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juice-shot by KLM

Ration pack issued by KLM in case the plane has to make a forced landing in the North Sea en route from Humberside Airport to Amsterdam. There are a number of scenarios when this happens.

Scenario #1

Plane lands in sea and breaks up and sinks without trace or at least long enough and deep enough to drown all the passengers before they have a chance to put on their lifejackets and slide down the emergency escape chutes which haven’t deployed in any case.

Result: Unless the passengers in question have managed to consume the rations on their way down, which does seem unlikely, the said rations remain uneaten due to the untimely demise of all concerned.

Scenario #2

Plane lands in sea but doesn’t break up. Passengers either remain on board, benefiting from the buoyant nature of the airframe or exit down the chutes and then stay afloat by treating the chutes as life rafts.

Result: Passengers scoff the snack and the drink and are probably rescued in reasonable time because it is a major air disaster and every ship in the North Sea will divert to the crash location. Some passengers may die as a result of not securing a place on the life raft but worse things happen at sea these things happen.

Scenario #3

Plane has drifted way off course and is not actually over the North Sea. Fortunately the captain has managed to find his way to a remote desert island and brings the plane down safely in the water close enough to land for the passengers to all wade ashore. Those in business class make their way to one end of the beach where they establish their own little enclave complete with business class rations that include nice little salt and pepper sets though still only plastic cutlery due to safety concerns following 9/11. The captain joins the business class passengers, ostensibly as part of the service but in reality because given the choice between their food and the c&@p dished out to everybody else he opts to look after himself. The rest of us are allowed to wander off aimlessly to look after ourselves and find shelter wherever we can off the beach.

Rations of both classes of passenger are soon consumed including those in business class and despite the reality that their food too was not particularly edible.

Result: The rest of this story follows a number of possible well trodden paths that include massacre of all concerned by the cannibal tribes of the area, slaughter of most of the survivors by internecine war or the kicking in of a survival instinct along the lines of Swiss Family Robinson whereby everyone works as a team and builds a cosy shelter from the elements that serves as home until they are all rescued by a freighter that was also well of course and was putting in at the island to refill its water tanks.

Scenario #4

There is no scenario #4. That’s it…

PS the pen is superfluous to the story. It just happened to be in the photo.

Categories
short stories

Hywel Harris and Mrs Evans the cleaning lady

When I was a younger man and full of the joys of spring with no plans for the future I lived at Coleg Y Bedyddwyr Bala Bangor. Bala Bang was a Baptist church hostel in Bangor and part of the University. There came a time when the final test of my knowledge of the subject to which I had devoted the previous three years of study began to loom large.

This was a matter of concern as much of the time allocated to the study itself had been squandered. The essential life skills such as how to drink ten pints of beer and how to go at least five pints without breaking the seal would serve me well as I set out, suitcase in hand, to make my fortune. However it did little for my chances of achieving a level of performance in the final examination that would satisfy those deciding what class of degree I should receive, if any.

So there I was, sat incongruously on my own in the small but excellent library of the hostel, surrounded by theological works and my own small pile of engineering books trying to remember Laplace transforms and communication theory when in walked Eurig.

Eurig was a second year theological student. He wasn’t destined for a life of the cloth but was an aspiring teacher of Religious Education. This doesn’t mean that he wasn’t made of the right stuff. It can’t be easy teaching RE to kids, most of whom have at best no interest in the subject and at worst even less than that. You need to be of strong moral character to do it.

Eurig, who I remember was from Ystalafera in South Wales, came in to the library and proceeded to arrange his books tidily at one end of the single long table in the library. Having done his preparation Eurig proceeded to lean back, hands behind his head and stare into space. This was a bit off-putting for me. I desperately needed to learn all the stuff I had neglected over the previous year and couldn’t concentrate with Eurig there just staring into space.

“Thinking Eur?” Eurig continued to gaze at the light fitting and replied in the affirmative.

“What are you studying?”

“Hywel Harris” said the light fitting.

Now most of you will know that Hywel Harris was a famous Welsh Methodist cleric from the 18th century. He was effectively the founder of the Presbyterian Church of Wales. Google him.

“Ooh I know a lot about Hywel Harris” which was a bit of a fib.  I had barely heard of him but Eurig wasn’t to know and raised his eyebrows in astonishment.

