Monday, 25 May 2015


Now I sit, absorbing the serrated edges of the Jazz orchestra's 
syncopated rhythms rising to a crescendo while I look back over my 
journal, letting go of the present by looking to the past. I was so much
 older then, so fixed in my assumptions that this was how a grown up 
should behave, forever playing the role to a shifting audience. Thank 
God I escaped that trap, that charade. I can see now that I had been 
stuck, cradling the hummingbird in the cage of my soul, placating its 
ruffled feathers for fear of being discovered. I had been afraid of 
being different, afraid of the judgements others would mete out if they 
saw my true feelings, heard my true voice, my likes my dislikes. I had 
felt too small and vulnerable under the gaze of my peers. It was more 
important to fit the mould that they could be comfortable with. No 
longer, thank the Lord, what you gain with age is indeed wisdom (if of 
course you choose to listen to it). I am more free now than I ever was 
as an invincible young adult with the world at my feet. Hah, how was it 
that my twenties gave birth to such arrogance! I would not dream of 
being young again if spooning myself back into someone else's mould was 
the price to pay. But things were different then.
         We had met at one of those unplanned flat parties that seemed to 
happen spontaneously, everyone arriving from the cool night air as if by 
osmosis and then being caught by the one way membrane of alcohol and 
music.  I saw his smile appear in my memory first, like that of the 
Cheshire Cat, the rest of his face, his body swimming into focus after. 
He was holding out a shot glass to me.
        "What is it?" I asked, by way of introduction, not really caring 
about anything more than having caught his attention.

        "A little kiss of citrus for your tongue." He put the glass to 
my lips and salt mingled with fumes on my palate. As the fire spread he 
planted that first bitter lime kiss on me and all I wanted was to be 
swallowed by those flames.
          Bang. The journal falls from my 
knees to the floor and I lose my grip on the past. My previous life 
fades to memory and I jolt back to the present. 
The copyright of this post belongs to Holly Khan 


My father is tearing up bibles under the hedge in an agony of rage 
and frustrations.

          "Hear this if you are so almighty. I am the great defiler. Go 
on, Smite me. What's one more life to you?"  I watch from the verandah. 
Looking out into the heat haze it seems I am seeing the pain he feels as
 a halo fizzing around him. How will he manage alone? He has nothing 
without me. Not since Mother died. It's been worse these last few weeks,
 since the fever struck. He will get through this. I cannot afford to be
 drawn into his madness, not today. I must make my escape as planned.

         I must meet with my grandfather on the Jade Bridge where the 
poor and disenfranchised of the world wait. They gather in hope of alms,
  I go for deliverance. The elegantly dressed merchants and westerners 
who pass pretend not to see the desperation in their fellow men. Who is 
it do they suppose that holds them up in their superior ranks and ivory 
towers? There can be no upper class without a lower class. Surely they 
could afford some mercy, some humility.
         I know I would have 
no hope were it not for the generosity of my Grandfather offering to 
bring me out into society once we reach India. It is a chance for a 
future I did not dare to dream of. A chance to be part of society's 
mesh, rather than falling through the sieve with the dregs as my Mother 
had feared I would. I take my valise and hat box and set off to meet 
         How long will it take before my Father knows I
 have left? I picture him running the moth-eaten brim of his straw 
boater through his fingers as the fever dies in the cooling yellow air 
of sundown, calling for his gin and tonic with quinine,  unaware that it
 is Genesis burning to keep away the mosquitoes. He will stand in his 
cooling sweat, listening to the chant of the cicadas and crickets, 
muttering quietly to himself like a madman in his striped blazer. He 
looks like the consummate gentleman from the verandah but so much is 
hidden by distance.
"God, bless and keep him safe from his own destruction" I pray, a tear 
escaping below my veil.

