Twelve Days: an epic epistolic saga of unmanageable gifts

I’d already posted this over on the Erotica Readers and Writers’ Association website, but it’s pretty safe for work – until the twelfth day 😉

Hope you have fun reading.

On the first day of Xmas, my true love sent to me… a wanker with a spare key.

Dear Darling

I hope you landed safely in Riyadh and that you got a decent night’s sleep after the rough journey.

I found the sweet little note you left on the kitchen table—you have twenty-four gifts organised for me? Wow! One day at a time, eh? It’s a good thing I work from home; I can catch all those delivery men.

However, as grateful as I am for the imminent arrival of lovely pressies, I would’ve really appreciated it if you could’ve warned me about ‘Spud’ (what’s his real name?)

I realise that you’ve served together and that he needs a place to stay for a couple of weeks, but he gave me a bloody great shock by arriving while I was in the shower. Literally! He apologised for needing the loo in an emergency, but he didn’t show much sense of urgency while washing his hands and face. That man cleans himself at the speed of a sloth giving himself a pedicure. Thank goodness for frosted shower glass! Let’s hope this has just been a case of first-day teething problems. I’m sure he’ll settle in.

Right – I’ve got dinner to make, so I’ll email tomorrow.


On the second day of Christmas my true love sent to me… two dirty gloves

Hi love, quick text to say thanks for the first pressie. I love the pre-loved gauntlets. They’re very robust. I’m sure that if I ever need to handle a batch of thermite cacti then I’ll stay very safe, lol. Am we getting a stove? I’d love a stove. Some of our neighbours have applied to have one installed and they keep going on about not having to pay for heating anymore. Warm nights by the fire sound ideal to me—especially with that dodgy door leading out to the roof terrace.

Spud made an effort to apologise for springing in on me yesterday by bringing home burger and chips from Tony’s Takeaway. It was a nice thought but—alas, like the gloves—the chips had clearly been ‘pre-loved’ between Tony’s place and my front door.

Hope you’re getting through your first day okay. I know it’s always rough when you go back on tour. xxxx

On the third day of Christmas my true love sent to me… three French hens!

Evening Dan

I hope you had a good day setting up and that you won’t get sent out to some grim fox hole straight away.

I now understand the gloves! The three French hens arrived in the early afternoon, and I needed the gloves to round them up and get them out of the kitchen. Damn, their claws are sharp! They also move surprisingly fast once released from a cage. For the time being, they’re hanging out on the roof terrace. I had to nip out this afternoon to buy them a hutch (no idea what you call an enclosure for hens), and spent a good couple of hours trying to build it.

Spud isn’t hugely fond of the hens, I’ve noticed. He complains (without a hint of irony) that they’re ‘messy.’ Hmm. Sorry. I WILL try to stop complaining about my sudden house guest. If he could replace some of the red wine he’s been working his way through, then that would be grand.

Are the hens safe with pizza, by the way? I’ve noticed that pizza certainly isn’t safe around THEM.

Much love. I’ll try to call tomorrow.

Donna xxxx

On the fourth day of Christmas my true love sent to me… four calling birds

Hi Dan

Just a quick note to say thanks for the calling birds. I’m afraid they turned out to be quite temporary presents. Spud left the door of the roof terrace open when he went for a smoke and the birds made a swift exit, stage left. The hens didn’t follow them, you’ll be glad to hear. Mind you, it’s probably a good thing that we don’t have seven birds roaming around the apartment. My neighbours slipped a passive-aggressive little note under my door this evening, asking me if the ban on pets had been relaxed.

You have the greatest imagination for gifts but I’m not sure our flat is really designed to accommodate quite so much wildlife 😉 (gentle hint).

Right, I’m behind on my work so I’d better spend a few hours catching up. Love you lots

D xxxx

On the fifth day of Christmas my true love sent to me… five gold rings!

