Lost Conversations


Heard on the radio, a transmission from past decades: fragments of a conversation, picked up as the spacecraft travels its uncharted path. “I’ll see you soon, put the kettle on,” then laughter cut off by silence.

“Who were they” you ask yourself but cannot say: trapped as you are on this forgotten mission to a distant galaxy; sent out to explore the universe decades ago, before the Earth was destroyed by meteorites.

“Life on other planets, I hope? ” was all you could think as you turned to look at Greg, the captain of the spacecraft, now piloted without purpose or destination. “Shall I make a note of it” you ask, but he just shakes his head,

For what is the purpose? There’s no one left to talk to, and nothing but these fragments of conversation bouncing round in space to stir emotions. These brief relics of your vanished home, your world, reminders your families have become dust and memory has lost all context.

“Can’t beat the view” you say, trying to keep it light, but routine without purpose drained the magic from this adventure many years ago: silence is your constant companion. Now galaxies pass by unremarked by two souls lost in travelling, robbed of home and context by that catastrophe which destroyed the earth in mid-evolution.

“What does it mean” you ask yourself, but mute indifference has no answer. At some unspecified hour, you accept, some black hole or other matter will swallow this last evidence of man and his ambitions, and suns will rise and planets form without comment or exclamation from this lost civilisation now a particle in space.

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A Flirtation With Prosperity


At University you could get a bit of street-cred by striking attitudes, or looking mystical and muttering quasi-profundities such as “ Your past is not your future ” and then looking deep into a girl’s eyes as if a number of prophets and mystics were lunching between your ears. Of course, most of the ladies just told you to “Keep taking the tablets” but if you struck enough poses in enough rooms, some young lady would look at you as if you had recently parted the red sea.

That’s what happened to me with Josephine Splatter, whose eyes shone at me as I made a series of statements, which I realise in hindsight, would have failed to get published in a pack of Fortune Cookies. To add to the glory of the moment she became so enamoured with my inner gifts that she invited me to her home for the weekend, a mansion complete with sixteen bedrooms although on this occasion the house was only occupied by me, Josephine, her mother, also called Josephine, and her dad Ned Splatter, who’d made a pile or ten from something to do with cement plus a number of staff.

Mr Splatter didn’t seem interested in the relationship between the moment and infinity, or my observation that “Clouds pass like memories over the verdant fields,” Nothing was said exactly, until he mentioned during the evening meal that, ”Would I like to help Mario,” the waiter at their table “With clearing the plates away,” and staring directly at me, as if I’d stolen his shirt, which I thought was a bit rich given that it was only his daughter I wanted.

The next morning at breakfast, when I sat down, he gave me another stare and said, “I hope you are keeping your eye on the train times in case you decide to leave early,” and although I presumed at the time that this must have been a joke, the delivery seemed low on humour. The previous evening I’d popped along the hundred yards over to Josephine’s bedroom to say goodnight but found the door barred by some guy who was built like a dumpster truck, and seemed about as friendly as one: something in his manner suggested that normal courtesies could be dispensed with.

When I said at breakfast, “the truth will brook no dissembling” Mr Splatter looked at me with widening eyes. OK, a hint of profundity in my statement I admit so perhaps I was making a bit of an impression on Mr Splatter. I grinned at my newly discovered fellow mystic. Both mother and daughter seemed uncomfortably quiet and the reason for this became clearer as I left the breakfast room to see my packed suitcase adjacent to the front door. Mr Dumpster Truck was standing beside it.

The girls seemed to have melted from the company and the Nedster came up to me and said, “Get in the car and leave, and if I hear you’ve spoken to my daughter again you will become ill” “Is bravery a quality or an affectation?” I asked myself as his eyes bored into mine. It was a question I sought to answer during the ride to the station.

I never spoke to Josephine again, and the next term I saw her climbing into a Lamborghini with the door held open by some literal materialist who clearly couldn’t tell a Fortune Cookie from a Christmas cracker. Later, as I forged a career expressing my wisdoms for the greeting card industry, I remembered her and wondered if I should have fought harder to rescue her from a life of stultifying prosperity.

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Those Eyes You Can’t Forget


Value her as he did, and love her as he did he could not promise to value her always, and that scrupulous thought forced him to walk away and not look back. That look she gave him then, empty and yet charged, would haunt him all his life, as if he had, with conscious wantonness, trampled on some sacred ground: her sacred ground.

Before the age of knowledge, when she discovered him walking in his oddness, and smiling at the view it had all seemed so simple and innocent and tender, He, whose life was like some dried and arid plain, a stranger to passing moisture or interest, had wondered at her giving heart, and how she made a prayer of all she did. It seemed a wonder in his life, to be found and loved so openly, but he was young and oddly scrupulous.

