Friday, 20 July 2018

Party Pieces – a series of vignettes – Party Bags

The Middletons made them businesses
Fortune enough to catch a royal.

Hard earned from hours of honest toil
Young mums spend in equal measure
Packing bags with better treasures
To complement the catered pleasures
More gifts given than received by any measure

Friendships bought for pink princesses
Spoils spoiling the spoilt.

© Sheila Ash, 2018

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Party Pieces – a series of vignettes – Flowers


Does one take flowers? I never know.
Is etiquette the same here as there? Now as then?
In Dallowayed days flowers were gratefully smelt,
straightway vased, prominently placed
Nowadays, casually dropped upon the hallway side or kitchen table
Refound next morning, bashed and bruised,
to the unsaid Who brought those?

© Sheila Ash, 2018

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Party pieces – a series of vignettes – Arrivals

Everything is done. We pace and wait.
Listen for the click of the garden gate
Signalling first arrival.
Slow without a sign of undue haste
we open wide our door to guests
to greet the face
of the so called fashionably late.

© Sheila Ash, 2018

Friday, 13 July 2018

Chasmophytic Crete

Cretan Man
This is a tough land
Moonscaped roughness scuffs the skies
More stone than scrub
the high desert, Lefka Ori, lies
baked by day and chilled by night.

Eight thousand feet high Pachnes peaks
Beyond the snow capped summits
Griffon vultures soar and plummet.
In limestone crags
Rare Campanula and Helichrysum huddle,
Generations of sheep and shepherds struggle.

From these inhospitable heights, myths emerged.
A little East, where Rhea fled,
a god was born, his Curetes guardian’s drumming
thunders on in village streets
in the steady, sombre, Kritikos syrtos dance beats.

Well after mountain fog has burnt away
morning dew steadfastly slithers
down deep gorges scorched across the land
like notches from a bloody battle slain,
The landscape of hasty changes
From caves as deep as Hades
Canyons unexpectedly cascading
The flooding treachery of sudden rain.

To call this home, we cling to crevice and cliff
sure footed goats hardened by climate and geography,
In these impenetrable hills, rebels hid
to stubbornly repel all invaders –
Venetian, Ottoman and Nazi lords -
only to begrudgingly accept the tourist hoards
who leave their cars at Omalos
to take to mules to trek across
the cobbled Kalderimia tracks
before heading back
for ice cold beers in Chania.

© Sheila Ash, 2018

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Review: The Wasp Factory

The Wasp Factory The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Nicely narrated by Peter Kenny. A gruesome story of a dysfunctional family, specifically the distorted childhood of a psychopathic, woman hating, teenager living on a remote Scottish island. The author gets the voice of the child in his writing really well, although probably not a child we want to ever meet. Full of humour and truly awful boyish escapades the book is surprisingly engaging for its topic and for all the gruesome and horrific things Frank gets up to. ***SPOILER ALERT *** probably not until the reveal near the end where Banks twists the tale on its head and flings a curved ball to his readers will we ever get near to any amount of sympathy for Frank.

View all my reviews

Saturday, 30 June 2018

Last Train


Photo by Stefan Stefancik from Pexels under a Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license

Last Train

The last train chugs out of the unmanned, mid-line station
six quiet, overnight hours till it returns, cleaned up,
upholstery brushed up, plushed up for the morning rush.
Last from the train, I make my way slowly while
other passengers scurry homeward to waiting arms and warm beds.
My sleeping bag’s would-be warmth cold in my backpack.

The city lights had called me from the valleys
possibilities of contacts and contracts, of fortune and fame.
Instead, I busk by day and brave the lonely nights.
Found moons ago, my bench lies hidden,
safe from weather and prying eyes - a place to rest,
a place to forget the hardship of the dying day.

My last coins secured my sax. Its left-luggage luxury
far removed from where I settle down to dream the dream
- aspiring to greatness and celebrity, recording lights and playing Wembley.
In the morning I will rise, retrace my steps, collect my sax,
busk another day along my track to stardom
hoping coins tossed to its case secure tomorrow night’s return
to my safe suburban space.

