Challenging expectations!

I’ve been a bit erratic with my studies this week. I have been worried about Artie having to go for a routine castration. Thankfully he is now home safe and recovering from the anaesthetic.

This week’s writing task was to write about a stereotype character and change the role. I found it really difficult to achieve and what I have written really shows no sign of stereotyping but I’ve tried and it is all I can achieve this week. I am very tired.

As always feedback is extremely valued. Thank you!

 

The wind slapped at his hairless head like an insult. He closed his eyes to the driving rain that threatened to blind him, while his fingers strained to keep their hold of the cold, bare rock. He was hanging hundreds of meters from the relative safeness of the ground, and close by someone was shouting. ‘Geoff, get a move on! You’re holding the rest of us up!’

‘I can’t!’ he shivered.

‘Just think why you’re doing this!’ And then he did. Of Hannah. Little sick Hannah lying in a hospital bed attached to multiple drips, with her grandmother sitting beside her reading fairy stories to chase away the fears. Since his wife had died it had just been him and Hannah. And now Hannah had become sick with the same rare genetic condition as her mother. Geoff was clinging to the side of a precipice as if his life depended on it, and in some way it did, maybe not his life but others. If he was successful in his conquering of Ben Nevis, Geoff would raise in sponsorship almost £100,000! His friends and family had been generous to a fault, but it was the donations from the public after he had featured in the local press that boosted his funds to astronomical proportions. Geoff remembered standing rosy faced before a TV camera and being humbled by the generosity of anonymous people. However on this ‘dreich’ autumnal day Geoff’s resolve faltered. It fell away from him like the lose rock that has fallen headlong down the slope as he tried to hoist himself up.

As his foot had slipped, it seemed to Geoff that his life flashed before his eyes. He recalled the look of his mother when his father left them. Of playing kiss chase in the school playground, and only chasing the girls with fair hair. He preferred blondes, so much so that years later his wife too had been a blonde. Geoff had met her at a friend’s 18th birthday party. Geoff wasn’t 18 until the coming January while Belinda was still only 16! He remembered they had ‘hit it off’ straight away. They were ‘soul mates’, Geoff always thought. After that night when they shared their first kiss under the stars, they were inseparable.

Geoff married Belinda when she was 21. It was a small registry office affair, but he remembered Belinda dressed in white, looking the picture of beauty. A year later and the perfectly formed Hannah with her big brown eyes, (inherited from Geoff) and blonde curly hair (like her mother) arrived.

He didn’t like what came next in his mind’s eye. Of Belinda falling sick. Of the long days and nights in hospital, and ultimately standing before an open grave with the priest prattling on about ‘the shadow of death.’ Flowers, that was his lasting memory of Belinda’s funeral. Lots of flowers. Large gaping lilies and pale, lacklustre roses. That was not how he remembered her. Belinda was vibrant and fiery like blooms of Birds of Paradise!

Some two years after Belinda’s death, Hannah started showing signs of becoming sick. This was the reason why Geoff was clung to a rock like a mollusc. He had agreed to climb the mountain to raise much needed funds for research. Somehow, his own discomfort sweetened the pain of what was ultimately to follow. ‘Come on Geoff!’ someone called. With teeth clenched he loosened his grip and raised his hand to the next crevice. He would achieve this for Hannah’s sake!

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The ‘New’ Liverpool Philharmonic Hall.

On Sunday David and I went to the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic to hear a recital of Rachmaninov’s 3rd Piano Concerto, performed by Nobuyuki Tsujii, and conducted by Vasily Petrenko.

The hall has just had a major facelift. It has been some 20 years since the last overhaul and everything looks fresh and newly painted. The reception is of an aquatic blue and the auditorium painted brilliant white, with new lighting and a new stage.

The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic

The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic

However it’s quite noticeable, the new against the old. I would have preferred new upholstered chairs, or at least carpets for the audience, the seating areas look a little dated in comparison.

