Something to Think About – New R’s of Life – Survival in a Modern World – Revenge – Never really sweet – Sally Cronin


We are now into new territory as far as The R’s of Life is concerned, as I only got as far as Retail Therapy in 2017. However, there are plenty more R’s of Life to contemplate and explore and one of them is Revenge.

Revenge is the act of getting your own back for an action that has caused damage (word or deed) to you by another or others.

For as long as there has been a Bible (and other religious texts), five words have been used by governments and individuals to justify taking action against other nations and on a personal level, leading to some pretty appalling atrocities and actions.

“An Eye for An Eye”

There are a number of references to this is the Old Testament and here are just two which seem to have been plagiarised by humans to suit their own ends for centuries….

Exodus 21:22-25 “Suppose two men are fighting and hit a pregnant woman, causing the baby to come out. If there is no further injury, the man who caused the accident must pay money—whatever amount the woman’s husband says and the court allows. But if there is further injury, then the punishment that must be paid is life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, and bruise for bruise.

Leviticus 24:19-22 And whoever causes an injury to a neighbor must receive the same kind of injury in return: Broken bone for broken bone, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. Anyone who injures another person must be injured in the same way in return. Whoever kills another person’s animal must give that person another animal to take its place. But whoever kills another person must be put to death

“Turn the other Cheek”

However in both the Old and the New Testament… including in Leviticus, there are other admonishments to “Turn the other Cheek”. Which does make ancient teachings very confusing.

Matthew 5.39 –But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also”

In our modern world we have adopted another saying that gives the act of vengeance an added incentive...“Revenge is sweet” and if you do not get immediate satisfaction and you want to keep the fire for retribution burning for a very long time: Revenge is a dish best served cold”

First some of the other words that we use to indicate the act of getting even.

Retribution, Payback, retaliation, revenge and reprisal.

Governments love the word “reprisal” and use it to justify crossing borders, issuing sanctions, bombing a city or expelling diplomats. There are levels and they escalate according to the reprisals from the other side! This is one of the reasons for Two World Wars, when diplomacy failed to counteract acts of revenge by individuals or particular countries. The fact that those conducting the diplomatic route, are individuals who prefer the ‘reprisal’ course of action does not help.

Revenge as individuals.

We as individuals have adopted the other words to justify our own actions, and I am being honest when I admit that there have been occasions when I would have loved to get my own back on an individual or organisation that I have been the target of.  Including my recent treatment by Facebook

I don’t tend to take things lying down and whilst I applaud those who ‘turn the other cheek’ and walk away from events that have damaged them, I have discovered that if you do that, those people and organisations keep on doing to others without sanction. However, you have to choose your battles and some are just not worth the time and effort vs. the outcome.

I certainly do not condone violence to get my own back although I must admit to a sneaky love of John Wick and the Equalizer films…..

As an individual that can be a challenge to take on major corporations or even governments who have little regard for the efforts of one person to bring them to heel. Even with social media to air your grievances, it is merely a flea bite on the hide of an elephant. Some people have brought cases against major corporations which have been successful, but cases often taken years and suck up life savings if they don’t win, and the only people who seem to end up in the money are the lawyers. The only possibly successful legal form of revenge, is a class action suit, where a large number of other people join together and make enough noise. That too can take years and there is no guarantee of a positive outcome.

Revenge and retribution take many forms in our modern world, especially in the press and on social media.

One of the most insidious and life-changing forms of retribution is trial and judgement, not by your peers, but by the general public, aided and abetted by established and credible media outlets whose rush to publish a scoop is terrifying if you are on the wrong end of it.

It is mass revenge on steroids. Revenge on people who have risen high in our societies and have allegations made against them and who despite wealth and power are also incredibly vulnerable.

I am all for justice for those who have been found guilty of a crime in a court of law, but many have been found guilty in the court of public opinion long before they come to trial; when in fact they are innocent.

In recent years, with the outing of so many guilty child molesters for their heinous misuse of their power, some have been caught up in the fever to name and shame, and were in fact found to be completely blameless. But, not before their private lives were dissected and trumpeted across every media outlet possible.

A case in point, is of long time respected politician, Lord Brittan, who was accused of multiple sexual assaults in the days following his death, and also D- Day Veteran and former head of the Army, Lord Brammall. Both were accused by a man named as ‘Nick’ who made claims about a high profile ring of molesters. There was a £2.5 million investigation by the police that dragged the names of both these high profile men through the press and mud. At the end of the investigations no charges were brought against any of the accused.

