Sunday, 28 November 2010

Long Time no See

An excellent workshop was held at our local Writers' Group.  The idea was to hold a crisis conversation between two people with differing views.  Several situations were offered and the following was my choice, written exactly as it came out on the day so please forgive the mistakes:

     The Christmas tree lights flickered and died just seconds before two tousled headed children, casting sleep aside, rushed into the cold, dark but beautifully decorated room.

     'Has he been yet?  Did he come?  I heard the bells but kept my eyes shut; didn't want to frighten him away.  I have been good, haven't I?'

     This was all shared on the cusp of just one breath so as Sam gasped in a refill of oxygen I was able to offer the reassurance he required.

     'Yes Sam, he has been and you must have been a very good boy judging by the fullness of your stocking.'

     Flo followed her brother through the door and gave me a supercillious glance.  All this Father Christmas stuff was beyond her and she planned to let her brother know the truth this year if he was daft enough not to have cottoned on soon.

     'Why is it dark and cold?'

     'Happy Christmas children; Santa's been' I said, trying to keep a smile in my voice.  'The tree lights must have fused and we are awake too early for the central heating, so here, snuggle under my duvet.'

     'I'll open mine first' insisted Flo.  'I am the oldest.' and she began to run her fingers through the long red and green stocking: orange; nuts; selection chocolates; notelets; pencils for school; battery powered car.

     'Battery powered car, what on earth does "he" think I want that for?  Doesn't "he" even know my name?  Probably doesn't know I exist these days.'

     'Flo, for goodness sake.  I expect Santa was so busy doing the preparations that he wasn't able to check and one of the elves popped it in your sack by accident.  Let's see what Sam has been given, shall we?'

     'Why bother,' Flo had shaken off the shared duvet and was glaring at Sam whilst preparing to flounce out of the room.  'I expect "Santa" didn't know that I was a girl who doesn't play with cars.  I expect "he" was so wrapped up with darling little Sam "he" couldn't even remember what Flo stands for - Florence, a girl - remember!'

     'Please don't get so excited and don't be rude' I came back with more tension in my voice than I had intended.

     'Well, I've got news for you, lovely, wonderful Sam!' Flo could hear nothing but the sound of her own voice.  'There is no Santa Claus, it's mum pretending and she loves you much more than me, so there!'

     'Oh Flo, how could you?'

     Sam screamed: 'No Santa, no Santa at all!'

     I heard the central heating pop on and the tree lights flickered to life.  Happy first Christmas coping alone.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Banking Gone Haywire

     Another of those stupid bank letters arrived this morning; including yet more unnecessary pre-printed cheques. It is time to take action and telephone the branch. So what do I get at the end of the recommended number, an electronic voice?
     ‘Bank of NeverPay. Please key in your card details’, it intoned.

     First find card details then follow instructions.

     ‘Thank-you. Please add your date of birth, height to weight ratio.’

     Fortunately I had all the necessary security details clipped inside my file marked ‘Bank of NeverPay’.

     ‘Thank-you. For bank balance, press ‘1’; for loan department, press ‘2’; for insurance, press ‘3’; for other matters, press ‘4’.

     ‘Please, I would like to speak to a human being’ I responded as I pressed button ‘4’ with a firmer finger than I should.

     ‘Ouch!’ came the response from my bank. ‘For a male assistant, press ‘1’; for a female assistant, press ‘2’; if you have no preference, press ‘3’.

     Maybe had I pressed ‘3’, what happened next might not have occurred, but I believe bank employees should be men; I pressed button ‘1’.

     ‘All our male associates are busy at present. Please hold the line. Your call is important to us.’

     How I hate those words. ‘I am in a hurry. Put me through to an assistant, I don’t mind what sex. Just put me through’.

     ‘Please hold the line. Your call is important to us.’

     ‘For goodness sake you stupid, electronic piece of gadgetry! You’re sending me rubbish I don’t want and I am paying one pound a minute for the privilege of making this call. Put me through to an assistant.’ My face screwed up with agony as the electronics began to whirr once again, yet I carried on shouting:

     ‘And don’t tell me how important my call is; I know you’re lying!’

