First Line Fiction (17)

The first line of this fictional short story was sent to me by the Indian blogger Swati, from

Another chaotic day at work. Sae contemplated leaving ever since she was appointed a new manager.

All that time studying, and perfecting her English to a very high standard. Now the best that Sae could do was to get work in a call-centre. At least her salary was good, and she wasn’t having to work on the telephones. Working in the personnel department and participating in interviewing new applicants was far preferable to calling customers and having them constantly hang up or be rude to you.

It had been great at first, until her line manager Mrs Desai had retired. Then the new boss had arrived, and given them all a pep talk on his first day. He wasn’t that old either, but spoke to the staff as if he knew it all. Rumour had it that he had been educated in England, and had come home to work for the company on promotion. That seemed about right to Sae, judging by his clothes, and his over-confident attitude. And Mark Banerjee had an English first name too, which went along with his light skin to suggest a mixed marriage.

Sae thought it was a shame that he came over as so full of himself and bossy. She had to admit he was quite good-looking, and not much older than her too. But he didn’t seem to notice her, even when she made sure to give intelligent reponsnes to some of his questions. That first day had ended badly, with Mark calling them all in at the end, and making a strong statement.

“Now I have noticed that a lot of the people you have employed are not reaching their call targets. You should have been on top of this, and getting them in for performance reviews. I saw some people on the main floor looking at their phones, and even talking to each other, when they should have been taking or making calls. This has to stop, and it is up to you in this room to make that happen. I tell you now, if things don’t improve, you will all find yourselves redeployed as customer assistants, taking phone calls. Now go home and think about that”.

That evening at home, Sae went to her room early, and did just what Mark had said. As she went to sleep that night, she was smiling. She had a plan.

It took some time to make things happen of course. Sae couldn’t rush into anything, as that would be too obvious. With over one hundred staff being called in for the suggested performance reviews, the days had never been busier. She had to skip lunch to get in her quota of interviews too, as Mark was embarking on a plan to expand the call centre onto the vacant floor above. But by the end of that month, she was no longer thinking about leaving.

Not just yet, anyway.

For someone to pay attention to you, it doesn’t take too much effort. Perhaps just a little more make up than last week, and changing the way you wear your hair. That would do to start with. Three days later, Mark approached her in the corridor. “Well done with all your hard work recently. Some of those new entrants are excellent, and the employees who were slacking have started to be more careful and hard-working”. She just smiled, and said four words.

“Thank you for noticing”.

A shopping trip with her younger sister that weekend provided the opportunity to buy three new outfits. Smart, western-style clothes, similar to some she had seen online. Mixing and matching those over the next working week, the next time Mark approached her, he was smiling. “You have really smartened up, Sae. I’m pleased to see it. You look like the young women who work at head office in the City of London”. This time, Sae had more to say.

“Oh really? That’s kind of you. I would love to move to London and work at head office. I have cousins living in Neasden, and they would give me somewhere to stay. Do you know Neasden?” Mark smiled, and relaxed, leaning against the wall. “Yes, I know it well. I lived with my uncle in Wembley, and that’s close by.” Sae nodded, and went back to her office to appear to be conscientious. She couldn’t help but notice that Mark was still leaning against the wall, watching as she sat down behind the glass partition.

Over the next six months, things worked out very well. The call centre was expanded, and Sae applied for the job as personnel manager for the new staff up there. She had to be interviewed by Mark, and had her hair trimmed and styled for the occasion, as well as buying a pinstripe jacket and skirt. She had got the job, and a small increase in salary. But more importantly, she had been noticed, properly noticed.

One late afternoon, when she had completed her last performance review, Mark tapped politely on her office door, and walked in.

“I remember our conversation about London, Sae. They have approached me to go back, and to implement some of my ideas in a new call centre. It will be located near Neasden, and that made me think of you and your relatives there. Is that something that still interests you? There will be a big pay rise of course, not to mention a lot of contact with head office in The City. I have vaguely suggested I know someone here I would like to take with me, to be my personnel manager. But if you have changed your mind, that’s okay”.

No point trying to hide her delight, so Sae smiled from ear to ear. “I would really love the opportunity, Mister Banerjee. Thank you so much”.

As he turned to leave, he hesitated a moment.

Oh, I think you should call me Mark, don’t you? After all, I’m sure we will be seeing a lot of each other in London”.

First Line Fiction (16)

The first line of this fictional short story was sent to my by American blogger, Beth.

