Friday Flash Fiction 626 – Working From Home

Today’s tale follows on from Sunday’s short story.

https://tidalscribe.wordpress.com/2020/03/29/sunday-short-story-720-the-queue/

Working from home was not quite how Cassie had imagined. Working on her own was fine, no interruptions, but conference calls with colleagues, from work or overseas, took much longer than expected. She had reckoned without the domestic factors.

They’re sharing a table with home schooling children, they have to be joking, haven’t they got grandparents to dump them with?
‘Sorry Cassie, isn’t it a nightmare, can’t leave them with Mum, she’s just had chemo.’
Cassie looked at the squabbling pair who kept looming into view; surely these were not the two adorable angels that they heard so much about from Gabbie in the office. At least she couldn’t get out of work now; Gabbie was usually more out of the office than in, taking time off every time one of the little darlings had a sniffle.
‘Did you email Singapore Gabbie?’
‘Singapore, oh my god, I was just about to when Felicity fell down the stairs.’

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It was quite entertaining though, who would have imagined Gavin would choose such décor? What room was he actually working in, would it be rude to ask?
A huge black hairy face filled the computer screen.
‘Down Hugo. Sorry Cassie, he’s usually out with the dog walker at this time of the day, he thinks it’s Christmas. Yes I’ll take you out in a moment, Hugo that is, not you Cassie… Did Gabbie email Singapore? It’s chaos at her place.’

‘Good morning Cassie, meet Mr. Snuggles.’
A bundle of fur with an evil face sat on John’s lap.
‘If we get cut off, blame the cat.’
They got cut off.

She did not even recognise the woman on the three way conference call and what on earth was that top she was wearing or was it a …
‘Good morning, is Singapore sorted yet, did that email go, hope you don’t mind the baby… isn’t this working from home great, no pumping and expressing.’

Cassie needed a coffee, but she ought to touch base with the boss first.
‘Yes Mr. Fenton, no, I’m going to email Singapore right now, it’s not easy getting everyone into this working from home routine.’
A slender brown arm appeared at the side of her screen and placed a bone china cup and saucer on Mr. Fenton’s mahogany desk, followed by a delicate tea plate with two chocolate biscuits. Who was that woman? Unlikely to be the insipid plump wife he had brought to the Christmas dinner and dance.

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The one person she had not linked up with, had any contact with, was the chap from the queue at the chemist. She had looked him up as soon as she got home; a completely different department, which was good from a professional versus socialising point of view. Would he contact her, what were the rules of dating for the over forties, not that they were dating… had he thought better of it, wrongly assuming she could be desperately seeking a responsible man to impregnate her before it was too late. This morning’s glimpses into the home life of others had confirmed she had no desire for a baby, dog, or cat… but supposing he had children of his own, they knew nothing about each other…
Her computer pinged, a new email, from him.
‘Coffee break time, do you want to Zoom or Facetime?’
Five minutes later Cassie was laughing; the blue eyes were just as penetrating on the screen with crinkle lines evidence that he laughed a lot and could make her laugh as he described his morning.
‘Mummy, Mummy, Felix has done a poo on the carpetI didn’t know if Felix was a cat or a brat…. Oh Cassie, sorry, do you have children or pets…’
‘No way, well only a vivarium…’

 

Sunday Short Story 720 – The Queue

The ringing startled Cassie, nobody ever called her on the landline, few people called her mobile either. She was tempted to ignore it, but the sound penetrated the calm of her little house.
‘Hello Dear, it’s Doris.’
Cassie was slow to react.
‘Doris next door.’
‘Oh, of course…’
In a rare moment of neighbourliness, when Cassie moved in a year ago, she had given the old lady next door her number, just in case…
‘You said to call if there was an emergency.’
Had she really said that? Cassie pictured Doris lying on the floor with a broken hip. That would be the end of her pleasant Day One working from home.
‘Yes, yes of course, what happened?’
‘Nothing yet, but I can’t get out to collect my prescriptions. Boris said I had to stay indoors with my lungs.’
‘Well we all do…’
‘Yes, but you’re not vulnerable dear, you could cycle down to the chemist.’
Relief that she would not have to apply first aid lifted Cassie’s spirits, she brightened her voice to what she hoped was a caring tone.
‘Of course, I’m going out anyway for my one permitted exercise of the day.’

