It’s April review time

Life is not a highway strewn with flowers,
Still it holds a goodly share of bliss,
When the sun gives way to April showers,
Here is the point you should never miss.

Though April showers may come your way,
They bring the flowers that bloom in May.
So if it’s raining, have no regrets,
Because it isn’t raining rain, you know, (It’s raining violets,)
And where you see clouds upon the hills,
You soon will see crowds of daffodils,
So keep on looking for a blue bird, And list’ning for his song,
Whenever April showers come along.

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So it’s time for the showers folks, showers of praise or a rainy squall.
Whichever it is, this is where your shower should fall,  preferably wrapped up neatly in a comment on our April Reviews page.

And for those who would like a little musical accompaniment while they ponder, here it is … https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dLoCQzzIo7Q

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The September 2016 TCWG Creative Writing Competition: Where to find the stories and how to vote

 

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All tcwg site members (and any other interested parties) are invited to read and enjoy the stories entered in the September 2016 TCWG creative writing competition.

If, having read all the stories, you would like to register your vote for the winner and placings, then please follow the voting instructions set out below. This is not obligatory, but if you choose to join in, your participation will be very much appreciated.
JUST FOLLOW THE LINKS TO ALL THE STORIES (which are listed below), AND YOU WILL FIND EACH STORY IN TURN.
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The deadline for entries into the July 2016 Creative Writing Competition passed at Midnight on the 30th. September 2016.

The topic for the September stories was set by the winner of the July 2016 competition , Peter Barnett who graciously agreed that there should be an open topic with each writer choosing his or hers topic of choice.

11 members have entered a total of 13 stories, and thanks are due to them for their efforts. Advance thanks are also offered to all those group members who I hope will now support the competition by reading the stories and registering their vote in the form of a comment below on this post.

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VOTING PROCEDURE.

As in previous months, when voting it will help if voters will make sure to quote the name of the story when posting their vote, particularly in the case where an author has entered more than one story.

Voting can now commence and will continue until 11 p.m. on Monday the 10th of October 2016.
There are no restrictions as to who is allowed to vote, all that is asked is that the voter reads all the stories and votes according to their preference. A brief reason for the choice is welcome but not mandatory.
Voters are requested to vote 5 points for first place, 3 points for second, and 1 point for third place.
Please do not submit any other point combinations such as 3/3/3, 4/4/1, 5/2/2, etc.
Writers are requested not to vote for any of their own entries, and voters are asked not to comment at length about the stories or record any thoughts that you may have on them, until after voting closes.

There will be no detailed summaries posted as to how the voting is progressing throughout the voting period but as soon as possible after voting closes a tabulated list of results will be posted separately and the winner declared. If then you wish to describe in detail the reasons for your choices, or comment at length about some or all of the individual stories, a separate page will be set up at the end of the voting period and after the result has been posted.

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List of entries received. (If I have inadvertently missed an entry or entries, please advise.)

JAVA LAVA. Written by Peter Barnett

https://aasof.com/2016/09/23/java-lava/#more-20343

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THE ROAD TO HELL. Written by Charles Stuart.

https://furryfeatures.wordpress.com/2016/09/27/the-road-to-hell/

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TEEING OFF WITH A BOILED EGG. Written by Atiller.

https://atiller16.wordpress.com/2016/09/28/a-september-2016-ctwg-short-story-entry/

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BETHANY’S CHAIR. Written by Capucin.

https://davidgoodwin935.wordpress.com/2016/09/28/bethanys-chair/

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A FUNERAL. Written by Colmore.

https://tcwgshortstories.wordpress.com/2016/09/28/setember-2016-ctwg-story/

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THE PERSISTENCE OF MEMORY. Written by Araminta.

https://detectivemouse.wordpress.com/2016/09/28/the-persistence-of-memory/

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THE AUCHENSHUGGLE BIRD. Written by Lostinwords.

