Saturday 30 November 2013

Flash fiction


For the first time in twenty-five years, I lie with a soft pillow under my head. After the extremes of heat and cold, in my tiny isolated room, I am comfortably warm. I have just eaten the most delicious meal; one of my own choosing, after years of near-inedible mush. People move around me, touch me (how I have longed for that touch; the human touch of skin against skin!) and talk in low voices, and are kind. Someone smiles at me.

I hardly feel the scratch of the executioner's needle. Soon I will be at peace.

Tuesday 26 November 2013

Two beetles on a cupboard

I'm afraid I still  have this tendency to see images in odd places. I don't particularly look for them; they're just there.

We've had this cupboard for years, and suddenly this morning - voila! Two beetles swimming (?) around on its side.

That's all.

Sunday 24 November 2013

Magpie 195

She had sauvignon blanc, and she drank it.
And was sleeping it off (with a blanket).
She stayed nicely afloat
On her comfortable boat
Till it struck a small steamer, which sank it.

Tuesday 19 November 2013

Do you believe in guardian angels?

I've never really believed in guardian angels, but recently, I've had a weird feeling that someone somewhere is looking out for  me. I know. It sounds odd. But there have been several incidents in the past few years where what could have  - even should have - been a total disaster have, by a twist of fate (or of angel...?), turned out better than they should have.

Here are three examples:

1. When I hurtled down the stairs ten years ago, head first and not touching a single stair, literally flying from top to bottom, I somehow managed to turn 90% so that I was at right angles to the staircase. Had I not turned, I would have broken my neck on the front door. As it was, I broke my back (bad enough) but I'm still here to tell the tale.

2. When my beloved Titch died while I was out riding him last year, we were going along a quiet country lane. I very nearly took the (busy) road, but decided against at the last minute. Titch went totally ballistic with pain, and we would most certainly have had a horrible accident had we been on the road.

3.Yesterday, I went for a long ride on Fairfax. On the way home,one of  the reins broke (to the uninitiated, this amounts to a brakes failure). We had crossed roads, galloped hard, in fact had an adventurous time, but when the incident happened, we were walking beside a field, with no hazards (and little pressure on the reins). It was pretty hairy, as the only way to stop a horse with one rein is to go round in cicles, and it was very difficult gaining control. But we could have been in the middle of the road, or galloping, and in the latter case, I don't think we would have stopped at all.

Or I suppose I could say that my guardian angel wasn't paying attention in the first place...

Saturday 16 November 2013

Funeral fun

A new funeral directors is/are opening in our town, and gaily advertising an "open day". Hmm. I wonder what exactly they'll be opening? Not one of those, obviously, but still, I confess to being curious.

Wll there be refreshments? This puts me in mind of one of those gallows humour conversations one can have when things have reached rock bottom. Some time ago,  friend of mine (who had suffered appalling losses and bereavements) and I were discussing what refreshments one should offer as a funeral caterer. We came up with such things as 'funeral fancies' and 'coffin and walnut cake', and now I find myself wondering what else might be appropriate. Certainly, a CD of Girls A'shroud could provide the music, but does anyone have any other ideas?

(And  yes, Adrian, I am getting on with the novel. Slowly.)

Wednesday 13 November 2013

Is blogging a waste of time?

I have a horrible feeling that for me, quite often, it's not so much a waste of time as time mis-spent. For a writer, it's the perfect way of procratinating, while still (technically) writing.

I enjoy blogging. I like having somewhere to express feelings or experiences or odd thoughts, and  I like reading other people's opinions/ views/takes on life etc.  Inasmuch as you can never really know someone you've never met, I have nonetheless come to 'know' some really nice, supportive, interesting and entertaining people. But does that make it a good use of time?  (Many people use Facebook for the same purpose, but for some reason, I cannot stand Facebook. It seems not only trivial - often - but too public, for while anyone can read this, not that many people know about it, and it's my own forum.)

So - what do you think? And (perhaps more to the point) is there anything you ought to be doing now, rather than reading this? I'm putting off work on the WIP, which has run into difficulties. What's your reason?

I'd really love to know.

Monday 11 November 2013

The wrong kind of Christmas box

Recently in the news was a report of a head teacher who was banning the giving out of party invitations at school,  as this meant some children felt excluded if they were not invited. I applauded her decision.

It put me in mind of those post boxes put up in classrooms for the posting of Christmas cards from pupils to each other. How well I remember those dreaded boxes in my own school classroom, with their contents waiting to delight or humiliate; the awful fear that I would be the one with the fewest cards. It mattered not a jot whom the cards came from; it was the number of cards that mattered, for therein lay the measure of one's popularity (or lack of it).

This cruel (and unnecessary) practice is alive and well in some schools even today. Quite recently, a small grandson of mine, an affectionate and sensitive child, was mortified to find that he was the recipient of just one card when the post box was emptied at the end of term.

Isn't it time that this kind of thing was discouraged in schools? Life is quite difficult enough for less popular   children. Let's not make it even harder; especially at Christmas.

Saturday 9 November 2013

Making an exhibition of yourself. Nine easy steps.

