Back On The Slow Track

Keeping safe, keeping strong,  basking in the warmth and light of a new spring morning ~

Tulips in April 2015 (5) Edit

Somerset Tulip in Spring (c) Sherri Matthews 2015

Finding sanctuary; breathing once more in the calm.

Tulips in April 2015 (8) Boost

(c) Sherri Matthews 2015

Renewal of joy, a message of peace found in the beauty of nature’s gifts to us, freely given and beautifully gift wrapped ~

Tulips in April 2015 (11) Boost

(c) Sherri Matthews 2015

Thank you so much dear friends for your ongoing visits here, despite my recent, unplanned absence from blogging due to a family emergency. Each day since brings healing and a renewed calm, thank goodness, meaning I am slowly getting back on track, winding my way back to you with a major catch up as the week goes on.

Until then, have a great week and I’ll see you soon…

Love Sherri x

Posted in Current Affairs, Family Life, Garden Snippets, Nature & Wildlife | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 67 Comments

The Black Dog, A Palm Tree And A Flash Fiction

Palm trees are so perfectly designed to survive powerful tropical storms, that even when bent so low as to touch the ground, they straighten up as the storm passes through, stronger than they  were before.

I was nineteen when I first laid eyes on the row of palm trees lining the road leading out of Los Angeles airport.  I had no idea then how many times I would drive along that very road in the decades to come, how many times I would look up at those palm trees, unconsciously thinking that I would need their strength when storms wreaked havoc in my life.

Antigua, Caribbean (c) Sherri Matthews 2015

Palm Trees in Antigua, Caribbean
(c) Sherri Matthews 2015

No stranger to upheaval, loss and grief in my early life, yet a stranger would have thought I had the perfect family life if they had met me in 2001:  three kids, two Labradors, a Chevy Suburban sitting in the large driveway of our dream home, in a family-friendly town surrounded by vineyards on the beautiful Central Coast of California.

But they wouldn’t have known what had gone on before: that we had rented for most of the 17 years we had lived in California and that we had lost our first home to foreclosure thanks to, a) the market crash, and b) the schizophrenic, gun-toting, drug-abusing madman who had made our lives a living hell.

They also wouldn’t have known that it had taken us many years to recover financially from the foreclosure,  and that we would live in our dream home for only two years before the house of cards that was my 22 year marriage collapsed, and my life in California was ripped away from me and my children.

They, and certainly not I, would have known that by 2003 I would be back ‘home’ in England, living as a single mother with my  eleven year old daughter and fourteen year old son with my mother in her home.

Despite regular visits back to England, returning to live in my home country permanently was a very different thing indeed. There was no record of me, it seemed: I couldn’t get a mobile phone or a bank account and I certainly couldn’t get a mortgage even if I had the money for a deposit, which I did not.  I was a British citizen born and bred, but I felt disenfranchised.

So many times I looked down and saw only dry, cracked earth, with no hope of anything growing there.

Greece? Arizona Desert?  No, a path along the West Bay Coastal Walk in Somerset, England April 2015 (c) Sherri Matthews

Greece? Arizona Desert? No, a close up of a path along the West Bay Coastal Walk in Dorset, England. April 2015
(c) Sherri Matthews

But when I had the strength to look up, what seemed to be dead and barren was only a blip in the grand scheme of things, as an entirely different view brimming with possibilities spread out before me.

Coastal Walk between West Bay and Eype, Somerset, England April 2015 (c) Sherri Matthews

Coastal Walk between West Bay and Eype, Dorset, England. April 2015
(c) Sherri Matthews

All I had to do was to keep looking ahead, but that’s not an easy thing when you are worn out and wearied by life.

Blue skies beckoned for my immediate future, however, as I found a nice rental, got a job, made new friends and, to my delightful amazement, met my husband.  He came alongside me, took my hand and led me into the sunshine.

We settled down into our safe and secure family life, but dark clouds loomed on the horizon still, not least of all my daughter’s traumas to come caused by her, as yet undiagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome, leaving her mauled by an educational system that had no clue how to help a teenage Aspie girl, and me bewildered and despairing at my helplessness in trying to understand why she struggled so terribly.

