Visiting My Mum

When we lose loved ones, they live on in our memories. In my case, they often appear to me in dreams too.

I went to bed before midnight last night. I felt tired after a reasonably busy day, and went straight to sleep. Not long after, I was visiting my mum.

She spent her last years in a small flat in South London. When she became almost immobile with breathing problems, I would visit her there, go out and buy her shopping, then cook her some meals to leave in the fridge and freezer. Before leaving for home, I would always watch her eat a meal, to make sure in my mind that she was getting some decent food instead of existing on sweet biscuits and cake.

Her living room was small, but she had a folding table and two chairs under the window. That was for guests to sit at if they wanted to. She remained in her armchair, and ate her food from a lap tray. I was watching her eat, which was a slow process, as she had to rest between mouthfuls and catch her breath. She was talking to me about when I retired from work, and moved to Norfolk. That dates the conversation as sometime in 2011, as we had just bought this house that summer.

She was also talking about the pets she had lost, and lamenting the fact that she was now too ill to get another dog. She hoped that I would get a dog when I retired, and bring it to London to see her. I spoke again about the possibility of her moving in with us once we moved in 2012, but she was adamant that she wanted to stay in London.

It was completely real, and totally familiar to me, like watching a video of us recorded at the time.

But most dreams also have a surreal element, and the next thing I knew we were walking across a cemetery to find the grave of someone we knew who had been killed in the Falklands War. Except that she could not have physically managed that, and we didn’t know anyone who had been killed in that war.

Before we found the grave, I was woken up by a severe bout of cramp in my left leg. I had to get out of bed and stand on the leg to ease the pain, and I was surprised to find myself in the bedroom in Beetley, and no longer standing next to my mum.

Whatever part of my subconscious brain recreated that visit to my mum, I am glad it did.

That Other Blog

Many of you already know that I have another blog. It is very different to beetleypete.

https://redflagflying.wordpress.com/

I only dip into that blog occasionally, usually when I feel the need to rant about the Royal Family, Politicians, or some world events. What I have to say there can possibly offend or upset many readers, but in some ways, that is the point of it. To generate heated debate, hear the opinions of others, and to be deliberately controversial.

Some posts on there have hardly been viewed, let alone commented on. So by way of advertising that blog to anyone who would not be too upset to read it, here is a link to a 2013 post that has an element of nostalgia and reflection to it.

Spying for a living

Has Blogging Reached Its Peak?

With new followers as rare as hen’s teeth, and many of the ‘Lockdown Bloggers’ disappearing as quickly as they arrived in 2020, I am left wondering whether or not Blogging has had its day.

From limited research, it would seem that Instagram and You Tube have attracted people who might otherwise have been blogging. The instant gratification of a photo or video is a lot less work that an 700-word blog post or a fiction serial, let’s face it.

Over the past few months, I have noticed that comments on my posts are almost always from the same group of people. No complaints about that, as they are my blogging friends, and I value their input and contribution to our community more than I can say.

But casting my eye over other blogs, there is definite evidence of a ‘slowdown’. Many are receiving fewer comments, and no replies to replies. The Reader seems to be being used to just ‘Like’ posts almost immediately, and the amount of comments generated by most posts is falling all over WordPress.

So, does this matter? Personally, I would blog to online tumbleweed, comments or not. But many bloggers are becoming frustrated by the lack of engagement in 2022, and I understand that frustration. I confess that I am lucky. I have amazing followers, regular comments, and daily blog views are usually around 300 since the ‘slowdown’.

Becoming part of such a community takes commitment, and a lot of time at the keyboard. Content is king. So if you do not post regularly, you will get sparse views of your old ones.

Let’s all agree to keep up with the blogs we follow. Show some encouragement, leave comments as well as likes, and keep the circle of blogging alive.

If not, what was it all for?

Still On Top!

In 2016, I published a post about a British Acid-Jazz band, Jamiroquai.

Whatever happened to?: Jamiroquai

This soon became something of a phenomenon on my blog, with an incredible number of views. Since then, not a single day has passed without that post getting at least one view.

Today, I noticed that it had been viewed twice, so checked my all-time stats. Sure enough, it is still there at number one, with total views of 5,847.

London In Photos, 1960: Bob Collins

I was 8 years old in 1960, so many of these images are familiar to me from my youth.

