you visit Matt's blog on http://miblodelcarpio.blog.co.uk

This week the words that must be included in the story are;

LEERING, DAIS, IMBUES, WARIEST, RATIONS, DEMOTED, TORQUE, AMUSED, SOGGIER, POLITE.

This was first published on http://tearose.blog.co.uk

A day in the country

Rosemary laid her weary head on the plump pillows and closed her tired eyes. She was exhausted, but a smile was on her pale lips as she freed her mind from distractions and let it wander. Oh, it had been such a wonderful day. A perfect day.

He had managed to borrow a friend's car. A cute little MG, in racing green. He had been so funny as he gallantly helped her into the passenger's seat, closing the door with a flourish. Then galloping round, on his long legs, to the driver's side and leaping into the seat, without using the door at all ! Showing off !

She had been shy at first; this was only their second "real" date. However, she had seen him, often, around the office, where they both worked. They had nodded, politely, for a couple of months, until one day when her type-writer jammed. He had rushed to her aid and had given her a pointer or two on how best to manage the stubborn old machine. That was the day they had taken their lunch together, in the park and she had giggled as he shared his rations with a very greedy duck. They seemed to hit it off and she had been thrilled when he had asked her if she would like to go to the cinema. That had been fun, but this ..... oh this was entirely different. A whole day together.

He drove the little, open top sports car expertly through the city streets and soon they were zipping along in suburbia and on towards the countryside. It was early June, and already the day was very warm. Spring had lingered later than usual this year, rain and cold winds had swept the nation, as though reluctant to relinquish their hold. But, at last, the weather had changed; blue skies and fluffy clouds were ushering in the long-awaited Summer.

The scenery changed from neat suburban houses, with their little "postage-stamp" sized gardens, to open fields and hawthorn hedges. Fields of crops and sprawling farm buildings. Rosemary was a little quiet, at first, but Harry was so easy to talk to that soon they were chattering away like old friends. They laughed and told silly jokes to amuse themselves and Harry began to sing a popular song, with Rosemary joining in on the chorus. The MG powered along, its throaty roar competing with their singing. The roads were narrower now with tall trees lining the verges, their leafy branches arching overhead and forming a sort of "roof" through which the sun's rays shone and dappled the route with pools of sparkling sunlight. Rosemary's hair lifted and streamed out behind her, like a golden curtain and she gasped, exhilarated, as Harry swerved the car to avoid a pot-hole and she was flung, sidewards against the soft tweed of his jacket. She could smell his cologne and the subtler aroma of Palmolive soap and she blushed and hastily sat upright, suddenly flustered.

They took a sharp bend and there, just ahead, was a road sign beside a bright red telephone box and the road widened slightly as they drove into a picturesque little village. Old houses and trees stood in delightful, haphazard array around the large village green. There was a splendid sycamore among the trees and a large, creepered house alongside its humbler neighbours. The green was crossed by a couple of neat paths and over on one side stood a pretty, ivy-covered Inn. Harry steered the MG into the gravel-covered car park at the rear of the hostelry and brought the little car to a halt. He rushed to open the passenger's door and took Rosemary's hand to help her from the low-slung vehicle. As he did so, she felt a spark of electricity pass between them. Harry noticed it too and held her hand for slightly longer than necessary before gesturing towards the entrance of the "Roast Ox Inn",

" This looks like a nice place. Shall we have a break here ? Maybe some lunch ? " he asked. Rosemary nodded, suddenly shy and lowered her eyes, bashfully.

The Bar was full of locals and, what looked like, members of the village cricket team. Apparently a match was due to be played that afternoon, on the far side of the green, and already players and spectators were gathering for refreshment and gossip. Harry and Rosemary found a table in the relative quiet of the Snug and a cheery barmaid bustled over to them, drying her hands on her apron as she said,

" Oh hello, have you enough room there ? I'll fetch your drinks, you'll never get to the bar. We don't do meals, only sandwiches. What'll you have to drink ?"

Rosemary glanced at Harry, totally confused and embarrassed, what on earth should she choose ? In spite of her 18yrs, she was quite naive and inexperienced . She was not used to pubs and country drives and barmaids. It all felt rather thrilling and dangerous. Harry sensed her consternation and gently took her hand,

" Mmmm, it's so hot. Shall we have some cider and some sandwiches ?" and Rosemary nodded, gratefully.

