Small Stones (21-31)

The final set of small stones for the January Challenge. As usual I have found writing small stones in January so much more difficult as the weather doesn’t inspire me to get out of the house much.

Jan 21

I sip a cup of coffee and turn the crisp pages of the paper over slowly savouring the pleasure of print. With our digital lives, it feels like a new experience, a luxury now.

Jan 22
The big game on TV. Bacon sizzling, coffee brewed, anticipation high.
Jan 23
Back up disk flickers and whirrs on desk next to computer. Our work, photographs and memories transformed into a bewildering array of 1s and 0s.
Jan 24
Early morning trip to Tesco turns out to be anything but quiet. Difficult to move and think for shelf stackers, home shoppers and cleaners; a supermarket run for everyone but the customers that visit.
Jan 25
Head thumping, shoulders aching, nose blocked, skin itching, legs cold, feet freezing. Mind numb, no direction, wrong direction. Grey day, grey mood.
Jan 26
I snatch at sleep all day and all night, hot then cold. My back and shoulders ache. I move around from position to position trying to get comfortable.
Jan 27
The sun is shining for the first time in a week. I emerge back into the world. There are so many things to do yet no energy to do them.
Jan 28
Forward delete, backwards delete. Today’s small stone will not come and darkness is falling.
Jan 29
A piece of modern technology in matt black lies on the desk. It’s sexy and smart with more computing power than the Apollo space missions. Only one problem; the bloody thing doesn’t work. I picture Neil Armstrong, sat in his lunar module drumming his fingers, listening to Adele whilst waiting for an operator on the Helpdesk.
Jan 30
The daffodils are bursting through believing that winter is over. The snowdrops and crocus remain cautious, despite the mild winter, sensing that nature is preparing for a final counter attack.
Jan 31
Getting ready to go to football. I am struggling to find a balance between layers of clothes required and ability to move. I wonder why I am doing this?


Small Stones (11-20)

Jan 11
Cheese melts and bubbles away on toasted white bread. I take a bite, close my eyes and think back to childhood. I am 13, my face and fingers frozen, my school uniform soaked. My Mum is waiting and there is cheese on toast. I sit by the roaring coal fire in an old rocking chair and the world is good again.
Jan 12
The grey of recent days is replaced by full daylight and blue skies. The pleasure is short lived. The sunlight streaming in reminds me that the windows need cleaning.
Jan 13
Photos from a beautiful sunset last night, some good news and warm wishes from friends make Friday 13th a lucky day.
Jan 14
The railway platform is half in shade, half in sun. Rock salt spread across the surface turns from crusty crystals to white slush under the sun’s warmth and people’s feet.
Jan 15
Winter woodlands brim with different textures and brown and green colours with a splash of red from holly berries.
Jan 16
Planes criss cross in the sky above set against the fading light, set against a glorious winter sunset of purple, pink and orange.
Jan 17
White frost persists as the sun makes it away across the garden. Last year I’d have the heating on low all day, but now I wear layers of clothes and a beanie hat in order to keep the heating bills down. As the sun moves round past the window, I feel the temperature and my productivity drop away further.
Jan 18
The frost of previous days has gone, yet the grey dampness seeps through my bones. These are the dreary days of an English winter where the light is dim and the summer seems an impossible dream.
Jan 19
My 92 year old father rings and tells me that he has a rodent ulcer (a form of skin cancer) in the same casual way with which we discuss the football.
Jan 20
A friend rings with his good news interrupting the flow of thoughts. I break for a cup of coffee, trying to balance the phone on one shoulder whilst filling the kettle up, switching it on then opening the fridge for the milk. Having completed this tricky manoeuvre, I drop the phone as I attempt to put it back in my hand.

Small Stones (1-10)

This is my second year of writing small stones in January – small daily pieces of observation. These are the first ten.

Jan 1

Outside the streets are empty. Gradually the world will surface to a New Year. There is an eerie silence in the house save for the occasional sound from the radiators. I open my new diary and wonder how it will be filled this year as I turn over its smooth clean white pages. I hope for a better year for myself and the world.