© Sheila Ash, 2018

Sexist echo

Meccano? That’s a boy’s toy
But you can have Lego.
Disappointment tainted pleasure
Echoes of tomboy battles.

© Sheila Ash, 2018


Strange, this aunt from far away
who came each summer to stay.
Given my parents bed
they camped out
the downstairs sofa spread open.

Her behaviour, foreign, yet familiar
displayed her heritage and grace
but also its other face
of empire and colony.
treating others badly
To my child’s eyes – despising?

© Sheila Ash, 2018

Saturday, 23 June 2018


In disarrayed despair, her face fell.
Her elemental elegance lost to the moment.

© Sheila Ash, 2018

Friday, 15 June 2018


With industrial baggage
our factories ravage
our beloved Earth’s insides.
The environmental clock
tick tocks swiftly on.
Population ever growing,
ever showing our increasing
indulgence . Production
churning out carbon dioxide
Its wrath grows warmer.
Corporations cut corners
Economic rape lies undiscovered
No escape. Smothered
in the burnt out precast blocks
Stark charcoaled
grey smoke filled days
The city shocked.

Let’s clad our towers in red flowers
not red flames of death
Let’s build instead Bosco Verticales
designed ethically
green oxygen giving breath.
Let’s plan avenues of acers in the air
boulevards of bromeliads
skyways of sycamores.
Let a garden city in the sky arise
a pensile paradise
praising vitality
a phoenix eulogy for the 72 who died
where those who survived can live with pride
healing deep, like the ground underneath.

© Sheila Ash, 2018

Monday, 4 June 2018

A Mother’s Love

The jelly bag
like an upside down dromedary hump
Hung from a brush handle
laid across two spare dining chairs in the upstairs room.

Full of berries, boiled and sugared
Drip, drip, dripping
into the aluminium pan below
delivering their sun filled sweetness for the coming year with all a mother’s love.

© Sheila Ash, 2018

Saturday, 2 June 2018

More Qit’a

Yesterday’s pen has run out of ink
Tomorrow’s pen tempts me before its time
© Sheila Ash, 2018



Science Museum Group. Bronze hair curling tongs and trimmer, Egypt, 1575-1194 BCE. A634869. Science Museum Group Collection Online. Accessed June 2, 2018.

The wooden origami bird
Sings to me silently
Its tag number
Belying the number of its kind
The sole survivor
From a life long gone
In a country far away.

Today’s world recognises it not
Knows not its name
Its purpose
Not the stories it could tell
Of lives lived
Of loves loved
Of dreams now apparitions in the desert air

© Sheila Ash

Epitaph of a small winner

I am doing a course on Future Learn entitled “How to Make a Poem” 

The first submission is a “found” poem, that is a poem comprised of material found around you. Needless to say , sitting here in my study I am surrounded by books. So naturally I went for titles. This is what resulted.


Epitaph of a small winner

The last picture show
The dark, pale view of the hills
When I whistle
The silent cry

Death in summer
Such a long journey
The watcher in the shadows
Dances with dragons
I dreamt the snow was burning.

© Sheila Ash, 2018

Sunday, 27 May 2018

Review: The People of Sand and Slag by Paolo Bacigalupi

The People of Sand and Slag The People of Sand and Slag by Paolo Bacigalupi
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This short story is available on the author's blog

It envisages a future when mankind is no longer vulnerable to disease and injury thanks to having been augmented and adjusted by "weeviltech" implants. Living in a wasteland, eating sand and slag. Gone is much of what today makes us human. The first part of this story could be any sci-fi military operation, hunting down the "hostile". but then the crew find a dog, a real live unaugmented dog. They are not even sure what it is, how could it survive in such a habitat? As they wait for the scientist to come to establish it is a dog, they begin to understand how vulnerable an unaugmented animal is. ****SPOILER ALERT ****The scientist confirms "it's quite certainly a real dog. But wat on Earth would I do with it?" He held up a vial of blood. "We have the DNA. A live one is hardly worth keeping around" and when the crewe ask what they are supposed to do with it, he replies "Turn it back to your pits. Or you could eat it....I understand it was a real delicacy. There are recipes for cooking animals." . They decide to keep it, It intrigues them. The discover it can learn tricks, obey commands, and display affection. But it is not a happy ending for the dog, it is too fragile, required too much attention, and was too expensive to keep. Ultimately however it is the humans one feels for left with the memory of "when the dog licked my face and hauled its shaggy bulk onto my bed, and I remember its warm breathing beside me, and sometimes, I miss it."

