Thursday, 30 January 2014


Bugger that mugger
He just ruined
My whole day!
He bled on my blouse
And I can't wash
That stain away.

Blood is just the worse!
I tell you I have cursed
That stupid boy
And that silly ploy
Of his to try
And steal my purse?
I have tried club-soda
And pure lye,
But that reddish shade
Is here to stay,
As permanent as
Cochineal die...

He really is to blame-
Did he think
I'd just stand
And let him take
My knitting bag
And that whole swag
Of baby clothes
I'd been working on
For a year?
I'm too old for fear.
That old bag
With the skeleton face
Has held pride of place
At my table for years...
I'm 89 for Christ's sake!

So when he waved
That knife in my face?
You could say
His confidence
Was sadly misplaced-
I upped with
My knitting needle
Under his kirtle
And popped his pride
In a most painful place...

Last I saw him he was
Screaming and hollering
For his Mommy.
I took his wallet too.
Stupid jerk.
Let him go play beserk
With some other woman,
In some other place.
Here, in Galway,
We IRA pensioners,
We hold our space.

Manuela Cardiga

Desire's Detective: A Novella by Jacqueline Sapphire Chapter 1

Jacqueline Sapphire hereby declares 
that since the people here-in portrayed are long dead 
and unlikely to sue, the usual disclaimer should read as follows:
This is a work of fiction and any similarity with real history is purely coincidental.

Jacqueline Sapphire is a pen-name adopted by two friends who love the written word; and finding themselves living on opposite sides of the world, attempted to bridge that distance with the following piece of work.We hope you enjoy it, and have as much fun reading it as we had in the writing of it.

Desireé Robertson Cronson and Manuela Cardiga

Chapter 1

Noelle de Jouissance took one final look in the mirror and twirled herself around, pleased with what she had accomplished on her meagre budget. In Louis XV’s luxurious Court, addicted to extravagant display, she was practically a pauper. She was grateful her impeccable taste and her skill with the needle allowed her to transform her dresses, eluding rival Court beauties into believing she recruited the services of a sought-after seamstress. Only her confidante and best friend, Madame Pompadour knew her secret.

Noelle had become friends with her when she was asked to help dress the queen on her wedding day. Noelle had walked into the dressing room to find Madame Pompadour licking feverishly at the queen's nipples.

The queen and Madame Pompadour had been lovers for many years, since they were girls, and the passion they shared was not going to come to an end anytime soon.

Noelle was sworn to secrecy, and her silence had its benefits. The queen had been instrumental in convincing the king into recruiting Noelle as a private investigator.

Someone in the palace was poisoning the Jesters and after many attempts at finding the culprit, the King’s Guard was no closer to making an arrest. Although the King was not pleased at the suggestion that a woman could succeed where his Guard had failed, he capitulated to his wife’s persuasion. Perhaps a woman, moving silently and unnoticed in the Court’s circles could discover the vicious killer hiding in their midst.

Noelle was given modest quarters in Versailles, an equally modest stipend, and invited to every function at the palace. This placed her in a delightful position for furthering her own agenda: to handpick the perfect husband. Anyone rich, noble and devastatingly handsome would do.

Her first marriage had been a disaster, best forgotten. In fact, no one at Court knew she had ever been married at all.

Father Pierre, the Queen’s Confessor had been difficult to convince. Tearful confessions of regret and endless afternoons kneeling before him, while he groaned and writhed in ecstasy in the confession box, had earned her his endorsement of her annulment papers. The memory of his shriveled, warty old genitals in her mouth still made her gag.

She knew she had to invest all her skill into a brighter future. She tightened her corset, squeezing her waist in even tighter, and teased the lace fichu on her low-cut bodice a little lower. She placed a tiny black velvet beauty spot on the curve of her left breast, enhancing the satiny whiteness of her lush breasts. Her eye was on Lord Marmeduke, an English import who was visiting his very wealthy French aunt, the delightful Madame Deneurve.

Madame Deneurve was a colorful older woman: eccentric in the extreme and terribly outspoken, which was not exactly acceptable behavior in royal circles, but she was worth millions, and had, in her youth been a favored bed-partner to the old King and knew where a lot of skeletons were buried.

The old Lady was always on the list of sought after guests, guaranteed to enliven any boring party or ball with her irreverent chatter. Lord Marmaduke - a modest, quiet-spoken, pleasant and handsome man - was Madame’s only heir. He was also single, wealthy in his own right, and likely to get wealthier when the old relic passed away.

Noelle knew she would see him tonight and was determined to enchant him with her little beauty spot.


Noelle entered the palace ball room. She paused dramatically, to ensure her arrival was noted. In a Court rife with beauties, she knew she was arrestingly attractive, and many a jaded eye was caught by her lush figure.

With certainty tonight was the night she would capture the attention of Lord Marmeduke. For the Masquerade, Noelle had made a beautiful glittering deep violet mask with white feathers that framed her emerald eyes to perfection.

The feathered mask complemented the most stunning ensemble she had ever created: a shimmering violet gown with a provocatively plunging neck line that daringly showed the edges of her rouged nipples.

Her timing was perfect and she could have heard a pin dropping on the marble floors as she made her grand entrance.

Her rivals were speechless with rage, and suitors vying for her hand flocked to greet her. She was undeniably the Belle of the Ball. Madame Pompadour and her debonair husband were chatting to Lord Marmaduke and Madame Deneurve, and she whisked past her admirers to greet them.

Lord Marmaduke was as captivated as she had hoped, and he gallantly led her out to dance as the violins began to play.


The coach sped over the bumps and stones, mercilessly throwing its young passenger back and forth against the velvet cushions. Desireé sighed. She could hardly believe she was leaving her childhood home and refuge behind. The lovely landscape of poverty-stricken rural France unspooled before her eyes. The picturesque villages and cultivated fields; the charming chateaus were a grim contrast to the pinched faces of the bare-foot children.

Desireé knew her life’s true mission was amongst these people, tending to their needs, nurturing their souls; and not in glittery Versailles, in high-heels and satin. She clasped her delicate hands together and closed her eyes tightly.

“My dear, you must be strong”, the voice of the Mother Superior at St Cyr echoed in her memory. “God calls and we must answer. Do not doubt there will be many thirsty souls at Court: you will be a fount of goodness, a shining light. Perhaps more needed than you could imagine…”

She had been about to enter the Novitiate when the fateful letter had arrived, ordering her to present herself at Court; and place herself in the care of her cousin, Mm. Noelle de Jouissance, her only living relative. Desireé remembered her vaguely, a green-eyed angelic-looking girl seven years her senior. She could hardly believe all her plans for the future, her tranquil life with the Sisters could so easily be overturned by one letter.

The cracking of a whip and a vicious scream of invective from the coachman tore her from her reverie. The coach now trundled between stunning gardens, manicured lawns interrupted by fountains where nude statues reposed in languorous poses, sometimes spouting water from… gasping, Desireé averted her eyes.

Before her, Versailles unfolded in all its splendor; like a fanciful sugar confection cast into stone by a dizzy Fairy-Godmother. The sour-faced coachman threw down her luggage, then leapt down and opened the coach door. Trembling, Desireé alighted and stood riveted, as he drove away. Never had she felt more alone, more abandoned than at that moment, not even as a six-year old orphan.

“Desireé?” A husky voice, with a lilting quality spoke from behind her. Gasping, Desireé turned and found herself facing (had she but known it) the woman who was to be the single most important influence in her future life: a tall figure - lissome, but somehow voluptuous - moved gracefully towards her. She glimpsed glistening emerald eyes, and a lush scarlet mouth, before she found herself enveloped in an intoxicating cloud of jasmine, pressed against firm springy breasts.

