The right time.

Meet Blossom!

Meet Blossom!

It’s been over three months since she died. Although Daisy was only a dog, Poppet wasn’t moving on, she was bogged down, bereft with grief. As mentioned in A Little Tribute, she couldn’t recall a time before Daisy. So, very impetuously, I jumped in the car and drove to a faraway place to rescue Blossom…and Poppet, who would never have made the decision to get another dog – she felt guilty and disloyal even thinking about a replacement. Blossom isn’t a replacement. Daisy was unique and so is Blossom.

Since this photo was taken, Blossom has matured morphed into a minx, creating joy havoc all over the place. Basically, the pic below encapsulates Blossom.

Who have you rescued lately, animal, vegetable or human? Or maybe you’ve been rescued rather than the rescuer – restored and revitalised by someone or something…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joining Trish and My Little Drummer Boys and linking up With Some Grace

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SERIOUS and other important trivia…

Those of you who read this blog and they’re aren’t all that many, (but it’s QUALITY not quantity that counts right? 😉 ) understand that flippancy is my middle name. That my preference in writing posts is for tongue-in-cheek, self-mocking nonsense about chooks, dogs, coffee and Poppet, although anyone who is the parent of a teenager or remembers being a teenager, will appreciate that teenagers and in particular, teenage girls, are anything but trivial individuals. And indeed Precious Poppet is every bit an important and high-maintenance individual.

Autumn Perfection.

Poppet and Autumn Perfection.

 

S & M     D & M

Occasionally though, I do get a bit existential deep and meaningful and wax on about something weightier, more philosophical.  I’ve read a few insightful posts this past week or two on a variety of serious topics – too many to mention now, so please don’t be offended if I’ve commented on your post, but haven’t mentioned it here.

One on incivility in social media stands out: Let’s Talk Twitter and Trolls and Dinner Parties, shall we? Kat’s post looks at ‘trolling’ and general impoliteness on social media and urges us to engage in virtual discourse as one would do with face-to-face discourse, with good manners and decorum. This post made me think about life before social media and I got all contemplative. Of course, there was work, family commitments and writing a year ago, before I started writing a blog and twittering, and I was very busy but it was a different kind of busy. I didn’t jump with glee when I received notification of a comment or an email to inform me I had a new follower on Twitter. I was a rather simple creature in my non-virtual world. I didn’t squeal with girlish delight when my tweet was retweeted or avidly read a particularly warm and charming comment on my post. I was spared the pleasure, or pain…if my tweet disappeared unanswered into cyber space or my post languished comment-less. I wasn’t needy. I think I was a bit cooler.

Yet there’s so much good about social media – engaging with clever and interesting people everywhere – the sheer scope of talent and opinion is vast. They might not be real friends in the sense of those we meet up with regularly for coffee or brunch or dinner or just meet up. But real ones, nonetheless.

SERIOUS

I read several brilliant posts written on ANZAC Day and its significance and one lingers:  ‘Reflections on the selflessness and sacrifice of some ordinary Australians…’ I’ve never before read anything more lyrically worded on war and its devastating implications than that of Wing Commander Sharon Bown. Simply beautiful words. Then there’s Majoring in Literature, an erudite blog that’s good value, reviewing books with a close understanding of the text, combining travel and history, interspersed with beautiful photos.

And there was Deb’s interesting post on idealised TV shows and life envy: ‘Why I won’t be watching Offspring.’ I seriously believe ‘life envy’ has increased exponentially since the advent of social media. There might have been perfect people with perfect lives around before but we didn’t know about them. We were spared their perfection.

Bad Behaviour and Girls’ Schools.

Jonah Takalua has a lot to answer for. I recall when Summer Heights High came out  a few years ago and Year 8 boys thought it was funny to draw dictation on the black/white board. They chanted “Puck you, Miss. JOKE Miss!” with monotonous regularity until I wanted to send them all back to Tonga, except they weren’t from Tonga. They were typical Aussie kids just trying to escape writing essays.

