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Shadow Box | Karen Kao

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I love shadow boxes. I don’t mean the practice of sparring with yourself (though this is a worthy act that bears repeating). Think of a literal box, perhaps protected by a glass front, inside of which resides a world of whimsy. Think of it as found poetry in three-dimensional form. Marcia Espinosa, Detail of “Shrines for your domestic wishes”, TAFE Gallery Central. Photo credit: Karen Kao Shadow history Sailors were the first to create shadow boxes. They made them out of wood salvaged from their ships. They made them out of fear. Sailors believed that if their shadow reached shore before they did, their life on land would be cursed. The box, containing the sum total of a sailor’s personal effects, protected their true self. The tradition carries on among US military. Upon retirement, they receive a shadow box of medals, awards, flags and insignia. It’s a physical manifestation of a life of service. After my mother-in-law died, her youngest son created a bea

The Dead Can't Give Permission by Julia Jones

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This is the story of James, a man in his sixties, living with Asperger’s and impaired vision. James is an only child who has lived at home all his life, except when he was away as a teenager at a school for the blind. He has also left home on occasion to be involved in quiz programmes. His mother, Margaret,  suffered k idney failure so, from age 13, James helped care for her in the school holidays when his father was at work. Then, later, when his father also became ill, James was glad to look after them both. He underwent some eye operations which improved his sight. They were a very happy family. James’s mother, died in 2017 and from that time James and his father seemed to become objects of suspicion to Social Services. This culminated in James’s father being forced into a care home after he had been admitted to hospital with an attack of gastro-enteritis.  As I listened to this part of James’s story my heart sank – I have heard too many long sad tales from people who feel that th

A Radio Play? Now That I'd Like To See by Neil McGowan

  I've been thinking recently about trying something new from a writing perspective. I mainly write novels, with some short stories thrown in. I enjoy writing the shorts (although I seem to have less and less time to do them nowadays) as it allows me to approach writing in a different way, kind of like a mental version of cross-training. Anyway, back in 2018 I wrote short story (by hand, as I was on holiday) which I quite liked at the time. It started in the usual way for me – sitting in the coffee shop enjoying the view over the firth to the Isle of Bute, I spied an older gentleman, sitting on his own, nursing a drink. The waitress seemed quite attentive of him, and it piqued my curiosity – why was he there? What was his story? Over the rest of the week, I drafted the story, setting it mainly in the fifties and using the old man telling his story to the waitress as a framing device to tie it all together. After a couple of rewrites to tighten it up, it was done. I was please

Fictions or…? by Bill Kirton

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Apart from scribbling stories and stuff as a kid (to which I probably subjected my poor siblings), and then doing essays at school and university, writing wasn't ever really part of my grand scheme of who I intended to be or how I'd spend my time. (To tell the truth, I had no scheme.) I graduated, got a job, started a family and was already in my thirties before I started 'writing' and, even then, there was no burning ambition or seeming purpose about it. It certainly didn't earn me a living. I suppose most of it I did just for myself, to try to understand things. Putting stuff into words, filling foolscap pages with spidery ink marks made stuff manageable, creating characters made them accessible, understandable, perhaps helped me to understand why 'real' people said and did the things they did. I’m not certain about that; it's just speculation. In retrospect, though, that's what happened. (Not that I pretend to 'understand' people now,

Not as Good as the Book? asks Debbie Bennett

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We all like to talk about the Book versus the Film, don’t we? Which was better? Should you read the book before or after seeing the film? Who knows – I guess it depends on the actual book/film and which came first. Was the film adapted from the book? Or was the book a novelisation of a film? What I do know is that I have bought several books as an adult based on – specifically – television series I watched as a child.  I’ve said this on many an occasion: children’s television is often way better than that which is offered to adults. Adult tv these days is all about reality – and the reality is generally very, very fake. What even is reality tv anyway? Drama is usually crime and if they venture any further it’s often so far off-base as to be unwatchable. Who remembers the recent adaptation of War of The Worlds ? I watched it as it was filmed in Cheshire near to where I live, but it was a very politically-correct and elastic story that bore little relation to the novel. Children’s tv is

The End of Multi-Tasking? (Cecilia Peartree)

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Until recently I had thought of myself as a skilled multi-tasker. However, the combined impact of the pandemic and retirement has made me think again. These days I seem to have trouble accomplishing one task at a time, never mind several. To take just one recent example, I managed to buy a new car yesterday, after months of dithering. I was quite pleased with myself for getting through all the paperwork and various real-world actions involved in this, such as emptying the old car of years' worth of stuff including the four pairs of shoes I seemed to have thought necessary for driving, but it occurred to me that in the process I had put off doing all sorts of other, unrelated things, feeling as if I couldn't possible cope with doing anything else before this one major task was complete.  While considering this, I realised I didn't know what the term multi-tasking really meant. I looked it up online to make sure what I thought of as multi-tasking was what everyone else meant

The Fickle Feather of Fame - Umberto Tosi

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Sacheen Littlefeather, 1973 My greatest Walter Mitty moment, in a lifetime of them, came when I held Francis Ford Coppola 's Oscar for Best Picture in my hand and imagined holding it over my head to a cheering audience - probably longer than I should have. "It's heavier than I imagined," I told Coppola. He grinned indulgently at me as I put the famed statuette back in its place among others on a fireplace mantle. "Solid gold," he said. At the time, I worked for Coppola as senior editor on City of San Francisco, a weekly arts-and-politics tabloid. Coppola often hosted staff parties at the splendid Victorian mansion atop Presidio Heights in the city at the time overlooking the Bay and Alcatraz Island. This was well before he relocated to his Napa winery estate. It was 1975, and he was at the apex of his wealth and fame having pulled off a Godfather films Trifecta of artistic and commercial showbiz success.  Coppola, 1970s "I wish I'd never done the G