Red Snow

north-korea-colorful-order-nic-ojae-00

(500 words)

It is snowing at the checkpoint and John and Abbie are outside, gazing over the border to the Taebaek mountains, and freedom.
“You come, please,” says the guard, his green tunic emblazoned with enigmatic decorations and his oversized green cap looking surprisingly uncomic.
I look through the window to see Abbie throw a snowball at her dad. They are both laughing. “But we’re going soon, the bus’ll be here.”
“You come.”
North Korean guards aren’t people you ignore. He leads me into a small, austere office. Pictures of Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il, and Kim Jong-un hang on the wall above a desk. Their official cleaning cloth lies folded neatly on top of a filing cabinet nearby. I remember hearing about a woman who lost her cloth and used a different type. A random inspection resulted in three harsh months in a Gulag. Could that be true, I wonder?
The man at the desk looks up. His tunic has twice as many emblems and decorations as the guard. A colonel, apparently. The guard was young, not unfriendly. This man’s face is older, gaunt. It looks like he doesn’t smile often, if at all. “Mrs. Hernandez. There’s an irregularity with your visa.”
“What, no, we’ve been through this. It’s all been sorted!”
The man pushes his chair back and sits with his hands clasped together and his chin resting on them. “Mrs. Hernandez. There’s something we need you to do. Then … no problem with the visa.”
It is snowing and we’re getting on the plane. The white flakes are settling on Abbie’s golden hair as we cross the gangway. A young, pretty, oriental woman with a smart blue jacket and matching cap, wearing a very short skirt, smiles a greeting. I stare at her in a daze. I feel I’m about to crumble. Stay strong, just till the plane’s in the air. Then I can go to the toilet and dissolve.
I’d been taken to a room. Three women were sitting on a bench. Their faces were frightened but resigned, their eyes huge with pleading.
“You pick one,” said the colonel.
“Why me?”
He shrugged. “Orders.”

I made the impossible choice, the oldest one, but still only middle-aged. I caught her eyes for a split second but it was enough. We went outside to a snow-covered yard, the flakes coming down harder now. My hands were shaking. The colonel handed me a heavy pistol with a squat silencer. He showed me the safety catch, put the gun against his head in demonstration, and motioned the woman to kneel.

It is snowing at Las Angeles airport. Is it snowing everywhere in the world, I wonder? Everyone is there to greet us. John’s mum and dad, Abbie’s friends, my sister Madeleine – ‘Mads,’ and a newspaper reporter from our home town.

I smile, wave, and reply to questions on autopilot. In my mind there’s one image. Beautiful huge white snowflakes swirling and settling on the ground by the woman’s head – instantly turning red.

 

—-

To purchase the stories (up to June 2017) in paperback, Kindle eBook, and audiobook form, please see Shop.

If you are interested in joining a fortnightly 400 word story group please contact me and I’ll send details.

Don’t forget to check out some of the other stories on the blog. There are over 200! 

Advertisements

Time out of Joint

 

oob281-backwards-clocks
(500 words)
 –
It is raining, it’s nine o’clock in the morning, and I’ve taken all the pictures off the walls like that nice Mr. Hughes at UTC asked me to.
I do like the rain, I like to stand in it and close my eyes, feel it on my face and on my bare hands and arms.
I’d been doing that at eight thirty whilst my tea was brewing, when I’d heard the phone ring.
“Good morning, is that Mr. Gordon Smith?”
“Yes, who’s calling?”
“It’s Roger Hughes, I’m calling from Universal Time Control.”
“Who?”
“Well, it’s all rather hush-hush, but people think time’s a simple matter, running in one direction at an even pace.”
“Er, well, doesn’t it?!”
“Actually, no! It’s more a case of millions of ‘time bubbles,’ ‘temporal capsules,’ as we, er, boffins call them. Sometimes they can go out of sync.”
I really wanted to go and stand in the rain again.
“So, your ‘bubble’ is running about twenty minutes fast. You think it’s eight thirty but it’s actually ten past eight!”
“Oh, well, how would I know?”
“Well, you’d only notice it if you crossed into a normal bubble, then suddenly, you’d find your watch would be twenty minutes faster than everyone else’s.”
“How big are these bubbles then?”
“Ah, well, that depends. Some are tiny, some are enormous, and they fluctuate in size too! Anyway, we can reset you at nine, the real nine! There might be a bit of vibration so to be on the safe side, just make sure pictures, vases etc. are secure, there’s a good fellow.”
It is raining again and the sun’s playing hide and seek. There’s a beautiful rainbow and I’m sitting under a patio umbrella, thinking about time. Just to check, not that I disbelieved Mr. Hughes you understand, but just, you know, to be sure, I’d put the television on. If that was being broadcast from a different ‘bubble’ then surely it couldn’t pass into mine twenty minutes early?!
Well, the local station announced nine o’clock when my watch said nine, then I looked at the BBC and that said the same. Well, just as I was thinking the whole thing was an elaborate practical joke, I looked on the internet, and at a news program in Buenos Aires, and, blow me, their time WAS twenty minutes ahead of ours! Taking the normal time difference into account, of course.
It is raining and I’m dancing in it!
Well, bang on nine twenty the whole house had quivered, very briefly, like a stiff jelly given a quick flick. I’d looked at my watch and, blow me, it had jumped back twenty minutes. This time stuff was bloomin’ confusing!

