Dignity – 15 minutes

Its grey and cold today. I helped out at the care home for the Christmas service. Chatted to old Jim who used to be in the Army and then a Bricklayer. Nice man, big smile on his face. Insisted on singing ‘ While Shepherds wash their socks by night’ and squeezed my hand hard as he roared with laughter. He still had his Dignity … so I’ve done a 15 minute writing exercise using Dignity and the thoughts of that lovely Deacon Blue song of the same name.

He promised her he would do it.

He had promised himself he would do it.

They had talked about it often before she had passed. He could see her, spreading the butter on the bread, making a pot of tea to fill his flask. If he was lucky, she would put some cake in as well.Before he left the house, he would always hold her in his arms by the front door, squeeze her tight, kiss her on the cheek and say ‘ Wont be long now treasure, our ships coming in, you’ll see’.

Thirty years he had been doing the round. Same houses, same letterboxes,just different people.New blocks of flats, new houses, on old parkland but they all had the same letterboxes. He delivered joy and happiness, sorrow and pain, he could usually tell just by the shape and feel as he pushed it through. Most ignored him, he was just a daily happening. Sometimes the old ones would ask him how he was, the young ones always too busy.

He sat in the same place to eat his lunch. A rickety green bench by the Old Port where he could see the fishing boats and the pleasure cruisers.

The boat had never moved .She looked a little older and the blue paint was cracked and worn, just like he felt. Home now for he seagulls and the seaweed.But it won’t be long, he thought. He was almost at the end. It was his time and he had promised his treasure that he would do it.

His ship was coming in. They had saved hard over the years.

He would sail her round the coast and if anyone asked, he would tell them, she’s called……. ‘Dignity’.

Other Peoples things- 15 minutes

Another 15 minute exercise.

I’m a great fan of The Shires music and I love their song – ‘Other Peoples Things’. I found there is a lady in America running an online business selling mystery boxes of random ‘things’. She has tapped into that love we all have for unwrapping presents. The thrill of the mystery. What a great idea for a story. ‘Things’ hold memories:

Even other peoples………………………………………………………..

The box arrived at last. She had been waiting for what seemed like ages. Just a brown box addressed to her, delivered by Federal Express straight to her door. She put it in the lounge and made a coffee. It was smaller than she thought it would be. She had chosen the medium size box, she didn’t want to seem too greedy.

She took a sip of coffee, sat down and looked at the box. That was the thing, you didn’t know where it came from. An Old man, a housewife, a businessman, a baby even. You couldn’t know until you opened the box.They said the box would tell you, that the box had a story to tell and the story was waiting, for you.

She put her coffee down and used the scissors to cut the selotape.There was a scarf on the top, a blue scarf. She picked it up and examined it.Fine embroidery, good quality with a white laced trim. It looked like fine silk. She held it to her face and smelled a deep rich perfume. She closed her eyes and inhaled strongly. A vision of a young woman came to mind.The fragrance fresh and light.

She put the scarf down and reached into the box. She pulled out an old red tin about the size of a tissue box. She emptied the contents onto the lounge carpet. A tortoise shell hair-clip, a brooch like a swan, a green fountain pen and photographs, old photographs. She picked up the first one and looked into the eyes of a smiling little girl aged about six or seven sitting on a chair. She wore a lace dress and had long golden curls , a happy face with a cheeky smile.

She picked up her notepad and pen and sat in the chair by the window overlooking the seashore, the place where she always sat to write.

She wrote the title:

Other peoples things.

I’m still here – 15 mins

This one was tricky this morning. Mum and dad passed away from Dementia. Mum in law has Alzheimers.I’m helping out with the church service at a care home later this week… here goes.. 15 mins.

‘Come on Bill, where would you like to sit today, in the usual place? Look its the Christmas Carol concert with Cath this morning’.

Bill… Bill… oh yeas that’s me.. At least I think that’s me. I used to be Bill. I used to be lots of things, but now I’m Bill in the usual place.

