Dear Barbara.

Today’s Prompt: Pick up the nearest book and flip to page 29. What’s the first word that jumps off the page? Use this word as your springboard for inspiration. 

Dear Barbara,

I am writing to you simply to say I think you are amazing and I’m ever so grateful to have met you even, though it was only briefly.

My trip to the zoo that day hadn’t been the best I have to admit. I was rejected by a kangaroo when I tried to feed it some pellets, I leant in too close to the electric fence and received a dizzy hit of volts to the forehead and I was chased by a bumble bee. Then you came along.

I was sat munching away at my dry cheese sandwich when I heard the zoo keepers shouting and a child scream with grief. I turned around to see you sat happily holding the crying child’s lollipop. I admire your gusto, if you see something you want, you go out there and get it, even against the protests of a howling toddler. I distinctly remember staring at you with awe, I adored the way you licked and bit the red lolly without a care in the world. I wish I could be as unburdened as were on that day.

“Barbara! Barbara! Get back here!” Shouted the polo shirted zoo keepers. You defied their summons, instead choosing to head in the opposite direction, that direction just happening to be towards me. How you gracefully bounced from each picnic table to the next with such ease it really was a sight to see. You stopped at my table and I had a chance to truly admire your beauty. Your soft hair a beautiful shade of grey, the black around your eyes really made the orange in them stand out and most of all I found the movements of your striped tail to be hypnotising.

Alas the keepers finally caught up with you and returned you to your home.

I rushed to the ringtail lemur enclosure to search for you, I saw many striped tails wrapped around tree branches or waving in the wind. There were so many that I struggled to spot you! When I did finally find you sat alone high in a branch, I couldn’t help but beam to see my cheese sandwich in your hand.

Yours Sarah Lou x

Grandads’ Old Suitcase

Day 13’s Prompt: write about finding something.

After Grandads passing the time came to split all his worldly possessions between his four children. Uncles, Aunties and cousins filled my Grandfathers home, I found this an utter intrusion, I was angry, most of them never came to visit when Grandad was alive and here there were traipsing through all the rooms and taking what they liked. The worst came when my Dads siblings started dividing up Grandmas Lladro ornaments. Grandma had always wanted the entire collection to go to my Mother, those wishes were ignored.

I had to escape all the scavenging in the living room so I slipped into Grandads bedroom, he had kept it just as it had been when Grandma had been alive. The bed was pristinely made, the curtains draped just so and on the dressing table lay all Grandmas soft brushes and mirrors. I carefully picked up her looking glass and imagined my Grandmother doing the same years before. On the dresser sat another Lladro ornament, this one was of a young barefoot girl, I remember Grandad telling me a story about how far she had walked with a stone in her shoe. I admired her delicate features and graceful pose as my Auntie walked in and took the ornament from me.

I so desperately wanted to take something, something of Grandads that I could cling on to. That’s when I stumbled across one of Grandads old suitcases. Whenever he came to visit he always brought his brown leather suitcase, containing neatly folded shirts and vests, his electric razor and his old spice. If I came home from school and found this sitting in the hallway it brightened my day because it meant Grandad was here, with me!

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The suitcase is a little beaten up, it’s lid is sagging, the lock doesn’t work and the lining is discoloured. That doesn’t matter to me, I take it on my travels across the country and delight when people ask me about my tatty bag. I revel in any excuse to talk about my Grandfather, whom I will forever love and cherish.

The Grass Is Always Greener.

Today’s Prompt: Write a post inspired by a real-world conversation.

The door to the restaurant flies open and in walk Eve and Patrick, they’re the kind of couple that other couples aspire to be like. They really seem to have a handle on this whole being an adult business, they’re the kind of couple your Mother would want you to be friends with. Both beautiful and stylish people, oozing with sophistication, both enjoying immensely successful high powered jobs. Travelling all over the globe and finding time to throw incredible dinner parties in their grand Cheltenham townhouse. They have got it all.

