J is for Janice

J is for Janice From the day she was born, Janice was given everything she wanted. She didn’t need to cry for too long before either her doting father or loving mother would be at her side, fussing over her with reassuring words of comfort and kisses on her forehead. From this moment on Janice knew that she was a very special person and because of that she could have Read more

I is for Impossible

I is for impossible. Having blown out her one hundred candles, with a slight relieve that her dentures didn’t come flying out covering the butter icing, Alice was quite exhausted and glad to be back in the solitary of her room, where she lit up a stogie and sat back in her chair. As much as everyone had made a great fuss over her centenary birthday, with just as many making Read more

H is for Hipster

H is for Hipster. The reason the new eatery stood out so much to Donald, was its choice of setting up shop in a part of town where the most exotic experience to be had was a mangey charity shop for a local cat charity. But that’s how these Hipster cafe’s start isn’t it, they move into a place with low rent and once they are established others move in. Read more

G is for Glenn

G is for Glenn. I’ve always loved horror stories. Skeletons have been at the forefront. I had a full size paper, glow in the dark skeleton and then a bit later the poster on the opposite side of my bed was of a skeleton on a motorbike, which I thought was great! I think i got it after seeing th esketon riding a motoabike in the Hammer Horror, Doctor, Terrors, Read more

F is for Fur

F is for Fur. Roger lay in bed, every time he opened his eyes the room span madly making him shut his eyes tight again. Downstairs he could hear the others getting on and knew that he too had to get up. Ever so gradually, Roger held both hands tight round his face as he lifted his head off the pillow. With his eyes still tightly shut he made the familiar Read more

A is for Arachnophobia

A to Z of horror. Write flash fiction based on that letter.

A is for Arachnophobia

lots of spiders

In all it took him an hour to take his final breath, made all the worse by the paralysis  and the harrowing side effects.
We’d been working the graveyard shift at the supermarket warehouse, unloading crates of bananas. It wasn’t until it was too late that I realised just what had happened. A huge spider sprang out of no where, it was Mick who spotted it, and stamped on it. Neither of us were to know the damn thing was pregnant… it really was like something from a horror film, a hundred baby spiders sprang out of their mother’s wound and covered the floor.

In a flash they were crawling up every surface, including us. Together we were like a pair of flamingo dancers, stamping the floor. It was only when Mick screamed a really high pitch scream that I realised one of the bastard had got on his skin and bitten him; the two tiny pinpricks were only visible by the two tiny drips of blood that appeared on the side of his neck. It was while I was looking at the tiny wounds that I got bitten on the leg. I grabbed some twine and wrapped it round my leg, I think it is that that is keeping the worst of the side effects at bay.

Soon after getting bitten, Mick said he felt really dizzy, that the room was spinning; he then fell back on to a crate. His eyes rolled back and he kept swiping the air in front of him before attacking his own skin. That’s when he really stated to scream the place down; I was kind of hoping someone would hear him and come running in, so joined in, I yelled and yelled, then suddenly Mick went dead quiet.

…I’m not one for faith, but I’m praying right now to any ‘God’ willing to listen. Hell if the Devil is tuned in, then please come and end this misery; my soul is for the taking.

I went to yell of us when the air changed with a smell I instantely recognised. Back in my youth I had worked at an abattoir, the same stench that came from the animals poured back into my head, mixed in with the fresh green scent of bananas. Mick jolted which made me jump up, only to instantely crumple back down, sensing his demise the spiders marched in. I scambled at the twines, pulling them tighter, begging to stop or at least delay the inevitable.

https://youtu.be/XnGt77u9ncU

 

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Gay Icons: Saluting the Sissy

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First published in www.gscene.com 01/01/2017:

