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HOOP Boot Camp Summer 2017

Published July 10, 2017 by Naomi Rettig

When I signed up for a weekend HOOP (helping overcome obesity problems) boot camp six months ago, I really didn’t know what I was expecting. I certainly didn’t expect that I would meet the most wonderful people who would inspire me, encourage me, and enlighten me. But I did. And more.

I was anxious about meeting new people and spending a weekend with total strangers. I didn’t need to worry at all. I was so nervous arriving at the camp, but I met my first new friend Lucy who instantly made me feel relaxed. And with each person I met after that I felt more at ease. I was worried about sharing a room but I was paired up with Emma and felt we were a perfect match, we instantly gelled and suddenly sharing a room wasn’t a big deal at all. So much so we asked Yvonne to join us as we’d clicked over dinner Friday night. Each lovely lady on the boot camp with me was so nice, I started on Friday with strangers but left on Sunday with new friends.

The food was delicious. I was again anxious about this aspect of the weekend. Was I going to have enough food? Was I going to like the food? How would I cope without sugary sweet food? Again, unnecessary worrying. I can’t praise Brian Powlett highly enough. Fresh heathy food, cooked to perfection. Packed full of flavor and incredibly filling, I didn’t feel hungry once. I’m now following his Facebook page ‘Knife of Brian’ (should have known he’d be awesome with a Monty Python reference) and will be trying his recipes myself. Who knew I’d get excited by salads? Not me.

I also needn’t have worried about the activities. Saturday morning started with a walk. It was about a mile I think, some people did a bit of running, some people walked a just little of the way, and some people didn’t take part. It was all about what you felt comfortable with, no pressure. We were then split into two groups. One group worked out with tyres, one with resistance bands. Again, if you didn’t want to take part, or if you needed a breather, that was no big deal. After breakfast then we had the option to do canoeing. I was going to do it but after seeing Barbara and Helen fall in the river (they handled it with such good humour!) I got spooked and changed my mind (flash back to falling in a boating lake aged eight). I will have another go though next time, as everyone who did it seemed to have a great time. Myself, Yvonne and Sarah opted out so we got to play boules with Mark (more about him later). I wasn’t counting but I think I won 😉, and we all beat Mark.

We then had the option of mountain biking. Sitting on a saddle the size of a paperclip was uncomfortable and, unless I have a saddle the size of an arm chair, I won’t be doing it again. I’m calling the tiny saddles ‘magic saddles’ because they managed to turn my apple-catcher knickers into a thong. If you didn’t want an intimate wedgie you could have gone for a trike, or a wider seated tandem bike, but that was tougher to pedal and steer, kudos to Yvonne for steering the trike and Liane and Sarah getting up a hill on the tandemt, I had to get off and push my bike on that bit.

After lunch, it was activity time again. You had the option of harness work (climbing wall, tree tops walk, zip wire) or archery. I chose the harness work as I wanted to challenge myself, I’ve done archery several times before. Wearing full harness gear is most unflattering, and in some circles would be classed as fetish wear, but I’d rather be safe and look like a trussed up chicken than fashionable and deadly. I wasn’t good at the climbing wall, trying to get my size nine trainers on a pokey-out-bit (not sure of the technical term) the size of a broad bean was too hard for me. Others made it look easy and shimmied up to the top quickly like Tom Cruise in the opening to Mission Impossible II (Jane, Diane, Vicky, Sue B). Sue A showed what perseverance and having another go can do, as she didn’t manage to get very high the first time but had another go after and her determination and sparkly inner magic got her to the top.

Zip wire was next and, wowsers, what a challenge. I struggle to get up on rung three of a step ladder, so just climbing to the top of the zip wire tower was an achievement. Emma was first to volunteer, what a star, and she nailed it like a carpenter. One by one everyone overcame their fears and launched themselves over the edge. Most of the time I was up there I was saying to myself in my head that I couldn’t do it and I would just go back down. But when it came to just me and Yvonne stood up there, things changed. I’m sure she won’t mind me saying she was having a wobble, and after standing on the edge changed her mind and got unhooked. I was giving her a pep talk and saying she could do this and she would feel fab if she did it, and as I was saying this I was thinking ‘well I can’t be saying this to Yvonne and not do it myself’ what a hypocrite!

So, I bit the bullet and told Alex (the activities man) I was going for it. I told him I wouldn’t be able to look down so I was going to look up into the trees and he would have to guide me to the edge like I was a blind person, which he did marvelously. He has the patience of a saint. I told him I don’t normally swear but I may do. But I didn’t swear, apart from a ‘Holy Moly’ as I jumped, and I didn’t cry which I thought I would. I bizarrely did a little high pitched nervous singing and screamed the entire way down, which resulted in a sore throat and revocation of my forty-year vegetarian status due to consuming a buffet of small insects mid-air.

I’d like to thank Sue and Jane for helping me down from the harness after I eventually come to a stop – I thought I was going up for another go at one point as the bounce back was quite far. There might have been else behind me helping me down too but I was in too much of a state to see, so if anyone helped me, then thank you so much. I was holding onto the metal rope so tightly I just couldn’t physically let go. I haven’t gripped anything that hard since someone tried to steal my Toblerone once.

