Category Archives: Nature

Painting instead of writing


Earlier this year I began work on my third novel. I was making good progress until it all ground to a halt as Spring gave way to Summer. I think the expression is “writer’s block”. You may have heard of it.

Anyhow, I wasn’t too worried as the school holidays were looming and I would be spending much of it trying to keep my two daughters entertained. So the chances of getting much work done were slim to zero.

Now that they’ve gone back to school, the “block” is still here. And it’s very frustrating. I get quite depressed if I am not creating something. I worked in advertising for 30 years and every day I’d go into work and have to create something.

So, instead of wallowing in self-pity, I turned my hand to something else – painting. Mainly watercolours, but acrylics too.

Here are a few examples I thought I’d share with you. I know I won’t be getting an exhibition at the National Gallery anytime soon, but I quite like the colours and freshness of some of them.

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Processed with Snapseed.

Processed with Snapseed.

Processed with Snapseed.

Processed with Snapseed.

Processed with Snapseed.

Processed with Snapseed.

Self portrait in acrylic.

 

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Filed under Advertising, Art, Children, community, Contemporary Arts, Creativity, Illustration, Inspiration, Nature

Stellar new haiku


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I can see the stars

Rotating in unison.

No, wait, it’s the clouds.

 

 

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The Battle of Tatton Field


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I took my girls to the Medieval Fayre at Tatton Park near Knutsford in Cheshire on Saturday.

It was packed with stalls and tents, traders and artisans, selling replica medieval goods and artefacts, all the while dressed in traditional garb. (Though, I’m not sure my kids were convinced by my argument that they didn’t take Visa back in medieval times.)

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As well as all the trading, you could try your hand at falconry. Or, more precisely, your wrist.

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If you were feeling a tad more Agincourt, you could flex those shoulder muscles and give archery a twang.

Then, to cap it all off, there was a mock battle between two Plantagenet forces.

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I do love history, but I’ve never been to a battle re-enactment before. I’ve always thought of them as being a bit nerdy. But it was absolutely brilliant. My girls loved it too.

The boom from the canons made the ground shake and went right through me. I had to have at least three de-fibs.

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Anyhow, you’ve missed it now. It was only on for Saturday and Sunday. But I’d thoroughly recommend it if you see one coming to a battlefield near you.

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All photographs © David Milligan-Croft

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Filed under Children, community, Education, History, Inspiration, Nature

Kanye in Botswana – New Flash Fiction


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KANYE IN BOTSWANA

By David Milligan Croft

 

The anger and frustration were risible behind Jeb’s gritted teeth. He wanted to lash out at the person standing in front of him with the smug grin on his face. But he knew that that would cost him his job. In this “P.C.” age he lived in it was deemed unacceptable to beat one’s co-worker to a pulp. If not him, anyone or anything in general would suffice, such as: his pet Syrian hamster in its cage at home. He could pluck it up and wring its scrawny little neck or snap its spine in half and crush its squidgy innards. Not that the hamster had done anything in particular to warrant Jeb’s wrath – apart from leaving droppings and straw all over the house – which was actually reason enough. No, it would preferably be a human.

The problem was, Jeb wasn’t blessed with fighting prowess, either physically or technically. He was average height and had a scraggy physique and concave chest. He had gaunt cheeks with bulbous eyes and a hooked nose. His heart was palpitating and his palms sweated as the man from accounts poked fun at him.

Apart from his physical shortcomings he wasn’t bestowed with a quick wit or more than average intelligence either. All of which made him a fairly unremarkable specimen of Homo sapiens and quite an easy target for jocularity. It was this latter fact that was the nub of Jeb’s dissatisfaction with life’s lot. He wanted to be somebody. To do something. But the fact was, he lacked either the imagination or the skill sets to achieve… whatever it was he wanted to achieve.

Instead, he just stood there by the coffee machine in the makeshift kitchen area, hands trembling, face flushed bright red, surrounded by his colleagues who were all laughing at him for having thought Kanye West was a holiday destination in the Florida Keys. To be fair to Jeb, this was only on account of the aforementioned accounts man, Brendan Tucker, telling Jeb that Kanye West was the ‘in-place’ to holiday that summer and was he thinking of taking his vacation there? When Jeb responded in the affirmative and that, in fact, he had already booked his flight, was when his teammates all fell about guffawing at his expense.

On one occasion, at an office Christmas party, a couple of years previously, Jeb had attempted to boost his image by hiring the services of a young, glamorous escort whom he attempted to pass off as his girlfriend. When ‘Crystal’ arrived at his home, she was neither young, nor glamorous. Nor was she particularly attractive. She had corkscrew peroxide blonde hair, pockmarked skin and a bright red skirt that could easily have passed for a cummerbund.

On arriving at the office party which, incidentally, was on the theme of Saints and Sinners, making Crystal instantly feel at home, she promptly disappeared to the loos leaving Jeb alone at the accounts table sipping a dry sherry.

