Exercises, Meetings

THURSDAY 5th MAY AT THE HIDEAWAY – GROUP MEETING

Please give The Hideaway or Karen your orders, please.

Our task for this week is to write down words you associate with Spring, then using some of them write a story in 300 or fewer words about SPRING.

These are optional tasks so if you want to share some of your own work with the group for critique or advice then please bring it along.

Exercises

HOLIDAY EXERCISE

I know sometimes the holidays can get a bit boring if you are on your own or not seeing many visitors or even just missing doing what you love…….writing!

I have an exercise for the ones that would like to do something creative, this is, as always, a choice so stay calm and just write. Even if you don’t have time to edit, that’s ok as you are writing and that’s what you love to do.

These three photos are the prompts so pick one of them and write something, this can be a story, poem or prose but no more than roughly 2,000 words.  If you are a planner of any sort could we see your planning when you read the story to us, this is optional but might give someone a helping hand or ideas of how they could plan a story. Or do you want to try planning? This is a good place to have a go, as I am sure we will have a good Q&A when we read the stories, which will be on the 13th January 2022.

For the illustrator’s, would you combine these photos for a book cover or just use one? Describe how you would go about doing a front cover using these pictures, you will have to make up the genre or title so we know how the cover goes with the story. 

Have fun, we look forward to reading some in the new year.

Stories

A FEW STEPS TO HEAVEN BY JANA CHATTERS

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A FEW STEPS TO HEAVEN

 

Late Spring 2002 didn’t make any impression, though Summer was almost on the doorstep. Breezy, changeable, not especially warm, typical English weather. To properly wake up, I walked in to my garden and looked around. In every corner of that green, I could see plenty of work and duties; too much for two pairs of hands.

As newly arrived Senior Citizens to Folkestone, we adore our house and garden and our plan for renovation and change of design was endless! After my breakfast, when I started to enhance a flower border I could feel a pricking pain in my spine. Took several minutes to get relief with the help of deep breathing and slowly walked to the chair. Sadly looked on the number of tools which I had prepared. I knew that my husband would be surprised at what still needed to be done. As a spiteful act, the sun appeared and with it I got a new idea. Walk for health! While tidying up the tools in the garden shed, there looking at me was my best friend – my purple bicycle. No, no, today not, my friend… but I couldn’t break away from it!

Later on, walking gently by our road, leading my bicycle, I created a new plan. Remembering a saying of my Physio Teacher at High School, Active Rest is The Best, I decided to obey him!
Aiming in the direction of the Leas, crossing Sandgate Road, I noticed two cyclists – seniors enjoying easy, of gentle speed, riding down to Sandgate. Great! With silent thanks for this gentle hint, I followed them, full of joy. Without any effort, after a few minutes got the end of Sandgate. I slipped to the coastal path for a stop, to decide on the next part of my journey. Sat on the beach and with amazement, adored the turquoise sea and the tranquillity of the seaside, only several walkers passed by.

Although only the first time at that spot I recognized that I had to turn left to get home. Taking the coastal path, just after Sandgate Castle, I could see a male-cyclist who has stopped for a chat with friends.
”Excuse me Sir!” I addressed him, ”Could you help me? I don’t know this area and need to take an easy way to get to Folkestone!”

”I could! Maybe a few ways!” Answered that chap with cheeky smile. ”The road you probably don’t like, but after about hundred metres, by that coastal way, you can find three paths to the Leas, but only one is easy! Or down to the Harbour. It would be best for you!” With a glimpse he recognized, he was speaking with a senior.

With thanks I waved at him and within a few minutes I passed the first exit with stairs. That is a bad one! I deduced. Next one smooth exit near the Mermaid restaurant, was closed for building work. I could learn from one worker that I should continue to the Harbour or go back to the previous exit, where there is the zig-zag path with several steps only.

