This pacy political thriller will leave you wondering.
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LEGACY is now available to buy through all good independent bookshops, via my publishers (Troubador) and Amazon to name but a few! Get it today as a real, physical, lovely to hold, page turning book OR an easy to read, handy digital delightful ebook.
ISBN 97818004604470 / Ebook – ASIN 9781800468979
Legacy can be ordered in USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa – available from your preferred on line retailer.
The answer to your last minute Christmas shopping problem- send a friend a copy of Legacy
The Climate Change conference in Glasgow (COP26) opens 31st October. It matters because this is the last decade the world has to avoid the worst impacts of global warming.
You need to read Legacy to understand how business, politicians and ordinary people respond. It’s complex, personal and dangerous.
Are you looking for a book to read this coming year? Why not give Legacy ago. I’ll happily zoom, so you can quiz me about the book. And I can sell them direct to you at a discount.
Like a champion
This is how it feels to have sold some books
I remembered mealie meal from my childhood in Africa, sitting on my haunches with Johannes and Louis, using my fingers to dip into the pot of mealie meal and then into the stew. Believe me – food never tasted so good. I must have been five or six.
This picture was taken in Livingstone, on the Zambian side of Victoria Falls.
SCRIBBLINGS - This is a collection of my 200 word stories. Some will amuse, others are bizarre even bleak. They are to be savoured like a tasty treat. They all started in the same way from two random words. The more bizarre the words, the better the story I found.
‘I want to make a complaint. ‘The man leaned forward, aggressive and challenging. His tattooed presence fill the front counter at the police station.
‘A complaint about what,’ I asked.
‘How I’ve been treated.’
‘You’ve been treated for a complaint? ‘I couldn’t resist it. I knew it would pass over his head.
He carried on, ‘You’re harassing me mum, coming round ‘er house, banging on ‘er door, asking ‘er where I am. I’m not there…’
I quickly interjected. ‘No, I can see . You’re here.’
He was starting to look confused. I needed to be sensible. I asked, ‘Why are we looking for you?’
‘Cos I’m not there, I’m here.’
Was he some sort of French Existentialist? Well at least we’d established one fact. ‘Who is looking for you?’ It was always worth trying a different line of enquiry.
Sadly it was a dead end. ‘Well I’m glad we’ve found you, but who reported you missing?’
‘So, you are complaining that we’ve been trying to find you after your mother reported you missing?’
‘Yes,’ he looked triumphant.
I felt a headache coming on. ‘Take a seat and I’ll get an officer to check you are okay and stamp the paperwork.’
Police Station Customer
The young man sat quietly in reception, looking a little dishevelled, while I got on with the business of opening up, turning on lights, reading my emails, as the first of the workers came through mumbling “morning.” The day had begun.
I glanced across wondering what he might want and at the same time noticing he seemed to be wearing black shorts even though it was misty outside. The phone rang, and as I listened he walked towards me. He was wearing underpants! They weren’t shorts. I juggled with what to say – should I mention the lack of trousers? My English upbringing suggested it was probably best not to draw attention to his nakedness. Who knows it might be a la mode; young men’s trousers having slipped further and further down their bums, perhaps this was the next step, gone completely.
‘How can I help?’ I asked, (obviously I didn’t have any spare trousers) but hoping his answer was going to explain quite a lot.
‘I’ve lost my tent.’ He sat staring at me nonplussed.
Sometimes you just know it’s going to be one of those days, and you’ll never get to the bottom of the story. ‘Lost anything else?’
‘What do we know about this guy?’ The negotiator entered the incident vehicle and looked round the team of twelve officers. ‘Can someone make me a coffee and brief me?’
‘He’s been on the steeple of St Saviours since six o’clock this morning. Someone saw him and rang 999 thinking he was a jumper. But he’s got a line round his waist. It’s tied to the gargoyle. Look -to your left. He’s been up there for four hours, and we’ve not seen any placards.’
‘Has he said anything? ‘She asked.
‘We wouldn’t hear from down here,’ someone muttered.
‘Don’t be a smart arse!
We’ve looked at the options. He’s not wearing a costume so we can count out Fathers for Justice or a student prank. It’s the wrong time of year. None of the hospitals have reported a missing patient and druggies don’t tie themselves on.’
