Sunday, 20 November 2016

The Pond Monster

I was very. very clumsy as a child. Mum used to say I would fall over a match stick in the middle of the road. If there was a stick to fall over, a lamp post to walk into, a deep puddle to sink into – I was there.
In the summers all the children in our road used to go together up to the ‘big’ park to get out from under ours Mums’ feet. The council used to put on local bands and other entertainment for the kids. Mainly to keep the kids away from the ponds as most of us had no adult supervision.
We used to take a pack of jam butties and a couple of bottles of water or if we were lucky, lemonade and enough money for an ice-lolly or ice-pop.
This one day we were walking around the park, the weather was absolutely boiling hot, but luckily there was plenty of shade from all the trees.
There were quite a few of us kids on this day, probably about twelve of us all told. Some siblings, some friends aged from about 6 years old to about 14 years old (I was about 11 years old).
We were just walking around a bend, when some wild-haired guy jumped out the bushes and flashed at us!
He didn’t get the response he was expecting - we roared laughing, pointing at him and shouting ‘No wonder you can’t get a girlfriend!!’ I think we weren’t scared because there were so many of us.
He got really mad and started shouting things at us and made an attempt to run after us, but as his trousers had fallen around his ankles, he didn’t get very far!
We all ‘legged it’ to the open area where lots of grownups were – just in case. It’s odd thinking back, because we never even thought of reporting it to anyone, we just assumed he was ‘not well’ and as none of us were hurt, left it at that.
We had been at the park all day and we were all hot and tired. We had seen a band playing rock music, looked in on the bird aviary (which was mainly canaries) and had watched people play tennis. As it was getting late and the younger ones were getting a bit tetchy, a group decision was made to all go home. We had to decide to all go home at the same time to ensure no-one got left behind or lost – particularly the littler ones.
We all walked back through the park to make our way out. We got to where the model boating lake was (well - it was more of a big pond than a lake, but that’s what it was called) There were no model boats on the water as the craze had died down a bit.
So it was a bit neglected and the water was filthy with algae growing on the top. An older girl who was with us said to me ‘I bet you could do with a cool down Ginger’ and she shoved me towards the water. I think she thought I would be able to save myself from falling in, but with the momentum of the push and my clumsiness, I couldn’t stop myself from falling forward, head first into the murky water.
I hit the bottom of the pond, which luckily was only about three feet deep. My head narrowly missing a broken bottle as I felt my hands and feet sink into the slimy sludge at the bottom of the pond. Luckily, I had the wherewithal not to gasp while submerged and breathe the gunk into my lungs, but pushed myself up back out of the water.
I emerged from the water gasping for breath covered in slime from head to foot. As I waded to the edge of the pond, I could hear everyone laughing hysterically. It took me a good few tries to get out as no-one wanted to get wet helping me get out (not one adult came and helped by the way – just thought I’d mention that).
The girl who had pushed me realised she was going to be in trouble when we got home and started shouting that she was sorry whilst trying to suppress her laughing. I eventually climbed out of the pond.
Everyone stood back so as not to get splashed by the slime. I didn’t know what to do as it was a long walk home and I had no bus fare. So the children lead me to the Watchman’s hut and we knocked on the door.
‘What dya want?’ said the watchman eating an egg sandwich. I looked at him and thought what does he mean ‘What dya want’? – isn’t it a bit obvious? But no, deep breath. I said ‘I’ve fallen in the pond and I can’t walk home like this’. He just shrugged his shoulders and said ‘What dya want me to do about it?’ ‘I don’t know’ I said, ‘Do you have a towel I could borrow or could you lend me the bus fare to get home please?’
He signed very heavily saying ‘I’m not supposed to do this!’ stuck is hands in his pocket and shoved some coins in my hand, ‘Now clear off the lottaya!’ he said and then slammed the door in my face.
We all walked through the park to the bus stop. Well, when I say ‘we’ I mean I walked ahead and the others stayed at a distance from me to avoid the slime and the smell and hoping people didn’t think they were ‘with’ me. Everyone who passed stared as the ‘Creature from the Black Lagoon’ covered in algae, walked on surrounded by giggling children.
We stood at the bus stop. I was starting to feel cold now as I was soaked to the skin, but no-one would lend me their coat because of the slime, so I was shivering.
Eventually, the bus arrived. The doors opened and I went to get on the bus. The Driver shouted ‘Stop!’ ‘What?’ I said. ‘You’re not getting on this bus in that state. People have got to sit on them seats after you.’
Can’t I just stand by the door?’ I said. ‘No, you’ll drip all over the bus!’ and with that, he shut the doors and drove off.
Most of the other kids had already walked on (as they had guessed what the driver was going to do) and were a fair way off. So there was me, covered in algae and soaked through slowly trudging my way home. People passed me, avoiding eye contact.
The girl who had shoved me in thought it would be a good idea to buy peppermints so she ran to the little paper shop and bought three packets of Polo's. She shoved a handful of them in my mouth saying 'These will warm you up' , nearly choking me. I am standing there coughing up Polo mints and pond snot thinking to myself that this girl was definitely not my friend and was not the full shilling.
When I got to home, my Mum, who had been pre-warned of my condition by one of the kids who had gotten back first, opened the door before I had even knocked and said ‘Don’t you dare come in here covered in slime! Go round the back into the garden!’
So I sighed heavily and trudged my way through the entry, around to the back of the house where my Mum was standing with Marigold gloves on, holding the garden hose in her hand. ‘Strip all of that off’ she ordered pointing at my clothes with the hose ‘and put them in this bin bag’ she says, passing me a black bin bag.
‘But Mum!’ I pleaded ‘I’m in the garden – people will see me!’
‘You are not getting into the house covered in THAT’ she shouted waggling the hose in my direction. I knew there was no point arguing as Mum had her ‘don’t argue with me’ face on.
I was glad I was covered in gunk as no-one could see the embarrassment on my face as I stripped off in the garden and my Mum hosed me down with the garden hose.
The water was freezing and my teeth were chattering passed themselves. Any minute now and I’m going to get frost bite or hyperthermia! I thought (yes I knew what hyperthermia was when I was eleven, I probably would have taken a while to spell it, but I knew what it meant).
She then threw an old bed sheet around me and made me walk on newspapers through the house and up the stairs to the bathroom.
‘Get in there and don’t come out until it’s all washed off. And wash the bath down after you’ She shouted through the door. I could hear her scrunching up the newspapers as she walked down the stairs.
I ran a bath and scrubbed and scrubbed with a nail brush until my skin was sore and washed my hair again and again until I thought my hair was going to fall out and my scalp was sore. I finally dried myself off and threw a bath towel around my hair, pulled on some pyjamas.
I made my way downstairs, tired to the bone, to find a big bowl of hot tomato soup, which was my favourite and a big thick cheese sandwich next to it.
We all had a good laugh afterwards about the pond and I was known as the ‘Pond Monster’ or the ‘Creature from the Black Lagoon’ for a few weeks after that.
I was always wary of the girl who pushed me in after that and never went near the boating lake again.

