Writing Sack

By fromewriterscollective, Dec 7 2015 10:13AM

The village stood apart from the main town, but by then houses sprawled from the harbour, upwards along the road to the village. A long street with shops on the right. Tall arrow headed railings on the other side segregated the school playground from the road. Then, a cul-de sac of terraced houses took over.

There were three key shops. Bradshaw’s the grocers, which sold liquorice in string form, tubes, pipes and reels. Four black jack chews for a penny, banana splits, assorted sherbet product, penny animal shaped chocolate bars and powdered drink in a sachet to mix with water. My aunt, in residence, said this would rot my insides and teeth. She was probably right. The second vital shop was Hooper’s the Post Office. I graduated to the Wizard comic, once my reading ability improved. I then could follow stories about alien forces taking over the world and commandos blowing up German warships in the Second World War etc.

I also deposited, weekly, a few pence into my Post Office savings account. The headmaster, complained that my hand writing—“was the worst- ‘ever’- visited upon his school.” This did not stop me hankering after a Parker Duofold Pen in black, which cost twenty three shillings. My savings driven by the desire to save and buy this exquisite pen, then on display at WH Smith’s. The third key premises---the toy shop. This was run by a lady, who I felt, when not running the shop could have been Silvia, from the Faraway Tree, because of her long silvery hair. We bought penny rolls of pistol caps from here. That’s me and my friend, Phil, who lived in the village. It was dubbed the frontier store, because it was the last one in the village before the then meandering road reached for the beach. This descriptive narrative has no bearing on the story. Its purpose is to retrieve the epoch of the happening. A banal normality alongside extraordinary, dimensional and apparitional phenomena, shut out from view. This peaceable scene a year or two forward from the pitch-black, nightmare of the time in question.

This was when I slept alone in an extraordinarily large bedroom, away from my sisters. As a boy strange phenomenon among three sisters and formidable aunts. The aunt, the one mentioned, at times was lodged with the family in a large bedroom. Between either boyfriend or flat. She watched ITV, rented from Rediffusion. I enjoyed the novelty of the adverts and found the programmes aunt viewed more appealing than the BBC news and The Brains Trust, which my parents watched downstairs. She also kept a good supply of Fox’s glacier mints. Not a favourite sweet of mine, but they were more preferable than no sweets at all, after my weekly pocket money ran out.

In other years foreign students occupied aunt’s room. They, on occasion, were exchanged for one or other of my sisters, who went to a complementary family in Sweden, France or Germany. This I thought a good idea, in particular, exchanging my sisters for French and Swedish girls. Invariably I fell in love, because they were pleasant towards me. Not so inclined to boss me about. Olga, who was Swedish used to sit on the settee with her legs curled underneath, and would smile in my direction. A more petite version of the Swedish girls that then threw British men into paroxysms of ecstasy over svelte figures, and naturally blonde Scandinavian hair. When we were outdoors and it rained she would wrap her coat around me, in a protective way. I was, “most” definitely in love with Olga. She was seventeen to my seven years of age.

Francoise, a dark Gallic French girl arrived to stay. I kind of admired her impudence towards adults. After buying a brown paper bag of plums from the village, instead of leaving the stones in the bag after eating them she lined them up around the edge of the bath. She was given a telling off by my mother for this. Francoise would invite me into her room—open the faded blue curtains and grab the window handles to lift up the sashed window, which overlooked the garden. Then produce a blue packet of Gauloises cigarettes, light one of these pungent offerings but offer me those miniature cocktail cigarettes with red, blue and yellow tips. The tobacco being much milder. This, the following summer--- I was again in love. Francoise, with her black curly hair, and olive ski, a contrast to the fair haired Olga. She may have befriended me, after losing popularity with more senior members of the female hierarchy. My mother, and sisters in situ.

French boys, on occasion, stayed for the summer. That their parents paid for food and board, and were older, enhanced I felt their status in the household, above mine. I remember, Pierre. He, was fifteen. A little older than my second eldest sister, who returned from a friend’s party with a box of Black Magic. I was allowed the marzipan, which was the least liked, but Pierre, was left out of even the offer of a chocolate coated marzipan. Later that week, he produced a chocolate box, opened it, and smilingly offered my sister a chocolate. He had moulded chocolates from earth in the garden and cleverly them in the tray of the empty box. I cannot remember whether my sister attempted to eat one, but this action, put paid to any sort of loving friendship between my sister and Pierre.

