Wight Fair Writers & Artists Circle

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Members Musings December 2017

December1

David WeatherspoonBy David Weatherston

Just because Christmas is nearly upon us again, I don`t want any of you thinking that being Santa Claus is just about scoffing mince pies and knocking back gallons of cheap sherry from Lidls on Christmas Eve!! It`s an all the year round job with lots of presents to make, reindeer to look after, and the inevitable problem of “elf and safety” issues from time to time!

With such a busy schedule to maintain I occasionally have to ask some “mature” gentlemen to help me out and I know that on your beautiful Island one of my colleagues occasionally has to stand in for me at The Busy Bee Christmas Grotto. I have explained to him that in keeping with the strict Department of Education guidelines he must never ask children where they live as we obviously know; courtesy of my new smartphone app which enables me to find everyone on Christmas Eve apart from the children in Lower Ventnor where there is little wifi reception!! He is also under strict instructions NOT to ask the children if they have been “good” throughout the year because if their behaviour has been even slightly wayward at times it can obviously be psychologically damaging for them if this is brought out into the open!

The gentleman standing in for me at Busy Bee has told me that in previous years he has had to cope with a variety of problems on a daily basis that have ranged from; terrified screaming toddlers to stroppy teenagers, and a hen party who arrived from the pub en route to a Spa afternoon and all wanted to film the bride-to-be dancing with Father Christmas!! Later that same afternoon he was asked if a rather large lady could sit on his knee while her mother videoed her asking Santa for a “quick divorce and a new fella “for Christmas!!”.

On Christmas Eve the reindeer have a long and stressful journey round the world and Rudolf in particular always welcomes some nourishment and refreshment on the way. If you are contemplating this they would love some carrots, hay, or perhaps an apple; but probably not the chicken nuggets and battered sausage that little Amy was intending to leave them last year!!

I feel I must now be getting back to the toy workshop where everyone is working twenty four hours a day in order to fill all the stockings, and I really must get that order off to Amazon for some of those latest Star Wars figures! So it just remains for me to wish you all a VERY HAPPY CHRISTMAS and PLEASE remember to let the fire go out in the hearth before I come down your chimney on Christmas Eve!!

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Members Musings November 2017

November1

Fred CanavanWait for it…

by Fred Canavan’s

Have you ever noticed how much of a writer`s life is spent waiting?  Take this month,for example. I was lucky enough to have been short-listed three times in September. Once in Ireland for a short story, and twice in Spain for a short story and a piece of flash-fiction.  Now, the waiting begins. Will the phone ever ring – is it even plugged in? How many times a day does a sane person check their emails? And then the doubts creep in – like that black slimy sludge seeping under the door in one of those 1950`s American sci-fi films. So – and just to put your mind at rest – you read your entries for the ninetieth time. Then it hits you. Slap, bang wallop! Your stories? They`re a pile of poo! Badly written cliché-ridden predictable piles of poo.  So, that`s first prize – and a nice fat cheque – gone.

      Then you think – here come those doubts again – well, I`d settle for second prize. Yes, that would be acceptable wouldn`t it? Mustn`t be greedy after all. You check the prize list. Second prize would buy you a weekend in London for two, and a show. That would do nicely, thank you – but is the story good enough or does the pong of poo still permeate the air?  Yes, you decide, it`s still a bit aromatic – just look at all those adverbs for a start! Check the prize list, again. Third prize?  Mmm…should get self and wife a decent Sunday lunch  for two and a bottle of wine. Yes, that`s all right –  in fact I`d be pathetically  (whoops, more adverbs!) grateful. But what`s this in the small print? “Four further prizes of twenty pounds may be awarded at our discretion” What! Twenty measly quid? What does that get you these days? Fish and chips for two and a bottle of Chateau Collapso? Well, they can stick it straight up their – ah, wait a minute. Twenty quid, eh? Well, its recognition isn`t it? Of a kind…better than nothing, anyway. So, the wait goes on…

          October 13h

        And that`s what happened! Twenty quid, a `highly commended` and anthology publication in the Irish competition. Oh, well. I like fish and chips as it happens – though where to get them on the IOW is a bit of a problem, and Chateau Collapso`s not too bad – if you need a door stripping. The waiting goes on…and on…and on…

         October 17th

         Email from Spain; I have won…Nada! Also one from a competition in France that I had actually forgotten about.  Long-listed at first – but I did not make it to the short list.  Merde!

          So, what now? Switch on the coffee pot, open the Bourbon Creams…and wait.  But why don`t I have a swift game of internet chess first? Or solitaire – or checkers –or anything? Just to take my mind off the waiting. I will get back to work on my novel, honest I will. I won`t just fritter away the day…promise.

         October I8th

         There, told you! I didn`t waste the day. I wrote a poem entitled `Retirement` which you might find on Members` Shorts ( be warned, I`m currently in my John Betjeman phase) In the meantime, I stare out of the window.  East Cowes is grey, dull and damp – but you knew that, already. I slump in the chair. Is it too early for a gee-and-tee?  If only something would happen! It`s the waiting, you see, Carruthers. It`s the damned waiting that drives a fellow mad…

 

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Members Musings October 2017

October4

Jonathan DoddBy Jonathan Dodd

The Fiction the Whole Fiction, and Nothing But the Fiction

A few years ago I was running a writers’ circle in Newbury called WordWatchers. We used to hold two short story competitions every year. These were never the same, because we kept reinventing them. Sometimes we were very strict on wordcount and title and sometimes we didn’t specify either, and sometimes we allowed different media, as in a poem rather than a short story. Rather like life itself, we made it up as we went along, and we learned as much from when it didn’t work very well, as we did when it went swimmingly.

We used to run these with a complicated method of blind judging. We each received a book with all the stories in, but without names, so we could only judge on the basis of what we read. We spent so much time trying to guess who wrote what, that we introduced an extra competition, to see who guessed best. I was amazed by how difficult it was to recognise each other’s styles. People even started laying out their stories differently, or using fewer semicolons, just to make it harder. I remember the argument we had early on, when we were discussing how we should judge, and what criteria we should use, when I said I marked down for bad spelling and punctuation.

