Saturday, 3 March 2018

Stories and Coffee, an idea in 1500 words.

I wrote.
I wrote a short story and send it off in January for a small competition on a fantasy web forum, where other readers and writers could read and vote.
I didn't win, but I hadn't expected to, because I wrote.
And I sent it off!
This is my win.
Please read and enjoy, oh and comment if you like.
I don't do short stories and, although this is by the competitions rules, short, I have another 6 in the pipeline...

OK, its storytime.

Renewal.

The creamy, grey-veined marble hallway of the Universal Coffee Emporium headquarters was meant to soothe her, but a bubble of resentment simmered under her breastbone. Here she was again, waiting for the renewal of her Coffee Emporium Decade Licence when others could pick up a half century licence without such pointless examination.

A being sat contently on the other end of the grey, cream-veined marble bench, resting long hands on knees. She watched them out of the corner of her eye for a moment then with a sigh, folded her legs underneath her for comfort.

The being coughed.

These benches are not built with short legs in mind, no matter the species,” she explained.

Sitting all hunched up is not very, professional,” the being replied.

Neither is sitting with legs swinging like some infant, so I’d rather be comfortable. How I sit doesn’t reflect on my professionalism.” The being hummed under their breath as silence flooded the hallway.

You here for your licence renewal?” she asked before it became uncomfortable.

My second half century,” the being said proudly. “You?”

Another decade for me.”

Only a decade?” the being queried. “I’m sure I’ve seen you before.”

Probably.” She tugged at her long, gold-embroidered waistcoat and rubbed her knees with her palms. “I’ve been in this trade a long time.”

And you’re still on a Coffee Emporium Decade Licence?”

The universe is like that sometimes,” she sighed.

The being tugged their own simple brown waistcoat and straightened the long pocketed brown apron in thought.

I know you, you’re that human who keeps screwing stuff up. I don’t know why they let humans join. Wouldn’t know a decent cup of Joe if it hit them in the nadgers.”

She fumed inside but put her coffee selling face on to reply.

Lots of species struggle with caffeine, but that’s our job, to find a level that works so the Universe can stay connected and continue to learn about itself.”

You spout doctrine like an Assessor.”

Did the exams,” she admitted with a shrug.

And?”

I discovered I enjoyed the day to day interaction of actually selling coffee and other caffeine based derivatives, rather than checking the overall balance in the Universe.”

But...”

Some of us aren’t cut out for that level of wider knowledge.” The being looked at her, blinking three of their eyes in question.

It did my head in,” she explained. “The whole of what we do, of what the universe is all about, is fine in the abstract. But to know, to really know...” She shook her head.

So your still on a CEDL.”

Doing the Assessor training gave me a different skill set, which means I’m often sent on reconnaissance to new planets.”

Wow.”

She waved a hand. “Its not as fun as it sounds.”

And you keep screwing it up,” the being replied with the sound of laughter in their voice.

She let her hand fall to her knee and swallowed. She couldn’t get angry with ignorant Coffee Emporium pod owners right outside the renewal office door.

I don’t bollix it up,” she said.

But, didn’t you destroy a planets socio-economic civilisation just recently?”

She turned her head to look at the being, all smart in their standard Universal Coffee Emporium uniform, and blinked back tears. “I only set it back a century or two,” she admitted. “Its all in my report.”

The being gulped. “Sorry, but you are something of a legend. The human Coffee Emporium Master; and yet you make all these silly little entry level mistakes. I’m, curious.”

She stared at them.

And anyway, reports are such dry affairs, even with the best brew. I sell coffee. I know what it can be like, so, tell me.”

She looked up at the high creamy, grey-veined walls and let them soothe her.

I went down, looked around, decided they weren’t ready. Knocking their progress back by a couple of centuries was a fluke. I didn’t intend to, but on reflection it was a good idea.”

And that tells me nothing the report wouldn’t,” barked the being.

She scooted round on her bottom and faced them. “We sell coffee,” she said quietly. “We know all sentient beings in this universe have caffeine or similar in their make-up and we balance this to their particular needs. Every species looks up at the stars, and wonders. And so the Universe learns.”

The being nodded.

This species didn’t. They never looked up and wondered. And, they had no caffeine.”

The beings mouth fell open.