It was discovered that ‘Nick’ was a fantasist and he ended up in court being charged with perverting the course of justice and fraud. The Daily Telegraph ironically reported at the time of his court appearance, that his true identity could not be revealed because of legal reasons. This restriction was lifted in December 2018 and he was committed for trial in February of this year on 12 counts pertaining to those he publicly accused.

It is alleged that ‘nick’ suffered from childhood abuse and that is a tragedy it itself, however his attempt to take revenge on those who were not implicated, had a wide-reaching and devastating impact.

Lady Brittan and Lord Brammall received a paltry £100,000 in compensation that could never take back the anguish, loss of reputation and embarrassment caused. Their names will be forever tainted and that will have a direct impact on their families too.

A similar case to this is that of singer Sir Cliff Richard, who talked about how ‘tarnished’ he felt after 22 months of being falsely accused of assault, and he ended up successfully suing the BBC for their broadcasting of a police raid on his home to the public. BBC News.

Further awards may be made when the loss from cancelled performances and other revenues are identified.The Guardian.

It is also a disturbing fact, that because all the major media outlets carried the allegations and named those being accused, these men were considered ‘guilty’ by millions of people, who were fed the salacious elements of the case, without any form of defensive narrative. It would be many months and sometimes years before those same media outlets would carry the news of their exoneration. Too late for some who died without having their names cleared.

Revenge: Who do they think they are?

One of the traits of humans that I always find unacceptable, is the desire to tear down those who have reached a pinnacle in life that they have no chance of achieving themselves. There is a perverse delight in seeing successful men and women denigrated in the press and social media. It is a form of mass revenge on the successful.

A recent case of this is the marriage of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle. An actress who I happened to have enjoyed in the show ‘Suits’, and who quite frankly is a beautiful, successful, wealthy woman in her own right. It is clear that Prince Harry adores her and is very happy, with both of them looking forward to their first baby later this month.

On social media.

Those who consider their own lives lacking in some way, have tried to extract their revenge at what they consider an upstart assuming a position she is not entitled to, by trolling the Duchess of Sussex on social media. You would be forgiven for thinking that it was some ignorant oik, with nothing better to do than post nasty comments about someone they thought was acting above themselves.. But no…..in fact the five most vitriolic of the trolls were unmasked as middle-aged housewives, who thought they had the right to be nasty from the safety of their living rooms. Those who were exposed as the main instigators of this hate campaign were from not just the UK but Canada and America too. And whilst they were aiming their vitriol at the Duchess of Sussex they also attacked the Duchess of Cambridge too.

In the press

From the beginning of the relationship between Prince Harry and his wife, the press have delighted in sharing the most intimate details of the family dynamics involved. They have deliberately posted articles from members of Meghan Markle’s family who certainly were not shy in sharing their disdain for her, and also making the most of their 15 minutes in the limelight. Quite frankly my heart went out to this princess in waiting, who should have been excitedly planning her fairy tale wedding, but instead was having to remain quiet so as not to fan the flames of jealousy and revenge emanating from her step-brothers and sisters. She was clearly advised to make ‘no comment’ and I would have found that incredibly difficult.

It is one thing to achieve your dream and have strangers try to bring you down, but when your family is out for revenge too, it must be devastating.

The Duchess of Sussex is wealthy in her own right, and is married to a rich prince, and if she wants to pay for a lavish baby shower, and be flown as a guest on a private plane, then good for her. And yet, the press has been posting stories on this and other ‘extravagances’ of the royal couple and how people in her inner circle, and in the royal entourage find her pushy! I think that says more about the people in her inner circle and the royal entourage than the Duchess of Sussex. There is no doubt she is different and a breath of fresh air. I would imagine that those who have been accustomed to a more rigid public profile for their employers must be quaking.  What I do see is that this young couple are determined to also be very much advocates for change, diversity and equality and are a much needed addition to our royal family.

The palace has employed someone to monitor social media and they will be clamping down heavily on those who troll members of the royal family, including reporting them to the police.

Thankfully judging by the reaction of the crowds that gather in their thousands whenever the younger generations of the royal family are out in public, there are far more fans and well-wishers than the press would like us to believe.

As I have said on a few occasions to detractors of both the new Duchesses… if Prince William or Harry had knocked on your door and asked for the hand of your daughter, would you refuse them?

Individual revenge…..

If I am being honest,  I do have regrets that I did not manage to achieve some form of closure over two particular events in my life, but at the time I had no recourse but to walk away. I had neither the strength of the resources to get even. I understand how hard it is to leave some events in the past and ‘get on with your life’. But, I also know that if I had pursued a more focused course of revenge, it would have done me more harm than I probably would have been able to inflict on the other people involved.

I have learnt a few things along the way about revenge.