And so they had drunk golden cider, so cold that condensation frosted the glasses and they had laughed over the huge, but delicious "door-step" sandwiches of cheese and pickle, served with large, brown pickled onions. They had both avoided the pungent onions, perhaps already thinking of what may lie ahead ? They had lingered in the Snug, listening to the merry banter of the crowd and the loud voice of a rotund, red-faced chap, who appeared to be 'holding court'.

" Oh, that's old Fred," exclaimed the barmaid, as she gathered their plates. "He always yammers on like that, on match days. He used to be Captain of the team, before he lost his leg in the War"

Rosemary smiled and winced a little at the booming voice and raucous laughter that followed, then handed the barmaid her empty glass.

" Tell you what," the friendly woman continued, noticing Rosemary's wince, " If you don't want to watch the cricket, you could always go down by the stream. Nice walk, it is. There is a path out the back, over that style in the car-park !" She glanced at the young couple, then winked and added, " Nice and quiet it is, down by there, me loves !"

In the darkness of her bedroom, Rosemary opened her eyes. " Who's there ?" she whispered, " Is there anyone there ?" The silence enveloped her and she closed her eyes and her thoughts returned to the perfection of the day.

Harry had taken her arm and guided her gently through the crowded Bar. His touch had sent shivers down her spine and robbed her of her ability to speak. Wordlessly, they strolled across the crunchy gravel and negotiated the rustic, rather ricketty style. She giggled as her petticoat caught on the rough wood and almost fell as she tried to free the lacy garment. Harry steadied her gently and, putting his hands on her slim waist, he lifted her carefully down to the ground. She caught her heel in a tree root and fell against him, her heart beating so fast that she was certain he could feel it. He looked down at her and his soft, dark eyes seemed to peer into her soul. She was about to throw caution to the wind, to pull his head down to hers, when a bird flapped in the nearby yew tree, and startled, they leapt apart. Then they dissolved into nervous giggles; they both knew.

The path led down a slight slope, trees and bushes lined the route and the hem of Rosemary's full-skirted, Summer dress, brushed against long grasses and ferns. Birds, high in the trees, sang their songs of praise and thanks for this wonderful day and the air was still, hot and sultry .... and full of promise. The path gave way to a mossy clearing, a sleepy, sunlit hollow, where a little brook splashed and tinkled over its rocky bed. Harry stopped, turned and took Rosemary's face in his hands, then gently kissed her. She melted into his arms and they clung to each other, not daring to speak, not wishing to break the spell. He took off his jacket and spread it on the soft grass and then they lay among the fading bluebells and the nodding, yellow cowslips and kissed again.

Tentative touches became more urgent. Gentle kisses became more passionate, arousing. Hearts beating faster, hands caressing, searching out buttons and fastenings. Hot breath on cheeks and necks, soft lips on bare skin. His hand on her naked thigh, her stockings discarded. Her hands beneath his sweat-soaked shirt, nails digging into his skin as they made love for the first time. His face above her, his arms around her, holding her to his heart. His face .... his face....

" Is someone there ?" Rosemary calls, again, half awake in the bedroom. But the room is still, silent. Her hands, the skin so thin and translucent, lay at rest on the coverlet. The scent of roses and lilac waft in through the open window. She closes her eyes again and drifts .... and drifts....

The figure in the shadows, smiles and draws his dark cloak around his shoulders.

" Yes, that was peaceful " he whispers, "She was 81. She had some happy memories to help her on her way."

And with that, Death slipped slowly out of the room. His work was done. _____________________________________________________________________________________________ This week's entry for Matt's Countdown Word Game is a rather sad story. Maybe you can write something lighter ? You will find rules and examples of past entries on Matt's page at http://miblodelcarpio.blog.co.uk

This week the words to be included are;

PRAISE, USHERING, RATIONS, AMUSE, YAMMERS, ROAST, FREED, NATION, SUBTLER, POINTER.

This was first published on http://tearose.blog.co.uk

A Fete worse than Death

Mrs Worthington-Smythe shook her head, vehemently,

" No, Belinda, dear ! Your refreshment tent will be beside the Bingo marquee, as usual !"

Then she produced one of her 'smiles', the one that always brought to mind a Great White Shark, just before it sinks its teeth into some poor, helpless victim.

" As Chairperson of the village Anniversary and Fete committee, I really must insist that we retain the 'status quo'. We can't go changing things, willy-nilly, my dear. We have a tradition to uphold."

Poor Belinda sighed and studied her finger-nails, the tried a cannier approach,

" But the noise from the Bingo tent ........"

