Immunity, Teardrops, An Englishman Walks

Well hello there.

I’ll start with a quick bit of self promotion, and get it out of the way. In the past month or so, I’ve gone from co-running Improvised Comedy workshops and putting on the occasional show, to running a theatre company (B.I.G. – Barcelona Improv Group), organising regular shows, venues, promotion, weekends away, creating a website, AND running Improvised Comedy workshops.

The website is here: www.barcelonaimprovgroup.com , and it’s not finished… but it’s getting there. I’m making a little progress every day.

I spent the afternoon on a train to Sabadell to visit a friend (but let’s call her my financial advisor to make it sound more professional), so I got some bits of flash fiction done, and a haiku, and the themes of each one neatly flows into the next… sort of. So I’ll post them in the order of construction. Don’t be too critical – it’s the first time I’ve really gotten much done in all of hot, sweaty August. My brain doesn’t seem to cope well with the heat.

The first is heavily based on something I wrote once before – I apologise if I posted that, and am now repeating.

Immunity

He’d insisted: “When my son is born, we’re not feeding him that medication every day. What if he spits it up? It’s impractical. We’ll give him the injections – he won’t remember the pain.”
Twenty-four hours after the birth, when the nurse entered with the needle, he tried to leave, but his wife held his hand.
Five minutes later, the father emerged clasping his once-again quiet child. “Your first tears,” he whispered, “I caused your first tears in this world.” And he wept.

Teardrops

He stared at the train window; at the rivulets of rain that ran down the glass, gathering weight from the flecks as it fell. His grandmother slept in the opposite seat, her day smile washed off, leaving an exhausted sadness. Her reflection in the glass was half gone, and raindrop tears ran down her face.

a

An Englishman walks
with head held high in drizzle
and doesn’t get wet

Walk Up (Microfiction)

Hey,

I don’t have much to say today, but as it’s the last day of July, I thought I’d sneak a quick post in.
I would like to tell you that I’ve joined a creative writing group, which is nice. It’s working well because rather than the usual “you should get yourself published” that I hear from my friends, I’m getting criticism, feedback, advice….
I will admit, it stings when you get 90% criticism and 10% praise, but I write it all down, and I would say at least 70% of the criticism comes from a good point, so I’m learning. It’s a learning experience.

Here’s a piece of microfiction (this one limited to 50 words) that I came up with as a writing exercise. Basically, my brain needs training right now and if I can get through tasks like this and do them well, then I will get better. It’s all about practice practice practice….

Walk Up

The cold biting wind washed her lungs clean, but left her drained. She couldn’t march on like she used to. Pausing for breath, she looked back down on the valley of her married life. Scrub and rock it was, heather and gorse. Sharp, unyielding, barren. And yet she loved it still.

Aunt Wendy’s New Home

Every break from class
I rush to the computer
and pray for wickets.

 

Hey all. It’s getting towards the end of the month and there’s only two posts up. Why? Well, excuses are lovely things, but the only one worth spouting is it’s the dreaded time of year where I have to write reports, and while they’re not too onerous a task, they’re mind-sapping.

courtesy of bbc.co.uk/sport

The above haiku was a silly one I threw together about today. For the first time, well, ever, I’m making the effort and paying attention to the Ashes (giant up-to-25-day cricket competition between the best two teams, England and Australia). This was written during a day of Australia batting, of course.

Before we get to the story, I’m making a new Category in the side called “Haiku”. I know Haiku are poems too, but I’m going to class them differently so it’s easier to find the haiku if you’re looking for them.

So, I’ve got some Flash Fiction for you today. It is, strangely, a sequel to Tomatoes, although that’s not apparent by any character names, or by the narrative voice, or location…. or anything. It has the same source material; my grandmother, telling me stories from when her grandchildren were just little. She has a natural gift for storytelling, and perhaps this has something to do with her being born a Ridgwell (there, the “original” spelling of my pen name). It’s called:

Aunt Wendy’s New Home

a

You don’t remember? Well, this story is the type you always liked the best – it’s one about you.