So, everything, was back to normal. With just one exception. Before I’d been ‘reset,’ I’d made a quick phone call to my sister in Melbourne with some info gleaned from the internet. She’d just had time to buy a lottery ticket that couldn’t lose!

 

—-

To purchase the stories (up to June 2017) in paperback, Kindle eBook, and audiobook form, please see Shop.

If you are interested in joining a fortnightly 400 word story group please contact me and I’ll send details.

Don’t forget to check out some of the other stories on the blog. There are over 200! 

Reviews of TCASSS

bestseller stack
My book, To Cut a Short Story Short: 111 Little Stories, was published on 1st June 2018. Whilst I can’t claim it has been a bestseller (if only!), I thought I’d share the three reviews it has attracted so far.
It is available in three formats: Kindle, paperback and audiobook. The paperback is attractive and very good quality, and the audiobook is read by Angus Freathy and is, I think, hugely enjoyable!
 –
Incidentally, there is a second volume due to be published at the end of 2018. That will be 88 stories. Whilst still generally under 1000 words, the stories are longer than the first volume, so even though there are fewer, the book will be half as big again as volume one, so due to be around 380 pages.
 –
 –
J.W. George
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding Stories
13 March 2018Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audiobook
 –

“To Cut a Short Story Short” is a collection of 111 short stories by author Simon J. Wood. As far as I can tell, this is the author’s debut work. The book (audiobook) is a remarkable quantity of short, intriguing tales that demonstrate a tremendous scope of story-telling skill. (The title is also quite clever, as there’s already a few variations of “To Cut a Long Story Short.”) The stories are brought to life by the phenomenal narrator, Angus Freathy.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I’m already a huge Angus Freathy fan, which is why I selected him to narrate my historical novels. Mr. Freathy is an absolutely superb voice actor. In addition to the classical British, Masterpiece Theater-esque gravitas he provides, he also demonstrates a very impressive array of accents and voices. His accents are wonderful in “A Friend in Need,” which takes the listener to a hot, sultry night in Rio. Across more than one hundred unique tales, the dialogue is crisp and distinctive. I don’t think Mr. Wood could have made a better choice for his narrator.

Mr. Wood’s stories, however, are equally excellent. Very short stories can be a tremendous challenge for an author, but he consistently rises to the occasion. In a span of a few minutes, he seizes the listener’s attention, and transports the listener to an intriguing setting with intriguing characters. Sometimes the tales are remarkably brief (like “The Majorette” or “What the Devil.”) “Caravan of Nightmares,” however, delivers the goods with over twenty-five minutes of content.

The author quickly establishes himself as a master story-teller, with each tale captivating the listener. Short stories (and very short stories) like this are part of a wonderful genre that is very easy to appreciate and enjoy. The genre works extremely well in the audiobook format, where listeners may want to immerse themselves in something from beginning to end in less than five minutes (perhaps during a car ride, or while running an errand).

Five stars to Simon J. Wood and “To Cut a Short Story Short.” Literature fans and audiobook fans will love these fascinating tales, with each one delightfully interpreted by an outstanding narrator.

Jane Muir
5.0 out of 5 stars A Truly Eclectic Collection

6 September 2017

Format: Kindle edition
 –
Simon J Wood has written a truly eclectic collection of short stories which take us on a sometimes off-beat journey through a variety of themes; with such diverse genres as science fiction, fantasy, and the supernatural, whilst others offer a helping of romance and humour.
Even the stories dealing with the everyday hold your attention as the writing is so beautifully descriptive that the characters and scenes jump off the page, becoming instantly real and identifiable.
I particularly enjoyed the humorous take on the afterlife in ‘Angels and Cards’ and the twist in the tale of ‘A Dartmoor Childhood’ and ‘Legless in the Park’, off-set by the unexpected poignancy of ‘I Don’t Know What to Write.’
Several of the stories had me laughing out loud, but others, such as the disturbingly chilling ‘Caravan of Nightmares’ left me with a decided feeling of unease….
A great book to dip into for a quick read, or read from cover to cover and travel the roller-coaster of genres in one go.
In conclusion, there is something here for everyone.
Jane Muir – author of Amazon e-book ‘That Feel-Good Factor’.
 –
 –
Andrew Truscott
5.0 out of 5 stars A very different kind of story book from Simon J Wood