I am so proud of myself that I did it but I wouldn’t do it again. I’m not destined to be an adrenalin junkie. I’ve never been so glad to touch the ground. I nearly did a Pope and kissed it. We’d run out of time to do the tree tops walk, but that was good because that’s when Sue had that second go at the wall and smashed it, meant to be.

Zumba was on offer after that but I was so wrung out from the zip wire I gave it a miss. The ladies that did take part were fabulous though. I could see Lucy outside my window dancing (as I was recovering) and she was marvelous.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t very well Sunday morning. I had a bad head and the warnings of a migraine coming on so I knew I had to head home. I missed out on boxercise and yoga, I hope yoga is on offer at the next camp as I would have loved to have tried that.

I felt very emotional travelling home on the train, I was upset I’d had to shoot off without saying proper goodbyes to everyone, but that probably would have probably set me off crying like the Niagara waterfalls, so a lucky escape for everyone else. I felt emotional because in the space of forty hours I’d met the most inspirational people and formed friendships that I know will last a lifetime.

Mark Flewitt and Heather Jayne Wynn, the coaches on the weekend, it’s difficult to put into words how much of life changers they are. You couldn’t wish to meet more supportive, empathetic, positive people. It’s like sorcery how a speech from Mark can really change how you think about yourself and make you believe in yourself. I wouldn’t call it going to boot camp, I’d call it going to reboot camp. Like a computer reboots itself to get rid of the nasties and the gremlins inside, this weekend rebooted my gremlins and nasties.

I will be eternally grateful to mark and Heather for rebooting me, grateful to Brian for making me want to embrace healthier foods, and forever grateful to have met all the lovely ladies I shared this experience with, you are all sparkly stars in a sometimes dark world, so keep sparkling.

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My Best Friend is a Unicorn, called Neville.

Published February 25, 2017 by Naomi Rettig

Neville has been my best friend since as far back as I can remember, in fact I can’t remember life without him. When we were both little we would share the same bed, I’d stroke his soft purple mane as he snored blissfully next to me. Logistics got in the way as we both got bigger. A man and a fully-grown unicorn just don’t fit into a bed together. Even the king size bed that I have now. Neville has his own room, but I have the en-suite. Neville prefers the great outdoors for his ablutions. I’ve fitted a latch on the back door that Neville can unhook with his horn, so that he can venture out to the garden whenever he wants.

It’s so much easier now we live by ourselves. When we lived at Dad’s it was a nightmare having to go out to the garden every time Neville needed to do his business. Dad was always suspicious why I needed to keep going outside, I’d regularly get my pockets checked for cigarettes when returning in from Neville’s toileting. Nev would find this highly amusing, suggesting I bought a packet so my dad could ‘find’ them on me and feel vindicated for the prison search.

I wished that I could’ve told him the real reason for my garden visitations, but the word unicorn was banned in our house when I was seven. Up until then I had included Neville in our family conversations and no one had seemed to mind, then Mum and Dad got divorced, and life got complicated.

It was an upsetting time for me, not Mum and Dad splitting up, but because they both said I had to stop pretending that a unicorn lived with us. They might as well have asked me to pretend the grass isn’t green. So I had to do the opposite, from that day on I had to pretend I couldn’t see Nev. He was upset of course by this, but when I explained it was necessary for him to stay with me, he stopped crying. Which was good because unicorn tears are tricky to get out of clothes, it’s the glitter in them. If Neville has had a cry on my shoulder my shirts always need a prewash, once when I was about ten I forgot to prewash and Dad wasn’t over the moon with his glittery pants. I blamed the school’s art department for glitter sticking to my school jumper, but Dad complained about his glittery pants for months.

I should point out that I did the washing at home as it was just me, Dad and Neville living in the house. Mum had moved to a flat across town. She’d wanted me to move with her of course but it was a tiny two bedroomed flat on the fourth floor. That would have been no good for Nev so we stayed with Dad. I also didn’t like Mum’s new boyfriend Warren, he smelled of herring and smoked, and that would set off Nev’s asthma. The smoking that is, not the herring smell. Did I mention Neville has asthma? When I used to visit Mum, Nev would stay at home in the garden. A few times he came with me and waited outside but the fumes from the traffic would set the asthma off too.

Mum visits me now in my house, but not that often. I think she senses Neville here and doesn’t want to admit to herself that he’s real. He stuck his hoof out once and tripped her up when she walking to the door and telling me I should get some friends. She blamed the rug. Neville laughed externally while I laughed internally.

I’ve mastered the art of laughing internally while keeping a neutral face over the years. When I had to pretend not to see Neville because we were in others company he would always relish acting the fool to try and make me chuckle. He got me a few times, usually when he stood on his hind legs and did demented disco dancing. On those occasions I would feign a coughing fit to leave the room for a glass of water.

It got tiresome though pretending I couldn’t see Nev and whispering when I wanted to talk to him, so I moved out last year on my twenty first birthday. I’m a postman and Nev comes out on my rounds with me. We’ve learnt which gardens to avoid, there are a few dogs that go nuts when they see him. Mrs. Jones in Laburnum Terrace has a poodle called Binky that poops on her lawn when he sees Neville. Nev either waits at the end of the road or crawls commando style past Mrs. Jones’s house, it depends on his mood. He can be quite moody at times.