He felt he must be understood yet free, and had still to discover that all things have their price, and that life cannot be lived without some compromise. Later, in years ahead, he often looked back and saw her timeless beauty and those haunting eyes looking out from his memory, staring up the path as they always would, and looking at him across his history and in each new circumstance, saying with a simple truth, “You never knew what I gave you” and he never had till now, when love, once more, was like a stranger in his life, and tenderness only touched him in his dreams.

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Beyond The Garden Fence


Each day he rose from bed at six, and made them both a cup of tea, “It’s looking cold” he might remark, or “Dawn looks some time away”. He was a man of fixed routine, who liked to live predictably and somewhere, far beyond his gaze, stood the mighty Pyramids, memorials from a distant time: homes to pharaohs long since dead and provisioned for eternity.

Each weekday, as he had for years, he sat behind his office desk, working on electoral roles at the town hall office near his home, watching the names come and go, marking out the births and deaths and talked about the voting age, and far beyond this cloistered space, the torrent flowed inscrutably between some challenged banks becoming the Niagara Falls ,witnessed by an awestruck crowd who stood and ate their sandwiches

Every year it was the same; he planted out his vegetables, potatoes furthest from the lawn and up against the garden fence, a decent crop of runner beans and always near at hand, pleasing in its growing bulk, a marrow; his exhibit at the village show. A shadow crossed the window frame, his wife was always at her chores and far away, beyond his view, a mighty iceberg broke away and started slowly on its voyage, populated by some birds, and even by a polar bear, watched by a passing ship where tourists stared and sniffed the air, and wondered at its growling might

On Sunday’s they might take a walk, depending on the time of year; nodding at familiar sights, or share a coffee with some friends and talk with them on this and that, and share the news that neighbours share and far away, beyond their sight, the people of the Himalayas, shielded from the bitter cold, raise their eyes in quiet respect and trace the mountains carved by ice and forces from the earth below, on which they stood, respectful of their mysteries,

And in the evening, home at last, sitting at their evening meal she might raise her eyes to him, and in their depths, for all to see, was all the wonder of his life: that she with gentle empathy, soft as the light from shining stars, might share with him her purest gift; a love of rare simplicity.

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Wisdom Is Discovered At “The Baffled Ferret”


Normally resident at 37 Bloxham Road; flat 6 for the lovers of detail, Wayne ‘Sagey’ Trollope, no relative of the author but sharing a similar fondness for his own muse, could be found at his favourite location: the public bar in the “Baffled Ferret,” recognised locally for its quality real ales.

One of his cohorts, Geoff, a current ‘four pinter,’ which is that moment when alcohol can free your wilder thoughts and give them voice, before five pints makes those ideas indecipherable, and six pints a mere mumble followed by gurgling and a trip to the toilets, said to the attentive throng, “My watch is stopped, but at least that means its split second accurate twice a day”. He considered this observation acute enough to merit a nod of his head and a decent gulp from his glass, necessitating a wave at the bar, and fearless progress towards the ungoverned terrain of the seven pinters: there are no maps for eight pinters.

” Time” said Alf, a current 4.75 pinter, “Is something we should chase constantly”. “How’s that” said one of his chums, whose admiration for Alf was clouded by a lack of respect. Alf reflected on his statement, which he felt had a pleasing aura of profundity about it though sadly the meaning of his own sentence had not yet been revealed to him, so he replied cannily, “If you don’t understand Docker” (4.1 ), his mate and inquisitor, “I can’t explain it to you: some things are a bit too deep for normal folk”

‘Noddy’ ( 4.6 ) arrived with a fresh round of drinks, and a pile of pork scratching’s, whose taste and texture were diverting enough to halt serious debate. His mouth nearly empty, the Sage had another go at establishing himself as a font of “bon mode,” or whatever the phrase is. “Chance” he said, is something you stumble on”. “You mean, you might stumble on chance by chance Sagey,” said Noddy, his hands now free, and eager to join in the conversation.

”Is “stumbling the same as tripping” asked some pedant, (3.85 and a cautious drinker), drawing baffled glances from those around him. “Profundity and accuracy”, thought the Sage, “do not necessarily belong in the same sentence,” and with that idea, he came up with the title of a book which was to make him celebrated in at least 1.6 continents, “The Flippant Guide to Profundity” offered wisdom in the time it takes to complete the average commute or, more precisely, 1.3 visits to the mother in law.

