A Network of Writing and Community Publishers

December 2017



X Navidad

Hoy en esta tarde en el mes de diciembre en la Casa de Wall Street
Gozan con un trago de champaña
Y saludando el regalo de la vida
Que su amigo se entregó
Por las lágrimas del pueblo
Nuestra bandera de amor
La miseria a un dīa y otra vez
Con Navidad para los ricos
Sin un cariño para los pobres
Vamos a reclamar el espíritu de humanidad en este tiempo
Escuchen, mi Hermana y mi hermano mío
Vivimos con el vampire y la mano de hielo
En este día sin el sol
Caminando con una luz
Cerca del Río de Muscoot
En la manera del pueblo
Pa’ despertar pa’` paz, justicia, con alma en harmonía
Y una palabra que yo he escrito sin escribir una palabra
Sigue p’alante

Today on this afternoon in the month of December at the House of Wall Street
They enjoy a drink of champagne
And greeting the gift of life
That their friend gave to them
For the tears of the people
Our love flag
The misery in a day and again
With Christmas for the rich
Without a love for the poor
We are going to claim the spirit of humanity in this time
Listen, my sister and my brother mine
We live with the vampire and the hand of ice
On this day without the sun
Walking with a light
Near the Muscoot River
In the way of the people
To awaken for peace, justice, with soul in harmony
And a word that I have written without writing a word
Go forward

© Carlos Raúl Dufflar 12/29/17
The Bread is Rising Poetry Collective 


Christmas without

It was bleak and cold on the promenade. The strong wind was whipping round me as I walked in the driving rain rather than the snow we all anticipate but never see at Christmas. I walked to the far end of the promenade but decided to go no further as the gale was hurling heavy spray over the sea wall, turned to walk back.

I had brought all the Christmas cards with me, unopened, having decided to give myself something to do after the Christmas Day lunch. I planned to entertain myself with opening them while the other guests were watching some inane Christmas show on the television. I can’t bear Christmas television with its vacuous comedy shows and saccharine films, not that I watch much television any other time.

I’d had my breakfast early, as soon as it was available. I did this partly because I was awake, but also there were no other guests in the dining room. This left a huge void to fill before the festive main meal at one, which is why I thought a walk out, despite the weather, would be beneficial, blow the cobwebs away so to speak. I had decided to forego the morning coffee, having discovered at dinner last night that I would spend the whole time explaining why I was on my own.

We had booked this hotel for a Christmas break when Margery was becoming more unwell. It was clear she would not be up to cooking a large Christmas meal, and I thought it would be a nice treat for her on our last Christmas together. I had booked the whole package, arriving the day before Christmas Eve and staying right through to New Year’s Day. We would sit around together, in the suite I had booked so Marge would not be disturbed in bed when I needed to be up and about. She was sleeping a lot now, and when she wasn’t she spent a lot of time in bed, often just getting up for a main meal and a couple of hours sitting out before returning to bed. The suite also meant we could sit together and choose our own films from Netflix, instead of being stuck with whatever had been selected in the hotel television lounge.

It would not be the same as our normal Christmas with the children. Not that Colin and Rebecca were children any more, now coming every year with their spouses and own offspring, excited at visiting Grandma and Grandpa, and eating too much of all sorts of things they never got at home. Chocolates were a no-no as we felt they received too many from other sources, but they loved our home-made fudge and halva, and all the different savoury things we offered like smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels, and goose instead of turkey with its rich prune and apple stuffing and goose fat roasties, and of course never those beastly Brussels sprouts but what we called fun veg, as mixture of all sorts of things like squash and sweet potato and parsnips and baby carrots and tiny onions and sliced romano peppers. The grand children loved these, I think mainly because most of them were not identifiable, but calling it fun veg helped a lot, as well as the small pieces into which everything was cut. We also laid on a variety of, to them, exotic soft drinks to wean them off the ubiquitous Coca Cola.

