He With Eyes Like Crystal looked at the object. A hard square of fabric with hieroglyphics on its surface. Traced the dusty glyphs with his delicate fingers:
Somewhere recognition. He knew this sign.
Gust blew at his back. He shut the heavy metal doors. The short day would soon be gone. Luckily. he had foraged for Isso motor oil earlier. His eyes brightened to compensate for the dark.
The square of fabric was like the door to his cave. He opened it. Inside were more flimsy squares with more hieroglvohics written in carbon. Perhaps the Translator would know what they were. Closing the fabric door. he decided to visit it tomorrow.
The Translators metal door. the heaviest and biggest. could not close because of the Line Up of Foragers. Ah. once he had presented a long strand of fibre to the Translator who had told a story about the intertwining of lives. The Translator had said the object was like the seam of people lining up at his door. Ah. he had a clue to the object he carried.
When he became First in the Line. he presented his latest find.
The Translator no longer had eyes to forage. He depended upon his sense of touch to tell the story of an object. The hearing of He With Eyes Like Crystal sharpened to compensate for the noise of the Line.
“This is the story of the object.” said the Translator.
“Once there were some people who lived on a planet they called the same as we call the floor we walk upon. They dug holes in the ground. And when they had laid their digger to one side. they would say:
‘This is mine. ‘
These mines could be very dangerous. like when the roof of our caves falls in. One day this happened to some of the people. The rest were outside and saw the cave in. The hole had filled itself as if the planet had said:
‘They are no longer yours.’
Because the people were theirs. and the hole in the ground was theirs. they tried to dig them out. They dug three days and three nights. until they found the lost people. But none of the lost people breathed anymore. They no longer belonged to the others who had dug them out.
So the people came here to dig new holes. They no longer said:
‘This is mine.’
‘This is home.’
This is the story of the object.”
The telling finished the Translator put the object on one of his many shelves.
He With Eyes Like Crystal returned through the harsh gust and short day to his cave.
He would forage for another object tomorrow. As he lay on his bed he saw the glyph
in his head and heard the Translator say it and knew what it meant. And remembered he had not foraged for Isso motor oil.

9. Consideration

I said to Friend Peaudane, as we walked Dearne Flats by the serpentine river that he has more than proved his worth as a husband. I would gladly accept him in such a position and be willing to bear him children to cement our association. He answered that it is only a beginning and we must both strive for the ends I described to him at the beginning, extravagance in our generosity towards others, both personally and publicly. It is now Friend Peaudane, that wishes me to call him Richard as he shall call me Sarah and that we should wait a time yet till we are married. He has his duty to Joseph and family to fulfill.

Yesterday he was present when Susannah, Joseph’s wife gave birth to their second son. Joseph and his brother James who is now living there too pacing up and down, wanting to drown his sorrows, while Richard soothed his furrowed brow with optimistic expressions. But, upon the reception of the child after its sojourn with Susannah, Joseph was all Pray god children are ugly when there but bairns. Richard saw the pride in Joseph’s eyes. Richard wishes to prove his worth to me as a wife as soon as Joseph and Susannah have found a cottage at a place called Old Mill. Here Joseph will raise kine and have a loom. His brother James is to
lodge with Mrs Jackson at the King’s Head. I shall move in with Richard promptly.