Image courtesy of: futuremusicgroup.com

Image courtesy of:
futuremusicgroup.com

Jonah from Tonga is back. No wonder Pinky (that witty minx blogger I know) wants to work in a girls’ school. This post is HILARIOUS: ‘Why I want to work in an all girls’ school!‘  And you don’t need to be a teacher to appreciate it. (Apparently smiling – even the act of stretching your lips in a grinning expression whether you feel happy or not – releases feel-good endorphins that literally lift your spirits). I guarantee that after reading this post you’ll be giggling, very naturally. 😀

CHOOK UPDATE – THE STORY OF RED.

We bought Red, Snowy and Blacky as two day old chicks  all ostensibly GIRLS. Snowy and Blacky were feminine hens but Red was always a bit butch blokey. But hey we’re not discriminatory about gender in our family, feathers or no feathers. But when she he started crowing pre-dawn, a VOCIFEROUS TRILLING “COCK-A-DOODLE-DOOOO!” it was time to take Red back to the farm (we’re in the middle of suburbia!) I should’ve noticed before this, especially when she he was mounting cuddling the other hens in an unplatonic way. The Sexer had got it wrong. (Bizarre as it sounds, there is a profession/job entitled “Sexer”. They look at chicks’ private parts and deem them male or female…Sometimes Sexers get it wrong).

CHICKIBABES.

growing chickadees

They’re getting bigger and have moved to a larger pen, but I’ve observed an undesirable hen dynamic: Lasquisha – the biggest and bossiest – dominates. Unfortunately, the pecking-order is alive and flourishing in real life. Lasquisha keeps Cinnamon, Princess and Lacey under control. She pecks them on the head for no apparent reason except to show she’s the boss…a bit like the classroom/playground bully, really.

I'm boss!

I’m boss!

Who is big and bossy in your life? Or are you the boss? And I’m not being sizeist either, I mean big in the metaphorical sense…

Linking up today with Rhianna and Thankful Thursday which has made me focus on the things I am grateful for: I’m thankful that Lasquisha can’t boss me around (I just can’t avoid flippancy!) I’m thankful that Poppet is no longer being bullied. And I’m thankful for the dying splendour of Autumn leaves. Is there anything in your life that you’re thankful for?

Joining With Some Grace for FYBF

Transgender Hen.

Visiting Grace at FYBF today.

Red.

Red.

You’ve probably gleaned that the above isn’t a real rooster, it’s made of metal. This statue is in memory of Red, the handsome hen-rooster we had to take back to the farm. You see Red was meant to be female. We were assured he was a girl-chick when we bought those three tiny chicks prior to ‘the massacre’. Red’s story is diverting, if only to show what an accomplished  incompetent urban farmer I am. We picked up two day old chicks – black, white and red – from the free-range farm and gave them the imaginative mundane names of Blacky, Snowy and Red. They grew into gorgeous hens. Well, two did. But more about this later. It’s Wordless Wednesday and I’ve already written too many words. More pictures…

Our latest chicks are growing fast, losing their fluffy feathers, gaining sleek ones.

From left:  Princess, Cinnamon, Lasquisha, Lacey.

Princess, Cinnamon, Lasquisha, Lacey.

Identical twins Cherry and Merry will start laying in about a month. Meanwhile they’re exploring the garden…

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The hens might look pretty but for an urban farmer my gardening skills are amazing  horrendous.

Image courtesy of: homeimprovguide.com

Image courtesy of: homeimprovguide.com

 

This is how I envisage the vegie patch.

 

 

 

Image courtesy of: ourlocallife.com

Image courtesy of: ourlocallife.com

 

 

This is the reality.

 

 

 

 

However, The Orchard is flourishing alive . A lemon and an orange tree are clinging to life after the lime tree dropped dead retired. But who needs a lime tree when you can buy that nice condensed lime juice in a packet and keep it in the fridge? It never dies.

