Sports Day

Anna was now with Paul, and as a part of any couple, she had to assume various “duties”. And Paul had a son. More duties. She didn’t particularly relish them, but… she and Paul were now a team.

Which led to…Sports Day! Anna was vaguely “sporty” herself. She regularly went to the gym and had just become involved in the squash league at work, so she did not mind one bit watching the little – and not so little – children having fun.

The big test of the day was meeting Paul’s ex-wife for the first time, but in this relaxed setting, the meeting passed without incident.

Jake took part in his race, but he was not finished yet.

– Come on, dad, you’ll be good.

– What do you think?

laughed Paul, as he saw Anna approaching.

– Go for it, you could do with getting more active!

she joked. And before Paul knew what was happening, he had been entered into the Parents’ Sack Race, the finale event at the end of the day.

At the appointed time, Paul was limbering up. At the start line, on your marks, get set, GO! Paul started bunny-hopping in his sack. He hopped faster and faster but could still see he was in fourth or fifth place. Faster, faster…

The last thing Paul saw of the race was the other eight parents hopping past him, as he tripped and tasted the dirt.

It was just as well Anna was too busy laughing to reflect on the wonderful specimen she had chosen!

for Fandango’s One Word Challenge (FOWC), perfunctory.

I’ve written a background to these characters, in the posts below.

Down the Drain (Fandango’s Friday Flashback)

Yay, it is Friday again, and Fandango has just published his Friday Flashback post. The idea is that he picks a post from this day in a previous year, to give newer readers a better insight into what does and doesn’t make him tick.

I have always liked that idea, so shall also post my own reminiscence. As much as anything, it reminds me of where I was, where I am now, and how far I have come. Hopefully, you will find it entertaining along the way.

See, this is exactly why I atarted this blog. Here is an absolute rant from a year ago – some storm in a teacup. this is probably the last time, to date, that anything like this has happened.

Well, I’m sure other stuff has happened, but it is just that I am better able to manage it, without going off on one.

Thank you, Jennifer at PaperKutzs, for allowing me to use your graphic.

Down the Drain

I thought my disaster days were over.

Today I started to cook lunch with the best of intentions. While something was heating in the oven, I had a clear-up in the kitchen. I took some dirty dishes to the sink, but the sink was already full. With the old dishwasher, I got into the habit of soaking everything before washing it.

Continue reading post.


I went out for my first post-lockdown coffee yesterday. We went to the coffee shop, a friend and I, in a nearby village. I had not seen the friend since pre-lockdown.

Outdoors. Apart from having 10 or 15 people within 10 or 15 yards of me (nobody too close, not even my buddy), I figured that the risk was no greater than having friends come sit in the garden. It was even better for me, because I didn’t have to go into the shop to order – my friend did so. Although I suppose if he picked something up in there, he’d likely have breathed it in my general direction afterwards. We didn’t wear masks – we are only mandated to wear them here when we go into a shop.

So we followed the UK’s rules. I’m not too sure, how closely the UK’s rules match the science, so I wanted to be happy for myself. Before I agreed to meet him, I satisfied myself about the state of the virus locally. In the last available figures, week ending mid-July-ish, there were 11 deaths in our region. The week before that, there were 7. The week before that, 17. All in the same ballpark. Our region is the south west of the UK – probably 10-20,000 square miles? a big number. If you imagine dividing the UK into about 8, that’s us. And me and my space is, what, a square yard?

My friend… Well, my friend is an old cycling buddy. Up until corona, he was a director for a well-known, UK charity. In charge of all new development, nationally. At the very start of this, he figured that for the next few years, new development would be a thing of the past, so figured he was living on borrowed time. He’s roughly retirement age anyhow.

But they kept him on through lockdown, even though he was at home, and they only made him redundant last week.

We had a weird conversation, about my own mobility. As we both love cycling, he suggested an electric bike, or trike. I said that they were good ideas (I’ve thought about this a lot) but that the holy grail would be a new car, an automatic (uncommon in the UK). And with anything, I would not be prepared to spend any cash until I was bringing money in.

