What We Did During Lockdown (An Anthology): WRITTEN IN THE TIME OF COVID-19 #PublicationDay

Hello everyone!

Well, hark at me having a secret publication during the global pandemic!

What We Did During Lockdown is a micro anthology written by me and four of my friends. Today is the official publication day and it is available in paperback HERE

Here is the blurb:

Five friends… four stories… and one poem.Twin daughters provide inspiration for one spontaneous poet… Tuesday morning and Martin has a meltdown watching Piers Morgan… what has Martin been up to during lockdown? And will his wife find out? …. Inspired by Van Gogh an outsider’s artwork gets gritty. Van Gogh would be proud… Karen’s brain is fried by a faint hum that turns into something else. But, she’ll be OK (won’t you, Karen?) … Mimi’s search for toilet roll takes her to the other side of town she thinks she knows everything but is finally left speechless. Written at a time of panic, pandemic and lockdown. Good things can come out of disaster. All royalties from this book will be donated to Bury Hospice

Yes, we are raising money for Bury Hospice. 

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Left to right top row: Claire Kingsley, Alex Cavanagh, Samantha Henthorn. Bottom row: Shaylah, Leah Leanne Wood.

This little project started when my friend Alex (pictured above) started a group on Facebook for ‘us lot’ so that we could all keep in touch. We have a weekly Zoom quiz that no one wants to win and we message at least once a day.,

Early on during the lockdown, I put a post up ‘Does anyone want to write a short story collection with me?’

My friend Leah jumped on it straight away. She is a super talented singer and usually sings at local events. I have been in tears more than once (in a good way) at her singing.  Leah’s story is brilliant and so relatable about family life. Leah was the first person to submit, and although I had fallen into the depths of poor motivation the following week, I wrote my story.

Then Alex donated one of his poems written about his beautiful twin daughters and amazingly gorgeous wife.

Then Shaylah donated a brilliant story she had already written. It is about an outsider who takes a gritty approach to art. I know Shaylah because I am friends with her mum. Thanks to her mum Sarah for encouraging her to be a part of this. I can totally see Shaylah’s talent she is going to write some great things and I’m going to be her biggest fan!

After weeks of telling me she didn’t have the inclination to write at the moment, Claire wrote a story in defence of middle-aged women everywhere (and it took her a couple of hours to write it!)

The whole thing was fun, we are so looking forward to reviews and I know that Claire, Alex and Leah are appearing on a blog post for Against The Flow Press.

One last thing, the book is dedicated to Sam Hunt. Sam was a great friend to us all she had the best smile and everyone used to gravitate to her. She was also Leah’s mum (and mum to Carla, Janaki and Kamala also).

This book is dedicated to Sam Hunt, a cherished mother, nana, sister and friend. May her spirit live among the trees. 

(Sam was also an auntie)

Happy reading everyone,

Stay safe

Samantha xx

 

Magic Pound #ShortStory #IARTG

Magic Pound

There once lived a woman who was filthy rich and lived in a grand house in the forest of suburbia. She had everything she thought her heart desired. The finest clothes in the latest fashions, her digits dripped with jewels – even her little toes showed off splendour. And her hair, oh! Her luxuriously long hair danced around her shoulders like a fluffle of wild rabbit kits in spring.

Every evening, she dined on delicious food and overpriced wine usually and ashamedly polishing off the entire bottle herself. Her house was beautiful, her garden exemplary and the envy of all who gazed upon it (she imagined).

In addition to these perceived virtues, the filthy rich woman was extremely knowledgeable. Some would go as far as saying ‘she knows everything’ and at one time, she would share knowledge widely.

This was in the past, however, because despite wealth and self-appointed oracle status, she had no one to share it with. No partner, no family (there was a cousin in Kidderminster, but the less said about her, the better). This filthy rich woman had no friends. You could say… she is alone…

Today of all days, she had a problem. The supermarket had run out of her favourite things. And toilet roll! There was absolutely no toilet roll on the shelves… She sighed, fastened the seatbelt of her hugely expensive car and drove to the next shop. As the wind and rain lashed against her windscreen, she drove round and round the island. Further and further away from her palatial home. In every supermarket the same story, queues, no loo roll and shelves bereft of her favourites. It was alright for her though, she was safe in her car, apart from when she had to queue – this would never do. She had not seen the news, on account of already knowing everything but in the third car park, the radio played in her car. Soon her head filled with doom. She was consumed with anxiety, how was she to get through the next few months of her life without her favourite things? She sighed and made her way to the final supermarket, a place she would never normally frequent.

‘A pound?’ she gasped at the trolley’s security tag.

‘Yeah, so no one’ll nick them and push them into the River Irwell,’ a voice said from the side. Ignoring the drenched commentator, the filthy rich woman returned to her car. She rummaged around in the centre console for coins. Fifty p? Twopence? No, ahh you will have to do! Between her forefinger and thumb, the woman held a shiny patterned token. A pretend pound gifted to her during a time she was not as lonely. The commentator admired her as she freed a trolley and at last, entered the supermarket in search of her favourite things.

Although waiting in line outside had been tolerable, the items on sale were not. What did this filthy rich woman need with bulk buy tinned soup? And the toilet roll was only available in a multipack! Her very favourite dish for a Wednesday of spinach and ricotta cannelloni suddenly became tinned spaghetti hoops… on toast… white toast… Her Thursday fillet steak, now a tin of spam (they had sold out of frozen burgers and corned beef). Sushi platter Saturday became pot noodles (sold in bulk). Smoked salmon Sunday brunch? A tin of sardines would have to suffice (on yet more toast). And of course, they did not sell Champagne.

Somewhat satisfied with her haul, the filthy rich woman paid and made her way towards the exit.

‘Can I take your trolley back for the pound, Sweet?’ the same voice from the side reached out to her. She was about to ignore him, but as she looked upwards, she noticed his face almost meeting hers.

