Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Pain is the Spur — short story by Gladys Hobson (G B Hobson)

Pain is the Spur

Freda read the damning remarks written with the appraiser’s red pen, which had been applied — with a generosity akin to a banker’s pension — over her entire manuscript. Being so painful to read, it might as well have been written in her own blood. Cliché appeared to be written so many times that she wondered if Brent, the reviewer, could only write in clichés himself.
It seemed bizarre that normal conversation, engaged in day by day at her old workplace, could be regarded as cliché by someone who had never entered a factory, and likely had never had a pint at the local with a bog cleaner, or Sanitary Disposal Operative to be more PC. Was she supposed to search a dictionary to find obscure words, and make up poetic phrases for a character that could barely read and write?
She stood up from the kitchen table and threw the manuscript into the box for recycling, Brent’s humiliating conclusions, ringing death tolls to all literary ambition, could not be more negative:
“Even if you made substantial edits to correct these failings, the manuscript would never find a publisher. The storyline has no appeal, sagas are out of fashion and, quite frankly, you will never make a writer. You lack the essential gifts. Any supposed publishing professional who told you otherwise would be more interested in the fee, and hoping you would return for another appraisal.”
Four hundred pounds of her precious redundancy pay to have her manuscript torn apart, and far more effectively than the electric shredder could ever do. Anger and mortification, welled up tears in her eyes. An unseen hand held her throat in a tightening grip, accompanied by acid, painfully flaming her stomach and rising to burn its way up to her mouth. Freda knew she had to give in and let loose her tears of pain, or suffer the consequences — further erosion of her stomach lining. But instead, she reached for the Gaviscon bottle, shook it and swallowed down two full tablespoons of the horrid stuff.
“I will not cry, I will not,” she muttered, over and over, her balled fists gripping her pounding head. Action was needed, anything to halt the increasing tension.
She fished the manuscript out of the large padded packet, took it to the spare room, and sat in front of the shredder. Two pages at a time, she fed the child of her loins — the product of nine months labouring — into the shredder.
Through painful eyes, Freda looked around the poorly furnished room with its desk, table, computer, printer, piles of books, and all the accoutrements of a writer in the making. This room, with bare-boarded floor, oddments of furniture and tatty curtains, had been to her a nursery. But her babies would never be born to see the light of day. No bonny baby contests for her little ones — they were too malformed and ugly to live. They were not wanted. She was not wanted.
Tears burst from under her eyelids and streamed down her face, Wails of pain suddenly escaped her throat bringing relief to pent-up emotions.
Throughout her life, the niggling feeling of not being good enough for anything she attempted, haunted her like a demon from the cellar of her mind. Inferiority complex. Now there is a cliché she could use about herself. Tears turned to hysterical laughter.
“Are you all right, Freda?” Her neighbour Liz, a fellow redundant worker at the curtain factory, had just arrived. “I rang the bell, but no answer. I thought I heard you crying so I came straight in. Sorry…er… you’re laughing, not crying. What’s so funny?”
“Nothing really.” For sure, telling Liz anything meant informing the whole neighbourhood. Sniffing back tears that once again threatened to engulf her, Freda turned her head away to switch off the shredder, glad to have a few seconds to regain control. She wanted the nosy bitch to go away but instead she politely asked, “Do you want a cuppa?”
“I wouldn’t mind one, and one of your nice cup cakes. My stomach feels as if my throat’s been cut.”
 Freda smiled ironically; that well-used phrase had been red-penned on her manuscript. The pain returned to her head and her throat muscles tightened again. She moved to the kitchen to prepare the snack, leaving the door open for Liz to keep up a monologue about Fred Bishby, their one time overseer.
Freda prepared the snack, taking freshly baked cakes from the cooling tray. Had Liz smelled them while they were cooking? Funny how she always turned up after a baking session.
Why had she mentally called Liz a nosy bitch? Not like her at all. What other horrid thoughts did she harbour but never said aloud? People always thought her a nice person but what she showed to the world could not possibly be her real self. People would not want to know the real Freda: Freda the nasty person; Freda the failure; Freda who thinks herself so clever, but is really a laughable clown who speaks and writes in clichés.
She caught her reflection in the kitchen window, now a mirror with the winter’s afternoon so dark and miserable matching her mood. Not a bad looking blond of fifty years, except for grey hairs determined to match her grey eyes, and a weight of ten stones too heavy for her five feet two inches of height. But who cares? Not Jo: her hubby’s only concern is to get his meals on time, and, of course, City winning the cup. It was different when they were first married, then—
“What’s up, luv?” Liz had come into the kitchen. “You don’t seem yourself today. Is it your usual? It won’t be for much longer. Huh, men should have to put up with what we women do. Maybe they would be more understanding.” She sat herself down at the kitchen table. “It’s warmer in here. Don’t the afternoons get dark and cold now? As I was saying…”
