Chasing The Finish Line

Those of you who read my blog regularly know that my laptop – sent off for repair – ended up missing somewhere in the Czech Republic.   Well, I never did get it back.  I eventually heard from the computer shop that it turned up in Germany and was being returned.

Unrepaired.  

So that was that.

But what matters now is that I am so happy with my new replacement laptop (but resisting Windows 10 with all my might, excuse my paranoia). How wonderful to write and blog and email and load pages and photographs on a machine that actually does what it’s meant to do: work.

I’ve been able access my photographs and squeeze in this of a painted bench (swinging, no less) for Jude’s August Bench Series just in time:

2014-11-16 15.26.02 Copyright

The grounds of Forde Abbey, Somerset, November 2014

I can also update you about Daughter’s (Aspie D) Chinese Button Quails.

Remember these cuties?

Newly hatched Chinese Button Quails, June 2015 (c) Sherri Matthews

Newly hatched Chinese Button Quails, June 2015
(c) Sherri Matthews

Well, raising birds, I am learning, is not for the faint hearted.   Sadly, we lost three of the six babies.  Nothing we could do.  Survival of the fittest and all that.

Then Mummy Cookie fell ill and Aspie D did her very best to nurse her back to health.  We thought she might be egg bound and she also lost a lot of feathers on her back.

Aspie D did her research and we even took her to the vet, who confirmed that we were doing all we could.

Epsom salt baths, which she so enjoyed ~

Sweet Mummy Cookie enjoying a warm Epsom Salt bath (c) Sherri Matthews 2015

Sweet Mummy Cookie enjoying a warm Epsom Salt bath
(c) Sherri Matthews 2015

And then some special ointment applied and wrapped up in a warm towel ~

Sweet Cookie (2)

Safe and warm, snuggled in a warm towel (c) Sherri Matthews 2015

She loved those warm baths, it was the one time when she was able to rest as relief washed over her.

She seemed to rally, her feathers grew back, but alas, it was not to be and we lost poor, sweet Mummy Cookie Quail.

Aspie D, terribly upset, made sure that Mooncake got a new wife, ‘Raisin’, as he was lonely.  We remove any eggs (Raisin discards them, as is typical).  Mummy Cookie’s remaining three offspring (two females, ‘The Cookie Twins’ and a male, ‘Gumdrop’) are now full-grown.

Happy quail family, all strong and healthy, but Mummy Cookie never forgotten…

Speaking of families,  I spent my dad’s 83rd birthday with him a couple of weeks ago.  He is still at the half-way house and despite ongoing health problems, he is doing well.  Still a wicked sense of humour, still keeping out of trouble.

I used to be able to count on one hand the number of conversations I had with him as an adult when he was sober.  We should never give up hope, even when we think it’s too late in the day.

It is never too late.

This was the first time I’ve spent his birthday with him since I was a child, the longest he has been out of prison in decades.   A precious day for sure, one we agreed when we remembered: Today Was a Good Day.

As for the rest?  Well, the truth is, the writing of my memoir consumes me: The end is in sight, so close I can taste it, yet still so elusive, so very far away and I’m climbing the walls at my inability to find the undistracted time to write.  I’m in the zone and I need to stay there until I reach the finish line.

I will also be spending long-awaited time with my family.

So…I have decided that I need to step away from blogging for a little while.

This is a very difficult decision to make, I will miss you all terribly, but I do believe this is the right decision.  I’ll be back as soon as I can, and you’ll hear from the rooftops when I’ve dashed through that tape, but I’ll be hanging around for the rest of this week to catch up with everyone first.

I’ll also very much miss the weekly Flash Fiction challenges.  This week, Charli asks us to write our story about onions:-

‘August 19, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes onions. It can be the main event or a spicy side to your flash. Think of the impact of onions — teary eyes, dragon-breath, indigestion. How can an onion add a twist, reveal a character or sabotage a perfect day? Have fun!’

Perfect, since it’s my last post for a while, what better way than to leave on a fun, silly note, and who better to continue with than Ethel and her clueless werewolf husband Fred?

Here, in 99 words, no more, no less:

Round Onion

Ethel climbed the stairs.

Stupid sod! To think I made his favourite liver and onions, but he’s out barking at the moon instead.

Dustbins clattered in the street.

Now what?

A giggle drifted from behind the hedge as Ethel opened the front door. “Oooh, Wolfie, you naughty boy…!”