Continue reading “Aunt Wendy’s New Home”

Red (and talk of Peace)

I wanted to talk a bit about a few things I learnt in Japan before I get on to my spooky story below. And I use “spooky” in a very broad sense.

Japan and Peace

While I was teaching in Japan, the Prime Minister resigned. Why? One of his election promises had been that he would remove, or at least move, the American military base from an Okinawan Japanese island to the south of Japan. The fact that his failure to do so led to his resignation says as much about honouring your word in Japanese culture and politics as it does about how important an issue this is to many people.

A lot of Japanese people dislike having an American military presence in Japan at all. I thought I understood this at first – it seemed like a hangover from the Second World War, with the Americans “keeping an eye” on them. Probably that’s how they got the land to build a base on in the first place.

But then I found out from recruitment posters in the university that Japan has no standing army as such. They have a “Self-Defense Force”, but everyone working in it is technically a civilian. 3% of the national budget goes to them. Japan, despite being a world economic power, isn’t even slightly a military power.

Continue reading “Red (and talk of Peace)”

Lack of Progress Report

This.

This handsome creature is to blame.

me and nick

My NaNoWriMo is progressing slowly. These next 4 days are much less busy than the previous week, so there’s a reasonable chance I’ll get a good bit down. But I’m massively behind my target.

I figured I could post extracts here to spur myself on, not just to up my word count, but also to make something of some quality. Unfortunately, quickly scanning what I’ve got doesn’t seem to reveal a great deal of merit.

The scene for my story is Barcelona, which is actually a pretty smart move for me. I seem to be quite bad about writing about the place where I am – it’s places where I’m not that draw my creative eye. So this is a good experience, in that it gets me to observe my surroundings and try to describe them. Also, if I ever get stuck as to where to take the story next, I can pick a scene, somewhere in Barcelona, and hopefully while I’m lavishly detailing that scene, some ideas will come to me.

Here’s a description of an apartment in the story, hopefully the scene of many interesting events to come…

a

It was one of those big-rooved, small-corridored, dingy little places you see, with two shuttered windows out onto the thin grey street, and two or three more that opened out on to a dark, close, inside balcony.
For those of you who don’t know Barcelona, they’ve got these inside balconies all over the place, and sure, they let in a bit more air and don’t take up to much space, but they’re depressing. In the centre of a whole block of house, there’ll be this big open column that’s like a hole in a donut. People hang their washing out in here so it dries, so there’s often a smell of warm soap, especially in the summer. Then they open their kitchen windows, so it smells of garlic and salted cheese and whatever else they’re eating that’s got a strong enough smell. Then their windows and blinds are open and up, and the lights are on, so you can see across and see what they’re doing, with their equally poky grimy kitchen and their balding heads and hairy arms. And of course, you can hear them all. The couple upstairs who aren’t speaking Spanish or English, but something more foreign, and their screaming kids. The dour wife of the working man, who frowns at her washing and her cooking. The unemployed guy. Those Swedish music-lovers across the way. A couple of quiet ones, I suppose, but mostly, it’s this claustrophobic tunnel of darkness and light, noise and smells, and most of all, no privacy. I suppose the feeling of never being totally alone is a comfort to some – in fact, some of my friends love it, and it seems to be pretty Spanish to me. But me, I can’t stand the lack of silence, the peace, the time to be yourself with no one judging.
So, this house. It was the middle of autumn, so it was often dark outside anyway, but inside, what with the shutters and the indoor balcony, it had a dark corners even when they had the lights on. The furniture was probably brought in from the street – more wood with a cloth cover on it than anything comfortable to sit on. A few plants. A rug on the wall, and darkly painted rooms to absorb what little light was left when you turned on the floor lamps. Perfect for when you’re hung over, don’t get me wrong. And a little white neon-lit kitchen. Of course, Tom wasn’t much of a chef at the time – now, at least he’s passable – and I imagine the kitchen was a bit of a mess of dirty dishes and bowls.

