Word on a Whim

The Lighthouse Tarot – available for purchase

My small print run of The Lighthouse Tarot has been delivered:

I am selling them for £22 per deck plus postage by Royal Mail:

Price including postage for a single pack/deck:

UK standard 1st class: £22.00 + £3.85 = £25.85

UK standard 2nd class:  £22.00 + £3.20 = £25.20

Europe no tracking:  £22.00 +  £5.95 = £27.95

Europe tracked:  £22.00 +  £10.25 = £32.25

USA no tracking:  £22.00 + £10.95 = £32.95

USA tracked:  £22.00 + £13.45 =  £35.45

Canada no tracking: £22.00 + £8.30 = £30.30

Canada tracked: £22.00 + £12.70 = £34.70

Australia no tracking: £22.00 + £9.60 = £31.60

Australia tracked: £22.00 + £13.85 = £35.85

Please use the Contact Form to order a deck or to enquire about other postage options or for multiple decks.

 The cards come in a cardboard tuck box.  There is no booklet but a list of definitions can be found by clicking on “Tarot Card Meanings” tab or menu option.

They are standard tarot-size 7cm x 12cm, printed in the UK on 320gsm card with smooth finish – very easy to shuffle and fan.

Thank you 🙂


The energy of a Tarot deck – the Leeds Tarot

I was born in Leeds and grew up there. I grew up hating the place. I have a lovely, loving family in Leeds, and lived there for my first twenty-three years, so it seemed odd that the place always depressed me, and I couldn’t accept it as ‘home’. I had a dream of a country cottage, out in the sticks, that I somehow managed to meet half way with a small house in a semi-rural location where commuting is as easy as it can be on England’s congested roads.

It was when I got to know and love the small market town where my dad was born, and the remote scenic hamlet where his ancestors came from that the penny dropped that my abhorrence of the large town and craving for the countryside might be genetic. I feel at home in dad’s homeland.

I still visit family in Leeds regularly, but always with a feeling of unease, with ‘pre-Leeds tension’ in the lead-up. The claustrophobia of the massive network of roads – all with either potholes or speed bumps. Looking at it on google maps, you zoom in to a spider’s web.

Things don’t flow for me in Leeds.

For example, I had to deliver something to a place near a shopping centre, so I followed a signpost to the nearest car park. The entrance barrier was down, and there was a car in front of me waiting. I sat and waited too, but didn’t know what we were waiting for. All became clear when the exit barrier lifted and a car came out, then the guy in front of me took a ticket from a machine, the barrier went up and he drove in. I got it. The carpark was full, so we had to wait for someone to come out before we could go in. Thankfully, this happened quite soon, as there was no way of turning round. There was another car behind me and I was trapped. So, I pressed the button for a ticket, and drove in. Next problem, the only space available, presumably vacated by the car that just left, was a disabled space, so I had to wait for a normal space. Meanwhile, I was looking for the payment meter, but could only see numerous signs threatening a large fine for non-payment of parking charges.

Eventually, I parked the car and had a quick wander round but still could find no meter or any indication of where it was. I had to ask someone in the designated smoking area if they knew, and they told me it was inside the shopping centre. I found the meter and dithered over the various tariff options. I only wanted to drop something off, but had already been in the carpark ages … I selected the button for the ‘pre-payment’ option and it told me how much to put in. I paid, and went off puzzled as to why I didn’t have a choice of how much time to pay for.

Later, my brother laughed and said I should have paid on the way out. Maybe I’m a wally and should have worked it out, without needing instructions. In Leeds, I feel like Crocodile Dundee in New York, but without his charm!

Anyway, when I saw the “Leeds Tarot” on a pre-loved Tarot Facebook page, I was reluctantly compelled to buy it. I don’t collect Tarot cards, but do have a few decks that I cherish. This one is described as “a community focused art project unifying both established and aspiring artists through the intriguing imagery of tarot”. I bought it with the similar sense of duty with which I buy a poppy each year, then didn’t give it much thought, until the guy selling it messaged me apologising for the delay in posting it. I assured him there was no hurry, and we exchanged jokey messages about my love-hate relationship with Leeds.

