The Lonely Hearth #writephoto #flashfiction

This week’s #writephoto picture prompt is this

‘You started a fire, then, Didi?’

‘What? Yes, I did. He said to get right on to it. He was really insistent.’

‘He’s made it, has he? About bloody time. I’m starving. What did he bring? He said he’d bring food.’

‘Did he?’

‘No, you’re Didi, I’m…’

‘I said Did… he… Moron.’

‘I’m not a moron. I just want to know…’

‘Eggs. He brought eggs.’

‘How many? Enough for all of us.’

‘He was in a strange mood.’

‘You going to boil them? You want me to get a pan of water?’

‘They’re in there.’

‘In the fire? You don’t roast eggs.’

‘These are special. Phoenix eggs.’

‘Phoenix eggs? You sure?’

‘Course He said so. Said they’d be good for us.’

‘Did he say put them in the fire?’

‘Noooo but that’s what they do, ain’t it? Live in fires. I thought that, you know, would be the thing to do. He said he’d be 20 minutes and we must wait. He wants us to eat together.’

‘What did he say? Exactly?’

‘He gave me the box, said to get a fire going and he’d be back in 20.’

‘About them being Phoenix eggs.’

“Phoenix eggs’ll do for you good and proper.’

‘Phoenix eggs… You are a moron. That bloody man is always slurring his words. I bet he said, ‘If he nicks the eggs I’ll do for you good and proper.’

‘I shouldn’t have put them in the fire, you mean?’

‘If we don’t get them out of there sharpish we’ll both regret the day Godot finally made it back.’


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Milling About #massonmill #findinghome

I pondered why we anchor to a specific place this weekend while visiting Derbyshire. I’m well established in a corner of South London where I’ve lived for over 30 years. Coming to London itself in 1979 was job-driven and my first flat share a result of a university friend having a spare room at the right moment. But why did we end up where we did?

This train of thought came to me while watching a fascinating demonstration of the history of industrial weaving at Masson Mill in the Derwent Valley.

Masson Mill was the creation of Richard Arkwright in the 18th century and functioned as a cotton mill until 1991. It is the jewel in the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage site and, for the Textiliste, close to nirvana.

The demonstration, encompassing Yorkshire and Lancashire looms from 150 years ago, through the gorgeous and mind boggling Jacard loom with its early computing technology

to  a Saurer from the 1970s was an hour of fascination and noise. The stories, of child labour, of regular employment after years of agricultural hardship, early education of the poor and egregious injury couldn’t but hold one’s attention.

And yet one question rattled around. Why, given this is a cotton mill, did they place it here, pretty much  as far from the sea and the ports – where the American cotton would arrive – as can be found in England?

There’s a river that doesn’t  freeze, and Arkwright was a local lad. But the canal system followed the Mill not the other way round so the transport logistics were complex to say the least – Manchester may be 50 miles away as a rather discombobulated crow flies but from here to there is still a case of ‘lad, I wouldn’t start from here’.. Maybe, it was because that, hereabouts there was a paper mill on which the Masson Mill was sited.

Maybe it was that convenience and local knowledge led to this siting, now in a fabulous setting. From these early beginnings, other mills flourished and fame, and for some, fortune, dropped onto an otherwise sleepy part of the country. By such convenient strokes of luck do we land somewhere and stay put.

And me and south London? It’s all due to cricket. We, the Textiliste and I were looking to buy somewhere. I had recently joined my law firm and asked  to take part in an annual cricket match against one of its competitors. Normally the Textiliste had better things to do with her Saturdays than watch me pretend I could play cricket but this was a chance to meet some of my new colleagues and their families so she came along. I vividly recall looking across to the spectator group and noting a sea of attentive faces watching the game… save one deck chair that was at 90 degrees to the play – my girlfriend was following the sun round to get a decent tan!

At some point, when even sunbathing paled (quite soon in truth) she wandered off into the local village and looked in an estate agent’s window. This was Dulwich and the houses were priced in our range and offered more by way of gardens than where we had been looking. Serendipity. Never let it be said that cricket is anything other than a force for good in my life.

