Bordeaux Bay

Bordeaux Bay
Watercolour by Tony Taylor http://www.paintingbreaksguernsey.com

Friday, 15 December 2017

BIG TROUBLE

I haven't published any short stories or flash fiction for a while but I've spent a great deal of time in airports and it was during one such boring sojourn, at Venice Marco Polo whilst browsing in Duty Free, that I jotted down the opening lines of The Big Guy.


THE BIG GUY

Phil fell for the coat the moment he saw it. Luxurious chestnut leather in a style that could only be Italian: Armani perhaps, maybe Gucci. And extra-large, Phil’s own size. He absolutely had to have it.
It hung on a retro-style coatstand beside the maitre-d’s desk right there beside his own battered topcoat.
Phil reached out to stroke the soft leather and knew he was in love.
The bill had been paid, cash as always, and the desk was unattended. It was his last night in Bangkok. On impulse, he grabbed the leather coat, slipped it on and headed for the restaurant’s revolving doors.
Outside, the oriental night was a kaleidoscope of neon: a frantic cacophony of noise and hustle. Phil hailed a passing taxi and told the driver to take him to the airport.
Phil levered his bulky frame into the rear seat of the Toyota and rewound the events of the last three weeks: a crazy roller-coaster of wins and losses, but mostly wins and lucrative ones at that.
A natural-born scammer, Phil saw other people’s money as his for the taking and if that left them penniless, well, tough, no one said that life was fair.
That elderly couple he’d met in the bar of the St Regis: English, like himself, but alien as Martians. They’d taken to him right away: clearly saw him as a local character, a big guy, full of smiles and ex-pat cheer. They were old-school, superior, patronising and greedy: the marks were always greedy when you got down to it. And their greed was the key, that magic key to unlock their wallets, bank accounts, the lot. 

He’d scored on that one and no mistake. They’d be lucky, when they discovered just how thoroughly he’d cleaned them out, if they could even afford a weekend in Skegness.
At Suvarnabhumi airport, Phil checked his ticket and admired his profile in a washroom mirror. The leather looked fabulous and fitted him perfectly. Its former owner must have been a big guy too, broad across the shoulders. It was in great condition, so the guy must have taken care of his clothes. The only flaw was a small tear in the lining of the left side pocket, but that could be sorted when he got back to London. 
Checking his watch, Phil, joined the queue at Security. With only a laptop as luggage, he knew he’d be through in no time.
Security was visibly high with groups of Thai military stationed at every turn and uniformed police working the concourse and seating areas with sniffer-dogs.
Slinging his laptop and leather into a waiting tray, Phil, stepped through the metal-detector arch and collected his possessions when they’d passed through the scanner.
He was coming out of Duty Free when two Thai policemen approached him with a black Labrador. Phil relaxed and stood still while one of them walked the animal around him. When the dog abruptly sat down, he was nonplussed. He never touched drugs and certainly wasn’t a terrorist, so what what the hell was this about?
Twenty minutes later, Phil knew the answer. Two small sachets of pure heroin had been retrieved from the lining of the leather coat. They had evidently slipped through a tear in the lining of the left pocket.
Phil was a big guy and the shiny Thai handcuffs felt uncomfortably tight. 

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

GOING DOWNHILL FAST

My country of birth, Northern Ireland, is enjoying an early snow-fall and, although its effects cause inconvenience for many, there's immense fun to be had in the snow, for parents and children alike, during the first few days.
Residents of East Belfast, where I grew up, gravitate en masse to the extensive parkland at Stormont. Last year's dusty toboggans reappear and are put back into service for a few carefree hours.

Parliament Buildings, Stormont, Belfast.


TOBOGGANING
 
The seat feels quite precarious
but once I’m down, that feeling goes.
So odd to be this close to snow,
chilling the fingertips, the nose:
a child’s sensation, I suppose ...
most adults are incurious.

A snowy paradise, indeed,
this afternoon on Stormont hill
where children’s voices, wild and shrill,
applaud the crazy vaudeville
of adults launched, against their will,
downhill, on icy blades, at speed.

This granddad hugs his grandson tight
then edges forward with his heels
on modern blades of stainless steel.
The child, as agile as an eel,
wriggles. I feel, amidst his squeals,
toboggan shift, the sleigh take flight.

