A Year in Books – January to March

I thought I would give a little update on how I am progressing with the challenge, A Year in Books. As I was displaying some of the books I’ve read for a snap-shot Artie came over to give me his approval.

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It was a slow beginning to the challenge. All I read in January was two books. Since then I have managed to read more frequently, even taking the Kindle with me on the bus to work. Reading while travelling usually tires me, which is why I have only just started up again.

Grief is the Thing with Feathers – Max Porter

This novella featured as part of a short Open University course I took last year. David kindly bought it for me for Christmas. The theme is of grief and survival. After a sudden death of a wife and mother, two son’s and a father are visited by a crow (personified from the Ted Hughes book of poems Crow.) The narrative is quite fractured and erratic. The story just features short scenes of the family in states of ‘coping/or not coping’. Crow is depicted as a wild, untamed creature with bad manners and equally bad language. I think I need to read the story again as a lot of the message was lost on me.

Have you read this book? What were your thoughts?

In Parenthesis – David Jones

David Jones was a survivor of the First World War. I came across his work featured in a documentary on the writers of WW1. In it’s time, In Parenthesis was hailed as a classic, but now sadly seems to have been forgotten. I managed to get a cheapish copy on eBay. The writing can be difficult to understand at times as Jones dips into Welsh and Arthurian legend. The narrative is his own experiences in the British Expeditionary Force and of one attack during the Battle of the Somme, at Mametz Wood. Some of Jones’s writing of trench warfare can only be described as lyrical, even his depictions of disemboweled men and decapitated heads smiling back from the crook of trees like Cheshire Cats is somehow horrifyingly captivating. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in history.

H is for Hawk – Helen Macdonald

Yet another book on grief, though totally different in it’s approach to Max Porter’s book. I think this has been one of my favourite reads so far. I thoroughly enjoyed Macdonald’s description of Mable and how her relationship with this wild bird became cathartic to her wound gaping grief at the loss of her father. The chapters featuring her inspiration, T.H.White made me feel a little uneasy in his behaviour to his Goshawk, though he was writing from a different time period, still doesn’t make the reading any the easier.

Under Milk Wood – Dylan Thomas

One of Thomas’s last works, commissioned for BBC radio. This play for voices is a day in the life of a small Welsh village. An omniscient narrator introduces each character and a second narrator tells more about their hidden thoughts and desires. Each character has their own vignette, though written in prose the language is poetic, sometimes lewd, often humorous and occasionally poignant. I found though that my reading lacked the power of a TV or radio production. Perhaps I would benefit from a second read?

The English Girl – Katherine Webb

I reviewed this book in my Sunday Sevens #24.

The Haunting – Alan Titchmarsh

All I know of Alan Titchmarsh is from his gardening programmes and his Saturday show on Classic FM. When I saw one of his books, The Haunting on the shelf in WHSmith I was curious. The story is a dual narrative, historical drama set in 1816 and 2010 respectively with a hint of ghosts and a splash of romance. The book is an easy read but the narrative won’t tax the mind. The story is a little contrived and could have been better but it is what it is. I enjoyed it enough to buy another of his novels. Folly.

The Red Letter (short) – Kate Riordan

If I had known this was only 30 pages long I wouldn’t have bought it, however the writing was good and I enjoyed it. The characters were from a previous novel by Riordan, The Girl in the Photograph. Though reading the novella I couldn’t remember the original novel. I had to read the blurb to get any recall. Set in the 1930’s the story is of Marjorie who finds out her husband is having an affair. During the too few pages Marjorie awakens and becomes self aware. The novella ends with Marjorie riding on her bike with her future stretched out with many possibilities.

Birdcage Walk – Kate Riordan

If I like a book by an author I usually seek out other works by them, this was the case with Birdcage Walk, Riordan’s first published work, and you can tell it is! It’s very different in style to that of her later works, The Girl in the Photograph and The Shadow Hour. The story is based on a true tale of murder, mystery and a possible miscarriage of justice. Sadly, Riordan spends too long setting up the back story. Both protagonists are rather quarrelsome and two dimensional, and I didn’t bond with either of them. The narrative only improved after the subsequent murder and trial. There wasn’t much evidence of a miscarriage of justice, but that’s up to the reader to decide. The inevitable wasn’t much of a surprise when it finally arrived.

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David has chosen the next book for me to read. Emma Healey’s Elizabeth is Missing, I have no expectations on what to expect within it’s pages.