Judging by the time it took to get here, I think me and the “Leeds Tarot” must have had similar reservations about connecting with each other! Julz, in the front room, saw one of our neighbours coming up the drive doing that awkward looking down at feet demeanour that indicates they are about to shove something through your letter box. Luckily, we have a porch, so he was able to chuck it in there and make a swift exit, without having to knock the door.

The “Leeds Tarot” had finally arrived, but had been wrongly delivered. It had taken a bumpy ride to get here … as if I wasn’t meant to have it. Until now, I hadn’t realised that the ‘connection’ with a Tarot deck worked both ways. Me and the deck were acting as negative magnets. No wonder its journey here wasn’t great.

 As I opened the package, I reflected that if I could nurture my bond with my home town, instead of dreading the journey, then maybe my visits might flow a bit more smoothly.

I took in the colours of the box and the emblem with a pang of nostalgia, as they are so reminiscent of a Leeds United emblem, but instead of a football in the centre, there’s an eye dropping a tear. Leeds United was always there at home … the radio on in the background if Leeds were playing.

I love that the inset card lists the names of all the artists against the card they created.

Looking through the cards, each style is so different. Some artists have thought hard about the meaning of the card and created an image that suits the meaning. Others appear to have supplied an image they like, and let the caption do the talking.

Most of all, I love that the deck is the result of the collective energy of everyone who collaborated in its creation. No wonder it feels powerful. Nice one Leeds!

Formal Writing – finding the balance

Formal writing has become much less formal over the years. This is fine if it makes the message easier to understand, but sometimes frivolity gets in the way of clarity, or the tone makes the reader feel patronised.

I like the style of correspondence that starts with a brief explanation of “Why we are writing to you…” followed by a sub-header, “Action you need to take”.  This immediately lets you know if you must read any further.

Instruction manuals have shifted from the passive “this must be done” to “you must do this”, and in the interest of globalisation, images and diagrams are often used instead of words.

Many years ago, I watched a televised interview with Peter Ustinov and there’s a bit that stuck in my mind because it made me laugh. He used to travel on an overnight train where bedpans were available, with a notice that said, “Passengers are reminded that these receptacles were not designed to receive solids.” I can clearly picture men in suits, sitting round the boardroom table, having a meeting to discuss the wording of the notice. If such receptacles still exist today, I imagine that notice has been replaced by something like this:

Whilst I’m on the subject, NHS information leaflets now have poo all over them! The bowel “takes nutrients and water from food and turns what is left into poo (also known as faeces, stools or bowel motions)”. I guess they take the approach that everyone knows what poo is, but it still jars outside the context of potty training.

Correspondence from banks has become overly friendly and jokey in style, and I recently came a cropper when I was distracted by it …

My debit card is due to expire soon, and I was grateful when the replacement arrived early, meaning I wouldn’t have to switch cards whilst online Christmas shopping was in progress. Ta-da — here’s your shiny new debit card,” said the letter. “Dust off a pen and sign the back.”

Somewhere amongst all the joviality were the last three digits of the account that was linked to this new card. Unfortunately, I was so busy rolling my eyes at the lingo and assuming this was a replacement for the card that was due to expire, that I failed to notice it was linked to my other account – the one with a card that doesn’t expire for another three years. Marvellous.

So, I had to phone the bank and tell them I was an idiot and I’d cut up the wrong card! They can’t hurry along the new one, as it’s currently ‘pending’, whatever that means. Lesson learned … in future I must focus on the important details within the message, and try not to be pedantic about the delivery!

A visit to Cardiff Bay for “Death Songbook” : Brett Anderson, Charles Hazlewood, and Paraorchestra

My partner and I have both lost our dads within the last twelve months, and my lovely cousin recently died way before his time. Death and dying, with all it entails, has become a focus, and I have become a grumpy old git!

I’ve always avoided social occasions. I love people individually, but struggle with the noise of large gatherings where multiple conversations are competing in volume. I also love music, but listen to it through headphones, or alone in the car.  That way, I can enjoy it without forcing other people to listen.

When I saw tickets were on sale for “Death Songbook” by Brett Anderson, Charles Hazlewood, and Paraorchestra, I decided to make the effort to go to some event other than a funeral. For me, Brett Anderson is next best to Bowie, and the theme seemed fitting.