Happy New Year! If I close my eyes I can take myself right back to living at home with my Nana and Sister, laughing at the campness of the likes of Larry Grayson (Shut that Door) and John Inman (I’m Free!) which we all really loved. As I got a bit older, these two characters where lambasted by right-on gay men, with cries that they did not represent the gay community. My guess was that it was never their intention, they were just being themselves, doing their job. There was further outcry that their characters were deemed safe’ to be on the telly as they were both sexless. I think if anyone bothered to re-watch a few episodes of Larry Grayson’s stand up performances they’d see plenty of sexual innuendo going on with his references to his postman, Pop it In Pete, or his more romantic suggestions with his song, My Friend Everard (get-it?) Is More Then A Friend To Me.th-1
Of course the writers of Our You Being Served and John Inmman both said the character, Mr Humpries wasn’t gay, the gag was the same with Mrs Slocombe was genuinely about her cat each time she mentioned her pussy, to do otherwise was to ruin the magicial nod, nod, wink wink on which the series was famed for. For me, I recognised the gay ellement in John Inman’s character and connected with that. I clearly remember sitting up straight when watching an episode of Are You Being Served, whth-3en John Inman suddenly popped out of a Wendy House, alongside a gorgeous bloke dressed up as a sailor, sporting a black beard…maybe that’s when my fixation with bearded men first began. To me, both these men are gay icons, along with the brilliant Hugh Paddick and Kenneth Williams aka Julian and Sandy (Ohh, how Bona!)

Sure, it would have been great to have a more diverse set of gay characters on the TV/radio but back then, and for a good while after, camp men where the only visible gays out there; the alternative would be guilt ridden stereotypes, I know which ones I prefer.
Another favourite gay icon of mine is Quentin Crisp. When I was eighteen, I saw Crisp’s autobiography TV drama, The Naked Civil Servant in which Crisp describes how he wanted to make his homosexuality, ‘abundantly clear’, by hennaing his hairand painting his nails red, even though such acts made him the target of homophobia. Crisp’s bravery made me all the more determined to be a happy, out, gay man.

Around this time, early 1980’s, there came a new influx of ballsie gay/bi men via the music scene, including: Marc Almond, Boy George, Marilyn, Pete Burns; these guys where ‘out there’ with their looks, but I was really drawn to the likes of Holly Johnson and Paul Rutherford (Frankie Goes to Hollywood) and theth-5 trio from Bronski Beat, Jimmy Someville, Larry Stienbachek and Steve Bronski. Frankie for their sexually explicit lyrics and video for Relax and Bronski Beat for their many unashamedly political gay songs, from Small Town Boy, Why and It Ain’t Necessarily So.th-6 th-7

These musicians may name check, David Bowie as a major influence, but it is the likes of Grayson, Inmanand Crisp who way before them were shaking up the norm, paving the way for other peacocks to shine. However, there’s a section of society both LGBT and straight who find camp men offensive. I recently saw the Play, Boys in The Band  (see clips from the movie) that shows that although we can all be a bit camp, it is very easy to turn on the sissy. I personally salute the sissy, the camp man, the queer. What isn’t right is that there is still very little acknowledgement for these camp men’s (as Ru Paul would say) “Charisma, uniqueness, th-8nerve and talent”. They may not have seen themselves as queer pioneers but without them this world would most certainly be a much less interesting place.

for more camp:The Queens of Camp Comedy

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It’s Christmas time, so let’s get afraid…with a good christmas horror film!!!

I enjoy Christmas, putting the tinsel up and popping a fairy on top of an over decorated tree are all part of the festive cheer, but there can be a bit too much saccharine this time of year. Should you find yourself reaching for the insulin when Sugar plum fairy shoves bucket loads of sweets down your throat while watching The Nutcracker, then it really is time to seek out an anti-Christmas alternatives and what better way then to order in some classic Christmas horror (and one ghost) films.

For me, there is nothing worse then settling down with some popcorn, chocolate and a glass of eggnog, only to find that the film you have your warm woollen mitts on is just so lame that you end up fast forwarding it knowing full well who or why ‘did it’ and instantly forget (or care) by the end of the credits. So, with this in mind, here are my ‘Top Five Classic Christmas Horror (and one ghost) Films’.
5) Black Christmas 1974 (1974).