Have you read any good books lately, any recommendations?

Thanks for dropping by,

Christine x

 

 

My Father’s Daughter.

I didn’t enter the water gracefully. It was a precarious balance on slippery rocks, before I lost my footing, gasped as my whole body plunged under the waves. Though it was September and there was still warmth to the sun, the body of water that lay before me was chilling beneath the wind that whipped the surface into tiny white peaks. ‘Keep swimming,’ was the motto, and swim I did, even if the cold of the water numbed my fingers, made my skin tingle. 2 km didn’t sound like much, but previously I hadn’t had much practice. I was rusty and my muscles let me know it!

As a child, my family would have weekly swimming evenings at the local pool, followed by a chippie tea and Doctor Who on the TV. I was lucky to be born when the old Victorian school buildings still stood, before modernisation bulldozed them for clinical, soulless buildings. My school, red bricked and full of ghost stories had a wonderful heated swimming pool alongside it. Even before entering the building, with towel rolled under an arm, the smell of chlorine always tickled the nose, cleared the senses.

The noise at poolside was often deafening! Children shrieked with nervous excitement, trying to stay afloat with giant orange inflatables around their arms. I would emerge from a blue curtained cubicle like a butterfly from its chrysalis, proudly wearing my red swimsuit. Always, my father would be in the pool first, beckoning me into the cradling waters, challenging me. In his youth he had been a finalist in the inter-city championships, had numerous certificates and badges. He still enthused about the sport and would encourage me to swim further than I could ever think possible. 100 metres was a long way for a young girl.

Where I swam now was very different to a pool and I was no longer ‘Daddy’s little champion.’ I was a woman of 40. An infinite expanse of sky, pregnant with clouds arched overhead. Shingle beaches lined the shores and jagged mountains crowded around, like they were bringing me into their confidence. Crows shrieked their good morning. Day would soon arrive and with it the chance of rain. As I pushed my body through the water, soft like silk, Nathan sat alongside me, paddling silently.

I met Nathan at a turning point in both our lives. I was chopping vegetables in the kitchen of a hostel, where I was holidaying in Scotland. Onions sizzled in a pan while tears tore down my face. ‘Something smells good!’ I started and the knife I held clattered to the floor.

‘It’ll be a chilli once it’s cooked.’ I turned to face a larger than life man. He was still wearing his hiking gear and had trodden mud through into the kitchen. ‘Hungry?’

‘Famished!’ He grinned.

The evening sun dipped beyond the horizon, turning the clouds into a kind of pink blancmange. The air was still, sweetly scented. Spring in Scotland has its own beauty. Trees slowly unfurled their tender leaves and rivers raged with melt-water from the mountains. Nathan, freshly showered, and I sat on a bench eating our bowls of chilli in the hostel’s garden. A bottle of wine shared between us. ‘What brings you to Scotland?’ I asked.

‘Adventure,’ he shrugged, then looking up at me he said shyly. ‘A broken heart. You?’

‘I recently lost my father.’ I took a mouthful of bitter wine. ‘We had been estranged the last couple of years, so the news was pretty hard to take.’ I paused. Nathan sat silently, listening. ‘I just had to get away, escape. You know how it is?’ He nodded. ‘I just packed the car and headed up here.’

‘Planning on staying long?’

‘A day or two. Depends if there’s anything to stay for.’ It was then that we shared one of those looks and the world suddenly shifts. Two people, lonely and broken, found comfort in each other’s arms.

Two years later, I found myself immersed in nature, practicing for a charity swim. The northern shore of the lake loomed ahead, trees, tall and prickly stood sentinel. From the water’s surface I suddenly noticed a familiar figure standing motionless by the lakeside, his arm raised in a wave. I stopped kicking, felt my body suspended by the water, while minnows gently swam between my fingers. ‘Sarah!’ Nathan called. ‘Don’t stop!’

‘Do you see..?’ I shouted, treading water.

‘What?’ I looked back towards the shore, to where only trees huddled around a burnt shell of a building. ‘It was probably a dog walker.’ Nathan encouraged. ‘You’re almost there! Don’t give up!’ I stretched my tired arms forward and pressed on for the last 50 metres or so. Soon my legs hit rocks as I crawled out of the water. My muscles ached, my skin purple with bruises. ‘You made it!’ Nathan cried jumping out of the kayak, ‘and in under an hour!’ His feet splashed in the shallows before he draped a towel around my shivering body.

