Operation Christmas………………

The Story behind the story…..

Today’s story is to celebrate our tattered and somewhat worn Christmas tree, which is at least 15 years old and our ever-growing collection of tree decorations. Every year I feel compelled to add a few more much to the annoyance of my husband and the amusement of our daughter.

So, without further ado, I give you

Operation Christmas………………….


Here we go” – muttered Snow as he felt himself lifted from the tin and carried across to the tree.

What’s it going to be like this year?” he wondered as he surreptitiously glanced around and watched as the rest of the ‘gang‘ were pulled out and placed at different parts of the tree.

Of, course ‘their owners‘ had no idea that the Christmas decorations were in anyway sentient. It had been a long 11 months, 15 days, 4 hours and thirty mins stuck in a tin with a bunch of disgruntled and squished decorative personalities.

So, it was a real relief to be ‘out and about’, dangling from the tree. Snow knew from experience that wherever anyone was placed initially, would change. It was the same every year, no one was ever entirely happy with their first branch and every year he had to remind everyone to leave it a few days before moving to a different branch. He was convinced that they would get caught out one day.

It would also be nice one year to get a real tree. However, Snow was a realist and after ten years or so he had given up on this idea.

As Snow looked about he noticed the reindeer, stretching their legs and Father Christmas stifling a yawn. ‘Honestly’ thought Snow, ‘How much sleep does he need?’ He stiffened as he strained to hear what he knew to be the ‘tinkling’ of the bells as they tested out their notes to check they were still in good working order.


He would feel better once the tin was completely empty and he could do a full ‘roll call’. – last year they had had a lot of fun hurling themselves from the tree onto the pile of presents below, trying to guess their contents.

They’d been lucky not to have damaged or torn any of the wrapping paper and they’d almost been caught when someone had come downstairs to go into the kitchen.

It would take some time now for everyone to be assembled and placed on the tree, so Snow thought he may as well relax and enjoy the view. He would get a chance to sort out swops and generally check up on everyone much later in the evening.

It was a few days later, after the usual settling in period, present guessing and general messing around that Snow suddenly became aware of the ‘hooded figure‘ in the room. He knew the house should have been empty, they had listened to all the commotion as their owners left.

He knew that this person should not have been in the house, let alone gathering up the presents and putting them in a bag.

Snow could sense Santa’s dismay and fear, but regardless, now was the time to act. So, signalling to Santa, Snow gently started to sway backwards and forwards. Santa looked at him with some surprise, but luckily decided to join in. It wasn’t long before all the other decorations were doing the same and the whole tree looked as if it were moving, tinkling and glowing.

It took a few seconds for the intruder to notice what was going on and he might well have ignored the ‘tree’ and its commotion had not Snow given the final signal for every decoration to launch themselves at the intruder’s bagful of stolen presents.

This was the final straw and with a yelp, the intruder dropped the bag and ran out of the house. Whatever was going on with this tree and this house, he wanted no part of it.

So, it was that ‘Operation Christmas’ as it came to be called was debated, discussed and celebrated by Snow and all the other decorations, for years to come.

Their owners on returning home, realised just how lucky they’d been not to have lost all their presents just before Christmas and resolved never to leave everything out again.

And of course they would never know the full story …..

Until next time

Janice Taylor




A letter to Norfolk ………..

The story behind the story…………..

Going back to my historical roots this month, as I await the arrival of the third and final instalment of the Hilary Mantel series, recounting the rise and fall of Thomas Cromwell in the court of Henry VIII.

I am excited to see how she will portray his downfall and impending doom.

So this month’s story is how I imagine Thomas’s growing sense of peril, the stage at which he starts to realise that his life, ‘to all intents and purposes’ is over and that the only thing left for him to do is to throw himself on the King’s mercy so he can protect his family and household.

