Bristol Flash Walk: Will there be pirates?

Child's pirate boat

Image: Pixabay

‘Will there be pirates?’ says Grace.

‘Might be,’ says Albie.

Grace often wonders what it’s like to wield a cutlass and the two of them have long, serious conversations about whether Nana’s parakeet could be trained to perch on her shoulder. Being ten and not five, Albie knows there are no galleons or flint eyed slavers at the docks. But he likes to see the glister of excitement in his sister’s eye all the same.

They play hopscotch by The Hole in the Wall, use a piece of coal to scratch the numbers and a ‘special’ stone that Grace finds by a half empty beer bottle as a marker. Her socks are grey with dust and slack round her ankles, though neither of them worry for now. A telling off feels far away.

They stop on Prince Street Bridge.

‘Want a look?’ Albie lifts her so she can see more than just the tips of the cranes.

They count the cargo ships and the funnels, the stocky tugs that slice triangles in the water, the tank engines that chug and puff, belching steam that thins to a streak above the warehouses. The bridge feels gritty under Albie’s palms and when his arms grow tired and Grace slides to the pavement, her dress is all smuts.

Her eyes swell with tears. Albie presses them away with his sleeve, streaking her cheeks black and pink. ‘Let’s go find a pirate,’ he says and takes her hand.

They dodge barrows, jump the rails, watch hessian bales and crates fly over their heads. A load of barrels – dark wood, smelling of Christmas – sways an arm’s length away and Albie pulls Grace close, holds her till they swing away.

By the engine shed there’s a chocolate brown dog splashed with white as if a pot of paint was dropped on his back. He has three legs, a soft pink tongue and a scarf tied round his neck like a sailor. Grace scrubs his ears with sticky fingers.

‘Perhaps he needs a home,’ she suggests, just as a sharp whistle calls him away.

When Grace trips for the third time, Albie says it’s time to go home. ‘Piggy back?’ he says.

And as she jolts and jiggles and her eyes sting and she can’t stop from yawning, she thinks of steam clouds and the smell of Christmas and of finding treasure with her pirate dog.



A couple of weeks ago, I shared the news that one of my flash stories – Will there be pirates? – had been selected to be read aloud during a Flash Walk around Bristol harbour side. Today, I thought I’d share that story with you.

It was a lovely morning – we were blessed with some surprisingly warm weather – and some great flash fiction was heard. If you nip over to the Bristol Flash fb page, you’ll find a link to local author and performer Tom Parker who did such a great job of bringing a voice to the story, despite bustling tourists and inconsiderately loud buses.

N.B If you study the pics really closely, you’ll find one of me with my back to camera – I’m the gal dressed in blue with the purple and grey back pack. Click on the image and you’ll see hubs to my right (looking very cool in his shades). Here’s an arty black and white pic of Tom performing the story. Can you spot me and hubs?


Damon Wakes’ Flash Fiction Day: Bunch up your skirt

Standing stones

Image: Pixabay

‘Step through,’ said Rose. Her red kerchief was tied tight about her neck, cheeks flushing to match.

Maggie shook her head. ‘I don’t like it.’

‘Stop being a baby and step through.’ Rose’s heel stamped hard on the gravel.

Rose was always the same. Maggie – the more placid of the two sisters – usually let Rose have her way in the end.

But standing at Nick’s Hoop, with the chalk under her boots and the sound of the wind tearing through the oak trees made a storm blow inside her chest.

Rosie’s mouth twisted in irritation. ‘Remember what the rhyme says. You have to pass through the stone if you want to be wed in the year.’

‘Yes, Rose,’ said Maggie.

‘Do you want to be an old maid like Miss Stanhope?’

Miss Stanhope was the local school teacher. She had a long braid over one shoulder and read books that made the vicar’s wife tut. Maggie didn’t think being Miss Stanhope would be such a bad thing.

Reluctantly, she said, ‘No, Rose.’

