Contemporary short fiction, poetry and more

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NaPoWriMo #14

The theme of this exercise was one’s poetic inspiration.  Instead of the suggested ideas to do with specific poets, I chose themes.  The piece that follows has the same number of lines as my debut collection, Throwing Mother In The Skip, has poems.  If you want to see the poems that express the themes, you will have to buy the collection.  It is available directly from me, or from http://www.stairwellbooks.co.uk/

The Reasons Why: Volume 1

Generational conflict. Tits.
Generational conflict. Self-preservation.
Generational conflict. Frustration.
Generational conflict. Self-preservation.
Nostalgia. Contemplation.

Generational conflict. Grudging admiration.
Nostalgia. Generational conflict.
Mental illness. Relationship break-up.
Mental illness. Self-preservation.
Relationship break-up. Self-preservation.
Gaia Holmes. Imagination.
The Leeds Library. Generational conflict.
Michael Stewart. Generational conflict.
Bereavement. Generational conflict.
Generational conflict, twice.
Bereavement. Mental illness.


Frustration. Relationship break-up.

Nostalgia. Self-realisation.
Claire Jones. Parenthood.
Leeds. Nostalgia.

Joan Jobe Smith via Gaia Holmes. Relationship break-up.
Frustration. Relationship break-up.
Loneliness. Roman numerals.
Silvia Pio. Italy.
Relationship break-up, twice.

Valerie Anderson Gaskill. Love.
Valerie Anderson Gaskill, twice.

Filial affection. Lesbianism.

NaPoWriMo #12

This is a triolet.  I don’t usually write according to standard forms.

To My Late Father

You moaned about the miners, but you had
an index-linked civil service pension.
Our endless fighting drove us bloody mad.
You moaned about the miners, but you had
so many things they’ve taken from us, Dad.
Politics always caused us so much tension.
You moaned about the miners, but you had
an index-linked civil service pension.


NaPoWriMo #10



cathedral spire

highest in Yorkshire.



infant mortality

declining every year.



disaffected pensioners

very cheap prices.



mountain jungle

flag not rectangular.



poetry scene

two rugby teams.



drinks vodka

horseback postal service.



arrogant posturing,

but worth visiting.



holiday observation:

they grow sunflowers.



Tetley Bitter

no longer indigenous.



while swimming

must wear cap.



Kemnal Road

home to criminals.



My favourite

Bob Marley track.

NaPoWriMo #6

NaPoWriMo #3

The pub of the mind
The cellar man has two PhDs:
one in fermentation science,
the other in how to clean pipework.
There is an atmosphere of tension, but
no actual fights.  Each pint
of Taylor’s Landlord comes with a free whisky,
or gin.  There is a turntable on which you can play
any record you like, as long as you put it on.
One of the rooms is not only quiet, but soundproof.
The toilets smell of otto of roses, and the taps
don’t just work, but one of them runs hot.
A sniper with laser a sight is ready to shoot anyone who
starts whistling.  Photocopies of the crosswords from
all the broadsheet papers are available, without the papers,
themselves.  There are no leather suitcases, no
suspended bicycles or canoes, no Readers Digest condensed books:
the décor is tastefully-arranged human suffering. 
The seats were installed by people with chronic lower back pain.
Lesbian paramedics will carry you to your room, if you
pass out.  Even if you have spent the whole day in the Railway Tavern in Halifax, you won’t be refused service.

NaPoWriMo #2

The Man With No Name

I was issued with a bucket and a pair of
steel toe-capped Wellington boots.
I learned that a drum containing dichloromethane is
much heavier than one containing industrial methylated spirit.

I also learnt that when the hydrochloric acid dispenser
was cracked and pissing everywhere
you should not go near it, even before
the T&G steward has said not to.

We had two outhouses, overlooking Poole harbour:
One was called the Solvent Store, and the other
The Petrol Store. We only kept petrol
in the Solvent Store.

The tarmac floor was pitted and grazed,
much more than we were.
I had such shoulders as I had never had,
scrummaging trolleys full of chemicals across it.

My degree meant nothing.
I learnt how to do bucket chemistry.
I learnt that if you are doing that job, for that amount of money,
no-one complains to your face, if you don’t shave, every day.

NaPoWriMo #1

I don’t know how long I am going to be able to keep this up, but, inspired by my writing friend, Gaia Holmes, I have decided to attempt National Poem Writing Month. If I am keeping up with this, I need to post the next poem before the next prompt appears, tomorrow.