Except on Sundays. On a Sunday Nev is buzzing like a bee in a florist shop. We go to the park every Sunday, even in bad weather. There’s so much space for Nev to gallop about in and he loves swimming in the lake. It’s our highlight of the week, and even more so now.

Two Sunday’s ago, we did our usual routine. I sat on the bench eating a strawberry ice-cream watching Nev frolic around the green. He was taking a longer and slower route than normal so I observed the rest of the park goers. There weren’t that many, a family feeding the ducks on the other side of the lake, a couple out for a romantic stroll who were holding hands and giggling as they ambled along. There’s another bench further along from the one I was sitting on, a young woman in a blue cardigan and jeans was sat alone, the sun highlighting her red hair. She was looking across the green, intensely watching something. I followed her line of vision, there was Neville, prancing about like a parade horse.

I looked back to her and then back to Neville. She was still staring at him. My heart started galloping alongside Nev as I tried to think what to do. I wondered if suddenly everyone could see him now or just this mysterious woman. The romantic couple and family didn’t stare though, which I’m sure they would have if they could see a purple unicorn. My ice-cream drew my attention back to myself as the coldness of it dribbled down my fingers. I dropped it into the bin next to me, having lost my appetite with nerves, and licked off the sticky strawberry from my knuckles.

Before my brain could work out what to do next my legs were walking towards the other bench.

‘Hello,’ I said, as I sat down next to the blue cardiganed woman.

She glanced at me quickly. ‘Hello,’ she said, before looking back across to where Neville was still showboating.

I watched Neville and from the corner of my eye could see the woman looking back and forth between me and Neville. I turned my head towards her and caught her in full stare. ‘I’m John.’

She held my stare gently, her green eyes sparkled. ‘Emma.’ She smiled a smile that would have morphed my ice-cream to a milkshake.

I felt myself blush so turned away, Neville was trotting back towards us. Emma was watching him. This was just too weird. Neville stopped trotting when he reached the bench and shook his head, fluffing up his mane.

I took a deep breath. ‘You look like you’re having fun,’ I said, raising my eyebrows to Nev for some help.

‘You can see her?!’ Emma’s eyes widened and she moved forward on the bench.

My heart bumped repeatedly against my ribs. ‘Him. He’s a he.’

Emma frowned. ‘She’s a she.’

‘Neville is definitely a he.’

Neville was looking back and forth between us and was unusually quiet. I thought he was upset being mistaken for a female so I stood up and started to pat him for reassurance.

Emma squinted. ‘What are you doing?’

My stomach knotted. ‘Stroking my unicorn.’

She laughed. The knotting tightened.

‘You have a unicorn with you?’ Her smile radiated through every pore in her face and her shoulders relaxed as she leaned back into the bench.

The knot in my stomach started to unravel. ‘Yes.’

She nodded. I was confused. I thought she could see Nev, but then it was obvious she couldn’t, yet she didn’t run for the hills. And there was no pity in her eyes, still just the vibrant twinkle.

She stood up and started to stroke the air next to Neville. I thought she was humouring me by pretending to stroke him.

I rested my hand on Neville’s back. ‘He’s here.’

She nodded, still stroking the air. ‘This is Moira.’

My eyes tried to analyze hers. I couldn’t speak, I didn’t know what to say, so I just stared at her like an idiot.

‘Moira is a unibob,’ said Emma.

I looked at Nev and he nodded. I swallowed to moisten my throat enough to speak. ‘What’s a unibob?’

Emma glanced at the air she was stroking. ‘A unibob is a magical llama with a horn, but it has a little bobble on the end of the horn, unlike a unicorn’s pointy horn.’

I nodded.

‘She’s pink, what colour is your unicorn?’

‘Purple, he’s purple.’ I smiled at Neville, he just looked embarrassed by me.

‘They match well then.’ Emma stopped petting the air and relaxed her arms down.

‘Yes.’ I nodded again, like a goofball. ‘We come here every Sunday, I’ve not seen you here before.’

‘We’ve just moved to the area, I inherited my grandfather’s farm, up by The Grange.’

I nodded again. ‘Will you be here again next week? I’d like to see you again.’

‘I can be, I’d like to see you again too. And judging from how much Moira was leaping about on the green I think she’d like to see Neville again too.’

He did, and we did. The Sunday after was just the best. I’d never felt so relaxed in my life, and for the first time I felt I belonged in the world. That sounds corny but it’s true. I guess what I’m trying to say is that just because someone can’t see your unicorn, they know that you can, and someone accepting you for you is the best feeling in the world. No pretending.

Nev wants to move to the farm today, but I’ve told him it’s too soon. We’ll go next week, that’ll give me time to pack. Neville is a useless packer as he just packs snacks.

Marzipan Cat Zombies

Published February 1, 2017 by Naomi Rettig

Phil pushed the bookcase against the door then wiped the sweat from his forehead with the bottom of his Captain America t-shirt.

‘That’s pointless, cats can’t open doors,’ said Joe, slumping onto the bed next to Rohan.

Phil looked across at his two friends. ‘Just in case. Cats don’t normally turn into marzipan and eat people either, we don’t know what they can do now.’