But they had known it,” she continued. “They knew caffeine and they hated it. And if anything on that planet had once contained it, it had been eradicated.” She smoothed down her long waistcoat with shaking hands.

I followed protocol, pretending to be from one of the smaller lands in a big population centre, my pod well disguised but they knew. They could smell it on me. It was like they could see it coming off my skin in waves. They were not happy. Caffeine was their devil, and I was its embodiment.”

You got sent into that?” The being was shocked.

She shrugged. “They interrogated me. They attempted to condition me to the evils of caffeine. But their main method was purging. Draining me of every drop of caffeine they could.”

She raised hands to clutch at her head. “Headaches. Whole body headaches that wouldn’t end. Creasing me up into an animal ball of stabbing agony. I was blind, deaf, incoherent, I only wanted to stop the pain.”

Didn’t...”

When you get sent on reconnaissance, you are on your own. Utterly, unless you get back to your pod.”

The being nodded slowly. “Had they genetic sciences?”

If they had, I would have been really screwed. I don’t recall much, but something clicked when they talked about a mutated crop they were destroying.”

Clicked?”

Returned to what ever sense I had left. The crop had been infected by caffeine. I was the source. I hallucinated I could be the means, the return of caffeine to that planet, but first, escape.”

How did you?”

She swallowed, trying to slow down a suddenly racing heart. “I helped them purge me of every particle of caffeine they could find with their crude methods. I puked my insides out.”

No caffeine, that could’ve killed you.”

We humans are resilient creatures,” she smiled. “And their containment procedures were non-existent. I polluted their water supply, their soil, their every breath with my own caffeine laced essence. They quickly descended into a destructive frenzy against any one they could blame. They didn’t consider me as the source.”

And...”

I honestly don’t remember how I got back to my pod. I woke up, sucking a mouthful of Betelgeuse Robusta Roasted I had for those really awful days when you need a caffeine hit like an ore container.”

Bit of an overkill as a pick-me-up.”

I needed to get out of there. Their weapon sciences were extremely advanced, and they were bombing the hell out of any place they thought the caffeine devil might exist. Including where I’d hidden my pod.”

Each individual Emporium Device can stand a fairly big explosion.”

They blasted themselves back two centuries,” she explained. “I wasn’t taking any chances.”

So...”

I sent the emergency retrieval beacon, UCE brought me back, patched me up and debriefed me. Its all in the report. Now I’m having to wait for my renewal. You know, its funny. I’ve never seen another being waiting for a licence at the same time..”

The wide metal doors in the wall opposite opened, stalling her words as an Assessor walked out.

Nayr Kim Durand?”

Yes?” she breathed.

Here is your CEDL. Sign here, and here, and your hand please.”

She stood quietly as the sub-dermal chip in her wrist was read, updated, wrote her name and accepted the computer paper with her licence on it in silence.

On behalf of the Universal Coffee Emporium, we thank you for your frank retelling of the Thine 137 incident. And your, personal sacrifice. Reports can be so dry, can’t they.” With a bow, the Assessor left, leaving her staring at nothing.

She rounded on the being on the bench. “You in your regulation uniform with your regulation words and your...”

Sorry,” the being replied with an attempt at a grin. “They needed to check. And you are very good at giving regulation answers at debriefings.”

You want to know?” she muttered looking down at the page in her trembling hands. “You want to know the truth?” She breathed in and stood upright, looking the being in the eyes.

The truth is, coffee has always been my life, before I even suspected the Universal Coffee Emporium existed. Keeping the caffeine balance of the sentient Universe is natural for me. But after this, I can do nothing but sell. My own caffeine balance is screwed.”

The being gasped in horror.

Yes,” she said quietly. “I can never drink another cup of coffee again.”

End.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Say Owt Slam #17 with Jackie Hagan

What a night, what a perfect night of amazing poems.

First off, a thousand well dones to the winner of the slam, Kit Rayne. Well deserved in every way. I loved your words, and to the lass who came second, so brave and your words were just amazing. Thanks to all the slammers for their amazing performances.

Jackie Hagan, your words were scary and thought provoking, and your ears absorb stories the way my eyes do when I read. Looking forward to catching 'This is not a Safe Space' if I can.

