No one expects the unexpected #writephoto

Sue Vincent’s #writephoto prompt this week is

sue-cracked-ice

Tricia Ashe led a quiet, rather mundane existence. Quiet because she was deaf. Mundane because that how things happened in Viceroy-on-Twistle. She rose at 6.30, had tea and put the lead on Sherpa the dog. Whatever the weather, Tricia and Sherpa set out for the moors no later than 7, setting a brisk if undemanding pace. Their route never varied, circling the small knoll before climbing Gavin’s Bottom, crossing the style at the top and heading back via Donald’s bakery. 

This particular morning, in early December, Trica paused at the summit, stunned by the beautiful sunrise that appeared in front of her in a spectacular explosion of colours. It took her a moment to register the shaking ground, the apparent snow falling from a clear sky and shooting flames belching from the hills opposite for her to realise this was, indeed, a spectacular explosion.

Tricia might have flunked geography at school but she was fairly sure that the Yorkshire Moors were not considered to be active, volcanically. The snow began to lie in thick drifts across the heather – it took her another moment to recognise it as ash. It was wonderful. 

Sherpa began to yowl, not that Tricia heard but she could see the signs. ‘What is it boy?’ She followed where Shera seemed to be pointing. The small Crescent Brook was steaming and appeared to be filling quickly as whatever it was poured down the slopes and headed in the direction of the village, still asleep and unaware of the doom hurtling in its direction.

 Tricia set off at pace, her gumboots flapping as she tried to out run the molten torrent that she just knew was catching up with her. Sherpa, off his lead, was far ahead and might be able to warn the Donalds to leave their bakery, which straddled the Brook as it entered the village.

 Tricia mused on the irony of her asking, only the day before, if Mr Donald might not turn his hand to something different from his usual split tin and large whites that were the staple of his baking.

‘What sort of bread does thee want, missus?’ he had asked gruffly.

Tricia held his gaze, reading his lips. ‘What about lava?’ she had suggested.

‘Humpf. Over me dead body,’ came the reply.

 If she didn’t speed up, thought Tricia, Mr Donald might turn out to be both a good baker and unexpectedly prescient.

 

Posted in #writephoto, creative writing, microfiction, prompt | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

What’s in a name? #shortstory #microcosms

Microcosms this week offered us (you still have time to join in):

Spinster, London, Comedy

 

Marigold sat, nervously gripping her bag. The dating agency was her last resort. Sylvia, the woman interviewing her, tried a smile. ‘Don’t be nervous. Just a few questions and I’m sure we’ll fix you up, someone as attractive as you. So name?’

‘Marigold Fagin.’

‘Fagin? As in…’

‘Yes.’

‘Hmm.’ Sylvia’s frown disturbed her smooth forehead.

‘Age?’

’40.’

Sylvia looked up, relaxing. ‘You’d never guess. Do you work?’

‘Yes. It’s a family business. Working with children, giving them unusual apprenticeship experiences and, er, garden design.’

‘Garden design?’ Sylvia’s forehead re-creased.

‘Fencing. Oh and security.’

She swallowed as she glanced at Marigold, who blushed.

‘Where do you live?’

‘Limehouse. East London. We like the ambience. Well, the fog, mostly.’

‘The fog?’

‘It makes the security easier.’

The beetled brow took on an alarming ridged quality. ‘Oh yes?’

‘They don’t see us coming.’

‘Right.’ Sylvia dabbed the perspiration away. ‘So you’ve had boyfriends I take it?’

‘Oh, yes, they just never stay.’

‘Do they say why?’

‘Generally, they only talk to my brother. After that they tend not to call.’

‘And you don’t think that can be part of the reason?’

‘Kevin’s ever so polite. He just takes an interest. The last one he showered around one of the building sites we secure. He didn’t turn up again, either. Kevin was surprised; he said he thought Grant showed concrete promise. Or was it promise as concrete? I do get muddled.’

Sylvia took a moment to regain her composure. ‘Can I be honest with you, Marigold?’

Marigold looked startled, then affronted. ‘Oh no, I really don’t think so. No that wouldn’t do. What would Kevin say?’

