First published in 2016
Wrexham Writers’ Group and Wrexham Carnival of Words
Copyright © 2016
This collection ©Wrexham Writers’ Group 2016
Copyright © in the name of the individual contributor 2016
The rights of the individual contributors to be identified as the author of their own portion of this work has been asserted in accordance with Sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the publisher and copyright holder(s).
Front Cover Design -
Alan Jones, Wrexham
Susan Miller, Flintshire
In April 2015, Wrexham hosted its first Carnival of Words – a literary festival with a difference, community-based and aimed especially at encouraging reading and writing across our local districts. It was a huge success.
A full week of stunning events, organised by Wrexham’s Library Services, Waterstones, Glyndŵr University and a host of volunteers. But among those events, on World Book Night, Wrexham Library hosted a session for any local writers who might be interested in getting together to form a Wrexham Writers’ Group. An astonishing thirty-four writers turned out, formed a Facebook group, organised a series of Open Day workshop events and, one year later, it’s grown to a group almost ninety strong.
So, when BBC Cymru Wales, the Arts Council of Wales, and What Next? banded together to celebrate creativity in Wales and encourage local groups to take part in their “Get Creative” initiative, the Writers’ Group was keen to make its own contribution.
The task? To write short stories and poems, all Wrexham-related, to edit them, to publish them online in an anthology and to market them – all in one weekend, 1st – 3rd April 2016. The following stories and poems are the result – and we hope you enjoy them!
Thank you to all the contributors of stories and poems. A special thank you to Rosalie Marsh and Ann McCall who assisted with the editing process. And, to Sandra Gardner of Gwersyllt Community Resource Centre for the venue.
Dave McCall and Susan Miller
Wrexham Writers’ Group
– by Carol Wainwright
– by David Subacchi
– by Jude Lennon
– by Anne Cook
– by Imelda Summerton
– by David Ebsworth
– by Rhian Waller
– by Lynda Holmes-Kelly
by Vivien Smith
– by David Subacchi
– by Alec Sillifant
– by Les Barker
– by Yvonne Matthews
– by Jude Lennon
– by Phil Burrows
– by Rhian Waller
– by Viv Griffiths
– by Susan Miller
– by Denise Oliver
– by Kieran Moon
– by J M Moore
From The Universe of The Cutlery Drawer,
in a land called Planet 2,
other worldly creatures strange,
found Wrexham un-restrained.
“I’ve never heard of THE IX-MUPS.
Pray tell me who they are.
Should I work my brain up,
for words that are bizarre?”
An IX-MUPS very different
no doubt you will adore,
the starry skies’ itinerants,
who drift from shore to shore.
When their Starship landed in Wrexham,
they’d lost all sense of direction.
So turning to their leaders,
they were issued with tested procedures.
Mop Head Mick, THE IX-MUP wise,
smiled with knowing, kindly eyes.
“We’ve sliced us up the best sliced spam,
and found a gem in Wrexham.”
Heading off to the Aqueduct,
for a boat we shall deduct.
“It’s over there!” wrung Dish-Cloth Dan,
while wringing two hands in a fan.
“But that’s a pink plastic basket!”
spat a splattered Prying-Fran.
Oh don’t go blowing a gasket dear,
and be rid of that flea in your ear!
`Tis only Captain Fish-Slice there
to take us places fair.
He’s sailed the mighty roaring seas,
for a thousand years with ease.
He’s on a quest for hidden keys
to open secret doors.
While gathering tales of high degrees,
with minstrels and troubadours.
Prying-Fran was reassured,
her transport safe and sound.
Ready to fill an IX-MUP head,
so Wrexham, let’s go round.
First though, park the Star-ship,
while sniffing a salty chip.
`Tis just the thing to energise,
is a Wrexham chippy surprise.
Wet-Wipe Wally’s found a slot
for parking and a shop.
Waterworld’s the place it seems,
just right for rockets with beams.
Let’s Wrexham go explore they say,
we’ve only got a day!
Where to go and where to start,
we’d best just follow our heart.
Let’s begin our day with a chin-tea,
“And toast!” said Earl Grey Flea.
“I spied a café, I thinks for snakes.
Do you think they’ll bake us some cakes?”
So it was off to Cleopatra’s quick,
for a lunch, a munch and a swig.
They sipped a two of tasty drink,
while having an IX-MUP think.
When throats were quenched,
no snakes had benched.
Perhaps it was the strong smell of geranium?
Too late, they’re off to the stadium.
The IX-MUPS thought most strangely,
“Do horses play ball, ungainly?”
It might be a new kind of crawl,
for this game they couldn’t re-call.
In came the players, to THE IX-MUPS’ surprise,
not horses but men, of a very large size.
Today they heard, was a most special match,
where football meets rugby, and with feet you may catch.
They took a stroll through Bellevue Park,
to the strains of music till dark.
Then a flying visit, ‘cos they can,
to Erddig Hall and Peter Pan.
A nightcap in The Alyn,
gazing at the stars.
In the morning maybe an aspirin,
for suppin’ too many fine jars!
‘Twas an awesome day in Wrexham,
the IX-MUPS reflect with affection.
Wrexham rocks, they do lament,
a star-trekkers’ day…royally spent!
By Carol Wainwright (aka Mad Mother Turtle)
Doeddwn i ddim yn mynd
Ond arogl sglodion
Fy ngwthio i’r Cae Ras
Anodd i esbonio, ond
Wrecsam yn erbyn Caer
Yn rhywbeth arbennig.
Prynais becyn un bunt
Gyda llawer o finegr
A cherddais heibio
Plismyn o ddwy ochr
Y ffin genedlaethol
Yn cuddio mewn corneli.
Am ryw reswm
Dechreuodd y Darbi
Am ddau o’r gloch
Rhy hwyr am docyn
Ysgyrnygodd cŵn heddlu
Ochneidiodd y stiward.
A chwythodd wynt
Trwy’r hen Kop wag
Yn llawn ysbrydion
Ac yn aros
Am ddyddiau gwell.
Dychwelais i ganol
Y dref lwyd
Prynais becyn arall
Gyda phastai hefyd
A pheint o’r stwff lleol.
gan David Subacchi
Rhian was staying with her Granny who lived in a beautiful little house in Wrexham. Rhian loved Granny. She had lots of interesting objects in her house. One of these objects was a beautiful little wooden box.
The box had two doors with tiny handles. When the doors were open, they revealed two little shelves and a small drawer at the bottom. Rhian loved this box but she wasn’t allowed to touch it.
Granny normally kept the box in her bedroom but this time the box was on the little table next to Rhian’s bed. She was very excited and couldn’t wait to peep inside.
On Monday, Rhian slowly opened the little drawer and…. a tiny mouse jumped out and scurried away to St. Giles’ church.
“How funny!” said Rhian. “That drawer didn’t look big enough for a mouse.”
On Tuesday, Rhian slowly opened the little drawer and… a rabbit jumped out and hopped away to Bellevue Park.
“How strange!” said Rhian. “That drawer really didn’t look big enough for a rabbit.”
On Wednesday, Rhian slowly opened the little drawer and… a cat jumped out and slunk away to Erddig Hall.
“How odd!” said Rhian. “That drawer certainly didn’t look big enough for a cat.”
On Thursday, Rhian slowly opened the little drawer and… a dog jumped out and bounded off to Alyn Waters.
“How weird!” said Rhian. “That drawer definitely didn’t look big enough for a dog.”
On Friday, Rhian slowly opened the little drawer and…a horse jumped out and galloped off to the Racecourse.
“How peculiar!” said Rhian. “That drawer was NOT big enough for a horse.”
On Saturday, Rhian was just about to open the drawer when she heard something worrying. As she bent her head towards the drawer, she heard the roaring of a dinosaur. The people of Wrexham were very pleased that Rhian left the drawer shut!
By Jude Lennon
St. David’s High School visit to St Giles’ Church – Christmas 1985
The liquid icy rays of a winter sun shone coldly on the bustling town. Restless and rowdy, the pupils of St David’s School worried and tormented the stressed staff to release them from the shackles of the classroom. My Year Ten were particularly restive.
‘When can we go home, Miss?’
‘After the service in the church.’
‘Why do we have to go to the church? Why can’t we just go home?’
‘We always go to the church at Christmas before breaking up. It will be lovely…’ My voice faltered, unconvinced. Would it be lovely?
So the annual ritual commenced. A bell sounded and then each class was called in turn to line up outside. In the ensuing chaos it was inevitable that some pupils would ‘disappear’, doubtless going straight home – or not! An unnatural snake-like monster soon formed outside the school and began weaving its uneven way towards the town. Its edges undulated unevenly as pupils pushed each other or tried to run or hop or shout or otherwise force the teachers’ reluctant attention upon them. It was an exercise like running the gauntlet or an Odyssean Scylla and Charybdis experience as we tried to journey unscathed from the school to the church through the town. And the dangers were many. At Down Park Avenue we lumbered, trying to control our lurching boa-constrictor.
Watch out! The first test! There were a number of Bromfield pupils peering through the science block windows making vulgar gestures which bore no resemblance to the precepts of the festive season. Presumably their teachers either couldn’t, or wouldn’t, notice this behaviour!
Bromfield was the former Grove Park Girls’ Grammar School. Coincidentally, I had taught in both schools and vividly remembered conducting classes in the science block myself. By this Christmas time, Bromfield School and St David’s had become bitter enemies. Our pupils reacted in kind to the Bromfield insults and began gesturing back, but we managed to divert them and direct them to the underpass tunnel. This gradually began to swallow them up as they headed towards the Royal Welch Fusiliers War Memorial. They quickly charged past with youthful indifference, being eager to reach the shops. They had all completely ignored the monstrous ugly edifice which was the new police station.
Almost tangibly, the girls’ behaviour changed. They had already dressed in their smartest clothes which could acceptably be classed as ‘uniform’ but now they huddled together to ‘secretly’ repair their make-up and to adjust their skirts to make themselves look more alluring. Who they were hoping to impress, I never discovered. We walked past the Old Library and the Indoor Market whose entrance was on Lambpit Sreet. You could see bright posters advertising films currently being shown at the nearby Hippodrome.
So far, so good but then came the real challenge! As we came into Hope Street we had to prevent rogue pupils from dodging up towards Regent Street where there was a large Woolworths. Already shopkeepers were positioned outside their premises to block any would-be pilferers from darting in and stealing pocketfuls of their goods. To be fair, few pupils would have done this but it had been known to happen so we had to keep alert at all times. At last we turned the straggling serpent to the left past Marks and Spencer and Littlewoods and across the road to the hallowed ground of St Giles.
The reluctant pupils trailed through the porch into the gloomy entrails of the church. At the entrance the vicar, Canon Barry Morgan, greeted us together with our headmaster, Mr Emlyn Jones. I and my Year Ten were directed to pews at the south side of the church. As we sat down I mumbled, ‘The church’s tower is one of the Seven Wonders of Wales’, but no-one was listening to me. They were too busy fidgeting and looking around to see who was sitting near them.
I was then at comparative leisure to study the church myself, despite the restless waves of pupils still being seated. The church was graciously and triumphantly beautiful. There had been a church on this site since the C11th and so many generations of people had passed through its portals in life – and in death. With its exquisite wooden roof and elegant arcades of arches decorated with sixteen angels playing instruments, it was considered to have the finest ecclesiastical architecture found in Wales, or so the guidebook said. All this was lost on the pupils who were busy grinning and gesturing at each other. It was lost on me too on this particular day. The ethereal beauty seemed hollow and meaningless and the sun’s rays shining through the Burne Jones stained glass window mingled discordantly with the muted lights of the Christmas church to create a surreal atmosphere.
