A Spot of Writing Magazine: Issue 3

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WESTON WRITERS' NIGHTS

A Spot of Writing Issue No. 3 | July 2021

Fiction | Non-Fiction | Poetry

Our Home: Planet Earth


Contents p5

Etching: Church Spire, Wellington - Kate Meyer-Currey

p5

The Forest - Marie Kritikos

p6

Oil on Oil - Iain Robertson

p7

Why We Hide Underground - Tim Burroughs

p9

Our Home: Planet Earth - Cheyenne Macrides

p 11

When the Lightning Strikes - Sarah Hunter

p 15

Planet Earth: A Poem - Lorna Bryce

p 17

Shoot Out at Seal Rocks - Jonathan Evans

p 21

Eco-Anxiety - Cj Helden

p 22

Fragments - Alison King, Lorna Bryce, Lynda Hotchkiss, Laura Thomas

p 23

I Know of No Good Way to Live - Peter Reason

p 29

This is the Day - Lynda Hotchkiss

p 32

Mother Nature is Sick - Gerald Onyebuchi Ewa

p 35

The Hotel - Louise Atkins

p 37

Stokes Croft - Sean Chard

p 37

My Resting Place - Lydia Joy Leech

p 38

Note on Contributors

© 2021 WESTON WRITERS’ NIGHTS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. PRINTED IN THE UK.


Editor’s Note While we each live different lives and have different perspectives on the world, we all have something in common: Planet Earth is our home. Wherever you live, nature is all around us, providing vital resources for our survival, as well as an intangible beauty that can have huge benefits for mental health. From a study of a local church, to musings on human beings’ relationship with nature, this issue offers up glimpses of moments frozen in time: a night out, children lost in the woods, a menacing hiking trip, two men caught in a storm. The writers featured in this issue explore the liminal space between humanity and nature, interrogating responses to the climate crisis and imagining a multitude of ways that we might reframe our narratives and continue to coexist with Our Home: Planet Earth.

Editor: Jasmin Perry Editorial Assistant: Kirsty Hall hello@westonwritersnights.co.uk


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Etching: Church Spire, Wellington Kate Meyer-Currey Branches bite the Copper sky plate Deep with acid lines To hold the stormy Ink of rain against The dense gouache Of the matte cloud Surface under the Undulation of hills Across the horizon Where the church Is the focal point Against a backdrop Where twig shadows

Stipple the shed’s Empty canvas, Reflected in the Sudden puddles Of the carpark’s Glaring tarmac, As I dart like A raindrop in And out of the Day’s clouds And sun; always From a corner Of my squinting Eyes and tumbling

Rooks of thought Stands the sturdy Woodcut church Its vantage point Unchanged, its Arrowed steeple Aimed at the horizon; Watching shadow People passing Like the weather Over the timeless Somerset levels.

The Forest Marie Kritikos The trees were like huge sleeping giants, their branches reaching skyward and shading the whole earth from the sun. Trickles of leftover rain made their way down the crevices of the tree-trunks, landing on the moist brown leaves that lay slumbering on the soil beneath their feet. Kate mumbled something to Alice, as they both slowly peered over their shoulders into the murky forest. Its ancient spirit seemed to beckon them, whispering, “Quickly, this way.” Teasing, “Turn back.” Mesmerizing them, bewitching them, with its sounds of twitching insects and chorus of bird song. From between the narrow dark pathways, barely separating the undergrowth, a flickering remnant of sunlight escaped. Suddenly, a calm mist-filled breeze engulfed them. The girls were stranded, at the mercy of the forest’s embrace, captives, lost and spellbound. 5


Oil on Oil Iain Robertson ‘Oil on oil, On troubled water. Once. Then twice. Three times. Again. Still the surface, Hide the turmoil. Nothing, though, can be the same. Something lost beyond all measure, Wings don't work. The sky can't hold. All the things we held as treasure, Left uncared for. Left. Untolled.' The things we should value the most, are not ours to own. But rather ours to lose. Or worse. To throw away.

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Why We Hide Undergeround Tim Burroughs fire now raged above survivors sheltering underground in burnt out basements tunnels anywhere that was protection from the heat and gases that comprised the revenge of Gaia as she adjusted to the century of burning of carbon fuels of the burning down of the forests for ranches and farms from the blind headlong rush for profit heedless of the ravages to the ecosphere the signs had been building like a cliff a nightmare foretold but the politicians were in with the corporations so it had come to this the sheltering of the remnants of the races from the heat storms raging above of course at first the fire brigades had tried to fight the fires, dowse the burning trees and peat with water from trucks, hydrants and planes. But every time one blaze was thought to be out, within days it was raging again, kindled from heat below the land surface. The national governments had tried to stop the floods of heat refugees from fleeing across borders. But batons and razor wire were no match for desperate crowds of thousands. Even live rounds shot above the heads of the crowds had no effect. These extra mouths and their need for shelter overwhelmed the local health and welfare services. Outbreaks of deadly diseases were common. In the background the temperatures rose, and the water reserves diminished. The grain growing areas of the world grew parched by the heat. 7


As their output decreased, populations began to starve. Food riots broke out all over. These led to regional and then national conflicts over water and food. National armed forces became homeland securities, defending walls and wire emplacements against marauding gangs, and hungry mobs searching for shops and warehouses to loot. That is why we hide underground. We wish our forebears had taken more care.

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Our Home: Planet Earth Cheyenne Macrides Nature (noun): noun - the phenomena of the physical world collectively, including plants, animals, the landscape, and other features and products of the earth, as opposed to humans or human creations. When searching for a simple definition of nature, I was surprised to find that it excluded humans from the list of things that make nature up. It states all things: plants, insects, trees etc., but humans are not a part of that list. It made me wonder when we began to separate ourselves from nature? Have we always done it? We are told, or shall I say, conditioned to believe that animals and plants do not own consciousness, but this is simply not true. Nature is our home and always has been, we should look at it the way we look at ourselves – as a growing, changing being, in need of nurturing, because ultimately whatever we choose is reflected in our surroundings. There is also an energy exchange that happens when humans interact with nature – one often thinks this is an external act, but it is always happening internally first. So to put it in simpler terms – we are at home in nature, but some of us don’t allow nature to talk, to breathe, to give answers, to show us ourselves and the wisdom it carries in its roots, in its ageing yet alive presence. But you might be asking me, how? Well, we must begin by opening all awareness and our five senses to it. This will increase our receptiveness to its wonder. Go into nature and don’t ask for it to show you anything, don’t force, don’t push. Just be for a while – in the silence and in the observation, you will start to see patterns, sounds, colours, movement. Interactions and feelings will begin to arise from this encounter. We will start to see ourselves in its liveliness and its stillness. The quiet crow creeps up to its food for the day with hunter instincts – to survive just like we do. In contrast, we can observe the ladybird flickering upon the leaves, gently passing through time. Indigenous people have never felt this separation – they look to nature to live. We should too. 9


