The second progress report

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I have to report that I’m almost fifty percent the way through the first stage of this year’s writing project, the re-read. To that end I’m still picking up characters as and when they appear, and more of the vague clues I inserted into The Forgotten Age.

If you look at the above illustration you will see the way Nick and co found their way beneath the Great Pyramid and the Ghiza Plateau in their search for the Library of the Ancients via the Pit and the blocked off tunnel opposite from the base of the Descending Passage.

It has to be said – I really know how to write a brilliant tale. If you don’t believe me, why not ask the celebrated author of all things ancient Egypt these days – my friend Robert Bauval. Its sequel will have to be even better if I’m going to have any hope of impressing him for a second time.

As well as the re-read, I’ve begun by thinking about how to get Nick and co out of the predicament I left them in where Forgotten ended so dramatically, somewhere beneath the Giza Plateau, between the Great Pyramid and the Sphinx. I’m also considering several ideas I have at the moment about how they might escape – if they can that is. More of that later once I’ve something else to report…

By the way, if you buy your ebooks from Amazon.co.uk, click on the highlighted red link above to get yourselves a copy of Forgotten to see what all the fuss is about.

~~~

Newsflash – Robert has already offered to write a review, even before I have begun to write the sequel.  🙂

😉

The first progress post

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Does this place look familiar to you? If you read Forgotten it should do…

~~~

Well I have begun. At the moment I’m in serious re-reading mode concerning The Forgotten Age. So far I’ve carefully worked my way through the first two chapters. I’m not just reacquainting myself with the characters, but also what happened in, around and beneath the Giza Plateau, as well as on the surface. I’m also making note of the seemingly random clues which most will have ignored, not appreciating their significance or even rejected as possible red herrings.

I always leave vague clues in every book I write. No doubt I’ll do the same thing when I come to write the sequel, just in case another is required by you in the future.

If you’ve already read Forgotten through thoroughly you will have noted the significance of above picture. DO NOT, I REPEAT, DO NOT SAY ANYTHING REGARDING IT IN YOUR COMMENTS. TO DO SO WOULD BE A MONUMENTAL SPOILER ALERT FOR NEW READERS!!! For those who have no clue what I’m talking about, do yourselves a favour and click on the above red link, get a copy and read it!

That’s about it for now. I’ve got more re-reading to do. More characters to catch up with both good and bad, plus more of those subtle clues to gather together…

😉

My twenty-seventeen project

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Thanks to the few of you who bothered to state their preference for a sequel in my recent blog post a few days ago It’s for you to decide, I now have my first project for twenty-seventeen. Rather, you have given me one hell of a headache – to work out if a sequel to the archaeological adventure the Forgotten Age which I wrote in 2012 is at all possible. After all Forgotten is already a sequel in its own right, in this instance to Race Against Time.

The OED definition of the word sequel is – A published, broadcast, or recorded work that continues the story or develops the theme of an earlier one. Nothing to it I hear you cry. So what’s stopping me?

First of all I need to re-read it to thoroughly familiarise myself with the story once again. Secondly I have to get myself back into full R&D mode. From memory I appear to have left the reader with the impression that I killed off the hero Nick Palmer and some of his friends by trapping them inside an ancient hermetically sealed room (The Library of the Ancients) somewhere deep beneath the Giza Plateau, between the Great Pyramid and the Sphinx. Did I, or didn’t I? I don’t recall. After all its been four years since I wrote it!

That being true, how in the blue blazes do I resurrect them? It’s not immediately obvious to me at the moment by any stretch of the imagination, hence my need to fully reacquaint myself with every aspect of the story.

For those of you who have been kind enough to read my books in the past, rest assured I’ll give it a lot of thought. If it’s at all humanly possible I’ll make it happen. But if I decide that they’re dead after all…

Either way you my loyal readership will be the first to know via this my blog. So that’s it for now. I’ve got a lot of re-reading, head scratching and note taking to do.

