A Scare (not a story)

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picture credit: gifer.com

We had a shock last week. I awoke to gas fumes upstairs – bottled gas, Calor for the oven and grill – and was on the phone at once calling the emergency gas number. It turned out that the bottled gas isn’t as dangerous as the one that is connected via underground-pipes but the fire service said I’d done the right thing in calling them. The thing is, the gas had been slowly leaking inside the house over days! So that was the build-up of fumes I was smelling. My elderly mother cannot smell or taste anything and my fiance, John, hadn’t realised.

I’d assumed the smell was coming from the closed bucket in the cupboard that holds the discarded fruit and veg.

Rewind to 2013 and my mum was irritated that I’d spent quite a bit of money on a gas detector. She said I’ve never had one, why would I need one now? I replied that is what everyone says…until the day the gas leaks for them. 

Daft me, didn’t bother to replace the old batteries…

The fire service was brilliant. Thank you gentlemen! A sweet young man fed me oxygen – I was dizzy, somewhat red in the face from hobbling up the road to find them, and have asthma anyway – and others fitted more smoke alarms. Ah, that oxygen was good, it was like drinking a glass of cool water. I have to get some sorted with the doctors (I wake up not breathing sometimes).

I’m still here.

Dear YOU, please consider buying gas/smoke detectors, your life may depend on it. 

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Fire Horse,  credit: unknown

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Copyright Faith McCord 2018

Story and artwork belongs to Faith McCord who is the author and artist holding the copyright. This is not a public domain work. Worldwide rights.

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Wild Life in My Garden

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Most mornings my little friend greets me when I take the dogs outside in the back garden to do their toilet routine. His boldness – despite his tiny size – and his friendliness – most of his kind are not as sociable – strike me the first time I noticed him watching me, from only a few feet away, balanced atop the swing-seat frame. He is the epitome of the nostalgic Christmas card, the tiny spot of bright colour in the white snowy landscape. But it is now spring, and he sits only inches away, above me on a branch. A branch that is laden with May’s apple-blossom. We silently eye one-another – when he’s not busy among the long blades of grass searching for a morsel. He is a most beautiful little bird and this week has been joined with another smaller male. I wonder if the newcomer is my robin’s ‘egg’?

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Red Mason bee – credit: Alamy

Earlier this month I noticed a lot of interest about my Bug Hotel; a modern structure made of breathable, ecological substance, consisting of several floors and intricate smooth tubes and other equally sensible bedding materials (such as pinecones), topped with an apex roof. The wood is weather-worn now, having seen five years through perched atop a big plant pot, against the house’s brick-wall, on the patio. I don’t know whether to beeswax it. However, my aged Bug Hotel still appeals. Apparently… Small narrow bees with smooth yellow-and-black coats visited – left – only to return. This happened over several hours during the warm spell of sunny weather, over a few days.

What was going on? I looked online and discovered my tiny visitors are Mason Bees (Megachilidae) – and, they are perfectly harmless. I am one to fret if anything aggressive with a sting nears me as I’m highly allergic.

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After my slight disappointment of realising that my bees were not producing honey, I became happier in understanding that the bees were actually raising their next generation in there! Masons are solitary bees, laying their young in pre-existing, yet practical shelters. These bees are responsible for pollinating flowers 3 to 4 times more than the Honey Bee! Here’s how the Mason ‘raise’ their young: first check out the room – is the tube the correct size in diameter?; is it the correct length?; is the tube walled at the end as opposed to being open-ended?; is it made of the right substance which is also smooth so that the delicate wings are not inadvertently damaged?; oh, and is it dry in there, water-proofed from the rain? And, south-facing is preferred. Yes, they are as discerning as you and I when looking at a prospective new home. They need to be. The female inspects which of the tubes are smooth and vacant. (So that was what all that hovering about meant!). These clever insects board up the end (or, rather the entrance) of the tube with a mixture of mud and their saliva. This dries leaving a very effective closed-door. I noticed, myself, not from my online research, that the mother also leaves a tiny needle-prick of a hole in the mud-made-door. I suppose this is to aid ventilation? Ok, so back to the vacant tube…the mother Mason Bee lays a single egg in the tube, flies away to return with non-perishable food in the form of pollen. This food store keeps until the baby bee emerges from its egg to eat its first ever meal. To protect her unborn young the parent bee then seals up the doorway, as mentioned before. She on the other side, the outdoors side, because she has more cells to fill with eggs. The baby Mason bee is left alone until it breaks free out of the tube.

