Timepiece~~by Mark Huntley-James

I hate being late, loathe the last-minute rush, dread the prospect of uttering that well-worn phrase sorry I wasn’t here earlier. In fact, I suffer from that common complaint, a chronic punctuality infection. This particular train of thought came about as I stepped off the ladder (roofing job before the weather turns on Wednesday) and remembered that this article is due today. In fact, it ought to have been done already.

That’s one of the challenges of chronic punctuality – it doesn’t stop me being late, just makes being late very uncomfortable.

Oddly enough, many years ago, I knew a chap with punctuality issues known as The Late Mister Dale.

Since moving to Cornwall over fifteen years ago, I have tried to chill and adopt the Cornish principal of dreckly. When will this article get written? I’ll do it dreckly. It’s akin to mañana, but without the urgency. Perhaps if the industrial revolution had been confined to Cornwall, chronic punctuality would never have been invented. I can just hear the station announcements: the next train will be arriving dreckly, and the following train will be dreckly after. So much less stressful than actual schedules with times. (Although back when I commuted by train it often seemed as if the railway company had adopted the dreckly method but failed to inform us passengers.)

However, much as I have tried to adopt the dreckly mantra, that underlying punctuality infection simply won’t go away and living here has so many ways to set it off.

Firstly, there’s our livestock. They need to be attended to, daily, regardless of whatever else is happening. That’s all right though, isn’t it? A routine, easily planned for. If only we could get the livestock to cooperate.

A few weeks back we planned to go to an open garden event in support of the Cornish Wildlife Trust, so really a very difficult thing to be late for – just arrive after it opens at two and before it closes at five. Except that morning, one of the older ewes showed classic signs of meningitis, which effectively cancelled everything we had planned for the day.

I suppose I could argue that we weren’t actually late but completely absent.

After livestock come the tricky issues of travel and medical appointments. Our dentist and optician are in a nearby town about twenty minutes drive away, or forty minutes depending on the traffic, which is almost impossible to predict, except at this time of year when it’s best to add a further minute per mile.

In the summer months the Cornish roads are dominated by tractors and tourists, both of whom drive slowly because tractors aren’t generally built for speed, especially when hauling a trailer fully laden with something agricultural, and tourists get stressed by the discovery that Cornwall historically adopted a narrow-gauge road system where the difference between a major and a minor road is whether a tractor brushes against the hedge on both sides.

Oh, and a Cornish hedge is an earthen bank, or sometimes a stone-faced earthen bank. That stresses tourists as well as they try to reach their holiday cottage on time with their paintwork intact.

And no punctuality crisis would be complete without a mention of lambing, hatching, and all the other rural events that mean a new life has arrived. Lambs come five months less five days from conception and hen eggs hatch in twenty-one days. Honestly, that’s what it says in the books.

Just as soon as I have time, I’ll make an appointment to try to teach the sheep to read.

And use a clock.

The time is now late, but it’s still Monday. Don’t think of it as a deadline, but more a broad brushstroke.

I’m done.


OMP Admin Note:  Mark Huntley-James writes science fiction and fantasy on a small farm in Cornwall, where he lives with his partner and a menagerie of cats, poultry and sheep.

He has two urban fantasy novels out on Kindle – “Hell Of A Deal” (http://relinks.me/B01N94VXBC ) and “The Road To Hell” (relinks.me/B07BJLKFSS  ) – and is working on a third. His contribution to the One Million Project: Fantasy anthology is While We Were Sleeping.

He can be found online at his blog http://writeedge.blogspot.co.uk, his website (https://sites.google.com/site/markhuntleyjames/), and occasionally on that new-fangled social media.


Our short story anthologies written by over 100 writers are now available (links below) with all proceeds being donated to the charity organizations our group supports.

If you are a Kindle Unlimited member, you can read the complete anthology for FREE, and KU proceeds are donated along with the proceeds from the sale of our anthologies.

Our volunteer authors love to see reviews, and every review helps to make the One Million Project’s books more visible to Amazon customers, assisting us in our mission to raise One Million Pounds / Dollars for EMMAUS Homeless Programs and Cancer Research UK.

LINKS

myBook.to/OMPThriller

myBook.to/OMPFantasy

myBook.to/OMPFiction

myBook.to/OMPVarietyAnthology

The Journey Begins~~by Christine Larsen

“Chemotherapy my only option? Is that what you’re saying?” I kept my voice calm somehow, though my heart was pounding so hard you’d think it could have been heard at the other end of the Oncology section. I knew the diagnosis, of course. That was made a few weeks ago, after an x-ray to investigate my shoulder blade pain revealed a shadow on my lung. To hide my shock at that time, I’d joked that the radiographer had tried for ‘a selfie with a difference’ and inadvertently put his thumb in the picture. That felt like a lifetime away now. More x-rays, more tests, more scans and then finally a biopsy of that murderous villain lurking and growing in my lung had followed… each one confirming the presence of my most unwelcome tenant.

