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K’lee and Dale’s Cosmic Photo Challenge…

Monday arrives once more and with it, another edition of K’lee and Dale’s Cosmic Photo Challenge, this week curated by K’lee, who left us the prompt; When Day turns into Night.

I chose to interpret this as an excuse to share some shots of the sun going down on the Devon countryside.

Click HERE to see K’lee’s post. 

So what do you have for us today?

*****

To get involved with the challenge, post a photo to your blog on Monday, add a pingback to this post (or to K’lee’s) and don’t forget to tag your post #CosPhoChal.

Alternatively, add a link to your blog in the comments of either mine or K’lee’s post and we’ll come and check out your entry.
Any and all effects, editing, Photoshop, Instagram, morphing, collages or whatever other post production techniques you fancy are permitted, (in fact, they’re actively encouraged!) so get creative and turn your photos into artworks for the Cosmic Photo Challenge.

#CosPhoChal

 
12 Comments

Posted by on December 5, 2016 in Arts, Blogging, Photography

 

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Stream of consciousness Sunday: The Accumulator, part thirteen…

Welcome to another Stream of consciousness Sunday post, taking inspiration from Linda G Hill to continue this story, by using her prompt for this week;

” “sh.” Find a word that begins with the letters “sh” and base your post on it. Bonus points if you start your post with those letters. “

Well alright then…

The Accumulator, part thirteen.

Scene: Shadows, cast pin-sharp by the brightness of the moon, darken the petrol station forecourt. A black Mercedes SUV is parked in front of the shop and a dark clad figure can be seen at the door, face pressed to the glass, trying to see inside the building. 

The camera pans round to show us Patrick, concealed behind a Land Rover on the small used car lot, watching the other man intently. It is eleven years ago.

The shot cuts to Patrick’s POV and his familiar voiceover once more narrates as events unfold;

“It all happened too fast; the car came round the corner and made straight for the entrance, I didn’t have time to do anything. I was trapped out in the open with only that old Landy for cover, all I could do was watch as the two goons tried to get into the shop where Cathy was hiding. 

After a minute or two of rattling the doorknob and peering in through the windows, one of the two went off on his own, round the back of the garage and I knew this was my chance. I crept out into the open, feeling horribly exposed, trying to keep the Mercedes between myself and the remaining Department man and scuttled the last few yards bent double, to stay out of his line of sight. 

I came up to the rear of the shiny black 4×4 and leant my back against it, considering my options while the silent sentry paced around by the door. As I crouched there, trying to think what I was going to do next, my gaze fell on a fire extinguisher, hanging from a pillar by the pumps. I risked a peek through the rear windows of the Mercedes and saw the man was facing the shop so I dashed across the gap and grabbed the red metal cylinder. Only then did I catch a flash of my reflection in the glass fronted building and realise my mistake. I glanced slightly to the left of my frozen reflection and my eyes locked with those of the man in black, staring back at me in surprise from the black mirror of plate glass. 

He started to move, one hand reaching into his jacket as he span to face me, which was when the second man yelled from behind the garage; 

“Hey, there’s a broken window back here, I’m going to take a look.”

Distracted as he was for a second, his attention split between me and his partner’s ill-timed interruption, I took my cue and hurled the extinguisher in his general direction and charged after it. The best I hoped for was that fending off the flying metal tube would throw him off guard long enough that I could rush him, but my aim was obviously better than I thought.

As if in slow motion, I launched myself at him from a distance of ten feet, the fire extinguisher still on its almost flat trajectory towards him as I began to move. I expected his arm to come up to protect himself, to do something at least, but he didn’t move. Only at the last split second, immediately before the flat end of the heavy cylinder struck him full in the face, did his expression register the shock, but by then it was too late.

The man’s nose exploded as the sharp curved edge of the steel tube hit him smack between the eyes, snapping his head back and knocking him down like the last pin in a bowling alley. He fell straight backwards, already unconscious I imagine, as he made no effort to soften the impact, landing heavily on the kerb, the back of his head striking the concrete with a sickening crunch.

Then something in me, or more likely something in Endicott’s fucking programming, made me lean down and reach out my hand. Before I could stop myself, I clasped his unresisting hand in mine and felt that insidious burst of power surge into my body. 

I drew back my hand in revulsion, realising what I’d done, but I had no time to dwell on the horror because that’s when Cathy screamed.”

Scene: Inside the petrol station.