‘Keep your distance!’ she snapped ‘Haven’t you seen the news? TWO METRES APART!’

‘Seen the news?’ he took a swig from what appeared to be the world’s cheapest lager. ‘No, sorry Sweet, I lost the remote for my fifty-two-inch widescreen.’

She did not bat an eyelid at his quip. ‘Well, there is a global pandemic – we must all keep our distance… and self isolate! I shall have to put my life on hold!’

‘Poor you,’ the voice said.

‘Thank you.’

‘Offer still stands… can I take your trolley back for the pound?’

‘Oh, oh… no, it’s one of those tokens… it’s my magic pound,’ the woman had no idea why she had been so forthcoming, perhaps it had been his charm offensive.

‘Magic?’ he laughed, showing a full set of fillings. ‘What’s magic about it?’

‘Oh hahaha,’ she nervously laughed. ‘Nothing, I suppose… just what my… what someone used to call them,’ she rummaged in her pocket. ‘Here,’ she handed over two fifty pence pieces. During this transaction, she remembered the social distancing rule and dropped them on the floor. Her friendly commentator had to scramble around to pick them up. When he looked up, she had gone, driving away in her hugely expensive car.

A few short days later, the filthy rich woman’s consumer hankerings got the better of her. Once again her hugely expensive car backed off the driveway. As she reached the centre of town desolation greeted her, but she was just grateful for the lack of traffic and the calmer weather. After her previous debacle, she headed straight back to the shop that she would not usually be seen dead in, all prepared with her magic pound.

‘You forget something last time, Sweet?’

She nervously giggled an assertion she did not want to speak to the over-familiar commentator hanging around in exactly the same place. She commandeered a trolley (via the magic pound) and noticed someone she did want to speak to…

‘Jane! Jane!’ she shouted after her fellow shopper who was either deaf, in a hurry… or trying to avoid her ‘Jane! Jane, it’s me… Mimi!’ she dropped her waving hand. Jane had literally left her hanging, and this would never do. ‘Really’ Mimi huffed to herself and rattled her trolley inside the shop, desperate to drain her bank balance and ask Jane a load of nosy questions. Poor Jane.

‘Excuse me… Excuse me…’ Mimi tried desperately to pass a family of shoppers dragging bags of frozen chips and sausages from the freezers into their own trolley. I thought people were not supposed to bring their entire family shopping during the pandemic…

‘And I thought people were meant to queue outside and wait until the store was less busy,’ an angry shopper said, after overhearing Mimi’s grumbling. She glanced behind towards the double doors and spied a queue of angry shoppers gesticulating their disgust. She had barged past them and tried to use ‘Jane’ to push in. Mimi decided against apologetically returning outside to join the queue but instead, suddenly found a box of frozen pulled pork very interesting. Then, through the gaps in the condiments on display, Mimi spotted that Jane was already at the till! ‘Jane! Jane!’ once again, Mimi was ignored. ‘Ohhh’ she cried to herself. Deciding against filling her trolley, she dashed towards Jane. But other shoppers were in her way as she weaved through the aisles… Shoppers who were adhering to the social distancing rules. Mimi’s desperation did not go down well, the entire shop (apart from Jane who had done one) laughed when Mimi collided with a tower of egg boxes and crashed to the floor. ‘Ewww. Ewww, sugar! Somebody help me please!’ Mimi rolled around dramatically in a pool of yellow and shell. An overworked shop assistant stifled her giggles as she helped Mimi to her feet. ‘I’m ever so sorry, I will pay for any damage… but really? Stacking boxes of eggs in the way of customers?’ Mimi did not give the shop assistant time to disagree and ran around, grabbing what she could.

By the time Mimi reached the till (while batting off wisecracks made by her counterpart customers about ‘over egg-cited’ and ‘egg on her face’) there was no trace of Jane. Why would she ignore me? Mimi thought to herself. I am filthy rich, and at one time she was a mess! She could hardly do anything without running it past me for advice! And I would be there… always telling her what she should and shouldn’t do. I’m good like that…

‘Did you get everything you needed Mimi?’ the commentator said, rescuing her from her ruminations.

‘What? Yes! Hang on, how did you know my name?’

‘Oh, I always have a little chat with Jane on her way out – a lovely woman. People often take her for a fool, but she isn’t.’

‘So she did see me then?’ Mimi murmured to herself…

‘Pardon? You say summat, Sweet?’

‘Oh, nothing… well, you know my name now so it’s only right that I should know yours,’ said Mimi, deflecting from Jane’s rebuff.

‘My name is Pros.’

‘Oh, short for live long and prosper I suppose?’ Mimi laughed.

‘Something like that,’ Pros rolled his eyes. ‘At least I’m not named after myself ME ME!’

‘No, it’s MIMI, just Mimi, not short for anything.’ Mimi arranged a bag for life in the driver’s seat of her hugely expensive car to protect it from her egg covered backside. ‘Here,’ she reached into her centre console for a few small coins. ‘Be a dear and take my trolley back for me would you and return the magic pound to me…’

Pros did as he was told, but before returning the magic pound, he shined it against his sleeve. ‘Bye-bye now, Mimi, be sure to let me know when the pandemic ends.’

‘Yes, I cannot wait until it’s all over and then I can go back to normal!’ Mimi laughed and jumped into her car, not realising what she had said.

 

The following few weeks saw terrible things happening in the world, death, global fear and widespread pandemonium. Strangely, Mimi started watching the news again. It turned out that she did not know everything. She returned to the same supermarket several times, and what began as a passing comment became something she was now looking forward to.

‘Hello, Mimi are you alright there, Sweet?’ Pros would always say when she arrived. And Mimi now felt it was time to start sharing her knowledge.

