Published Online

I am pleased to announce (okay, boast) that three of my non-fiction articles have been published online, in Mythaxis Magazine.

Welcome

Many of you will have read these before, whether something similar on my blog, or when they were published elsewhere.

But I would really appreciate you taking time to click each line, and leave a ‘Like’ for me.
Of course, if they are new to you, then please read them too!

While you are there, you can have a look and see what else Mythaxis has to offer.

Here are the links.

Farewell to the City

Countryside Fashions

My New Fluffy Gown

My Top Ten Posts

For the last few years, there has been little change in the most-read posts on this blog.

No matter how much fiction I write, or how much I love to post about films and cinema, none of that gets close.

As Julie is watching ‘Dancing On Ice’, and I would sooner sit out in the rain than watch that, I just checked my stats again.

Here are those top posts, with number ten first.

10) My Blog: Privacy And Cookies Notice. It has had 677 views.
This was published on the 31st of May, 2018.
It was a very short post, complaining about issues with WordPress, and the notice in question.

09) Beetley Village. It has had 840 views.
It was published on the 16th of August, 2012.
This is a detailed post about what you might expect to see if you ever visit Beetley.

08) Birds Don’t Like Cornflakes. It has had 857 views.
This was published on the 31st of August, 2013.
It was about feeding birds in the garden, and how they had refused to eat the cornflakes I had scattered on the lawn.

07) Ollie: A dog’s like and dislikes. It has had 864 views.
This was published on the 12th of September, 2016.
It was about things that my dog likes, and other things he doesn’t.
It is the only post featuring Ollie in this top ten.

06) Beachlands: Pevensey Bay. It has had 924 views.
This was published on the 24th of March, 2016.
It is a photo post, featuring photos of Modernist and Art Deco bungalows on a 1930s housing estate in Sussex.

05) The driest county in England. It has had 1,623 views.
This was published on the 29th of August, 2012.
It is about how I was told that Norfolk was the driest county in this country, and it hadn’t stopped raining since I moved here.

04) Dereham: A Norfolk Town. It has had 1,820 views.
This was published on the 17th of April, 2014.
It is about the nearest town to Beetley, the market town of Dereham.

03) Whatever happened to? : Jimmy Somerville. It has had 2,071 views.
This was published on the 10th of August, 2016.
It is about the singer and front man of Bronski Beat, and The Communards.
It features pop video clips, and asks why we never hear of him now.

02) About. It has had 2,925 views.
This was published in 2012, and is regularly updated.
It is about me and my life, and features a photo of me with Ollie.
The popularity of this post shows the importance of having a good ‘About’ page.

The number one post will come as no surprise to regular followers.
It has been at number one since shortly after publication, and is read at least once every day.

……Drum Roll……

01) Whatever Happened to?: Jamiroquai. It has had 4,298 views.
This was published on the 4th of September, 2016.
Since then, it has been the subject of many more posts remarking on its popularity.
It is about the British Acid-Jazz band of that name, and asks why they had disappeared.
It features pop video clips, and discusses why they dropped out of the music scene.
After I published this, they released a new album in 2017. It wasn’t very good.

So, there you have it. Do you know what your own top posts are? If you fancy it, why not do do something similar?
Then link it to this post, and we can all find out what are readers out there are enjoying the most.

Significant Songs (208)

Hey Mickey

There is nothing at all musically significant about this song. But when it was released by Toni Basil in 1981, it became part of the ‘pop video’ craze, started by MTV.

In England, we didn’t have cheerleaders, and hardly anyone had heard of the choreographer who had decided to release her own record. As well as that, she was 38 years old, rather late to make an entry into the mainstream music market at that time.

But it was a massive hit all over the world, including the UK, where it reached number two in 1982. The song was written by Chapman and Chinn, Australian and British songwriters known for coming up with massive chart hits. Toni’s version was a cover of an original 1979 release under the title ‘Hey Kitty’. She changed the name to ‘Mickey’, and choreographed a dance accompaniment that included ‘normal’ women backing her, unlike the usual sex kittens that featured in most pop videos then.

The result was a forgettable pop song that turned out to be unforgettable, because of the accompanying video.

It was played to death on every radio station, and featured heavily on TV music shows.