  1. That it is important to remember your own responsibility for the situation and whilst this does not mean you deserved to be treated badly you do need to consider your actions. Did you walk into a relationship, job, deal or experience having done your research? Did you think at the time… this sounds too good to be true? Should I take advice on the matter? Can I talk to someone who might have experience of this before? Did I listen to those who knew better? Did I see the writing on the wall and still stay? Could I have asked for help?
  2. I do know that from my own experience and of others that I have communicated with, that violence should never be tolerated and if there is an opportunity to bring someone to justice without bringing more harm to yourself, then you need to find the right people to help you achieve that. Domestic Violence support
  3. Most of those, whose behaviour leads us down the path of revenge, are narcissists. Whether it is to do with money, relationships, work or family. If they have treated you badly, they have likely done it before and will do it again. Because, no matter what you say or do to them, they see themselves as always in the right and couldn’t care less. What they do not like, is people walking away and treating them as if they are nothing. Sometimes retreat is the most effective form of retribution.
  4. It is a pointless exercise seeking revenge on others, including strangers for your own shortcomings, just because they are beautiful, have lots of money, buy fabulous clothes, travel the world, marry princes or George Clooney. It doesn’t make any difference how much you might try to bring them down in person by bullying, on social media, or within your own circle of family and friends, if you don’t first take a good look at your own life, and how you might make positive changes to improve your circumstances. It is not this  person’s fault for who you are or where you are in life. You need to take responsibility for that.
  5. Sometimes life will do the job of getting even with someone who has made your life miserable in some way. All you can hope is that when they do get their just desserts they have not ruined too many lives in the meantime. There is nothing like going back to the class reunion happy and successful and finding that the bully who made your life miserable is now desperate to be your friend!
  6. You have one life and spending precious time on trying to get revenge is time lost. It can also be incredibly stressful, health threatening and become obsessive. The best revenge is to be happy and surrounded by people who think you are amazing at whatever you have chosen to do and have your back. Don’t give people who have created such negativity that power.
  7. As a writer my experiences have provided great content for my fiction and non-fiction, and whilst I may not have done a John Wick on those who deserved it… some of my characters have!!

I will leave you with this two quotes which make a lot of sense to me.

“An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.”
Mahatma Gandhi

Living well is the best revenge. —George Herbert

This is clearly just my opinion and there are many other areas of revenge and retribution that I have not touched on.  Your feedback is always welcomed.. thanks Sally.

You can find the other chapters in the series in this directory… and your feedback is always welcome: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/something-to-think-about/

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Smorgasbord Short Stories- The Sewing Circle Part Three by Sally Cronin


51l5B4hcBuL._UY250_Last time the Sewing Circle mourned their beloved friend and also began to plot their revenge.. The Jackson’s days are numbered..

Links to part one and two.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/05/11/smorgasbord-short-stories-the-sewing-club-part-one-by-sally-cronin/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/05/15/flights-of-fancy-short-story-anthology-novella-the-sewing-circle-part-two-by-sally-cronin/

THE SEWING CIRCLE – PART THREE

The next morning the rumours started within the various communities around the estate.

Sharon Jackson was having an affair with a police officer from the narcotic division.

Nobody suspected that the whispers that infested the bingo hall, corner shop, post office and surgery waiting room were started by five old women as they went about their business. Those who dealt drugs on the estate were understandably nervous and tried to find out more information without much success. This only served to make them even more paranoid and soon the rumour mill was working overtime on the stairways until it reached the ears of Sharon Jackson.

She was furious but did not have the intelligence to work out how to combat the growing tide of speculation and false accusations about her. The one thing she did have was a healthy respect for her husband’s fists and as the days passed she became increasingly terrified that word would reach Archie. Even though he was banged up inside, she knew he had a long reach; time was not on her side.

She was definitely right about that one. A week after the gossip started, Sylvia Ross left the estate and took a taxi to the Docklands. In a wine bar there, she met with an elderly man who despite his walking stick, still strode confidently across the floor to the table where she sat, beautifully dressed and made-up.

An hour later Sylvia left and returned to a meeting at Betty’s flat. She said little but she nodded to Big Sal and they both knew that the toughest part of their plan was in play.

Three weeks later Sharon Jackson went missing. A concerned elderly woman rang the social services and mentioned that there were four young children living alone in a flat in Grange House. By the end of the day, with no sign of their mother, the police had been informed and the children were taken into temporary care. Darren, who was still at his aunt’s house in Epping Forest, was alerted by one of his gang members and he got his cousin to bring him home on his bike where he let himself into the now deserted flat.

