Sunday, 7 March 2021

Nine Ways to give your Cat Nine Lives

  1. Give your cat a heart transplant. You can steal an organ from a much younger feline.
  2. Maybe put your cat in a box, maybe don’t, leave it to Schrödinger to decide.
  3. Administer the kiss of life on your cat, as long as neither of you have been eating mice.
  4. Show your cat into the Narnia wardrobe, there it will have very many adventures.
  5. Use car jumps leads to defibrillate your cat.
  6. Make your cat work in a call centre for a week. It will seem like a lifetime.
  7. Launch your cat as a social media sensation. However, know that this celebrity life will be short-lived.
  8. Make your cat do daily breathing exercises, Bikram yoga and have an entirely vegan macrobiotic diet. They will have a long but dull life.
  9. Following the theory of quantum physics your cat is living an infinite number of lives already, so chill out and enjoy their company.


Saturday, 13 February 2021


For as long as I remember my captor has kept me babified in a pastel dungeon. I want to break free, and try at every opportunity, but I am so very small and this monster has me trapped. Every day is humiliation.

I attempt to reason with my incarcerator through the baby radio. ‘Ga ga!’ I shout, to get her attention.

The voice of evil crackles over the monitor, ‘Bismillah, you’re awake!’

‘Let me go!’ I wail, rattling the bars of my cot.

‘You’re not going anywhere, little Bis, you’re my best friend.’

I ignore her saccharine words and heave myself up. I’ve just gotta get right outta here. Maybe I am becoming stronger, but certainly I am more desperate because in a flash I successfully scale the bars of my precarious prison and throw myself over that perimeter fence. Magnifico!

Hearing me fall heavily to the ground through the confounded radio monitor, in struts the witch queen. Killer heels confront me, too close to my tiny toes for comfort.

‘Don’t stop me now,’ I implore.

‘You’re not going anywhere, little cutie, haven’t you heard of this crazy little thing called love?’ She picks me up and squeezes me so hard I feel my internal organs rupturing. ‘Anyway, the show must go on,’ she tells me, and carries me into the living room.

There is a party of sorts going on and I know what’s expected of me. How long have I lived under pressure to perform? I look on at my jailer’s associates; whiskered trolls, painted hags and Scaramouch - Beelzebub’s bedfellows; and all staring at me. At one’s kindest, you’d call them Bohemian. Rhapodising, one could say they were outré or exotic, but they are grotesques the lot of them.

Compared with these gargoyles my captor is just a fat-bottomed girl. She does the unforgivable and hands me to her fetid aunt who dandles me, and, insult to injury, blows raspberries on my stomach. The stench of sherry, sweat and stale cigarettes congeals in the saliva she coats me in.

‘Who wants to live forever?’ I whisper, as I deliver a sucker punch to the dragon’s kidneys. She frowns, shakes her head, then laughs, and hands me to the braying jelly of a man next to her.

Before he can so much as “kootchie-kootchie-koo” me, I poke him in that deadly point in the jugular. ‘Another one bites the dust.’ He is momentarily wrong-footed but I smile and babble for him. ‘Goo-goo.’

‘We are the champions,’ I tell my clever hands and feet, as it becomes a bicycle race, and I am cartwheeled around my keeper’s cronies faster and faster. I deal out my time-delayed death blows until I have full-circled and am back with the Bitch.

I fumble to attack but I am thwarted, she holds me too tightly and her wicked eyes full of sentimentality. ‘Bismillah, my little rascal, let’s put you in your playpen.’

I am re-imprisoned. There I sit, a caged animal for all to leer at. Defeated again, but I note the building blocks in my enclosure might make effective missiles if propelled at a decent velocity. What I really need is gunpowder, gelatine, dynamite with a laser beam but I work with what I have.

Mama, ooo!’ I shout before luzzing a block at the wicked Queen.

Sunday, 7 February 2021

A Trio of Transportative Songs

Dancing Queen. In the nightclub, young and sweet, only seventeen, certainly underage. No ripped jeans, no DMs, boys having to wear ties. How antiquated, how rigid, how not us, especially as we were all about rips and DMs at the time. But such was our quasi-religious fervour for dancing, we would have put buckets on our heads and spoons in our ears if the dress code dictated.