The camera slowly pans around, taking in the shadowy display racks and shelves of tourist fodder, only half visible in the thin shafts of moonlight that barely penetrate the gloom. 

We see a tall figure, a solid silhouette against the patchy darkness, reach over the counter and say; 

“Well, what do we have here then? What’s a pretty girl like you doing in a place like this..?”

He straightens up, pulling Cathy up with him, forcing her to stand, her hands clawing at the fingers entwined roughly in her hair. This is when she screams.

“Ooowwwww! Let go of me, you bloody gorilla!”

“Oh come now, we’re only just getting acquainted, I’m not letting you go that easily.” He laughed, tugging her hair again, making Cathy yelp in pain.

“Now now, there’s no need for all that noise, is there?”

“Fuck you!”

“Oh, spirit, that’s good, I like a little girl with a bit of fight.”

“Really? How about someone your own size with spirit, do you like that, too.”

At the unexpected sound of Patrick’s voice, the man turns; his arm swinging up and around, a pistol already in his hand. He pushes Cathy violently away from him and she stumbles back against the shuttered cigarette cabinet with a scream and a loud crash. 

He’s quick, but he isn’t quick enough, as Patrick describes when the camera angle cuts back to his perspective;

“He had quick reactions, scary quick, but he hadn’t reckoned on me being quite so close behind him. As his arm came up, holding the gun, I caught his wrist on the upswing and…gave him a quick jolt from his mate’s final moments. He went down so fast, you’d think someone had cut his legs off. I stepped over him, not bothering to check if he was still breathing, I was angry and didn’t care anymore. 

Cathy was ok; she was a bit sore where Thug Number Two had tried to pull her hair out by the roots and she’d got a nasty bump on the back of her head, but apart from that she’d been lucky. 

Plus, we had ourselves a transport upgrade outside, with no pesky stolen vehicle reports to trip us up this time, (I was betting on Endicott’s private army of Department thugs wanting to keep their profile low to non-existent, given their propensity for violent retribution) so I rifled through the fallen man’s pockets until I came up with the keys to the Mercedes. We also took his gun, and his partner’s, along with the spare clips of ammunition and the mobile phones they each carried.

“Right, can we now please get out of here, before another member of your fan club turns up?” Cathy looked at me over the top of her tottering pile of snacks and I nodded, heading for the front of the shop. As I was reaching for the handle, I happened to look down at the newspapers on the rack by the door and stopped in shock.

Cathy walked straight into me in the dark, a muffled curse coming from her as her stack of junk food tumbled to the floor once more.

“What the hell are you doing, stopping like that..?”

When I didn’t answer, she looked at the paper I was holding up to the light of the moon and gasped.

“Shit, that’s you!”

She wasn’t wrong, either. They’d got a good picture of me from somewhere and it took up most of the front page, under a headline that screamed;

MURDERER ON THE LOOSE.

Now we really were on our own.”

The final shot is of the black SUV, pulling away from the garage and driving off into the darkness. The camera follows the dwindling taillights until they disappear from view and the screen…

FADES TO BLACK


**********

To be continued (using next week’s prompt)…

#SoCS

Pingback to Linda G Hill.

 

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Cosmic Photo prompt…

The weekend starts here, with K’lee and Dale’s Cosmic Photo Challenge, this week set by K’lee, who gives us the prompt; When Day turns into Night.

A fitting theme, what with the dark evenings and short days of winter upon us, and one that I can guarantee you’ll have at least two examples of to photograph, between now and Monday’s post.

*****

To get involved with the challenge, post a photo to your blog on Monday, add a pingback to this post (or to K’lee’s) and don’t forget to tag your post #CosPhoChal.

Alternatively, add a link to your blog in the comments of either mine or K’lee’s post and we’ll come and check out your entry.
Any and all effects, editing, Photoshop, Instagram, morphing, collages or whatever other post production techniques you fancy are permitted, (in fact, they’re actively encouraged!) so get creative and turn your photos into artworks for the Cosmic Photo Challenge.

#CosPhoChal

 
7 Comments

Posted by on December 2, 2016 in Arts, Photography

 

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So I married a superhero…

By now most of you know that my wife, Rhonda, is American, but what you may not know is that she’s also a superhero.

She is Spoon Woman.

When I got to know Rhonda, over five years ago now, she was just another American I could playfully wind up on Facebook. She was introduced to me by a mutual acquaintance and we soon became good friends, finding common ground in politics, music and literature, amongst other things. 
Even more amazingly, she shared my sense of humour and found my first forays into the writing entertaining, saying nice things about blog posts I sent her and generally coming across as one of the more sane and well-balanced Americans that I’d met, during my initial exploration of the internet in general and Facebook in particular.