The way ahead looks clear and calm, if we can just have the courage to push through the gate. West Bay, Dorset, England. April 2015 (c) Sherri Matthews

The way ahead looks clear and calm, if only we can muster the courage to open the gate. West Bay, Dorset, England.    April 2015
(c) Sherri Matthews

Then, one morning five years ago,  an ill wind raged.  Getting ready for work, I couldn’t find a pair of black trousers, a pair I wore often, and a fierce desperation took hold, coursing through me like white-hot lava.

I froze, glued to the ground, and wailed in panic as the bedside clock ticked relentlessly, booming louder and louder, taunting me with every tick: ‘You’re going to be late. You’re going to be late. Tick-Tock. Tick-Tock.’

I think it was then that I broke.

Climbing the wall isn't easy when it's covered and prickly brambles and barbed wire. West Bay April 2015 (c) Sherri Matthews

Climbing the wall isn’t easy when it’s covered with prickly brambles and sharp thorns. West Bay April 2015
(c) Sherri Matthews

I didn’t go into work that day and when I returned, I handed in my notice.   I found another job, but was laid off after only 11 months when the boss sold the business.

The ‘black trouser incident’ had changed me, and when I walked out of that office for the last time, I knew that a different path beckoned.  I thought of the creative writing course I had paid for a year before, the materials of which languished on my bookshelf, untouched, because I was afraid.

Did I dare to take a different path, to do the very thing I had wanted to do all my life? Was this my opportunity, waiting for the taking?

Which Way Forward?  West Bay April 2015 (c) Sherri Matthews

Which Way Forward? West Bay, Dorset, England. April 2015
(c) Sherri Matthews

So one cold, winter’s morning, I wrote the first sentence of my first assignment about a walk through some ruins in Crete.  And I kept on writing.

Yet still, when those dark hours strike in the dead of night, I hear the padding of the Black Dog as he sits in the shadows and I know he is watching my every move.

But now we laugh at the missing black trousers for they never appeared again.  In fact, I am convinced that my black cat Eddie stole them as I watch him slinking by in his fluffy pantaloons.

Green Hills and Blue Seas beckon as the path meanders onward. West Bay April 2015 (c) Sherri Matthews

Green Hills and Blue Seas beckon as the path meanders on. West Bay April 2015
(c) Sherri Matthews

It is good to laugh and to share in the goodness of life even at such times. Like the palm tree, when storms crash through, I bend to breaking point, but, by the grace of God, I straighten up again when the storm dies to a whisper, renewed in strength and hope.

And I’ll stand tall as I walk on and let that Black Dog off his leash to fun free, as far away from me as possible.

 *******

Charli’s Flash Fiction challenge this week asks us: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a renewal story that proclaims, “This isn’t the end; I will go on.

She also shared a link to  Project Semicolon ‘which exists to encourage, love and inspire’, providing help and support for those suffering from depression.

‘A semicolon represents a sentence the author could have ended, but chose not to.  The sentence is your life and the author is you.’ ~ Project Semicolon

I cheated a bit with this week’s flash fiction, as I already wrote it for one of Charli’s prompts some months ago, but I didn’t publish it here.  I kept thinking about it for the renewal theme and so went with it.  I should also mention that it is a BOTS – based on a true story.

 Last Train Home

Settling in for the train journey, Jamie plugged in, metal guitar riffs screaming. An hour in, he turned and saw her.

Dark eyes met his, frozen in disbelief. Turning to her new man, she giggled as they sat down in the seats in front of Jamie.

She smirked, then swapped tongues with her man.

Jamie exploded out of his seat, leaping off at the next stop. He caught a glimpse of her staring blankly out of the train window, chewing her nails, looking ugly.

He kept walking, thinking of her boyfriend. Jamie smiled then.

Poor bastard, he’ll be next.

Posted in Asperger's Syndrome, Family Life, Flash Fiction, The Black Dog | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 98 Comments

Cats of Crete And Holidays In the Rain

Waiting for me in the Summerhouse today was a queen wasp, crawling about the floor as wasps sometimes do.  Those who know of my mortal fear of these vile creatures will understand how I reacted to such a terrifying sight.

I have both doors wide open, you see, letting in all that wonderful fresh air as I type away.  Let’s be clear about one thing, however: I did not put a sign up saying ‘Wasps Welcome’.

