Down Under There #WriteNowPrompt

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I hurried to work as snow began to fall and passed another dug up road in my way. Wondering if it was some kind of London law that roadworks always had to be going on, I squeezed passed the plastic barrier.

The vibration of a drill going through tarmac went straight into me. Heavy, grubby men in yellow high visibility vests and hideous matching hard hats crowded the scene. They were calling to each other then one turned to me before I could escape.

‘Can’t ya see the signs there, mate?’ he shouted.

‘I’m late,’ I yelled back.

‘It’s there for a reason!’ he spat.

‘You tell him, Jack!’ one of his colleagues cut in.

Trying to ignore them, I walked quickly but the lights at the cross road change to red and I had to stop. Looking back as cars whizzed by before me, I saw the man pushing the barrier tighter into place but nothing could stop a Londoner in a hurry.

The drill stopped, my ears continued to ring and I turned my back on the diggers. Concentrating for a gap in the cars that I could run through, I felt the ground began to shake. It was just the drill starting up again or that claw plough scooping soil.

The shaking carried on then there were mighty rumblings and rocking motions which almost threw me to the floor. Everything felt tilted and unstable as if an earthquake was happening. I somehow saved myself by spinning and grabbing some nearby railings.

Deafness and dizziness flood me. My legs didn’t want to work and they didn’t seem to belong to me anymore. Panic was controlling me but I couldn’t do anything other then cling onto the railings and shut my eyes.

The earthquake subsided and I heard the distant voices’ of people crying, screaming and shouting as all hell had broken loose. I felt wobbly as if I had just got off an extreme roller coaster. My legs felt numb but I found them again and stood up. I kept my fingers weaved through the railings, just in case.

In the middle of the road, pushing outwards from the hole the workmen had been creating was a huge crater. Torn up tarmac created a jagged line around the edge and dust was spiralling upwards.

A back cab was teetering on the lip of the crater and a dazed cyclist was sitting on the road wondering where his bike had gone. Crowds of people were pushed back on both sides of the pavement and all the morning rush hour traffic had halted.

‘Did anyone fall in?’ a workman questioned.

There was an unsure mumbled from the crowds.

‘Help us!’ a woman cried in a French accent from the back of the taxi.

A human chain was made and the cab was pulled back from the edge. The doors opened and a family tumbled out alongside the Muslin taxi driver, they were all in shock but glad to have escaped.

‘What you got there’s a sinkhole!’ a fat, red faced America man called out.

The word echoed in my head and I just had to get a closer look. Creeping forward, I looked down into the huge hole that was almost taking up all of the road. Through the dust and debris there seemed to something down there. Was it the London Underground? Or some other forgotten Victorian structure?

‘Stand back there,’ said a man and I turned to see the worker, Jack, who had told me off before.

‘There something down there,’ I pointed dumbly out.

‘We’ll take care of it. We are experts. Stand back there,’ Jack add as some other curious people came towards the edge.

I set my briefcase down and despite my expensive suit, I knelt tried to see what had been revealed. I saw a ceiling and wall of a cavern and it didn’t look man made. Things were still settling so it looked fogging. I could hear rubble falling and perhaps running water but there was the echo of other traffic from the surrounding roads.

‘Mate!’ Jack shouted, ‘I won’t tell ya again! get back!’

He grabbed my shoulder and tried to haul me back but I twisted out of his grip.

‘I cave explore for a hobby,’ I said, angrily, ‘and I’m telling you there’s something down there.’

‘All right, let’s take a look,’ Jack said and knelt down beside me.

He took out a torch. I grabbed my phone and put the torch app on. Together we used the light to show what was below us. At first it seemed to be hard, discolour brown walls but then we saw stalactites and stalagmites, growing up and down in what seemed to be a vast cavern.

‘How can this be under London and no one know about it?’ I muttered.

‘There’s lots underground that people don’t know of,’ Jack explained, ‘but I never seen anything like this before!’

I nodded, ‘it looks like a Yorkshire cave or something like that…’

‘Well, nothing can be done about it right now,’ Jack spoke, ‘have to be investigations and all that. I’ve got things to do now, got to make sure no one gets hurt and sues us.’

Jack left and got busy with securing the scene. More barriers were being set out and people were slowly moving on. Car horns were beeping loudly as was typical of road rage London drivers who had been stopped for more then five seconds. Ignoring everything else, I carried on staring down into the cavern.