Toni jumped on the video bandwagon, and brainwashed us all into the bargain.

Here is the official release of that video.

Photo Prompt Story: Big Vern’s New Friend

This is a short story, in 1118 words.
It was inspired by the above photo, sent to me by Kim Barker.
https://cadburypom.wordpress.com/

Vernon was a big man, and I mean big. He looked as wide as he was tall, and had hands like bunches of bananas. Okay, he was getting some flab as he got older, but woe betide anyone who took him on. Anyone who thought that ‘the bigger they are the harder they fall’ was destined to be very wrong, when it came to Vern.

A big man needs a big dog, at least as far as he was concerned. And he got the biggest and meanest dog he could find. Tank was a Rottweiler, and one of the biggest I had ever seen. He was well-named too, as he could bash through any local dogs, and didn’t even notice them as he did so. Vern kitted him out, so he looked the part. He had a spiky collar, and needed two choke chains just to make him walk to heel. It was unlikely anyone other than Vern could have managed him.

There was no doubt that Tank was the king of the canine world in our town. Most other neighbourhood dogs wouldn’t even venture out when he was around. Vern would walk him all the time, taking Tank everywhere he went. He walked tall and proud, sure that his dog was by far the best around. Sidewalks cleared as they approached. One look at Tank’s menacing stare and drooling jowls, and anyone would cross the street to avoid them. Vern lived in the rough part of town. Though pretty much most of the town was rough, he chose to deliberately live where others tried to move away from. With a dog like Tank, nobody, but nobody was ever going to try to break in.

He really loved that dog. He would wrestle it in the front yard, and the growls and snarls could be heard along the street. And that was just Vern.

Then one day he had to go to the dentist, and they said there was no way Tank could come in. Even when Vern gave the dentist his most withering look, Mr Macaulay stuck to his guns, and said Tank would have to wait outside. Vern tied him up to a bike rack, and told him to sit and wait. It would have been alright, if Duke the German Shepherd hadn’t suddenly appeared across the street. Maybe he could tell Tank was tied up, we’ll never know. But he barked and barked at his old enemy, until Tank had had enough. He snapped that leash as if it was a shoelace, and took off across after Duke.

Unluckily for Tank, it was a cement truck that ran him down. If it had been a car, he would almost certainly have survived. He might have even jumped up and carried on after Duke. But even a dog as big as Tank had his limits, and that limit was a cement truck.

Big Vern was distraught. He carried that dog home as if it was as light as a bag of groceries, then he buried him in the back yard. He marked the spot with Tank’s choke chains and a rubber bone toy, before wondering how he would cope without his best friend. The locals left him alone for a long time after that, as his mood was impossible to predict. They knew he had done some hard time in his youth, and there were bad rumours about his past. Enough for everybody to leave him in peace with his grief.

Some time later, Vern had to go to the Post Office, to send back a shirt that was too small. Even when he bought the largest size available, they were usually too small.

After checking in the parcel, he headed for home. Shoulders slumped, feeling lost without a leash in his hand, and the feel of Tank pulling hard at the end of it. Approaching the corner, he looked behind for traffic, and was surprised to see a tiny dog behind him. As he stopped, the dog stopped. When he crossed at the light, the dog crossed too, and as he walked into his street, it was still behind him. He thought no more of it, and went into the house.

After some coffee and a few sandwiches, Vern thought he might hose down the front yard, just for something to do. Standing by the gate was the tiny dog, giving him a concentrated scare. Wandering across, he loomed over it, smiling. “You lost, little one? Where’s your mom and dad?” It just stood there, with that same stare. Vern leaned forward, and scooped it up in one of his shovel-sized hands. “I s’pose I better take you to the Vet, see if you got a chip or something”.

There was nothing on the Vet’s scanner, and nobody had reported the little dog missing. He told Vern that it was a pure-breed Pomeranian bitch, and was around five years old. Vern asked if he reckoned he could find a home for it, and the Vet smiled. “Sure, these dogs cost a lot, and are very fashionable. Leave her with me, and I will charge the new owner for my time”. As Vern turned to leave, he saw that the dog was still giving him that look. Try as he might, he couldn’t bring himself to pull on the handle to open the door.

