Unexpected

In response to Songshine’s Where Were Tuesday prompt, which is adopting a Hallowe’en themeand asking us to:

Sharere a song that gives you the chills.

Well, just about the scariest track I know is this one:

… and I’m just wondering how long it will be before Soundcloud take it down for breaching copyright!

Serious answer: watch the vid.

Good Fortune

A bottle of champagne in an ice bucket, plus some glasses

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

While the rest of the fleet put to sea,
My decrepit boat stayed tied on quay,
But an unforeseen squall,
Came and shipwrecked them all,
Brilliant news, as I’m sure you’ll agree.


Prompt image for the Fandango One Word Challenge prompt

Stunner

Prompt image for the Fandango's Flash Fiction prompt

For Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge #141, where we write about the image below from Natalya Vaitkevich @ Pexels.com.

A picture containing grass, outdoor, nature, smoke

Description automatically generated

Late, late, late!

Cerys snatched one last gulp of her now-tepid instant coffee, as she searched for her missing car keys. Spying the glint of silver on the kitchen counter she hastily snatched the keyring and kissed the dozing Mandu goodbye, as she hurried through the freshly-painted door. Bumping swiftly along a narrow hallway, she stooped to collect the small bundle of mail, freshly delivered. Without paying the letters any further attention, she dashed from the house.

Stuffing the mail into the inside pocket of her smart, leather jacket, she maintained her pace until she was safely in her car.

Late, late, late!

And she could ill afford it, not today. Assignments – any assignments – were hard enough to come by, so when that catalogue work had come through, how could she possibly refuse? She knew vaguely where this guy’s studio was, but at that time of day, she’d be pushing it.

Why was she so disorganised? She had never been like this before Gary had gone, but she was left with no choice but to kick him out, after she found out about the affair. And overnight, Cerys had become a singleton once again. At first, loneliness was the biggest problem, and so she’d sought a rescue cat. She had renamed him, rather wittily, she thought. But Mandu didn’t care what she called him, so long as Cerys provided him with bed and board.

The decision to redecorate had taken longer, but Cerys was happy to have made up her mind. This was now her space, not their’s, and after six years of sharing, it was time to stamp her own identity on the place.

As it happened, the traffic was good that day, and Cerys just about arrived in time. Crossing a quaint courtyard, she ascended a spartan staircase. On the wall were various framed photographs, and Cerys recognised some of the faces among them.

Crossing a landing covered in carpet tiles – no expense spared – a white door stood in front of her. To it’s right was a smart plastic sign, “J. Lloyd, Photographic Studio”. She knocked, and the door was answered by a grey-haired, fifty-something man carrying a spotlight.

“Hi there. I’m looking for John?”

“Cerys? Come in, my dear. I was expecting you”, as he beckoned her in and turned away. Over his shoulder, he nodded at two sofas in what must have been the “reception” area, adding, “Make yourself comfortable. Let me just finish setting this light and I’ll be right with you.”

He’s nice enough, thought Cerys as she waited. Better than a lot of photographers I’ve worked with.

True to form, a coffee to start, along with a polite man behind the camera, Cerys relaxed and the session went smoothly.

They concluded the shoot shortly before lunch, and John made the pair another coffee.

“Here, the photographs will already have uploaded to the server, so if you give me ten minutes, I’ll have a quick look through them and pick out a few of the best. And, as the shoot had finished early, Cerys agreed. Though the catalogues themselves made the final decisions, they often placed a lot of faith in photographers’ recommendations. As John turned to leave Cerys for the moment, he caught her admiring some artwork hanging on the wall, and explained, “my partner. We both share this studio space”.

Leaving Cerys nursing her coffee, John suggested that she could look through some of his portfolio, wafting at a large bookcase with a shelf full of binders.

Feeling pleased with a job well done, Cerys flicked through one of the binders, although she still wanted to preserve as much of her day as possible, and if she could get out of here soon, she might be on time to meet girlfriend Suzanne for that coffee and catch up, after all. Cerys took her jacket from the ornate coat rack, and as she was putting it on, she felt the bundle of letters in the pocket. She might as well read them, while she waited.

