Why, God? by Pete Brammer

Why, God?

A refuse collector called Rufus Phipps, returned home to find his wife unconscious on the kitchen floor. An ambulance was duly summoned, and the lady conveyed under siren and flashing blue lights to hospital, a few miles away.

Unfortunately she never made it to Accident and Emergency, passing away en route. The paramedics fought frantically, but without success to restart her heart.

That evening Rufus made himself a mug of coffee laced with whiskey, and retired to their lovely blue and white summerhouse at the bottom of the garden. He and Mavis had loved to spend happy hours together there, playing records and reminiscing, until it either got too dark or too late.

Looking up, he saw a bright twinkling star in the dark sky, with floods of tears streaming down his cheeks, he cried. “God I wish I could speak to you, that is, if you do in fact, exist.”

Image result for starAt that moment a narrow beam of brightly coloured light passed through the clouds to illuminate the summerhouse. A voice called out. “I’m listening Rufus, ask away.”

Unable to believe what was happening, Rufus stammered. “Why did

you make my Mavis so kind hearted, Lord?”

“So you could love the lady with all your heart.”

Rufus stopped crying and nodded. “Why did you make her so

beautiful? She was the prettiest girl in our school.”

“So you would fall in love with her, which you indeed did.” God


“Why did you make her such a wonderful cook, she could make even a sandwich look fantastic.” he persisted.

“Like I’ve told you, all these things were done so you would love the lady.”

Rufus thought for a moment.”Please don’t think that I am in the least ungrateful or anything Lord, but why did you have to make her so utterly stupid?”

God gave a big sigh. “So she could in return, love you my son.”




PUBLIC DONATIONS, By Faymarie Morris.

PUBLIC DONATIONS, By Faymarie Morris.


If only Karen Wooley had known, right at the beginning, exactly how things would turn out she probably would never have contemplated it. But the unexpected offer of promotion to Marketing Strategy Assistant to Jerry Lamb, chairman of the newly formed Yorkshire Wool Initiative, offshoot of the Wool Council, had seemed too good a chance to let go. This was something she’d been dreaming of. A way to prove, after years of being ‘just Karen’, that she had credibility, was the best person for the job and… the considerable pay rise. Her husband, Joe, better known as Jumper, was finally coming to terms with his redundancy and a family holiday in the sun might be just what the doctor ordered. And Karen wanted to be the one to provide it.

Her first few months as Marketing Strategy Assistant, [she loved using her full title as that made it seem even more real], had been pretty ordinary, until April when Jerry received the first email.

“Karen, the powers that be say we need to make Bradford a more exciting place to visit. They want us to find a way to sex-up Bradford. Sheffield used to be boring but now it’s THE place to go. So, Karen, do whatever it takes, but make sure it happens.”

How the hell am I expected to sex-up Bradford, thought Karen, as her glasses steamed up in sympathy.

Her first thought had been to create a new red light district. No, not like Soho! A new shopping area lit only with red streetlights. That would be sexy but thankfully she dismissed it. Several other ideas were equally as woeful but she had to keep trying. Eye In The Sky? NO! Graffiti by Banksie? NO! Bicycle taxis? NO! Street pop concerts?…but all that conjured up was chaos, so a very definite NO!

Then, exactly a week after the email arrived she came up with the first germ of an idea.

Sheffield! she should be thinking about Sheffield, a city famous for steel, so the Steel Man statue in the City of Steel had proved to be a brilliant concept and a great marketing campaign.

Bradford was famous for wool so didn’t it make sense to call it Wool City? This initial idea was passed unopposed by the council, but she needed to come up with so much more.

When they erected the Steel Man statue in the centre of the Sheffield steel manufacturing district, it quickly became such an overwhelming success that people travelled miles just to see it. The ratepayers of Sheffield had been asked to choose their favourite design from several prize winning sculptors and the final choice and end product had been a triumph. Shame Karen’s didn’t turn out so well.