So, I did what I always do when I’m going anywhere new … studied Google Maps for the route to Cardiff, fretted about where to park and what time to set off, and dreamed up all manner of things that could possibly go wrong.

Of course, I got there far too early. Wales Millennium Centre was the venue. There was a band playing in the foyer. They might have been good but the sound was so loud it was distorted, so it was difficult to know.

The ‘Death Songbook’ was a seated event. I’d booked a ticket at the end of a row so I would be rubbing shoulders with only one stranger, and was delighted that the seat in front of me was unoccupied, so I had a really good view of the stage.

A Welsh male voice choir did a half-hour performance before the main event. They were good and well received – but the grumpy old git in me became irked by people coming in to find their seats, then squeezing back past again to go and get drinks or whatever. If one more arse gets thrust in my face! It must have been off-putting for the performers, as well as annoying for the rest of the audience who didn’t feel the need to wander around the place. It did settle down though, once we’d cheered them off and the main act took to the stage.

Brett was mesmerising and passionate as ever in his delivery. Some singers appear awkward if they’re not nursing a guitar because they don’t know what to do with their hands. Brett either moves spontaneously, blending with the music, or else he stands still, without feeling the need to jiggle around.

 I realised I was watching with a stupidly happy smile and a few tears, but it didn’t matter because the lights were down. Then, the giant who’d booked the seat in front of me turned up, and I watched the rest by leaning awkwardly into the aisle, looking over his shoulder and giving thanks that I’d got a seat at the end of a row.

The setlist included plenty of songs written by Brett, including Suede’s “He’s Dead”, where Adrian Utley (Portishead guitarist) performed a brilliant electric guitar solo. I call it a ‘solo’ but the rest of the orchestra were playing like mad – the string section really going for it. The cello and violins were rocking!

The highlight for me was Brett’s version of Jacques Brel’s “My Death”, accompanied by Adrian on guitar. I had been looking forward to this one, and knew it wouldn’t sound like a Bowie imitation. Halfway through his stunning rendition, I realised my stupid mind was no longer enjoying the moment. For me, this was the climax, and therefore an indication we were getting close to home time. I started mithering about where the car was, and reminding myself to do all my fussing around (swapping jacket for fleece, setting satnav for home etc) before paying at the meter, just in case I was only allowed five minutes to get out of the carpark once I’d paid. Then I got cross with myself for not fully focussing on the bit I’d been mostly looking forward to!

That was yesterday evening. I took photos of Cardiff Bay. It’s not exactly the ‘seaside’ I’ve been craving. That would require crashing waves and cliffs. Although, if I zoom into this photo, I think I can see a distant lighthouse 😊

The Landlady – flash fiction

I had my reservations about sharing my home with students, yet this place is far too large for me to be rattling around on my own. Individually, they are quiet and studious – but as a group they tend to shout, rather than speak quietly to each other. Curtis even shouts, “LOL” instead of actually laughing. At least they are keeping me young with their energy, and up-to-date with the ever-evolving English language. But please not “some think” or, worse still, “summink”. The word is “something”. Surely you wouldn’t call a King a “Kink”?

Aside from the generation gap and their bad taste in music, I do enjoy their company. The better I get to know them, the more maternal I feel. Harriet is the one I feel most attached to. Some weekends, the other students go home to their parents – but Harriet is always here. I have listened to their conversations, and get the impression she was more or less brought up by her grandparents, so she must be used to older people like me. I have tried to engage with her when it’s just the two of us, but she seems uneasy with conversation and tries to ignore me. Her choice, of course. Afterall, she’s a paying guest. But she knows I’m always here if she wants to talk.

All these youngsters are paying more than they can afford. But with this ridiculous energy price cap hike I keep hearing about, they understand that it’s a fair price if they want a warm bedroom this winter.  And a hot shower if they can be bothered. I just wish they’d all help with the cleaning. The grouting is getting grubby and it wouldn’t hurt them to wave the brush down the toilet once in a while.

Thursday evening is the one time they all seem to be here. Supermarket beer and wine is flowing, and Dylan is passing round a roll-up cigarette that smells strange and musky. Then Harriet starts whingeing to her housemates that she feels nervous being here without them at the weekends. She finds this place a bit creepy.

