Sunday, 29 May 2011

Poetry Jam Forgetting

The subject for Poetry Jam this week is 'Forgetting'. Click here to read more contributions.


Old age plays several nasty pranks, 
Purloining strength and youth,         
Seizing sight and sound and taste   
And modifying truth;
For worst of all the memory flees -      
The day before is lost,
While fifty years ago is clear,
Current events are tossed
Like garbage in a refuse truck.
Confusion reigns supreme -
‘I never did, I don’t know how,
Don’t make me cry, I’ll scream.’

Forgetting is letting
The memories go,
Sensing identity
Fading, and so,
Child once more,
Your needs are
Met each day
Every way
The end

Succinctly Yours Week 10

Grandma's Goulash at Succinctly Yours hosts this microfiction meme. Each week she posts a photographic prompt for inspiration and the challenge is to write a story using no more than 140 characters or words. Below is this week's photo followed by my offering.
The young motorcyclist made her eyes glisten. She was pleased he wore a crash helmet. If her son had worn one he would still be alive.
(134 characters)

Friday, 27 May 2011

Book Blurb Friday #13

This meme is hosted by Lisa Ricard Claro at ‘Writing in the Buff’ J

 Each week she posts a photo that could be the cover of a book. The aim is to:
‘Write a book jacket blurb (150 words or less) so enticing that potential readers would feel compelled to buy the book.’ 

Below is this week's picture and my offering.
Photo copyright Kathy Matthews


When snow falls on the night of their 50th anniversary party Tony and Barbara Brownlow have no inkling that it will have such a profound effect. They have invited all the family – their two daughters and their husbands and children, Tony’s brother and sister-in-law and a few old friends. As the weather worsens it is soon obvious that guests will have to be accommodated overnight.
After three days of being snowed in, with little prospect of escape, the veneer of good manners wears thin and people begin to say what they really think and to reveal secrets that have been hidden for many years.
Bruising revelations threaten the happiness of almost all the guests. What will the future hold for each of them? Will they ever be able to resume their previous way of life?

(136words including the title) 

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Saturday Centus #55

Jenny Matlock hosts this weekly meme. Thank you! J

Her challenge to participants is to use the prompt and up to 100 more words to produce a piece of writing in any style. Click here to read more and perhaps be inspired to join in! The prompt is in red italics.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
Everyone had gone out leaving Leo to enjoy the solitude. He luxuriated in the thought of hours of self-indulgence.

It was a sunny morning and he spent a considerable time watching the garden birds. They were unaware of his scrutiny and he amused himself with thoughts of creeping up on them.

Tiring of the birds’ antics he decided to go upstairs. As he walked through the house he stopped, then stiffened - he had not expected to see anyone, so the reflection in the mirror startled him.

He hissed and lashed out but all he felt was the cold glass and not another cat.

(99 words excluding the prompt)

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Kitten milk

It seems like only yesterday that we brought Winston home as a wide-eyed kitten. He was such a delight that a week later we acquired Monty as a companion for him. 
Monty rather overshadowed Winston. He was a month older so maybe that was why. Most of the time they were great friends but occasionally Monty tried to subjugate Winston who is a very gentle cat. We were very upset when Monty developed congestive heart failure at three years old and we realised that nothing could be done for him. Every solution our patient vets tried exposed further serious problems and eventually we had to let him go to save him further suffering.
That was just over a year ago. Winston didn’t appear to miss Monty – we have had other cats in the past who have pined for their companions, seeking them in all the familiar spots. In fact, we realise now that Winston would have remained perfectly happy being an only cat. He has canine company when we go out and when we take the dogs walking he is usually waiting for us when we come through the front door, greeting us with a quiet miaou and a question mark tail.
In the year that has passed since Monty’s demise Winston has become much more confident. He is extraordinarily affectionate and has a range of calls to inform us of his needs. A loud ‘waaaahhhhh’ tells us he is hungry, a ‘mew’ says ‘hello’. ‘Ng’ means ‘Please open the door’ and a silent miaou is a request for a cuddle. When he is snoozing in the sun and I stroke him he says, ‘Wa-mah’ to start a conversation. He chitters at the birds in the garden, headbutts us for attention, pats an arm for treats and hooks his paw round a hand to draw it to himself for stroking.
He yells raucously for breakfast, particularly if it’s raw beef heart, though chicken wings are a close second favourite. He has other tastes, too. We sometimes have croissants for breakfast and can guarantee that Winston will be on the arm of the chair, reaching forward with a delicate paw to steal a piece. He also likes cheese, cooked chicken, ham and porridge. Two of his stranger delights are bubble wrap and sellotape.

