Silly Saturday in Spring

The garden looked brighter than I expected when I arrived home.

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But there is still a lot to be done for the spring tidy up…

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…if it ever stops raining.

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But the indoor garden is looking colourful.

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Everyday Plastic billboard captures one person’s plastic waste collected in a year

My environmental hero of the month is artist Daniel Webb, his art is rubbish – literally. Read about his amazing project.

Life & Soul Magazine

All the plastic used by artist Daniel Webb in an entire year has been documented in a huge photograph now on display at one of Britain’s oldest surviving amusement parks, Dreamland Margate.

The billboard, which was unveiled to the public yesterday as the amusement park re-opened for the season, aims to raise awareness of plastic pollution in the UK “in an accessible, honest and direct manner”, and encourage action to prevent it.

The collection of a year’s-worth of plastic was found to consist of around 4,500 pieces of plastic, of which 93% is single-use throwaway packaging, only four per cent of it being recycled in the UK.

The photograph, Everyday Plastic, features recognisable brands and familiar items in a host of colours, shapes and sizes.

Having laid out all of the plastic to the exact size of the billboard, the piece was photographed by Ollie Harrop using a 5m high by 6m wide rig…

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Friday Flash Fiction Flashback

                        In Jerusalem Tonight   

…and welcome back to In Jerusalem Tonight. We are talking to the youngest brother of a man arrested just hours ago by the authorities. He claims his older brother is completely innocent, but what about his political involvement?

No, he is interested in people not politics; that is why the crowds are drawn to him.

But what is he really like, do the public see the real man?

Yes and no. We’re just an ordinary family and I guess you’d say my brother is a chip off the old block. A real carpenter; like our father he has a feel for the wood, for the rest of us it’s just a labour. He is most like our father; strange that some gossips still say our mother tricked him into marriage, when she was carrying another man’s child. Maybe it’s because he is the eldest, but he does have the same wisdom and compassion our father had; qualities that not many people possess.

You paint a picture of a warm, loving family, why do you think your brother never married?

That’s a personal question only he could answer, but I think he knew he was never going to stay in the village. Travelling around, leaving a wife and family behind, he knew that would be wrong.

But he gets on well with women.

Yes he knows how to talk to them, as if they were equals, they appreciate that.

And yet in some ways he’s a loner.

I wouldn’t say that; he is a thinker, very deep. Most of us couldn’t take the solitary life, but he has the inner strength.

Would you describe him as highly intelligent?

Oh yes, it has always been a joke in our family that he held forth on theological matters when he was a child. But he never forgot how to talk to ordinary people. He was the perfect big brother; playing with us, making toys and of course he worships our mother.

So surely this is a man who will be able to talk his way out of this current little difficulty.

Yes, I’m sure he will see this is not the time to be humble.

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Caught on Camera

One holiday not long ago we were on Bodmin Moor, Cornwall; a dog walker, a few sheep and a man tending a crackling bonfire in the garden of the solitary house. A strange noise made us look up into the evening sky. We zoomed in with our cameras, not a UFO, but the first drone we had ever seen. Not the sort that drops bombs luckily, but what was it doing? Watching us? Is there anywhere you can go without being seen?

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The next day we returned and drove up a road to investigate the tall mast on Caradon Hill we had seen from afar. Warning signs said Private road, access only. We walked the rest of the way up the grassy hill, veering away from the unmade road, past the gigantic guy ropes, steel cables holding up the metal tower. There was a complex of buildings, entry by security pass only, CCTV in operation. Obviously a secret facility, we were being filmed and I expected armed troops to emerge at any moment to take us in for interrogation. The signs were headed by the word Arqiva – a sinister secret organisation for sure.

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The truth was more prosaic when I looked the place up on Wickepedia.

The Caradon Hill transmitting station is a broadcasting and telecommunications facility. Built in 1961, the station includes a 237.7 metres (780 ft) guyed steel lattice mast. The mean height for the television antennas is 603 metres (1,978 ft) above sea level. It is owned and operated by Arqiva, a British telecommunications company which provides infrastructure and broadcast transmission facilities in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

But perhaps that information was a cover up; we only escaped arrest because they had identified us as civilian ramblers.

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We are all being watched, all the time. CCTV cameras we know about, on buses, station platforms, in shops. We don’t know if we are being filmed or watched live. Above us are police, military and coastguard helicopters.

It is not only people who are being watched, so is your vehicle. Drive down many main roads and your journey has been recorded by ANPR – Automatic Number Plate Recognition; if the car is stolen or of interest for any reason it will be spotted. Police cars can now carry similar equipment. Writers of thrillers or crime novels have a harder time than ever helping their characters hide or escape, though in fiction and real life criminals are often one step ahead of new technology.

