A Witch in Time

Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Pexels.com

I’ve mentioned in my ‘why write’ page that my mother was a writer, so I’ll share with you s a story she wrote under her pen name Emma Payne. It’s pitched at the YA market and was written before Harry Potter influenced so many authors of fiction. I’ve made a couple of tiny tweaks to keep the plot current. Part 1 is here, the conclusion will follow.

My mother was a witch, but I had no clue until I was ten. Up to that age, children expect their parents to be all powerful, but after that, they begin to question.

Mind you, she was a fantastic mother, she never said “not now dear, I’m busy,” and she was brilliant at inventing games. She could tidy up in a snap as if by magic (which  is probably how she did it) and she ran the house without any fuss or bother. She was a great companion and she always took my side in any quarrels. She kept her promises and her forecasts always came true. I thought she was perfect until the fateful day I discovered her secret.

It was an autumn afternoon when Miss Jeffers sent us home from school early because she had a sick headache. On the way home, scuffing through piles of dead leaves, I planned to play a trick on Mum.

I opened the door soundlessly. The smell of freshly baked cakes drifted through the kitchen door, which was ajar. I crept across the hall and peeped in. Where was Mum? I saw a basin on the counter with a wooden spoon stirring vigorously, but no-one was holding it! I couldn’t believe my eyes.

Then I saw her: she was floating in the  air just below the ceiling, totally relaxed as if she was lying down. Jason, our cat was floating beside her, washing his paws. I watched in disbelief as a tray of cakes wafted out of the oven and arranged themselves on a wire tray, while Mum drifted above them. That was my first clue that she was a witch!

I slammed the front door and stamped noisily. When I entered the kitchen, Mum was standing by the cakes spooning icing over them while Jason rubbed himself against her legs.

Mum turned round with a welcoming smile. She offered me a cake to try while I explained about Miss Jeffers.

“Never mind, Melina,” she said. “I guarantee she’ll be well tomorrow.”

[“How?” I wanted to yell, “by magic?”]

After that I began to watch her more closely.

That evening she and Dad and I were sitting round the fireplace. We were arguing about the age of different types of rock. Dad said sandstone was older than chalk, but Mum disagreed. I just sat there like a spectator at a tennis match.

“Best not to argue with her Dad,” I warned, “she’s always right.”

Dad grinned. “I bet a box of those fancy chocolates you love to a tub of my favourite ice cream that I’m right.”

Mum almost purred. “Mmm, I can practically taste those chocolates. Melina run and get your tablet so that we can settle this. You left it beside the cook books.”

On the side in the kitchen, when I went to get my iPad, I saw that a thin book had almost slipped off the shelf. As I rescued it, I noticed it had a strange iridescent cover and the pages were smoother and shinier than paper, but it was the text that stopped me in my tracks.

‘After this,’ (it said) ‘grockle the muncheon and slowly plebide the turlow; this should create a smooth felox without unsightly veblons.’

It had to be a spell! This confirmed my suspicious, she was a witch.

At that moment she called out. “Having trouble, Melina?”

I jumped guiltily, and grabbed my tablet. “It’s OK, I’ve found it.”

I don’t remember the outcome of the argument, I went to bed early to think about my awful discovery.  There might be a simple explanation but I was strangely shy about asking. As she only did good things, I concluded it didn’t really matter; but I had to think again next day.

Mrs Bearman, our next door neighbour had a rather fat pug called Harold, who was the darling of her heart. Jason, our cat, teased him by using their garden as a shortcut, knowing he could outrun the breathless, overfed pug. However, on this occasion Jason misjudged his advantage and the pug’s snapping teeth connected with the tip of Jason’s tail. Jason howled and ran to Mum for comfort. She soothed the cat while saying dreadful things about the pug.

Soon after this, Harold lost his voice. When he barked, no sounds came out. I heard Mrs Bearman telling another neighbour that Harold seemed to be bewitched.

Bewitched! If that was the case I knew who had cast the spell, and was frantic in case Mrs Bearman guessed too. When I went into the kitchen to try and persuade Mum to remove the spell by hinting to her, I’m almost sure the potatoes were taking off their own skins, but I looked again and saw Mum had a potato peeler in her hand.

“Mrs Bearman can’t hear Harold barking any more, she says it’s as if he were bewitched.”

“Nonsense,” said Mum, “she’s just getting a little deaf.” And then she looked out of the window as if struck by a thought.

I sighed and went to help Dad rake up piles of leaves for a bonfire.

“Tell Mrs Bearman I’m planning a bonfire,” he said. “Don’t want to be blamed for getting smuts on her washing.”