😉

 

Cataclysm

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The following is the opening scene in another scifi novella of mine, born out of one of my short stories. Imagine if you will, meeting someone who to all intent and purpose, looks and acts like a woman, but isn’t. Imagine falling in love with her, or should that read in lust? Put yourself in the shoes of the story’s extremely naive hero. How would you react to her, let alone what is happening across the world?

~~~

When the breakthrough finally happened in September 2097, Dr Gilbert Briggs, the new head of the UK Advanced Science Institute, based in the English city of Norwich, volunteered to be the first human guinea pig. No one knew if he would survive. The Institute’s more senior academics instantly took a dislike to him, mainly because of his youth and fresh approach to experimental science. Since becoming his subordinates, they all secretly hoped he would be disassembled on a molecular level forever. As the boss, he was adamant that no one but him would be the first to travel back in time.

Three years earlier he had been employed as a very junior postdoctoral researcher at the Institute when the rudiments of time travel shifted from pure theory to a practical attempt at building a working device. There was one thing none of his detractors could deny, no matter how much they may loath him – he was a gifted academic with a superb analytical mind. He had achieved two first class doctorates at the University of East Anglia, one in theoretical physics, and the other in experimental electrical engineering.

For years the only attempt at time travel in its other guise, teleportation, barely succeeded when a few particles were moved from one teleporter to another. Whether or not they had altered irrevocably was the subject of much debate within the academic world back in the first decade of this the twenty-first century. Up until that moment teleportation was only possible within the realms of science fiction. But like all the fantastic, seemingly impossible things dreamt up by imaginative writers, time travel was about to become a reality.

The successful breakthrough was finally achieved when a laboratory rat was sent from one teleportation unit, lost for a few brief seconds, before reappearing at the other unit, seemingly unharmed by the experience. That was five years ago. Now the long awaited next step could be taken thanks to Briggs’ brilliant breakthrough – the Teleportation Gate.

The time had come to send a human test subject to a place and time in the past and return them intact to the present. The notion of travelling forward in time was ruled out simply because without a reference point in the future, there was no guaranteeing that it would be successful. Common sense dictated that at least by choosing a known place and time in the past, the chances of success were almost assured.

The Institute’s most senior academic, Professor Malcolm, exhibited his academic jealousy by sharing his grave misgivings over his former juniors’ momentous breakthrough with anyone who would listen, largely without success. Since the movers and shakers in the academic world had shifted their gaze away from him towards young Briggs, Malcolm did his level best through his dwindling contacts in the academic old boy’s network to expose him as nothing more than a charlatan and an upstart. While publically backing his young boss; privately, like his colleagues, he hoped Briggs would die during the inaugural attempt.

~~~

Briggs was suitably attired for the occasion in clothes of the period he was about to go to. All evidence of anything twenty-first century was removed from him. The only item he would take from the present was the minute electronic device, another of his innovative designs, which in effect was a miniaturised homing beacon that sat hidden beneath the skin at the nape of his neck, enabling the Institute technicians to lock on, and hopefully return him.

Briggs was being sent back to eleventh century England. His mission was to observe all that unfolded on the momentous day at Hastings when the decisive battle of the Norman invasion took place. Even though the battle is well documented, how true the reports actually were was anyone’s guess. If nothing else, at least he would separate fact from poetic license. It was heavily emphasised by the Institute’s historical research department that under no circumstances was he to participate in any way shape or form other than mere observation. Should he do so, he may inadvertently change history.

Briggs was about to step into the unknown. Gathering up his leather shoulder bag and wooden staff, with trepidation he strode towards the Teleportation Gate. The operators checked that his chip’s homing signal was being received, before pre-setting the destination date and place. Nodding that he was ready, he stood patiently waiting for the process to begin. The technicians checked over all of the Gate’s failsafe systems one last time. Then at his command, the teleporter’s power slowly began to build.