After a few minutes I found it, but it was again the one, I had seen before! Grabbed my bike and managed those forty steps to get to the Parking on the Lower Sandgate Road. I stopped, breathing with relief and looked around. In front of me I could see stairs again, on the right a small road to the Harbour or left to Sandgate. No way!? After a short hesitation, I took my bike again under my arm and with that idea, proceeded onwards and upwards, hoping, that I could see a landing. Soon I started puffing and had to have a rest.
”Wow, that is training for Tour de France?” Mid aged couple, descending stairs, were wondering and watching me with a light smile.
”Not at all, that’s a mistake only!”, I answered and continued. After several steps , I finally could see a landing! What a relief! Stopping for breath, I noticed a beautiful view – the

water of the English Channel! At that moment I was approached by a group of walkers. ”Do you really go in the right direction? The easier way is to go down, not up!” They were joking and laughing.
”I know, but I want to try the next way, for a change, what will happen?” I answered and moved on.

Then I could spot the roof of the Grand and Metropole on the Leas. It was as a dose of energising drink!
The last part of 140 stairs I made so easily, I couldn’t believe it. Standing with amazement and adoring the Panorama of Folkestone’s Victorian pride. The flower bed in front of the Hotel, as a colourful lace, always to attract everybody who passed by. At this moment I had the feeling of being twice amazed, with my achievement and …

”Hello my Neighbour!” The senior lady, of about my age, who I knew from our street, pushing a baby buggy with a grandchild. Waving and smiling at me.
”Oh, you are sporty!” She added as a compliment.
”Thank you, I do cycling occasionally only, but I like it!”, still visibly out of breath.
”Just fancy, what I saw last week?!” With widened yes, Lady: ” Three lads, with racing bikes, suddenly appeared just at this spot, where we are standing now. Sweat dripping from their faces, puffing and from their speech I knew, they had climbed by these steps from Lower Sandgate Road!” Turning her head in disbelief. ”Maybe, they have climbed from the coastal path, with another 40 steps?! This is hazardous, isn’t it? In my opinion they are mad!?” Waiting for my response.

”I agree … there are enough areas to choose for that sport!” I answered with a little stammering.

”I am glad, you use the advantage that lovely Leas! That is really a gorgeous area! Mainly for relaxation!”
With smiley face and bye, she left.

Only now, I come to realize, why I am here? Where did I leave my backache?

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Jana is a new member of the writing group so it is a pleasure to have her story on our site, including Jana’s photographs which go so well.

When Jana was recoverring from an illness she did some mosaic work which I would like to show you. I think it is wonderful.

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A very talented lady who will be a lovely addition to our group.

Please send any of your work that you would like to see on our site to myself, Karen at karensworld.writer@yahoo.co.uk

 

Stories

MONOPOLY BY PAT JOHANN ELINOR

Monopoly:
The exclusive possession or control by a few over much and over many.

The possibility for monopoly comes in many guises. For example a famous board game with the aim of becoming the richest player, or monopolising a conversation, or a child attempting to keep all the toys for itself, or one person making a slave of somebody else. Another quite insidious form of monopoly was once found among those claiming to help others.

The following information represents a heavily edited version taken from a chapter titled ‘The Charities’ found in my book ‘Alex: The Considered History of a Childs Survival’.

During the Victorian era, there were hundreds of charities each helping groups of people with real demanding needs and almost all of these charities could boast of doing a great deal of good. But there was as you might expect some duplication of giving and dishonesty among recipients taking place.

In wanting to monopolise Christian thinking, the inveigling religious sect with its feast of ever failing dates for the Supreme Being’s day of retribution still manages to heap scorn of ‘false prophet’ on other would-be prognosticators.

The ‘Charity Organisation Society’, from here on known as ‘COS’, was another self- appointed guardian who saw its opportunity to control the mindset of all Victorian charities with legislation designed to restrict charitable giving whilst claiming to use a more scientific approach in helping the destitute. Octavia Hill a founder member aided the formation of ‘COS’ in London in 1869 through the aggregation of personalities with potent affiliations, who essentially represented the interests of the privileged upper classes, and who at that time attempted to dominate with the moralizing of the Anglican Church.

