Category Archives: Contemporary


A few weeks back at our writing group the theme was “Esoterics”. After an interesting discussion we were invited to write whatever came to us. This is what came to me…


Alana crawled out of bed and checked herself out in the mirror. Staring at her face she could see no trace of the dream she had just left. She stared deep into her own eyes and for just one moment she thought she noticed a flicker of what had happened just moments ago in that nether world of sleep, and possibly a glimpse of what was to come.

“Come on Archie, lets go shower and give you nice walkies. I need…” she stopped midsentence, stuck in the déjà vu she was experiencing.  Spinning round she checked that this time she was alone and was relieved to see that she was. So it wasn’t the dream become real after all.

“Come on pooch,” she started her routine anew. “Shower and Walkies.”

On hearing that magic word Archie jumped up and raced to the bathroom ahead of Alana, knowing the treat that was to come. “Slow down,” Alana shouted after him, with a laugh.

As she came out of the bedroom Archie started barking from down the hallway in the bathroom. Alana looked in that direction expecting to see her mutt’s face peeking round the doorway. Instead she was sure she saw someone going into the bathroom. She shivered involuntarily. Was that why Archie was barking?

“Arch?” she shouted, “What is it lad?” With no thought for her own safety she rushed headlong towards her now quiet dog.

Within seconds she was at the bathroom door. Archie was sitting there, tail wagging madly, looking directly at her, with the dopiest look on his furry face. “What the heck are you up to?” she asked, then realised he was actually staring into the space beside the open door, the side Alana couldn’t see.

Clutching her dressing gown close at her throat she became suddenly aware of  just how hard her heart was beating.  Fragmented memories of her waking dream returned as she looked up from the dog into the mirror above the basin.  After noticing the uncomfortable look on her own face she turned her gaze to the reflection behind the bathroom door. Again nothing. That bloody dream had really spooked her. Six months and she still couldn’t move forward.

Brushing her teeth she kept a watchful gaze over her shoulder. She thought she might feel better with the door closed but then would she be brave enough to open it again after showering?

Teeth brushed she dropped her robe on the floor and stepped into the bath pulling the shower curtain across.  She turned the water as hot as she could bear to try and alleviate the cold that had gripped her, then moved under the jets to warm and clean herself.

After a while she felt warmer, cleaner and more awake. Turning off the taps she moved to pull the shower curtain back. As she gripped the edge of the curtain an image burst into her head. That dream again. Hesitating for just a second she threw the curtain back.  Archie was sitting where he had been when she had got in, but now beside him, was her dream solidified.

“Stan?” she whispered. “How can it be?”





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The theme for our writing group this week was Humour. We had a list of 16 possible prompts from which to write something humorous.  The one I randomly chose was to write about an amusing incident at work.  This true story comes from my time working in London.  Although this wasn’t included in #BerwickStreettoBarcelona there are plenty of other stories of a similar vein.  Have you got your copy yet? (All proceeds go to )


Working in a hotel has its ups and downs, its poignant moments and funny ones.

For a few months in my twenties I worked in a hotel restaurant in central London, managing a small team  serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Lunches were often hectic and fraught with hidden danger, both from the diners and from the restaurant equipment.

“We’ve run out of coffee,” cried one of the waitresses as if it was the end of the world. She was prone to the occasional exaggeration. Her nickname was Donna Drama.

“Give me the cafetiere and I’ll make some fresh,” I offered taking said cafetiere from her and heading back to the behind-the-scenes servery.

I took the coffee down off the shelf and was about to put it into the cafetiere and add the hot water from the boiler when I noticed a slight crack in the glass.  Thinking quickly I grabbed a spare one from one of the store cupboards, whilst helping myself to a cheese vol-au-vent at the same time.

“Table three needs coffee now,” called Donna as if her life depended on it. Did I mention she was a bit of a drama queen?

“It’s coming,” I called back.

I poured the coffee into the replacement cafetiere and added the boiling water, carefully replacing the top.

“I need it now, like now now,” Donna almost wailed as she came into the servery.

With a sigh and roll of my eyes I pressed down on the plunger on the cafetiere.