‘You know what you should do,’ Mimi began. But the look that Pros gave her, the raised eyebrow and the slightly squarer shoulders almost made Mimi relent. But no, it was in her nature to dole out unwanted advice. ‘What you should do is… if you still cannot find your TV remote…’ But Mimi’s words drowned in laughter.

‘I was joking, Sweet! I don’t have a fifty-two-inch widescreen television! I’m on the streets… Mimi’ Pros laughed, he thought better of teasing her with ‘Dickhead’ her type never got the humour and she always gave him a few coins (not the magic one obviously).

Although she was used to being alone, during the lockdown, the only person Mimi ever spoke to had been Pros.

‘Aright there Sweet?’ the familiar welcome of her homeless friend greeted her. ‘Still no end to the pandemic?’

‘No… no,’ Mimi smoothed down her hair.

‘As soon as I find a cure for Coronavirus I will let you know, Mimi,’ Pros winked, and Mimi blushed. ‘I could do with a Corona right now,’ Pros grinned and instead, sipped his can of the world’s cheapest lager. Mimi fluttered a giggle.

Winter now long gone, spring was finally turning into summer, and everyone on the island had adapted to these strange times. Mimi had become quite creative with her appearance, no trips to the hairdresser or beauty salon had taken their toll. Obviously, Mimi still thought of herself as beautiful. However, she was starting to change in her attitude. Although Jane did not accept her friend request on Facebook, Mimi accepted this and secretly wished her well. Today, Mimi was very pleased with herself, she had bought a present for Pros and was excited to deliver it to him. Something not quite materialistic, but expensive all the same. Although romance often includes adventures with unlikely events, Mimi had been realistic with her gift idea. She pulled up into the car park and gave her magic pound a rub for good luck. Checking herself out in the mirror (yes, still gorgeous) Mimi stepped out of her car.

But where was Pros? Mimi’s face fell as it appeared he had been replaced by another man dressed in similar clothes and drinking the same world’s cheapest lager…

‘You OK there, Love? Any chance I can have your pound from the trolley on your way out?’

‘Oh… it’s a…’ Mimi’s face fell.

‘Is it a magic pound? Prospero told me to look out for you.’

‘Did he?’ Mimi brightened, feeling foolish with a case of slightly more expensive Mexican lager held tightly to her bosom. She considered handing it over, she couldn’t very well take it into the shop with her. ‘Where is Pros?’ she said, deciding booze would be a reward for information.

‘Oh, he’s gone fruit picking in the countryside. Does it every year, casting his friendship and wisdom amongst the other pickers.’

© Samantha Henthorn 2020.

Inspired by the news, fairy tales, Shakespeare, things I don’t miss. Hoping this story is going to be the start of something bigger – who knows? 

I am the author of the Curmudgeon Avenue Series. I also wrote a short story collection three years ago called Quirky Tales to Make Your Day. Here is the link in pink for my Amazon page

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Stay safe and happy reading, Samantha xx

 

 

 

 

Work in Progress (Another Short Story Collection)

Happy Wednesday everyone, and thank you for joining me on my monthly writerly rambling post.

Today I would like to talk about a very exciting WIP,  The Grit and the Wit. 

This is about to be a fantastic short story collection written half by my writer friend Maggie Melville and half by me (we are thinking of alternating the stories).

Maggie and myself met at Whitefield library about five years ago, when we had joined a creative writing class. We all used to read our stories out, Maggie’s were always brilliant and somewhat ‘gritty’ compared to mine.

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So far, Maggie has written a heart-wrenching story involving a boat and a story about a young girl from the point of view of her mother. It’s chilling, trust me. I can’t wait to read the finished product (no pressure, Maggie!)

I am still writing and polishing mine. So far I have a story about a mantel-piece clock passing judgement on the house owner. One about the Orangemen march in Southport and one about a tom-cat with several owners.

Interestingly, we are both thinking of a garden-themed story. There is so much you can do with gardening – which reminds me, the recent rain in Manchester has sprouted many, many weeds on my front path …

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Photo by Jack Hawley on Pexels.com

 

No doubt, I will be telling you all about the progress of our project over the next few months. Do not worry, the fourth book in the Curmudgeon Avenue series ‘The Ghosts of Curmudgeon Avenue’ is also on the way.

Now for a snippet of one of the short stories about a KISS fan and a cancelled concert:

     When I get back on the tram, I am joined by some day time drinkers on their way home. The noise has returned, but I don’t feel like talking after what I’ve just read. A bloke about my age wearing trainers and a Happy Mondays T-shirt breaks away from his mates and sits next to me.

     ‘You ok, love?’ He says, taking a sip of his can of beer. I say nothing. ‘Sorry, it’s just that you look sad, I thought I’d better say hello, make sure you’re alright.’

     ‘Yes, I’m… I’m sorry’ I don’t know what to say. The bloke shouts to one of his mates, who turns out to be his brother.

     ‘Brother! Bruv! Got any more cans in your pockets? This lady…’ He gives me a sideways glance as if to double check I’m female… ‘She needs a can of beer to cheer her up!’

One of them shouts over, pulling his fingers and thumb into the sign of the horns.

      ‘Aww it got cancelled didn’t it?’ Like we’ve got something in common. They all come and pile on the seats around me. They’ve been to a tribute do for the victims. I feel even more guilty now. The first bloke puts his arm around me, and my hair gets tangled in my studded jacket.

  ‘Don’t worry, we’ll cheer you up. We are from Manchester, and this is what we do, innit?’

 

We will keep you posted, happy writing and reading everyone. See you next month for my next writerly-rambling. Here is a picture of some flowers from my garden:

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Samantha xx

Alternative Resolutions

I know it’s not New Year’s exactly, but my point is, we have all year to fulfil what we resolve to achieve. And if I don’t write it down, then I won’t do it…

First off health. Not really alternative, it’s a common theme in January. I don’t have much to say except in December, I read a health book called ‘The Healing Point’ by James Lilley. I learnt loads, and as soon as I get over this two week cold (two weeks everyone) then I am going to try his tips on better sleep -magnesium. I can’t say more READ IT!

