Brown Paper Sealing Wax And Vintage All The Way

Every Christmas, my present from Granny arrived by post in plenty of time for the big day,  its yearly arrival creating one of my fondest childhood memories.

But it wasn’t so much what was inside the parcel that made me so eager (and don’t get me wrong, Granny had a knack for finding the sweetest little books which I adored,  including the tiny Observer’s Book of Birds which turned me into a Bird Twitcher of sorts – serious bird watcher, I should say or, at least, so far as a ten-year old with toy binoculars can pretend to be – and would probably be a collector’s item today), but rather the parcel itself.

This is because Granny’s parcels were always wrapped in shiny, brown paper and tied up with string, the small, tight knot held firmly in place by a blob of dark red sealing wax. The centre held an image, smooth and flat and probably Granny’s initials, from her personal sealing wax stamp.  More than anything, it was that blob of wax that fascinated me.

Strange, I  know. But if I was a strange child, then I’m even stranger as an adult: I could barely contain my excitement when I found this little treasure at our local garden centre last week  in the ‘vintage’ toy section of its Christmas display…

A Post Office set! I had one of these and oh the fun I had playing office with the miniature notepads, parcels and labels, and, of course, the rubber stamp.  Not quite up to Granny’s sealing wax standard, but it would have to do.  And it must have done, as many years later, I got a job at the Post Officer working behind the counter with stamps a-plenty. Had to go away for a six week training course and everything.

I wonder if children today are interested in such a game with so much else to amuse.  Perhaps my ‘vintage’ generation has more to offer than we think. Back then, I knew one thing for sure:  how much I coveted Granny’s sealing wax stamp kit.   It seemed quite magical to me, and she was the only one I’ve ever known who had one.

A different kind of vintage attracted the kids at the garden centre, with a lot more excitement garnered around the Game of Thrones display than the Post Office game.  No surprise there. And it’s always nice to bump into Jon Snow.

Many Christmases have come and gone since Granny sent her last parcel.   Today I take in brown cardboard parcels ordered on the internet and not a piece of string, never mind a blob of wax, in sight. I wonder if Granny would have gone for the convenience of online shopping given half a chance? It wouldn’t have surprised me if she had; Granny had her traditions, but she took to modern advances with gusto if it meant an improvement on what she knew.

But how wonderful it would be to open the door and find the postman holding one of Granny’s brown paper parcels sealed with wax just one more time…

I received books as gifts throughout my childhood, all read avidly. Many I no longer have, but I came across this little pile while recently unpacking after our house move. An eclectic mix from my generation growing up in the 60’s and 70’s that has travelled with me a few times across the shining sea…

Peppermints in the Parlor is Eldest Son’s, one his childhood favourites and read together countless times, but the others are mine from days gone by.  I had forgotten about Peter Pan and Wendy, the book at the bottom.  It’s inscribed inside ‘To darling Sherri, with lots of love from Auntie Peggy’.  She was Dad’s older sister, someone I last saw when I was a teenager.

Last year in my Christmas post, I linked to books newly published by debut author friends, but this year, I’m way out of the loop. The aftermath of a house move and taking care of other ‘stuff’ remains all-consuming, but I do know of one book recently published which I would very much like to share with you:

Author D G Kaye (blogger and friend Debby Gies), through her own trials, has very recently launched her latest labour of love, her May/December memoir: Twenty Years: After “I Do”

Through ‘Reflections on Love and Changes Through Ageing‘, Debby shares her unique and inspirational stories from her twenty year marriage to a man two decades older than she:

‘In this personal accounting, D.G. Kaye shares the insights and wisdom she has accrued through twenty years of keeping her marriage strong and thriving despite the everyday changes and challenges of aging. Kaye reveals how a little creative planning, acceptance, and unconditional love can create a bond no obstacle will break. Kaye’s stories are informative, inspiring, and a testament to love eclipsing all when two people understand, respect, and honor their vows. She adds that a daily sprinkling of laughter is a staple in nourishing a healthy marriage.

Twenty years began with a promise. As Kaye recounts what transpired within that time, she shows that true love has no limits, even when one spouse ages ahead of the other.’

Debby’s beautiful book, inside and out (like the lady herself) is available here (Amazon’s universal link for all countries).

