Writer, artist and musician, Pasha du Valentine, blogs everyday from her studio in the UK.

Thursday, 28 November 2019

Simplicity by Pasha du Valentine


Simplicity



The alarm went off with its usual gusto and Mary trundled, heavy-footed, across the room. She hurdled with athletic ease, straight over the large sleeping cat making her way to the loo. Then, true to form, popped the kettle on and shoved two pieces of toast into the toaster still half asleep.

The rescue, who was called Simon due to a previous owner, was a cat with a catalogue of neurosis and allergies whom she adored. He lay sprawled across the shaggy rug over the underfloor heating and, just as he did every morning, miraculously avoided being trodden on by his busy owner. He was used to her now. He trusted her, finally, after the early teething problems where her strange behaviour had put into question all the had learned about cat ladies. He had assumed cat ladies were either virgins or frigid, many were broken hearted even and, quite often, bookish. Simon loved their books. They were so warm and comfortable to sit on.

Unbeknown to his new owner, Simon had had a lot of other owners in the past and had moved around a lot. The last rescue hostel was unsure of his history, which was actually much harsher than they had guessed. Simon had known fear, death and abuse in his eight years on earth. He had seen ‘stuff’ and it had affected his view on the world. But now things were going well and he couldn’t believe his luck. He was in a great neighbourhood and there were no hooligans in these parts. He had heard about other cats being used for dogfighting bait and it was a worry for everyone at the shelter. Simon had not been able to eat and had experienced dramatic weight loss until that pivotal moment when he had purposefully locked onto Mary’s eyes and tried to look sad. It had worked, of course, and he was rehomed with her within a week.

Mary was nothing like her holy namesake. There were gentlemen callers from many cultures who spoke to Mary through her laptop. That laptop would get very warm and it made Simon quite envious but Mary would rarely let him lay on it for long. He would keep trying because eventually Mary would cave in. They had an arrangement about things. If she ever wanted to take a photograph of him on her mobile phone, he would allow it if he was on the laptop, otherwise, he would clean his nether regions whenever she tried.

Simon had had to do a lot of things to get rid of male guests from his new home. Usually peeing on their heads in the night was the best way not to see them again. Once he had had to pass a motion inside a denim jacket but it had not deterred the male who kept coming back. Seemingly, the dirty protest had failed. Simon had had to use something he had not relied on before, violence. The man ended up having a tetanus injection but he never returned. It was a near miss, Simon thought, but he had never really got over it. Now, when people came to his flat, he would watch them with an internal panic, fretting over his future.

Mary had finally left for work after a stressful fight against time.

Simon looked at sun. It was Tuesday, Sandra’s day off, he’d best get himself off post-haste.

Sandra was a more traditional cat lady but was currently unable to have her own cat due to a harsh boyfriend ruling. Simon considered it his social duty to visit and eat the treats. Sandra went all out, no expense spared. But these meetings had to be in secret for obvious reasons and Simon would always be slightly on edge in case they got caught. It could mean the end of things. Life was so precarious, it always had been and it occasionally made Simon depressed, though the treats were a great distraction from these heavy thoughts.

Simon stayed for an hour which was more than he wanted really. Sandra was very intense and he didn’t want to miss Julie, three doors down.

Julie had felt sorry for Simon as soon as he moved into the area but already had four cats so couldn’t take him on permanently. (Simon had a colleague who had two permanent owners and he had heard of a cat who juggled three! Of course, that may be an urban myth because juggling that level of commitment could mean, horror of horrors for a free spirit, being locked in for long periods of time.)

Simon flew into Julie’s conservatory panting. He tried to find his bowl, a white ceramic affair with paw prints, standard issue as one would expect from someone like Julie who didn’t seem to breaking any moulds. But the bowl was nowhere. He searched around the outer perimeter with no joy and he began to stress, scratching the areas on his body that were most affected by his stress allergy. He lifted his nose up high, sniffing in the mixed aroma of several resident cats and some food matter. If it didn’t come soon, he would need to leave. Jack and the new kitten would be expecting him.

Finally, after some calling and pained meowing, which generally worked well on cat ladies and even cat men, brunch arrived. Simon managed the whole bowl before running off in case Julie came back expecting cuddles. Cuddles were tempting but so were other things, and the time was getting on.

Crossing over the big road that cut through the village, being in a hurry and not concentrating after an excellent bowlful of the best cat food and gravy money could buy, Simon mistimed his leap to a wall. The car which had almost run him over pranged into a wall by the post office.

Simon did stop briefly to watch the mayhem as it was exciting to have this sort of thing happening. Besides, there was a dog going crazy and he loved to watch the crazies.

Annoyingly, it began to rain. Simon was not likely to make the next bit of the trip for a while so he took shelter under a bin outside a Chinese restaurant. Sometimes, there was a stray bit of chicken or some prawns lying about so he would check it out. No such luck today as the bin men arrived just as Simon was settling in for a quick nap. He really needed a clean too and began the slow process of getting into all the nooks and crannies. Simon was very particular about his appearance and grooming put him at ease if anyone was causing his anxiety levels to rise.

Suddenly, the bin started to move and Simon had to dart between black hobnail boots and a pile of maggots. The boots were successfully navigated despite some humans shouting and the maggots demanded a second look. Simon checked them out but didn't much fancy them so he darted off. The sun was straight above him now and the cloud had cleared. Time to get to the caravan.

Then something took his eye, a swift movement to his right, and there it was again. Ah, now this temptation was far too great. Simon caught a whiff of mouse and went straight in for the kill. It took longer than usual as the mouse was stealth and crafty. The chase extended around a large courtyard with a great deal of cover that was inaccessible for a cat of Simon’s girth. He worried about his weight and had noticed that some of his ladies were now feeding him less tasty foods with lower fat content. Others though seemed to enjoy his roly-poly-ness and cuddles came fast and frequent. Perhaps there were two types of cat ladies, those that liked him fat and those that liked him lean. Simon tried not to worry about his looks, it was shallow and he preferred to use his mind than his body to attract humans.

There had only been one incident where his tummy had impacted negatively on his life. A silly and somewhat embarrassing cat flap episode. But the flap had removed and Simon never saw the resident again, a very attractive white Persian female. Life goes on, he had philosophised. Their relationship was simply not meant to be.

The mouse was now scared and made a run for it across open terrane. It was poor judgment as Simon, although fat, was a nimble tiger in open terrain. The kill made Simon feel his inner worth and he wanted to show it to Mary. But there was still a lot to get done before home time so after nearly an hour of showing off to no-one, Simon hid it behind a plant pot for another day. Then he shook some muck from his thick coat and gave a quick lick of his paws. Deep cleaning would have to wait.

