Excerpt from ‘Five Lives One Day in Bahrain’

Standard

Until another author friend sends me something to share with you, here’s an extract from Five Lives One Day in Bahrain published by Ex-L-Ence Publishing. Check out the site for many good reads.

Rosita is late:

Rosita had been so exhausted that after her six o’clock Skype call to her mother that morning she’d gone back to sleep and had slipped into such a deep slumber that she’d gone past her softly buzzing alarm and her roommate Wendy’s door-banging departure. She woke with a start, “What time is it?” she exclaimed aloud, rubbing her eyes and yawning all at once. She reached out and looked at her large wristwatch, which she’d set on the small table near her bed. “Oh No! Nine o’clock! How did I do that? Now I’ll have to take a cab, and I was hoping to catch the bus.” The unnecessary extra expense upset her rhythm. But she knew she needed to look good, have all her certificates ready and arrive at least fifteen minutes ahead of the 12:30 pm appointment. No way could she catch a bus now.

There was too much riding on this job! Her very own section for hair styling, a salary of two hundred and fifty dinars plus sponsorship and the lady, an English woman married to a Bahraini, seemed to be kind and understanding. How was she going to get to Budaiya in time? All this buzzed through her mind as she hurriedly showered and sprayed herself with both a new deodorant and the Kenzo she’d used so sparingly and carefully ever since the American marine Ricky had given it to her three months ago. That was something else she’d kept from her mother and the girls at the Red Rose Salon in Juffair.

You can also buy the book here.

51fml60nh9l

Excerpt from ‘Be Careful What You Wish For’

Standard

varg

SuZanne Ahlin is a fellow author from Ex-L-Ence Publishing. She has written two books: A Secret World and Be Careful What You Wish For.  Here are a few lines from the latter.

Please note, these excerpts are not what you will see on the “Look Inside” feature on Amazon. So you are getting more of an insight into the story.

SuZanne, your book sounds exciting.

They started by announcing all those that would remain as heads of their clans, then they arrived at the Vampires.

They turned to Alexis,

“You have brought an Anim to us without permission,” another breath among everyone was taken. They looked at the head of the werewolves,

“Does your clan have any claims?”

“She’s not to be claimed, she is my property!” Alexis’s voice sounded like thunder and people looked terrified.

“You dare defy us once again?” One of the men stood up, he looked furious.

Jeannie didn’t know what was happening to her. It was like somebody else was talking through her.

“He doesn’t defy you; I belong to Alexis and no one else.” She was flying over the floor now. “Is there anyone here that dares to defy my decision?” She turned to the three men, “Do you?”

Everyone in the ballroom was shocked that she had challenged The Regime.

The man with the cane stood up and went to her. She landed, but there was a glow around her, not like the burning one but another kind.

To read more, you may buy her book here.

image1

Excerpt from ‘An Appropriate Act of Love’

Standard

lynda-tavakoli-copy

Lynda Tavakoli is the first of my author friends to share an excerpt from her book of short stories, Under a Cold White Moon.

Thanks Linda, that sent chills up my spine.

One evening my father failed to return from work. The house had been, as usual, quiet during the day, my elder siblings having by then dispersed to lead more normal lives elsewhere and I now wonder how I never noticed their leaving or indeed how long it had been since I was the only child remaining. The food was on the table; bacon, sausages, tomatoes, potato bread and two eggs – all fried as he liked it and now coagulating on my dad’s plate. Mother sat across from me at the table, hands tidily on her lap; mine stuffed in the pocket of my sweatshirt making bigger the hole already there. Where is he?

For an hour, maybe two, we sat like dead fish frozen into an icy lake and still he did not come. Beyond the window of the kitchen light was being sucked slowly out of the day and finally the grey gloom of evening started to invade the room. A fear was beginning to gnaw at me and although my mother had moved not an inch during that time I regarded the subtle change in her manner with growing panic. The eyes that for so long had scorched her resentment into my soul had taken on the look of a hibernating tortoise reluctant to accept the onset of its awakening. They were dead eyes to match the dead words that finally slunk out from in between her teeth,

“Now are you happy?”

To read her book click on the link above or visit her publisher here.

41jiqbjkdl-_sx331_bo1204203200_

 

Slow down, Life!