On the sixth day of Christmas my true love sent to me… Six geese a-laying


I know things got heated on the phone, and I’m sorry we argued. But I did try hinting that I couldn’t take on any more animals. Goose eggs might be great for Christmas, but the bloody geese aren’t. They’re like miniature forces of destruction. I’ve already had to sell two of the five gold rings to cover the cost of repairing my furniture and getting the carpet professionally cleaned.

It’s all very well telling me to put the geese on the roof with the hens, but these geese:

  1. are unexpectedly murderous – we only have two French hens now
  2. aren’t having any of this sit-in-the-cold rubbish. They like being warm, it seems.

We managed to get all six of them outside, but after their streetfight-showdown with the hens, they lined up by the doors, giving us death stares through the glass. Even Spud was freaked out in the end. Sorry love, but tomorrow morning, those geese (and the hens) are going straight to the park on Millbank, where they can squawk, cluck and screech to their hearts’ content.

On the seventh day of Christmas my true love sent to me… seven swans-a-swimming




Attn: Captain Daniel Forrester


Stop it with the bloody birds STOP 

Swans are fucking evil STOP

Send me one more bird (or creature) and we’re finished STOP


On the eighth day of Christmas my weirdo sent to me… eight maids a milking


I’m tempted to email your CO and ask him to send you for a psych-eval.

What in the name of the fat noodly fuck am I supposed to do with these maids? WE DON’T HAVE ANY COWS! We don’t even have any room for them to sit anywhere, let alone stay here. They’re just wandering around the flat, clenching and unclenching their fists, looking lost, libidinous and weird.

Spud’s cheered up for the first time in a couple of days. He’s convinced he can get at least four of them to ‘milk’ him. He’s an annoying git, but I’ve seen the ‘goods’ and can understand why he thinks he’s a two-maid job.

I’ve spent the money from gold ring #3 on minibus hire so Spud can drop the maids off at various railway stations tomorrow.

I missed my publishing deadline, by the way. Thanks a bunch for keeping me so busy.

D x

Ps: please, please tell me that there aren’t any cows coming? That should be a stupid question, but I wouldn’t put anything past you anymore.

On the ninth day of Christmas my dickhead sent to me… nine ladies dancing

Dan, allow me to summarise. Nine ‘ladies’ dancing in the corridor = eight morally offended neighbours = 7 formal complaints to building management = six rude messages left on my voicemail = five equally irate messages left on their voicemail (I’ve blamed you, by the way) = four dancing ladies being arrested = three arrested ladies demanding I pay their bail = 2 hours sleep last night, and one furious EX-FIANCÉE.

On the tenth day of Christmas my ex-dick sent to me…  ten lords a-leaping

You immature tosspot! The last thing I need while I’m packing is a bunch of drunken peers flinging themselves around the flat. I don’t know WHY I even answered the door.

I’ll be as glad to leave Westminster as I am to leave you. Spud was my hero today. Using a cattle prod, he persuaded all ten lords to make themselves useful by carrying all my boxes down to the moving van. It seems that Spud doesn’t like being leapt upon any more than I do.

On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love sent to me… eleven pipers piping

Joke’s on you, buster. When you get home, you’re homeless. We’ve been evicted. Spud has found a two-bed apartment in Lambeth. I’m moving in with him.

Have fun sweet-talking the bailiffs and reclaiming your worldly goods from

On the twelfth day of Christmas, your ex-girlf sent to thee… twelve drummers coming

Hi Dan!

Thanks for your call. I couldn’t make out much of what you were saying—you really ought to shout more slowly when calling overseas—but I gather that you objected to the early-morning bukkake shower.  Spud and I both felt that, after so many angry messages, we ought to try showering you with love and affection. I’m only sorry we weren’t there to see you receive your unexpected bounty. And in answer to your question, yes, the drummers will follow you around, alternately drumming and coming for the rest of the day.

I trust there will be no more xmas gifts from you.

