A Disturbing Photograph.

Kim Phuc (Editoral credit: shutterstock.com)

Anyone over the age of 50 years will no doubt remember seeing the photograph shot by a news photographer in Vietnam in 1972 of a small nine year old girl running toward the camera, her clothes burnt off and screaming.

This image, known as the “Napalm Girl” became an icon of the Vietnamese war and powerful motivation to not only bring an end to this immoral war, but led to a U.N. declaration banning the use of napalm and other indiscriminate weapons in war.

The plight of this little girl redoubled the public resolve in the United States calling for the end of the war and the U.S.A withdrew in November 1973. (Australia withdrew in Nov 1971)

The girl, Kim Phuc, survived the ordeal thanks partly to the prompt action of the photographer in cooling her burns and getting her to hospital. She is now a Canadian citizen and an advocate for peace.

The publishing of this photograph in 1972 so shocked the public that it led to change, but today we are confronted daily with news images of terrorist bombings, suicide attacks on people in markets, trains and buses, aerial attacks on suburban areas of middle eastern towns and the plight of displaced people and refugees. Have we become inured to these events? Do we no longer feel for these people? is there a sense of helplessness that dulls our response? How do we demonstrate our outrage? Or is it a case of OK so long as it doesn’t happen here.

On the other side of the coin is the outstanding response demonstrated by people and nations when ​natural disaster strikes. Here we seem to be able to put aside our prejudices and work together for the greater good. Such is the paradox of the nature of man. 

This is the dilemma for the 21st Century.

C. Raison

The Rocking Chair


wooden rocking chair

It sat there – fair in the way of an old bloke,
waiting, patiently, to give him a nasty poke.

Its rocking legs striking out past the point
where normal chairs couldn’t hit his joints

A measly look on its solid gated back
often caused him to halt in his track.

Sitting, innocently, ready for use one could suppose,
despite his knowledge that, to him, bruising goes.

No greater hazard in his home than that ‘gator
Clear of look, brow and form like any traitor.

By Jonathan Hawkins-Clarke copyright 16/9/2016

Author’s Note: RRRs exercise to write about a rocking chair

Simon Spyman

In the small sleepy village of Middle Muggelton, something peculiar happened, something that would be talked about for years to come. A story to be handed down through generations, and in its telling grow in the imaginations of the folk that called Middle Muggelton Home.

Annie Armstrong dropped her washing basket when she heard Betty Bumford’s familiar shout. Hurrying over to her side of the corrugated iron fence, she stood in anticipation, as she waited for Betty’s latest gossip. Pleased that she had her attention, Betty Bumford nodded her head, which caused her triple chins to wobble over the neck of her canary yellow blouse.

Not far away in a little two bedroom bungalow, Simon Spyman scrubbed himself until his skin bled, and wished that he could start the day over. Simon had lived in Middle Muggleton all his life, and had been quite anonymous for most of his fifty-two years, that is, until he discovered the binoculars. Now, he was considered a pest, a pervert and a problematic Peeping Tom, along with other names that he cared not to dwell on.

The name calling had not deterred Simon. Neither had the stern lectures delivered from Peter Proper the Policeman, who predicted that the persistent use of the binoculars would certainly lead Simon into trouble.

The trouble had started this morning, when he used his binoculars to watch Flora Finnigan prune her pelargoniums by her front fence. And if he had known that her husband Fred was creeping up behind him, he would have run away. Unfortunately, Fred Finnigan had taken his temper out on Simon’s binoculars, throwing them on the footpath and jumping on them, until they were smashed to smithereens.

img_0091But is was what Simon did next that caused the problem. It just happened, that Jerry Jade owned a junk shop, and displayed in the window was an unusual pair of binoculars. Simon had seen the binoculars shining from the front window on his daily strolls and he greatly admired them. “I don’t know if these are any good,” Jerry had said when he passed them over the counter. “Apparently, they’re WWII American Airforce issue, made out of brass.” Simon’s eyes had shone as bright as the binoculars as he paid the twenty dollars asking price.

Later, as he strolled down the street, proudly displaying the brass binoculars, which bounced brilliantly around his neck, Simon bumped into big Betty Bumford.