10 September 2017

Format: Paperback
 –

What a clever and special idea! What could be better value than 111 stories in a single book, each one quite unique and equally intriguing. They are a snapshot of something bigger and they leave you wondering what went before and what happens after. Pick it up when you have a moment or, if you can, ration yourself to a couple a week, that way they will last all year. I intended to read the stories as an interlude between longer books but I found it difficult to put down.

—-

To purchase the stories (up to June 2017) in paperback, Kindle eBook, and audiobook form, please see Shop.

If you are interested in joining a fortnightly 400 word story group please contact me and I’ll send details.

Don’t forget to check out some of the other stories on the blog. There are over 200! 

 

The Final Crossing

choppy sea

(550 words)

 

Other times Justin Schneider would have stayed in his warm, lighted cabin, or mingled in the bar, but he’d needed some real air. He wanted to breath the sea breeze and feel alive. Out on the stern it was cold, wet and misty, and his companion’s words were suddenly drowned out by the gargantuan blare of a foghorn. The ferry bucked in the heavy sea and he held onto the handrail tightly, gazing down nervously at the green-black waves crashing below.
Justin had recognised his companion from the television. Mike Murphy, some kind of political figure, seen occasionally on tedious news clips about Ireland. A tall man with receding hair and a lean face, wearing a heavy charcoal overcoat, he’d been gazing fixedly out to sea, as if seeking answers to unsurmoutable problems.
In life, though, he seemed a different man, animated and imaginative. “Would you look at the waves now,” Murphy was saying. “The power of a wave, it’s something. 36 kilowatts of power potential per meter of wave crest!“
“But how would you harness the power of these waves, for example?” Justin asked, gesticulating downwards.
“Well, that’s for the Good Lord to tell us, and for the boffins to pay good heed to!” Murphy laughed. “But look how they’ve extracted gas and oil from the sea bed!” He winced as a spray of salty water splashed over them both. “And what, pray, brings you to this cold, damp spot, when you could be warm inside, watching the football on the big screen?”
“I don’t like football,” said Justin, “and … and there’s something else ….”
Murphy’s eyes gazed sympathetically at him, like a faithful dog’s. “Yes?”
He found himself opening up. “Well, it’s my dad, he always wanted to be buried at sea.” The ferry bucked again and Justin steadied himself. It was growing dark and starting to rain. “I have his ashes. Inside.” He gestured towards the lighted cabins.
“Now’s as good a time as any,” said Murphy.
“Well, I was hoping for some sunshine.”
Murphy pulled his overcoat tight against the wind. He had a persuasive, easy-going manner. “There’s no time like the present. Just wait for a lull in the wind.” He smiled.
Justin hesitated. Perhaps Murphy was right. He reasoned he could scatter the ashes in the presence of, well, a kind of celebrity. That would make a more memorable sending off. Perhaps Murphy would even say a prayer?
He went down the deck, balancing carefully against the rocking of the ferry. Inside he caught sight of a television screen, stopping him dead in his tracks. A group of football fans sat watching a news bulletin featuring a shockingly familiar face. He opened the door and listened, stunned. “… and it’s been announced that councillor Michael Murphy is being sought for questioning into the murder of a catholic, Father Patrick O’Connor in 1975 ….”
The football match resumed to a cheer and the swill of beer. He retraced his steps to the deck. At least he owed it to Murphy to let him know, Justin thought. As he battled through the rain and the gloom towards the stern, he saw something dark on the deck. A heavy black overcoat, lying on the wet planks, empty sleeves blowing in the wind like a priest’s supplicating arms, but its occupant … gone.

—-

To purchase the stories (up to June 2017) in paperback, Kindle eBook, and audiobook form, please see Shop.

If you are interested in joining a fortnightly 400 word story group please contact me and I’ll send details.

Don’t forget to check out some of the other stories on the blog. There are over 200! 

