Friday, 28 June 2013

And All That Jazz!

(Sonnet by Jackie Hutchinson)

Girls’ beaded gowns of tule and lace.    
How they twirl with elegance and flair,   
To the heady tunes of Fred Astaire,         
Edgar swoons with his lady, Grace          
Buoyant twists of this era, they embrace                   
Conveying timeless style and debonair.       
Ardent passions, inflame an affair
Dancing rhythmically to Baby Face.        
Flashes of silver, opulent sapphire            
Saxophones’ vibes resonates,
With tossing head and demure flicks,  
Intensifying jealousy and hate,            
Impetuous feelings ignites the fire,
Cunning Gilbert is playing tricks.

Society’s Cast –offs

(Free verse by Jacky Hutchinson)

Dejected ground
helpless to litter
                  chip cartons,
                 ‘Special Brew’ cans
                 ‘John Player’ packets
                  sweet wrappers.

strewn on its pavements
                  twisted cigarette stubs,
                  bin liners ripped open,
                  dog turds.

Angry spats of
                  bubble gum
                  plastic bottles
                  stamped onto concrete

Discarded estates,
                  thrown away  
                  with contempt.
                  repulsive to us all.

In the Magical Forest

(Sonnet by Jackie Hutchinson)

Amidst an aromatic olive grove,
Jasmine and Primrose gaily sing,
Smile and hover on their swings.
Casting rays of soft translucent mauve,
They float around in Crystal Cove.
They fan their iridescent wings
Cooled by secret, magical springs
Enticed by concealed treasure trove.
Curtly, a sinister presence invades,
As wicked goblins arrive; who sneer,
Down in the leafy everglades.
Radiating ripples of evil and fear,
Melancholy and unease pervades
As evasive, sneaky goblins appear.

Saturday, 26 May 2012



Thursday, 10 November 2011

Magnolia Close. Episode 24. Getting A Result.

Robert Farrah stepped out of Number 23 and turned to wish Nasreen goodbye for the day.

"I don’t understand why you are going into Hope when you’re on half-term," she said.

"There’s always things to be done. It’s easier to work there than at home some times, especially when the kids aren’t there. As for me, I don’t understand why your parents want to pay us a visit at such short notice."

"I suppose they might have thought with you on holiday you’d have more time."

"Teachers never get a holiday. They made it sound so pressingly urgent, though – ‘must see both of you straight away.’ What was all that about?"

"We’ll find out when we see them," she said. "Now get going and come home early."

As Robert carefully backed his Nissan out of the drive, then turned to drive off, Nasreen noticed several trails of what looked like papers in plastic packets trailing on strings from under the back of his car, and wondered what they might be. Some sort of practical joke, she wondered. Then she put the thought out of her mind and went indoors.

Tricia had heard the telephone ring but Jade had answered it first. When she entered the lounge, Jade laughing over the line.

"Oh, here’s Tricia now," she said with a grin, but still didn’t hand the call over straight away. "Perhaps see you soon," she said at last before parting with the receiver.

"Is it Jonathan?"

"Yes," Jade mouthed.

Tricia took the phone and eyed Jade curiously before speaking into the phone. "Are we still on for tonight?"

Jade still stood there watching, till Tricia indicated with irritated shake of the head to Jade that she should leave the room. She listened to Jonathan’s answer before replying. "Good. Don’t be late."

Tricia hung up and found that, now she wanted to ask Jade a question, she had suddenly made herself scarce.

Martha took a deep breath before knocking on Brooke’s bedroom door.

"What!?" came the irritated reply.

Martha went in. Brooke had her head buried in a school-book. "Is everything OK?" said Martha.

"It would be if I didn’t keep on getting interrupted."

"We’ve left you alone, Dad and me," said Martha.

"You should tell that little twerp of a sister to do the same," said Brooke.

"Brooke, I do wish you would try to get on a little better with Celine."

"And I wish I could get on with revising – my resits are just a few days away."

Martha bit her lip. "There was something else I wanted to ask you about."

"Oh for goodness’ sake," said Brooke, bouncing off the bed, snatching up her study things.

"Where are you going?"

"I’m going into school – at least they let you study in the library and I can get some peace and quiet."

Martha wished she had handled that better. There was something she had to talk to Brooke about, resits or no resits.

"Mr Farrah!"

Robert was half way down the corridor to the staff room when he heard a familiar voice call out. "Yes, Mrs Groves."

