Fred from an early age always had what his parents described as an unhealthy interest in philosophy. His life-long interest in subjects which have engaged mankind since time immemorial began with a weekly serialised story on the wireless. No one in the family could remember exactly what it was about but the penultimate episode ended at the point when one of the characters was about to reveal the secret of eternal life. Fred couldn’t wait. He thought of nothing else, and his attention to lessons at school that week was even more abysmal than usual.

So it was with a rising excitement his parents didn’t seem to share, Fred settled down in the front room at least ten minutes to six to listen to the denouement. At precisely two minutes to six the lights went out and the whole house was plunged into darkness.

Fred often thought back to this moment and wondered.

He left school with few qualifications and his job filling shelves in the local supermarket left his mind quite free to ponder further for about six hours during the average working day. Why are we here was a favourite subject. Fred didn’t mean why I am stacking shelves in this precise location but he supposed that was part of it. What am I doing with my life and is there life after death? Good versus evil and is heaven real? None of his fellow employees could answer these questions with any degree of certainty but it didn’t stop Fred searching. So he tried religion.

Each Sunday he visited a different church in his locality seeking enlightenment. More food for thought, no real answers, but he enjoyed the singing. Fred did glean that maybe immortality involved not living in his earthly body forever, but it was maybe a reward for living a good life. Fred’s moral compass adjusted by his parents from an early age was firmly pointing in the right direction so perhaps just needed a bit of tweaking. Good works became his reason d’etre. He became a champion of just causes, paying particular attention to the elderly, sick and the lonely.

Now this preoccupation with philosophy, and good works purportedly ceased the moment he met Gloria.

Fred’s moral compass from this moment on began slowly by degrees to rotate on its axis and point in a different but deadly direction. According to those who knew and loved him, his family that is, and because philosophers rarely have to time to form meaningful relationships, Fred fell in lust. She was, as his mother described her, a blousy bottle blonde tart with the morals of an alley cat.

It was blisteringly hot day in August when Fred was re-stocking the freezer cabinet that Gloria appeared. Tottering on ridiculously high heeled, strappy sandals, she lent over, displaying an impressive decolletage as she grabbed a some fish fingers, a box of six chocolate eclairs and four salami pizzas. He watched her as she threw them into her trolley and proceeded to the checkout, only stopping briefly en route to add three packs of lager.

Now at this point, I feel I must confess as a junior Guardian, I was accused of seriously underestimating the Evil that was Gloria. Well, it was the “swinging sixties”, and we were over-stretched. Fred was on my list but we were all overwhelmed. It wasn’t possible to assign a Guardian to every human being, so some sort of triage system was in operation. Fred was not high priority. Of course, hind-sight is a wonderful thing. I make no excuses, but I’d like to explain.

We as Guardians had targets. In this decade, the powers on high declared the world needed more philosophers. We had too many scientists and the balance needed to be tipped the other way. I was ambitious and Fred was my chance of promotion. Looking back, there were all the signs that had I looked more closely at his intellectual powers, or lack of them, it was unlikely he was going to develop into another Thomas Aquinas. But I didn’t and he seemed to be heading in the right direction until Gloria appeared on the scene.

At the subsequent disciplinary hearing, chaired by one of the senior Dominions, I gave the panel my assessment of Gloria, a barmaid in one of the local pubs. Yes, she was promiscuous, a manipulator of the opposite sex, but hardly the devil incarnate. Fred, I argued, could make an honest woman of her, thereby avoiding the cardinal sin of lust. It was the sixties, I pointed out and lust, after all was a fairly outdated concept. This did not go down well, and I was made aware of this by a long tirade on moral relativism and the dangers thereof. I was cleared of the ultimate cardinal sin of Pride, evidenced they claimed by my ambition, mistaken belief in my own judgement and my failure to consult any higher authority. I was, however, judged guilty of Sloth.

I was demoted of course and after interminable re-training courses I was thoroughly bored. It looked unlikely that I would ever be allowed to resume any Guardianship duties and heaven seemed a remote possibility with my record. I resigned, and was sent down.

I have to admit it was much more fun working for the opposition and career prospects were much improved although there was a certain amount of competition for the top jobs, but this was encouraged, and with my no holds barred attitude, I made rapid progress through the ranks.

After few decades of encouraging mankind to descend into the very depths of depravity, I began to long for the light again. I started to question my commitment to the opposition. There was more resistance to temptation than I had imagined when I reported to the Dominions, when despite everything, we always believed that good would always eventually triumph over evil. Was I on the wrong team? This prompted me to recall Fred and Gloria, although I must confess I had never bothered to find out what had become of them.

