There’s three in this podcast relationship

Sue and Johnny – Everything and Anything – Episode 4 is out, but the star of this week’s podcast is Alexa. Sue was busy explaining that she uses Alexa for reminders and alarms, by loudly extolling its virtues when Alexa answered and interrupted the podcast. Listen to the podcast to find out how she managed to shut her up.

This week’s episode discusses the sudden resignation of Scotland’s First Minister and the candidates lining up to replace her. And we have released the second part of our chat with Lynda and Andi Henderson. They discuss theatre design of Peter Brook and the Irish classic novel, Strumpet City, by James Plunkett.

The weather at Powdermills B&B has been distinctly milder this week and Mabel and Boo have enjoyed being our and about. Boo, in particular, decided to show off the view of Loch Fyne.

Finally, I wrote this short story in response to the prompt, ‘write a story that involves a turning point, where in a dire situation, something good emerges’. Those that know me from my youth will know that there is a biographical note in the piece, but its fiction. Hope you enjoy and please feel free to leave comments.

A Sidestep

It was an effort dressing, with my stookie.  My left leg was rigid, my knee immobilised.  I descended the stairs backwards, swung out of the main door, balanced myself, and stood still on the pavement.  I had a short walk to the University. It was a dreich November morning, grey, as rough as I looked the morning after a heavy night at the rugby club, only the amber streetlights offering passage like a beacon.  I hobbled over cobbled streets.  The college quad was quiet.  Professors don’t do early.  I wrapped my scarf tight against the cold wet breeze. Even the branches on the trees in the courtyard resembled spindly fingers in need of gloves.

            I reached the student health centre and gripped the heavy glass door frame for support.  I stumbled through and it closed with a thump.   

‘Long John Silver has arrived!’ said the physio laughing.

            ‘Aye, it be me captain,’ I replied.

            ‘You’re early,’ she smiled, ‘we’ll be working on your leg muscles,’ her tone now a bit threatening.

            ‘My plaster comes off today,’ I grinned.

            I entered the treatment room, several beds with injured athletes receiving various treatments for dead legs, which medical staff insist on calling haematomas.  It seems too fancy a name for a bruise because I knew that my injury was more serious.  The room was filled with chatter and laughter.

‘Will you be playing this Saturday?’ I asked Derek, feigning interest.

‘Touch and go, we’ll see if the swelling reduces tomorrow,’ he replied, rubbing his thigh, ‘when do you get your leg back?’

‘Plaster comes off today. Could be back playing in August.’

Derek gave that familiar strained frown that family, friends, and fellow players offered.   

‘We need you back.’

I understood he was trying to be sensitive. 

‘I’ll be stronger than ever,’ I promised.

I had booked my spot in the treatment room.  Any later and I wouldn’t be able to watch her.  I’d never spoken to Sandra, even after six weeks.  I never knew what to say.  She was a swimmer, streamlined and tanned.  She wore little make up, her blue oval eyes, her flawless skin, framed by an angular jaw.  I scanned her features like a photocopier.  Her beauty was like the sun, I couldn’t look directly at her, sneaking surreptitious glances, and reflections in the windows.

Sandra MacDougall was a Scottish champion, going to the Commonwealth Games, but she didn’t act superior.  Every day she arrived from the training pool to receive treatment on a ‘tight’ shoulder.  Her hair would still be damp, and I’d observe her ritual, as she dried it with a towel, bending her head this way and that, and all the while gossiping to her friends.  My treatment table was positioned behind her, I could watch her incognito.

She wore a track suit and roomy sweatshirt, and she’d drop her arm out of the garment to expose her shoulder for the ultrasound procedure.   The nape of her neck and her contoured back were exposed, her smooth skin resembled a sweeping Saharan dune. I was a voyeur, titillated by the spectacle. 

‘Hi,’ she said, as she turned to face me.

‘Oh, hi.’

‘It’s an important day for you.’

I stared downward; my face felt scorched. 

She tilted her head, caught my eye, and smiled, it was a wondrous shaft of warmth, ‘knee injuries, that’s bad luck Gordon.’

I couldn’t believe what I heard; she knew my name.

‘I get it off today, I mumbled. 

‘Will you be back playing for the Scotland U20s?’

I flicked a glance; she really did know who I was.

‘My little brother, Chris MacDougall plays for the U18s, he says you’re brilliant.’’

Our conversation was interrupted as the doctor and physio walked in.  There was none of their usual banter.

‘We need to examine your knee,’ said the doctor.  I searched their eyes, but they were avoiding contact. 

I glimpsed Sandra but her face had crumpled. The physio pulled the curtains round my treatment table. The doctor started up a rotating disc and cut through the plaster, the whine from the blade echoing in the cramped cubicle.  The physio used large pliers to pull the cast apart and revealed a withered leg, like alabaster, with a huge scarlet scar.  I turned to the physio.

‘Don’t’ worry,’ said the physio.

‘It looks awful,’ I said, but there was no response.

The physio cleaned my leg with antiseptic and there was a stench of medical alcohol that lingered in my throat.  The doctor examined my knee, pulling it from side to side.


‘Straighten your leg.’ said the doctor.

I did, but there was that familiar click, and the pain.

‘Still there?’ said the physio.

‘Yes,’ I replied my gaze fixed on my knee, ‘it’s still there.’

I was wavering, and my lips were in an involuntary wobble.  I gripped the sides of the table, my mouth was dry, and I could feel my head spinning.

‘Gordon,’ said the physio, ‘you’re not going to faint?’

‘No’, I said in a deep voice.

‘Well,’ said the doctor, ‘I’ve had another look at the x-rays and read the letter from the consultant.’

He paused.


‘The prognosis is not good.’

I understood what they were trying to tell me, but I wanted them to say it.  The physio held my hand, and without warning, my shoulders started to shudder, dry cries, and then tears, I dropped my head into my hands.

‘What will I do now?’   

‘I realise this is a terrible shock, but knee injuries can be so severe that you just can’t compete in contact sports,’ said the doctor.

‘We need to get you up on your feet, you might feel dizzy now,’ said the physio.

I stood up, she caught me and put her arm round me. But this kindness set me off again, before realising there might be witnesses on the other side of the curtains.  I used my shirt sleeves to dry my eyes, breathed heavily, my chest juddering.

‘What’s wrong?’ asked the physio.

‘Everybody’s heard that,’ I whispered.

‘They left before the doctor spoke to you.’

I dropped my gaze to the floor.

‘You need time to process this news, so no exercises today. Anyway, someone’s been waiting for you,’ said the physio, as she opened the curtains with a swish.

Sandra was standing, holding my kit bag over her shoulder, smiling.

‘Sandra’s volunteered to look after you,’ smiled the physio.

‘I thought we could get some lunch, in the refectory and back to my flat.  Sod lectures,’ said Sandra.

I beamed.

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