Friday Flash Fiction – Dreadlocks and the Four Bears

Delia answered the phone promptly, it was her agent.

I’ve got you a star role, back to the cinema.

Initial excitement was followed by disappointment.

You won’t have to leave London, it’s a voice over.

It still rankled with Delia that she had been passed over for Marigold Hotel.

‘Advertisements?’

No, no CGI.

‘A spy film?’

No computer generated image, like Toy Story, Paddington Bear…

Delia wondered how much worse it could get. ‘A children’s film?’

Nothing wrong with that, all the stars do them now.

‘Who else is doing it?’

Tamara James.

‘Who?’

You know, she sent that Twitter and hasn’t worked since.

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On Thursday Delia turned up at what her agent called a bijou studio. She had not dared ask any more details, she could not afford to turn it down, but the young strangely attired young man who greeted her was friendly, enthusiastic and solicitous.

‘First one here, great, now how much do you know about the film?’

‘Nothing, I like surprises, this is just a bit of fun for me, I do like to support up and coming talent.’

‘…and we are very honoured to have you on board. Basically we’re going back to basics, a classic tale not yet retold, want to get in before Disney; Goldilocks and The Three Bears.’

Delia laughed. ‘I know it’s only a voice over, but I think my voice may be a little too mature for Goldilocks.’

He joined in the laughter. ‘Brunhilda… the brown bear, not the Valkyrie; you will be magnificent as Mother Bear.’

The smile froze on Delia’s face. ‘Who is playing Father Bear?’

‘There is no father bear, we have to reflect the modern family.’

‘I don’t understand, there have to be three bears.’

‘Yes, Big Mama Bear, that’s you, Mama Bear and Baby Bear.’

‘Very funny and how did they manage to produce baby bear?’

‘AID.’

‘I thought this was a children’s film, now you’re telling me the family has aids?’

‘No, artificial insemination by donor, Big Mama’s egg, Polo, the only gay Polar Bear in the Arctic, was the sperm donor and Pandora, Mama Bear, was the surrogate mother.’

‘Polar bears in the wood, this gets more and more bizarre.’

‘We have to show diversity.’

‘So what is Pandora?’

‘A Panda of course.’

‘Pandas are not real bears.’

‘I know, but we can’t be seen to be prejudiced. Pandora escaped from the zoo, it wasn’t working out with her husband, this was her only chance of becoming a mother.’

‘So what is the cub, a Teddy Bear?’

‘I love your sense of humour; I’ll show you the first rushes on the lap top.’

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Despite her reservations, Delia found herself taken by the lively colourful characters. ‘It is rather lovely, someone must be good at drawing. How sweet, a coffee coloured cub who’s afraid of the water and refuses to learn to fish. What’s happening now?’

‘The family have gone down to the lake in the woods, where Polo has lived since being ostracized by the Arctic community. Every Sunday they invite him back for breakfast, the access visit to see his son.’

‘Leaving the porridge to cool off?’

‘Vegie Kedgeree actually.’

Delia was getting into the spirit of the film. ‘Can I see what’s going on back at the cabin? …who on earth is that?’

‘We could hardly have the stereotype young blonde girl, that is Dannie Dreadlocks, she’s left home because her parents won’t take her to the gender reassignment clinic. We have to make sure the film is inclusive of the GLBT community.’

‘What has any of this to do with sandwiches?’

‘Sandwiches? Oh, you’re so funny Delia, you mean BLT, bacon lettuce and tomato. I’m talking about gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender.’

‘I think you are making this film too inclusive, can’t you just have a nice story?’

‘It will be, most of this stuff is back story, only the parents will understand. Let’s skip to the next scene, we’ve already added the sound track.’

Delia watched as the androgynous Dannie Dreadlocks skipped up the wooden stairs inside the cosy cabin, complaining in a strong Glaswegian accent that they should have gone to Ikea. In the first room she found a tiny wooden bed and sat down, but it snapped in half. In the big room she found the enormous four poster bed that Big Mama and Mama shared. At that moment a huge shadow filled the room and Dannie turned to see Big Mama blocking the doorway. The frame froze on the lap top screen.

‘Oh, what happens next?’

‘We haven’t written that part yet, we thought we’d let you all go down the Mike Leigh route and make up the script.’