Next Tuesday 19 December, I’ll announce, with great excitement, the winner of my Murderous Musings Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest.  And the Summerhouse gets to proudly display its first ever Flash Fiction Rodeo Badge!

And more huge excitement on the way with the imminent release of Carrot Ranch’s very first Flash Fiction Anthology! I’ll re-blog Charli’s announcement post when the news breaks and then Happy Christmas!

Despite my dismal attempts at visiting blogs, thank you again so much to those of you who still visit the Summerhouse, virtual or otherwise.  Thank you for understanding my lack of visits. Much of what I want to achieve personally, on and offline, sits on the back burner for now; keeping up with any social media is pretty difficult, making me a rubbish online friend.  But I do not want to disappear and I have great hope that things will start to ease soon. I am optimistic, if nothing else.

One more thing, in case you wondered: that little red tin on top of the books in my photograph? It’s a button tin.  Because everyone needs a tin for their buttons…right?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #8

This is it, the last ride of the Rodeo! TUFF: The Ultimate Flash Fiction by Charli Mills, Lead Buckroo, is live at Carrot Ranch!

A brief intro: ‘TUFF delivers your elixir. Yes, it’s called TUFF, a play on the acronym and the idea that it’s a tough challenge. It’s five steps, five flash fictions! Yet, it is a tool, a gift to you that you will understand because it will resonate with what writing flash fiction has already taught you.’

If you’re ready to write five flash fictions in one, then this is the contest for you. Deadline 11:59 EST November 6, winner announced December 26. As always, full details below, no entry fee and a cash prize!

This is the last of my reblogs for the Rodeo, which also lists all the dates for the winning announcements for all 8 contests. My ‘Murderous Musings’ winner will be announced on December 19, here and at Carrot Ranch.

I’ll be back here as soon as I come up for some air from the packing boxes and look forward to those long promised visits. And good luck to everyone ink deep in NaNoWriMo. It’s time to ride and write like the wind!

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

TUFF: The Ultimate Flash Fiction

by Charli Mills

What if I told you that writing flash fiction will get you to where you want to be? Would you scoff, or consider the possibility? Would you think I’m handing you a magic elixir? Ah, an elixir. Let’s pause a moment and talk about the hero’s journey.

If you answered the call to participate in the Flash Fiction Rodeo this past month, you answered the same call every hero hears: the one the hero reluctantly answers. We think of heroes as Thor or Wonder Woman. Yet, the hero’s journey calls to us all. Winnie the Pooh and Frodo and Mary Tyler Moore are all heroes. It’s about the path:

  1. The call: the opening scene in which the hero is called out of the ordinary world.
  2. The test: the story develops conflict through tests, challenges, temptations, allies and enemies.
  3. The cave

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Halloween Music And A Homecoming

In February, we put our house up for sale.  Nine months later and four weeks at the Goose Farm, we moved into our new home last week.

For five of those weeks, my cat Eddie had to stay in a cattery.  The owner there could not have been kinder and more lovely.  She made sure my boy, who is eleven years old and has never been away from home before, was well looked after.   I visited regularly which helped, although it broke my heart as time went on having to say goodbye to the sound of his plaintive meows.

I collected him yesterday, and as you can see, he’s already settling in on his familiar spot…and a quiet Halloween for him this year…

Thank you again to all of you who have shown such amazing support for the Flash Fiction Rodeo running at Carrot Ranch.  I was thrilled to host my Murderous Musings contest last week. For those of you sitting on the fence, you still have until EST 11:59pm tonight to enter! Judges Hugh Mike and I can’t wait to read all your deliciously devious entries.

I’ll reblog Charli’s Ultimate Flash Fiction Challenge after this.  Her final Contest #8 at the Rodeo is a corker.

Sharing emails about the contest (and again, thanks so much to Hugh and Charli for stepping in at the Ranch while I was otherwise assailed by packing boxes), I let Hugh know we had moved. I told him about a photo I had taken on the last day as I stood at the top of the stairs for a moment, wrapped in the silence a house holds in that strange space between hello and goodbye.

Sunshine blazed into the hallway below through the partly open front door.  Minutes after I took this photo, we walked outside, handed over the keys to the new owners and drove away, not looking back. I promised Hugh I would post the photo to mark the beginning of a new chapter…

And that was that.  Now to new things and hopefully some kind of blogging and writing through the unpacking madness, ha.

