Country Conversation

So, you were born and raised in Yorkshire, in England, in the UK, currently in the EU.
What is your country?

My country is England.

Not the UK?

No, that is the union between England and our friends the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish.

Not the EU?

No, that is an economic area that we signed up to. And we’re leaving.

What about Yorkshire?

Ah, that is my heritage that best defines me, but it is not my country, even though its population and GDP is substantial, exceeding those of many a country.

So, no independence for Yorkshire then?

Indeed no. But why this curiousity? Where do you come from my friend?




The polar bear and the penguin

This short story formed the basis for a Yorkshire Tale after my daughter got me to climb Pen y Ghent in January!

Sat on a deck chair, relaxing in bright sunshine on a white sand Caribbean beach, was a polar bear, sipping slowly on his pina colada. Glancing to his right, and realising that he probably required another six or seven such drinks in this heat, he saw a small figure in black and white approaching.

‘Waiter,’ he cried, ‘I need another tray of drinks.’

The penguin was quite put out. He approached with disdain.

‘Whoever you are sir, I am not a waiter! I am a penguin.’

‘A penguin? Never heard of such, but you do look like a bird, I’d say, but with a worrying pair of wings.’

‘Really!’ said the offended penguin. ‘Well, I have never seen your like before but you are certainly very huge indeed, and as white as the snow in my land of snow.’

‘How very odd,’ continued the polar bear. ‘I too come from the land of snow but have never seen you, or any other penguin, before today on this white sand beach. Have you come here for a summer holiday?’

The penguin was most perplexed.

‘Indeed not,’ he answered. ‘I’m on a winter break.’

The polar bear was becoming irritated.

 ‘You, my dear penguin, are clearly suffering from jet lag! The month is July. It is summer.’

The penguin fell about laughing at this. July yes, summer no.

‘If I were you, giant snow white, I would lay off the alcohol!’

The penguin turned and headed slowly back across the beach, whistling Winter Wonderland as he went.

The polar bear put down his drink, put on his pair of dark glasses and countered with a very loud humming of In The Summertime.

Their brief encounter was over for the time being but, later, that evening, back in the hotel that they unknowingly shared….

‘Waiter!’, shouted the polar bear, with a giant raised paw waving slowly, but this time in jest. He was sat at a very large table in the hotel dining room and had just seen his new acquaintance, the penguin, entering the room. The penguin waddled over.

‘May I join you?’, he said, springing up onto the chair opposite as if leaping from the Antarctic sea to escape a killer whale. ‘My word, you do have a pile of food to get through for dinner. What is it?’

The polar bear surveyed the seven plates of food in front of him with a satisfied smile.

‘These, my friend, are what they call burgers. I have found that they fulfil my daily needs as long as I eat a hundred or so. A bit limited taste-wise but not bad with ketchup. Not a patch on seals though.’

The penguin gasped. He knew all about seals!

‘You eat seals! That is very disturbing. Back in the land of snow, seals are my enemy. Seals eat us penguins. My Aunt Lucy, well, I can’t talk about it.Too upsetting.’

‘Good grief’, said the polar bear. ‘Well, what do you penguins eat? It is so very odd that I have never seen you in the land of snow.’

Just then, the real waiter arrived at the table and the penguin ordered sole mignon, or to be precise, three plates of sole mignon. The waiter gestured to his assistant who placed three plates of fish down in front of the penguin. He always ate sole mignon.

‘Ah, so you penguins eat fish!’, exclaimed the polar bear. ‘I too eat fish, but regard them primarily as nibbles, a snack really.’

The penguin thought as he ate. So, polar bears eat seals and fish. Seals eat penguins and penguins eat fish. He pieced together his knowledge of predicate logic that he’d been taught at the Open University summer school. So, in the food chain that would mean that…!!!

The polar bear, too, was puzzling over the information received, but he couldn’t get over the fact that, before this morning’s beach encounter, he’d never met a penguin. The two of them finished their meals.

‘Sorry, my dear fellow’, said the polar bear, ‘but I must take my leave. I’ve got to pack my suitcase. I’m on the 7 o’clock flight in the morning, back to the land of snow. You too?’

‘No’, replied the penguin, a little annoyed but also possibly rather relieved. ‘I was told that I couldn’t get a plane back to the land of snow until the day after tomorrow.’

This too puzzled the polar bear.

‘Well, that does mean that currently you are indeed a flightless bird!’, he guffawed.

The penguin laughed and they parted as friends, never, of course, destined to meet again back in their respective lands of snow. But then again, you never know!