‘Do we have a name?’ The negoitator had expected more information to work with by the time she arrived.
‘Well it’s not Santa Claus. There are no reindeer. We checked.’ Laughter went round the vehicle.
‘I don’t need to remind you it’s you who’ll be picking up body parts when he goes, not me.’
Belinda wanted a pet. Her parents had argued about it. In the end they decided to get Belinda something small to start with. Her father would find something suitable from the pet's corner at the garden centre.
One solitary dull fish swam round the tank occasionally darting past the plastic turreted castle, oblivious to the seashells on the bottom collected on a summer holiday. The excitement of getting Bubbles had long been forgotten.
Belinda's parents argued a lot. The fights usual ending with her father storming out of the front door and driving off. Belinda was unhappy. Then one day she dropped her father's ignition keys into the tank, to stop him leaving.
Demanding to know where his keys were Belinda pointed to Bubbles' tank.
He put his fingers in the tank and screamed as the water turned red, the pain shooting up his arm. He pulled his hand out, the flesh gone from one finger.
'What the hell!' Belinda's mother stared in horror.
'Bloody fish has bitten me.'
'I told you it wasn't a goldfish when you bought it. You couldn't even get that right!'
Belinda burst into tears, she screamed, 'I told you, I wanted a fluffy kitten.'
This reminds me of a colleague who used to put a different record album behind the goldfish tank each week, to give the fish something new to look at.
Can you guess the record?
Answer : ZZ Top Eliminator
REACH FOR THE STARS
Frank became obsessed by his rocket. It started when the lecturer at the Open University explained they needed to submit a practical experiment for their science degree. Frank’s plan was to build a rocket and launch it from his garden.
Frank was constantly pouring over his drawings and calculations, ordering components and eBay, until he was ready to start assembling. At twenty feet high his neighbours no longer thought it was a joke. The planning officer called round pointing out, ‘Laying waste to every flower, tree an garden fence in the vicinity was not something they would allow.’ Frank reluctantly agreed to move the launch site. He chose the nearby common.
Finally, it was ready. The TV crew filmed as the huge fireball exploded beneath the structure, flames spreading out as if fired by napalm crazed GI. The rocket shuddered, struggling to break free from the earth’s gravity.
From the crowd a woman rushed out, her placard held high. “Save the Dartford Warbler.” It was too late. The heath land caught fire. She went up in flames, as did his rocket.
Frank finished his degree in prison. The Open University agreed there was no need to submit another practical experiment.
A Writers Ego
The BBC was searching for a new detective series and wanted to adapt the books by E.A. Rex. Lord Westmoreland (the main character) had an old world charm that would counter the high tech wizardry of American programmes like CSI. They approached the author’s publishing house wanting some biographical details to help in its marketing. A flurry of activity resulted in the senior partner ringing to explain they had no information to pass on.
However, they were concerned that the Queen’s secret life as a writer would be exposed. There was only one thing for it. Her agent asked for an audience.
‘Ma’am, the BBC is interested in adapting your novels, and has asked for information on the author. Are you still of a mind to remain incognito?’
‘They will press us,’ he hesitated, ‘could we invent a persona?’
‘A red herring, a false trail- you mean a patsy? I like that idea. Can one become someone exotic, unconventional like Maya Angelou?
Askance, he recovered. ‘Ma’am, I think perhaps that’s a little too colourful – something more beige I fancy – English?’
They sat in thoughtful silence.
‘If I knighted that Downton* chap, do you think he might be persuaded?’
For those of you familiar with the glorious Gosford Park (2001) and wonderful Downton Abbey (2010) will know Julian Fellowes wrote them. He was made a life peer in 2011.
Grumpy Old Man
It was a glorious sunset. The pale blue sky was streaked with crimson. Herb stopped for a moment to take it all in. It was a joy to be alive. Looking forward to drinking in convivial company, he headed down the hill towards The Trumpet. The next moment he was blinded by a searing white light. He felt himself falling and at the same time he was aware of a cacophony of trumpets and cherubs singing.
‘You can turn off His Masters Voice!’ Peter turned to his work experience assistant and said, ‘He’s not the right Mr Smith. We’re expecting Bert Smith. It says on his driving licence this is Herb. We’ll be in trouble with -you know who,’ he muttered under his breath.
