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Welcome to Our Annual Showcase The magazine that you, the members write.

IN THIS ISSUE

Upgrade or join us as a Writelink Writer member and you can: Take part in our FREE monthly and quarterly contests for the chance of winning cash prizes AND gaining valuable feedback. Receive valuable help and reviews of your stories, poems and articles in our writers Arena. Access our continually updated databases of paying markets, writing contests, events and writing articles. Write what you like when you like in your own blog! Socialise on our Forums and join our regular Chat sessions. Want more? We have it and it’s only £15 per year! CLICK HERE AND JOIN TODAY!

Image © David Robinson 2010

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Flash fiction Seasonal articles Humorous verse Interviews with the stars Jokes Book reviews


Your Editors David Robinson has been a professional writer for the last 25 years or more. By professional; he means he makes pork pie and brown ale money from the occasional pieces. Including his latest masterpiece, Voices, he has published five novels (one of them so good that he gives it away). He blogs regularly on Writelink and on both Blogger and Wordpress. He judges competitions, offers editorial services to writers, and generally makes a nuisance of himself under either his real name, or that of his alter-ego, Flatcap. He can usually be found at the off-licence, getting his money back on the empties, or at www.dwrob.com

Trevor Belshaw only started writing seriously a couple of years ago, but has added regularly to his writing CV since then. His short stories and poems have appeared in a variety of e-zines, magazines and anthologies. He is a contributing author to the 100 stories for Haiti and 50 stories for Pakistan charity book projects. He also contributed to Marit Meredith‟s anthology for autistic children; Shambelurkling and other Stories. Trevor has written four children‟s books, including Magic Molly and Peggy Larkin’s War. His adult paperback, audio book and eBook; Tracy’s Hot Mail is published by BigBadMedia (December 2010) Trevor is a regular contributor to The Pages Magazine. You can find Trevor at www.trevorbelshaw.com/blog or www.trevorbelshaw.com

Maureen Vincent-Northam has written seriously ever since Father Christmas left her a Petite typewriter. She co-authored The Writer’s ABC Checklist and her work has appeared in newspapers, magazines and online. She writes regularly for markets aimed at writers, has tutored workshops, judged online writing contests and her story for 5-8 year-olds even won a major competition. She works, albeit sporadically, from her home office and can often be found surrounded by empty chocolate wrappers. http://writerschecklist.blogspot.com

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And A Word From Sue Kendrick I can‟t believe it is almost 12 months since the last Writelinkers‟ Christmas magazine! No doubt the year has flown for you just as it has for me so it is particularly refreshing to see that some of our members have still managed to find time to contribute to this festive feast of literary goodies. I am always amazed at the diversity of the human mind which never seems to fail to find a new take on the Christmas theme and this year is no exception. All contributions were freely given so a big thank you to everyone who submitted. Your generosity is much appreciated! Putting together any magazine, even a virtual one, takes time and effort and we have our three editors David Robinson, Maureen Vincent-Northam and Trevor Belshaw to thank for this issue. They have done a wonderful job of putting the mag together so please do your bit to promote their efforts and those of the contributors by passing on the link to your friends, family and your virtual pals on Facebook and Twitter. Have a really great Christmas and here‟s to lots of successes in the New Year! Sue

Image ©Maureen Vincent Northam 2010

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CONTENTS A Feast For All The Senses; by Ann Williams

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Up Close And Personal with Marit Meredith

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Secret Santa; by Rebecca Emin

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Maureen Vincent-Northam Investigates

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An Interview with Tracy

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Merry Christmas; a poem by Jeanne Lawrence

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Voices by David Robinson

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Christmas Swim; Susan Jones

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50 Stories for Pakistan

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Dickens' Ghosts; Bob Scotney

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Will Santa Come tonight; a poem by Ann Williams

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Thanks Tiny Tim; a poem by Stephen McDaniel

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The Writer's ABC Checklist by Maureen Vincent-Northam & Lorraine Mace

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The Pantomime Habit; by Jean Knill

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Christmas Capers; a poem by Caroline Gill

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Keeping Up With The Joneses; by Marit Meredtith

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An Interview with Flatcap

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Santa Scrooge; a poem by Susan Jones

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Christmas Wish List; a poem by Trevor Belshaw

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A Step Too Far; by Rebecca Emin

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Red Faced Santa; an extremely silly poem by Two Extremely Silly People

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This Is Christmas; a poem by Dennis Westgate

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When Santa Came To Town; by Rebecca Emin

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The Geese Are Getting Fat; by Ann Graham

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Falling Clouds; a poem by Dennis Westgate

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Shambelurkling And Other Stories

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Lying In Wait; a poem by Maureen Vincent-Northam

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Pay Back; a poem by Christine Nedahl

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A Recipe For Christmas; a poem by Karen Baker (Isadora)

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Water-Skis On His Sleigh; by Vesna MacMaster

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Fairies At Christmas; by Christine Nedahl

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And Finally; A Word From The Editors

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A Feast for All the Senses Ann Williams

Maybe the austerity of the times made Christmas in the Fifties a feast for all the senses. Shops stocked goods unseen throughout the year and there was an air of jollity and anticipation. Our High Streets were dour by today‟s standards. No neon signs or glitter all year round. Christmas street decorations taken for granted today did not even grace London‟s Oxford Street until 1959. Shop windows were decorated, however, to entice customers. The grocer replaced pyramids of baked bean cans with boxes of fancy biscuits and ingredients for cakes and puddings. Backed with red crepe paper this created a festive look. The greengrocer displayed nuts and dates with oranges making their appearance to add colour and fragrance. The butcher hung chickens in place of roasting joints whilst pheasants and rabbits were suspended from the awning outside. Walking unawares into fur and feathers was an unnerving experience. The baker had ready-iced cakes for those who did not bake their own and the shoe shop swapped boots and shoes for slippers in every size and hue. Cold remedies were moved aside for lavish perfumes and gift-boxed toiletries at the chemists and the tobacconist and ironmonger added the odd sprig of holly to their windows. With the abolition of sweet rationing in the mid Fifties confectioners had it made. Chocolate boxes with country scenes and satin bows, sugared almonds, Cadbury and Fry‟s selection boxes and Turkish Delight made a feast for eyes and the mouth water. The Salvation Army band serenaded us in the Street and church choirs sang carols around the parish, all raising money for those less fortunate. On market stalls holly, ivy and Christmas trees were sold, the latter contributing their unique smell of Christmas. A street trader tempted customers with bags of roasted chestnuts cooked on an open brazier mounted on a cart. At home our drab rooms were made colourful with streamers, expanding paper decorations and balloons whilst the room was dominated by a tree – generally in our case the top of a Scot‟s Pine rather than a spruce. Aromatic as this may be hanging decorations was difficult and invariably the branches drooped and shed the delicate glass ornaments that smashed into a thousand shards. No lights on the tree, only candles that were never lit for safety reasons yet had a smell of Christmas nonetheless. Christmas Day meant excitement, anticipation and so much more. We squeezed gifts to guess the contents before ripping the paper. We stuffed chocolate and toffees before breakfast and spent an agonising morning waiting for the annual treat of roast chicken and all the trimmings. The smell of burning Brussels sprout trimmings in the rubbish put me off for life but the cosy fire of coal and logs added to our glow of happiness. The adults drank beer or sherry, crackers were pulled and people wore silly hats and finally, with no TV, we all sang carols and music hall songs around the piano.

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Up Close and Personal with Marit Meredith A long serving Writelink member, Marit is a talented author, editor of The Pages ezine, and a tireless worker for a number of charities (see Shambelurkling at the back of the magazine).

