Rainbows in the Rock 76

I was just cleaning one of the bunkhouse toilets when the shout came via my mobile.

‘Pick up Glan Dena soon as’

“Dad! Got a call-out! Gotta go!”

He nodded, passing me my grab-sack and lid, the gloves sitting inside.

“At least it’s a decent day for it, love. Any idea where?”

“No, just get to the hut and meet up. Get briefed there, I assume”

Rainbows in the Rock 75

I was more than a little confused the next morning, as I rolled out of my bed to find, rather than its edge and my slippers, a snoring body in a sleeping bag. A few moments of panic ensued before I realised that I had ended up in the bunkhouse rather than my bedroom. I was still in my posh dress, but someone had laid an unzipped sleeping bag over me for warmth.

How much had I poured down my throat? What must Alys think?

Mates 26

I found myself struggling to keep my grin down, as Betty had clearly planned on shoving Pam in my direction. Shaun’s comments about his local lizard were still at the front of my mind, though, and I took a moment to think it all through.

Was I pleased at Pam’s shift of focus onto Shaun because I was one more roadside lizard waiting for the squish, or for other reasons? She was far from unattractive, and seemed good company, at least so far. Was I tuning all women out, or just her? Was I waiting for someone to enter my life, or just for the next car?


Just got home from hospital. Ten days ago I stepped out to the end of my street to catch a bus, and then my lungs decided not to cooperate. I collapsed, pulled out my phone and made a hash of trying to call an ambulance. Fortunately, another woman stopped to see if I was okay, took over the call and stayed with me till the ambulance had loaded me on board.

That was ten days ago, as noted above. The cause was a large blood clot in my pulmonary artery.

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False Alarm

The hotel was on a steep hill, which left the basement neither one thing nor the other. Uphill, it was indeed underground, but on the downhill side it had windows open to the sun. The hotel entrance, therefore was sort of ground floor, sort of first floor.

“Hello. Booked in for two nights B and B”

“Name, please?”



Reading The Room

“Good morning. I have an appointment?”

The middle-aged woman behind the counter looked down at an actual paper diary before replying.

“Sam Hardy, by any chance?”

“That’s the one”

“You timed that well. Lou’s just on a coffee run. Want one?”

“Oh… do you do tea?”

“Coffee shop next door, and yes”

“Then just a tea please”

“Done. Louisa!”

Fine Tuning

“… Cymru, yng Nghaerdydd; thank you for listening to Noson Werin, presented by myself, Siw Williams, with this evening’s guest the multi-instrumentalist Chrissy Morgan, who will be performing next Wednesday in St David’s Hall, Cardiff. This has been a Tidewave production for BBC Wales in Cardiff”

I waited till the ‘on air’ light was out, and confirmation from our producer, before I turned back to Chrissy, who was now encumbered with several instrument cases.

“How do you think that went?”

Prodigal Son

It was colder than he had expected, the sleet steadily hardening into snow, but Ken had endured worse. There was a hedgerow running between two of the fields which he thought might work for the night, and part of it looked to be hazel, or at least something with similar leaves, which the shrub had clung to despite the nastiness of the late Autumn and Winter. It had all looked so simple when he was little, the Boy Scout books almost rhapsodising about hatchets and straight staffs as a ridge pole, but walking around with an axe these days would get him lifted by the plod in no time.


As the night entered the small hours, she decided she might as well open her e-reader and wait for dawn, which was why she found herself waking from the faint memory of a dream as ever-elusive sleep had finally drawn her under.

Her cell was buzzing away next to her pillow.


“Tiff? You awake? It’s Tyler”

“Wasn’t, but am now. Whadyawant?”

Vanishing Point

The flight was not my greatest delight.

Silly words, but I was decanted from the 777 into Perth airport feeling like absolute shit. Sod all the advice about jet lag, I NEEDED sleep. The baggage trolley was awful, only the back wheels steering.

“What is the purpose of your visit, Mister Ellison?”

Mates 25

She looked to be a year or two older than me, but her smile was a genuine one, if a little uncertain. It was clearly a set-up, but I didn’t think it would be polite to make a fuss. Have our meeting, poke fun at the photos, and then make a quick exit. Doug was back with the drinks, passing me a pint and his children a coke each before returning for the other adult drinks. Once settled, he passed me a sheet of paper with the day’s ‘specials’ listed.

