Best wishes

Tis the season, so here’s a festive decoration from outside the barn door

couronne de noël

and one from inside the barn door in the kitchen


Kitchen barn door

House hunkers down. The folk that pad and trot around its walls the night have gone. Only the birds, ever-hungry, ever-cheerful chatter, fluttering from tree to tree and into the porch after seed and other necessities. A deer family ambles through the willows by the stream. Dawn sun streams gold, a glimpse of heaven before its flow slows and ceases. Cloud thickens.

days slip deeper
into the heart of the cold
east wind sighs winter


My Christmas gift to the planet


no food that comes in a jar with ribbons on it

from a boutique

from the other side of the world

no meat

no packaging and bows

no plastics bottles bags and boxes

no unwanted gifts

no Amazon

just the presence of children

laughter and light

fire in the stove

the smell of gingerbread baking

The Sound of Music (again)

and Amadeus

the Pogues and Mozart’s Requiem

a bottle or two of wine

something with bubbles

just us family

plus dog and cats

and beyond the window

a flock of wild birds

Microfiction: Christmas shopping

This short Christmas story is for the Friday Fictioneers prompt.

PHOTO PROMPT © Björn Rudberg


The toy store had been full of families, parents letting little kids loose among the bright packaging and letting them choose! Fiona picked out some cheap junk for the twins and left. Guilt followed her like a thief. After school, she took them to the charity shop, guilt prodding her to let them loose to choose something she could afford to buy. Their jaws dropped at the sight of the mountain of home-knit bonnets, each one a unique design, pattern, colour combination, representing who knew what for her five-year-olds. It took them half an hour to choose a dream.

Microfiction #writephoto: Christmas spirit

For Sue Vincent’s #writephoto prompt.


A presence hung around the houses full of Christmas glitter. There were so many, but the presence cloaked them all. It was a waiting, wondering presence, and no one noticed it because the times had turned since such things resonated in the human consciousness. The houses shone with electricity and tinsel, bright glass baubles and not so bright plastic ones. The air hummed with invisible waves, the twittering of shows, brittle, pointy voices, the throb and thrum of rhythms, the jerky zapping of channels and the whine of disappointment and tired fractiousness.

The presence touched the branches of fir trees, dead and drying in the overheated rooms, and felt nothing. They had been dressed and displayed for so long their life had ebbed away days before. It touched the cellophane thin leaves of the plastic trees and flinched from the toxins and the weary hands that produced them. Glass decorations pinged and glinted. The houses suffocated in the smells and noises of festivity.

In the streets, the first trees were lying, discarded and unwanted. In the houses, after the celebration, the plastic trees were folded up and put away in attics and garages. The presence delved into the distant past and found memories of fresh pine branches decorating wooden beams, of laughter and the banishment of want and cold just for one day, when the longest night was over and the new year was dawning.

Cycles ran round and round, but the presence had no understanding of the brash excesses of the new cycle, and the new world had no understanding of the presence. Except perhaps, in a few places, where the memories echoed, and the presence lingered in gardens where a pine tree stood, decked with food, and where chains of bright birds darted through the pungent green branches like living garlands of joy. The presence breathed gently on the wintry trees and settled back in the warm depths of the earth to watch through the eyes of foxes and badgers, hoping for the old cycle to come around again.

Microfiction: Christmas light

I saw this writing prompt on Geoff’s blog and thought I’d have a go. The prompt comes from Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch and the challenge is to write a piece of flash fiction of exactly 99 words on the theme of ‘spreading the light.’



Her hands trembled slightly as she peeled open the envelope. Even if she hadn’t recognized the handwriting, the foreign stamp gave it away.

Bloody plastic tree has no smell.

Christmas trees should be real. Living. They didn’t understand that in the home. Like they didn’t care that nobody was watching the TV. Her hands trembled.

“Here. Got your specs, Mrs. Fitz? Let’s give you a bit of light, shall we?”

We had candles at Christmas.

She cringed and blinked. Tears. She didn’t need to see to know what the message said.


“Sorry, Mam. Can’t make it this year.”

Christmas: Why do we do it?


Our Christmas was not calm, peaceful, or restful. I won’t go into details. Let’s just be thankful for small mercies, shall we?

Christmas Eve:

The eldest didn’t have gastro-enteritis after all.

Second and fourth children weren’t actually sick after the Christmas Eve feast.

Nobody got food poisoning from the lamb.

The mouse that Trixie brought in just as we were serving the meal is now recovering in the garden.

Husbands right hand middle and index fingers were not actually broken.

Christmas Day:

Branwell is eating again.

Little Cat’s diarrhoea cleared up.

The present that Finbar knocked off the tree broke into a million pieces but nobody got upset.

My migraine cleared up nicely before the film.

Finbar’s leg injury is horrible and we’re not sure either how he did it—we checked and there was nothing resembling a wild boar in the garden that could have been responsible—or what to do about it, but it’s stopped bleeding..

The weather is still glorious for a month of April, as the weather man says. Husband’s hand is swollen and bruised but he’ll live. Finbar can’t walk, so I shall stay indoors, nice and quiet, and not tempt Providence (vindictive bugger) any further.

Have a fantastic Boxing Day!

It was Christmas Day in the workhouse


It was Christmas Day in the workhouse,

All of the clan was there,

Aunty Bridie as round as a barrel,

Uncle Billie without any hair.


We’d finished the crisps and the peanuts,

Keen for the feast to begin,

When Mam burst in from the kitchen,

“I can’t fit the great fucker in!”


“So what’s going to soak up the porter?”