“Oh my dear, Sacré Dieu, how you’ve grown!” This, this lush fleshed woman with the full pouting mouth, her rouged nipples peeking over the edge of her scandalously low-cut bodice must be Noelle. Her cousin Noelle! Desireé found herself flushing. How could she stand there, her breasts overflowing, her waist so tightly strapped her hips swelled with obscene ripeness under the farthingales. She found herself fascinated, unable to draw her horrified eyes away from a black velvet patch glued onto Noelle’s left breast, an inch above the crimson peak.

“My little Desireé, you are so pretty! We must find you something to wear, you look like a nun.” Desireé found herself being firmly herded through a luxuriously appointed sitting-room, up a narrow staircase, two floors, a long corridor, and into a large but modestly furnished room.

“Here, darling, you will stay here with me.” Noelle sat on a graceful chair and gestured Desireé onto another.

“Tell me about yourself, what can you do? Do you speak English? Italian?” Noelle leaned forward eagerly “Do you sing, or play the clavichord? Perhaps you are talented in other pursuits?” Her cousin was turning out to be quite disturbing in her mannerisms; her pink tongue seemed to lick out her words, “we de Jouissance girls must move up in the world, my dear.”

That evening, dressed in a pale grey silk gown with a very modest décolletage, the work of the St Cyr seamstress, (after refusing point-blank a frothy scarlet voile confection proffered by Noelle as «sensual» that left her shoulders and her small breasts practically nude) she attended her very first Versailles dinner and masked ball.

The people were astonishingly friendly: not at all what she was expecting from the notoriously standoffish aristocracy. The Ladies smiled openly at her, running admiring eyes over her dress and upswept – and un-powdered - hair; the Gentlemen were even more amiable, stopping Noelle to beg for an introduction. Really, these people had a most unsettling habit of licking their lips. It looked very unpleasant, animalistic even. A few of them actually slavered. One elderly Gentleman, overcome by paternal affection, kept planting moist kisses on her hands and wrists, and was shortsightedly moving up her arms when Desireé finally managed to extricate herself from his grasp.

Noelle watched sympathetically as she patted her hands dry on the back of her skirt.

“I hate that, especially on my tits.” Desireé gaped at her cousin in horror. “Oh please! You telling me no-one’s drooled on your boobs?”

“N-No!” she gasped “N-never!” Noelle drew her into one of the doorways and stared at her in horror.

“Desireé, are you a virgin?”

“O-of course!!!”

“Bon Dieu de la Merde! A virgin.” Noelle was dead white, “What am I going to do with a virgin in Versailles?” Her hands trembled as she handed Desireé an egret’s feather mask.

“You sit, you don’t talk to anyone, you don’t go anywhere. After the ball we will talk. Now, I have work to do…”

The revelers were given the cue to don their masks. Noelle was much too vain to simply put it on, so she scurried off to the adjacent parlor with its glittering floor-length Venetian mirrors to do just that. She had to look perfect.

She thought about her sweet cousin and shook her head. A virgin at her age.

Noelle had lost her virginity at age 13. In fact, her breasts had already developed by 12, as had her appetites.

Francois, her very first love, had kissed her in his Father’s vineyards, and she’d felt his erect penis pressing against her through his trousers. Trembling with eager curiosity, she’d slipped her hands in and drawn him out.

He was 4 years older than Noelle, bur equally inexperienced. That night, they had fumbled their way into ecstasy. Francois and Noelle were inseparable until the day he told her his father had arranged his marriage to a girl from a very wealthy family and he could – and would not- go against his Father’s wishes.

She was devastated. She cried for what seemed an eternity. The next day she awoke and looked at herself in the mirror. She looked drawn, tired and her eyes were lusterless. She looked old.

She was determined that never again would she love. She would use her beauty, the sensuality oozing from her body to make her way in the world. Never again would she be hurt by a man’s rejection. It was time to blossom again, to renew herself. She was determined her future would be brilliant. Was she not the most beautiful girl in her town? Even Father Yves stared at her over-long at mass...

If only she had not fallen pregnant, all would have been well. Her parents were outraged. A noble family, albeit much reduced by poverty, did not take kindly to a seventeen year old pregnant by a local farmers son who refused to marry her.

Phillipe, an elderly local merchant, was persuaded to marry her as quickly as possible. It was a small hurried country wedding. Her figure at that early stage was unaffected by the pregnancy and Phillipe was well pleased. By day she worked in his draper’s shop selling cloth and learning to sew and embroider from his sharp-tongued mother - her slim fingers bleeding from the unaccustomed work- by night he enjoyed her firm young body.

Though in his mid sixties, and a widower, he was most demanding. Overcome by lust for his young wife, he possessed her constantly, becoming more and more aroused - rather than less - as her belly swelled.

He became rougher in his love-making too, sometimes actually hurting her in his frenzy.

One morning she woke and saw blood streaking the linen sheets and when she went to her chamber-pot saw pieces of what looked like flesh mixed in with her bloody morning water.

That day she quietly cleaned out his cash drawer, packed her best gowns and left for Paris.

The bright lights in the powder room brought her back to the present and she straightened her mask and went off in search of Lord Marmeduke. She knew she should keep an eye on her young cousin but she had more important things on her mind, and Desiree' would have to learn to look out for herself.

Lord Marmaduke was dancing with Mademoiselle Giselle, another contender for his affections. As she approached the dance floor, she noticed Mademoiselle Giselle's dress dragging on the ground and Noelle, in a swift move stood on her train, ripping off almost the entire skirt. Mademoiselle Giselle let out an embarrassed shriek, and fled.

With her no longer in the way Noelle graciously stepped forward to play the damsel eager to help the distressed. Her striking green eyes peeping through her mask was a dead give away, those eyes could be recognized anywhere and Lord Marmaduke looked almost relieved to be rescued by her.

They danced to a few quadrilles, swaying back and forth and on the last twirl she spun around too quickly and almost fell to the ground and he quickly swept her into his arms and their eyes locked. It was at this moment that she knew she had caught his attention, and all she now had to do was butter up his aunt who was anxious to marry her nephew off, to the right girl of course. Noelle was determined to show her she was the only girl.


Desireé sat obediently on the edge of a chaise-longue, clasping her hands modestly in her lap, the feathered mask ticking her cheeks and her nose.

“May I…?”

Startled she looked up to see a tired-looking young man in a magnificent purple damask coat and a powdered white wig. A plain back-satin mask accentuated his drawn features.

Desireé scuttled over to leave him as much room as possible. He sank down with a sigh.

“I’m so tired: roistering in the morning, rogering in the afternoon. Really, I must find some time to sleep.” He reached up and pulled off his wig which he dropped on the cushions between them, revealing unruly dark boyish curls, “and now these nightly balls! I have to service Mm. d’ O in half an hour, then that new Russian Countess at 12.30, and I promised Mou Sieur le Comte de Villiers I would accompany him to Paris for a little riotous rape…”

Desireé giggled: he was so droll! He glanced at her startled.

“You find it amusing? I have to work very hard - and I mean hard - to keep my reputation, you know. I sometimes wish I’d been less zealous at earning it, but when you’re young you think being the best cocks-man in Court is as good as being the heir to the Throne.”

“Oh I love Coc-au-Vin! Roast Capon, Chicken Fricaseé, Sister Stella always said I was a poultry fanatic!”

“Fricaseé?” The young man peered intently at Desireé through the eye-holes of his mask; taking in the delicate satiny complexion, the rose-bud mouth, the wisps of silken un-powdered hair escaping her severe hair-do. His eyes lingered on the long neck, slid over the edge of the grey silk, took in the slender mounds of her young breasts.

“Who are you?”

Desireé smiled and extended one slender hand: “Desireé de Jouissance, at your service! I am Noelle’s cousin.”

The young man looked even more surprised.

“Noelle? The Noelle? I know Noelle quite well.”

“Oh how lovely!” Desireé smiled at him joyously, “Then we are already friends.”

She shook his hand firmly. “I have just arrived and was so afraid…but everyone is so friendly!”

“Yes…We are all very friendly. From where exactly did you arrive?”

