DUET : Chapter One, Part One

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Before you Begin:
Set in a post-‘Skyfall’ Universe, this takes a couple of liberties with the 23rd addition to the canon. Let us assume for the porpoises of this exercise that the current 007 only takes the number and the Christian name from the last fella, and that he’s the sixth person to hold that title. Knowing that, you can carry on now.


‘But of all the dead volcanoes on Earth you just happened to retch
And roll
Through mine’


Veronica Ashby’s family had thrown a lot of money at this wedding, and it showed.

A quick glance at her watch told its own story: a whisper after midnight and both bar and dance floor were packed. Ronni was one of the few people not currently glued to either, neither drinking or grooving as if lives depended on conspicuous consumption. She’d imbibed plenty of champagne and thrown enough shapes to maintain the happiness for her younger sister and new husband, dismissing with increasing frequency the comments on her being the only one of three children without a ‘secure’ future. On the journey to happy endings, in her life, it had simply become easier not to dwell. After all, this was the most content she’d been for some time.

It no longer mattered what other people saw in her, not any more. She’d finally perfected the disguise.

This whole evening had turned from inconvenience to blessing: it should provide at least a year of clear air before her mother began the disapproving phone calls, that Ronni still wasn’t seeing anyone seriously, their eldest clearly not getting any younger. At least her father wasn’t likely to give her a hard time about her staunch refusal to accept any offers from anyone who looked remotely promising from the offspring of his financial services and international banking ‘acquaintances.’ Malcolm Ashby had not spoken a word to her all day, which was probably better than the number three bridesmaid could have hoped for. Maybe he’d finally got the message that whoever he tried to set up, Ronni simply wasn’t interested. After all, once you’d slept with one investment specialist, you’d pretty much fucked them all.

Her lifestyle was never going to be conducive to a normal existence anyway.

That wasn’t stopping Russell, however, who’d been doggedly determined to score for the entire evening with little sign of flagging. He appears to her left almost by magic, two flutes of Krug in worryingly unblemished hands, slipping a little too close for comfort. Ronni considers moving but remains confident enough that there won’t be groping, at least not yet. He’ll need to be more wasted and less aware of her body language, deliberate but subtle refusal to let him into her personal space for a damn good reason.

‘Can I interest you in another glass, Veronica?’

‘Have I told you that just my parents use the full name, and normally only when I’m in trouble?’

‘Sorry, I always forget – Ronni, would you -‘

‘That’s really kind, but I think I’ve probably had enough. After all, we’ve been at this since just after lunchtime.’

‘Tell me about it, this has to be the best food and drink I’ve ever had at a Wedding. All so beautifully presented… everything’s perfect. Your family celebrates with convincing style. I think this might even be better than Alice’s.’

That was a good night, Ronni remembers with a stab of nostalgia. Everyone had assumed that her happiness that day was because she’d met someone, blissfully unaware of the truth. Finally having made the most important of work transitions, significant shift from delivery girl to analyst, World opening to her at last. That realisation resonates within her tonight: if the fates allow she’s just one step away from never having to sit behind a desk ever again. Fuck the fates, this is her choice, fully intending to grasp the future with both hands and threaten to shoot it in the head if it didn’t hand over what was required.

At times like this, absolutely the last thing she needs to be doing is telling anyone the truth.

There’d been issue over being able to be genuine with family for a time, but only until the understanding stuck, even this would make her better at the job. She doesn’t care that they don’t know, because that is no longer a part of the equation anyway. Somewhere between Alice and Emily becoming wives, destiny had been settled and accepted, at least in part.

Russell’s still talking, lubricated and blithely unaware.

‘In all that time I’ve never seen you with anybody, not a single bloke. There was a rumour in the office for a while -‘

‘That I was a lesbian, perhaps?’

‘I didn’t believe it, not for one moment, because you’re clearly far smarter than that.’

If she didn’t know it already, Russell had more than adequately confirmed not only his staggering stupidity, but a narrow-mindedness she could quite easy push off the chair and onto the expensive Axminster. However, it’s just simpler to tune him out. Frankly she’d be better off going back to the hotel room and sleeping, not simply because of the week ahead. This conversation was no longer a sensible use of her time.

‘You think you’ll ever get married, Ronni?’

‘Maybe. Would have to be someone pretty spectacular who asked.’