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Self isolation was what Cassie practised most of the time, why she had moved to that quiet road, but neither did she want to be stuck indoors all the time. As she turned her bike into the high street, what looked like a new Antony Gormley art installation filled the pavement outside several shops. Suddenly every figure moved two paces, perhaps it was a flash mob; she waited for them to break into song and dance. She wheeled her bike a few inches towards a woman now rooted firmly to the spot. The woman backed away a few inches.
‘Excuse me, what’s going on?’
‘Queue for the chemist, one out, one in.’
‘Oh god, how long have you been here?’
‘Thirty minutes, you’d better get to the end of the queue.’
Cassie padlocked her bike and took up position outside the closed card and gift shop. The woman six feet in front of her turned and smiled. Cassie groaned inwardly, not one of those who liked to chat…
‘Nice day for it, I was here yesterday, but I don’t mind standing out in the sunshine; it’s for my dad, didn’t have all his meds yesterday. He’s got OCD, or is it COPD and diabetes, you wouldn’t believe how many different tablets he takes… he had a funny turn yesterday and I was worried it was the Coronavirus, but he didn’t have a temperature, at least I don’t think he did, we couldn’t find a thermometer…’
‘Oh well it must be…’
Cassie glanced up ahead, four more shops before she was even near the chemist. She glanced behind and noted three more people hovering. One chap looked vaguely familiar.
‘Is this the queue for…
‘The chemist.’
‘Ahh, not how I planned to spend my first day working from home.’
‘Me neither, it’s not for me, the old lady next door.’

‘Same here, shoot me if I ever end up collecting a bag of medicines every week.’
Cassie laughed, someone with the same sense of humour. ‘Let’s hope we have nice neighbours if we get like that.’
‘Well the old lady isn’t exactly a neighbour, it’s my mother, I live with her.’
Oh no, a chap in his forties who still lived with his mother, not what she needed. Well standing two yards away from a bloke hardly rated as being chatted up, though even at that distance she had noted his piercing blue eyes. She realised he was still talking.
‘I know, sounds a bit sad, you get divorced and instead of freedom your sister expects you to take your turn at responsibility, it didn’t help getting transferred here… speaking of which, I’m sure you look familiar, you don’t work for MPJ as well do you?’
She could say no, but then if she bumped into him at work… if they ever went back to work, how long was this virus thing going to last, would her job even survive. He was still talking.
‘So we can hardly go out for a drink with everything closed, but it might get lonely working at home, perhaps we could link up on line.’
‘Okay, I’m Cassie…

Silly Saturday – Caring for Criminals in Corona Crisis

Whether you are a mugger, pick pocket or burglar this current pandemic is bad news. With crowds a thing of the past the pick pocket stands no chance of earning a living, while the mugger fairs little better with the streets nearly empty. As shoppers are being requested to use their cards instead of cash, those few people out will probably not be carrying cash. But spare a thought for the burglar; everyone is confined to home, not an empty house to be found. The chancellor has offered no help at all to career criminals, who through no fault of their own find themselves without an income.

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There is a ray of hope with an increase in cyber crime; you can make phone calls and send emails claiming to be from Inland Revenue or Social Security, but once you have persuaded some naïve person to part with all their personal details you need to know what to do with them. Most criminals are not clever enough to hack into their own bank accounts, let alone anyone else’s.

So for those who prefer the hands on approach here is how to keep yourself safe. Maintain a low profile, you don’t want to be arrested just for being outside before you have even had a chance to steal. If you are going to mug or pick pocket you must wear gloves and a suitable mask, your usual robber mask will not offer the correct protection. If your victim coughs move away quickly and abandon the attempt. Once you have spotted a suitable victim there is no time to waste, with everyone else keeping six feet away from each other your movements are bound to attract attention. This could be the right time to take on an apprentice, your young nimble son or daughter; if you don’t want to risk the health of you own child you could borrow the offspring of your partner or neighbour. With schools closed, anybody would be glad for someone to take their child out for the permitted exercise period.