The Gift of Fire

Their sheets were silk like mine were linen. Their mattress soft like mine was hard. They had room for two but I had only one. Theirs was the blue quilt all sharp and ironed and clean. All fluffed up like it was green hills that at any moment the yellow sun would rise over. Not a flat grey sheet that breathed in the frost except where dust and paper gathered, like a deserted street blown away by a harsh wind.
It had begun when I least expected it. Snug in the City of Cardboard that stretched for miles, I was made homeless. The Officials came to take your box away and never said why. I wandered up and down the grey streets and looked through cardboard windows and watched families enjoy their food, while the biting wind whipped around my body. Meals of honeycomb and ale, while mine was any insect crawling the streets. Soft cushions to· sit on, while my arse bruised against concrete. The stippled concrete stretched for miles. I had grown up on its surface. Lingering scabs on my flesh. My friends used to compete as to who could have the worst. I’d never been outside the ci ty. I always had a cardboard box. But since the Officals came even my best friends didn’t want to know. They said ‘You’ve no box. It makes you a Traveller. We don’t talk to Travellers.  was always said that when you became a Traveller you could see what boxfolk had.
My feet were all I had left, so I walked. All I could see were rows and rows of cardboard boxes. And when I looked up I saw the endless grey that legends told to me as a child was as solid and unforgiving as the ground.
As I walked and walked and walked my cardboard shoes tore to shreds. My eyes became heavy. My limbs even heavier. And still there were more boxes to pass. I thought about what they had done to me.
As I walked and walked I got hungrier. I began to fall and my scabs took longer to heal. Still there were more boxes to pass. I decided to take my revenge.
And I walked till I began to see honeycomb and ale on little tables with a family beckoning for me to sit and eat with them. Till I began to see my own box every time I passed cardboard. And suddenly there was all this whiteness about me. It made me feel warm and blinded.
A figure came out of the Whiteness. It said ‘I am a Traveller too ..’ and I no longer felt alone. The Traveller took me to one side and said:
You have come home. Your eyes will get used to the blue sky and the green grass. Here eat this bread. Here drink this milk. And I no longer felt heavy. The whiteness resolved itself into the blue above and the green below. I saw how the fire kept the Traveller warm and how it hurt when you put your hand in it. The Traveller said’ Stay. ‘
But I had got used to walking. When my feet had healed, my stomach was full, and I had enough of company I walked and walked and walked because there is no home for a Traveller: I will take this fire that burns as a gift to my boxfolk. They have treated me so well.

The Brandished Knife

A Filey Clairvoyant

You will meet the Right Man and know it in two years time.

His name begins with,

I can’t quite distinguish

a P or B or R.’

 Well, I’d had- a Bernard and Paul.

I feel sorry for Ray

tells me his fat

girlfriend just sits

around house

no housework.

He prepares all meals.

She just sits

reading Mills and Boon.

drinks and sleeps

Never together when out.

She with her friends, he with his.

He goes out,

 returns she’s brandishing a knife,

 interrogates him

 where he’s been.

He is a designer

 witty with it.

 Manager at my workplace

 he sends me a picture

of an American Indian

 with palm up

and five statements on how

we should get together.

I ask

 Why haven’t you moved out?

He says

When my last marriage broke up

my wife got house and everything

 and my girlfriend won’t move out.

He makes sense.

I want a boyfriend with either

 motorbike or a landrover.

He’s just sold his bike.

Landrover is soft topped.

Takes me and Ben out walking

 to Dark Peak.

We enjoy pictures rather than words.

He makes meals for the family.

My friends said if my last husband turns up


would not hesitate to lay him out.

We spend evenings planning places

 things we can do, together.

He smokes

socially when he drinks, like me.


Christmas he moves in.

On way out to a Parents evening

 Ben’s school I tell him

We’ll talk when I return

On return I find all drink gone

him crashed out drunk in my bed.

In morning he says

Please forgive me.

Over the next month we go out

hold hands, and are gentle

down by the bridge while Ben plays

 ahead with our dog.

Over next month he fills my wardrobes

with his clothes

my shelves with his CD’s.

Then I notice

him going to pub straight after work,

returns home crashes out to sleep.

he works drinks sleeps

Comes from work after pub

says he’s tired, sleeps rest of night

I wait for him downstairs.

I sit alone in house on an evening

or when he is in

he gawps at TV in bedroom.

He does not let me to go

out with my friends.

We go out again after I have words.

Two weeks later he is back

drunk and sleeping again.

On few occasions we go out

he leaves me on my own

 he spends evening talking to a biker

or someone at bar.

 I talk to his fat girlfriend Sophie.

She’d been holding a knife because she

was cutting veg, as she always did

preparing meals for him while he went

Out and got drunk.

He catches me talking to her


‘Don’t believe her, she’s a liar. She’ll say

anything to get me back with her.’

Tells me all the girls at work

are after him.


I talk to them.

They wouldn’t touch him.

He promises me I’ll not go drinking

starts excuses when I smell it on his breath

 told him so.

I say

I’ll go to a counselling session with you

He’s having none of it.

his tears when I phone him at local pub and tell him

Your stuffs in the driveway.