ashramblings review 3* I'm not a great lover of war stories full of references to military tech and manoeuvres whether in the sci-fi arena or not. So the first part of this story is a difficult read for me heavy as it is on the soldiering aspects, but when the twist comes it transforms into a story about what consitutes being human juxtaposing the flimsiness of flesh and blood with regenerative augmented imortality.

View all my reviews

Friday, 25 May 2018

Review: The Tamarisk Hunter by Paolo Bacigalupi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This story is available online on the author's website at

I'm just reading his futuristic eco-thriller Wind-up Girl and this is the first short story by Paolo Bacigalupi that I have read. Once again he tackles the theme of change, this time climate change, drought and its impact on the land, lives and society.

Lolo and Annie scrape a living in a not-to-far-off future where the American West is gripped by Big Daddy Drought. Lolo makes a living as a 'water tick' - someone who tracks down and kills off Tamarisk trees. "A big tamarisk can suck 73,000 gallons of river water a year. For $2.88 a day, plus water bount, Lolo rips tamarisk all winter long." Yes there is water, but it is all siphoned off to the cities in California. Towns have bankrupted, dried up and been deserted as people move south to the cities or further north where there is water. This story reminded me of the movie thriller Chinatown where the water department is drying up the land so it can be bought at a reduced price. Ultimately all the tamarisks will be found, water ticking will be a thing of the past and Lolo's life will irrevocably change.

****SPOILER ALERT **** But Lolo's smart. Lolo has a plan; a plan to ensure his livelihood, his family's survival; a plan to ensure he'll never run out of tamarisk to find and that him and his wife never get flung of their land as Annie's family had been before. However, fate is like a scorpion; it always has a sting in its tail.

ashramblings 4* Bacigalupi paints an eco-inspired future in all its hardships that anyone living or visiting drought struck lands can relate to. His reader will be in empathy with Lolo's attempts to 'beat the system' and be heartbroken at the stories denouement.

View all my reviews

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Standard Roses

There were three each year
standing proud
like buttons on the military waistcoat of our front lawn.

Roses - dad’s pride and joy -
standard style, shaped like the lollipops on sticks
that came with sherbet from the village shop.
Gobstopper delights of Apricot Abundance
and sun-centred, pink-edged Peace.

On Gala days,
their stakes supported the Wallace banner
its rebellious display flapping in time to our steps
as we paraded past
in our best dresses to picnic in the park.

Bordered by regimented rows of gladioli and dahlias
the garden’s familial sweetness permeated all things
imbuing my soul with his everlasting love.

I never knew the work they took,
where they came from or where they went,
but each summer
as regular as trips to the beach
they blessed our garden

Then robbed of him
their familiar presence haemorrhaged away
till all that remained was a blank canvass of expressionless lawn
and memories smelt in every rose.

© Sheila Ash, 2018

Monday, 21 May 2018


imagePhoto: The Labyrinth by Robert Vickrey

Trapped –
by walls of words
which cut and hurt.
Venomous tongues lash like vipers -
left and right and left again.
Surround-sound echoes
assault the mind incessantly.
The nervous inner voice calls -
barely coherent, barely heard,
amidst the deluge of distortion.
A corner glimmers hope of escape
through the chaos
crashing to face instead
the mirror of self-doubt.

© Sheila Ash, 2018

Billie’s Blue

Billie Holiday

The minor key refrain
Echoes the tears in her heart
As she sings in the segregated bar.

The piano keys
Combine in rainbowed harmony
With saxophone and double bass
As the Gardenia fluoresces in the dark.