Silence was gradually imposed upon the excited pupils and the service began. At this point everything became an unsettling blur of music, words and colour. The reverential atmosphere in conjunction with the purity of the singing of the Madrigal Choir reduced my spirits, already low, to the depths of despair. I gulped and fought back the tears which were welling up in my eyes. Concentrate, concentrate on the Nativity reading being given by the Head Girl from the famed brass eagle lectern.
‘Where is he who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East.’
Suddenly, my attention was caught by an ornate white marble plaque on the wall nearby. It was inlaid with black letters and it read:
the pious tribute
of her disconsolate husband
to the memory of
late wife of Mr John Wilkinson
She died Nov.br 17th 1756
My curiosity was aroused and my personal misery eased as I began to empathise with the bereaved husband and his tragic wife who died so young.
Who were they? What happened to them?
John ‘Iron Mad’ Wilkinson’s visit to St Giles’ Church , Christmas 1757.
Yes, it’s there in pride of place on the wall. I have come from Bradley in the Black Country where I have just set up the first furnace to produce coke-smelted iron. It seems my reputation is growing but, at this moment, I care little about that. I have come once more to this over-elaborate church to make sure that my instructions have been carried out to the letter and that Ann’s memorial plaque does her justice. She deserves only the best. Memories flood back.
When we first met in Westmorland, I knew my family was far inferior to hers and I knew that my hope was to impress her and to marry her in order to gain funding for our iron industry ambitions.
In the event, the reality was not like that at all. Her family, the Maudsleys, took against me and my low-born family. They particularly objected to the fact that we were Dissenters and tried to prevent our marriage. However, despite that, Ann and I loved each other deeply and I adored her. She was slightly built and very delicate with an ethereal beauty and such a sweet disposition. Defying her parents, we arranged for our marriage to take place in Kirkby Lonsdale church in June 1755. This was Ann’s wish and I respected that but no family members from either side witnessed our wedding. Grudgingly, her family did capitulate and they advanced me enough money to invest in the iron business which was being set up by my father, Isaac, in Bersham, Wrexham. Great was our joy when we discovered that Ann was pregnant and our little girl, Mary, was born and baptised in Kirkby Lonsdale church in 1756.
But then life became a nightmare. Ann and our baby journeyed to Wrexham to move into our town house in Wrexham Fechan. The long journey by coach was almost unendurable for her with turbulent weather conditions all the way which made the roads virtually impassable. Added to that, Ann had not fully recovered from childbirth and had been suffering from fevers and fainting fits. However, she and Mary arrived safely in Wrexham but she then spent most of her time confined to bed in an attempt to recover. I was deeply concerned about her health although I tried to hide this from her.
Suddenly and tragically my brother, Henry died of unknown causes. He had been living at Plas Grono, the family home, and was only 26. He was buried in the Dissenters’ Graveyard.
But the worst blow was yet to come. On the 17th November last year Ann died after weeks of decline and within only months of giving birth to Mary. I felt completely numb and mechanically arranged for her funeral and burial in this churchyard. She was a loyal and fervent churchgoer all her short life and I had to respect her last wishes.
I know I am being unreasonable and Mary is only an innocent babe but I cannot even look at her. If Ann had not been pregnant she would still be alive now. I truly believe that. Therefore, I have sent her away to people who will surely look after her and love her in a way I never can. I don’t want to see her again.
And me? My future?
I have decided to dedicate my life to my work, to the iron industry. Iron is strong, iron is reliable and there is so much scope for development. When I looked upon my wife’s body in her ornate but flimsy oakwood coffin I resolved that, when I die, my coffin will be made of solid cast iron which would endure for eternity.
And this I swear before God in this holy place.
My visit to St Giles’ Church Easter 2016
Having heard that the old Grove Park Girls’ Grammar School was probably going to be demolished I decided to walk up Chester Road to look at it again before it disappeared forever. I stood by the railings and was horrified by the boarded up windows and the dismal state of the formerly gracious historical buildings. I gazed at where the science block had once stood for it had been demolished already.
Memories flooded back.
Ghostly, jeering faces were suddenly resurrected in my imagination and I remembered the St David’s annual Christmas visits to the church. I especially remembered the 1985 visit.
On a whim, I decided to retrace the route we had taken on that occasion. Glancing to my left, I realised that the police building was looking extremely dilapidated and I had heard that it was to be demolished soon too. Even the peregrine falcons had abandoned the building and had been relocated to the church. Feeling despondent, I made my way to the underpass and was not surprised to observe how rank it had become. At Lambpit Street I noted that the street and the old market were all gone or changed beyond recognition and the alterations had happened so gradually and surreptitiously, I had hardly noticed!
What else had gone or changed? Well, nearly everything. There were no posters advertising films because the Hippodrome had gone and a new cinema had been built at Eagles Meadow, itself a development which had wiped the old Beast Market off the face of the earth.
I meandered along to Hope Street and, of course, all the former shops had moved or gone or changed hands. For a moment, I felt an acute sense of disorientation but then I saw the church ahead and, gratefully, walked inside. The sense of permanence was overwhelming. I sat down in the same pew I had occupied with my form more than thirty years ago and began to look around. There on the wall in the same place was Ann Wilkinson’s plaque. I had researched their history after that long ago visit to the church and I had discovered how tragic Ann and John’s life together had been. After his wife’s death, John Wilkinson had become the most famous of the iron masters and the most successful, but his private life thereafter had not been very happy. I discovered that he had wanted to be buried in an iron coffin and this last instruction had been followed to the letter.
Suddenly, thinking about John Wilkinson, I felt transported back to that Christmas service in the church over 30 years ago. Then the church had reminded me of another church I had been in only six months before when a crowded congregation had come to pay their respects to the person lying dead in a simple coffin, my father. The Christmas service in St Giles had broken my heart and torn my emotions to shreds as past Christmases with my father alive and smiling had ambushed my thoughts and resurrected loving memories. Only empathy with another person’s misery, John Wilkinson’s, had alleviated my sorrow.
John Wilkinson had survived and flourished. In time I had overcome my grief. But layer upon layer of things remembered live on and haunt the present and create an unsettling and inexplicable sensation of…timeshift.
By Anne Cook
I’m known for my work with metal,
Copper and Iron too…
An industrial revolutionist…
Does that give you a clue?
My name is ‘Iron Mad Wilkinson’,
but some call me ‘Iron Mad Jack’.
James Watts needed accurate cylinders
I’m an inventor, that problem I’ll crack!
It requires the best Ironmaster,
the smartest engineer.
In Bersham I shall build it,
and finish in a year.
You see, Watts had built an engine,
powered most of all by steam.
But the cylinders inside it,
were far from a dream.
They needed to be perfect,
meticulous and deft.
And poor James Watts and Boulton,
were feeling quite bereft.
The challenge I shall rise to,
the problems I will mend
and solve all of the issues
for my new found friends.
Off I went to Bersham,
with all my trusty chaps
and built the perfect cylinder,
with no spaces, nor gaps.
So now their new steam engine,
can chug without a glitch.
And as a mad inventor,
it’s made me jolly rich!
I’ve had a go at iron shoes,
but they were rather clumpy.
When it can’t be made from iron,
I become rather grumpy!
I’m going to launch an iron boat,
carrying freight on canals.
But everyone thinks I’m crazy,
except my inventor pals!
Halfpennys for my workmen,
with my face on one side.
John Wilkinson the Ironmaster,
they say with great pride.
I’ve made some of leather,
copper and silver too.
And my one guinea notes,
well… I’ve only made a few.
So remember me in Wrexham
and generally in Wales.
In fond storytelling,
let me be in those tales.
‘Iron Mad Wilkinson,
inventor of cannon and gun.
He brought prosperity and wealth
to the town ofWrexham!’
By Imelda Summerton
Bloody suicide! Or so his co-pilot, Dickie Medhurst, was shouting at him.
‘We can make it,’ David laughed, though he wasn’t sure the old bus would hold up. The wings had more holes than a colander, the starboard engine was coughing blood and spitting flames. But, as they lurched down, out of the murky cloud, he gave Dickie a re-assuring thump on the shoulder.
‘Green as grass’, thought David. ‘But keen as mustard’.
‘Drop Zone in two minutes, Skipper.’ Harry King, the navigator, crackled into his ear phones.
David eased the column forward, held the yoke steady against the shuddering vibration in the airframe, and began the descent down to nine hundred feet. Through the thickest flak he’d ever seen. He could see the DZ now too. Flicked the warning light switch to amber, then glanced back over his right shoulder, as far as his harness would allow, peering through the pulpit door, down the ribbed green tunnel of the Dakota’s fuselage. The loadies had seen the light. Good. Two of them, Ricketts and Rowbotham, were attaching their safety straps. A third, Harper, was helping the ALM, Corporal Nixon, with the door.
Everything ready. ‘Two minutes. Then we’ll get these panniers down to the lads on the ground’. He could see some of them. Tiny. But clear. Along the edge of a field. Waving like fury.
‘Poor devils’, he thought. ‘Must be desperate. But at least we can get this little lot to them’. He gripped the yoke, tight, as the rear door came open and the normal, howling gale slammed into the old lady’s innards, kicking her sideways. He looked past Dickie Medhurst to the damaged starboard engine. ‘That’s if the ruddy donk gets no worse’!
Tony Crane’s No. 2 Platoon was strung out along the farm’s drainage ditch. Arms waving like windmills and shouting useless warnings. Watching the supply plane coming in; still coming in, smoke pouring from its wing.
He’d dropped just to the west of Arnhem two days ago. Sunday afternoon. And they’d set about the task of marking out a Landing Zone for the first wave. Homing beacons too.
There’d been the lunatics to contend with, of course. Somehow they’d escaped from the local asylum and a few of them were still wandering around when the Horsas and huge Hamilcars had come in. Many of the gliders had landed just fine. Bang on! But there were others… ‘Christ, what a mess’.
And the Second Lift, yesterday. By then, Jerry had moved up so many anti-aircraft guns that they’d picked off the gliders like flies. Things weren’t going right. He could feel it in his water. All those briefings. The whole operation seemed to have ground to a halt, their positions surrounded, and the plan to turn the Germans’ flank, to capture the Arnhem bridges now all stood on its head. Everything running low. Already.
So today they’d managed to set out the giant ‘V’ that would guide in the desperately needed supplies. Only now, that had turned sour too. Planes scattered all over the show. And the Jerry guns, the sky full of flak. Black with the stuff. The explosions. Some planes already shot down. This one coming in. Closer now. The smoke. Every signaler trying to warn them. Warn them.
‘I could shut it down’, thought David Lord. ‘Feather it. Shut it down’.
Like Satan, tempting him.
‘If I shut it down, we can’t make the run. If we can’t make the run’…
‘Couldn’t we shut it down, Skipper?’ shouted Dickie Medhurst, but Lord ignored him, leveled out at nine hundred feet, hardly able to believe that the flak was even worse than before. And he felt the next prang through his fingers. Starboard wing again. Jolted upwards. The engine suddenly an inferno. The ammonia stink of coolant dragging him back to his days as a chemist, polluting the kite’s normal smells of hot oil, metal – and the sickly rubber of his whiff mask. He flipped the thing towards his mouth, pressed a finger to the mike button.
‘Approaching Drop Zone,’ he relayed. ‘Alec. Harry. Get ready to go aft and help the loadies, please.’
Then he stretched out to the warning light switch, hesitated.
‘Not too late’, he thought. ‘Still time to pull out. Still time to jump’.