I wanted desperately to go down there. The urge to explore put fire in my veins but I had no equipment, no map of the layout and who knew what dangerous were hidden in there?

I couldn’t help myself! I got up and searched for Jack. Picking his form out from a group of yellow jacketed men. I went over and waited till they stopped talking and noticed me.

‘Jack? A word?’ I said.

We stepped away from the others, our backs to them and our eyes looked towards the crater.

‘I want to go down there,’ I said in a low voice, ‘I need to see what’s there. Please, help me.’

‘I can’t, mate,’ Jack said and scratched his dark hair under his hard hat, ‘regulations and all that.’

‘I know, I know,’ I hissed back, ‘but please? This would mean so much to me. Like a dream come true! The first person to explore under there, it would be just…just…’

‘No. It’s not happening!’ Jack snapped back.

I licked my lips, thinking hard, ‘all right,’ I said, ‘I can give you money. As much as you want. I’m a rich businessman. I own companies here and in China. I could give you a million pounds right now if you let me go down there.’

Expressions began to cross Jack’s face and a fight seemed to happen as he battled to do the right thing. He balled up his fists, shuffled his feet and was trying to weigh everything up.

‘I shall write you a cheque and a contract write now,’ I said and sort out my briefcase.

I went over, opened it and withdrew papers and a fountain pen. Kneeling on the floor again – my suit was ruined anyway- I began writing things out, using my briefcase as a makeshift desk.

‘I don’t know about this…’ Jack said.

‘Don’t worry about it. I can sort out any problems later. Here’s my details on this card. Here’s the million pound cheque and this is a basic contract, saying you have agreed to let me down there for payment. My life is in my own hands, you have no responsibility for what happenings down there etc, etc.. I shall sign it here and you, sir, sign there.’

I held the fountain pen out to Jack. He took it with a shaking hand and signed his name. Then I folded the contract with my business card and the cheque in the middle and handed the lot to him.

‘Now, do you have any spare clothes and equipment I can have?’

‘Yeah…put what do I tell ’em?’ Jack said and nodded to the other workers.

‘Tell them, you know me and I was your boss on other job,’ I said quickly, thinking on the spot, ‘tell them, I have all the training, clearance and expertise needed to go down and take a look. Say isn’t it lucky, that Doctor Gideon Charles was passing! We’ll have this mess cleared up faster now!’

‘Doctor?’ Jack muttered and looked at the paperwork in his hand.

‘Of science,’ I explained, ‘not the medical kind. Now, can we get down there?’

‘Sure thing, boss,’ Jack said with a huge smile and I guessed he had just seen all the numbers on the cheque.

Soon enough, I was dressed in some spare blue overalls, a high visibility vest, a white hard hat, a powerful torch and was rigged up to go down on a harness and rope.

‘I’ll be coming with ya,’ Jack said.

I nodded, ‘best thing to do.’

Slowly we descended whilst the other workers peered down at us and also shone torches to guide us. They created spotlights along the wall and the cut away edges of the ceiling above. The rock face was rough, natural with stains of hundreds of years of water and built up of features.

Stalactites hung from the ceiling, some looking thick and strong, others appeared thin and fragile. Growing up from the floor were the stalagmites, looking like sharp spikes. Here and there, the two had actually met and formed a pillar.

We landed and I looked around in awe. It was breathtaking, so natural and fresh.

‘We could be the first ever people to see this,’ I whispered, ‘and to think it’s been undisturbed under London all this time…’

 

(Inspired by; https://todaysauthor.com/2020/01/21/write-now-prompt-for-january-21-2020 with thanks).

Postcard story

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Dear Charity,

It’s Guy Fawkes or bonfire night here in England. Such a weird celebration to remember the attempted to blow up the houses of parliament in London, 1605. This evening there is a firework display and large fire at the park. I can see it from the window of the hotel. They are also setting up a funfair right now. I won’t be going, no need with my view here. I’ll try and take some photos to show you what it’s like.

Hope everyone is well and I’ll be home in a few days,

Love, Bill.

Postcard Story

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Dear family,

London is mad! It’s huge, so much to see and do. We’ve been around so many museums and shops that my feet are dead! My brain is overloaded right now. Uncle wasn’t wrong when he said we wouldn’t do everything in a week!