Black Christmas

This is one of my sister Dawn’s favourite 70’s horror films and one I remember her telling me all about the creative deaths! Way before the likes of lone stalker horror films like, Halloween and Friday the 13th came along, Black Christmas was setting up many of the tropes that would be exploited in the nod and wink, Scream series. The now familiar premise sees a group of ‘sorority girls’ getting ready to celebrate Christmas. The girls have been receiving anonymous phone calls from someone they call, The Moaner as he just breaths heavy down the phone.
After calling The Moaners bluff, he replies with the chilling threat that he will kill them all.
As with this slasher film and all the ones that would follow, it is the inventive way the killer bumps of his victims that stays with the audience. (Spoiler alert) The first death is particularly gruesome and will have you will be cling-filming that left over turkey in a very different way. For me, the most memorable murder comes when the killer (is it The Moaner?) bumps off the Housemother, Mrs Mac (a comical ‘fishwife’ character) who makes the classic Slasher film victim mistake by going up into the attic (The other ‘No, No,’ is to go down into the cellar or call out, “who’s there?” when going to investigate a noise outside). Anyway, back to Black Christmas, Mrs. Mac having no idea of the horror film rules pops up into the attic and sees the killers handy work of his cling-film victim. Mrs Mac is swiftly dispatched by a swinging hook and zipped up into the attic.
Black Christmas is a slow burner allowing plenty of time for the audience to get to like the characters and then in turn have an emotional connection with them, making the experience all the more terrifying. Their was a remake of Black Christmas (2006) which added more gore due to the success of gore-porn fest of films like Hostel. But where the likes Hostel and the original had a strong storyline, Black Christmas (2006) relied too much on splattering the screen with blood, so my advice, stick to watching the original. (Spoiler alert) What makes Black Christmas so good is it ambiguous ending; Although we think the killer is dead the phone starts to ring…

4) Gremlins: The worse Christmas ever…. (1984).

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There are so many brilliant parts to Gremlins, from the dad getting a cute Mogwai creature for his son, Billy, Christmas present, to said Mogwai spitting fur balls that transform into the title of the film. However, for me, the favourite part of the film comes when Billy’s girlfriend tell’s Billy why she doesn’t like Christmas by retelling the classic Urban Legend (Although it has since gone on to happen in real life more then once!) of how her dad had dressed up as Santa with the intention of slipping down the chimney to surprise his family with gifts. Unbeknown to his wife and daughter they think he has gone missing and wait four or five days….it’s cold so his daughter lights a fire “It is then I recognised the smell” Fire men come, and find her dad has broken his neck and got stuck halfway done the chimney! eke!

3) Tales from the Crypt. Killer santa on the loose!

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This is another favourite of my sister and I’s, starring the Brilliant Joan Collins. Collins, Like Steve McQueen, started their careers in B-movies. While McQueen was seeing off The Blob, Collins was fighting Giant ants (Empire of the Ants). But it is Collins turn as a murderess wife in Tales from the Crypt that get’s her onto this list.
Based on the 1950’s comics of the same name, Collins bumps of her wealthy husband and then makes it look (quite unconvincingly if you ask me) like an accident along with the worse fake blood imaginable; all of which makes this chapter from Tales form the Crypt worth a look, but there is so much more! Borrowing once again from the Bumper Book of Urban Legends, the story unfolds with the radio announcing that a psychopath has escaped from the local asylum and is dressed as in a Santa outfit (as you do). The next ten minutes sees Collins world collapse as the Psycho Santa tries to break into her house. Unable to call the police (dead husband) Collin’s whizzers around the house locking all the windows, checking all the locks. But poor old Joan hadn’t banked on her excited young daughter spying Santa (who, it has to be said, looks pretty ropy) outside so she lets him in. Seriously though, If that scene was remade now both mother and daughter would quickly get weaponed up and kick that psycho Santa’s boney arse! Alas, poor Joan get’s her comeuppance as is the rule with this type of Horror.

4) Silent Night, Deadly Night. Trailer

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Dawn, I think you’d like this film, not because it is one of the all time classic Christmas films of all time, but because it is so bad and because of that it is so good.
Okay, here’s the plot, Billy and his baby brother Ricky, along with their parents are off to see their granddad on Christmas Eve. Good old Grandad, who has not spoken in years, waits to get Billy on his own and speaks! but instead of sharing christmas cheer, he tells young Billy that Santa know’s he has been bad and will punish him! Eke, eke eke!!
On the way home a robber (dressed as Santa) kills Billy’s parents forcing Billy and Ricky into an Orphanage, run by stick nuns, twisting poor Billy even further.
Fast forward ten years, Billy is working in a toy shop and on Christmas Eve is forced to be father Christmas. Doh!
Poor Billy’s mind snaps, he goes on a killing spree and…well that would spoil the fun! The film was highly criticised upon its release by people who never saw the film by parents who didn’t think Santa should be depicted as a homicidal maniac. The publicity made the film a cult, which in turn spun four more sequels and a remake!
For me personally, the original is the best, although Micky Rooney in part 4 as a demonic toy makes that particular sequel well worth a look as it will surly banish all cutesy memories of him in any of the five films with Judy Garland a distant memory.
But back to SNDN1; it’s clear that the main part of the budget was spent on Billy’s Santa suit, It’s rich, it’s plush, it even has bells on! The special effects are a bit rubbish….really bad in fact, but that’s all part of it, it’s like watching a modern day Ed wood directed movie, what more of a recommendation do you need!