But, when the yellow marker panels along the Drop Zone’s nearest edge – the bottom of the ‘V’ – appeared below, his gloved finger instinctively moved the switch to green. He looked back again, saw the navigator, Harry King, and the wireless operator, Alec Ballantyne, climbing from their positions and swaying down the decking to where the squaddie despatchers were unfastening the shackles holding down the first crate, the first pair of canister tubes.
‘Skipper…’ shouted Medhurst. He looked like he was about to bag up.
‘That’s all we need’, thought David. ‘Puke all over the place’.
‘Easy, lad,’ he said. ‘They don’t call me Lucky Lummy Lord for nothing.’
True enough. He’d survived D-Day, got the Duchess home from Normandy on a wing and a prayer. And yesterday, tugging for the gliders in the Second Lift. But this was bad. The flames even worse now. And, at this altitude, not a cat in hell’s chance of quenching it.
‘But at least we can pick a spot to bail out’, he thought, breathing a sigh of relief when the final edge of the marker panels came into sight through the window. The end of the Drop Zone. Job done. The switch flicked to red.
He was about to press the mike button again, get them all ready to jump. But then there was Harry King in the ear phones again.
‘Skipper, we’ve still got two crates left!’
Tony couldn’t work out how the plane was still in the air. The whole near-side of the thing was ablaze, great clouds of filthy black smoke. But it had flown all the way across the Drop Zone, dropping one canister after another, pale blue parachutes billowing.
‘Food’, he thought. ‘We don’t need the damned food! Just get to hell out of there’.
It seemed that every Jerry gun in the whole damned place was now trying to bring the Dakota down. Despite the smoke, he could see the triple white stripes under each wing and its tail, the lettering along the plane’s fuselage: YS-DM.
‘Haven’t they got the message yet?’ Tony’s Platoon Sergeant came hobbling, frantic, along the trench line, using an old broom for a crutch. ‘For God’s sake, are they blind?’
The signalers were working like fury, one of them with a portable Aldis lamp, the other with semaphore flags – they’d given up on the useless wireless set long since. But it wasn’t helping. And Tony cursed the Germans, hated them in that moment more than any time since he’d joined up. He’d enlisted two years ago. Ended up in the Paras. Two bob a day more than the Poor Bloody Infantry. But he looked down at his sniper rifle. Still barely fired a shot in anger.
‘Think they’ll get out OK, Sarge?’
‘Those Fly Boys will be having cold beer in their nice comfy mess before you know it,’ said the Sergeant, though his voice was trembling with rage. ‘If we can just get them to see the ruddy signals.’
The prayer went round and round in David Lord’s head.
Hail Mary. Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee.
He pulled the whiff mask across once more.
‘We go again!’ he relayed, struggling to keep his voice level, confident. ‘Repeat. We go again.’
Nothing came back. He glanced at Dickie Medhurst’s stricken face. Disbelief. And a tear running down the boy’s cheek.
‘The quicker we make the second run,’ David shouted, ‘the quicker we get to jump.’
The weight on his shoulders was physical, pressed him down into the seat. They called him The Old Man because, compared to the rest of them, that was exactly what he was. A month short of thirty-one. And every intention of celebrating the birthday.
He fought with the yoke and column, the rudder pedals, slowly bringing the Duchess on her slow turn to port, and he was gratified to find Medhurst at his own set of controls, helping to ease the old crate around.
The men of No.2 Platoon were out of their ditches. Still waving.‘They can’t be…’ Tony shouted. But they were. They were going around again. That starboard wing raised up like a bloody burning beacon. ‘Jump, you silly buggers. Jump.’ Yet, at the same time, his brain was sending out different messages entirely.
‘Go on, you beauties. You can make it’!And there were tears running down his face. He hardly dared look at the others.
The Dakota completed the turn, leveled out. Lower than before. Four more canisters came tumbling down. One. Two. Three. Four.
‘Jump now’! Tony’s brain screamed. ‘Jump’!
‘That bugger’s lining himself up for a VC if anybody ever did!’ A Jock’s voice behind him. A posh Jock, and Tony turned around ready to give the bugger a mouthful. But the Scotsman was frowning, incredulity painted into every crease of his face, so Tony changed his mind. In any case, it probably wasn’t a good career move to shout abuse at the commander of the 1st Airborne Division.
Hail Mary. Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee.
‘All gone, Skipper.’ Harry was behind him, in the cockpit doorway, hand on the shoulder of David’s flying suit, bellowing into his ear over the roar of engine and flame, and the shuddering screams of the stricken, grinding airframe.
‘Then go and get the loadies into their ‘chutes, Harry.’
‘How long’? he wondered. It was a miracle the tank hadn’t blown. How was that possible? Yet they couldn’t have long. He fingered the mike button. Less than five hundred feet on the altimeter. But the only chance…
‘We’re going to jump, boys,’ David told them all. ‘Get ready.’
He looked once more at young Dickie Medhurst, winked at him. ‘Go on, Dickie. I’ll be right behind you.’ The boy smiled back, began to unfasten his harness. ‘OK,’ David shouted into the mike. ‘Bail out! Bail out! For God’s sake, bail out!’
General Urquhart rubbed a hand across his cheek. ‘Why don’t they jump?’ he said.
Tony Crane wasn’t sure whether he was supposed to answer. But he watched the canister ‘chutes open and, as though that was a signal too, the fuel tank on the stricken starboard wing exploded. A shower of flaming shards. A heat blast, which reached even Tony, there on the ground. The Dakota lurched to the left. Just once. A single figure somersaulted from the rear door as the wing fell away. Burning. Falling. Burning. And the plane’s remaining wing reared up. Its nose dived, the fuselage tipping sideways so that Tony thought he could see inside the cockpit, the pilot still at his controls.
Maybe… he thought. A stupid spark of hope, which turned first into a Catherine Wheel of despair as the loose wing struck the farmland and spun, over and over. Then, second, into a fire ball of grief when the rest of the Dakota slammed into the farmland and came apart in a bomb-burst fury that assaulted Tony’s ears like all the demons of hell.
He turned away, choking back yet more tears, saw a runner salute General Urquhart and, his message delivered, head off again along the track to Oosterbeek.
‘How’s that for bad luck?’ he heard the General snarl to his aide. ‘We called off the attempt to take back the Drop Zone ten bloody minutes ago.’
‘Jerry’s got all the supplies?’ said the aide.
‘Yes, I’m afraid so.’
‘But all those signals’, thought Tony Crane. ‘Warning them. Telling them to turn back’…
‘Why did they keep coming in, sir?’ he said.
‘Why?’ Urquhart replied. ‘Because some silly bugger back in Blighty had told them to ignore all signals from the ground. In case it was a German trick. Can you believe that? All for nothing. Nothing.’
David Lord was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his conspicuous bravery on 19th September 1944, during the unsuccessful Operation Market Garden. A plaque in his memory is located in St Mary’s Cathedral, Wrexham and a plaque can still be seen on the house where the family lived in Cilcen Grove, Acton. David is buried alongside his crew in Arnhem’s Oosterbeek War Cemetery. They were Pilot Officer Dickie Medhurst and Flying Officer Alec Ballantyne, along with the army despatchers Corporal Phillip Nixon and Privates Len Harper, James Ricketts and Arthur Rowbotham. There was only one survivor – the navigator, Flying Officer Harry King, thrown clear by the blast.
Tony Crane was born in Wrexham in 1924 and, in the days after the sacrifice made by Flight Lieutenant David ‘Lummy’ Lord, became famous for his actions as a sniper when his unit defended a house at 34 Pieterbergseweg, Oosterbeek. Tony died in January 2011. There is, of course, no reason to suppose that he actually witnessed the final moments of David Lord’s famous flight, though he was certainly in the immediate area – and that, I think, gives us a reasonable basis for this piece of historical fiction.
Acknowledgements: Arnhem: The Battle for Survival (John Nichol and Tony Rennell); So Near and yet So Far (Martin Bowman); and the website www.paradata.org.uk for its Extended Biography of Tony Crane.
David Ebsworth is the pen name of historical fiction author Dave McCall.
My Mam says, ‘Come to Wrexham with me,
It’s better when you’re there.
We’ll just nip in for an hour or half.’
So I sigh and we drive into town. The SatNav
has the last laugh,
with a different idea of where
we are supposed to be.
We glide past Glyndwr University,
down Bridge Street to Island Green,
and pull in by one of the parks.
When I was a little girl, Wrexham was exotic.
Now it’s smaller, its Marks and Sparks
is like every other, and some streets need a good clean.
It feels grimy and gritty.
We skirt through Bellevue, my Mam’s arm looped in mine.
I remember Wrexham as a teen, collecting bling in
Bangles and Beads and heading to BHS for a sneaky wee.
Hanging out and chatting
before we tried to buy beer with a fake ID.
Back then I’d swear, my brick-phone ringing
as Mam called me home: oh effing fine.
My pace has slowed.
When I worked here in my twenties I explored.
I rushed from job to job, running past
St Giles’ while sunlight spilled across rain-strewn paths.
I used to be fast,
Caia Park to Eagles Meadow via Holt Road.
Now I’m not; I’m older
and my Mam older still, and
‘Is this really the right way?’ she asks.
We backtrack; our trip takes longer than half an hour,
but it’s not the worst of tasks.
When I first came to Wrexham, she would hold my hand.
Now it’s my turn to hold hers.
by Rhian Waller
Driving to a Happiness Workshop
Out in Wrexham, one day
Had me wondering where “it” was
As I went on my way.
The stress and the pressure of
A frantic and busy life
Had left me subdued
On the edge of a knife.
But the journey itself
brought a smile to my face.
The low winter sun
beamed with beauty and grace.
Quaint villages and the greenery
glistened in the sunlight,
and each meandering road travelled
brought its own special delight.
The venue located
and a vision to behold,
The most wonderful cottage and manor
where you’d love to grow old.
And that memorable driveway
that brought down any defence,
was seeing the doe-eyed cows
smiling from over the fence.
The day had started well,
and I have to confess,
that a location in Wrexham
Was where I found “Happiness”.
Crowds of public in a busy town. Thumping music, cloudy exhaust fumes, impatient revving. A squirming snake-line of traffic, broken by bleeping, flashing lights. Advertising boards, vacant shops, sale signs, dirty litter glued to the edge of kerbs. Amid the rushing pace, Adam stood. A foot above the pavement. His body motionless, his voice silent, his pulse steady.
His eyes were staring at the photographs in the showcase of the local Amateur Theatre building in Hill Street. Cream painted walls with an artistically designed logo and edgings. The new, large window powered over the modernised entrance. Attractive and eye-catching. The stone built chapel had endured more than a century. It had changed from a place of worship to a place of entertainment. Only the triangular roof and the grey hard rock bore the symbols of time.
Adam knew this because when younger, he had been a member of the Youth section. Rehearsed as a young thespian in the maze of makeshift rooms. His grandfather had once aided with the reformation informing him of the secrets of the underground cellars, now the dressing rooms.
Ella and Harry were his rock. The scripts, with his words coloured in green highlighter pen. Ella’s idea. They were never interested in the stage though. They had to work. Always wanted the best, a new car, newly-built four bedroom house. Very proud persons. He had everything he wanted. Very proud of Adam. They gave embarrassing hugs when they came to see their only child perform. He only had one photo of them together on holiday; all the rest were gone. The memory in his mind sent shivers travelling down his legs.
Extra large shoes wobbled on the stand. He held his balance as the passing children laughed and they pointed their fingers. Adam shrugged, lifting his painted face to a smile, and waved. Then, off went his white gloves, off with the ruffle. Reaching his arms around the back of his neck, with a tug, pulled the velcro holding the silky fluorescent green clown’s outfit apart. The arms out, it dropped to the pavement. Removing the large shoes, he packed the outfit away in a tatty old suitcase. He released a deep sigh as he sat on his box. The day was over; only his face paint to remove.