© Kate McClelland 2016

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Dolores the Drag Queen


Dolores the Drag Queen

On stage until two

She deals cleverly with hecklers

And the unruly few


With a few gags or a put-down

Or a withering look

She hands over aggressive ones

To bouncers Paddy & Chuck


Next day it’s the club office til four

Then stops for a break

And what Dolores adores

Is a brew and a cream cake


‘Earl Grey’ she says grandly

As she pulls up a chair

In the local patisserie

In which she has a half share


Off come the sling-backs

And she wriggles her toes

‘Ooh that feels so good’

‘It’s great to be home’


Eating her cake daintily

With a knife and a fork

She sips on her Earl Grey

And watches it all


Pass by the window

Of the little quaint café

Where she can wear what she likes

And have a good laugh


With the café regulars

Sharing makeover tips

And talk about life

In between sips


At the end of the day

Dolores transforms

She’s back out on the stage

As it’s here she performs


Dolores the Drag Queen

Her audience she rules

A star among mortals

In high heels and false boobs

© Kate McClelland 2015


Cartoon of RuPaul by Jeremy

Friday, 9 September 2016



I am so tense the back of my neck aches

Sinew twisting & turning

Tightening like a fast creeping ivy

Strangling its host tree

Crushing it slowly in its vice-like grip

I feel two enormous hands surrounding my skull

Squeezing & pushing down my head into my shoulders

Pressing their clawed thumbs into my forehead

As its bony fingers shove themselves roughly

Into the nape of my neck

Heavy weights hang off my shoulders

Pulling me downwards

I can barely lift my head

I have aged 40 years in an hour

My eyelids try to force themselves closed

They don’t want to see the damage

Scared to see the look of fear

& terrible bone-weariness of their owner in a reflection

Depression smacks me in the brain

I drag my gravity bound body to my bed

I don’t even take my shoes off

I insinuate my aching bulk under the covers

Pulling them over my head drowning out the terrible light

There I lie foetal & damaged I am lost in the blackness

That gnaws at my soul & spits out my gristle

My bed – a safe place for oblivious & dark thoughts

Until the tension starts to ease

I see in my mind’s eye - a slight chink of sky blue

I become less afraid of the light

The ‘hands’ pull away & the ivy rots back

The shoulder weights drop off & I can think again

Think of the things of the light

Bright things, a walk outside, a new book

The smell of fresh, scented flowers comes back to me again

This time I just lost a day

I am frightened for the next time

That this happens & it may not lift

To be permanently in a state

Of dread & fear & hopelessness simply cannot be borne

But this time I put the kettle on open a window - and breathe

 (c) Kate McClelland 2016
Photo by Pixabay



Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Christmas Wrapping Paper in August????

