Building Site Blues


Thanks to my mate Keith, I got my first job in the house building industry in the UK as a telescopic forklift driver on a site in a new housing area on the Gosport peninsula, across the busy navy dominated harbour from Portsmouth. This was where I first met a great bloke who became a good friend – Garry. Like me he had emigrated as a child with his parents; in his case to South Africa. Times were tough and he had returned to the UK to find work, bringing his family with him. Garry was my first true boss on the sites in the UK and we got on like a house on fire from day one. We may have been born here in England, but because of our upbringing in the southern hemisphere, neither of us thought or acted the way the English do. We used to laugh about it a lot. At that time he was the site agent in charge of the expensive houses and flats being constructed for wealthy punters, who desired weekend retreats close to the harbour and away from London. I was to spend a quite a while on Garry’s site until Keith’s one up the road was ready to begin.

Garry’s own forklift driver was a slightly built, accident prone Scotsman. To save him any embarrassment let’s call him Ted. Like most site forklift drivers he thought he ran the place. Sometimes he would come in during the weekends, usually worse for wear after a Friday night session with his mates. We arrived one Monday morning at around seven am to find a pile of smashed flooring lying on the muddy ground beside the back wall of a block of flats. Ted had tried to bump out some packets of flooring, still suffering from the night before, and in the process he lost the lot and managed to damage the rear wall of the block of flats into the bargain.

Ted was always having problems, generally of his own making, which normally meant he didn’t have his mind on the job. Garry and I were sitting in his office having a cup of coffee during the morning break one day, when Ted appeared covered in blood from a wound to his head. Building sites by their very nature are extremely dangerous places. Providing you broadly follow the common sense safety rules, you will go home at the end of the day relatively unharmed. But that didn’t seem to apply to Ted. On this particular occasion he was emptying some of the blue mini bins that were placed around the site for the sub-contractors to throw their rubbish into.

A four wheel drive telescopic forklift is a wonderful tool, no matter how large or small, providing it’s used correctly. Part of our job as site forklift (or telehandler) drivers is to empty the small bins into the big roll-away skips for collection and disposal by an outside contractor. When you’re driving a telescopic forklift, wearing your safety helmet inside the protected cab is not necessary. But when you leave it, you should have it on, plus you should also be wearing your steel toecap boots and your high-viz vest so that you can be seen by everyone else on site.

It was warm, and as usual Ted was stripped to the waist, minus hat and vest. You pick up the mini bins on your forks to carry them around the site. When you want to empty them, they have a manually operated release bar at their rear held by a spring catch which must be released before you climb back inside your cab to raise the full bin before tipping it forward to allow the contents of the bin to empty into the skips. Because of the rough treatment they get, sometimes the bins don’t always lock back into place when you tip the forks back. So you have to put them down on the ground and manually lock them. In his infinite stupidity, Ted dived out of his cab without his gear on and attacked the problem of the uncooperative bin. Instead of pushing it down against the spring and shifting the lock with his boot, he slammed the bin down hard, only for it to bounce back up, striking him on his forehead. According to Ted it was all the bin’s fault, not his! Needless to say Garry fired him and sent him on his way.

After Ted’s departure I took over as the site’s only driver, and apart from the inevitable mishaps caused by the design of the vehicle, things ran pretty smoothly from then on.

Most telescopic forklifts have their cabs on the left-hand side. Depending on the manufacture of the vehicle, your view along the right-hand side can be, and usually is, blocked by the massive telescopic boom, which under the right circumstances guarantees to cause problems. They are capable of two or four wheel steering as well; I experienced the problem of the large protruding tyres first hand when I was delivering a water barrel for one of the sub-contractors one day. As I crept slowly round the back of his parked vehicle, my right front tyre which was hidden from view, demolished the back of his van.

Often there is nowhere on site for the sub-contractors to park their vehicles, so they have to be parked on the road. The site opposite us had a particular problem with one young sub-contractor who always parked in the road directly below the loading bays, which were situated high up on the scaffolding. Garry and I watched as their ‘forky’ finally lost his patience with the offending vehicle and removed it using his telescopic, before neatly dropping it into the giant high sided thirty-five cubic yard skip opposite the site office after repeatedly asking the bloke not to park there! When he went to leave the site later that day, the young bloke spent hours searching for his vehicle in vain. No one can say that life on a building site is dull, hard dangerous work yes, but never dull.


Lunch at the Oval Office


The Ship and Bell, Horndean, Hampshire

Here is another glimpse into my personal life. In this case when I lived in a Hampshire village while briefly working as a ‘forky’ on British house building sites, after I came back to the UK in 2000. More about that later…


Until I returned here, I had lived most of my life in New Zealand. At the ripe old age of fifty-two I decided to pack it all in and go and see something of the land of my birth – England. I discovered that I was not the last of my family after my favourite aunt passed away, as I had been wrongly led to believe by my father for reasons known only to himself. In actual fact I found I had cousins living in the southern English county of Hampshire.