But writers can find new inspiration for plot ideas.

Pity the chap whose neighbour offers to give him a lift to Heathrow Airport in his mate’s car. By the time they are driving through the tunnel they have already been spotted on the spur road. Unbeknown to the occupants of the car, the neighbour’s friend is a criminal or terrorist. When the car is stopped they will have a hard time explaining who they are, by which time the flight will have been missed.

We have all seen pleas on television for missing persons or witnesses to the movements of a murder suspect. There on the screen is a CCTV picture taken inside a bus with the exact time and date. A wife spots her husband, who never uses buses and should have been at work on the other side of the city. A good starting point for a mystery.

In Brief Encounters of the Third Kind the main characters fear they are not only being observed, but controlled. There is no rational explanation for inexplicable events and when they finally reach a glimpse of the truth it is not what they expected.

 

Friday Flash Fiction Five Hundred

                                                     Terminal State

 

‘No one will ever know,’ said my friend that day in 1959 ‘and it was an accident.’

I expect that is what lots of murderers plead, but we were only ten years old. To this day I have no idea who he was, but I’ll never forget the look of surprise on his face, then the look of terror.

‘Be careful girls’ said my mother as we set off that sunny day.

We liked to watch the aeroplanes, then we would go exploring; Stanwell Moor, Colnbrook village, farms, fields and streams. We were free to wander the western edges of London Airport as long as we didn’t go near Perry Oaks.

My aunt and uncle had lived in Heathrow Village, till they were evicted during the war, but my parents lived out their years on the farm under the flight path, wedged between the runways. Up until the last it was like living in the country except for the ranks of landing lights.

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‘Stay together, don’t talk to any strangers and be back at teatime.’

He must have been a stranger, because no one noticed he had gone. For weeks we expected the police to turn up, looking for someone’s husband or father… or an escaped convict, after all he did act strangely.

‘You two girls out on your own? Have you ever seen a water vole?’

I nudged my friend, we turned to walk away, but he followed and what he showed us wasn’t a water vole. We wanted to run, but we were trapped on the edge of a bank that descended steeply. He was blocking the footpath that led back the way we had come.

‘Count to three then rush past him’ she said.

What happened next happened so quickly; it could have been any one of the three of us that went in; did we push him or did he slip? We had strayed into the forbidden territory, Perry Oaks sludge works and as he slipped under we knew why our parents feared it.

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Looking back as a teenager, an adult, I realised he was a flasher, a harmless loner perhaps. But had he followed us? Would he have murdered us? Two missing girls and every stretch of water would have been dragged, but his body was never found. We never told a soul, we didn’t want to get into trouble for being out of bounds; or that’s what we told ourselves.

My friend’s family took her off to Australia, we lost touch. I wondered if she ever told anyone, for years I half expected a policeman to knock on the door.

Then came the planning enquiry, five long years. We prayed the development would be turned down, no one wanted the upheaval and destruction, the removal of the last farm. But that is not what I dreaded.

Digging, draining, what would they find; a body preserved like peat bog man? When Terminal Five Heathrow opened, I knew at last that no one would ever know.

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‘Terminal State’ is one of the Flash Fiction Tales featured in

Someone Somewhere.

 

 

 

Quarter Acre Blog

The first time Australia was mentioned was at breakfast on a school day. I was astonished when Mum said

‘How would you like to go to another country?’

Where had this idea come from? The furthest we had ever been was a hundred miles to visit my aunt in Cheltenham.

I replied instantly ‘If I can have a horse.’

I had always wanted a horse and what other reason could there be for going to another country? I would need no help caring for it due to my extensive reading of the Kit Hunter Show Jumper series and all the other pony books I could lay my hands on.

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‘Australia?’

I returned from my reverie to hear what Mum was saying. A new picture presented itself; warm weather, living by the seaside and swimming every day. I couldn’t actually swim, but had been up to my chest at Frensham Ponds and in the sea, while Mum and Dad sat in deck chairs huddled in coats and rugs.

But my most vivid image of what our Australian life would be like came from my favourite television programme, The Adventures of the Terrible Ten. Ten children living in rural Victoria, who all had ponies, discovered some old packing cases and built Ten Town. They never went to school or saw their parents.

Mum said I might get a horse, would probably get a dog and would definitely go swimming. But for now the whole adventure must be kept deathly secret; until we knew for sure we had been accepted for migration. This meant absolutely no one, not even my best friend or my younger brother and sister. I kept the secret.