Surgery and radiotherapy were not options for me, I learned. The cancer is in several of the smaller lymph glands, somewhat removed from the lungs, so a combination of immunotherapy and chemotherapy are the recommended treatments. The oncologist had a plan of treatment/dosages/timing all worked out with tremendously convincing arguments to assuage doubts and fears; she was well-prepared to convince those unwilling to make the life-altering decisions. And there are many of these; along with much misinformation held by a large percentage of cancer victims… and make no mistake, these unfortunate folk are truly ‘victims’.

Happens I’m not prepared to be one of those tragic unfortunates… and the main reason is not some kind of magical wand enabling me to wave it away; nor some miraculous alternative medicine. Mine is simply that I AM a writer. Happens I love my skill SO passionately, I will allow nothing to place this gift in danger of being damaged, even destroyed. Some may find this difficult to understand and/or accept, but I think almost all other artists are right behind me in my decision to refuse a treatment that can (and usually does) create a ‘chemo brain fog’. I feel I would gather far more agreement when you consider a poem I wrote a few days ago. It was inspired by a magical photo of a massive column of white and grey storm clouds burgeoning against the bluest of skies. Below, the furrowed paddocks wait hopefully for whatever comes next. They are as prepared as they can be… for whatever lies ahead. I called my poem —

Sweet Rhythm of Distraction

I CAN be more
I’ve done it before.
Raised out of pain
a soothed heart’s refrain,
filled that hole, that void
great music my opioid.
Calming the storm
drawing back to my norm…
whatever THAT is.

I’ll face anything,
salve its harshest sting.
Bolster my strength
whatever the length,
ne’er to underestimate
my power to dictate
survival, so Divine,
right before my cloud nine…
MY Rainbow Bridge.

Whether songs of birds,
or rhythm of words,
an instrument seeking
to soothe pain, ever speaking
its music so caressing,
endowing its blessing…
Peace waits there,
with nary a care.
My Choice.
My Nirvana.
My Heaven.

© 2021 Christine Larsen

If you would like, I would be happy to continue telling you of my journey… mainly because it will have some interesting differences than most of the ‘norm’ who follow the paths of the various treatments. My wish would be to help anyone ‘sitting on the fence’ and worrying about the decisions about treatment, which to choose; and then the continuing doubt and fear as they agonise over having made the correct decision. Or not. You will already have gathered that I am a particularly determined, opinionated and strong-willed human. I have also given this the thorough kind of research and consideration I bring to all of my writings. I consider myself blessed to have my writing to nurture and strengthen my resolve, and to have the ability to share my innermost feelings as I travel the path I have chosen.

Amongst many deeply meaningful and appropriate thoughts and quotes I have been gathering even more eagerly these days, I have particularly loved some words of ancient American Indian wisdom, suggesting every thing that happens in your life, and its timing, and the people who come in and out of a lifetime; ALL have their special place and meaning to your personal growth and understanding… and most of all, gracious acceptance.

This, along with a hefty dose of courage, is what I would wish to share with you.


OMP Admin Note: Christine Larsen is a writer, farmer, wife, mother, and grandmother from Australia. She has never been homeless or had significant cancer – yet – but has had exposure to both – creating a great sense of empathy and desire to help in any way she can. She is humbled by the opportunity to give one of her stories to the sincerely worthwhile causes of Cancer research and Homelessness.

Christine contributed A Bonny Wee Lassie to the One Million Project: Fiction anthology.

To find out more about Christine and her work:

ceedee moodling  (Christine’s website)

Christine Larsen, Author

 – on Wattpad

–  on Facebook

– on Tablo

– on Amazon

Old McLarsen had some Farms (farming memoirs)

ceedee4kids (Christine’s children’s book site)


Our short story anthologies written by over 100 writers are now available (links below) with all proceeds being donated to the charity organizations our group supports.

If you are a Kindle Unlimited member, you can read the complete anthology for FREE, and KU proceeds are donated along with the proceeds from the sale of our anthologies.

Our volunteer authors love to see reviews, and every review helps to make the One Million Project’s books more visible to Amazon customers, assisting us in our mission to raise One Million Pounds / Dollars for EMMAUS Homeless Programs and Cancer Research UK.

LINKS

myBook.to/OMPThriller

myBook.to/OMPFantasy

myBook.to/OMPFiction

myBook.to/OMPVarietyAnthology

Goblin Fruits~~by John Nedwill

Autumn is my favourite time of year. Winter is cold and wet, while the summer is too hot for me. I like to doze under heavy blankets, and I cannot do that in the summer heat. While spring temperatures are just right for me, there is still an underlying hint of frost. But autumn? In autumn we have the dying heat of the year and – best of all – it is time to go foraging.

I am lucky in that I live within easy distance of the countryside. There are plenty of parks and woods for me to walk through, canal towpaths and riverside paths to make my way along; and it is this time of year that the bounty of the countryside is at its best. The hedgerows become a blaze of colour, filled with ripening fruit and berries. I like to wander the trails, clutching a bag full of plastic boxes, scouring the brambles and the trees for blackberries, damsons and sloes.

My introduction to blackberrying came at an early age. My mother would take my sister and I for long walks along the coastal path on the southern side of Belfast Lough, looking for tangles of brambles. Then we would dive into them, searching for the biggest, ripest blackberries that we could find. My mother imparted the wisdom that had been passed down to her: “You have to pick blackberries before October, otherwise the devil sours them,” and “Don’t pick any blackberries below waist-height. The dogs will have pissed on them.” Then we would go home, laden down with our haul, and watch as our mother made jars of sticky-sweet bramble jelly to spread on toast during winter teatimes.

