Lesson Plans, by Geraldine McCarthy

Geraldine McCarthy lives in West Cork.  She writes short stories, flash fiction and poetry.  Her work has been published in various journals, both on-line and in print.

My temples throbbed. I had stayed up until two am finalising lesson plans.  Scanning the classroom, I noticed Geoffery twirl the pencil in the sharpener, his head bent, deep in concentration.

I had put him at the back, next to Amelia, who threw sideways glances at him, when she wasn’t frowning over her sums.

The contrast between them was striking; him dark-haired and sallow-skinned, her blond and pale.

Some children wandered from their seats.

I left my vantage point at the top of the room and crouched down to correct Rebecca’s maths.  Suddenly I heard a piercing cry behind me.  I shot up and looked around.

“Amelia, what’s the matter?” I asked.  It was my first day in my first job.

“It’s Geoffery,” Amelia sputtered, “he stabbed me!”

I fixed him with my most withering look.  He met my eye and gave a little smirk.

“Come here, Amelia, let me look at your arm.”

The little girl got up from behind her tiny desk and came up to me, pouting and looking at the ground as she walked.

“It’s ok.  There doesn’t seem to be much of a mark.  Is it sore?”

Amelia nodded her head, her lips downturned, fresh tears forming in her eyes.

“Ok, let’s get you a sticker for being a brave girl.”

I put the butterfly sticker on Amelia’s pinafore and told her to sit on the teacher’s seat for a little while.

They had never mentioned pencil stabbings in teacher training college.

“Geoffery,” I said, “This is the third time this morning I have had to speak to you.  Come with me.”

He took his time getting up from the chair.  There was still the hint of a smirk about his mouth.

“We’re going to the principal’s office.”

A hush fell over the class.

I nodded to the teaching assistant, opened the door and marched down the hallway.  Geoffery sauntered after me.  I knocked on the door.

“Come in,” a voice said from within.

I entered, Geoffery in my wake, and we sat on the visitors’ chairs.

“Is there a problem?”  Mrs Murphy asked, looking up from the swathes of paperwork which covered her desk.

“Yes, well, there has been a nasty incident,” I said.  There was a moment’s silence.

“I did nothing, Aunty,” Geoffery piped up, shooting me a look.

My jaw dropped.  I managed to rearrange my expression into neutral.

“That’s not quite true,” I said. “You hurt Amelia and she was very upset.”

“Well, I’m sure he didn’t mean it,” Mrs Murphy said.  She began to stack her papers and looked pointedly towards the door.

I waited a moment.  “Well, sorry for disturbing you,” I said, rising from my chair.

Mrs Murphy nodded and began filling in a form.

I walked down the hallway in silence, Geoffery by my side.  When we reached the classroom door, he looked up at me and stuck out his tongue.

“Were they troublesome?” I asked the teaching assistant, who wore a strained expression.

“No, not at all,” she replied, “but I think that’s the inspector’s car outside.”

I went to the window and saw a grey-suited, grey-haired man alight from his car and pull a leather briefcase from the back seat.

Retrieving the bulging folder of lesson plans from my desk, I hugged it to my chest and cast my eye around for Geoffery.  There he sat in his little chair, cradling the pencil sharpener in his tiny, tiny little hands.

Geraldine McCarthy

 

Priorities, by Breda Hyland

Lipstick smudged in empty coffee cup.
You crush it nervously in your trembling hands,
waiting for his form in the doorway
and he does come,
and fixes his eyes firmly around the room
until he finds yours.

He beckons and you follow him.
Not waiting to hold the door open,
he hurries across the street
away from the thousand eyes of the night.
He bundles himself into his new Mercedes,
lights up a cigar and waits.

He thinks of home, his boring infertile wife,
she, a company director, with all the trappings
that he can’t live without.
But he wants more.
He watches you in the rear view mirror,
and ponders the ravages of time etched in your face.

You have the look of children
and burgers on Sundays,
wearing faded denim jeans
and worn outdated blouse
under an oversized belted raincoat.
Hard to believe you were once a follower of fashion.

Locking your door, he drives into the night air
and stops at a laneway, concealed entrance.
He’s been here before, you can tell.
In the darkness he spits his cigar from his mouth,
and heaves his obese body into your seat,
smoke breath heavy on your face.
You close your eyes and think of the money lender
and hope he’ll be satisfied in the morning.
Relaxing back in the driver’s seat,
he pulls two fifty euro notes from his inside pocket
and stuffs them into your sweaty palm.
‘I’ve had better’.
Sickness and anger rise in your throat
but you pull yourself together, look away
and think of your children,
born to deprivation,
brought up on love.

Home now, the whiff of alcohol greets you at the door.
You spot your inebriated husband
slouched in the living room.
His bloodshot eyes stare through yours.

Breda Hyland

Come Friendly Bombs (with apologies to John Betjeman)

I wrote this poem a couple of years ago (and well before Covid 19), but I think the issues it refers to still stand.

Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough
It’s time to say this is enough
The future’s looking very tough
Don’t hold your breath

Don’t be disabled or be sick
ESA won’t miss a trick
You’re made to feel like you are thick
By DSS

And now we’ve left the EEC
There’s no appeal for you and me
Beyond the Tory hierarchy
Which we detest

Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough
And help us as we mourn for how
Our futures bright have vanished now
Compassion’s death

Mary Tynan

Hungry for Love, by Breda Hyland

Breda is a writer from the West of Ireland.  She tells us, “I write for a pastime, about ordinary, everyday things, but I like to throw my imagination to the wind and sometimes I laugh at what comes into my mind! I write best in my head, when I’m driving through the fields, out in the open air. It’s harder to come home and put it down on paper, but I’m usually happy with the end result.”

Please note that this poem contains adult themes.

You drove me to Galway
in your Ford Granada,
to buy me a dress, you said,
for the local Macra social.

At 62 you were a devoted member,
I was a novice at 29.
Your car tax was out of date so you
hid it in a laneway nearby.

I stepped out in deep puddles
that soaked my stilettoed feet.
You whisked me past Moons in case
I spotted the designer dress in their window.

Anthony Ryan’s winter sale –
The best in the west, you said.
You bought your last suit there
twelve years ago, maybe more.

I tried on and hinted disapproval
at the colour and the style,
You couldn’t wait to get your hands on it
reduced to half price.

No time for food, you said,
you had to check the Charolais cow
and the new-born calf –
a valuable pedigree heifer.

