It is a truth almost universally acknowledged that dragons have a strong affection, not to say penchant, for recycling. We Somerset dragons are no different from this normative conclusion. We have therefore looked back through the mists of time to see what we were writing and posting here on our blog in the long distant, oft forgotten, past – of April 2017.
Each of us dragons have chosen one post from that month.
We hope you enjoy our choices.
Chosen by Lois, written by Richard 18th April 2017
The hanger. Creative non fiction.
I drove into the cavernous car park below the hanger. There was still room for several cars. It was dark. The steel beams were painted a drab grey. The high tensile bolts joining the steels glinted in the minimal yellow sodium lighting. Some had been tightened more than others during the initial assembly, depending on their loading. They feel this is unfair and still torque about it.
There was no escaping it. It had to be done. We were all determined not to fail this time. We had prepared. We were ready. I stopped the car. We all got out. I dropped the seats to give more room in the load space. We closed the doors, the boot, and I pressed the zapper to lock the car. This was essential here.
We walked over to the massive lift. ‘Maximum 25 persons or equivalent’ it warned sternly next to the poster prohibiting smoking. What is the equivalent – 4 cows, a small car? There was no minimum warning so we went up with the lift mostly full of empty, but it seemed pleased at the light load. It rumbled happily up from the car park as it fulfilled its destiny. There was no choice of destination – it was top or bottom, just a binary decision. The lift dreamed of being promoted to a new life, a new title – perhaps a freight elevator – perhaps in New York, in one of those modern warehouse flats or even a high speed elevator, with a carpet and a mirror, carrying rich business types up to their offices on the 51st floor of a skyscraper. Even lifts have dreams.
The doors opened automatically at the entrance into the brightly lit hanger. Here there was a lingering smell of something familiar – formaldehyde? What would we find here? Would they still be here? Had they all been taken away – disappeared, never to be seen again?
We followed the marked route of huge, coloured arrows on the floor. it was forbidden to deviate from this route, some had tried but…We stayed together for safety. No one wanted to get lost in this huge space. No one wanted to get separated from the group, there was safety in numbers. We were watched over by the black and orange coated guards in everything we did.
There were pallets and crates piled high. We could not see what we had come for. They must still be here. We could not bear to come here again. There were two bedrooms. There was no one sleeping. We did not intend to stay for the rumoured teenager sleepover, we are too old. There was no privacy. Then we saw a lurking trolley. We grabbed it and pulled it along with us. It had rear steering which made it hard to control. We turned it and pushed it backwards, that was easier, not out of control any more, we were now in charge. We knew we would need it. They were going to be heavy, we knew that, we had planned for it.
I looked up at the hidden space far above us in the near darkness, through the false ceiling. It was painted black, hiding the cable trays and ventilation ducts hanging from the concrete roof in the gloom. What was up there that they didn’t want us to see? What was hiding above the pretend ceiling, why was it so brightly lit?
We were now in the kitchen area, no comforting smell of food. Simple rations were available from the industrial style canteen further along the route. Food was only allowed on completion of a mission. The set menu was meatballs today – with optional gravy.
We turned the next corner. There was a computer on a stand, set high above the floor. One of us logged on, entered the index number and looked at the cross reference to the storage bay, 52B. We checked the on-line floor plan, we now knew where to look. We set off along the route. We followed the arrows on the floor, urging us on in our quest. We passed some Venetians. Why had they come all this way, only to see nothing? Then there were rows of plants. Huh! Did they think we would be fooled into thinking this was a garden – in a hanger?
We finally got to the storage bays. We could see them marching away from us , safe in their orangeness, strong and solid, secure in their strength, dominant in the gloom. We searched. Where was 52B? Here was 27, now 36, now 47, getting closer. There it was, 52B. There were still some there, as the computer had promised – I don’t always believe computers. We wanted two. We helped each other to lift down two from the gantry and loaded them on to the trolley. We turned the trolley, it was now too heavy to push and steer backwards.
We were stopped at the barrier, we had to show a membership card to show that we were authorised and scan the bar codes, to keep the computer happy and ensure it would not start telling lies. We were released. We had got through. Back in the lift. Still no smoking allowed. A heavier load this time but still lighter than 4 cows, or a small car. Then descent with a gentle regretful sigh – no New York today. The doors opened, we were almost free. We thanked the lift for its service.