He was not bothered by losing his entire family in the slightest. He now had the freedom to live and do as he pleased, even though Sharon’s idea of parenting had been relaxed to say the least. He could get up when he wanted, eat what and when he liked and best of all he could drink his favourite tipple, vodka, all day without his mother sharing the contents of the bottle. His friends all came round to sample the delights of the new gang headquarters and the neighbours were subjected to noisy parties into the small hours and harassment on the walkways and stairs.

The social services came around, but their hands were tied, as Darren had turned sixteen while away at his aunts and could not be persuaded to give up his freedom and go into some form of care. The council promised to re-house the boy, as he couldn’t remain in a three bed roomed flat on his own, but were not sure how quickly this would happen. On the fourth day, two large men in suits appeared and the residents on that landing assumed that they were from the council, who had been called that morning with further complaints and requests for assistance.

The two men knocked on the door to the Jackson’s flat and one of Darren’s mates, on his way out to collect more vodka, inadvertently opened it and admitted them into the confined hall. He took one look at their faces and hurriedly left, glancing nervously over his shoulder as he ran down the landing. Within minutes he was followed by the rest of the gang, one of them nursing his right ear and trying to hold back unmanly tears.

The neighbours on each side of the flat listened with ears pressed to their lounge walls but they couldn’t hear a word. They were beginning to doubt that the two men were from the council after all and their suspicions were confirmed when sounds of a more physical nature were heard from the Jackson’s living room.

Twenty minutes later, the two men left, carefully closing the door of the flat behind them. All was silent and the neighbours on either side settled down to enjoy their after lunch television programmes and a well-deserved nap.

Several hours later, just as they were settling down again for the evening, the neighbours heard someone falling around inside the Jacksons’ flat. It sounded as though furniture and ornaments were being knocked over and then a crash as something heavy such as a television smashed to the floor. Not wishing to get involved in anything to do with the family, the police were not called and anyway after half an hour, the front door was opened. On both sides of the flat, curtains were twitched and eyes followed the progress of the figure that emerged onto the landing.

It was an astonishing sight. It was Darren, but barely recognisable as he stumbled in high-heeled shoes, drunkenly down the landing. He was wearing a tight satin dress, fishnet tights and he was wearing make-up and jewellery. The neighbours found themselves tittering and laughing at the spectacle as Darren staggered towards the stairs. A man returning from work stood one of the stairwells, transfixed by the vision before him. Darren stared glassily back at him and then grabbing the handrail almost slid to the bottom of the steps. He did not even appear to see the man in front of him and tottering on his stilettos he swung around the corner and down the next flight.

Unfortunately for Darren, he was inexperienced in the management of high heels and as he reached the top of the last flight of stairs leading to the car park, he slipped and fell untidily to the bottom landing in a crumpled heap.

He lay motionless as a crowd of residents clustered around him. One daring soul prodded the supine body with the toe of his shoe and then leapt back as the body began to twitch and jerk before going rigid and collapsing back onto the dusty surface of the pavement.

The post mortem showed that Darren had a great deal of alcohol in his system as well as a considerable amount of recreational drugs. No one else was suspected in his death although the residents of the estate had their own ideas. Darren’s gang were not bothered by the nature of Darren’s death but were mortified to think that their leader, and the terror of the neighbourhood, was secretly a lover of fine clothes, high heels, make up and jewellery.

Those gang members that lived on other estates were never seen again and those that remained on the Redgrave kept a very low profile. Some even went as far as to go to school on a regular basis and one graduated to college where he trained as a social worker.

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A month after Sharon’s disappearance and Darren’s death, Archie Jackson apparently slipped on a bar of soap in the prison shower and hit his head on the tiles. His death was ruled as accidental by the authorities.

The sewing circle continued to meet although they were not only missing the lovely Flo but Sylvia too on some occasions. In the weeks following their successful campaign, she could be seen getting into an elegant black car one or two mornings a week. One day as the friends sat around working on their latest projects, she looked up and smiled at them gently.

“I have some news.” They all turned to her expectantly.

“I am getting married.” She announced to her open-mouthed audience.

“It’s someone I have known for years, a widower living in Chingford. He has got a lovely house and he says it is too big and empty for him on his own.”

She drew a handful of envelopes out of her handbag and distributed them around the stunned women.

“I hope you will all come to the wedding, and be my bridesmaids, and when we get back from honeymoon I would like you to come out to me every week for our meetings as I don’t want to give them up.”

Big Sal who was sitting next to Sylvia grabbed her in her ample embrace and kissed her resoundingly on her powdered cheek.

“You just try and stop us you sly old floozy. Perhaps you can set us all up with mates of his at the wedding? We could all do with a bit of a fling!”

