Category: Fiction

‘Elmer and Louise’ by Lesley Atherton, Part 4

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Elmer had assumed he was dead but, as occurs regularly in the cliffhangers of psychological thrillers, the ‘death’ he experienced proved to be an enormous exaggeration of his symptoms.

He was hurting, bleeding a little, and had bumped his head and almost every one of his body’s protrusions on the van and on the pavement’s kerbstone… but he was a strong and sturdy guy, and despite his injuries was in far better condition than he deserved to be after being hit by the large, white plumber’s van.

Following Elmer’s self-ejection from the stolen car, Dulcie and Louise had done exactly what he’d expected. The car had stalled right next to Elmer’s fallen form, but his girlfriend and sister had chosen not to scoop him up, return his forcibly to their stolen car, and take him with them on their journey.

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They’d driven off, without even a backwards glance, leaving Elmer crumpled in the gutter and with nobody but the driver of the white van to offer assistance. The plumber, at least, showed some empathy, squealing his vehicle to a halt and practically falling out of the van door in his eagerness to get to the crumpled shape.

‘Oh my God, you alright, mate…? Mate…? You just fell out of the car and my van hit you and then you rolled to the edge. It’s lucky there were no cars coming.’

Elmer shuffled slightly on the kerb and grimaced. ‘You can go. I’ll be alright.’

‘I can’t leave you here like this.’ The plumber’s forehead dripped with perspiration.

Elmer wiped his eyebrow with his forearm and was less concerned than he should have been when the blood seeping from his skull coloured the skin a deep crimson.

‘Here, get in. I’ll take you to the hospital. It’s only a few minutes away. It’s the least I can do.’

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Elmer nodded and allowed himself to be helped to his feet and guided towards the van. His right shoulder, hip, ankle and knee hurt like mad from the impact, and he struggled pathetically onto the front seat.

‘I’m Simon.’ The plumber offered a hand to shake.

‘Elmer.’ He shook his head. ‘No handshake. My wrist is killing me.’

‘I’m not surprised… You hit the ground pretty hard. And Elmer’s a pretty weird name.’

‘Yeah. Even worse when you try living with it. My sister’s called Louise. She was in that stolen car. That’s why I got out.’

‘What do you mean?’ He started up the van and the tinny rumble seemed to trigger cognition.

 ‘Hell! Elmer and Louise! No way! Your parents named you after a film?!’

‘Yeah. They had a terrible sense of humour. And look where it led us. Lou’s on her very own criminal road trip. I’m surprised it took her this long to come up with the idea, to be honest. I’m the straight one. She’s always been a wild card.’

Simon put on his seatbelt and took a toke of his e-cig before replacing it into his overall’s pocket. Elmer’s nose crinkled.

‘God, that smells like my grandma’s mouldy pot pourri. What’s it supposed to be?’

‘Can’t remember. Cinnamon biscuit? Strawberry and lime cheesecake? These things are a pile of crap, really. All they ever taste of is charcoal briquettes and ethanol… Strapped in?’

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‘Strapped in?’

‘Seatbelt. Get your seatbelt on.’

‘Oh. Yeah. I’ve done it. Thanks.’

‘Guess that means your arm isn’t broken. Still need to go to the hospital though.’

Elmer shrugged, then nodded in resignation, closed his eyes, leaned his congealing scalp against the van’s head rest, and began to sob.  

Review of Short Stories – Snapshots of Life, Morality and the Complex Human Landscape of Emotion

by Guest Blogger, Rebecca Wilson

Throughout my life in education so far, I have received the same message – that ‘high quality’ literature lies exclusively within the academically compiled lists of ‘classics’ which frequently feature lengthy pagination and fairly distant publication dates.

The majority of these ‘classics’ consist of reams and reams of plot, description and deeper meaning. However, the sheer length of many of these ‘classics’ has (arguably) rather ironically led some of them to fall into the trap many writers face – maintaining balance.

Although I am by no means advocating that all longer stories lack balance, as you lengthen a story, the danger of this pitfall increases, and the deeper meanings in works can sometimes be swamped by excessive description or other forms of irrelevant minor detail.

This is where short stories have a unique advantage over longer stories. This trap is often much easier to avoid.

So why do short stories not have the same claim to the literary spotlight?

Don’t be deceived by their length, these works can offer a lot more than you may initially think…

Punchy, Powerful Messages…
With Clarity!