His body began to tingle, not in an unpleasant way. Every atom of his very being was excited by the process as the Gate slowly disassembled him before sending him back in time.

~~~

Before he realized it he found himself standing on a small mound at the edge of the Great Weald – the massive forest that still covered the English countryside back then, behind Senlac ridge where the Anglo-Saxon army’s vast shield wall stood. The date was October 14th 1066.

His mind drew comparisons between the empty eleventh century countryside he was now observing and the heavily populated East Sussex of the late twenty-first century that he knew. Taking a deep breath of sweet unpolluted fresh air, he lifted his hand to shield his eyes while taking in the scene before him.

In the far distance immediately below where the Anglo-Saxon army stood defiant, Briggs could see Norman cavalrymen on their horses. Behind them were the foot soldiers and archers of the invading army from across the Channel.

By landing his invasion force at Pevensey, Duke William of Normandy had forced England’s King Harold into a bloody showdown. His Norman army marched the relatively few kilometres up from the beach after hearing that Harold had just arrived and was assembling his army in readiness for battle.

Briggs stared in utter amazement at the very real, and tall figure, out of England’s historical past – the Anglo-Saxon king Harold, seated on his horse a little way behind his shield wall.

A body of heavily armed bearded fyrdmen walked out of the forest behind Briggs bringing him back to reality. “What are you doing here lad? You should be down there with our brothers, not skulking up here on the hill like a coward!”

Briggs felt rough hands haul him to his feet. A spear point dug into his back as he was prodded down the hill towards the shield wall. Despite the passage of time, Briggs could understand the old English that his accuser spoke, or at least enough of the words to get the sense of what he was saying.

“Here’s another volunteer my lord,” his accuser informed Earl Gyrth, brother of King Harold, and the Housecarl in charge of the shield wall. A sword and shield were thrust into Brigg’s unwilling hands…

~~~

If you want to know what happens next, you know what to do. Buy your copy from your nearest Amazon outlet. One other thing, don’t forget that if you do enjoy it – review it! The following links are the two main ones:

Amazon.com

and

Amazon.co.uk

The Game

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The endless War

No one knew the reason why the ritualistic war had begun. Or indeed, who started it, and even more to the point, why it continued. The endless winter months were spent in brutal and bloody battles between the people of Farren and the Tribes of the River in the wide plains of the valley. During the spring, and summer, right through until the harvest was gathered in the late autumn, peace reigned across the land, and then the completely crazy cycle of destruction began once again.

~~~

Idrell stood on the smooth ice covered rock, protected from the biting winter winds by his warm bearskin cloak, shielding his eyes with his hand from the reflected sunlight coming from the blanket of virgin snow that covered the wide plain. In the distance, he could see the Tribes of the River as they formed up in their straggling ranks, their weapons glinting in the sunlight. He turned to his companion.

“Gar, why do we do this, what purpose does it serve except to keep our numbers down?” he wondered. Gar looked at Idrell with a puzzled expression on his face, “because the Tribes of the River are our enemy,” Gar replied, “what other reason do you need?”

Idrell shook his head in disbelief at Gar’s reply as he climbed down from the icy rock and mounted his horse. As the two friends rode back to the head of the Farren army, Idrell’s mind filled with endless questions.

~~~

Idrell and Gar were lifelong friends. Idrell’s father Briam was the king of Farren, and Gar’s father Drevi was his lieutenant. Both men were now too old to participate in the ritualistic war, so their sons acted as leader and lieutenant in the endless bloody winter battles, while the two old friends remained in the old castle keeping warm by the roaring fire in the great hall.

~~~

Idrell withdrew his sword from its scabbard beneath the warm folds of his cloak and reluctantly signalled the advance, leading the way with his horse slowly trudging through the knee-deep snow. Gar rode along and through the ranks of old and young men and boys, driving them forward with the flat of his sword. Idrell wasn’t the only one who often wondered about the war, half of his army felt exactly the same way.

As both sides closed the distance between them, they broke ranks to form smaller fighting units. Soon the sounds of sword, battleaxe, and war hammer striking their deadly blows filled the air. Injured men on both sides were trampled by their comrades as the battle reached its bloody climax.

Both the Farren army and the Tribes of the River were once again locked in the deadly ritualistic battle, neither side giving an inch in the struggle to dominate the blood soaked battlefield.

~~~

Idrell looked across the heads of his troops to where his opposite number, Riana, Queen of the Tribes of the River, sat on her horse. They looked at each other for a moment and then both bowed their heads and saluted each other with their swords. Battle horns blasted the air and both sides withdrew to their own lines to lick their wounds.