Her voice trailed off, she could see that it was useless. I gave her a sympathetic grin. I have only lived in the village for eighteen months, but I knew that Belinda was wasting her breath. The Worthington-Smythe woman had moved on to the next item on her agenda and was now discussing the flower and produce stalls. Her voice droned on and on, as she forced her will on the hapless committee members.

The warmth of the sun's rays, beating through the windows of the Village Hall, had a soporific effect on me and I drifted, in that 'half-light', that state of being not asleep but not truly awake. I wondered how I had ever let myself be persuaded to take part in the organisation of this annual event. I had no experience, as such, but I suppose I was following in family footsteps. My beloved Grandmother, now sadly deceased these past six months, had always been active in village matters. She had once been a great traveller, but old age and arthritis and various heart conditions, had made her cease her travels and settle in a tiny cottage in this pretty place.

The village was proud of its heritage and the part it had played in the English Civil war. Apparently, the Cavaliers had made a stand and won a great battle here; some had subsequently made their homes in this delightful area. For years, now, the village had held an annual, week long celebration of all things English. This began with a traditional Fete, continued with various events throughout the week and then culminated the following weekend, with a performance of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and then a celebratory Grand Ball.

I seethed, silently, as I thought of the auditions for the play. Having missed them, last year, I was keen to attend and try for the part of Titania. I had just graduated from Drama College and this would be wonderful experience. My audition had gone extremely well and the Director was very impressed,

" I think we can safely say that we have found our Faerie Queen !" he grinned, delightedly.

But my joy was short-lived. Mrs Worthington-Smythe had burst in, a frown creasing her well-powdered forehead,

" No, no, Jeremy ! I thought it was all arranged. My Jocasta will be Titania, this year ! This, this, er .... person...can be her understudy !"

And that was it, fait accompli. No-one dared argue. All the events were held on Worthington-Smythe land and, although Jocasta was no actress, her family funded the production, provided the venue, everything ! The Director looked at me and shrugged his shoulders, ruefully, then turned to a beaming Jocasta and shook her hand. That was all two months ago and I had dutifully attended every rehearsal and every costume fitting. And bided my time. Waiting.

" So, that's okay, Rosie, dear ? You will be our gypsy, won't you ?"

I startled and blinked and dragged my mind back to the present; back to the committee meeting. I stared, dumb-struck, at the pile of clothes that had suddenly appeared on the table, in front of me.

" You will be our Fortune Teller ? Oh, say you will. I know your Grandmother used to do it, years ago, but that was before my time. And we really can't have Mrs Browning again, she is far too, erm, ah, 'unreliable' !"

Oh, yes, I remembered Mrs Browning's antics, last year. How she had lurched about, full of sherry and 'bon-homie', her turban tilted, precariously on the curly wig. A streamer of toilet tissue trailing from the waistband of the spangled skirt, as she accosted every male, be he gentleman, Lord or lout and offered,

" Just a little nip of gin and a cuddle in me tent, me ducks !"

No, I reasoned, we couldn't have a repeat performance of that. Mrs Worthington-Smythe gurned at me as I gathered up the cheap, garish outfit and the paste jewels,

" Oh, thank you, my dear. And it will be a little 'starring role' for you, at last !"

Grrrrr ! I could cheerfully have slapped her, but no, I was thinking of something else.

Back at home I dumped the clothes on the kitchen table and ran upstairs to my Grandmother's room. Everything was just as it had been when she was alive. Although the cottage now belonged to me, her presence still filled every space, but especially here, in her special sanctuary. I pulled open the heavy drawer in the base of her huge, oak wardrobe and carefully lifted out a long, slightly battered cardboard box. I lifted the lid and gently peeled back the yellowing tissue and there it lay. A beautiful, authentic Romani costume.

It was when I had come to stay, eighteen months ago, to look after my ailing Grandmother, that I had learned of her past and of my heritage. She told me all about her youth. Her travels with the other members of the Romani family. She taught me of our ancestor's origins, thousands of years ago in Rajasthan. Of beautifully carved and painted, horse-drawn caravans. Of the traditions and legends and the 'old ways'. Of the trek across the Continents, throughout the centuries and of her branch of the family's eventual arrival in Britain.

Slipping out of my modern clothes, I reverently donned the beautiful garments. The fine embroidery shone in purples and golds, as vibrant as the day it was stitched, many years ago. I slowly twirled, in front of the full-length mirror and marvelled as the crystals sparkled in the folds of the skirt and tiny coins tinkled around the hem. The jewelled head-dress and beaded necklaces completed the picture and I smiled at my reflection as I felt a strange new feeling, a magical aura. This was my true heritage.

