Practice makes progress…

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One of the most important lessons I’ve learned since starting to write is that its like every other skill, you only get better at it if you practice. In the same way that a musician practices their instrument, regular writing is important to keep the river of ideas and creativity flowing.

At our writing group recently we had to complete a task where we were given a minute to write down as many words as we could about a given subject title. For this exercise the title was ‘Autumn’ –  it was fascinating how many people thought outside the box and made unusual links to this word. These kinds of activities are really useful when practicing the art of writing. it is surprising how many ideas were generated from just this short activity.

In my teaching job I have always kept a folder of picture settings and characters which I’ve given to children who couldn’t conjure up an image of a place or person for their stories. In the same way, having a mini brain storm of a character, their likes dislikes, occupation, fears, favourite food etc, can help you to make your character real and plausible. As readers, we will only read a book if we care about the character, so creating a great character is essential for a good story.

Here is a story I wrote a while back, it’s quite different from the comedic monologues I’m currently working on. I’d be interested to hear what people think.

The Bell Tower                                             

‘It’s terminal,’ the doctor said, ‘I’m really sorry Mr Harris.’

‘But it can’t be, I’m only twenty two. I feel fine. The tablets, they’ve really helped, I think you’ve got it wrong.’

‘There’s no mistake. I’m really sorry. I know it’s a lot to take in. Look have some time to get your thoughts together, then we can put you in touch with some people who can offer you some support.’

Steven didn’t wait to find out what was coming next. He grabbed his coat off the seat and ran out of the surgery, into the rain.

Outside the world looked normal, people were busily going about their business. Car headlamps shone, creating distorted patterns in the puddles and reflecting dark shadows. There was a hustle and bustle to the town – its sounds and smells – they were what he was used to.

Sitting down on a bench along the pathway through the park, he began to sob. Shallow sobs to begin with which he stifled in his coat collar, then longer painful moans, wrenching his shoulders and tightening his stomach into knots.

He felt the hand at first, as it was placed onto his arm. It startled him and he looked up.

‘Are you ok mate?’

As Steven turned, he saw a man about the same age as him standing by his side. He had dark, almost black hair and had a scarf wrapped loosely around his neck.

‘I hope you don’t mind me stopping – It’s just you looked like you might need a bit of help.’

Steven turned his face away from him, wiping his tears with his sleeve and pulling his collar higher. ‘I’m fine, it’s nothing mate, honest. Don’t trouble yourself.’

The man turned as if to walk away but then stopped.

‘I’m sorry. I can’t just go. Please, let me just park myself here next to you. You don’t need to speak to me, but I’m here if you want to.’

‘Look, I was just having a moment. I’ll be alright in a minute.’

‘No probs. I could do with a sit down anyway.’ He sat down on the bench, pulling his jacket tighter around his waist, ‘I’m Dave by the way.’

Steven didn’t speak, he pulled a used tissue from his pocket and tried to blow his nose.

‘Girl trouble?’ Dave asked, ‘There’s usually a girl involved in it somewhere along the line.’

‘Nah, nothing like that,’

Steven had to catch his breath as he spoke. A warm tingling sensation, danced on the bridge of his nose. ‘I’ve just had some bad news that’s all.’

‘Ah, sorry to hear that.’

Steven tilted his head slightly in Dave’s direction, ‘I’ve got cancer. No let me rephrase that, I’ve got terminal cancer, in my pancreas and liver.’

Steven waited for a response. ‘I’ve got just weeks apparently. Well I suppose they can pump me full of drugs to stretch it out a bit longer, but I’m not gunna spend endless days in the hospital and slowly deteriorate surrounded by old people and distraught relatives.’

‘What have your family said?’

‘My mum was with me when they told me. I just left her there. I picked up my stuff and ran. She’s probably worried sick.’

‘So what happens now?’ Dave was leaning forward on the bench, his hands clasped between his knees.

‘I go home and face her. I’m not sure I can bare it though. It’s always been just me and her. I’m not sure what she’ll do without me.’

