Reboots / mini robotic poetry



on robots this week…

Robots came again. I don’t like the look of ‘em. Too shiny. I think they have an agenda. Watch out, I warned you…

clockwork twirls, hidden dials, springs and things. blinking on & off /switches, twitches. micro, mini – they’re everywhere!

it told me the atomic make-up of my lover, it gave me symbols for passion and hunger.

He can dance! That smooth systemised jive makes me feel alive! And he spins me around and round. Turning to look, I see them stare.

I don’t care about the logistics, the statistics, the law. I don’t care what they say or think or do. It’s my AI that I love.

~#~#~#~#~ have a sci-fastic weekend!   ~#~#~#~#~#~

Lizzie HW

The Gladwell Effect / a short story

  1. They learn so quick.

“It’s that Gladwell proposal, isn’t it?” she said, rocking the baby in her arms.

“What – what is?” he looked at her over his sunglasses.

“Ten thousand hours to ‘get it’” she stroked the plump cheek as the baby snuggled closer.

“I don’t ‘get it’!” He lowered the paper, folded it and placed it on the table. He took a sip of water. Sun poured from the sky and they had sought refuge under the timber canopy that jutted above them.

“It takes ten thousand hours to learn how to do something sufficiently, to be good, accomplished. Like a violinist. Those kids that practice and practice.” She blew up her fringe as the day’s heat tried to stick it to her head.

“OK. I get that. But what do you mean?” he took off the sunglasses and placed them beside the paper. Carefully, he leaned over his wife’s arms and stroked his daughter’s pink arm. He felt his internal organs soften, melt.

“Her. I mean.” His wife nodded down to their precious child. “If it takes an average of ten thousand hours to be accomplished – that’s what babies do. They learn so quick and we go: Wow! How do they do it? Absorb everything so quick, from nothing.”

“Yes, but it’s the design. Biology, evolution, survival. As soon as they start developing – cells are growing, nerves, receptors, connectors, processors… oh. Ooh! Look.” The baby blew a bubble. They cooed and beamed and their insides turned to cotton-wool clouds. Above the sky was bone-dry.

He continued: “After the immediate rush of growth, it stops. Reversal. Age, deterioration. Brain cells dying. Do you know how much of your brain has gone?” He sat back, arms folded, eyebrows rising as a smile formed across his dark face. He liked the heat.

“Huh! No. And – don’t tell me!” she scowled at him with a smile on her lips. “Ageing is the same process. It’s all time. The trick is what you do with it. Think about, her. So tiny. What does she have to do? No worries about work, paying bills, what time to get up or go to sleep, no clothes to iron or meals to plan or shopping to do – no temperamental car…”

“I know! I said I’d call the mechanics…” his smile reversed and he looked over the yard. The grass was turning brown.

“All she does, is learn. Ten thousand hours of being hungry. Wondering what that feeling is, when it comes and goes, what makes it stop. Then she gets it. Ten thousand hours of us talking, sounds, noises and her copying our faces, our mouths, making sounds of her own – then, bam! She’s talking.” She was so hot! A trickle of sweat had formed at her hairline and was trying to weave its way down her face.

“Yeah,” he agreed, “It’s wonderful.”

The baby murmured. They held a collective parental breath – the baby stayed asleep – they exhaled.

“I’ll put her down.” She stood. She needed to be cool, the baby was like her father, she seemed so content in the heat.

“Hey” he called out softly. “How long is it? Ten thousand hours, in real time.”

“Well,” she frowned, calculating. “An hour a day would be, say thirty years.” She stepped through the patio-doors into the soothing shade.

“Gosh!” Well I still have some practising to do then, eh?” he winked. She grinned and they stumbled into the house (carefully).

2. The trick is what you do with it.

Her legs were stone and jelly. Solid rock that wouldn’t bend and shakes she couldn’t stop.

“Hmm?” the Director stared at her. He was tall and thin and wore a silvery suit with a blue tie. “No legs.” He peered down at her pink tights.

“I, I’m just a bit, nervous.” She shrugged, looking down just to be sure her legs were still there. They were. Concentrating on her pose, she straightened up, stretched as tall as she could, pointed toes out, ankles clamped tightly together. But she felt all angles and pointy, not smooth and fluid as she had seen it happen inside her head.

