The Knife Killers by David Graham

Rapacious assaults on the innocents

Throughout human history the vast majority of the peoples who have and do inhabit the continents and island of this planet; regardless of their cultures, races or creeds, have and still do simply want to live out their lives in a peace that allows for them to grow and prosper. Throughout that same history those same peaceful peoples have and still do come up against that rapacious minority of peoples who have sought and still seek to deny the innocents the peace they have needed and still need in which to survive. Continue reading

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Danger! – a cautionary tale for writers, by Kevin Murphy

When I set out to become primarily a writer it was because I wanted to write about the major issues that concern me.

In exploring issue based writing as my ‘genre’, one of the first things I received was a warning: ‘Don’t!’

The writer was implying that if you choose to write about issues that concern you, you block yourself off from open-minded plot and character development. I seemed to have fallen at the very first hurdle. However, I soon found that I could not agree. My main aim was not to be a rich and famous author, but a writer respected for both my views and my writing skills. Continue reading

Web by Rachel Hilton

I don’t often write about me. But the word web brought back a cascade of memories.

When I was a teenager, a canary flew into our garage. It was a bright yellow pretty little bird. My Dad managed to catch it, and we put it in a cage. I don’t remember where the cage came from but that’s not important. We did all the usual responsible stuff, placing cards in all the local shops saying “Found: yellow canary” where and when etc, all the usual actions people took before social media. We had no response so it lived in the cage in the dining room of the house. My brother Simon, who is several years younger than me, named it Freedom.  Continue reading

Star by Margaret Moreton

Star
by
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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The Call, by Fay Marie Morris

A real piece for the writers out there: Fay’s response to the trigger ‘call’, tells a moving story of how she came about writing the original poem.

The Call, by Fay Marie Morris

During early spring, 2015, I was given a journal that had been handwritten by my uncle Vic. He was writing about his experiences while on active service during WW2. It starts:

B N [battallion] EMBARKED ON TROOPSHIP S.S. CANTERBURY AT NEWHAVEN SUSSEX. FOR FRANCE.
THIS WAS IT. D DAY TROOPS SAILED DOWN COAST TO PORTSMOUTH AND CROSSED THE CHANNEL DURING
NIGHT. DEAR OLD ENGLAND LEFT BEHIND’…

I can’t explain my feelings when I first read it. Uncle Vic was my mother’s little brother and they were very close. He was 3 years old and my mother was 7 when she was given the job of bringing him up. Their mother had died suddenly in 1921 and their father, a Durham coal-miner, had struggled with both his loss and being solely responsible for the welfare of 4 motherless children.

I really admired my uncle Vic, better known as Dobbie. He was such a lovely man and would light up a room whenever he walked in. He always saw the funny side of everything and his words throughout the journal highlight this, brilliantly. Towards the bottom of the first page he writes, STILL HAD TO WADE THROUGH WATER. [160 BDE?] GERMAN SHELLS STILL WHINING OVER OUR HEADS INTO THE SEA. ON DRY LAND AT LAST BUT IN FRANCE. KEPT WISHING I HAD JOINED THE NAVY… which is the first of many funny quips he inserted into the most dangerous of situations. No wonder everyone loved him!

He spent his 5 war years in the Welsh Regiment and was later mentioned in dispatches for distinguished service gallantry in North West Europe. His mates wrote to the local newspaper asking if they would include the letter, ‘FOR HIS FOLKS TO READ, AS THEY WOULD NEVER READ IT FROM HIM.’ They said.
Thankfully, both the letter and journal were kept safe and sound by my mum’s older sister, auntie Minnie but it ends abruptly, on page 51 and these were his last words, ‘ THE MO WAS KEPT BUSY! THE PADRE HAD PLENTY TO DO AS WELL!’

He’d been writing about the difficulty of keeping the ‘LINES’ operative due to ‘JERRY STONKING [SHELLING] AT REGULAR INTERVALS’, stretcher bearers [S-BS] bringing people in from the ‘COYS? and of the horrific injuries and lack of ‘FIELD DRESSINGS’. He describes how he and others had had to rip off their own field dressings to help a truck driver who was unloading his truck when it got a direct hit. He says ‘HE WASN’T HALF IN A MESS. HE WAS FULL OF HOLES AND THE BLOOD WAS RUNNING FROM HIS EARS EYES NOSE AND MOUTH’.