5) The Innocents. Trailer

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Based on one of my all time favourite ghost stories, Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw, which has been adapted into films, an opera and even a ballet is a truly unnerving experience. The premises is pretty simple; a young woman, Miss Giddens (the brilliant Deborah Kerr) with limited experience of the world becomes a governess to two perfect children, Flora and Miles who’s parents are both dead, leaving their uncle (Michael Redgrave) who has no desire to look after either of them except financially, by keeping Miles at a private school and for the new governess to home school Flora at his country estate in the middle of nowhere. Isolation is always a great setting for a horror film, but it isn’t just the setting that creates the isolation for the young governess, but the fact that the only other (living) adult is the cook, played by Megs Grose (people of a certain age will know her better as Mrs Bridges from Up Stairs Down stairs) who can not read or write, an important plot devise to create further uncertainty about Miss Giddens take on reality. Mrs Grose informs the governess about the previous Governess, Miss Jessel who had been influenced by the Uncle’s Valet the rough and ready, Quint; both of whom are now dead. As the story unfolds, the governess sees both Miss Giddens and Quint on numerous occasions and becomes convinced the evil pair have come back from the grave to takeover the bodies of the governesses young charges. What makes this film particularly creepy (and been particularly popular with New Criticism) is that as a viewer you are never too sure if there is really a unworldly presence, or if it is the governess who is seeing things. The innocents of the children and the lack of education from the cook only help to compound the feeling of what is going on. However, it is the ending that is truly shocking and makes this film a real must for a chilling Christmas treat.

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Gscene piece: November 2016

th-1In my last column, I wrote about how their has been a steady change in segregation in the gay bars and clubs, with a younger generation seeing men only/women only places as a relic from the past. Although there will always be a need (I think) for some kind of segregation, we certainly have come a long way from the time I remember back in the 1980s, I can clearly remember some men being mortified if a woman wandered into their watering-hole and out would come the vile, flippant  misogynist comment from some of the older gay men, with their description of lesbian’s as well, I’ll reinterpret the vile line as, ‘fruits de la mer’. There was also a pub in Hove tried to implement a policy were women were only allowed if they were accompanied by a gay man.
It would take the catastrophic horrors of AIDS to bring these two communities together which was recalled in the amazing documentary, We Were Here, about the arrival of the AIDS Epidemic in the USA. With an urgent need for blood transfusions, lesbians in California garnered themselves together and gave blood. Here in the UK, I remember many lesbians came forward to volunteer in any way they could to support the gay men who were suffering in large numbers to the horrifying effects of AIDS; along with an onslaught of hatred and stigma from the tabloid press which fed in to the fear and anxiety of the wider public.th-2Thirty-four years on since, Terry Higgins, one of the first people to die from AIDS, we really have come along way with anti-retroviral treatments. The divisions within the LGBT community has shrunk considerably and when we work together we achieve amazing things as we will once again witness on December 1st, World AIDS Day. Unfortunately there is so much more to be done to tackle the stigma of living with an HIV+ diagnoses, particularly with HIV positive and HIV negative gay men.
For me, this issue has been brought sharply into focus with the increase of HIV+ dating apps. I really understand the need for such apps which allow HIV+ people to feel comfortable about their HIV+ status without fear of stigma or abuse but we are living in a time when we have a real opportunity to eradicate HIV through use of condoms, antiretroviral drugs, PrEP and a heavy dose of compassion.
HIV+ stigma seriously needs stamping out if we are to reach a time when HIV is assigned to the history books.
THT have been running a brilliant advertisement campaign, It Starts With Me, urging every sexually active individual to take responsibility for their own sexual health. Together as a community we can make a positive difference, if people change their negative attitude about those living with an HIV+ diagnose.
So from today let’s do that, let’s take responsibility for not only our individual sexual health, but start treating everyone with respect, regardless of their HIV status.

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Love your Library

For many people who have not visited their local library for a long time, they may still have memories of places steeped in silence that should it be broken a stern librarian, wearing tweed and half rimmed glasses dishes out a severe, “SSSHHH!”th

 

 

 

 

The truth is many libraries are now far removed from this past image, anyone who visits Jubilee Library, Brighton (just up from the road from the Dome) will quickly realise just how much things have changed.