Nothing remarkable, until she came to a white envelope franked Baldwin, Clark and Spencer. Huh? Who on earth were they? But it was definitely her name and address peeping through the window and she peeled the letter from its envelope.

As Cerys read, the shock of the letter forced her to sit back down as her head began to spin. Lawyers… instructed by Gary Hooper… divorce proceedings…

Shhhhhh

Clipart of a baby's rattle

inspired by Fandango’s One Word Challenge (FOWC) of 25 October 2021, better.

A librarian born in Seattle,
Went and swallowed her young baby’s rattle,
I’m delighted to say,
She feels better each day,
Although each shift at work, it’s a b
attle.


Prompt image for the Fandango One Word Challenge prompt

Who Won the Week (24 October 2021)

Prompt image for the Fandango's Who Won The Week prompt

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


The UN body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) compiles “assessment reports”. They do this every six or seven years. The reports are scientific in origin, and feed into the conferences to provide guidance on what countries need to do in order to mitigate warming. Pre-publication, they invite submissions from countries, companies, etc.

Prior to COP26, which happens shortly, they have been compiling another report. Again, it’ll feed into the summit and provide a steer on where the politicians should be taking the planet.

Except that this year, the submissions have been leaked. 32,000 of them. So I just thought I’d highlight some of the lobbying (is it unfair to call it gerrymandering?) that has happened, to go into this report. Again, let’s stress that this is a scientific report.

One of the key recommendations in the draft report was that we should reduce our consumption of fossil fuels as quickly as possible. A no-brainer, you’d think. But, guess who objected to that phrase being included?

Well, Saudi Arabia, for one Yes, the world’s biggest exporter of oil thinks that phrase should be removed.

The report goes deeper. That we should eliminate coal-fired power stations as soon as possible. Again, obvious? But Australia objects. Surprisingly, one of the biggest coal exporters objects.

In fact, a lot of fossil fuel producers – Saudi and Australia, but also China (the world’s largest coal importer) and Japan support Carbon Capture Systems (CCS), mechanisms which are not even known to be feasible, on the scale required. But the argument is that we capture the carbon, therefore there is no need to reduce emissions.

So, when the report continues: “the focus of decarbonisation efforts in the energy systems sector needs to be on rapidly shifting to zero-carbon sources and actively phasing out fossil fuels”, China, Norway and Opec all raised objections. Every one oil-fired.

On our diets, the IPCC favours reducing our meat consumption. It thinks if we eliminated meat in favour of plants, our personal CO2 emissions could drop by asmuch as 50%. But guess who objects? Brasil and Argentina, both major producers not only of beef, but of animal feed.

The report talks about finances. That to meet the goals, richer countries might have to help out poorer countries. Obvious, right? But guess who objects? Well, Switzerland, for one. The country which makes money out of everything. And Australia. Both very much first world countries who might be asked to contribute.

Just to complete, the report talks about going nuclear, as a replacement for fossil fuels. I’ve heard our own PM wax lyrically on this subject, too. The report, however, is negative. Memories of Cernobyl and Fukushima, perhaps?

But several eastern European countries argue against this pessimism. India goes even further, saying that it is an “established technology” with largely “good political backing”. Maybe there.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-58982445

Rumbled

Clipart image of a slice of cherry pie

inspired by Fandango’s One Word Challenge (FOWC) of 24 October 2021, unsubstantiated.

When my missus could find no more pie,
She accused me, I flatly denied,
But the crumbs ‘pon my tray,
Gave the whole game away,
And my dastardly plan went awry.


Prompt image for the Fandango One Word Challenge prompt

Bastard

clipart image of superman

inspired by Fandango’s One Word Challenge (FOWC) of 23 October 2021, x-ray.

An ex-friend of mine felt empowered,
When he found he had gained super powers,
With his keen X-ray eyes,
He zapped birds from the skies,
And he lasered the heads off my flowers.


Prompt image for the Fandango One Word Challenge prompt

Spooked

This is my response to this week’s Flashback Track Friday prompt, where they asked us to:

Share a piece inspired by witches, real or imagined.