Waking up in a cornfield still dressed in her habit, with nothing but a candle, a half-eaten almond joy bar, and a small mewing kitten gave her pause…

Nessa could feel a stiffness in her joints, indicating to her that she had been in that field for a long time, probably overnight. Her mouth was bone dry, and the fingers of her left hand felt cramped from gripping the large votive candle. What was left of the candy bar was covered in bits of earth and attracting tiny insects, and the kitten’s face had been so close to hers, she had jumped up in alarm as her eyes had opened.

Slowly coming round, she started to get flashbacks of the day before, like jump cuts in a movie.

It had started three weeks earlier, with a ‘phone call from Morrie, her agent.

“Vanessa baby! Have I got a great job for you!” He always seemed to shout on the phone. “The people at Almond Joy are looking for an attractive older actress to star in a TV commercial for their candy bars. I have put you forward for it, and there is a first call this afternoon. My secretary has sent the details to your cellphone, so get your gladrags on and knock ’em dead!”

At her age, any work was welcome. Gone were the days when Vanessa DeRoy could get regular work as the attractive best friend, the secretary desired by the boss, or even the good-looking mature wife opening the door to receive a UPS parcel from a grinning delivery man. It was all a long way from her younger days, and the more risque parts she was associated with back then. Once mainstream movies and respectable actresses began to show everything, her video-market movies had stopped being made.

Sure, there was still a fan base, even though most of them were in care homes by now. But the best that Morrie could do for her most of the time was face in a crowd stuff, a happy lottery winner waving an oversized ticket, or someone considering the purchase of a trailer in a retirement complex, nodding in approval. They said sixty was the new forty, but they had forgotten to include her.

The agency guys working for Almond Joy had loved her though. They wanted a Mother Superior character who was more excited about the candy bars than her religion, and she had fit the bill nicely. Nessa had been hopeful. Getting back on TV would make a nice change from late-night shifts packing boned chickens, and if Morrie got her a deal including repeat fees, it might well be the start of something.

Molly was the costume lady who fixed her up. “You look great in a habit, honey. Should have been a nun”. The costume was surprisingly heavy, and the headdress felt tight. The thick black pantyhose were hot on a summer’s day, and the heavy black shoes rubbed her ankles. But she was a pro, and when she left the trailer, she felt she looked the part completely.

Such as it was, the theme of the commercial was so much nonsense. Long ago, Nessa had stopped thinking about the crazy ideas those advertising guys came up with, so she just went with the flow. The nerdy director looked like he should have been in his bedroom playing vdeo games, but she paid him the same respect as if he had been Orson Welles.

“Okay, you get the idea. Mother Superior has never had an Almond Joy bar before. She takes one bite, looks up at the sky with delight on her face, and goes running into the cornfield, flinging away the candle she was holding”.

She nodded and smiled as if she had just been give the starring role in Gone With The Wind. “Got it, thanks for the opportunity”.

Fifteen takes later, she was sweating like a horse that had just won the Kentucky Derby, and feeling sick from the numerous bites of the chocolate covered candy. Then the guy called for a lunch break, and they went to the wagon parked at the edge of the field. How many takes did he want? How many times can you run into a cornfield looking up a the sky, and flinging away a candle?

Around the back of the portable facilities, Molly offered a flask. “Try some of this, honey. Take the edge off. If Miles has his way, he will keep you running into that field until after dark”. It made Nessa’s eyes screw up, tasting like some home-made hooch she had once tried in Kentucky, back in the seventies. But Molly was right. It took the edge off.

The afternoon had been something of a blur. At one stage, she had taken off the heavy shoes, and Miles had made her go and change the pantyhose as the heels of the shoes had torn them. But he had gone with the idea of her being shoeless, making out like it had been his idea all along. “Yes, no shoes. Another reference to her new freedom”. In the tent where she went to change the pantyhose, Molly had produced another flask.

Some time later, she recalled that Miles had seemed very pleased. “Fantastic! That’s a wrap! You really captured that wild spirit of a lifetime of religious frustration, and the joy of throwing off those shackles. Thank you, Miss DeRoy”.

That was when she had started running, and not stopped running. It had never dawned on her just how big a cornfield could be. Not until she collaped exhausted, anyway.

But she had absolutely no idea where the kitten had come from.

First Line Fiction (15)

The first line for this fictional short story was sent to me by Canadian blogger, Bossy Babe.