Hundreds of men and boys lay mortally wounded or dead in a tangled bloody heap. Their warm breath, mixed with the warmth given off by their sweat-covered bodies formed a low misty cloud that gently spiralled into the crisp air of the cloudless sunny winter’s day.

~~~

Briam looked up and stared at his old friend Drevi. The cold winter winds howled and made the ancient building creak and groan. Both men nodded in agreement. “Idrell, Gar, wake up boys, it’s time for bed,” Briam said, as the two men looked at their young sons lying at their feet on the warm bearskin rug in front of the roaring fire.

“Who won father?” Idrell asked, as he yawned.

“Neither of you son, it was a draw,” he said, as he picked up the chessboard and put away the pieces…

😉

The Guardian

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The following opening paragraphs are from my extremely short science fiction novella The Guardian, another tale born out of one of my short stories…

~~~

“Why us?” Lynne grumbled, once they had arrived at the silent, empty space port, parked as it is in stationary orbit several thousand feet above the dusty surface of Mars, in the planet’s upper atmosphere. Even though she already realized the answer, she still needed to say it, if only to emphasise her extreme displeasure at being volunteered like this.

She had driven her new boss Adler to total distraction during their enforced time together aboard the Virtual Intelligence controlled solar wind powered transporter, to the point where he seriously contemplated strangling her, if only to give himself some much needed respite from her endless moaning and incessant questions throughout the entire month long journey in the cramped passenger space aboard the transporter. They both knew that this was likely a suicide mission. “What’s so all-fired important about a darned automated mining operation on Mars anyway?” she continued, “and why the hell did we have to put up with that stinking ancient garbage scow. Why didn’t the cheapskates at least get us accommodation on something more luxurious for the trip?”

“For Christ sake woman, for the last time, will you give it a rest. Quit bellyaching! At the moment I’m still presuming that the bastards down there have simply downed tools over pay and conditions. You’ve read the damned brief from Earth Corp’s CEO as well as I have. Therefore you know that we are here to establish why the Olivine mining operation has ceased production, and why the regular monthly consignments of ore are no longer being sent back to Earth. For your information, even though the mining is automated, techs are still required to live on site to keep an eye on the machinery, as well as establishing the location of the next profitable Olivine vein, and from time to time, fix things when they break. Plus, the ore has to be brought up here to the space port to be loaded aboard unmanned VI controlled transporters like the one we just arrived on, for the return journey to Earth. Which means that among the mine staff there has to be someone like you to fly the damned cargo shuttles back and forth. As there is no sign of either of the shuttle pilots, or anyone else up here, we need to get down to the mine. Until we do, we’re merely speculating about what has happened.

The first thing we have to do once we get there is to talk to the mine boss, David Malcolmson. He and his team are housed in an accommodation block just inside the mine, located in the Ganges Chasma, an eastern branch of that great scar you can see in the Martian landscape below us, known as Valles Marineris. It’s Mars’ equivalent of the Rift Valley that scars the African continent back on Earth. Before you open your damned mouth again, just in case you were wondering what Olivine is used for back at home, it is the principal component in the carbon dioxide sequester process. Even you must know how bad our atmosphere is, thanks to the pollutants still being belched out by heavy industry, even though rules were set in place to safeguard the environment. Just like always, industrialist couldn’t care less. What has always counted with them is profit. According to Earth Corp, the last load to arrive back home was six months ago. Before that, the mine was sending regular monthly consignments. Any more questions? No? Good. Now quit complaining, shut up, and get us the hell down there!”

Adler shook his head as he strapped himself into the seat behind Lynne. Why the hell he had to be saddled with this irritating female was totally beyond him.

Surely there must have been other pilots that Earth Corp’s CEO, Magritte Peneaux, could have chosen? Not as far as she was concerned! Former military personnel like Major Adler Stevens of the British Army’s Military Police, and Lieutenant Lynne Crawford, a veteran fighter-bomber pilot who previously served in the Canadian Airforce, were the obvious candidates for the job. She saw no good reason to look any further. Or for that matter, to send two of her own on such a hazardous mission. Besides which, this was likely not a job for civilians. If they managed to work out what had happened, fix it, and send back a report to say that everything was back to normal, all well and good. If not, someone else would soon be sent to replace them.