“Don’t forget the nose,” a man said. He was in his late fifties, grey suited and leaned upon a carved walking stick. “It’s Adam Moton, isn’t it? Never forget a face.” Aided by his stick, the man sat on a third level step. “Mr. Pomfrey! Bryn Alyn. English and drama teacher.”
Adam snatched at his artificial nose. How could he forget? Sitting in the corner. The tears of fear. Homework books torn. Detention, detention, detention. Picking up litter when the class was doing drama. Useless. That’s what he said he was: useless.
He didn’t like the idea that his parents had money. Was in school with his dad. Always held a grudge towards him. He smirked as a thought sprang into his mind. The missing register, the glued desk drawers and many more that Mr. Pomfrey had not been able to solve.
“Heard about the fire and wondered how you were?” he questioned.
“I’m fine,” said Adam. He knew where I lived twelve months ago. He could have found out then.
Adam turned to pick up an old cap; people had been throwing money in. Grasping the coins, he slipped them into his pocket.
“Here, let me help you.” Mr. Pomfrey opened his wallet.
Adam shook his head.
“Maybe not then,” mumbled the older man. “Lunch break over. Got to go.” The man mingled with the people and disappeared.
Adam lifted his suitcase and box. He didn’t need charity; he could work. Tonight he would know. He walked between the cars up the hill. Listening for the ghostly cheers he had heard before. The door to a small, mid-terraced house opened as he closed the gate. An old man shaking an envelope and a book bowed. Adam knew he was to be Romeo.
By Vivien Smith
This story was inspired by Grove Park Amateur Theatre in Wrexham where the author is a member.
There’s a rainbow over Wrexham
After all the heavy showers
And the high winds
That wrecked our shed
Blowing fence panels
Across the estate
Tipping wheely bins
All over the lawn
There’s a rainbow over Wrexham
Bright colours after a storm.
There’s a rainbow over Wrexham
It looks very nice
But will it bring jobs
Or cut the price of fuel
Because the mines and steelworks
And the Lager Brewery have gone
It’s very beautiful don’t get me wrong
But it doesn’t feed the children
There’s a rainbow over Wrexham
I suppose we shouldn’t moan.
There’s a rainbow over Wrexham
It must have been our turn
For a bit of decoration
To brighten up this dreary town
It’s usually Chester that gets everything
So we’ll call this rainbow our own
At least we don’t have to pay for it
Something to be grateful for
There’s a rainbow over Wrexham
We don’t get many of those.
By David Subacchi, Wrexham
“The view from up here is amazing,” said Animal, leaning precariously over the tower’s wall.
“Oh yeah, stunning,” said Lemmy, looking over Dave’s shoulder, at the scene below. “That horde of rampaging, flesh eating zombies will make a great promotional postcard for Wrexham.”
“What do you reckon that building over there is?” said Animal pointing.
“Seriously? You’re talking town planning at a time like this?”
“I’m just interested,” said Animal.
Lemmy sighed. “Which one, the one that looks like a giant pair of skidders hanging on a radiator to dry?”
“Yeah, that’s the one.”
Lemmy shrugged his shoulders. “Swimming baths, perhaps?”
“Oh yeah, looks a bit like a wave or something,” said Animal, “and those chicks in bikinis, running around attacking people are a bit of a clue.”
“You amaze me, Animal,” said Lemmy, raising his arms in disbelief and pacing away from his mate. “Here we are, stuck on the top of a medieval church roof, surrounded by a legion of the undead, and you don’t seem bothered at all.”
“Don’t forget the ones banging at the tower door.”
“How could I,” said Lemmy, “listen to them? The only thing keeping them from getting to us is our helmets, jammed between the door and that pipe.” Groans and grunts came from behind the small wooden door, punctuated by the odd thud as a hand or head or other extremity hammered against the wood. “So what is it? What is the secret to your calm outlook when the whole town has gone mental?”
“Hey, I can see our bikes,” said Animal. “They look tiny fro-”
“What’s up? What’s the matter?” said Lemmy, running to join Animal at the wall. His face dropped as he witnessed the automotive violation going on, over 100 feet below his vantage point. “Oh no. No, no, no. I’ve only had it three weeks.” At street level, two dozen zombies had run into, and over, the brace of motorbikes parked in the church grounds, dragging them for several yards with the force of their passing. Light lenses and mirrors cracked then shattered; petrol tanks were dented and control levers twisted. From atop of St Giles’ tower, Lemmy howled like a wounded wolf. “Nooooooooo!”
Animal tutted. “Good job we’re insured, hey, mate?”
Lemmy stared at Animal’s smiling face for a few moments, with an incredulous look upon his own. “Hmm, not sure I ticked the box for zombie apocalypse and I can see some problems getting the admin sorted without having my face eaten off by the staff.”
Animal’s grin grew wider. “Can’t see this making any difference to the call centre service though, hey, mate?”
Lemmy threw his arms up and let them fall to slap against his leather clad thighs. “There you go again, Mr Bloody Jolly. Can’t you see what’s going on here? Don’t you understand how serious this mess is?”
“Of course I do, mate, but there’s not much we can do about it. Might as well enjoy the view. Hey, do you reckon it would be possible to run a zip wire from here to Debenhams?”
“Why not, Animal. I mean, we’ve already got an eager customer base; all we need now is several hundred feet of steel rope and we’re in business.” Lemmy finished his sentence with a stabbing, ‘Ha!’
“No need to be like that, Lem, I was only saying.”
“Well, try saying something more constructive,” said Lemmy, pacing up and down the roof and flapping his arms like a startled pigeon. “Like coming up with a plan to get us out of here.”
Animal nodded his head and began to take stock of the situation by looking over the sides of the tower’s faces in turn. At each cardinal point he rubbed his chin before moving onto the next. After he completed his circumnavigation, he walked to the small wooden door and banged his fist upon it. The groans and growls increased in volume in reply. He stuck his right index finger in his mouth to wet it and held it aloft, his face a picture of concentration. Lowering his hand, he rubbed his stubble laden chin once more.
“And?” said Lemmy, his patience exhausted.
“We’re surrounded from all sides on ground level and the number of zombies is only going to increase the longer we wait. Our only exit from this tower is that door,” Animal pointed to it, “and that leads to a narrow staircase packed to the gills with more zombies than you can shake a stick at. To jump would be suicide and, as you pointed out, we haven’t got the gear to construct a zip wire.”
“We’re screwed,” said Animal and smiled.
Lemmy clenched his fists and stomped around the roof, swearing for thirty seconds without repeating himself once. Spent of all anguish, he bent forward resting his hands on his knees.
“You okay, mate?” said Animal, patting Lemmy on the back.
“Fine,” said Lemmy, straightening up, “just getting used to my fate, walking the earth as a mindless freak, cursed for all time…or at least until I turn to dust.”
“It’s just like that painting over the arch in the church,” said Animal. “Looks like the artist was a prophet or something.”
“Painting? You mean the Doom Painting?”
“Yeah, that’s the one. All those corpses climbing out of their coffins, trying to get at that skinny, hippy looking dude.”
“That’s not quite the same, Animal, those people were being accepted into the Kingdom of Heaven; in fact this is almost the complete opposite.”
“Are you sure, Lem, because the guide didn’t get a chance to talk about it before that woman, who looked like she worked in a fast food chain, bit a chunk out of his neck? Maybe he would have told us about the curse of Wrexham?”
Lemmy walked over to the door. “Maybe we should ask him,” he said. “I’m pretty sure he was one of the buggers chasing us up the stairs. Do you reckon he might have gone off the idea of eating us by now, lost his appetite, hmmm?”
“There’s no need to be like that, I’m only trying to help.”
“Help. Trying to help. All you’re doing is being insufferably cheerful.”
“It’s better than being a miserable, negative sod.”
“And what have you got to be positive about?”
“Lots of things.”
“Like what, exactly?” spat Lemmy.
“Well, we’ve seen all seven wonders of North Wales this weekend and I’m standing on the roof of the very last one with my best mate in all the world,” said Animal. “And even if it’s the last thing I’ll probably get to do, because of the zombies and all that, it’s okay with me.” He gave the kind of heart-breaking smile that a lost puppy would have been proud of.
“Oh,” said Lemmy, “if you put it like that…” There was an awkward, yet manly, pause. “Come ‘ere, you.” Lemmy took the two steps between him and Animal and hugged his friend. “Sorry for being such a dick, mate.”
Animal slapped Lemmy’s back. “No problem, mate, I’m used to it.”
“Tosser,” said Lemmy.
“Knob,” said Animal.
The two bikers separated and coughed to clear their choked throats. “So,” said Lemmy, “what are our options?”
Animal ran his hand through his long, greying hair and walked back to the edge of the tower. “We could climb down and make a break for our bikes.”
Lemmy joined his mate and studied the vertical stonemasonry; it did not look very accommodating for scaling. “Not sure. Bear Grylls might be up to the job but you and me in our bike boots with no ropes or safety net…I’m not so confident.”
“If Bear was here, he could eat his way through the zombies,” said Animal.
“Yeah, before climbing up a tree and pretending to get ready to sleep the night there until the camera gets turned off and he hits the nearest Travelodge.”
“Why are you always dissing Bear, mate? The dude’s a legend.”
“He’s just another bloody Etonian taking over TV, like that Henry Cole who must be the most miserable biker that ever drew breath.”
“I can think of another one,” muttered Animal.
“Nothing. So you reckon we can’t make the climb then?”
“It’s a hell of a drop if we get it wrong,” said Lemmy, leaning over as far as he dared, which wasn’t that far. “And even if we do make it to the ground, we’ve then got to get to our bikes without getting attacked by the horde.”
“Okay,” said Animal, “you make a fair point. Another option is we unblock the door and fight our way down the stairs; they’re really narrow, so we’d only have to deal with one zombie at a time.”
“True, but once we’d cleared the stairs we’d still have the problem of making a break for our bikes. Also, we have the additional problem of what we kill the zombies with; this is Wrexham, Clwyd, not Compton, California and, although we might be Bikers With Attitude, we are sorely lacking in AK47s.”
Animal unzipped one of the many pockets in his leather jacket and rummaged through for a moment before removing his hand proudly displaying a multi-blade penknife. “I’ve got this.”
“Excellent,” said Lemmy, clapping his hands together, “if a zombie has a stone caught in their shoe, or needs a bottle of Chardonnay opening, we’re sorted.”
Animal opened the largest of the blades; it was two and half inches long. “The quickest and easiest way to the human brain is through the eye. One stab with this and bish-bash-bosh, dead zombie…a more dead zombie. I walk in front, killing zombies and you stay behind me shielded from any harm.”
“That’s very heroic of you but let me get this straight,” said Lemmy. “You want to attack the zombies with your boy scout’s machete, stabbing each of them in the eye perfectly every time, without fail?”
“It could work.”
“What if you miss? It only takes one bite from one of those mothers to turn you into one of them and then I’d have one more zombie to fight. An armed one…well, kinda armed.”
Animal lowered the unimpressive blade. “Yeah, I see what you mean, Lem, and I’d feel really bad eating you, zombie or not.”
“Glad to hear it, mate, and careful where you are if you ever say that out loud again. Any other options you can think of?”
“We sit tight and wait to be rescued.”
“I must admit, that has some appeal to it,” said Lemmy, “but there’s no guarantee that’ll happen. We don’t know how far this…thing has spread. It could be localised in Wrexham or it could be global. Maybe the army will come in and sort it out, send a helicopter to winch our asses off the tower, but if this is a Day of Judgement scenario…well, we’re screwed. Even if the door holds we will eventually die of starvation.”