Mave in a mini skirt and Fred, starkers, gauped at Ethel.

“I’m sorry love, it’s the full moon…” pleaded Fred back home. “I’m starvin’. Is that my fave I smell?”

“No onions for you, ya bastard, it’s yer nuts I’m after,” yelled Ethel as Fred let out a howl and bolted.

Thank you so much for your friendship, readership and support.
Have a great rest of the summer and I’ll see you soon!  Love Sherri x <3

Posted in Blogging, Flash Fiction, My Dad's Alcoholic Prison | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 60 Comments

Back Up: 99 Word Flash Fiction And The Stigma of Asperger’s Syndrome

When my daughter was sixteen and battling chronic anxiety which made school practically impossible for her, our GP referred her for counselling.  She took her time to do her make up and dress in her unique, slightly goth/punk style and sat in front of three female mental health professionals to answer their questions and thus, she fooled them all.

Poised, articulate, appearing calm, the team did not look past this and after her ‘gateway consultation’ pronounced her ‘perfectly fine’.  Asperger’s Syndrome did not even enter their vocabulary.  They did not understand the storm raging beneath my daughter’s rigidly stiff exterior as she faced three strangers with all eyes on her.

Instead, they decided that she would ‘get over’ her teenage angst (no doubt due to her parents divorcing, they said), and told her that she certainly didn’t need to be ‘stigmatised’ with any kind of mental health label.

Stigmatised?

My daughter’s response was to vehemently disagree with them, protesting that she had ‘always felt different’ and knew that ‘something wasn’t right’.   She wanted help but they offered none.

And so my daughter slipped through the cracks and struggled on for another nightmare two years.  By the time she was eighteen and by no small miracle having completed sixth form college, yet sufficiently broken that she was unable to attend university or look for work, she was forced to attend the Job Centre.

It was a Work Psychologist there who identified her as needing referral for further evaluation; at last, our GP took us seriously and referred my daughter to the Asperger Specialist Team. After an almost six month-long diagnostic process, my daughter was ‘stigmatised’ with the label of having Asperger’s Syndrome.

Somerset Sunset Peace in golden beauty at the end of exhaustion (c) Sherri Matthews

Somerset Sunset
Peace in golden beauty at the end of exhaustion
(c) Sherri Matthews

But for us it was a relief, because with her diagnosis, she was able to gain access to a system designed to provide her with the benefits and support she so desperately needs.

Yes, a good, strong family life is all important, but financial limitations need practical solutions too. The stigma of having a mental health condition should not exist in the first place.  But it does, even in our educated and should-know-better society.

Not everyone on benefits is a work-shy, lazy, good for nothing welfare scrounger, Mr Prime Minister.

For this week’s flash fiction challenge, Charli writes about her diagnosed PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome) and that of her husband, ‘Ranger Mills’, who fought for his country in Grenada as a parachutist in the Army and who also suffers from PTSD.

The difference for him is that the American VA (Veteran’s Administration)  has not given him his formal diagnosis and without that, he cannot access the benefits to which he is entitled. Charli is his advocate, and she has his back.  She will fight for and with him and won’t let go.

Her prompt, therefore, asks:

‘August 12, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a character who is called to have the back of another. What circumstances led up to this moment? What are the character motives? Think about the interaction, the setting, the tone. What does it look like to have another’s back?’

I won’t let go either.  But sometimes it gets lonely as a carer and an advocate.  Sometimes we too need help and support, someone to come alongside, take our hand, and guide us through when we are overwhelmed.   Mental and physical exhaustion afflicts us too, but we don’t like to say too much about that because we have to be strong for the person we love and care for.

Help, however, can come in surprising ways, reminding us that someone is looking out for us, whether or not it’s their job to do so.   I hope Mr & Mrs Ranger Mills find that help along the way, just as I have, from time to time.

With this in mind, here is my flash, in 99 words no more, no less (needless to say, it’s another BOTS – Based On A True Story):

Back Up

The questions had started out basic but became more complex with every turn of the page.

Write in as much detail as possible the applicant’s difficulties with everyday tasks.

She sighed and ran her hands through her unwashed hair as she glanced up at her kitchen clock. Damn. Already noon and still she hadn’t showered.

Her phone vibrated, she jumped.

“Hello?”

“Mrs Martin? This is Dee Caldwell, the Council Welfare Officer. I had a message to call you about helping fill out some forms for your daughter. When can I visit?”