Bob Collins left his trade as a watchmaker to become a photojournalist. From 1947 until the end of the 1960s, many of his photos became famous. I have chosen a selection of his photos that were all taken in the year 1960.

Here is Bob photographed with his camera, 1960.

People wait to hand their tickets to the ticket collector, Victoria Mainline Station, London.

Before it became a familiar photographic ‘trick’, Bob experimented with blurring, using slow shutter speeds. Victoria Station again.

A patient bus queue on a rainy night in Central London.(I have waited for an 88 bus more times than I care to remember.)

A lady buying fish at Billingsgate Fish Market, City of London.

A Facist Party rally, Trafalgar Square. The far-right supporters had clashed with left-wing opponents.

Female tennis fans at Wimbledon, very smartly dressed.

Bob ventured outside London to catch Londoners enjoying leisure time. Here are some people resting on Brighton Beach, in Sussex.

This man is checking the form at the Epsom Derby horse race, Surrey.

Photo-Prompt Story: Helen’s Art Class

My thanks to Ed Westen for the photo that prompted this short story. https://deartedandjody.wordpress.com/blog/

Brad was one of those guys that you looked at, and just knew. Knew that you would end up in his bed, and with any luck, end up as his wife too. It didn’t hurt that as well as being drop-dead gorgeous, he owned one of the largest auto retailers in the state. Helen was his nominated conference organiser, and he wanted to be very hands-on with the arrangements for the new car launch.

In more ways than one, as it turned out.

To say he swept her off her feet would be accurate, except that she had as much to do with that happening as Brad did. After the gig was successfully wrapped up, she readily accepted his invitation to his house for drinks. It was a wonderful house in a magnificent spot, and she was soon imagining herself as the lady of that house.

He didn’t seem to see how lovely it was, being more interested in the six-car garage that held his beloved classic cars. Helen got the tour, and none of them were the Mercedes models he sold all across the state, oh no. A Maserati, an old Triumph TR Roadster, and the Porsche Spyder identical to the one that James Dean was killed in. And that was only the first row. Behind those sat a Chevy Bel-Air from 1956, a Lancia Stratos, and his pride and joy, the 1960 Citroen DS convertible.

Helen tried to look impressed, but in truth she was more impressed by the Mercedes limousine that he had driven her there in, telling her, “I have to drive one of these because of work, but I hate the thing”.

In the bedroom, he was every bit as good as she had guessed he would be. So the next morning when he suggested they go to an auto show on the coast, she said yes, as long as she could go home first and change. For her, that was a dull day. Brad drooled over American cars from before the war, and she smiled in the right places, oohing and aahing when appropriate.

By the end of the month, he was hooked, and they had become a couple. Not wanting her to be away for work, he sugested she give up the conferences job and move in with him. She made some noises about it being too soon, but gave in when the time seemed right. No point missing the chance, after all.

Three months later, the wedding was a grand affair, and she used all of her skills to make it just right. Her family flew in from back east, and were amazed at the opulence, and the marvellous house up on the rocks overlooking the valley. Then Brad rounded off the day by presenting her with a wedding gift, a new Mercedes. As the guests clapped, Helen’s smile was fixed. It was an A220, the cheapest model money could buy. And he had got it at trade price of course.

But she took the key from the white silk cushion, and drove it around the driveway in circles, smiling gratefully.

What was it about men that made them change so much after being married? He always got home late from work, and wolfed down whatever she had prepared to eat without comment. All he wanted to do was to get into his workshop overalls and play with his cars. Other than dragging her to countless auto shows, he never wanted to do anything else. They didn’t go to restaurants, and never had friends over. In fact, Brad didn’t have any friends. Not one.

On their first anniversary, he drove her to a Maserati Owner’s Club show, spending all his time talking to boring guys about how great their cars were. She was bored senseless, and suggested a vacation. “I can’t leave the business, sweetheart. You can’t trust anyone to run it properly, and times are tough in the automotive industry. Why don’t you take up a hobby? Painting, photography, maybe jewellery making? You can remodel the house if you want to, just leave the garage alone”.

Lying awake that night as he spent time in his study looking at car magazines, she made a decision. She would take a class, as he suggested.