After arriving at Heathrow tired from the long trip via Los Angeles, and finding a hotel in the centre of London behind the British Museum, I stayed for a few nights. It was hellishly expensive and staffed by toffee nosed snobs who looked at me like a piece of dirt when they heard my ‘colonial’ accent, but frankly I was too tired to care. I spent the next few days exploring London within walking distance of the hotel. I visited the fascinating museum with its myriad of ancient artefacts from around the world; and wandered for hours through the congested streets of the bustling city.

I rang a second cousin in Hampshire and made arrangements to visit. The train trip from Waterloo station to the town of Petersfield where he was going to pick me up, took about an hour. The next couple of days were pleasant ones for me, talking about the family. He arranged for most of the cousins in the immediate surrounding area to come and meet the antipodean addition to the family on that first weekend. I found out much later from another cousin that whenever the Commander ‘invited’ you to do something, to refuse was tantamount to an act of mutiny. No wonder my father never mentioned him. They may have been first cousins, but they were so alike in so many ways, both of them martinets suffering from delusions of grandure…

To achieve my goal to explore a little bit of the countryside, I had to find work to support myself. I spent the first five months of my initial three year stay, living off my meagre savings watching them disappear at an alarming rate. Eventually I found a low paid job for a few months, working as a civilian storeman in a dilapidated Territorial Army base, twenty odd miles north of the village.

Public transport in that part of the UK is practically nonexistent, so to get to work I was forced to buy a car. The cost of running a vehicle in the UK is prohibitive. I chose a tiny second-hand Renault hatchback, just a box on wheels but comparatively cheap to run.

During my time there I developed a deep affection for the people I got to know in the village of Horndean, and the place I call its heart, the ‘Ship and Bell’ pub pictured above. The following is just one story from that time.


Sunday Lunch at the Oval Office

At Sunday lunchtime my local pub opened at 12 noon on the dot. I arrived at my usual time a few minutes before midday and sat outside in the intermittent winter sunshine, watching the traffic passing by from beneath the gently swinging old pub sign. The clouds were trying hard to blot out the sun as I rolled a cigarette and lit it.

A little blue car pulled into the car park beside the old pub. “Morning Jack.”

“Morning Ian.” He walked across the car park aided by his walking stick. He was a retired British army officer, ex bomb disposal, a nice bloke. Like every red blooded male, he had an eye for the young barmaids in our local pub.

“Not open yet?” Ian asked, shielding his eyes and pressing his face to the old bay window.

“Not yet mate,” I said as I enjoyed the sunshine and my cigarette.

“Morning,” an old pair of identities from the village said in unison.

“Morning,” Ian and I replied in unison.

“Not open yet then.”

“No, not yet.”

“Disgraceful! They’re always changing the opening times. You can slip in for a coffee or a pint at eleven in the morning during the week,” the elderly woman said to her companion.

“But its Sunday, they need a rest my dear,” her companion replied, shaking his head behind her back and pulling a face, grinning like a Cheshire cat.

“Shouldn’t be allowed,” she said. “We’re regulars. We come in for a drink every lunchtime.” I smiled to myself and gave Ian a sideways glance. He smiled back and rolled his eyes mouthing “silly old bat,” to me.

A well groomed late model VW Passat drove in and parked nearest to the road. John got out and pressed the automatic locking button on his key fob. “Morning all, nice day. Morning Ian, morning sport,” he delivered his familiar greeting as he stood beside me. “Not open yet then,” he smiled. “How’s the job going, still working on the same site or have they shifted you yet?”

“Same site,” I sighed.

“How long did you say it takes you to get there in the morning?” he enquired.

“About an hour and a half, providing I leave around five fifteen in the morning,” I replied. “If I leave any later, I get caught up in traffic on the dual carriageway.”

“No good at our age sport,” he said shaking his head.

“Yes but I’m only driving a short distance John, you drive umpteen thousand miles a month up and down the country, and now your suffering for it – right!”

John nodded as he winced from the chronic back pain that plagued him. He banged on the window of the pub. “Shop! If they don’t open soon, I’m off to the ‘Farmer’ for a pint. It tastes better up there,” he said half impatiently, half joking.

Then Ben arrived. “Good morning Ian. Good morning to you both,” he said to the couple. “Good morning John, fine day eh what heh heh. Good morning to you great hairy antipodean troglodyte!” Ben roared his special greeting at me as he bowed low in his old fashioned mock royal way. I like Ben. He is a sweet, gentle, permanently sozzled intelligent man. Indeed at one time, one of the locals put him on the internet listing him as the ‘village eccentric’, much to Ben’s annoyance and to everyone’s huge amusement.

I don’t know about now, but back then Ben loved his pint of Guinness and a half of cider. “You’re up early Ben,” John said chuckling to himself for some reason.

“Yes, well, I had to be up at this hour,” he sniffed. “I’m having some alterations done to the house. I’m getting a new conservatory built at the back.” He produced his sparse line sketch of the proposed grand affair.