Now all the praise is out of the way I'm going to bore you with my bit. Yes my words I wrote and shared on stage, not as a slammer but as the first Arts Council funded Say Owt Slam Local Poet.

Yes me. I was allowed onstage to share whatever I wanted and no one could judge me! Well they could judge me, but they didn't have to shout the score out, they could just come and tell me later.

To be honest, it didn't quite work as good as I hoped. Henry gave me some mentoring in how to turn reading a poem into performing it. It was a bit weird reading it to an audience of one but really useful, and I was surprised to find myself learning whole chunks of the thing, me, who struggles to remember short ones. This mentoring thing really worked. The bit I forgot about, was performing it in front of a paying audience. I forgot bits, I mumbled bits, I sighed bits. But I am still proud of my achievements. I got up (ok again) and shared my words. And well, it almost went perfect.

It was maybe a big ask of myself, and a bit out of my comfort zone again, but it was important to push myself. This year has been a bit shitty and that can over shadow all the good bits.

I know not all of my family and friends could come to see, so here is my poem I called 'Futures Fears'
It's not finished, no poem ever is, and I may make changes if I use this again, but this is the tale of one rebellious Granny trapped in a future where there is no choice, any one...

She is eighty.
White haired – her face a weave of life's laughter lines
But not yet retired.
Deemed fit to work by the assessment station yet again,
she struggles to reinvent herself for yet another new career.
How many more years has she, in her?
And she fears, fears she will never retire.
Recalls almost forgotten friends
burned upon the all consuming pyre of work, nowt but dust.
Nowt but earth.
She alone is left to struggle on.
But, she is stubborn, her mind still strong,
And the R C crew have an opening
that, with a little reinvention, and some carefully worded wit,
she could seem to fit in.
R C. Rebellion Controller, No sorry Rebellion Counsellor to the young.
Not a fun job, but…
While re-engaging ancient tendencies to dream,
handing in her hearing aid for the obligatory government upgrading scheme,
And one interview later.
One decrepit psychology degree, she is in.
She Starts.
A glorified babysitter for almost rebellious teens.
To pretend to be a friend,
to assess, reform and control is her role.
To stop the youth questioning before it could grow
And roll over the stagnant status quo.
But she remembers believing in other things,
in freedom of choice, of path.
Of thought.
Beliefs she buried deep when the world closed in
When the all prevailing need for safety ended up declaring the human race NOT.



Safety and stability.
Two watch words that came to govern every choice, and thought
Because, how could there be human rights when they could be used wrong?
Better to tighten control, to let the government decide what was the good for all
and let statistics rule when government thought fell through.
To test, to test, to test, and only teach what people had to know, for the job required.
So, to keep the human population from harm, things,
that had been increasingly frowned upon, became banned.
Well, you can guess…
Number One. No alcohol.
2. No smoking, well you couldn’t fall ill cause all the doctors were gone.
3. No dancing, no singing, and no monthly meets, because who could know what you chose to talk about?
4. No running, jumping, no climbing trees, which led to
5. No quiet walks in the sunshine, or splashing in the rain, as these
were considered criminally insane.
SIX. No reading, but for the endless tests you did.
Seven… No writing, because you only needed to tap in your name..
And Eight.
No voting. And no one complained.
Propaganda fed, the population bowed its collective head
obsessed over the made up fear of difference between ‘us’, and ‘them?’
And anything not conforming to this new government norm, was twisted, evilled, taught as wrong!
So freedom came to an end,
and the will of the people roared in joy
forgetting the lives they’d destroyed, were their own.
Even she had knuckled down
Suppressed her individuality and surrendered, to survive.
Now, at the end of her life, she remembered just what it was to be alive
and into a sullen teens home she entered
willing again to set the world alight.

Now, in this future time and place statistics say ‘a 40 minute nap at 3pm for the 80s and over renews the brain’
so she had to follow this government advice
and to the annoyance of the sullen teen, complied.
She settled down, composing herself for sleep
taking out that hearing aid as that was where
the government surveillance was kept.
Slowed down her breathing, and the beating of her heart,
and winked.
And said…
Don’t let the bastards grind you down.
don’t let your dreams become fodder for the profit machine.
We have always been curious, thinking beings.
They have no right to control your thoughts, your choices or your time,
Be Yourself.
Rebel, the way your heart decides.’
As the teenager opened her mouth to speak
she pressed a wrinkled finger to those young lips.
but do it, quietly. Calmly. Seem to fit in, for a while anyway.
change the little things.
Until that spark in your heart becomes a flame.
For that is how they...’ She paused.
How we, boxed you in.’
by changing little seemingly unimportant things, until all will was broken, and free choice swept away.
And I, was too afraid to stand up and say NO.
Now, I an 80, and 40 years too late,
but you can make the difference I was afraid to make.
Grow, learn. And think.’