Hello All
Walking through the shops yesterday, I spied on the back wall of Debenhams a stack of Christmas paper and Christmas cards.
Easter eggs out the day after the January Sales, Halloween stuff out same time as Summer clothes, Christmas stuff out during the Summer Sales.
There are no seasons anymore. .
Just 'conveyor belt consumerism'.
We don't even have 'seasonal' vegetables anymore as they are force grown around the world and shipped to us at our convenience
Churning out 'When they're gone, they're gone' or 'Only three left' sales shpiel. I saw a sale once, ran for months and months claiming 'Only 9 left, when they're gone, they're gone' slogan - still selling them now!.
We know this is a lie, because if they keep selling, they will keep making them.
The 'toy every kid wants' drives parents into a shopping and stressed out frenzy at Christmas. Fighting over the 'last few' cybernetic kill 'em all games or 'Taylor Swift' doll that has fourteen phrases, three of which sell other Taylor Swift products*
You notice that they never make enough of the 'most wanted' toy for the Christmas stock, but bet your house on it that they'll be more than enough available once Christmas is over and disappointed kids and their parents will then spend additional money buying them in the January sales.
The consumer machine makes us want things, makes us believe our lives will be the better for having this or that product. A product is now a status symbol and you're a loser if you don't have it. You're not allowed to just not want it or not need it or not be able to afford it. Feeding their coffers and draining ours is the game.
Why do we allow them to do it?
'Keeping up with the Neighbours' died out years ago. Now we want to keep up with the Kardashians and their ilk, which is an impossible goal for 99% of the population.
It's a 'look what you can have even if you have no recognisable talent, but just by becoming a reality star' mentality. A young girl told a mum I know that she didn't need to pass her qualifications as she was going to be a reality TV star and marry someone rich.
We should stop and think - what do we actually need? As the Rolling Stones once sang 'You can't always get what you want, but you can get what you need.' (I would add 'usually')
May be if we could make ourselves happy with what we need and any extras are a bonus, we might actually be happier, probably healthier, definitely wiser and in not as much debt.
For debt makes a prisoner of all of us.
And on that note, my soap box is firmly tucked away for another year.
(* as far as I am aware there is no such doll, it's a made up one - I just picked one of the most popular young idols to make a point, sorry Taylor)
HappyWinter/Easter/StPatricksDay/Spring/Summer/Halloween/Autumn/Christmas/NewYear to you!!

Kate :0)

Monday, 15 August 2016

Now I Know What the 'Phone Number' Meant

Now I Know What the ‘Phone Number’ Meant


I was a precocious child. Always asking questions, not giving up until I had, what I deemed to be, a satisfactory answer, or a clip round the ear for being a pain.

I had taught myself to read from around the age of three or four years old by reading the local newspaper (we didn’t have books) and pestering any adult in the vicinity to explain words I couldn’t make out or didn’t know the meanings of.

I soon realised that questions like ‘What does m-u-r-d-e-r- mean? What is a-d-u-l-t-e-r-y?‘ Would be brushed off with harrumphs and ‘Ask your Mam’ or ‘Will you stop asking me questions yer little witch’ – or the inevitable smack round the head.

I started reading second-hand comics for boys (I hated girl’s comics) which showed people still fighting ‘The War’ and killing Germans or spies or showing Native Americans and Africans as stupid and lazy and anyone ‘foreign’ as an enemy.

When I got the chance to watch TV, I saw Sherlock Holmes ‘fighting the Nazi’s’ in black & white and war films every Sunday.

Somewhere in my child’s brain I thought we were still at war.

I wasn’t old enough for school yet, but I had been chosen by default (the only niece old enough) to be a bridesmaid for my auntie’s hastily arranged wedding. She told me it was because I was her favourite redhead. To which I replied ‘but I’m the ONLY redhead!’

It was 1966. She had managed to get a date and time for her wedding that didn’t clash with any World Cup games - but also, not too near the pending birth date (hence the ‘haste’). She was only seventeen herself, but to me she was all grown up and glamourous and ‘hip’.