Brother, Oh, Brother!

westmalle-brewery-leadedwindow-2_1024x683

(650 words)

Other nights I’d have stayed in, watching the telly, or gone shopping at Tesco’s, but tonight there was a play on at the village hall, Brother, Oh, Brother! a farce set in a monastery, of all places. Anyway, I thought a trip to Tesco’s could wait till tomorrow. Why not have a laugh, instead of listening to a load of drab, sour-faced, overweight women arguing with the checkout operator?
So I found myself seated on one of four rows of chairs, about half occupied. I looked round and nodded to people I recognised, embarrassed not to know their names when one or two greeted me by mine. But there, thank God, was old Jack Hargreaves, a bit of a bore about his bloody beehives, but at least a friendly, recognisable face. He came over.
“Hello, John, good to see you. Not seen you at one of these before.”
“Oh, er, no, I was, … er, busy, the last time.”
“I think you’ll enjoy this one, the last one was written by the same guys. It was really funny. The Great Village Bake Off!” He chuckled at the memory. “Oh well, mustn’t gas any more. If you’ll excuse me, I’ll sit with Fanny or I’ll be in trouble.” He winked and walked several chairs away to join his large, white-haired wife.
I took a seat next to a sallow-faced fellow of unshaven appearance. He smelt a bit too. I noticed a large holdall under his chair. I was debating whether to move, when lights came on above an area which had been converted into an imaginative stage, depicting a brewery-type scene. A rotund bald-headed man, dressed in a monk’s habit, appeared. “Brother Paul, Brother Paul,” he called.
Another monk appeared from behind a backdrop of a wall, composed of large pink monastery-type bricks. “Yes, Brother Derek?”
“Well, Brother Paul, I need some advice. Is it proper for a member of the brethren to use e-mail?”
Brother Paul smiled. “Yes, brother, as long as there are no attachments!”
The audience laughed politely. Outside, in the distance, I could hear sirens.
“I say, Brother Derek, do you have change for a ten pound note?” asked Brother Paul.
Brother Derek shook his head solemnly. “Change comes from within, brother!”
More polite laughter. The sirens sounded louder and I noticed the fellow next to me was sweating profusely and fidgeting. Suddenly he jumped up, opened his holdall and pulled out a shotgun. “All right everybody, hands up, I’m taking you all hostage!”

 

I could see what looked like bundles of banknotes in the holdall. We all laughed. The two ‘brothers’ looked nonplussed.
“Up against the wall, the lot of you. NOW! You monkeys too!” He gestured towards the ‘monks’ with the shotgun, his finger itching on the trigger. I began to feel very nervous. Surely, this couldn’t be part of the play?
There were flashing blue lights outside now and I acted instinctively, recognising the style of gun and noticing the safety catch was on. I grasped the barrel with both hands and his surprise was palpable. Beady narrow yellow eyes glared into mine with hatred. Then there was an ear-shattering explosion, the gun jerked in my hands, and a huge hole appeared in part of the ‘monastery wall.’
The door burst open and the place was filled with yellow-jacketed officers. “Armed police, nobody move!”
The man dropped the discharged gun and raised his hands. He was quickly handcuffed and led away.
A tall, authoritative figure came forward. “I’m Inspector Andrews. I’m sorry ladies and gentleman, but the show must not go on.” He smiled whimsically. “And you, sir,” looking at my shaking hands, “that was brave and, if I may say so, extremely foolish!”
“Oh, yes, er, sorry.”
He turned away, organising bustling officers.
I guessed maybe I’d been wrong about the safety catch.

—-

To purchase the stories (up to June 2017) in paperback, Kindle eBook, and audiobook form, please see Shop.

If you are interested in joining a fortnightly 400 word story group please contact me and I’ll send details.

Don’t forget to check out some of the other stories on the blog. There are over 200! 

The Optimist Creed

pathway of roses 2

 

I Promise Myself …

• To be so strong that nothing can disturb my peace of mind.

• To talk health, happiness, and prosperity to every person I meet.

• To make all my friends feel that there is something in them.

• To look at the sunny side of everything and make my optimism come true.

• To think only of the best, to work only for the best, and to expect only the best.

• To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as I am about my own.

• To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future.

• To wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give every living creature I meet a smile.

• To give so much time to the improvement of myself that I have no time to criticize others.

• To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.

• To think well of myself and to proclaim this fact to the world, not in loud words, but in great deeds.

• To live in the faith that the whole world is on my side, so long as I am true to the best that is in me.

 

 

The Optimist Creed by Christian D. Larson (1912)

Return of the Gnome

800px-German_garden_gnome

(1000 words)

9.00

So it’s nine in the morning and I’m on my first call, a pickup from The Admiral Derek in Castlehorn, driving to Lincoln. I pull up outside. No sign of anyone. I get out of the taxi and enter the hallowed doors of the hotel. Claude, the doorman greets me. “Good morning, John, here for a pickup?”
“Yes, a Mr. Evans-Smith.”