https://lostinwords2.wordpress.com/2016/09/27/september-2016-competition/

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THE FINAL MEETING. Written by tp_archie.

http://tparchie.deviantart.com/art/The-Final-Meeting-637202826

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THE RED SWEATER. Written by ExpatAngie.

https://tcwgshortstories.wordpress.com/2016/09/30/september-entry-short-stories/

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TWO SIDES OF A DIFFERENT COIN. Written by Danthemann.

https://tcwgshortstories.wordpress.com/2016/09/30/sep-comp-entry-two-sides-of-a-different-coin/

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BRIAN LARA LOVES BATTING. By Danthemann.

https://tcwgshortstories.wordpress.com/2016/09/30/sep-comp-entry-brian-lara-loves-batting/

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INVENTORY OF A BEACH BAG. Written by Seadam.

https://seadamsblog.wordpress.com/2016/09/30/inventory-of-a-beach-bag/

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Mme. ROSE. Written by ExpatAngie. (To find … Scroll down from The Red Sweater.)

https://tcwgshortstories.wordpress.com/2016/09/30/september-entry-short-stories/

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Pleasant reading and please  remember to vote.

 

 

The September 2016 CW Competition. Full details of how to enter.

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A FREE ENTRY WRITING COMPETITION OPEN TO ALL!
Details of the September 2016 Creative Writing Competition.
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The topic for September has been set by the winner of the July 2016 competition Peter Barnett who has graciously agreed that there should be an open topic with each writer choosing his or hers topic of choice.

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The length of the story in September has been set at between 250 and 750 words and competitors are reminded that multiple entries can be accepted on as many different topics as each individual competitor chooses
Closing date for entries will be Midnight on Friday the 3oth. of September 2016.
The period for receiving votes will be announced when the competition closes, and votes will not be accepted until after the competition closes.
The “prize” for winning this September competition will be to set the topic for November 2016.

Voting.
After the competition closes there will be a vote to decide the first three places.
Just after the closing date, details of how to vote and a vote collection point will be set up here on this competition blogpage.

How to enter.
Post your story on your personal WordPress blogs and post a link to your story in the form of a comment below.

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And a reminder to those still without their own WordPress site.

WordPress is not the most user friendly of sites but if I can manage it (admittedly not without some frustrations), then I am sure that we all can  … help in setting up your own blog is available, so please ask.

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For those unfamiliar with the workings of the monthly competition a list of detailed rules for the competition can be found here …
https://tcwgshortstories.wordpress.com/competition-rules/

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Pleasant writing and good luck with your stories. After the encouraging increase in the number of entries last month it seems that we may at last be coming to terms with the new arrangements … please can we make September a bumper month.

 

The August 2016 TCWG Creative Writing Competition. Full details of how to enter.

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A FREE ENTRY WRITING COMPETITION OPEN TO ALL!
Details of the August 2016 Creative Writing Competition.

The topic for AUGUST has been set by the winner of the May/June 2016 competition  Seadams who chosen “ISLANDS” and has commented as follows …

ISLANDS.
“I’ve been thinking about islands and their connotations recently. I am quite fascinated by islands, and the idea of living on one permanently (but then, I suppose I already do.)

Island – isola – isolate…insula – insular…

I propose for August we write a story with an island setting – be it desert, tropical, luxurious; real or imaginary; legendary or metaphorical; Channel, Canary, Balearic, Pacific, Hebridean, Caribbean…stacks, reefs, atolls, archipelagos…but no cheating, please: no peninsulas.”

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The length of the story in August will be the regular “between 500 and 3000 words”, and competitors are reminded that multiple entries can be accepted, particularly of the shorter variety.
Closing date for entries will be Midnight on Wednesday the 31st. of August 2016.
The period for receiving votes will be announced when the competition closes, and votes will not be accepted until after the competition closes.
The “prize” for winning this July competition will be to set the topic for October 2016 when I am proposing that we will have a lower limit of 250 to 750 words, giving an opportunity for some writers to make multiple entries.

