Saturday, 25 June 2016

SHORT STORY ENTRY: Bath Short Story Competition

Dear all,

Another short story entry I can blog as the long list has been published. Check out the competition and long/short list here: 

Bath International Short Story Award 2016
(The maximum word count was 2200)

Stay in the Shade
The day was not for spats. It was too hot, too dry and sibling patience frayed easily in crowds. The plan: Shop. Gift. Home.
‘I want to say the temperature is bothersome, is that right? Is that a word? It’s not middle class twatishness is it?’ Sarah asked.
‘Probably,’ Jeremy replied, indifferently. He tweaked the front of his cap and felt tiny rivers of sweat escape.
‘It all depends who hears me anyway,’ Sarah continued, trying to see past her reflection; her shape was clearly outlined in a shop window that was glinting a vicious white from the sun. She missed the subtlety of his tone completely, ‘I think people can say that without coming across posh. If I had said - one feels bothered - no, no - it’s rather bothersome - then perhaps it could sound a little Jeeves & Wooster,’
Jeremy ignored her postscript and stared over the waves of bobbing heads filling the view down the retail fuelled scrum that was Oxford Street. At their current rate it would be hours before they made it through the shops on their list. Sarah’s extreme play of emotional blackmail earlier in the week, well rehearsed he was sure, was the only thing that could have forced him to town on a Saturday; the youths, the price tags, the insane squirming and sidestepping all too much for him. In a way he was glad of Sarah’s incessant chatter, it helped him anchor to the moment. The need to reply every so often was a pain but manageable.
‘Would mum like this, do you think?’ Sarah pointed to a flowery ankle length dress in the shop window, West Country meets California hippy.
‘You mean, would mother like this?’ Jeremy surprised himself cracking a joke with his sister, very unusual. Stress does funny things. Their mother’s birthday was coming up, a number to be celebrated but not mentioned, and they had promised each other to make an effort with a party and gifts. Their local High Street was ruled out.
‘Oooo, yes, I like that! I wonder if mother dear would like this?’ Sarah drawled in return.
‘If she saw us… ’ Jeremy said, looking the dress up and down. A bit young, he thought.
‘She’d be shocked we made it five minutes,’
‘Yep. I’m surprised myself.’ Jeremy said, quickly adding a smile; he didn’t want to ruin things.
‘Do you think we could skip the shops and just say our gift was getting on for a day without fighting? She’d take that, I think?’ Sarah moved closer to the window, cupped her hands over both eyes and pressed them against the glass to cut out the   glare.
‘She would… if she believed it, maybe we should ask the shop for the CCTV as evidence?’ Jeremy felt the sharp corner of a boutique bag dig into his ribs and jumped forward as a chorus of girls in loose t-shirts that showed the sides of their bodies and coloured bras ambled by. Two were in deep conversation and the other was shouting loudly into her phone. He masked his discomfort as they glanced back.
‘I wouldn’t mind taking a closer look at this, do you mind if-’
‘Holy. Shit.’ Jeremy stood motionless; shock had rooted him to the spot.
‘Jesus! You scared the hell out of me!’ Don’t make me jump like that. It was only a bloody pinch,’ Sarah flashed an angry look his way but immediately saw he had turned pale, the shadow from his cap’s peak exaggerating the white of his wide open eyes, and his hands were shaking.
‘You’re not going to fucking believe it,’
‘Don’t swear like that, you know I hate it. Seriously, it’s not funny, what’s wrong?’
‘Look inside the shop,’
‘Why? What is it?’
‘Just look… don’t go in!’ Jeremy grabbed his sister by the elbow, frightening her more than the tremor in his voice had. She looked up at him with unease but a lifetime of reading his body language and seeing behind his bravado told her he was not joking around. Whatever it was, he wasn’t pretending.
            ‘Okay,’ Sarah said gently, almost soothingly. She backtracked the few steps she had taken to enter the shop and stood next to her brother. She could feel his chest and shoulders trembling and his discomfort was starting to panic her, ‘what am I looking at?’
‘The man in the brown blazer,’ Jeremy flicked his head forward, his eyes fixed like a laser.
‘Who is it?’
‘I am looking! Who is it? Please, you’re scaring me,’
‘I think… it’s Uncle Alistair,’
‘Uncle… ’ Sarah narrowed her eyes and studied the man in the brown blazer. Inside the shop the sun’s intensity was curtailed by two wide signs hanging a metre inside the doorway casting an attractively cool looking shade, ‘No, can’t be,’
‘That’s fucking him,’