Reaching into his pocket, he removed his wallet. “On second thoughts, I will pay your bill and take her. I don’t like to think about who might want her, and whether they will look after her”.

Vern carried the dog home, and stopped off in the pet store on the way. The owner looked at him in wonder as he bought a pink leash, a collar with rhinestones, and a small dog bed. He knew Vern from old, and thought the old guy must have lost it. Vern’s next stop was the fried chicken shop. He bought a family bucket, and smiled as the dog’s nose twitched at the aroma.

Back at the house, he carefully removed the fried coating, and separated some chicken from the legs into one of Tank’s old bowls. It was big enough for the tiny dog to take a swim in, but she gobbled up all that chicken in record time. Vern went into the bedroom to take a nap, and the tiny dog folowed him, jumping straight up onto the end of the bed. He smiled at that cute little face. “I’m gonna call you Little Kimmy. You live here now”.

Little Kimmy looked straight back into the big man’s eyes.

She knew she was home.

Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

Sadness, and Stories.

I woke up feeling a bit sad today.
Nothing specific, just thoughts about some things that make me sad.

Like lost friends that I can’t phone, or meet up with.
And things left unsaid with those now departed.
Or wishing I had made some better decisions in life a very long time ago.
Not to mention my frustration at my inability to get to grips with technology.

Stuff like that.

It obviously wasn’t too bad, because I soon shook that off thinking about ideas for more stories to go with the photos being sent to me.
By the way, if you have thought about sending me a photo to make a story from, there is no deadline. Please send me one, and I will do my best.
(Just a reminder, reduced size files, emailed to petejohnson50@yahoo.com)

One thing about having to make up stories from photos, it keeps your mind active. In my case, almost too active. I find myself considering stories in my head as I walk around with Ollie, trying to remember if I have posted one with a similar theme or idea before, and just forgotten it by now. But the photos are what they are, and often tell me their own story, which I just have to translate into something readable.

Photo-Prompts are very different to the complex discipline of a long fiction serial in many parts. They don’t require notes about time-lines, character’s names, or historical research. But the basic idea is the same. I think of the ending, come up with a suitable title, then work it all back from there to the first line of the story.

After more than six years of regularly posting fiction on this blog, I wonder when the day will come when my imagination fails me, and I run dry of ideas. But for now, as long as you keep reading them, and most of you enjoying them, I am inspired to continue.

Keith Jarrett : Somewhere Over The Rainbow (The Blue Hour)

Thom Hickey’s blog is a real gem. It is hugely popular, and you will see why if you look at his posts. This latest one is a prose poem of praise to the ‘Blue Hour’, an English love letter to twilight.
And he has chosen the perfect soundtrack too.

The Immortal Jukebox

Stars withdrawing from the night sky.

Buffeting winds blowing the heart open.

Old Winchester Hill.

The Blue Hour.

Iron Age Forts.

Bronze Age Barrows.

Ghostly legions marching by.

Corn Buntings and Lapwings.

Skylarks and Linnets.

Yellow Hammers.

Stone – curlews.

A glimmer of sunlight greeting the ghosts, the birds and me.

Butterfly flutterings.

Marbled White.

Meadow Brown.

Chalkhill Blue.

The Blue Hour.

Dreams that you dare to dream.

Clouds far behind.

Birds fly over the rainbow.

Once and forever in a lullaby.

Once and forever.

Keith Jarrett.

A meditative musician.

A perpetual pathfinder.

Rediscovering, reimagining, recreating, the almost, almost, forgotten land of the untroubled heart.

Soaring with Bluebird and Skylark.

The Song of The Blue Hour.

Hold it in your Heart.

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Photo Prompt Story: Kevins Karsull

This is a short story in, 1025 words.
It was prompted by the above photo, the third one sent to me by Jennie Fitzkee.
https://jenniefitzkee.com/

Mister Dolman was a good teacher, everyone agreed on that. He could make his lessons come to life by pretending to be a brave knight in armour, or a hedgehog snuffling for food. He would bring things in to show the kids, anything from a funny-shaped rock he had found, to the medals his Dad had been given during the war. Not for him just the dry text of the curriculum books, oh no. In Mister Dolman’s class, the kids actually turned up excited to be there, wondering what would happen next.

