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The Scam – a short story about a fraud scam (2000words)

This is a short story about fraud and particularly about scams. I used to work in banking and was involved in managing the scam process.It always seemed to me that scams involved a personal interaction between the scammer and the victim, but were impersonal as they were transactional, a deception practiced to steal money. But each scam does involve two people, two lives and two impacts.

The old man didn’t open his eyes, his voice barely more than a whisper.

‘remember what I taught you boy, happiness is when, what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.’

Raul smiled and put the drink down on the table next to him.

‘I know Granddad, and you also taught me that Gandhi said, ‘The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong. Just rest Granddad, I will see you tonight’.

He leaned down and kissed his head, the old man smiled but didn’t open his eyes. He had kind eyes, knowing eyes, like his they said. He was glad he didn’t have to look into them today.

Raul fired up his scooter and joined the slow-moving traffic, making progress where he could in the tide snaking towards the city. There were no lanes on the highway, the traffic five deep even at seven in the morning. Smoke and smog filled the air.

He pulled into the underground car park. The top floor office was spartan, paint peeling off the walls, trestle tables, orange plastic chairs, but the IT was state of the art. While the computer fired up, he got the photograph out of his ruck-sac and placed it on his workspace in the usual place; Granddad, Anjoula, Immy and little Sayeed smiled back at him.  He would have to have another photograph done when the baby arrived. Granddad hoped for a girl this time, he’d always wanted a Granddaughter to spoil.

Raul sat down, put his headphones and mike on and logged in. The connection was immediate. The rest of the team were arriving, just a nod between them as they settled down in front of their computers. It was a small team, just twelve of them. Two of the girls from the east side of the city had not turned up for the last three shifts. Nobody speculated, or asked where they were……. It was the way it was…. don’t ask questions…. do your job… take the money, it was dangerous of course but it paid handsomely.

The file arrived almost immediately and Raul opened it …. a test. He hadn’t been tested for a few days so he was expecting it. He had never got less than 98%; pass rate was 96%. Raul was confident, after all, four years at University in London and a first in languages was as good as it gets. The test lasted about twenty minutes…. minutes when he could have been earning money.

The test call connected.

Raul spoke slowly, with perfect diction.

‘Good morning is this Mrs Sarah Green?’

‘Who is this?’

‘This is Steve Tomlins from the Fraud team at your bank, please don’t be alarmed, but I need to speak to you about your account at the Dalston Branch.’….

The test call lasted about 20 minutes and was a breeze. As the call finished a message appeared on his screen.

You have passed the test with a score of 99%. Well done Raul. Your daily target has now been raised to £20,000. You now qualify for access to Category A files, access is immediate.

Raul sat back in his chair and smiled. He remembered the day he was approached at University. The introducer had been good … very good. She had slipped the note into his hand as she stood next to him on the packed tube, smiling up at him as they hung on to the straps on the Bakerloo line. She had only said one thing to him.

‘Raul, you need to ring us on this number…. we’ve got a fantastic career opportunity for you, don’t waste this chance’.

With that, she was stepping off the tube as it pulled into the next station, lost in the crowd. He never saw her again. Out of curiosity he rang the number the next day. She was right, it was an offer he couldn’t believe never mind refuse. His training in London was intense but he passed with the highest score in the group. His placement by ‘The Mentor’ in the bank’s fraud team started three months later. His application miraculously sent to the top of the pile at the recruitment agency the bank employed. That year had been hard, studying for his degree and working four shifts a week at the bank. He learned the systems, the methods, the language of the bank. He slowly started to understand the complicated detection systems the bank used to protect their customers. He saw the massive strength of the bank but he also saw the weaknesses as well. He stored it all away in his memory and reported it back to ‘The Mentor’.

The Mentor was right, the bank always paid out… in the end the bank had to pay. The Liberal forces always finding a way to embarrass the bank to pay. Customers didn’t lose… the banks did… and they could afford it. The banks were so rich they didn’t even need to charge the customers to bank with them.

The file arrived on his screen and Raul opened the first case. He read for ten minutes, following the timeline of the groundwork already done by other teams, in other places whom he would never meet.

He made the call.

It took a while to connect as the call routed its way through servers, proxy platforms and masked numbers across three continents.