Let’s end with a  song..

Posted in family, miscellany, museums, thought piece | Tagged , , , | 16 Comments

Hunting the Inca: Part 5, Manchu Pichu #travel #Peru

In October 1987, the Textiliste and I holidayed in Peru. It was eye opening, extraordinary and full of the usual daft moments that follow me when I go away. Last time out, here, we were in Cusco, before travelling by train to Manchu Pichu. This time we are at last underway to that extraordinary place that appeared out of nowhere in the early twentieth century. Happily the altitude sickness had mostly gone so I was in pretty good shape to experience whatever this place had to offer.

Because the Inca trail had in part collapsed we caught a train. No one told us anything about it so when the train stopped on its slow ascent and began to reverse we assumed a mechanical problem necessitating a return to Cusco. Disappointment was the overriding emotion, replaced ten minutes later by exhilaration as we stopped again and began to head towards our destination. Another ten minutes and we were reversing, followed by yet another change.

Finally it dawned on us that we had been climbing throughout these manoeuvres. It was a pushmepullyou train; to circumvent the mountain the engineers decided a long slow gradient wouldn’t cut it so we simply zigzagged up to the pass and then gradually descended to our destination. Is that safe? Sensible? Innovative? Who the heck knows? It got us there.

But ‘there’ was a drab little terminus with all the character of a delivery yard at junk shop. Another disappointment as I had assumed we would see the wondrous place of which we had heard on our way in. Anyway we were pointed up a sloping path and set off, carrying our bag for an overnight stay. We would see it now.

Nope, just a flat two story building and a milling crowd. Oh and the odd ubiquitous llama of course.

We went to bed, hoping for a sunny day and a better view.

The advantage we had, staying overnight was we were the first ones up and at the entrance.

We walked around the side of a mountain and there, nestling down below was the town with the utterly stunning, unfeasibly beautiful and wonderfully eccentric sugar-loaf mountain behind. It is all and more it is cracked up to be.

A guide took us round and explained how life worked, the kitchens and toilets, the sacrifice altar and the defences.

But in some ways the functionality of it all was irrelevant.

It was the imagination of the builders to use this topography to create their home that has stayed in my mind ever since.

Being puppies we climbed the sugar-loaf and between wafts of mist we captured other pictures. The climb was awkward, if I remember. Uneven stones like giant’s stairs meant we sometimes had to pull ourselves up. But we were all exhilarated but the place, its magical qualities.

Later we went for a walk back along the Inca trail, looking for the falls.

But soon we came to a wooden bridge which looked terrifying; nope, we’d go back and just absorb the continuous beauty of the place.

Too soon we headed back to pick up our bags and return to Cusco. One more night and a flight to Lima. From there we had an eccentric day to kill before setting off for the jungle. That’s for next time.

Posted in miscellany, peru, travel | Tagged , , | 21 Comments

Tell Me a Story Geoff LePard

When I was 13 a friend recorded me on his new tape machine. I waited for the playback with eager anticipation, expecting a young Richard Burton, I suppose. What emerged was some hybrid Teletubby-Witchy squeak-cum-cackle. I hated it and was mortified to think this is what everyone heard when I spoke. Roll on a few decades and I still await any recording with more than a little trepidation. Maybe you do too? Well, why not pop across to Annette and follow her link to the Magic Happens where I’m talking about my new book. You need to scroll down as the recordings are listed alphabetically. What do you think? Mandela with a hint of Pavarotti? Some basso profondo notes? Let me know in the comments

Source: Tell Me a Story Geoff LePard

Posted in miscellany | 17 Comments

Heroes and other liars. Plus #BookReview Buster & Moo by @geofflepard #TuesdayBookBlog

This popped into my inbox today. Barb offered an honest review and, as is her modus, she has incorporated it into a post on lying. Both her thoughts and her review are worth a read.