Peter was feeling his age. Once he had taken pride in his sunsets, welcoming the new arrival and ceremoniously handing over the keys to Heaven. Now even he had to agree their strap line , ‘Eternally with Us,’ lacked appeal, besides his bunions were hurting. He’d wanted to retire, but couldn’t find a suitable replacement. They weren’t interested in Heaven anymore. All they wanted to do was a gap year Down Under where it was hot.
This story comes from a time when education involved physical punishment – the cane and ruler. I don’t know what other indignities the boys put up with in their showers, but I bet it involved flicking towels.
Another form of sadism we all went through was making the girls and boys strip to their PE kit and learn Scottish country dancing together in the girls gym.
How Carter and Mandy ever -‘got it on,’ after that is a testament to the curiosity of youth.
Ah, the good old days!
Mr Pye's Class
Pandemonium reigned as Mr Pye entered the classroom. Thwack! The wooden ruler hit the desk. Everyone reacted to the sound, sitting upright, their minds concentrating on the gowned figure as he walked up and down the rows of desks; the ruler slapping in his hand .
‘What’s today’s topic? Mr Pye waited.
Silent as sphinxes they sat looking straight ahead.
‘Suddenly we have amnesia, robbing you of the ability to speak, form sentences- communicate!’ He peered over his silver half-moon glasses.
They tried to avoid his gaze.
‘Carter!’ A reluctant figure slid out, ‘and you Mandy – would you care to join us?’
Anticipation filled the sixteen year olds.
‘In front of you we have a range of prophylactics, items that you two, in your hurried and fumbling couplings will have no doubt seen before. I’d like you to demonstrate their uses for the classes benefit.’ Mr Pye watched Carter blow up a johnnie to the delight of the jeering class. Why had the headmaster selected him to teach sex education? In a flash his ruler caught the boy’s head, knocking him off balance. ‘Use it like that, and you’ll have Mandy’s Dad knocking on your door in nine months time.’
The two burly men thumped repeatedly on his door, shouting.
Eddie was in his sixties. His face was deeply lined from too much hard living, hair long and straggly. He wore a black, stained T-shirt and jeans. Gyroscope had been a big band in the 1970’s, with a string of number one hits and albums that went platinum. They had toured with famous bands that were still headlining festivals.
Like so many other groups, they fell out with their manager who they claimed had ripped them off. Because how else did Eddie come to be living in a high-rise council flat and claiming benefits? He’d forgotten about the crash fast carts and cocktails of drink and drugs.
They’d come to repossess anything of value in his flat., which Eddie thoug
ht was a joke. There was nothing left. Anything that was small and portable, he’d sold a long time ago. He’d used the cash to feed his addiction. They only piece of furniture in the alt was his white baby grand piano.
‘How we going to get that thing out of here?’ One of the men asked.
‘Same way I’ve been most of my life – legless,’ said Eddie.
‘You’ll need to get planning permission.’ The council official pushed the form and guidance notes across the desk,’ plus there’s a £120 fee to pay.’
‘Surely I can put up a fence on my own property without asking permission?’ The homeowner was bristling.
‘No, sir. You see we get lots of complaints about people’s hedges, some growing to an enormous height. We’ve even had a few nasty altercations involving the police with neighbours poisoning trees, and one man even used a chainsaw.’
It’s Council policy , Sir.’
‘Whatever happened to an Englishman’s castle?’
‘Castles are covered on page 34, paragraphs five to eight, I believe.’
‘But I only want to put up a ruddy wooden fence. It won’t grow any bloody bigger!’
‘Under our policy Boundary Enclosures,what you might grow beside it is also covered. Plant Leylandii and five yeas later we’ve got a monster causing us problems. that’s why we insist on you applying for permission. If the fence grows; we will cut it down and charge you £750.’
‘I pay me taxes…’
‘Good to hear it.’
‘…and what do you get-interfering busybodies! I’m going to complain to my MP.’
‘Don’t forget your forms, Sir.’
This is a true story and happened before mobile phones were common place. As to the green briefcase, I don’t know – Gina was my invention.