Voting.
After the competition closes there will be a vote to decide the first three places.
Just after the closing date, details of how to vote, and a vote collection point will be set up here in this competition section.

How to enter.
Post your story on your personal WordPress blogs and post a link to your story in the form of a comment below (“Leave a reply” panel.)

For those unfamiliar with the workings of the monthly competition a list of detailed rules for the competition can be found here …
https://tcwgshortstories.wordpress.com/competition-rules/

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Pleasant writing and good luck. There are still a few teething problems (some more aggravating than others), but please persevere, and with Autumn approaching let’s try to get back into double figure entries once again.

Remember … help with your problems is available so please ask.

Jul/Aug 18 CW entry – I, myself remains to comfort me

There was nothing physically or mentally demanding about the task of picking up a mobile phone from the bedside table every morning. Lee’s waking ritual nonetheless remained a less enjoyable part of his daily routine. One corner of his brain constantly begged him to resist the habits of his time and avoid starting the day by beaming LED light into his irises from a distance of six inches before he’d seen any natural light.

Lee tried to get it over and done with as soon as possible. This meant tapping a couple of icons to check a news website, less out of genuine interest and more out of reassurance that he wasn’t in the dark about a horrible terror attack or sudden declaration of war. He no longer checked Facebook as it seemed to always have images of Natalia in some swanky joint with her new boyfriend.

Lee knew this day was going to be rubbish as soon as a ping had shook the phone and sent a flurry of words jumping down from the top of his screen.

Worse still, the name to the top left of the text flashed Tim/Meyson & Butler. Tim Morris! Having wasted the previous evening of his life taking this boorish middle-aged man out to a steak restaurant just because his insurance company was dragging their heels over a contract renewal, he had the cheek to write to Lee at 6:45 in the morning.

Lee squinted to read the text, puzzled at the unusual form it was sent in:

I love my hour of wind and light,

I love men’s faces and their eyes,

I love my spirit’s veering flight,

Like swallows under evening skies.

Sara Teasdale. No, means nothing to me, thought Lee as his tube train rattled clunkily, as if making a quiet and ineffective protest, away from Tooting station. Teesdale Logistics – he knew them alright, as they were the first client he had ever signed to the full system – he’d popped a bottle of champagne with colleagues as they took the train back from Durham. Sara Teasdale, an early 20th century poet though? Nope.

“Ribbit, ribbit!” Lee said as he chucked his unread free business paper onto his work keyboard.

“Ribbit,” mumbled the majority of the five other members of his team as they pounded their computer keys.

It was two years since Lee’s sales team, officially known as S102, were christened The Frogs by Malcolm, the company’s sales director. It was coined during a boozy speech at their summer get together. “Just when you think this hapless bunch have finally been crushed into an ugly mush underneath the shoe of a competitive marketplace, they find a way to bounce back like a slimy frog,” were Malcolm’s words – unusually positive for him. With the unspoken Führerprinzip reigning in the office, Malcolm’s questionable humour became unquestionably funny. Lee’s team itself had no alternative but to embrace the joke, painting their computers green and hanging giant paper tadpoles from the ceiling.

“Did you get lucky last night with Tim Morris?” asked a voice from behind a desk divider and screen.

“Christ, where do I start?” said Lee.

“With an answer maybe.”

“No.”

“Oh for fu- What’s that now? Three weeks without a single sale in the team?”

“The fat so-and-so was playing hard to get. Even though I threw 100 quid on the corporate card just for his steak and three bottles of wine.”

A female somewhere to Lee’s left groaned.

“I know,” Lee continued, “he was totally sozzled by the end but still kept his cards close to his chest. Kept on saying their procurement department would have to give a go ahead for an extension and they have a backlog.”

“Sounds like complete bull.”