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If your modus operandi is armed hold ups, observe the professional code and do not cough or spit at your target; you must adhere to the new social rules and not risk the health of an honest shopkeeper, stick to using your gun or knife. Patience will also be required. Most shops now expect shoppers to queue up outside, six feet apart from each other; to push in will draw attention to yourself and it need hardly be emphasised that you should keep your weapon hidden while you are in the queue. However, looking on the bright side, your getaway will be easy. No one is going to come within two yards of you, let alone try to be a hero and tackle you.

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Burglars should take with them cleansing sprays and gloves. If you manage to sneak in an unlocked door or open window, while householders are absorbed watching television or on the internet, well done. Once inside, avoid touching any surfaces; if you can’t find money and valuables easily do not reveal your presence to the residents; it will be hard to keep a safe distance while demanding overenthusiastically where they keep their jewellery.

 

Good luck everybody, we do not know how long this is going to last, but the golden rule is the same as ever; avoid getting caught, you will not be safe from the coronavirus in gaol.

Friday Flash Fiction – Health Crisis

I looked at the list of unpronounceable names on the drugs list. They actually trusted people to administer these to their loved ones? Trusted wives, sons, nieces, the next door neighbour to hand out the right tablets in the right number at the right time? The hospital expected me to ‘do the meds’ without a key or a trolley?

Four tonight, next two days four twice a day, the following day three twice a day… take one three times a day… what a collection, what a selection of pretty sweets for Brian’s ghastly grandchildren; pity they won’t be visiting. This corona virus; good excuse for his daughter to get out of helping and Young Brian away in Spain, couldn’t get a flight back. Not so resentful of me now they have a free carer for their father. I certainly didn’t sign up for this.

Better get organised. Take with food… must be taken one hour before eating… swallow with one glass of water… box of 32 paracetamol, that’s handy, in great demand at the moment, I’m sure Brian doesn’t need those with all the other stuff. A quarter tablet, how the hell am I meant to cut up that microscopic tablet. See leaflet for possible side effects, take me all night to read this… must seek medical help immediately if you accidentally take more than the prescribed dose. Wouldn’t that be a shame, could happen easily, especially with the size of the writing on those little brown bottles… oh, I thought it said 12 not 2 tablets. Ah… ONE 3 times a day, not 3, 3 times a day? No wonder, that explains it…

sunshine-blogger

Silly Saturday Short Story – Jolly Jumper

I was looking forward to a quiet Saturday when the doorbell rang. I only half opened the door, hoping to keep out the torrential rain and wind. On the doorstep stood a complete stranger, or at least it was hard to recognise who she might be with her head bowed and face concealed by the hood of her sodden coat. When she looked up, her expression was one of confusion.
‘Oh, er sorry, is your daughter in?’
I relaxed, pushing the door back another inch. ‘I think you must have the wrong house, I don’t have a daughter.’
‘Oh erm… is this The Lighthouse? Only I was a bit confused because it doesn’t look like the pictures and it isn’t very near the sea.’
Who was this stranger and what pictures?
‘It is only ten minutes walk from the cliff top’ I retorted.
And what business of hers what I called my house? It was a bit of a joke, my fantasy of living in a lighthouse on a rocky outcrop hadn’t quite materialised. The little featureless home in a row of similar houses could have been in any suburb anywhere, but I could walk to the sea; if my knee wasn’t playing up or the weather wasn’t too dreadful.
‘I don’t suppose mine is the only house called The Lighthouse, did you use SatNav?’
‘I came on the train.’
That explained her drowned rat appearance, a cliché, but she did actually look like a drowned rat; it was a good walk from the station. What was I supposed to do with her? She had an accent I couldn’t place.
‘I’m sorry I can’t help you, is it a friend or relative you’re looking for?’
‘I was sure this was the right place, Sandbourne, Wessex, I’m over in England for a writers’ convention in London next week.’
I felt a touch of sympathy for a fellow writer and a niggle of guilt that I had not invited her to put even a toe inside the door.
‘What a shame you have such awful weather for your day at the seaside, it might brighten up later. I hope you manage to find your friend.’
‘She’s a fellow blogger, I’ve never actually met her.’
A disquieting bell began to ring inside my head. I am a blogger, but who on earth would want to meet me in real life. Perhaps Sandbourne was full of bloggers who would welcome a visit, but I had no desire to meet fellow bloggers in real life. The whole point of blogging was surely to avoid people.
The woman blinked away large drops of water splashing down from my gutter. ‘She’s called Scribbletide, her blog’s called ‘To The Lighthouse’ … you know, after the Virginia Woolf novel.’
‘Yes, yes, I have read it, they never actually get to the lighthouse.’
Hmm, just like me, that’s why I called my blog that… I never get to the lighthouse. But how on earth had this bedraggled refugee from abroad found out where I lived and how long before she cottoned on that I no longer looked like that picture of me taken thirty years ago, nor do I live on Portland Bill. I could carry on feigning ignorance and hope she cleared off, but what if she told the rest of the blogging world the truth? No more Likes and ‘hugs’, no more followers. And I was intrigued, which of my thirteen followers was she?