At breakfast the next morning, she was sweetness and light. “I think you are right, honey. I need something to fill my time. I’m going to take an art class in the city”. He kissed the top of her head as he left. “Why don’t you do just that? I will pose for a portrait one day, or even better you could paint my Lancia”.

Helen did sign up for that class. But it was not in Art. She chose Home Auto Mechanics. After a year with Brad she could talk syncromesh gearboxes, stick shifts, and oil changes with the best of them. But hands-on was what she realy needed. Dressing-down was easy. One ankle-to-neck overall, some latex gloves to protect her manicure, and her hair put up on her head. She could keep the overall and box of gloves in her car, confident in the knowledge that Brad would never open the trunk. Even though she was the only female on the course, the guy running it didn’t try to hit on her.

She had a feeling that he preferred other guys.

It took three weeks before they got to brakes. How to change the pads and discs, check the brake fluid, bleed it if necessary. The parking brake was covered too, even though in her car it was just a button. After week four, which was changing a flat, she told the guy something had come up, and she wouldn’t be back. As she had paid in full in cash and given a false name, there was no way he could come looking for her anyway. He offered to refund some of the cost, but she told him not to bother. She had got her money’s worth, though he wasn’t to know that.

Two weeks later, she got her chance. As he left for work, Brad stopped as if he had remembered something. “I’m taking the Triumph to a show this weekend. You don’t have to come if you don’t want to, honey”. Smiling at her husband, she replied. “Okay, you have a nice time. I might go get a pedicure, maybe a massage”.

That Friday afternoon, it didn’t take Helen too long to loosen the brake pipes on the Triumph. She put plenty of kitchen paper under the car, so he wouldn’t notice any drips of brake fluid. She had learned well on the course. If there was a loose pipe, applying the brakes would start to pump out the fluid. Before too long the reservoir would be dry, and the brakes would not stop the car. Between the house and the highway was a long descent, marked by no less than ten hairpin bends. Brad loved to drive around them at full speed, boasting about how well he could handle them.

The florist had his bouquet ready. Two dozen white roses. As it was their second anniversary, Brad thought it appropriate to leave some flowers at the crash site. The Highway Patrol had told him that the steering linkage on the Mercedes had been faulty. It had failed completely on the third hairpin, sending Helen’s car tumbling down onto the rocks below. After the fire, all that was left was a wheel trim, a headlight housing, a torn-up tire, and part of the track rod.

As he drove to where it happened, Brad had to smile to himself. Helen thought she knew him, but she didn’t know him at all. The day before he gave her the car as a wedding gift, he had placed a tracker under the wheel arch. It showed her car parked outside the Auto Mechanics class for two hours every week. When the brakes on the Triumph didn’t feel right, he had taken the Citroen instead.

But not before making a small adjustment to her Mercedes.

The Missing Bloggers

I got to thinking about the bloggers who have gone ‘missing’, with little or no explanation.

I miss their posts, their comments, and their occasional emails too.

Some of you will remember them.

Michel. https://raistlin0903.wordpress.com/

Kim. https://cadburypom.wordpress.com/

Abbi Osbiston. https://abbiosbiston.com/about/

Wilma. https://lolawi.blog/

That is just a selection of four of them, but there have been many others. I believe some of you followed those featured.

I am worried about them. In some cases, I have emailed them a few times, and received no reply. Others have left their blog open with the last post published showing the date of their departure, reminding me of the tale of the Marie Celeste.

It is not my place to pester them, but blogging is all about community, and caring about our blogging friends.

So if any of you see those links or pingbacks, please let me know you are okay.

Upcoming Anthology Publication: Oct. 1, 2022

A new anthology containing two stories from the talented writer and blogger, Liz Guffreau. It is available on the first of October. Please read the original post for more details and buying links.

Elizabeth Gauffreau

Click on the above image to preorder the ebook from Amazon.

I am very excited to share that two of my short stories will be included in an upcoming short story anthology, Distant Flickers: Stories of Identity & Loss: 

  • “Norfolk, Virginia, 1975: East Ocean View”
  • “Diary Omissions: The House on Edgewood Road.” 

To get a feel for the anthology as a whole, check out the video. I’m in very good company!

Would You Like to Help Spread the Word about the Anthology?