 

The Orchard (note metal sunflower - will not die).

The Orchard (note metal sunflower – will not die).

Are you an urban or country gardener? Can you grow anything – herbs in a pot on the windowsill, tomatoes on the balcony? Any tips?

Linking up with Trish over at My Little Drummer Boys.

Chicks, cafes and other important trivia…

Linking up today with Essentially Jess and IBOT.

Poppet with Lacey.

Poppet with Lacey.


We bought chicks this week. It’s been eighteen months since ‘the massacre’, when we lost all seven of our hens to a fox attack in suburban Sydney. I don’t blame the fox – it was Spring, prime breeding time and no doubt it was a hungry vixen with a den of cubs waiting for a tasty chicken breakfast. But I won’t deny it was traumatising to go into the chook pen in the morning and face an eerie silence and corpses strewn around, bloodied and headless. We lost more than egg-laying birds, we lost pets – hand-reared, all with names and individual personalities. We couldn’t replace them immediately and when we did – six weeks later after a massive fox-proofing operation – it was with generic Isa Browns from an intensive chicken farm, still laying but in bad shape – debeaked, scrawny, missing chunks of feathers. They’d spent their short lives standing on wire in a small cage and when we first put them into the pen, they stood motionless for an hour, shocked to feel earth beneath their claws. They’d never walked about on soil before, never dug for worms. Very slowly they began to scratch (important piece of chook trivia: hens live to scratch). Those five generic ex-battery hens had entered Chez Chooky Heaven. They are now fat and fluffy…wish I’d taken before and after pics – you’d be very impressed. 🙂

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When you cheat on your local cafe…

Have your ever offended your local cafe owners? Bizarre as this sounds, it’s precisely what I did. We have eight cafes in our suburb, three of which make decent coffee, so naturally we only visit these three. But I’d been lax, I’d neglected one cafe. I didn’t give it a moment’s thought when I picked up a takeaway over the Easter break but I was met with a distinctly frosty reception. No smile or How are you? and a muttered, What coffee was it again? (been drinking skim lattes there for years). I found myself gushing and grinning in a fawning, demented way as I recalled that Wait, I haven’t been to this cafe for ages! I’d been unfaithful, I’d cheated…in short, I am a cafe whore. Guilt washed over me as I acknowledged how thoughtless and cruel I’d been in going to my other two lovers baristas for at least three weeks, behind their back. The cool demeanour was payback. 

cafe pic

Note to self: Cafe proprietors have feelings – very delicate sensibilities, in fact. Don’t spread yourself around too thinly. Do not be promiscuous in your coffee/tea drinking. Or if you do two-time or three-time, do it with more panache than I.

Are you or have you ever been, a cafe whore? Or are you loyal and faithful, eschewing beverage infidelity?

Monument. A little tribute to Daisy.

Linking up today with FYBF and With Some Grace. Happy Easter!

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Monument:

  1. A statue, building, or other structure erected to commemorate a notable person or event.
  2. A statue or other structure placed over a grave in memory of the dead.
  3. A building, structure, or site that is of historical importance or interest.
  4. An enduring and memorable example of something.

Despite the various definitions, the word “monument” makes us think of lofty statues and grand architecture. This little monument is something quite different. No crowds flock to admire its gravitas or muse on its symbolism and place in history. This monument – placed recently – engenders raw feelings about a tiny dog that passed in and out of our lives, so quietly and magically. It’s a tribute to Daisy:

IMG_0243If you look closely at the tile in the centre of Daisy’s garden, you’ll see a daisy etched into the stone.

Linking up today with Weekly Photo Challenge: Monument. Do you have a favourite monument? Is it grand or modest?