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‘You had better come in, as long as you promise not to write a blog about me.’
With her dripping coat hanging over the kitchen chair and a mug of tea in her hands she looked a bit more presentable, but with no resemblance to any blogger I could think of.
‘So are you Scribbletide?’ she stared at me suspiciously.
‘Well it’s a long story… why don’t you tell me what your blog is called.’
‘Leaping into the Unknown, it’s my day today, my sixth birthday.’
It took me a few moments to cotton on. ‘Leap Year, 29th February today, your birthday, not a very exciting way to spend it. I don’t Do birthdays, but if you only have one every four years I guess it should be special. Do I follow your blog?’
‘Yes, all the time, I’m Jolly Jumper, you love my daredevil adventures.’
Now I knew why she did not look familiar, her blog persona was a cartoon superwoman who wore a colourful Scandiknit jumper. Her real self looked like she would get vertigo climbing a step ladder.

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I took her to the cliff top café for tea and a big slice of cake. She wouldn’t go near the edge of the cliff as she was scared of heights, but with the dreadful weather, we were happy to sit inside and chat. After seeing her off on the train back to London I went home to start my new blog post.
P1070246What a thrill today to meet a fellow blogger from over the ocean. My special visitor, Jolly Jumper, was dropped off by the Sandbourne Lifeboat and scrambled up the craggy rocks to knock on the door of my lighthouse. It was so windy I could hardly open the heavy wooden door…

Friday Flash Fiction 900 – Excluded

At 9.30a.m. John sat with his pen poised; it was his turn to attend the compulsory one day workshop entitled ‘Celebrating Diversity in the Workplace’. On the whiteboard were written words and phrases and they were required to jot down their initial thoughts about each. EXCLUDED; John had certainly never been excluded, because he had never been or done anything interesting enough to warrant exclusion. SENT TO COVENTRY; well if he had been sent there he probably wouldn’t have noticed anyway. He still hadn’t put pen to paper but he was thinking. The classroom situation brought back memories of sixth form. All through lower sixth he had secretly adored Annabel; on the first day of upper sixth he was thrilled she was in his form again, this year he would try and approach her. Whose form were you in last year? she had asked innocently. Yours he had muttered bleakly, the crushing awareness of his invisibility blighting further conversation.
Teenagers usually imagine two things; everyone else is having a better time than they are and their parents are boring; in John’s case both were true. As a teenager he had vowed never to live in a suburb, have a mortgage or endlessly discuss double glazing and patio doors; but these things had all come to pass.

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Still nothing written and now everyone was gathering in their discussion groups. No one noticed John had nothing to offer; they were all eager to relate their own unfair treatment in life and work; smokers, pregnant women, drivers, people passed over for promotion… he was glad when the ten minutes was up.
The next question was How have your origins affected your life? For a moment he was stumped; then it dawned on him what was missing from his life; he had nowhere to go back to. He really envied people who could return to their roots; the Welsh had their valleys, the Scots their islands and highlands and the Irish were always getting on ferries to go back home for holidays. But one could hardly say dramatically ‘I need to get back to Middlesex or Middlesex will always be in my blood’. He had never left Middlesex, but it had left him; swallowed up by Greater London, ironic since Middlesex used to surround London.
He realised the group were talking again; proudly relating how their parents’ struggles had inspired them to succeed or how keeping in touch with their roots had given them strong values. John thought of his dreary family, John Smith, they hadn’t even the imagination to give him a middle name. Granddad had been too young for the Great War and his father just too young for the Second World War; they hadn’t needed to go anywhere so they didn’t, he could hardly blame them, where had he been?
That woman was talking again, what did she call herself? Not teacher, oh yes, just call me Jilly everyone. She was asking them to write down what languages they spoke, easy, one. John was filled with admiration for folk who could slip easily from one tongue to another. He was convinced he would have been a more interesting person if he had grown up bilingual, what another dimension to life. You could be 100% British but fly away, step off the plane and stride confidently into another way of life.
Last question before coffee;