She’s nice this young girl… she helps me but I don’t know her.. Why does she need to help me. Where’s Betty… I need to find Betty.. I saw he yesterday so where is she.

Why am I here and not at home….home, now let me think,I need to think. What is home.. Is that where I used to live with Betty… yes that’s it. We lived in a home… but now they tell me I’m in a home… but its not my home.

I’m still here Betty, I’m at home.. So where are you.

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.

The lady on the shore – 15 minutes

She walked as far as she could, she could walk no further. It didn’t feel safe.

The path through the field was hard to find, the grass had grown long. Summer was waning and the frothy Pampas grass straw like, the colours leeching out as if the Sun was pulling the goodness back out of the land it had once blessed with life.

She raised her eyes, put her hands to her ears and listened………

Nothing, she could hear …nothing. The sleeves of her dress billowed out as a slight breeze hustled in from the cliff edge… like a stranger unwanted but determined.

She stood still, hands to her ears, eyes to the sun. Her long dress flapped ever so gently, as a flag does reluctantly on a cool summer day.

She listened for one last time……ignoring the breeze…. And then she heard it once more. She smiled and closed her eyes. It had not abandoned her…… it would come.

Frozen Man – 15 minutes

From the idea of James Taylor’s wonderful song about ‘The Frozen Man’.

Captain William James McPhee looked out over the bow of the ship.The waves looming higher each time as they crashed onto the decks and through the rigging, sounding like a hundred cannons. The cold cold sea waiting for him and his men, there was no saving them, it was only a matter of time. Some had gone already, swept overboard and lost in the blink of an eye.

He stood at the wheel waiting and pulled the knot binding him to the wheel tighter. All he could see was Grey Grey walls of sea. It was his fate and that of his men, to be lost at sea. Who would know where they were, who would recover their bodies? He knew the answer, nobody would.

It had been different six months before as they set sail from Liverpool. The Company waving them off. Families hugging and kissing them as the boarded.Full of life, full of hope and expectation. A voyage like many others. A voyage that would bring them home again … but not this time.

McPhee couldn’t help but wonder, as the next wave hit,a block of ice as big as a house smashing the front of the ship, wood splintered and rigging crashed all around him, like old redwoods being felled in the forest.He wondered, what if the Ice took him and not the cold cold water?

What if The Ice froze him solid?

Perhaps one day he would be found….. The Frozen Man.

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!

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….

Introduce Yourself (Example Post)

This is an example post, originally published as part of Blogging University. Enroll in one of our ten programs, and start your blog right.

You’re going to publish a post today. Don’t worry about how your blog looks. Don’t worry if you haven’t given it a name yet, or you’re feeling overwhelmed. Just click the “New Post” button, and tell us why you’re here.

Why do this?

  • Because it gives new readers context. What are you about? Why should they read your blog?
  • Because it will help you focus you own ideas about your blog and what you’d like to do with it.

The post can be short or long, a personal intro to your life or a bloggy mission statement, a manifesto for the future or a simple outline of your the types of things you hope to publish.

To help you get started, here are a few questions:

  • Why are you blogging publicly, rather than keeping a personal journal?
  • What topics do you think you’ll write about?
  • Who would you love to connect with via your blog?
  • If you blog successfully throughout the next year, what would you hope to have accomplished?

You’re not locked into any of this; one of the wonderful things about blogs is how they constantly evolve as we learn, grow, and interact with one another — but it’s good to know where and why you started, and articulating your goals may just give you a few other post ideas.

Can’t think how to get started? Just write the first thing that pops into your head. Anne Lamott, author of a book on writing we love, says that you need to give yourself permission to write a “crappy first draft”. Anne makes a great point — just start writing, and worry about editing it later.

When you’re ready to publish, give your post three to five tags that describe your blog’s focus — writing, photography, fiction, parenting, food, cars, movies, sports, whatever. These tags will help others who care about your topics find you in the Reader. Make sure one of the tags is “zerotohero,” so other new bloggers can find you, too.

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