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Writing Challenge Hall Of Fame

Quick links on this page:

introduction - hall of fame - month of mondays manor - 1,000 word club castle

just for fun palace - judges - competition winners - gail's gladiators - author profiles

This page is run by Lesley Truchet, Michael Rumsey and Gail Everett.

Writing Challenge Anthologies

The Hall of Fame showcases writers who have excelled in the flash fiction writing challenges run on this website, and in the other mini-challenges and competitions run in the Authors of the Flash Fiction Writing Challenges Facebook group.

Want to join the group? Click on the link above.

Lesley Truchet, Michael Rumsey and Gail Everett

Lesley Truchet, Michael Rumsey and Gail Everett

Introduction, by Lesley Truchet

Having received so much response from our recently set up Facebook challenges, we think our distinguished Hall of Famers deserve much wider recognition and appreciation. On this page we will publish, and add to, a never ending list of names of every single writer who enters the 'Authors of the Flash Fiction Writing Challenges Hall of Fame'. 

If you manage to get through the Hall of Fame door, and it won't be easy, your name will remain imprinted on the list forever, and ever, and ever, and beyond, or until computer technology expires, whichever comes first.

Who is eligible to enter?

If you have already entered one or more of Chris Fielden's world renowned writing challenges, you will probably be aware that the Facebook group was set up in order that Chris's challenge writers could communicate.

The group instantly became popular with new members arriving by the minute. Within this group (which also accepts members who haven't yet responded to any of Chris's challenges) we are running varied, regular challenges, winners of which enter the group's prestigious Hall of Fame. Go on. Have a go. Join the Facebook group today.

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The Hall Of Fame

Hall of Fame

Below dwells the most prestigious of tables, for it holds the details of word weaving legends. If you think you're worthy of a place on this fabled tableau, contact Michael or Lesley in the Facebook group. Or hassle Chris and he will pass on said hassle without a moment's delay.

THE HALL OF FAME
Name Event Date
Kim Hart (winner) Christmas 500 Story February 2020
Cathy Cade " "
Paul Mastaglio " "
Tony Thatcher " "
David Silver Conversations "
Pat  Mudge " "
Eileen Baldwin Post of the Month "
Eileen  Baldwin Photo Prompt January 2020
Sue Maynes " "
David Silver Whistle December 2019
Michael Thurgood " "
David Silver Inserts November 2019
Elizabeth Coby " "
John Notley Someone I  Knew "
Maggie Elliott " "
David Silver Email October 2019
Barbara Noble Grand "
Maggie Elliott " "
Barbara Noble Photo Prompt September 2019
Gail Wareham Everett " "
Cathy Cade Opening Lines "
Gail Wareham Everett " "
Cathy Cade Haiku/Clerihew August 2019
Michael Rumsey " "
Eileen Baldwin Ordinary People "
Gail Wareham Everett " "
Cathy Cade Mistakes July 2019
Val Fish " "
Eileen Baldwin Letters Play June 2019
Judy Sandra Gill " "
David Silver Homonyms "
Stuart Atkinson " "
Cathy Cade Catchy Titles May 2019
Pat Mudge " "
Cathy Cade I Fancy "
Lucy Morrice " "
Lesley Truchet I Was There April 2019
Sarah Mosedale " "
David Silver Pastime "
Eileen Baldwin " "
John Notley Character Descriptions March 2019
Sean Bain " "
Pat Mudge The Write Word "
Val Fish " "
Lynne Arnott Beginnings & Endings February 2019
Neil Phillips " "
Derek McMillan St Valentines "
Val Fish " "
Sarah Mosedale Phone Call January 2019
Tony Thatcher " "
Elizabeth Coby Song Titles "
Michael Rumsey " "
Angela Googh Christmas Shoppers December 2018
Pat Mudge " "
Johanna McDonald Naughty Santa "
Tony Thatcher " "
Cathy Cade Halloween Challenge November 2018
Peter James Corbally " "
Bridget Scrannage Dream Challenge "
Sue Partridge " "
Barbara Noble Poetry Challenge October 2018
Johanna McDonald " "
Sue Partridge " "
Val Fish " "
Cathy Cade Second Person September 2018
Sarah Mosedale " "
Johanna McDonald Used To Be "
John Notley " "
John Notley Fairy Tales August 2018
Malcolm Richardson " "
Abby Duff Crossword "
Alicia Sledge " "
Andre Othenin-Girard " "
Cathy Cade " "
Anita Bowden Logic Puzzle July 2018
Cathy Cade " "
Johanna McDonald " "
Pat Mudge " "
Anita Bowden True Humour "

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Month of Mondays Manor

Month of Mondays Manor

The Monday Word is a challenge run in the Facebook group that invites writers to take a rare or unusual or obscure word and write a sentence or two to help to elucidate its meaning. The idea was conceived by Peter James Corbally.

Below you will find details of those invited for drinks in the library, located in the west wing of the manor, after excelling in this mini challenge.

MONTH OF MONDAYS MANOR
Name Word Date
Gail Wareham Everett Pauciloquent February 2020
Sue Maynes Descry "
Barbara Noble Effutiation January 2020
Cathy Cade Embuggerance "
Dan Kidd Ninnyhammer "
David Silver Polrumptious "
David Silver Borborygmus December 2019
Marlene Pitcher Borborygmus "
Gail Wareham Everett Antediluvian November 2019
Mary Fox Pragmatic "
Maggie Elliott Jejune October 2019
Michael Thurgood Gobsmack "
Gail Wareham Everett Belligerent September 2019
Val Fish Panjandrum "
David Silver Growlery August 2019
Gail Wareham Everett Groak "
Enda Scott Agelast July 2019
Gail Everett Soporific "
Barbara Noble Deipnosophist June 2019
Eileen Baldwin Ultracrepidarian "
Cathy Cade Overweening May 2019
Val Fish Risible "
Cathy Cade Mereticious April 2019
David Silver Subsume "
Barbara Noble Malfeasance March 2019
David Silver Evanescent "
Cathy Cade Equipoise February 2019
Val Fish Pertinacious "
Elizabeth Coby Glossolalia January 2019
Tony Thatcher Incertitude "

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1,000 Word Club Castle

1000 word castle

Here are the authors who have contributed over 1,000 words to the flash fiction writing challenges. Each one is a short story generating, charity supporting machine.

  • Alan Barker
  • Alan Pattison
  • Allen Ashley
  • Angela P Googh
  • Betty Hattersley
  • Cathy Cade
  • Christopher Fielden
  • Claire Apps
  • David McTigue
  • David Silver
  • Gavin Biddlecombe
  • Glen Donaldson
  • John Notley
  • Len Saculla
  • Lesley Truchet
  • Lucy Morrice
  • Maddy Hamley
  • Maggie Elliott
  • Malcolm Richardson
  • Martin Strike
  • Michael Rumsey
  • Mike Scott Thomson
  • Sandra Orellana

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The Fun Palace

Fun Palace

Every month, we run mini-challenges. Here you will find details of the Funsters - those members who made us laugh or posted a clever response to our Just For Fun segments. They are:

JUST FOR FUN
Name Fun Event Date
Gail Wareham Everett Publisher February 2020
Jayne Morgan " "
Eileen Baldwin Paraodies January 2020
Gail  Wareham  Everett " "
Marlene Pitcher " "
Simon Russell " "
John Notley I Say December 2019
Maggie Elliott " "
Maggie Elliott All Grown Up November 2019
Val Fish " "
Lynn Zeleski Movie Titles "
Val Fish " "
Barbara Noble Place Names October 2019
Johanna McDonald " "
Angela Googh Into A Bar September 2019
Paul Mastaglio " "
Cathy Cade Catchphrases August 2019
Lynn Zeleski " "
Gail Everett Rhythm July 2019
Maggie Elliot " "
Anita Bowden Anagrams June 2019
Maggie Elliott " "
Pat Mudge I Know May 2019
Val Fish " "
Fiona Aitken Abbreviations March 2019
Mary Walker James " "
Anita Bowden Greeting Cards February 2019
Peter James Corbally " "
Barbara Noble What’s In A Name? November 2018
Kim Montgomery Proverb Ending October 2018
Alicia Sledge Limerick September 2018

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Honourable Judges

Judge's Gavel

Here you will find the names of members who have helped to run and judge events in the Facebook group. They are:

HONOURABLE JUDGES
Name Challenge Date
Enda Scott Monday Word February 2020
Gail Wareham Everett Christmas 500 Story "
Lesley Truchet Christmas 500 Story "
Lynne Arnot Publisher "
Michael Rumsey Christmas 500 Story "
Multiple Group Members Gail's Gladiators Round 1 "
Sue Maynes Conversation "
Barbara Noble Paraodies January 2020
Gail Wareham Everett Monday Word "
Malcolm Richardson Photo  Prompt "
Eileen Baldwin I Say December 2019
Lucy Morrice Inserts "
Val Fish Monday Word "
David Silver Monday Word November 2019
Gail Wareham Everett Someone I Knew "
John Notley Movie Titles "
Lesley Truchet All Grown Up "
Marlene Pitcher Inserts "
Gail Wareham Everett Place Names October 2019
Lesley Truchet Email "
Michael Rumsey Grand "
Alicia Sledge Opening Lines September 2019
Barbara Noble Into a Bar "
John Notley Monday Word "
Malcolm Richardson Photo Prompt "
Elizabeth Coby Monday Word August 2019
Gail Wareham Everett Haiku/Clerihew "
Maggie Elliott Catchphrases "
Neil Phillips Ordinary People "
Cathy Cade Monday Word July 2019
Eileen Baldwin Mistakes "
Lucy Morrice " "
Sarah Mosedale Rhythm "
Alan Pattison Homonyms June 2019
David Silver Letters Play "
Malcolm Richardson Monday Word "
Anita Bowden I Know May 2019
Paul Mastaglio Catchy Titles "
Peter James Corbally Monday Word "
Sue Partridge I Fancy "
Elizabeth Coby I Was There April 2019
Laura Besley Pastime "
Peter James Corbally Monday Word "
Allen  Ashley Abbreviations March  2019
Angela Googh The Write Word "
Betty Hattersley Character Description "
Peter James Corbally Monday Word "
Pat Mudge Beginnings & Endings February 2019
Peter James Corbally Monday Word "
Tony Thatcher St Valentines "
Cathy Cade Phone Call January 2019
Peter James Corbally Monday Word "
Val Fish Song Titles "
Sarah Mosedale Naughty Santa December 2018
Michael Rumsey Christmas Shoppers "
David Silver Halloween November 2018
Johanna McDonald Last Night I Dreamt "
John Notley Rhyme & Reason October 2018
Cathy Cade Nothing Changes September 2018
Malcolm Richardson Second Person "
Michael Rumsey Crossword August 2018
Michael Rumsey Nursery Rhymes "
Lesley Truchet True Humour July 2018
Michael Rumsey Logic "

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Competition Winners

Competition Winner Trophies

From time to time, we run competitions in the Facebook group with prizes. Here you will find details of the winners and their winning stories.

Christmas Competition 2019

This was a competition for a story of up to 500 words in length, themed around Christmas. Submissions had to contain ALL of the following words (in any order):

  • accident (anything from a cut finger to a fatal crash)
  • key
  • window
  • note
  • piece of fruit

The story did not have to be set anywhere, or at any time, and didn’t necessarily need to relate to Christmas in a traditional way. We asked for writers to be creative with their interpretation of the theme.

The winner was Kim Hart from Australia. You can read her winning story, 'Christmas Traffic – A Horror Story', below.

The runner's up were:

  • 2nd place - Cathy Cade
  • 3rd place - Tony Thatcher
  • 4th place - Paul Mastaglio

Kim chose a copy of Chris's 'How to Write a Short Story' book as her prize. Here is a picture of Kim with her eBook:

Kim Hart

And here is Kim's story:

Christmas Traffic – A Horror Story

by Kim Hart

Sweet Jesus, what fresh hell is this? If this traffic gets any slower, we'll be going backwards. Note to self: leave at the crack of dawn in future. Although, if the dog hadn't swallowed my key this morning, I would have left on time.

Come on people, move it. The light doesn't get any greener, you know.

What is this woman doing in front? Her makeup? My god, get up 10 minutes earlier. Your car is not your bathroom, love.

Beep, beep.

Yes, hi, you can go forward now. Jeez, Louise.

There must be an accident up ahead, surely this can't be normal.

Bang.

What was that? A bloody cyclist. You better not have damaged my car, you Lycra-clad oxygen thief. There should be a law that you have to pay rego. Freeloading hippies, the lot of you. And don't give me that bull about saving the planet.

Splash.

What the—? No, go away. I do not want you to wash my windscreen. Get your dirty cloth off it. No, I'm not paying you. The window is worse now than before you started.

Yeah, well up yours too. Get a proper job, loser.

Lovely. Well, at least your spit is cleaner than your water.

Green light, finally.

And we’ve stopped again. Dear Lord, kill me now.

Where are you all going? Work? Can't you get the train or bus?

Look at this guy next to me, is he seriously eating a piece of fruit?

Oh my god, he's eating a mango. Juice is running down his sagging jowls and dripping on his ugly tie that his long-suffering wife probably bought him 40 years ago when he got his first job at the bank, where he – no doubt – still sits on his fat arse all day, shuffling papers.

Beep, beep.

Sorry, mate. Got distracted for a minute by the white whale next to me inhaling his breakfast. Does anyone use their cars for mere transportation these days?

Yawn.

I'm so tired. Damn mozzie in my bedroom, buzzing in my ear half the night. Slapped myself silly trying to get the bugger. Why last night of all nights? The one day I need to be on top of my game and I feel like I was out all night, consuming a keg.

Beeeep.

Did you just cut me off and then flip me off, jerk? Where'd you get your license? Don't they install blinkers on Beemers anymore? And you're on your phone. Take your hand off it, idiot. Where's a cop when you need one?

Miracle of miracles. The car park. Now for another feat of endurance, finding a parking spot. And we have a winner. And right next to the employee's entrance. Time to buy a lottery ticket, but first...

"Hi, I'm here for my first day. Here's my paperwork."

"Thank God you're here. The queue to see you is building already. Here's your uniform. You can change in there."

"Thanks."

"You're welcome, and I ho-ho-hope you have a great day, Santa."

 

Gail's Gladiators

Gail's Gladiators

Gail's Gladiators is the brain child of Gail Wareham Everett. It features stories written in 10 sections by 9 different writers. They are presented below in the order they were completed, newest at the top, oldest at the bottom.

Story Ten: 'Desperate Players'

Contributors in order of posting:

Marlene Pitcher, Paul Mastagio, Cathy Cade, Sue Maynes, Tony Thatcher, Yasmin Al-Jarrah, Mary Fox, Barbara Noble, Malcolm Richardson and Marlene Pitcher.

Dried leaves blew down the deserted street. The pavement was beginning to turn white with flakes of the first snow. Charles pulled the collar of his overcoat up as a barrier from the cold to come. How long had he been waiting? The life of a detective is lonely, filled with bad food and, worse, cheap liquor.

He looked at the redbrick apartment house and shivered. Even the rattrap hotel that he called home was better than standing here in the slush. He noticed some movement in the apartment on the second-floor, shadows on the pulled down shade. He needed to act quickly.

Charles grabbed his phone from an inside pocket and risked peeling off a glove to punch the required number. The cold licked at his fingers as he spoke into the device.

"Wayne, is that you? Look, they're meeting now. My hunch was right. Could you get here as soon as? Things are about to get interesting."

He put the phone away and moved to cross the street.

Before he stepped off the pavement, a car swept around the corner and drew to a halt outside the redbrick building. A stocky figure in a fur coat stepped out, and the car drove off. Pulling up the fur collar and adjusting their fur-trimmed hat, the figure disappeared through the door.

This was an unexpected development. Charles allowed time for the new arrival to reach the apartment before crossing the street and entering the building. He pushed the button to call the lift down from the second floor, before taking the stairs. On the second floor, he made his way to the apartment he'd been watching and rang the doorbell. Footsteps approached. The door opened.

"There you are, old boy. We were beginning to think you'd changed your mind."

Charles was rattled but endeavoured not to show it. He'd planned for the advantage of surprise, but as he entered, the five men inside welcomed him with clear expectations of his assumed involvement in their meeting. His hand felt his chest, hoping the 'wire' he'd switched on outside the door was picking up the conversation. He recognised all but one man, who was sitting quietly at the back of the room, keeping his head low. These were the biggest names in the game. It was Charles's task to find out just what the state of play was.

Charles sat in one of the chairs at the table in the middle of the room. The familiar wooden blocks were piled in groups of three, arranged at right angles.

"You know the rules," said the anonymous watcher. "If you win, we can do business on your terms."

"And if I lose?"

"I think you know what losing means."

"Let's not think about losing," said the main henchman. "Let's see what you're made of."

Piercing eyes focussed on Charles's hand as he slowly took a block of wood from the middle of the tower. The jagged block wobbled a bit,but the building didn't collapse. Tension was building as the next competitor took his turn.

Suddenly, the door swung open and Jo Jo made her entrance with a saucy walk and a shrug of her shoulders. She tossed her spangled bag across the room, clipping the side of the anonymous watcher's jaw. He screamed in pain and stood up straight so that, for the first time, his face was fully visible.

Charles recognised him instantly and knew without question that the game was stacked against him. He thought about grabbing Jo Jo by the hand and taking her for a drink rather than waiting it out.

Instead, he faced squarely up to the 'anonymous watcher' who, with his face now fully visible and recognisable to Charles, was glowering at him. Charles tried to keep his nerve and was about to push his chair back and stand when Wayne came bursting into the room, sending the remaining henchmen reaching for their handguns.

"Take it easy, gents," Wayne's harsh voice rasped. "One false move and I'll take out the lot of you." He motioned to Jo Jo to stand to one side, out of his firing line. "OK, everyone sit down and we'll resume our little game."

"It's looks like the odds are stacked rather differently now." Charles motioned towards the fearsome five. They looked less aggressive after Wayne's intervention.

Jo Jo moved round the table to stand opposite Charles; he hadn't quite assessed who she was working for, definitely the joker in the pack. With her tight fitting skirt and sly smile, she was difficult to read. "Alright, boys, let's start playing again."

The old man in the corner stepped out of the shadows. It was Charles's nemesis. The man called the gamer. He set up these foolish competitions to find the loose cannons in the organisation. The detective didn't want to play. He came here to put a stop to the syndicate. Is this the end? he thought. The final scene?

Wayne pointed his gun at the old man in the white hat who, in a moment of indecision, turned to spit at Charles. Tension reached a crescendo. Wayne pulled a trigger. JoJo followed with a shot from the handgun that she had strapped to her thigh.