Second on the list is to finish and publish book three of the Curmudgeon Avenue series ‘Edna and Genevieve Escape From Curmudgeon Avenue’ just a few tweaks, and providing my final two readers don’t return to me with a ‘STOP! Don’t publish this nonsense!’ It should be with us at the end of January. Should anyone want a free ARC in return for a review, give me a shout (this version will be a download minus the first chapter of the next book).

Third, and something I’m really excited about, my writer friend Maggie Melville and myself are collaborating on a short story collection called ‘THE WIT AND THE GRIT’ . We have lots to do, the majority is written but there are decisions to be made and so on. Maggie is so talented she writes some really dark, gritty stuff (you know the kind you find in bestsellers?) And as you know, I write quirky bits of nonsense. WATCH THIS SPACE.

Blogging. I resolve to continue blogging, this year there will be a slight change, I’m still going to be as random as ever, but once a month, I am hoping to produce a ‘writing topic post’ you may have seen last week’s ‘Reviewing books; there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to be frightened of’ . In addition to this, I am hoping to serialise Curmudgeon Avenue into a weekly blog, I’ll have to give it a try because each chapter is 1000 words or thereabouts, possibly too long for a blog post but I’ve got nothing to lose.

Reading. Somehow, I have managed to accumulate over one hundred books on my to be read list. Ironically, as I finished ‘1984′ I realised that I had 101 books left to read. Mmm.

Well I think that’s quite enough for now, I quite like getting all rejuvenated in January.

Happy reading and writing,

Samantha xx

 

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Favourite Things to Read Five Days (not necessarily consecutive.

Day two ‘Quirky books’ . A couple of years ago, I started reading books by an author called Christopher Wilson. Books, ‘Blueglass,’ ‘Mischeif’, and a more recent publication ‘The Zoo’ I think my favourite of his books is ‘The Ballad of Lee Cotton’ . As a side issue, I could have sworn I wrote and posted a review when I read first read this a couple of years ago, and I cannot find it now on the internet (I vaguely remember that I think I borrowed from a library)

The Ballad of Lee Cotton

This book is the life story of Lee Cotton, who, at his own birth gave his mother a shock when she saw his appearance. Without giving too much away, he transforms via an accidental identity crisis- or two. The writing is so convincing, absorbing the reader into an unbelievable scenario, suddenly becoming believable. Lee Cotton, is the type of person who anyone can identify with. I thought this book is right up my street, very quirky.

Now I have a little story to confess as to how I started reading Chris Wilson’s work. But this is not to say that what I have said above is any less truthful, I genuinely enjoyed these books. When I started writing, my dad shared with me a family memoir that his cousin had written. I discovered that author Christopher Wilson is my third cousin! Yes, the Booker and twice nominated Whitbread prize published author has the same Great Grandparents as me! Creative Genes! Now, of course we have never met, but with all my recent increased social media presence for bookish reasons, it was only a matter of time before Chris Wilson’s name popped up on Twitter in ‘who to follow’ (I had been following anyone who had the word ‘writing’ in their profile). We are now in touch via email, my Dad who met him years ago is over the moon. Now back to the reason I started this post. Chris Wilson’s books are some of the best reads I have ever read, and I have read a lot.

Another quirky book that I really enjoyed reading earlier this summer is one I reviewed recently ‘Peddling Doomsday’ by Petra Jacob. This is a psychological thriller with major interest. The storyline is so different. It is about Deirdre, unhappy with her life she is drawn into a cult via the medium of social media and internet shouting. Everyone gets a new name, apart from Deirdre, and she was so looking forward to getting a new name (sad face emoji) everyone has to do a pointless job that involves something they fear. The writing is full of satire, allegory and that ‘I can’t put this down!’ feeling that you get when reading. Peddling Doomsday I think when I reviewed this book, I said that I was ‘giving the author an imaginary high five’ , I still am, I still think about this book and would read it again. Sign of a good book.

Without making this list of quirky books too long other books I enjoyed with the offbeat quality I am talking about I would say are ‘The Five People You Meet in Heaven’ by Mitch Albom. A very famous book, as you know I shy away from reviewing books that already have lots of reviews (who cares what I think?). Eddie is a fairground worker, when he dies there is a series of events that could have had something to do with other people’s lives and deaths, and so the story continues in heaven. In a sort of ‘everything happens for a reason’ type story.

The Five People You Meet In Heaven

Finally, another book that I would consider a favourite and an offbeat slightly satirical read. I am at risk of upsetting other fans of this book here, because I think it is grouped into a cosy series read. Mapp and Lucia by E F Benson.

Mapp and Lucia by [Benson, E. F.]

Well, the characters live in a fictional south coast location in the 1930s. The book is put together by a series of little storylines all involving neighbours watching each other and navigating etiquette, snobbery and one-upmanship. Quirky, I think, because of the characters who are able to convince their friends they can speak perfect Italian, oh and to coin a phrase, good-bye in Mapp and Lucia is stated as Au-reservoir! I would just love it if I could get that to catch on in Brandlesholme!