For a moment Ronni turns to stare at the fool, playing the lie of making him believe she’s willing with a conviction that only comes when you can deceive yourself as easily as you can anyone else. This loser genuinely believes I work for an international exports company, that I spend time when not in London travelling the world making deals for the Government. The places I go, the difference this makes: to give that up, to marry anyone would take someone unbelievable indeed. Even more so because this entire persona is a beautifully constructed conceit and if you knew what I really did, you’d probably not believe me anyway.

Women just don’t play that game.

Veronica pushes a stray lock of auburn hair behind her ear: delivering her most dazzling, distracting smile, one that best accentuates both face and eyes. She knows, at least temporarily, that Russell is believing he’s going to score, but there will be disappointment instead because in twenty minutes she will vanish like smoke and he’ll be left with nothing. She needs to be checked out by 7 am and running by nine because she’s not going to fail her Physical Assessment for a second year in a row. There is a steadfast refusal to jeopardise what is possibly the last chance at a job promotion that could really change her career prospects forever. In that respect a clock was ticking: age an issue not for motherhood, but for physical fitness.

After all, it was not every day the chance for an Active Designation was presented.

She watches him in the darkness, face rapt and eyes wide, and for the first time in her thirty-five years on the planet genuinely understands this is exactly the right thing to do. It doesn’t matter that this entire life is a lie, because she is comfortable with what it has become.

Ronni Ashby is both proud and grateful to serve on Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

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Everything related to James Bond (007) belongs to Eon Productions and Danjaq LLC, except the bits in here that are mine and I made up. I get how this works.

Poetry in Motion

Today is National Poetry Day in the UK.

So, here is a poem I wrote. because I am a writer, and however much this form scares me, when you can embrace it well, it is glorious.

The Internal Ache

I don’t deserve this care, yet you remain: wound around my heart; soft, quiet constriction.

A measured passion forms constant desires:
you won’t desert me, trapped in our affliction.
I search for those reciprocal beliefs, within the skeptic depths of my bruised soul.
You have arrived before an answer’s found: a promise bound, to make these two a whole.
Inevitable fate may yet be true: contradictions of myself in you.
I sense a shocking lack of fit response: I own no solid truth to reach or grasp,
but this is where I know that I should be.
You watch my struggle with the thing you ask:
to try and look within where words are caught, inside the heart so scared to answer back.
Your patience while I struggle gives me strength, a constance as I crave the words I lack.

I will always love you, but can’t say now: these words never enough to show you how.

Words are hard, you know.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

Yesterday, I tried to stay up late to catch the SPECTRE trailer launch but singuarly failed. However, that’s what the Internet is for.

Here you go, watch away:

One frame leapt out at me in watching this, and that’s part of the ‘personal effects’ Bond gets handed from Skyfall. Particularly relevant? This frame:

So here’s a Certificate of Temporary Guardianship with Bond’s name on it (and he’s 14 at the time) and that picture? I’d assumed that the head ‘missing’ was his mother, but I know it isn’t. That’s another boy.

That’s actually the Bonds’ real son.

Brain’s been doing somersaults over this since I saw it, and I suspect I’ll need a bit of time to digest all the possibilities. I’d like to postulate at this point the following:

  • Craig’s character is not the Bonds’ biological son. This will allow the writers a gimme out of the big mistake I and many other fans feel they made in Skyfall when it was pretty much stuck in canon that he was the original owner of the name. This also frees them up for when they cast a new Bond (and they will because that’s how this franchise works) to give that person the ‘name’ and the number without consequence.
  • Christopher Wentz’ character is in fact the Bonds’ biological son. If he was presumed dead and lost with his parents in the accident that befell them (and I’m going to guess that has a link to the cabin we see Bond confront Mr White in, as that picture was clearly taken by Bond’s mother in the Alps) he’s gonna have some SERIOUS issues about his ‘brother’ being where he is. That’s probably the best ‘Motivations to become a Supervillain’ I’ve seen for some time.

I’m REALLY hoping this is what happens, because I’ve always wanted the number and name to simply be an identifier, and Skyfall was a MASSIVE disappointment in this regard.

Needless to say, Bloefeld and Bond are brothers. Because that’s just too perfect not to have happen 😀

Scattered Black and Whites

I’ll be honest, I don’t remember a lot about my first year at College.

Nice legs, shame about the face.

There are pictures, of course: that’s one of them, a self-made costume that I remember being particularly proud of (Christmas Tree Fairy, before you ask ^^) I can recall watching ‘Moonlighting’ on a battered black and white TV owned by my roomate, falling off a barstool after too many cheap Pimms in a Student Bar promotion. Everything else though, not so much memory really remains. I lost a lot of it, I now know deliberately. I was arrogant and stupid and really not a good person to know back then. I don’t remember how I felt at the time either, but there were moments that I think, actually, I did the right thing.