Funnily enough, the biggest furore was about the content of one of my short stories. The month after the get-together when we found out who won and who guessed best, we always had a post-mortem meeting, where we discussed each of the stories. Mine concerned a policeman and a rough sleeper, and it was set in Newbury. The rough sleeper turned out to be the last living member of a family that had once owned most of the land that Newbury was built on.

I didn’t know any of the history of Newbury, but I needed it to fit my story, so I invented my own history, incorporating it into the story, and I wrote it to appear as true as I could, because I needed to highlight the downfall of the family. It didn’t win, of course. I only ever won once. I never understood why nobody understood what I was trying to say, and the brilliance of my writing. Of course, we all thought that.

One of the things that most people mentioned about my story was how fascinating my grasp of the history of Newbury was, and how much research I must have done. This pleased me immensely, as a writer, because that was what I was trying to convey, within the context of the story. But, for the sake of veracity, I had to inform them that I made it all up. They all started shouting at me, and I couldn’t understand why. It hadn’t occurred to me that my readers, all writers themselves, would be angry with me for making up a fictional history of a real place in a fictional short story.

They were angry because they believed the history I created, and they told me that I should have added a note to say that I had played fast and footloose with history, in case anyone believed what I had written. I thought that was a silly idea. We had a lot of strong discussions, because we all felt very passionate about writing. We never fell out, because we were all fast friends, but I think that was the occasion when we came the closest.

I’m still wondering about this. What do you think?

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Members Musings August 2017

September2

Martin MorrisBy Martin Morris

A Ghost Story

My weddings and funeral suit was too tight over my belly, I can’t remember the last time I wore the bloody thing.  It must have been when I married that that old cow Janice five years ago. She isn’t wearing white to the ceremony this time though, she’s all in black. If she weren’t dead in a that box in front of me, I’d be putting her in one.

I needed a drink and the wake at the Stag hotel was seeming far, too bloody far away.

Janice’s uncle Jack is shaking my hand and telling me that Janice will always be with us, but I’m sure I can smell whisky on his breath, or maybe it’s my own soured lungs from last night’s red wine. Various other members of my dead wife pester me with their empty condolences, all looking like miserable sods. I could see where my pitiable old cow had got it from. Not one of my family had bothered to come, it curdled my belly to think about how they ignored my existence.

While the vicar whined on about love and eternal something or other, I had to hold my hands tight together to stop them shaking. I wish the pompous idiot would get it over with, I needed a drink badly.

After mumbling through the last hymn, I was ready to watch the box slide through the red velvet curtains, then go and drink to the passing of my old bitch Janice, and to the fact the police no longer seemed interested in the events of that night.

As the hymn came to an end and before the vicar could continue, the doors at the back of the crematorium swung open and a man in a weird turquoise uniform escorted in a skinny girl. She was dressed all in black, lost in an oversize jumper, with wild uncared for and bedraggled black hair.

I recognized the little brat, from our two prior meetings at the mental institution that Janice had dragged me too. We went to visit her insane Goth daughter, who was coming towards me down the aisle. I remembered the black lipstick and the overkill mascara and those eyes, all too well. They were black and deep like circular voids to hell and as I looked into them this time, I did not see the contempt and distaste, that she’d looked at me with in the mad house, now they burned with hatred.

As I stood there, she walked up to me and threw her arms around me in a fierce embrace of commiseration, but the words she whispered into my ear were full of a cold malice, that made my spine freeze

“You cannot hide, but you will see my mother’s face in every place you turn, you cannot run far enough, that she will not find you. You shall pay for my mother’s murder at the cold dead hands of your victim.”

I tried to pull out of her embrace, but the grip of her bony body was as tight as an iron binding and I couldn’t struggle out. It felt like being enfolded in a skeletons clasp.

How could she know about what had happened last Saturday night, she couldn’t know that I’d pushed her drunken sow of a mother down the stairs. She’d got what she deserved though, that bitch had been out with her slut friend Trisha in town, all dressed up like a slag. She knew what she’d get, when she came home all smarmy and yelled at me.

 ‘Get stuffed, I’ll do what I want. I’m not living like you want me too anymore.’ She’d shouted.

The police had been suspicious because of our history together, the multiple trips to the hospital and neighbours calls to the police when she’d made me angry. But because she’d been drinking before she came home and there were no blows to her face or body, they were disinterested. She had just broken her neck in an unfortunate accident.

I attempted to mollify her mad daughter, she was probably just angry, she couldn’t possibly know the truth. I was disturbed and fearful of the promise of murder that shone in her black within black eyes.

“It was an accident.” I sputtered “There was nothing I could do.” I said in an unattractively high-pitched complaint and cringed at my whiny voice.

She released me and stood back. She said nothing, but her black within black eyes said ‘liar’. She turned away and went to sit at the back of the church, radiating malevolence.

I watched Janice slide through the velvet curtain and I couldn’t stop my hands from shaking, though now it was from anxiety, my stomach contents seemed to be reaching up my throat. When the service ended, I looked back and to my relief Janice’s crazy daughter had already left.

After making the right noises at the crematorium, I stopped in at the wake and managed to get several free drinks, that only cost me the time to listen to long stories of Janice as a child or young woman and the same endless empty condolences, repeated until my teeth hurt. Eventually, despite the free drinks, I made my excuses and set off for the local supermarket for a bottle of whisky to settle in and rejoice at home with.

My alcohol infused cheeks felt warm in the cold afternoon air as I walked and I arrived in the booze aisle of the shop, feeling quite merry. I picked out my favourite bourbon. I thought why not, it’s a celebration of my new freedom and the fact Janice’s life insurance would surely pay out soon. I lifted the bottle of Jack Daniels off the shelf and relished its promising fresh weight in my hand, then looked up.

Ice ran through my veins and constricted my chest with a clamp around my heart. The bottle I held fell from my nerveless hands to smash unnoticed before me.  I saw Janice standing twenty yards away from me, motionless at the end of the line of bottles. She was naked, her skin waxen white and her head was canted at a perverse angle. She couldn’t look any deader. Her mouth was working slowly as if she was trying to speak. I heard ‘get stuffed Callum’ spat out in a voice full of congested phlegm, and I fled.