‘I don’t think they’ll be able to open doors.’ Joe raised his eyebrows.

‘Well, just in case. Humor me.’ Phil paced across to the bed and kicked Joe’s foot.

‘Hey, guys, c’mon,’ said Rohan.

‘Sorry Ro, you ok?’ Joe asked.

‘Of course he’s not ok numbnuts, he just watched his sister being bitten by a marzipan cat, and then turning into marzipan herself!’ Phil pulled up his desk chair and sat down opposite Joe and Rohan.

Joe stretched out and kicked Phil’s leg. ‘I’m aware of that numbernuts, I saw it too. And old Mrs.Terry on the corner, all her five cats had marzipaned, she had no chance.’

‘What’s happening guys? What we gonna do?’ Rohan’s eyes flicked back and forth between Joe and Phil.

Phil sighed. ‘I don’t know.’

‘When will your mom and dad be back?’ Rohan threw his question in Phil’s direction.

Phil rubbed his eyes, his hands slightly trembling. ‘They won’t be coming back. It was on the TV before you both got here, it’s all over the place, the cats, they’re everywhere.’

Joe pulled his legs up onto the bed. ‘They can’t be everywhere.’

‘They’re everywhere,’ said Phil, through gritted teeth.

Rohan knelt up on the bed, surveying out of the window. He could see yellow cats, lots of yellow plastic looking cats, prowling and pacing along the hydrangea lined neighborhood. ‘What we gonna do?’

‘We can stay here? Wait for help.’ Joe nodded at his own suggestion.

‘Help won’t be coming.’ Phil swiveled left and right on his chair. ‘Everybody bitten or scratched turns to marzipan and dies.’

Joe joined Rohan looking out of the window. ‘Why aren’t the cats dying? When they turn to marzipan, why aren’t they dying, like the people?’

‘I don’t know, I didn’t create the mutant marzipan moggies did I?’ Phil rubbed sweat off his forehead again. ‘And the people, after they’ve turned and are dead, they come back to life.’

Joe spun away from the window and looked back at Phil. ‘Shit.’

‘So they are ok then?’ Rohan turned to join the other boys’ stares.

‘Yeah they’re fine.’ Phil’s fake smile turned into a glare. ‘Of course they’re not ok, they’re made of solid marzipan, doofus.’

The three boys sat silently. Joe bit at his nails, Phil rocked on the chair, and Rohan stared at his red socks. A clock in the shape of a rocket ticked behind Phil on his desk. Loud meowing and human screams fought for airspace outside.

Rohan looked up from his socks. ‘If no help is coming, we’re going to have to kill the cats ourselves.’

‘And just how do you kill them?’ Joe got up and started to pace the small room. ‘I mean, I know how you’d kill a normal cat, but one that’s made of fucking marzipan?’

‘Your mum would freak at your language,’ said Rohan.

Joe stopped his pacing. ‘My mum is probably almond paste right now, I don’t think she’d fucking care.’

‘You’re such a grown up.’ Rohan pulled his knees to his chest and wrapped his arms around them.

‘Fuck fuck fuckity fuck.’ Joe continued his pacing.

Phil stopped moving on the chair. ‘We have to eat them.’

‘What?’ Joe stopped in his tracks.

‘The cats,’ said Phil. ‘It said on the news, the only way they can be stopped is by eating them.’

‘Eating them?’ Rohan grimaced.

Joe swung his arms animatedly. ‘Can’t we just chop their heads off?’

‘If their heads are chopped off they just morph back together, same if you squash them,’ Phil mimed squishing and growing with his hands, ‘they just go back into their cat shapes. Guessing it’s the same for the people too.’

‘I can’t eat people,’ said Joe.

Rohan wiped his hands down his thighs. ‘I can’t eat cats. I’m a vegetarian.’

‘It’s bloody marzipan. Without the blood.’ Phil twirled around in the chair to face Joe. ‘Just like eating the marzipan fruits your Auntie Gayle gives you at Christmas.’

‘Eating a non-moving marzipan apple the size of my thumb is a bit different to eating a full sized marzipan cat in attack mode, or a relative,’ said Joe.

Phil stood up and walked across to Joe. ‘We can stun the cat, or person, first, by whacking them with something, then eat them quickly.’

Joe shrugged and fiddled with his belt. ‘At least we won’t have to worry about finding food.’ He attempted to laugh but just made a snorting noise and twitched his lips.

‘Maybe we can make a pact though.’ Phil patted Joe’s shoulder.  ‘I don’t think any of us want to eat our own family.’

‘No!’ gasped Rohan.

‘Gross,’ said Joe.

Phil looked across at Rohan, then back to Joe. ‘So why don’t we agree, that if we get in a ‘situation’ with family, one of us others will deal with it.’

Rohan started to cry. ‘I can’t.’

Joe slunk over to the bed and sat next to Rohan. ‘Look Ro, I know it’s hard but we gotta pull together here.’

‘No, I mean I can’t. I can’t eat marzipan.’ Rohan stifled his sobs. ‘I’m diabetic.’

‘Shit.’ Phil kicked the bookcase.

From the other side of the door there was a hiss of a cat. Phil leapt away from the bookcase and door and almost landed on Joe’s lap as he launched himself onto the bed. The cat started scratching at the door.