She answered the door drying her hands. “Good morning, Melina.”

“Hi,” I was filled with the usual awkwardness at having to hold a conversation with an adult I didn’t know well. “I came to warn you we’re having a bonfire.”

“No, I am not in the choir,” she said haughtily.

She must have misheard. “Dad is having a fire, do you mind?” I said, a little louder.

“No, I do not mind that I am not in the choir. Why are you asking me this?”

“Fire!” I shouted, “fire not choir.”

“Fire?” said Mrs Bearman, alarmed. “Where is the fire? I must fetch Harold.”

I grabbed her hand. Slowly and clearly, with 100% eye contact, I said “Dad – is – having – a – bonfire.”

“Oh,” she was embarrassed. “How silly of me, I misunderstood.”

“How is Harold?” I asked, “is he better?”

“Letter?” she was off again. “Harold didn’t get a letter, who would write to a dog?”

She looked at me pityingly, but it was I who pitied her. I could only blame Mum for her deafness.

[To be continued …]

Don’t Let Him In (8)

A spooky tale being told in chilling installments: read the previous episode here or use the menu to access the full series.

[3.5 min read]

J’s thoughts kept circling round a central idea. If they could identify what the victims of the menacing entity had in common, this could lead them to the zombie-maker.  Lulu becoming the latest victim seemed almost personal, driving J to find a solution.  He couldn’t leave his sister and the other children as mindless shells, especially as they did not care to eat so were likely to get ill soon.  

He and Alex parted ways for morning lessons, but planned to meet at  lunch to mindmap theories.  Gloom weighed heavy on J, he couldn’t bear to recollect how frightened and upset Lulu had been in his dream. He also worried that the trance she was in could be irreversible.

He remembered that he’d seen Laurie going into the drama annexe off the main school building so resolved to investigate what could have drawn him there, even in his zombie state.  Some strong need or obedience to instruction was in operation; this was likely to be a vital clue.  When the bell rang he quickly scraped his books together then hustled to the annexe to nose around.  

One notice board featured a display on the latest school play – photos of cast, programmes and performance times.  Further towards the music rooms he saw information about a forthcoming talent show. Pupils who learned guitar and drums were getting bands together, there were ‘celebrity’ judges and that’s when another puzzle piece fell into place.  Katie was impersonating ‘Sharon Osbourne’, and the lighting technician was Laurie – so they would have been rehearsing together!  Boom!  Sadly J came up blank as to how his sister fitted into this pattern, but it was a start.  He unpinned one of the fliers and hurried off to the canteen, where Alex had almost finished eating.

“Brilliant!” Alex exclaimed, through a mouthful of chocolate chip cookie, as he examined the leaflet “this totally explains how Katie knows a nerd like Laurie!”

J made a ‘Shhh’ face at Alex. He liked Laurie and found the term nerd disrespectful.  “What about Lulu Alex?  How did she come into contact with these guys?”

“Babysitting?” Alex guessed, “has Katie ever come to your house to babysit for her?  No, scrub that, I think you’d have said if a fit girl like Katie came round to yours while your parents were out!”  Alex snorted with laughter and took another big bite of his biscuit.

J finished his panini and drained his drink with a loud slurp.

“I still haven’t given up on the Librarian being involved somehow.  So I’m off to have a nose around, with the excuse of returning this.”  He held up the lacemaking book with a wry grin, then grabbed his tray and rose from the table.

J peered through the glass door into the Librarian’s office, his hand poised to knock, but it seemed she was absent. He tried the handle but it was locked.  Checking his watch, he decided to hang around for 5 minutes before abandoning his plan.  J kicked his heels, while racking his brains who could have visited his, Katie and Laurie’s houses, and for what dastardly purpose?  When the Librarian didn’t show, J deposited the book and went to class, which was art, presenting a good opportunity to observe Katie and possibly put more clues together.

Katie looked worse today than last time he saw her. With hair hanging in dull, greasy hanks, her complexion was chalky pale and her eye sockets were shadowed purple, giving her eyes a feverish glow.  She moved at half speed, not interacting with other classmates, although she responded to the teacher in a robotic way.  Watching, J felt overwhelmed with sadness and panic. Would his little sister be trapped in the same state? It was imperative to solve the mystery and break the evil influence she was under. 

The final bell of the day rang. Chairs scraped and bags were stuffed with books as pupils prepared to head home.  In the busy corridors, most of the pupil traffic was leaving the building, so it was easy to spot Danny moving in the opposite direction.  The oddest moment occurred when he got near Katie, they locked eyes and she was held in the mesmerizing beam of his gaze.  