“Mother shelling out yet more money is she?” Ian said with a mischievous twinkle in his eye.

Ben shot him a withering glance with those brown bloodshot eyes of his. “Gawd almighty, aren’t they open yet?” he shouted, suddenly realising he was outside the pub and not in it! It always took him a little while for things to register in his mind, bless him.

“No!” we all chorused.

“Garry’s coming up for a drink,” I said to John.

“Bloody hell, not another member of the Southern Cross Mafia,” he said shaking his head, looking at me with that cheeky smile of his.

“Which means Ben you’re no longer the undisputed leader of the oval office,” I said jokingly.

“Harrumph, fine fellow that he is I’m sure,” Ben began. “I’m still chairman of the oval office heh heh.” Ben laughed at the in joke between all of us.

The oval table inside the bay window of the old pub was where Ben, John, and I usually sat. A lot of the regulars sat there. Kenny the self-employed gardener who looked after my cousin’s garden, Ian D, Terry, and a host more, all unofficial members of the ‘Oval Office’. I don’t think anyone really knew who christened the table as such, but it was our meeting place most nights after work for a pint. And in the weekends, we met there during the lunch hour for a pint and a chat, to read the paper, sort out the world’s problems, and have a laugh.

Garry turned up in his new car, courtesy of his latest employers. “Not open yet?” Garry asked.

“No!” we all chorused yet again. By now everyone was looking through the windows trying to attract the attention of whoever was inside.

“Morning Ben, morning John. G’day mate,” he said to me finally. Garry looked at his watch. “Can’t stay long, the missus and I are off to the supermarket this afternoon,” he said. The sound of the door being unlocked behind us put an end to any more conversation. One of the attractive young barmaids opened the door and smiled her sweet smile. ‘Morning,” she said with that bright sing-song greeting of hers that melted our hearts. “Morning Natalie,” was the collective cry as we rushed past her to get to the bar at 12 noon on the dot.



A Story For You


Eye of the Storm

“What ye got there, give it me, give it me now blast yer eyes,” One Eye snarled, as he snatched the pretty bauble from my grip.

Ever since I had become his unwilling slave aboard this stinking, barely seaworthy, ancient pirate hulk a few months ago when his captain and crew has captured our ship, One Eye had made my existence sheer hell. No matter what I did to please him it was never enough. Whenever I found something I thought I could call my own he instantly took it from me. He constantly beat me, telling me that it, “was for my own good.”

“Get below and fetch me vittles – quickly now blast ye, else ye’ll be sorry!”

I scurried below, relieved to be out of his cruel reach, however briefly. I searched among the debris of the food locker and the bilge.

“To hell with him,” I muttered to myself.

My own hunger came first as I gnawed on some old brick hard, weevil ridden sea biscuits and on the half consumed remains of a wheel of mouldy cheese that had fallen between the loose planks of the locker’s deck, into the bilge below.

“Where’s me vittles blast yer eyes!” One Eye bellowed down to me through the open hatch.

I hurried back above to where he sat belching and picking his teeth, carrying as much of the cheese and sea biscuits as my young arms would allow. One Eye bit into one of the sea biscuits and broke a tooth.

“Ye young spalpeen, when I get’s me hands on yer I’ll flog yer to the backbone! I’ll rip yer gizzard out! I’ll skin yer alive and eat yer innards so I will!”

I didn’t wait around, but ran quickly back down below into the stinking darkness of the bilges; at least down here I was safe from One Eye’s murderous wrath. He was far too fat and lame to chase after me and because of the loss of his eye a few years back, his vision was seriously impaired.

The old hulk ominously creaked and groaned as it wallowed its way through the choppy seas. High above on the main deck, despite the howling wind, I heard the mate shout the command to shorten sail. Even down here I knew a storm was brewing by the way the hulk rode the seas.

I peered through the crack in the deck planks above my head towards the open hatch. My ears strained for any audible sign that One Eye was hunting for me. But all I heard from him was a low moan and a lot of muttered curses at the loss of the one good tooth left among the jagged stumps in his savage blackened mouth.

A strangely familiar odour wafted past my nostrils. Somewhere down here was some long forgotten discarded salt beef. Hunger took over my soul, temporarily freeing my mind from my fear of One Eye, I began searching along the entire length of the old hulk’s bilges.

I eventually found it slopping in the fetid water of the bilge directly below the captain’s quarters. The decking of his cabin was as loose as all the other timbers aboard this floating coffin. The salt beef must have fallen through the cracks. Here at last was a chance to fill my belly beyond One Eye’s reach. Thankfully, the stinking water trapped here had washed most of the salt away.

As I sat on my haunches savouring the exquisite delights of the salt preserved beef, a commotion above my head caused me to stop chewing mid mouthful and listen.

“Beg pardon Cap’n, ye need to come on deck, we’re too close to the rocks and the storm is gettin stronger by the minute, we daresn’t continue on our present course!” the mate’s voice quivered in fear.

“Storm sail mister mate, rig the storm sail. Order aback blast ye and bring her bow round across the wind d’ye understand mister!”

