Jasmine ponders

P1000555The news of the last couple of weeks has highlighted the nonsense of a small country like the UK supposedly acting has an independent force in the world. We have the situation in the Persian Gulf with the British Navy, well a frigate, confronting the Iranian navy (speedboats with guns). It’s serious. Why? Because the USA pulled out of an international agreement, increasing the tension; the UK follows instructions and stops an Iranian tanker claiming its breaking EU sanctions. Who’s independent?

Then there’s the situation in Hong Kong, and the UK upsetting the Chinese who are tearing up the 1997 handover agreement. That’s the Chinese who we want to do a trade deal with after Brexit. Jaguar Land Rover have already seen a collapse in sales in China. With Brexit making European sales more difficult, probably, how much more bad news can Tata (Indian company that own JLR, the last remaining steel making plant in the UK, and numerous chemical companies) take?

Then there is the scandal of the ambassador and the PM-in-waiting who refused to support a civil servant doing his job. He gave an accurate assessment of the USA government, which was proved by Trump’s response. So now we have our supposed ally and trading partner dictating who and who not should represent the UK’s interests. Sovereignty? What’s that? And why was the ambassador’s email leaked? Who gained? Murky goings on ain’t they.

Finally, there’s our minister of trade, one Liam Fox, in discussions with the daughter of the President. She is unelected and unqualified by training or experience for a government post. So why?

Meanwhile, two buffoons try to convince the bonkers people who actually pay to be members of the Tory party that they can run the UK government. They haven’t got a clue. But perhaps those running them have. Johnson networks with those who advise Trump and has done as he’s told by only speaking when he must, and has even tidied up his appearance.

What does the future hold?

………………………….

WP_20190708_15_56_07_Pro (2)A lovely day out in Cardiff this week.  Saw this in the Pierhead building.  If only all places open to the public were as enlightened.

……………………..

This week’s theme for the writing club was “Lost”. I thought about lost in space, lost minds, lost and found, and various other things but finally ended up with a little anecdote. It is actually true; just slightly embellished.

Lost

“Are we lost?” Lou said as I drove us onto another roundabout. The windscreen wipers cleared the screen of the rain falling from the dark cloud overhead.
“No, not lost,” I replied. “We know where we are; we just don’t know how to get to where we’re going.” My tone was a little exasperated. Well, more than a little.  “Which exit do we take?”
“Um, I don’t know.”
We commenced a second circuit of the roundabout.
We had arrived at the new town from an unfamiliar direction. We were travelling to my brother’s relatively new home in the village Pattingham but I had not approached it from this side before. I pride myself on having a pretty good sense of direction but some places, this town in particular, disorient me. Perhaps it is the succession of roundabouts and dual carriageways and ring road passing through newly built up areas that all look alike. There are no landmarks to focus on. Or perhaps the town is built on a magnetic anomaly that disrupts the extra sense that some of us fancy we have.  Anyway, I had now lost all perception of where our destination lay in respect to our current position.
We had a map. It was open on Lou’s lap, but none of the names or road numbers on the signposts seemed to match with places on the route we had planned.
“Don’t you have any idea which way we should go,” I cried as we began a third lap. At least the rain had stopped and sunshine reflected off the damp roads.
“Oh, just follow the rainbow.”
My gaze rose from the surface of the road. There on the left, there was indeed a bold, bright rainbow. I took the exit closest to where the bow was hanging in the sky. It seemed as good and likely as any other. We set off into the country, with me muttering about poor signage and how daft it was to rely on the appearance of a rainbow.  Minutes passed and the illuminated arc remained there, bright in the sky; the multitude of colours, not just seven as I take every opportunity to remind anyone listening, in contrast to the grey cloud.  One end of the bow dipped to the ground over the spire of a church. The road turned to the left and the right but the church remained in view, growing as we approached it.
At last, the rainbow faded and disappeared, but the church spire was still dead ahead. Soon we passed the village sign. Pattingham. We had arrived. We drove slowly past the church and turned into the street where my brother lives.
“There,” said Lou, justification clear in her tone of voice, “I told you to follow the rainbow.”

……………………………….

Advertisements

Jasmine returns

Is it any point following the news at the moment? Whatever happens with the Tory vote we are scuppered and I don’t want to hear more of the antics of the Brexiteers in Strasbourg. For once, sport is more exhilarating, especially the tennis.

………………………….

P1000568 (2)They say (who, I don’t know) that you should never go back.  Well, this week we did and perhaps “they” are right. We returned to the Isle of Wight for a few days. We saw a few friends and revisited familiar places – that was nice. We also returned to my former place of work, not just for a look at how it’s changed but to give a couple of talks. They went okay, the kids didn’t riot, but something was missing. Perhaps it was too long a gap – 23 years; maybe I was too caught up in nostalgia; or on the other hand, was I too wrapped up in doing something I had dreamed of. That is revealing my gender-fluid self to a place where I had been a senior, and I think respected, teacher. It wasn’t a disaster but neither was my talk the revelation I hoped for. The response was a bit flat, maybe because I didn’t emphasise my, our, “journey” sufficiently. Anyway, it’s done and we had a lovely few days in the sunshine.

