#FlashFiction ‘When I grow up’ @NorahColvin @Charli_Mills #amhealing #WWWBlogs

Healing Lilly

“How was your day, Lilly?”

Tears spilled.

“Tell me about it.”

“No-one wants to play with me and they call me names.”

“So, what are you doing about it?”

“Crying, mostly. Sometimes hiding. I don’t want to go to school.”

“Lil, listen to me. You’ll get good marks, make wonderful friends, be a great teacher and have your own family one day.”

She stamped her foot. “I’m ugly and silly!”

I held the picture of my younger self to the mirror.

“Look at me, Lil. You can and will do it. Anything you want is there for the asking.”

****

 

Fifty years and still healing. Lucy at about 8 and 58

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Lilly or sometimes Lil was my nick name at home when I was a child. My sister couldn’t say Lucy, so she named me Lilly. Elsa died many years ago, and nobody has called me Lilly since, but I know Lilly’s still with me. I encourage her and remind her not to worry and believe in herself, every day. I think it’s working, Lilly is healing and Lucy is happier every day.

We all have hang ups from our youth. Speak to pictures of your younger self, tell her not to worry because it will work out. Believe me, it works. We can heal the child within.

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This post was written in response to Norah Colvin’s prompt on Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest, coordinated and inspired by Charli Mills.You can take part in the contest or just post your flash on your blog, which is what I’m doing.

Norah asks us to cast ourselves back to six years of age, knowing what you do of life in the present; what would you want to be when you grow up and how would you go about achieving that goal? Tell us in 100 words, no more no less. It can be real or imaginary, serious or light-hearted. Extra points for comparing it to your childhood choice, if you remember it.

Geoff Lepard is hosting the challenge this week at his blog. Check it out if you’d like to join in.

#CarrotRanch #FlashFiction Challenge ‘The Rat Catcher’ @Charli_Mills

This post was written in response to Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch’s weekly Flash Fiction Challenge. May 11, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about trading. Trade away and go where the prompt leads you. Find out more, read other entries or join in here!

I’ve returned to Victorian England once again for my contribution. 

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Trading Rats: The Rat Catcher

The seller stood with his back to the door holding a swinging cage of squealing rats.

‘How much?’ asked the buyer.

‘A guinea.’

The buyer stroked his beard. ‘Two shillings.’

‘What? I went down the gutters for days risking my life to catch them!’

The buyer looked at the bite marks and blood on the seller’s hands. ‘You need to sell and find a doctor or you’re a dead man.’

The seller leaned back into the door which closed with a loud bang. ‘Two guineas, or I drop this cage, it smashes and we’ll both be devoured for dinner.’

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Who decides the price in illegal trading? Buyer? Seller? Is it a question of supply and demand, as in any other negotiation? Or is it the person who has less to lose? What happens when the buyer or the seller gets too greedy?

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Rat Catchers had a lot of work in Victorian England for three reasons.

1- Rat baiting was a popular, albeit illegal sport, which involved a lot of money with rich and poor people betting. In this case, rat catchers caught live rats.

2- Other rat catchers were paid to kill rats in different parts of the country.

3- Finally rich ladies liked to keep rats as pets in squirrel cages. A practice which I have heard is also popular nowadays.

Many of the rat catchers were children. They preferred catching rats to cleaning chimneys, working in coal mines, or hawking wares, because it was easier and paid better.

De-ratting English manors and businesses was often more lucrative as children could earn from two shillings to one pound. By the way, a guinea was 21 shillings.

If anyone is interested in finding out more:

Full Revelations of a Professional Rat-catcher After 25 Years’ Experience

This fascinating book, written in 1889, is a fascinating and informative read.

More information on this web page about Victorian England.

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#AtoZChallenge ‘C’ #NationalPoetryMonth ‘Half Caste’ #NPM17 #CarrotRanch

This year to celebrate National Poetry Month and to take part in the April A-Z Blogging Challenge, I’ll be posting two poems a day, one written by me and another poem written by one of my favourite poets. The title or first word of both poems will begin with the corresponding letter in the Blogging Challenge.

Today I’ve also added a third challenge, Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch, weekly Flash Fiction Challenge based on a 99 word prompt. This weeks’ prompt is write a ‘hello or a goodbye’

Today I offer you Half Caste by Luccia Gray, and Half Caste by Guyanese poet John Agard.

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My poem is about a group of school children who meet a new girl. Here’s their ‘hello’ and her ‘goodbye’.

Half Caste by Luccia Gray

She was doing her homework.

They were playing around.

‘She’s not like us,’ they whispered.

‘She’s different,’ he complained.

‘Odd clothes, funny accent,’ she smirked.

‘Let’s say hi to the new girl.’

‘You’re not English,’ they said.

‘I was born here,’ she protested.

‘You’re only half English,’ they replied.

