When I am late writing my Wednesday blog, which is not always on Wednesday and sometimes moves to Thursday… Whenever I AM writing it I wonder why I am not doing Wordless Wednesday, like so many other bloggers. Pop a picture on and it’s done.
Which leads me to ponder the popularity of using the days of the week. I have Friday Flash Fiction, but I fear so do other bloggers or is that Flash Fiction Friday, is there a monopoly on days or titles? Can I patent Silly Saturday? If you want to post on Saturday don’t be Silly, choose Sensible, Strange or Strictly – for those who only post blogs on Saturday. Musing on Monday, Tuesday Tunes, Thursday Thoughts, Thor’s Day Thunder, Sunday Salon. Other languages expand the possibilities, I do still remember les jours de la semaine from French lessons. Jardin Jeudi, pictures of gardens are favourites, especially when there is a pandemic on. Lunatics Lundi, Mardi Marvelous, Mecredi Motivation, Visages Vendredi… luckily we share some of our words.
Words or pictures or both and how many? There is nothing wrong with just posting one picture, every picture tells a story, though you may sometimes be hard put to work out what the story is, but if you are snowed under with unvisited blogs you can dash in and out and a scene of somewhere you have never been and never likely to visit could brighten your day. Using pictures chosen by someone else is also popular for inspiration for flash fiction or haiku…
Haiku is everywhere and why write 2000 words when you could compose a haiku.
A piercing scream penetrated the calm of James’ office and disturbed his important conference call with New York. Every sound in the neighbourhood wafted through the back bedroom windows, but it was too hot to close them.
‘Everything okay?’ asked the managing director in New York.
‘So sorry, yes, fine…’
For a moment James wondered if he should investigate, he vaguely recalled his mother mentioning they were in charge of the twins today while his sister and brother-in-law went to Ikea and she might have to pop to the corner shop... None of them believed that he was actually working from home, that it was Friday and he had a great deal of real work to do. Strange sounds had emitted from his nephew and niece at regular intervals since their arrival yesterday, either because they were having fun, or more likely they were arguing. There was the possibility that one of them had been impaled on one of his mother’s lethal gardening implements, or perhaps they had accidentally killed their grandmother…
Eighty per cent of MPJ staff worldwide were working from home, but usually in their smart book lined studies, not from their mother’s back bedroom with sewing machines and ironing boards as a background for Zoom. It was hardly professional to interrupt discussion of the dreadful news from Beirut ( its importance to the shareholders of MPJ, not the suffering of the locals ) and disappear out of sight to lean out the back window and be heard yelling ‘JASON, JACINTHA what the hell are you doing now?‘
When his sister Julia had said they were going camping for their summer staycation he thought they meant a tent in a remote field, not a camper van parked outside his mother’s house. Julia insisted social distancing would be maintained, while her husband Jack queried whether social distancing was even a thing anymore. They did sleep in the van; James had not had time to look up council regulations and see if this was legal, but there was much toing and froing to the bathroom and the washing machine had been on constantly since their arrival. The twins weren’t that bad, not according to his mother anyway; they were just high spirited, Covid cabin fever and he just wasn’t used to children of that age, whatever age they were… he had forgotten and dare not ask, his family would be shocked at his lack of interest in the precious ones, his mother’s ONLY grandchildren as she liked to frequently point out.
Another piercing scream rent the air. This time James did a few quick manoeuvres on the keyboard and the screen went blank; New York would either think England had been hit by a nuclear bomb or perhaps that his local wifi had gone down. He rushed over to the window and leaned out to see an arc of water gleaming in the sun. Jason was chasing Jacintha with the garden hose and this time she let out a screech of triumph as she ducked under the washing line and the family’s bedding hanging out to dry took the full brunt of the high powered hose.
If you have any sense you will probably have used the world wide pandemic to avoid socialising at all, thankful to avoid seeing your partner’s friends, your in-laws or your children and grandchildren. If you had any friends of your own, you probably have none left by now.
However, if you still feel the need for the occasional human company how do you work out who you can see and under what conditions? Government advice changes twice daily, whichever country you are living in, so the best policy is to not let anyone inside your house, this has the advantage of not having to do any cleaning or tidying up.
A picnic in the garden is ideal, especially if they bring their own food and drink. The thoughtful host provides welcoming signs, you can probably nick one from somewhere.
Don’t worry if it rains, you can use all those large Amazon boxes left over from your Compulsive Covid Comfort buying, ideal for making Wendy houses, though perhaps the over twelves might not be so enthusiastic.
