The Poor Kid

Dressing up as your favourite character from a book is a tricky business this World Book Day judging by the endless stream of princesses I saw going into my local primary school this morning. I saw princesses, lots of them; but spied no books.

They don't make these in my size. Gutted.
They don’t make these in my size. Gutted.

I started to wonder, what do poor kids do on World Book Day? The ones from families who are skint? Poverty clings to poor kids like a smell, it follows you wherever you go. As a former poor kid, I confirm this is true.  It is obvious to your teachers, the other kids in class, their parents (especially them), all your neighbours; every single curtain twitching one, that you are poor.  As a poor kid, you don’t anything new, or for spare. You live a life of hand me downs and free school dinners.

And everybody knows.

So on World Book Day, what’s the script for the poor kid? She hasn’t got fancy dress left over from Hallowe’en, and the whole wear-a-sheet-and-pretend-to-be-a-ghost thing doesn’t work if you’re poor. A homemade robot made out of a cardboard box is fine if it’s common knowledge your mam and dad have a nice car and you go on hols to Dubai every summer.  If they know you walk to school no matter the density of the pissing rain and a day out in Southport seems exotic to you because it’s so rare, then that fucking robot underlines your poverty; a child may as well have a neon sign above her head saying “I’m a pov”.

My friend the children’s author Trevor Belshaw has a quirky idea. Why, he asks, aren’t kids encouraged  to go to the library, take out a book they really like and bring it to school with them on World Book Day? It’s free to borrow books, anyone can do it and we need to boost activity in libraries, so…

Too radical an idea? Controversial?

Apparently so.

No, let’s not bother with such bookish craziness; we’ll go for the costume angle instead and, y’know, children can bring a book if they really want to. It’s bound to work, and if it makes the poor kids feel even shittier than they usually do, we’re on to a winner.  Well played.


Yes, I lied. I’m coming clean.

Oh, Beyonce. I do love her, but she gets it in the neck so much. This week it’s via the Beck vs Bey meme, which goes thus:

How DARE she?
How DARE she?

Oh dear. What sexist rubbish (you can read why here).

The truth is, that authenticity is an impossible one for us writers to claim, whether writers of lyrics or fiction, poetry or prose. Love songs are written by those not in love and those in love sing about heartbreak; what fibbers, frauds and cheats they are. Name and shame now, I say. Because, y’know, that’ll teach them.

I know this is going to upset people but I’m even less authentic  than Bey. Yes, I confess.  In the stories I write, I lie. What’s more, I do it a lot. Like, all the time. I make shit up, constantly.

For example, I have NOT:

Had an affair with a seventeen year old boy  when I was forty four (GOOD TIMES – Slim Volume : No Love Lost – Pankhearst)

Pushed my husband down the stairs (FRIDAY ROSES – Eating My Words – Gumbo Press)

Stolen an apricot from a supermarket (STOLEN – Spontaneity Magazine)

Broken up with someone because they hate summer and ice cream (OPPOSITES DETRACT – The FEM Literary Magazine)

Broken up with a man for having hairy legs (WE ALL HAVE STANDARDS – Female First)

Turned into a man and sat in my underpants while watching my neighbour cleaning their toilet via a secret camera set up by me (LITTLE BROTHER – Shadows & Light – Ansco Press)

Killed a man and dressed it up as a suicide (THE SHORT GOODBYE –  The FEM Literary magazine and Twisted Tales 2014)

These aren’t the only examples. To my shame, I lie constantly on the page. If you want to inform the publishers of these publications, I won’t stop you. Sue me now. I deserve it.


Sole Freedom

I’m on a night out, going to see a group in town. I don’t call them bands anymore because it sounds like pop groups aren’t cool. Everything has to be so bloody authentic nowadays so I’m calling every group I like a pop group from now on, even if they have distinct rock sensibilities.  Blossoms are a pop group, like the other groups on tonight, Hidden Charms and The Vryll Society. The show (I’ve eschewed the word “gig” as well, for 2015) is in The Kazimier in Liverpool which I like a lot.