I ran until I was breathless and I was carrying a stich that had developed in my side, my liquid swollen belly ached and I slowed to a laboured walk. I kept looking back, but saw no other nightmare apparitions appear and I began to relax and feel stupid about my idiot mind playing tricks. I was a bit drunk and stressed about the day’s activities I thought. I needed to relax and unwind. So, when I reached the corner shop I bought another bottle, then set off to my house around the next corner and down the street.

I stopped outside my front door, put my shopping down and fumbled out my front door key. I was trying to jam it in the lock when I heard a voice that sent an ice shock through my chest.

Callum, Callum? where are my clothes you shit?” the congested voice said behind me.

My hair seemed to stand on end and my bladder ached painfully I glanced behind me down the steps. Janice stood there, her flesh pasty white in the drab light. A bone jutted out of the skin of her tilted neck, it glistened wetly out of the wound.

I tried to force myself through the door in front of me, until I finally remembered to turn the door key. As the door opened on me, I fell through onto the floor and scrambled onto my back. Before I could slam the door shut with my feet, I saw Janice’s angled head appear, wobbling as she walked up the steps.

Callum…Callum…CAALLLLLUMMMM!” Janice’s voice rose as she shouted my name, until it became an unnatural mumbled scream, that chilled my mind and seemed to vibrate in my ears. The banshee scream cut off as I slammed shut the door. I lay on the floor panting, my heart beating out of my chest and my scalp prickling. No further sounds came from beyond the door.

Eventually I stood and put my ear to the door and listened. The only sound I heard was the sound of a passing car, with my heart beating fast again I snatched open the door. There was nothing there waiting for me. I grabbed my bottle of Jack Daniels off the step and slammed the door shut behind me. I ripped the plastic off the bottle top and twisted the cap open. I took a long glug, I had a desperate need to fill the hole of fear and shock that had opened in me. I wanted the alcohol to wash away the ghost that had risen in my mind.

I vaguely remembered falling fully dressed into bed last night, but the light that was filtering redly through my eyelids told me that it was the next day. I kept my eyes shut to escape the light and my aching forehead grumbled at the movement as I shifted to turn over away from it.

Wake up Callum, wake up. Why can’t you ever get up in the morning? You never do anything around this house.”

My eyes snapped open with shock and almost face to face with me was Janice’s corpse. Her features looked to have sagged under the weight of her decaying skin and putrefying flesh, her eyes were yellowed and glazed with deathly cataracts. Her face hanging at an angle from the protruding and shattered bones of her neck.

How about a kiss my love?”

Janice opened her lips to speak, exposing the source of her voices congestion. Maggots spilled out, as they swarmed in the cavity of her mouth, feeding on the juicy morsel of her tongue.

My brain screamed as she dangled her head towards me and in visceral revulsion I threw myself away. She grabbed my arm to hold me back and the ice cold of her grip, was hot agony on my skin. I tore myself away and ran from the room, shutting the bedroom door behind me with a slam, stumbling downstairs as visceral fright drove me on. I had to cling on to the bottom banister as my stomach revolted and the alcoholic remnants, bitter gall and a cold pie I’d eaten last night splashed on the hallway carpet. I looked at my arm which was stinging, it was livid red and looked as if it had been scalded.

I heard the door opening upstairs and despite my shaking limbs and the bitter liquid in my mouth, I grabbed my jacket off the rail in the hallway with my car keys in and threw it on over the T-shirt I’d been wearing last night and the jeans I’d been too drunk to take off. I grabbed my trainers off the shoe rack and ran for the front door.

Callum? Where are you going Callum? Don’t you want to go to bed with me?”

My stomach churned again, as her parody of sexual invitation slurped and gargled in her maggot filled mouth. My stomach felt hollow with empty desperation.

The only place I could think to run to was my brother, he wouldn’t welcome me, but he would still give me harbour up north until this nightmare had gone away. It had to go away, that bitch wasn’t haunting me if she couldn’t find me.

“You cannot hide, but you will see my mother’s face in every place you turn, you cannot run far enough that she will not find you.”

I heard her crazy daughters warning in my head. Had she drugged me somehow? That was it. When she had grabbed hold of me, the mental little cow had stuck me with a needle and some sort of hallucinogenic drug. I drove out of town and I started feeling comforted that I had solved the insanity of the last twenty-four hours. I stopped at a motorway services and bought food, coffee and water for the rest of the journey. Deciding to avoid the cases of larger on offer. My big brother wouldn’t like me turning up, half cut with an arsenal of larger in front of his little kids, not after the last time I had got drunk at their house.

I sat in the car and nursed my coffee while I ate a slightly plastic tasting egg and sausage sandwich, but was feeling much better about the scares of this morning. I started dreaming in my head what to do about Janice’s malicious little brat. Maybe I should go to the police, if the drug was still in my system. But now the effects had worn off I was sure I wouldn’t get anywhere.

I restarted my onward journey, beginning to wonder If I might not be wasting my time with this trip and putting myself through an unpleasant reunion with my brother. I was coming to the Humber Bridge and a mist was floating on the road ahead, I began to think it might be a sign as I chewed over the necessity of going to my brothers at all. Maybe a night in a hotel would be plenty to escape the drug’s effects.

The bridge seemed quiet, which was unsurprising for mid-afternoon on a Tuesday, the mist made the end of the bridge and opposite side of the river invisible. As I passed beneath one the suspension bridges standing column’s and looked up at the construction above and the thick wires that supported the bridge stretching away into grey nothingness, I belatedly caught shadows in the road ahead. I slammed on the brakes and swerved erratically around the figures lurking in the mist, I managed to just miss a man dressed in old dangling rags, I caught a glimpse of his face, which was hanging in the same sort of tatters of flesh.

I couldn’t control my forward motion and swerved with a jarring impact that smashed my face into the steering wheel, as I caromed into the concrete wall at the edge of the bridge.

For an unknown amount of time I lay with my head ringing against the steering wheel, feeling blood dripping hotly from my nose. Eventually I managed to force myself to sit up.