Charles found the old man in the ensuing mayhem. Bullets zipped by as bloodied bodies fell to the dirty floor. Charles shot the old man between the eyes. When the smoke cleared, JoJo and Charles stood alone in the carnage. The blocks of the game were strewn across the table.

"We'll never know who won," JoJo said with regret. Then, grasping his hand and with a sway of her hips, she said, "Let's get out of here now. We can get a drink and find a game of our own to play."

 

Story Nine: 'The Way'

Contributors in order of posting:

Klaus Gehling, Paul Mastaglio, Cathy Cade, Sue Maynes, Marlene Pitcher, Eileen Baldwin, Tony Thatcher, Mary Fox, Malcolm Richardson and Klaus Gehling.

It was the first time since my teeny days that I got to sleep in a dorm.

"You don't go on a pilgrimage to feel comfortable. It's not a race, it's an exercise in humanity, a spiritual interruption of everyday life," said Harald. He is a friend and my pilgrim buddy.

We met the others in a dining room. Joan and Andrew from England were on the walk to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. There was also Anne from Austria and Lykke from Sweden.

"In the past," Harald said, during our evening meal, "pilgrims walked the route to do penance. Many carried blocks of limestone, destined to be used in the building of the cathedral."

I laughed. "A fine joke."  But it wasn't.

Andrew and Joan didn't mention the reason for their pilgrimage. Anne and Lykke were equally silent. Over the next few weeks, we hiked together. I wasn't certain of my own reasons for being on this pilgrimage. I wondered what type of limestones each of us were carrying.

The unrelenting sun on the Camino De Compostela beat down on our little group. Two weeks had passed and I was still none the wiser as to why my companions were undertaking this pilgrimage. I was equally reticent in explaining my own participation. Was I fooling myself into thinking I didn't know? Perhaps it was time to share my story. I quickened my pace and drew level with Harald.

"Can I tell you something?" I asked.

"That depends on the 'something'. If it's how much you're enjoying the pilgrimage, or why you're not enjoying it – that's fine." He paused for breath as the path headed uphill. "If it's how you've defrauded your boss or murdered your partner, I'm not your Father Confessor." He turned and smiled, to show he didn't expect such a confidence. "If it's about your foundering marriage or your daughter going off the rails, I can listen. Sometimes it helps to talk."

I laughed, softly. "It's none of those. I wish it was that simple."

Harald looked at me quizzically.

"I don't know who I am," I started slowly. "My memories start from my early childhood in an orphanage. Something drew me to 'The Way' when I first read about it. I'm not religious, I sure don't know if I am spiritual, but I have an awful lot of doubt, anger and sadness. Will I find some way to calm those feelings? I don't know. I just know I had to come."

Harald kept walking, his head down. He was silent for a dozen paces, and then he looked sideways at me.

"People often find answers to questions they didn't know they were asking. Can I suggest you let the journey's pace act like a metronome in your thoughts? It will allow the questions to surface. It's a long trek; we have around two more weeks. Let time be your friend."

We walked along the path for the rest of the day. The dirt coated my boots and covered my face. By the time we reached the small farm house – our rest place for the night – I was exhausted. Not from the walk, but from the doubt in my mind, playing like an endless string of words.

Harald seemed to think the answers would magically appear. He didn't realise that I didn't even know what my questions were. Was I going crazy? My son was the spiritual one. Not me, I'm too pragmatic. I entered the barn where we would sleep. Taking off my boots to air the blisters on my toes, I sat down in the hay. My boot went flying at the door just as Harald entered the barn.

My hand covered my mouth. For no apparent reason, I was trembling with fear. "Sorry, Harald, I don't know my own strength sometimes." I laughed nervously.

"I will deal with you later," he said, as he put two fingers to his eyes and pointed them back to me, silently stating, "I have my eyes on you, watch out."

Something about him at that moment made my flesh crawl. Maybe it was just me. I would have to watch what I said or did. Why were we all there? What had drawn us together? How was I involved? Would we regret making this pilgrimage? So many questions were buzzing around in my head.

Then, something in the corner caught my eye. Suddenly, I screamed. Harald's backpack had fallen over, spilling his wash bag and revealing a bundle of large, dried bones. I looked at Harald. His cold face echoed the threat to deal with me later.

"So. Would you like to know why I'm really here?" he sneered.

Harald was my pilgrim buddy, my pal, the last person here to be harbouring dark secrets. Or was he? I pasted a phony smile on my face, buying time to think.

What did I really know about Harald? I remembered how, on occasion, he had worn that hair shirt in the steam room at the club. And there was that costume ball when the devil's tail he wore appeared to be attached to his body. Small things, silly things really; the anomalies of any friendship.

The threat and the sneer had come as a shock. Who was this man? How well did I know him? How should I answer him? And why was everyone else still sleeping through this? More idiotic questions that will never be answered.

"Every man has his secrets," I spluttered. Did I want to know Harald's? A tear seemed to trickle down his cheek. It was difficult to tell in the subdued light of the barn. He wiped something away with the back of his hand.

"It's a long story," he muttered.

With another 150km to go, time was on his side. I looked at the bones as he put them back into his backpack, one by one. Animal or human? I couldn't decide. Certainly something larger than a cat or a dog. Could they be a child's? He shuffled closer to me and I shuddered.

"When I was a young man, I had a girlfriend, Monika. She lived in East Berlin. It was before the fall of the Berlin Wall. We met her at a chess tournament. Normally, it was nearly impossible to obtain a visa, but as members of a chess club, we received invitations to participate in tournaments, which allowed us to travel."

I listened to his love story against the background of a historical moment. I'm not an eager listener to the past of others. I prefer dwelling in the present moment.

"So. What about the bones?"

"Stolen," Harald responded, staring at me.

"You?"

"No, Monika."

"Bones of what kind? Animal?"

Harald started turning like a leopard in a cage. He stopped suddenly. "Human bones. Ansgar of Querfurt, what little is left of him."

"Dammit. Who?" I forced out my words.

"He was a missionary during the middle ages and was eventually Canonized. His bones were safeguarded in a monastery. Monika stole them while she was there researching ancient relics. When we broke up, she gave them to me. There is no way I can return them without landing myself in a hell of a lot of trouble. For the bones and for my break up with Monika, I feel guilt. I need to make amends." He paused. "I've got to get rid of all of them. The guilt, the bones, and the 'metronome'. I came on this pilgrimage in order to bury these bones somewhere along this route, it seems fitting. Ansgar of Querfurt was a highly religious man.

Whether he ever did that, I don't know. We never brought up the topic again. As for myself and the others in the group, was that why we were there, to bury the past?

 

Story Eight: 'The Similarity Syndicate'

Contributors in order of posting:

Tony Thatcher, Johanna Mc Donald, Elizabeth Coby, Cathy Cade, Paul Mastaglio, Marlene Pitcher, Sarah Mosedale, Sue Maynes, Michael Rumsey and Tony Thatcher.

I strained to get a better view as the revolving restaurant carried me back over the city street.  The view had been unexceptional when I first saw it; just a large man with a distracting hairstyle, being ushered from a limousine. The second time, an hour later, was curious. And now, on my third pass, I knew it was more than a coincidence; enough clones to fill a circus were gathering in the building opposite. My reserved-table time up, I paid the bill and went down to watch from the street.

There was quite a crowd forming on the street. Others had noticed the steady stream of stout fellows that were arriving by various means and entering the building. They had in common a hairstyle more in keeping with Jedward than the suited and booted men that we were witnessing. I leant towards a young lad and asked, "What's going on?"

"Some sort of science conference, I heard someone say," he replied. "Geneticists. This is a publicity stunt. Send in the clones instead of send in the clowns. An ear on a mouse and Dolly the sheep was enough for me. It's all a bit creepy."

The crowd was growing bigger; the young man moved away. A woman began to yell things about interfering with God and tried to enter the door with the latest clone. While the security guards were distracted, I decided to slip into the building. Surprisingly, I managed to get in unnoticed.

Out of the wind, the clones' weird hairstyles had flattened and flopped over to one side or the other. Some seemed to have shifted sideways a little. Here and there, clones had started to argue amongst themselves, each certain he was right, even though they all seemed to have the same opinions when it came down to it. I realised I had seen this face (these faces?) before. On the news? A clone (or was it?) stepped out on the stage and called them all to order. "Brothers, let's not forget what we're really here for."

The clones responded by humming together as if they were one body. Then their leader continued, "Brothers, our time is short. Tomorrow you will be sent to all the main population centres in the country. There are enough of you now to complete this task. The message is important and when they see who is delivering it, they will believe. No one must realise that you are not the true person. Speed and secrecy are..."

On spotting me, he clammed up, his face paling as he pointed a visibly shaking finger. "Who are you? What are you doing here?"

They grabbed my arms and lead me into an office behind the stage. An old man was sitting behind a wooden desk. He smelled of death. I wanted to find a route of escape, but I was surrounded by the clones.

"We have had many intruders. Sadly, most did not survive. You want to know what is happening? The Similarity Syndicate started out as an organization to provide eternal life for the chosen. However, the mind transfer caused a glitch into the plan. I guess free-will comes with the package."

I was dragged into a back room where two identical goons waited for me.

Immediately, the door closed and the two goons advanced on me smiling grimly. It took about 30 seconds to dispose of them. I spent considerably more time listening at the door to make sure everything had quietened down outside. Once satisfied, I made my way back to the front of the building and exited without difficulty. This outfit was amateur in the extreme.

