Friday, 16 March 2018


One day many years ago, a young boy was playing at the bottom of his grandparent’s garden. Geoffrey was ten years old, the year was 1924 and it was a glorious late summer day. He often wandered into the shady summer house to relax and get away from the glare of the sun. One day he noticed a beautiful, though quite frail young woman, lying on a hammock. She looked very relaxed and smiled across at him. Although he didn’t know her, he didn’t feel it was that strange to see her there.

When he went in he mentioned it to his grandparents, after describing the lady. They went very quiet, appeared upset, but offered no explanation as to who she was and Geoffrey did not question them, as it wasn’t the done thing in those days.

Many years later he discovered that his father’s sister, his aunt Stella had contracted tuberculosis and spent many hours, relaxing in the summer house. Fresh air was believed to be the best treatment then, before the days of penicillin. She had died in the summer house. Geoffrey had never met his aunt, or even know of her existence.

Geoffrey grew up to be a rational, intelligent man who became a journalist. He never saw another apparition or had any other occult experiences. The ghost he saw of his aunt that day was not transparent and appeared as a substantial human being. He was a shy, nervous child, but the apparition made no attempt to frighten him and he always thought of her, years later, as a “kindly ghost”

Geoffrey was my father and this little story is true and is based on a letter found in my dad's effects, written by a colleague who was investigating occult experiences.

© Ann Wilson


Winter magic

Winter's icy fingers freeze
the earth, yet grace the trees.
With frost, like finest lace,
pure white.
Spun by ghostly weavers
in the night.

How magical, this winter scene,
swathed in moonlight's silver
spangled sheen.
Snow-laden days that she
may bring....

A prelude to a glorious

Thursday, 15 March 2018


  I miss you in the Autumn

when the season's red and gold
For that is when my father
broke the news that left me cold.
I found it hard to contemplate
life, without you anymore.
Missed coming home from school to you
rushing hungry, through the door.

I took your love for granted.
How selfish I had been.
I put it down to youthfulness,
I was just sixteen. 
All throughout your illness
you never said 'you knew'
But I was being over cheerful.
It must have given you a clue.

I tried so hard to hide it.
I was crying so inside.
So sad I wasn't with you
on the very day you died.
Time has dulled the pain
of that memory, life goes by.
But on those Autumn anniversaries
that's when I'm liable to cry.

Until we meet again dear Mum
forgive my youthful ways.
You know I really loved you,
thanks for happy childhood days. 

The Birthday Cake


Joanne was looking forward to seeing her father after all these years. It would be his birthday soon. She had moved away from home to work up north, after her pretty younger sister Annabelle had died so unexpectedly at seventeen. Their mother June had died ten years earlier after a long and courageous battle with cancer and Joanne had virtually brought Annabelle up single-handedly. Their father had started drinking heavily after June died and family life deteriorated rapidly.

Joanne had been twenty-one at the time of Annabelle’s death.

Her father was the only close relative she had now and she couldn’t wait to make up for lost time. She gazed at an old snapshot of him in the family photo album. He had been a good looking young man and she could see herself in him, with his dark curly hair and charismatic smile. She took after her mother, nature-wise and had inherited her strong character and determined nature. Joanne made a promise to herself that she would find her father one day. She knew it was what her mum and sister would have wanted. She had to put things right; she owed it to them - and to him.

Joanne would be forty-one next year. She’d never married and had worked as a pharmacy assistant for many years at the local hospital. Despite having to miss many school lessons when she was younger, due to the family situation, she had studied hard at college and had done well in her exams. Her father had not been around to see how well she had recovered from all the trauma. He would be nearly seventy-three now, Joanne thought and she wondered how much he had changed.

Would he even remember her? She so wanted him to remember, or would he still be a hopeless drunk, his brain now addled from years of abuse?

She’d found out he was living in a bed-sit in Luton, thanks to the Salvation Army’s help and had decided to go and visit him. She was feeling very apprehensive and wondered what she could take as a sort of ice-breaker, so she made a large chocolate sponge for his imminent seventy-third birthday. She clearly remembered from all those years ago, that it was her dad’s favourite, when he hadn’t been too drunk to bother with eating!. The cake turned out as light as a feather with all the special and expensive ingredients she’d used.

