Off the Rails


Off the Rails

Manners. That’s what this lot need. That, and throwing in front of me.

It’s not as though I can kick ’em.

Basic train manners. Surely that’s not too much to ask? That and what surely is now uncommon sense. Either one would do.

You let the passengers who are getting off the train go first, then you can board me. But, oh no, not this lot. It’s push, push, push. Never mind the kiddies in their push chairs, or the old men with hats, and walking sticks, or the folks with heavy, and/or awkward luggage. And, what do they think I’m going to do? Set off while people are still trying to alight?

Don’t even tempt me.

They’re bass-akwards. Do you like that one? I got it off an American passenger, some 30 years ago. Stereotyped to a T, but at least he recognised good – and bad – manners.

And will they learn to keep their hands to themselves? Will they Stevenson. And those dirty, filthy feet? It’s feet up on any empty seats; noses and fingers on what had been my beautifully shiny windows. As for graffiti, don’t even go there. And for their nasty gobs, oh my George, it was even worst. If it isn’t spit, it’s gum. If it isn’t gum, it’s coffee or tea that misses their mouths. A bumpy ride? On a train? No one could have foreseen that!

I wanted to be a steam train, you know. That’s what I told my Mum and Dad. They would say to me: “Dear little NRV 73964V, what do you want to do when you grow up? “

“A proper train – maybe even a steam engine,” I’d reply. “The sort that’s looked after by real rail enthusiasts, not those sad sacks with their anoraks, and their notebooks, and flasks. No, I want to have real brass fittings, and genuine leather seats. I want to be the sort of train that’s polished, and pampered.

“The sort that’s loved.”

But oh no. Here I am, all grown up, and what am I now? A shitty little two carriage number, who runs back and forth between Donny and Sheffield. The sort that carries talentless graffiti artists, lads with sick all down their football shirts, and hen parties whose ridiculous hairdos could hold whole colonies of nesting spuggies.

But, I’ve got plans. You see, there’s this bridge. If I time it, and angle it just right, there’s a chance I can end it all, and take this miserable lot with me.

Spit gum on my floor, will you?



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The Last Client of the Night

Cosplay Sheila 1960s version

Childhood 1960s Style

The Final Client of the Night

Maggie shifted in her office chair. Some clients were so miserable that the chair, a construction of metal and fake leather, felt like it was actually a thing of sweat and bony torture. It was made even worse because, according to the clock on the wall, it was 17:15: home time. She’d agreed to see Victor after five during a phone conversation in which he almost – so close, so close – had what sounded like a full-on, in bloom, all out panic attack. He had agreed that they would talk about good and not so good coping strategies. Fifteen minutes into Victor’s allotted fifty, and he had just about finished the clinic’s initial paperwork.

Victor passed the completed sheets to Maggie with a smile that made her feel attracted to him, whilst at the same time made her want to climb under the sturdiest piece of furniture in the office – a massive old desk – and hide.

Concentrate, Maggie, she told herself. Victor isn’t the first client to creep you out, and, unless you opt for early retirement, he certainly won’t be the last.

“You’ve put on your form that you suffer from seasonal affective disorder,” said Maggie. “How long have you had SAD?

Victor smiled his creepy smile. “About 20 years.”

“Really? How old were you?”

“Not so old … not so young.”

“But if it started 20 years ago, surely you must have been no older than 10!” Maggie exclaimed.

There was a pause, then Victor said, “I was not so young. I have been told that I look quite young for my age.

And what age would that be? Maggie thought, but didn’t ask. As if he was reading her thoughts, Victor smiled, and said, “I was taught that a gentleman should neither reveal his own age, nor ask a lady to reveal hers.”

I see you’ve put your date and month of birth on the form, but not the year,” said Maggie.

What are years? Once done with, they are largely irrelevant.”

Back to topic, Maggie, she thought.

You’ve done something similar with your address. Do you really live in … “

Maggie stopped. Lots of people couldn’t spell the word “cemetery”.

Seeking safety, Maggie said, “If we can discuss what steps you have taken so far to lessen the impact SAD has had on your life?”

I tried using a SAD lamp but it simply didn’t fit,” said Victor.

It didn’t fit … you didn’t use a object which might have helped you because it didn’t fit with your décor?”

Victor smiled. “When I said the lamp didn’t fit, I meant that literally. My home is very small.”

If it’s too small for a lamp I wonder you can fit anything in it.”

It’s fairly minimalist,” Victor agreed.

So is it a bedsit?” Maggie guessed. “A one bed flat?”

It is a very small underground flat.”


Victor smiled. “Come, now, Margaret. We surely understand each other now.”

I don’t know what you mean,” Maggie lied.

Victor’s voice was smooth as partially melted vanilla ice cream. “A small flat, on Cemetery Road? An underground flat? Dearest Maggie, do I really have to spell it out?”

Maggie said, “I’m not alone, you know. Alice the cleaner is at work in the other rooms. If you … try anything, I’ll scream, and Alice will hear me.”

She would hear you, if she hadn’t died,” Victor replied. “And left the premises.”


Which what?”

Which is true? Alice is dead, or Alice has left the building?”