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Saints and Sinners

If you enjoy anything that is free you have probably been to a free lunchtime concert. I have been to them in all sorts of places; theatres, town halls, cathedrals. Cathedrals are particularly good for accidentally enjoying free entertainment if you come upon a rehearsal. Even wrong notes sound great when pounded out on the pipe organ in a beautiful cathedral, the organist hidden from view up in the organ loft. Many cathedrals invite you to ‘make a donation’ or just charge you to go in; these historic buildings are expensive to care for. Exactly how this happens varies.

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At Lincoln Cathedral you can walk in, stand at the back and take in the view. To go any further you have to pay. One day while visiting relatives in Lincoln we were walking back to their house and decided to pop in to the cathedral. We were greeted with singing that sounded familiar from the past. The Swingle Singers, are they still alive? We saw them at the London Palladium in Something  BC ( Before Children ). Yes indeed and they were rehearsing for a concert that evening, we stood at the back and listened. Another time at Lincoln Cathedral we popped in and came across Mark Elder conducting Tchaikovsky with the Halle Orchestra, in rehearsal for that evening’s concert. The relatives wondered why we took so long to get back to their house.

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Last week was Christchurch’s Music Festival. The Priory is the parish church with the longest nave in England, larger than many cathedrals and is over nine hundred years old; a beautiful place for music of all sorts and there are concerts all year round. I managed to get to three very different lunchtime concerts, the Bournemouth University Big Band, a  lone tenor and two organists; described as Four hands, Four Feet and Four Thousand Pipes. The Priory was packed and of course they do like you to put some money in the plate on the way out. There were ticketed evening concerts as well.

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The Priory has regular organ lunchtime concerts all year round and it was these that inspired my short story ‘Saints and Sinners’. What would happen if the resident organist was jealous of the guest organist, if the priest in charge was so protective of his historic church and its music that he would do anything to protect its reputation? Hambourne is a delightful riverside town and Hamboune Abbey is its treasure. Father Jonathon’s love of his church and music left no room for marriage or a partner of any sort.

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In  the free concerts I have been to no disasters have occurred beyond someone’s phone going off during the quiet movement, or rather strange people wandering around looking lost. But at Hambourne Abbey something very dark happens, in ancient churches, who knows what happened in the past? What restless spirits inhabit the organ loft?

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At weekly writers’ group I found myself writing more stories about Hambourne and the people that live there; separate stories, but with a link. I didn’t want them to become a novella instead I included them as The Hambourne Chronicles in my second collection of short stories. I was going to call the collection Saints and Sinners until I discovered how many other books on Amazon had the same title, so it became Hallows and Heretics. There are five chronicles in amongst twenty four tales that take you through the year.

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You can download Hallows and Heretics on Amazon Kindle for £1.48 or buy the paperback for £5.99.

$us 2.01 $us 7.29 from amazon.com

 

Hungarian Calamity [Part 3]

Will Grace and her husband ever leave the Budapest Ibis, will the van get repaired? Find out here in Part Three of Hungarian calamity..

Anecdotage

 Last week’s episode saw Grace and Husband lodged [eventually] in the Budapest Ibis hotel, leaving their trusty home-on-wheels outside ‘Schiller Fiat’ at the mercy of the repair shop.

Szentendre is a small, arty town on the picturesque part of the Danube known as the Bend. We arrived there in our newly-repaired van late on Friday afternoon, ignorant of the fact that a big festival  of culture was scheduled for the weekend.

We’d been reprieved. After saying the repair would take one week Schiller Fiat pulled out their Hungarian finger and mended it next day. I couldn’t escape the feeling that some pressure had been applied by the insurer-after all they’d have needed to keep us in the Ibis for the week.

We happened upon the Szentendre site, spotting a sign on the roadside. But it was a welcome haven after the trials of Budapest; quiet, with only one, Dutch motorhome…

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Friday Flash Fiction – Novel

‘Are you alright Laura, you look worried.’

‘Oh Jason, I wasnt expecting you. Yes I’m okay, just having a genre crisis. She doesn’t know whether she’s writing Orange Booker or chic lit. I don’t know whether to talk about my tortured past or shopping.’

Jason massaged her shoulders. ‘I know the feeling; am I the romantic lead or the hapless victim in a darkly comic thriller? We just have to go with the flow.’