She looked in the vast wilderness and only one thought sprang to mind.

What the hell had happened? Lizzie sat down heavily, and reached for the water bottle in her rucksack. The hiking boots were almost worn out. In the next town she would have to find some new ones. If there was a next town that she would ever reach on foot.

At first, she had used bicycles. Plenty of those around of course. But the roads were bad, and punctures too frequent. So she decided to walk.

After waking up one morning months earlier to an eeire silence, she still hadn’t got used to it. Nothing electrical worked. Her TV was dead, no Internet or radio, and her car wouldn’t start. Her cellphone was dead too. She walked the half mile to the Jackson’s house for help, but there was nobody home. And when she tried to use their car, it wouldn’t start either. At least water still came out of the taps, and it was fresh back then.

She took Billy Jackson’s mountain bike from under the porch, and cycled the eight miles into town. Some trucks stood abandoned on the road, but there were no cars, and nobody in the trucks. Whatever had happened must have been when most people were asleep. The town of over twenty thousand inhabitants was deserted. Nobody in the civic offices, and the police station didn’t have a cop in sight. After trying two phone booths, she concluded that no phone lines were working anywhere.

Lizzie considered herself to be a well-balanced person, but the impact of this was definitely having an effect on her mind.

There were the obvious conclusions. Some kind of natural disaster or chemical spill perhaps? It had required everyone in the county to be evacuated, but for some reason, they had missed her. The Jacksons would have told them about her, surely? And why no signs? Nobody directing people to a safe refuge, or assembly area? Plus, if everyone had had to leave in a hurry, where were the pets? No cats on the street, no barking dogs. As she had thought about that, she looked up.

No birds in the sky either.

The county seat was over forty miles away. Billy’s cycle got her around halfway before the back tyre went flat. What had happened to the roads? They all seemed to have rows of cracks in them, like driving along railroad tracks. Walking the rest of the way meant she didn’t arrive until well after dark, completely exhausted. The city was very scary in that darkness, so she went into a camping store on a strip mall. Lizzie was thinking fast, depite being frightened out of her wits.

At first, she wondered why most of the stores were open. Then it occured to her that the electronic locks had failed, as had the intruder alarms. Even those locked by keys at the front often had a back door with a keypad entry that no longer secured the door. One of the only benefits of no electricity. In the camping place she found a lantern operated by a propane canister, and the means to light it. She spent that first night in a large display tent in the front window, sleeping on a very comfortable camp bed.

Next morning, she found her way into a grocery store, taking food that was sealed, canned goods, and bottled water. Then in a bookstore she found a map. Packing up a large backpack taken from the camping store, she headed off on a bike taken from a rack, the chain cut off with bolt cutters borrowed from a tool seller’s nearby. Her last stop had been to a gun dealer, acquiring a revolver and a box of ammunition. Lizzie had never fired a pistol before, but she had seen enough films to know how they worked.

The backpack felt heavy as she rode along, weaving between abandoned trucks and wondering why there was no sound at all. No planes in the sky, no animals in the farm fields, and the silence only interrupted by the whirring of the bike’s gears and tyre noise on the road. It took less than three hours for the front tyre to puncture. She threw the bike into the long grass and started walking.

Almost forty years old, Lizzie was reasonably fit, if a little overweight. But after four more hours and the next town on the map not yet in sight, she headed into some trees off the road, and collapsed exhausted.

How long ago had that been? Was it four months yet? Had to be. She had started talking to herself after a week, probably just to hear a human voice, even her own. Trying not to think about what had happened was useless. She thought about nothing else. Could she really be the only person left? And if so, why her? During one restless night in a motel room lit by some candles, she finally had a positive thought.

If there was nobody in the towns and cities, they had to have gone somewhere. She hadn’t come across a single body, or one solitary sign of life. All those hundreds of thousands of people couldn’t possibly have just vanished, but her travels on the road confirmed to her that they had. So, it must be something to do with the towns and cities. The people must have been moved away somewhere safe. That had to be the answer.

The wilderness.

Turning off the road and following the map, she walked into that vast forest that led to places where few people had ever lived. The rivers were still flowing, and the air was getting colder. There would be snow soon. At least she didn’t have to worry about bears. If there were no birds or other animals, the bears would be unlikely to still be around.

Now it was in front of her. That seemingly limitless wilderness shown on the map. Fighting back tears, she put the water bottle down on the ground.

