Monthly comp – August

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    I thought I would try and stick with Sandra’s successful poetical theme. Here’s a line from William Henley’s ‘Invictus’ that really resonates for me.

    ‘I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.’

    I don’t mind what sort of interpretation you put on it; that’s going to be half the fun of seeing what you all come up with.

    Let’s say up to 400 words with that line as your theme.

    I’m holding my breath in anticipation. 🙂


    Like Richard, waiting for inspiration – and I’ve next week away from home in which to receive it (several ideas bubbling)


    Just about to lose my data connection before surrendering to the joys of wifi at sea. No inspiration here yet. The pain chocolat is good though.

    Baz Baron

    Food for thought children. Sleep well tonight. 😉 400 inc title.


    In the womb, do we see white noise?

    Close your eyes. Tight shut. What do you see?

    I woke at four this morning agitated.

    In my horrid dream, I pictured the last of my treasured artifacts’ being scrapped into the trash.

    Lost forever.

    In the lounge and still in a quandary I poured myself a strong one.

    ‘Am I Master of my fate? Am I captain of my soul?’

    Similar words to those above were penned over a century ago in a poem by, William Henley. “I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul”.

    I poured another drink then walked onto the patio to stare into the early morning sky, zillions of atoms right?

    Blink and picture this. “Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup. They slither wildly as they slip away across the universe”. Not my words. The beautiful words in a John Lennon song.

    Both authors’ dead, gone forever. Their words of wisdom live on in the annals of time. What of your words floating around in the ether?

    It is said that everything in existence is made up of single atoms so in the illusion of time all we see and do will become extinct. Gone forever?

    Imagine the human body, billions of cells interconnected each with a receptor working in tandem passing electrical impulses one to the other which form shape, smell, feel, touch and everything we see? Vibes. But what of sound?

    Poles. Attraction. Everything has a positive and negative as do receptors right? Why do we fall in love, why do we hate? We can do one of two things. How many times can you remember when your interconnected receptors immediately respond to the positive or negative to another? You either have the hots for someone or your hackles go up at the juncture of your nervous system. Flight or fight in the animal kingdom.

    Think of this. When next you see a stranger do you see what they see in the mirror? Feel what they feel upon a brief touch. Get the picture.

    I leave you with another quotation “Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust”.

    To all these questions, will the answer be found beneath the France-Switzerland border?

    As we draw our last breath do we ‘see’ black noise?

    Pour yourself a strong one and sleep well tonight.

    John S Alty

    Have we ever had an entry in the form of a song before? Formatting may be a challenge, so bear with me.

    On a restroom wall in Baltimore,
    Above a broken sink,
    Someone scratched this message,
    “It’s later than you think”

    I took this simple line to heart,
    I saw that it was true,
    And built myself a sturdy boat,
    Then sailed the ocean blue.

    Time goes by this way just once,
    And no one has the power,
    To tell you when the clock will stop,
    Where skulks that fateful hour.

    So, hitchhike down to Mexico,
    Or drive to Kathmandu,
    But better do it now, my friend,
    Time catches up with you.

    A big wide world is calling out,
    There is no need to wait,
    You are the captain of your soul,
    The master of your fate.


    Brilliant, two entries. Inspiration struck, John. Can’t wait to read them at the end of the month.



    I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.

    Such is the mantra, spoken quietly in hope during clandestine gatherings, or whispered in the darkest moments outside of them, when dreams of life lived to the full fall beyond my control and are squashed like bugs in the mud.

    For certain, this mantra is against the teachings of the Regulators, who have ordained that all situations should be ordered, all people confined to the roles and responsibilities, as dictated by The Book of Rules they wield so forcefully as a weapon against us.

    But many yearn to break free of The Rules, and they meet in dark, secret places. Places where imagination, creativity, innovation and the freedom simply ‘to be’ are encouraged and enabled instead of being stifled and kept for an elite few. Where a lowly clerk of numbers can become a musician; an under-aged whore become a student; a rough-handed farmer in burlap become a tailor of silk or satin.

    I was one of them, but discovery put paid to my resistance. The mantra is all I have left now of my defiance, and I cling to it as fiercely as a drowning man clings to a broken plank.

    I will whisper it when they lead me to the stake to burn me on a pyre of my own making. As the words I crafted into forbidden stories of love and hope and dreams help to fuel the flames at my feet, I will scream this mantra until the smoke rips my voice from my throat and my tongue blackens and cooks.

    And I will write it for the last time, here, now. In my final hour, on a stolen scrap of parchment, in the hope that it will be read after I am gone and the reader will take up the mantra for themselves.

    Reader, break free of The Rules and the Regulators! Discover what your heart yearns to truly be – and live!

    You are the master of your fate: you are the captain of your soul.