Tomorrow, we are off to see the Queen. Though Dee says we won’t really get to meet her, it’s just her house and stuff. But I’ve been practising my curtsy and manners anyway!

Hope the weather is nice back home and everyone is doing well!

Love, Twins.

London #WhatPegmanSaw

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London was everything and nothing like I had believed. The city was constantly moving like the Thames river that divided it. There were always lights, smells and noises, it was so easy to get lost.

I tapped my stick on the pavement and held onto Bonny’s guiding harness. My senses told me that my husband Zak was still walking by my side. All around me were other people moving with great hurry and excitement.

I was scared as was natural in an unknown city but also embracing the new experience. Being blind wasn’t going to stop me from seeing London.

 

(Inspired by; https://whatpegmansaw.com/2019/06/08/london-england with thanks).

Sunflower #CCC

Sunflower Dead

Sunflowers remind me of her. I was twelve in 1940 and a London evacuee but countryside life didn’t agree with me. I was ill all the time and the farmer’s daughter, who was my age, looked after me.

One morning, she brought sunflowers fresh off the field to my sick bed.

‘They cheer anything up!’ she said, ‘sunflowers are my favourite.’

I agreed but it was her who cheered me the most, my first and last love.

We found each other after the War, married, children, a life together but now I putting sunflowers on her grave and she has returned to my memories.

(Inspired by; https://crimsonprose.wordpress.com/2019/02/20/crimsons-creative-challenge-15/ with thanks).

 

 

Dear Diary

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Dear Diary,

Thank God it’s February! I thought January would never end, it felt so long! Sadly, winter is still here and it’s been snowing A LOT over the last few days. There’s probably about five inches out there now, looks like twice that on the hills and peaks!

This morning, I was woken up by loud bleating and thinking a sheep had got stuck in my garden, I got up. Actually, it was a farmer leading his flock through the village. The poor things were covered in snow! I guess they must have been out over night and the farmer was bringing them home.

Strange to think that I’ve become use to such scenes. When I moved to Scotland six years ago, I developed a worry for the sheep I saw. An odd thing for a London born and breed city woman but if you remember my mental health break down was so bad that my anxiety and paranoia were out of control.

The first time a sheep got it’s head stuck in my fence, I freaked out so bad the farmer had to get his wife to help calm me down. It was actually thanks to her that I owed my recovery too. She taught me that Highland sheep were one of the hardiest breeds and they were fine to roam the hills alone. I don’t know why that knowledge help me but it did.

I’ve been thinking that this year I should move back to London and my apartment once more, try to pick up my career again and get on with my life. I’d have to switch the rent back on to my grandparent’s cottage and say goodbye to Scotland though.

That thought just doesn’t feel right now which is weird because I never wanted to come here in the first place. Being here though suits me so much better then being in London, perhaps I should just stay?

 

A Winter Storm #WeeklyWritingChallenge

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Harper went to draw the curtains at the living room’s floor to ceiling windows of her three bedroom top floor London apartment. She stopped and looked out. Normally she could see much of London’s high end business streets, fancy apartment blocks and Big Ben on the skyline.

Tonight though, a snowstorm had hit the city and it was really coming down now. The large, heavy white flakes were sticking to everything, even things that were normally warm. The wind was gale force, gusting at 30-40 miles, creating a white blindness against the darkness and the noise it was making was louder then the London traffic jams far below.

Clutching the curtain, Harper said aloud, ‘I’ve only seen snow like this on TV in those snowed-in romantic movies. Well, it doesn’t look ‘lovely’ to me.’

She closed the curtain on the scene and as she did so she heard Big Ben strike the hour. Frowning, Harper opened the curtains and tried to look out but she could barely see anything. She listened hard but heard nothing then the howling wind.

I thought they were still repairing things, the bell and clock haven’t worked in months. How can Ben chime then? Maybe, I miss heard it? Harper thought.

Closing the curtains finally, she turned away and back to the tidy open living room. The fake fire was going in the wall, the warmth coming off it making everything cosy. The other walls were decorated with framed photos of family and friends, Harper and her husband, Hugo, at there wedding five years ago, on their honeymoon, other holidays and celebrations. The larger frames were decorate with sprigs or small garlands of real green ivy and red berries.

