Monthly Archives: February 2014

One Fewer Thing To Worry About

We all know the difference between Less and Fewer now, right? It’s all about things versus stuff, as I explained here.




So what on earth is going on with the phrase, “One less thing to worry about”? And what about, “We’d gone less than 30 miles when we ran out of gas”?

Well, it seems to depend who you ask. “One less thing” is definitely right; NOBODY says “one fewer thing”, but it’s up to you whether you say that’s because it’s just weird English language idiom, or because even with THINGS, one isn’t really countable in the same ways as bigger numbers, so “one less” is OK for THINGS as well as stuff. (Anyway, one less is never going to be stuff, because by definition you can’t have one stuff).

As for distances, measures and so on, this is where my Maths lesson about discrete numbers and non-discrete numbers might have helped. I think of it this way:

“We went less than thirty miles” might mean 29 or 28 miles. Those things are countable, so I’d want FEWER than thirty of those THINGS we call miles. But realistically, it probably means 29.65234 miles, because miles aren’t discrete, so we’re really talking about distance, which is STUFF. “We went less far” would definitely be right.

The same with “He owes me less than thirty pounds.” Fewer would just sound weird, because it individuates the pounds, where the issue is really the STUFF that is money.

But explain it to yourself however you like, or just learn it as a rule, when you’re talking about measures, like money, weights and distances, less is sometimes more. Or fewer.

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Friday Fiction – Delays

This week’s FF photograph reminded me of an old FF entry here, but I went a different way instead with my story and you can read it below. I welcome comments and critique; I’m particularly interested in any suggestions for a better title. I feel there must be a great one out there, but it’s eluding me this morning.

Thanks to Rochelle for hosting and Sandra Crook for the photo.



“Oh God, move it!” Dad yelled.

Amy looked up at the castle on the hill. They’d passed signs advertising “Les spectacles des chevaux”, which sounded like glasses for horses, but meant equestrian shows. She’d have made a joke, even suggested they go, but the car was thick with Dad’s anger at the tractor so she kept quiet.

“You’d think he’d pull over and let us by!”

A few miles later, the tractor turned off. Dad floored the accelerator and narrowly avoided a pensioner who’d chosen that moment to cross.

“Now, is there anywhere you’d like to visit today?” Dad asked.



An extra thought…

The lesson in this story is one I try to bear in mind as Sebastian and I are walking through the freezing wind and he stops to study a discarded plastic bottle or a pile of dirty snow. I’m not preaching – I know that it’s too easy to be “Dad” and get swept away with the need to get somewhere without ever stopping to wonder if you’re already there.


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Taking Liberties

I love it when I read something that makes me think – about my own prejudices or opinions, or about the ways the world works. And fiction can open up many emotions and issues more easily than its more cerebral counterparts.

Perhaps this is why I like books (and films) that deal with difficult topics – slavery, war, crime etc. But you don’t need to delve into the bleakest parts of humanity to explore human nature. Two of my recent FF pieces appear to have sparked discussion on the everyday but critical issue of the battle of the sexes.

Sangria was about a middle-aged couple on holiday in Spain. Don thought he’d hit the spot for romance: Julie had wanted to drink Sangria on the Main and here they were doing just that. Julie could only feel disappointment: after years of hinting and waiting to be surprised, she’d had to tell him of her dream, and now they were there, he was more interested in the yachts.

Liberties is about younger characters. Belle is walking through the corridors of her new school with her friend Alice, when some lads make a crude remark about her. Alice is outraged, Belle takes it in her stride and even professes to be flattered.

In both cases, I was interested by the strong feelings I got in response. Many readers condemned Don, but I was pleased at how many also criticised Julie. After all, Don’s trying his best even if he does fall short, and too many women demand mind reading from their partners (I sometimes count myself in their number, I’m afraid.).

The response to Liberties was even more divided. Some saw Belle as a hussy or at best naïve, others saw Alice as jealous or too easily offended. Personally, I am on Belle’s side – I saw her as a confident young woman who isn’t afraid of her appearance or of the effect it has on the boys, but nor is she desperate for their attentions and approval. To me, Belle has discovered at 18 the lesson that you can’t change other people, only how you react to them. If she had been upset and offended by the remarks, it would have ruined her day not the boys’.

A friend of a friend has started the “Everyday Sexist Project”. I think it’s a good idea in many ways, and I am shocked by how much sexism pervades even in modern society. However, I do think some people get overwrought about innocent things – and I count wolf whistles and catcalls in that category. This isn’t a “boys will be boys” argument … if I’d had space, I’d have shown Alice subsequently making a similar casual remark about a band member she likes. I just think people will always make these comments and, like Belle, I value the freedom to do so.

