Saturday 29 December 2018

Review: Fire in the Blood by Irène Néminrovsky

Fire in the Blood Fire in the Blood by Irène Némirovsky
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The hidden passions of small town country life seen through the eyes of the aging Silvio who had once had the "fire in the blood" of tempestuous youth, who hankers for its still and who sees it sparkle and die in the ardour, desire, infidelities, mischiefs of the younger generation. I'm a believer that what and who we settle for says so much about us, and I see that in the characters and their choices int his novel. Why does conformity and comfort drown passion? Why do we bleieve blindy that it is only the stuff of youth and not possible in later years? We're all the sadder for it.

ashramblings verdict 3* Beautiful flowing prose by Némirovsky's English translator Sandra Smith, This is a short novella of 122 pages in the large print edition I was able to borrow from the library. Jim Norton, the narrator of Audible's audio version has a mature voice well suited to that of Silvio.

View all my reviews

Friday 28 December 2018

Update on our supported project for Girls Education

Here is the most recent update on one of our supported projects

This project needs support  - every little helps and goes a long way.

Please consider supporting if you’ve enjoyed this blog over the past year

Thank you

Review: Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift

Mothering Sunday Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift

One of my in person book group reads, probably not one I would have been picked up but at only 149 pages it was a great read for a grey winter's afternoon between Christmas and New Year., and I sorta lost myself in it and 3 hours just flew by.

The story is initially set in 1924, a time of change when the landed gentry are trying to come to terms with post war life, their "lost generation", their money problems, their dwindling estates, their changing circumstances. Those born too late to serve are struggling to find their role in the world. Paul Sherringham is one such lost soul. The surviving son from three families who finds himself in a 7 year passionate affair with the maid from a neighbouring house and an upcoming "arranged" marriage of monetary convenience to be made to try and consolidate such families. 

The maid, Jane, a motherless foundling has a kindly position where her ability to read, learnt at her orphanage, and the lack of servants has allowed her to do more than just being a housemaid, and she is permitted to borrow books from her house owner's library. 

The first part of the book revolves around Mothering Sunday, when the families are off to meet the bride's family, and the staff at the various houses have a day off to visit their mothers. Jane's day is very different. She is with Paul. She knows it will be their last meeting, yet ponders possibilities as she lies, naked in his bed in his house, watched and watching him slowly getting dressed and ready for his lunch meeting with his fiancee. She wonders why he is taking so long, long enough to be very late, as if he doesn't want to go, and how he is dressing very well for a lunch meeting. Immediately we have the feeling something is not right. ***SPOILER ALERT*** indeed it really isn't a big reveal when it happens, Swift prepares us very well, subtly showing what he doesn't tell directly, namely that Paul has planned this day to perfection - he has driven his house's maid and cook to the station, clearing the house for his and Jane's only chance at normality. Jane recalls that him saying when talking about the garden path "...with a strange echoing sincerity, 'I won't ever lead you up it.' Their time has been perfect and Paul perfect dress is another part of his plans. He leaves Jane to lock up, eat the lunch cook has left in the kitchen for him, to cycle home to spend the afternoon reading her first Conrad. 

It is a sad story, on one side Jane is totally faithful, she never tells about her relationship with Paul, she goes on to outstrip society's expectation of a maid, first becoming a book shop assistant and finally a best selling author. Paul can make no such breakthrough to the world to come, he is unable to break the bonds of family, the expectations of family, class and society. His faithfulness to Jane has a planned, predictable ending as he crashes his car into a tree en route to his fiancee and dies.
Swift's writing creates a modern woman who grows through literature, writing and love found in the new freedoms of the post war era. Perhaps she loves Paul, but she did not expect. She does honour his love, his gift of that normal day when she was not a maid, when she entered his house by the front door. Swift crafts a truly cinematic pivotal scene where after Paul has left, Jane wanders in naked innocence through the empty house before closing that chapter of her book and cycling back by the garden path and fields to her Conrad, but instead is confronted by the reality of what has happened. 