Lady Day’s single octave
Emoted with the spectrum of life’s pains
Blossoms into a garden of everlasting glory.

© Sheila Ash, 2018

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Nostalgia’s Rainbow

Lichen encrusted black stone dykes line the fields and roadside verges of my youth
whilst at my childhood home, the red lion rampant flies over dad’s dahlias.
On the kitchen sill trail necklaces of silver foil, milk bottle tops
and at the doorstep a saucer of setting red currant jelly is buzzing with bees.

The sphagnum green bog squelches under my hiker’s boot
which later strives to avoid the blue gentian cracking the limestone of the Irish Burren.
Sun kissed daffodils defiantly herald Spring in Avon Park after the quake
as elsewhere an unruly pink briar rose scrambles over once-formal box hedges in an unattended English garden.

Dawn emerges across the serene cerulean waters of Makemo Atoll
as slowly as the orange sands of Moul N’Aga make their passage across the Algerian Tadrart.
In the Roaring Forties snarling gales are smothered by the molten lead quiet of the storm’s eye
even as the purple twilight of an Antarctic sky prepares to dance like a sugar plum fairy across the meringue peaked snow.

© Sheila Ash 2018

Friday, 18 May 2018

The Caterpillar

Caterpillar (locomotion) 04

It moves along from head to toe
Bendy like a jelly throw
Up and down and down and up
Looping over, twisting up.

It crawls the stem and creeps the leaf
Nibbles edges with its tiny teeth
Bending that way, curving this
Till locked within its chrysalis.

It hardens fast as if it’s dead
Its dormancy spun by a golden thread
Till with a burst of bold bravado
Ecolses to a beautiful imago.

© Sheila Ash, 2018

Imago - the final and fully developed adult stage of an insect, typically winged.
Eclose   - (of an insect) emerge as an adult from the pupa or as a larva from the egg

On Watching a Blackbird Sing

Blackbird, singing

His insistence calls
From high upon the garden gate.
Down in my bower
I sip my tea.
We wait
Both looking for his prospective mate.

© Sheila Ash, 2018

Day’s End

Feet up, mind emptying of stress
Looking forward, always best

© Sheila Ash

Sunday, 13 May 2018

The artist

Ferenczy, Károly - The Woman Painter (1903)

Ferenczy, Károly - The Woman Painter (1903)

The artist holds her palette in her hands
Standing statuesque
Lost in inward gaze

The artist holds her palette in her hands
Squeezing tubes and stirring
With spatulas, with sable brushes

Colours lustrous, radiant and blazing
Partnering her frenetic dance
Her inner vision

A metamorphosis
Arising from canvass and toil
From oil and paint, brushstrokes

The artist holds her palette in her hands
Standing still as a statue
Lost in her inward gaze

© Sheila Ash, 2018
The inspiration for this poem came from reading Langston Hughes' poem "Trumpet Player"

Saturday, 12 May 2018

The Cromarty Firth

A graveyard of metallic ghosts
Mothballed scaffolds from the Age of Oil
Derelict transformers
Surrealled in estuarine mists
Await dismantling
In Dali-esque grandeur.
© Sheila Ash, 2018
I remember seeing how many of these were lying in the Cromarty Firth when I visited there in 2016.

Friday, 11 May 2018

Review: Jazz Poems

Jazz Poems Jazz Poems by Kevin Young
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After a long wait I finally got a copy of this Everyman Anthology of Jazz Poetry. Loving the music I thought this is a book that needs a place on my shelves. Delving in last night for the first time, I was not disappointed. I found old favourites and some new delights.

One of the new delights was Langston Hughes's poem The Trumpet Player.

This poem encapsulates the personal and collective experience of African Americans in a portrait of a jazz trumpeter - stanza 1 is about weariness from the slave experience, stanza 2 is about change specifically the taming of natural hair, stanza 3 is about jazz music, stanza 4 is about desire, to see moonlight on the sea, stanza 5 is back to him playing, carried away by the music, and stanza 6 about how music smoothes away all his troubles.