The kettle came up to the boil. Freda warmed the big brown pot with hot water, emptied it and dropped in two tea bags. The scent and taste of Earl Grey tea would have been nicer, but she couldn’t afford her little luxuries now; her writing hobby had made sure of that. She screamed inside her head. Writing, just a waste of money and time.
 “Help yourself to milk and sugar,” she told Liz, while pouring out the tea.
“Oo, lovely cakes, can I have two?”
Fat pig, Freda said to herself, and instantly regretted it. She pushed the plate of cakes over the white Formica-topped table. “Help yourself.”
What was the matter with her? She wanted to cry: weep for her lost youth, for the love she once shared with Jo before football took over his life, for a home devoid of her two sons now they had left home to live with partners. And today, yes today, for her literary baby that would never be born. Useless that’s what I am, useless, she heard the words echoing in her head. I’m a first class loser.
“These cakes are lovely. Have they got caraway seeds in the sugar coating?”
“Yes, I like to eat them with Earl Grey tea. But I’m out of it.”
“I prefer P.G. Tips.” Liz munched on her second cake, and then slurped the second cup of tea Freda poured out for her. “Ugh! No sugar. She put in two spoonfuls. “How’s your writing coming on? I love reading your stories. I told Max about that latest one. You know, that saga. He wants to know if he’s in it.”
Freda burst into tears. She sat down and put her head in her hands.
A sleeve of a rough jumper touching her bare arm, and the sweet scent of caraway, told her that Liz had left her chair to console her. Two motherly arms wrapped her in a comforting embrace.
“What is it, Freda? I knew something was wrong as soon as I came in.”
Freda couldn’t speak. What would she say if she could? How could anyone understand her bereavement: her loss of what was, and what might have been? Never mind her utter humiliation. How could they? Even Jo thought she just played about on the computer filling in spare time.
“Is there anything I can do for you, luv?”
Freda shook her head. “I’m all right, just tired. I think I’ll go to bed for an hour before Jo gets in.”
“You do that. I’m just next door if you need me.”
“Thank you, Liz. You’re a true friend.” Freda said the words but her inner self yelled back, Hypocrite, hypocrite, you really think she’s a nosy bitch, A battle for truth and honesty ensued within Freda’s mind.
“I’ll be off then.”
“Thanks for coming. Good of you. You’re welcome any time.”
Freda felt a kiss on her cheek and heard footsteps going outside. A little voice inside her head was singing, Clichés, clichés, all clichés, Freda. Your whole life is a cliché. That’s why you can only write clichés. Give up writing and get yourself a life, woman.
Talking to herself? She must be going mad. Tired that’s all. She poured herself another tea and walked to the lounge. The room seemed cold and dark, in spite of the flickering flames of the coal-effect gas fire, illuminating the close-by cherry-red plush suite and beige sheepskin rugs. She put the cup on a small coffee table near her relaxing chair, switched on a glass Victorian table lamp, closed the rough-textured beige curtains against the winter’s chill, and finally clicked on the television.
Her mind drifted to words Liz had spoken. I love reading your stories. Liz was not the only one to compliment her on her writing. People often told her how much they enjoyed reading her little yarns in the parish magazine. Maybe, just maybe…
The sound of a baby crying turned her attention to the television screen. It seemed to be a programme about conditions in Darfur. Babies, skin clinging to bones and tummies swollen from hunger, stared at her wide-eyed, She sat down and listened to the commentary.
It had all been heard before. The facts were plain and stark. Mere words could not tell the full story. The reporter looked straight at the camera with tears in her eyes:
 “We sit at home and read about the desperate plight of people like these, but not until I came here and experienced the situation with the whole of my senses — sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, and a kind of sixth sense of empathy — did I understand. But there is no way that I can truly know what these people have suffered, and are still suffering.” Her voice became shaky as tears streamed down her cheeks. “Please help them.”
A small, emaciated child, began screaming while a medical worker tried to find a vein to stick in a candular. Freda found herself in tears, her heart filled with pity, sorrow and remorse. Remorse for the money spent just to tell her that her writing is rubbish and her baby is a non-starter, when so much good could have been done with it.
Well, she will change that. She will take note of the useful criticisms and discard the rest. Lots of people had read her work and enjoyed it. She will show Mr bloody Brent that she can write. Never mind the clichés, just like the documentary had involved her whole being, she will show what her characters think and feel. Yes, show their actions in word pictures painted in colours, sounds and smells — involving her readers, moving them to read on and on. And when her first book is published, Brent will be the first to receive a copy. Royalties will go to relief programmes. She had a mission in life and she will succeed.
Wiping the tears from her eyes, Freda walked back to her computer and brought up the maligned manuscript. On the second page she typed:
Dedicated to the children whose cries we never hear.

