New Moon Affirmations

camerazoom-20170128130641247

A couple of nights ago, I was looking through some old photographs that I had stored on several CDs. What a treasure trove of memories! Family parties, pets now passed on but still no less loved, crazy antics, holidays…Revisiting all these reminiscences, hearing the echo of laughter, I came to a startling conclusion. I have lost the young woman I once was.

Yes, I know we are all getting older, and though I hesitate to state the obvious, I am not 21 anymore. But that’s not what I mean. As I looked at photos of myself, some from ten or fifteen years ago, I saw a bright, youthful, vibrant, vital young woman. When I compare her to the woman who now gazes back at me from the mirror, I see that I have lost something. I have lost the essence of joy. I shan’t say that life has sucked the life out of me, but it has taken the youthful vitality and the feeling that I conquer the world. I am middle aged, and in my eyes I am beginning to look it.

Well no more!

Today, as the universe begins a new cycle with a new moon, and as we welcome the Chinese New Year of the Rooster, I have made a conscious decision to renew myself. As part of this renewal, I have made a list of affirmations, to remind myself to remain positive, to take back control of my own happiness and to allow only love and light into my heart and soul. So, on this auspicious new moon, I affirm that I…

Shall clear my soul of old, negative energy.

Shall let go of other people’s negativity. Not my circus. Not my monkeys.

Invite financial and emotional abundance into my life.

Shall fill my heart and soul with light and love.

Shall work for what my heart desires and to create the life of my dreams.

Reaffirm that I am a creative and powerful being, the creator of my reality.

Fill my life, my heart, my soul and all that I hold dear with light and positivity.

This list of affirmations I wrote down on a piece of paper and shall keep it on my desk, as a daily reminder of the promises I have made to myself. My journey to reclaim the joyous young woman I once was, starts here!

seal

Advertisements

The Wedding Invitation

camerazoom-20170117151629608

The cream-coloured, pearl-accented wedding invitation, replete with matching envelope, dropped onto the mat late last year. The invitation was to attend the wedding of my sister and her fiancé. I knew she was getting married, of course. We all knew. Ever since the day her now fiancé proposed to her, we had not only known, but been abuzz with excitement, primarily because the proposal was so unexpected. Having been together for the the best part of twenty-two years, eighteen of which had seen them living together, we had all naturally assumed that they were happy how they were, that they had made their commitment to each other when they bought their house together. Happy they undoubtedly are, but my pragmatic and apparently unromantic soon-to-be brother-in-law, pulled an absolute blinder on my sister’s fiftieth birthday back in April last year and asked her to marry him.

Since then, there has been decision after decision to be made. What to wear, what not to wear, corsage or no corsage, who will stay overnight with whom…the list goes on. In the end though, I know that all will go swimmingly. Why? Because my sister and her fiancé, both of whom love each other like nothing else on earth, are getting married, with all those who mean the most to them in attendance. There will then be the wedding breakfast, followed by speeches by the father-of-the-bride and the best man and the women will dab their eyes and pretend they’re not crying. A great deal of drinking will follow, as well as dancing to “Come On Eileen” and probably an ABBA medley. At the end of the night, the dance floor will empty as people drift away to their beds, while a few stick around for one more drink, while 10cc insist they’re not in love. And in this world of chaos and uncertainty, isn’t that what all the best memories are made of?

seal

Still Dreaming

I wrote this piece back in 2008, for a UK based publication called UK Blackout Magazine. As you can tell by the first line, it was written to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. At the time when this article was written, the idea that the United States would have its first ever black president, or that that president would give way to the chaotic, racist, misogynist that is the current president-elect, would have seemed so fanciful as to be ridiculous. And yet here we are. Still dreaming. Still hoping for a better world. As I read through what I had written almost ten years ago, I was struck by the fact that the need to come together and make that dream a reality has never been more urgent. The fight against racism and bigotry would, we all knew, be more of a marathon than a sprint, but I hoped we’d be closer to the finish line than we currently are. Today, on Martin Luther King Day, I thought it appropriate to share this article with you. 