Something not included in the journal, and only known by me because of listening in to family conversations. Later in the war his battalion was stationed behind enemy lines in The Reichwell Forest [not sure of spelling] somewhere in N.W. Germany. His battalion liberated Belsen/Bergen Concentration Camp, an experience he never ever came to terms with.

I feel very sad that my mother [the Nan or Nancy mentioned several times throughout the journal] knew nothing of it. He often wrote that he wondered how she was and what she was doing and I only found out about the journal myself because my cousin Peter happened to come across it when clearing out his mother’s [my auntie Minnie’s] affects, after she died. He then put it in a drawer and forgot about it for several decades. He was an old man when he passed it on to me in 2015 and asked if I would let uncle Vic’s kids know about it.

Thankfully, my daughter Lisa helped me scan the 60 odd pages in the small, buff coloured notebook. She then enlarged and attempted to clarify them, while taking great care not to lose the integrity of the original, sometimes scribbled, faded pencil handwriting.

I sent Ian, his eldest son, the original notebook, of which he knew nothing. We made 7 copies altogether and sent one to each of his 3 kids, another for cousin Peter and 1 each for me and my 2.

I heard recently that Ian has donated the original notebook to Bishop Auckland War Museum. Uncle Vic was a well-liked and highly respected Town Councillor for many years and a local park has since been created and named in his honour, with shiny brass plaque to prove it, something I’m sure he would have hated.

After reading through the journal, several times, I felt compelled to write a poem about the waste and futility of war and decided to set it during WW1, but, I have no idea why except that by distancing myself from it, might have made it a little easier to write…

ANSWERING THE CALL.
It had been such a long time since daybreak
and the fighting was not over yet.
He waited, next to the rest of his mates
with beads of sweat running down his neck.

Thinking of Mary, his sweetheart back home,
wondering when he’d see her again.
He pictured her face and her golden hair
instead of the mud and pouring rain.

Would she be waiting when all this was done?
Would she consent to become his bride?
Would they be happy and have many bairns?
Would they stay together all their lives?

Her eyes were the blue of forget-me-nots
and her lips were like soft pink rose buds.
She smelt of green meadows in early spring
and of fresh new growth, so clean and good.

He remembered her, standing in the lane,
with salty tears streaming down her face.
He wondered if she’d be there at the end
still dressed like a maid, in snow white lace.

His mother had cried as she waved farewell
and he just marched away from her arms.
His father had stood with stiff upper lip
while suppressing the worst of his qualms.

He had answered the call to arms with pride
and was ready and eager to go.
Until he heard screams and the sound of guns,
something we hope we will never know.

All of his dreams disappeared in a flash
and his heart seemed to turn into ice
but he steeled himself, went over the top… s
ealing his fate with the roll of a dice.

By Faymarie Morris. Nov 2016

I very nearly didn’t finish it but the poem began to assert itself after I read the last few pages of the notebook for about the 5th time.

Uncle Vic had made a list of all his ‘GIRLS’, starting when he was only 15 and I couldn’t understand why, until I realised it was probably to try and take his mind off what was happening to him or what he was expected to do. I imagine that anything from his youth would have been better than the reality of the situation, and listing his many girlfriends would have been a distraction he’d have welcomed with open arms.

The last girl he wrote about was Margaret Wright, my mother’s best friend and much later, her bridesmaid. He said how lovely she was but that he was too shy. He said he would have asked her to marry him, but was too slow.

In my poem, the soldier is thinking about Mary, his girl back home. A scenario that must have been played out many millions of times, in all the trenches or bivouacs of every war that has ever been fought.

Also, I would like to dedicate the poem to the memory of my dad’s sister, auntie Louie, who was only 21 when she learned that her fiancee had lost his life in Ypres, on the same day he arrived there. This fact seemed to have coloured the rest of her life because she never married. I really loved my eccentric auntie Louie, she was certainly a one off, but most people saw her as a sad, weird, lonely old spinster until the day she died, aged 86.