The day of the Fete dawned, bright and clear and by 10am it was already hot and sultry. I was doing a brisk business, as villager after villager crossed my palm with silver and hunched over the crystal ball, as I gazed into their 'future'. I was just about to take a well-earned break and find some cool refreshment, when the beaded curtain, that hung at the entrance to the tent, was noisily flung back and into the tent flounced Jocasta. I knew she wouldn't be able to resist a gloat. I settled back into my seat and indicated for her to take her place. She was full of herself, as usual.

" Cor, Rosie ! That outfit is lush !" she exclaimed, " If I had known it was so gorge and flattering, I would have had a bash at this, myself ! Go on then, do my fortune, Rosie !"

I took the plump, well manicured hand and studied her palm, carefully. Then, I closed my eyes and smiled as I placed her hand back onto the paisley-patterned cloth that covered the ricketty card table. Then I gazed into the crystal ball that sat in the centre of the table.

" Oh, oh, my goodness, oh! Jocasta, I must tell you .... next week .... the play .... you will be covered in ...."

" Glory, I will be covered in glory !" she cried, before I could finish. " Yes, yes ! I can picture it. I will be a triumph in the play. There will be shouts and roars of approval and applause and curtain calls and flowers ! I will be a star ! Mummy has arranged it all !But don't say a word, it's a huge secret Oh, thanks, Rosie"

And, with that, she swept out of the tent.

Well, Jocasta was, indeed, covered, but not in glory. Oh, no, she was covered in the bright red, itchy spots, of some mysterious illness that suddenly manifested itself during the week. Neither her expensive, private Doctor, nor the exclusive clinic, could find the cause. It wasn't measles, it wasn't rubella, it wasn't chicken-pox and it certainly wasn't attractive. It lasted two whole weeks, ensuring that there was no way Jocasta could play Titania; not with a face like a well-smacked bottom ! Thank heavens there was a word-perfect understudy to take over and captivate the audience, not to mention the 'surprise' guest..... a talent-scout from the Royal Shakespeare Company ! ______________________________________________________________________________________________ Yes, that piece of nonsense is my entry for Matt's Countdown Word Challenge. You can find all the details you need on his blog at http://miblodelcarpio.blog.co.uk

This week the words to be included are;

PASTE, CANNIER, BINGO, EARNED, CREASING, SMILES, STREAMER, LOUT, ROARS, STUDIED.

This was first published on http://tearose.blog.co.uk

Slow Dancing

The music begins. He appears, in the guise of stranger, the illusion of innocence. A glance; hearts skip a beat and then; an outstretched hand. Into the throng, the centre of the dimly-lit floor. Swallowed up amongst the colourful revellers, not noticed, unseen. Swaying to the music, feet barely moving, glued to the spot, knees weak at the daring, delicious danger. Into the formal hold, tentative, in awe; arm around waist, cool hand enclosing hand.

Then, closer, body against body, thrilling to the touch. Smooth silk dress against fine wool jacket, scarlet nails against white cotton shirt. Closer still, clinging to each other. Whispered promises, soft entreaties. Lips brush forehead, hands caress, with longing in every fingertip. Kisses cover wrists, words catch in throats; tears fall on soft cheeks.

The music hypnotises, intoxicating perfume mingles with the scent of desire. Strong fingers tenderly brush tendrils of hair from damp cheeks, then move down to gently lift a fair chin. A dark head bows to steal a single, forbidden kiss, as fairy lights twinkle and laughter spins around. All too soon the music stops. The crowd applauds and disperses . With one, last, lingering look the couple part and go back to their separate tables, back to their own, private prisons, their own personal hell.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Flora and Fauna

Smiling, I gazed out of my open, kitchen door at the garden beyond. The sight pleased me,

" There can't be many patios as pretty as mine " I thought to myself, as I surveyed the alyssum and aubretia, tumbling over the retaining walls in purple and white splendour. Sweet thyme grew between the slabs of crazy-paving, making an aromatic carpet and the honey-scented, coral flowers of lonicera entwined and tangled with the snowy-white sweet-jasmine blossom as it flung itself joyfully over the trellis archway.