Two years later, Freda received a letter from her publisher, Jocose Nouveau Publishing:
We are pleased to tell you that your novel, Trouble At Mill, is now one of our bestselling e-books. We would like to run a printed version. Do you still hold the rights?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Early Spring In Our Garden — observed from our windows and doors.

Early Spring In Our Garden — observed from our windows and doors.

Since this blog is called, “Writing For Joy,” it might be thought that , since I have written nothing here for about six months, there has been little joy in my life! However, I do have other blogs and my wordpress ‘Wrinkly Writers’ blog has gained more attention from my ‘pen’ lately. During this last six months I have reached the age of eighty and we have also celebrated our sixty years of marriage. PLUS we are now blessed with a great-grandchild. And on Boxing Day we actually had our immediate family altogether in one place — here! This is rare as my eldest son works on an oil rigg half his time.
The problem of getting family together for celebrations became clear when we celebrated our Diamond Wedding (Spring Day).  We have had four mini-celebrations. Four of our grandchildren had been unable to get to any of them. So I guess we will take them out for a meal one by one the next time they visit. Such is the scattering of family these days.
There has been sadness too with the death of a childhood friend. Sadness is an inevitable part of life the older you get and outlive ones you love or simply admire. But joy comes when the clouds break and the sunshine of the joy of living breaks through once more.
Now, after all the snow, rain and cold weather, spring has truly arrived. Flowers burst from their buds and open their petals to the warmth of the sun. The buzzing of bees work their magic of producing honey and fertilizing growing crops. Nature’s healing is taking place. More cause for celebration!
These are photographs taken of our garden. The shrubs are just beginning to blossom and it will go on throughout the year. I have no jewelry or gold (except my wedding ring and a locket my hubby gave me 60 years ago), Loved ones and my garden are more precious than gold and silver, and jewelry that has to be hidden from thieves.
Other things too still give me much pleasure. Holding in my hand the first book I had in print (When Phones Were Immobile and Lived in RED BOXES.) Then the novels. A word of appreciation, either spoken or written, of my literary efforts. And little things…

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Our Time in Lindal 1969-1983 — Gladys Hobson

Our Time in Lindal 1969-1983

Sixteen years of village life,
So many changes we have seen

In brick and stone, and mortal flesh
Time for a boy to become a man,
For a youth to grow in wisdom
And strong men change to weak.
Time for many friendly souls

To take their leave of earthly things
Having left their mark in village lore.

Sixteen years since first we came —

Townies in a rural place:

“Takes thirty years to be accepted.”
Half that time has passed away
But villagers with roots going deep

Into Lindal soil and Furness ore
Faithful members of the church
Keepers of the rural scene
Have not withdrawn a hand of friendship.
Sixteen years, now we move on —

With sadness yes, but thankful too

For all that Lindal’s given us.

Thankful for the friendships made
The cheerful smiles, acknowledging waves,
And nods of recognition.
Thankful for the time and space

To move and grow, explore and be,

Thankful for acceptance.