From Thursday’s performance called ‘Winter Daydreams,’ where Nobuyuki Tsuji played Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No.3, people noted that the acoustics in the hall were different than previously. I noticed the same today. The strings, especially the cellos/bases during the Rachmaninov seemed rather muted. Whether this has anything to do with the pale wood that comprises the stage is debatable. However the sound from the Tchaikovsky (1st symphony) seemed to dispel any previous issues.

The concert opened with Nobuyuki Tsuji‘s performance of the 3rd Piano Concerto of Rachmaninov, touted as one of the most technically challenging to play. Tsuji’s performance was virtuosic and touching. The lyricism in this piece is breathtaking, but for me it doesn’t touch the emotion carried by it’s predecessor. Personally I would have loved Tsuji to have performed the Rachmaninov Piano Concerto no.2 which he played triumphantly at the BBC Proms in 2013. However I did enjoy the Rachmaninov 3, the finale was exhilarating.

It was lovely to see Petrenko guide Tsuji on and off the stage to the appreciative applause. There was even a hug between them after they left the stage for the final time.

The afternoon was filled with encores as Tsuji came back to the stage to perform Rachmaninov’s Variation 18 of a Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini which was beautiful. I could have listened to a whole concert with Tsuji playing, so I hope he comes back to the UK and Liverpool again soon! The only complaint I had which has also been reiterated by other reviewers was that at times the orchestra seemed to overpower the virtuosity of the soloist. Perhaps it is something the Liverpool Phil can rectify for future concerts?

The second half of the concert was Tchaikovsky’s 1st Symphony, ‘Winter Daydreams.’ It is a symphony I am not familiar with. I know a lot about Tchaikovsky’s most popular works and his later symphonies but not his earlier ones. It was a neat performance by the Liverpool Philharmonic, but for me it was just not my ‘cup of tea,’ even David nodded off at one point!

With the hall still having major reconstructions, the side entrances were closed, meaning that everyone from the circle and rear circle had to filter out via one exit. People stated ‘what would happen in a fire?’ but I am sure the hall’s evacuation plans would cover this. I can’t see them opening for the public with no emergency contingencies in place.

The concert was a ‘sell out’ and the audience seemed happy with what they were offered. I know David and I went home feeling satisfied. I can’t wait to visit the hall again for the Valentine’s concert and in April for Mahler’s ‘Resurrection’ Symphony (No2). That performance will definitely test out the new acoustics of the hall and we’ll also see where the choir will be situated on the new stage!

They are lots of exciting events to look forward to and the Liverpool Philharmonic looks like it is embarking on an enthralling 175th anniversary season.

Week Four – Writing Course.

I’m in the fourth week of my on-line writing course with the Open University and the latest task was about plot, though we were not told to write anything new, the below example got me thinking.

‘A woman on a bus today carried her Pekinese dog inside her handbag. It had a red bow on its head that matched her sweater.’

So here is my story: It is a bit long winded. I fear it started off strong and then ended weak. What do you think???

 

She got on the bus, she had always hated the smell of them, but today, she didn’t notice the stench of sweat and disinfectant laced with the vomit of last night’s revelries. She was going to see Sheila. It wasn’t a visit she relished but it had to be done. If she was to protect what she had with Josh she had to do it! She may have been the ‘other woman’ but she knew that what she and Josh had, stemmed from more than a few marriage vows before a skirted vicar. He had told her much the same the previous night.

‘Jane, I love you. I will find a way for us to be together.’

‘Really Josh? You will tell your wife about us?’ She remembered he nodded and they had made love again in the dingy hotel room. They had once started out in four star, luxurious rooms but now had resorted to cheap thrills in ultra-cheap rooms.

‘Pleasing two women is getting rather expensive,’ Josh had said. Jane shrugged. She couldn’t have cared less where they made love, so long as she got her man! But months later, the seedy looks from hotel proprietors and the damp infested rooms, were enough for Jane to go off the whole affair!

‘I’ll tell Sheila about us as soon as I get home,’ Josh had promised, kissing her goodbye. That was why Jane now called Josh’s bluff.