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Which aspect of your life or work makes you feel most excluded?
At last John spoke up ‘Well I feel excluded because I haven’t got any diversity.’ They all looked at him blankly, ‘I haven’t even got any issues.’
‘What do you mean by issues?’ asked Call me Jilly.
‘You know, ISSUES, when they say at the end of a programme If you have been affected by any of the issues raised by this programme, please call our helpline, well they should have a helpline for people who can’t find any issues.’ The others laughed, he was getting into his stride. ‘I can’t even find a community to belong to, not the cycling, the deaf or the travelling… and I can’t help the police.’
The discussion was turning into the liveliest of the day.
‘You look like a law abiding chap’ replied one man.
‘Precisely, the police never stop me and when they put out a plea for information from members of the such-and-such community, that is never me’ explained John.
Call me Jilly was getting exasperated now, the workshop was not going the way she intended…
‘I know just what you mean’ piped up a woman’s voice.
John looked over to see an ordinary looking woman he hadn’t noticed before.
‘You go to the art gallery to see a photographic exhibition but it never says on the wall We went to work among members of the Boring Community, giving them cameras to take pictures of their dreary lives and asking them to describe the images in their own dull words. No one ever wants my picture or my opinion.’
She looked around as the others cheered, hardly believing she had spoken up. Everyone was enjoying themselves now, the workshop was much more interesting than expected; with one accord they surged out for their coffee break.
Call me Jilly tried in vain to hold the group back. ‘Everyone, everyone another five minutes till coffee break, we haven’t summed up yet.’ but no one heard her.

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Sunday Salon – Fact or Fiction?

This week I finished reading two short story collections and one novel. The first I reviewed was Sally Cronin’s ‘Life’s Rich Tapestry’. Once again Amazon rejected my review and as usual I have posted my 5 star review on Goodreads and also decided I should put all my book reviews on my Facebook Author Page.

from Janet Gogerty on 13 February 2020

A delightful collection of all sorts to dip into.

We start with the seasons, words carefully chosen, some poems succinct …I stopped to smell the roses… precious time well spent. Then all things human such as ‘From Cave to the Stars’ the first cave drawings onwards to beaming our messages out beyond the stars. The other verses follow mankind’s evolution. Fairies and other Folk takes us somewhere else, starting with the poignant tale of the ugly troll with the sweet nature. The Natural World peacocks, magpies and a murder of crows. Pets, Random Thoughts then 99 Words in a Flash. Telling a story in just 99 words is a skill. A Close Match is a good opener to this section. In the short story selection Brian the dog wins the day and Jack, another old dog, finds a happy ending. Then cats get their turn and love of a cat helps Millicent stand up for herself. Who can resist Speculative Fiction which starts with a family secret? The Wrong Turn is a poignant story, but we are glad Gerald gets his comeuppance in the next tale. A couple of strange stories and then we finish with a poetic tribute to the author’s mother-in-law. A great collection of all sorts to dip into.

 

Sally’s collection made nice light bedtime reading after some of the television programmes I have been watching.
In Wednesday’s blog I wrote about television, because I know some bloggers do not watch it at all and gathering from the comments, others watch programmes or films with various screens and technology without actually tuning in to live television. But it is good to watch something your friends are also following… do you like fact or fiction on television?
This week we finished watching a real life six part ITV crime drama, White House Farm, about the murder of parents, daughter and two young twin grandsons in August 1985. Lots of us remember it being in the news because it was such a tragedy. At first the daughter with mental health issues was thought to have committed the murders and then killed herself, but the story revolves around the doubts that led to the arrest and trial of the surviving son, Jeremy Bamber. To this day he is still protesting his innocence. The leading detective was sure he could have the case neatly sewn up, convinced it was the daughter, while the sergeant, passed over for promotion more than once we gather, is convinced she could not have done it. Modern viewers brought up on CSI and Silent Witness will have been cringing as evidence was cleared away, blood soaked mattresses burnt. Most of us would agree that a young woman who had little idea of how to use a gun could not have shot everyone and beaten up her father. Added to the tensions in the CID office was the interplay in the family. The twins’ father was separated from his wife and the boys lived with him and his girlfriend, as his ex wife had recently been in a mental hospital. He had just taken her and the boys to the farm to stay with their grandparents, never imagining it was a death sentence. Jeremy Bamber had a girlfriend who after a month turned and gave evidence against him. His cousin was equally suspicious because of the way he behaved afterwards. The Bamber son and daughter were adopted, adding another thread; did he feel he didn’t belong, was he the cuckoo in the nest as his cousin suggested?