Oh and what a coincidence! Eighteen months ago I published my short story collection ‘Quirky Tales to Make Your Day’. It’s quirky! 51Q26dkzKzL._SX260_

Happy reading, Samantha 🙂

You Know Nothing About Wrestling

You Know Nothing About Wrestling

It were a week last Sat’dee – that’s when I first spotted him. What me father would say was ‘One of those rough and ready types’. Dark hair and dark eyes, the opposite to me – you can see through me on a sunny day, like a wafer biscuit. Maybe that’s why I noticed him, dare I say it? Someone so deliciously disgusting. I’d only gone to fetch me little brother, when I caught this first glimpse of my wrestler – sweating and sturdy in the ring, a fine specimen tempting me into the following week when I was a fully paid-up member of the wrestling audience. Talk about feeling unwanted though, the place was full of menfolk and smoke. Inhaling their fill of manliness, exhaling the steam of everyday downturn and depression. Except for those who noticed me taking exception ‘No cursing in front of the fairer sex’.
Carlos the Crusher. I wonder if that’s his real name?
Me Mam would only let me go if I went with our Wally, even though I’m seventeen and old enough to marry and pack int’ mill. I say me Mam, she says ‘Go ask your Father’ – but it’s her who has the final say so. Me Dad’s not been the same since the war. At least he came back though.
Soon enough, our Walter gets fed up of me ‘tagging along’ as he puts it. and as for Carlos Crusher, what’s he gonna see in me? Wally asks me: ‘Wouldn’t you like to sling your hook?, Do your brother a favour?’
I know his game, he wants rid of me so he can ask Molly McCarthy out. I had to make summat up. I could kick meself for blurting it out though.
‘ Happen I’m going to start wrestling. Start a wimin’s wrestling team’
Walter burst out laughing right then and there in the ticket queue.
‘You’d have to get some flesh on your bones first!’
Well, I gave him such a look, didn’t I?
‘You’ll end up like Two Tonne Tessie if you’re not careful, then no one’ll want to court you!’
‘What do you know about it, any road Walter Braithwaite?’
He smirked at me, and folk had started to look over at our to-do.
‘I know this, our Nellie, you know nothin’ about wrestling’
I just folded my arms and buttoned up. Aye, I thought, and you know nothing about women.

 

Samantha Henthorn (copyright 2018)black-and-white-people-bar-men.jpg

Tangling

 

Bending sliding, sliding bending, bending sliding. Repeat again, bend slide, and so on. The worm’s light receptive cells reacted to the unnatural shine of the fermenting machine.

 

‘Did you know? Contrary to popular belief, if a worm is chopped in half, it will not survive’. Wandy knew this instinctively because instinct is how worms get the idea about stuff. This worm’s general knowledge was quite good, for a worm. Bending, sliding, as Wandy burrowed its head under the plastic wall, it increased its speed, by taking an extra long stride. With so many predators, birds, badgers and baby gardeners (helping Grandad’s garden with risky plastic spades)  Wandy instinctively knew it had to hide. The worm belonged to a species with such a wide lifespan (a few days to six years) … It had lasted this long, it would be a shame…  Life is too short to worry about the past. Too short actually for the short fat worm Wandy used to tangle with, slurped and snaffled into the hungry mouth of a passing badger like a spaghetti main.  Wandy the worm was sliding away, and leaving it all behind.

 

The worm instinctively knew the fermenting machine was its desired destination. It was so dark. So moist. So hot. So right! Wandy burrowed its tiny bristles into the mulch and pulled itself forward. Deeper, buried, safer. Its senses were on fire. Rich, fermenting fire! Wandy’s skin was alive with the exchange of putrid gases, it felt centimetres longer! Forward, curled, sleepy. Wandy had buried itself into a spherical ball, inside the remains of a discarded Victoria plum. It’s amazing how long those stones can hold their shape for.

 

‘Do you know? If us earthworms really sleep?’ Wandy wondered it felt like sleep but was it sleep? A sleep without dreams? All sentient beings need to regenerate, switch off their senses and reimburse the day’s energy supplies. Wandy, despite no sense of time, instinctively knew it had been in its dormant state for long enough, rested, time invested, with no purpose now than survival, in its new life, leaving it all behind.

 

Wandy spent a long time burrowed at the bottom of the compost bin. Familiar textures of the garden leaf. And new sensations of banana skins, apple cores, pineapple prickles… and tea bags. New variety, for this worm’s extra long colon.

 

‘Did you know, that with no ‘eyesight’ to speak of, burrowing earthworms can survive underground, especially within the confines of a fermenting machine?’ Wandy’s internal dialogue was intelligent  ‘Gardeners need not hunt worms to speed up their process, earthworms will happily seek habitat in this decaying environment’. Wandy knew this, instinctively, of course, that is how worms get the idea about stuff don’t forget. Happily? That word needed careful consideration. The worm was safe and self-sufficient, it had slid away from past reminders of its previous tangle partner. It had no recollection of its egg’s nesting positions, Wandy’s children could be anywhere.It was happy in the hope, that those baby worms had the sense to seek solace in the soil sanctuary. Wandy had everything it needed. Self-sufficiency swapped for its previous animal behaviours. Surfacing when rain vibrates the earth, for an hour (no more) of transportation to another place. Wandy did not need to travel now, but habit was tempting, even if the worm had lasted that long. Yes. Wandy belonged to a species with a seemingly unfair supply of enemies, it was not expecting what came next, however. Who would have credited it? Worm on worm violence! Wandy was unable to settle, feeling uncomfortable in the knowledge there were enemies within,  it just instinctively knew.

 

‘Did you know, that worms are hermaphrodites? I am neither boy or girl’. Proud was Wandy of this, but a partner was still required for worms to spread their genes ‘That’s what we’re here for isn’t it?’

 

Nature takes over, rain falls, beating its rhythm on the ground, the soil, the life-giving soil. Wandy, with no sense of time, spent long enough making its way to the surface. Bending sliding, bend slide, and so on tiny bristles pulling further. Coiling a path upwards towards the sky, the lid of the fermenting machine. Wandy had been expecting to come face to face with other worms, comrades, and counterparts, it could sense them, instinctively. But this worm had felt a sense of unease and was right to do so.

 

“Look at the size of it! Ha! Look at the size of its belt!” 

 

Wandy tried to hide in amongst some leaves.

 

“No use in trying to hide! Look at the size of you, greedy worm have you been gorging our bounty on your way to the top?”