There was a silence, a muffled silence which numbed the sounds of the afternoon. Then piercing the chilling air, came the rings of the cathedral bells.

‘They haven’t rung for years, they must be repairing the bell tower,’ Steven said, ‘do you know, I’ve always wanted to climb up there. I remember as a kid, I’d sit on the grass and work out how I could sneak up to the top.’

‘Let’s do it then,’ said Dave getting to his feet. ‘Come on, let’s see if we can sneak in.’

‘What? They won’t let us in. The cathedral’s been derelict for as long as I can remember.’

‘Who said anything about asking them? Come on. Think of it as a tick off your bucket list.’

Steven felt a rush of adrenalin at the prospect of their adventure. So what if he did get caught, they were hardly going to condemn a dying man now were they?

‘Let’s go in around the back. I think there’s a door covered by brambles, we can soon shift those. I remember seeing it when I was a kid. Here hang on a minute, I’ve got an idea.’

Behind a hedge at the edge of the park, there was a large wooden shed used by the park keeper. At the rear, there was a stack of pallets leaning against the outer park wall.

‘Here, help me to grab one of these.’

‘Are you mad?’ Steven asked as they lifted the damp wooded frame.

‘Ay, it has been said once or twice.’

Dave smiled as they made their way over to the cathedral door.

‘Lay it over the brambles and push it down hard with your feet.’

The brambles, bent and slumped towards the ground as they stood on top of the pallet, then Dave kicked hard at the small door. It flung open with little force so they climbed in, pulling it shut behind them.

They found themselves in the nave, where there were pillars of ribbed stone, holding up complex beams. A kaleidoscope of colour shone onto the red tiled floors as the light seeped through the translucent glass. Images of dated nobility and religious figures, brought to life with sun lit movement and shadow.

‘These must be the stairs up to the tower.’

Dave led him up the spiral steps, dusty and stained by the feet of time.

As they ascended along the helix passageway, Steven caressed the uneven stone of the walls. They felt damp and cold, but he enjoyed their texture and strength. A shaft of light, small but sufficient, guided them to the opening at the top of the wooden treads.

Dave pushed open another door, this one grained, with a circular iron handle.

Steven felt the dense flax of the bell ropes, each one still secured by its copper hook. He marvelled at the mosaic patterns, which could just be made out under the heavy dust of neglect.

A few final steps, transported them into the tower, where the city’s cast iron bell was located.

He let his fingers trace its grooves and indentations, enjoying the contrast of pattern and smooth metal.

From the bell tower, he had a panoramic view of the whole of the city. There was no better view of his homeland and to think, he may never has witnessed its beauty.

‘It’s stunning.’

Steven’s breath had calmed to a shallow rhythm as he devoured the natural undulation of the landscape and the angular, abstract roofs of buildings.

‘As good as you expected?’

Dave had moved to his side and placed a reassuring hand on his arm.

‘It’s better, much better. Thank you.’

They both stood in silence, their bodies facing out, toward the changing landscape.

Steven turned and watched, as his friend absorbed every contour of the city.

‘Who are you? I want to know something about the man who risks getting into so much trouble for me.’

‘I’ve told you, I’m Dave. Nothing to tell really.’

‘What brought you to the park today? What do you do?’

‘Nothing now.’ He shuffled along the narrow ridge around the bell. ‘I was in the navy. My last posting was on a ship in the North Atlantic. Just off the Falklands. I was only there for a short while though. We ran into a bit of trouble and well, I’m here now.’

‘And have you any family?’

‘I had a girlfriend just before I set sail. We’d only been seeing each other for a couple of months before I got my posting. She was pregnant. I was over the moon. I asked her to marry me but she said we’d talk about it after my tour. I never saw her again.’

‘Did she have the baby?’

‘Yeah but I never got to see him.’

‘It must feel weird, knowing you have a son out there. Knowing that there will be something left behind when you have gone.’

Dave didn’t answer.

‘We should head back I suppose.’