‘Right or left?’ she challenged.

‘You’re colouring’s wrong,’ they complained.

‘My tanned colouring’s fine,’ she replied.

‘You’re half caste,’ they said.

‘Look at me, I’m quite whole,’ she insisted.

‘You’re half caste,’ they chanted.

‘At least I’m not half stupid,’ she sighed,

Said goodbye and turned back to her books.

***

.

Half Caste by John Agard

Excuse me

Standing on one leg

I’m half-caste

Explain yuself

Wha yu mean

When yu say half-caste

Yu mean when picasso

Mix red an green

Is a half-caste canvas/

Explain yuself

Wha u mean

When yu say half-caste

Yu mean when light an shadow

Mix in de sky

Is a half-caste weather/

Well in dat case

England weather

Nearly always half-caste

In fact some o dem cloud

Half-caste till dem overcast

So spiteful dem dont want de sun pass

Ah rass/

Explain yuself

Wha yu mean

When yu say half-caste

Yu mean Tchaikovsky

Sit down at dah piano

An mix a black key

Wid a white key

Is a half-caste symphony/

Read the whole poem here http://www.intermix.org.uk/poetry/poetry_01_agard.asp

John Agard was born in Guyana in 1949. His mother was Portuguese, and his father was Caribbean. In 1977, he moved to Britain.

This poem was written in response to those who referred to him as ‘half-caste’. In spite of the humour, bitterness and anger also comes across in his words.

He uses the overused and often meaningless expression ‘Excuse me’ as he sarcastically apologizes for being half caste.

I love the rhythm of the poem and the way he compares his mixed racial and cultural origins to a Picasso painting or a symphony by Tchaikovsky.

Agard finally challenges the reader to explain himself and realise how inaccurate and offensive the expression is.

The girl in my poem on the other hand isn’t angry or embittered because she is assertive and clever enough to get on with her own life and ignore some narrow minded people one is always bound to bump into in life.

By the way, it’s a unique experience to hear Agard read the poem himself. Watch it here!

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#CarrotRanch #FlashFiction Challenge ‘Art as History’ @Charli_Mills

This post was written in response to Charlie Mills’ Carrot Ranch Weekly Flash Fiction Prompt 

March 16, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) go down the rabbit hole to a place where art is not allowed. It could be a small story or a dystopian vision. Is there a power struggle over art? Would the general public miss it? Is the end of art a natural evolution? Go where the prompt leads.

 

An Unfavourable Ancestor

‘Destroy it, Brigs,’ Rochester said, pointing to the portrait.

 ‘But it’s your most glorious ancestor, sir, Damer de Rochester, who died at the Battle of Marston Moor.’

Jane gazed admiringly at the portrait and the man she loved, seeing a likeness. ‘You must be very proud of such a brave ancestor.’

‘Brave but foolish, Jane. The Rochesters have been on the blacklist since the Restoration, thanks to him.’

‘It’s a grand work of art. I beg you to reconsider,’ pleaded Rochester’s administrator.

‘I want no trace of him. The new Queen mustn’t know, and I will have my knighthood.’  

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A little bit of English History may be needed to capture this flash in its entirety.

The portrait of Damer de Rochester, who was slain at the Battle of Marston Moor, is mentioned in Jane Eyre, as one of Mr. Rochester’s ancestors.

Marston Moor, in North Yorkshire, is famous for the battle fought on 2nd July, 1644. The Parlamentarians, led by Oliver Cromwell, defeated the Royalists. After this defeat the Royalists left Northern England.

        The Battle of Marston Moor, by J. Barker

It is not known for sure if Rochester’s ancestor was a Royalist or a Parlamentarian, but my guess is that his family were associated with the Parlamentarians, and so when the monarchy was restored in 1660, the family was not awarded a knighthood for their loyalty and service, as would probably have happened if they had been faithful to the monarchy.

Two hundred years later, a member of the landed gentry, such as Rochester, would probably want all reference to his Parlamentarian ancestor destroyed, because the new Queen, the young Victoria, of German origin, might not know enough about English history to continue with the veto on the family. This is why Rochester is so keen to have the portrait destroyed, because he wants no evidence of his family’s lack of allegiance to the monarchy.

Charli’s flash includes the lines, “Your art is my history, Danni.”

Art does indeed record history. It is a historic document, and as such can be subject to manipulation or destruction. Rochester, in my flash, would destroy a work of art because it reminds anyone who sees it that his ancestor fought against the Monarchy. He wants this fact to be forgotten.

My flash is a fictional reinterpretation, based on the painting and the characters in Jane Eyre. I have used it to illustrate the point, that art can be inconvenient for future generations as a permanent record of events.

A world without art that Charli envisages, would be unbearable.

I believe a world without music, dance, literature, fine art, photography, theatre and cinema etc. is impossible, however, a world where past and present art is manipulated or censored is unfortunately possible.