The Distant Flickers contributors are looking for a few blog “spotlights” to help launch the book during the months of October and November. To make it easy on anyone interested in doing a spotlight, we will provide the following:

  • Blog Header Graphic
  • Smaller Graphic
  • Book Cover
  • Book Blurb
  • Book Trailer
  • Short Excerpt (A different one for each spotlight post)
  • Universal buy link for the anthology
  • Meet the Contributors’…

View original post 71 more words

Photo Prompt Story: Easy Money

My thanks to Ed Westen at https://deartedandjody.wordpress.com/blog/ for this photo to use as a short story prompt.

Not that he knew the first thing about boats, but Dennis would try his hand at anything that didn’t involve hard work. Regular jobs were for saps, as far as he was concerned. Vince told him that for a grand each, they could buy old man Mackenzie’s boat that he used to use for fishing, and he would throw in the outboard too. Maybe even trailer it down to the boat dock.

During his last spell in prison, Vince had met a guy who knew other guys. They would pay good money to get things across from Mexico on Falcon Lake. Dennis was worried though. He had heard tell of criminals robbing people on the lake, even stealing boats. Vince laughed. “WE will be the criminals, you fool. Lighten up!” There were other worries though. Border patrols on both sides, American and Mexican. Vince lit a cigarette and shook his head. “How much d’you think those guys earn? I have contacts who have contacts. They pay the bribes, we make the deliveries. It’s easy money, my friend”.

When Mackenzie put he boat in the water and took his money, Vince produced two old fishing rods and a bucket of bait. He grinned. “Gotta have a cover story, just in case”. Dennis hoped he didn’t have to convince anyone he was a fisherman. He had never held a rod in his life. But his partner in crime was full of confidence. “You just leave it to me. I can drive this old boat, I know the signals to watch for, and I just need you to help load the goods and ride shotgun”. With that he showed an old assault rifle, stashed in a sports bag. “Locked and loaded, two spare magazines”.

Although his short army career had mostly been spent in military prison, Dennis at least knew how to use a rifle.

The first job did go easy. Vince’s contacts were on the Mexican side where he said they would be, just as the sun set. The packages were wrapped in plastic, and not too heavy, though Dennis was uneasy at the looks he was getting from the four silent men who were all wearing sunglasses. They slept on the boat that night, and crossed back to Texas at first light, transferring the packages into Vince’s Dodge Ram and covering them with bags of gravel. Then they drove to a motel in the middle of nowhere, and Vince went into a room to talk to different contacts.

As he dropped Dennis outside his apartment that night, he smiled as he handed over three thousand dollars. “There’s your money back, and lots more. Same again next week, I’ll give you a call”.

After counting the money, he took a shower and drove his old Renegade into town. There was a girl at Masie’s he had a hankering for, and he had enough money to pay for just what he wanted from her. With a good bowl of chili and a few beers inside him, he walked into the bordello waving hundred dollar bills. “Tell Charlene Dennis is here. If she’s busy, I’ll wait”.

The second job was even easier. Seemed like the Mex trusted them now, and there were no scary guys in sunglasses. The load was twice the size, and Dennis was sure the boat was too heavy. Vince smiled as he spoke. “You gotta stop worrying. This boat can take it. Might slow us down a little, but we’ll get across”.

And he was right, though the load made the springs creak on the Dodge. This time, Dennis got five thousand, and his eyes lit up at all the bills as they were handed over. Vince grabbed his shoulder, hard enough to hurt. “Now you stay sensible, and don’t go throwing the money around. Don’t change your car, or go buying a fancy watch or such like. This could make us both rich, but we gotta be careful”.

By the time they made the fifth trip, Dennis had close to twenty thousand hidden away in a metal box buried near a tree. And he had been talking to Charlene about going exclusive with her, suggesting she could move into his place and stop working. When she asked where he got the money from, he touched the side of his nose and winked.

Vince sounded happy when he called. “This will be our last fishing trip for a while, and I’m hoping for a big catch. I’ll pick you up on Sunday, first light”.

Once the boat was loaded, they hid in their usual spot on the lake and had a few beers from the cooler before sleeping. The next morning at sunup it was hot, and Dennis was sweating more than usual. “How much do you reckon this time, Vince? This is the biggest load yet”. His friend shrugged. “Maybe ten grand for your end. Like I said, easy money”.