When reading short stories, readers are arguably less inclined to rake through dozens of pages before uncovering any implicit messages. The power of these messages is thus less likely to be sacrificed or difficult to extract, as is the case with some of history’s most hailed literary classics. A key example of this in my opinion would be Tolkien’s famous Lord of the Rings trilogy. Although a classic story, and one which I adore, the important messages it carries such as those of the value of friendship, loyalty and teamwork are often lost amongst the endless description of the vast landscape and history of Tolkien’s Middle Earth. Although I can admire Tolkien’s expansive imagination, in his ability to build a world in such minute detail, the level of this detail included in the story can sometimes make reading the trilogy an arduous and lengthy task, rather than a singular source of enjoyable fantasy escapism.

Quality not Quantity
(of Pages and Profit!)

It’s no hidden secret that many classic novels, such as Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles often owe their length to the practice of serialisation and being ‘paid by the letter’. Here, the creativity vs commerce debate begins to flare up again, although it is often difficult to judge whether novels entirely owe their length to this cause or not. The endless sub plots and lengthy descriptions evident in classics such as DickensGreat Expectations can most certainly frame many classics as guilty of this in many respects, whereas shorter stories can often pack unique punches some longer stories can find, owing to their length, much harder to achieve.

Travelling and mental exhaustion

We’ve all experienced this. We’ve all been on a holiday, or a long journey, or simply sat at home ‘relaxing’, picked up a book and after a certain amount of time been more focused on getting to a numerical target rather than reading the text itself. Just picking up a book that has 400+ pages can be a bit daunting, with your brain telling you “this is going to take forever”, and thus, in this mindset, it does. And then you procrastinate from reading it, and alas, five months later, you’re only 200 pages into reading Vanity Fair (and yes, I am speaking from personal experience here). The book is abandoned, you grumble something about time wasting, and move on to a different book (not a classic this time, seeing as you’re holding a grudge for a bit). This is why shorter stories are simply perfect for the weary traveller who just wants something interesting to dip into for a short while, and why short stories can often maintain reader interest for a longer amount of time.

Skill of the Writer in World and Character Building – in Such a Short Space of Time!

This is a skill that is very difficult to master. Longer stories enable writers to gradually build up characters and thus have the safety net of future events in the story to fall back on should the development of a certain aspect be sparse in one section of the novel. Short story writers do not have this safety net, and so their ability to craft worlds and characters in such short spaces of time, that are interesting and sufficiently developed to keep readers engaged should be celebrated as a true indication of artistic talent.

Exploration of Ideas Not Suitable for Longer Work

Some ideas that are captured in short stories, such as singular emotions or experiences, can be very high intensity or simply not suitable to be explored in a feature length novel. To shorten a story can often be an efficient way of ensuring intensity remains high, concentration is less likely to fade and allows unique ideas to be explored in isolation, rather than being mentioned briefly amongst a tangled web of plot, description and characterisation. To cite an example, in Lesley Atherton’s collection of short stories Can’t Sleep Won’t Sleep Vol.1, there is a fascinating short story titled ‘Conflict’. This is my favourite of the collection, because it explores one singular emotion in such great depth, and just makes you, well, think!

And that’s simply to name a few unique benefits reading shorter stories can offer you. So why not read some yourself and see these ideas in action? Lesley Atherton’s series of short stories titled Can’t Sleep Won’t Sleep currently has five volumes for you to delve into, and the series most certainly embodies the ideas listed above surrounding the unfairly marginalised value short stories possess within an ever-expanding modern literary landscape.

#lesleyfridayreads, #can’tsleepwon’tsleep, #scottmartinproductions, #rebeccawilson, #lesleyatherton, #shortstory, #shortstories

‘Elmer and Louise’ by Lesley Atherton, Part 3

Elmer’s girlfriend, Dulcie, tapped her acrylics on the passenger side of the car’s dashboard.

‘So,’ Elmer urged, glaring at her. ‘What’s with the car?’

His sister, Louise, was still struggling to remove her disguise and make-up, but piped up from the back seat. ‘Well…’ Elmer turned to offer his encouragement and noticed Louise’s eyes flickered sparkly and bright.

‘We kind of took it.’

‘Took it? From whom?’

‘Erm, I wasn’t introduced to the actual owner. We found it in the Asda car park.’

Elmer stopped the car and grabbed his girlfriend’s arm.