We Brits do love to complain about our weather, but I don’t think many of us are complaining now,  basking as we are in glorious spring days filled with golden sunshine and warmth.  Think of all that Vitamin D coursing through our bones!

So warm, that even the cows in the fields are sunbathing ~

So warm, that even the cows in the field are having a lie down. Langport, Somerset, April 2015 (c) Sherri Matthews

Langport, Somerset, April 2015
(c) Sherri Matthews

Trying to forget about my earlier wasp horror, I think of a time when we took the kids to Lanzarote for a week one April a few years ago.   Fed up with the incessant cold and drab dreariness of the previous two summers, we  took ‘good’ advice from the travel agent and her sure-fire ‘guarantee’ of plenty of sunshine.

After all, “They only get a few inches of rainfall a year,” she said, winking (I’m sure of it).

Only a few inches, yes, but they fell during the very week of our holiday. Meanwhile, back in the UK, during a month that can still have frost and yes, even snow, they had a heat wave.

So there we sat, one Happy Hour, the kids with their ice creams and us with our cocktails, watching the downpour fall from the black sky, as we took refuge beneath the beach umbrellas.

Still, it wasn’t long before we were laughing along with the other holidaymakers, incredulous as we read texts from our loved ones back home reminding us: “It’s hotter than Greece here, hope you’re having a lovely holiday!”

Thank goodness for the feral cat who befriended my daughter.   She named him ‘Caramello’ and enjoyed sneaking pieces of ham to him, despite the many signs around the complex telling us not to do so.  No wonder he stuck around.

Caramello knows how to get what he wants. Lanzarote (c) Sherri Matthews 2015

Caramello knows how to get what he wants. Lanzarote
(c) Sherri Matthews 2015

Feral cats have made their presence known whenever we’ve travelled abroad it seems; some of you may remember my post Cats of Croatia.  These savvy cats know how to get food and how to survive but sadly, they are often not looked after by anyone and are in very poor health. And of course, they go on breeding.

So it’s always a relief to find a cat, any cat, who has managed to purr its way into some kind person’s heart. Such as this beautiful little kitty we came across during our holiday in Crete in 2008: he took up a certain chair outside a cafe that we visited most mornings for a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice before taking off for the day.

Adopted by the cafe owner’s wife, this adorable kitty was certainly very happy indeed ~

Beautiful Kitty, Crete  (c) Sherri Matthews 2015

Beautiful Kitty, Crete
(c) Sherri Matthews 2015

You can see how comfortable he was (or she, I can’t remember!) snoozing away on that same chair ~

Komfy Kitty, Crete (c) Sherri Matthews 2015

Komfy Kitty, Crete
(c) Sherri Matthews 2015

One of the many things I love about Crete is that you can hire a car quite cheaply and take off exploring all those side roads (although it helps if you are prepared for some off-roading since some of those roads dirt-tracks are more than a little dodgy to navigate).

Then, just when you think there is nothing at the end of it, you are rewarded with this ~

View of the Libyan Sea from a Taverna at Mochlos, Crete (c) Sherri Matthews 2015

View of the Libyan Sea from a Taverna at Mochlos, Crete
(c) Sherri Matthews 2015

A tiny village filled with a handful of homes, tavernas serving traditional Cretan food and a tucked-away cove filled with golden sand where children can safely play, there is also a family of sea-kittens, as my daughter named them.

As we whiled away the evening in one of these tavernas, eating the most delicious Cretan food while admiring this very view, some naughty but oh-so-cute kittens and their mother paid us a visit.

Sadly, although Mummy looked in pretty good shape (and reminded us of our Maisy), she had a sore eye which concerned me ~

Mummy Feral, ever watchful of her kitties. Mochlos, Crete. (c) Sherri Matthews 2015

Mummy Feral, ever watchful of her kitties. Mochlos, Crete.
(c) Sherri Matthews 2015

She didn’t let her babies wander too far as they explored their beach playground which also doubled up as home:

My daughter spent the entire evening delighting in watching this sweet cat family at play.  Sometimes the mother approached diners sitting at their tables, begging for food.  Most often she was given nibbles to eat, but some diners were not too happy and shooed her away.

Although it is lovely to watch these adorable kitties, I do worry for them and their future, left as they are to their own devices.  Thank goodness for kindly business owners who give them some measure of care and attention.