Someone had her back.  Someone cared just enough.

Posted in Asperger's Syndrome, Flash Fiction | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 86 Comments

My Meet-up With Fellow Blogger, Sherri Matthews

Sherri:

Two months ago, waaaay back in early summer (I am increasingly convinced that time moves differently in this blogging dimension), I had the pleasure of meeting up with my lovely blogger friend Sarah. Sarah has recently returned to blogging after her month-long hiatus to edit her urban fantasy novel, and I’m delighted to share her wonderful write-up of our happy time spent together. In Sarah’s own words, three cheers indeed to WordPress for our grand blogging community!

Originally posted on Sarah Potter Writes:

Sherri &amp; Sarah Last Monday, I met up with the wonderful Sherri Matthews who blogs at A View From My Summerhouse.

Sherri and I have become firm emailing friends (the modern equivalent of pen friends) since she appeared as guest storyteller on my blog back in December. I’ve lost count of how many emails we’ve exchanged since then, but they’re probably exceeded the one hundred mark.

Although we live about 150 miles apart — Sussex and Somerset — we’ve discovered that in the past we shared many of the same stamping grounds, which makes it amazing we never crossed paths earlier in our lives; then again, maybe we did walk down the same street, never knowing we would become friends later.

In fact, it’s uncanny how many life coincidences and things we have in common. For example, one of Sherri’s grown up sons lives in the seaside town (these days a city)…

View original 247 more words

Posted in Friendship, Reblogs | Tagged , , , | 27 Comments

Barking: 99 Word Flash Fiction

Tailgaters are rude, selfish and arrogant.  Today, I got my own back.  Driving on a dual carriageway (two lane freeway), I pulled out into the fast lane to overtake a slow van and an even slower car just ahead.

And there he was, fast approaching in my rear view mirror in his shiny black Beemer, king of the road.  I kept to the 70 mph speed limit and kept watch until he was practically glued to my back bumper.

Okay, okay, stay right there mate, I’m overtaking, as you can see – or can you? – and I’ll pull over when I’m good and ready, but not until I overtake that other slow car just up ahead. See that?

And do you know what he did?  He attempted – I say, attempted – to cut me up by swerving way too fast and dangerously into the slow lane to overtake from the inside, expecting me to slow down, to make way for the king.  As if.

Needless to say I kept to my speed, and he had no choice but to pull back in behind me, just in time for the road to merge into one lane for several miles.  Oh joy!  I will admit to no more.

Timely then for Charli’s flash fiction prompt for this week.  Here it is:

‘This week’s challenge is two-fold:

  1. August 5, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write the common premise: “I ran over a deer (or other animal) and have decided to nurse it back to health.”
  2. But before you write, daydream. Do something out of your normal routine for 10 minutes. Go outside, sit and stare into space. Rest in a meditative yoga pose. Lock yourself in the bathroom. Mow the lawn, or do the dishes. Let your mind wander to the story and daydream before you write it.’

Charli has described my writing process here in one perfect one word: ‘Daydream‘.  Usually my ideas come to me when out walking, but today this flash came to me whilst out on the road.  My tailgater better watch out.

Deer At Longleat (c) Sherri Matthews

Deer At Longleat
(c) Sherri Matthews

Barking

“Mrs Barker?” enquired the policeman as Ethel’s bulk blocked the doorway.

“Yeah…?”

“There’s been an accident. The driver thinks he might have hit a deer, but before he could check– he’s a vet – he thought he saw ‘something’ run into the woods. An abandoned car nearby is registered to your husband. Is he home?”

“Something…what do you mean?”

The policeman coughed, then stuttered.  “A man, but like a wolf, saw teeth…he said…”

“Gawd! It’s High Wycombe, not the bleedin’ Wild West.”

Later, Ethel heard howling. “Pipe down Fred,” she hissed from the bedroom window, “you’ll wake the neighbours.”

Posted in Flash Fiction | Tagged , , , , , , , | 118 Comments

In The Presence Of A Hedgehog

George Washington Carver was an African-American botanist born into slavery somewhere around 1864 (the exact date of his birth is unknown).   He went on to receive many honours for his work, which ultimately helped teach poor, farming families how to sustain themselves with alternative crops to cotton.