Standard

Some time ago a friend sent me this poem in Urdu, which really touched a chord. Time is the highwayman that steals our lives away and when a poem like this comes along it must be shared as widely as possible. It is attributed to the well-known poet, lyricist and film director Gulzar, but I’ve had those who know more about Urdu poetry and poets than I do tell me this isn’t so. I don’t know. Whoever wrote it, it is beautiful in its original:

Here is a romanised version of the Urdu:

Ahista chal zindagi, abhi kai karz chukana baaki hai.

Kuch dard mitana baaki hai, kuch farz nibhana baaki hai.

 Raftaar mein tere chalne se kuchh rooth gaye, kuch chhut gaye.

 Roothon ko manana baaki hai, roton ko hasana baki hai.

 Kuch hasraatein abhi adhuri hain, kuch kaam bhi aur zaruri hai.

 Khwahishen jo ghut gayi is dil mein, unko dafnana baki hai.

 Kuch rishte ban kar toot gaye, kuch judte-judte chhut gaye.

 Un tootte-chhutte rishton ke zakhmon ko mitana baki hai.

 Tu aage chal main aata hoon, kya chhod tujhe ji paunga?

 In saanson par haqq hai jinka, unko samjhaana baaki hai.

 Aahista chal zindagi, abhi kai karz chukana baki hai.

 

And here’s my attempt at translating it:

Slow down, Life, slow down; there’s so much more I have to do

Some hurts, still need to be assuaged, and some commitments too.

Walking at your pace, you see, some were rebuffed and some slipped by

Those I snubbed I must placate, make others laugh who once did cry.

Some desires I need to satisfy, some duties I have yet to do

Some wishes lie within this heart, these I must bury ‘ere we’re through.

Some friendships I have made and broken, some in the mending, cracked again

Those I’ve broken, battered, hurt; their wounds, I need to heal their pain.

You go ahead, Life, I’ll follow you, what will I gain by leaving you?

Those who have a right to my breath, they need an explanation too.

Slow down Life, slow down, there’s so much more that’s left to do.

The Cactus Blooms

Standard

My publisher, Ex-L-Ence Publishing has a brand new website, from which you can now purchase directly. However, if you prefer to purchase your books on Amazon, there is a link on the page to take you there too.

Here’s an extract from Desert Flower… perhaps it will tempt those who haven’t read it yet to do so.

This time I entered the majlis quietly, slipping through the archway, less than a shadow, less than a breath. My face was properly covered with the niqab drawn across it. I had pinned it in place to make sure my face would not be exposed. After all, this was a foreigner who had come to the house, not another person from the Arabian Gulf, a Khaleeji, which if it were, of course, I wouldn’t have been called. This time my black abaya shrouded my entire body. All that was exposed were my eyes. I could see that the stranger was drinking a small cup of gahwa, our thick, rich coffee, and a small piece of baklawa. The fine pastry stuffed with pistachio nuts that I had the cook make that very day lay untouched on his plate. Eihab’s mother had seen that the servant had provided that.

And now that my frantically beating heart was somewhat stilled I had my voice under control too. I inclined my head slightly in a silent salaam and raised my right hand just a little.

“Have you got your wits about you?” Father asked gruffly.

Read the rest of this entry

Shenanigans gone awry

Standard

When I chose to work in advertising so many years ago I had no idea at the time that it would prove to be so much utter, unmitigated, idiotic fun. Someone, somewhere looked down on me and decided that I needed to come out of the shy shell (yes, those of you who know me now mayn’t believe it but I was once painfully shy) in which I enclosed myself. It was a self that smiled and giggled internally. The giggling I must confess sometimes burst out of control. And then I laughed with such abandon that those around me joined in even when they didn’t know what I was laughing about.

School friends, classmates… you remember. don’t you? In fact recently I met an old friend who asked me, “What happened? When did this personality change take place?”

Blame it on advertising. Blame it on the Creative Department. Read the rest of this entry

Nothing

Standard

So here’s another old, “dark” poem. It was written to inspire a story and then I never wrote the story!

nothing-2The silence had enveloped her

In its warm black anonymity

She was safe.

No rasping voice

No sound

Penetrated it

A gag order

On insanity.

A restraining order on life.

She buried deeper into it

A mole, escaping the light. Read the rest of this entry

Solitude

Standard

Some poems take a lot more out of me to present to the public. This one was written more than thirty years ago. It lay among my papers, then I had to “de-clutter”, so I transferred, those I was somewhat partial to into soft copy versions. It was one of those pieces that I kept coming back to wondering if it was “naff” or okay. Finally last year, it was  published in Robin Barratt’s collection of prose and poetry titled Lonely. It’s also available on Amazon.