 

Still Dreaming

fb_img_1484583568454

April 4th marks the 40th anniversary of the 1968 assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. At the time, it seemed that James Earl Ray had done more than end the life of a great civil rights leader; to the masses, he had also killed the dream. It was a dream that Dr. King had told to a 250,000-strong crowd gathered at the Reflecting Pool at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington just five years earlier, a dream that one day, all men would be free.

Fortunately for our society, such a noble dream could never be killed; and yet four decades later we are all, sadly, still dreaming.

Today, we live in an anomalous world. The spectre of racism towards the black community still haunts our society, but our ever increasing sense of political correctness rightly makes it socially unacceptable to openly display racist sentiments, or employ the racial epithets which were previously used so flippantly. By the same token, however, the horrifically ill-conceived war against Iraq and Afghanistan, and the subliminal anti-Islamic sentiments that we are drip fed on a daily basis by certain sections of the media and government, have made it socially acceptable to display both racial prejudice and religious bigotry towards the Muslim community. Add to that the contradictory, yet nonetheless deeply held belief that we are a progressive and tolerant society, and suddenly the dream has never seemed so far away.

Dr. King’s dream that one day, all men would be free is today still regarded as the ideal of purely the black community, which is precisely why the dream has not yet come true. The fate of society and the destiny of mankind are tied up in the self same dream. For the notion that all men would, or should, be free does not just mean freedom from oppression, racism or religious bigotry, but also freedom from hatred, whether that be on the part of the hated, or the hater.

The hater hates certain people and cultures because he doesn’t understand them. At the same time, he is blinded to the fact that he will never understand them because he hates them. Meanwhile, the hated cannot understand why their people or culture is the focus of such hostility. This leads to mistrust of the hater’s community; over time, mistrust also turns to hate. It is a vicious cycle which stimulates within us the animalistic ‘herd instinct’, whereby collective aggression is levelled at anyone who is not a member of the herd.

All of these sentiments are compounded by the drip, drip effect of subliminal, media-fed racism, prejudice and separatism, conditioning people in the myth of white supremacy. Social and educational research suggests that people have a far stronger response to subliminal messages than to direct facts. Thus, the horror of the drip, drip effect is that some people actually begin to believe that their security, and the security of their families and communities, depends upon the oppression of others.

As a society, are we really so blind and naïve that we do not recognise the lessons of history? We react with justifiable revulsion when we hear stories, or see film of the Holocaust. We recoil in disgust at images of lynchings and the Ku Klux Klan. So why then do we not realise that we are once again heading down that same terrible road? Why are we not thoroughly dismayed and ashamed at ourselves that we have not yet met racism and bigotry head on and stamped it out once and for all?

It would be easy to go along with the theory that that is just the age we live in and accept the status quo, rather than continue on the hard road towards the dream. The truth is, however, that for all our sakes, we must continue along the road, no matter how difficult the way becomes. In the words of the novelist Robert James Waller, ‘Life is never easy for those who dream.’

In order to understand the inanity of racism, let us strip it down to the bare bones. To hate, or mistrust, or simply believe that we should stay away from, those of a different colour, race or religion, is as nonsensical as saying that brunettes should not mix with blondes, or that blondes should hate redheads.

In 1963, when Dr. King gave his now world renowned speech, he said ‘I refuse to accept that man is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.’ As he spoke those words, everyone who heard and believed them knew that in an era of segregation, they had a mountain to climb if they were to bring about that reality. They knew that racism was symptomatic of the condition of ignorance and that bringing an end to racism and segregation was not simply a matter for the legislature; it was also a matter of education, both of the individual and of society.

Today, we seem to have forgotten that truth. Whilst the UK never had a civil rights movement such as that of the United States, the government did, during the 1980’s and 1990’s, attempt to stem the tide of racism that had been sweeping the country since the mass immigration of Asians and West-Indians of the 1950’s and 1960’s, by making it an offence to discriminate against a person because of the colour of their skin, or the nature of their religion. Yet as the American civil rights campaigners of the 1960’s discovered, legislation alone is merely a sticking plaster on the festering wound that poisons our society. Education is the antidote to that poison, for people are not born racist, they are taught to be.

