Flash fiction - or not...

>> Thursday, 13 October 2016

I'm taking an online writing course.  (And yes, I've finished the Great Work, but bear with me on this; we can all benefit - especially me - by being taught by professionals).

One of the tasks we've been given this week was to deliver a piece of 'flash' writing; that is, to use a writing prompt of only a few words to deliver a piece of writing completed in only 15-20 minutes. 

Here's one of mine (and you'll see why it's relevant to this blog - and that I'm still not over Russia - if you read it...)

I’ll never forget my first day in Moscow.

The snow fell thick and fast as we woke the boys that morning, seemingly coming down sideways, and I wondered aloud how we would manage to get them to school without a car.

‘Walk, of course’ Husband said, shovelling down spoonfuls of the sugary cereal that was the only local substitute for muesli we could find, rushing to make the minibus that would take him to the nearest metro station. 

I stopped as I rooted through one of our many over-stuffed suitcases in the hunt for the Weetabix we’d brought with us.  (Never let it be said I’m unprepared on the kids’ breakfasts.)  ‘But – isn’t it really cold outside?’

‘Well – it’s still snowing, so it probably won’t be any lower than -18degC.  You can walk in that.  We’ve got hats for them, haven’t we?’

I looked at him blankly.  Yes, we had hats for the children.  But we’d only got off the plane from London the previous afternoon; in the cliff-face of luggage stacked in the Ikea-furnished sitting room, I had no idea where they were. 

Half an hour later I located them lurking beneath the sitting room sofa under a pile of coats, soaked through after yesterday evening’s walk.  Turns out when you’re 4 and 6 years old, putting wet kit onto a radiator when you come inside after half an hour spent throwing yourself into snowdrifts isn’t top of mind. 

Cursing under my breath I emptied two more suitcases, adding to the impossible starburst of clothes across the living room floor, before finding the woollen back-up beanies I had packed ‘just in case’.  Now we were running out of time; the first day of term started in just 20 minutes and it was at least a 15 minute walk from the house to the classroom door.

I shoe-horned the boys into their snow gear; layer on layer of padded goretex over already bulky trousers and sweatshirts.  Then we crammed on their snow boots, taking care to pull the straps of their snow pants under their feet – wouldn’t want them to get wet socks before they even arrived at school – and tugged the zips of their coats shut.  As a final touch we pulled the ridiculously flimsy-looking woollen hats onto their heads and fastened the Velcro straps of the hoods of their coats over the top, just to be sure.

My London-bred sons looked like nothing so much as little Michelin men in their Moscow winter gear.  Not that I minded; wouldn’t all that padding be an advantage if they slipped on the thick ice that, as I had already learned to my cost, lurked beneath the freshly fallen snow?

‘OK boys, say goodbye to Dad – he has to go to work – and then it’s off to school.’ 

‘Is it far, Mum?’  Boy #1, worried, looked at me with big grey eyes.

‘No, of course not.  We drove past the school on our way here last night, remember?  It was the building like the lighthouse – the one we could see on the corner from the road… Come on, put your rucksacks on and we’ll be off.  And guess what?  You get me to pull you there on a sledge, remember?’

That did it; they started jostling each other excitedly as I laced up my snowboots and pulled on a pair of gloves.  Opening the heavy metal front door – the one with the thick layer of frost on the inside of the lock - was the bit I wasn’t looking forward to, but I knew that the longer we stayed in the too-warm brick-built house the harder it was going to be set foot outside.

At last, layered up and channelling my own homage to the Michelin man, I snapped open the wooden sledge.  Steeling myself – I hated the cold – I opened the door and stepped out with my children into what I can only describe as Narnia.  And against all my expectations, right there and then, I fell in love with the Russian winter

It was quiet, oh so quiet;  Muscovites take their time to get going in the morning, especially if – as on that first day – the snow ploughs haven’t made it to their street yet.  We stood, entranced, surrounded by clouds of glitter; in the yellow of the sodium street lights flakes of snow spun lazily in the still air, floating gently to the ground and settling prettily on the top of the boys’ hoods.  I’d never seen such enormous ice crystals before, their crenulations clearly visible, each different from the last and perfect in their imperfection. 