Be well

your ex, Donna xxxx

Your ex, Donna xxxx


The Curse of the Him-bo

In my writing group, we dedicate every sunday to posting ‘flashers’, which are microfictions of 200 words or under.

It’s bloody difficult! But I gave it a go this Sunday, and thought I’d post this just for fun. 200 words on the nail.

Oh – and for those needing a slang translation, a ‘himbo’ is a male bimbo (good-looking and well-built, but with nominal substance between the ears).



Trains will pass through this station in the imminent future. I won’t recite ALL the details, because you can find them on the departure boards. This is an on-time service from Brighton to Gatwick. Don’t leave your baggage anywhere stupid, or we’ll blow it up.

Greg rolled his eyes as the PA system fell silent. “Malc’s gonna get himself fired one of these days.”

“So… he didn’t get laid last night?”

“He got cock-blocked by an off-duty bouncer.”

Barry grimaced sympathetically. “Dangerous Dave?”

“No, some him-bo with tats.”

“Bugger, poor Malc. Never chooses well.” Barry sighed. “Who was he trying to pull, anyway?”

“Girl called Phili.”

Barry grinned. “Frisky Phili?”

“Mate, you’re the nickname obsessive.”

“Describe her.”

“Curvy, tall, long blonde hair.”

“Pricy threads? Sluttish chuckle?”

“Er, yeah…”

“Oh dear.” Barry snickered, rummaging for his phone. “Dear, oh dear…”

Greg watched as Barry sent a rapid text, cackling to himself. He sipped coffee until Baz was ready to share the joke. “Well?”

“I’ve just told Malc—”

The PA system boomed into life. “Next train ahoy! Have a fantastic day, you lovely, lovely people!

Greg blinked up at the speakers. “Told him what?”

“That Frisky Phili is Dangerous Dave’s bird.”


New release from Big Ed Magusson

I’ve always been suspicious (and not-so-quietly envious) of writers who can throw out a whole novel in a matter of weeks. When I come across others who’ve finally launched their story into the wild after much agonising, re-thinking and revision, I feel as if I’m among other mortal humans. I find that far more encouraging.

Big Ed Magusson is a seasoned author who is also fellow member of my online writing group, Storytime, over at the Erotica Readers and Writers’ Association. I’ve seen this story in its first iteration, and then later as a fully-developed novella, so I was delighted to see that it has finally gone into print.

Here’s the blurb!

Master James, seasoned Dom and gourmet extraordinaire, craves a taste of something new. The BDSM scene bores him the way warmed over scrambled eggs disgust him. Once known for his creative food play scenes, he now wonders why he’s even attending BDSM events at all.

Submissive Sapphira, also food obsessed, seeks a strong guiding hand. Emotionally expressive and with a fondness for spankings, she’s heard the tales of Master James and hopes he still ‘has it.’

James happily shows her how food, spankings, and bondage can delightfully mix. But to win her heart, he must overcome his scars from the past and her secret compulsion, while walking the line between too much control and not enough.

I caught up with Big Ed a few days ago to see how he’s doing now that ‘Hungry’ is available for purchase.

Emotionally and psychologically, ‘Hungry’ seems incredibly real to me. Did you find this story prodding you and hassling you until you got it written?

Ed: Absolutely, as you well know. 😉 This story started out with the vision of James walking into the dungeon in Chapter One. I based it on the Thunder in the Mountains BDSM convention, which has had a huge play room in the evenings. Before I knew it, my subconscious had introduced him to Sapphira and we were off.

So nice to have such a cooperative subconscious!

Ed: Originally, the story was a novella (the current Part One). But after sharing that with ERWA and others, I realized the story wasn’t really done. We had a happy-for-now ending, but it was awfully quick.

Your story shows James overcoming an unimaginative slump and bringing himself back to life as the revered Dom he once was. Redemption and self-reinvention are themes that will resonate with a lot of readers, though a tiny proportion will find themselves walking in James’ shoes in their lifetime.  Many a writer may need help being hauled from the depths, though. What’s your best advice for people suffering writer’s block?