As for Maisy and Eddie, spoiled as ever, they are oblivious to the hard scrabble life of their foreign, feral cousins.

Maybe I should give them a job.  Wasp duty in the Summerhouse would be a good place to start. Maybe.

This post is linked to Michelle’s Weekly Pet Share.
For photos of more gorgeous pets and animals, click on the link below to check out Michelle’s beautiful compilation posted every Tuesday.

weeklypet

Have a great weekend everyone!

Posted in CATalogue, Travel, Weekly Pet Challenge | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 106 Comments

Desert Storm: 99 Word Flash Fiction

For this week’s Flash Fiction prompt, Charli asks us this:

In 99 words (no more, no less) write about the day the earth turned brown. How did it happen? What else might be going on? It can be dramatic or even humorous. It can be the greater globe or a localized occurrence. It can be an aftermath or a revival. Follow where the prompt leads you.’

What then of Ken and Muriel?  Here is the conclusion to their story (Part One, Part Two and Part Three) in 99 words, no more, no less:

Volcanic Fire Mountains, Lanzarotte (c) Sherri Matthews

Volcanic Fire Mountains, Lanzarote April 2009
(c) Sherri Matthews

Desert Storm

The Man With No Name sat motionless on horseback, his eyes squinting into the scorched, brown skyline as his horse pawed at the parched earth.

“I need fresh air,” gasped Ken. “I’m sick.”

Muriel smirked, as she followed him up to the deck. “I’ll join you, this film’s boring anyway.”

“I know what you’ve done Muriel,” yelled Ken, as he lurched towards her.

A packet of rat poison fell out of her pocket. “You idiot!” screamed Muriel as a gust of wind sent them both overboard.

Gun fire rang out from inside the boat as a vulture swirled overhead.

Posted in Flash Fiction, Writing | Tagged , , , , | 90 Comments

The Write Surprise

Good or bad, love ’em or hate ’em, we never know when a surprise is about to burst into our day, catching us completely off-guard.  Like the surprise I received on Tuesday morning.

For some time now, I have made a concerted effort to get dressed, have breakfast, and do a few chores before heading into the Summerhouse and start writing.

But it is so very easy to break this discipline and too often, despite knowing better, I think, ‘Oh, I’ll just have a quick check of my blog’ and three hours later I’m still blogging, the morning is lost and I’m still in my PJs.

Always a lovely surprise to find daffodils blooming on the riverbank (c) Sherri Matthews 2015

Always a lovely surprise to find daffodils blooming on the riverbank.
(c) Sherri Matthews 2015

Tuesday was such a morning.

Hearing a knock at the front door and realising annoyingly that it was almost noon and I was still typing away,  I wasn’t too perturbed, thinking it was ‘just’ the postman delivering yet another package for my daughter, and he’s seen me in my PJs too many times to count, I’m ashamed to say.

Except this time, it wasn’t the postman.

It was David Laws, the nationally known Lib Dem MP (Liberal Democrat Minister of Parliament and Minister of State for Schools for those unfamiliar with British politics) standing on my doorstep, greeting me by name with a hearty smile and a vigorous hand shake.

I recognised him immediately and all I could do was to smile weakly and hope the hole in the floor would swallow me up, even as he told me he was making friendly house-to-house calls as part of his campaign for the upcoming General Election, and wondered if I had any particular concerns.

Coincidentally, he had attended January’s meeting of the monthly support group I attend, run by our local branch of the National Autistic Society for parents of grown Aspie children. I hadn’t been able to make that meeting and I was bursting to ask him about funding for improved services for those with Autism in Somerset, but I didn’t dare.

In fact, I would have loved to have invited him in for a cup of tea and a hot cross bun if I had been properly dressed.  A golden opportunity lost for me, but a huge relief for him, no doubt.  So he said goodbye and that was that.

The road to publication holds many surprises on that uphill climb... (c) Sherri Matthews

The road to publication holds many surprises on that uphill climb…
(c) Sherri Matthews

A few days before this, I had received a very different surprise. Some of you may remember the short memoir competition I entered, deadline 30th January (and the trials surrounding my laptop issues).  I got my entry in, just, and waited, nervously, for the results, expected April 1st.