Raul waited…………

Aashi always ate her lunch at her desk while she worked., she couldn’t remember the last time she had stopped for a lunch break. Her shift started at eight and she had dropped the kids off at the child minders at seven thirty. Her next conference call was just about to start. She hooked into the call, announced herself and took a bite of her sandwich while the rest of the participants stated to join. Thankfully she was not chairing… she could eat her sandwich and listen… at least for the first part of the call.

Her phone lit up… she didn’t recognise the number. She was going to ignore it but then thought it could be the care home calling again. She flicked her headset off and hit answer.

‘Good morning is this Mrs Aashi Smith’

‘Who is this please?’

‘This is Steve Tomlins from the Fraud team at your bank, please don’t be alarmed, but I need to speak to you about your account at the Stoke Newington branch’.

‘I’m at work and very busy, is there something wrong?’

‘We have seen some suspicious activity on your account. Have you received any strange calls or emails recently?’

Aashi quickly put the headset to her other ear and heard the chair going through the usual preamble.

‘ I did have an email about renewing our TV licence the other day as it was due to expire soon. I renewed it online with the link, but when I checked it had another three weeks to run, I thought that was a little odd. Excuse me for saying, but how do I know you are from my bank, I’m really busy right now?’

Raul liked it when this question was posed, the hook was in, the seed sown.

‘Of course, you are quite right to check. Why don’t you ring me back on the number on the back of your debit card?’

‘OK, but I might be a while, I’m on a conference call at work’.

‘This is really important Mrs Smith; we can see money has been moved between your accounts. I strongly suggest you excuse yourself and ring me back immediately. In the meantime, I will continue to monitor and protect your accounts’.

Aashi thought of the money she had in her savings account from the sale of the family house after her mother had died and the astronomical bills to the care home for her Granddads care.

‘Give me five minutes, I’ll ring you back. My grandfather’s care home fees are paid from my savings account. He’s not well, after forty years working for the Indian Railway Company all he has in the world is in that account, I’ll ring you back’.

Aashi put the headphones on and made her excuses to the chair of the call to leave.

Raul had already hit the codes, covertly keeping the line open to her mobile. Funny, he thought, his Granddad had worked for the Indian Railway company as well, but then again so had about 1.4 million other people. Her name was Indian, she was his age, she must have married an Englishman he decided. He dismissed the thoughts as irrelevant. He updated the system, altering the team to be ready for the incoming call and typed in the summary of their conversation. Raul waited…. the call would be answered by the fake call routing system.

Aashi left her desk and walked to the break out area where it was quiet. She rang the number on the back of her debit card and heard the ring tone. She subconsciously patted herself on the back for taking the precaution of phoning her bank back, she’d heard the stories in the press about the Scams the criminals were using. The call connected and Aashi selected the options on the call routing to connect to the fraud team.

‘Thank you for calling back Mrs Smith, I’ve been monitoring your accounts since we spoke. I can see that money has moved between your savings account and your current account in the last hour, have you made any transactions?’

Aashi felt a cold stone in the pit of her stomach.

 ‘No, I haven’t’, her voice betraying her rising panic.

‘OK, don’t worry I will fix this for you. We need to move your money into a safe account, this one is being attacked by criminals’. While you are on the phone can you log onto your app and I will guide you through the process?’

‘Of course, please promise me I won’t lose my money, my Grandad is so poorly and the savings pay for his care’.

Raul couldn’t help but think of his own Grandad, slowly fading away in the room at the back of the family home. Then, without thinking he made the cardinal error… he asked a personal question. He couldn’t help himself, his Grandad’s words repeating over and over in his mind.

‘How old is your Grandad Mrs Smith?’

‘He’s ninety next week. He came over to live with my Mother twenty years ago but when she died suddenly, he came to live with us. He was a foreman on the Railway in Bombay for forty years’.

Raul guided Aashi through the process as she revealed all of her banking pass codes to the system. The rest of the team picked up the data and started work on transferring £20,000 from the savings account to waiting mule accounts. Within seconds the money would be fired onto hundreds more accounts as the cleaning and cashing out process began.

The scam worked perfectly; it nearly always did. Raul felt content, his daily target achieved.

When he arrived home it was dark, the children asleep, Anjoula setting the table for dinner. Raul went into the back room to see his Granddad as he always did. He was sleeping peacefully. He kissed his head gently not wanting to disturb him.

On his side table lay a card that must have been delivered that day. Raul picked it up and read it.

Dear Rami,

I hope this card finds you after all these years, it will be my last, time is short, I am dying. My life has been blessed. We were friends for so long, do not be sad. See you on the other side’

In the envelope was a photograph of a family. A proud couple, children and partners and a small child.