But going back to fiction, I like it when something I read makes me think and question my views on something, but I LOVE it when something I’ve written has that effect on others, and opens up a dialogue between us. Because one of the magical things about fiction is it can be interpreted in many ways.  My précises of the stories about are what I intended, but there’s nothing in the pieces themselves that makes other people’s interpretations invalid. Perhaps, like a Rorschach ink blot test, our reading tells us something about ourselves … perhaps it doesn’t.


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Inspiration Monday – End of Forever

Having returned to something approaching normality, I am pleased to bring you a new InMon story, based on the excellent prompts from Bekindrewrite. If you head over there, you’ll find a handful of great other stories based on either the phrase I used as my title and inspiration, or various other words and phrases. I hope you enjoy my story. As ever, I am open to comments and critique, so please do leave your thoughts.

End of Forever

We were so different, Patrick and I. He roared into love liked a tsunami, casting aside every obstacle, every question, every other possibility except that we would be together for all time. He never professed any religion, nor any concrete ideas about what happens after death, but he was certain that love was everlasting, and that we would be together for eternity.

I admired his passion all the more, because I had none. My love was a calm emotion: waves washing gently over a shore, unstoppable as a whole, but yielding on a smaller scale to piers and groynes and to the big problems that we encountered in those early days. And I believe in heaven, but not as a family reunion; my vows were only until death us do part.

And so I bury him with more finality than he would have done me. I am free to love again. I am free to find another man who will sweep me off my feet with his passion and vigour. I am free to listen to a new promise of happy ever after, of eternal devotion, of love forever.

But there is nothing after the end of forever. There is only darkness and silence. A bed that is too big for one person and a table with too many chairs. After the end of forever, nothing and never begin, and I am there, hoping I am wrong about heaven.


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Friday Fiction – Liberties

Well the painters have gone and I’m finally beginning to feel like Canadian timings are natural again, so that’s another couple of adventures under the belt. Just in time, because it’s Friday Fiction day. Today’s photo brought two ideas (OK, tell it like it is – two puns) to mind. I hope you enjoy them, and the more serious thoughts behind today’s story. I welcome your comments and critique.

Today’s photo comes from David Stewart; as ever, Rochelle leads the way over at FF HQ. Please note this story comes with a Mature Content (language) warning.



She heard their whispers as she passed – she was meant to, she thought. “Have you seen the new girl? Belle? I’d sure like to ring that.”

It was hardly a new joke, or a particularly inspired one, but Belle smiled to herself. Alice, alongside her, was affronted. “Assholes,” she muttered.

“Why? Because they complimented me?”

Alice scoffed. “You’re a victim of their objectification of your sexuality.”

“Or they think I’m hot,” Belle said.

“People died for your freedom, Belle. You should be free to wear whatever you like without being…”

“Admired?” Belle interrupted. “I’d prefer to die for free speech.”


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Happy Family Day!

The family is split across three separate floors, the cats are locked in a bedroom, the humans are sleeping, ironing and working respectively. There’s a guy sanding the wall and there’s dust everywhere…

Happy Family Day!

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Bring It There

There’s a difference between bringing and taking that I think has been lost to some of the people I talk to. And whilst I know that, like a lot of grammar issues, it’s not a big deal, it bugs me, so let’s clear things up if we can.

BRING things HERE.

TAKE things THERE.

 Let’s say Andy is carrying a box to Bernard at Bernard’s house.

If Bernard is involved in the conversation, whether he’s speaking or being spoken to, use BRING, because for Bernard, his house is HERE.

If Bernard isn’t involved – say Andy is discussing the trip with his friend Charlie – use TAKE, because for everyone in the conversation, Bernard’s house is THERE.

Tenses don’t change which verb to use, so obviously you might need to switch it to BRINGING or BROUGHT, TAKING or TOOK etc, but the rules above still apply.

A Niggle

There is a complication to this basic rule – occasions when BRING is used in what looks at first glance like a TAKE situation. Actually, either is probably OK here, but one is more common.

Let’s say Andy is talking to Charlie about the party at Bernard’s tonight. Even though neither of them is at Bernard’s house, they both will be. So although the house is currently THERE, it will be HERE at the time they are talking about.

So, Andy might say, “Can you BRING the box to Bernard’s house tonight?” but the following week, he would probably say “Did you TAKE that box to Bernard’s party last week?”