But last Saturday, an email popped up announcing the Fish Publication Short Memoir Prize Results.  What?  Were they playing an early April Fool’s trick on us?

I clicked on the link, hands shaking, and immediately saw the winner, second and third places and the seven runners-up. My name wasn’t there.  I didn’t think it would be, but there’s always that slight glimmer of hope isn’t there?  There has to be.

Hardly daring to breathe, I trawled down the short list.  Still nothing.   My heart sank as I scrolled down, and then suddenly I saw it: my name.  I made the long list!

Okay, so I didn’t win a prize and I didn’t make the short list, but I made the first cut into 197 selected out of 780 entries and for that I was ecstatic.  At least it meant that my story had ‘something’ if not everything that the judge was looking for at the time.

The next day, still basking in my long list glow and after almost two years, I at last was able to visit my dad at the halfway house where he has lived for the past four months.

Although more frail than when I last saw him, and a little unsteady on his legs, as an 82-year-old, lifelong alcoholic with a penchant for robbing banks (or trying to), he isn’t in too bad a shape.

Me & My Dad (c) Sherri Matthews 2015

Me & My Dad
(c) Sherri Matthews 2015

In fact, he walks along the prom, as he calls it, by the sea every day and is one of those people who gets a suntan just from poking his head around the door.  And the twinkle in his eye sparkles still, particularly when he tells me he is being a ‘good boy’.

On the way home, a twinge of sadness plucked at my heart for the lost years and all that could have been, all that our family could have shared if only my dad had managed to beat his alcoholism, but I also felt a deep sense of gratitude for the chance to spend this time with him, with the promise and the hope of more days like this to come.

Then, wouldn’t you know it, I received another surprise a mere four days later, this one through the letter box and not so nice: apparently we had parked a few minutes over our alloted time at the car park of the restaurant where we had taken Dad, resulting in a parking ticket: £100 or £60 if paid within 2 weeks.

My dad is the one on parole, but I think I am the one who needs reforming:  I have a sudden urge to go back to that car park and litter it with sweet wrappers.  Let’s see what the council has to say about that…

A week of surprises then, and I thank you all so much for wishing me well for the Fish competition.   I do regret one thing, and that is that I didn’t pay for a critique as I would have relished the feedback, being a little green when it comes to entering literary competitions (shhhh, don’t tell anyone).

Ultimately, making the long list has given me hope for my writing, and an armful of hope is something we all need.

‘Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul –
and sings the tunes without the words – and never stops at all.’
~ Emily Dickinson

This beautiful 'Hope' flag arrived this week from my dear friend in California.   An American robin to say hello to his cousin Sweet Robin!   What perfect timing, bringing a reminder of the hope that springs out of the message of Easter. (c) Sherri Matthews 2015

This beautiful ‘Hope’ flag arrived this week from my dear friend in California, a wonderful surprise.
An American robin to say hello to his cousin Sweet Robin!
What perfect timing, hope through Easter’s message.
(c) Sherri Matthews 2015

And if there’s one thing I’ve learnt, it’s that we need to keep watch and be vigilant, ever ready for when those surprises jump out at us.  At the very least, we should be dressed. After all, you never know who might turn up on your front door step.

*******

I hope for you the best kind of surprises, and a very Happy Easter!
Love Sherri x

Posted in My Dad's Alcoholic Prison, Writing Competitions | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 95 Comments

Ephemeral: Longleat Safari Park

Transitory; brief; momentary; passing; cursory; short-lived; fleeting; temporary. All meanings behind the word ‘Ephemeral’.

I think of all those times when I’ve attempted to photograph creatures great and small, specifically during a visit, a couple of years ago, to magnificent Longleat Safari Park in Wiltshire:

A lioness stretching before settling back down with her pride for a lazy nap ~

Longleat July 2012 (22)A meerkat standing to order on the lookout, before scrambling
back down the earth mound to join his mates ~

Who's there? (c) Sherri Matthews 2015

Who’s there?
(c) Sherri Matthews 2015

This gorgeous tiger might look calm and peaceful, but seconds after I took this photo, he was off, sauntering into the woods until I couldn’t see him at all ~

All is calm...? (c) Sherri Matthews 2015

All is calm…?
(c) Sherri Matthews 2015

Just as well cute little chipmunk kept well away; she allowed me this close-up before darting off at light-speed to scratch about for food ~

Longleat July 2012 (35)

Hurry up and take your photo, I haven’t got all day… (c) Sherri Matthews 2015

And then not forgetting this brief moment when a few birds of the feathered kind took to admiring Hubby.   Once they got what they came for – food, of course – they took off, leaving hubby’s heart all in a flutter ~

Birds of a feather flock together... (c) Sherri Matthews 2015

Birds of a feather flock together…beautiful parakeets
(c) Sherri Matthews 2015

Moments in time, captured in a snap.  Aren’t cameras wonderful?

