Wednesdays with Mary

“What do you fancy watching, today, Mary?” Becky gazes over the limited selection of DVDs in the collection, anticipating Mary’s choice before she’s even given it.  Becky knows Mary very well.

“Ah, something with a bit of action, I think,” Mary replies with an almost giddy response, to which Becky nods in agreement – for her.

“Sounds good to me.  How about some classic Bruce Willis?” She pulls out a DVD they’ve watched together nearly every Wednesday afternoon, for the last ten years.

“Oh yes.  Haven’t seen that one for ages.  I forget how it ends.”

“Me too,” Becky smiles, grabs the remote and settles on the sofa next to Mary.

Two seconds later, there’s a knock at the door, that only Becky hears. She knows who it’s going to be.  She starts the film and leaves Mary immediately engrossed in the opening credits, to answer it.

Penny stands smiling on the other side of the door.  “Hey, love.  How are you?  What are you and your mum up to today?”  Penny tries to peek over Becky’s shoulder to see how one of her elderly clients is.

“Oh, you know.  The usual.”  Becky smiles, swallowing back the tears building up within her.  The tears are swallowed every Wednesday.

Penny smiles, and glances at the TV screen blaring out an action film from the eighties, all to offer Becky a moment to take a breath if she needed it. “Oh, I love that film!” Penny says, winking at Becky.  “If you need anything, love, I’m on shift until ten tonight.  And my office is just down the hall.”

“Thank you, Penny.  I – we appreciate it.” She smiles and closes the door.

Sitting back on the sofa, Becky asks her mum, “What did I miss, Mary?”


Prompted by link here.






Whispers of wonder

“Did you see that?” his wife whispered to him with sudden, youthful excitement.

Over the years, he’s loved how her whispers can echo throughout him.  And how the sweetness of her voice can raise the hairs on his arms – how her sound can tingle.

Never more than two pulses away from her, he looks to where her eyes are currently transfixed.

“Did you see that my love?” she whispers again, although this time more to herself in disbelief, than to her husband next to her.

He smiles, softly.  He didn’t see it, and he doesn’t mind, because that doesn’t really matter.  He sees and hears everything he could possibly want for, standing next to his love, feeling the hairs on his arms raise again.


Prompted by link here.

The keeper of her heart

It’s how she scrunches her nose at him, with that glint in her cool blue eyes.

It’s when she takes his arm, and how she delicately slips her arm through to link with his.  And the gentle squeeze she gives, letting him know she’s safely locked in.

It’s knowing she can always find him in a crowded room – like being either side of a pair of magnets; Connecting together quickly, or by being able to touch each other, despite a forced distance between them.

It’s the way she smiles at him and appreciating that she doesn’t need to offer him anything – ever.  Not even her precious smiles.  Yet, she does.  And she smiles at him every day.


Prompted by link here.


Rules of rejection

For her, there are no official rules in rejection.  She behaves as she should, if and when she receives some; with grace, yet fiercely – in equal measure.  She moves on when she wants and rarely explains why.  These are her rules.  And she never expects anyone else to understand them.

It’s taken years for her to be this carefree.  To be this brave.

Although she can no longer see them, she knows they’re still there.  The hidden reminders.  The haunting memories of her past rejections.  And the rules she once followed.


Prompted by link here.

Mar 17th – Douglas O’Malley

March 17th – Douglas O’Malley


Douglas O’Malley (1945-2011) was an exceptionally rare creature: a professional sportsman in three North American sports who failed spectacularly at the highest level. His death, at the age of 66, brings to an end the era of the elite level multi-sportsman. We will not see the likes of Douglas O’Malley again.

Born in Toronto to a fairly affluent middle-class parents (His father, Donal, was a civil servant who had been invalided out of the war after seeing action at Dunkirk, his mother Sheila was a schoolteacher), the O’Malleys moved to New York state when Douglas was four, after his father accepted a position with one of the newly-created State Department offices. This was unusual for a Canadian citizen, but it is believed that Donal pulled a few strings among the Irish-American community on the strength of his name alone, having no direct Irish lineage that anyone was aware of.