Q: How and when did you start writing? A: Once I could string a sentence together, there was no stopping me. Every essay set in school was a chance to tell a story. My essays were usually read out to the class, and although embarrassing, it didn‟t stop me. At 14 I submitted a story to a magazine. It was duly rejected, but I was addressed as Mrs… and told to keep writing, so even that first rejection didn‟t hurt. Q: What was the first piece you ever had published? A: It was a non-fiction article in the nationwide Artist Newsletter in „96, but treated as a Comment (which meant no payment). My first paid piece – excepting numerous readers‟ letters over the years – was a true story: A Close Bond, in 2005. Q: What inspires you? A: Everything and anything, but the human condition in all its guises probably tops the list. Q: What are your writing strengths and weaknesses? A: I think I‟m strong(ish) on dialogue and flash fiction, but I struggle with the endings of the novels I‟m working on. How come the novels almost write themselves, but once I come close to the end, the characters dig their heels in and refuse to move on to the finish? Q: Tell us about your proudest achievement. A: If we‟re just talking about writing, then it would be getting The Pages up and running and keeping it going. Q: What’s the best and worst thing about writing? A: Some of my girls would say the worst thing about writing is that I can‟t stop talking about it. I don‟t think there is a „worst thing‟ about it at all. And the best? To be able to share through writing and story-telling, and „being read‟. Q: Do you ever get writer’s block and how do you overcome it? A: Don‟t we all? I pretend it doesn‟t exist, call it the muse and work on other things when she goes into hiding. Q: How do you handle rejections? A: Wonder how on earth they could possibly reject my masterpiece… no, seriously, I just move on to the next thing, which is usually editing the piece and sending it off somewhere else. Q: What is the greatest challenge of being a writer? A: Being a writer has never been a challenge – finding enough time for my writing is another matter. Par for the course with a large family.

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Q: Do you have a writing routine or a special place to write? A: I write in the morning, before the first visitors arrive, and in the evening – during November (Nanowrimo) into the night. I‟ve got my desk and laptop tucked into a corner of the living room, and I give up that space very begrudgingly. Q: What are your writing goals? A: To get my novels polished up and publishable – and then getting them out there. Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers? A: First of all, read! Then find your voice and don‟t give up. Join a writing community such as Writelink, where both aspiring writers and the more experienced share and help one another to get their writing up to a publishable standard. Q: Tell us a little about your background. A: I‟m Norwegian born and bred, but came to this country at the tender age of 18 – met my husband-to-be the following month – and got married three months later. He‟s still putting up with me, poor man. With six daughter and eight grandchildren, day-to-day life has become very hectic. I went back to college as a mature student (studying in Cardiff, South Wales) and got my self a clutch of qualifications within Art & Design, but Rheumatoid Arthritis put pay to my plans (even though I‟d built up quite a CV before it stopped me in my tracks), which just served to make more time for writing and research. Q: What are your interests/hobbies? A: Organising events in my village, getting people together, and creating things that people will want to buy. As for interests, they are eclectic: psychology, science, philosophy, religion/non-religion, the human condition, art and design, history… the list goes on. Q: Who are your favourite writers and why? A: I can‟t say that I have any favourites. My tastes are eclectic, as my book shelf will show. I liked the early books by Jostein Gaarder, the Norwegian writer, where he managed to work the big philosophical questions in life into proper stories. Joanna Harris, for her story-telling abilities and Paulo Coelho for his great imagination and take on life in general. Then there‟s David Robinson, Trevor Belshaw… In short, it‟s not a question I can really answer. All those great writers of the past and the present… how can I have favourites? Q: What three character traits best describe you? A: My other half put „pain in the neck‟ top of the list, but we‟ll skirt over that. Altruistic( I try to be), creative and a good listener seems to be the common consensus. My ten year old grandson said … „and you look good for 58.‟ I‟m 56, but what‟s a couple of years?

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Secret Santa Rebecca Emin

I‟ve never been a fan of Christmas. It always seems to involve people getting stressed about which relatives to spend the day with, and world-wide panic concerning what to buy for friends, family and the pet cat. From October onwards, we see Christmas trinkets everywhere, and the standard greeting seems to be, “Are you looking forward to Christmas?” I want to reply, “I never look forward to Christmas. I have no family, so I spend it alone in my flat,” but I smile and nod, and try to change the subject. Most people take time off over the festive period. I prefer to be busy at work. I love my job, and even more so since Andrew started in the office. He‟s tall, with jet black hair, sparkling blue eyes, smooth skin and a gorgeous smile. I am secretly hoping he‟s going to be in work over the Christmas period too. Christmas Eve arrives. The office shuts at twelve so I have a quiet morning to tidy up any loose ends. Then I will go back to my flat for a couple of days of solitude. I‟ll do some reading and watch some films on TV. The door opens and, to my surprise, I see Andrew dressed as Santa. He strides straight towards me and says “Happy Christmas, Sophie!” I stand up, and before I know what is happening, he holds a piece of mistletoe above my head and leans forward to kiss me gently on the lips. He senses my lack of resistance and gives me a hug as he invites me to dinner. Maybe it‟s time for me to start enjoying Christmas after all.

Question: Where is the turkey lurking?

Answer: It’s roasting on vacation. Words © Marilyn Sylvester 2010

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Maureen Vincent-Northam Investigates

A celebrated investigative journalist, Maureen Vincent-Northam (or MVN as she’s known in the business and by those who can never remember her name) has sought interminably to uncover the truth behind the headlines. She has been described as a cross between Dom Littlewood and Esther Rantzen but with fewer teeth and more hair. She writes regular columns for the police gossip pages of Hello! Hello! Hello! and That’s Life in Wormwood Scrubs! and has interviewed top celebrities from Hollywood (Birmingham) and Barnsley. She also draws cartoons – see below!

Cartoon © Maureen Vincent-Northam 2010

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An Interview with Tracy Never one to pass up on an exclusive (nor Thornton’s Continental chocs for that matter, but that’s another story) Maureen was delighted to be asked to dig deep into Tracy‟s sack of fan mail for Writelinkers. Disregarding the less genteel communications (toad in the hole will never seem the same) Maureen has chosen letters from typical Tracy fans and the star herself tells her many, and varied, admirers what they really want to know. Tracy is a rarity in this day and age: a young woman whose underwear is not always in freefall. The woman whose Hotmail exchanges with best friend Emma is about to take the literary world by storm is driven by the same modest ambitions all young women have: fame, fortune and an alphamale celeb hanging onto her arm.

Q. Which celebrity would you say is most in need of a make-over? Chelsea Trumper, Broadbottom, Cheshire Tracy: Hello Chelsea. Is your Dad one of those annoying people like David Beckham who name their kids after places they‟ve visited? It‟s a good job little Brooklyn wasn‟t conceived in Peckham isn‟t it? Are we talking hair, clothes, or everything? I think Janet Street Porter‟s teeth could do with a serious file down. If I was her, I‟d have them pulled and get a nice, new, even set of dentures put in. She could sell her real teeth to ivory poachers. That might save an elephant‟s life and not only would she look better, she‟d have something to feel good about. Jennifer Saunders really should do something about that arse and Brad Pitt looks like he‟s been dragged through a dozen hedges, backwards. I wouldn‟t mind having the job of tidying him up though. If I had to choose someone that needs a total makeover, I‟d go for Amy Winehouse. She looks like a slut on drugs at the moment. Her clothes look like she‟s slept in them for a month and her makeup looks like its been applied with a pastry knife. That hair has to go; I bet there‟s at least a dozen combs, two styling wands and a colony of bats in there. I saw her once at a premiere in London. It was pissing down with rain but she didn‟t need an umbrella, nothing got past that hair. I heard a rumour that David Attenborough is going in with a film crew soon. Another one I‟d like to see sorted out is Russell Brand. He‟s a right scruffy bugger and has exactly the same hair as Amy. What is it with these people, have they never heard of shampoo? Q. Why do you think you’ve been so unlucky with romance? Ron Lovall, Herts Tracy: Hi, Ron. Unlucky? I think I‟ve been incredibly lucky. I‟ve managed to get rid of the useless swine without too much trouble. Some women get stuck with a bloke for life. Imagine what Simon will be like in a few years time? He‟s already porn obsessed. By the time he‟s

