Friday, 19 December 2014

The Travelling Yawn

Bea yawned, a big wide extra-air-gulping yawn.

‘Good heavens!’ exclaimed Uncle Charlie. ‘I do believe that’s my yawn!’ He peered at her closely. ‘You’ll have to do it again; I didn’t quite see enough of it to be sure.’

Bea looked at him as if he were standing on his head wearing his shoes on his hands. ‘Your yawn? It’s not. It’s my yawn. And I can’t do it agaiiiiii Arhhhh.’

‘Yes,’ said Uncle Charlie, nodding wisely. ‘One yawn very often likes to follow another. They go about in pairs, you see. That second one wasn’t  quite the same as the first one,‘ he added sadly. ‘But I am pretty sure…’

‘Uncle Charlie, you’re going to have to explain yourself,’ interrupted Bea. ‘How can my yawn be your yawn?’

Uncle Charlie settled himself more comfortably into his chair. (Bea was a little worried that this might turn out to be one of Uncle Charlie’s Very Long Stories.) ‘You know that when one person yawns, another person catches it, then the next person, and then the next?’ he said. ‘Well, in that way yawns can travel around the world. And if you are very lucky, your original yawn will come back to you. I myself always try to yawn in a new and interesting way, so I recognise it when it returns.’

Bea still had a disbelieving look on her face, but Uncle Charlie didn’t seem to notice. Dreamily, he continued;

‘Once had a yawn that was gone three years before I caught it again. It had taken on some strange characteristics, but I knew it just the same. It must have travelled to some very exotic places.’

‘Like when people go somewhere hot, and they come back with a tan and a funny hat, but you still know it’s them?’

‘Precisely!’ said Uncle Charlie, looking pleased. ‘Oftentimes you’ll merely be passing on someone else’s yawn. But next time you start a yawn all by yourself, send it off with a smile and a wave and bid it a good journey.’

‘Oh I will, said Bea. ‘I will.’

And from that day to this, Bea has only lost eight original yawns. Something of a record, she thinks.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

The Odd Couple

The two dogs had lived next door to each other for three years.

One was a bearded collie that loathed the colour red, the other was a red setter that despised beards. This was the main reason that they had hated each other for the first two years and eight months. There were other reasons, but minor in comparison.

Things changed when the owners of each dog fell in love and knocked down the fence between their two gardens. This was a disaster for the dogs and as their owners stared lovingly into each other’s eyes, the dogs growled and scowled and tried to dig up each others’ bones, until a misunderstanding over who owned the stripy rubber ball resulted in a bitten ear and a nasty graze.

‘This can’t go on,’ thought the setter. ‘And as the oldest, most elegant and by far the most intelligent of us both, I shall be the one to make the first move towards peace.’

So he trotted out into the garden and as the bearded collie looked up from the hole he was digging in the setter’s favourite flowerbed, said in deep, dignified tones:

‘Woof, woofwoofwoof. Woof.’

This meant: ‘Look here, you. I’m going to the park in a minute and I’m going to run about really fast and sniff trees. Would you care to join me?’

‘Ruff. Ruff. Ruff ruff ruff ruff’ - ‘I too am going to the park. But if I do run about really fast, it’ll be nothing to do with you. It’ll be because my owner throws my brand new stripy rubber ball for me.’

‘Suit yourself, ‘ said the setter.

So the setter and the collie ran all the way to the park, both trying to be first, but without appearing to be together.

The setter sniffed a few trees, barked a bit then ran back. His owner hadn’t noticed a thing, because she’d been too busy staring happily into her neighbour’s eyes.

‘Hmm.’ thought the collie. ‘That really did look like fun. Perhaps if he asks me again tomorrow, I’ll join in.’

But the next day came, and the setter didn’t ask.

“Ruff?’ enquired the collie the next time they were at the park at the same time. ‘I’m going to dig those leaves up and see what’s underneath. You coming?’

‘Nah, said the setter haughtily.’ Did that yesterday. Boring.’

The collie thought of something very rude under his breath and got a stern look from his owner.

Oh dear. Would they never be friends? What could possibly bring two dogs together, united in joy with one common purpose?


Later, panting with the glow of the chase, the setter glanced over at the collie. ‘Well done, old chap. You really chased him up that tree.’

The collie laughed modestly. ‘I couldn’t have done it without your help. The way you sprinted over and barked – well – he knew he’d met a true professional all right!’

And they almost smiled at one another, just their owners concluded their first ever argument and privately made plans to replace the fence.

Thursday, 28 March 2013


An excerpt from The Colourist    
I had to stand on tiptoe to see the paintings properly; all misty scenes of mighty mountains and forests, precipitous slopes and jagged cliffs, but populated by only one or two human figures, tiny in the landscape. They were the lonely travellers, hermits sitting in their pavilions enclosed and subsumed by the mountain walls, small and bold and very far away. The brush strokes were fine sweeps of black, admirable in their self-assuredness and they carried extraordinary energy in their colour. I could see the explosive burst of black ink as it sprang form the artist’s pen across white paper, as sure in its stroke as a skier headlong down slope. Each one was a whiplash curve that seduced with endless possibilities – where would it end? And would you want to follow it?
No other colour could do this. Only purple, dark and sinuous, could convey a hint of the same sensuality of not knowing, of being led and controlled.

I travelled on the underground to the hospital to be checked over after suffering a spell of fainting. I was disturbed by the sour green smell of the hospital waiting room, but reassured by the controlled chaos of doctors and nurses, their hurried footsteps charting collision courses that never quite happened. The doctor gave me iron tablets and told me to eat plenty of green vegetables. 'At any other time, I'd prescribe red meat, too,' he said and asked if I had any cravings. I smiled and said no, although privately I had a desire for dark reddish purple, the colour and texture of an aubergine, and wondered in more fantastical moments if that was what the child looked like; gently curved, featureless, smooth.

 I heard voices, then Anna, in the slightly dictatorial tones of a small practical girl: 'Mummy is not well today because of purple.' And she closed the door.
'Anna? Who was that, darling?'
'A man. He came to take you away. I told him no.' Anna appeared in the doorway, looking pleased.
‘Oh Anna. That was the man I was going to see the film with. What did you say about purple?'
'I told him you weren't very well because of it,' she replied, matter-of-factly.
'I see.' The offending colour had been purple, the hard-bitten kind, but that seemed beside the point, it was just the wrong colour on the wrong day and it had given me a headache. Sometimes colours are simply too strident; they shout too loud, and like anyone trying to have a quiet day, they can rattle the delicate bars of one's equilibrium. Purple often causes me angst; it's a curious shade, an impostor, a fly-by-night, too theatrical to be taken seriously. It's moody and bruised, and makes me feel that way, too.
‘Shall I get him back?’ she asked, concern written across her face, eyebrows high, biting her lip.
‘I’ll look out of the window, see if he’s still there,’ I told her half-heartedly. He wasn’t and I thought; I’m relieved. Perhaps I wasn’t ready. Perhaps purple was, this time, my friend.