‘Maybe I am my father’s daughter after all,’ I panted.

‘And more,’ Nathan cupped my face in his hands. ‘He would have been amazed at what you can achieve.’ Wells of tears unexpectedly flooded my eyes.

‘Really?’

‘Yes. Sure, he would have been jealous. Swimming in a lake! That has to beat swimming in a pool any day!’

‘I suppose,’ I smiled through chattering teeth.

‘You’ve swam further than you’ve ever done before. He would have been so proud of you!’ I felt Nathan’s lips, hot on mine as he wrapped his arms around me. I leant into his warm body.

‘I know it sounds silly but I could have sworn I saw him standing by the boathouse.’ Nathan looked to where the wooden structure stood derelict. There was no other living soul, save them at the lake.

‘Perhaps he was, cheering you on as he used to.’

‘It’s a nice thought.’

‘Come, let’s get you warm. A strong, celebratory coffee is in order. Perhaps I’ll buy us cake!’ We turned our backs to the lake laughing as we went, and the rain that was promised began to fall.

© 2016 Christine Lucas


I haven’t written anything of note in a while. The above story was written in response to an advert for submissions for an anthology on wild swimming. Needless to say I was not successfully chosen, so I’ve posted the piece for you, my lovely readers. It was written with a word count restriction, so forgive the fractured feel to the narrative.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Christine x

The Lovers (a story fragment).

the-lovers-art-nouveau-tarotThe wind ruffled his hair. She liked how it sent his fringe tumbling over his eyes. This would be the last time she saw him looking like this, strong, handsome, his skin glowing with the last rays of a dramatic sunset. As if sensing her gaze he turned to face her. Sadness tinged his eyes. ‘Are you having doubts?’

‘No,’ she shook her head. ‘Though it is a long way down and the river fast flowing.’

‘It is, but we are together. That’s all that matters.’ He reached for her hand. Their shoulders touched as they sat on the railing of a bridge. They looked down at the raging river below them. The breeze smelled sweetly of honeysuckle. ‘Scared?’

‘A little,’ she tried to look nonchalant, swinging her bare legs over the gorge.

‘We don’t have to jump you know.’

‘But you’ll think I’m a coward.’

‘No I won’t,’ he laughed. ‘Anyway, other people have done it, and survived.’

‘Really?’

‘Yes,’ he leaned in to kiss her. ‘You do trust me?’ A flicker of apprehension crossed his face.

‘I do, I love you!’

‘Good,’ she felt him squeeze her hand.

‘Let’s do this!’ She followed his lead and slid her body over the railing. She screamed into the cool evening as her foot slipped, threatening to send her over prematurely. He threw an arm out to stop her, though she lost a shoe, and watched as it somersaulted towards a watery landing. Nervously they turned to face the tumultuous waters below. Holding hands grimly and with sirens blaring in the distance like birdsong, they stepped out into the air.

24 hours earlier…

He still held the gun. His hand shook as he pointed the smoking barrel towards the man who lay at his feet. ‘Put the gun down, Jack!’ His girlfriend shouted, her voice cracking with tension.

‘I can’t, Aimee,’ Jack’s face had turned ashen grey.

‘Oh F**k I think he’s dead! Oh F**k!’ Jack looked at the body slumped face down before him. ‘Let’s go. I’ve already called the police!’ Moments earlier Jack and Aimee, were stepping out of a restaurant laughing freely at an inside joke. The smell of grilled fish lingered in the air. ‘You are awful!’ Aimee playfully punched Jack’s arm before feeling his hands around her waist pulling her towards him. She closed her eyes as he nuzzled her neck.

‘Just give us your f**king money, lovebirds!’ Aimee opened her eyes to the contorted face of a man. He pointed the muzzle of a gun angrily at their faces. ‘Your money, now!’ Aimee clutched at her bag which the man eyed covetously.

‘I don’t think so,’ laughed Jack, moving his body in front of Aimee’s to shield her.

‘Jack!’ Aimee nervously placed a hand on his shoulder.

‘I’m not afraid to use this!’ The man waved the gun carelessly.

‘I think you are.’ Jack edged closer to the man. He was a scrawny, runt, it would be easy for Jack to overpower him.

‘I mean it!’ The man cocked the gun and aimed it at Jack’s chest.