When he and Monty were young kittens Mark-the-Vet asked us what we were feeding them. It’s the usual sort of vet question but when I replied that, along with other fare, we gave them kitten milk he looked a little surprised. I had a sudden vision of a herd of cats waiting to be milked and fell to wondering how this might work.

Cows have been domesticated for years and are accustomed to yielding their milk to the farmer at least twice a day. They are hefty beasts, not given to scaling trees or bounding over fences or indeed clambering under them. Granted, they have to be confined to large open spaces where they spend their days chewing the cud and pondering the meaning of life. If they had absolute freedom to wander at will they might remain in a close-knit band but would undoubtedly enjoy a more varied menu than meadow grass. They are social animals, used to living together.

On the other hand, cats are largely solitary, independent creatures, often leading nocturnal lives of which their owners know little. Keeping a number of cats together leads to challenging problems that can be accommodated only after careful deliberation and cosmetic changes to the human living quarters – that is, extending the house to provide a great deal more space. However, cats cannot be herded, will only cooperate if they are so inclined, and can squeeze through small gaps and leap and climb seemingly insurmountable obstacles with the greatest of ease.

I cannot visualise a throng of dairy felines waiting patiently at the milking parlour gate, miaouing quietly among themselves. Furthermore, would the cat farmer opt to milk by hand? Unlike cows, cats have sharp claws and teeth, so perhaps he might choose to use milking clusters. A cat has eight nipples (usually) so a cat cluster would look decidedly different to the bovine form.

Supposing the farmer has managed to milk his flock of felis catus, does he then pasteurise the product or is it safe to drink straight from the cat, so to speak? Is there a milk tanker – probably the size of a Mini Cooper - that arrives regularly at the cat farm to transport the day’s yield to a central depot where it is bottled or canned? How long can a cat be expected to lactate before she must have another litter? Then what happens to the kittens? Cows have one calf, very rarely two, but a cat may have anything from one to nine or ten young. We know what happens to calves . . .

There are many brands of kitten milk on the shelves of the pet supermarkets but it’s pretty safe to say that none of them have been collected from dairy cats.

ABC Wednesday S is for Sluys

The Battle of Sluys, known also as the Battle of l‘Ecluse, was the naval battle that marked the beginning of the Hundred Years’ War. It was fought on 24th June, 1340 in Sluys, in an inlet between Zeeland and West Flanders. At that time Sluys had a harbour able to accommodate large fleets and was considered to be the best anchorage in Europe. It was later silted up by the River Eede.

Coat of arms with three lions, gold on red, in two quarter, fleurs de lys, gold on blue, in two.
To mark his claim on the French crown, Edward III quartered the three lions of England with the fleur-de-lys of France in his royal arms.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
The adversaries were the English against a combined fleet of French, Castilian and Genoese. The English fleet was commanded by King Edward III and the opposing admirals were the French Hugues Quiéret and Nicolas Béhuchet and the Genoese Bocanegra. It is probable that neither the English nor the French had custom-built warships but relied on merchant vessels which were adapted for battle by the addition of crows’ nests, forecastles and aftcastles, fortifications from which archers could fire their arrows. The English ocean-going merchantmen were called Cogs and had a single mast and were steered either by an oar or a rudder. Both prow and stern were pointed and they had a deep draught, making them less manoeuvrable than the lighter shallow-draught French vessels. Though some of the Cogs were large, most were small, carrying a crew of five or six and perhaps fifteen longbowmen and other soldiers. One or two of the larger ships were armed with guns.