When Joanne arrived at the address she’ d been given, she was surprised, as she had expected the building to be in a state of disrepair and quite dilapidated. The tastefully renovated building was situated in a quiet road, surrounded by elegant gardens and had a spacious car park.. Her father’s bed-sit was on the ground floor. After parking her car, she rang the bell and the smart double-glazed door was opened almost immediately, as if he had been expecting her.

“Hello Dad” she said, beaming at him warmly “Long time no see!”

“Is that really you Joanne?” he gasped “ I can hardly believe my eyes girl, come on in, won’t you”

Joanne struggled to swallow, her throat started to feel very dry, making it difficult to speak and she felt overwhelmed with emotion at seeing him again. She stepped nervously over the threshold into a small hall, off which was a large well kept bed-sit area.

“ Thanks, I’ve made you a chocolate cake for your birthday, your favourite, I think”

“It most certainly is love” he replied “I’ll make us a nice cup of tea to wash it down with” and he disappeared into the small kitchenette, humming contentedly to himself.

Joanne sat down on one of the two comfortable arm-chairs and unwrapped the huge and very inviting looking sponge cake. She looked around for any signs of alcohol abuse, but there was nothing to indicate that he was still drinking heavily.

He came back shortly with two teas in bright china mugs and a couple of plates, complete with white serviettes. She watched him closely as he handed her a mug of steaming tea. His hair was still as curly as she remembered, though silvery grey now and slightly thin on top. She recalled sadly how much she’d loved him when she was a little girl.

She quickly observed how the strong hands that had mauled her young body so many times, all those years ago, were a little shaky now. She also recalled how she had said nothing and learned to live with the abuse, as he had gone no further, and she had felt so confused, with all the conflicting emotions and loyalties of a child. Then it all suddenly stopped.

But years later when she’d found Annabelle’s note, after finding her dead from a massive overdose that awful day, she knew that she herself had got off lightly.
Annabelle was not such a strong character and keeping the secret had driven her to despair. She felt she couldn’t tell anyone, even Joanne as she didn’t think she would be believed. It was all in the note.

Though Joanne was sick with grief and felt such personal guilt, the shame of it all coming out was too much to bear. How could she not have suspected what Annabelle was going through? Joanne destroyed the note and a verdict of “suicide whilst the balance of her mind was disturbed” was recorded. Pressures of college work, boyfriend trouble - everyone assumed those were the reasons.

He noticed Joanne’s penetrating look, disguised by the sweet, but false smile.

“Just a touch of Parkinson’s dear - and my ticker’s a bit dodgy too, but I saw the doc only yesterday and he says I’m doing Ok for a man of my age” he said, cheerfully.

They chatted for a while, just small talk about his health, his rehabilitation, her pharmacy job, her flat and her life in general - until Joanne could stand the pretence no longer.

“When did you get out of prison Dad?” she asked abruptly.

“About fifteen years ago and I’ve never touched a drop since, in case you‘re wondering” he said, rather too smugly, as he reached for a second slice of the delicious cake.

He had killed a young lad through drink driving, shortly after selling the family home when Joanne left. He had disappeared into oblivion after being released from prison He doesn’t seem that remorseful, thought Joanne, but then he’d never said sorry to anyone. Perhaps he thinks he has paid his debts to society. She knew better.

“Have another slice of cake Dad, it’ll only go stale” she said “I can’t have it anyway, as I’m diabetic - and I did make it specially for you”

He didn’t really need any encouragement and helped himself to another huge slice - and then another.

“God help my arteries!” he joked to Joanne. “All this cholesterol!”

She smiled broadly at him and laughed “Don’t worry about that Dad, that’s the least of your worries - I hope you rot in hell, you bastard!”

“What was that you said love, didn’t quite catch that last bit?” He had started to feel a little bit woozy now and slightly nauseous. Everything, including Joanne seemed hazy and far away.

