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We should all leave something behind

They say we should all leave something behind when we are gone (Im not going anywhere for a long time yet by the way). A song, a poem, a sketch, a painting, a piece of carpentry or metalwork, pottery, a photograph or even a sculpture if you must. Just something that is from your creative side. Something that says something about what you are (or were)!!So I decided to give writing a go on the basis that I cant sing, draw or paint and I was useless at carpentry and metalwork at school. As for pottery, forget it, far too messy. So here goes – let’s write!

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What is all this blogging business?

15 Minutes a day

Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.

— Oscar Wilde.

Hi. I’m new to blogging. In fact I’m new to writing fiction. But since Ive started writing regularly as a hobby, and joined a writing group, I thought I might as well put my stuff out there. What harm can it do.? Please feel free to comment and criticise, but do try and be kind!!!

I have started writing a crime novel and I’ve been experimenting with short stoires. I read on a blogg that it’s a really good discipline to write for 15 minutes a day, on anything, just as a writing exercise. So I’ve been doing that as well and found, actually, I really enjoy it. So my psost are mostly 15 minute exercises. Here goes….

15 minutes to write- goodbye old friends

My Dad ( on the right) passed away when I was quite young. This is one of my favourite photos of him when he was about 19, just before he went off to do his National Service in the RAF. I never knew the other two lads or the story behind the photo – so here’s my story in 15 minutes. God bless you Dad , I think of you every day.

P.S – he loved his Cricket

Billy headed straight for the bar as he usually did. He was always the first to put his hand in his pocket. Good lad was Billy, we’d been mates since our first day at school when he had decided that I was going to be his mate for no other reason than he liked my lunchbox , or rather the cheese and pickle sandwiches my Mum had packed into it. We’d been best buddies ever since.Inseparable, people said, like Laker and Bedser the Surrey spin twins.

Jack and I headed for the nearest table, threw our bags on the floor and flopped onto the chairs exhausted.

‘Flash the ash Jack it’s your shout’ I was desperate for a fag after two hours on the train back from London.

Jack threw me the packet and dropped his lighter on the table then stood up and headed for the gents.

‘You’re back then’ said old John sitting on his usual stool at the bar.

‘Didn’t expect to see you lads back so soon’. Old John took a swallow of his pint and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.

We’re in John, we’ll be off next week, just waiting for the posting to be be sent to us’. Said Billy , as he carried three pints of best back to the table.

‘Here you go Mike’ get that down you’. Billy was smiling, that broad toothy grin that had earned him his nickname of ‘smiler’ by which he was commonly known in the village.

I took a good swallow of my pint and felt myself relax. It had been a long day. The early train was crowded and London was mobbed. I was glad to be back in the village, in our local with old John.

Jack sat down and had a drink of his pint. ‘ I’m glad it’s the RAF, can’t be doing with all that drilling and shouting those army lads do’.

I drew on my fag and blew the smoke up towards the ceiling. It was time to say the one thing the three of us had deliberately not talked about ever since the papers had dropped through our letterboxes.

‘ We need to make a promise to each other that we will meet here again the day we finish. Same table, same beers, same fags. The three of us. What do you say’ .

Billy pulled his old camera from his bag and grinned even more widely than usual. ‘ Of course we will, I’m not one for writing letters but the day we all finish we’ll meet back here, John take a snap for us will you , just to remind us, two years is a bloody long time’.

‘ I won’t miss this warm beer or Old Johns moaning , but I will miss you two tossers’ said Jack , as he moved onto the bench the other side of Billy.

‘Just point it and shoot, even you can’t fuck that up’, although I wasn’t so sure that the snap would come out OK.

So there we sat the three of us. Three mates waiting to head off to do our National Service, knowing we would not see each other for two years from the day we went in. Knowing that when we were done, life would be different, we would be different.

Billy, Jack and Mike. The village kids off to serve Her Majesty.

15 minutes to write – Buenos Aires

Inspired by a lunch in a cafe in Buenos Aires on a rainy Sunday last week with our beautiful daughter Emily.

………

The door opened with a crash, almost falling off its weather worn hinges as the crowd poured in laughing and chattering, shaking off the rain soaked unberellas as they did so. The hubbub instant, bringing life to the quiet little back street cafe in St Telmo.

He sat in the corner with a strong black coffee and a forlorn look. Hardly raising his eyes up from his paper as the crowd grabbed chairs and the waitress made a fuss, dropping menus on the tables they had commandeered. He lit a cigarette and turned another page. 

