Wondrous Place


It is early morning and Liverpool is opening its eyes, ready to wake up, stretch, yawn, and welcome the day.

There’s a tune, a breathy bass riff. A voice, smooth and clear, high but not too much.

I found a place full of charms.

I hear the voice singing, and I know who it is. Billy Fury. I know the song, Wondrous Place.

I know the singer and I know the song but what I don’t know is where it is coming from at ten to eight on a Tuesday morning in Liverpool city centre. I follow the song. It takes me to a pub, the old boozer type, doors flung wide open. I near and hear singing, a voice on top of Billy’s. It is thin, slightly shrill, out of tune and time. I peer inside.

The pub’s cleaner in her apron is dancing with her mop, humming. Billy Fury sings to her from the jukebox. She’s seventy-odd with crab-apple skin, turned girlish. She’s smiling, eyes closed, slow dancing. It’s beautiful.

I wanna stay and never go away –

Wondrous place.

She dances with Billy Fury every morning, I think. I hope.


(First published by Silver Birch Press 2015)


Fiction and Fact

I have two flash fiction short stories out this week. The first over on Paragraph Planet on Monday last, it was up for 24 hours only (a true flash!). It’s a case of screen grab or I’d miss it:

paragraph planet 11th April 2016

The second, Train In Vain  is living at 101 Words more permanently.

The title….yeah, I know…but I’m not sorry; it suited the story.


Also this week I have a feature published by GetIntoThis on the upsurge in housegigs , artists coming to play private shows in people’s homes…sounds a bit freaky, but they usually go quite well, or so I’m told. You can read my feature here.


The Politics of Dressing Up

A few weeks ago, I went to a fashion show. I’d never been to a posh one before, just indie designers, so took my lead as what to wear from the photos you see on the internet of designer catwalks. You know, the ones of the rock stars and slebs looking all edgy and well thumbed (if you get me). I’d been to a gig in Salford the night before this event so was a little bleary eyed, so was confident I’d fit right in.

I plumped for a soft wine wool dress, dove grey tights and pointy leopard print shoes. Not exactly like these, but similar. (I do have a lot of pointy leopard print footwear):


I had on my leopard print faux fur coat with a vintage brooch strategically covering a cigarette burn. As I say, edgy. Shabby chic.

So I go along to the fashion show, I don’t know one person in the place but that’s ok with me. A stranger is simply a friend you haven’t met yet, that’s what I always say.

I get talking to a couple of people and we’re getting on well enough when one suddenly stops and looks at my hair.

‘Your hair,’ she says, stretching out her neck for a closer look, ‘it’s very bright.’

She was right, actually. It was freshly dyed three days earlier, the shade still so strong and my hairdresser Alison had proudly informed me that my hair tint colour is 666, which I LOVE.

Another woman scans me up and down, a tiny frown marking her forehead. ‘The thing is with you,’ she says, as if we’ve known each other since childhood ‘is that you suit bright colours.’

Dear reader, please believe me; my clothes were not bright nor gaudy that day. I was positively demure.

It was then I notice something. Everyone in the room is wearing black or white, or a combination of both. Arms and legs lightly tanned, no tights in sight. Straightened blonde or dark hair, with no exceptions.

There’s a uniform, of sorts. And I’m not wearing it.

I realise, then. Compared to everyone here I AM gaudy. Now I feel like a set of traffic lights, green, red and amber lights all on, full blast. My appearance is found wanting by my companions. It isn’t nice, not at all.

This was around the time of the Oscar ceremony, when award winning costume designer Jenny Beavan was derided and applauded in equal measure for her outfit of M&S fake leather jacket, and sturdy boots. As Beavan herself said of her outfit “I was dressed up. It was MY kind of dressing up”.

And quite right too. To my mind, if you want to dress like a princess at the Oscars, got for it. If you wanna customise a biker jacket, thumbs up on that front too. One isn’t better than the other, and doesn’t sit on a higher moral ground.

To the fabulous women of Liverpool yesterday who came into cruel, misogynistic and downright snobby criticism for dressing up in their own way at Aintree, I say: go for it, ladies! I don’t like the Grand National because I think it’s cruel and if I had my way it’d be banned, but our women looked bloody great and I know they will today, on Ladies Day.

Because Liverpool women are ladies, no matter what snobby agenda carrying red tops might tell you.

I’m sick of the women of our city being ripped into because of how they look. Truth is, if I had a bod as tight as theirs and the budget, I’d be cavorting about in a short dress, flashing firm tanned thighs and wearing my fascinator at a coquettish angle too.

Dressing up means different things to different people and how anyone has a problem with that, whether at the Oscars, Aintree or indeed a fashion show, I’ll never know.




Music and Red Wine

On a mild October evening last year, I was in Liverpool city centre. We were going to see Richard Hawley play a show. I’d been looking forward to it for ages. I suggested a quick drink first, so we chose into a pub near Lime Street station.

You know when sometimes you go into a place that doesn’t serve wine very often, but has it for sale all the same? The rustic but cheery sort? It was one of those.

We go in.

“A glass of red wine please,” says I.

The lad behind the bar wavers. The wine thing is unchartered territory for him, I suspect. But give him his due, he composes himself quickly enough. He grabs not a wine glass or even a half pint, but an actual pint glass intended for lager, and throws a third of a house wine into it.

‘Three quid,’ he says, plonking it down on the counter.

This is how I know for sure I’m in for a good night. This is what happened next.


In other news, my flash fiction The Torn Soul was published by 101 Words last week, and now it has passed the second round of 101 Words competition proceedings – it’s a Featured Story. The Features Stories are a list of stories editors view as worthy over the month; on 22nd April a winner is chosen. I’m so pleased Torn Soul is featured, fingers crossed for the next stage. You can read Torn Soul here.