There was a medium size Christmas tree, shinning in the corner next to the fireplace. The red and gold colours of all the decorations and lights give a magical feeling. Other Christmas decorations hung about or were on display from shelves, adding to theme. On and around the glass coffee table were stack boxes of presents, rolls of colourful wrapping paper, bows, ribbon, labels, sticky table and scissors.

Harper went back to the red bean bag chair next to the coffee table, where she had been curled up in before. There was a fresh cup of herbal tea on the table and the TV which was turned down low showed Christmas music videos.

Sipping her tea, Harper looked at her list and decided what presents to wrap next. Not for the first time she wish Hugo was here. She looked up at the photos and his smiling face. He had gone to Germany a few days ago on a business trip and had been due back tonight but the snowstorm had grounded all the planes coming to London and Hugo had phoned hours ago to say he was spending the night in a hotel.

Harper turned the volume up on the TV as a classic Christmas song came on; I’m dreaming of a white Christmas. She hummed along as she started wrapping again. Soon she had drink her tea, sing along to more songs, found enjoyment in wrapping the presents again and Hugo had slipped from her mind.

It grew super late before Harper realised but she had finished the bow on the last present. Yawning, she put everything away and turned off the TV. Hugo had phoned to say goodnight two hours ago down a static line which was then cut off. Harper had held the phone in sadness for a few moments then decided nothing could be done and carried on with her task.

Big Ben chimed midnight.

Harper stopped, her fingers had been reaching to turn the fireplace off. She listened, counting the tolling bell sound. Reaching twelve, she turned the fire off then the Christmas tree lights and went to the window. Moving the curtain she looked out but the snowstorm was still swirling and she could barely see the lights of the neighbouring buildings.

‘Maybe, they have finished working on the clock tower?’ she said aloud.

Dropping the curtain, Harper went to bed and slept well. All that present wrapping had exhausted her.

The next day, Harper found that the snowstorm had almost brought London to a stop. All the roads were blocked by cars and buses not going anywhere as the roads were covered. Pavements were crowed by people trying to go to work or the shops but they didn’t seem to be getting anywhere either. The snow lay thick on roof tops and didn’t seem to be melting.

Harper phoned in work and told her secretary, who always seemed to be in the office no matter what, that she wasn’t going to even try and come in and would work from home. Then she added that if the snow started again, her secretary was to go home, no excuses! Then setting herself up in the study which was the third bedroom, Harper worked the day away.

In the afternoon, the snow started falling again. Light at first but then as the sky darkened heavier. Harper phoned and texted her husband a few times but got no response. She had no idea if he was coming home or not. Harper ate dinner late, setting the table for one and having a glass of red wine to calm herself. She watched the snow falling and the twinkling Christmas at the windows of other apartments.

Big Ben chimed seven o’clock.

Harper lowered her wine glass from her lips and picked up her phone. She did an internet search and found that her thought before had been right; the bell had been stopped from chiming expect for special events, whilst repairs were done to the tower. So, she shouldn’t be hearing it. What was that bell chime then? A local church bell?

Whatever, it doesn’t matter, Harper thought and she had some more wine.

Afterwards, she took the rest of the bottle and sat before the TV to watch some movies. No word came from Hugo and every hour, Harper heard a bell ring. It turned midnight again and sleepily, Harper went to bed.

Laying there, she couldn’t get the idea of Big Ben sounding out of her head though. There was no other sound like it and Harper had lived in and around London all her life, so she knew all the noises well enough. Perhaps, she thought, before sleep claimed her, someone put it on in the spirit of Christmas? 

Next morning, Harper found Hugo asleep on the sofa, still dressed from travelling and suitcase next to him.

‘Hugo?’ Harper called and touched his shoulder.

He stirred and woke up.

‘What time did you get in?’ she asked.

‘Couple of hours ago. Didn’t want to wake you, you looked so peaceful,’ Hugo replied, his voice rough with tiredness.

‘I’m up now, so why don’t you go to bed for bit?’

Hugo nodded and taking his suitcase went into their bedroom. Harper straightened the sofa then had breakfast. Afterwards, despite the food delivery three days ago, Harper decided to go to the shops. It wasn’t snowing, but there was frozen piles on the streets and it was freezing.