Joe gripped Rohan’s knee. ‘Christ, maybe it’ll go away?’ The scratching at the door continued.

Rohan swallowed hard. ‘How can marzipan make a scratching noise like that?’

Joe realized he was holding Rohan’s knee and let go. He frowned at Rohan. ‘I don’t know, shall we open up the door and find out?’

Rohan hugged his legs again and lowered his head.

‘Sorry Ro,’ said Joe. ‘I’m not feeling myself.’

Phil shuffled across the bed a little. ‘You’re looking a little yellow Joe, you feel sick?’

Joe shook his head. ‘No, just a bit spaced, like you? Don’t you feel spaced?’

‘Wired, I’m feeling wired, not spaced.’ Phil turned his head to Rohan. ‘Ro?’

‘Not spaced, hyper ventilating.’ Rohan edged away a few inches from Joe.

Phil stood up slowly. ‘You haven’t been bitten have you?’

‘No,’ said Joe.

‘Or scratched, you might not have felt a scratch while we were running over here.’ Rohan slid off the bed and stood next to Phil.

‘No, I’m fine.’ Joe clenched his hands.

‘You’re definitely more yellow now. Look.’ Phil pointed to Joe’s bare legs, not covered by his shorts.

‘It’s the light in here.’ Joe grabbed the pillow from the bed and tried to cover his legs.

‘Shit Joe, you’re turning, look at the scratch on your arm!’ Phil took a step back, bumping into the chair.

All three boys looked at Joe’s arm. His skin was buttery yellow. There was a gaping gash, about an inch long, and thick yellow pus paste oozed out from it.

‘No! Oh God no. Guys you have to help me!’ Joe cried as he stared at his changing body.

‘We can’t do anything,’ said Phil, gripping onto the back of the chair. ‘There’s no cure, we can’t save you.’

‘Then you have to kill me.’ Joe stopped crying and sniffed. He held his arms out. ‘Eat me.’

‘You’re not fully turned! I can’t eat you yet.’ Phil grimaced.

Joe lowered his arms. ‘Ok, well, get ready.’

‘I don’t think I can do this,’ said Phil, sitting in the chair.

‘You have to,’ Joe pleaded. ‘Rohan can’t or he’ll go into a diabetic coma.’

Rohan shifted slightly from side to side, sniffing.

‘There are bits of you that I really don’t think I can eat.’ Phil nodded towards Joe’s crotch.

‘Christ Phil, you can’t leave just my wiener running around after people.’ Joe rubbed the pus paste into his arm as a bit more oozed out. ‘What kind of sicko does that.’

‘What kind of sicko eats your wiener!’ Phil made a snorting noise as he laughed and stifled a cry at the same time.

Joe laughed and wiped yellow tears away with his sticky fingers.

‘Can’t you just leave?’ Rohan mumbled. ‘You could eat that cat on your way out.’

‘Wow, really finding out about my friends now.’ Joe smiled at Rohan.

Rohan limply smiled back. ‘It’s because we’re your friends we don’t want to eat you.’

‘C’mon Joe.’ Phil stood up. ‘We need to throw you under the bus.’

Joe looked to Rohan then Phil. ‘What bus?’

‘It’s a metaphysical bus.’ Phil took a step closer to Joe and hovered his hand over Joe’s shoulder, gently tapping with his fingers. ‘C’mon Joe, take one for the team, I’d leave if it was me infected. I’d push you out the door but I don’t want my fingers sinking into your fat marzipan middle there.’

‘I’d eat you if we were switched numbernut.’ Joe stood up and stepped towards the door. ‘I’ll eat the cat, then I’ll run away from the house, draw any others away.’

Rohan moved closer. ‘Thanks Joe.’

‘Sorry bud.’ Phil’s voice started to crack.

Joe nodded. ‘Get ready to slam the door shut.’ He started to shove the bookcase out of the way but his thumb mushed into the wood. Sighing, he scraped it off, remolded it, and stuck it on his head.

Phil laughed. ‘Numbnut.’ He dragged the bookcase away from the door and held the door handle. He locked eyes with Joe. ‘Ready?’

Joe nodded, and smiled at Phil and Rohan. Phil yanked the door open and Joe shot out, Phil slamming the door behind him. Phil leant against the door and closed his eyes. Rohan sat on the bed, leant forward, and held his head in his hands. The boys were silent as the wailing of a cat and scuffling outside the door took place. There was a final high pitched cat screech then the landing fell silent too.

After five minutes of stillness, Phil stopped leaning against the door and turned, pressing his ear up against it. ‘Joe? You still there?’

‘Yes,’ said Joe from behind the door.

Rohan lifted his head from his hands. ‘I thought you were going to run away?’

‘I was.’ Joe’s voice sounded muffled. ‘I don’t want to die out there on my own. I’m scared.’

‘He’s going to fully turn any minute.’ Rohan whispered to Phil.

Phil nodded, then talked to the door again. ‘Did you eat the cat?’

‘No. Well, I tried to eat it, but it’s very struggly. I ate its leg. It’s not happy with me. It’s just staring at me now. I’m sorry’

Phil placed his hand flat against the door. ‘I’m sorry too Joe’. He turned and looked at Rohan, and raised his eyebrows.

