Nov 20th

Dr Hairy and the QCQ, Part 9

By Edward Picot

Dr Hairy with hairclips image

The ninth in a new series of puppet-animations about the adventures and misadventures of an ordinary (but rather hirsute) GP.
Dr Hairy goes to visit his Mum, accompanied by his daughter Jenny. Dr Hairy's Mum appears surprisingly clear-headed, and she also seems not to be wearing any hairclips: in fact all her hairclips seem to have gone missing. Then Dr Hairy ventures into the cupboard under the stairs, and finds out where all the hairclips have got to... with hilarious results!
YouTube -
Vimeo -

The whole series can be accessed at
- Edward Picot - personal website

Nov 20th

The joys of air travel

By John Alty

I didn’t find it very amusing at the time but my fellow travellers did and I’m sure they’re laughing about it to this day. I can hear them now:

“I gotta tell you about this poor guy at Jan Smuts Airport in Johannesburg. That’s in South Africa you know, Maisie and me went there on safari for our thirtieth wedding anniversary. Anyway, we’re all standing at the baggage conveyor. This guy’s on his own….”

Yeah, yeah, let me tell it, it’s my story. I was, as he said, standing with my fellow passengers at the luggage conveyor and feeling totally knackered after my seemingly never-ending journey from Pennsylvania. I’d positioned myself as close to the exit as possible, at the farthest reach of the belt. Why carry my own bag when the conveyor will do it for me, right? And there’s always less of a scrum out here.

The conveyor started up and a lifetime later a few bags appeared, passengers shambled forward, retrieved belongings and headed for customs. A little while later my jet-legged mind registered some laughter emanating from the far end of the conveyor, where the inclined belt emerged from the bowels of the airport delivering up its motley collection of suitcases. The laughter grew, followed the progress of the belt like a Mexican wave. The source of the mirth became apparent. A pair of socks was travelling unaccompanied along the conveyor. The laughter continued. The show was not yet over. A shirt appeared, freshly laundered and wrapped. A suit, still on its hanger. Another pair of socks. Something in a plastic carrier bag. Then a pair of underpants hove into view. 

Funny how you immediately recognize your own underpants. 


Nov 20th


By mike



        Somebody asked for opinions about ‘Howards End.’ -  The  BBC serial on Sunday evenings,   I think it is Catasshe,  This isn’t a review.  But Catasshe might be interested in what is no more than a gut reaction. One of my hobbies is photography though, once upon a time, I has ambitions to playwriting.  I have not looked at Catasshe’s review or any in the papers.

I had been looking forward to the adaption, but I drifted off to sleep during the first episode.  This was last week, so I could not comment.  I watched the second episode yesterday and came to the conclusion that the director had watched too many episodes of ‘Morse’  There was the same drifting camera and a rather similar music score.  The added use of what sounded like a jerky string quartet became rather intrusive.   I found it odd that the actors sometimes moved in slow motion and the camera focus was a bit odd. In some of the outdoor scenes, the actors came  in and out of depth of field.   The use of music was rather erratic in that the actors played some period rags - and Beethoven - on an upright piano.  Even though these pieces were played badly, this music rather outclassed the score .The use of the piano was accurate for the period,

   I found some of the actors’ speech unclear and this cannot be true of the period - especially in respect of diction. 

     The book was published in 1910 and I was not too convinced by the accents used by the middle-class characters. Bast, the clerk, is the clearest speaker. I read the book some years ago and cannot remember it in much detail, but his attempt at self improvement - embourgeoisement - would, presumably, include improving his English? Bast reminded me of  characters from H.G.Wells (in particular, Kipps.) Forster was part of the Bloomsbury group and, if you read Woolf’s ‘Jacob’s Room,’ it is clear that Oxbridge was held in veneration.  I was not convinced by the Oxbridge student.  A few days ago, I read a biography of  Boswell and he took elocution lessons from the father of Sheridan, the playwright  This practice continued well into the twentieth century.  Whether such an accent is useful today is open to question.  Strangulated vowels were a Whig affectation.  A new production of ‘Wilde’s ‘A  Woman of No Importance’ might be shown at a cinema near you.  The play is acted true to the period, with the correct aristocratic diction and disdain.

    The scenes between Bast and the student did not ring true, I have a copy of the book and will read it next, to see if my opinion is an anyway correct.