The story narrative relates to when I was about six. The bed was in the middle of the large bedroom opposite a squat black coke stove with double doors. The ridged metal top useful for softening plasticene in winter. It was possible to toast bread on a long brass fork, provided you sat well back with the doors open. Outside the bedroom door there was-- to the eyes of a child-- a ball room sized landing. The bedroom opposite to mine was my parent’s with an en-suite bathroom and toilet. Another bedroom and then opposite to this, the door led to the aunt/student bedroom, previously mentioned.

Six stairs down there was a small landing, with a bedroom to the left. Opposite a toilet, set back along a very long corridor. An arch in the centre of this small landing displayed a full length mirror. This arched space led to a corridor with lengthy cupboard space. The servants would have been hidden from view while putting away or fetching clothes, sheets, bedding and table linen. Except that there were no servants! My aunts remonstrated with mother, about this-

-- ‘How can you possibly run such a large house Dorothy. Cook for a family of six, and lodge foreign students, without a servant in sight?’ they would say to their sister-in law, my mother. The foreign students when not exchanged, paid to stay, with my two elder sisters assisting with the housework. Mother perhaps preferred not to have servants. Younger sister and myself were like a second family. Born to the end of the Second World War. Maybe, pre-war, father’s family employed servants. The aunts, said emphatically--- they would not have run such a large house without servants!

There, I was alone, in this vast bedroom with two long windows on the outer wall with a large bay window overlooking the garden at the far end. Small children can be scared of the dark. I wasn’t particularly scared to start with. That was until there were recurring dreams about a witch. She entered my awareness while asleep and dreaming about walking through the village when it became dark. I would not have been allowed to be there in the evening, so this was odd. My mother on occasion was apt to leave me in shops, and return home without me. After realizing her absence would manage at four or five to walk back along the road travelled by the double decker bus. Through the winding street, past the shops, and up the hill to home. There was no recognition from my mother, that I was lost or missing. Today this condition would probably be diagnosed as post- natal depression, following on from the birth of my younger sister.

The dream or more explicitly nightmare occurred fairly consistently. Darkness would descend suddenly and coincide with the witch appearing. I knew immediately that I needed to get away from the village and head for home. In this dream situation a strategy was developed on the walk back home to pretend to go up the middle road leading to the front door entrance and then to double back and follow the higher road, which led to the back entrance. The witch, I hoped would continue up the middle road to the front entrance. In the dream re-assurance was felt only when the lights from the back bedrooms of the house could be seen from the road. The back gate led into a kitchen garden. Safety rapidly displaced when my feeling was that the witch was in the garden. The main lawn grew toadstool rings, which would be attractive to the witch. An inherently magical phenomenon. My reasoning was that the witch would be distracted from wanting to capture, enslave or eat me on discovering a ring of toadstools.

In the daytime blankets and sheets used to be spread on tall Rosemary shrubbery, to dry and ingest the scent. This hedged a gravelled path. This allowed me to crawl on hands and knees up the path, hopefully out of sight of the witch, whom I hoped was dancing and singing incantations on the grass below and not searching for me. Once through the back door and on to the concreted floor of the outer pantry, a sense of relief would kick in. With those heavy legs of sleep, I would tiptoe into the relative safety of the kitchen. Next, open the green beize door, which led to a corridor alongside the main stairway. On the wall opposite the stairway a large, wall tapestry of Mary was reassuring. It was dark but I knew she would be gazing adoringly at the haloed baby Jesus. I also knew I should be in bed. The concept of the dream state, not realized while running up the main flight of stairs-- to turn on the small landing and race up the six stairs, which led to the main landing and the hoped for safety of the bedroom.

The reality, was that I was already in bed, asleep. In my mind I would hear the witch on the landing. The door to the bedroom was never fully closed. My mother perhaps, a-tuned to my nocturnal disturbances, would leave it open for when I left the bedroom for the landing.

‘Look, Look, there she is,’ I would cry out, continuing the dream even after having escaped the bedroom. The open door, though gave the witch easier access. It was several witch dreams down the road before I developed the witch dispersal technique. The door handle would appear to turn, signalling the witch’s arrival. It was then that I imagined a troupe of players into existence. Musicians, dancers, jugglers and acrobats, who could attempt to get through the door, before the witch. Eye lids opened and shut. This the action the magic to make them appear, I would stare at the door. A juggler, who moved from side to side, to meet and catch the twirling batons, was usually the first to enter. Then, musicians, who shook ribboned tambourines. Then others with lutes, rather than guitars, I remember. Why should they not arrive in this bedroom it was large enough to accommodate them?