Robin approached me and asked if I wanted to write for his rather sad, but cathartic collection. Along came this poem and three others all written at roughly the same time.

I guess it’s time to share it here.

solitude

 

 

 

 

 

 

Such solitariness I have known

Total. Complete.

The satisfaction of being myself

And me alone.

The breezes were my playmates

The rains were made for me

Who else had I need for

And who had need for me?

 

But then a yearning filled me

Strange and hitherto

Alien to my soul.

A disturbing thrashing around of my spirit.

I searched

I called

I wept

To the unfeeling skies above me

Surely, somewhere

There was someone else like me!

This solitariness I too have known

That I live and die

Alone.

light2

Galapagalpeng

Standard

A long time ago, when the Bahrain Writers’ Circle’s creative writing workshop was in its infancy and led by Ana Paula Corradini Boreland she set us an exercise to create a world based on an object. I happened to pick up a tiny little green rubber penguin.The following story was the result of that exercise.

Recently a friend, retired Col.Pavan Nair, shared his real-life experiences on expeditions to the Antarctic and this story came to mind. I hope he finds it amusing.

GALAPAGALPENG

The figurine is a green penguin no more than one and half centimetres in height. He has a yellow beak and feet, pink hat, black glasses, a notebook in his ‘hands’ – which are really more like a penguin’s flippers – and a pencil in his ear. Unlike penguins his body is all one colour – a bright leaf green. It’s hard to tell whether he is alive or an artefact collected by the famous Antarctic explorer Captain Richard Byrd, as some folk say they have on occasion seen the tiny creature’s eyes move.

In the late Captain’s log books we have discovered the following account of a strange land to be found somewhere in the coldest part of that ice-bound continent. Captain Byrd, who is said to have suffered carbon monoxide poisoning in his 1935 Antarctic exploration, states that that is the year he discovered a place called Galapagalpeng.

Here then is his account in his own words:

“I don’t know how long I was unconscious but when I opened my eyes I found I was in what appeared to be a large hall that seemed to be made completely of ice. The walls were deep glacial ice with pale green striations that were clear as crystal. There was a single light source in the centre of the hall from which emanated a blue-white glow that cast a bright enough light to illuminate the entire hall. It was also the single source of warmth, for when I looked down I realised I had been undressed and no longer had on my several layers of clothing, parka, fur-lined cap and snow goggles. Instead I was in my underwear and vest with my socks on, yet I was comfortably warm.

No sooner had I raised myself and sat up when a high pitched squeaking filled the air and hundreds of tiny green penguins appeared through what I realised were arched doorways that in my supine state I hadn’t noticed before. Some of the penguins had notebooks, others had tiny instruments and they all had on white coats. Then one, who was evidently their leader, stood in front of me and squeaked. I blinked at him and shook my head uncomprehending, as he was certainly addressing me. Then there was a twitter that filled the room very much like laughter. I grinned back. Clearly they were not menacing.

The leader bowed unmistakably at me and held out his flipper hand side up. Assuming that he wished me to do so too I did and he hopped onto my palm indicating that I should raise him so that he could touch my temple. I felt no sense of apprehension and obeyed, my curiosity at these tiny obviously intelligent creatures was more than piqued. I brought him in line with my temple and then to my surprise saw him puff himself up to almost fill my hand and reach out to touch my temple.

He then proceeded to squeak directly into my mind in various pitches until finally he clearly said in plain easily understood English, “Please nod if you understand me.”

I was so surprised I almost dropped him. But I nodded and soon all the other penguins came rushing forward and speaking directly to me in English albeit in highly pitched squeaky voices!

“How do you know…” I had barely said these words that boomed out loudly rattling the hall, and they all said “Shhhhh!”

The leading Galapagalpeng then said directly into my mind, “Our land cannot take loud sounds, please either whisper or just say the words in your mind, we are Galapagalpengs and can communicate mentally when we are in contact with your body, ideally with your temple. Our voices are pitched to not upset the sonic balance of our land. Yours sadly, isn’t.”

So this is what I have learnt about Galapagalpeng and its inhabitants the Galapagalpengs. The one thing I don’t have and which they wouldn’t divulge were the coordinates to mark the exact location of Galapagalpeng in the Antarctic and after enjoying their hospitality for the last six months – the southern hemisphere’s summer – I admit that I am happy I don’t know.

The people – Galapagalpengs: Most of the time they look like tiny green penguins and vary between 1.5 to 3 centimetres when in their native habitat. As adaptable life forms they have learnt to compress their physical molecules at will and do so according to the temperature outside and in order to use as little energy as possible.