https://www.itv.com/presscentre/press-releases/itv-announces-details-new-factual-drama-white-house-farm
Coincidentally Chanel Four had a four part drama running parallel and with a similar theme. Deadwater Fell was set in a village in lovely Scottish countryside. After a happy village event introducing the characters, everyone is awoken that night to see the local doctor’s house on fire. His village policeman friend manages to rescue him and drag the wife out, too late. In the darkness and smoke he had discovered the three little girls ( as cute and adorable as the twin boys in the other drama ) were padlocked into their bedroom. At the post mortem it is discovered the children had already been killed with a drug injection. What on earth was going on? The village is grief stricken and then further shocked when the doctor comes out of his coma and pieces together what happened and claimed his wife killed his children, tried to kill him and committed suicide! Amongst all this going on are the complex lives of the leading characters, revealed in flashbacks. The policeman’s ex wife is with someone else, but their boys are with him and his girlfriend and they are undergoing IVF. She was the best friend of the dead woman and worked at the same school with her, but had accidentally had sex with the doctor once – an event she described as controlling sex as he had slammed her face against the patio door!
The policeman begins to suspect his doctor friend; their marriage was not all sweetness and because of ‘what happened after Harriet was born’ he was regularly tranquilizing her, against her will. And then there was the poor grandmother, the doctor’s mother, I felt sorry for her; not only had she lost her grandchildren, but began to suspect her son, perhaps had suspected all along…
It was a good story and we know from the news that whatever writers make up can never be as strange and awful as real life.

https://inews.co.uk/culture/television/deadwater-fell-finale-channel-4-review-david-tennant-cush-jumbo-1382177

liebster-award

Silly Saturday – Strange Storms

Exactly six years ago we had just had the Valentine’s Night Storm; we did not know it was called that till we had had it. The next year, in 2015, the Meteorological Office of the United Kingdom and Met Eireann decided to name storms in advance, with an alphabetical list of popular names they picked out from Facebook. It was claimed this would make people take storms more seriously and it worked, because since they started naming storms they have got worse, with more flooding. Last weekend it was Storm Ciara and as you read this we will be having Storm Dennis. Female and male names alternate, so luckily by the time we get to N ( probably in a few weeks time ) we can have Storm Noah.

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Storms come with amber and red warnings, plus constant warnings from weather people in the cosy news studios to stay away from coastal areas. They then show photographs the public have taken just before they get washed away by waves and ‘go over’ to reporters being blown off the sea front to give us live coverage. It is so windy we can’t actually hear what they are saying.

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Mike Jefferies Photography

This photo of Storm Ciara, thanks to Mike Jefferies Photography, saving me getting wet, appeared on Facebook. It is the famous cob at Lyme Regis in Dorset, one of the settings for Jane Austin’s novel Emma, where a trip to the seaside nearly ends in tragedy when a young lady contrives to fall off the cob. I don’t think the weather was this bad in that scene, but if you ever go to Lyme Regis the cob slopes and if it is wet it is very slippery.

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Meanwhile back to Saturday morning 15th February 2014; after a night of the wind shaking our house I suggested ( insisted ) we go down to the cliff top at high tide for some bracing fresh air and this is what we saw.

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It gave me an idea for a story and eventually became the opening scene for At The Seaside Nobody Hears You Scream.