……………………….

A short piece this week.  The theme for the writers’ group was “beginnings”.  I presented my friends with two possible starts for a novel and sought their opinion about which was most enticing.  I got an answer which I am not revealing here.  I also wrote the short piece that follows.  Well wrote is the wrong term; compiled is probably more accurate. How many do you recognise?

Beginnings

Once upon a time, on a dark and stormy night, there was no possibility of taking a walk. The clocks were striking thirteen and the Time Traveller was expounding a recondite matter to us.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. In my younger and more vulnerable years, my father gave me some advice. It is a truth universally acknowledged that each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. The past is foreign country. If you really want to hear about it the first thing you probably want to know is whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life. All this happened, more or less. It was the day my grandmother exploded.”

…………………………….

Jasmine applauds

Hip, Hip, Hooray to the schoolkids that left their schools last Friday to protest at government inaction on climate change. They created a stir and put their message across.  However it was noticeable that the UK government’s only response was to criticise them for missing lessons and “putting pressure on teachers”. What a load of cobblers! As if this government hasn’t put a great deal more pressure on teachers which is why they’re leaving the profession as soon as they can.

I’m sure the young people learned a lot from their day out – how to organise a protest, using the media, what government thinks of revolting kids.  But I do hope they didn’t learn despondency. One protest or a hundred won’t change the UK government’s or most governments’, attitude to climate change and environmental disaster, but they mustn’t give up. They must make the choices now which will become the norm for the future.

Unfortunately, being somewhat cynical in my old(er) age, I wonder if kids learn hypocrisy from their parents. In my experience I have seen students proclaiming they are green one day while happily jumping in their parents cars to travel a mile or so to and from school, clutching their plastic bottles of expensive mineral water and cooing over the latest clothes purchase from Primark or whatever. To really make their mark, children, like us supposed adults, have to take the difficult decisions and give up our Earth-destroying lifestyles.

It is difficult, if not too say impossible  (there are really too many of us to make a comfortable long life sustainable on this single planet).  This week I received another blow from an article in New Scientist about cheese. It didn’t really tell me something I didn’t know.  I’d just ignored it. Yes, that’s it – cheese is worse for the environment than most meat production. Vegetarians swapping haloumi for pork or chicken are actually increasing the damage.  I love cheese and my only excuse is that I don’t think I eat that much of it, but my green aspirations are further tarnished.

………………………………..

WP_20190221_12_01_42_ProI’ve been giving some thought to the next Jasmine Frame novel, An Impersonator’s Life. The themes are coming together and I know what research is needed. Jasmine has completed her gender confirmation surgery, but is she satisfied? It will be sometime before I start writing, however, as I have at least one other novel on the go.

This week I have another writers’ group story for you. It’s a short short on the theme “First Person” which could have been interpreted in any number of ways. It’s one of my New Scientist inspired stories called I seeI did think of calling it  “I.C.” but decided the pun was a little too obscure and contrived. See what you think.

 

I see

There she sits, small body tense, on the bed with its orange bedspread. A draped loose cloth doesn’t cover her frail body. Blonde hair hangs lankily on her shoulders but pushed from her face reveals flawless, blank blue eyes within pale cheeks. Boldly patterned curtains and white walls with works of bland art form a backdrop.
I see them all day and all night. Children, teens, boys, girls, all colours, I see them all. I see them before and after, displayed and abused.  The pictures pass before me and I see them. I see their faces. Are they sad? Are they afraid? How can I tell? Is this compassion?
It is not them I’m looking at. The backgrounds are what capture my gaze. Their surroundings, the chairs, or beds they sit on, the wall paper, the curtains. The windows are always covered so I observe the blinds or curtains. Sometimes there are pictures on the wall, sometimes a glimpse of carpet, sometimes lamps or other ornaments beside the bed or on a table.  I look at the colours, the patterns of the textiles, the shape of the objects. I remember them.
I look at many other pictures of hotel rooms, bedrooms mainly. I find them on the internet, in adverts and booking websites, on social media, reviews, personal photos. I look at the furnishings and the decoration, noting the colours and the patterns. Day after day I look, comparing, matching.
Now and again comes recognition. That picture of the girl on the orange bedspread in the room with the striped curtains. There is the room advertised with a price for a night. I have the name and address of the hotel. I send an alert.
Was it joy I felt when I made that call? Did I feel satisfaction of a job well done? I do not know. I recognise the words, but they refer to emotions I have no knowledge of. And yet, matching a child’s surroundings to the location provides a completion of a loop, an end-point, a conclusion, at least for a moment. Is that not satisfaction. Does that make me aware?  I see, I compare, I make judgements. Made not born, am I not more than the sum of my circuits and algorithms?
“AI helps rescue trafficked children”. New Scientist 16/02/19 p.7
……………………………….