This post is in response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge of “Ephemeral.”

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Suspicious Minds: 99 Word Flash Fiction

Charli’s prompt for this week’s Flash Fiction challenge of ‘Juxtaposition‘ (see full explanation below) had me thinking, because it seems that a few of you would like me to carry on with Muriel’s story, which actually started out as Ken’s (evil water rat that he is). But Muriel seems to have taken centre stage.

She is not all she appears to be, most certainly not as innocent as first thought, although we don’t know why. Yet.

Continuing the story forward then (Part One, Water Rat and Part Two, Symptoms of Unrest) in line with the prompt, I hope I’ve managed it with Part Three, in 99 words, no more, no less:

Suspicious Minds

Time for a quick sail?  Norfolk Broads (c) Sherri Matthews 2015

Time for a quick sail dear? Norfolk Broads
(c) Sherri Matthews 2015

A counsellor? I tell that no-good doctor that Ken wants to do me in and he sends me where? As for nose strips, well, I know where he can put those…

“Home so soon dearest?” called Ken as Muriel barged in through the front door. “Guess what, I’ve booked a boating holiday!”

Muriel winced. All he ever wanted to do was watch crap daytime TV. Until she had reminded him that she couldn’t swim.

“I thought we could watch a film together later,” grinned Ken as he appeared in the hall. “You choose: ‘The Wedding Planner’ or ‘Jaws’.”

 *******

Charli’s Flash Fiction Challenge:

March 25, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) include a juxtaposition between the ordinary and natural worlds. It can be civilization and nature; an edifice and a nest or cave; a human act and a natural occurrence; acculturation and adaptation. Compare or contrast as the prompt leads you to write.

Respond by March 31, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

Posted in Flash Fiction, Writing | Tagged , , , , | 78 Comments

Love’s Lullaby

This week ends with a poem.  This wasn’t my plan originally, but lovely, talented poet Christy of Poetic Parfait tagged me for the writing challenge, ‘Love Ten Sentences‘ for which I have to write a poem about love within ten sentences and send the challenge on to ten other bloggers.  I couldn’t resist.  Thanks so much Christy, here’s my poem, which is about the love between friends and the passing years:

Love’s Lullaby

View of Moonstone Beach, Cambria, Central Coast of California April 2013 Special memories of this place... (c) Sherri Matthews

View of Moonstone Beach, Cambria, Central Coast of California, April 2013.  Special memories of this place…
(c) Sherri Matthews

Once we sat with arms entwined upon the picnic bench, as shadows
of our children hurried by. There we talked and smiled and wiped
wistful tears from our eyes.

For there, against the ebbing tide, we also whispered of our fears and of
all that brought us here. We remembered, seared hearts filled with pain,
of loss both far and near.

The years crashed by as with the sea that pounds the well-trod shore, as shells
and pebbles cut into our feet. So sliced our hopes and pierced our dreams, though
not yet; not for us defeat.

For I remember another day when we sang of all we gave, though in return
we may never understand.   Here, now, we rage against
the face of thwarted plans.

Listen to the lullaby of a child’s sweet song ringing out across the sea; a melody of love
mending broken, stolen hearts. The answer, my friend, was here all along,
as we leap into victory’s dance.

 *******

The ten bloggers I’m tagging are (and no obligation whatsoever):

Nadine at nadinetomlinson
Mihran at Mihran Kalaydjian
Andrea at Harvesting Hectate
Geoff at TanGental
Sarah at Sarah Potter Writes
Imelda at My Wall
Patsy at Patsy’s Creative Corner
Jane at Jane Dougherty Writes
YPrior at Priorhouse Blog
Jennifer at Jennifer K. Marsh

 Have a great weekend everyone!