“Aye Cap’n.”

The old hulk began to scream in protest as the gathering storm intensified. I returned to my feast of beef. Three bells signalled the hour. The sound of men fighting flailing rotting canvas and frayed rope as the storm intensified, drifted down to where I sat in the dark.

The storm grew stronger. The old hulk’s timbers creaked and slowly her planks began to spring under the strain.

“Avast below – rocks, rocks on the port beam!”

Even before the lookout aloft had screamed out his warning to all aboard I was rapidly returning aft, back to the locker as fast as my legs would carry me. Water was rising below me as I climbed up the ladder to where One Eye sat still nursing his mouth.

Despite the fact that I hated him more than any other being alive, I shouted out to him as I grabbed the pretty bauble he had taken from me earlier.

“We’re foundering yer old tyrant, time to abandon ship – come on blast yer, lest yer want to drown!”


The morning arrived and the sea was calm once more. A graceful ship of the line hove into view from around the southerly point of the bay and sailed slowly through the wreckage that bobbed up and down on the morning tide. All along the shore the splintered wreckage of the ship she had been hunting could be seen. The bodies of its crew lay face down in the sea. Eagle eyes searched the rocky shore for any signs of survivors. A skiff was launched and the captain and some of his crew went ashore.

“Good morrow sir.”

“And to you sir,” the captain replied as he shook the local Revenue man’s hand.

“The Black Bess has led me a merry dance sir. I’ve been chasing her for months since her captain Red John and his scurvy crew boarded the packet that carried my dear wife and only child home from Gibraltar sir – damn his eyes!” The captain’s head lowered in grief, already realizing the sad truth.

“Sadly your wife and child are not here good sir, only the bodies of his crew. I found this locket on the beach sir; would it belong to your wife? Not even Red John’s body is here. I fear he and your wife and child are down below with Davy Jones. Good riddance to him I say sir,” the revenue man concluded, sad to give the captain even more bad news than he was suffering already as he handed over the precious bauble.

“Were there no survivors sir?” the young midshipman who had accompanied his captain ashore, anxiously enquired of the Revenue man.

“Nought but two ships rats young master – one old, fat, half blind and toothless that soon died – drownded by all accounts. The other young and well fed who scurried off as quick as lightening as soon as his feet touched dry land, dropping the locket from his mouth in his eagerness to be gone from here I shouldn’t wonder. I saw them jump ship when the eye of the storm briefly calmed the sea moments before the Black Bess foundered on yon rocks.”


I watched from behind the rocks feeling sorrow for the Captain, as he tearfully clutched the locket he had given his wife while his crew rowed him back to his ship. But at least I was now free…


A Fine Actor


Edward Albert Arthur Woodward OBE (1 June 1930 – 16 November 2009)

When I was a good deal younger one of my favourite television series was Callan. It ran from July 8, 1967 until May 24, 1972. For some reason I had the devil’s own job to get my mouth around the name of its star Edward Woodward (pronounced Edwaahd Woodwaahd) and so I’ve always referred to him as Ewa Woowoo. Silly I know, but much easier to say…

Woodward was one of the UK’s more versatile actors on stage and screen.  He starred as Police Sergeant Neil Howie in the 1973 cult British horror film The Wicker Man and in the title role of the 1980 Australian biopic Breaker Morant. From 1985 to 1989, Woodward starred as British ex-secret agent and vigilante Robert McCall in the American television series The Equalizer, earning him the 1986 Golden Globe Award for Best Telivision Drama Actor.

How many of you remember Callan I wonder?  Here is a reminder:

and Wicker Man

and Breaker Morant

Echoes Among the Columns


 The great god Ra had not yet arisen from his bed beyond the world of man. Neither had the members of the royal household of Egypt who still slept soundly in the cool air of the palace.

No one heard the faint clattering sound of a wooden stylus and a wax tablet dropping to the floor, in the vast expanse of the heavily columned hypostyle hall, during the night. But when the new day began, and the body of Senenmut the scribe was found with its throat cut, the old hall and the palace would echo to the outraged cries of the pharaoh’s immediate court.

Amenemhat had carried out his task efficiently and without emotion. It had been easy to lure the deviant scribe with a promise of unnatural sex in exchange for a specifically prepared papyrus scroll. The first name on his list of traitors could be struck off at last.


Ever since Hatshepsut had taken up the exalted double throne of Upper and Lower Egypt, becoming pharaoh, her nephew and stepson, Tuthmosis, the third to bear the divine royal name, was incensed by the thought of a mere woman ruling Egypt. As he grew to manhood, the young prince slowly gathered together a small group from within the royal household, who had all gladly changed their allegiance in favour of a male pharaoh.

The politics of pharaoh’s court bred an atmosphere of fear, lies, plot and counter plot, jealousy and corruption. A tiny handful of Hatshepsut’s more ambitious junior scribes, servants, priests and astrologers formed a ring of spies working for her scheming nephew. All were willingly feeding him information, equally appalled by the unnatural abomination who currently sat upon Egypt’s throne, eager to please their future god king.