“Slimeball as well. He told me during the third bottle that when they first signed with us they had a better quote from ComGuard but he decided to go with us as when we threw a thing for potential clients there was a receptionist with the best knockers he’d ever seen. Julia, he said. I don’t think we’ve ever had a Julia working with us.”

“Yeah as if ComGuard would ever give a better quote than us,” said the female to the left.

Lee opened his emails and almost jumped straight out of his swivel chair.

Right at the top of the list was a brief message with a red exclamation mark next to it sent at 7:29 am. “Quick progress check in my office asap thanks,” was the ominous mixture of words.

“You’re late, frog face!” said Malcolm, his face buried in some papers as Lee walked into the door of his office.

“Well, not really,” said Lee quietly. “It’s 8:18 and we’re not supposed to start till 9.”

“Hum,” said Malcolm, tapping the huge fingers of his hairy hand on the desk. “Suppose. Suppose. Suppose.”

“I suppose you’re right,” Malcolm added, finally looking up to Lee and grinning with all the might as if he’d just finished a particularly successful sketch on Live at the Apollo with a hilarious joke. “And I suppose your job title is something like Junior Sales Executive?”

Lee nodded, even though his title was Deputy Sales Manager.

“And would I be at all correct to supposeeee,” he added, smirking as he stretched the word, “that your job is supposeeeed to involve actually selling actual damn stuff?”

Lee nodded again, reaching out behind him to feel the nob of the closed door for comfort.

“Excellent,” said Malcolm with a smile, “you’re a little cleverer than your reptilian appearance would indicate. Except you still haven’t registered a sale after your meeting with Tim Morris yesterday.”

Malcolm waved his hand angrily as Lee started to open his mouth.

“I don’t want to know. Make sure that sale is done by the end of today or don’t even think about showing your face in here tomorrow. Ciao!”

As soon as he was back in his desk, Lee brought up the mysterious message Tim Morris had sent this morning on his phone and tapped to call him. It went straight to his voicemail. After a few seconds of crackling, he heard a woman with a Chinese accent say:

When I am dead and over me bright April
Shakes out her rain-drenched hair,
Though you should lean above me broken-hearted,
I shall not care.
I shall have peace, as leafy trees are peaceful
When rain bends…

The recording then ended abruptly with the tone prompting the caller to leave their message. It sounded like the recital had overrun the 30 seconds limit for a voicemail message. Lee called again and got the same message.

If the text message had been puzzling, this was nothing short of bamboozling. Shaking his head, Lee typed the first line of the poem into a search engine. Sara Teasdale again. A melancholy poem which was wrongly believed for a long time to have been written as a suicide note.

“Has anyone heard of Sara Teasdale?” Lee asked his team.

“Is she the one on Love Island with the, well you know?” said Mike opposite.

Lee leant back and his chair and thought. He had two hypotheses, both of which were pretty bleak for him. Firstly, as an intoxicated mess, Tim Morris lost his phone last night, which has since been happily claimed by a Chinese poetry nut. Or as an alternative, as an intoxicated mess, Tim Morris arrived at his posh house in the home counties, argued with his wife, got the boot and somehow ended up immersed in poetry with what he presumed was a lover.

But what about his office? Panicking, Lee dragged a drawer open at his desk and went rummaging through his haphazard collection of business cards, looking for Tim Morris’s office number. Predictably it was one of the last he pulled out. Relieved but fearful, he dialled the number on his office phone.

It rang about 50 times in three different tones, which didn’t sound too good.

“Meyson and Butler good morning!” said a semi-enthusiastic female eventually.

“Hello, is Tim Morris there?” asked Lee.

“Erm, he’s not actually in the office at the moment. Actually, could I ask if you are a business contact of Tim’s?”

“Yes indeed,” said Lee.

“Right, well. Something a little unusual is happening. We’ve been receiving lots of faxes with a well, rather naughty photo of Tim underneath a poem. Really a lot of them, actually. Around 500 so far, all identical.”

