Stale summer meadows
under white heat-blasted skies
thunder lurks the night

Bright daggers slice the darkness
drops fall like pennies
pavements run with instant floods

Smells of new-wet earth
raise pungent long gone memory
from dust-blocked days


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Kelly’d just finished putting Edna’s shopping away and took her a cup of tea. She’d thought the old lady was asleep by the fire which had burned right down to almost nothing. So she picked up a shovel full of coal from the scuttle and as she tipped it slowly onto the embers Edna woke up, shouting, “Mum, mum, the coal man’s here, the coal man’s here!”
Surprised, Kelly turned to see her old eyes shining and a broad smile on her pale crumpled face.
“Edna, it’s only me, the Carer.”
“No, no. It’s the coal man, and the horse will want his carrot. I must run out and give him his carrot”
Kelly sat down and gently took Edna’s hand and reminded her the coal was delivered on a big lorry from Corrals and they’d already been this autumn.

“Oh I know dear – but I just smelt that coal dust and I went straight back to my childhood. He’d come with his horse and cart and a half cut-open sack over his head and back so he could carry in the heavy bags over his shoulder. Mum would stand watch at the door and count them in. She wasn’t going to let him sell her short, not my mum! Of course I’d be out like a shot to give the horse his carrots while he waited at the kerb. That horse was so big; I must’ve been about four then and he towered above me, but I really loved him, he was so gentle and his big lips were so soft on my hands as I fed him. Oh I really loved that horse… He was glossy red-brown like a conker with a long black mane and tail – and his feet! His feet were huge and covered with long white fluffy hair, like frilly tassels. He was a Shire horse of course you see. Had to be big and strong to pull that heavy cart with all those sacks of coal. Yes, and the lovely warm smell of his glossy coat as I stroked him. I wouldn’t wash my hands afterwards so I could smell him for the rest of the day. That coal dust just reminded me of the coal man’s visit and how I loved that grand old horse to feed and fuss.

Kelly smiled, “You’re right Edna, it’s amazing what memories can be sparked off by a smell.

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The Wannabee…


Uncle Dave came round for Sunday lunch and he was quite early so Dad was out the back as usual. My Dad likes the garden and he’s out there a lot. Mum always says she has a real job getting him to come indoors when meals are ready.

“He’s always busy in that garden of his,” she says “in and out of that greenhouse like a bee’s bum!”

“So I see,” said Uncle Dave spotting Dad carrying little flower pots and trays inside.

P’raps she means ‘buzzy’ I thought. It’s funny though, he does have a stripey black and yellow sweater. Mum knitted it for him herself one Christmas, so he wears it a lot, especially in the garden. He says the sleeves are a bit too short and the stripes a bit wonky so he told me not to say anything to mum, but he doesn’t want to ‘wear it out’ anywhere.I said mum wouldn’t like it if he wore it out anyway. She’s always telling me not to scrape the toes of my shoes or they’ll wear out before I’ve grown out of them and she can’t keep buying new shoes.

That’s weird too ‘cos it sounds like I was planted in them – like Dad’s beans in little pots, and they had to wait for me to grow out of them. Maybe that’s what Dad does in the greenhouse – I must have a look one day and see if there’s any shoes full of soil in there; maybe I’ll get a little brother! Anyway, mum tapped on the window and when she caught dad’s eye she did like ‘pretend eating’ in the air and he put down his spade, wiped his hands and made his way indoors. He was wearing his stripey sweater too and as he stood in the open back door taking off his ‘wellies’, mum said,

“Here’s my busy bee at last. Come on, lunch is nearly ready.”

” What did you get done today?” asked Uncle Dave

“I’ve planted two rows of beans and a wild flower patch for the gardener’s friends. Oh, and potted up some new corms; they should be up in a few weeks,” he smiled, looking at me. “Something to look forward to eh?”

‘ Ooooh I hope so,’ thought me, wondering what it’d be like to have a little brother.

“You’d better wash your hands quick then or it’ll be teatime soon if we don’t get started” said Mum pushing him gently towards the sink.

Uncle Dave smiled at Dad in his sweater and said…”and is there honey still for tea?”