Having taken the moral high ground for itself, ‘COS’ displayed a perverse approach to helping the underprivileged in wanting to maintain the status-quo between givers and recipients. Only when an applicant passed its stringent investigation did COS recommend they be directed to a charity for assistance or sent to the workhouse. ‘COS’ believed that restricting assistance from the state was the correct way to help the impoverished while focusing on the poor’s own responsibility for their plight, rather than on the uneven handed manner that Britain’s industrialized economy was being run. ‘COS’ refused to recognise that wages kept catastrophically low by wealthy industrialist and landowners without government interference or a meaningful moral compass was the real cause of much of the poverty seen during the Victorian era. And yet in order to acquire exorbitant profits, a class of poorly paid adults and children were cynically trapped into a lifetime of abject poverty.

‘COS’ accepted the political indifference toward the poorest in society, and convinced itself that they could starve the effects of impoverishment by making its outcome as unpleasant as possible for its victims. Interestingly, the Anglican Church was reluctant to give up slavery until forced by the Colonies Abolition Act of 1833 demanded by the anti-slavery movement, first begun among the British public when led by Quakers. The Anglican Church did not, however, recompense any of its freed plantation workers with its £8,823 of compensation granted to it by the English government for relinquishing its 411 slaves on the Codrington Caribbean sugar plantation.

 

No matter how desperate the need was, ‘COS’ refused to give help to destitute children of parents with a dubious disposition, instead offered a modicum of help only to families that showed it reverential deference and fully complied with its ethos. ‘COS’ took Thomas Barnardo the founder and director of homes for poor children to task for apparently ‘squandering money on guttersnipes’, and for not checking first if the child’s parents were of a good moral character before offering such help. Basing its actions entirely on false rumours, ‘COS’ also attempted to close the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children’s charity, instructing its own members and even appealing to the public to withhold all financial support.

‘COS’ was pertinacious in its objections to government furthering assistance and even lobbied Parliament against improving the state’s ‘Poor Law’ relief, complaining that the provision of free school dinners and free healthcare for the low paid, would debase the poor and make them lazy. Octavia Hill dismissed the idea of a universal old-age state pension on the assumption that it made the recipient “less self-reliant”, whilst turning a blind eye to those who were no less self-reliant when deriving their income from dividends with no real effort.

Mr Honeythunder’s ‘Haven of Philanthropy’ from Charles Dickens novel ‘The Mystery of Edwin Drood’, is described as a bullying London charity; it was understood by Charles’ readers to be a caricature of ‘COS’, which, with its harsh and paternalistic view became known as the ‘Cringe or Starve’ charity by its frequent critics of the day.

The good news is that despite the efforts of ‘COS’ and the Catholic Church to discredit him in the courts, Thomas Barnardo did not hesitate in continuing to offer help to children. He established over 50 orphanages in London and at the time of his death in 1905, at the age of 60, the charity was running 96 homes. He transformed the lives of nearly 60,000 boys and girls, who may so easily have vanished into the blackness of prisons and the abhorrent workhouse. In testimony to his work, thousands of people lined the streets in the East End of London to pay their respects at his funeral. In ‘The London Times’ newspaper is written: ‘It is impossible to take a general view of Dr Barnardo’s life work without being astonished alike by its magnitude and by its diversity and by the enormous amount of otherwise hopeless misery against which he has contended single-handed with success.’

In the final analysis of attempting to monopolise others, the ‘Charity Organisation Society’ failed in its parsimoniousness to reduce pauperism or establish meaningful trust among both poor communities and other charities, primarily because of its intrusive and patronising investigation of family circumstances. And as the Vice-Chairman of the Newcastle Board of Guardians, William Todd stated, “the moment you add organisation to [charity] … its lustre … light and life are gone.” Its middle-class volunteer base started to decline as early as the 1890s and with the establishment of a full welfare state during the 1940s ‘COS’ went further into decline. In 1946 ‘COS’ renamed the charity ‘Family Welfare Association’.

 

In September 2008, ‘FWA’ also changed its name in an attempt to improve its image. *After the charity spent £25,000 on rebranding itself, Helen Dent the organisation’s chief executive said, “Service users hated the ‘welfare’ stigma and the name gave an old- fashioned impression. We replaced the word ‘welfare’ with the word ‘action’ because it’s more positive and dynamic.”

*https://www.thirdsector.co.uk/family-welfare-association.