         The steamer will pull out of the dock at sundown and I will 
leave behind everything I have known. The bridge comes into view 
spanning the sluggish water. This ornate stone bridge that has stood for
 hundreds of years offering safe passage will now transport me from this
 life to another. My leaving will not change this place, it will carry 
on regardless. Our presence on the earth is a mere blink in history, a 
flittering thought in a cloud of dust blown away in a heart beat. 
       My grandfather waves and tips the brim of his top hat to me. I 
recognise him from the photograph in Mothers album. I am flooded with 
relief that he is here and rush to kiss his greying whiskery cheek, then
 admonish myself for being so informal.  He smiles as he takes in my 
     "Ah, so like Evaline my dear. You have your Mother's 
spirit." Seeing the trail of my tears he squeezes my arm, then links it 
through his own, patting my hand. I feel the calm descend. I am safe in 
his hands. I will sail to India with my Grandfather to make a new life 
and take only the memory of my Mother's kindness with me.
The copyright of this post belongs to Holly Khan 

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Fragments of the Whole

I am secret and separate from this living world now. 
 My bonds are cut and I dance with the lights, 
 with Morris men's hankies, with maypole ribbons and flags of our fathers. 
 Do not play cat and mouse with the moonbeams shining on my coffin. 
 Arise from the ludicrous metaphysical Verandah of your mind 
 and take new life for yourself where I now have none. 
 Stretch into a new pose and feel the movement of the breeze 
 flowing across your skin, like water 
 smoothing the cares away from a boulder. 
 Understand that your future is there to be faced, 
 whether in fear or fortitude, so embrace it for what it is: 
 Laugh at the ludicrous, be philosophical. Accept your direction 
 and follow it to its conclusion just as the river follows the contours of the land. 
 Immerse yourself in colour and texture, space and time, 
 seek truth and knowledge unhampered by willful ignorance. 
 Who knows what visceral thing you may become 
 when you crumble your currant disguise and reveal a new 
 self previously hidden in the maze of burrows that lie behind 
 a rabbit hole. Seek, Discover, Relish, Understand: this is your path, 
 paved with prayers and possibilities, redemption and rubbish. 
 Make good all that you can be. Knot the pieces together and 
 make a new necklace of meaning, whole-hearted, 
 philosophical and ready to dance under the whole moon 
 striped by waves on water. Arch your hands in prayer,
 hold yourself quiet in the palm of his hand, 
 let discord fall from your heart strings and know all possibilities are open. 
 Before it is your time to shrine, make good something pure, entire, new,
 some unlooked for bonus and then you will be free 
 to unlock the secret door to the mausoleum and rest in peace. 
 The copyright of this post belongs to Holly Khan 


Friday, 8 May 2015

The Ice House

"Come again to me. I will wait beneath the silverside of trailing ivy at the ice house." Surely you cannot resist a free taste of abandon. It was our first meeting place, do you remember? Why do you not hold it in reverence and wonder as I do? Escaped from Cook's all seeing eye I had dawdled over the task of fetching the ice she needed and then, there you were, talking to me as if I was the only one in the world who could know you.
"Can you speak in sign language?" you had asked, but I did not know what you meant.Your touch had played me like the notes of a music box, each finger stroking a delicate note from my virgin drum. You were the Tutor of my desire and a fire awoke in me, Pandoras curiosity, and unknowing, I became your plaything. You made me swear an oath before the Green Man, knowing I would not risk his displeasure.
" I am the secret keeper, and I hold my secret dear."
I came often to the woods with a ready catch of words and gestures hoping to please you then and you had teased me out of my stays with your gentle words and insistent fingers
" What lies beneath the earths mantle?" said your sly fox smile, and then you warmed me with your probing fingers and other objects of curiosity. We learned our love through the seasons, mixed fire with ice, rolled in the bluebells, crushing their scent to our bare skin, the barley turned its ears to the music of your quickening groans resonating again and again rising in duet with my own, Wheat bowed in longing towards our snatched frenzied exertions under the bruised lightening skies of late Summer. You planted a seed of longing in me then, but now do not tend it. Why? Your marriage is a sham, you said so. You are a mirror of discontent, yet cool disdain is all I see in your face now as I bring breakfast to you and your new lady wife.