Here, he describes his thoughts about nature ~

“As a very small boy exploring the almost virgin woods of the old Carver place, I had the impression someone had just been there ahead of me.  Things were so orderly, so clean, so harmoniously beautiful.  A few years later in these same woods…I was practically overwhelmed with the sense of some great presence.  Not only had someone been there, someone was there…”

I am no great botanist, but his words struck a deep resonance in my heart, for this is how I have always felt when walking in the woods;  it is while surrounded by that very presence, experienced in all of nature’s grand design, that I feel most at peace.

It also never ceases to amaze me how the greatest of blessings so often appear when we least expect them, yet at such times, we are left marvelling at their perfect timing ~

At first, bedazzled by these gorgeous Goldfinches, Chaffinches and Blue Tits feeding right outside my window on a campsite in the beautiful Devon countryside earlier this week, I was unaware that an unexpected visitor would soon arrive ~

Beautiful Birds at the Feeder - Crop

Beautiful Birds at the Feeder (10) CinemascopeBeautiful Birds at the Feeder (8) Crop 2A thriving, lush meadow next to the river by which I walked, boasted a bountiful display of wildflowers and plants, insects and butterflies.

One plant, not particularly pretty in its leggy profusion but common enough in the British countryside, evoked warm memories of my childhood ~

Late Summer Seeds (2) EditedOn lazy, summer days spent riding my bike, running through fields and making up games with my brother, my imagination ran wild.

This odd-looking plant, all the better once dried up and brown and finished with its summer glory, made for wonderful provision as I ran my hands along its stems, causing hundreds of tiny, brown seeds to slide off like tiny peppercorns into my palm.

I carefully placed the seeds in one of Dad’s old pipe tobacco tins which I kept in our den, a  hollowed out hedge by the side of the lane.

And there, in the secret, safe cool, alone with nothing but summer’s breeze whispering of its plans before autumn arrived, I made soup in acorn shells, tiny bowls for fairies.

Back from my walk, a cheeky squirrel, up to mischief, was enjoying the bird food as much as the birds themselves.

Not the Squirrel Nutkin of my childhood woodlands, he of Beatrix Potter’s world with the glossy, red coat and fluffy tips to its ears, but he and his kin will surely make room for his cousins who, rumour has it, are making a come back to our shores.

  It looks as if this little fellow already has a fine, yellow hat in
readiness for the celebrations of their arrival ~

Cheeky Squirrel (5) Edited Cheeky Squirrel (13) EditedCheeky Squirrel (8) EditedBut later on, after Squirrel left and I continued to marvel at the feathery antics of my bird friends, I happened to glance down at the grass below.  And there, in such perfect presence and closeness was a visitor of such profound happenstance, that for a moment I could only marvel in stunned silence.

Once upon a time, such a creature was a more common sight, albeit curled up tight for protection upon hearing children’s footsteps approaching.

When those same children stopped still, and hushed for a moment or two, and blessed with the gift of childlike wonderment that we hope never to lose, they watched in perfect quiet as it unfurled its little self and wobbled away into woodland deep.

There she was, quietly waiting for her moment ~ Can you see one tiny ear and hands and feet, curled up beneath her prickly fur coat? ~

Mrs Tiggywinkle, Devon August 2015 (9) EditedTo think I almost missed her as she stopped by to say hello ~

Mrs Tiggywinkle, Devon August 2015 (7) EditedMrs Tiggy- Winkle herself.  Oh what a glorious gift indeed ~

 

Hedgehog sightings are worryingly too rare these days.  This was my first sighting since my childhood walks in the woods, since reading stories of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle and her woodland friends, lost as I was in magical imagination.

On this day filled with nature-blessed encounters, one more surprise of a more human kind awaited.  Walking back from the river, I had turned back to run my hand one more time along the stem of my childhood plant.  Just to feel those seeds glide off into my palm once again.

And then, as I stopped and bent down to adjust my shoelace,  there at my feet and glinting in the late afternoon sun on top of the shimmering, damp grass, lay a pound coin.

Some days nothing goes right.  On others, blessings abound.  George Washington Carver was right: In those woods, by the river, on a sweet, summer’s day in Devon, “Not only had someone been there, someone was there…”

Have a beautiful weekend.

Posted in Birds of a Feather, Childhood Memories, Nature & Wildlife | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 78 Comments

Bring It On! The Annual Bloggers Bash 2015

Well, I did it!  I made the Annual Bloggers Bash 2015 in London by the skin of my teeth.