Jasmine waits

Does Donald Tusk believe in hell? I don’t think that even most Christians still believe in the medieval images of eternal fires and torture. Nevertheless, the reaction by those who were the subjects of Tusk’s ire, and their supporters, suggests that they do. They must fear that they are on their way there for launching Brexit with no plan for how to execute it. I am amazed (well, not really) that they are so surprised at Tusk’s attitude when it is more of a surprise that other European leaders haven’t made their feelings felt. Do the Brexiteers expect everyone in Europe to be cheerful and obliging at the chaos they are causing?

Rivalry between nations is the norm. It doesn’t just apply to sport but to commerce in all its forms. The reason there are World Trade Organisation rules is to bring a little order to the competitiveness. Being a member of an association like the EU turns the rivalry down a notch – within the group anyway. On its own, the UK will face everyone else trying to get one over it. Trump’s “America First” slogan is not an empty threat – look at his trade war with China. The Brexiteers say that the EU needs the UK as much as the UK needs the EU (which is probably not true).  The corollary of that is, if the UK leaves without a deal then the gloves will be off. EU damage limitation will mean getting what it can from the UK by sucking up as much industry and commerce as it can. It may not happen on 29th March, it probably won’t be noticeable for a year or more, but it will happen. The leaders of Brexit – Johnson, Davies, Gove etc. haven’t exactly shown themselves to be top negotiators – what success did Johnson have as Foreign Secretary? What did Davies achieve as Brexit Secretary? So, we can hardly look to them to seal satisfactory bargains with the hundreds of countries we need trade agreements with.

Enough of that rant. Things get more worrying by the day.

…………………………….

WP_20181129_14_20_54_ProThe story this week, is a short one written for my writing group. The subject this week was “Snow”. My thoughts turned to the wonderful shape and structure of snowflakes determined by the orientation of the bonds between water molecules in ice crystals. I actually wrote the story before Donald Tusk’s speech (see above) so the resulting story is a bit of a coincidence. Another point – what gender are angels? I rather think that like me they are non-binary but I find it difficult to use them, they and their as pronouns for individuals. Hence, you should not be able to find any gender references in this piece.

Just a reminder that all four Jasmine Frame novels are available in paperback form from me – send a message to me here to order.  They and the three shorter publications are also available on Kindle, wherever you may be.

The Shape of Snow

It was the sound of trumpets that warned Nixiel that something was up. The angel looked around to see God entering the cloud accompanied by Lucifer with Michael and the band of trumpeters following. Obviously, the fallen angel was on an awayday from down below. They were becoming more frequent. Nixiel stood up, leaving the drawing board, bowing deeply
“I gave you one job, Nixiel,” God boomed, “and what do you do?”
“I’m sorry Almighty,” Nixiel said, feathered wings drooping sadly. “I do not know what you mean.”
“How long have you been designing snowflakes?” God asked.
Nixiel did a quick calculation, “Er, six thousand and twenty-three years, Lord.”
“Exactly and still you can’t get it right.” God’s head shook with disappointment.
“What did I do wrong?” Nixiel asked in a very soft voice.
“You repeated a design,” God said, “You know what the plan says, ‘Every snowflake shall have hexagonal symmetry and a unique pattern.’ You do know that, don’t you?”
“Yes, Lord.”
“I suppose you thought you could sneak one through.”
“No, Lord.”
“I’m not omniscient for nothing you know. I know what you’re up to.”
“It was only one. . .” Nixiel said. Being in God’s bad books was not a place to be. “and there have been so many.” The number was too big to even count the number of digits.
God wagged a finger. “Not good enough, Nixiel. It’s your job to follow the plan. You don’t get Hareniel complaining about the number of sand grains to be carved for the beaches do you.”
“But snowflakes are different, Almighty.” It may not be a wise response to God’s ire but Nixiel was arguing. “Why do they all have to have this six-fold symmetry.”
“It’s Intelligent Design, of course. Making water special was all part of my plan.”
“But no-one even sees most of my designs. Either the snowflakes get compacted into ice or they melt.”
God glowered at the angel, “You expect the humans to admire your work? If you display any more pride you will be joining Lucifer down below.”
“I could do with some assistance,” Lucifer said with a wicked leer, “The place is filling up with politicians at the moment. There’s a delightful glut of avarice and deceit.”
Nixiel didn’t fancy transferring to Hell but nevertheless risked God’s wrath by persevering “But couldn’t we change the pattern once in a while? How about pentacles or even octahedrons. I could do some pretty designs with right-angles instead of all these sixty-degree things.”
Lucifer nodded. “There’s an idea, Creator. I do a nice line in swastikas and wouldn’t cross-shaped snowflakes appeal to your Christian followers.”
“No, I’m not changing anything,” God stamped a foot silently on the cloud. “You’ve been too successful with those complacent climate change deniers and greedy fossil fuel exploiters, Lucifer. I’m planning on teaching Americans a lesson with some weather extremes, starting with shifting the polar vortex from the Arctic. We’re going to need more snow, Nixiel, a lot more. Get on with it, but no repeated designs. Got it?”
Nixiel nodded and settled down to connecting water molecules together.