Yet all is not lost. There is still time, but the time is now. No longer do we live in a segregated world. Instead we live in a world of multi-cultural, multi-racial and multi-faith communities. We therefore have the perfect opportunity to instigate that individual and social education, to teach our children the beauty of humanism, and bring about an end to racism and bigotry.

Mark Twain once wrote that ‘Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do, than by the ones you did do.’ It has now been forty years since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. died because of a dream. Let us mark this anniversary by honouring his legacy in the noblest way possible. Let us learn the lessons of our history. Let us not only come together under the umbrella of the same dream, but have the courage and the conviction to make that dream a reality.

seal

Rats In The Aviary

It was the poet, Robert Burns, who so colourfully said “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men, Gang aft a-gley” or “The best laid plans of mice and men, So often go awry”. I was prompted to dwell on these lines today, especially so since my plans to have a full day of writing went awry, replaced instead with not so much mice, but rats.

Late this morning, my husband came in from feeding our birds. “We have a problem,” he said, “I’ve just seen two rats in the aviary and three of the quails are missing.” Immediately, I threw on my coat and hat and headed out into the garden with him.

Our aviary is housed within our garage (the garage is not attached to the house, but rather is a separate structure, itself the size of a small house, in the garden), so the question was twofold one. Not only did we need to discover how and where the rats had got into the aviary, but how and where had they got into the garage? Within a few minutes, we had moved everything – lawnmower, tools, bikes, freestanding shelves, and everything in between – away from the walls, looking for any sign of where the rats may have been getting in. Upon moving two sacks of firewood, we found what we were looking for. Two holes, essentially two missing bricks, right at the bottom of one of the walls. The firewood had been standing there against that wall since the day we moved in. The house has both a wood burner and central heating, but we’ve never used the wood burner. Still, we chose to keep the sacks of firewood that we found in the garage on the day we moved in, just in case we ever had to use the wood burner. And so there they had remained, hiding two holes in the wall, two holes that were just waiting for an opportunist rat or two, to come along and find.

We duly blocked off the holes, using some old block paviours that we had left over from when we replaced the patio, and replaced everything back against the walls. We then turned our attention to the aviary itself. How the hell had the sneaky rats managed to get into there?

It didn’t take long to find a hole, gnawed through the wire and wood, at the far corner of the aviary. Once they were in, our poor ground dwelling quails didn’t stand a chance. The two – out of five – that we now have left, are the lucky ones. Our Zebra Finches were lucky too, safely out of reach up on their high perches. Two hours later, with wood and wire duly replaced, we felt relatively confident that our birds were now safe. Not that we’re taking any chances though. A couple of humane traps have been placed in the garage, just in case there are any weakened areas that escaped our notice. I refuse to place poison or any kind of trap that will harm the rats. They are, after all, only doing what comes naturally to them; plus, if I put poison down, one of my cats or one of the neighbourhood strays, could easily catch a poisoned rat, thus making a bad situation a whole lot worse.

I am now sitting at my desk, with a hot cup of Earl Grey tea to warm my hands and soothe my emotions in having lost three of my beloved quails. The best laid plans of mice and men do indeed often go awry, especially when a couple of rats stumble upon a veritable all-you-can-eat buffet…

seal

A Ramshackle Shop

As I went walking the other day,

I happened upon a ramshackle shop,

It was stuffed to the rafters with furniture

And the shelves looked fit to drop.

There were sideboards, and bureaus, and bookcases,

Armchairs and sofa beds too,

There were all kinds of couches in all different shapes

And even a chaise-longue or two.

There were vases and flowerpots, glasses and cups,

And one or two crystal decanters.

And a small garden gnome stood on miniature guard

Next to exquisite, but oddly shaped planters.

‘Have they ever sold anything? Anything at all?’

Was just one of the thoughts that I had.

For most of this stuff looked like it was made

When Jesus himself was a lad.

And then I recalled my dear nanna’s words

When I said her own shop I would keep

“Remember my girl, that folk are quite daft,

“They’ll buy owt so long as it’s cheap.”

seal

A Candle In The Dark

I love candles. No matter where you are, or whatever the scenario, candles always lend a certain ambience. I guess when most people think of candles, they think of romance – a candlelit dinner for two, for example. For me though, they are much more than that. To me, candles are comforting (I’m not religious and yet I find the sight of candles in a church spiritually soothing), relaxing (a long hot soak in a bubble bath surrounded by candles always does me the world of good), festive and traditional (lighting the Christmas candles is something I dearly love about the season), and atmospheric (where would a ghost story be without a candle suddenly being blown out?)