I wannabee a bee like my Dad when grow up.



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Lost Soles

A city tattooed with torrid tags
shoes left by bins in torn shopping bags
Gutters full of litter spill their load
edging each and every road

Rough sleepers flip-flopping in the morning
Life-dulled eyes with no hope spawning
shake night’s chill blanket as they stand and scratch
under phone-wired trainers on a dealer’s patch

By a canvas bag neatly sits a pair
of polished old brogues left out to air
and in this positively thoughtful way
they await the start of their owner’s day

A gaunt faced woman’s lonely stumble
on barefoot pavements drab and humble
Clutches her slippers to her chest in pain
oblivious to the drench of early rain

Smart stilettos bear witness at the kerbside
of Dawn’s after-club-tumble-into-a-cab-slide
When she wakes much later will she recall
that rowdy night and her final foot fall


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The Vegetarian Option…

It was late. It’d been a very busy day and Carol Coney, PR to the company secretary had run like a Rocket to get to the Function room and organise the seating plan, and everything else too. Now it was all over and she leant against a coat-stand in the lobby to catch her breath and looked back at the day.

” Soya there, you look Beet,” remarked the sales rep. “What’s up? ”

“Phew, I Yam,” she replied “I’m fed up with this Caper I can tell you. The big wigs from Broccoli Head office showed up early this morning and were waiting for the exchange group from Brussels to arrive. When they finally Turnip I had to take them to the Savoy to liaise with Charlotte, Maris and Desiree; Had the French Bean on time I could’ve used both the courtesy cars for the journey. As it was I had to send a Runner in the other car to collect the Swede at the airport. The flowers and presentation items all had to go in the same car with the visitors. It was a bit of a Squash I can tell you.”


“You’re not kidding, and then they couldn’t find him at first but Fennely tracked him down in the bar trying to Sea Kale of the traditional British sort. Seems the Current modern lager beers are not to his taste.”

“I can agree with him there…”

“Then at the reception dinner my ‘head of team’, for some reason insisted on saying Grace – apparently in deference to the Romanesco and Spinach contingent. He stumbled over ‘Lettuce pray for Peas on earth and then proceeded to Sprout on so long, the soup began to congeal and go Khol; Rhabi eventually shut him up somehow and things looked as if they were going alright. Olive in accounts commented ‘He’s a little Gem,’ I reckon he deserves a Celery raise.”

” Sounds like fun, any more ?”

“Well, not much until Arti choked on the Iceberg which he didn’t see coming – apparently he’s allergic and hadn’t warned anyone. On top of that the boss’s wife wore her best Bonnet and a sable wrap, presumably in case she felt Chilli, but Gerry who’d spent half the time reading the Peppers didn’t notice when he spilled sauce on it. That didn’t go down very well I can tell you. That’s Shallot I thought to myself, no Plum job for you matey!”

“Sounds like a riot, what else happened?” persisted the Rep, now somewhat amused.

“Well, both the big wigs went to town on the ‘glad-handing’ – Pumpkin every arm in sight. Nobody looked very comfortable at the end of it though. I thought, what’s the Marrow with them that was totally OTT. Gourd help us if that’s going to rescue the deal…

“Better start looking for a new job you mean…?”

“Who knows, but Mung other things I haven’t eaten all day I’m starving, nothing left for me to eat but a few stale crisps!”

“The usual Vegetarian Option you mean?”








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Spring Watch

Smart speckled Starlings
iridescent brazen bullies of the bird table
shout in gabbling, grabbing gangs

While sun-bright Goldfinches
perform their fluttering fancies
above the lawn’s fresh green gems

The trees shine newly dressed
in brightest garb of spring greenness
and cloud-grey Doves there softly rest

Bushes tremble with Sparrow chatter
’til Magpie’s coarsest shout startles them all out
with it’s harsh mechanical clatter

Cold drops tattoo the window pane
Spring’s sudden rain which quickly chills the air
but just as soon, the sun is out again



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Easter Bank Holiday

Brings the arrival of the chocolate Bunny
and chocolate eggs which are also quite funny
There’s hot cross buns and Simmnel cakes
Or your own back garden for barbecue bakes