 

I still have my marbles…

Jack Nicholson’s face encapsulates my attitude to blogging lately:

Image courtesy of smashinglists.com

Image courtesy of smashinglists.com

 

Recently, I only seem to be able to write with prompts. This is bad because it shows an unimaginative and lazy character, and good because there are prompts to lure me from my slothfulness. So hopping on late to Anna Spargo-Ryan’s flash fiction prompt “they ate grapes together in the fog of afternoon”…

I Still Have My Marbles

With a deft motion, Arthur slipped the small beige pill into his jacket pocket while the nurse poured his cocoa. What was her name? A person couldn’t keep track of the staff nowadays…always changing, barely any time to stop for a chat. So busy.

“Don’t forget to take your pill, Arthur.” He nodded a bit too vigorously, to hide his guilt. My legs might be gone but not my marbles. They’re all I have left.

He sipped the bile-coloured liquid – lukewarm and too sweet. He’d complained once, politely requesting more chocolate, less sugar, but the nurse – one of the new ones – made tsk-tsk noises and spoke to him as though he were a wayward schoolboy. Arthur, it all comes out of the same pot, you silly thing. We don’t have the time to go making special drinks for everyone. We’re not baristas, Arthur! She’d laughed as though her comment were witty, when all it did was make him feel small, troublesome. He understood now that the senior citizens were all a generic bunch at the facility, individuality and preferences were left at the gate.

Arthur thought of Marianne’s cocoa, rich and dark like Marianne herself. It wasn’t too much trouble for Marianne to make him a separate cup, once she’d noticed he wasn’t drinking his communal cocoa. It’s no trouble, Mr Mackenzie, I like it this way myself, she’d said, her singsong voice making him think of wind-chimes.

Arthur tried not to be offended that she hadn’t said goodbye. So busy, everyone is so busy these days. But if the truth were known, he was a bit hurt. He’d grown attached to Marianne, to their little conversations punctuating his day. He’d learnt all about her family, the few that made it to Australia, the rest still in the Sudan. He’d even contemplated making her a gift, just a small sum to help ease her life here…perhaps pay for music lessons for her little girl. But that would have meant running it by Steven and Arthur felt Steven wouldn’t have approved.

He was due for a visit from Steven, who confined his appearance to special occasions – birthdays, Christmases, Father’s Days and perhaps at Easter, if they weren’t going away. Belinda rarely came. Too busy with the children. How many are there now – two or is there a third?

Arthur gazed at the photo of Millie and him beside his bed, their smooth faces sublime under the purple mountains, grazed with afternoon sun. Why do they call it the Blue Mountains when they’re purple?

Arthur’s thoughts meandered. You’re batting for the Ashes with Millie, Arty, not the local club, said his mate Bill, who applied cricket metaphors to every contingency. But Millicent O’Grady had accepted him on that foggy afternoon. There was a bit of a mix up as he fumbled with the camera in one hand, the ring in another, down on one knee. Please get up Art, I don’t like my chin from that angle! Millie had thought at first he was taking a photo, before he’d begun his stilted proposal – suddenly inarticulate, shy. They’d laughed and laughed about it later, as they ate grapes together under the fog of afternoon.

As fortune had it, there was a photograph. A lone bush-walker happened by and seeing their bliss, captured the moment forever.

Ten o’clock was the lights-out curfew but all the residents – they called them that instead of patients as it sounded more respectful – dozed off earlier. It was the pills, and the boredom. Arthur was lucky having his own room, where he could read or watch television whenever he liked. Steven had organised it at great expense (and frequently reminded him of the fact). Arthur had resisted the urge to tell him that it was his money, after all. Increasingly, he was glad he hadn’t signed that document Steven waved before him at regular intervals: Power of Attorney.

Arthur refused to wear his pyjamas until the very last minute. It was a rule of his – one of the few he had left – a kind of last bastion of independence. And tonight he was especially glad he’d hung onto that rule.

A faint knock at his door, a mark of civility not often afforded, and a woman quickly crossed the room.