After I moved away from home and set out on my own, I didn’t have much chance to go blackberrying. My job took me all over the country, and I did not get many opportunities to search out the best places for foraging. It wasn’t until I settled down again that I decided to teach my daughter the delights of autumn fruit-picking. It took a couple of years to learn the best places to go. Brambles were everywhere – but I also learnt to identify other delicacies of the hedgerow and to expand my wanderings to look for them. I also learnt how to prepare them and preserve them, so that I could enjoy these fruits well into the winter.

In a couple of weeks I am going to go looking for blackberries. My kitchen will be full of heady smells and sweet steam. Then, as the year progresses, there will be more of nature’s treasures to harvest and enjoy. I shall fill my cupboards with jars and bottles: blackberry jam, damson jelly, sloe gin – beautiful shades of red and purple that remind me of my childhood.


OMP Admin Note:  John Nedwill is a writer, OMP Network member, and a regular #OneMillionProject Blogger.  His work can be found on Wattpad.com and in the One Million Project’s Short Story Anthologies published in February 2018.


Our short story anthologies written by over 100 writers are now available (links below) with all proceeds being donated to the charity organizations our group supports.

If you are a Kindle Unlimited member, you can read the complete anthology for FREE, and KU proceeds are donated along with the proceeds from the sale of our anthologies.

Our volunteer authors love to see reviews, and every review helps to make the One Million Project’s books more visible to Amazon customers, assisting us in our mission to raise One Million Pounds / Dollars for EMMAUS Homeless Programs and Cancer Research UK.

LINKS

myBook.to/OMPThriller

myBook.to/OMPFantasy

myBook.to/OMPFiction

myBook.to/OMPVarietyAnthology

I’ll Show You Mine If You Show Me Yours~~by Søvn Drake

I stood fists balled in my pockets outside the automatic sliding doors on a cold gray spring morning in May. I fingered the scrap of cloth in my pocket as my heart hammered in my ears. Here goes nothing, I thought.

The United States had just reached another milestone in the pandemic. Those of us fully vaccinated were free to take off our masks everywhere except inside health care facilities, public transportation, schools, homeless shelters, and jails.

Relaxed restrictions was good news for some, but bad news for others. All hospitalized patients could now have visitors, not just those nearing end of life. However, our public emergency department anticipated an uptick in violence and aggression as eviction moratoriums were removed pushing more people into homelessness.

I mustered the courage and entered the grocery store. Nobody paid me any notice. It was very early. Employees were stocking shelves and morning shoppers were intent on their lists. Everyone else wore a mask. I learned later that day that my county recommended continuation of masking indoors until June 30th as originally planned. (It’s states vs the federal government here in America!) Sheepishly I returned the next week with my mask back on.

We had almost taken flight but not quite.

I’m a smiley person and I like to smile at babies. Up until about 9 months when they naturally develop stranger anxiety, they universally smile back. It makes me happy. I found myself worried in the past year and a half that babies born during the pandemic might never know a smile other than their parents.’ Fortunately, I’ve found that the crinkles around the eyes are enough of a cue for most babies. It doesn’t matter that I wear a mask, most babies smile back when I smile at them. Try it. We all need more smiles in our life.

The day after I entered the grocery store maskless, I spoke to the owner of the coffee shop Tougo. It has been a bad 18 months for him as a black business owner who had just opened a new store as COVID hit. To make matters worse, vandals attacked it a few months later during the Black Lives Matter riots in Seattle.

After confirming we were both vaccinated we took off our masks, the only two people in a large well-ventilated beautiful space filled with plants. He shared his handsome smile with me.

He told me he would like people to continue to wear masks because he wants everyone to leave his shop better off than when they arrived. He related a story of a colleague he recently had lunch with. Even though they were both vaccinated he was nervous around this man because of his cavalier attitude early in the pandemic, going to bars before masks were mandated and lording his white-supremacist bravado over others.

We talked about how self-centered most Americans are. That we live in a me culture rather than a we culture. That in places like Japan people wear masks when they have colds so they don’t give it to other people. After chatting for five minutes, the next customer entered and we masked up again.

An article in our local paper the week of the CDC’s announcement quoted psychologists stating that some people are just not ready for the full reopening that Washington state had planned for June 30th. Humans are creatures of habit and it will take awhile to relearn social norms that changed so much in the last 18 months. The article pointed out that everyone had a different experience during the pandemic and all emotions and feelings and the decisions we make with them regarding personal masking are acceptable. We must be compassionate.

I started writing this article the day after my grocery store escapade and had to abandon the submission a week later when my husband spiked a fever of 102 F. He was sick, really sick. Damn it all, I thought. He was too ill to drive himself to the drive-thru COVID testing center, a refurbished emissions testing site. It is of course now the first thing you must do when you get sick. Thankfully it turned out to be Campylobacter, the most common type of traveler’s diarrhea world-wide. Since when are we thankful to get traveler’s diarrhea? And we haven’t traveled!

