Monday, February 05, 2007


(This work comes from a monthly assignment where the members were asked to write a short work using the word "Christmas".)

Jane's Dad had carved the Nativity figures from Sunlight soap bars the Christmas she was nine, when there'd been no money to spare for decorations. Her Mum had been cross when Jane hid them and she'd had nothing to use for the wash.

In later and more prosperous years they had still set them out under the tree. It became a family tradition, and Jane's own children had known never to handle them.

But one year she missed Joseph and discovered her small grandson washing his hands with the old carpenter. She scolded him until he gave it back, all frothy and lopsided.

"But Grandma, didn't Jesus get dirty hands when he was a little boy?"

Jane looked at the hard old soap in her hand, started to explain, and stopped. Then she smiled. "I'm sure he did. Here."

Christmas, after all, was about a child.

Monya Clayton,
Writers’ Group, Clifton

Thursday, November 30, 2006

THE KING'S HEIR by Monya Clayton

(A writing assignment where a change of words would have changed history.)

Henry Tudor VIII paced the Turkey carpet outside the birthing room at Greenwich Palace. Inside the room his wife, attended anxiously by physicians, midwives and ladies in waiting, was in labour.

The King was understandably restless. The queen had already produced a healthy babe, a girl. He was fond of the child, but he did not wish on England the disaster of a female monarch.

He brooded as he paced the hall. Every courtier saw the thunder on his brow and none dared speak to him, not even his chief minister. They all knew he had paid attentions to other women, but equally all knew that he could not take another wife while this one lived. But he must have sons, living sons.

“Your Majesty!” The court physician left the birthing room, entered the hall, and bowed before the King.

Henry glared at him. Here it comes, he thought, God has cursed me again. A dead babe, a frail babe, or another healthy girl. He scowled horribly. “Well? Speak!” The physician’s face was merely tired.

The man smiled gravely. “Your majesty, it is a son. A healthy boy!”

The King stared, then bellowed his pleasure. He did not ask after Catherine of Aragon, whom he had once loved and who had finally done her duty by him. Now he need not bed her ever again, and any children born to his mistresses would remain bastards. “God be praised! A son! He shall be the ninth Henry!”

The courtiers broke into smiles, and his chief minister Wolsey at least wiped his brow with a relieved hand. Henry called for wine and sweetmeats, ordered church bells rung, celebration in London and all of England.

He gulped the wine when it was handed him in a gold goblet, toasted the heir, laughed uproariously in sheer triumph. Now he also had done his duty. England would not suffer the fate of being ruled by his daughter Mary.

MONYA CLAYTON © 16/10/06

BIG TOE by Monya Clayton

(This monthly assignment was to choose from a number of unfamiliar topics and perhaps research them and produce poetry or prose. Topics included: Aurora Australis, Hannibal, Angkhor Wat, Big Toe, Big Ben (i.e. the mechanicism in the Tower of Westminister), cold fusion, Boerwurst sausage. Monya bravely incorporated them all!)

Aurora’s pale dawn light
slips beneath the bedroom blind –
and ah! Big toe, I see you,
sticking out from under the blanket.
She catches you in a sunbeam
and as I’m half sleeping still
I envision you, silhouetted against the built-ins,
as a noble monolith,
much bigger than you really are.

What do you look like?
Pink and white with a crooked nail,
shaped by my mother’s genes -
No. Something more interesting?
A round of yummy Boerswurst sausage –
for Hannibal Lecter the cannibal?
No thanks.

No, much nobler! You’re white on top -
Thanks to poor circulation -
Like a snow-capped mountain.
An alp, no less! A mountain climbed by
Hannibal the general of Carthage
when he marched over the Alps to battle with Rome. Elephants went with him,
dragging their poor tropical toes in the snow.
I can see them all, descending the pass between
my big and second toes…

Or maybe you’re the tower of the great clock of Westminster
that boasts the bell of Big Ben.

Or, speaking of towers, perhaps you’re
a carved sandstone tower
lording it high over the temple of Angkhor Wat.
Or one of the towers of its city Angkhor Thom –
capital of the Khmer kings of Cambodia.