Watching from 100 yards away, J felt slightly dazzled himself, then Danny blinked and the moment passed.  The older boy approached J but kept walking, leaving him puzzling over what he’d seen.  Alex had rugby practice after school so J set off up-hill solo, fishing the flyer about the talent show out of his pocket as he walked. If Katie was playing Sharon O, who was playing Simon Cowell? There it was, the ascerbic judge was being impersonated by Danny Randall!  Suddenly J was deafened by puzzle pieces falling into place!

The common factor had to be Danny Randall – he was working on the talent show and he had been the clown at his sister’s birthday party!  Hell fire! J could hardly wait to convey this break-through to Alex.

Emotional Rescue

[3 minute Read]

When I read Mrs Fever’s post for this prompt, as well as enjoying her narrative I was in agreement with her opinions regarding rescuing pets which have been abandoned by their original owner(s) for whatever reasons. I currently have a rescue dog but I’ve also been a regular supporter of a local dog and cat rescue initiative. I began volunteering when I lost a beloved dog to cancer and felt so wretched with that I hadn’t seen the early signs. In memory of her, I wanted to give back to the dog community.

My role was an ‘Auntie’ at this dog kennels, because my function was pastoral care. I was one of many giving rescue dogs love, while acclimating them to socialising with new people. I would pick a slot off the weekly rota (there was an 90 minute slot in the morning and another in the afternoon available) and come to the kennels in scruffy, warm clothes to sit with a rescue dog.

The kennel staff would either welcome me into their tea room, or the summer house (depending on the rota) where the surroundings were dog friendly. I usually brought my Kindle, a hot drink and some chopped up dog treats for my furry companion.  I’d wait for the dog in question to be brought out to me. Having been told the dog’s name and a little about them, I could then behave in the most appropriate way. The door was shut and I’d be left for an hour and a half in their company.

The sofas and chairs were dog friendly, there was also usually a crate in the room. The purpose of a dog spending time with an ‘Auntie’ such as me was to gain a soothing respite from their potentially ‘jangly’ kennel situation where they were, of necessity, kept in close proximity to other barking and pacing dogs. 

I was allowed to play with the dogs or read to them, strokes and cuddles were, of course, encouraged, but some dogs were not ready for that. Some sat by the door, or got into the crate, waiting for the kennel staff to come back for them. Even in those situations, I felt that I had at least helped the dog have a change of scenery and a rest from their usual noisy environment.

Can you imagine a well loved pet, used to living in a home with its owner, but their owner had to go into hospital, or worse still died, leaving nobody to care for the pet? It’s not cruel to be given to a rescue, but it is still distressing for that dog, because everything familiar is stripped away. Some dogs end up at rescues if they have been taken on by people whose situation changed – new baby, a move to a property where dogs were not allowed or the dog could not get along with another pet. 

The rescue I worked with was also a boarding kennels/cattery, led by a passionate owner. It had a wonderful team of kennel staff dedicated to walking the rescue dogs and playing with them, as well as carrying out regular duties of cleaning, feeding and training. It employed a full time behaviourist, plus someone qualified in animal reiki to soothe the dogs holistically. In fact the rescue encouraged Aunties to learn the technique so I’m now trained in reiki too. Other volunteers helped by joining a rota to walk the dogs and a team of us utilised Facebook. We created a page for each dog, which was updated regularly until each rescue found suitable people to adopt them.

Some of the dogs were cute as a button and wanted to snuggle, some mugged me for the treats I’d brought or tried to help me eat my biscuit and drink my coffee too! Others jumped from sofa to chair to sofa, like a monkey in the treetops. The greyhound breeds often wanted to rifle through the bin or stand up tall to the counter in the tea room, sniffing for food. Some dogs were old or injured, but all deserved love and care.

It was important to be mindful of the dogs’ state of mind, some dogs had traumatic experiences before landing up in rescue. Bending over a dog, even to make a fuss of them, can seem threatening. It is better to crouch down so that your eye level and theirs are similar, then they can assess you. It’s quite ‘personal’ to touch a dog on their face or the top of their head, in a wolf pack this would be seen as asserting dominance. Most dogs prefer a new acquaintance to stroke their back or rub behind their ears; if you’re getting on really well, many dogs love having their chest rubbed or scratches to their neck/ chin area.

On the topic of eye contact, this can feel like a challenge to some dogs, not intense like a cat staring contest but along the same lines. Hence me reading my Kindle: I didn’t seem to ask or expect anything of them, which usually worked well. When they settled down somewhere in a relaxed way, I would reward them with a treat. 