Rohan nodded and stood up from the bed. Phil slowly twisted the door handle and opened it. Joe was sat on the floor, not only was his skin bright yellow but his hair had turned from dark brown to yellow chunky strands. His thumb was still on his forehead.

Phil opened the door wider. He could see an angry looking marzipan cat in a crouching attack position further along the landing. ‘Let the cat come in. And put your thumb back where it should be.’

‘If you’re going to be marzipan, we will too,’ said Rohan.

‘No, you can stay safe.’ Joe shuffled to his feet, removing his thumb from his head and molding it back on his hand.

‘No one is safe. If we don’t have our families we only have each other, but if we don’t have each other, what’s the point in hiding out.’ Phil shrugged.

The cat suddenly rocketed itself into the room, hissing and lashing out in a frenzied Catherine Wheel of almond rage.

‘It got me!’ Rohan rubbed his leg.

‘Me too,’ said Phil.

The cat limped out on its three legs, tail twitching like a caffeinated cobra. Joe shuffled into the room and slumped onto the bed. His eyelashes had turned to marzipan strands.

‘Do you think we’ll know each other when we turn?’ asked Rohan. ‘You know, when our brains are marzipaned?’

‘Yeah, sure we will.’ Phil patted Rohan on the shoulder. ‘Friends and numbnuts forever.’

New Year’s Eve

Published December 31, 2016 by Naomi Rettig

‘Wow it’s cold,’ says Patrick, stepping outside and closing the door. He puts his gloves on, and a icy mist escapes from between his lips.

Ruth raises her eyebrows. ‘Well it is winter.’

‘Funny girl.’ He crinkles his nose up at her. ‘You never did feel the cold.’

‘I’m Welsh, we’re tough and hardy.’ She dazzles him with a wide smile.

Patrick laughs, exhaling more frosty clouds. ‘I won’t argue with that.’

Ruth adjusts her woolen hat, tucking her fringe up into it. ‘Ready to go?’

‘Yep.’ Patrick holds his hand out and Ruth’s hand slides into his with ease.

They walk in comfortable silence, just the sound of shoes crunching onto snow soundtracks the short walk from Patrick’s parents’ house to the town square. A few people are hurrying from The Golden Lion across to The Three Witches, trying not to get slapped by Jack Frost. Ruth always wanted someone to open a pub in town with the word wardrobe in the name, just so a pub crawl could involve going to The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. Patrick loved her so much that, if he’d won the lottery, he would’ve bought a pub and called it The Wonky Wardrobe, just to make her laugh.

They wander towards The Lion and stand just back from the window, looking in on a busy party scene. The sounds of music, laughter, and cheering, all leak out from the windows, and burst through the door when someone braves the outdoors.

Patrick squeezes Ruth’s hand. ‘There’s Rob and Danny, I think they’re trying to outdo each other in the most embarrassing Christmas jumpers.’

‘You want to go in and have a drink?’

‘No.’ He watches them downing their pints. ‘I said my Happy New Year to them earlier.’

Ruth glances to Patrick. ‘Oh yes, good time?’

‘Yep, Rob got his promotion, which is about time as he deserves it. Danny, well, Danny’s Danny. He couldn’t decide which girlfriend to go out with tonight so that’s why he’s out with Rob.’

‘Harsh.’

Patrick shrugs. ‘Rob doesn’t mind.’

‘I meant for the girlfriends,’ says Ruth, shaking her head.

‘Oh. Yes, it is I guess. They don’t know about each other. Yet.’

They both carry on observing through the window. It must be warm in the pub as Danny is taking his jumper off. He reveals a t-shirt with the slogan ‘babe magnet’ printed on it, much to Rob’s amusement. Rob keeps his reindeer jumper on, it’s quite impressive as the reindeer’s nose flashes red.

‘Silly question, but why doesn’t he just choose one?’ asks Ruth.

‘He can’t decide. He likes them all but isn’t in love with any of them.’ Patrick removes his stare from Rob’s flashing jumper and turns his head to Ruth. ‘He’s not as lucky as me finding you.’

Ruth turns to return his gaze. ‘I love you.’

‘I love you too, for eternity.’ Patrick feels tears gathering up as he looks deep into Ruth’s eyes.

‘Are you sure you want to come away with me? I can wait if you want to stay here longer.’

Patrick swallows down his tears. ‘Don’t be silly, I want to come with you. What have I got here without you?’

‘Err, family friends, work.’ She raises her eyebrows.

‘You’re all the family I need, I won’t be missed by the rest of my family, and I can pop in at any moment to see them. My friends will be sad when they find out I’ve gone without saying a proper goodbye, I couldn’t though as they would’ve tried to talk me out of it.’ Patrick looks back into the pub. ‘Not that they don’t want me to be with you, but because they’d think it was better if I stayed.’ He looks back to Ruth, who is studying his face. ‘But when they find out, they’ll know I’ve followed my heart and done the right thing for me. And as for work, I only work to pay the bills, I will not miss unblocking toilets and examining u-bends.’

Ruth does mock shock. ‘Really?’

‘Yes really, come on, before they spot me.’ Patrick takes Ruth’s hand and leads her away from the pub.

As they walk through the square, Mrs. Timpson from the Post Office is coming out of The Three Witches, carrying a bottle of wine.