You can read more about British Mason Bees *here*. Make your own inexpensive bee hotel, instructions *here*. North American Mason Bees *here*. The selfish reason to keep Masons *here*. How you can help, *here*.

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Copyright Faith McCord 2018

Story and artwork belongs to Faith McCord who is the author and artist holding the copyright. This is not a public domain work. Worldwide rights.

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Weekend Walks (short story)

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WEEKEND WALKS

BY

Faith McCord

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The house is sleeping. I can hear Daddy’s snores through the walls. That is the only people-sound inside the house because there is no movement of creaking floorboards or opening and closing of doors or voices being uttered. Across the hall in her own bed is my sister and I’m sure she’s asleep too. The birds are still singing through the crack in my window, I slightly pull back the curtain and peep out. The sun has not yet climbed to its pinnacle but I can tell by the pale blue sky it’s going to be a beautiful day.

With quiet excitement I throw back the bed covers and make short shrift of dressing in my usual weekend attire of trousers and T-shirt, knee-high socks and my favourite rubber-soled shoes that grip all kinds of serious terrain – such as the slide when walking up it – so well. After splashing my face with cold water and a fight with the hairbrush – afterwards my unruly hair still looks unbrushed – I creep into my sister’s room.

Yes, she’s asleep.

I whisper her name but she refuses to stir. Anxious, aware of the morning passing us by I loudly call her name and she moans back at me. Eventually, I’m having to physically shake her by the shoulders to get her conscious. Of course she tells me to get lost. Whilst I’m a light-sleeper she’s a deep-sleeper. Just like Daddy. Though, unlike Daddy, she’s snappy like Mummy.

After gentle persuasion – to appease her gruff side – and some more changing of clothes, we swig our fizzy drinks and pocket biscuits for the adventure. Now we are well prepared.

Outside, I can smell summer in the air. It is warming up. The apple orchard opposite our house is green and leafy, the trees not yet laden with fruit. There are times when we collect the fallen fruit this side of the fence. We’re not sure if it’s allowed though. The coastal wind softly and pleasingly buffets us as we walk past the neighbours’ well-kept houses. We chatter about important child things, staring at – and sometimes commenting about – the well-managed flowers fronting the afore mentioned houses. How tiny they are, or how plentiful, or brightly-coloured, or unusually shaped. We only know the easy flower names like rose, daisy, dandelion, buttercup and pansy which doesn’t mean we’re unable to appreciate them all.

We walk right to the end of the road where the neighbours are strangers and there is a strict looking metal-barred gate daring you to open it. Our road is a cul-de-sac not that everyone knows it. People in vehicles are always getting lost down here. Sometimes, the holiday-makers stop us and ask the way to a house whose name is unfamiliar to our ears, or wanting the directions to one of several holiday camping or chalet sites, of which we’re well familiarised with. We know not to go off with them.

The big gate has a large metal bar which must be slid across in order to swing it open. As it is somewhat heavy, the door then usually swings All The Way open to crash into, and rebound off a spiky hedge. It takes some knowledge and expertise to successfully open the gate, pass through its entrance, and – still hanging onto it! – smoothly close and latch the metal bar safely into place.

It makes such a thing of it, such a racket – CRE-E-E-E-AK!! – that you think people nearby will stop what they’re doing and stare at you.

It is a beast of a gate. You can see that others are not familiar with it because it is often left open. For us, right now, it isn’t.

Satisfied that we’ve manoeuvred the gate in proper fashion we begin the descent of the gravel slope.

The sun is higher now, the blue sky brighter. The birdsong reduced to odd lazy tweets. I wonder if our parents are now drinking cups of tea in bed. We pass a few people, walking, cycling, driving vehicles, along the way. The ones walking their dogs catch our attention. We admire their four-legged companions but refrain from touching them because we don’t want to get bitten. We can’t tell which ones are biters.

We have a dog, her name is Velvet. She’s a golden retriever with a pretty face, short legs and bad body odour. Her sweet and gentle disposition beckons attention, affection – long strokes along her back, tickles on her tummy and ear-and-head rubs. The B.O. ceases it. Akin to an agreeable relative with a disagreeable habit she is loved. Sometimes we take her with us for our weekend walks. Sometimes we take our bicycles. And, sometimes, we just walk by ourselves. Like today.

We walk onto another slope, of which, this time, we ascend. We climb the grassy hills, soon encountering – and weaving between – the holiday huts, climbing, climbing…

Climbing…

We have arrived. Surprisingly, no one else is here. A startling thought occurs – Monday is tomorrow. But Monday is distant, much too far away, almost unfathomable. It won’t blight our fun.

My sister, joyous, exhilarated, points to something that would make any child’s heart gladden.