A miniature of the battle from Jean Froissart's Chronicles, 15th century.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

As Edward’s fleet approached Sluys they found their enemies adopting a defensive tactic common in mediaeval times. The ships were organised in two lines chained together. This made it easier for men to travel between ships, repelling boarders. The drawback was that the vessels were unable to manoeuvre. Edward sailed his ships to windward with the sun behind them and the archers let loose a hail of arrows. The longbowmen were able to fire five times faster than enemy archers armed with crossbows.

The standard practice was to demolish a ship’s crew with a rain of arrows and heavy stones which allowed the men-at-arms to board, overpower the survivors and take possession of the craft. If captured prisoners were thought to be capable of fetching a ransom, they were spared. Otherwise they were thrown overboard. Most drowned.

As Edward’s men fought their way along the line, capturing ship after ship in dreadful hand to hand combat, the French second row began slipping their boarding lines, trying to avoid the same fate. In the end, after much bloody battling, the French were overwhelmed, their marine defences destroyed. By nightfall, the sea ran red with blood and bodies and the English were victorious.

Bocanegra had fled, Quiéret was killed in action and Béhuchet was captured and hanged. Edward III was injured but survived. His wife, Queen Philippa, was in Ghent and his ship had been carrying the ladies of her household to join her. They were guarded on board by archers and soldiers, but one of them was killed during the battle.

France’s fleet had been destroyed, guaranteeing that there was no prospect of a French invasion of England and ensuring that the rest of the war would be fought mainly on French soil. There is no record of the number of casualties but it is supposed that there must have been thousands.

King Philip VI of France was informed of the annihilation of his fleet by his court jester, no other courtier daring to impart the news. The exchange ran along these lines:

‘Our knights are much braver than the English,’ said the jester.

‘How so?’ said Philip.

‘The English do not dare to jump into the sea in full armour,’ replied the jester.

ABC Wednesday is the brainchild of the Splendid Denise Nesbitt and She is assisted in her task by a Supreme Squad of Superb colleagues. To see more Ss please click here

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Poetry Jam Honky-tonk

More verse, though none worse, can be found here


To make a good piano
Sound like honky-tonk,
Put paper in the strings
And then begin to stonk
Those keys.

Play strides in the left hand,
Refrain with the right,
Listen to that rhythm,
Let harmony take flight,
Be free.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Succinctly Yours Week 9

Grandma's Goulash at Succinctly Yours hosts this microfiction meme. Each week she posts a photographic prompt for inspiration and the challenge is to write a story using no more than 140 characters or words. Below is this week's image followed by my offerings.

‘I would give thee all my riches if thou wouldst honour me with thine hand,’ he said.
‘I smelleth him – ‘tis bad,’ she thought, turning away.
(138 characters)

His damp hand pressed her arm. As he drew closer she was glad her bustle saved her from greater knowledge of him. What would marriage mean?
(139 characters)

Magpie Tales #67 The Best-Laid Plans

Thanks go to Tess Kincaid who organises and hosts this meme The challenge is to respond in verse or worse to the prompt she offers. To read more Magpies please click here.
'Banquet Scene with a Lute Player' by Nicolas Tournier
Beatrice was twenty, almost unmarriageable according to her mother. Mrs Fuller had begun to despair of ever seeing her daughter wed until the nephew of a friend came into society. She decided that an intimate dinner à deux would lead to a more serious liaison and perhaps soon to a marriage proposal from Benedict. She had arranged the evening and had made sure that her daughter dressed with care, modestly but with style. She was gratified to see that Benedict had paid similar attention to his own toilette. Maybe her days of longing would soon be over and she could join the ranks of matrons joyfully planning their daughters’ nuptials.