June 30th came and went and I didn’t go back into the grocery store without the mask. I just couldn’t do it. I lost my mojo, my bravery, my determination to be ruled by science and not emotion. But at the end of the day, so many of our decisions are emotional and not logical aren’t they?

I resumed writing this article a week ago and my whole family got a cold. Really? Colds still exist? It boggles my imagination. We of course trotted off back to the former emissions testing center to get COVID tested. Despite staying home from work last week, we managed to camp in the mountains this weekend at a very remote alpine lake near Mt. Rainier, away from cell reception and the rest of the world. The beauty and escape were much appreciated and needed.

Upon returning to civilization, my phone greeted me with the news that Seattle’s King County has decided to have everyone put masks back on inside. Damn it all, I thought. We just can’t take flight, it seems. I got home and rewrote this blog entry for the fourth time.

But…if you tell me you are vaccinated and we go outside, I’ll take off my mask. If you show me yours, I’ll show you mine. We all need more smiles in our life.


Søvn Drake is an emerging writer who can be found haunting coffee shops in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. More about her and her writing can be found at: https://sovndrakestories.wordpress.com


Our short story anthologies written by over 100 writers are now available (links below) with all proceeds being donated to the charity organizations our group supports.

If you are a Kindle Unlimited member, you can read the complete anthology for FREE, and KU proceeds are donated along with the proceeds from the sale of our anthologies.

Our volunteer authors love to see reviews, and every review helps to make the One Million Project’s books more visible to Amazon customers, assisting us in our mission to raise One Million Pounds / Dollars for EMMAUS Homeless Programs and Cancer Research UK.

LINKS

myBook.to/OMPThriller

myBook.to/OMPFantasy

myBook.to/OMPFiction

myBook.to/OMPVarietyAnthology

Names Ache~~by Mark Huntley-James

Names have power. They can amuse, embarrass, infuriate, placate and cause all flavours of angst and frustration following that traditional question: What are we going to call it?

Most of all, names can hurt.

Choosing names has been on my mind of late for various reasons, far beyond the stresses of picking one for the new baby, or new kitten. The currently fractious state of global politics is bubbling with name-calling, the COVID crisis has added a whole new layer of vitriolic terminology, the COVID variants themselves now have a naming scheme all of their own to head off the aggression of calling them by geography. Names have power, and like any true power, they have no allegiance, no affiliation with good or bad, but depend entirely on how we use them.

I got started on this train of thought because picking names is one of those great challenges for a writer. You want a good name for your character, something that feels right, that the reader can bond with, that has that thrill of perhaps being a little bit exotic, without being anything more unusual than the style of the writing can tolerate. From there, my mind took one of its frequent sideways rambles into the general business of names, the ones we are given, the ones we give others, and the ones we choose for ourselves.

Join any online forum or social media and the first thing you have to do is choose a name for yourself. Personally, I am utterly lazy about this and do that strange thing of using my own name. I’m sorry if that seems shocking, when most people seem to pick anything but. That laziness does mean I opt for variations on a theme of MarkHJ, because the only thing I in any way dislike about my name is just how long it takes to write. I can only think of one place I have ever deviated from this, where I called myself Biskit, which is sort of a given name, just not given to me by my parents.

It’s simple really. I lived and worked in Reading for a number of years, home to Huntley & Palmer biscuit makers. So I was given the name Biscuit, or Biskit as I deliberately misspelled it.

As nicknames go, it was one I was happy to use, which is a relief because some of the names we give people are mean, if not downright cruel. You only have to read the newspaper headlines to see a fine collection go past. After all, our prime minister is prominently referred to as Bozo the Clown by one newspaper, which is not kindly meant by any stretch of the imagination.

The thing that strikes me the most is that I have taken to using “Bozo” in conversation, which feels hugely childish in hindsight, and it’s not the first time. Looking back over the years, I have bestowed unkind names on people who have annoyed me, or adopted existing cruel monikers, because those names have a fearsome power to grant a sense of victory, superiority or just being a part of the crowd.

Names are a pain. When I started writing this, I had a bundle of ideas in my head for an amusing, frothy piece about choosing character names. I’ll probably write that article one day, but for now, it’s raining, and chilly, in the middle of summer, and my mind drifted down into the darkness of names.

Perhaps the next time I give someone a name, I will be more considerate, take into account the hurt I might cause, but probably not, which annoys me no end. Names have power, a dangerous power, and I use it as carelessly or maliciously as anyone else.


Editor’s note: I was tempted to use “Biskit” for the byline of this article, but my inner adult won that argument. If I can’t think of a name for a character or place when I’m writing a story, I use a placeholder of a letter and a digit, so that I can do a global search and replace with the real name later without fear of accidentally changing any other text.

OMP Admin Note:  Mark Huntley-James writes science fiction and fantasy on a small farm in Cornwall, where he lives with his partner and a menagerie of cats, poultry and sheep.

He has two urban fantasy novels out on Kindle – “Hell Of A Deal” (http://relinks.me/B01N94VXBC ) and “The Road To Hell” (relinks.me/B07BJLKFSS  ) – and is working on a third. His contribution to the One Million Project: Fantasy anthology is While We Were Sleeping.