As they tied off the boat in front of where the Dodge was parked, four men walked from behind Vince’s pickup. Then a smaller person appeared, a woman. It was Charlene. She pointed at Dennis. “That’s him. Don’t know the other fella”. Vince looked at Dennis, and inclined his head at the sports bag. But the firing started before he could slide the zip.

Todd Mackenzie followed the rangers down to the edge of the lake. The younger one pointed at a boat half sunk. “This your boat?” The old man nodded.

“Was at one time, but I sold it to two guys I didn’t know”.

Photo Prompt Story: Clyde’s New Bike

My thanks to Ed Westen from https://deartedandjody.wordpress.com/blog/ for this photo to use as a short story prompt.

Esme was tired of her son’s pestering. Sure, he had worked at the lumber mill weekends to raise some money, but he was still going to need two hundred dollars from her to buy the bike. He said he wouldn’t ride it on the road, just as well at his age. But she just knew he was a reckless boy, and even riding on tracks in the woods might be dangerous. Who was going to help out if he went and got himself all busted up?

The sulking was the worst, and the whining. She hated whining.

“But ma, if I don’t say yes soon, that bike is gonna sell for certain. It’s only two hundred, and you know I will work at the mill to pay it back”.

They couldn’t have a meal in peace without him whittering on about that damn bike. And he had to trek all the way over to Chatsworth to buy it. She guessed it was those Weaver twins he hung out with. They both had bikes, and he was always on the back of one of those. When Cyde spent the whole weekend shut up in his room, Esme knew she would have to give in.

There was genuine delight in her boy’s face when she gave him the money. She hadn’t seen him that happy since before his daddy took off. Bo Weaver came by to take him to Chatsworth to see the guy selling the bike, and she waved them off with a shake of her head. “You boys be careful now, y’hear!”

Bo laughed at the small Honda, but Clyde didn’t give a fig for his teasing. He passed over the cash, and got the key and paperwork from the man. Between Chatsworth and home, there were some of the biggest woods in the state, and he had a mind to explore them. They bought gas on the corner, then Bo took his leave. He had to work the afternoon shift at the mill, so needed to get back to town. Clyde headed into the woods, the warm breeze on his face, and a new-found feeling of freedom puffing up his chest.

Roy Mullaney didn’t care much for people. Most of those he had met during a long life were as low as dog shit, in his opinion. He liked his own company, and only drove into town once a month for supplies. He was proud of his cabin, built it him himself on land he bought deep inside the woods. He lived on his veteran’s pension, and didn’t need much besides his books and his old dog, Barney.

Just lately though, he was bothered. Kids on dirt bikes tearing around on his property, showing no respect. They upset Barney too, set him off growling and barking. Most times they were gone before he could get to them, and sometimes if they saw him they would holler and-cat call, maybe even give him the finger. The notices didn’t stop them neither. PRIVATE LAND. KEEP OUT. Roy had placed them all around. Many times he found them ridden down, covered in dusty tire tracks.

He heard the engine from a way off. Sounded like the muffler had been removed, rasping like an angry wasp. Barney sat up on the porch, and his ears pricked up at the sound. A low growl sounded in his throat, and Roy petted him. “It’s okay, old fella. You stay here”.

Maybe Clyde had ridden the bike too hard, or could be that the man had lied when he said it was always reliable. But it stopped dead across some tire-ruts in the woods, and nothing he could do would get the thing started again. He had no choice but to push it, and it was going to take a very long time. Bo would come by and help him fix it, he just had to get it home.

When he saw the man walking toward him along the ruts, he was relieved. Maybe he had a car or truck nearby, and would help him out. Clyde stopped walking and raised a hand in greeting. “Hey, mister…”

He didn’t hear the blast that cut him short, just felt the impact on his chest. First he was looking at the sky, then blackness.

Roy racked another shell into the pump shotgun as he carried on walking. But once he got close to the boy, he knew he wouldn’t need it. Back at the cabin, he got a shovel and some rope, and Barney jumped into the passenger seat of the pickup as he drove off.

He buried the boy under the big tree, then used the tow hitch of the pickup to drag the bike over the branch next to the other ones before tying it off.

If the signs didn’t work, maybe this would.