‘What?! There’s CCTV all over that car park. They’ll have seen you.’

‘They’ll have seen two mad old ladies. Not us. Even you didn’t recognise us.’

‘But what about fingerprints? Oh my God, my fingerprints are all over a stolen car!’

Dulcie sighed and continued tapping.

‘Well, yes. But so are ours.’

‘But why would you steal a car? Louise? Dulcie? What the hell’s going on? Why have you done this? Why have you got me involved? I didn’t need this. I have a management meeting tomorrow morning.’

Elmer held his hand over his frantically beating heart. ‘Come on, you two. I have a life. I’m next in line for a big promotion too. I can’t get involved in crime. Not even as an observer. There’s no way.’

‘Calm down, Mr Asthma Attack,’ Louise teased as Elmer’s face reddened.

He glared. ‘I haven’t had asthma since I was a kid, Louise, and believe me, I’m not going to capitulate on this one like I always used to. Mum and dad are going to be told about what you’ve done. You’ll be disowned by all of us. I’m going to tell Paul too. You’ll be a jailbird divorcee by the time you’re forty. And you, Dulcie, why would you jeopardise your new acting career my doing something so stupid?’

Suddenly realising that he was still holding the steering wheel, Elmer let go and with the end of his tie began to wipe as many of the car’s surfaces he could reach.

‘And shut up with those fingernails, Dulce!’

The tapping didn’t stop, but otherwise the two women held their silence as he continued wiping, and that was when, in utter frustration, Elmer threw himself out of the stolen car, and straight into the path of a large, white workman’s van. He crumpled under the tyres as the van screeched to a halt.

Did Elmer survive?

What happened to his sister and girlfriend?

And was there any reasoning behind any of the day’s events?

Well, obviously, yes. There’s always a reason. Or should I say that there’s always an explanation, though such explanations may be devoid of all reason.

That’s what Elmer thought as he emerged from under the white delivery van, and noticed the symbol on the side. It was in the shape of a stylised toilet, and underneath was the text: ‘Trust Us With Your Plumbing’.

He wasn’t going to trust anyone again in a hurry. He’d trusted two mad old ladies with his life, and look where he was just twenty minutes later: broken and bruised, with resentment and fury in his soul.

After all, he had things to do, places to go, work to finish and hair to preen.

Elmer and Louise, Part 2

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The cure for depression is to purchase and use something expensive and new. That’s what Elmer’s mum had always told him, hence the suit and his manicure. He knew from experience that it didn’t always work. And when this was the case, doing good deeds was the only way to go.

†Elmer leaned against the door, and looked again at the nun who immediately began apologising for the dog-hair covered tartan blanket, but Elmer liked its digestive biscuits and dog paws smell.

‘How did you get here if you can’t drive?’

‘She can. She started, anyway. But then we stopped at traffic lights and this man went mad at us and she got out to tell him off. That was when he went at her with his fists and started saying she was a (swear word) god-botherer.’

‘Can she walk?’

‘She can’t see and her leg is all bloody. Don’t think so.’

‘I’ll drive her to the hospital. Then you can get help.’

‘How long will that take?’

‘Thirty seconds.’

‘Can she wait that long?’

‘She’ll have to. And the longer we wait here, the worse she’s going to be.’

‘Thank you, angel,’ came the whispered voice as I got into the driver’s seat and started it up.

‘Seat belt, seat belt,’ said the loony, throwing herself into the car next to Elmer while he plugged himself in.

That was when he heard the click of the car’s central locking.

That was when he heard the loony nun’s cackle.

‘Straight on, mate, and no funny business or this’ll go straight through your brain. ’

She brandished a tiny pistol that had been pulled from her coat’s inner pocket.

‘What’s going on? The hospital is next right.’

‘That might be the case,’ said the now very much recovered back seat passenger, ‘but that’s not where we’re going.’

‘That’s true, Mr Elmer Bartholomew Cross.’ The front seat loony had by that point removed her angling wellies and coat, and was beginning to look remarkably familiar.

‘I gave you enough clues, Elmer, Didn’t you guess it was me when you saw Scamp’s dog blankey?’

She clearly was not a nun. Not A sister. HIS sister. And the loony next to him was peeling off her facial prosthesis. He should have known it. His sister Louise, and his girlfriend, Dulcie. The drama school graduate. As she peeled off the final piece she grinned and removed her fake upper teeth. ‘That’s better.’