She also told me she had fibromyalgia.

Ok, I’m guessing that if you know as much about fibromyalgia now as I did then, you’re probably reaching for a dictionary, or more likely opening a new window so you can Google it. So let me save you the trouble.

Have you ever pulled a muscle, or had cramp? 

Of course you have, everyone has had those “Uh-oh!” moments, the ones that result in you suddenly hopping round the bedroom at two in the morning, swearing your head off and trying to straighten your toes. Or that horrible sensation in your back when you try lifting something just that fraction too heavy and realise too late that you’re going to be wincing every time you bend over or get up from a chair for the next week.

Well, imagine that feeling, but all over your body.

All the time.

You can’t, can you? You literally cannot imagine it, because your brain quite rightly won’t allow you to synthesize that experience, any more than you can really remember just how bad toothache is. There is a failsafe in your brain which stops you experiencing pain, except when it is received as the kind of emergency warning signal that it’s designed to be.

If you put your hand in a fire, your brain tells your hand that it’s in pain, because that’s the quickest and most effective way to get the idiot who put it there to take it out.

Except that isn’t quite right. What’s actually happening is the nerves in your skin are telling your brain that your hand is burning and your brain, in reply, is telling your hand that it’s in pain.

But what happens if your nerves tell your brain that your hand is burning, even when there is no fire? What happens when your nerves tell your brain that your whole body is burning?

Put simply, Fibromyalgia (or “fibro” for short) does basically that; it causes neural transmitters to constantly send false positive pain signals to your brain, resulting in permanent, chronic and sometimes seriously debilitating pain, everywhere at once, all the time. The very idea of it is terrifying to me.

When Rhonda first casually mentioned her condition to me, during a chat on Facebook,  I didn’t quite know how to take it. I mean, here was a woman who looked after her daughter on her own and ran a special needs residential care home and seemed to work eighteen hour days, almost every day; that didn’t seem like someone who was in constant pain to me.

Maybe, I thought, you can just have “mild” fibro, perhaps it wasn’t all that serious after all. But that only went to show how little I knew of Spoon Woman’s abilities.

Rhonda once told me; “There are three ways fibro can affect you; you can let it take over your life, just lay in bed and give up; you can moderate your lifestyle to alleviate the impact it has on you; or you can just get on with it. I decided that I was going to just get on with it and I wasn’t going to let it affect my life.”

I was awed by her attitude at the time, having never met her in person and only having known her a short while, but I just accepted it and thought no more about it.

Fast forward a few years, she and Audrey are here in the UK, we’re married and Rhonda is working full time at the local chip shop. A dream come true.

Except that isn’t quite right. Dreams-come-true don’t usually feature constant pain, at least mine never have.

You’d never know to look at her, that Rhonda was anything other than the perfect loving wife and doting mother. She cooks, she cleans, she does laundry like there’s no tomorrow, anyone would think she was addicted to housework. You’d never know she’s in discomfort, that her myofascial tissue is screaming blue murder and her skin itches so badly she wants to scratch it off. You’d never know the muscles in her back are locked into solid knots, so bad she has to lie on a deep tissue massage roller in the evening to release the pain, or that she has hypersensitive pressure points on her skin that can deliver bolts of agony if touched.

You’d never know, because she is Spoon Woman and she knows how to best use her spoon supply 

When I was going through one of my regular fibro Q+A sessions with her the other day, Rhonda asked me if I’d ever heard the spoon analogy. Funnily enough, I hadn’t.

Imagine you have a finite supply of spoons and you need to “spend” a spoon in order to have the energy to do everyday activities: 

Get out of bed – one spoon. 

Take a shower – one spoon. 

Get dressed – one spoon.

Get the kids off to school – one spoon.

Drive to work – two spoons. 

Find somewhere to park – one spoon, etc etc…

The secret is, to portion out your supply throughout the day, so that you don’t find yourself out of spoons when you still have stuff you need to do. And, like the energy boost tokens you pick up in video games, extra spoons may be obtained through napping.

Naps are sacrosanct in our house, I’ve learned to respect the power of The Nap. And I collect spoons, too, in my way. 

If I see laundry that needs doing, or if I can take Audrey out and leave Rhonda to nap in peace, if I have time to do the housework before she gets home from work and insists on getting the vacuum cleaner out, then that’s one more spoon I’ve saved for her, so we can enjoy the times we have when we’re all here together.