HQ would be very interested, nevertheless. Clearly, this heinous plan, however ramshackle, required foiling. And I was just the woman to do it. Before being apprehended, I had taken the liberty of capturing the proceedings on video. All that was required now was to get this to the people who could make best use of it. Little did I realise just how difficult that would prove to be.

There were protestors and police everywhere, so a taxi was out of the question. I would be stuck in the melee. I spotted the young man I had been talking to originally. He was focused on me and clearly part of the syndicate, despite his disparaging words. I spotted a postal agency and by dodging and weaving through the crowd, I was able to slide in while he was trying to find me again. It would be only moments before he would put two and two together and work out what I was doing. Inside, I boxed up the video recording and sent it to my HQ contact. Now to slip away without him noticing. I felt a hand grab my shoulder and jumped in fright.

"Sorry to startle you, Miss." The man was middle-aged and well dressed. The young lad stood beside him. The man looked me straight in the eye and spoke slowly. "Miss, you are the only person who can help now. I implore you to retrieve your video and give it to me. I will ensure it will be shown on every news bulletin; on the hour, every hour. At the very least it will be a warning to our people something is afoot, even if we don't know what it is."

He sounded plausible and genuine, but if they were members of the syndicate, this could be a trick. My video could be lost forever. What was I to do?

I returned to the counter, retrieved the packet and was followed outside by the man and young lad. "Right," I said, "tell me what's really going on, before I give you this."

"OK," the lad replied, "but strictly off the record. An anonymous organisation has been cloning people for a long time."

"Why?"

"They have been refined, to be acquiescent."

"Perfect citizens then?"

"Yes, quite," he replied. "Unfortunately, some of them have created their own group."

"You mean the guys with the hair?"

"Yes, that's them. I've no idea why they wasted their free choice on comedy bouffant blonde, but they do well out of lookalike work. Give me the parcel please."

"Why are they all here?"

"We let them believe they have an important mission."

"And then?"

"We're going to switch them off." He took a metal box from his pocket.

I glanced over my shoulder. He fell for it and looked round, allowing me to grab the transmitter, sprint away and read the labels identifying the buttons.

I ignored 'Rebels' and stabbed at 'Shut Down All'. The city population deflated and collapsed. I felt the lonely horror of Nancy in the final scene of The Body Snatchers.

 

Story Seven: 'A Change of Plan'

Contributors in order of posting:

Paul Mastaglio, Johanna McDonald, Pat Mudge, Elizabeth Coby, Cathy Cade, Gail Wareham Everett, Michael Rumsey, Sarah Mosedale, Marlene Pitcher and Paul Mastaglio.

Peter Anderson fretted as he looked at his watch and waited for the bus. Where the devil was it? The meeting was in half an hour. He wasn't going to make it. He melted further into the shelter, out of the way of the incessant rain. His head bowed, he only heard footsteps as someone else joined him inside. He looked up at the figure. Squinting, he said, "Don't I know you?"

"Don't fink so, mate," said the man without even looking up from his phone.

"Yeah, I recognise you," said Peter. "Where do I know you from?"

The man did look at Peter then and he didn't look very happy. He threw a withering scowl and stated firmly and decisively that they had never met before and he didn't want to discuss it any further. The pair stood in awkward silence for several minutes, but Peter couldn't stop himself from asking, "Are you that bloke off the telly?"

"No, mate," he said, turning his back.

Shrugging, Peter looked at his watch again. Cars sped past but there was no sign of the bus. Faces flickered through his head as he tried to figure out who was standing next to him under the shelter. The man finished with his phone and slipped it into his pocket before turning his scowling face towards Peter again. Stepping back, Peter's voice trembled.

"You're that bloke everyone's been talking about."

"Why didn't you just leave it alone, mate," said the man, his dark eyes narrowing.

Peter was relieved to hear the bus approaching, his mind and heart were both racing. Why did he know the dark, angry face? Would he make the meeting? Why did he feel so confused? He couldn't keep up with his thoughts and stumbled as he boarded the bus. Finding a seat, he slumped into it, shaking. The man followed and sat opposite, staring. Peter felt his brain jolt. Why was an overwhelming sense of familiarity tickling his senses? He had never felt like this before and knew that he had met the man, who was now using his phone again.

The man visibly jumped when his phone rang. He looked at it accusingly before swiping the screen and raising it to his ear. "Hmm. Hmm. Not now, mate." He ended the call and scanned the bus. The phone rang again. He jabbed a button and it stopped. He thrust it in his pocket and met Peter's eye belligerently. Peter looked away.

Peter shivered as he suddenly knew why he recognised the man – the incident in the shopping mall, when there had been an attempt to snatch a three year old girl from her mother. The photograph from the CCTV footage had been published in the local paper, and Peter's stomach turned over as he realised that he'd also seen the man walking up Townley Road the previous Monday – approaching the gates of the Townley Tots Playschool.

With a nervous glance sideways, Peter slid his hand into his jacket pocket and gently began to remove his phone.

"Don’t even fink about it, mate."

The vice like grip on his wrist allowed no movement as the man, now sitting next to him, continued with a growl.

"A change of plan for you, mate. We're gitting orf this bus next stop. You and me's got fings to talk about."

I don’t think so, sunshine, thought Peter. He'd seen enough nine o'clock TV dramas to know that wouldn't end well. And he'd always fancied himself as a scriptwriter. He'd often thought these scenarios where people allowed themselves to be bossed about by villains were ridiculous. It was time to rewrite the script. For God's sake, he was on a well-lit bus, there were several witnesses. Everyone had a phone nowadays and the driver would have easy communications with the depot. Clearing his throat, he shouted loudly.

"The man sitting next to me is trying to force me to get off the bus. His photo was in the paper last week. He was trying to snatch a kiddie."

Two brawny men came from the back of the bus. Peter's assailant punched at the air. One grabbed the man from the knees, and the other went for the head. They wrestled the man to the floor of the bus. Peter jumped on top of the captive's back. He drove the captive's face into the metal floor as the bus hit a bump. Why did the driver keep going?

The man screamed as Peter pulled his head back by the hair.

Rage ran through Peter's veins. "If I had a knife, you'd be dead now."

The bus suddenly screeched to a stop. Police poured into the vehicle, taking over from Peter and his two assistants. A detective followed the uniforms in, addressing the three men.

"Congratulations. You've just helped us catch the notorious paedophile, Ron Norton. If you could please accompany us to the police station, we'll take statements from you. Thank you."

Peter stood back, still shaking. His ears buzzed and then he could hear the sound of clapping, getting louder as he reacquainted himself with his surroundings. Fellow passengers greeted him with smiles and comments of, "Well done," and, "You were so brave." The three men followed police and the captured fugitive off the bus.

An hour later, Peter glanced at his watch and thought, Sod it, I've missed my meeting. It was only about a bank overdraft anyway.

He turned to his two new friends. "A change of plan, I think. Fancy a pint? It's on me."

 

Story Six: 'Suspects'

Contributors in order of posting:

Michael Rumsey, Cathy Cade, Johanna McDonald, John Notley, Eileen Baldwin, Pat Mudge, Val Fish, Alan Barker, Barbara Noble and Michael Rumsey.

At 5pm, Brenda, close to tears, burst into my office.

"Mr Roberts, the money has gone."

At midday, I, as security officer, witnessed Brenda place £15,000 into a brown envelope. She opened the company safe, placed it on the top shelf and closed the door.

"Calm down Brenda," I said gently, "there’s probably a simple explanation. In addition to you and Mr Wallace, who else knows the combination number?"

"Four departmental managers and they all must have opened the safe. I know that because their month-end reports are in there." She paused, and then went on, "They are ready for Mr Wallace to pick up when he gets back from Berlin. Even Miss Andrew's report is on time." Brenda sniffed. "Jenny Andrews is still getting to grips with her admin since promotion, but the others are old lags; Peters is coming up to retirement."

Why was she telling me all this?

"Lewis," she continued, "has been with us since his apprenticeship at the age of 15 and old Mr Gordon is way beyond retirement and regarded now as part of the fabric of the building. Surely not one of them is capable of theft."

I eyed Brenda with suspicion. I'd known her for almost 10 years, since she first joined the firm after leaving college. In my opinion, she's a conscientious member of staff and would be the last person to do anything dishonest. However, rumours had started circulating around the office that she'd been experiencing some problems in her personal life.

She'd found herself in a relationship, after years of loneliness. All of a sudden, she'd started enthusing about a man called William. Her eyes would open wide as she engaged whoever would listen about the way they played bingo online, or the lottery. One day, she told us they'd been planning a big wedding in Las Vegas. She said it would be at the Ice Palace, with swans and doves carved out of ice. About a month later, when Brenda was asked how it was going, she burst into tears, ran into the loo and was heard wailing into her phone.

"William there is no more. It's all gone. I cannot get anymore. You know they suspect something."

I had a dilemma: it would be easy to let Brenda take the blame. She'd already confided in me that William was an alcoholic. She'd been hiding his excessive drinking from her family and was trying to reduce his intake by watering down the gin. Plus, I fancied the pants off her, had done for years. She had no idea. I was a married man, so kept my feelings to myself, but since the missus had walked out on me a few weeks back, I was a free agent again. I was convinced Brenda had done it, but maybe if I could stitch one of the others up for the job (cruel of me, I know, but if it got me what I wanted...), Brenda would be off the hook and she should be eternally grateful. Then all I'd need to do was persuade her to leave that scumbag for me… and there's always the chance he hadn't got his greedy hands on all of the loot yet. Well, that would be even better. Things were beginning to look up for yours truly.