Since all types of warfare and its several causes, such as politics and financial greed, along with enforced poverty, coupled with mass starvation, and radical religious differences, were all declared illegal after the world’s business leaders had finally had enough and specifically set up Earth Corp to remove all control from the Earth’s former political, military and religious masters to become the first non-aligned World Government, there were now millions of unemployed soldiers, sailors and airmen just like Adler and Lynne to choose from. The pair had been given precisely one week after their arrival to conduct their investigation before they must send that report back to Earth Corp HQ in Geneva.

~~~

The guardian watched the shuttle’s entire trip from the space station, down towards the loading bay airlock inside the mine entrance, via its own monitor within the inner sanctum. Once the shuttle had arrived, through the monitor’s speaker, the guardian heard the unmistakeable sound of the outer door first open, then close, sealing off the mine accommodation complex from Mars’ deadly atmosphere, which being mostly carbon dioxide, is one hundred times thinner than that of Earth. Next it heard the hiss as the now sealed shuttle bay automatically re-pressurised as oxygen was automatically pumped in to allow whoever was inside the shuttle to enter the mine reception centre. Bemused, it continued to watch as Adler and Lynne walked across to the door connecting the shuttle bay with the living quarters.

~~~

“Ok. First of all I’m going to talk to Malcolmson to figure out what the hell the problem is,” Adler began. “While I’m doing that Lieutenant, be so kind as to find the techs.” Lynn stiffly saluted, glad for the chance to finally be away from him for the first time in a month. She had really begun to loathe the annoying by the book Englishman. On the plus side he had one thing going for him in her eyes, he was undeniably cute. Before carrying out his order, she watched him closely as he entered the lift for the short journey up to the administration level, just to make sure that he hadn’t changed his mind and was about to follow her. Satisfied, she began a systematic search of the living quarters.

Ten minutes later, she almost jumped out of her skin when Adler silently appeared behind her to casually enquire, “found anything yet Lieutenant?”

“God, don’t do that boss, you scared the living bejeezers out of me! If the technicians are still here they must be somewhere in the mine. What about Malcolmson, is he in his office?”

“Negative. It looks as if he left in a hurry. However, I did find a list of the staff, including ID photographs, and a map of the mine up in the control room. It looks like we will have to hunt them down one by one Lieutenant.”

“Before we go any further, can we please dispense with all this military formality bullshit? We’re civilians now whether we like it or not. My name is Lynne, not Lieutenant.”

“Sorry Lieu – Lynne,” he replied, “I’m Adler.”

“What kind of name is that for crying out loud?” she asked, with a bemused look on her beautiful face.

“My father was an eccentric who had a mania for unconventional names for his children. Despite my mother’s wishes, he insisted on naming my older sister, Osceola, a Creek Indian name that means black drink crier apparently. When I came along he insisted that I be named Adler, after an Austrian doctor and psychotherapist from the nineteenth century who he admired. I suppose he wanted our names to stand out from the crowd.”

“I’d say he achieved it wouldn’t you? So what’s next Adler?”

“Well, it looks like we have to investigate the entire mine. We’ll need our suits.”

“Why?”

“No breathable atmosphere inside the mine complex. The automated mining machinery doesn’t need it.”

“Fair enough. So what are we waiting for? Let’s get going boss,” Lynne replied with the merest hint of a grin on her face. If he made the mistake of annoying her in the future, which being a man, he probably would, she was going to get some mileage out of taunting him about his strange Christian name in the future.

~~~

The guardian watched them on its monitor as they climbed aboard one of the fusion powered quad bikes parked in a maintenance bay just beyond the airlock separating the accommodation, administration and mine control from the mine itself. Wherever they went, whatever they did, it would be watching their every move. If it looked like they might find a way into the inner sanctum, then it would immediately destroy them. In the meantime it was merely content to observe.

~~~

Adler drove the quad down the main tunnel for approximately a mile before stopping at the point where it divided into three. “Which way?” he asked.

Lynne briefly studied the map before tapping him on his right shoulder, indicating he should head in that direction. For the next six days the pair systematically searched every tunnel, every side space, maintenance and storage area they came across, looking for any sign of Malcolmson and his team of technicians. By the morning of the last day of their investigation they had clearly established that the mine was devoid of any sign of life.

“I don’t know about you, but this is really beginning to totally creep me out,” Lynne whispered as an involuntary shiver ran up her spine. She might be hardened to most things thanks to her front line service, but this totally spooky situation made her feel distinctly uncomfortable. If they had come across dead bodies, she could just about have handled that. But the fact that the entire mine staff had apparently vanished into thin air was hard to take.