Source: Heroes and other liars. Plus #BookReview Buster & Moo by @geofflepard #TuesdayBookBlog

I heard a story about WH Auden; students were discussing a poem of his when he slipped into the back of the lecture hall. He listened and, eventually, the lecturer, who had seen him, unlike the students, asked Auden to comment on the students deconstruction. ‘I’m amazed,’ said Auden, ‘at how much they have found in it beyond what I intended.’ This review, the way in which Barb has deconstructed the themes and characters, feels a little like Auden felt: did I really achieve all of that? And therein lies another conundrum for a writer: the closer you are to a work the less you see of it. On a course I went on early in my writing life, we were advised that publishing a book meant you no longer owned it. Every reader now owned it and took from it something different to everyone else including the writer. Their views and opinions, what they thought worked and what didn’t was entirely valid, just different. Which brings us back to Barb’s post on liars and looking, not at the lie but at the outcome. Food for thought, methinks.

Posted in miscellany | 9 Comments

Soft Landing? #carrotranch #flashfiction

Charli Mills latest prompt is here

July 13, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about an unexpected landing. It can be acrobatic, an unplanned move or created into a metaphor. Go where the prompt, or chickens, lead.

If you are going to be a klutz and fall over then learn to fall well. I’ve certainly experienced my 10,000 hours of tumbling to ensure my clumsiness does me the least damage. If I’ve inherited a propensity to oesteoporosis from my mum then I’m probably in for a painful third age but so far, scratches and light bruising apart, most of my somersaults end up in sharp intakes of breath from anyone watching, much hilarity if they are family members and an embarrassed leaping to my feet accompanied by ‘it’s fine, I’m fine’ from me.

I had lunch with a blogging friend, Derrick Knight on Thursday at Barton on Sea in Hampshire a few miles from where he now lives and where I grew up. As I stared out over Barton Cliffs towards the Isle of Wight I vividly recalled a winter walk with my brother and parents back in the early 1970s. Mum and dad were on the beach combing the tide for useful flotsam while I followed the Archaeologist who was more interested in cliff falls to see if any fossils had been exposed. At one point we climbed the cliffs. Just under the lip at the top we found a sort of path and followed it, peering at the sticky red clay to see what might have been revealed.

Quite what happened I’ve no idea but he was ahead of me and he had no problems with the path. However a few feet behind I suddenly found myself on a sheer cliff face without said path.

This state of affairs couldn’t continue, of course and I began to descend much more quickly than is recommended in books on Cliff walking.

On the way down and as an inexperienced cliff diver I wasn’t prepared for the spin cycle that is built into the programming. I turned two complete circles, vaguely aware of a couple of shrubs regarding me with bemused indifference as I hurtled past.

At some point I’m sure my mind turned to consider how this rather exhilarating experience might end. The denouement came quicker than I probably expected as I had glanced a line of beach huts that were rapidly approaching and noted, with something akin to disappointment that they hadn’t considered how their design could have been adapted to incorporate a system of cushioning for anyone approaching from behind via an attempt, unsuccessful as was apparent, at unmanned flight.

I stopped. Abruptly. In an aspen shrub. Said shrub was sufficiently mature to have the strength to stop me but with enough youthful sappiness to bend on impact and not impale me on its branches.

As subsequently became usual, I hopped to my feet. There is a school of thought, in such circumstances, that one should lay still while triaging oneself. But that ignores the embarrassment factor, the need to leap up and try and create the impression that, against the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, this whole thing was planned.

I looked whence I had come. The Archaeologist stood on his precarious perch, watching me. When I waved he nodded once, maybe acknowledging I had somehow dodged rendering myself a megaplegic, maybe a recognition that for once I’d done something vaguely impressive and heaved himself to the safety of the cliff top. Neither of us told our parents, not then at least. After all they might have imposed some sort of ban on fossil hunting and cliff walking and that would never do.

And for this week’s flash, Mary’s journey in search of her twin sister’s daughter continues. She is in a  quandry

Words On The Stairs

‘I don’t know, Paul. I really don’t.’

Penny listened to her parents from the shadows on the landing, her face pressed to the balustrade.

