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July 1, 2020 at 7:25 am #8482
Six great entries and difficult to choose a winner, as although all but one use the theme of Midsummer Madness, each also encompasses Midsummer Magic in the quality of the writing. Diverse interpretations; equal merit.
First, Sandra’s contribution. This promised drama and menace from its opening and I loved the way Sandra’s unique descriptive style in her first paragraph manages to intensify that by the inclusion of natural beauty (glory of a wiped-clean sky) and everyday life (supermarket wagons). The intrigue and drama are skilfully built up as the plot unfolds until we reach the shiver-inducing ending.
Andrew’s story immediately evoked empathy for the MC sweltering in that queue, which I could easily picture from his descriptions – particularly liked the rotating fan ‘dutifully finishing its arc before hanging its head in shame.’ The back story here is equally important and I loved the idea of the ‘wonderful Midwinter madness’ leading him to the Midsummer Madness sale queue, preparing for the arrival of a baby when he might otherwise have been holidaying in Greece. The image of the breaking sterilizer seemed somehow to emphasise how quickly life can change.
John conjured up an idyllic scene (gently undulating sea of quicksilver…) but immediately the serious plight of the hapless MC was revealed. He considered he’d taken sufficient precautions for his little adventure but was let down by the ‘gremlin’. Wry humour came with the realisation that he was more fearful of his wife’s reaction than the actual severity of his situation stranded at sea. I took to this character and was relieved when he made it to shore!
There is a lightness of touch and humour in Libby’s writing and yet she takes us deep into the inner life of Mia, a character who at first seems self-assured. I love the image of her own shadow giving her a Eureka moment as to what is wrong in her life and the way that the story changes from the everyday to the seemingly mystical (Mia felt an odd vibration). ‘Starfish on the grass’ subtly reflected the pose Mia had struck as the piece opened. I also loved the images of psychedelic roses and the rose scent gateway and I imagined travelling with Mia through to ‘the someone else’ she longed to be.
Squidge takes us back in time with her literal interpretation of Midsummer Madness. The dialogue provides a strong sense of the characters’ relationship and their courage in the face of a daunting situation and through it we are given a vivid image of the ritual in the woods. I ‘felt’ the emotion and tension and was definitely left hoping for a happy ending for this couple and their unborn baby.
Athelstone’s somewhat surreal story at first seemed like a typical ‘mobster’ tale in the way the characters are described and the dialogue used, but the ‘magic’ of their situation was revealed with the mention of Mr Nicholas Old ‘giving us one more year of life since way back’. Who? How? Why? What hold had he got on the men? I put these questions aside as I read on and smiled at the idea of them spending a year as clowns. Then the pleading ‘make me young. And a girl again.’ introduces yet another dimension!
Thank you all for your contributions and the very enjoyable reads. As I said previously, it has been difficult to choose a winner but I am going to give the honour to Squidge, as I feel her story gets to the heart of true madness and the mystique that has surrounded Midsummer throughout the ages.June 23, 2020 at 9:09 am #8456
Gentle reminder – only one week left if you are thinking of entering the June competition. 🙂 Would love to read more of your creations on the theme of Midsummer Magic or Midsummer Madness.June 1, 2020 at 4:41 pm #8349
Thank you, Libby – what a lovely surprise to find I am the winner for the interesting topic you set us. Loved the other entries and enjoyed going back down memory lane myself. I have many memories from that happy childhood, but having to focus on the school journey was good writing discipline! Less is more and all that jazz…
Your critique of my little piece was a great boost. 🙂
Thank you too, Sandra for your kind words.
I have an idea for the June competition and I hope everyone will warm to it.May 14, 2020 at 11:13 am #8297
Down Memory Lane and Beyond
I am nine and today choose to leave for school by our front gate. I step down into Sandy Lane. The tall trees shielding the convent opposite rustle their leaves as though whispering the secrets of a cloistered life. If I walk up the lane to the top road I will pass the allotments with their topiary birds unable to fly to foreign climes. But I walk down the lane, the sickly sweet scent of privet hedge blossom wafting over me. I glance at the house of the scary old lady who wanders the lane in her nightdress. We children do not understand she is ill. I hurry past the abandoned sand pit where an evil presence is rumoured to harm any child daring to climb over its fence. I glance at the forbidden territory of the off licence on the corner before turning onto the bottom road which will take me to school. It has nothing of interest until I reach the little sweet shop with its displays of sherbet lemons which fizz on the tongue and flying saucers whose papery coating sticks to it, so I busy myself with imagined adventures.
The road bends and there is the falling down row of houses where once my curiosity had led me to explore amongst the rubble; feeling brave and nervous all at once. Had they been bombed in the war? Were people killed? I shake off these troubling thoughts and continue my journey.
The school comes into view and I wave at the lollipop lady before entering the playground where at morning break my best friend and I wave at the engine driver as the steam train puffs grandly by on the nearby railway line. Where does it travel to on these daily trips?
The school day ends. I choose a different way home, across the green and through the churchyard where one day I’d seen a tiny white coffin being carried into the church.
On the top road I scatter sad thoughts and conjure up the seaside where we will soon be on our annual week’s holiday. Then down Lowlands Avenue I quicken my pace and soon reach our home’s back gate. The long garden with its abundance of vegetables, fruit trees and flowers seems to greet me and I smile. It had been my early childhood playground which had fuelled my imagination as I played happily alone.