Ed: We have two ‘types’ of thinking: creative mind and analytical mind. The critic lives in the analytical mind. Most of the time when I see someone who’s blocked, it’s because they can’t make the transition to creative mind and let the subconscious spill out through their fingers. You have to shut that front part of your brain up. There are a lot of ways to do this, from setting the mood (background music, etc.) when you write, to giving yourself permission to have a ‘crappy first draft’ (if that’s what the analytical mind is scared of), to simply writing every day at the same time so it becomes a reflex.

The big one that works for me is switching stories. If I’m blocked on a particular story and don’t know what comes next, I’ll go write something else. That usually frees up the stress and then a week or two later, I’ll be in the shower and go “Oh! That’s what comes next in the first story!”

What was the first thing you got published?

Ed: Ever? An article for a game magazine when I was in junior high. Under this pen name, my first sale was “A Mall Tale” to Ruthie’s Club, about a middle-aged guy who gets rewarded for covering for a young woman having sex with her boyfriend in a changing room.

James is allowed five items to make up his Dom’s treasure chest. To make his dreams come true – what’s he allowed to put in there?

Ed: James would want a blindfold and his gloves. That’d give him the most flexibility for teasing his sub and for administering over-the-knee spankings. After that, he’d probably add handcuffs. The last two would be food of some sort, and the exact food would depend on the scene he had planned. He’s particularly partial to very flavorable bites that are hard to eat while handcuffed. 😉


If you could learn any foreign language fluently in six hours through dodgy science, which would you pick?

Ed: French. I’m the only one in my household that can’t speak it.

For me it would be Dutch so I could do a better job of teaching my son, and cope better while visiting the out-laws! Okay – so with ‘Hungry’ on the loose, what’s your next project?

The next project out of the gate will be a mainstream fantasy novel under a different name (which means, alas, I can’t talk about it here). As for erotica–that’s hard to say. If something grabs me like James does, that’s next. Otherwise, I expect to dabble here and there as the mood strikes.

Happy dabbling, and thanks for talking to me! Keep me posted on that mainstream fantasy novel. 

Folks – this is a great read. Buy links and cover immediately below 🙂


Amazon UK:

Amazon Canada:


Barnes & Noble:


You don’t scare us…

I think deaf people suffer as viewers of movies. And no, I’m not talking about access to cinemas, though I could rant from 9-5 about the lack of access to subtitled films showing at family-viewing times.

But! That’s not the thrust of this article; I just want to talk about how subtitles can make or break emotional engagement in a movie, depending on the level of effort invested by the captioning team.

Briefly, let’s talk about Titanic. There’s not a great deal of mystery with this film; the boat is going to sink. Visually, it’s fantastic, but of the several times I’ve seen this on TV, I’ve seen very different moods in the way that the dialogue and plot are conveyed through the captions. Phrases like the ones below suggest that the subtitler is beginning to resent the length of the film:

“Jack!/Rose!/Jack!/Rose! Etc”

“Rose STILL screaming for Jack”

“Hoarse Rose whispers ‘Jack’ repeatedly”

The last one tickled me because the tone suggests that she’s given herself laryngitis with all that screaming. However, there were some really diligent efforts to convey the many noises produced by the ship just before it snaps in half and plummets into the icy depths (alarming groan; unnerving creak). The iconic sound-track was given minimum attention with the repeated phrase “solemn music” bracketed between two little note icons.

So… what happens with horror movies? A few months ago, Netflix arrived in my home, along with the limitless supply of horror movies in their back catalogue. I’ve seen a few films that made me want to hide under my blanket, but I’ve largely been thwarted by less-than-invested captioning. Examples:

  • Creepy music [splendid]
  • Unconvincing ghostly laughter [unconvinced viewer too, now. Cheers!]
  • Dull thud; disturbing creak; indistinct muttering; sinister whispers; guttural moan; rasping sort of sound [coming from where, please?]
  • Creative descriptions: fearsome squeak; wet, slappy sounds; hums like possessed vacuum.

