The English are not a nation comfortable with the heat.
An August afternoon in the city with the sun baking the pavements, overheating not just the diesel engines on the buses as they thundered
by in a cloud of dirty fumes and dust, but the irritable people with fried tempers.
Blaring car horns, sweaty armpits, uncomfortable in the heat. Manners and courtesy boiled away. Midsummer madness.
Then I saw the two huge advertising hoardings, set back off the road, with paint and paper peeling off in the glare of the sun, almost forgotten and unnoticed as a part of the street furniture, a scruffy, graffiti daubed, rotting wooden bench fronting a tangle of wild bramble bushes and takeaway cartons long since discarded, threatening to strangle the very message the hoardings once so wanted everyone to read.
Not anymore they don't, no-one even glanced up, everyone is too busy, as they rush by, jabbering into their mobile phones, staring at the pavements with their scowling, spitting expressions. They don't remember, or care.
I do. I care.
I remembered this place. I have seen it every night in my sleep. This place. This ugly neglected sore on an everyday street, a relic from the past, and it is always like this, a place a million people pass by but none of them see. Yet I cannot get it out of my head, it is forever in my mind, deep into my very soul like the burn from a branding iron. I stood and stared, it was still as formidable as it has ever been, yet strangely invisible to everyone else.
How I wish I had never seen this place before, or been so inquisitive, we only wanted some adventure from the bareness of this concrete jungle on a day exactly like this, hot and sticky, yet so long ago, we were not to know.
The gap in the fence was still there, after all these years, not so noticeable now, behind the tangle of brambles, nettles and weeds choking and fighting for the diluted sunlight. But it was there like a gaping cavern to my eyes, drawing me in as it did so readily once before.
I could almost walk through it as a young boy without having to bend my back, now it was a tight squeeze, it was not even a gap at all, it was a missing paling, one neglected piece of wood and a couple of missing nails.
I always thought it was a doorway into paradise when in fact it was nothing of the sort; it should have been a barrier to keep us out, when it was actually our escape from the drudgery of back to back houses with no gardens to play in and tiny damp back yards and the stinking outside lavatory. This was our play ground, our one place of escape. Our little piece of paradise.
I wriggled through the gap, painfully scratched and stung from the nettles, and I was back in the place that I remembered so well. That familiar warm feeling, the air still sweet and fragrant, immediately recognisable and unlocking memories from deep in my subconscious.
Yet smaller and darker and more overgrown than I remembered, with a heavy smell of dry, decaying branches and rotting undergrowth. Pushing the elderberry bushes aside, heavy with fruit, I saw it again as a blinding flash of sunlight bounced off the still water below.
A water hen noisily scooted off the water, breaking the silence. The plop of a fish or a rat disappearing under the water, to escape the sun, or disturbed by my intrusion.
Butterflies and moths dancing tantalizingly in the filtered sunlight.
This oasis of cool deep water, smooth and tranquil, inviting, exciting, and so out of place in our world. I recalled the attraction straight away, that first day me and my twin brother discovered this secret world hidden away behind the hoardings on an everyday street. This was our world. No-one else's.
I stood there reliving every moment. The distant humming of the traffic, the beautiful lonely song of the song thrush singing away in the bushes, the busy chirping of a foraging wren, the welcoming warmness of the sun on my face as it broke through the lush greenery above. It all seemed like yesterday; so innocent, so carefree, so overpowering, so emotional.
This was a special place. My brother loved it here, he once found a reed buntings nest hanging delicately between three reed stalks, just hanging there, and we sat and watched the mother hopping backwards and forwards with worms and insects to feed her young. No-one down our street even knew what a reed bunting was.
We didn't tell them. Because this was our place and other people would come and spoil it if they knew.
The little jetty we built was still there, although looking tired and weary now. We would scramble down to it on our bottoms, clinging to the tree roots so as not to slip into the water. We dug out some footholds with a knife and fork we smuggled out of school dinners one day and that made it easier to get to our jetty.
This place was so peaceful; we used to talk to each other behind our hands, whispering in hushed voices to each other so as not to disturb the magic. And sit on the jetty with a home made fishing net and a jam jar catching tadpoles in the spring and sticklebacks in the summer.
We loved this place. It was actually a bomb crater made when a bomb aimed for the railway lines at the end of the road was misguided and fell here, demolishing three houses and killing all the occupants as they slept in their beds. Our kid often wondered if the dead people were buried at the bottom of the lake.
The council quickly fenced the site off and everyone forgot about it but us, and we talked about those dead families every time we visited, which was often, until that fateful day. I had warned him about reaching out too far with his net. He slipped in once and his Wellington boot was full of water before I grabbed hold of his hand and dragged him back onto the bank, laughing.