Just when you think the story has finished it continues and we see Jane as the successful writer, we find out about her subsequent Oxford years, her eventual marriage. The older Jane gives interviews on her work, telling in various forms the tale of her motherless upbringing, with just the same creativity as she pondered various scenarios for Paul explaining to his fiancee why he was so late. A writer's work is often about what is left out, what is not explicitly said, just as Jane does in her interviews, so Swift does in his novella - the untold story told.

ashramblings verdict 4* I have a feeling it could have been tighter - it repeats itself, but then again this is part of Jane's creative workings at their commencement as her storytelling skills are honed - but this short novella, interspersed with Swift's familiar literary references, will carry you you swiftly (oh!) through and leave you feeling that it is a work of art as memorable as the picture on its cover (Modigliani's reclining nude).

View all my reviews

Sunday 16 December 2018

Review: The Expanse Series by James S Corey, narrrated by Jefferson Mays, Book 4 Cibola Burn

Cibola Burn Cibola Burn by James S.A. Corey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Mid point books in a series often seem to go slow. This one should have been much shorter so may be my 3* is being a tad generous, but it struggled through to the end when it returned to course setting up the overall storyline for humanity’s expansion beyond the gate in the next book in this series Nemesis Games. It was like most of it wasn’t written by the same writer. Yes, I know there is more than one person writing this series but it just didn’t read as smooth in the others. Shame.

View all my reviews

Qit’a – Imidiwan Tamasheq

The land of sand calls me
My heart flies on the wind
remembering love in the dunes
regretting time’s rapid passage.

© Sheila Ash, 2018

Secret Sentence

I wrote this series of blog posts for a new blog, WriteTypes just started by a group of Halesworth based writers.

Secret  sentence

Secret sentence update (1)

Secret sentence update (2)

The After life by Sheila Ash

I do remember Before -
walking barefoot in the park
lazing under the Oak
lost in a book.
I do remember Before -
Friday night dancing
bopping to the beat
drowning in the heat of bodies
waking up with tired feet.
I do remember Before -
the life supreme.

I do remember Before -
like its someone else’s story
not mine. A movie?
I saw no sign, heard no noise
till the hand stopped my voice
jostling me out of Before and into -
a Winter’s morning?
All tubes and disinfectant,
blurry lights through fuzzy eyes,
Why was the sky so white?
Frozen panic till voices crow in.
Questions. Questions.
Answered by crying faces
playing with tissues,
fingers touching
needles, adjusting,
People. So many people.

I recognised you cared.
Though for long, not you.
It’s safe, this home of yours. Still
I don’t go out anymore.

© Sheila Ash, 2018

Saturday 8 December 2018

Sessions and Sail 2018

Proud to have helped this venture on its journey

Saturday 1 December 2018

Review: Blood on Snow by Jo Nesbø

Blood on Snow Blood on Snow by Jo Nesbø

I couldn’t disagree more with the reviewers (New York Times, The Guardian) of this book who dismiss it as not being up to parr with Nesbo’s Harry Hole creation. For me he has succeeded writing a real page turner in the unlikely voice of hitman Olav Johanson.

Olav, who had been introduced to Les Misérables as a sick child, finds he wants to create stories, and that’s what he does around his life and his victims. He transposes Fantine onto Maria who he saves from being forced into prostitution to pay of her junkie boyfriend's debts to a drug baron. He transposes Cosette onto his boss’s wife, whom he loves and wants to flee to Paris with. The problem is his boss has asked him to kill her. As Olav tries to resolve this dilemma by offering to kill his boss for competitor drug lord, The Fisherman, I found myself transfixed by Nesbo’s short novel. As with other Scandinavian writings, the weather, the environment plays its part – here the snow, the ice, the cold is ever present and ever chilling. Another Nesbo for the movie moghuls to get their hands on I suspect, lets hope they do a better job than with the other Nesbo books they have attempted.
ashramblings 4* – great winter’s day noir-ish thriller of a read.