“Or dehydration?” said Animal.
“We’re in North Wales, Animal, we’re more likely to drown than die of thirst.”
A pensive silence fell over the friends for a few moments before Animal spoke again. “There is a fourth way out.”
Lemmy looked at his friend, who’s face had a ‘you know what I mean’ expression on it. “No,” said Lemmy. “You can’t mean…”
“Why not? It would be death on our terms,” said Animal, “meeting the Reaper face to face like men.”
“You think we should jump?”
“I’d hold your hand, if it would help?”
“No! I don’t want you to hold my hand,” said Lemmy. He began to pace a circuit of the tower.
“Think about it, Lem,” said Animal, turning his head to follow Lemmy’s circular perambulation, “it would be quick…and more dignified than being ripped apart. Or worse, getting bitten and becoming one of the zombies, roaming forever hungry and unable to die.”
“Unless someone shoves a penknife in your eye,” said Lemmy.
“It’s only an option, Lem.”
Lemmy strode purposely into Animal’s personal space. “Do you really think this is an option? We toss ourselves off?”
Animal smirked. “Well, I only offered to hold your hand but if that would make you feel braver…”
“What if we don’t die? What if we only cripple ourselves and still get eaten alive, or worse still get bitten, turn into zombies but can’t move?”
“Whoa, slow down, mate,” said Animal, gently pushing Lemmy back a pace, “you’re thinking way too much about this. If we go off head first, we’re bound to have a clean kill.”
“And how do you think we manage that?”
“It’s a well-known fact that wherever the head goes the body follows. All we need to do is get naked.”
“The weight of our boots alone could affect the arc of our fall.”
“Can’t we just take our boots off then?”
Lemmy undid the zips on his boots and stepped out of them. In two strides he was on the top of the tower wall gripping one of the hexagonal turrets with his right hand, for balance. “Are we doing this or what?”
Animal removed his boots and joined Lemmy, his head scanning across the horizon. “I still think this is a stunning view.”
Lemmy’s eyes were fixed looking down. Down at the swarming sea of the undead and the hard, cold concrete below their scurrying feet. “Are you sure this is a good idea, Animal?”
“It’s an idea, mate.”
“And this is the best option?” said Lemmy, his throat dryer than a nun’s dreams.
“It’s an option.”
“You’re not bloody helping, Animal!”
“Look, mate,” said Animal, “I’ve had a great time. I rode my bike all over North Wales, and today I even got to see the grave of the bloke who invented the lock in my front door. All the while spending time with my best mate. If I was given the choice of the day I’m going to die, this is the one I would pick.”
“You have picked it, you knob.”
Animal smiled. “I know you’re scared, mate, so am I,” he said, resting a hand on Lemmy’s shoulder, “but think of all the good times we’ve shared, all the laughs.” Animal chuckled. “Remember that time at the top of that waterfall?”
“Yeah, Pistol Rider, that was a laugh.”
“Not sure a Youtube video of you with your trousers ‘round your ankles is a laughing matter. A police matter, maybe.”
“I had to cool down somehow, mate; it’s one hell of a sweaty climb to the top of that hill in leather kecs,” argued Animal. “Besides, I had bills on.”
“Yeah, your famous squirrel patterned ones with the ‘hands off my nuts’ warning. You’ll never live that down. Four hundred thousand hits, that’s had.”
“Ah, that’s no big deal.”
“It was only posted yesterday.”
“Really? Cool. I’ll miss the internet.” Animal took in a deep breath.
Lemmy could feel his body shaking. It was taking all of his resolve not to fall off the wall, let alone jump. The wind, whistling past his ears, seemed to be filled with ghostly voices urging him to jump one second and then pleading he should step back onto the safety of the tower roof the next. The impressive roll of the Berwyn Hills faded from view to be replaced by a vision of his laughing sons, all wrestling for the right to throw a playful punch into their father’s arm. They soon vanished, like so much steam, to be replaced by his wife, floating like an angel, her smile inching closer until her lips touched his forehead with a kiss and she whispered: ‘Come home safe to me…’ before she too ‘…and when are you going to finish decorating the spare room…’ was lost ‘…instead of pratting round with your mates on motorbikes’ to the breeze.
For longer than Lemmy could remember, he had assumed he would die on his bike; going out in a blaze of glory like a Viking on his long ship funeral pyre, pulling a wheelie up to the Pearly Gates and high-fiving St Peter as he blasted into Heaven doing ‘the ton’. Yet, here he was preparing to take his own life by turning himself into jam on the cold, damp pavement 136 feet below; nothing but a wet splat made from the fruit of the cowardice bush. “This is wrong,” he muttered.
“Okay,” said Animal, deaf to his friend’s quiet verbal doubt. “After three. One…two-”
Lemmy slapped his hand on Animal’s chest. “No! We are not going like this.” He stepped back onto the tower roof, bundling his mate with him.
“I really will hold your hand, if it’ll help, Lem?” said Animal.
Lemmy grabbed Animal by his leather lapels. “We’re bikers and we’re going out like bikers. Grab your penknife, Animal, it’s time to take out some zombies.”
“You do know I’ve only got one knife, Lemmy, what are you going to use?”
“I’m going to use my rage, mate…my rage and my helmet.”
“Epic!” shouted Animal. “Er, should we put our boots back on first?”
Reshod, Lemmy and Animal stood at the door to the tower. “You ready?” said Lemmy.
Animal twisted his feeble blade through the air to demonstrate his deadly carving technique. “Locked and loaded, bro.” He nicked the tip of his own nose with the blade.
“Maybe we should both use our helmets.”
Animal put his penknife away. “Good idea.”
Both men got a firm grip on their helmets. With an affirming nod of their heads, the bikers relieved the headgear of their barricade duties and opened the small door to reveal the zombie at the head of the queue, grinding its teeth with anticipation. Lemmy smacked it in the face with his skid lid and it fell backwards causing the tightly packed line of undead to begin to topple like dominoes. “Quick,” said Lemmy, “keep their momentum going.” He added a kick to the chest of the falling zombie, which hastened the descent of the stack of ex-humanity. The nightmarish forms tumbled and spilled down the narrow spiral staircase, with Lemmy and Animal close behind the receding tide. “We’re nearly at the bottom,” said Lemmy, “be ready to make a run for it.”
Animal nodded, his tension laden, laboured breath robbing him of his voice.
The cascade of bodies came to a standstill; Lemmy and Animal ran up the fallen pile and leapt into the main body of the church. The bikers stopped for a second and surveyed the scene; zombies that had been milling round aimlessly all turned their attention to the interlopers. “It’s do or die time, mate,” said Lemmy.
Animal grinned and gripped his helmet more tightly. “Well, let’s do then, Lem, let’s do big time.” With a battle cry he ran forward and struck the nearest zombie full in the face with his aptly named full-face helmet, the fiend arched backwards and fell to the floor motionless. “Strike one!”
The two men swung their helmets back and forth, up and down; like drunken samurai cutting a swathe through unarmed peasants. “This is easy,” said Lemmy, laying low another zombie.
“I know,” said Animal, hefting his booted foot into an unprotected groin. “And kicking them in the goolies works just as well as smashing them in the head…didn’t know zombies swore so much though.”
“Don’t worry about that, let’s just get out of here.”
Lemmy and Animal battled on and, as their fury intensified, the zombies became reticent about attacking which, in turn, quickly turned into a rout of the army of the undead. “They’re scared of us, Lem.”
“Of course they are,” said Lemmy. “Who wouldn’t be scared of two pissed-off, badass bikers swinging their helmets?”
Lemmy and Animal rushed through the open doors into the grounds of St Giles’, preceded by a wave of zombies that were shouting warnings to their kin outside. Rotting faces turned to take in the commotion at the church’s doors, before they too joined the rush to escape the wrath of the leather clad heroes.
“This is our chance, Animal,” shouted Lemmy. “Get to our bikes.”
The men sprinted to their downed rides, the zombies parting before them like a broken zip on a pair of jeans. Dropping their helmets, Animal and Lemmy, lifted their bikes back onto their wheels and inserted keys. Seconds later they had thrown their legs over their saddles, fired the machines into life and were riding through the open wrought iron gates that marked the boundary of St Giles’ grounds.
As they rode down the paved street to safety, Animal spoke. “Erm, Lem, did I just hear someone shout, ‘Cut! Cut! Who the hell were those two dickheads in my scene’!?”
“Don’t say another word, Animal,” said Lemmy, chewing on his bottom lip.
“You don’t think that was a…”
“I’m tired of Wales, mate, I think we should give it a miss for a while,” said Lemmy. “What do you reckon to spending next weekend in the Lake District; or the northern most tip of Scotland? Or maybe we should lay low for a while…”
by Alec Sillifant
Gwrandwch ond am funud ar fy llais;
pwy neu beth yr ydwyf, ond yn Sais?
Mwy na thinc o dafod estron, nage wir?
Gwedd na fydd yn gwywo cyn bo hir;
mwy na thinc sy’n dweud nad Cymro ydwyf i;
dieithryn draw o’r dwyrain; dyma fi.
Ond be’ ‘di’r ots am fro, am fan y byd?
Ond pobl ‘dyn ni oll, yr un i gyd,
carcharwyd gan enedigaeth a ffin,
er gwaetha’ call, ffolineb, ffalster, rhin.
Dw i’m eisiau bod yn rhan o’r rwtsh di-baid,
yn gwarchod pymtheg llath ithfaen a llaid.
Byddwn yn well rhyw ddi-genedl ddyn;
perchen i neb, i fod ond fi fy hun;
dinesydd felly, dyn o’r ddaear gron…
ond mae ‘na harddwch yn y gornel grwca hon;
mae rhywbeth yn yr hwyliad haul a glaw
ar eu hynt ar hyd y gorwel di-ben-draw.
Mae rhywbeth yn y bedol werdd a thlos,
bugeilio’r praidd cymylau at y nos.
Dw i eisiau bod ar frig y tonnau tir,
ym machlud mis Mehefin, coch a chlir;
neu hyd yn oed yn glwt i fynd ymlaen,
anniben a di-sylw, hongian ar y draen.
Taflaf odlau fel hen hadau yn y gwair,
cerddi gwelw ar y gwyntoedd, fesul gair;
fyddaf yn rhan o’n pobman, ein pob dim?
Rhyw ronyn o’n gorffennol? Wn i ddim;
ond mae’r bryniau ‘ma yn lloches nawr i mi
ac yn fama mae fy nhragwyddoldeb i.
gan Les Barker
“Doo da doo da doo,” tooted Barri the bugler. “Bore da,” he announced.
“It is with a sad heart that I announce the final day of this, our tenth medieval festival at the magnificent Chirk Castle. Dating back to …”
“Get on with it!” muttered some of the crowd. They’d arrived early that morning to get a good seat in the gallery around the arena. Everyone was wearing their best Sunday clothes and the atmosphere was electric. The sun was glistening off the highly polished knight’s armour and the coloured flags on the poles waved hello in the breeze.
“Keep your wings on!” ordered Barri. “I am honoured to announce our tug of war finalists. Ladies and gentleman, I give you: The Red Dragons and The Robins!” he proclaimed with an air of gusto.
The crowd let out a roar of approval and some even did the Robin’s famous dance. In the distance, Dr Bumble was running as fast as his little fat legs could carry him across the wildflower meadow towards the arena. Towards Queenies’ royal enclosure!
“ Huh, huh, huh, Your Majesty, I am sorry to… huh huh “ he panted.
“Carry on Dr. Bumble, has there been a small hiccup?” she enquired.
