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.

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Diving Into the Glaslyn

Gee Whillikers, Gang.

I’d forgotten the levels of stress that accompany teaching kids. I work in the mornings, and find various ways to relax in the afternoons, and then plan for the next day in the evenings, then sleep. Luckily, my kids are (quite) well-behaved), and seem to enjoy learning new things. It has been a while since I last taught kids on any kind of scale. Certainly not 15 at once. So it’s all good practice, and now I know them better, week 2 should be easier.

That’s the explanation for the absence of a Midweek post, and I recommend you anticipate the same thing happening this coming week as well. And then the one after that. And then I’ll be more talkative again.

I’m going to through up a poem now that’s gone through…. a lot…. of drafts. It was originally three separate half-poems that I’ve stuck together for having a common theme – hope you can’t see the joins. I’ve looked at it again this week, and while it remains imperfect, compared to it’s earlier versions, it’s looking pretty good. Still, I reckon what it needs is a little more condensing, and for me to be less flowing with the adjectives. Tell me what you think.

It’s based on swimming in the River Glaslyn, a place we used to go on family holidays, a place I’ve actually managed to find a picture of. It was an hour drive there, and nearly an hour walk to the spot in question, but we loved it, and I expect I’ll return there someday.

The Aberglaslyn Pass
The Aberglaslyn Pass

Diving into the Glaslyn

The smooth rock glistened with foot-pats,
breeze brisk, sun bright, water clean,
so clear and fresh we can see the bottom.

Running up for another dive,
you press down upon the rock’s edge for just a second
…heel raised, coiled like a spring,
your whole weight compressed upon
the fore part of the feet against the rock
…before you launch, arms forward.

Time rushes into the splash, the cold fingers of the river
parting for you, embracing you,
making you gasp, the water chaste and untouched,

and you disappear in an eruption of glistening light
sunk into bold white froth.

Soon you surface through the youthful torrent,
shaking your head,
hair wet and laughing like a seal,
then we kick down for some choice pebbles,
into the translucent world of dappled shadow below.

Behind the cries and noises of play,
your mark remains upon the rock, unnoticed,
your human imprint upon the solid stone,
until the sun’s lazy heat washes it dry,
one by one, the toe marks fade, vanish,
and the world returns to how it was before.

Our exact rock and pool
Our exact rock and pool

Storm Vilanelle

I’m ill. It’s a sick day off work, and it’s ludicrously hot. My flatmate, too, are coughing and spluttering. So, as my older brother is visiting tomorrow, I’ve got to get something up today.

I’ve always been really fond of the Vilanelle as a form, mostly because I’m rubbish at them, and I like a challenge, but also because I like trying to find the poetry in it’s repetitions. This poem is an example of a Vilanelle that I remain unhappy with, but I thought if I post it, maybe I’d get ideas to improve it. I’ve had a few, but I still need more. Also, maybe it’ll provoke me to write more vilanelles. For now, I’ll post and then go back to bed.

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Storm Memories

orange storm

Storm Memories

I will remember this in years to come,
this storm that cracks a whip across the land
and each storm holds the memories of the last –

when over a wet yellow crust, we run
raining pelting the dunes and freezing our hands
I will remember this in years to come.

We sheltered in the caravan, and watch for masts
out at sea, by the lightning out beyond the sand
and each storm holds the memories of the last.

The hot French summer, the air con hum,
We leave the vines when the grey clouds expand
I will remember this in years to come

The night airs warmth and wet rush past
the wooden shutters, the hot wood fanned
and each storm holds the memories of the last.

So now, tonight, the thunder like a drum
the orange glows, our kiss goes as you planned
I will remember this in years to come
and each storm holds the memories of the last.

“Goodbye” Story, and Lessons to Learn

Every week on Thursday, I meet up with a couple of other creative writers, and we talk about stuff we’ve written. Two of them are short story writers, which is totally my favourite area. One is in the middle of writing a novel, and brings us extracts. There are a couple of others who turn up sporadically, but with me and my poetry / short stories, we’re the centre of the group.

Last week we decided that this week we should all write a piece of Flash Fiction – a story in 500 words or less. It’s something they’ve all had some experience of and I haven’t, but I was totally up for the challenge. After all, if it’s half way between the two media I use write, it can’t be too hard, right?