Their legends or science claims that they are evolved from regular penguins and still possess their flippers and dense fur, but their feet have become thick yellow fat-encased appendages, as have their mouths or beaks. They have taken on the colour green to reflect the colour of the deep ocean that exists beneath their icy homeland and feel no need for clothes as their privates are well hidden from both the elements and other’s eyes. However, when puffed up to a manageable size they look very like regular Emperor Penguins including displaying the white front and black body, however, I believe they don’t show the yellow patch of fur that one sees on un-evolved penguins.

They eat raw plankton and have learnt, like the whales, to metabolise the plankton in their bodies to meet all their nutritional needs. They eat only when they are hungry which could be once in two or three days, for this all they need to do is visit one of their many subterranean accesses to the deep ocean waters that flow under the ice of their part of the South Pole and help themselves. The Galapagalpengs have never known hunger as such, since at times of natural calamities a single feeding can be made to last longer by shrinking their bodies down even further.

They communicate in what appear to human ears as high-pitched squeaks. Loud sounds can upset the balance of their homeland and crack the ice-mountains in which their cities and homes are built. By capturing radio and telephonic waves that flow past the South Pole, they have learnt almost all the languages of the world and can, if necessary communicate with humans telepathically merely by coming in contact with a part of the human body, but ideally directly via the human temple. They can also communicate telepathically with each other when they form a chain and are in direct contact with another Galapagalpeng.

The Galapagalpengs have learnt to split the water molecule and isolate the hydrogen atom for fission to release power and energy in a safe and controlled manner. This provides them with both light and heat, which are needed all year round. Something that I understand is just being developed in our world. They have done so in such a way as to be able to use a single atom of hydrogen to heat and light their homes; usually just two atoms per home are sufficient for several lifetimes. Atoms are split from the abundance of cold water available under the ice at the South Pole.

They are monogamous by nature usually having only two offspring per couple. These are usually one male and one female. It is looked down on by the society at large to have more as it is seen as a sign of selfishness. In the past when ecological upsets have threatened the balance of their homeland and several Galapagalpengs died, then as a patriotic gesture they have had more children. The female Galapagalpeng has a pregnancy that lasts six months through the darkness of their winter and then the young have enough time to grow during the six months of daylight. The normal lifecycle in human terms is twenty-five years. At the end of their designated lifetime an entire generation of Galapagalpengs wishes the next in line a farewell and then they proceed in an orderly manner to the shoreline. Here they compress themselves down to nothing more than what would appear to be a blob of greeny-brown muck and are washed away by the sea. The ceremony is referred to as “Entering the Sea.”

The young grow at an amazing rate reaching maturity in five human years. It is only at the end of their growing period that they are allowed to and indeed even express the desire to marry. Four intense years are spent learning to use the many instruments that the Galapagalpengs invent to read and decipher the radio waves that they catch from all the different countries around the world as they chatter through the stratosphere above the South Pole. They have learnt to translate all the gibberish and understand it in their economical squeaky language formally called “Galapagalpengalese” or for short “Pengali”.

Their homes: For housing the Galapagalpengs hollow out the ice and create large interconnected burrows each individual family’s home being closed off by a thin glacial sliver of ice. They are quite private so don’t normally rush into each other’s space unless invited. After the babies grow through their six-month infancy and childhood they are given individual spaces within the family home.

As a people they are very respectful of privacy and when they wish to communicate or socialise they merely touch the sliver of ice between their homes and a sound of a frequency undetected by human ear flows through the door. The host Galapagalpeng then melts it to invite the guest in. Large meetings are held in a vast ice hall and each community has at least one of these. The halls, as with most construction in Galapagalpeng, is built by expanding their body mass to determine a required size and employing a controlled beam of atomic energy to carve out the space. Since homes and the large community halls are constructed out of the ice the striations of clear green in the ice form a window as well as screens on which they beam several different programmes, mostly of an educational and informative nature.

Religion: As such they have no belief in an after-life or super power or god. They believe they all come from the elements of the ice and sea and eventually belong back to them. Their guide for morality is social acceptance.