Patrick whispers to Ruth. ‘Appropriate.’

‘Shh,’ says Ruth. ‘She’ll hear you.’

Mrs. Timpson keeps her judging eyes on Patrick as she walks past, her face all lemon pinched and sour. ‘Evening Patrick.’

Patrick stops. ‘Happy new year.’

Mrs. Timpson just grunts as she carries on walking away.

‘She never liked me,’ says Ruth, pulling him back into motion. ‘Come on.’

They walk out of town and along an overgrown footpath towards the river. The noise of the town dissolves behind them and the crunch from underfoot soothes once again. They reach the stone bridge, it’s high up over the river and the ice on the water far below sparkles in the moonlight like angel’s tears.

‘Our spot,’ says Ruth.

‘Yes, our spot.’ Patrick squeezes Ruth’s hand. ‘When I proposed to you here last New Year’s Eve, I didn’t think it’d be our last time here.’

‘It’s not the last time, we can come back whenever we want.’ Ruth sits on the stone wall of the bridge, pulling Patrick towards her. ‘And if you want to stay here now, you don’t have to come with me, I’ll understand, and I’ll wait for you, for eternity.’

Patrick moves closer. He closes his eyes and he can feel an icy breath on him. ‘I’m not having second thoughts at all, I’ve never felt so right about something.’

‘No one ever thinks,’ says Ruth, so quietly it’s barely a whisper.

Patrick opens his eyes. ‘What do you mean?’

Ruth smiles gently. ‘Oh, I mean, no one ever thinks things will happen to them, do they. Danny never thought he’d be stuck in a love quadrangle, Rob never thought he’d have to wait five long years for that promotion, and I never thought I’d die in a car accident.’ She sighs. ‘And the woman who caused the crash didn’t think she’d cause a multiple pile up by having a heart attack that morning.’

‘And I didn’t think I’d meet the love of my life but I did. I’m the luckiest man in the world.’ Patrick climbs up onto the wall. He balances on the edge.

Ruth stands up next to him. ‘Would you like me to hold your hand?’

Patrick takes a last look down at the twinkling icy water, far below. Even in the moonlight he can see the rocks poking out from the shallow water, like mini icebergs. At this distance, he will easily break his neck. ‘Yes.’

Ruth’s fingers entwine his and she squeezes tight.

‘Don’t let go.’ Patrick closes his eyes.

‘I won’t,’ whispers Ruth.

Patrick steps forward.

DeadEnders

Published May 20, 2016 by Naomi Rettig

DeadEnders

When characters die in Eastenders they disappear from our screens, but, unseen by us the viewer, they actually have the choice of moving to the Dead End. It’s a complete replica of the Eastenders set but just inhabited by deceased characters. Their day to day lives carry on in this separate ectoplasmic soap opera. While the characters in Eastenders are unaware of this alternative Square, the characters of DeadEnders regularly watch Eastenders on their televisions; to keep an eye on their loved ones, take bets on who will be joining them next, and enjoy catching up on all the gossip. Here are the current residents of DeadEnders:

Number 1 Albert Square is still three separate dwellings, not the converted house that Kim and Vincent currently live in. 1a is a doctors’ surgery where Dr. May Wright practices as she is no longer struck off. She lives in 1c, with Eddie Royal, who likes being kept on his toes by the unhinged GP. Eddie runs the local bookmakers. He likes a gamble.

The 1b flat is occupied by Ethel Skinner and her little Willie, the pug. She is now married to Reg Cox. Reg was never seen animated in Eastenders as he was the body found in the opening episode, so he jumped at the opportunity to set up residence here. Now Ethel has a Willie and Cox keeping her company. Snigger.

In flat 3a you’ll find Jase Dyer, constantly watching over his son Jay in Eastenders via his TV. He is the local builder and handyman and has been single ever since being here.

Flat 3b homes Johnny Allen and Andy Hunter. Even though Johnny murdered Andy they have decided that keeping enemies closer is the best practice here. They’ve even gone into business together running ‘The Barbed Whip’, a members only gentleman’s club ‘up west’.

Flat 3c, currently occupied by Stacey and Martin in Eastenders, is the home of Steve Owen, Saskia Duncan and Steve’s mum Barbara. Saskia waited here for Steve, and feeling guilty for killing her, he moved in with her. He was surprised to find his mum already living with Saskia and wishes she would move out and on to the afterlife. Barbara Owen enjoys tormenting her son too much though. Steve now works at a funeral directors and regularly volunteers for overtime.

Number 5 (being turned into flats by Jack in Eastenders) houses Jim and Reenie Branning, reunited after many years. Reenie gets jealous when she finds Jim watching Dot on Eastenders. Their son Derek Branning, and grandsons Bradley Branning and Billie Jackson live with them. Derek is a taxi driver. Bradley is a teacher and Billie works on the market on a butchers’ stall. Wellard the dog is there too; he likes to hang out by Billie’s stall.

Numbers 18-20 are a B&B run by Owen Turner and Trina Johnson. They hooked up together after bonding over both being victims of Lucas Johnson. Their reputation and grisly deaths puts punters off staying at the B&B though so their only current residents are evil Harry Slater and the equally despicable Trevor Morgan. Both unemployed and both thinking they are victims.

