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Showcase: Common Fears + Belle + Smoke And Ashes + The Heart + To Retire Or Not To Retire?

Edited by Afsana Elanko

Welcome to our November Showcase series, which continues with the theme of ‘Reality And Perspectives.’ One person’s reality can be quite different to someone else’s, even though they may experience exactly the same situation. For example, a flight was delayed by 15 hours and person A was anxiously demanding for something to be done, while person B sat saying nothing and was busy doing something. The same situation but quite different perspectives and realities. Is it that person B doesn’t care what happens? When delving further, one realises that, for person B, this is a normal reality. As a wheelchair user, they are often left hanging or waiting and have become accustomed to getting on with life in a different way.  So, even though we’re faced with the same situations in life, perspectives can produce different realities.

We read different genres of books depending on how we feel and, when we read, our take on what we’re reading can be quite different to someone else’s. In a similar way, we have different fears. Some people are scared of the dark, while others are not. This leads me to the first selection, coming to us from Lisa: do we have common fears?

Common Fears

Breathless adventure
Fear slowly creeping inside
As my life changes

Looks from everywhere
Kept me clenching on my seat
While they came closer

Being left behind
The crowd slowly ran away
Lost only with myself

Shadows by my side
Are the only company
Holding the pieces

Souls ascending
As we still pursue our lives
Talking to the stars

© Lisa Gentet, 2023


In contrast, the following piece leaps out its message of encouragement. I admire how the words from these two writers can evoke different thoughts in the reader’s mind.


Belle Belle she cries with sheer delight
I am her charger, her white Knight
Erect I stand awaiting her command
For speed so swift is ever her demand
I rear as she mounts my creamy back
No saddle she grasps my mane as to attack
Adultress she who I do not condemn
She has the love of both women and men
We ride forth a glimmering pair
Gliding through the warm night air
She glances back and gives a sigh
Then coaxes me gently to fly fly high

© Lucy Brown, 2023


I always like pieces that remind me of a time when I was younger. I guess it’s the little child living inside me that needs nurturing ever so often. The following story has connections with childhood, but is written from a different perspective; one that questions the world around us.

Extract from Smoke And Ashes

To Cinderella, everything seemed to be about surfaces. Was the silver polished enough; the same went for the parquet floor. Dust would obstruct a view of perfect blankness.

Her stepsisters, Jane and June, were sleeping. Nonetheless, it was important everything was in place for when they deigned to open their eyes. They were both very beautiful and both very empty. Organisation was beyond them. Cinderella was beautiful too, only she hadn’t been told for so long, she had forgotten. She pressed her sisters’ dresses perfectly, taking pride in her work. What else could she take pride in? Today was different, but not so different. Four-thirty am was a cruel time for Cinderella to be woken up and there was no real reason for it. Her step-sisters’ embellishment wouldn’t need the time. She had already laid out the appropriate jewels and fripperies and then (still completing her usual chores early) got back to sweeping, mopping, scrubbing and polishing. The house was a jewel and was to be kept as perfectly as befitted its preciousness.

When Jane and June awoke, the whole house leapt into action. Their stone-hearted mother, Margot, became effusive with syrup and praise. She was still an attractive woman, but it was now her daughters who embodied her former beauty. They were definitely accoutrements to her success, but was love there too?  The beauties had slept, dreamless and dead, till midday. They didn’t need beauty sleep but, it was generally felt, it couldn’t harm, either. They were coaxed into the exertions of their day by coffee, hand ground by Cinderella; her sweat made it taste all the sweeter.

The first to come were the manicurists, then the hairstylists, then the beauticians; the make-up artist arriving last. Though they were service providers, it was Cinderella’s job to wait on both them and her sisters. There is a point in a life of acquiescence where you become less than the hired help. When Cinderella rushed out of the room to create a very specific coffee for the beautician, she caught her father’s eye. For a moment, she thought she saw a tear form, though it never fell.  She wondered, ‘Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we obey? Why don’t we leave?’ But she knew the answer. ‘This is our life. How can we leave our lives behind?’ Shaking the thoughts from her head, she went to the kitchen, saying to herself, “I may be an unpaid servant, but what would I do with choice?”

© O.L. Addy, 2023

Connect with Okailey on Facebook: Okailey Lindsay-Addy


Until we’re given a choice and time to think, we can’t start dreaming and changing our realities in life. This leads nicely to the next piece, reminding us how, in situations we come across in our daily lives, our perspectives can impact our reality.

The Heart

One night
When we were very young
And still quite new to each other
You waited
Many hours
for me
In the abandoned living room
Of a pulsating house party.