Meanwhile, here’s a special treat for you: A fantastic collaboration on the Halloween Theme song between two of my favourite and talented musicians, Liam John Norton and Nick Estrada.  I’ve shared Nick’s music here from time to time.  That’s him (yep, my boy…!) on guitars.  Enjoy…

Happy Halloween!

 

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Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #7

Wouldn’t you know it. The same week I host Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #7 over at Carrot Ranch, I move house. It was supposed to happen in July, but how else to keep up with my broken record/cliché fashion Summerhouse phrase, Better Late Than Never?

But more on that later, because today, I’m thrilled to reblog Murderous Musings: When Good Folk Turn Bad at the Rodeo.

Wicked wranglings of the heart?  Great. You’ve got until 11.59 EST 31 October to write a 109 word flash fiction weaving a murderous vibe through an everyday setting.  A shock twist wins bonus points. As always it’s free entry with a cash prize. Read on for all devious and dastardly contest details.

Huge thanks to Hugh Roberts and Charli Mills for holding down the fort in my absence (this in haste).  And huge apologies to D Avery for dropping the ball and not re–blogging her Bucking Bull Go-Round Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #6, but there’s still time to enter if you gallop over today: https://carrotranch.com/2017/10/24/flash-fiction-rodeo-6/

Judges Hugh, Mike and I can’t wait to read your murderous musings and really hope you’ll join us. And look out for the final Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #8 live next Tuesday with Charli Mills’ ‘The Ultimate Flash Fiction’.

Have fun everyone, see you soon and remember, watch your back for this one: you never know who might be lurking in the shadows at the Rodeo…

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

Murderous Musings:

When Good Folk Turn Bad At The Rodeo

By Sherri Matthews

Saddle up, tighten your reins and pull on your riding boots. And while you’re about it, watch your back, because wicked wranglings are afoot at the Rodeo. Western or English? Doesn’t matter. Thrown off a few times? Never mind. Devious, deadly or just plain dangerous, it’s time for some murderous musings.

Long fascinated with the dark side of the human heart, I read a lot of True Crime. Not for the gory details, neither for the whodunit: I want to understand the why.

As a memoir writer, I need to explore the true motives driving the story. I wonder how many of us ask ourselves, if truly honest, what might we be capable of if pushed too far? What would be our not so perfect storm?

But it never occurred to me that I could explore this…

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Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #5

Time to Twitterflash at the Rodeo!  C. Jai Ferry’s 9×11 Twitterflash kicks off Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #5 at Carrot Ranch. She wants us to complete a 99-word story using Twitter on any subject or in any genre as long as it is exactly 99 words and made up of 11 sentences of exactly 9 words each. Each individual sentence should be tweeted, one at a time, for a total of 11 tweets (plus one tweet with the title, if you choose to use one). C. Jai gives us 10 days for this challenge, deadline is Sunday, October 29 at 11:59 pm EST. If Twitter isn’t for you, why not enter your story as a challenge in the post comments at Carrot Ranch? And remember, there’s no entry fee, a cash prize of $25 for the winner who is then entered into the Best of Show with a further $50 prize. Read on for full details…happy Twittering everyone!

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

9X11 Twitterflash

By C. Jai Ferry

We’ve Passed the Halfway Mark!

We’ve made it to Challenge #5, and we’re still alive and writing, so for this challenge, let’s see how you do with some rather unnatural constraints.

Carrot Ranch writers are used to the challenges inherent in writing a 99-word story. Flash fiction requires a delicate balance between brevity of words and richness of story. Becky Tuch at The Review Review offers the following perspective on flash fiction:

Part poetry, part narrative, flash fiction—also known as sudden fiction, micro fiction, short short stories, and quick fiction—is a genre that is deceptively complex. […] Distilling experience into a few pages or, in some cases a few paragraphs, forces writers to pay close attention to every loaded conversation, every cruel action, every tender gesture, and every last syllable in every single word.

[The link above also offers some great insights from experts…

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Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #4

Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #4 ‘Scars’ is live now! Memoir writer Irene Waters asks us to write a double length Carrot Ranch flash, or 2 chapters of 99-words each (198 words total), tell a story that shows a scar. It can be memoir, other forms of creative non-fiction, any genre of fiction or a BOTS (based on a true story). Deadline 11:59 pm EST October 26. Read on for all details and submission guidelines, and as always, good luck one and all!