I told Gina my story about a geologist I’d known who’d gone to the university in Palermo and while he was there Mount Etna had erupted, as it did every sixty or so years. Being an expert he was drafted in to do a piece to camera for the BBC. To give it more drama they peruaded three Sicilian women (who were out shopping) to rush past the camera shouting, in apparent fear of the flowing magma.
I carried on with my story, telling her how the geologist noticed, wherever he went in Sciliy, taxi drivers, waiters and shopkeepers, no-one wanted to take his money. He was delighted and impressed by their generosity and hospitality, until a colleague noticed his briefcase on the bench in the laboratory and remarked on its colour. It was green.
‘You know what this means?’ he said pointing to the briefcase. ‘Only the Mafia use this colour.’
Horrified the geologist immediately bought a black one.
Over the years I have told people this story, but Gina (a native Italian) was the first person to say, ‘Yes, its still true.’
I saw her green handbag and immediately offered to pay for lunch – just in case.
One of my favourites!
When the spaceship landed in the garden of 41 Lupin Close, Jack was watering his tomatoes in his dressing gown. He didn’t hear it, as he didn’t like wearing his hearing aid. However, he did notice the smell. At first he thought next door was having a BBQ. But it was eight o’clock in the morning.
On his patio was a glowing orange cylinder, the size of a wheelie bin. At ninety he found the modern world confusing. Had the Council written saying he’d be getting a new recycling bin? While he was thinking about this the cylinder opened and the alien appeared. At first they stared at each other. Jack assumed it as an eye. He looked down embarrassed. His slippers were wet; the watering can having fallen out of his hand.
The alien appeared to be agitated. Jack watched. It emitted bleeps, whines nd flashes until something cleared in Jack’s ears and he heard , ‘Is this Lupinois sector 41?’
He felt a bit silly but said, ‘No Lupin Close, Addlestone,’ and then added, ‘Earth.’
The alien fizzed. It sounded a lot like swearing.
Jack decided not mention today to Social Services. They’d say he was going senile.
Slip of the pen
My handwriting is shockingly poor. It’s an attempt to disguise my bad spelling. In the days when one sent letters, my cousins insisted the only way to decipher the flamboyant script, full of character was a large whisky or preferably several.
‘We believe in one God, Father Almighty, Maker of all things,’ Emperor Constantine mumbled the words under his breath, reading from the document. Here at last was the Creed. This was the culmination of three centuries of clerical disputation. He had thought they would never agree. He continued reading, ‘and the Holy Goat.’ He stopped, surely that was wrong. He looked across at his scribe, who was nowhere to be seen. Constantine studied the bishops. They were waiting for him to sign it. Rewriting it would mean more delay. He longed for the comforts of his palace. Besides, someone was bound to say it was a sign, and perhaps God did man goats, and another century would pass arguing. He made a decision. He signed it.
Across Christendom worshippers praised, ‘the Maker of all things, visible and invisible, the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Goat.’ That is until the shepherds asked, ‘Why not sheep?’
So here they were again back in Nicene working their way through the animal kingdom. In desperation someone shouted, ‘Bugger the animals.’ This was followed by sniggering. ‘We need wine!’ Drunk, they voted first on Holy Spirits, amending it later (when sober) to Holy Ghost.
Never Too Old for Fun
I’m not saying this was based on my mother in law … but we did find a lot of empties in her kitchen .
There were twenty-five residents at Sunnyside, occupied mostly by elderly women. They met each afternoon for a glass of sherry. However, it was not long before some were coming down at lunchtime for a nip, just to ease their aches and pains. Empty bottle soon overwhelmed the recycling bin.
When she fell down the staircase, Mabel agreed with her son, it might have become a bit of a problem. She blamed her spectacles. Besides, she reassured him, nothing was broken. She promised to stop drinking sherry.
Each Thursday the ladies were taken to the supermarket, where Mabel and her friends discovered how cheap litre bottles of vodka were.
Soon the women were drinking vodka like Russian sailors and starting to behave like irresponsible teenagers.
It came to a head when two residents decided to moon – Eric the Meals on Wheels driver. Luckily only the care manager saw them. Their families were asked to attend a family conference. The elderly ladies thoroughly enjoyed the embarrassment they’d caused.
Alcohol was banned except on Sunday. Mabel asked if they could start a gardening club and everyone was greatly reassured.
The residents however, planned to try their hand at growing cannabis.
