Thicker Than Water?

Every week, I enjoy reading people’s responses to Melanie’s Share Your World prompts, though I usually don’t have time to respond myself.

I thought she asked an excellent question yesterday, though, and especially in the context of the answers I read so far (everyone thinks the opposite to me), I thought the question was irresistable.

Melanie asked:

What’s more important to you – family or friends?

I broadly see good people and bad people. Broadly. A good person is somebody whose outlook on life coincides with my own. The same kinds of values. Again, broadly, because I never met anyone whose values coincide exactly with mine. That “good person” might well go on to become a friend. A bad person, I will walk away from, because life is too short to be mixed up with them.

Whether those good and bad people happen to be related to me or not, doesn’t really come into it.

So, for me, friends win out, every time. No contest.

Now, note that I’m not saying here that family are necessarily unimportant. I’m saying that the important members of my family (which is a small subset of the entire family), I also consider to be friends, first and foremost. I don’t see somebody as either one or the other. My wife, for example, I see as also a friend (sometimes 🤣).

Conversely, an asshole is an asshole is an asshole, and I will drop them, family or not.

Coming of Age

inspired by Fandango’s One Word Challenge (FOWC) of 28 September 2021, novice.

A canary decided to fledge,
So crept out of its nest to the edge,
But this novice at flight,
To keep airborne, had fight,
As it crash landed into a hedge.


Prompt image for the Fandango One Word Challenge prompt

A Rush Job

For Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge #137, where we write about the image below.

A picture containing grass, outdoor, nature, smoke

Description automatically generated

“Oh, come on Dad. Just one more time.”

“No, I’ve just told you! I’ll tell the story again, another day.”

“Please…”, whined Toby.

His father issued a rather melodramatic tut, before relenting.

“Okay, you want to hear about Great-Grandpa Joe?”

“Yes, yes, yes”, squealed the boy in delight.

“Well, this all happened a long, long time ago. Long before you were born, long before I was born, long before even Grandpa Jack was born. It all happened when Great-Grandpa Joe was a little boy.

“Great-Grandpa Joe was just starting to be useful around the house – just like you are – and one summer, Joe was helping his daddy, the way you sometimes help me. His name was William, and he was your ???”

“Great-Great-Grandpa”, interrupted Toby, gleefully.

“That’s right. He was your great-great- grandpa. Well done.”

Dad paused, to let the praise sink in.

“One summer”, continued Dad, “Joe was helping William to put up that summer house over there.” He nodded. “It took them the whole summer. Three long months they worked, and in the end, they were done. There was only one thing left to do.”

He turned to the boy. “Do you know what?”

Toby, who had heard the story a million times before, immediately answered, “they had to paint it.”

“That’s right. And the very last weekend of the summer, with the leaves starting to drop from the trees, that’s exactly what they did, to protect it from the winter storms.”

“Go on.”

“Well, they were just about done. William had gone to get cleaned up and had left Joe to complete the last tiny bit. He had just about finished when…”

“This is the best bit”, rasped Toby.

“Well, Joe must’ve been feeling kinda hungry, because just then, Great-Grandma Jilly arrived, and announced that tea was ready. I guess the lure of Jilly’s homemade Ginger Cake was too much for poor old Joe, and he turned and sprinted back to the house, dropping the brush in this pasture on his way.

“And when he came back the next day…”, chimed the pair in unison.

Stunned

I just fancied writing some flash at the weekend, and found this image on DeviantArt. I loved her “wtf” expression which seems to overlay her melancholy, and I couldn’t resist ending the piece with a twist.

“Okay”, confirmed Chloe, before adding, “and you’re sure it’s okay to stay with you?”

“It’s no problem”, assured her father. “Your room is always here for you.”

Chloe grimaced down the phone. She hadn’t been near “her room” since she had acrimoniously left her childhood home six years ago. But this time, she let it slide. She was in shock. Not because her father had called – he normally left the speaking to Mum – but that he had called to break the news that Mum was in hospital. Suspected heart attack. They would be running tests over the next few days, Dad relayed. From his description, she sounded poorly, but was at least conscious. He’d caught Chloe, just coming in from work, as he himself had arrived home from spending the day with his wife.

She hastily made plans. Straight away, she contacted her supervisor, Jo. Chloe was fortunate to work in a close-knit office and Jo’s response was simply to “take as long as you need”. She spent the next part of the evening studying train times, before at last pouring a glass of crisp, cool Chablis. She deserved this.

And, remarkably clear-headed, Chloe found herself on the worn-out train, heading south, the next morning. Through Lancaster, Crewe, Birmingham she travelled in silence, all the while worrying about Mum. Finally arriving in Reading in late afternoon, she commandeered a taxi and travelled directly to the hospital. Redruth Ward, Dad had said. As she approached the entrance, she rang the intercom but was surprised when the door opened almost immediately, and even more surprised to see her father.

“Chloe”. The air froze around them, before Dad regained his composure. “Mum’s through here. I can take you to see her, but she’s asleep at the moment.” He looked noticeably older than the last time Chloe had seen him, the grey that was starting at his temples was now in full flow, and the bags under his eyes betrayed that he’d had as much sleep as she had.

“But I was just off to the restaurant to grab a sandwich. I haven’t had any lunch yet. Have you eaten? Would you like to join me? And I can tell you what happened?”

The picture Chloe received was patchy, at best, and as they returned to the ward, she had more questions than answers. Dad led her to Mum’s bedside.