What strikes me is the structure, the minimal punctuation, the smoothness of its reading. There is the repetition of the opening lines The Negro/ With the trumpet at his lips making it like a musical refrain,

After first reading I am in awe at the final two stanzas - how he inverts the more normal sentance structure in

(The Negro)
Does not know
Upon what riff the music slips
It's hypodermic needle
To his soul -

and how he turns the needle into a positive vehicle for deliverying the suppression of his troubles, rather than the destructive delivery of escapism via drugs that plagued many a musician.

Trumpet Player

The Negro
With the trumpet at his lips
Has dark moons of weariness
Beneath his eyes
where the smoldering memory
of slave ships
Blazed to the crack of whips
about thighs

The Negro
With the trumpet at his lips
Has a head of vibrant hair
Tamed down,
Patent-leathered now
Until it gleams
Like jet-
Were jet a crown

The music
From the trumpet at his lips
Is honey
Mixed with liquid fire
The rhythm
From the trumpet at his lips
Is ecstasy
Distilled from old desire-

That is longing for the moon
Where the moonlight's but a spotlight
In his eyes,
That is longing for the sea
Where the sea's a bar-glass
Sucker size

The Negro
With the trumpet at his lips
Whose jacket
Has a fine one-button roll,
Does not know
Upon what riff the music slips
It's hypodermic needle
To his soul -

But softly
As the tune comes from his throat
Mellows to a golden note.

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Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Thoughts on difference inspired by a single red apple

A wonky carrot
disrupts the perfect symmetry
of supermarket veg.

The stray Fuji
inserts a sweet note
into the tart concerto of Granny Smiths.

Tempting fingers,
this Lolita openly flaunts
the prospect of forbidden sweetness.

This flagrant anomaly fishes for our eyes.
Like William Carlos Williams’ wheelbarrow
it reels us in. Unwittingly
complicit in its subterfuge.

In our aversion to nonconformity
apparent in this apartheid of apples,
we repatriate the single itinerant invader
back into its homeland,
securing borders between baskets in the grocer’s shop. 

© Sheila Ash, 2018

Three Moments of Madness

The vestige of yesterday’s anger
rests uneasy in the morning calm
- a bloodstain on the bar room floor.

Awkward silence stresses the breakfast table -
the tell-tale scars
of word inflicted wounds, unbandaged.

Her one night stand
lingers on, unapologetically
snuffing out embryonic loves.

© Sheila Ash, 2018

Monday, 7 May 2018

With one

With one spot, the itching starts.

With one look, a world shatters.

With one irresponsible tweet, a career is ruined.

With one thud, a door closes.

With one piece of disinformation, the opposition is discredited.

With one suspicion, distrust breeds.

With one fake news story, an election is swayed.

With one doubt, love withers.

With one whistleblower, the wrongdoing exposed.

With one word, a heart is broken.

© Sheila Ash, 2018

Saturday, 5 May 2018

More Qit’a

The past with all its tortuous turns
lies rooted at this edge, where time
hems future’s folds
unseen beyond today’s precipice.
Her carer thinks it is just a stone
gathering dust up on the shelf

Not cherished key to moisten memories
of windswept love on Beadnell Bay
Red rust dust clings like the Sahara in luggage;
as childhood dreams of Martian Adventures;
to the unused tools in his silent shed.

© Sheila Ash

Friday, 4 May 2018

Review: Backup Man by Paul Di Filippo

This is the third of Paul Di FIlippo’s short stories I have read in the past couple of days. Unlike the previous two which were published back in 2000, this one appeared in 2016 and is available online at 

Gone are the digs at the publishing industry, editors in particular. What takes its place is a brisk paced, action packed sci-fi noir tale. Here from the first sentence the reader is  transported into another world, the world of biopunk where new words leap at you of every page. It begins “I was waiting patiently in a bar for a woman, a moldie and a splice, playing the AR overlay of that ancient heist film Rififi on my memtax, which I’d just upgraded to the newest model of ling contact lenses, all jelly proteins laced with silicene circuitry and an RGB chromatophore micromatrix.” Well my spell check even had difficultly recognising biopunk and Rififi never mind moldie, memtax, silicene, chromatophore (really!)  and micromatrix.