Nobody. Not a soul.

A Camera Disappointment

This post is about a camera, and some technical photography stuff. If you have no interest in such things, please skip it.

In September 2020, I was offered a new camera and lens, free of charge. This is because I am on the Amazon testing panel, and they wanted me to review it. It was the Nikon Z5, with a basic 24-50mm zoom lens, and at the time the retail price for the kit was £1,699.
(It can now be bought for around £1,200 new)

This is a full-frame camera, with a 24.3 mp sensor that produces very large files. Despite the light weight of the lens, and the limited maximum apertures of f/4-f/6.3, photos taken with it can be clear and sharp.

Like most modern digital cameras, it has a host of features, including electronic and mechanical shutters, a comprehensive viewfinder and rear screen, and a selection of customisable buttons. Add a double card slot and in-camera image stabilisation, and you get quite a lot for your money.

So it would seem.

After owning it for a year, I finally took it on holiday, deliberately leaving all my other cameras behind so I had no alternative but to use it. If you have seen any of my recent posts including photos from our holiday in Lincolnshire, they were all taken using this camera.

So why is this post titled ‘Camera Disappointment’? (I hear you cry.)

Getting such a well-specified camera for nothing, you would think I might be grateful and excited. And to a large extent I was, and still am.

However, it was sent to me to test and review, so it is only fair to list the many things that I don’t like about this camera.

1) The user manual.
This is as good as useless. Other than telling you how to attach the lens, charge the battery, and insert the SD cards, it doesn’t go into enough detail about the huge number of menus and functions. Yes, you can access extensive Nikon help online, and probably download pages of user instructions too. But that’s not much use when you are nowhere near a computer, or there is little or no wi-fi signal. I want what I need to know to be in the book please, Nikon.

2) Not enough dials and knobs.
Other than one large mode dial, the camera offers most settings and adjustments through the electronic menu system. This means me having to make sure to carry reading glasses (which I do not need to see through the viewfinder) and reading small menu instructions from the rear screen that can be hard to see in bright light. (As when on a summer holiday in good weather.) Exposure compensation is not offered as a stand-alone dial, and exposure lock has to be assigned to a button by using the in-camera menu. Using Aperture Priority, it is necessary to assign the aperture option to the small control ring behind the zoom ring of the lens, instead of just having a conventional aperture ring marked accordingly. I would like all of those functions to have their own buttons or dials please, Nikon.

3) Build quality.
Making a camera lightweight is not a bad thing. Easier to carry around all day in a bag, and to use one-handed if you like to do that. But you still have to ensure that a camera of this price is relatively solid and durable. For example, inserting the charged battery, I knocked the camera against my desk. It was a very slight knock, but enough to fully detach the flimsy door to the battery compartment, which fell onto the floor. That meant a long time fiddling about trying to secure the door back on, which now only works properly when fully locked. Open the door to charge the battery again, and it falls off. I have visions of the battery just falling out one day, as I am taking a photo.

4) Sensor.
The sensor in this camera is far from being great. As you can see from the photos I took, it renders them rather dark. This can be cured by fiddling with the exposure compensation of course, but refer back to 2) and you will know this is a frustratingly fiddly operation involving assigning a button and remembering which one that is.

I just didn’t enjoy using the camera enough to be bothered to constantly mess around with its functions.

Compare this to my old Fuji X30 compact. Exposure compensation dial, aperture ring on the lens, intuitive menu system, and a tiny 2/3 sensor that renders lovely rich colours with file sizes large enough for most users. And it cost about the same when I bought it as the lens alone on this Nikon.

In conclusion, I would suggest you buy a different camera. The full-frame offered on this one doesn’t make up for its shortcomings.

Our Holiday: The View From The Porch

As I have mentioned, our holiday cabin is situated in the grounds of a hotel, and had a covered porch that I spent much of the time sitting on, with Ollie.

I took some photos of my daily view, one that changed constantly as guests and customers made use of the large beer-garden. These are the last of my holiday photos for this year.

(All of my own photos are full-frame, and can be clicked on to enlarge them.)

The view to the right. The white building is known as ‘The Cottage’, and we have stayed there twice previously. That was before the cabins were erected.

To the left is the non-smoking covered area, adjacent to the main road running through Sutton-on-Sea.

A closer view of the main hotel and the benches of the beer-garden.