“Go on ask me something about him”. Quiet descended while Eurig gave this some thought.

“Ok how about this then? Who was the woman that most influenced Hywel Harris in the formation of his theological stance?”

“Oh that’s easy” I said confidently. “It was Mrs Evans the cleaning lady.”

This took Eurig completely by surprise. “But wasn’t it…?” citing a name I have long since forgotten.

“Ahah that’s a common misconception” says I. “In actual fact Mrs Evans used to come in to his study to empty his waste paper bin whilst he was beavering away on one tract or another. He threw away a lot of drafts of his stuff.  He and she would hold long conversations about life, the universe and matters Presbyterian.”

“Are you sure?” said a now totally bewildered Eurig.

“Completely, I know my Hywel Harris.”

Eurig fell for it hook line and sinker. The joke had worked so well I struggled to keep a straight face and had to leave the library before I gave the game away. Upstairs I went to the common room and told its occupants the story.

A minute or two later in came Eurig and I had to leave discretely. The risk of breaking into laughter was too great. As I left I hear him ask the other students the Hywel Harris question to which they of course replied “Mrs Evans”.

Exam revision carried on and the day came when some of the results were published. Eurig had completely failed one exam. He had swotted up five essay subjects for an examination that required him to write five essays and not a single one of them came up. He can’t have lasted more than ten minutes in the room. Just enough time to write his name and for panic to gradually take over his system.

Poor old Eurig. To the rest of us this was hilarious and I can only be glad that the Hywel Harris question didn’t come up making me partly responsible for his predicament.

We don’t need to worry too much about Eurig though. The religious establishment kicked in and looked after it’s own. He was given an opportunity to resit the exam and this time passed. Phew.

I moved on from Bangor and have never seen him since. I should look him up one day for a chat about our subject of mutual interest.


Postscript

January 2024

Coincidentally I am just reading the History of The Welsh Methodist Society – The Early Societies in South West Wales 1837 – 1750 and in it Hywel Harris features large. Turns out old Hywel’s story was quite juicy. The woman was married and her name was Madam Sidney Griffiths. Apparently his wish was for his own wife and her husband to die so that they could become an item.

Whodathunk!

Categories
short stories

Singapore Sunrise

It is five-thirty a.m. and the sun’s not yet risen. It’s uncomfortably warm and the air I breathe, so still, so heavy and damp I’d like to wring it dry, smells of the surrounding jungle. My shirt and shorts stick to me like khaki cling-film. And it will be even warmer when the sun’s up. To my left, pale green at the horizon, the eastern sky prepares for its arrival.

Through the dispersal hut window I look out onto concrete where, fifty yards away, a Handley Page Victor SR2 is being prepared for take-off. Her crew-chief,

Categories
short stories

Tommy

 It’s Tommy this and Tommy that

And kick him out, the brute

Rudyard Kipling

The vehicle’s new, in fact not quite finished, and you’re yet to see what it can do. You think the road ahead is clear. But it’s a high performer, it’s temperamental and you’re not quite au fait with the gears.

So it is with youth on its way to maturity. And leaving home to join the Air Force as I did at seventeen, there was no parent in the passenger seat advising me to slow down, no back-seat older siblings pointing the way.

Fresh out of training, I was posted to RAF Marham in Norfolk to help maintain radar equipment fitted to the Vickers Valiants stationed there at the time. Flight Sergeant George Tomkin, known as Tommy to his subordinates though not to his face, was my boss.

Categories
short stories

‘Terremoto’

It’s 27th February 2008. The time 0056 hours. From a deep and tranquil sleep in peaceful Lincoln, I’m jolted into awareness by sudden ferocious thunder. This thunder, however, comes not from the clouds but from deep underground, a rumbling, rolling subterranean growl, felt more than heard as my house shakes violently around me. For ten, long seconds I hear the tiles above my head clatter and, half expecting chimney pots, I warily eye the ceiling as the overhead light swings in the streetlamps’ orange glow.

‘Terremoto!’

But this is England. After years of repressed tectonic distortion, it’s Mother England who’s abandoning her maidenly restraint to bellow and buck in a quaking orgasm of relief. Why should the Spanish word for earthquake spring into my mind? I’m transported back thirty-eight years.