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When the Lightning Strikes Sarah Hunter It was our last day in the Rockies. Despite the abundance of scenery, we’d so far been unlucky in our quest to find anything other than rooting birds in the mountains. I was desperate to glimpse a moose, elk, or bear before we left for England. That was why, when I checked the weather forecast that morning, I swiped away the black cloud on my screen and told myself it would be fine. We’d take waterproofs and extra layers in our rucksacks. Forecasts were always pessimistic after all. Daniel was keen too. We selected a route that looped around Moose Lake. There had to be wildlife there, surely. It was autumn; we left early, catching the first rays of the sun. As we drove higher into the mountains to our start point, the snow beneath the pointed trees became thicker. I wrapped my scarf around my nose, my breath warming the woollen fibres. Then we crunched through the snow for about an hour until we reached the edge of the lake. And there it was. Its body gangly, the ice cracking as it waded through the chill waters. ‘It’s a moose, look.’ I laughed with glee. I ripped off my gloves and fumbled for my phone. But by the time I’d turned the camera on, the moose had disappeared into the trees. Daniel’s eyes were gleaming. ‘C’mon.’ We kept our voices low; there had to be another. Yet the further we moved around the lake, the harder it became to fight through the wilderness. The snow became deeper, until every twig below ankle height became choked with silvery crunchiness. The day was young, yet the sky was darkening, morphing from crisp blue to smoky grey. It was then I heard the gentle patter of droplets kissing leaves. The clouds cracked, and the lake’s surface came alive with rain, as spirals pirouetted across the dark water. ‘Uh oh.’ I pulled my hood over my ears, hearing the icy beads drum on top of my head. ‘Do you think we should go back?’ Daniel looked at the sky. I looked upwards too, then back across the lake. We were so close; the moose was in reach, and I really wanted a photo before we left… Daniel had already retrieved a map and compass from his rucksack. He turned the compass in his hand. ‘We need to get back here.’ He pointed at a red line marking the main path. ‘South of the lake. This way. Look.’ I was about to argue when the sky cracked. A lightning bolt sliced between the clouds and the ground jerked. We both fell onto the wet earth; the compass landed 11


between us, the dial spinning, losing north. Daniel picked it up. ‘It must be broken,’ he muttered, frowning. We climbed to our feet, my legs shaking. The memory of the moose fizzled, instead replaced by a persistent desire to leave. Now it felt foolish being out in the open. We followed the same path we’d taken to get to the lake. The trees were a buzz of white noise, the wet air spiced with damp bark. After some time, Daniel whooped. A brown scar was visible on the forest floor again; the snow was thinning. But our joy was short-lived. We continued walking, the cold biting at my cheeks, my legs growing heavy. Daniel paused and unfolded the map, tracing the red line with his finger. ‘We should be at the road by now.’ He was right; we’d been walking longer than an hour, and even though I was sure this was the same path we’d taken earlier, it seemed somehow unfamiliar. He shook the map. Droplets of rain dripped from the surface. ‘We should have gone past it ages ago.’ Daniel wriggled the compass back out of his bag. The dial was still spinning. ‘We must have walked further north than we thought, that’s all. Let’s keep going.’ It was as I clambered over a stray rock, I noticed something glinting. Smashed glass led from the path like a trail of crumbs. I followed, stepping through the trees until I found their source: a broken camera. But it was the man who lay next to the camera that caused me to freeze. ‘Daniel!’ My voice fought the wind. ‘Daniel! Quickly!’ The man was lying on his back, his leg oddly twisted, his eyes closed. I felt below his jaw. There was a faint pulse, yet his skin was icy. ‘We need to get help.’ Daniel was jabbing his phone, waving his arm back and forth. ‘I don’t have any signal.’ I shook the man’s shoulders. Please wake up, please wake up. He didn’t stir. How long had he been lying here, alone, hidden in the trees? Clumps of black grizzly hair clung to a nearby trunk. A bear. We couldn’t leave him unprotected and vulnerable. ‘We can’t be far from the road now,’ I said. ‘You go.You’re quicker.’ ‘But…’ There was no time to argue. ‘Daniel, go.’ I slipped my rucksack off my shoulder and pulled out the extra layers I’d packed, placing them over the man’s body. His own bottle-green coat had guzzled the rain. I shook his arm. ‘Can you hear me? What’s your name?’ Daniel was still hovering beside me. ‘What if I can’t find you again?’ ‘You will,’ I insisted. I didn’t want to think about what would happen if he couldn’t. ‘Be quick.’ I turned back to the man, hearing the gentle thud of Daniel’s steps ebb away. He 12


still hadn’t stirred, so I searched his pockets until I found his wallet. Maybe hearing his name would rouse him. It was on his bank card: Mike. I said it aloud, noticing as I did so the bank card’s expiry date was April 2nd, 1992. Strange. I tucked it back into the wallet and returned it to his pocket. Still he did not move. The temperature was falling. My teeth chattered, and small bursts of mist escaped my lips. How long would it take Daniel to find help? Every rustle, every creak of the trees, made my skin prickle and caused my eyes to dart between the thick branches. As the hours passed, I spoke to the man in a low, soothing tone, hoping my nonsensical words would stir his eyes open. His purple veins quivered beneath his translucent skin. His lips were blue and flaking. Just hold on a little longer, I thought, as I squeezed his hand. I slipped off my scarf and tucked it under the man’s head like a pillow. There, he looked more comfortable. Then, when I ran out of words, I started to hum a song we’d sang in Primary School; it was the first thing to pop into my head. The notes broke in my throat like an out-of-tune flute. Night descended quickly in the forest; the entwined treetops blocked the moon’s delicate glow. Where was Daniel? Why hadn’t he come back? Just hold on, I repeated, unsure whether the words were still intended to soothe the man, or myself. I crawled into the hollow of a tree, pulling the man beside me. I kept hold of his hand and didn’t let go until sleep won. Above the hollow, a bolt of lightning sliced the sky and the ground juddered again. *** Somebody was shaking my shoulder. ‘Rachel?’ said an unfamiliar voice. I opened my eyes slowly, a blurred face stared back. I tried to sit up, but a gentle hand pressed into my shoulder. Voices were talking about me. Something orange swam in my vision and a plastic mask was forced over my nose. ‘Daniel,’ I whispered. ‘Where’s Daniel?’ ‘It’s all right. We’ve found you,’ the low, unfamiliar voice spoke again. I heard shouting from the tree trunk. Another whiskery-faced man was saying something… I needed to explain, there was someone else in the hollow too… ‘You’ve had quite the fright.’ I choked behind the mask. Why was nobody listening to me? ‘Is he dead?’ I croaked. I’d been too late; I hadn’t done enough… The whiskery-faced man frowned and patted my arm. ‘Who?”’ *** A couple of weeks later, my phone pinged. Daniel had sent an article. 13


I flicked it open, noting the date at the top of the page: October 5, 1991. ‘Crews are searching the Moose Lake area of Jasper Provincial Park for a missing hiker. Solo hiker, Mike Smith, 35, was last seen by staff at the Rockies Hostel early Saturday morning. Moose Lake experienced an unexpected turn in weather conditions over the weekend, with violent storms…’ Nausea swirled in my stomach as I studied the photo. He was wearing the same bottle-green jacket and his camera was over his shoulder. It was him. I gasped and brought my face closer to the screen: my scarf was tucked around his neck. The missing hiker’s eyes pierced me, and a shiver scurried up my spine. I remembered the earth’s judder and the faint pulse I’d felt beneath his cold, clammy skin.