The train waiting to depart at Platform 1 from London Charing Cross was starting to bustle with suburban shoppers and museum roaming families returning from their day trips. Sarah and Jeremy had boarded as soon as it had pulled in and enjoyed the first few minutes of the empty carriage before it gradually filled as its departure time neared. All of the small thin windows had been pulled open, except the ubiquitous glued shut one, and the still-open doors allowed for a nice breeze. They had kept quiet at first, each taking a moment to rest and cool down.
‘We’re not mad, that was him?’ Sarah eventually asked. She had taken a newspaper from another seat and was fanning herself.
‘Definitely him,’
‘I don’t understand, I just-’
‘If he’s here then dad’s got to be here,’ Jeremy said. They both faced forward and stared at the scratches in the grey plastic-moulded seat back. He had stated what they had both been thinking since walking away from Oxford Street.
‘I mean… we don’t know that. It could be… ’ Sarah stalled and looked out of the window at the row of strangers lining up on the other platform waiting for their train. They were a cliché of over-heated weekend commuters. She watched as one man in particular wildly flapped his sweat-stained shirt to force up air, exposing his hairy, sagging belly.
‘He was out shopping like he didn’t have a care in the world,’ Jeremy’s words were full of bitterness.
‘It was him? I mean, it definitely was him?’
‘Yes. You know it was,’
‘I wonder where he lives?’
‘Christ’s sake, I’m wondering a lot of things,’
‘Okay, calm down! Please. There’s no point in getting wound up,’
‘Sorry… I didn’t mean to shout. It’s just, like, he’s there, getting on with his life,’
‘What are we going to do?’
‘I… I’m not sure. I can’t think straight,’
The train doors beeped and shut and the final few passengers to board made their way along the aisles looking for spaces in the overhead racks to sling their bags and coats. The gentle acceleration from the station relieved all those starting to get itchy and a new flow of air hit welcoming faces. As they emerged from the station’s canopy and bright sunlight covered the train and flooded the carriage, Sarah looked out of Jeremy’s window and saw the Thames shine.
‘Are we going to tell mum?’

R.G Rankine

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

For Jimmy - 21 Bridges - Charity walk

Dear all, 

On Saturday 2nd July I will be walking from Richmond to Tower Bridge, covering 21 bridges and 21 miles in order to help raise money for the 'For Jimmy' charity. If you can spare a pound or are able to share this post and spread the word then you have my huge thanks! THANKS! 

To find out more about the event please visit my fundraising page: 

Jimmy Mizen was murdered in 2008 and this charity works in his honour, its aim is to help young people in London and throughout Britain build a positive future and avoid being involved in violence. You can find out more here:

Thank you everyone,

Monday, 20 June 2016

SHORT STORY ENTRY: Bath Flash Fiction Award

Dear all,

Here's one more short story entry I can now blog as the long list has been published. To see the long list and find out more information so you can try yourself next time please go to: 

Bath Flash Fiction Award
(The maximum word count was 300)

This was a little idea I had that although I couldn't develop I really wanted to do something with. I couldn't spend time on it to produce a longer piece and I didn't want to leave it to rot either so truthfully, I knew it wasn't properly rounded and finished but I enjoyed the visual in my mind so much I couldn't resist entering it!

This makes 19 competitions I have entered this year so far and I have drafts of another 25 shorts that if I finish them I can enter into competitions during the second half of this year. Some like this one are very short but some are between the 5k and 10k word count mark. Some (perhaps like this one... ) I know haven't been great but I've still enjoyed the process and learnt a lot from entering, and others I am quite proud of (even though I know they aren't brilliant, I think they show a bit of development in my storytelling or have been very useful exercises in trying out new ideas or techniques) and I have even managed to not cringe at them after re-reading several weeks later!

Anyway, I'll be blogging shortly on the topic of word counts and how entering competitions this year has helped me develop the critical process of slashing out lines. 