The award winning building, was built with energy efficiency in mind. As well as the building itself, Jubilee library’s collection of books are also diverse; from their rare books to the wide range of fiction and non fiction collections. You will find everything there from Africa, Animals, Anne Boleyn to Zombies, Zorro, to Zadie Smith.

As well as the physical books, there are also plenty of online material to get stuck into. All you need to do is to become a library member, which is free and then log into the Brighton and Hove Library website to have a plethora of information at your finger tips. What is your interest, newspapers, magazines, biographies, career help, Which magazine, (in libraries only), UK citizenship information, Academic research, it is all there waiting for you to discover it.
Fan of the graphic novel? not only is there a large collection of all your favourites along with a few hidden gems at Jubilee and Hove Library, but there are literally thousands of  comics and graphic novesl to download for free on to your device for you to view 24/7.

Libraries are all about diversity, In a town like Brighton, it would have been expected that such books would have always been on offer to the public, but it has only been in the last six years that this collection has . Of course, there have been LGBT themed novels available on the shelf, with the likes of Lesbian/gay classics, Radcliffe Hall’s Well of Loneliness and E.M. Forster’s Maurice, but now there are now a wide range of fiction, non fiction and a great collection of DVD’s aimed at the wide range of personalities that make up the LGBT communityth

There had been a consultation on whether in the 21 century if such book should just be absorbed within the libraries collection. I personally feel, that although we are living in a very forward thinking city, there is still a need for a dedicated LGBT collection that can be accessed easily.

In our city of Brighton it may be too easy to think that those within the LGBT community live their lives as if every day was a Pride celebration, but the fact is any one of us will at some point have to face up to any number of obstacles that can have an effect on our mental or physical health. Again, Jubilee and Hove Library, along with smaller collections in the branch libraries, have a fantastic collection of books shelved under, Books On Prescription.

th-3Books On Prescription are a carefully selected set of books, covering a wide range of health topics, including: anxiety, depression, phobias, eating/drinking/smoking addictions, sleep problems, dementia, that you can either access via the library or have recommended to you by your GP.
I’m guessing for those who have not been to their local library, be it Jubilee, Hove, Coldean, Hangleton, Hollingbury, Mile Oak, Moulscoomb, Patcham, Portslade, Rottingdean, Westdean Saltdean, Woodingdean and Whitehawk.

In a time when Libraries are closing across the country, Brighton and hove libraries are going from strength to strength, so go on, do yourself a favour and pop into your local library today to see what’s on offer.

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Love to Read: ways of getting back into the habit.

img_6096For many people, reading is a true pleasure, a way of escaping into a different world, for others the very thought of tackling a book can be so daunting, that they are put off by the experience altogether. Such feelings can come from a number of experiencers, from dyslexia, poor eyesight to just not being confident that they will finish a book, which then feeds into despondency.

Thankfully your local library has many options of different reading material to help everyone participate in the pleasure of a good book.

Graphic novels: The time when graphic novels were just for teenage boys has long gone, these days the range of graphic novels cover just about any subject you can think of, from the traditional Super Hero  to books about Brighton history, Maus, to classic tales.
The brilliant thing about graphic novels is there accessibility through pictures and words, making this medium the perfect introduction for the reluctant reader. Brighton and Hove libraries also offer a free download service of hundreds of graphic novels and books that can be borrowed in the same way as physical books.

Essential Skills Books are a collection of classic abridged novels and short
stories. This collection of books are brilliant for people who want to access well known books but are put of by the sheer volume of words. This collection is also a great way for people who wish to learn English as a second language. Many of the Essential skills books are accompanied with a CD allowing the reader to improve their reading skills.

Large Print Books are exactly that, a range of fiction an dnon fiction books written in large print to help those with poor vision.

Audio Books are another way for everyone to access the joy of story telling. For many people, the last time they were read to was as a child. It is only when you choose to give an audio book a go, do you realise just what a pleasure it is to be read too. Audio books are a great for the visually impaired, to have playing in the car on long road trips, to having a great tale read to you before night-time.

Many of Brighton Hove libraries also have a collection of specialist books, from large picture books for children, books in brail and reminiscence books; these books have text and images especially developed for those living with dementia.