“From St Cyr. I am going to take the veil, but the King’s Minister ordered me to place myself under my cousin’s guardianship for the season.” She leaned forward, her dark eyes shinning earnestly, “My calling, you see, is healing. Souls. I feel it most strongly.”

The young man looked absolutely fascinated.

“Healing souls? There are many wounded souls right here. Mine, for instance…I have this pain…Do you heal by the laying on of hands?”

“No. By prayer. I believe in the power of prayer.”

“The thought of you kneeling to pray is…delightful” The young man licked his lips in that disturbing way.

“Monsieur,” Noelle interrupted, dropping a graceful courtesy, “pray forgive my cousin, she means no disrespect. She is newly arrived at Court!”

The young man got to his feet waving a languid hand, “That’s quite alright, she was about to kneel to pray for my soul…You can come back for her later, my dear Noelle.”

“Sire, I beg you…” Noelle leaned forward and whispered earnestly in the young man’s ear. He stared at Desireé in astonished awe.

“How old are you, my dear?”

“Twenty, Sir.”

He gaped at her in disbelief.

“Twenty?” Noelle once again whispered in his ear.

“Oh very well, but you will make it up to me Noelle de Jouissance.”

Noelle dropped the young man another deep courtesy and dragged Desireé hastily away.

“I told you not to talk to anyone and I find you chatting up the most dangerous, debauched and dissipated roué in Europe.”

“He seemed very pleasant…and devout.”

That is Jean, Duc de Orleans, the King’s brother.”


Sunday, 26 January 2014


This is ever so upsetting,
I'm just so mad!
I'm now on a mission,
And writing a petition.
I am determined
On bringing about
Radical change.
This vile slander
Must end!

Let it be know
Far and wide
We witches
Will no longer stand
For being bandied around
As a bye-word
For the freezing cold,
Particularly in the citing
Of our titties
As being "cold as hell"

Those suffering
From the curse
Of living (quite by choice)
In the freezing North
Frequently scream
Out that rabid slur
"That is as cold
As a witch's old

This is an outrage!
We will be heard!
We challenge
Any man with
A thermometer
And enough courage
To stand on his words
(so patently absurd)
To test the temperature
Relative or otherwise
Of our ever so comforting
And firmly delicious
Witches' titties
As opposed
To those
Of any other
Of Eve's allegedly
Warmer daughters.

Manuela Cardiga

Saturday, 25 January 2014

THE INK BLOT GUEST SPOT:Excerpt from "Desire's Detective" by Jacqueline Sapphire

Noelle stood trembling by the four-poster bed. She could not believe how anxious and nervous she felt. You would think she was a virgin, not a very experienced woman. She smoothed the soft silken bed-gown down over her hips, and arranged her fiery ringlets around her shoulders.

A quiet knock and Humphrey walked in. He was wearing a long brocade dressing gown and his long dark hair was loose from its usual ponytail, framing his strong face and gentle eyes.

In two strides he crossed the room, taking her hands in his.

“Oh my darling,” he kissed her hands tenderly, “at last, at last, you are mine!”

Tremulously Noelle raised her eyes to meet his adoring gaze.
“Humphrey...Oh, Humphrey! I...” She hesitated, “There is something...something I must tell you, darling.”

“Speak, my love, you know you can tell me anything.”

“I’m not...well, I’ve been...” Blushing Noelle lowered her face to his shoulder. Pressing her cheek against him, she whispered: “Darling, I’m not a virgin...”

“Oh my dear, my very dear, neither am I!”

Startled Noelle gazed up at him. Her emerald eyes filled with tears. “Humphrey, I have known many men...”

“It’s all right my love, so have I.”

“I...I...I mean...Carnally...”

“Yes, my love, me too.”

“But it meant nothing – nothing!” Noelle gasped as his meaning sank in. “ have?”

“My love...” Humphrey sank to his knees before her, “I have much to confess. My Father sent me to sea, with the British Navy as a young boy, it is a family tradition, you know, but...My ship was sunk by Turkish pirates and I was taken captive.”

With a sob, Humphrey hid his face against Noelle’s soft belly, “I’m so ashamed...” Gently Noelle stroked back his silky hair.

“Speak, my love, tell me all…I’m here for you.”

“They – they...I was so young...and pretty. Oh it was terrible, terrible...” Humphrey sobbed bitterly, “There was this big pirate, he...he...USED me, again and again...and I liked it...”

He raised his soulful eyes to hers. “He grew tired of me, and passed me on. I was a toy. A thing...of pleasure to rough men and then I was rescued, and I came back and said not a word to anyone, I was so ashamed...” His mouth trembled, “I never saw a woman I could love until I saw you, my beautiful Noelle.”

Noelle drew him to his feet. “Darling, we will start again, as virgins, together. We will be new creatures, reborn in each other’s arms...” She pressed her lips to his, passionately.

“Ehr, darling....there is just one little thing...” Humphrey blushed, “I’ve know...with a woman...”

by Jacqueline Sapphire

Find Desire's Detective on AMAZON!


There is this one thing
I have never figured out...

How they did it
In Medieval times?
What with the guy
Clunking around
In all that armour?
Not exactly
Conducive to

Ok, it must have had
A sort of metallic glamour-
But really! How do you
Get the "stuff" out?
Did they do an integral strip?
Or just merrily flip
Open a little metal door?
They didn't exactly
Have can-openers
In those days...

The mind boggles,
And with all those
Catches and toggles,
Surely the patience 

(hi hi hi) flagged?

Remember that Keats thingy?
"Oh what can ail thee, 

knight-at-arms, Alone 
And palely loitering?"

The guy would probably 

Have replied
"My strength was of ten,
My sword held high
But the Belle Dame Sans Merci
Ran off with the other guy"

Swine-herd, last I heard,

And I just bet he bragged...

Manuela Cardiga

Well, this one day
I woke up
And there it was.

Rather like a pimple,
One of those
That sort of
Sneak up on you?
Small little bump
Right in the middle
Of your face?
And you think:
OKAY, ignore it!
That will go away...

So you dab
Some concealer
On the bloody thing,
And stand slightly
Sideways to your mirror
So you don't see it,
And put on
Brighter lipstick
(Slutty Scarlet)
To draw attention
Away from the thing
As big as a signpost
Sitting there
In the middle
Of your face?

The concealer thing
Works for a while,
And if you are lucky,
The thing goes away,
And no-one the wiser
To your fall from grace.

The other side of the coin,
Of course, is you go along
And one day the thing
Just explodes
(EXACTLY like a pimple)
Into the full bloom
Of all it's florid glory,
At the wrong time
And the wrong place;
And someone
Turns around and says
With the slightest trace
Of derision
"Look at that!
Poor thing!
And at her age?
That's got to be
The worse case
I ever saw of
Pimply love!"

Manuela Cardiga

Friday, 24 January 2014

THE INK BLOT GUEST SPOT: "Visceral" by Jen Hartley

wandering the aetheric atmosphere,
rarefied, sere,
the clerestory ballooning
with anaesthetic thought-clouds

a body could, does,
get left behind
in intricate cathedrals of mind,
the apse of fantasy

these hands were born
to squeeze the juice
of lemons,
to loosen the shackles
of reason,
to caress the nape
of love

on the ground, corporeal,
clasped over my middle,
holding the viscera of my only life,
I could howl my guts out
but it takes guts
to live.

Jen Hartley


I have given myself
Utterly and wait to see
What you will do
With me.

Will you see me
For what I am?
Will you cherish me,
Unsheathe and wield
My deadly grace
With tender hands?

Will your hands
My blessed
Edge caress
And know
The world’s
Very throat
Must yield
To our press…

Or will you be afraid
The blade
You grasped
May be too sharp,
Or the flame
Of our forging
Too hot?

Will you.
Between a boy's
Fear and a man's,
Start back
And drop
Your chance?