“Parmo’s something popular up Teesside way, as I said. Now, I’ve had a word with him behind the bar, and he said something about it not being exactly what he expected. Seems there’s a difference between the Aussie one and the one his cook’s banged our”

First Flight

It was a shop day, so I had to bring my smiles, despite everything that had happened. My Dahon folder had caused a few comments when I had boarded the train at Croydon, and once again at Clapham Junction, but that was par for the course. It was still far more convenient than the bus ride into Barnes. Asa I was also covering duty manager that day, I had had to brave the full-on commuter rush into London, and once again I was grateful that the second trip was against the flow and the train a lot emptier.


“What are you up to on Sunday, Beth?”

I pondered that one for all of two seconds, staring at my phone. She had no need for the details of why I had such an aversion to New Year’s Eve.

“Getting outside some Pinot Grigio, and probably most of a box of Quality Street, but you already know that, Taylor”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, and watching Jools Holland on the Beeb. Not fancy some excitement?”

I drew in a slow breath, wondering if cracking her egg had ever been a sensible course of action. Adult head on, woman.

Mates 24

Her place was a little overgrown, but I’d brought a few tools down with me just in case. As I removed a few weeds, preparing to plant a couple of bulbs, I found a plastic-wrapped card fastened to one of the flower pots.

‘If you read this Mike, a couple of us from the (climbing and folk) clubs stop by every couple of weeks to clean up. Not forgotten’

Mates 23

The news was officially announced in an office meeting, and it was a little deeper than Betty had suggested. The boss was very clear in what the requirements of the posting would be. Yes, he did use that word.

“There’s been a lot of rubbish coming out about this one, so let’s put some of that silliness to bed. We are not going to be shipping lard and chip fat to Australia, no matter how wonderful Yorkshire lard products may be. We need the successful candidate to have an understanding of the processes involved, but that’s all. What we will be offering is much more along the lines of our management consultancy work”

Rainbows in the Rock 71

There had been a moment or two through that evening where I had found real sustenance, especially as I had spent time sitting with Lexie and Lisa. ‘Not the only lesbian’, et cetera, was well past its sell-by date. Lexie picked up on one particular chuckle, so I tried to explain.

“Ah, it was a while back. Can’t remember if there was a guest on, but that woman you say is your friend, she was here with a load of girls”

I was watching them both for a reaction, to see how Alys would be received when she met them, and the first response was from Lexie.

“Oh, god, how many that time? Like an invading army, they can be”

Rainbows in the Rock 70

I followed them down, working through Lexie’s revelations. Hywel’s hints about the Roberts rape trial had hit home, especially that little snippet about ‘mother in law’, and I found myself revisiting what had happened to my own lover.

How on Earth had this lot survived, never mind managed to retain their sanity? I thought once more of the blonde woman, Candice, paddling out onto the lake each day, eyes somewhere I never wanted to be, seeing, remembering…

Rainbows in the Rock 69

Before and after that chat with Ross, I had spent some time working out possible combinations of activities for the police group, which led to some deep discussions with Ricky. He was absolutely serious about the whole thing, which gratified me.

“Simple, Enfys, isn’t it? All those lectures about adventure sport as a mental health treatment, and here we are putting the theory to work. I know you’ll be doing the same, but it’s going into a notebook, diary thing. How are we going to work this if one or more of them has bigger issues?”

Rainbows in the Rock 68

I really didn’t put much into that Christmas, but I really think everyone understood why. I was more than a little surprised when Warren turned out to be a solid source of support.

“Simples, Enfys. Never thought I’d be where I am, and now I’ve had the surprise, I can’t imagine not being where I am. Sort of, well, knew what I was missing, then found it. Realised it was actually more than I had hoped for. Don’t want to be without her, do I? Don’t, can’t even think what that would be like. What it would mean. And I know you have your parents, both sets, and all your friends”

Rainbows in the Rock 67

I was back in the Brenin two days later. The trip back up had passed in almost complete silence, and it was only that evening that my self-absorption had lifted enough for me to realise that my sense of loss must be weighing at least as heavily on her parents as it did on myself.

Mam had been her usual self, bringing a mug of hot chocolate to my room as I lay dry-eyed on my bed. Sitting down beside me, she put a hand to my shoulder and squeezed.