No More I-Spy

‘It’s so stupid! Why Trafalgar Square!’ Ellie turns to her mother and raises both arms into the air. She looks like a despairing sports coach seeing their best player mess up. For a nine-year-old she carries the aura of existential frustration quite majestically.
‘It’s only a film,’ Ellie’s mother says, trying to make light of the perceptive child critic.
‘If I wanted to sell secrets mum… if I was a spy, that would be the last place I’d go; like, there are soooo many cameras and people,’
What secrets? Ellie’s mother thinks, privately petrified of Ellie’s potential, which grows more demanding by the day. How does she know to think this way?
‘I’d pick the path by my school fields, it’s like, in the middle of nowhere, like, really,’

Ellie doesn’t need a response; her eyes have returned to study the screen. Ellie’s mother on the other hand would love some answers. A Sunday afternoon film on BBC 2 shouldn’t cause this much distress. Is this the moment she knows she will lose her? Have they somehow detected her intelligence? How long before they begin to start sending her codes on the back of her corn flakes? Ellie’s mother wonders if she should start hiding the newspapers so Ellie can’t find the crosswords. Ellie’s mother loves her of course… but why doesn’t Ellie ever want to see the Prince kiss the Princess?

Have a great week, 

R.G Rankine

Saturday, 4 June 2016

SHORT STORY ENTRY: Listowel Writers’ Week

Dear all,

Here’s another short story entry I can now blog. To see the competition’s winner and more information so you can try yourself next time please go to: Listowel Writers’ Week Originals Competitions Short Story (maximum word count 1,500).

I can’t remember this entry exactly, I think it was a short piece I had that at some point I was going to develop but then decided against it and kept it aside until an opportunity arose. It is a third of the required length so I have a feeling I entered this one because I didn’t want to waste it rather than thinking it was any good!


Driven Away

I’m not sure about this. I can’t even remember her name: Sarah, Shelley, Susy? This is just the sort of situation I hate. I’m so good at hiding it, she think it’s shyness. Instinct: be nice. How long before dad realises I’m gone? Is that enough for him to catch up?

Samantha is somewhere around fifty years of age and is walking up to George as if she has known him her whole life. Old buddies. Georgey and Sammy. She has a big wide smile, open pleading eyes and is flapping her hand at him in that come-with-me motion mothers use with toddlers. She is the third woman that month to pay a visit to the house and all of them had been the same: Put on a good show! What a good mother! Friends!
“We’ll only be five minutes,” Samantha says. George looks up to the bathroom window and sees the silhouette of his dad moving back and forth. Maybe he’s shaving, George thinks. If he’s shaving, that takes five minutes, maybe a few minutes more. Keep her talking.
“Where do you live?” George asks.
“Oh come on, that doesn’t matter. I’ve told you already anyway, weren’t you listening?”
Not-so-little-anymore George backs away from Samantha and moves towards the football. They are in George’s dad’s back garden and it’s a bright, clear Saturday summer morning. It’s George’s weekend to visit and he feels free and unembarrassed. This woman, a total stranger to George, has arrived and made herself at home. Apparently, they are going to the cinema. It’s the first George has heard of it. He thought he was going with his dad to the park and having a kickabout.
“If we go now, we’ll be back before your dad’s down,” Samantha says. George drops his head and starts to pass the ball between his feet.

I should tell dad. This doesn’t feel right. I don’t want to go with you. You shouldn’t be forcing me to do something I don’t want to do. I’m fine where I am. I was having a good time before you turned up. I don’t want you here. Leave me alone.

The promise of chocolate and a magazine doesn’t make George flinch and Samantha isn’t very pleased. She thinks it’s a grand gesture. She thinks she’s being friendly and making herself look better than her competition. She thinks he should be more grateful and supportive. He’s not quite what she had been led to believe. As Samantha walks over the dry grass she stumbles and has to drop to one knee to save herself from falling onto her side. The heel of her right shoe pierced the ground so cleanly it wedged in and resisted her next stride. She very nearly loses her temper but doesn’t let on. She feels it is too early in the morning to play games. This is the third time she has agreed to date George’s dad and at their age and situation she isn’t in the mood to waste energy on pleasantries.
            “My car’s by the garage, we’ll pop down to the petrol station, fill it up and get you some goodies at the same time! What do you say?” Samantha is smiling like it’s a capital offence not to.

I’ll go with her and then if anything happens dad will get the blame then he’ll never do this again. No more strangers and no more messing around with my weekend.


Have a great weekend all,

R.G Rankine