One by one, she fanned the teen rebellion spark
that she’d been employed to suppress
to control, to mould and reform.
She was the calm before the firestorm.
And…
This is naught but a fantastic tale.
An alternative future of history.
Not a foreshadowing of what things might be.
I hope not
because, I still want to dream, when I am 80.


Now, all I can do is wonder where I go to next? Now I realise I can learn my own stuff I should pick what works and use that but then?

Oh why it a poets work never done???

Thank you for reading.
Joanne xxx


Thursday, 8 September 2016

If I had wings...

Last year I went to my first ever comic con York Unleashed and it was amazing. I loved it, and I wanted to do more. I'm not the geekiest person in the world but I am a modest fan of most things. I am more of a fantasy book nerd. And I love dressing up as anyone who has worked with me for the last 20 years will know with my christmas eve outfits.
But York Unleashed fueled this desire further. And I began to wonder what I could do for 2016...

It was hard to decide what to do, but I love dragons so I don't know why it took me so long. It was a little general and of no particular show, just a love of fantasy and costume in a welcoming and accepting environment.

Oh and I would make it out of crochet.

Well, at least it would be unique, thought I, now where do I start?

A bit of tape, some wire and a baseball cap. Oh and some cheap wool. I hadn't decided on a colour for my crochet dragon head, but the bargin bin solved that.

And a shape was born.

I started on the nose, with the basic round amigurmi technique using treble stitches (UK stitches) if anyone wished to know. This is the nearest I have to a pattern for this as some one asked me what pattern I used and it was hard to explain I just crocheted round the wire frame until it fit.

Then I made a beanie hat.
Now I needed to work on the detail.
I had to learn a new stitch called crocodile stitch, which really did my head in for a while, but once I got the hang of it, it looked ace, like dragon scales.

I started on the spine/tail next. A tube of pipe lagging covered in more crochet all the way down to my toes. It took a while, and more wool than I expected but as my dragon was going to be a mishmash of colours that didn't matter so much.

Wings were difficult. Wire and tape helped, and more crochet tubes. But what was I going to do for arms and legs because this was going to be a dragon not a wyvern.
And every dragon needs a belly to store fire in. I used a large mandala pattern I found shared by Moogly from  Lion Brand lion brand archives
And with a sinking feeling I realised my wings  needed more than struts and I had to find a way to fix them onto my top so they could sit closed so I didn't poke anyones eye out while I walked around.
This was a very freehand sort of crochet and worked very well for wing membranes.

On the morning of the comic con I was still crocheting triangles for my spine scales, another amigurumi increasing half circle flattened and sewn together at the open end. But I never had time to put it all together and see what I looked like until I got round to my sisters an hour before.


Think it worked.
And to prove I really walked around in this costume, a couple of photos from the York Unleashed site that other people took of me. (If I have put photos up here and I do not have permission, please let me know and I will take them down.)

Amy Oatway took a couple of amazing ones. amyoatway photography Thank you.

And now, my dragon stretches out on the back of the sofa, while I rack my brains for what I could possibly think of doing for next year...
Any one?

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Words and Whippets 4

I did it. I Did It. I DID IT!

I read my poems on stage in front of an audience and it was amazing!

Totally different to standing in a pub, on an open mic night and trying words out on others ears, some of whom would be trying to work what they would be saying rather than listening. I know, because I have found myself feeling guilty and having to point my attention back to the speaker.

But last night I read out in front of an audience, some of whom and come to hear me!

Yes, I am still over excited, but already wondering whether I read the right things, said the right things, should have been there at all.

I can hear faint shouts in the ether at that, but I was terrified. I haven't been able to concentrate on any thing for a good week or two, including the poems I would be reading. I just had to take on faith that I could do it, that Henry knew what he was doing when he asked me, even if faith in myself was patchy at best. (non existent for a large part of it but I should stop complaining and just get on with things .I am learning so much, and my goal is to get as good as others seem to think I am!)