Having tried Tim Morris’s mobile 20 times throughout the morning, Lee decided to hit the road. He’d taken a note of the poem burning churned out incessantly by the fax machine at Morris’s office. It was another Sara Teasdale piece, the Rose and the Bee, starting with:

If I were a bee and you were a rose,
Would you let me in when the gray wind blows?

Lee had printed out copies of the three poems Morris – or whoever he was with – had recited on his morning of mayhem. Laying them across his desk he had studied any possible hidden messages, thinking if this were an episode of Sherlock Holmes it would all be some puzzle to be resolved by circling various words. There were several references to nature, and bad weather, wind and rain, but that told Lee nothing. Last he had known it was a lovely sunny morning. He peered outside the office blinds and saw that was still the case. No, this man had lost his mind, Lee thought. The one man Lee had to track down more than any other in his life.

Lee’s mind raced to think where he could look for Morris as he trundled to the underground station. The man had spoken to him for three hours over dinner the previous night, but Lee couldn’t remember being told anything about any possible hobbies or his private life. Morris had given his opinion on the new European insurance industry regulations around 12 times, so one idea Lee had was going to Westminster to see if had started a one-man protest about excessive tier-two capital buffers or whatnot. Lee dodged between stagnant tourist groups in parliament square without seeing Morris. When he became aware a heavily armed policemen was staring at him, he decided to move on.

Chinatown would be his next place to check, Lee decided, seeing as the Chinese lady reciting the poem on Morris’s voicemail message was just about the only clue to go on. He got the directions on his phone and arrived under the colourful arch after a brisk 20 minute walk. It didn’t take long to confirm there were no pot-bellied men in suits here either. He stopped for breath and realised for the first time he had broken into a steady sweat.

Lee had an instinct to sit down and think before making his next move. He walked into the first restaurant he came across – which just happened to be a black door leading into the Dim Sum Palace. He found a small table by himself and buried himself in the menu. Flicking through the pages without taking anything in, the absurdity of the situation dawned on him for the first time. Sure, he had done a few silly things to sign up clients before, but nothing quite like a hopeless chase around London in a forlorn hope of bumping into someone likely to be in a confused or maniacal state of mind. Do I have any choice though? Lee thought, with his eyes resting on a picture of a poorly presented but tasty looking bowl of crispy beef. This whole job had been one big wild goose chase, with sales targets always hovering out of his grasp. He could walk away and right into another sales job, but he’d start on a lower rung of this particularly unpleasant ladder with the knowledge he’d walked before he was pushed hovering behind his neck.

A pretty waitress of oriental appearance in a black t-shirt and leggings was peering at him over the top of the menu with a concerned look on her face.

“Does the name Sara Teasdale mean anything to you?” Lee asked.

“Haven’t the foggiest,” she replied, pushing a fork and knife out onto his place.

By the time Lee had finished his meal and reviewed the restaurant on Trip Advisor, it was late afternoon. He tried Morris’s phone again from the restaurant, reluctant to leave the dim and sleepy environment for the bustle and chaos outside. The same message. It had sounded like a depressing poem at first but became more soothing every time he heard “I shall have peace. I shall not care.”

Lee reflected that he now had one option to keep his job. With no hope of locating Morris and extending his deal, he could go back to the office and dial through all the contacts on his file until he had made enough sales to cover what the company was hoping to make from Morris’s insurance firm. With the end of the working day drawing close, that felt too much like swimming against the tide – more like plunging head first into choppy water and expecting to be magically carried to a tropical island rather than getting tangled in seaweed or hit on the head by a sightseeing boat. The only alternative was giving up, which the more Lee thought about it, had few drawbacks at all.

Lee strolled around the streets in search of an underground station. He studied some of the blank faces rushing past him and smiled. It felt like the slowest he had walked in years. He had the funny feeling that even though he had lost this particular battle, he was now winning some wider fight he couldn’t quite conceive or express in full.

