Sunday, May 15

Sunday's Short Story....."The Rustle of Silk"

Thursday morning writers group and Liz gave the prompt....
I was going to write about my first silk dress when a memory from my early days as a teacher came to me...and after the first sentence the story arrived...... 

We lived on the top floor of an Edwardian house. A window looked out over the park opposite with it’s treelined  walkways. It was a good district in the southern coastal town.
We were three girls, young women, professional workers.
Val the theatre nurse in the local hospital, Jill the fashion buyer for the big store in the middle of the town and me, teacher of a reception class of little ones in the old school up in the village on the top of the white cliffs.
Always laughter and friends, that’s my memory of the flat. Maybe at times too much laughter and too many friends marching up and down the stairs at all times of the day …and often the night.
Madame Durant lived below us. We were young and not inclined to tenderness in our observations. She was, at least to us, old and squat and rather hairy in places we women are not suppposed to be hairy.
She regularly complained bitterly about us to the landlord, probably the owner of the property. He came to see us to plead for mercy for Madame. He invited us to his home to chat to us about thoughtfulness. We had tea and cake and he smiled at us. We were young.
Madame Durant was a writer of love stories. Passionate, lustful, full blown love on every page. We wondered if there had ever been a Monsieur Durant. We gave him a title….Mr. D.O.Durant! Such is the cruelty of the young.
We had a friend who was basing much of his life on the philosophies written within the book by A..A.Milne….”Winnie the Pooh”
Often in an evening we gathered in the lounge, sprawling on sofas, prone on cushions laid out on the floor, chins tucked on to knees, balanced on the edge of chairs and listened while he read. He read the escapades of Pooh and Eyore, Ro and Kanga, and most of all Christopher Robin. Each character’s voice was matched to it’s personality. Squeak of Ro, depression of Eyore, sensibility of Christopher Robin. We laughed and cried with the wonderful renditions and stomped our delight on the floor. Poor Madame Durant. I cannot read it now without hearing Eyore’s mournful tones.
I was given the task of organising the décor in the flat. I embroidered seat covers, bought furniture from the local junk shops, made curtains for windows from best Robinson and Cleavers fabrics mum had brought over on one of her visits. It was my contribution to the general feel  of the place.  I looked for ways to decorate, but we had little money left over once the rent was paid. And we each had our weekly bus fare and lunches to think about,  as well as all those little extras in a girl’s life. At twentyone my teacher's salary was £40 a month. It stretched quite nicely and there was always a bit there for Saturday morning coffee and cake in the southern coastal town .
I was in a finding-out mood when I decided to have a look into the little dark cupboard under the eaves. I went in headfirst,then body and then pulled in my long legs. No light switch in the cubby-hole, no torch in the flat, just feeling around with my hands to try and find anything interesting . As I think back I’m sure there could have been dead birds, mice or at the very least big hairy spiders!
But I found none of these. However tightly packed into the fartherest corner where roof and floor met was a roll of something soft. I grabbed it as best I could.
Without wanting to damage the contents, I eased my way back to the opening holding the roll of fabric carefully in my free hand. It was covered in dust and grime as was I. My knees were raw with crawling on the bare boards.
The roll of silk in my hands had writing on it and more than that it also had some design printed there.  I laid it out flat on the hall rug and examined what I had found. A map of part of Europe. A square of silk as large as a man’s handkerchief, with the map of Germany printed on it. An airman’s escape map with escape routes marked clearly. Thin enough to be able to screw it up tight or fold it flat. Small enough to be hidden in the lining of a jacket or cached in the hollow heel of a boot. Still perfect, still usable. But who had been the owner of it?
Was it Madame Durant’s lover? Had he been a Frenchman in the resistance? Maybe an airman based in the airfield up on the cliffs where the school was. History hidden in a dark cupboard in an attic in an old house in a town on the south coast of England. A town looking over the Channel to France. On a fine day in good weather you felt you could almost throw a beach pebble and hit the far shore.
And Madame? that why she wrote her stories of love and lust? I will never know after all these years later…
But the prompt…prompted me to go back there in my memories, into that cupboard and find treasure.