What we were unable to plan for was Marge dying five days before we were due to leave home. Too late for a funeral before the New Year, and what was I going to do instead? Both Colin and Rebecca invited me to spend Christmas with them, but I didn’t feel like it. Maybe I would join one of them next year, but in the meantime I thought I would prefer the company of complete strangers, which as I mentioned earlier, turned out to be a mistake.

I arrived back in time for the pre-Christmas dinner cocktails, or champagne if you preferred, that was all part of the package. I declined both, opting for a soft drink. Strangers were milling around, already well lubricated and loud and full of inconsequential chatter, and inflicting it on anyone who would listen. Despite trying to stay on my own a woman with an Essex accent approached me, husband in tow.

“Here on your own?” she asked.


“How sad. Would you like to play charades after lunch? Or there’ll be a quiz and we’d love to have you on our team.”

I did not want to give an outright refusal, so I opted for, “Perhaps. I’ll see how I feel.”

“Wife doing something that doesn’t include you?”

I did not want to explain, so I said, “Something like that. Would you excuse me, I just need the toilet before we all sit down to eat.” I went in the direction of the gents which I did not need, as I always made a point of being sure I arrived at any kind of do without needing to slip away as soon as I arrived.

The meal was awful. The food wasn’t bad, but the turkey was hardly one of the best. I declined the sprouts but took more than I should of the stuffing which seemed to have received only a passing nod from some chestnuts. The Christmas pudding was high on suet and low on fruit, and the custard was made with powder rather than eggs. The coffee tasted bitter from sitting around both too long and too hot.

I went up to my suite and, with a Netflix film on, opened the Christmas cards. I soon realised this was a mistake. They were all addressed to both Marge and me. I was also left wondering why so many seasonal cards featured snow, something very rare at Christmas in this country.

Leaving the film on, I picked up the next detective story from my stack of fiction and settled down to read my way through until time for afternoon tea.

Putting the book aside, I pondered facing the crowd of strangers over afternoon tea or making some in my room. I opted for the room, thinking that the last thing I wanted to fend off the loneliness was company.

John Malcomson


In days of old,
When I was young
The end of the 70s
I found a large computer
In Sussex University
When on an adult education course.
I was surprised, I never knew
Time would fly by
and I would become
a great communicator,
So easy to make contact
all over the world
and so quickly.
I love Christmas,
Especially, Facebook,
If used correctly
Music, oh, how I love music.
You can hear, see, and sing
along with
the shows you see,
The sound of different languages
The deaf sound,
The sound to the blind,
Partially sighted.
Oh how the sound of
Christmas brings
alive the spirit within you,
Christmas trees, colour,
It brightens my world -
Oh how lovely -
Happy New Year
To all around the world
2018 here we come

(C) Josie Lawson
All Rights Reserved


Finding Christmas
(an alternative Christmas story)

The cold had wrought the world almost to a standstill, all save for the faraway churn of the lorries pushing on through the brown slush where once lay fresh snow.

The air itself was frosty, shocking the back of my throat as I walked to the station. It was Christmas Eve and I’d just finished a long shift at the arcade, handing out hospital green cups of tea to elderly ladies who spent just enough coins to justify sitting in the warm, usually arriving just in time to avail themselves of the free daily buffet.

I was dreading getting home. I knew there would be an atmosphere. There always was recently, though it was no consolation.

It was to be Mum’s last Christmas. And Dad was ever so jealous of the attention. Rum soaked and sour smelling, he wasn’t used to sharing the limelight, so he upped the ante. The whole house felt tense, like it didn’t dare breathe.

I had twenty minutes to wait until the last train, and the station looked brightly deserted, an empty whistling chasm waiting along with me.

I was 21, and not ready to face the cold. I drew my leather jacket tighter and the first notes of panic crept in at the back of my mind. It was so quiet, and so cold. I knew there were ne’er do wells who would hang around the station, I’d heard the stories of drug addled men who would stab you with a needle if you so much as looked at them. I scanned the platform and stairs for anybody coming.

Before long I did hear footsteps. I studied the rails as they grew closer, and closer still, quick and purposeful. I looked up warily to see a short man with ginger close cropped curly hair striding towards me with a bouncing gait, a second, taller man dressed in bruise colours drifting slowly like an unsteady spectre behind him.