LEST WE FORGET!!

Freedom by Michael Healy

Michael’s response to the trigger

FREEDOM
Freedom is a precious favour which most people assume is their right
But many have found their lives are restricted and so have to fight
Two examples were slavery and the African Apartheid system
Both were defeated by strong men campaigning against them.

Born on 24th August 1759 and died on 29th July 1833,
William Wilberforce was a leading politician and MP
He led the campaign for the abolition of slavery
Throughout Britain and the lands of the British Empire.

He campaigned most of his life against the evil that was slavery,
And as a Member of Parliament he could influence the laws
So when the Slave Trade Act of 1807 was passed
He had achieved much of his life’s aim.

In 1826 he resigned from Parliament because of failing health
But he still continued to campaign and eventually Parliament
Passed the Slavery Abolition Act 1833. He died just three days later
After the passage of this bill into law.

Nelson Mandela was another campaigner for freedom
Born in South Africa on 18th July 1918, he campaigned for
Freedom for the Black South African from Apartheid
The system of preference for White South Africans.

He trained as a lawyer and graduated from Hare and Witwatersrand Universities,
before Practicing in Johannesburg. Here he developed his political interests.
These led to bitter disagreement with the Government.
In 1962 he was arrested and charged with attempting to overthrow the state.
He was sentenced to life imprisonment and served 27 years.

With growing unrest among the black South Africans, he was released in 1990
From there he was elected to be President and set about rationalizing black and white.
This he achieved and his country is now fit for both black and whites.
With Freedom for both ethnic groups.

Bucket list by Kevin Murphy

Kevin’s response to the ‘Bucket List’ trigger:
Bucket List:
‘I am just a poor boy though my story’s seldom told’… is one of my mantras. My mother was incredibly practical, perhaps out of necessity as my father was not; perhaps from the make do and mend attitude of the war; perhaps because her father was a shoe mender – the inter war years being a busy time, but also one where customers did not return to collect the shoes he had repaired because they could not pay.
My mother got permission to start work not at the statutory accepted end of her 14th school year, but the Monday after her October birthday, just two weeks after war was declared in 1939. For decades after her father died in 1956 (from his Great War wounds – gassing) we had one of his lasts in our cellar.https://i0.wp.com/i.ebayimg.com/00/s/MTA3MVgxNjAw/z/2VMAAOSwnNBXZ9xT/$_35.JPGThis had use right into the eighties – a trade secret to stop heels rubbing – gently hammer out the leather to stretch it.
One of our most famous family stories is about the time my Father got my sister and me to surprise Mother, who would normally wallpaper all by herself, by papering the hall ceiling for her while she was out at mass. All of us on ladders, he at one end, passed to Ces in the middle who passed it to me at the other end. We had difficulty making it stick in the stretches between us. It slowly drooped at one or two points and gradually, oh so gradually, gathered pace until it effectively dressed Ces atop her ladder. She was intrepid though. She did not let go her hand. She did let go of something else. At first the giggle … led to tears of laughter … before she eventually wet herself.
When Ma returned there was a six inch patch of paper in the middle of the hall ceiling, a twelve inch puddle on the hall carpet, and a wasted roll of the wallpaper we could little afford in a corner.
I do try to do all the jobs. Laying a hedge I swung the billhook back and caught the back of my head. Only the dufflecoat hood saved serious injury. I’ve electrocuted myself fixing the washer, and broken a finger dropping a car axle onto it. Though the list of fixables did reduce over the years, I persevere, I am intrepid. I’ve fixed the flat screen TV in the last year … but now I am a bit of a ‘Gunner’ and the list of things I’m gunner fix is getting longer again.
There is no need to fix. I am no longer a poor boy. Money in the bank making negative interest. My kids deny it when I sing ‘I am just a poor boy, though my story’s seldom told. ‘
There’s a hole in my bucket dear Kevin,
I’ll fix it dear Diane…
DON’T FIX THE FLIPPIN’ THING, JUST BUY ME A NEW ONE!