Thursday, 15 February 2018

When Time Went Crazy

The Jenkins were not the sort of people to party all night, right through to breakfast. In their youth maybe, but not these days.  Nevertheless, there they were, eating brunch and wondering where the night had gone.

“Did we finish the wine last night?”

“I don’t think so. We didn’t play Scrabble either.” 

It was a real puzzle. The last either could remember before they started breakfast was that they hadn’t quite finished their dessert from the evening before. 

Something must have happened, though, because they were wearing different clothes now.  

“It’s really funny,” he said. “That lemon sorbet was making me quite full but I’m starving now. What’s going on?”

“It’s weird about the photos as well,” she replied. 

They carried on looking at the shots of Gibraltar on his phone. They weren’t due to go there until the next day. 

As the plane landed he shook his head. “I was looking forward to my beach day on Sunday. Now I’ve got to go to work tomorrow.”

A short while later they were lying on the sun beds at the beach.
“I think I must be dreaming,” he said. 

“Well, so am I then.  But don’t you think it’s funny that we’re both having the same dream?” 


“Anyway, don’t forget the photos.” She picked up his iPhone and started searching. “Oh my. It looks as if our Sandra will marry Tony after all.” 

She handed him the phone. There was their daughter in a flowing white dress and Tony smarter than they’d ever seen him before. Judging by the colour of the leaves on the trees it was already autumn,  but was tat this year or another one?


Saturday, 3 February 2018

Weather Behaving Badly

Weather Behaving Badly

They talked about El Niño and La Niña. So we had quite a few years of proper summer unfortunately accompanied by drought. Then we had several years of miserable weather.  They talked of Global Warming and then renamed it Climate Change because the Warming was actually making it cooler for the posh people. But we hadn’t seen anything yet. 

They made a film about a new ice age arriving suddenly. It seemed melodramatic. Then came Katrina and the film seemed more reasonable. After Sandy it began to look tame.        
The stream winds started moving in the wrong direction. We got snow on snow followed by rain on rain and floods, followed by temperatures going up overnight. Two feet of snow fell and disappeared within twenty-four hours. 

Yet, one morning soon after, there was thick ice on the windscreen and cars sliding round the S bend though the temperature gauge said it was six degrees Celsius. Later, after the sun had shone all day and the gauge now said seven, there was, once more, ice on the car.
What’s going on?   

Saturday, 20 January 2018

January Stones 2013: When physics got sick

This is an excerpt from my first collection of Flash Fiction,  January Stones 2013. I wrote one a day in January 2013. The book came out last year.  Yes, that's how long it can take to get a book out sometimes.

It is currnelty being made into an audio book. 

Here is the first one:   

When physics got sick

The Scientist carefully took the shards of glass out of the cupboard, dropped them in the sink, and watched underwhelmed as the tumbler formed itself. It seemed natural, as if it had happened a thousand times before. Yet his constantly questioning mind wondered whether this, this first occurrence of something quite extraordinary, marked the beginning of the end as the second law of thermodynamics was breaking down.

As he filled the tumbler with water he became aware that at the same time as being in his kitchen he was also upstairs and at the other side of the universe, so clearly Planck’s Constant had suddenly become somewhat bigger.

Later, examining the internal structure of protons, he found that they were indeed made of cream cheese and constantly mumbled nonsensical German so the label “quark” was actually extremely apt. Yet there was a paradox because surely the cream cheese itself was made of atoms, and they, in turn, of protons.

And yet.

There was no problem for Newton. Apples still fell merrily on the heads of those foolish enough to sit under apple-trees in the autumn. The big nuclear reactor in the sky still reacted. His home planet appeared to be carrying on its Maypole dance around its star and keeping up its complex ceilidh with the rest of the universe.

The Scientist paused for a moment and pondered. Perhaps the Humanities people were right after all. Every physicist knew that all of these laws did not work all of the time. Everything was relative anyway – Einstein had shown this. There could be a god, then. Or maybe the Matrix was not so far-fetched. It might even be the philosophers who had got it right – that life is but an illusion.

Scientific advice by Doctor Martin James who identified two subatomic particles, some ten years or so before the World Wide Web was born at CERN, thereby gobsmacking his children’s science teachers. 

Read more about these collections here.  