Am also intrigued by his relationship, with Anne Boleyn’s, ‘Uncle Norfolk’ as he is ‘affectionately’ named by Cromwell and his household in the Hilary Mantel’s series. A relationship that seems to be based on mutual fear, some respect, loathing and necessity in equal measure.

So without further ado I give you ….

A letter to Norfolk ………..

SSB Feb 2016 1

It is dark and quiet in the nook where Thomas Cromwell sits and contemplates his ‘bleak’ future. It has been some weeks since the kings humiliating, ‘annulment’ from Anne of Cleves, the ‘Flanders Mare’ as he so dismissively referred to her.

At least now, things are settled, Anne very sensibly accepted the position of ‘King’s Sister’ and the ‘friendship’ between her and the King has been cemented with ‘fond’ exchanges of gifts and letters.

But even with all this Thomas is still very much aware of the Kings wrath and anger and senses that his time is coming. It is perhaps too late to save his own person, but he must of course do what he can for his family.

The king may still show mercy and a kindly face to his loyal subject.


So it is with all this in mind that Thomas Cromwell, one of the most powerful men in the land picks up his quill and slowly and thoughtfully begins to write:

My Lord, Norfolk

These are desperate times.

I see I have miscalculated, I have too many enemies and know too many secrets, for me to survive the King’s wrath.

We have oft over the years not seen ‘eye to eye’, but I think in these ‘times’ we might be able to do a little business. I turn to you now, as a long standing associate and man of influence, as I believe we understand each other and our King.

My request is simple, to do what you can for my family, they are completely without blame and the King’s righteous wrath when it falls, must fall on me alone.

I only ask that my household is left to live a peaceful and comfortable life, quietly and away from court if necessary.

Whilst I, will throw myself on the mercy of our dear King. I remain now and ever more his most faithful and ever dutiful servant. Undeserving of his grace and mercy.


Thomas Cromwell

As he signs his name, Cromwell sighs and carefully seals the document, he will ensure it is sent tonight. He must act now with all haste, have everything ready and in place. There are other letters to be dispatched, but this one must go first.

Things may yet turn out for the best, he knows that Norfolk would happily see him hang, that much is abundantly clear but perhaps he will look more favourably on his family and household.

Only time will tell.

Until next time

Janice Taylor


The Emoji’s take action………………

The story behind the story

I have been fascinated to observe just how quickly emoji’s have become a part of our everyday life and communication.

It’s been interesting to see how these have become in a very short space of time an integral part of the way we communicate electronically.

It seems we are increasingly using emoji’s in our communications and finding that in general they can add colour and texture to our tweets, Facebook messages and texts. I do need to admit I am nowhere near as proficient as some people in their use, so find myself largely limited to ‘Smiley faces’, where appropriate.

So my mind being the way it is,  started wondering what it would be like if the emoji’s simply decided to ‘not play ball’ and the impact this would  have on the rest of us.

So without further ado, I give you …….

The Emoji’s take action…………………….


There is much discontent in the electronic world of communications, amongst the emoji’s as they come to realise and feel that they are not as appreciated or recognised in the same way as the words.

Particularly as, since their inception, they have been ‘patiently’ waiting to be included in the main Oxford and Cambridge dictionaries alongside the ‘words’. Unfortunately, it has become apparent that this is not going to happen anytime soon.

So it is, after much debate and discussion amongst themselves, the Emoji’s by a sizeable majority, vote to go on strike and simply remove themselves from electronic communications for a few days.

But they find even after a few days, that their ‘disappearance’ doesn’t quite have the impact they are hoping for. The ‘humans’ although initially irritated and annoyed at having their ‘emoji’s’ disappear, quickly become used to the new state of affairs and things to a large extent continue on as normal.

The Emoji’s then decide to ‘disappear’ for a few weeks………

However, this longer ‘disappearance’ is just put down to a bug, some fault in coding and whilst teams of ‘human’s hunt down the error, everyone else carries on as normal.

The emoji’s seeing this and realising that the human ‘coders’ are chasing them down, return to work, whilst they reconsider their options.