Manuela Cardiga

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Scraps from "MANscapes - Journey into Light" by Manuela Cardiga

“Well see, I had me four husbands - up until now, that is! Current one is Henri Quatre. Lovely man.” She oiled her hands and slid them over Clara’s taut belly, gently feeling for the shape of the child inside. “And I will tell you a secret: the thing to remember when trying a man on for size? (And this is where so many women go wrong) What you need to find is not a man you can talk to; it’s a man you can be quiet with, and not feel alone.”

Mamma Malai, midwife

"MANscapes - Journey into Light"
by Manuela Cardiga


We should
Have been born
One flesh,
By cell-division;
One mind,
One breath.

Manuela Cardiga

Monday, 20 January 2014

THE INK BLOT GUEST SPOT: "Disembroidering the fear" by Jen Hartley

she didn’t think her life would bend
in sideways, splitting curlicues
contralto tones from laughing Muse
demanding that she stop and mend

and patch, and stitch, and rend some more
an e’er-unraveling tapestry
dismantling the sophistry
of separation and of war

replacing panes of silver thread
with her own hair, her skin, her mind
the fibers stretch, the spools unwind
from deep within her aching head

she didn’t know all she could lose
and still remain, a fractured seer,
disembroidering the fear
in subtle hues of blacks and blues

Jen Hartley

Sunday, 19 January 2014

THE INK BLOT GUEST SPOT: "Tangerine Dream" by Grant Harbison

Dundee, Scotland 1987

21 year old Brian Hegarty ran frantically down the stairs of his house when he heard the relentless banging on his front door. When he opened the door, his friend, Craig Munro stood outside looking very anxious.

“Whit’s aw the bangin’ aboot?” Brian asked. “The wife’s jist got the bairn tae sleep.”

“Sorry, mate. We’ll need tae get movin’ if we want tae see the game.”

“Whit are ye oan aboot? The pub’s jist doon the road.”

“Aye, but we’re no gaun tae The Crown.”


“Ah thought we’d gang tae The Viceroy.”

“That’s awa oan the other side o’ toon. Whit dae ye want tae gang there for?”

“It’ll be full o’ United supporters, plus there’s a bigger telly.”

“Aye, awricht. Let me jist grab ma jaicket an’ say cheerio tae the wife.”

Twenty minutes later, they both waited patiently at the bus stop.

“Ah’ve got a feelin’ it’s gonnae be a braw game the nicht,” said Craig. “An’ you?”

“Naw, beatin’ Barcelona at Tannadice is wan thing, but oan their groon’? Nae chance.”

“Aw c’moan, United could dae it. Scottish fitba’ is no aw aboot Rangers an’ Celtic.”

“Ah ken that.”

“If Aberdeen can dae it in Europe, so can we.”

“We’ve done well tae get tae this stage. Where’s that bus?”

Craig looked at his watch. “It better hurry up. Dinnae want tae miss the start.”

Just then, a bus turned around the corner a little further up the road.

“Here we go,” said Brian

When they entered the pub three quarters of an hour later, they were astonished to find that it was almost empty.

“A bit quiet,” Brian commented. “Is yer watch richt?”

“Aye, ah checked it before ah left hame.”

“Let’s hae a pint.”

“Whit can ah get ye, lads?” the barman asked.

“Twa pints o’ lager,” said Brian.

“Ah thought the place wid be mobbed by noo,” said Craig to the barman when he returned with the drinks.

“Aye, it wid be if the telly wis workin’,” the barman replied.

“Whit!” exclaimed Craig.

“Aye, been like that for a few days noo. Repair man said he’d be here the morra.”

“Aw that’s jist brilliant!” Brian moaned. “Whit noo?”

“Whit aboot the Tartan Dog?” Craig suggested.

“Dinnae be daft. That place will be full o’ the Dens Park mob. We’d be subjected tae verbal abuse or even worse when they find oot that we’re United supporters.”

“Aye, yer richt. Whit aboot Saracens?”

“Where’s that?”

“It’s aboot a mile doon the road. Hurry up an’ finish yer pint. We’ll probably only miss the kick aff.”

Outside the pub, Craig set the pace and Brian struggled to keep up.

“Slow doon, wid ye!” Brian yelled.

Craig slowed down to let his friend catch up. “If ye move a wee bit faster, we’ll get there oan time.”

“We could go hauf oan a taxi?” Brian proposed.

“Waste o’ money.”

“Are you bein’ tight fisted again?”

“That’s no fair. Ye ken ah only get ma Giro oan Tuesday. Whit aboot you. You’re the wan that’s workin’.”

“Aye, but ah’ve got a wife an’ bairn tae support.”
Suddenly they heard the sound of sirens

“That’s no too faur awa,” said Brian.”Ah wonder whit that’s aboot?”

“Somethin’s oan fire.”


“Look,” said Craig pointing ahead. “Dae ye no see the smoke?’

“Aye ah see it noo. Ah wonder whit’s burnin’?”

Just then, three fire brigade trucks whizzed past them.

“Must be serious,” stated Craig

Brian noticed a figure walking towards them. “Maybe we should ask this auld guy.”

Before either of them could ask the question, the man spoke to them first. “Ah widnae gang doon that way, lads, it’s chaos.”

“Whits oan fire?” Brian asked.

“The Saracens pub,” the man replied.

“Aw naw.” Craig groaned. “How?’

“Ah dinnae ken. Aw ah ken is that naebody got hurt.”

“Where tae noo?” Brian asked Craig.

“We better gang hame,” replied Craig. “There’s a bus comin’. C’moan, run!”

Both young men ran across the road, narrowly avoiding oncoming traffic

“Hurry, Brian, it’s awready at the bus stoap!”

As soon as they got to the bus, the doors had already closed. They tried desperately to get the driver’s attention, but he didn’t see them and drove off.

“This is turnin’ oot tae be a disaster,” Brian grumbled. “An’ you said that this wis gonnae turn oot tae be a braw nicht.”

“It’s no ma fault.”

“We should’ve went tae The Crown, or better still, got a few cans an’ watched it at hame.”

“If a bus comes in the next few minutes, we’ll see maist o’ the second hauf.”

“Wan o’ the greatest matches in Dundee United’s history, an’ we’re miles fae hame, waiting oan a bus.”

“Aw, cheer up, will ye. Ye can be a richt prophet o’ doom sometimes. Here’s a bus comin’.noo. So stoap moanin’.”

“Dae ye ken the United score, pal?” Craig asked a young man sitting at the front of the bus.

The young man shook his head.

“Does anybody ken the United score? he yelled.

Some of the passengers shook their heads, while others ignored him.

“Looks like we’ll huv tae wait,” he said to Brian.

Twenty minutes into the journey, the driver stopped the bus.

“Whit’s happenin’?” Brian asked. “This is no a bus stoap.”

“Whit’s gaun oan?” Craig hollered.

“Ah think the bus has broke doon, son,” an elderly woman at the front of the bus replied.

Brian sighed and shook his head. “This jist gets better an’ better.

Moments later the driver appeared. “Ah’m sorry aboot this,” he told the passengers. “Ye’ll aw have tae wait for another bus. Ah dinnae ken whit the problem is. Jist mak sure ye’ve aw got yer tickets.”

“There’s nae time tae tak another bus,” Craig told Brian. “We’ll huv tae walk.”

“We’re still too faur awa. We’ll never mak it in time.”

“Ah ken a shoart cut, c’moan.”

“Where are we gaun?” asked Brian minutes later.

“If we go ower the railway lines, we’ll get tae the graveyard. We’ll nip through the grave yard an’ we’ll be minutes awa fae The Crown.”

“Ah’m no gaun through there!”

“Och, dinnae be a big fearty.”

“Ah’m no feart.”

“Aye ye are. Dinnae worry. Ah can assure ye there’s nae heidless corpses or zombies walkin’ aboot.”

“Dinnae be daft, Craig. It’s no the deid ah’m worried aboot, it’s the livin’. A lot o’ scallawags hing aboot there.”