Church photo used by permission of Neil Fleming

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Seeds of Ammon — short story by G B Hobson

The Seeds of Ammon

G B Hobson

The Seeds of Ammon came in the night from the deserts of Egypt, borne on air currents to fall on the meadows of the Vale of Eden. Even as the spores of a Lycoperdales-type plant — secretly grown in the Oracle Temple of Ammon at Siwah — were breathed in, so the people of the Vale began to prophesy.

Martha Langton, watched her neighbouring farmer, Jake Wood, mount the few crumbling steps of the ancient monument set in the centre of Eden’s Market Square. She noted an unnatural brightness to his pale blue eyes, which went well with his long silver hair flowing from both scalp and chin. He may be old and bent, his clothes old and shabby, but to her he would always be a giant among men. She felt, as much as saw, Jake unbend his painful arthritic joints to stand his full six feet of height. Trembling with an inner urge to join him, Martha waited in awed silence as Jake began to speak.
“Listen, all you blessed with hearing.”
A few people nearby glanced up but the pull of the market with its offerings of fruit and vegetables, bread and cakes, local cheeses, fresh fish, bags and trinkets, shoes and socks, women’s clothes, scarves and hats, sweets and books, had too great a hold. Stallholders continued to shout out their wares above a cacophony of voices. Martha knew that money burned in pockets as beckoning aromas wafted under noses, and paint-box colours caught the eye. Shoppers had come to shop and gossip, and they had no time to listen to a croaking old man.
Something had to be done to make them listen. Martha drew in her breath then let forth an unholy wail that reverberated on nearby pots and pans. A shocked silence fell over the area as though a banshee had suddenly arrived to presage doom on all present. Even Jake straightened his back and became more alert.
“Listen, all you blessed with hearing.” No croaking now. Jake’s voice demanded attention.
 “Hear me and be warned. On the morning of Monday next, a mighty storm will blow through Eden. Did you hear that? A storm like no other witnessed in these parts. Crops ravaged… buildings shattered. A great swell will sweep the river into the town… homes flooded… lives lost.”
Seemingly exhausted, Jake sat down on the steps.
The Saturday shoppers now appeared compelled to stand and wait for more. Then someone shouted, “He’s off his bloody rocker.”
The ensuing laughter broke the tension.
Fools! When will people learn to listen to ancient wisdom? Martha said to herself. Science thinks it knows it all. Compared to Wisdom springing from the Other, science is fragile and incomplete. The Oracle of Ammon has spoken, and all things shall come to pass. Her skinny body may be no more than a coat-hanger displaying a faded flowered dress, but she was not prepared to listen to the raucous remarks and be silent.
Feeling a sudden surge of strength, she pushed aside shoppers and made her way to the centre of the deriding crowd surrounding the ancient Celtic monument.
Standing at the top of the steps, the whole of her senses became acutely alive, overpowering her in an aura of contrasting smells and incandescent colours. Suddenly, she felt overflowing with an energy never before experienced. She could see and feel what lay ahead. Above all she could smell fear and death. Surely nothing could stop her from speaking what must be said.
That morning, when she left her cottage to catch the hourly bus to town, she knew the Seeds of Ammon had penetrated her mind imbuing her with a sixth sense. If they had not, how would she know about the seeds and from whence they had come? Yes, knowing and her acceptance, gave her power beyond earthly reasoning. She had no doubt whatsoever that the words about to leave her mouth were those of the Oracle of Ammon. But first must be silence. She repeated the mournful wail.