He can be found online at his blog http://writeedge.blogspot.co.uk, his website (https://sites.google.com/site/markhuntleyjames/), and occasionally on that new-fangled social media.


Our short story anthologies written by over 100 writers are now available (links below) with all proceeds being donated to the charity organizations our group supports.

If you are a Kindle Unlimited member, you can read the complete anthology for FREE, and KU proceeds are donated along with the proceeds from the sale of our anthologies.

Our volunteer authors love to see reviews, and every review helps to make the One Million Project’s books more visible to Amazon customers, assisting us in our mission to raise One Million Pounds / Dollars for EMMAUS Homeless Programs and Cancer Research UK.

LINKS

myBook.to/OMPThriller

myBook.to/OMPFantasy

myBook.to/OMPFiction

myBook.to/OMPVarietyAnthology

Heavensent~~by Christine Larsen

Without missing a beat,

gliding the thermals,

ONE most special winged soul

looking no different from the rest.

From a vast distance

DROPPED from the sky.

Getting bigger and bigger as she came to Earth,

when happenstanced the body of an angel

grew between her giant wings.

A great sigh echoed through the land.

HOPE was reborn in despairing hearts

that the world would live on,

after all.

Truly, it has been little more than a year of fear, suffering, loss and grief the Covid pandemic cursed humanity with… but to those worst affected, it must seem a lifetime. Many will see their loved ones again sometime in the future; some will not see theirs again, ever.

So much has changed about Life as any of us knew it. So much will never return to the status quo of our yesterdays… and for this, many despair. Many more grieve for all they once had, when too many of us took our good times for granted. There is much fear for the next and future generations amongst those who have lived history’s toughest moments… and survived. Many of those survivors believe younger folk have not experienced near enough hardship to develop the inner strength required; and many are correct.

But, will it require the same courage and tenacity as in the past? Will there be more of these attributes required this time around? Or less? There are so many support systems in place these days that were non-existent throughout previous hardships and in times of greatest need.

Perhaps a whole new flavour of communal understanding and empathy, respect and caring could approach, now the rich, the powerful and the famous have all been levelled to the same playing ground as the poorest and saddest humans. That’s the one thing about this disease — as in other pandemics that have swept our great globe — it bears no respect for any human strengths… or frailties, choosing its victims willy-nilly. Those who succumb are all as one in the eyes of this mass murderer.

Perhaps the despairing hearts will indeed turn as one to something greater than humankind to ‘deliver them from evil’.

Hope springs eternal. Fortunately, this optimism has been the basis of the human condition since time immemorial; and always will be.

Perhaps… after all.


OMP Admin Note: Christine Larsen is a writer, farmer, wife, mother, and grandmother from Australia. She has never been homeless or had significant cancer – yet – but has had exposure to both – creating a great sense of empathy and desire to help in any way she can. She is humbled by the opportunity to give one of her stories to the sincerely worthwhile causes of Cancer research and Homelessness.

Christine contributed A Bonny Wee Lassie to the One Million Project: Fiction anthology.

To find out more about Christine and her work:

ceedee moodling  (Christine’s website)

Christine Larsen, Author

 – on Wattpad

–  on Facebook

– on Tablo

– on Amazon

Old McLarsen had some Farms (farming memoirs)

ceedee4kids (Christine’s children’s book site)


Our short story anthologies written by over 100 writers are now available (links below) with all proceeds being donated to the charity organizations our group supports.

If you are a Kindle Unlimited member, you can read the complete anthology for FREE, and KU proceeds are donated along with the proceeds from the sale of our anthologies.

Our volunteer authors love to see reviews, and every review helps to make the One Million Project’s books more visible to Amazon customers, assisting us in our mission to raise One Million Pounds / Dollars for EMMAUS Homeless Programs and Cancer Research UK.

LINKS

myBook.to/OMPThriller

myBook.to/OMPFantasy

myBook.to/OMPFiction

myBook.to/OMPVarietyAnthology

Hope – Against the Odds~~by Christine Larsen

An angel shelters a city. A text caption reads: "A great sigh echoed through the land. HOPE was reborn in despairing hearts that the world would live on, after all."

The odds WERE formidable.

A US Air Corps fighter pilot who found himself in a German prisoner of war camp after his plane was shot down. He survived that disaster, but wasn’t too sure about his current ‘home’. Despite this, he refused to let the probabilities stop him from making the best he could of every moment he would have.

Boredom threatened his sanity, until a light bulb moment illuminated a memory of a gift of an old ‘fiddle’, with the words, “It’s yours, Red. Maybe you can make music with it.” And thanks to that other life and long-lost place, he’d become a musician… a violinist with an intimate knowledge of violins and their magical workings. Getting one now was an impossibility but he had been carving many small things, so… ?

His first move was a common tactic in these harsh conditions – barter, swap,or trade. For tobacco rations, some sympathetic guards desperate for Amerikanische Zigaretten, traded a pen-knife. From his upbringing on a farm during the Great Depression, and his resourceful father he got determination, remembering, “You can make something out of nothing, Son. All you’ve got to do is find a way… and there always is one.”

