Bah Bum-Hug

by Jo Buttner

Bah Bum-Hug

Bah Humbug! Who needs a boyfriend anyway? I don’t need a man to define me. I huff chilly air through my lungs hoist my shoulder bag across my body. A flip of my long Dr. Who style scarf perfects the look of someone who’s done some Christmas time travelling and come out the other side wishing that he hadn’t eaten all the mince pies this year.

I sigh, hefting my bulk across the quiet London road. My mother always says,

‘You simply can’t wear that feather boa with those shorts. It is quite the wrong time of the year – besides, it makes you look fatter!

But the feather boa has always had more glamour to it than a long stripy scarf mother, why don’t you understand these things? A fella like me has to express his feminity – how else am I supposed to pull some luscious lads?

This thought catches me unawares as a drifting picture of Tom’s face slips into my mind… well not only his face, his 6ft tall rugby players hulk of a sexy man beast, with those great big hands and his even bigger –

Phwoar! That was a fast car! Look at that! That thing’s got an engine like a twin turbo purring cat. It’s a shame the weather’s not better – it would look fabulous as a convertible…

My god darling, I completely forgot you for a second then – back to Tom then. Tom is the love of my life, the light of my heart the man of my dreams… or at least he was right up until last night when I found out that he had a girlfriend.

Seriously? A girlfriend? Who wants one of those? Although… it has to be said that I had an inkling he wasn’t interested in me when I went around for tea om Boxing Day. I had of course been invited… Or at least, the invitation left on my desk that was addressed to ‘My Darling’ and inviting me over for tea, a tipple (and hopefully some titillation) seemed to suggest a certain effeminate flair that I had always found appealing in Tom, despite his masculine form.

I only found out about the girlfriend by climbing into his back garden to look through the living room window – an act of devotion which ruined my brown leather brogues not to mention my 100% silk Vivienne Westwood tie that our rich Aunt Josie gave me, which got caught in the rose bushes beneath the sickly sweet scene of  – yuck, yuck, yuck!

Oh! Woe is me! In this normal street, full of normal houses, I am an exotic bird trapped in the beige life of a 16 year old!

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The First Time

by Jack O’Hagan

Jack award

The fire crackled with a tenderness that only intensified the affection pouring from his gaze.  He drew her closer, whispering as he pressed his cracked lips onto her forehead. You’ll never be alone again. He’d always fancied himself as a bit of a romantic but even so, he was nervous. It didn’t help that she’d done it all before. As he sipped from his favoured wine-glass, he winced slightly at the sharpness. It was strong, he sighed. Good.

His fingers flickered across the engraving on the glass, before dancing across her earlobe, along her chin and eventually tracing the outline formed by her lips as she smiled at him. Her smile, although crooked, filled him with a delight.  He caught himself smiling back at her, as he tried to push the lopsided piece of hair from her unblinking, twinkling, bright blue eyes. He touched her gently, savouring her familiar warmth. He wallowed in her beauty, understanding that he’d never satisfy her the way she did him. She was perfect. Too perfect.

His legs buckled. As he fell he watched the Polaroid twirl momentarily, before being engulfed in what was now a roaring fire.  He managed a delicate chuckle at the irony. An overdose of painkillers left nothing but a great, burning agony. He drew one last spluttering breath.  His last memory was not of her, but a shattered piece of glass. Happily married. He knew he was going to a dreadful place, but at least she’d  be there, for company.

What do you know about the Vikings?

by Paul Atherton

They came wearing horned helmets; they raped, they pillaged and they conquered. At least that’s what everyone thinks.

We all love those Vikings horned helmets the historians tell us there weren’t any!  Only one helmet has been found: a tenth century article with an iron cap and a face guard, but no sign of any horns. Only a king could afford to wear something as expensive and even that had no horns. Horned helmets have a separate history. They were German. The first horned helmet made its appearance at the 1876 Bayreuth Festival for a performance of Wagner’s The Ring; it was made by an imaginative dramatist by the name of Carl Emil Dopler.