Time to get to Jack’s which was across the troll bridge where the house with the barking dogs imposed its reign over the smaller houses. Simon had to limber up for a tease. The dogs were unable to escape so Simon particularly loved to walk slowly across the top of the double gates pretending to be scared. If you pretended to be scared the dogs were even more mad. It was highly amusing and today he fancied being even more provocative by stalling on the gate and spitting at them. It was thrilling. It was stressful too of course and Simon wondered if he was some kind of dangerous adrenalin junky.

At Jack’s, the reception was warm and convivial. The caravan was a great playground and Simon and the kitten (called midnight due to its colouring) was a great partner for tag, hide and seek, and Simon’s favourite, chase the chicken feather.

This level of physical exhaustion, however, took its toll and by mid-afternoon Simon was feeling his age. He should get back. Mary went to bed early and once or twice he’d been locked out. He also liked the underfloor heating at Mary’s and, if he was honest, he had had some feelings for her that he could not explain. Of course, Simon was damaged by previous loves and found open shows of affection difficult. The fear of losing Mary often woke him in the night and he had had some bad dreams. He felt now that he wanted Mary to be his forever human but he feared completely letting go.

The journey home was a short cut Simon ordinarily avoided. He was rudely interrupted whilst minding his own business and keeping his head down, by a stray cat from the Tunnels. The Tunnels were where the feral cats hung out and had access to old pipelines and sewage networks. The Tunnels were dangerous and the feral gangs were hard as nails. This cat answered to the name ‘Tyler’ and was huge, in the muscular sense. Simon had heard that a run in with him on his turf would lead to problems.

Tyler wasted no time and with only a few moans and spits went straight for Simon’s head with both paws at once forcing it to the ground. Simon had never come across such dexterous cat boxing.

Simon screamed hysterically calling Tyler a big fat bully and used his weight as his only weapon against the violent onslaught. Fortunately, he managed to escape Tyler’s grip running for his life. It was a close call and Simon’s anxiety shot through the roof and made him itch for a good five minutes.

Simon stopped in Mary’s garden to check himself for any visual injuries. He really did not want Mary to know about the fight or to stress about things, so he cleaned himself up hoping that the small cut on his lip would not lead to infection. The vet had pretty much abused Simon on several occasions already and he really didn’t need that in his life at the moment. Simon took a few moments to breath and to think of calm things before his anxiety brought up his allergy again.

At home Mary got under the duvet and patted it a few times, demonstrating, without any shadow of doubt, that it was definitely cuddle time.

This really was Simon’s favourite part of the day.

‘Oh Simon, what a terrible day I had, so stressful....’

Mary continued sharing the many dramas she had experienced at work. But Simon wasn’t listening. Besides, his purring had become so loud that he could no longer hear her voice. He felt her warmth though, and after some preparation of the duvet and several circular movements to establish the likelihood of maximum comfort, Simon settled into his bed. Of course, he would have to leave later when Mary would suddenly become a sauna and toss the duvet off unceremoniously with him on it. It was worth the disruption and Simon felt sure that Mary would grow out of these hot flashes in the night.

Mary leaned over,

‘Oh Simon, if only my life was like yours, a life of simplicity,’ she said.

Then she kissed Simon goodnight on his warm forehead and leaned over to put the light out.



© 2019 Pasha du Valentine / Goddamn Media

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Audio Books by Goddamn Media

Some amazing short stories are being uploaded each day here and on the Goddamn Media website.

The Cafeteria by Pasha du Valentine


Bunnie hopped her way down a long corridor. The bright lights were blinding her and she had a headache. She was in a hurry. The walls were lined with celebratory portraits of animals and insects from all over the world; intricate batiks and weaves as well as paintings in ostentatious frames. The high ceilings and open views from the large windows made her nervous, jumpy. Frankly. she would be glad when this was over.

Someone startled her, trotting up from behind, clippety-clopping loudly. They overtook her, turning to look at her huge brown eyes. It was a man with long grey hair. He shimmied his main proudly and smiled before clippety-clopping ahead in worn black shoes that had seen better days.

Bunnie smiled back, nervously. She needed all the support she could rally, being a stranger here.

At the double doors, a woman waited. She looked Bunnie up and down with a supercilious stare then looked at the door.
Bunnie felt awkward and was uncertain of her next move. Should she barge passed? She stopped briefly and lent forward to open the door, waiting for the stranger to go through.
The woman just looked at Bunnie then turned away to glance outside through an adjacent window at the view. Then, just as Bunnie tried to make her own way through the door, the woman leapt in front of her nearly tripping her over.

Bunnie called out a mild expletive and the woman turned around and hissed something back at her, running off to the food area.

Bunnie was feeling agitated. She had been told to meet someone called Ratindra.
Apparently, she was distinctive looking because of her very long nails.

‘You can’t miss her,’ the concierge had added, ‘she has sticky-out ears too and sits watching everyone from a table in the corner by the drinks cooler.’

The cafeteria was large and busy. There were people all around; running, walking, sitting, some slow, some fast, some skittish, some brazen, some reading, some eating. There was a lot of noise too and Bunnie wondered what they all did here, this diverse group of characters all having refreshments in the cafeteria. There was a lot to take in.

Bunnie spotted Ratindra at last, who was just as the concierge had described.
‘Hi Bunnie,’ said Ratindra, ‘We have been expecting you.’

‘Hi,’ Bunnie replied nervously, ‘what is this place, why am I here?’
Ratindra wiped something off her cheek with the back of her hand and scratched her long nose.
‘Ah, have they not explained? Let me go over things. This is the pre-metamorphosis area. This is just where you come to sort out paperwork before your change.’

Bunnie looked confused.
‘Sorry, I don’t understand.’
Ratindra wiped her cheek again and started nibbling her long nails with her front teeth.
‘Interesting,’ mused Ratindra, ‘where are your papers?’
‘Papers, what papers? I don’t have any papers. You mean like a passport or something?’ asked Bunnie, now feeling self-conscious.

Ratindra sighed.
‘Wait here,’ she said, ‘I will be right back.’
A few minutes later Ratindra returned with a colleague.
‘This is Camila, she said,’

Camila was a top-heavy lady with a hunchback. She had long fluffy eyelashes and as she read her notes, repeatedly flared her nostrils. Ratindra offered her some water which she declined.

‘Just to clarify, Bunnie,’ said Camila, ‘you don’t have your notes?’
‘No,’ said Bunnie, with a sigh. ‘I was just told to come here immediately after the prang in the car.’
Ratindra and Camilla looked at one another. Ratindra spoke first, ‘I think we may need to speak to Eddy,’ she whispered, ‘there may have been yet another bureaucratic balls up.'

Eddy joined the group ten minutes later giving Ratindra and Camila a great big hug. He was a large rotund man with lots of facial hair and a bounding gait. He moved down to hug Bunnie too, who panicked, but then realised he needed to be professional in the circumstances and sat down instead to look through his stack of papers.