    As I have been mine.

    (350 words)


    Sorry Kate: this stemmed from the couple of ideas I was playing with before I went away last week. Lack of time then (and little in the foreseeable with a kitchen about to be installed) this was what I came up with.

    ‘I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.’

    I was taken aback by how irritated I was by the first part of this quote. Then further irritated by realising part of that irritation was due to reading ‘master’ as overly masculine, having recently read a novel which in part looked at militant feminism and their propensity for hi-jacking and distorting the English language, to the extent that perfectly effective words (chairman for example) have become anathema and suggested ‘corrections’ ugly and clumsy.

    Second knee-jerk was because of the one-time inescapable ‘Master and Commander’ – film or game, I’m not sure but think one son kept on about it, one year. Then I reminded myself of the verb ‘to master’ – nowt sexist about that – calmed down, and looked the word up in my OED.
    Two full columns devoted to the noun, and nineteen definitions, many qualified with ‘usu. a man’.

    So, I’m no feminist. But I am a wife and mother. Am the product of my time and my upbringing. None of which permit me to be sole master of my fate because compromise, adaptation to circumstances too often beyond my control prevent that. ‘Soul’ is how I deal with whatever it turns out to be, so yes, I can agree with that.

    Much of my thoughts in the past couple of days have been taken up with the appalling death of PC Andrew Harper; his widow is fated to be forever linked with tragedy; however she comes to heal the shreds of her soul.

    (245 words)


    All entries gratefully received, Sandra. I’ll look forward to reading. 12 days left to the end of the month, if anyone else is interested in taking part.


    Still working on my entry …


    I am still working too. I need the constant (but lovely) stream of guests we’ve had this month to finish so I have a bit more time.


    The cell was as dark as it was damp, and it would reek all the worse but for the bitter cold. There were others in here, though Robin could not count them, in his head or by his fingers, which he could not see when placed in front of his face. The brief light that had the poor wretches holding their hands to theirs, told him there had to be ten or more – before the door was closed and barred.
    Their cries, as he landed on the straw, soon waned to hopeless moans, but not silence. The cramped cell was as much to blame for their discomfort as the despair over what was to follow.
    ‘Robin, is that you?’
    The voice beside him was broken with age. He had not recognized the old wise-woman in the time light allowed, when all he saw was bundles of rags wrapped in grimy shawls.
    ‘Aye, Eliza, it is me,’ he answered grimly. ‘I saw you taken, but not to where.’
    ‘But how could they suspect you, a respected physic? Did a patient speak ill?’
    ‘It was the opposite, when fingers were pointed,’ Robin said with a sigh. ‘The sheriff’s wife, no less, said she knew me as a God-fearing man … except she failed to recognize which god – or goddess.’
    ‘Did they not hear her speak?’
    Oh, do not blame my accusers; many do it to keep suspicion away from their own doors, and they only told the truth. I am a healer, the same as you – and I will not deny the goddess who gifted me my powers.’
    ‘You were given a chance to deny? – but, Robin, it is only words.’
    ‘Would you have spoken them, hand on bible?’
    ‘Nay, I would not, on any book. But I have lived my years. You might have many still to come.’
    ‘Not at the cost of denying the Goddess, whom I hope to meet in glory, not shame. This –’ He tugged at his coat. ‘This is only an earthly vessel, but while I am in it, I shall be its captain, not they. And the master of my fate. They will know that come morning.’
    He ripped the hem of his coat and searched for the packet within. ‘They may make a rope to place around my neck, but Mother Goddess, she creates the compound that will deliver me to the otherworld.’

    400 words


    You see, what Mrs High and Mighty Rachel Jacobs doesn’t realise is that every time her big shiny car overlaps my drive, I go and walk by it – and I knock her door mirror flat. Of course, it’s an expensive mirror with an expensive motor, and one day my efforts will make that motor fail. Sometimes I brush against the side, just casually. And if I have my jeans on with their brass rivets, how is it my fault if little scratches appear? I have to be careful because all the nosy-Parkers around here have CCTV.

    Did I tell you about that Kevin at work? Eighteen months he’s been in new-accounts and they give him a promotion assessment on his report. Eighteen months! I’ve been there Eighteen years. I’m an expert. I can do that job in my sleep, in half the time it takes him. Don’t get too cocky, I told him, Don’t ride for a fall. You’ve been here eighteen months, I said, I’ve been here ten times as long. And do you know what he said? He smiled and he said Twelve times, Brian. No idea what he meant, but I went along with it. Didn’t want the smug little idiot think he’d got one over on me. He’ll come a cropper, that one. You mark my words.