A sharp rap on the door broke into their thoughts. Jason opened the door and a man of about forty, with a crumpled suit and close cropped hair, marched in uninvited.

‘Sergeant Jenkins, CID; am I addressing Mr. Jason Wood?’

‘Yes’ replied Jason curtly.

‘Do you own a vehicle?’

‘No.’

The sergeant frowned. ‘That’s one line of enquiry gone. Do you recognise the man in this photo?’

‘Yes.’

‘His name would be…?’

‘I only know him by sight’ replied Jason, suddenly gasping as he felt a sharp pain in his head. He sat down and closed his eyes, trying to ward off the dizziness. Laura gently laid her hand on his arm.

‘Its okay, she just wiped that scene off the screen, you’ll feel better in a moment. Come on, we’ve got to get to the tube station.’

‘Why, where are we going?’

‘I don’t know,’ replied Laura ‘but she wants us out of the office.’

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Ten minutes later Jason and Laura were running down the escalator, squeezing past others less hurried. As they approached the archway into the tunnel they heard the rush of wind and squealing of brakes that heralded the arrival of another tube train.

‘Mind the doors.’

They were too late to push through the jostling crowd on the platform. Jason swore in frustration, but Laura pointed to the indicator board.

Circle Line 2 minutes

‘That will do, but I don’t know how she expects us to be there in ten minutes.’

‘That’s her problem, not ours’ Laura reassured him.

The couple squeezed onto the next train and stood pressed together near the door. Laura smelt the sweet scent of aftershave and sweat; she smiled to herself, she was going to enjoy this chapter. They clattered along and at each station it was a struggle to stay on the train as passengers pushed past getting on and off. At last Jason motioned to the door and grabbed her hand as they stumbled onto the platform. They surged with the crowd to the long escalator and finally arrived at the station exit, but as they stepped with relief out onto the street a familiar face appeared, Sergeant Jenkins.

‘Perhaps you would both care to accompany me to the police station.’

The couple hesitated, tempted to make a dash for it, but settled for playing it cool and followed the policeman to his office.

‘Don’t know why you two are so nervous, I just need your help; private detectives can be very useful.’

Jason and Laura looked at each other in surprise, but before they could protest he handed them a piece of paper and a set of car keys. Jason frowned as he read.

‘Cornwall? We’ll need a map book.’

‘Sat-nav in the car,’ replied Jenkins, ushering them out of the door ‘you’ve got my mobile number.’

‘What are we letting ourselves in for?’ exclaimed Lara as they got into the car.

‘I don’t know, but I’m up for it,’ Jason winked ‘perhaps a weekend in the country is just what we need to get to know each other better.’

The sat-nav voice was irritating, but the long journey was pleasant.

‘Strange,’ said Laura ‘I’d forgotten it was autumn.’

‘What happened to summer?’ replied her companion.

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As they drew up outside a little cottage the couple felt almost in a holiday mood. The key was under the pot and they looked around carefully as they entered.

‘What are we supposed to do now’ pondered Jason.

‘I remember’ smiled Laura putting her hands on his chest.

He wrapped his arms around her.

‘Oh Jason, I’m really warming to this scene, I’m glad we came here.’

She felt his hands ardently exploring her body and began to undo the buttons of his shirt. He slid his hands inside her blouse.

‘How far are we supposed to go?’ he murmured.

She did not answer, instead she closed her eyes and let her hands slide down further.

Suddenly Jason clasped her hands and pushed her gently away.

‘What’s the matter?’ she asked huskily.

‘I’m not sure, its too soon… I’m sorry, I think Im suffering from performance anxiety.’

Frustrated Lara turned away. ‘You’ll just have to fake it then, otherwise we’ll have to start the whole chapter over again.’

The tension was broken by the sound of the door being thrust open violently. A wild eyed scruffy man waved a pistol at them. They stood paralysed with fear.

‘You won’t get hurt if you just tell me where the stuff is’ said the stranger.

‘We don’t know anything,’ pleaded Jason ‘let her go, she hasn’t done anything wrong.’

The gunman turned his head as they heard the sound of tyres on gravel.

‘Put the gun down’ said Sergeant Jenkins, standing in the doorway, unarmed.