Next year at the Claremorris show
she’d make the best continental.
You’d win the cup, not to mention the
money and the photo in the Western

and I’d get my hair done,
that place in the corner, you said,
where your mother goes,
she gives good discount on a Friday.

You had your way as usual.
We ate the bacon and cabbage,
cooked by your mother,
when we got home

And you the lucky girl, she said,
you’ll never want for anything.
Prosperous farmer, fine house
I puked her words (and the dinner) down the sink.

Later that night at the Macra social,
like the pedigree in the ring,
you paraded me around the ballroom,
proud of the female trophy on your arm.

And they all gazed and whispered.
And she an only child, they said.
And her land adjoining his, they said.
And wasn’t he always after young ones anyhow.

On the way home, another laneway,
the back seat covered in dog hairs.
My brown hair fell into the half open bag
of Maverick (or was it Frisky).

The plug of the calf dehorner
dug into my lumbar vertebrae.
Thank god it was round,
the damage superficial

And you held me like the calf
in the crush, about to be castrated,
never going to get away
and neither was I.

Your arthritic limbs caused
awkward manoeuvres in the dark.
You moaned and groaned agony and ecstasy.
Was the pleasure really worth the pain?

My dress was full length and fitted,
you cursed because it was waisted
you never wasted anything in your life before,
and I thanked god it was over

And my mind drifted back
to the dress in the window in Moons,
glad I didn’t fall for it after all –
I’m almost sure it was short and flared.

Breda Hyland

Nature in the Raw

In the world of nature, battles are fought daily that exceed in ferocity even those of our bloodiest, be it Waterloo, Stalingrad or Valley Forge. The natural contests differ from the human in that the former are conducted as a matter of survival and predatory food, whilst humans too often have mutually slaughtered for less justifiable reasons.
If you had been present in a garden shed in the West of Ireland, on a day when the sun shone brightly through the small rooflight, you would have witnessed a memorable spectacle being enacted: a fight to the death between a wasp and a spider. The spider is an astute tactician who knows well the importance of selecting the battleground best suited to neutralizing the wasp’s superiority in weaponry and manoeuvrability, to level the playing field. He must at the outset disable at least one of the wasp’s advantages in weaponry.

The battleground was an unusually strong web, right up in a shaft of strong sunshine. Of the forest of webs in this virtually untouched habitat, this fortification was of the strongest. A foraging wasp, minding his own business and failing to keep a sharp lookout, reported his blundering intrusion by a frantic acceleration of his buzzing wings. This (which is well known to a spider) is designed to enmesh the intruder deeper and deeper the more he struggles.
You would observe the entire web violently rocking, such was the energy of the wasp. You would find the spider, and he was a big one, waiting expectantly at the extremity of one web strand, from which position he could sally forth to any point of the web in attack. If you were familiar with spider strategy and language, you would understand that his tactics were to tire out the wasp until the point when he could rush in and deliver the paralysing bite.

It was a long wait. At intervals, the spider would make a rush towards the wasp, a manoeuvre that alarmed the wasp into a renewed frenzy of buzzing. Time and again he advanced and time and again retreated, as the fellow had obviously learned the wisdom of discretion being the better part of valour. As the buzzing got fainter and lower on the audio scale, you might predict how this was going to end. If you were a betting man, you’d be laying odds on the spider.

If you stayed until the denouement, you would have witnessed the countless rushes and retreats and the wasp’s failing strength, but nothing in nature is quite predictable, and, as the spider poised for the final coup de gras, the buzzing re-awoke to a sudden crescendo and the wasp broke free, mocking his erstwhile adversary all the while. The spider was left crouching at the edge of his torn flytrap, and one can imagine his chagrin, in spider language – Damn! If the wasp was trailing a metre-long string of web – for all the world like one of those advertising streamers towed by light aircraft – it was a small burden to carry for his triumphant escape. And if he was trumpeting his triumph over a wily enemy, who are we to criticise him?

Tony Tynan

Ar Líne Le Chéile – Online Together

Before I was involved in an online arts centre, I was involved in an online school.

The Covid-19 has involved a lot of “online firsts” for me, many of which involves using new software for face-to-face online conversation. Ar Líne Le Chéile was the first of the firsts.

As soon as the schools in Ireland were shut, on Thursday 12 March, three friends (Notes from Xanadu contributors Philipa Farley and Simon Woodworth, and electronic engineer Gerard Heaney) and I decided to set up an online school. We wanted to be able to help children of friends and family with any isolation and loneliness that they might be feeling as a result of the crisis, and to give them the opportunity to explore new ideas with each other. The next day, Philipa gave Gerard and me an introduction to Microsoft Teams, and two days later I ran a trial lesson with my niece and nephew, to make sure I knew what I was doing, software-wise (with more than a decade’s experience I was fairly confident on the teaching front).

As it soon became clear that the regular schools would be sending work home for the children, I decided to have a different focus – theme-based, multi-disciplinary lessons designed to whet the student’s appetite for further exploration or activity, in whichever direction might take their interest. The first of these was a virtual visit to the British Museum to visit the Rosetta Stone. We also used a hieroglyphic typewriter, and made posters. After a meeting with parents on the Monday night, the school opened with this lesson on Wednesday, 18 March, with 11 pupils.

We settled into a regular routine after that with the themed lesson on Mondays and an associated feedback class on Fridays. On Wednesdays, I led a half-hour conversational Irish class, whilst Philipa taught Scratch programming on Thursday. Gerard gave us an evening Introduction to Electronics on the second week. During what would have been the school holidays, I led a weekly “keeping in touch” session on the two Thursdays.

Ar Líne Le Chéile has pupils from Sligo, Roscommon, Dublin, Cork and Galway. The school is free, and the teachers are giving their time as volunteers. I asked some of the children and parents for their thoughts for an earlier press release.

“It’s a great way to learn – you feel connected with other learners” said Jack Keaney, a 12-year-old student.

Charlotte Gask, mum of three of the students, had this to say:

“For me, I think the subjects are great. It lovely that it includes lots of ages and abilities, but mostly I love that it is scheduled. It gives us an anchor for our ‘school’ day.”

Her daughter, Georgie Longstaff, added:

“I like it, it’s more fun than school.”

Philipa’s two daughters, Ruth and Zoë, love that they can help demonstrate and make a game (while learning). They also like helping their mother to teach.