Wow. Those just have my blood running cold.

There is also the slight problem of subtitle placement. They can be a little over-generous in size, thus entirely obscuring any poltergeist activity taking place on the screen. I sat through much of ‘paranormal activity’ while wishing that more spooky stuff happened on the ceilings. I couldn’t watch more than half an hour of Blair Witch Project because of the vertigo-inducing combination of stationary subtitles against a constantly jerking background of shocking camera work. That said, at least the subtitles saved me from the limitless supply of nostril close-ups and snot that put so many other viewers off.

So what horror movies are really good for genuine shocks, regardless of the quality of the captioning?

  1. Cloverfield: Like Blair Witch Project, also filmed with a hand-held camera effect for that ‘live horror’ feel, but you can actually see what’s going on. The horror in this film is wondering how long the main characters will last before they get eliminated.
  2. Amityville horror (original and/or remake featuring Melissa George and Ryan Reynolds): Lots of visual horror all over the screen, and the creeping feeling that the house is turning the stepfather eeeeevil.
  3. Paranormal activity: the graininess of the film might get on your nerves a little, but it’s high on tension.
  4. The Ring/The Ring 2: The frequent ABRUPT appearances of the perennially wet girl with the hair covering half her anaemic/dead face will give you the creeps.
  5. Ghost ship; yes, it’s corny, but there’s many a moment to make you leap out of your seat, particularly if you’ve not had the benefit of the ‘creepy music’ warning. It’s a good movie if you select English subtitles (just not English SDH)


Overall, I can’t help thinking that subtitles in horror movies should be automatically stripped of the SDH option. Just give us the dialogue and let us create the creepy music/creaking floorboards/ghastly winds for ourselves.

I’d love to hear different opinions on this – and other people’s stories about horror subtitles which have inadvertently produced comedy gold.

On a final note, so that we get to see these subtitling gaffes live at the cinema, I’d be grateful if people could sign the petition below, and share it onwards.

The Curse of Gotten Wood (sample)

So, I’ve been having a little fun going back to my writing roots (silliness) to move out of editorial mode and into creative mode for the next few months.  Last night I got more done in one go than I have done for aaaaages. So, I’m very happy.

In light of the fact that my last post raised wide-spread concern about the hearing loss (and thank you all very much who responded so kindly on facebook) I thought I’d lighten things up a bit around here. 

And yes, I’m deliberately writing in the omniscient voice. Gasp!

All thoughts, comments etc very welcome… please save me from the sound of the crickets!

15th March 2018, round about sixish

“I’ve been fantasising about my husband dying.” Emily twisted her ring and searched Matt’s face for signs of horror. He gave one of his earnest, sober nods and put his pad to one side, a gentle smile tugging at the corners of lips that she would launch herself upon if they didn’t belong to her trauma counsellor. Still, a smile—ovary-searingly-gorgeous though it was—struck her as an incorrect response. It looked like the response of a man who probably wasn’t listening. She cleared her throat. “You did hear me say I wanted my husband dead, didn’t you?”

“You said you fantasised about his death,” Matt corrected, hoping that the minute hand on the clock of the hired room would reach twelve before he had to delve into her more frightening follow-up statement. He slipped his glasses off and soothed his eyelids with the pads of forefinger and thumb. “You know, it’s not at all uncommon for people to fantasise about the deaths of their spouse. Especially a spouse like Brendan.” Oops. Badly put.

Emily grinned. “So much for objectivity.”

“I just mean… he put you through a great deal. It’s natural to want to escape a relationship where your sanity is continuously being challenged.”

“So… other people fantasise about their husbands driving their trucks off Grubberty Bridge?”