When other POWs learned of his quest to carve a violin, they began slipping odd bed slats from their already barely underpinned and supported bunks. And he began whittling and carving. Some parts required a sharp piece of broken glass, others an old kitchen knife, ground on a rock to form into a chisel. All took time… a great deal of time. And patience. And stealth.

Glue presented another problem until he solved that one too, with others pitching in to help scrape old dried carpenters’ glue residue from a few chairs in their wretched barracks. Ground and heated and mixed with water, it worked. Soaking of other thinnest of timber pieces in water heated on their communal wood-stove enabled intricate manipulation and bending of the pieces.

It took three months to make the body, but time was one thing the prisoners had aplenty. Eternally grateful he chose not to be a smoker, care-packages provided him and several other non-smoking prisoners with many cigarettes to barter – for pumice for sanding and paraffin oil to bring out the golden glow of the beech wood, the now unrecognisable bunk slats. A sympathetic guard found him catgut for the strings and a real violin bow was like a gift from the Gods.

All was done… but would it play? To his joy, the pilot and his violin produced the pure poignant sounds of that wonderful instrument, as though this one had volumes to say. Although he was banished to the latrine for his earliest practices, he soon regained his old skills. And caused singing and dancing and some relief for aching hearts and bodies.

One Christmas Eve, the pilot played Silent Night, and voices were heard from other barracks, singing that beloved old carol in different languages. Amongst them, German was heard… from the guards. So many of them were ordinary family men far from their homes and their loved ones, too. Somewhere in the shadows, it was said, an elderly guard [maybe the donor of the bow?] stood and sang quietly. And cried softly.

Among the countless tributes, a particularly precious one was 50 years after WWII, when the pilot donated his violin to a special museum aboard the aircraft carrier Intrepid, honouring the men and their memorabilia. At the opening, the concertmaster of the NY Philharmonic orchestra played this precious instrument and commented it was ‘an amazing achievement’ with a ‘quite wonderful sound’, when he had actually expected ‘a jalopy of a violin’.

Not really. More like a gift from God, was the thought the pilot had at that precious moment, later shared with his family.

Winning ‘against the odds’ does not always bear the shape we imagined, not always the wish we made. Bizarre how often the worst imaginable outcomes of illness and loss reveal unimagined ‘silver linings’, so often ending in unexpected strength and empathy, and a new or renewed determination to help and support others.


OMP Admin Note: Christine Larsen is a writer, farmer, wife, mother, and grandmother from Australia. She has never been homeless or had significant cancer – yet – but has had exposure to both – creating a great sense of empathy and desire to help in any way she can. She is humbled by the opportunity to give one of her stories to the sincerely worthwhile causes of Cancer research and Homelessness.

Christine contributed A Bonny Wee Lassie to the One Million Project: Fiction anthology.

To find out more about Christine and her work:

ceedee moodling  (Christine’s website)

Christine Larsen, Author

 – on Wattpad

–  on Facebook

– on Tablo

– on Amazon

Old McLarsen had some Farms (farming memoirs)

ceedee4kids (Christine’s children’s book site)


Our short story anthologies written by over 100 writers are now available (links below) with all proceeds being donated to the charity organizations our group supports.

If you are a Kindle Unlimited member, you can read the complete anthology for FREE, and KU proceeds are donated along with the proceeds from the sale of our anthologies.

Our volunteer authors love to see reviews, and every review helps to make the One Million Project’s books more visible to Amazon customers, assisting us in our mission to raise One Million Pounds / Dollars for EMMAUS Homeless Programs and Cancer Research UK.

LINKS

myBook.to/OMPThriller

myBook.to/OMPFantasy

myBook.to/OMPFiction

myBook.to/OMPVarietyAnthology

Sticker Pride~~by John Nedwill

Yesterday I had my second vaccination dose against the SARS-CoV-2 virus – or what is more commonly known as Covid-19. The vaccination itself was a pleasant enough experience – our local vaccination centre is in a sports facility – and it only took half an hour, including the fifteen minute wait. I went home and back to work with only a sore arm and a sticker as mementoes of my visit.

Today is a different matter. After I had my first vaccine shot, I experienced side effects: headache, shivering and lethargy; so, I suspected that I was going to feel somewhat the same after this one. And, less than twenty-four hours on from my appointment yesterday, I can report that I am indeed suffering from the post-vaccination blurgh, and it feels like it is settling in for the weekend.

Looking on the bright side, I am more than happy to have been vaccinated. In fact, I’ve been actively looking forward to getting both shots. There are a number of personal benefits. For a start, there is the protection that being vaccinated gives me against infection – and against passing on the infection to others. Yes, I will still have to wear masks in public places for a while (Maybe until next year. Who knows?), but I feel that I can now go places and see people. While my holiday to Japan that I booked in 2019 (Ancient history, that!) may not take place this year, I can at least go back to Ireland and visit my family there – family who I have not seen in eighteen months.