View all my reviews

Sunday 25 November 2018

If you’ve enjoyed reading my poems please read on ……

Please show your appreciation by supporting the NGO I worked for in India, through either of their 2 Global Giving Projects.
(1) Old Age Home – providing a safe environment and health care for elderly people
(2) School – providing education for children who have been involved in child labour

Donations can be made via the usual methods – card, Paypal, Apple Pay, mobile phone, M-Pesa and others. 
There are lots of familiar faces on their OAH project picture echoing the good care and medical help received increasingly through donations.

Past grandeur by Sheila Ash

Elaborate balconies cling to the block’s side
like warts on an old lady’s face.
Wrought ironwork veins verdigris its concrete skin
shimmering moistly from rain canalling to corners,
trickling tears of regret for its dereliction in modernity.

© Sheila Ash, 2018

In Memoria - Peter Ward by Sheila Ash

The old jazzman watches from the wings –

The saxophone brashly bursts upon the ballroom
energising the moment, uplifting the mood.
On cue, his soft sweeping, beat keeping sticks
break their gentle cadence.
Dancers feet begin to pound
joining his tympanic crescendo.
Traditional arrangements revitalised,
familiar melodies syncopated
with raspy imperfections.
His own opus improvised
with tones from another place, timbres from another time.

The wings are empty now.
His kit sits silent.
Lingering notes imbue our solitude.

He, in a different place with a different audience, plays on.

© Sheila Ash, 2018

Chicken Livers by Sheila Ash

Chicken LiversIn the nagar, stall holders banter with passers-by
words filling the air like a chorus of crickets after the rains.
Hadija’s smile greets my Sunday morning approach
Her hair, jet black, plait thick as rope, hangs nonchalantly over her shoulder
her saree’s colour steals from beneath her apron wrap
bangles glisten and jangle as merrily as her chatter.
Comfortable in our Otherness we Namaste and Namaskar,
ask after each other’s wellbeing, as she reaches for a bird
fresh for her regular customer.
Two poles and a remnant wall hold proud the side-less stall’s rattan roof
plastic tarpaulin shading the polished metal sheet of her counter
as its rests on cinder blocks and straddles the caged birds below.
To one side a ubiquitous large blue plastic basin sits hatted by a food umbrella.
To the other her butcher’s block, worn down by repeated cleaver blows -
a tree stump, stained red in blood.
She skilfully breaks the bird’s neck, removes the skin,
buckets castoff feet for the poor, discards unwanted innards,
until pointing a tentative mu lagibi bahut achi
gets it added to my parcel of meat chopped up Indian style.
A bemused smile teaches me Kalija, my only Telugu word.

© Sheila Ash, 2018

Sunday 14 October 2018

Review: All Systems Red by Martha Wells

All Systems Red All Systems Red by Martha Wells
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An intriguing story about a part organic, part android Securty Bot attached to an exploratory misson to an unnamed planet in a vague distant capitalist universe dominated by The Company. But this is no ordinary SecBot. It has hacked its own governor module and is addicted to watching soaps, especially one call Sanctuary Moon. Much as it dislikes interacting with humans, circumstances mean it has to if it is going to protect its clients, the survey team, from whoever is trying to kill them and to figure out why? As the thriller concludes ****SPOILER ALERT*** SecBot with the help of its thankful and sympathetic human team it becomes 'ex-inventory' and so begins its journey into freedom and self awareness.

ashramblings review 3* This is a short book, only 144 pages; its human characters could be more fully developed, and more details about what they were doing on the planet and where it was could be added. But I found myself surprisingly liking this SecBot, who called itself MurderBot after a malfunctioning cheaply bought component had caused it to committ mass murder on a previous Company job. Its resultant cynicism for the Company, and its addiction to sitcom entertainment gave it a blend of childlike niavety and adult distance which get it and its human compatriots through the nightmare. It was a compelling read. With more in the series, this reader feels interested enought to see how this Bot matures as it faces life in the human world.

