Chuck out the old, drag in the new

It’s the last day of the year, and since it’s pouring with rain outside, not fit to put a dog out, I have decided it’s time to take stock of the year gone by. Really, I want to remember some of the good things because there have been quite a few not so good things.

I clocked up about a trillion novel rejections BUT I self-published two small collections of poems.

The boiler gave up the ghost BUT, miracle of miracles, we got a plumber to put in a new one within four days (they had one out the back).

We found that the prehistoric stone sink in the kitchen situated at roughly mid-thigh height on a normal person can’t be removed. It’s set in a sort of sarcophagus of solid stone and cement and ripping it out would probably bring the wall down. BUT husband has built a proper sink on top of it which looks pretty smart.

We couldn’t have everybody here for Christmas BUT we did get a new oven so I’ll be able to cook properly when we do have a family gathering.

The Covid made contact of any kind well nigh impossible BUT it meant that husband didn’t have any more one-hour train journeys into Bordeaux to teach but could zoom his lessons from home.

The house is freezing cold in winter BUT while everybody else is dying during the inevitable summer heat waves, we don’t feel it more than pleasantly warm.

Trixie destroyed a kilim by vomiting bird seed all over it BUT it seems to have cured her of stealing the birds’ food.

Finbar has gone stone deaf and can’t hear when we yell at him to stop doing something BUT nor does he hear the things that go bump in the night so he doesn’t come into our room at three in the morning needing a cuddle.

Best news of all, although we’ve seen hardly anything of family this year, next year there will be even more of them to see. Our eldest is expecting her first baby in the spring!

All in all, as we say over here, le bilan est globalement positive!




News drops silently,

the opening of a mail,

barely a click from the keyboard

and a reality forms that was not there before.


The day fills with holes,

thoughts slip through

and come back reluctantly,

distorted, lacking limbs.


The day becomes the news,

the news is sung in the hedges,

strummed by crickets,

but nothing stops the ache.


Loss is like that,

and the staring into the void

that has opened up before the feet,


and the fear grins and grows,

that all the colour in the world

will pour away into the hungry dark.

Microfiction: News

This short story is in response to Ronovan’s weekly Friday Fiction prompt:

You’ve just been handed a message that makes you drop to the floor, trembling uncontrollably.


She had seriously considered boarding up the letterbox, nailing the damn flap closed. Nobody sent letters any more, only people after money. Since J. had walked out taking the cat, the car and the jewellery his mother had given her as a wedding present, she had drawn in her horns, speaking to nobody, dreading the ring tone of the telephone, the doorbell, car doors slamming in the street outside. Even the night chattered and hummed with incessant mocking noise. She pulled the sheet over her head, but it made no difference. He laughed, wherever he was. The neighbours laughed. Her co-workers laughed. The whole world belly-laughed itself sick over her stupidity. She sobbed into her pillow, took a tablet and shut out the mocking voices in an intermittent dull sleep.

Life became a disjointed sequence of light and dark, day noise and night noise. She gave up calling in to work, never went to the doctor’s appointments. Nothing that came out of the phone or through the letterbox had any weight in her existence. Nothing until the envelope flopped through the flap onto the floor. It was a plain white envelope, handwritten, with a stamp. She stared at it lying like an incubus, white and ghostly, a phantom from another time when communication meant letters. She pushed it with her foot, as if expecting it to give a sign of life. It didn’t. It lay there, silent and menacing, daring her to approach.

The letter didn’t go away, so she picked it up and with a decisive movement tore open the envelope. It was hand-written.

You don’t know me, the letter said.

She read on, a sense of oppression settling in the pit of her stomach.

I got your address from the agency.

The words blurred and she didn’t want to go on.

You don’t answer the phone or reply to emails, the letter went on, so I’m writing. I’m coming to see you.

She resisted the temptation to screw the paper into a ball.

I’ll keep on coming round until you see me.

The threat made her feel faint.

I have to know why you did it.

She knew what was coming next, knew but couldn’t stop it. Maybe if she stopped reading it wouldn’t happen? She knew she was kidding herself.

I have to know why a mother would abandon her baby.

The floor rushed up to meet her and the world went black.

Caparison: decor of the past.

I thnk it was some time in November last year that Ali Isaac first suggested we each write a retelling of an Irish legend to give away in a booklet which we would then fill up with promotion for the books we have already published. The idea took root, and before we knew it, it had metamorphosed into a collection of love stories that we would publish for Valentine’s Day.
Valentine’s Day, as everybody knows is half way through February. And before that there’s Christmas to get through and the assorted afflictions that health throws at us at this time of year. That didn’t give us much time.
I’m proud to announce that we have done it! Our collection of love stories from Irish myth is uploaded to Amazon and waiting in the wings for the big release day. For almost two months we have been living and breathing Irish myth, heroines and heroes from a very different time. People were different then, incomprehensible in many ways, even though the rawest of the emotions probably haven’t changed much at all over the centuries.
The picture below is one I downloaded because I liked the colour and the movement. But looking more closely, I see, or I think I see, some of those differences of sensibility that separate us from our distant past. The picture is entitled Caparison, and so is the poem.


Was life really so simple then?
Wars fought and won
With just a handful of rockinghorse men?
What were they defending,
Land, lord, families?
And did they ride out with these thoughts,
Vivid as the sun,
Carved on their hearts?
The turned, worried faces say it all.
Death approaches a spear’s length away,
Chain mailed and caparisoned.
Men’s tiny faces furrowed in anguish,
So clearly drawn,
And the faceless helmets,
Sinister in their repeated facelessness.
This we understand,
The fear, the grief, the shame.
But there is more,
Equally important to the artist’s eye,
Pretty ochres and shades of Sienna,
The swirl of waves, fins or blue leaves,
But not a drop of blood,
Not yet,
Not until the end.
All is movement across a muddy field
And all the horses are smiling.