Lamentably, Brendan had seen through Jeb’s ruse and had offered Crystal fifty quid to give him a blowjob in the gents’ toilets. The act of which, Jeb stumbled upon whilst visiting the little boys’ room. All in all, with Brendan’s bonus on top of the £250 she’d earned from Jeb, Crystal had made an extremely tidy sum for her evening’s work. Jeb went home alone and Brendan’s newly acquired humiliating anecdote was a bargain at only £50.

A few days after the ‘coffee pot’ incident, Jeb arrived at work in the open plan office wearing a very loud, short-sleeved floral shirt and proclaimed that he was going on holiday to Kanye in the south east of Botswana the very next day. Moreover, he was specifically going to the western part of the town. (He emphasised the ‘western’ part.)

He regaled all who would listen, (which was Mary from admin and John from maintenance), that Kanye was founded by European settlers in 1853 and that it was his love of both Africa, and history, that had prompted his choice of holiday. And, when Brendan had first mentioned going on holiday to Kanye, Jeb said he had misheard the part about ‘Florida’. Sadly, Brendan wasn’t there to hear the news firsthand, but Jeb was certain that the office grapevine would successfully deliver his news and put Brendan Tucker firmly in his place once and for all.

Unfortunately, that’s about as far as Jeb’s one-upmanship got him. Whilst on safari in the southern region of Kanye, he was dragged out of his tent one night by a boisterous cackle of hyenas. And, as they tore and gorged at his pasty white flesh, the hysterical yips of the hyenas couldn’t help but remind him of Brendan Tucker and his colleagues back at the office.

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Filed under Animals, Contemporary Arts, Creativity, Ideas, Inspiration, Literature, Nature, Short stories, Writing

10 Orbits of the Sun – new short story.


Here’s a pretty short short story that I’ve been working on recently. I’d be interested in anyone’s thoughts. Good or bad. But mainly good.

(Sorry about all the photos – it’s the art director in me.)

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10 ORBITS OF THE SUN.

By David Milligan-Croft.

Something changes inside of you when you have a child. Obviously, things change inside of a woman, quite literally. But I’m talking about changing from a man’s point of view – philosophically.

Up until my late thirties, I never wanted kids. Why would I? They’d be a burden. I had a fabulous career, a few great friends, a fantastic salary and a tidy crash pad overlooking the lazy river.

Then, for reasons I don’t fully understand, I got all broody. And I just wanted a baby. Specifically, a baby girl. I don’t know why I wanted a girl. Perhaps I found the thought of a rambunctious boy quite off-putting.

It stands to reason that I had to find a suitable mother first, which took a little longer than I had hoped. Anyhow, I got my wish. And I was the proud father of little Tallulah. When I said that something changes inside of you, I meant that something changes chemically. Nothing else, nor anyone else, matters quite so much in the world. Every cell in your body is geared toward protecting this little being. It’s a love that’s hard to describe. You would do anything for your charge. Yes, even kill for them. Die for them. It’s quite primeval on one level. Yet deeply spiritual on another.

Sure, not all parents feel this way. And I’m not trying to say that I’m unique in feeling like this. Plenty of parents are doting and plenty are neglectful.

I watched my little girl flourish and blossom. She was a happy kid. Loved to read. Loved to write her own stories. She’d make little 8-page books and fill them with fairytales and drawings. She loved to ride her bike and occasionally we’d go to Ed’s farm and she’d ride Ruby, the chestnut brown mare. She didn’t care much for video games or TV either.

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I remember one time, when we were going for a drive in the desert in my old jalopy, she said: “Daddy, how far is it around the sun?”

“What? The Earth’s orbit?” I’d said.

“Yes.”

“About 585 million miles, give or take a couple of hundred thousand. Depends on the time of year.” I turned the volume down on the car stereo so I could hear my inquisitive daughter better.

“Why does it depend on the time of year?” she said, turning the volume back up again so she could hear the brashy pop song that was playing.

“Not hundred percent. Something to do with the ellipse of our orbit,” I tried to draw an ellipse in the dust on the dashboard. “And the tilt of the Earth’s axis.” Astronomy isn’t my strong point and I got the impression that Tallulah guessed I was busking a little.

Tallulah looked out of the passenger window from behind her sunglasses at the scorched desert dotted with parched brush and spindly shrubs.

I stole a glance at the side of her pensive face, her golden hair was tantalising her cheeks. “Why d’you ask?”

“By my next birthday, I will have travelled 5.8 billion miles around the sun. Pretty amazing, huh?”

I pursed my lips. “When you look at it like that, kiddo, it is pretty amazing.”

“And that’s not including all the miles we’ve done down here on Earth,” she said wistfully.

I didn’t know how many miles we’d clocked up, and, in the great scheme of things, it probably wouldn’t affect Tallulah’s ‘orbital total’ very much. But it was still a significant amount for mere Earth dwellers.

I don’t know why this memory of my daughter springs to the forefront of my mind. Perhaps it is because it’s to do with heavenly bodies. The very fact that she came up with this concept amazed me. She could often be very abstract in her thinking. While other kids were ogling the shapes in clouds, Tallulah was busy calculating how far she’d travelled in the universe. I always imagined her growing up to be a great writer one day. Or maybe even a scientist.