It was an unusual item in which the reviews had as much currency as the book. They were so confusing, that people bought the book to see what all the fuss was about in such numbers, that ‘Sagey’ was free to reflect on his brilliance while sitting on a sun-kissed beach, admittedly alone but cheered by a supply of Pina Coladas. Reviews such as “He gets to the point in a split infinitive” or, “He plums the depths of misunderstanding far beyond his own comprehension”, and even ” These pithy statements reveal an imagination untroubled by common sense”

A less appreciated article entitled, “Rubbish at only £6.98″, which appeared in the Dorking Park Clarion (readership 560), failed to cause the stir its jaundiced author dreamed would propel him to Newspaper Stardom, and he was left to mull over the injustice which left him in cramped attic lodgings in an unfashionable part of the town while the object of his scorn soaked up the benefits of unmerited success. As Sagey might say,” Life is a fruit of many colours”

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A Question Of Entertainment


To be fair, ‘the powers that be’, whatever their origin, recognised that the message would be of universal importance and thus it was issued on all social media platforms ensuring the widest possible exposure. The announcement was brief but to the point, “We apologise for any inconvenience but we have grown bored with our experiment. The planet you are living on will become uninhabitable in approximately three hours: no packing for the afterlife is necessary”. Existence, despite the best efforts of a number of largely ignored soothsayers, prophets and visionaries is never fair or just and, time zones being what they are, some people would vanish into the void without the chance to pack their reputation while others would be more fortunate, if you see awareness as something to celebrate.

Whatever else was happening, for two people in a lift when the power supply went off, the news was less than welcome. One was buying a present for his sister’s birthday, and the other one was a floor manager at the store in which the lift was located. He was on the way to give some underling the roasting of a lifetime, one of his favourite duties, and had worked up a portfolio of cutting and diminishing phrases sometime before the interview. Now he was to be robbed of this enjoyment: it was irritating.

His ill humour was compounded by the fact that the only other occupant in the lift seemed to be an unhinged and shrieking hysteric on the edge of tearing his own shirt. “Is there any chance you could lower your voice a little. You are in danger of giving me a headache,” he warned his companion.

“A headache!! Don’t you understand what is happening. We’re going to die, DIE, you cold-hearted robot”. The sight of the sun being turned off and setting for the last time would reveal the most beautiful skyscape you could imagine: a sight anyone might treasure for the rest of their lives, which was going to be in about two hours and twenty minutes. Sadly for our ‘Titans of the lift,’ no windows had been provided to allow them to enjoy this last transcending moment. Instead a small advertisement opposite the door offered the best in new central heating with payments spread over three years; a bargain in any eventuality, although possibly not this one.

It appears that raising his eyebrows at the Hysteric was a gesture too far. The man lunged forward in a manner likely to damage the manager’s appearance: given that he was known for his crisply ironed shirts and neat attire, this would not do. That he was a brown belt in judo became apparent to his reluctant companion, when he found himself pinned to the floor: he responded with a range of whimpering and gurgling largely unfamiliar to the author. “A little quiet would be appreciated jerk” said Mr Manager.

All of a sudden the emergency lighting was replaced by the normal glare: mobiles pinged and a strange non-regional voice came from the speakers. “Earthlings,” it said, “We have enjoyed your display of callow shallowness, cowardice and hysteria to such an extent that we have decided to rescind our decision. Life will continue as normal, but with added catastrophe. After a short period, because we are enjoying ourselves, you will all experience partial amnesia and forget this event happened. Keep crying. Thank you for entertaining us.” Somewhere at the back of the transmission a slightly less cultured voice could be heard exclaiming “They’re really very silly aren’t they” and then being told to shut up.

The Liftonians rose to their feet and resumed normal standards of etiquette: that is standing as far apart as possible and admiring the walls. The hysterics eyebrows rose for a moment; suddenly that nifty central heating offer seemed worth investigating.

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Something To Do With Skillsets


Her stare challenged everything in sight: late twenties and a shaper of events, the answer to many situations lay filed in her experiences: she feared little but some aspects of emotion, and looked on those she knew as reference points. Unmarried and unattached, six years spent with a school-time love now consigned to memory, she had determined, if nothing else, that life was a matter of furnishings and dress.

All her friends were relatives, and home a concept more than place: protected by ability and a career of some significance she had moved to a new property. She had not met the owners yet, and there was no reason she would do so.

Thus the knock on her door was unexpected, and opened more from habit than intent to reveal a boy of around six looking up at her with an enquiring face. “Do you play the piano miss” he asked as if she already knew his name, and before she could control herself, she said “Yes” because music was a dormant passion in her life. “We’ve just got one from my gran, she’s dead” he told her by way of explanation, adding “Come and see”

Why she did we cannot say but there was an openness about him she could not bruise so she followed him to the flat below where , sure enough, a battered upright stood against the wall, lid raised and keyboard in full view. His mother poked her head round the kitchen door, a bit older than herself but not by much, and clearly on a different path and warm.

Both looked at her expectantly, uneasily it must be said, as she sat down and played one of her own compositions, written before her father lost his way and her parental home became a mausoleum. The boy started dancing by her stool and his mother said, “That’s really good” and so it may have been, but written in another time, when flowers bloomed and angels still wore white.

“What do you do?” the mother asked, and she replied, “I am a retail analyst for a large department store.” The mother was impressed, though in a baffled way. “But what about the music?” she asked and the young boy said, “Play some more,” but she replied, “I must get on, I’m sure you understand” and the mother said “Of course” and the boy just shook his head, for he was from that gentle place where flowers bloomed and angels still wore white.

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