The air had become chilled and the adrenalin which helped him climb the stairs had gone leaving him tired and drained of energy.

As he descended the last few stairs, he felt a sharp pain grip his stomach and he cried out. His knees buckled beneath him and he found himself splayed at the bottom of the stairwell. A hazy blur of distant voices and muffled sounds dipped in and out of his consciousness.

When his eyes finally managed to adjust to the faces surrounding him, he was able to see the golden hair of his mother, sitting by his bedside. A tangle of tubes and wires fed in and out of the machines and an orchestra of artificial sound beat his life’s rhythm.

‘Mum?’ he asked, his voice weak and dry.

‘I’m here.’ Her face looked older and her eyes were red and puffy.

‘How did I get here?’

‘You passed out love.’

‘Am I ok?’

She smiled at him through tears which she couldn’t disguise.

Slowly turning his head to the side, he focused on an image which he recognised.

‘Hello Dave. Did you bring me here?’

One of the nurses put her hand on his mother’s shoulder.

‘It’s the medication love, it can sometimes make the patient delirious.’

‘Mum, this is Dave. He came with me. He helped me get up the tower.’ Steven’s voice had become raspy and shallow.

His mum turned her face away, taking in a gasp of air and squeezing Steven’s hand tightly.

Dave stepped forward so that the light from the sun shone behind him.

‘This is my mum Dave.’

‘Shush son, you just lay still now.’ His mum’s shoulders were bent over; her chin slumped against her chest.

‘She can’t see me Steven. Your mum doesn’t know I’m here.’

‘What are you talking about? She must be able to see you.’

Steven’s mum stroked her son’s hand, unable to hold back the tears any longer.

Dave smiled, ‘She hasn’t changed a bit you know. Your mum, she’s still as beautiful as I remember. Those blue grey eyes and golden hair.’

‘What?’ Steven tried to lift his head to make sense of what was being said.

A tight spasm gripped his stomach and a chorus of monotonous sound resonated around the room. He felt his mother loosen her grip and found himself surrounded by unfamiliar faces. Touching him, lifting his arms, lowering his head.

Dave seemed to be leaning over their shoulders. ‘Don’t be frightened son, It’s almost time.’

A warm light feeling engulfed him as the faces slowly moved away. He could feel the touch of his mother again as she stroked his skin; her head lay peacefully on his chest and he could sense her tears.

Then the same hand which had comforted him at the park, was again placed on his arm.

‘Let’s walk this together son.’

The serenity which surrounded him reassured him as he rose from the bed. With his father by his side, he paused momentarily, inhaling the scent of his mother and kissing her head lightly.’

 

 

 

The Flat On The High Street

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A few months ago I was lucky to be involved in a project called ‘Portsmouth Plugged In’, which was a collaboration of writers and film makers who created monologues about Portsmouth. I decided to raise awareness of many of the elderly residents who found themselves housebound due to illness or disability but set this in a light-hearted monologue. I hope you like it.

The Flat on the High Street

The flat next door is empty again. Apparently the new neighbours are called Ahmed or some such. From Syria so Wan-Kee-Jon, our Korean postman told me. He said, ‘Don’t worry Mrs Andrews, they’re a lovely couple, they’ve lived in this area for a while. She’s something to do with pharmacy and he works at B and Q, in the warehouse.’

    ‘That’s nice,’ I said, ‘I like a man in a uniform.’

    The flat’s been empty for a while now – since that young couple who shared jogging bottoms moved out. Left overnight they did, didn’t even say goodbye. I think one of them must have been a diabetic as Maud from 4b said there were needles everywhere. And they never returned my heat lamp. The one the occupational therapist lent me for my lumbago. She said she had some plant she wanted to speed along a bit ready for her mother’s birthday. Lovely girl, very thoughtful. Bit dark under the eyes.

   Wan-Kee always stops for a chat. He’s a bit of a gossip but he wears nice aftershave. He asked me if my Daniel had been to visit.

   I said, ‘It just so happens that he’s coming later today.’

