for Fandango’s One Word Challenge (FOWC) of 27 September, 2020, antipathy.

Paul and Anna originally worked together at the charity RightWay, where Paul was a campaign organiser, as Anna was an intern, a law graduate helping the legal effort. The campaign which threw them together surrounded a particular aspect of the refugee crisis.

Thanks to successive wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, refugees were a fact of life in Europe, often crossing the Mediterranean Sea to gain entry. Favourite routes included Libya to Italy, and Turkey to Greece. Paul’s involvement stemmed from a disaster on 18th April 2015, when a boat laden with an estimated 700 refugees had capsized in Libyan waters, just over 100 miles short of the Italian coast. It was presumed that over 600 were drowned, and subsequent Italian efforts rescued only around fifty survivors. These survivors sparked Paul’s campaign. There would soon be a legal battle in the Italian courts surrounding the fate of these survivors, and therefore hard cash was required to fight the case.

The project came with its fair share of problems. In the UK, the Mediterranean was a long way away. It was a holiday destination, a whole airline flight away. Little did people know that those same refugees, just a few short years later, would be attempting to cross the sea once again, this time the English Channel, into the UK itself. But in 2015, the public’s reaction was apathy, if not antipathy -everybody had other problems without people trying to manufacture more.

The project required some late nights at work, as Paul looked for some ingenious way of generating public interest in the issue. The charity was small, and Paul usually worked alone, although tonight some new girl on the legal side had stayed behind to help. Paul had an embryonic idea for a campaign, but before he presented it to the trustees, he needed to finalise their own legal obligations.

Shortly after 7 o’clock, Paul stretched himself in his chair. He was stiff from being seated so long. He pushed his papers away and let out a sigh. “I’m absolutely knackered”, he complained, “do you mind if we take five minutes?”. Anna was feeling tired herself, so Paul’s request was music to her ears. They agreed on getting a takeaway, doing another hour, then resuming tomorrow. The office had an alcove, a tiny kitchen, where there were a few menus on the wall. The weather outside was quite drizzly so straight away, the takeaway which delivered stood out. They both went straight to the vegan section of the menu. Paul was surprised.

– Vegan? You going veggie tonight?

– I’m always veggie.

Paul was suddenly more aware.

– Really? There aren’t many of us about.

– Yeah, in fact not just vegetarian, I try to eat vegan too.

Of course, this became a subject of conversation while they took their break. By the time they began working again, Paul had decided that this girl was indeed interesting. He would really have to learn her name!

I did some fact-checking before I wrote this piece. The vessel capsizing is unfortunately true. Date, location, losses… all true. The story I constructed around that event is pure fiction. As this one is almost a prequel, it is probably good standalone. But if anybody is interested, I built backgrounds to these characters below.

Life through the Lens (27 September 2020)

As my previous series came to an end, I had the idea to post some of my own photographs.

When my eyes were better, I used to enjoy photography. I had some decent kit and was around just as digital photography was taking off. Although it was strictly a hobby for me, two of my photos were published. One rural shot of hay bales ended up in a brochure made by the UK’s NFU (farming), another ended up in a coffee-table book about lighthouses. I wasn’t David Bailey but a couple of times, I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time.

I thought I’d share some. All these photographs were taken by me, I own the copyright so if you’d like to use any, go for it. Just so long as you don’t use them to make any money.

My aim is to publish weekly again but this time, on Sunday afternoons. I’m just going to repeat this spiel each week, too, for the benefit of new readers, so you can safely skip to the camera graphic to save reading the blurb each time.

If you look at the category above (high on left, by the date), I’ll put every photo in that same category so you can find previously-published photos. If I feel a photo needs some explanation, I’ll maybe write a line or two to go with it. Like the last time, I’ll keep going until I run out of steam. Oh, and feel free to join in, if the fancy takes you.

I’ve linked to a higher-res umage under each photo.

I thought I’s share another landscape shot today, taken of Lizard Point down in Cornwall. This is the most southerly point in the British Isles.

We had a lovely holiday down there, it was 2000 and I was doing well for myself – we went on about four holidays per year. We had this autumn break in October 2000, and for the occasion I bought my very first digital camera – this picture is a whopping 3MP!

A good week all around, daughter was just at the point of going from crawling to walking, and I got photos like this from the nearby Lizard Point.

About Last Night

I shared a song on Saturday night,
I thought the song the worst outright.
But the comment section made me smile,
In broad agreement, awful pile…

Talk of brains defies convention,
A body part we rarely mention.
And then we had that “ventricle” line,
In my opinion, asenine.

“Mountains of your chest”, and I’m in a daze,
Did you ladies ever hear such praise?
By now I am becoming wise,
So “old string vest” is no surprise.