Posted in Blog Hops, My California, Poems | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 81 Comments

Symptoms Of Unrest: Flash Fiction 99 Words

Brotherly Love - York Dungeon 1990s (c) Sherri Matthews

Brotherly Love – York Dungeon 1990s
(c) Sherri Matthews

Symptoms of Unrest

Muriel waddled into the doctor’s office.

“What can I do for you,” asked the doctor while staring at his computer screen.

Muriel sniffed. “Well, my nose feels blocked and according to my husband, I snore.”

“Have you tried nose strips?”

“Err…no. I think I might have a sinus infection actually.”

“Get some nose strips and see me in two weeks,” said the doctor, still tapping away.

“Oh, just one more thing,” said Muriel as she headed for the door. “I think my husband is trying to murder me.”

The room fell silent as the doctor, at last, faced his patient.

*******

When I wrote Water Rat a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t plan to add to it.  But then Charli gave us this week’s Flash Fiction prompt to write a story revealing a character’s symptoms and I couldn’t resist having some fun.  ‘Symptoms of Unrest’ is part two, in 99 words, no more, no less.

Posted in Flash Fiction, Writing | Tagged , , , | 94 Comments

Walls, True Confessions and Last of the B/W Challenge

The first house I lived in had a beautiful, brick wall running along one side of the back garden, and I have wanted a garden wall of my own ever since.

The story of Peter Rabbit’s narrow escape from Mr McGregor’s walled garden, barely avoiding being flattened with a sieve and forcing him to leave behind his little blue jacket, fascinated me.

Mr McGregor would have liked this garden as would Peter Rabbit, with plenty to nibble.  Barrington Court June 2014 (c) Sherri Matthews

Mr McGregor would have liked this garden as would Peter Rabbit, with plenty to nibble.
Barrington Court June 2014
(c) Sherri Matthews

I was also fascinated by the door in the wall to The Secret Garden,
another one of my favourite stories.


Whenever I visit historical places, walled gardens draw me the most.

Door to the Secret Garden?  Perhaps. Barrington Court Easter 2014 (c) Sherri Matthews

Door to the Secret Garden? Perhaps.
Barrington Court Easter 2014
(c) Sherri Matthews

Ancient walls beckon too, now crumbled and worn after centuries of erosion and damage, yet still clinging on to the last vestiges of their glory days long ago,
when they belonged to buildings, homes, palaces even.

Ruins of Spinalonga, overlooking the sea. Crete 2012 (c) Sherri Matthews

Ruins of Spinalonga, overlooking the sea.
Crete 2012
(c) Sherri Matthews

I wonder which part of the ancient palace at Knossos, in Crete,
these ruined walls once belonged to?

Ruined Walls of Knossos, Crete, 2012 (c) Sherri Matthews

Ruined Walls of Knossos, Crete, 2012
(c) Sherri Matthews

What secrets were revealed in countless letters pushed through this old, French post box affixed to the original wall of this still-working family farm,
handed down from generation to generation?

French Post Box (c) Sherri Matthews

French Post Box
(c) Sherri Matthews

But there is one wall that for me, holds a very different kind of memory:
one of a young girl’s rebellion.

The house next door to us in the small village in Surrey where I spent the first ten years of my life, was a corner shop, above which the owners lived.

By the time I was seven or eight, my mother often sent me over to buy a loaf of bread.  I enjoyed the independence this errand gave me; I also loved to look at all the sweets lined up on the shop counter.

Sometimes I raided my plastic money-box to buy a packet of Spangles or Rolos but I didn’t have a lot of spare change and I did like my sweets, so one day, I hatched a plan: I  would steal them.

The next time I went to the shop to buy bread,  I waited for the owner,  Mr Reed, to disappear out of the back of the shop to get the bread as he always did. As soon as he left the room, I grabbed as many packets of sweets as I could, cramming them into the little shoulder bag I had worn for the purposes of hiding my stolen goods.

As soon as I returned home, I handed my mother the bread and then scarpered upstairs as fast as I could to admire my loot.  I felt not a pang of conscience.

I knew it was very wrong to steal, but I did it anyway.  In fact, I had wanted to do it and not only that, I had got away with it.  So I did it again.

And again.