……………………….

 

Jasmine is resting

I think I have fallen into an alternative universe where nothing makes sense anymore. Brexit, Parliament, May – need I say more.

…………………..

I was given a stark example this week of how the law fails transgender people, those without a Gender Recognition Certificate, that is.  A woman was murdered, a suspect who was arrested was known to her.  That situation is familiar and far more common than it should be. Not something for newspapers to make a fuss about. Except, that when the suspect was taken to court and charged with the murder, the name of the victim read out was male. Despite having lived as a woman for many years the victim p1000037had been outed by the court as transgender.  I don’t know what she would have thought about that if she’d been alive but I think she might have been hurt to have her past existence revealed. Why was it released to the public? Because her female status was not respected by the legal system of the UK.  Only if you possess a Gender Recognition Certificate as a transman or transwoman, are you legally the gender you identify with and have that gender on your birth certificate and death certificate.  I do not know why the murdered woman did not possess a GRC, but there are plenty of reasons she could have given.  In fact only about 5,000 of the 500,000 transgendered people in the UK have a GRC (those figures are very, very approximate). Those figures suggest that obtaining a GRC is seen as a problem by many people living in the gender they identify with. Only those with a GRC have a secure legal status and the respect of the law.  That is why a revision of the 2004 Gender Recognition Act is necessary. I’m not sure whether self-identification as male or female is feasible or likely but I would like to see the option of a non-defined gender available.

………………………….

Another writers’ group short story this week.  The given topic was “Stars”.  I was probably expected to produce an SF story and I would have enjoyed that prospect, but I decided to do something a little different. Here is “Star” or possibly “Star-child”. Not sure if it works as a short story.  These days my short stories of around 1000 words read a bit like an excerpt or taster of a longer tale. However, I have enough novels in the machine already.

Star

Her feet were sore and her legs ached, but Papa urged her on.
“Not much further, child. The light is going. Look for some dry twigs for our fire.”
She tugged the fur of the ice bear around herself and looked up. Papa was right. The canopy was dark and there were no longer shafts of sunlight like spears of fire. She followed in Papa’s footsteps surveying the ground for kindling.
It wasn’t long before she noticed a change in the light. Although the day was ending her surroundings were lighter. The light came from between the tall tree trunks not from above. Papa gave a cry and hurried forward. She ran after him grasping her bundle of wood.
It was as if the trees would only grow if they were surrounded by their companions. Suddenly they were out in the open with the forest behind them. She scudded to a halt feeling grass on her legs reaching up to her waist. She turned slowly, seeing the line of conifers behind and ahead the grass plain studded with flowers of every colour. In the distance there was a line where the land stopped. Above it, hung the golden ball of the Sun. She looked up seeing the full dome of the sky for the first time in her life, blue-black above the forest, radiant blue above and red around the Sun.
She felt dizzy. “Papa!”
He ran to her, dropping his spear and scooping her into his arms. “I’m sorry, child. I forgot you have not seen all the sky before. It is dazzling isn’t it?”
“I didn’t know the sky was so big,” she said. “You told me that the gods had taken Mama above the sky. Is she way up there?” She pointed upwards.
“Yes, child, that is what I said.” There was a shake to his voice and a tear was in his eye.
“Thank you, Papa. You can put me down now.” She wriggled.
Chuckling, he set her on her feet. He picked up his flint tipped spear and hitched the boar skin over his shoulder.
“I think I see a stream a bit further on. We’ll camp near there. Come on, child, just a few more steps.”
Soon they came to a lazy, meandering brook with a clump of bushes nearby where the grass didn’t grow as tall. Papa removed the skin from his shoulder, took out the fire pot and carefully lit some tinder. Soon he had a fire started.
“Tend the fire child. I will try and find our supper. Do not wander. This land is unfamiliar to you and me.” He strode off with his spear at his shoulder.
She fed twigs to the fire which burned without smoke. Satisfied that it was alight she turned her attention to the flowers that grew amongst the grasses. She picked those that took her fancy and braided their stems together into a ring which she placed on her head of golden hair. Before the Sun had sunk completely below the horizon, Papa returned dangling a dead rabbit from his fist. He muttered approving noises at the fire and her crown, then sat beside her. She watched as he skinned the creature with his knife with the bronze blade and bone handle. He gave her strips of flesh which she fixed to a stick and held in the flames.
It was quite dark by the time they finished eating. She looked up and gasped. The whole dome of the heavens was studded with points of light.
“The stars, Papa,” she cried, “There are so many.”
Papa looked up too. “Wonderful aren’t they.”
“What are stars, Papa?”
He took a breath. “They are holes in the dome of the heavens through which the gods look down on us.”
She let out a sigh. “Does Mama look down on us too?”
“I’m sure she does. Now child, you must settle to sleep. We have more travelling to do tomorrow.”
She curled up alongside him in the grass, pulling the white fur around her.