Unknown to me this one had also had a crack in it and for some reason had been put aside, instead of being thrown out. As I pushed down on the plunger the cafetiere exploded covering all points south with scalding coffee.

Bravely, I only screamed a little as the boiling liquid soaked through to my more delicate parts.

At this point the food and beverage manager burst in. “What is…” he began to say then on seeing the scene rushed at me and pulled my trousers to the floor. “That was close you could have burnt… er scalded your…. Er …. Well you know what I mean.” On his face was a look somewhere between relief and embarrassment.

Standing there with my trousers round my ankles, not a position I was normally averse to, I couldn’t help but smile at the food and beverage manager and tell him, “Trevor, If you had only asked we could have done this a long time ago,”

Now he looked even more embarrassed.

“And thanks for saving the family jewels, I may need those later.” I laughed.

“I think you should go change your trousers,now, don’t you?” was his reply. “And take the rest of the afternoon off.”


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Dark III

The second of Chrissy’s writing challenges was to …
“Ask three people, on line, on the phone or in person what their favourite onomatopoeia is. Write a short piece with these three words in the text.”
So the words I eventually ended up with are… sizzle, trickle, drizzle, purr and clunk…


The guy in the park had been less informative than I had expected. He had done little more than tease me with the short interchange we had shared, then invited me to join him at a group of which he was part. He gave me a card, that was more like a tarot card than a business card and said he hoped that he’d see me at the group the next evening.  At the time I took hardly any notice of his card and shoved it in my pocket with little more than a quick glance.  From it I learnt that his name was Dane Slagskygge and that  the group, which he had already told me, was ‘From the Shadows’.

Walking to the park, and sitting in the sunshine had raised my mood slightly, but the encounter with Dane and now the drizzle that had started out of nowhere had pushed me back down.  The words from my waking dream were back with a vengeance and running round in my head.  They had returned as an intrusive repetitive purr but were gaining strength. A migraine wouldn’t be far away.

As I trudged homewards the sky darkened even more. It was clear a storm was coming. I was now wishing I had put on a warm coat instead of the shades that were now surplus to requirements.  The rain had started to trickle down my neck wetting my collar and my shoes were soaking up the water as it settled in small puddles.

Instead of rushing home and getting a complete soaking I decided to duck into the cafe I sometimes went to for breakfast. Looking through the window I could se that I wasn’t hte only one caught out by the suddenness of the change of the weather.

I pushed the door open making the bell above it jingle.  It was such a traditional greasy spoon type cafe. There was a low murmur of conversation but the dominant sound that grabbed my attention was the sizzling of the grill from which the smell of bacon wafted across the room assaulting my nostrils. I moved towards an empty table and took a seat on the bench along the side wall.

” You’re late today. The usual?” Belle, the waitress asked as she sidled up to me with a coffee jug in her hand. She was easily old enough to be my grandmother but as spritely as a teenager, and so much more pleasant. She placed a mug on the table in front of me.

“Fill her up,”  I told her pushing the mug towards her. “And yes the full veggie.”

“A man of habit,” she commented as she filled the mug. “Bad day today?”

“Again,” I replied. She instinctively picked up on my demeanor.

She knew me well and instead of offering some pointless platitude simply tilted her head signaling her understanding, giving me a wink at the same time. She grabbed my shoulder as she returned to the kitchen.

Beside me on the bench there was a damp newspaper. I didn’t usually read the news, finding it all too depressing, but something about the headline had caught my eye.  I picked the paper up and shook it out to read the article.  I was just a few words into the story when there was a loud clunk on the table. I looked up from the paper slightly startled, but it was only Belle with my all-day breakfast.

She was normally a seen and not heard kind of waitress, unless you were looking for conversation. Then she could talk the hind legs off the proverbial donkey. I looked up from the plate to her. For just a moment she had a blank look on her face.

“Don’t go,” she whispered. Her face changed as if registering where she was after a long sleep.

“I’ve only just got here,” I half-joked away the awkwardness.

“I know, love. More coffee?”  She asked brightly. It was clear she had no recollection of what she had just said.

I nodded and as she moved away looked back at the article I had been reading. ‘What the hell is going on?’ I asked myself under my breath.