“Hello Mr Mackenzie…Arthur, I hope it’s not too late to pay you a visit…my new hours are so long.” She lowered her voice to a conspiratorial whisper, “That new nurse was very disapproving.”

“Marianne!” Arthur couldn’t manage any more words, just a grin that bisected his face and sparked his eyes.

 

Do you have trouble thinking of blog topics? What inspires you?

Linking up today With Some Grace and FYBF

Walking on leaves, rustling…

Image courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org

Image courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org

For the second time I’m joining in with Anna Spargo-Ryan’s Flash Fiction, writing prompt.

Walking on dry leaves, she veered away a little and the rustling deepened, as though a new stridence had entered her step. But it wasn’t enough to drown the whispers, the sporadic peels of laughter. There was no joy in the squeals, only malice and a quite deliberate intent to wound.

Samantha quickened her pace, separating herself from her friends, though to deem them friends was to attribute a virtue to the epithet that reality lacked.

“Sammy, you’re out of bounds, you’ll get sprung!” cried Georgina. “Come back, you don’t want a detention, Sammy!” Feigned concern at her welfare abounded in Georgina’s tone but Samantha recognised it for what it was. They knew she hated Sammy, that she only liked to be called Sam. Sammy set off a train of memories she wanted to forget.

Ignoring them, she continued wending her way down towards the large piece of land that dipped into a kind of field, adjacent to the sports oval. Trees lined the path, old trees, and Samantha gazed up, allowing the shards of sunlight through the thick leafless branches to warm her face.

*****

Her mother had taken on an extra job to pay the fees at St. Clare’s Senior College, making it a total of three jobs. She barely saw her mother now. She was either cleaning houses a few suburbs away, at the office in the car-yard or in the seedy bar, where she was the perfect employee because she was cheap – a cash-in-hand, no-questions-asked member of staff.

Her mother announced the school switch, presenting it as a fait accompli. “It’ll be good for you…get you away from that nasty crowd, now that Bianca’s gone.”

“I can cope. I’m not going to a new school. Again. It’s not the school, Mum, it’s me.” Her voice had a steely quietness, belying her certainty that her mother had already won the fight.

Ignoring her daughter, she continued, “I want you to focus on your school work…the academic standard is much higher at St. Clare’s. And I want you to do well in your final year Sam, unlike me…” She trailed off.

There were some further arguments but her mother had already paid the fees and starting mid-term, almost inviting stress and misery,  Samantha walked through the school gates. The elegant tunic had a matching blazer, which in spite of her misgivings she rather liked, but the hat made her feel slightly ridiculous.

*****

“Sa-man-tha!” shouted Elissa, “Mr Sante is coming now…you’re in major trouble. So don’t blame us!”

The girl’s voice suddenly changed, becoming a sychophantic whine as she directed her attention to a tall athletic man, wearing John Lennon glasses.

“We tried, Sir.”

“Back to the in-bounds area, girls. Seniors have a few privileges but you’re pushing it.”

“Sammy wouldn’t listen,” simpered Georgina, with a hint of the coquette.

Samantha’s feet were weighted to a spot on the path. She wasn’t scared of detentions. In fact, few things frightened her.

“Samantha…or do you prefer Sammy?”

“I hate Sammy.” She couldn’t keep the petulance from her voice.

“Well, Sam then…” He smiled, cool and business-like, “I have a proposition for you. Our debating team is short one member and we have a comp at the end of…”

“I haven’t been on a debating team before,” Samantha cut him off.

“It’s settled then. I think you’ll like the topic: “School days are the best years of our lives.” He smirked a little but there was no meanness in the grin, more an ironic arching of an eyebrow under the small round spectacles and a tilting at the corners of his mouth. “We’re the affirmative.”

“Affirmative..? It’s not possible then.”

“Oh, I don’t know. It’s a jungle – we all know this – but I think you’ll be up for the challenge. I marked your essay from last week’s exam…I’m confident you’ll rustle up some strong arguments. We meet most lunch times – Room 43. You can bring your lunch,” he added, as though the matter were settled.

