Friday, 19 September 2014

Vegetables


Billy hated vegetables with a passion. Especially the green ones. Broccoli with its hard stalks and soggy ends, a million varieties of cabbage that all tasted like… well cabbage… Sprouts of course are just miniature versions of the giant green footballs and should be shot like the bullets they are as far away from dinner plates as they can possibly go.

Courgettes always looked promising but turned to the texture of glue once in his mouth. Peas were OK at a push – a push around the plate and surreptitiously off the side.

It was nearly time for Sunday lunch and Billy had made a sneaky foray into the kitchen to check out the contents of the chopping board and various saucepans. It was not looking good. Mum had hurried him out before he’d had chance for a proper look, but there was definitely something green on the counter top and he was sure he caught a whiff of cabbage in the air. He was dreading sitting down at the table.

Up until recently the dog had been his ally, happily snapping up falling bits of vegetation that somehow made their way off the edge of the table. But Pongo was living up to her name and on a strict dry diet because of it. Mum shut her out of the dining room at meal times. She whined and scratched at the door. Billy felt sorry for her, but was truthfully more upset that his only meal-time friend had been banished.

Inevitably the moment came when they were called to their seats. Billy tried to smile and look happy but until he saw what was in those serving dishes his nerves were a wreck. He reached for Sue’s hand hoping for a bit of solidarity but she pulled it away and glared at him. Sue loved vegetables, she was quite strange in that sense.

Dad brought in a joint of beef. It gave off a heat haze scented with merlot and thyme. Billy salivated. He noticed that he was the only one not to have a plate, but then Mum appeared behind him and placed in front of him a smiley face made from carrots, baked beans and sweetcorn with mashed potato for hair.

“There you go son” she winked. Your vegetables, just as you like them.

Sue, Billy’s wife burst out laughing. “You spoil him” she gently admonished her mother-in-law before reaching over to give Billy an affectionate kiss on the cheek.

Billy ignored them, piling his plate with roasties and drowning everything in gravy. A couple of carrots fell under his plate. He hoped nobody noticed…

Thursday, 18 September 2014

The Laundry Basket

When I was a little girl a large woven basket stood in the corner of my parents’ bedroom. It looked like it came from an Arabian souk. I liked to believe it had once been home to a charmed cobra that rested in its depths before curling out to dance in front of ogling onlookers when the lid was removed and the magical music stirred its coils into rhythmic movement.

Stored at the bottom (for reasons I never bothered to ask) was a beautiful peach silk robe embroidered with floral designs. It belonged to my Mum but I never saw her wear it – the long kimono-style sleeves weren’t terribly practical for a housewife. What they did make though was the perfect garb for regal Queens who ruled over magical islands. Matched with a pair of over-sized navy blue high heels (not kept in the laundry basket), the outfit transformed little girls into anything their imaginations desired.

The laundry basket made a great hiding place too, just so long as you could keep your balance and avoid a bruising and giveaway topple to the ground. Eventually we grew too big for such games. The robe got put somewhere else was forgotten about – until a timely prompt about ‘laundry’ dials up a memory!

I phoned my Mum to see if she remembered the robe. She still has it and I discovered my Grandfather had brought it back as a gift for my Grandma from Burma where he fought in the 2nd World War. It was hiding its story in the laundry basket! Mum has it safe, but she still never wears it!

Now I am grown, I own a similar laundry basket to that one from my childhood and, although there are no silken Burmese robes hiding in its depths, it does hold its own stories. Last week it was filled with sarongs and shorts and brightly-blossomed blouses telling a tale of balmy sunshine days and soft sandy beaches – fragments of holiday memories that thankfully won’t wash out!

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Directions


I have a Sat Nav built into my car – it’s fabulous. No more trying to memorize a map, taking wrong turns or setting off 4 hours earlier than strictly necessary.

When it works of course. We’ve all got our stories to share about the navigational nightmares. There’s time I just used the street name instead of the actual postcode and discovered that there was more than one street with the same name in the City of Nottingham – one on a completely different side of the city to the other. I also remember when it somehow thought it was in the US and tried to convince me I was only half an hour outside of San Francisco when instead I’m on an entirely different continent about seven time zones away.

I’ve learnt that it’s always best to double check exactly where you’re going BEFORE you set off and to know a rough set of directions. A recent trip ‘oop north’ offered a couple of alternative routes. Being a canny driver, I knew that going via Birmingham in rush hour through the road works was definitely going to be the poor alternative to driving ‘over the tops’ and taking in some stunning dales scenery. That route promised dry-stone walls, inquisitive sheep peeking through the gaps and the very best of rolling English countryside. There was the risk of getting stuck behind the odd tractor, but it promised a better view than the likely 15 miles of stationary traffic.