She sat on the bus with butterflies fluttering in her stomach, she hardly ever had nerves. Jane reached into her bag in search of lip gloss and her hand touched something soft, furry. She cooed into the bag at her beloved Pekinese who peered up from the detritus of her bag with forlorn brown eyes. ‘Good luck always seemed to come to her while she had Rod nearby.’ He sat alongside the mascara and powder. The red bow on his head (rather gay, Jane admitted), matched the colour of her sweater. The colour of love! The colour of success!

As the bus rattled along, Jane could imagine her mother shaking her head disdainfully at the thought of her 22 year old daughter tearing through the streets of the city towards the suburban home of a middle aged man and his wife. Her friends from college had all said she was ‘stupid, silly, out of her mind!’ when she told them she was in love with a man in his 40’s!

Jane didn’t care! She knew she loved Josh the moment he stepped into the office. She loved his dark wavy hair that had started to go grey and his smile that was always beaming, even if he had had a bad night with the wife. They both worked at a rather successful law firm, he a solicitor, and she a lowly secretary. However she knew it was not love at first sight for Josh. It took a lot of cajolery, of making lots of coffee (with three sugars, just how he liked it) and being at his beck and call whenever he needed her.

It had been at the last Christmas party that Jane finally saw the fruits of her labour. She had been sipping rosé wine all evening, and nibbling on the odd samosa when Josh came up from nowhere and started a conversation with her. Jane remembered how wound up he had been. ‘A hard day at the office?’ she joked.

‘Not office, no.’ Josh rubbed his temples. ‘Having hell with the wife at the moment, where we’re going for Christmas/boxing day, her parents or mine, etc…’ Jane recalled rolling her eyes sympathetically. She was consolingly doe eyed all night.

‘Must be awful for you?’ He’d nodded.

They had talked utter tripe all night, while listening to bad Christmas hits and watching their fellow office workers dance badly. Jane remembered Josh had worn a green jumper with the face of Rudolf knitted on the front. ‘The wife, made me wear it!’ It made Jane think.

‘Did Josh have a mind of his own or did Sheila own that too?’ As fairy lights twinkled off the festive tinsel adorning the hotel function room, they found that they had both drank too much. Jane saw her opportunity disappear with every shot Josh swigged back. So she embraced the spirit of the occasion and held a sprig of mistletoe above her head. ‘Kiss me?’ she winked and was blown away by the force of his lips on hers. He didn’t even apologise afterwards. He just held her hand, looked into her eyes and mouthed.

‘Want to go to bed?’ Jane gulped. This was her moment.

‘Yes,’ she heard herself say and what happened in that hotel room that night, and every following Thursday afterwards, was the reason Jane was on that bus, with Rod itching to escape her bag.

When she alighted at her stop, the young bus driver gave her a coy smile. That kind of look from a man, always made her glow, so she smiled back. Rod was now on his lead. He had been fed up of the restriction of her handbag and had snapped at Jane as she tried to get the piece of scrap paper with Josh’s address on.

New Foundland Crescent was full of new builds on the outskirts of town. Rod pulled on his lead to smell the blue Salvia heads that lined the gardens but Jane pushed forwards to number 12. She found that the house was a detached, three storey with at least four bedrooms, a garage and driveway. Jane knew that there was also a huge garden to the rear where Josh said he used to tan himself under the summer sun. With high heels clipping on the stone pavement, Jane walked with back straight towards the front door. She already knew how she was going to break the news to Sheila if Josh hadn’t already done so. That he was going to leave her and go live with Jane, until the divorce was settled and then they would look for apartments together.

Jane had walked halfway up the driveway when the front door of the house opened and to her surprise two children waltzed out. One was aged about four, the other ten perhaps? They both carried little suitcases. ‘Going on a holiday?’ Jane asked them.

‘Yes, we’re going to Disney World!’ the older of the two answered.

‘For how long?’

‘Two, whole weeks!’

‘Just with your Mum?’

‘No silly, Daddy is coming too.’

‘Daddy?’ Jane bit her lip thoughtfully. ‘Josh never said he had children.’