I’m still awed by her, my superhero wife, now more than ever, as I learn more about what she has to deal with, every hour of every day. Because, like all of the other, secret and silent superheroes with “invisible” illnesses, to look at her, you’d never know.

{To read about the origin of Christine Miserandino’s  Spoon Theory in full, GO TO THIS LINK}

 
26 Comments

Posted by on December 2, 2016 in aardvark, Blogging, Personal anecdote

 

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One liner Wednesday: Alternative dictionary…

Some alternative definitions occur to me whilst watching the news…

“Disorient” –  Something Donald Trump will inevitably do to offend the Chinese.

#1linerWeds
Pingback to Linda G Hill.

 
 

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Stream of consciousness (not)Sunday (2): The Accumulator, part twelve…

So here we are again; another long weekend off work, another late edition of SoC-not-S and this week we are continuing Patrick’s story with a little help from Linda G Hill and her prompt; 

” “pretty.” Use it any way you please. “

No problem…

The Accumulator, part twelve.

Scene: A wide angle shot of open countryside at night; darkened fields are separated by low stone walls and strips of dense woodland and the full moon casts impenetrable shadows against the stark contours of the landscape. Two figures can just be seen in the middle distance, moving slowly towards the camera, their progress evidently hampered by the smaller of the pair, who seems to be having considerable difficulty negotiating the uneven terrain. It is eleven years ago.

The occasional sound of a female voice, swearing furiously, drifts up the slope on the gentle breeze and, as our heroes get closer, Patrick’s sardonic narration resumes:

“We left the quarry and headed east, for no other reason than it was away from both there and The Department’s facility. We didn’t know where we were going, but we knew we didn’t want to go anywhere near either of those, so we kept off the roads and went cross-country, an exercise that was easier said than done in Cathy’s case.”

We briefly see Cathy, silhouetted against the moonlit landscape as she clambers over the final wall, until she suddenly vanishes with a further burst of expletives. 

“It took us twice as long as it should have, what with her falling over every ten minutes in those pretty little shoes of hers and me having to carry her for the last two hundred yards, when the bloody heels gave up and snapped off altogether. But when we finally got to the other side of the valley we had our next stroke of luck.”

The camera follows Patrick as he staggers the last few steps to the top of the scrub-covered slope, Cathy riding piggyback with her arms wrapped tightly round his neck, one hand still clinging grimly to her ruined shoes. Patrick lowers his passenger none too gently to the ground before collapsing to his knees on the rough grass, breathing heavily and coughing.

“You really shouldn’t smoke,” says Cathy, inspecting one unheeled stiletto with displeasure, “it’s very bad for your health, you know.”

He turns and gives her his most scathing look. 

“True, but it is very good for calming the nerves, and I haven’t had a smoke for a while now, so I wouldn’t push my luck, if I were you.”

Cathy shrugs and points to something behind him.

“Maybe you can find some in there, if you’re that desperate.”

Patrick turns in the direction she’s looking and about fifty yards away sees a single storey building with a tall sign outside, next to a road that wasn’t visible on their trek up the hill. A petrol station, deserted at this hour and isolated enough to warrant further investigation, thinks Patrick, studying the garage carefully for signs of habitation. 

When he is satisfied the building is unoccupied, he hoists Cathy onto his back for the short journey across the road and the cracked tarmac of the car park, depositing her on the doormat of the small concession store which overlooks the silent forecourt.

“Wait here,” he says, “keep an eye out, look lost and innocent and whistle if you see anyone coming.”

Cathy gives him a look of her own, but peers into the darkness as he disappears round the corner of the building. She is still watching the empty road thirty seconds later, when the sound of breaking glass makes her jump. A few seconds after that and she sees movement in the shadows of the store and a dark shape resolves itself into Patrick’s grotesquely distorted grinning face, pressed up against the inside of the glass door.

Cathy rolls her eyes and waits for him to locate the lock and let her in, which he eventually does, opening the door and ushering her in with a deep bow. She smiles despite herself and steps inside, moving cautiously down the narrow aisle between two display racks, feeling her way in the gloom until she reaches the counter. 

He joins her after relocking the door and grimaces as she points out the shuttered and padlocked cigarette cabinet.

“Yeah, well I’m trying to give up, apparently it’s bad for me.” He takes a small flashlight from a box on the counter and gestures to the rear of the shop with it, where it illuminates shelves of holiday accessories; beach toys, baseball caps, sunglasses and cheap deck shoes.