***SPOILER ALERT ***  Scavengers Yola, Rowley and Huggit storm the bar looking for Dean Prosnitz, who has stolen the Golden Cow – Earth’s best hope for recolonising the Second Dustbowl that once was the American Mid West. The cow’s gut flora hold the shut off signal for the plague which has laid to waste this area. The NU authorities have decided to stage a “lottery-cum-scavenger-hunt”, the finder of the said golden ticket ie the Golden Cow would be entitled to 1% of the hundreds of millions in Land Rush application fees to be taken from new settlers of the reclaimed area. The trio think they’ve found him, but it is in fact our clandestine narrator posing as Prosnitz and waiting for the 3 to appear. He doesn’t have the Cow but has keyed it to his suite so he is the only person who can wake the cow up and set it on its pooping way across the Dustbowl.  The real Prosnitz and the Cow are long gone into Maccanoville, circa the old Detroit.  The four of them team up and go in guns blazing to rerieve the Cow.  Needless to say they don’t trust each other and once they have found the Cow things come to a head as Prosnitz/the narrator refuses to start the Cow, intent on “taking the Cow back to the Mint” After dealing with the trio and exceeding his instructions our narrator finally “wakes up” the Cow.  However it is all a con, the Golden Cow is no golden goose, there is no golden egg, no pot of gold royalties coming the way of the competition winner. It has merely been a test of social media marketing. Our narrator, identity intact, powers down the Cow and contacts his bosses at the Security Intelligence Service to “let them know their duplicitous Sweepstakes, derailed by Prosnitz’s larcenous derailment", could be rebooted”  without anyone being any the wiser of their ‘scam’ .

ashramblings verdict 3* satire on the gullibility of Joe Public to social media marketing. The story has some nice touches  - Di Filippo again links his ending and his title very well - but in other places seems somewhat contrived – the device of keying the Cow to his suite key - why wouldn’t the trio just kill him for his suite key? And what exactly is his suit key anyway?

Review: This is my gun, This is my pen, sir! by Paul Di Filippo

Cartoon angry army drill sergeant shoutingThis is another short story by Paul Di Filippo from his collection Plumage from Pegasus. The story can be found online at 

A coach load of novice editors arrives at their training facility and are met by God aka Michael Korda who flip flops between pleasantries and sergeant major commands mode “YOU MAGGOTS CAN CALL ME GOD!”

***SPOILER ALERT**** Di Filippo takes a poke at editors generally “let me particularize just a few of the visiting editors who have graciously consented to enlighten you. We’ll hear from Bill Burford of the New Yorker, who’ll instruct is in how to manufacture superstar writers out of wet behind the ears, squeaky-voiced creative-writing graduate students”

ashramblings verdict 3* As a writing student you are always told to consider your title last, after writing the story, so it doesn’t dictate how the story plays out.  This story is a classic example of this. From a reader’s perspective, one reads the title at the beginning and may have even forgotten it by the end. In this story the ending is an unfinished sentence, which leaves us wondering  what was said. Until the penny drops and we realise it is the title itself. Neatly done.

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Review: The Factchecker Only Rings Twice by Paul Di Filippo