He was lost in thought until he suddenly found himself at Tottenham Court Road, and continued to think as he dropped in line at the back of a giant procession of soldier ants heading down the escalator. What would Sara Teasdale have to say about that? He realised if he didn’t have to go to work tomorrow, he could go to his local library and read some more of her work. Maybe even take the book out to the park. Except the last time he’d been at the library, the experience had been ruined by a guy in an anorak at his table reading bible passages out loud, and the last time he’d taken a book to the park, a homeless guy had tried to befriend him. Not that I have anything against Christians or the homeless, thought Lee as he tapped his Oyster Card, but –.

The packed tube train had only wound out of the station when it stopped. “Heavy delays likely due to an incident at our control centre,” said the driver, to a chorus of groans. Before it had started again, the driver announced “we have a message we have been asked to play to you.”

A couple of high-pitched sounds that could have been made by someone wrestling over a microphone were played. Then a flat voice that Lee instantly recognised read:

Heaven-invading hills are drowned
In wide moving waves of mist,
Phlox before my door are wound
In dripping wreaths of amethyst.

Ten feet away the solid earth
Changes into melting cloud,
There is a hush of pain and mirth,
No bird has heart to speak aloud.

Here in a world without a sky,
Without the ground, without the sea,
The one unchanging thing is I,
Myself remains to comfort me.

Passengers’ eyes darted around the carriage at hearing the unexpected poetry recital – mostly in the hope of meeting another pair of eyes and forming an unspoken agreement, with a smile or shrug of the shoulders, on how to react. When the poem was finished, there were a couple of seconds of high-pitched interference before the voice returned.

“Good afternoon everybody. Or as it’s half four, I suppose that should be good evening to anyone lucky enough to get off work that early. My name is Tim Morris and I head the purchasing department at a blue-chip insurance company. And that, quite frankly, is it. My life, all my waking energies for the past 29 years have gone into helping a company almost drowning in money to not spend too much of it. I’ve been like you, stuck on an underground train every day for decades, kidding myself that it’s all worth it as I have a comfortable way of life and a good pension scheme. A final salary one, and there aren’t many more of those left. But that’s not the point. The point is, that’s not truly living. Last night, I had a horrible meeting with an arrogant millennial who thought because he could throw in some marketing term in every sentence that he knew something about life; about people. All because he wanted money from my company. I sat on a Circle Line train late at night, planning to read a presentation of the latest version of his rubbish software, when I noticed a book discarded in the next seat. A poetry book. ‘I haven’t read any poetry in 30 years since I was at school’ I thought. And I read it. And it was amazing! A fantastic American poet called Sara Teasdale. A little bit gloomy maybe, but that’s alright for me as I always liked The Smiths. I decided to stay on the Circle Line all night as I’d missed my train, talking to ordinary people just like you. I felt like a new man. I met a lovely lady called Kim Su from Korea, who I’ve decided to leave my wife for. It was like I was born again. That’s why I had to tell you all today. Get out now! Run, hop, buzz away little bees – while you can!”

“Okay please drop the gun now, Mr Morris” said a fainter voice in the background.

May CW entry – Take Me to Homebase

“Stone picnic table, we’ve got a stone picnic table! Stone picnic table!” roared Bertie the Birdfeeder, otherwise known as Colin, into the mic to the tune of Guantanamera.

When Colin was in full flow like this, everything apart from the microphone was coloured a hazy grey. The world in front of his eyes didn’t register at all. He had no power to process it while he channelled every last drop of energy he could muster into his vocals. It was a state unlike anything else in life. Was it Jagger who said ‘I take to the stage as a mortal, and somehow, after the show’s over, I go back to being a mortal again’?