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Planet Earth: A Poem Lorna Bryce Beautiful tiny things Precious beauty, healing power of nature The woods, birds singing Blue, blue wild bluebells, pale yellow primroses and tiny delicate violets Ants, spiders, flies, wasps, the bees we need them all Where are the moths these days? The stars, dark skies, Exmoor, an area I love We must preserve wild places On screen we witness scorched earth, the terror and strange beauty of fire ripping through the trees, countries where there is no rain, locusts eat the crops and families starve The ice is melting and polar bears are losing their habitat Indigenous people lose their land when trees are felled illegally Cliffs fall into seas, islands disappear, coral reefs are destroyed, plastic floats in oceans, air is polluted, mining creates devastation and leaves a sad, dead land It’s hard to stay positive at times There are little seeds of hope where conservation flourishes, people care and find new ways of living, beavers return to build their dams, species return and areas no longer flood. There are solutions including technology but lots of obstacles along the way Greta’s intervention is a force of positivity telling us how it is. We must listen, take notice, love and look after this world, take action, action now before it is too late, love the planet, love the earth and keep hope alive.

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Shoot Out at Seal Rocks Jonathan Evans A small low developed approximately 200 km east-northeast of Townsville on 11 January and then moved north northeast and slowly deepened during the next two days. At 1600 UTC 16 January, Frederick Reef (AWS) reported the strongest wind speed of 190 km/h and a pressure of 991.5 hPa when Grace was located 60 km to the west. Severe Tropical Cyclone Grace, 11 - 20 January 1984. Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology The air is thick like honey and sticks to my skin. To my left, there’s a wide sweep of beach, to the right a low rocky promontory. On the sand, near a boat, there is a ferocious buzz around the slack-jawed carcass of a fish and a thumb-sized fly is perched on one of its eyes. The wind riffles something on the beach, some sort of plastic sacking with faded writing, bleached by the rain, wind, and sun. I notice a group of cars heading out of town –it seems as though everyone is leaving but me. Still, I figure, if things get bad – I can always crash out in the pub. Getting there had not been a problem. It was, after all, a holiday weekend and the traffic was brisk. Leaving Sydney, I got a lift with a guy who trained racehorses for a living. He dropped me by the turn-off at Boolambayte from where I guessed it was about 30 Ks to Seal Rocks. It was just after midday so there was still a bit of traffic. Within a few minutes a truck carrying beer supplies stopped and I climbed aboard. We rolled down a dirt road through the rain forest listening to the strains of Today FM punctuated by warnings of a tropical cyclone, all the while getting tantalising glimpses of the wide, blue Pacific and its famous surf breaks through gaps in the trees. After about half an hour we reached the shoreline and pulled up outside the Seal Rocks Hotel. I thanked my friend for the lift, climbed down and set off in search of the campground. When I arrived, everyone, it seemed, had gone. Bad news about bad weather travels fast, I guess. I found a good spot and dropped my tent. ‘Jeez, it’s goin’ to blow like a bastard.’ The voice came from an old guy living in an old caravan parked in a sheltered spot under a cliff overhang at the back of the park. ‘G’day, how you doin? I’m Bill. Happened like this in ‘73, blew for three days, and washed everything out.’ ‘You sleeping in that?’ he said, pointing to my tent, a red plastic thing not really 17


waterproof, but light and cheap. ‘She’ll be in tatters within the hour, best drag your gear into my place.’ ‘Thanks all the same but I reckon I’ll be fine.’ I finished putting my tent up, stored my rucksack inside, put on my board shorts and headed across a small strip of tarmac towards the beach. As I did, I noticed more people on their way out. Back on the beach there was sweat in the air and the water was unnaturally low. Off to the right a flash of lightning followed seconds later by a long rolling boom like gunfire. Out at sea there was an enormous wall of blackness, terrifying. I’d seen storms before, but this was altogether different. The sea, however, was behaving normally, just a one-metre swell and this relaxed me; after all it wasn’t as if a typhoon was roaring in was it? As soon as I had this thought the wind began to pick up. Not too much, but with it came the first gobs of rain. As I looked again out to sea, I saw a dark, dense curtain moving rapidly towards me. I turned and ran towards my tent. Time to hunker down. I dove in and lay on top of my sleeping bag. Seconds later the rain hit the tent with biblical force. For a moment everything was okay, and then a little leak appeared in the corner, not surprising really. A sudden gust of wind and the tent billowed like a parachute. Another gust, this time even stronger, and by now the floor of the tent began rippling in the areas where I was not in touch with the ground. The tent was really small with no room to stand up, so I lay down and, unable to do anything else, tried to read my book, The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse. If truth be told, I wasn’t really enjoying it very much. As the title says it’s about the Glass Bead Game, which is beautiful, intricate and basically pointless, which just about summed up my view of the book. The wind outside was howling and when I looked through my tent flap I could see stuff flying everywhere, air beds, trash cans, buckets, paper, plastic bags, and the occasional article of swimwear. I lay down again and waited for the wind to subside but it didn’t. My problems started to mount when the tent pegs began lifting out of the ground and the whole thing threatened to take off. More water began coming in, tons of it. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the film Das Boot - the one about the German U-boat that had more leaks than a Welsh allotment, - well, by this stage I was feeling pretty much like the U Boat’s Chief Engineer fighting a one-man war against the water. The light suddenly dimmed and then the noise of the wind rose to a high pitched shriek. Something hard hit the side of the tent, tearing a jagged hole through which I could see absolute turmoil. Quickly I stuffed my gear into my rucksack and made a dash for a place of greater safety. Outside in the storm I realised just what a predicament I was in. Where to go? The 18