The cake had been delicious, topped with chocolate fondant icing and hundreds and thousands, in fact just how he liked it and extremely sweet; well - perhaps just a little bit too sweet, he thought…

as he slowly drifted into unconsciousness.

Joanne was pleased - her boring, underpaid and slightly repetitive job in the pharmacy department had proved useful and she didn't care about herself now. The debt she owed her sister had been paid.

Two days later she made the call and waited for a knock on her door.

Granny's Vases

I have a pair of late Victorian vases that my grandmother left me, but I know very little about them so I made up this story.

Carly had been left the vases by her favourite grandmother, who’d died when Carly was in her mid thirties. The pair, which were in perfect condition, depicted scenes of lovers in idyllic country house settings. They were on a dark green background and beautifully hand-painted with gilding around the edges. Carly really loved them, as they were the only treasures she had to remind her of happy days spent as a child at her Grandma’s house in Lincolnshire. She remembered seeing the vases on her grandparent’s high black mantelpiece and recalled looking deeply into the pictures and fantasising about the handsome Victorian couple depicted in the scenes..

The vases had travelled with Carly on various moves over the years when she had fled from her violent and abusive husband into another bad relationship with a compulsive gambler, who also turned out to be an alcoholic and a womaniser. Eventually she moved to another town and re-married, which also proved disastrous. Finally she’d come back to her home town to settle after meeting her partner and soul-mate Peter.

Unfortunately over the years Carly and Peter had very bad luck financially and had massive debts to contend with. Admittedly, neither of them were very good with money and having low paid, though rewarding jobs over the years, they’d not been able to accrue any savings or a decent pension to fall back on when they reached pensionable age. Carly, now sixty-five, had reluctantly given her job up due to severe arthritis in both hips and Peter who was nearly seventy, but still in good health, had two part-time jobs to keep them going and keep creditors off their back.

It had occurred to Carly to sell the vases to raise some much needed cash, but she was reluctant to do this for sentimental reasons. Their financial situation was getting desperate though and needs must, she thought. She knew that they could be worth as much as £2000. She discussed it with Peter and he suggested they sleep on it for a while before making any hasty decisions.

Over a century earlier...

Charlotte was awakened by the warm morning sun filtering through the latticed bedroom window of the large country house she shared with her husband Pierre. Her life was idyllic; she was twenty-one and in robust health. Her long fair tresses gleamed in the sunlight, framing her small and exquisitely beautiful features. The house was beautiful too and stood in acres of formal, expertly landscaped gardens, with box hedges neatly containing the charming flower beds. The heady scent of the rose gardens wafted through the windows on that June day in 1895. Nothing could spoil the peace and tranquillity of her perfect life - or so Charlotte thought. Pierre was the perfect husband, rich and good looking and so kind and gentle - and they were soon to be proud parents of their first child.

Unfortunately, the French-born Pierre was a gambling man, though he kept the secret well away from his wife. Charlotte assumed his long absences from home were due to lucrative business deals and commitments and did not dream of questioning him. At seven months pregnant she had more important things on her mind, like instructing the haberdashers on the fine soft furnishings for the nursery.
She had always been artistically inclined and had embroidered all the linen for the cradle and Pierre had commissioned a beautiful rocking horse to be completed for when the baby was older.

Charlotte’s personal maid Jessie, had laid out her emerald green velvet gown that had been made specially for the pregnancy and which suited her colouring. It went so well with the expensive jade necklace that Pierre had brought back from China a few years earlier for her birthday. Charlotte loved the cool feel of the green jade on her skin. After washing and dressing she went down to the ornately decorated dining room for breakfast. After her meal she retired to the elegant drawing room to carry on with her embroidery.

Later on that morning there was a loud and very persistent knocking on the large oak door. It was answered by Martha, who was head maid to Charlotte and Pierre. She was a stern, though handsome looking woman, who was very loyal to the family as were all the servants.

“There’s a policeman to see you Ma’am” She spoke in a whisper almost, to her apprehensive mistress. A policeman knocking on the door of the gentry was a very rare sight indeed, so she knew it had to be something of great importance.