My Sat Nav by contrast actually wanted to see Spaghetti Junction, concrete jungles and traffic cones. I ignored her when she summoned me up the M6, then again when she tried to divert me through Rugby and I sensed her extreme annoyance when I continued to dismiss her pleas to come off the M1 at Leicester.

I’m a very law-abiding citizen normally (well, most of the time…). I do what I’m told. My Sat Nav lady just sounded so disappointed in me. I was sure I could sense a touch of exasperation in her directions and recalculations and I actually started to feel guilty! I tried to reason with her to assuage the feelings she was stirring up within me but I was met with a stony silence (I think she was trying to figure out how she could get me lost as suitable punishment).

In the end, I switched her off and followed road signs. They don’t judge…

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

The Neighbours

The neighbours were always banging about at all hours. Trevor despaired at the terrible cacophony that disturbed his sleep yet again. There was a constant barrage of thumping, shouting, rattling, banging, music and mayhem. Was he the only one that liked a bit of peace of quiet around here?

He wished for the umpteenth time that he had never moved into this neighbourhood but he was too old and tired to move again. Instead he resigned himself to another ruined rest and, easing his aching limbs slowly into movement he made his way to the kitchen to grab a bite to eat. There wasn’t much to choose from. There was a fresh pot of peanut butter but he couldn’t get the lid off. He stuck to bread and sipped at the lukewarm cup of tea that Lucy had abandoned before rushing off to school.
The day stretched out in front of him bereft of suitable entertainment. He missed Lucy when she was at school, despite the fact that oftentimes she made more noise than a whole street of neighbours put together.
Speaking of which, perhaps he would pop next door and share his displeasure at this morning’s rude awakening – even if they ignored his noise protests he could at least have a nosey around at what was going on, there wasn’t much else to keep an old boy amused around here.
He let himself out of the back door and took a furtive look over their fence. Half of their kitchen appeared to be missing. A gangly youth in overalls carrying a plank of wood smiled at him and saluted. Trevor glared back rather pleased at the attention but certainly not about to show it. The youth wandered over, clearly in a more sociable mood than Trevor. His goofy smile didn’t shift even when Trevor started to complain in some detail about the importance of sleep patterns for the elderly and how much he disliked the noise of out of tune radios mixed with irregular hammer beats.
The youth reached over and tickled Trevor behind the ears. It immediately shut the old moggy up turning his indignant meows into a soothing purr. Maybe these neighbours weren’t so bad after all… at least until the next time they woke him up!

Monday, 15 September 2014

Upside Down

I'm taking a feral writing course - a bit of running about wild across the keyboard. I've become so stale, my writing joints have stiffened up and I needed the proverbial kick-up-the-backside to get going again.

So, the next three weeks promise 21 responses to prompts written in just 30 minutes.

We start today with a short story.


Upside-Down

Billy woke up upside down in bed. His feet had found the comfy spot on the pillow where hundreds of dreams had softened the fibres into the shape of his head. His top half was rather hot under the blankets and there was cat hair getting up his nose. No sign of Lottie though, she was no doubt about her morning business terrorising the neighbourhood dogs and grabbing an early breakfast from her feline victims.

He crawled out onto the floor, his hands landing on the pile of yesterday’s crumpled trousers and sweatshirt. His arms began to sag and his head hit ground level. From this angle he could see right under his bed. Mum said it’s where the dust bunnies lived but he’d never spotted one. Perhaps they were like the monsters and only came out at night. He saw something small and grey by the skirting board though. It was very still, maybe it was one of the mythical creatures or perhaps just his sock. He seemed to remember only having one on for most of yesterday. Billy wasn't really a sock person.

It was quite good fun looking at his room from upside down. He span around a little, keeping his balance by hooking a toe on the open drawer where Mum kept his t-shirts. She was always telling him off for never pushing it closed, but he was glad he hadn’t listened to her now. Under the window Billy spied a floating island of cars. Each bright vehicle was fitted with suction tyres that kept the wheels on the ramps and made satisfying squelchy noises when they moved around. It was a very jerky way of moving and not very fast but the drivers enjoyed it. Billy wanted a go, but first he had to get his head off the ceiling. It was stuck and the dust bunny sock was starting to crawl towards him. Friend or foe? Billy wasn’t sure he wanted to find out.

He needed help. Fortunately Rainbow Bear was also glued to this strange woolly ceiling and within easy reach. Rainbow Bear whispered in Billy’s ear. His fur tickled in a nice way. Rainbow Bear was very wise. Billy drew in a deep breath – which wasn’t easy when you were upside down – and called for Mum.

Billy and Rainbow Bear watched as the feet came towards them. They were wrapped in pink fluff. A voice from above asked them what they were doing.

“We’re being upside down” Billy patiently explained. Sometimes he wondered if Mums really did know everything…. “My head is glued to the ceiling and I can’t get it off. I want to play with the floating island”.