I had a friend’s ID because I looked about twelve but once we’d got through the stress of getting in our fun begun. We swayed in spiritual abandon, dancing queens, girls and boys alike. By day we were the scrattiest, awkwardest, spottiest, angriest still-children, but here, high-heeled and hemmed, we were gods.

Groove is in the Heart is my happy anthem and I’ve blogged about it before. First discovered on MTV, by a group of us in Sindy Livwood’s sitting room. Dancing around, a guilty pleasure, because it was not Rock, Alternative or Indie, and we were Individuals.

A year or two later, and less pretentious, so no guilt attached, every party had to include this. It is the song that would make me excuse myself from any conversation, however rude that might be, or however attractive the company might be, to – get – to – the – dancefloor.

I remember dancing with my brother at his wedding, and there realising my mum dances exactly like me (She’s got the moves!) At my own wedding, of course, with my gorgeous man. And most recently at a zoom disco, dancing alone but together, connected through little squares, with my old Brighton housemates. Groove is in my heart.

Stranger on the Shore. First heard on an early 80s television programme that created videos for old classics. I remember this song had a lonely dog on a beach. I recall floods of tears from the whole family, sad dogs and sad music! After that we would always cry at this song. My Dad maintained the clarinet was the saddest instrument. I played it for a while but never got that much soul out of my instrument, and the emotion it created was nothing more profound than frustration for me and irritation for others.

Fittingly, we had this song at my Dad’s funeral, in case, for any reason, we needed more emotion!

Recently though, it has been turned on its head, purloined by Radio 4 as the theme tune to That Mitchell and Web Sound. As much as I enjoy the show, it feels most inappropriate.

I found the video!

Saturday, 23 January 2021

This is what happens if you don’t throw your crisp packets in the bin, Natasha

I live on the streets in between the cracked slabs, in the black oil stains under cars. I race along double yellow lines, soothe a pigeon’s gnarled foot and wrap around the homeless woman’s sleeping bag to give what warmth I have. I take a flying cartwheeling and occasionally aerial journey in a crisp packet and then helicopter away, intending for the ether but ending up in an eye.

Natasha wipes her eye. Under her lid is the scrape of grit or some other irritant.

She was on her way to the nail bar, her head full of what the hell Wayne’s last text meant and whether to wear the red or the pink dress tonight. But now there is something in her eye.

Part of Natasha’s brain is worrying her mascara will run or that her eye might be bloodshot and that she must remember to buy a new pair of tights for tonight. But that part is quite small. Another primal area is recognizing there is a foreign body around her eyeball, something wrong, something alien. Tear ducts and blink reflexes kick in. However, the majority of Natasha’s mind is shifting, reconfiguring, reforming. She opens her mouth, breathes in, then exhales, laughing at all sensations.

Seven seconds ago I was riding an air current after a lift in a crisp packet, now I am embodied.

Natasha’s memories; how to walk, why Wayne’s no good for her, GCSE French, are all accessible like some wonderful eccentric library. Natasha smiles more widely than usual.

This is going to be fun.

Saturday, 9 January 2021

Special Friends

Dear All

Firstly, thank you. I acknowledge that many of you are self-made. I stand at the side-lines watching you grow and then get all the credit, which must be irritating. My interfering is one of the reasons we fight so much. That said, a number of you are clumsy, a few of you are infuriating and several of you will never work. But I want you to know I take responsibility for your weaknesses as much as I celebrate your strengths. I regard you all as more than friends, as family.  Despite our struggles you are all special to me. You have given me purpose and for that I am extraordinarily grateful.

  Secondly, I apologise. I’m sorry I haven’t given you wider lives, and you are right to feel confined and constricted. I should have tried harder on your behalves, found you homes, been more proactive and pushy and just pushed you out. Blame it on laziness and fear.
  A few of you, at least, have made it out into the world. I trust those of you who have flown the nest are more fulfilled than your less successful siblings. I hope you are appreciated and listened to.
  I’d like to say to those of you still imprisoned, this has no bearing on what you mean to me and how I value you. As you are still in my care, I worry about you more, for better or worse, you are still my responsibility.