So much unknown in a rolled up map of rustling silk. 

Thursday, May 12

A Poem for Thursday

We spent some time in Aldeburgh last week.
 This is by the Aldeburgh Beach Lookout Tower which often has Art Exhibitions in it.
 You can see lots more on their Face Book site.
The potter is not known for doing nothing...but this pic caught him in pensive mood!


Homeness is his nose, his ears, his brow.
The sweater he wears, the shoes he buys
From the cheap shoe shop across the road.

Homeness is the breakfast that he makes
And the silence as we read the daily news,
His the sports report, mine the gossip page.

Homeness is the familiar sag in the bed
Where my body fits snugly and
The duvet falls effortlessly around me
While sleep creeps up on me easy.

Homeness is knowing where everything is
Stored in the kitchen cupboards when
I want to make a pot of coffee or
Break a square off a hidden bar of chocolate.

Homeness is the spicey smell of rosemary
And sage In the stoney paths as I meander
Through summer's scented herb garden.

Homeness is me waiting for the swallows
To return and in the homecoming then
                                 To know everything will be alright.

Sunday, May 1

Sunday's Short Story

The Story of Ballyferris Revisited

          Mr. M was our next door neighbour. He lived with Mrs. M and their daughter Margaret. For a long time I didn’t know she was called Margaret, as everyone in the "Park", knew her as Miss Peggy. In my “singy” moments I used to huma well known song of the day....,"If her eyes are blue as skies that’s Peggy M.......". Of course any Irish person worth their salt will know that it should be “Peggy O’Neill”, but mere facts like that never stopped me changing things to suit the occasion. Perhaps that's another reason to doubt my story, but it would be a shame if you did, as you would miss the whole magic of what I am telling you. 

          Mr. M’s car was like something out of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. It was large and square cut with massive running boards, shining silver headlights and a wonderfully loud claxon horn. Now although the Ms were exceedingly posh for St. J’s,  they were also very kind. So the five Macs got to drive to the caravan site in this amazing car for the first few years that we holidayed at Bsallyferris. The caravan ,of course, had already been hauled there for us by other means, and thus it was that we set off for our first great adventure.
         Mega preparations had to be made before setting off. There was always a cooked chicken in a tin pan with a bobbley lid , you know the sort that I mean!  Everyone had a boobley lidded roasting tin in those days. All weathers were provided for,wellington boots, plastic macs, and even worse plastic bonnets......(I hated these and aunt Helen always had an unending supply of them hauled out of her capacious handbag at the slightest thought of inclement weather)...   I could never understand why all of this provision was really necessary, for as soon as we arrived at the caravan field,  I shed shoes and all heavy garments in glorious freedom of body.
         There were always two questions to be asked as Dougie started up Mr. M's old car. “Mary , have you got the kitchen sink?... and... “ Mary , have you packed the grandfather clock?”... The delicious reply was always “Of course, Douglas.” And off we would go.
          Two children and a baby setting out on an adventure with mum,and dad at the wheel sounding the claxon horn at every impossible situation, while me, the eight year old in the back... screamed with delight.

Friday, April 29

A Poem for Thursday

This poem has had a spring clean....some editing!
It amazing what a month or two of lying low can do for words.

The arrogance of birds...
or ...
The jealousy of ground dwellers.

Here's what you get for having a tree in your garden.
You get magpies and crows, wood pigeons and robins,
 Who perch on the very top branch in an April morning
When the mellowness of Spring mists are rising.
And they look down at the world around them
 Feeling superior to us below at ground level.
And that's what you get for allowing a tree
To reach its ultimate height...... apart from the oxygen. can see more of my pics at instagram geraldinesnape

Monday, April 25

Sunday's Short Story

...another from two hours of Thursday mornings at the Writers Workshop...