It is ‘Happy Smiley’ face who hits upon the ‘buddy up’ plan and shares this with the others. This new plan should be far more effective, as the strategy is simply for each ‘emoticon’ to pair up with its emotional opposite and each time it is selected for a message, their emotional opposite would go instead.

In other words, as ‘ Happy Smiley Face’ explains, every time someone selects  ‘me’, ‘Angry’ face would appear instead thus completely changing the tone and meaning of the message.

So it is, that with another majority vote, the ‘buddy up’ plan is put into action and the emoji’s start swopping all over the place……

  • Sympathy, with laughter……..
  • Hopeful, with cynical …………
  • Joy, with sadness or wicked, depending on who’s available at the time………………..

You can imagine that it doesn’t take long for the humans to notice that things are going  wrong with their messages and as the action continues, miscommunication between the humans builds. Plan ‘buddy up’ really starts to take effect as relationships breakdown, friends turn on friends and all sorts of chaos ensues as messages are turned ‘upside down’.

The emoji’s seeing this devastation, seeing the misery and unhappiness their action is causing realise that their role is simply too important and decide to go back to what they know best. They decide that with or without entry into the dictionaries, their role is to facilitate human communications.

Maybe better to just create their own book, so they can continue to support communications between the humans in the only way they can.

So there you have it, until next time….

Janice Taylor


The mission……………..

The story behind the story……..

Partly in response to the ‘Lego Movie’ with its incessantly upbeat song ‘Everything is awesome’, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this film. Still, the constant and ‘never-ending positivity’ of the main character Emmet did make me smile.

And it’s this proliferation of positivity on some social media channels that I find can get a little ‘wearing’ at times.  I don’t always want or need to be continuously bombarded with happy thoughts, vibes, happy emoji’s or OXOXs. Still, to be fair, I don’t want a load of all negative ‘cr#p’ either.

So, without further ado, I give you:

The Mission…………………………

SSB the mission May 2016 1

What can I do to help you make a positive change in your life today?’ Chirped the voice from the App as Sylvia tapped on it, more it has to be said from idle curiosity than anything else.

I am your Happy App designed to bring joy and positivity to your life.’

‘Don’t think so’, thought Sylvia as she struggled to shut the App down, her curiosity very quickly replaced with irritation.

She had absolutely no recollection of downloading this particular App, and she groaned inwardly as it continued to send notifications, each accompanied with either an emoji or some ‘chirpy’ noise.

It was while it was encouraging her to step fully into her awesomeness that Sylvia, almost stepped into the path of an oncoming bus as she struggled to shut it down.

Not sure how awesome she would have felt under the wheels of a bus, and she may well have needed more than a few healing Chakras to recover. Anyway, after taking note of the ‘salute’ from the clearly shaken driver, Sylvia shut down her phone and resolved to sort it all out once she was safely back at the office. Then she could take a good look at the ‘App’, that had somehow appeared on her phone.

Unfortunately for Sylvia, she had a few issues to deal with as she arrived at work and at some point during a particularly trying exchange with Rex. A long-standing member of her team,  she automatically switched on her phone, having forgotten all about the ‘App’.

It wasn’t until she was back in her office that she was reminded of the ‘App’ when it piped up with:

‘I think you could have handled that a little better.’

‘How would you have handled it?’ Sylvia asked somewhat sarcastically as she gazed in astonishment at her phone. She had in her heated exchange with Rex, completely forgotten about the ‘App’ and her intention to sort it out.

To her amazement, her phone started to vibrate in her hand, as though it were thinking and then announced:

I might well have arranged another time to talk through the issue in greater detail, rather than trying to sort it all, at that moment.’

There was something in its’ tone, that brought Sylvia close to throwing it across her office. Instead, Sylvia chose to take a few steadying breaths as she considered the ‘App’s response.

It was true that the issue was more complex and involved than a quick chat in the corridor merited and Rex had seemed decidedly unnerved by the exchange.