The laughter ceased. She was aware of how she looked to others: a mere five feet tall bag of bones with hardly any hair to blow in the soft breeze. Wrinkles, like a contour map, greeted her every morning in the mirror. The curious eyes of bystanders may silently stare at her, but she could see lips ready to crack into laughter at any moment.
“You are foolish — everyone of you — not to heed Jake’s warning,” she began. “The believers at the far end of our valley are at this moment moving their sheep and cattle to safety. They know and understand. That is why they are not here today. I warn you all… those with houses by streams and rivers return to your homes and prepare for the flood. You with animals in rotting buildings, move them to stone barns or to the south side of hills. The wind will come from the north but it will whirl and move in funnels… the sky will open and streams will become torrents… rivers will break their banks. Protect your children. Take what you can and drive many miles away. Hear me… nothing is safe…. The Oracle of Ammon has spoken.” She closed her eyes as a deep sigh put an end to her message.
Opening her eyes again she saw the faces in front of her had turned rigid with fear. Then, breaking the silence, a stallholder started to laugh. The shocked moment now shattered, men, women and children howled with mirth.
“Oracle of Ammon? Who’s ’e when ’e’s at ’ome?” yelled a customer at the fish stall, holding up a piece of haddock. “Sounds a bit fishy to me.”
More bellowing laughter.
“Aye, a right load of codswallop,” said the red-cheeked fishmonger, as he wrapped up his customer’s purchase.
Soon shouts and whoops accompanied puns and laughter.
Angrily, Martha grabbed the arm of a small, thin girl and dragged her up the few steps.
“If will not listen to either me or Jake, then hear the words of an innocent child,” Martha yelled, her lightning shriek now rolling with thunder.
Silence fell over the whole area. To Martha’s satisfaction, more people approached the Celtic cross as though drawn by a compelling force.
Dressed in a plain pink dress, the slim girl — a little over four feet in height, huge vacant violet eyes, long straight blonde hair surrounding a thin pale face with small nose — stood with statue stillness. When she opened her small mouth, out came a flutelike voice:
“Look to the sky. What do you see?”
She pointed a slim finger upwards and the eyes of all those present followed her gaze.
“Clouds, soft and puffy in a perfect blue sky. But a mighty wind will come… darkness will cover this land. The sky will be ripped open… a child of death will be born. Rain will fall in mighty sheets… streams become rivers. Rivers burst their banks… the land will be as the sea.”
Her expressionless face turned as her eyes swept the crowd.
“The Oracle of Ammon has spoken.”
The girl collapsed. Martha caught her in her arms.
“Be warned. Go home and prepare,” Martha called to the crowd.
Sitting on the steps she cradled the child’s head and shoulders, whispering, “Blessed of Ammon, rest and be strong.”
Martha watched as people gradually recovered from their mesmerised state. Some were moving towards the car park, others towards the bus stop. A few stood looking at the stalls as though wondering what to do next.
“Go home,” she yelled at them, waving an arm, but they still walked around like zombies.
Most of the stallholders were packing up. Others, who had travelled some distance from their stores in major towns, were shaking their heads in disbelief.