The others all laughed and Betty rushed to the kitchen for the sherry bottle and five glasses.

As they toasted the future Mrs Mitchell, they also raised their glasses to their beloved friend Flo and prayed that she could now rest in peace.

©sallycronin The Sewing Circle 2004

I hope you have enjoyed the short stories and novella and your feedback is always welcome.. thanks Sally

Smorgasbord Short Stories – The Sewing Circle – Part Two by Sally Cronin


51l5B4hcBuL._UY250_In the previous chapter we met the members of the Sewing Circle and discovered that their happy retirement was marred by the presence on one particularly disruptive family on the estate. https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/05/11/smorgasbord-short-stories-the-sewing-club-part-one-by-sally-cronin/

THE SEWING CIRCLE – PART TWO

 One Wednesday evening Flo Miles won over £500 on the bingo. She was ecstatic and could not wait to share her news with her closest friends in the sewing circle. One of her bingo pals owned a mobile phone and with great delight, Flo called Betty to tell her the news. What she didn’t know was that Sharon Jackson and her sister were sitting right behind her and had made note of the substantial win.

Betty suggested that her friend come round for a sherry to celebrate and Flo decided to call it a night and get a taxi back to the estate straight away. She left the bingo hall and looked up and down the street for one of the cabs that normally parked outside. Unfortunately, there was still two hours to go of the evening bingo session and the usual line of cars was not to be seen.

Flo was so elated by her win that she decided she wouldn’t hang about any longer and would walk the short distance home, something she had done many times. She was blissfully unaware that at precisely the same time Sharon Jackson was on her own mobile phone nor did she know that the woman was setting her up for another surprise tonight.

Despite being on probation, Sharon’s eldest son Darren had made little effort to control his violent and anti-social behaviour. When his mother had rung him, he was hanging out on one of the stairwells with two of his mates from his previous address. They had been drinking vodka and smoking shoplifted cigarettes as they sat on the steps leading to the top landing and they were fired up and ready for trouble.

Darren snapped shut his mobile phone and looked at his mates. “Mum says some old bitch has just won over five big ones at the bingo and is on her way home.” He smiled evilly showing brown discoloured teeth. “She says I can have half if I get the cash without being seen! Anyone fancy a laugh?”

With his two mates in tow, Darren scurried rat-like down the darkened stairs to the parking area below. Flo was just entering the estate from the main road, trying to move as quickly as possible in and out of the shadows that stretched outside the reach of the street lamps. She was looking warily around her but she held her head up high and marched determinedly in the direction of the flats.

As she approached the entrance to Betty’s block, she had to pass some dumpsters on her left and failed to notice the movement in the darkened recesses between the bins. Suddenly a hand was clamped over her mouth and her bag, which was held tightly under her arm, was ripped away. She struggled as she fought for breath and she found herself on the ground feeling the jagged gravel through her clothing. Her eyes widened as she put her hands up to try and pry loose the hand around her mouth, and they looked pleadingly up into the hard eyes of her attacker who she recognised immediately.

Darren knew that the old bitch had made him and he had a decision to make. Should he do a runner with his mates, with the bag, and wait for the coppers to catch up with him? He was on probation now but this would certainly get him inside some juvenile detention centre. On the other hand, he could finish the job here and now. He held his hand tightly cupped over Flo’s nose and mouth and pressed down steadily as her struggles weakened and finally stopped. Satisfied that he had eliminated his victim and witness to his crime, he slid back into the shadows where his friends waited in breathless admiration.

Betty laid out the sherry glasses and some special crisps that she had bought for the next sewing circle meeting. After half an hour, she became worried that Flo had still not appeared and crossed to her lounge window overlooking the parking lot. At first, she saw little but as her eyes adjusted to the dark outside, she noticed a heap of what appeared to be clothing lying by the dumpsters. For some reason a feeling of dread passed through her and she rushed to the phone to call Big Sal who lived two floors up from her.

“Sal, can you come down, I think something has happened to Flo and I don’t want to go outside alone.”

Within minutes Sal was at the door and the two elderly women walked hand in hand towards the dark shape lying motionless on the ground. As they got closer they saw a hand, palm up stretched pleadingly in their direction. Hearts beating rapidly they drew closer and looked down at the frail face of their beloved friend. Betty immediately knelt down and touched Flo’s face.

“She’s still breathing Sal. Quickly, go and call an ambulance from my flat while I stay with her.” She handed her keys to Sal who hesitated for a moment tears pouring down her face. “Hurry Sal, don’t worry I will be fine.”