This photo is not mine, it is from the website advertising the cabins. It shows all five cabins at the back of the hotel grounds. It can be enlarged too.

If anyone is interested in staying there, here is a link to the main website.
(Scroll down for all the pictures.)

First Line Fiction (14)

The first line of this fictional short story was sent to me by Chris Tabone, who lives in America. It is relevant to my fiction serial, ‘A Good Runner’, making it a tricky prospect to pull off as a stand-alone story. I have decided not to recap though.

“With Ken’s affairs now fully in order, considering it was time to see what could be done to take Witney Cars to the next level.”

Trevor was a man with big plans, and they involved expanding everything to do with the taxi business he now owned. Stella was going to be a great help. After all, she had more or less run the place for Ken, though looking after her daughter Amy was always going to be her first priority. That meant taking on someone to work in the office when Stella couldn’t be there, and Trevor got the advertisement in the paper that Friday.

He also spotted an opening for other kinds of transport locally. School buses didn’t get out to the smaller villages, so if he could get some contracts from the council and buy a couple of minibuses, that could prove lucrative. In the school holidays and at weekends, the minibuses could be used for larger groups like wedding parties, and door-to-door trips into Oxford city centre for shoppers or theatre-goers.

And with many people facing long trips into the city for hospital appointments, he was sure he could tie some of those together, offering regular runs for customers with medical issues and disabilities.

A young woman named Janice was employed to work in the taxi office. Between him and Stella, they would show her how things worked. She had been doing administration work for an estate agent, but when they changed location she didn’t want to have to travel to work. As well as that, she was young and attractive, and that couldn’t hurt to have her as the public face of the office during the day.

Offering the hire of the Jaguar for weddings worked out well too. Even though it wasn’t white, he soon received many bookings for the following summer.

By the new year, and after a visit to the bank manager to get a business loan, Trevor had three new minibuses, a two-year contract with the local education authority, and dozens of confirmed bookings for larger parties to the airport, and hospital appointments. He also used a local company to repaint the office, and bought a smart new sign to go above the door. He felt he was really making something of himself, but Stella was worried.

“Don’t you think you are over-extending, Trev? I mean, the loans on the minibuses have to be paid, and the monthly insurance bills are very high too. By the time the education people pay their bill after twenty-eight days, we will have already had to find the money for what we are paying out. Then there is Janice’s weekly wage, and paying the minibus drivers in cash. It’s going to be tight, love”.

Trust her to be negative, Trevor thought to himself. He wanted Witney Cars to be the largest taxi company in Oxfordshire one day, maybe even make some inroads into the city of Oxford itself. “Actually, I was thinking of opening up another office, in Burford. I could offer minbus tours of the Cotswold Villages for tourists. They love to visit those English villages, and it’s an all year-round trade”. Stella looked concerned.

“That would mean more minibuses to buy, more drivers to pay, and someone to take the bookings in the office. It’s up to you, Trev, but think carefully love.”

By the start of the summer, Trevor had his small shop front next to a tea shop in Burford, two more minbuses, and drivers to run the tours. He did a deal with some local hotels and guest houses, and they agreed to promote his village tours in return for a small commission. A local lady who used to be a librarian worked taking the bookings from nine until three, and they started to flood in. After a great year of trading, Stella had a suggestion.

“Seems you were right about the Cotswolds tours, love. But it would be a good time to think about selling the business as a going concern, don’t you think? Take the profit, pay off the minibus loans, and concentrate on the local trade in Witney”. He was beginning to get fed up with her, that was the truth. “Why would I sell now? If anything, I should be thinking about putting on another couple of minibuses and expanding”. The rest of that evening at home had a bad atmosphere.

The first thing to go wrong for Trevor happened the following March. Just about to leave home to take a bride and her father to a local church, the gearbox went in the Jaguar. Frantic phone calls were made, but nothing suitable could be hired to replace the Jag. Stella managed to contact the bridal party with their apologies, and had to offer a full refund. But the father of the bride was a respected local businessman, and she knew the reputation of the firm would suffer as a result of letting him down.

When they got the estimate for repairs to the Jag, they knew there wasn’t enough money available to get it fixed. Janice had to contact all the summer wedding bookings, and cancel them. Then one of the Burford drivers quit, deciding to go back to driving bigger coaches. Trevor had to step in and take some of the booked tours, but his knowledge of the area was not so good, and that led to complaints from some of the tourists.