" An ado about nothing"
(Thanks to W. Shakespeare)

What a fuss, I thought, pursing my lips and frowning. Honestly, don't people have more important things to think about than to start complaining over such a trivial occurance?
 I may have believed that painting the house pink was a good idea. I had done it in a spur of the moment decision. The paint at B&Qs was reduced. The store was closing down and although most of the goods on the shelves were to be carted off up the road to the hyperstore on the outskirts of town, the tins of pink paint were reduced to 50p a tin.
How could I resist such a bargain? Always known as a cherry picker in the local charity shops and jumble sales, this offer was too good to walk away from.
So I didn't!
Ian helped me to prepare the walls by sanding down the brickwork with an electric drill attachment. A good lad, he's always ready to help, if not exactly the brightest star in the bunch. But he is kindly. And as I get older, it's kindness that becomes more and more important to me. 
It only took us two days to finish the job. And very good it looked, if I say so myself. 
Yes, yes,  we missed the mark a few times and Ian painted over the keyhole in the front door. Oh yes and I'll have to take a sharp blade and try to remove the rim of paint on the glass windows. Yes, yes, some things like that. But when I stand on the other side of the street and look across at what we've done I'm jolly pleased.
So, what on earth is all this fuss about? It's not as if this is the grandest of streets. Not the "right" side of town. And most of the other houses are boring. Yes that's right, boring! Nothing adventurous in any of them. 
Nothing to catch the eye, or make me smile as I walk home in an evening from the local Tesco, my shopping bags full of the day's bargains. You have to time that exactly. Too early...nothing. Too late...the dregs! I'm a cherry picker there as well. It makes for exciting meals as I never know what has been reduced 'til I get there.
Anyway, look out, here they come.  Those neighbours, with their lace curtains, acceptably painted front doors and pots of boring plants placed neatly in front. Here they come knocking on my pink  door. Bright pink I mean .
" Well", I ask, " what do you want?"..... as I smile at them and think...
What an ado about nothing!

Thursday, April 21

A Poem for Thursday

The Midsummer Knight's Dream

This morning at the Thursday morning writers group the prompt was  from Margaret K.
" Brush up your Shakespeare"
But some of us were grieving for another writer of both comedy and tragedy ....
Victoria Woods. 
Then on top of it being Shakespeare's birthday this week...a double whammy with The Queen's 90th. today. What a week! Now whether you are for or against the celebrate a 90th birthday and be the longest reigning Queen ever, deserves at the very least a mention.
 But my thoughts were about Victoria...the Queen of Comedy since the 70s......and this one is for her...and for her beloved Morecambe...and in particular Lubin's...a place of inspiration. We were lucky enough to eat there  many times before it closed its doors for good. 
I have read that..." Is it on the trolley?"... maybe a quote from Lubin's !!!!!

Some artistic licence in this mad sonnet.

The Midsummer Knights Dream
We sat on the crimson red sofa,
The potter, the daughter and me.
We ordered a platter with cheeses
Some bread and a big pot of tea.

When who should come in through the doorway
With her children and husband in tow
Victoria and the Magician
In his best Sunday suit and his bow.

The sun caught the top of his bald pate,
She heaved up her boobs from below.
Her kids ordered meat pie at Lubin's
And icecream to have on the go.

But the dream was just Midsummer Madness
For she's gone, and we're left with our sadness.

Monday, April 18

Somerset Levels Commission.

This commission came from an Irish friend, for some relatives living in Somerset and loving the levels.

 The potter is more used to his land and seascape pots based mainly on Southwold and this was a new venture and much perusal of google pics and pinterest boards were looked at, before he sketched his ideas in a book and started the heavy job of raising a large ceramic pot. It is big...not quite a metre high but not far off! 

There were certain requirements made for the decor on the exterior...hares, heron, water and reeds...and the potter added his usual wonderfully modelled bridges, fences and landscape. The glazes are chosen to enhance the fired clay and the final glaze firing reveals whether or not it has been a success.
Well this is the second one...not that the first wasn't good it was, but experience tells you that often the next one manages to capture the essence of a piece. Soon it will be on it's way to The Levels...then we shall see if it has done it's job.