She sighed happily. ‘Remember telling me that there was no point in my going or that audition? Because I’ve never been much of an actress? Remember, Elmer? Well, I got the job. First proper one I’ve been to. It’s telly, and a long series, so will be good money too. So I guess your girlfriend really CAN act. What do you say to that?’

Elmer nodded his head and continued the driving.

‘Well done, you two,’ he said. ‘Good jape. But where’s the car come from?’

That was likely a different story.

Elmer steeled himself to hear it.

Elmer and Louise, Part 1

Elmer’s daydreams of escape and relief at having finally left the office, were disturbed within a minute or so of him arriving at the bus stop. The disturber was a disheveled eccentric woman anxiously circling a car that she seemed far too poverty-stricken to have ever owned. His own hair, primped, preened and moussed to perfection, bristled as he took a proper look. He shuddered, clearly being as fit, healthy and self-contained as she was demented. It’s what came from working at the hospital, surrounded by sickness and by healthy living posters. There was something to be said for saturation advertising.

It wasn’t only the woman’s actions that were demented. Her legs were clad in filthy long anglers’ wellies and her trenchoat, face and hair were blood-streaked and filthy. Later, he’d remember her as flapping like a vampire bat, but as she called him, he was far more concerned that she didn’t get run over.

Image: Pngtree

‘Are you alright, lady?’

His accent was refined Edinburgh, with the intentional focus on ‘refined’.

‘Thank God. Thank God. Come here. Wounded cargo.’

What?

She grabbed the sleeve of Elmer’s suit jacket and he bristled again. She was not the kind of woman who’d be encouraged to touch any part of him or of his apparel, and she definitely was not allowed to touch his navy blue silk blend. Lee Rager suits weren’t made to be pawed at by unwashed fingers, nor their fibres broken by her rasping, uncut nails. Almost £2000, the suit cost him. £1993, to be exact, once he’d had he pants shortened.  

‘Can you get off me, lady?’

It was more an order than a request, and the woman backed off, beckoned and urged him towards the car’s back seat.

‘Look. Look. Me sister’s been attacked. She’s been attacked. She’s precious, wounded cargo. Make her better. You’re a doctor aren’t you?’

‘I’m not.’

‘A nurse?’

‘No. I work in administration. The hospital’s just there – that big building there.’

‘I know. That’s why I’m here… but I bumped the car.’

Elmer followed the madwoman’s eyes. Lying on the car’s back seat was a woman dressed in black robe with white headpiece. The white was stained with blood, rusty dried and cherry wet. The black was speckled and streaked with dried clay mud and darkened bloody patches. The woman moved her head a little and looked back at him.  

‘You’re an angel. A saint,’ she mumbled, blood bubbling from her mouth’s corners.

‘I’m a hospital administrator. Not an angel.’

‘Oh God, in heaven. I give you thanks for delivering this angel to me.’

Elmer sighed. She was as batty as her sister.

‘She’s in a bad way, kid,’ he said to the crazier of the two. The one not lying collapsed on the back seat. ‘You have to take her to hospital.’

‘I can’t drive.’

Elmer shook his head. It was typical of him to get saddled with each and every lunatic who passed his way. And here were two – one who was demented and the other who thought she was a nun. Perhaps they were on their way to a fancy dress party, but he suspected that both of the poor unfortunates had come straight from the loony bin.

Part two coming soon…

The China Kitchen: Chapter One

In front of my face a hand hovered. Wrinkled and lined with cracked and split fingernails, it was also dirty with the kind of filth that can only be described as ‘caked-on’.

How long I’d been crumpled behind the ‘China Kitchen’ bins, in a mess of boxes and overflowing black bin bags, was hard to tell, especially as I didn’t even know who I was anymore.

The hand brought its own problems with it. It brought the danger of others. People like this man. People who might have known me, and who might have wanted to cause me harm. Though, of course, the person may have also wanted to help me. He may have been reaching out to me with love in his heart and nothing but empathy in his reach. Still, my heart hammered in my chest. This was real fear, because I knew that when that hand neared my hair it wasn’t for reasons of empathy that his fingers were approaching me. Perhaps I knew it because of the pincer movement of those grasping digits, but I think it was more the expression on the man’s face which emerged out of the darkness, unattached from its accompanying limbs. The expression plus the noise that emerged from that weasel-like toothless visage. It was the noise of grunting, choking swine, emerging from a stinking, pointy-nosed specimen of feeble masculinity. I was sweating with fear and could barely see straight.