In his fevered mind Tuthmosis firmly believed his coldly efficient assassin Amenemhat was his most powerful weapon. As a means of persuasion, there was none more suited or highly adept at recruiting the more cowardly and reluctant courtiers to his cause.


But the coldly efficient killer had a secret agenda of his own. It suited his purpose to go along with Tuthmosis for now, professing undying devotion and loyalty to the upstart prince.

His exalted position as Hatshepsut’s trusted bodyguard meant he had free access throughout the palace and the ear of her loyal generals, scribes, priests, judges and astrologers. When Hatshepsut went to war, Amenemhat was by her side, on guard and ready to give his life for her. When she toured Egypt, his eyes and ears were constantly on alert for trouble. When she needed unbiased and honest advice, she always sought him out. As the god king of Egypt, Hatshepsut regarded him as her one true ally within the royal household. Above all she knew he had no personal agenda of his own. Amenemhat’s only desire was to please the woman he loved more than life itself – his pharaoh Hatshepsut.

Unbeknown to Tuthmosis, Amenemhat had added a few more names to the list of those who were to be assassinated on the prince’s orders. Names of people who he deemed to be dangerous in the extreme to his pharaoh appeared alongside the rest. What did it matter if when he exposed her nephew by revealing the list, a few more enemies of his beloved Hatshepsut had also been done away with?

To divert Tuthmosis should he become suspicious, whenever the prince was attending his aunt feigning devotion and love, he continued to praise his pharaoh in public.  But when he was alone with him he made a great pretence of cursing her, despite the emotional pain it brought him to utter such vile traitorous oaths.

Since he had first entered her service, and despite the barbarous act inflicted upon him when he was but a child ending his chances of ever being a real man, Amenemhat’s deep unspoken love and his longing to share Hatshepsut’s bed even though as a eunuch he knew that would never happen, meant he would always protect her. He would never allow the young pretender to end her life, be it by poison, foul accident, act of war, or any other means that Tuthmosis decreed.

Amenemhat would continue to add names to the list. Then he would turn his deadly gaze in the direction of Tuthmosis and his band of conspirators. When the time was right he would expose his beloved pharaoh’s nephew for the foul cur he truly was.


A terrible cry echoed throughout the columned hall –“Murder, foul bloody murder!”  Illuminated by the first shafts of light, the body of Senenmut had been found.  Meni, chief advisor to Pharaoh Hatshepsut hurried with the news through the vast corridors of the palace.

The guards to the pharaoh’s private apartment silently opened the door allowing the old man access.

“Grave news majesty! Senenmut has been murdered,” the old man said as he prostrated himself before her.

Hatshepsut rose from her bed in alarm, waiving away her young hand maiden and current lover, Nefer. The pharaoh’s classically beautiful face saddened. A single tear flowed down one cheek as she gently assisted the old man to his feet.

“Good Meni bring Amenemhat to me.” The old man breathlessly backed away bowing low, then turned and quickly left.

Maatkare, Hatshepsut’s old wet nurse, appeared from the side room where she always slept close by her beloved charge and put a comforting arm around her trembling shoulders. She had always been at her side throughout her life. The old woman tenderly wiped away a tear from her pharaoh’s cheek, comforting her as she had done when Hatshepsut was but a child.

Amenemhat soon strode through the door. “Majesty I have just heard the news.” The tone of his high pitched voice did not betray him. “I have already taken the liberty of sealing off all access to your majesty’s palace. If the assassin is still hidden within as I believe he is, I shall seek out the truth of this evil act. By nightfall I swear the assassin shall be despatched or be grovelling here before you Majesty, pleading for his worthless life.”

Hatshepsut tearfully nodded her assent. “Dear friend, leave no stone unturned in your search, now go,” she commanded with a weak smile.

Amenemhat hesitated for a moment at the door before issuing a command. From beyond the entrance to the pharaoh’s bedchamber, six heavily armed members of Hatshepsut’s imperial guard quickly entered. “Majesty until the assassin is found, these guards who I have personally chosen, will protect you. I have also ensured that guards have been placed around prince Tuthmosis’ apartment,” the eunuch said finally as he bowed low, before turning and quickly leaving.

By leaving the dead scribe’s body where it would easily be found, Amenemhat had changed the rules of the deadly game to his own advantage. Tuthmosis was no fool. He would now suspect the eunuch had betrayed him. But by sealing the prince off, effectively Amenemhat had silenced him, at least for now.

Tuthmosis would have to be watched constantly now, which was why Amenemhat had asked his old friend general Djoser, the man Hatshepsut had placed in charge of her imperial guard on his advice, to take charge of the prince’s safety personally. The serpent would try anything now to escape his gilded cage. Knowing this, Amenemhat had given Djoser specific orders that there was to be no communication whatsoever between Tuthmosis and the world beyond his door.


All of this had happened moments after the alarm was raised and before Amenemhat had been summoned into Hatshepsut’s presence. Now it was time for the next move.

