Posts

Footing the bill

Image
I knew it was a mistake to have a hire car in India.  As we left Delhi airport, it was like finding myself in a video game. Cars sped past, ignoring traffic lights and speed limits as Gerry swerved to avoid the rickshaws and tuk-tuks and people. ‘Ten points for a beggar,’ shouted Gerry, oblivious to any danger. I tightened my seatbelt. ‘Slow down, you'll hit someone.’ When a passing ox forced the traffic to a halt, a man, or rather a walking skeleton, tapped on my window. He held out a filth-encrusted hand, his words inaudible against the traffic's roar. ‘Keep your window up, Angela,’ said Gerry. ‘Hopefully, we'll be out of this jam soon. Absolute maniacs.’ Eventually, the traffic thinned, and skyscrapers and office blocks became fields and ramshackle dwellings. Gerry parked up at small cafĂ©. ‘How are you feeling?’ he asked. ‘You look pale. Have you tested your sugar lately?’ ‘Bloody diabetes. I'm ok, I just need a Pepsi. How far to Agra?’ ‘Another 30

Rest in peace

Image
Grandad’s photo clattered off the back of the  mantlepiece as Julie and David watched Strictly  Come   Dancing . The frame glanced off their boxer,  Alfonso, who woke up with a loud woof and  lumbered towards the kitchen in search of biscuits. ‘How on earth did that happen?’ said David. ‘Shh,’ snapped Julie, who was lying sprawled across the sofa in her onesie. ‘The scores are in.’ David got up from his armchair and picked the photograph up from the rug. ‘Lucky the glass didn’t break. Really odd. It’s never done that before.’ ‘It’ll be a vibration from the lorries outside. Move out the way; it's Anton Du Beke.’ ‘Anton Du Lally, more like.’ The Viennese waltz was drowned out by a crash in the upstairs bathroom. This time, even Julie looked up. ‘That can’t be a lorry’ said David pulling on his slippers.’ I’ll go and have a look.’ He returned a few minutes later. ‘Well, there's a funny thing. The shaving set your Grandad bought me for my fiftieth was ly

The Violinist

Image
Stravinsky, Shubert and Tchaikovsky. Jacob's violin honoured their memory in the cold street for an hour. Perfect pitch, not a single note missed, not a semibreve off-key. Beads of sweat peppered his collar despite the chill. His concentration never wavered; the intensity of sound heightened by a sense of sweet revenge, edging closer with every sweep of his bow. Catgut, metal, horsehair and wood. Sticky resin irritating his skin, yet on he played until the last strains of the Shubert melody died away. On the final note, the metal e-string snapped and recoiled like a spring. Pain seared through his fingers as the string curled around the violin’s neck. Always the e-string. In the distance, Big Ben struck seven O’clock. Jacob bent down, inspecting the empty fedora hat at his feet. The commuters of London showed no love for his music, but he played for himself, not for them. His violin returned to its case; Jacob walked the short distance to the Cellar bar he had chosen

Snapshot of the Calais jungle

Image
Joram's eyes flicked open as a rat’s sharp teeth bit into his leg. At 2am, the Calais Jungle held terrors both real and imagined, but there was no mistaking the searing pain. Joram slammed his fist down on the rat's head and winced as its skull cracked. Fumbling for his torch, the rat still attached, he shone the dull beam of light, pulled apart its jaws and threw it in the corner of the shack. Hasan was still sleeping, and Joram noticed a gathering pool of water next to his son’s pillow. He would scavenge some tarpaulin in the morning after he had taken Hasan to his makeshift school. At 8am, he and Hasan joined the breakfast queue in the aid workers tent. Most days they had bread and jam, on rare occasions a croissant. Calais was a dump, but at least they wouldn't starve. The Jungle was a melting pot of nationalities and languages, united by the dream of a better future. If Joram could get regular work, he would smuggle himself and Hasan over to England, although i

Mad Annie

Image
I could still hear her shouting above the screech of the brakes.  I stamped down hard and the car kangarooed to a halt only inches in front of her. ‘Keep out,’ she screamed ‘We don’t want strangers in our village. Go away.’ ‘Connor, are you ok?' I called out to my son, who was sitting in the back seat. ‘Are you hurt?’ ‘No Mummy,’ he replied. ‘Did you hit her with the car?’ ‘No just missed her, stupid old fool.’ The woman certainly looked crazy, judging by her voluminous black dress that looked two sizes too big for her. She was wizened and ancient, like something out of Hammer Horror. A battered top hat sat crooked on her head, and a cascade of grey hair spilt out from underneath it. She was carrying an old-fashioned birdcage and inside, a pair of dead crows lay sideways on top of each other. Their pointy black beaks protruded through the bars, and two pairs of dead eyes stared back at me.  The woman hobbled around to the windows at the back and peered in at Connor. ‘Is t