It was also the point in my life that I can look back on now and grasp were the first days I realised something wasn’t right in my mind, but it took me a very long time to even grasp this was something I could deal with, or that it was actually a problem. In amongst those pictures and moments there was a point, probably the later part of that first year, when someone decided they knew what was wrong with my life, and tried to help me change.

They attempted to convert me to religion.

I attended a Church of England College: not because of God, but because of the course I wanted. I can remember a few details about the girl who latched onto me, because that was what it was: persistent, unending and slowing soul-destroying. The girl with sandy blonde hair, the round face and the glasses. Her politeness and friendliness, a counterpoint to my unhappiness, inability to make friends, the issues I’d have sometimes getting cross and introverted. All of this was because I could not accept God into my life.

One day, the persistent pushing came to a head: she followed me to my room, and wouldn’t leave. I got angry at her and she used it all against me: accept God into my heart and I’d feel better, everything would change, and my hatred would leave me. I got progressively more irritated: I didn’t want God, and she needed to leave. With no phone to use to call anyone, alone and now actually frightened, something altered inside me, and I found myself with a choice. How did I get her to leave without attacking her physically and making myself in my mind no better than she was by simply refusing to believe that I believed that God was a metaphor. Nobody could help you with your problems. The only person who you could rely on was yourself.

In desperation I started hitting my head against the wooden window frame, over and over, screaming at her that God wasn’t my problem but she was. She didn’t try and stop me: when presented with my anger she froze. Her God didn’t help her deal with the reaction, her assertions that she cared when in reality she was like everybody else.

When I eventually drew blood, she panicked and ran.

The following morning I couldn’t see and fell over as I got out of bed. My room-mate saw the gash to my head and took me to the Doctor, who called an ambulance. When they asked me what had happened, I lied because I was afraid of what might transpire if I told the truth. One session in A&E later I was back in my room, diagnosed with a concussion.

The round faced girl with the glasses never spoke to me again.

Happier times.

There is a ridge on the front of my head, close to the hairline, the mark worn into my skull self-inflicted, so I didn’t turn and attack her that day. It was easier to hurt myself than try and get her to understand. Her desire to do what she thought was right was a passion I’d never encountered in anyone before… yet at the crucial moment, she was as frightened as I was. If she’d have the strength to stop me, to actually show she could help, then maybe things would have been different. What I do remember, with a clarity that now surprises me, is that I challenged her to explain how a God would allow people to hurt themselves if his love was so encompassing. If he cared about everyone, he’d save those who needed him most.

Let me be very clear: if God is important to you, I will ALWAYS respect this. All I ask of people is the decency and understanding that they do the same regarding ethics and ideas that matter to me. Except, as I discover, this doesn’t happen with everybody. In fact, sometimes, people decide that the easiest thing to do in difficult situations is just to run away. This happened to me yesterday, and although unrelated I find myself wondering what has to change in some people’s minds to understand that the World is bigger than themselves.

Maybe some people never do, that’s the problem, and I should really stop worrying about the things I can do nothing about. On reflection, this is probably a good idea.

Personally, I’m glad I finally found my own way to be comfortable with what I really am.

Stars Align

Motivational Crap goes here.

Occasionally, the stars do align for me. It’s still a rare enough occurrence to have to take a step back when it happens: today is a case in point. A blog post I wrote on the gaming site was mentioned by an AOL affiliate, and (quite possibly, not sure, need to check publication times) as a result of this got dragged onto one of the de facto huge traffic websites around the game. This means, as of 6pm tonight, I’ve had more hits in twelve hours than I’d probably see in a week. Even more ironically, I’d suspect very few people have actually read the post at all. That’s one of the issues picking a subject matter which inevitably has ‘contentious’ written through it. It makes me wonder how many people might stay as a result. Time inevitably will tell.

What today did make me realise is that my website is, after nearly six years, beginning to creak from having had too much crap bolted onto it and not enough effort placed in organising it properly. As a result I suspect ALL my web content’s coming up for a merger, this site included.

I went and registered alternativechat.net as a result today, and now it is mine.

Not often, but…

I have a number of things I would like to do next year. Quite apart from doing a fair bit of dancing at gigs (Elbow, Underworld and David Arnold so far on the list) I have half a plan to review all 23 Bond Films before the the most current one comes out for my birthday (cheers for that Mr Mendes.) There is other stuff too, but a girl likes to keep stuff something of a mystery, especially when trying to make more days when stars align and everyone gets to at least see her work on’t t’internets. Needless to say, this site is likely to change this month, along with the other one, and it is probably possible there will be some kind of central portal to cover everything by the time we move into January 2015.