“I’m afraid I have some very grave news for you Ma’am; please sit down and I will endeavour to explain what has happened. Your husband, Pierre Le Grande was found shot dead in his office this morning - by his own hand it appears. Apparently the tragedy involved heavy gambling debts that he was unable to pay. He left this letter addressed to you, but I’m afraid we had to open it as part of our investigations. I am so sorry to be the bearer of such tragic news”

Charlotte hesitantly reached out for the letter with a shaking hand and read the words that she would never forget till her dying day.

“ My dearest Charlotte, greatest love of my life. I hate to leave you and our innocent unborn child, who alas I will never know, but I cannot bear to live with the shame and disgrace that will now ensue. We are indeed ruined, due to my reckless business deals and gambling. I hope you will find it in your heart to forgive me one day. Till we meet again - your loving husband, Pierre.”

Dropping the letter, Charlotte wept uncontrollably and suddenly became breathless with the terrible revelations and slumped into the arms of the vigilant policeman. Martha rushed to get the smelling salts and helped the trembling Charlotte to her bed when she came round from the faint. Billy Brice, one of the stable lads was sent to fetch the doctor. Luckily as Charlotte was a healthy young woman, she and the baby were fine and two months later she gave birth to a healthy baby boy and named him Peter - the English version of her husband’s name.

Eventually the big house had to be sold to pay off the debts and Charlotte had to move to a small cottage with just one servant - the loyal Martha. Life was hard for her and Peter, as she had inherited very little, but she began to make a reasonable living as a potter and artist - hand-painting various pieces. Later on she began to specialise in pairs of vases depicting Victorian lovers, which became very popular at that time.

Carly woke up with a start from the incredible dream she’d just had. Certainly the vases had been on her mind lately, but the dream had been so vivid she felt a kinship to all the people involved and it made her want to know more about the history of them. She did some extensive research on the internet and discovered the potter and artist’s name. She was amazed when she discovered it was Charlotte Le Grande, who it appeared was her great grandmother on her granddad's side. He had died when she was small so nothing was known about the family connection with Charlotte. A little more research of the family tree revealed everything that happened in Carly’s dream was absolutely true!

Needless to say the vases have remained in Carly’s family and for some reason their luck has changed for the better, with a small inheritance from Peter’s late uncle. Carly is certain when she glances at the vases, that the pretty fair-haired Victorian lady wearing the emerald dress in the hand-painted picture, is smiling at her!


Wednesday, 14 March 2018

From Russia with Love

This is one of my short stories that I wrote a few years ago. I wrote it for a competition on a poetry site, where we had to write a story based on a book title.  Comments welcome.

Phil Watson wasn’t a heavy gambler - well not normally, but he’d had a very trying morning at work and was relieved to pop to the bookies in his lunch hour. His boss, Dave Masterson had been in a foul mood all morning, moaning about everything and everyone. He ran a house clearance business, complete with a sprawling junk shop - or “Dave’s Emporium” as he preferred it to be known. They’d only cleared a couple of houses so far this week and the pickings from the last one didn’t look up to much.

The elderly lady who’d owned the house had been a bit of a recluse and the house was in a poor state of repair as were most of the contents. The house was extremely dark with tattered drapes covering the shabby latticed windows; its contents and ancient furniture all covered in decades of dust and cobwebs, mingled with its secrets and memories. It reminded Phil of Miss Havisham’s house in Dicken’s "Great Expectations" and he couldn’t help feeling upset about the fate of the old lady, who it seemed had nobody in the world to care about her. It was only when the neighbours complained about the putrid smell that the police were called. She had been dead well over a month and this was the height of summer. Although the bedroom where she’d been found had been cleared and fumigated, it still reeked of decay and the odd dead fly remained, embedded in the remnants of a grubby carpet, an unwelcome reminder of its inhabitant’s sad demise. Her funeral was a sad affair as no living relatives could be traced.