I have no doubt that ‘Family Action’, the current name for the ‘Charity Organisation Society’, who now run parenting programmes and offer small education grants to disadvantaged families would see Octavia’s version of charity spinning in its grave. Today ‘Family Action’s financial support comes almost entirely from UK government contracts and the State’s franchised lottery; a form of gambling that has paradoxically led lots of families further into a glutinous swamp of entrenched debt.

‘COS’ might be described as having failed in its personal quest for control, and yet it did do some good things that we still benefit from today. But on insisting that it knew best, it attempted to destroy in others a natural inclination of offering real hope along with practical help to those with nothing, but the prospect of early death in the most miserable of circumstances.

 

Stories

‘MONOPOLY’

The word was MONOPOLY and this is what some of the group members came up with.

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Bored Games

I returned home as Hungry as a Hippo,

Wondering what to eat that night.

Guess Who Was cooking again?

Battling over these choices as we

Move like ships in the night.

Battleships some might say.

 

When we met it was like a connection.

‘Connect for life,’ He said.

He had a monopoly on my time.

My heart.

Ripped out

Cut it out in an Operation.

 

Sometimes we Scrabble for words.

Sometimes I wonder if he has a Clue.

All I know is that this love is not a trivial pursuit.

Samantha Stevens

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I remember rainy weekends when as a child,  I would play Monopoly with my mum.  To start the game,  we had to throw a double six. Sometimes this would take ages, this would infuriate us both. Finally, we began to play. My favourite counter was the car,  although sometimes I used the ship.  Mum usually had the boot. Round and round the board we went.  My car was like those on formula one tracks,  each go round the board was like going around a track circuit.  I enjoyed being the banker and deciding which properties to buy. I usually bought the green,  blue and dark blue properties and left mum the rest.  When I played I was usually unlucky and spent lots of time going to and in jail,  (what for I really don’t know).  I had to throw a double to get out and sometimes it took ages.  Mum, however,  seemed to sail around the board.  Sometimes she’d land on my properties but didn’t have to pay rent as I was in jail once again.  Eventually, I threw a double and was released from jail.  This concerned me,  I’d spent most of my money and had less than £500 left. I threw a double,  then another,  but on my next go I landed on the pay income tax £200 square. With bated breath,  I apprehensively made my way around the board.  Unfortunately,  I landed on a couple of mum’s properties and had to pay rent.  By this time mum had bought houses on her properties.  Mum had an uncanny knack of avoiding mine,  (she definitely had luck on her side).  I landed on the take a chance square and read the card,  it said ‘Advance too  Trafalgar Square, do not pass Go and do not collect £200’. Mum grinned, she had a house on Trafalgar Square.  I screamed in frustration,  my eight-year-old self indignant at this. Grudgingly I paid out the money. Now I was flat broke, the game was over, mum had beat me at Monopoly yet again.

Suzannah Gisby

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Monopoly 

Manasseh had timed his arrival at the Strand Bridge to perfection. He prided himself on punctuality; always had done. He was a proud man. His agent (the phrase still gave him a thrill) would be along soon.  A chill wind was blowing – autumn was on its way.  Something about it, and the choppiness and greyness of the river, reminded him of his youth, when he and his brother would ride into those little towns on the Baltic with a cart so full of bearskins from the Carpathians that they could hardly drive it.  He smiled at the memory but it felt like a lifetime ago. He had come a long way since then.

Along the river, to the east, lay his home, between the Jolly Jack Tar and the shop that sold chronometers and sextants.  A little cramped with seven children, but, he would like to think, a happy home and it would do for now. More appropriate accommodation might be in the offing, if things continued with this plan, so audacious that nobody else would ever dare put it into action and yet so simple.   His “competition” – if one could describe it thus – was right now on a prison hulk in Portsmouth, awaiting the boat that would take them to Van Diemens Land.  He had seen to that; had made sure his name was not associated with theirs, had learnt never to put all his eggs in one basket, if that was the right English phrase.

A woman leading a black cow brushed past him roughly and disappeared into the crowd. He rubbed his coat fastidiously with a large handkerchief and slipped his hand into his capacious pocket.  All present and correct; two hundred Prussian banknote; notes that he had had printed himself, but who would ever know the difference – ready to be exchanged for coins of the British realm, of the same value. His attention was caught momentarily by a black carriage parked in the street nearby, its windows closed.