Still, it was one thing to be bombarded with ‘happy notifications’, it was quite another to have the thing eavesdropping on her conversations and chipping in with advice. Even if it was well-meant.

‘How do I get rid of you?’ She asked, clearly there was no need to type anything if it could just listen in.

‘You can’t’ came back the reply, almost instantly ‘I will only leave once my mission is complete.’

‘What mission?’ Croaked Sylvia, she was feeling decidedly ‘freaked ‘out by this whole exchange, and she resolved to renew her phone and number at the weekend.

There is no sound as the words ‘To make you happy’ come up on the screen.

Until next time

Janice Taylor


Inner Peace, with two bars of Green and Blacks…………..

The story behind the story…………………….

Since becoming a mum over thirteen years ago I have developed the habit of travelling with food and drink just about every time I am on a train. It no longer feels right to set off without a few provisions.

It was whilst travelling to London one Saturday that I fell to chatting with a mum and her young son and we did indeed end up sharing a bar of Green and Blacks, has to be said one of my favourite chocolates.

So without further ado I give you…………….

Inner Peace, with two bars of Green and Blacks……………

SSB March 2016

 Another Tuesday and another tedious train journey home, from London Bridge to Brighton.

It was the usual squash and discomfort of the 17:45 and Julianne knew she was highly unlikely to get a seat, so she reasoned far better to find a standing space and use the time to meditate and reflect on the finer points of life.

No real point, getting overly excited about the constant delays, lack of seats, lack of information and lack of space. Whatever you needed it was probably lacking when it came to this particular service.

So as her mind started to drift and soar, her breathing and heart rate slowed as she made herself as comfortable as she could in the crowded carriage.

However everything changed very quickly as the train juddered to a halt.

Oh what now?’ she thought, irritably.

Still this was fairly normal and most likely they would be on their way again in a few minutes. Better to resume her meditation and allow her mind to drift off again.

Except that after a few moments it became obvious that the train was not about to start start moving again soon – and now there was something being said over the tannoy.

“This is your driver – apologies for the delay, but we are being stopped at a red signal. We should be on our way again, very shortly”

Okay no need to panic, just another minor delay. Let’s see if I can make myself marginally more comfortable and get back to my daydream.’, thought Julianne.

Inner peace – that’s what I need to focus on and maybe a piece of the Green and Blacks from my bag. I’m glad I managed to pick up a couple of bars at lunch time.’  So with this in mind Julianne set to rummaging about in her bag, to locate her chocolate.

Breathe and it will all carry on as normal.’

However fifteen minutes later, the train was still not moving and by now it was becoming obvious to everyone that something a bit more serious was going on.

This shared, but largely unspoken view was confirmed when the driver spoke again.

“Sorry ladies and gents, it’s not great news. We are it seems going to be stopped here for a while longer. I can’t precisely say how long, but will confirm as soon as I know more”

This announcement, was all that was needed to produce a series of groans, moans and rolling of eyeballs as the passengers finally started talking to each other. Mainly sharing stories about past delays, lack of communication and so on and so forth.

Julianne on the other hand simply pulled out her bar of chocolate and proceeded to chomp her way through it.

It was while she was thoughtfully eating her second row that she felt a gentle tap on her arm and a voice ask

“Could I have a piece of that please?”

A bit cheeky’, thought Julianne, but she couldn’t think of any real and valid reason to just say no, especially as she did have another bar in her bag.

“Of course” she smiled with as much grace as she could muster.

“Help yourself” and she passed over the partially finished bar – she couldn’t quite see how she could just break off a small piece and hand it across.

“Thank you” – replied the young man, who had made the request. “I do normally carry something with me- but must have forgotten today”

“If there is a bit more to spare.” interrupted another voice “I could do with some too.”

What is this?’ Thought Julianne as she watched her bar disappearing through the carriage.

Am I the only person with the foresight to bring food with them?