Number 23 (currently flats, Shirley and Buster live in one) is a house here. Charlie and Viv Slater have reunited, along with Charlie’s sister Vi Slater. It’s a house full of tension, the two women are constantly clashing, and with Harry and Trevor on the square too there are quite a lot of fisticuffs.

Number 25 (Dot, Jack, Amy and Abi live here in Eastenders) is occupied by Cottons. Three generations. Charlie, Nick and Ashley. Think Steptoe and Son. And Son. There is always a dodgy deal going on here.

Number 27 (Ronnie and Sharon’s home in Eastenders) is a happy home. Nana Moon, Danny Moon and Michael Moon live here. Michael has mellowed a lot after dying, and him and Danny are Estate Agents. They are always competing for both sales and women. In a fun, light hearted way. Nana Moon dotes on the boys and always has tea on the table ready for them.

Flat 29a is home to Arthur ‘Fatboy’ Chubb. He is a full time DJ and events coordinator and has a string of beautiful women turning up on his doorstep.

His neighbour in flat 29b is Dennis Rickman. He works as a barman and has an equal amount of gorgeous ladies toing and froing from the flat. Dennis and Fatboy go on regular nights out together when not working.

Number 31 (where Sonia, Tina and Rebecca live in Eastenders) is home to Lou Beale, her son Pete Beale and her great granddaughter Lucy Beale. Pete is in his element back on his fruit and veg stall, where Lucy also helps out. Lou still gives advice to everyone even when they don’t want it.

Number 41 is quite empty now in Eastenders with just Masood living there, but here in DeadEnders it’s a lively house with Pat and Frank Butcher, and Frank’s mum Mo Butcher. Frank and Pat run their car lot on the square while Mo supervises everything. Much to Pat’s annoyance.

Flat 43a is inhabited by Cindy Beale. Her daughter Lucy wanted to live there with her but Cindy runs an escort agency from home so insisted Lucy live with her Grandad and Great Grandma across the road. Mum and daughter are still getting to know each other and are enjoying bonding again with regular trips up west, lunch and shopping.

Flat 43b is always full of the sound of George Michael. Heather Trott lives here and, strangely, gets on very well with her neighbour Cindy. This unlikely duo often pop into each other’s flats for drinks and chit chat. Heather works in the café for the Fowlers. She likes to make her George Michael special, which is just cheese on toast with ‘wham’ written across it in tomato sauce.

The third flat in a trio of girly flats, 43c, is occupied by Laura Beale. She is envious of Cindy and Heathers friendship and is always trying to tag along with them. She is the cleaner at The Queen Vic. She is always pestering Pete Beale to let her work on the stall with him.

Number 45 (where Ian Beale lives in Eastenders) is occupied here by the original tenants Pauline and Arthur Fowler. Their son Mark and his wife Gill live with them. They own the café. Pauline, Mark and Gill work there, along with Heather. Arthur grows veg for Pete’s stall on his allotment.

The Queen Vic (number 46) has Peggy Mitchell back behind the bar. Archie Mitchell was waiting for her and runs the pub with her but she still keeps her eye on Frank Butcher. Jamie Mitchell lives there too; he is a mechanic and runs the garage. Peggy’s daughter in law Tiffany Mitchell lives with them too, she is a barmaid there and also runs her own mobile beauty business. Tiffany has an on/off relationship with Dennis Rickman who is a barman there.

Flat 47a is occupied by Stan Carter. Stan had an epiphany after dying and moving here, he now regularly attends church and is often quoting from the bible. He regular gives sermons in the gardens in the square. Usually to an audience of zero.

His neighbours in Flat 47b are his ex-son-in-law Kevin Wicks and his grandson Jimbo Wicks. Kevin was delighted to find his son Jimbo waiting for him. Kevin runs a hardware stall in the market and Jimbo helps out when he can. Kevin is not having much luck with the ladies, despite trying hard.

Number 89 George Street (Billy Mitchell currently lives there in Eastenders) is home to Ronnie Mitchell’s daughter Danielle Jones and Ronnie’s baby son James Branning. Danielle looks after her half-brother as if he is her own. Archie keeps asking for them to move into the Vic with him but Danielle can’t forgive him for putting her up for adoption when she was a baby. She does some child minding from home. She has a crush on Billie Jackson.

Number 91 George Street is home to Barry and Roy Evans. Father and son run a solar panel company called ‘Evans Above’. Roy is still in love with Pat Butcher. Barry and Heather Trott keep having one night stands together. Heather would like a more permanent relationship but Barry keeps thinking someone better will come along, not realizing the gem that Heather is.

Number 53a Turpin Road is the flat above the undertakers where the Coker’s live in Eastenders. Here in DeadEnders Paul and Audrey Trueman live above a florist. Audrey runs the shop and does the flower arranging while her son Paul does the deliveries, and skives in the pub and the bookies. He fancies Cindy Beale.

Number 55 Victoria Road (where Phil Mitchell, Jay, Ben and Louise live in Eastenders) is the home of Den and Angie Watts. They run a dating agency together, ‘Watts Love’. Occasionally sleeping with their clients behind each other’s backs. Roly the dog is with them. He is depressed.