Right. Back to work. See you on the upside of 15,000, I suppose.

Tomatoes

Arghblarg.

Blog. I owe you more things. It’s not that I’ve not been writing…. it’s more that I’ve not been posting. More things will appear. Presumably this weekend, we’ll have 3 (that’s right 3) little bits.

This is a flash fiction. A friend of mine wrote a flash fiction the other day about a woman making a cup of tea, and if he posts it to his blog, then I shall post a link to it and stuff. In the mean time, here’s a flash fiction I wrote the other day about a woman making a cup of tea. To clarify, this is a different story, not his story stolen and plagarised.

Tomatoes

mrs duckIt was a grey day out, and windy, but her daughter was insisting. Allison had always been demanding as a little girl, and though she was now a mother of two, she still had a way of carrying herself that made Margaret give up and go along with it. They would go down to the duck pond with the little ones and feed the ducks. Margaret was making tea, taking out three mugs, putting the kettle on the Aga, then turning back and putting one of the mugs back in the cupboard.

Allison was off somewhere with the baby, who was crying about something. Margaret supposed that meant she was in charge of little Steve, but then Steve seemed to consider himself quite capable these days.

He had, after all, spent half of his childhood running about the old farmhouse. He knew all the little corners, knew what he could touch and what he shouldn’t. Margaret found herself comparing his eager survey to hers on that day, when she’d first moved in. Back then, her father-in-law had put in that creaking black stove, especially for her. Coal burning, it had been, and a darn sight better than whatever had come before it. An accomplished cook, she had upgraded to the Aga when they could afford it, which now stood dusty. But both, she reflected, had kept them warm through the winters.

A young bride, she’d walked round the house with a mix of excited pride and despair at how much work there was to be done. She’d had to convert an upstairs room for the summer help, and she’d kept his bed and board. It was a big place, and it took a good long time to clean, especially without washing machines or dryers or dish washers. Lunch for her husband and all the workers at midday, when this kitchen, now so quiet, had buzzed with talk and heat. And Allison and her older brother and sister, eventually.

All of the things little Steve couldn’t touch were things that she’d bought, or at the very least approved, over the years. All of his hiding places, his mother had found in her turn. In that strange way that children and grandchildren mimic one another, both Allison then and Steve now held a certain reverenced awe for Margaret’s bedroom, with its neatly tucked sheet corners, not to be disturbed. She’d not told Allison, but for the last two days Margaret had taken to sleeping in the guest room. It was the other side of the house, and the air felt different in there.

Of course, there were things that needed talking about. Allison’s brother would be coming home from agricultural college, and so Margaret needed to spruce up the old bedrooms for him and his family. But mercifully, today was not that day.green toms

Today was a day with little wellingtons and anoraks by the door, and egg and cress sandwiches, and the leftover loaf for the ducks. She poured the now boiling water in the teapot, and turned to the window again, wondering if it would rain, like she felt. Sometimes a miserable day was just what you needed.

She realised she’d forgotten to put the tea bags in the pot, so put them in and stirred them with a spoon. The bang of a door told her that Steve had been in the little white conservatory by what was officially the front door, although of course everyone used the back door these days, which led out onto the farm.

The baby upstairs had stopped crying. That was one of the joys of being a grandmother, she reflected. You had the kids when they were good, and the parents dealt with them in their moods. The positives without the negatives. Whenever her grandchildren visited, Margaret was filled with a kind of warm glow, and although today was no exception, it somehow felt simultaneously weaker and stronger, as though the fire had grown stronger, but she was colder, distanced from it.

“Granny,” Steve had trotted solemnly into the room.

“Yes, dear?”

“I’ve watered Poppa’s tomato plants.”

“Thank you.”

“The tomatoes are still green, but he said they’d turn red soon.” This wasn’t a question; he was informing her. She nodded.There was a pause, and she turned back to the tea, but she knew by the way he was standing, he wasn’t done.