"Your car appears to be trailing some sort of litter behind it. I would be most grateful if you would go and remove it. Your car looks like you have just been the groom at a wedding." Robert winced at this – soon he was going to be the groom at a wedding, and the thought of what tricks his friends might play on him gave him cause for concern. Mrs Groves, as headmistress of Hope Academy, was all very keen to be one of the gang with other teachers when it suited her. On other occasions, she definitely liked everyone to know she was boss and wanted things run her way.

When Robert got to his car it was almost as if his worst fears had been realised. The streamers dangling from under the car were poly-packets – the sort pupils put their homework in before handing it in to be marked, but the papers inside were anything but homework. They were photographs of a young girl who appeared to be wearing very little clothing. He looked at them appalled, then he felt his blood run cold. This was not just any young girl. They were pictures of one of his pupils. Just as he hurriedly gathered them into his arms, viciously snapping the string that held them to the vehicle, that very girl appeared on the opposite side of the car.

"Hello, Mr Farrah," said Brooke Ames.

"What are you doing her?" he asked, rather abruptly.

She gave him a "d’ur" kind of look, and said, "It’s school. I’ve come to study." Her face became oddly blank and she walked past him into the school. Robert waited till she had gone inside before giving the photos one more look. He screwed them up into a ball, unlocked the back door of the car and stuffed the pictures under the seat. Then he followed Brooke into the building.

"Brooke," he called, catching her up. "You haven’t… been anywhere near my car, have you?"

Brooke looked puzzled. "What do you mean, sir?"

"You haven’t tampered with my car in any way?"

Brooke dropped her voice and was far from deferential when she hissed, "I wouldn’t go near anything of yours. But, if I were you, I’d remember our little deal about my re-sit marks."

"I can’t do anything about the exam scripts – I can’t get near them."

"But you can alter the marks on my assessed modules. Or would you like Mrs Groves or my Dad to find out what you’ve been up to?"

Celine burst into the kitchen where Martha was preparing the evening meal, in floods of tears.

"What’s the matter, darling," said Martha, concerned.

"Look at this text I just got on my phone," she cried.

Robert Farrah was alone in the staff-room when he found Brooke Ames assignment work. It would be the work of a moment to alter the grades.

End Of Episode 24.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Magnolia Close. Episode 23. In The Clear.

“Bob, you old rascal!”
“Nice to see you again, Mark. You had no trouble finding the place then.”
“There's not that many Stormy Petrels that Google knows about. Just what exactly is a petrel?”
“It’s a kind of bird. I see Mark’s already made a start on the ale.”
“Howdy, Bob. How are you doing?”
Robert settled down with a drink. “So what brings you two reprobates here? I’ve not seen you since teacher training college.”
“Mark’s visiting family nearby and I’m here for work. We thought we could combine the two and get the old gang back together.”
“Where are you stopping?” said Robert.
“A hotel called Merlin Court. Big soulless place, quite posh but no character. We’ll be here all week.”
“Fur coat and no knickers, I’d call it,” said Andy.
“So what’s this about you being up in court?” said Mark. “You haven’t got one of your pupils banged up, have you?”
Robert grimaced. “Why don’t you say it a bit louder, Mark?” he said quietly. “I think somebody at the back of the pub didn’t quite catch that.”
At the bar, Sammy, hearing his place of employment mentioned, craned his neck to listen more carefully.

Back home, at number 23, Robert’s fiancée, Nasreen, was answering the telephone.
“Hello, Dad. How are you and Mum?”
“Never mind about us,” said Nasreen’s father, “what has that ‘boyfriend’ of yours been up to?”
“What do you mean?”
“We saw his name in the papers. It said he had been in court.” Nasreen’s mother called out to the phone over her husband’s shoulder.
“Is here there? I want to speak to him.”
“No, he’s gone out for a drink with some old college mates.”
“He leaves you alone, and goes out drinking alcohol? Are you sure this is the man you want to marry? We have been very tolerant so far but there is a limit.”
“It’s just two fellahs from his student days. He hasn’t seen them in ages. Remember, Dad, you said you were alright about this.”
“I am beginning to wonder if we are,” said her father. “It said something about misconduct with schoolgirls. I think we shall come and visit you and discuss this.”