  I confess there are more of you than I can count and I’m embarrassed that I can’t always recall the oldest of you, but when I see you, of course I remember.
Whether you’re seventeen syllables or 80,000 words, you’re all my children. And whether you’re in the local paper, blog or just on a memory stick or scrap of paper, I appreciate what you’ve given me. Maybe when I’m old and embrace the grey I’ll break my own rule and self-publish. Because although my reason is to write, I recognise that your reason is to be read.

Yours, as always,

Saturday, 1 August 2020

Winning with Rats!

I’m extremely happy to have won the Canary Wharf Short Story Competition and be part of the Story Stations, and featured in Timeout! A big thanks to Canary Wharf Arts and Events, and to Chris Waywell, Deputy Editor of Timeout, who judged. The story stations are a brilliant idea, vending machines that dispense one, two and five minute stories for people to print and read. They’re currently being made contactless for safety reasons, but will soon be back in Canary Wharf for readers, and I’ll be making a special trip there!

For me, entering competitions is a real motivator and the themes are often great inspirations. It forces me to polish, complete and finish stories too! Most of my creative endeavours during lockdown were very much escaping and ignoring the situation but writing Where the Rats Can’t Get Me was an excellent challenge, making me face reality and repercussions.

My now zoomy creative writing group were really helpful with feedback and Tuesday nights continue to be a highlight in my week. As much as I miss the wonderful real classes, the zoom group has been a good substitute and helped conquer isolation.

I’m also pleased to be in this week’s electronic Mid Hampshire Observer with The Real Reason Van Gogh Cut his Ear Off. It’s so good they give us this platform for our writing and thanks to our fantastic teacher, Nicky Morris, for leading this.

As I grapple with my second novel, which has become as wriggly as my first despite attempts to work in a more linear way, winning the competition has been a huge boost. The thought of people reading and enjoying my work is incredibly uplifting, and I’m delighted to be alongside ten brilliant writers.

Saturday, 20 June 2020

Exquisite Corpse

Michael Jackson rose from his grave for the second time. This evening there was no dry ice and no need for zombie make-up. He brushed the dirt from his red leather jacket and yawned. His nights sleeping in an oxygen tent had helped prepare him for the claustrophobia of a coffin.

Michael stretched and felt a number of bones clicking unhealthily. Oh well, age catches up with us all in the end. A ravenous hunger came over him, after all, he hadn’t eaten for eleven years. Beyond the cemetery he saw the lights of an all-night diner, what a lifesaver. Michael’s stiff movements aped his old trademark dance moves. Fancy that, his choreographer had been more accurate than anyone could have guessed.

It was slow, jerky progress, but finally he got to the diner. It took all Michael’s strength to open the door and then he held his hands up, dazzled by the electric lights. He was expecting a reaction from the customers and staff, ‘Michael Jackson, back from the dead, call CNN!’, but unfortunately his resurrection had coincided with Halloween. The place was populated with werewolves, Vincent Prices and a variety of ghouls.

He staggered to the counter and sat on a stall, exhausted and even more famished from his journey. Michael inhaled the coffee, cherry pie, pumpkin fritters and ice-cream sundaes, but found he wanted none of these things.

‘What can I get you, Michael?’ the waitress asked. He smiled at her, pleased to be recognized. She was dressed as a vampire and he enjoyed the curve of her neck and her plump cheeks, so he leant forward and took a bite.

By the end of his meal, the diner was a bit of a mess, but Michael toothpicked fastidiously and politely wiped his mouth and hands on a napkin. He carefully stepped over some discarded entrails (too stringy in his teeth) to look in the mirror. Michael smiled broadly, very happy with his reflection, his cheekbones, his chipped point of nose and his fantastic, impossible thinness.

‘Still got it,’ Michael said to himself and moonwalked out the diner.


I have a vivid memory of Thriller being premiered before the six o’clock news when I was about ten. I was terrified but a couple of months later performed a gymnastics routine to it at a Croydon schools competition, where we danced like zombies. I’ve just re-watched it and it’s extremely dated but is still nostalgic. Vincent Price lends his voice too!