Phil glanced up at the screen to check the runners in the 2 - 50pm at Chepstow. He didn’t know that much about form and mostly went by the odds and names of the horses he fancied. He was feeling fed up and more than a little reckless and decided to put £20 to win on a 50/1 chance, something he’d never done before, as the most he’d ever betted was £5 each way on a horse that at least stood a chance of a place. He had a weird, excited sort of feeling in his gut about this particular horse, for some reason. His wife Mia had never approved of gambling. God knows what she would have to say about this, Phil thought to himself and smiled wryly. He took a deep breath as he handed over his betting slip and cash to Tracy, the attractive cashier.

“See you later Trace, when I pick up me winnings!” he joked, as he furtively ran his eyes over what he could see of her firm breasts. She was wearing a very low necked pale blue top which showed off her admirable cleavage and complimented her deep blue eyes.

“Yeah, you can take me out for a slap-up meal at Alphonso’s if that one comes in first, Phil!” She smiled at him and giggled, as she tossed her long strawberry blonde hair back with a flick of a wrist.

As if she could read his mind, Phil felt himself redden. He’d always rather fancied Tracy; she was half the reason he came in here so much. As he walked back to “Dave’s Emporium” he felt guilty about his lustful thoughts and vowed to buy some flowers for Mia after work, on his way home.

“You took ya bloody time, you’re five minutes late!” growled Dave, as Phil walked through the old door, which was in dire need of a lick of paint, in order to smarten the dingy shop frontage up a bit, which might have possibly attracted a more discerning clientèle. Still, there were quite a few customers rummaging through the junk, which was encouraging, not that it made Dave’s mood any more pleasant.

Phil ignored the remark; it was pointless arguing with Dave as he always thought he was right about everything and conveniently forgot about all the unpaid hours that Phil often put in after the shop had closed and the many errands he’d made to the local tip, which was not exactly on his route home.

“ I’ve sorted out some bloody rubbish from that old dear’s house” snarled the disgruntled Dave “Mostly broken crockery and other bloody useless bits; you can drop it off at the tip on your way home”

A please would be nice, thought Phil, but he just sighed and muttered “OK” He couldn’t afford to lose his job by telling his boss to flaming well sod off, stick the boxes where the sun don’t shine, and stop being such an ignorant, ungrateful, miserable bastard!! - well not with the way things were at the moment, credit crunch and all. He lugged the two large boxes of rubbish that the churlish Dave had stacked up in the yard at the back of the shop and loaded them in the truck. When he arrived there was nobody else using the tip, so he had plenty of time to have a little snout through the boxes.

He was just about to throw the second one in when he noticed something glinting in an old broken jug. It was wrapped in some torn and faded, yellowing tissue paper. Phil carefully unwrapped the object from the paper and gasped. The object was a pretty heart-shaped box, possibly made of gold, he thought. It appeared to be beautifully enamelled and encrusted with stones of some sort. He looked around quickly and shoved it in his pocket and drove home, completely forgetting Mia’s flowers. When he got home he took it out and viewed it under his jeweller’s eye glass and confirmed it was indeed gold, but more importantly - and he could hardly contain his excitement, discovered the maker’s name.

That magical name of names “FABERGE”

Phil decided to find out more about the little box; he couldn’t locate anything like it on the internet and thought about contacting the big auction houses. He knew that Faberge pieces fetched very high prices, especially the rarer ones and he hoped this might possibly be one. He got the number of Christie’s Auction House in London and spoke to a very helpful man, who seemed interested, but slightly cautious, pointing out that forgeries were rife in the antiques trade. Of course this fact had crossed Phil’s mind also, he’d seen a few fake pieces in his line of work, but he agreed to bring the box up to London for official authentication the following week, when he had a couple of days holiday and leave it with the experts for a while.

“Well, blow me, here he is at last” said Tracy “ thought you’d emigrated or something. I’m still waiting for that slap-up meal you promised me Phil”

“What! It actually flipping won,  well blow me!” In his excitement over the “Faberge” box, which he’d not mentioned to a soul, he’d completely forgotten about the bet he’d put on two weeks ago and had hardly expected it to win anyway. He’d not been in the betting shop since and they all wondered why.