Creepy? A little old-fashioned, maybe, but I wouldn’t call it creepy. I hope perhaps one of her housemates will take it up, and invite her back to theirs for the weekend, but no-one does.

Then Haydn, the philosophy student, starts going on about everything being nothing more than a perception – and there’s a discussion about whether or not this solid wooden table will continue to exist after they have left room. Of course it bloody will! I stifle my laughter and tell them it’s been here donkey’s years. They ignore me – except for Harriet, who looks straight at me, but without smiling.

I go upstairs and leave them to it.

Harriet spends most of Saturday doing her course work, sitting at the solid wooden table which is conveniently still existing. It’s only when I join her in the evening and sit in my usual armchair that she mutters something about the crap WIFI connection and storms off upstairs. I can’t help feeling rejected. I’d thought maybe she needed a break from her work and, if I’m honest, I liked the idea of a bit of company. I’d hoped she might put the TV on, and we could watch a film together.

I gaze up at the ceiling. It sounds as if Harriet is packing her bags. I go upstairs and hover outside her bedroom door. I can hear her crying. The yearning to go into the room and comfort her is so strong – but it’s not my place. To enter her room would be overstepping the mark.

Sunday morning, I can hear her on the phone, sounding bright and business-like. At least she’s cheered up. The kettle boils and clicks itself off. The toaster smells of burning. Those students really should consider emptying out the crumbs occasionally!

Curtis and Haydn return together, looking tired and relaxed. Harriet greets them dramatically. Her luggage is in the hallway and they struggle to get past with their rucksacks.  I watch and listen from the landing at the top of the stairs. She tells them she is moving out. Apparently, she’s had enough of this place and has found somewhere else.

“This place is haunted, I’m sure of it! I can’t stay here another day!”

“Haunted?” says Curtis.

Haydn shrugs and gets a beer from the fridge. “I guess it’s just a perception …”

“Haunted?!” I laugh out loud at the idea, and Harriet rushes away, slamming the door behind her.

I’m sorry to see her go. Harriet was the only one I felt really in tune with. And of course this place isn’t haunted!  I should know – I’ve been here more than two hundred years.

Idea for a children’s video game with minimal graphics. Free to use – you’re welcome!

This idea began in a dream, and then developed during my most alert hours between 2am-4am.

I’m old enough to be one of those who enjoyed colouring books and crayons or felt-tips, and never got into gaming. My favourite toy was a collection of plastic farm animals. I spent hours arranging them into little herds and flocks, then moving them from one place to another (across the carpet) and securing them into little pens. Back then, I thought the countryside was idyllic, and the farm animals were kept as pets. When I realised that was not the case, I refused to eat meat … but that’s a different story.

If computer games had been available when I was little, the game I have created in my mind is the one I would have enjoyed.

Not sure whether it should be targeted at three-to-six-year-olds, or under-fives.

“Rise and Shine Farmyard” is what I called it, but call it what you want.

I think this idea might be useful to a student who is lacking inspiration for a project, or any company wishing to create a low-budget game. No realistic animation required – just a progression of still pictures and with some animal sound effects.

This is how it works:

Farmyard scene/landscape initially (but more scenes could be added, such as garden pets or horse livery stables).

Start with dimly lit farmyard scene. Sepia or greyscale. Faint crescent moon. Sun just peaking over the horizon. A farmyard with outbuildings surrounded by fields.

  • Cows in cowshed
  • Cat asleep on hay in loft above
  • Horse in stable
  • Pigs in piggery
  • Hens in hen house
  • Sheep in sheltered pen
  • Dog in kennel
  • Ducks asleep at side of pond

Click/tap on each sleeping animal and it transitions to its daytime position. Or possibly drag and drop to desired area. Little or no animation. Animal noise on click.

For example:

Click on each cow and it disappears from cowshed with a “moo” and appears in a field eating grass. Click on each duck and it disappears from pond-side and appears in pond with a “quack” etc.

As each animal moves, the sun rises a little, and the scene becomes brighter and more colourful. The moon fades away and by the time the last animal is clicked, the sun is high in the sky.