We are currently on a two-week break, and there was some thought that maybe the normal schools might be resuming before the end of that, but An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s announcement yesterday has made it clear that primary and secondary schools will not be reopening until September. Ar Líne Le Chéile, on the other hand, will be resuming on 11 May. Our students are the nicest bunch of children you could possibly hope to meet, and I am looking forward to seeing them all again on Monday week – nuair a bheidh muid ar líne le chéile arís (when we will be online together again).

Mary Tynan

More information about our school can be found at www.arlinelecheile.school.

Wish You Were Here

Today we are lolling on bright red towels at Inchydoney beach. The tide creeps out, and a black and white sheep dog and a toddler wearing swimming trunks race each other along the water’s edge. It’s good to breathe in the tangy air. Fachtna has been reading a thriller, turning the pages at a rapid speed, but he soon tires of it all, and joins me in my favourite pursuit – people watching.

A young woman ambles by, her feet sinking into the soft sand, her body swaying with the weight of her bump. She wears a yellow sundress, and moves regally, despite her awkwardness. Fachtna picks up his book, shields his face. I lie back and shut my eyes. We came here to get away from it all.

Two weeks ago we finished the last round. The hope-despair cycle. I suggested adoption last night, but was met with stony silence. Maybe he will warm to the idea.

And in the meantime there is this: a July afternoon, the sand scorching my heels, a barking dog, a giggling toddler. One empty bank account, two worn-out people, three days of marriage-mending.

The sun glistens silver on the tops of the waves. The beauty of it hurts my eyes. Must post a picture to Facebook. Our friends will be envious of our long weekend away.

Geraldine McCarthy

Geraldine McCarthy lives in West Cork.  She writes short stories, flash fiction and poetry, in both English and Irish. Her work has been published in various journals, both on-line and in print.

Philipa Farley

Summer Plans

Transplanted. Geeking out about most things AI, law and quantum, offline and online, when not spending time with the family, pets, and friends. Expect commentary on food and wine from time to time.

What are your summer plans? I can tell you that we were planning on a trip to the seaside, possibly to a hotel. This was besides quite a long list of day trips out to touristy joints such as the Cliffs of Moher. We were perhaps partly planning at some point to go to Disneyland Paris*. These things obviously depended on work going well. You know, because I’m ‘self-employed’** and these things are generally achievable and within our control.

Well, Mother Nature, God, the Universe and everything else has handed us 2020 on a plate with a side serving of ‘screw your plans, human’! I suppose at this point on day whatever of whatever we call this situation – lockdown? quarantine? self-imposed semi-solitude while we count our loo rolls? – it is as good a time as any to practice gratitude, mindfulness and everything else akin to such.

I’ll start with gratitude for the fact that we likely won’t be subjected to masses of humanity in small enclosed spaces over the summer. Most likely you, dear Reader, will have experienced the deep joy of overwhelm and meltdown, as we have on several occasions, in the midst of activities that had previously been begged for with much persuasion. So, I am thankful that I can just cite COVID-19 LOCKDOWN 2020 in response to any such Disneyland related requests, parks and cruises included. My screw you to TV advertising during prime time! We’ll save a few ‘youro’ in the meantime too. Happy days.

Let us move on to mindfulness and living in the present moment, because, let’s be honest, there doesn’t seem to be a single human on this earth that can tell us what tomorrow will bring. Our default is the present moment. And it’s pretty damn uncomfortable! I’m on the verge of doing the |||| / on the wall above my desk. I keep having to ask what actual day it is. Now, more than ever before, we realise what a man-made construct time in fact is.

Everything else akin? Well, I for one am at the stage of hands in the air and do what you want***. Really, I am. I am a compulsive goal setter, planner and organiser. These are great skills in the context of a regular and functioning system. Right now, not so much. They are anxiety causing beasts.

Which brings me to the last point of this likely last column because like our previous reality, all changes at some point****. Was ‘before’ regular and normal? Is the universe resetting? Should we have taken the other colour pill? Forgive me, I seem to have woken up in the midst of the type of ridiculous movie that I usually don’t go and watch because when will that ish ever happen to us? Daily life feels like driving in the mist. It just swirls without context or horizon.

So, with time passing as it inevitably does, this summer, you might find me and us here at home, braai’ing*****, fixing up the garden and generally enjoying each other’s company. Outsiders of the household might be welcome but keep your two-metre distance. Happy days!

*The smallies were negotiating a cruise. Not going to happen ever because I have the words DIAMOND PRINCESS forever burned into my prefrontal cortex. Everything from hereon in will be put through the COVID-19 LOCKDOWN 2020 filter.

**On my LinkedIn though, I’m a director, lead auditor and consultant. Sounds so much better, no?
***But only after the daily schedule has been strictly adhered to – school work, cleaning, meals by the clock.
****Someone else can have a turn now!
*****Because barbecuing apparently holds a whole cultural context that we have yet to wrap our heads around.

Philipa Farley

Yemeni Exchange

As the elderly Boeing 727 took off from Abu Dhabi and banked around a huge thunderstorm, I realised I was heading somewhere different. In 1998, I was on my way to the port of Aden in Yemen. As the plane approached the airport there, the burned-out hulks of aircraft littered the airfield around the runway. The terminal building itself was gouged out with a huge bomb crater, the scars of a civil war that had ended 4 years previously. We had to enter the arrivals area via the men’s toilets. I was held up by customs who insisted on writing a lengthy note in my passport because I was carrying a (then relatively rare) Toshiba laptop.

I had been sent there by my employers to help commission a telephone exchange. Aden was blisteringly hot as well as being a bustling madhouse, with a good chunk of the city inside a volcanic crater. The base station for our new mobile system sat on top of a ridge at the edge of that crater, over razor sharp lava fields. It was so hot that the 4×4 we used to get there had two air conditioning units. The icy chill of the 4×4’s interior was a huge contrast to the waves of heat radiating from the lava field on which the base station was built.

The telephone exchange was in cooler surroundings, but still extremely hot. A trip to the bathroom involved shooing the rats out from under the toilet! Outside the bathroom was a tented area, at which the faithful prayed several times daily. The calls to prayer from the muezzins were piped over loudspeakers all over the city. It is a sound I will never forget.