‘Can I help you?’ called a voice. It came from the open doorway. It was Sheila! Jane stood gazing at her beautiful face and elegant clothes.

‘She looked nothing like Josh had described.’ A niggling doubt tickled at the back of her mind.

‘Can I help you?’ Sheila asked again, her smile faltering. ‘Are you here to deliver something?’

‘I’m Jane. I work with your husband.’

‘Jane?’

‘Has he not mentioned me then?’

‘He tells me so many stories about people at work. I rarely get to meet them, so putting names to faces is difficult.’

‘So he’s not said anything about the two of us?’

‘The two of you?’ Jane’s determination faltered under the scrutiny of the older woman. It was clearly obvious that Josh hadn’t told his wife about their year long affair. Jane realised that what she had thought she had with Josh had only been a young woman’s fancy. It was never going to be anything serious, was that why hadn’t told her about his children? Jane stoically steeled her face while inside she seethed. She heard herself lie unconvincingly.

‘We’ve both been short-listed as employee of the month.’

‘And you came here just to tell me that?’ Sheila looked perplexed.

‘No I was just passing and was hoping to collect a file from Josh. Is he at home?’

‘No he’s still at work.’

‘Mummy, come on we’ll be late for meeting Daddy at the airport,’ one of the children spouted.

‘I’m holding you up,’ Jane apologised, wanting to get away as quickly as possible.

‘I’ll tell Josh you passed by.’

‘You do that!’ Jane smiled. She pulled Rod away from the two children who were petting him. ‘Have a nice holiday!’ Jane waved as she walked away. She did not look back.

‘Is that Daddy’s friend?’ Jane heard one of the children ask. ‘She’s very pretty.’ Jane’s only consolation was the hope that Josh would have a rather frosty welcome from his wife at the airport.

‘Disney World,’ Jane thought. ‘He never mentioned he was going off on bloody holiday for two weeks! The bastard!’

As she turned the corner and was firmly out of sight of the matrimonial home, Jane lent against a wall. She tried mightily to stop the flood of tears that streamed down her cheeks, but they overwhelmed her. She felt betrayed, humiliated and stupid for believing the love she had with Josh was genuine. She pulled every inch of composure she could muster and made her way to the bus stop. Jane knew that come that evening in-between bouts of self-pity she would be hard at work updating her Curriculum Vitae and trawling through the job sites for a new position. She would never let Josh see what his lies had made her feel, both angry and sad simultaneously. Jane fought the temptation to send him a hateful text message but she rose above it and fumbled for loose change for her fare.

When the bus finally arrived after an agonising 20 minute wait, Jane had dried her tears and powdered her nose. For the last five minutes she had been ‘chatted up’ by a man in his 70’s who appreciated the colour of her jumper. Climbing the steps of the bus, Jane noticed that it was the same young driver at the helm. She flashed a smile at him and noticed he blushed. She was young and resilient and would soon get over her recent disappointment.

‘Men were like buses’, so her grandmother was always at pains to tell her. ‘If you miss one, there’s always another not far behind.’

In Remembrance

A while back I combined audio readings of letters and poems from Vera Brittain and her friends and family with the music of Karl Jenkins and Edward Elgar.

As it is Armistice day. I thought I would share it with you all!

To the fallen…

Ideas for a Story

As you may know I have embarked on a short, free creative writing course with the Open University.

This is the second ‘large’ piece of writing I have been tasked to do. It was inspired by a short video introducing the course and I have tried to pull a story from one of the images featured. Of a young woman sitting, awaiting a bus with an over night bag on her lap. Let me know what you think of the first 500+ words and if it has any promise for me to continue with. Thanks. Christine.