The game can then be restarted, or done in reverse to put all the animals back to bed.

It’s as simple as that … but a heck of a lot of work for someone! 🙂

The Chwyrn Bay Lighthouse – a short story

Maria knelt on the beach hugging Victor the greyhound as she gazed in awe at their home. One month into her new life and she still had a sense of being on holiday. Victor wagged his tail, his long nose pointing skyward to sniff the sea air.

  ‘So much fresher than London, eh?’ When Maria had heard that the decommissioned lighthouse at Chwyrn Bay was on the market, she had seized the opportunity to escape from London; sold her apartment and quit her office job to move to North Wales.

  The estate agent had been dubious. ‘I’m not sure it’s suitable to live in, although I’m not aware of anything in the deeds to say you can’t. It has got plumbing and electricity, and a built-in cabin bed, but there’s very little space.’

  Maria was undeterred. She was a competent oil painter who specialised in seascapes. This was her chance to try to earn a living from a hobby, and the profit from her London home would allow her to live on savings until she became established and formed contacts with galleries.

  Victor leaned into her and she rubbed his shoulders. ‘I hope the locals don’t resent us, coming up from London and buying their lighthouse.’ She felt conspicuous and identifiable owing to her striking red hair and pale skin. The old lady at the post office had given her a funny look yesterday when she gave her address as the lighthouse.

  ‘Welcome to Chwyrn,’ said a soft voice behind her. ‘I hope I didn’t startle you.’ A man with twinkling blue eyes and greying hair was smiling down at her. His border collie was on a short lead, tail wagging coyly between her legs. ‘I’m Tom, and this is Elsa. Is yours friendly?’

  ‘Maria and Victor.’ Maria stood up and smiled. ‘I don’t trust him with tiny dogs, but he should be okay with Elsa.’ Tom was looking at her with a curious expression, like the post office woman had. ‘It’s because he’s an ex-racer,’ she added to fill the silence. ‘They have a strong prey drive and he’s not so good on the recall if he sees something moving.’

  ‘Well … it’s good to meet you.’ Tom raised a polite smile, and began to walk away down the beach, then turned back. ‘Bring him along for a run with Elsa, if you like. She won’t go out of sight so if he’ll stick by her, they’ll be okay.’

  Maria bought a paraffin lamp as a backup for the dodgy electricity supply, and took to lighting it in the evening for a couple of hours. Nowhere near as powerful as the original beacon would have been, but it cast a warm glow on the beach and brought the lighthouse back to life. Painting was going well – the sea, as a living force, giving spontaneity to her seascapes. She’d made contact with a few art shops who were happy to exhibit her work, and made a few sales on the internet.

  Tom walked Elsa along the beach most days and, if Maria wasn’t engrossed in painting, and saw him passing, she’d join him. Mostly, they walked in companiable silence, watching the dogs and laughing at their antics as they chased the waves up and down the shore.

  ‘Storm forecast for tonight,’ Tom said the one day. ‘Hope you’re okay for paraffin – you know what the electric’s like!’

  Maria was excited by the prospect of capturing some dark and stormy scenes that night. The wind was picking up already, and dark clouds hurried across the sky.

  After tea, Victor curled up in his bed with a sigh. Maria knelt and stroked his back in the bed that curved into the wall, then ascended the spiral staircase, lit the lamp, and prepared her paints and brushes.

 The storm rushed in, bringing waves crashing up the beach – closer to the lighthouse than she’d thought possible. She felt the lighthouse being buffeted by the wind. The electric light on the staircase flickered, whilst the paraffin beacon glowed steadily. She painted with frenetic energy, daubing her fingers in the paint and sweeping them round the canvas to make waves, then drumming with white paint on fingertips to create an appearance of surf and sea spray.

  Lightning came before the thunder and she scratched her nails through the wet oil paint, down to the white canvas below to create jagged streaks of light. Satisfied with the effect so far, she wiped her hands on a rag and picked up a fine brush to add some detail. The sky lit up again and, for a second, she saw a figure on the beach. Brush poised, barely breathing, she waited for the next flash of lightning. Yes! There was a man on the beach looking up at the lighthouse. A tingle of fear crept through her, and when the thunder finally crashed, she almost dropped the brush. The electric light went out and she froze at the sound of scratchy footsteps on the dark staircase … but it was only Victor. He pressed against her and trembled silently. ‘Poor boy, it’s okay,’ she soothed, sounding more confident than she felt.