    I came across this issue though visiting an aunt and uncle.  The aunt wrote of her Edwardian childhood in the suburbs of Manchester.  She came from a middle--class household but took elocution lessons. She wrote an entertaining essay on this.  The lessons may well have been due to her wish to be an actor, but most people in the arts seemed to speak with this voice - and well into the 1960’s.   I think she spoke in rather the same way as Wendy Hillier.  Her childhood schooldays end with her considering a career.  This would be in doing good for the working classes, but I think she had read too much Shaw!   Her husband sounded rather like Rex Harrison in ‘My Fair Lady.  I think he went to a posh school in Birmingham, but his father had been a brewer in Kent.  The upper-middle  voice became rather iconic in ‘Brief Encounter‘   But all the actors of the period, when they played middle-class actors, used this diction.  However.t I am sure the production knew what they are doing and have got things right.



Nov 19th

Wagon Trail 1

By Mat

Wagon Trail 1

by brightonsauce

These were dark days for the duo.  Maddy afflicted with the constipo-gastric condition that permitted only the cutest of rabbit-type sheep droppings to emerge from his orifice, and his wife stuck with him, homebound, [him] talking only shit and the great science of shit 22 hours a day.

‘Probably I’ll die some point mid-week,’ said Maddy, but was interrupted as a letter dropped through the door.  The cats rushed to the door, barking and beating their chests like cats do confronted with pizza menus.

‘What is it, darling?’ said Mrs Maddy.

‘Only a hand-written envelope addressed to us containing a legal document,’ said Maddy.

‘Oh fuck,’ said Maddelinova, stood in her ankle-length gown under the chandelier.

‘Fuck ‘em,’ said Maddy, for surely they were being evicted from the shore, this beach house, rental a snip at something like their wages plus one hundred thousand pence.

‘Definitely I will die soon,’ said Maddy.

‘What are we going to do!’ she wailed and lifted Maximus, the five stone heavyweight monster cat, to her chest.  He suckled noisily.

‘I know,’ said Maddy, ‘we shall move to Munich, the mountain air and early motivational playground of some great leader, I can’t remember which one exactly, beer hall, maybe it was Obama?’ he said.

‘Yes,’ she said, ‘Germany, only a 1000 mile car journey away.  It’s practically the same language.’

That night they planned menus through the new year, and his intention to stride into the Munich Industrial Temp agency wearing steel boots, ‘Ich vant job, please,’ he would say.

But, by morning Mrs Madd tuned anew, [was] tempted by an opportunity that lay Northways, her true heritage see, lay in the wastelands of Yorkshed.

‘We are moving to Skaboeuff,’ she said, and motioning to the monitor screen , she cupped a hand over her mouth, she sniggered.

‘Look,’ she said, ‘Skaboeuff, annual medieval fair, and palace overlooking village community, rental at £200 a month,’ she said, ‘there are dozens of them, all for rental, look here –“eight floor family house, twelve bedrooms, fourteen bathrooms plus farm overlordship at £400 a month, No pets.”

‘I knew there’d be a catch,’ said Maddy, ‘northerners hate pussycats, haven’t I always said as much, my love? I’ll fetch you a glass of Reisling, sauerkraut and a sausage, we can think this over,’ he said.

Seems the game is on, lady’s heading up the motorway mid-week to secure our new life free from Sussex thanes, I have to plough on a while, or forever, with the drainage boys, concerned a little, very much as to my [Monday] reception on-site:

‘Poor lad needs a poo,’

‘Poor Maddy,’


…philosophers, unsure whether I’ll maintain decorum, employment, war in progress [WIP].

Nov 16th

The Dharma Bum

By Dolly


Shapes on dry grass in a hot Virgo sun, cart-wheeled through the eyelids of another Dharma bum, as he drifted through the visions floating in his mind.


Gripped in a world of freedom bitten by its sting, he was painted by his downfall, and tainted by his sin. The elusive search for heaven slipped from his grasp, as he fell into the future and struggled with his past, with the rain of his existence carved on his heart, left by the scars of lovers, their beds shining in the dark. Philosophers of freedom forget how to cry, he can’t see their feelings, or the colour of their sky, as they ride across their universe caught in black and white. No love, no beauty, no wonder of the sight, that his eyes took in each moment forming in the light, not enough for liberty or another Dharma bum. He spoke his time with midnights not knowing what he read, and wished his way through mornings with a mirage in his head, of the white robes of a holy man promising the sun, to the broken down casualty, another Dharma bum. Marriages of convenience in parquet floored halls, paintings of sailing ships hung on yellowed walls, echo the footsteps of confetti headed brides, who gave away their freedom for the romance of sighs. He joined the list of failures trooping through the courts, disillusioned with the verdict rampaging through his thoughts, as he stepped into the daylight with nowhere left to run, a razor on the skyline for another Dharma bum. Still the winds of autumn twist back on tarmac drives, turn newspaper pages of stolen reckless lives, and tried the dreams of heaven left on summer parks, lovers names carved on trees in the middle of a heart. There’s a whisper of hands touching the sun, and the figure of a holy man another Dharma bum. He smiled at the visions, felt the evening chill, of the soft clinging rain as the autumn wind fell still, on the silence of his lips as he opened his eyes, to see the end of summer come tumbling down the skies, and land on his shoulders from a wet, yellow sun, nothing left to dream of for another Dharma bum.