And he included everyone. No kid was allowed to sit things out because they were shy, or if they had doubts about their own abilities or skills. Inclusion was his creed, and that applied to Kevin too. A quiet boy, who always seemed to be worrying about something, Kevin didn’t play with the others at break, and nobody willingly sat next to him. Of course, that didn’t go unnoticed by the dedicated teacher.

So one day, Mister Dolman brought in a huge box from home. It was full of all sorts of random objects. He invited the kids to stand around and look in the box, then asked them what they thought was in it. Melody smiled. “Just junk”. Danny actually laughed. “You brought your garbage into school, Mister Dolman”. Letitia put her hands on her hips. “That’s boring”. He called Kevin forward. “Here, Kevin. You look, and tell me what you see”.

The boy stared into the box for a long time. He looked at the cardboard tubes from old toilet rolls and kitchen paper, the parcel box, some wires, and old paints and brushes. There were a few empty plastic bottles, washed out and clean, and two food storage tubs that had seen better days. The other kids shuffled their feet, as Kevin thought about those objects. Finally, he looked up at the teacher. “I see a castle”.

Smiling, Mister Dolman nodded. “That’s great, Kevin. Okay class, after lunch, we are all going to make a castle. Kevin is going to show us how”.

Using an old cupboard door as a base, and glue provided by the school, they set about creating that castle, guided by Kevin, who could undoubtedly picture it in his head. The cardboard rolls became strong towers, the bottles were carefully cut to become crenelated bastions, and the parcel box turned into a gatehouse and drawbridge, with the old wires used to raise and lower it. The storage tubs were cut and stuck in place to provide walls between the towers. By the time the end of the school day was approaching, everyone agreed it looked just like one of the castles they had seen in old pictures.

As they were getting ready to go home, Mister Dolman lifted the castle, and put it in a safe place on top of the bookshelf. “Safe journey home now, everyone. Tomorrow afternoon, we are going to paint the castle”. He smiled as he watched Melody and Danny walking with Kevin. They were all chatting and grinning. Everyone wanted to know more about how Kevin had thought up the castle.

True to his word, the paints were brought out the next day. The other kids were asking Kevin things. “What colour should I paint this, Kevin?”. “Shall I paint the drawbridge brown, like wood, Kevin?” After it was almost finished, Kevin took the thinnest brush, and drew lines up and down the castle, making it look like the various stone sections would have appeared. Mister Dolman gave him a piece of strong card, and asked him to name the castle. “We will put the card in front on the base, Kevin”. The boy took a marker pen, and wrote carefully.

‘Kevins Karsull’.

It was easy enough to persuade the head teacher to let him put the castle in the trophy cabinet in the entrance hall. Then every day for the rest of his time at that school, Kevin would walk past something he had created, and the other kids would say “We helped too”.

Retirement was compulsory, but that didn’t mean Mister Dolman was looking forward to it. His wife was worried about him. “Maybe you can still do something, Phil? You know, voluntary stuff. Teaching slow readers, helping out at the museum. You’ll find something, I’m sure”. The retirement party was after school on the Friday. They gave him gifts of framed photos of the school, and a lovely collage made by his last class. Everyone signed his card, and wished him well.

When he walked across to his car, Phil Dolman didn’t look back, not even once. He didn’t want them to see him crying.

The following Monday, it already felt strange to not have to go to work. He sat around reading the papers, and watched the breakfast news on television. Just after nine, there was a knock at the door. The parcel was really big, and at first he thought it must be for his wife. But the parcel guy made him sign for it in the name of Mister Dolman, and he was intrigued as he opened it carefully, noting the large FRAGILE stickers all over it.

Inside, there were acres of bubble wrap, and once he was through those, he revealed a beautiful castle made from plaster,  lovingly crafted and painted. There was also a note.

‘Mister Dolman, I’m sorry I couldn’t make it to your party. I live a long way from that town now, and I was busy with work. I phoned the school and explained, and they were kind enough to give me your address. I have never forgotten the day we made that castle, and I wanted you to have your own one, so you could remember how you helped me back then. I hope you like it. Kevin.
There was another card inside, with careful writing on it. It simply read
‘Kevins Karsull’.

Phil showed it to his wife, his eyes wet with tears.

They both agreed it was the best retirement present any teacher could ever wish for.