    ‘That’ll be nice for you,’ he said, ‘it’s been a while.’

I told him, Daniel’s a busy man – big in lead piping – hardly has a minute to spare.

He was trying to look over my shoulder at the Lemon Drizzle cake on the table. I said, ‘You can take your eyes off that, I’ve bought it in specially.’ It was always Daniel’s favourite as a child.

It’s busy on the high street today. I would be out there myself if it wasn’t for these legs. Doctor Graham said he’d pop over later to have a look at them, weeping like angels they are, despite the dressings. Nice man. Always has nicely polished shoes.

   He said ‘Cynthia.’

   I said, ‘Mrs Andrews to you.’

   He said, ‘Mrs Andrews, you need to rest them and keep them elevated. Stick a bit of daytime TV on and make the most of it.’

   I told him, I only watch the news and wildlife programmes.

    ‘Me too Mrs Andrews,’ he said, ‘but a bit of Coronation street never hurt anyone.’ 

    ‘Coronation street? I don’t think so,’ I told him, ‘I used to go to school with Ken Barlow. Bit of a show off by all accounts, like the sound of his own voice.’

    ‘That’s actors for you,’ he said.

    I said, ‘If you use the term loosely!’

    Daniel always hated Coronation street – he said the theme tune reminded him of his dad coming back from work smelling of Swarfega.

                                   

   Ooh here she comes, the new girl from downstairs, wearing next to nothing. In my day we left a bit to the imagination. Three children, all from different dad’s so Maud tells me. The youngest came round the other day asking if I wanted my front door cleaned as she was saving up for bedding for her pet mouse. I told her I used to have a pet mouse as a child, I called him Mickey. She said hers was called “Chantelle Louise”.

I said ‘I don’t think it will catch on.’

    Her older sister pops in sometimes after school to eat all my custard creams and leave felt pen on my tablecloth. Last week, she asked me to help her with a poster advertisement she needed to do for her homework. It was all about a new chocolate she’d invented.

    I told her, I said ‘Harper-Storm, you need more persuasive verbs and maybe a question to draw in your audience, like the ones they use in the TV ads.’

    She got one of my permanent markers from the kitchen drawer and wrote, ‘Do you like Coc-o-lot?’ along the top.

I was thinking, not since the cold war, but I added the missing ‘h’ and ‘e’ so she didn’t get in trouble with her teacher and then helped her to colour it in.

                                             

I’d better give the kitchen surface a bit of a wipe. Daniel can’t abide crumbs and clutter.

Did you hear we’d had a new death? So far this month we’ve had Mrs Bottomly, Barry from the flats and now old George Fielding. He used to be our beat bobby, only eighty-six he was. They found him in Morrisons with his wife’s dress on, trying to climb in with the frozen broccoli. Poor old fella. The other week he was standing in the middle of town claiming the traffic was sending him subliminal messages to kill himself. I think they were going to section him, but he died before they had chance.

    His poor daughter had to clear out his bungalow and kept finding jiffy bags full of soiled underpants, in hidden places.

‘Dementia, it just keeps on giving,’ she told Maud.

                                    

I see the newsagents ‘For Sale’ sign is up at last. Harry had been there for years. He had a smashing head of hair. Always wore a vest – and he could play the trumpet. He used to be in one of those brass bands that march up and down Dudley Street. Some daft name like the Latch and Colander shapers brass ensemble or some such. I’ve always liked a brass band. There’s nothing like the puffed out cheeks of a horn blower with fleckles of spittle on his impeccably ironed shirt, and the subtle waft of mothballs mixed with carbolic, as he belts out Onward Christian Soldiers.

  His wife’s still alive though, she was from up north somewhere. They met whilst he was doing his National service, so Wan-Kee told me. I can picture him now, staring into her eyes whilst her whippet nibbles on his Battenburg; dancing the night away at the “Hocklesworth Ferret and Pigeon Fanciers” annual dinner and dance. I never liked Northerners.  