Halfway across the bridge – just as arranged – was his man, a hand raised in greeting.  He walked slowly over to him – he never rushed anywhere, not his style.  Out of nowhere, a bony hand grasped him by his shoulder and a voice hissed “Gotcha,” accompanied by a strong smell of onions and beer.  Worse odours were to assail him when, after a struggle, he was pushed unceremoniously and headfirst into the black carriage.

With as much dignity as he could muster, he asked the officious, grinning oaf sitting opposite where they were going.

“Newgate, mate. “

“Not for long,” thought Manasseh. “Not if I can help it.”

Debby Jones

 

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Monopoly: US or UK?

A Piece of Nonsense

St Charles Place or posh Pall Mall,

Vermont Avenue or Euston Road?

Pancakes and waffles or Eggs Royale?

Depends I guess on your own postcode.

Kentucky Avenue or The Strand,

Park Place apartments or Park Lane?

Theatre on Broadway or West End?

Luxury living or fancy hotel chain?

Reading Road or Kings Cross Station,

Ventnor Avenue or Coventry Street?

Which is the pride of their home nation?

I’d wager they both smell just as sweet.

Atlantic Avenue or Leicester Square,

Marvin Gardens or Piccadilly?

Would you wish to shop here or there?

Or am I being just plain silly?

The game’s the same either side of the pond

Full of guile and cunning, and just plain greed,

Which is why I am hopeless and cannot respond,

I much prefer Scrabble I have to concede.

Tony Quarrington

Stories

The Four Umbrella Sketch (with thanks /apologies to Monty Python)

Behind the clean, efficient counter of the lost property department at Euston Station lurks a dense jungle of paraphernalia left by passengers, including mobile phones, sunglasses and purses.

And a vast and assorted collection of umbrellas.

The office has been closed for hours, and the last train has long left the station.

All is quiet – until four of the department’s, hopefully temporary, residents break away to the furthest corner and engage in earnest conversation.

The first umbrella, a Liberty print ladies version, opened the debate by stating that “you won’t believe how I ended up here. My owner brought me from North Wales on a shopping trip. By early afternoon she had accumulated designer bags from Harrod’s, John Lewis, Harvey Nichols and many other high-end stores. She turned down the offer of a bag to put me in, as it was raining steadily outside at the time, and I was called into immediate action.

I had a premonition even then that, in the panic and confusion that was bound to accompany the train’s arrival at Crewe for her connection, I might be left behind. And so I was, though I did get an extra trip back to London.

I suspect the half bottle of Prosecco she drank on the journey didn’t help”.

A foldable child’s Peppa Pig design replied “mine was a young mother with two kids, both with their own umbrellas. I “belonged” to her five-year-old daughter, and the six-year old boy carried one in the shape of a particularly ugly frog. Their mum had brought them to London for the day from Hemel Hempstead to visit the Natural History and Science Museums.

The day was going well until it was time to catch the train home. As they gathered their belongings for the return journey, mum discovered that one of the umbrellas was missing and harangued her daughter for leaving it somewhere, the precise location and timing being a total mystery at the time.

Well, I can exclusively reveal now that I was left in the ladies’ loo opposite Platforms 1 and 2.

Oh, and by the way, that blasted frog survived the ordeal”.

At that point, a multi-coloured beach brolly interrupted, insisting that “they’re both conventional ways of being left behind. My abandonment was much more interesting. They brought me, along with their two teenage boys, from Watford Junction on a day trip to the seaside. I spent five hours on Viking Bay Beach at Broadstairs, shielding them from the whistling wind and intermittent drizzle, I blew inside out at least twenty times (fortunately my spokes are strong and I didn’t suffer any lasting damage), and how did they repay me?

Left me to go round the entire Circle Line three times, being pushed from seat to seat (I nearly gone thrown onto the platform at Shepherd’s Bush Market), before a kind commuter picked me up and brought me here”.