There are so many ways for those who love books, haven’t read in a while or are just starting on their journey of discovery into the wonderful world of reading, all it takes is for you to choose your medium, from paper back to ebooks, their is something for everyonew

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Love to Read

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There is a new project called Love To Read, whose main remit is to get people of all ages from all walks of life back into the habit of reading. There are many reasons why people have stopped reading, from busy lives to just plainly falling out of love with reeading. Have a look on the Love to Read website to find ways of getting back into a habit that once rediscovered can bring so much joy.

As part of my involvement with the project, Love to Read, I would like to recommend some of my favourite books, first up, Ray Bradbury’s, Fahrenheit 451Fahrenheit 451

Ray Bradbury’s iconic novel, Fahrenheit 451 first came in to being when he was living in a cramped house with his wife and new born baby daughter, he desperately needed a ‘room of his own’ to write. it was around this time that he was walking through the University of California, he heard the sound of typing in the basement of the library. it was there he discovered a room filled with twelve typewriters that people could rent for ten cents for half an hour.

(Did you know that all fourteen of Brighton and Hove’s libraries offer use of computers for registered library uses, the first hour is free (2 hours free for people on certain benefits) and £1 per hour there after.

Bradbury’s book touchers on the dystopia themes that have been explored in many other mediums of this type, from George Orwell’s, 1984, Aldous Huxley, Brave New World and Suzanne Collins, Hunger Games. (all of which are availible from Brighton and hove Libraries.)

The title of Bradbury’s book, Fahrenheit 451, relates to the temperature at which paper burns and it is book burning that is at the centre of this tale. Set in the future, where houses are fireproof, firemen are employed to seek out and burn any books that are found. Bradbury looks back on past history of both governments and religious authorities who have exerted their power and created fear over others through burning books.

The authorities in Fahrenheit 451 believe that books are harmful as they would make people question their existence and purpose in the world that is controlled through a banal feed of television programmes in which residence are sent scripts so they can interact with the shows.

The main protagonist, Montag, a dedicated firman and destroyer of books, meets a young woman called Clarisse McClellan who unlike the other residents in her neighbourhood notices the natural things in life and finds beauty in them, from a dandelion in the grass to the rain on her face. Montag finds these qualities most strange as he has lived a life of not feeling or thinking for himself for so long.

It is through his further encounters with Clarisse that he begins to question why he destroys books. His motives are shaken further when he, along with his team of firemen raid a house (neighbours are encouraged to inform the authorities if they suspect their neighbours are hoarding books). This is a direct echo of the Bradbury’s concerns he had of Republican U.S. Senator, Joseph McCarthy and his drive to encourage anyone to expose people deemed to be Communists.

On his latest mission, Montag is horrified to find that the person accused of hoarding books has not been arrested and taken to the local asylum. As the books rain down on her and are soaked in kerosene, the woman takes out a box of matches. in the mids of everyones panic, Montag steals one of her books and hides it in his jacket then runs as the woman commits suicide, setting fire to her belovered books as well as herself.

From here on in Montag’s eyes are forced open as he fights everything he had held as true and seeks out others who find passion beyond the mundane in books.

I would highly recommend this book for people who like sci-fi/dystopia novels and for those who have never given this genre a go before. The realism of the settings allow the reader to enter the world of Fahrenheit 451 with ease but will leave them wanting to explore many of the other brilliant novels by Bradbury.

For more infomation about the Love to Read project and how to get invloved please follow this link

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Somebodies Son.

Somebodies Son.

P1080145The moment I walk into the chemist and see her I know she is my mother. I wait and watch her in the security mirror. When she turns the corner I bump into her, knocking her handbag and its contents to the floor. Dropping to my knees I apologise, “I’m really sorry. Are you okay? Here’s your purse.”