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The stranger pointed the pistol and fired. The policeman lay crumpled in the doorway as the gunman stepped over his body and escaped. Jason fumbled for his mobile, while Lara knelt in the spreading pool of blood. She tried to apply pressure to the gaping hole in his side.

‘Just hang in there. No that sounds like an American movie. Don’t try to talk, the ambulance will be here soon.’

‘Laura, where’s that piece of paper, the control room want to know where we are?’

She held the hand of the policeman as he struggled to speak.

‘Sergeant, we don’t even know your first name.’

‘I dont have one,’ he groaned ‘we never do in novels.’

‘Of course, I’m sorry, I should have realised.’

‘Jason, tell them to hurry, we haven’t got much time’ she pleaded as the sergeant closed his eyes.

She prayed someone would press SAVE before it was too late.

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Novel is one of the flash fiction tales in Someone Somewhere

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Room of One’s Own?

‘A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.’ A quote from Virginia Woolf at the beginning of ‘A Room of One’s Own’ which I have just finished reading, I have been dipping into it on my Kindle over a period of time. Virginia was invited to give a series of lectures on women and fiction in 1928 and they were published in 1929.

Of course we imagine the Bloomsbury Group had plenty of rooms and money, not to mention more time than ordinary folk and I can hear fellow writers of both sexes saying we would all like a room of our own and some money.

But looking back into the past with Virginia Woolf we would surely agree that the dominance of men in the field of literature was not due to the lack of talent among women, but absence of opportunity. Even Jane Austen did not have a room of her own, she never had a home of her own, just a kind rich brother. In the Jane Austen museum in Bath I saw an example of her tiny handwriting, small pieces of paper could be quickly hidden if someone came into the room. In the Chawton, Hampshire house, where Jane spent her final years and did her most productive writing, she did not allow the creaky door to be fixed because it acted as a warning that someone was about to enter the room. She always shared a bedroom with her sister. How peaceful the house was we cannot know for sure, but with a household of four ladies and a couple of servants, it should have been quiet and certainly she did not have to contend with toddlers running riot or teenage boys clumping up and down the stairs. One of Woolf’s other theories is that women became novelists rather than poets, because it takes more concentration to write a poem and women were more likely to be interrupted. Of course the great poets that have come down through history were usually well off men.

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But for Virginia Woolf, Jane Austen stands out because she writes about women’s lives, not about them as background to men’s lives. She wrote what she wanted to write. The Austen family lived through the Napoleonic Wars, but there is no mention of them. Soldiers are important only for young ladies to fall in love with or run away with.

Writing ninety years ago Wolfe lived in a world where everything had been changed by the Great War. Women now had the vote, they had been important in the workforce during the war and with the loss of so many men, motherhood and domestic bliss, or domestic confines were no longer an option for many women. There was still poverty and hardship, the welfare state was a long way off, but Woolf wanted women to take any opportunities for education and to write. What would she have made of the Twenty First Century?

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With her husband Leonard she founded the Hogarth Press in 1917, so she was able to publish her own books and certainly didn’t need to decide on a genre. She could never have imagined the internet and digital publishing, but she would surely have been impressed that so many women of all ages are writing, and writing whatever they want. But do we still need a room of our own and £500 a year to be able to write? Many of us didn’t start writing till after A Levels, our children’s A Levels; how many students come home for the university holidays to discover their bedroom has been turned into a sewing room or a computer room? Many writers don’t start till they have retired.

I wrote my first novel on a lap top on the dining table, progressed to a desk top computer in the corner of the bedroom, last year we rearranged the house; junior visitors now have to sleep on air beds, Cyberspouse has a computer room and I have a writer’s den; Virginia Woolf didn’t say a room of your own requires a visit to Ikea, but mine did.

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But if you have to write on a lap top curled up on the end of the sofa while the football is on television, you can still enter the digital room or the ethereal mansion where there is room for every writer. Is your blog a room of your own?

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Do you have a room of your own or can you forget your surroundings once you are in your characters’ heads?

 

Knepp Wildland: A rewilding success story in Britain

My green share of the week, it is always reassuring to know land can be rewilded.

Life & Soul Magazine

Rewilding has turned around Knepp Estate – a 3,500-acre estate in West Sussex – in to a haven for rare species including turtle doves, nightingales, peregrine falcons, lesser spotted woodpeckers and purple emperor butterflies.