Now my delighted, stomach churning, still bemused that it happened rant is over, the night was totally amazing.

Henry Raby was brilliant as usual, full of energy and picture poetry, energising the audience with laughter and serious points.
Dave Jarman, well Dave is always delightful, One of my friends knows him as the visual of two spider hands dancing on ether side of a chin because she couldn't remember his name. His stuff is clever, twisting some irrelevant scene into an important issue. With the occasional bit of uke thrown in for good measure.
I had never met Rachel Bower and her stuff was marvellous. Everyday, thought provoking, and a little mysterious and magical. I loved it.
Andy Craven-Griffiths was beyond thoughtful. Wonderful imagery with meaning, well articulated, saying things we all think about, or should, like everyday kindness.

Come to think about it, everyone was delightfully articulate and I would listen to them over and over again!
It was beyond marvellous and I thank all for their words, Henry for pushing me three years ago when I first stood up with some words with my heart in my mouth and the audience for giving me a portion of their time to listen to my words.

Thank you.

May Words and Whippets long continue.
With the talent oozing out of this small city's walls never mind the rest of Yorkshire, there will never be a lack of people to grace the stage!
Thank you

And thank you Taff, Sharon, Gegs, Marc, Dawn, Leanne and Andy, and Kate for giving a few of your precious hours to listen! (OK Taff, you couldn't come but you were there in spirit!)

Monday, 2 May 2016

The Last Days of napowrimo 2016

OK it is 2 days into May, but I am determined to put 30 poems on for 30 days. Had a lot of catch ups and spent the last day of April laughing at some of the best/worst jokes in the world.
Anti Slam winner York 2016
Please watch and enjoy, and enjoy!

So to my last three poems.
Not following prompts on any of them, just feelings from watching the world go by.

Beery Thoughts

Sit by the window with a pint
And watch the people go.
Let your mind just wander free,
And then the words will flow.
Flow down the river, to the sea.
Swirl round in shuddering eddies.
Catch on bull-rushes. Seep through moss
All thoughts are caught here.
None are lost.
But not in order.
Like pebbles in a stream
Like grains of sand,
The sea sucks and deposits them, where it may.
Pick one up.
Admire it.
Treasure it always.
This gritty seed might become a poem, one day!
As it sits on the windowsill,
Warming in the cloud-catching sun.
With a pint in hand,
Watching people,
Just for fun.

18th April 2016
 I never said I hadn't written more in the month of April, just off prompt, like this next one.

Half-moon seats

Half-moon seats.
Tonight,
The fading moon mirrors your existence.
You support.
The moon shines.
Both are inclined to wax and wane with time.
Half-moon seat.
Support me tonight.
Soon, the moon will be gone.
And I will be incomplete
Unsteady on my feet
Unsure which way to carry on.
Half-moon seat.
Please be the seat I can rely upon.

18th April 2016.

The final poem was written on the final day of April.
A 20 minute poem to take away.

Welcome to York.

Welcome to York
The tourist board says.
Welcome to York.
A walled roman city
Full of vikings and history
Poets and mystery
And streets that are gates,
And gates that are bars,
And bars that are, well pubs.
Lots and lots of pubs.
Full of folks to meet
with talented musicians
and spoken word artists
And beer.
Lots and Lots of beer.
Let me walk you round the corner,
Then the weekend can start!
Lamb and Lion, Eagle and Child.
Three legged Mare.
York Arms, (Sam Smiths) A little more local in there.
Past that big bloody church that cost lots of money
To a home of Guy Fawkes
And a gate of stone.
Are you feeling a bit unsteady on your feet?
No?
Then we'll toddle round the corner
To Trembling Madness.
Which, when all said and done
Will happen to us at the end of this street after such beery fun!
To Evil Eye. And Ye Olde Starr Inn.
Punch Bowl (Nicholsons)
And Terrier, thought its a little hidden.
OK?
No!
Then I'll walk you safe to the station,
Just past Harkers and Lendel,
And the lodgings of judges.
The Maltings taint flooded but it was a close thing.
And York Tapp
And home once again.
But you'll have to come back
and see lots more.
A weekend ain't long enough
For those 200 odd pubs you've missed.
Welcome to York
Go home happy, and pissed.