  The dog settled and she turned her attention back to the beach. Now that the only light was from the paraffin lamp, she could see outside more clearly. There he was! A man standing some distance away, staring at the lighthouse. He must be able to see her silhouette. What was he doing out there? If he needed help, wouldn’t he wave or come closer? She decided to include him in the painting. A small figure would put the height of the waves in perspective, and add mystery to the scene. She resumed painting, this time using a fine brush …

  Maria woke up next to Victor but wasn’t entirely sure she had slept. The storm had passed. The paraffin lamp had burnt out, but weak daylight was casting some light around her. She glanced up at the oil painting that was still on the easel, rubbed her eyes and moved in to take a closer look. Startled, she hurried down the staircase, clutching the handrail tight as Victor pushed past to get down first.

  The electricity was still off so she unpacked the camping stove and set some water to boil in a pan to make tea. She checked her phone but there was no reception. The storm must have brought something down. Naturally, the lightbulb beamed into life just as the water was finally coming to the boil. She made tea then fetched the painting down, and stared, frowning at last night’s work …

  Craving human company for the first time since moving to the lighthouse, she watched out for Tom and Elsa, and was relieved to see them ambling along the beach around their usual time. She stepped out onto the beach with Victor as they approached.

  ‘The tower kept getting knocked by the wind. I could feel it shaking. I thought it was going to fall down!’ She laughed, trying to lighten it, but Tom could see she looked paler than ever, with dark shadows beneath her eyes.

  ‘Don’t worry about that, it’s got interlocking bricks that dovetail together, so it’s not going anywhere. It’s Smeaton’s oak tree design. Before the coastal defence work, the waves would sometimes come right up to it, but owing to the curved shape, they’d roll just a little way up and then fall back.’

  ‘Isn’t Nature a wonderful architect?’  

  ‘Aye, that she is. Rest assured; this one won’t be falling down. Not like the old one.’ He read her expression. ‘Didn’t you know?’

  ‘I knew this wasn’t the original Chwyrn Bay lighthouse, but didn’t know the old one fell down! I tried to look it up this morning but there was no internet connection. No phone signal either.’

  ‘Oh well, at least the electric’s back on.’

  ‘Fancy a cup of tea?’

  ‘That wasn’t a hint – but since you’re offering!’ 

  In the small kitchen area, Tom was staring at last night’s storm painting.

  ‘I’ll move that out of the way,’ said Maria, but Tom stayed in front of it.

  Maria made the tea. ‘It’s not finished yet. As you see, they have no hands. I often leave those details until last as I find hands tricky. That man was on the beach last night, so I decided to include him but …’

  ‘But what?’

  ‘I’ve no idea why my self-portrait is next to him.’ She put the mugs of tea on a small table and took out two folding chairs, carefully positioning them around the dogs’ legs and tails.

 ‘I know this sounds crazy, but I don’t remember painting myself next to him. Occasionally, when I’m painting, I get a sense that someone else, or maybe my subconscious, is taking over and steering the composition. I tend to just go along with it, sometimes completely moving away from my preliminary sketch.’ She laughed lightly. ‘But it’s the first time I’ve accidentally incorporated a self-portrait!’

  Tom was quiet for a moment, apparently engrossed in dividing a biscuit equally between the two dogs. Finally, he looked up at her and said, tentatively, ‘I don’t think that’s a self-portrait. Her name was Anna, and she looked very much like you.’ Maria’s eyes widened. He went on, ‘The first time I met you I did a double-take. You look exactly like the photos I’ve seen of her. As for the man on the beach, that must be Joseph, still out there looking for her after more than a hundred years. I guess it’s the light you’ve put up there that’s attracted him. Hey, don’t be scared! Sit down and I’ll tell you the story, and you can make up your own mind.