Nov 16th

Pandering to male readers?

By Squidge

There's been a lot in the press about how some male readers won't read a book either written by a woman, or with a female lead. And there's also been a lot about how early this bias begins and how prevalent it is within the publishing industry.

My publisher, Bedazzled Ink, has written a fantastic blog about the problem, and you can read it HERE

As an author who writes for children, but with a bias to a female MC because that's what my publisher accepts, I'd be interested to know what other cloudies - particularly children's authors - think of the issue.


Nov 15th

Flying to the Edge

By Daedalus

Very proud that my biography of test pilot Duncan Menzies is released today -

To thank the Cloud for all the help when I was tearing my hair out over it, here's a snippet:

On 2 February 1941, Flight Lieutenant Duncan Menzies flew to the edge – and over it.

   It was a wintry afternoon when the solitary Fairey Fulmar lifted off the runway at Manchester’s Ringway airport into the cold air. The pilot, wearing the white cotton flying helmet that marked him out as having served in the R.A.F. in the Middle East, scanned the scene and adjusted the throttle for best climbing speed. The Fulmar lifted away from the earth, which was mottled with patches of snow, and its undercarriage folded away into the belly of the airframe.

   A few weeks beforehand, Fulmars almost identical to the one now ascending into the hard grey sky had been desperately battling the Luftwaffe and the Regia Aeronautica in the crucible of the Mediterranean. Waves of Axis aircraft pummelled the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious, the other ships of Force A and the convoy they were protecting. The Fulmar crews gave their all. They shot down eight torpedo- and dive-bombers, but it wasn’t enough to stop five bombs hitting their carrier, 126 of their shipmates being killed. The Fulmars were the first fighter aircraft operated by the Royal Navy to gain the Merlin engines and eight machine gun armament of the R.A.F.’s Spitfires and Hurricanes, but on that day they had been too slow to climb to stop the worst of the attacks, not fast enough to chase down the multiplicity of targets.

   The scene over Cheshire that February afternoon could hardly be more different. No enemy aircraft harried the lone Fulmar. It did not struggle up from a pitching carrier deck on a heaving sea, but rose from a wide, grassy aerodrome more accustomed to airliners and touring aeroplanes. The pilot was alone, his only passenger ballast to simulate the weight of a person in the rear cockpit.

   His job was to try and make those Fulmars in the Mediterranean and their replacements that bit better. To help them get into the sky that much faster. To help them stay that fraction more controllable at the extremes. The Fulmar’s propeller had been altered with a modification developed by the factory. It had brought a slight improvement but caused knock-on effects elsewhere – instability had crept back into the Fulmar’s behaviour. The task of the day’s flight was to examine those effects and try to establish a solution.

   The pilot was not a member of a front line air arm, but he was still fighting the war. His job was to give the combat pilots the best tools with which to fight the enemy. Duncan Menzies was a test pilot.

   Around fifteen minutes after the wheels had left the runway, the pilot levelled off, having reached perhaps fifteen thousand feet. He scibbled a note on the pad strapped to his thigh, clipped the pencil into its retainer, and tipped the Fulmar into a steep dive.

   Almost immediately, the rudder began vibrating. It started to shake rapidly from side to side. The innocuous-sounding phenomenon ‘flutter’. The pilot jammed his feet on the rudder bar with all his strength. He could not stop the rudder shaking. Then, as the aircraft continued to plummet earthwards, the elevators began to vibrate in sympathy with the rudder, wrenching the ‘stick’ backwards and forwards violently. All the pilot’s strength could not overcome the flutter. The controls had become rock-hard, ceased to work. The aircraft no longer answered its pilot’s commands.

   The Fulmar hurtled downwards, going 150 mph faster than it could ever manage in level flight. The vicious vibration from the tail surfaces reached the aircraft’s limit. Carefully calculated aerodynamics fell off the edge of the page. The aircraft’s nose snapped downward.

