How it all began …

It has occurred to me that it’s been a while since I posted any of my prose on here. So I thought I’d share this little piece that I wrote back in October.

How it all began …

The forest was dying. Where once great trees had stretched unbroken from horizon, now long grasses swayed in the wind. What trees were left were solitary, stretching out long roots to seek out every drop of moisture from the arid soil, or huddled in little clumps where a hollow allowed a little ground water to accumulate. Only the banks of rivers and lakes still held narrow bands of thick woodland, squeezing their inhabitants into enclosed spaces where they must fight each other for dwindling resources.

But, if you were fast enough, smart enough, and wise enough to know where and when the next crop of fruit would ripen, there was still a life to be made here. The apes had survived, thrived even, when so many other species had moved on or died out. They had the agility, the intelligence, the wisdom to make sure there was always enough to eat. But with this new environment came new risks. No longer could the apes spend their whole lives in the canopy, moving from one branch to another, to another. No patch of forest was big enough now to sustain them on its own. They must move from one to the other, take their chances in the long grass to find the next fruit-laden tree. Apes were not built for grassland. Their knuckle walk was steady and serviceable, but never fast, and it kept their heads low, below the level of the waving grass that restricted their view to what was right in front of their eyes. It screened them too, but there were hunters on that grassland that could smell them from hundreds of metres away, and catch them long before they reached the safety of the next tree.

There was a young ape that liked to fool about, walking on its hind legs. The older apes disdained it, but the youngster did not care. It would do as it pleased, and when its troop made the trek from one clump of trees to the next, it would maintain this two-legged gait, enjoying a view denied to the others. One day, as they knuckle-walked along, oblivious, the youngster’s high pitched shrieks alarmed them. The big males gathered around the mothers and babies, and confronted the leopard that had been stalking them. Faced with a wall of teeth and and a hail of stones, and unwilling to fight for its meal, it retreated.

It was not long before all the young apes in that troop, and some of the older ones, adopted the habit of walking on their hind legs. And it was not many generations before their descendants became more successful, more numerous than those of others who still maintained the old knuckle-walking ways. They were adaptable, intelligent creatures. But they were still apes: what that odd habit of theirs would ultimately lead to was something utterly beyond their comprehension.

Welcome, Allison

I’m very pleased to host a short piece today from flash fiction/short story writer and blogger Allison Symes.

Time by Allison Symes

‘You won’t know what to do when retired, Judy.’

‘You’ll be back here in no time. You’ll get bored, Judy.’

Harrumph! My colleagues were wrong. I’d planned my retirement. I wanted every day to have something I’d look forward to – and it was going brilliantly.

On Mondays, I had Book Club. On Tuesdays, I went swimming. On Wednesdays, I was at the WI. On Thursdays, I would visit an English Heritage or National Trust property. On Fridays, I went to creative writing classes and later in the day cooking classes. (I can cook all right but you want to improve on what you do and I can now make a mean lamb rogan josh if I say so myself).
I saved weekends for boring things like housework, getting my shopping delivered and so on. The weekends are for families to be out and about. They don’t need me in their way. I refuse to be in theirs.

I lost my Joe years ago, poor love. Cancer is a devil. He was 50.  We weren’t blessed with children either. But I’ve always known Joe would want me to live for him so that’s what I did at work and then in retirement.

Then bloody Covid-19 came. To begin with it was okay. I still have milk delivered and I’d used online food shopping for years. But  I missed going out. I couldn’t have returned to work even if I wanted to then. Everyone was furloughed. From what I last heard on the community Facebook page, it looks as if my old firm won’t survive at all.

I got used to Zoom so still have my Book Club and WI but no swimming. I soon tired of “visiting” places by online means only though. I love walking for miles around these places and then going to their cafes for lunch and afternoon tea etc. Can’t do that at home!

The positive though has been my creative writing classes. Not only are they continuing on Zoom, I’ve now drafted several stories and I’m submitting a couple to publishers next week. I’ve had good feedback and if I don’t try, I won’t know, will I?

Oh I so want to feel the air again, to be able to walk as far as I want, and not have everyone shy away from me because it’s clear I’m in my sixties and may be vulnerable.  I’ve never let my age get in the way and I resent a bloody virus for forcing this on us all. And I worry. Will people resent us older, “vulnerable” ones? I hope not but fear so.

I suppose I could write a story about it and have my heroine find a way of defeating the thing. I wish I could trample the thing to death for inflicting this misery. Trust me, I’d do it in a flash if I could.

Allison Symes is a published flash fiction/short story writer and a blogger. Her fiction has appeared in anthologies from CafeLit and Bridge House Publishing. Allison loves reading and writing quirky fiction. She discovered flash fiction thanks to a CaféLit challenge and has been hooked on the form since.

In her flash stories, Allison will take you back in time, into some truly criminal minds, into fantasy worlds, and show you how motherhood looks from the viewpoint of a dragon amongst other delights.
Allison’s first flash collection, From Light to Dark and Back Again, was published by Chapeltown Books in 2017, with the follow-up, Tripping the Flash Fantastic, released in 2020.

Allison blogs for Chandler’s Ford Today, an online magazine, every Friday and usually writes on topics of interest to writers.

Author Links


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News and a Poem

A couple of bits of poetry news today. Firstly, I’m delighted that I will be involved in #HavePoemsWillTravel, an online event hosted by award-winning performance poet Rose Condo for World Poetry Day on Sunday 21 March. Should be great! You can book tickets for the event here: #HavePoemsWillTravel Tickets, Sun, Mar 21, 2021 at 6:30 PM | Eventbrite. Hope to see you there!

Secondly, I was thrilled yesterday to receive my copy of Survival, the anthology from the recent Hammond House International Poetry Competition.

I thought I’d share one of my two poems from the anthology:

West Shore    					

This place possessed you:
the essence of it, borne on sea spray
sank into your bones.
Fleeting light on soft grey waves,
their lilting sussurations
flowed through eyes and ears 
to sow a seed of it in you 
that took root and grew
like sea grass, swaying 
in the tides of life
but tenacious, holding on
to bring you back, and back again.

It was two-way osmosis:
pervading everything, this shore 
in turn was steeped in you.
Elsewhere, you left a vacuum,
nothing but aching emptiness,
but here, replanting 
ancient footsteps, I sense you still
within the glint of sun on water
the salt taste in the air
and the soothing surf
that reassures me
‘sshhh, I am at peace.’

Pic: Tom Pennington: Strand lines on West Shore, Llandudno CC BY-SA 2.0