Eves’ eyes quickly scan the room to find us, when they land upon myself and my husband Alec, a smile spreads across her glowing cheeks and her eyes light up. She effortlessly slips from her coat and with perfect timing Patrick catches the garment and hands it to the waiter whom he is having a lighthearted joke with. They join us at the table, Eve caresses my hand and whispers, “my darling you look divine.” I know she’s being polite, I feel as though I’ve just rolled out of bed and thrown on some rags, Eve is as stunning as ever. Patrick unbuttons his jacket and orders wine for the table, Eve straightens his tie and declares, “you are the shabbiest man in England! How is that at thirty six years of age you still can’t dress yourself?” She smiles and kisses him quickly. 

Hours fly by as we enjoy each others company along with plates of rich Italian food being brought to us. “Yes, you both must join us, we know this delightful little chateaux just outside of Lyon. It’s simply unreal how beautiful it is, we could spend the weekend there and gorge ourselves on French bread and wine, doesn’t that sound stupendous?” Eve takes an excited sip of her coffee, “of course we’d hoped to go there next weekend but unfortunately Patrick has to be off to Berlin for a work thing, terrible bore.” She rolls her eyes and mimes a yawn. 

Alec coughs and splutters coffee down his shirt, I rub his back and offer him my serviette, “I’m fine,” he wheezes, “just went down the wrong way.” I wish he could be suave, behave more like Patrick. Eve grabs Patricks arm and exclaims, “Isn’t that Carina? Over there by the bar! Oh we have to go say hello!” With that she pulled his arm and lead him toward an attractive red head perched daintily at the bar. 

I turn to Alec and hold his hand, “do you think we could go to France with them? I’m sure we’d have a lovely time and they’d show us all the fabulous places to visit!” Alec doesn’t respond, he seems distracted, staring towards our friends with a pained expression. I look over to them and I see no cause for alarm, Eve has found a seat next to her friend and with expressive hand gestures is discussing something with her. Patrick is chatting to the barman presumably ordering another bottle of wine. 

“What’s the matter?” I ask Alec.

He sighs and fumbles with his napkin, “if I tell you do you promise not to freak out.”

I feel a lump in my throat, I swallow hard and promise to stay calm.

“That woman, Carina, she works with Patrick.” He hesitates for a moment, “and erm, he’s going on that business trip to Berlin, with, her.” 

I look at Alec perplexed, “okay, that’s a problem because..?”

He takes a deep breath, “it’s not for business, it’s more for, well, um, how shall I say, pleasure.”

I sit up bolt right, “are you trying to say what I think you are?”

“Don’t freak, you promised you wouldn’t.”

I lower my voice, “so he’s having an affair? How long has this been going on? How long have you known? Why didn’t you tell me? Should we tell Eve?”

Alec exclaims, “God no!” Remembering where we are he whispers, “he’s been fooling around with her for about a year. Those trips he takes to ‘Stratford’ every month are spent with her.” 

“Wait. Carina?” The name suddenly rings a bell, I search my mind looking for a faint memory of it, “didn’t Eve say they took a Carina to that chateaux last year?”

Alec raised his eyebrows, “ahuh, that’s where this all began.”

“Whilst they were under the same roof as Eve? How can we not say anything? This horrid Alec, this would kill her.”

“Which,” he emphasised each word. “is exactly, why. We can’t say anything. They’ve been together for ten years, how can we break that up?”

Just as I took a breath to state my argument Eve came rushing back to her seat, alone. “Sorry about that,” she sang, “had to say hello, Carina is a chum of Patricks, she is to die for. I mean look at her she’s absolutely gorgeous! Maybe I should keep an eye on Patrick, I mean he’s only human. Ha!” She threw her head back and laughed.

I feel Alecs hand squeeze my thigh under the table, he stares harshly into my eyes, in my mind I can hear him screaming, “this is not the time!”

Eve has her back to Patrick as she chippers on about what a lovely girl Carina is, I can’t pull my eyes away from him. He leans against the bar close to Carina and he is whispering something in her ear, she smiles and bites her lip. My heart is breaking for Eve.

These Four Walls

Today’s Prompt: Where did you live when you were 12 years old?