    Daniel’s girlfriend is a northerner. It must be nearly six years they’ve been going out now. He said he’d bring her down when they’re free. Be nice to meet her.

                                         

    I see they’ve started knocking down the old picture house, putting up some more flats. Nigel next door told me they were going to be social housing. He was thinking of applying for one himself. He did tell me who the building company was but I was distracted by his rather short shorts. He was sitting on my padded velour recliner with his legs akimbo, complaining about the rod drilling and whistling builders. There was a strange netting protruding from his inner thigh, which looked like a couple of satsumas about to commit armed robbery. I thought I should mention it but then his mobile went off and he made a quick exit. I gave the chair a once-over with a J-cloth, just in case.

                                  

 Simon’s just phoned. Somethings come up and he can’t make it after all.

I told you he was a busy man – I wouldn’t want to get in the way of him making his millions.

He said, ‘I’ve sent you a bunch of flowers and I promise I’ll ring when I next have a window.’

I said, ‘don’t you be worrying yourself, I’ve got a lot on today anyway what with one thing and another.’

Better put the cake away. Might even save a piece for Wan-Kee.

                                         

 

 

 

 

FRED -My Monologue which was recently published in The Portsmouth News.

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Can I just say a big thank you to all the lovelies who took the time to read my competition story and for writing such encouraging comments. Putting yourself ‘out there’ as a writer is enormously scary so it’s wonderful to get such positive feedback.

For those of you who asked for another taste of my writing, I have included a story called ‘Fred’ which was recently published in ‘The Portsmouth News’. It is taken from my ‘Field Street monologues’ (named after the street where I was born, in Bradley). I have been working on this project for a few months and hope to publish soon. I hope you like it.

Fred        

I love this internet malarkey. I’ve just ordered a new rear shock absorber, headlamp and bezel for the Anglia. Some bloke in Bilston selling parts from his private garage. I’d never have found them if Anita next door hadn’t sorted out my Modem Router. You can’t keep me off it now. I’m like a kid with a new toy.

Bought a lovely set of Ming vases off EBay, genuine article, have the certificate to prove it and only fifty quid each. I saw some identical on Antiques Roadshow and they wanted thousands for them. It just goes to show; you need to shop around.

She’s a lovely lass is Anita. Lives on her own. She has a fiancé but I don’t think it’ll last. He’s a shifty looking character, has a look of Stanley Beck about him, you know that bloke who played Private Walker in Dad’s army.

I was sitting in the Queen’s legs polishing the knob I’d brought for the front left passenger door, when he came in, cocky as you like and flung his holdall down at me feet, nearly knocking over my half a Shandy.

I said, ‘Steady fella, these varicose veins are giving me enough jip, I don’t think I can stomach an open wound.’

He just shrugged his shoulders and said, ‘You wanna watch?’

I said, ‘Why what ya going to do?’

He said, ‘No you daft bugger, do you wanna buy a watch? I’ve got Rolex, Tonino Lamborghini, Emporio Armani.’

I said, ‘No thanks, this watch here saw me through the Suez crisis and flared trousers, I don’t want any of your new-fangled rubbish.’

I don’t think they were the real McCoy; you could tell by the packaging. I use the same zipped top freezer bags for my cheese and ham.

Anita could do so much better, a nice girl like that. Been a neighbour for a few years now. We’ve become quite good friends over time. I think she sees me as a bit of a father figure, which is nice as I haven’t got any kids of me own.

I was married, back in the day. Geraldine her name was; she was from the South Coast. We met at one of them holiday camps. She was a dancer and I worked in the open air pool as a life guard. I had a smashing physique back then. Used to do a muscle man routine after the bingo. The girls loved it. I’ve still got my gold lame briefs somewhere.

It was one of those whirlwind romances. We’d only been going out a month when I proposed. Had a quiet ceremony at the registry office and then back to the camp for a knees up with some of the crew. They even organised married quarters for us. We were happy as anything until just a few weeks before the end of the season. That was when smarmy Marco came along. He was a student from Italy who’s grand-father had shares in the site. He was a good looking bugger, but I never expected Geraldine to just up and run like that. Without so much as good bye. Everyone on the camp was very sympathetic but there was nothing they could do. I didn’t hear anything from her for months until I got a letter asking for an annulment to the marriage on account of not consummating it properly.