One staffie-cross rescue dog, whose previous owner had been a homeless man, preferred to approach me backwards, avoiding eye contact. He’d reverse his solid little body towards me and sit, watching the door like a sentry, his rump almost touching my toes. I was glad to hear he got a happy new home. Living on a remote farm, following his owner as he made his rounds of the fields and sheds of livestock each day sounds far preferable to watching over a homeless man’s sleeping bag and possessions, in all weathers, while he sleeps.

This reminiscence is submitted for Mrs Fever’s Memoirs prompt #8 Animal Click on the link to see what other’s have posted.

Don’t Let Him In (7)

This spooky story is told in installments, you can use the menu to locate earlier episodes.

[2.5 minute read]

When J opened the front door later that afternoon his ears were assaulted by the squeals and screams of hyper little girls from his sister’s class.  Her party was in full swing so everywhere he looked he saw princesses in pastel coloured party wear.  His Dad had laid on cakes and crisps, biscuits and sweet treats. The party-goers had emptied the plates and now there was crushed food on the laminate floor. 

Excitable girls were dancing around the living room and taking it in turns to use the karaoke machine.  J couldn’t handle the noise and frantic activity. He snagged some sandwiches, crisps and a couple of fairy cakes then scurried up to his room. The harassed dog followed close on his heels.

He fired up his laptop and spent an hour or so on his homework, with a few YouTube tabs open in the background.  He was still researching the hypnotism topic, but he was at a loss to understand who’d benefit from controlling the willpower of children.  Shortly the noise levels downstairs reduced, just a few cheers and whoops of excitement. Evidently the clown was keeping the girls spellbound.  

J continued to rack his brains; what was the link between arty, drama loving Katie and brainy top-set guy Laurie? He was pretty sure their schedules didn’t overlap for any classes and he knew  they hadn’t attended the same primary school.  Eventually, he decided to let his subconscious run through the possibilities while he got on with his maths homework.

J was jolted awake, the digital read-out said 2.58 am and, like the previous occasions, he sensed that something menacing was nearby.  From his bedroom, he moved onto the landing, pale silvery light streamed through the hall window making it easy to pad downstairs silently.  He scanned around the kitchen, nothing amiss there. The dog was breathing heavily and twitching his paws, but J still detected a creepy vibe.  

He moved along the hall, and that’s when he heard sniffing and whimpering, coming from the family room.  J peered around the door. He saw a hunched shape amongst the floor cushions.  He crept further in the room. With distress, he realised it was his little sister Lulu who was sobbing into the fabric.  He crouched closeby, careful not to startle her.

“Lulu … what’s the matter Lulu?”  

She continued crying and sniffing, but raised her head to look at him, her eyes as big as saucers.  

“He scared me,”  she whimpered, “he wasn’t nice.”

“Who Lulu?  Who was here?”

“They let him in.”  Lulu’s small body was again wracked with sobs. J sat there rubbing her back to console her. Logic had him puzzling who could have come into the house without  disturbing the dog.

“Did he hurt you sweetheart?” J felt very protective of his little sister. He was relieved when she mutely shook her head.  He reached forward and enveloped her in a hug.  

Suddenly his alarm clock started blurting and J surfaced from his dream with a shock. This was bad, really bad!  J leaped out of bed and hurtled down the stairs, but the only person there  was his Dad in the kitchen.

“Where’s Lulu?” he asked in a panic.

“Not up yet.” His Dad threw the reply over his shoulder, concentration fully on the eggs he was frying. He grabbed toast and laid one on each plate and then used a spatula to place an egg on top.  He put one in front of J, then went upstairs to call Lulu again.

J cut into his breakfast without much enthusiasm. Before long his Dad was downstairs again.

“She’s not very well.  I need to ring the school. She’s cold and clammy, I couldn’t even wake her properly.”  He stood at the counter and distractedly cut into the egg on toast he’d just put on a plate for Lulu.

Immediately J’s appetite was completely gone. The worst had happened, his little sister had joined the ranks of the zombies.  And he had dreamed it!  He could no longer deny that appearing in his dreams was part of the pattern.  J was deep in thought, hastening to prepare for school and get Alex’s take on this development.

Alex’s response was shock and upset. Lulu was like a little sister to him, he’d known her since she was a toddler.

“But who came into your house?”  Like J, he was struggling to imagine the intruder. 

“No idea mate.  There has to be some link to the other kids too, that makes it even harder to puzzle out.”

The boys trudged down the hill in silence, their brains churning through the possibilities.