It wasn’t the idea or the choice of image that was bad, it was the execution. The final unveiling on that fateful day was something Karen would never forget.

The English wool market had been in the doldrums for a while due to cheap imports from China and the overwhelming popularity of man-made fibres which were cheaper, easier to launder and less itchy. Then, an invasion of new yarns, alpaca, llama, angora and bamboo, yes bamboo, threatened to swamp the market, but thankfully, Shetland, Aran, Merino and woollen mixtures made huge inroads until the saviour of the woollen industry arrived…Superwash, Easycare New Wool.

Nothing is better than the warmth of pure wool, we all know it, and the latest processing techniques mean wool can now be produced with the same durability, softness and ease of care of any fibre currently available and as Karen’s mantra had always been…English wool is…well, it’s English, shouldn’t that be how to promote the English woollen industry?

It didn’t take long for her to come up with the idea of making something massive… from wool. That had worked for Sheffield so how about a sculpture made out of wool for Bradford? Her original thoughts soon morphed into something made from coarse, untreated wool, complete with it’s natural by-product, lanolin. But what? Also, wool had always been considered a valuable commodity and in the past was used for barter and as money. It is waterproof and has insulating qualities, which helps to keep items dry, cool or warm… so maybe a boat made of wool, or a huge fridge, or how about a massive hand-woven blanket…?

That’s when Karen thought about creating a colossal golden fleece from untreated woollen waste, sprinkled liberally with bits of gold leaf for added sparkle and drama. It could even be a central feature in the foyer of the new Bradford Museum of Wool which was due to be finished soon… but how, exactly?

She had recently watched a documentary about a process called felting and although she had never actually done or seen it herself, they said it was undergoing a craft revival and because any old bits of wool could be collected and used, even the tatty old matted stuff that had snagged on barbed wire or wooden fences. In fact, this could be seen as an advantage, especially if used to help promote the variety, economy and luxury of woollen items. Maybe local farmers could get on board by donating their waste wool and might even be persuaded to stimulate interest in the project by advertising countrywide, even worldwide, that the installation was only possible because of help given by the farming community and also the local public. The call went out and suddenly things started to happen, fast. She had become really excited by all the prospects laid out before her.

After chatting to Madge Bale, her neighbour and a long time W.I. member, Karen decided to attend the next meeting, to see if any of them knew anything about felting. It turned out that several knew quite alot and were happy to explain that although it’s repetitive and time consuming, it is also quite easy. Well, easy for them.

Apparently felting doesn’t require much in the way of specialist tools or equipment, just a range of different sized felting needles and copious amounts of wool.

Wool started to arrive, thick and fast. Her garage was soon filled with bags of smelly old scraps and large canvas sacks of shearing leftovers and by the following day, even Madge’s garage was full. Madge’s friend, Elsa Sheppard, offered Karen the use of an empty warehouse for a couple of months adding that it could be utilised for storage, wool preparation and construction.

Then, to Karen’s amazement, the W.I. members voted to undertake all of the felting work if she would, on behalf of the Wool Council, make a donation to the upcoming local W.I. Summer Fayre and also help promote some of their future fund raising activities. A bit of ‘you scratch my back and I’ll’…kind of thing which she accepted, of course.

The Bradford Gazette advertised for a designer and Karen’s in-tray was soon swamped. The applicants were all good but one of them turned out to be Madge’s younger sister, Liz Ewes, who had, until recently, been working in Japan. Felting had become massively popular in Japan and Liz wanted to help make it just as popular in England, so everything was happening at the perfect time.

Bradford Council members voted to donate the money for several sheets of gold leaf and a local printing firm agreed to make the appropriate signage, when everything was finally ready. Things were coming together and Karen couldn’t have been more delighted. When this is all over, she thought with a sigh, I really will need a holiday.