With your “essence of giraffe”, it is very clear,
That now we’ve really reached high gear,
And the song has surely met its goal,
In the “wardrobe of your soul”?

I’m afraid the somg then goes downhill,
“Cardboard-coloured dreams” serves to distill,
And when the song ends with a burp.
“What a croc”, I hear you chirp.

An awful song, you will agree,
With no apparent apogee,
One comment has it nicely honed,
There is no doubt, they must be stoned!

if you are wondering what song could possibly be this bad, I posted it in my last post.

The Worst Song Ever?

I am just watching an old music show from the Sixties, and I think they just played the worst song ever written.

This is a song by the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band. Some of you might remember then for the hit I’m the Urban Spaceman. It was a hit in the UK, at any rate, and I thought it was a pretty decent song.

But I’m not talking about that song. I am talking about one released in 1968 called Canyons Of Your Mind.

Before I show you the video (which shows the lead singer picking his nose) here are the first few lines of lyrics:

In the canyons of your mind [- fine so far]
I will wander through your brain [- if it were me, I’d steer clear of brains]
To the ventricles of your heart [- eek]

If you don’t believe me, the link is below. That sound you heard partway through was me collapsing onto the floor. If those lyrics happened to float your boat, you’ll be pleased to hear the rest of the song because it is full of them.

I don’t know about you guys, but when I write stuff on here, I’m under no illusion that I am anything other than an absolute amateur, and most of what I write is rubbish. I do it ‘cos I enjoy doing it. But thank goodness we have the professionals…

Day Out

for Fandango’s One Word Challenge (FOWC) of 26 September, 2020, frugal.

“Come on. You’ve already met them once. It’ll be easier this time. Plus, Zara’s back from their honeymoon, so we can go and visit them.” Anna was trying to convince Paul that it might be nice to go and spend the weekend with her parents, down in Sussex. With the promise of a day out in Brighton, Paul had agreed. Although Brighton was the other side of London, Paul had enjoyed the few times he had visited previously.

Coming straight across from work, Anna met up with Paul at Victoria Station, on the Friday evening, and the pair took the train down to Lewes. They were met by Anna’s dad, Henry, who drove them back to the family home. It was certainly calmer than the last time he had visited, thought Paul, now that Zara’s wedding was out of the way. Primed by Anna, nothing was said to make Paul feel uncomfortable, and the four of them had an enjoyable meal together that evening. Even Polly, the family’s Golden Retriever, got in on the act when she crept up and snuggled with Paul early Saturday morning.

After a lazy Saturday morning, Henry drove again, this time dropping them not far from the pier. They had been fortunate again with the weather, it was shaping to be a fine spring day. Brighton had changed a lot since Paul’s last visit – that enormous shopping mall had not been there, for a start. But it must have been, what, twelve years? They visited The Lanes – for any visitor, it is the law – and in mid-afternoon they found a small coffee shop. They had been nicely fed before they had left Anna’s parent’s, so only felt like a light snack.

“Don’t go overboard”, reminded Anna, “don’t forget we’re meeting Zara later.”

After the coffee break, with the promise that he could see all her childhood haunts, Anna convinced Paul to board an open-topped tour bus, which circuited the town. “That’s where I used to play hooky”, she informed Paul, as they passed a seafront penny arcade. Paul could not imagine that she had ever played hooky in her life. He could believe it when she pointed out the alley that she had been sick in, however, her teenage introduction to gin. With the tour almost over, Paul felt a nudge, “Come on”, prompted Anna, “this is our stop. Zara is not too far from here; we’ll be there in a jiffy”.

Ten minutes later, the sisters were greeting each other, and Paul found himself being led into a rather dingy house. It might have been student digs, apart from the crying baby. “That’s William”, explained Zara. “We tried to keep him awake all day in the hope that he’d have a nap when you arrived. He’s not playing ball. Hang on a minute and I’ll go see if I can help Dan put him down. Go on through”.

They moved through into the lounge, and as Paul made himself comfortable on the sofa, he took in the room around him. Very sparsely decorated, very frugal. The wallpaper was dated and the room had patches of damp. The tv in the corner looked at least ten years old. The evidence of children was clear – there was a playpen in the corner, full of toys, and a pile of children’s DVDs on the threadbare carpet, in front of the TV. The room had been freshly tidied.

As Anna and Paul tried to make out what was on tv, the noise of the baby subsided, and five minutes later they were greeted by Dan’s voice. “Anna! Paul!”. He reached over to peck Anna’s cheek. “Great you could come.” He was immediately joined by Zara. “I think he’s down. Lucas [the eldest son] was down like a light, but William’s [the younger] got a mind of his own. Come on Dan, quick…” she ushered Dan into the kitchen. “Get the kettle on before one of them wakes up.”

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