I zapped the car. It winked back at me in silent recognition. We would soon be free. We loaded both of them into the car, flat in the loading space. One of us closed the boot. Another reversed the trolley back towards the lift, a brave move – a trolley with steering learning difficulties. The rest got in the car. I started the engine. I locked the doors. We were ready. I started off. I drove up and out of the car park, away from the big blue box. I accelerated. We drove around the roundabout. We were now on the M32. We all gave sighs of relief and shared high fives. We had done it. We were free. We would never dare to go back. We needed something, coffee perhaps, but alcohol would be better, after we left the hanger behind us, to mitigate the trauma. Now for a drink in the Hen and Chicken.
We were the proud owners of two bed side cabinets from IKEA – flat packed of course.
© Richard Kefford
My books are on Amazon – Here
Chosen by John, written by Gillian 23rd April 2017
A ticking clock the only sound
The staleness of an unaired room.
Brass elephants march across the mantle
Heavy curtains block the sunlight
Spotless nets add to the gloom.
Uneasy chairs, hard wooden backs,
Woolwork seats in pinkish hues
Stand to attention on a carpet
Vaguely Turkish in design
With geometric sombre shades.
A lacy mat exactly centred
On a gate-legged bamboo table
Supports an empty Chinese vase
Brought back from visits to the east
By a long-dead merchant Uncle.
The works of Charles Dickens braced
Side by side behind glass doors.
Never opened, but their presence
Adds a gloss of education
To the polish on the floors.
Warm scones from the oven, oozing butter,
A dipping finger in the mixing bowl.
Coffee always at the ready, “sorry though
It’s only instant, there’s the biscuits”.
An ever-ready smile to lift your soul.
A Grandad who just loves to feed the ducks
And has a bag of bread crusts at the ready,
Doesn’t mind a hopping, skipping grandchild
Ever asking questions, never stopping,
Until “Whoa there, my lovey, take it steady!”
Family members always welcomed,
Little time for fancy frills or dust.
The china rabbit living on the windowsill
Lost an ear from over-loving fingers,
But still he’s fondled, loved and fussed.
© Gillian Peall
Chosen by Richard, written by Gillian 18th April 2017
THE VILLAGE FETE
I told the Vicar last year I wasn’t going to do it again. I wasn’t getting any younger, I said, and its time some of the more agile ones took over. All that setting up and taking down, it’s too much, me with my legs.
So he thanked me very nicely, and even mentioned how hard I’d worked when he gave the notices out on the Sunday morning. Well, so he ought, but it was good of him, I must say, even though I doubt anyone heard it through the clatter those kids make as they all go out. That Jason Thomas, I swear he kicks the pews on purpose, in my young day we’d have got a clip round the ear as soon as we’d gone into the school room, but now of course you can’t touch them.
Where was I? Oh yes, the Church Fete. Well, this year, the Vicar, I mean, he caught me just as I had my hands full of wet daffs, ready for the Easter decorations, dripping all over the aisle, they were.
“As you feel you can’t organise the fete this year, Mrs. Stringer, I thought I’d ask Mrs. Mullins if she would do it, though I know she’s busy with the Mothers’ Union, plus that poor old uncle of hers”.
Well, I scarcely knew what to say! That Rose Mullins to take over my Fete, she couldn’t organise the tea tent last year, they ran out of tea bags halfway through and young Gary had to get on his bike and rush down to the shop. I couldn’t see her getting everything done by the time they’d brought our Mr. Middleton in to open it. I say “our” because he’s our MP, lives up at what used to be Hogg’s Farm until old Charlie Hogg died, and his boys sold it to the Middletons. Course they did it all up, the Middletons, I mean, sold some of the land, and called it Yew Tree Cottage. I must say, he always makes a pleasant little speech, being a Conservative he speaks quite nicely, though I’m Labour myself, and he and his wife always go round the stalls and buy things.
But I digress! So I said to the Vicar, “Vicar”, I said “Maybe I was a bit overtired last year, with all the rain and that, and that poor Rose Mullins has her hands full with her old Uncle Jim, and it wouldn’t be right to ask her, with him in his condition, as you know”.
The Vicar looked a bit embarrassed, well, he would, being single and that, and said how much he appreciated what I did. So I took the daffs down to the front of the church, and started trying to get all to face the same way. But I was still seething inside, I can tell you! Rose Mullins, indeed, she’d have all her cronies from the Mothers’ Union on the stalls, and then where would my ladies be?
So I began marshalling my forces. Ethel Willard always takes the cake stall, it being one of the biggest, and certainly the busiest. She reckoned on clearing it within half and hour, bar the tarts and fancy cakes which always linger a bit. She’s very quick with money, having been the cashier at the Co-op for so long, and she won’t stand any nonsense from the customers. She brought those four boys up on her own after Bill died so suddenly, and everyone of them a credit to her. “I must make sure Joan Hibbert doesn’t make those rock cakes this time” she told me “We had to put them in a carrier bag and give them to Fred for his pigs last year”.