pub was an option but it was too far away. What about the old bloke’s caravan – was that still standing? Yes, there it was, under the rock overhang. I ran, fighting against the elements, dragging my sodden gear with me. I banged on the van door. It opened almost immediately. ‘Tent’s gone then?’ I nodded. ‘Come in, quick and get that wet gear off.’ The van was buffeting and bouncing like a lifeboat out at sea. ‘Tucker mate?’ I realised I hadn’t eaten since breakfast so I nodded as I stripped off and towelled myself down. Bill smiled. ‘She’s set in for a few days. The main highway’s out and Laurieton’s flooded.’ Bill had elicited this fact from a small transistor radio perched on one of the shelves. Laurieton was three hours north, so this was a big storm. ‘She’s gusting at over 120 miles an hour,’ he said with a hint of delight. ‘She’s tearing the coast to pieces. We’re goin’ to be here for a few days mate, so you might as well make yourself at home.’ He handed me a plate of baked beans and a cup of tea. ‘There’ll be nothing down here for at least a week,’ he continued, scratching his rear and looking rather pleased with his pronouncement. ‘What a bastard,’ he said and, as shrapnel flew past, smiled once more. I was beginning to see a pattern, the more dire the pronouncement, the happier Bill seemed. At that moment he was in seventh heaven. ‘You can kip there,’ he said, pointing to a long cushioned seat by the table. Inside the van, I noticed a bookshelf populated with cowboy pulp fiction sandwiched between a couple of huge catering packs of baked beans. Bill saw me looking at the books. ‘Like a good read, do you?’ ‘Yeah,’ I replied. ‘What do you think of this?’ He passed me a tattered paperback, Murder at Poison Wells. I opened it and read the opening passage: Burl Wilson spat into the dirt.That rat,Tod Ellinger was going to pay for this. He ran his hand over the smooth metal barrel of his Colt Cavalry revolver. He admired its engraved surface and span the chamber with the palm of his hand. Its heft felt welcome and its weight told him that it was fully loaded and ready for business. ‘I’ve got a whole collection.’ There must have been over a hundred. Rustlers of the Purple Sage, Shootout at Pistol Ridge,The Siren of Rattlesnake Creek, Bury my saddle at Brumby Gulch. ‘I’ve read all of these. Fancy trading?’ Bill looked at me hopefully. ‘I’ve only got one – ’ I dug out my Herman Hesse novel and passed it over. 19


We sat down with our books as the storm howled around. ‘The finely tooled boots of Tod Ellinger tattooed on the sidewalk. It was kill or be killed, and the hard-eyed stranger meant to live.’ I had just read these immortal words when Bill raised a buttock off the seat and noisily added to the atmospheric disturbance. He then let rip a salvo of comments – fired like bullets from Todd Ellinger’s handgun: ‘Who is this bloody idiot, Hesse? Wasn’t he a war criminal or something? Whatever, he should be shot for writing shit like this. When does the girl appear? And if he wants this glass bead thing so bad why doesn’t he just shoot someone and take it?’ By ten o’clock I had been to Wombat Wells, survived snake bites and was just entering Brumby Gulch when I noticed something. Bill was lying on his back, snoring from both ends. The van was otherwise still and quiet. I got up and went outside. What struck me was the silence and then the sky. The clearest I’ve ever seen; a nearperfect circle of stars surrounded by a ring of blackness. I woke Bill and we went out again. We looked in awe, the eye of the storm. Dead still, dead calm and dead silent. I made a brew and we wandered to the shore. The sea was streaked with the phosphorescent trails of phytoplankton while above us swirled the Southern Cross, the Big Dipper and the diamond trail of the Milky Way. Even now I cannot really describe the scene but Bill, in his own way, summed it up ‘I’ll be buggered.’ We stayed there until we felt a breeze stirring and knew that, once the eye passed over, the full fury of the storm would be visited on us again, and so it was, that even before we got back to the van, twigs and leaves were again flying through the air. We stayed together in the van for four more days, eventually running out of cooking gas and having to use the Glass Bead Game to light campfires under our rock overhang. The minor roads were still washed out on the day I left, to walk the 30 clicks to the main highway. Bill walked me as far as the end of town. He shook my hand. ‘Time to saddle up old hoss and head for the Alamo. There’s a wide range out there jest waiting fer you.’ I turned and headed inland. As I crested the first rise, I saw Bill raise his arm to me in farewell and I made my mind up that one day I’d send Bill an addition to his collection of stories describing our Shootout at Seal Rocks.

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Eco-Anxiety Cj Helden My fear of environmental doom and gloom is real. Eco-anxiety Environmental emergency, engaging with energy efficiency. Climate crisis, carbon consumption conversations. Overcome ozone gas, oxygen overlooked. Air pollution, alternative A-rated energy. Noisy neighbourhood pollution, nocturnal shift patterns. Xenas with litter at my feet, X-ray spectromicroscopy. Insulation foam or gas, important sun reflecting ice. Extreme weather events, experts eliminating emissions. Turbines, Tesla’s full-electric cars for sale. Years of plastic pollution, youths yelling at mass protests. Our Home: Planet Earth is changing, that’s real.

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Fragments Alison King, Lorna Bryce, Lynda Hotchkiss and Laura Thomas This poem was created as part of a Postal Exchange, hosted by Weston Writers’ Nights and funded by Literature Works.

I continue forward into the water’s embrace. I enter the space, the space between breaths. Panic stampedes in my chest. heat isn’t helping notes spill from me like waves, high and sweet and clean, my chest burns with the joy of it. I knew what they had done. Traded in old promises for new vows. another nameless face in a faded photograph. vulnerable, eyes closed, a survivor, Hundreds and hundreds. water, tissue, me. a frame of bones. It holds me in, keeps me together. time has changed it. left tangible memories. starlight and elderflower, tea leaves and lavender, green fields and grey skies and welsh rain. Tomorrow tastes like bitter lemon, or strawberries and cream, opportunity. adventure. unable to return to its original form leaving only a faint memory in place of the past. A million stories, a million people leap from chapter to chapter ordered lines on pristine pages. a coordinated parade. full technicolour. I took the leap across the flowing waters. an edging torrent, dark waters swirling around rocks. I danced and sang and twirled. I moved, I ran, I flew. I sped through time and light and rainbows and space. You blazed into my life, sent your light into all corners Every detail, every flaw, was visible. a fatal mistake. Side-roads to be explored. corners yet unknown. millimetre by millimetre along the avenues and byways of life. narrow or wide. as close or as far away as a mile. A millimetre from the margin. 22