Mrs Fuller’s advice to her daughter had been to keep her opinions to herself and to be a good listener.  ‘Men don’t like clever women,’ she cautioned, so Beatrice curbed her natural wit and flattered Benedict by seeming to hang on his every word, greeting every ponderous attempt at humour with soft rippling laughs. At the same time she stifled a yawn and wondered if his wit might improve with time.

Her mother had arranged for music to be played at the table. Beatrice was rather surprised that the lutenist sat down with them but he was attractive and in other circumstances she might have allowed herself a little flirtation. He caught her eye and smiled engagingly and she felt herself blushing. She glanced quickly at Benedict but he had not noticed the looks passing between them. In fact he seemed interested in little else than the state of his dress, constantly brushing off imaginary flecks of dust and rearranging the skirts of his waistcoat. It was a pity, Beatrice reflected, that such good looks should be wasted on a tedious man like Benedict. Whatever had her mother been thinking, to hope that her daughter might marry such a dullard?

At that moment the main course was served but as she was about to start eating, a third man joined the party. Really, it was getting rather crowded at this small table. Benedict introduced him as Rodolfo and it soon became apparent that they were intimates. Her previously dull companion became a source of incandescent wit. Rodolfo paid no attention to Beatrice or the musician - he was entranced by Benedict and Beatrice realised that her mother’s hopes were never to be realised. She sighed with relief, winked at the musician, who picked up his lute, and they left together.

The Sixth Family Birthday of the Year!

May is a fairly busy month – two birthdays and two wedding anniversaries. The two birthdays and one of the anniversaries all fall in one week!

Anyway, the sixth family birthday belongs to Susannah on May 22nd. She was born on a very hot day in Germany – maybe that’s why she loves the heat so much.
Susannah the gymnast!
From a shy small girl she grew into a confident and very capable young woman with a dry sense of humour. She is intensely private, very independent and extremely well-organised. She has a large group of good friends who value her sense of loyalty and appreciate her wryly accurate observations of people and events.
Susannah is tall and slim and almost completely unaware of her effect on people. She turns heads but is wholly dismissive of the thought that anyone might think she’s attractive.
Family is very important to her. She loves her siblings and her nieces and nephews and is concerned that they should all be happy and fulfilled. She has always loved animals, the consequence, I suppose, of being brought up surrounded by them! Her favourite of all is her own little Abyssinian cat but she always enquires after the welfare of the animals that live with us, none of which, now, were part of her childhood. She worries about everyone and everything but hates to think that anyone might worry about her.
Louis watches while Eve applies Susannah's make-up
Susannah does everything at high speed – talking, walking, texting, cooking, eating – everything is accomplished swiftly and while she can sometimes be impatient with adults, she is not so with children. She understands and respects them and though she is kind she does not allow them to take advantage of her good nature.
She’s on holiday at the moment so I hope her birthday week is a happy one and the sun shines for her.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Book Blurb Friday #12

 Each week she posts a photo that could be the cover of a book. The aim is to:
‘Write a book jacket blurb (150 words or less) so enticing that potential readers would feel compelled to buy the book.’ 
Image copyright Sandra Davies

The third in the Museum Murder Mysteries series – Music has Charms to Sooth a Savage Beast (sic)

When the local museum is scheduled to undergo refurbishment the curator and her staff move the exhibits to adjoining storerooms.  Everything is stored by category, the bronze statues in one room, for example, musical instruments in another but when Miss Smithers checks before locking up and leaving the premises she is astonished to discover that things have been moved.

When the staff discover her lifeless body the following morning they are shocked to see how the statues have been rearranged. The musicians have been grouped together in a bizarre orchestra and the great Greek god stares down at the corpse while the two seated maidens are placed like umpires. More than that, there is blood on the claws and jaws of the stuffed tiger while St Francis averts his gaze. The tuba has been tucked under Miss Smithers’ arm. And why are the dolphins streaming water?
(146 words, excluding title)

Thursday, 19 May 2011

The fifth family birthday of the year.