“Well… that’s quite a localised example, but—”

“What about stairs? Has anyone mentioned the convenient-yet-fatal plunge down the stairs or the terminal faceplant into the pon—” she brought herself up short, heat thundering through her cheeks.

Just because something was true, it ought not necessarily be expressed. One of her mother’s many truths. But then… why else had she asked her GP to refer her to a counsellor? Things needed expressing or she’d pop, and it wasn’t as if she’d get a fair or gentle ear from anyone who wasn’t paid to listen. Brendan was like the local no-discussion topic. The mere mention of his name was enough to send most people into the kind of shuddering fit you associate with a gin bottle shoved up the nostrils. And she was bloody married to the git.

Matt’s navy-blue eyes gleamed attentively, even as they flicked six feet NW of her left shoulder to the clock on the rear wall of the community centre’s mini-clinic. Once the local, unfriendly loan shark, he’d discovered himself in prison. Now, he was a reformed soul, the evidence of his reconnection to his conscience oozing from every sexy, compassionate pore. His collection of thin, clingy sweaters did nothing to hide the build lurking under his remodelled, conservative exterior.

She took his covert bum-shuffle towards the edge of his seat as the gentle hint intended. Session over—he was just too polite to slam the shutters down. She managed to force out a smile.

“I imagine that spousal death fantasies aren’t a recommended part of the ‘path to healing’.”

“They don’t feature much in the NLP practitioner’s manual.” He grinned as he gathered the papers on the tiny coffee table between his chair and her couch. “But it would be daft to pretend that people don’t have them.  Look, I’m not going to give you any stupid homework—”

“Like, ‘list the top ten most satisfying Brendan-deaths this week’?”

“Nope, none of that.  But there is something I would like you to think about until next Thursday. When you find yourself getting lost in these… escapist thoughts, I’d like you to pull yourself up short and think about what has happened to you in the hours before the fantasies started creeping up on you. It’s an efficient way of getting a handle on the marital issues that cause you the most frustration.”

“And then?”

Matt sighed, knowing there was no solution to Emily’s problems other than divorce, or her fantasies coming to life. He stood, reaching a hand down to her to haul her from the couch. She was fit and spry, but the bloody thing had come cheap with the community centre’s ‘rebuild’ and had a nasty tendency to trap octogenarians and anyone with arthritis. He felt Emily’s expectant, trusting gaze upon his cheek and guided her towards the door.

“And then,” he said, making it all up as he went along, “we work together to develop non-murderous coping strategies for your frustrations.”

Must not indulge feelings for client. Certainly must not fuck client. Repercussions—terrible.

He’d nearly herded her to the front doors when she came to a dead stop in front of the painting that had been hung behind the reception desk. He jerked his gaze towards the hazel bushes hemming in the entire building so he didn’t have to notice the way her bottle-green, jersey wraparound dress made her waist so neat or her backside so… cuppable.

Emily grimaced at the ‘artwork’ someone had seen fit as decoration for the otherwise inoffensive wall. It was a head-and-shoulders portrait without the impressively flake-free hair. In fact, nothing about the portrait’s sitter was even vaguely impressive. Against a nearly-black background, a haggard man, who she estimated to be in his late forties sagged under the weight of a fur coat. The coat’s collar deprived him of a neck and made his chin look poky and tiny between two foreboding jowls. His lower lip was overly fleshy and moist—eugh!—and his nostril arches were high. Above two watery grey eyes sat thick, unruly brows which would’ve made perfect convalescent homes for ill caterpillars.  The portrait’s sullen glare tugged her in for just a second, giving her a better peripheral view than she wanted of the warts lining his sideburns and the left side of his jaw. She blinked and turned back to Matt.

“Who,” she asked, pointing to the portrait, “is that?”

“I spend as little time looking at it as possible.”