“Why don’t you open up the second bar?” Another voice called out cheerfully.

“Looks like we are going to be here for a little while yet”

Oh for goodness – how on earth did they know about that?’ – thought an increasingly exasperated Julianne.

Still she didn’t quite have the nerve to deny outright the existence of the second bar she had stashed in her bag. So she simply pulled it out – chipped off two squares for her own consumption and waved the rest of it around until a pair of hands took it and it again disappeared into the bowels of the carriage.

By now the train had been stopped for just over an hour, passengers had adjusted positions and generally tried to make themselves as comfortable as possible.

Julianne could hear low murmurs as people conversed and the occasional “mmmm, that was nice” as they consumed what she assumed to be her Green and Blacks.

Oh well’, – if a couple of bars of chocolate were helping to keep up morale on the train. Who was she to complain really? Tomorrow she would work from home and enjoy the bar of Green and Blacks sitting in her cupboard……

Until next time

Janice Taylor


An Interview with Elizabeth 1st.

The story behind the story……………..

I have long been intrigued and fascinated by Elizabeth 1st and would have loved to have been able to ‘get inside her head’ at certain points in her life. So an interview with Elizabeth is my attempt to do just that.

So without further ado:

An interview with Elizabeth 1st

SSB Feb 2016 1


“So your majesty, or can I call you Elizabeth?”

I imagine that her reply would be no, I imagine Elizabeth would still want all the proper protocols, rites and procedures fully observed. So why would she then agree to an interview, with a ‘lowly’ scribbler?

Maybe from curiosity, but mainly I suspect to meet her own ends, like her father Elizabeth was highly ‘political’ and more than capable of playing the game. So in our modern day terms, she would I think be looking to ‘spin’ a certain tale, present herself in the best possible light.

“Your majesty, will do.”

Elizabeth is in full regalia, this ‘scribbler’ would not be allowed to get too comfortable with the queen’s person. She would want him to record the scene, the splendour and the fact that the people’s queen was accessible up to a point to her ‘subjects’.

By now Elizabeth is a few years into her reign, and quite probably in the market for a ‘husband’ or at least appear to be so.

“So, your majesty, I think your ‘subjects’ the people would like to know, a little of the daily life of their most illustrious queen.”

The scribbler, whose publication is known as the ‘Quill and Ink’, would quickly realise that overblown flattery is more likely to get him what he wants. Better to build some rapport first and see if he can get some more interesting and personal facts later. Best give her majesty an opportunity to relax and settle into the interview.

“My day, is one of work, prayer, discipline and statecraft.”

Announces Elizabeth, a little pompously.

“I am completely devoted to protecting my realm. Maintaining peace and stability in this day and age is no mean feat, and one that requires my constant attention and focus every day.”

Perhaps by now the ‘scribbler’ is worried about just how tedious this interview could be. How can he spice things up a bit? Describing the surroundings the splendour, the dress, the jewels is all very well, but what he really wanted was the ‘inside scoop’ on the queen herself.

So he takes a big risk, he has done his homework and followed the queen’s life from princess to queen and is aware that her ‘beloved’ servant, companion and trusted friend has very recently passed away.

So he takes a breath, because what he is about to do, is highly presumptuous and dangerous:

 “Your majesty, I am deeply sorry to hear about Kat .”

He pauses, he dare not stare directly at the queen.

He can feel her anger at his presumption, but then something else. In some ways like her father, Elizabeth’s emotions change quickly and can sway with the wind.

“Kat was a good and faithful servant.”

Elizabeth isn’t going to be drawn any more than this or so she thinks, so the scribbler takes another risk.

“I have followed your ‘career’ with love and concern over the years, I admire the way you lead and rule. Forgive me your majesty, but I truly admire courage and I have always admired the courage you showed in your early days as queen. We could learn so much from this time and perspective”

He pauses

“What would you say to that young queen?”            

He holds his breath, wondering if he is going to spend a night or two in the ‘Tower’.