“Oh, thank god for that.” Cathy checks the sizes of a few pairs, then slips on a pair of blue canvas pumps with exaggerated relief, “Aaahhh, that’s so much better, thank you.”

“Take a spare pair, just in case, they don’t look the sturdiest things for hiking in and you never know when you might get another chance.”

“More hiking? You have to be kidding, I thought…well, I just thought we’d be able to take something from out the front…”

“Out the front? What d’you mean, what’s out there?”

“There’s a line of second hand cars for sale out there, didn’t you notice?”

“Show me.”

Cathy leads him to the window and points across the forecourt to where a Land Rover and a few other vehicles are just visible in the moonlight, prices scrawled on the windscreens in whitewash.

“Perfect. We just have to hope there’s petrol, too.” 

Patrick steps behind the counter and searches underneath until he comes up with a small lockbox. The lock gives way after a minute of levering with a screwdriver, revealing a selection of car keys, all helpfully labelled with registration numbers. 

“I can’t see the number plates from here, but I reckon this is the Land Rover key.” He holds up a flat metal key, with no locking fob or logo, “I recognize it from Endicott’s place, they had an old one there, he took me on a tour of the grounds in it once.”

“Right, let’s get going then.” 

He turns to see Cathy, arms full of snacks and drinks, trying unsuccessfully to open a bag of crisps and shakes his head.

“What, you want me to starve? I’d leave the money if I had it; shall I write them an IOU?”

“You just wait there while I go and check the car out, ok?”

“Yessir! Certainly sir!” She threw a salute and stamped to attention, spoiling the effect somewhat by sticking her tongue out at him and crossing her eyes.

Still shaking his head and smiling to himself, Patrick heads for the door to check they remain unobserved, then unlocks it and walks quickly across the dark forecourt to the line of vehicles. 

He has just reached the door of the Land Rover when Cathy sees the sudden glow of headlights, followed by the car they are attached to, swing round an unseen bend in the road and, sickeningly, head straight for the petrol station entrance.

The lights sweep across the window and Cathy ducks down behind the counter as the car pulls up and stops outside. There is a brief silence, then she hears doors open and close and the sound of approaching footsteps. Someone outside rattles the door and she hears muffled voices.

There’s another moment of silence and she begins to think they are going to leave, then a noise from the rear of the shop makes her jump and she hears a voice, shockingly clear and seemingly only a few feet away;

“Hey, there’s a broken window back here, I’m going to take a look.”

Cathy desperately looks around her, searching for a place to hide, but she’s trapped behind the counter and there’s nowhere to go. She senses a presence on the other side of the thin wooden partition and suddenly a shape looms above her as someone leans over the counter.

“Well, what do we have here then? What’s a pretty girl like you doing in a place like this..?”

**********

To be continued (using next week’s prompt {which can now be found HERE})…

#SoCS

Pingback to Linda G Hill.

 

 

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K’lee and Dale’s Cosmic Photo Challenge…

It’s time once again to fire up your imaginations and get creative for K’lee and Dale’s Cosmic Photo Challenge, which today revolves around a theme of my choice.

I specifically asked you to use some form of post-production effects for this week’s challenge, because that is what we like here and I’ve noticed that some of you shy away from using all but the most basic adjustments to your original photos.

Plus, I have a guest contributor this week, so I also wanted to be able to crowbar his pictures in.

I’ve gone for some more abstract images, produced using photos of industrial components as the source material.

The next selection are from my old friend and esteemed blog artist-in-residence, Ho, who sent me these colourful and artistic contributions last week.

So, there you have it.

KG left us this.

Lady Lee Manila offers these for your perusal.

And K’lee’s photo is HERE, for your viewing pleasure.
Now, show us the fruits of your creative labours…
*****
To get involved with the challenge, post a photo to your blog on Monday, add a pingback to this post (or to K’lee’s) and don’t forget to tag your post #CosPhoChal.

Alternatively, add a link to your blog in the comments of either mine or K’lee’s post and we’ll come and check out your entry.
Any and all effects, editing, Photoshop, Instagram, morphing, collages or whatever other post production techniques you fancy are permitted, (in fact, they’re actively encouraged!) so get creative and turn your photos into artworks for the Cosmic Photo Challenge.
#CosPhoChal

 
8 Comments

Posted by on November 28, 2016 in Arts, Blogging, Guest spots., Ho., Photography

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

 
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