 

Posted in creative writing, microfiction, prompt | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Geoffle 6.0, the Reboot

geoff-and-jenz

Ok, time for a moment of self-indulgence. By some off-kilter astro-clock I’m told I have collected 60 New Years on this fast moving lump of rock. As the heading suggests I’d rather think of that as Geoffrey 6.0, the Reboot while I hurtle into another decade of caking making and taking, dancing and prancing and adding to my collection of ‘every day is Saturday’ time-fillers.

And on momentous occasions such as this, now that my eye-tests are free and as a Londoner my freedom pass is but a click away, I intend to take a moment to expound on a life philosophy.

I’m not someone taken much by grand schemes, anything organised or supernatural or indeed much that is not susceptible to ridicule so in writing this I expect to be teased, laughed at and generally the subject of incessant and, hopefully, complete mockery.

But I did ask myself the other day what characteristics do I think have helped me reach this point on the Grand Bannister of Life without too many splinters perforating my arse. So here we go:

  • optimism: not everyone’s cup of tea and I understand that there’s a middle ground haunted by the dullards who count themselves as realists before reaching the mind-grinders who are pessimists but honestly, it’s one life, it might end any second in a death both tragic and comic so, smile and squeeze out all the juices now; Half full? Half empty? Pah! Tosh!! It’s overflowing
  • resilience: you don’t walk through as many doors as I have without the odd one swinging back and smacking you on the nose. I learnt early that you still need to walk through the door. And if you can avoid kicking the sodding thing on the way past, so much the better because..
  • do not, under any circumstances, beat your head against a brick wall (or kick a swinging door): because, dear reader the wall doesn’t give a hoot and it never hurts the wall. Walk away and find something soft and spongy to argue with, or debate over, because at least there’s some chance the soft and spongy might give a little
  • be generous: my old man had an aphorism for every occasion: here the apposite one would be ‘always leave a man with his trousers’ – never just take, give at least a little and preferably a lot. You’ll be amazed how good it feels and how often there is a surprising return, but…
  • do not give and expect a return: because, if you condition your generosity you are liable to be disappointed
  • respect, like trust, is earned: and like wisdom is not a dictate of age, authority, position in life or any other criteria. And the more senior, educated, affluent, or powerful you are the greater the requirement on you to make it easier for others who might be less fortunate or in a less exalted position. I would modify the old adage ‘with power, comes responsibility’ by saying that ‘ with every ounce of power comes a tonne of responsibility’. The scales should not be tipped in favour of those who already have.
  • and what would be my motto? I was once asked what I’d learnt from my father than had stood me in good stead in life and after a little, but some relatively deep thinking, I replied:

speak when you are spoken to and confess your farts

In many ways that sums us both up.

Posted in experiences, family, life, miscellany, philosophy | Tagged , , | 44 Comments

The Memory River #microfiction

Another picture prompt from Jane Doughtery

jane-d-moonlight

Millicent Mercury visited the river every day, accompanied by her dog, Rufus. Rufus knew they would stay by the bank for a while and settled to his customary pose, watching for anyone who might disturb his mistress. Some instinct told him she must be left alone at these times.

Millicent watched the water flowing past, the rippling and caressing as it curved off one bank and across to the other. But she didn’t see it as it was then but as it had been seven years before, on a sunny sharp day with a low light wind, when she handed over the last child to the boatman.

Millicent remembered each child, each freckle and scab, each tuft of hair and fold of flesh. She had held the first child when she was barely 18 and home from finishing school, a hated prison away from her beloved Moors. Her father, the owner of everything locally, had sent her away in the hopes of it crafting a young lady from the stubborn minx to whom his now loathed, long dead wife had given birth. She had returned having absorbed one lesson amongst many she ignored: to get on you had to be honest to yourself.

‘You’ll marry, lass. Before this year’s out. I want shot of you and your kind.’

Her father never expressed it, not in so many words, but Millicent understood. He did not consider her his and, but for scandal, she would have been disowned. She determined, in that moment, never to marry.