Monday morning, and in the Ames household in number 24, Martha was helping Dennis get ready for work.
“Have you told them at work what happened?” said Martha.
“They know I was in court, because I had to take the time off. They don’t know the outcome.”
“Surely they wouldn’t sack you over just a bit of a punch-up. It’s not dishonest.”
“I’ve now got a record, thanks to him next door. And a sentence.”
“Three months prison suspended for two years,” said Martha. “There’ll be no problem as long as you stay out of trouble.”
“If I catch him looking over the fence at Brooke, there’ll be trouble alright.”
“Don’t be so silly,” she chastised him. “It’s all just been a bit of a misunderstanding. Otherwise he wouldn’t have his job at Hope Academy. Remember, I’m starting night-school classes there next week.”
“I don’t know why you’re bothering. Anyway, where is Brooke?”
“She had some breakfast and went back to bed to do some studying. Her resits are only a week away.”
“Why is she not at school?”
“Both the girls are on half-term,” said Martha, surprised. “You’ve been too wrapped up in yourself to notice even when they’re on holiday.”

Foster, Daisy and a rather forlorn-looking Luther shuffled in to Maplewood Surgery and approached the reception desk. Tricia was busy filing so Jade greeted them.
“It’s Mr and Mrs Woods, isn’t it?” Jade hazarded – she was trying to get used to knowing patients by name.
“That’s right,” said Daisy. “It’s about Luther, to see Dr Fry.”
“You’re booked in for a nine o’clock appointment.”
Daisy leaned forward to speak. “Hello Tricia.”
“Hello – I didn’t see you there. Not opening the shop this morning?”
“This comes first,” said Daisy.
Under his breath, Foster added, “It’s not as if we’re turning away that many customers.”

Sammy spotted the two guests he had seen with Robert Farrah at The Stormy Petrel, as they walked down a corridor of Merlin Court. “Could I have a word with you two gentlemen?”
“What is it?” said Mark.
“It might be delicate,” said Sammy in a hushed tone. “I couldn’t help overhearing what you were saying the other night.”
“Saying about what?”
“You mentioned – forgive me for taking an interest – something about the attractiveness of young ladies of college age?”
“You were eavesdropping?” said Andy, infuriated.
“Just thought you’d like to know – if you wanted, I might have some pictures that you might appreciate. Here’s a sample.” Sammy produced a postcard-sized photo from his pocket.
“Go away, you horrid little man!” said Andy.
“Hang on a minute,” said Mark. “If we got some of these, we could play a great prank on Bob.”
“What sort of prank?”

Celine fidgeted at the top of the stairs. “Come on, Brooke – I want to pee! What are doing in there all this time?”
Brooke snatched open the bathroom door. “Shut, up you little drip! What do you think I’m doing in here?”
“I dunno – tarting yourself up for a date with your boyfriend?”
“If you don’t shut your mouth, I’ll put seats in it. Buzz off.” Brooke stormed out on to the landing and went to her bedroom.
Celine at last got the bathroom to herself. As she was finishing up, she noticed some packaging that Brooke had evidently left by the sink.
“Mum?” said Celine, finding Martha in the kitchen, “has Brooke got something wrong with her teeth?”
“No, I don’t think so, dear. Why?”
“She’s always crabby with me these days,” Celine sighed. “I wondered if she had toothache.”
“I’ll ask her, just to check,” said Martha.
“Ask about her new toothbrush too. She had it in her hand,” said Celine. “Here’s the wrapping.” She held up some card and plastic. “Is Clearblue a special make of brush?”


Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Magnolia Close. Episode 22. Trial and Tribulation.

“Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you.”
The Ames family gathered around to sing good wishes to its youngest member, Celine.
“Here you go, kiddo,” said Brooke to her sister. “Got you a little present.”
Celine unwrapped the package. “What is it?”
“It’s a pencil case. Full of pens and stuff. Mum and Dad got me the same thing when I started at secondary school.”
“And we’ve got you this.” Martha nudged Dennis forward to hand over their gift.
“A mobile phone!” Celine shrieked with delight. “Cool! I am so going to need this at Hope.”
“Now then – we’ve got your number so we can always find out where you are,” said Dennis, “and ‘Mum and Dad’ are already programmed in on speed-dial so you can always get us.”
“Wait till my mates see this,” said Celine. She started pressing buttons and within seconds had the little device playing tunes.
Martha spoke in a hushed voice to Dennis. “Let’s just hope we can afford it.”
Brooke’s present lay forgotten on the sofa. Celine was already trying to call a friend. “You’d better let me have your number,” Brooke said.
Dennis, his voice also lowered, said to Martha: “We’ll know better after my court case this afternoon.”