I sharpen my Sheffield steel
regularly, and only
in a sedate frame of mind.

I cut each onion in half, put
the other half well out of the way, for now
and slice, for most dishes, as
thinly as possible, but not
all the way through.

I then turn it through ninety degrees
and bring the edge of the blade down
again, while holding what remains together
to prevent splaying.

I only chop as much as I can use at one time.
I live in harmony with onions, which
never make me cry.

Chopping onions is
one of the few things that
has not changed for the worse.

I wear second hand shirts,
and I don’t get holiday or sick pay,
but my onions are chopped
to same precision you would find
at The Savoy.

The Reverend Richard Coles

Most people I know understand your state of bereavement. I think it is absolutely terrible that you have lost your civil partner, in effect, your husband. I feel very sorry for your loss. You seem like a very empathetic person, to whom an emotional loss would seem worse, because of the sensitivity.

I am not going to comment on people who have criticised you, since David’s death.

The people on the side of righteousness believe in love.

A 5-minute introduction to the contract law of England and Wales for writers and other creative workers

Before we start, I need to explain that I am not a lawyer.  My father was a law lecturer, and my mother was a very eminent solicitor.  One of her main specialisms was contract law.  But I am not a lawyer.  I am offering general information, not legal advice. 

I have been interested in law for a long time, and I do know the basic elements of contract law. 

The purpose of this article is to deal with a hypothetical situation in which a freelance writer is selling a piece of writing or other service (proof-reading, editing, teaching, and so on) to an outlet. It will include analogies with other kinds of transaction in order to make some legal concepts as clear as possible. 

A contract is a legally binding promise (written or spoken) by one party to fulfil an obligation to another party in return forsomething called a “consideration”. A basic binding contract must comprise four key elements: offer, acceptance, consideration and intent to create legal relations. 

“Intent to create legal relations” means that if you say to your Derby County supporting friend that you will eat your hat if Derby beat Leeds on Saturday, and they do, your friend cannot take you to court over the matter. It means things to do with buying and selling.

A contract often begins with something called an “invitation to treat”.  An invitation to treat is less serious than an “offer”.  Words like “offer” and “acceptance” are potentially binding.  Here is an example to illustrate some of the terms.

I go into a branch of Currys to buy a flat-screen TV.  I find a model I like, and it is advertised for sale at 99 pence.  I ask the assistant if I can have the TV for 99 pence.  She says no.  I say, “But the price label says 99 pence”.  The price label is an invitation to treat.  It is not binding.  I go to the desk, and am told that the price is £499.  (“Offer.”)  I say that I will have the TV for £499.  (“Acceptance.”)  That means that I have to pay Currys £499, in return for which, I will get that flat-screen TV. 

On the basis of information which is very scant, because of the constraints of social media, I will now try to run that past you again, based on a recent example to do with writing.  Most of what follows is made up, because I don’t have the full case history.

A body concerned with the arts, called Indulgent Projects, advertises for a copy writer, to write 3000 words in a forthcoming brochure.  The advertisement says that the recipient of the work will be paid “the market rate”, and asks for 50-word proposals, from which the selection will be made. 

A writer, called Harriet Struggler, responds to the advertisement with her 50 word proposal.  She receives an email which does not explicitly say that she has been selected, but asks her to provide the full piece, of 3000 words. 

Harriet books time in her schedule to write the 3000 words.  She sends an invoice to Indulgent Projects for £995. 

Indulgent Projects then email Harriet to say that they are not going to pay her anything, because they have found someone else, who will do it for nothing. 

What is Harriet’s legal position? 

It comes down to whether a contract has been formed.  The details of offer and acceptance may depend on the wording of individual emails or messages. The point is that there does not have to be paper and ink for the formation of a contract. 

In my example, the request for the 3000 word piece is the offer, and the sending of the invoice is the acceptance.  After that, it is not up to Indulgent Projects whether they want to pay, or not: they have to pay. 

Lawyers, writers, publishers are welcome to contribute in the comments. 

The next stage, having established a grievance, is how we go about prosecuting it, and what remedy we seek.

BBC Radio 4 drama: Escape Kit, 14:15 Tuesday 5 November 2019

My debut radio drama will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 as the afternoon play on Tuesday 5 November at 14:15. It will be immediately after The Archers.

For anybody who is interested in the process of adaptation of the novella, copies of it are still available for GBP 4 each, which is a discount of GBP 1.99 on the cover price.