“There’ll be naebody there.”

When they reached the graveyard, Brian looked in dismay at the railings.

“Whit’s the matter?” Craig asked.

“There’s spikes oan toap.”


“It’s dark. Wan slip an’ yer impailed.”

“It’s no that high. Ah’ll climb ower first, then ah’ll watch ye fae the other side.”


Craig climbed over the railing with ease. “See it’s easy.”

Brian climbed the railing tentatively. When he reached the top, he wobbled slightly before jumping forward.

“Noo tae get tae the other side. Quiet as a moose, mind.”


Nervous to begin with, Brian felt slightly relieved when they’d reached halfway without incident. But that relief was short lived when three young men suddenly appeared in front of them.

Brian felt his fear rising. “Ah telt ye this wid happen.”

“Let me dae the talkin’,” said Craig.

“Ah dinnae think it’s gonnae dae any good.”

“Awricht, lads,” Craig greeted them.

None of them answered. They just stared at Brian and Craig with malevolent grins on their faces.

“We’re jist tryin’ tae get tae a telly tae see the end o’ the match, said Craig.” Dae any o’ ye ken the score?”

“Ye better hand ower yer cash,” one of them threatened.

“Och, dinnae be like that. It’s a big match for United the nicht.”

“Ah dinnae care. Ah’m a Dundee supporter. Noo dae as ah say an’ hand ower yer cash. Baith o’ ye.”

“When ah say run, we run,” Craig whispered to Brian.”


“Nae buts. Jist dae whit yer telt.”

“Hey, stoap whisperin’.”

“We’re skint,” said Craig.

“Ah dinnae believe ye. Ye’ve got ten seconds.”

“Run, Brian!”

Craig and Brian ran as quickly as they could towards the railing on the other side.

“Faster, Brian. We still huv tae get ower the railin’. C’moan, they’re gainin’ oan us!”

“Ah’m daein’ ma best!”

As soon as the got to the railing, Craig clambered quickly over. Seconds later, Brian tried to get over, but slipped on his first attempt.

“C’moan, they’re behind ye!”

With adrenalin pumping, Brian scrambled to get over the railing. As he was about to get to the top, he felt a tug on his leg. He lashed out with his boot and connected the face of his assailant. His attacker squealed .He managed to reach the top of the railing, but when his feet hit the ground, he felt an agonising pain in his right ankle and screamed loudly.

“Whit’s wrang!” cried Craig.

“Ma ankle. Ah think ah’ve sprained it!”

To Craig’s surprise, the other two men hadn’t bothered to climb over the railing. They merely attended to their friend without pursuing them any further. Craig helped Brian to his feet and carried him on his back until they reached the road. Brian sat on the side of the road, while Craig tried to flag down passing cars. Eventually a car stopped.

Craig ran to the driver. “Thanks for stoappin’. Ma mate’s sprained his ankle.”

“Ah’m no gaun anywhere near the hoaspital, pal,” said the driver.

“Nae problem, mate. We jist want tae get tae The Crown pub.”

“Ah’m gaun that way. Dae ye need a haun’?”

‘Aye, ah wid appreciate it.”

“Are ye a United supporter?” Craig asked the driver when they’d got Brian into the car.

“Aye, pure Tangerine.”

‘Dae ye ken the score?” asked Craig excitedly.

“Naw, ah’ve jist been drivin’ aw the way fae Manchester. Ma radio packed up the other week. Tae be honest, ah dinnae think we’ll dae it. No many teams gang tae the Nou Camp an’ get a result. It wid be a dream result though.”

“That’s whit ah’ve been tellin’ him aw nicht,” said Brian from the back seat. “The amount o’ bad luck we’ve been huvin’ the nicht, ah reckon it’s a disaster.”

“Oh ye o’ little faith!”

The driver stopped the car outside the pub. “There ye go, lads. Hope it’s a win. Dae ye want a haun wi’ yer pal?”

“Naw, yer awricht. Thanks a lot, mate!”

“Nae bother.”

As soon as they got inside the pub, Craig asked one of the patrons if he would give up his seat for Brian. The man complied and helped get Brian to the seat.

“What’s the score,” Craig asked the man.

“Wan each. We jist scored.”

“That means we’re twa-wan up oan aggregate?”

“Aye, we jist need tae haud oan.”

“Whit can ah get ye, mate?”

‘Pint o’ lager will dae. Thanks, pal.”

“Did ye hear that, Brian? Wan apiece. We jist need tae haud oan.”

At that moment, the commentator began to get excited .”United have it on the left hand side. The ball is whipped in, onto the head of Iain Ferguson, and it’s a goal! Barcelona 1 Dundee United 2. Oh what drama we have here at the Nou Camp. From going one nil down, United have pulled back two goals in the dying minutes.”

The whole pub erupted in loud cheers. Craig gave Brian a bear hug and ran to the bar to get the drinks in. Just as he ordered the beers at the bar, the whole pub burst into song, singing, ‘The Terrors of Tannadice.’ Craig felt the hot rush of tears as he brought the beers back.

Brian was also in tears. “We done it, Craig!”

“Ah telt ye!”

“Aye, ye didnae jinx everythin’ the nicht.”

Craig laughed. “Drink up, we need tae get ye tae the hoaspital.”

“That can wait.”

“Aye, a few merr widnae dae any herm.”     

By Grant Harbison




The storm broke
Last night and
Flung rough winds
Of doubt at the new
Dreams I'd built,
Bolstered by words
I spoke and wrote.

The storm broke
Last night and
I was sleepless,
To the screaming
Of the bitter wind.

The storm broke
Last night and
I, casting out
That doubt,
Denying forecasts
And rumours of pain,
Ran out,
Wide armed,
And dancing
And welcomed
The blessed fall;
The tender grace
Of the cleansing rain.

Manuela Cardiga

Saturday, 18 January 2014



You planted
A seed
In the palm
Of my hand.
One seed,
The glad sun
And awoke;
One word
You spoke
And a story
Took hold;
Threw glad
Leaves out
And pouted
Flirty flowers;
In ripe globes 
Of sweetness
Desirous of
Devouring mouths
Hungrily uttering
The sound
Of one seed
One word
You spoke
And I heard.

Manuela Cardiga

THE INK BLOT GUEST SPOT: "Silver Lining" by Grant Harbison

Bruce McKenzie sat on the settee and changed the channel on the television with the remote control once again.

Daytime television, he thought to himself. Nothin’ but soapies an’ quiz shows. The unemployed in Britain must have the best general knowledge in the world. Pretty useless when there’s nae jobs aboot, an’ nae prospective employer gies a damn whether ye know that Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in Scotland, Pythagoras was Greek, or any such trivia. That kind o’ knowledge is only good for the pub oan quiz nights.

His wife, Linda, came through to the living room and glared at him. “Are you mopin’ again?”

“Nothin’ else tae dae,” he answered.

“Ye could try lookin’ for a job.”

“Ah’m forty eight years auld. Naebody wants me.”

“That’s because ye havnae tried.”

“Oh, ah’ve tried. Ah’ve been tae the job centre many times. Nothin’ but red tape. Everythin’ requires experience. How dae ye get experience if ye cannae find a job? Even a toilet cleaner has tae have experience. How hard can it be? Dae ye want tae know the biggest joke? Ye have tae be employed before ye can apply for a part time job.”

“Yer jist no interested. That’s yer problem. Ye’d rather spend maist o’ yer time drinkin’ wi’ yer mates in the pub or wastin’ money oan horses that don’t win. Ye’ll have nae redundancy money left the way you’re carryin’ oan. Even when ye were workin’, it wis the pub an’ the Bookies every Friday an’ Saturday. Noo that yer unemployed, it’s nearly every day. Yer problem is that yer too easily led. Twenty eight years of marriage an’ what have we got tae show for it? Nothin’.”