It’s a Sunday night and raining lightly, but steady enough to fill a puddle if the ground supplies a deep enough dent; this rain, it enjoys a challenge. We’re walking to The Kazimier and I hear a slapping sound amongst the pitter-patter of rain. I check it isn’t me (well, you never know), and confirm it’s not, so carry on walking. Then I trip; just a little trip, not a massive hands grabbing empty air kind but enough to give me a start. I take another step and there it is again, another skip-trip followed by a slap-slap.

Then I realise, it is me slapping. Not me exactly, but my boot. The sole has come away from the toe and it’s slapping on the ground as I walk. I give it another couple of steps and the slap-slapping gets worse, flapping and flopping instead. I hobble like I have dead leg to stop the slapping, but my naïve tactic fails. I go for broke and yank at the sole and the whole thing comes off in my hand. Underneath the rubber sole it’s rotten, leaving a hole in the bottom. That explains my ever-damp sock over the past winter. Good to know.

It’s eight o’clock in the evening, and even in a cosmopolitan city like Liverpool there’s no shoe shops open this late on Sundays, not in my price range anyway and it’s too late to go home and change because the opening band – sorry, group – is on in half an hour and I want my money’s worth for my seven quid ticket. So I put the boot back on and walk like a half wound up toy to stop the boot disintegrating further. Too late; the boot with no sole sheds its lining as I walk. I know because my already wet sock lets through freezing water, wintry and tart, but I reckon no one else will notice, or give a stuff so I carry on.

But the boot is not looking good. Now the sole and lining have deserted me the boot has nothing to hold it together and the top of it goes wide and baggy. I now have cruelly mismatched feet. My husband offers to give me his shoes. No thanks, I say. His feet are three sizes bigger than mine, I feel foolish enough.

I do feel stupid with my broken boot but once in the venue, people can’t see; The Kazimier is dark. I knew I liked this place.

So I’m standing there with one foot much bigger than its former twin and discomfort kicks in because now my boot heel is gone I’ve got one leg two inches shorter than the other. I have three options. I can take my boots off. Not a goer; I flash my Primark socks to no one.  Next I stand with one knee bent, both feet flat on the ground. I think I’ve found the magic formula but it starts aching after a very short while. Option three is stretching the toes on my temporarily shortened leg, keeping both legs straight; that provides relief but it’s unsteady and perilous, not good for long periods. This show has three pop groups playing, it lasts nearly three hours. I can’t toe it for that long.

I work either position alternately, giving a couple of minutes to each. It’s fine as long as I’m not doing the tip toe thing when someone brushes past; if this happens I fall over like a drunk calf because my balance is off.

Still,I forget about the discomfort and staggering thing after a bit. I enjoy the show. I’m pop’n’roll, I can get through this. The fates are plotting against me tonight, my boot is phlatt-phlatting on the floor if I tap my foot in time with the music so I try not to do it. Much.

The Kazimier tonight is crammed with young blades, the beautiful ones. It’s an evening of the lovely shoes and boots, neat and slender ankles, as cool as fuck. But me, I’m starting not to care.  These people with the beautiful footwear, they probably come out with words like “band” and “gig”, so what do they know? I’m setting a new trend and anyway, it’s all about the music, yeah? Don’t they know, the new thing is sole freedom? Of course it is. It’s actually quite punk.

I go to the loo before we leave. My heart booms in my chest when I see this on the toilet door.


Pop group. Show. Sole freedom. Consider the system smashed.


Slim Volume book launch

My flash fiction Good Times is included in the new book Slim Volume : No Love Lost (Pankhearst). The launch/celebration of No Love Lost took place in Sheffield – known as Jarvis Cockerland in our house – last Thursday and it saw my first visit to the city.

aka by some as Richard Hawley-land.
I found this chap in the corner of the cafe, on his bill.

No Love Lost contributors gathered in Harland Café in Sheffield to read and enjoy flash and poetry. A great night, with lots of laughs. You can buy the book here, should you wish to.