I had been dragged along to boutiques, hairdressers (from where I obtained my lifelong dislike of hairdressing salons – a burnt scalp will do that to you!). We went to the office where my auntie worked as a comptometer operator. It had a blackboard like school on one wall and smelled of chalk, pots of tea and disappointment. The office girls were nice enough ‘Don’t she look like Shirley Temple?’ they simpered as I was spun around on an office chair.

My auntie then took me to what I vaguely remember as being someone’s parlour room for something called ‘a fitting’. I didn’t know where we were, or what a ‘fitting’ was, but the house was large and had indoor plumbing so I thought they must have been rich.

The room was darkly decorated with ‘serene’ green walls (I can’t remember whether it was wallpaper or just painted – on reflection, it might have been wallpapered as I remember it not ‘echoing’ much when people spoke) and treacle brown painted doors and skirting boards. The swinging sixties hadn’t reached this house as yet.

The parlour had been turned into a sewing room. Lots of rolls of fabric and boxes of buttons and sequins and layers of lace were stacked along the walls of the room on the left.

A huge shiny sewing machine, the colour of a London Hackney cab, stood to attention in one corner and a measuring and cutting table in the middle of the room, which took up most of the floor space. A big heavy lampshade hung from the middle of the room.

There were a couple of stools around a little platform clients stood on whilst being pinned into the seamstress’ creations.

You could tell a lot of needlecraft went on in that space as the air was full of tiny specks of fabric dust which caught the light. The room smelled of mothballs and clean linen, but with a tiny whiff of sweat, late nights and backache.

The room was very cool and I remember goose-bumps coming up on my arms even before I was indignantly disrobed down to my under things to be measured for the bridesmaid dress.

My auntie babbled away nervously to the lady who nodded along as she took the measurements. She was a plump lady with steel grey hair folded into a neat coiffeur on the top of her head. She wore a navy blue coverall over her clothes and very sensible shoes.

I can’t remember what colour her eyes were but I remember they saw right through you and took your measure as well as your dress size in an instant.

My auntie was explaining to this very polite seamstress lady what she wanted and the lady explained very politely back that what she wanted was not within my auntie’s budget – ‘Perhaps madam would care to look over the Crimplene fabrics?’

As I listened to them talk, I came to the realisation that this lady was speaking with a German accent.

I was shocked! Shocked that my auntie had brought me to this obvious den of spies and murderers who wanted to take over our country and enslave us all. My child’s brain whirled. How could she do this? Grandad had fought the Germans! My Dad would go spare when he found out!’

I scowled ever deeper as the conversation went on. Trying to get auntie’s attention without alerting ‘you know who’.

Finally after sulking for what seemed like hours, my auntie got me dressed and was very cross with me.

‘What is the matter with you today?’ and to the lady ‘She really isn’t normally like this, she’s a real sweetie’.

To which I scowled even deeper and muttered to my aunt in that quietly loud way kids whisper

‘That lady’s German - Why are we in a German person’s house? Does my dad know you’ve brought me here?’

The room suddenly went from cool to Arctic. My auntie went an unflattering shade of puce and started profusely apologising as I threw horrible looks at this innocent woman in some pathetic show of defiance.

The lady met my eyes and said softly ‘Such hatred on such a pretty little face’ she shook her head and said to my auntie ‘Don’t worry yourself, she doesn’t understand, she is only a child don’t be too hard on her’.

The lady smiled at me and I begrudgingly flicked a smile back.

As she helped auntie with her coat (who by this time was flapping around like a demented swan trying to get her arm into it), I noticed that the lady’s sleeve of her overall had rolled up and I could see she had what looked like numbers written on her forearm.

I thought to myself, ‘I get told off for writing on myself, but this grown lady has written someone’s phone number on hers? Why?’

My auntie was probably dying of embarrassment by this stage. If she didn’t have problems with her blood pressure before that day, she would now. She grabbed the rest of her stuff and bundled me quickly out of the house.

As we left in a trail of yet more apologies (which I was still at a loss at) the lady stroked my hair and said ‘Please think nothing more of it, I’ll book you in for your next fitting, see you soon, take care little one.’

The door was shut and I was unceremoniously dragged down the street by my auntie with an earful of expletives and threats of bodily violence if I did ‘that’ again. She threw me through a taxi door and sat there next to me totally distraught.

I was really confused and upset. I didn’t know what I had done wrong.  

‘What have I done?’ I asked.

‘You were really cheeky and rude to that nice lady. I can’t believe you said she was German!’ She replied

‘But she is!’ I replied.

‘I Know’ shouted my auntie,’ but you don’t go around shouting it at people!’

‘I didn’t shout’ I said ‘I tried to whisper to you but you weren’t listening!’

‘Shut up! I’ve never been so embarrassed, I don’t know if I can go back there’. Obviously thinking her wedding plans were in ruins.