As they walked back up the leafy path towards the quadrangle, Samantha was already thinking of things to say, constructing sentences about the quality of friendships forged in the classroom and playground; respect and kindnesses initiated and lasting; life lessons and challenges. Perhaps she might fudge it.

“They’re up there now, if you want to join them. We still have some time left…nice group of girls.”

Samantha nodded, not noticing the expressions on the faces of her friends, Georgina and Elissa. The spite remained but some of their triumph had dissipated.

A bit random…

It’s Autumn here in Sydney (some call it Fall) but nothing is falling or fading just yet. This pot catches the afternoon sun, insisting it’s still high summer…for a few more weeks.

BLOG POT

Spilling over from my last post…

“With freedom, books, flowers and the moon, who could not be happy?” Oscar Wilde.

What would you add to Wilde’s list?

A friend sent me this from Pinterest. 🙂

funny dog pic

I hope your pets avoid this kind of thing…

Linking up today with Wordless Wednesday.

What makes you happy?

                     

A few weeks ago I took some photos of flowers for a Weekly Photo Challenge or was it Wordless Wednesday? (I can never do WW – I waffle too much). Anyway, I got busy and didn’t post them. Then on the weekend I was reading an article about the eternal human quest for happiness and contentment, Happiness is a but a series of good-hair moments. What I found clever about this piece was that it broke this whole human endeavour into, quite simply, “moments of joy”.

Sometimes you can forget to smile when times are stressful or sad. I’m not talking about pleasure – obviously sex and food and alcohol philanthropic works and cuddling small children and animals help here. I’m referring to instant, fleeting happiness – a moment of joy.

What makes you smile? Corny and cliched as it sounds, flowers do it for me…I’m a bit obsessed with them. 

I like dandelion because they begin as tiny, insignificant, yellow flowers then morph phoenix-like into fluffy pom-poms that beckon you to bend and pick one, blowing gently as you make your wish.

A dandelion by any other name would be as humble.

Flowers are important  things. And liking them isn’t confined to the female gender either. William S thought the rose was so special he wrote the words: “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” while Juliet anguished over the feuding Montagues and Capulets, deciding that a name was nothing after all…that even with a different name, Romeo would still be the same Romeo. (It works in theory William, but somehow I don’t think a rose would smell as sweet if it were called cabbage or cumquat).

Do flowers make you smile? Perhaps one that springs from a boring bulb every year – a jonquil or freesia? Or a daffodil – it has no perfume yet Wordsworth (another William) wrote an entire poem devoted to its beauty.

Handwritten manuscript of 'I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud' - 1802.

Handwritten manuscript of ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud’ – 1802.

It’s hard to fault the flawless grace of Holland’s tulip.

IMG_0374Our Australian floral emblem must rate a mention – it has a day named after it. These canary yellow bunches make you sneeze but in their hundreds of variations, they bejewell their drab hosts all over the countryside in September. 

IMG_0295Then there’s gerbera, it’s suffered from bad press, mocked for being too mundane, yet there’s something very dependable about these plastic looking flowers (plus they’re cheap – $6 a bunch from my green grocer) 🙂

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I can’t ramble about flowers without alluding to Dame Edna Everidge. This grande dame wrecked the perfectly respectable gladioli by wearing scary glasses on stage and waving bunches of them around her head (but seriously, the gladioli never was an elegant flower).

Dame Edna

Finishing with Oscar Wilde, who had witty and wise words to say on most subjects:

“With freedom, books, flowers, and the moon, who could not be happy?” .Oscar Wilde

Sadly Wilde didn’t have freedom (though some might say nothing can shackle the imagination).

Do flowers make you smile? What would your floral choice be if you could have a basket delivered to your door right now? It is difficult to narrow down a favourite, if pressed I’d find it hard to name any one flower…

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Linking up today with Essentially Jess and IBOT. 