I wandered out into the warm Summer sun and gathered herbs from the many pots and tubs that were scattered about the terrace. Rosemary, tarragon, basil, oregano and dill; they were all placed carefully into my willow basket. Then I strolled down the three, wide steps that led from the paved area to the remainder of my beautiful garden. A moorhen, proudly leading a little group of babies in a swim around my pond, darted warily into the soft rushes, then, seeing that it was only me, peeked out shyly and resumed its business, pecking idly at the duckweed. My resident frog was much spunkier than the 'skitty coots'; every movement piques his interest and he boldly sat on the leaf of a fragrant water-lily, winking cheekily up at me as I bent and dangled my fingers in the cool waters. The large pond housed many bright, darting fish; shubunkins and golden orfe rubbed fins with common sticklebacks and the watchful eye of a heron surveyed the clear waters, as he stood sentinel amongst the tall bull-rushes. The heavy hum of the bees was cathartic, it mingled with the gentle birdsong and all was peaceful and calm.

Loki, my huge, sleek black cat, purred as he weaved around my bare ankles, then stopped, abruptly, and arched his back, his thick fur bristling and his green eyes flashing, as a harsh sound interrupted our reverie. Ah, yes, the flies in the ointment; our tormentors had returned.

I realise that, when someone new arrives in a small community, there is always a period of adjustment. Newcomers are objects of interest, I accept that. But I had been here over a year, in this quaint cottage on the remotest edge of the village.In that time most adults had accepted me and respected the fact that I was a pretty solitary person, who didn't join in village activities. However, there was a group of five or six village lads who were determined to annoy, harass and make me gnash my teeth with frustration, as I tried to ignore their taunts. They threw stones, sometimes huge rocks and smashed my windows. They frightened the garden birds and tried to catch the fish in the pond. November had been particularly trying for poor Loki. They had thrown fireworks and generally made his life a misery. So much so, that he had hidden under the large oak, dining table, peering pitifully from behind the fringe of the heavy, ruby-red, chenille cloth and would only emerge when I tempted him with his favourite, cat-mint tea. The vandals had daubed graffiti on the garden shed and even on my pretty, primrose yellow, front door.They had smashed pots of herbs and screamed "Witch" at every opportunity, it was all so unfair and nasty and no-one seemed to care. And here they were again, yelling abuse and kicking a football about in the narrow, tree-lined lane, beyond my gate.

"Witch, witch, you are a bitch" they shouted, somewhat unimaginatively. Then a jagged stone began its deadly orbit toward the little moorhen family, who huddled and cowered together in fright. Even my bold frog leapt into the cool safety of the deep, pond water. I walked, cautiously, to the gate as the ring-leader, the muddiest, scruffiest-looking urchin, gesticulated lewdly and grinned,

"Wanna see me todger, missus ? Gorn..... I betcha ain't seen now't like this !!"

There was five of them and I guessed they must have been around 13 or 14 years old. Yes, this was the usual gang, the ones who had caused me so much anguish. I decided things could not go on like this, I had hesitated too long, I must do something to negate the situation. I wanted to live in peace, I liked it here, but these boys had pushed me too far. It was time to make friends.

" Hello, boys", I beamed, and leaned over the gate, fully aware that my thin cotton camisole left nothing to the imagination. I ruffled the lacey hem of my long, tiered skirt, to cool my bare legs and beguilingly tossed the auburn curls that hung around my naked shoulders.

" Gosh ! It is so hot today. I wonder if you all would like to come inside for some cold, home-made lemonade ?"

Teenage boys are such victims of their hormones. They stood and stared, for a second, at my friendly smile, suggestive wink and voluptuous body and then filed, eagerly through the gate.

Smiling, I gazed out of my open, kitchen door. The scent of the sweet thyme mingled with the honeysuckle and lavender and the heavy, decadent perfume of the night-scented datura. It was a perfect Summer's evening in my beautiful garden. I wandered out onto the patio and down the steps to the silver shimmer of the pool. The moorhen family were safe in their water-side nest and the huge cupped blooms of the water lilies were closing for the night, but my bold frog still hopped about on the huge, floating leaves. And now he had companions. Five green frogs hopped, nervously about; they would need time to become familiar with their new surroundings.


This is my entry for this week's Word Game Challenge. Details and rules can be found on Matt's page at http://miblodelcarpio.blog.co.uk

Please do join in, it is great fun ! This week the words to be included are ;

,PATIOS, PIQUES, GNASH, ORBIT, SPUNKIER, TODGER, MUDDIEST, HOUSED, NEGATE, ARRIVES.