It wasn’t true of course. We had most definitely consummated it, in chalet 435 on the Formica table, but it was quicker to go along with it. After all there was no chance she was coming back. She told me she was pregnant with his child and they’d decided to move over to Florence to be near his family.

Funny thing is, years later, I thought I saw her in a supermarket stealing Tiramisu from the freezer aisle. I was on holiday in Portsmouth with the lads from the classic car club. It took me aback for a few minutes, but it couldn’t have been her, she had long grey hair and surgical stockings and was sneaking a whole load of frozen desserts into her pockets.

Anyway the upshot is, it put me off women for years. It’s only recently, now I’m in my twilight years that I’ve thought about settling down again.

Actually, I’ve already met someone. Got talking to her on the internet. A friend of mine from the classic cars club put me on to her. That’s how he met his wife see. They love an English man out there, in Thailand. He said he thinks it’s the accent.

I think they like the older man as well cus she’s only twenty-four. I know there’ll be those who think the forty-year age gap is too big. But I’ve always kept myself in shape. I sent her one of the photos from when I did my muscle man act and she said she couldn’t wait to get her hands on them. I’ve been getting up early and lifting a few old tyres in the back garden to try and get back in tip top condition. Mind you I don’t think I’ll have time to have the varicose veins done before she flies over.

I’m partial to a French Fancy so I’ve had to stop buying them so I can lose a few pounds before she arrives. Her name’s Tookta. I looked up the meaning and it said it meant a diligent and persevering worker. So I think we are well suited.

Apparently she’s trained in massage; has lovely big hands and is a very accomplished cook. I’ll have to watch this though as too much spice brings me out in sweats and I went into anaphylactic shock when I ate a king prawn in Whitby.

She said I reminded her of some bloke called Justin Bieber. I told her I’d never heard of him but she claimed he was a handsome fella, so I didn’t question her. Her English isn’t that good and some of the things on Google translate alter the meaning. She said she used to be a cock and I had to tell her that it was spelt with two o’s.

I’ve already bought one of those ‘teach yourself Thai’ dvd’s,’ I listen to it after The Archers and again before I go to bed. I’ve got the basics covered. ‘Hello, goodbye, do you like pigs pudding?’ She said when she arrives I’m to take her shopping as she loves new shoes. Funny thing is her feet are two sizes larger than mine and I always thought these Asian girls had small feet. She’s got nice broad shoulders too.

It’s taken ages to organise a visa. Some complication with her birth certificate. I called her just yesterday to see if it had been sorted, first time actually. It was a bit of a poor line though, it made her voice sound really deep but I expect it’s the humidity out there.

Anyway must dash, I’ve got to collect a parcel from the post office. I expect it’s the pills I ordered on line, recommended by one of the lads at the club. Bit of an appetite these Thai girls and it’s been a while.

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Hope you enjoyed reading it.

 

 

I’ve only gone and won!

Yesterday I battled the London traffic, on my way to the ‘Writeidea’ short story writing competition ceremony. I had been told that my monologue ‘Maud the Costume Mistress’ had been short listed for the prize. As one of five finalists I had been invited to read a short passage from my piece in front of an audience.

I’m not going to lie, I was very nervous, so much so that I dribbled latte down my top and my voice went up two octaves so I sounded like Julie Andrews during the nunnery phase.

Sitting at the front of the audience, whilst waiting for my turn to read, I couldn’t help but notice that everyone else’s stories were poignant and reflective pieces about adult subjects. Mine on the other hand…

Well lets just say it was a comedic monologue which made references to the male and female anatomy with a brief reference to alternative sexual preferences.

‘Maud – The Costume Mistress’ was inspired by a painting of Greta Moll by Henri Matisse and speaks of life backstage in a theatre. It explores Maud’s relationships with other theatre staff and hopefully reflects the funny side of the theatrical lifestyle.