Karen soon realised exactly how time consuming felting was but at least there was enough W.I. members to share the work out and the weather was warm which allowed them to take several large tables outside where they could work and sing along to the music blaring out of the warehouse speakers while the sun beat down on them. Who would ever have guessed that the community would have come together so readily.

It made Karen’s heart swell with pride whenever she heard local people calling Bradford The Wool City, as they went about their daily chores.

And the golden fleece just kept growing. Smaller sections were formed and then were fused onto the main section. Luckily there were plenty of trestle tables stacked against the warehouse walls and soon the fleece was covering ten tables pushed together. But it would need to be much bigger otherwise it would be lost in the expanse that was the foyer of the newly built Bradford Museum of Wool.

Karen had gasped the first time she saw it. “Bloody hell, Jerry. You said it was big but I had no idea how big. I reckon it’ll be perfect for what I have in mind, but.” A smug, self satisfied look enveloped her face although at that moment she’d had no idea what was coming.

The finished item was transported in a large removal van to the museum and unloaded in secret, at night. Special cleats had been made to anchor it to the walls and ceiling and were all in place and a cherry picker was parked at the ready. As they gently laid it out on the floor, it looked spectacular. Long glossy sections of fleece and tiny pieces of Gold Leaf that had been scattered through it, glittered in the spotlights. To Karen it looked flawless, like some natural, organic thing.

As it was raised and finally fixed in place, a hush descended. “If this doesn’t make Bradford sexy, I don’t know what will.” Jerry said to Karen, with a huge grin on his face. “We did it, Karen. We really did it.” And for a few seconds Karen was peeved. I did it, she thought. It was me not you. But she didn’t say anything. The following day television cameras arrived along with reporters, Michael Parkinson and other local celebrities. A festive atmosphere gripped the whole of Bradford and no-one could avoid being caught up in it. The Town Cryer announced that The Lord Mayor was about to open the festivities and everyone held their breath.

But… earlier in the week, when Signs 4 Bradford had contacted Karen, for her OK on the final choice of words to accompany the installation, she said she’d get back to them but then everything went mental and she simply ran out of time. The next day they sent a message and photo to her iphone, which showed her actual words and asked her to please check the spelling again, carefully. She glanced at it, texted OK, then returned it.

The famous Black Bridge Brass Band were playing ‘On llkley Moor…’ as the satin curtains were drawn back. Two LED spotlights were pointed directly at the fleece, highlighting the drama and opulence of golden glints amongst the primitive simplicity of wool. The effect was dazzling. Another spotlight lit up the legend underneath as the Lord Mayor read, in his best official voice,


Television cameras were focussed on the sign as the image was relayed to an outside screen and also the 12 o’clock news. Karen gagged when she realised the full horror of what was written there while all around her the dull hum of approval was replaced by giggles, followed closely by uncontrolled laughter.

POET ON TRIAL by Barrie Purnell


I am a human by birth but am a poet by choice,
My poetry gives this artist’s abstraction a voice.
But now when I write of the beauty of stars in the sky
Or of the pain in the heart born of saying goodbye
They condemn my use of order, rhyme and repetition,
On the slippery foundation of perfidious opinion.
They say that I’m guilty but do they have proof,
They must know that I only ever wrote down the truth.
I have spent many hours just searching for beauty
As a poet I was surely just doing my duty.
You disciples of Elliot, you lovers of Ginsberg and Pound,
You have contempt for the past and for lyrical sound.
You are literature zealots, who seek to destroy,
All those past compositions that many others enjoy.
You blame me for exposing your pride and pretense,
My words are my weapons they are my only defense.
You put me on trial, but failed to get a conviction,
My ballads and sonnets were outside your courts’ jurisdiction.
You asked me was I guilty? You asked did I transgress
Against your perceived wisdom? My answer was yes.
You wrote me a confession which you asked me to sign,
Because I valued the truth, I was forced to decline.