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Friday Flash Fiction 840 – Grounded

‘You’re grounded.’
‘Wha…at, nobody gets grounded these days.’
Dean patted his pocket, he was quite happy to retreat to his bedroom away from the ageing love birds. They hadn’t got Sky yet, but with his new smart phone (bribery present from his mother) and the TV, he shouldn’t be too bored.
‘You are grounded till school starts tomorrow’ said Rob.
‘Suits me, there’s nothing to do around here anyway, nowhere to go in this godforsaken place, I’m happy to stay in my room.’
‘You won’t be in your room; grounded means on the ground, you can come out and work with me.’
‘Muu…m?’
‘I’ve got unpacking to do and dinner to get, I’ll make you both something really nice, what do you fancy?’
‘A takeway.’
‘I’ll do chicken the way you like it; now go out and get some fresh air, you’ll enjoy helping Rob.’

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Dean slouched out behind Rob and sneered at the vehicle parked in the driveway. ‘Green Man with Green Van’ was emblazoned on its side. He took the phone out of his pocket and started tapping in.
‘…and you can leave that at home, we’ve got work to do.’
‘Nobody leaves their phone at home. It’s my only contact with the outside world.’
‘The outside world can do without you for a few hours.’
‘Yeah, but I can’t do without the outside world, I didn’t want to come and live here.’
Rob laughed as he pulled out of the driveway. ‘I think you may have mentioned that already and I didn’t want you living with me, but neither of us has any choice. Try thinking of your mother for a change, she’s very happy to get away from the other place.’
‘She married you just so she could live in Woodycopse? I don’t think.’
‘You’ll be glad she married me one day. Stick it out here for a couple of years then you can go out into the world without worrying about your mother, she’ll have me to look after her.’
‘She’s quite capable of looking after herself.’
‘I know, but she deserves more than that. I don’t expect you to understand, just don’t spoil all this for her.’

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‘Oh hello Kate, yes we’re back, had a wonderful time, a week of sheer bliss, yes and that as well, no complaints in that department. Anyway, it’s true what they say about Venice.
Dean? Yes, he’s fine, gone out with Rob, they really get on well, I wouldn’t be surprised if Rob doesn’t take him on in the business in a few years time. I think he would have liked a son of his own… at my age? Yes of course it’s biologically possible, but it wouldn’t be fair on Dean, he’s still my baby… he starts at the new school tomorrow, once he meets some kids his own age… No I’m looking forward to my new life, imagine me living in Woodycopse, bit of a change from Fenbridge… Yes, once we’ve settled in you must come down and stay. Right, I’d better get on with dinner, Dean especially requested his favourite chicken dish, a week of his granny’s cooking, he’s probably starving.’

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The short drive to the house on the edge of the village was spent in silence, except for exaggerated sighs from Dean. Without ceremony Rob parked the van, jumped out, opened the back doors, beckoned to Dean and handed him a cluster of wooden handles with strange metallic attachments.
‘What the hell am I supposed to do with these?’
‘You’ll soon find out, it’s all clearing today, so you can’t do much harm.’
‘What a jungle.’
‘In a few weeks you won’t recognise it, do you want to see the plans?’
‘Nope.’
‘Suit yourself.’

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Dean quite enjoyed the hacking and chopping, though he was careful not to show it, but when he felt blisters coming up on his palms any enthusiasm quickly evaporated.
‘Can we stop now?’
‘No, we need to break the back of the work today, so it will be easier when we come after school tomorrow.’
‘Wha…at, I’m not your slave and you can’t make me do it, you’re not my Dad.’
‘I wondered how long before you came out with that cliché. You’re not my son thank goodness, just a reminder of why I never wanted children.’
‘At least you won’t want to adopt me, but why didn’t you want kids?’
‘I’m too selfish or didn’t want to inflict another teenager like me on the world?’
‘What were you like?’
‘Let’s just say my mother strongly suggested I join the army. By the time I realised that was a mistake, it was too late.’
‘Gran and Mum say Dad loved the army, never wanted to do anything else.’
‘I know, he was a great bloke and I’ve never pretended to your mother that I could replace him. Marrying me is better for your mother than being alone and that is all I can expect. And the least we can do for her is pretend we get along, perhaps one day we will…’

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Sunday Salon – Fact and Fiction

I am enjoying several books on my Kindle, one novel, two short story collections, poetry and a cutting humorous slice of real life, but no new reviews since the January’s  Sunday Salon… in the meantime we have been to the theatre and seen some excellent programmes on television. Here are two stories that have stood the test of time…
Agatha Christie’s murder mystery play The Mousetrap opened in London’s West End in 1952 and has been running continuously ever since then. It is the longest-running West End show, the longest initial run of any play in history; there is a twist ending, which the audience are traditionally asked not to reveal after leaving the theatre.