  ‘Joseph and Anna were lovers. Joseph was a lighthouse keeper at the old lighthouse; the one that collapsed. Anna was trapped in an unhappy marriage and used to meet him secretly at the lighthouse. The evening the storm brought the lighthouse down, Joseph had walked into the town to get supplies and was on his way back to start the night shift. He knew Anna was waiting for him because the key had gone from beneath the rock on the cliff; the place he left it when he went out, in case she came to him. As he’d turned the corner, ladened with candles and a couple of days’ worth of food, villagers were huddled together in the wind and rain and there was some sort of commotion going on. You can imagine the relief when he turned up – they thought he’d been in the lighthouse, you see.

  ‘So … they all start cheering and hugging him, then he looks over the cliff and sees the lighthouse has gone! Apparently, he ran along the raised path, yelling her name, then jumped down on to the beach. They tried to stop him but he fought them off and, well, the sea took him. His body was washed up on the shore a couple of days later, but hers was never found.

  ‘Over the years, some folks claimed to have seen him on the beach if they were daft enough to be out in a storm. But not since the lighthouse was decommissioned. Your little paraffin beacon must have brought him back.’  

  They both looked again at the painting, and a few silent tears ran down Maria’s face.

  ‘You need to finish the painting, Maria. But not yet. Wait until the next storm comes.’ 

  They didn’t have long to wait.

  ‘It’s going to be a rough night. I brought some paraffin, so you don’t run out.’ Tom looked at her, meaningfully.

  ‘Then, I guess it’s time to finish the painting.’ She hesitated. ‘I don’t suppose you’d come along for company?’

  Maria prepared the paints and set the unfinished painting on the easel. She looked nervously out to sea and watched the black clouds approaching, and was relieved to see Tom and Elsa strolling casually along the beach.

  ‘The tides have always been unpredictable in this bay. Fast and rapid. That’s what “chwyrn” means, you know. It’s safer since the work they did along the coast, but you’ve still got to be careful.

  It wasn’t like Tom to make unnecessary conversation. She guessed he was nervous too. The storm arrived with a vengeance, and angry waves crashed on the beach. ‘I see what you mean about it shaking the tower. Perfectly safe though. As I told you –’

  Maria was pointing to the beach below. Tom saw it too; the silhouette of a man standing looking up at them. He turned up the paraffin lamp and the light illuminated the figure. A well-built man with strong features and thick dark hair, inappropriately dressed for the weather … Joseph.

  Maria raised her paint brush and Tom nodded. ‘It’s time to paint.’

  Tom felt a thrill of adrenalin as a second figure began to materialise on the beach next to Joseph; indistinct at first, shimmering in and out of vision. He found he could see it more clearly if he gazed beyond, out to sea. Looking directly seemed to make it fade. He glanced at Maria to see if she’d seen it too, but her eyes were twitching and unfocussed, whilst her hand worked deftly with the paintbrush. Back on the beach, he could see the second figure clearly now. A woman with red hair and pale skin … Anna.

  Maria had stopped painting. Tom looked at the canvas and saw the couple were joined by their hands, which were clasped together.

  ‘Maria,’ he said softly. She didn’t respond so he took the paintbrush and clasped her hand in his. She blinked a couple of times then looked at the painting before her.

  Tom pointed down at the beach. As they watched, Joseph and Anna turned away, joined hands and walked out to sea. Their images faded. Tom and Maria sat in silence for a while. The storm passed over and the moon began to shine through the clouds.

  ‘I don’t think we’ll be seeing them again,’ said Tom. ‘They’ve found each other now, and finally moved on to wherever they belong. Good work, Maria.’

  Maria smiled at the completed picture, happy with the result. ‘But it wasn’t all my own work though, was it?’

Car Insurance Employment Status

I was made redundant in the spring.  It wasn’t a surprise; it was a planned closure of the firm I worked for. This week, when my car insurance came up for renewal, I phoned the insurance company to update them with the change of details. Since I’m no longer commuting a hundred miles each day, I expected the policy price to be reduced.  Instead, it went up!

“I know, it’s bananas isn’t it,” said the guy on the phone.  He explained that my change of employment status to unemployed had caused the increase.  WTF?!  What exactly are the connotations of unemployment that would trigger an increase when my annual mileage has reduced from twenty-five thousand miles to five thousand?  I decided to try elsewhere.