This old story comes from Di Filippo’s collection Plumage from Pegasus and is available online at
The title grabbed me from the get-go,  immediately tickling my sense of humour and of intertextuality.  This is a short story about an established sci-fi writer now having to write under a new regime, COSTIVE, the Consortium of StoryTellers Insisting on Verisimilar Exactitude, which stifles writers’ creative and imaginative qualities.
On a frustrating day when writing is not coming easy, our narrator has a visitor, one Nelson Nibbler,  a COSTIVE operator, flashing his id and requiring revisions to a pre-regime change story  ****SPOILER ALERT**** The ridiculous changes required are outlined, and are met at first by surprise, then irony on our narrator’s part. Nibbler is totally unaware of the destruction his changes are making to the fabric of the story.
I loved the narrator’s explosion about what happened to a whole series of famous sci-fi writers after COSTIVE’s demands for scientific accuracy in speculative fiction – for example Stephan Baxter is writing for Coronation Street’.
Nibbler asks the author to supply peer reviewed citation to support his description of hyperspace as 'an uncanny otherworld, a violent conglomeration of sense-twisting hallucinatory whorls and streamers, a maelstrom of nauseating otherness.'  The narrator’s desperate cry of "Of course not! I made it all up for the sake of the story! The drama, man, the drama of it!"   is only met with the ultimate derision "As we thought. In that case, we're going to have to amend that passage to 'a hypothetical landscape whose qualitative essentials have yet to be determined.' "
His frustration finally get the better of him but once he deals with Nibbler, he returns to his computer and starts a new story with his poetical sensibilities renewed.
ashramblings verdict 5* I was completely with this narrator, both physically, emotionally and politically in the moment with Nibbler.Excellent.

Double dutch

First there is one. It’s easy to cope
Then there is two in double dutch ropes
Then we double up for a double tuck
Two jumpers jumping for a double duck.
The double dipping speed of the swishing ropes
Is rhythmically kept by the musical trope
Stakes raised up by a rival pair
Tension filling the evening air.
Doubling up the players with each new round
The neighbourhood crowd looks on spellbound
Practice, practice to get this right
double-double dutching on a Saturday night.

© Sheila Ash, 2018

Fast and furious

Double Dutch (detail), 2016 by Robin Rhode

Monday, 30 April 2018

Inspired by “Autumnal Path” a painting by Kirsty Asher


The fire that burns within
dances its chromatics (*)
amidst life’s autumnal diatonics.


Echoes of Scandinavian grey
birch the trunks
of English beech wood.


The sticky plasters of analysis
tape past doubts to future hopes
to present a resurrection.

© Sheila Ash, 2018

(* ) Chromatics   has two meanings

  1. Music - relating to or using notes not belonging to the diatonic scale of the key in which a passage is written.
  2. relating to or produced by colour.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Review: My Mother's Ashes

My Mother's Ashes by Elaine Chiew
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This story is available online at

I had to look up the word "columbarium " which is "a room or building with niches for funeral urns to be stored."

This is a story of mothers & daughters, a relationship which can have difficulties, especially with those persistent, insistent mothers who "demonstrated the art of the quicksilver word (your simian children) and the wounding minute gesture (the elegant shift of the body away from speaker mid-sentence)"

Another good story, although I thought it rushed in parts - but that may be this reader - but I loved the ending which I didn't see coming.

View all my reviews

Saturday, 14 April 2018


Image may contain: outdoor and water
Photo courtesy of FMC
I didn’t know her well
I didn’t even know his birth name
Just her nom de plume
that said so much
that hid so much.

She was elegance personified
Hair flowing free and unrestrained
An easy mover never at ease
She graced the beach
one sultry Indian summer night

with balletic flights of fantasy
freed from the formality of form
Long arms emoting Ms Hepburn
Being what he desired
no duckling but a beautiful swan.

© Sheila Ash, 2018

Friday, 13 April 2018

Review: Poison

Poison by Henrietta Rose-Innes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This short story is available online at
It won the 2008 Caine Prize.

I found this story gripping as the main character finds herself trying to drive out of CapeTown after a huge chemical explosion only to be stumped when she runs out of fuel . I really related to the description of fuel shortages and queues and the desperate straights this leaves people in, and the unscrupulous profiteers it brings out of the wood work - very reminiscent of my experience of such shortages in Nigeria :)

ashrmablinsg verdict 4 * Thoroughly engaging read. I have now read pieces by Rose-Innes and what strikes me is this writer really does know how to set a scene, and in doing so entraps the reader into the place of the story and hooks you in.