My story is 100% real. There’s no way I can do it justice by anything other than a straight journalistic account. Even then, there’s no way I can write this so it has the same effect on you, but I hope I have come close to describing the effect it had on me.


Can I state, right up front, that I’m a scientist? Seriously. I studied physics to a high level. That’s how I trained. My first job was in the Atomic Energy Authority. Experiment, observe, draw conclusions, and try to build empirical laws. That’s how my world works.

There is an explanation for everything, that everything is understandable. If we don’t understand why something happens, it just means that we haven’t discovered the reason yet.

There are many examples to cite. We go out, and the sky above us is blue. For millennia, it just “was”. But now, we understand why. It gets dark, and we see specks of light in the curtain of night. And we understand, now, that they are stars. And we know how stars work, the method they use to create the light we see. And we know how they orbit, and can predict their paths hundreds of years in advance.

Or, in the field of medicine. I had my COVID booster yesterday, and, think about the miracle of it. That we understand how vaccines work, that giving ourselves a small dose of something, we trigger our bodies to protect themselves against it.

My point is, that humans learn. We start off without a clue, and we find things out. There is a reason for everything, even if we don’t know what it is yet. The sky is blue because other wavelengths are scattered by the atmosphere, not because God happened to have some paint left over.

I want to get that out of the way, because there is no way I can convey the absolute terror that I felt after I met someone who claimed to be a witch, and I couldn’t process it. All I can really do is recount how I felt, what I saw, how shook up I was afterwards.

I was at university – the height of my science training.

This woman was my then-girlfriend’s best friend. She was great company and, to tell the truth, I had the wrong girlfriend. But we were all young once.

We were talking one night, just the pair of us. No booze, no drugs. The subject turned to my grandfather, who had died four years before, and who this woman could not have met. She told me various things about him that I don’t think she could have known otherwise. And in the process of the evening, she disclosed to me that she was a witch. Really, no shit! That’s what she told me.

I know, I know. That’s exactly what I thought, at first. That she must have found out these things somehow. I just didn’t know how.

All these years later, following deliberate attempts to put it out of my mind, I can remember few specifics of the conversation. I can, however, remember my emotion.

The most uncomfortable part was when she talked about my smoking habit. “He doesn’t like you doing it, you know.” Like as though he was sitting there, in the corner of the room. Maybe, to her, he was. In fact, my grandad smoked like a proverbial chimney and this was likely what caused the heart attack which killed him.

But, at that part, I was merely uncomfortable. Lots of people smoked, but the health risks were becoming increasingly clear. Lucky guess?

She told me that the “powers” were stronger in me than in most people. I know. Total flannel. I’m replaying Star Wars in my head. She spins everyone this line, right?

There was one other specific that I remember. This woman was into her crystals. Magical powers and whatnot. Hocus Pocus bollocks. But she had a crystal pendant. It fell nine or ten inches when you dangled it.

And, do you know what happens when you dangle a pendant? It does little figures of eight, almost, gradually losing its energy. Ever decreasing circles, kind of thing.

Well, I held this pendant – let’s be clear there was no physical contact with this woman – and this pendant swung around in small circles as any momentum dissipated because of the friction in the chain.

Then the woman warned me what she was about to do. She just looked at the crystal on the end of the pendant. And it stopped dead. Did not move a millimetre.

No touching, remember?

Like I said, I can’t possibly do this story justice. For one, many of the details of this night, over thirty years ago, are gone. I can’t expect you to feel any of what I felt, so I’m not even going to try. But I can at least tell you how freaked out I was. A diehard sceptic, I hate not understanding things. I racked my brains for explanations but found none.

And my only conclusion was simply that some things, we just don’t understand – call them supernatural if you wish. And how, even if we are 99% certain that something is bullshit, there is still that 1%.

This account is totally honest. I have lost details over the years, and I’m not making any attempt to conceal this. But I remember that sinking feeling, as my neat scientific world dissolved around me – like it was yesterday.  I bet you’re all better at remembering moods than details, too.

This woman’s name was Noreen, and this took place in the Halls of Residence during my first year at university in Cardiff, UK. I was nineteen and she was no more than a couple of years older.