‘Why did the lady have a phone number on her arm?’ I said

‘Oh my God! She said putting her hands over her face ‘You wouldn’t understand if I told you’

‘Yes I would’

‘No you won’t!’

‘Tell me and if I don’t understand, explain it to me’

‘Shut Up! Shut up! I don’t want you to talk anymore!’ she said glancing in the taxi driver’s direction hoping he hadn’t understood the conversation.

I hated it when adults wouldn’t explain things to me, it was the reading all over again.

I was dumped unceremoniously at home and my auntie told my parents what had happened.

My Dad thought it was hilarious, but then he would.

However, when my auntie explained about the ‘phone number’ he didn’t find it funny anymore. He explained to me that we weren’t still at war and told me off for being rude. So now I was even more confused.

Needless to say we did go back. The lady was very nice even though everyone felt awkward (I still didn’t know why). The dresses were beautiful. I looked like a sixties princess

I had forgotten all about it until a few years ago when my sister was reminiscing and reminded me of the time I had been a bridesmaid. After a few minutes, I remembered this poor lady who had suffered my tiny wrath all those years ago.

Then I remembered the ‘phone number’.

That’s when I felt sick.

That’s when I felt wretched.

I realised that the ‘phone number’ had been her prison camp identification tattoo.

She had been held in a camp during the war, come to Britain to start a new life and a new business and had been snarled at by a speck of a kid.

I could have clawed my own heart out.

If I could have gone to see her and apologised I would have. But she was long gone.

I know I was a child and she didn’t hold it against me as she said so at the time, but it must have upset her at some level and I will never lose the feeling of guilt for that.

(c) Kate McClelland
Picture by Pixabay


Saturday, 23 July 2016



This is how my mind wanders sometimes when it sets off on a 'word chain' 'rain, duck, cat, take away' (thinking about dinner)


There was once a small Persian cat who worked in a take away shop, ingeniously called ‘The Take Away’.

His name was 'Bluddicat'.

Well he thought this was his name because every time he got under his owner's feet, the man would shout 'Bluddicat, get out of here!'

His job was to keep down the vermin. The owner wasn't too nice to him and only gave him scraps of meat to eat so that Bluddicat wouldn't lose his 'edge' when hunting vermin as that was what he mostly lived on.

His favourite 'meat scrap' was duck meat. It was so delicious and full of flavour Bluddicat relished every morsel he could get his paws on.

One day the Take Away was so busy, meat cleavers where flying across the chopping boards and the kitchen was clouded in steam from all the boiling delicacies being served up to customers at the front of the shop.

The meat preparer, Dave, was cutting up a couple of duck carcasses when the soup chef, Russell, slipped on a discarded piece of Bok Choy on the floor.

(‘Russell’ wasn’t his real name. He was nicknamed Russell because he never shared the sweets he kept in a paper bag in his pocket. Every time they heard the paper bag ‘rustle’ as he took a sweet for himself, everyone in the kitchen would say ‘what’ve you got there Russell?’)

Russell threw his arms out to save himself, dropping the pan of soup he was holding on to the floor and careered into Dave.

Dave dropped his meat cleaver, narrowly avoiding cutting his toes off and was flung unceremoniously across the chopping table. His arms splayed out to save himself, but in doing so, knocked the two duck carcasses to the floor and they rolled under the chopping table.

Dave and Russell fell together to the floor in a tangle of arms, legs and aprons. Their hats where catapulted into the air and landed on the still alight hob.

As Dave and Russell scrambled to their feet and rushed to put out the now oven engulfing fire, our hero Bluddicat raced between the scuttling legs, ignoring the frantic shouts and chaos and over to where the two duck carcasses lay under the table. He had a moment of gluttonous thoughts where he tried to work out whether he could carry both ducks, but realised  he wouldn’t be able to carry both and he may not get the chance to come back for the other duck. This was his only chance to grab a full duck for himself.

He grabbed a leg of one of the ducks and then dragging it alongside him, he ran off out the back of the shop to the alleyway where there was an outbuilding which doubled as a storage unit and his bedroom.

He sneaked into a corner behind a couple of sacks of potatoes (I didn't say it was hygienic!) to enjoy his swiped feast.

After gorging himself on the illicit duck plundering’s, Bluddicat settled down for good wash and a well-earned nap.

He grinned to himself, as only cats can do and thought:

 'I am indeed, the most Duck-filled fattened Puss!'

And with a contented purr, he went to sleep.


© Kate McClelland 2016

Photo from Pixabay

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Take The Gloves Off!

It was the hottest day of the year today in Blighty. 31 degrees Celsius. Doesn't sound that hot you think, but here - that's newsworthy!!