Wednesday, 10 January 2018

About a Blue Car

It was oddly quiet at the Parkinsons’ semi in East Oakham. Sal had just come back from the pub with fiancé Matt and was astonished that her mother and father were not back from the cricket match. It was getting dark now, despite it being the middle of June. They’d left the pub themselves because the landlord had called last orders.  
“I wonder where they are,” said Sal.
“Oh, I wouldn’t worry,” said Matt. “Probably having coffee with someone or something stronger. Especially if they won.”
Sal guessed he was right. After all, her dad was vice-president of the Crockley cricket club. Crockley was where he worked and because he lived in East Oakham, this match had been considered rather significant. 
“I’m not really worried.” But she was tired and couldn’t understand why. “And now that I’ve sat down I can’t move.”
“All right.  I’ll put the kettle on, shall I, and make a cup of tea?”
Sal nodded. She closed her eyes. She could hear Matt pottering about in the kitchen. The noise became fainter and then she woke with a start.  Well, she hadn’t really been asleep but she’d sort of had a dream. A bit vague really. Something about a dark blue car. She wasn’t really sure what. But she could remember the number plate: MEM0 775 D. That wouldn’t exist, would it?    
“Here, drink this,” said Matt as he placed a tray down on the table.
Sal took one of the mugs of tea and one of the digestive biscuits and picked up the TV remote.
She found a programme about mind-reading.
“You’re even better than this guy,” said Matt as she got question after question right.
“It’s just daft,” said Sal. “I’m only guessing. I feel nice and relaxed, though.”
“More tea?”
She nodded.
They’d just finished their second cup and the credits were beginning to roll when Sal heard the key in the lock.
“Sorry we’re so late,” said her mum. “Only we stopped to help this old lady who was run over.”
“Oh dear,” said Matt.
“Oh it was all right. The car was going very slowly. But she was a bit shocked and so was the driver of the car.”
“We couldn’t make him understand  word,” said her dad. “I think he was foreign. Maybe the car was as well. Had a funny number plate. MEMO 775D.”
Sal shivered.
“Which side was the steering wheel on?” asked Matt.
“Good point,” said Mr Parkinson. “You know, I didn’t notice.”
“It was a blue car wasn’t it?” said Sal. “And it was backing it out of that alleyway next to the hairdresser – you know where them mucky kids used to play?”
“Yes,” said Mrs Parkinson slowly.
“Bloody hell, what are you saying, Sal?”  Matt’s eyes were round and open. 
“I saw it when I fell asleep when you were in the kitchen.”
Nobody seemed to know what to say.

“You know, you’re getting good at this clairvoyance malarkey,” said Matt as they got ready for bed later. “Perhaps you should make a career of it.”
“Mmm,” said Sal. It hadn’t been much use, though had it? It had been a bit of fun with the TV programme. And she hadn’t really been worried about her mum and dad and even if she had been, having that vision or whatever it was hadn’t really told her a lot. Still, it had seemed to happen because she was so relaxed and having Matt make her tea and feed her biscuits had been good. “As long as you keep on supplying the digestives and as long as you promise to make them chocolate.”     


Tuesday, 2 January 2018

The Wedding Next Door

 “Mama asked me to give you this.” The boy from next door was holding out a stiff envelope. 

Dotty looked into his dark brown eyes. They were really serious today. His eyebrows were raised as if asking a question. 

“What is it?” 

“You will have to open it and see, Mrs Fellows,” said the boy. 

Dotty slid the card out of its envelope. It was so colourful it made her eyes smart. There was a picture of a young Pakistani girl dressed in a very elaborate dress. There was a lot of yellow in it. The girl had reddish brown patterns all over her hands and arms. The strange squiggles on the card meant nothing to Dotty. There were obviously some letters printed there but she couldn’t make out what they were, let alone what any of the words might mean. “So, what’s this then?” 

“It’s an invitation to my sister’s wedding.  Mama wants you to come.” He bit his lip and looked away from her slightly. “You will come, won’t you? Mama is worried that it might be noisy. There will be drums.” 

“When is it?” 

“Saturday. This Saturday.”
“I don’t know.  I think I’ve got something else on.” Perhaps she could go and see her daughter. Get away from the noise that way. 

“Please come. We’d like you to be there.” He waved and scampered back up the garden path.  

He wasn’t a bad lad. He had a strange name, though. Majid. Like “magic” but with a d at the end.  At least he could speak English. His grandmother only spoke Urdu. His mother tried her best, but she spoke so fast and with such a heavy accent that Dotty couldn’t understand her. The two girls were so shy that they never talked to anyone. Which one was getting married, she wondered? The tall thin girl. Or the shorter one who wore glasses? She had no idea which one was older. She supposed it was an arranged marriage. That’s what they did, didn’t they?   