I Know of No Good Way to Live Peter Reason When I first wrote this piece, Jakarta was flooded and monster Typhoon Kammuri was battering the Philippines. Western newspapers were full of pictures of the fires raging in Australia where thousands of people were fleeing and maybe a billion animals had burned to death. A colleague emailed: ‘I am spending Xmas with family in the countryside near Canberra which is wreathed in thick smoke from the fires ringing Sydney. The gates of hell are officially open now in Australia. From here on, heaven help us all!’1 As I revised this, our papers were full of news from frozen Texas. Then we learned that Thwaites — nicknamed the doomsday glacier — is melting faster than scientists thought. By the time you read this, some other unnatural catastrophe may well occupy our attention. This is the Anthropocene, the epoch when human actions dominate, even overwhelm, the process of the planet.2 It is also the Sixth Extinction, in which the loss of life forms is up to 1,000 times the background rate.3 It is easy to focus on carbon emissions and the consequent global heating, but the ecological emergency that confronts the modern world is a rupture in the Earth System as a whole, a rupture whose impact extends to all the major spheres of the planet: air, water, rocks, ice, and living things. The complex array of feedback loops which maintained the stability of Earth within habitable limits through the geological epoch of the Holocene have been thrown out of kilter.4 I am seventy-seven years old. As I look back, I see my life has been overshadowed by the gathering ecological catastrophe. I have a childhood memory, strangely both clear and hazy, that was an intimation of things to come. As a small boy in the 1950s I am sitting at the kitchen table turning the pages of a weekly magazine—possibly Life or Picture Post. I come to a double-page spread featuring a dramatic black and white photo of a filthy smokestack, illustrating an article predicting a future environmental crisis. I ask my mother about it, and her reply lovingly brushes my concerns aside, forbidding even the thought that lies behind the question: ‘You don’t want to think about that, dear.’ 1. Professor Freya Mathews, personal communication December 2019. 2. Steffen, Will, Paul J. Crutzen, and John R McNeill. “The Anthropocene: Are Humans Now Overwhelming the Great Forces of Nature?” Ambio 36 (2007): 614-21. 3. Kolbert, Elizabeth. The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History. London: Bloomsbury, 2014. 4. I have taken the word ‘rupture’ from Clive Hamilton’s Defiant Earth:The Fate of Humans in the Anthropocene. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2017.

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But clearly the notion that life on Earth was precarious lodged in my mind. Throughout my adult life this early intimation was reinforced: I was just eighteen in 1962 when Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was published. I recall trying to imagine a mother bird crushing her eggs as she sat to incubate them because the shells were so thin. This was followed by a plethora of warnings: in 1968 by Buckminster Fuller’s challenging proposal that we live on ‘Spaceship Earth’; in 1972 the Club of Rome’s Limits to Growth report pointed out the modern economies were on a trajectory leading to overshoot and collapse; in 1987 the Brundtland Report initiated a debate about the possibilities of ‘sustainable development’; in the 1990s Al Gore’s movie told of An Inconvenient Truth of climate change. There were many more. The first United Nations Conference on Environment and Development was held in Rio in 1992. Since then we have been beset by a series of failed international initiatives and increasingly alarming reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. We now can read almost daily of rapidly melting ice caps, record temperatures, violent storms, the bleaching of coral reefs, loss of life forms, chemical and plastic pollution, all indicating that ecological catastrophe is on us faster than even the pessimists thought.5 Maybe The End of the World has Already Happened, as philosopher Tim Morton proposes in his BBC Radio 4 broadcast.6 Throughout this period, English middle-class society, of which I am firmly a part, moved out of the austerity that followed World War II into the delights of consumer society: the words of Prime Minister Harold MacMillan in 1957, ‘You’ve never had it so good’ rang true. My first visit to a sweet shop with my mother when we didn’t need ration tokens is clear in my memory. Around 1960 a store called Goods and Chattels opened in London that sold stylish homeware — for a while bright coloured enamel teapots and mugs were all the rage. Habitat was founded in 1964, bringing the fresh Scandinavian style to moderate incomes. Clothing boutiques opened in Soho’s Carnaby Street in the 1960s, offering mod and hippie styles. We began to eat better, be more conscious of what we wore, drive modern cars rather than struggle to keep pre-war models on the road, have wine with meals, and holidays abroad. We learned to be consumers. It didn’t take long for that novelty to become habit and expectation: we decided that an ever-increasing standard of living was our right. I recall my mother telling me when I bought a high-powered sports car in the late 1960s, ‘You deserve it’ — and even then, I was not quite sure why. 5. Carson, Rachel. Silent Spring. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1962. Originally published as 1962; Fuller, Buckminster. Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth. 1968; Meadows, Donella, H, Dennis L. Meadows, Jørgen Randers, and William W Behrens. The Limits to Growth. New York: Universe Books, 1972; Brundtland, Gro Harlem. Our Common Future. Oxford University Press, 1987; Gore, Al. An Inconvenient Truth:The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press, 2006. 6. The End Of The World Has Already Happened <https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000cl67>

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Of course, we now see clearly that the growing ecological catastrophe and the consumer revolution are two sides of the same coin. The latter was part of the Great Acceleration, the exponential rise in population, energy use, pollution, and consumption of all kinds that took off in the middle of the Twentieth Century. For many, the Great Acceleration is seen as the start — or if not the start, then the quickening — of the Anthropocene. My life has been an embodiment of this Great Acceleration, characterized by astonishing increases in both material wellbeing and ecological disruption. As a professor at the University of Bath, I taught and researched ‘sustainable business practice’ — a phrase that now seems laughably archaic. I remember conversations with colleagues back in the 1990s, agreeing, ‘We have another ten years to address this, then it will be too late.’ Yet here we are now, into the third decade of the new millennium, with little really changed. Is it still nearly too late, as the latest IPPC report argues? Or has the moment, if indeed it existed, actually slipped from our collective grasp? These are practical questions about reductions of carbon emissions, about changing patterns of production and consumption, about farming, transport healthcare and much more. But they are also essentially moral questions — as writers such as Robert Bringhurst and Jan Zwicky, and Roy Scranton point out: the ecological emergency forces us to look at human fragility and transience, to recognize that Western global civilization is in its death throes.7 This certainly means the end of the dominant culture as we have known it in the West: we have to let go of all the assumptions about identity, freedom, success and progress that we have held so dear. It may even mean the end of human species, along with many other life forms. As Bringhurst puts in, ‘You, your species, your entire evolutionary family, and your planet will die tomorrow. How do you want to spend today?’ There are no obvious, easily available solutions: we can either cover our heads in denial or commit to living ethically in a broken world. Most of us will probably do a bit of both. Above all, living ethically means being willing to look squarely at the truth of our situation — while acknowledging the limits of our understanding. It means cultivating capacities of courage, self-control and self-awareness, compassion and justice. As Jan Zwicky points out, these are qualities of the excellent human being through history. It is easy for me to write this: how does it feel to the citizens of Indonesia flooded 7. Bringhurst, Robert and Jan Zwicky. Learning to Die:Wisdom in the Age of Climate Crisis. Saskatchewan: University of Regina Press, 2018; Scranton, Roy. Learning to Die in the Anthropocene: Reflections on the End of Civilization. San Francisco, CA: City Light Books, 2015.