It was seeing a newt that did it. We had seen a newt surface once before and our kid thought it was a baby dinosaur because we had been doing the Prehistoric Age at school. He shouted excitedly,
And I passed him it, as the newt wriggled to the surface for a gulp of air, then gracefully glided back to the bottom again with a flash of bright red and orange from its swishing tail. Our kid swooped forward with the net and fell head first into the water, and with a gentle splash he was gone.
The net floated to the surface but our kid didn't. I expected his cheeky face to pop up any moment grinning, but he didn't. It was just an eerie silence, a few bubbles and ripples, and I didn't know what to do, I was only eight, and I cried.
I sat there and cried my eyes out, eventually shouting
'It's time to go home now, Billy"
No-one heard my shouts.
The last time I saw Billy's lovely face was last night in my sleep.
I miss my brother. His favourite place in the whole world is still here, undiscovered, untouched, nearly forty years on. He would have liked that, our Billy.
Martin sat on the wall, low, it was covered in graffiti; a matrix of over written names and messages to some dead junky, written over and over. Felt as though the sentiments were actually holding the place together, the place made up of the memories of those who knew Matt Kirk. Martin didn't. But he still felt the depths of this place.
Was there still enough of Old Hull left to lead Martin back into a better past?
Fiction - A Clever Use of Bins By Frankie Lassut
An uplifting, 'ultimate' romance fantasy.
Colin was the world's most romantic man, it was official.
Well, ok. His wife, Jean, had written into the local radio station, Hull Online, and told the presenter guy what he did for her i.e. washing up, ironing, rubbed her feet, was always telling her how lovely she looked (especially each time she bought a new dress), took her out for meals regularly etc.
She had won hands down.
Fiction - A Nice, Romantic Man By Frankie Lassut
Men! All the same! But, all I want is a nice one! All he has to do is be interested in me, and throw rose petals in my scented bath (which he ran) just like in American Beauty! Not much to ask is it? I deserve it.
She walked in the countryside with him, hand in hand; there was plenty of energy in the new romance.
Love was in the air! Wildlife could sense this. Birds sang, grasshoppers rasped, and butterflies just did what they do.
They came across a copse.
Fiction - All The Fun Of The Fair By Nick Quantrill Photographs by Darren Rogers
Jimmy held his hand out to the old man lying in a bed of wet cardboard boxes. 'Help you up, there?'
The old man took the hand. 'Good on you, son.'
Jimmy took the strain and pulled. 'No problem. You might want to get your face looked at, though.'
The old man took a tissue out of his pocket and wiped the blood from his nose. 'Don't worry about me, I'll be fine.' He laughed and wiped his hands on his trousers. 'So who are you, then?'
'New around here?'
Fiction - Side Orders - A Joe Geraghty Story By Nick Quantrill
'Ahmet's paranoid, man.'
I turned to Darren and shrugged. Ignoring him, I continued looking out of the car window and into the Hull night, the city flashing by. 'You've been robbed twice this week' I said. It had just turned midnight. People were staggering home, the streets slowly emptying, but plenty of drunks still wanted their fix of fast food.
'Bad luck, Joe. That's all. It happens.' Darren laughed. 'It's cool to have a bodyguard, though.'
'I guess so.' It'd make a good story down the pub, if nothing else.
Fiction - A Story About My Brother By J.W. Robinson
I was about twelve-years-old when my brother, James, came home from the supermarket carrying an enormous cardboard box and announced that he was going to live in it. He had been behaving strangely for a while. My mum said it was a phase he was going through and she didn't like to antagonise him too much; he was prone to emotional outbursts. Nevertheless I think she worried when he took that box up to his bedroom and climbed inside.
Fiction - Mary and Me By Leah Scarpati
The train station was full of children, a mass exodus of sorts. Some were crying, others were brimming over with the obvious excitement of their impending 'holiday'. A variety of ages, the children were all dressed in their best clothes and stood around on the platform with their boxed up gas masks hung over their shoulders and suitcases littered around with their names and destinations printed on them.
'Now you listen to me Billy,' his Mother said. Her voice wobbled a bit.
Fiction - Incident Number 33217 By Grant
Colonel Hafetz strode purposefully down the hall of the Knesset. He gripped the attaché case firmly and braced himself for his meeting. A quick reveal of his ID causes one of two guards stationed to open the door and announce:
'Mr. Prime Minister, Colonel Hafetz.'
Colonel Hafetz enters and a silent Prime Minister gestures him to sit.
The Colonel places the silver case on the desk, unlocks it and turns it to
Fiction - 100 Words Competition - Summertime By Julie Hines
The curtains of early darkness are drawn back for summer.
Gardens become beautiful this time of year.
Contrast of flowing colour. The fragrances of the pink Fuchsias draped in deep purple emphasizing their elegance. The Stock has a powerful aroma. Yellow Marigolds resembling regimented soldiers.
Placing the bulbs into her basket, she made her purchase.