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twenty five he‟ll be sneaking around in the fog wearing nothing but a dirty old mac and a pair of trainers. I reckon I had a lucky escape there. As for Tim, I think I was lucky there too. He wants to be a farmer. That would mean me being a farmer‟s wife. Sod that for a lark. I really can‟t see me in wellies and a smock can you? Some people are meant to wake up at the crack of dawn to the smell of cow shit, and some aren‟t. I‟m definitely in the second category. I would look ridiculous trying to dodge the cowpats in my fake Lanvin sandals, and the closest I ever want to come to a pig, is when it‟s been sliced and fried and lying in a roll with some brown sauce. Q. You’d make a perfect WAG. Have you ever pursued a gorgeous footballer – or even Wayne Rooney? Tiffany Pratt, Isle of Dogs Tracy: Hi Tiffany. I think I‟m too young for Wayne and I‟m not on the game so he wouldn‟t be interested in me. I did go out with a footballer once, but he only played for the local pub team and I only went out with him because I wanted to prove a point to the Ginger minger he was seeing at the time. Dad says I should become a WAG, but Gran says there‟s a reason they call them that. They‟re all dogs. Q. Given these two choices, would you rather be stinking rich or mega famous? W. Windsor, London Tracy: Is that you Prince William? Nice to hear from you again. How‟s the chopper? Still getting it up, I hope. Hmm, tough question. I suppose if I had to choose I‟d go for mega famous as I could always drop in on a celebrity mate if I had no money and I needed somewhere to crash for the night. Not that there would be many nights like that. Most celebs seem to cop-off with someone after they‟ve been to one of those glitzy parties and I don‟t think I would be any different. Anyway, if I was mega famous and skint, I could always go to a party wearing something a bit naughty and get interviewed by the News of the World for a few quid. Mega famous people probably get lots of free stuff when they open things, so I‟d make sure I opened lots of supermarkets...and shoe shops of course. Stinking rich people tend to want to keep it all to themselves. That would rule Olivia out; she can‟t keep anything to herself, especially her bed. Q. When you go on Celebrities on Ice in the Jungle, what will you miss most about everyday life? Precious Little, Watchet, Somerset Tracy: Hi, Precious. I‟d probably miss daydreaming about going on Celebrities on Ice in the Jungle.

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Q. What is your beauty routine and do you have any tips for your uglier fans? Poppy Belcher, Diss, Norfolk Tracy: Hello, We used to have a dog called Poppy but we got rid of her because she farted all the time and Dad was sick of getting the blame. I don‟t spend much time in front of the mirror because my housemate, Kiwi, will almost certainly be using it every time I want it. I‟m lucky in that I can get away without having to do too much. Kiwi spends hours tarting herself up, and she still ends up looking like she‟s let her seven year old sister do her face for her. My best tip would be to buy the best make up you can afford. Don‟t go for that crappy stuff they sell on the market, most of it doubles up as paint stripper. If you can‟t afford good stuff, get some new friends who can. Girls are always on the lookout for ugly friends, as they make them look better on a night out. They‟ll almost certainly let you use their make up if it means they‟ll stand out in a crowd of munters. Spotty Irene doesn‟t look too good at times because of the terrible acne she suffers from. It doesn‟t stop her trying to do something about it though. She once went to a fancy dress party, with a brown paper bag on her head. She told them she‟d come as shopping. There are a few ways of hiding your hideousness. You could be mysterious and wear a dark veil, but then people might just think you like going to funerals. If you‟re really ugly and desperate for a bloke, my tip would be to find one who wears specs like the bottom of beer glasses. If their eyes are that bad they probably still won‟t be able to see out of them properly. Of course you could just do what Olivia does, let blokes know you‟re available, that always works after they‟ve had ten pints. Q. If Hollywood made a movie about your life, whom would you like to see play you? Scarlet Shufflebottom, Hollywood, Birmingham Tracy: It would have to be Lady Gaga or someone classy like that. Q. What do you keep in your handbag? Tarquin DeVere, Odness, Orkney Islands Tracy: Hmm, you ought to know, Tarquin. It was you that opened it up in front of everyone at that student‟s party. Playing mousy on a string with a Tampax wasn‟t, isn‟t, and never will be, funny. For anyone who doesn‟t know though, apart from the usual girly things like panty liners, a sanitary towel and a spare pair of knickers, I have a my phone, ipod, lip gloss, mascara, compact, needle and thread, a condom, hair scrunch, brush, comb, purse, bus pass, pen, notepad, tissues, mints, tube of superglue, attack alarm and mace spray. Q. What possession could you not do without? Billy Lillycrap, Quidhampton, Hampshire Tracy: My TV. I couldn‟t live without Strictly and X Factor. If I‟m allowed more I‟d have to say my laptop and my fake Gucci bag...Oh and my signed photo of Beckham in his Speedos.

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Q. If you were a type of vegetable, what would you be? Moonchild, a field in Glastonbury Tracy: You‟d have to ask Kiwi that, she‟s the hippy, and she‟s named after a fruit. Q. If you were abducted by aliens, what would be the first question you’d ask them? Prof. Mycroft Nutt, Lower Piddle on the March, Glos. Tracy: Do you get the X Factor in the Vernuvian Quadrant? Q. Who do you think you were in a past life? Napoleon Bonaparte, Crackpot, North Yorkshire Tracy: I sometimes have strange dreams about snakes, so Cleopatra probably. Tracy‟s final words were a brazen effort at free publicity, which we refused to indulge, but she threatened to withdraw the whole interview if we didn‟t play ball, so you can see why she has so many fans by visiting http://www.bigbadmedia.com/Tracys-hot-mail/

MERRY CHRISTMAS! Jeanne Lawrence The drink got me I must admit, But what the heck, I‟m happy. Not so the wife, she says it costs And she‟s going if I don‟t stop it.

The A.A. group are all good guys They‟ve pledged to get me through this. We even celebrate each step of the way With coke, or some such rubbish.

It‟s Christmas Eve, and meeting day, The wife says, “Man, don‟t worry, I‟ll follow you there with something good, And some alcohol free sangria!”

We‟re in full swing confessing When Dora, plus box, marches in. “Oh heck, love, they‟re rum babbas.” But every last one disappeared!

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Voices David Robinson

Caught in a terrorist attack, college lecturer Christopher Deacon survives only to find his life plagued by bizarre phantoms and voices in his head seeking to control him. In his quest to be rid of them he travels to remote areas of Northumberland to uncover a terrible secret that has remained hidden for over half a century. “Spellbinding. I stayed up until 1 a.m. to finish it” – Marit Meredith, Editor, The Pages Supernatural, psycho/sci-fi/horror, rated adult for language and sex scenes, Voices is published by Big Bad Media. Learn more at http://www.bigbadmedia.com/Voices/

Cover Image © Big Bad Media 2010

You cannot escape the voices in your head.

Laugh Lines What do you call a letter sent up the chimney on Christmas Eve? Black mail What did Adam say on the day before Christmas? It‟s Christmas, Eve

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Christmas Swim Susan Jones

Ever since the 1700s there has been a long tradition of known health benefits from bathing in the sea. In 1957 a small group, led by George Rains, started swimming in the sea at Hunstanton on Christmas Day. They belonged to the Hunstanton Seagulls swimming club. It was a tradition that carried on over the years. Ken Follett took on the mantle in 1971 organizing Hunstanton‟s first sponsored Christmas Day swim for charity. Seeing the potential for the attraction to grow, Ken handed the event over to the Hunstanton and district round table. Since then, every Christmas morning at around half past ten, crowds gather on the Central Promenade at the Oasis, where they fill in sponsorship forms, getting anyone who is willing to pay to see them swim in the freezing water. During recent years, there has been some debate as to whether to call it a paddle rather than swim, as the water goes a long way out at that time of year. The fun begins at eleven o‟clock. Two members of the round table hold up their banner in the water. The participants dive under the banner and charge into the sea. It‟s customary to swim twelve strokes, representing the twelve days of Christmas. This event attracts around 80-100 swimmers each year. The Mayor judges the best fancy dress costume. One year the winner was dressed as Elvis. All money raised is counted up and distributed to local charities such as the Hunstanton Lifeboats. If you happen to be in the area on Christmas Day, take a walk along the prom on Christmas morning to watch the fun, or if you‟re feeling really brave, join in. Other coastal resorts that sport Christmas Day swimming are Brighton, Exmouth and Lowestoft.

