New Year, new you!

Jim dropped his glass, exclaiming in a most unlike-him way: “Damn you! That was an expensive family antique!” “I’m sorry, but I’m desperate!” puffed the young man, “my sister came into this block a few minutes ago with a real creep. She’s drunk, has no idea what she’s doing and she’ll really regret this in the morning.” “Ah, that’ll be number 21. Quick, come this way” and with that Jim made rapidly for the fire escape. “It’s only one floor up” he assured the puffing young man over his shoulder as his long legs strode on ahead. Reaching the window, he bent down and pulled. As he’d thought, it was still open from this morning, when that pretty young thing had climbed out of it and down the fire escape to Jim’s back door whilst he was having breakfast. She was making a quick escape whilst the creep was in the shower she told him, before planting a kiss on his cheek as he let her out his front door.

Stepping aside, he ushered the young man through the window. He wasn’t afraid of the creep – far from it – but he’d no idea what state of déshabillé the sister would be in, so best her brother deal with that. Calling out “Katy, Katy” the young man raced along the hallway ripping open and slamming doors, before a sharp intake of breath indicated he’d found his sister. Seeing the young man launch himself into what he knew was the bedroom, Jim followed behind, in case back-up was required.  Until, decidedly unsteady on her feet and a tad disheveled, the lady of the hour cannoned right into him. Peering around her into the room, Jim could see that her brother was making quick work of the creep. As she appeared decidedly unsteady, Jim picked her up. Her brother, spotting Jim, waved him off with a hasty and breathless “see you downstairs!” so Jim headed for the front door.

Reaching his own front door, Jim realised he’d not picked up his keys and so headed downstairs to reception, still carrying Katy. The doorman raised his eyebrows “she was with the mister from number 21 before, how come …?” before Jim cut him off with “I know, rescue party. Can you buzz me in to my flat please Mike, I went up the fire escape without my key?” “Surely Mr Jim, you give me a shout when you be ready” By now, Katy was beginning to feel more of a burden, so Jim called the lift. On arrival, he shouted down to Mike and, as Mike buzzed the door open, Katy suddenly came to. Wriggling out of his arms, she fell in a heap on the floor. When Jim tried to help her up, she swung at him – very drunkenly – completely missing fortunately. Deciding discretion was the better part of valour, Jim made no further attempt to rescue that particular fair maiden from his hallway floor, and waited for her brother to arrive.

It wasn’t a long wait. Introductions were made and explanations were given – although that makes it sound like a calm and orderly sequence of events, and that it certainly wasn’t. There was a lot of shouting and arm waving between the siblings, whilst Jim kept out of the way, brewing a pot of fresh coffee. Once the smell hit the warring brother and sister, they calmed down and took seats at the table. Clutching their big mugs of coffee, both looked a touch awkward and embarrassed. Apologies were burbled, and waved away by Jim “most entertaining New Year I’ve had in a while”. The creep didn’t appear – he never pursued, too much effort apparently – so Jim put Katy in the spare room and her brother Callum on the sofa.

Callum took Katy home early the next morning. Jim could tell that she was suffering – and not just from a crashing hangover, more specifically from not knowing how to meet his eye. A shame really, as she was rather lovely.  Jim shrugged, “Never mind, if this was how his New year, new you was starting … life wasn’t going to be boring anymore.”

 


© Debra Carey, 2018

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#secondthoughts: Nigeria

I lived in Nigeria for 6 years and it was only in the last decade that I’ve realised how little I know of the country, the people, of the civil war – despite moving there when it had been going for a year.  Unlike India, Nigeria wasn’t home. It was where I lived, when I wasn’t in boarding school that is.  It was a great place to be young – the weather was tropical and there were extensive opportunities for water sports.  But I was always aware of an underlying current of fear at home, so our lives revolved around our parents and their ex-patriot friends. It was never discussed this fear, never explained, but it was always present. As a result, I never sought to read about the country, despite a decided preference for books written by international authors.

Until recently that is. I’ve now read four – all outstanding – and I would urge you to do likewise. For these are huge talents and wonderful story-tellers, not just writers of Nigerian literature.

First up was “The Fishermen” by Chigozie Obioma. It was shortlisted for the Man Booker prize in 2015 and I read it as part of my annual Man Booker read-alongs. The tale of this Igbo family’s five sons took me back to my first year in Lagos, when a group of us children used to run free, entirely without the supervision of adults. We didn’t get up to anything actively wrong, but we certainly got up to stuff our parents wouldn’t approve of, much like the boys did in “The Fishermen”. The local madman/seer in the book reminded me of the man with the chicken farm who used to rail at us for climbing into his enclosure – not to take chickens, but simply as a dare. The innocence in this behaviour – of both my group and the boys – was bittersweet, for it wasn’t long before we all had to grow up, to face puberty and real life. The superstitions and the seemingly overwhelming drive in males towards violence and vengeance whilst present in Nigeria, can also be found in many other examples of African literature.