A large, black, Ministry of Defence affair with hand-carved ash handle had been listening to these laments with increasing irritation. He could not restrain himself any longer and haughtily exclaimed “that’s all very interesting but incredibly boring. My owner is a senior civil servant currently employed on top-secret government business. It is as highly stressful as it is well remunerated and requires high intelligence and discretion. He needs to relieve himself – literally – on occasions or it would all become too much.

So, his Tuesday afternoons are set aside for visits to a professional lady along the road from here at King’s Cross. To cover his tracks he always walks from his office in Whitehall and, due to today’s inclement weather, I was recruited to join him. We arrived at the appointed time and he promptly disappeared to carry out his business. At least he had the good grace to prop me by the door to the flat rather than condemn me to witness the proceedings from the inner sanctum.

At the customary time of four in the afternoon, the door opened and, as immaculately attired as he had been when he arrived, he took his leave. However, with the sun strenuously trying to penetrate the tattered curtain in the lady’s bedroom, thus restricting his vision, he omitted to collect me on his way out.

So how did I get here, I hear you ask?

It transpired that, rather than, as I would have expected, she resided in the hovel that hosted the afternoon’s divertissement, the lady in question actually commuted to her place of work on a daily basis, just like the office workers and retail staff that frequent the concourse here from the early morning until midnight.

After attending to three more gentleman callers, she duly took the 18:57 to Birmingham New Street, but not without making a short detour to this establishment to place me in its safe custody.

I must say I was surprised but equally gratified, to learn that the entertainment industry is as subject to gentrification as any other these days.

It makes one proud to be British”.

By Tony Quarrington

Stories

UMBRELLA

Umbrella

Warning some mild nudity

If I climb to the very top of my house and look at an angle through the attic box room window I can see into my neighbour’s garden.  Well, I could when old Mrs Rogers lived there but not so well now that the new people have moved in.  They are a couple, well I think they are a couple but I don’t know if they are married.  Who can tell these days?   People just move in together and everyone just accepts it, not like when I was a young woman.  I know that they both go to work because I have watched them going off in the mornings. He doesn’t wear a business suit. He wears one of those polo shirts with a logo on it.  I don’t think he is a builder though because he is quite clean when he comes home. Maybe he works in a shop or is a waiter or a barista (whatever they are?)  She usually wears smartish clothes, sometimes a skirt but more often trousers.  She has one of those name tag things around her neck with the council logo on. Perhaps she is a social worker or a librarian.  I suppose she must be quite respectable to work for the council but they take all sorts now.

Anyway, I can’t see into their garden so well since they have put up the new fence.  A dirty great six-foot thing, all I can see now is a bit right next to the house. I dug out Reg’s old binoculars but even with them, I can’t see much more.  What do they want to do in their garden that they have to keep so private?

Last weekend they were laying a patio.  Well, I think that is what they were doing because I can’t actually see that far but I watched him carrying in a whole lot of slabs and they have been out there all day working.  I know the weather is warm but does he realise how awful he looks with no shirt on.  He has a beer belly and tattoos.  It looks disgusting.  He was wearing shorts too with socks and boots.  What is that all about?  I saw that when he was taking things in from the car.  I can’t see his bottom half in the garden now because of that wretched fence. She was out there with him in a little strappy sun top that showed off her bingo wings.  I couldn’t see what else she was wearing but I expect it was those cycling shorts.  Does she realise what she looks like? She really doesn’t have the figure for things like that.

On Wednesday they had a delivery.  They haven’t asked me to take in parcels yet but I expect they will soon as they are both working but he seemed to be at home on Wednesday.  It was a very large box with the name EzySpa on the side.  I quickly looked it up on Google and it would seem to be an inflatable hot tub.  Well, that will really bring down the tone of the neighbourhood.  They are the sort of things that people on ITVB have – not that I ever watch it but I have seen the trailers.

 

It is warm again this weekend so I expect they will be out in the garden again, probably in their new hot tub doing whatever it is they do.  You can’t swim in them and apparently, they are full of germs like Legionnaires disease.  You wouldn’t catch me in one.  I can’t see it but I can hear them because now they have put up an enormous sun umbrella that completely blocks my view.  Whichever way I stand I can’t see into their garden at all.