Laugh Lines What did Father Christmas say when he passed his sleigh-driving test? "Look, no-el plates!" What do you call people who are scared of Santa Claus? Claustrophobic

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Cover Image courtesy of Getty Images 2010

50 Stories for Pakistan Writelink members are again celebrating a great achievement. On 5th September, after seeing pictures of flood victims displaced from their homes, member Greg McQueen, the man behind the anthology, 100 Stories for Haiti, wrote a message on his Facebook wall. „Getting that, "Do something!" feeling again. Thinking of doing a book for Pakistan. I‟ll need some awesome short stories though... With me?‟ The call was for 50 flash fiction stories of no more than 500 words. Any subject or genre was permitted with the proviso that it didn‟t contain any death, violence or destruction. Among those answering the call for editors on the project were Writelinkers, David Robinson, and Maureen Vincent-Northam. The deadline for stories was 19th September and in less than two days Greg had received over 50 stories with dozens arriving daily from all over the globe. Quality was high and the team of volunteer editors read and edited hundreds of submissions. Among the successful contributors were Writelink‟s Trevor Belshaw with his story, Detention, Marit Meredith with Morning Toast, Rebecca Emin with Listen and Maureen Vincent-Northam with A Little Sparkly Something. One of the pictures that moved Greg so much was that of a man wading through water with a young boy. This picture, with the kind permission of Getty Images, was later to become the book‟s cover image. Proceeds from the sale of 50 Stories for Pakistan will be donated to the Red Cross Pakistan Flood Appeal. The book is available from Blurb Books. Please consider buying a copy (or two). http://www.bigbadmedia.com/50-stories-for-pakistan/

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Dickens’ Ghosts Bob Scotney

Mention ghosts and Dickens and most people will recall Scrooge and the ghosts of Jacob Marley, Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Yet to Come. There is no doubt that Charles Dickens loved a good ghost story. His works show he had a fascination with the eerie and the macabre which may have stemmed from his taste for the ghoulish derived from the horror stories he was told by his childhood nurse. In „A Christmas Carol‟ Scrooge, the curmudgeonly miser spends Christmas Eve reviling the institution of Christmas. The ghost of his former partner Jacob Marley, and of the three Christmas ghosts give Scrooge the chance to escape Marley‟s fate of wandering round in chains. Having seen what he missed, the happiness of the poor like Bob Cratchitt and Tiny Tim, and what the future will be like unless he reforms. Scrooge is a new character the next day. There are five ghost stories in „The Pickwick Papers‟. In „The Bagman‟s Story‟ the benevolent ghost of the haunted chair brings about a total change in the circumstances of Tom Smart the bagman. In contrast „A Madman‟s Manuscript‟ has Dickens probing the mind of a homicidal maniac. The ghost may be a figment of the demented or guilty imagination of the maniac. Readers have to judge for themselves; the effect is harrowing. „The Goblins who Stole a Sexton‟, told by Mr Wardle of Dingley Dell, is in much lighter vein. This first appeared in a Christmas instalment of Pickwick in 1836 and initiated Dickens‟ tradition of producing the first of five Christmas books of which „A Christmas Carol‟ was the first. Redlaw, a chemist and lecturer, living at an ancient institution for students is the haunted man in the last Christmas book – „The Haunted Man and the Ghost‟s Bargain‟ - in which an awful ghostly likeness of himself offers him the power to forget his sorrows by cancelling his knowledge and mental powers. The power to communicate this to others has shocking results depriving them of their past. Dickens‟ ghosts invariably appear at night, their sighting following the drinking of alcohol. In „The Baron of Grogzwig‟, a comic tale in „Nicholas Nickleby‟, the protagonists‟ names are puns on their drinking habits, the spirit appearing to the hero as he drains his glass. Possibly the best of Dickens‟ shorter ghost stories appeared at Christmas in the magazine „All The Year Round‟. „The Trial for Murder‟ tells of the narrator‟s experience as a jury foreman at a murder trial where the victim returns to seek justice. The Signal Man, in the next year‟s 1866 Christmas edition, concerns a signalman isolated in his box who sees an apparition three times near the mouth of a tunnel. His apprehension and the ghastly final twist produce a stunning climax. If you feel nostalgic and have the time on Christmas Eve you should visit the graveyard at Rochester Castle. You might even see the ghost of Charles himself wandering among the gravestones.

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Will Santa Come Tonight? Ann Williams Will Santa come tonight? Mum said he would as she put out the light. I‟ve snuggled down beneath the clothes. There‟s nothing peeking – just my nose. Will Santa come tonight? Will Santa come tonight? I‟m sure that I‟ve been really good – well quite. I thought I heard his sleigh bells chime… But when I looked there was no sign. Will Santa come tonight? Will Santa come tonight? I‟ve promised that I‟ll keep my eyes shut tight. I‟ve hung my stocking on the door … But what is that there on the floor? Yes! Santa came last night.

Thanks Tiny Tim Stephen McDaniel The Christmas spirit hovers round Blessing all with cheery sound Blinking lights the trees adorn Promising the magic morn Presents wrapped with ribbon bright Thoughtful gifts we pray delight Kitchen smells cause salivation Will we have snow? Trepidation! Priceless feelings fill our homes MasterCard surmounts our loans

Want to see Santa naked? Go to the bottom of page 36.

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The Writer’s ABC Checklist The Writer’s ABC Checklist is written by two of Writelink‟s finest – writing tutor and Writing Magazine columnist, Lorraine Mace and Maureen Vincent-Northam (the other one). It covers everything a writer needs to know in order to convince an editor or publisher that their work deserves to be treated with respect. For writers, getting words down on paper is the easy part of the writing process; it is what happens next that causes many to fail in their endeavours to get their work published. New, or unpublished, writers need to know the correct way to present a manuscript and how to avoid the pitfalls of the novice hurdles. Answers to all the questions, crucial to every writer, can be found in The Writer’s ABC Checklist – the ultimate A-Z guide to perfect manuscript presentation. Cover © Accent Press (Red Dot Design) 2010

Although there are many books on how to write, there has never been a definitive guide to presentation, and yet it is this area, more than any other, that proclaims the novice and causes so many new writers to lose sales. “We also wanted to include all those queries Writelinkers have asked over the years, through the forums, private messages and in the Arena – everything from writing a synopsis, approaching a publisher, how figures and dates should be written, what to include on invoices and cover sheets, when it‟s acceptable to send multiple submissions, and dozens more. It‟s the book we wish had been around when we were new writers ourselves and learning the ropes the hard way – by trial and error.” What the experts say about The Writer’s ABC Checklist. „There is advice on every possible question you might ask‟ – Writing Magazine „It‟s like having a professional writer who knows all the answers, right by your side‟ – Simon Whaley, writing tutor and best-selling author „A great writers‟ bible which all writers, no matter how well published, should keep at their elbow‟ – Sue Kendrick, editor of Writelink Buy from Accent Press Buy from Amazon Available for Kindle too!

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The Pantomime Habit Jean Knill When my granddaughter, Eryn, was three, we took her to her first pantomime, and it transported me right back to my own childhood. It was a good many years since I‟d been to a panto, but when my sister and I were small, one of our Christmas treats was our annual visit to Torquay‟s Pavilion theatre for whatever panto was showing that year. We always had seats in the circle. I think our parents thought we‟d see better there than in the stalls where the only seats they could afford would be at the back, putting us at the mercy of any tall people sitting in front of us. I remember being a bit aggrieved because if they threw out sweets, which was the usual practice, we were very lucky if any reached us. But the show was always a delight, and the excitement beforehand mounted all day until we were inside the doors and climbing the stairs with all the crowds. Sis and I would have been practising shouting, “It‟s behind you,” and “Oh yes it is”, and “Oh no it isn‟t”, for days beforehand. After the advent of the Princess Theatre a few hundred yards away along the sea front, the Pavilion closed. However, it was a beautiful piece of Victorian architecture that was a listed building, so its shell still stands today, housing an arcade of tourist shops and a restaurant upstairs where our circle seating used to be.

6th illustration of the 1865 edition of Cinderella. (Wikimedia Commons)

Since I moved away I‟ve been to some pantomimes with friends. I remember seeing a music-hall version at the theatre under the railway in Villiers Street behind London‟s Embankment Station. And another highlight was David Essex playing Peter Pan in Southampton. I even took part in one when I was a member of the Drama Club at RAF Changi in Singapore.

When my children were small we always tried to take in a panto, although sometimes it would be performed on ice at Wembley. Anyway, I now have the pantomime habit again, thanks to my granddaughter who loves all the pantomime stories. That first one we took her to was Cinderella, which we saw at Woking. At first she was late with her shouts and her lone voice could be heard when the echoes of the others died down, but she soon got the hang of it. At the end, she cried because it had finished, and a little later a tired little voice from the back of the car said, “Mummy, I want to go to the ball.” As mummy was driving, I turned round to reply, but her eyes were closed and she‟d fallen fast asleep. Since then we‟ve seen Snow White at Wimbledon, Peter Pan at Epsom, Sinbad in Shaftesbury, and Jack and the Beanstalk here in Poole. This year it‟s going to be Sleeping Beauty in Guildford. Wherever you are in England, or among ex-pats around the world, there‟ll be an English pantomime at Christmas time. 20


Christmas Capers Caroline Gill

A figure in scarlet with trimmings of white set off with his reindeer to race through the night; but suddenly, suddenly Santa Claus stopped. His sleigh was lopsided; his knapsack had dropped.