The play began life as a short radio play called Three Blind Mice, written as a birthday present for Queen Mary, The Queen’s grandmother and broadcast on 30 May 1947. The theatre play is based on a short story based on the radio play, but Christie asked that the story not be published as long as the play ran in the West End of London. The short story has still not been published within the United Kingdom, but it has appeared in the United States in the 1950 collection Three Blind Mice and Other Stories.
When she wrote the play, Christie gave the rights to her grandson Mathew Prichard as a birthday present. In the United Kingdom only one production of the play in addition to the West End production can be performed annually. Under the contract terms of the play no film adaptation can be produced until the West End production has been closed for at least six months. So don’t expect to see any time soon a block buster movie brought into the 21st century and set in Bollywood or Hollywood, or perhaps on a space station. The play was set in ‘the present’ but has been left safely in the 1950’s.

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I first saw The Mousetrap in London in the seventies while over from Australia on the ‘working holiday’ that never ended. As for many visitors to London it was a must see and my mother had always talked about the audiences being sworn to secrecy; how amazing that no one has ever given the game away! I enjoyed it and was proud to have guessed who dunnit.

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This time we were at The Lighthouse in Poole, an early stop on the play’s 2020 UK Tour. I remembered who dunnit from last time, but recalled nothing of the plot so it was a fun evening. There is one set, the interior of Monkswell Manor, recently converted to a guest house run by a young couple. On the radio we hear of a murder and the police looking for a suspect in a dark overcoat; as each character appears on stage they are all wearing dark overcoats. Heavy snow leaves Monkswell cut off from the rest of the world, so of course when a murder occurs we know the murderer is in the house… A plot happily repeated on islands and trains etc. by Christie. There are plenty of twists and turns to keep us guessing and the second half especially moves along at a good pace. I’m not going to tell you what happens and if you know, don’t mention it in the comments.

https://www.mousetrapontour.com/uk-tour/
We move along a few years into in the early 1960s for an excellent six part BBC Sunday evening drama ‘The Trial of Christine Keeler’. This is a story that never seems to lose its fascination, there have been documentaries, books and a film; the scandal has been examined with 21st century eyes. When I was a child it seemed to be on the news all the time, though I had no idea what The Profumo Affair might be. John Profumo was the Minister for War in the turbulent times of the Cuban Missile Crisis; not only did he have an affair with the naïve ( perhaps not sexually naïve, but in every other way ) Christine Keeler, who also slept with a Russian spy; to make matters worse, he lied to The House of Commons, his chums and presumably to his wife, who happened to be famous actress Valery Hobson. Stephen Ward the society osteopath was another leading character, a ‘libertine’ who mixed with the aristocracy and politicians, groomed Mandy Rice-Davies and Christine Keeler and was responsible for Keeler meeting these men in the first place. The press had a field day.
It is a tribute to the actors that our sympathies were with the two girls and Stephen Ward. They enjoyed living at his flat, looked after them is hardly the right term, Keeler was only seventeen when Ward met her, but to them he was a friend and they were having fun. When Profumo suggested he put Keeler in her own flat she replied ‘But what about Mand?’ She didn’t want to live by herself, she wanted to stay with her friend at Ward’s.
The six part drama was able to explore a lot more about Christine’s early life and the ex boyfriend dramas also going on at the time. Most viewers probably knew Ward ended up committing suicide, perhaps making all the more poignant the lead up to the sham trial of Ward. He was expecting his many important friends and clients to step forward as witnesses for his defence, but in the end they all deserted him. James Norton was brilliant as Stephen Ward. So too were Sophie Cookson and Ellie Bamber as Christine and Mandy, two girls who were real people, not just two dumb models to be exploited by everyone. From Stephen Ward’s elegant mews flat to the sixties clothes, makeup and hair do’s this was a polished production.

https://www.radiotimes.com/news/tv/2020-01-26/trial-of-christine-keeler-cast/
Have you seen the Mousetrap?
Do you prefer fiction or real life drama?