He wasn’t bothered by them,  he knew their sort. He had seen the like before. He didn’t care for their bourgeois ways, their fat wallets and their enlightened views. It was all false homage to the movement, idealistic and modern. He knew they would all be the same, they would all cry Peron’s name and then run when the Generals iron fist choked the life out of them. 

Chairs scraped against the wooden floor and coats were hooked under the table. He counted ten of them altogether. They passed around cigarettes as a pitcher of wine appeared and tumblers were caught to much delight.

He looked up from his paper as his table was knocked and his coffee cup rattled in its saucer. She spoke but two words.

‘ Sorry sir’

He looked up into her eyes. She smiled at him and sat down on the empty chair at the table, fished a packet of cigarettes out of her bag and held one to her lips.

‘ please’.

Her smile filled her face, it seemed to fill the room. Bright red lipstick, auburn hair under a green beret. She took off her raincoat and he caught her perfume; expensive, French.

He picked up his lighter from the table and offered it to her. She cupped the flame with bright red nails on slender fingers. When she inhaled she smiled again and glanced over at her friends at their tables.

‘ sorry for the noise. We have just come from the Rose Palace. She still won’t say yes, but I understand why. That lot think she’s deserting them, they don’t understand, they all think she has no balls.

He put his coffee cup down but he couldn’t take his eyes from her face. 

‘They will kill her if she says yes, but it will kill her husbands career if she says no’ he said. ‘So what would you do if you were her?’ He looked into her eyes. He could see she did not hesitate.

‘ That’s easy. I would say yes’. 

‘ And end your husbands career?’ He challenged her.

‘ If my husbands career depended upon my gift of power then he is not worthy of that gift or of my love. The people want to believe, how can they believe in a man who wins by his wife’s failure.

She stood up and nodded to him and started to return to her friends. 

‘ And you…. do you have a man that would give you love in such a way?’

She laughed, her face a picture of joy.’ When I do he will have to be a saint to put up with me’ As she turned and walked off she looked back ‘ what is your name?’ 

‘ They call me Christopher – like the Saint’.

She grinned back at him. ‘ Well Saint Christopher, perhaps we will meet again on your travels’.

He smiled back.

He would make sure they did.

Phil the Flamingo – a childrens story

I have a beautiful four year old Granddaughter. She is happy and funny and brave and caring – a real joy. She has sarted school and loves to read. She loves Flamingoes but has always struggled to pronouce Flamingo, it comes out as FIL-A MINGO and it always makes me smile. So this is a story for the children about Phil the Flamingo, or as my Granddaughter would say Phil-a -mingo. 🙂

Phil the Flamingo

Phil the Flamingo was fed up.

He had been standing around all day in the water.

He was cold and hungry.

All of the other flamingoes could stand for hours on one leg, catching fish in the lake.

But when Phil tried to stand on one leg, it started to ache so much he had to stand on both legs.

All of the other Flamingoes laughed at him and called him names, like ‘two leg Phil’.

Phil went and stood on his own by the edge of the water and sulked.

A Hippopotamus swam by and said, ‘ why are you standing on both legs little Flamingo, you should be standing on one leg, you’re a Flamingo.

‘I can’t’ said Phil, it hurts when I do, so I have to stand on two legs.

‘Well never mind little Flamingo, you are still a very handsome Flamingo’.

And the Hippopotamus swam away.

Then, a Frog popped his head up out the water. ‘Why are you standing on both legs Little Flamingo, you should be standing on one leg, you’re a Flamingo

‘I cant said Phil, it hurts when I do, so I have to stand on two legs.

‘Well never mind Little Flamingo, I think you are a very clever Flamingo’.

And the Frog disappeared under the water.

Next an Alligator swam by and said ‘Why are you standing on both legs little Flamingo, you should be standing on one leg, you’re a Flamingo’.

I can’t said Phil, it hurts when I do, so I have to stand on two legs’.

‘Well never mind Little Flamingo, I think you are a very brave Flamingo. Ive heard the other Flamingoes making fun of you’.

And with that the Alligator swam away.

Then Great Uncle Frank, the oldest Flamingo in the flock flew in and splashed to a stop next to Phil.

Great Uncle Frank stood on one leg and looked down at Phil.

‘Young Phil why are you standing on two legs on your own away from the rest of us?’

Great Uncle Frank was very old and very wise and Phil was very nervous but he said ‘ well Great Uncle Frank, it hurts so much when I stand on one leg so I just have to stand on two legs’.