‘So, Bunnie,’ he said, in a deep baritone voice, ‘do you understand where you are and why you are here?’
‘No,’ said Bunnie, fidgeting and beginning to feel anxious.

‘Let me explain. I am sorry if this is shock but you are dead. This is the metamorphosis centre where you are booked in for your transformation into your spirit animal.’

‘Dead!’ shouted Bunnie, ‘but I am here and very alive thank you very much.’

‘Hmmmm, no not really,’ said Eddy, you were killed twenty minutes ago in a car crash.’

Bunnie thought for a minute and looked down at her body. Something wasn’t quite right.
Things were misaligned and there was dried blood on her dress. Suddenly everything hurt.
‘So, what happens now?’ she asked, beginning to fear the worst. Do I find out if its Heaven or Hell or something? What exactly IS the procedure?’

Suddenly a man came running over excitedly, jumping from one leg to the other. He ran off again to grab a clipboard then ran back to table where he finally and sat down.
‘Hi Camilla, Hi Eddy, Hi Ratindra, Hi Bunnie,’ he said panting, ‘I’m Heinz, very pleased to meet you.' Heinz lifted his hand purposefully but clumsily and put it on Bunnie's, so she shook it obligingly assuming it was protocol.
‘Look, there seems to be an issue Bunnie,’ he said.
‘You don’t seem to have been allocated a spirit animal for your metamorphosis today.’
Bunnie looked at Eddy and said, because she could think of nothing else, ‘well someone isn’t doing their job properly are they?’

The four people opposite her gasped in unison. Heinz licked his lips and avoided eye contact. Camilla snorted, Ratindra twitched and Eddy rubbed his eyes.

‘No, Bunnie, you see, it isn’t us, it’s you,’ said Heinz. 'You need to choose your spirit animal before you die otherwise you can’t go through to the next level of metamorphosis. This is basic. You have really been remiss. It’s surprising as you are already an adult. Most people know early on and certainly decide before they get to the cafeteria.’

Everyone stared at Bunnie.
‘So, what now?’ She asked, also feeling concerned about being dead.
Ratindra spoke. ‘You have to go back,’ she said. ‘It’s disappointing I know. The spirit animal phase is really so much better than the human one. But you will get another chance Bunnie, eventually, I promise. You just need to open your heart.’

Camila, accidentally spitting again, added, ‘you have probably just been too busy dear.'


The loud sirens woke Bunnie up with a start. People were running around making a fuss.

‘You’re Ok love, ‘said the paramedic, lucky miss if you ask me. Let’s give you the once over in the ambulance to make sure nothing is broken and get you to the hospital.'
‘Did I pass out?’ she asked.
‘Just a few seconds love, so we need to watch for concussion. It’s a big shock, a crash like that. Airbag and seat belt saved your life probably.’

A few days later when Bunnie had returned home, her sister came to visit. All her many siblings and extended family had been visiting in an endless caring stream and she had been busy serving nibbles and refreshments now for days. It was exhausting. She was really looking forward to some alone time.

‘I’ve brought you a surprise,’ her sister said excitedly. ‘You spend way too much time running around and working. It is time to take things easy. But I think you need to have some company to share the quiet moments and someone to love when we are not here.’

She presented Bunnie with a large cardboard box wrapped in red ribbons.

‘Go on, open it’ she said.
Inside was a warm fluffy ball looking up at her nervously. It the most beautiful long-eared baby rabbit Bunnie had ever seen.

'I saw him and thought of you, you were made for each other,' said her sister.

Bunnie gently lifted him out, enraptured and filled with glee. She held him in her arms like a newborn baby and shed a tear of happiness.
Then the two new friends rubbed noses and stared into each other's big round chocolate eyes for a very long time.

© 2019 Pasha du Valentine / Goddamn Media

Sunday, 24 November 2019

Silence by Pasha du Valentine



Mr. Jackson was born an anxious human. His mother was a neurotic and had passed the relevant genes on to him; the sensitive gene, the nervous gene, the overthinking gene, the obsessive gene and various other genes that provided the perfect cocktail for what his shrink called, ‘being on the spectrum’.

There had been various treatments.

Mostly, the drugs masked things rather than cured the problems. The electric shock treatment had failed to leave any lasting mark other than some skin burns, which were, apparently, associated risks. And the talking, the Cognitive Behavioural Therapies, were frankly part of the latest problem. The shrink had an annoying voice and she would interject unexpectedly and too often.

‘You see, it’s the noise, Doctor,’ said Mr. Jackson, grimacing with a hand holding his head in despair.

‘It’s just everywhere, it’s so very loud.’

This Doctor seemed empathetic and his voice more bearable.

‘Today,’ Mr. Jackson continued, ‘when I left the house, the door slammed behind me and it was so loud it hurt my head. Then there was the weather, the wind and the rain. I couldn’t hear myself think, why, I almost went back inside.

Then, as I approached the main road, the traffic seemed to target me, as if the noise was mine and mine alone. As if the cars were revving their engines and beeping their horns especially for me, in front of me, next to me. It was an orchestra out of tune and out of time. There was no rhythm or tone, only dissonance and off beats.’

‘Have you tried earplugs?’ asked the doctor.

‘Well I had them in already,’ said Mr Jackson. ‘They don’t work at all anymore. Not like they did at first.’

‘How often are you wearing them?’ asked the doctor.

‘Oh,’ said Mr Jackson, ‘all the time, I can’t possibly be without them now. My head would burst with the pain of it all.'

‘And work, how is work?’ asked the doctor, looking more concerned.

Mr. Jackson looked forlorn. ‘It’s not good Doctor. I find the chattering unbearable. It’s a gnawing in my head, like a rodent chewing at my cerebral cortex. Especially the laughing; the laughing and the shouts are like stabbing in my eardrums, like they are jumping on my skull.’

‘And when you are home, what happens there?’ asked the Doctor.

‘Well, I have stopped dating because of the shrillness. They all sounded like a bad opera with the endless chit chat and that siren chanson. And when they hoovered and clattered, it felt they were trying to kill me.’

The Doctor nodded in sympathy asking, ‘have you tried turning off appliances? The TV and your phone?’

‘Yes of course Doctor, but then I hear the neighbours, every movement, and the heating thunders, then the walls start.’

The Doctor looked quizzical.

‘The walls?’ he asked.

Mr. Jackson tried to explain. ‘I think it may be the electrics. There is a buzz, and this white noise. But it is a black noise, I know it’s black.’

‘So,’ said the Doctor, ‘have you heard of the new Silence Plugs?

‘Yes,’ said Mr. Jackson, excitedly, ‘I saw them in a magazine. Will they help, Doctor?’

The Doctor got some leaflets and a 3D model from the cupboard of a cross-section of an ear.

‘The plugs block out all sound and have been most successful in trials. The procedure is fairly straight forward. The cavity, here,’ the Doctor pointed, ‘is filled with expandable resin. No sound will ever get through, not a bomb blast even. We guarantee complete silence.’