Hubby and I caught the train to Waterloo Station on Saturday morning, then the Underground to Euston Station; a short walk and three hours later, there I was.

Not outside the British Library as planned (family commitments meant I missed that bit unfortunately), but outside the Pizza Express across the road.

I said goodbye to hubby as he left to spend the afternoon bimbling here and there around London as he likes to do, while I took a deep breath and entered the restaurant.

Busy and noisy, I scanned the room for my fellow bloggers.  I noticed a group seated at a long table hoping to recognise someone, not having met any of them in the flesh, so to speak.  Was I at the right place?  Were they still at the library?  Had I got the wrong day?

But all was not lost. The next thing I knew, someone called out my name and I was greeted with a wonderful hug from blogging friends Hugh Roberts, and then Geoff Le Pard   (sporting a dyed-red beard and forevermore now known as ‘Geoffle’).

With a spare seat for me at the end of the table,  it was great to meet long-standing blogging pal Dylan Hearn.  He lives in Suffolk so it was great to reminisce with him about my old stomping ground.

Dylan gave me some great advice about Twitter (I’m still resisting), Geoff and I talked about our writing backgrounds and they both said some lovely things about my blog.  Wow.  Humbled doesn’t even cut it.  Thanks so much guys!

I also chatted to Ali Isaac and Julie Lawford.  I hadn’t met either of them through blogging, but I had seen Ali around here and there in blogland.  Ali came to the Bash all the way from Ireland.

Both our daughters live with disabilities and I was proud to tell her about my Irish grandmother and of my hopes of travelling to Ireland one of these days.

It was great to meet Sacha Black who as requested by Charli, took this selfie:

Annual Blogger's Bash 2015 Sacha, Geoff, Hugh and me Courtesy Sacha Black

Annual Blogger’s Bash 2015
Sacha, Geoff, Hugh and me
Courtesy Sacha Black

Sacha did such an amazing job of organising the entire event and announcing the Annual Bloggers Bash Award winners with the help of her wonderful committee members, Hugh, Geoff and Ali, all of whom gave warm and humorous speeches.  Thank you so much Sacha!

Many congratulations to all the Award winners, and thank you again dear friends for your kind votes and also for the nominations.

After the meal, we made the natural progression to an Irish Pub just down the road where the Bash continued until late into the afternoon.  It was great to see blogging friend Esther Newton  and meet Ellie Marinova (who grew up in Morocco and has lived in London for five years) and chat with them both about writing and blogging and myriad other things.

I met brand new to me bloggers Graeme CummingSue Vincent and, albeit very briefly, Suzie Elliott.  Sue and Suzie have some great photos of the day on their blogs.

I wish I could have talked to everyone, but time ran out and Hubby and I had to think about getting our train back to Somerset.  But not before he turned up at the pub and Hugh so kindly bought a round of drinks.  So we had to stay a bit longer, naturally.

Not to mention, Hugh and I had some catching up to do with a promise for hubby and I to meet him for coffee next time we are down in the Brighton/Hove area.

After saying my goodbyes and sharing loads more lovely, warm hugs with one and all, hubby and I left the pub and headed out on the Underground back to Waterloo.  After a delicious meal at a Thames-side grill along the South Bank, we caught our train, arriving home just before midnight.  The end of a wonderful day.

Blogging friends met, new ones made, and I’m already looking forward to the next Annual Bloggers Bash.  Bring it on!

Posted in Blogging, Friendship, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | 100 Comments

Five Photos, Five Stories Challenge Day Five: The Parsley Incident

While I didn’t have the language barrier to contend with when I moved to America in the 1980s, I had plenty of new words and expressions to learn.

For instance, I once spent too much time walking around a supermarket looking for ‘Single Cream’ only to discover that there is no such thing.  Well, there is, but it’s called ‘Half and Half’.

This was just one of many revelations, but one discovery I made very quickly was my love of Denny’s.  Good American food in a real American diner, perfect for those evenings when I was just too tired to cook after a typical racing around like a blue-arsed fly kind of a day.

Best of all, it was cheap.

Not to mention the amazing choice of delicious pies displayed in a revolving show-case next to the reception area. Lemon Meringue pie was always my favourite, but I came to enjoy  Key Lime Pie just as much, something I had never tried until I lived in California.