‘Jack, let’s just do what he wants.’ Deaf to Aimee’s pleas, Jack rushed forward. He reached for the gun with one hand and used the full force of his body to unbalance the man. Aimee shrieked! Both men grunted as they struggled. Reaching into her bag, Aimee pulled out her mobile phone. She started pushing at numbers, hastily talking to the operator.

‘Police please, an armed robbery.’ Aimee finished the call as Jack spun round, in his hand he triumphantly waved the weapon.

‘Unlike you, I am not afraid to use this!’

‘You wouldn’t dare!’

‘Jack! Don’t be stupid!’

‘Yes, Jack, don’t be stupid!’ The man mimicked. ‘Look,’ he supplicated. ‘Let’s all go our separate ways. That way no one get’s hurt.’

‘What? And let a snivelling c**t like you, continue to roam the streets!’ The man looked offended.

‘It’s not like I wouldn’t follow you. Find out where you live.’ He eyed Aimee lasciviously. There came a flash of light, like someone had taken a photograph. A loud crack reverberated around the car park. Aimee watched as the man crumpled to the ground like a demolished building. He lay still. A deafening silence followed.

‘Why did you pull the trigger?’ Aimee cried.

‘It just went off in my hand.’

‘Oh f**k!’ Aimee watched as blood pooled around the body. ‘We’ve got to get out of here before the police arrive,’ she pulled at Jack’s arm. He blinked like he had just woken up from a dream.

‘Let’s get to the car.’

‘What are you doing with the gun? You can’t take it with us!’ Jack had flicked the safety catch, tucking the weapon into the waistband of his jeans.

‘Just get in the car.’ He fired up the engine.

‘How do you know how to handle a gun like that!’

‘We handled lots of firearms on the farm. It’s no big deal.’ He sidled the car onto the main road, switching the headlights on when they were away from the scene. Bumper to bumper in traffic they both watched as a cavalcade of sirens flashed past them, heading in the opposite direction.

‘What are we going to do?’ Aimee dabbed at her wet cheeks. ‘Can we even go home?’ Jack shrugged.

‘Damn there’s cameras everywhere! We’re going to have to ditch the car.’

‘Where?’

‘We can ditch it somewhere near my brother’s, then borrow one of his cars.’

‘My grandmother has a place in Snowdonia, we can go there for the time being. Lay low for a bit.’

‘Sounds like a plan.’

‘Do you think someone saw us?’ Jack sighed.

‘I have no doubt.’

© Christine Lucas 2016.


The story behind the story: 

I was inspired to write the above after reading Taya’s short fragment of dialogue (the bridge scene) on her blog page, Dragonition. She has some fantastic ideas on her blog for writers of any ability. Go check it out!

I found the task quite challenging. To take someone else’s idea and change it into my own was harder than I imagined.

I read quite a lot but not everything inspires me to tinkle on the keyboard. Yet, I have so many characters and scenes flitting around my head at present; so this exercise came at the right moment for me. It’s been very cathartic. Who knows, I may even try and add to the narrative and elaborate on why I’ve used a tarot card for the title.

I hope you have enjoyed reading it? Let me know in the comments any thoughts you may have.

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #16

No sooner had I published Sunday Sevens #15, when more pet news occurred.

It was a lovely start to the week, with bright warm sunshine (much needed if you ask me!) When it is warm I like to sit out in the yarden, I take Artie with me. Being outside gives him more stimulation than being stuck inside the house. However I have created a nature yarden, meaning I have lots of visiting bees and butterflies, lots of stalking opportunities for Artie! While I was digging up my second crop of maris bard potatoes for my vegetarian roast dinner that evening, Artie was sitting amongst the flowers watching the bees.

I acted too slowly. I was busy marvelling at all the potatoes I had grown! From the corner of my eye I saw Artie lunge at a bee who had entered a foxglove. He must have knocked the poor bee down into the foliage as I couldn’t see her. I left Artie sniffing in the undergrowth while gathering my harvest.

On coming back into the yarden, Artie suddenly darted from the greenery, rubbing his paw against his nose. Jumping about like a jack in a box ‘You’ve been stung!’ I cried, scoping him up and taking him into the house. I called for David’s assistance. Then proceeded, a half hour long endurance, of trying to hold Artie down while David tweezed the bee sting from his nose. I got covered in scratches for my endeavour.