 

Wandy considered this question, before instinctively answering it. The decaying food had been all consuming, burrowing through had meant eating through, and of course, eating had meant depositing.  That is what Wandy was supposed to be doing… There had been a deep orange coloured structure, it’s side had felt cold and smooth until Wandy reached the roughly cut, moist edge. The worm had stuck its head inside, pungent gases exchanged, an unfamiliar smell of matches. Wandy had recoiled.

 

‘I don’t think it likes our pumpkin!’ the skinny pink worm said to the even skinnier worm, with a bewitching black head.

 

“I was born inside a pumpkin, how dare you!”

 

The bewitching worm thrashed her tail. Minuscule prickles whipped Wandy’s flabby, pulsating flesh. 

 

“I burrowed in here to hide… from death” Wandy defended.

 

‘Hide from death!’

 

Yes,‘ Wandy bowed its head. The two worms looked at one another, and then laughed a callous laugh. Who would have credited it? Mean girl pumpkin worms!

 

‘Who is this death you speak of, Fatty?’

 

Wandy lifted its head to answer, but not quickly enough for the spoilt worm.

 

‘Speak! Don’t instinct! I’m not a mind reader!’

 

Wandy opened its mouth,  which was only designed for burrowing, forcing itself to form words it started to speak:

 

‘Death is when the short fat worm I used to tangle with was suddenly taken away!’

 

The two spoilt worms instinctively formed their own mouths into a shocked ‘O’ shape.

 

‘YOU? … Have tangled?’

 

Their puny minds no longer interested in death, gossip presented itself for investigation.

 

Yes,‘ Wandy hung its head with the shame of an off-white bride.

 

‘Who? … in the garden… would tangle with a night crawler like you!’

 

The pumpkin worms threw themselves into the bottom of the pumpkin’s inside, laughing and coiling. Wandy sniffed around for an escape route, sliding up around the pumpkin’s outer shell, too large for even Wandy to fit inside its mouth. It slid back down again, landing on the crisscross pattern of carrot peelings.  Wandy heard whispering, and instinctively knew it was about itself. Wandy lifted its light receptors. Two snakes popped out of the pumpkin’s left eye.

 

‘Are you a girl worm, or a boy worm?’ One of the pumpkin worms asked a stupid question.

 

‘I’m just a worm’ Wandy answered.

 

‘Worms who’s names begin with ‘S’ are women, and worms who’s names begin with ‘H’ are men! I’m Sath, and this is Sote!’

 

Their names sounded sinful, their question confusing.

 

‘My name is Wandy’

 

‘Your name begins with ‘W’?! Oh, this is priceless! You’ve given yourself a ‘W’ name! You don’t look the precocious type! The only people who are allowed to name themselves beginning with ‘W’ are worms! You are doing it wrong! You haven’t understood correctly!’ Sath screamed, making little sense.

 

Well, I am a worm! Not a person !’ Wandy tried to crawl into the cracks of the carrot peel. Sath and Sote continued whispering and giggling.

 

‘We’ve got an idea! Seeing as you’ve stolen our soil, you can provide us with a service. Suck up the soil, so you look even fatter, and we look even thinner’ Sote said, it was the first time she had spoken. And Wandy had foolishly thought she was going to be kind! Not so, she was just as snide as Sath.

 

‘Yes, you’ll make us look good, sliding next to you, a big juicy fat worm!’

 

Wandy could have easily squashed these spoilt little worm-girls, but decided against it, instinctively knowing she was part of a plan.

 

‘What’s wrong Wandy? You don’t have to look good, you’ve already tangled… I’m going to rename you ‘Slag’ !’ 

 

Wandy was affronted. The worm had no idea what a ‘slag’ was, but it did not sound good. Wandy was not a slag, nor a slug, and not stupid.

 

‘Who, in the garden are you making yourself look good for?’ It was a risk, but Wandy had to say something these stupid worms had made themselves sisters, unable to do what worms do best… tangle...

 

‘For Grandad! Of course! We’re making ourselves look good for Grandad!’ Sath professed.

 

‘Grandad?’

 

‘Yes, he lifts the lid, and…’

 

‘I like his plastic shovel the best, makes me feel like I’m living on the edge!’ Sote interrupted Sath, she would pay for this later.

 

‘The sunshine makes us burn, but we know it’s worth it because of Grandad. Of the way he makes us feel’ Sath coiled with romance. Sote slid her head next to her. If they were not so emaciated, their belts would be bulging.

 

‘Careful girls, you don’t want to tangle with each other!’

 

The two spoilt worms flung themselves apart, poked over the top of the pumpkin and spat at Wandy, but it was worth it.

 

‘You want me to eat as much of these rotting vegetables as I can?’

 

‘YES!’ The spoilt worms chorused.

 

‘Bring it on!’ Wandy folded itself in two and took an extra long slide up the side of the pumpkin, mouth open wide, soon filled full of mulch from the chopping board, tea bags batted away.

 

‘Bye, Slag!’ Sath said ‘Yeah, bye Slag!’ The two mean worms coiled and wriggled, dancing a snake dance that only they thought was attractive. 

 

Time continued inside the adopted confines of the fermenting machine. Wandy’s instincts naturally returned to the sensation of safety. Most fools know that worms have a specific job to do as the underground saviours of mankind. For the next full moon, or so, Wandy minded her own business, recycling waste and producing soil. What goes in, must come out. Sath and Sote would leave her alone for so long, Wandy was left uninvited to their precious pumpkin. To be fair, that’s how Wandy preferred it. Occasionally, they would opt to remind the worm of their presence.

 

Hey, Slag! Catch a teabag!”