Douglas quickly became recognised for his sporting prowess. He held several All-State track records, and was the star receiver on his high school team. It was no surprise when he was awarded a scholarship to New York University, where he became the standout receiver for the Collegiate team. It was during this time that he was persuaded to try baseball for the first time, quickly becoming the leading hitter for the NYU team in what was recognised as a lean period for the Violets. His talent was such that he was selected for the draft in both sports, the first NYU athlete to claim this distinction.

Football was his first love, though, and Douglas was drafted in the 17th round of the 1972 draft by the Cincinnati Bengals. Injury delayed his start, and it wasn’t until the start of the 1973-4 season that Douglas O’Malley was to make his first start, coming on in the 2nd period to replace Mike Hoskins.

That game, against the Steelers, was to be Douglas O’Malley’s first and last experience of the NFL. On his first play he fumbled a looping throw from Chuck Woodrow, resulting in a touchdown from the turnover. He managed another four incomplete passes before being withdrawn from the game with a total of zero yards. He never played another game.

Released by the Bengals at the end of the season, Douglas O’Malley was picked up as a free agent by the Oakland A’s, who were having a poor hitting season. Unfortunately for O’Malley, however, his baseball debut was as inauspicious as his football one, and a consecutive streak of strikeouts, along with a change of ownership of the A’s at the end of the week of his debut meant that Douglas O’Malley’s contract was cancelled and he was obliged to seek alternative employment.

Disillusioned with his sporting career, Douglas O’Malley returned to Toronto, and found sporting enjoyment in amateur hockey, where his passion and drive for competitive sports was reignited. An injury crisis at the Toronto Maple Leafs, coupled with O’Malley’s blistering form in the amateur leagues led to him becoming the Leafs oldest debutant at the age of thirty-three.

Two goals in the second period of his debut, against the Edmonton Oilers, made it appear as if the Leafs had unearthed a diamond, but in the third period O’Malley deflected two Oilers’ shots into his own net before a collision with his own netminder resulted in a dislocated knee and the end of another career.

O’Malley was never to play professional sport again. He moved into advertising, and became successful, first as a with Schuster and Lorimer, and then in his own right, founding the O’Malley agency, who, ironically, were responsible for the highly successful Maple Leafs campaign of the late eighties that turned around falling ticket sales and built the platform for the modern success of the club.

Douglas O’Malley is survived by his wife and three children.


Inspired by a prompt from here

Mar 16th – Invincible endeavours

Not what I was going to write, but I’m giving a speech in Luxembourg today for a Brexit rally, and I wrote this in 10 minutes, and it kind of fits. So I’m cheating a bit. 


Brexit speech

Place de la Constitution, Luxembourg

24th March 2019

I shouldn’t be here.

Not because I should be directing some kids in a drama rehearsal right now, because I should, but because there shouldn’t be any need for me to stand here. There shouldn’t be any need for me to add my voice to the voices of the million that marched in London yesterday, or the 4 and a half million that have, in the last week, caused the UK government petitions website to crash under unprecedented demand. I shouldn’t be here because I should have no need to stand here to add my voice to the clamour of those calling on the UK government to sort itself out, and to listen to reason rather than bang spoons against the saucepan it has stuck on its head.

I am English. I am British. But I am also European.

I am proud to carry a passport with the words ‘European Union’ stamped on the cover. Because I believe in the power of a union, the strength of a union, and the strength that comes in standing together, and belonging together.

We don’t all have to agree. No-one wants us all to agree. Decisions borne out of compromise and negotiation are at the heart of the European idea, decisions taken that have ensured employment protection, clean drinking water, medical care and human rights across the European Union. And to see my country turn its back on this hurts. It hurts.

David Cameron lined up the dominoes in June 2016, then he pushed the first one, and walked away as they fell. And the dominoes fell. They cascaded with the weight of lies on the back of a bus behind them, with populism pushed to the front and right-wing bandwagon-jumpers pedalled unicycles made of clichés alongside them, whipping up a storm. And that hurts.