On the back was an inscription.

My Granddaughter Aashi has my eyes.

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Welcome to my humble blog.

It is said that we should all leave something behind.

They say we should all leave something behind when we are gone (Im not going anywhere for a long time yet by the way). A song, a poem, a sketch, a painting, a piece of carpentry or metalwork, pottery, a photograph or even a sculpture if you must. Just something that is from your creative side. Something that says something about what you are (or were)!!So I decided to give writing a go on the basis that I cant sing, draw or paint and I was useless at carpentry and metalwork at school. As for pottery, forget it, far too messy. So here goes – let’s write!

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What is all this blogging business?

Flash fiction

What is flash fiction?

Good question! For me its pretty simple. I like to use a propmpt each day as the subject matter for a short piece of writing; music, photographs, things in the news, memories… anything.

I write for about 15 minutes ( sometimes slightly longer) and see waht I can achieve.

I hope ypu like some of what I write.

Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.

— Oscar Wilde.

Hi. I’m new to blogging. In fact I’m new to writing fiction. But since Ive started writing regularly as a hobby, and joined a writing group, I thought I might as well put my stuff out there. What harm can it do.? Please feel free to comment and criticise, but do try and be kind!!!

I have started writing a crime novel and I’ve been experimenting with short stoires. I read on a blogg that it’s a really good discipline to write for 15 minutes a day, on anything, just as a writing exercise. So I’ve been doing that as well and found, actually, I really enjoy it. So my posts are mostly 15 minute exercises. Here goes….

15 minutes to write – Take It Easy

Jackson Browne wrote ‘Take It Easy’ but couldnt finish it. Glenn Frey did finish it and turned it into an Iconic Eagles hit. There is a statue on the corner in Winslow Arizona to commemorate the place where the song found its inspiration. It is one of my favourite Eagles songs… so … my 15 minute wrting is in honour to this great song……………….

It was hot and dusty sitting in the back of the open back truck that had stopped in Tuscon to answer his plaintiff thumb. The driver had slammed on his brakes as if he had changed his mind at the last minute and taken pity on him.

He shared the cramped space with a ride on mower, a selection of gardening tools and a black and white mongrel dog named Larry.He wasn’t sure who was more in need of a Friend, himself or the dog but he found Larry sitting with his head on his lap, looking at him wistfully as he strummed his guitar to pass the time.Larry’s ears pricking up each time he hit a bum chord.

As route 40 wound its way through the flatlands of Arizona, he thought about the girls he’d left behind him.He had run from town to town and girl to girl without ever looking back. Some had wanted to give love, some had wanted to be loved and some had just wanted… well him… but he had run from them all just the same.He hadn’t thought about what he wanted. He just kept moving on. He had convinced himself that when he found the thing he was looking for… he would know.

The truck stopped at a small garage on the outskirts of a small town. While the driver put gas in the truck, he jumped down and went into the shop to buy a can of Coke. Larry sat on the step outside the shop waiting for him. As he jumped back into the truck a flat bed Ford pulled into the garage and stropped at the pump opposite in a cloud of dust. As the dust cleared, he saw the driver.She slammed the door and headed for the shop. He couldn’t see her face, he just saw the way she moved in those tight fitting jeans, cowboy boots and check shirt worn short revealing her back. He wanted to jump out of the truck but it lurched forward sprawling Larry across his lap and sending his guitar crashing into the mower. And that was it… she was gone…..the truck kicked up the dust and the garage disappeared… like it had been a mirage.. and she had never actually existed.

The route took them through the small town and the driver tapped on the window and indicated this was as far as he could take him. He said his thanks to the driver, gave Larry one last hug, slipped his guitar over his shoulder and jumped down onto the side walk.The truck pulled away and he could see Larry looking at him from the back of the truck as it disappeared down the road.

He stood on the corner and was about to walk away when the flat bed Ford slowed down as it passed him. His heart leapt… oh my lord…. there she was, looking straight at him. The most beautiful sight he had ever seen. She pushed her cowboy hat back and smiled at him. Then she was gone, heading down the road, the dust mockingly obliterating any Chance of a further glimpse of her.

But he knew….. At last he knew… that if he could find her she might just save him.