Setting out, Harper thought about walking to see Big Ben but it would be too long a walk.

What do you hope to prove anyway? That you’re not hearing things? 

Harper shook her head and walked to a local shops. She got everything to make Hugo his favourite – lamb chops and sticky toffee pudding for after. Then she brought the maps up on her phone and looked to see if there where any churches or chapels close by. They didn’t seem to be any.

Walking home, Harper told herself it was only a ringing church bell after all. Back home, she busied herself with tidying up, checking work emails and her phone. When Hugo got up, they had a late lunch and talked.

Harper decided to bring up the bell, ‘Last night I heard Big Ben ringing. Do you think they put it back on?’

‘I thought it was taking them years to do the work?’ Hugo said, ‘it’s Christmas though, so maybe they have?’

‘I want to go and see it,’ Harper said.

‘The bell? I didn’t think you could…The clock and tower are covered in scaffolding, so there’s nothing to see.’

‘It doesn’t matter,’ Harper muttered.

She collected the plates and went into the kitchen.

That night in bed, listening every hour, Harper heard the bell sound. She couldn’t sleep. Hugo felt too warm next to her and his breathing, plus snoring, too loud. Harper got up, thinking she would get a cup of herbal tea.

Standing by the window, sipping tea, Harper watched fine snow drifting down and the dim lights of the city.

Big Ben chimed three AM.

Maybe, it’s all in my head, Harper thought, I’m so use to hearing Ben that my mind is just filling in the sound? Unless…bells have ghosts. Is that even possible? Have I been hearing the ghost of Big Ben?  

Harper laughed, finished her tea and went back to bed.

The idea of Big Ben’s ghost didn’t want to leave her though. So, the next day, her and Hugo walked to the Houses of Parliament. Hugo had been right; scaffolding ran from floor to almost the top of the tower, hiding the clock who’s hands were stopped. There were a few notices around explaining to visitors what was happening.

‘It says here the work will be complete in twenty-twenty-one and Big Ben will only strike on special occasions, like New Year,’ Hugo read aloud.

‘So, it’s not Ben I’m hearing?’ Harper spoke.

‘Looks that way.’

Harper sighed and looked up – a long way up – at the clock face. Above a dark grey sky was threatening more snow and Harper thought she could feel water drops on her face.

‘Feel better now?’ Hugo asked.

‘I don’t know,’ Harper responded.

She touched her forehead but didn’t feel hot or unwell.

I feel….unsettled, Harper decided.

‘Pub lunch?’ Hugo asked.

Harper nodded and let him led her away.

She didn’t hear the bell chime again after that.

 

(Inspired by; https://secretkeeper.net/2018/12/03/weekly-writing-challenge-170/ with thanks).

The Stranger

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There was a stranger waiting for me when I got off at the underground station. I didn’t notice him as the crowd was heavy and I was in a hurry.

The train left, rushing into the tunnel and people moved upwards to the haze of London air.

The stranger followed me, though I wasn’t aware of it then.

I walked out, into more busy crowds and made my way back home. I knew someone was following me soon after but I tried to convince myself it wasn’t true.

At my apartment door, I glanced over and noticed him. I stopped, wondering what to do.

‘Carol?’ he called out.

He knew my name! but I didn’t know him. I didn’t answer. Would he leave me alone if I said no?  If I said yes, then what?

I had paused for too long, staring at him. There was something oddly familiar about his face and hair color.

‘I’m sorry,’ he said, turning away.

‘Who are you?’ I asked sharply.

‘Your older brother,’ he said softly, ‘our parents had to give me up for adoption because they were teenagers when I was born.’

 

 

Out Of Control #TaleWeaver

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Police Constable Williams surveyed the scene then slightly lifted his heavy black helmet to scratch his thinning brown hair. He had worked this beat for so long, he knew it like the contents of his house. All the people were like old friends and he had a good thing going with all the factory owners.

This though….This was just something Williams didn’t know what to do about. He wrapped his fingers around the handle of his cool wooden police baton, feeling comforted by the familiarity of the weapon. Then, he looked again, trying hard to understand what his eyes were seeing.

In the middle of the busy cobblestone main street was the wreckage of an iron steam engine train. The front was wedged into the upturned pavement, the body angled up to the building above and the coal truck behind flatted against the wall. The start of the first carriage could be above, balanced on the edge but trapped in place by the coal truck. The wheels and pistons were still moving, though the train was clearly going no where.

