Honesty at Blues in a tea cup

Cross-posted from: Blues in a tea cup
Originally published: 18.07.17

The flower bed in the lee of the wall on the beach road has flourished in the year since it was replanted. Amongst the tangle of oxeye daisies and fading thrift, a glimpse of honesty takes me to a time when those papery seed heads grew alongside carrots and sweet peas in the garden of my childish dreams.

“Why is it called honesty?”

“Because you can see right through it,” my mother said, as we patted the earth over the seeds together.

Read more Honesty at Blues in a tea cup

Darkroom at She means well but ….

Cross-posted from: She means well but .....
Originally published: 23.10.17

That’s where it started. In the darkroom. I’d spent the afternoon taking pictures of a sixteen-year-old with the wholesome teeth and unchallenged confidence of a future beauty queen.

Sarah. That was her name. You know the type. Clear-skinned, bright-eyed, conventional little blonde. Aced her exams, dating the captain of the cricket team, raised on a diet of praise as she swanned her way to adulthood. Almost certainly head prefect material. Pretty, polite, practically perfect for the niche carved out for her. And dull as ditchwater.


What could I do? Pampered little madams like her paid my rent. Picture perfect portraits of good girls that never betrayed the small cruelties they inflicted on the outcasts at school. Studio portraits for the yearbook, doting grandparents, distant aunts and uncles, whatever – that was my bread and butter. After the strikes and shortages of the “Winter of Discontent” the papers had been screaming about, I couldn’t afford to turn good business away, could I?

Read more Darkroom at She means well but ….

cheeseburgers and Ikea bags, at Blues in a tea cup

Cross-posted from: Blues in a tea cup.
Originally published: 08.08.17

It’s dark the way only an October night in England can be, and raining a baptism. I’m walking home from Mrs M’s, reflecting on the fragility of life. In truth, I’ve believed Mrs M to be immortal until now, but she’s 92 and so frail it’s taken two of us to get her into bed tonight.  My faith is beginning to waver.  I don’t yet know the day when I’ll hold her hand while she fights her last battle is less than eight weeks away, but there’s a sense of finality. 
Read more cheeseburgers and Ikea bags, at Blues in a tea cup

IN THE WAKE by @LorrieHartshorn

Cross-posted from: Lorrie Hartshorn


My lullaby is the rumble of trucks as they cut through the town on their way to anywhere else. This is not a destination.


The horizon is an impassive witness. The brow of a hill, the curve of a road framed by firs. It watches you as you go about your daily business, crawling into adulthood then stooping back out the other side. Perhaps one day it will approach and share what it’s seen. For now, it slides further away if we, fools that we are, try to reach it.

Read more IN THE WAKE by @LorrieHartshorn

A Room of Our Own: An Anthology of Feminist & Womanist Writing


A Room of Our Own: An Anthology of Feminist & Womanist Writing is now available:





A Room of Our Own: An Anthology of Feminist & Womanist Writing is a collection of essays, poetry, and short stories written by women. The proceeds of this book will be used to support this platform covering the costs of hosting and website maintenance and development.

Read more A Room of Our Own: An Anthology of Feminist & Womanist Writing

The Inri Letters – Part 1: Mother’s lament at She means well

Cross-posted from: She means well ...
Originally published: 15.10.15

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 08.21.31Dear Sarah,

Well, I suppose you’ve heard the news.

My boy’s been arrested, and he’s not talking to anyone. Not even me. His mother, for heaven’s sake.

I can imagine the gossip in the village market this week. I bet they’re lapping it up, aren’t they? Especially that bitch Katy from the bakers. She must be having a field day. She’s always been jealous.

Our boys were born on the same day, in the same hospital. Did you know that? And, if you wanted proof that there’s absolutely nothing to all the rubbish about star signs and horoscopes, it was those two lads. They grew up just a few blocks from each another, too. Matt was a loud, annoying child as soon as he was old enough to kick a ball around in the back streets. Always making a racket with the other lads after school when my boy was trying to read his books.

Not that it’s surprising. My son had my undivided love and attention, while Katy had five other brats to take care of. No wonder that Matt went feral. Even now, he’s nothing more than a glorified barrow boy, for all his millions and that awful, extravagant house he’s built just outside town.

I can’t help wondering what I did wrong. How I failed my boy. He had everything he ever wanted growing up – not that he ever asked for much. He was clever too, too clever for those idiots they called teachers at the village school. How else could he have possibly have been ‘just’ an average student?

So how we did end up here, with him sitting in prison and refusing see anyone? I wish I knew.