15 minutes to write – Peaceful Easy Feeling

in 1969 Jack Tempchin wrote a song called ‘ Peaceful Easy Feeling’. After a gig with his band he found himself in a bar trying to chat up a waitress – unsuccessfully! He crashed on the bar floor and to pass time started to write the lyrics to a song on the back of a flyer. It became a massive hit for The Eagles. Jack said the song is about tranquility, about either way, if she said yes or no it was OK – he had a peaceful easy feeling. So here is my take on what really happened :).

Image result for images of golden hair colour

She had golden hair, the biggest green eyes he had ever seen and a smile that lit up the room. As she moved she seemed to leave a trail of sparkles in her wake.

He watched her as she tended the tables in the small bar he had found himself in just off the highway, on the road to nowhere special. He was tired and had found a quiet corner with a bottle of beer to keep him company.They had all gone their separate ways after the gig. He had the furthest to go and was a long way from the place he called home. His guitar by his feet, he felt at peace.

His beer was empty and as she served the table next to him he caught her eye. He waved the bottle and she smiled and winked. That smile, there it was again, a smile to change a mans life, a smile that he could look at every day, a smile to wake up to and to keep close for always. A smile that would change a day in an instant. He hadn’t seen a wedding ring on her finger and she had the care-fee air of a free spirit.He would ask her if she wanted a drink after she finished work, what the heck, he couldn’t walk away and not ask her……he felt easy about it, like she was part of his destiny.

She walked over with the beer and as she put it down on the table she swept her hair back from her face and smiled…. That smile.

‘There you go’

‘Hey you’ve been non stop since I came in, would you let me buy you a drink when you are done working’

‘ Thats very sweet of you, maybe… if you are still here , its a long shift’.

‘Ill wait’, may I ask your name?’.

‘The folks round here call me Sunny, I think they are referring to my hair’.

‘I think they are referring to that smile’.

She winked again, smiled even more broadly than before and was off to the next table.

He drank his beer and watched her…. Spellbound…. like she was just meant to be. How could it be that he had only just met her? He felt he already knew her, really knew her like a man knows his lover and his friend.

He had another beer and another. The bar gradually emptied until he was the last one.. And he waited patiently.

He was awoken by the bar owner tapping his shoulder ‘wake up Sunny, I’m closing up, time to go my friend, the last bus will pull up outside in a minute if you are heading south’. The bar owner squeezed his shoulder and started to pull down the shutters.

‘What about the barmaid, the one with the golden hair, is she still here?’

‘Barmaid… that beer is stronger than you thought sunny, I wish I could afford a barmaid… just me and the Mrs running this joint.’

He sat back in his chair and felt for his guitar at his feet to make sure at least that was real. He closed his eyes again … and he could see her plain as day, with that beautiful golden hair, green eyes and that smile… that wonderful smile. He had a peaceful easy feeling… she was out there… waiting… he would find her.

He picked up his guitar as the bus pulled up outside the bar. As he left, he stuffed a flyer for the bar into his pocket.

Later, on the bus he took out his guitar and started to mess around with a melody. He scribbled a title on the flyer……. Peaceful Easy Feeling.

15 minutes to write – A better Man

My 15 minute offering today was prompted by a song – Better Man by Little Big Town. I was listening to my Spotify play list and this one struck a chord. Not necessarily the words in the song but the essence of wishing we were better and having someone to listen to us. I have my ‘listener’ do you have yours?

Image result for images of looking out to sea

He sat on the bench at the top of the hill and looked out to sea. He could see the horizon and the endless ocean, quiet and still today, just the gentle swell and the birds sweeping down below the level of the cliffs. The chill breeze ruffled his hair and he pulled his coat up around his neck and pushed his hands deeper into his coat pockets.

He had come to this spot every day for the last week.The same time each day since he had met The Stranger. An unexpected meeting but one that he would never forget.

He had been sitting on the bench as he was today, watching the sea, watching and thinking the same thoughts. He hadn’t even seen The Stranger approach. He had simply appeared at his side, quietly and peacefully, and sat down on the end of the bench. He had said but two words, ‘I’m here’.

It struck him now that he hadn’t even asked The Stranger his name, hadn’t asked him where he had come from or where he was going. He had simply started to talk to him, and once he had started to talk he couldn’t stop, he didn’t want to stop. He had told The Stranger his story. Told him his failings and his weaknesses. His hopes and his regrets. His triumphs and his joys. He told him everything and The Stranger just listened. When he had finished his story it was almost dusk. The sea had turned a dark purple and the light was fading, painting shadows on the hills.

