Monday, 21 March 2011

Lost (g)love

(One for the grown-ups...)

She was lost a long time ago.

She never saw her partner leave. She thinks he was taken away, but still, she wonders why he never looks for her. Perhaps he does, but in the wrong places.

It happened at a railway station, Euston, she thinks. And there she has stayed since the winter, on an overlooked ledge near the vending machine. Sometimes people try to pick her up but quickly they replace her, knowing she’s not for them after all.

She was lovely in her day: vanilla kid leather, delicately stitched by careful Italian hands. And well-cared for, too. She and he: a luxurious, expensive couple, used for February weddings and job interviews, lunch with an amour, dinner with a husband.

She has watched people come and go, witnessed the weather turn from rain-strewn to light-dazzled. She, on her ledge, has seen many glances and twitches, shufflings and surreptitious checking of make up, of wedding rings, of business notes.

Then, oh! Her ledge is crowded with wool – a great green hairy wet wool thing with its fingers all stretched and a hole in the palm. It stays on her ledge and over the weeks tries to be friendly, tries to start conversations, even tries a clumsy advance. But each time she turns away. This creature is not for her. Only the beautiful, vanilla, delicately-stitched partner into whose warmth she folded at the end of the day.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Ninja Hen

‘Aha!’ thought the fox.

‘Oh heck,’ thought the hen.

‘Swiftly does it, old boy,’ thought the fox, and pounced.

‘Brace yourself,’ thought the hen and gritted her beak.

‘Ouch,’ thought the hen, as she was carried off in the fox’s strong jaws. ‘Remember your training, remember your training.’

‘Yum,’ thought the fox as he dumped the hen down in a corner of his den and busied himself setting the table with salt, pepper, a knife, a fork, a red and white checked napkin (for he was a fastidious chap) and a bottle of tomato ketchup, just in case.

The hen kept her eyes firmly closed until just the right moment. She had been the best pupil in her class and now remembered everything she must do as if it were written down in front of her.

‘Woo hoo!’ thought the fox when he’d finished his preparations and licked his lips in anticipation of supper.

‘Right, now!’ thought the hen and in a swirl of feathers, a scissor kick of claws and a splicing jab of her wings, she leapt up from the corner shouting:


‘Oh,’ thought the fox, when he regained consciousness the following morning. ‘Oh dear.’

He rubbed a sore bump on his nose and wondered, as he tried to stand up and fell down again, who had tied his front paws together.

‘What happened to my dinner?’

He looked round him, but the den was empty. The table was still laid with salt, pepper, a knife, a fork and a red and white checked napkin. But in the place of the bottle of tomato ketchup was a nice, brown egg.

(In memoriam Doris and Esmeralda)

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

A boy and his bike

After clambering up the side of the steep hill dragging his bicycle behind him, it seems a good idea to rest for a while at the top. The sun beats down on the boy’s back; it’s the start of the summer holidays and six weeks stretch ahead of him like an endless plain.

From up high on the hill he can see the flash of a lake, the red of a tractor in a field, the distant flatness of sea. From here the white chalk horse is so close, etched into the hillside by who knows who.

‘One, two, three, go!’ he says to himself and taking one final look down, he kicks away the ground beneath the wheels and launches himself over the edge, skittering over stones and bumping over clumps of grass, half following the chalk path but sometimes taking a short cut. On straight bits he sticks out his legs and feels the strong wind rushing past him, hurrying in the other direction. And the little stones bound along the path with him, rolling and picking up more of their fellows, and the pricky twiggy bushes are chasing him on their stubby little legs and out of the corner of his eye he sees a white thing moving and realises the horse is now galloping close behind him, throwing up clods of earth with its hooves.

Faster and faster and faster they all go, pulling the summer behind them, the boy just ahead and the horse snorting behind. ‘I’ve got you, I’ve won!’ shouts the boy as he feels the ground flatten until finally, in a skid of pebbles and rocks the boy and his bike come to a long slow halt, panting and wide-eyed and not quite believing he’s just done that.

He catches his breath before glancing behind him. All is as it was. But if he looks carefully, he might just see the horse’s flanks panting in and out, high up on the chalk hillside.

(inspired by Louis McNeice’s beautiful poem ‘The Cyclist’)