Personally, I blame that lecturer at college. Filled his head with all sorts of ideas. Introduced him to unsavoury sorts who filled my nice, clean house with smoke, loud music and long conversations late into the night. Eating my food without even a “thank you”as if I was some kind of skivvy serving at the table of their ‘higher cause’. They sat around talking about equality and fraternity – but who did the washing up when they’d all passed out on the living room floor? Yes, you guessed it.

And then there was that strumpet, always hanging on his arm. Stroking his hair like he was her special pet. Like he was her property. Not even she had the common decency to offer a helping hand when I fetched and carried as they plotted late into the night. Playing the Lady – like I didn’t know where she’d come from, or what she really was.

But did I ever complain, or leave them wanting? No. Not once.

Let’s face it, they were the first group who ever really befriended him, the first friends he’d ever had over for a meal. I could hardly turn them away, could I?

The only one who showed the slightest decency towards to me was that Jude. A strange lad. Always so intense, so much in earnest. A little bit too eager. A little bit too fey (not that he stood a chance with my boy). But to give credit where it’s due, Jude was the only one to speak to me like I mattered. His praise of me as “the woman that made the man who leads” us was almost embarrassing at times. Almost.

I wonder what’s become of him  now?

Sarah, I want you to do me a favour. When they ask you what you know about the whole thing (and let’s face it, they will, everyone knows you’re my favourite cousin) just tell them that he’s a victim of wrongful arrest. That it’s all been a huge mistake, it’s a conspiracy, and that he’ll be out soon. That one day, they’ll be proud to tell the world that he came from THEIR village.

And if my mother asks you, just tell her that her grandson has gone abroad to study for a few years.

Please write back soon, and let me know what that fishwife Katy has been saying. I wouldn’t wish ill on anyone, you know that, but so far as I’m concerned she can go drown in all those fancy cushions her loud-mouthed son has swamped her with from the leftover stock from his import-export business.

And just one more thing? Can you drop this cheque in the collection box when you go to church on Sunday? Just make sure you leave it open so everyone can see who it’s from.

Meanwhile, I’ll give my boy your love when he finally agrees to see me. And I’ll let him know that you’ll have a plate of your famous almond pastries waiting for him when he gets comes home.

Because he will, of course, be coming home.

Won’t he?

With love,

Your cousin, Mary.


She Means Well I’m a feminist, loud and proud, but I’m also married and have a son. I demand to be treated equally based on my qualities and abilities, not the ‘equipment’ I was born with – but I am a firm believer that humour is one of life’s essential and that, yes, silliness DOES save lives. My blog covers a wide range of subjects, mostly in a mildly humourous way, including life as a transplanted Brit living in Greece, the imagined thoughts of my cat in The Kitty Letter Chronicles, things that make me go “Hmmmm” and things that make me go “Aaaaagh!”

Nothing is Perfect; Everything is Perfect at Circles Under Streetlights



Come and sit, says the tree, its long branches swaying in the breeze.

Rachel’s breath is raw in her throat, each inhale a jagged tear in her skinny chest. She doesn’t remember running this far but now here she is, bent double in front of the willow at the end of the road. She has never been out this late before, not on her own, and bed-time was a long time ago. She doesn’t know if that’s a good thing.

Come closer, Rachel. Show us the bruises he has left on you.


Read more Nothing is Perfect; Everything is Perfect at Circles Under Streetlights

The egg

I come from my mother, full as an egg with the weight that sits and grows, sinking into her pelvis, into the centre of her like a truth. I am plump and round and perfect, as the midwives declare my sex, and for a moment, all is whole. One has become two, and each of those two is one. A whole.

Crossing the road with my mother when I am 11. She launches a volley of fury at a man passing us. Somewhere, later, I learn that my swelling breasts, still tiny mounds on a child’s body, had drawn his eye down. A little piece of me is nipped away.

A dark bus station, 14 years old, counting the chewing gum pebbles on the bricks. A man sits next to me. His hands, my legs, my skirt. I am giddy with relief when another man comes to help, hollowed a little more when he asks me to show him my gratitude. The police come and my mother, who was the start of me, tells me I will be the death of her. Another chunk of me falls away.

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The Bell by Katharine Edgar

Cross-posted from: Katharine Edgar
Originally published: 30.10.14

A Halloween story for children:

This is actually a true story. It happened in this house. I didn’t want to tell you before in case you were scared. Is everyone ok with hearing the story? You can go and play in the dining room if you like. The lights are on in there.

You all want to hear it?

All right then.

This is something that happened in Victorian times, about a hundred and fifty years ago. At that time the house belonged to one very rich old lady who lived here all by herself. Her name was Mrs Taylor.