Now, everyone who lived in Middle Muggelton knew that Betty Bumford was a terrible gossip. So at first Simon pretended not to notice her, which made him appear foolish, considering Betty’s bulk took up a large chunk of the footpath. But before she opened her mouth, to set her considerable chins wagging, Betty stood stock still and stared at Simon’s fingers. Looking down, Simon saw a strange shade of green travelling along his flesh. As he stood in total bewilderment, the green crept down onto his hands then quickly travelled up his arms.

“Well I never,” chuckled Betty, “for all the world it looks like you’re tarnished. It’s on your face now. Looks like it could be coming off them binoculars. I think you had better go home and try to wash it off.”

But no amount of scrubbing had removed the green stain which now covered Simon Spyman from head to foot.

Pleased with her latest episode of exceptional gossip, Betty Bumford threw back her head and roared with laughter. “So there you have it, the full story, and you’re the first I’ve told.”

“Dear me,” said Annie Armstrong. “It would be interesting to know if he’s managed to get it off.”

“Yes, I’ve been wondering that me self, but tell ya what, I’ve got a big can of Brasso in me kitchen cupboard, thought that I’d drop that around to him.”

Then wiping the tears of laughter from her round face she walked inside.

© Jan Weldon-Veitch 2016

The Cedar Robe

At first, the window refused to budge, as though it had made up its mind to be a recluse, remaining staunch against the outside world. Carmel eventually forced it open, and tied back the thick heavy drapes that locked out the light. Rays of sun penetrated the room, and picked up fine clouds of dust, that found flight, and merrily danced out into the spring day. This was the final room to be sorted and cleaned before putting Grans house on the market.

Vintage-colorful-tricycle and other old toysShe tried to remember the last time she had played in the room, fifteen maybe twenty years? It had not altered, all the old toys sat stiffly in their places, their glassy eyes staring vacantly ahead. It was hard to start, hard to pick up the treasured fragments of her childhood and throw them away. If her brother Peter had been able to help it would have been easier, but he lived in America and it had been left up to her to sort out the house. This room that Gran had set up for them, had always been special. They had come to live with their grandparents after the accident. Carmel could not remember her parents, or what caused their deaths, but Peter had vague recollections of their mother and father. Gran had not liked talking about them, or the accident, preferring to leave the past behind, according to Gran, the future was more important. Carmel realized, now that she was an adult, just how hard it must have been for her grandparents, it had been a big sacrifice on their part. Sadly all that was left of their lives, was this big old house and her memories.

The room started to sound hollow as she packed the last of the toys into cardboard boxes, the only thing remaining was the big cedar robe, too large for her to remove. ‘Perhaps,’ she thought, ‘the second hand shop would come and take it away?’ The oval mirror, set in the middle of the robe, now hazy with dust, bought back days when she would carefully practice her ballet steps, her reflection picking up all of her mistakes. The robe had always been locked which had frustrated Peter, but Gran had refused him the key. Carmel had always known where the key was hidden, she had, one day by chance, spied Gran placing it on top of the robe. She smiled now, recalling her fear of Peter climbing into the big robe, and disappearing into the land of Narnia, like the Peter in The Lion the witch and the wardrobe. Peter had loved that book, and had convinced Carmel, that was why Gran would not give him the key.

Old wardrobe with key holeStretching to her full height she reached to the top of the robe, and amongst the cobwebs and dust, she felt the cool metal of the old key. She expected that the robe, like the window would resist, refusing her entry, but the key slid in perfectly and opened without a murmur. The musky smell of stale air seeped out of the open door, and on escaping, filled the room with its pungent odour.

Carmel was puzzled at first, the robe was stacked with brown paper parcels, and on closer examination she discovered that they had all been addressed to herself and Peter. Ripping one open, she uncovered a Barbie Doll, still perfect in its box. When she had finished emptying the robe, she was surrounded by unopened gifts, which according to the post marks had been stored away for many years. She wondered why Gran had hidden the gifts, until she found the letter, it was quite recent and included the return address.