The theory was that the witch would be outnumbered, on their arrival and be forced to return to the village. There were several encounters with the witch in my dreams, before I hit on imagining the arrival of these players. They were invited to enter my dream, when asleep and in a nightmare. The opening and shutting of my eyes made insistence for this time and scene changer. The repeated action brought into focus the players arrival and recede the nightmare. Once they flowed into the room, they allowed me the choice of wakening fully and watching them, no longer petrified by the witch’s presence or alternatively to fall asleep. They only appeared in the bedroom for the time I dreamt, as a child. Adults, perhaps excluded from their assistance.

By C.C.

By fromewriterscollective, Jul 20 2015 06:39PM

It was one of those special days. The sun was shining – something that it hadn’t done for many months. Recently there had been snow and sleet and rain and generally gloomy days but for once it was warm and sunny.

Henry Goodman sat in his deckchair on the lawn and dozed under a copy of the Times – not that he liked the paper but it looked better than the Sun or the Mirror and his next door neighbour might be looking over the fence. Better to keep up appearances.

He was just thinking of a desert island and being waited on by a score of scantily clad native girls when he heard her voice.

‘Henry,’ his wife Martha, ‘it’s time that you fixed that hedge.’

Peace was shattered and the native girls vanished in a puff of smoke to be replaced by his wife pulling the paper off his head.

‘You said you would do the jobs when the weather got better – and now here we are the perfect day for it.’

Wearily he raised himself in the deckchair and glared at the speaker. ‘I’ll do them tomorrow.’

‘Oh no you’ll do it today. Look at Gerry’s place next door – his garden’s perfect. He’s always out doing things and making his place look nice.’

Bloody Gerry – the face next door – he was fed up of his next door neighbour being held up as a paragon of virtue. He wouldn’t mind but they were always sponging off him. Can I borrow your hammer, can I borrow your saw, and can I borrow your ladders. His place was in a wonderful condition because he was using Henry’s tools!

He got up and trudged to the shed where he found the hedge cutters. At least he hadn’t borrowed these – yet. Ever since the family had moved next door it had been a case of keeping up with the Jones – although it should be the Whittleboroughs as that was their name.

They were often here – Mrs Ethel Whittleborough was always asking for a loan of a food mixer or some milk because she had forgotten to get any. It was too much – to be held up as a failure against someone who was a leech.

Mrs Goodman was standing and pointing at the hedge, ‘At one time that was supposed to be a rooster – it looks more like a camel with all the humps on it. ‘

There was no point in arguing so he set about the task with a silent grumble lopping off a piece and then having a rest. Maybe if he got it done quickly he could find the native girls again.

As he set about the hedge the back gate opened. A spotty youth looked in. ‘Hi Mr Goodman can Dad have the hedge cutters?’

Henry glared at the youth – the son of the Whittleboroughs – this was Brad Pitt Whittleborough, named after the film actor who was adored by his mother.

‘Can’t you see I’m using them?’ he said sharply, ‘the answer’s no – a very big no!’

The youth departed. That told him. He was sick of the borrowing - he had to fight back. He went on cutting lumps off the hedge. The back gate opened again and this time a thin woman looked around the corner at him. ‘Can Gerry have the hedge cutters Mr Goodman?’

Henry almost exploded but held himself back, ‘I have already told your son the answer is no, no and a hundred times no.’

The woman retreated hastily and left Henry to keep on cutting. He was interrupted again by the back gate creaking open– he would have to put a bloody big padlock on that gate.

This time Gerry Whittleborough stood there – with his fair hair and fairisle cardigan barely covering his beer belly.

‘Morning old man,’ he said breezily, ‘I came around for the hedge cutters.’

Henry exploded – all his grudges and anger seemed to well up and he threw the cutters on the ground. ‘Don’t you people know the meaning of the word No – I told your son and your wife that you can’t have them. You come around her and borrow everything that I have and I am supposed to keep up to your standard. Well you’ve borrowed the last thing from me and that’s final – shove off! Or I’ll set the dog on you.’ An empty threat as they did not have a dog.

He shouted so much that Gerry shuffled backwards and nearly fell over as he went out of the gate at speed.

Martha Goodman came over to where Henry was fuming and asked what all the fuss was about.

Henry told her of the interruptions and the last straw for next door but Martha shook her head.

‘You really are a fool Henry Goodman.’

‘I’m a fool because I didn’t want to loan that leech any more of my stuff,’ he shouted.

‘No,’ said Martha hands on hips, ‘you’re a fool because the hedge cutters belong to Mr Whittleborough – we borrowed them last year do you not remember?’


By A.S.

By fromewriterscollective, Jul 20 2015 06:38PM

Norman Watts felt important. It was not every day that he was asked to do something – not every day that he had responsibility thrust upon him – no not thrust; that implied doing something that he did not want to do and this job was right up his street.