The sea was as warm as bathwater to swim in, and we went for a dip one evening, right next to the huge desalination plants which supplied freshwater to the city. Swimming was very pleasant, but not effective for cooling down! The food at the hotel we stayed in was excellent, but I made the mistake of sampling a local drug called Qat. Qat is a leaf which, when chewed, is pleasantly sweet and gives a very mild narcotic buzz. A British colleague described it as “chewing a Privet bush.” It was certainly not unpleasant and it was not unusual to see Yemeni men with a wad of Qat shoved in a cheek for chewing.

Unfortunately, in my eagerness to sample local customs, I had forgotten basic food hygiene and cleanliness. As a result of my Qat–chewing, the subsequent stomach upset caused me to rapidly lose 5 kilos over the following week. The rat–infested toilet was a frequent visiting place. It took 15 hour’s unbroken sleep to finally clear the bug and recover some sense of normality.

Yemeni men used to walk around hand-in-hand and Yemeni women invariably wore black abayas with a slit opening for eyes. Underneath their severe outer clothing, however, you could frequently see a colourful and fashionable shoe peeping out. I was lucky to experience how friendly and helpful Yemenis were: I never felt threatened or unsafe there. Whilst, at the time, there was a habit of kidnapping foreigners, they were always well treated. So much so, that a French kidnap victim was presented with an AK47 on his release and wrote a letter of release to his captors. Unfortunately, this friendly practice ended when the government started to shoot kidnappers, a counterproductive practice that resulted in the deaths of several victims. It was surely a sign of future trouble in the country.

After two weeks, the telephone exchange installation was successfully completed. I was able to make mobile telephone calls on the system, always a gratifying experience. Unfortunately, I had less than 12 hours to enjoy the fruits of my labour. At short notice, I was asked to travel to Egypt to talk to customers in Cairo. I had to travel to Sana’a to catch the flight because of an airline strike in Aden. This involved a 400km journey in an aging Peugeot 305 with a Qat-chewing(!) taxi-driver.

The countryside was epic. It rose from dry wadis near the coast through rocky foothills and mountains to an elevation of over 2000 m in Sana’a. We passed through dusty little villages of cube-shaped houses, as the air grew cooler and the countryside greener. There were frequent military checkpoints and, unknown to me, a lot of the rural areas had local chieftains who were the ones kidnapping foreigners.

The taxi-driver, however, was a lunatic. There’s a scene (not that one) in Basic Instinct where Sharon Stone subjects Michael Douglas to a hair-raising high-speed drive along a narrow cliff road, overtaking into oncoming traffic. My driver did the same thing while nonchalantly chewing his Qat (he did offer me some, but I politely declined).

I arrived in Sana’a unscathed. At 10,000 feet altitude, it was lovely and cool, with much more greenery than the coast or inland. A misunderstanding about my hotel destination lead to a lively conversation between my driver and some locals. All were intent on me arriving safely, and I did – just in time for dinner with a Ukrainian colleague, before an early morning departure to Cairo. When I arrived in Amman for a connecting flight, it was a pleasant shock to see the faces of women again.

Arriving in Cairo, my local contact was crestfallen to see I had no business suit. Unfortunately, I had packed for technical work at a telephone exchange, not visiting customers. Interestingly, all the management of the mobile service provider were women, which went slightly against the stereotype of Middle Eastern countries.

Compared to Aden, Cairo was a huge metropolis – but, nevertheless, another bustling madhouse. Nearly every taxi had dented side panels, as driving was regarded as a contact sport. I spent a couple of days there, with one notable dinner by the banks of the Nile. I did see the pyramids briefly from an aeroplane window on my departure.

Simon Woodworth

Red Hood

(Violence and adult themes)

Seena could hear the foxes howling in the back garden.  She had put out a few scraps for them earlier.  She looked out the window and saw two of them enjoying their meal.  Her grandmother always told her she shouldn’t encourage them, but she felt sorry for the skinny little canines.  She had always been fascinated by foxes, going back to early childhood.  Of course, in those days the animals were not so plentiful in cities, and sightings were rare treats.  Now, however, the animals were everywhere.  Many people found them a nuisance, but Seena often felt comforted by the thought of foxes in her garden.  In her mind they kept her safe.

Thinking of her grandmother reminded Seena that she had promised to bring her round some dinner tonight.  What to cook?  She decided on a new recipe she had got recently for chickpea curry with brown rice.

While the meal was cooking, Seena watched the foxes.  They had finished eating now and were sitting on the grass looking towards the house.  As she gazed out the window at them, it felt like a communion between woman and beast. Shortly, however, the animals got up and left, and Seena returned her attention to the dinner.

When she was finished cooking, Seena filled some Tupperware with curry and rice for Granny.  She donned her favourite bright red coat, and, as it was a cold evening, she put the hood up.

It was about a 20 minute walk to Granny’s house, and Seena travelled briskly to avoid the chill.  It was a relief to walk into the welcoming warmth of her grandmother’s house and receive her cheery greeting.

‘You’re so good to an old woman, Seena, coming out on a cold night like this.’

‘It’s nothing, Nani.  Besides, I want to know what you think of my new recipe,” Seena said as she plated up the chickpea curry.

‘I’m sure it will be delicious, love,’ her grandmother replied.

As the old woman ate, they talked about the family, Nani recently having had a visit from her Grandson and his new wife.  Inevitably, this lead to talk of Seena’s situation – Why didn’t she find a nice boy for herself and settle down like her brother?  Seena, as usual made light of Nani’s questions and deflected the conversation back onto her brother.  While her parents were perfectly aware of her preference for her own gender, it had been agreed within the family that what Nani didn’t know couldn’t hurt her, and Seena was happy with that.

Finally, it was time to head out into the cold again.  Her grandmother asked her to stay the night, but Seena had some work she wanted to finish at home, so she donned her red coat once again and stepped out briskly.  Looking at her watch, Seena was surprised at how late it was.  She really wanted to get home as soon as possible  Should she take the shortcut?  She didn’t usually do so at night, but this was a safe area and she felt such a strong yearning to be home quickly.

The shortcut was a pathway at the side of a meadow, with a high wall on the other side.  It was often busy during the day, but at this time of night it was deserted.  Seena pulled up her hood and followed the pavement at a steady pace.  She was about halfway down when she felt a callused hand grab her arm.  Next thing she knew she was slammed against the block wall and a rough-looking man was in front of her.  He pulled down her hood and ripped it from her coat.