Consider it the first steps into a larger Universe. Or summat 😀

Nobody Does It Better

Well, there’s a title.

Anyone who knows anything about me will know just how passionate I am about the 007 Franchise. Needless to say, this morning’s announcement of the title of the new Bond movie has set a cold-infected brain buzzing. It’s no 24, and the title is a killer, before we even get to the details of the movie itself. The reason they’re using this? I suspect it has a lot to do with this one line of text you can find on Wikipedia:

‘On November 15, 2013, MGM and the McClory estate had formally settled the issue with Danjaq, LLC and MGM acquiring the full copyright rights to the characters and concepts of Blofeld and SPECTRE.’

To summarise: Kevin McClory originally adapted Bond for the big screen. In 1961 there was a row, which in 1963 resulted in Ian Fleming giving McClory the rights to Thunderball, which was subsequently remade as Never Say Never Again in 1983. The organisation SPECTRE and Ernst Stavro Blofeld remained McClory’s intellectual property until… well, 2013, when MGM bought them back. The organisation is synonymous with Bond, the 60’s and countless imitations in the following half a century. The franchise famously ‘killed’ Blofeld off during the pre-title sequence of For Your Eyes Only but you know, if they went to all this trouble to settle the dispute…

Anyway, my concern isn’t with Christoph Waltz’s character being even the possibility of a relation to Blofeld. My interest is with the addition of a new member of supporting cast.


This is Andrew Scott. He’ll be 39 when SPECTRE releases, and just about the absolute perfect age to take over from Daniel Craig. He has the looks for the part, has played Moriarty in ‘Sherlock’, possesses nearly 20 years of film credits and appears in the supporting cast in a role that I don’t think is supposed to draw attention to him at all. However, his presence is considerable. Most excitingly for me, Scott is openly gay. There has been a lot of discussion for some time concerning the possibility of Bond being played by somebody other than a straight white guy, and although I’d say I’m unlikely to see Idris Elba do it (probably too old anyway, but I’d take it) and NO WAY would Bond ever be a woman… this could be a start, at least in terms of Eon accepting that diversity exists in the 21st Century. I for one will of course be rather sad to see Daniel Craig go, but he’ll be 47 when SPECTRE is released and frankly, he was showing his age in Skyfall. It has to happen sometime, and if they’re going to introduce a 21st Century Superthreat, why not use the one synonymous with the Franchise?

Oh, and the premiere of this is on my birthday. GET IN.

What this does encourage me to do is to consider the possibility of doing a long form review of every Bond Film prior to the release, and get the piece of Fiction I wrote post-Skyfall to a state where people can read it. Because, frankly, I’m rather proud of it.

Leave that with me.

Forever and a Day

This is a Blog about Writing with a deliberate capital W.

I’ve spent a large proportion of my life trying to find a way to be creative. In the end, I finally realised that it is only with words that I am at my best, that I am the person I’ve always wanted to be and my voice, my real inner monologue, can properly be heard. I have a lot of people I have to be in an average week: mother, wife, daughter, gamer, but none of these are truly what I am. That person is here now, sitting and trying to make this first post not sound like the ramblings of a crazy person but the best way to show you my true intent, and therefore to act as a means of preventing me going utterly insane. Because when I write, I am content in a way that doesn’t come from anything else I have ever found.

This is what makes me the best person I can be.

Writing for me in the last five years has been publicly about one thing: games, and a particular one at that. If you’re coming here and aren’t aware of what my life has been up until this point, there’ll be a link in the next few days to point you back to the place where I learnt to be comfortable with my words, and where I make them work for me on a daily basis. However, this is only a small part of what I am, and what I want to become, and so I have created this site, with the same name but a different agenda, to try and find the means by which I can share my journey with you. I have many works of fiction I’d like to finish and share, plus some serious essays on other parts of life that don’t include pixels. Thanks to the small screen I’ve been able to grasp what I could be capable of, if only I could believe in myself enough to let these words go.

It is time now to find the confidence inside me, to step back, and to let them go. There’s an idea of what you will get in the headers above. There’s nothing there yet, but there will be, if your’e patient with me. I promise I’ll make it worth your effort.

This is my Writing Blog.

I hope you find something in here over time that you can share with me.

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