New story: Grey Eyes and Shakespeare’s Grave

My story is on Everyday Fiction – a short and sweet office romance. Pop over, give it some stars!

https://everydayfiction.com/grey-eyes-and-shakespeares-grave-by-ali-abbas/

Grey Eyes.jpg

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Blessed are the Bottleneckers

oysterpad

The problem with automatic ticket barriers is their propensity to change location. Logic dictates that such essential train station furniture should be close to the entrance/exit and that the demands of space, power and connectivity should limit the options available to planners. Not so in your precious world, my dear bottlenecker, where these most Muggle of items are imbued with a Hogwarts staircase-esque intelligence. For you, these shiny pillars with their drab grey swing gates are a constant source of bewilderment.

You, brave traveller, know that we live in a world of perverse wizardry. Hence you arrive at the barrier wholly unprepared. How could you possibly have predicted that exiting the station may require some form of validation, or that the method would conform to such mundane rules? We should laud your courage in the face of these crippling uncertainties:

– Will there be a barrier?

– Will it be where it was yesterday, and every day before that?

– Who am I? Why am I here?

Bowed down under the weight of doubt it makes perfect sense that you don’t have your contactless payment method ready in your hand. Only when faced with the undeniable solidity of the bright yellow pad should you paw through your purse, or switch on your phone and scroll to ApplePay.

Someone churlish might suggest you could use your time on the escalator to prepare. These mechanical contrivances are long, and you’re clearly not someone in a hurry who walked up. How ignoble to suggest you sacrifice your precious time contemplating the low to high, misery to glory of your own existence, and the posters for West End shows you will never see. Who would not forgive you grappling with your existential angst and your vapid arse scratching?

It’s not as though you inconvenienced that many people at the ticket barrier itself. Most of your fellow travellers are far behind, caught in a pile-up at the top of the escalator. When you stepped off it was essential that you stop and survey this new world the moving walkway had magically transported you to.

How boorish of the people behind to think you should be expected to keep walking. You who have clawed out of the cocoon of the London tube system into a bright reality of backlit advertising. This emergence should be celebrated, not bound by the relentless industry of the escalator, spewing forth the rest of humanity into your back. Why should you, in this moment of rapture, take a single step to the side?

You are a pilgrim through life. Your every step is holy. The world is a cruel and uncertain place, its hallmark is its unpredictability. Its pleasures are few and to be savoured. So pause often, in the tightest of spaces, in the most inconvenient bottlenecks. Make your skin like armour against the barging shoulders and the barbs of “moron” and “imbecile”.

Blessed are the bottleneckers for they shall inhibit the underground.

END

Find out more about my writing here.

Publication Announcement – “Désolé Habibti” in “On Fire”

Just in time for your Christmas stockings – my story  Désolé Habibti is in this gorgeous new anthology from Transmundane Press.

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About Désolé Habibti

Miriam returns to Lebanon for the last meeting with her great-grandmother. She is made the keeper of the secret to the family’s security. Her ancestors possess a Djinn that has protected their descendants from disasters for centuries. The Djinn can be compelled with one final wish before he is freed. On returning to San Diego Miriam learns her mother has cancer. She now faces a terrible choice over the power at her command.

And if that was not enough there are 24 other stories to gorge yourselves on.

More excerpts, readings and book launchy stuff to come.

If you are interested in my other published works check out my author site.

 

Of Mosquitoes and Men

 

Temptation of St Anthony Jost de Negker 1500 1520 small

The Temptation of St Anthony – woodcut by Jost de Negker (1500 – 1520)

 

We need to talk about the HPV vaccine. In that one sentence I’ve probably lost most of my male readers. HPV is a girl thing, right? Something about women’s health, nothing for us to get involved in.

I thought so too, but as you’d expect nothing in life is that simple. Brace yourself, it gets uncomfortable. The HPV vaccine protects against various types of the Human Papillomavirus. It is mostly harmless but can cause genital warts, and various forms of cancer, in both men and women. It is most commonly associated with the risk of cervical cancer, and because the vaccine is most effective if it is given before there is any risk of infection, it is given to girls in the UK around the age of 12.

HPV is the most common STD.

There is a world of meaning hidden behind those acronyms.

HUMAN papillomavirus

Sexually TRANSMITTED disease

The virus is transmitted through sexual activity. Both men and women get it. The same vaccine (Gardasil) is effective most of the time for both. But only women are vaccinated in the UK. Until recently I was oblivious to this, as I guess most men are. The cancer risk for men is low, and genital warts, in the rare instances they occur are treatable. The risks are greater for homosexual men.

The risks for women are greater still, and the consequences devastating.

Here’s my question. Both sexes get the virus, both transmit it, so why do we only vaccinate those most affected, not all the vectors? Vaccination works best if you treat the whole herd, and in other countries (Australia for example) they do.

We all learn at school that it is the female Anopheles mosquito that transmits the malaria virus, We’re oddly silent about this virus.

I see in this a manifestation of a deeply ingrained sexism in British society. It does not matter who is the cause, ultimately our society accepts that only women should bear the burden of it.

It is in our language, it is in the way we think: boys sow their wild oats, girls are slags.

It is an invidious form of victim blaming, of slut shaming that most men aren’t even aware they are being taught. And therein lies the essence of male privilege. Every human has the capacity to be the carrier, but in Britain, it is a woman’s problem, a girl thing, something men don’t have to concern themselves with. We’re protected from the consequences of our actions and we don’t even realise the world is organised around our convenience.

I wonder if any of my male readers have made it this far. Did you know your role in this? If you didn’t what will you do now you know?

END

You can find all my published works at this link.