 Down on his knees he is, tears and moans, begging me to reconsider. Says

Your right in everything you say. I’m at fault and I’ll change.

He is really suffering. I nearly break

 but people never change.

 I meet him a month or two later while out with my mates.

He comes in pub.

Sends one of his mates over to mr

Ray wants a private word

 I say

 Whatever Ray has to say he can say while my mates are present.

Anyway he comes over.

I aske

Hows Sophie?

he tells me

 Eff off.

I feel nothing.

Mark is the man for me, but he is married and she is kind. I have known the family for ten years now. It is only recently I admit to myself I love Mark. I would not hurt their kids . I have seen them settle down round meal table of an evening. I come home, collapse on sofa and cry for I know we would be good together. want to settle down. For a time with Ray I forget about Mark. Ray never knew about him. I see Mark less. I will not move from this cul de sac because I feel safe with Mark down the road and the fabulous view of the moors. Perhaps because I love Mark I find it difficult to love anyone else.  I’ll keep looking.

The Home of Breath

Her breathing place

 is at home sometimes.

familiar furniture,

pot plants, pictures.

Her conversation easier.

No annoying silences.

Her stomach chums,

especially when someone knocks

on door

phone rings

Especially when she recalls

his threats on her

childs life

echoes off walls

she wants 

 cannot afford to paper.

Front room window-frame crumbles

one day pane will fall out

her house open itself

to wind

 here family is close

 friends minutes away.


None Has Stayed

She brings men up
She can see whats in them.

Then they leave her.

None has stayed.

She swore never

 get hurt again.

Takes me

in her arms

 says ‘I’ve got a child already.

I don’t need another.’

‘I will not carry you.’

She curves my wet dreams.

Denies herself for her child,


‘My son is more mature than you.’

Makes each man she chooses

Then they leave her.

None has stayed.

She sees strength
behind their eyes,
in their arms,

Tells them it needs bringing out.

Every man has left his mark.

She asked them to leave.

None has stayed .


It’s how she treats people
how she feels she must be tret:


to Mike,
libido disabled by drugs;
wound up on a Saturday night in the pub by wisos dropping their keks ;

 a Ieper
by people on the bus
she sits by him
aware that he’s tempted



Old man returns to his lonely house
she wishes could go back with him, 

give him company.

Has her own family chats to him
in supermarket


than she should.

Says she’s old-fashioned.

Likes a bloke to buy her drinks.

Treat her right.

I’m used to lasses
‘I’ll buy me own thanks.’
I feel it’s better if we share the price. You’ve no money so it makes sense.’

Old-fashioned is new to me.


She’s never made love to gentle.
I called it sex
Didn’t know any better.
She’s never been tret like this before.

The Reasons For Her Leaving (novel extract)


It was how he tret Ben, my bairn not his, decided it for me.

Ben couldn’t walk. I took him into hospital.
I wanted to stay with him, to get out of the house and away from my husband. He said it was my duty to stay with Ben. He would have nothing else.

I decided to stay with Ben over night. They had no beds so I had to sleep on an armchair.

Husband visited in the morning. I lifted up my head to say ‘Hi.’ and he
marched back out the ward. He came back a few minutes later and told me ‘I want to see you outside – now!’ Ben was worried all over his face with what had
 been happening at the house, what he was going to do to me.

Anyroad my husband outside the ward tells me I ignored him! I should have thrown my arms around him and kissed him. He was shouting and bawling. Shaking his fist underneath my nose. He said I should take an afternoon off. Spend more time with him not Ben.
I wanted to spend as much time as I could away from him not with him. Ben even tried to persuade the hospital to let me and him stay in the hospital a little
My husband used to sit on the window le4ge and half look at me and say , You
don’t know what power I have do you?’ He’d say ‘Come over here. And he’d point to the stars and say it was he that wrote the book. He’d been here a long time. His power was from God to do evil or good.
It was his eyes that got me.