She started to scream but he grabbed her by the throat.  Holding her still with his right hand, he used his left to open her coat and tug at her jeans and underwear.  His face was now looming and she could see his bald head with a union jack tattooed on it and a vein pulsating in the forehead.  She could smell his fetid breath  The fear was a stabbing knife in her stomach..

“Please,” she whispered.  He started to undo his own trousers.

Suddenly, something leapt out of the darkness straight onto the man’s left arm.  It was a fox!  As the attacker turned to see what was there, his grip on Seena’s neck loosened.  There was a growl, and another fox was on his right leg.  Meanwhile a third canine nuzzled at Seena’s hand.  She pulled her clothes back into order and raced desperately for home.

It was several hours later.  The police had been round to see her and Seena had told them everything.  They promised to call if there was any progress.  Seena had gone straight into the shower when they left, scrubbing herself as if she could never be clean again.  Now she was coming downstairs in her dressing gown when the phone rang.  It was the policeman who had visited her earlier.  They had found her attacker.

‘He was easy to identify, ma’am, he had been terribly mauled by the foxes.  He confessed to everything.  He’ll be in hospital for a while, though, before he’s well enough to stand trial.’

‘Thank you Officer.’  Seena put down the phone.  Something made her turn towards the window.  Hearing a faint mewling sound, she opened the curtains.

Six foxes were sitting in a semi-circle on the grass facing her.  In the centre was her red hood.

Thank you,’ Seena whispered.

Nothing happened for a moment, and then, one by one, the foxes seemed to nod to her before walking slowly from the garden.

Mary Tynan

Red Moon – Moonrise

Those of you who have read my reviews of The Springheel Saga (Series I and II) will be familiar with the name Wireless Theatre.  The company produce high quality radio drama, which is made available via download from their website.  If you enjoyed Springheel Jack, or if you are a fan of alternate history tales, then you probably won’t want to miss this new mystery series.

It Monday, 3 December 1979, and Eddie Sloper is getting ready to go to work.  However it is not a 1979 any of us remember.  The split that created this timeline happened in 1968, when Yuri Gagarin became the first man on the moon.  With lunar bases and the moon being weaponised with nuclear warheads, the arms race between the US and the Soviets has expanded off-planet, with the result that the doomsday clock is now very close to midnight.

Eddie works for the British Space Liaison Department and much of the action in the first episode takes place there with very convincing performances from Philip Bulcock (Eddie) and Stephen Critchlow (as Eddie’s boss, Wilkins).  However, a lot of the soundscape of the piece is in the form of news reports which fill us in on both the background history and the continuing arms crisis.  I love the little details that has been added as well, such as Sid Vicious being on trial for murder (when in our timeline he had been dead for months), and the ad for “Space Snacks,” which sound like something I once purchased in the Cape Canaveral gift shop (pizza and ice cream were the two I bought).

As usual, this is a slick production, with excellent work from everyone on the team.  In particular the music, by Francesco Quadraruopolo, and the overall sound design, by Jim Sigee, contribute greatly to the atmosphere of the piece.  Furthermore, there is a very good balance between events on the world stage and Eddie’s story, whilst his voiceover helps to bring everything together.

Episode 1 ends on a cliffhanger, with a murder which will no doubt drive a lot of the action in further parts of the series, but don’t worry, because Episode 2 is available already, so you won’t have to wait to see what happens next!

Episode 1 of Red Moon is free to stream on Wireless Theatre’s audioBoom channel: https://audioboom.com/posts/6549173-red-moon-episode-one-moonrise-audio-drama.

Episode 2 and all further episodes are exclusive to the Wireless Theatre website: https://www.wirelesstheatrecompany.co.uk/product/red-moon-phase-ii-umbra/, with Episode 3 being released in March.  The story was conceived by Jack Bowman and Robert Valentine, with the latter also writing, directing and producing.

Mary Tynan

Cover art by @arbernaut

 

Farewell to Free Will

It was a secular age. The International Interdiction Against Organised Religion, passed unanimously by the world’s 347 ruling members of the Global Governing Body in 2150, had seen to that. Therefore, according to orthodox atheist thinking, war was impossible. As all right thinking people knew, religion was the predominant cause of conflict. God was a childish fairytale and Man was free to live in peace.

And yet the nuclear missiles remained – and remained in a state of readiness.

“They’ll never be used. Their very existence ensures that,” Enlightened Man oxymoronically proclaimed. But without religion, other causes of irrationality will inevitably arise.

Far from the eyes of the global media, a charismatic leader came to power in a forgotten corner of the old Soviet Republic. Such was his personal magnetism that his people were delighted to cede him control of their one working atomic weapon. But charm and insanity can be two sides of the same coin, and Leoniv Maskutin had some serious issues about the world’s rejection of his artistic talent in his early 20s. It was a chance remark by a journalist, about finger painting, on 21 September 2072, that tipped him over the edge. He pressed the button at 9.27 pm, Moscow time.

Mushroom2Missile defence systems around the planet sprang into action. Everything was automatic, and Rational Man watched in horror as mutually assured destruction seemed to become a reality. Of course the bomb shelters and bunkers had all been demolished or turned into tourist attractions long ago. There was nothing to do but panic, or calmly accept your coming fate, depending on one’s personal psychological makeup.

And then a voice like thunder spake:

“STOP! ENOUGH! This free will business has gotten completely out of hand. I turn my back for a few centuries and look what happens!”

The missiles appeared to be frozen in space at the feet of an enormous figure of an elderly man in a white robe, with long flowing grey hair and a beard to match. Though aged, his vigour and strength were painfully apparent.

“It’s Gandalf,” cried many, but most knew better, as an inner voice told them just who they were looking at.

————-

It was a religious age. Houses of worship of all denominations were continually full and the people of earth were God-fearing to a man. They had no choice. Volition was gone – as were the weapons.

Mary Tynan

Sunset

By notesfromxanadu Posted in Fiction

Edinburgh Preview – Much Further Out Than You Thought

Much Further Out Than You Thought is a one-man show which tells the story of Lance Corporal James Randall, who finished his tours of duty in Helmand six years ago.  It is Remembrance Sunday, and he is in his living room in south London recording a birthday message for his young son, surrounded by childhood toys and memorabilia.  As the narrative progresses, it becomes clear that James is suffering from PTSD, and the audience learns how the collision of civilian Britain and front-line Afghanistan can lead to catastrophe.