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

Scars

By Irene Waters

Welcome to Contest #4 of the Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Rodeo. This competition is free to enter and carries a cash prize of $25 for first place. Winning submissions will automatically be forwarded to the All-Around Rodeo Winner which carries an additional cash prize of $50. Naturally you can’t have a competition without rules and as each competition leader has devised their own rules I suggest that you read those for this competition prior to submitting your piece. The rules follow the competition topic.

The Topic

As a memoir writer and reader I am very aware that it is the situations in life that have a massive impact on the memoirist, those events which leave scars, whether physical or emotional, that are the chosen part of the life to be relayed. As a flash fiction writer delving into fiction, a genre with which I have…

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Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #3

Flash Fiction Contest #3 from Jules Paige live at Carrot Ranch! This is flash fiction with a difference: Jules asks us to use a form of poetry called a ‘Septolet’. Never heard of it? Me neither, but it looks to be a fun challenge. Read on for all the details and good luck one and all!

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

Septolet in Motion

By JulesPaige

Words are cast like magic spells. Some may debate the text in which such lessons exist. Religious works could be a type of Grimoire since often as children we are taught rote prayers that will lead us away from temptation. Other schools of thought may define Grimoire as a book devoted to just the teaching and instruction of magic and those amulets and talisman that would be endowed with gifting the owners with better fortunes. I quote this next line from the Wikipedia entry on the subject, “In many cases, the books themselves are believed to be imbued with magical powers, though in many cultures, other sacred texts that are not Grimoires (such as the Bible) have been believed to have supernatural properties intrinsically.

I would beg to argue that any book that transfers us to another world or jolts our imagination could be a Grimoire…

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Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #2

Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #2, Geoff Le Pard’s challenge Little and Laugh, is up and running live at Carrot Ranch! Geoff wants us to make him laugh. That’s it! Deadline Midnight EST October 13. Read on for full details and keep flashing!

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

Little and Laugh

By Geoff Le Pard

My father was a man of many aphorisms, epithets, old saws and clichés. A know-all, really.

But one quote he shared with us that not only stuck but resonated was from an American poet, Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Laugh and the world laughs with you

Weep and you weep alone.

Laughter, in all its forms has taken centre stage in nearly every phase of my life, from irony to farce, pratfalls to priceless, life-enhancing fits of giggles. Whether it was as a defensive mechanism or merely because I enjoyed it, I don’t now remember but I’ve always wanted to make people laugh. Over the years I’ve tailored my delivery, become sensitive to my audience and played everything and anything for a laugh. I’m one of those people who you can always trust with a secret…unless it’s genuinely too funny not to be shared. In…

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Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #1

The Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest at Carrot Ranch is off! Contest #1 Leader, Norah Colvin, kicks off with ‘When I Grow Up’. Next up: The Little and Laugh Flash Contest by Geoff Le Pard on Tuesday, October 10. Enter the contest for judging as instruced in Norah’s post, or you can write a flash in the comments for the challenge only. And remember, entry for the contest is free with a cash prize for the winner! The deadline for Norah’s contest is AEST midnight 10 October. All the best to all the candidates!

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

When I Grow Up

BY NORAH COLVIN

Do you remember being asked this question as a child? Or contemplating it, even if you weren’t asked? Do you recall your childhood thoughts?

I remember having no aspiration prior to the age of ten when I decided I wanted to be a teacher. Although I loved writing, creating stories, songs, poetry and plays; writing was a part of who I was, an integral part of me, I didn’t consider a writer as something I might be.

It is often mooted that we are educating today’s children for a future of which we have no knowledge, a future we can’t begin to imagine. But hasn’t that always been so? Has any generation known exactly what life will be like for those following? While the rate of change may be increasing, change has always been.

Though it may sometimes appear otherwise, change creates more…

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Meanwhile Back On The Farm

Hello World.

Remember those first two words WordPress put on our About Page?  When, all shiny and brand new we ventured nervously, hands shaking as we hit the publish button, into blogland for the very first time?

Clueless as to what to write about in my first post well over four years ago,  I  blogged about my garden, my Summerhouse and, of course, my Robin.  Sweet Robin.

And so today since that very first post I say not, ‘Hello World’ but, ‘Hello Dear Friends’.  But I am also saying goodbye. Not to you, but to the way things were.