 

Claude rolls his eyes. “I’ll just call him.” The long gold-braided red coat and smart cap disappear down a corridor.
Shortly, a young man appears. He wears a black suit, white shirt and red tie. His hair is light brown and is swept back and brylcreemed. He sports a thin pencil moustache. “Oh, I say, you must be the taxi fellah!”
Taken aback, I nod. “Yes, that’s right. Thalham cabs. Should we go?”
He smiles an odd smile. “Oh, it’s not for me. I want you to take something to Lincoln museum. They’re expecting it, don’t you know.”
“Oh, they didn’t tell me. It’ll still be full price, £45, including my return journey.”
“By Jove, that’s a bit steep! Still, needs must.”
 –

10.00

So here I am, driving into Lincoln, a garden gnome sporting a blue tunic and tall conical red hat sitting on the passenger seat beside me. Mr. Evans-Smith had been very particular about that. “Don’t put him in the boot. I’m paying a passenger fare and he must be treated as such. He’s to sit in the front passenger seat at all times!”
I pull up, self-consciously, at a pedestrian crossing in the old town. Two teenaged girls cross. Suddenly one spies the gnome. She points it out to her friend.
“Oi, haven’t you got no gnome to go to?” her friend shouts and they both roar with laughter.
As I drive off the first one jiggles her large breasts together and pouts her red lipsticked-lips at me. Silly tart! And she only looks about fifteen!
Suddenly I see a man waving frantically at me, stepping into the road ahead. He is middle-aged and well dressed in a smart grey suit. For once there is no car behind so I pull up and wind the window down.
He gives me an odd look when he sees the gnome but carries on. “Can you take me to Riverside Road, it’s, um, urgent. I called a taxi and it hasn’t turned up!”
Well, I manage to keep a straight face. “Riverside Road?” I say, all innocent-like. “Sure, hop in. I’ll just put my little friend on the back seat!”
I’m not actually liscenced to pick anyone up out of my area but what the hell? It’s clear he’s not short of a few bob. I’m assuming he’s off to ‘Elsie’s,’ the town’s best known ‘house of ill repute.’
I pick up the gnome. He has a grey beard and a curiously pale face. I notice a small chip in his hat. His little black eyes gaze vacantly at me as I dump him unceremoniously on the back seat.
 –

11.00

I’m sitting by the river at The Old Barge, drinking a pint of shandy and wondering what the hell to do. I still can’t believe it. I dropped my gent at Elsie’s, it was indeed where he was headed – and where he was no doubt relishing the pleasures of the flesh at this very moment – and pocketed a tenner for a ten minute drive, including a handsome tip. Easy money!
Then I thought I should put my little passenger back in his rightful place. Who knows, maybe a member of the museum staff might observe me arriving and report back to Mr. Evans-Smith, who might phone my boss. You never know.
Well, blow me, the back seat was empty! I searched frantically but nada, the gnome had disappeared, gone, vanished – seemingly into thin air!
 –

15.00

Well, I’m back on the rank at Castlehorn, feeling happier. I couldn’t understand what had happened to the gnome. It seemed impossible that my passenger could have somehow taken it off the back seat without me noticing. Anyway, I did the only thing I could think of. Drove out to the nearest garden centre and bought another gnome! As similar to the missing one as I could find.
I thought I’d be rumbled at the museum but a young man with a spotty face and huge thick-lensed glasses took it without showing any interest. Fortunately!
Apparently it was just to brighten up a display, celebrating the discovery of a hoard of gold coins, unearthed during a catastrophic flood fifty years ago this month. There were several gnomes there, in varying colours and stances, standing around on a model riverbank in a huge glass case, with the coins displayed on a blue velvet panel behind them.
I couldn’t understand the logic of me bringing one twenty five miles but I had been well paid for it, so why worry?
 –

23.00

I’m watching the telly with a glass of cold Pilsner Urquell to hand. Fortunately there’d been no repercussions over the ‘replacement gnome,’ from either the museum or Mr. Evans-Smith, so far anyway, touch wood. I’d been kept busy with fares all afternoon so I’m tired and ready for my bed. I’m hoping my dreams will be ‘gnome-free’ !
 –

08.45

Well, I’m on the point of leaving for work when there’s a knock at the door. A bit early for the postman in these parts, I think, but open the door to see – no one! Kids messing about probably. Then I look down and jump. There is a little blue-vested, red-hatted figure.
I pick it up and gasp with astonishment. I recognise the chip in the hat. But above his now-ruddy cheeks, the black eyes twinkle mischievously.
Well, there’s only one thing to do. I march into the back garden and give him pride of place at the little pond there. I’d never realised how much it needed a garden gnome!

—-

To purchase the stories (up to June 2017) in paperback, Kindle eBook, and audiobook form, please see Shop.