I then persuaded my book club to read “Americanah” by Chimamande Ngozi Adichie. Whilst the majority of the story takes place in America,  it is filled with musings on the life of the black american – as seen from the perspective of a black african. And oh are the differences striking, especially to anyone who has experienced life in Africa. Whilst some in my book club found the focus on hair – and how it is dressed – repetitive and irrelevant, I found it the perfect metaphor for the huge gulf which exists between the two. When our heroine, Ifemelu, returns to Lagos, her joy at being home and her discomfort with the female role within Nigerian society all struck strong chords with me. That was the Lagos I remember seeing and hearing about – and although I was only 11 when I arrived, I’d reached my 16th birthday before we left.

“We should all be Feminists” then followed. I won’t dwell on this one long, as it’s a brief book and builds on the thread in “Americanah” of how the female gender is regarded in Nigerian society. Whilst clearly a subject that Adichie feels strongly about, it was all the more powerful as she did not tip into anger and bitterness, but rather demonstrated the love and affection she feels for her country and its people.

“Things Fall Apart” by the man – Chinua Achebe – came next and what a treat. A truly astounding novel. Beautiful, subtle, layered. Absolutely no lecturing, no hectoring, simply gorgeous story-telling. A story repeated throughout Africa, actually throughout the world wherever european imperialism has reached it’s tentacles. An important reminder that many of the world’s ills have been created by the drawing of boundaries to suit the european “owners” of overseas territories. How the fervence of missionaries was all too often backed by the military power of the european invaders. Whether you regard the tale of every day life depicted by Achebe as desirable or not, it was their life and we, the British, imposed our ways, our views, our religion and our ambitions upon them.

Lastly, “Half of a Yellow Sun” by Adichie again. Finally, the story of the civil war. I knew pathetically little and what I did know, came only from the British media, or from what I heard around the ex-pat community in Lagos. Some years ago, I met a man on a dating site. He was Nigerian who’d lived in England for many years because, as he told me “being Igbo, I had to leave after the war.” Knowing I’d lived in Lagos, he assumed I knew the significance of that statement. Feeling ashamed, I didn’t enlighten him of my ignorance. This book finally put that right. Here is the tale of the Biafran war told by Biafrans – the Igbo. I realise that there’s another side to this tale, as there always is, but the significance of foreign interference (or support – depending on your perspective) is unavoidable.

When I sat down to write this I realised – with some surprise – that all three of these  authors are of Igbo origin. But rather than ignore the fresh insight these books have provided me simply because they come from only one source, I’ve made a decision to seek out Nigerian authors of varying origins -such as Wole Soyinka & Helen Oyeyemi (both Yoruba), Lola Shoneyin (Remo), Ken Saro-Wiwa (Ogoni) and Abubakar Adam Ibrahim (Hausa) – to add to my knowledge of Nigeria. To that end, I’m also following New Books Nigeria where I’m sure to find recommendations to challenge my toppling To-Read list with some great offerings. And, as always, I welcome your recommendations.

Sometime in the future, I plan to revisit this piece to express yet further #secondthoughts of this unique country where I was fortunate to have spent my teenage years.


© Debra Carey, 2018

More flying pigs!

Pigs Might Fly

Let me introduce you to FV1611.

It – or rather she – is a truck and she is sitting at the back of the yard, surrounded by scrap metal and other vehicle parts.  FV means that it is a fighting vehicle, and you can tell that her shabbiness is not just caused by her abandonment in this junk end of the vehicle park.  This is a vehicle that has done some serious work in her time.

FV1611 is a Humber 1 ton (Brit, not metric tonne) payload, wheeled, armoured vehicle designed for the British Army.  Her primary role is troop-carrying and can carry eight blokes: one driver, one corporal/section commander as front passenger and six in the back, three each side. You need to be really friendly with your oppo ‘cos the back of FV16ll is somewhat bijou. And no windows, just little slits, so to make the most of the limited daylight somebody has painted the inside silver all over.  That’s got rubbed and shabby too.

The first of these vehicles, designated FV1600, were built in 1952 and the last models, the 1611 Mark 2s came out in 1955 and they were still in service forty years later, latterly on the streets of Northern Ireland in support of the police.  I did say she had done some serious work in her time.

