Oludeniz

Two brothers in their seventies, Vinnie and Oz, share a ‘squeeze’, Vanessa, on holiday in Oludeniz. It’s late morning and they’re in the ‘Lions of St George’ bar where there’s ale on tap and English St George flags hang flaccid amidst cigarette smoke. 

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Mrs Windsor

A middle-aged woman, Penelope, is showing a potential buyer, Mr Bond, around her mother’s bungalow. It’s on the market for £387,500. 

This is the dining room, Penelope says. In the centre of the room there’s a large oval mahogany dining table covered with a considerable number of porcelain horses.
Likes nags, does she? Mr Bond asks.

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Madness

The Yoraths are a respectable, lower middle class family who have survived the Second World War in which Sidney served in the infantry. Olive fought her own battles on the home front, forever frightened of the telegram announcing Sidney’s death, while cherishing their son, Tony, who is now eight. 

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Lister

In the summer of 1961, Lister is fifteen and has a holiday job at a small carpet shop, belonging to Glyn Jones, an acquaintance of his father, an accountant, Samuel. Lister is pleased to be earning ‘a few quid’ and his parents are happy that he’s out in what Samuel calls ‘the real world’ and not forever in his bedroom reading. Lister suspects the truth is that Rachel, his mother, is perfectly happy to have a bookish introverted son, whereas Samuel is fearful that Lister doesn’t have enough oomph to be make a fortune, despite the fact, that he, though voraciously ambitious, has not made one himself.

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Germany Calling

Pip, nicknamed Pipsqueak but Squeak for short, is five and living with his grandparents in a small village in Shropshire. It’s December 1941 and Squeak’s mother is a nurse in the Eighth Army. His father is a soldier somewhere. Squeak has no idea where, nor do Grandpa Tubs and Grandma Pud; the Joyce family are fond of nicknames. Squeak’s grandparents are normally genial but at odds about listening to ‘Lord Haw Haw’ on the radio. Squeak sits on Pud’s knee as Tubs turns on the radio.

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Pain

Sleep is not always David’s fail-safe escape; dreams are impossible to predict.

On an overcast afternoon, David stands dithering at an opening in a very long hedge of dense blackthorn. Uncertainly, he passes through the opening. A swirling quarrel of sparrows is deafening as they flit and skirmish in and out of the prickly hedges that dwarf him. Seeing paths running east and west, he wonders which way to go. He turns right and meets a dead end. Retracing his steps, he goes past the opening and, as this path splits into two, he hopes he’s in a maze. I like mazes, he thinks. With no sun to guide him, he loses any sense of direction and can see no landmarks above the high hedges as he searches for the centre of the maze.

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Ex Pat

Isaac Pearlman often thinks about his friend Patrick O’Connell. Both aged fifteen, they were unlikely school friends; Patrick stood at over six foot while Isaac was small for his age. Patrick took no prisoners; anyone showing disrespect for his Irish ancestry was given an opportunity to apologise; failure to do so was severely punished. Isaac was bullied until Patrick stepped in – his ability to split the lid of a wooden school desk with a single head butt intimidated even the most foolhardy of bullies. Most of all, Isaac remembers basking in the light of Patrick’s smile, something that saw him through the darkness as his black dog bayed. 

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Lawe

Lawe sits in the doorway of an empty shop on Salter Gate. Heavy rain falls; orange light from a street lamp illuminates each drop before it splashes onto the pavement. He stares at the rain thinking, It don’t look like rain, more like the bleeding sea falling. I never learnt to swim; if it was the sea I could dive in and that would be that. Nar, not for us. He makes a pair of fists and does a quick left-right-left punch into the splashing rain. He remembers how it began. He takes a good swig from a can of Carlsberg Special and shivers.

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A Change of Climate

It’s early morning in La Jolla, Southern California. A large shingled single storey house stands amid sub tropical plants. Clouds of spray from spurting sprinklers make rainbows in the sun while in the background there’s the perpetual whoosh of the Pacific Ocean. The front door opens. Mike yawns and walks, dodging the spray, across the wet grass to the mailbox. There’s a single letter, with the franked postmark: Hull – Great Britain. Postage Paid

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