The mist was still swirling outside the windows, the world disappearing and being recreated as I watched. When I looked to my right, I saw the shadows of figures moving towards me and dread filled my chest. With my head pounding I forced the door open and almost fell out as it opened. Checking the figures were still distant I pushed myself out and round to the other side of the car. Then froze when I saw more people in the mist approaching me from that direction. I fell back against the car, I had nowhere to go. The first person was being revealed from the mist, it was Janice who was walking towards me, her head tilted like an expectant dog, her skin sagging with the weight of her rotting innards. Along with her, came other figures of dead peope, in every manner of rot and decay, an ever-increasing number of shambling corpses followed with her, grinning skulls with scraps of flesh and gaping eye sockets, all accompanied by a high-pitched wailing which I realized was coming from my hurting chest.

Janice was upon me and she grabbed my head in her cold hands, that burned my flesh where she gripped me. I screamed in pain and she pressed her maggot filled lips against my open mouth, setting fire to my face.

I opened my eyes as the agony filled me, more of the dead reached their hands out to grab for my skin and it seemed like I had been set alight.

In my blurred vision, I could see Janice’s mad daughter in the dead’s midst, her black within black eyes capture mine, sucking me into the void of their glare.

“The dead have come to claim their own” The girls voice echoes in my mind.

Janice releases me from her deathly kiss and I stumble away to the wall, my mind broken and numb as the fire of my scalded body drives all thought from my head, apart from escape.  I reach the wall and fling myself out into the mist. The cold air seems to cool me as I fall and despite my plunge to the water below probably meaning my death, I feet relief.

I keep falling and falling, getting colder and colder until it seems my body had become encased in ice. I land with a thump, that threatens to smash my ice ridden limbs. I feel nothing now though, no sensations in my body or on my skin. I look in front of me to find myself back on the bridge I Had leapt from. The figures of the dead stand around me, but they are no longer interested in me. All stand and wait on the mad daughter’s pleasure and she is standing by the car that I had crashed in looking down and then back at me with burning night eyes. On the road by the smashed car, I could see the body of a man. She reached down and turned his face towards me and I realized, it was me. I hadn’t survived to leap from the bridge. I looked up into her face and she gave a hooked sneer of malevolence and called me and the rest of the dead, back into the void behind her black within black eyes.

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Members Musings June 2017

June1

By Val Jones

ValA funny thing happened this week which I would like to share with you – a seagull crashed landed in our garden. You might not think that was funny but it was raining cats and dogs at the time and my brave cat ran as though her life depended on it straight in the house and hide behind my chair.

When the weather had abated a bit, my brave hubby sallied forth to deal with the situation. It turned out that the poor thing was wrapped in fishing line. Lola (the cat) will usually take on anything which lands in our garden, but I think that she found a fully grown herring gull a bit above her pay grade as household cat.

My hubby emerged from the garden soaking wet with a bedraggled gull held at arm’s length and not in a very good mood (both the hubby and the gull had battle scars). The gull was deposited in the greenhouse with food, and I was told abruptly to phone the RSPB. By this time it was well into the evening.

Did you know we don’t have a branch of RSPB on the island?  I had to phone the out of hours one in Hampshire. They were very helpful and took the details and then they dropped the bombshell and said they could not come out that evening as it was not a life threatening emergency.  They would pass it on to RSPCA in Rookley who would attend the following morning.

This left us with an irate lodger trying to peck his way out of the greenhouse, a cat scared to death and an unhappy hubby nursing his cuts and bruises. What an evening!

The following morning, a man from the RSPCA arrived at our door.  He expected to find a dead bird – but no – our guest was alive and in a very bad mood. You think that he would grateful for a free nights B&B!

Because the fishing line was severely cutting off the blood supply to both legs, he was obliged to remove it while still here.   I take my hat off to him, that bird put up one hell of a fight! But eventually he cut the last piece off. So the RSPCA man decided that the gull needed a check-up (good luck with that) and duly took him to Rookley.

This is where I get on my high horse. How can people be so thoughtless as to leave fishing lines just lying about? Many birds and animals become wrapped in it and die as a result. Our wildlife is precious to this island and we should try and preserve as much of it as possible.  That’s it! Rant over! Well now, I feel a lot better.

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Members Musings May 2017

May1

By Karen Haverson

We are all guilty of the busy excuse; I say it all the time.  I must text the word busy as many times as I text apologies to friends and family for not meeting up with them earlier teamed with belated Birthday/ Christmas greetings and promises to organise a day out soon.  And I run everywhere, not out of choice I hasten to add but simply to claw back some of the time I’m usually running late by.  You see the reason I’m always rushing or running late or stressed in a seemingly disorganised state most days of the week is that I have a large family.  Five children and a significant other (man I very much love but run round after) in total.  I have four children still at home on a full time basis.  Currently I have two children at Primary School, one at High School, One at Sixth Form and my eldest is currently studying Engineering at Uni.  This is a typical day for me.

5:45am Alarm sounds, I jump out of bed swearing to switch it off allowing myself until 6am as I have managed to iron some of the clothes for the day the previous evening.  I lull myself into this false sense of security that two hours and fifteen minutes is indeed enough time to get ready and leave the house by, I close my eyes and …

6.00am Alarm Sounds, this time my partner (significant other) swears and asks me as he does every other morning why I need two alarms to wake me up fifteen minutes apart.  I inform him that I prefer it that way then I can trick myself into believing that I’ve had a lie in!  I groan and switch it off whilst fighting off the hoard of cats that I’ve collected since becoming a parent as its simply not enough to stretch yourself to the limit with a houseful of children but it is essential to surround yourself with at least four needy attention seeking cats who wish to live under every step that you take!  I relent and force myself out of bed continuing to river dance down to the back door to shovel kitten kibble into their bowls but not before I have put the plug in the bath and set the hot tap running.

6.04am I tackle the laundry, folding and piling clean clothes into the individual baskets dedicated to each child, and another pile for me to iron for the day.  Mondays is swimming lessons and so that bag needs packing.  Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays is football and various other sports related clubs so this needs washing and packing into another rucksack. Thursdays is Cubs, a whole other source of frustration as they change the night and/or times last minute and somehow never manage to let me know!  I load the laundry from the washing machine into the tumble dryer for the first of sometimes five that day and reload the washing machine.  I live in hope that one day soon I might actually see what the bottom of the laundry basket looks like!