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Big Blue

 “I want to move into this area, and this is where people like you come in – because artists and writers aren't constrained by the scientific processes. You can speculate, imagine yourself in the world of the whale. And then open-minded scientists, by looking at what artists produce, may make hypotheses that will lead us onto paths that will begin to crack these great mysteries.”  Philip Hoare
The scientists can give us the facts and without those facts I couldn’t write this story let alone make it in any way authentic. I choose however to write the heart of the story.  

He glides through the deep blue water. He maintains a pace of about five miles an hour.  This is the speed he likes. It isn’t hurried. Every so often he comes to the surface to breathe, pushing out a huge jet of water. Then back down in to the silky wetness that is his home.
The cold doesn’t bother him. It never has. It’s what he knows. He notices it though. He feels as well the sun that warms him as he lingers a short while on the surface.
Then down to the depths, mouth open, then closed and pushing out the water, leaving the krill behind. His belly feels empty and will take a while to fill yet. Still he punctuates his time in the depths with trips up to the surface. Pull in, push out, pull in, push out then push up and push out again. Now dive down into the cold depths. Until, at last, he is satisfied and can linger for longer just below the surface.
The sun invites him to play. He jumps high out of the water and anyone watching must assume he is full of joy. Yes, a true jump for joy, a leap of faith, as his tail flicks off water. Three times, he repeats this, twirling his whole body round the final time, slapping the surface hard as he lands. His skin now feels fresh and parasite-free.  
He is fed. He is clean. He has exercised. Sleepy and relaxed he floats like a log with the water just covering him.  
He dozes but something comes through the deep, penetrates his dreams and now he is alert. “Wohm, wohm, wohm.” With a higher-pitched echo. He recognises at once the call of the calf and its mother. He turns himself to be in a vertical position, pushes his head out of the water and looks around but sees nothing.
“Wohm, wohm, wohm,” he hears again. He puts his head back under the water and can feel the direction of the call.      
Now he is fully alert and begins to swim towards the sound with all of his strength. He accelerates up to and beyond his earlier five miles an hour. Soon he is charging along at twenty, anxious to meet them.     
A squeaker-whistler joins him. Normally he wouldn’t mind. They’re company of a sort and often help to pick out a sensible route through the waves. This one, though, is irritating. She squeaks at him constantly, jabs at his head and seems to want to push him away. She’s no match for him of course. One flick and he could crush her but some instinct stops him from doing that. Then every so often she lets out one of her piercing whistles. It sounds like a warning. If only he could understand her language.
She will not let him alone.
She nudges him again with her nose. He turns slightly. 
A shadow falls across the water. Something is not right. His mate’s call is nearer but not so near for this to be her. What other animal could be so big to cast such a shadow? 
Now the squeaker-whistler is actually nipping his side, forcing him to turn. Now she is jabbering away even more ferociously. He can no longer hear his mate easily.
Almost too late he recognizes what causes the shadow. It is the machine that humans use because they’re not so good at swimming. He tries to turn away from it but it’s a struggle. He hears the human voices. They are just as frenetic as the squeaker-whistler. They seem to have as much difficult turning as he does. The machine’s roar drowns out his mate’s call altogether.
Somehow they manage to avoid each other. There is the smallest gap between them and the squeaker would have been crushed if she had not jumped so expertly out of the way. He’d encountered one of these machines before and had not been so lucky with no squeaker to help. The machine had turned over that time, spilling its human riders into the ocean and he’d grazed his side badly. The scar still throbbed sometimes in the cold depths.  
His heart races. He can still hear them coming towards them. They will run into the machine, too, if he doesn’t warn them. He lifts his great tail and slaps it down on to the surface of the water.  Several times rapidly. He utters a warning, to them and others of his kind.
The squeaker whistles. She’s probably sending a message as well to her kind. Just as urgently by the sounds of it.
The mother and calf return his call. They understand, it seems. They are heading north. The human machine is travelling now towards the south. The danger is over. For the moment at least. He sends a confirmation message. 
The squeaker jumps over his nose and dives beneath him. She squeaks quietly then nudges him gently. He needs to surface and as he does she jumps again, landing on his nose. He dives again and she swims in front to him. She seems to sense when he is going to surface and three times comes up with him, lying on his nose. He tosses her gently into the air. She swims round him and under him and then jumps across him. He lines himself up a little beyond where she lands.
They travel along swiftly now but not urgently.
She gives him one more nudge and then turns west, squeaking and whistling as she goes.
Big Blue turns a little more to the north. A mother and child are waiting for him there. He relishes the sun each time he surfaces. He will be there soon. He accelerates up to twenty miles an hour again.