[To be Continued …]

My Lockdown Survival Essentials

I suspect my strongest advantage in lockdown has been that my family enjoy being insular. It has meant that we have rarely felt limited or hemmed in by the requirement to stay home and avoid personal contact. I have not tackled food shopping – my husband deals with that.

Life felt rather pressured at the beginning of lockdown, trying to do my job remotely was intense and impractical. Once I was furloughed, I had plenty of time and opportunity to try writing. I set up this blog intending to populate it with the fruits of my labours. It’s seemed a good time to record family stories, lockdown caused me to look fondly back on times that were simpler. I don’t think that I’m the only one, television shows, music and sports have had to embrace ‘old favourites’. There’s a category for reminiscences on my site.

Reading – my number 1 tip!  I’ve always found fiction a great ‘escape valve’. Any time in my life when I have been stressed or needing distraction, reading fiction provides a healing activity. When my world is small, a book can take me somewhere else. Now I cannot mix with other people, I meet instead characters within a novel. If being in my own head is unsettling, sad or stifling then reading a book which is in the first person puts me in someone else’s headspace and takes their problems to a solution, which is a calming concept.

Exercise, this I let slide, but it’s necessary for surviving lockdown! Firstly I gave up my regular class. Despite on-line sessions, I lost the inclination to do them. My flesh now looks more spongy, less toned. I also lost my 2 daily walks with our dog, because he fell ill. My negative experience here was twofold: a combination of feeling ‘wrong’ walking without him and guilt, because he howled his frustration if I left the house without him. Knowing he was distressed resulted in me furtively taking 2 brief walks a week, a significant reduction in my regime.

While my family are quite introverted, I enjoy talking. I’ve used Whatsapp to catch up with friends, which provides a refreshing influx of news; using instant message or having a face to face chat. I have a book group of sorts with two friends, one is very busy so she listens rather than reads. We take it in turn to pick the books, concluding with a Whatsapp meeting to discuss the books once we’ve all finished. This has given my reading a productive outlet and pushed me to immerse myself in books I would not have chosen. It’s fun discussing different viewpoints, why we have/haven’t enjoyed a novel, comparing/ contrasting it with another our group has read. 

When lockdown restrictions eased, I joined my neighbour for walks. We’ve also had coffee together in the back garden, in the past we would have popped to a local coffee shop. I have also been able to gradually resume walking my dog, who is on the road to recovery. 

While I don’t miss eating out, or clothes shopping, I do miss having the occasion to dress nicely. I’ve tried to maintain a normal routine, but it’s too easy to wear leggings or tracksuits. I was despondent to have to defer our holiday and it’s frustrating being unable to plan ahead. Although I want to meet up with people, still feel wary, I value my family members’ health above the UK economy. I know it’s pessimistic but I’m braced for a second wave of the pandemic.

This post is linked to a meme I recently discovered where the topic is personal growth. It’s host, May More is a fascinating blogger but if you wish to follow the link, be warned that her site is very frank and often #NSFW

Shoe Boxes

[2.5 min read]

I don’t remember having any dress up shoes, nothing plastic and pink with sparkly or feathered embellishments. I don’t even recall trying on my mother’s heels to walk around. My obsession with boots started pretty early though.

I hadn’t started school when Nancy Sinatra recorded the hit song “These Boots are Made for Walking.” It was full of so much sass and attitude that it was a favourite of mine. At home we referred to it as ‘boots’ and anytime it came on the radio, turned the dial while I stomped round the house. This soon morphed into me wearing my mother’s leather boots to move to Nancy’s anthem of refusal to be the underdog.

The boots I borrowed then had a small heel and a pointed toe, the kind to be worn with the stirruped ski pants popular in the sixties. My mother felt it was very important for a child to wear well fitted shoes while their feet were still growing, so I was always taken to Clarkes to be measured for width and length for my school shoes. 

Towards the end of primary school, however, I began to long for shoes which followed fashion. In the mid 1970s everyone wore platform shoes, with squared puffy toes. Often in outlandish colours or graced with gaudy embellishments. I often tried on my older sister’s shoes, wishing her feet were my size so I could borrow them.

One trick I had fun with involved my shadow. In autumn and winter, when the sun is low in the sky, every shadow appears elongated. While waiting outside my friend’s house, I’d lift my feet off the ground, admiring the shadow versions of my school shoes that seemed to have fabulously high platforms, like the pop stars and models wore.

The year I was eleven, on our back-to-school shopping trip, I persuaded my mother to forget school rules regarding outdoor shoes, instead she allowed me to select from a glorious array of trendy shoes. I left the shop with a beautiful pair, more plum than brown which I could not wait to wear. Their solid black rubber soles were quite heavy, making my walking clumsy until I got acquainted with them, but I loved them enough to wear them at weekends too. I don’t know what my mother said to make my headmistress turn a blind eye, but wearing them my final year, I felt ‘a la mode’.

