The Bump – by John Barber


He was incandescent. How could we have taken precautions all those years and now when we want to start a family, nothing? Eleven bloody years it’s been, how unfair is that?

They had almost given up hope of ever having their own family. The consultant said give it one last try. The notes said, ‘The only cure for her condition is to get pregnant’, but quite frankly he thought this most unlikely.

When the bump arrived, only then did they really believe their family was on the way. Each morning they would lie in bed with their first drink of the day and marvel at its growth. Each would rub their hands over its smoothness, feeling the skin as it tightened and he would put his ear to it in the hope of hearing a sound, “Hi dad, I’m here, soon be out.”

There was no real sound he could discern, just gurgling, probably food being digested but they told themselves it was more. As much as he wanted to hear the little mite’s heart-beat he had a fear that it would seem irregular and put him in a panic. In the end he stopped listening, after all she couldn’t and it did seem a bit unfair.

Then the morning arrived. She had felt the first movement in the night, just a flutter but definitely not wind. She told him excitedly over the first coffee and they settled down to feel those first tentative movements. He immediately felt the bonding with this tiny creature blossom as his hand perceived a foot or a hand or a buttock push against her skin.

He squeezed her hand and turning to her smiled a sort of well done, you did it. They kissed gently and delicately. It had been a moment such as this that had led to the making of this tiny creature.

The Rose – by John Barber

It was my sister’s idea. She had always been the gardener in the family and her speciality had been roses. Her garden was full of them in every shape and colour you might imagine. Never being one for flowers, vegetables were my thing, I had asked her what the fascination was.

They are so beautiful – almost perfect,” she said. “Their colours so delicate, yet so vivid and their shapes more varied than most other flower. I like the waxiness of the stems, yet so smooth, and how they defend themselves with those lethal thorns – against what though I am not quite sure. No matter what time of the year it is there always seems to be a rose in bloom.”

Do you have a favourite?” I asked.

Yes, it’s a delicate peach coloured rose with yellow petals tipped with red, just like a peach as it ripens. Its buds before they open are shaped like a champagne flute.”

Come on,” she said. She showed me some growing in a special place in her garden, a sort of shrine to our mother who had died when we were both young.

I wanted you to come and see this, I hope you like it. I had it specially bred and I have named it after her and planted some in her final resting place. I didn’t ask but I knew you would approve.”

It’s a lovely gesture,” I said. “Of course I do.”

We stood in silence holding hands for a few minutes. “Come on,” she said, “…let’s go and have some lunch.”

Creation Myth – by Richard Ince

Now listen children… in the beginning there were lots and lots of individual minds floating around like bubbles. Each mind knew only itself. It spent its days unaware of the others, and with no effort it could visualise colours and shapes, which merged into things which it could not understand.

One day there was a violent explosion. Suddenly all the minds were aware of each other. They could hear their thoughts, they had strange feelings and they could speak to each other. So for millions of years they conversed and all their individual wisdom was merged. There was no anger and no hate – until the Big Bang.

After this came the Big Change, bringing new unpleasant feelings of anger and jealousy, and arguments. What is more, the minds discovered new powers. They could create other beings, just like the ones they had visualised in the past, and they could invent lands for these creatures to inhabit. These creatures had tiny brains. The fiercest ate the slightly less fierce, and so on down to the weakest. The minds grew bored after another few million years and they argued about what to do next. They created disease to kill most of the creatures they had made, and after that they made a new species with larger brains.

The minds competed with each to create different tribes – fear and hunger, avarice and vice, and all the bad feelings. Eventually, this creation reached the bottom of the pit, its lowest level, and there we have the human race in 2017.

The Alarm Clock – by Emma Tringham

The alarm clock hasn’t been waking me up for the past few weeks. At the moment I can’t bear it. That piercing, incessant beeping is far too cold and cruel for me right now. With this thick blanket of depression enclosing me, waking up has to be a very slow, long-drawn-out process, wrenching myself from dreams and beginning to face the horror of reality. At the moment sleep is the perfect escape for me, when it finally comes. I finally manage to drown out the bad thoughts, reading and reading and reading, taking myself into the stories, into the poetry. My consciousness scuds away – slips, slides and drops down into a warm, languid and surreal dream world which is wonderfully comforting.

I love to wallow in my dreams. My body slowly rouses and I half know that they are not real, that I am moving towards wakefulness, but then I dive back down into them and avoid the harsh frost of reality that is icing over the surface of my dream-pool, nipping at my consciousness. If I woke up suddenly, to the alarm, I would have to face the fierce, frightening world, and all my fears, regrets and failures. So I slip back into sleep and hope to wake again on another, better day.