If his eyes focused on anything at all, it was just to loosely scan the area of space in front of him for any incoming projectiles. Nobody had mentioned the Pint of Piss since Take Me to Homebase reformed, which just went to show what a big deal it was – the proverbial urine-filled plastic pint glass in the room. The incident itself, during Undergradstock ’07, was still hard to visualise – consisting as it had merely of a sploshy container sailing past the corner of Colin’s eye and a skipped beat from Gaz the drummer. The smell had lingered a little longer – right until Colin had applied a wet cloth to wipe his sticky amp cables the following week. The distaste had lingered much further still – up to the point Gaz said he had to pack it in to study for his exams, and well beyond.

If Colin had looked up back now in 2018 while he whittled his way through the first lines of Algae on the Patio, there would have been a few ways to interpret the scene. The lone drunk flailing around the dancefloor showed someone was appreciating the music. Colin may not have been too keen on seeing the glamourous young lady sat at the bar had her back to the stage. He would have been less pleased to see her mouth “who the hell are this bunch?” to the friend she was waiting with to see the Ed Sheeran tribute act. He may have appreciated the smile on the manager in the grey blazer, who today seemed to be fairly accepting of his lot of operating a struggling music bar, when Colin stretched out the chorus “So lusciously green, but I’m gonna scrub you all clean.” The manager’s smile was kind and only moderately patronising.

Colin’s focus on singing disguised the fact that this wasn’t a time he wanted to see how the world was reacting. The band felt too raw since reforming to look into the mirror of popular opinion. The question of whether the world was ready for a post-punk band singing about garden furniture remained unresolved, after all. He hoped it was a question they were now too wise to linger on, in their 30s, 11 years clear of the insecurities of youth and the bitter smell of lobbed urine. In reality, it was a definite stumbling block. The unique selling point that had energised them when they started – a gutsy revelling in weirdness that allowed every raised eyebrow to drive them on – had soured back at university as any form of success floated well out of reach. Now the band’s unique flavour was just – well, plain weird. Colin’s Take Me to Homebase T-Shirt was still locked away in the attic – it wouldn’t fit him anymore anyway – and Gav had clearly deleted the video of one of their earlier performances on YouTube, despite denying this. Presumably nobody in the band had told any friends or workmates about the comeback gig, or else more people would be here. Colin had only told his wife, begging her not to come. He had thought about telling his 18-month-old daughter but decided against it – maybe he’d share his experience with her after the gig, if it went well.

Why were they back together then? Whatever the answer was, it wasn’t explainable with simple logic. Tommy, the bass player, had written to the rest of the band out of the blue, sending a copy of some photos from the old uni gigs he had found in the attic. Jim on lead guitar had joked how “young and not that unpretty” they had all looked and asked if anyone still played or performed. Two weekends later, they were assembled in the spare bedroom of Gaz’s house, instruments and mic at the ready, sipping coffee, smiling and commenting on Gaz’s glazing, when once upon a time it had been cider, growls and comments on female students.

“Thank you, thank you, Masters Music Bar!” Colin shouted into the mic as the song ended. He didn’t bother pausing for applause. The manager had just taken his hands out of his blazer to start clapping by the time Colin turned and gestured to the other three to start the next song. Jim angled his guitar and stroked the strings to begin the solo that commenced Unblocking the Lawnmower at Sunset.

The morning jam at Gaz’s semi-detached house had quite simply been the most uplifting few hours Colin had spent in years. He had been nervous beforehand, unsure why they were putting themselves through this. Tommy had dusted down a book with the lyrics of all their songs in. They had laughed and laughed reading through them about the ridiculousness and downright mystifying nature of some of the lines.

“ ‘Glistening like snail marks on the fence, thirsty like a rosebush, I will thrive, I will fly?’ who the hell wrote that one?” asked Tommy during the jam session. Red in the face, Colin had raised his hand to laughter from the others.