6.25am I suddenly remember that the bath is still running and dash back along the hallway narrowing missing more cats before catching the bath at near brimming point.  More quiet swearing ensues as I allow the overflow pipe to take care of the excess and I dash through to the kitchen to make a start on lunchboxes.  Lunchboxes are one of my least favourite jobs.  I hate them.  With all the five a day healthy eating and nut ban it’s a complete minefield.  Don’t get me wrong I completely understand it must be awful for any parent or child who is affected by nut allergy, it’s a very serious concern with sometimes fatal consequences and this shouldn’t be ignored but I blame the supermarket packaging.  I ask you, I picked up a seemingly harmless looking, low sugar and salt biscuit alternative the other day and turned the pack over to be informed that it “may contain nuts” and that’s not all, I picked up another only to be informed that it was “made in a factory that also makes other products containing nuts.”  Seriously I do not want to be the one who sends their kids in with the “Nut Grenade” and has their child and its lunch diffused by the food police aka lunchtime monitors (the politically correct name for the more commonly known archetypal Dinner Lady!)  Anyway I make the sandwiches and add the various other items along with the accepted and expected piece of fruit that makes it way out and then returns every day for almost the week until it becomes squidgy and is chucked away but I’ve done my duty and made sure at least one of their five a day is present!

6.35am Oh No!  Litter tray has been utilised and the almost a teenage son is sauntering past it commentating with every possible rude toilet expression he can summon whilst chuckling to himself as this age group cannot resist when it comes to bodily functions!  I thank him as I do most mornings not to be quite so disgusting and asked him how he would like it if I were to make such comments when he came out of the loo.  His reply was just more chuckling; he wanders towards the direction of the telly to watch an episode of Spongebob Square Pants for the hundredth time.

6.45am After cleaning the offending litter tray and washing my hands I go in search of clean towels for the bath and make the mistake of passing my bedroom door whereupon his Lordship (significant other) as I refer to him when I’m trying not to call him a nasty name in front of the children is sat up in bed watching the news.  “Karen, can you get me some breakfast please” He asks in his sweetest voice, I’m all ready to retrieve the contents of the litter tray to serve him whilst he lavishes in bed simultaneously watching the news and scrolling on facebook!  I take the opportunity to turn on my laptop as I must check the Homework App again and the dreaded emails.  Ingenious that now I can check my entire son’s homework with a log in on the internet but alas another thing to remember as well as checking all the newsletters from all the relevant schools to make sure it’s not mufti day today!

6.50am I gather the clothes for the day and switch on the iron whilst begging almost teenage son to find himself some clean underwear and eat his breakfast without slurping and finally belching as loud as he can.  He rewards me by congratulating himself on the loudest yet!  I firmly reiterate the disgusting nature of his behaviour and insist he finds his clean underwear immediately.

7.05am I am still ironing and more of my cherished offspring are awake.  My already teenage daughter has her first meltdown of the morning because her white jeans aren’t clean.  Aaarrrggghh I calmly invite her to take some responsibility for the washing herself but my comments only seem to light a fire under her already irritated state and so I choose to make a very parent choice and “pick my battles wisely.”  This is Mummy language for a total shocking cop out and is a choice motivated solely by fear!  Anyone with a teenage daughter will know that she is either building up to, during or getting over her monthly cycle and there is no good time to tackle a difficult moment because they are all mostly difficult and unavoidably it will blow up in your face spectacularly!

7.15am Ironing for the day is complete and another bed headed sleepy child has emerged demanding weetabix with milk!  Our youngest child is just five and started school last September.  Being my fifth child I thought I had this education thing licked and couldn’t wait for him to be bringing home his first reading books from school with the same word on every page.  This was until last month when he started bring home a homework book on Mondays that is to be completed by Friday each week.  Every week we get tasks such as “read these words with your child and then stick them into the book on the learning wall when your child is secure in reading them.”  We had a whole sandwich bag full of words!  Our son has come home and told us that the other boy in his class has learnt them all and so we have to stick in all the words too.  Except that our son is not secure in reading them, he is still sounding out his words “Cer Aaah Ter errrrrm I know Mummy Tock!”  The other day I mislaid the words and was still swearing and cursing the other clever reader child and his smug mother at nine o’ clock the other evening until I found them in his bag wedged in his oversized library book all about the in and outs of the Millennium Falcon!

7.25am Weetabix prepared with milk and another child emerges and manages to be in the way of Teenage Daughter still swearing under her breath, I know she is, and manages to step on the toe of newly emerged sleepyhead who then makes Oscar worthy performance due to the pain of his swashed toe.  Teenage Daughter leaden with bags of cosmetics and deodorant and hopefully coursework hastily apologises whilst she flies out of front door claiming she is late for the bus and they all should get out of her way!  As she slams front door and other son is still wincing and complaining I sigh.

7.40am I have lost fifteen minutes somewhere and I cannot find them much to my distress as I’ve not yet got into the bath and almost teenage son has decided to try to engage me in a conversation about a video on Youtube that his friend showed him all about Coconuts.  He still isn’t in anyway dressed and has forgotten to find clean underwear; I am concerned over the content of said video and ask him to show me.  Fortunately it is just a harmless random video all about coconuts and I am left wondering who on Earth has the time to spend making these mindless videos complete with theme song all about coconuts and the morons didn’t even check the spelling of the word coconuts before they made the video live spelling it with a “K”.  I am bemused.

7.50am I am coaxing my youngest three children to get their clothes on and clean their teeth if they’ve finished their breakfast.

7.59am Weetabix with milk is finished but youngest child has informed me that he has spilt a bit on the floor and one of the cats is now helping himself.  I try and tackle the task of getting him into his school uniform.  I have a set of underwear for him that sports a different day of the week.  This was a big mistake because now I am dashing round the house trying to track the correct pair of pants as he has worked out that today’s pants should have a picture of a fire engine on them.  I am still very aware that I have not yet got into the bath.