 

I remember… how he looked the morning he walked into the class room. The bright spring sunshine flowed into the room, touching the heads of twenty four rowdy teenagers and me. I sat gazing out of the window to the park below. The trees were heavy limbed with pink blossom and daisy heads interjected the green grass of the playing fields. I watched as an elderly man walked his dog, a young mother pushed her baby in a pram while talking into a mobile phone. All life was going on before me while I sat stifled and bored awaiting the new form teacher to arrive and to begin another day of endless classes. Don’t get me wrong, I loved studying, was always in the top 5% of classes but life at present seemed an endless chore. Mother had just remarried to a pig of a man, Dan and my older sister Melanie, had started her first semester at Manchester University studying politics. So it was just ‘little old’ me in a house far too large for three people, (two of whom I tried to avoid at all times,) and Jake the Border Collie. ‘Perhaps I’ll take the dog for a walk after school,’ I thought and then the door was flung open and in he walked!

It was his confident swagger that gripped me first. He didn’t look much older than 25, but his poise gave him the air of a much older man. I think I half envied him then! Confidence was never a strong character trait with me. Indeed that was why I was sitting alone while the rest of the girls in class were all huddled at the back chatting to the boys, the good looking boys I may hasten to add. He breezed in and demanded such attention that everyone fell silent. ‘I’m Mr. Blake and I will be your new class teacher.’

It didn’t take long for the brassy ones of the class to pipe up, ‘sir, which school have you transferred from? What subject do you teach?’ The latter was voiced by the girls who were suddenly sitting alert like animals in anticipation of food.

‘Poor Mr. Blake,’ I thought. ‘He’s a carrot dangling before all these hormonal girls, many on the verge of womanhood,’ He bent over his desk and peered into the class register. He patted his shirt pocket, looking for something.

‘I’ve forgotten my glasses. Forgive me if I get your names wrong. I’m rather short sighted.’ His voice was rich and soft like the wind sighing through the trees. If I closed my eyes I could picture his voice coming from the radio late at night, announcing some relaxing piece of music. I smiled as I thought I wouldn’t mind lying in bed listening to his voice all night. ‘Olivia Edwards,’ he was saying my name. ‘Olivia Edwards is she here?’ and then I opened my eyes. He was scanning the sea of faces before him looking for someone he thought resembled an Olivia.

‘Here,’ I managed to squeak. His eyes rested on my face and I half envisaged a slight turn up of his lips.

‘Nice to meet you Olivia Edwards,’ and inside my heart pounded.

I haven’t written in a while…

… though I will undoubtedly be using this medium to assist with my Open University writing course. I tend to have a habit of writing more than I should! Hence needing my blog to post my latest exercise. Perhaps you can all comment on the quality of the writing too??

 

IMAGINING WRITING SPACES:

OK, I know it doesn’t really address the title of the assignment but this is what I have written in response.

Scene that is most suited to me:

Autumnal light shone blazingly through the large panes of glass that lined one wall of the room. The brightness was magnified by the white painted walls and the gleam from the chrome of the chairs. There was a hushed sigh of reverence from the other students in the library as Susan sat with head resting on hand, gazing sidelong out of the window. The screen of her laptop glowed as the curser flashed on a blank Word document. She knew she should have been writing. She had been sitting in her favourite room for half an hour now after getting up early, just to enjoy what was left of the morning sun. However, her eyes had wandered to the Sycamore Tree that burned red outside. Its leaves drifted to the road below burnishing the pavements. She had been watching a couple of Blue Tits flit about the boughs of the tree, pecking at the blackened bark before calling their alarm as a Magpie flew by.

Susan blinked and turned to look into the room she sat in. She started when she saw a pair of dark eyes peer over the rim of a cup at her. She subconsciously sniffed at the air and the comforting smell of roasted coffee reached her olfactory. Those eyes looked at her accusingly, knowing she should be writing. They made her feel very much like the day she had been caught dancing in her bedroom by her uncle. She couldn’t remember what he had said, but whatever it was it made her feel like she had been caught doing something wrong and something inside of her recoiled.

The owner of those eyes lowered the cup of steaming coffee revealing a handsome face with full lips and square jaw. Susan smiled shyly in reply. She knew he should have been working too instead of sneakily peaking at her. She watched as he picked up a paperback with something to do with tort written on the front and pretended like he was deep in thought. Susan turned to look at her computer screen and smirked. She began typing.

‘It was in the library that she first noticed him…’