He called to his charges, but Dancer had flown, unleashing her harness to go it alone. „That reindeer is headstrong,‟ was Santa‟s refrain, for Dancer had often run off from her rein.

A gale started howling; the moon disappeared. The plan had gone pear-shaped, as Santa had feared, when Dancer - oh Dancer - emerged through the snow with someone beside her and antlers aglow. „Meet Bella,‟ she chimed as she steadied the sleigh; „she‟s longing to join us. Up, up and away! Dear Santa, I‟m sorry your face is so drawn: you may be my master, but Bella‟s my fawn!‟

Image © Maureen Vincent-Northam 2010

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Keeping Up With The Joneses Marit Meredith

„Don, will you quit it!‟ Mary stared at his fingers, willing them to stop drumming the table. „What? Stop what?‟ „Drumming the bloody table. Anyway, what have you got there?‟ „Well, wouldn‟t you like to know? It‟s none of your business!‟ Mary recognised the tone. The guilt laced undertones of „I‟ll do what I want, and anyway, Brian has just bought a new something or other‟. She groaned. „What now?‟ Don glared at her. „Where‟s my breakfast?‟ He tucked the little box into his pocket. „Oh, it‟s in the slow-cooker, dear – the one you bought off the shopping channel. You know, healthy porridge, put on before bed, ready for breakfast. That one. The one that was more expensive than the one Brian bought Brenda. Last year‟s Christmas present. My, aren‟t I the lucky one?‟ „You ungrateful … and where is my porridge?‟ Mary really ought to take a leaf out of Brenda‟s book. She was the perfect wife. „It doesn‟t work, Don. Cheap tat, like all the things you keep buying, just to keep up with Brian. Whatever next?‟ Cheap tat? Don pushed his chair away from the table. „I‟ll never be able to keep up with Brian. Why can‟t you be like Brenda? She‟s a good wife, whereas you…‟ He sneered. „You‟re hardly the perfect wife, are you?‟ Mary almost fell off the chair, spluttering. „You‟re saying that Brenda Jones is the perfect wife?‟ „Well, she‟s a darn sight better than you, that‟s for sure.‟ Mary couldn‟t speak for laughing. „What‟s so bloody funny?‟ „Oh Don, maybe she is to the baker on the High Street, but to Brian?‟ „You don‟t mean…?‟ Mary nodded. „And to think I spent a fortune on your Christmas present this year.‟ „What‟s that got to do with anything?‟ „Well, Brian showed me this necklace he‟d bought. I thought it was for Brenda. So – I bought you this.‟ Don produced the small box out of his pocket and opened it. Mary‟s eyes widened. „A diamond ring?‟ Don snapped the box shut. „Yes, but we‟re not going to keep up with the Joneses any more, are we?‟ „But…‟ „Don‟t worry, Mary. I‟ll take it back tomorrow. Happy Christmas!‟

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An Interview with Flatcap Maureen (the celebrated investigative journalist – remember her?) caught up with Flatcap at the Jolly Carter where, feeling a little overdressed in her black taffeta off-the-shoulder number, she was obliged to dig deep into her diamante clutch bag in order to supply him with copious amounts of brown ale before he‟d condescend to speak with her. Here she presents Writelinkers‟ discerning readers with this privileged (his word) interview. Flatcap is a world renowned philosopher (provided you imagine the world as no larger than the Public bar of the Jolly Carter) who delves into his wellspring of knowledge to pronounce his verdict on the absurdities of the world. If you want to know about it, he‟ll tell you.

MVN: They say that behind every successful man is a woman with a look of disbelief. Tell me, how has the lady in your life influenced you? FCP: There have been two ladies (I use the term in its loosest sense) in my life and they‟ve both contributed to the man I am today: a broken down, near physical wreck on the verge of destitution, which is why you find me scrounging beer in my corner of the Jolly Carter. The first Mrs Flatcap used her feminine wiles to entrap me. She dropped her knickers on demand until she ended up putting on weight a bit too quick. When she‟d had enough of me, along tootled Mrs Flatcap V2.0 and she was just as crafty, but she didn‟t use sex: she trapped me with her ability to pour the perfect brown ale. It‟s the kind of skill that‟s so rare in a woman, but Her Indoors had it and I was hooked. Naturally, there was a price to pay. Work. Seven days a week, 16 hours a day. Slavery would have been a doddle at the side of my life of keeping her in Campari and soda, and Chanel number something or other. She doesn‟t look at me in amazement: it‟s more disgust, but she has no option but put up with me if she wants the Campari and Chanel. And anyway, I‟m the only one who can program the DVD recorder for Strictly Come Dancing.

MVN: If someone wrote your biography, what do you think would be an apt title? FCP: There are so many facets to my character that it would be a difficult job. Her Indoors says I‟m a miserable old sod, but it‟s not true. I‟m only miserable with her. And why? Because we‟re married and that‟s what marriage is about, isn‟t it? Misery. I bought the Stephen King novel of the same name because I was expecting a dissertation on marriage. That was £7.99 wasted. They say I‟m parsimonious, but I refute that. I don‟t know what it means. One of the barmaids at the Jolly Carter described me as opinionated. Well of course I am. It‟s a free country, isn‟t it, and I‟m entitled to my opinions and entitled to voice them when someone asks. And if I dispute what you‟re saying, it‟s because if I agreed, we‟d both be wrong. I am outspoken, I‟ll grant you that. But I see no reason to hide the truth just because it 23


might fall on delicate ears. Shutting your mouth instead of telling David Cameron and his cronies that they couldn‟t run the proverbial in a brewery doesn‟t alter the fact that they couldn‟t. I think that the title of my biography should hinge on my financial acumen. You Look After The Pennies. Just Leave Me The Pounds.

MVN: What is your most annoying habit? FCP: I don‟t find any of my habits annoying. The missus finds all of them annoying. So where do we go from there? I can see that lifting the petrol pump hose up to ensure I get every last drop out of it before I pay, could irritate some people, especially the dipstick in the 4x4 waiting to get on the pump. Some people find my unwillingness to throw anything away to be a source of annoyance, too. Charity muggers (chuggers) come round asking for unwanted clothing and other items, but I won‟t give them any. You never know when drainpipes, beetle crushers and 8-track cartridges might make a comeback. I suppose my most annoying habit is holding up the queue in Tescos by telling the checkout girl that I bought my first car for less than I‟ve just paid her for a week‟s groceries.

MVN: What, in your opinion, was the best thing before sliced bread? FCP: The problem with this question is that sliced bread was invented in 1928, which was before I was born. It was banned during the war because the Americans were scared that Nazi spies would slip message between the slices. Brainless sods. How would the receiving Nazi spy know which loaf to buy? And if he started rooting through all the loaves on the shelf, wouldn‟t someone get suspicious? Other candidates could include the internet, the jet engine, the hovercraft and the VV carburettor, but sliced bread was there before them all. So one has to turn to earlier ingenuity. I‟d eliminate the telephone. I think if Alexander Graham Bell knew how many nuisance calls he‟d receive from people trying to sell him pensions, Sky TV, insurance or broadband services, he‟d have invented Scalextric instead. The same could be said of Edison‟s light bulb. He didn‟t foresee the way we‟d all get ripped off for electricity prices, did he? He‟d probably have stuck to the gas mantle if he had. I thought for a while that the greatest invention before sliced bread was compound interest, but it‟s a double edged sword. It‟s great when you‟re tucking money away, but the banks, credit card companies and similar loan sharks make a fortune from it. All in all, I‟d say that greatest invention before sliced bread was the bread slicing machine. Without there would be no sliced bread.