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from their capital and the Australians fleeing catastrophic fires? But living ethically does not mean we have to get it right all the time: as Bringhurst puts it pithily, you might not save the world, but you can at least save your self-respect. Looking truth in the face also means acknowledging that the ecological crisis is linked with the privileges assumed by patriarchy. Writers of colour are increasingly pointing out that we cannot separate climate change from the exploitations of colonialism and slavery. As African American blogger Mary Heglar puts it, climate change is not just a man-made problem, it is a white-man-made problem. It didn’t start with the Industrial Revolution, ‘It started with conquest, genocides, slavery, and colonialism. That is the moment when White men’s relationship with living things became extractive and disharmonious. Everything was for the taking; everything was for sale.’8 As I move inexorably through my eighth decade, looking back I can see how my generation was complicit in the Great Acceleration: as much carbon dioxide has been emitted into the atmosphere in the past thirty years as in the whole history of humanity to that point. We are guilty of missing the evident signs: NASA scientist James Hansen and his colleagues published studies of global temperature rise in the early 1980s; Hansen himself testified to US Congress in 1988 that he was ninetynine percent certain there was a clear cause and effect relationship between carbon emissions and global warming. His warning was dismissed by Congress and even though much quoted, ignored by liberal bien pensants. While I acknowledge this, at the same time I am angry that these final years of my life are overshadowed by this looming catastrophe. In these late years, I experience a loss of innocence as the reality of our human predicament comes crashing into my protected life. I am forced to acknowledge my own sense of entitlement: after a productive and reasonably worthy life, I want to live my last years in some kind of peace, cultivating my own spiritual and creative capacities, supporting my grandchildren with love. This evening I felt happy after a productive time writing, working in the garden, meeting friends, and making music. Then I remembered the reality of ecological catastrophe. It brought home to me the truth that the Chinese poet Wang Wei saw in ancient times, ‘I know of no good way to live’:

8. Mary Annaïse Heglar, Climate Change Isn’t Racist — People Are (2019) < https://zora.medium.com/ climate-change-isnt-racist-people-are-c586b9380965.>

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9

9. As quoted by Richard Powers in The Overstory. London: William Heinemann, 2018.

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This is the Day Lynda Hotchkiss Mila was awake before the regulation call to rise. This was the day, the day she had been trained for. She rose quietly, not wishing to wake her roommate, Daksha, another member of the team. At the window, she watched the sun appear over the distant mountains, its pale gold rays taking purchase on the dark purple rocks. Slivers of mauve and grey clouds faded into oblivion as the gold turned to amber. It wasn’t long before the sun was smiling its beneficial warmth across the barren wasteland that formed a sort of angular garden, plantless but needing no maintenance at all. Three hours later, the two women were kitted out and waiting for their transport to take them for their final briefing. They had nothing to say to each other. Daksha felt eager to begin this quest, to get away from the restrictions her large family placed on her. Mother, two grandmothers, Father, his two brothers and their wives, five siblings and eight cousins - all living together in a small four r­ oomed apartment in Delhi where her parents were both teachers in a school. She felt certain nobody had even noticed her absence after she left home eighteen years ago. They probably thought she had run away like her mother’s sister did years earlier, ran away to marry a boy that the family thought was most unsuitable. She never bothered contacting them to tell them where she was, or what she was doing, but soon they would find out. Mila wasn’t sure what she felt. All her life she had lived in an institution for clever kids, slept in dormitories with eight or nine other girls, ate with every other child in the huge dining room before undertaking whatever chores were assigned to her that particular day. Then came hours and hours of study, tiresome equations and calculations. Everything had led to this moment but she felt empty, emotionless, devoid of any relevant feelings. Not even a single butterfly to make her feel like every other human being would in this situation. She just kept reliving that beautiful desert sunrise. One hour later, they were waiting for their two male colleagues. There was whooping and shouting as the two men appeared down a polypropylene tunnel that connected their living quarters to the platform. ‘Morning ladies!’ shouted the taller of the two. ‘All set for the ride of your life?’ Daksha giggled and felt utterly embarrassed by his bravado while Mila just turned away. ‘I’m D-vron,’ he announced. Neither woman spoke. Daksha took in his chiselled features, his shiny black skin, his close-cropped black hair but most of all, his long slender fingers. 29


‘And this is Mikey,’ he announced, slapping his colleague on the back. Mikey raised one hand as he tried to maintain his balance. He adjusted his glasses back to their true position on his nose and said ‘Hi.’ The tannoy interrupted. ‘Please proceed to room 5-D.’ They shuffled along in their heavy suits, carrying their survival packs. ‘So, you must be Mila,’ D-vron crooned as he kept step with her. ‘Tech expert as I recall.’ ‘Computer diagnostics and electrical engineer,’ she corrected. ‘Tech expert in my book, sweetheart,’ he countered. ‘I’m not your sweetheart,’ she said crossly. ‘Well, we’ll have to see about that, won’t we?’ He turned to Daksha who was walking just a little behind Mila. ‘And you’re Daksha, I take it? Chemist, food technologist and navigational engineer.’ Daksha didn’t know what to say. Mila had given him short shrift, and as much as she found him handsome, there was something about his brash manner that she found slightly disconcerting. ‘You missed out psychotherapist and psychologist, but yes. I’m Daksha.’ ‘From India?’ queried the fourth member of the team. ‘Delhi,’ she answered, adding, ‘And you’re Mikey. What do you do?’ ’As little as possible,’ D-vron put in, and went off laughing. His height meant he took long strides and he was soon ahead of the others. ‘A bit of everything, I suppose. I trained as a geologist, but I’m also extremely wellversed in chemistry, especially fuel and propulsion units, and I have been trained as a paramedic, there being no one suitable to act as doctor on this trip. Not surprising given the current problems.’ Mikey smiled, and Daksha found herself liking this quiet young man, despite him being short, slightly overweight and wearing glasses. ‘Daksha,’ he said after a minute or two’s silence. ‘Does it have a meaning? I know a lot of names from the Indian sub-continent have meanings attached. I don’t know what my birth name was. My adoptive parents picked me from a children’s home in China when I was six months old. At least, I thought they were my parents. They called me Mikey, raised me and made sure I learned everything I could. So, does Daksha have a meaning?’ ‘It means Earth,’ she said softly. Half an hour later, they were ready to board their craft. The tannoy spoke again to tell them all was on schedule, not that Mila felt any emotion about it. All four simply waited in silence. Then came the order to embark. They followed each other in through the small doorway and made their way to their respective seats, stowing equipment away and 30