I met with writer and actor Giles Roberts after the play’s preview at the Old Red Lion in Islington.  A charming and interesting man, he is as sympathetic and likeable as the character he portrays with such expertise.  Giles was quick to point out that Much Further Out Than You Thought is not intended to be anti-war propaganda – it is the individual story of a single soldier.  He does, however, object to the glamorisation of the army which appears to be taking place recently.

Although James Randall is fictional, Giles did have the help of two soldiers as consultants when he was writing the play.  He got the idea after watching a 1980s documentary called Four Hours in My Lai, about a massacre by US troops in Vietnam.  The personal testimonies of the soldiers particularly resonated with him, and he began to try to empathise with how an act of killing must irreparably alter a person, and how it influences them in the future.

We talked about the timelessness of the situation: young men are trained to kill, but what happens to that training when they come back home?  There has been a lot of talk about World War I in the last couple of years, and shell-shock cases have parallels with current incidences of PTSD.  But Giles emphasised that warfare is more asymmetrical now: there are no longer two rows of trenches and the enemy can be anyone and anywhere.  This causes the combatants to develop a sense of hyper-awareness, which, unfortunately cannot be easily turned off when they return to civilian life.

Despite having several writing credits for spoken word, Much Further Out Than You Thought is Giles’ first play.  As an actor, trained at the Oxford School of Drama, he has many credits to his name.  The play is directed by Bethany Pitts, and Giles spoke of the short rehearsal period with a director he already knew very well, and how interesting it was to come at the material from two different angles.  Much Further Out Than You Thought is the winner of a 2015 IdeasTap Underbelly Award.  With IdeasTap sadly having to close, Giles and Bethany will be among the last people to benefit from their invaluable help.

Much Further Out Than You Thought is at the Underbelly Cowgate (Big Belly), 56 Cowgate, Edinburgh, EH1 1EG, from Thursday 6th – Sunday 30th August 2015 (not 17th), at 3.20pm.  It is produced by the Molino Group.  For more information visit The Molino Group.

All in the Body

An acquaintance with Myalgic Encephomyelitis, on telling a friend about her condition, was asked, almost reflexively “Do you really have ME or is it just depression?”  The same woman had to change doctor at her NHS practice recently (her regular doctor being on long-term sick leave).  The new doctor expressed great surprise that her condition had not been cured by anti-depressants (but was otherwise sympathetic).  These two incidents exemplify two of the main issues raised in Angela Kennedy’s excellent book: firstly that chronic illnesses for which no clear medical cause is identifiable are often classed by medical practitioners as psychogenic (psychosomatic), and secondly the detrimental effects such classification can have on the patient’s treatment, not only medically, but by society at large.

To a large extent this work is a literature review, or perhaps a meta-analysis, of existing and previous research.  Which is all to the good, as a large amount of the extant results seem to have been misreported and misinterpreted by the (popular and scientific) press.  Although Angela focuses on ME/CFS, the conclusions are applicable to a much wider range of conditions.  Of interest is the fact that (or so it seems to me), a disproportionate amount of the case studies, both historically and more recently, are those of women.  Ms Kennedy gives an interesting personal account of how her GP informed her in no uncertain terms that she was having a “hysterical pregnancy” when she attended the surgery after having completed a home pregnancy test.  Her ‘hysterical’ son is now a grown man!

The book begins by pointing out the fallacies associated with psychogenic explanations: the reason for a condition being “medically unexplained” is usually down to limitations with current medical knowledge.  Attaching such terminology to certain diseases can also lead to shutting down further avenues of investigation, often with severely detrimental results.  A convincing argument in the introduction is that: “The present lack of critical examination of this conjecture (that ME is a modern version of neurasthenia) is also not a reason to accept this conjecture: no scholarship has yet been performed to suggest CFS and ME are not caused by demonic possession, for example, but this should not mean therefore that they are caused by such, even if such a reason might be ‘persuasive’ to some.”

Ms Kennedy goes to discuss “problems of psychogenic explanations in action:” the beliefs that certain types of people get certain types of illness, with a particular emphasis on the diagnosis and labelling of people with ME.  The following chapter deals with doctors’ attitudes to such patients, often labelled as “heartsink,” containing some shocking examples of patients labelled as lazy, malingering and hypochondriac.

“Think yourself better” explores the dangers of CBT when put forward as a cure, rather than a coping mechanism for ME, whilst “Consequences of psychogenic explanations” looks into how such explanations can be widely damaging for the patient, both in the hands of the medical profession, as well as at the hands of society at large.

Angela concludes that the trend towards labelling illness as psychogenic is on the increase, and that this is a dangerous direction to be heading in: “(the realities of psychogenic explanations) are most often fallacious in their logic and informed by harmful ideologies.  They cause actual harm in many ways.”

This is a very significant book about a highly important aspect of medicine which has detrimental effects on many of us.  Angela Kennedy has taken what is evident in the literature and research, and reported it in a non-biased way, thus giving us access to serious evidence against the psychogenic theory of illness such as ME/CFS which has been ignored by many other publications, and certainly the popular press.

I advise anyone with an interest in ME, CFS, other neurological or fatigue-related illness, as well as those interested in the whole mind/body connection issue as concerns disease, to read this book.  It can be purchased from www.amazon.co.uk for £17.59.

Mary Tynan

Angela Kennedy Angela Kennedy is a social sciences lecturer and researcher at a number of universities in London, and author of numerous articles, papers and books in lay, professional and academic media over a 30 year career.

Just When You Thought it Was Safe to Go Back to Victorian London

The Legend of Springheel’d Jack – Series II of The Springheel Saga

Once again, Wireless Theatre Company has produced an energising, bewitching, atmospheric piece of radio.  Opening seven years after the end of the last series, we are immediately dropped into the thick of the action and the pace does not let up throughout the three episodes.  The Doctor Who references this time seem to me more subtle, and at the same time wider-reaching.  The sound landscape played a large part in this (I’m sure I heard a tardis at a couple of points!), especially the incidental music provided by Cameron K McEwan.  Without giving too much away, much of the story revolves around a mysterious box, whose origins, it turns out, involve transwarp drive.  The box’s final destination is reminiscent of another cult classic – Raiders of the Lost Ark.

The storytelling remains first-class  Writing for radio holds its own special challenges, as the conversations have to tell most of the story, without being too obvious or lessening the impact of the characters as individuals, and this was managed seemingly effortlessly by Gareth Parker and Robert Valentine.  However, in this series, they have added the device of a narrator, who is also a character in the story (James M. Rymer, wonderfully played by John Holden White) and this proved to be very effective.  As before, the dialogue is outstanding throughout; with priceless lines such as “the tears that rolled down his cheeks behind the large false beard.”