The Rules

If either (or both) people are at the location in question at the time of discussion, use BRING.

If both people in the discussion will be at the location in question at the time in question, use BRING.

Otherwise, use TAKE.

A Trick?

So far, so confusing? Probably. But there’s a way around all these rules and conditions. In spite of the common phrase to the contrary, most of us know whether we’re coming or going. As in “Are you coming to my party?” or “I went to Bernard’s party last week.”

Well, here’s the trick. If you would use COME (or past tense, CAME), use BRING. If GO (or WENT) is more appropriate, use TAKE.

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Friday Fiction – Sangria

Well, I’m back in Canada and wondering whether I should have left! -14 feels a lot worse when you were in +5 just a few hours before! We had a great time though and really enjoyed seeing so many friends and family back in Blighty.

And I enjoyed getting early on the roster for Friday Fiction last week. This week’s picture comes from one of FF’s heavyweights – Janet Webb. I hope you enjoy my story and stop by Rochelle’s site to read others.



“Is anything more beautiful than sangria?” Julie swirled the drink to let it soak up the Spanish sun.

Don tore his gaze from the harbour. “You’re expecting me to say ‘you’?”

“Expecting? Never. The wine and spirits are bitter, but do you know what really makes it perfect?” She didn’t wait for a reply. “Fruit and sugar. Sweetness is what makes the recipe work.”

“I brought you here, didn’t I? Sangria on the Main, you wanted, Sangria on the Main you got. See? I listen.” And he was back to his yachts, leaving Julie alone beside him, contemplating bittersweet perfection.


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Desperately Bored Housewives

I recently stumbled upon the ITV mini-series The Bletchley Circle. In this new spin on a crime drama, four women who used to work at the top-secret Bletchley Park working on breaking German war codes, find themselves working on the codes and patterns inherent in a serial killer’s latest crime spree. (I actually watched Series 1 on Netflix. Series 2 was recently on ITV but I haven’t seen that yet, so no spoilers please!)


What really struck me about this show wasn’t the crime-solving or the relationship between the four women, although IMHO both are excellent. It was something that follows on rather nicely from last week’s discussion of clichés.

Susan Grey, the ring-leader of the group is married with two children. Her husband is nice, they have a trusting and loving relationship; the children are equally nice. But Susan used to be important and valuable, she used to contribute directly to the war effort, using her considerable mental brilliance to crack codes and literally save lives. Now, it’s the 1950s and Susan is trapped in the role of Housewife and Homemaker. She isn’t unhappy, as such, but she is Bored.

Susan Grey is a Bored Housewife. As such, she’s a clichéd character. And yet, I relate to her more than I think I’ve ever related to any other fictional character. She is well-drawn and believable. And I know exactly what it’s like to have given up an intellectual and valued job to do something which (while arguably far more important) is definitely neither valued nor intellectual. It’s not the 1950s any more; to some extent I have more options than her, but the similarity is stronger than the differences.

So what makes this use of a cliché OK? Here are two factors, both of which I think are required to make it work.

1) Some stereotypes exist because they are true. Some don’t, and those are the ones we should stamp on, but some definitely do. I’m far from the only woman who finds herself in a position similar to Susan Grey’s. Indeed, as women’s rights and opportunities in the workplace have flourished over the last century, this situation has become more and more common. Sure, we can go back to work – unlike her – but right now as we watch, we find ourselves very much Bored Housewives.

2) Characters still have to be Characters. The stereotype will take us only so far, and what really makes the character is how we develop it. Susan Grey is a Bored Housewife, yes, but she isn’t in a terrible relationship with an uncaring husband and bratty children and she isn’t trying to escape her boredom by bedding the gardener (THAT hasn’t been new or interesting since Lady Chatterley, in spite of what Desperate Housewives would like you to believe). Susan Grey is likeable and relatable, and she isn’t just a stereotype, a stereotype is just where she begins.

If you’ve watched the show, I’d love to hear what you think of it. If you’re a Bored Housewife, feel free to vent about it. Even if neither of those applies, who are your favourite examples of a subverted stereotype making a fantastic character?


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Old In Mon

As I may not get chance to post an InMon story, please enjoy this link to one of my favourites from the time I’ve been following the prompts. from the last few years. This one caught my eye looking back, because as I type, Sebastian is being particularly challenging – screaming when he should be sleeping both during naptime and at 3 in the morning. We’re all exhausted, and exhaustion sometimes gets in the way of gratitude. Rereading this story was a timely reminder.


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