Louis at the helm, aged 3
Yesterday marked the fifth family birthday of the year.

Eight years ago I hastened to Nina and Gareth’s home in Twickenham to keep company with Elliot and Eve while their parents dealt with pressing matters in hand.  Not many hours later Louis Oliver was born, a fine, strong son, with dark hair and huge dark eyes.

He is a sturdy, healthy little boy with a surprisingly deep voice and a huge desire to be as wise and knowledgeable as his elder brother who is four years older than him and a significant role model. He is two years younger than Eve but taller and broader than her and sometimes irritated by her ‘big sister’ attitude to him. It was very amusing when they were younger to listen to them chattering. They both talked at the same time and neither listened to the other. Now they have proper conversations – usually!
Louis aged 7
Though he is very ‘boyish’ he is also a sensitive soul, quite a dreamer, spending hours drawing and colouring intricate pictures and explaining the details. He enjoys jigsaws and construction toys and follows complex diagrams with ease – he’s far more capable than I am! Another of his hobbies is growing crystals and he is becoming rather well-informed. It’s easy to forget sometimes that he’s still quite young because he tries so hard to keep up with Elliot.

When he comes to our house he loves to play with the animals. He likes the dogs and enjoys going out for walks with them, but he really loves Winston and makes a great fuss of him.

Like his father and his grandfather, Louis needs to be fed at regular intervals or he can become quite irritable! Most of the time, however, he is a charming little boy with a most infectious giggle and beautiful brown flirtatious eyes with the longest lashes – why do boys always have such gorgeous eyelashes? He often looks very serious - he has an absorbing inner life - but he has a wonderful sense of the ridiculous!

Telephones (2)

In the days before every child received a mobile phone as soon as it babbled its first words it was possible to maintain some control over phone calls made, though not received, by the young adults in our families. It’s true that such ‘control’ might sometimes consist of an unseemly screaming match between mother and daughter involving a lot of misunderstanding – ‘You don’t understand, I need to call her’ – and much flouncing out of rooms, thundering of feet on stairs and slamming of doors (or was that just in my house?)

Teenagers have an urgent need to communicate – not with their parents, heaven forfend! Mumbling suffices for most responses – ‘Yes, no, maybe, if you like, I did, I didn’t, goodnight, hello, goodbye’ are all covered with one grunt. No, they have a desperate desire to maintain contact with their peers. No matter that they have just parted outside the house after spending all day together, it is imperative that they call each other as soon as they have entered their respective homes and thrown their school bags on the floor.
Hours of garbled conversations follow and it’s no use eavesdropping in the hope of gleaning any information. What you hear bears little resemblance to English as you speak it.

Well, that’s the way it was, anyway. Long ago, we had just one telephone in our house, a good, old-fashioned rotary dial beast that was solid and reliable and in constant use. In vain did I plead with my children to use the phone when rates were cheaper but the prospect of having to wait a couple of hours before they could engage with their friends was intolerable. Finally, I hit on the solution. I bought a telephone lock! One daughter was so disgusted that she stormed out of the house to a public phone box. I was delighted that at last I had regained some power.

My husband was working abroad quite frequently during those teenage years (‘Was that deliberate?’ I ask myself now) I was also out of the house all day, working. One day he returned from a business trip and needed to make an important phone call. He was not happy to find the telephone locked. He managed to wrench the lock off the phone and when I arrived home I was left in no doubt that a replacement device was not to be purchased.

The young people in my house were only too happy with that directive!

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Telephones (1)

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Do you remember when making a phone call on a land line to another country would take hours to connect? Sometimes, calls had to be booked in advance. More often than not there would be an off-putting echo or feedback which made conversation rather difficult. Telephone operators would ‘put you through’ or ask you to ‘please hold the line while I connect you.’