‘Then step through. Bunch your skirt up as I did and it won’t snag.’

Maggie did as she was told, wrapping the layers of muslin round to free her ankles.

A flock of crows lifted from the stand of oaks, turning the air black.  The wind blew up, catching her skirts, tugging them from her hands. The sun blinked behind foaming, inky rainclouds.

For the first time, Maggie wondered who they were going to marry.



Written for Damon Wakes’ Flash Fiction Day. Take a look here to see what all the fuss is about.

Damon Wakes’ Flash Fiction Day: A scrap of something blue

Frosty woodland and stream

Image : Pixabay


We’ve been searching for twelve hours now.

The volunteers from the village have taken three hour shifts, but officers, friends, family have worked through.

I sent Baker away two hours ago. He’s got a six-month-old daughter so he can’t remember what a good night’s sleep feels like.

‘I wanna stay,’ he said, though even in full sun he looked green, pouches of grey under his eyes. ‘I know how I’d feel …’

‘I know, son,’ I said. ‘But you’re no use to me half dead. What if you miss something because your body’s moving but your brain’s asleep?’

That was what made him go. He’d hate to be the one that missed something important. Wouldn’t we all.

Still, I can’t take my own advice. Couldn’t sleep if I left now, anyway. May as well be useful.


Harris is standing three feet away. I can’t see his size 12 boots for snow. Flakes have gathered on his shoulders and I imagine the wind whipping drifts against his collar.

The look in his eyes snaps me alert.

‘Down there,’ he says, pointing to the trickle of water the locals call Shimmy’s Brook.

Choked with twigs and dead leaves, snarled in the ice is a scrap of something blue.

I inhale crisp, clean air, know this will be the last time these woods will feel clean.

‘Come on then, son,’ I say. ‘Show me what you’ve found.’



Written for Damon Wakes’ Flash Fiction Day. Take a look here to see what all the fuss is about.



Damon Wakes’ Flash Fiction Day: This way I can pretend

Red door with brass door knocker

Image: Pixabay

There’s the same lamppost with the broken bulb sitting in its pool of darkness.

And the beech tree with its crop of condemned trainers drooping from the boughs by their laces.

The same skinny stray sniffs the air, pads half heartedly towards me but turns tail before he’s within whining distance.

Now the countdown.

31, 30, 29, 28 … 27, Newberry Gardens.

Your house.

Not your house now, but always your house in my head.

One desperate afternoon, I considered knocking on the door (now painted red – you would never have chosen red) and making some excuse to get inside. My Nan’s old place. Brought me up. Sorely missed. I ached to walk the boards where you padded, look out across the broken valley, its smoking stacks.

But what if the wine stain’s gone from the carpet? What if they’ve fixed the sticking doors, changed the bathroom suite?

Then I’d have to accept you’re gone. This way, I can pretend.



Written for Damon Wakes’ Flash Fiction Day. Take a look here to see what all the fuss is about.

Damon Wakes’ Flash Fiction Day: Let me count the ways


Image: Pixabay

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

That grey hair is from when you swallowed a Lego brick and I had to hold you upside down to get it back it.

That scar is from when you were snared by brambles and I had to free you.

This wrinkle is from your first night on the town with your mates – and the mess you made of the bathroom when you got home.

This empty feeling is the day you left home.

This joy is the day you married your lovely girl.

This swell of pride so huge it might break me is our grandchild’s fist curled round my finger.

Too many ways to count.


Written for Damon Wakes’ Flash Fiction Day. Take a look here to see what all the fuss is about.

Damon Wakes’ Flash Fiction Day: Will You?

Unmade bed

Image: Pixabay

If I wake you as I leave, will you whisper my name, reach for my hand?

Or will you turn your back, pretend you haven’t heard?

I think I know.



Written for Damon Wakes’ Flash Fiction Day. Take a look here to see what all the fuss is about.