Can I ask you a question Great Uncle Frank’ said Phil.

Of course you can Little Phil, what do you want to know’?

‘Why DO we all have to stand on one leg all day?’

Great Uncle Frank thought for a while and then said ‘ Well, we Flamingoes have always stood on one leg, My father did and my Grandfather and his father as well. As long as I can remember we Flamingoes have always stood on one leg’.

Phil sighed and felt very sad.Then he said ‘ but COULD we stand on two legs instead of one leg?’.

Uncle Frank thought for a minute and then said’ Follow me’.

He flew back to the flock and Phil splashed down next to him.

Great Uncle Frank stood on TWO legs and so did Phil.

The Flamingo standing next to Great Uncle Frank noticed he was standing on two legs so he did as well and he found it very comfortable.

Then the next Flamingo did the same, and the next and the next and the next until all of the Flamingoes in the flock were standing on TWO legs.

Great Uncle Frank winked at Phil and said ‘ Well done Phil, I was so fed up of standing on one leg and my old legs ached as well’.

Phil smiled. Now he was very happy to be know as TWO LEGS PHIL.

The Boxer – 15 minutes

I was listening to BBC Radio 4 this morning (UK) and there was a programme on about ‘Soul Music’. The presenter was talking about his career in Boxing and how much and what the ‘Simon and Garfunkel’ song , The Boxer, meant to him. Its a great song from my youth … so here is my take on it, in 15 minutes.

  
https://www.lyrics.com/lyric/35006903/Simon+%26+Garfunkel/The+Boxer+%28El+Boxeador%29


The Boxer

It was the only space left on the station seat and I eyed him suspiciously. He looked dirty and cold. I had seen his like before sitting on the steps ouitside McDonalds or by the entrance to the station. A carrier bag of belongings and a weary look as they reached out to your heartstrings. But I was tired, the train was late and I needed somehwere to rest so I sat down before somebody else beat me to it.

I took my mobile out and started to check my messages partly out of habit but mostly so that I didnt have to engage with him. The rest of the passengers sitting on the bench were doing the same.

To my surprise I heard a mobile ringing and the scruffy cold young man pulled a phone out of his pocket and answered it.

‘Hi Mom’. No, I’ll be home soon, I’m fine don’t worry’.

He sounded almost normal and it occured to me that I’d never considered that even people like him had a family somehwere. I had always assumed that down and outs had been shunned by their families or had chosen to lose themsleves from their loved ones.

He listened to ‘his Mom’ and then ended the call saying ‘ Its been tough, but Im glad I came, I had to find out, I had to try. I’ll be home. Bye, I love you’.

He put his phone in his pocket and pulled the collar of his scruffy jacket tighter around his neck. He turned and looked at me, ‘ Cold isnt it’, he said.

‘Yes its bitter. I’m sorry I couldnt help but hear, are you on your way home for Christmas to see your Mom’.

‘Yes, I’ve not been home for three years’

I thought for a moment and then said ‘ You look like life’s dealt you a bad hand. It must be tough in the City’.

The young man smiled and said. ‘It’s OK, I’m a fighter, I wont give up. I’ve grown up alot in the last three years. University is not like I thought it would be, but it has taught me one thing at least’.

Quite shocked I said’ What did you learn’.

‘ That I want to work with kids. I want to help the poor kids, the kids who have lost hope to find it again. The kids who have had the fight knocked out of them. I want to help them get back up and fight again. ‘I’ve applied for a job to be a social worker’.

The train rattled into the station and we both joined the fight……. for a seat.

A poem – 15 minutes – If I knew then

My mother was the most lovely lady in the world. Kind, corageous and loving. She passed away last year after a terrible illness. Her funeral was a year ago yesterday. Mum this is for you. God bless x………………………………….

If I knew then what I know now , I wouldn’t waste a breath. I’d hold those moments in my heart, I’d show you more not less.

If I knew then what I know now, I’d change it for the good, you showed me in our happy days, but I never understood.

Time’s a thief, it steals our hearts and never let’s us find, those times again, those days gone by in joy and harmony.

If I knew then what I know now my breath would sweetly say, be gentle oh my dearest Mum, let’s cherish every day.

For we are but a moment past, a brief swell on the sea. For we my love will soon be done and I’ll return to thee.

The Dhobi Ghat tour guide – 15 minutes

During business trips to Mumbai our hosts would love to take us to see the worlds largest outdoor laundry – The Dhobi Ghat. It is the most amazing sight, especially when the laundry is hanging on the lines in the afternoon blowing in the wind as far as the eye can see. So , a 15 minute bash at writing something about this amazing place.