They have got friends round because I have seen them arriving and they have parked their cars outside my house.  She was out in the front garden hugging them and doing those ridiculous air-kisses and wearing one of those full-length floaty dresses that people wear as cover-ups on the beach.  Not really suitable for a dinner party I think.

I took my little doggy out for a walk past their house this evening.  There is a tree just by their garden where he likes to do his business so I have to stand there for some time.  I can hear them in there bold as you like, laughing and talking.  I can’t quite hear the words because there is music playing. I can hear the clink of glass though and the sound of splashing water.  I expect the women are drinking Prosecco and the men are being very macho and drinking beer straight from the bottles, a disgusting and unhygienic habit. Why can’t they use glasses?  Maybe can’t be bothered with the washing up.

They are still at it and it is past 10 o clock at night.  They have fairy lights in the garden and I can see them shining from my attic window but I can’t see what is going on because of that blessed umbrella.  It is all very decadent.  I expect they are all frolicking around in the nude.  An alfresco orgy in a quiet residential street in Folkestone.  What is the world coming to?  I could call the police and have them arrested for indecent exposure except for the fact that I can’t actually see them.  Anyway, the police don’t bother with social disturbances now.  They would probably just dismiss me as a prudish old woman.  I won’t be able to go to bed until it has finished otherwise I might have disturbing dreams.  Reg and I never even entertained the idea of things like that.

By Jane Cottle

Stories

UMBRELLA

Our last task proved a bit difficult for some, including myself. What can you do with the word ‘UMBRELLA?’ Here are what some members created.

MY UMBRELLA

It was the 25th of July, 2019,
The hottest day the U.K. had ever seen.
But in the evening, the heat faded away,
Degrees of temperature dropped by how much, who could say.

As we sat here in Chambers in Folkestone that night,
The heavens opened from an almighty height.
Claps of thunder & lightning were abound,
While people outside were rushing around.

There was just one thing on my mind,
So I checked my bag to see what I could find.
Listening to Carol Creasey as I searched,
I knew what would happen, as my head lurched.

When time came for me to leave I knew,
Just exactly what I had to do.
I raced to my car getting wet in the rain,
Yes,I’d left my umbrella there… oh what a pain!!

By Michael Dowle

Umbrellas in the Square Mile

A sea of spiders,
Oil, waxy skins.
Upturned,
The outstretched aluminum legs- Jointed.

Disjointed.
My spider- red, dangerously drowning in the obsidian ocean.

A waxy web
above my head
Protects me from the rain.

By Samantha Stevens

The Umbrella

The rain poured down, rattling on the roof-tops, it hadn’t stopped for hours, the never ending sheets of water had nearly put her off leaving home. She couldn’t wait any longer. She had promised she would meet him in the park where they always met.

Umbrella in her gloved hand, she tiptoed out of the porch, cautiously, carefully, discreetly closing the door behind her. It was dark. It had been dark all day but now the sun was setting, darkening the street, giving her a blanket to hide under. She couldn’t avoid it any longer. He would be waiting. Would he be soaked? Would he have sheltered in the bandstand? Would he still be there?

An expensive wooden handle reminded Sally that she must perfectly reposition her father’s umbrella to the stand where it stood, in the large spacious hallway, he would need it in the morning. Opening the umbrella’s wings to their fullest span, shielding herself from the driving rain, she stepped out onto the quiet street. The tapping of water droplets against the pavement, spat back up into her pathway. Sally ignored the puddles and began to walk down the street with as much composure as she could muster. Would he wait for her? Would he still be there? She wondered as she walked.

The park was only a short distance away, although the wide brim of the brolly hampered her view, she knew the way well. The brolly prevented those she passed by to recognise her increasingly well-known features, the rain helped to hide her identity. No-one wondered where a young lady of her status was going alone at this time of the evening. The umbrella provided anonymity, an anonymity she welcomed, especially since her father’s rapid rise to power.

Rather rigid and black, the umbrella reminded her of her father, a rather somber and serious man, who rarely smiled at his only child; Sally. Sally walked through the wide iron gates of the park, the umbrella swung as the wind picked up, pushing her towards her destiny. Instinctively she knew he would be there, waiting for her. She saw his decrepit umbrella before she saw him. Arms broken, slightly wounded by the wind, the umbrella tilted as he

turned his head to seek Sally out. Did he sense her presence? She thought there was something between them – inexplicable, some force that drew them together. A force of nature.