So how do we know anything of the Vikings? The Icelandic sagas were written far away and two centuries after the events they describe. Nice stories but they are less like contemporary evidence than contemptible evidence. Snorri may have been a good poet but he is also described as a politician, which probably means we can’t believe a word he said.

A real shame, as he reveals a complex and fantastic culture.  OK, his description of Valhalla was a bit violent. Odin and Thor gathered armies of the dead to spend all day fighting and slaughtering each other but in the evenings they came back to life again and chatted nicely over a horn of mead. Then after two horns they argued, then after three …… well, normal service was resumed. Think of it as like the average rugby club on Saturday night, with extra ravens, and you’ll soon get the idea.

Perhaps the nicest thing about Valhalla was the chance to encounter a pretty blonde Valkyrie, who could pamper you and allow you lie back comfortably while you emptied your horn. This is where it differs from the rugby club. Most of their boys are happy to empty their own horns.

Can we be sure about any of this evidence when Viking history is so obscure?  They left almost nothing in writing. Just a few gravestones with runic scribbling on them. A complex and interesting people, but barely a single literate person among them. All contemporary records of their actions were written by their enemies, who might have been trying to understate just how very nice they really were.

We can read a lot about them; they feature a lot in drama and film. Few can forget the immortal words of the great bard: “A Norse, a Norse, my kingdom for a Norse.”

When it really comes down to it we are lucky that the Vikings made so many films. There is even one with Kirk Douglas, that most famous of all Scandinavian warriors. I am delighted to say that he does have a horned helmet. The film ends with his body being burnt in his longship as it drifts across the sea, another thing the historians are agreed never happened. So there you are! Complete and unarguable proof that the historians are not always right.

When you think about it, if the Vikings had not worn horned helmets they would have missed a big opportunity to terrorise, intimidate and subdue their enemies. They could charge with their heads down and impale all of their opponents, no weapons needed. If they did not wear them then they should have. So let’s forget about the views of those boring, geeky old historians and go with the dramatists on this one.

Vielen Dank für den Hörnern, Herr Dopler !

Tick Tick, Tock: Goes the Freedom Clock

by Lara Thorne

Will not my heart tick a timely beat?

It bloats and quickens, buoyonting,

bobbing just below the surface,

submerged in salty sea.

.

My heart is not held in a measure of time,

it seeks more than what I now do have,

with no recourse to opportunity or patience,

considering only and wholly it’s desires.

 

It cares not for a stable passage,

to be clasped close in a caring cage.

Rather it distorts my docile body,

and fills me with a rousing rage.

 

I cannot function without my heart,

go about my business day to day.

So I have to leave bobbing,

I can’t bear to take its buoyancy away.

.

Caracal

by Raj Vismere

The desert is never still.

Whether it was fire that moved it, as the stories went, the lone woman couldn’t tell. The sands rose as high as trees, shifting endlessly with every step. The world was shifting sand, and on every rise of every dune she wondered if she would make it.

The woman was strong enough to endure the hardships of home. She was cunning enough to outplay her enemies, feign this way and that, steal the upper hand. Yet the woman couldn’t take on the world of yellow ground glass which sat fat in every direction. Eventually it would best her. They had told her as much.

At night she shivered under a massive coat, praying into the wool of her backpack. The cold always reached her, and in those chattering nights she couldn’t see how the fires could be true, far less how the Strangers could exist. Each night she fell asleep counting stars, imagining they looked down on her with a great curiosity.

Time was lost. She counted nights and days but forgot the number. It became a useful habit, though her mind railed at its own treachery.

The oases had died out. The books said that there was no more water in the land ahead, only infinite sand and rivers of sweat. Sometimes she dreamed of turning to ash and disappearing into the dunes.