Candles can represent respect too. I remember once seeing a candle being lit around a coffin, and thinking how it seemed to represent a final act by those left behind for someone they loved. A candle in the dark, lighting the way to another life.

img_20160721_220215-1

Normally, when I try to photograph candles, they come out looking like some indistinct ball of light. I’m quite proud of this one though. To me, it is one of the nicest photos of a candle I have ever taken.

seal

 

Make America Kittens Again!

What do you do when you’re trying to enjoy your cup of morning coffee, but your retinas are being assaulted by images of the angry Cheeto more commonly known as Donald Trump, popping up in your news feed? Why, you install the “Make America Kittens Again” Chrome extension, of course!

Created by a guy called Tom Royal, this Chrome extension replaces news images of Donald Trump with pictures of cute kittens. It’s a marvellous creation, for it means that I can read the reports of his chaotic press conferences, his “unpresidented” attacks on the media and calling a reporter “rude” (the words “pot”, “kettle” and “black” spring to mind), but I don’t have to look at the man (I use that word purely in its biological sense).

I must admit that I was a little skeptical of its efficacy, but I thought I’d give it  whirl anyway. I could always uninstall it if it didn’t work. Imagine my delight therefore when, just after installing the extension onto my desktop, I clicked onto the BBC News website and this is what appeared on my screen.

screenshot-6

I tried another site, The Local, which gives foreign language news in English. I was not disappointed.

screenshot-7

One of the reviews for the extension is that it does not work on every site. However, I noticed that the developer has included annotations of updates to make the extension more universally viable. I was particularly amused by Tom Royal’s reasoning for his development of the extension. He says that it “Replaces Donald Trump with kittens Because: (A) Trump is a disgrace (B) Kittens are lovely and (C) I couldn’t find a Creative Commons photo of a blobfish to use” Fabulous!

0a53f615118c87ce9573f3d1f429e0eb

A Blobfish. The resemblance is uncanny!

So if, like me, you are already sick to the back teeth of seeing Donald Trump’s face leering at you from your desktop screens, why not click here and install the extension. I did, and it’s damned near made my day!

seal

 

Before I Die…

img_20170111_144536

The copyright for this photo belongs to Stephen Fry.

I saw this photo on Twitter, posted by Stephen Fry. He saw this board on a towpath between Regent’s Park and Lisson Grove in London, and took a photo of it. That was two-and-a-half years ago, and, having rediscovered the photo, he posted it on Twitter.

The board is entitled “Before I die…” and bears several lines, each beginning with “Before I die I want to” and encourages people to fill in the blanks with what they would like to do before they die. Reading through the responses, I have to say that I agree with Stephen Fry that it is somehow rather touching; in fact, some of the responses are heartbreaking.

Take for example: “Before I die I want to…get over losing Dad”. Whoever wrote that, I want to find them and hug them and tell them that we never get over losing the ones we love. We simply learn to manage the pain until we are strong enough to put one foot in front of the other once more.

There are the funny responses too, such as “Before I die I want to…go to Hogwarts” or “Before I die I want to…learn how to write an essay” and “Before I die I want to…be on this list”.

Moreover, however, these responses of a random selection of society are about love. There is “Before I die I want to…get married”, “Before I die I want to…marry Babou”, “Before I die I want to…marry Gabita”, “Before I die I want to…love and be wise” and “Before I die I want to…make a difference”.