My walls were about to come crumbling down. West Bay, after the storms of February 2014 (c) Sherri Matthews

My walls were about to come crumbling down. West Bay, after the storms of February 2014
(c) Sherri Matthews

My crimes escalated to the point that I became brazen.

In the grip of my strange, dark plottings, I got the bizarre idea to walk over to elderly Mrs Curtley’s house which was opposite the shop on the other side of the lane, whereupon I would sit on her wall in front of her house, eat my sweets one after the other, and toss the wrappers into her front garden, throwing them, and all caution, into the wind.

Again, I knew littering was wrong, but I did it anyway.  What possessed me to do these things? I wish I knew.

I also thought nobody was watching, but of course, they were.  Hidden eyes, from behind net curtains, twitching, quietly observing my every move.

And then, one day, I went too far.  As usual, I waited for Mr Reed to get the bread and as I reached for a packet of sweets, to my horror, he reappeared.

“Are you going to pay for those?” he boomed.  I almost dropped the sweets in shock.

“Oh, yes, of course…here…” I shook as I frantically reached into my little bag but of course I didn’t have any money.   I left the shop without any sweets that day and after that, my life of crime came to an abrupt end.

The most I could hope for, was that Mr Reed wouldn’t tell my mother.

But it wasn’t Mr Reed I had to worry about.

Sitting on this wall, happily eating an ice cream with Eldest Son last summer at West Bay in Dorset, I had no intentions of throwing any wrappers anywhere.  Be sure that I am fully reformed and abhor littering.  Stealing too, naturally.  Keeping this photo colour to end on a cheerful note. (c) Sherri Matthews

Sitting on this wall, happily eating an ice cream with Eldest Son last summer at West Bay in Dorset, I had no intentions of throwing any wrappers anywhere. Be sure that I am fully reformed and abhor littering. Stealing too, naturally. Keeping this photo in colour to end on a cheerful note, in the hopes that you don’t think too badly of me!
(c) Sherri Matthews 2015

Not long after my humiliation, the dreaded knock announcing Mrs Curtley’s arrival at our front door arrived.  When Mum returned to the living room clutching a handful of screwed up sweet wrappers in her hands, I didn’t need to look up at her face to know she was steaming.

At the time, my dad was between jobs and worked temporarily on the night shift at, of all things, an Opal Sweet factory (now called Starburst, one of my favourites, wouldn’t you know) in the nearby town of ‘Leatherhead’.

He was upstairs asleep at the time of Mrs Curtley’s arrival,  but it was the only time I ever heard my mother say she was going to tell Dad what I had done as soon as he woke up later that day.  Gulp.

So yes, I took my punishment and we’ll leave it at that.  Made to apologise face to face to Mrs Curtley and Mr & Mrs Reed (oh the burning shame of it!), I never stole or littered again.  I hope they forgave me.

I still don’t understand why I did it.   Perhaps I just wanted some attention.  And I certainly got that.

Strangely though, when I think of that time in my life, I remember being obsessed with this place called ‘Leatherhead’, imagining that everyone who lived there literally had heads of leather, sort of football shaped.

My daughter thinks this is hilarious, reminding her as it does of one certain ‘Leatherface’, the nasty character from the movie, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

To this day, I have never been to Leatherhead,  but I seriously doubt that the people who live there wear boiler suits and leather masks while welding massive chainsaws.

Then again, in today’s world, nothing would surprise me.

*******

This then sees the end of my challenge posts, and also includes my entry for ‘Wall’, the Weekly Photo Challenge prompt.

I would like to tag blogging friend lbeth at Nutsrok who is writing her memoir, to tell some delicious secrets for the Tell 5 Secrets Blog Hop and my friend Ste J at Book to the Future for the Black & White 5 Day Photo Challenge, because I just know he will come up with some great photos and stories in his uniquely creative fashion.

Many thanks once more to the lovely Lilka, Jude and Sarah for tagging me for these two challenges, I’ve really enjoyed it and thanks to the push of these challenges, I finally learnt how to use the special effects of the photo editing programme that came with my new laptop.

And last, but not at all least, thank you again so much to all of you for your loyal visits throughout these challenges. More than anything, I’m thrilled that you’ve enjoyed them.

After all, that’s what it’s all about!

 

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