Amenemhat entered the office of Nebhepetre the pharaoh’s personal scribe. “You have heard the news by now?” he enquired.

The scribe nodded. “Truly we live in terrible times Amenemhat,” he said with a note of fear in his voice.

Amenemhat produced the papyrus scroll for which the traitorous Senenmut had paid with his life from the folds of his kilt with a flourish. “This bloodstained list of traitors was found on the body of the dead scribe. Copy the names for the archive quickly now, then deliver the original to your pharaoh. Hurry now, an assassin is on the loose within the palace!” The frightened scribe’s eyes bulged in sheer terror after Amenemhat left when he quickly scanned the list before making a copy. At the top was the name of prince Tuthmosis.

Hatshepsut’s hands trembled violently as she read the bloodstained papyrus Nebhepetre had just delivered. For a few brief moments she hardly dare believe the evidence of her own eyes. Yet here was clear proof of a devious and deadly coup d’état, designed to end her reign and her life. What really saddened her was that the leader was her much loved nephew Tuthmosis!

Under Amenemhat’s orders, all named on the list were quickly rounded up and executed on the spot, before their bodies were duly put on public display outside the palace walls. By mid morning there was only one left alive – Tuthmosis.

On Hatshepsut’s personal orders general Djoser entered Tuthmosis’ apartment where he forced the young prince to drink poison, away from the eyes of the court and the world in general. To keep up the illusion of the royal family being living gods, not one drop of their blood should ever be spilled in public. In one fell swoop, Amenemhat had delivered his beloved pharaoh from the nest of vipers within her household.


A proclamation was made and sent to the farthest corners of the land. All Egypt was told of the tragic passing of Tuthmosis. At the end of the month, his elaborate funeral, worthy of a prince of the royal line, was duly held. Hatshepsut shocked all assembled there that day, when in her deep gratitude she declared the eunuch Amenemhat forthwith to be supreme general of her armies and co-ruler of Upper and Lower Egypt.

While he may never share her bed as her lover, he would ensure that no one would ever again threaten the woman he loved beyond all else in the savage world of the Egyptian court until the end of her days. From now on there would be no more echoes among the columns, only whispers…



While the above story is a fiction, in reality on the death of the most significant female pharaoh ancient Egypt had ever known, her successor Tuthmosis III did take great pains to wipe away all mention of Hatshepsut. On his orders, all images of her and cartouches bearing her name, were destroyed.


Self-publishing and the snobbery issue

At last someone who cares…

Alison Williams Writing


I work with all different types of authors, those who are hoping to secure a publishing deal, those who are chasing the self-publishing dream and even a couple who have gone on to secure a deal with one of the big five (or six, or whatever it is). Some of these writers are brilliant, some are really talented, some are steady, dependable story tellers who can spin a good yarn, some aren’t that great, some have accepted help and advice and have improved in leaps and bounds, a few I have advised to go right back to the drawing board and there have been a handful who I have had to advise that writing is perhaps not the path for them (this is at the sample edit stage – I never take a penny from authors in this situation).

You might be surprised to know that most of the authors…

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…perchance to dream

The voyage from Earth to Gliese 832c was a one way trip. Everyone aboard had happily volunteered. All where disenchanted with what they had left behind on mankind’s home planet.

In that regard I was no different to any of my fellow volunteers. I hated what my home country had become through its desire for senseless regulation and legislation, political correctness, sectarianism, racism, religious intolerance, greed, homegrown terrorism, foodbanks, zero hour employment, attacks on the elderly by gangs of bitter youths roaming the streets, and heavy handed laws biased in favour of the super rich privileged few over the vast majority of the population in the form of financial cutbacks.

When you reach a certain age, you soon come to realise that the world has passed you by and to the younger generations you have become superfluous, hopelessly out of step, unable and unwilling to accept the rapid pace of change. Your views on morality, politics, war, religion and the way society has shaped itself, no longer gel with the modern generation’s grasp on the current state of affairs.

Above all else, none of us wanted to stay on Earth a moment longer than we had to.


It had taken many months and hundreds of shuttle flights from the major continents and countries on Earth to gather us all together aboard the space station in fixed orbit above the beautiful blue planet below the spaceport, where our massive purpose built ark had been specifically constructed for the one way journey.

We were all willing volunteers, and had been deliberately chosen for this first attempt at creating mankind’s first colony in space, not so much for our accumulated wealth of knowledge garnered over our lifetimes, but for our expendability should things go seriously wrong with the untested prototype ark, a decision taken by the world’s governments to solve the problem of the ever increasing numbers of pensionable people. While no government would admit it publicly, the cost to the public purse of looking after the older generation, in their penny pinching eyes, was prohibitive. Sending us off to other parts of the solar system was by far the cheapest option, and secretly our governments hoped that we would all perish in the emptiness of space. We however had other ideas.