To my mind, there is a reason why the majority of the responses are about love. Love is life and life is love. Reading through them, I was reminded of the words of the actress Emanuelle Riva. “Love is the essence of life; love touches all of our work. Love never leaves us. It clings to us, and we cling to it.”

seal

Ouijabble

ouija

I wrote this short story back in 2011. It is one of my handwritten pieces that never made it onto my hard drive, let alone publication. In fact, it was never meant to. I wrote it primarily for myself, and thought that perhaps one day, I would put it into Word and send it up to some magazine or the like, to see if they might be interested in it. Somehow, I never got round to it, and so since the time of writing, it has sat there in my archive, with my other handwritten unpublished short stories and poetry. So when I saw that this week’s Discover Challenge was to make an ephemeral transcript digital, I thought that perhaps I would give this piece an airing and see what you all thought of it. Who knows, later on, I might give some more of my short stories and poetry an airing too. That’s if you’d all like to read them, of course! Thus, without further ado, I give you “Ouijabble”. 

John and Linda sat down at the dining room table, ready to play their habitual weekly game of Scrabble. This had been a routine of theirs since before they were married. They both worked long hours, so much so that sometimes they would hardly see each other throughout the week. Once John joked that it was pointless them even having a house together, given that they spent so little time there. Neither of them worked weekends, but on Saturdays there was all the housework to catch up on, shopping to do, mothers to call, friends to see, and a whole heap of other stuff to take care of, all of which made Saturdays almost as busy as a workday. Sunday was the only day when there was absolutely nothing to do. They could sleep late, eat breakfast in bed, even stay in bed all day if they wanted. Generally, they could do as much or as little as they liked.

It was on one of these lazy Sundays, either while they were dating or just after they got engaged, neither of them could quite remember which, that the idea of playing Scrabble was born. They both loved word games, and so the idea of playing a game – or even several games – gave them the opportunity to spend some quality quiet time together when neither of them had to think about work, and if anyone wanted to call round, they could quite legitimately say they were busy. John and Linda loved these Sundays together. It gave them something to look forward to at the end of the week, and just between the two of them, Sundays were renamed “Scrabble Day”.

This morning, while they were drinking their coffee and eating their bacon butties in bed, Linda had told John about a conversation she’d had with a colleague at work. Her colleague, it seems, had begun to keep chickens. She currently had four of them, and had had them for a couple of months, but none of them had ever laid any eggs.

“Anyway,” said Linda, “the other day she was going shopping, so she started to make a list, as you do. She knew she needed eggs, because her chickens hadn’t laid yet, and so she put that as the first thing on the list. She was just about to write milk, when she looked out of the kitchen window and saw the neighbour’s dog jump the fence and start heading over towards her chicken coop. So, with the list still in her hand, she ran outside to chase the dog away. As it turned out the dog was just curious, and didn’t really mean any harm, and the neighbour was very apologetic when she came to get him back”

“Is this actually going anywhere?” asked John, wiping a bit of bacon grease off his chin.

“I’m getting to it, sarky” Linda replied, giving him a sharp dig in the ribs with her elbow. “To cut to the chase, she put the list down on top of the chicken coop while she checked that none of the chickens was any worse for wear, and then, what with all the commotion and everything, she went shopping and forgot the list. When she got back, she went to check on the chickens again, only to find the list still on top of the coop where she’d left it. Not only that, but all the chickens were inside, and they’d all laid eggs. I mean, isn’t that spooky?”

John shrugged. “Not really, no. The neighbour’s dog scared the chickens and instead of shitting themselves they all laid eggs. I don’t see what’s spooky about that at all”

“No, I mean, isn’t it spooky that she leaves a piece of paper with the word “eggs” on it on top of the chicken coop, and a couple of hours later all her chickens have laid eggs?”

He shrugged again. “Just a coincidence” he said.

Linda gave him another dig in the ribs. “Honestly, you have no imagination at times”

John just smiled and continued with his breakfast before saying “It’s a good job she didn’t write milk on her list, isn’t it?”

“What makes you say that?

“Well, you said she wrote ‘eggs’ and she got eggs. If she’d written ‘milk’ she might have ended up with a cow!”

Linda gave him another dig in the ribs for that.

“Mind you,” said Linda, a little while later, “it would be funny wouldn’t it, if we could just write down any word and it would happen. Like, if we wrote down “money” and then suddenly we got loads of money”

“Hey, yeah,” said John, reaching over to the bedside table for a piece of paper and a pen, “Let’s try it” And with that he scribbled something down, folded the paper and handed it to Linda.

“Very funny, you cheeky git” said Linda, as she unfolded the paper and read what he’d written. ‘A shag’.