There are picnics and outings to National Parks
and beaches and playgrounds for fun and larks
and plenty of ways to spend your money
all encouraged by the Easter Bunny

There’s painted eggs which you can make
and find a Stately Home with a boating lake
or punts and cruises on the river
but take a cardi in case you shiver

If the weather is kind it could be hot
so take your sun-cream and slap on a lot
A bottle of water and a wide brimmed hat
something for the kids with a ball and bat

With friends and family time to spend
long lazy days which seem not to end
though travel and traffic may get in the way
but hopefully still have a wonderful day


Image courtesy of Christian Guthier

Flkr (CC BY 2.0)

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The Humble Unicorn…

She joined me as I leaned on the paddock fence watching the annual Dartmoor pony round-up.
“As a kid I was most at home amongst animals. In fact I sometimes pretended I was a horse,” she said. “I used to trot and gallop around, whinnying and tossing my mane – sometimes shying at imaginary threats.
A sudden move in a hedgerow, a barking dog. I’d walk around on all fours and eat my food from a bowl on the garden bench pretending it was a hay-rack.”
I couldn’t help but smile looking at the sophisticated woman I saw before me.
“Is that true?” I asked, ” I find that hard to imagine.”
“Oh yes. That was me at age four to five years old and it caused a lot of embarrassment for my parents, especially mother who was mortified if I neighed at some innocent passer-by. It drove her mad but dad just ignored it. ‘She’ll grow out of it’ he’d say and change the subject. I did of course, but when I got a little older I learned to ride bareback on ponies which belonged to my best friend’s grandad. He’d been a fairground worker and had ponies and donkeys which he hired out to day trippers on the beach. That often only took them a few metres up and down on a leading rein and cost anything from three to five pounds. Made him quite a good living over a summer – adds a new dimension to ‘taken for a ride’ I suppose.”
“So that’s where you learned to ride, on seaside donkeys?”
She laughed, “Not quite that simple. When Mr Lewis retired he moved in with his daughter’s family in suburbia but he kept his two favourite ponies. They were ‘stabled’ in a shed in their back garden. I’m not at all sure the council regulations were ever consulted about it, but Suzy and I didn’t care. We loved it when he took us up to the Downs with the ponies so we could ride.
They didn’t have enough exercise really and were a bit frisky but he’d get us up on board and teach us the rudiments. How to sit, how to use your leg pressure to guide and instruct. He only had the most basic tack, a couple of halters and bridles, but no saddles, so it was vital to have a ‘good seat’ with a strong grip. This proved mighty important as we’d often find ourselves going home with some colourful bruises – evidence of losing the challenge to stay on board. Eventually I wasn’t allowed to see Suzy again after a one of those occasions.”
“But you were still a horse-mad little girl then?”
“Instead of a ‘mad-horse’ one you mean? I still fantasized about having a pony of my own but it might just as well have been a unicorn.”
“What happened to all those childhood dreams eh?”
“We grow up I suppose and the unicorns fade into the forest of memories.”

“But aren’t you competing in The Horse of the Year Show this time?”

“Yes, yes I am. Maybe all thanks to Mr Lewis and the Unicorns…”

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‘Better than any Son’ by Rob Nisbet

The Burrower is pleased to welcome a new Guest Blogger to Story-worm
and hopes you will enjoy:

‘Better than any Son’ by Rob Nisbet

    It was six o’clock in the morning and still bitterly cold. The sun wouldn’t rise over the distant horizon for another couple of hours and the clear black sky glittered with the light from those other stars, so incredibly distant that they might as well be made of ice.