“Mary? It’s James”, he breathed gently. “I have someone who’d like to see you.” Mary’s eyes fluttered gently as she roused herself from her state of doze. Her eyes focussed on Chloe’s now tear-streaked face. For the first time, Chloe saw age in her mum’s face, too.

She was still in shock ninety minutes later, when they arrived back at her parents’ house. Chloe, though exhausted, would have stayed longer, but there didn’t seem much point as Mary had been drifting in and out of consciousness. As she closed the car door, she stood straight to survey her surroundings. Apart from everything looking six years more dull, nothing had changed.

Her father opened the door, and Chloe was immediately assaulted by the large crucifix hanging in the hall. She was reminded instantly that religion had been the big problem between them: her father’s mind, so closed to anything except the scriptures, while at the same time, her own was so fertile. Even after the rows, Mum had stayed in the middle, placating both. Mum had always been far more pragmatic than ideological. Or, theological.

The pair entered the kitchen. It had been Chloe’s refuge when the rows had started, coming in here to talk to Mum, while Dad was sitting in the lounge. Like everything else, it hadn’t changed. The words between father and daughter were few and awkward, as he fixed coffee.

Chloe was glad to gain some respite from the discomfort, when James suggested she re-acquaint herself with her old room. Closing the door behind her, this, too, was unchanged. A few more boxes, perhaps, but otherwise… she might have left just last week. She even remembered buying the print hanging on the wall, Chagall’s “The Bride”, when she was fifteen.

Despondent, Chloe was not sure what she could do. She was unused to being so impotent, to being so unable to exert control. What would Mum do? she pondered and pondered. But she already knew the answer. As unfamiliar as it seemed, she knew that Mum would pray. For while Mum had been the mediator, she still practised her diluted form of religion. She could not have stayed with her dad for so long, had she not been religious.

Out of practise, Chloe kneeled, facing vaguely toward the poster, and clasped her hands. “God?”, she started, uncertain.

Ascending from nothing, Chloe thought she could hear the distant sound of a cello, which as it grew closer, sounded like Bach. Abruptly, the music stopped.

“Yes?”, uttered the goat.

Bemused

inspired by Fandango’s One Word Challenge (FOWC) of 27 September 2021, inebriated.

The old codger whom I did assist,
Took a four-hour lunch and was missed,
Had to give him a hand up,
‘ Cos he hardly could stand up,
I wonder how that could have been?


Prompt image for the Fandango One Word Challenge prompt

Who Won the Week (26 September 2021)

In response to Fandango’s Who Won the Week posts, I have been looking at my own newsfeeds.


My winner this week was an easy pick. Immigration.

The current UK Government stems from our Brexit vote, five years ago. They were all a bunch of malcontents who, at the time, campaigned to get us out of the EU.

I can’t blame them for that. Many people thought the EU fell fatally short, including me.

Removing fifty years of integration in just a few was never going to be easy, two Prime Ministers fell along the way, and the UK entered a period of stagnation. The zealots came along, led by Boris Johnson, and determinedly promised to complete the exit process. Unequivocal. And because people were fed up of the in-fighting, Boris was returned with a heavy mandate in 2019.

One of the perceptions of the Brexit vote was that the UK wanted to take back control of immigration. It could always control immigration from outside the EU, but from within, its hands were tied.

So, lo and behold, these zealots came into government, and started to make good on their promise, by tightening up foreigners’ rights to live and work here.


For those of you who don’t know, Britain is a country which has invested heavily into its road network. Outside of London, there is no public transport worth speaking of, and you can easily watch cars pound past you on the street, mostly with a single occupant. This means that, sooner or later, every item that arrives in UK shops is reliant on the road network to get it there.


So, marry these two things together, and what do we have?

For about the past three months or so, the UK has been hit by shortages. The shortages were blamed primarily on the supply chain – we simply didn’t have enough lorry drivers to take goods to the shops.

This first started to be noticeable in supermarkets, where shelves have gradually become emptier. And, late last week, this extended to petrol. Many stations ran dry within days, as drivers raced to fill their cars.

This culminated this morning in an announcement that temporary visas will be issued to foreign lorry drivers, to try to get the country moving once again.

Also in the news recently has been the state of the poultry industry. That might seem trivial (paltry poultry?), but all our lives, every UK family has been used to having a turkey on the table come christmas, and now, it looks like that will be the next shortage. Why? Because the government also revoked the rights of foreigners to work in the poultry industry. So they’ve announced emergency visas in that sector, too. Whether that will save christmas is anybody’s guess.

I just wanted to highlight these stories because they show two things.

First, that we need immigration. Now, we might need to ultimately control it, but our control needs to be very measured. When we run out of food and gas, it’s probably gone too far. In general, some immigration is necessary, because UK workers are simply not interested in working in some industries.

Second, it shows how difficult these things are to predict. Who, five years ago, calling for immigration controls, could possibly have predicted that they’d have to forego their christmas turkey this year? Or that crops would lie rotting in fields because there was nobody to pick them?

Life through the Lens (26 September 2021)

When my eyesight was still good, I was a bit of an amateur photographer. This is one of mine.

image showing a silhouette of a camera

Bullfinch.

Photo of a bullfinch

Snail Mail

inspired by Fandango’s One Word Challenge (FOWC) of 26 September 2021, late.

A sweet-natured fellow called Homer,
Got reminder ’bout being blood donor,
When he looked at the date,
It was twenty years late,
And addressed to the previous owner.


Prompt image for the Fandango One Word Challenge prompt