But to his surprise, Elizabeth simply sighs and closes her eyes for a moment.

“Oh yes”, she murmurs. “What indeed would I say to that young queen?”

The scribbler dare say nothing he can feel he is on the edge of something. He doesn’t want to break the spell, lest he lose her.

Kat, was one of my rocks, my haven in difficult times. I would say know your friends, know the people you can really trust. But know your enemies even more and keep them close.”

From the change in her tone and stance, the scribbler can tell that he will get no more from her this day.

“You are dismissed, be sure to leave your ‘scribblings’ with my adviser before it is circulated. I want to enjoy what you write before my people do.”

And with this, the scribbler, bows and walks backwards from her presence.

I’ll be back he thinks

Janice Taylor



The candidate

The story behind the story……………

This story stems from my attending a comedy improvisation course some years back now. The aim of which was to help trainers and facilitators to develop their style of delivery using comedy.

One of the exercises was based around the idea of putting together two completely different things.  So for me as a career coach and trainer, I was asked to go along for an interview but as a slug.

So without further ado I give you:

The candidate…………..

SSB Candidate 2 Jan 2016

‘Next’ – called out Tom a little impatiently, ‘do come in, Miss, Mr, Ms….,’

His voice tailed off as Brian trailed in.

‘Neither,’ interposed Brian smoothly.

‘I do not really occupy a binary world view of gender. I am simply a slug, but if it makes life easier for you, by all means call me Brian. I hope that during the course of our meeting I can demonstrate the skills and attributes that I can bring to this role.’

The panel of three stared open mouthed at Brian as ‘he’, settled himself as comfortably as ‘he’ could on the chair and politely enquired, ‘where would you like me to start?’

Brian was quite used to this type of reaction, but had learnt from previous experience that it was far better not to disclose before the interview that ‘he’ was in fact a slug. It was well known that many organisations carried the double tick symbol for disabilities but ‘he’ hadn’t come across anything for slugs.

‘Perhaps you can tell us about your career so far’ – suggested Tom. After a day of interviews, he just wanted to get through this as quickly and as painlessly as possible. Regardless of the nature of the candidate in front of him, there was still a round of questions to be asked, competency grids to be completed and scores to tot up.

So with a little wriggle, Brian proceeded to describe ‘his’ career and the range of roles he had held. In fairness Tom and the other two panel members were impressed as Brian outlined ‘his’ career succinctly and with  some eloquence. So much so, that they were caught a little ‘off guard’, when ‘he’ finished with:

‘Is there anything else I can tell you?’

The panel of three, quickly came to and indicated, ‘no, let’s move onto the next question.’

And as each panel member asked a question, Brian was able to answer clearly and calmly, giving specific examples to illustrate ‘his’ grasp of the question and demonstrate his relevant skills and experience.

So after forty minutes or so, all grid boxes were completed and just one question remained to be asked.

‘Do you have any questions for us?’

‘Thank you,’ replied Brian,  ‘may I ask, what would you expect the successful candidate to achieve in the first 30 days?’

Again it was Tom, who fielded this question, though to be honest they hadn’t as a panel really considered this. But none the less Tom did the best he could.  At the end of the interview the panel thanked Brian for ‘his’ time and politely showed ‘him’ to the door.

‘Well?’ – queried Tom, ‘as far as I can see, ‘he’ was by far the best candidate.’

‘Yes’ – echoed Nancy as she glanced down at her form, all my scores are fully met or exceeded.

‘As are mine,’ interjected Jesse, ‘and yet how well would Brian fit in with the team we already have?’

‘I think to be fair,’ hiccupped, Tom as ‘he’ thoughtfully chewed on the fly that had been bothering ‘him’ throughout the interview. ‘The frogs in Accounts might well make short work of ‘him’.’

Janice Taylor


The free spirit ……..