So there we were, one early evening after one of ‘those’ kind of days, me and my three school-age children, seated in a booth at Denny’s waiting for our meals to arrive.  It was busy and we had to wait a while for our food. My hungry kids grew more rambunctious (I love that word) by the minute.

The puppies boys pawed at each other constantly, giggling and generally messing about,  Daughter fiddled and fidgeted, all three sending cutlery flying, a full glass of milk spilling.  I hissed at them to behave and settle down. And they did, for a second.

Our meals arrived at last, and from the start, Daughter, who was about four, became obsessed with her garnish of parsley on her plate, deciding not only that it made for a fun ‘toy’ to wave about the place, but also that she wanted to bring it home.

No problem.  What’s a bit of parsley to worry about?

Three Kids at San Diego Sea World 2003

Butter Wouldn’t Melt… The kids at Sea World, San Diego, California 2003 (c) Sherri Matthews

Our meal finished, paid for, Daughter skipped happily back to the car singing a song to her beautiful parsley while the boys continued to play-fight.  But as they tumbled into the back of the car, disaster struck: Daughter lost her parsley.

She started yelling, “My parsley, where’s my parsley!”

The boys tried to help her find it but couldn’t help laughing, then arguing, then laughing again, all against the backdrop of my daughter crying and shouting about her lost parsley.

Up until then I had not said a word, but gripping the steering wheel so hard that I thought it would break, I exploded.

“Shut up!”  I screeched like an out of control fishwife.  “Just. Shut. Up!”

Silence.

Nothing.

Whispering in the back, mad scrabbling, Eldest Son taking control, helping sister and brother into their seatbelts, shushing them…”We’ll find your parsley, don’t worry…”

Daughter crying.

Me breathing in and out like a crazed beast, staring wild-eyed at them from my rear view mirror, foam spewing out of the corners of my mouth, steam screaming out of my ears.

And that was that. We drove home in utter silence.  When we arrived back home,  Eldest Son quickly ushered his siblings out of the car and into the house, whispering, “Keep out of Mom’s way until she’s calmed down…”

Good boy.

I felt awful, of course, for yelling at them like that. I can’t bear it when I hear mothers screaming at their kids to shut up.

Funny though isn’t it?  Of all the great things we like to think we’ve done, our kids never forget moments such as these.   As in, “Remember that time when Mum completely lost it…” This one became known as ‘The Parsley Incident’ and of course, we laugh about it now.

And what of the dreaded parsley?  It turned up, albeit trampled and flat in the back of the car, and all was well.  No more tears, I calmed down, the evening ended on a happy note.

The next time we ate at Denny’s things went much better, but my daughter never did bring home another sprig of parsley, which is just as well.

*******

This is the last of my Five Photos/Five Stories posts, this particular story promised especially for lovely mommy of two beautiful boys, my friend Sarah of Lemon Shark.  Now you know Sarah!

Many thanks once again to friends Irene and Norah  for inviting me to join in, I’ve had a lot of fun with this challenge, and thank you so much to those of you for reading along with this series and leaving such lovely comments.  It thrills me to know you’ve enjoyed these posts.

Timing is a wonderful thing in life and as in blogland. My sweet friend Heather from Sweet Precision just happened to post a divine recipe for Key Lime Pie. It seems I don’t have to wait until my next trip to Denny’s in California after all, I can make my own! I’m also nominating Heather for this challenge, and as always, no obligation other than have fun!

Finally, I’m squeezing in a photo of a bench.  And what does this have to do with the above post you may well ask?  Well, absolutely nothing (sorry for the unabashed cheating here), but I promised my friend Jude a bench for July’s theme of ‘Unusual Details’, before she sets a new theme for August.

Stone Sofa Bench - Dordogne, Franch, 2012 (c) Sherri Matthews

Stone Sofa Bench – Dordogne, France, July 2012
(c) Sherri Matthews

The day I took this photo at a market in the Dordogne in France a few years ago, it was a blisteringly hot day, not unlike the kind of temperatures of a Californian July.  No Denny’s in sight, but plenty of cafes.  This stone bench caught my attention. A bit hot to sit on, but the cat didn’t seem to mind one bit.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Posted in Childhood Memories, Family Life, Photo/Story Challenges, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 97 Comments

Jewel Of A Surprise – 99 Word Flash Fiction

What moves one person may not move the other.   It’s all about perspective.

This week for the Flash Fiction prompt over at Carrot Ranch, Charli ask us this:

‘In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that has a shift in perspective. It can be a transition of one character or a change between character points of view. Go where the prompt leads, either technically or creatively.’