"Morning, Brenda. Please take a seat."

I engaged the 'Do Not Disturb' sign and sat on the desk beside her. I'd spent half the night devising a cunning plan.

"About the stolen money," I began. "The departmental managers categorically deny any involvement. And I can't believe you would have taken it unless… William put you up to it."

Brenda bowed her head. "I'm sorry, Mr Roberts…"

"Roger, please."

"… Roger. William can be so persuasive." With that, she burst into tears.

I put my arm around her. So far so good. "Now, you and I must find a way to get the money back from William. Do you trust me?"

"Completely, Roger. Your wife is so lucky to have someone like you."

"Actually, Shirley left me for another man recently. I think she's seeing William."

Brenda stared at me in disbelief. "You're making that up – I don't believe you. William would never do that to me."

I put my arm around her shoulders in a conciliatory gesture.

"I'm really sorry, Brenda, but I know for a fact that Shirley has been supplying William with bottles of gin and brandy for some time now – she likes a tipple herself, only last week she told me that she was planning to move abroad with her new man."

Brenda shook herself free from my clumsy attempt at an embrace, and ran crying from my office. The next time I saw her, Brenda had been taken into police custody and charged with the murder of William Harvey. This complicated the issue, and I wondered whether I would ever be able to reclaim the missing money. Undeterred, I decided to go and visit Brenda in prison to try and resolve the issue.

They let me see her for a few minutes. The case against her was strong. Brenda admitted taking the money and giving it to Harvey. When she found out he'd been seeing someone else, it must have driven her crazy. Harvey was found with his skull crushed by a big brass bed-knob. It was lying next to the body. No fingerprints, so at least she'd thought to wipe it clean. She claimed to be at home alone at the time of the incident, so had no alibi. A woman matching her description was seen running from the building by a reliable witness.

I went straight home, only to find I had a visitor.

"Roger, something awful has happened." Shirley grabbed my suit lapels. "It's William. The other day the drunken fool fell against the bedpost cracking his head and knocking off the brass ball. I ran when I realised he was dead. What shall I do?"

I ushered her quickly inside my apartment and told her to sit down. She stuttered and babbled, then opened her handbag. "He dropped this."

The large fat brown envelope gazed up at me.

I could clear Brenda of that awful charge. With the money recovered, Mr Wallace would go easy on her. On the other hand, inside that envelope was a potentially great holiday for two. Las Vegas, perhaps, and a chance to get my wife back. So, Police Station or Travel Agent?

I picked up the phone and dialled.


Story Five: 'No More Mr Nice Guy'

Contributors in order of posting:

Johanna McDonald, Cathy Cade, Michael Rumsey, Elizabeth  Coby, Pat  Mudge, Eileen Baldwin, Lucy Morrice, Sarah Mosedale, Angela Googh and Johanna Mc Donald.

I'm running late today. I've had a bad morning; one of those days where everything goes wrong. First of all, I spent half an hour chasing the rabbit round the garden; he'd nibbled through his cage and escaped in the night. Then I found my face paint had leaked and had made a dreadful mess all over the dressing table. Then, as I was getting dressed, I realised that the heel had come off one of my massive shoes. I have already had one of the angry mums ring me to say that the kids are fed up with waiting and if I don't get to the party soon then she'll make sure that I never work in this town again. Well, I'm not in the best of moods.

Finding that the car has a flat tyre doesn’t help matters. I don't have time to change it. (Did I get around to having the spare fixed after that last flat? Come to that, is someone sabotaging my tyres?)   So, I'm waiting for the cab to arrive and getting into costume while I'm waiting, so I can hit the ground running when I get there, metaphorically speaking – perhaps make an entrance. The doorbell rings sooner than I expected, so I grab the long shoes (they'll have to go on last-minute, heeled or not, and I'll try not to trip over them unrehearsed) and I open the door. Only it isn't the cab.

She takes a step back. "Oh, you are Jolly Joey, aren’t you? I didn't realise. You did my son’s birthday..."

"Look, officer," I say, trying to stay calm, "I 'm late for an engagement. If you’ve come to make another booking..."

Her face changes. "No, Mr Stanton, I’m sorry, it’s far more serious than that. I would like you to come with me to the police station please."

The taxi arrives, but it might as well be invisible. All thoughts evaporate but one. Oh no, it’s Alec again isn’t it. What has he done now?

How many times have I traipsed along to Police Stations, often looking like a clown, literally, expected to pull a rabbit out of a hat, metaphorically? Once I did have some rabbits with me... Anyway, I digress.

Alec likes to blow things up. All sorts of things. He doesn't care what he destroys. What matters is where the object is, who will be most upset and how spectacular their reaction will be. He makes things explode in order to see people explode. I'm growing weary of it.

"It's about your Alec," the police officer says. "There's been an incident."

Taking a deep breath, I say, "What's he done now?"

"Well, I’m sorry to tell you he's spent the afternoon terrorising residents on your estate. He knocked on their doors and threw firecrackers at their feet when they opened them. Scared residents want to press charges against him. Mind you, he’s got his comeuppance, and he’s the scared one now. The stupid boy kept his stash of bangers in his pocket. One firecracker exploded before he got far enough away and sparks set his pocket alight. He's in hospital being treated for severe burns."

Sweat poured from under my wig and streaked down my face, ruining my makeup. "Never mind the police station," I say. "I need to get to the hospital."

"Not yet," the police officer says. "You have some questions to answer first.

"Your son says you keep the explosives in your garden shed for your tricks. Is this true?" She turns and beckons a colleague from the police car  – a fresh-faced young bloke  – and I lead them to the shed. They look at me in amazement.

The female officer says, "Blimey, what's all this then?"

I say nothing. I wear the clown outfit because I'm undercover. My son is going to cause trouble for me if I'm not careful.

The explosives are here because my contacts thought I'd be the safest bet for keeping them away from prying eyes. Nobody suspects a children's entertainer of being a subversive. Looks like my cover’s been blown now, so to speak. I could play the innocent, or just set off this remote detonator and send the lot sky high...

That’s what the gang thought, anyway. Of course, I’m actually a double agent. And that stuff about blowing the place sky high simply reflects my frustration at the moment I desperately need to get to hospital to see my injured, pyromaniac son. I've got PCs Thick and Thicker standing at my front door. They are as blissfully ignorant of my undercover work as the would-be bank robber gang who thinks I'm harbouring their explosives (instead of passing them straight over to the authorities). For Chrissake, what a combination of events. Given that the contents of this shed consist of large black balls with 'BOMB' written on them and giant fuses, you would think even the aforementioned PCs Gormless and Gormlesser might recognise them as harmless tools of my trade. Though to be fair, I hear Our Thin Blue Line has been having serious recruitment difficulties for a while now. Anyway, what to do next? I've got to get to that hospital quickly now.

I will have to signal my handlers. I warned them that something like this was going to happen, what with Alec playing with fire. They told me that his reputation would add to my street-cred. Soon, these two duffers would get their marching orders. I reached down for my right shoe; the signalling device was in the heel of my big floppy. Oh no. My heel broke and my shoes are inside. I don't even know if the gadget hidden there got damaged when the break happened. Can nothing go right today?

Well, there's only one thing for it: no more Mr Nice Guy. I reach into the pocket of my baggy pantaloons, pull my revolver out and point it at the young rookie cop.

"Get into the shed or I'll blow your brains out."

I lock the pair inside. They weren't to know that, if I'd pulled the trigger, a little flag with 'BANG' on it would pop out.

Next, I ring Gripper, my criminal gang contact, and tell him that I have a little surprise for him in my shed. Shame I won't be there to see him come face to face with the police.

I drive off in the squad car that had the keys dangling in the ignition (school boy error by our boys in blue). I'm not off to the hospital, though. Alec has pushed me too far. He's on his own. I'm heading to see Baz 'The Butcher' Barlow, my mate from a rival gang. He has a large cash lump sum for me, for my work as a triple agent. He'll laugh when I tell him about my day so far.

Then, I'm on my way to Acapulco to spend the rest of my days soaking up the sun and drinking tequila. A very Jolly Joey indeed.

 

Story Four: 'Talk of the Town'

Contributors in order of posting:

David Silver, Neil Davie, Alan Barker, Maggie Elliott, Elizabeth Coby, Eileen Baldwin, Lynn Gale, Lesley Anne Truchet, Pat Mudge and David Silver.

The topic under discussion in the pub was the weather. But, after the regulars acknowledged that it mattered little whether the long dry spell was continuing outside because they spent most of their time indoors at the inn anyway, the subject petered out and the pubsters switched to silent mode.

The stillness was broken when latecomer Frank arrived on the premises, scattering raindrops everywhere. "Guess what's happened to our Jenny," he said.

The small puddle forming around Frank's feet told everyone in the pub that the dry spell had now ended. The fact that something notable had happened to Jenny was less surprising. Nobody had to ask which Jenny. The whole village knew who Frank meant and that something was always happening to her.

"Expecting, is she?" asked Kenny, never one to mince his words.

Frank threw his mac over the coat stand and stepped up to the bar. They all gathered round. "Something much worse than that," he whispered. "She tried a new shade of hair dye and left it on too long. Not only does she look like Shrek’s sister, but it’s falling out in clumps. Surprised you didn’t hear her screams from here."