‘Give us your ring,’ he croaked, between wheezes.

‘And give us your necklace.’

My hand immediately rose to my neck. I couldn’t lose the gold sovereign, though I wasn’t sure precisely why. There was no reason in the whole of the world that I would just hand it over to that repulsive man.

‘No,’ I croaked, my voice low and deep.

‘Yes,’ he insisted, and his blackened finger reached down to stroke my stubbled chin. I cringed and pulled back as much as I was able. The man cackled breathily, and his gasps brought about a long, deep coughing spell. The force of his body’s spasms pushed the revolting man backwards towards the other side of the alleyway. I took my chance and stumbled to my feet, while he was still wiping his eyes of moisture and calming his overactive lungs.

I seemed to be physically unharmed, and fully dressed. I wasn’t in pain, and didn’t feel as if I’d been attacked, but I just didn’t know why I was there, what was my name, and how to get home. Judging by my clothing which was smart and brightly coloured, though somewhat stained and creased from my time behind the bins, I wasn’t a person of the streets. Unlike that wizened old man who glared at my newly upright form, who took in my clothing and scanned my height and build, and who clearly realised his own attack was pointless. I was twice his height, almost, and more than twice his breadth.

He growled a mouthful of obscenities in my direction and trudged towards the warm spot I’d just vacated, and as he mouthed his final ‘Arrogant ponce’ at me, a sliver of a memory began to return. Yes, that was it. I knew how I’d ended up in the alley behind the ‘China Kitchen’ bins, but I almost wished I’d forgotten forever.

It was the word ‘ponce’ that did it for me. Yes, I was a man who benefitted from the on-the-back work of street girls, and gradually the gaudily made-up faces of Crystal, Ellie and Jools wafted into my consciousness. My girls. Crystal, blonde and cute, with a drug habit that hasn’t yet spoiled her looks, and the tiniest feet I’ve ever seen on a grown adult. I’ve seen a fair few too, being in my line of business. I remembered Ellie and Jools, twin sisters who’d gone on the game owing to both parents abdicating all responsibility for their upkeep as soon as they turned 13. I did enjoy the company of those two. Such sweet girls, and Jools had pretty much the best sense of humour of any person in my employ. God, she should have been a stand-up comic. And Ellie, darling Ellie, could drink like a fish and hold it. She was a laugh and a half too.

With pounding head, I walked to the restaurant’s kitchen door. I didn’t knock as I knew I didn’t need to. It was my place. They were my girls, and here – the cook with the machete knife, he was mine too. Sam, the head chef, noticed my arrival and stared at me with an expression I couldn’t quite evaluate.

‘Mr Filey. Don. What’s happened?’ He began to walk towards me then realised he was still holding his knife. He replaced it on the counter top and grabbed my hand. As the knife clattered and glinted on the counter top, the other kitchen staff froze and stared in my direction, vacant-faced, like sheep on a windy night.

‘Good God, Don, you look terrible,’ said Sam.

‘I don’t know where I am.’

Sam dug around in the pocket of my overcoat and drew out an empty bottle. Vodka. I knew I’d bought it earlier that day, and suddenly I realised that the stinky man in the alley behind MY restaurant who wanted to steal MY jewellery, was nothing but a figment of MY soused imagination.

‘You’ve gotta stop drinking, Don. You’ve gotta stop drinking. Now, mate, now.’

I nodded with effort and patted Sam on the upper arm. The noise within the kitchen seemed to return, and the previously staring staff reanimated themselves. A path was cleared for me, as I trudged to the stairwell, then up towards my office. Never again, I thought. Never again.

I virtually fell onto my chair and rested my head on my mahogany desk. I looked towards my hands, and knew. Just knew that the hands I’d seen reaching for me in the alley had been my own.

Sam was right. I needed to stop drinking. I also needed to liberate my girls. Let them have their own lives. Manage my proper business again. Get organised. Take back control.

I fished in my zippered jacket pocket, found my secret key, and unlocked my largest desk drawer. The contents were as I expected. As they always were. A bottle of White Star vodka; a densely filled note book, a canvas bag that I knew contained £85,000 in £50 notes, my new passport purchased from Sly Larry only last month… And, of course, my untraceable revolver. It was down to me, and me alone, what happened next.

