Monday 30 April 2018

Inspired by “Autumnal Path” a painting by Kirsty Asher - by Sheila Ash


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.

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Saturday 14 April 2018

For FMC by Sheila Ash

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 by Sheila Ash

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 by Sheila Ash

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

Sunday 1 April 2018

Review: Henosis by N.K. Jemisin

Henosis by N.K. Jemisin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I stumbled across this story when going to the Uncanny website to read/listen to another story from the same volume

It is available online at to read and to listen to - it is narrated by Stephanie Morris

The author's The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms was nominated for Hugo Award and others in 2010

This is a near future set story about writers' legacies. Harkim is an award nominated writer, he does the rounds of book signings, he turns up for awards ceremonies, but not all awards ceremonies are equal. Some indicate an end to the writer's work. Will he win? What will be his legacy?

ashramblings verdict 3* This story has a non-linear structure - its numbered chapters come in a distorted sequence. Unfortunately for me although the story was OK I didn't grasp any reason for this1` structure, which didn't seem to lend anything to the tale - perhaps I missed its point. It has some good parts while it talks about the legacy of different writers - Vonnegut, Mishma - and how their lives had ended - but on the whole it didn't really hit my buttons.

Footnote: is the classical Greek word for mystical "oneness", "union" or "unity"  

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Review: Carnival Nine by Caroline M Yoachim

Carnival Nine by Caroline M. Yoachim
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This story has been shortlisted for the 2018 Hugo Awards according to
It is available to read and listen to online at

ashramblings verdict 5* A heart wrenching story of a mother's love for her son, the sacrifices she makes. But there is a twist. No spoiler alerts but from the begining you realise this is no ordinary woman, there is talk of a maker, or springs and turns, each person having so many per day.

What I loved about this story was how it is never actually stated, only as you read does the setting, the context become apparent. Very cleverly done.

Beautifully read by Tina Connolly

Althought it is the first of the Hugo Shortlist I have read I could not give it less than a 5* rating.

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