Here it is, I hope you like it.

Maud – The Costume Mistress.

It’s no good, I’ve held my tongue long enough. That bloody stage manager, does he know how many costumes I’ve got to make for this performance? Forty-two…yes that’s right, forty-two. I wouldn’t mind but trying to get the cast to come in for their fittings is nigh on impossible.

I’m up to my ears in Tulle and finding sequins everywhere. I was at the doctors having a smear test last week and he retrieved one with in a pair of tweezers. He asked me if I’d bought a ‘Vagazzle home kit’. I said I’m sixty-four, I left all that behind when I started catching ‘The Ring and Ride.’

I tell you, we’ve gone glitter mad here since ‘Strictly’ came back on the scene. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a ‘light reflective fabric’, but we’re currently doing a period drama, not the ‘world disco dancing championships’.

I’ve only just got over that musical that finished last month. You wouldn’t believe the things I saw back stage. Beardy young lads slapping their flaccid appendages here and there. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a prude or anything but some things need to be tucked away. It took me ages to wipe the stains off my chaise longue.

I’m not one to moan but I’m running up and down the stairs like a cat on hot coals. And that stuck up madam Elsie Ackerman has been giving me a hard time, claiming she has less sparkles than the other members of the cast; demanding a costume made from a vibrant colour to reflect her vivacious personality.  She said, ‘You do know my great aunty was the famous 1930’s actress Eileen Percy?’

I tried to be tactful and explain that the larger, more mature lady needed to consider the benefits of the ‘illusion of shade’.

Well she didn’t like that. She said, ‘I have a responsibility to Eileen to always look my best and Maureen in ‘Make-Up’ has promised to trim years off my face with her new French foundation and blusher.’

I thought that’ll never work, she’ll need a Polymer render and a cheese grater to sort that face out, but I don’t like to offend. Anyway Elsie makes a lovely lemon drizzle and I’m partial to a bit of cake.

I had a brief visit from Cyril Fairbanks, this morning. Models himself on Elvis, he does, mind you, his hair is letting him down of late. He used to have a lovely quiff, back in the day; sideburns to match. Now it’s more like that spun sugar you see on those fancy cooking programmes.

He said, ‘I need you to dye my cravat aqua-marine darling, this insipid colour clashes with my Eczema.’

I told him, I said, ‘Cyril, the costumes need to look authentic. I’m not sure aqua-marine was a colour of the period.’

He says ‘It’s that or mustard yellow and that’s my final word on the matter.’

Bit of a diva is Cyril, likes the sound of his own voice. He had a small speaking part in an episode of Casualty and its given him ideas above his station.

(Phone rings. Anna picks it up)

‘Yes, this is Maud. A parcel of what? What would I be wanting with 40 leather whips and a gimp mask? I don’t know who ordered them, but it wasn’t me. Try Fred in lighting.’ I ask you 40 leather whips. Whoever heard the like?

They run me ragged they do. Here at the crack of dawn and rarely home before eleven. I’m usually the first to arrive, just before Pork-pie Pete. He always picks up a couple of those posh coffees on his way in. He lives with his mother and likes to be out the house before she uses the commode as it upsets his digestion.

He’s got an appetite that man. I can’t tell you the times I’ve had to let out his trousers. I was saying to Doris our cleaner, ‘If he keeps slipping off to Greggs, I’m going to run out of crushed velvet.’

That reminds me, I need to order some more lining, I was putting an extra layer in the leading man’s jodhpurs earlier, he mentioned he had a bladder infection and you can’t be too careful, those theatre lights can be very unforgiving. I was just finishing off the last stitch when that floozy Chardonnay-Jay flounced in, with her fake tan and wedges. She said, ‘Maud darling, do you think you could widen the neck on my dress to flaunt my assets a little more?’

Apparently she’s been told she needs to ‘appeal to a wider audience’ and she thinks her costume makes her look frumpy.