Mr. Jackson looked delighted.

‘Oh, how wonderful, why, this is exactly what have been looking for Doctor.’

The three week wait till surgery had been excruciating.

The bus journeys were the worst. A living hell of screaming babies, the incessant chatter of busy mothers, old ladies gossiping. Why do women make so much noise wondered Mr. Jackson? He counted days till the quiet came, and finally, it was here.

After the surgery, Mr. Jackson woke to a beautiful silence the like of which he had never known. There was nothing, absolutely nothing. The silence was omnipresent and encompassing. It enveloped his every minute, hour and day. It was the silence of sleep.

Mr.Jackson had been learning sign language and had a notepad for important communications, but to be honest, he did not need to speak or to be spoken to. His work was computer-dependent and the Silence Plugs, for which he wore the logo badge, generally stopped most people annoyingly trying to disturb him by talking.

For nearly a week the silence was golden. Mr. Jackson was in a land of solitary quiet and it was blissful.

But then he started to hear something.

At first, Mr. Jackson was unable to pinpoint what these sounds in his head were. But, after a few days, when these new sounds became more regular and increased in volume, to the point of annoyance, he began to realize.

There was the swishing, an annoying sea of frothiness that ebbed and flowed. It was, of course, his blood as it rushed past his inner ear to and from his heart.

Then there was his actual heart. It was so loud sometimes, like a gong in the night. And if he thought about it, or became anxious, the booming worsened, got quicker and louder, like a battlefield, Tchaikovsky on loudspeaker!

But worse than these things, much worse by far, was the inner voice.

Mr. Jackson had no idea from whence or where it came. He had never heard it before.

The voice went on and on, all hours, annoying him, nagging him. Do this! Do that! You should have done this, why didn't you do that? It was never-ending. It would surely send him quite mad.

‘Doctor,’ said Mr. Jackson, ‘I need the plugs removed. They simply haven’t worked out for me I’m afraid. They have made everything much worse. I want things back as they were.’

The Doctor looked surprised shaking his head. He took out his notebook from the desk drawer and wrote slowly and in determined fashion using non-cursive capital letters, ......

'I AM SO SORRY MR. JACKSON, DID NO ONE TELL YOU? THE SURGERY IS COMPLETELY IRREVERSABLE.'


© 2019 Pasha du Valentine / Goddamn Media

Saturday, 23 November 2019

Happiness

I am happiness
Red and Gold
A sight to behold
A celebration
Dripping velvet trimmed in sequins glinting
I am summer's sun and autumn's breeze

I am happiness
I am a cat
Purring
Brushing its whiskers across your soul
Asking for love that only you can give

I am happiness
I am that first time
First drug
First touch
First high before the low
A buzz lost in time
A summit climbed
Inside your mind

I am happiness
I am memories
Dipped in toffee fudge nostalgia
Footprints
In a past that marked your being there
You really were

I am happiness
I am sickness gone
Cancer cured
Recovery
Mended
Fixed
Reborn
A renaissance dream

I am Happiness
I am purpose
Excitement
Filled with future’s hope
Success about to happen
A breaking Mould
A story not yet told

I am happiness
I am real
For you
Invisible yet true
I will take you on
My disciple
My protégé
An unsung heroine
And we will basque at last
Together in the strobes of light
That mark your life


© 2019 Pasha du Valentine / Goddamn Media

Vintage by Pasha du Valentine


Charlotte walked into the bistro and looked around for her date. She was a little nervous. Style had never been her strong point and she felt old fashioned and awkward. But Charlotte was brave today. She had been thinking about this day for a long time.

This date had made her hopeful after the barrage of unsolicited images she had received on her phone since she had begun her journey through the tawdry labyrinth of internet dating.
It had felt like some kind of cattle market, or zoo mating program. Charlotte’s mother had told her that certain genes were of prime importance and that she should look out for them. ‘Before one’s pleasures darling’, she would say. ‘Height, income, zero maintenance payments, one doesn't need baggage my dear.'

Several disastrous dates had almost been enough to put off the rather naive country girl from the all girl's grammar school.
The dates so far had been orangutans, Charlotte, on the other hand, was a gazelle: wrong species, wrong conservation program, back to the drawing board. Fortunately, Charlotte had been in the Brownies and was made of determined stuff.

James, today’s date, was funny, trustworthy (as far as the internet can suggest at least) and very very handsome. Charlotte had been shy of asking personal details about his work and previous relationships for fear of being labelled a gold digger, despite her mother’s suggestions. There remained an air of mystery that was privately exhilarating. Charlotte had quite gotten in a frenzy of the heart and loins. There had even been sleepless nights.

Charlotte entered the café but her date was nowhere. Worried and now even starting to perspire, she tried the garden. It was a bright summer’s day in a leafy part of London. People were looking. She began to tense up.

But there he was, a tall gentleman with the chrysanthemum in his lapel and the now-familiar quiff of speckled grey hair. Charlotte had made one of his photos, embarrassingly, her screen saver. He must never know. He was somewhere in his mid-forties with a look of Ernest Hemmingway, her favourite author; rugged yet polished, warm and paternal. His clothes, Charlotte duly noted, were tailored and crisp and this pleased her. So many men these days let their grooming go, she thought.

James looked older than she had anticipated and she wondered if he had put up some old photos or had been using the lens filters too much. She hated that and was momentarily disappointed. But she was here now and the sun was shining and James was devastatingly handsome, with beautiful teeth which she had not noticed in his photographs. It was hard to tell for sure without her spectacles but his hair seemed thicker and slightly greyer and his face less full. But perhaps she was being unduly harsh, everyone looks different in real life. We have all put up more favourable images of ourselves than we deserve, people just do these days.

‘Hi, James,’ she said louder than she meant, holding out her hand to greet her handsome dapper date.

'It's me, Charlotte.'

There was a slight pause before he spoke and returned the handshake. Charlotte, seemingly the more experienced of the two, tried to be the one to guide the mood.

She raised a brow expectantly. Perhaps James was overcome with how great she looked after all.

Finally, the discomfort broke with an interjection from James.

‘Forgive me, Charlotte, of course, how rude, please, please sit down, be my guest. Would you like a glass of something? Champagne, or Pimm's, we could get a jug.’

James spoke quickly and nervously and Charlotte found it endearing. Things were looking good.

‘Oh, yes please, that would be lovely.’ she said, feeling less anxious.

James seemed efficient and well-spoken as he ordered the drinks. Charlotte made herself comfortable in the chair and tried to relax.

‘So,’ said James, excitedly, ‘how has your day been?’

Never one to shirk on a lengthy anecdote, Charlotte launched headfirst into a convivial monologue.

Thankfully James was a great listener and he studied her face at length as she shared the drama of her day so far; how she had left her bag on the bus with her spectacles and her phone.