Afterwards when Artie was sting-less and enjoyed some cooked chicken, seemingly none the wiser for the upset. I stood shaking like a leaf. My nerves had been shot! ‘Pets are worse than kids!’ David exclaimed while I tried to regain my spirits.

Needless to say Artie is back to his ‘wild’ self again. He is siting in the last rays of the Sunday sunshine.

Have you had a pet who has had a too close encounter with a bee?

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Forgive me for returning to the great British obsession, the weather, but the UK saw its hottest day of the year (so far) on Tuesday! In the NW of England the temperatures soared to a very sweaty 31°c! The Spanish Plume the meteorologists had predicted had finally arrived! Though only for three days! On Tuesday evening as I wrote my post about the numerous animal sculptures that have graced the UK’s cities, David and I sat in the hottest room of the house. Outside the window I watched as the sky darkened as the last rays of the sun dipped beyond the horizon!

During this little snippet of summer, I was out counting the butterflies that visited the yarden, in the Big Butterfly Count. The count runs from 15th July to 7th August 2016! I don’t know whether it is because the alleyway between the houses has become overgrown with wild flowers/weeds but I have seen more butterflies flutter past this year, then any other! Predominantly the most common butterfly has been the small white. There has often been two (I don’t know if it’s the same couple) twirling in their dance of attraction before the male attaches himself to the female! They are a joy to watch!

One evening David and I were giving sugar water to this tired bee when in quick succession a small white and a red admiral fluttered crazily past! I quickly noted my sightings on the phone app before watching the satisfied bee fly off energised!

26842491This week saw me finish my latest book, Sam Baker‘s The Woman Who Raninspired by Anne Bronte’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. At first I struggled to get into the story. It seems to me that many published novelists nowadays are or were journalists. I don’t know whether that is a good thing or not! I persevered and soon the story warmed up. The narrative was atmospheric in its description of the Yorkshire Dales. The characters were a little difficult to understand but you got to like them in the end. The finale, touted as being explosive, ended more like a whimper. I didn’t understand why the main character would act like she did in the face of opposition! Anyway, it was enjoyable. I’ve not read this author before, perhaps I will in future?

Have you read this novel? Any thoughts?

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I was going to end today’s blog with an update on Troy but there hasn’t been much improvement. Then I remembered the lovely selection of bramley apples given to us by one of David’s friends. So I decided to finish with them. I have acquired all the ingredients so next week I shall be busy cooking apple pies, or variants on a theme!

I hope you all have a wonderful week ahead.

Christine x

Sunday Sevens was devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins.

Sunday Sevens #7

This Sunday Sevens has been rather hard to compile. I only seem to be taking pictures of plants and food recently. Oh. I need to find some excitement in my life!

During breakfast on Sunday, (I have mine snuggled up in bed while listening to Classic FM) David called me downstairs. He had spied a new visitor to the yarden. It only stayed briefly and I didn’t have time to take a picture but I think it was a male Black Cap. He probably just used the yarden as a pit stop on his way to better feeding grounds, much like the Chiffchaff earlier in the year.

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By Tony Hisgett via Wikimedia Commons

David cooked Sunday dinner. He used a curry base and added spices to make a very tasty Rogan Josh.

We attended a family funeral mid week. Funeral services always make me think of this Emily Dickinson poem

I felt a Funeral, in my Brain

I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,
And Mourners to and fro
Kept treading – treading – till it seemed
That Sense was breaking through –

And when they all were seated,
A Service, like a Drum –
Kept beating – beating – till I thought
My mind was going numb –

And then I heard them lift a Box
And creak across my Soul
With those same Boots of Lead, again,
Then Space – began to toll,

As all the Heavens were a Bell,
And Being, but an Ear,
And I, and Silence, some strange Race,
Wrecked, solitary, here –

And then a Plank in Reason, broke,
And I dropped down, and down –
And hit a World, at every plunge,
And Finished knowing – then –

After reading Kate Riordan’s second novel, I bought her first novel the Girl in the Photograph. It was only £2.75, second hand from Ebay. It’s another one of those novels that has parallel narratives.

While passing the University of Liverpool, I caught sight of this very striking statue in the quadrangle!

For Saturday’s meal I cooked a vegetarian bean chilli. However, I made a few adjustments to the original recipe, which you can find here. I just used what I could find in the store cupboard. I swapped borlotti beans for pinto, used red lentils instead of puy and left out the marmite altogether! It made for an inexpensive yet healthy meal, even if it was rather hot with two teaspoons of chilli powder! I thought it was very tasty!