– will the state not buy you a car?

– You’re joking, aren’t you?

I told him that instead of receiving the thousands (GBP, USD, EUR, any currency you care to choose) to pay for a car, immediately after the stroke I was awarded GBP 10 per week because I could hardly walk. When the state assessed me a couple years ago, they decided I must be walking better by now, so reduced that portion to zero. I still get additional benefit because I can’t use my hand, but we’re in the same ballpark.

My friend knows somebody, apparently, up in Yorkshire, a long way from here, who has terminal cancer, and needs to travel around 20 miles (presumably a few times a week) for treatment. They are probably pretty rural, they probably have no public transport – outside of London, it is not good in the UK. Anyway, he says that the state awarded them a car.

I mean, if this is true, there are probably discrepancies between this other case and mine. I never really got any treatment once I left hospital, so there is no ongoing relationship between me and the health service.

But I thought it was interesting that even my friend, who as a charity bigwig will have seen hardship cases, believes that when something happens, the state will come to the rescue.

Anyway, I took a few photos yesterday, it was a lovely day.

Fandango’s One Word Challenge (30 July 2020)

There must be no barriers to freedom of inquiry. There is no place for dogma in science. The scientist is free, and must be free to ask any question, to doubt any assertion, to seek for any evidence, to correct any errors.

Robert Oppenheimer

seems an appropriate quotation for the present day.

for Fandango’s One Word Challenge (FOWC), dogma.

Windows on Their World

I had the idea of developing a couple of skeletal characters, then using those characters as “props”, when I answered prompts.

I didn’t have these characters doing anything much, I just wanted to get them out there. I’m still planning on writing standalone posts for them, any time I want to add a twist to their story, but will mainly use them to show snippets of their life in prompt responses, say.

I knew I needed some kind of “blueprint”. How old were they? Where had they come from? What do they do? And so on. I needed consistency – I can’t have a white woman suddenly becoming a black woman.

You established writers will doubtless tell me it is obvious, but bear with me, I’ve never tried this before.

But blueprints are barebones – I couldn’t just put that live. Instead I had to weave it into a minimal story which revealed (partially) the characters. All told, there were a dozen posts, numbered and in a carousel control below.

So far, I’ve put them into their own category on my blog, and tagged them “AnPa”. I can now put this carousel on any subsequent posts, so anybody who comes across the characters for the first time can get some context.

Those first posts are just meant to take me to where I can start using these characters. I don’t really know (much of) the scrapes they will get into. I’ve just written a couple of twists into the tale, to go live at some future date, but there is no grand plan.

A lot of my writing so far is pretty vague – you have to fill in lots of gaps. For these posts, that was entirely deliberate, because I wanted to cover a lot of ground quickly. I don’t know whether I’ll continue, I can maybe meander a bit more now, although I like the idea of making readers piece things together.

I thought I’d share my first impressions of writing fiction. Again, this is me. Noob. Baby steps.

If I write a fact-based post, I can say I believe X (and bore everyone to tears in the process), but by using creative writing (or poetry), I can make the same point, hopefully in a more engaging way. Or, I can maybe create a character who is the absolute antithesis, and write so that we all loathe them. And make the same point, but in reverse. (As it happens, I like the two characters I just created, there is a lot of “me” in them). I like that flexibility, it adds another dimension.

Developing the blueprint has involved a fair amount of thinking (honest!), as opposed to writing. It’s surprising that a lot of writing is not, well, writing! If you’re thinking about it, give it a go. The first steps are nothing to do with a keyboard, but can be done lying in bed! (If you’re like me, though, you then have to write these ideas down, before you forget them!)

I suppose if you’re writing a book, you need to get this blueprint sorted, before you even write a word. Consistency is less important when we write flash fiction, say, but I guess the blueprint is the difference between what most of us write, and War and Peace.

Coming up with a high-level backstory was really easy, at least this time. From an idea to words on the page took time, and checking grammar longer still. Not difficult, just took time. And I can appreciate that proper writers have to read and re-read their manuscripts many times, and must be sick of them by the time anything is published.