undertaking safety checks as required for their responsibilities. One seat remained empty. ‘Is someone else expected?’ asked D-vron. ‘Yes. Me!’ Clumsily, D-vron turned to see a man of approximately the same height and build as himself enter and settle himself in the last seat. He said nothing more until all appropriate checks had been made. ‘Welcome team, I’m your captain,’ the newcomer said at last. Pointing at each one in turn, he said their names and they nodded. ‘I’m Bilal, and I’m in charge. I will be your chauffeur, your guide, your leader.You will report to me, and listen to me. In return, I will look to your well-being, mentally and physically. I can’t do much about looking after you socially, given our situation, but I will try to socialize with you.’ There was a general nodding of heads, but no one questioned what he was saying. They had been raised not to question anything. ‘I have my orders and it is not your place to question them. If we all follow the orders we have been given, this whole thing will be successful. Otherwise…’ Bilal let his voice drop for a moment. ‘I have certain weapons on board and will not hesitate to use them if anything threatens the main objective. We are the advance team. At the appropriate point, Mikey, you will administer the serum that will put us into stasis. The onboard computers will monitor our vitals and bring us out of enforced slumber when necessary. Good luck folks.’ Bilal started the launch sequence, and it wasn’t long before Mila felt the spacecraft begin to lift from the launchpad. Now there were butterflies in her stomach, and she felt excited at finally getting underway while fear came in close behind. She managed to turn her head slightly and out of the small porthole, she watched as her home, planet Earth, got smaller and smaller as they were catapulted into the unknown. All across the world, the headlines flashed: New Eden launched! Rocket hurtling into Outer Space! ... looking for a new Earth. Many voices acclaimed the success of the project, but some kept quiet, wondering if these new Adams and Eves would ever return.

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Mother Nature is Sick Gerald Onyebuchi Ewa they say happiness is only partially determined by your genes / and the rest comes down to lifestyle and other environmental factors that you can control. but how can we be truly happy when our environment is sad? / or be healthy when Mother Nature is sick I heed the rooster’s call for a new morning / a new day / & it feels like sleeping all through the day is better nothing about waking up feeds the heart with joy / a thing to hope & the rooster sure knows there’s nothing good about the morning nonetheless, I flip my body out into the white light / & allow warm water dance over my face as I pick a snail’s pace / only for my eyes to be greeted by the rottenness of Mother Nature: a gutter like the carcass of something killed & left an eyesore / & each day breaks with this same awful smell hurrying into my nostrils uninvited. the ranting of generators on the other side try to bludgeon my eardrums / as their thick, irritating white colours paint the sky / in successive slow runs I bathe the earth with my drink in between words / I do as my late father taught me just as his father my grandfather did and his own father before ‘nurture the earth properly as you would a baby / and see how nourished it would grow to become,’ this he would say I invoke their spirits & bring to bear the problems which they already know / Mother Nature is sick and dying. like me I know they feel the same way. fear. doubt. pain / & they are not blind to the recent decay before the crystal clear sky, our waters gleamed / fish abundant, rivers streamed / ocean floors / sandy white now littered brown / pollution’s plight trees towered high above / trunks baring professed love / birds chirping from sites unseen / now gone, paper joined pollution’s team the trees, young and old, joined their ancestors / leaving Mother Nature naked, devoid of its skin / the sun singes without pity or remorse / the sands of time have left fear in our hearts blue skies on high no longer clear / before, stars bright whence they came now dimmed / obscured, pollution’s mist / Koalas fear they may be denied a place to rest their heads soon / with so much bush fires and drought / Polar bears have assembled to beseech 32


that the oil explorers and so-called industrial revolutionaries / leave their homes in peace / else they would all become extinct / we would all become extinct I appeal to everyone / brothers and sisters / fathers and mothers alike / to think carefully each time they cause nature to bleed / in the end we are all impregnating her with a lot of nonsense / and time is the womb that would bring forth a child. whatever the child grows up to become is solely our making.

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The Hotel Louise Atkins The hotel hadn’t been lived in in the 100 years since the blood plague, HaemX. Gabriel Black, almost the only vampire to survive the previous days’ cull knew nothing of those days. And cared little for finding out about them. He’d been born long after the last death, born into a symbiotic world where vampires and humans had existed together, had had to exist together to rebuild the devastated world. He did know that hotels had been shut down. Guests sent home. Which served his purpose well. No decomposing bodies in his new home. He turned and surveyed what had once been a conference room. A table dominated it – long, wood top with a smashed glass insert. Executive chic a century ago. He smiled. Pulled out the chair at the head of the table. It was grander than the rest. For the leader, no doubt. That made it his chair. He placed the lantern in front of him, enjoying the shadows it cast. Darkness was his, but light was necessary. He imagined the arm he’d begin here. This would be the part of his new home that he’d command from. He planned to recruit selectively – people he’d need. Engineers, craftsmen – there were repairs to be done to the hotel. His plan was to be careful, considered. That was the plan… But where was the fun in a plan – other than not sticking to it? Pushing the chair back, Gabriel took the lantern and continued the victory tour of his new home. And it had been a victory on many levels. He counted them as he exited the back of the conference room into a service corridor. He’d created his first offspring, using the rite he’d only read about before. It was an opportunity that he could never have expected – and he’d relished in it. A stab of guilt slowed his pace. A creator was meant to stay, look after the newly changed. He’d not done that. She would not be a problem. Not Emily Gregory. His first changeling. He quickened his pace, pushing away the surprise as well as the guilt. The draining of her blood – how sweet it had been – was still sustaining him, nearly 24 hours later. The longevity of such a feed was something he hadn’t anticipated. This vampire life had only ever been sustained by blood from donation centres – until he’d become the headhunter. His role as the vicious killer had been a victory in itself. That it had led to the ultimate cull of all vampires should have had some negative emotional consequence, he was sure. But all he’d felt was the purest joy. Yes, all the vampires were gone – but they’d been nothing. Wholesome citizens, keen to contribute to the bigger picture of the post-epidemic world. He’d played that role for twenty years. Contributed to the culture of society with the artists he’d supported in his gallery. Underneath that gilding though, he’d always known he was 35