If you are interested in joining a fortnightly 400 word story group please contact me and I’ll send details.

Don’t forget to check out some of the other stories on the blog. There are over 200! 

Simon’s Lamb and Vegetable Madras Curry

 
cury
(575 words + ingredients)
And now for something completely different ….
Welcome back to my blog, and this week to one of my favourite recipes. The word ‘curry’ was adopted and anglicized from the Tamil word kari, meaning ‘sauce’ and the first recipe in English for an Indian-style curry is reputed to have appeared in the 1774 edition of Hannah Glasse’s The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy.
This is a delicious, easy-to-make version, ‘of my own devising,’ using both minced and whole lamb! 
 
Start by slicing a couple of onions and fry for five to ten minutes, then add chopped, crushed garlic to taste, and fry for a further five minutes. I like to use about six cloves. Someone told me I could use chopped onion from a jar and garlic paste, but watering eyes and stinky hands are part of cooking for me, and I just love the smell of them frying! I like to use virgin olive oil, but you can use any oil or ghee
 
Then brown 250g of minced lamb and about the same amount of chopped lamb. Add a WHOLE jar of Patak’s Madras curry paste (283g), two tins of plum tomatoes (breaking the tomatoes up a bit) and a squirt of tomato paste. I’ll also add a stock cube or two here, lamb if I can get it, otherwise beef. Add about a tinful of water, the onions and garlic and put the meat to simmer for 45 minutes.
 
I like to add additional spices, as there is a lot of meat and vegetables to flavour, so I’ll put a heaped teaspoonful or two of whatever takes my fancy onto a saucer – ground cumin, paprika, coriander etc. and about four to six heaped teaspoonfuls of hot chilli powder – to create a spicy mix.
 
Fry the spices in oil for a few minutes, then add to the meat and stir well. Add in a few bay leaves and some cardamom pods, bearing in mind that not everyone likes spitting out the inedible pods!
 
There’s nothing I like more in a curry than juicy cauliflower, so chop half to three quarters of a medium cauli into small florets and add to the mix once the 45 minutes are up. Then peel and chop three medium carrots and add. Finally, peel two to three medium spuds, chop and add. I’ve found by doing the veggies in this order they will be equally cooked. By this stage there is a lot of food so I divide it into two pans. I don’t usually find it necessary to add more water (and it can always be added after cooking) but you can add a little more as required.
 
Let the curry simmer for a further 30-45 minutes, adding four medium chopped tomatoes after 15 minutes. Then test to see if the cauliflower is tender but still al dente, and that the other vegetables are also cooked. Towards the end of the cooking throw in a couple of handfuls of frozen peas. Finally, check the spiciness and add a teaspoonful or two of crushed chillis to [lip-numbing] taste!
 
That’s it. Serve with basmati rice, chopped fresh coriander, yoghurt, diced fresh tomato and cucumber, lime pickle, mango chutney, or whatever takes your fancy. And for those with hollow legs, or if you’ve a horde to feed, add a selection of poppadoms, naan breads, puris, and chapatis. Serves eight to ten and freezes beautifully. Enjoy!
Ingredients
2 onions
1-6 garlic cloves
250g minced lamb
250g diced lamb
2 tins plum tomatoes
I tbsp tomato puree
I jar (283g) Patak’s Madras curry paste
1-2 stock cubes, lamb or beef
1-6 bay leaves
1 medium cauliflower
3 medium carrots
2-3 medium potatoes
4 medium tomatoes
1 cup frozen peas
optional
1-2 tsp ground cumin
1-2 tsp ground paprika
1-2 tsp ground coriander
1-4 tsp hot chilli powder
1-2 tsp crushed chilli
6-12 cardomom pods
fresh coriander leaves (garnish)
(I use heaped teaspoonfuls)
Note: this article was originally published on 26th Mar 2018 (as a page, not a post) on Community Pool. Here is a link to the original [slightly shorter] article (with comments):
And to where it originally appeared (with comments):

Where’s Superman When He’s Needed?

superman-reeve

(600 words)

Monday

Took the coach to Skegness with mother. I loathe the place, all crowded streets, tacky ‘souvenir’ shops and the ubiquitous smell of frying, but she wanted a day out. The tide was in, so the beach wasn’t wide. We sat on the sand in an area of large black boulders. I think they’re to stop erosion. She read her latest book-circle title, Superman – A Retrospective. l listened to Tommy Bolin’s Teaser, the brilliant legacy of another heroin ‘victim.’ What a waste.

There was some sort of mist that made our eyes sting. We came back early. Others on the coach complaining about it. One lady’s eyes were red and streaming, other people were coughing.