Ramesh dropped his daughter off at the school gate. She looked so smart in her green uniform with matching ribbons in her hair. She was a clever girl and the money he paid for her education would be worth every penny. She would be a Doctor or a Scientist he thought. He was always proud to see her off to school before he made his way to the Dhobi Ghat in central Mumbai. The traffic was chaotic, but he put the radio on and the air conditioning kept him cool as the temperature outside started to soar.

As he got nearer to the Dhobi, the roads became packed with the workers heading for their stones. Some had already picked up from offices and hotels on the way in and were weighed down with washing wrapped into large bundles balancing precariously on their backs. He remembered those days with a sense of pride. His Grandfather had first rented one of the 731 stones before the war. His father had taken over the business and finally he had inherited it himself when his father was too old and weary from the years of back braking toil in the Dhobi.

He pulled into his car park and entered the office block. It was a small office with just one desk and a door leading through to the production area. The team were already hard at it, processing the washing into the new washers and dryers he had invested in. Business was good and the loans for the new equipment were steadily being paid off.

He hung his coat on the door and changed out of his suit and into his work clothes. He looked like all the other 10,000 workers breaking their backs on the stones hour after hour. He walked up to the meeting point and was just in time to see the minibus pulling into the lay-by over the railway line. He greeted the tourists alighting from the bus as he always did:

‘Welcome, welcome. Today I am going to show you the historic Mumbai Ghobi Ghat, the oldest, biggest and best outdoor laundry in the world. Every day we wash and clean over half a million pieces of laundry and never one is misplaced or lost. Only in Mumbai could this be done. Welcome welcome’.

The money paid by the tourists, he knew, would pay another months school fees for their beloved Daughter.

The Mountain book stall – 15 minutes

The best book shop on the mountain

Another 15 minute effort. I love this image. We found it in Tenerife at the foot of a hill where families of dwellers had set up primitive homes. The astute amongst you will of course have noticed the picture is on my home page – kind of appropropriate don’t you think that I should write something about it !!

……………………………………………………………………….

Most of all they missed their books.

It had been three months since they had moved to the mountain to live.Their decision to run had been an easy choice in the end. They weren’t the only ones trying to escape. The mountain, once deserted, was now home to an increasing number of escapees.The cities, towns and suburbs becoming increasingly deserted as power failed, the normal order of life gradually crumbling. Food shortages and water rationing spreading like a cancer. Work became meaningless,inflation rendering earnings useless. Survival instincts taking over from hope and aspiration.

He was surprised how they had adjusted on the mountain. Warmth came from the fires they built, food from the rivers and water from the rain. They had each other and they had their memories.They didn’t miss all of the electronic social media gadgets that had done so much to spread the anarchy and despair over the last ten years since Global warming had finally been accepted by the leaders of the Superpowers.

It was the books they missed most of all. It was the biggest mistake they had made when the decided to flee. Not to bring books.Just one book each, they realised, would have made such a difference.

The idea crept up on them slowly as more people appeared on the mountain. Hidden in the forest, valleys and caves.They didn’t see them very often, everyone choosing to keep their own company, suspicious of strangers intentions. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to try. So they had made a crude stall out of driftwood and made a small sign from windblown paper and chalk from the hills.They made the trek down the mountain one day and left the small stall and sign on the path leading back to the small deserted town.

Wanted – books to borrow

They checked every week or so and although the small stall and sign were still there and footprints in the dust showed people had passed by and some even stopped, still not one book had appeared.

Then, by chance they had been fishing down by the cove on the far side of the mountain across the bay and within sight of the stall when they saw a lone figure walk up the path. Dressed all in white carrying a rucksack, looking like any other traveller they had spotted on the mountain. The stranger approached the stall and stopped. They couldn’t see what he or she was doing. They didn’t dare show themselves. They hid until the figure moved off up the trail into the mountain and out of sight.

They approached carefully, suspicious that the figure may be lurking in the undergrowth and they were walking into a trap. They hid in a bush within sight of the stall where they could see something had been placed on the stall. Eventually they plucked up enough courage to make their approach.

To their astonishment a book had been placed on the stall. They picked it up and ran for the hills. He stuffed it into his back pack and didn’t look at it properly until they were safe in their home, in the tree house.

He took it out and they smiled at each other and kissed. A book, an actual book. He gave it to her ‘you open it’.