“Granny?” he said, fidgeting. “Is there a greenhouse in heaven?”

She looked down at him, and her eyes welled up again, only this time, she was smiling brightly, as brightly as she could muster.

“Yes, Steve. Yes, there is.”

“Oh, good,” he said, and she could hear the relief in his voice. Satisfied, he ran off, and Margaret looked out the window again, crying quietly and thinking of tomatoes.

Dog This Big; A Tragedy

Hey all. It’s Saturday, and I’m putting a blog up. Yes, that’s right, a day earlier than I said I would. I think this is in part due to the cooler air up here in half-sunny half-cloudy Galicia. I’m based in La Coruna – check your maps, it’s the north-west corner of Spain.

In the last week, I’ve taken buses from coast to coast of Spain, and hopefully, there is a poem on it’s way about that. I also got a nice poem started sitting in a park in Madrid. Madrid has some lovely parks, by the way. But it was 39 degrees Celsius.

Anyway, enough faffing. I have a theory that the oft-promised short story will appear as soon as it’s not promised, so it definitely won’t be appearing for at least two weeks. Things will come when they come.

Luckily, I have a trusty co-author who I can turn to in times of need. True, Lily has now disappeared out of my life for a couple of months (and I will miss her dearly, as demonstrated my how much I kept hugging and kissing her before they left), but before she left, we got a story done.

Continuing on from the huge media storm after her first literary success, Lily has petitioned me to once again co-write a masterpiece. This time, like all great authors who wish to make each of their works stand out, she has chosen a different subject matter, and while some of her themes remain the same, her new approach to these common threads present a stark and astonishing new light on the nature of human life; its joys, its fears, and doubts, but also its transience, and futility. Yes, that’s right, she’s tried her teeth out on a tragedy.

Dog This Big; A Tragedy

Once upon a time, there was a girl called

The co-author strikes again
The co-author strikes again

LILY
and her friend
HANNAH
(spelt with an H) (Lily is spelt with an L)

There went on holiday to France. in a town called Bookmarks. They had two bookmarks. One for Lily and one for Hannah.They went to the town in a big van, with big bookmarks.
The kids were on their own, coming home.
Lily was holding Baby Sam.
They had a cochecito. (little pram)
Lily was pushing the cochecito with Baby Sam in it, and she was happy.

There was a naughty doggie in the town.
A big big old doggie, like this (arms stretched wide)
He was blue and white and yellow, and his name was… Clarjoo.

The dog was chasing them. He was scary.
And the doggie tried to eat Lily and Hannah, and then he got them.
Then they got eatened.
And he ate Hannah. And then he went to sleep, and there was no more Hannah and Lily, because they died.

And their daddies looked for them everywhere, but they couldn’t find them, because they
got eaten. Because they died the doggie’s tummy.
They’re dead.
The dog was very giant, like this much.

“Where’s Lily gone?” said Daddy. “Where’s Hannah gone?” said Hannah’s Daddy.
“Where’s Lily gone?” said Mummy. “Where’s Hannah gone?” said Hannah’s Mummy.
“And where’s Baby Sam and the cochecito?” said Yaya Lisa and Poppa Ray.

Then, Mummy and Daddy and Hannah’s Mummy and Daddy and Yaya Lisa and Poppa Ray said “Where’s
Lily and Hannah and Baby Sam and the cochecito?”
And then, they saw a big dog, the woofie, he had a really really big belly,
because he’d eaten Lily and Hannah and Baby Sam and the cochecito.

“Oh no!” Said Mummy and Daddy. “This dog has eaten Lily and Hannah and Baby Sam and the cochecito!”

“What a NAUGHTY doggie!”
“We want our children back”
“We’re going to make new children.”
“How will you make new children?”
– “But if we make new children, they would die again.”
“Also new children, won’t be the same, and we love Lily and Hannah and Baby Sam very much.
And we quite liked the cochecito too.”

And all the mummies and daddies and Lisa and Poppa Ray got eaten too.

That’s the end.