“It’s in your shoulders” Madame said, pointing with a stiff arm and sniffing as though there was an infection she may catch if she was too close.

Louisa thought they were both rude. She shrugged.

“Ah! I see it” nodded the Director. He clasped his hands behind his back and leaned forward.

“I can learn” Louisa told them, with enthusiasm. “I will – practice more. Every day!” She smiled, holding her hands tightly together, keeping her shoulders back.

“Practice! Practice? You should be doing that already. An hour a day? Pish!” Madame scowled.

“Have you not done your ten-mille?” The Director scrunched up his eyebrows and gave Louisa a penetrating stare. Louisa shuffled her feet.

“She, doesn’t know. Look at her!” Madame exclaimed. Her eyes bulged with disgust.

“I don’t” agreed Louisa.

“Oh? I have to explain?” he was agitated and turned to his companion: “Why don’t they know?” Madame shook her head.

The Director stepped forward, placing his shoes a millimetre from the girl’s and into her face, with a voice adults used for babies, he said: “Now dear. It is a proven fact – all of every talent, is practice. It is in the Learning. No tricks, no shortcuts. No half-hearted pretence of doing a bit here and there, when one feels like it.” His face moved closer, leaning, until his nose almost touched hers and she felt his breath on her mouth. She wanted to squirm away but she dare not. “It is Not, not, a natural talent. There is no magic gifts. Talent is torture.”

Without moving, his voice altered as he directed his next comment to Madame: “Oh, the numbers that still won’t accept it!” Then back to the baby voice, he continued speaking to the girl: “It is simple enough. If you can count. Ten thousand hours. No more, no less. That is what you must do. Come back then, and – we’ll see.”

At home, Louisa told her parents that she hadn’t got a place at the National Dance School. They consoled her as best they could. Their stomachs twisted, feeling her pain of disappointment and their own as their child went to bed without supper. She was too upset to eat.

In her room, Louisa opened the Calc-App on her phone. She tapped in numbers – adding, guessing, subtracting. She chewed the end of a pencil and wrote down the results in a blue notebook. Then she scribbled them out and started again.

Louisa was 11 1/4 years old and she had been dancing since she was 5 (her parents said). It would take years! But she made a plan. And from the next day, she began again. She wrote down all the hours she practiced and if she had to miss a session she would put extra hours on another session. Dancing was all she thought about.

 3. Practice, Practice, Practice.

When she was eighteen and two months, she returned to the National Dance School. She performed with grace, she charmed the Director and Madame, though they had assistants now and were seated throughout her performance and the interviews.

She got a place.

The training was intense but she thrived on the pressure. She learned new techniques and would practice a new step or routine until she perfected it. She was becoming the star pupil in the 18-20 year olds.

When she was eighteen and ten months old, she attempted a lift with a spin and she fell. Her ankle was broken. She needed an operation and rest. It was a serious accident. Her dancing career was over.

Louisa danced in her head but it made her feel sick, knowing the moves she had been able to do. Her parents worried she would fall into a depression. They bought her things to occupy her time whilst she healed: books, comics, magazines, music, movies – at first she rejected these things. Her parents’ insides quivered. They hired a counsellor who managed to help Louisa accept the change.

She did the first jigsaw as a joke (being ironic – she told her friends) because jigsaws were for kids and old ladies. But with hours laying with her ankle elevated, the jigsaws kept her busy. Her parents got her second-hand ones from the local charity shops, friends bought her new ones – they looked for extreme versions that had hidden puzzles inside or had two sides or that had clues but no picture.

After ten months, her ankle healed, though it was sore and stiff. She could walk but she had a slight limp. The hospital sent her appointments for physiotherapy – she ignored them. To Louisa, her dancing was over, the limp would remain as a reminder of that old dream. Besides – there was a new puzzle. It was a 4D version, of constellations.

Her ankle ached in winter, when it rained, when it was about to rain – she didn’t care. She had bags under her eyes, her skin was a yellowy shade, she yawned constantly but she never felt tired. If anyone asked after her health, she would smile and say ‘I am fine’ which satisfied them enough.

4. Becoming ‘perfect’

When she was 23 and four months she made a World Record for the fastest jigsaw completed. It was a puzzle of 2,500 pieces and she did it with her right-hand behind her back (she was right-handed). Of course, as is the way of World Records, someone else did better than her a few months later. Louisa didn’t care.