You keepers of disrupted syntax and experimentation,
You killers of rhyme, you lovers of prose fragmentation,
You don’t like my words but even ideologues must see,
The fact I can write them is what it means to be free.
I think you’re pretentious, you think my work is absurd,
But I’ve only ever been trying to cast a tune down in words.
Trying to find hidden ideas that my mind has caught,
Releasing them from impenetrable thickets of thought
Maybe I could be wrong, and you may prove to be right,
That I’ve been ensnared by the very words that I write.
You say my poetry is obsolete, observing outmoded rules,
But I write for the believers and not for proselyte fools.
You subvert my intentions, punctuating all of my lines,
With meaningless phrases, as revenge for my crimes.
You have confiscated my Sonnets you are shredding them fast,
In your desperation to break all links with the past.
All of our previous beliefs you’ve overturned,
Disregarding all the earlier rules that we’ve learned.
We yearn for the poetry of Hardy, Longfellow and Poe,
And all those lyrical poems penned a long time ago.
But you crucified romantic tradition on Elliot’s cross,
Burying Coleridge, the Mariner and the Albatross.

We’re now emerging from your self-serving sententious gloom,
We have rolled that boulder away from the tomb.
With brains that are hardwired to rhyme and repetition
Lyrical poetry is written to enhance the human condition.
It survives in the remembered verses of a million songs
Your work lies in a void beyond recall, where it belongs.
I now write in secret my sonnets and verses,
That you say are traditional and therefore subversive.
You thought you had won but we were never defeated,
Those lines now rewritten which you had deleted.
You’re conforming non-conformists, loving your own reflection,
Our army is now growing through your disciple’s defection.
I have started a petition, I’ve got ten thousand names,
Very soon other poets will join in our campaign.
So now in the back rooms of backstreet cafes we lurk,
Still fighting the war against all your modernist work.
My disciples are gathering, they meet in the night,
They will soon be re-armed and ready to fight,
To fight for that poetry that sings to your soul,
Replacing all those rhythms and rhymes you Modernists stole.
I have gone underground, I am biding my time,
Waiting for the poetry elite to return to order and rhyme.

Star by Margaret Moreton

Margaret Moreton

Once upon a time there were two, early teenage girls. They lived miles apart and never knew each other, though they had much in common. For them both, there was a stable family and equally they respected their elders. They were at that age which saw their awakening sexuality; involuntary blushes were not uncommon. They both accepted their school days and the lessons they absorbed there, though with varying degrees of interest or success. Naturally they longed for approbation.

For Kathy, this came one glorious summer day. She was called from her class and lauded as a master of her craft – she had written a verse or two about the wonder of the sky at night: the ethereal beauty of a new rising moon; the glorious clarity of a dark, cloudless sky, giving a backdrop to a whole galaxy of stars. Her teacher was impressed. He told her that her work had earned her a star. That star, a gold beauty, was fixed to her work. Star of wonder! It glistened; it reflected her exhilaration – approbation in deed. That star was the half-open door to a possible literary career. She returned to her seat on cloud nine. Her future suddenly seemed bright.

Image result for star

Her contemporary, Katarina, was awarded a star – a bright gold emblem. She too had a star which defined her future. Her star was awarded in the company of her family and friends, not because of any excellence in her work, simply because of who she was. It was emblazoned on the lapel of her coat, for all the world to see. He who demanded that it be there intended just that.

An aching train journey followed this award, which took her far into the country, away from what she knew and loved – all because of her star. Journey over, she stood with her family, and that reassured her somewhat. Soon, though, she had to leave her dad and her brothers and go with her mum for a shower. She was filthy and smelly after her long, long journey, so to her mind, that had to be good.

That was the last she knew – the Zyclon B did its work and so did the ovens. Her star had truly defined her future. Her Dad, focussing on the giant belching chimney, saw in fatherhood’s mind’s eye, her star taking its place among nature’s galaxies, that would shine there forever.

Once upon a time, no fairy tale this, all this happened: two stars; two messages; two outcomes.

What means a star?

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