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

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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.

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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.

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