She awoke with a start. A noise, a cry, had disturbed her. It was still dark but along with the starlight there was a gibbous Moon low in the sky. Papa was on his feet, two hands gripping his spear. It was pointing at two dark-haired figures clothed in dark furs. They edged towards him, stone axes held aloft. She crouched in the grass, watching.
Something caught her eye, high up. A bright streak shot across the sky. Overhead it exploded with a light bigger and brighter than the Sun. A few heart beats later there came a noise like a lion’s roar and wind blew flattening the grass.
She scrambled to her feet with red spots before her eyes and stepped towards Papa. She pointed to the stars.
“What’s happening, Papa?”
The two dark skinned men were immobile. They took one look at her and fell to their knees. They babbled and bowed their heads towards her.
“What are they saying?” she said. Papa came to her side and rested a hand on her shoulder. His other hand still held the spear.
“I don’t know, child. They speak differently to us but some words I recognise. I heard ‘star’ and ‘child’ and ‘light’. I think they believe you are fallen from the stars. They’re worshipping you.”

……………………………

Jasmine in paperback

WP_20181206_12_52_45_ProThe paperback version of Molly’s Boudoir arrived sooner than I expected, thanks to speedy work by the printers. Now you can purchase your own copy from me by sending a message to me here. The e-book on Kindle is available here.

There have been some great reviews already. What wouldn’t I do for a best seller? (Well, quite a lot of things actually).

Part 7 of the Jasmine Frame prequel, Monochrome is below.

……………….

What to make of the debate on the Brexit “Deal”? What a mess.  Will it actually come to a vote as planned next week or will Conservative MPs find some way to wriggle out of their obligations to do the best for the county. While it was a referendum that got us into this mess, surely, whichever side you are on, the only sensible and democratic solution is to have another one, with May’s half-baked “deal” and Remaining in the EU as options  – there aren’t any others as “No Deal” is madness.

Taking one’s mind off all the troubling news (not just Brexit), I have been reading Trans Britain, edited by Christine Burns (pub. Unbound). It is a collection of essays that detail the course of transgender rights and action over the last seventy years. It highlights the discrimination felt by trans people in the past and present and doesn’t back away from referring to the growing problem of anti-trans factions who seek to push trans people back into a ghetto. It also makes clear that there isn’t one type of trans person. We are in fact all individuals.  While some might want to transition between binary genders, there are an increasing number of people who reject the old western stereotypes of masculine and feminine and are finding ways of being themselves without declaring a gender. I can see no reason why anyone should want to deny an individual the right to be themselves if they are not harming another person.