“Now what are you spying on?” said Walter to Gladys.
“Just the Ames girls, both going off to school together. It doesn’t seem five minutes since they were born.”
“The older one looks a bit sulky.”
“You know what kids are like at that age. Remember how ours were.”
“Oh I remember alright,” said Walter, looking at Gladys carefully. “You know, if we are going to have a big do for our anniversary, we ought to start inviting them. The whole family, don’t you think?”
Gladys turned to Walter. Her expression was vaguely troubled. “Walter?”
“I thought you’d asked them already.”
He hesitated. “I wasn’t sure what you wanted to do.”
“I want them all here, of course. You’d better get on with it. I don’t want them missing our diamond jubilee.”
Walter looked at his wife for a second, then gave her a warm hug.

Robert Farrah had barely got into the staff-room at Hope Academy, desperately in search of a coffee, before his colleague, Natalie, grabbed his arm. “Good timing –  you’ve got a phone call.”
He took the phone, half-wondering whether it would be a nagging parent, a local journalist about the court case against Dennis Ames that afternoon, or just his fiancée, Nasreen, checking something with him. It wasn’t any of them.
“Robert Farrah.”
“Bob? It’s Mark. How you doing, mate?”
“Mark? Gosh – I haven’t heard from you in ages.”
“Heard about you planning to get hitched. Wondered if I could talk you out of it over a drink. Or several. Andy’s with me as well, so we thought we might hook up. Are you free tonight?”
“Andy too? Blimey! I’m not missing that. Where and when?”
“Where’s easiest for you?”
“There’s a pleasant local we could go to. The Stormy Petrel.”
“What about the old ball-and-chain?”
“She doesn’t drink, Mark. She’s a Muslim. And we’re not married yet.”
“Will she let you out for the evening?”
“No problem. I think she’ll be glad to get rid of me for a while.”
“Wow – romance isn’t dead. Eight o’clock suit you?”
“Just wish me luck in court this afternoon.”
“I’ll tell you all about it when I see you.”

“How did your modelling with Dad go?” Maxwell had bumped into Brooke in the school corridor and it was the first time he’d seen her in a few days.
“Shh! It’s secret,” said Brooke. “If you play your cards right, I might let you see.”
“I’d like that. We haven’t got together since… you know, results day.”
“At least that bit of the day was nice.”
“Yeah. No problem. Wish things had worked out better for you.”
Brooke smiled. “Thanks. It’s nice to have somebody show me some interest.”
“Like I said, no problem.”

The magistrates court was a drab building of Sixties brutalist architecture. Inside, the court itself was blandly austere. Dennis Ames stood in the dock, with his wife, Martha, looking on apprehensively, and Brooke. She had insisted on being allowed off school to give moral support, as she claimed, but partly she was just curious what might be said about Robert Farrah. He was also there along with his fiancée, Nasreen Siddiqi. Buster Keaton had popped in as well to see what his neighbours had been up to.
 “You have pleaded guilty to the one charge of assault,” said the head magistrate. “Have you anything to say before we pass sentence?”
“If that’s allowed, sir. I regret my actions and I assure you it is not my usual character. However, the reason for my behaviour towards Mr Farrah is because I had heard a rumour about what he got up to with girls at his previous school. Interfering with them. I have two daughters at Hope Academy. One is only twelve and has just started there.”
“Is there any substance to these allegations, these rumours?”
“I don’t know, sir,” said Dennis turning to stare at Robert Farrah.
The magistrates conferred in whispers, occasionally glancing at Dennis and, at one point, at Robert. For his part, Robert fidgeted uncomfortably. Brooke was also staring at him, while Martha watched Brooke. Could there be any truth in all this?
“The courts take a dim view of anyone taking the law into their own hands,” the head magistrate was speaking. “Especially when this results in violence. Such allegations are a matter for the police.” He turned again to his colleagues.
“See what trouble you’ve got your father into,” Martha whispered to Brooke.
“Why does nobody believe what I say?” Brooke hissed, infuriated.
“It’s up to the police. Your father might lose his job because of this. Then what are we going to do?”
“Silence in the court!” the magistrate snapped.
“Here it comes,” Martha mouthed.
“The sentence is as follows.”