I unscrewed the vodka cap.

Review of ‘Moving Times’ by Phoenix Writers

‘Moving Times’ is a book put together to celebrate the decade-long existence of the Phoenix Writers group, from Horwich Lancashire, and the contributors should be highly proud of what they’ve achieved.  

The first thing you notice is that it is a very attractive book with a simple but well-designed and effective cover. This really does the contents justice, which is something not achieved by all small press and writing group books.

As a member of three/four writing groups, I really do identify with the sentiments expressed in the book’s foreword – ‘What moves you, gets you out of bed in the morning, drives you to action? For us on a Thursday, it’s Phoenix Writers. We meet as friends, share ideas and get support and inspiration’. Yes, that’s what a strong and healthy writing group does for the usually lone creative. Such a group provides a stable and caring home for people who, by the nature of their pastime, can feel rootless and isolated. Phoenix is clearly a great base for many thoughtful and interesting writers.

This book contains just over 100 pages of stories, poetry and thoughts, and style/content-wise, there really is something for everyone. When reading a book of this type, I always begin with the poetry.

Ann Lawson’s ‘Iambic Tetrameter Rules, Okay?’ is a clever and amusing poem about the frustrations of forcing your creativity into a restrictive art form, and am sure the sentiments expressed will resonate with most poets.  With a completely different feel, ‘S is for Sharing’ is a short and life-affirming verse by Tony Nolan about all the positives in the world. This joy in living can be in short supply at times, so it’s pleasant to read regular reminders. In a similar vein, Joy Pope’s poem titled ‘Horwich Times’ made me proud to have connections with the town, and even more keen to produce my own book about Horwich – ‘a town of bustling resilience’. Kathleen Proctor’s poem, ‘Alexander, My Grandson’ is the most beautiful recollection of love for a grandchild who is ‘snuggling, nuzzling’ and ‘Chubby, chunky, comfortable’. Jeanne Waddington’s poem ‘The Contrariness of Young Love’ is about insurmountable contrasts between a young couple. It’s a regular enough subject, but the style lends it originality – ‘She’s a summer’s evening, he’s a cloudy day.’

The stories are also lovely to read and insightful. Bernie Jordan’s story ‘Time Moves’ begins this collection with a vivid recollection of a moment in the life of a crane and a railway bridge at Lostock station. 

‘Turning Left,’ Janet Lewison’s unpretentiously written tale, immediately drew me in with its endearing dialogue about a woman who ends up in a hired home that comes with its own snazzy car. She is changing her life, and the Cobra she now drives provides its own form of liberation.

‘Newfoundland’ by Elaine Hamilton is a short but lovely tale of boats, and it really conjured up a misty and weird atmosphere.

‘Going to Waste’ (by Dotty Snelson) is one of the longer pieces in the book, about recycling, hoarding, skip-diving and the make-do-and-mend ideology of a man, Gordon, his wife Sheila, and their personal tragedy. I really enjoyed this touching story.  

Barbara Oldham’s story ‘Stolen Bikes’ was about that very subject – or was it? Reading it, you really get a feel for the woman behind this very witty monologue.

Terence Park’s story ‘Wild Mouse’ tells the story of Mags and Rebecca on a day out at Blackpool Pleasure Beach. They take in all the pleasures and try to defer their ride on the ‘Wild Mouse’. The characters leapt from the page, especially their dialogue.

‘What the Spider Said’ by Phil Chrimes is an insightful tale of a conversation between Boris, a spider, and Humphrey. Their conversation is simple and so endearing. Pam Hunter provides another spider-related piece of writing as she relates the tale of ‘Little Miss Muffet’ and gives the reader the story behind it. There’s a lot to learn from how fairy tales and nursery rhymes come about.

Alan Gibbs’ piece ‘It Started Well and Just Got Better’ is about a campervan trip to Mull to view white-tailed eagles. This gorgeous personal recollection was good to read and really encourages the reader to visit this area of the world.

Lastly. Margaret Halliday’s piece, ‘My Home is in India’ did bring a tear to my eye. Margaret passed away in March 2019, and also attending ‘Write You Are’ – another Horwich-based writing group of which I am a member. I knew Margaret’s writings well, and this appreciation of her life in India was Margaret to the core, and a lovely, though unintentional tribute to her.

Thanks, Phoenix, for this book. Greatly enjoyed!