She was built solid, but today’s elf’n’safety bods would have a heart attack if they went over her! Headroom? That’s a laugh, for a start! Bench seats at the back, no backs to them, no safety belts – not in the front either.  If you have to deploy out of her fast you don’t want your feet getting tangled up in your mate’s safety belt.  It’s bad enough with your own webbing.  And you have to hold your rifle; only the driver has a place to stash his weapon.  Cushions as hard as seasoned oak; but less comfortable.  But you don’t want comfort – you want alert. And there’s only one way out.

The best thing about her was the Rolls Royce engine, but don’t get the idea that she gave a Roll-Royce ride, oh no! Her suspension was as hard as the bench seats and – to get technical – the power : weight ratio was abysmal. No power steering, either, which meant that drivers got pretty sticky in the summer.

No, on the whole there’s not a lot to remember with delight about FV1611, but as I scramble over the junk to investigate further, a lot of memories come creeping in slowly.  I remember some good mates, some no longer with us, some in different worlds of their own, some happy with families.  We had unspoken rules for living together in cramped and Spartan places. What, for example, was in your ration pack was yours, but if you got any extras, beer, sweets, fags they were shared.  You looked after your buddy and he looked out for you.  You were a team.

I felt a prickle at the back of my eyes as I remembered some of those days, days which should not have been but were, and I could not feel regret at being there.  Those were the days when I was young and fit and invincible and the whole world was open to me.

And now my son says, “Careful Dad, that junk doesn’t look secure”, but I am now beside her, opening the driver’s door.  Some vandal has pulled out the speedo and smashed the other instrument glasses, but all the rest is still there.  She’s sad, and shabby, abandoned and forlorn.  Carefully I slip into the driver’s seat and hold the wheel again.  I look around the cab and get a shock – there are my initials just as I scratched them in the paint alongside the windscreen all those years ago. This I do not believe!

“Dad, Dad, come out of there – you’ll get caught!”  But I sit still for a few moments more, not exactly re-living the past but recalling ghosts, and especially the ghost of this machine FV1611 series, Mark 2, modified with bull-bars to take down barricades and extended anti-riot screens, and so heavy to drive and with such a lumbering performance they were nicknamed Flying Pigs.

 

© Alan F. Jesson 2018

 

The End of the World

The atmosphere had been tense for days and the Threat Level had fluctuated between ‘Moderate’ and ‘Substantial’.  Warning signs were clear: skirmishes more frequent, escalating in intensity. It was only a matter of time before disaster struck.  That morning it was clear: the situation was deteriorating.  By lunchtime the Threat Level was at ‘Severe’, and during the afternoon it rose to ‘Critical’.  The world ended at teatime:

“But I wanted the green plate!”

The child wailed, limbs thrashing on the floor.

Later, the child soothed and sleeping peacefully, a toast was drunk to surviving the end of the world – again.

 

©David Jesson, 2018

#FlashFiction: Pigs Might Fly

“Domnhall Ciaran O’Malley: what is this?”

Dom looked up at me and grinned cheerfully, not picking up on the exasperation bleeding through in my use of his full name.  This was either wilful ‘I’m going to bring you round in the end’ obfuscation, or it was ‘this is such a grand idea that no-one could possibly find anything wrong with it’ optimism.  With Dom, it was hard to tell which, and could be both.

“It’s the flyer for our new business!”  You could almost see the enthusiasm congealing on the walls, there was so much of it sloshing about.

“I’ve ordered ten thousand”, he said – and you could hear the leprechauns tuning up their fiddles for a ceilidh in the way he said it, “and I’ve been looking at the costs of getting them delivered.  In the grand scheme of things we can afford it, but we might want to deliver them ourselves, for the exercise like.  We could take half each and then look in at the ‘Dog and Duck’ for some rejuvenation after.”

I sighed.  The flyer was the result of a slightly drunken conversation that we’d had the Friday before.  As with all such conversations, it had seemed like a good idea at the time, and in the face of 10,000 flyers advertising the idea, it seemed…less so.  Also, as with such conversations, Dom had acted as if the matter was settled.  I had clearly failed to a) pick up on how much the idea meant to him and b) follow up with him quickly enough to squash the idea.

PIGS MIGHT FLY – BUT WE’LL DEFINITELY GET YOUR STUFF DELIVERED ON TIME.  The text was in fuschia on an aquamarine background, with a logo of an angelic looking pig holding a parcel.  This was wrong.  Wrong on so many levels.

Dom looked up at me hopefully, a bit like a puppy standing in the wreckage of a living room and waiting for a treat.

I sighed again.