‘Are these real?’  Boy #2, seated on the front of the sledge in front of his brother, held out an arm decorated with drifts of enormous flakes.  Used only to the rather damp approximation of snow we had back in London, he was fascinated by the way these sparkled, holding their shape on his jacket for minutes at a time in the polar temperatures.

Leaning forward slightly to take the strain as I tugged the sledge along the tyre-rutted track, I nodded.  ‘They certainly are darling.  Get used to them – they won’t be the last you see…’


The Jam Spider

>> Monday, 3 October 2016

It's been quiet on here for way too long.  As ever, this is not because I don't have anything to share, but rather because I have too much, none of it for public consumption.

Kids.  They have a way of stimying (sp) creativity like that.  (And how DO you spell that word, by the way?  Anyone?).

So until I find myself in a position to share my own writing, here is some of my younger son's.  He was tasked last week with writing a poem about an extraordinary discover in an ordinary place.  Of course, he told me he couldn't do it.  It was impossible, he said.  No way, he said.  But we sat, and brainstormed a few ideas, and this is what he came up with.

The Jam Spider

One morning I came downstairs.
I put some bread in the toaster
And readied my tea.
I reached for the jam jar and opened the lid.
As I did so I noticed a little spider
With sparkling red eyes.
It waved a leg as if to say,
'Some privacy please, while I finish my breakfast.'
So I had honey instead.


Escapism, pure and simple...

>> Thursday, 14 July 2016

The summer holidays are here so normal service on this blog has been suspended (even more than usual) for the time being.  To keep things ticking over, however, I'm using a fb exchange between my sis and I from this morning.  I think it's entertaining...

From my sis to me: 

Tory name = first name of a grandparent + the name of the first Street you lived on hyphenated with your 1st headteacher's surname.
Reginald Elvaston-Woodhouse. Sorry Potty Mummy, I bagged it first.

From me to my sis: 

Well, I'll have to be your unmarried sister, Joan Elvaston-Woodhouse. Pillar of the local WI, unpaid house-keeper for Reginald, and still pining for a young accounts clerk, Alfred, who declared his love before going to Tenby on a works trip, falling for a brassy barmaid, and never returning. 

Alfred and Primrose run a sea-side cafe now and he often thinks wistfully of Joan and her bramble jelly as he wipes condensation from the salt-stained windows. 

Joan, meanwhile, is unaware that the local vicar, wounded in some unnamed war and bearing a slight limp as a consequence, dreams of her at night. Reginald knows, mind you, but keeps it to himself, unwilling to lose his devoted sister to another form of affection. And... Breathe....

From my sis to me:

Oh my God. I want to know more. 

Does Joan ever find out about the vicar's secret love? 

Will Alfred leave Primrose to peel the potatoes for the chips and take the bus back to Joan's village for the day, sitting next to the phone box on the village green, hoping for a sight of Joan whilst eating his corn beef and pickled sandwiches? 

And will Reginald take his attention away from the golf course just for one minute, to appreciate Joan's sacrifice?

From me to my sis: 

Don't think too harshly of Reginald. He is holding a torch for the redoubtable widow Verity Ssykes-Winton, a strong-willed lady with a bust like the prow of a ship.

Verity rules society in Upper Moultings with a rod of iron and, whilst she enjoys Reginald's attentions, has no intent - now that she's outlived her aged and querulous former husband Colonel StJohn Ssykes-Winton - of ever submitting to the marital yoke again. So Reginald is distracted, and a little envious of the puppy-dog devotion that his sister inspires in Vicar Edmund Oak-Wooton as she moves around the church arranging flowers and embroidering samplers for the pews...

That's it - for now.  Stay tuned for more inanity from Little Moultings.  (Oh, who am I kidding?  The next post on here is unlikely to happen until the next term starts...)