This morning he arrived at his destination a full half hour early. He had clip board ready check, pen ready check and a copy of the regulations he had been given – double check!

Norman had worked for the council for a number of years now in the department that highlighted safety in the workplace – or rather making sure that any council work was carried out with safety helmets, correct safety procedures and protective clothing worn when needed and all things ticked in the right places – to ensure that the council were not in danger of getting sued for negligence.

It was a job that up to now only meant that he had to rubber stamp forms and file things in the right place – not very exciting really. Up to now he had never been out on a visit to see that this was carried out – until now.

It had only happened because Wiberforce Wilkins the man who usually did it was laid up for a few weeks after walking into a hole that had been dug and breaking his leg. His deputy was away in Spain on holiday so Norman had been asked. The first time he had ever been asked – so he would make the best of it – away from a stuffy office and a position entrusted to him of authority.

The road works were in Warren Road and as he walked up and down making notes on what had been done up to now he noticed two men sitting having a cup of something resembling tea in tin mugs.

‘I say,’ Norman called out, ‘you fellows should be wearing safety helmets on site.’

One of the men looked up, ‘What to drink tea? Maybe a rogue teabag would hit us Bill,’ he said to the other who laughed out loud.

Although feeling put down Norman decided to assert his authority. ‘Regulations say that safety clothing must be worn at all times on site – it contravenes regulation er,’ he consulted his list hastily turning over the pages, ‘regulation 29 section 51.’

The two men looked at each other and then back at him – ‘and who might you be?’

Norman raised himself to full height of five foot six.

‘I am the representative for Healthy and Safety in the workplace and I have been sent today to see if all the correct procedures have been followed.’

‘Where’s old Wilkins then?’ asked the other.

‘Mr Wilkins is in hospital,’ Norman glared at them, ‘he fell down a hole.’

‘Drunk I expect,’ said the first man, ‘he usually was.’

‘That is beside the point,’ Norman said exasperated, ‘the point here is why have you not got your protective clothing on?’

‘It’s not 8 yet,’ said the second man, ‘we don’t start until then so you aint got any authority until then.’

‘Well all right,’ Norman tried to pull back his dignity, ‘just make sure they are on at the stroke of 8.’

Norman walked away and looked at the piles of earth along the side of the road – he had been told it was routine road repairs although what that meant he wasn’t completely sure. The work had been going on for a while now but it did not look as though much had been done. The workmen today were lazy really – if he had been given full authority he would soon knock them into shape.

A few more men had turned up now and stood around generally ignoring him. He looked at his watch – 5 minutes to 8 – he would have them on the stroke of 8 if they weren’t up to standard.

One burly man came over and introduced himself as the foreman.

‘Mike Sanderson – sorry to hear about old Wilkins but he would wander about where he shouldn’t and not look where he was going.’

Norman decided to take his chance on this – ‘Were there any barriers or signs warning people to keep away around this hole?

Sanderson scratched his balding head – ‘It had only been done – Bill went for his break and hadn’t time to put any sign up – Wilkins was told about it but didn’t pay any heed to warnings.’

Norman got his pen out and wrote down ‘Negligence with no signs up caused injury to council staff member.’

The men were rousing themselves and putting on their helmets – one went over to the wagon which was parked nearby and got some cable out of it – another picked up a drill and after putting on his hat glancing at Norman he proceeded to drill.

‘Stop,’ Norman yelled.

All looked at him and the man stopped drilling.

‘You do not have any ear protection – it is proved that drilling can cause hearing loss,’ he wrote this down on his pad.

Sanderson went to the wagon and handed some ear muffs to the man who grunted and then started to drill again.

‘Stop,’ yelled Norman again in a voice louder than before.

‘What’s wrong now?’ the man with the drill grumbled.

‘You do not have protective gloves – your hands could be injured by using the drill too much.’

These were eventually provided and the men went on with their work again.

‘Stop,’ Norman said again – ‘where are your protective goggles?’

Finally the man was fitted out with all that was needed and proceeded to get back to work glancing at Norman in case something else was needed.

‘You,’ yelled Norman this time pointing to a man with a pick, ‘you should have protection on your eyes and feet and your helmet is not on properly.

For the next hour Norman went through everything he could think of to consider health and safety including some regulations he did not have in his checklist – he would make sure that his authority was heard here and that these men knew who was boss.

When they stopped for tea he insisted on gloves in case they get scaled with hot liquid and tested their old kettle and failed it on the grounds that it was rusted.

He insisted that hands were washed before consuming sandwiches and that as well as barriers there should be a guard beside any hold in the road in case anyone walked with a few yards of it.