The park was busier than the street, despite the weather, young couples still met and walked together, grabbing moments of happiness when they could. Sally stopped and watched as he ran towards her, his umbrella flip-flopping in the wind and rain. He came closer towards her and she saw his smile widened, she felt the rain on her face as her father’s brolly lowered and eventually dropped to her side. He couldn’t control his umbrella as the wind took it and pulled free from his hand. It blew away, dancing in the wind, so powerful the spindly arms cracked and folded.

Sally raised the umbrella to provide shelter for Tom. She welcomed him under the protection of her father’s umbrella offering his arm to Sally, she took it fondly, confidently. It didn’t matter to her that he was a poverty stricken writer. The cliche was almost as satisfying as the disapproval she knew her father had for men like Tom.

Meeting in the park, as the rain poured down, the lamps began to glow as the day became night. The rain slowed to a drizzle and even the grey sky could not dampen Sally’s happiness. They walked for an hour, whispered secrets of their love were captured in the ceiling of Sally’s father’s umbrella. The hallowed roof would not reveal their plans to run away and marry, when she was 21 and inherited her mother’s wealth.

Sally looked like her mother, she knew it tortured her father daily. Fair curly hair that she wore up most days. Slim figure, pale skin; alabasta. The eyes blue grey, changing colour, like the sea, sometimes grey, sometimes blue, often somewhere in between. She reflected how would her mother feel now her daughter was in love. Would she be pleased? Would she chastise Sally for her rather rebellious choice of Tom?

Thomas Blakeson was a good choice really, his care-free and artistic nature hid a rather conservative young man, who despite his current career choice, would eventually return to the family business, paper mills in the North. Tom’s father had frequently reminded Tom that we would always need paper. She drew him closer, her hand covered his on the handle of the umbrella, she grabbed hold of his arm tighter. It was nearly time to go. They would meet again tomorrow and repeat the journey again, around the park, passed the artificial lake and back around passing the bandstand. This time she didn’t know this would be the last time she ever saw him.

He returned the wooden handle of the umbrella to Sally’s gloved hand, pausing a little longer than necessary, touching the soft leather. He gripped the glove. His hands became rigid and stiff. His face paled then reddened. He looked down at his hands, struggling to focus. He let go of Sally’s hand turning to go. She waved him goodbye, feeling disturbed by his abrupt change in temperament. She began to walk towards the gate, the rain seemed to drive down from the black sky. The umbrella and the rain protected her from the scene unfolding behind her as she quickly walked home, avoiding the increasing puddles.

Tom sank to his knees, his hands were burning, it was like they were on fire. Stretching his hands to the sky, the rain soothed the scalding hands. He began coughing and retching. The blurred shapes around him, began to spin as he peeled over. Shaking, sweating as the rain continued down. Shouts of help came as passersby noticed the man convulsing on the wet path. Umbrellas gathered as help came, sheltering him as the blood poured from nose, ears, eyes. Ladies turned in disgust, as screams of shock were drowned out by wails of pain. Tom lay dying in the rain.

Sally returned home and shook the wet umbrella before returning it to the elephant foot umbrella stand, she noticed her father’s umbrella was still there. Whose umbrella had she picked up? It was identical to her father’s. He would need it tomorrow, whilst walking to the court. Judgement day – would the jury find the defendant guilty? She hoped and prayed. At least her father may have some time for her after the murder trial had concluded. She had no doubt he would win. He always did.

Peeling her wet gloves off, she threw them onto the dresser. She would ask Nancy to throw them away, the leather was worn and strange patches were wearing away at the surface. She didn’t like them much any more, rather outdated for a lady of her standing. The fashion was for rather more delicate gloves. She had been glad of them today. They had protected her from the rain. Protected her from her last breath.

Ignorantly comfortable; she did not know those worn leather gloves had saved her young life from the deadly and dangerous umbrella that stood next to her father’s, in the elephant foot stand in the large hall.

By Samantha Stevens