Said our dad, “We want to be fed!”

Mam held out her hand for spondoolies,

“I”ll send the screws to the chippie instead.”


So the dog and the cats had the turkey,

The tables and chairs were pushed back,

We turned up the music for dancing,

And invited the screws for the craic.


It was Christmas Day in the workhouse,

Everyone had a good laugh,

We drank the screws under the table,

And drowned Tiny Tim in the bath.


“A merry Christmas to us all; God bless us every one.”

A Christmas Story


Perched upon one of the pillars of creation, the eagle spread its wings and gazed across the valley of night. Stardust formed clouds of glittering lights, decorating the dark depths of the nebula. In its claws, the eagle clutched one of the nurseries where stars are born, the sanctum of life. So long it had watched over the emerging stars, seen them scatter, grow in brilliance and fire. It had watched them fade and die too, seen the black holes swallow them up, the dwarfs fight and merge with one another. So long. An eternity.

A billow of gas, a twisted wreath of green and red, tumbled across the dark valley, singing the songs only the stars know. Years and years and years it stretched, the garland of lights, joined by others, blues and yellows, reds and oranges, starfire and starwater. Each point of light a star, each star, dust-specked with planets. This one, the eagle’s eye noted, will bubble itself an atmosphere and teem with hot-blooded life. This one will dance and sing, a ball of violent, brilliant gases into its allotted span. All different, all unique. All so ancient from the moment of their birth with the memories of all that has gone before, hurtling with their grains of eternity into the great, ever-expanding vastness of time.

The eagle stretched its wings and the universe stretched with it. Somewhere beneath a silvery bubble of gas, voices were singing to a dead creature on a tree. The eagle stretched a claw and another bubble spun and twirled in the bright garland of stars. More voices singing to another creator of their pinprick of light, ancient and distant. The eagle listened. The darkness vibrated with the songs of the stars and the piping of living things giving thanks for their creation, to their indifferent, unresponsive creators.

Aons passed in the blink of a star’s eye. The eagle ruffled a feather, and brilliant balls of gas, infant stars, twisted and twined about the central pillar of the nursery, like a garland of lights around a dead tree. Lights. Twinkling on and on forever.

Christmas blues continued or: what I am going to do with the rest of my life

Today was supposed to be big book promotion day for The Dark Citadel with an Amazon countdown deal and a couple of advertising sites weighing in. I’ll have to take Amazon’s word for it that the deal is actually on because I can’t see any price change. So, no more promotional links from me, as they don’t show a new low price.

There are also only three shopping days left until Christmas. Having abandoned shopping last Friday, I had a look on the flea market yesterday and found a few pretty bits and pieces. I had intended looking up town this morning before the crowds get there, but wasted half of it in futile emails to Amazon. Taking my boiling blood to the shops was not a good idea, so I took Finbar for a long walk instead.

The morning was beautiful, sunny, cool and the colours all so vivid. We were overtaken down by the river by a Tibetan monk, saffron robes, shaved head, sandals, the lot. He stood in quiet contemplation, looking through the golden trees, across the beautiful blue river where a thin veil of mist was dissipating in the sun. His hands were lost inside his robes and I assumed he was looking for his rosary beads or whatever thingies Buddhist monks use to get the spiritual juices flowing. When I looked back he had got out his smart phone and was taking a pic of the cityscape behind us. Somehow, that made me feel even more depressed.

What I realised though, as I watched the placid river, the robins, and a pair of magpies inspecting a likely-looking nest, is that this whole book lark is taking over my life. I spend hours each day writing. When I’m not writing new stuff, I’m trying to write synopses, query letters, polishing completed mss, or looking around for places to submit novels or short fiction.

Many writers claim that the creative aspect is enough to keep them going. I thought it was too, with a little recognition from time to time. When a lovely review comes in, or a story or a poem is accepted for publication, I get a real thrill of happiness. But it would also be nice to see my paypal account filling up. That is the real litmus test—do the punters, not just the literate, like-minded and possibly indulgent people who ‘know’ me, want to buy my books? If they don’t, I feel that I’m bashing my head against a brick wall.

From now on, and I suppose this counts as a New Year’s resolution, I am going to spend more time on OTHER THINGS. I will sit down and write when I feel I have something to say, not because it’s like a nine to five job where I sit in front of the computer until I find something to whitter on about. I am not going to sweat to get Beyond the Realm of Night into paperback because I don’t think it’s worth the time, hassle, and the expense of buying a proof copy.

I’m going to…well…I could wash the dog’s blankets, or clean out the kitchen cupboards, or…something.

Christmas shopping and why I hate it

Shopping is something I hate. I get claustrophobic in shops, overheated, and lost. In the street I plough through the crowds as if I’m on a special mission with M breathing down my neck. Christmas shopping is the worst of all. I have a list of the things I want to get, the shops I need to visit. I take the back streets to the shop I’m after, dive in and dive out again. Flying squad tactics.

Yesterday I couldn’t put it off any longer and ventured up town. I made two shops then came home. Sorry everyone about the presents, but I couldn’t stand any more of it. I wrote this instead.

Too many

So many

Are those who sit by the wall

Between shop fronts

Next a dog

Curled asleep

On a piece of cardboard.

So many who see

Each passing face

And search it with insistence

For a friendly sign.

So many are those,

Hand resting

On the head

Of a curled, sleeping dog,

For whom the brightly coloured, shiny things

Behind the window glass

Have as much significance

As a grey rock

Shed by a dead planet.

Photo credit Benjamin Brock
Photo credit Benjamin Brock