Close up of Kingfisher on River Avon, Bath September 2012 (c) Sherri Matthews

Close up of Kingfisher on River Avon, Bath – September 2012
(c) Sherri Matthews

Jewel of a Surprise

“I hate my birthday,” grumbled Jaynee, “something always goes wrong and now you’ve forgotten to book my favourite restaurant.”

“Don’t worry,” smiled Dan, “I’ve got other plans. I’ve hired a boat for the day instead, as a surprise!”

“But I thought that was, well, for another time…”

Moored on the river that afternoon, Dan poured two glasses of champagne, then reached into his trouser pocket for the ring. He dropped to one knee.

“Jaynee…will you…”

Jaynee gasped. A flash of blue on the riverbank caught her attention. “Shhh…don’t say anything. Look, a Kingfisher! This is the best birthday ever!”

 *******

This flash fiction is a BOTS (based on a true story) only so far as I really did see a Kingfisher on my birthday in September three years ago.  I am not Jaynee, I adore messing about in boats on the river as I’ve shared here many times. and I was absolutely thrilled that hubby arranged a boat trip down the River Avon in Bath for my birthday that year. Complete with a bottle of bubbly, of course.

I have always been fascinated by Kingfishers, but the closest I ever came to seeing one was one morning while sitting on the back of a boat on the Norfolk Broads: I caught a glimpse of  blue and orange, so distinctive to the majestic Kingfisher, but that was it.  It disappeared as quickly as I caught sight of it.

But many years later, this beauty stayed long enough for me to take the close up (Weekly Photo Challenge) used in this post. For me, this Kingfisher’s presence truly was the best birthday present.

Posted in Family Memoirs, Flash Fiction, Nature & Wildlife, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 68 Comments

Five Photos, Five Stories Challenge Day Four: German Shepherds And Guy The Gorilla

One day when I was little, I remember walking with my mother across the road to the mushroom farm to buy goat’s milk for our Siamese cats. This was nothing new,  but on this particular day two huge dogs appeared out of nowhere bounding towards us, barking their heads off.

Strangely,  I don’t recall feeling frightened, but they gave my mother a real scare.  She scooped me up into her arms as the dogs leapt up at us before the owner called them off.

Not a pleasant experience, but it didn’t stop us from owning dogs as family pets in the years to come.  In fact, after my parents split up and I  moved with my mother and brother to Suffolk, we adopted a gorgeous German Shepherd called Simon.

I adored Simon, but he was disobedient and hard to handle when we took him on.  By then fourteen, I took up the reins thinking that I could soon train him into the calm, obedient dog I believed him to be.

After a few ‘lessons’ and to test my training thus far, I got the bright idea to take him for a long walk through a waist-high field of barley, letting him off his leash and then calling him, expecting him to return obediently.

You are probably not surprised to learn that this aspect of my training failed miserably; not only did Simon take off for hours ignoring my frantic calls, but he didn’t return home for two days.

Local farmers congregated on our doorstep threatening to shoot him if they caught him worrying their sheep again, and so Simon’s days as a young German Shepherd running wild and free through the Suffolk countryside came to an abrupt end.

Me with Simon the German Shepherd, Field at the back of our house in Suffolk, July 1974 (c) Sherri Matthews

I asked my brother to take this photo with my Kodak Instamatic.  I wrote on the back: “Sherri and Simon in the field at the back of our house in Suffolk, July 1974”.   (c) Sherri Matthews

It seemed that my dad and his new wife also acquired a dog. One, hot summer’s day during the school holidays, we set off for a day out to London Zoo in Dad’s latest toy, a British Green MG Sports car.  Crammed in the back between me and my brother sat their massive German Shepherd, Bilbo Baggins. It was chaos and I loved it.

My love for German Shepherds will never wane despite one unfortunate experience for which I blame not the dog, but the owner.

When my middle boy was just a baby, my ex-husband (EH) got the idea that we needed a companion for our lovely dog Bonnie, a cross Labrador/Collie.   We had always harboured the dream of owning a German Shepherd and one day, EH saw an ad in the local paper:

‘Free to good home, German Shepherd, good with children.’

The dog was two years old and the owner, a young woman, was moving to San Francisco and couldn’t take him with her.  We arranged to meet her at her local park, EH told me, because the dog wasn’t keen on men and might not like the idea of us going to meet her at her house.  This news made me nervous to say the least, but EH said it would be fine.