“You must be so well off, you don’t really need this money” laughed Tracy as she handed over his winnings.

“I wish” replied Phil “to be honest, it slipped my mind, I’ve been a bit busy and preoccupied the last couple of weeks, but I’ll book a meal at Alphonso’s for tomorrow night, if that’s OK with you? “

“You’re on” she replied enthusiastically and Phil said he’d arrange a taxi for them both at 7 30pm the following evening and go for a couple of drinks first. He felt rather nervous as he had not dated anybody since Mia. It had been two years now, since she had died from a rare and undetected heart condition. Her totally unexpected ending had been a terrible shock, especially as she had been a couple of months or so into her first pregnancy and looked a picture of health. He’d not only lost his wife, but their unborn child.

As he left the betting shop he suddenly remembered the flowers for her grave that he’d promised to get a week or so earlier and felt very guilty, so decided to take some to the cemetery on the way home. He picked the largest, prettiest bouquet he could find - money no object today!

He decided he would take things slowly with Tracy, he really liked her, she was a lovely girl, but he didn’t want to hurt her. It was very early days for him, as Mia’s death had hit him so hard. He knew Tracy liked him too and who knows, she may turn out to be just what he needed to make changes in his life. He had ambitions to open his own antiques and collectibles shop, but needed funds to do this and was it really practical in a financial slump? Would he even be considered for a bank loan? It was hard enough trying to sell the junk in Dave’s Emporium at times, but he thought his employers off - hand, unsociable manner had more to do with lack of sales than the current financial climate!

The following evening he and Tracy had a great night out. The meal was delicious and a complete success as they both loved Italian food, washed down with a bottle of fine red wine. Phil explained his situation and Tracy said she already knew about his late wife and understood how he must feel. She’d just come out of a relationship herself so “taking it slowly” suited her too.

“The main thing is we have a good laugh and enjoy each other’s company” she said and Phil had to agree. Tracy had a wicked sense of humour that matched his own. They didn’t know it yet, but they were really made for each other.. They both liked the same rock bands and had so much more in common, it was uncanny. He felt he'd known her for ages.

The phone call came earlier than expected. Phil had just got in from another harrowing day at Dave’s Emporium; his boss seemed to get grumpier and grumpier and more insulting every day and Phil didn’t think he could continue working for him much longer, without decking him! He wasn’t a violent man, but Dave could try the patience of the most saintly person on earth.
Phil could scarcely believe what the Christie’s agent was telling him and had to ask him several times to repeat what he’d said.

“You’re telling me it’s genuine then and could be worth as much as a quarter of a million pounds at auction?” Wow! - Blimey - and something that small - I can hardly believe it!”

It actually went for over a million, as two wealthy Russian clients battled it out in the auction room, in front of an awe-struck Philip Watson. He turned a whiter shade of pale - as the song goes.

“Bloody hell, I’m a millionaire!”

The other thing was the name of his unlikely 50/1 winning horse that lucky day, a couple of years ago now of course. It was - and I’m sure you’ve all guessed…

“ Russia with Love”

Philip Watson became a very successful businessman and a great benefactor to many charities and always remembers to make sure that the grave of Miss Leila Kaminska, (the original owner of the little box) is well tended and has a beautiful headstone, where once was a plain wooden cross.

AS for Dave - well, he went bust!

Dusty Boots

There he goes again
as he struggles on his way.
His back is bent,
his clothes are ragged.
It's just another day.

At night he needs a shelter
to lay his weary body down.
People pass and glare at him
with evil stares - and frown..

as they don't want to know
if heartbreak caused his pain.
He holds it all inside, but
feels his life blood drain.

They found him dead one morning
but no one gave two hoots, and
someone stole his pride and joy,
those well-worn dusty boots.

They said he was once a scholar,
with a wife and boy, aged three.
The driver didn't stop that day
and killed both - instantly.

I wrote this one ages ago and the subject of the homeless is always relevant, even more now I think with government cuts and austere measures.  There are many reasons why people become homeless, grief is just one.