   The only thing that could happen now was total structural failure.

   Drawn, heat-treated longerons and stringers snapped like matchwood. Alclad plating tore like paper. The entire tail of the Fulmar broke away from the force of the air. It ripped the aircraft to pieces.

   The limits of the pilot’s Sutton harness had also been reached, and exceeded – twenty times the force of gravity. As the aircraft folded up, blew apart in the skies over Cheshire, Duncan Menzies broke through the webbing straps, through the acrylic canopy and flew into space.

Nov 15th

Motivation - sorted?

By Squidge

You might remember that last month, I blogged about discovering - almost at the end of an edit - that my MC had no motivation. At all. (Read about it by clicking here if you missed it)

Well, I'm glad to say it's been sorted - by one of my super-duper beta readers. 

I knew the MS wasn't up to scratch; I knew there wasn't any motivation. I had an inkling of an idea that might work, but in trying to add it, I'd confused myself (and the reader it turned out!) as to what was really driving the main character. 

Enter this particular beta reader.  

In her feedback, she not only identified the two directions in which I could take the driving force (anger or disbelief), she also identified the theme running throughout.

As a result, I'm rewriting. Again. But this time it's from a much more secure place, because someone else has managed to put into words the things that were there, but I hadn't managed to identify for myself.

But - this blog is not really about me and the eleventy-millionth rewrite of a novel I'm refusing to give up on.

It's about the value of beta readers, those folk who give up their time to help you make your book the best it can be - providing, of course, that you are prepared to listen to their feedback and really consider whether it will add value and depth to your work. (You are allowed, between reading their feedback and the considering phases, to kick the cat, eat chocolate, scream, take a long walk, punch something or whatever, if there are things that you don't like hearing)

Here's what I look for in a beta reader; someone who can be objective. Someone whose own writing I admire and respect. Someone - perhaps - with a proven record of publication, though this is not essential. (As we know from this writing community, there are many, many talented and wonderful writers who don't get to the publication stage which leaves us all scratching our heads and wondering why.) I look for honesty in my beta reader, however difficult it might be to hear what it is they are being honest about. And I don't choose someone who I know is a 'fan' of my writing - they'll say it's wonderful, even if it's not. That's not always helpful if it masks a serious issue.

So - to everyone who's ever beta read anything of mine (and there are lots of you, I know!) and who's offered suggestions or helped me work out the kinks in a WIP...a humungous thank you, because I wouldn't be the writer I am without you all. And my stories wouldn't be what they are, either. 

Thank you xx

Nov 15th

A War Memory

By mike



   A few years ago, I had been moving books from one room to another and an A5 printed leaflet fell out of one of my mother’s music books.   This leaflet must have been distributed  to Allied soldiers as they liberated the Dutch village in which she lived.  She had been a war bride and emigrated to England in 1946.

    There are some line drawings of a church and some heraldic signs on the a5 leaflet  but there is only one other colour and that is in red.  There is quite a story behind this souvenir!   My Dutch grandparents could not speak English and neither could my mother

(The village is near Eindhoven close to the Belgium border)



Souvenir from Holland


To my friend




Hurrah, hurrah we are liberated

and nearly everybody laughs and thanks 

as good as can the Tommies and the Yanks

so long by us in slavery awaited.


From children you have got  our orange flowers.

from ladies all their kindness, charm  and fruit,

for you is nothing that we have too good...

the mother’s pray: may God give you more power.


You are all friendly, gentlemanlike brave ...

we hope for you that soon the war will end,

that each of you can go to his own land

and family, that God for you may save.


And we young men will forward fight with you

against all German forces of defense,

till our long forbidden red-white-blue

is waving everywhere in the Netherlands.


Nov 15th

Remastered Words - And How the Cloud Makes You a Better Writer

By Stevie

For a short time only, you can listen to the audio version of my short story, 'The Phone' for free (you can also read my blatherings at interview too). Click on the linky below. After this, you'll need to pay!

Check out the Remastered Words website, it offers a great opportunity to get your work published.  Winning their annual competition was a real high point of my writing to date.

'The Phone' and that win, owes its existance in no small part to the Cloud.

Without AlanP's writing challenge, Now and Then, I doubt the story would have come to be. Without  Debbie Alper and the Writers Workshop self-editing course and the monthly comps, I doubt it would have been good enough to win a competition. Thanks to you folks for helping to  make it happen.  



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