01-14 Drizzle

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Filed under Contemporary, Intrigue, Mini Saga, Thriller/Mystery

Who me?

Today at our new writing group we were asked to write an introduction to ourselves for someone else to introduce us to an unknown audience, either for a book prize or a magazine article…  Here’s my scribbling about me. (Which I am sure many of you already know, at least most of  the details, and some of you will already know a lot more). Our pieces were read out by someone else in the group…


AS a child Mark was told by his ENglish teacher that he would never write anything that anyone would ever want to read. I am happy to say he has proved her wrong.

In 2011 Mark wrote about his experiences on the Camino de Santiago in “The Magic of the Camino” and has followed that up with 5 novels (so far), 3 for children, which have all been well-received. Mark’s latest work is the autobiographical “Berwick Street To Barcelona” (available direct from the author) , the profits for which all go to charity.

Mark was born in Sussex, on  the south coast of England, the first son of a working class family. Writing was not something he ever dreamed of doing.

After school Mark studied catering in London where he lived for over 20 years before moving to Vilanova in 2004, which he had for a long time felt to be his spiritual home.

Having traced his family lines back through the years Mark was delighted to cont one of Britain’s most famous writers as one of his cousins. That cousin was William Shakespeare.

Mark currently shares his time between wiring, teaching English to the locals and running a tourist apartment in Vilanova. He lives with his rescue family of two dogs and five cats.

front cover


Filed under Contemporary

In the Dark

Another friend, Chrissy, has a writing blog, similar to this one and is, this year, posting a weekly challenge. She has just posted the first of these… here’s my effort…

It was suggested that we close our eyes and freefall comment on what we saw, either getting someone to take notes or record ourselves.


Having been posed a writing challenge I  decided it was about time I wrote something again. It was a little outside my normal methodology but I thought it would be good to try something completely different.

I decided to lie down on the bed and as suggested in the challenge closed my eyes, having already set the voice recorder on my phone to listen in and record any ramblings.

The blackness was complete. I saw nothing except a faint imprint of the room which my eyes had just closed off from.  I squeezed my eyes tight shut, and still just the blackness. I let my mind wander as I laid there, bidding welcome to whatever thoughts that may come.

What felt like just a few moments later I opened my eyes. I was sure that my creative flow was temporarily dried up. I blinked a couple of times. Around me the room was pitch black. The darkness I had experienced when I had closed my eyes first of all had taken over the day. I could still more or less see the outline of the furniture around the room, or at least thought I could. It felt like the light had been sucked out, even the streetlamp that normally shone through the window was dark. I turned my head to check the time on the alarm-clock. It too was dark.

‘Must be a power cut,’ I told myself, all the while feeling something had changed, something was wrong.

I reached for my phone. It wasn’t there. The bedside table wasn’t there. I waved my hand around, stretching back to touch the wall. It wasn’t there either.

“What the…” I whispered into the room.  There was no other sound. Even the sound of my voice was muffled.

Below me I could still feel the bed, the warmth from the duvet against my back, and under that the cushioning spring of the mattress. The comfort of the pillows was still real, and the throw with which I’d covered my feet was still there as far as I could tell, but nothing else. Clasping my hands on my chest I closed my eyes tight again. I had no intention of moving until I understood better the situation I had woken upon, besides I needed to stop the racing of my heart and conjure up some saliva. My mouth was completely dry.

“Calm down, don’t worry. There has to be a logical explanation,” I told myself.

“Yeah right,” I replied. “One, don’t tell a worrier not to worry; and two, logical explanation, in whose world?”

“All you have to do is wake up,” a more logical side of my brain told me.

“So I’m sleeping?” I asked.

“Duh,” Replied the same logical side. “Just go with it and count yourself awake.”

“One, two three… nine, ten, eleven,” I counted opening my eyes as I said twelve aloud.

The room was there just as I had ‘left’ it moments ago. I looked at the alarm-clock. I had fallen asleep and dozed for almost an hour. I picked up my phone. It was still recording. I turned the recorder off and clicked the link to play the MP3 file. The first three words I heard on there chilled me. I quickly closed the app. I’d had enough for one day.