"Ah, you are come. Into my arms, my Lord, complete me. Can I guess how much you want it? I see your stiffness salute under the strain of silk. Fish deep into my cave of wonders and I will show you what it feels like to have molten glory at the core. She is ice and cannot melt for you like I do. The fire you laid in me burns still, if only you will stoke it my Lord. We are one, a beast with two backs that must be united in praise of The Green Man. He blessed our union of secrets.Why do you hold me at arms length Lord?"
"What is the code to creation?" you ask me. In the glowing dim light of the ice house I step back, confused, and look to you to teach me again while I hold steady to the saw blade. "To hold safe your vows, your rings, your babies teeth. My loyalties lie elsewhere now Martha, you must understand. My lady is with child."
"No matter Lord we are still one. Hold my eyes, my hands. Don't turn your back, don't look the other way I beg you, you cannot know what I am capable of. This love will turn on itself. No!"
Why did you not heed my warning? I cannot be held responsible for this.I see the life drain from you and know that the flames of passion are extinguished. We are both at peace then.
Is there blood on the knife? I wipe the serrated edge on your sleeve and sink to my knees in the crimson ice.

The copyright of this post belongs to Holly Khan


My dad used to eat the entire apple: core, seeds and all.
He’d chuck the stem—the only sign of it ever having been there.
If the seeds contained cyanide, it was of no consequence—
A tiny poison within a fruit of life was a metal heirloom etched with flowers—
An image of a thing that dies on an everlasting object.
He ate pears the same way—in their entirety—
Not to be smudged with sloppy, clumsy fingers,
Nor soiled with stickiness.
With a plum, he would suck the stone—
yearning to exact every last drop from the crevices,
polishing it to a shine.
Had he been Adam, he would have beaten Eve to the apple,
Not sit passively as a dining servant, observing and patient for table scraps.

I have inherited this passion. At birth, I signed my name to the document;
Nourished in youth to spell in his elementary ways; nurtured as a messenger of his words.
For a bond of family is as strong as steel—
Made of Earth metal and made to last.
Like a blood-sister bond, his bloodprint remains upon my thumb,
And will remain after that life that I celebrate is gone.

I celebrate life fully—engulfing it as a whole fruit—
Allowing it to flow unfettered to my core and return to its source.
Like a cavern, I will be carved by the ebb and flow of the currents of experience
Until I am egg-shell thin,
And carried along to the foot of the broken cross—
To lay dirtied and disregarded—
Humbled and fulfilled.