She’s so grateful she doesn’t notice me slipping her notebook into my coat pocket. As she wanders off she leaves behind a scent that is unmistakably Mum.
Only when I’m safely back in the side street do I allow myself to look at her little notebook. The cover is black, crinkled like crocodile skin. I run my thumb over the gold lettering, M.a.r.g.a.r.e.t. A tingle ripples up my hand. Over the years I have thought of many names for my mother, but it makes perfect sense that she’s called Margaret. Margaret’s are strong, honest, and reliable… just like that Mrs Thatcher.
On the first page mum has written her name, Margaret J. Lawrence, 11 Blanche Street. Her handwriting is so neat, I wish she had been around to teach me.
She’ll be home soon, if I’m quick I can surprise her. How pleased she’ll be to see me waiting. I catch sight of my scruffy face in a shop window, I can’t remember when I last shaved or washed. Mum will help transform me back into her son. Perhaps we’ll even make it on the front page of the Ipswich Star, “Long Lost Son, Home at Last.”
When I eventually get to Blanche Street my heart sinks. Opposite the row of tatty run down terrace houses is a dirt track where a couple of burnt-out cars and a white van is parked. This was not what I had been expecting. In dreams I saw us together living in a country cottage with roses around the door or perhaps a detached house with a long gravelled driveway. I’m puzzled. What could have happened to my mother for her to end up living in this hellhole of a street.
The front door is locked and the curtains pulled tightly shut, a good sign, you never know who might be skulking around in an area like this.
I think of mum, she looks so much different to what I had imagined. She’s aged more than I expected, but that doesn’t matter as greying hair can easily be dyed back to blonde. When we are together I will help her with her makeup. Her lips will be rose pink for daywear and poppy red for when we go out on the town.
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Want to read more? check out the full tales at blanchestreet.co.uk for link to buy the book.

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Bystander: a horror story.

Bystander: A Horror Story.

Spilt milk
As Megan opened the back door, her mother’s voice boomed out from the lounge, “Don’t blame me, blame the cat.”

Negotiating the minefield of saucers of souring milk, Megan mumbled to herself that the damn cat had been dead for years. Stepping into the back room, she looked around at the fading floral wallpaper, marked out with bright squares where pictures had once made the place a home. Back then Lilly had been very keen to present to the world a well maintained home, with everything in its place. However, that was a long time ago, now the house was practically an empty shell. The front room was the only place in the house that was barely hanging on to its former memories.

Megan had had the room converted into a bed-sit after her mother had suffered a small stroke and could no longer manage the stairs. That day had been a test of everyone’s patience; with her younger sister, Gloria complaining that she had little time to spare, as she still hadn’t found the perfect outfit for Charle’s and Di’s wedding. The fact that she would be sitting at home watching the event on the television did not seem absurd to her at all. In the end, Gloria got her husband Nigel to help shift the furniture around downstairs to accommodate a single bed. Lilly had wanted her double bed, but even she had to agree it would leave little room for her wing-backed armchair and precious sideboard. In the end the single bed was wedged against the front door, allowing Lilly to see through the middle room and the kitchen at the back. Her armchair was placed by the window while the sideboard took pride of place against the far wall.

In the centre of the sideboard stood a faded black and white snapshot of Lilly and her husband Joe on their wedding day, to the left, a photo of Gloria, aged fifteen wearing a light pink sash declaring her, ‘Little Miss Brighton, Seaside Queen 1969’. A year later Gloria had married Nigel, a man seven years her senior. Their collection of brightly coloured nuptials dominated the other side of the sideboard alongside a stash of memorabilia from Gloria and Nigel’s various holidays abroad, including: a conk shell from the Maldives, a ship in the bottle from the Caribbean and a Micky Mouse letter rack declaring Florida, ‘The Sunshine State’. Megan had thought her sister had married too young, but now she saw that her sister had been more than canny in getting away with caring for their mother.

The only photo Lilly had of Megan had been tucked behind the other memories. It had been taken the year before she had left school. She hated the face that stared from the frame, all teeth and hair; harking back to the time when she was openly known as the ugly sister; a label Megan had never quite been able to let go off. On numerous occasions Megan had asked her mother to get rid of it, only for Lilly to snap back, “If you’d got someone to marry you, or done something important with your life, then I would have had that framed instead.”

With a deep breath, Megan stepped into the front room and once again the stale smell of her mother and the state of the room reminded her that things could not carry on like this for much longer.

“Is that you Meg?” boomed Lilly.

“Yes Mum, replied Megan, “you’ve lost your teeth again?”
* * *

Like to read more? pop on over to blanchestreet.co.uk for info on all ten tales and how to get your hands on the e-book

 

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Writing Everyday in October: I Love Trish.