Then there is the benefit to others. Vaccination has been successful in suppressing diseases that were once considered deadly. I’m old enough to have been vaccinated against whooping cough, diphtheria, measles, mumps, rubella, tuberculosis, polio … In fact, I have quite a list of vaccines in my medical records. All of these diseases were common when I was born (I’m 52 this year – work it out for yourself.). Indeed, the year after I was born, a measles epidemic was killing children in Belfast, and two years after that I came through pertussis unscathed. My mother is proud of the scar from her smallpox vaccination, and I can still show you my tuberculosis jab. They’re the reasons why younger people don’t have to worry about these diseases any more.

Currently something like 75% of adults in the UK have received at least one course of vaccine, with just under 50% having received both. So, the likelihood is that anyone reading this will have been vaccinated. However, for those of you who are still waiting or who are feeling some concern – don’t worry. When it comes to your turn, go and get vaccinated. And wear your sticker with pride. You’ve done your bit to make the world a little bit safer.


OMP Admin Note:  John Nedwill is a writer, OMP Network member, and a regular #OneMillionProject Blogger.  His work can be found on Wattpad.com and in the One Million Project’s Short Story Anthologies published in February 2018.


Our short story anthologies written by over 100 writers are now available (links below) with all proceeds being donated to the charity organizations our group supports.

If you are a Kindle Unlimited member, you can read the complete anthology for FREE, and KU proceeds are donated along with the proceeds from the sale of our anthologies.

Our volunteer authors love to see reviews, and every review helps to make the One Million Project’s books more visible to Amazon customers, assisting us in our mission to raise One Million Pounds / Dollars for EMMAUS Homeless Programs and Cancer Research UK.

LINKS

myBook.to/OMPThriller

myBook.to/OMPFantasy

myBook.to/OMPFiction

myBook.to/OMPVarietyAnthology

Dramatic Licence~~by Mark Huntley-James

We have been watching our favourite medical drama on DVD – all utterly preposterous, but very enjoyable, but seriously, can anyone have that many disasters in their life? I was grumbling about it to my partner… and I was reminded of a few things. If anyone were sad enough to dramatise my life, perhaps pack it into a three part miniseries (The Quiet Early Years, The Middling Stuff, The Gentle Fade), just how many crises and disasters are there, given a little dramatic licence?

Firstly, tick off the standard family bereavements, paternal grandfather in my teens, maternal grandfather in my late twenties, all the way through to my mother a few years ago. Nothing out of the ordinary, really, although plenty of scope to pepper the script with personal tragedies. Wait… one more… need to add Jim, the son of our neighbour when I was growing up, only a matter of months younger than me. Mum phoned to say he had had a massive stroke aged thirty – now that is a serious kick in the life experiences. All of those ‘standard’ family bereavements were in their eighties and nineties, but Jim… if it could happen to him, it could happen to me…

So now, roll on a few years, and changing jobs. After a number of years in the scientific civil service, I decided I wanted a job out in the real world. I deliberately took a month break between old and new, just to build a new back door. I thought it would be fun and interesting (which it was) but there was time pressure – a week before the new job, we were going to a convention, so the door had to be in and secure. And there had to be time to cook a whole selection of easily re-heatable meals for a family party just after our return from the convention, and then be ready for the new job on the Monday. And then…

Commuting by train to Slough – not my idea of fun, but scarcely a disaster. By my second week, I was experienced enough to know that something was wrong, just little signs, not enough people at the station, no west-bound trains, and then when I reached the office, not enough people. I was travelling East from Reading and getting off at Slough; had I been coming West from Paddington I might have had a front-row seat for the Paddington crash which killed 31 people and injured over 500 on 5 October 1999.

That’s got to count for a bit of drama. As it turned out, one co-worker was amongst the injured.

A year or two later, and I was driving to Slough, which has to be so much safer than the train. This was my “welcome to the game of Russian Roulette known as the morning commute”. On my first day, I was fractions of a second from being part of a multiple pile-up. I just happened to be in the outside lane passing the motorway junction East of Reading and saw the car three vehicles ahead drift into the central reservation.

That is not a good sight.

The first and second ranks of cars somehow dodged through the mess, those of us in the third managed to stop. That left a dented van parked up on the bank beyond the hard shoulder, a hatchback destined for the scrappy in the middle lane, and the initiator of the whole sub-second crisis parked against the central barrier, facing the wrong way. No one was killed, no-one injured enough to need emergency attention, but a tenth of a second or two different and I would have been testing the crash-worthiness of a Volvo.

Time to sit up and test your seat-belt.

The list goes on: near-misses on the motorway, test results to confirm it wasn’t cancer, the announcement of a redundancy round the day we were signing the papers for a huge mortgage, the employment hiccup that led to the move to Cornwall, or even just the day that Bitsy, a delightful cat who had been with us for nearly fifteen years, died curled up on my lap. One ordinary, run of the mill life, mostly filled with near-misses (for which I am very grateful) and still packed with stuff that could be an over-blown miniseries with just a little dramatic licence.

I suspect it would be hard to find anyone who didn’t have a similar list. It doesn’t all happen at once, there is no music to hint that it’s time to reach for the tissues, and no stunt double if it really does go wrong.

I’m off to watch another episode of over-hyped, unrealistic, and dramatic nonsense (only half a step from the stuff that happens to everyone at some point) and ignore the news channel with its snapshots of the people who aren’t lucky enough to have the near-miss.