8.05am My youngest child is now dressed in correct underwear and full uniform and is sat watching the news with his father in bed whilst I run the cold tap in the bath.  I remember that I still need a towel having been distracted earlier and dash off whilst the tap runs unchecked for the second time this morning.

8.07am I plunge into the bath and start washing my hair at record breaking speed whilst now barking one word commands at the children still bumbling about in various states of undress.  “Shoes, Coats, Homework, PE Kit!”

8.10am Shivering in a towel, looking like Alice Cooper sporting yesterdays mascara smudged around my eyes I hastily apply the cleanse, tone and moisturising routine.  It looks so refreshing and glamorous on TV but I am against the clock now very aware of the fact that almost teenage son has to catch his bus at 8.25am and I still need to drive him out of Narnia where we live to his pick up point.

8.15am “Pack your bags into the car, please come here so I can fix your tie” I have the hairdryer blasting in one hand whilst helping my youngest son to get his shoes on.  My other children are oblivious to what I have asked and are still checking out the internet for other videos about coconuts!

8.18am With fresh Mascara in hand and wiggling my feet into a pair of shoes I check the mirror to see if they match my outfit when almost teenage son stumbles in claiming that he has forgotten to make the invention he created in his lesson last week.  I sigh loudly and ask him as calmly as I can whilst grabbing my coat and leading him to the front door simultaneously checking the windows are shut and the straighteners have been switched off in teenage daughter’s room, turning lights off as I go.  Almost teenage son informs me that he invented an electric Taser pen to help combat bullying and he had to mock up a prototype of it for today.  I pass my laptop inwardly groaning that I should have checked the Homework App earlier.  He has a pen in his hand and fortunately at the last second finds a hairclip and a roll of electric tape to construct his invention in the car.

8.20am The car is sailing up the road packed with children, homework and various sports kits as I pass all the neighbours bins neatly wheeled to the kerb and shake my head that it will be another month before the already putrid black bins will be removed, I must write myself a note for next week’s recycling!

8.25am Almost teenage son has been successfully dropped with his newly fashioned Taser pen at the bus stop just as the school bus is emerging, a small but very valid triumph for me and I cheer much to the bemusement of my remaining children.  I turn up the radio and sing like only mothers do to Tiffany; “I think we’re alone now” as ironic as this sounds.

8.40am Park up at the school, the nearest parking space at this time in the morning is miles away and so upon vaguely hearing the bell ringing in the playground I jump out of the car, unload the two youngest children with all relevant equipment for the day and start to trot with them towards the school gate.  My youngest son is intrigued by the recently cut grass on the verges and kicks this at his brother on his way.  My other son is annoyed with my younger son and so grabs him and tells him in no uncertain terms to stop it.  I intervene pulling them apart whilst still jogging towards the school gate aware that it will be shut any minute and I will have to do the walk of shame around to the office where I will be asked to explain to a rather aggressive Rottweiler in a skirt who has never been late for anything why it is that I am late.

8.50am With the two youngest safely deployed to their classes just before the gate is closed I am back in the car and on my way to a mummies gathering that I have been invited to.  This is one of the major perks to being a mummy with children of school age, your social circle widens and occasionally you are invited to go along and indulge in cake with a hot mug of tea and a catch up with other women who share your pain.

10am Time to leave the mummy gathering as the conversation has progressed to swopping birth stories and other fanny anecdotes.

10.10am On the way to the supermarket to purchase more of the five a day goodies and nut free offerings that may be on the BOGOF deals of the week.  Also to find interesting and new ideas to cook for tea, they will of course only be met with “I don’t like that” by my children.

11.50am Finally back on the drive to unload the shopping and not quite sure how I managed to spend so much time doing it but now for the task of getting it to fit in the fridge and freezer.

12.25pm Sat in the front room with another cup of tea politely ignoring the ironing board as it nags me to get ahead of myself for tomorrows onslaught.  I also notice the dust on the telly and the Lego scattered on the floor.  A list starts to form in my mind as I remember that it’s another family birthday tomorrow and I’ve forgotten to buy a card or present for the proceedings.  I hastily write a list down and remember that I’ve still not checked my emails.  With that the door bell goes and as I open it I see my rather tasty window cleaner is standing there, “I’m doing your area today shall I make a start?”  He has no idea!

As I retreat from the door I suddenly remember in horror the complete devastation left after this morning’s school run.  We live in a bungalow and so it’s now a race against time to get each room clean before he cleans that window.  Fortunately he starts with the front room and I resign to the fact that he couldn’t possibly see the dust on the telly from the window so I dash into the dining room.  The sewing machine is out and the off cuts of fabric left over from my daughters latest sewing project are piled high on the table, the sun is shining through the window and one of the many cats is lounging on top of it all turning to look at me as he stretches and yawns.  He has a rude awakening as I hastily shoo him off and launch the fabric mess into the bin in the kitchen.  The sink is piled with breakfast dishes stuck fast with Weetabix!  I rush on to the boy’s room rushing to make beds tidy and place their colossal pile of teddies neatly on them.  I open the wardrobe and hoof the pile of recent dress up outfits’ strewn over the floor from a previous playing session into the abyss along with anything else littering the floor.  After jamming the door shut I rush into my room grateful I got there before him to remove the dirty washing left on the floor by his Lordships side of the bed, tugging the duvet over the bed and smoothing it just as I hear him clatter round with his bucket and squeegee.

I open the door to teenage daughter’s room; it looks like a crime scene!  I resolve to tiptoe carefully across the ransacked space only to shut the curtains of this room, it cannot be rescued so quickly!

On to the kitchen now to empty the sink and fill it with fresh water in the hope of at least submerging the concreted Weetabix bowls, I leave the tap to run over the ample squirt of Fairy liquid.  I grab the recycling and whisk it out to the green bins.  On my way back in the house I dive down to the utility room to swap the washing. I spot the cat bowls with more kibble on the floor now than in the bowls and swoop for the hoover to remedy this.

1.05pm Suddenly remember tap is running and dash back to kitchen only to be greeted with puddle forming on the floor and the window cleaner pointing through the window stating the obvious as I make polite smile and try not to swear.