I knew I could trust Ethel with the cakes. Little Mary Wright was another stalwart, she always takes the fancy goods – knitted bits and pieces and tray cloths and the like. The elderly folk like things like that. Anything left over she takes to her niece over Winsford way. She’s with the Methodists there and puts the bits and pieces in their fete. They are far enough away for no-one to recognise their stuff, you see.
The Guides and Brownies do some of the sideshows, guessing how many sweets in a bottle and the weight of a cake and that sort of thing. We always weigh the cake, but I just say pick a number in the middle for the sweet jar, no one’s going to argue.
The Scouts do the silly things like throwing wet sponges at someone and chucking balls at crockery, it mostly keeps them out of mischief, though the Scoutmaster, John Norris keeps a good eye on them – he has to after what happened a couple of years back.
I wish we could have a tombola or a raffle, but Arnold, the Churchwarden is adamant such things are unbiblical or something and the Vicar’s always nervous of him, so we never have them. Its no good arguing, he’s on the parish Council, and we always have the fete on the Recreation Ground, and have to get the Council’s permission, so that’s that.
Philip Munroe does the bookstall, but then he’s got that second hand bookshop over Knutsford way. He always gives us a tidy sum, but I’m sure he takes the good ones for his shop. Still he’s got a van, and those books are heavy, so I don’t enquire.
By the time I’ve got everyone sorted, they all know exactly what they are doing, and when, and all that. Vi’s army, people call them. I like people who co-operate with me. I’ll not have that Rose Mullins pushing in with her Mothers’ Union cronies. A Mrs. Sandford, from those new houses down by the water meadows – real damp they’ll be in the winter – came to see me and suggested having a Fortune Teller!
“Mrs. Sanders”, I said, coldly like “This is a Church Fete and the Bible specifically warns us against such things”. She look a bit confused, as well she might, as to my certain knowledge she’s never set foot in the church since the Carol Concert.
I don’t know though. It’s a lot of work, and hardly any thanks. There’s all the clearing up – the Scouts go round picking up litter and bits, but they fool around so, you can’t trust them. Last year a man with a metal detector thing said could he run it over the ground – he found about £10 in various coins, but I made him give it into the Fete fund – that’s church money, I said, you can’t just take it. Don’t think he’ll come this year, muttered something about finders being keepers, and dodged off when the Vicar came up. Some folk’ll try anything to line their own pockets.
Maybe I’ll give it up, it’s a lot of work, like I said. But I’ll keep my mouth shut till I’ve had a bit of a break – that Rose Mullins isn’t going to take it, over my dead body!
© Gillian Peall
Chosen by Gillian, written by Lois 29th April 2017
Some thoughts about writing your first story…
You’ve decided to write a story…
…. Have you got story to tell?
.…or do you just like writing?
Writing is a craft which has to be practised and experimented with. A story has to be worked on and polished as a gem cutter might polish a precious stone, or a jeweller buff up a piece of jewellery, or a wood-carver rub beeswax into a carving.
Some people are lucky enough to be able to just sit down and write but even they ‘dry up’ sometimes. Like many creative activities writing really is 10% (or less) inspiration and 90+% perspiration.
Some things to consider:
- Inspiration – you have a brilliant thought, an idea – but how does it start?
- Your readers – consider who you are aiming your story at, even if it’s only yourself, you want to read the best story you can write
- Narrator – who is telling the story? A disinterested, objective observer? A third person telling it from one or several characters’ point of view? One of the characters?
- Introduction or opening of your story – you might want to work on this once you’ve finished the whole thing, but it is really important!
- Setting – you know what your setting is, make sure you bring it alive on the page!
- Characters – your reader wants to know what they look like, and what their personality is… the first has to be considered early on, you may want to real the second only gradually
- Plot – don’t make it too complicated, but make sure it is intriguing!
- Language – how are you “speaking” to your reader? Is it your own voice you are using, or one of the character’s, or is it a particular writing voice?
- Research and Observation – the internet gives you a massive resource, but just watching people in the real world, at bus stops, on stations, in the pub, in the street… that will bring your characters to life
- Endings – no whimpers allowed, only bangs!
- The end… or not! – does the narrative conclude, or is there an open ending, can the reader continue the story in their imagination after the book closes?
© Lois. My books are on Amazon, here Lois