Tired of his wife’s habitual tirades, Bruce got up and went to the bedroom to fetch his jacket. When he opened the front door of the flat, he heard his wife yelling.

“Aye, away ye go tae yer mates. Wan o’ these days ah’ll no be here when ye get back!”

Bruce sighed and headed for the lift.

Outside the flats, it was a typical wintry day in Glasgow. Permeating rain accompanied an icy wind that blew vehemently. Bruce zipped up his jacket and started to walk; but before he reached the main road, the rain fell harder. Cursing to himself, he ran back to the entrance of the flats for shelter.

Cannae got oot in this, he grumbled to himself. 

He fumbled in his jacket pocket for his cigarettes and felt his car keys underneath.

Ah could take a drive. Ah’m gonnae have tae sell it soon.

He lit a cigarette and thought about where to go. After a few minutes deliberation, he decided to head towards the city centre. He dropped his cigarette, ran to the car and drove off.

After parking the car outside a pub a little later, he took a slow walk along the road. He felt a sudden pang of hunger and went in search of a café. As he strode along the road, his eyes were drawn to the Bookmakers on the other side. Ignoring the temptation, he ambled purposefully forward and eventually found a café on a corner. Once inside, he ordered a roll with bacon and a mug of black tea. After he had consumed the roll, he sipped at the steaming hot beverage and thought about how his life had been four months earlier.

There had been rumours going around that the Glasgow division of the company would be closing down. Bruce had heard it many times in his thirty years of service, and had scoffed at everyone’s concern. But when the union had validated those rumours, he’d been just as worried as the rest. When the final day had come, management had apologised to the workers, stating that it was the recession that had caused the closure. Alone in a pub that evening, he’d pondered over the word and had concluded that it was a fancy dressed word for a depression.

For the first two weeks after being made redundant, he hadn’t been able to break the bad news to his wife, and had left the flat at the same time every morning, pretending that he was going to work. Eventually the stress had gotten to him, and he’d come home drunk one night and told her. He’d known that she would be upset, but he’d expected a little sympathy and had received none.

Once he’d finished his tea, he looked out of the café window and saw that the rain had stopped. He paid his bill and lit a cigarette as soon as he got outside. After walking around aimlessly for a while, he saw an ATM, withdrew £200 and made his way to the Bookmakers.

Strolling along the road, he wrestled with his mind, trying to convince himself that he would only be taking one bet. He’d tried that approach many times in the past, but the overwhelming feeling he always got that the following race would be a winning one, frequently outweighed his common sense.

As he reached the Bookmakers, he hesitated when a feeling of remorse came over him; but the lure was too much and he stepped inside. He briefly glimpsed at the names of the horses that would be running in the next race and decided on a horse called Paradise Venture, which had odds of 10-1. Once he’d placed his bet of £100 for the horse to win, he waited patiently for the race to begin.

When the race began, his horse maintained a steady pace, sticking close to the front runners. A while into the race, his horse caught up to the one in front and excitement rose in the commentator’s voice.

And as we head for the final furlong, it’s neck and neck between Shining Armour and Paradise Venture.  

Bruce felt his heart beat faster and held his hands in front of him in silent prayer. Suddenly the tone of the commentator’s voice reached a crescendo.

We’re in the final furlong and it’s still neck and neck between Shining Armour and Paradise Venture. But here comes Paradise Venture. Paradise Venture has taken the lead. Paradise Venture is streaking ahead. Paradise Venture has won!

Bruce couldn’t contain himself and let out a mighty roar before he went to collect his winnings. Filled with jubilation, he elected to go for a celebratory drink in the pub next to where his car was parked.

No more than two, he silently warned himself.

The pub was a small affair, and apart from a couple who sat close to the bar, Bruce was the only other patron. They were very loud and he estimated their ages to be early thirties. From their attire and the numerous tattoos and piercings, he deduced that they were either Goths or Heavy Metal fans. He ordered a lager shandy and thought about what he was going to do with the money. He resolved that he would have to buy something nice for his wife. Deep in thought, he was startled when the man that was sat at the table stood next to him. He ordered a pint of lager and a vodka and lemonade.

“Get a packet o’ peanuts as well,” the woman at the table cried out.

“Aye, awright.”

While waiting for the drinks, he stared at Bruce. “You look pleased wi yersel’. Get a big win oan the horses, like?”

“Ye could say that,” Bruce replied.

“Oh aye? An’ how much would that be?”

“A thousand quid.”

“Yer kiddin’.”

“It’s true.”

The man turned to his girlfriend. “Jenny, this guy jist won a thousand quid oan the horses.”

“Congratulations,” she responded.

He turned back to Bruce. “This calls for a wee celebration. What are ye havin’?”

Bruce shook his head. “Sorry, ah cannae drink too much. Ah’m drivin’.”

“Where dae ye stay?”


“We stay nearby. Why don’t ye come tae oors? We can have a wee party.”

“Ah need tae get back tae the wife.”

“C’mon. We’ll get a few drinks in, have a few laughs. Ah’m sure she’ll understaun’.”

“Ah don’t even know ye.”

“Ah’m Gary an’ the lassie ower there is ma girlfriend, Jenny. What dae ye say?”

Bruce hesitated for a moment. “Aye, awright.”

All three of them finished their drinks and left the pub. It was late afternoon and the early winter darkness began to fall.

On the way, Bruce stopped the car outside an off licence and he and Gary went inside to buy the alcohol. Ten minutes later, Bruce parked the car next to a tenement building. They entered through the close, with Bruce at the back. Gary turned the handle of the door of the house on the bottom floor and the door opened.

“Jist as ah thought,” he said. “Ye forgot tae lock up again, Jenny.”

“Sorry, Gary,” she said.

Cannae be too careful these days,” said Bruce.

“Aye,” replied Gary. “Especially if ah’m lookin’ efter it for a mate. He’s away tae Spain for a holiday. Come in.”

“Oh, so it’s no yours? Where dae you stay?” Bruce asked when he walked inside.

“We’re still oan the waitin’ list for a flat. We’re stayin’ wi’ ma mother in Springburn until we get an offer. Ye want a beer?”


“Vodka for me,” said Jenny.

Gary put an Iron Maiden CD in the CD player and then went to fetch the drinks. As the evening progressed, the drinks flowed more rapidly, and Bruce struggled to keep up with Gary. He noticed that Jenny was still nursing her second drink.

“Ah guess yer no much o’ a drinker,” Bruce said to her.

“Naw,” she replied. “It goes tae ma head too quickly. In fact, ah cannae even finish this. Ah’m off tae bed. Goodnight.”

After Jenny had retired to bed, Gary brought out the whisky. Not being much of a spirit drinker, Bruce felt the effect instantly. But Gary kept pouring glass after glass. After a while Bruce struggled to focus. Gary saw his dilemma.

“Ah’m away tae get ye a blanket an’ a pillow, mate. Ye can kip oan the couch.”

Bruce sat on the couch and took off his shoes and trousers. When Gary came back with the blanket and pillow, Bruce lay back on the couch, wrapped the blanket around himself, and fell asleep almost immediately.

The following morning, Bruce woke up with a massive headache and a huge thirst. He quickly put on his trousers and shoes and headed for the kitchen to get a glass of water. When he saw that the clock on the wall showed 11am, he was taken aback.

Ah couldnae have slept aw that time. Ah have tae get home. Ah better tell the other two that ah’m leavin’.

Moments later, he knocked on their bedroom door. “Gary, Jenny!”

When he got no response, he knocked a bit harder. He opened the door slightly and peered inside. There was no one in the bedroom and the bed was made. Although it seemed a bit strange to him that there was no one in the house, and they hadn’t bothered to wake him, he assumed that they’d just gone to get some groceries. But when he put on his jacket and put his hand in the pocket, he knew something was very wrong, when he realised that the money and his car keys were missing. He ran to the front door, but as he got there, he heard someone putting a key in on the other side. When the door opened, Bruce and a man he’d never met before stared at each other in alarm.