Their Government: The Galapagalpengs do not have any political system. Leaders are chosen according to their expertise on any situation. For instance, on discovering me in a comatose state, they brought in their best biologist to determine what to do with me. She realised that I was warm blooded and mono-molecuvariable – meaning to say I was incapable of adjusting my molecular mass like them- and needed to be moved into a warm place. But when it came to questioning me their leading expert was a Male Inquisitor – meaning one who asks questions in a mild, non-threatening manner. And so on, to each the responsibility according to his or her expertise. There are rarely any disputes or quarrels as they realise that they are a most singular creation and each represents a part of the whole. Crime is unheard of; the extremely rare cases of a Galapagalpeng going against society is dealt with ostracism and the individual is encouraged by the group to annihilate him or her self and Enter the Sea.

Their entertainment & sports: There is one thing they acknowledge from the human race, with much delight, and that is the game of chess. They found a board many years ago washed up on their shores and were able to decipher the pieces and movements. They have created many different sizes of the game and have devised it to fit into their hand-held instruments wherein they may play against the instrument or another player who connects with the system. So, many tournaments and contests are held between communities and halls all in a good-natured spirit.

During their six-month long nights, besides having many entertainments for the females such as carnivals and parties with singing and dancing –as most of the females are carrying their young, the Galapagalpengs also have bouncing matches. In these the best ‘bouncers’ expand themselves to their full height and mass, which can be as large as an Emperor Penguin, and bounce against each other until one knocks the other down. The champion ‘bouncer’ of the year wins a crown of ice.

And here Captain Byrd’s description of Galapagalpeng ends. There is a footnote in his log:

“Just before the beginning of the Long Night, the Galapagalpengs helped me construct a boat built entirely of ice with a raft of rigid seaweed at the centre for the time when the ice would melt as I sailed further north. They were sure that I would find my own kind before the ice-boat melted. They had fed me on fish which some of them had brought from the shore and which I had requested to cook on the heat of an atomically heated plate. They also insisted that I eat seaweed as their biologists had analysed my spittle and decided that I could not get enough nutrients from my own body. And as a farewell they gave me a goodly quantity of this cooked fish and seaweed supplements.

I had made friends with the Inquisitor’s assistant Mr. Weeke a young new graduate who was my constant companion and who wore a pink hat and always carried what appeared to be a notebook in which he inserted tiny dots and dashes. He wished to come with me, and after much discussion with the elders they decided that he could be spared in the full knowledge that he may never return. He has been a wonderful companion these many years and has never given me any trouble. He is able to sit still and observe all around him without appearing to move, so much so that visitors seem to think he is an artefact. He has also learnt to eat tiny quantities of fresh uncooked fish, preferring sardines or tuna with only sea brine to salt it.

I pray that some day he will find his way back to Galapagalpeng.”

Lest we forget

Standard
A painting by my friend Serena Stevens

A painting by my friend Serena Stevens may she rest in peace she battled cancer as valiantly as any soldier

November is a month to remember. Loved ones lost to all kinds of battles… on the front in war, of course, but there are other battles that some folk wage against disease – that dreaded, insidious, cancer; stroke victims, who wage a daily battle with bodies unwilling and unable to respond to the simplest of their wills; so many other ailments and conditions that render folk dealing with pain on a sub-chronic daily basis, the list is a long one. This November I’d like to remember them all.

I can’t name them, but they are all my heroes.

You and you and you, who see

Life ebbing by in slow degrees

For whom there was a time, I know

When nothing ever went so slow

Today your speech is locked behind

An uncooperative mind.

And you, why half your body can’t

Respond to anything you want.

And then there’s one who cannot turn

For pain that through his body burns

And there’s another one who, while

Her spirit breaks, yet she can smile.

Some have lost their limbs to bombs

And still they somehow all limp on

We know not who has been in war

But this we know, and know for sure

There are brave soldiers everywhere

Who need to know that we do care

For them, our poppies red

We wear and still a tear or two we’ll shed.

Fight on you brave immortal souls

The day will come, you’ll reach your goal.

And for those who are thinking of loved ones lost in war I have this to say in remembrance of ‘Poppy Day’.

The famous poem by John McCrae is reproduced below:

IN FLANDERS FIELDS

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

 

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.

 

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

With so many wars that have been fought since that poem was written, I’d like to change it around a bit

Forget that quarrel with our foe

‘twill only lead to e’er more woe.

And who is foe may in the end

Turn ‘round and some day be a friend.

The only faith, that we need keep

Is, to try and end each day in peace.

 

Let the poppies, sweetly blow

Lest we forget those laid below

And should our leaders want a fight,

And rant and rave about what’s right,

Let’s hide the guns and send them in

To face each other in the ring.

Note: This post was first published a year ago. I have reworked it for the reasons above.