Mum turned and twisted her head a bit looking. She put one leg on the bed and bent over. She balanced a hand on Rainbow Bear (he squealed a bit but didn’t complain – he’s brave like that). Finally she put both legs on the bed, stuck a toe in my underwear drawer (which was handily half open) and her plonked her head next to mine.

“I see it” she laughed!

“There’s just one problem though” she added. We both looked at each other. “My head’s stuck to the ceiling now too!”

Monday, 9 June 2014

Dream state

I love those magic bedtime moments where you hover with one thought on the logical (I must get my car booked in for its MOT) and the dream (a metal stag chases you through a bluebell wood whilst singing My Way). At this point you either pull yourself back into wakefulness or slip into the Land of Nod.

Just saying...

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Busy as a bee


Hello, hello! What do we have here? I can smell something seriously sweet and delicious but where the wasp is it? Are these actually flowers cause they look a bit like dragons...

 
Aha! I have located the source of that scent, it sure is intoxicating. The only problem is though, that to get at it appears to involve me opening up and then climbing inside the mouth of this dragon. Probably not wise, but seriously you should smell this stuff. I'm intoxicated!

 
That's it! I'm in. It's a bit dark in here. Anyone got a light? Eek, the mouth is closing... Help!
 
 
Phew! Made it out alive! Ooh, what do we have here? I can smell something seriously sweet and delicious...
 

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Chaos theory


I'm not entirely sure how I do it, perhaps it's a genetic thing or maybe it just comes down to years of practice; but the truth is that I can can't help but make mess wherever I go.

This time yesterday I had a tidy kitchen table. It was set up perfectly for its intended use - notably: 'eating from'. This morning, as if the fairies had come a-visiting during the hours of darkness, it has turned into this.



Yes, indeed it is the resulting peril that comes from taking an artistic course entitled PaperLove. It means I am allowed to pull out all of my many stashes and scatter them to the wild domestic winds as I breeze through my home on a creative high.

I have been saving many of these scraps of wrapping paper, receipts from foreign retail emporiums, old paper bags and brightly patterned scrapbooking sheets for a 'special occasion' and, dear readers, it appears that very event has arrived. Yet, despite the fact it has sat in a box for years just 'waiting', I am still strangely reluctant to use my precious. I suspect this is why I am sitting here looking at a pile of paper rather than a beautifully hand-crafted book made from the same. I have the rough pressed ragged edge equivalent of stage fright.

Time to take that handmade paper with real flower petals embedded in its glorious texture and make something. Avast me hearties. I'm off!

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Merello with a cherry

Inspired by Merello by Lisa Wright

I was in Paris last week soaking up the sun, wine and the inspiration. I adventured around the art galleries with joy in my heart as I peered close up at the brush strokes of my art heroes. What I love most about staring art in the flesh is being able to see each piece exactly as the artist intended. It hasn't been shrunk or smoothed and bound into a book and what is often surprising is how 'rough' the work looks. You always imagine that each stroke has purpose, unlike my own which is often rather slapdash. Then, you peer at a Monet  or Matisse and lo and behold, he paints a bit like me! Wow! It's a reminder that they were actually human too - not some mythical being. The genius of course is how it is all put together - that's something I'm still learning!

Matisse detail

This month has been Jose Manual Merello month for me in my Magical Journal Journey as I worked on Maggie's chosen artist. His art is full of bold colour, pattern and an almost wild energy. You can spot the influences of Matisse and Picasso dancing across his canvas. It's hard to find out much about him, though this site has some of his writing which speaks of his passions. I borrowed a quote to illustrate on my page below.

For Maggie's book I let myself loose with a crazy palette and just let the paintings come. It's always a bit nerve-wracking working on a piece in someone else's journal but once I relaxed into it, I felt I was getting closer to Merello's techniques while still being me. I stopped striving for perfection and just made art. It felt good.


Inspired by Merello by Lisa Wright
 
 
 
Inspired by Merello by Lisa Wright
 

Friday, 23 May 2014

Procrastination


It's a terrible beast - it pulls me around the house performing tasks that really could wait; it sticks me in front of Facebook reading 7 ways get rid of a mobile phone in a horror movie and finding out what animal I was in a previous life. It makes me cups of coffee and feeds me biscuits and has me watching the wind shake the branches outside and wondering if it's worth hanging the washing outside.

And then, when I finally start on my submission, the old enemy makes itself known. It whispers into my ear that I'm not good enough, my story is of no interest and I'm wasting my time. I fight back as best I can but it retaliates with a bombardment of other ideas that might be better.

Will I ever be published in a Stampington magazine? Well, not without submitting something first that's for sure!

I'm thinking of sending a selection of these in. What do you think?



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