Kenny was strangely disappointed by this reply and comforted himself by imagining Jenny giving birth to lots of small green babies. He smiled. Nobody else said anything; they were now all quite sozzled, though some did imagine their own version of green Jenny. The loud sound of a car crash, if that’s what it was, stirred them all to movement and they rushed to look outside.

Of course, it was Jenny. Tears streamed down her face as she staggered out of the car. No wonder – she'd pranged Kenny's car in the carpark. He'd left it sticking out rather far.

He yelled, "Silly cow, can't you look where you're going?"

She turned on him, waving a hank of green hair. "This hair dye came from your pound shop. I'm suing for... I'm taking you to court."

"What on earth are you talking about?" Kenny bristled with rage, his face reddening by the second. "I've never sold hair dye in my shop." Realisation dawned. "Was it by chance in a red tube?"

"Yes, that's the one." She sobbed as more clumps of green hair dropped to the floor.

"You silly woman," he cried. "You must have used the Hare’s dry paint stripper."

Jenny stopped crying instantly. "Paint stripper." Another clump of green hair fell from her head as she turned and fled from the pub, the strident laughter of the sozzled revellers ringing in her ears.

Frank joined in the revelry and downed a few pints himself. At closing time, he followed the trail of green hair and found his wife at home. She was naked in the shower, scrubbing her tinged bald head. As she turned her green face towards him, he stepped closer and opened the shower door.

Jenny glared at him through soap-rimmed eyes. "You laughed at me with your drunken pals. Fine husband you are."

Frank sighed. "You don't understand, dear. I had to appear to be one of the lads because I'm planning to take over the pub in a secret business venture. I have to keep in with the regulars in order to retain their custom, once the inn is ours."

"My hero," exclaimed Jenny. "I look forward to seeing their faces when I become mein hostess. They'll be green with envy."

 

Story Three: 'Comeback'

Contributors in order of posting:

Cathy Cade, Angela Googh, Derek McMillan, Lynn Zeleski, Elizabeth Coby, Eileen Baldwin, Marlene Pilcher, Lesley Anne Truchet, Gail Everett and Cathy Cade.

I'm hovering above the operating theatre, watching my body below. It jerks with each power surge. So much is still unfinished with a lot hanging on the outcome. They can't get away with this. If all else fails, I'll come back and haunt them.

Three engineers emerge from a huddle, around panels and monitors. "We're live again," one of them says. "It's now or never."

The doctor looks up and nods.

The nurse unlocks my wheelchair and says, "It's time."

The only way I can survive is to go back in time and fix the electrical fault that caused this problem. But that's impossible. Then I reflect that I'm in the middle of an out-of-body experience.

Living in limbo is not what I had in mind. I can't wait for the next step in the process. The donor was a college medical student and, if all goes well, my memories, my thoughts and my soul will soon have a fully functioning body. The only catch is the power brownouts. It's time all right. I need to return to a body or start searching for a way to survive on this side of the veil.

A loud humming fills the room and the lights become dazzlingly bright. Obviously, the power is back. I can hear exclamations of surprise and sense someone beside me. "Come on," says a voice, as we fall together into the body below.

"Wow, look at that. We got him. Good work guys." The engineers leave, looking pleased with themselves.

Yeah, you got me, and an ethereal hitchhiker, I think.

"Be quiet. Say nothing," the voice whispers. "I will explain everything once this body is stable. We have things to do."

Oh, why had I agreed to their experiment? I'm a trained astronaut. When they put it to me, it sounded as if I would be saving the world. Now, it looks like I'm not only destroying the world, but myself too. At least I'm back in my body, but with another being. What does this hitchhiker want? How has this happened? So many questions needed answering. Am I even me anymore?

"Amazing, all the ways that we use to try to reach immortality," the hitchhiker whispers to me. "This is my 12th body transfer. I won't bother you, I promise, but the collective needs to be destroyed. You need my skills."

I fall downward into life. Once more the darkness of doubt surrounds me.

"I agree," I say to the hitchhiker after the doctors leave. "I've been thinking and I have a plan that will put a stop to these awful experiments forever." Sitting up on my operating table, I outline my idea to him.

"That's more or less what I had in mind." The hitchhiker grins. "Let's do it."

He merges into my consciousness. As we stand up, I stumble as he beats me to it by seconds. "Come on, we need to make a start. It's Friday the 13th today and my next body transfer will be my 13th – lucky for the rest of the patients here, but less so for the surgeon in charge."

Next body transfer? What if we sabotage our own return? What am I not being told? I feel the grin leave our face; my body squatter is stronger than I.

The collective need to re-think their methods, but they're only seeking solutions to infertility caused by environmental breakdown.

I sense a third presence.

COME ALONG, DONALD. YOU PAID A LOT OF MONEY FOR ANOTHER GO, BUT YOU KNOW YOU CAN’T ESCAPE ME FOREVER.

The lofty cloaked figure raises an egg-timer and shakes it; both its bulbs are empty. Inside the hood, a white grin gleams.

I feel a tug as a shadow is dragged from me, kicking and bellowing. Its kicks are the whirring of the air conditioner. It screams at the hum of fluorescent lights.

The cloaked figure produces another sand-filled timer from its folds and turns to me grinning. I realise this is its only expression.

This timer's top bulb is almost empty. The spectre turns it over.

YOUR SANDS HAVE LONGER TO RUN. USE THEM WISELY.

Both figures fade as a nurse enters.

"Up already, Captain Lazarus? How are you feeling?"

 

Story Two: 'Drop-In Port in a Storm'

Contributors in order of posting:

Lesley Truchet, Gail Wareham Everett, Cathy Cade, Elizabeth Coby, Malcolm Richardson, Maggie Elliott, Sarah Mosedale, Eileen Baldwin, Pat Mudge and Lesley Truchet.

My skimpy, Prada, red mini-dress and I shuddered in unison as we absorbed the first heavy drops of rain. Attempting to sprint in my Louis Vuitton high heels, I wobbled towards the local drop-in centre, a place I'd always avoided.

Three other fashion victims were waiting for the counselling session to begin: Jade, in her Princess Beatrice toilet-seat hat, Charlene, in a pair of creased grey harem pants that looked like an elephant's arse, and poor Ethel, in a bright pink Crimplene leisure suit.

I perched myself on one of the mis-matched circle of chairs. One woman, clearly a charity shop habituee, nibbled her fingernails while nervously sizing up the rest of us. After a few moments, she cleared her throat and announced, "Shall we get started then?"

Jade, Charlene and Ethel looked suspiciously at me, obviously wondering why I was there. Sandra, the nail-nibbling counsellor, said, "As you see, we have a new friend here today who has a very special reason for joining us. Would you like to tell us about it Imelda?"

"Well... well..." I stuttered, trying to think on my feet whilst sitting down on a cold, damp, plastic seat. "I'm so pleased to have found this support group. I can't tell you how long I've been searching, I really can't."

Charlene fixed her eyes on me. Clearly, she hadn't joined the group to bare her soul. I guessed that girlie meetups like this were her hunting ground. Looking like a quality tart in my tight red dress, I knew why I was the object of her attention.

As I spoke, I glanced round the group, carefully maintaining my nervous appearance. My cover story was rock solid but needed to be drip fed to give me time to observe everyone's reactions. Which one was she?

I hope the one I am looking for is Jade. I feel drawn to her. She has same silly fashion sense as the young woman, in the only photo I have in my possession. But I must tread carefully. I need to get them to trust me.

My dress felt too short, too tight, and Charlene was giving me an odd look. Nervous, I stood and offered my ciggies round.

"Err, this is a no-smoking building," said the counsellor, crossing her arms.

"I'll take one," said Charlene. "We can smoke outside."

"I'll join you in a minute," I lied, giving her the packet. I left the building via the toilet window and signalled to my waiting colleagues.

I know everything about the lives of my three targets. Having finally met them, Charlene is obviously a lesbian; therefore, she doesn't fit the profile. Although Jade resembles the photo in some ways, I like her and that tells me she cannot be the one. Ethel is the person in the photo, albeit years older. She has the same eyes and face shape, disguised by thick-lensed glasses. Hiding behind her terrible taste in clothes, ugly glasses and a put-on dotty personality, I recognised the person I'd met years before, despite the facade.

The Louis Vuitton shoes were killing me, the red dress uncomfortable. I couldn't wait to ditch them, along with Imelda, a bloody awful cover name.

Manoeuvring my car into the traffic, I headed back to MI5 headquarters. Ethel, known to us as Sharon the Sadist, was one of the most wanted people on our files. My promotion was assured.

 

Story One: 'Great Aunt Mabel'

Contributors in order of posting:

Gail Wareham Everett, Eileen Baldwin, Elizabeth Coby, Cathy Cade, Maggie Elliott, Sarah Mosedale, Michael Rumsey, Chris Fielden,  Pat Mudge and Gail Wareham Everett.

Great Aunt Mabel, a typical seaside landlady, cooks a fry-up for her guests every morning, then sits down in the kitchen to a Blackpool Breakfast – five ciggies and a pot of tea. However, yesterday was different – she had ten ciggies and a large gin

Her hands were still trembling. She re-read the letter again, nearly setting fire to it, as the cigarette ash landed on the scrawny writing, informing her of an impending visitor whom she thought she left behind in her troubled past.

Well, after all these years, who does he think he is ? What will he say about their secret? Does he finally know what they should do? She poured another drink, lit another cigarette, sighing deeply as the anxiety and questions filled her mind.