For the final picture, in the past few weeks I have been monitoring a strange plant that has been growing in the yarden. At first I didn’t know what it was but now that it’s budded, I remember planting snake’s head fritillary bulbs a year ago.

Have you had any strange looking plants grow in your garden? Cooked any yummy meals recently?

Christine x

Sunday Sevens was devised by Threads and bobbins.

Week Six of Start Writing Fiction

I thought last week was difficult enough with falling behind with my studies, but this week has been even worse! We have been thrown task after task after task!! Below is one such task. It was to envisage a character through dialogue. I quite enjoyed writing it. It just seemed to flow. Hope you enjoy it too? And as always any feedback is most welcome!

 

She walked over to him, unsure whether he had seen her or not. ‘Would you like a second cup Sir?’ She noticed him start. He looked up into her eyes and to Olivia it looked like he had been found guilty. Guilty of sitting in a coffee shop alone. Guilty of a pupil seeing him outside of school. Guilty of being found reading ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’. ‘My favourite book!’

‘Well I thought I would give it a try since one of my star pupils loves it so much!’ He blushed or she thought she noticed the colour rise to his cheeks.

‘Would you like me to get you another cup?’ He shook his head.

‘I don’t think I’ll be staying much longer.’ He looked at his watch.

‘Are you waiting for someone Sir?’ He smiled his assent.

‘Though I don’t think she’s coming.’

‘Maybe she’s been held up?’

‘Maybe,’ he sighed. ‘Though somehow I think I’ve been blown off.’

‘No Sir, surely not.’

‘Well I have been waiting here for over an hour.’

‘There’ll be a plausible explanation I’m sure.’

‘Please don’t tell your class mates I was stood up. I really don’t want them knowing that I am a sad lonely old teacher.’

‘You’re not old!’ Olivia caught herself.

‘Older than you!’

‘Not by much.’

‘By enough.’

‘I’d date you!’ Olivia not only surprised herself but her teacher sat upright too.

‘Would you now,’ he released a strained laugh, showing he was trying too hard to make light of the matter. ‘Anyway,’ he changed the subject like a click of the fingers. ‘What are you doing here?’

‘I work here.’

‘I can see that, but why, you have your studies?’

‘I need the money Sir.’

‘Call me Adam. Sir is so stiff and formal.’ Now it was Olivia’s time to blush. She lowered her gaze. ‘Why do you need the money?’

‘I’m saving to go to Paris,’ she blurted.’ I’ve wanted to go since I can remember!’

‘Paris is a lovely city!’

‘Have you been?’ Olivia couldn’t stop the rising excitement within her. Adam nodded. She desired more than anything else to be able to share her dreams with someone. Adam, her teacher seemed the most qualified than anyone she knew, to be the one she shared them with. She sat down at the table before him. ‘What’s it like?’

‘Olivia!’ a shrill cry broke Adam’s description of music filled streets, the Seine glistening in the moonlight and Art, not just in the galleries but on the buildings that lined the boulevards. Olivia arose from her seat under the glare of her boss.

‘Sorry I have cups to wash.’

‘Perhaps,’ Olivia looked down at Adam with wide eyes. ‘We can continue this conversation at school, Monday.’

‘Yes, maybe.’ She walked away, forgetting Adam’s empty coffee cup on the table.

© Christine Lucas 2014.

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!

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.’

The Day After a Storm…

…often there is no sign of the tempestuousness that came before.

And today was just like that. The sky was a deep azure and the sun shone brilliantly into my bedroom as I reclined under a cosy duvet listening to Hans Zimmer’s Lasiurus on my day off. I had protected this day off work with all my might. My spirit is in much need of a rest.

Last night I sat curled up on the sofa, brow furrowed with worry as I listened to the wind rush violently down my road. Drafts escaped into the house and rattled the doors and the electric lights flickered on and off. Though I think Liverpool got off lightly compared to other parts of the UK.

Amongst all this wildness I was stuck by the writing bug! It had been over two weeks since I had sat down in front of my laptop with a purpose of continuing my new novel. So guiltily, knowing David was bored I monopolised the computer and wrote from 8-11pm!! I wrote a maximum of 2000 words and finished the epilogue even though I have not actually written the main narrative yet!

So today, if I can pull myself away from listening to music, I may carry this momentum and do some more writing…