Before you phone or message your visitors remember to keep up the pretence that you still cannot leave home, at all, for the rest of the year, despite what Boris may have said about August 1st. Your visitors are sure to ask if they can bring anything, take full advantage of this; today’s newspaper, your favourite chocolate you couldn’t get in your Tesco shop, the milk you forgot to put on your Tesco order and yes a bottle of wine would be much appreciated. Every guest is bound to say, when you ask how much you owe them, ‘Oh don’t worry.’ Added to the money you have saved by not going out, eating out etc, you should be making a profit by now.
Vivienne held the phone away from her ear, she was tiring of her daughter’s pontifications. ‘Yes Julia, I am staying alert, but the Prime Minister’s waffle was totally confusing, not just to me.’ ‘All you have to do Mother is carry on the same, all over seventies still have to stay at home. You can go for a walk, there is no other reason for you to go out; James is organising your shopping and all your little clubs are closed.’
Vivienne gritted her teeth, Julia’s mother-in-law was a magistrate and chairwoman of something important, she didn’t go to ‘little clubs’. She tried to veer the conversation in another direction, though it was hard to talk about anything except The Virus these days. ‘So what do you think about the school business?’ ‘Ridiculous, we’re keeping Jason and Jacintha at home, they are doing really well with the home schooling.’ ‘Have they learnt to write letters? I haven’t had a thank you for their birthday presents yet.’ ‘They have been busy with creative writing, such imaginations; they claim to have found a family of elves in the garden… got to go, I’ve got a conference call coming in.’
Vivienne’s hand was shaking as she put down her phone. She imagined Julia’s reaction if she told her she had seen a tiny elf in her garden. Of course it must have been her imagination; too much isolation, too much time spent in the garden, though one could never spend too much time outside, especially with James clumping around indoors. But she did credit her son with putting her on Instagram, it was amazing that her new smart phone took such good photographs. Her pictures of flowers were getting quite a few Likes and she was appreciating the finer details of the blooms that she had not noticed before. That’s how she had seen him first, in a photo; pansies have faces, but this was no flower face smiling at her. She scrolled through the pictures she would certainly not put on Instagram. A little green arm, a pointy shoe poking out from the leaves. A six inch elf dressed in green was obviously not real, a trick of the light in the verdant foliage. Vivienne chuckled to herself; if he had been dressed in red and white stripes, like those strange little people the twins were obsessed with putting on shelves at Christmas, then she would have known she was not dreaming.
Without thinking she tiptoed to the wild corner of the garden, her haven created for butterflies and bees, not mythical creatures. A noise startled her and the dreadful cat from next door shot out from under a bush, across the lawn and up onto the fence. She felt a stab of fear, birds were not the only creatures in danger from the cat, she tried to dismiss the image of thin green legs dangling out of the cat’s mouth. For goodness sake Viv, pull yourself together, if James and Julia knew what was going on in your mind they would have you in a care home full of Covid cases. If she knelt down in the soft grass James would assume she was taking photographs, not looking for an elf. She must keep perfectly still. How quiet it was, no planes or traffic in the distance. The sun was on her back, her face in the shade, that’s how she knew it was not the sun in her eyes. There he was, standing boldly smiling up at her, perhaps knowing he was safe from the cat while she was there. Dressed in green, his face a chalky white in contrast to his rosebud lips and pink cheeks. She didn’t dare move, nor would it be right to let her mobile phone come between them, scaring him or intruding on this special moment. Now he was laughing, was there a tiny sound or was it mirth in his expression? No wonder, she must look like an ugly ogre to him with his tiny perfect features…
‘Mother, Motherrr, where are you, someone on the house phone for you…’
The tiny creature’s face flashed with fear and with a sad wave he slipped back into the undergrowth.
Writers can still keep writing in isolation and quarantine, but what of photographers? No more traveling to local beauty spots, let alone visiting exotic locations, no more turning up at weddings and social gatherings to take formal and informal shots. One of our local award winning photographers has still been busy; Emily Endean has been using her daily exercise to walk to the homes of volunteering locals and snap them at their front door or in the garden – while staying at a safe distance on the pavement. A piece of everyman history, recording what we hope will be a unique year, not the new normal.
Gardens were already important to many of us, but have taken on a new significance in isolation for those of us lucky enough to have one. Are they a zoo compound or is your front garden your own little stage where all life takes place? We stand in it to chat safely to neighbours or passers by; on Thursday evenings we stand at 8pm to clap and bang saucepan lids for the NHS and all carers.