©David Jesson, 2018

 

Pigs might fly

“If the doctor was the killer she would have to have been in two places at once. It’s impossible” Jen said. She sat leaning forward on her brown leather sofa. It was a two-seater, bulky which swallowed you whole if you leaned back into it. A comfortable sofa. Jen was far from comfortable. Her head buried into her hands. “I know it was her Jen. I don’t know why but it was her and you know it too. She’s been taunting us throughout the investigation”, Emily said. She was standing leaning against a white wall opposite Jen whose eyes were still focused on the floor. She brushed her blonde hair off her face using both her hands, stood up and began pacing across the room.

“We have nothing Em. No evidence. Maybe it wasn’t her. Maybe she just hates the authorities.” Jen’s voice filled with resignation. “I mean how could we possibly know it was her. We still have three other suspects. We have to be thorough. It might be time to rule her out.”

“No Jen it was her. I know it was”

“How? Don’t be so stubborn at least try to consider what I’m saying”

“I’m just going to have to show you”

“Show me what?” Jen asked cautiously.

Emily raised her hand. Nothing happened for a moment. Then Jen jerked forward as if she had been in a car accident. As she turned around she saw her body floating. She let out a scream, but no sound came out. She turned over to Emily who was drifting towards her. Emily was pointing at something. Jen followed her finger towards some sort of portal. The dust throughout the room aligned towards it like it does with sunlight through a window. They drifted through it and ended up in at the scene of the murder. “Now watch” Emily said. The doctor appeared out of nowhere. The victim was sitting in his seat still alive. Emily and Jen were there and saw everything but couldn’t interact with their surroundings. They were there but weren’t there at the same time. The doctor took out a gun and shot the victim through the forehead and disappeared. Jen screamed but no one heard her. Her voice turned into an echo. She looked over to Emily whose body was fading. She raised her hand towards Emily and immediately jerked back into her body in the present day. She had time travelled. What had just happened. “Emily what just..” she was cut off immediately

“You just time travelled sort of. The doctor is the killer and that’s how I know. I know, impossible but well that’s what just happened”

© Adi Gajendragadkar, 2018

 

Flying Pig

Wednesday started out as just another day. Sean had already left for work, leaving his morning detritus in the kitchen sink for Janet to deal with. Clean up and food prep done, a quick touch of make-up later, Janet headed to work. When she arrived, there was more than the usual buzz. A crowd had gathered round Suzie’s desk. Sighing, it was Valentine’s Day, Janet could guess Suzie was now wearing a ring. And so it transpired. Forcing a bright smile, she suggested congratulatory drinks at lunchtime, before heading to her office. Door shut behind her, she took a deep breath and buzzed “Tom, can you come through when you’re ready?”

Minutes later, Tom bustled in carrying coffee, notebook tucked under his arm. Avoiding her eyes he said “shoot” whilst holding his pen poised. Janet laughed, it got her every time he did it. Tom had been her PA for a year now and he was anything other than the perfect secretary bird. Instead he was whip-smart and very ambitious. Together, they were rising through the ranks rapidly. He raised his eyebrows …

“Another V-Day without a question being popped?”
“Oh come on, I thought I was safe in here.”
“Whatever ….”
“Yes OK, it’s yet another year.”
“And he knows this is what you want now, right? You’ve stopped all the independent woman, don’t want a ring nonsense, haven’t you?”
“Uh-huh. He looked at me like I had two heads before going to the pub!”
“Ah well, it’s only 9, there’s plenty of time for him to pull it together.”
“Yeah right … and pigs might fly! So, this spring conference, shall we run through the to-do list?”

Two hours passed before they broke for more coffee. Janet made a quick call, ending it as Tom returned with filled mugs …

“Erm Janet, you might want to look out the window.”
“Whatever for?”
“Well, you know those big things that fly over the Super Bowl in America?”
“Goodyear blimps?”
“Yeah, those. Well, there’s one outside … and it looks like a pig!”
“Yeah right, really funny Tom!”
“No really, you need to look. And … it’s pulling a sign. Seriously Janet, you need to look.”
“Oh for goodness sake, how’m I expected to get any work done around here?”

Through the window she read “Janet Bradley, Sean says will you marry me?” Turning as the office door office banged behind them, they saw Sean taking to bended knee. Smiling smugly, he held out a small box … containing a diamond ring.

 

© Debra Carey, 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#FF Prompt: Pigs might fly

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How’s 2018 been for you so far? Resolutions going well, or already ditched? Here’s a little prompt for you to play with for February – it could be something absurd & unbelievable, a wild & wonderful dream, a February 29th type story (even though there isn’t one this year!) Whatever you like … just get those trotters airborne.

Word count: 100-500
Deadline: Friday 9th February 2018, 2pm GMT

 


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