Wednesday, 30 April 2014


'I love you too honey.'

I heard the comforting sound of static that could only be Suzanne's voice, I just had to wait a few seconds for the translation.

'I can't wait till we're together, it won't be long now.'

I couldn't wait either and then nobody could come between us. But we were always together even though we were light years apart.

I kissed my hand and waited to receive her kiss back. That's how it works you see.

The kiss arrived and I kept my hand in the same position and kissed her again. Sometimes I spend hours at a time kissing Suzanne and I do get a lot of funny looks. People don't understand. They think there's something wrong with me but I just want to shout and scream to the whole world that there's nothing wrong with me. We are in love.

I confess I must look a little bit odd. Talking to my hand like this, but I'm not, I'm talking to Suzanne. And thousands of light years away she's doing the same thing, only she doesn't really have hands. They're more like flippers. But the rest of her is normal. She's blonde, blue eyed and has legs so long you wouldn't believe. I can get over the flippers. She tells me about her family and about school and about her dreams. She wants to be a botanist. She loves anything like that and we spend hours talking about plants and stuff. Although it's very different over there and they don't have gardens so to speak, just window ledges full of pot plants. They all live in high rises. It's a planet of high rises but pot plants are very popular.

I hold my hand to my ear because there's an incoming message. It's a loud one this time and I think that even some of the people on the train have heard it.

'Tell me again, what are Earth girls like?'

She knows they have arms instead of flippers but apart from that I don't talk about them much.

'Not as beautiful as you,' I said.

Of course I've seen plenty of pictures of Suzanne and I've sent lots of my own to her. I'm not one of those guys that pretends to be someone they're not. I'm no Brad Pitt but I try to take care of myself. And she's beautiful. We share photo's all the time. It's easy once you get used to it. You just put your hand tight up to your face and close your eyes and the pictures materialize inside your head. It doesn't happen straight away and you need to keep your hands pressed tight and your eyes closed for about thirty minutes to get a really great picture. The longer it takes the better the quality. It's much better than any digital camera you get over here. It's all in your head see, the colours become living breathing parts of you.

I can't wait till we meet in person. It's not going to be long now. They're saving up the money for a transmat booth. It's the latest thing over on Meros. They are slowly doing away with cars and trains, that kind of thing and soon everybody will have one. She tells me that you can travel anywhere in the blink of an eye and that it will only take a few minutes to get over here. I can't wait.

We spend the rest of the tube journey kissing.

Everybody is giving me that look and a few people are filming me on their phones. I don't give a shit anymore. What me and Suzanne have is special and they can laugh and stare all they want. They will be laughing on the other side of their faces when Suzanne comes over. I do worry about the atmosphere though. I'm not sure what it's like on Meros. We haven't really talked about it much. I'd hate it if she came over and ended up whizzing back into space like a popped balloon. Or what if she got here and found it impossible to draw a breath? Sometimes I think it's probably better to keep talking to my hand just in case.

A lover thousands of light years away is better than a dead one. Or a squashed one.


                                                                                           (C) Ally Atherton 2014

Gifts from Sleep


                                                  A dream has power to poison sleep

                                                              Mutability, Percy Bysshe Shelley

                             There's always an impossible puzzle.

And each night I have from the time I arrive until the balloon pops to solve it. Every night they are getting more difficult. I think in a few week's time I will probably have to re-enact world war one using hand gestures or design a new form of communication for the humble house fly.

And what is it with the wooden fences? I am beginning to think that my dreams are sponsored by  Ronseal. I smell them all the time now. When I'm awake that is. I smell them when I'm eating my Corn Flakes. I smell them when I'm driving to work. One hand on the steering wheel and the other trying to wipe away the smell of wood. I sneeze and bits of wood come out.

And I can never quite remember any of them. Stupid, ridiculous, over the top dreams. But there's always my reward waiting for me when I wake up. Sometimes it's curled up in my fist or it's on the floor and sometimes I find it in the bathroom cabinet.

My prize. My reward for solving another impossible, annoying puzzle, from dreams that disappear down a plug hole in the centre of the universe. Dreams where I'm running around, blood pumping, heart thumping, nights of frustration and terror. Long nights where every second I am crawling through tunnels, banging on impossible to open doors and running. Running from somebody or something until finally the balloon pops. It's usually a red balloon but sometimes it's inexplicably a novelty balloon. A poodle, a swan, a pair of tits.