Then the former librarian who ran the tour office had to go into hospital for an operation on a hiatus hernia, Trevor had no alternative but to close down Cotswold Tours in Burford.

Bad luck continued when the education authority gave notice of cancellation of the contract for schools. They were going to buy their own bigger bus and start picking up the kids from the villages themselves. Then Janice’s boyfriend proposed. He was in the Army, and that would mean living in Yorkshire once they were married. So she gave two week’s notice.

Following a long evening going over the company accounts, Stella gave him the bad news. “The minibuses have to go, Trev. We are still paying the loans on them, and getting no business worth talking about. Nobody around here is ever going to book us for a wedding again, and you can forget reapplying for any school contracts now they are using their own transport. If we sell everything off, pay off the loans, we will just about have enough for you to buy a decent car and go back to just being a taxi driver. I can run the office while Amy is at school, but you will have to do the evenings and weekends”.

His face glum, Trevor nodded. Stella had been right all along.

Back to square one.

Ollie’s Holiday: The Porch

In our house in Beetley, Ollie cannot see outside. If I open the back door to let him out, he only has the familiar surroundings of our garden to look at. So being able to sit outside for a large part of the day, and most of the evening until bedtime, that’s a real treat for our beloved dog.

Because I spent so much of our holiday sittng happily on that covered porch of our cabin, Ollie was happy to be out there with me. When I got up each morning, I would carry his bed and toys out onto the porch, and leave them there until we closed up to go to bed for the night.

(All photos are full-frame, and can be enlarged by clicking on them.)

At various times, Ollie would take himself off down the ramp and explore the hotel beer garden. I was lucky enough to have the camera handy when he was ‘patrolling the porch’.

We love the fact that we can take Ollie on holiday with us, and that it is just as much a holiday for him as for us.

Our Holiday: Winceby Battlefield

Not too far from where we were staying, there is a memorial to a battle fought during The English Civil War. I have always been interested in that period, and have been a member of The Cromwell Association for a long time. As we were going to be so close, I thought we could combine it with a trip into the nearby town of Horncastle.

Winceby is tiny. A ‘blink and you miss it’ village. I had expected some signs directing me to the battlefield, but after driving back and forth for twenty minutes, there was nothing to indicate where it might be. Giving up, I started to head back, on the busy main road. As we passed a lay-by on that road, Julie spotted a notice board that looked relevant. After turning round in a side road, I drove back and parked in the lay-by, and there it was.

(Both photos are full-frame, and can be enlarged for detail by clicking on them.)

Behind the sign, a hedge borders the fields where the battle took place, in a landscape virtually unchanged since that day in October, 1643.

If anyone is interested, here are some more details about the battle.

On 10 October at the village of Horncastle, approximately 6 miles west of Bolingbroke Castle, the Royalist force commanded by Widdrington came upon a cavalry detachment screening for the Parliamentarians sieging the Royalist garrison. A brief skirmish took place and the Parliamentarians withdrew. The Parliamentary detachment reported back to the main army that the Royalists were moving towards them.

The next day the two opposing forces simultaneously took steps to confront each other. Manchester took part of his force and arrayed them on Kirkby Hill to prevent the Bolingbroke garrison from leaving the castle and organizing an attack from the rear. With the remainder of his army, Manchester advanced towards Horncastle. Meanwhile, Widdrington and the Royalists moved out of Horncastle and advanced toward Bolingbroke Castle.

The Parliamentary horse, which moved faster than the infantry, met the Royalists advancing in the opposite direction at Winceby. The field of battle was not ideal as the land falls away into sharp gullies on one side, but it was not poor enough to prohibit a battle. The two forces were approximately the same size and composition, all cavalry.

The ensuing battle lasted about half an hour. Cromwell feigned a retreat and lured the Royalists from a good defensive position onto flat ground. A small party of Parliamentarians advanced on the Royalists who discharged their weapons at them. Cromwell then led his main body of horse in a charge hoping to press home his attack before the Royalists had time to reload. But dismounted Royalist dragoons managed to fire a second volley, hitting several of the Ironsides. Cromwell had his horse shot from under him, apparently by Sir Ingram Hopton (who was himself killed in the subsequent fighting and is commemorated by a memorial canvas found above the font in St. Mary’s Church, Horncastle.) The canvas’s inscription describes Cromwell as the ‘Arch Rebel’ and bears the incorrect date of October 6, 1643 for the Battle of Winceby.