Oddly enough, what John had written did indeed become reality; in fact, it became reality more than once, and by the time the two of them sat down to their game of Scrabble, it was three o’clock in the afternoon and the discussion about chicken coops and shopping lists had been entirely forgotten.

Each taking turns to remove one letter, John and Linda picked out seven letters, arranging them as they went on the little plastic stands. John sighed. His letters were rubbish – J B N O E Z Q – and as he glanced up, he could tell from the look on her face that Linda’s letters weren’t much better.

“Who’s going first?” he asked.

“Well, seeing as how I’ve got absolutely nothing, you can go first”

John put down ONE, the only word he could think to make. “Great start!” he said, writing down his score before picking out three more letters “Only three bloody points”

“Well, at least you’ll be pleased to know you’ve helped me” said Linda with a cheeky smirk. And with that she took a P and H from her letters to make the word PHONE. She rubbed her hands with glee. “Haha! Ten points!”

“There’s a long way to go yet, Little Miss Modest” smiled John, watching her pick out two more letters.

“OK, OK Mr Uppity, just because you’re losing” They would often banter like this during Scrabbleday. Calling each other by the names of real or imagined characters from the Mr Men and Little Miss books had somehow become part and parcel of the game.

John’s three replacement letters were R O and M, and so, using the O from PHONE, he spelled out the word BROOM, for nine points. Linda shrieked with delight, as she added STICK onto the end of BROOM, landing on a Double Letter Score and a Triple word score to make a total of 63 points.

Just then the phone rang.

“I’ll get it seeing as it’s your turn next,” said Linda, getting up from the table, “but no cheating while I’m away”

“Oh, Little Miss Cynical, you wound me, you really do!” replied John, with feigned indignation.

“That’s nothing to what I’ll do if you cheat” she said, giving him a playful slap on the back of his head as she passed.

Cheat? I’ve never cheated at anything in my life! he murmured to himself, looking round to make sure the coast was clear before taking a sneaky peek at Linda’s letters. He knew he shouldn’t have looked; not necessarily from a moral standpoint, but rather that he now realized that unless his luck at picking letters changed, she was going to beat him hands down. She had B A E M N I O. He looked back at his own letters. J Z Q W I C H, and tutted. Maybe I could pretend I’m Polish he thought to himself, and then “Haha! Take that Little Miss Beat-You-Hands-Down” he said out loud, realising that he could use the T of BROOMSTICK to spell WITCH and earn himself fourteen points. He was just writing down the score when Linda returned.

“Who was it?” he asked, as she sat back down.

“Oh, just my mum” she replied, looking at her letters.

“What did the witch want today?”

“My mum isn’t a witch. I keep telling you that”

“So how do you explain that cat of hers then?”

“Having a black cat doesn’t make my mum a witch any more than driving a Porsche makes your dad a tosser” she said with a little laugh.

John didn’t respond. He merely sat looking at the Scrabble board with a puzzled and slightly disturbed expression. The words PHONE, BROOMSTICK and WITCH jumped out him, as in his mind strange connections began to form between the words and what had just happened. They had spelled out the words PHONE, BROOMSTICK and WITCH, and then the phone had rang and it was Linda’s mother, who John had always thought of as a witch, and an meddling one at that.

“John? John, I’m sorry” said Linda, her voice breaking his train of thought “I didn’t mean to say that about your dad. It just slipped out”

“What?” John replied, forcing his gaze away from the board “Oh, yeah, don’t worry about it. My dad is a tosser anyway”

Linda smiled. “So what’s wrong?” she asked.

“Nothing. I was just looking at the words and…no, it’s nothing…forget it. I’ve been reading too many ghost stories I think” John’s tone was jokily dismissive, but falsely so. Forcing the thought out of his head he said “Come on then, your turn”

“OK, OK” she replied, “Give me a sec”

John watched her as she turned her attention back to her letters. Whenever she was in deep concentration, she had this funny little way of wrinkling up her nose. It reminded him of Samantha from Bewitched.

“Ha!” said Linda, “Take that Little Mr. Hurry Up” and with that she put down a B and E at the beginning of WITCH to make BEWITCH. She looked up at John with a big beaming smile; but the smile faded instantly when she saw the look on John’s face.