Mates 22

It was a day that left me more than a little out of sorts. I had smiled at the way Steph’n’Geoff danced attendance on each other, but each little moment raised Caro’s memory. That could, should, have been us, was my first thought, which was then kicked well into touch by the simple understanding that it HAD been us. The wave of loss left me silent most of the way back to Sheffield, and after Kul dropped me off I waited at my closed front door before he had turned the corner, then walked to the local convenience store and bought a half bottle of Grouse and a bottle of dry white.

Rainbows in the Rock 66

The night also continued in its usual way, and Linda pleased me by proving to be a simple player, competent enough to enjoy the sessions without needing to take over. She actually started a couple of tunes, both morris tunes I didn’t know, so she actually challenged my own playing. Good fun!

David was not a musician in any formal way, but he was clearly enjoying both the playing and his sense of personal fame achieved by sitting next to a Real Professional Named Musician, and I had a snort, remembering a character in more than one of my lover’s Pratchett books. A street trader, he offered various animal derived products but charged a higher price for those containing ‘named meat’. That was David, and of course I started snorting with more laughter at the thought of ‘named gammon’.

Mates 21

We washed up our empty mugs, and then Kul grinned at me.

“Sod it. Refill to take with us? I can do them both. People will gossip if we come back together”

“People already gossip in this place, especially Betty!”

“Yeah, mate, but I like to steer it a bit if I can. Let her make up her own shit, and well never hear the end of it. Given where you get off to, it would all be ovine”

“All be what?”

“Ovine. To do with sheep”

Mates 20

I woke in a warm fuzz, my bag snug around me and my bladder, for once, not that insistent. I slithered out of it nonetheless, and after I had done the necessary, I started a trawl through the food left ready for breakfast by the Woodruffs.

That term finally made sense to me, for Steph was now so clearly right in her skin, content as she was, and if someone who shared a bed with her had no issues, then why should I? I decided I would keep telling myself that until I was convinced.

Rainbows in the Rock 65

We ended up borrowing the class minibus for the trip up to Shrewsbury, our housemates pulling out various excuses for coming back to college early. We stayed Thursday night in a Holiday Inn on the edge of the town so that we could get a decent pitch the next morning, and settled down in our rooms after a rather limited choice of evening meal.

The breakfast was adequate, and not long afterwards Jordan was steering us aimlessly through the town centre. It was only when I spotted a particular pub that I remembered the way to the site, despite all the big signs we had been passing. Some navigator I was!

Mates 19

We finished our last drinks after Jimmy’s final tune, played solo as the Woodruffs sat down for their own pints, and started back up the hill to the bunkhouse and our beds. I hung back a little as the ginger non-misery led the way. I watched as her hand slipped into that of her husband, and almost by the second my focus shifted.

There was nothing false there, nothing feigned. They looked each other in the eye, they grinned as one, and when their hands joined it was as natural as it would have been for any normal couple.

Mates 18

I was on another trip out to Bethesda around two years later when I got a serious surprise. The way time was flying was more than enough of a shock to start with, but then I was getting used to that as both Enfys and little Davvy seemed to change markedly on a weekly basis.

Kul and his boy were unavailable that weekend, so it was just me who loaded the bike for the run up to the bunkhouse. The forecast wasn’t the greatest, but I didn’t care. Sheffield was fine in its own ways, and the climbing was perfect for a thug like me, but I had always been a sucker for the call of real mountains.

Mates 16

I left it a fortnight before I next rode across to Bethesda, on the simple basis that not only would things be a little hectic there, but that the two of them---no, three of them now---might want or need some privacy. Family time.

I went over eventually, of course, with a present of a plush stuffed narwhal in deference to an old sequence of jokes in the climbing club back in That Place.

Mates 15

That was when I nearly broke, but I had a long chat with myself. Stupid bloody thing to say, really, but while my thoughts were screaming and painful, there was a little voice underneath the agony whispering words of… What? Not solace; not comfort. Just words of sense and sentiment.

Carolyn had loved me, at least as much as I still loved her, and I had absolutely no doubts on that score. She was gone, and I took what solace, what comfort I could, in the fact that it had been so quick. To be honest, there was nothing better I could find to lift me from my bed, but in the end it was all I had, and it was enough.

Rainbows in the Rock 64

We clicked back into our courses as if we had never been away, my slightly skewed beak bringing more than a few jokes, including one from our tutor. His was a cheeky remark about remembering the old formula ‘Grid to mag, add’ if I ever found myself following my nose.