1.20pm Window cleaner is paid and on his way still chuckling at my expense, washing up still not achieved and Weetabix still firmly attached.  I am rescued by a nice lady from a Cancer charity who has called on the phone to see if I will be holding another coffee morning this September, it’s only April.

1.50pm Phone rings again but this time it’s my youngest son’s teacher just to inform me that my son has been a bit silly with one of the other boys in the toilets and now he is dressed in his PE Shorts as the other boy had weed on him.  I am not really sure what to say except to reassure her that I would talk to him about his behaviour when he got home.  I wonder how he came to become weed on but this train of thought will get me nowhere!

2.10pm I remember whilst polishing the dust from the telly that has annoyed me so much that I’ve forgotten to have lunch.  I will do it in a minute after I’ve checked those emails.

2.30pm Managed to iron clothes for tomorrow, this is a major break though and should be celebrated with a cup of tea.

2.35pm Kettle is on and a couple of bits of toast to inhale before the school run.

2.45pm Back in the car to pick the two youngest up from school.

3pm I’ve managed to bump into the mother of the child who has weed on mine earlier and managed an embarrassed smile as I collect my youngest donned in a full winter coat and a pair of shorts sporting his skinny pale legs black socks and shoes; he looks like he lives in a shopping trolley under a bridge somewhere especially since he now sports what looks like a large yoghurt stain down his jumper. My older son eyes him suspiciously and asks me why he is in his shorts.  I begin to reply when my youngest son announces to the entire playground that he got weed on today.  I escape by the quickest route.

3.15pm we park in town to purchase the present and card I had forgotten earlier.  We are in hurry and so rush into the local card shop only to see the most obvious transvestite stood looking at the card display.  I snatch a look at the boys to see if they had noticed and both were eyes wide and mouth agape.  I could hear my older son’s mind ticking over as he was about to ask the most awkward question whilst this poor person was in ear shot and I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to answer it without dying of shame, not to mention the person whom the question would be about.  I just knew as my younger son’s face broke into a cheeky grin that I needed to leave quickly to bat the questions in a more controlled place.  Without thinking and as if in slow motion I swooped down and grasped their hands in each of mine and informed them that we must get some sweets and as I rose again I managed to knock a card stand sending it sailing towards the floor I grab it with master precision and leave before any further issue much to the stares of the counter staff.

4.20pm With present purchased and a promise to make a card with the boys we are driving to pick up almost teenage son from the bus stop.  As he jumps in the car both younger boys chime “We saw a man dressed like a lady!” and they fell about laughing.

5pm Swimming lessons.

6pm Home again to start making tea.

6.30pm I suddenly remember that it’s the Easter Garden on a Plate competition for the Primary school and all entries must be entered tomorrow.

7pm Tea is served, teenage daughter is scrolling on phone whilst my two younger boys are colouring in paper plates in preparation for sticking on fluffy chicks and almost teenage son is completing some homework that I finally managed to print off the App.

7.05pm Eldest son video calls to catch up with the family whilst we are shovelling our tea down.  The bath is running again, the washing machine is spinning and the tumble dryer still going strong whilst the washing up is still soaking in the sink.

7.30pm Two boys are in the bath, water all over the floor.  Teenage daughter is still laughing as the boys regale their eldest brother with the story of the Man dressed as a lady and that the youngest got weed on.  Eldest son shares his news of the week, another great grade on his coursework and he has been to work the past two evenings at the pizza place.  He then proceeds to tell us how one of the lads who lives on his floor in halls has gotten into the habit of washing his face in my son’s sink whenever he comes into the room, my son thinks this is most odd behaviour and explains how uncomfortable he finds it but his face suddenly forms a grin much like my youngest son had earlier when he tells us that he then dries his face on my son’s towel.  My son tells us that the funniest thing is all he can think of is “I wiped my arse dry on that towel this morning!”

8pm The boys are all in their pyjamas and are getting into bed.  My Daughter has now hijacked the bathroom and we have all bid my eldest son a good night.  I read them a story and turn out the light.

Washing up and laundry is a work in progress and more ironing must occur either this evening or in the morning.  I reflect on the day and the job that I’ve done, I’m not always perfect but I love them all. One day they will all be grown with families of their own and if I am very fortunate I will still be a good part of their lives and hopefully they will look back on their childhood with fond memories and their children will give them as challenging a time as I have with them!

pMembers Musings | Comments Off on Members Musings May 2017

Members Musings April 2017

April1

Fred CanavanBy Fred Canavan

Do you ever get them? The mid-novel blues, I mean. The feeling that it`s all out of control? Characters  refusing to behave as you ask? Sub-plots breeding like rabbits? That`s where I am at 61K words into `To the last Penny`, my novel of an Edwardian family`s fall from prosperity to poverty played out against the backdrop of genteel Bournemouth in the First World War.

I need to make my mind up – fast. Is Lily Jennings a silly young orphan girl unaware of her attraction for men?  Or is she a conniving little tart who`ll come to a bad end? Hmmm…`

And what about society surgeon, Simon Greaves? Is he simply a heartless ruling-class seducer  ( Boo! Rotter! Cad!).  or is he an honourable man who is helplessly trapped in Lily`s spell?

Also, minor characters are muscling onto the stage, demanding I tell their story. Where did they come from, and what do they want?  Trouble is these people seem to have a mind of their own. Take Victoria Durham. A demure, timid young woman on one page – a furious fighting feminist on the next. How did that happen? I don`t remember.  Is it a case of character development – as the experts recommend? – or is it all a contradictory jumble of  nonsense?  I suppose I must wait and see.

So, it`s  eleven o`clock. I`ve had the mid-morning munchies and coffee. Let`s open the computer and see what they`re doing now – bound to be up to something behind my back. I just wish they`d do as they`re told. Not much to ask, is it?