Let’s go on the slide first!”

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Word count: 879

© copyright Faith McCord 2018

Author’s note: Wouldn’t it be nice if there were more public parks and playgrounds for everyone? Regardless of income.

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Copyright Faith McCord 2018

Story and artwork belongs to Faith McCord who is the author and artist holding the copyright. This is not a public domain work. Worldwide rights.

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Posted for Helen

The tea-towel Sunning Cats I told you about 😉

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Credit/source: https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/FLORAL-CATS-TEA-TOWEL/263715796846?hash=item3d66afb76e:g:~lQAAOSwgeBaT5iX 

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Some Doors Are Not For Opening (short story)

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SOME DOORS ARE NOT FOR OPENING

BY

Faith McCord

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Disconnected and empty she went to her. Although she’d been told not to. Left the bright garden – and its startling flowers with dark creatures in the pits of their bowels – began the long trek though the gloom of the house, all the while considering if that is what she should be doing… And, halted before the big closed door. It had a gold handle which by twisting locked the room. Most times this room was locked. The loud heart-thumps in her chest marked her hesitation. Her hand slowly jerked towards the handle.

Don’t disturb me, I’m busy.”

That’s what she told her. That’s what she always told her.

She thought, behind this closed door she is there. Near. Yet, not near. She pictured her usual stance of averted face, complete absorption in a book. The seriousness of the act marked in the features of her face – in her very essence.

Her hand stopped short of the handle.

The door was most likely locked.

She would not be pleased. She could be frightening with her sudden rage. The raised voice, the insults, the quick hit of the hand.

She is a part of her but not a part of her. She is the most important person yet a stranger. She is as distant to her as a person can possibly be to another whilst living in the same house. She’s distant to her like belonging to another – and more favoured – world.

I am the irritation of a mundane task. (She knew).

Why can’t I be liked? What did I do wrong? (It confused her).

Her hand still wavered, now retracted to a position inches under the gold door handle. Of the closed door. She heard her cough inside the room, she imagined her turning the pages of text. She stared at the closed door.

It didn’t beckon to open.

word count: 315

© copyright Faith McCord 2018

Author’s note: Child neglect is insidious and very damaging.

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Copyright Faith McCord 2018

Story and artwork belongs to Faith McCord who is the author and artist holding the copyright. This is not a public domain work. Worldwide rights.

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My 1st Time in a Comic Shop / (oh, and) John’s Birthday

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I surprised John with a surprise visit to Norwich’s only comic shop for his birthday. He’s an avid graphic novel fan, especially of DC’s Batman. Me, I’ve never before set foot inside such an establishment. I wasn’t sure what to expect. During our half-an-hour visit three other women (appearing willing, together with men) sauntered in and I noticed there was a wall of books – indies by the look of them – of which John said would appeal to mostly females. Well! I didn’t expect that. I had assumed there would only be super-heroes, growing in popularity due to mainstream films.

Everything was wrapped, nice and clean, in cellophane. I didn’t dare touch them. I admired a lot of the illustrators’ front cover work. There was one book I kept looking at, firstly because it had ‘needle’ in part of the title…depicting a pink-dressed teal-haired girl-character with needles for feet. I asked the friendly staff member if I could possibly look at it.

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We enjoyed our day out – there aren’t many of those. We were blessed with warm weather, sunny blue skies; I with lower-pain levels, no monster migraine and the ability to be able to walk a little way without the scooter.

My fiance eventually picked out two soft-covers and I was also treated. John bought me the book I had been admiring, Needlefeet – and the Land of Doo by Ella Goodwin, a Norwich artist, writer, animator and crafter. It is an adorable book and my first ever ‘adult’ comic.

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And, you may ask, what did the ‘children’ buy their father? It is the very same T-shirt he’s wearing in the photos. (They thought the wolves looked a lot like themselves).

* LINKS *

Abstract Sprocket, St. Benedict’s Street, Norwich, Norfolk, NR2 4PF, England

EllaGoodwin.co.uk

 

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Copyright Faith McCord 2018

Story and artwork belongs to Faith McCord who is the author and artist holding the copyright. This is not a public domain work. Worldwide rights.

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Why we should value our canine and feline writing companions (ReBlog)

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A few weeks before Christmas, I lost my faithful writing companion: the West Highland terrier I rescued almost eight years ago, my lovely Molly.

Molly (and her brother George, who we sadly lost just two years ago) was with me when I made my very first serious attempt at writing a novel, sitting………. please click the url link to the original post to read more ………

via Why we should value our canine and feline writing companions

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