A longing for a lifetime lost,
assails me in the rushing wind.
The grandson to my parka pinned,
as once my daughter, angel-skinned,
clung to me then, our bodies twinned,
rocketing downward through the frost.


Stormont under snow.

 

Monday, 11 December 2017

ANIMAL MAGIC (7)

An unpopular chap, the rat, unless he's of the fancy variety bred in captivity and kept as a pet.
Your average rat is a bit of an outlaw, constantly living on his wits and a figure of distaste for many.
The rat's had plenty of bad publicity: a James Herbert novel that demonized him, a grotesque cameo in American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis, and of course that terrifying scene in George Orwell's 1984, so we're bound to be prejudiced against him.
Nature's order, however, is always subject to change so here's some cautionary advice.















THE RAT

The jolly rat, though he be mild,
is universally reviled.
Indeed, he is a clever chap,
evading every baited trap
to gorge, content, on bread or seed
put out for chaffinches to feed
or nuts from cages hung for tits:
from these, he often purloins bits.
He is, undoubtedly, a pest:
of quadrupeds, far from the best,
but let’s be friendly to the rat
for one day, when our world goes splat
and we are foraging for scraps,
he may be out there baiting traps.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

ANIMAL MAGIC (6)

Who can resist the awful smile of the predatory crocodile?














THE CROCODILE

My favourite creature, by a mile,
is the repulsive crocodile.
He has a most endearing smile
and if you linger for a while
unwarily beside his swamp
he may lurch out at you and chomp
or sidle up to you and snap ...
he is an untrustworthy chap.
There’s no use shouting out to him
Oi, fetch me back my severed limb ...
He’ll stand his ground, he’s hard to rile,
and give you his endearing smile.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

ANIMAL MAGIC (5)

This is a bad time of the year to be a turkey, although it’s probably fair to say that being a turkey at any other time is not particularly pleasing either.
Of all the birds one might choose to be, the turkey is probably pretty far down the list.
Turkeys don’t sing, they don’t soar and, additionally, they’re really rather ugly.
Jane and I will not be adding to the massive slaughter of these unfortunate creatures this year. We have alternative culinary plans.






















SONG OF THE CHRISTMAS TURKEY

We have grown fat, my friends and I,
and although some birdbrains say
these gifts of food Men bring us
must be treated with suspicion,
this I doubt.
I feed on corn aplenty and rejoice,
grow plumply satisfied and portly stout.
My fellows fast become inflated too:
such fine birds with no work at all to do.  

I call the doubters paranoid and mock
their pessimistic attitudes and gloom.
Another feast arrives, I gulp it down
then gobble thankful sounds
and strut about.
We grow each day more pillowy and sleek.
Our future is assured, our species blessed.
This is the life, I think, no need to fear:
December is the season of Good Cheer.


Tuesday, 5 December 2017

ANIMAL MAGIC (4)

For those of you who may have wondered, here's the answer to a question that's caused you sleepless nights.




















WHY THERE ARE NO UNICORNS

The Unicorns, a charming pair,
had matching horns and silver hair,
at parties, always, I believe,
first to arrive and last to leave.
A couple, extrovert and chic,
each with a fabulous physique,
so muscular, whiter than white,
with shiny hooves, reflecting light.
A perfect couple, all agreed,
and never likely to stampede.
But when the Great Flood came to pass
and Noah started to amass
all Creatures of the Earth to board
he was, by Unicorns, ignored.
What foolishness, they both agreed,
this puddle surely will recede.
(They had a tendency to scoff.)
It rained. It poured. The Ark set off.
As rising water reached their chins,
they lost their smug complacent grins.
and when it reached their horns, they frowned
till they, inevitably, drowned.

So that, today, alas, explains
why not one Unicorn remains.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

ANIMAL MAGIC (3)

Who can possibly love the subject of today's poem? 
Physically unattractive and with repulsive dietary habits, the vulture tops no one's list of endearing creatures.
Rarely portrayed favourably in literature, there is however an amusing poem by Hilaire Belloc entitled The Vulture
Here's my version.














   
THE VULTURE

While other birds are ultra-cute,
the vulture is an ugly brute:
someone you wouldn’t want to meet
when stumbling onward through the heat,
with parched throat, arms and legs gone numb,
half dizzy with delirium.
It would upset most people’s nerves, 
the thought of being his hors d’oeuvres.