MVN: How do you get along with your neighbours? FCP: Oddly enough we get on quite well, but it may be because my hearing aids are bust and I can‟t always hear the names they‟re calling me. 24


I think they take advantage of my deafness. Many‟s the time when the young lad next door has been hammering on the wall putting up cupboards and I‟ve played hell with Her Indoors for clog dancing in the bedroom. The chap on the other side is quite helpful. He always brings our bins in ever since the time I dragged it in off the street and tore the wing mirror off his van. And when I needed to go into hospital, the neighbours rallied round on our behalf. They had a whip round for the taxi fare. So on the whole, I can‟t complain about my neighbours even though they do nothing but complain about me.

MVN: Have you ever enjoyed a holiday? FCP: There is this impression that I don‟t enjoy holidays at all, but it‟s not true. I love travelling. For example, next year we‟re going to Trinidad & Tobago. Her Indoors is going to Trinidad. There are those holidays I recall with great fondness. A week on the Norfolk Broads with a few workmates in 1968, for example. Beccles town centre flooded, a four foot swell on Breydon Water that almost capsized us, rough cider at 1/6d a pint, and the boat turning circles after we locked the rudder by accident. I quite enjoyed our honeymoon (with the current Mrs Flatcap.) We went to Lloret de Mar. Within a few days of finally getting there, Her Indoors, who can eat for England when she‟s on form, got a touch of Montezuma‟s revenge leaving me propping up the bar with no one for company but a large breasted young Scottish woman looking for a new husband. It was tempting, but she was obviously a fortune hunter and looking for someone whose wealth could match her prize assets … both of them. Then there was Florida. Excellent holiday, that was. I met an American trucker in a bar and we spent most of the night comparing his brand new Kenworth Haulhogger with my 1972 A-series ERF. I told him there was no way his microwave oven, satellite TV and double bed sleeper could compare with a Gardener 180 chugging over Shap climb. Course, he didn‟t understand what I was on about. Americans never do, do they? Obviously there have been those holidays which were less pleasant … all of them apart from the above mentioned. But you learn to take it in your stride. You let the missus have her own way and when she finds that the half-ton statue of Jean Claude van Damme which she bought for £30 at a flea market in St Ives won‟t go through the front door you simply shake your head and say, “I told you it wouldn‟t.”

MVN: What advice do you have to up-and-coming spendthrifts? FCP: Engage brain and close wallet. Everyone would like a set of combined curling tongs and soldering iron, but you must ask yourself, do you really need them. Unless the answer is a resounding “yes” (and if it is, I’d see a psychiatrist because you have serious problems) then don‟t buy it. And don‟t allow yourself to be fooled by advertising slogans. Buy now pay later is a clever idea, but what puts me off is that word, “pay.” What‟s wrong with buy now don‟t pay at all? It‟s not theft if someone agrees to it, is it? 25


Another example is bogof: buy one get one free. My position is simple. I don‟t want to buy one, so can I just have the free one. It costs the seller the same, so where‟s the problem? I operate on the principle of give and take. Take what you can and give „em bugger all. And if money is worth earning, then it‟s worth hoarding. I‟ve made it clear to Her Indoors that when I go, I want to be buried with my money. She‟s a woman who understands the need for thrift and she‟s promised to make out a cheque and put it in the coffin, so I can cash it whenever I want. Where can you get a better deal than that?

MVN: If you were a politician, what would be your first expense fiddle? FCP: Pork pies and brown ale, obviously. If the great British public were to vote me into power, it wouldn‟t take me long to put the country right and I feel I would have every right to claim my pies and ale as a part of my working life which would therefore constitute a legitimate expense item. And it‟s not as if they cost much. Two pies and two bottles of brown ale per day would run to £4 and coppers. Call it a fiver for round figures, that‟s thirty five nicker a week, times 52 is £1820 per annum. Round it up to two grand to allow for brown sauce and breakages (I have been known to drop the odd glass.) It‟s way cheaper than a duck pond or a second house in Accrington.

MVN: What is your contingency plan in the event of a nuclear attack? FCP: Stick your head between your knees and kiss your arse goodbye. What irritates me about modern movies is you see the bomb explode and people panicking in the streets running here there and everywhere. Why? That blast wave travels at hundreds of miles an hour. You‟re never going to outrun it, so why waste the energy in the last few seconds of your life. Course, I know how I‟d like to go out, nuclear attack or not. The same way I came in. Kicking and screaming between some woman‟s legs, but even when the bomb drops I can guarantee that Her Indoors will have a pile of ironing she needs to get through.

MVN: And how would you deal with mutant pork pies? FCP: The thing about your bog standard growler is its lack of longevity. Within a day or two it will naturally mutate into an organism that is readily recognised by anyone who has followed the Superman comics. Kryptonite. And you handle it the same way the man of steel handles kryptonite. Encase it in a lead block and bury it deep underground. There is a worry that so many mutant pies buried far beneath the surface of the Earth will form their own society and seek revenge on those who condemned them to the darkness. Modern conspiracy theorists argue this has already happened, or how else do you account for TV programmes like The X-Factor? I say this is scaremongering of the worst kind, designed to get you to vote Conservative as the only party equipped to deal with an invasion of Simon Cowell productions. To begin with, the shelf life of your average pie is less than a week, and even the most stable elemental lead has a half-life of 22 years. 26


Even if they succeeded in breaking out of the block (a blowlamp will melt lead, so it is possible assuming the pie is equipped with one) where would the mutants get the wood for pit props while they dig their way to the surface? Where would they get the budgies for gas alerts? The counter argument to this is that after Thatcher‟s systematic decimation of the mining industry, there are plenty of mining tools lying around, and all it needs is one mutant pie to make it to the surface before it hits the fan. I‟m not worried. I‟ll just set the dog on them. He‟ll eat anything.

MVN: Were you ever dropped on your head when you were a baby? FCP: The fact that I have so little hair leads many people to the conclusion that this allegation is true, but it isn‟t. The real reason I have so little hair is husbandry. I‟m an expert at it. I should be. I‟ve been married twice, and what I don‟t know about marital misfortune hasn‟t been invented. I‟ve spent longer in matrimonial misery than the Great Train Robbers spent behind bars. According to average calculations, I‟ve been married so long that I should have had sex over 6,000 times. I can only recall four, and that‟s not a genuine memory: it‟s an assumption based on the number of children I have, and even that‟s based on a further assumption that all four children are really mine. We did have the same milkman for 8 years. According to my rough calculations it also means I‟ve walked over six miles just mowing the lawn. I can‟t even begin to guess how many miles I‟ve covered in supermarkets, but I bet it puts Apollo 11 to shame. I‟ve used enough water washing the car to refill the Longendale Reservoirs (all five of „em) and I don‟t know how many times she‟s called me a name that should remain unprintable, but if it were strung together as a podcast, it would be instantly banned. The curious thing about this is that if mother had not been so careful, if she really had dropped me on my head as a baby, I‟d probably have had more sense and remained single.

MVN: Assuming you have, when was the last time you opened your wallet? FCP: It was probably before you were born.

Flatcap had one final piece of advice for us. You can get the very best of advice from me by following my blog at http://flatcapsez.wordpress.com/

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Santa Scrooge Susan Jones Elves sang carols while polishing the sleigh, In no time it was simply gleaming. Gnomes fed the reindeer bread and hay, Rudolph thought he was dreaming. Father Christmas polished his boots, Fairy Nuff cleaned her shoes. Peter Pan planned the route, Presents packed, no time to lose. The reindeers took a running jump, But fell before they could fly. Santa felt a ridiculous chump and huffed, “I know the reason why.” When Aladdin heard of Santa‟s plight, He and his carpet flew through the night. Santa don‟t worry old bean; I‟ll the day. “Gnomes you‟re sacked!” Santa screamed, and don‟t expect any pay.