Jan 2

As the light outside starts to fade, the office begins to chill. I cup my hands round a white mug decorated in black circles and slurp hot milky tea in an effort to stay warm. The back up disk for my imac whirrs into life and its light begins to flicker. I turn my attention back to my work, mindful of what needs to be done.

Jan 3

A few rows of seats empty and a group of stewards surround a man in the West Stand, one pumping furiously at the man’s chest. Eventually he is carried from the stadium accompanied by his family but he is no longer alive.  The game continues. Other than those sitting nearby, few have noticed the sad scene.

Jan 4

Trees bend to the will of the wind once more, the grey skies crowding out the daylight. Rain lashes against the window pain like a soft rap of knuckles demanding attention. The streetlights signal an early surrender to the day.

Jan 5

A few snowflakes amidst bright sunshine is followed by gusts of wind and driving rain seconds later as if nature cannot make up its mind what weather to give us.

Jan 6

The phone rings again, a friend in need of a chat. As it rings and vibrates on the desk, I feel my mind torn from the task I was trying to focus on. I sense that the day is moving away from me and I will have achieved nothing, but I pick up the phone and answer anyway.

Jan 7

Magazines, retained for a purpose long forgotten, are piled high in the recycling bin in a never ending war with clutter.

Jan 8

The kitchen is cold and uninviting. The chicken left to defrost this morning is defiantly solid. A small mountain of washing up awaits.

Jan 9

Little stories from larger stones need to be polished and submitted today. Words must be used imaginatively and sparingly in equal measure.

Jan 10

A slow piano tune, minor chords and soft sad lyrics dictate my writing mood. Words come slowly, jumbled in reflection and loss.

Small Stones July 28-31

July 28

The building is silent and ghostly, the painted white exterior beginning to colour and peel. The workers and machinery are gone. The delivery bays are empty and the shutters down. What was once a bustling factory is now a shell waiting for a new purpose, a new beginning.

July 29

I try to shake myself from a low mood. A friend’s visit brings memories of the past. We dredge old problems and take held positions.  It is sad and uncomfortable and he does not understand. I am reminded of what I had and what I lost. It takes me back to a dark place which I had no desire to return to.

July 30

The earth is hard as I dig in with the spade. I pull at the roots of weeds but they refuse to yield.  The shrubs stand out in the setting evening sunlight as if they are on fire.

July 31

Mountain bikes of all nationalities hurtle down the hill at breakneck speed on the new Olympic course. Front suspensions push down then up as the bikes leap into the air then land back on the dusty trail. The leader speeds off into the distance leaving the rest to fight over the other places. Many do not last the race and are eliminated. Finally the victor rides home out of sight of his competitors to take the top place on the podium. In twelve months time, he will probably be the new Olympic champion.

Small Stones July 21-27

July 22

The displays in the department store windows conjure images of summer cottages and seaside air. Colourful photoframes sit atop a white wooden desk. I picture myself in a garret writing and looking out to sea.

July 23

The radio plays a song that captures the life of a singer taken so young; each word now laden with meaning, prophesy and sadness. It is the voice of a 22 year old girl who knew too much suffering for her age and who paid too high a price for her imperfections.

July 24

Three weeks later, the perfect rose bush has passed its best; its petals faded from intense orange to a weak pink, the edges yellowed by summer rain.

July 25

A snake of people queue from St John’s Wood to Lords to watch a legendary cricketer leave this great stage . Thousands come to watch, to say that they were there and thousands will be turned away.


I move words around on my CV for the thousandth time, a lifetime of work in a thousand words summing up thousands of hours doing a thousand things that cost thousands and affected thousands.

July 27

I am reading an article about a wedding anniversary and a marriage that has survived through accepting differences. Within it is truth, honesty, humour and things I could and should have said when I had my chance.

Small Stones July 18-21

July 18

Night falls early on a cool grey day. Outside the rain sweeps across the garden, the grass lush and green. Only a few flowers betray evidence of autumn.

July 19

I listen to words of contrition on the radio; once mighty men with great power trying to summon up humility and regret for the occasion, denying knowledge or responsibility. Last year the banks, this year the media, next year…..

July 20

I am busy doing nothing. I sit down and try to concentrate, prioritise on what needs to be done. Everything must be done now and yet everything can wait.