James seemed genuinely interested and concerned and he laughed at her witty banter. Things were going so well. There seemed an endless amount to talk about. The jug of Pimm’s was topped up again.

The conversation came around to modern life and dating.

‘So have you ever had a date from the internet?’ asked James.

It seemed a strange question as the internet was where they had met but the Pimm's and the flirting were taking over. Charlotte was simply not thinking straight and it was fantastic.

'Just a couple,' she admitted, 'how about you?'

Charlotte had assumed that James was a bit of a Jack the lad, a forty-something Peter Pan, but here he was, blushing.

‘Well, I never have really, just not my thing.’ said James.

At this point Charlotte, desperate not to come over as a cheap available tart, as mother had warned, lied brazenly.

‘No, no, nor me, not my thing either.’ she said, and justified in her mind that this was not a lie as she would never internet date again.

There would be no need, for James was the one.

He was so handsome here on the terrace, sun shining on his swarthy skin, second jug in. He was delightfully old fashioned, gentlemanly, with robust morals and traditional values. He was well travelled and had so much to talk about. He was effortlessly attentive and unpretentious. And he talked about opera and the classics. Men today did not seem to do that anymore.

They spoke of adventures and shared ideas and attitudes. There were so many things the two had in common; politics, religion, hopes for the future. It was as if they had been specially picked out for the breeding program and the zookeepers had been right.
Charlotte, despite herself, was smitten and she hoped the day would last forever.

Then, suddenly without warning, a man rushed up to the table shouting and looking agitated.
It looked like James!
‘Charlotte, hi, Dad, hi, what are you doing here? Guys, what a nightmare! Charlotte, you didn’t answer my messages! You met my Dad? This is incredible, Dad, have you been looking after her?’
This James was flustered and panting.
‘I got here as soon as I could, Charlotte, I am so sorry, you know work stuff, I’m just glad you stuck it out and waited for me.’
James senior was as confused as Charlotte. They looked at each other wondering what was going on.
James Junior, throwing his hands in the air said, ‘Dad, what are you doing here? How on earth do you know Charlotte? I had no idea!’
James senior looked sheepish, ‘Erm, well, I just thought Charlotte was chatting me up, and I was very flattered. I mean, she seemed to know me from somewhere so I just went with the flow. It was very exciting if I am honest son.'
James junior laughed loudly and looked Charlotte hard in the eye. ‘Charlotte, explain yourself immediately.’
He laughed to alleviate the rising tension and slowly, shaking his head said...
‘Charlotte, don’t tell me you thought this old codger was me!’
Charlotte was still grappling with the reality of her fundamental error.
‘Well, you look so similar, and the chrysanthemum....erm...and I lost my specs.’ Charlotte’s words trailed off and she weighed up fight or flight scenarios.
‘We always wear the chrysanthemums, family tradition, explained James Junior.
James senior fidgeted in his chair, ‘Well I must apologise, son, I really had no idea, please forgive me. Would you like a Pimm’s?'
James Junior was no longer laughing but neither was he angry. Something in the way his dad and Charlotte looked at one another, the way they sat together, the way they complimented each other, was right; just perfect.
Charlotte, a traditional English rose, looked at James senior and smiled despite not knowing what would happen next.
James broke the silence again and laughed and laughed, ‘You bloody old codger!’ and as he turned to leave with a sense of dignified resignation, he said still laughing,
‘I can’t compete with that vintage, an excellent choice Charlotte’.
© 2019 Pasha du Valentine / Goddamn Media

Ambidextrous by Pasha du Valentine



Amber had worked in the charity shop for many years and it showed.

Her friends called her second hand rose and she had not bought anything new for four years.
Sure, she was stylish, in that vintage worn way that was cool casual, hipster chic. But there was no real glamour in Amber’s life.

Her apartment was the same. A collection of curiosities that were old and worn, lacklustre reminders that time marches on and nothing lasts forever. There was a musty smell about her that made her seem older than she was and some days, even she forgot that she was still only in her twenties.

‘Oh my God, shush,’ said Paula, hissing from tight lips, ‘it’s her.’

‘Who?’ asked Amber, wondering why they had to be quiet now a customer had entered the shop.

‘The Madam’, Paula whispered.

Paula was new to the charity shop and had proved to be the font of all local knowledge. If there was gossip to know or to spread, Paula was the go-to informant. Paula knew everyone’s business and she was willing to share it with everybody else.

The Madam, domineeringly majestic, was escorted by two young men, barely eighteen, the ones that swagger, ones that Amber had never had dealings with. They wore expensive street clothes that you would never find in a charity shop. She was dripping in gold jewellery and wore a faux fur and cashmere double-breasted coat. Amber knew clothes. It was the sort of coat you saw on the catwalk or on famous people when they got papped. Her red lips looked as if they had been lacquered and her lashes cast shadows across her angled cheeks.

The Madam, flanked by the boy-men, approached the counter and Paula winced then pushed Amber forwards.

‘Good afternoon Madam, erm no sorry, yes, Madam.....oh...’ Amber stuttered, unsure of the etiquette when meeting a Madam, and screwed up her face in an agonising grimace.

Paula threw a look of despair and mouthed that she shut up.

‘Some clothes darlings!’ bellowed the Madam as both of the boy-men ungracefully shoved two large bin liners towards Amber.

‘Careful boys,’ said the Madam, she can’t take both at once.’

‘Oh’, said Amber, ‘It’s fine, I’m ambidextrous’.

The Madam looked Amber up and down, tilted her head and raised an eyebrow. ‘Are you now?’ she said.

Amber, now holding two large bin bags, blushed at the attention; then the threesome turned around and left as swiftly as they had arrived.

There was a pungent scent of Chanel and lemonade aftershave that remained.

Paula looked stunned and put her hands on her cheeks letting out a girlish squeal.

‘Well let’s open it then,’ urged Paula, ‘out the back though...in case.’

Amber knew exactly what the warning was about. A bag of donations from a Madam was the most thrilling thing that had happened since the 1970s Gucci trunk from the dead actress last year.

The pair were not to be disappointed.

The contents included a range of designer and sexy clothes that any prostitute would be proud of.

There were leather dresses, latex mini-skirts, stripper shoes, even a feather duster. The Goddess of sluts had descended on the village and gifted the secret armoury of seduction.

Amber spent everything she had. Even with her staff discount it had been a small fortune. But she dreamed of how fabulous she would look tonight at home as she paraded in front of her antique gilt mirror.

Amber had always wondered what it would be like to be a prostitute. Secretly she had fantasised about the power it would give her to seduce men; to make them putty in her hands. She had thought too about how she would spend her money because she secretly thought that she would be an excellent prostitute. They would call her Amby Dextrous because she could stimulate two clients at the same time, and of course, she would earn twice as much as all the other prostitutes in the brothel.