Those days are past for the majority of the modern world. Land line connection is automatic and swift and our callers sound as though they’re in the same room. Home phones are super-smart and come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours and if we wish we can call from room to room through an interconnected network. Phones may have big buttons for callers with dexterity problems or be specially adapted for people who have hearing loss or failing sight. Answerphones are integral and there are phones which are connected to fax machines – no problem is unsolvable.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
For those who wish to relive the past, reproduction ‘candlestick’ phones are a pleasant reminder of more genteel times, when a number would be preceded by the name of the exchange – the most memorable perhaps being ‘Whitehall 1212’, the number of the Metropolitan Police at New Scotland Yard, a Victorian Gothic building on Victoria Embankment.

The irony of New Scotland Yard was that it was being built in October 1888 on a site containing the torso of a murdered woman. Other remains - a right arm and shoulder and a left leg - were found in two further locations, but the head and the rest of the limbs were never recovered. Newspapers suggested a link to Jack the Ripper, the serial killer who was murdering prostitutes during this period but the police said there was no connection. The murder was never solved.

Before the advent of the push button keypads of modern telephones, numbers were obtained by turning a dial. By listening carefully one could discern which number was being dialled. 1 had no letter and took a short time to return to its position. 0 was the furthest away and carried the letters O and Q. 9 was next to 0, easy to find and having the letters W, X and Y. 999 was and still is the number for instant connection to the emergency services of Police, Fire Brigade and Ambulance and, in some areas, Coastguard, Mountain or Cave Rescue.

I like modern phones – they’re neat, compact, easy to use – but I was sad to see the rotary dial phones disappear from common use.

ABC Wednesday R is for Rorke’s Drift

Rorke’s Drift was a small mission station sited near a ford on the Buffalo River. The river formed the boundary between the Zulu kingdom and the British colony of Natal in South Africa.

The Battle of Rorke’s Drift was fought on 22nd January, 1879 during the Anglo-Zulu War. Earlier that same day during the Battle of Isandhlwana a humiliating defeat had been wrought on 1,000 British infantrymen. Though outnumbered, they were well armed with Martini-Henry breech-loading rifles while the Zulu warriors were carrying Assegai spears and shields made from animal hide.

The mission at Rorke’s Drift had belonged to a Swedish missionary, Reverend Otto Witt. The British army had turned the church into a store and Witt’s house into a hospital. At the time of the Zulu attack the mission was garrisoned by 139 British troops, supported by a small number of African and colonial troops and 4 civilians, including the missionary. 

The British commanders were Lieutenant John Chard and Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead. They were faced by around 4,000 Zulu warriors led by Prince Dabulamanzi kaMpande.

In the late afternoon the Zulus launched their first assault from the hill above the drift but were unable to reach the men behind the hastily constructed outer barricade of mealie bags and the inner wall of biscuit boxes. They were repulsed at point blank range by rifle fire. Several more unsuccessful attempts were made to breach the British defences but eventually the Zulus were successful in setting fire to the hospital, whereupon they forced an entry and began stabbing the patients. The men in the hospital fought off the warriors, finally using bayonets once their ammunition had run out. 

Realising that their only hope of salvation lay in escape from the burning building and the onslaughts from the Zulus, Private Henry Hook held them at bay with his bayonet while Private John Williams used his bayonet to break through the wall into the next room, allowing him to haul patients through and then out of a window to a place of greater safety behind the barricades. It was not possible to rescue all the men.

Fighting continued throughout the night, the Zulus making repeated attacks on the defences. Both sides fought courageously. British soldiers who were too badly injured to continue shooting, contributed to the effort by reloading rifles and supplying ammunition to those still standing. Eventually, the British were confined to a small area around the storehouse.

At 4:00 am the Zulus withdrew. Although they appeared on the hill again at 7:00 am no further offensives were launched and they turned and left. It is thought that they had seen British reinforcements approaching. Zulu casualties from the battle were around 500 including 350 fatalities. The British garrison suffered 17 deaths and 10 wounded.