Bricks and wood planks of the ruined factory which the train had fallen out of, lay scattered everywhere. Grey steam curled for the train’s funnel and there was the smell of burning coal and fire. People were gathered in the protection of the other buildings, looking in horror and shock. Shouts and screams echoed the Wiliams’ ears.

The sound of a police whistle brought the Williams back and he moved carefully closer to the wreckage looking to see if anyone needed assistance. He could not see much due to the raising dust and steam. The noise of the train’s wheels and pistons were loud and blocked out anybody’s cries for help.

‘Constable!’ a voice called.

Williams turned as a young man dressed in a black police uniform hurried over then stopped as he saw the unreal scene.

‘I don’t know what happened,’ Williams answered the unasked question, ‘just fetch some more help will you!’

The young constable nodded and turned away.

Running footsteps from the opposite direction caused Williams to try and appear around the steam train. Out of the mess came a group of men dressed in simple working factory clothes; dirty white shirts, black trousers, leather waist coats, gloves, flat caps and goggles.

‘It was an accident!’ one of the man cried.

Williams recognised him as Thomas Smith, the oldest son of the factory’s owner.

‘A likely story,’ Williams muttered.

‘She just shot forward and there was nothing we could do,’ Thomas explained with some wild hand gestures.

‘And what exactly where you doing?’ Williams demanded.

‘Well, we were-‘

A short man, Williams thought was called Henry Pitcher, nudged Thomas in the ribs, making him stubble over his words and go silent.

‘It’s top secret, sir!’ Henry declared loudly.

‘Well, it’s not very secret now is it,’ Williams said, pointing at the train, ‘answer me, what in the devil’s name is going on!’

‘We just experimenting…’ Thomas came back in, ‘we have all the correct permissions. I can show you.’

Williams cocked an eyebrow, not sure he truly believed that. He had had issues with this group of men before and there ‘experiments.’ It had only been little disturbances before though but they had really landed themselves in trouble.

‘That’ll be proven,’ Williams muttered, ‘can you turn that thing off?’ he asked.

The men looked up at the stream train, the wheels and pistons were still going, steam was still blowing and the sound of the gears was growing deafening.

‘Not sure,’ Henry shouted, ‘we’d have to get up there and try turning things off but the coal will have to burn out before we can really do anything.’

‘It might be too dangerous,’ another man spoke out.

Williams would just have to take his word for it, he didn’t know anything about this new metal monsters, just that he was keen on them.

‘Well, I guess we’ll have to try and get it down,’ Williams mused.

‘Leave it to us, sir,’ Thomas said and the men started to scatter around the steam train.

Soon enough, other police arrived and the crowd had grown larger. Some plan was put in place and with the strength of many men and horses, the train pistons were stopped and whole thing was lowered on to it’s side in the street. The coal truck was also lowered but it was too crushed to be saved.

The night was arriving and with the loss of light they had to stop. Williams lent against the wall of the building next door. It had been along day and he was ready for bed. He looked up and spotted an airship flying low above the roof tops of London, parting through the clouds.

Williams started walking home, thinking; I do not know this world anymore, everything is changing too fast. I guess I had better change with it then.  

 

(Inspired by; https://mindlovemiserysmenagerie.wordpress.com/2018/06/21/tale-weaver-176-june-21st-trains/ with thanks).

Dear Diary #35

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Dear Diary,

Summer is here but it doesn’t feel like it. Though that suits me just great. I love the wind and the cold. I’m getting tried hearing people complaining about the weather now through. I wonder what the weather will be like in London next week when I go? Probably hotter. It always has been when I’ve been the three times before. I still haven’t planned what I’m going to do, must sort all that out soon.

And then if my passport stuff goes okay, I’ll be off to Germany, which is still a terrifying thought. Andy will be there though and at the moment being with him is like so awesome that nothing can go wrong.

It’s a weird feeling to realise after being with so many wrong and bad boys that I’ve found a really good one now and luckily he’s been right by my side all along! Perhaps, I’m meet my Prince for real this time?

Oh, it’s too soon to tell! But last time I thought 5 years was long enough and look what happened there….

Anyway, plans to be made and things to do. Here’s hoping this month is good.