If in doubt, add onions…

This week’s prompt from the Carrot Ranch is of a vegetable kind.

August 19, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes onions. It can be the main event or a spicy side to your flash. Think of the impact of onions — teary eyes, dragon-breath, indigestion. How can an onion add a twist, reveal a character or sabotage a perfect day? Have fun!

Oddly so far as I recall this is the first vegetable prompt and it isn’t a carrot. Go figure!

Onions, if memory serves, were one of three vegetables Dad considered to be his ‘bankers’ when it came to the Hordle Fruit and Veg competition at the end of the summer. The others were his runner beans – a sure fire winner – and his marrows.

05 BOX-033

Dad took the plaudits; we (the Archaeologist and me) embraced the pain – notice my fondness for pink, even back then…

I am a little competitive (huh? You kidding me? Ok, I’m VERY competitive) and dad was no different. To have a ‘Good Show’ and earn bragging rights to last the long digging months of the autumn and spring you needed

 detailed planning

consistent application of tactics

and a genteel form of sledging.

04 - BOX - 034

Sledging, if you don’t know it, is where one sports team tries to undermine the confidence of the other through badinage or verbal abuse – mental disintegration. In Hampshire, circa 1972, swearing was frowned upon and deliberate cheating beyond the imagination of dad and his contemporaries – that’s to say, it’s not that it didn’t happen, just no one would believe it possible. Instead we had ‘Your soil looks a bit dry; hope your [state vegetable] isn’t suffering’ or  ‘I’m surprised that your [state vegetable] haven’t grown much; did you try something different?’


The real brains, of course, were mum’s

Dad plotted. At a minimum he had to place with each of his top three and win with one or the garden shed became his outer darkness and a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth. After he was as sure as he could be he was on track (not that he ever admitted as much) then it was all about dislodging one of his rivals from their expected podium finishes. He had his moments – ‘succulent leeks’ –  a second – 1971; crisp and pert French beans – tied first – 1974 and his own particular highlight, a highly commended cos in the drought summer of 1976.

We lived off the land, back then. Once we kept rabbits with a view to having our own meat supply but no one wanted to kill them – it didn’t help they were named Fiver and Hyacinthlay after characters in Watership Down. I think mum did the business eventually – dad was far too squeamish – and that was the end of that experiment.

I suppose, given this background, the pumpkin battle between Harry’s mum and Mrs Desiree Potts in Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle has a certain autobiographical truth to it (sorry: that was a cheap, almost egregious, plug).

So this week, we are back with Mary and Rupert and Paul.

Know your onions 

‘Two onions please, Penny.’ Paul waited. ‘That’s disappointing.’

‘They’re all shrivelled. Why, dad?’

Paul shrugged. ‘Don’t know. I did the same last year and they were huge. Nature’s always throwing up surprises, not all good.’


Mary thanked Rupert, her half-brother and closed her phone. He was trying so hard to find her lost sister. She’d underestimated him.  When they met, after she realised her father had had an affair, she’d hated him.  He seemed condescending and untrustworthy. But he wasn’t, just unsure. They were both victims of their father’s selfishness.  Sometimes life throws up surprises, not all bad.

Here are the earlier episodes if you would like to catch up with Mary and the others.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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17 Responses to If in doubt, add onions…

  1. jan says:

    Your parents sound wonderful – if in doubt I generally add more garlic though!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. trifflepudling says:

    Priceless! A sort of Field Marshal Montgomery approach. Reminds me of the Dad’s Army where they use onions as ammo.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Charli Mills says:

    Naming your rabbits after highly emotive characters in Watership Down was not a great idea. I actually like to know my food whether I raised it in the garden or the range, but once I name something or start speaking to it I do get attached. The same humor I like so well in Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, I can see where it originated with your father’s competitive gardening nature. I can grow terrific squash and whisper in the bees, but carrots? Ironic, right. I can’t grow them! Turnips, beets, cauliflower, for heaven’s sake. But no carrots. Love the flash and the comparison. Mary is bringing back the elixir from her journey.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I have heard that vegetable growing is a very serious and competitive business, People fretting over the size of their onions and quality of a cabbage, Having said that, how wonderful to live off the land, assuming that you got to eat the ones that weren’ t show worthy! I have never been able to eat rabbit, even unnamed ones. I think I was traumatised as a child when my brother brought home a dead one (he had shot it with is air gun or something). My Nan was thrilled, skinned it and cooked it for tea!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Pingback: When Life Gives You Onions « Carrot Ranch Communications

  6. Autism Mom says:

    I would have named the rabbits, too, maybe Bigwig and Strawberry. My sister is looking to achieve self-sufficiency – she and her husband just welcomed the birth of twin goats in their barn. They are planning to sell one and since they are not sure what will happen to him, they have resisted giving him a name. To help them with the detachment, I suggested “Stew.”

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Norah says:

    I’m pleased you gave Sherry Trifle a plug. If you hadn’t I would have. I was thinking all along about the pumpkin competition. It’s nice to see where some of your inspiration comes from. Now I’m wondering about some of those other scenes! 🙂
    I love this development in Mary’s story, that she is able to see the good in Rupert. Of course he wants to find her twin. She is his half-sister too. Perhaps knowing that they have all been short-changed by their father’s selfishness will help bring them together. I also like the way you have linked the two separate episodes: not all good, not all bad. Not bad. Good work. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Your self-sufficient childhood sounds much more successful than my self sufficent adult hood. I’m obviously not that competitive. You have a lovely garden. I understand about the rabbits – I was the same with chickens.
    Nice seeing them starting to appreciate each other.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Sorry, short on time and only read the flash for now. Loved it, BTW. Look forward to the weather prompt. What’s gonna happen?

    Liked by 1 person

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