Cheeky, but actually quite clever.

Mates 14

I managed to steady the bike enough to get it onto its sidestand, pain ripping into my chest as I did so. Something felt broken there, and I found my vision greying out as I struggled to get off. There was a lorry stopped just to my left, another pulled slightly away to my right, angled into traffic. I found myself falling, another agonising stab from my chest as I sat down hard on the tarmac. I really didn’t want to look behind me, but it had to be done. I had to know.

Mates 12

That next morning will always be special to me. I woke to bright sunlight shining around the edges of the curtains and filtering through the material, Caro still burbling away in her sleep, the room ripe with the smell of our demonstration of parental intent the night before. I felt embarrassed as I imagined what the cleaners would make of the state of our bedding.

Mates 11

Routine could now be a thing in our lives, but that didn’t mean boring. Our weeks and months of domesticity were moored to fixed points, such as the folk and climbing clubs, and if Keith couldn’t make them due to his shifts, Pen was there to hold up their end of the deal. Whenever we could, Caro and I would pack our tent for a weekend of walking, or four of us would head off together for some climbing.

Mates 10

It was a hell of a do. While there were a lot of folkies along, the atmosphere was predominantly focussed on climbing. I was a little surprised at how many of said folkies were ready to engage in outdoor stuff, but Caro had nudged me early on with a very heavy hint about tradition, land, culture and, overall, being a folky. When the instruments came out, a couple of the waiters in the Royal Vic said something about music licences, until their duty manager appeared, said something more pointed about taste, and then, clearly deliberately, sat down for a listen.

Mates 9

The tent’s flysheet was soaking when I woke, but with dew rather than downpour. Our little spot was to the East of the rock pile that held the shelter, so the sun was already having an effect on the moisture. I wriggled into my breeks and shirt before slithering out, standing barefoot on a rock before stepping sockless into my boots. Nature was calling in an urgent way, and once I had disposed of that night’s wine I pulled the kettle out of my rucksack ready for Caro’s wake-up drink.

“You both up, love? I heard the clanking”

Pile on

Last year, and again this year, I was doxxed, including my photo, by some 'big names' in organised transphobia. One of the bigots took a video of a talk I gave to a charity, as well as the 'Look inside!" free preview on Amazon of my first book, and 'interpreted' all of it as sexual fetishism. Everything I do is done because I am a pervert: when I brush my teeth, it is because I [insert bizarre and unhinged explanation]

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Western Ways 7

The next few months were as routine as anything could be when held as a prisoner. Jim had a degree of freedom he had never expected the day he had been marched away from a Flanders canalside. Two days in the camp would be followed by five in the castle, largely outdoors. A couple of the Fritzes spoke some English, and they served two purposes. The first was the obvious one, passing on Jim’s instructions to the small group of labourers that he led, while the second was something he should really have expected.

Mates 8

There were very few people from work at the reception, which Penny and Keith held in the Red Lion, in the same stables bar the folk club usually occupied. As many of the guests were fellow folk club members, it was familiar territory for them; the climbers, being climbers, simply needed to know what direction the bar was in.

The wedding itself was held in the Registry Office on George Street, and our plan was to wander back that way later in the evening to hit the India Garden on Wellington Street for a final refuelling stop. As the soon-to-be-married couple would be flying to Palma the next day, I pitied anyone sharing the plane’s cabin and their curry-related effusions.

Rainbows in the Rock 63

I was more than a little nervous as we waited for the arrival of Kitzy’s father. We were sitting on the sofa and armchairs in a way that felt profoundly artificial, and all I could imagine was that it was all too obvious. I couldn’t see anyone in possession of any working braincells missing how Alys and I moved in each other’s presence, even if Tref and his boy didn’t slip up.

Mates 7

That marked a new period in our lives, as that uncertainty I had picked up on steadily became more evident. Caro, it turned out, was a classic case of imposter syndrome, amazingly well concealed. While she was absolutely realistic about the allure of her rear view, she was far less confident about her worth as a person. She was never completely open about her history, but I worked out that she had stumbled out of a number of relationships, and assumed that each break-up had been down to her failings. She covered it up amazingly well, but in the end, she was always running to a timetable in her affairs of the heart: get what she could before the other person got fed up with her.


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