I am a teacher. I have been lucky enough to work in four European countries, taking advantage of the freedom of movement that European Union membership has given me. To see this right to move, to work, to live in any of the member states, to move between them freely and without restrictions, on the edge of being pushed off the ever-growing cliff that is Brexit is a massive hurt. I try to teach the students in my classes to be accepting, to be independent, to think for themselves and to question what they are being fed by the media, social and traditional, and to challenge injustice. Thousands of young people here in Luxembourg marched on the climate strike this month. All of these people, under 18 years of age, rose up and demanded change, demanded a say in determining the future of the planet. All of those under 18 had no say in the Brexit vote, yet these are the ones who have the most to lose.

I worry about my children. I worry about the country that I grew up in looking inwards instead of outwards. I worry about a vote that rejects inclusion and co-operation over ‘taking our country back’ and mushrooming ignorance.  There has to be a solution that avoids screwing up the future. There has to be another way. A million people on the streets of London seem to think so. We have to hope that the politicians take their heads out of the sand for long enough to listen.

Ech sinn Englesch. Ech sinn och Europaer.


Nicked nails

He was beautiful.  His extensions, eyebrows, makeup was all on point.  He had finally achieved the perfect ‘glow’ on his highly coveted chiseled cheekbones.  It was just a matter of combining fake-tan with a little blush.  And his outfit was both daring and yet simply stunning.

There was a definite air about him.  The way he walked.  The way he carried himself.  How he held eye-contact with everyone he met.  And the way he looked at them… it was as if there was no-one else in the room, and they loved him for it.  They were all special in his eyes.

At the end of the day, when this beautiful man would sit in front of a mirror to remove the extensions and wipe away the glow, there he would still be.  A beautiful man.  A beautiful person who’s perhaps only ‘flaw’, (not that it should be considered a flaw, but just another example of his beauty), was in choosing to have nicked nails – refusing to ‘touch them up’, believing he could never be perfect, but would always want to strive to be.  And having nicked nails kept him fighting for it.  Fighting beautifully.

In the eyes of all he met, he was already there.  He was perfect.



Prompted by this link.

Mar 15th – Springtime splendo(u)r

March 15th – Springtime splendour


Spring made Darryl angry. A lot of things made Darryl angry: he was, after all, what you would probably call an angry young man. But there was something about spring that tipped him over the edge.

Maybe it was the flowers, his therapist suggested, in one of the sessions he was forced to attend, and consequently another thing that made him angry. He was angry about being angry, and angry about the fact that he had to manage his anger. Maybe it’s the flowers, she had said, in that soft, soothing voice, that really got his back up. Maybe you respond to the flowers because they are a symbol of the renewal that you are searching for yourself, and their bright reappearance is a reminder that the world is moving on, and you haven’t. What do you think about that?

Darryl didn’t think much about that.

He didn’t think much about being here, on a sunny March morning, with the light streaming through the window and the dust dancing in the air illuminated by the sunshine. Weren’t these places supposed to be clean? He didn’t want to be here, but he had no choice: it was the court’s decision, and it was either this or a short spell inside, which even he could see (even though the idea made him angry) that that wasn’t really the best idea, and that it wasn’t going to do him any good. He just had to keep his head down, come here every week, and listen to the woman witter on about the inside of his head, and what he was thinking, and how he needed to see the good in the world.

Seriously, flowers?

Flowers didn’t make him angry, not in themselves. Although, come to think about it, they were arrogant little fuckers, with their colour, and their smell, and their doing nothing all day. But he thought (to himself, he wasn’t going to give her the satisfaction of being on to something) that maybe they were a symptom rather than the cause. He didn’t know what made him angry. All he knew was that he was.


Darryl didn’t answer. He knew that the time was almost up, that the box was ticked for another week, that he’d soon be free to walk away, until next time. The second hand of the clock edged round another almost silent circle.