Words and music

Go together, so well. I had a very short flash fiction short story The Torn Soul published over at 101 Words this week. It’s a very sad story, and inspired in part by a song. I do this a lot, take a couple of words or a sentence from a song or poem and play around with it, turn it into something new and mine.

It does mean though that I live in a quiet terror that I’ll be found out, especially with smaller groups and songwriters and poets who might stumble across what I’ve written. But I haven’t had any angry responses so far; most people take it as a compliment, I think.

I hope so anyway.

In Liverpool, we have a bar called The Bumper. I don’t know who writes the witticisms on their sign each week, but they’re bloody wonderful. It just shows what can be done with so few words:

bumper students.PNG

bumper autocorrect

bumper auto

You can read The Torn Soul here.


I’m a cowgirl (or so I like to think)

My denim jacket’s hung in the wardrobe since October, northern winters are too much for it.

Or should I say they’re too much for me?

At the weekend I wore it into town for the first time this year. My denim jacket turns me into a cowgirl, I’ll be gallivanting everywhere in it from now on.

denim j

I have new button badges to pin on, they’ve been waiting for the first sign of spring too.

I wore my jacket and badges to the recording of the 52% TV show this week but not on air, sadly. (I feel like I’ve let my faithful old jacket down. Next time, maybe…)

52% sofa march
On the 52% sofa! (sans denim jacket)

Also this week, I wrote about the resurgence of zines and fanzines for GetIntoThis, which you can read here. Next Thursday 24th March, I have a new flash fiction short story called Torn Soul published over at 101 Words. It’s a sad one, as the title suggests.  I like it, though; it’s one of my favourites.

52% is broadcast on Bay TV (Freeview Channel 8 on Merseyside) at 6pm Thursday, repeated 9pm Friday, 7pm Saturday and 1pm Sunday.


My inspiring women

Despite my whinge binge over at Get Into This earlier, I actually like International Women’s Day. It’s one of the few official “days” that doesn’t have the gift and card industry attached, which makes a change. To celebrate IWD this year I compiled my list of women who inspire me the most right now. Here goes.

  1. Hillary Clinton.IWD Hillary
    Hillary’s going to be the first ever female POTUS, and that’s amazing. She’s been called a witch, a bitch, a murderer, evil, ugly, a dumb/big c*nt (much like myself, you can read about that here) and a lying  whore – and the rest – over and over again yet she keeps on going. Every lunch hour I log onto her Facebook page to see what’s she’s been up to. Her accidentally on purpose wanderings into bachelor parties are a favourite of mine, but above all, it’s her bravery that inspires me. One foot in front of the other, no matter what, she carries on. And I think that’s great.
  2. Women cleaners.Cleaning is a largely feminised profession because of low pay. I’ve worked in the business and I probably will again; I’m no job snob. The fact is, most of those who clean and pick up other people’s rubbish are treated as if they are the rubbish. The wages are terrible. I bang on about this a lot, but if a cleaner is going into someone’s house each week to work, even for just a couple of hours, and she doesn’t get maternity, sick and holiday pay, then she’s being taken advantage of. And not many people understand that. I wrote about this and more in my essay THE HOUSEWORK ISSUE : THE OTHER ONE for I Hope You Like Feminist Rants, which you can get here.
  3. Jess Phillips MP for Birmingham Yardley.
    IWD jessSays what she thinks, and I  respect her for it. I don’t always agree with her, and thank god for that. I don’t want to live in a world where everybody nods along with politicians, and I don’t want them to pretend to agree with me either. Plastic smiles, glassy eyes and unquestioning devotion? Not for me, thank you. Jess is so bloody refreshing. And I get the feeling you could have a proper barney over politics with her and she’d still be ok with you afterwards. I hope to get to test that theory out some day.
  4. Women from my old boxing gym.I had to stop going when it started getting dark in the evenings because I don’t find it comfortable walking 30 mins on my own there and back as I describe here, but I’ll return when it gets a bit safer, in a few weeks’ time. Recently, I bumped into one of the women who is a regular. “You’ll love it in Spring!” she said, beaming. ‘When it starts getting light, Sean (the instructor) takes us outside and we get to drag his van across the car park.” BRILLIANT. How I miss those women.
  5. Kim Kardashian.
    IWD Kim
    If I had a bod like Kim’s, I’d be doing this too 

    Another woman who plugs on regardless, despite the abuse. Put together all the things Hillary and Jess get called and multiply it by at least a hundred and that’s what gets flung at Kim.

    From my perspective, Kim can do what she wants to her body and put whatever she wants on it. She’s allowed to fall in love with whoever makes her heart go boom. What she calls her babies is down to her and her husband, not people on the internet.
    As my feminist hairdresser and friend Alison says, ‘Someone took Kim’s sex tape and made it public without her consent. She turned it all around and made a multi-million dollar business out of it. If that’s not feminist, I don’t know what is”.

    Cleaners, Hillary Clinton, Jess Phillips and Kim Kardashian on a list together? Hell yeah!

  6. Jenny Pepper.I was originally going to compile my top five, but Jenny is too ace to leave out. She’s the protagonist in the novel Vigilante, written by Shelley Harris. Jenny is a middle aged woman who turns invisible to all around her – her husband, family and society don’t seem to see her anymore. So she decides to get herself a superhero costume and fight crime. When girls in her fourteen year old daughter’s class at school are being attacked, she decides to do something about it. The book is BRILLIANT.

    IWD vig


I know some people won’t love my list, and that’s ok. Whether you do or don’t then why not head over to Twitter, and name your selection using the #inspiringwomen #IWD2016 hastags?