“No your majesty there’s been a very big hiccup. You could say a hiccup of enormous proportion,” he declared.
“Explain yourself Doctor,” she ordered.
“If your royal highness would care to follow me, it might be easier for you to see for yourself,” he requested, whilst bowing down as low as he could, regretting, for the second time, that day, eating a third welsh cake for breakfast. Dr. Bumble headed back through the Wildflower meadow with Queenie following him and the rest of the crowd following her!
Dr. Bumble lifted the flap on the Medieval Knights’ tent and bowed again for Queenie to enter. The smell of beer honey mead took her breath away.
All the Tug of War team where in a pile on the floor like a row of toppled over dominos.
“I demand to know what on earth has happened here?’ ordered Queenie.
The bee on the top of the pile sat up. “Good Majesty your morning, may I say, hic, hic…may I say, hic hic,” he hiccupped.
“You’re not able to say anything at the moment, and what is more, you are all not able to take part in the tug of war competition,” she announced.
“The competition rule book states, rule 987b that any festival not having a winning team in the Tug of War competition cannot, I repeat can NOT attend the Regal Royal Welsh Show!” read Burt the Festival Official.
“Queenie what are we to do?” begged the crowd. Queenie thought for a moment. “There is one person who can help us with this dilemma. Stand still and go inside and make your hearts go widgy and squidgy and ask for the wisest of the wise to come.”
The bees loved doing this for two reasons. First they got to meet Vonnybee and second it always felt lovely spending time sending love inside to their own hearts.
The crowd calmed, and the air went, still. They waited and waited and then in the distance they could hear the familiar buzz.
“I can hear her,” whispered Bamby Bee. “Well I thought I could but I can’t now!” said Bamby who was confused.
They continued to listen and then they heard the faint distinctive sound of that famous hum heading their way. The sun shined brighter which revealed particles of dust like magic glitter floating down from the sky. There was a flash of light and Vonnybee appeared.
“Vonnybee, we seem to have a larger than larger hiccup, and we don’t know how to fix it,” explained Queenie.
“We have a case of a little too much pre-competition celebrations, me thinks,” said Vonnybee picking up an empty honey mead beer can.
“I don’t understand, the Red Dragons are teetotalers, they never touch a drop of Honey Mead not even at The National Eisteddfod of Wales,” assured Chalky the team coach.
“There’s no time for ifs, whens, and buts; let’s get to work,” said Vonnybee rolling up her sleeves. “Nursery nanny bee, I need 100 of your strongest youngsters to come with me, and Dr. Bumble, do you still have your hayfever detector machine from your doctor training days?” questioned Vonnybee.
“ Erh, it’s somewhere in the bottom of my medical chest. Why?” quizzed the doctor.
“No time to explain. Could you check everyone’s shoes for pollen please doctor, I repeat: EVERYONE’S,” said Vonnybee.
Vonnybee flew out of the tent followed closely by the 100 baby bees, that couldn’t believe their first maiden flight would be behind Vonnybee!
In an instant, they returned carrying a medieval beehive skep basket turned upside down. Following Vonnybee’s strict orders, they hovered over the drunken Red Dragons.
“On three, troops,” ordered Vonnybee. “One, two, THREE and tip!” she yelled.
They poured cold hog roast fat on top the collapsed team!
The disgusting wet stinky swill shocked them up and on their feet in no time.
“They still aren’t fit to compete,” announced the coach.
“No, but I think you’ll find these 100 nursery bees have earned the right to be the reserve squad. They can compete if, for some reason the team are not able to attend due to unforeseen circumstances,” said Vonnybee.
“Rule number 888 states about unforeseen circumstances, I don’t know if it means pig swill but it was definitely unforeseen!” read Chalky.
“Come on everyone take your seats and let the tournament begin.“
“On my right, I have The Robins and on my left I have the not so baby Red Dragons,” declared Bugle Bee.
“Come on you Reds!” cheered half the crowd.
The teams picked up the rope, and just as they took up the slack, there was an almighty cry from the Castle.
“Help, Help!” screeched Lady Jelly Belly Jiles. Her ladyship came running from castle, which was the opposite direction Dr. Bumble had run. She was galloping so fast that her slipper got caught in the hem of her gown. She lost her balance and Fluffy her toy poodle went from under her arm to flying in the air and her ladyship landed bum first into the flowers along the drive. Picking herself up and collecting Fluffy who landed safely on a bush, they managed to get to Queenie in one piece, but minus a slipper.
“Jellamena, what on earth is wrong?” queried Queenie.
“Oh dashing dastardly balderdash, there’s been a robbery of ginormous proportions!” she said whilst picking the rose petals out of her hair.
“What now? I thought we’d had enough drama for one day,” sighed Queenie.
“The ‘Y Beibl Bach’ has been stolen!” declared Lady Jelly Belly Jiles. “I went in to say my prayers and it had gone. Oh my giddy aunt, I can feel one of my turns coming on,” cried her ladyship covering her forehead with the back of her hand.
“Squiffy mead-filled men and a robbery are one thing, but one of her ladyship’s turns would be enough to push me over the edge.” thought Queenie. “It’s too late to ask Vonnybee to help, she will have gone by now,” said Queenie.
“I thought you might be needing my services a little while longer,” said Vonnybee stepping through the crowd. “Dr. Bumble do you have the results from the shoes please?”
“Why yes ma’am, but I am a tad confused, because the results show everyone’s shoes had pollen on them. Because everyone followed Queenie who followed me through the wildflower meadow,” said Dr. Bumble.
“Everyone?” asked Vonnybee.
“Yes everyone, oh except Beefy Bee the butcher’s delivery lad. He was sorting out the Hog Roast.”
“Present yourself Beefy Bee,” demanded Queenie on Vonnybee’s instructions.
Beefy Bee appeared from the jousting arena, hog fat dripping from his apron. “I was here tending to the hog your ladyship,” said Beefy Bee.
“Is that a dollop of hog roast hanging from your beard?” questioned Vonnybee.
“Yes, it’s delicious. I do like a little bit of roasted pig now and again,” he slurred, licking his fingers.
In a slow, silent movement Vonnybee left her chair and edged to where Beefy Bee was standing. “Beefy, do you not know that bees are vegetarians and that they do not eat meat? However I do know who does eat meat,” she said. With that, she leapt forward to grab the belt of his apron.
Before anyone could move, Beefy jumped up onto the rotating spit carrying the hog, ripped off the apron and beard to reveal to the crowd: “Tiz I, zee great master of dizguize. Ze great Wasssa Ze Wasp.” Grabbing the apple from the hog’s mouth he sneered. “Ha, HA, HA! You may have outwitted me zis time but it won’t be long til zis is mine, ALL MINE! Bon Appetite Vonnybee,” he shouted as he took a bite from the apple, and in a puff of smoke he was gone.
“Where has he gone?” enquired Chalky.
“Never mind where he’s gone, where’s the ‘Y Beibl Bach’ gone?” screeched Her Ladyship.
“It hasn’t gone far,” assured Vonnybee.
“Could you please explain to us common folk what you mean?” asked Dr. Bumble.
“Bamby do you remember that you heard my hum this morning and then it went away?” questioned Vonnybee.
“Yes,” said a puzzled Bamby
“That’s because en route to the Knights’ medieval tent, I went for a quick fly around the Castle. I do so love a visit to Chirk Castle. Once I got into the tent and smelt the Honey Mead Beer, I put two and two together and solved the crime.”
“I’m still not getting it,” said Dr. Bumble.
“You see, getting the lads squiffy by fooling them that they were drinking an energy drink was just a decoy so that Wassa the Wasp could get into the castle and steal ‘Y Beibl Bach’, undisturbed. However, he hadn’t planned on her ladyship taking her mid morning nap,” said Vonnybee. “I bet you scared Wassa; he must have thought you were the famous ghost of Chirk Castle,” chuckled Vonnybee.
“Ahh!” said Dr. Bumble, “so if I’m not mistaken, you knew that one person’s shoes wouldn’t have pollen on because they never came over…they went into the Castle instead?” said the good doctor.
“Exactly,” said Vonnybee.
“Aren’t we all still forgetting something?” cried Her Ladyship. “There’s still no sign of ‘Y Beible Bach’.”
“If you go to the King’s Cabinet you will notice tiny speckles of Honey Mead on the floor. I’m sure what you’re looking for will be safely inside the cabinet. Or my name isn’t Vonnybee.”
“And now to more important matters, don’t we have a tug of war to be had?” asked Vonnybee. “Don’t forget boys, slow and steady wins the race.”
The crowd cheered, the sun shone and the competition finally got underway.
In the distance high above the crowd, balanced on magnificent Chirk Castle gates, a voice whispered, “Nos da cariad. Till vee meet again mon chéri…”
By Yvonne Matthews
The Wrexham Dragon is green and red.
It watches the town as you sleep in your bed.
His wings spread the darkness and cover of night.
His flames make the stars that twinkle so bright.
The Wrexham Dragon looks after us all.
But you won’t ever see him, he’s ever so small.
By Jude Lennon
On the outskirts of the little Welsh town called Wrexham, in the beautiful Welsh valley, lives a very old and friendly dragon. He is so old that all of his teeth have fallen out and his scales have fallen off. From his gummy mouth he can no longer belch streams of fire, just the occasional puff of smoke.
As he doesn’t have any teeth, he only eats vegetables. Carrots are his favourite. He eats lots of them and their orange colouring has changed his natural red colour to a deep golden red.
This dragon is called Bob, but because he is clumsy, he would often hear people shout “Dim Draig, Dim” or “NO Dragon, No” in English. Over the years, people started calling him NoDim Draig, which is the name everybody uses today.
One sunny day, dressed in his favourite clothes, a striped circus tent with bright colours, NoDim was quietly flying to his favourite carrot field in Holt. As with most of his meal time flights, he had to work extra hard as the local birds just loved to sit on him and chatter away. Dozens of brown sparrows perched on his wings, black starlings lined up on his tail and yellow finches loved to nest in his ears.
Each bird always took the time to say hello and ask how NoDim was, before telling him how wonderfully warm their nests and eggs were. NoDim didn’t really mind, but sometimes he wished they would flap their wings to help him out.
As NoDim flew over Overton-on-Dee, he saw old Farmer Jones in his cabbage field. He was bent over and was rubbing his back with both his hands. NoDim thought he was pretending to be a chicken as he walked back towards his small red tractor. Slightly amused, NoDim decided to pay Farmer Jones a visit and swooped down into his field. As he landed beside the tractor, the little birds that he had carried decided to look for grubs on Farmer Jones’ cabbages. As they hunted for the grubs, their tweets and chirps filled the air with excitement.
“Ow! Oh my poor back,” he said as he rubbed it. “I have been harvesting cabbages all morning, NoDim, and I am not as young as I once was. Oh! What will I do? I cannot even get onto my tractor.”
NoDim, being helpful in nature, looked at Farmer Jones. He tilted his head one way and then the other. Stretching his long neck over Farmer Jones, he looked from the other side and then upside down. He gently took Farmer Jones in his gummy jaws and NoDim chomped him around in his toothless mouth.
‘No Draig, no!’ the farmer shouted.
Then with a loud “ooh” from Farmer Jones, as his back made a loud cracking sound, NoDim stepped back.
Old Farmer Jones was standing straight again. He looked at NoDim with a surprised look on his face as he twisted and patted around his back with his hands. After he stretched up and bent over several times he admitted, “My back hasn’t felt this good in years, NoDim. Thank you,’ he said smiling at the dragon. “Now I can carry on harvesting my cabbages.”
Farmer Jones danced around on the spot and was so happy that he offered NoDim as many cabbages as he could eat from his field.