Tuesday

My eyes felt sore today. Mother complained too. Read on the internet that hundreds affected. People told to keep away from Skegness and other places along the coast. Authorities haven’t a clue what’s going on. A chemical ‘spill’ at sea the most likely culprit, apparently.

Wednesday

Well, the ‘mist problem’ seems to have got worse. It’s now affecting the whole coastal area, people being told to stay indoors whilst the authorities find out what’s going on. My eyes are OK now but mother coughing a lot. I told her to see the doc, but she says she ‘doesn’t want to be a nuisance’! She seems confused, talking about Christopher Reeve as if he’s a close personal friend! Dementia is cruel.

Thursday

This thing is serious! Sky’s even changed the headline from ‘Mystery Mist’ to ‘Killer Fog,’ on account of the number of car crashes there’ve been. It’s affecting the whole East Midlands coast, and has come up to fifty miles inland. Authorities say they ‘are working on identifying the problem.’ Tossers!

Friday

Well, the fog’s reached us here in Welby. You can’t see anything out of the windows and it’s impossible to drive. You can’t have the headlights on – too much reflection – and you have to keep the windows closed. Mother’s saying that Superman will sort it out. She’s gone completely doolally, poor old soul!

Saturday

Donna called round on horseback – with gas masks! Seems she’d bought a ‘his ‘n’ hers’ set of WW2 gas masks at auction a few years ago and found they’re still OK. Amazing!

She’d brought Jamjar on a tether. I hadn’t ridden for years but he’s a gentle soul. The horses’ eyes don’t seem affected but they’re a bit spooked by this bloody fog. We rode into town to try to get some bread and milk. It was so weird riding down the high street. You couldn’t see the shops until a few feet away and it was deathly quiet. All closed, but the Co-op windows had been broken. All the fresh stuff had been looted but we found some dried milk and Ryvita.

I managed to bring back a boxload of CDs, well if I hadn’t taken them, someone else would’ve. A mixed bag, including some ancient stuff. Been listening to the Beach Boys’ Surfin’ U.S.A. Still sounds so good, but don’t think there’ll be much surfing going on around here for a while.

Sunday

PM on the telly saying there’s no need for panic. Silly cow, she should come out here! The source of the fog’s still unknown, but they’re now saying it might be some kind of chemical warfare. Great! It could be the Russians, the Chinese, or even North Korea, not that it makes much difference. It’s reached the East End now though, so everyone is finally taking it seriously. Mother’s still asking if Superman is coming to the rescue. If only!

—-

To purchase the stories (up to June 2017) in paperback, Kindle eBook, and audiobook form, please see Shop.

If you are interested in joining a fortnightly 400 word story group please contact me and I’ll send details.

Don’t forget to check out some of the other stories on the blog. There are over 200! 

Salmon and Soul

salmon21

(1200 words)