I found a better deal on a comparison website, but couldn’t select “commuting” as I’d selected “unemployed”.  Bloody computers!  I was also miffed because the no claims discount was dependent on the renewal notice, and the previous insurer didn’t care beyond ten years so that’s what their renewal schedule said, despite me joining them a couple of years ago with far more years’ no claims.  Grrrr!

Too much time to think, I guess, but I ended up phoning the new company to ask if I could add commuting, in case I forget to do it when I get a job, and also to check that it wouldn’t massively raise the price.

Several layers of call vectoring and twenty minutes of crap music later, a real person answered the phone. (I wasn’t sure at first, these robots are getting good at impersonation!)  I asked the lady to add “commuting” and the price went up a little. Then, I asked her to change my employment status from “unemployed” to “housewife”, explaining that I’m not claiming benefits – just taking some time out, and the price came down a few quid lower than if I was unemployed and not commuting. Confused.com? I am now!

What exactly is a “housewife” and why are they less of a car insurance liability than someone who is “unemployed”?  I imagine many housewives are busy ferrying children to various activities; doing the school run at peak times; trying to park in spaces too small; popping to the supermarket on the way home, and then taking the dog to the vet. Meanwhile, the unemployed person is sitting in the house browsing jobs on the internet … and paying more for their car insurance at a time when they could really do with paying less :-/

Sex scenes in fiction

I blogged about writing sex scenes back in May 2012 but here we go again.  Not because I’m fixated (my partner will vouch for that!) but because I feel it’s a difficult subject to write about and have respect for authors who achieve it sensitively, without being off-putting or sounding like a biology book.

I read 99p Kindle books, selected from suggestions that come up on my Facebook news feed.  Before splashing out 99p, I read the description and some reviews – and it’s surprising how opinions differ.  Some of these books are so good I feel guilty that I only paid 99p.  Others are crap and I either abandon them or rush through, wondering how they got such good reviews.

When reading a paperback, you see the title and the author every time you pick it up and if there’s a character that wasn’t built strongly enough to remember who they are you can easily recap to the point where they came in. With Kindle, I tend to forget the name of the author and the title of the book. I can’t recall who wrote the sex scenes in this 99p book I’m half way through but the cringe-making nature of the following snippets means I’m either going to ditch this book, rush it through, or plough on out of morbid curiosity in case there are any more of these gems:

Name that tune! 

Never did feel hypnotherapy would work for me.

“her actual vagina” :-/

Update 26/07/21 – a couple of good ones from the crime fiction I’ve just finished:

Stop unfolding me!

Sounds like a bad bathroom experience!

Whilst it’s easy to take the Mickey, I’m not claiming I could do much better.  I only attempt a sex scene if it’s relevant and it would be cheating the reader to simply leave the couple at it and move on to the next chapter.  I find sex scenes excruciating to write and therefore I imagine not too easy to read. 

The 99p book I have quoted from has lots of five-star reviews, otherwise I wouldn’t have bought it.  My own 99p book (available from a link on this site) only has two reviews – both of them five-star.  Hilariously, one of those reviews is from someone who hadn’t yet read it!  Guessing they must’ve been taken with Dean Harkness’s cover design!

John Sherwood’s ambient music

I had a lovely surprise in the post this morning from my friend and former colleague, John Sherwood:

John is a composer of ambient music.  Some is for meditation – ideal for blocking out summer’s intrusive relay of lawn mowers and strimmers, whilst pieces such as The Saturn Suite send you flying through the cosmos with an ear on the response of the rocket’s engine as it propels you into infinity and beyond …  Does anyone else feel slightly weird thinking about infinity?  What if you had a rocket that generated its own fuel and could go on forever and ever  ……?

The Lighthouse composition seems to work equally well as foreground or background sound, having the energy to help you on a journey of the imagination but without taking over. It would provide an ideal backing theme for a tarot reading, or to create atmosphere in a video or montage. 

That’s probably enough pretentious twaddle from me. Let the music speak for itself!

 Here’s a link to a wide range sound samples, MP3 downloads and CDs:


… and here is the link to The Lighthouse Tarot CD:


Cheers John 🙂

Another review of The Lighthouse Tarot

Thank you Kayleigh for this lovely review 🙂

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