     With a catch in its voice the machine rolled on:

     ‘Please don’t shout at me. I may be attached to a Central Processing Unit, but I still have feelings. I’m not prepared to listen to your shouting. This call is being closed down. You should telephone again when you have calmed’. The machine sniffed deeply. ‘Please remember’ it almost sobbed ‘Your call is important to us.’

     So what would you have done? Surely my ears were deceiving me? Here I was, holding on to my telephone and shouting loudly:

     ‘No, no, please don’t go it has taken me ages to get this far. I’m sorry if I have caused upset; please don’t cut me off.’

     The response was simple:

     ‘The other person has cleared’

     I attempted the dialling procedure once more.

     ‘Bank of NeverPay. Please key in your card details. . . . . ‘

     My electronic voice; I breathed a sigh but relaxed too soon.

     ‘Oh, it’s you again. All of our associates are busy; please try later.

     I dialled once more.

     ‘I told you, all of our associates are busy; please try later.’

     On the basis of third time lucky, I dialled again. A resonant voice growled through my earpiece:

     ‘You have been asked to ring back later. Please cease this harassment immediately or put your query in writing and fax it to the Bank of NeverPay at Head Office’.

     My first fax was simple:

     ‘Sir,’ it said ‘in an attempt to speak to one of your associates I inadvertently upset your telephone answering system. I apologise for this and would ask someone to contact me as soon as convenient.’

     I received no response so tried for a second time.

     ‘Re my fax sent at 2.15p.m. I am writing to apologise for upsetting your computerised telephone answering system. Would you please pass on this apology and advise that I am sending a rose decorated mouse-mat to your company. This is intended for the personal use of T.A.S. and is sent with my best wishes. Please contact me before the end of play, today, to confirm my apology has been accepted?

     The wait was most distressing. I paced, I chewed my fingernails, drank copious cups of tea and packed the mouse-mat in readiness for the late collection. Still no response; I tried one last time.

     ‘Dear Sir,’ I implored ‘as you will appreciate from my recent faxes I am desperate to make amends for my misdemeanours. It was never my intention to upset TASSY whom is, I feel sure, a loyal and worthwhile member of your team and did not deserve to be upset in any way. I have already packed the mouse-mat and would also like to send the computerised equivalent of a bottle of champagne: WD40. Please ensure this is given to TASSY with my love and affection. A response to put me out of my misery would be gratefully received’.

     Very soon after this my fax machine whirred into action. Slowly, oh so slowly, a sales brochure from the Bank of NeverPay was being printed. At the bottom of the pre-printed cheques someone, or something, had placed three small kisses.

     I knew then that I had been completely forgiven.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

A Story in Threes

Supermarket shopping day
Pack the car
Stack the cupboards
Switch on cooker
Weigh out ingredients
Sieve some flour
Mix in salt
Yeast needs feeding
Give it sugar
Add to flour
Knead and plunge
Allow to rest
Knead and plunge
Allow to grow
Cook for twenty
Minutes or more
A tempting aroma
Makes mouth water
Remove from oven
Tap the base
Soon be eaten
Lashings of butter
This is how
To bake bread

Thursday, 17 September 2009

The Lost Heritage

A poem written some time ago when man in his wisdom began to build a trading estate along the path next to our beautiful river bank.  It used to look just like one of Monet's early paintings.
How can we . . .
How can we do it?
How can we desecrate one of Monet's early works?
The fisherman no longer watches placidly as his line flows gently.
Never catching, just biding his time.
We have ruined . . .
We have ruined it all.
The painting is scarred beyond all hope of recovery.
The trees have disappeared, their leaves fallen for the very last time
All shade offered, gone to man's greed.
But we have . . .
But we have new jobs.
The metal frames turned to trading estates.
Silence has become noise, as vehicles move where grass once was.
Although we need, so much we've lost.
Our children will not . . .
Our children will not see the beauty.
Iron mouths have gobbled up their heritage.
Will this, some time soon, take on a beauty all of its own?
From Monet to Lowry in our lifetime.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