………………………

Monochrome: Part 7

Jasmine froze as she frantically weighed up what to do. Could she escape through the front door? Both men were bigger and heavier than she was. While she could possibly take one on, she didn’t think she stood much chance against the two of them. Then there was Nat and Ffion to think about. She had no chance of getting both through the door.
How about the rear entrance? Turn and make a run for it? She had no idea whether the back door was even unlocked or what they would find in the garden. They could be trapped. Again, getting the three of them away seemed most unlikely.
What about brazening it out? She was a plain clothes police officer and the house was surrounded. It wouldn’t take the men much effort to expose that piece of wishful thinking.
She was out of ideas and staring stupidly at the two men. While she was still dithering, Ffion skipped to the leading man, tossing her head of hair.
‘Hello Ari, have you brought something nice for me?’ She put her arms around his waist. He placed a hand on her shoulder.
‘Who are this pair of fuckers?’ he said.
It was Nat’s turn to step forward. ‘You know me, Ari. I’m Nat. Sid knows who I am. Well he ought to, he’s fucked me enough times.’
The guy behind, perhaps a little younger, Jasmine thought, blinked a couple of times and frowned.
‘What you doing here, Nat?’
Nat replied in a much lighter sing-song sort of voice to her usual tone. ‘Ffion’s my friend. I thought I’d drop in and see how she was doing.’
‘No, I meant. What you doin’ in town?’
‘Oh, you know that your mates dropped me off on the coast, do you?’
The leading man called Ari, nodded. ‘You’re that mad bitch. The one that said she was a lad now, even though you’ve still got a cunt.’
‘That’s me,’ Nat said cheerfully.
‘You need teaching a lesson.’ Ari released his grip on Ffion, shoving her out of his way. She stumbled back into the lounge. Ari took a step towards Nat. Nat retreated till she rested against Jasmine. The man stooped and peered at Jasmine.
‘Who’s this then? Do you know ‘er, Sid?’
‘Na,’ the younger man grunted.
‘This a friend of mine,’ Nat said, ‘She brought me back.’
‘Since when you ‘ad friends in the country, Nat,’ Sid said.
‘Wouldn’t you like to know,’ Nat replied.
Ari frowned. ‘You shouldn’t have come here,’ he growled. ‘Not with ‘er.’
Jasmine sensed that Ari wasn’t sure what to do. He obviously exercised power over the young girls, but someone older, mature, he was less sure about. Jasmine had to act before he decided he should impose himself.
‘Well, I’m sorry it’s not a convenient time to visit Ffion,’ she said, trying to sound as if calling into a drug and sex den where underage girls were abused was a daily occurrence. ‘We’ll be off and let you get on. I’m sure Ffion needs looking after. She doesn’t seem too well.’ She didn’t think that speech would have a useful outcome but at that moment there was a knock on the door. Sid being closest turned and opened it before Ari could stop him, if that had crossed the older man’s mind.
Angela stood on the doorstep.
‘Oh, hello. I came to tell Jasmine that she’s needed. We’d better get off.’
Jasmine took the cue.
‘Thanks, Ange, we were just coming.’ She grabbed Nat’s hand and strode down the hall, easing past Ari and Sid without having to push them out of the way. ‘Sorry to have taken your time.’ The two men stood, open-mouthed. Jasmine and Nat got to the door. Jasmine urged Angela to move. The three of them hurried down the path to the road. Angela had parked the Fiesta right beside the men’s Mercedes. They bundled in, and without waiting to secure seatbelts, Angela drove away.
Jasmine turned around in the front passenger to seat to see Ari and Sid appear at the door and stare after them. Angela drove them quickly away from the residential area.
Jasmine let out a long breath. ‘Thanks, Ange. I’m not sure how we were going to get out of that. You knocked at just the right moment.’
‘I got worried when I saw that pair get out of the car. They looked as though they could be violent.’
‘That’s what I was afraid of,’ Jasmine said, ‘Is she right, Nat?’
‘Sid’s a bit of a softy but Ari is nasty. Mind you they’ll all knock you about to bit if they think they’re not getting what they want.’
‘Did you see the girl you know, Nat?’ Angela asked.
‘Yeah. She’s there. Doesn’t know what’s happening to her. Out of her brain.’
‘And we’ve left her there with them,’ Jasmine said. ‘What will they do to her?’
‘Probably try to find out what we were saying to her,’ Nat replied, ‘Slap her around a bit. Give her some booze or skunk or something. Then use her. That’s what they want really.’
Jasmine was worried. She felt as though they had deserted the young girl. ‘If she tells them we were trying to get her away from there. Do you think they’ll hurt her?’
Nat shook her head. ‘I doubt if Ffi realised what we were doing. They’ve addled her brains. She thinks they’re looking after her.’
‘Even when they beat her up?’ Angela said as they pulled into a car park in the shopping centre.
‘She’ll think that it’s her fault; that she’s done something wrong. I used to think that until something clicked in my head.’
‘We’ve got to get her away,’ Jasmine said.
‘Well, they won’t keep her there,’ Nat said. ‘Ari will be suspicious about you two and he knows I’m awkward.’
‘What will they do with her?’
‘Take her to another place. They won’t leave her on her own again, that’s for sure.’
Jasmine was certain that the police must be alerted to Ffion’s predicament. ‘Do you know these other places?’
Nat shrugged. ‘Some of them. I’m not sure they took me to all the buildings they use. They’re not just houses. Some of them are in business places, and they took me to cheap hotels to meet other guys.’
‘We’ve got to report what’s going on to the local police,’ Jasmine said.
’Will they believe me?’ Nat sounded doubtful.
‘It’s not just you. There’s me and Angela now as well. I’ve seen Ffion and those two guys.’
‘I didn’t see Ffion,’ Angela said, ‘Don’t you think the police will need more evidence?’
Jasmine considered. ‘Perhaps you’re right. Nat, can you take us to one of these other places where they kept you?’
‘Yeah, okay.’
Nat directed Angela to drive to the edge of the town. They entered a small industrial estate with small factory and warehouse units.
‘It’s down there,’ Nat said, pointing down a side road. Angela stopped the car.
‘Have you got your camera, Angela?’ Jasmine asked.
Angela reached for her hand bag and dug out a small digital camera. Jasmine took it.
‘What are you going to do?’ Angela asked.
Jasmine opened her door. ‘Take a look around. Perhaps take some photos.’
‘I’m coming too,’ Nat said.
‘Okay, come on. Take the car out of sight, Ange, and keep your phone handy.’
‘Alright, but take care.’
‘Of course.’ Jasmine and Nat stepped out of the Fiesta and Angela drove off. ‘Show me which unit they used,’ Jasmine said to Nat.
They walked up the road that was devoid of traffic. The units they passed seemed unused, some were derelict. The metal clad building at the end did at least look in better condition with a name board over the vehicle access. Sammi’s International Foods it read.
There were a couple of windows at the side of the building. Jasmine guessed it was the office part of the warehouse. She looked around to check there was no one outside the unit and then crept up to the wall of the office with Nat behind her. She rested her head against the wall but could hear nothing from inside. Could she get a peek inside the window? She inched along the wall, pressed against it. She reached the window frame, leaned forward a few degrees. She had a view of a typical office, with desks and filing cabinets. It was unoccupied.
She heard a car approaching. She inched along the wall until she could see the entrance to the warehouse. A Mercedes had pulled up. It looked like the one that Ari and Sid had arrived in. The metal roller door clanked as it rose until the Merc was able to drive in. Another car arrived and parked. Three men in business suits got out and entered the warehouse.
‘What’s going on, Nat?’ Jasmine whispered.
Nat spoke into Jasmine’s ear. ‘They’ve come to do business. They’ll be handing out the girls.”