View all my reviews

Friday 12 October 2018

Sweetshop by Sheila Ash

Photo (C) Sheila Ash The inside of Edward & Vintage Sweetshop, Tissington, Derbyshire, UK (Aug 2018) ( )
Smiles skip down the street
A tiny hand holdfasts a sixpence -
a shining silver dowry
for a piece of heaven’s sweetness
sought in the fizz of lemon sherbet.

On tiptoes, stretching
fingers find the edge,
silver slides across mahogany.
Withdrawing. Waiting.
Patience prickles audibly.

Giant overhanging hands
parachute a weekly hit -
a bag of exuberant bliss
sugaring life’s paucity.
Two hands catch and close.

Thanks dropped like a curtsy before the door
Head down
eyes down
mouth salivating
skips effervesced away like burst bubbles.

The walk home long savoured
with every slow step
with every syrupy suck.

© Sheila Ash, 2018

Thursday 11 October 2018

Song for the unforgotten by Sheila Ash

As the days became hours
we disentangle you from the tubing of trust
take you from the incubator of hope,
cradle you in the arms of family,
bathe you in the love that had made you.

For every moment of your life
we were graced by your presence.
Your tiny hands fankled our fingers,
feeding our hearts.

We blanketed you to us -
your struggle comforted,
your touch cherished to the end.

We will always be with you
as you will always be with us

© Sheila Ash, 2018

Wednesday 10 October 2018

Review: IQ by Joe Ide

IQ IQ by Joe Ide
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I sped through this riveting, fast paced, first in series thriller is a modern take on the Sherlock Holmes meme set in gangland LA. Recommended by a member of my in person book group, it is packed full of character and humour. The excellant narration is by by Sullivan Jones who I am pleased to see also narrates Book 2 in the series Righteous and released only this week Book 3 Wretched. This book is screaming for a TV adaptation or movie. If you want a thriller for the beach or the winter nights, this is the one.

View all my reviews

Friday 28 September 2018

Review: Tin Man by Sarah Winman

Tin Man Tin Man by Sarah Winman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Recommended by a member of my in person book group and chosen for our monthly read, this was not a book or an author I had come across. It is a short book at just over 200 pages, its audio nicely narrated by its author.

It is a story of a menage a trois, told as two parts, first of Ellis' life and secondly of Michael's, with Annie, 'Ms Annie Actually', being the connector, the overlap.

*****SPOILER ALERT ***It is a novel that sucks the reader in slowly and steadily, not letting you go then with a phenomenol final part to the final chapter circles the story back on itself and hits you hard in the heart with the pivotal moment of connective death that we have actually known about from early on. This book is all about emotions, unrequited loves and I challenge any reader not to hear the heart strings of compassion for each of the three characters upon finishing this work.

I loved the writing, very polished. the way the author moves fluidly between memories, between different times, between different points of view, between dialog and rememberance of dialog.

ashramblings review 4* delicately, beautifully told. Highly recommended.

View all my reviews

Monday 24 September 2018

Review: Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've had the book for ages but held back to read it with my in person book group. It is one of those "couldn't put down" books - the Audible version read by actress Cherise Booth is a 5 star narration to my mind . Easy to see why it won the 2011 National Book Award winner for fiction.

It is the story of one family's survival through hurricane Katrina in rural Mississippi. Set as 12 days/chapters leading up to the phenomenal description of their Katrina encounter in chapter 11, this is a very human story. its final chapters truly touched me. The description of the storm and the family's flight and fight to survive could only have been written by someone who themselves survived.

Some people might find the dog fighting scenes hard to handle but they are crucial to the book - in fact Skeet's dog China is actually a character in the book; others may find the casual attitude to sex disturbing particulary for such a young narrator, 15-year-old pregnant Esch, but surely we all find the overwhelming familial love heartwarming as we grow to know the family - widowed father Claude, Randall, Skeet, Esch and Junior.