Fred must have been in his forties by now and I chanced upon him preparing his sermon in the rectory study. In the kitchen, Gloria was almost unrecognisable with glossy brown hair, elegantly but modestly dressed, preparing the vegetables for Sunday lunch. Shifting my gaze to his desk I checked out the family photos. Two little girls, who appeared to take after their mother. One was of a christening with Fred, Gloria and Fred’s parents looking as pleased as punch. You know, I felt proud of this couple, and to make my day, I discovered a book on a shelf entitled “Why Philosophy Matters” with Fred’s name on the spine. He was still young enough that one day he could make a name for himself, and change things for the better. A brief reality check, as I realised that I should be making plans to destroy this possibility and set this family on the road to destruction!

Well, it wasn’t a difficult decision. I checked the records and with a sigh of relief I discovered that Fred and Gloria were not on our list. They had been tempted, but resisted. No further attempts had been scheduled. My original assessment of the situation had been vindicated. My Guardianship of Fred had contributed to his spiritual development, and “evil” Gloria was shaping up nicely as a credible rector’s wife. How I wished I have checked up on them years ago, but pressure of work……

So should I apply to be re-instated to my old job? I was right and they were wrong, although pointing this out may not be the best way of going about it. Perhaps a little humility may be in order. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Good question, I’ll bypass the underlings and send him my undated CV.

Nil desperandum.


The Persistence of Memory



It was some years ago when she first viewed it but the painting had lodged uncomfortably in her subconscious and surfaced from time to time. These days it persistently remained in her conscious mind more and more frequently. It was partly because she could only rarely remember when or where she had viewed the original. But it was the melting pocket watches that disturbed her most, and the starkness of the setting chilled and unsettled her.

Perhaps the images had warned her of what was to come, or more likely her reaction to the picture was a recognition that the changes although unacknowledged were already starting. In her mind time had shifted, her focus on the past was clearer, but day to day was hazy and ill defined as though she was viewing the present through a gauze like veil. When she tried to recall recent events she felt like physically shaking her head to clear her vision as if the previous days happenings would fall in some sort of order on the table top in front her. She was frustrated with the need to fill in the blanks but sometimes her memory was wilfully erratic.

Sophie shifted uncomfortably in her chair, wearily grabbed her jacket, picked up the lead from the hook in the kitchen and set out with with Rusty for their morning walk.

Months later, she remembered that morning with a startling clarity. The feel of the chill October air on her cheeks and the crackle of the leaves underneath her boots. She felt refreshed and filled with energy and the familiar sight of Rusty’s wagging tail ahead, but always checking back to make sure she was keeping up. When she came home she phoned for an appointment. She needed to confirm what she had suspected for some time.

Of course she cancelled the appointment and and wandered aimlessly around the house, plumping the cushions, picking up photographs of the family and studying them as if to trying to fix the images in her mind. The place felt empty and unfamiliar although she had lived here all her married life. Rusty trailed behind her following her every move and leaning against her leg whenever she stopped. She ended up in the bedroom and Rusty paused at the door, knowing he was not allowed to cross the threshold. She knelt beside the bed and he approached her slowly. She held out her arms to him and sobbed. Once she had started she couldn’t stop, so she cried her heart out and told Rusty her fears. The loneliness, the fear of dementia, the utter devastation she felt at the loss of her husband. Sophie had felt numb since the funeral, trying to comfort her grown up children but unable to express the suppressed anger, fear and terror she felt. Rusty whined softly occasionally, but listened patiently until exhausted, she fell asleep beside him on the floor.

When she awoke, Sophie remembered the trip to New York, the last trip abroad with her husband, where they had viewed the painting by Salvador Dali. She even remembered the name- The Persistence of Memory. It was later on that day that David at last brought himself to face the possibility that his memory was failing. They coped together and it was only three years later that he died after a massive stroke. They were good years, she realised now, and through David they had both relived the early days of their marriage, and the children. She took care of the present and with David they revisited the past.

Feeling so much better, Sophie went downstairs, grabbed her jacket, picked up the lead from the hook in the kitchen and set out with Rusty for their morning walk. The dog was delighted and tactfully said nothing about his missing lunch.





My entry for this month is a work of fiction, although I did spend an unforgettable summer on Sark after finishing my finals. Like Charlotte, I have never returned – it just would never be the same, but I have visited the Channel Islands several times since, and caught a hazy glimpse of this most magical island. The house where I stayed has been turned into a guest house. It’s a shame it was a lovely family home. 