You'd have thought the Thames was about to disappear in a puff of steam.

The homeward bus had it's heaters on - (For all that is goodness in the world why??) which turned the bus into a portable sauna/poaching tin.
I was leaking water from every pore of my body. (people who believe the old adage 'Horses sweat, men perspire and women 'faint' have obviously never had to spend 45 minutes opposite a sweaty armpit whilst standing on a crowded bus mid-summer! - And why add the horse??)
Opposite me was an older gentleman who had seemingly wiled away the afternoon in a local tavern nursing a few Brown Ales and was now making his way home to either an empty house, (sad) or a very cross missus (also sad, but of his own making).
Bearing in mind it was this side of hell's gate in our crowded little piece of perspiration alley, he was dressed as if for a wintery day.
He wore a wool flat cap, pulled right down as far as it could go, an overcoat and very thick woollen gloves. They were the type of gloves you could play snowball fights in and still have fingers left after ten solid minutes of shivery fun - that thick!
He was damp with sweat to the point that under his cap, his forehead had developed a small waterfall, which he kept wiping with the back of alternate gloves.
The gloves (now visibly damp with the repeated swipes to his brow and the moisture from his hands) kept sliding off slightly , but he doggedly pushing his gloves back on again and again as they tried unsuccessfully to escape to drier climes.
As I continued to watch the saga of the slippery gloves, All I kept thinking was 'At least take the gloves off!!' But he would not be parted from them.
I wondered at him not keeling over from heatstroke as he meandered his way down the bus to alight at his stop.
He shuffles off the bus - and promptly takes off his hat and gloves and unbuttons his coat.
Some people are just odd.

Kate McClelland
Photo from Pixabay

Sunday, 3 July 2016

The Babysitter (Horror - for over 18's only)

Thought I'd try a bit of horror today. Any constructive comments gratefully accepted

They come home drunk, but giggly. The key scratches the door lock a few times.

The Babysitter takes a deep breath and breathes out slowly, then opens the door for them.

She picks out the ‘Hellos’ and ‘Great time’ from the barrage of garbled language coming towards her.

Kids have been fine – no problems – all in bed asleep, no – no complaints from the neighbours, everyone behaved.

The woman, baby blonde hair done up in a small beehive style is dressed all in gold. Her long, slim dress shimmers like the gold doily you used to get in posh chocolate boxes, her long gold gloves are peeled off and placed on the sideboard along with the gold satin wrap and her sparkling gold dance shoes she was wearing are carefully placed underneath it.

The woman wanders off to the kitchen in a daze, still wearing her gold dress, to make a ‘fry up’ for the man.

The man crosses the room and sits right next to the Babysitter, a strong aroma of stale cigarettes, stale lager and whiskey chasers wafts over her like a toxic cloud.

It bleeds from him like an oil slick.

He’s got his best dark blue suit on, complete with matching waistcoat, blue silk shirt and a blue paisley patterned silk tie complete with gold tie pin.

His gold 13 ruby fob watch chain dangles from the little pocket on the waistcoat.

He takes out the fob watch, checks the time and puts it back in the little pocket.

Several recently un-pawned gold rings adorn his fists.

Always gold rings, always fists.

He carries his wealth around with him wherever he goes.

Black leather laced shoes still shiny from being heavily polished

(It’s important to pay attention to every little detail – it may save your life).

He turns to the Babysitter, with his humourlessly smiling face.

His eyes suddenly black and soulless. A cold evil reaches towards her.

Now she knows there’s going to be trouble and she braces herself.

He casually draws an already unsheathed craft knife out of his pristine suit pocket.

Not damaging the fabric at all, a well-practised move.

He grips her left wrist, sliding the blade up and down her arm.

She sits very still, because she knows if she flinches or tries to move away, she is done for.

 He starts to tell to her, in a rather bored fashion, about POW’s in Japan who had been tortured by being flayed alive.

He says he could peel off all of her skin, with this knife, but she’d still be alive – for a time.

He instructs her calmly of the delicate work involved in skinning a person, pointing with the sharp tip, as to where the first incisions should be made on her skin.

(Across the wrists – but not deep enough to hit an artery)

How the skin is then gradually peeled back and - if carefully done, can come off in one piece, like a skin suit.

The blade then moves up her arm across the shoulder to her cheek, then to her nose. Where he nicks the turned up bit, but not enough to make it bleed - just to scrap the skin ever so slightly

He carries on explaining how the face is the most difficult bit -but manageable with a deftness of hand and a very sharp instrument.