When we first moved to this house I got to pick my own room, I’d been ambitious and asked for the largest in the house. Mum said no. I settled for the second largest. The room was big enough to fit a bed and not much else, my wardrobe had to be relegated to the hallway outside my door, a door which didn’t close properly. The walls of my room had been painted pink by the previous owner, at this point in my life I was very anti-pink. I was certainly not keen on the particular shade of pink that suffocated my walls. It was so strong that sunglasses had to be worn upon entering. Every morning I woke up with a throbbing headache. Why would anybody want walls that appeared to be severely sunburnt?

When it was announced I could redecorate, I opted for blue, a nice cool tone that was happy and relaxed. I bought a large spiral stamp, submerged it in silver paint and jumped around the room scattering metallic patterns across the walls. In the years we lived there Mum never got round to replacing the bright pink curtains, they stayed as a constant reminder of my rooms former life.

My room was my fortress and together we went through many transformations.

A social hang out. Bunk beds, adorned with dolphin bed linen and teddy bears were often inhabited by as many friends as I could fit in there. I still marvel at the idea we managed to squeeze seven of us into two beds on one particular sleepover.

A show of maturity. A large rectangular mirror propped against the wall. The floor in front scattered with pots of eye shadow and tubes of lip gloss. I spent hours sat in front of this posing with my camera, trying to get the perfect picture to use for MySpace.

An act of rebellion. Somewhere beneath the mountains of dirty clothes there was a carpet. My walls were also hidden. Plastered over every inch were poster of bands I idolised, mainly Green Day. I will always love you Billie Joe Armstrong.

A cry for help. Walls stripped, left cold and baron. My bed dismantled I preferred to sleep on a mattress on the floor. I would sit for hours alone. Wishing everything would get better.

A place to build memories. Bunk beds returned to their former glory. Bed sheets draped from the top to turn the bottom bunk into a tent. We would cook copious servings of cous cous and watch indie movies on my laptop. Paying little attention to the films, too busy laughing with each other.

After we lost the house, I returned to collect the last few things. I stood in my empty room. I cried as I said my goodbyes. Who’d have thought a few walls could help mould you into the person you’re supposed to be?

Happy School Days!

Today’s Prompt: Tell us something about your favourite childhood meal

Do you remember 10p mixes? That little paper bag you got from the corner shop that was bursting with sweets, usually purchased with a ten pence piece you’d found on the pavement. Hows about a 50p mix? That was the truest example of wealth as a child. If you could afford a fifty pence mix you were basically Ritchie Rich and everyone wanted to be your best mate. I remember once getting 50p from the Tooth Fairy which I immediately blew on sugary sweets, I’d like to think I was keeping the Tooth Fairy in business.

On a weekend I’d go to the corner shop with a bunch of mates and we’d buy enough sweets to knock an elephant on it’s arse. After consuming half our stash we’d fly around the park, that is of course a metaphor but with the amount of sugar in our blood stream I wouldn’t have been surprised if we could go at a speed great enough to gain a little air time. I’d squirrel away some of my sweets ready for some playground bargaining during the following weeks playtime at school.

In your fifty pence mix you’d get little white mice that didn’t actually taste of anything, shrimps, coconut mushrooms, ah! Gummy teeth and gummy toothbrushes and every time you got one of those you’d spend hours miming brushing your teeth, until they started to go all sticky in your warm fingers. Coca cola bottles, couldn’t just pop those in your gob and eat them, had to nibble the top off and pretend to guzzle the ‘coke’ from it. Oh jelly babies, I used to get six of them, line ‘em up neatly, bite the heads off of two then chant, divorced, behead, died, divorced, beheaded, survived. Henry the Eighth related humour from a seven year old, amazing. The chewy red lips that you’d give coyly to a boy you fancied, then run back to your mates squealing, “I gave Rhys my kiss!” I hated, absolutely HATED the beer pints, looking back now it seems a tad inappropriate that a bunch of primary school kids were running about playgrounds eating sweets that looked and supposedly tasted like a pint of bitter. I was always keen to swap those with other kids, preferably for the cherries. Gummy cherries will always be my favourite sweetie, still can’t go by a paper shop without nipping in and buying a handful.

Is it really any wonder I’ve spent my adult life paying massive dental bills?

Memories in the Park

Today’s Prompt: A man and a woman walk through the park together, holding hands. They pass an old woman sitting on a bench. The old woman is knitting a small, red sweater. The man begins to cry. Write this scene.