Frumpy I ask you. I told her, listen to me young lady, a plunging neckline would be totally unsuitable for your role. You’re a maid for the local clergy, too much cleavage isn’t ecumenical.

She said, ‘I don’t care how much it costs, I need to bring in the punters.’

I never had this trouble with Dame Maggie Smith.

(Phone rings again)

Costumes? Oh hello Mr Naysbe, no it’s no trouble, I can always find time for you. Yes, the costumes are on track to be ready for the dress rehearsal. I’m just waiting on a delivery of bloomers and the cobbler said he’d have the shoes finished by Wednesday. He had a bit of trouble fitting Cynthia’s foot, on account of the gout, but she’s been off the wine for a couple of weeks so she’s hoping it will have cleared up by opening night. Well that’s very nice of you to say Mr Naseby, you know I like to be helpful whenever I can.

That was Mr Naseby the Artistic Director, lovely man, always nicely turned out. Studied at Rada he did. Friends with that fella who does the double glazing advert on tele, you know the one. You can tell he’s well-bred by his hands. Lovely and smooth like fine bone china.

It’s a pity the Stage Manager isn’t cut from the same cloth. Barking demands at everyone. It’s like working at Stalag 17. Fancies himself as a bit of a high flyer, straight out of drama school. Northern chap, harsh vowels. Smells a bit of damp Alsatian.

(Phone goes again.)

‘Oh Hello Sidney, I’m not sure I’ve got a spare suit. What do you need it for? Why would you want to do that? Haven’t you been seeing that woman from the deli, the one who had the hip replacement? You know which one, she’s got braces and a perm. Well I don’t think I’ve got one but I’ll check when I get a minute, there might be one left over from The Great Gatsby.

That was Sidney in the box office, he’s got a hot date with some bit of fluff he met at bingo. Says he needs to borrow a suit cus his smells of boiled ham on account of the amount of funerals he’s been to recently. I don’t know how he manages to find all these girls, he’s not what I’d call handsome, well unless you’re partial to a bit of Charlie Drake.

Anyway, I can’t stand here chatting. Norman from the orchestra needs a button putting on his jacket. That’s if we can find it. Last bar of the chorus it broke loose and landed in the French horn. Nearly choked Harry and ruined his climax. Still ‘spect I’ll sort it. Always do, don’t I.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A work in progress…

What is great about being part of a weekly writing group, is that you have a constant network of people who are encouraging you to write. People who give you welcomed feedback that gives you the motivation to write better and with more stamina.

A couple of months back, one of my close friends set me a challenge. She sent me a picture of an old camper van and suggested that I write a duologue about the two characters who owned this vehicle. What came out of this was an idea to set a plot within the Morris Dancing community and to tell the story through the words of these two characters and so it was that ‘The Saga of Ken and Sandra’ was born.

This is very much a work in progress and I’m trying to marry humour with drama, but I am having so much fun writing this.

Once edited, I will post snippets of this on this blog so you can give me some feedback before I send it out into the wider world.

 

 

 

New beginnings…

How exciting, I am writing my first ever blog. Those people who know me will tell you that I’m not a very techy person so this is quite an achievement for me.

Reaching my big birthday last year, turned out to be quite a turning point for me. Making the decision to reduce my teaching to part time and devote the remainder of my time to writing.

As a child I had three great ambitions: to become an astronaut; to spy for MI5 and to become a famous author. My fear of flying and inability to keep a secret cancelled out the first two, so when the opportunity came along to write, I jumped at the chance.

Like most writers, I have spent many hours with one finger permenantly hovering over the delete button and the others clutching the biscuit tin, but like all new tradesfolk, I’ve practiced my art by writing in every genre, about any subject, at every opportunity. A friend once told me that if I were a carpenter, I wouldn’t expect my first cabinet to be my best. On reflection, it was probably a polite way of saying that my first attempts at writing were not the works of great fiction that I had hoped for, but what it did do, was remind me that, writing is a skill, an art form, a learnt technique, which improves with practice.