Needing an outlet for her frustrations she helped one woman, a mill setter, who had gotten herself in trouble. Nearing her time, Millicent visited the distraught young soul, a few months younger than Millicent but years less aware. The girl had become increasingly frantic as the due date approached. ‘What’ll I do with it?’ She wailed one day.

Millicent was flummoxed. ‘Keep it?’ All that did was bring on more tears.

So, Millicent enquired and was horrified to hear tell of drownings and suffocations. Surely there was another way.

She heard of a man, from the city across the Moors, who might help and went visiting. The man, prosperous and reasonably well educated met Millicent and offered her a deal. If she could smuggle the unwanted bairns to the river as dusk fell, he would send a man to collect them. From there the children would be dispatched to worthy homes in the South and in the Colonies, where families who couldn’t have children and were desperate for them would give them a loving home He offered her money but she refused. No this was her way of repaying her father for his neglect and treatment of her mother.

After a few years, her father died and he left her a sufficient living that she might be comfortable. She contented herself with her spinster’s life and began to teach. But all the while, if any of the townswomen found themselves in trouble and unable to keep the child they would head for Millicent’s back door. It was always a sad business but one where there was, at least, a glimmer of hope.

That was until that last night. Instead of the boatman, a young man in a shabby brown suit and worn shoes approached her as she stood on the bank, a bundle wrapped in her arms.

‘Ma’am, are you Miss Mercury?’

‘Indeed. How can I help?’

‘You helped my sister with her bairn. She said you were kind and took care of her baby but she were desperate to know where it was. So I made it my business to find out.’

He spun his hat and Millicent waited.

‘I found the man who takes the babies. He sells them, miss. They are put to work once they’re weaned and sorely used and abused. If they can’t work they are killed. I know you meant well but it ain’t no better than the old ways.’ With that the young man turned and left.

Millicent couldn’t believe him. Wouldn’t believe him. But she hired a man, a detective to see what truth there was in the story. And he confirmed what the young man had said.

From that day, that moment, Millicent never spoke a word. At precisely the hour she would have undertaken her walk to the river to deliver another unwanted child, she set off to her spot and she stood and waited. People said she was mad with despair and wanted to drown herself but didn’t have the courage. But the truth was more prosaic. Millicent just wanted to remember. Each of those little children didn’t have a name but they had a face and she had seen them. If she could stand on the bank and recall each face, then their lives were not for nothing. They had left a mark on this world, that mark being a scar deep into Millicent Mercury’s heart.

 

Posted in creative writing, microfiction, prompt | Tagged , , | 15 Comments

Askance #microfiction #writephoto

This week’s #writephto prompt from Sue Vincent is this

sue-mystery

When do you give up?

When do you realise it’s just some trick of the light, something in the imagination that makes you think you’re seeing something when you’re not?

Do you keep going back, even when your best friends think you crazy?

How long do you give it?

How do you keep the faith when everyone doubts your sanity?

What morsel of hope do you need to encourage you to believe?

How many times have I asked myself these questions?

How many excuses have I made to take the path through the woods, even when the track over the hill is quicker, less muddy, more populous, with fewer terrors?

But then, when I’m alone, when the sky is just that shade of dark, when the air is just the right kind of still, when my mind is full of the calmest of thoughts, then I find I’m back on that path forcing myself to a look askance, testing my peripheral vision for telltale fragments of fleeting images: a crumbling architrave, a split mullion, some blown plaster.

I know – I just know – that if I can see that entrance, really know I’ve seen it, even if only from a fraction of a scintilla of a second, then it will be real. The balcony, mud-filled and rotting, the hard smooth black door will all be there, just as I’ve said they are. And the people, shadowy black scraps of fleeting shapes will become as real as I know them to be, as my dreams, my constant unrelenting, demanding dreams tell me they are.

And when finally I find that angle, uncover just the right sort of glance and have the mystery reveal itself to me, how long before I regret what I have done and what I have unleashed on this world through that door?