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Penny

I was less than thrilled when Nathan called me to suggest we go to the park for our next date. I had just bought a new red dress, an off the shoulder Bardot number which highlighted all the hard work I’d been putting in to my new bum workouts, hello squats! I had been hoping dearly that Nathan would have produced an excuse for me to showcase my new acquisition, I could quite picture myself climbing up hills and plodding through grass in my va-va-voom skin tight mini dress.

I got to the park at eleven, Nathan was running a little late, the weather was beyond dull, I was freezing and did not enjoy passing the time listening to muddy brats screaming at each other. I managed to find a quite enough bench that had a few slithers of sunlight cascading onto it. I closed my eyes and tried to calm my jittery nerves.

A gentle noise in my ear made me jump in my seat, an old lady had sat herself delicately next to me and began to to click, click away with her knitting needles and a bundle of red wool.  “Sorry duckie, did I disturb you?” She sweetly asked.

“No, no of course not, I was just miles away sorry!”

“Aye, I find meself often gerrin’ lost here, it’s such a lovely place to visit and sit with ye thoughts. I bring my grandson here every weekend, he runs off with all his little friends and I can sit here and rest my feet a little while. A boy needs to stretch his legs and get some fresh air in his lungs.” Her eyes drift up to the children chasing each other around the goal posts, her nimble fingers continue to work away with the needles.

We talk for a while and she tells me all about her grandson whom she clearly adores, I was almost a little sad when I spotted Nathan come through the gates of the park. “It’s been really lovely talking to you,” I tell her sincerely as I get up to leave, “I hope you have a lovely day. Goodbye.”

“You too lovely,” she smiles and then returns to the jumper she’s knitting.

I rush over to greet Nathan, “I’m sorry to have kept you waiting,” he whispers and he hugs me tightly, “were you waiting long?”

“No, not really, I met the sweetest little old lady, she kept me company.”

Nathan put his arm around my shoulders, pulled me close, kissed my forehead and we headed along the path.

Nathan

Penny looked absolutely stunning as she skipped towards me, her auburn curls bouncing with every step she took. I also noticed how amazing her bum looked in those jeans but decided it would be inappropriate to mention that. We strolled through the park and headed for the ice cream truck that was always parked here rain or shine. We shared a tub of smooth ice cream topped generously with strawberry sauce whilst we lounged in a sunny spot by the trees. I was so pleased to finally have the chance to bring Penny to this place, this park holds such a special place in my heart, I spent many a happy day running around here as a growing boy.

“I learned to ride my bike here, Dad brought me here, he did that thing parents do where they hold the back of the bike and you’re too busy peddling away to notice when they let go. Of course as soon as I did realise he wasn’t holding me I lost my bottle and went tumbling to the ground!”

She laughed, a genuine laugh, a beautifully honest laugh. When she stopped I kissed her, a soft gentle peck which turned into a firm passionate kiss. We lay in silence for a while after, watching the clouds drift over us she had her head on my chest, and she traced my jawline with her fingertips.

Later on I took her for a walk through the trees, “and that tree there was where we made a tree swing. A worn out blue piece of rope tied to a splintered stick. We thought it was brilliant.” I held a branch up so Penny could duck deeper into the woods. “This tree is the highest in the park, me and my mates used to dare each other to see who could climb the highest. One day I got brave, I climbed all the way up to that branch there,” I pointed high to a broken branch, “I stood on it gloating to my mates below. As I did the branch snapped, I went plummeting down hitting every branch as I went, I came to a stop a few feet above the ground. I was more embarrassed than in pain. My mates went rushing off to go get my Gran ‘cause they thought I was dead.” I start to laugh at the memory, remembering how dramatic and catastrophic things seem when you’re a child.

“My poor Gran came struggling through the branches to find me clinging to this tree, I had one leg wrapped around the branch, the other kicking manically looking for something firm to step on and my arms hugging the trunk. She laughed, didn’t ask if I was okay, just laughed, ‘you look like a blinking gibbon hanging like that Nathan’ she chuckled. ‘Do you intend to stay there or will you be joining us humans down here?’ I was mortified, I shouted about how I couldn’t get down. She put her hands on her hips and said, ‘well you’re not getting this old bird climbing up there after you. You ain’t about to sprout wings so’s to fly down so it seems your only choice is to drop down.’ Then she walked away.”