In her earlier years she wasn’t conscious of making any choices. She was a privileged daughter of privileged parents. She had absorbed their ideas of success and happiness, worked hard to please them and never questioned that they had anything but her best interests at heart. Charlotte did not disappoint. Academically able she enjoyed school, and then university. Her friends did the same: all confident and the product of an expensive private education they knew what they wanted and worked towards acquiring good degrees with dogged determination. Her only relaxation was her early morning workout on the river. Alone in her skiff she felt connected and alive, her rhythm was sure and steady, her movements co-ordinated and satisfying as she sculled. Her senses alive to the beauty of the early morning mist and the perfect solitude.

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Poor puppy was spayed two weeks ago so was not allowed to run free as usual.
Not impressed with her babygrow vest to stop her licking her very small operation wounds. She has keyhole surgery so just two tiny incisions with internal stitches and the wounds glued. Still, she was even less impressed with the plastic cone of shame.

I'm not very happy

I’m not very happy

Recovery time is much shorter than the traditional method.

Moving on and after her post-op check she was good to go.

The entrance to the heath through a wooded thicket now resembles a jungle!

The entrance to the heath through a wooded thicket now resembles a jungle!

Thinning out somewhat as we approach the heath

Thinning out somewhat as we approach the heath

The heather is spectacular

The heather is spectacular

Not easy to photograph

Not easy to photograph

Lovely cloud

Lovely cloud


And her she is again, freshly clipped and looking a bit like a greyhound without all that fur.


What then is time?

“There was really nothing he could do but be patient. Freedom could come in the next hour, or the next century, or never.”

Hugo registered this thought from Victor and decided it was intensely irritating to deal with a creature who regarded any division of time smaller than a decade of no particular importance.

He could actually sense the reserve: the coldness, and utter implacability of this being, and it would have scared him had he not known Victor for some years now. Still, he found him frighteningly controlled for the most part, but his lapses into passionate anger terrified him occasionally. He was careful not to push their friendship too far. He couldn’t regard death as freedom, but then he was still young enough to savour the future with a certain amount of excitement and even hope. Not so his cold-blooded friend who hadn’t moved for some time, and didn’t appear to be breathing to a casual observer.

So, it seemed that death was not an option for Victor, or at least not a likely one, short term . Quite early on in this unlikely friendship, Hugo, an unusually psychic human had been persuaded by his blood thirsty companion that he was not a danger to humans; although he did have a necessity to hunt small animals, and a fondness for red wine. He did, however appreciate that his friend had no idea how long he would live, despite all his centuries of research.

Hugo surreptitiously studied a somewhat morose Victor sitting opposite at dinner. As usual the Vampire had polished off the rare beef in record time and was merely toying with the accompanying cauliflower au gratin and baby carrots. He had also finished the first bottle of Bordeaux. Hugo ordered a second; it was obviously going to be a long night. He still hadn’t been given any clues about why his friend had suddenly tired of his longevity.

Looking around the restaurant, he was surprised to find that most of the women diners were not reacting in the usual way to his dining companion. He had grown accustomed to the attention and the fascination that Victor’s appearance engendered in most of the females within range, but at the moment he seemed to be invisible. Most of them were studiously and deliberately not looking in their direction and some fingered their necklaces or collars nervously.

So, he chanced, over the cheese and crackers, “How are things?” The uncontrolled force of the response succeeded in emptying the restaurant and shattered a rather fine glass of vintage port. He did, however, catch a hint that the cause of this entire trauma was in fact named Anna.

“Not good then, but what seems to be the nature of the problem? I’m not prying of course, but what has Anna to do with this?”

“She is a witch” was the only, thankfully muted, response.

He wasn’t entirely sure how to respond to this. He’d lost count of the romantic and no doubt sexual liaisons, of his undoubtedly attractive friend. In the years he had known him he’d given up trying to remember their names. They never lasted long, and it was quite unusual that any female should cause this sort of angst. No, on consideration, it was unknown, and therefore he resolved to proceed with caution.

“Aren’t they all?”

“No, Hugo dear chap, I rather think you are missing the point! She casts spells and is immensely powerful. It just couldn’t be worse. She’s already in her thirties; witches do not live forever and I cannot bear to lose her!”

“Ah, waiter, the bill, if you don’t mind, and would you order a taxi?”

He didn’t see his friend for some months, but they continued to correspond by letter. He learnt a great deal about their relationship, which appeared to be fraught with difficulties. It was more than likely they would never be able to produce children. Anna, although extremely gifted, appeared to have had no formal tuition in how to control her magic. Their domestic life was interrupted by various disasters whenever Anna became annoyed. The drawing room was rendered uninhabitable by water damage, when she was upset once; not just a few tears apparently but a veritable flood. Well, at least she was still alive, he thought, the closeness of their physical relationship must have been an awful temptation to the Vampire, however civilised he imagined he was.

At their next meeting, Victor, with his finely carved rare slivers of venison untouched, looked even paler. It took two bottles of Marguax before he started to talk. Although pale he was calm; almost resigned.

