“Cycles” from MINUS ONE

I called you Peter

And you rocked the earth

My church is full of stones

I called you fire

And you consumed me

My mouth is choked with ashes

I called you truth

And handed you a sword

How often I am pierced

And pierced again

Old scars produce new blood

The letting leaves me

Desolate and grieving

The cycles of my life

Revolving endlessly.

“Alter Ego” from MINUS ONE

Her edges blurred

With layers of cloth

Pink and pinky-brown

And dusty blue

Old velvet, bits of lace

Threaded ribbons

Round her skirts

A trail of sweetness

Follows every move

Of hyacinth and lily

Minions flock

When she lifts a lazy hand

Starved for a smile

They do her bidding

Grateful to be asked

Undressed she’d be

A rosy Renoir nude

A little plump

Pink-apple cheeked

With rolling thighs

And tumbling auburn hair

If I was her

I wouldn’t dress at all

Ditch the lace and velvet

But I’m not her.

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An Excerpt from “Thelma” in We All Die in the End

“I wonder if I should wash . . . Thelma, do you think I should have a wash?”

            Thelma dithered beside the bed, moving from one wee foot to the other, waiting to heave Thomas to his feet. The top of his pyjamas hung open and his belly bulged over the bottoms. There was a line of sweat where the bulge began and another across the back of his neck when he bent to look at his feet.

            “Whatever you like, dear. The water’s hot.”

            “Well, I will then. I’ll have a nice wash and you can change the bed. I’m a bit sticky. One of the boys spilled beer . . .   “

            Thomas waved a hand near his pillow and then clutched Thelma’s arm. She braced herself and waited while he moved his heavy legs to the floor.

            “Up we go,” she said. “Upsy daisy.”

            Slowly, Thomas pushed his feet into his summer gutties and hauled himself up along Thelma’s, thin shoulder. She glanced at his jacket hung over the chair, pockets sagging a bit with change, good! Thomas’ hand was tight on her wrist and she fixed her eyes on the plump, pink fingers. She would prick him like a sausage . . . prick, prick, prick, all over, and his pink skin would burst open with wee pops and the yellow fat would ooze out, relieved and grateful.

            “I’ll have a piss first,” Thomas said.

            “Yes, and have a shower,” Thelma said. “You’ll feel the better of it.”

            Thomas nodded and shut the bathroom door. Thelma could hear him coughing, and then he was pissing and spitting and farting and coughing all at once – the whole bloody orchestra, as he said himself. When the toilet flushed she footered about with the socks in his drawer in case he changed his mind and came back but after a minute she heard the shower starting up.

            She shook his jacket and pushed her fingers quickly into the pockets. Heavy change – she left a couple of coins so he wouldn’t miss the jingle. In his trousers two fivers were stuck together. Thelma took one. She slid the money into one of her green boots with the fur and counted with a quick look. Fifty pounds all told – not bad. She ran her fingers and her eyes over it and then she carefully pulled up the zip. Now, she said to herself, Irene can’t say I’m not trying.

            A whole weekend away! Up the coast, that lovely, old hotel, and the lovely, soft, sandy beach, not covered in stones like ours! Oh, it’ll be great, it’ll be magic, magic! She leaned against the chest of drawers with her eyes shut tight and her arms folded, one wee ankle twisted around the other. She’d eat steak and chips and drink Prosecco . . .

            She opened her eyes. The bed! She tore the sheet off and pulled at the duvet cover. Crumbs, beer stains, the pillow-case grey from his head. She ran round and round the bed, smoothing and tugging and then she leapt when Thomas roared from the bathroom:

            “How long am I supposed to wait here?”

            He’d be dripping all over the place! Thelma left the pillow and skipped into the bathroom. Thomas was shivering; he dabbed at himself with a towel.

Brown Bread Recipe

Yesterday, it was raining and very windy so I decided to forgo the afternoon walk and make bread instead. I make this brown bread very often but this time I added treacle and raisins for a change.

2 cups of wholewheat flour

1 cup of strong white flour

1/2 cup porridge oats

1/2 cup wheat bran (or germ)

1and 1/2 teaspoons of baking soda

1/2 teaspoon of salt

Raisins, if using

1 tblsp honey or treacle

1 and 1/2 cups of buttermilk

Oven to 190 degrees celsius

All the dry ingredients into a large bow, mix well, add the honey or treacle and the buttermilk and mix all together by hand until it comes away from the sides of the bowl. Turn out onto floured worktop and knead for half a minute or so the shape into a round and place on floured baking tray. Cut a cross quite deeply with a knife and put into the oven for 20 minutes, then turn oven down to 160 degrees and cook for another 20 mins. Test with a skewer or knife to make sure it’s done. The knife should come out clean. Wrap in a damp tea towel and cool on a wire tray.

I always cut a piece off while it’s still warm and butter it. Heaven!

My Five Favourite Opening Lines

It was very hard to choose these five opening lines – I could have chosen another five altogether! Would anyone like to add some more?

  1. “Ennis Del Mar wakes before five, wind rocking the trailer, hissing in around the aluminium door and window frames.” Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx.
  2. “All night long he would walk the ship, from bow to stern, from dusk until quarterlight, that sticklike limping man from Connemara with the drooping shoulders and ash-coloured clothes.” Star of the Sea by Joseph O’Connor.
  3. “While I was still in Amsterdam, I dreamed about my mother for the first time in years.” The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.
  4. “‘All good things must end,’ said Frances Price.” French Exit by Patrick de Witt.
  5. “It was love at first sight”. Catch 22 by Joseph Heller.