She opened the cover and smiled.

She read the first line. The first line of a book they would come to cherish and read every day.

‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’.

They wept and held each other.

Dignity – 15 minutes

Its grey and cold today. I helped out at the care home for the Christmas service. Chatted to old Jim who used to be in the Army and then a Bricklayer. Nice man, big smile on his face. Insisted on singing ‘ While Shepherds wash their socks by night’ and squeezed my hand hard as he roared with laughter. He still had his Dignity … so I’ve done a 15 minute writing exercise using Dignity and the thoughts of that lovely Deacon Blue song of the same name.

He promised her he would do it.

He had promised himself he would do it.

They had talked about it often before she had passed. He could see her, spreading the butter on the bread, making a pot of tea to fill his flask. If he was lucky, she would put some cake in as well.Before he left the house, he would always hold her in his arms by the front door, squeeze her tight, kiss her on the cheek and say ‘ Wont be long now treasure, our ships coming in, you’ll see’.

Thirty years he had been doing the round. Same houses, same letterboxes,just different people.New blocks of flats, new houses, on old parkland but they all had the same letterboxes. He delivered joy and happiness, sorrow and pain, he could usually tell just by the shape and feel as he pushed it through. Most ignored him, he was just a daily happening. Sometimes the old ones would ask him how he was, the young ones always too busy.

He sat in the same place to eat his lunch. A rickety green bench by the Old Port where he could see the fishing boats and the pleasure cruisers.

The boat had never moved .She looked a little older and the blue paint was cracked and worn, just like he felt. Home now for he seagulls and the seaweed.But it won’t be long, he thought. He was almost at the end. It was his time and he had promised his treasure that he would do it.

His ship was coming in. They had saved hard over the years.

He would sail her round the coast and if anyone asked, he would tell them, she’s called……. ‘Dignity’.

Other Peoples things- 15 minutes

Another 15 minute exercise.

I’m a great fan of The Shires music and I love their song – ‘Other Peoples Things’. I found there is a lady in America running an online business selling mystery boxes of random ‘things’. She has tapped into that love we all have for unwrapping presents. The thrill of the mystery. What a great idea for a story. ‘Things’ hold memories:

Even other peoples………………………………………………………..

The box arrived at last. She had been waiting for what seemed like ages. Just a brown box addressed to her, delivered by Federal Express straight to her door. She put it in the lounge and made a coffee. It was smaller than she thought it would be. She had chosen the medium size box, she didn’t want to seem too greedy.

She took a sip of coffee, sat down and looked at the box. That was the thing, you didn’t know where it came from. An Old man, a housewife, a businessman, a baby even. You couldn’t know until you opened the box.They said the box would tell you, that the box had a story to tell and the story was waiting, for you.

She put her coffee down and used the scissors to cut the selotape.There was a scarf on the top, a blue scarf. She picked it up and examined it.Fine embroidery, good quality with a white laced trim. It looked like fine silk. She held it to her face and smelled a deep rich perfume. She closed her eyes and inhaled strongly. A vision of a young woman came to mind.The fragrance fresh and light.

She put the scarf down and reached into the box. She pulled out an old red tin about the size of a tissue box. She emptied the contents onto the lounge carpet. A tortoise shell hair-clip, a brooch like a swan, a green fountain pen and photographs, old photographs. She picked up the first one and looked into the eyes of a smiling little girl aged about six or seven sitting on a chair. She wore a lace dress and had long golden curls , a happy face with a cheeky smile.

She picked up her notepad and pen and sat in the chair by the window overlooking the seashore, the place where she always sat to write.

She wrote the title:

Other peoples things.

I'm still here – 15 mins

This one was tricky this morning. Mum and dad passed away from Dementia. Mum in law has Alzheimers.I’m helping out with the church service at a care home later this week… here goes.. 15 mins.

‘Come on Bill, where would you like to sit today, in the usual place? Look its the Christmas Carol concert with Cath this morning’.

Bill… Bill… oh yeas that’s me.. At least I think that’s me. I used to be Bill. I used to be lots of things, but now I’m Bill in the usual place.

She’s nice this young girl… she helps me but I don’t know her.. Why does she need to help me. Where’s Betty… I need to find Betty.. I saw he yesterday so where is she.

Why am I here and not at home….home, now let me think,I need to think. What is home.. Is that where I used to live with Betty… yes that’s it. We lived in a home… but now they tell me I’m in a home… but its not my home.

I’m still here Betty, I’m at home.. So where are you.

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