Who is Wrexham;
A wreath, a wife, a river-meadow, a dynasty
A place in the shadow of Wrekin Hill
An old English word re-worked?
Her streets lead over bridges, past white houses, through
Fair fields, past courts and gardens, beyond the colliery, to the brow of the hill,
Along wide green banks and rivulets.
Her paths stretch through oak-thick valleys and over ridges, down new roads and through old places, grey ways named for living trees
Growing oaks and maples, chestnuts and elm.
Some roads lead to the wilds of Wales and some roads lead to hope.
There is history here, while ghosts of the old times
remain with Watt’s way and more time-lost names
or tease memories of when
There were no streets and the town had no name
To when hawthorns and pines greeted the wanderers
Who first hunted and gathered
would be born.
by Rhian Waller
I feel a rush of excitement as I open my diary to the date of 3rd April 2016. I write down ‘Gwersyllt Community Centre.’ I grew up a five minute walk from this venue, having left Wrexham over 30 years ago to pursue a career in advertising. This will be my first visit back to the Centre.
As I picture the place in my mind, a warm sense of nostalgia washes over me. It is not the type of nostalgia that merely brings forth a picture in the mind; it is much more powerful and vivid than that, bringing forth strong feelings deep enough to evoke smells and emotions.
This wash of nostalgia brings with it a particular memory which hits me hard. Why this memory has come back so strongly I do not know. I remember vividly as a child lying in bed on warm summer evenings with my window open. The window was not left open because of the heat of the summer, I would open it so I could listen to distant sounds. I listened to the voices as they walked down the street. I listened to the laughing of people coming back from ‘The Sheaf’ or the Gwersyllt Club and to the sounds of cars driving past. As the night came to a close, the voices became less frequent and no more cars were heard. The sounds that were near, stopped and everything was quiet. I would then hear the distant sounds from Brymbo Steelworks. I remember feeling small and weak as I lay in my bed, often worrying about what the next day would bring. I would force myself to stay awake as long as I could, listening to the sounds of the forged steel that would be carried across the air of quiet nights. These sounds were my connection to my father who would be working through the night. I missed him when he wasn’t home. When the sounds connected me to my father, it no longer mattered that I was small, weak, worried and anxious because my father was kind and strong; he loved me, he would always look after me and he was my castle.
As I listened to the Steelworks in the distance, I imagined him grafting hard in the sweltering heat; sweat running like wild rivers down his arms which were as strong as the steel he forged. To me, my father was created from the product he made. His arms were indestructible girders, his hands were like huge ingots waiting to be used and his muscles were the strongest, tense steel cables imaginable. Thoughts of my father’s physical strength provided the security I needed to allow me to stop worrying and soon tiredness would take over. I could fall asleep safely. As my eyes grew heavy, I knew that once I awoke, my father would be home and even though I would have to be quiet all day so that he could sleep and I would not see him until the afternoon, it did not matter because he would be home and I would be safe again.
My father never once grumbled or complained. His job entailed hard work and through this, he provided for us. He only ever wore a smile on his face; a tired smile, but a smile nonetheless. He was proud to be a steel worker. Steel workers were a band of brothers; a band of hard-working, tough kind of brothers who looked after each other and their families well.
As my nostalgic thoughts fade away, I find myself thinking of my father again and decide to visit him to inform him of the book to be edited at Gwersyllt Community Centre. I share with him my thoughts as a child and how he made me feel safe.
I leave him sitting in his greenhouse, tired and weak, broken from the years of hard, painful, sweltering toil. I leave him sitting on a chair with the greenhouse door open, listening to passing cars. He is waiting for the sound of his friend’s car. He is trying to stay awake.
As I drive away, I will not picture him as he is now; his arms no longer made from steel but frail, rusted tin, tainted with burgundy and brown coloured bruises collected from the lightest of knocks from cupboard doors and walls. I will not picture him worried with tired eyes. I will not picture him waiting and listening for sounds in the distance. I will not remember his hands shaking whilst holding his tea. I shall picture him as the proud, strong, hard-working, caring steel worker who raised me and protected me. He deserves that memory. He worked hard for it. I can say with hand on heart that I am proud to have a father that is and always will be a man of steel.
By Viv Griffiths
I walked the streets of King and Brown
Looking for memories
From this border town .
Passing the Centre where Eagles rest
I came across
The Wynnstay nest.
I followed the crowd to the old Queen’s Square
Where pigeons and buskers
Competed for share.
The latte was hot in the Nero caffé
And I watched all the locals
Getting on with their day.
I mosied and nosied my way through the town.
I tipped The Big Issue
With a couple of pounds
‘Y’all right?” he called out,
And I offered a smile.
Off to the bettors, I thought, no doubt.
Raising my head to the Tower so high
I admired St Giles
And its medieval ties.
Heading on through the Island so Green
I jockeyed and jimmied
With shoppers too keen.
I set off to the General to catch the next train
But cries from the Racecourse
Meant my trip was detained.
‘It’s the Derby,’ I’m told as the supporters spilled out
The streets were alive
With some colourful shouts.
I take a diversion to Elihu Yale
The pub that so wisely
Stocks good, local ale.
I sip on my pint and ponder my day
In Wrexham, North Wales:
‘Tidy, la,’ I say.
By Susan Miller
Having been asked to do a talk to the Women’s Institute group in Wrexham known as League of Extraordinary Women, at St John’s Church Hall, Borras, Wrexham, I then had to ask myself, ‘talk about what exactly?’ They didn’t have an agenda, I had free reign and I then had to have a think about this and tune into my awareness about this event.
I thought about the time of year, a few days before Easter. What do women love? And then there were the thoughts, ‘What do I know and what can these women hear from me?’ Also, what am I willing to receive from this audience of WI goddesses?
Putting all these things together, what popped for me was chocolate. Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate. Hmmm, how would chocolate create a class for these ladies? My business, Deva Empowerment, also popped into my head and then it came to me … Chocolate! As a vehicle to show these ladies how they could empower themselves, and the name for the talk was born.
As the ladies arrived, it became obvious to me that the majority had no idea what they had turned up for. Chocolate Empowerment hardly gave anything away as a title for a talk. That’s cool, I thought. One lady thought I was going to talk about cupcakes and then there were some new members for whom the whole event was completely new. My aim for the talk became one of fun, laughter and joy. In my world there is nothing more empowering and potent than fun, laughter and joy.
I set up my table with dishes of different chocolate, a buddha, a plant, some books and some raw chocolate ingredients. As I introduced myself, I joked that if I got bored of listening to me then there were plenty of things on the table that they could look at and I wouldn’t judge them. ‘Be my guest, zone out if that’s what you require right now,’ was what I offered.
I started my talk by introducing myself, ‘Hi, I’m Denise Oliver. My business, Deva Empowerment, is for all the goddesses who sense that their brilliance has been dimmed and who would love to reclaim that brilliance so that they can truly sparkle and shine in this world! What is Empowerment? From my point of view it’s an enabling process and an inside job – heart, mind, body and soul.’
As it’s an inside job I began handing round the chocolate buttons starting with the white ones. I asked them to place one chocolate button in the palm of their hand, to look at it, then smell it before eventually tasting it and sending it on a journey into them. I suggested that if they spent time with all their food in this way that they may find themselves doing a lot less mindless eating.
After tasting each of the different chocolates I invited comments from these goddesses and they were very forthcoming. They recognised the contents of most of the buttons and we chatted about what they may or may not be doing for their health, their body, for their digestive system and their empowerment. I wish I had a photograph of their faces when they tasted the bitterness of 100% chocolate. Definitely not for the faint hearted and the sugar lovers.
Being the WI, I wanted them to see that they could, with relative ease and appropriate information, actually make their own chocolate. In true Blue Peter style, I produced some I had made earlier. By making their own chocolate, they had the choice as to the actual ingredients they chose to make their own batches of chocolate from. They had control and choice of ingredients, not the food companies. If they could get a feel of what choosing what was right for them as individuals, then what a gift may they be to others who are also looking for change.
I could have been talking about anything, for example, shoes or stamps or something else; the point was to bring into their universe ‘awareness of choice’ and how to make the best choice for them in that moment. Plus it’s ok to make another choice if the one they have already made is no longer working for them.
There were lots of questions about me and my story. I contributed lots of things about me by following the energy of these lovely ladies. I chatted about my own health challenges and talked about lots of the energy modalities I had experienced as a therapist, as a person and as a woman that have helped me to get to where I am today. My absolutely favourite modality, Access Consciousness and Access Bars, generated lots of interest and I had no problem talking about how this had changed my heart, my mind, my body, my energy levels, my world and my own empowerment.
If in any way this talk motivated one, some or all of those Wrexham WI goddesses to make changes, to consider changes or to desire changes that empower them in a small way or a mega way, then the evening is something to celebrate.
I finished the evening with these words … ‘You are never too old, too young, too beautiful, too broken, too selfish or too silly and it is never, ever too late to choose something that helps to create a better, healthier more empowered life for you, your body and your being.’
I am so grateful to all the brilliant goddesses who showed up, listened and contributed to a fun evening of chat, chocolate and empowerment.
Dedicated to the awesome wome of Wrexham WI, League of Extraordinary Women.
With ease, joy and gratitude to one and all.
Denise Oliver, Cheshire
The monstrous mountain of steel taunting your feet,
Seems like trekking Everest to get to your seat,
As the mind fizzling excitement reaches its peak,
Bellowing announcements, unexplainable predictions
and the hotdogs mind numbing reek
The immense cloud like ram on the pitch
ambling and strutting around,
Peaceful sound waves of Welsh carolling
Hymners releasing their soothing sound
The evil fire breathing dragons conquering all cheeks,
Along with luminescent daffodils and dazzling radiant leeks,
The vast glistening roof awakens, it opens its eyes,
Welcoming bright dazzling rays of the skies
The spotless practice ball screaming
as it glides through the air,
As the shrill cheers signal
for the cruel flamethrower’s flare,
The blinding light and scalding heat combined,
The flamethrower’s deafening burn horrible and unkind
Out shoot the fireworks dancing
and jigging, lighting up the sky,
Samba-ing and flipping with colours clouding high,
The red and white ball from the sky roof
parachuting down to the floor
Just as the colossal Welsh players
jog out with a ground trembling roar,
The booming national anthem
makes the seats all snap shut
Screaming the lyrics from their heart, soul and gut,
Radiant red shirts line up in tactical formation,
Taking their positions depending
on the coin toss situation
The whistle to the players
like ignition on a sports car,
As the ball goes flying through
the posts into the crowd afar
The murky ball sprints out of the ruck
and leaps towards the scrum half,
Then he jumps to the back row and
makes his way through the hand path
The whistle shouts and the ball has a lifelong break,
As the dragons in the stands make the vast ground shake.
Time for the Jumbotron to step in taking
its victims straight from the stands,
The humiliation of those straight off the plane
with their heads in their hands,
The minute emerald trimmed grass
starting a Mexican wave with the wind,
Just before its cut again, before it becomes skinned
The dragons in their glory
with a historical legendary win,
The deafening songs and
almighty chants in their almighty din
Then the dazzling seats are empty
and their mouths remain shut,
The floodlights dim and all that’s left
is the radiance from the monstrous players’ hut
Now the sun’s dazzling rays pass
and they tag in the moon,
With a shimmering wink
to show they’ll be back soon,
To shine upon the glistening six nations
and Grand Slam golden trophy
By Kieran Moon, age 13
Inspired by his love of rugby and a trip to see the Welsh National Rugby Union team at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. Wrexham is home to the North Wales Crusaders, professional Rugby League team who play their home games at the Racecourse Stadium.