Though Victorian Britain was stunned when news of the inexplicable defeat at Isandhlwana reached them, the victory of a small number of men at Rorke’s Drift against apparently overwhelming odds was astounding and restored faith in the British army. Eleven Victoria Crosses were awarded to the defendants of Rorke’s Drift.

The film ‘Zulu’ is a colourful and dramatic recounting of the Battle of Rorke’s Drift. Below are two clips from it.

This meme is hosted by the Remarkable Denise Nesbitt and her Really good team. Click here for more Rs.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Poetry Jam Thunder and Lightning

More verse, though none worse, can be found here

Thunder and lightning
Are awfully frightening;
I shiver and shake,
And quiver and quake,
My muscles tightening
And knuckles whitening
At every flash
And deafening crash.

Lightning and thunder
Make me go under
The bedclothes at night,
Right out of sight.
Nerves ripped asunder
I worry and wonder
Why I’m such a clot
And growing so hot!

Donner und blitzen
Make my head splitzen!
The rumbling ceases,
Courage increases,
I pour out a spritzing
Of soda and gin sling
To celebrate quiet,
Cessation of riot. 

Monday, 16 May 2011

Magpie Tales #66 The Library

Thanks go to Tess Kincaid at Willow Manor who organises and hosts this meme. Each week she provides a photographic prompt to encourage writing in any genre. To read more Magpies please click here.

Image copyright Tess Kincaid
She couldn’t read very well – she was only four - but she had loved the books in her grandfather’s study. Her grandfather had sets of books bound in blue and red and green leather with golden words on their spines and covers. Those were beautiful but the ones she liked best were the poetry books and the children’s stories. They were leather-bound, too, but the front covers were brightly coloured, either with pictures or intricate patterns.

She would take one from the shelf and finger the leather and the tooling. She liked the gilt-dusted fore-edges of the pages that made the closed book look like a gold bar. Carefully, she would open the cover and pause at the transparent tissue protecting the frontispiece. This was a moment of magic, seeing the illustration for the first time as though through light mist.Turning the thin paper over revealed the colours and details of the image and then her exploration would continue. Pages of beautiful fonts interspersed with colour plates and line drawings carried her through the book, allowing her to understand something of the tale. Often her grandfather would read a story to her and she would marvel and wonder if she would ever be able to decipher the text as he did. He would point to words he thought she might know and she would feel a rush of joy at reading them correctly. Then he would ruffle her hair and say, ‘Well done, little one.’

There were a handful of books that she was never allowed to touch on her own. Some had marbled fore-edges that created wonderful swirls, others were gauffered with delicately subtle designs or had beautiful paintings that could only be appreciated when the book was fanned open. Her grandfather told her they were very old and valuable.

She liked the deckle edges of some of the newer books in his collection, too. The pages of these books were stronger, sturdier, less easily damaged.

As she grew older she continued to appreciate books of all sorts. She loved the books in antiquarian shops but also appreciated well-produced modern volumes. Always the initial appeal arose from the first sight of a book – the dust cover, the font, the colour and then the print inside, clear and black and well-spaced on white or cream paper. The feel and smell of a book was important, too – the texture of the pages, the intoxicating scent of fresh paper and printer’s ink. On occasion, an attractive book would disappoint with an unpleasant odour and would be rejected by her.

When her grandfather died, her grief at his passing was assuaged by the library he left to her. In time, the volumes became warming remembrances of early childhood hours spent among his books.

And now she was implanting the same experiences in her young grandson’s memory. 

Succinctly Yours Week 8

 Grandma's Goulash at Succinctly Yours hosts this microfiction meme. Each week she posts a photographic prompt for inspiration and the challenge is to write a story using no more than 140 characters or words. Below is this week's photo followed by my offerings.

'You’re tempting fate standing so close to the breakers,’ she said.
‘Nonsense,’ he replied as a wave broke over his head.