Nevertheless, I’m optimistic, because artists have always found a way to express their true feelings through their art.

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#CarrotRanch #FlashFiction Challenge: Honeymoon Love Letter @Charli_Mills

This post was written in response to Charlie Mills’ Carrot Ranch Weekly Flash Fiction Prompt 

March 9, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a honeymoon story. It can be between a couple before, during or after the honeymoon. Or it can refer to a honeymoon period. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by March 14, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published March 15). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

Honeymoon Love Letter

He refused, yet again. Why wouldn’t they leave him alone? He would never share Charlotte’s love letter.    

Dearest husband, the word seems strange, yet marvellous, my husband, at last. You are dearer to me today than you have ever been, yet less than you shall be tomorrow. I shall never forget the wild nights spent in Bangor, or the gleams of sunshine which woke us every morning. I love you, Charlotte.

Arthur folded the letter he had read every day since his wife passed away, fifty years ago, and tucked it back under his shirt, close to his heart. 

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This flash fiction is inspired by Charlotte Bronte’s honeymoon in Bangor, Wales, with her husband Arthur Bell Nicholls. They were only married for nine months, and very little is known about their relationship, however, the letters she wrote during her honeymoon and her obvious desire to marry him, in spite of her father’s opposition, as well as Arthur’s tenacity, leads me to believe that there was a love story between them.   

The letter I have included in my flash was inspired by words and sentences she wrote in ‘real’ letters about her husband and her honeymoon.

           Arthur Bell Nichols circa 1854

Arthur Bell Nichols met Charlotte Bronte in 1845 when he was appointed curate to her father, Reverend Patrick Bronte. The first time Arthur asked for Charlotte Bronte’s hand in marriage, in 1852, her father, the Reverend Patrick Bronte refused, probably because he considered his curate to be beneath his famous daughter. As a result, Arthur applied to work in Australia, although he also persisted in is pursuit of the elusive Charlotte, in spite of her overprotective father.

Charlotte and Arthur eventually married in June 1854, nevertheless, Charlotte’s father refused to lead his daughter her up to the altar, or attend the wedding ceremony.

The newlyweds spent a protracted honeymoon in Wales and Ireland, and there is no indication that it was not a happy, albeit short, marriage. Charlotte wrote several letters during her honeymoon, describing her journey as pleasant and enjoyable.

Unfortunately, Charlotte died nine months later, probably due to complications with her pregnancy, as she suffered severe morning sickness and general ill health. Charlotte and her unborn child died on 31 March 1855. She was 38-years-old.

These may or may not be photographs of Arthur and Charlotte (Both are disputed).

Nicholls became the copyright holder of his wife’s works. As interest in Charlotte Bronte grew in the months and years after her death, Patrick Brontë asked Charlotte’s friend, the novelist Elizabeth Gaskell, to write her daughter’s biography. Arthur Nicholls was reluctant to allow Mrs. Gaskell access to Charlotte’s letters and was not pleased with Mrs. Gaskesll’s account. In any case, neither Mrs. Gaskell nor Patrick Bronte were Arthur’s fans. The biography was controversial, incomplete, due to its omissions, and was withdrawn and rewritten twice due to accusations of slander. It was finally published in 1857.

Arthur remained at Haworth, looking after Reverend Patrick Bronte until his death in 1861. He put the contents of Haworth Parsonage up for auction in October 1861, retained the family’s manuscripts and private effects, and returned to Ireland, his homeland.

Nine years after Charlotte’s death, Arthur married his cousin. He died in 1906, and it is said his last words were ‘Charlotte, Charlotte.’

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#CarrotRanch #FlashFiction Challenge: Victorian King Midas @Charli_Mills

This post was written in response to Charlie Mills’ Carrot Ranch Weekly Flash Fiction Prompt 

March 2, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) include slag in a story. Slag is a glass-like by-product of smelting or refining ore. Slag is also used in making glass or can result from melting glass. It can be industrious or artistic. Go where the prompt leads. All writers are welcome!

I’m afraid it’s a dark flash this week. Hidden rooms in attics where troublesome wives were imprisoned were not infrequent in Victorian England. 

I’ll tell you all about the fascinating world of Victorian amber slag lamps after my 99-word flash.

 

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Victorian King Midas  

Their skeletal remains were found in the hidden attic room of their Victorian home. She was wearing glass slag amber earrings, necklace, and an evening gown with amber slag gems sewn on.  

A note on the bed-side-table, held in place by a priceless Victorian amber slag glass lamp, read:  

My husband fancied he was like King Midas and everything he touched turned to gold and became his property, like me. I thought his blood might be amber, but it was bright crimson.

He would have been pleased it was his favourite slag amber lamp which had cracked his skull.  

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Well, in this case the wife didn’t escape, but she was able to give her husband a taste of his own medicine!