The pile of leaves had long since dispersed or rotted behind the garden of their former home backing onto the forest. But over the years, the mound of earth the leaves had covered, had flattened anyway.

Having rebuilt his life with the 12 step programme and finding faith, he intended to clear his conscience by redressing mistakes of the past. This would have profound repercussions for them both.

Mabel considered her options. Fight or flight? The thought of uprooting herself at this point was simply unbearable. So, she inhaled deeply and focused her considerable intellect on the problem. Typical seaside landlady my arse, she mused.

27 years since Albert left. Buggered off to Australia they said, well down under was right. She giggled at her own joke, now Fred wanted to dig it all up again, another giggle. Arriving tomorrow his letter said. Huh, she'd show him born again the silly sod.

Mabel thought back to her life on the street. How Fred had helped her. The pimp was gone and she'd been freed. But knowing what was out there, lying in the mud, still had a hold on her... Was Fred right? He'd recovered. Maybe she could too? Another cigarette. Another gin. The trembles subsided. She could think clearly again. She knew what she'd say to him when he arrived.

Mabel watched the clock and checked her phone every few minutes. Watching through the window she gasped when she saw him heading towards the house. His salt and pepper hair flopped across his brow, his wizened face, still handsome. She opened the door and smiled a nervous smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes.

"Fred," she said, her voice jittery, "I've been thinking about your letter…"

"There’s something I need to do," said Fred and, pushing past her, he immediately went through the house into the garden. Standing by the spot where he had buried Albert, he prayed.

"Forgive us our sins – I’m going to tell the police today."

Shattering his skull with a blow from the stone that marked the grave containing Fluffy, her beloved cat, Mabel sank to her knees. "Born again, Fred? Well, now's your chance. You should never have gone to Australia and left me."

 

Gladiator Gallery

Gladiator Gallery

Below you will find details of the winning Gladiator Fable contributors. This challenge only runs once or twice a year, so the table will be updated less frequently than the other tables on this page.

Gladiator Gallery
Contributor Name Winning Story Date
Cathy Cade Story One: 'Great Aunt Mabel' February 2020
Chris Fielden " "
Eileen Baldwin " "
Elizabeth Coby " "
Gail Wareham Everett " "
Maggie Elliott " "
Michael Rumsey " "
Pat Mudge " "
Sarah Mosedale " "

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Author Profiles

Below are some profiles of authors that have submitted to many of the writing challenges and are active members of the Facebook group. They are presented in the order they were received.

Facebook Group Admins

Gail Everett

Gail Everett

I began writing fiction at the age of three, when I penned and illustrated a brief and tediously repetitive tale about a character I called The Shy Indain. My spelling was clearly a tad suspect, but the story survives to this day – after my mother died and I was dealing with her personal effects, I discovered that she had kept it, in spite of the fact that it had been written on something which looks suspiciously like Izal toilet paper. I can only hope that no one else in the family was caught short by my short story.

Apart from the other tales I wove for my mother when I was a teenager, and late home yet again on a Saturday night, I didn't return to fiction until sixty years had passed, by which time I had exhausted most other possibilities for enjoyable pastimes in which to engage whilst sitting down.

Having decided that I would make a belated attempt at getting a degree, I signed up for BA Arts and Humanities with the Open University, and decided to take Creative Writing as my specialisation. When younger, I had chosen to go to a vocational art college instead of university, and forged a career in design during my working life. I moved through the ranks to become a junior designer, senior designer, art director and ultimately, studio manager. I didn’t enjoy that last position, and after the day job had beaten me to a pulp, I left.

I then took a City & Guilds course in ceramics and eventually became a craft potter, with an emphasis on hand built work in Celtic knotwork designs inspired by my love of Irish art and culture, which had begun many years previously with a chance encounter in the school library with the Book of Kells. When I was in my early forties, the Riverdance phenomenon inspired me to take up Irish dancing, and I also learned to play the bodhran, but on hearing my efforts, one could be forgiven for wondering if the goat were still in the drumskin.

I am now fully retired, and having quit town life, I live in Darkest Devon – where it rains six days in seven, my home is in a village which is the next best thing to the back end of nowhere, and I am owned by three black cats, who are the light of my life.

Finally – having put on far too much weight, the resemblance between truth and reality has now become somewhat distorted, as I no longer look exactly like my profile picture. This was taken about seven years ago, but I’m too bloody vain and idle to change it. ;-)

Lesley Anne Truchet

Lesley Anne Truchet

AMBITION? OR NECESSITY?

When the government upped the retirement age for women in the UK, it didn’t suit my circumstances at all! I explored various ideas of self-employment enabling me to work from home in France and decided that my writing ambition had been simmering on the back burner for long enough.

I launched myself into an online writing group, making a commitment to the exceptionally talented Chris Fielden, Michel Rumsey and others, plus engaging myself with other writing associated activities. It’s been five years since I began writing from home and my self-employment writing idea has earned me just about enough to buy a week’s shopping, and I’m not talking prestige supermarket prices. No matter, I enjoy my writing and that’s more important than being as rich as J K Rowling, sigh.

So, I plod on, hoping for a smidgen of fame in order to leave my footprint on record, no matter how small, (or large) it may be.

Michael Rumsey

Michael Rumsey

Hi, I am Michael Rumsey, originally from Ipswich, Suffolk, UK, now retired and living in Athens, Greece. I ‘met’ Chris a few years ago when surfing the net for story competitions and thanks to that had success with three on his list.

Once the challenges started, it was a red rag to this bull and so far I have charged my way into all of them. My first ever published short story dates back to BCP (before cut & paste). I have stories of 4,000 plus words to my credit but tend these days towards flash, Ad Hoc for example.

Like most, I get an assortment of rejections upon which I give myself a slap on the wrist. It is now swollen beyond recognition. I have written several non-fiction articles and a few short bios that saw the light of day. I also enjoy writing book reviews and most recently have been gathering brownie points from reviews on Trip Advisor.

I was delighted when asked to help with this page. From day one, I have been amazed by smart comments and clever submissions from you. Many times I think I wish I had thought of that and now I look forward to seeing your own Member Profile.

Find out more about me on Facebook.

Facebook Group Members

Barbara Noble

Barbara Noble

The original ‘scribbling child’, I have written poems and short stories since around the age of 10. One of the first poems I wrote at the age of 12 (58 years ago), won a school prize and was featured in the local newspaper . (I’ve included it at the end of this profile.)

A graduate in Business Studies and a linguist speaking fluent French, German and Mandarinin, in my mid 30s, I travelled the world as a free-lance interpreter working occasionally for the then EEC Commission in Brussels, and also living and working for a time in West Berlin.

During the 1980's, I chaired Royston Writers' Circle for a few years. Poetry has always been my first love, and I have recently completed, writing out by hand, three hard backed books containing every poem I have ever written, which will be going into the memory boxes I have made for my three children.

I have never really been that interested in sending any of my work off for publication, although a few of my poems have appeared in various small press poetry magazines over the years, such as Robooth publications. I have also written a novel entitled Moonstruck on the Bi-Polar Express, for which I have never sought publication (lest my children might want to read it LOL) – but I'm no Sylvia Plath.

At the start of the Millenium, I lived and worked on and off in Bodrum, where among other things I wrote a small column for the Bodrum Observer newspaper, subsequently becoming fluent in the Turkish language. But my biggest claim to fame has been translating a 400 page novel written by the Turkish author and environmentalist, Akin Tekin. The book, The Ownerless Planet, was subsequently made into a film which won an award at the Cannes film festival. I was going through quite an upheaval in my private life during the year I spent working on the translation of this book with Akin & his family, and it became not just a labour of love, but proved to be quite cathartic for me personally. Akin wrote a really sweet acknowledgement at the end of the book, praising my work, which I will treasure forever. I think the book is still available on Amazon and I have quite a few copies left in my writing room.

I returned to live in the UK full time in 2015. Now that I am 'retired', my interests include travel, languages (I have always been interested in exploring different cultures), poetry, buying and selling antiques, auction hunting, spirituality and exploring and writing with other collaborators about the possibilities for global unity and world peace.

A Poet's Lament In The Year 3000

(Written in 1962 at the age of 12)

The works of ancient poets are still alive today –

Oh how I wish that I could boast the things they used to say.

Alas in this strange world there are no longer flowers

Whose beauty inspired poets to sit and write for hours.

The sweet smell of birds singing is now no longer heard –

All I can claim is the memory of hearing one blackbird.

The sky is never blue now, it’s always dull and grey

And everything seems dreary since laughter went away.

People never smile now, they’re waiting for the end,

For soon machines will rule the world, and humans they will send

Away to some lost planet where day and night are one.

We’re living in this fear now, and soon the time will come

When they whom we invented will banish us from earth,

And all too late we’ve realised and now know the true worth

Of simple things forgotten in the race to get ahead,

So now we pay the awful price and live our lives in dread.

Cathy Cade

Cathy Cade

I live with my husband and dogs, mostly in the Cambridgeshire Fens and sometimes in the shadow of London’s Epping Forest, following a career in libraries where creative writing opportunities were limited to annual reports. Since retirement, I’ve concentrated on a different kind of fiction and joined our local U3A creative writing group.

For me, the hardest part is thinking up story ideas, which is where the pressure to come up with something in less than a month – either for the writing group or for Chris’s website challenges – is proving invaluable. Most of my current output is short stories and flash fiction since parking my practice novel while I learned to write. I also learned to line-edit and format for publication by compiling the anthology published by our writing group, the Whittlesey Wordsmiths.