Maybe. I don’t know.

She told him to think about it, told him that she thought they were making progress, that they would follow this up next week. Darryl mumbled a thank you that was on the edge of sounding genuine, and left, leaving the door open behind him and taking the stairs down two at a time.

It was warm outside, warmer than it was when he came in, and Darryl shrugged off the jacket he had put on as he was leaving. He flicked it over his right shoulder as he walked, kicking his way through the crocuses on the grass on his way to the gate.


Inspired by a prompt from here

Mar 14th – Foolish incantations

sprite-in-a-glass-spellMarch 14th – Foolish Incantations


Ayleth had had enough. For a long time she had suspected that Fendrel, her husband, was not entirely honest. He seemed to take an age these days bringing the goats in from the pasture, when before he would spring through the door with a smile on his face and fresh flowers in his hand. It was these flowers that had led to Ysmay, but no more children had followed, and the smile on his face had faded as the flowers died.

People talked. And the wives talked to each other, and less often, but occasionally to her, about Fendrel, and the time he spent in the fields with Isabel, daughter of Iestyn the smith.

Isabel! With her black hair and dark eyes and her bodice laced tight and low at the front. All the men wanted Isabel, she could see it in their faces every time the dark-haired girl walked past, shamelessly. And now it seemed that she’d got her claws into Fendrel.

He’d denied it, of course. He denied everything. She’d tried confronting Isabel, but the girl just smiled, and looked at her in a way that made her want to look at herself.

Steps had to be taken.

Ayleth could read. This was rare, she knew. She was the only person she knew who could read, including her husband, and she kept the fact well hidden. It wouldn’t do to be accused of witchcraft, especially when she kept a book of spells hidden under the thatch, in a place where he would never find it.

She waited until he had gone to the fields, (or to Isabel, as she was now convinced) and took down the book. She found the page she was looking for, the one to conjure a spirit to tell all, and spread out a clean cloth on the table. She took the bottle of consecrated oil her father had brought back from Canterbury, and placed 5 drops in the glass: four corners and one in the middle, and then drew them together into the shape of a cross, as per the instructions. She then, checking that no-one was around outside, whispered the words aloud:

Per istam unctionem

sit hoc speclum consecratum + Et benedictum +

et sanctificatum + quod habeat perfectam potestatem

ad demonstrandum nobis Angelos quos volumus

in nom + &c.


She breathed in, deeply. All was silent. She continued.


Sufflationem descendat in hoc speculum

virtus spir scti, concitetur speculum scientia

repræsentandis ut spiritus exorciz impleat et ut

dubia ora et occulta reddantur perfecta et certa

ut se imperasse gaudeat per ipsum Dominum qui vivis

et imperas in sæcula sæculorum. Amen.


She threw a handful of breadcrumbs into the fire, and waited for them to burn. She scooped them out, washed the class and rubbed it with the burn crumbs, and waited for the spirit to come and tell her all.

She waited a long time.

Perhaps she’d missed something. Fendrel came back. smelling of meadows and goats, and (she was sure) Isabel.

She had had enough.

Tomorrow, Ayleth would strip naked, cover herself with honey, and roll in grain. She would scrape it off, mill flour from the remains, and bake bread, which she would feed to Fendrel.

That would fix him.


All of this is based on genuine 14th-16th century spells, and the text comes from the image at the top of the page, a page from a handwritten English book of spells, now in the collection of the Newberry Library in Chicago



Inspired by a prompt from here


Silver Sand

It’s mesmerising, watching the silver sand shift, scatter and stick to my pale white feet, making my way across this deserted paradise.  The gentle lapping of the ocean stroking the shore lulls me further into this dream-like sequence.

I have no fixed route on this walk – distance and time to take it aren’t important to me.  I just wanted to take a walk.  This was my walk.

The silver sand glows; shining delicately in sprinkled spots, everywhere – highlighting the setting of the lukewarm, blood orange sun.

Tomorrow, I’ll take this walk again.


Prompted by link.