At 3am
I went to look for you
Convinced that you had gone.
I knew I had been away too long.

I searched through many rooms
To find you
Scanning the dance floor,
The crammed kitchen,
The garden,
With its fairy lights.
Even the bedrooms, where carelessly flung coats lay in piles.

And just when I gave up hope
I stumbled across the half opened door
Which delivered up
that now indelible picture
Which I will forever carry with me.

You sat
Very still
Your body compact and upright
In the corner of a large sofa
Your legs neatly crossed
Your head bowed
As you read a book
Under the soft light of a standing lamp.

I lingered at the doorway
And felt
The shock of You.
I understood.

You looked up
And gathered your coat.
You put the book back on the shelf
You put your arm around me,
We padded through the night garden
To your car.

I felt very quiet on the way home
but my heart, tugged and aching, was taking root.

© Pamela Cohen, 2023


I absolutely loved the way the narrative developed in the last piece. In a similar way, the narrative in our journey of life changes.  This next piece of prose is written around something we will all have to face sooner or later. Either way, our perspective on retirement changes during our lifetime. As a child, we give no thought to it but, later in life, our options may start to feel overwhelming. I thought the following would give us something to think about.

To Retire Or Not To Retire? That Is The Question

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, people in their fifties have become more inclined to consider early retirement.  Such an unprecedented crisis seems to have opened people’s eyes to the importance of ‘me’ and ‘family time.’  After the worst of the pandemic was over, many people questioned whether to return to the rat race, or opt for this new-found leisurely lifestyle in the hope of improving their wellness and quality of life.  Many started to appreciate what they had and how their personal and private lives meant more to them than the seemingly endless pursuit of success.  Having seen so many dropping like flies from the coronavirus, people started to wake up to the value of their health, family concerns and their domestic environment.  Additionally, the pursuit of spiritual happiness has gained traction, with people now appreciating the smaller things, such as  nature, good food and treating themselves to the occasional indulgence.

However, the truth is that many people near retirement age are ill-prepared and find the lack of structure, new freedoms and the seemingly endless days of emptiness difficult to get used to.  One of my ex-colleagues once told me he would never retire, because of the fear of decomposing and ‘vegging out’ due to a lack of activity.  However, now he is retired, he really enjoys it, as his days are structured.  He has taken up new hobbies, such as sport and music and re-established contact with his children as well as upping sticks, moving to a beautiful part of Lancashire. He is even in the process of writing two novels! So, it’s important that, if and when you do retire, you have a similar plan, which is, at least, organised in a smilier way to your former work pattern.

Another problem with retirement is loneliness and the inevitability of the lack of social interaction that comes with the territory.  However, depending on where you live, there are often local community groups catering to a wide range of interests. In particular, these days there are meet-up groups where you can join like-minded people in a variety of hobbies and interests.  For example, I’ve joined a writing group, which organises events for aspiring writers to get the creative juices flowing. So, if you’re online, you can search your area at and see which group is suitable for you.  Another possibility is to enrol on a course with the University Of The Third Age, which organises group discussions and meet-ups, offering a range of activities, allowing you to learn a new skill or hobby in a social environment.  These courses are primarily aimed at retired people, offering an open and friendly environment.

If you’re not a ‘technophobe,’ you could enrol on an information technology course to brush up on your tech skills and become a’ silver surfer.’ And if you like the idea of cross-generational interaction, there are plenty of platforms that allow you to connect with people of all ages. It’s important to remember age does not have to be a barrier! I’d also encourage the adoption of a healthy lifestyle. Your local gym may well have classes specifically for seniors.

Finally, there’s so much free stuff  for pensioners, allowing you to explore your local community and beyond. There will be many museums, exhibitions and hidden gems nearby for you to discover.  If you live in London, you are entitled to free public transport, allowing you to head off to Portobello Road and Brick Lane markets, among many other treats. If you crave a calm retreat, you can venture to the sanctuary of the Royal Parks, or Epping Forest.

It’s true that retirement won’t be seen as a stroll in the park by everyone; at least, not initially. But, despite the change in lifestyle, if you’re bold enough to venture beyond your comfort zone, you’ll make new friends and hobbies and start to enjoy your retirement.  If you keep active, you can create a meaningful way of life beyond work, which may one have seemed irreplaceable. There are potentially great benefits to not working!

© Tony Dilleen, 2023

Connect with Tony on Instagram: @adileen


As I sign off for this week, I realise we all have very different perspectives. The pieces on this page are united but individual. Next week, I’ll be bringing you another selection. Until then, I invite you to try to see another perspective. Maybe you can use it to change your reality!


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