“Modern research on the subject of genetics seems unable to provide the answers. Anna and I believe that much of the knowledge of the old world has been forgotten. We need to go back to basics and find out where we have gone astray. We must go back in time.”

Hugo knew his friend had lived through many centuries, and had on more than one occasion, been grateful for the insight into exactly what happened in the past. Lost manuscripts had been found, correcting many of the misconceptions of modern historians.

Hugo knew this was goodbye, and shook his friend by the hand, realising that this was the first time they had touched.  The hand felt cold, but not uncomfortably so.  It was to be their last meeting.

Hugo often wondered how Victor and Anna had fared, but in time he met and married a fair-haired witch of his own. Julia had flown into his life and turned his world upside down. She was a fellow historian and in charge of acquisitions for various renowned institutions. Their minds were totally in tune.

Some years later, in the British Library, Hugo was the first to examine a new manuscript, donated by an anonymous collector and in pristine condition. The first illustration was portrait of a man, dark haired and unusually tall for the period, accompanied by a woman and a young girl. Fair haired, just like her mother, she looked just like photographs of his wife, Julia when she was a child. He had been utterly bewitched by her when they first met, just as Anna had so captivated his friend.

The caption in pencil, under the illustration read:
“We have thrived here, I think we’ve cracked it; take care of the future. V & A”

This was  an addendum to  the Latin, which translated read: Hugo, watch for my ancestors, and if you find another who is like me, love her. This is the way forward. Farewell, Anna”

Julia appeared, seated next to him in the Library, although he knew that just a couple of moments before (when she had caught his excitement at his discovery) she had been playing with their daughter at home in Scotland!  Of course, it did cross his mind to wonder exactly why his wife had chosen to delay receipt of this message from the past from Victor and Anna. It was obvious that she most certainly had now chosen to bring it to his attention.

” Because you made the right choice”, she beamed!

Hugo did wonder who exactly had chosen whom, but wisely kept his counsel. It was their anniversary after all.

Old Sam

“Little do ye know your own blessedness; for to travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive, and the true success is to labour.”

Well yes, thought Sam, as he trudged through the blizzard, it’s all very well but the cold was sapping his strength. The road was barely visible in the whiteness ahead. It was once familiar territory but now in the thickening snow he didn’t know where he was as he counted each step forward. Sheer will power drove him on towards his destination. The snow blanketed the countryside and in the driving snow laden wind he could only hear his laboured breathing and the faint crunch of his slowing steps.

Must be getting old he admitted and the extra pint at the pub hadn’t helped. Still, he’d stubbornly insisted that he wanted to visit the place again. It was Friday night after all. The place had changed though; new landlord and most of his old pals had either died or left the area. He didn’t want to be burden, the youngsters led busy lives, what with the lambing and all, and it had been a clear, moonlit evening when he’d set out. Now look at it. Still, mustn’t grumble, and this road can’t go on for ever. I just need to keep going. The snow was gentling drifting now the wind had dropped. The silence was eerie: he felt cut off from the world.

His bad knee collapsed, and he landed heavily in the powdery snow. Should have had the operation. Up until now he hadn’t seriously considered that he wouldn’t make it back but the urge to rest was overpowering. He’d had a good life and passed the farm over to his son. He’s doing a good job. He closed his eyes, feeling the light, icy flakes against his eyelids, and slept.

He dreamed of Mollie. Hadn’t done that for years. He thought about her often, but when he was awake, her image was hard to recall. The sense of her was there, but blurred somehow. Now he saw her with startling clarity. The light in her beautiful almond shaped eyes and the high cheekbones. He felt the softness of her shining hair and the warmth of her breath on his face. Her soft tones became more insistent and as he slowly came back to reality he was startled to find her tongue dampening his face and excited whimpers, and the texture of the hair under his hand was rough, course and damp with snow.

Lights dazzled his eyes as a Landrover slid to a halt in the road in front of him. The collie stayed by his side as his son approached.

“You’re a bit late Dad, let’s get you back. How does roast lamb sound?” Strong arms lifted him to his feet, and as they approached the car, his son said, “Dad, you nearly made it. Not far now, can you walk? I’ll dig the car out in the morning”.

Just five minute more and he saw the lights of the house. The two men, one supporting the other, and a dog disappeared into the welcoming warmth.


Entry for the TCWG May/June Competition

Then he lost a leg.

By this time he’d become accustomed to it. It had ceased to embarrass him but it had caused a bit of hysteria from the crowds intent on their Christmas shopping, because he looked so human, he supposed. He’d stepped awkwardly on the edge of the kerb and it just parted company with the knee joint. He picked it up and stuffed it into his rucksack, and hailed a passing taxi home.

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