The copyright of this post belongs to Monica Jenkins

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Musical Memoires

We complete the magical jangle in the choir. You and I, pristinely attired in our royal blue and white school uniform, arrange our brightly coloured glockenspiels with anticipation. Considering that Ronnie and I must have been asleep when the angels were handing out harmonious vocal cords, then we are even more grateful of having the honour of our involvement. My little brother, Rueben is quietly scanning the crowded hall for my black haired braided face. He hopes, crossing his small fingers, for the wish to come true. With utter passion, I can imagine him inwardly praying for our group to win.
“Everything counts on this”. This thought floats above me, like a pink-lilac bubble. It hovers over me, suspended and shared, just like the bubble-gum I used to blow, before bursting the sickly sweet gunk over my braced mouth. To my practical and no nonsense natured mother’s dismay, this used to result in my little brother chortling uproariously until he broke wind or wet himself. However, it was worth reciprocating the sharp sting on my wrist from her firm hand and her even sharper tongue just to bring an up sided expression to his normally confused and anxious face.
My mother was the most treasured gold nugget in the whole of New Zealand despite her strict and orderly manner. Before Angela, three years my senior, came along, followed by myself and Rueben, Rueben, Mum had been a full time Senior Ward Nurse. Her meticulous and somewhat domineering manner had not been ironed out, just because her offspring had halted her career. This part of her persona remained with her, but I cannot complain, as I feel certain that she made us stronger. Josephina Hillcroft was right there behind him, holding on to his reins, which must have appeared slightly odd on a child of that age. Now, I must not let this bubble of opportunity pop, I instruct my eleven year old conscience.
So, here we all out, Dare the Dynamics from Blue Ridge High, assembled in this competition, awaiting the accolade that everybody has been painstakingly practising for since January 1973. Ronnie Walters’s endearingly dimpled chin is raised and his hands poised with readiness. I can’t help noticing how the golden shaft of sunlight is streaming onto his freckled and suntanned face like a spotlight. My knees tremble and my throat feels like a pebble is lodged in there, as I remind myself to breathe deeply. A sea of glassy eyes gazes at me, watchful and expectant. My furrowed brow is full of concentration, as my fizzy rush of adrenalin is tempered by my higher self.
“Be calm and carry on”. Suddenly, I spot Uncle Tom, as Mrs Winterbourne clears the way for him with a goldfish expression, as she dutifully scuttles towards the side of the red brocade curtains. My heart is then in my mouth as he steps on to the podium facing us, our bated breathed group. He was meant to be convalescing from shingles for another few days. Apparently, Posy his adopted daughter had been the guilty contagion, as we had all endured the chicken pox several years previously. With typical green eyed jealousy, I had bemoaned to her of the fact that she should have been in quarantine, because we needed Uncle Tom for this very evening. With calculative retort from her acid voice below her buttercup topped head, she informed me that he was not my Uncle Tom, and I had no real aunts or uncles.
“You don’t deserve any anyway Judy. And what sort of name is that for a girl, and where was Punch today?” She paused for a moment for me to witness her curled tongue to rudely protrude from her ten year old mouth. Considering I had addressed her as Rosie Posey, I suppose this quip was richly deserved for me, and before she skipped away back towards the cottage, two evenings’ before the concert, she called out with a most painfully sharp witted and wicked comment.
“You’d better go back home Judith Hillcroft to play nursemaid to that sad excuse for a brother. Oh and good luck for Thursday. I hope you lose with flying colours.” And before I could run after her in anger, Auntie May had appeared from behind the hedge, gripping her ear, as she was unceremoniously escorted back towards their cottage.
My addled mind was then whizzed back to the present, as Uncle Tom arranged his composure, as he displayed his trusty square jawed stance, and with a brief toothy grin and an acorn hued twinkle in his intelligent eyes. Our rather pale faced mentor is today wearing his trusted pea-green tweed jacket, despite the sultry warm air pouring into the hall. Only a few of us are aware that this is his lucky item of clothing, and I am now buzzing with the determination to deliver. He then began to raise his hands with majesty and delightfully calm control. The spicy aroma of his classic aftershave permeates in front of us, thankfully masking Mrs Winterborne’s overpowering stench of parma-violet toilette water.
How could this ever be complete without you, Uncle Tom? I had wondered with admiration to myself. Two weeks ago, before he was confined to his cottage with his illness, he phoned at my parents’ house, just so that he could speak to me.
“I’ll be laid up Judy-joy, for a while, so if I can’t make next month’s concert, then just remember this, my little ray of sunshine. Without you and Ronnie on the glockie, the choir will be as lost as sheep out of a pen. You must lead them, just as you always do, little one. I know you all can nail it. Just focus on the sounds at the carousel we went to last weekend. Just imagine yourself riding the golden mare, and bobbing up and down with the music, with the entire choir following you and Ronnie. Become part of that music, dissolve in it, and forget everything else. That’s all Judy. Promise me that.”
“I promise”, I pledged to him with a watery voice, before we bid each other good evening, as Rueben watched me with awe, his face once again creased in confusion. Gripping his trusted and damp comfort blanket, he clumsily manoeuvred his walking frame, with his eight years of struggle for survival, most poignant in my memory of that evening. Then, remembering dear Uncle Tom’s earnest warm words, which he shared with me, I prepare myself. All of the tumultuous gnawing in both my head and tummy dissipated, and discarded like unwanted ghosts into the ventilated evening air.
Ronnie and I then begin, after what seems like hours, as we tinkle the metal bars into life.