“Whatever is the matter?” she asked, “You look like you’ve seen a ghost”

But John didn’t reply. He simply sat, staring at the board.

“John? For god’s sake what is it? You’re scaring me” said Linda, her tone almost pleading.

John blinked, trying to shake himself from his stupor. Finally, he said “It’s nothing. It’s stupid”

“What is? What’s stupid?” asked Linda.

“You’re going to think I’m crazy,” said John “but every time we’ve played a word it’s happened”

“What’s happened? You’re not making any sense”

“Look! We made the word “phone,” then “broomstick,” and “witch” and then the phone rang and it was your mother, who I always call a witch”

“So. That doesn’t mean anything, silly. It’s just a coincidence”

“And then I was just thinking that when you wrinkle up your nose, you remind me of Samantha from Bewitched, and look what you put down”

Linda looked at the board for a moment and then said “Yeah, OK, if that’s true then that is a bit creepy. But I don’t think you need to go getting all wigged out about it. Like I said, it’s just a coincidence. It’s like…”

“…your friend and the eggs” said John, interrupting.

“What? Oh don’t be daft. You said yourself that that was a load of stuff and nonsense”

“But what if it isn’t? What if whatever we write down actually happens?”

“Then there would have been world peace and equality and an end to injustice years ago. This is Scrabble, John, not an Ouija board. Now shall we carry on? Or do you want to scare yourself and annoy me some more?”

“Well thanks for your concern, Little Miss Supportive” said John, sarcastically.

“Any time, Mr Paranoid”

Looking at the letters he’d just picked up, John saw that he now had an ‘N’ and two ‘Es’. He smiled, and, using the ‘K’ made the word ‘KNEE’ for 9 points. Linda added the points to the tally on the piece of paper and then shifted position while she considered what to play next, banging her knee on the table as she did so.

“Bollocks!” she exclaimed, putting her hand under the table and rubbing her knee, “That really hurt” Catching John’s eye, she couldn’t help but notice the look of worry. “Don’t look so scared,” she said “my leg’s still there. It probably won’t even leave a bruise”

“I’m not worried about your knee…”

“Oh thanks!”

“I don’t mean it like that. But don’t you see?”

“See what?”

“Oh come on, Linda! I spell the word ‘knee’ and look what happened!”

“Don’t be ridiculous, John!” said Linda, “It still doesn’t mean anything. I could have banged my ankle instead and then what would you have said?”

“But you didn’t bang your ankle, did you?” said John “You banged your knee. I spell the word knee and you bang your knee. Now on its own then yes, it’s a coincidence, but when you add it up with all the other stuff you get…”

“A few coincidences” said Linda, obviously irritated “For god’s sake, John, you’re reading something in nothing. Honestly, I wish I’d never told you that stupid story about the eggs. Listen, I’ll prove to you that this is all stuff and nonsense”

“How?” asked John.

By way of an answer, she placed an ‘M’ and an ‘A’ in front of the ‘P’ to spell the word ‘MAP.’

“Now,” said Linda, “if a great big map suddenly falls onto the table, then I’ll believe all this witchery hoodoo of yours, but until that happens, can we please just get on and play the game?”

“Fine” said John, obviously rankled.

“And I don’t want you saying that we live next door to Pamela and map is Pam spelled backwards either”

“OK, OK you’ve made your point! I’m stupid, you’re not”

“I never said you were stupid, John. All I meant was that when something gets into your head, you’re likely to start seeing things that aren’t really there”

“Oh, so I’m imagining things now, am I?”

“For heaven’s sake, this is ridiculous! You know full well that I’m not saying you’re imagining things!”

The doorbell rang.

“I’ll get it” said Linda, getting up “Honestly, I’m beginning to regret ever starting this game”

“Yeah, you and me both” said John as she got to the door. Grumpily staring at his letters, he didn’t see Linda turn around and peevishly stick out her tongue at him. He was still staring at them when she came back, his mind flitting between figuring out what word he could make and for what score, and the unnerving feeling that something odd was happening.

“Who was it?” asked John, as Linda sat back down at the table.