Filed under Contemporary

Lest we forget

If you’ve read #Berwick Street to Barcelona you’ll already know this story, although I don’t think I fixed it on a day in time.  It was on this day – 11th November 1998 that we said goodbye to our first.  Probably my worst day up that point. Thre have been too many more contenders for that title since.

It’s Never Enough

I had been sitting in my office when the phone rang with the worst news possible.

“The tumour is inoperable. There’s nothing we can do, I’m sorry. Would you like to come collect her and bring her home?”

I slammed the door to my office and broke down. Goodness knows what the rest of my team thought. I was in shock.

I called Tony: “They can’t do anything for her.” The line went silent. “I’m leaving work in a minute to go pick her up. Can you meet me there?”

And that’s what we did, met outside the vets to pick up our little girl who had a month to live at most. Our journey home together was in silence.


The night before the fateful day we were aware that Chasca’s condition had worsened and she no longer had control over her bladder. I cried as I cleared up after her, and still told her how much I loved her.

“We have to decide now,” Tony was practical.

“I can’t do it.” I was sobbing.

He held me until I managed a level of control again. “It’s best for her.” He took my hands. “She’s suffering now. It is a privilege that we have had her and a privilege that we can stop her suffering.”

“Can you call?” I begged. Tony nodded. I cuddled up to Chasca knowing it would be her last night with us.


 “They’re here,” Tony told me as a car pulled up outside. I was sitting on the rug in front of the fire holding Chasca telling her how sorry I was and how much I loved her.

Tony let the vet and her assistant into the living room.

“Do you want to do it here?” she asked. I couldn’t answer. I nodded as the tears flowed freely.

Tony and I knelt and held Chasca as the procedure was carried out and she slowly fell asleep in our arms.  Ironically on the radio Sarah Brightman was singing ‘It’s time to say goodbye’.

“She’s gone,” the vet announced. After I told Chasca how sorry I was yet again and professed my love for her I ran sobbing into the garden.


In the aftermath I was told too many times- she was a good age; 14 is a good age for her breed, at least you had her for a long time. I wanted to scream “It’s never enough.”

Please never tell me a dog is just a dog.  They are my family, my life, my love. Have been and always will be.


Another of my favourite photos …
With Chasca in the garden in Brockley.

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One of those days

This morning started slowly for me today. It’s probably my age but most morning’s start slowly these days. Leaping out of bed is a thing of the distant past.

After walking Franki this morning, Cuddy had wisely opted to stay in bed a bit longer, I slipped my muddy shoes off and made breakfast for the TulStig pack. Harvey has started to become more vocal now when I am late with his meals.

After breakfast I was getting ready for my Catalan class and putting my shoes one when the doorbell rang, causing the usual doggie rush to the front window barking furiously as they went.  My back isn’t too good at the moment and putting my shoes and reaching the laces is a bit of a trial, and takes much longer than it should. Anyway when the doorbell rang I had one shoe on and one flip-flop (Indoor wear here). That’s just how I went to the door.

At the door was a very amiable delivery man with a large package (add your own jokes here) for me. It was a new cat scratcher. With five of them in the house now it is clear that the current one which is already on its way out won’t last much longer. As I signed for the package I noticed that the delivery guy looked down and saw my original footwear combination and smiled. I caught his eye and just shrugged, after al I’m sure he’s encountered worse. Strike one.

This little drama meant I was later than I had hoped and as I rushed off into town I realised I had forgotten the apple turnovers I had promised to drop off at the school for June. Strike two.

Checking my email on the way into town I noticed I had one from TripAdvisor asking me to confirm my licence number for TulStig Delmar. After an aborted attempt to get through when I got to the Catalan school building I phoned again when I got home. The woman who took my call was very helpful and very apologetic for the putting me out. When I asked her name to thank her I was sure she said ‘Jelly bean’. I immediately repeated it back to her, telling her that I thought it was a very sweet name. “No, Geraldine,” she replied. “Geraldine.”  I apologised thanked her for her hap and hung up before laughing away to myself for a couple of minutes. Am I losing my hearing too? Strike three.

I’m now indoors for the rest of the evening, nothing else can go wrong can it? ….


Filed under Contemporary