The average age of our group was fifty-five. The oldest was in her early seventies; the youngest was administrator Johnson, a truly loathsome individual in his late forties, sent as punishment for his gross stupidity and incompetence, as the representative of the world governments to oversee the construction of our settlement.


Ahead of our ship’s long journey, the governments of the world’s nations had sent cheap poorly constructed unmanned solid fuel drone ships containing the building blocks for our fledgling society.
Loaded aboard each drone were prefabricated buildings containing a fully functional hospital unit, a communications unit for those of us who may still feel the need to contact their nearest and dearest back on Earth. Plus, to establish our fledgling society’s rules for a new government and laws based on what was currently in vogue on Earth – not that any of us, with the exception of administrator Johnson, believed replicating any form of that kind of institutional control on Gliese 832c was a good idea – along with hydroponic units, living quarters, workshops and every other conceivable kind of contrivance deemed necessary for our outpost of humanity.

Until we had built man’s first colony on our new home planet we would live aboard the ark we had all travelled in. In time satellite towns would be constructed to house what we all hoped would be our progeny in the near future. We may have been members of the older generation but we still had needs, and who knows, perhaps living here on an entirely different planet may even be beneficial to the reproductive organs of all concerned. If it wasn’t, at least we would all die happy in a few years from now, free from the disapproving eyes of our children who firmly believed that pensioners had no right to a healthy sex life.


Many of the drone ships had crash landed miles from where we now gazed out across the vast desert region chosen for its close proximity to the untapped supply of water in the northern ice cap due to inbuilt design fault inconsistencies in their navigational equipment.
Along with six others, I was tasked by Johnson with locating the drone ships away from our immediate area. The tracked vehicles we used were solar powered, totally sealed from the environment, which was fortunate due to frequent dust storms.
For the moment at least we abided by his directives, but that would soon change.

Previous exploratory vehicles which had been sent to sample Mars’ ancient soils back in the twenty-first century had simply stopped working after a couple of years due to the fine dust particles that not only covered their rudimentary solar panels, but also clogged up the exposed working parts of those tiny pioneering, crudely constructed explorers. One had managed to survive for seven years before eventually succumbing to the dust.


“Ready to go Malcolm?” Liz’s velvet voice asked me.

“Let’s go” I replied, glad at last to be doing something constructive.

Liz and I had teamed up together within a couple of days. Before she retired, Liz had been a nurse in the armed forces, rising through the ranks, retiring on a full colonel’s pay. To say we hit it off straight away would be an understatement. We shared similar interests beside our physical attraction for one another, in things mechanical along with literature, films and music, and with our disgust with the way our home planet was being run by idiots.

Liz led the way in her surface crawler with me bringing up the rear. Fortunately for us the emergency beacons aboard the crashed drone ships were working perfectly.

The three two man teams of crawlers worked for nearly a month retrieving all of our supplies from the drones. The last trip we all made was to drag the now empty hulls of the drones, using all six crawlers linked in tandem back to our camp where they would be cannibalized for additional building material for our settlement.

While we were occupied, Johnson divided the rest of us into various construction crews. Some worked on building our accommodation units, while one specific group under retired emeritus Professor Alec Knight, a specialist in horticulture, built the hydroponic unit that would grow our fresh food.

Like Liz and I, Alex loathed Johnson. We all agreed that before too long, something would have to be done about the obnoxious bureaucrat. Over the next few days, between us we hatched a plan.


Johnson sat in what he liked to call his command centre, in reality just a small cubicle in the main building at the centre of the circle of buildings, keeping his beady eye on all of us as we slaved for twelve hours per day constructing the settlement. He jumped when a loud knock on his door disturbed his train of thought.

“Come,” he said in answer to the knock.

Alec entered followed by Liz.

“Yes!” Johnson snapped contemptuously, not looking up from the paperwork on his desk. He was a typical cold hearted government employee and truly malicious.

“Mr Johnson, Colonel Fraser has found something while out in her crawler on a mission for me that she thought should be brought to your immediate attention. She told me about it and I concur with her that as you are Earth’s official representative, you should be informed of her momentous discovery.”

“Well go on, go one, get on with it; I’m a busy man!” Johnson almost spat out the words without lifting his head from his administrative work on the desk.

Liz began to speak. “I was out in the northern sector assisting professor Knight in his search for samples of possible life when I drove along a particular escarpment the professor had asked me to explore. As I rounded a prominence, directly ahead of me I saw a large exposed vein of what I’m sure is gold Mr Johnson.”

Johnson’s face gave away nothing of his delight in the news. One of his overriding orders was to look for possible mining opportunities utilizing the many and varied fields of expertise freely at his disposal within our community.
“Right – take me there. Bring Tennent with you. His geology skills will be needed. We’ll meet in the loading bay in fifteen minutes,” he said as he waved a dismissive hand. Twenty minutes later we were all crammed into Liz’s crawler heading north.


Two days went by before Liz finally found the escarpment again. She drove slowly along its length until the prominence appeared. Johnson zoomed in the crawler’s camera onto the vein of fools’ gold.