Patience gazed up at the sky. Its vast emptiness seemed to suck the heat out of her, but it held her transfixed. This was one of the wonders of Botswana. She’d travelled far from the bustle of Gaberone; there was no light pollution here, just the speckled stripe of the Milky Way slicing through the heavens above the Kalahari.
Patience shivered and turned back to her tent; she needed to reach her goal before the midday heat made any progress unbearable. Though she was alone, she could hear her father’s voice, ever cautious and protective. “Always check under the flaps and the ground sheet. You never know what may have crept there overnight.” Patience smiled at the memory. “Yes, Dad,” she said to the empty desert as she carefully checked for snakes and scorpions that could crawl into the smallest of spaces. The tent was clear. She rolled it into her rucksack and took a deep gulp of cold water from one of several reassuringly heavy flasks. She picked up the only non-essential item she had with her, a terracotta jar. She reflected that, in a country where even the currency was named after water, this jar contained something far more precious to her than the vital flasks of liquid she carried. She tucked the jar into the crook of her left arm as if cradling a baby and set off northwards.
To her right the sky had started to brighten. She nodded to the ice-stars overhead – melted from view by the rising sun. She’d see them again in the evening, creeping over that same eastern horizon when the sun and its heat faded from the sky.
The first time Patience had made this journey she had been almost seven. She was an only child and had accompanied her father, in the absence of a son, on this trail of family tradition. That’s when she’d first learnt the safety rules of surviving away from town. In the evening she would collect the baked-dry sticks needed for the cooking fire. She always collected more than the boys – they just weren’t used to having to fend for themselves – and more than once her keen eyes had prevented one of the sons from grabbing hold of a snake hiding in the dead branches.
“Better than any son.” That’s what her father had said to the other men, in the evenings as they sat around the glowing fire. Its heat warmed them as the cold night swept like a tide over the bleak landscape, and the flames kept back any creatures that might otherwise have crept too close. Of course, the other men had disagreed, especially those with sons of their own. Patience had felt so proud, both of herself and of her father. He had gone against all prejudice and tradition to bring his daughter along, and then to speak-out in her favour in front of his own elders… But then, this whole tradition was itself a process of change; the old were replaced by the young. Old ideas, unless they still held some worth or relevance died and were forgotten. New concepts came into being with fresh generations – only certain values remained eternal.
Patience smiled as she thought of her father’s pedantic, caution. He seemed slow in today’s ever quickening world. It was hard now to imagine that in his day he had been the rebel, pushing against the prejudices of his elders – testing their limits, getting his seven-year-old daughter accepted even in this most male of ceremonies. It was a demonstration of his love for his family – and that was eternal, like the stars. The seven-year-old Patience had watched from the background as the ceremony unfolded. Her grandfather’s ashes had been poured onto the Kalahari with great solemnity ringed by his sons and grandsons – and one granddaughter.
Now it was her father’s turn. Patience clutched the terracotta jar to herself and continued to walk, amazed that in this almost featureless environment she could remember the way. Finally, she reached the correct spot. Why this particular area had been selected Patience didn’t know, and it was too late now to ask her father. Another tradition, no doubt based on the male ego and having to trek deep into the wilderness. But it was what her father would have wanted, and that was all the justification Patience needed.

  She had made good progress; there were still a couple of hours till midday. She took a long drink from one of her flasks, thankfully shrugging off the backpack and tent that she would need again on her way home. Patience unstoppered the terracotta jar. She tried to be serious, but memories of her father always made her smile. She missed him of course, but a life is to be celebrated! How else could she move on, push back at the old traditions. What would her own grandfather have thought of her – a daughter, alone in this most male of places, and with so important a mission?

   The sun poured down on the desert, bleaching away the old traditions, glowing over the lone figure of Patience who twirled with the jar, dancing its contents into the Kalahari, a smile on her lips and a tear in her eye.

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Jes, Graffiti Kid

I’m bored. Nothing ever happens in this crummy town; even the beach is a snooze, full of old people in cardigans shuffling along the front looking for cheap tearooms. They shout and wave their walking sticks at you if you so much as pass ‘em fast on your scooter. Nothin’ for kids to do here, nowhere to go.

There’s the Skate Park though which is OK, but a bit small. Loads of us go there most days in the summer. Could spend hours there ‘cept when the big kids from Whiteways Estate come an’ take over. When they turn up it’s time to split.

Then I go over to the old flats by the station. They’re all boarded up now, waitin’ for the demolition men. Best thing is them big boards. You should see the kewel stuff that’s up there. Some of the best tags I’ve ever seen, ‘n there’s always somethin’ new every time you go.