July 21

A veil of dust, smudges and pollen is lifted. A clean pair of glasses makes the world a brighter place.


Small Stones July 14-17

July 14

Birthday cards from old friends and Facebook messages remind me of long friendships and good times in different places. I take a moment to remember a special memory of my time with each and be grateful for their friendship.

July 15

The promise of heavy weekend rain brings out the evening gardeners in a rare synchronised display of activity; a snatched half hour of motorised action on front lawns before the street falls silent once more and the orange machines are returned to their garages and sheds.

July 16

There is a knock at the front door. I stir as if it was part of my dream. The phone rings from a distant part of the house but it has stopped by the time I get there to be replaced by my mobile ringtone. Outside sits a telephone engineer three days early for our appointment. Welcome to the weekend.

July 17

Like a child playing a cruel trick on a sibling, the sky is misbehaving. Sunshine tempts people out of their houses whilst black clouds release sudden showers sending them scurrying back inside.

Small Stones July 9-13

July 9

Water falls over my body, washing away the dust and pollen of the summer which irritates my skin. I fumble for the shampoo, knocking over several other bottles in the process. The shampoo has a rich fresh smell. I squeeze a small amount into my hand, conscious of the fact that there is little hair to wash but enjoying the luxurious feel.

July 10

The sky is dark and black, but bright golden evening sunlight still falls on the garden. A binary rainbow emerges, the first bursting with colour emerges from the trees whilst the second has a softer palette.

July 11

The gym is busy tonight; each person in their own little world pedalling, rowing and pumping iron to a Techno soundtrack oblivious to the beautiful setting sun outside.

July 12

There is so much to do but I feel weary and overwhelmed by each new task. I close my eyes but now I see is a whirl of blinding lights. I sit for a while, my head spinning around with ideas, problems and fatigue.  Outside the world speeds on without me.

July 13

I am holding marbles in my hand. Not the smooth glass variety for children but black pieces of racing tyre discarded on the track. Unlike a road tyre, it is tacky to the touch, ugly and misshapen. like blu-tac with no give.

Small Stones July 5-8

July 5

Soft summer rain begins to clear the air and the heavy showers forecast offer hope that my hayfever season is coming to its end. Outside my abandoned garden craves my attention; blackberries to be picked, roses to be pruned, weeds to be removed and summer to be enjoyed.

July 6

I hold the white soft stress ball in my hand and squeeze slowly in and out. I feel the ball exhale and inhale. I throw it against the wall as hard as possible. It does not bounce back but drops limply to the floor. I pick it up again and place it on the table, returning to my work, grateful for the distraction.

July 7

Stories of journalists listening into phone calls of the relatives of soldiers and of missing children brings on overwhelming sadness and anger. I try to imagine the anguish in those calls and wonder how knowing their contents would benefit anyone. I listen to a spokesman from the paper try to convince the public that senior managers were completely unaware of what was going on. I cannot bear any more and turn off the radio. Another example of man’s inhumanity to man.

July 8

I feel sadness as the Shuttle launches for the final time, another reminder of the passage of time and the constancy of change. An era has ended and its triumphs and tragedies pass into history.

Small Stones July 1-4

July 1

I wake slowly, feeling my way into the day. My skin begins to itch and my eyelids are held shut. The fog in my head refuses to lift. I take my hayfever tablets and toast the summer.

July 2

Out of practice, my pen moves slowly across the paper as I write a letter.  There is so much to say yet it is difficult to write. I pause after each sentence, taking care with each letter and word, mindful of the need to avoid mistakes which cannot be corrected easily. Finally satisfied, I read the text over, fold the paper and place it into the envelope with care.

July 3

The rose bush is a gardener’s dream, each individual rose in a different stage of development but united in their perfection. Some are in full bloom, the top petals an intense orange caressed by others of a pinker hue, singing a slow beautiful song of early English summer. Others wait, tightly held together ready to take up their place in the choir.

July 4

4.45am. Sun streams through blinds and curtains. I stare at the alarm clock in disbelief and turn over angry at the intrusion. Problems, issues and ‘to-do’s fill the spaces left by sleep. I am restless but not rested.

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