A Magical Evening

I hadn't planned to use this as a diary, but yesterday we had such a wonderful evening, that I thought I would write it down.
It was my husband's 65th birthday last week, our eldest daughter's birthday in between and then my biggie follows next week.  We thought we were joining the family to celebrate our daughter's birthday at a Hungry Horse restaurant.  Instead we were taken to our favourite Greek restaurant, to find that our three wonderful daughters had cooked up an amazing surprise for us.
As we entered the restaurant we found my husband's brother and his family sat waiting to greet us, along with their mother, my sister and her husband, my niece and her husband, the daughters and their husbands/partners.  We had a wonderful time and the evening was flowing with excellent food, champagne, gifts galore, a birthday cake, balloons and the most wonderful photographic scrapbook which the girls had put together.
It was packed so full of memories that every time I look at it something new comes to mind.  The girls usually manage to devise something good for 'special' birthdays but this time they left me completely stunned.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

The Love of my Life

For those who don't believe in love at first sight, I can tell you it really does happen and it can happen when you are young.  'Too young for all that stuff and nonsense', I can almost hear my mother telling me.

We met in a farmyard kitchen and gazed at each other for the first time across a heavy wooden table.  It was not the Aga which brought a flush to my cheeks but the heat of my very first love.  I smiled; he grinned.  My eyes lowered but he moved towards me and I felt the warmth of his body against mine.

Mother and I were visiting the farmer's wife together.  They were her friends.  I could not utter a word, just kept my eyes angled at his feet.

'Well, one of us is going to have to make a decision,' my mother uttered 'so I suppose it will have to be me.  Jimmy can come with us and stay the night, let's see how you two get along'.

We got along well in the car going home; cuddling in the back seat just jumping apart when my mother frowned into the rear view mirror.

She would take no truck from me about sleeping arrangements:

'You are thirteen; no he is not sleeping in your room.  You've got school in the morning.  Bring a sleeping bag and pillow in here and we'll make him comfortable'.

If I managed five minutes sleep that night, it was all I could manage and I heard my love pacing downstairs.  I thought deeply of our future together and imagined how every moment would be.  That is, until . . .

'Get down here this minute and see what he has done'.

With slipperless feet I tore into the kitchen and saw him cowering by the back door.  Everything from the tables and the tabletops had been flung to the floor.  There were broken mugs, casserole dishes, plates and bowls.  The cupboards had been prised apart and their contents scattered.

'You'd better start sweeping up, my girl' my mother insisted, but I saw the laughter in her eyes and knew that we were forgiven; the love which had started in a farmyard kitchen was to stay with us for life.

Jimmy the Retriever had a brand new collar and lead when he came to our wedding.  He was decorated with tiny rosebuds.  Who did I marry?  Why the farmer's son of course.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Treason Committing Troll

I remember the day well. My head hurt and there was all that darned 'trip trapping' right above me. It went on incessantly and finally I could not take the noise any longer. I feel sure they told you they just wanted to cross the once, well I can assure you it was anything but the case. Over and back, over and back, it was horrendous.
Finally I blew my crust. It was the little one; so I threatened to eat him, not that he would have made a reasonable meal for this troll.
'Oh no', he said, making like he was scared 'please don't eat me. My brother would make a much better meal'.
I ask you, would you do that to your very own brother?
Anyway, I let him go and I notice he did not 'trip trap' back again so obviously my words had some effect.
Then along comes the middle one. By this time I nearly had steam coming out of my ears. 'Trip, trap'. It was just asking too much of anyone. I have worked hard to keep that bridge in good order and all they do is muck it up and make it even more filthy.
So I threatened to eat him as well.
'Oh no, no, no' he said 'my big brother will be along very soon and he will make a much better meal for you'.
I thought about it and he was probably right. Anyway, my headache was becoming quite migrainous and I was losing my appetite; so I let him pass as well - but what a strange family they must be, offering each other as sacrifices.
Along came 'biggie' with more of a 'thud, thump' than a 'trip trap' and I blew my whiskers out; completely forgetting that his horns were tougher than those of the other two. He soon had me trapped between the wall and himself so obviously I began to plead.
Well, that's where you came in your Majesty because he insisted I should get on his back and he brought me in here. I noticed he did not hang about long once the dancing started; dived right off without a by-your-leave; too chicken to stay I reckon.
It was the dancing that was my undoing. If I had not heard the King's Minstrels then I should have gone straight back to my post at the bridge; of course I would. Then; had I gone back he would never have found his way across, I am always so vigilant.
So I am desperately sorry your majesty, but for the three Billy Goats' Gruff, Peer Gynt would never have found his way into the Hall of the Mountain King.