Tunsgate Green stood, thinking of Ruth, back in the cottage, typing away at her wretched manuscript. Some romantic nonsense, mainly to make up for the total lack of it in their lives, he imagined. Once she’d been young, vivacious, sexy even. He snorted. Hard to imagine that now! Their love life currently resembled this salt marsh – dead flat.
He gazed over the dry beige marshland to the distant level horizon, the faintest deep blue ribbon set against the pale blue sky indicating the start of the North Sea, next stop the fjords and islands of western Norway, 400 miles away.
They’d come to Stiffkey, on the Norfolk coast, to try to rekindle something of their relationship, but with Ruth immersed in her fictional romantic world, and him stalking the lonely marshes and empty beaches, they rarely seemed to meet when one or the other wasn’t tired. She could be irritatingly churlish too, which didn’t help, and he probably wasn’t much better, he admitted.
He missed Shiva, his black labrador and companion of the last twelve years. She’d developed stomach cancer and had to be put to sleep six weeks earlier. Ruth had made sympathetic noises, but she didn’t really care. He’d been devastated. He realised he still was, as tears came to his eyes at the thought.
A gentle cool breeze ruffled the stubby coarse grass. It was warm and he felt sweaty, even though he’d not walked fast. Out there he knew appearances could be deceptive. Salt water lurked under the soil, always eager for a victim, perhaps an overzealous dog, or even a careless walker. At night, spirits of footpads and pirates were said to roam the endless flat landscape, damned to do so by virtue of their heinous deeds in life.
He walked back alongside a creek of bright blue water. The soil was exposed here, clay-brown, but dry from the heat of summer. There was no sign of modern life, no fences, telegraph poles, nothing. Just this ancient path, scuffed by centuries of wayfarers.
Coming into the village he encountered the Stiffkey Stores. A pale-red pitched roof surmounted walls made from small stones, some grey, some black, cemented together somehow. A faded blue awning, stained green with moss, overhung a dark curtainless window. In front of the store stood a trailer full of pots of colourful flowers. Someone had recently given it a lick of fresh grey paint.
He pushed the door open and a bell rang. To the left was an old brown wooden counter with an ancient till at the near end. Shelves on the far wall contained tins of soup, loaves of white bread, bags of sugar and the like. Against the wall to the right was a stand containing potatoes with soil on them, large, almost-fluorescent orange carrots, huge cauliflowers, and other vegetables and fruit.
“Hello.” A young woman behind the counter, dressed in an enormous thick bottle-green turtle neck pullover, smiled brightly. She had shoulder length blonde hair, and an attractive, tanned face, unadorned by make up. On the counter in front of her lay a salmon. Its scales held shades of purple and red. Freshly caught, he surmised.
“Hello,” he said, surprised. He’d met old Mr. Blush on his one previous visit to buy some stamps. “Did you catch that yourself?” he found himself asking.
“No, I created it!” She laughed a warm laugh, showing perfect white teeth. “What’s your name?”
“Oh, it’s, … don’t laugh. Tunsgate! Apparently I was conceived there. My mother never knew my father’s name. What’s yours?”
“She smiled, it’s Nancy, but you know me as Calluna … in the other place.”
He began to wonder if she was all right in the head. She seemed somehow familiar though, and exuded an aura of friendship. “What do you mean, you created this salmon?!”
She stood up and smoothed the green wool down over her breasts. She laughed her warm laugh again. “There are four of us, you – Arthemis, that’s what you’re called, me, Nathum and Senji. Our guide and teacher is Shato. He sometimes comes to us as an Irish leprechaun, other times as a beautiful young woman! Your ego-mind doesn’t remember, but inside, deep inside, your superconscious mind, the mind of your soul, remembers very well!”
Something in what she was saying rang a distant, faint bell. “I … er, I don’t know. It’s interesting what you’re saying but ….”
She came out from behind the counter and he noticed she had one pale blue eye, and one jade green eye. He felt a jolt of recognition. His imagination though, surely?
“We were on what we call Earth Two, a ‘practice world.’ Now we are at level three we can practise, with Shato’s help, channelling energy to make things. At first small pebbles and rocks, then plants, then … fish!” She laughed. “It took a long time. Many, many, many lifetimes!”
She approached and put her arms around him. Tunsgate closed his eyes, hugging her back. Yes, he knew her. Deep inside. He could feel the love of a soul mate emanating from her. Then she broke away. “I have to close the shop now.” She wrapped the salmon in greaseproof paper and put it in a brown paper bag. “Here, a present from Calluna!”
“What did you do?” asked Ruth. She was in the small kitchen, pouring boiling water into a large blue china teapot. He enjoyed the familiar, fragrant smell.
“Oh, just walked along the coastal path. I miss Shiva.”
“I know, darling, she was a lovely dog.” She came over and, to his astonishment, hugged him, kissing him on the cheek. He couldn’t remember the last time she’d done that.
He continued, “I called into the store. There was an amazing young woman there. Said she knew me from a previous life!” He felt embarrassed.
Ruth laughed. “I wonder who that was, there’s only old Mr. and Mrs. Blush run the store.”
“She was about twenty-five, blonde hair, attractive. She gave me this salmon!”
“Oh, that’d be from the salmon farm just down the coast. They’ve got a son. He works there. There’s no daughter though. Well ….”
“Well what?”
Ruth poured strong brown tea into two blue enamelled mugs and splashed in milk from a carton. “Well there was a daughter. Old Mrs. Blush told me the girl used to ride a horse along the coast. One day, about ten years ago, she went out and neither she nor the horse ever came back.”
“That’s terrible!”
“Yes, some said the horse was a water kelpie and had taken her back to the sea. More likely they went onto the marsh and just got swallowed up, poor girl. Her name was Nancy.”
He started. “Nancy. That was the name of the girl in the shop!”
Ruth looked up. Her lips were glossy and he noticed she’d applied some powder to her normally pale cheeks. “Old Mrs. Blush told me Nancy had an unusual characteristic … she had one blue eye …
“… and one green,” he said.
Ruth looked into her mug. “Truth can be stranger than fiction … sometimes.”
“I suppose so.”

She smiled. “Look, let’s drink our tea, then ….” She nodded towards the bedroom door.

To purchase the stories (up to June 2017) in paperback, Kindle eBook, and audiobook form, please see Shop.

If you are interested in joining a fortnightly 400 word story group please contact me and I’ll send details.

Don’t forget to check out some of the other stories on the blog. There are over 180!