 

They would throw a tattered teabag at Wandy (I bet you didn’t know that worms could throw) They would tease, torment and tightly squeeze any remaining self-respect Wandy had. And she had quite good general knowledge for a worm do not let that be forgotten. Like bored housewives, Sath and Sote dismissed their rightful recycling occupations and promoted themselves to the management and murderous manipulation of Wandy- the worm that had once tangled. As mentioned previously, sometimes the abuse was direct: “Hey Slag” this and “Hey Slag” that. But mostly, the bullying was slippery, secretive and spiteful. Not only was Wandy never invited into the pumpkin, regular pumpkin parties would take place, for other members of the fermenting machine (beetles, centipedes and stray spiders) This always took place in full view of poor Wandy, who was never welcome. Still, the worm had to admit, survival would be worth it. Wandy had grown so long and lived so long, it would be a shame to say goodbye to life now. Sath and Sote’s inescapable sarcasm started to prove stressful for Wandy. The worm tried to bring peace, even trying to suck up to the pumpkin worms, bringing foraged gifts from in and around the compost bin, seeds and so on. But the bullying continued, and became snide; were they saying things for Wandy’s benefit? When usually they worked in pairs, sometimes Sath and Sote would split up, and pick away at Wandy’s subconscious.

 

“You know that present you gave Sath?”

 

“Yes”

 

“Well, promise you won’t say I said anything, but she didn’t like them. Wrong seeds, you see. Silly Slag, better luck next time!” Sote sneered.

 

Then another time, Sath cornered Wandy to complain about her own inability to burrow in a straight line.

 

“I just can’t slide straight, Slag, know what I mean?”

 

Straight lines had never occurred to Wandy. Zig-zagging happily- but Sath’s words had stolen any remaining smiles. Wandy lay awake, sacrificing her dreamless sleep, thinking over Sath’s words. Did she mean that for her? Was this survival? Or was this suicide? 

 

With no sense of time, Wandy could not tell how long it had been, but for a species with so many enemies, it was not long before mild peril arrived at the compost bin.

 

The plastic lid flung open, revealing the sun. This lid never ever opened in the rain. Sath and Sote wriggled, flirted and coiled. In her excitement, Sote even expelled a little soil. And then Grandad spoke:

 

Hello, my beauties, making me some compost for my borders?’

 

Wandy thought the two mean worms were going to faint with Grandad-mania. She had to admit that his voice had a rather soothing quality. Enjoyment of the human voice came all too soon, though, the worm had come to expect enemies and was all prepared.

 

‘Grandad! Grandad! Look at my plastic spade’ A softer, baby voice spoke. Wandy knew she must not be tempted by these sweet vibrations and slid off the pumpkin, into the safety of the leaves.

 

‘You be careful, little one, now what’s this?’ Grandad looked down into his compost bin and frowned a furrowing frown.

 

‘He’s different today, what’s wrong?’

 

‘He usually swirls a big stick around!’

 

The two pumpkin worms squealed, their strong sense of entitlement easily squashed. Wandy was now on the inside plastic edge of the fermenting machine, safe in the knowledge this was where she was meant to be.

 

‘I did tell your Grandma not to put your Halloween pumpkin in whole! It’s too big for any worm to swallow! No wonder these two look a bit skinny!’

 

‘What’s he saying, Sote?’ Sath said. But it was too late. Grandad lifted the pumpkin out of the compost bin and rested it on the wall.

 

‘Heeeelp!’ The pumpkin worms squealed, of course, they could not be heard.

 

Grandad, Grandad! Do you want my plastic spade?’ The baby gardener said.

 

‘No, Jemima, I need to find some gardening tools to cut up your pumpkin, you help Grandad, and look after these worms’

 

‘Oooooh!’  enthused the baby gardener.

 

‘Ahhhhh!’ Screamed the worms

 

Wandy heard everything, it peeped through the little crack in the fermenting machine’s plastic. Sights, lights, and gases, the worm could instinctively tell what was going to happen next. Wandy could hardly bear to be reminded of previous entanglements, but the little girl’s fingers were just like short, fat worms. Jemima picked up Sote in between her thumb and forefinger, lifted her arm, cocked her head back and opened her mouth.

 

Jemima! No! Don’t eat the worms! Put it on the grass please, there’s a good girl!’

 

‘Put me back in the fermenting machine please, little girl!’ Sote’s silent worm voice meant nothing to Jemima.

 

‘See, I told you I was Grandad’s favourite!’ Sath said, but it was too late, pecked and picked in a Blackbird’s beak like hors d’oeuvres. Just like that, she was gone.

 

‘Birdy! Birdy! Grandad! A bird just ate that worm!’ Jemima giggled. Wandy watched on.

 

Very good, stand back now, I’ve found something to smash the pumpkin with’

 

And just like that, it was gone.

 

‘And I’ve got something to cut worms in two with!’  Jemima said, and just like that, Sote was gone.

 

Grandad carefully threw the pumpkin pieces back into his compost bin. The movement of the decaying waste made Wandy bounce to the top.

 

Well, look at the size of you! You’re a beauty! Jemima! Look, look at this gigantic worm!’

 

Wandy froze on the surface of the bin.

 

‘Put the lid back on Grandad, and then it can make some soil!’

 

‘Right- o Jemima! What would we do without worms?’

 

And just like that, Wandy was happy.

51Q26dkzKzL._SX260_ From Quirky Tales to Make Your Day, my short story collection available from Amazon20170718_131214.jpg

Slipping Through the Cracks

Or keep it in the family! Sort of… I am pleased to announce this is my Father-in-Law’s short story collection, published yesterday. I woke up at about 5.30am by accident and started reading, honestly I could not put it down. Gripping first story about a curious incident near the sea. Great cover, and the titles of the tales look interesting (I love a good title). Will review on Amazon when I have read it all.

