Thursday, 27 May 2010

#fridayflash At Dawn.

Well this may be a bit of a cheat.  Something written by one of my characters in the Work in Progress. I'm wondering whether it works as a piece of writing. Or is a tad melodramatic.  So thought I'd post as a #fridayflash. My cop out is that Elsie Forbes wrote it. Is this what you call meta fiction?

The women huddled by the rocks on the river bank. Their black cloaks clung to them, damp in the grey-white fog that rolled down to the water’s edge, obscuring the river. They did not speak. It was time to wait. They shivered in the cold dawn as they heard the sound they were dreading. A soft splash of oars – the signal for them to part. Splash, creak, splash, creak, the boat was coming closer. Soon the shape of the prow could be seen, forcing its way through the mist. The crouching boatman came into view, as he lifted his arms and pushed the wooden spars towards the shore.

He said nothing as he arrived, just held out his hand for the girl. She hugged her mother, stepping into the boat without a word. She stared ahead. She did not look back. The boatman took up his oars. Creak, splash, creak, splash. A curlew called across the water, a  mournful screech. The mist rolled round the boat, obscuring first the daughter's shape, then the boatman's. Finally, they vanished altogether, leaving the mother alone on the banks listening to the lap, lap,lap of the waves.

Her daughter was gone. And now she could no longer bear to be silent. She tore at her cloak, let out a curlew-shriek, and threw herself on the ground. When at last, her weeping was done, she picked herself up, smoothed  down the grime on her skirts and walked back across her fields to the house that was no longer home.

The seeds called out to their mother; the corn begged to be threshed; the fruit to be picked. She ignored their pleas. She could not tend the earth until  her daughter was returned to her. Until that time came,nothing in the land would grow. Nothing.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Driving Lessons

It was always going to end in tears:
you and I locked fighting in the car.
The memory haunted us for years.

All my errors fulfilled your fears:
each missed turn; each judder and jar.
It was always going to end in tears.

I nearly crashed when changing gears,
the A10 proved a road too far.
The memory haunted me for years.

I wanted to drive, like all my peers:
to be in charge of my own car.
It was always going to end in tears

That last Christmas, drinking beers,
you said you felt you went too far.
The memory haunted you for years.

I passed the test after all those years,
the day you died I got my car.
It was always going to end in tears.
The memory haunted us for years.

RIP Joseph Henry Moffatt - Feb 3rd 1924-May 25th 1995.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Brush Strokes.

It's the fiddly bits that get you when painting. The parts between wall and ceiling where you can't rely on your rollers anymore. Where you have to stretch arms, strain your neck, stand on tip toe to ensure your paint brush doesn't fleck the ceiling or corner wall as you attempt a neat finish. A perfect line between purple, white and green. It helps to have a bottle of turps and wet rag handy, ready to wipe away splodges and mis-strokes. You've been doing this for years now, you know the score. Still, these days you come down with lower back ache, sore calves and aching shoulders. You are not as young as you used to be.

Later in the bath, as you sip a glass of wine, you remember watching Jim paint that first house in Blenheim Yard. You were hugely pregnant, happy to watch him as he turned the nursery blue for the boy you imagined you would  have. As he came down from the step-ladder he tripped, knocking the paint which splattered blue stains across the new white carpet. He fell in it, rolling around till his face was covered with blue woad. You laughed, and laughed. You could not stop till your waters broke and the next blue was a flashing light. Jenny was born at three in the morning. You never did have a boy. Perhaps that was part of the problem. And when you arrived home two days later (for these were times when mothers were allowed recovery time) Jim had cleaned the carpet and the walls were perfectly pink.

It was when you moved house to accomodate the expanding family (Alex, two years after Jenny, then Sophie, and finally Emma) that you needed to take up the brush yourself. Jim was too busy earning a crust so you could all eat. You didn't begrudge his trips abroad, the long evenings by yourself. It paid for ballet lessons, drama clubs, school trips. The least you could do when you were alone and the children were sleeping was give the girls' bedrooms the makeovers they deserved. Pink, purple, red. The colours changed with the ages, and the fads they went through. Though you drew the line at black when Sophie and Em went all emo just before they left school.

It's funny, you think, as you get back to the job the next morning,  in all these years, the one room you never got round to was your own. It takes a husband leaving to do that. Now as you finish the final corner, you step down from your ladder and look round with pride. Purple, green and white - suffragette colours.

Life begins.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Plug of the Month- Julia Williams The Bridesmaid Pact

Lovely twin sister, Julia Williams,  has done it again. The Bridesmaid Pact is her 4th novel in the last three years (and I'm still plugging away at my first sigh). Anyway, this one's her best yet. A celebration of love, friendship and the possibilities of redemption, set in a North London suburb that seems uncannily familiar.  The ending made me cry. It's out on 27th May, so go and order your copy now!

Friday, 7 May 2010

#FridayFlash - Protecting the Legacy.

The Prime Minister looked at his reflection in the mirror. Twelve years ago, when the country swept him into power on a torrent of love, the skin below his steel blue eyes was taut and tanned. Now that affection had ebbed away to the tiny trickle of his third election, it sagged towards his cheeks in black wrinkly layers.

It was time to leave. And on his own terms. He and Jenny had made their decision sometime ago. The lecture tours, board positions and consultancies were all lined up. They had no desire to put themselves through a fourth round of the polls which was bound to end in humiliating defeat. He would go with his head held high and his dignity intact.

There was only one question left. The legacy. How was he going to protect that? His successor couldn't do it. A political bruiser with a tendency to lose friends, he would probably manage to hold the party together for the next three years. Then the  glorious experiment would end with a pathetic whimper. Which is why the Prime Minister had been preparing for this moment since the day he arrived. And if all had gone well, his next appointment would provide him with the solution he craved.

There was a knock at the door.

"Come in." He looked up eagerly. Had the experiment worked? The special committee entered together, the heads of MI5 and 6, the Foreign Office, and MOD. Behind them walked a man in his late thirties, tall, but not too tall, with an open, engaging face.

"We've done it," said Professor  Stanton, the Chief of Government Research. "Let me introduce you to the next elected Prime Minister."

The younger man stood in the centre of the room. He turned towards the Prime Minister and stared at him with his striking blue eyes.

"This country is tired. It has had enough of the old system. The old ways. What this country needs is change a new beginning, a new way of being." He wrung his hands together with a sincere intensity that was captivating.

"It's me," said the Prime Minister, "My DNA slightly rearranged, but really me."

"Of course it is Prime Minister," said Jeremy Barnett, head of MI5."We can place him in the opposition and ensure he takes up the leadership. When the election comes, the people calling for change will, of course, get what they asked for."

The clone looked across at his maker. "What this great nation of ours needs is a robust economy, strong borders and armed forces we can be proud of. I alone can provide you that."

The committee applauded. "Well said, sir,", " I couldn't have put it better myself, sir."

"Congratulations, everyone," said the Prime Minister, "You've done me proud."

The group nodded and trooped out of the room. At the door, Professor Stanton turned and said, "By the way sir, there is another one."

"There is?"

"Just in case.  For the other party. If the people are uncertain, and  a hung Parliament's on the cards. "

"Good thinking," said the Prime Minister. He wandered over to the window and looked down at the police officers guarding his front door. So reassuring to know that he was safe, and all was well.

The more things change, the more they remain the same.