Almost twenty years ago, husband and wife team Isabella Tree and Charlie Burrell set about transitioning Knepp Estate from economically unsustainable intensive farming on heavy clay soil to stepping back and letting nature take over.

Farmed intensively since WW2, the farm rarely made a profit. But now with the couple’s focus on rewilding, Knepp Estate has not only become a profitable farm but it is nurturing and developing biodiversity too.

Thanks to the introduction of free-roaming cattle, ponies, pigs and deer – proxies of the large animals that once roamed Britain – the 3,500 acre project has seen extraordinary increases in wildlife numbers and diversity in little over a decade.

According to Knepp Estate, these animals need…

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Hungarian Calamity [Part 2]

If you have ever been stuck waiting for the break down truck to pick you up you will sympathise with Grace – find out in today’s blog if Grace and Hubby do get picked up…

Anecdotage

Last week’s post saw our intrepid travellers, Grace and Husband marooned in their camper van in supermarket ‘Auchan’s’ car park a few miles north of Budapest…

We lunched in the car park, keeping an eye on the access road for a pick-up truck and bickering a little [Husband wanting to reverse to be located more easily, me wanting to let things be].

My phone rang. ‘My neem ees Eleezabet’. We confirmed that I was me. We went over the vehicle’s vital statistics. ‘Pleeeese beee patient’ pleaded Elizabet, before ringing off. Time crawled on…

Husband went for a stroll around the shopping centre and returned. I went for a stroll into Auchan and returned. Time passed. Slowly. Elizabet called again. ‘Eees veery imbortant about your vehicle’ she reiterated, and I gave her the dimensions once more. ‘I ‘av to find a veehicle to peek you up’ she said.

We waited.

At…

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Friday Flash Fiction – Roger

Roger had enjoyed his exhilarating swim in the sea, but a breeze had sprung up and the others wanted to stroll through the gardens into town. They dodged other holiday makers, jumped over the rails onto the lawns and joined in a ball game with a group of teenagers. When they reached the square, someone suggested ice cream, but there was so much going on it was difficult to spot a kiosk. They weaved their way through shoppers and families, past a carousel, avoided a man singing out of tune and stared at a human statue, his gold skin glistening with sweat. They took in the exotic scents of the international food stalls, but as the sun reappeared from behind a cloud they still longed for ice cream.

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It was at this moment that Roger saw her, blond hair, perfect figure, alluring expression, but as he edged closer, away from the others, he detected a cheap scent and wondered if the sun had affected his brain. Unlike the human statue who was real, she was lifelike, but lifeless, just a model. Then Roger had an idea, it would be a laugh, the others would certainly laugh. He would pretend to believe she was real. Close up, her unblinking soulful brown eyes gazed at him; he paused for a moment then commenced the game. His lips touched her soft neck and for a moment he could believe she was real.

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Everything seemed to happen at once; Lucy watched her boyfriend and brother approaching, laden with ice creams, her little sister waved from the carousel, she heard a man shouting, a child crying. It was at this moment she realised that if she wasn’t holding Roger’s lead, who was?

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Geoffrey’s morning with the ‘Sponsor a Guide Dog’ stall had been more rewarding than anticipated. The cuddly life sized Labrador attracted more attention than a real dog. He had forgiven his mother for landing him with the task when he realised how many attractive young women, in skimpy holiday outfits, stopped to stroke ‘Cindy the Wonder Dog.’ It was while he was chatting to one of these young ladies that the commotion broke out; an enormous shaggy dog had seized the helpless Cindy by the throat and was shaking her with what could only be described as blood lust. Children were crying, stuffing was flying. This situation had not been covered by the guidelines for volunteers.

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‘Roger, Roger, here boy… Daddy’s got you an ice cream…’

A young woman was shrieking at the dog, but he took no notice.

A curious crowd had circled round the now demolished stand, but parted like The Red Sea when the wild dog dashed for freedom, with the eviscerated, no longer cuddly Cindy in his jaws.

A young man made a grab for the trailing lead, but fell headlong in a splatter of ice cream. Suddenly the dog halted, dropped its prey, sniffed the air and returned, tail wagging, to lap up the ice cream.

Roger wagged his tail furiously, his friends had enjoyed the joke so much they had given him all their ice cream.