Personally, I don’t have a dramatic licence, and wouldn’t want to have one in the house. The universe has a funny sense of humour about these things, and I can just imagine the licence whispering to those near-misses…

Closer, my lovelies, come closer…


OMP Admin Note:  Mark Huntley-James writes science fiction and fantasy on a small farm in Cornwall, where he lives with his partner and a menagerie of cats, poultry and sheep.

He has two urban fantasy novels out on Kindle – “Hell Of A Deal” (http://relinks.me/B01N94VXBC ) and “The Road To Hell” (relinks.me/B07BJLKFSS  ) – and is working on a third. His contribution to the One Million Project: Fantasy anthology is While We Were Sleeping.

He can be found online at his blog http://writeedge.blogspot.co.uk, his website (https://sites.google.com/site/markhuntleyjames/), and occasionally on that new-fangled social media.


Our short story anthologies written by over 100 writers are now available (links below) with all proceeds being donated to the charity organizations our group supports.

If you are a Kindle Unlimited member, you can read the complete anthology for FREE, and KU proceeds are donated along with the proceeds from the sale of our anthologies.

Our volunteer authors love to see reviews, and every review helps to make the One Million Project’s books more visible to Amazon customers, assisting us in our mission to raise One Million Pounds / Dollars for EMMAUS Homeless Programs and Cancer Research UK.

LINKS

myBook.to/OMPThriller

myBook.to/OMPFantasy

myBook.to/OMPFiction

myBook.to/OMPVarietyAnthology

Holding Space~~by Christine Larsen

One beloved, long-term partner is in pain. The other fusses around, plumps the pillows, tweaks the blanket a little smoother. “What can I do for you? Should I call the doctor? The ambulance?” And the suffering partner says, “Just love me.” The carer thought that was what they were doing with all their attentive actions. Gradually they realise the act of ‘being there’; touching, holding, emotionally walking close alongside on this final journey, requires only the quiet but steady warmth of their love. Only? That is only everything to the needy one.

That’s ‘holding space’.

Another long-term couple share her last hours exactly as she has wished; not in a hospital bed, not connected to countless, soul-less machines. She lies on their old, worn lounge, just a shadow of herself now. Surrounding her with his love, he holds her hand and reminisces about so much they have shared from that amazing first meeting of eyes… of hearts… and souls. They whisper, “I love you forever,” and her peace is absolute.

That’s ‘holding space’.

When you’re giving your full empathetic attention to another who’s distressed, lost, ‘in need’ — with no judgement, no rush to try to solve their problems with platitudes; when you totally accept them, warts and all, whether or not you really understand their sorrow and fears, you are empowering them. You are telling them by your acceptance that you believe in their strength and ability to deal with their crisis.

That’s ‘holding space’.

Allowing another person to express themselves without fear of judgement or whether they are ‘telling their story right’ is like creating a bubble around them to protect them from the world and its intrusions; like giving them freedom to think and feel exactly ‘in the moment’. Remind yourself, over and over, it is not your job to solve their situation. It is your job to just be with them, loving them through this part of their life journey; hearing them with your heart; echoing their thoughts and emotions; always acknowledging their right to feel the way they do.

That’s ‘holding space’ in a most special way.

And what of the survivors of those first stories of long-term partnerships? What of their space when their loved one has peacefully slipped into that final sleep? Woven into their grief and loss will be a precious ‘knowing’ they recognised exactly what their loved one wanted… and willingly, lovingly, held open the door to their new reality, to simply ‘be there’, fully embracing the moment.

Having learned the lesson so well, the survivor’s greatest reward will be the ability to accept the hole in their heart that no other can fill; comfortably and comfortingly indulging in a large dose of self-kindness. It’s not suppressing or denying the pain of the loss; rather an acceptance of the inevitability of Life and the risk we take when first we love.

That’s ‘holding space’ for themselves.


OMP Admin Note: Christine Larsen is a writer, farmer, wife, mother, and grandmother from Australia. She has never been homeless or had significant cancer – yet – but has had exposure to both – creating a great sense of empathy and desire to help in any way she can. She is humbled by the opportunity to give one of her stories to the sincerely worthwhile causes of Cancer research and Homelessness.

Christine contributed A Bonny Wee Lassie to the One Million Project: Fiction anthology.

To find out more about Christine and her work:

ceedee moodling  (Christine’s website)

Christine Larsen, Author

 – on Wattpad

–  on Facebook

– on Tablo

– on Amazon

Old McLarsen had some Farms (farming memoirs)

ceedee4kids (Christine’s children’s book site)


Our short story anthologies written by over 100 writers are now available (links below) with all proceeds being donated to the charity organizations our group supports.

If you are a Kindle Unlimited member, you can read the complete anthology for FREE, and KU proceeds are donated along with the proceeds from the sale of our anthologies.

Our volunteer authors love to see reviews, and every review helps to make the One Million Project’s books more visible to Amazon customers, assisting us in our mission to raise One Million Pounds / Dollars for EMMAUS Homeless Programs and Cancer Research UK.

LINKS

myBook.to/OMPThriller

myBook.to/OMPFantasy

myBook.to/OMPFiction

myBook.to/OMPVarietyAnthology