The Stranger sensing that he had said all that he wanted to say, stood up and smiled.

‘Tell me’ The Stranger said, ‘what is it that you really want’.

He thought for a moment and then almost without knowing what he was going to say he simply said ‘ I wish I was a better man’.

The Stranger smiled and said ‘ You are already a better Man’.

The Stranger walked away down the hill and out of sight.

He would return to the same spot in the following weeks and months but The Stranger never returned. It mattered not. He spoke to him anyway, quietly and peacefully as he had done that day. He spoke to him about everything and nothing, about his life and his family, his hopes and his dreams.

He knew that in his heart he was a Better Man now.

15 minutes to write- goodbye old friends

My Dad ( on the right) passed away when I was quite young. This is one of my favourite photos of him when he was about 19, just before he went off to do his National Service in the RAF. I never knew the other two lads or the story behind the photo – so here’s my story in 15 minutes. God bless you Dad , I think of you every day.

P.S – he loved his Cricket

Billy headed straight for the bar as he usually did. He was always the first to put his hand in his pocket. Good lad was Billy, we’d been mates since our first day at school when he had decided that I was going to be his mate for no other reason than he liked my lunchbox , or rather the cheese and pickle sandwiches my Mum had packed into it. We’d been best buddies ever since.Inseparable, people said, like Laker and Bedser the Surrey spin twins.

Jack and I headed for the nearest table, threw our bags on the floor and flopped onto the chairs exhausted.

‘Flash the ash Jack it’s your shout’ I was desperate for a fag after two hours on the train back from London.

Jack threw me the packet and dropped his lighter on the table then stood up and headed for the gents.

‘You’re back then’ said old John sitting on his usual stool at the bar.

‘Didn’t expect to see you lads back so soon’. Old John took a swallow of his pint and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.

We’re in John, we’ll be off next week, just waiting for the posting to be be sent to us’. Said Billy , as he carried three pints of best back to the table.

‘Here you go Mike’ get that down you’. Billy was smiling, that broad toothy grin that had earned him his nickname of ‘smiler’ by which he was commonly known in the village.

I took a good swallow of my pint and felt myself relax. It had been a long day. The early train was crowded and London was mobbed. I was glad to be back in the village, in our local with old John.

Jack sat down and had a drink of his pint. ‘ I’m glad it’s the RAF, can’t be doing with all that drilling and shouting those army lads do’.

I drew on my fag and blew the smoke up towards the ceiling. It was time to say the one thing the three of us had deliberately not talked about ever since the papers had dropped through our letterboxes.

‘ We need to make a promise to each other that we will meet here again the day we finish. Same table, same beers, same fags. The three of us. What do you say’ .

Billy pulled his old camera from his bag and grinned even more widely than usual. ‘ Of course we will, I’m not one for writing letters but the day we all finish we’ll meet back here, John take a snap for us will you , just to remind us, two years is a bloody long time’.

‘ I won’t miss this warm beer or Old Johns moaning , but I will miss you two tossers’ said Jack , as he moved onto the bench the other side of Billy.

‘Just point it and shoot, even you can’t fuck that up’, although I wasn’t so sure that the snap would come out OK.

So there we sat the three of us. Three mates waiting to head off to do our National Service, knowing we would not see each other for two years from the day we went in. Knowing that when we were done, life would be different, we would be different.

Billy, Jack and Mike. The village kids off to serve Her Majesty.

15 minutes to write – Buenos Aires

Inspired by a lunch in a cafe in Buenos Aires on a rainy Sunday last week with our beautiful daughter Emily.

………

The door opened with a crash, almost falling off its weather worn hinges as the crowd poured in laughing and chattering, shaking off the rain soaked unberellas as they did so. The hubbub instant, bringing life to the quiet little back street cafe in St Telmo.

He sat in the corner with a strong black coffee and a forlorn look. Hardly raising his eyes up from his paper as the crowd grabbed chairs and the waitress made a fuss, dropping menus on the tables they had commandeered. He lit a cigarette and turned another page. 

He wasn’t bothered by them,  he knew their sort. He had seen the like before. He didn’t care for their bourgeois ways, their fat wallets and their enlightened views. It was all false homage to the movement, idealistic and modern. He knew they would all be the same, they would all cry Peron’s name and then run when the Generals iron fist choked the life out of them. 