The writing is extremely good, the author exceptional in her ability to convey the poverty of the family and their bonds of loyalty and love.

ashramblings verdict 5* A knock out read I can't recommend enough.

View all my reviews

Tuesday 18 September 2018

enuresis by Cid Corman

Just read this poem for the first time on ModPoPlus2018. The text is available at . You are probably wondering about the title, if like me you never knew the proper term for children’s nightime bed wetting.
and here is a audio recording of my reading it aloud . Enjoy
enuresis by Cid Corman

Voice Recorder >>

Sunday 16 September 2018

Untitled challenge or "Where is my car?" by Sheila Ash

My creative writing group are mainly storytellers, but we also have non-fiction writers and a couple also dabble occasionally in poetry. This weeks prompt Where is my car? proved a challenge for this would be poet on a number of levels – a cold, workmen in my house, the first week of ModPo2018.
Hear me read this poem
untitled challenge.mp3

Audio and voice recording >>

Laying new flooring men banging away
Head beating in time all through the day
Under the weather, work piling high
Life in absentia passing on by

A garden of weeds flourishing a pace
A kitchen of crockery laying in waste
Arrhythmic sleeping disturbing Versailles
Sinuses screaming like Lorelei

Words on the page floating unlined
Guaifenesin trying to clear the slime
Thought constipation blocking up Prose
Meanings lost like the scent of the rose

The week weakly wandering wistfully sways
Smidgeons of sleep showering the days
Pillowed in air moistening in mist
Dreaming of Emily dashing her This -

Wild nights, wild nights as never seen
Poetry dawdling on in quarantine
Linctus medicating verse
The well is dry, no ink dispersed

No words conveyed, no thought carriage
No mind and pen in heavenly marriage
No freeing of form, no quantum shift
Where is my car? still lies adrift.

© Sheila Ash, 2018

Monday 10 September 2018

The common cloud by Sheila Ash

Stuffed in every sinus crevice
Packed thick like fogs
the blanket of discomfort
sits astride the presumed airway
building pressure constricting flow
a head immersed in catarrh clouds
tries to explode into the world beyond.

© Sheila Ash, 2018

By James Gathany - CDC Public Health Image library ID 11162, Public Domain, Link

Sunday 9 September 2018

In the beginning by Sheila Ash


Before, there was nothing.
Excitation deafened its silence
Releasing a tsunami of realisation out into the endlessness.
Its stillness disturbed.
Existence becomes

The first sub-particle
to coalesce into being,
to move into shape,
to shape into form,
Creation combusts amok

Propelled by blow-out winds
Chaos churns and twists, decays and settles
into All - the beginning, the middle, the end,
the between, the above, the below,
the before, the after, the now, the then
spinning off into the endlessness
which is no longer nothing.

Destiny is writ
The Word is made conscious
And we are born
but live framed by our finiteness within the limitless expanse.

© Sheila Ash, 2018

(Inspired by a piece entitled “Emit – The Start: Not to remit” written by my Creative Writing class colleague Simon Watts)

Thursday 23 August 2018

Review: The Expanse Series by James S Corey, narrrated by Jefferson Mays - Book 1: Leviathan Wakes , Book 2 Caliban's War, Book 3 Abaddon's Gate

Leviathan Wakes

The Expanse Series by James S.A. Corey
Book 1 Leviathan Wakes
Book 2 Caliban's War
Book 3  Abaddon's Gate
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I came to this series as a result of watching Series 1 & 2 of The Expanse on Netflix . With the series their dragging their heels, I delved into the books and was pleasantly surprised. I have the Audible audio and Kindle versions where the characters come to life as does the world view of the waring Mars, Earth and Belt regions of space.

***SPOILER ALERT*** Some aspects inevitably pale compared to the graphic sgi special effects eg the protomolecule on Venus, but others work just as well on paper eg the protomolecule's command of the body of Julie Mao. The book series held my attention well enough I read the first 3 books in the series straight away and intend to continue

ashramblings verdict 4* Well crafted space opera with elements of detective crime, political intrigue, conspiracy, racism...