Adler nodded in total agreement. “Come on, it’s time to send that report.”

“Then what?”

“What happens next is all down to Earth Corp’s CEO. So while I’m preparing the report, before we head back to the space station to send it to her, perhaps you had better search everyone’s quarters for personal effects. At least that way we can offer some comfort to the families.”

“Good idea boss, I’m on it.”

It took three days to eventually receive a reply back from head office in Geneva. Magritte thanked them for what they had done, and told them to return home on the transporter which had just left the new International Space Station en route to Mars, containing the replacement mining crew. Meantime there was nothing else for them to do but wait, while trying not to annoy each other if at all possible.

~~~

A month later the guardian watched as the replacements descended from the space port moments after the transporter began its immediate return journey to Earth with its two passengers. Within a fortnight mining had recommenced. Once again the guardian eliminated the potential threat.

~~~

Adler sat in the bar of his local pub supping a much needed pint of bitter. After what had happened back on Mars, he needed some serious down time to recharge and rest, even if only for a couple of days. While the United Kingdom no longer existed since Earth Corp ended the former political union between England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland, at least one thing hadn’t changed. There was no denying that the English were still the undoubted masters when it comes to brewing the finest bitter to be found anywhere in the world.

“Hi boss. God you are a hard man to track down.” When Adler looked up, for a brief moment he thought that he was either dreaming, or that he had been transported into the presence of a goddess.

Lynne stood before him wrapped in a knee length faux fur winter coat, which she now slowly opened to reveal herself to him for the first time. For what seemed like an absolute eternity, but in reality was probably only a few seconds, his eyes hungrily devoured every delicious morsel of this vision of undoubted feminine perfection. The first thing he noticed was how the makeup she wore accentuated her beautiful face. His eyes were then drawn to the top half of her body which was barely contained inside a figure hugging, flesh coloured, diaphanous tank top. It literally clung to her firm breasts like a gossamer thin outer layer of skin, leaving absolutely nothing to the imagination. He could be forgiven for thinking that Lynne’s breasts appeared on the point of bursting through the delicate material at any moment.

As if in answer to his unspoken thoughts, she next slowly turned around to briefly reveal what up until now had remained hidden from his gaze beneath the miniskirt she was wearing, when its hem rode up, revealing that apart from anything else she was not wearing any underwear, as she deliberately bent over to place her coat over the back of the chair. The thought occurred to him while feasting his eyes on the lower half of her exposed naked rear, that it was not so much covered by the Teal blue silk garment, as lovingly caressed by it; as indeed were her breasts by the tank top. Her long legs were clad in black fishnet stockings. On her feet she wore a pair of bright red designer leather stilettos. To complete the ensemble, she had an expensive Gucci bag slung over one shoulder, which she now proceeded to put down beside her.

In the twenty-second century, it is always the women who controls any relationship she enters into, unlike her far less sexually aggressive sisters in previous centuries. Having finally decided that she wanted Adler, despite his being a total pain at times, she had deliberately chosen the clothing as well as the heady perfume she wore, for one reason and one only, to attract the attention of the now wide eyed, open mouthed individual seated before her who was even now unconsciously licking his lips while a part of his anatomy rapidly engorged itself. She had bought every item of clothing from a boutique that specialises in top quality twentieth century second hand Italian labelled clothing, soon after she had arrived back in London from a quick trip home to Canada. If any of her clothing had been new, even the winter coat, no way could she ever have afforded them.

“Buy a girl a drink soldier?” she demanded rather than asked, giving him a smouldering look which made his heartbeat increase at an alarming rate when she sat down to face him, with her legs momentarily apart to briefly reveal another part of her anatomy, before it vanished from his sight when she demurely crossed her legs, while at the same time, readjusted the hem of her miniskirt. His very obvious physical reaction told her that her plan had worked. She now had his complete and undivided attention…

~~~

Well there you have it, another teaser just for you. As usual you can get your copy from the Amazon site you use. Here are the links to the two main ones:

Amazon.com

and

Amazon.co.uk

I found another one I’d totally forgotten about the other day

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I wrote down what happened when I was thinking out loud about my life a few years ago back in New Zealand. I admit it, I talk to myself. So what, some of the most intelligent and frank conversations I’ve ever had have been with myself. 😉

~~~

The Conversation

I sat on the hard wooden bench on the deck looking out towards the harbour entrance. “So why have you come down here to live Jack?” I asked myself.