Victor gave Maggie a toothy smile. “Why, both of course.”

Victor stood up. “She’s. a tasty little morsel. But she was merely a starter, whereas you my dear are destined to be a main course.”

But I ate them!” the man in the clients’ chair wailed.


I had sex with them – all of them!”

Maggie sighed. “So you were hungry, and a bit horny as well. Hey, we all gotta eat.”

She passed the tissue box to her now sobbing client.

They were my family.”

Yadda yadda yadda, … So how long ago was this?”

The man stopped crying long enough to say, “Three weeks. I thought we talked about this when I rang for an appointment.”

Maggie blinked, then said, “You expect me to remember every little detail.? Give me a break. Anyways … “Maggie swivelled her chair til she was facing the clock, “your 50 minutes are up.”

The client snuffled, but headed for the office’s door. Maggie followed him, and showed him the way out. Then she returned to reception, and the young man in the only occupied seat.

The man was dressed all in black, save his red turban. He had a full black beard, and a nervous smile.

Maggie also smiled, a smile so wide it threatened to fall off her face. It was almost seven in the evening, and Maggie was a bit peckish.

She also loved Indian takeaway.

– 30 –



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Existential Llamas on a Train

Gerald C Dalek and I reading The Doncopolitan, Issue 1, together

by Sheila North

“Lo siento mucho,” said Jose, as he apologised to the woman in the next seat, “Soy una llama. Me llamo Jose. ?Como se llama?”

Jose, who was standing in the crowded aisle, was doing his utmost to be polite. For one thing, he figured consuming the sports section of that day’s “Metro” wasn’t a great way to introduce himself, and he didn’t want to get off on the wrong hoof.

Not like that fool, Pedro. Jose watched as his fellow llama ate a colour photo of Andy Murray. The page went into Pedro’s large mouth, and down his long, cream coloured neck.
“Give me that, you stupid alpaca,” a man in a suit said, as he tried to wrestle his newspaper back from Pedro.
“Pardon me sir, but we are not alpacas, we are in fact llamas,” said Jesus.
Jose rolled his dark eyes, and flicked his banana shaped ears. Jesus spoke six languages, unlike
Jose, who could only speak Spanish, and llama, or Pedro, who never talked, when he could eat. Jesus was also a bit of a cabeza de vaca, in Jose’s opinion: a right cow head.
“And what the bejesus are llamas doing on the 07:46 Hull .
via Doncaster?” asked a young woman in the seat opposite the man in the suit.
“My name is Jesus, not bejesus,” said Jesus.
A child wailed three rows down, as Maria con los pies en la luna – Molly for short – looked out the window at Swinton. Jose could tell from the look in Molly’s eyes that she wasn’t right struck on the scenery.
“?No is Peru, eh Mols?” said Jose. Then he paused, as he became aware that the Spanish he was speaking was really quite poor. It was almost as if his words were being written by someone who hadn’t spoken much Spanish in 40 years.
“Hijo de un gran – “ Jose started to exclaim, when a woman two seats over shouted, “Oi, you llama!
I know what you were starting to say, and I’m not right impressed. There are children on this train.”

!”Pero, soy en un crisis existential!” said Jose, looking about the carriage in terror. “Y, no hablo espanol muy bien, que es una trajadia tha knows.” Then he shook himself, as he realised that he had lapsed into a Barnsley accent. Barnsley, for pity’s sake. Jose thought. !Dios mio!”
“And?” said a man in an anorak. “You’re in Yorkshire, it’s not exactly the Queen’s English round here.” He flipped the pages of his Guardian, then looked nervously over at Pedro. The latter had discovered a lost or abandonded paperback on a nearby table, and was currently eating an English translation of Gabriel Garcia Marques’ novel, “Cien Anos de Soledad”.
Molly glanced out the window again, as Mexborough station glided past, then said “Existential, my mother’s tail. Never mind your flippin’ crisis, when’s tea trolly due? I’m parched!”
“!Ay, carumba Mollycita!” Jose replied. “!Tu estas hablando ingles! What’s more, I don’t even know when to use the verb “Ser” or “Estar” for the English “to be”.
Jose hung his long neck in embarrassment, blushing beneath his thick, brown coat.
“And that’s just one of the reasons the British are so crap at languages,” observed a middle-aged .woman in jeans and a “Day of the Dead” t-shirt. “By the way, Molly – it is Molly, isn’t it? – the sandwiches on English trains don’t tend to be very good, although they are better than they were in the 90s.”