View all my reviews

Review: Runaway by Peter May, narrated by Peter Forbes

Runaway Runaway by Peter May
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was recommended Peter May by a fellow member of my in-person book group and this was my first read of his. I doubled up the paperback with the audio version read by Peter Forbes . For me Forbes does the audio narration very well, he has that vocal tone I find appealing, being in a slightly lower register. He doesn't overdo accents, but he leaves you clearly identfying each character. And in this novel, the characters are well written and come to life off the page. I could hear the Scottish humour in them and they had me recalling the great Scottish comedians like Rikki Fulton.

Runaway is at its core a crime novel, but there's no detective, private eye or the like, instead we have 3 old men each in various stages of decrepitude, plus one overweight nerdish geek grandson, the most unlikely of crimebusters. The men had in their youth run away from their Scottish home to the big city, London, with two others who did not return with them when they came home disillusioned and changed not that long afterwards. What happened during their London escapade now needs to be put to bed as they approach their later years, before it is too late, especially after the newspaper revelations of the recent murder of a wanted man upon his return to England. The story deftly weaves the road trip narratives from present day (circa 2015) and from the mid-1960s as the men make their, often comical, way south once again.

ashramblings verdict 4* I loved it. It is an easy read, but full of marvelous characters and it holds the reader as a thriller should all the way through. A could-not-put-it-down read about having dreams and having them shattered, about friendship surviving the odds of experience, time and place

Audible have a couple of free interviews with Peter May and Peter Forbes ( which are worthy of a listen.

View all my reviews

Monday 23 July 2018

Party Pieces–a series of vignettes–Childhood Party by Sheila Ash

Dressed in party best frock, favoured fluffy bolero
white ankle sock tops reflecting in newly polished patent leather Mary Jane’s.
Dining table laid in full spread abundance
Nice biscuits, broken ends bedding jelly babies on iced blankets
Spam sandwiches cut crust free,
triangles stacked on tiered cake stand castles
Trays of mother-made sausage rolls
butterfly cakes, icing sugar dancing onto sticky fingers
Followed by bowls of jelly, ice cream and trifle.
Paper hats and paper plates. Lucky dips and skipping games.
Discarded pass-the-parcel wrappings litter the floor
Chairs disordered after moments of musical madness and barging badness
Scuffed Mary Jane’s walking home
bolero flavoured by strawberry jelly.

© Sheila Ash, 2018

Sunday 22 July 2018

Review: Night's Slow Poison

Night's Slow Poison Night's Slow Poison by Ann Leckie
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This story is available online at

Nicely worked story of a watchman on a cargo ship's encounter with one of its passengers. Neatly linking watchman Kels' memory of being bitten by a 'tea vonda' as a youth and consequential loss of his arm as its poison rapidly spread with the ***SPOILER ALERT *** infiltration of the ship by the passenger, a spy in search of the route through the Crawl, the defensive perimeter surrounding the planet Ghaon. The passenger's deception is the 'slow poison' of the title, taking months to take effect. His cover story, of travelling to search for his unknown Ghaonish grandmother, softens Kels as he sees the eyes of high born Ghaon in the passeneger's face making his recall he own lost love for a high born Ghaon woman. However, Kels does 'step up' to 'do the right thing' when the spy is exposed in order to safeguard the secret route from the enemy the spy is contracted to, the Radchaai, whom all Ghoanians believe covet their planet and its resources.

ashramblings verdict 3* Leckie created a thoroughly believeable experience of life aboard a space cargo ship on a long journey, the boredom, the monotony, the peaks and troughs of passenger interactions, the claustrophobia, as month after month drag by. In an interesting cultural aspect to some of the characters they wear masks, while others and other cultures do not. In this tale the passenger does not wear such a mask, but has one nonetheless until his spy persona is revealed. Lots of ideas in play here, making the story a bit busy but then than just increases the claustrophobia and the paranoia