Tallulah didn’t make it into double figures before she was taken from me. It was that God damned bike I’d bought for her ninth birthday. She was cycling home from school when a truck cut her up at some traffic lights. The driver said he didn’t see her coming up on the inside.

I’d always been uncomfortable with her riding to and from school. Not because she was a careless rider but because of careless drivers. However, her friends all did it, so she wanted to do it too. I guess I should have been a stronger father.

I was at work when it happened. I don’t know, but around the time of the accident, I recall being overwhelmed by a sense of grief. Like somehow I’d had this telepathic connection with her or something. Sounds ludicrous, I know. Though, I didn’t put it down to anything bad having befallen my little girl at the time.

I got a phone call from my distraught wife about an hour later. It was hard to make out what she was actually trying to tell me through her hysterical sobs. When the penny finally dropped, I felt the world disappear from beneath my feet and I was suddenly floating in a black void. I was dizzy. I felt my insides twitch and heave and I vomited over a glass case containing antique pistols. I think the customers must have thought I was hungover as they stared at me disdainfully and left the shop.

I closed the store and rushed to the hospital. But it was too late. The truck had already crushed the precious life out of her. Had the driver been there when I found out I imagine I would have killed him. Not that I would do that now, having had time to reflect on the incident. I know it was an accident. He didn’t mean to kill her. But he should’ve taken more care. Particularly at that time of day, being near a school and all.

I have never known grief like it. I don’t believe in heaven and hell.

This was hell.

The depths of Christian hell could not provide me with such torment. I went over all of the things that I might possibly have done for Tallulah not to have been at that particular spot at that particular moment in time. Not buying her the bike was top of the list. Her taking gymnastics class on a Tuesday instead of violin on a Wednesday was another. There were an infinite amount of possibilities. Of variables that would have put her at a different point in the universe. And I didn’t take any of them.

As you can imagine, my wife was inconsolable too. But I had to put on a more stoic face for everyone else: the police, doctors, funeral directors, family, friends. I know people mean well by wanting to offer their condolences, but the last thing we wanted to do at that time was talk to anybody. Shout – yes. Scream – definitely. Why? Why, Tallulah? What had she ever done to anybody? To me, it was further proof that there is no god. How could an all-powerful, loving deity let a beautifully perfect little girl be killed in such a horrific way?

That doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in some form of afterlife. Maybe there is, maybe there isn’t. Perhaps we’re reincarnated. Or, maybe we rise to a higher dimension. I once had the notion that the afterlife was an emotion rather than a place. Sort of like ecstasy or bliss. That one’s spirit melded back into the universe in a kind of eternal rapture. Most likely, there will be nothing. I don’t know. But it’s a chance I’m not prepared to take.

Of course, I haven’t discussed this with my wife. What would she say? She’d say I was being irrational. And I guess I was. No rational person decides to take their own life. She’d say I needed to see a doctor. That I was depressed. Not thinking straight. Get some pills. On the other hand, I could also see why my thinking was completely rational.

You know what I miss the most about Tallulah? It’s a sound. Specifically, a word. It’s a word I’ll never hear ever again: “Daddy!”

Like I said at the beginning – having a child changes you. You’d do anything to protect them. Why should my parental duties end in this life? Lots of religious people believe in heaven and hell. But they don’t think twice about giving up on their dead loved ones. If their faith was so resolute why wouldn’t they follow them to paradise?

Perhaps Tallulah and I will both spend eternity in black nothingness. In which case, it won’t matter a jot to either of us. But if there is something else, I’m certainly not going to let my beloved daughter wander the afterlife all by herself.

What kind of father would I be?

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Espe P.

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By the way, a few folk have asked me if these are photos of my kids. Just to reassure you – they’re not. When I’m working on a story I set up a Pinterest board for it. I put up pins of characters, locations, props etc to help me visualise my world. Admittedly, it’s a bit of a cheat to put them up on this post as I should let the story set the scene. However, like I said at the beginning – it’s the art director in me that can’t help putting some visuals in. Think of them as an extended front cover.

Addendum.

If you liked this story, why not read the whole collection, which is available on Amazon.

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Filed under Art, Books, Children, Contemporary Arts, Creativity, Ideas, Inspiration, Literature, love, Nature, Philosophy, religion, Science, Short stories, Writing

New haiku


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Knee deep in heather,

Bright red sock wavers aloft,

Boot stuck in peat bog.

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Winter Haiku


A belated Happy New Year.

This is my first post of 2015. (Not including my last post which was a reblog.)

I started following a blog by Ashi Akira and he’s inspired me to get my haiku quill out. (It’s a fascinating blog – particularly the story about the Japanese and American WWII fighter pilots – well worth a visit.)

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Rabbit carcass rots,

Heather bends its purple head,

Wuthering Heights call.

 

Listen to the song

Of the sparrows in the hedge,

Feeding time for chicks.

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