Hopefully a few or more flowers will brighten the daily walks of others. No one could have foreseen back in the autumn, when we were planting bulbs and wallflowers, how much time we would spend enjoying the splash of colour. With garden centres closing there has been dismay among gardeners looking forward to getting their bedding plants; we like to fill in gaps as spring flowers fade and plant up pots and patio tubs for the summer. Luckily our local greengrocer’s has been delivering plants; tidying the garden and planting is perfect for fresh air and exercise.
I had my chance to take part in Emily’s project on Sunday. If you want to stroll around peeping at homes and seeing who lives there, visit Emily’s website here.
Cassie gazed at the motionless creature, in no hurry to catch his prey. For the first time she felt a pang of guilt; there was no escape for the crickets, who also sat motionless, enjoying the humid warmth of this new luxurious environment. They were blissfully unaware of their fate, no different from spring lambs gambolling in the fields waiting to be eaten by humans. She put aside her guilt and laughed to herself; with all restaurants closed because of the virus, would those lambs be saved from the abattoir? A joke to share later with James.
Suddenly the gecko moved, playing fair, only snatching the cricket when it jumped. It was the most eventful time of the day in the vivarium; the other gecko, realising what she was missing, was roused into action. Soon they would be resting after their lunch; life was simple and they were content, or she assumed they were. Since being imprisoned herself, Cassie wasn’t so sure, but at least the geckos knew nothing else.
Week four of quarantine, isolation, lockdown; whatever you liked to call it she knew she had no cause to complain about her lot compared with others. She understood the government’s reasoning now, still had her job, didn’t have to share her precious living space and had the luxury of a garden and a daily bike ride.
The garden was an unexpected blessing, mowing and weeding had revealed all sorts of plants springing up; it had been a jungle when she bought the house and her intention had been to have it all flattened once the work inside the house was finished. A pleasant patio with a few feature plants in pots no longer seemed a good idea. Her aunt would have been amazed at her sudden interest in gardening. She took photos of emerging plants on her phone then sent them to James so his mother could identify them; he wanted to make sure his mother’s mind was stimulated during her isolation, so she didn’t end up with dementia.
Later on, when she had logged off from work, Cassie sat with a cup of coffee, ready to Facetime James. ‘I’ve seen a robin in the garden, if my team at work could see me, getting excited about a bird…’ ‘I can beat that,’ said James ‘I saw our robin having a bath, I couldn’t take a picture, if I opened the back door he would have flown away.’ ‘I think I heard mine singing, but it sounded too strong for such a tiny bird… that’s one thing I’ll miss when we get back to normal, peace and quiet so you can hear nature.’
That wouldn’t be all Cassie missed; would James still want to chat every day, every evening once he was free to get out of his mother’s house and get a place of his own, back to work, going out. Would they meet up? She wasn’t even sure she wanted to meet up for real. Her iPad screen was like a vivarium and James her pet man, all the fun of flirting and chatting without the pitfalls of a relationship, having a chap getting his feet under your table and not going. Would she tell him about Giles, he had not told her anything about the divorced wife, not that there was anything much to tell about Giles, no drama, mostly sheer boredom. Perhaps Giles’ greatest contribution to her life had been to unknowingly encourage her to go for promotion; had he realised she had opted for the transfer as a tactful way of slipping out of his life, or rather slipping him out of her life…
Cassie sat back and drained her coffee mug, paying attention to what James was saying now. The way things were going with this dreadful Covid 19, it would be a while before anyone got back to normal and she didn’t really mind.
Rats seem to be everywhere lately, but don’t worry about another great plague.
Last week Pete Springer was inspired by one of my archive blogs to write about his teaching days with class pets – rats. His post was headed by a picture of a most adorable rat which reminded me of TV star Roland Rat; the only rat to join a sinking ship, credited with saving TVam breakfast television in the 1980’s.
One of my children did have a pet rat in his class, I did hold it once and it was very cute; after all, rats are just big mice and I had pet mice in my junior school years. My friend and I bought two mice from Aldershot market, plus a little book on mice and assured our parents they were both male. Of course they weren’t. Luckily my father loved woodwork; the designer shed/greenhouse he had built himself was soon filled with cages and bags of hay and oats. We ended up with forty mice, some of them pregnant, I will draw a veil over what happened to them next.