The story behind the story……………

This particular story is based on a tale told to me about the son of a friend of mine, a little boy whom I have known since he was born. Over the years I have heard a number of different stories about this young man and his antics, so without further ado, I give you…………

‘The free spirit’……….

Free Spirit 2


“I am a free spirit”, announced Calvin, proudly as his mother gazed at him with loving exasperation, whilst waiting for him to get his shoes on, gather his school bag and get to the door ready for school.

“Free spirits don’t follow timetables, we don’t follow rules and we don’t…..”

“Oh”, interrupted his mother, hastily. She really was not in the mood for a treatise on the benefits of being a ‘free spirit’.  “That is interesting, what do you suppose would happen if we all became free spirits?”

At this Calvin’s, face lit up as his mind drifted imagining all the glorious possibilities of a world full of ‘free spirits’.

What would he do if could truly wander through it as a ‘free spirit’?

No school?

Or school only when he felt like it.

No homework?

Or just the homework that interested him.

No set meals?

Or just the snacks that he liked and when he liked

No timetable?

Or just his perfect day to let his mind wander and soar without the tiresome interruption of teachers talking, trying to teach him something.

No boring shops?

Or just the ones he wanted to go to

No money?

Or just being able to have what he wanted from the shops he wanted

This all seemed perfect.

Ahem”, interrupted his mother again, “We still do need to get to school”

As she gazed at her son, an idea began to take root. “I must admit I really like the idea of being a ‘free spirit’. I think I will try it tomorrow and see what it is like.”

“Oh“, said Calvin, “That does sound exciting, what will you do with your day as a ‘free Spirit ‘?”

Absolutely, nothing”, beamed his mother. “I shall have a day completely to myself. Have my breakfast at lunch time, lunch at tea and wander as free as a bird”

This all seemed perfectly feasible to Calvin until he thought a little more and remembered that tomorrow was a Friday, which was a school day admittedly but it just so happened Friday was one of his ‘days’. All sorts of exciting things happened on a Friday and he needed to catch up with his friends to find out about the party and the band he wanted to start up.

None of this was going to happen if his mother was going to be ‘swanning’ around as a ‘free spirit’.

His mother could see from her son’s face that he was giving her ‘proposal’ some serious thought and that he was perhaps a little perturbed by the idea of her being a ‘free spirit’.

I tell you what, Calvin”, she said gently, “Why don’t we find a day when we can be both be ‘free spirits’.”

As Calvin’s face lit up at this possibility, his mother then said, “But in the meantime, we still do need to get to school.”

Janice Taylor


The ‘Genie’ in my kettle….

The story behind the story…………….

Over the years I have seen two memorable performances of Aladdin the pantomime, once at the Stratford East Theatre as part of a ‘works do’ and the second time with family and friends where we were highly entertained by the London Bubble Company’s version in Deptford, South East London.

So today I am writing this story and wondering what might happen if a genie did actually appear from an electrical appliance?

To be fair, most of the stories we come across as children involving genies don’t really explore what they are like as individuals, so I thought it would be interesting to have a slightly ‘dodgy’ one, with a bit of ‘attitude’.

Influenced, also by the fact that over the years, we have somehow managed to work our way through countless kettles. They only seem to last for a few months in our house can’t quite work out why. So without further ado, I give you:

The ‘Genie’ in my kettle……………

Shortstory Dec 2 2015


“Your wish is my command” intoned the apparition that somehow appeared from my Russell Hobbs kettle as I wiped it down.

I very nearly dropped it, as the ‘apparition’ continued to emerge from my kettle. There did seem to be an awful lot of mist and colour swirling around in my kitchen, but after 30 seconds or so he settled for hovering a foot or so away from me, with a benign yet expectant look on his face.

“Sorry” I spluttered, “what are you exactly and how did you get into my house?”

At my seeming impertinence he closed his eyes and with the barest of sighs replied, “I am the genie of the kettle and your wish is my command”

“This kettle?” at this I really do think he ‘rolled’ his eyes and with a deep sigh said, “Yes, the kettle you have in your hands.”