Slim Volume : No Love Lost editor Kate Garrett and myself, grinning happily at the launch last week.
Slim Volume : No Love Lost editor Kate Garrett and myself, grinning giddily at the launch last week.

I was made at home by such warm and friendly people, but the Sheffield Interchange in January on the other hand is the coldest place on earth, I am convinced. I waited for my coach home the next morning and my word, what a chill blasts through that place. Thermals next time, I think.

I also have a new flash fiction published in The Fem this week, which you can read here.


The Short Goodbye | Cath Bore


I have a new flash fiction out today, published in The Fem.

Originally posted on THE FEM :

I want to say goodbye properly and in my own way but the chance is stolen from me, his eyes dimming to opaque glass the millisecond mine choose to blink. I feel cheated as my eyelids open back up while his lips slack apart in a final sour gasp. His bowels void silently, the stench an unexpected punch. I sit on the floor, the cold kitchen tiles chilling the back of my legs and watch the clock’s metal hand jerking from second to second until five full minutes go by. No calling the police, no pulling in the paramedics. Either will be useless; there is nothing they can do for him now.

View original 297 more words



Last winter was a long one, the only colour outside offered up by balding grass or an evergreen bush overplaying its hand, plastic privet leaves perfect and even shaped, factory line fodder. Winter smells of nothing, but in summer warm murmurs of flowers, soft and malty, puff out the gentle scent of pollen. Bees flit from flower to flower like the rest of us aren’t here, they carry on whether we watch them or not; it’s reassuring like meat sizzling on barbecues firming from raw pink to brown. Something’s always burning during summer, our neighbour’s brazier coughs out smoke after dark like he doesn’t expect anyone to notice.  He chucks in all sorts. I reckon he goes around collecting bits of rubbish from people’s bins just so he has something to burn.

‘If he didn’t burn stuff every night I’d worry about him, wonder if he’s alright.’ I believe this even though the smoke dirties our windows something terrible.

‘It stinks,’ you say.

You roll your eyes and I do the same back. I’m conceding the point because this summer you’ve made the effort, we’ve turned feral for the first time, taking lazy strides and dozing instead of sleeping. Every movement brings out beads of sweat like bubble wrap on your upper lip and trickles into your mouth but I don’t hear you complain. Thick salt water burns my eyes, hair stiff and sticking to the scalp, but shoving one’s hot head under a cold tap full on is one of life’s great unspoken pleasures.

‘Do you know what, it is,’ you agree, shaking your head from side to side like an enthusiastic puppy and showering me with droplets.

Everything is messy this summer and I love it; buttercups spread bright yellow chaos across the lawn. ‘They’re only weeds if they’re growing somewhere you don’t want them to,’ you say. I smile at your joke because it was funny when you said it two days ago and because the weeds out back are out of control, golden dandelions a foot high. We marvel at the size of them.

‘It’s like the Day of the Triffids.’ I laugh as I come up with the comparison.

‘Dandelions the size of your face,’ you say.

Yesterday you compared them to a plate. You’re learning not to love summer exactly but not mind it too much. You’ve let go this year as much as you ever do, it gives me hope when you turn up on time at the restaurant instead of being twenty long minutes early. This August is hot and clammy, thick grey cloud like a giant duvet in the sky holding the heat in, so you leave your jacket at home.

You enjoy cold meats for your starter, claim they soothe the way a spicy curry works the opposite way in winter. Opposites attracting, cool on hot, both extremes coaxed towards a happy medium. I yearn for ice cream, but you complain it freezes your teeth and face. Cold meats it is, then. We amble on with slices of ham and you run out of things to compare the dandelions to, still reflecting on my face.

‘I yearn for the structure of term time and knitted jumpers,’ you say, in an unguarded moment on the way home.

As your words spill out, loose and careless, we both know it’s the end. Without me saying anything you sniff an acknowledgement and I mirror your sniff, a relief to us both you don’t have to pretend anymore. The winter comes soon after, its chilled tart air snapping and scratching at me but I cope well enough and anticipate the spring.