There were occasions when the woman questioned her mission. The old stories were incomplete and inaccurate, their logic skewed and stuttered in a language barely related to the one she knew. Assumption after hypothesis had been made, but in a thousand years not a single shred of evidence had been found, nothing et priori, nothing that could be vouched for. And yet there she was in the heart of the endless yellow, praying for a myth.

Some of those old texts said that, if she went past the ancient town called The Last Oasis, she would find giant beasts made entirely of energy. She would find these beasts by the scorches in the sand. Others were less dramatic. They said she would simply be turned around and find herself home again; that even if she walked in a straight line for a hundred days, she would only find The Last Oasis ahead, and her world beyond. Some guilty part of her preferred the latter theory.

When at last she found something, it was not a beast or The Last Oasis again, but a simple hut, nestled near a large blue pond. The clear water reminded her of the thirst and the agony, and she found herself nude and swimming, the dirt running from her body, laughing and snapping reeds like an instrument.

As she floated the short distance from bank to bank, she thought of her discovery. She was no longer thirsty, and the sand in her ears had been cleaned out. No person from her world had swam in this before – and that was a marvel – but that was not first among her thoughts. Crouched and in a world of blue green serenity she gulped and gulped and gulped. She needed water more than air.

When she remembered that she did indeed require air to live, the woman shot up through the water and rejoiced in the tinkling of the droplets back into the oasis.

A man stood on the edge of the spring.

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Julie

by Charlotte Baker

Julie sat on a wicker chair, looking out of her conservatory window. She’d already eaten her granola, read a magazine and visited B&Q but it was only 1pm. She hated Saturdays, spending hours alone in her house, feeling ignored by her son and looking through books of different Dulux paint charts. She had meant to get some shears for next door’s ivy which was crawling down her fence. A lot of people around her seem to think it looks whimsical, to have a garden snaked with flowered bindweed and obnoxious dandelions. Those retirees next door were kidding themselves that their measly plot looked like some kind of secret forest – that the kids enjoyed playing in it more if there were bugs to catch under the long grass.

Julie was glad she didn’t think that way.

Her lawn was mown into strips of Granada Green and Dublin Bay 5 and complemented her eyes, a small self-approving voice whispered: a voice she hadn’t heard from in a little while.

She padded to the kitchen, wincing as she passed the Laura Ashley couch that had cost easily half a month’s wage. The thought of herself spending one hundred and twenty-six hours staring at Edna’s cataracts in that small, sterile ward and the countless shop-bought lunches she had hurried in time for the next appointment crossed her mind. All that for the sake of a made-to-order Astoria in Jungle Fever 4 she wasn’t even very happy with. She altered one of the cushions, to see if she could bring herself to see its place in the room. Mel would be around at half-past six (though knowing her: quarter-past seven) so it might finally be worth it, to see her face turn a dim shade of Sea Foam.

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Buy One Get One Free

by Claire Jefferson

In the battleship grey of full blown May we return to our native Wales, sailing back in time to a previous life. Breaching the slant rain in our pervious slacks, we flap into the steamy allure of a jostling Morrisons.

The stacked shelves blazon their loyalty, bargain with bounty, seduce with sincerity; a trove of temptation levelled as high as the want in an eye. Sticky-wheeled trolleys piled like junks, chicane the aisles, shoved by harried mothers who ply their wheedling kids with sweeteners because ‘NO,’ is not on offer today.

Cross shoppers gridlock the intersections. We gird our loins, scan the gantries, charter a course. Head south down Cereal, veer west up Tinned Goods, scud on past Condiments and Spices to dock in the limpid haven of Wines and Spirits.

Dripping a sea of puddles, we buoy ourselves with a bottle of french bubbles, haul up a vessel or two from Bordeaux, a boost of salty snacks, and breast the streaming checkout.

’If you come back next week,’ says the jolly cashier, ‘these Merlotts will be two for one.’ I glance past her uniform-green and pleasant bearing to the cold-plate window, drizzled with seasoned rain, peppered with slogans and promises;

‘BOGOF?’ is the best I have to offer.