Flash Fiction: As she fell…

 


cinnamon buns

Linking up this week to Anna Spargo-Ryan’s Flash Fiction prompt. The prompt: And as she fell, she remembered the tea cakes with their cinnamon clouds.

And as she fell, she remembered the tea cakes with their cinnamon clouds, shooting out of her hand, plunging down the escalator behind her, spraying a sweet fragrant film over the stunned commuters below. And when her head hit the sharp metal, a white light exploded and for a second there was no pain.

She watched the sunlight weaving a mosaic high on the wall. Her tongue felt thick but she could still taste the sugary icing where she’d nibbled the corner of a bun. Morning sunlight, yet it was evening. She closed her eyes once more then remembering, sprang up as her head ricocheted and a dull throb made her cease all movement. Gingerly, she touched the lump on the side of her brow. She glanced around the room – a pretty room with floral wallpaper and matching curtains, but nonetheless a strange one. For the first time, a sliver of fear swelled in her breast.

The door opened. “Good morning, I hope you’ve slept well?” A youngish, bland- featured man held a tray before him on which stood a tea pot, cup and buttered toast. He was tall and slim, yet solid.

Agog, she stared, instinctively wrapping her arms around her chest and hunching a little, as though to ward off something, she didn’t know what.

“Who are you? Where am I? Why am I here?” The staccato questions were rude but she didn’t care. She swung her legs out from the covers and onto the floor, suddenly aware that she wore only her underwear.

“You suffered a nasty shock. I wouldn’t get up if I were you.” He averted his eyes. “Rest. That’s what’s needed. There is no concussion.”

Gwendolyn continued to look at him, the surrealness of the situation, of their conversation weighting her body like a drug. His pleasant features curved into a smile and she thought absently that he had a nice face. In another context he might be handsome, though jowly and likely to turn pudgy in middle age.

“Where are my clothes…and my phone, I need my phone?” Her memory crashed through the haze and she recalled the rush to jump onto the escalator, the brushing past her of someone – a careless commuter who bumped her, toppled her and propelled her against the cold sharp metal. “My bag? Where is my bag?”

The memory was clear. She was on her way to Suzi’s, running late but determined to go anyway. She’d bought cinnamon buns especially, to complement the new coffee machine. Suzi had been effusive. I’ll make your fav…what is it again, soy caffe macchiato or some such wank? My amazing machine does it all! Her wide grin had diffused the exasperation as she looked indulgently at her fussy precious friend. Her fad-crazed, allergy-prone bestie.

“Luckily I was there to catch you!” He smiled with cheery good-nature and as she stared at his straight white teeth, his vacant blue eyes, she turned cold.

“Where…please…is my stuff?” Fear bloomed in her stomach and a wheedling, whining note crept into her voice. She wrapped the sheet tightly around her body and upper thighs, eyes wildly scanning the room. She bent and peeped under the bed.

“Sit down and have some tea, you’ll feel much better.” He poured the tea primly, like a maiden aunt. “And toast. You need nourishment.” He smiled condescendingly, head tilted slightly to the side as one would to a wayward school girl.

Fear gave way to anger and she ran to the door, yanking it. “Where the fuck is my stuff?” She noticed for the first time the padlock. The deadlock. She leapt to the window but it too was bolted and bars lined the pane like straight soldiers standing to attention.

“There’s no need for vulgarity, Gwendolyn. Manners are always paramount, as my dear old mother used to say.”

Her scream split the air and when she stopped his smile had gone. A deep frown creased his seamless face.

“They can’t hear you.” He said softly, lifting his leg swiftly and knocking the wall with the bottom of his shoe. Gwendolyn heard the soft dull thud of metal break the silence. A sharp memory shot into her head, crystallising: someone pushing her – a man, a large man – as she stepped onto the escalator.

“It was you!” She continued to scream as he walked slowly across the room towards her, his eyes perfectly still, perfectly mad.