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Showcase: After + The Dinner Club + Oceans Have Emotions + Ageing Gracefully

Edited by Helen Aitchison

It’s an honour to open up the first showcase of 2024. With the theme of ‘Beginnings And Endings’ the new year symbolises exactly this, as do the pieces I’ve chosen.

Taken from Viv Fogel’s collection, Imperfect Beginnings, her poem After echoes a loss that many feel, through lack of choice, circumstance, or even active decision. Sometimes a loss of something we’ve never actually had, but would love to have experienced. This piece has a profound emotion, reminding me we all struggle at times.


With tiny ‘o’ of mouth, the newborn latches on.
Nuzzling its urgency upon her, as they lie, hidden and safe.
She imagines beaches, shells, story times.
Waking, she finds she is alone, damp with milk,
And a ghost child’s tears.
There is no afterbirth, no handover.
I sit beside her as she rocks her loss, remembering my own.
Then in the moss of woodland dusk—a purple dazzle of O,
A cluster of wild violets.

For H © Viv Fogel, 2023

After is part of the poetry collection Imperfect Beginnings, published by Fly On The Wall Press. It is available from Amazon and good bookshops.



Next, I’m sharing a snippet from a chapter in my debut novel, The Dinner Club. It centres around  five people, each very different and with a secret, who meet through a dining group. This piece shows a scene when the initial members first meet. The book is about love, loss, friendship, hope and acceptance. This snippet shows the beginning of an important friendship connecting unlikely people.

The Dinner Club: Breaktime (excerpt)

Derek got comfortable in his seat and then addressed the group. “Right folks, this is us then. The first four members of The Dinner Club. Hopefully, you all thought it was appealing enough to seriously consider joining, and you’re all hungry to find out more. See what I did there?” He laughed at his joke.

All nodded in agreement, giggling at his pun. Violet liked him; he was like a cringey dad.

“I’m Derek, I’m sixty-three years old and very recently separated. I work local, for Cartington’s, where I’ve worked for many happy years. I have a loyal dog, Des, and I’ve always, always loved my food.” Derek patted his stomach as the group continued to listen.

“Since my separation from my wife, I’ve been cooking more and decided to try and learn new recipes. Never too old to learn, eh? The inspiration for this group came from me watching Dine In With Me, the week of my separation. Not sure if you’ve seen it?” he asked curiously. Eddie shook his head.

“Anyway, I want to share my cooking with others as well as meet new people. So, that’s why I put the advert out, exactly as it said, for cooking and company. And that’s me, I guess, Thanks all.”

Violet smiled, Derek seemed so proud of himself, it was heart-warming. She loved how he had turned a negative of a relationship breakdown into a positive opportunity to meet new people and learn new skills.

“Violet, would you like to go next?” Derek said. Everyone was looking at her.

“Erm yeah, sure, why not,” she responded, nearly choking on her coffee, caught off guard. “So, I’m Violet. I work here in Foodways on the checkouts. I live local, with my partner, Ben. We don’t have children. My life is really boring, to be honest.” Violet laughed but sadness tinged her insides. “I wanted a new hobby and new friendships.” Violet paused and swallowed; she could feel the emotion blocking her throat. She took a breath and looked at the group. Their warm, expectant faces helped her composure. “I used to cook lots with my mam, when she was alive. So, I guess when I saw the advert, it ticked the boxes for me. That’s why I am here.”

“Thanks for sharing Violet, that’s great. Florence, my dear, would you like to go next?’ said Derek. His eyes lit up when his mouth smiled—the true sign of a genuine smile.

Florence nodded confidently and began to talk. “My name is Florence and I’m eighty-three years young. I know, I don’t look a day over sixty-five.” Florence gave a cheeky grin.

“I’m a widow and live in the bungalows down on Western Way. I have two grown-up children, William and Veronica, three grandchildren and three great-grandkids. William lives local.” Florence turned to Violet. “He brought me here today. Made sure Derek and Eddie here weren’t some sort of perverts before he left the café.” Florence chuckled, and Violet burst out laughing.

Violet loved how elderly people sometimes had no filter and completely said what they thought without trying to be diplomatic or politically correct. Eddie playfully rolled his eyes, and Violet noticed Derek playing with the sugar sachets on the table. e HHe seemed slightly distracted, or maybe it was just unease from the conversation.

“I used to cook lots, even after my Ernie died. My health isn’t what it used to be and part of me has given up on cooking. I want to reignite that part of myself, make new friends, share stories and laughs. I want to feel alive again, appreciated and to feel part of something.”

Violet could see tears welling up in her eyes. When she looked at Florence, she saw a lonely woman who had so much love to give.

Violet replied, “Florence, that sounds lovely, and I’m certain you will. I, for one, would love to get to know you more.”

A relief, a smile, a little glow swept over Florence’s aged face.

“Last, but not least, Eddie, would you like to introduce yourself?” prompted Derek.

“Hi, yeah, erm I’m Eddie. I live local also, on the Ford Estate. I work in finance, and I have a daughter called Willow. She keeps me very busy. I need to learn to cook better, for Willow’s sake. And meeting new people is never a bad thing.”

© Helen Aitchison, 2022

Connect with Helen on her website: and at, on Instagram: @helen.aitchison_writes, X: @aitchisonwrites and on Facebook: Helen Aitchison Writes


This reflective poem by Michael David Gold stayed with me long after I read it. A call to action, it holds a poignant message of the reality of global warming and the climate crisis.

Oceans Have Emotions

Oceans have emotions,
But they have no notions.
There are no soothing lotions,
Or magic potions,
To repair and salvage,
The terrible damage,
Caused by the masses,
Of greenhouse gases,
That find the space,
For a resting place,
In the Seven Seas.
Creating an even warmer breeze.

It is a fiction,
A complete contradiction.
A pure fatalism,
To think that capitalism,
Will find a solution,
Other than a dilution,
Of the terrible pollution,
That can only lead to destitution.

Oceans absorb our excess heat,
Which is quite a feat,
But really a defeat,
A poisonous retreat,
From a heat that never cools,
Just breaks all the rules.

Capitalism has still not learnt,
There are no spaceships at hand,
To take the rich to a promised land,
If they steal the air, we all breathe,
It will bequeath,
Death, death and death.

© Michael David Gold, 2023

Connect with Michael on his website:


I loved this next poem. It made me smile and is filled with love and contemplation. When I saw the artwork attached to the piece, my smile got bigger and my connection to it deepened. Simply lovely!

Ageing Gracefully
(c) Sophia Pelc, 2023

Face wizened by the passage of time,
Like a sweetly matured, rich vintage wine.
While life’s decisions have become less fraught,
The head is now filled with soulful thought.
The pressures of youth have thankfully gone,
And with grace and dignity,
One can slowly move on.
Dancing in time,
To one’s own rhythm and song.
Relishing each day,
Like you would drops of sweet wine.
Which only get better,
With patience and time.
As it’s only through patience,
That one savours the taste.
And it’s only through kindness,
One achieves beauty and grace.

© Jenny Pelc, 2023


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