Ben wanted to be with his dad. His real dad. I told him he could.
Then I told my husband downstairs, who screamed ‘I’ve had enough. I’ll kill
your child.’
I decided to move away, again.
He lay awake. ~ perceptive as me. I got up at 7. Quietly got Ben up. Told him not to make a noise.
I didn’t know where I Was going.
.. Anyway he woke up didn’t he and said, ‘Where are you going?’
‘I’m leaving you.
and he replied
‘Where shall we take the children today?’
Up till then he’d never taken them anywhere. He said,
‘I’m not being dictated to by your ex-husband or these soft, undisciplined brats.
Bitch. He was upstairs shouting from the landing ‘Bitch.’ at me in the hallway. ‘Go and put your fist in the ear of that nine year old brat.

He was like that.
He’d give me a crack.
I’d give a crack back like,\ but it’s not the same is it?
I can’t suss him out.
One day he calls me beautiful and stunning. Next day I’m an ugly bitch,
a whore, a tart.
We’ve always understood one another more than ourselves.
We always rub each other up the wrong way.
I caught him once
or twice with my friends. Touching them up
in the kitchen
at a house party we had.
He said he was comforting them. I looked at him for at least five minutes moving up against her before I said anything.
He always had an eye for women.
Once I banged one of these friends
up agin a wall and told her straight hands off or I’d crack her one.
They were all after him. Handsome bastard.
 He used professional techniques, trying to  .  ..
brainwash me and the kids, cut us off from family and friends. I was having none of this.
Anyway I moved him out.


‘Town Without History’

in 1969 to commemorate the centenary of the towns incorporation
the Naturalists association Antiquarian collection
was emptied onto the feet of young boys who kicked the stuffed birds down Eldon Street.
And how
in Locke Park'{victorian memorial to Joseph, local
ironroad engineer who made inrails to respectability.)
was stolen by cold miners in a strike.
Old beams became warmth, stuffed birds became play, linked in a medieval tithe barn dismantled and stacked
links in belonging;
a new arriving
home to find you have not moved but it’s a new time and place

NOTE: This was published before the brilliant ‘Experience Barnsley’ was installed in Barnsley old Town Hall

4. The Home Help: You Gave Me A Mountain

They enter the pub in dribs and drabs. They look at one another as if surprised. As if each have led separate lives for the last few months. They greet me as a stranger. I have not seen them for a month or two myself.


When Ben’s old enough I’d like to sell up. Sell this house and use the money on a trip around the world. Would you come with me, darling?


I heave the speakers through the pub door and onto their stands. There is no Buff. Neil plugs in the appropriate leads. He plays Neil Diamonds ‘America’ to test the sound levels. He does not check the sound is right with the group. He has a beard.


The group’s dead. I said at the wedding you’d all leave me, and I was right.


Neil is getting a beer belly and his notes keep failing.
He sang Linda’s favourite song. ‘You gave me a mountain.’ by Marty Robbins.

Born in the heat of the desert My mother died giving me life.

 Deprived of the love of a father,

blamed for the loss of his wife.

The rest of the group joined in with Linda for the chorus:

This time, Lord you gave me a mountain to climb A mountain that I can never climb.
It isn’t a hill airy longer.
You gave me a mountain this time.


– You know the first dream Martha had about her son Lozzy’s death had a talking dog in it.
– A dog!
– Ay and it were called Death.
– Death.

I’m sorry lad for having a go at thee. I know, now Linda’s had a word, that you can be trusted.
I’ve heard the aggro and hassle she gets from Buff. You can’t trust him, you know. He’s even tried it on with me. I couldn’t laugh at him, kid, but I came close, and we always thought he had such a good heart, you know.


– And it were going to tell her how Lozzy died, but she woke up.
– Is this supposed to help us cope with Ernest’s death? ‘Cos it aint.


I don’t want Linda under Kath, like me, love. She’s got to get some other life.
Kath took me in after my last husband left me for dead.
Kath couldn’t do without me. I’m’ The One Who Did’ for her: washing-up, washing, cleaning her house, cooking her meals.
She’s mostly on the phone organising Charity events for poor sods like the one who suffered from leukaemia, remember, she asked us to go at the wedding. Anyroad she also takes in troubled young ‘uns. She used to record other acts with Buffs video camera and send them to television and radio. But now-she’s seen Buff’s true colours she’s caught betwixt and between.
I’ve got a large family. Three teenage daughters with husbands and children all in and out of our house. I’ve got five other children as well. I couldn’t cope with Kath and The Family. I thought I could. lowe Kath a lot for bringing me back from a brink. But I’ll never tell her it’s too much, even when she don’t visit me when I’m ill. I was wasting away but she still kept ringing, asking me to do stuff for her.
I don’t believe in Linda’s God. I can get out of this myself. I admire Linda. I love her as a friend. She’s someone I can talk to. She’s cleverer than I am. More intelligent. Education’s not for me – All that bookwork, I can’t concentrate for long. I’m only a housewife.
Linda and myself have false teeth. Our real ones were knocked out. You can guess by whom.