The short man had twinkling blue eyes with dark circles underneath, and a wide Cheshire Cat smile.

“Don’t come over, don’t come over” I prayed under my breath.

“Alright sweetheart?” Ginger extended a wide Cheshire Cat smile and planted his feet next to me. “Merry Christmas! Going anywhere nice?”

“Just home” I smiled tightly. I tried to look unapproachable. I could see his friend had settled leaning against a wall, precariously upright, eyelids fluttering closed, a sleepwalker. A curious motion of his arm repeatedly missed his slack mouth with the butt of his cigarette.

Cheshire Cat loomed close and raised his eyebrows at me earnestly. “You want to be careful round here, there are some real weirdo’s about. But don’t worry, I’ll keep you safe. Back in a sec.” He called to his friend “Hey, Pony” and they disappeared into the engulfing blackness at the very end of the platform.

I groped in my bag and stuffed my purse into my coat pocket, gripping it tight. Five minutes to go, hopefully they wouldn’t come back. I willed the train to come faster. My fingers and toes were numb, teeth starting to chatter involuntarily.

More footsteps approached, and a tall man carrying a large television appeared at my side. He smiled cheerfully at me and put it down at his feet, panting great plumes of steam into the frigid night air. “For the kids, for Christmas” he nodded at the tv. I smiled back, thankful for his presence. Two minutes.

We made halting small talk, made difficult through the shivering. He was funny, and despite everything I found myself laughing. Finally it was 10.20pm, time for the last train. The announcement boards were black so we just gazed into the darkness, waiting for the rumbling stuttering rush of lights and muddy green paintwork of the train. It didn’t happen.

Instead there was a shuffling from the shadows as Cheshire Cat and Pony came back. Pony was even slower now, and swayed like a sapling in the wind as he was led to a bench. I saw his eyes roll back in his head, but Cheshire just laughed and gave him an affectionate tap on his hollow cheek, before reeling around to where I stood. He scowled at the newcomer, and asked me if I was ok. “I’m fine, I’m getting a bit worried about this train though. I’m freezing.”

Cheshire considered this, and said he had an idea. Behind him, Pony slowly folded forward like a deckchair, and from his pocket rolled a syringe, to settle before him. He began to slide further still until Cheshire ran over and pushed him up. I looked away, it was shocking. I thought I recognised them from the arcade, though I hadn’t been there long. I wondered if my purse had my nail marks in the leather.

He came back with a lit joint, and took a deep puff before beaming widely and offering it round. “Ladies first!” he blew out the heavy, curling cloud of sweet smelling smoke around me. I declined with a smile and he seemed disappointed. The man next to me hesitated, then took a deep drag and let his shoulders drop.

Then I remembered something. I went in my bag and pulled out the bottle of whisky I had bought for my uncle’s Christmas present. “I have this!” I blurted. A small cheer went up, and even stirred Pony who joined in, a beautiful smile on his long face. Cheshire slapped me on the back and said “Yes, my girl! Now it’s a party, eh?”

He beckoned us over to the bench where Pony was sitting, and hopped up to sit on the back of it, so we followed. It was a little more sheltered from the bitter wind and Cheshire Cat seemed to have found some common ground with TV man, they were laughing. Pony came round a bit and revealed a quiet Irish accent and a dry sense of humour which had us all in stitches. I took a burning swig of the whisky, and another, then, fighting the urge to cough, passed it to shivering TV man, who drank gratefully and passed it on.

I felt warmth spread down my throat and settle in my belly. I sat down on the cold metal bench next to Cheshire Cat who beamed at me with ever more teeth. TV man stood before us like a sentinel, with his hands in his armpits. Cheshire had the gift of the gab alright, he was articulate, quick, he told us joke after joke as he rolled another joint in the fold of his coat without looking.