It took Carmel a long time before she picked up the phone. Looking out through the window she watched as the sunset slowly burned the sky with a pallet of scarlet and gold. Had turning the key in the robe opened Pandora’s Box? The phone almost rang out before he answered it, his familiar voice eased her mind, ‘Peter,’ she said, you need to come home, Gran has kept a secret from us all these years. I’ve just found a letter from our parent’s… and they’re both alive.’

gift boxes with label

Copyright Jan Weldon-Veitch. 2015

a lock with someone peeping through the key hole

A Locked Closet

As far as I can gather the term Water Closet dates back to the 1880s with the invention of the flushing toilet enabling toilets to be inside instead of at the back of the house. Water closet, toilet, lavatory or whatever you would like to call it; for mothers it is often a retreat. The only room in the house with a lock.

The after-school rush of afternoon tea and homework had passed so I went in to the smallest room of the house for a few minutes of peace before starting to cook tea. When my five minutes was up I tried to open the door but it remained securely locked. As hard as I tried, I could not get the door open. I looked at the small high window and realised that I couldn’t use it as an exit without sustaining major damage to me and the window. I called the children to see if they could help me and finally I asked them to ring the locksmith.

There was obviously a very interesting conversation going on between my oldest daughter and the locksmith but eventually she informed my that he was coming and would arrive in 20 minutes.

As I was waiting I amused myself by singing:

Oh, dear, what can the matter be
Three old ladies locked in the lavatory
They were there from Monday to Saturday
Nobody knew they were there

The locksmith was most surprised when he realised that Nicole had been telling the truth and it was not some practical joke. It didn’t take him long to remove the door handle and I was able to exit with rather a red face. He told me that it is very easy to remove the door handle from the inside. All I needed was a screw driver!

That was the first time I was locked in the toilet. The second time happened much later in Florence. We were staying in a rather old and dilapidated caravan park and the ablution block was quite a walk from our Motor home. The doors to the facilities were very old, like everything else about the place. The doors opened inward and when I tried to get out I found that my door was well and truly jammed. Again I had to call for help and a young Swedish backpacker came to my rescue. She managed to open the door from the outside.

The little room, the toilet, the water closet is sometimes a safe retreat but doesn’t feel so safe when I can’t escape.

Identical Twins

Mature twin sisters

I am not an identical twin! One of me was enough.

Thought of being one is daunting. Would twin A be a complete copy of twin B? This labelling denotes differences which should be highlighted in every way! Different names especially contrasting initials!

Be adventurous and adopt one out! Keep together and document all contrasting behaviour! Focus on strengths and try to minimise less favourable behaviours when you can.

Make sure everyone (rellies) treats them equally but don’t do that yourself.

Sybil McCulloch

September 2015

Space and time to find himself
limited not to his own pelf.
Reaching the point of no return,
waiting for the name to learn.

Leaching space around his form
as if life itself was the norm.
He sought to find the state to be
reaching red tape as high as his knee.

Each place a form of déjà vu,
even though, each, brand new.
Strange the place and feel
each clash made him reel.

How could all this be so
and yet he really did know
that the reactions he did feel
were from himself, other, real.

A brother true but never known
living clear another life to clone.
A twin cleft from him at birth
only now chased to earth.

Jonathan Hawkins-Clarke   copyright 29/8/2015

Author’s Note: RRRs exercise to write about identical twins

Valentine’s Day

Jonathan Hawkins-Clarke   copyright 14/3/2015
Author’s Note: RRRs exercise to write about Valentine’s Day

It was coming soon the teacher said;
a fantasy that drew him from his bed.
To seek, himself, to be at school on time.
Something new – to go without a whine.

The box was there with decorations many,
with the best done by his mate Denny.
The hole for the envelopes gaped wide
so that the missives could safely go inside.

Then, on this day, the removals would be done
with each student tallying to get the magic fun.
Time had been given, and extras overnight,
to get those cards done, entire, just right.

Now, the best of the day to come, with opening of box.
Each student’s rapt and fixed attention unblinking as a fox.
The pile was sorted and each name read aloud,
with cards accumulating made recipients proud.


So hot the air,
not even a stir
of breeze
to ease
the heat.

The garden fries
every leaf tries
to turn
not burn
with heat.

The houses simmer
with the sun’s shimmer
Fans whirl
leaves curl
through heat.

Air conditioners hum
to combat the sun
keeping cool
in the pool.
Damned heat!

© 2003 Cherry Howarth