Cromwell was only able to rejoin the battle after he had secured another mount. A Royalist cavalry division under Sir William Savile counterattacked Cromwell’s right flank. The Royalists were, in turn, attacked in the flank by Sir Fairfax’s horse. In the resulting melee, the Royalists lost cohesion when the command by Savile to about face was taken to be an order to retreat and Savile’s horse fled the battle. On the Parliamentarian’s left wing the Cavaliers enjoyed greater initial success, but the collapse of the Royalist left and centre meant that Widdrington had to retreat or face envelopment. A flanking attack by Cromwell’s reformed cavalry was enough to cause the Royalists to flee the field in confusion.

In Horncastle, at a place now known as “slash hollow”, some Royalists were killed or captured when they became trapped against a parish boundary gate that only opened one way (against them) and in their panic the press of men jammed it shut. For the remainder of the day the Parliamentarians hunted down Royalist stragglers not stopping until dusk, which in October occurs in early evening, when they were recalled by Manchester. The Royalists lost about 300 men and the Parliamentarians about 20 with a further 60 wounded

Given the fact that Cromwell was present at the battle, and it was a significant victory for the Parliamentary rebels, I would like to see the site better commemorated.

First Line Fiction (13)

The first line for this fictional short story was sent to me by the lovely Kim. She resides in Alabama, and blogs about her lifelong love of books.

She had never been so terrified in her entire life.

The crashing sound from the living room made Emma jump out of her skin. She leaned even harder against the bedroom door, wondering what Nick was up to, and if he was okay. When she had run screaming from the bathroom, Nick had been great. “Leave it to me, honey. I will deal with it. You stay in here”.

But then the nightmare had really started. The first sounds coming from the bathroom were unmistakable. The shower curtain pinging off, ring by ring. Then a slapping sound, as Nick fought hard. She hoped that would be the end of it, but then the commotion moved into the hallway.

That was the moment Emma had locked the bedroom door, and closed the open window.

With her ear flat to the door, and her heart racing, she had tried hard to work out what she could hear, and place the sounds in context. Nick had a fight on his hands, no mistaking that. But he was strong and brave, so she prayed he would prevail.

Was he rolling along the wooden floor in the hallway? Given the scuffing noise, and Nick’s grunting, it sure sounded like it. When the noises grew fainter, she guessed he was in the living room, and she sat down heavily on the floor, her trembling legs no longer able to support her small frame.

Then that crash came, and she jumped involuntarily. That had to be the reproduction oil lamp on the side table. Nothing else in there could make such a sound. Unless Nick had knocked over the television. After that, it all went quiet.

Emma felt her breath coming in short gasps. The quiet was much worse than the noise.

Maybe she could call out, and ask him if he was okay? But the door would muffle her voice, and she wasn’t about to open it, not even the tiniest crack. Then a roar, sounding like Nick. It had to be him. Oh please let it be him. The thump that followed sounded like the big armchair next to the fireplace. It had tipped over once before when she was vacuuming, and the noise was just like that.

She mouthed a silent prayer. ‘Oh please let it be over soon, I just can’t stand it.’

More silence followed, then there were soft footsteps along the hallway, and a gentle knock on the door. “You can open up, honey. It’s all over”. Unconvinced, she called back to her husband. “Are you sure? Do you promise me, Nicky?”

After counting to ten, she turned the key, and eased the door open just enough to look out. Nick was smiling, standing in the hallway with the light on behind him. He held up his copy of the evening paper, a fat black blob just visible on the folded pages.

“It cost us the old oil lamp, but that’s one spider that will never be in our bathroom again”.

Our Holiday: The Cabin

Last year, we really enjoyed our time in the wooden holiday cabin. Then this year it was even better, as everything was familiar. So much so, we have booked it again for much the same time in 2022, seven days in September.

Here is an overview. It has two double bedrooms, and two extra beds in the roof space, accessed by a ladder. A large bathroom with shower, and an open-plan living room and fully-equipped kitchen. TV, iron and ironing board, two sofas, a dining table and chairs, and a private picnic table to the side. Enough storage and hanging space too.

Wi-fi is also available, through a connection supplied free of any extra charge by the hotel. But the signal is sometimes erratic.

But for me, the joy is the covered porch. I sat there quite happily for hours, watching the clouds and the world go by.

And it is only 100 yards to the huge unspoilt beach!

(All photos are full-frame, and can be clicked on twice to enlarge for detail.)