As Sal hurried inside, Betty cradled Flo’s head in her lap and leaned as close as she could to her motionless friend. As she bent forward, she thought she heard a whisper coming from the bruised lips.

“Flo, it’s me Betty, what is it love?” She gently stroked Flo’s forehead.

“Jackson……boy…..” With that, Flo breathed softly and for the last time.

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By the time the police and ambulance arrived on the scene, Darren Jackson was on the back of his cousin’s motorbike and halfway to his aunt’s house on the edge of Epping Forest. He was celebrating his elevation to hardened criminal by replaying the incident repeatedly as he clasped his cousin around his waist. Little did he realise that like his father before him, he had botched a job.

The Jackson family were well known by the police and it was not long before Sharon’s sister found a number of coppers on her doorstep with a warrant. They found a newly scrubbed Darren wearing his cousin’s clothes and smirking as his alibi was established by his extended family — and a few of their mates for good measure. Without forensic evidence and with their only witness lying in the mortuary at a South London hospital the investigation stalled.

Everyone knew however, who had murdered their beloved Flo and even families on the Redgrave who had never spoken to the old lady, stopped at Betty’s flat with shop-bought cakes and sympathy. The other members of the sewing circle sat in vigil with their distraught friend as she repeatedly relived finding Flo in that crumpled heap in the dark.

The police officer in charge of the investigation came from the area and knew both the Redgrave and the Jacksons well. He could only promise that he would not close the case but would watch and wait for Darren to return to his mother’s flat and get back with his little gang again. The detective was convinced that Darren would be unable to keep his mouth shut and would end up boasting about his first major excursion into his father’s violent world. When he did, the detective was sure that his informants in the area would find out and they would get Darren eventually.

The members of the sewing circle were united in their grief and spent the next week together in Betty’s flat, from early morning until late at night. The funeral was eventually arranged by Flo’s extended family and her close friends were all included at every stage. On the afternoon of the service, the sun shone in defiance and the five friends left Betty’s flat together walking proudly towards the waiting black cab that Flo’s family had laid on. They were all smartly dressed, wearing their best hats in honour of the occasion. The service was lovely and the five elderly women held hands as they watched the hearse taking Flo to the crematorium glide sedately pass them outside the church.

After the tea at a local pub, Flo’s eldest son took them home personally in his people carrier and walked them to the door of Betty’s flat.

“My mum would have wanted you to have first pick of her special things, so why don’t I come back tomorrow morning and you can come up with me and choose something to remember her by.” With a hug for them all, he left and the five filed into Betty’s kitchen to drink more tea and to reminisce into the night about their lost friend.

The next afternoon, instead of sitting around completing sewing projects, the women sat quietly as each held a memento in their laps. The objects were neither expensive nor necessarily attractive but they all reminded the women of some different aspect of Flo’s personality. Big Sal cradled a little ceramic dog that had obviously been lovingly handled over the years.

“Flo bought this when her little Yorkie died,” she wiped a tear from her cheek. “She was a feisty one that Flo and I bet if she was here she would have a thing or two to say about those bastard Jacksons.”

Sylvia examined her manicured nails and then looked up at the rest of the circle.

“I know if it had been one of us Flo would have marched up to that Sharon Jackson and given her one over the head with her brolly.”

The thought of the tiny Flo giving slovenly Sharon a good slapping made her friends laugh and within minutes they started to throw in other suggestions of what evil might befall the Jackson clan. As the proposed retribution became more and more virulent, the laughter died away and slowly the five women began to look at each other in silence.

Big Sal picked up her copious black handbag and extracted a pencil and a piece of paper. On the back of an old shopping list she jotted down some of the ideas already mentioned and sat hand poised to record any more.

Maggie Baxter, who was proudly conversant with the entire Bible, clapped her hands and grabbed everyone’s attention.

“Then will I also walk contrary unto you, and will punish you yet seven times for your sins.” Maggie smiled at them all. “That book of Leviticus was sure clear about making those poor Israelites pay and I guess what was good enough for them is good enough for those Jackson’s”

Mary Jones who was the frailest of the group looked worriedly at her friends.

“But what can we do, we are only a few old ladies and those Jacksons have a big family and they are all thugs and thieves.”

Big Sal reached over and patted her hand gently.

“Don’t worry love; I think we can bank on a few recruits from the other residents and what we don’t have in brawn we will make up for in brains.”

Sylvia sat silently, wiping the odd tear from her heavily made up face. What the other members of the sewing circle did not know was that Flo and Sylvia shared a secret from the past that made this violent loss even more poignant.