“Yesterday”, the choir commences, singing with mellow and honey combed notes. With increased gusto we then continue flawlessly, as we live, feel and breathe the words and notes into our metal bars.
“All my troubles seemed so far away.
Now it looks as though they’re here to stay.
Oh, I believe in yesterday.”
Our almost deliriously spirited choir’s voices fill the room with vigour, as our chimes and clangs complement the undertones with pure synchronised magic. Only after we finish and remove our instruments from their harnesses, do I allow an errant tear to drip down onto one of the purple bars.
* * * * * * * * * *
Now, as I glance at Ronnie, as he wanders into the living room, clutching a tray of tea, my reverie is broken. The last half hour, after my strong medication caused my afflicted mind and body into almost soporific oblivion, I gaze with oozing fondness at my husband. The opiate which masks the pain from my op after chemo has finally won the second round of battle. In fact, only yesterday morning, we’d received the tearful and liberating news that I’d been diagnosed as cancer free.
Unfortunately, Ruebin cannot be here to raise a toast to our wonderful and touching news, as his rare congenital illness, which stunted both his mental and physical development, and resulted in him losing his short fight against this condition in his twelfth year, just three springs after our pivotal school concert. This was undoubtedly an extremely bitter pill to swallow for all our family. Mum only survived another two years after the loss of her only son.
Dad, therefore had to begin working from home, changing career as a journalist to become a writer, which incidentally he became very good at. His eight novels, etched graciously in gold lettering now grace the bookshelves in the study. I am proud to state that John A Hillcroft had consequently, been nominated the most outstanding author of Ghost Story publications. Although, previously, in the background he had since Rueben’s death become very much in the forefront with my elder sister, Angela sacrificing her college course, which she managed to return to later, in order that she could help look after Dad and I.
Dad met lilting voiced and County Mayo born Kerry two years later, whom he lived with before getting hitched. Free spirited and alarmingly spontaneous, dressed in floaty bohemian dresses, she complements my father as the other half of a contented and interesting couple, most refreshingly. Now both in their eighties, the still animated pair live in a warden controlled apartment ten minutes away from our house. They will not be able to join us this afternoon, but we will film our outing, take pictures and upload them onto a disc, for them to appreciate when we visit them tomorrow, Easter Sunday.

I hope God will be looking down on us and smiling with pride, as he witnesses us in our celebrations of my saving grace, that I have won the fight, for now, that is, at least. This evening we will light 2 candles in the church, one for Rueben and one for Mum. I hope this makes up for us not being able to attend the Sunday Service, as I am not physically or emotionally strong enough to sit or stand for long periods in the draughty church with the hard seats, and withstand the sea of eyes at St Saviours.

I promise you God, that I will visit your house soon, just as soon as I am able to, and continue the charity work called Rueben’s Appeal. Ronnie will also help me, and has promised to continue his support for Ovarian Cancer too. Incidentally, it was his idea to sponsor our concert towards Rueben’s charity. Such maturity in a boy of twelve is very rare, and I can honestly declare that in all those long, long years he has been my most solid rock of stability.
Looking in the cheval antique mirror, bequeathed from my late Uncle Tom and Auntie May, I thought I saw him again. Uncle Tom sported the warmest smile, which reflected the welcome relief, as I nostalgically conjured up this mental image. My guardian angel, along with Ronnie, my children, Zack, Zoe and Angel had been the main driving force to spur me on through this challenge from living hell, and I thought of them too.
Zack and his wife Jenna with my six year old twin grandchildren, Thomasina and Libby, as well as Zoe and her expanding bump along with her partner Kai were due to arrive two hours later for a last minute celebration picnic lunch at Blue Ridge Brook. Angel, the last fledgling to have flow the nest for a gap year in Tanzania, has been home with us for the last three months, cutting her working holiday short, by staying with us and being at close hand all the while. She has been a godsend, not that my other two offspring have not been lacking in support in between school runs, work, and antenatal classes. With only one month to go before her due date Zoe has decided on the name of her unborn child already. Rueben, if he is a boy and Ruby if she is a girl.