Ipswich 143 - Version 2
The taste of blood slid across Howard’s tongue as the Norwich to Ipswich train rattled along the track. For the last half hour he had nervously bitten his nails, all in the pursuit of the latest high. Howard’s best mate, Kes, (everyone called him Kes, because he was always high as a kite) had raved about the mind blowing time he’d had the other night at the Caribbean Club. Some bloke had offered Kes a new kind of high at the club toilet and he said he was off his head all night, “It’s called Trish. Think ecstasy, crossed with a trip and dib-dab of speed.”
Even before Kes had finished yabbering, Howard was hooked. Kes had said he was going to meet up with a guy called Chef and get some Trish for the weekend. That had been a couple of days ago. With no job worries, Kes will still be off his face on Trish, thought Howard.
As the train pulled into Ipswich’s train station, Howard pulled out the crumpled piece of paper from his jeans pocket on which Kes had scrawled.
9 Blanche Street, Ipswich. Ask for Chef. Say, “I love Trish.”

When the train finally pulled in to Ipswich, the seasoned travellers rushed from the platform and grabbed the waiting taxies. With no sign of a bus, Howard began walking towards what he hoped was the town centre. Half way he bumped into a young couple and asked if they knew where Blanche Street was. The woman shrugged her shoulders, as the bloke said, “You sure you want that part of town mate?”
Howard nodded while trying to ignore his growling stomach, all he wanted was to grab his stash of Trish and get back to his bedsit in Norwich.
Recognising the nervousness pouring out of Howard’s body, the man shrugged his shudders and said, “It’s no more than ten minutes away, just off Cemetery Road.”

Having followed the man’s directions, Howard turned into Blanche Street and instantly understood what the man had meant. The street was a row of pre-war dilapidated terraced houses. As he walked down the street, Howard’s stomach tightened; with most of the street lights broken it was difficult to make out the door numbers.

As he crept past one house he heard a man shout, “Madeline, Madeleine!” which caused Howard to quicken his step. Each house he passed seemed to be more decrepit than the last: that was until he reached number seven. The bottom half of the door had been boarded up. Bare wires hung where the doorbell had once been and the upstairs windows were smashed.

Again Howard felt his gut jolt, but there was no way he was going back home empty handed. Taking a deep breath he raised his hand to knock on the door, only for it to suddenly fly open. A dark silhouette of a very, very big man filled the door frame.
“Y,y,y,you Chef? Said Howard?

With no ready response, Howard tried to steady his voice without much success and said, “I,I,I,I,I love Trish.”
The man stepped back and nodded for Howard to enter the gloomy lit front room.

The first thing to hit him was the overwhelming stench of stale cigarette smoke, greasy takeaway food and something else, something rotten. While trying to manoeuvre passed the minefield of beer cans and overflowing ashtrays, Howard knocked a half-eaten takeaway box off the oversized leather armchair: spilling its contents onto the threadbare carpet. Dropping to his hands and knees, Howard went to clear up the partly chewed, greasy chicken bones only for Chef to yell, “Fucking leave it, get your arse in the back.”
Howard jumped to his feet, brushed the grease from his hands on to his jeans and then followed the man through the middle room, into the kitchen.
Hanging from the centre of the kitchen celling was a bare light bulb highlighting the cobwebs that strung from every corner, the floor felt sticky beneath his feet. Howard glanced round the near barren kitchen. The only other furniture was a tatty pine wooden table, either side sat two mismatched chairs and a bar stool. Chef nodded at Howard and grunted, “Sit.”

Like a well trained mongrel, Howard quickly obeyed, pulled out the chair and sat himself down.
Chef flung open the fridge door and said, “Beer?”

Howard stared at the man’s huge hands that gripped the rusting fridge door, his fingernails caked with black grime. A trickle of bile shot from Howard’s empty stomach into his throat causing him to nod as he tried his best to swallow his sick.

Grabbing two cans from the fridge, Chef slammed one can down in front of Howard, cracked open his own and drained the contents before Howard had even opened his.

“Get that down yah, it will stop you from being so fucking jumpy.”

Howard tried his best to stop his hands from shaking as he opened his can, only for the contents to spray all over his face.
Howard slurped at the frothing can as Chef laughed while he grabbed another two beers from the fridge. As he sat down at the table he said, “So, how’d you hear about me, was it London Tony?”

….. Wanna find out what happens to Howard and the other residence of Blanche Street? why not pop over to the homepage www.blanchestreet.co.uk and click on the doors and then hurry yourself over to the Amazon link  to and get stuck into ten terrifying tales: http://www.amazon.com/Blanche-Street-Where-neighbours-nightmare-ebook/dp/B00OWFK1SA

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