In her twenties, Sylvia had been vibrantly attractive and had met and married Davy Ross, a minor name in the East End. He had worked for Mike Mitchell who ran an extensive extortion and prostitution racket in the fifties and sixties and Davy was known for his temper and his ability to collect money with menaces.

Unfortunately, for Sylvia, Davy liked to take his work home with him and she spent quite a bit of time in the casualty department of the local hospital having ‘bumped into’ fixed objects in her home. Friends tried to persuade her to leave him but Sylvia knew that he would find her and kill her if she left.

A job had been planned at a large high street bank and at the last minute, a member of the gang got nicked and a replacement had to be found. Mike Mitchell who had masterminded the job recruited Davy into the team, a little reluctantly bearing in mind his unpredictable temper. He was right to be concerned as the night watchman at the bank ended up getting more of a hiding than he might have done with the original set up. Unfortunately for Davy, the guard survived and was able to give the police an accurate description of his assailant. Davy knew the score and accepted his ten years inside without grassing up either the other members of the gang or his boss, who honoured the unspoken code of the East End by making sure Sylvia was taken care of.

Sylvia knew that with good behaviour, her violent husband might be out in five or six years but she hoped that his own basic nature would guarantee that he would not be able to keep his fists to himself for that long. She had originally trained as a hairdresser and she opened a little shop close to her home and began to live a new life.

Flo was one of her regular customers and being from the area was fully aware of Sylvia’s past troubles, although they were never mentioned. Neither was the increasingly frequent visits to the shop by Mike Mitchell, who was crossing the bounds of the accepted code of behaviour by fancying the wife of one of his own men, who was serving time for one of his jobs.

Sylvia was wary at first, as she knew the man’s reputation, but he was good looking and charming and began to show her a life that she did not know existed. Fancy restaurants and weekends in the country — away from the prying eyes of the East End, and Mike’s wife — definitely clouded her judgement and she found herself falling in love with the mobster.

Their affair lasted two years and in that time, Sylvia neither wrote nor visited Davy in prison despite his constant demands. Unfortunately, nature stepped in and Sylvia found herself telling Mike that he was going to be a father in seven months’ time. This fact did not overly please him as he already had four children and a wife who would take him to the cleaners if she found out. Despite being a hard man, Mike loved his family and had to convince Sylvia that if she kept the child it would have to remain a secret. Not only that, but Davy was not going to be happy about finding out, which would be very dangerous for both Sylvia and the child.

This proved to be the case when a woman who lived in Sylvia’s street decided to inform her husband on a prison visit of the local gossip and the possibility that Sylvia was expecting. The man got a broken jaw for his trouble when he passed the information onto Davy and within days, a message was passed to the outside.

Sylvia was locking up her hairdressers for the night when two men grabbed her from behind and dragged her into a nearby alley. Two hours later Flo was passing on her way to the Bingo hall when she heard what she thought sounded like a frightened kitten in the narrow gap between the buildings. She ventured a little way into the darkness and saw an arm protruding from behind a heap of rubbish bags. She rushed forward, completely oblivious to her own safety and found Sylvia curled up holding her stomach with one arm as she bled across the dirty cobblestones.

Flo rushed back into the street and got a man to go to the nearest phone box and call for the police and ambulance before returning to cradle Sylvia’s head in her lap while they waited for help. She went with her to the hospital and was by her bedside when she regained consciousness after her operation. Sylvia suffered a broken nose and arm, crushed pelvis, fractured skull – and had lost her baby. As she looked down into the bruised and battered face, Flo knew that this was not the end. That Davy was not going to let it rest and would no doubt finish the job when he finally got out of prison.

Mike Mitchell was also aware that this beating was just an instalment and it was really no surprise to anyone that a week later Davy Ross unfortunately slipped on some soap in the shower and banged his head. He was dead when the guards found him. Sylvia was notified as she lay in her hospital bed coming to terms with not only the loss of her baby but also the fact that Mike Mitchell could now never come near her again in case he was implicated in her husband’s death.

Flo understood, being the mother of so many children herself and having lost one or two in early pregnancy, how Sylvia must be feeling and she was with her when the doctors told her that due to the beating she had received she would never be able to have any more children in the future. Over the next few years, Flo and Sylvia became close friends but the events surrounding the beating and death of Davy were never discussed again.

Even the other members of the sewing circle were unaware of the shared past of two of their closest friends and although they knew that Flo and Sylvia went back a long way they were taken by surprise at the level of grief that Sylvia experienced. She had cried for two days, refusing to leave her flat or even get dressed in one of her elegant but out-dated suits. She finally appeared at Betty’s flat and sat silently as mourners came and went with their offerings. Eventually her friends gave up trying to get her to talk but took it in turns to sit holding her hand and leaning in so that she could feel their comfort.