Christmas Wish List Trevor Belshaw When I asked Santa for a bike I got the very one I liked, and when I asked for a cowboy suit I got a gun, and hat...and boots Next year I got an action man, an electronic watch made in Japan, and if that wasn‟t quite enough I got a load of Star Wars stuff Later on I got a scooter and a Clive Sinclair computer. I got a CD music player and songs by Megadeath and Slayer But now I‟m old I don‟t need toys to show off to the other boys. I‟m happy now if Santa fills his sack with blue Viagra pills. 28


A Step Too Far Rebecca Emin

Vanessa turned around slowly at the top of the hill and took in her surroundings. It was rare to have much snow in this part of England, and the local families were making the most of it. The fields, fences and woodland beyond were all covered in a fresh layer of white. She smiled as she absorbed the sheer beauty of it. She looked down the hill to watch Josh and Sam pulling their tiny orange sledges up the shallow slope again, like ants dragging leaves back to their nests. After locating Sam near the top of the slope, Vanessa looked down the hill, expecting to see Josh tobogganing down again. Instead she saw a small orange object sliding slowly down the slope, but no sign of her eldest son. A feeling of panic and nausea hit her in the stomach as she looked around her, attempting to spot him among the people on the hill, but there was no sign of him anywhere. “Where is Josh?” she asked Sam. “I don‟t know, Mummy,” Sam replied, looking confused, and she noticed his lip trembling as he tried not to cry. Vanessa continued to scan the people surrounding her, and tried to keep calm. She knew that getting hysterical would not help her to find Josh, and would only upset Sam further. As her eyes searched, she noticed a set of small footprints heading towards the gate into the woodland. Vanessa & Sam followed the indentations through the gate and up the path between the trees, but the footprints suddenly stopped. There were no other tracks nearby, and the snow had not been disturbed in any other way. Vanessa fell to her knees and let out an involuntary animalistic moan as she remembered the last time she had seen their father. He had disappeared seven years after they had met, during their last holiday together, and she still had a clear image in her head of the footprints in the sand that had marked his route away from her and then suddenly disappeared. She had waited for this day to come, as their father had told her that to be with him even for a short time, she would have to release her firstborn child when he was seven. At the time she had thought he was worth it, but as soon as she held Josh in her arms she was not so sure. She had spent seven years hoping that they had been spared, but now the time had come. She turned to Sam and pulled him close to her. She could only be grateful that he was one hundred per cent human; that was the deal. As they walked back to the slope, Vanessa realised there were now only two sets of footprints in the snow. As she took Sam‟s hand in hers, she said; “It‟s just us now. Josh has gone to live with his father on Zoriagon.”

Laugh Line How do you tell the difference between tinned turkey and tinned custard? Read the labels

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Red Faced Santa By T B & M V-N I bought a Santa costume and didn‟t look that weird in boots, black belt and furry hat and a long white fluffy beard I went along to playgoup they wouldn‟t let me in they said that I can‟t be a mum with whiskers on my chin But not to be downhearted before they could answer back I flashed to them and showed „em just what was in my sack They looked at me quite oddly I really felt a nut I didn‟t take them pressies I took a sack of soot

This Is Christmas Dennis Westgate

Mother‟s in the kitchen baking for the coming celebrations Father says his back is aching, putting up the decorations Granny Kate is full of chatter waiting for the postman‟s call Grandpa‟s looking for his glasses, can‟t see very well at all. In the bedroom where it‟s quiet uncle Bill is writing cards Aunty Molly‟s on a diet, finds the going very hard Sister June is wrapping parcels, ties them up with fancy bows Special presents for her boyfriend, it‟s a secret no one knows. Little Tommy‟s eating jelly it‟s all running down his chin Carols singers on the telly, everyone is joining in Children fill he house with laughter hanging baubles on the tree Times like these remembered ever after. Christmas with the family.

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When Santa Came to Town Rebecca Emin

When I grew up, my father was involved with Round Table. Most of the year this meant he would disappear off to meetings some evenings, but there were always carnival floats to ride on, and other events to be enjoyed. At Christmas, all of the children of people in his Round Table group would be invited to a Christmas Party. Naturally shy, I was always hesitant to join in with the party games, but I enjoyed the parties a lot. We met up with the same bunch of children every time they had a family event and became friends with some of them. We were very lucky at these parties as Santa always managed to pay us a visit. Round Table must have had a close link with him, as he also used to spend a whole evening (or three) going around our town and local villages on the top of a hand-built sled. My father had a lot to do with these creations as he was (and is) a marvel at making things out of random bits of paper and string. There was possibly wood, paint and a trailer involved as well, but you get my drift. As a small child, it was magical. During the evenings that Santa did his tours, he would stop outside our house to make a special visit. As I grew older, I was gently informed that Santa couldn‟t make it every year in person so sometimes he asked special people to be his „helper‟ during the sleigh evenings. Imagine how proud I was when my own dad was chosen for this honour? Moving forward a couple of years, I had the best time of all. Being a little older, I became part of the trusted few who were allowed to take a collection box and knock door to door to ask for donations for whichever charity was being supported at the time. This made me feel so grown up, at the time, especially since I am the eldest child in my family and on a couple of occasions I was allowed out with my dad while my siblings stayed at home with my mum. When there are three children in a family, one-to-one time is special. It wasn‟t strictly speaking one-to-one as my dad was either driving the car that towed the sleigh, or wedged in a wooden chimney wearing a lot of padding and a red and white outfit. But still, I was so happy that I was considered mature enough to knock the doors and see the younger children‟s faces. I never did tell them that my dad was dressed as Santa, even though I was bursting pride that he had been selected as one of his helpers. I have very fond memories of the evenings that Santa came to town.

Laugh Line What’s Christmas called in England? Yule Britannia

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The Geese Are Getting Fat Anne Graham

Brenda watched the geese waddle across the farmyard enjoying their last day of a well fed life. The boss would start filling Christmas orders tomorrow. She turned to the open wardrobe door and gathered the dress that hung there into her hands. Its satin bodice was sewn with sequins and the net skirts flared from a cinched in waist. She sighed. Surely Will would ask her to marry him when he saw her in this sparkling dress? Red was her colour. There were only seven days till Christmas. Had she done enough? Twice weekly trips to the gym and starvation rations had turned her country figure into a svelte picture of sophistication. She glanced at the wedding photograph of the boss and his bride, Rachel. City slim and glamorous she smiled into the camera. Brenda gathered her cleaning things before going down to join her for coffee. In November, when the dress arrived after a shopping trip, everything in Rachel‟s wardrobe fitted her perfectly. Today, she was most often seen in trackie bottoms and sweat shirt. „I‟ve brought some millionaire‟s shortbread this morning,‟ Brenda said. „Anyone would think you were fattening me up like one of the geese,‟ Rachel protested. „There‟s no point in taking that red dress with me when we go to Mum and Dad‟s for Christmas. I must go on a diet when we get back.‟ Brenda smiled and toyed with the farmhouse keys in her apron pocket. She‟d done enough.

Falling Clouds Dennis Westgate Young Peter Rabbit pricked up his ears Pawed at his whiskers and sniffed at the air Then prodding his sister he whispered in fright "Hey Jennie wake up, there‟s something not right With grimacing protest she opened one eye "What have you been up to?" she said with a sigh "I think it‟s the end of the world!" he replied "The clouds are all falling. They‟re lying outside" But Jennie just giggled and patted his head "Silly boy, it‟s just snowing! Now go back to bed

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Shambelurkling and Other Stories Shambelurkling and Other Stories is an anthology of stories and poems suitable for readers from 8-80 or, if you insist on sticking strictly to what it says on the cover, „children aged 8-12‟. The anthology was initiated by The Pages Magazine editor, Writelink member and committed fundraiser for children‟s causes, Marit Meredith. Marit heard about the EarlyBird Plus Programme from another WL member, Marilyn Sylvester, whose own grandson, Jay, was diagnosed as being on the Autistic Spectrum at the age of seven. Comprising of work written by freelance writers, Shambelurkling and Other Stories aims to raise funds for the National Autistic Society (NAS). Each book sold, whether download or paperback, earns £1.06 in royalties for the NAS. Among the 19 contributors to this collection are some familiar Writelink faces as well as some new ones. Image © Paul Townend 2010

The Writelink Shambelurklers cast (in order of appearance!) are: Maureen Vincent-Northam Rosa Johnson Trevor Belshaw Marilyn Sylvester Rebecca Emin Christine Lesley Nedahl Rachel Carter Marit Meredith Please buy a copy and help us raise funds for a brilliant cause. Be delighted, a little chilled, have some fun – become an honorary Shambelurker! Print book £3.99 File download £1.99

Buy from Lulu.com

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And here‟s a sample from Shambelurkling and Other Stories by kind permission of the author and publisher.

Lying in wait Maureen Vincent-Northam

Don‟t go to sleep. Don‟t close your eyes for in the dark a demon lies.

He watches, lurks inside your dreams where no one‟s there to hear your screams. Silent, soundless, you know he‟s there, his fingers scour and claw the air.