“Who are you an’ what are ye doin’ in ma hoose?” the man yelled angrily.

“Ah came here wi’ Gary last night. Are you the guy that lives here?”

Gary? Who is Gary? Ah’m callin’ the police.”

“Wait, don’t. Ah think ah’ve been conned. Ah met this guy last night and he said that he was lookin’ efter the place for somebody. Ma money is gone an’ ma car keys.”

The man picked up the phone.

“Please, ye have tae believe me.”

The man put down the phone and looked at Bruce suspiciously. “Ye mean tae say that someone wis livin’ here while ah wis away?”

“Ah know it sounds like a likely story, but it kinda looks that way.”

“How did they get in? And how did they know ah wis away?”

“The door wisnae locked when we got here. Maybe ye were bein’ watched. Please, ye can see that ah havnae stolen anythin’. Ah’m a victim.”

“Jist get oot o’ ma hoose!”

When Bruce got home a little later, there was no one home. His eyes were immediately drawn to the envelope on the mantelpiece. He opened it and read the letter inside.

Bruce, I’ve had enough. I’ve gone to stay with my mother for a while. I need time to think. Don’t even think of contacting me. I mean it.

Two weeks later, Bruce strolled along the road feeling sorry for himself. As he neared Ibrox stadium, he saw a car that looked a lot like his. When he got closer, his excitement rose when he recognised the number plate. He quickly ran to his flat to fetch the spare keys.

Upon his return, he looked around to see if anyone was watching him, before he got into the car and drove off. After parking the car outside his block of flats, he checked the inside of the car and opened the boot. Inside the boot were two large suitcases.

Jist in time, he thought. Looks like they were plannin’ tae go somewhere.

When he got to his flat, he went straight to the fridge and took out a can of beer. After a few sips, he wondered about the suitcases. Curious, he went back to the car to fetch them. When he returned and opened them, he stared in absolute shock when he saw the vast amounts of money inside each case.

There has tae be a fortune!

Just then the telephone rang.

“Hello,” Bruce answered.

“Bruce, ah’m no comin’ back.”

“But, Linda.”

“Nae buts. Ah’ve made up ma mind.”

“Linda, ah’ve got somethin’ tae tell ye.”

“Ah’m no interested. Ah’ve decided tae make a new life for masel’. Ah’m no prepared tae live a life o’ poverty.”

“But, ah’ve got some great news!”

Goodbye, Bruce,” she said and hung up.

Bruce put down the telephone and stared at the suitcases.

“Your loss, hen,” he said with a huge smile on his face.
Grant Harbison


Friday, 17 January 2014

THE INK BLOT GUEST SPOT: "Summer Sketches" by Vera Alexander

The ducks on the pond in the park always came rushing to the bank when they saw Sharon. In the short time that she had been going there they had learnt that where Sharon was, food was near. Sharon had started feeding them scraps of breads at first. She got a bit worried about this as she seemed to have a vague memory that bread was not really good for them – it swelled in their tummies or something. She couldn't remember if this was really bad or not really good for them so one day when she walked past a pet shop she decided to go in and ask for advice.

As she entered the shop a person walked towards her. The first thing she was aware of was a mop of bright pink hair, and then came the piercings: right eyebrow, left cheek (Ooo that must hurt!), a bar from the outside of one nostril to the other with a chain attaching the bar to a lip piercing. There was also a myriad of piercing in his/her (?) ears. Skinny (very skinny) jeans covered the legs and a deaths head tee shirt and black takkies completed the overall picture.

A pleasant cultured deep voice asked "Can I help you?"

Startled Sharon realised that the voice came from the (now established) gentleman in front of her. A fleeting thought scooted across her mind. "Don't judge a book by its cover!"

"Um yes. I work close to the park and I usually go there at lunch time. One day I still had the crusts of bread when I stood up. I crumpled them and flung the crumbs to the ducks. They soon got used to me and now expect me to feed them. I was just wondering if bread was okay?"

"Not really! A bit is fine as they forage for other things in the water. If you want to vary the diet you could try some fruit. What they don't eat the fruit eaters and monkeys will eat. The fruit will also bring fruit flies which is good and bad. Good for the insect eaters but bad for pollution! You could also take birdseed or special pellets as a change."

"Wow! This is more than I bargained for!" laughed Sharon.

"It's always best to let them forage for food so don't visit them everyday. And remember there are probably others who are also feeding them!"

"Okay – can you give me a small packet of uh…duck pellets did you say?"


Soon Sharon was walking out of the shop clutching the packet ready to experiment the next day.

During lunch the next day Sharon took out the small container of duck pellets and sprinkled them in front of the ducks as they waddled to meet her. At first they were a little bit suspicious. One brave soul waddled up, inspected it then turned to her as if to say "This is not our agreement! Where is the bread?"

Just then a little toddler approached. One hand was clutching her mom's hand and the other hand extended out towards the ducks, clutching a bit of bread. The duck turned its back on Sharon and waddled slowly towards the toddler. As he got closer, she got scared and ducked into her mom's skirts trying to climb up into her mom's arms. Sharon was storing the scene in her mind for future use. Her mom yanked her up and whispered in her ear. The little girl threw the bread as far as she could and then buried her head in her mom's chest, peeping shyly out to see if the duck took the bread. She giggled when she saw him take it.

While Sharon was watching this scene unfold a few of the younger ducks were examining the pellets. One, obviously braver than the rest pecked at a pellet, then pecked again. On the third peck he gulped it into his mouth and swallowed it. The others around him gained confidence and were soon pecking away at Sharon's feet.

In the days that followed they got used to the pellets. Sharon glowed when she noticed that they preferred to be near her than many of the other people offering them food scraps.

Sharon started taking her sketch pad with her when she went to park. So many scenes unfolded there and she had an overpowering need to capture as much as she could.

Vera Alexander

About the Author

Name: Vera Castleman but pen name is Vera Alexander.

I have always wanted to write but unfortunately life happened and writing just got shoved onto the back burner. My 3 year old UK granddaughter came to South Africa for a visit and asked me to write to her when she got back home. And so the Della and Easter series sprang into being. This series is aimed (with gorgeous illustrations by Manuela!) at children under 8 years of age. There are five books in the series all of which are available on Four of the books are available on

I have also written a teen graphic novel called "In the Twinkling of an Eye" and a novella called "Full Circle". Both of these are available on

At present I am writing a novel called "Darkest before Dawn"
If you wish to keep up to date with me you can catch me at: and

Thursday, 16 January 2014


I just wanted some clarity. I wanted some light to come down from heaven and illuminate my path.
I wanted to see my way clear.

I suppose I am tired of stumbling forward in the dark, sometimes stubbing my toes, or bumping my nose into insurmountable obstacles.

I wanted clarity, and so I prayed; and though I have often been heard before, and answered (although to my chagrin the answer hasn't always been what I wanted to hear); this time the silence was deafening. I realised suddenly: my question, my plea was absurd.

What I was asking for was not clarity at all; I was asking for certainty.
I was taking the coward's way out.
I was edging my bets, holding back.
And that is not how it works.

There is no clarity, or certainty.

We are all as blind as bats in this twisted path.
We must stride out with confidence and trust anyway, hold nothing back.
And if we can't see the way and we stumble?
Well then, we get to rest for a minute.
We press our cheeks to that comforting ground for a second, then up we get.
Chin up, head back - and back on that track.

Manuela Cardiga

THE INK BLOT GUEST SPOT: "The Time of Spring Lightning" by Steven Lewis

It was the time of spring lightning that I missed you the most.

My jeans were rolled up to the knee and I´d discarded my shirt on the riverbank the first time I noticed you staring at me. Your hair the colour of freshly harvested corn glowed golden in the sunlight. I grinned at you uncertainly, conscious of my slight chest and my dark skin. You half-waved at me before padding your way barefoot along the newly emerged purple and yellow flowers, their resilient petals flattening into the soft springy grass before emerging back triumphant and upright as you headed further down the riverbank. Almost as soon as your back was turned I planted my fishing pole into the sticky sucking mud at the riverside and retrieved my shirt, wiping the soft clay off of my bare feet on the cool dew glazed grass.