He had covered two sides of his pad and was on a third page – this was what he had dreamed of all these years – authority – and he loved it.

It was time after they had finished their lunches to find some more points of safety that he could mention. How about goggles when anyone ate an orange in case the juice squirted in to their eyes? Yes and no reading papers in case of eye strain – that was a good one. He grasped his pen in readiness.


‘Time to knock off lads,’ Mike Sanderson shouted – ‘its gone 5.’

Bill straightened his back and stretched. ‘About time – what a day.’

‘Don’t want another like that,’ another man said.

‘Never mind lads,’ Sanderson replied, ‘we’re finished here anyway – a good job done – tomorrow we move to Saddlers Grove and hopefully a more peaceful time of it.’

‘Hear hear,’ another said.

‘Glad to see the back of him anyway,’ Bill said. ‘Thought we would be stuck with him for days.’

‘Perish the thought,’ another said.

‘Well let’s tidy things up here lads,’ Sanderson said, ‘then down the pub – my round.’

Bill grinned and with his spade tapped the earth down on the filled in hole.


By A.S.

By fromewriterscollective, May 27 2015 02:29PM

Wilson poked his stick in the deep cleft in the roadway outside his house. It seemed to be getting deeper all the time. Motorists in the road had of course complained to the local council and a few had put together a demonstration but only five men and a dog were in evidence when it came down to actually carrying out the protest.

People were too complacent and did not like to make a fuss – but he did not include himself in that section of the populace. He was not a motorist – never had been. Did not even learn to drive in his youth so how could he protest about the roadway when he did not use it!

He did use it – he crossed the road from his home to the house on the other side of the road to see his friend Jackson with whom he had a game of chess a couple of times a week and as he used a walking stick he found that the pothole was an inconvenience – meaning that he nearly fell over when the stick accidentally went down the cleft in the road.

But feeble protests – he did not think so. If you wanted to make a point you didn’t try to hold demonstrations that no one was interested in and didn’t see. You had to take your protest to one who might listen to reason. The local MP – Percy Fallowfield.

The man in question lived in a big house on the other side of the town – he had his days of people coming to see him on matters that they wanted him to raise in parliament but in fact Percy had only ever spoken out once in parliament in the twenty years of his office and that was to complain about the heat.

That morning Wilson and his friend Jackson set out to see their aforementioned parliamentary representative. It was one of his days for seeing his constituents so after a while they were shown in.

Fallowfield had set a time limit to see constituents and if they had not made their point in six minutes it would be ‘Thank you I will put that to the house when we next meet’. And out they would go. That morning between visits he had the morning paper in front of him – another terrorist threat. It could be on his home next – he had to be careful.

Wilson and Jackson came in and sat down. Before the MP could ask them what they wanted Wilson spoke – ‘The pothole in Partridge Street is dangerous’.

Fallowfield churched his chubby fingers – ‘Dangerous to whom – the motorists?’

‘No me,’ Wilson replied, ‘so what are you going to do about it?’

Percy got a pencil and wrote it down. ‘I’ll bring that up next week.’

‘No,’ Wilson said firmly, ‘you’ll do something about it now.’

‘What?’ Fallowfield stuttered. ‘You can’t expect me to personally do anything at this very minute.’

Wilson rose to his feet followed by the silent Jackson. ‘I’m warning you - you have one hour – no more. Or else the Pothole Army will act. And we will act ruthlessly.’ With that they left.

It sounded like a threat to Percy so he rang up the local police station and told them that two old men had threatened him if he didn’t fix the pothole in Partridge Street. ‘They called themselves the Pothole Army,and they said I had one hour to fix something or else,’ he finished. ‘They could be the innocent front of a terrorist organisation.’

They police looked at each other and wondered if this was some hidden code name – but as Fallowfield was the MP they had better act smartly and be seen to be doing something. Couldn’t be too careful. They decided to take a couple of police cars down Partridge Street just in case and patrol there – at once – if they had given one hour it could mean that a bomb was about to go off there.

The squad cars went rapidly down Partridge Street with all haste – the first unfortunately, as it came into the road, hit the pothole and the tyre was momentarily embedded in the cleft. The second police car not being able to stop in time came up behind it and in to the back of the first car.

The police got out and stood around wondering what to do – ‘Bloody pothole should have been fixed long ago.’ Someone was taking photos and said they would send them to the local papers.

While all the fuss was going on outside Wilson and Jackson looked at the scene.

‘I would think they would have to fix that pothole now,’ Wilson opined.

‘Indubitably,’ answered Jackson.

by Alan Somerville


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