Colin tapped into this energy from their reunion now that he was on stage belting out the soft tones of their penultimate song. Nobody had suggested doing anything more than this one comeback performance. Somehow it all felt a little more comfortable now than it had back in the day though. There were no longer any sky-high ambitions to be the most popular band at the university, to send demo tapes into Radio 1 or to work on new material instead of looking for jobs straight after graduating. In their second carnation, Take Me to Homebase seemed at ease with their status as no more than a molehill in the vast musical landscape. The unspoken, unconsidered reason (until now) for their reunion, Colin reflected, was to channel the creative energy that had gotten so tangled by the lust and idealism of male youth, so damaged by the inherent insecurity of their earlier selves, and allow this to flourish one final time in this smoother environment – so the band could end on a high.

Colin grinned with eager anticipation as Unblocking the Lawnmower at Sunset ended. Bertie the Birdfeeder was next – a slow, sombre tune to end the set. It was about a senile old man wandering into open gardens to feed birds until the police apprehend him for trespassing. Colin smiled with approval as the stern teenager operating the lighting for the venue implemented their instructions to dim it ahead of the chorus of “Ok, officer, d’ya have sparrows at the station too?” Colin closed his eyes, listened to his voice booming out of the speakers for a split second and heard Jim start his final, colourful solo, with more ease and style than he ever remembered from the old days. The dimmed lighting would have made it tricky to see much across the empty dancefloor, even if Colin’s eyes were open. Colin therefore missed the young man with a notebook in detailed conversation with the bar manager.

—-

Colin’s phone pinged the following Thursday at the office. A notification alerting him of another message from the band’s WhatsApp group popped up. He sighed, as he was currently engrossed in the accounts of a haphazard client, and he didn’t want to lose his mental note of various movements needing to be made in the Excel sheet.

“Interesting band reviewed in today’s Journal, wouldn’t mind watching them some day,” Gaz had written.

Colin tapped on the photo of the ‘Culture and nightlife’ page of the local paper, puzzled. Then he saw an obscured image of himself wailing into the microphone, and he smiled.

‘Something definitely different’ was the headline.

I won’t lead you down the garden path, Take Me to Homebase are not everyone’s cup of tea on a sunny afternoon in a deckchair. As quite possibly Chippenham’s sole horticulturally-themed post-punk band, they add an undeniably explosive element to the town’s placid music scene. The energetic days of youth may be behind the four members of Take Me to Homebase, but at approximately half the age of the Rolling Stones, they were still capable of getting Masters Music Bar bouncing. Synching raw experimental zaniness with skilled instrumental play and passionate vocals, their bold and extremely original music made this reviewer tap his feet even more often than he scratched his head. Colin Tuttelwell’s powerful vocals were accompanied with aplomb by Gareth Thomas on drums, James Duckworth on lead guitar and Tom De Souza on bass. Having reformed after a decade’s hiatus, the question of whether Take Me to Homebase will grace the town’s stages again remains shrouded in mystery – or whether it will be like Hendrix at the Isle of Wight Festival, and if you weren’t there to see them, you never will. The only disappointment is that their lyrics don’t extended beyond the topic of garden furniture. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Colin stopped at the newsagents on the way home, searching through the pile of Journals to find the best-looking copy. He read the review again and smiled as he handed over his one pound fifty. He briefly considered mentioning his fame to the cashier, but he didn’t want to appear boastful. She was also around 15 years younger than him and had the look of someone who would find a boast from an older man downright annoying and strange. He consoled himself with the knowledge his wife would offer her gleeful congratulations, and the paper could be stored away safely to show his daughter his moment of fame when she was able to read.

His phone buzzed again.

“Fantastic!” wrote Jim. “I don’t know if I’ll be able to jam again on a Saturday though as my little ones are starting their swimming again when term starts.”

“Yeah my boy’s taking up rugby as well this year! That’s pretty much the whole weekend booked up,” added Tom.

Colin tucked the newspaper under his arm to write a message. “Never mind lads, we had some fun while it lasted, didn’t we?” He then skipped out of the newsagents’ door.