My secondary school had very strict rules regarding height and colour of shoes so I was unable to get away wearing anything attractive with my uniform. Desert boots were quite fashionable during my school years, footwear which looked more appropriate with long socks and skirts. 

I changed to a day school for the sixth form and was able to wear my own clothes, so my shoes could reflect my taste. The new romantic style I favoured meant scouring charity shops and market stalls, as well as mainstream shops, for items to provide an individual look. My favourite shoes were a pair of courts in gunmetal grey with stiletto heels, much more flattering against bare legs than white. I purchased low-heeled black shoes in a new shape, with a raised feature at the back of the shoe. Unfortunately this feature was impractical. If I wore them any distance, the rubbing caused me to bleed into those shoes.  Decades later, I still have bumps on my heels which my feet created in self-defence!

What about the ones that got away? Shoes or boots that were so beautiful that I had to have them, but found them impractical: too high, too tight or just didn’t work with my wardrobe. Sandals with a heavy rope wedge with every strap rubbing a blister. Knee high cowboy style boots in black with crippling heels; once I started walking I’d feel so unbalanced I couldn’t stop. I had the cutest black high-heeled ankle boots, a mixture of smooth leather and suede with flashy gold eyelets. Again I couldn’t walk too far in them before my feet began to cramp. 

Now I’ve reached an age where I can’t trust my knees in combination with high heels, so I don’t buy more, yet I can’t say goodbye to my beloved footwear. My beautiful linen peep toed shoes with two leather straps always remind me of vintage luggage. Brown suede boots which lace up to the knee with a stacked heel have had to concede defeat against my silver brogues or some pristine white trainers I now wear with summer dresses.

This reminiscence is written for the prompt ‘shoes’, the seventh in Mrs Fever’s summer writing meme Musings in Memoir where looking back is encouraged. Why not follow the link to see what others have submitted.

My Own Space

Cyberdog at Camden, London

It’s important to have your own space, something you can ‘own’ and have under your control or influence. Many of us have felt the loss of this during lockdown. Suddenly your family / housemates are present all the time so your personal space feels compromised. If you don’t have a bedroom, study or shed to which you can retreat, for privacy you may have to resort to curtaining off ‘your’ area in a shared space. If that’s not possible take long walks alone.

This inability to have our own space applies to many of us growing up, when sharing a bedroom with a sibling is not uncommon. I did not have a room of my own until I was 14 and my family moved to a smaller house. That may sound like I have it the wrong way, but the house I grew up in (2-14) had large bedrooms, hence I had to share.

In my earliest memories I shared a lilac coloured bedroom with my older sister. Our beds were on opposite sides of a window which, as nursery windows often did in older houses, had bars at the opening portion. My sister made lots of funny noises in her sleep – something I assumed everybody did. The curtains had purple polka dots with sprigs of violets on a white background which concealed a large blackout blind. If I wanted to read in the summer I’d duck my head and the book under the blind. It was so light outside I could read until I felt tired, so long as my parents didn’t catch me.

As my sister got older she was given a room to herself and my younger brother moved out of his cot-bed and came to share with me. He and I are two and a half years apart, and we are pretty close, but I confess to bossing him about when we were young. He was usually a good sport about playing my games, I didn’t have the same patience with his rows of cars in their permanent traffic jam. Riding out on hobby horses or sword fighting in plastic armour was always fun and my preference for being a tomboy meant he was usually excused from rescuing a damsel in distress.

One useful thing about sharing a room was that we also shared our bedtime stories. My mother would feed us and handle bath time, so when our father got home she could get the older family’s meal ready while he supervised teeth cleaning and tucked us in with a story. Sometimes we had a story each, my brother liked Gumdrop the vintage car or the Fantastic Mr Fox. I enjoyed Polly and the Wolf while my passion for traditional folk tales meant that dragons, never-empty-purses and men wearing seven-league boots were commonplace in our bedroom!

As we got older squabbles broke out between my brother and me about touching each other’s stuff, particularly if either of us had friends round to play. My mother cleverly solved it by putting our beds at opposite ends of the room – I was near the window while he was closer to the door. By putting our cupboards and drawers back to back, she sandwiched garden trellis in between to create a partition which nearly reached the ceiling. We had redecorated by now, our walls were primrose yellow with posters pulled from National Geographic. Now I had privacy, although in moments of temper, I needed a door to slam!