The acting was superb.  Christopher Finney reprised his role of Jonas Smith with aplomb, John Holden White, as James M Rymer, was an excellent addition to the cast, and Nicholas Parson was wonderful as Cuthbert Leach.  However, my personal favourite this time was Josephine Timmons, as Lizzie Coombe.  She was believable on so many different levels (it was a complicated character); totally sympathetic and a pleasure to listen to throughout.  Casting was by Jack Bowman, who also had a small but effective cameo, but whose major contribution is in the production and the superb writing (under his pseudonym of Gareth Parker).  The excellent direction was by co-writer Robert Valentine, who was also part of the production team, along with Mariele Runacre-Temple.

The Legend of Springheel’d Jack is in three episodes: The Terror of London; The Carnival of Horrors and The Engine of Doom.  Each of these can be downloaded from www.wirelesstheatrecompany.co.uk.  Series III – The Secret of Springheel’d Jack – is planned for an August/September release.  I’ll be listening!

Previously published in Blogtor Who.

Nobody Does It Better

The Diary of a Nobody at the King’s Head Theatre, 20 January 2015 – 14 February 2014

The Diary of a Nobody, the story of Charles Pooter, was published as a series of articles and illustration in Punch during the late 19th Century, and was written by brothers George and Weedon Grossmith.  There have been numerous stage, screen and radio adaptations over the intervening years, often differing wildly in interpretation, for instance Keith Waterhouse’s play, featuring Judy Dench and Michael Williams, told the story from the point of view of Pooter’s wife Carrie.

As would be expected, Rough Haired Pointer have their own take on the story.  This starts with the design (Karina Nakaninsky and Christopher Hone): both set and costumes are constructed to resemble the black and white drawings in the original work.  Secondly, the adaptation and direction (Mary Franklin) splits the action between four characters in an interesting way (the narration, as Pooter, is shared by all four, for instance), and thirdly the sheer madcap mayhem and silliness of the production was extremely refreshing.

The cast consisted of four male actors, which did add slightly to the Pythonesque atmosphere of the piece, although I’m sure it could work equally well with women also.  Jake Curran played Charles Pooter throughout, which lent a much needed anchor to the play, amidst the constantly changing characters around him.  He did an excellent job of conveying both poignancy and humour.  Jordan Mallory-Skinner played Carrie throughout, although he did morph briefly into three other characters.  Again, he gave a sympathetic and amusing portrayal of the character, and, although not dragged up in any way other than the costume and a pair of earrings, at times I found myself forgetting he was not really a woman!

All the remaining characters were played by Geordie Wright and George Fouracres.  Wright did have a main character of sort, in Sarah, the maid, but he played many others also, and Fouracres was continually changing parts, although perhaps his role as Lupin, the Pooters’ son, is the one that most sticks in my mind.  These two actors contributed a lot of the over-the-top hilarity which was a characteristic of the production, and both displayed great comic flair, as indeed did Curran and Mallory-Skinner.  The chaotic fun was enhanced by the staging: little touches such as having the cast pour glasses of rice from a wine bottle and try to drink it, and the postman carrying a letter box with him as well as a letter to put through it.  There was also some audience participation involved.  In addition, there was quite a bit of corpsing, which strangely just made the play even funnier.

The Diary of a Nobody is closing at the King’s Head tonight, so do pop down and see it if you can, or look out for future productions (the current one is a transfer from the White Bear).  For more information, visit www.kingsheadtheatrepub.co.uk  or www.roughhairedpointer.com.

Photographs courtesy of Rocco Redondo

The Diary of a Nobody

Brilliant Brel

Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris at the Charing Cross Theatre

You probably know more Jacques Brel songs than you think.  Ne Me Quitte Pas, anyone?  How about No Love You’re Not Alone (incorporated in David Bowie’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide)?  Terry Jacks’ Seasons in the Sun was Le Moribond with a new lyric, while Scott Walker had a hit record with Jacky in the late 1960s.

Singer songwriter Brel was born in Belgium in 1929, moving to Paris in 1953 to pursue his career in music.  Although he died young (aged 49) he left a remarkable legacy of chansons behind him, many of which focus on the darker side of life.  “Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris,” a musical revue of his work, was first produced in New York in 1968.  The show reflects his strong anti-war stance, and features songs in English, French and Flemish.

The Charing Cross Theatre production has a heavy cabaret feel to it, which is all to the good.  The first half was enjoyable: Eve Polycarpou opened the show with Le Diable (Ca Va), followed by Daniel Boys and Gina Beck, who made a favourable first impression with If We Only Have Love. Musical Director and Pianist Dean Austin sang a brief solo with Le Moribond, and I particularly liked the closing number Amsterdam, powerfully sung by David Burt, which gave a flavour of what was to come after the interval.  I would have liked to hear some harmonies on The Desperate Ones, which was sung in unison by the full company, but by the time I got to the interval I was already impressed and looking forward to what was to follow.

Despite some feedback problems on the sound front, especially during “Middle Class” (which was a shame, as it was otherwise a very amusing number from David and Daniel), the second half blew me away.  Eve’s Ne Me Quitte Pas was profoundly moving, and Gina’s “My Death” totally rocked.  I’ve been lucky enough to see the wonderfully talented Camille O’Sullivan perform both of these, plus Amsterdam, live on more than one occasion, and Eve, Gina and David’s renditions in no way suffered by comparison.  Daniel Boys also gave a consistently strong performance throughout, with his Next being a particular standout.  Overall, the second half seemed to build to a final crescendo, with the full cast joining in for a reprise of If We Only Have Love at the end.

The four singers were ably supported on stage by band members James Cleeve, Felix Stickland, Doug Grannell and Richard Burden, as well as by Dean Austin as previously mentioned.  This excellent show was directed by Andrew Keates, and is well worth a viewing.

Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris runs until 22 November 2014 at the Charing Cross Theatre, Monday – Saturday 7.45 pm, Saturday matinees 3pm.  Tickets are available from www.charingcrosstheatre.co.uk.

My Million to One – Worth £1 of Your Money!