Then Aurora touches big toe
with her chill white hand.
It remembers it has arthritis,
clamps over its fellows in cold fusion,
and cowardly, with all its imaginations dispersed,
hides back beneath the blankets…

Alas! All glory gone.
My big toe is nothing but a toe.

© MONYA CLAYTON - 21/8/2006

Sunday, August 06, 2006


(Note: The following story was the result of a 10 minute writing exercise during our last meeting. The writer was asked to incorporate the following words: Noddy and Big Ears, cottage, cup of tea, bed.)

The milkman had heard the stories and read the newspapers. For the first time he wondered just what did go on inside that pretty cottage.

‘I’m going to have a look!’ he decided.

He dropped their bottle of full-cream milk onto the doorstep at nine o’clock one soft twilight evening. The front door was closed, of course, but he saw convenient chinks in the curtains of a few windows. He sneaked around to the kitchen window. There they were, sitting at the table drinking tea and chatting comfortably. But the milkman couldn’t hear what they were saying and after two boring minutes he pressed one ear against a corner of the window glass. Then he caught a few words.

Noddy yawned and said, “Time for bed, I think.”

Big Ears stretched. “Me, too. I’ll make the hot water bottle.” He went to the stove and filled an old rubber hot water bottle from the steaming kettle.

‘Aha!’ thought the milkman. ‘Only one hot water bottle for the two of them!’

Noddy and Big Ears left the room arm in arm. The milkman sneaked around the house to a bedroom window that also had a convenient chink between the pretty curtains. He saw there was only one bed in the room. Then Noddy and Big Ears strolled in together and started to undress. The milkman’s eyes began to pop.

“Oh, the window,” said Noddy. He came to the window in his night-shirt and pulled the curtains shut.

‘Darn’, thought the milkman. ‘How do I find out now?’

He tiptoed around to the kitchen again. No one in town ever locked their back door. He opened it and crept up the darkening hallway.

Something white floated towards him. The milkman stepped smartly into the kitchen alcove.

But it wasn’t a ghost. It was a golliwog in a white night-shirt. And he opened the bedroom door without knocking and went in…

‘I don’t want to know!’ whispered the milkman, and fled.

MONYA CLAYTON© 12th June 2006

HAIKU by Monya Clayton

This haiku refers to "Spanish Waters" by English poet John Masefield, b. 1878 - d.1967. Appointed Poet Laureate in 1930, awarded Order of Merit 1935.

Here's the first & ninth & tenth of the ten verses.

"Spanish waters, Spanish waters, you are ringing in my ears,
Like a slow, sweet piece of music from the grey forgotten years;
Telling tales, and beating tunes, and bringing weary thoughts to me
Of the sandy beach at Muertos, where I would that I could be."

"It's not the way to end it all. I'm old, and nearly blind,
And an old man's past's a strange thing, for it never leaves his mind.
And I see in dreams, awhiles, the beach, the sun's disc dipping red,
And the tall ship, under topsails, swaying in past Nigger Head.

I'd be glad to step ashore there. Glad to take a pick and go
To the lone blazed coco-palm tree in the place no others know,
And lift the gold and silver that has mouldered there for years
By the loud surf of Los Muertos which is beating in my ears.

"Now, from the sublime to the ridiculous, my haiku lines:

"An old blind pirate
Raves of gold lost long ago,
And grieves for lost youth."

(C) Monya Clayton, May 11th 2006

OVER THE HILL by Monya Clayton

“A pig on a mountain,” a sage once said,
“Sees more than a man with a bag on his head.”
I remember it now when I’m getting old
And “You’re over the hill,” I’m sometimes told.

‘Over the hill’ means past your use-by date,
Whatever you try will be way too late,
You’ve done your dash and had your chance,
‘Make way, old thing, our turn to dance.’

The road, they say, that matters most,
Runs up the hill to the winning post.
Keep eyes ahead, don’t slow the pace,
To the top of the heap, the end of the race.

I tell you, kids, I tried that path,
No time to look, no time to laugh.
The road was steep through rocky ground,
I barely saw the view around.

Too tired to even see the top
Till I was old and had to stop.
I was over the hill. And like the pig,
I looked and saw the world was big.

Run up the mount with a bag on your head
Ignore the view, and then drop dead.
Around the earth I gaze at will –
The scenery’s better, over the hill.