Molly blinked, and said, “Ta very much for that particular pearl of wisdom, flower, but I don’t give two flying cow pats what sarnies were like in the 90s. I wasn’t even born until 2012.”
“Never mind the sarnies, Mols,” said Jose. “The real question is, what is a small herd of Peruvian llamas doing on a train to Hull?”
“Sitting down,” Molly replied, as she bullied a young family to the point that they stood up, grabbed their baby and the bag with his nappies and other essentials, and fled the carriage for another, several carriages down.
“That wasn’t very nice,” Jose said.
“Nice, schmice,” said Molly, “and where’s that tea trolly?”
“I think Pedro ate it.”
Molly sighed. “Jesus.”
“?What about him?”
“Not THAT Jesus. I mean the original.”
“?What about him?” Jose repeated
“?Dios mio, Jose, what are you playing at?”
“?Um, cricket?” said Jose nervously.
“?You do know you’re a right arse, don’t you, Jose?”
Jose hung his head in shame.
Molly glanced at the ticket collector, then the bulge of tobacco in her cheek was gone, as she spat in the aisle.
Oh, Mollycita, Jose thought to himself. To the ticket collector, Jose said, “I seem to have misplaced my copy of your free magazine.”
“Lost, or eaten?” the ticket collector said sharply.
Jose didn’t hang his head in shame, partly because his head was already so low, he could have had a
concussion if he did.
“Have you ever had in an existential crisis?” Jose asked the ticket collector.
“Mate, my whole life is one ruddy crisis.”
“Molly: have you ever had an existential crisis?”
“Is this a trick question?” Molly asked suspiciously.
“No,” replied Jose.
“Well, I did get a little pigged off with my hooves.”
“?Because of what exactly?”
“My nail varnish.”
“,Oh,” said Jose. “?May I ask why?”
“Stupid thing didn’t warn me that the varnish wears off,” said Molly. “Look at this. Just look.”
“Thanks Moll,”Jose sighed, so softly that none of the other passengers heard him.
I’m getting nowhere, Jose thought. Might as well eat the Metro someone left on this table, borrow some tobacco from Molly, then lie down and have a nap. My crisis is causing me to question everything. Anyway, I’m a llama. I think, I think I’m a llama. Therefore I AM a llama.”
“?What in the world are you talking about?” asked Molly.
What indeed, thought Jose. He took a battered copy of “El Beso de la Mujer Arana” from his llama man bag, then settled down to read. Things will be better when we get to Hull, he thought.


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Love, Friendship, & London

2000-10-21 15.10.32

Up steeple – St. George’s, Doncaster

My husband tells me I didn’t half stare when I first clapped eyes on St. George’s. Compared to the churches I had seen back home, St George’s is large, impressive, and practically a cathedral, at least as far as looks go. It’s actually a Minster. (1)

“Back home”: which home? I have now lived in England 33 years, compared to 27 years in the states. I have no intentions to move back to America. A visit would be good: I haven’t been back for over seven years.

As far as love is concerned, I can honestly say I love both my countries. Both seem to be following an unfortunate path re. telling citizens to go back to where they came from. (2) Both have leaders who I do  not  trust to do anything save what’s in their own interest: theirs, and their rich friends.

As more and more British friends go on their holidays abroad, I’m pleased to say that we’ll be going to London for a day out some time soon. I love London, but our main purpose is to meet up with an American couple who have been my friends for over 34 years.

I can’t / don’t need to pack anything for a day trip, but I have been doing things like checking my camera is working okay, and – even more important – I know where it is.  Wondering what the weather will be like; we’ve had days of scorching heat, only to be followed by comparatively chilly, rainy days.

Whatever your holidays may be – three weeks in Rome, a fortnight in Greece, or a day trip to the Big Smoke – I wish you safe travelling, and that you enjoy the day(s).






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Slim(ish), 60, and Mad

Hi Mom

Al, close up & personal (& in a tree)

Slim(ish), 60, and Mad

Hi Mom:

Yes, I’m still here, despite myself. Yes, I am (comparatively) slim again, thanks to the Depression Diet, and a lack of appetite. Feeling that I look like myself again: that is, the person I was pre meds.

So, what are you up to? I like to imagine you and Dad messing about & having fun together. Dad, have you taught her how to ride a bicycle yet? How is Taffy the dog? And the cats?

I chose the title, “Slim(ish) , 60, and Mad” because I wrote one titled “Fat , 50,& Mad” a few years back. At the time, both definitions of the word “mad” applied. These days, though, I’m mainly mad in the “box of frogs” sense, not the angry one. I am calm (most of the time), and happy. But not too happy.

Mom, you are a measuring stick of my froggy madness. If the only reference I make to you in a day is to say “Hi, Mom” to the picture of you – with one of our cats – then I’m doing well. If however I keep calling out to you, pleading for you – dead 7 years, and not the most empathetic of people – to somehow help me, it’s safe to say I am up shit creek, sans paddle.

I’m feeling extremely grateful at the moment, after a far too long period of anxiety, & depression. Grateful to the Beloved, for sticking it out & being there for me. Grateful that none of my friends appear to have written me off as too difficult to deal with. Grateful to the cat, whose death was unexpected, and who I still miss very much.

Grateful that I’m still alive, and that – here comes my vanity – I lost that weight. Please note, I am not suggesting that anyone try out the depression diet. Weight loss was the silver lining in some of the dark clouds which kept following me.

I’m using a new (to me) way of dealing with the three chattering monkeys of death, depression, & that old wheeze, anxiety. One day I need to devote the blog to what works for me & what doesn’t.

For now, once again it is writing, and the Beloved, who pulled me out of the bog of anxiety. I’m happy, but not too happy. I hope you smile as you read this. You have such a lovely smile.

Love you Mom,


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