By strange coincidence, just before Pete posted his blog, I heard from my friend 300 miles away ( too far away to be of any assistance ) that her young dog had found a rats’ nest in the garden. As a busy carer for her elderly mother the last thing she wanted to find on the staircase was a blind, hairless, mewling baby rat being tenderly licked by the dog. ( Handy hint, this is one of the many reasons why it is not a good idea to let dogs lick your face. )
Thankful that this could not happen to us as we don’t have a dog I was soon to get my come uppance. Since we finally got around to having the outside light in the back garden fixed it comes on quite often, usually to reveal a fox; the fox suspected of chewing up my garden shoes. Late one night ( at a time when only bloggers and foxes are awake ) the light came on and there was Mr. Fox playing with something furry, and it didn’t look like a slipper.
In the morning there was a dead rat on the back lawn. Obviously the fox has better things to eat. Feeling like a frontierswoman I trekked the few yards to the bottom of the garden and got the spade out. Throw him over the fence? No, we have nice neighbours. Put him in my compost bin? No, never put meat in your garden compost. The council food waste bin that you can put meat in? No it’s got our house number on. I gave him a woodland burial, relieved that I managed to scoop him off the grass with the spade. Two mornings later a second dead rat appeared. Perhaps the foxes are doing us a favour with rat control.
The ‘woodland garden’ is the corner where the compost bins and insect hotels hide; a tangle of apple tree, holly and ivy and sapling nursery. Cyberspouse suggested the piles of branches preserved for hedgehogs and insects are also luxury living for rats. I have never seen a hedgehog in our garden despite the plentiful supply of slugs for them to eat.
While we sign petitions to save hedgehogs and are reminded to mind the gap, leave holes in our fences for hedgehogs to travel, no one suggests we worry about the survival of rats. When does wildlife become a pest? Why are we not urged to protect rats’ environment and put food out for them?
Some might say that the planet should be saved, not society, but we shall deal with that next week. It is probably easier to start on a small scale with your own street/farm/castle or country estate (delete as appropriate ).
To avoid trying to define society, just imagine a perfect neighbourhood and if you are ambitious, your own town or city run exactly how YOU like it. With a bit of crowd funding, quietly taking over while no one is watching because of Brexit, it should be no problem. London National Park City is launching in July, so how hard can it be to change your street?
Here are some simple ideas to start with. Make it compulsory for everyone to have nice front gardens; the sort you like to walk by, green lawns, beds and tubs full of flowers, delightful scents and the happy sound of bees. If anyone complains, point out that the government has pledged to create green corridors for bees; if they complain they have nowhere to park their car refer them to idea number two.
Abolish all private vehicles and, just until your local town becomes fully functional with solar powered moving walkways, set up a car share scheme.
Soon everyone will be happy; flowers and wild life put everyone in a good mood and those living in cramped flats with no gardens have been helping with the digging and planting.
Idea number three, take over every empty plot of land, however small and plant trees, create allotments and parks for children. While your local millionaire is away on his expensive yacht, commandeer that land where he had two houses demolished and plans to build a block of flats for rich people.
Fourthly, all vacant buildings of any sort, shops, offices and second homes to be commandeered for the homeless and as workshops for the self employed. A little networking on the internet should bring you a team of building experts to supervise and train school leavers and the unemployed. It won’t be long before you have created a happy healthy local neighbourhood with no problems and others will be keen to take away your ideas to their own cities and countries.
These are just a few introductory ideas, feel free to make suggestions and tell us if you have managed to create utopia where you live.
For a clue as to how humanity will save itself read the best selling book nobody is talking about…
The ground floors of department stores are bright, white and overpower you with a nauseous mix of perfumes. On board the yacht I have a stomach of iron, but I was not looking forward to hunting for my sister’s favourite perfume.
A young man, with more make up than the girl assistants, came skillying up.
‘Good afternoon Madam, may I help?’
For a moment I was so fascinated I could not answer. He looked like a beautiful slender doll, high cheek bones, rosebud lips, hair spiked immaculately and dressed totally in black. His charm was enough to make me, in my jeans and anorak, feel I was as entitled as any other woman to grace these hallowed halls of beauty. He laughed when I confessed my predicament. I had forgotten the name of the perfume.
‘Can’t you phone or text her?’
‘She’s just started a three hour exam and I’ve got to get back to the harbour while the tide’s high.’ I looked at the shelves full of elegant boxes, none of the names jogged my memory.
‘Treat yourself instead; what do you miss most out at sea?’
I was talked into buying an expensive tiny bottle.
In my cabin I cautiously removed the delicate stopper, sniffed and was transported to a walled garden I had visited as a child. A summer scent never recaptured until now. How was such a scent created? How did the young man choose so perfectly?