“He’s the Marquis of Grab.” The voice came from a blonde, tight-bunned receptionist who’d appeared behind the desk as suddenly as if she’d been hydraulically launched from the basement.  The blonde slapped a shiny, colour-printed brochure onto the counter. “ ’parently, the villages of Grubberty, Gotten Wood and Lower Lickbourne were all part of this Marquis-bloke’s estate. Din’t read past the fifth paragraph but ‘s far ’s I can make out, ’e was a right dodgy type.”

“If he was so dodgy, why’s he on a wall in a community centre, in a commemorative, hard-to-avoid sort of location?”

“Read the brochure.”

“Right,” Emily agreed. “But how long’s that painting been there? I don’t remember seei—”

“Again, luv—the brochure.” The receptionist swung her ever-weary gaze over to the squash courts, from which exploded a riot of youthful male sounds and, shortly after, some lively bodies to accompany them. “It’s back to the coal-face for me—I’ve got to check all them scouts out from their regional sports night.”

“Okay.” She turned to see Matt staring fixedly through the front doors of the community centre and put a light hand to his upper arm. He’d gone a little pale. She squeezed and tried not to feel hurt as he pulled away. “What’s up?”

“Brendan’s here to pick you up. He’s seen me,” he added, like a trained ventriloquist.

“Oh… Christ. Just scuttle off somewhere. I’ll handle this.”

“You sure?”

The concern in his face and the tension in his shoulders would keep her sense of over-active romanticism happy for weeks. Her over-active romanticism was easy, that way. She nodded without moving her head—a long-learned skill—and strode towards Brendan with a smile of gratitude for saving her the bus-ride home. As Brendan’s hand gripped her elbow, towing her towards the car, she felt a great thump of relief to see Matt pretending to flirt with the receptionist as the Scout troop clustered around them, pointing up at the picture, laughing, and making assorted disgusted sounds.


Just pass it to Herod and his hairy shirt

That’s what I thought the cashier at Lidl said to me as I was packing up my bags. Most likely not, but my life has been rather confusing lately. I’ve had to battle on without my hearing aids, you see. And without them… it seems that I’m a rather crappy lipreader.

This comes as a competence shock, because I used to be excellent at it. Once upon a time, I could decipher the drunken mutterings of South Africans in dark corners at parties—even when they were elecutionally handicapped by slices of pizza.

But since Wednesday, it seems like all my skills have gone into hiding. Either that, or I’ve been dropped into a parallel universe in which everyone else suffers a particularly dire form of aphasia. It’s possible, I suppose; it could be global brain trauma caused by the loudness of my voice when I don’t have as much control over it. I don’t have an ‘inside voice’ at the best of times (unless ‘inside a rock venue’ counts).

The shock started on Thursday morning when I asked my son what he wanted for breakfast, and he assured me that all would be fine after the passing of the lime penguin.

I fetched him some Coco Pops, which appeared to come as a surprise, but was thankfully satisfactory nonetheless.  He was very good about my silence in the car (only a seven-minute drive in the car) and as I waved him off, he partly fondly with “elephant juice, bum.”

“I love you too,” I hazarded, and headed off to the co-op to sit in my car with my book until the traffic had calmed enough to drive home. There’s something extremely unsettling about driving with absolutely no noise. Anyway, I passed the day aid-free and problem-free, since I work from home. Picking little man up from school was a further challenge. I greeted him cheerfully as he exploded towards me from the rear door of his class as if fired from a cannon. He went from sprinting to stepping back rapidly. He wiggled his finger in his ear.

“Still no hearing aids, mummy?”

“’Fraid not.” I grimaced apologetically. “Sorry. Am I being loud, again?”

“A teeny-weeny bit,” he admitted. “If you could bring it down a little bit…”

I uttered my next words more normally.

“Well done, mummy. That’s less like the noise of a plane landing.”


“You sound less like a plane landing now,” he reassured me, slowly and clearly, with a helpfully-angled forearm in graceful descent.

“Yes…. That’s what I hoped you hadn’t said,” I muttered. Then I noted that he was wearing a sticker saying ‘Musical mention’, which was lovely and surprising, since he doesn’t play an instrument. “What did you get that for?” I asked.