The Alarm Clock – by John Barber

It rang, the great bell on the top dragging me from a deep slumber into a world I had no desire to be part of. I knew it was just 20 minutes before I had to leave for school. She hated me downstairs, the longer I was out of her sight, the better for both of us. I could smell the baby’s milk being heated ready for my cereal. What a cheap skate.

I had often thought about lagging the alarm clock. It’s ring was so harsh and I hated it when I was so deeply asleep. As years have gone on I’ve never come to like it. Now, with mobile phones, the sound of certain ring tones fills me with dread. I once missed an important meeting with my boss because the alarm went off an hour later than it should have. Since then the alarm always brings back that dreadful day.

I have now developed an internal alarm that I always try and use. I tell myself I need to be up by a certain time and keep repeating it before I go to sleep and so far it has not let me down.

I guess I will use this method until the day my internal alarm is no longer needed, due to an earlier scheduled meeting with my maker.

Reflecting on 2016 – by Richard Ince

2016 was a great year for me. I realised that I could still do something that I had wanted to do for years, but had never made an effort to achieve. I could make a fool of myself and put my shyness away. I didn’t have to behave in the accepted ways for my age.

And this wasn’t something I did on my own. It was due to comradeship and being part of a team – learning something new; listening to other people and explaining my feelings to them; writing discussing and acting. Also, the little quiet words of encouragement; the jokes; the feeling that we were working for each other.

Then the hours of repetition and tiredness, the big day drawing near. Then the fear: Will my voice dry up? God, I can’t remember where I should be standing!

Finally…. EXHILARATION!!!!

By the end of this year I will… – by Emma Tringham

By the end of this year I will be married. Hopefully. Pretty much definitely I’d say. Well… I’m married at the moment – decree nisi, waiting for absolute. So I suppose I’ve started the year as a married woman and hopefully I’ll end the year as one as well – just married to a different person!

A very different person really. A kind person, a selfless person, a loyal person, a loving person, a practical person, a calm person, a whole person. So what does that make my ex? Unkind, selfish, disloyal, unloving, impractical, stingy, angry and half a man – that about sums it up! Well… no… that sounds a bit cruel. I can only hope he isn’t like that now. And I do believe that he could display all the attributes of my current love; he just wasn’t like that with me! But I do think that some couples are just a bad fit, bring out the worst in each other. Maybe he’s learnt, developed, grown.

I don’t really want to spend too much time thinking about that though. I’m very happy to face forward. And to wonder at how great my life is now. Second chances are so special. A second chance at marriage is quite an exciting thing: a clean slate, another go… maybe I’ll get it right this time!

Of course it’s not really about getting things right. It’s just about the effort to keep trying, keep going, and the ability to find an equilibrium, a balance between the two of us to keep us buoyed. I think I know a bit more about that now – I’m older and wiser; hardly the blushing bride! No engagement ring this time. I don’t need thousands spent on a rock to dazzle all and sundry. This is a personal, private bond; it’s not about ostentation or fairy-tales. It’s about commitment and faith, loyalty and hard work. And I know we both share those values – those are the beliefs we’ll swear to, the creed we’re professing.

So I don’t need a manicure so that I can flash my left hand, and I’m not dreaming about ivory silk and Italian lace. But I am proud and excited. Not blushing but twinkling. By the end of this year I’ll be married. That’s pretty exciting!

2016 – by Alan Humphreys

2016 was a very complicated year for me. I had a message at the end of it, “Hope next year’s not so complicated.” I really don’t want it to be any more. That’s for sure.

It was hard. Bowie died and I lost Lindsay after 7 years. I played no music for 6 months. Then I had some quite extensive surgery (non-weight-bearing for three months). I had no opiates throughout the surgery but they insisted I leave with them. After about a month I relapsed with the loss and loneliness. The show just confused the shit out of me – certainly transformational and needed. Glad to be through it. Roll on 2017! I am excited about it and really looking forward.

Fire Love Lonely – by Alan Humphreys

I love sitting round the fire

It’s then that I never feel lonely

The crackling, spitting, licking flames

Warming; roastin’ me chestnuts.

He feels like an old friend –

Whom I can tend, nurture, build, rebuild…

And return to

Time and time again.

Always there, solid, awaiting my attention

Ready to spring into life with the purpose of rewarding me.

I feel that warmth seeping through to my marrow

This inner glow that you encourage deep within me.

How can I feel lonely when your intense warmth seeps through?

I love sitting round the fire.

And you love it when I sit here.