It was a one-Magpie kind of a day. I knew from the moment I opened my eyes it was going to be bad. Yet, what I felt now was more than sorrow. It was terror. Had I been drugged? I had no idea where I was. I wriggled frantically, tried to loosen the bonds, but it was no use, the cords that bound my wrists hurt like hell and seemed to pull tighter the more I struggled. I was face down and tried to dislodge the tape by making tiny mouth nudges against my shoulder. It was no use. I shrank into myself and sobbed. I was so cold. I tried to wipe the snot from my nose on the rough carpet beneath me but I couldn’t manoeuvre my head enough without knocking against a cold metal tin, a tool-kit or something. Rags. Oil. Ropes. It stank.
I thought of Lauren. I’d dropped her off at school on time, at ten to nine this morning. She’d started her second term on a bad note, having barely recovered from a nasty bug. Hopefully she’d managed but at least mum was picking her up today – she’d be back at mum’s, safe and sound.
I couldn’t stop the involuntary trembling. I wouldn’t be able to answer the phone if it rang. He had it. He’d taken it from me. I remember that much. I remember his hands searching my pockets. Big, rough hands pushing and shoving. Fragments were now coming back to me. Bits were floating back into memory.
I’d gone shopping after work. I was back about four. No one on the estate was home. I was going back to the car for another bag. I panicked, kicked out and banged my head on the metal box, then cursed. I struggled again. Tried to make some noise. I had my legs free but there wasn’t enough room to kick out. I heard footsteps. I moaned as loudly as I could. The footsteps were close. I couldn’t breathe. It was him. He was standing outside.
The lid of the boot yawned. A blast of cold air chilled me further and I shrank into the space, wanting it to encase me, suck me in and save me. My blind-fold slipped a little but there was nothing to see. Everywhere was black. I guessed it was around 5pm. It was pitch black. I always hated November.
I couldn’t respond with the tape over my mouth.
He waited while I struggled to get into an upright position and on to my knees. It was impossible to clamber out with my wrists firmly behind my back! I wasn’t moving fast enough. He growled his impatience, grabbed my jacket and hauled me out. I fell sideways, awkwardly, one knee hitting the ground. I moaned as loudly as I could. I sensed rubble. Uneven ground. Brick.
He adjusted my blind-fold, but the glimpse gave me no clues. All I knew was he had a torch, and periodic flashes swept across my face. A hand pushed me in the small of my back and I stumbled along with his rough guidance. I heard cars but they were distant. At least 300 yards away, maybe it was the A483. I heard nothing other than the sound of people going home. Hurrying back to the warmth and comfort of their Wrexham homes. If indeed we were still in Wrexham!
He shoved me into some sort of room. It echoed and I smelled dust. A metal door banged shut and I heard the snap of something like a padlock. I turned towards the noise with my ears pricked. A bolt screeched across. He was dragging me; first a left turn and then another left. Then a right. My heart was hammering. I couldn’t breathe. He spoke. The voice told me to shut up. I thought he had thrown the torch down because I could see a little light at my feet.
He warned me not to scream, laughing to himself, and muttering something like, no one will hear you anyway and the gag is torn off, along with half my skin.
‘Stay still!’ is the command, with amusement in his voice. I cringed, thinking he was about to hit me but he grabbed the blindfold, pulling half my hair with it. I tossed my hair backwards; it was quite long, due for the hairdresser. I flicked it again. My fringe was in my eyes, but I use it to hide behind.
He stepped close, with his nose an inch from mine before pressing the light switch. The balaclava was terrifying. Fluorescent tubes flickered and pinged into life, one after the other; a long row stretched to infinity. I thought of The Shining. But there was nothing soft and pretty in this movie, no carpets, no pictures. Just a terrified woman and a madman. Hopefully, no axe. Breeze blocks without plaster skim stretched before me. We passed doorways without doors and walked and walked and walked down a long corridor to where work was further along. Now there were metal doors with hatches. All shut. All grey. He pushed me on and when I dug in my heels, he dragged me.
‘Go on scream. Scream all you want, love.’
I tried it out and screamed until I was sick. I couldn’t hear him laughing through the buzzing in my ears but he found it hilarious. He rocked backwards and forwards. His eyes were like slits. Mocking me. I tried hard to imagine a face behind the mask. His frame was slight. The hands were rough and too big for the body. He’s probably young. But I knew what he sounds like. He’s a scouser.
One to me.
I took a deep breath. I needed to think. To calm. To get him to talk. I’d watched enough tv rubbish to work that out.
‘Gerrin!’ He grabbed my arm and swung me into a room.
I was propelled forward. It was obvious now; I’m in the new prison, HMP Berwyn, still under construction. We were still in Wrexham after all. He must work here. He had keys. The gaoler. I’m the first inmate. I snort. I won’t be the last. Someone will know him.
A point to me.
‘What’s so funny?’ He doesn’t expect an answer.
‘Undo my wrists.’ I stood strong. Looked him in the eye. ‘Go on. I’m not exactly going anywhere, am I?’
He stared back. Unblinking. Didn’t move.
‘Go on!’ I turned my back to him, presenting my wrists. It worked. The bond comes off. He throws the cord on the newly-screed floor.
‘Don’t get bossy with me girl.’ he warns. ‘I don’t like bossy women.’ He circled me. Appraising?
I stayed still in the centre of the room. He was dressed in a black parka and black jeans. A cliché. Adidas trainers.
Three to me.
Four! I noted a small tattoo on the inside of his wrist. A swirl? No a small bird! I could talk birds.
‘Did you hear the owl hoot on the way here?’ He ignored me. It was a long-shot.
‘Spooky creatures of the night, but I like birds.’ He listened as he leaned against the wall. ‘My granddad used to have an aviary. Sometimes he would let me go inside with him. Feed them. If I was a good girl.’
‘Shut up!’ I kept stchum whilst he skirted round me once more. He chewed the sleeve of his anorak. I knew he was out of his depth. Hadn’t done this before and clearly hadn’t thought it through. He was shaking and fidgeted in his pockets before he turned angrily towards me, thrusting his face in mine.
‘Just keep quiet will yous!’ His breath was hot on my face. Teeth not brushed for a week. Were birds his thing? Should I try softening him further or would I make him angrier? It was worth a flutter. I had nothing to lose.
‘I remember wobbling as a kid. Trying to hold out my arm with a little plastic dish of seed and dropping the stuff everywhere. The finches were lovely. Goldfinches. Really pretty little birds. Thankfully no one keeps them anymore.’
He stopped pacing, leaned against the wall and watched. I carried on.
‘They were so pretty with their little red and black and yellow markings. Granddad had a real way with them. He was so calm, patient. You need patience with birds don’t you?’ He closed his eyes for longer than a blink; a shift so slight it was almost imperceptible. Five to me. He nodded.
I continued, ‘He must have had about fifteen at one time…’
‘Stop it! I know what you are doing. It won’t work. Look, just shut up and you’ll get out of here. Carry on and I won’t be responsible for me actions.’ His right eye twitched.
That shut me up, but softly, I asked, ‘Can I sit down? Please?’ He nodded and I slumped to the floor. At least he was talking. Sort of. He did say I might get out and I gave him five minutes before adding, ‘My grandmother hated seeing birds in a cage. She said birds should always be able to stretch their wings. To fly.’
He flew at me, ‘You think you are clever don’t you? You think all this talk of birds and being free is going to get you out of here don’t you?’ He spewed a tormented torrent of vile, frustrated words before dropping to his knees. He held his head like he was about to pull off the balaclava. He yelled to the ceiling, hollered and kicked at the wall. He reminded me of Lauren having a tantrum. The wall would need re-plastering. He faced me before sliding down the wall into a crumpled heap. He tried to slow his breathing, took a few deep breaths, closed his eyes and pulled his legs into a cross-legged position before reaching into his pocket for a joint.
I stayed still, and tried to gauge whether dope calmed or made him excitable. I sensed the former. Sensed none of this had been thought through sufficiently. I made a stab at asserting myself and stood, hands on hips.
‘What’s this about? Sex? You want sex? Have it! Take it! Then let me go. I’ve got nothing to lose. Let’s get it over with.’ I pulled off my jacket, threw it down. The gauntlet.
He jumped to his feet, ‘Whoah! Just a minute! I’m not into that!’ He held his arms outstretched, palms patting the air, putting distance between us.
I guessed he was younger than me by ten years, probably about 21 or 22.
Six to me. I felt further emboldened. ‘What is it you want? Come on tell me. Either rape me, kill me or set me free!’
‘Will you just shut up! Let me think! I’m not here to do that!’
‘Well, what the hell is this about? Why am I here?’ We eye-balled each other. Neither spoke but he blinked first.
Seven. ‘Come on man. Tell me!’
‘I knew it!’ I stopped myself from whooping. ‘Tom’s behind this? The bastard.’
‘He said to scare yous.’
‘Well you’ve done that all right. Now what?’ This wasn’t the time for me to be too clever. Senses were in overdrive. One false move…one wrong word…
‘He wants to see more of the girl. Said if he doesn’t, he will create problems for yous. Said there’s a court hearing coming up that will stop him seeing her or something. Look I’m not a killer or a rapist. I owed him and I said I’d put the frighteners on yous.’ This guy wanted out.
I took a deep breath. ‘This is typical him, going about things the wrong way. You owe him?’
‘Is he dealing again? Come on! I know all about it. Look you don’t know me but Tom is bad news. He can drag anyone into anything and before you know it, you are in a mess.’
He held his hand up. Took another drag and watched. ‘I owed him. Big time. I didn’t know what to do.’ He scratched the back of his hands. Those large hands that were too big for his body.
‘Let me guess? You couldn’t pay? He was threatening you?’
‘Something like that.’
‘That’s his style.’ I got up and paced. He watched. ‘This is why he doesn’t get to see my daughter! This is why!’
He wouldn’t meet my eye but I knelt close to his face, leaned in. ‘Tom is dangerous! Can’t you see? You could walk away from here but it’s going to get a hell-of-a-lot-worse if you do something to me!’
He took a drag. Scanned my face. His blue eyes watered.
‘Go on. See that door? Open it. Keep walking. I’ll follow. I don’t know who you are. Where you’re from. I haven’t seen your face. I haven’t a clue who you are. Let’s leave this where it is and we both walk free. If I report this he will get banged up but you can go into hiding. What do you say? Come on man! I’ve got a little girl. She needs her mum. Hey? What do you say?’
He stood. His eyes were large. Frightened. He bolted. I ran after him as fast as I could. I was not going to be left inside. I wouldn’t be anyone’s prisoner. I watched the red lights of his car disappear, heard the squeal of rubber and then I walked away.
By J M Moore
In April 2015, Wrexham hosted its first Carnival of Words â€“ a literary festival with a difference, community-based and aimed especially at encouraging reading and writing across our local districts. It was a huge success. A full week of stunning events, organised by Wrexhamâ€™s Library Services, Waterstones, GlyndÅµr University and a host of volunteers. But among those events, on World Book Night, Wrexham Library hosted a session for any local writers who might be interested in getting together to form a Wrexham Writers' Group. An astonishing thirty-four writers turned out, formed a Facebook group, organised a series of Open Day workshop events and, one year later, it's grown to a group almost ninety strong. So, when BBC Cymru Wales, the Arts Council of Wales, and What Next? banded together to celebrate creativity in Wales and encourage local groups to take part in their â€œGet Creativeâ€ initiative, the Writers' Group was keen to make its own contribution. The task? To write short stories and poems, all Wrexham-related, to edit them, to publish them online in an anthology and to market them â€“ all in one weekend, 1st â€“ 3rd April 2016. The following stories and poems are the result â€“ and we hope you enjoy them!