Monday morning dawned as previous days, but no bird sang. By eight o’clock a chill wind had sprung up from the north and dark clouds loomed overhead. Within an hour, darkness had fallen over the Vale of Eden. The wind grew stronger and soon tornados were moving down the valleys carrying upwards anything that lay in their paths. Lightning flashed in crooked forks of brilliance against the blackening sky. Suddenly a jagged knife split apart the darkened heavens and released rain such as never before experienced in that part of the country.
Martha stood at the top of a hill, half-sheltered by a cave. Jake, the child, and the child’s family were with her. Rain joined the tears streaming down her face. “We warned them, but the truth lay at their doors begging to enter. They heard the message but they preferred the false security of weather forecasts. We are not to blame. We played our part. Those who received the Seeds of Ammon are safe, the others… ah… if only… if only….
Hardly able to see through the rain, she could only imagine what was happening in Eden. It would be as the Oracle warned. Uprooting and flooding, death and destruction. Over the years it had happened in other places, now it had come to Eden.

Anger followed the death of Eden. Who was to blame for the terrible destruction? Forty-five dead, over two hundred injured, few houses left intact, Farm outbuildings shattered and blown away, with only stone barns left standing and even those damaged. Animals killed, crops destroyed, fields and homes under water. Never before had Eden been so ravaged by nature. But the blocking of the spillway of the old Eden Mill’s earth dam had made the situation even worse. The subsequent bursting of the overfilled dam caused an even greater surge of water — thick with mud — through the streets of Eden. Only Upper Eden had been spared the carnage experienced by the lower regions and the town.
Martha heard the mutterings and saw the looks that came her way. Many years ago, a scapegoat would be found to resolve anger over failed crops, plagues and other community disasters. The pain and anger felt by Eden’s inhabitants could not be denied. She had warned them. They had not heeded. Unable to accept responsibility for their lack of action, Martha knew who would be accused. As for the blockage, it was surely obvious what had caused that. But the people wanted someone to blame for their own lack of foresight in dealing with potential disasters. The dam would not have stopped the massive surge of water racing down the hills to the valleys and on to the town, but it would have prevented the tons of water stored there from increasing the swell. Who had benefited? Clearly, no one, But fingers were being pointed and the hatred became only too tangible.
All those gifted with the Seeds of Ammon sensed danger ahead. But their powers appeared to be fading. They were far from the oasis at Siwah, far from where the Oracle’s temple kept alive the cult and nurtured the soothsayers. Fear made them vulnerable. Martha knew it but was powerless to do anything about it. Only the child appeared to be fully under the Oracle’s influence. Her eyes still staring, her body still.

Ronald Pickman had lost everything but his wife, family, car and caravan, in the flood. His shop had been utterly destroyed, and with it his business. His insurance had run out and, instead of renewing it straight away, he’d taken his wife and family to the Costa del Sol. He knew all about the Oracle business and saw it as some sort of hocus pocus to hide what was really going on.
“That damn woman’s been against my store ever since it opened. She petitioned against late hours to sell alcohol. And supported the Olde Tearoom against us taking over their premises. This is a personal vendetta.”
“Don’t you think you’re taking this too personally?” said his wife Hilda. “We’re not the only ones suffering.” She looked around the caravan they had just returned from Spain. “We’re lucky to still have this, and our lives.”
“Yes, and just the clothes we stand up in! Okay, she may not be responsible for the rain, but she lives near enough to the dam to see it was blocked. Maybe she and her buddies blocked it. Oracle of Ammon? Huh, anything to get in the papers. She’ll be on TV next… warning everyone of the end of the world. She’s a menace to society. She wants stopping.”
“I’m going out,” said Hilda. “Our store may be a write-off but Lily’s tearoom can be salvaged. I’ll give her a hand.”
“What? Over my dead body!”
“If necessary,” Hilda said, and, slipping on muddy wellingtons and a plastic cape, she walked out.

In the stone barn of her smallholding, Martha gathered together those who had been blessed with the Seeds of Ammon. She sensed something terrible was about to happen.
“In the town there is much agitation, we must be on our guard.”
“Why don’t we go to the police?” asked Jake, looking even frailer.
“And say what? That people in the town are planning to harm us? Actually, the vibes come from one man in particular. Watch out for Ronald Pickman. His hatred flows in an aura so strong it is visible to my eyes.”
“And mine,” said a small piping voice.
Martha looked at the thin child who’d stood with her at the Celtic cross. “Anna, you must keep out of that man’s sight. He is dangerous.”
“Yes, I know. He’s a bad man. But he doesn’t frighten me.”
“Nor me,” said Jake. “What can he do to an old man who is ready for death? But Anna must be protected. People are afraid of her.”
“I don’t need protecting,” Anna said vehemently. “Ammon will shield me.”
“Faith is a fine thing, but we must be cautious.” Martha did not want to subdue a child’s faith, nor an old man’s certainty, but neither did she want to see harm come to those who had spoken at the cross. The Oracle had faded within her but maybe in the child, Ammon was still strong. “I have said enough. You have all been warned.”

Rain had ceased, when darkness fell over the drowned town of Eden, Ronald Pickman slipped on his black Burberry coat that always travelled with him, and crept out of his caravan. He rummaged inside the boot of his car, grinning at his thoughts. At least he’d driven his Jaguar away before the flood arrived. What’s more it looked like he would be getting a new one to replace it.
Anger overpowering all sense of moral restraint, Pickman carefully made his way to Martha’s place. He unscrewed the cap of a can and poured petrol through the letterbox and over both front and back doors. He then smashed a window by the front door and threw the half-empty can inside, the contents spilling over furniture and carpet. He stood well back and took out his lighter.
The voice of Hilda sounded just behind him.
“What on earth are you doing, Ron?”
Shocked, he turned around, dropping the lighter. A line of flame ran to the house and licked its way through the window. The can blew up. Ron staggered backwards. Hilda screamed — burning debris had set her hair alight.
From nowhere, the child appeared before them. She pointed to Hilda. Mesmerised, Pickman stood back as the flames on his wife’s hair vanished. The child then pointed to a sandbag by the front door. The bag split open, Sand poured out and followed the line of the child’s pointing finger to inside the cottage.
As flames disappeared, Martha and Jake arrived with buckets. Neither showed signs of surprise. Pickman grabbed his wife’s hand and they disappeared into the night.