Chairs scraped against the wooden floor and coats were hooked under the table. He counted ten of them altogether. They passed around cigarettes as a pitcher of wine appeared and tumblers were caught to much delight.

He looked up from his paper as his table was knocked and his coffee cup rattled in its saucer. She spoke but two words.

‘ Sorry sir’

He looked up into her eyes. She smiled at him and sat down on the empty chair at the table, fished a packet of cigarettes out of her bag and held one to her lips.

‘ please’.

Her smile filled her face, it seemed to fill the room. Bright red lipstick, auburn hair under a green beret. She took off her raincoat and he caught her perfume; expensive, French.

He picked up his lighter from the table and offered it to her. She cupped the flame with bright red nails on slender fingers. When she inhaled she smiled again and glanced over at her friends at their tables.

‘ sorry for the noise. We have just come from the Rose Palace. She still won’t say yes, but I understand why. That lot think she’s deserting them, they don’t understand, they all think she has no balls.

He put his coffee cup down but he couldn’t take his eyes from her face. 

‘They will kill her if she says yes, but it will kill her husbands career if she says no’ he said. ‘So what would you do if you were her?’ He looked into her eyes. He could see she did not hesitate.

‘ That’s easy. I would say yes’. 

‘ And end your husbands career?’ He challenged her.

‘ If my husbands career depended upon my gift of power then he is not worthy of that gift or of my love. The people want to believe, how can they believe in a man who wins by his wife’s failure.

She stood up and nodded to him and started to return to her friends. 

‘ And you…. do you have a man that would give you love in such a way?’

She laughed, her face a picture of joy.’ When I do he will have to be a saint to put up with me’ As she turned and walked off she looked back ‘ what is your name?’ 

‘ They call me Christopher – like the Saint’.

She grinned back at him. ‘ Well Saint Christopher, perhaps we will meet again on your travels’.

He smiled back.

He would make sure they did.

Phil the Flamingo – a childrens story

I have a beautiful four year old Granddaughter. She is happy and funny and brave and caring – a real joy. She has sarted school and loves to read. She loves Flamingoes but has always struggled to pronouce Flamingo, it comes out as FIL-A MINGO and it always makes me smile. So this is a story for the children about Phil the Flamingo, or as my Granddaughter would say Phil-a -mingo. 🙂

Phil the Flamingo

Phil the Flamingo was fed up.

He had been standing around all day in the water.

He was cold and hungry.

All of the other flamingoes could stand for hours on one leg, catching fish in the lake.

But when Phil tried to stand on one leg, it started to ache so much he had to stand on both legs.

All of the other Flamingoes laughed at him and called him names, like ‘two leg Phil’.

Phil went and stood on his own by the edge of the water and sulked.

A Hippopotamus swam by and said, ‘ why are you standing on both legs little Flamingo, you should be standing on one leg, you’re a Flamingo.

‘I can’t’ said Phil, it hurts when I do, so I have to stand on two legs.

‘Well never mind little Flamingo, you are still a very handsome Flamingo’.

And the Hippopotamus swam away.

Then, a Frog popped his head up out the water. ‘Why are you standing on both legs Little Flamingo, you should be standing on one leg, you’re a Flamingo

‘I cant said Phil, it hurts when I do, so I have to stand on two legs.

‘Well never mind Little Flamingo, I think you are a very clever Flamingo’.

And the Frog disappeared under the water.

Next an Alligator swam by and said ‘Why are you standing on both legs little Flamingo, you should be standing on one leg, you’re a Flamingo’.

I can’t said Phil, it hurts when I do, so I have to stand on two legs’.

‘Well never mind Little Flamingo, I think you are a very brave Flamingo. Ive heard the other Flamingoes making fun of you’.

And with that the Alligator swam away.

Then Great Uncle Frank, the oldest Flamingo in the flock flew in and splashed to a stop next to Phil.

Great Uncle Frank stood on one leg and looked down at Phil.

‘Young Phil why are you standing on two legs on your own away from the rest of us?’

Great Uncle Frank was very old and very wise and Phil was very nervous but he said ‘ well Great Uncle Frank, it hurts so much when I stand on one leg so I just have to stand on two legs’.

Can I ask you a question Great Uncle Frank’ said Phil.

Of course you can Little Phil, what do you want to know’?

‘Why DO we all have to stand on one leg all day?’

Great Uncle Frank thought for a while and then said ‘ Well, we Flamingoes have always stood on one leg, My father did and my Grandfather and his father as well. As long as I can remember we Flamingoes have always stood on one leg’.