A couple of years on, we moved house so could have a small bedroom each. I was excited to have my own space, no matter how tiny. I chose a sickly blancmanche pink with which to decorate and my parents bought me a bookcase, a desk and a chair so that I could study at home. My various decorating fads meant that when I was a teenager there were coloured records stuck to the walls and the year I turned 18 I displayed fans and chopsticks for an eastern theme.

My brother’s room was painted bright spearmint green, but the wall colour barely showed between the posters of truculent looking musicians in bands he liked. He bought a record player and tape deck and soon his presence in the house was characterised by a shut door which barely contained his loud music. I often knocked on his door to sit in his room with him, listening to the bands he liked & talking. Although our interests and music taste had diversified, we still had an easy relationship.

This reminiscence is written for the prompt ‘space’, the sixth in Mrs Fever’s summer writing meme Musings in Memoir where looking back is encouraged. Why not follow the link to see what others have submitted.

He’s a Little Bit Country …


One Hot Summer ~ Kat French

Possibly one of my favourite chick-lit novels, I can’t believe I read this in 2017: I truly could not bear to put this book down!  So many characters were fabulously eccentric. I’m a sucker for the ‘village’ setting which means that everyone knows each others nusiness!

Our heroine – Alice McBride – was a wonderful mixture of fragility and strength, and the love interest (US country singer Robinson Duff) was such a romantic, slightly damaged, chivalrous hunk I was half in love with him myself!
I couldn’t begin to describe the plot and do it justice, but an English village setting during a heatwave instantly makes it a great summer read.  The story starts with double heartbreak and follows Alice and Robinson’s coping mechanisms of either running away or embarking on a project to get their lives back on track.  

I adored Stewie who’d been a 70s porn star – with his many wigs and outrageous outfits. The mynah bird owned by the local ‘white witch’ almost stole the show, a great source of humor and secret-spilling.

Robinson is as gentle and thoughtful as one could wish – the textbook gallant southern boy, but his attempts to forget all about Nashville and his stellar career are fairly unsuccessful.  

Alice is enchantingly loyal to her home, Bourne Manor, bearing a duty to be its custodian for years to come, no matter what sacrifices she must make. The pair vow that this will be nothing more than a HOT holiday romance and that they won’t get involved – we don’t want to believe a word of it!

Read this novel to evoke all the ‘summer holiday feels’ you would normally get from devouring a book beside the pool or on the beach

No Big Drinker

I come from a big family. I have two older siblings, plus a younger brother. Growing up my maternal grandmother also shared our home. Mealtimes were big gatherings where we sat round the table. It was sometimes too rowdy for my granny, everyone talking and teasing each other. She often took meals on a tray in her own room. We always sat in the same seats, our glasses filled with water or squash. We passed the vegetables to each other, after my father carved the meat, some for each plate. My mother dished out the potatoes, rice or pasta and then we would all eat. 

Sunday lunch was a more formal affair. We would say grace, my granny joined us and the grown ups drank wine. From fairly young, my parents allowed us to have a small glass of cider – I can visualise the 1970s Woodpecker logo. I loved the meals when we had cider, but I wasn’t good at drinking it slowly. As soon as that golden, fizzy liquid was in my glass, I started sipping.

My granny was served the meat first, then my father worked his way round the family by age. If only I was big I’d have a plateful by now, I thought as I gulped my drink. Instead, as the second youngest, I had to wait almost ‘til the end. 

When my older brother asked me to pass the gravy, his voice came from far away. I lifted the warmed gravy boat unsteadily, bumping it against other dishes clumsily before handing it to him. My hands weren’t very obedient, didn’t feel like my own. Looking round the table I was viewing my family through a filter, like swimming underwater with my eyes open.

“Are you alright Polly?” 

My mother’s voice broke into my thoughts. Holding a cool hand against my forehead, she exchanged concerned glances with my father. They noticed my glass was empty, yet we hadn’t begun to eat.

“Why don’t you go and lie on the sofa?” 

Getting unsteadily to my feet, I tottered through the kitchen. I lay down, on my back, amongst plump cushions. The room see-sawed around me, reminding me of when I spun around until I felt dizzy. This gave me a warm glow too, of course I was tipsy.

When the giddy sensation wore off, I went back to the table. My family had begun eating and I was hungry too. Once I had food inside me, the last vestiges of that blurry feeling wore off.

My parents did not stop serving a glass of cider with Sunday lunch, but perhaps were more vigilant that it wasn’t consumed before the meal began. They believed in learning one’s own limits; it’s not uncommon in France for children to have watered down wine with meals. 