View all my reviews

Review: She Commands Me and I Obey by Ann Leckie

She Commands Me and I Obey She Commands Me and I Obey by Ann Leckie
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This story is available online at in two parts at 

Political shenanigans, behind the scences plotting, scheming, political expediency, power plays enacted via "The Game" something akin to handball/ pelota de maya, played to the death to 'elect' Tetrarch of the four space stations or Precints. Wow betide the niave novice who stumbles upon this seeing only parts of the whole. The character names are beautiful descriptive ones, almost pay homage to Amerindian names, albeit that they are a bit confusing to begin with - my advise is to draw up a who is who list. Then there is the interplay between governance and religion with the opportunistic scheming abbot.

ashramblings verdict 3* So much packed in a short story. Leckie leaves enough unsaid that makes you want more - how will the young Aresh make his way and survive in this cut-throat world? why was he hidden to begin with? I read this as my first Ann Leckie to see if I fancied reading her The Imperial Radch Boxed Trilogy: Ancillary Justice, Ancillary Sword, and Ancillary Mercy series and the answer is a resounding yes.

View all my reviews

Saturday 21 July 2018

Party Pieces – a series of vignettes – Balloons by Sheila Ash


Burst by boys to scare the girls and make them scream,
Filled with water, or worse, to catapult the other gang,
Twisted magically into dogs and ponies,
Phalluses to solicit sniggles.

Riotous drunken laughter drowns the DJ
as coupled pairs contort to pass them
up and down, under and over to the lines end.
No touching now the only rule.

Ceiling hugging helium makes cheeky boys of grown men
Fits of squeaky voiced tear stained laughter
Struggled suppression

Endless sobs
his fairground prize floats off across the sea to France
a mother’s love no recompense for a child’s lost joy

Let loose en masse, colour coded cries of protest
Basketed tours fly majestically above Serengeti’s Maasai giraffes
Platforms for champagne proposals and parachute jumps
The kaleidoscopic other worldliness of a flock of Hoppers at dusk

© Sheila Ash, 2018

Party pieces–a series of vignettes - EE by Sheila Ash


In Old Town Prague
The lame balloonman whistles
Then blows a gigantic tear drop bubble -
An ee cummings moment
Entrancing child and parent
Caught on a camera phone


Friday 20 July 2018

Gone by Sheila Ash

The house sounds differently now -
Silence amplifies the creaky third tread,
The ill-fitting window frame,
The warped sitting room door.
The lack of her voice ricochets round.

Time passes differently now -
Dinner eaten in five minutes,
Frozen meals last twice as long,
Milk sours before the bottle’s drunk,
Trash put out every other week.

Life is shaped differently now -
Her chair is occupied only by her scent,
He never completes the crossword,
A lone toothbrush lies beside the paste,
The bed has one pillow.

Love shows itself differently now -
Re-watching her favourite movie,
Dusting her photo frame,
Tending her pelargoniums,
Feeding her darned cat.

© Sheila Ash, 2018

Party Pieces – a series of vignettes – Party Bags by Sheila Ash

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 by Sheila Ash


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 by Sheila Ash

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 by Sheila Ash

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 by Sheila Ash


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 by Sheila Ash

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

© Sheila Ash, 2018

Untitled by Sheila Ash

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

Poise by Sheila Ash

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

© Sheila Ash, 2018

Friday 15 June 2018

W11 by Sheila Ash

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 by Sheila Ash

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 by Sheila Ash

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

Untitled by Sheila Ash


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 by Sheila Ash

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 by Sheila Ash

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

Trapped by Sheila Ash

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 by Sheila Ash

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 by Sheila Ash

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 by Sheila Ash

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 by Sheila Ash

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 by Sheila Ash

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 by Sheila Ash

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.

View all my reviews

Wednesday 9 May 2018

Thoughts on difference inspired by a single red apple by Sheila Ash

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