Phil sighed and felt very sad.Then he said ‘ but COULD we stand on two legs instead of one leg?’.

Uncle Frank thought for a minute and then said’ Follow me’.

He flew back to the flock and Phil splashed down next to him.

Great Uncle Frank stood on TWO legs and so did Phil.

The Flamingo standing next to Great Uncle Frank noticed he was standing on two legs so he did as well and he found it very comfortable.

Then the next Flamingo did the same, and the next and the next and the next until all of the Flamingoes in the flock were standing on TWO legs.

Great Uncle Frank winked at Phil and said ‘ Well done Phil, I was so fed up of standing on one leg and my old legs ached as well’.

Phil smiled. Now he was very happy to be know as TWO LEGS PHIL.

The Boxer – 15 minutes

I was listening to BBC Radio 4 this morning (UK) and there was a programme on about ‘Soul Music’. The presenter was talking about his career in Boxing and how much and what the ‘Simon and Garfunkel’ song , The Boxer, meant to him. Its a great song from my youth … so here is my take on it, in 15 minutes.

  
https://www.lyrics.com/lyric/35006903/Simon+%26+Garfunkel/The+Boxer+%28El+Boxeador%29


The Boxer

It was the only space left on the station seat and I eyed him suspiciously. He looked dirty and cold. I had seen his like before sitting on the steps ouitside McDonalds or by the entrance to the station. A carrier bag of belongings and a weary look as they reached out to your heartstrings. But I was tired, the train was late and I needed somehwere to rest so I sat down before somebody else beat me to it.

I took my mobile out and started to check my messages partly out of habit but mostly so that I didnt have to engage with him. The rest of the passengers sitting on the bench were doing the same.

To my surprise I heard a mobile ringing and the scruffy cold young man pulled a phone out of his pocket and answered it.

‘Hi Mom’. No, I’ll be home soon, I’m fine don’t worry’.

He sounded almost normal and it occured to me that I’d never considered that even people like him had a family somehwere. I had always assumed that down and outs had been shunned by their families or had chosen to lose themsleves from their loved ones.

He listened to ‘his Mom’ and then ended the call saying ‘ Its been tough, but Im glad I came, I had to find out, I had to try. I’ll be home. Bye, I love you’.

He put his phone in his pocket and pulled the collar of his scruffy jacket tighter around his neck. He turned and looked at me, ‘ Cold isnt it’, he said.

‘Yes its bitter. I’m sorry I couldnt help but hear, are you on your way home for Christmas to see your Mom’.

‘Yes, I’ve not been home for three years’

I thought for a moment and then said ‘ You look like life’s dealt you a bad hand. It must be tough in the City’.

The young man smiled and said. ‘It’s OK, I’m a fighter, I wont give up. I’ve grown up alot in the last three years. University is not like I thought it would be, but it has taught me one thing at least’.

Quite shocked I said’ What did you learn’.

‘ That I want to work with kids. I want to help the poor kids, the kids who have lost hope to find it again. The kids who have had the fight knocked out of them. I want to help them get back up and fight again. ‘I’ve applied for a job to be a social worker’.

The train rattled into the station and we both joined the fight……. for a seat.

A poem – 15 minutes – If I knew then

My mother was the most lovely lady in the world. Kind, corageous and loving. She passed away last year after a terrible illness. Her funeral was a year ago yesterday. Mum this is for you. God bless x………………………………….

If I knew then what I know now , I wouldn’t waste a breath. I’d hold those moments in my heart, I’d show you more not less.

If I knew then what I know now, I’d change it for the good, you showed me in our happy days, but I never understood.

Time’s a thief, it steals our hearts and never let’s us find, those times again, those days gone by in joy and harmony.

If I knew then what I know now my breath would sweetly say, be gentle oh my dearest Mum, let’s cherish every day.

For we are but a moment past, a brief swell on the sea. For we my love will soon be done and I’ll return to thee.

The Dhobi Ghat tour guide – 15 minutes

During business trips to Mumbai our hosts would love to take us to see the worlds largest outdoor laundry – The Dhobi Ghat. It is the most amazing sight, especially when the laundry is hanging on the lines in the afternoon blowing in the wind as far as the eye can see. So , a 15 minute bash at writing something about this amazing place.