Although this wasn´t nigger territory it wasn´t white man´s turf area either. No man´s land my daddy liked to call it. The great depression as folks were calling it nowadays had affected us all, black and white, and it had become a great leveler of all men.

Over the last year or so more and more shacks had been springing up around here as folks began losing their jobs and their homes. Daddy was one of the lucky ones who had managed to hold down a job but greasing the tracks on the railroad didn´t really pay much and the few Dollars he managed to bring home at the end of a working week meant that we weren´t much better off than the poor and destitute that lived around these parts.

I´d left school shortly after my twelfth birthday. I hadn´t learnt much at all and the reality was school didn´t put food on the table. I´d help around the local farms doing odd jobs and assisted with the harvest when they needed cheap labour. The rest of the time I would spend at the riverside with my pole hoping to catch us a bite to eat. Mama didn´t work, what with my three younger sisters and another baby in her swollen belly she had more than enough of her share of work just keeping our home running smoothly.

I scrambled further up the bank and looked over to where you were sat amongst the first of the spring flowers, a small blanket spread out on the grass and a book in your hand. I didn´t really know much white folks besides the old pink faced farmer over at Heartshead Manor and the odd few moonshine tramps that would stumble upon these parts now and again begging for a bite to eat or a belly full of ´shine.

The day you and your family first moved here the other residents were in uproar proclaiming that you´d be nothing but trouble but in the six months that your family had been here the only trouble maker was your older brother Dan.

Dan the Man he liked to call himself when he was full of the ´shine and he would race around in that battered pick- up truck of his destroying what little crops we managed to coax out of the soil and causing general mayhem in his wake.

White trash my daddy called him and the rest of your family. I thought it was unfair. I truly believed you to be the most beautiful girl I´d ever laid eyes on and I felt a great sense of injustice that you were burdened as white trash simply because of your no good brother.

I´d seen you a few times reading alongside the river but today had been the first time that you had acknowledged me and it made me feel happy and nervous at the same time almost as though we had just crossed an invisible barrier and moved into hitherto unknown territory.

The following week as I was setting up my pole I could feel that I was being watched. I spun around and you were stood above me on top of the riverbank looking down at me. I was grateful that this time I had kept me shirt on.

“Do you mind if I set up my blanket right here on the banking?” she asked smiling nervously. “I´m always sat on my own and I get awful lonely with no one to talk to.”

It was the first time I´d seen her up close and to me she was even more beautiful than I´d ever imagined. Her eyes were the palest of blue like a hazy sky and her teeth although crooked and overlapping in places were healthy and white. And her hair; It took me all my strength to hold myself back from reaching out and taking it into my hands if only to run my fingers through it.

“Sure ma´am,” I answered, “Although I ain´t much of a talker.”

“Please don´t call me ma´am, ma´am makes me sound like an old lady and I´m guessing you and me is much the same age. My name´s Valerie but most folks call me Val. What do folks call you?”

“My name´s Earl,” I replied. “Everyone just calls me Earl. Excuse me Valerie; I have to sort out my pole.”

“Sure you go on right ahead Earl. I´m gonna set up my blanket.”

The first few times we spent together we barely spoke at all. I think that we were both conscious that a taboo had been broken and this alone was something for us to reflect upon before we made this anything more than just two young people sharing the same space.

On the fifth day you began reading aloud from the book that you had with you. I was surprised to find that it was a bible.

“It´s the only book I´ve got. I´d like to try reading something else but we have no money for books and besides mama says that all books ´cepting the bible are the works of the devil so even if I had another book she would destroy it first before she let me read it.”

I vowed that one day I would buy Valerie a book; one that we could read together.

Towards the end of the summer Valerie told me she was leaving. Her papa had secured a job over at the mines for the winter time. She promised that they would return next spring in preparation for the harvest.

I cried the night she left.

Time went on in its usual way when before long spring was upon us once again. I´d just set up my pole when I heard this shrieking coming from the bushes up yonder.

I could hear my name been hollered out from up above the river bank. I scrambled up the slippery grass slope and was rewarded with the sight of Valerie bounding towards me, her golden hair trailing behind her like a wild banshee. She ran forward, opened her arms and hugged me tightly.

“Did you miss me?” she asked breathlessly.

“Everyday,” I replied honestly. “Your hair´s grown real long.”

“My breasts have gotten bigger too,” said Val mischievously, thrusting her chest out proudly.

I looked down at her protruding breasts and could feel myself blushing fiercely.

We chatted about her life in the big city where the mines were. It all seemed so exotic to me, my life had barely changed besides having a new baby sister. The day flew by in a blur and before I knew it dusk began to fall and it was time for us to return to our respective homes.

“Keep a look out for Dan,” said Valerie. “His drinking has got real bad and he´s getting more and more violent as time goes on. It´s best you keep out of his way.”

“Sure, I´ll keep that in mind,” I said as we reluctantly parted and went our separate ways.

The next day I made my way down to the river with a spring in my step and with a small package wrapped in string and brown paper tucked under my arm.

Valerie cried when she unwrapped her first book. I´d had to rely on the man in the bookstore to provide me with a book that he thought that Valerie would like and it had seemed really strange going to buy a book when I was unable to read myself but boy was it worth it in the end.

We kissed that day and it was the sweetest most magical thing that had ever happened to me. I floated home on a high and I had to keep pinching myself to ensure that I wasn´t dreaming.

I was worried that things would be awkward when I next saw Valerie again but it wasn´t and we spent the day alternating between Valerie reading out loud from her new book and holding each other close sharing those oh so sweet and tender kisses.

It was whilst I was in Valerie´s warm embrace that I felt a dark shadow looming over us. I turned to face Dan, Valerie´s brother.

I saw his large meaty fist as it crashed into my face but I remember nothing else.

I didn´t see Valerie for the rest of the spring or the following spring either. The loneliness of winter was so frustrating. I watched the pine needles as they turned to stalactites, shooting down like silver arrows from the trees. I watched the fog drifting off the surface of the river and dreamed of springtime and Valerie´s return and as springtime inched ever closer I watched the spring lightning alone with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes.

When the following spring was upon us and Valerie still hadn´t returned I attempted to leave, to seek her out but my efforts proved futile and before long I was lost and frightened so I returned dejected and cold to my lonely home.

It was on the fourth spring that Valerie returned. She sat next to me and read from a book just like old times. She told me of her unhappiness and her loneliness. I was happy just to listen to her voice.

She came every year after that and she grew more beautiful with each passing year. Our favorite thing was to watch the spring lightning flashing brightly as it warned of the summer rainfall soon to come, its coulorful arcs creating frozen silhouettes before our eyes in the woods on the other side of the river. Valerie never married; she told me that she had only ever loved one man and that fate had never allowed it to happen.

On our fifty second spring together Valerie told me she was dying. I watched as she swallowed the little white pills one by one in between delicate sips from the small bottle of French champagne that she had brought with her.

Soon she grew drowsy and her blue eyes began clouding over, tiny tears clinging tenaciously to the corners of her eyes like twinkling diamonds.

She lay down beside me on top of my unmarked grave.

We watched the springtime lightning together.

Steven Lewis

About the Author

Steven Lewis doesn´t consider himself as a writer but just somebody who likes to scribble the odd few poems and short stories when it takes his fancy.  A showcase of some of his poems can be found in his e-book Slim Pickings and his first attempt at a full length novel, Nice´n Sleazy, is due for publication in both paperback and electronic formats in March this year. Steven Lewis was born in West Yorkshire, England and moved to South Africa as a child where he lived for several years before returning to the UK for a spell. He now resides in Caleta De Fuste on the island of Fuerteventura.