This time it was passed round, I didn’t decline. The cold shiver that rolled through me was at odds with the burn of the whisky. It went to my head, I felt it rushing through my veins, bursting through synapses and flushing my skin like a flower in bloom. I felt alive, for the first time in years, but it wasn’t the smoke.

The cold was still there but we didn’t feel it. The train was still late but nobody cared any more. Kept warm as we were in this bubble of strange friendship where names didn’t matter.

45 minutes later the train finally rolled in, in a hissing rush a smoke and noise, and a cry of faux anguish went up from the little bench where four friends with no names were brutally wrenched apart by circumstance. The bottle was 3/4 drunk so I left it with the pair on the platform. Pony smiled his sleepy sweet smile, and waved from the bench. TV man hefted the Tv up once more and waddled to the end door, wishing us all a Merry Christmas.

I said goodbye and took the nearest door, with Cheshire at my side. As I turned in the doorway and I heard the guards whistle, Cheshire suddenly leapt up the steps and kissed me. I was so shocked I didn’t move.

“A drink, a smoke, good company and a kiss! What more could anyone want for Christmas?” He beamed, and bowed at me, before jumping back down as the doors slid closed. He waved from the platform, hands red with cold, smile as content as ever.

I stood frozen as the train began to move, trundling homewards. I didn’t know what to feel. Horrified? Violated? I didn’t.

I took my seat, and wondered at myself. Wondered what was wrong with me. Wondered if he was right.

When the train stopped I left my little bubble of warmth and light and Christmas cheer. I was home.

Footnote - written following looking at Aliteration at group meeting.

Anna Billington

Mary Awoke

Lifting her head from the pillow, Mary awoke and looked around the room; he had been again. No, not Santa Claus; Jack Frost, at least that’s what her mum called him – with his amazing shapes, etched on the inside of the window.
This meant one thing, another freezing day lay ahead. Oh, how she wished to be able to snuggle down underneath the bedclothes.

“Mary, come on love, I’ve a nice cup of tea for you”
Three days to go until Christmas Day, but for Mary, this wasn’t a time for fancy dresses and parties.
There was money to be earned, to help mum, buy food for the table.

Mary sat sipping her tea and munching a piece of toast. At twelve years of age, she was the middle one of three girls. It wasn’t Dad’s fault money was tight. He always worked when he could, but constant illness always plagued him.

‘Ah well’ Mary sighed. ‘I had better get dressed. At least one luxury was to be able to dress in front of the fire. “Don’t forget your liberty bodice, it will be cold in that shop today” her mum called out from the kitchen.

Mary hated the silly rubber buttons, which when washed, became soft and sticky and fumbling with little fingers, it took ages to do them up.

‘I’m off now’ Mary shouted, over her shoulder.
“Okay love. I’ll bring you something to eat at lunchtime”

Her workplace was a scruffy little green-grocer’s, called ‘Charlie’s’. Rabbits and chickens, hung from hooks on the walls, and boxes of fruit and vegetables spilled out onto the pavement. A year ago, standing in the shop with her mum, Mary was fascinated, watching him ripping the skin off a rabbit. Charlie noticed her looking.

“How old’s your girl Norah?”
“This one, she’s eleven”
“Well, how about I give her a job and show her the trade?”
“I don’t know” Said Mary’s mum. “It’s not nice for a little girl”.
“She’ll earn well, once she has learned to gut the chickens and rabbits. I will give her sixpence for each one. How about giving it a try young lady?”
‘Okay, Mary replied. They agreed she could start next Saturday at 9 o clock.

So that is how it started. Mary’s first day was quite hard. By the end her hands were numb with cold and she had so many cuts and scratches, but going home with a ten bob note, was like a fortune!

Now as Christmas approached, the chickens were replaced with turkeys and for each one Mary was given a shilling.

Some of them were so heavy, Mary could hardly lift them and she would go home exhausted. With three days to go till Christmas, her day would start at eight until nine at night. Mum always came at nine to see what vegetables Charlie had left. Mary was pleased to see he was always good to her. They often had bruised apples and scraggy cabbage at home.