1. Choose a Saturday morning in a busy market town. Timing is all.
2. Take your shopping trolley (I know. Geriatric equipment. But this won't work without the trolley).
3. Do lots of shopping.
4. Go to Sainsburys. Do more shopping.
5. At the self serve thingy, check out your stuff, and pack it into the trolley. Do this in a hurry (there has to be a queue building up behind you for this to work really well).
6. Stuff large bag of potatoes on top of other purchases, ensuring that the trolley is top-heavy. Fumble with your change and drop your purse.
7. Try to reach purse and grab trolley, preferably at the same time.
8. The trolley will now tip over, the purse will skitter across the floor, and if this goes really well, you will ricochet into the confectionary display, which should be small and unsteady.
9. Land heavily on your knees, arms outflung, uttering expletives (your choice), scattering packets of sweets/chocolate etc and the members of the queue.

This works. I promise. I tried it only this morning.

(Oh, and I'm feeling a bit better now. Thanks for asking.)

Thursday 7 November 2013

What (not) to say when someone dies

It came home to me strongly last week - and for the nth time - that people who haven't  been bereaved often have no idea what to say.

It would have been my first husband's birthday, and a kind relative of his, who has been  unfailingly supportive, phoned to say he was thinking of us. "But I suppose you've got over it  now," he said, adding "99.9%", just in case. I was appalled, and I'm afraid my response was not as polite as I would have liked (it was one of those speak first, think afterwards, moments).

Because you never, ever, "get over" something like that. All those birthdays, wedding anniversaries, the graduations of children, the births of grandchildren, watching my son lead his sister down the aisle on her wedding day, because she had no father to do it...the list is endless. He never lived long enough to see his children established in their careers; our youngest was only just eleven.

But this kind of thing is well meant. Maybe you just have to go through it yourself to understand. There is so much I have learnt since it happened to me. Some of those things are:

When you hear the news, write. Briefly. Preferably a proper letter.  And only about the bereavement/the dead person. Don't - as one person I  know did - add your own holiday plans at the end of the letter. This isn't about you!

Phone if you want to. This is scary. You don't know what state the recipient of your phone fall will be in. One friend of mine phoned me and just sobbed down the phone. I can't tell you how helpful that was.

Don't say "let me know if there's anything I can do". This is well-meant, and kind, but the bereaved person won't take you up on it, especially if you live hundreds of miles away. If you want to help, take a meal round, send flowers, offer to fetch the kids from school, do the ironing. If you're too far away, never mind. At least you've written.

If  you do speak, don't mention yourself or your own experiences. One of my own worst memories is of the parish vicar coming round on what I suppose he would call a "bereavement visit". I hardly knew the man. He spent the entire time talking about (a) his own wonderfully happy marriage and (b) his own heart attack. It was terrible.

Stay in touch. for as long as it takes. Don't tail away after a couple of months. If you're a friend, the bereaved person will go on needing you for  much longer than you think.

Remember the anniversary. I suppose this isn't strctly necessary, but as that first year comes round, the bereaved person will be going through all those memories all over again, and suffering.

I have learnt so much over the last 21 years. Would I have followed this advice before that? I shall never know. I hope so, but I shall never be sure. And if anyone (probably many) who reads this post knows all this, and doesn't need reminding, I apologise.

Monday 4 November 2013

Horse (Fairy) Diaries

Well, Fairfax (aka Fairy) has been with me nearly a year, and has finally agreed to have his comments posted. Provided they are accompanied by a photo showing his best side (he doesn't have a best side, and anyway, strictly speaking, it should be 'better' side. But I'll let that pass).

So. Fairy has a nice new rug. I took it in to show him this morning.

Me: Look! Lovely new indoor rug! Nice and cosy, and the colour suits you.
Fairy: I liked my old one.
Me: No you didn't. It was so big that it looked as though you were hiding under a tablecloth, and besides, you had trashed it. (How does a horse wreck a rug which is only worn indoors? I have no idea, and he's not telling).

I put the rug on him. It looked lovely, and fitted perfectly. Fairy was not impressed, so I led him out to the grass in front of the yard office to have a graze. I was holding the lead rope and dreaming, as you do, when Fairy suddenly plummeted earthwards.

Fairy (kicking his heels in the air): Just seeing whether it stays on when I roll about like this.

It did. It is now a very un-smart muddy rug, but he was pleased, and I suppose that's what counts. (I would add that this was only the second or third time in all the time I've had him that he has rolled while I'm holding him. He says it was pure coincidence. My own jury is still out.)


Sunday 3 November 2013

Wonga in the wronga

I have posted before about ageism, and how it's apparently hilarious to make jokes about zimmer frames/deafness/ blindness/confusion/ short-sightedness etc etc because the old dears can't fight back, can they? Well, this old dear has had enough, and the Wonga advertisements are just about the last straw. Some can be found here.

They aren't funny or clever, but deeply patronising, and just plain horrible. No-one would be allowed to parody the handicapped or an ethnic minority (for example) in this way, so why they elderly? Being old is bad enough without this kind of thing.

Come to think of it, I can't even remember what exactly Wonga is; I'm usually so occupied in ranting that I never get to see the denouement of these adverts. Do tell me what I've missed...?

Friday 1 November 2013

Christmas shopping? Look no further...

...for that special gift, for I have the solution  right here in a catalogue*: clockwork salt and pepper pots, shaped like penguins. You "just fill the pots with salt and pepper, wind them up, and let them go...shooting across the table to whoever needs them". Apparently "passing the salt and pepper has never been so much fun".

Passing the salt and pepper fun? Really?

Oh, what have I been missing all these years...

What will they think up next? Wind-up vegetable dishes? Motorised knives and forks? When you think about it, the possibilities for fun at the dinner table are endless.

*One of those catalogues full of things nobody needs to give to people who don't want them; the last resort of the desperate shopper.