Dark shape creeping, looming near; prowling, scowling. Get out of here!

You’re safe for now, but that’s all right, I’ll be waiting here again tonight...

Image © Maureen Vincent-Northam 2010

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Pay Back Chris Nedahl Step it out, step it in, this is the price of Christmas sin. Up with the knees, back with the calves, let‟s not do things by halves! Slim and svelte the instructor smiles how her blonde petiteness riles. If I‟d not eaten that piece of cake I too would be as slim as a rake. Lie on your back, press into the floor surely not a half hour more. I promise myself I will stick this out twice a week without a doubt. I will be slim, I will be fit. Do you think she‟ll mind if I rest a bit?

A Recipe for Christmas Karen Baker (Isadora) Take a cup of compassion, scatterings of snow, A forest of fir trees and candles which glow Like round smiling faces of children, who wait With bursting excitement - they know the date! Stir this excitement, add brightly wrapped gifts, The tang of satsumas, sugared almond drifts, A cinnamon scent, mince pies, some rum, And a carol sheet - to sing from or hum. Prepare all this and leave overnight The finishing touch will come before light In the tinkle of sleigh bells, the clodhop of hooves, Peace will break in from each of the roofs. A bump in the grate, a crunch and a slurp (With one too many, there may be a burp) Tells of a welcome old friend, so dear, Who‟ll pepper your home with seasonal cheer.

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Water-Skis On His Sleigh Vesna MacMaster Ten thousand miles from home, at Christmas time. Not a snowflake in sight, not a nip in the air (unless you count that kookaburra that snatched the sausage out of my hotdog just as I was about to close my teeth around it). We moved from the UK to Australia nearly a year ago now. As the season of goodwill approaches, yearnings for the way things used to be gnaw at the stomach like tapeworms. I can‟t help fondly recalling the last Christmas we spent in the UK. Boxing Day morning, to be precise. We were due to have the international packers in the next day, and in the wee hours both my husband and I leapt up simultaneously… and ran for the bathroom. It seems Crippling Stomach Bug just had to have a farewell caress of our intestines before it let us leave the country. My front tooth is still chipped from when I fainted headfirst down the toilet and knocked my face on the rim en route. I‟m not sure I can take the emptiness of not having to buy unneeded gifts for family and friends simply because it‟s the done thing. Australia‟s so far away it just slips off the map, you see, no-one expects you to join in. It‟s like our old landlord explaining to us that a previous tenant didn‟t cut the lawn, “but he was Greek, you know.” How will Christmas be when we‟re lying in the shade of fragrant Eucalypts and Frangipani, sipping cold beers and eating endless shrimps and steak off the barbie, fresh mango juice dribbling down our chins afterwards? How will it be not to cower indoors for the next four months, washed with irresistible urges to pile into any available source of fat and sugar like bears before hibernation? My five-year-old daughter‟s just joined „Nippers‟, a local surf club where they get the kids out onto the beach every Sunday morning, and teach them about the surf and beach-lore in general. They run races on the sand, they jump waves, learn to stand on surfboards. Later they learn lifesaving and other handy stuff. They‟re going to have a Christmas party on the beach, it seems. Santa‟s coming, armed with sunscreen and swimmers. He‟s got his bag packed – it‟s going to be rubber ducks all round, they tell me. Lunch‟ll be a massive barbecue. I can‟t wait.

Naked Santa Grow up. There is no Santa.

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Fairies at Christmas Christine Nedahl At this time of year happy memories come flooding back of searching for Christmas fairies in the flickering flames of a coal fire. Home in the Rhondda was a warm and loving place. We didn‟t have a bathroom, inside loo or a television but we had a lot of fun. I loved the dark winter nights and my little sister and I would sit in the middle room – no lounges or sitting rooms then – peering through the ice-black windowpanes waiting to catch sight of the first snowflakes. I swear they always came on Christmas Eve! Our pleasures were simple. My mother would arrive home from shopping laden with presents for family and friends and we‟d spend evenings on hands and knees cutting wrapping paper and choosing stickers for each gift. It was a big expense for my parents even though the purchases were nothing more than boxes of cotton handkerchiefs or toiletries. Then there was the delight of going shopping for the seasonal meat, vegetables, fruit and nuts. My father would get home early on Christmas Eve from his job as a carpenter, pay packet in hand. My mother would wrap us children up warmly and we‟d set off down the high street. It would be buzzing with shoppers. The butcher‟s window would be full of fresh chickens and red meats. The greengrocer still had trees for sale and mistletoe hanging in bunches outside. Toy and gift shops were brightly lit and bursting at the seams with a huge array of goods. Everywhere was busy with last minute shoppers. Seven o‟clock in the evening and my small but thriving town was a hub of activity. How I loved the hustle and bustle. My sister and I always had lovely things, never expensive but chosen to reflect our individuality. Christmas never passes without me remembering a book my Grandfather gave me. In my memory it was taller than me and I would lie on my tummy, book upright and open in front of me. The margins were beautiful, each one delicately decorated with pastel flowers on fine green twisting stems. The pages were illustrated with fairies dressed in all colours of the rainbow, the first letter of every story an intricate illumination. The rest of the print was in a script reminiscent of days long ago. That book, given with love, is for me, Christmas past, Christmas present and God willing many Christmases to come.

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Christmas Spirit Rosie Brown I know that resolutions are a very good thing to make but they can be rather trying and very easy to break. And I wouldn't want to dampen the festive season's glow by making lists of the kind of things to which we should all say no. So I'll wish you lots of Christmas spirit and pints of mulled wine too. Tis the season to be jolly and very merry too. Forget the diet chocolates eat loads of Christmas pud and resolve that in the New Year bits of what you fancy do you good.

Image ŠMaureen Vincent Northam 2010

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AND FINALLY... MVN: As another glitzy year draws to a close I reflect, as one does, on the highlights of the past twelve months – not least of which were the red-carpet interviews with Flatcap and Tracy. It is also the time of year when my wonderful editor, impressed as he was with my autumn feature on the Wheeltappers and Shunters AGM (Oldham branch), once again offers me early retirement. When he hears I have a Johnny Depp exclusive in the New Year – interrogating Johnny‟s Auntie Margery‟s old school dinner lady – he‟ll be begging me to stay on. Until then, dear reader, the glamour continues; I am going all Christmassy, donning pinny over party frock Nigella-style, stuffing a turkey or two, gluing paper chains and putting me sprouts on. FLATCAP: Well, it‟s that time of year again when everyone expects you to have the answer to the most notorious conundrum in recorded history. How are you supposed to remain full of good cheer while you‟re in the worst throes of open wallet surgery? Her Indoors has done her usual bit for the economy at Festung Flatcap. She‟s saved me a fortune. For example, the diamond earrings she planned on buy at £300 came in at £135, thereby saving me an incredible £165. I‟ve asked her not to be so thoughtful in future, and leave the economising to me. I‟m better qualified.

TRACY: Hi Emma What a year that was eh? This time last year I was making the tea for everyone in the office while fighting off the attentions of Mr Blunt. Now I'm out and about looking glam, doing butter promotions in Asda. I've left the likes of that tart Olivia way behind. She's so jealous that I'm doing promo work. Did I tell you that she sent me a txt asking if I'd give her my agent's phone number? I sent her Perry the Pimp's mobile. I got it from Donna who works for him at weekends to top up her benefits. Shane, my manager/agent, says he's got a lot of work lined up for me next year. I'm going to be doing a mini 'I'm a celebrity, get me out of here' in April. It's not set in the jungle; we're going to be using a small wood just outside Harrogate. I've got a gig as a sexy elf at the grotto in town this Christmas. I haven't met Santa yet but I'm told it's not the guy who set his beard on fire having a crafty fag behind the sleigh last year, so that's all right. Merry Christmas and a happy New Year, Tracy

Your editorial team, Maureen Vincent-Northam, Trevor Belshaw and David Robinson would like to wish all our readers, whether Writelinkers or not, a Merry Christmas and Happy, prosperous, successful New Year.

No part of this e-zine may be copied or reproduced without the prior permission of the individual author or photographer. 39

Writelinkers Magazine Christmas 2010  

E-zine of the Writelink writers' community. Written by the members, packed full of fiction, poetry, interviews, pictures, jokes, all with a...

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