This made Penny laugh, ‘what did you do?”

“I jumped down and ran after my Gran, she bought me an ice cream and we headed home.” I don’t think often about my Grandmother these days, when I do, I always start to well up. She was such a brilliant woman with a wicked sense of humour. Being in this park, reminiscing about those days is bringing it all back to me. We’d head here every Sunday, I’d dart off ahead of her and find some sort of trouble to get into, when I was thoroughly covered in mud and twigs I’d head to the bench she like to sit on to do her knitting.

“Oh my lovely, why are you crying?” Penny asked.

“It’s nothing, just thinking about my Gran, I still miss her.” With that Penny got on her tip toes and placed a hundred or more tiny kisses on my lips.

Gran

It’s lovely to see the little ‘uns run about. I never ‘ad much time for the sort who said kids should be seen an not ‘eard. No, kiddies should shout and laugh and be carefree. Plenty o’ time for being serious when they’re older. Look at our Nathan, when he war a nipper he was a bag o’ energy. Couldn’t keep him still for second, not that I ever tried to. Oh he ran his poor Mother ragged, but he war just being a lad, he was a good un really. Still is, I can see tha’ I can see what a lovely lad he’s turned out to be. I’m proud of him, he’s not got all money in world, he’d be better not to drink so much and it wouldn’t do ‘im any harm to ger his ‘air cut more often but he’s kind, he’s a sweet boy and oh he’s in love. Any daft bugger could see that, he looks at that girl like she could do no wrong, like the sun itself shines out of her, well, I oughtn’t say really. Aye she’s a pretty un I’ll say that much but I do think he trousers are a bit tight, dunt leave much to imagination, wi’ jeans tight as that clingin’ to thee arse.

I know he’ll treat her right, he’ll do good by that one, you never know! One day he might be bringing his own babies here for a stretch o’ legs. An if he does, I hope they climb trees an run through puddles and ruin all their nice clothes, then he’ll see what I had to cope wi. He’s a good boy our Nathan.

Now where war I? Oh aye. Knit one, pearl one, knit one, pearl one…

People Watching.

Go to a local café, park, or public place and write a piece inspired by something you see.

I’ve always loved the idea of coffee, it seems ever so sophisticated to me, if only I could sashay over to the barista and order some delightful caffeine concoction. The issues being that I hate the taste of coffee, so today I head to the barista and have my usual, “medium hot chocolate with cream and no marshmallows. Please.”

I take my drink and retreat to a spot in the back of the cafe. Quite, dark and empty..like my heart! Ok maybe not, sometimes I just like to make time for myself, to be by myself. I like to sit in places like this, headphones on, book in hand and stealing glances from the people who whizz by me.

A few tables away a Mother is sat with her young son, he is slurping a vibrant yellow drink and telling her all about the time he scored the winning goal at school.

By the front window a man sits alone, he is wearing a suit and tie and is sporting a large wrist watch which he is obsessed with. He stares at it’s face and then looks out the window, takes a sip from his drink then looks back at his watch.

There are two baristas stood behind the counter, one leans against the wall and twirls her hair round her finger. The other stands proud, shoulders back, chest out and feet firmly rooted to the ground, he smiles and winks to the girl cleaning the tables. She giggles and scurries away into the back.

A booth nearby is overflowing with teenagers squealing about one thing or another, from what I can hear there gossiping about friends and boys. A blonde girl in a denim jacket proclaims, “he text me saying ‘hey babe’ he obviously fancies me!” This leads to a very intense discussion as to how she should respond to this cryptic text.

Outside a fashionable looking man sits at a table, I wonder why he is braving the cold wind, he tries to light a cigarette and now I understand. Several clicks of the lighter achieve nothing, he tries to shield the flame with his hand, unfortunately he succeeds only in scorching his hand and having the wind whip his cigarette down the street. I laugh to myself, “poor chap.”

I love to sit alone and spectate as life goes on around me, people rush about with no regard for little old me sitting in the corner… Although I wonder, is anyone else in this cafe is making mental notes on what I’m doing?

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