I cannot claim this is a result of creative genes, of course. My husband said ‘Oh, I didn’t know my Dad was interested in writing’ then proceeded to tell me that he remembered him writing poetry…

Happy reading everyone! Samantha

Manchester Kiss

20180113_153350

Manchester Kiss

 

YOU WANTED THE BEST? YOU GOT THE BEST! THE HOTTEST BAND IN THE LAND!!’

May thirteenth, 1976, the Free Trade Hall up town. The night my parents met… nine months later, I was born! How cool am I? Conceived at a KISS concert!

Tonight, KISS are back in Manchester again. I’ve been checking and re-checking my ticket in its paper sleeve from Rip-Off-Line, like when you go on holiday and you keep checking your passport. Cost a fortune… It cost my parents two quid to see them back in the day. I’d better check my ticket again. I say ticket, it was originally tickets plural, but Maxine, my so-called best friend ruined my fortieth earlier this year. We were meant to be going out round what is left of the metal scene, where Rockworld used to be, wearing fancy dress as KISS. Maxine ruined it. She turned up at mine in a dress from Debenhams. Said she was worried that people might see pictures of her on Facebook. What did she think was gonna happen? I was already Kissed-up, of course, wearing a fake leather from Primarni. I’ve avoided looking at social media since my birthday because of Maxine and her Debenhams dress. I’d better check my ticket again.

Right… I remember going to Wembley in 1988 with my Dad, I was only eleven. He pretended he’d lost my ticket and I’d have to wait outside until the show was over. Just before I started crying (and streaking my face paint) he pulled my ticket out of his stonewashed jeans pocket! I cried anyway. It was mint. Gene Simmons was breathing fire and everything! My Dad was always doing things like that, sort of letting me know that the world isn’t safe, but he’d be there to protect me. We only saw each other at weekends, him and Mum split up, I think because she stopped being a metaller and started listening to Duran Duran.

At the last minute, I decide against the studded leather codpiece. I check my ticket again and set off. I get on the tram I’m all spandex and platform boots. A woman dressed as a man wearing makeup. OK, I admit it, I’ve set off really early to hang around and see if I can meet KISS. The tram is packed, there is nowhere to sit down. Everyone looks at me, in broad daylight, wearing black leather bat wings. Strangely, no one is talking, the tram is usually really noisy. I clearly hear an office worker whispering to her mate “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should!” They both laugh and I know they’re talking about me. I wish Dad was here, I wish I hadn’t gone around telling everyone I was Starchild’s  offspring because my Mum was a groupie. I didn’t mean it, I was just a teenager, I’d upset him just before it happened; The bomb going off near Manchester Arndale in 1996. It claimed no victims, on the day, but I think that’s what killed him. He was a security guard and had a massive heart attack soon after. I blame the bomb. I can’t bear to watch the news since. I found out at his funeral he’d bought us tickets to go to Donnington, KISS were headlining.  I wish Dad was here. I get off the tram at Victoria and walk to the Arena. My platforms catch on the metal grills on the floor. I wonder which entrance they’ll be going in at? Where are the tour buses? Then I see it. The whole area is cordoned off with police tape.

“Whoa, stop young man!” A policeman is waving his arms. Is he talking to me?

“I’ve got tickets… to see KISS!” I cry.

He hears my voice and realises I’m a woman.

“Sorry, love, you can’t come any further, it’s all shut here still because of the bomb last week, Take That cancelled too you know, didn’t you see it on the news?”

No, I avoid the news.

I turn around and head back for the tram. I sit down and look at the internet on my phone for the first time in months. I learn all about the devastating incident that happened in Manchester last week, at a concert filled with kids… kids just like me going to Wembley with my Dad. Then, I see a message about cancellations and ticket refunds.  There is a message from KISS that reads something like ‘We are heartbroken, a cancelled rock show seems of little consequence’. They are right… How could I be so insensitive? Wrapped up in my own safe little heavy metal world? I feel so selfish but sorry for myself, and realise I’m in tears. When I get back on the tram, I am joined by some daytime drinkers on their way home. The noise has returned, but I don’t feel like talking after what I’ve just read. A bloke about my age wearing a Happy Mondays T-shirt breaks away from his mates and sits next to me.

“You ok, love?” He says, taking a sip of his can of beer. I say nothing. “Sorry, it’s just that you look sad, I thought I’d better say hello, make sure you’re alright”

“Yes, I’m… I’m sorry” I don’t know what to say. The bloke shouts to one of his mates, who turns out to be his brother.

“Brother! Bruv! Got another can in your pocket? This lady…” He gives me a sideways glance as if to check I’m female… “She needs cheering up!”

One of them shouts over, pulling the sign of the horns “Aww it got cancelled didn’t it?”  like we’ve got something in common. They all come and pile on the seats around me. They’ve been to a tribute do for the victims. I feel even more guilty now. The first bloke puts his arm around me, my hair gets tangled in my studded jacket.

“Don’t worry, we’ll cheer you up. We’re from Manchester, and this is what we do, innit?”

He starts singing, and they all join in. It was a cover version, but I’ll allow it because KISS made it famous.

‘God gave rock n roll to you, gave rock n roll to you, put it in the sou-oul of everyone!’

Samantha Henthorn copyright 2018.

(A short story written in memory of last year’s events with the spirit of Manchester)

Tea, and Quirky Tales

20170627_102338 (2)On Saturday, Bury Library Services went above and beyond, and hosted an author event to celebrate the release of my short story collection ‘Quirky Tales to Make Your Day’. It was lovely, there was tea, cake provided by my baking friend Sarah, and tales read out by me. 20170630_162839I was also advertising the book that I put on Kindle last year, it has a new cover (illustrated by ellepeablog.wordpress.com) and hurriedly printed off her draft copy so that I had paper backs to sell on the day. It has also been re-named ‘Piccalilly: a Remembrance Day Story’ The old name was ‘Piccalilli’ with an ‘i’ at the end, like the relish.

Bury Libraries have some fab events coming up, please have a look.20170701_143247