Same today, I hadn’t been for a week or so ‘cause the parents wouldn’t stop draggin’ us round the shops or visiting relatives. Even more of a snore, ‘cept if I get given some money or somethin’, like when Gran and Granddad gave me this neat book about how to do Manga Drawings – way chill. I’m practisin’ that a lot, that’s what I really want to do -all the time if I could.

So I get to the flats an’ I see this awesome new board. Taller ‘an me and way wide; I was face to face with this huge Tiger- person. Like with a ginormous head, with seven glowing eyes and a human body with loads of arms an’ legs like those Indian gods you see.

I just stand there for ages staring at it. It was way chill. Then I get this odd idea the eyes are watching me. I shake my head and blink, then, I swear it turns its head and smiles a toothy grin at me. I gasp and swallow hard, am I seeing things? I step forward to touch the picture to see if it was real, and as I do, Tiger- person puts out a hand and like beckons to me. I’m gob smacked … before I could think, I’m leaning closer. As I touch it, the board kinda softens and my arm sinks into it.

Suddenly the Tiger person’s hand is holding mine and guiding me forward until I’m IN the picture. I tell you, my head’s spinning now; all the bright colours are shining and dazzling me, but it feels warm and happy. I’m holding hands with this weird Tiger- person and we start to move through a forest of cool colours and images like. Stuff you’ve never seen before.

We’re moving faster an’ faster now, then I look down and we’re actually flying through the air, looking out over the town and the countryside beyond. We swoop down to a street in the city and land in a square I’ve never seen before. Lookin’ round I see all the walls of the buildings are covered with the most mind-boggling pictures you ever seen. Not just great characters, but they’re moving around, playing games and pretend fighting with each other:

I can even hear ‘em talking too, and they’re talking to me. I stop in my tracks, what’s happening? I listen hard, yes, did I hear my name? Yes, Jes, you can join us if you like; we’ll show you what you can really do.

I look down and find I’ve got a spray can in one hand and a paint brush in the other. Tiger- person has melted away and a small group of goggle-eyed little characters are gathered around me smiling and babbling all at once.

One taller one, looking like one of those Olympic Mascots, with like only one eye and lime green skin but friendly-looking anyway, steps closer. He puts an arm round me and steers me round the corner to a big blank wall.

‘Hey Jes, we got this ready for you. Go ahead, it’s all yours.’

‘But I dunno where to start, I can’t do it’- I sez, totally fazed by now.

‘Yo, we’ve been keeping an eye on you’ says One-Eye, leaning over me, ‘we know a good’un when we see one. You’re a natural.’

‘How do you mean, keeping an eye on me?’ – thinking this is totally weird as I look in his one eye, ‘You’re not real.’

‘We’re as real as anything you can imagine’ * says One-Eye. ‘You have an idea, you think yourself into it, breathe life into it and so it appears – before your eyes; how much more real does it have to get?’

Takes me a while to get my head round that one, but as I stand there thinking about it, a small idea creeps into my brain. I’ve seen so much already this afternoon, all these weird characters and places – AND I’d flown through the air holding a Tiger-person’s hand. I could make a picture of my day.

I take another long look at the blank wall, thinking I’ll never fill all that up, but at least I should make a start. Never had a chance like this before, probably won’t get one again; no one at home would ever let me do a wall like this.

I’m kinda worried and my hands are shakin’ so the first few lines are a bit wobbly, but I soon get the hang of it. I get quite excited as I draw some big ‘Manga’ eyes which grow to become this, dead-good figure surrounded by an army of one-eyed, many coloured foot soldiers. A flying Tiger wearing a flaming cloak leading them all across a huge purple moonscape, awesome.

Before I know it, I fill the whole space and a rattle of applause makes me turn. All the goggle-eyed characters are clapping and smiling and jumpin’ up and down excitedly.

‘Wicked,’ says One-Eye ‘knew we weren’t wrong – just shows you don’t it ?’

I tell you, I stand back and look at what I’d done. It’s rockin’. Who’d a thought I could do a piece like that? What a day.

‘That’s utterly ultimate,’ says I, ‘Maybe I really can do stuff after all, way chill.’

‘You can spray that again,’ says One-Eye and we all groan and laugh.


  • *   ‘Everything you can imagine is real’    Pablo Picasso
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