Before I go further along this line, here’s the story, with a brief introduction (which may be part of it’s imperfection. It’s the last 500 words (and the only words yet written) of a short story idea that was born from a dream, fully fledged. Sounds corny, I know, but I was SO excited that it happened. I woke up and wrote and wrote notes of what happens, and, while I have yet to re-read them, they came to 20 A5 pages of scrawl.

Anyway, without further ado:

old-lady

“Here’s your car.”

She stood, patient and warmly smiling by my car, her hands clasped on her handbag in front of her, as I fidgeted with my car keys.

“Well, this is goodbye, then,” I said, trying to inflect my voice with a heartiness that fell flat.

She smiled in sympathy at me, a ‘poor boy’ smile at my attempt. “You’re not used to goodbyes, are you? I am.” We looked at one another.

“Tell me,” she said, “Can I… can I touch your face? … Can I feel… if it’s…?” She didn’t need to finish that sentence. I took her right hand, gently, and brought it up to my face, then let go. First she touched my forehead, just with the tip of a finger, then moved it gently sideways, her other fingers joining it, and slowly moved to my hair, and brushed lightly against my ear. Her hand circled my ear, and I looked down to her to see that she’d closed her eyes. I removed my glasses. Still brushing lightly, with the tips of three fingertips, she drew down to my bristly cheeks and sighed as she touched my chin. Then, infinitesimally slower, she drew her whole hand up my face, feeling with each finger the contours of my lips, cheeks, eyes, nose, and finally back to the forehead, before it rested for a second, then lifting her hand slowly away. She opened her eyes, full of sadness.

“So much the same, and yet so different… … did I tell you how, when you picked up the phone, your voice… it made my heart leap?”

She looked down at the tarmac, and I said, “Things change. Time moves on, and things don’t just stay the same forever.”

“And despite it all, the dead would want us to be happy, to live our lives.” She chuckled. “Sometimes the clichés are true. I hear them at funerals. You’re far too young to know the real truth of that wisdom, a lesson it takes a whole life to learn, and yet… it still surprises you, catches you by the throat.”

“Still, I’m glad to have met you.”

She smiled warmly at me. “You know, in all you have shown me, nothing has felt quite real, except the time I’ve spent with you.”

It seemed wrong to, but I leant down, and lifted her chin, and kissed her, briefly, softly, on the lips.

“Goodbye.”

I stepped into my car and drove away.

—————————————————————————————————————————-

Having read that, a few points, which may explain its confusion. It is about the narrator’s grandfather’s lover, and she’s not blind.

This was amongst the criticisms I received – lack of clarity. I’ve also learned to cut all cliches from my writing (including “sometimes the cliches are true”) , and that,despite all the positive reinforcement I’ve been getting, I still have a long way to go.

Which is why I’ve posted this version of the story – as something to look back on when I’m better at this and say, “Yes, I’ve improved.”  I think Flash Fiction merits more practice, for a start, and I also think this story may resurface as a complete short story.

Please feel free to post comments!

“Mauritius”

I expected setting up a blog to make me more creative, at the very least starting a little creative burst. But what I didn’t expect was for it to suddenly make me a much more vigorous critic of my old writings.

I didn’t want to start off with a half-finished half-baked poem, so I found a recently updated poem that I thought was a good “debut”, but I’ve been tinkering with it for a couple of hours now, finding small holes and imperfections. There are still a few problems with it, but it’s much closer to where it should be.

Mauritius from a bus
Mauritius from a bus

Mauritius

Same bus, same pre-dawn view,
Same seat in the back corner.
Barely awake, I slump forward
and nod at passing mopeds.

My heart-beat slows to near-sleep,
eyes glassed with lolling thoughts:
my life now, my life then,
my life to come.

My life now – A blue folder,
a pre-planned conversation,
leading to a discussion and
correction of minor grammar.

My life then – school, university,
friends, family, a summer holiday
in Mauritius: beaches, sugar canes,
green volcanic mountains in the sun –

and suddenly, the two lives coincide.
The bus flings right for a roundabout
and my seeing and unseeing eyes merge.
Ahead, the rising sun
lights up the waving cane.
A dust track winds through a
glowing field. Behind, a white wisp
clips a jagged mountain top,
A distant ramshackle town at its base,
and brilliant blinding sunlight
shakes me conscious.

We pull round the roundabout, and
glancing back, I see the reedy bush,
not sugar cane.
The road signs read in Spanish,
and my neighbours jabber in Catalan.
But for one, brief second,
I was not here, but then.

My life to come – every week,
I wake at that turn to gaze into
Mauritius.