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Review: Semiprecious

Semiprecious by Henrietta Rose-Innes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Beautifully written short memoir piece from South Africa giving a glimpse into the reprecussions of apartheid. What do we think of the people who previously lived in our homes? Who were they? Why did they leave? As a child the writer sees Mr R's name on the wall of her home "still faintly visible under several coats of white paint" - as she grows up a "sickly realisation surfaced" and finally comes back to bite.
ashramblings 4 * I'm not normally a memoir reader but I loved this piece

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Tuesday, 3 April 2018

The Miner’s Minor

His hands bear the grim of the long day well into the next
His back the burden of toil
His eyes the ever black of pit and shaft
His shoulders weigh the weariness of working hunger
His face sheds tears of sorrow and of joy
As his arms hold his first born son’s innocence.

© Sheila Ash, 2018

Review: The Colour Forty by Lucy Grace

 Derbyshire Miners Coal-getting at the Bolsover Face. Drawn by D Macpherson. The Sphere | 22 March 1919
This story is the winner of the Writers & Artists Short Story Competition in 2018. It is available to read online at .

The narrator is the child of a single parent dad, a miner, in a working class pit village. Her days are ordered by the care given by “Auntie Shirley” – Saturday is  market day, Sunday is the day for roast dinner, Monday’s are wash days. This is turn means Tuesdays are for drying and ironing  - days when fragrance fills the air. Like all children, the child has taken something that is not theirs and is in fear of being found out by the father. As readers we know this from the beginning of the story; we know there were 40 and there are now only 39; but we know not what they are until much later. 

***SPOILER ALERT *** As the child comes home from school she expects to be accosted and chastised, perhaps even beaten, but instead is scooped up by Auntie Shirley to a house full of neighbours and grief to face her father, laid out, dead from a mining accident. Later she steals back to the coffin to ‘post’ the 39 into his coffin. These colourful drawings that her father had secretly, tenderly and patiently produced in his evenings with a delicateness hidden within the “sausage” fingers of his “rough hand”, “grimed in coal dust”, become a blanket of love over her lost father. The fortieth, hidden under her mattress, she keeps – a memento of the colour that was her father in such a black world. 

Whilst some passages are for me overflowing with excessive adjectives, there are other really quite impressive passages
“ was as if all the colours of a typical day were saved up in his mind whilst he was working in the black, and only in this his quiet, secret time was he able to let them flow out”

ashramblings verdict 4* Some beautiful passages in this story of love, of loss in hard times as seen through a child’s eyes. 

PhotoCredit: Derbyshire Miners Coal-getting at the Bolsover Face. Drawn by D Macpherson. The Sphere | 22 March 1919 

Monday, 2 April 2018

Review: Clearly Lettered in a Mostly Steady Hand by Fran Wilde

Clearly Lettered in a Mostly Steady Hand by Fran Wilde
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This story is available to read and listen to online at narrated by Amal El-Mohtar.
It has been shortlisted for the 2018 Hugo Awards.

I found this story extremely challenging. I am not at all sure I understand it. It appears to be about a visit to a museum, perhaps a Natural History museum wiht specimens, like butterflies and bugs pinned out in display cases. At times it felt like the first person narrator was one of the exhibits, that the visitor was on some type of trolley. They tour through various rooms, which denote sections to the story - the Entrance with the Ticket Booth, A Hallway of Things People Have Swallowed, A Radium Room, A Room of Objects That Are Really People, Our Curator’s Special Collection, A Room of Objects That Are Very Sharp, The Hall of Criminals and Saints, This Way to the Exit. It took me ages to work out the word "that rhymes with eek" ***SPOILER ALERT *** must be " freak" and that the story has something to do with being different, being differently abled. Was the narrator, the guide, differently abled, was the visitor, were they both?

ashramblings verdict 2* This story went completely over my head :( I'm clearly missing something and would love to hear from others who have read it and have some insight, else I'll be conluding that the author has not got her message across.

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Upland essence

It slithers and slides like an eel over granite
rocks encased in soft springs of moss beds
banked by lush riparian green.
A twig floats then tumbles then floats again
down whitened eddies fade to black
as birdsong stars the canopy.
I drink it in
Clear water, soft and sweet, nourishes my body
Its mother land nourishing my soul.
© Sheila Ash

Photo Credit : @lynne_francis1