    I have some good wine for the weekend. I paid a lot for it so it ought to be good. I’m quite knowledgeable about wine these days. I always drink French wine – that’s the best wine. And I can tell you what regions use what grapes. Appellations they call them, the regions where they make wine. I had to laugh. That Mazy from refunds was over for dinner with her husband Frank. So I asked what she’d like to drink, and she said dry white. So I said, I have a Sauvignon, or if you want something fruiter, a Pinot Grigio. You’ll never guess. She goes whatever’s open as if I have open bottles lying around the place. Unbelievable.

    If you don’t mind me saying, you’re looking a little uncomfortable. I hope I haven’t offended. Maybe it’s too hot. I can open the doors. They slide right open. It’s important to be comfortable, I think – at home in your skin as they say.

    Myself, I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.



    One week left to get your comp entry in!


    I’ve composed mine. I just haven’t written it down yet…


    398 words including title

    Fate and Soul

    The house in South Kensington wore fresh white stucco and stood in a terrace of frontages all the same. On a colour chart the paint could have been named Anonymity.

    Melissa climbed the front steps. Beneath the pillared porch she tapped a code into the key pad and sensed passers-by lingering. She knew they’d be wondering who she was and if they recognised her. Fate had given her the looks to go from middle-class Devon to the cover of British Vogue. During the seconds she stood there – today in a coat by Stella McCartney – the strangers decided they didn’t know her and none were a nuisance. She could live on her and her husband’s money in peace. No need at all, really, to question whether this was the fate she wanted.

    Indoors, the house was most likeable when it was quiet and free of people. Her husband, a singer, was away in Japan on a tour that had started in Glastonbury and the O2. His producer, sound and lighting engineers and everyone else had gone with him.

    Downstairs in the kitchen, which covered all the basement, Melissa made a latcha matte with coconut milk. Sitting on a high stool, she began to drink. The middle-class part of her was self-conscious. A good but ordinary tea with ordinary milk would have done just as well. Recently, she’d had this feeling of detachment and had begun to revert to the beliefs of her parents. The disconnection, some sort of floating to another place, was increasing but it was hard to tell what was happening.

    That lunch time, in the West End, she’d walked into Wigmore Hall – her first ever visit – on an impulse to hear something different. The small Victorian venue, with a vase of flowers on a pedestal on the stage, had been alarming. The performance was going to be old-fashioned and dreary. A string quartet started to play Janáček. The music pressed around her; drama and layers of mystery, some threatening, others playful, pulled her along. Her soul had shifted and been piqued.

    In the kitchen, she continued to think. Her lucky life: it had been down to chance, with little mastery of it from her. The music had seemed to say as much. But her soul: that could view experience however she wished. If anything went wrong, a determined soul could endure the storm.


    A last reminder to anyone who wants to take part.


    I’ve read them all and am completely stumped as to which to choose. Will have to sleep on it. Being as I’m having so much trouble, I am open to bribes… 😬


    Thanks everyone for taking part. These were all such great pieces its been incredibly hard to decide on a winner, so a few brief thoughts on them:

    Baz – This one gave me a real prickle. Loved the feel those open ended questions gave it, and the ending is as if you’re slamming a door.

    John – Bravo. Love the message in the last line of the first verse and what it leads to. And the couplet is masterfully woven in in the closing lines.

    Squidge – a little bit of Dystopian/fantasy feel, but could so easily apply to lots of our own history as well as places today.

    Sandra – This was a surprise after reading the first three. You’ve taken the words and turned them on their head. And I found myself nodding at your hard pragmatism. You’ve stripped out the poetry and replaced them with thought provoking reality which is hard to ignore.

    Janette – A heart tugging look at the cost of belief and the choosing to take control of the final ending.

    Athelstone – Wonderful voice, as ever. I could hear this person loud and clear having a right gripe about everyone. Put a smile on my face.

    Libby – Loved that line ‘On a colour chart the paint could have been named Anonymity’. A lovely internalized look at the roles of fate and luck versus mastery and soul.

    I’ve slept on these, taken another read, um and ahhed some more, but a choice has to be made.

    Winner: Squidge
    Honourable mentions: Baz & John

    Thanks again all for taking part and over to you @Squidge.


    Congratulations, Squidge. What a powerful story. And congratulations also to Baz and John.

    Many thanks, Kate, for setting the competition. It pushed me hard, and I think from some of the comments I wasn’t the only one racking my brain in an enjoyable way!

    John S Alty

    Thanks Kate, good comp.


    Well done Squidge, and thanks Kate for the challenge – much appreciated, and all entries enjoyed, as ever.


    Flip! Thank you! Only popped in here cos I had a spare two minutes!

    Give me til tonight, and I’ll think of something for you all to dig your teeth into…

    Baz Baron

    Well done, @Squidge, great entry and well-done everyone it’s always good to read fresh stories from random prompts in order to find out how others’ cell receptors work (lol).

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