She did 5,000 pieces with one-hand, or two puzzles (or three or four) at the same time. She got faster and more ambitious. She did one blind-folded, just touching the pieces and seeing the puzzle in her head – the picture didn’t matter, it was all in the shapes, the edges, the curves.

By 28 she had been on TV showing off her tricks. There had been a book about her and they wanted to make a movie. She had a stoop from the hunched posture and her eyes, though excellent at close-range struggled at further than two metres. Her limp had worsened and she often needed a stick.

She didn’t care, she practised and practised.

Her parents looked at their precious child, grown-up yet deteriorating before their eyes. Their insides turned to sludge.

>> by Elizabeth Haley-Wood

if you liked this, find more at AMAZON in the Kindle Store…

Cake – free offer 18-19th April


My eBook:  Cake & 14 ways to eat it is free for this weekend: 18th & 19th April.

Why not try it? Dare you!

It’s a short collection of stories/poems related to food but don’t be fooled it’s not a book about cakes.

There are strange creatures, odd worlds and unusual activities in this treat.

I like cake. I like it plain, with jam & cream. Chocolate or lemon. I write in the same varieties.

Book cover image for CAKE - an eBook by Elizabeth Haley-Wood

Book cover image for CAKE – an eBook by Elizabeth Haley-Wood

Shadows on a shingle & amber sky – the final instalment.


Part 7 – the conclusion


I have fallen in love. Fiona is my life. I missed it happen. I think she is a witch! She cast a spell somewhere between the book-store, the burger-bar and the bus-stop.

She has golden curls that spiral down her back and I am transfixed by her. I want to be lost within her smile. I feel – poetic! The ‘bad stuff’ calmed down sometime after I turned seventeen. Maybe Doc Gray had it right all along? Maybe it was puberty/hormones just an extreme case! I don’t think about that anymore. I think about Fiona. Naked.

I am an uncle now. I feel grown-up, responsible. Though they live hundreds of miles away. I promise to visit soon. Naomi is wary about my intentions, I can tell. But I want to take Fiona to London and show her off. We plan a vague trip but Fiona doesn’t like plans, she’s an ‘of the moment’ person. Just two days ago, she showed me, exactly how ‘of the moment’ she is!

I asked Fiona to take this weekend to go to London. At first she was keen. She kissed me and called me ‘crazy’. But it is Friday and she has avoided me the last two days. I worry she doesn’t want to go. I asked too soon. I should have turned up on Saturday at 4am and surprised her. Maybe I will just do that…

Fiona says she doesn’t love me. She gives me a sideways look as though she is puzzled. My heart slides out of my body and lands by our feet. I watch as the bare feet with blue chipped paint disappear. The door shuts with a firm click. I stare, blink away silly tears.

I am walking away. I feel nausea rising and fight it down. My hands are shaking. My heart is crushed.

I cannot hear anything but a high wine. My eyes cannot focus. Pain rips my shoulders apart. I do not fight it. I have no strength, no will.

Suddenly I am jerking through branches. They slash my face, twigs snap – intense pain. Shooting pain! And grass, cold, soothing.

I came to myself with the feel of shingle, sharp against my cheek. I hear water lapping. I am home. But I am broken. I feel throbbing around bones, tightening unbearably. I cannot lift my head. I think my arm is broken, maybe a leg too. I lie still then focus on the shoreline and watch the waves move in and out.

I visited my sister. It was brief, awkward. We were all distant as if we’d never met before or maybe once at a grand event, introduced then glided away politely indifferent.

The baby is more interesting to me than I expected. “He is almost three” Joll tells me proudly as he asks his child to recite nursery rhymes and count to ten. I clap his efforts but I can see another talent, already developing. His movements are so sharp, his senses keen.

We both turn suddenly as scents of raw, wet earth drift past. I look at him, into his eyes and I think he recognises that we are the same.

I never mentioned this – we don’t talk about that anymore. My family prefer to ignore it, especially after my shattered arm and broken leg. Dad was patient enough to help me gain my strength on the golf courses. Now we don’t play together because I always beat him. I see flickers in his older eyes of envy, fear and pride – he is wary enough to remain distant. My career seems certain at least and Mother is pleased that I have a serious talent, she brags about ‘my son the pro-golfer’ – but I regret that she cannot be proud of me simply because I am her son.