Warning: you need to read Joy’s Little Problem first, then Joy visits the eye clinic. Trust me it works better!
Joy visits the eye clinic
I remember going with my mother in law to the hospital for an eye appointment. It was just as described except for the ending. The eye consultant is a bit of a legend locally known for her stylish dressing and shoes. When I came to write this story I realised it followed on from Joy’s Little Problem and made a nice sequel.
The ophthalmic clinic was in the bowels of the hospital. It was busy and airless and with not enough seats. Busy nurses appeared and called out a name, the patient coming back soon afterwards to wait again. No-one seemed to leave.
Eventually it was my turn. The nurse covered one eye at a time and asked me to read the lowest line on the eye chart, having done that she told me to take a seat. The second time my name was called I went to the consulting room. It looked like any opticians full of equipment except the female consultant wore red Jimmy Choo shoes. Silently she checked each pupil, and then asked me what the problem was. I was a little surprised because I’d assumed Dr Patel had forwarded my information to the hospital. Frustrated I ripped open my blouse wondering if she would call security or redirect me to psychiatry. I came straight out with it. ‘It’s my third eye. It’s continually weeping.’
After a moment she stood up and turning said, ‘We all have something we prefer to keep hidden.’ A long chunky leopard’s tail flicked out.
This time I was the one who fainted.
Joy's Little Problem
Joy sat in the doctor’s waiting room. She felt apprehensive, not sure when the time came she’d be able to show the locum doctor her ‘little problem.’
Dr Patel was used to nervous spinsters, knowing they would go through a litany of minor ailments before coming to the point. Sure enough, Joy mentioned her sleepless nights and hot flushes. Dr Patel waited.
Summoning up her courage, ‘Doctor, I’ve had this little problem all my life. Shall I show you?’ Reluctantly she took off her blouse. Joy looked up at Dr Patel. ‘At first it was very small- like a pimple, but it kept on growing,’ pausing, ‘I’ve got used to it now.’
The doctor stared at the large swelling, about the size of an apricot below her belly button. There were small darting movements from within the dark discolouration. In the middle a line of yellow pus puckered skin, covered in a network of blue veins. He could see dark hairs growing out of the gash.
‘It’s become very painful. I hoped you could prescribe some ointment.’
Dr Patel peered, gently touching the skin. Suddenly the swelling split open. It winked at Dr Patel. He passed out, prostrate at Joy’s feet.
British steel was privatized in 1988. The workforce had shrunk to 52,000. The industry continued to suffer, with plants closing and men being sacked.
When the steel works closed in the town, all the men lost their jobs. The regional government agency, organised job centres to help them find work.
‘Mr Hardacre is there anything you are interested in?’ The job centre assistant asked.
‘I’m a champion cucumber grower. I’ve held the Bredon Cup for eight years. It’s down to my secret methods. They are thirsty buggers, cucumbers.’
‘Well I’m not sure we have vacancies for cucumber champions Mr Hardacre. Would you say you like children?’
‘I’ve got five grandchildren.’
‘Splendid, I’ll give Mrs James a ring at the primary school. I think we’ve found you a new role.’
Mr Hardacre was surrounded by nineteen eager young faces, keen to start on the school’s new project – the vegetable garden. ‘Jason, go with Tiffany and bring me some water from the rainwater butt. Use the bucket. The rest of you, don’t forget you’re not to tell your granddads about our little secret.’
‘No Mr Hardacre,’ they chorused.
‘You’ll be champions just like me.’ Mr Hardacre winked at his new workforce.
‘Yes Mr Hardacre.’
‘They’re thirsty buggers,’ piped up six year old Dean.
‘Aye, they are lad!’ Mr Hardacre didn’t miss the steel works. He loved his new role.
I am this person- daring, confident, willing to give anything a go. Well maybe 30 years ago. The spirit is willing but the body has crumbled and if I attempted it now I’d be off to the fracture clinic and A&E.
When I said to my nephew, ‘I’ll show you some moves on your skateboard,’ it was the alcohol talking. I’d never been on one in my life.
I put the board down, stood on it and pushed off gingerly and somehow I managed to remain upright. I leapt off and running alongside the board, bent down and scooped it up. Rather nicely done I’d thought. My nephew was clearly expecting more. Feeling confident I pushed off again, with some force this time. As I hurtled towards the bend in the road I realised I didn’t know how to turn. The only thing for it was to use the Leylandii hedge as a safety net.