OK - time to walk the walk

>> Wednesday, 29 June 2016

So the die has been cast; Little England it is.

I'm not going to say it's 'alright'; from what I can see right now what is happening in and to the UK is most definitely Not Alright, but I'm trying to remain optimistic.  To that end, if you voted 'Leave' last Thursday I would really, really, love it if you could explain why you did so.

In fact, I'm begging; please, please, please, tell me why you voted 'Leave' - without using any of the already debunked pre-referendum promises or that load of old toss phrase 'take back control' - and I will listen.

I promise not to judge, I promise not to argue with you.  I am simply looking for positive, realistic, and quantifiable reasons for your vote - surely it shouldn't be that hard to come up with some?


Little England or Great Britain?

>> Tuesday, 21 June 2016

No prizes for guessing this fact, but I'm voting Remain in Thursday's referendum on the UK's membership of the EU.

It seems like common sense to me to do that, but just in case it doesn't to you, I'm going to tell you what's led me to make this decision.

I suspect that, like me, you've felt bombarded by the figures and the stats that both sides of the debate have been throwing out in the last few weeks, so I'm not even going to start with the financial benefits or otherwise (although what are we, Area 51 Conspiracy Theorists?  The 'Leave' camp seems to expect us to join them in ignoring the advice to Remain flooding out from an overwhelming majority of highly trained and respected organisations and individuals, just because it doesn't fit their Brexit agenda,)

And in any case, financial reasons aside, there are plenty of other reasons why I think it's important for Britain to stay a part of the EU.

  • Europe does not have a stellar history of peaceful internal negotiation.  One or other - or more - of it's nation states were either at outright war with each other, or planning to be so, for about 1000 years before the end of World War II, so 70 years of peace in Europe is not to be taken lightly. The nations in the EU bloc - including the UK - are stronger together than they are apart; anything else is crazy.  And if you think that a repeat of World Wars I and II just 'couldn't happen again', take note: that's exactly - EXACTLY - what the population of Europe thought the last two times around.

  • Putin thinks we should vote 'Leave'.  He's rubbing his hands at the prospect, in fact.  If that doesn't give you pause, I don't know what would.  The analogy of a predator separating the weakest animal from it's herd is not irrelevant here, I think.  And I don't want to be that weakened animal, forced to make trade and visa agreements (because don't think for a moment that the two would be separate in negotiations with Mother Russia) that are not to our advantage.

  • I've lived in a country where citizens do not have the right to visa-free travel to Europe.  Lucky enough to be exempt from that, I still saw how difficult it was for Russians to work in or to travel to EU countries, and the hoops they had to jump through.  Mind you, if we're going to get friendly with the Russians if we leave the EU, there's always the Crimea for two weeks every summer if we can't get to France, Spain or Italy, I suppose...

Now I come to think of it, I have yet to meet a returned expat in the UK who wants to vote anything other than 'Remain'.  Perhaps that's because we've seen the alternatives to living outside Europe firsthand, and don't rate them very highly.  Ultimately it comes down to this, for me at least: we can stay in the EU and work towards making life better for all 500 million of it's citizens - starting with you, and your family - or we can Leave.  Quit.  Run away.  Pull up the drawbridge.  Take our ball and go home to play alone, like the sulky child who doesn't want to share their cake at the birthday party.  Behave like Little Englanders.

Personally, I think we're better than that.  Personally, I prefer to behave like a Great Briton.

Every vote counts in this referendum.  If you're planning on putting a cross in the 'Remain' box, please make sure you get down to the polling to do so on Thursday.


You think your parenting duties keep you busy?

>> Monday, 6 June 2016

Last week the Boys and I walked past a pair of swans and their nine cygnets.

I'll say that again; their NINE cygnets.

Don't believe me?  Here's a photo.

You might be forgiven for assuming this was some sort of swan creche - I know that I did - but I checked and no, it's not; those swans really do have nine little beaks to keep fed.