“I dusted monkeys in the shadows of the cliffs.” He looked so proud.

I encouraged him to talk all the way back to the car, hoping that something he said would add context to those mysterious syllables, thus enabling me to unravel the true facts of the matter. I just got more and more lost as lions hopscotched up the curtains to the sound of violins. His story involved lots of arm-waving and not many gaps between words, and our journey to the parking of the Skoda was enlivened by my detour into a tree. This happens when you’re lip-reading. I still have a tender patch above my right eyebrow.

“…and we followed caterpillars into the valley of the damned just before lunch,” he concluded, stepping into the car.

I’m going to blame that last bit of lipreading ineptitude on my ash tree headbutt.

A couple of days on, my skills are coming back to life. Bas’ breakfast request was Marmite on toast, which was far more normal. But frankly, re-learning to lipread with no contextual sound at all is a bit like learning a new language by being dropped into the culture. I’m working out that to lipread successfully, I need to be aidless for at least four days, which is a rather long time to put up with the situation.

I think… the time has come to start thinking about learning sign-language properly, and getting my husband and son to do it with me. I can’t spend this much of my life following the caterpillars into the valley of the damned.

And no, I still have no clue what he’d actually said… though I did get a better gist of the story when he repeated it for his daddy.

PMT + FedEx = Bad combination

At the moment, the world’s favourite ring-and-run service should be sighing a breath of relief. Why? Because I can’t phone and complain at them.  And if I had enough hearing to complain over the phone, I would add to my pre-existing complaints the fact they don’t allow complaints to be made online.

Let me walk you through this little cloud of dust I’ve kicked up by jumping up and down on the spot with indignant wrath.

My husband is expecting a package. It’s an important one. We were expecting delivery from today onwards. But what do I find at the delivery address? I find a Fedex failed-delivery card which has been stuck to the front door using a hastily-printed sticker. This sticker is itself a triumph of customer annoyance.

Firstly, it says ‘final attempt’ at delivery on it. Bollocks! I was at the delivery address the day before, and there was no hint of a note showing a previous attempt at delivery. I find that claim suspect at best. Secondly, it threatens to return the item to the sender unless we provide them with re-delivery instructions. But it doesn’t give a deadline for this. Thirdly, the ‘final attempt’ was made on friday afternoon, but their phone line for redeliveries is shut most of the weekend, as the delivery guys would’ve known when they stuck their grim-o-gram to my door.

Fourthly – yes, there’s more! – the sticker truncates the telephone number, chopping off the last couple of digits. Really helpful. So now I have to find them online and see if I can track down the last two digits on that sticker.  But… wait! Hope! There’s a little note, saying ‘cut wood in yard’. Could they have tucked the item in the pile of kindling under the veranda by the front door, I wonder? In hope, I check. No, nothing.  And that doesn’t make sense anyway; why print out a ‘final attempt’ sticker letting me know they hadn’t been able to deliver if they’ve left it in what they think is a safe place?

So, I think, ‘sod the sticker’. I turn over the card the sticker is stuck to, and spend a moment feeling foolish and relieved to find their redelivery website tracker address on the back. Aha! All is not lost. I take a deep breath and set up the laptop. Ommmm. I just got flooded with impatience hormones, that’s all.

I log in… to find that their package tracker is literally just a tracker.

Well, splendid. What a chocolate teapot of a site.

You can’t give them re-delivery instructions on this site, you can only note with chagrin that your package is lurking at the Camberley depot (which is *&%!!!! miles away) awaiting imminent return to its sender.  And of course, to give them actual re-delivery instructions, you can always call their helpline number.

I have managed to convey the situation to my other half, who will call first thing on Monday morning before they can do anything dastardly with the package.

In the meantime I’ll do some boxing and try not to take it personally that so many businesses just assume that people can use the phone.