The skateboard hit the kerb. It stopped dead. But I carried on, my legs moving in slow motion like a runner in ‘Chariots of Fire.’ Fortunately I didn’t hit anything solid as I went through the hedge. Coming out the other side; I trampled across the flowering herbaceous border before falling face down in the crotch of the seated vicar.
‘Manna from Heaven,’ said the vicar, enjoying my unfortunate position. I hastily apologised to the startled guests and left.
Walking back my nephew said, ‘Nice move.’
Death in Paradise
Was the first in a series of stories about the Queen. I so wished I had written The Queen and I by Sue Townsend. It’s one of my favourite books. But as it’s the Queen’s birthday on 21st April, here’s a present for her. And I’m letting you into a big secret.
The Queen sat under the canopy. She watched the line of police officers march past, wearing white uniforms covered in silver braid, with long blue and orange plumed hats. She was told the feathers came from the indigenous island birds. She hoped Philip wouldn’t say to the President, ‘They look like parrots,’ or worse still mutter, ‘Pieces of eight’ within earshot of any journalists.
The Queen had lost count of the number of times she’d watched similar parades. Long ago she stopped being interested. She sat there apparently concentrating, in reality she worked on her plots. Only after her death would her secret be revealed. She was a best selling crime writer.
At least the Royal Tours had provided settings and as a ruler she had access to any expert and could ask any question. ‘What poison would one favour if for example, one wanted to get rid of an embarrassing husband,’ had unfortunately led to speculation in the tabloids on the state of the Royal Marriage?
She’d reached a knotty problem in her current novel Death in Paradise.
Irritatingly Philip was quietly humming, ‘I shot the sheriff’ next to her. She turned to the President, ‘Do your police use Magnums?’
“Apparently ginger is packed with more than forty antioxidants, flushing out toxins and encouraging blood circulation. But I’m not endorsing it , just in case you have a similar reaction!”
Suzanna was going to spoil herself. Brian was playing golf and wouldn’t be home till the bar closed, no doubt tipsy. She filled the bathroom with honey scented candles, putting out the extra large, white fluffy towels. Suzanna added drops of lavender before slipping into the hot water. She put her hand out and found the plate of fresh root ginger, and placed the vegetable on her face before drifting into oblivion.
The cold water woke her and she noticed some of the candles were spluttering. She wondered how long she’d been asleep. Reluctantly she emptied the bath, threw away the ginger, blew out the candles and wrapped in her towels turned on the lights. Looking in the mirror she was aghast to see her face. It was bloated, blistered and red raw.
She stumbled downstairs searching for the magazine that recommended ginger as a homemade facial. With horror she read – never leave it on your face for more than fifteen minutes.
They key turned in the door. Brian staggered back in horror. ‘What the hell!’
A scarlet faced, white swathed apparition rushed at him wailing. He tried to fend off the demon, before suffering a mild heart attack.
This story was inspired by the Animal Man, a regular visitor to the very popular museum club I ran as curator. I remember cowering at the back alongside a small boy as he brought out the python.
The children sat cross legged on the floor their upturned faces, looking eagerly at the teacher as she introduced their special guest, the Animal Man.
This annual visit was always a thrill. He brought with him familiar and exotic creatures for them to see and, in some cases, handle. He usually started off with small furry ones that provoked squeals of delight from the girls and a forest of hands wanting to hold something.
Gavin, a thoughtful child asked, ‘What happened to your hand?’ Thirty- two pairs of eyes looked, opened- mouthed at the hand holding the chinchilla.
‘I lost this finger when the squirrel bit me and it went septic, and the tip of this one to the mongoose. I chopped off my thumb by accident.’ A chorus of aaargh filled the classroom.
‘Did you feed it to the python?’ Gavin asked.
‘No, she prefers baby chicks. This finger,’ he lifted his other hand, ‘I lost to frost bite tracking polar bears.’ The class went silent.
‘Is your job dangerous?’ asked Gavin.
‘No, not when you know what you are doing.’
‘Counting must be difficult though,’ said Gavin waiting for the next animal to come out of its cage.