As a memento of her beloved friend, Sylvia had chosen a pale yellow silk scarf that Flo had worn often. She now ran the scarf through her fingers time after time before looking around at the others as they sat quietly remembering their friend.

“It would be lovely to see the Jacksons brought down and all sorts of evil things done to them but we have to be realistic about what we can do ourselves.” She sighed wearily as her friends listened intently.

“The younger kids are not to blame but they should not be with that mother of theirs, they deserve a chance to live a decent life.” She paused and looked down at the scarf wound through her fingers.

“Sharon Jackson and that son of hers deserve everything they get and we need to make sure that they never do this to anyone else again.” She gave a tight smile.

“We have to get to Archie Jackson inside and feed him a story about Sharon and he will take care of her for us.” Her friends listened in fascination as Sylvia displayed a side of her they had never even imagined before. “After that he needs taking care off so that he can have nothing more to do with his kids as they grow up.”

“As for that Darren, he is past redeeming and needs to be got rid of like any other vermin on the estate and we have to get him to do the job on himself.”

The others looked at each other and realised that if they were to undertake this revenge on the Jacksons they were reverting to the old life that they had known as teenagers and young women living in the East End. They knew that if they didn’t do something then the Jacksons would continue to terrorise this estate and any others they moved to. The key was to cut the head off the clan in the form of Sharon Jackson. Without her around, and Archie taken care of in prison, the younger members of the family would be put into care and unlikely though it seemed, that might give them a chance of a better life than remaining with their mother and father. Darren however had to go, as they knew, without any doubt, that he had cold bloodedly killed Flo. He now had power and he would use it against people for the rest of his life.

©SallyCronin The Sewing Circle 2004

New Book Fanfare – Repent at Leisure by Stevie Turner


New book fanfare

Today’s featured book is Repent at Leisure by Stevie Turner.. What happens when you wake up with a strange girl in your bed?

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About the book

Paul McAdam wakes up with a strange girl in his bed, with no idea who she is or where she came from.

Cat Taylor worms her way into Paul’s life, eventually moving into his flat. The arrangement suits Paul quite well until he meets Anita Fairfax, the love of his life and the girl he wishes to marry. Cat has to go, but Paul finds that she is not interested in moving out.

When Cat is found dead in Paul’s flat, he’s the #1 suspect, even though there’s not a shred of evidence. Anita and Paul are happily married, but she soon begins to wonder whether her new husband could have been Cat’s killer all along…

A selection of other books by Stevie Turner

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Buy Stevie’s books Amazon Author Page

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I began my writing career as far back as 1969, when I won an inter-schools’ writing competition after submitting a well-thumbed and hastily scribbled essay entitled ‘My Pet’. A love of words and writing short stories and poems has carried on all throughout my life, but it is only now in middle age that I’ve started writing novels full-time and taking this author business seriously.

So far I have published 8 novels and 4 novellas, and am currently working on a collection of short stories to be published later in 2016. My novels are realistic, but tend to shy away from the mainstream somewhat and focus on the darker side of relationships. However, you’ll find I do like to add in a little bit of humour along the way.

My third novel ‘A House Without Windows’ was chosen as a medal winner in the New Apple Book Awards 2014 Suspense/Thriller category, and in late 2015 it won a Readers’ Favorite Gold Award. An excerpt from my latest creation ‘Repent at Leisure’ has made the shortlist for the Escalator Writing Competition (winners are announced on April 20th 2016).

I have also recently branched out into the world of audio books. ‘The Daughter-in-law Syndrome’, ‘A House Without Windows’, ‘No Sex Please, I’m Menopausal!’, ‘The Noise Effect’, and ‘A Rather Unusual Romance’ are available for purchase, and the rest are currently in production.

So here I am in the late summer of my life, and the words are tumbling out of my head. Living for more than a few years has given me plenty of subject matter to write about, and I look forward to sharing quite a lot of it with you.

I hope you enjoy checking out my books and audio books.

Connect to Stevie via her website and social media.

Website: http://www.stevie-turner-author.co.uk/
Facebook:   https://www.facebook.com/Stevie-Turner-432183066899400/
Twitter:   https://twitter.com/StevieTurner6
WordPress:   https://steviet3.wordpress.com/
Pinterest: https://uk.pinterest.com/stevieturner988/

If you have a new book. great review or other reason to celebrate then take a look at the ways you can promote your work and let me know.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2016/04/07/smorgasbord-free-promotions-for-bloggers-and-authors-restarting-18th-april/

Thanks for stopping by and please help spread the word of Stevie’s new book by sharing.. thanks Sally