But, of course, Amber was not a prostitute. She would never have the nerve, and besides, how do people start? She had no idea what the procedure was. And now she was old and she was plain and life was passing her by.

But things were about to change for Amber.

A week or so later the Madam returned to the shop. She looked like a gothic queen, a superstar, an icon of taste and style. People stared. She had that movie star quality Amber saw in magazines and on the internet.

‘Are you free for a coffee and a chat darling?’ asked the Madam.

‘Well I am due a lunch break so yes, now, if you like,’ said Amber, wondering what the madam could possibly want to talk about.

‘Car’s outside darling, chop chop!’

The car was a fancy sports car and the driver was another good-looking boy-man in denim who drove them to a café.

The Madam was straight to the point once the designer hot chocolates arrived.

‘I want you to work for me Amber. I can make something of you. I have spotted potential and I can use you. I will pay you top rates plus bonuses. If you do well, I can set you up with a nice car and you will be able to afford anything you want. Buy your mum a house if you like. The world will be your oyster Amber, if you stick with me.’

Amber was not sure what to say but didn’t want to sound too keen. She held back for a moment.

‘Can I call myself Amber Dextrous?’ she asked.

‘Yes of course. All my people have a pseudonym. And you will love the team, they are all fabulous, friendly and supportive. They will welcome you and guide you through the system. You will pick it up quickly, it’s not rocket science, and what with you being ambidextrous darling, you are really someone I can use. Gives me an edge, know what I mean.’

Amber didn’t need to think it through. She was single, bored, poor and getting older. Life was a drag and this would change things for the better.

It was arranged that Amber would start on the weekend when Madam had briefed the team and prepared her space. Apparently, there was some equipment coming especially for Amber that would fully utilise her skills.

‘What should I wear?’ asked Amber.

‘Whatever you feel your best in darling’, said the Madam, this is your time now.’

Amber had handed in her notice at the charity shop and put together her most sexy outfit; a mixture of shiny separates and thigh-high boots that said she meant business. She was every man’s fantasy, and every woman’s envy.

Upon arrival at the house the Madam greeted Amber excitedly, taking her coat and welcoming her into the sumptuous and palatial home.

‘Wow,’ said the Madam, ‘look at you girl, sexy miss! I do love a girl who isn’t ashamed to be herself. I hope you will be comfortable in that.’

The Madam laughed a little and Amber felt self-conscious. Perhaps she should have worn the nurses' outfit from Anne Summers after all.

They walked down a long corridor and then down some stairs. The lights were dimmer and the walls were padded. It seemed they were underground. Then there were strange noises that Amber was not familiar with. There were screams and shouts and music.

The Madam opened a large heavy door to a darkened hot room.

There were four large PC screens along a wall and three boy-men seemed busy on consoles, engrossed and seemingly in robotic trances. One wore headphones and all were completely disregarding of Amber’s arrival.

‘Right, Amber,’ said the Madam, ‘this is your unit. We have dual controls and a double mouse system especially developed for ambidextrous gamers. The tournament is about to start. Just relax and do your best, but remember Amber, we are all depending on you. This is really your training ground and after this tournament, we get really on it. Big money at stake. I have faith in you Amber, but don’t let me down. Welcome to the team.’

Amber looked around as one of the gamers glanced up and waived his console to say hi.
Then he returned to his game without even looking at her boots.


© 2019 Pasha du Valentine / Goddamn Media

Tranquil by Pasha du Valentine


Sarah answered the door.
The Priest smiled and Sarah let him in.
Immediately, without taking off his coat, he said

‘Yes indeed Sarah I can feel a terrible energy here. But I can help you now. Let us begin.’


David sat alone in a dark room. There was a table and another chair and a light hung from the ceiling, swinging, creaking. He hurt all over, it was the dull ache of disaster. It was cold, very cold. He put up his collar and folded his arms in an attempt to keep out a determined draft. There was dried blood all over his shirt and jeans which he couldn’t disguise. How long had he been here? He couldn’t be sure. This room was familiar now but the hours, days and months were not his own. He hadn’t been able to think straight and concentration after the incident had been sporadic. He wasn’t even sure when he had last eaten.

There was a door on either side of the room, to his left and to his right. He wondered if he could just get up and leave but some unknown force made him stay put. He would wait it out, besides, he was exhausted, he no longer slept.

In Sarah’s house the Priest lit candles and incense all around. He went into each room and recited prayers and passages of scripture. Sarah was not a Catholic but her situation had driven her to ask for help. Her life was almost beyond liveable. Her friend had recommended the Father who would guide Sarah through the process.


In the cold dark room the door to the right opened suddenly.

‘Hullo, hullo, David. Now, how are you this fine day?’

A man in a heavy coat and scarf entered the room. He was jolly and spoke in a thick Irish accent.

‘Well, now then, it’s not the warmest place is it?’ he continued, rubbing his hands together. ‘Ah forgive me’, he said, ‘let me introduce myself, I am Darragh O’reilly, and I am here to help son, only to help.’

Darragh walked to the side of the room and put on a heater.

‘That’ll warm us up soon enough he said,' pulling the chair out on the opposite side of the table and making himself comfortable.

‘A nasty business this David, but we can sort it out. Just tell me what happened, in your own time.’

David looked at Darragh whose kind eyes were pools of hope glistening in the half-light, and then he began.

‘We used to be OK, me and Sarah. We had some great years. She was funny, you know, quirky. Not a girly girl, one of the lads. I liked that.

We had been friends first, from school, did you know?’

Darragh smiled and nodded slowly.

‘Well, things changed, you know, when she got this new job, and she started wanting more. I wasn’t really enough, you know, she wanted a better car, better house, better boyfriend. I really tried, long hours, lots of overtime. I loved her, wanted a family, to live and die together. Simple, normal.

She started moaning. Always fucking moaning. Home is supposed to be calm and tranquil, not stressful. It was a battleground. I lost my job and things got worse. More fucking moaning. Screaming sometimes, so the neighbours could hear. Trying to make me feel bad when it was her fault I was getting angry all the time.

Then this one Saturday, I admit I was a bit pissed, I’d been watching the football. England had lost so that pissed me right off. You know, I was tense, you know what it’s like. I’d run out of beer so I messaged and asked Sarah to pick some up from the offy; she was already out shopping, would have been no bother. Well, she forgot Darragh, I mean one thing was all I asked, one fucking thing.’

Darragh looked sympathetic and nodded slowly. David felt solidarity and continued.

‘So, she gets in, no beer, and starts going on about the rubbish. I hadn’t put it out see and, yeah, well I guess it was stinking but I was distracted with the football. She starts yelling right, said I looked like a dosser, like a vagrant. Said I was a mess and she couldn’t bear to be near me anymore. She was all tarted up, smelled of fancy perfume and had new shoes on, like a right dog’s dinner she was. Fucking slag.’