On a lighter note, I would like you to meet `Little Dennis` – a character from Manchester`s past – and mine. He actually existed. It all seems a long time ago. Anyway, here he is.

pMembers Musings | Comments Off on Members Musings April 2017

Members Musings March 2017

March1

My Muse for Members’ Musings

By Tony Trowbridge

I cannot imagine what it’s like not to get a good night’s sleep.  As my head hits the pillow, I fall straight into a deep and very happy sleep and it has always been like that.  In fact when people say ‘at the drop of a hat’ – that’s me.   I’ve fallen asleep standing up, at the bus stop and I even once managed to fall asleep during a Queen concert at The Coliseum in London before they became famous; as Freddie strutted his stuff, I curled up under one of the tables.

A year or so ago, an old friend contacted me through Facebook; a friend who can never sleep, who hasn’t had a good night’s sleep in years, one who has tried everything from yoga, meditation and  exercise to alcohol and every form or prescribed medication but nothing works.

On occasions, while she was awake during the night, she would take photographs of herself suffering.  She told me about these and I asked to see them.  The anguish in her face was inspirational and I used these images in several hundred of my pictures.  I still find her facial contortions of abject pain and misery great for my art.  She exists in many forms throughout my art and in a small way I am helping her.  She enjoys taking the pictures when she’s at her lowest and then seeing her image on a wall or canvas.

pMembers Musings | Comments Off on Members Musings March 2017

Members Musings January 2017

January1

David WeatherspoonMusical Memories

By David Weatherston

I don`t know about you, but for me, looking back over the years, there are many tunes and songs that bring back memories! Most of them are happy, there are several sad and a few romantic ones that I could`nt possibly discuss in public!!

Back at College in the sixties I remember winning £5 in a jive competition with my partner Pam Smith.The tune we danced to was “Harlem Shuffle” by Bob & Earl and I can recall several of our “moves” which were made all the more difficult because Pam [bless her!] had very sweaty hands and almost slipped away on several occasions! Wherever you are now Pam I hope hope you are still rockin`girl! Also at college I remember the DJ always playing “A Whiter Shade of Pale” by Procul Harem as the last tune of the Saturday night disco and knowing that if you had failed to “pull” by then your evening was effectively over!

Another song that always makes me stop and think back is “Everybody Hurts” by R.E.M. About twelve years ago a young teenage girl in Bristol took her own life in her bedroom while her parents sat downstairs watching TV. She had been a victim of bullying at school and as I had also suffered in the same way when I was young I could fully understand her distress.She left a note for her friends thanking them for trying to help her and she left a letter for the bullies asking them not to hurt anyone else in the future. She asked for “Everybody Hurts” to be played at her funeral.I remember holding a very emotional Year 8 assembly with the children entering and leaving in silence and playing that song to them after I had spoken to them about the girl`s tragic death.

On a lighter note our band were recently singing a rousing sea shanty called “South Australia”. Our brilliant fiddler Andy, who does`nt usually sing had the verse….

“There ain`t but one thing grieves my mind…Heave away, Haul Away,
To leave Miss Nancy Blair behind…We`re bound for South Australia”

Unfortunately Andy got the words slightly wrong and sang:-

” There ain`t but one thing grieves my mind…Heave away, Haul Away,
To leave Miss Nancy`s bare behind…We`re bound for South Australia”

At which point the whole band collapsed into helpless giggles!!!

So next time you hear a song that brings back memories stop for a moment and think. I hope your thoughts will be happy ones!!

pMembers Musings | Comments Off on Members Musings January 2017

Members Musings December 2016

December1

To Plot, or Not to Plot, That is the Question

By Jonathan Dodd

Jonathan DoddI love writing groups. I’ve been in a few, I’ve started them and joined them and left them as my career has taken me from place to place, and now here I am very happily part of Wight Fair Writers and Artists Circle. The first thing I like about it is that we meet in a very comfortable coffee bar and there’s good coffee available. The second thing is that in common with most of my previous group experience, everyone is very friendly, sincere, and welcoming.

I’m not going to go into any details about the circle I briefly belonged to East of London where everyone’s sole desire was to write a book that would be published by Mills and Boon, while someone tried to steal my car from outside. I won’t mention the group with about fifty members that was riven by jealousy and in-fighting. I suppose writers can be just like everyone else in that way.

What I particularly like about us is that we’re all engaged in such different projects, and we’re all so different, but none of that matters because we’re all passionate about writing in general, and our own writing in particular. We talk about our triumphs and blockages and the day-to-day grind, and everybody listens and offers any advice or similar experiences, with great patience and respect. Thank you all for welcoming me.

From my own point of view, the most interesting discussion so far has been about the age old question – ‘To plot, or not to plot?’ I went to creative writing evening classes when the writing bug started to bite, as I suspect many of you did too, and I mourn their passing along with so many other subjects.

My first teacher was a poet called Sue Stewart. She had never done anything but write, and was as poor as a church mouse, but she was passionate about each of us finding our voice. I have an enormous amount to thank her for.

My second teacher wasn’t a writer, but he was very interested in the subject. He used to photocopy his lecture about the subject, then distribute it, and spend most of the weekly session reading it out aloud to us. I’m afraid I wasn’t his most ruly student, but I was bolshy enough to persuade most of my fellow members to start a writers circle of our own, thus proving that all experience is valuable to an aspiring writer.

I found out during those years that I’m not a ‘plotter’. Like Stephen King, in his great book ‘On Writing’, I start writing and the story more or less unfolds in front of my very eyes, constantly surprising me with what the characters get up to. I’ve tried to plot, but my imagination turns out to be far duller than the imagination of my characters. I’m just there to write down the words that they put in my head, like a glorified touch-typist.

I’ve known other writers like myself, many of them more or less happy about this situation. I just shrug, because that’s the way it works for me, and I get on with it fine. I have no idea how good a writer I am, but essentially I love to read, and I read my own work as if someone else wrote it, full of wonder and amazement. And no, I don’t have a genre.

I also know several writers who do plot. I knew one who put everything in a timeline and wrote bullet points on post-it notes all along their walls. They were able to pick any chapter and write it, completely out of order. I was in awe of him, as I am in awe of all other writers, and I certainly wouldn’t try to suggest one way is better or worse than another. To write is sublime, and I’m proud to count myself as one.

May we all continue to write and create and share and support each other. See you next month.

pMembers Musings | Comments Off on Members Musings December 2016
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