Now, when I say by herself, she actually had servants. There was a gardener called Mr Bean who lived down the street and just came in the morning, but there was also a cook-housekeeper called Mrs Brain who slept in the attic and most of the time, another servant girl who would be the maid-of-all-work.
Read more The Bell by Katharine Edgar

The Memory Box at Blues in a Tea Cup

cross-posted from Blues in a Tea Cup

orig. pub. 31.12.14

The Limpley Stoke valley slides slowly past the window. Seems the train’s as reluctant as I am to get to the next station. The knot inside me feels familiar as the faded greens and yellow-browns of the December countryside. Every hedge. Every curve of the river. The rabbits flicking their tails across the matted grass. It ought to have changed. But it hasn’t. No more has it missed me in all this time. Not even for a moment.

The train creaks and grumbles up alongside the neat stone ticket office. The woman standing next to me compliments my scarf.

“Nice to see a splash of colour.”

The door opens with a heavy sigh and we step down to the platform. Exchanging smiles. Suddenly I’m ten years ago. A lifetime away. A life I wrapped and boxed the day I left you. Promising myself I’d never come back.

You’re not here to meet me of course. Our son’s picking me up instead. Taking me to the house I once called home. For twenty-six years. I throw my bag onto the back seat of his car. Next to a sack of firewood. There are new buildings by the entrance to the car park. The derelict mill that once dominated the town centre has been renovated. There’s a supermarket on the ground floor now.

You wouldn’t drive up this hill. Not after the clutch exploded. Before that, you’d bang your foot down on the pedal just before the zebra crossing. I never understood why. One day the clutch decided it had had enough. I remember picking up rust-dusted nuts and springs out of the road. As if we’d somehow be able to put the whole thing back together again.

You can’t see the house any more. The hedge has grown up like the forest round Sleeping Beauty’s castle. You stuck those spindly twigs of privet in the ground one day while I was at work. Scuppered my long-cherished plan for a lavender hedge. For years they grew like weeds. Stealthy. Unkempt. Knowing they had no right to be there. Now they’ve taken over. Gleefully smothering anything in their path. Everything in the garden’s bigger now. Everything that’s survived. But the house itself has shrunk. Even inside it feels smaller. Darker. More claustrophobic than in the worst moments of that final year. The year I knew I wasn’t going to stay.

We’d fallen into a desperate routine by then. You’d pick me up at the station of an evening. Drive home the long way. To avoid the hill. I’d be exhausted. Peopled out. Maybe you had no idea how much I just needed to sit down for half an hour. With a cup of tea. In total silence. After all, you seldom asked how my day had been. And if you did, you never listened to the answer. You were working earlies. You’d been home six hours or so. You wanted to talk. So that’s what you did. You’d lead the way to the kitchen. Plonk yourself on a chair. Launch your monologue. You’d talk while I filled the kettle. Pontificate while I poured the tea. Hold forth while I peeled the spuds. Chatter while I chopped the vegetables. I’d lay the table round you. Perish the thought that I might interrupt. You never missed a syllable.

Sometimes you’d decide I wasn’t paying enough attention.

“You’re not listening, are you?”

“Of course I am.”

“What was the last thing I said?”

And it was always there. The last sentence. Word for word. You’d grunt. Unconvinced. Pick up where you’d left off. Of course you were right. I wasn’t listening. In thirty years and more I’d long learned how to look as if I was. It’s not a skill I’m proud of.

Today our son and I are picking up family photos. I’ve wanted to have some ever since I left. I’ve never had the courage to come here before. I phoned you a few days ago

“I promise I won’t take the furniture.”

“Take anything you want.”

I know better than to take you at your word.  Up in the smallest bedroom I begin to realise how much of the stuff here was once mine. A lifetime of books and trinkets gathering cobwebs. Some of it hasn’t moved since I left. The memory box is in the cupboard. He takes it down for me. A jumble of tattered wallets and envelopes. Loose pictures. Dog-eared albums. Framed school photos. Our family. Our common past. How can you not want a share in it? I blow the dust off a couple of books and balance them on top of the box. The Seven Storey Mountain. Borrowed from a friend. It’s too late to return it now. Black Beauty. From my Christmas stocking. Long before I even knew you existed.

Back in the kitchen we make coffee. More ghosts. The mugs. Even the cafetière. It’s the cooker breaks my heart though. That was the best cooker ever. Range size. Gas hob. Fan oven. It could turn out a perfect cake. Every time. The grill door gapes at me. Groaning under an inch of greasy grey dust. How could you leave me like this? I have to look away. What a waste. My son’s examining the dishwasher. You seldom use it, he says. I remember that night. The night I finally knew what I had to do.

It was indistinguishable from any other evening. My resentment boiled over during your monologue. I said something stupid. You blew a fuse. Predictable as clockwork. I was loading this very dishwasher. Head down. Tongue bitten. You were yelling. There’d be no stopping till you decided it was bedtime. Unless something good came on the telly. You know what? I’ve never missed being shouted at. Not once.  I slid the wok into the machine.