I didn’t know anything about slag, but I looked it up on Saint Google, and found out it was also commonly known as Malachite glass, which is pressed glass with coloured streaks to create a marble effect.

The production of slag glass originated in late-19th-century England, where glass manufacturers are thought to have added slag from iron-smelting works to molten glass to create a range of effects—from tortoiseshell to marbling. Among other uses, slag glass was a popular material for lampshades and other household ornaments.

Slag glass was made by British companies such as Sowerby, Davidson and Greener during the Victorian era, around the 1880’s/90’s. Sowerby marketed their slag glass under the name ‘Malachite’, and this name was used for all the colours they produced. The most common colour for slag glass was purple, but it was also made in blue, turquoise, green, and brown glass. Modern slag glass is still being made today in USA, and comes in a variety of colours.

                         Examples of Victorian slag glass

Since the process of making slag glass was shrouded in a certain amount of mystery, stories sprang up to try and account for the process behind the effects. For example, it was a rumoured that Sowerby’s Gold Nugget, which was an amber colour,  was ‘invented’ by John George Sowerby, the artistic son of the company’s founder, by tossing gold sovereigns into batches of amber glass to create this dramatic hue. Mr. Sowerby was an artist who left the day to day running of his business to a trusted administrator. 

Such a man, might have been a greedy and materialistic  miser. He might have thought he was King Midas, making his slag products into gold by adding the gold coins to the mixture. He might have filled his house with amber slag ornaments, such as lamps, candlesticks and vases etc. And he might have covered his wife in amber slag and locked her in his attic, so no-one else could see his golden lover.

Although, who knows, that might never have happened.

Here are some more pictures of slag lamps on Pinterest.

I’d like to thank Charli for this weeks’ prompt, which has (indirectly) introduced me to the fascinating Sowerby family of entrepreneurs, artists, writers, painters, and naturalists of the 19th and 20th centuries. Who knows if another Victorian novel may come of this… 

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#CarrotRanch #FlashFiction Challenge: Magwitch the Migrant @Charli_Mills

This post was written in response to Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch’s weekly Flash Fiction Challenge

february-23-carrit-ranch

February 23, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a migration story. It can imagine the dusty or arctic trails of the frontiers past or look to the travel across the galaxy. What issue about modern migration bans might influence an artistic expression in a flash? Migrate where the prompt leads you.

Migrations can be voluntary, in search of a better life, but they can also be imposed. Starting a new life is always hard for a migrant, but even more so when it is imposed.   

My migration story has taken me to Victorian England, where deportations to Australia, for certain criminals, were considered a cheap alternative to life sentences.

magwitch

Finlay Currie as Magwitch

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Deported

‘You’re Magwitch, the convict at the graveyard.’

‘Wrongly convicted, Pip. Compeyes was the mastermind.’

‘Miss Havisham’s groom who abandoned her at the altar?’  

 ‘He was imprisoned and I was deported to New South Wales.’

‘You tricked me into helping you.’

‘I’ve paid you back generously.’

‘You’re my anonymous benefactor?’

‘I worked hard at the Penal Colony. My money is yours now.’

 ‘I don’t want your soiled money!’

 ‘Are you planning on giving up your fancy life and going back to being a blacksmith?’

‘You’ve ruined everything. I hate you!’

‘And yet, Pip, you have Estella to thank me for.’

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magwitch-and-pip

 

Pip had always thought Miss Havisham had been his anonymous benefactress and he was horrified to learn his money had come from a criminal, but he later came to terms with Magwitch when he learnt more about his life and hardship, and finally looked after Magwitch in his final days, in prison, once again. This time Magwitch cannot leave him his money because it is confiscated, thus destroying Pip’s Great Expectations.

Great Expectations is an absorbing and complex novel. Magwitch, who is deported to New South Wales, for using counterfeit money, has a short-lived presence in the novel, yet his role is vital in the plot. He is a catalyst in Pip’s life.

Pip met Magwitch at a graveyard when he’s seven and is persuaded by the escaped convict to bring him food. Magwitch, who was grateful for the child’s help, improves Pip’s prospects by being his anonymous benefactor, enabling him to move to London and become a gentleman, instead of a village blacksmith.   

Magwitch is also Estella’s father, whom we all know was the woman Pip loved and lost. Dickens wrote two endings to Great Expectations. In the ending which Dickens finally endorsed, on Wilkie Collins insistence, Estella and Pip are reunited in the final scene of the novel, with that famous line, in which Pip says of Stella:

‘I saw no shadow of another parting from her.’

During the 18th century, most prisoners were deported to penal colonies in America, but after the American War of Independence broke out in 1775, transportation was sent to Australia. Over the years, about 160,000 people, including men, women and children, sometimes as young as nine years old, people were transported to Australia. Most of them never returned.

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