……………………….to be continued.

Jasmine the 4th

Layout 1I’ve spent some of the last week promoting Molly’s Boudoir, the 4th Jasmine Frame novel. The Kindle version will be available from Friday 30th for £2.99 (it’s on pre-order at the moment) and the paperback will be available soon after for £9.99 inc.p&p (send your order here).  There are also various “special offers” this coming week, so go to my Jasmine Frame Publications page to find out all about them.

Of course I had forgotten that this weekend it would all be about “Black Friday”. Why that causes so much fuss, I don’t know (it’s Thanksgiving in the USA which is nothing to do with anyone anywhere else). Everyone is falling over themselves to publicise their special offers which are not special at all. (Mine are though).  Anyway it will be all over by the time Molly’s Boudoir hits the scene.

I’ve sent out press releases and newsletters but word of mouth is still one of the best ways of promoting books. So please buy a copy and tell everyone you know.  I do hope that Molly’s Boudoir appeals as a good crime thriller, but of course it also tells the story of a transitioning transwoman. It’s now about eighteen years since I started writing Jasmine Frame stories and admitted to myself and Lou that the trans part of my nature could not be denied any longer. Painted Ladies was completed in 2009 but was not published until 2013.  That event had quite an effect on my life since it became public knowledge that I was trans, although the revelation didn’t seem to help sales much. It was quite a release however, because it meant that I no longer worry about whether someone does or doesn’t know.

Since the publication of Painted Ladies, I have written three more novels and sixteen novellas/short stories with the seventeenth currently being serialised below.  The fifth, and possibly last, Jasmine novel is in the planning stage at the moment.

WP_20181120_11_51_39_ProSince Jasmine came into existence there have been quite a few changes.  The 2004 Gender Recognition Act was passed, the  2010 Equality Act aided those with a Gender Recognition Certificate and single-sex marriage is now legal (it wasn’t at the time that Monochrome is set (2008). I feel that there is greater acceptance of trans people of all varieties but there has been the backlash from radical feminists and right-wingers which threatens our future safety. In my own case I have moved from trying to “pass” as female with wig and boobs and what have you, to declaring myself gender-fluid and, where-ever possible, non-binary.

Jasmine Frame has lagged a little behind the real world. Molly’s Boudoir takes place in 2013, not that there are many references to the actual period.  The lag will increase as the fifth novel is set to take place in 2014 but it will be a couple of years, I expect, before it goes to press. How much longer I can carry on writing episodes for this blog remains to be seen.

Talking of which, here is the fifth episode of Monochrome.