My attempts at verse have been honed by years of rhyming treasure hunt clues and owe more to Pam Ayres than Betjeman or Chesterton. Examples can be seen at Commaful and on my website.

Instead of budgets and report deadlines, my targets now involve word counts and competition deadlines (for no remuneration worth mentioning), but I’m having more fun.

David Silver

David Silver

I stumbled into journalism in 1963 after leaving school at 15 following scant exam success. I have worked as a reporter, sub-editor and comedic (some would disagree) columnist on several newspapers in the Greater Manchester area, most latterly the Bolton Evening News (now the Bolton News).

One of my favourite moments back in the day was meeting movie legend Warren Beatty who was filming on location in Manchester for his then latest production, Reds. I took my wife with me and she lay her hand on his arm, cooing, "I've been a fan of yours for many years." To which I butted in, "But she married me anyway." Mr Beatty actually laughed. Returning home, Mrs S clutched Mr Beatty's autograph to her bosom and swore she would keep it forever. Three days later, she lost it.

I took retirement (seriously knackered) in 2002, and from 2011-2016 wrote a light-hearted column, 'Smile with Silver', for The Courier, a Spain-based weekly newspaper for British expats.

With my passable knowledge of how the English language works, I took up Chris Fielden's challenges and found the activity shocked my brain out of its stagnant state. Thank you, Chris.

I have two children, three grandchildren and a clapped-out Polo destined for the old Volks home. These days, I wear an affable facial expression to conceal the fact that I no longer have a clue as to what's going on in the real world.

Derek McMillan

Derek McMillan

Derek McMillan lives in Durrington with his wife, Angela, who is also his editor. He writes book, film and TV reviews as well as short stories for publications in the UK, USA and Canada. His latest book is called Darkness in Durrington and is available on Amazon.

He also runs a blog for short stories which has been visited by 8,000 visitors at the time of writing. It aims to encourage flash fiction in the Worthing area but has also had contributors from the USA, Australia, New Zealand and India.

Eileen Baldwin

Eileen Baldwin

My name is Eileen Baldwin, aged 73. Born in London.

Married 51 years. Mother of 3 daughters, and Nan Bee to 4 Grandchildren.

Hobbies: Writing flash fiction, I knit and crochet.

My main job is caring for my disabled daughter with my husband.

Writing has always been my go to, since I was little. I went to Charles Dickens infants and juniors schools, then secondary school. The teachers encouraged me to write stories.

I won a voucher for a story I wrote aged about 9, from a local company who set it up for school children.

I have some of my poetry in anthology books and also a life story about my disabled daughter. This in print with other authors.

In 2016, I was invited to write a story about the queen via a competition run by the local library. I compared her coronation and her 90th birthday to my life at those moments. I’m proud to say I was runner up and I read out my story to an audience with the Mayor in attendance.

Recently, I actually came first in a space competition. This time my poetry won. A special moment, it was on 25th anniversary, National Poetry Day.

I wrote short stories for my children in the 70's -80's and was also asked to be a volunteer at 2 local schools. I loved hearing the children read. I would reward them with a story of poem, including their names, after the teacher had checked them first.

I did suffer writers block recently. But thanks to the Authors of Flash Fiction Challenge group and Chris Fielden, I found fun in writing again.

Johanna McDonald

Johanna McDonald

I have only recently started writing following many years of wanting to.

 I'm not sure what stopped me in the past but I decided last year to go to creative writing classes. I completed the basic course and have since done a couple of advanced courses.

I have written a couple of children's stories that I will send off to be published one day. Not sure what's holding me back from doing that...

I enjoy writing short fiction and recently have joined a writing group that my fellow writing students have started up: 'South Hampshire writing group'. We meet monthly and do writing exercises and discuss competitions etc. Our aim is to self publish an anthology of short stories later this year.

By day, I am a practice nurse looking after the health needs of the people of Eastleigh.

I enjoy cooking, reading, playing guitar (badly) and walking my little dog.

John Notley

John Notley

I was born in Forest Hill, S.E. London five years before WW2 (this makes me an oldie I suspect) and spent 40 years of married life in the village of Hadlow, Kent. My father joined the London Metal Exchange as a boy of 15 and served them for 50 years before retiring as Secretary. By contrast, my own working life involved many changes and, in his eyes, I was a rolling stone.

I left Alleyn's School, Dulwich at 16 and was employed as an office boy by a local newspaper company; my ambition then was to become a journalist. After two years I was called up for National Service in the army, most of this time spent in Egypt. Upon my return, for some unknown reason, I joined a London travel agency and from then on moved a number of times before ending up with my own small travel shop (Angel Travel) in Kent.

I was awarded a B.A. by the Open University in 1976 after six years of study and it was about then that I started to write short stories and poems, some of which were published. Since my retirement (during which I have taken on a number of part-time jobs including estate agency) I spend my time between the U.K. and Thailand where I do most of my writing.

I came across Chris by entering To Hull and Back in 2016 and since then have enjoyed the fun and inspiration which he provides.  Long may he reign.

Maggie Elliot

Maggie Elliot

My friends call me Maggie, among other things. Taking a creative writing course at the local arts centre when I retired awakened a desire to put pen to paper. Well, fingers to computer to be more accurate, but you get the gist.

The course produced an anthology which didn’t get published for three years, but I was elated to finally see my efforts in print. A poem I created whilst attending the course, 'Picture Me Calm', won third prize in the Swanwick Summer School poetry competition in 2017.

Entering Christopher Fielden’s writing challenges boosted my confidence enormously each time one of my entries was accepted. I have entries in both Sensorially Challenged Vol I and II, more pending publication and stories in two other anthologies.

It’s a pleasure to be part of  this Flash Fiction Group where I am learning loads.

Malcolm Richardson

Malcolm Richardson

Hi, I'm Malcolm. I've been writing fiction over ten years now. In earlier days I wrote a number of articles that appeared in a cycling magazine, reports on races and an interview! I started creative writing by joining a 'lifelong learning' course at a local university. It turned out to be a critique group and new starters were encouraged to think of a character and start writing a novel. Talk about jumping in the deep end!

After a few years wading through treacle the focus shifted to short stories, one to two thousand words. The intention was to produce a group anthology. Two anthologies were produced and I had two stories in each. Published on a print on demand site, the only sales were to group members.

Just over a year ago I joined a free online course aimed at beginners and those looking for a refresh. A great six week course led to the creation of an online Facebook writing group for course members. The main focus of the group tends to be flash fiction but members also engage in short stories, novels and poetry. This has encouraged me to be more prolific and so far this year I've won a flash fiction competition with several runners up places. Chris's challenges were highlighted to the group and this is how I became involved. I've had stories published in two challenges so far and have a number of others accepted for forthcoming volumes.

You can find out more about me on my website.

Paul and Yvonne Mastaglio

Paul and Yvonne Mastaglio

I started writing during 2018, finally succumbing to an urge that had been with me for years. My late dad used to write short stories and that influenced me to try for myself.

At first, I stumbled about, not getting anywhere but then enrolled on a couple of writing courses. One with the Writers Bureau and the second with Chris Fielden. Both proved extremely helpful and enjoyable to do. They definitely contributed in me having a little success in that I achieved 2nd place in a micro-flash competition and was short-listed in a short story competition in 2019.

My wife, Yvonne, has chipped in with ideas that led to another of my micro-flash stories being 'Highly Commended'. Yvonne, also, had a 100 word story 'Highly Commended' in a competition.

I have enjoyed taking part in Chris's writing challenges and would be thrilled if these were published with my contributions in them.

We are retired and our other interests include target archery, reading, cinema, theatre and fell walking. Yvonne also skis. Toby, our cat, should get a mention, otherwise he'll get upset!

Sarah Mosedale

Sarah Mosedale

I only started writing flash in 2018 so am a beginner with lots to learn. I wrote massively as a kid and am now returning to creative writing at the end of a varied working life which has included some academic / technical writing. If you really want to read my co-authored book Regulation, Markets and Poverty or one of my academic papers or policy briefs, give me a shout :-)

I have read widely and voraciously all my life (crime, sf, classical and modern literature, the back of cereal packets etc.) so am always amused when advised to read more as I suspect it would be physically impossible. Though it's fair to say I am now reading more short stories and flash. To be honest I didn't even know flash existed till about a year ago. I am a relatively untaught, seat of the pants type writer, love working from prompts, just seeing what comes out.

I feel very lucky to have got to a place in my life where my time is my own. I’m writing for fun, for intellectual stimulation and probably, at this stage, still for therapeutic purposes. I am told this phase will pass quite soon for which any readers will probably be grateful. I was thrilled to be longlisted for the autumn Flash 500 competition and am delighted to have discovered the flash writing and open mic community both on Twitter and in Manchester, UK, where I live.

Find me on Twitter.

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Eileen B
You made my day.

May I say.

Thank you all.

I had a ball.

You gave me my 15 minutes of fame.

Glad  I came.

Seriously Chris, and the other authors. You made me proud to take part. Thank you.

Chris Fielden
Thank you, Eileen. And a poem too - we feel spoilt :-)

Eileen B
Thank you, Chris. I really wanted you all to know how much I am enjoying our group. Also, since I did your free course, I really am enjoying writing.

Chris Fielden
That's great to hear, thanks Eileen!