(120 characters)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Lydia had driven to the coast while Ted studied the user’s booklet for his new camera, muttering to himself about apertures and focal length. Now she waited patiently while he adjusted the settings.

Never one to do things by halves, he had purchased two alternative lenses, a reflective umbrella, spotlights and several books on photographic technique. Lydia didn’t think these accessories were really necessary for beach shots but decided it would be prudent to keep her thoughts to herself. Ted was already edgy enough.

After fifteen minutes he pronounced himself ready and peered through the viewfinder. Lydia suggested that the monopod would be more effective resting on the ground and he grunted and planted it in the wet sand. Finally he pressed the shutter button then cursed.

‘No memory card,’ he said and they packed everything away and drove home.
(140 words)

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Winston’s May 2011 blog

Winston here . . . p’rrrrr, p’rrrrr . . .

I haven’t blogged for five months, don’tcha know. Have you missed me?

Akchalee I don’t know what months is. Is it food? I don’t think it can be ‘cos I don’t usually get no food when I blog, just my usual rations which I might tell you is a bit thin at the moment. That’s ‘cos I went to see Kate-the-Vet and after I’d made a BIG fuss of her and she told me I was gorgeous and had wonderful clean teeth she spoilt it by saying I could do with losing just a little bit of weight. Last year Nadia-the-Vet said the same thing and so Mrs Human put me on short rations. I had to catch spiders and flies to make up the difference, don’tcha know.  Do you remember?

Anyway, after a while, everyone (except Mrs H) forgot all about what Nadia-the-Vet said and went back to giving me treats when I asked for them. I ask very nicely and the Humans (except Mrs H) love it and tell me a little won’t hurt. I like it specially when Gillian comes ‘cos she really can’t resist my winning ways and offers to feed me and then she puts lots of food out for me and my tummy gets really stretched – it’s lovely! After that I just sleep and dream for hours and hours.
 Well, this time, Mrs H told Mr H that *I have got to lose weight (she keeps saying that and Mr H just nods and smiles) But she said, ‘I mean it, he’s got to be rationed,’ and Mr H said, ‘But he asks so nicely in the mornings and he really enjoys his bit of chicken/ham/cheese/shrimp/tuna.’ (That’s not all at the same time, course!) In the end he agreed and I was very disappointed, don’tcha know. I thought I had him proply trained. So now he gives me just one little treat and I have to wait for my breakfast before my tummy feels full again.

I tell you, I got so hungry the other night that I opened the cupboard door and dragged out the tube of shrimp treats and a bag of dog biscuits and I tried and tried to open them but I just couldn’t. Course, just before I went to see Kate-the-Vet, Mrs H cut my claws ‘cos I kept getting hooked on things. The other day I got stuck to a cushion and it followed me everywhere. Gus barked, silly boy and Mrs H laughed when she saw me though she tried not to let me see. So course I couldn’t get a good grip on the bag of biscuits.

I’m trying to work out how to get into the fridge now. The Humans have had fridge-raiding cats before so I’m sure I can find a way. I think if I sit and stare at it long enough it will open. I talk to it, too. Watch this space!

The other thing about having blunt claws is that I slide off things. Usually when I stretch up on Mr H’s legs I can hang on but now I just slip off. Never mind, my claws will grow again.

There’s a funny **red thing that appears now and then and I chase it but I can’t never catch it. It’s odd – it don’t smell or make a noise and I don’t know where it goes when it’s not there – or here. Gus don’t know nothing about it, neither and he can’t catch it, too. Mind you, he don’t move as fast as me.

The Humans know how much I love bird-watching so they very kindly moved the bird feeders closer to the house. I spend many a happy hour watching and chittering at the birds. I think they’d like to come and see me, too, don’tcha know, ‘cos several of them have banged on the patio door.

That’s all I’ve got. Be good!

(Mrs H: 
* Winston's not very overweight ; he just needs to slim down a little!
**It’s a laser light)

I'm linking to Misty Dawn's Camera Critters and Bozo and his human at Pet Pride.