It’s always going to be like this.

The thought came through so clear, I was half afraid you might have heard it too. I needn’t have worried. You were full throttle. Engrossed in the heady symphony of your own voice.

It’s always going to be like this. If I don’t do something now, the next thirty years will be just like the last thirty. It’ll go on and on and on, until I’m exhausted. Or too senile to care. I’ll wake up one morning and find I’ve died of neglect. You won’t even notice I’m gone. 

I sip my coffee. I’ve been a long journey from that day. It unnerves me so see how little has changed. There’s a photo of my successor on the shelf. She’s a thing of the past too. Saw the light. Moved on. Me, I overstayed my welcome by about twenty years. When I finally let go there was nothing left.

A clutch of posters for vintage rock bands has replaced our daughter’s cross-stitched cats on the hall wall. Echoes from another past. One that pre-dates me. I painted that wall when we first moved in. Bright orange. Very seventies. It’s yellow under the posters. Slightly grubby. The house has a feel of Miss Havisham about it. A dusty mausoleum. Festooned with broken dreams. A memorial to everything that might have been.

In a different life, I might have been a photographer. I love taking photos. Capturing moments. Pinning down memories like butterflies. Maybe that’s why I wanted the box so badly. Back home I root through the photos. Hungry for the past. For my version of it. So many of the pictures have faded. Fuzzy faces peer at me through pinkish-sepia fog. I’m heartbroken. Then furious. That’s what you get for ordering f***ing economy prints

I make out a young girl in one of the pictures. She’s wearing a pink, nylon dressing gown. Her long, deep sepia-pink hair falls over one pink eye as she bends over a pink perspex hospital crib. The pink baby’s sleeping under a pink blanket. The whole thing’s wildly off-centre too. And it doesn’t matter. The look on that girl’s face. It’s never going to fade. The hospital clatter. The crisp white cot sheets. The smell of breast milk. The first outrageous tidal wave of maternal love. So intense it was almost unbearable. They’re as alive now as the moment I first felt them. They’ll never leave me. Photo or no. Grab at them? Pin them to a square of photographic paper? Preserve them for posterity? It can’t be done. Some things you can’t hold on to. No matter how much you might want to. Some things you just have to let go.

Memory Box

Blues in a tea cup: Currently blogging as part of a charity fundraiser for One25 Charity supporting street sex workers in Bristol. I’ve given up ‘not being a writer’ for 125 days as a sponsored challenge. I plan to continue writing and blogging well beyond the challenge. Themes variable. I’m a lifelong feminist, but I’ve never toed any particular line. I’m an older woman. My writing inevitably reflects this. Domestic abuse and dysfunctional relationships are recurrent themes because of my personal history.

The Night Shift at She means well but …

The Night Shift

A fox barks, and a distant owl hoots somewhere across the playing fields. I peek out from my shelter among the roots and watch as darkness rapidly covers what’s left of the dull, damp day like a shroud spread over a dearly departed. The glare of a street light pokes jagged fingers through the branches above me as I wait for dusk to give way to night.

Out there, humans are returning to their homes. Closing heavy curtains against the unknown night. Enfolding them in the comfort of their own homes, where they’ll grab a few hours with their loved ones – and maybe a take-away as they watch a TV movie – before seeking solace in the safety of their beds. At least, that’s where they think they’re safe.

There’s no home our kind hasn’t visited. No sleep we haven’t shattered with a spasm of fear and panic. No locked doors or barred windows that can keep us away.

Ironic really that they’ve started hanging up ineffective spiders’ webs of wool and trinkets bearing our own name to keep us away.

Little do they know that we’re not the ones who conceive and give birth to the night terrors that haunt them – they manage that just fine all on their own in the depths of their buried hopes and fears.

We just gather them, take sustenance from them, and use them to build our dark subterranean kingdoms.

We are the Dreamcatchers.

[Note: This story was written for the 5th SSFFS (Short Story & Flash Fiction Society) Project contest – and it won!  For more about the SSFFS Project go to http://shortstoryflashficitonsociety.com/ or follow Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/Short-Stories-Flash-Fiction-Stories/692915047420207?fref=ts or Twitter @SSFFS_project]


She Means Well: I’m a feminist, loud and proud, but I’m also married and have a son. I demand to be treated equally based on my qualities and abilities, not the ‘equipment’ I was born with – but I am a firm believer that humour is one of life’s essential and that, yes, silliness DOES save lives. My blog covers a wide range of subjects, mostly in a mildly humourous way, including life as a transplanted Brit living in Greece, the imagined thoughts of my cat in The Kitty Letter Chronicles, things that make me go “Hmmmm” and things that make me go “Aaaaagh!”