For almost a year, I have been attending free events run by My Million to One, a charity run by Alana Hurd, and backed by such big names as Richard E Grant and Jason Flemyng.  I have been to Q&As with both the aforementioned actors, as well as director Hugh Woolridge.  I have also been at a Mind Body Spirit workshop and a discussion about producing theatre.  There have been many others that I have wanted to go to but time or circumstances prevented me, such as Tai Chi, circus skills and book publishing to name but a few.  The subjects covered have been many and varied – from new age thinking to the arts to business to extreme sport and even exploration: Sir Ranulph Fiennes was one of the many wonderful people to give his time to the project.  There have also been many raffles throughout the year.

The workshops and Q&As will be drawing to a close before the end of the year, but transcripts of the Q&As will remain available for members to download from the internet and there are also dozens of discounts and offers to help people achieve their dreams.

My Million to One was founded to found a home for abandoned disabled children in Southern Africa. Alana was asked to help whilst volunteering in the area, so she approached a couple of small, local charities that she knew very well and they agreed to adopt the children and give them a home.  However, she has to meet two criteria in order for the arrangement to go ahead.  Firstly, to find money every year to pay for the children’s home, plus all their needs, education & rehabilitation costs; and, secondly, to guarantee that the money will be provided for their lifetimes.

Alana has found a unique way to do it – By making £1,000,000 by 22nd November 2014.

When a million of you join MMTO, paying £1 (+ 11p credit card charge) each ONCE ONLY, the interest alone from the £1,000,000 will build AND fund the home for the children in Africa, never requiring further investment again.  This is a brand new charity model in its own right.

A million sounds like a big number, but it’s really just 10 to the power of six, or in human terms six degrees of separation.  Let me explain.  I’ve paid a one-off donation of £1 to join My Million to One.  If I get 10 friends to do the same, that’s 101.  When each of those then gets 10 new friends to join, that’s 102, or 100.  They each persuade 10 other friends – 103, who invite 10 more friends each – 104.  Those friends do likewise and we have 105, and finally this last group each asks 10 friends and we have 106 or £1,000,000.  Plus my original £1 of course.  So in six easy steps we have created a forever home for disabled African orphans, and made an awful lot of friends.

Will you be one of my ten?

Read more about My Million to One here: http://mymilliontoone.wordpress.com/2014/03/17/my-million-to-one-the-3-whys/

or go straight ahead and join here: http://www.mymilliontoone.com/foyer

My Million to One really needs and deserves our support.  Join – and tell your friends!

Get Your Own Art – for Free!

OwnArt

Own Art is an Arts Council England initiative which gives interest free loans to individuals, in order to make purchasing contemporary art and craft easy and affordable.  They are celebrating their 10th anniversary this year, and, as part of the festivities, have commissioned Turner Prize winning artist Jeremy Deller to create a digital animation.  This work, which will be based on that he did for the Venice Biennale 2013, is to be split into 10,000 stills that will be available to download as individual unique works of art.

To be one of the lucky 10,000, subscribe (anytime from now onwards) to The Space newsletter at http://www.thespace.org/artwork/view/wesit#.U5wnqyJwZeU.  Once you’ve confirmed your subscription, they will send you an email with a link to claim your work, which will then be downloadable from Monday, 7 July 2014.

The full animation will be premiered on screen on Saturday, 19 July, at both Westfield Stratford and Westfield London.

Own Art was created to inspire individuals to take their first steps and buyers and collectors of contemporary art and craft, as well as to assist the galleries they work with, along with their artists, to be more sustainable as businesses.  Customers can borrow from £100 to £2,500 interest free, and spread the cost of repayment over 10 months.  A quarter of the loan amount each year, on average, is to customers with an annual income of £25,000 or less.  Since the scheme began in 2004, it has financed in excess of £25 million worth of sales.

Jeremy Deller has been making art since the early 1990s.  He won the Turner Prize in 2004 for the documentary Memory Bucket, and his work covers subjects ranging from exotic wrestler Adrian Street to international fans of 1980s band Depeche Model.  He has exhibited widely throughout the world, and in 2013 represented Britain at the Venice Biennale.

For more information on Own Art visit www.ownart.org.uk.  You can find out more about Jeremy Deller at www.jeremydeller.org.

 

The Doors of Perception

John Middleton: Painting Works at the Coningsby Gallery, 9 -13 June 2014

Abstract art is, of course, all about perception. Almost always, the viewer sees the work through their own lens, and the resulting mental impression is, in effect, a collaboration between artist and observer. John Middleton’s show definitely gives the spectator a lot to absorb and think about; however there seem to me to be certain underlying themes to do with place, fluidity and possibility.

Doors are exciting, representing as they do the transition from one place to another. On entering the exhibition, the first picture to catch my eye was Doorway. With its central arrow, whose direction varied with your point of view, it seemed to say that our personal doorways can take us to many different places. Temple Doorway is another obvious example of the same theme. In a wonderful touch, the artist has used sand from a beach near the temple at Chichen-Itza to depict the building, yet it is the completely dark open doorway which draws the eye, suggesting the endless possibilities of the other side, and the journey from the physical to the spiritual which is evident throughout Middleton’s work. Nearby paintings complemented this idea. Path to the Temple suggests that either the rugged route or the direct path will lead you to the same destination, and Kimono, with its eye-catching gold square suggested a doorway filled with blindingly bright light.

Hanging side by side, The Pink Bird and The Green Bird were both inspired by Edward Lear. Strangely, although pink is a brighter colour, it was the latter which suggested Caribbean islands to me – perhaps because the bird was in flight, or maybe because green is the hue of vegetation and growth. Green is also a powerful colour in Idiosyncratic Pattern, which has shades of mother-of-pearl and has, to me, a 1970s feel, and asks the question “When is a pattern not a pattern?” This painting is also a good example of John’s fascination with flaws, rather than hiding them he likes to draw attention to them in an “X marks the spot” sort of way. The Last Sighting of Bigfoot deals wonderfully with the problem of making visible the invisible, while Henri’s Fish and Socks deceives the eye and plays with notions of depth and dimension.

Know Your Place seems to me to sum up the sense of myriad possibilities presented by this exhibition. Perhaps the empty space at the centre is for you; or you are one of the surrounding circles or even a small dot of colour right at the edge? The potentialities are endless as, I suspect, are the responses to John Middleton’s work – as varied as the works themselves. I have only touched briefly on the range of watercolours and drawings on display, but I found the whole to be impressive, engaging and stimulating.

For more information visit John’s website www.johnmiddleton.uk.com.
GreenBird