Posted in #writephoto, microfiction | Tagged , , | 27 Comments

My Love Affair With Snow #poem #poetry

I thought I’d share a poem I wrote a while back, on one of those rare days when London is thrown into complete chaos by a dumping of snow; today is frost-crisp and enticing for dog and man to wrap up and venture forth. Maybe snow will come to renew my inner-child and my love affair with snow.

p2020197

Before Dog there was Dog; long live Dog, RIP Blitz, yay to snow!

I wake to a muffled world

where the curtains shine with a sepia tint.

Somewhere, I hear a faint rustle of ticker tape,

falling in drifts.

It is eerily quiet as I peek out

half knowing the reason.

A magician, up all night,

has covered the garden,

 deadening the air with nature’s Kapok.

A bandy-legged primate, waterproofed, uncertain

overtakes a drunk car, failing its sobriety test.

I smile with guilty pleasure. Routine

dissolves as flakes on the windows.

Any thought of work drips from the sill

To form an icicle of excuses.

A family of Michelin people

 waddle in vague trails,

their usually confident tread undone

as the kerbs shift and slip to unexpected places.

Inappropriately shod fashionistas

 curse their vanity.

I skip outside. Boots creak,

as if in need of oil.

The smothered hawthorn emerges at my touch

releasing a cloud of hissing white gas.

Everywhere unthreatening Hoodies

reveal glimpses of childhoods re-found.

Dogs, confused by chest deep cold white mud,

gambol and spring, demented in their ignorance,

chasing balls that dissolve on impact,

shaking their heads in surprise.

The Park confounds.

Cool mannered, indifferent teenagers

become seven again.

Armed with lightweight ordnance,

even friendly fire is welcomed.

Young families, paroled by snow

from school and work

play god and mould a choir of obese people,

accessorized with twigs and vegetables.

The enfeebled sun fights to dampen

my mood. Cars retake the streets,

leaving a grey gloop in their wake.

I slither home, uphill whichever way I go.

Unaccustomed muscles growl, frozen fingers

protest, each jab and squeeze

waking me from my illicit

dreaming, leaving my love affair with snow

in puddles on the parquet.

p1020716

Dulwich Park becomes a wonderland for man and beast

I remembered this poem when thinking about Esther Newton’s latest  Monday Motivation’s theme: the Cold

Posted in home, poems, poetry | Tagged , , | 31 Comments

Always Breakfast #microcosms #shortstory

Microcosms is a regular Friday prompt; this week the three were:

Guesthouse, grandson, memoir

Adele pulled the curtains. ‘Morning colonel. Lovely day for a walk?’ She moved quickly to the bed, straightening the sheets. He didn’t like his bed to remain unmade. ‘I’ll have your eggs ready soon. Just need to find Mrs Fishwick’s teeth. Again.’

Adele liked the colonel. Never said much first thing. Unlike Mrs Fishwick who did nothing but moan. She paused, pulling back her shoulders before knocking. ‘Morning Mrs F. Where did you have the little terrors last?’ A bony finger pointed at the side of the bed. Adele rummaged in the gap. ‘Here you go. Just pop them in and I’ll have poached eggs ready in ten minutes.’  She stood back admiring Mrs Fishwick’s approximation of a grin. ‘Lovely.’

Downstairs, Adele steadied herself. Her grandson’s room was by the kitchen, making it easier to help him. She needed all her strength. Even after ten years, entering his room and seeing again the disfigurement from the crash took her breath. ‘Morning Charles. Sunny today. The colonel is off on a walk. Maybe you’d like to sit outside for a bit.’ He never talked much, not first thing. Typical teenager. ‘Your mum was the same. She…’ Adele couldn’t continue. Thinking about Susan, burnt in the crash that injured Charles, was still too painful.

She sat in the kitchen, remembering the day they’d brought the boy back. Lifeless he was. She made him comfortable and closed the front door. Everything stopped that day. Not that the colonel and Mrs Fishwick understood. They still expected her to make his bed and find her teeth. That’s all she did now. Made the bed and found the teeth and made Charles comfortable. It was enough.

Posted in creative writing, microfiction, prompt | Tagged , , , | 19 Comments