Well this was a turn up, it’s not every day a ‘genie’ turns up in your kitchen after you have bought what must be your 30th kettle. We do seem to go through them at an alarming rate and to date not one had produced its own genie. Still I wanted to be clear about a few things before I committed myself.

“I do know the story of Aladdin, who has three wishes from a lamp. Do I have three wishes, with this kettle?”

At this, ‘my genie’ looked at me with a slightly puzzled expression and said, “I have no knowledge of this ‘Aladdin’, but you do have three wishes. So use them wisely”

“If you wish, I can make a few suggestions”, he offered, politely.

What happened next would have to be argued over in a court of law, it is my belief that the words remained in my head, but……

Without thinking, I murmured, really to myself, “I wish I knew what to ask for”

Then without me being fully aware, a couple of sackfuls of cash appeared in my kitchen.

“Hang on, I didn’t ask for that” I exclaimed, with some justifiable annoyance. This really was the limit, no good appearing in my kitchen, making all sorts of promises about wishes and then just dumping cash on my floor.

“Oh but you did my dear, first you wished to know, and I have simply provided you with a concrete idea”

As I looked at him, now starting to grin like the ‘Cheshire’ cat from Alice in Wonderland, a hint of disquiet started to grow within me. This seemed far too convenient, bags of cash appearing as if from nowhere. Then I remembered a small item of news that had caught my eye in the local newspaper, about a ‘robbery’ and the cash that had been taken and before he could say or do anything else, I said.

“Take the sacks and go”

My third and final wish, but it felt like the right thing to do. It worked with a small  ‘puff’, he was gone along with his sacks.

Can’t help feeling that I had, had a narrow escape, now all I need to do is go and buy a new kettle…….

A letter from Anne……………….

The story behind the story……………..

I have long been interested in Tudor history particularly that of Elizabeth I and more recently her mother Anne Boleyn, especially since reading Hilary Mantel’s ‘Wolf Hall’ and its sequel ‘Bring up the Bodies’.

Find it deeply ironic that Henry VIII who was so obsessed with securing England’s future with a male heir should through his second wife Anne, produce arguably one of its greatest and perhaps most successful monarchs.

Through the eyes of Elizabeth I wonder what it might be like to realise that your father was ultimately responsible for the death of your mother and the loss of your estate and privileges and yet still be expected to be ‘humbly’ and ‘gratefully’ in awe of this man and ‘grateful’ for the life and the privileges you did enjoy.

I also wonder what it would have been like for Anne, formally so powerful and in demand, now to be bought ‘so low’ in the Tower. At what point would she have realised that she was completely ‘doomed’ in the eyes of her husband, family and ‘friends’?

An ambitious and fierce woman, who did not suffer fools gladly, it’s just as likely that Anne gave no thought to her daughter, as she struggled to come to terms with her own fate.

However I simply like the idea of one final communication from mother to daughter, if such a letter had ever been written I believe, Anne’s overriding concern might well have been to ensure that her daughter, stayed alive.

So this story ‘A letter from Anne’ is my small tribute to these two women, Elizabeth I and her mother Anne Boleyn.

A letter from Anne…………..

Hever Castle Gardens


My daughter,

When you read this, I will be no more. I had hoped and prayed that I would see you grown into womanhood. Well married, with estates, power and influence.
Believe me when I say I would have laid the world at your feet.

But first things, first.

Be a good and dutiful daughter to your father, the King.

Obey him in all things and remember he is both your beloved father and King.

Be thankful that in his beneficence he will bestow on you all things due to you as his most beloved daughter and in accordance with your birth right.

Be humble, remember that all you are, all you have and all you will be, comes from the King your father.

Take courage my daughter, remember you are a princess of royal blood – the blood of the Tudors runs through your veins.

Hold us both in your prayers.

Your loving mother and ever faithful and loving subject to the King.