It's been going on for weeks. I'm exhausted. Sometimes I try to stay awake, hoping the curse will be broken but sleep always catches up with me and grabs me by the ankles and drags me under. I will have to pack in work soon, it's getting too much. I spend all day worrying about them. The balloons, the fences, the doors, but most of all I worry about my little rewards waiting at home in the cellar. I have put them in shoe boxes because that is my line of work. Lots of shoe boxes.

Boxes meant for shoes, not body parts.


                                                                                   (C) Ally Atherton 2014


This is written for the Light And Shade Challenge

An exciting new challenge where prompts are posted weekly. Go and take a look and join in if you like. It looks like a great opportunity to have fun writing and also an opportunity to meet some new creative friends.

Dream Weaver by Rejean Giguere

What do you do when your sister disappears and all your efforts to find her hit a brick wall?

What about a bit of Voodoo?

This is a mixed bag for me. I really like the hook of the book and it gets off to a blistering start and I was immediately taken on a whirlwind of adventure across several continents into one dark and unsavoury place after another. For a short book it definitely kept me turning the pages and there's lots of action, drama and gore. And you can't beat a bit of gore from time to time can you?

Rejean writes with an imaginative quill, there's no doubt, with great chunks of humour weaved in along the way. This is what I like about the book but I think ultimately it's also it's main downfall. I found that towards the end the story kind of loses the plot and becomes a little bit unrealistic and over the top. At one point it felt like the main character was turning into Tarzan Lord of the Jungle and I was half expecting all the animals in the jungle to come to his rescue! And there were also one or two grammatical errors that made the book difficult to read at times.

Overall this is a fast paced, high speed chase of a book that keeps the pages turning but ultimately it's a bit like a beautiful garden that is overrun with weeds. I can't help feeling that with some clever and careful editing this book could be a much stronger.

I think maybe one of the main problems is that for a quick read there's just so much going on and the reader is taken to so many strange places, you don't really have time to settle into the book. And you are left feeling a little overwhelmed and disjointed.


Monday, 28 April 2014

First Time Gardener by Kim Wilde

It's great when you manage to find exactly what you are looking for.

I am a complete beginner to gardening and I was looking for something that would teach me the basics and this book managed to do that as well as wetting my appetite to take my interest to the next level. I am no spring chicken and my front garden is tiny and all I have at the back of my rented house is a small yard, but I am managing to tinker around a little with the little that I have.

It's encouraging too to think that Kim Wilde was once a complete novice too and has managed incredibly to forge a second career for herself. There is hope for us all. My interest in all things horticultural is new and fun and who knows where it can take me in the future.

This is written in an easy reading style, it is helpful, encouraging and there are a few chuckles along the way. It has certainly encouraged me to plod on regardless of whether I will one day manage to get myself a garden bigger than a postage stamp!

If you are interested in gardening, this is just the thing to help you along the way.


Monday, 21 April 2014

Starting Over by Tony Parsons

                            How many chances do you get to make it right?

At 42 George is given another chance in the shape of a new heart. The heart of a 19 year old. But as well as adding years to his life it also appears to be making him younger and younger as his own family continue to get older.

      Where has Tony Parsons been all my life?

 I have been aware of his books for a while but they have always existed in a some strange extra dimension at the corner of my eye. But this one jumped out at me for some reason and to be honest I didn't really know what to expect. It's a really good read! I love Tony Parson's writing style. It's witty, emotional and wonderfully readable. This is one of those books where the pages manage to mystically turn themselves.

I don't really know how to describe this book. I could try and describe it as literary fiction or family literary fiction or women's literary fiction, but none of those do it justice at all. I'm a bloke but I loved it!

I think the best way of describing it is simply to say it is a really great story. That's what I like when it boils down to it. A really good story.

In need to invite Mr parson's into my home more often, as long as he doesn't make any builders tea!


Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Clouded Vision

                                                            By Linwood Barclay

Ellie awoke to find herself mortally injured and strapped into the passenger seat of her car. All around her was white. At first she thinks she's in Heaven and then she sees the trees in the distance and the cold ice staring back at her. Then she hears the CRACK and then the next CRACK and the car starts to fall.

This is another Quick Read that I managed to get my hands on and another new Author for me. I'm not really a big thriller fan but this small book was fun with a capital F. It was just the right size to keep me interested and entertained and was a real page turner. It is full of twists and turns and neatly, it is always one step ahead of you, just when you think you have it all worked out.

If you fancy a quick read but don't want to get stuck into anything time consuming, you can't go wrong with this. Even if, like me, thrillers don't normally tickle your fancy.