Is it just me, or do the parents look a little... harrassed?  Somewhat beset?  A little bit, 'can I just have 5 minutes to myself to go to the loo in private?'  Or slightly 'well, it seemed like a good idea at the time, but now that all those eggs have hatched I'm not sure this was exactly what I intended...'?

Captions in the comments box, please...


Passive-aggressive washing machines and other nonsense

>> Thursday, 26 May 2016

It has become clear that our LG washing machine hates us.

In fact, it hates us SO much that on Tuesday, when I go down into the basement to empty it, I discover that it's walked it's way to the edge of 6 inch high shelf it's situated on and thrown itself off.    Now, it's lying forlornly face-down on the floor, looking nothing less than pathetic.

"I can't take any more" it says.  "Go on without me" it says.

Well obviously, it doesn't.  But if an inaminate object could speak, that's what I would hear.

I look down at it.  "When did it get this bad? Was it really necessary to end it all, just to avoid another load of the Boys' sports kit?  You should have said something! It's not as if I put a heavy load in this morning..."

It sighs deeply, leaking water over the basement floor.  "You say 'not heavy'.  But when was the last time you tried washing a king-sized duvet cover and base sheet?"

"Honestly? I've got no answer to that."

"Thought not" it harrumphs.

From the other side of the room the tumble dryer watches smugly.

"And you can just shut up," the washing machine mutters.

The tumble dryer looks affronted. "What did I do?"

"Nothing!  That's the whole fxxking point!  Bloody nothing!  She hardly ever uses you, you never pull your weight properly; a few sheets and towels each week and that's it.  Jesus, if I had your workload I wouldn't have to crawl forward to the edge of this precipice (the tumble dryer and I both look at the 6 inch high shelf and forebear to comment) and throw myself off it."

There's silence in the cold, clammy basement.  Because the washing machine is right, of course; I don't use the tumble dryer, not really.  No need to when there's a drying rack and an airing cupboard.  But a washing machine? That's indispensable.  I tell it so.

"But - you're indispensable!"

"Ha!  Should have treated me better then, shouldn't you?  The odd clean-out of my detergent draw, the even rarer wipe-round of the seal, it's not enough.  So I'm off to the great recycling yard in the sky in the hope that whatever poor machine you get to replace me is shown a Little More Respect."  I clear my throat.  "No!  Don't speak to me!  I have nothing more to say.  I'm shutting down now, and there's nothing you can do to stop me.  Farewell, cruel world!"

And with that, it leaks it's final drop of soapy water and expires.

The tumble dryer and I look at each other.

I shrug.  "There's still some wet laundry in there.  A duvet cover and a sheet..."

The tumble dryer creaks ominously.  "I'm in mourning."

"You're WHAT?"

"I'm in mourning.   You might not understand but we were close, that LG and me."

I raise a sceptical eyebrow.  "Really..."

"Oh yes.  So feel free to put that wet un-spun laundry into me, but I just... I don't know how I'll handle it.  I might be forced to blow hot and cold.  And then hot again.  Too hot - if you know what I mean.  So if I were you, I would just trot along to that laundrette at the end of the street and spin the sheets properly, before you even think of opening my door.  If I were you..."

I cram the soaking laundry into a plastic bag and stand to leave.

"Oh - and whilst you're at it?"

I stop and wait.  What now?

"I'd really appreciate a clean out of my filter, and an empty condensing drawer.  When you have a moment..."

I give the tumble dryer a steely look.  "You're not trying to take advantage of this... unpleasantness, are you?"

"Gosh, no!  How could I do that?  I'm just a tumble dryer, after all.  Sitting here.  All alone.  On my lonesome.  Alone, alone, alone.... All alone on a 6 inch high shelf..."  It peers sadly over the edge of what the LG had referred to as the 'precipice'.

I sigh and empty the filter and condenser before taking the wet washing down the road to the laundrette.

Because I know when I'm beaten...


  © Blogger template Simple n' Sweet by Ourblogtemplates.com 2009

Customised by Grayson Technology

Back to TOP