400 wordsMay 1, 2020 at 6:49 pm #8224
Congratulations, Libby. Well deserved – loved all the entries, but something about a mysterious ‘real life yet uncompleted sitter’ becoming a long lasting inspiration tugged at the heartstrings of fellow writers I think.April 4, 2020 at 8:20 am #8105
A Victorian Writing Box
Crafted in walnut with brass trimmings and lined with deep blue leather, the box is labelled discreetly as being made by Cawston, a portable case maker of 27 Burlington Arcade, Piccadilly. I can only imagine its complete history and wonder whether it might have journeyed with its original owner in fine carriages from London to country estates for lengthy house party gatherings.
It sits on a small antique mahogany sewing table which, I have been told, may have been an apprentice piece. They reside in close proximity to my modern desk and computer.
Both were gifted when a maiden aunt on my husband’s side of the family died in the late 1970s. The box is special to me because of its connection with writing and my love of that art. Before the advent of emails I was a prolific paper and pen letter writer and still enjoy penning the occasional missive. Surely this box has been witness to numerous letters expressing love, excitement or sadness?
The box is a handsome piece of craftsmanship, solid and somehow reassuring and yet possessing a beauty and elegance of form.
It is home to my smaller notebooks, which, in turn, secrete words I occasionally revisit when seeking inspiration from my initial thoughts, storylines or general jottings if a particular work seems to have lost its way.
The maiden aunt who bequeathed this box was an interesting person and perhaps a difficult one in her dotage, which is understandable for she had a troubled childhood and youth. It is believed the box was given to her by her foreign lodger during wartime and suspected that he was also her ‘gentleman friend’. It is good to think that she found special love and comfort in her life, if only for the duration.
I am not sure that this rather prosaic account adequately describes why the writing box is special to me and why it remains in a prominent place in our home after so very many years, but I do know that I have experienced warm feelings as I have attempted to share its essence.
I sincerely hope that this objet d’art will give pleasure in a similar way to whoever becomes its owner after I shuffle off this mortal coil.
375 wordsApril 1, 2020 at 8:07 am #8081
Thank you, John for setting this competition and for your kind comments. Raine is, indeed, a worthy winner – we all need ‘all that energy and power’ especially now to keep us going! Loved the other two entries too. When I joined I said I probably would not be entering competitions as I needed to concentrate on my own writing at the moment, but I could not resist this one …March 27, 2020 at 9:07 am #8063
Spring’s Beautiful Bounty
‘No-one ever said that Life would be a bed of roses.’ Spring 2020 is proving that old saw to be true in no uncertain terms worldwide.
But Mother Nature continues her cycle for the eye’s appreciation and the lifting of spirits; for inspiration too.
Unseasonal buds have appeared on climbing roses which reach up to the warm Spring sunshine. Earlier battered by fierce March winds and torrential rainfall, they have fought back with a determination to survive and flourish.
At ground level in the loam the Spring flora is predominately exhibiting shades of yellow. There is the pale lemon of fragrant hyacinths, the delicacy of miniature narcissi, daffodils such as Wordsworth extolled, primroses and cowslips. All as beautiful when contained within a walled garden as they are freely growing in the wilds of nature.
A shrub stands tall in bloom with blousy pink blooms giving way gradually to pale green leaves. A stately camellia is showing its red flowers amongst its dark green glossy leaves.
In my fanciful thoughts, I turn to the olive tree planted many years ago in remembrance of a dear, olive skinned friend and appreciate its seeming wisdom and its symbolism of peace as it watches over the garden in a protective manner. It, too, has given us a bounty this Spring in the form of a tiny crop of black olives, yet to be tasted.
In a sheltered corner of the garden an unassuming aubrietia with its spiritual purple flowers takes me back to childhood. In those far off days another such, planted under an apple tree in the small plot that was mine to tend, was home to fairies.
In these worrying and uncertain times, I feel it is even more important to count the blessings of simple pleasures and voice appreciation and gratitude for the beautiful bounty of Spring.
(306 words)March 22, 2020 at 8:12 am #8025
More congratulations due for another Denizen. So pleased for you, Elle. – JillMarch 22, 2020 at 8:10 am #8024
Congratulations, Janette – may the following journey prove equally successful. JillMarch 22, 2020 at 4:52 am #8023
Thank you Jane and Raine. My immediate intention is to revisit/re edit a book for younger children and my Lucy Rainbow ‘opus’ with a view to submitting them again. Also to continue working on something which combines new prose and my past poetry. May never be a market for that but it will give me great satisfaction and may be of interest to family as it is a type of memoir.March 9, 2020 at 5:14 pm #7875
Love your railway blogs, Richard. Not only excellent writing and interesting to me subjects, but because my father and grandfather were railwaymen – rising all through the ranks. Your stories offer me nostalgia and many mixed emotions which, to me, is a mark of rich writing. Thank you. 😊. Write on as our friend Tony would council. Jill.March 4, 2020 at 5:19 pm #7864
Very late to this, Hilary and sorry to hear of your disappointment. I have always loved your writing and it does sound as though you are within a whisper of novel publishing success with all those requests for a full manuscript. Others have already said much that I agree with. Best wishes. Jill