worth more. Had a bigger role to play. And this was it. He’d passed through the kitchens – they’d serve their purpose once he was ready. A shiny, easy to clean home for their food source was essential. The locks on the doors he’d added. They might prove necessary should there be... resistance. Perhaps he should place a surgeon on his list of those he’d changed. Never having been a strategic thinker, the need for a plan was new. Slightly intimidating for a brief second. But then, then he entered the ballroom of his new home and all fear fell away. The room was magnificent. He was magnificent. Who was he to be diminished by doubts? He would change who he wanted when he wanted. Simple; he needed no plan. The ballroom was at the centre of this, his new world. Its high ceilings, grand chandeliers, the balconies that cast, as yet, empty eyes over any proceedings below. This was the room that would draw them, lure them and bind them to him. He’d change them elsewhere, anywhere, everywhere but here. Here was where he’d keep them. He’d offer every pleasure a vampire could desire. And anyone that didn’t fit? Any that retained too much humanity, any that did not embrace the full violence that was the gift of their being changed? They’d be ended. He’d be swift. They’d not suffer. He’d keep a sharp stake ready, perhaps even display it… As the idea came to him, he loved it instantly. He envisaged a cushion, deepest purple, silk, or better, velvet. It would sit atop a pedestal. Marble? No. Obsidian. Far more dramatic. His footsteps echoed on the wooden floor in the centre of the room. Given its age, it was in remarkable condition. This hotel had been created by the best. And had been preserved well. Even the heavy embroidered curtains still masked the windows. He could throw them open now it was night, but come the daylight, then they’d show their power, their protection. Everything here had been shut down, cleaned, treated with preservatives by people fully expecting to return, to open up to a fresh day, to welcome new guests. Only they never had. For that, he was eternally grateful, in the most literal sense. This would now be his home. And a place for his family, his newly changed family. It would need fierce protection once their numbers grew. The security forces would hunt them. They’d try. They’d fail. What were his kind, other than the most voracious predators? Predators of humans. Yes, this would be the heart of his empire. A heart, a cradle, a focus, a fort. His kind, the new kind he’d create – they’d defend their new home. Not till the death – they’d already be past that – but to the death of any attackers… of that, he was sure. Gabriel Black spun a slow circle in the centre of what had been, and would be again, the dance floor. He would lead his dance. And it was time to begin.

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Stokes Croft Sean Chard Last night was the best night I’ve had out in ages we went to a bar of the Bohemian kind, it had teapots for lamps and at various stages we laughed ’til we cried and read from the pages of works by Coleridge, Zephaniah and Heaney Last night was the best night I’ve had out in ages I invested my time and all of my wages in pizza and wine, just enjoying this space with its teapots for lamps and at various stages drawings of Beardsley and photos of sages there were sweets on the bar, foreign journals and cakes Last night was the best night I’ve had out in ages they had chalk in the loos and the walls were my pages so I chalked up a comment to say what I thought and the ten words I used to make my report were scrawled out in lime, I was drunk, it took ages tonight is the best night I’ve had out in ages.

My Resting Place Lydia Joy Leech When the grim reaper comes for me Instead of fearing him I will invite him to tea As the diamonds rain down on us I offer my hand for a dance In the distance the devil watches us with a sombre smile placed on his ancient skin. I do my final curtsy and disappear into the gates of my final destination. My resting place.

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Contributors Louise Atkins lives in Somerset. The Hotel is taken from her latest work in progress which follows on from her first published novel. Symbiosis is available as an eBook from Amazon and was published by Endeavour. Lorna Bryce Tim Burroughs is a Bristol poet who writes passionately about climate change, art, music and care(as he looks after his Mum who has dementia). He is a Lansdown Poet, runs a poetry night SPEL, has three collections out and is published regularly in anthologies and magazines. Website | timburroughs.co.uk Sean Chard is a graduate of the Open University, where he gained a BA in Humanities with Distinction in Creative Writing. Chard has featured in various publications including Popshot Quarterly, HereComesEveryone, The Crank, Bounds Green Book Writers and was shortlisted for the Sunspot Literary Journal Geminga competition. Jonathan Evans lives in Bristol and, in 2020, had his first book published by Tangent Books - The Mystery of Ernie Taylor’s Abdomen and Other Stories, tales of growing up in a northern coal mining town. He lived for several years in Australia and has just finished his second book, Rainbow, about life in a

remote township beyond the rabbit proof fence. Twitter | @JonathanEvans45 Gerald Onyebuchi Ewa is a budding Nigerian writer, who writes both short stories and poems. His jaw still drops each time he gets published. Instagram | @geeblizzcyber Facebook | Gerald Ewa Cj Helden One woman, a thousand thoughts. Anxious Mother, Fiancée,Vocational Trainer and Survivor of Domestic Abuse. | @onewomanathousandthoughts Lynda Hotchkiss came to writing late in life but frequently finds characters at her shoulder, urging her to write about them. Through the long Covid-19 lockdown, escaping into a world of words and imagination made everything just a little more bearable. Sarah Hunter is an author based in Bath. She works as an Associate Editor for an academic publisher by day, and her passion is fiction writing. She is delighted that this is her second story published in A Spot of Writing magazine. Website | seahunterwords.wordpress. com

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Alison King is a Cardiff based writer with publication credits including Firewords Quarterly and Journeyman Magazine. Twitter | @Alison_V_King Maria Kritikos has been a freelance writer for the travel and entertainment sectors, both on-line and in the international press. Spending almost 20 years working in corporate finance in the Middle East, Maria has now returned to her old hometown of Weston-super-Mare to unearth ‘old ghosts’. During her spare time, as well as short stories and biographies, Maria creates poetry using classic rhythmic forms, following in the footsteps of her grandfather the acclaimed Cypriot ‘RedVillage’ poet Vasilis.

Kate Meyer-Currey was born in 1969 and moved to Devon in 1973. She works in Somerset. A varied career in frontline settings has fuelled her interest in gritty urbanism, contrasted with a rural upbringing. Her ADHD also instills a sense of ‘other’ in her life and writing. Her work has been featured in various publications and will be published by Dancing Girl Press in 2021. Instagram | @drkatemc Peter Reason is engaged in a series of experiential inquiries exploring ways of encountering our sentient world. On Presence: Essays | Drawings and On Sentience: Essays | Drawings (with Sarah Gillespie) are available from his website. Website | peterreason.net Twitter | @peterreason

Lydia Joy Leech is an 18-year-old photographer and writer from the UK. She is a different person to different people. Annoying to one. Talented to another. Quiet to a few. Unknown to a lot. Instagram | @lj018_

Iain Robertson is a Weston based former paratrooper, rock and roll bodyguard, tour manager, firefighter and best-selling author. Now music festival entrepreneur and record label owner. His book, Oasis:What’s the Story, is available from WH Smith.

Cheyenne Macrides is a writer, poet and artist. Her inspiration is mainly drawn from nature, spirituality and her connection with the universe. Instagram | @cheyennemacrides Website | cheyennemacrides. myportfolio.com Hello Poetry | @cheyennemacrides

Laura Thomas is a Bristolian, musiclover and Christian, keen to try new things and enhance her creativity.

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Fiction Louise Atkins Jonathan Evans Lynda Hotchkiss Sarah Hunter Marie Kritikos

Non-Fiction Cheyenne Macrides Peter Reason

Poetry Lorna Bryce Tim Burroughs Sean Chard Gerald Onyebuchi Ewa Cj Helden Alison King Lydia Joy Leech Kate Meyer-Currey Iain Robertson Laura Thomas