‘I will leave your lovely long hair attached of course.’ he says, running his fingers through her long locks. The sound of his voice like the snake from Jungle Book – terrifyingly quiet, mesmerising but without pity.

‘So then I can use it to hang you up by your ponytail and cover your de-skinned body in salt’ he whispers, still smiling.

He becomes an Aztec priest and tells her how he could break open her ribcage, take out the living heart and show it to her whilst she still breathed, then squash it like an overripe peach in his hands whilst she watched, helpless.

All the time the staring eyes are black, heartless and unimaginably cruel.

The mouth smirks and he leans in towards her like a well-dressed creature from the Pit, poised to pull her soul from her body.

He looks straight through her eyes into her brain, trying to find the fear, the panic, the terror.

But she has played this game many times before, so she waits quietly for the toss of the coin in his head.

Tails he wins, heads she loses.

He moves the flowing hair away from her face and hisses in her ear ‘So… What do you think about that?’

He is hoping she will break down, cry, shake violently, maybe even beg so he can enjoy the horror. He leans right into her face searching for a crack in the armour.

The Babysitter turns to him, convinced this is the end, last breath about to be cut short by a pair of strong hands to the throat, or a blade to the jugular should she say the wrong thing or scream.

She summon up all of her fighting spirit, stares straight into the eyes of hell, suddenly smiles and says:

‘Dad – that’s the worse bedtime story I have ever heard!’

Not expecting such a reply, he blinks, then roars laughing, the blackness disappears from his eyes.

The open blade is sheathed and put away as he carries on laughing, telling her how funny she is.

Mum comes in with bacon and egg on toast, asks what the laughing’s about.

The Babysitter finds that she is also laughing loudly from relief as the atmosphere returns to calm.

And she gets to live - today.



 © Kate McClelland 2016


Picture via Pixabay

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Mum's Kitchen/Bath Time/Soap Powder/Salt

Mum’s Kitchen


I remember the little kitchen in my mother’s first house when we were very little.

It was a very small kitchenette type effort with duck egg blue painted cupboards, a ‘Belfast’ sink, a small gas cooker with room for a small table and chairs.

There was no fridge, but a marble slab which sat on the stone floor of the ‘pantry’ cupboard next to the sink kept the milk and margarine cold.

Mum’s pride and joy arrived when she had finally saved up enough to buy a small twin tub washing machine. This took up most of the small kitchen space and you had to move it to get into the cupboards, but mum loved it.

Before it arrived she had been doing the washing in the tin bath and using a very old iron clothes mangle to wring out as much water as possible before hanging them on the washing line in the yard at the back of the house.

Bath time

As we only had a tin bath and no bathroom, we used to bring in the bath from the yard (where it hung on a nail) and fill it with buckets of water from the kitchen sink’s hot tap and carrying them across the room to the tin bath.

When we were very little and it was so cold that the tin bath was frozen to the outside wall - Mum would heat up the water in the washing machine, take out the clothes agitator, turn the washing machine off and stick me and my two younger sisters in there one by one.

Bloody heck, it could be really hot sometimes. I’ve always thought that this was quite an ingenious solution and I still love really hot baths today!

Soap Powder

I remember one time when I was trying to be ‘helpful’ as only kids can.

I was about four and thought I would do the dishes for Mum so I pulled a chair over to the enormous Belfast sink we had. I piled the plates and cups and cutlery in – remembering to put the plug in.

I turned the taps on and then started pouring soap powder into the sink.

It was rather a large packet, nearly half my size and it slipped out of my little hands and fell into the sink.

The water was still running and now nearly all of the soap powder had gone into the water.

What hadn’t come out of the packet was ruined because it had got all wet.

I turned the taps off and surveyed the mess.

The water in the sink was now bubbles on top, but a gooey mess of blue sludge underneath.

The dishes etc., were covered in this mess and now and again a bubble of air arose to the surface like a blue mud bath.

I pulled the packet out of the ‘water’ and set it on the draining board of the sink.

I was trying to pull the plates out of the sludge, when I heard a strangled scream behind me.

Mum had come in the kitchen and had seen the mess.

‘What the hell are you doing? Do you know how much that soap powder cost? I only bought a large one yesterday so it would last ages!!’

‘But Mum, we can scrap it out of the sink into a bucket and let it dry out!’ I replied hopefully.

‘It doesn’t work like that stupid!’ Mum said.

She pulled me down from the chair like I was a chemistry test gone wrong. My arms looked like I was turning into a Smurf.

I tried to scrap off the mess from my arms into a bucket as my Mum cursed and swore and slammed plates around. She covered the kitchen table with thick layers of newspaper (we used to keep a stock of newspapers to help light the coal fire) and transferring the things from the blue gloop onto the table.