I am on the course now. Clouds chase across the pale blue sky in a strong wind. I can smell the energy in the air. It is early morning and the sun is a washed-out amber light. I play a shot with my eyes closed because I know the land, the air – it’s mine. I hear the fizz of parting air.

Something slides, within – I welcome the familiar…

Flickers of land and sky fall. I am intensely alert. Smells, sounds are vivid but the colours I see – shimmering lights that are impossible to my human eyes. I watch tracks of animals. I soar higher. Rising on air with ease. This land is mine, this is home.

[the end]

The novel: Foreplay – a story about the chase will be available on Amazon very soon!

(part 6 of 7) – Shadows on a shingle & amber sky /short story



Naomi was ill. She’d blamed Nial for passing on his cold. He’d been in his room the last five days but she knew that infections would have spread over the house before he was confined. She was usually strong, free of serious illness. A flicker of doubt climbed up but she forced it away. She did not want to consider it. Yet a part of her already knew it was true.

On the seventh day Joll knocked on the door. He felt sick too. The promise of a formal proposal had been given in a moment of passion, of teenage love. He did love Naomi. Marriage wasn’t a terrible idea but he had actually expected her to wait longer. He was finishing university in two months and he had placements in mind. A brokerage firm in Aberdeen was looking for fresh talent, there was a London-based firm too with fantastic options. He had to take a place, he needed a job. He wanted London but he wasn’t sure she’d be ready to move so far.

The proposal was a surprise but, thankfully not a shock. Or at least Mr & Mrs Ferguson faked it well. They accepted, nodded, toasted. Joll watched Naomi, she was pale, shaking – he worried she would change her mind. She didn’t.

As she packed her things she felt flickering sensations. With a gasp she held her stomach. Surely it was too soon, too early for movement? She held her breath, trying to take notice. Grabbing her watch from the side-table she counted and timed – almost six minutes of movement, yet the ‘baby’ was only five weeks old. It wasn’t possible. It wasn’t normal.

Three months! It felt like three hundred years! Naomi left with Joll and moved to London. I miss her more than I expected. The house is colder.

My parents couldn’t let me return to school. The tutor came back but it’s worse than being at school, more is expected of me. Dad checks my progress every day and I see disappointment, every day.

I am ill most days, the pains are intense and alter my mind to somewhere between sludge and stone. I struggle through an hour of learning before I have to rest. Law school has been scrapped. Even Mother realises it is not possible. She is so ashamed that she barely looks at me.

I know she misses Naomi too yet the guilt is aimed my way. “I didn’t get her pregnant! “ I shout at them. I swear and they shudder at my insolence but there’s a slice of fear. My anger erupts and once released I crash through the house. I hear them locking their doors.

London: Naomi was happy. She was far enough away to convince herself the bad things never really happened, it had been childish nightmares. Now she had a baby to care for and a husband and a home of her own. Life felt complete as if this had always been meant for her.

When she played the piano (a second-hand spinet that Joll had found) she often thought of her brother. She wished she had been able to understand him and she missed showing him how to play. But she dreamed too, of a future when she would show her son how to play and maybe, maybe his uncle would re-join their family.

She hesitated in playing – the baby gurgled and kicked his legs. He was in the basket by her side. He looked like Nial with dark hair and light eyes. Perhaps more like Nial even than his own parents. He blinked rapidly, over and over and shudders ran down Naomi’s spine.

Quickly she scooped him up and hugged him close to her. She felt his warm body wiggling against her chest and fought to forget the way his eyes often moved too quickly, too wide, too alert.


concludes tomorrow!

Shadows on a shingle & amber sky – part 5



Almost a year passes and I am learning control.

I see Dr Gray another twenty-eight times. My ideas seem to work. There are cuts on my arms, not deep, but enough to show as red welts. Mother almost cried when she saw the marks. And the doctor had something he understood. He diagnosed a version of ‘growing pains’ in a mental way. I was ‘attention-seeking whilst developing an adult personality’ and it was all my parents fault! They had tried to control me too much. I sniggered, my parents spent a fortune for that: they paid to mould us, they messed up and paid to undo us.