 

It was spring now and by autumn we would be ready to go, not on the dangerous voyage of the early settlers, but Mum and Dad would be burning their boats. Cheap flights at ten pounds each for Mum and Dad and free for children; but it was a one way ticket. My parents expected never to see England or their relatives again.

In the meantime a momentous year lay ahead. It was our last year at junior school; the first year Top Of The Pops was broadcast and in the garden shed our pet white mice were multiplying rapidly. As top years we went on school holiday for the first time to the Isle of Wight. It was a very pleasant holiday, but two strange things happened. As a Church of England school we knew several of our classmates were Roman Catholics, it made no difference to them or us. But on the Sunday of the holiday, one poor catholic boy was to be marked out as different. All of us were to attend morning service at the local church, but Eric’s mother had decreed that Eric must go to the catholic church. As a relatively new boy he was already slightly different; now as his lone figure trudged off in the opposite direction, to the mysteries of candles and incense, he had become an outcast. Later that day, as we ran around in the grounds of the hotel, some primeval, sectarian instinct took over and we all chased Eric; convinced in that moment that we were going to lynch him. Luckily the teacher came out blowing her whistle and normality was restored.

Peter was another unfortunate boy. For some reason he was the only child of our class of forty who didn’t come on the holiday. As we ate dinner one evening, the headmaster came into the dining room looking very distraught. Peter had run away from home and managed to reach the island before being caught by the police. We all thought him very clever to have got that far and very sad that he still wasn’t allowed to join us.

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Back at school our summer term was nearing its end; we practised maypole dancing ready for our centenary celebrations and Mum and Dad visited the headmaster. Later that day he entered the classroom to chat to us; a common occurrence, but this time I realised with horror he was talking about me. I had kept my promise and not told a soul and now was mortified the headmaster was telling everyone I was going to Australia! Having spent four years mostly unnoticed, I was now the centre of attention as everyone turned to look at me.

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As autumn arrived life became surreal. The date was set for our departure. I had passed my eleven plus, but it would make little difference to my future, the Australian schools were comprehensive. Our little school gang had been split in half, four of us were going to grammar school; one mother didn’t come out of the house for a week with shame that her daughter had failed. For a few weeks I experienced a glimpse of what my life might have been at a girls’ grammar school, dressed in bottle green uniform with the excitement of Bunsen burners.

Soon our house was sold and we had reached the point of no return. As the taxi collected us for the airport my grandparents stood stoically waving and my school friend Wendy skipped up the road after us; she would be the only person from those days to stay a lifelong friend.

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The taxi had been late, very stressful for my parents. As we arrived at London Airport     (now Heathrow) our friends and relatives were waiting, wondering if we had changed our minds. We rushed through with hardly time to say goodbye. The airport was much smaller then; as we climbed the steps to the plane we could see our loved ones gathered on the balcony waving. Except for Dad, it was the first time we had been on an aeroplane. I was really excited until I noticed the big card in the seat pocket. How to put on your lifejacket! Until that moment I had not considered the possibility that planes could crash. I wondered if we would reach Australia.

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My novel Quarter Acre Block was inspired by our family’s experience. It is not autobiographical, but people who have read it ask which things were ‘true’. Find out more at my website.   https://www.ccsidewriter.co.uk/chapter-six-fiction-focus

 

Sunrise Movement: Young people unite to stop climate change and make it an urgent priority in the US

We all have to save the planet and that requires countries to cooperate. But most countries are tied up with their own issues. American young people have two big fights on their hands; against the gun lobby and this post explains their fight for democracy. Politicians and big business have little interest in the environment and the lives of ordinary people.

Life & Soul Magazine

Sunrise Movement is building an army of young people to make climate change an urgent priority across the USA.

Uniting young people to stop the climate crisis, Sunrise Movement is calling for a transition​ ​to​ ​a​ ​100%​ ​renewable​ ​energy​ ​economy​ ​that​ ​leaves​ ​no​ ​one​ ​behind, an​ ​immediate​ ​halt​ ​on​ ​all​ ​new​ ​fossil​ ​fuel​ ​projects, and the​ ​break-up​ ​of​ ​the​ ​large​ ​energy​ ​monopolies​ ​and​ ​a​ ​transition​ ​to​ ​local,​ ​democratic control​ ​over​ ​the energy​ ​system.​

Sunrise Movement say: “We are ordinary young people who are scared about what the climate crisis means for the people and places we love. We are gathering in classrooms, living rooms, and worship halls across the country.

“Everyone has a role to play. Public opinion is already with us – if we unite by the millions we can turn this into political power and reclaim our democracy.”

From May through to November, Sunrise Movement’s “nonviolent army” of more than 100 young people…

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