David looked down at his bloody hands. A tear rolled down his cheek, then he sobbed like a child.


The Priest fell to his knees on Sarah’s living room floor calling the unwelcome spirits in the house to leave in a chant-like song.

Sarah had never seen an exorcism before and felt a chill through her body and a wave of nausea. She assumed it was fear. The lights flickered. A door flew open and something in the kitchen fell to the floor.

Sarah ran towards the kitchen but the priest yelled.

‘No, be still child!

Exsúrgat Deus et dissipéntur inimíci ejus: et fúgiant qui odérunt eum a fácie ejus,' the Priest was chanting in Latin.

A gust of air surged through the house.


Darragh put his hand on David’s arm.

‘It’s OK David, I am not here to judge, only God judges. Tell me everything.’

The sobbing had stopped and David continued.

‘I was just so fucking angry. I just grabbed her by the neck and pushed her against the wall. I was so close to her then, closer than I had been for ages. I could feel her breath on my cheek. I almost kissed her but I head-butted her instead. I didn’t mean to do it so hard and she was bleeding. I could smell the blood. But she spat at me and I just got angry so I punched her in the face. There was so much blood, it was pouring from her nose and her brow. There was a big cut. I watched her bleed for a bit. It dripped down her neck and over my hand and I licked it. I wanted to taste her blood. I loved her you know, really loved her.
She was quiet. It was so peaceful without her rabbiting on about all that shit. I was squeezing her neck still but I released it a bit because I thought she may be dead, that I’d killed her. I didn’t want to honestly.


Everything in Sarah’s house began to rattle. Things were moving about, flying at speed through the air and being thrown around the room backwards and forwards. Things were breaking, pictures falling off the wall and mirrors cracking.

The priest carried on shouting despite the danger of a hundred objects hurtling through the air.

‘Let God arise and let His enemies be scattered: and let them that hate Him flee from before His Face! As smoke vanisheth, so let them vanish away: as wax melteth before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God.’


‘Carry on David,’ said Darragh, ‘keep going son, keep going.’

‘Well, then she said I was pathetic and I couldn’t help it Darragh, really I just went mad, I lost it then completely. I bit her lip really hard. It was like meat, her lip in my teeth, I could feel it coming off in my mouth, felt all her blood on my tongue.

That’s when she did it. She picked up a knife, from the side. She stuck it right through Darragh. Straight through my heart. I mean, how could she?

It didn’t hurt, like a punch, then hot. But I knew, I knew I was a gonner.’


The priest stood up in Sarah’s living room and moaned. Then he opened his eyes. The wind had slowed and things were no longer flying about.

‘Well David, it is good that you have told me and I know you will feel better for it.’ said Darragh.

Then he took off his coat and David saw the white collar of a priest.

‘Do I have to go?’ He asked. ‘Yes David you do, I am here to guide through the door.’ Darragh pointed to the door on the left which was opening. There was a bright light beyond it like a summers’ day.

‘But don’t be afraid David, beyond the door is salvation. Let me take you now.’

Darragh took David’s hand and escorted him to the door. David dropped to his knees.

Darragh spoke in prayer, ‘God our Father, I believe that out of Your infinite love You have created David. In a thousand ways he has shunned Your love. David repents of each and every one of his sins. Please forgive him, Dearest Lord, Amen.'

Then he kissed David’s forehead and led him through the door.

Sarah’s house was quiet. There was a phenomenal calm that had never been in the building before. The pain of all that had happened was lifted and gone. There was peace here now.

‘Has he gone Father?’ Sarah asked.

'Yes, Sarah he is gone to Jesus, and he has found peace in forgiveness.'

‘So what happens now?' She asked.

The Priest looked at the young girl, her face scarred and her eyes sage,

‘I will hear your confession and be on my way,’ the Priest said ‘for all that is tranquil has been resolved.’