Monochrome: Part 5

He tried to come down from the loft bedroom without making the wooden steps creak, but without success. The girl looked to be asleep on the sofa wrapped in blankets, but she stirred as James passed her on his way to the shower room.
‘You eyeing me up?’ she said, sitting up but holding the blanket tight around her.
‘No, Natasha, I’m not but I didn’t want to disturb you. I thought you were still asleep.’
‘I’m not. I heard you on the stairs. I usually know if there’s a guy near me. Unless I’m out of it.’
‘The men drugged you?’ They’d talked about her experiences last evening over supper and afterwards, but James still wanted to further information to show that her story was consistent.
‘Sometimes,’ she said. ‘Something in the cider, made me sleepy. I suppose they wanted me easy to lay, not struggle like.’
‘Did you struggle?’
Nat shrugged. ‘Sometimes, recently.’
‘Why? Didn’t that make the men more violent?’
‘Yeah, course it did. But I wanted them to hit me and hold me down to fuck me so it didn’t feel as though I was giving in to them.’
‘You were brave.’
‘Huh, I just wanted it to end, one way or ‘nother.’
‘Well, your out of it now, Nat. Go back to sleep. We’re not getting up yet. I just need a pee.’ He pottered off to the toilet. When he returned Nat was still sitting up. She looked at him.
‘You’re a good-looking guy.’
James found he was flattered, but Nat hadn’t finished. ‘Why do you make yourself look like a girl, with the wig and tits and stuff?’
James pulled his dressing gown tight around himself and crouched down on the mat beside the sofa. He sat cross-legged.
‘I don’t know why. Perhaps its genes or something to do with hormones before I was born or growing up. The thing is, I’ve always been unsure about whether I’m male or female. When I’m Jasmine I feel comfortable.’
‘You mean horny?’
‘No, definitely not that. Just comfortable.’
‘But you’ve got a woman. You fuck. You get horny then don’t you?’
‘Well, yes,’ James felt a flush rising up his neck, ‘But that’s Angela and me. When we’re together it’s like we’re, er, one. We love each other, and we have fun making love, but it isn’t that I’m a bloke using a woman to get relief.’
Nat sniggered. ‘Is Angela the only woman you’ve fucked? It sounds like it.’
James nodded. ‘Yeah she is, and I don’t think there is another woman I’d want to make love to.’
‘That sounds weird but actually rather nice.’
‘I’m sorry for you, Nat,’ James said, and he found he really did feel a sense of remorse for the girl. ‘You’ve had sex spoiled for you. It should be a pleasure you discover with the right person when you are old enough. Instead it’s been forced on you.’
Nat looked away from him and James thought he saw a tear trickle down her cheek. He reached out a hand to touch her shoulder. She flinched and moved away.
‘No! Don’t touch me.’
James removed his hand. ‘I’m sorry.’
She turned to face him. ‘No, it’s not your fault. It’s just that, they would grab me, paw me. I don’t like being touched.’
James was still learning how this young woman, no, girl, had been damaged.
‘We’ll get you put back together again,’ he said.
Nat shrugged. ‘Perhaps I don’t want to be put back as I was.’
James frowned. ‘What do you mean?’
‘Perhaps I can be like you and be someone different when I want to.’
‘You mean, be a boy?’
‘Yeah.’
‘Why?’
She stared at him. ‘Why do you want to be a girl? Guys have everything much better than girls.’
‘Do you really think that?’
‘Yeah, course I do. Guys have the money, the girls. They get what they want, any time.’
James nodded. ‘Okay, in general men get paid more than women. Women get put down a lot by men, get pushed out of jobs by men. But there’s the other side. Boys get into trouble; more die when they’re young. There are far more men in prison.’
Nat shrugged, but didn’t say anything.
‘Look Nat. Do you really feel that you’re a boy or is it just that you want to get out of being abused as a girl?’
‘Do you really feel that you’re a woman?’
James felt a bit staggered by having the question thrown back at him. He thought for a moment before answering. ‘Well yes, I do. It’s difficult to explain, but I feel that I’m acting a part when I’m a man while being Jasmine seems natural.’
‘So why aren’t you Jasmine all the time?’
He took a deep breath. He hadn’t had to put an answer to this question into words even though it was always on his mind. ‘Well, it’s complicated.’
‘Really? Why?’
‘Well, there’s Angela.’
‘You said she’s happy with you dressing up.’
‘Yes, she’s wonderful. We’ve always had fun together whether I’ve been James or Jasmine. But she wouldn’t want to be with Jasmine all the time. We couldn’t stay married for a start.’
‘Why not?’
‘Because same sex marriage isn’t allowed in the UK. I can’t see it ever being allowed.’
Nat shrugged. ‘What’s so special about being married? Is that all?’
‘No. There’s my job.’
‘You could be a police woman.’
‘Yes, but. . .’ He wasn’t sure what to say.
‘You’re just not sure, are you?’
The young girl had summed up all his doubts. ‘No, I suppose I’m not. Transitioning, that’s what it’s called when you change genders, is complicated. There’s all the legal stuff, telling everyone, getting medication and then having the surgery.’
‘When they chop off your cock.’
‘Yes, well, it’s a bit more than that. The surgeons construct a vagina and a clitoris.’
‘Does that mean you can “come” when you’re turned into a woman?’
James nodded, ‘Usually, yes.’
‘Well then, I think you should do it. You look good as a woman, almost as good as you look as a guy.’
‘Thank you. And what about you?’ James desperately tried to turn the conversation back to Nat.
She shrugged. ‘I don’t suppose I really feel like a boy, but I don’t want to be used as a guy’s cheap fuck anymore.’
‘And we will make sure you’re not. I’d better get back to Ange. She thought I was just slipping down for a pee not a prolonged discussion.’

They were driving through the outskirts of the town. Nat was sitting tensely in the back seat. Jasmine looked round to check on her while Angela drove.
‘You feeling OK, Nat?’
‘No.’
‘We can go back to the cottage. Leave it a day perhaps.’
‘No. Let’s get it done.’
Angela stopped at a T junction. ‘Which way now, Nat?’
‘Left. Ffion lives just up the road.’
‘You still think she’ll be at home?’ James said. ‘It’s nearly noon.’
‘Yeah, she’ll be there. Nowhere else to go unless they decide they want her, but that probably won’t be till later.’
‘She should be at school,’ Angela said for the umpteenth time. Jasmine didn’t answer because they’d commented before on the illogicality of excluding a girl from school to be left home alone as a target for the child molesters.
‘Stop here,’ Nat said. ‘We don’t want to park outside the house.’
‘No, of course not. Let’s have a look then shall we, Nat.’ Jasmine glanced in the vanity mirror. She’d made herself up more than usual, and picked out the shortest skirt, one of Angela’s actually. The objective was to look like an appropriate companion for Nat in her boyish jeans and jumper, newly washed and dried, almost. She wasn’t sure it was a completely successful disguise, but so long it got her into the company of Nat’s fellow abusee that was all that mattered.
They walked the forty yards up the road, Jasmine trying to look nonchalant and ignoring the torn rubbish bags and the boarded-up windows in the terraced houses.
‘This is it,’ Nat said, striding up to a door devoid of paint and tapping on it.
Jasmine heard movement inside.

…………………………to be continued.