“Oh, just some guy looking for McKenna’s Camp Site. He said he’d been driving round for about an hour trying to find it. Turns out he had his map upside down”

“His map?”

“Yeah. He was going camping and he had a ma…” Linda stopped short of finishing her sentence.

“What’s the matter?” asked John, “Still think I’m imagining things?”

“I told you before I never said you were imagining things!” Linda snapped back. There was something in her voice, a tone that wasn’t there earlier. The disdainful, perhaps even sardonic, attitude had disappeared, replaced by something altogether more worried, fearful.

“Hey, I’m sorry” said John, reaching across the table to Linda, who by now was staring at the Scrabble board, her eyes flitting this way and that, taking in all the words they had so far played.

“What if you’re right?” Linda asked, raising her eyes to him, “What if whatever appears on the board actually becomes real?”

“Well in that case, it’s a good job we’re not playing snakes and ladders” said John. Although he laughed as he said it, it was a laugh filled with nervousness rather than mirth.

“Please be serious” replied Linda. She sounded on the verge of tears.

“Look,” said John, “it’s all just witchery hoodoo” Linda was about to protest but John cut her off by saying “Your words, remember. I mean, if every word that anyone played in Scrabble actually became real then it would have been called Ouija Scrabble by now, or some Americanised contraction of the two, like Ouijabble or something”

By now, John and Linda were held in each other’s gaze, holding hands across the board. Linda sighed and shook her head.

“Yeah, you’re right. It’s just a weird set of coincidences, that’s all. If we hadn’t had the conversation about the chickens and the eggs, we probably wouldn’t have even noticed it, would we?” She was smiling, and to all intents and purposes she sounded convincing, but underneath it all, it was as though she was trying to convince herself.

“Exactly” replied John, “The only thing that’s definitely happening is that we’re scaring ourselves”

Linda took her hand from his and said “I’m going to make a cup of tea. You want one?”

“Err…yeah if you’re making one” said John, somewhat reticently.

Linda smoothed down her hair and wiped her hands over her face, something she often did when she was trying to calm herself down. As she lowered her hands she glanced at the board.

“Very funny Mr. Wise Guy” she said “I don’t need scaring any more today, thank you very much”

John looked at the board and saw that she had seen that he had utilised the E in the word PHONE to make the word TEA. He laughed.

“Just trying to make light of it, you know me” he said with a shrug.

“Don’t I ever” she said, as she wandered into the kitchen to make the tea. John thought it best not to tell her that he had actually played the word TEA before she had come back from answering the door.

Once the tea was made and Linda had settled back down in her place, John reminded her that it was her turn to play.

“I know, I know” she said, haughtily.

John looked at her. She had a curious expression, one he had seen many times before. It was the expression she wore when she was determining whether she ought – or rather dared – to do something or not.

“Fuck it!” she exclaimed “I’ll show this Ouijabble or whatever the hell it thinks it is who’s boss!” And with that, utilising the E in the word KNEE she played the word DEATH. Unconsciously, the two of them looked at each other, then at the board and then back to each other. John looked up at the ceiling; Linda looked around the room. Finally, Linda couldn’t hold it any longer and began to giggle.

“Look at us!” she said, in between giggles “It’s like we’re expecting to be hit by lightning or something” John laughed too.

“We’re acting like kids telling ghost stories at Halloween” he laughed.

The doorbell rang and they both nearly jumped out of their chairs, which only made them laugh even more.

“I’ll get it this time” said John, and he was still giggling as he left the room. He had been gone not more than a few seconds when Linda heard his voice behind her. He was no longer laughing. He sounded breathless and somehow…detached. He spoke just one word. “Run”

Turning in her seat, Linda saw John stagger forward, his hands clutching at his chest as blood oozed through his fingers, leaching out over his white t-shirt. His face was pale, as if he were about to faint. He dropped to his knees. Linda jumped up from her chair and ran over to him, bewildered at what could possibly have happened. She reached out to put her arm around him, but he pushed her away. “Run!” he gasped.

Just then, a movement caught her eye and as she looked up, a figure rounded the door. It was the young guy with the map who had called earlier. He had a bloody knife in his hand.

seal