30th April 2016

And then it was done.
Now I've got to stop just writing any old rubbish and start planning Words and Whippets for June.
Wish me luck and thank you all for reading!

Joanne Foxton xx
May 2016

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Napowrimo Day 27 Long Lines

Long Lines on a British Spring

Where has Spring gone on this day of storms and sunshine blowing desperately
                  from the bitter North?
Has he hidden in the forest in the ruddy foxes den with sqealling
                   new born cubs?
Has she hidden amongst the silvery slender beech trees
                   surrounded by the baby soft fresh green leaves?
Is he bubbling under the surface of the wind ruffled pond
                  filled with frogspawn all glistening with a watching black eye.
Is she cocooned in the hedges in the tiny wrens nest, under wing,
                   safe inside a buff speckled egg?
Where has Spring gone on this day of snow and hail and blustery cold
                    that bites at face with Winter's teeth?
Spring is here amongst us now, and she is playing with us,
                    as we poor mortals forget again just how changeable she is.
Welcome Spring!

Napowrimo Day 23-26

Sorry guys, its catch up day again. But I am still struggling on. And I think the standard of my poems might reflect this, but, and it is a good but, I AM still trying. Even if I'm stumbling over sonnets...

Day 23

A sonnet was asked for, a sonnet they got!

There is a point in every poets life
When nothing that she writes, deserves to stay
upon the page, or recorded in a book.
Where words are caught, and trapped for every day.
There is a time in every poets dream
Where, no matter what she does, there is no time.
And nothing that she writes is what it seems
Or stays within the meter of a rhyme.
But who would want this talent to be tamed
As every image lit would sound the same,
And every emotion touched upon, awhile
would only bring a sad and lacking smile.
So I struggle to write until the start of May.
And words appear, poemish each and every day!

27th April 2016

Day 24

Thi is meant to be a mix and match poem with flowery prose and down to earth words. Think I have confused myself.

This last ventricle of a book has bamboozled me.
I wander across the vermillion viaduct,
Blanket tight in sweaty hand
As I try not to take umbrage at my own thoughts.
There is no hook for my turgid brain to hang a thought upon.
Voluptuous, or otherwise.
My breathless utterances rent the sky
with vulcanised swearwords.
But they cannot hold a candle to the pain
my thoughts have wrought.
Metal needles, copper pins,
tin foil sticks and stones.
I devoured them voraciously.
Now, only a random pine-cone rattles lonely
across the finger rough stonework.
And I loiter, inflexible against the wind.

27th April 2016

Day 25

"Cursed be he that moves my bones,
When I am gone!"
But death to him that touches my books,
And replaces them out,of, order,
Upon those sacred shelves.
Pushed in anyhoo.
Ruffled. Ripped and torn,
Corners crumbled and pages stained.
Unalphabetised, and height confused.
Deauthorised.
They are mine, I tell you. MINE!

But worse, if they were broken up
Forgotten, and unloved.
Unwanted on those sacred shelves.
Unread and unenjoyed by any other soul.
Bones are bones.
And curses only work if there is belief.
But books,
They only live when eyes devour the printed page.
Books should be read.
Not left as perfect spines, as dead as I, upon that undusted shelf.
Enjoy my books.
Forget my bones.

27th April 2016
This was the title/line of a poem By Ian Whitely based upon Shakespeare's tombstone. He wrote a great poem. Mine is different.

Day 26

Call and response.

A Beer Drinkers Sea Shanty?

Through storm and sunset we may sail.
Raise a pint of ale, lads.
Beyond the land, our faces pale.
Raise a pint of ale.
But we go on beyond the sea
Raise a pint of ale lads.
To find a fortune, after tea.
Raise a pint of ale.
And dragons foul, and maidens fair.
Raise a pint of ale lads.
What other delights do we find there?
Raise a pint of ale.
Through dragons fair, and maidens foul.
Raise a pint of ale lads.
We shall not throw in the towel.
Raise a pint of ale.
We shall not waver, for blood, or love.
Raise a pint of ale lads
And when all's done, meet down the pub
To raise a pint of ale lads.
To raise a pint of ale.

27th April 2016