“It’s as good a place as any,” I replied, rolling a smoke. I put down the pouch of tobacco and reached for my lighter. “Why do you want to know that?” I asked, lighting the hand-rolled cigarette.

“No reason in particular, most people wonder why someone your age is still footloose and fancy free, so to speak?”

I inhaled and stared out towards the harbour mouth. Small barely perceptible clouds of smoke were released through my tobacco-stained moustache that drifted in a hazy grey-blue cloud around my head. “I guess the only reason I came here was to find peace and quiet,” I said, finally exhaling the remainder of the smoke through the baleen-like strands of hair that make up my moustache.

“I’ve travelled most parts of this beautiful bloody world of ours. I came to this country back in the late fifties with my parents as a young boy,” I went on, flicking the ash from the slow burning roll-up onto the deck, before pushing it between the planks with my shoe. “It’s taken me a while to realise that this place is probably as good as anywhere else. So here I am,” I added as I watched a fishing boat heading out for a day’s sport as I picked up my mug of coffee.

“That still doesn’t answer my question,” I said, pressing the point. I never waste words on idle conversation. I knew I would sit and think for a long time before saying anything more.

“I’ve spent most of my life working and earning just like the rest of the poor bastards in this world,” I said, at long last. I put down the mug, flicked the short stub of my spent roll-up in the air, and started to roll another. Lighting the new one, I inhaled. The now familiar slow release of smoke through my moustache signalled the beginning of my answer. “Think about it Jack, I collapsed and was hopitalized from stress back in ninety-one – remember?” I began. “Since then I’ve realized that all the things that most people spend their entire lives working and saving for are a bloody pointless waste of time. You come into this world with nothing and you damned well leave the same way. So what’s the bloody point! After that little episode I realised that all the things that seem important, simply aren’t anymore,” I continued, through a haze of smoke. “Since that time, I’ve never been able to stick a job for very long. As for possessions and the like, I’ve given most of mine away. When I’ve got no more use for something, what’s the point in keeping it?”

I looked back through the door into the room. A small battery powered travelling alarm stood by the bed. A couple of books were on the floor among the pile of dirty clothes. A bag was slung in the corner with clean clothes poking out over its sides. A small transistor radio and a library book lay on the bed. “Why have you given everything away? Why not sell the stuff instead?” I asked, as I gazed across the harbour from where I sat.

“Why not?” I finished off the remainder of my mug of coffee and put the empty mug down beside me. “The job I’ve got brings in just enough for me to live on,” I continued, while the familiar cloud of smoke drifted slowly away, “I’ll keep going for as long as my health holds out. These days I take each day as it comes. There’s no point in planning too far ahead, you never know what’s round the corner waiting to bite you in the arse.”

I sat for a moment before I asked myself, “What about family? Surely they must wonder about you?”

“The old saying about you being able to choose your friends and not your relative’s pretty well answers the question, don’t you think? I replied, shifting my gaze back out towards the harbour through those far away eyes of mine. I continued watching the boats. “My old man was a total bastard. He treated my mother like a skivvy. They say you inherit a lot from your parents, good and bad – mostly bad in my case. If that’s so, why in hell would I want to inflict my bloody genes on someone else? I was an only child. I’m used to being on my own. I don’t crave companionship in the way you’re talking about,” I quietly reminded myself.

I sat for a moment before adding, “I met my old man’s first cousin once. It was like travelling back in time. He was a nasty spiteful control freak just like my old man! That’s what I mean by inheriting stuff. If it wasn’t for the fact that dad’s cousin was in his eighties, I’d have hung one on him for the way he used to speak to me! He not only looked like my old man, he treated his own close family in exactly the same bloody way! I was warned about him by distant cousins before I met him. But I always tend to look for the good in people when I meet them for the first time. Even so I wasn’t prepared for his vicious little outbursts of bile! Although thinking about it now, I damn well should have shouldn’t I?”

At that point I had to stop. I was stirring up too many bad memories, so I just sat in total silence for a couple of hours, enjoying the early morning sunshine…

~~~

😉