A biggie is that I only really wrote a back-story, where a real writer must also have some compelling front-story too! My front-story will hopefully come out in the future (might even be compelling!)

More to do with synchronisation, one banana skin was that I wrote the first part of the story in one batch, before I published anything. Then I released a bit at a time. At the same time as I was releasing it, I was thinking about the next part. So, I had to separate the bit that I just posted and the bit that was still in my head. I’ve had to be quite careful how much I say when replying to comments. This isn’t a biggie, it just meant that I needed to be careful what I said.

And I already found that the process can be embarrasing. Because so much thinking has been involved, I might find myself sitting on the sofa, bursting into laughter for no apparent reason. My wife thinks I’m a weirdo, but what’s new?

Just on the “antithesis” theme, did you ever hear of the British comedian Harry Enfield? He was huge here in the late 1980s and the 1990s.

He is a guy with quite sound political views (IMO), and in the early days, created characters who were the absolute opposite. These characters certainly raised Enfield’s profile, but in his case, they backfired, because the great British public did not realise that they were parodies.

I’ll finish today with a couple of bits of comedy. I hope you enjoy reading my future posts about Anna and Paul, I can’t wait to find out what happens to them!

because so many British people worshipped nothing but money

because so many British people thought this is how a foreigner looks/behaves.

Thank goodness we live in more enlightened times!

Fandango’s Provocative Question (29 July 2020)

Wednesday. Fandango’s Provocative Question once again. I’m kind of aware that I haven’t been spending as much time on WordPress the last week or so, although I have managed to keep up with comments so hopefully, nobody noticed (except for me). But this was the first prompt I ever wrote a response to on here, so I did want to make a point of answering this one.

Time to address this week’s FPQ, which is:

Is the concept of “you” continuous or does the past “you” continually fade into the present and future “you”? Considering that your body, your mind, and your memories are changing over time, what part of “you” sticks around?

Okay, this is an interesting one, because I have thought this question, but never before tried to articulate an answer. So let’s have a try. The short answer is that it depends. Doesn’t everything?

If you take my (political) beliefs. for example. I had quite definite views from an early age – maybe fourteen or so. That bit has not changed – I still have quite definite views – although I did have a volt face during my university years, just as I got to see more life outside the parental home, I guess. As an aside, this means that I can generally accept when somebody apologises for something dumb they did when they were young, and they have matured into a better person. Because it happened to me.

But from the age of maybe 21 to now, my views have been the same. Okay, they have tweaked over the years, but no major changes. I would use the word refined, or maybe even evolved.

There is a similar pattern with religious views, come to think of it, although that happened sooner and was less in-your-face. I started off religious. My mum and auntie were both Sunday School teachers, and I went on to sing in a church choir. In my early teens, again, a volt face. (Okay, that was very in-your-face 😆). But, you know, children do this. I became staunchly anti-religion.

I suppose I still have that core view, but that’s not quite it. In my mid twenties, I guess, it became clear to me that even if I was not, there were some good people who were religious. And so I mellowed out a lot. While my own belief is anti, there is also a whatever floats your boat side to it. I see that too as evolution, because I think I have evolved tolerance.

I’m aware that this post is getting quite long so I just want to give one quick (possibly) counter example:

In 2000, I was doing well for myself. If you asked me how much I earned, I haven’t a clue. Enough to have an accountant take care of that shit for me. Enough to help myself to a pile of money whenever I wanted something. Enough to drive a Porsche 911. 3.4 litres of hungry, wild stallion under the bonnet. And why not? I worked for it, I earned it, I deserved it.

By 2010, I still had the Porsche, but I was concerned about my footprint, and bought an eco car to replace it. I was left with this far more practical, tiny, inexpensive runaround to take me from A to B.

It is no coincidence that a subject like the environment (a vast subject and I am drastically over-simplifying by lumping everything under the same umbrella) was on our lips a lot more in 2010 than ten years earlier.