© 2019 Pasha du Valentine / Goddamn Media

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

The Riverbank by Pasha du Valentine


Great Aunt Katherine had been seemingly on her last legs for about thirty years. Since I could remember she had been shrinking and creaking and swaying in the wind. Finally, she was gone and was currently resident in a casket for public viewing before burial later in the day.
We had never got along.
She was caustic and bitter and complained about everything. She irked me to the core.
None of us liked her and we seldom got in touch. Mum had fallen out with her years back and the connections rusted and corroded like old batteries. Damage had been done with emotional weaponry and unrepentant intent.
But in death people rally together to do their duty and triumphantly, one hopes, they ignore the fallout from the battleground.
The undertaker had worked a treat. Great Aunt’s hair was spruced and pompadoured like a grand poodle and someone had done a great job on her makeup. In repose, I thought I saw in her some beauty. I had never seen it before in her. How, I wondered, had I not seen it before? Perhaps then, it had been the light.
It was stuffy and death makes me nauseous so I took myself off for some air in the Lancashire sun.
The grounds of the estate were rambling and pretty, cared for by a team of gardeners and gamekeepers. I followed a winding road, then a desire path through an accidental arch of higher foliage. Birds sang and I noticed the accidental grace of an untouched place.
‘You wanna be careful down there luv,’ said a man with a thick accident and clobber befitting a man who works on the land.
‘Oh, where does it go, this path?’ I asked.
‘Just by the riverside, it’s dangerous if you lose your footing; and don’t be tempted to swim in it, there’s wild currents, people ‘av drowned.’
‘Ok,’ I said, ‘I’ll be careful’.
‘Make sure you are, shout if there’s a bother’.
I objected to be being told and marched arrogantly on.
The riverside was a reedy unkempt place and the water seemed almost still. I doubted anyone had drowned there. I followed the bank upstream for some minutes and saw a beautiful glade just inland covered in bluebells. The blue-purple velvet tones in the late sun were breath taking and I stopped to take a photograph on my phone.
I misjudged the bank and as I stepped back, cascaded down the steep slope, twisting my ankle as I landed with little room to spare before the water’s edge. It was a close shave. I would probably have to eat humble pie after all.
I stroked my foot; it was sore and I assumed I had twisted it. Reluctantly I called for help without trying to sound panicked.
Something had stabbed on my way down, something sharp. I was bleeding quite badly from my thigh.
I looked up the bank amongst the flattened grasses and saw something. It shimmered in the sun’s rays.
A bellowing voice broke the silence.
‘Are you alright? I told you to be careful din I?’
It was the gamekeeper doing his job, thank goodness.
‘I was trying to take a photograph,’ I explained feebly. ‘I hurt my ankle’.
‘Stay put, if you think you can follow a simple instruction. I will get my car and the first aid kit.’
The gamekeeper muttered several gripes and made his way to prepare for an overly dramatic rescue mission.
I waited as instructed and looked at the shiny object, it was a large red and gold brooch with an open bent pin. I must have stabbed myself as I tumbled down the verge.
It was tarnished and dirty but I could see it was gold. The stone looked like ruby, but I cannot profess to being an expert. It wasn’t paste, that much I knew. It was big and I was pleased to have found it immediately wondering if it was worth anything.
I began to polish it on my skirt, breathing hard on it and trying to remove the muck. As I did so I could see a small clasp and a hinge.
I tried to prize it open but it seemed to be stuck. After some brute force the clasp released.
Inside was like a locket, squared off. There were two photographs. One side, a picture of a young woman, a beautiful young woman and a young man with dark eyes. The woman’s hair was mounted in pompadour fashion on her proud dignified face. They were lovers, you could tell.
The other was a picture of an infant in swaddling clothes.
I tried to take out the photos but the baby picture was stuck fast. The other came out easily and inscribed on the reverse in tiny handwriting was my great aunt’s name, Katherine Baltimore and a date, 1938.
I looked again at the beautiful woman in the photograph and there I saw her as I have never seen her before.
‘Alright, old tight!’ shouted the gamekeeper.
The rescue mission passed off with ease and we trundled along the road towards the house in a four by four that looked and smelled like things were growing in it.
‘How long have you worked here?’ I asked.
‘Nigh on sixty years,’ said the gamekeeper.
‘Did my Aunt ever marry?’
‘No no, she was broken-hearted as a young girl, so they say. Had a love, apparently, died in the river there. I told you dint I?....don’t get close to the river, it has a jinx it does, I’m tellin’ ya, and your ma’ld never forgive me should out ‘appen.’
We arrived at the house to a general fuss about the state of my health and I was taken to be ‘fixed up.’
Mum was not pleased and came to my room to reprimand me in that maternal way mums do.
‘Why did you go to the riverside? People have drowned there!’ she exclaimed.
‘I wish people would stop telling me that’ I said in disgruntled fashion, ‘and who was it, Great Aunt Katherine’s boyfriend? I can’t believe she ever had one, looked like she hadn’t ever been laid with that scowl.’
‘That’s unkind,’ said mum.
‘Oh yeah sorry, I shouldn’t speak ill of the dead. But she was such a bitch.’
Mum sat down on the bed next to me.
‘Well, I may as well tell you, it won’t do any damage now, I suppose.
Your Great Aunt was such a rebel. She had this red hair. My great-grandma used to say it was the hair was the problem. There was a boy here, employed. He was rough, son of the gamekeeper who rescued you.’
I raised my internal eyebrows at the word rescue but listened intently.
‘My great-grandma knew he was going to cause trouble because he had those eyes.’
‘What eyes?’ I asked
‘One’s that make you want to lie down and take your clothes off, that’s what eyes.’
‘Oh. Those eyes......’ I said, knowingly.
‘Well,’ mum continued, ‘they struck up a very intense relationship but it was never going to work. Everyone was up in arms about it. They were different people, different class, different upbringing. Those eyes were not going to solve the problem.’
‘So, what happened? I asked, desperate now for the full story.
‘Well, your Great Aunt ended the affair but he took it badly. They say he jumped off the bridge upstream where the two rivers meet and his body was washed up here, by the bluebell glade. He had been drinking, no one really knew what had happened.’
‘But she had a baby,’ I said.
‘Yes, how did you know? It was stillborn. At the time it was all for the best.’
I went downstairs to look at the coffin and say farewell to a great aunt who had felt such pain and loss. I looked at her face embraced in the sumptuous cream satin. Great Aunt Katherine looked content, different to when I had seen her this morning. I wondered if she would have wanted me to keep the brooch and considered its value. But I knew that that would be wrong. She would want to be reunited with her baby and her love with the lay down eyes.
I put the brooch on her lapel and kissed her forehead. Then I apologised and said farewell.
© Pasha du Valentine/Goddamn Media 2019

Thursday, 14 November 2019

When you need slaves, don't pick on the elderly!

I am currently off work due to exhaustion related depression, oh and did I mention a possible stomach ulcer, and cancer, and, what is the other thing, oh yes, arthritis.

I am surprised I am alive.

And it is for this very reason I am on a personal mission to get the retirement age for women down to the reasonable age of fifty-five.

I know what you are all thinking: where did she get fifty-five from, thin air?

I have worked all my life to such extreme levels, not least when I toiled in the basements of life's gutter housing with four screaming brats at my ankles, hems, and breasts. There was not a day went by that was spent luxuriating in that wonderful holiday destination of 'nothing to do'. I have never been there, I have no idea what it is like.

Twenty years ago, when I was but a fledgling of thirty-seven, I looked forward to by retirement at sixty. Ah yes, thought I, there would be world travel, a dark prince from another continent, yoga and gin. What was not to look forward to?

My last child is around twenty-six. I cannot be specific, my mind is going as I am now what the kids call quite old.

Theoretically at least, though this did not work in practice, I have been child-free for eight earthling years. This is the period of time I have devoted to trying to be a millionaire, it was catch-up time. I had devoted my life to the fickle foursome, with no financial or physical assistance from two dead beat fathers. Personally, I think they should be paying my pension. 

Making a fortune has proved harder than I thought. I went bust and got cancer.

Back to the drawing board.

I am cured of the cancer at least (for now) but here is the thing with getting older, things get worse, not better.

It begins with the skeleton, then the organs, and sometimes the brain. Even your skin gets up after you in the mornings.

I am not complaining about getting old. I plan to be the face of the feisty fifties, until I am sixty, when I will find another clever alliteration. I am still socially vibrant, in touch with current intellectual thought, and most of all, I am wise. There is not much I don't like about getting older, except getting old.

But I am complaining about being put to work in B and Q like some favour, under the banner of 'keep them occupied' when really it is a political drive to get us to pay for our own medication. I do not need to be occupied, I need a bloody rest.

A recent government report has looked into the viability of raising the retirement age to seventy-five.

I can only think of reasons why this is a flawed plan in women over fifty-five.

We are physically falling apart. I personally see the doctor at least once a week.

We know best. Women over fifty have been there, done it and got the tee. This makes us unfit to deal with the public, especially youth, which can be defined as anyone under fifty.

Our country owes us. We created or supported a generation of children, either through our wombs or breasts, or through schools or hospitals; we were your dinner ladies, your ticket collectors, and your cleaners. We mopped your brows and your spew. We listened, we cared, we took action.

You made a promise that we could have a rest and then stole it from us.


I am not suggesting for one moment that women over fifty-five should not work at all. But I am suggesting that we should be allowed to make the choice and that those choices should be acceptable to us. I quite fancy an hour a week in the Chanel concession at Boots, when my arthritis isn't playing up, when my menopausal hot flushes are at bay and when my grief over how I wasted my life in violent unstable relationships is at the back of my elderly and confused mind.

You guys cannot erase the history of our use, or the vibrancy of our current existence, cancel our deployment, and then make us slaves to the market economy. We won't let you.

Pasha du Valentine
© 2019 Goddamn Media







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