View From The Castle Keep

Gaze down upon the village
From the medieval keep
See the church and the graveyard
A perfect walled square
Filled with a thousand deaths
Then look to the right
The identical square
With new graves at its corner
As a postage stamp on an envelope
Waiting to be filled
With another thousand deaths
A symbol of our transient being
The impermanence of life
Viewed from a castle keep set in stone

Try self-publishing

I worried about self-publishing but finally had a go, over the last 12 months producing six e-books and five paperbacks through Amazon. Their software is fine. No, I don’t expect to make money. That’s not the point. It’s been about self-discovery and trying to be creative. And a feeling of self-worth!

Pen y Ghent (memoir)

When I was ten years old I had three or four A4 sized quiz books that I particularly enjoyed. Each had twenty or so pages on which there were twenty questions on history, geography, science, famous people, books, etc. I tried very hard to learn all the answers and, to this day, retain an inordinate number of trivial but often interesting facts in my head, for no good reason.

In one book, on one page, there were questions on geography, including, at the bottom, ink pen sketches of three mountains. One was Everest, the world’s highest mountain at 29000 feet. Another had a strange but distinctive shape that fascinated me. It was named on the answers page as Pen y Ghent, a most peculiar name indeed. I grew up knowing that Pen y Ghent was ‘merely’ a hill in Yorkshire, approximately 2300 feet in height, one of the famous Three Peaks. I vowed that I would climb it one day.

This Christmas my daughter gave me a magnificent present, a weekend away in the Yorkshire Dales. And so, fifty years after my Mum buying me that quiz book, and two days ago, I finally climbed Pen y Ghent in glorious winter sunshine with marvellous views. What a fabulous place!

About Shortstorynorth So Far

I would like to write bits and pieces and see where it takes me. And see what others think. A scary thought really. Is a writer in control or does the blank page dictate what appears next? Let us see.

(June 2013)

Having tried to write for the past nine months perhaps I understand a little more.
I started to write a book but was defeated by its complexity and its lack of dynamic.
I wrote short stories that gave me some satisfaction in their completeness and shall persist when ideas come to me.
And, to my surprise, I felt compelled to try to write poetry.
The poems, be they good, bad or indifferent, often disturb me with their darkness but I shall continue to try, even though I find their writing overly intense.

(March 2014)

I have continued to write poems, reflecting what I do and think about, but also influenced by the news we are bombarded with every day. Media moves from crisis to crisis and horrors disappear from our view when its attention span takes it elsewhere. How well informed are we?

Below is a recent poem, with its original title. Its context, I hope, is obvious. I listen to politicians. BUT….if you live in a democracy….

Legality without morality is not acceptable!

Judgement of Solo Man

On the first day
One of my enemy was standing at the cliff edge
In his left hand he held a small child
In his right hand he held a gun pointing at me about to shoot
I shot my enemy
Both fell to their deaths

On the second day
Two of my enemy were standing at the cliff edge
In their left hands they each held a small child
In their right they held a gun
I shot them both
Enemy and children fell to their deaths

On the third day, fourth day, fifth and sixth days….

On the seventh day
I feared for my soul
I lowered my gun
The children played in the streets

(August 2014)

I am feeling tired and shall take stock a while.

(March 2015)

And then the UK election campaign arrived and I became irritated and started blogging again.

(April 2015)

Well, just over three years of blogging now. About a dozen short stories that I’ve very much enjoyed writing, but only when an idea comes along, and some comedic satirical stuff based around alter egos Mike and Bernie down the pub. Meanwhile, I’ve continued in my attempts to write poetry, compelled by contemporary events or by my own experiences, or thoughts on life, love, death and God. Enjoyable but disturbing. And recently I’ve tried to identify my ‘favourite’ 40 poems, those that I think better of, with a view to perhaps e-publishing. In truth, though, all this writing has been mainly, selfishly, for myself, perhaps to understand me a little better after all these years.

(September 2016)

So, four years of writing have gone by. In the last year I’ve spent a great deal of time e-publishing my poems, 71 in total I think, as 4 Kindle books. I also produced a Kindle version of my short stories, subtitled Yorkshire Tales, and finally ‘completed’ an e-book of my comedic satire blog on university life, reflecting my experiences and views emanating from my career as a university lecturer. Cathartic and fun I hope. Pleasingly, the foregoing has resulted in 3 poetry paperbacks and 2 fiction paperbacks. For anyone interested in doing this, I’d recommend it. The Amazon software is relatively straightforward and you have total creative control. It’s fun to create the front covers for instance. Overall, I’ve found it very rewarding. It’s given me a feeling of creative self-worth!

(July 2017)