Mother had expectations about behaviour and self-drive, she insisted that we acted appropriately whilst Dad pushed us to learn. It was exhausting. I was learning golf by then – playing well in junior competitions and studying law. Naomi played piano, knew Latin – they wanted a lawyer and a doctor.

Aged twelve and my parents paid tutors to teach me the basics of law. Really! Dr Gray stopped that. I gave him my best ‘sad weepy face’ and the tutoring was over.

Naomi avoided me. I didn’t care then, she was older, a girl, my sister. I knew I could scare her, I enjoyed it. I would listen for her footsteps – she was so quiet! Then she’d lock my door (another key-maker). And I’d soar away then watch them, her and her boyfriend, doing things by the lake. Her face froze when I walked back into the house. If I had been less selfish maybe I would have seen that she was trapped too. But she had her own escape plans.

The condition comes faster, it hurts.

It makes me almost cry with the pain. I vomit. It happens so quickly that my clothes tear and I have to hide them. I have to sleep naked, have the window open. I feel anxious that the changes will come earlier, during daylight. They were always during the night but I feel those twinges in my palms and shooting pains around my neck constantly. I daren’t go far from home. I have faked an illness for a week, a bad cold, sore throat, a cough – I cannot keep pretending.


continues tomorrow and concludes on Wednesday 1st April.

Shadows on a shingle & amber sky – part 4 /short story



Naomi creeps out of the house too. But she has to endure holding her breath and the pounding of blood in her ears as she takes the stairs and through the kitchen to the back-door. She scales the wall easily and runs across the lawns, away from the cold house. She has come barefoot because it is warm. At the edge of the lake she waits full of anticipation. For a heartbeat she worries that he won’t appear. But it is a foolish idea. He loves her.

And the boy with brown eyes and caramel skin appears. She kisses him and hugs him. They hardly speak. She wants him more than anything she has ever wanted – she is sure of that. On the shore they lay down together beneath the pale half-moon.

After, she strokes his face: “Do you love me?” she asks.

He nods and kisses her nose. “Always.”

She wants to lay with her lover forever. She imagines swimming with him out into the lake and to the sea. Escaping the old house. They’d find a cottage with roses in the garden and live there, perfectly happy. But she knows that isn’t real, not yet. Joll is at university and he has promised a formal proposal once he qualifies next year. Then a very short engagement before they marry, or maybe they live together first. Naomi doesn’t mind waiting a little while, their meetings give her a resolve to be patient.

But she is scared of Nial.

Her brother seems normal but she knows he isn’t. There is an odd quality to the way he moves and looks at people, as if he can see more, further. Her parents tried to convince her that he was experiencing a temporary condition and treatment will ease it, maybe stop it. She nods, doesn’t ask questions. She has no interest as long as he stays away from her.

She dresses, kisses Joll and steadily heads back to the house. Years ago, she used to run around the lawns with Nial. They played catch and cricket and football and golf. But he changed. She remembers the shadow that chased her from the lake, shivers catch her. She pauses, rubbing her arms. Then she was a child, it was nothing more than a bird. With a deep breath she dares to look up. The moon is bright in the cloudless amber sky. Carefully she scans the vastness.

She had locked his door, as always. It began two years ago. Before her parents had realised he wasn’t like them, before they’d taken him to Dr Gray. Naomi knew. It was the curse. No! she shook her head, she didn’t believe that. But how else could she explain it?

Over the wall, her feet slapped lightly against the cooling yard stones. Through the kitchen, she tiptoed, pausing when she heard a noise above. Then she was stepping onto the stairs and creeping back up to her room. A creak startled her.

From behind, she turned slowly, almost crouching on the stairs, her heart thudded. The house door slid open spilling in moonlight. And he was there. Stood in the doorway. He looked yellow, bathed in moonlight, wide-eyed, naked. She blushed and turned, quickly racing up the stairs. She was sure he laughed.

In her room, she huddled beneath sheets, still dressed, afraid to sleep. She could hear his light steps steadily advancing, up the stairs. Her heart was still galloping. “He won’t hurt me, he won’t hurt me” –she said softly. She was certain he paused at her door. Did the doorknob move? Then silence fell, cold and hard.


continues tomorrow!