Even now I am no big drinker, it doesn’t take much alcohol to make the edges of my world blur. However that’s usually the point at which I switch to a soft drink. I learned my lesson that day, I really don’t like that out-of-control feeling. I still enjoy cider; particularly brands infused with other fruit flavours.

This story is submitted and linked to a summer writing project hosted on Mrs Fever’s site, where reminiscences are encouraged in a memoir style – Prompt #5 Big. Visit to see what other’s have written.

Don’t Let Him In (6)

A chilling tale, told in installments

When J’s alarm began beeping the next morning, it was accompanied by smells of bacon & toast wafting upstairs. He felt light with relief that he hadn’t had a dream about anyone new being traumatised by the mystery ‘man’.  Yet this was the puzzle, his chief suspect was the new Librarian, who was a woman.  Was it possible that she wore a disguise when she took control of the minds of the children?  J suspected that if he could see a ‘pattern’ to those chosen as her victims, then maybe he could get a better handle on solving the mystery.  He made sure he had the hypnotism printouts tucked in his rucksack before heading out of the door to meet Alex.

Lulu waved goodbye from the back-seat of his Mum’s car. She was beaming from ear to ear with excitement, her party invitations clutched in her hand, twinkling with the holographic stickers she’d added the night before.  Sometimes, when he looked at his sister, he yearned for the simplicity of his days at primary school, but most of the time he was glad to have left the claustrophobia of that tiny school and its mostly spinster teachers behind.

J joined the steady stream of red blazers and black suits heading out of Cranberry Gardens towards St Ethelred’s, pleased to see Alex was already waiting for him outside his house.  They fell into step with one another. Alex was keen for an up-date, quizzing J as to whether he’d had one of his dreams the previous night.

“No, thank goodness! So maybe no new zombies today!  I did learn a lot about hypnotism though.” 

With that he passed Alex the pages which he’d recently downloaded from Google. Although impatient to discuss it, J needed to give his friend time to read and absorb the information, so he stayed quiet letting Alex read as he walked.

Finally J put forward his theory that perhaps the Librarian wore a disguise, which could be why the kids hypnotised so far kept talking about letting ‘him’ in.

“Vampire!” Alex butted in excitedly.  “A vampire can’t come into your home unless you invite them!”

This seemed an undisputed piece of vampire folklore, mentioned in all the vampire films the boys had ever watched.  They thrashed  this idea around as they continued down to the school gate. Somehow the idea of a vampire existing in their home town seemed too far fetched, surely they weren’t real?

“See you at lunch,” Alex called over his shoulder before he headed off to English class.

Still puzzling, J made his way to the language block for a double lesson of German.

When lunchtime rolled around, they picked up their conversation where they’d left off.  The vampire theory seemed less viable, instead J wanted to pursue the Librarian for more clues.

“Hey!  What if she’s a dude disguised as a woman?  Y’know, like in Mrs Doubtfire?!”   Alex was warming to his theme. “She is pretty old and caked in powdery make-up.  Her hair could easily be a wig!”  

J couldn’t help laughing at the idea.  However, the laughter died in his throat as Laurie walked past their table, looking pale and haggard.  The shadows under his eyes were pronounced and his movements were robotic. On his tray he carried an unopened carton of milk and a shrink wrapped pork pie, with which he sat down alone, at a remote, empty table.

The two friends watched him in silence, as he stared into space, making no move to eat the food he had purchased.

“That’s seriously weird,” remarked Alex, who was always hungry due to the amount of sports he played.

“Yeah,” J nodded, feeling guilty that he couldn’t think of a way to help.  “We’ve got to get to the bottom of this.  You still want to investigate the Coach?”  

He and Alex dumped their plates and trays at the hatch and spent the rest of their lunch break hanging round the pavilion trying to see in through the windows looking for clues amongst the stored sports equipment; they didn’t have much success.   Alex had Rugby practice after school, so he intended to try to get into the building on some sort of pretext then, offering to untangle the bibs or some such helpful tactic.

J made his way across the quad , heading for his next lesson, and that’s when he spied Laurie again.  He was at the heavy double doors into the main school building which housed Reception, the assembly hall and Drama, because they liked to utilise the stage.  The Music block was accessible from here too, several practice rooms and a couple of classrooms ran down the outside wall of the building.  

J was curious as to where Laurie was going, because as far as he knew Laurie studied neither music nor drama.  He didn’t have time to investigate, but his mind was turning over facts all afternoon looking for the pattern.  The last thing he wanted to acknowledge was that the common factor which was linking the trance-like children was him!

[To be continued …]