‘It’ll take ages to run this mess down the sink! Bemoaned Mum. ‘Wait ‘til your Dad gets home. He’s going to smack you so hard you won’t be able to sit down ‘til Christmas’!!

(So there was that to look forward to!)

We eventually cleaned away all the mess and got my skin back to its normal colour.

The whole packet of soap powder was ruined and Mum had to rinse the dishes loads of times before they stopped smelling of chemicals.

When Dad came home, Mum told him what had happened, but she’d calmed down a bit by then and realised I was just trying to help, so I didn’t get a hiding. But I did get a right yelling at for using all the soap powder. To this day I can’t smell soap powder without being reminded of this.


There was another time I was trying to be ‘helpful’ I was around the same age, so must I must have been in a ‘helpful’ phase.

Dad worked on building sites which meant he was up and down scaffolding carrying loads of bricks building houses and factories all day.

Mum would always have his tea on the table when he got home. On payday, Mum would do Dad braised steak dinner as a treat.

This day it was payday, so Mum made Dad the braised steak dinner and when Dad got home, he went to get changed out of his work clothes.

I knew that Dad liked to sprinkle his food with salt, so I thought it would be helpful if I did it for him.

We didn’t have a little table salt shaker, we had a big tub of Saxa salt. It had a ‘spout’ for an opening.

I opened the spout and tipped the salt out on to my Dad’s lovely hot meal.

Unfortunately, with the tub being quite big and me not being able to see how much was pouring - yes, you guessed it! The salt poured like a fountain and covered Dad’s tea in a white blanket.

Mum hadn’t noticed what I was doing as she was bathing my two younger sisters in the washing machine (see above) and then Dad came bounding in.

‘I’m starvin’!’ He said ‘Really looking forward to this’. By the time he got to the table, the salt had sunk into the gravy, so you couldn’t see it.

Realising what was going to happen, I edged my way away from the table towards the door leading to the stairs so as to make a quick exit.

Dad scooped up some gravy and potato with his fork and shoved it in his mouth with great relish.

He chewed it for a couple of seconds and then jumped up and spat it into the sink.

He grabbed a glass and poured himself a drink of water, gulping it noisily.

‘What’s up?’ said Mum. Dad glowered at her for a second for a second and then bellowed ‘How much ‘bleeping’ salt did you put in the ‘bleeping’ gravy?

‘Only a little bit’ Mum said. She went over and tasted the gravy. She spat it straight into the sink.

I was still quietly making my way across the floor towards the door.

Dad turned towards me - ‘What have you done??’ Shouted Dad at the top of his lungs

He jumped over the chair that was in his way and ran after me, I turned to run for the door, but wasn’t quick enough.

He grabbed the back of my dress and swung me around. ‘What did you do you little ‘bleep’?’ He shouted. ‘I was just trying to help Dad!’ I shouted covering my head with my arms.

He spun me round and gave me a good hiding. ‘Get up them stairs, NOW!’ he shouted.

I wasn’t crying as I was too scared. I could hear my two sisters shouting from the washing machine (I know - how funny does that sound?) ‘Mum, Mum what’s up’?

I legged it up the stairs to the sounds of my sisters crying, Dad’s dinner being smashed against the wall and Mum and Dad screaming at each other ‘ You should have watched what she was doing’ ‘I’ve got three kids to run after and I haven’t got eyes in the back of my head’.

Then Dad stormed out, slamming the door so hard I was surprised it stayed on its hinges.

Once Mum had a rant at the world, slammed some cupboard doors and had a quiet cry in the kitchen, the house quietened down.

My two sisters joined me after they’d been dried and dressed in their pyjamas.

We all sat up in bed (we all slept in the same bed). They just stared at me with wide eyed worried faces like little Meerkats for a bit and then hid under the bed clothes, huddled up to me on either side not saying a word.

A bit later, we heard the key in the door and we waited for a second onslaught, but it went quiet (which was actually scarier).

Then after about five minutes, Dad came up the stairs with three big chip butties, one for each of us.

He’d stormed off, venting his spleen and exhausting his knowledge of ancient Anglo-Saxon to the dark sky as he walked. He’d gone to the pub, but had been so hungry, he’d left after a couple of drinks and stopped at the Chippy a few streets away.

As he waited for his order, he’d calmed down and then thought about how funny it was and that I was trying to be helpful.

He had got himself a portion of fish & chips and an extra portion of chips for Mum and one between us. So we three little ‘Meerkats’ sat there in bed eating the biggest ‘doorstop’ chip butties by the light of the street lamps, getting crumbs all over the bedclothes.

All misdeeds forgotten.



© Kate McClelland 2016

Picture by Pixabay