I suppose in real terms, that was another volt face, but even this was just an evolution, based on the evolving issues we pick up from the media. I think we were all a lot more aware of the environment in 2010 than we were in 2000.

The Last Hurdle (1:12)

They figured that the best way to introduce Anna to Jake was at the football – Jake would be distracted by the game and might have fewer questions. As it happens, a good move.

Calling in a favour from Pat, Paul managed to get hold of three seats in the Executive Box – there was even a warm buffet, where they could help themselves to snacks throughout the game. As it happened, Arsenal delivered, too, thumping Aston Villa by the resounding score of 4-1.

The verdict? Well, from her side, he was a ten-year-old boy, a lot of his interests were weird.

From his side, she fancied his dad, so a lot of her interests were weird. It helped, of course, that she liked the Arsenal, too. Little did he know…

Paul had his speech prepared. As Arsene Wenger would be giving his half-time team talk, so too Paul was giving his. Nothing would change. Had Jake noticed any change in the last six months? No? Well, that was roughly how long he’d already been seeing Anna.

– What about mum?

Again, Jake had seen nothing different these last six months, had he? He’d been with Anna all that time, and still stayed on good terms with his mum. In fact, Beth had known that Paul had been seeing somebody for a few months, just not who, and the pair had never met – Paul was quite determined about that. Present meeting Ex was the very last thing he wanted. If it ever did happen, he wanted to be a long way away!

The football helped. Jake seemed to concentrate more on the game than on Anna. Anna felt she had got off quite lightly, Jake had had very few questions. She left it to Paul to get Jake back home and after the game, the three went their separate ways.

Paul broke the ice.

– What do you think of Anna?

– She’s really your girlfriend? But she’s beautiful, why is she going out with you?

Paul laughed.

– I wish I knew, buddy, but that’s girls for you. Mad, every one of them!

Jake conceded eventually that she had been okay.

– So, you don’t mind if we meet her again?

– Guess not

said Jake.

– Besides, I’m counting on you to teach her the offside rule!

The seeds had been sown.

I Do (1:11)

In the weekends before the wedding, Anna had gone home, to see what she could do to help. The actual week of the wedding, she’d taken as leave, just in case, and had stayed with her parents. Zara was often quite busy, now with two little ones to worry about, but Diane was never far away.

The night before, Paul had travelled down from London. Anna met him at the station, and they grabbed a bite to eat before she finally took Paul home to meet her parents. It was all cordial enough – Paul, by now was nicely house-trained, and nothing more was said that evening.

The day of the wedding arrived, a good day for March, and Anna looked resplendent in her peach bridesmaid dress. The bride and groom disappeared early – they were all going for two weeks over to Corsica, and the waiting limo took them all the way to their hotel at Gatwick, ready for their flight the next morning.

Anna and Paul stayed in the hotel of the reception.

In the morning, Anna left Paul lying in, and headed over to say goodbye to her parents. She could not resist

– what do you think of Paul?

Diane was somewhat equivocal. She came out with a myriad of fine qualities, but she was holding something back.

– Mum…

– It’s nothing, darling, but isn’t he a bit old? I mean, come on, he’s almost my age.

In fact, she was a good ten years older than Paul, but the analogy helped her point. “Oh, no”, thought Anna, “here we go…”.

– I mean, you’re not getting any younger, are you? Do you really think, with a child of his own already, he’ll be wanting to start another family with you? And how old will he be when the child is your age?

– Look, mum, there won’t *be* any children. God knows whether he wants children or not – it is not even something we discussed, but *I* don’t want them. So there won’t be any. The only person who wants them is you!

After a few moments pause, Anna was more soothing.

– Please, I know you want more grandchildren, but that’s not me. Be happy that Zara keeps knocking them out. I don’t know what will happen with me and Paul, but whoever I’m with, or even if I’m on my own, that’s how I feel. I’m not gonna have children. But let’s not fall out, I need to be getting back now, but let’s at least part on good terms.

As Anna left, Diane wiped the tear from her eye.

There was, of course, one more ordeal to face.