Mary knew, her mum felt sorry for her, but was happy to be earning a few bob; getting so much pleasure by being able to buy a few presents.

Christmas Eve arrived and Mary was starting to worry, it was getting late and she was still working. What if Santa Claus comes before I get home, she thought. Charlie looked around and must have seen the pleading in her eyes.

“Come on girl, I think you have done enough. You have really worked hard, time to go home; and give this to your mum”

It was the last turkey she had done. Mary ran home.

“Mum, mum, look at what I’ve got!” Her eyes lit up.
“Can we have a real Christmas dinner, with proper vegetables?”
“Yes, my love, it will be the best and I have another surprise for you. Your dad is home from hospital, we will be a proper family”

Mary was so excited, when it was time for bed. She thought she would never sleep; but she knew that Santa Claus wouldn’t come if she kept her eyes open.
At the end of her bed, hung a pillowcase and a stocking and Mary was sure Santa would come, as she had been very good.

Despite her excitement, Mary fell into a deep sleep.
As a chink of light peeped through the curtains, her eyes flew wide open, anxiously looking to the foot of the bed. They are still there, but now they are full of presents! Mary’s two sisters came running in.

“He’s been! Santa’s been!”

Mary thought to herself. ‘I am not sure where Santa gets the money to buy all the children’s Christmas presents. Perhaps he works in a shop like me’?

All three girls, rushed to mum “can we open our presents please!?” Mum smiling said
“let me have a cup of tea first, your dad just gone down to make a pot of tea and light the fires.”

Mary smiled, she loved Christmas.

Pauline Faulkner


Artwork by John Joseph Sheehy




John Joseph Sheehy

Soaring Voices

A weakened sun lightly fingers the early morn
Christmas wakes
Heralding the celebration, a saviour is born
For our sakes.

Through the darkened sky, a glittering star breaks
For his birth
Frankincense, gold and myrrh are a kings keepsakes
In his worth.

Messages ripple across the breadth of the earth
Peace fulfil
Spreading the Gospel with merriment and mirth
In goodwill.

Faith in the wondrous creator this babe doth instil;
Joy partakes,
With beautiful soaring voices, praising God’s will
Christmas awakes.

Jan Hedger


What does December mean?
The end of the year is coming nigh
A new year about to begin
But-children getting excited
As Santa getting ready to call
Maybe even great TV shows they will enjoy-
What does December mean?
The thought of a great feast of food
And family time to spend together
This is December-
2018 will be our next year
Hopefully with joy, wonder and happiness
And of course

(C) Josie Lawson
All Rights Reserved


Cannot believe
As others I am sure
Christmas decorations shine bright with joy
In homes , the street,
In hearts that cry-
Please help the homeless
That cannot believe
They are on the street
Why should they be?
When the government
Have much in the pot-
That they spend-
On things unnecessary
Like their expenses.
At least this is how the media
Helps you believe...

(C) Josie Lawson
All Rights Reserved


I now know why
Forever and a day
1 and 1/2 litres only
Including a water pill
To help my lungs and heart from
Filling with fluid again
This is an understanding
Bit difficult though
1 and 1/2 litres of bottles
But also a Pyrex jug with
Good sighted measures on it.
Then the bottle will be good
To measure the cold drink,
And the Pyrex for the hot
So, I now know why!
I suppose at Christmas
It will have to be water -

(C) Josie Lawson
All Rights Reserved

Christmas Days In London

England bringing on The Christmas
Oxford street ablaze lights magical spirit
Coming in Tottenham Court Road
Ah Carnanby Street Silent Night Holy Night fairy lights
Norway crowns Leister Square
Cards good wishes presents donations flow
Crisis Christmas shelters
The organ carols the crib Jesus
England bringing on the Christmas
Mysletoe Holly berries Ivy green
Tradional Christmas pudding laced in Brandy flame custard
Minced minced pies aftereights cake
Robin Red Breast
Snow may call
Pantomime and Santa lights the heart
England Bringing on Christmas

John Joseph Sheehy


Visit TheFED GroupSpace
Community Web Kit provided free by BT