But it wasn’t fine.   We got to the park and spotted the woman with her dog sitting by her side beneath a shady tree.  As we approached and only about twenty-five yards away,  the dog stood up to alert, snarled and bared his teeth as the woman tried – and failed – to control him.

That was enough for me.  I yelled at my six-year-old son to turn around and run while I swung the stroller holding my baby boy around so that I could run too, but I wasn’t fast enough.

EH tried to placate the dog – “It’s alright boy, we won’t hurt you…” – but this made the dog even more angry and it lunged towards us. The woman, who was timid and barely spoke above a whisper, didn’t hold the long-running leash firmly enough and was unable to rein her dog back in before he managed to sink his wonderfully sharp teeth into my lower right calf.

Not only did the bite hurt, a lot, but the dog ruined my favourite pair of jeans which I had only just been able to wear since losing my baby weight.  That really annoyed me, once I recovered from the shock and pain of the dog attack and of course, immensely relieved and thankful that my boys did not come to any harm and far worse hadn’t happened.

Finally and as a postscript, I return briefly to that trip to London Zoo. In the 1970’s, the zoo boasted of its most famous attraction: none other than Guy the Gorilla. I couldn’t wait to see him that day, but at first he sat quietly in one corner of his cage, minding his own business, ignoring his visitors.

My dad, in typical fashion, began to make gorilla-type grunting sounds to try to get Guy’s attention.  One or two, then a few more, and suddenly, much to the amazement and delight of the now gathering crowd, Guy looked over at my dad and got up on all fours.

With huge head and body, he shuffled over to the front of his cage and looked squarely into my dad’s eyes.

For a moment nobody dared move, a hush fell upon the crowd, all eyes on Guy.  Dad whispered to me and my brother out of the corner of his mouth, “Watch this,” and he grunted again and this time Guy grunted back.  I couldn’t believe it.  Then Dad went a step further: he grunted while he beat his chest in feigned gorilla action.

Guy looked, blinked and slowly rose to his full, magnificent stature.  With deep, brown eyes locked on my dad’s, he beat his massive chest and the pair of them carried on like that, back and forth, for several minutes.  The crowd went crazy and I’m sure I saw a grin on Guy the Gorilla’s handsome face.

There was no doubting who was the star attraction, but to me that day, my dad was the leading man. Quite what Bilbo Baggins thought of the show I’ll never know, but for me it was one of the best moments of my childhood.

 *******

Thank you again to Irene and Norah  for inviting me to join in with the five Photos, Five Stories challenge: ‘Post a photo each day for five consecutive days and attach a story to the photo. It can be fiction or non-fiction, a poem or a short paragraph and each day nominate another blogger for the challenge’.

Dear Irene recently lost her beloved Zach, a most handsome German Shepherd. She shares his story and how he came to be such a ‘faithful friend’ in her moving tribute post.

Finally, for today’s challenge, I am nominating new blogging friend Melinda from purpleslobinrecovery.  No obligation Melinda, but if you do decide to take up the challenge, I set only one rule:  Have Fun!!

Posted in Childhood Memories, Pets, Photo/Story Challenges, Suffolk Tales | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 78 Comments

Breathe

This flash/poem (if there is such a thing) is dedicated to my friend Charli, who in her grief for the recent loss of her best friend asked us to write a 99 word Flash Fiction about a breathless moment, to write about life.

View from Tower Bridge, London, of the River Thames with The Shard to the left  and the Post Office Tower in the far distance. Early evening, June 2015 (c) Sherri Matthews

View from Tower Bridge, London, of the River Thames with The Shard to the left
and the Post Office Tower in the far distance.
Early evening, June 2015
(c) Sherri Matthews

 Breathe

“There is no other,” he lied.

My eyes blaze. A question.

“Do I know this to be true?”

There it is, the answer in the swiftness of his downward glance before he attempts to speak.

But I turn from his feigned sorrow to gaze upon the sun-seared final remnants of another lost day.

Mindless grief tumbles like the dark waters below into wrecked acceptance, and I want to scream of his betrayal, to announce it with a herald far above the rumbling skies.

Instead, I walk into the troubled night knowing that in the morning, I shall breathe again.

Posted in Flash Fiction, Poems | Tagged , , , , , | 65 Comments