Tuesday, 15 April 2014

B is for Begonias

 Ideal in hanging baskets, these giant yellow pendula begonia tubers are an ideal summer flower. Much larger than a standard begonia flower - these bulbs will certainly get the neighbours talking.

Begonias like a rich, moist garden soil with good drainage. Preferably in a semi-shaded place, although they will bloom in full sun.

Suitable for flower beds, borders, containers on the patio and balcony. Also suitable as a houseplant.

Begonia is a genus of perennial flowering plants in the family Begoniaceae. The genus contains about 1,400 different plant species. The Begonias are native to moist subtropical and tropical climates. Some species are commonly grown indoors as ornamental houseplants in cooler climates. In cooler climates some species are cultivated outside in summertime for their bright colourful flowers, which have sepals but no petals.

Monday, 14 April 2014

The Book Boy

                                                       By Joanna Trollope

The Quick Reads books are a great way of getting to know other Authors and new genres without having to sift through too much of a book. Joanna Trollope is one of those such Authors and one that I have heard about but never had the inclination to read.

This is a harmless enough tale about a mother who has managed to let her husband and life in general get the better of her. It' s an uplifting little story about how we can all find a way forward even when life seems hopeless and bleak.

This isn't what I would normally read. There's not an awful lot to get your teeth into. It's what I would call Woman's Weekly Fiction. It's the kind of story you'd read in a woman's magazine while you're waiting at the dentist. I really don't know how else to describe it. If anybody else has a better way of putting it then please get in touch!

It's harmless, it's a nice quick read. Nothing to rave about, yet nothing to moan about either.

It is what it is. A quick read.


Saturday, 12 April 2014

The Birds and other Stories

                                                     By Daphne Du Maurier

I have read lots of short story collections over the years, ranging from Horror to Sci-Fi to Crime Fiction and with mixed results. Some have been very good, whilst others have been average and some downright forgettable. I guess my favourite collections have always been of the Stephen King variety, even though there are always one or two standout stories amongst a few weaker ones.

This collection gets off to an explosive and gripping start with The Birds, I was surprised how different it was from the film and much more scary! For me this is probably the perfect and possibly best ever short story written. Then we have the other stories; Monte Verita, The Apple Tree, The Little Photographer, Kiss Me Again, Stranger and The Old Man.

Every one is a gem. Every one is a unique, standalone story with twists and turns, shocks and essentially, very good story telling. I can't find a fault with any of them and they kept me guessing and turning the pages like all great books do. And what a way to finish the collection! With probably the best ever short story twist ever written.

I need to read everything that De Maurier has ever written. It may take me a long time but I'm sure I won't be disappointed. Read Rebecca, before you read anything else. Then read this and tell me there's a better short story collection.


Sunday, 6 April 2014

A is for Auriculas

With greenish-yellow blooms ‘Forest Sunlight’ is a Double Auricula, and one of a series in a wide range of colours, developed by grower Richard Austin. Double auriculas were popular in the 1600s, but fell from fashion, to be revived in the last 50 or so years. They are among the more easily grown auriculas and can be planted in a sheltered spot outside or grown the traditional way in clay pots.

 Another Show Auricula, beautiful ‘Sharon Louise’ is a ‘Self’, bred by grower Ken Bowser in 1991. It is said to be a particularly fine, late flowering selection that can be slow to bulk up. Selfs have a white paste centre to their flowers, and plain body (petal) colour. The paste centres are farina-covered and so easily damaged by rain and must be kept under cover while in flower.

Friday, 4 April 2014

The Seas by Samantha Hunt

She is convinced that she is a Mermaid and that can only mean one thing.

She has to marry the man she loves or kill him. One of the two. Her father lives in the sea

as well and one day he will come home. She waits and she waits.

This breathtaking debut novel by Samantha Hunt is unbelievably good.

I came across it whilst meandering around my local library (as I do sometimes) and this jumped out at me for some reason. Call it the law of attraction, divine intervention or just damn good luck, it did and how glad am I?

Rarely have I read a story so beautifully and masterfully woven. I kid you not, every sentence is something you can savor. Like sucking on the most delicious gobstopper, each word rolls on the edge of your tongue. There are no car chases, no explosions

no murderers on the loose

just quite simply a lovely, amazing quirky little story.

This is one of those books you don't ever want to end. It stays with you and you are left

with a few pieces of driftwood that ebb and flow at the back of your mind. This story makes you wonder and wonder some more and just as you think you have grasped hold of a word or

a piece of that driftwood, the sea comes in.

You have to read this and I need to buy this now!