“Still comely”, I quietly appraise myself, as I gaze at my sparingly lined face, after Tom had returned back into his other, pain free world. My mind then returns back with fondness, to the day the choir joined together, April 12th 1973, over forty years ago. After being rightfully awarded the Bronze South West New Zealand Choir medal, we burnt our bridges, or at least I did with regards to Posy.
In fact the very next day, after our debut performance, which had been televised on the local TV Station, and which resulted in the Blue Ridge Observer Press captivating our school grounds and our group, Posy apologised profusely. Although somewhat instigated by Uncle Tom and Auntie May, the white flag was honoured by me with newly found maturity, and we actually hugged each other, and she shed some heartfelt tears of remorse.

Not long after this, it transpired that Tom and May were soon to become my real Auntie and Uncle. Thomas Hughes-Barton, both the Head Principal of our school, and my Mother’s half-brother, had finally decided to tie the knot. Therefore they would soon, no longer be living in sin, and Posy, May’s natural daughter, would officially be adopted by her step-father. Consequently, our friendship flourished, as she became a very companionable but highly spirited cousin. She now lives two streets away from the cul-de-sac bungalow which Ronnie and I dwell in.
After never marrying or having children, Posy inherited the grand multi bedroomed house where my Uncle and Aunt resided in, before they passed away over ten years ago. Posy, my sole cousin, as well as best and lifelong friend, is also joining in with our celebrations, along with her long term and twice divorced partner, Miles.

Displayed proudly in the glass cabinet, with our school photo mounted next to it, I swivel my head back to my precious and iron-willed husband. Snuggled in between this memento and 1970s photograph, are the heart shaped collages of pictures which are framed with pride for me to admire all our children and two grandchildren. If you look to the right of the display cabinet, you can also see the miniature of Posy, next to the blue ornamental vase, and all our family degree certificates laminated underneath. Ronnie’s PHD for Music, which resulted in him aspiring into Elmbrook University’s leading lecturer of Music, and chiefly the piano for many years; my First and Masters for English Lit and Drama, which successfully assisted me on my way to become a script writer for several significant plays, and Posy’ paediatric counselling certificate is graced next to the green and whiteToby Jug.
I will now stop there with this description , as my legs begin to buckle underneath me, as Ronnie rescues me from my wobbling spell, supporting me gently from behind, as he steadily steers me towards the settee.
He is now seated next to me on the red leather sofa in the sunny living room. He takes my shaking hand in his with his strong but gentle spatula like grip. His breath is warm and his butterfly touch healing as he speaks, ever so softly next to my silk scarfed head.
“Judith Walters, (nee Hillcroft), we complete the magical jangle in the choir”.

The copyright of this post belongs to Deborah Stokes 1 May 2015

Saturday, 2 May 2015


The wardrobe door was jammed. Gripping the handle more firmly and bracing the soles of her slippered toes against the wooden base, she tugged. The heady scent of cedar wafted out, tailing a tattered cobweb, lifting it into the air in a circle, then dissipating—to leave it parachuting crookedly to the floor.
Unconsciously, she wiped her face, as if to remove the invisible residue, and she peered inside. Woodlice carcasses lay along the bottom—like mica in the rain, silvery and grey. She stood motionless, momentarily dazzled, but then shuddered. Was it narcissism that caused this sudden surge of disdain for these brittle, faceless insects?-- scurrying about in dark places; burrowing into dead wood with an industry that could feed an empire. They would just as readily nibble at the rotting limbs of a dying tree as they would her aunt’s coffin, freshly interred, ignorant of any associations. Born of death and sustained by it. Inhabitants of an autumn world of fading life; dim-sighted oracles whose very presence announce the approach of a life’s winter. A prophetic industry, leaving but a trail of fine sawdust in their wake—caked along the joints of the wardrobe walls.

The copyright of this post belongs to Monica Jenkins