In early June, I signed off here to prepare and pack madly for our upcoming house move. ‘See you on the other side of the packing boxes,’ I said, or something like that.  Things were always going to be somewhat complicated with selling two houses (ours and Mum’s) and buying a place with an annex, but it seemed reasonable at that point to expect to be done and dusted and moved in by mid-July.

But…always that Big But…without going into all the logistics (okay…real reason: this is a public domain and I’d get carried away and end up with an expletive-ridden post essay book…), on the day of exchange of contracts, the entire chain of seven parties collapsed. Stress?  What stress…

What followed over the next couple of months was a pretty nightmarish time. The good news is that I wrote like the wind on my memoir.  The focus kept me grounded and sane.

Due to the utterly frustrating vagaries of our English conveyancing system, it is possible to go all the way to exchange of contracts (which usually happens two weeks or even less before completion (close of escrow)), without anything being legally binding.  Meaning, anyone can drop out, for any reason or no good reason at all, right at the last moment.  But the way it affects people’s lives is quite awful.  Enough said.

But then…on the Friday of our last Bank Holiday weekend of the year at the end of August, a miracle!  It was all back on and long story short, we moved out of our house last Friday.  One week ago today.   I still can’t believe it really happened.

Here’s where we are now, with the geese…

 

Oh I wish they were ours, but the truth is, we’re not out of the woods yet, not completely, with Mum’s sale and our purchase still working to completion to late October.

Meanwhile, we are living in our van not down by the river, but on a working goose farm.  And we love it.

Of course, we have our own Animal Farm to house temporarilly.  My beautiful black cat boy Eddie is at a cattery only minutes away so I can visit regularly.  Oh I miss my boy…but he’s settling down well despite in all his eleven years never having been away from us or his home. Hopefully he and family life will soon be back to normal…

The Chinese Button Quails are down to one.  Poor Mooncake has outlived all his wives, daughters and sons, his last wife (daughter?) having departed a couple of days before we moved.  We have Moonie with us, happy in his cage and awaiting a new wife as soon as possible.  Most people take their dogs camping. We take a Button Quail.

The farm cats have already made themselves known, fascinated both by Moonie and the inside of our van…

As for Grumpy Bunny, well, he’s at Aspie’s.  And not very grateful for his new circumstances, I might add, but he’ll get over it.

One challenge has been the internet, but that’s solved because I now have a dongle.  Yep. A handy-dandy dongle, ha! Now I can do stuff! A dongle is the cure on a farm with no wi-fi; hooray for mobile broadband!

My usage is limited, but I’m greatly relieved to get this post out.  It also means I can announce Charli Mills’ hugely exciting Flash Fiction Rodeo launching at Carrot Ranch next Thursday, October 5th…

There’s no entry fee but plenty of cash prizes, and it runs through October every Tuesday and Thursday, open to all! I’m truly thrilled and honoured as one of eight leaders to run my competition – Murderous Musings: When Good Folk Turn Bad at the Rodeo –  on 26th October both here at the Summerhouse and the Ranch:

All competition details will be announced in my next October 26th post. And huge thanks to my partners in crime co-judges Mike and Hugh Roberts who so kindly agreed to co-judge the entries! I’m getting pretty good at using that lasoo…

Check out the Event’s Page at Carrot Ranch for more details of all the competitions and the other wonderful leaders running them.   And the Rodeo Fest Kick Off Party goes live on Facebook October 3rd announcing the cover reveal of our very first Flash Fiction Anthology!

I’ll try to visit as my internet allows before my next post on October 26th (miss you friends!). And then let’s get our Murderous Musings on and have some fun!

Meanwhile, I’ll settle into our new life in our van on the goose farm. My summerhouse has gone, but its essence remains; I hope you’ll still share the view with me wherever this blog goes. And always, in rain or shine.

Today, the view looks like this…

The garden I tended and nurtured for almost ten years now belongs to another, but it’s not the first time I’ve left one behind.  And a new garden awaits.

We discovered a resident hedgehog living by the Summerhouse in the weeks before we moved.  Made sense when I wondered why the lack of slugs and snails this year.  I hope Mrs Tiggywinkle (or Mr…) will continue to enjoy life there…

And so it is…

Goodbye Sweet Robin in the Snow…

Goodbye pretty garden…

And, last but never least, goodbye Summerhouse…

But hello to new adventures. And perhaps it is time to once again say, Hello World.

Love Sherri x

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