“Well Mr Johnson why don’t you come with me while I check the gold for its purity?” I said in invitation, as I helped him with his suit helmet while plugging in his sabotaged enviropac. He took the bait hook line and sinker.

When we returned minus Johnson a great cheer went up among our fellow settlers…


“Hey Tennent, you worthless piece of shit – daydreaming yet again? You are in here for life with no possible hope of remission on your sentence. In your case life means life!” he said through the inspection hatch of the cell door.

“At least my dreams are still free Mr Johnson,” I replied without shifting my gaze from the night sky outside my cell, as I briefly imagined my hands choking the life out of my sadistic gaoler, echoing the moment when I strangled the youth who had cruelly robbed us and then murdered my Liz in front of me on a street near our home, six months earlier…



Dining al fresco


The evening is warmer than usual for autumn. Winter’s freezing temperatures will be here soon. Above us the Starlings are fighting over who gets to peck the fat balls in their container. Beside them, the Sparrows push and shove each other for the right to sit on one or other of the seed feeder’s perches. Very sensibly the Coal-tits and Robins decided to stay where they were in the hedge until the coast is clear before they go to feed. Thank goodness the neighbourhood’s bullies – the Magpies, are not here. That reminds me, I wonder where the Thrushes are? Perhaps they’ll join us tomorrow. Two very large Wood Pigeons are arguing over whose turn it is to sit in the drinking water tray; neither will admit that they are just too darned fat to fit in it.

The lawn has been liberally seeded by our human benefactor with meal worms, mixed with the detritus of the feeders above.

At the back of the garden perched in the spiky embrace of the bramble bush a very belligerent Black bird is seething with anger over the fact that the Starlings have taken over his private bathing facility in the upturned garbage bin lid. Enough is enough! He flies down and chases the delinquents off, then sits triumphantly in the middle of ‘his’ bath, defying anyone to just try and join him!

Two Collared Doves join the throng of Starlings, first in the seed tray, then down here on the lawn with the rest of us, picking up all the spilled seed from above.

As we move amid the mayhem eating our evening meal of meal worms, from time to time a bird of one sort or another mistakenly brushes against us, and then flies off in pain from their close encounter.


We are by our very nature private and gentle creatures, and it is because of this that we have been given a protective coat of spines. The belligerent Blackbird keeps his distance, having almost lost an eye in the past when he sought to pick a fight. Instead when we draw near, he flaps his wings and lowers his head in a threatening posture; honour satisfied, he flies off in a huff.

Inside the house our benefactor peers out of the window watching us all feed, thanks to his generosity of spirit.

As a visual treat for him at dusk this evening, the wife and I brought our youngster out onto the lawn for his first feast of mealworms. Out of the corner of my eye I see our benefactor looking at us from his bedroom window. He gives us a friendly wave and a smile as he turns in for the night. All is well in this haven of peace, thanks to him…


PS– I get endless joy sharing the back garden with my fellow creatures, watching and feeding them.


Profit or Quality?


Silly me, what a stupid question! Of course it must be profit. No large corporation gives a toss about quality.

I’ve spoken of this in the past and been taken to task by certain individuals who I’d swear have shares in Sony, for spelling out the mistake of incorporating obsolescent technology with bad design in the end product, all for the sake of maximizing profit to the detriment of quality.

While they have spent a lot of time, energy and money to produce their latest gaming console, the PS4 still retains the same mechanical defects of their previous consoles and controllers in the form of a dust attracting disc drive and internal fan, and a controller with physically operated buttons and springs instead of a touchpad, and mechanical joy sticks. Which begs the question, why spend hundreds on a games console that you know will stop working.

Fact – from new, the internal disc drive will last a month at best before the dust attracted to it every time it spins up will stop it functioning, which means having to get inside the console (if you know how), just to clean it.

Fact – the Sony controller will give you 730 hours, or a month’s continuous use, before it also succumbs to one of several defects.

These are as follows:

1 – it will simply stop working.

2 – it will suddenly decide to turn itself off. I have two controllers with this defect.

3 – it will cause your game to begin to veer off to the left on your television screen. I have two with this defect.

4 – your controller will simply fail to respond to any and all of its buttons and joysticks. I have one with this defect.

Unless or until Sony decide to design and manufacture a quality product in the form of a game console that has no moving parts, specifically designed to download games from Playstation Network instead of relying on games discs manufactured out of cheap plastic which crack thanks to the internal heat build up of the current consoles, I will not be investing in another.

In the meantime at least I can still download games directly to my old PS3. But I still cannot find a controller no matter the manufacturer, that will last longer than a month’s continuous use.

The battery in the controller I bought recently from China lasts for two hours. Sony’s battery maintains its charge for at least two day’s continuous use.

With zero quality control by the games console manufacturers these days, the end user simply cannot win.

PS – The divisions within Sony could not be more different, I don’t have any problems whatsoever with my Sony Vaio laptop. So maybe the PC division should to take charge when it comes to designing and manufacturing games consoles? They at least produce a quality product…