‘It can’t do any harm to ask him to find out if your niece is alive, can it? I mean if it’s another dead end, that’s it and if not…’

Penny noted her father’s tone; almost pleading. He wanted Mary mum to continue. Her mother’s voice, in contrast, sounded flat. Emotionless. Penny stood and walked downstairs. She held her baby sister in her arms. ‘We want to know mum. And you do too. Don’t you?’

And if you want to know more about the family, click here

Posted in creative writing, flash fiction, prompt | Tagged , , | 14 Comments

Something To Crow About

This week’s prompt from Sue Vincent’s #writephoto stable is this 

‘Sorry? Did you…?’
‘Speak? Yes.’
‘But you’re…?’
‘A crow. Yes.’
‘Right now ‘why’ is more pressing.’
Jim Pale stood back. This was a joke. Some teen’s trick. Or one of those TV shows making a fool of him.
‘I’m neither a trick nor spoof TV.’ The crow sounded quite put out.
‘Did you read my mind?’
‘More your expression. It helps us survive to know what predators think.’
‘I’m not a predator.’
‘Not now you’ve got Lidl and a taste for cottage pie but it’s not that long ago you ate my ancestors. A millennium is nothing in the life of a crow.’
‘You’re not 1000 years old.’
The crow grunted. ‘All I’m saying is I have to be desperate to speak to a human.’
Jim stepped back. ‘Why aren’t you flying?’
The crow sighed. ‘At bloody last. The ‘why’ question.’
‘Look. If you want help, sarcasm is hardly going to encourage it.’
‘It’s in the name, moron. ‘Crow’. It’s what we do. We could have been sneers or eye-rolls but we stuck with crow as the name. It’s suggestive of superiority.’
Jim began to turn away.
‘Oh alright. I’m sorry. Ok? Does that make it better? You’re the dominant bloody species and I’m a sodding bird yet your skin is a thin as an anaemic slug.’
Jim coloured. ‘Sorry. How come you’re… Actually, what are you doing? Hovering? Floating?’
‘I’m stuck. Frozen. Rendered immobile. One minute I’m swooping down for that burger crust there, the next I’m here, in mid beat like one of those ridiculous porcelain ducks you love to stick above your fire places.’
‘No one has flying ducks any more.’
‘You looked in no. 72 recently? She even has antimacassars. Can we stop this redundant intimacy and will you see what’s stopping me flying?’
Jim stepped forward. He looked around the suspended crow. ‘It looks like you have two strings holding you in place.’
Jim peered hard. ‘Actually there are more than two.’
‘Is it some sort of net?’
‘Noooo, more like puppet strings.’
‘I’m no one’s bloody puppet.’
Jim reached up and tugged at one. The crow’s left wing beat slowly.
‘Hey, stop that! Bloody cheek.’
‘You’re trussed up like a…’
‘Don’t say it. Don’t you dare say it! Just cut me down and I’ll be on my way.’
‘How do I know I should? I mean I don’t know who you belong to, do I?’
‘Oh that’s great. I’ve just undermined your whole belief system by talking and showing you I can mind-read…’
‘Face read…’
‘Stop bloody quibbling. And now you question if I’m someone’s pet.’
Jim nodded. ‘Yes. Fair point.’ He reached up and touched the nearest wing.
The crow jerked away. ‘That tickles. Be firm, will you?’
‘You are touchy, aren’t you?’
‘Do you really need an answer to that?’
‘No, I suppose not. Here,’ he unhooked a string. Then another. After less than a minute the crow stood by Jim’s feet. ‘Better?’
‘I just want to know who did this. Bloody nerve. Right. I’d better be off.’
The crow turned and stretched its wings.
Jim said, ‘Are you going to say thank you or anything? Show your appreciation?’
The crow twisted its head and held Jim’s gaze for a moment. Then he took to the air and flew in a wide arc. As his flight path crossed where Jim stood he emptied his bowels in a white stream of avian faeces that hit Jim slap on the forehead.
Jim staggered back, stunned. ‘What was that for?’
The crow curved away cackling. ‘I thought you lot considered that to be lucky? Well, be lucky Jim Pale. I hope it’ll mean you’ll have something to crow about.’

Posted in #writephoto, flash fiction, prompt | Tagged , | 40 Comments