I’ve missed my period for a few weeks, kid.
If I get a child I won’t abort it. You’re going to think I’m crazy, mad or summat, love. You won’t tell anybody, will you? Promise me! I had an abortion after Ben. The baby we were going to call Scott appeared to me in a dream and asked me “Why didn’t you want me?”
I couldn’t answer him. That’s why.
The problem might be my age, I know. It happens in your Forties. The change. Of life, love. You wouldn’t understand would you? I thought not, kid.


– Marthas never going to come out of herself while she’s still grieving over Lozzy’s death. And then her husband Arthur weren’t no help, dying too. Would you credit it!
– We all have a time to go, ~
– Ay. When it’s gone its gone. History.
– Live for the present. Bloody useless dwelling on past,
– Ay don’t make a mountain out on a molehill. ‘Notherpint to wash sorrow down?


You know Lord I’ve been in a prison for something I’ve never done.
It’s been one hill after another
And I’ve climbed them all one by one.
The rest of the group joined in with Linda for the chorus.’
This time, Lord you gave me a mountain to climb A mountain that I can never climb.
It isn’t a hill any longer.
You gave me a mountain this time.


I’m working now, you know. Making umbrellas in this sewing factory. My first husband got sick of Child Support on his back, so he drives me up there. Luckily, they’d just laid off a lass. I promised myself I’d never be in one of them factories again, kid.
It’s given me back my dignity.
Don’t get an ore than on Social, though. They’re a good crowd, the lasses.

Kath arranged this Do, and now she’s asking us to pay for the sandwiches! I’m sick of this group. Neil always sings the same songs. Same people, same places. 1 don’t ask for much. A bit of variety, that’s all. I’ll still keep in touch with Maggie. We have a lot in common. False teeth for one.


Neil sings The Best’ by Tina Turner. None of the women get up and hold hands and dance to it as they used to.
Linda tells me Neil and Kerry are divorcing. Maggie has a new boyfriend, so she can no longer spend as much time with Kath and her house as she used to.
Linda’s toldMaggie ‘Be careful.’
And Maggie’s told Linda I will never trust another man again. No worries.’


Linda dressed in a new cream jacket with her ubiquitous black leggings crosses her legs away from me when she sits down. She has bought her own hill! lager.
I’m trying to stop smoking and cut down on the drink. I’ve started putting too much weight on. Look, a tyre .
. Kath’s not really clairvoyant, you know. She changes her opinions of people. Tells me they’re the one for me, then when I meet her next she’s telling me ‘I should-watch him. He’s-no-good for you.’
Some of the lasses at work go to rock concerts and discos. My kind of night out. They hold intelligent conversations, you know. Talking about what’s happening with the Bosnian refugees. Talking about issues in the news. Stuff like that.
I’m taking an 0′ level at college. What course? psychology.
It’s bad of me, I know, but I been reading my Bible lately. He wont be pleased with me, will he?


My woman got tired of the heartache Tired of the grief and the strife. So tired of working for nothing. Just tired of being my wife.
The rest of the group joined with Linda for the chorus:
This time, Lord you gave me a mountain to climb A mountain that I can never climb.
It isn’t a hill any longer.
You gave me a mountain this time.


I agree with you. Everyone in the group has limited horizons. Maggie is just happy to go out drinking and dancing and a bit of sex here and there. Buff always repeats himself and is very immature. Kath is too taken up in herself to be interested in anyone else. 0, dont get me wrong. I know I wouldn’t be the way I am now if it weren’t for them. They brought me out of myself. I was quiet as a mouse. Like you, now. They learned me not to care what other people think.


LINDA: At least Kath’s not going ‘Shush, while turns on.
MAGGIE: hush, while turns on
I believe in respect and good manners.

Both women collapse into laughter