Ramesh dropped his daughter off at the school gate. She looked so smart in her green uniform with matching ribbons in her hair. She was a clever girl and the money he paid for her education would be worth every penny. She would be a Doctor or a Scientist he thought. He was always proud to see her off to school before he made his way to the Dhobi Ghat in central Mumbai. The traffic was chaotic, but he put the radio on and the air conditioning kept him cool as the temperature outside started to soar.

As he got nearer to the Dhobi, the roads became packed with the workers heading for their stones. Some had already picked up from offices and hotels on the way in and were weighed down with washing wrapped into large bundles balancing precariously on their backs. He remembered those days with a sense of pride. His Grandfather had first rented one of the 731 stones before the war. His father had taken over the business and finally he had inherited it himself when his father was too old and weary from the years of back braking toil in the Dhobi.

He pulled into his car park and entered the office block. It was a small office with just one desk and a door leading through to the production area. The team were already hard at it, processing the washing into the new washers and dryers he had invested in. Business was good and the loans for the new equipment were steadily being paid off.

He hung his coat on the door and changed out of his suit and into his work clothes. He looked like all the other 10,000 workers breaking their backs on the stones hour after hour. He walked up to the meeting point and was just in time to see the minibus pulling into the lay-by over the railway line. He greeted the tourists alighting from the bus as he always did:

‘Welcome, welcome. Today I am going to show you the historic Mumbai Ghobi Ghat, the oldest, biggest and best outdoor laundry in the world. Every day we wash and clean over half a million pieces of laundry and never one is misplaced or lost. Only in Mumbai could this be done. Welcome welcome’.

The money paid by the tourists, he knew, would pay another months school fees for their beloved Daughter.

The Mountain book stall – 15 minutes

The best book shop on the mountain

Another 15 minute effort. I love this image. We found it in Tenerife at the foot of a hill where families of dwellers had set up primitive homes. The astute amongst you will of course have noticed the picture is on my home page – kind of appropropriate don’t you think that I should write something about it !!

……………………………………………………………………….

Most of all they missed their books.

It had been three months since they had moved to the mountain to live.Their decision to run had been an easy choice in the end. They weren’t the only ones trying to escape. The mountain, once deserted, was now home to an increasing number of escapees.The cities, towns and suburbs becoming increasingly deserted as power failed, the normal order of life gradually crumbling. Food shortages and water rationing spreading like a cancer. Work became meaningless,inflation rendering earnings useless. Survival instincts taking over from hope and aspiration.

He was surprised how they had adjusted on the mountain. Warmth came from the fires they built, food from the rivers and water from the rain. They had each other and they had their memories.They didn’t miss all of the electronic social media gadgets that had done so much to spread the anarchy and despair over the last ten years since Global warming had finally been accepted by the leaders of the Superpowers.

It was the books they missed most of all. It was the biggest mistake they had made when the decided to flee. Not to bring books.Just one book each, they realised, would have made such a difference.

The idea crept up on them slowly as more people appeared on the mountain. Hidden in the forest, valleys and caves.They didn’t see them very often, everyone choosing to keep their own company, suspicious of strangers intentions. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to try. So they had made a crude stall out of driftwood and made a small sign from windblown paper and chalk from the hills.They made the trek down the mountain one day and left the small stall and sign on the path leading back to the small deserted town.

Wanted – books to borrow

They checked every week or so and although the small stall and sign were still there and footprints in the dust showed people had passed by and some even stopped, still not one book had appeared.

Then, by chance they had been fishing down by the cove on the far side of the mountain across the bay and within sight of the stall when they saw a lone figure walk up the path. Dressed all in white carrying a rucksack, looking like any other traveller they had spotted on the mountain. The stranger approached the stall and stopped. They couldn’t see what he or she was doing. They didn’t dare show themselves. They hid until the figure moved off up the trail into the mountain and out of sight.

They approached carefully, suspicious that the figure may be lurking in the undergrowth and they were walking into a trap. They hid in a bush within sight of the stall where they could see something had been placed on the stall. Eventually they plucked up enough courage to make their approach.

To their astonishment a book had been placed on the stall. They picked it up and ran for the hills. He stuffed it into his back pack and didn’t look at it properly until they were safe in their home, in the tree house.

He took it out and they smiled at each other and kissed. A book, an actual book. He gave it to her ‘you open it’.

She opened the cover and smiled.

She read the first line. The first line of a book they would come to cherish and read every day.

‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’.

They wept and held each other.

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