Martha wrote down the bizarre happenings that had taken place in the Vale of Eden. The evening of the fire, she had been consulting with Jake when they each received a premonition of events at her cottage. Pickman had been arrested and lost his wife as well as his freedom. Hilda had been more than willing to testify. The part Anna played was kept out of it. Who would believe it anyway?
Few newspapers mentioned the prophetic warnings. They had enough of horrors and dramatic rescues to report than to dabble in speculative events. The two pensioners could well be senile, even if they did assist in putting out the fire. They did not seem able to predict the time of the next bus, never mind a storm. As for the child, sure she looked odd with those big eyes, thin body and pale skin, but, saying nothing, she seemed as dim as she looked.

Wisdom came to Anna as her psychokinetic powers strengthened. Prophesying could wait. In her mind she could see the dawn of Armageddon. Her powers would be needed. In ten years she intended to travel to Egypt and draw on the power of the Oracle of Siwah. For now, she would be the quiet schoolgirl. Even so, Anna could not resist an occasional use of her psychokinetic powers. But those are stories to be told later.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

What You Can Do With a Tree Stump

What can you do with a tree stump?
We had a 90’ Leylandii tree growing in our front garden. It was a kind of landmark when looking for our house. It was a beautiful tree with elegant branches spreading and curving upwards. It also kept sunlight from large chunks of the garden and neighbouring premises, plus the lower branch spread over the drive and prevented vans from backing up when delivering goods to the house. Eventually, we decided to have it cut down, never mind the expense. But we decided to keep an 8’ stump. We are glad we did.
At the bottom of the stump I planted two kinds of Ivies  — one with broad green leaves that has yellowish splashes of colour, and one with delightful variegated leaves. I also planted a Winter Jasmine, a Clematis and a highly scented, climbing rose with prolific clusters of creamy flowers. In a niche I planted a common fern. All have taken. The stump is heavy with delightful plants throughout the year. And where once was only shade and a few straggly weeds, we have Camellias and other shrubs. A poorly-growing Yew is now growing into a shapely tree, which we have to keep pruned. The photographs tell their own story!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Spring… Beauty and the Beast

It's nearly four weeks since I posted photographs of the garden. Spring had arrived and now it is blooming lovely. Some blossom is no more and others are replacing it in abundance. The Magnolia is always a graceful monument to the season and our many Camellia shrubs have never been better. The Azaleas are preparing to outdo the rest, with the Rhododendrons close behind. Plenty of other flowers and shrubs too are coming out, while others wait until later on to fully reveal their beauty.
And yet a beast lurks among my pretty maidens. In fact, a number of them. The hard-leafed evergreen plants — particularly Camellias and Rhododendrons (about 50 plants) — are becoming affected with sooty mould Cushion Scale. It is all over the garden. Something to do with climate change? Other bugs are less obvious. The lawn is mostly moss. So much needs doing. We can allow 'woodland' plants to grow among the shrubs, the more objectionable ones are weeded out. No problem there. But, unfortunately, we are not getting any younger to deal with all the work involved with the major 'beasts' . Decisions have to be made...

Monday, March 26, 2012

Spring Has Arrived!

We returned from a four night break (part of it visiting Derbyshire where we had our honeymoon 59 years ago) and found that spring had truly sprung in our garden!
While we were away we visited lovely places — Carsington Reservoir, Belper Riverside gardens, Buxton Park, Monsel Trail, Attenborough Nature Reserve, Wollaton Park, Chatsworth Garden Centre. Adding up the miles we did a fair bit of walking for a pair of wrinklies.
The weather could not have been better. Not too hot and not too bright. Now we are in bright sunshine, bad for my eyes but lovely to see everyone looking so cheerful. And it is really great to see our garden blossoming, even if we do have a serious problem with sooty mould to deal with!