She read her way around the library, hungry for journeys, adventures, laughter and passion. She took each new book to bed like a lover, savouring every chapter, going too far some nights until the letters danced like insects and she was groggy next day at work. But still she’d sneak away for lunchtime trysts, her eager fingers fumbling for the bookmark. In between times, in the worst of times and all alone, she would graze on safety notices, cereal packets, logos, the small print on tickets. In museums and galleries she read the plaques, barely glancing at the exhibits. When she died she had never travelled more than thirty miles from the small town of her birth. But between the covers she’d been all round the globe: a queen, a mother, a spy, a murderer, a general, a slave, an alien. She died just before the last chapter.

*Originally published by www.the-phone-book.com (now archived)


‘What’s a miner?’ his grand-daughter asked. The question snatched his breath away just as the blue-black dust had. He saw the pit-head, the winding gear wheeling above, felt the shudder of the cage,  heard the clatter of the wagons, the thunder of picks and hammers on stone, tasted coal. Recalled the life of a whole village beaten out to the rhythm of the mine, broken by the stutter of the hooter that roared disaster. He didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.