Happy Cupboard

flat-lay photography of variety of beverage filled glasses
Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

This is my happy cupboard. Well, it’s not really a cupboard, more a corner of a shelf in a cupboard, but it’s mine, and it makes me happy and I’ll take that.

It’s not always easy. We all have times when it feels like you are barely catching your breath before the next big thing hits. Sometimes it’s excitement, like the bustle getting ready for Christmas. Sometimes it’s not so exciting, when you are frantically running around hospital visiting and trying to keep it all going. Sometimes you are just numb as you plan a funeral and sorted the loved one’s last belongings.

I hold on to my happy cupboard. This small packet is lemon and ginger tea. I remember first trying it at college as I tried to be a rebel. Of course, half the cafeteria was drinking herbal teas, just to be different from their parents, but that wasn’t the point. I drank it without any sweetener and thought myself alternative.

This packet is the brand of tea I discovered in my second year at college. It’s Irish Breakfast tea and an obscure stall on the market was the only place that sold it. It brewed dark, and strong and kept me awake through the hours of studying. It reminds me of the friends I had there and the good times – and sometimes it even reminds me of the facts I painfully learned.

This is green tea. I bought when I started work. I was trying to balance insane hours with healthy living. Switching brands felt like I was doing something when I was just adding a few pennies onto my grocery bill as a patch over too much fast food and alcohol. It always reminds me of the time the boss found what we had put in what he thought was his secret whiskey drawer.

They all have memories. This is camomile tea which I drank on my first holiday to France and I fell in love with my husband. This is a small tub of spicy chai tea bags, the same sort we drank during the caravan holiday on the East Coast where we couldn’t get warm and my husband proposed, blurting it all out after leaving the ring at home. This is peppermint tea which was all I could manage to drink when I was pregnant with my darling son – it was the only dratted liquid I could keep down. And this is a small box of loose Earl Grey because it reminds me of the first cup of proper tea I drank while I watched my newborn son sleep through his first morning.

This packet of tea in my hands, though, is a deliberate choice. Tomorrow is my son’s first day of school. I have everything laid out already, with the forms completed and the uniform ironed and named. And as I rush through tomorrow morning, I will have a cup of jasmine tea and make another memory for my happy cupboard.

Writing Challenge 9th December 2019

The reason I’m posting this prompt because I like writing a little flash fiction. It’s something I treat as going to the gym for my writing muscles. If you want to join in, that’s brilliant, but there’s no pressure. If you want to leave a comment with a link, that’s great, but if you don’t feel ready to share yet, that’s also great. Or you could decide that you had a good session at the ‘gym’ and want to submit it somewhere, or use it as the basis for other work, which would be amazing. It’s up to you how you use this prompt. The only thing I would like to insist on is that you enjoy yourself.

Here is a picture and a quotation. The challenge is to write something that is sparked off by one or both of them. It doesn’t have to be directly related to either, just the story you hear when you see them. It’s limited to 500 words (or less, lots less if you need to, or a little more, and I don’t check), and you should try and finish it by next week. It can be prose, poetry, fact or fiction – just have fun.

flat-lay photography of variety of beverage filled glasses
Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

…the old white haired/whitebearded man that is the Sint/who’d only heard of peppermint/and fennel tea before you taught/how one can flavour water hot/to titillate and tantalise/the tastbuds … it’s been paradise

A wonderful friend

A quick note about the quotation. In the Netherlands it is traditional to exchange gifts and a poem on Sinterklaas, 6th December. A wonderful woman (who spoils my son outrageously – thank you!) was kind enough to send me some goodies and a poem that included a reference to tea. The hug has kept me going all week and I thought it was too wonderful not to share.

As for the writing, if you wish, leave a link in the comments and I will drop in, read and comment, and I encourage everyone to do the same. I’ll also be sharing stuff on Facebook and wherever else I can think of. There are no prizes and no end goal, unless it is to have fun writing. I hope I get to see some awesome stuff sparked by this. Good luck!

Hanging Around

Photo by Ram Gopal on Unsplash

Steve raced on to the landing. “Fiona, are you alright?”

“No, I am not alright.” Fiona’s voice echoed in the attic. “I am stuck floating with my head in the attic and my legs several feet above the stairs.”

Steve stared. “What happened?”

“I was getting the Christmas decorations down, and the ladder slipped.” Fiona said. “And I’m not complaining. I didn’t fall. It’s just that I’m stuck.”

Armani flapped up to the hatch and stared at the space between the frame of the attic entrance and Fiona’s waist. “I’ve never seen anything like this, boss.” The imp said.

“You promised you had got rid of all the magic in the house.” Fiona said. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy I didn’t land on my…” She glanced at Armani. “All I’m saying is that I thought you had cleared the house.”

Steve stared up at her. “Why the hell were you going into the attic with no-one else in the house?”

“Can we skip that part?” Fiona said. “It’s draughty up here.”

“We didn’t even put the decorations up there.” Steve said. “They’re in the cupboard in the spare room.”

Fiona sighed. “I realised that when I got up here, but I’ve always kept decorations in the attic.”

“We haven’t even been in there.” Steve said, staring up at his wife. “Fiona, are you comfortable?”

Fiona bit back her instinctive reply. “Actually, I’m really comfortable, like I’m floating in water. There’s no strain. I just want to come down now.”

“What’s up there?” Steve asked.

“I don’t know.” Fiona said. “I dropped the torch and it’s pitch black up here. If I could just come down now, please.”

Steve eyed the hatch and rummaged in his pocket. He pulled out a small, plain silver ring. “I’m not sure I can get you down.”

“What do you mean?” Fiona tried to wriggle to glare at her husband. “I thought you were the great magician?”

“I am a great magician.” Steve said. “I mean, I’m good at magic, but this is something else.” He frowned. “I don’t know where to start.”

“We could start with a ladder, boss.” Armani said.

Steve looked through the ring. “I’m not sure I’ve ever seen magic like this.”

“The ladder, boss?” Armani said. The small imp flapped down and tried to tug the ladder into place.

“Hang on.” Steve said, thrusting the ring back into his pocket and picking up the ladder. “I’ve not seen this before.” He set the step ladder against Fiona’s legs then checked the ring out again. “I wonder if I need a different filter.”

Fiona sighed as she was gently lowered onto the ladder. “Thank you.” She said to the air in general. She looked at her husband. “Why don’t you work out a way to say thank you to the magic that saved me while I go and get the Christmas decorations?”

Steve held the ladder as Fiona slowly stepped down. “At least you’re no longer hanging around.” He ducked.

Writing Challenge 2nd December 2019

The reason I’m posting this prompt because I like writing a little flash fiction. It’s something I treat as going to the gym for my writing muscles. If you want to join in, that’s brilliant, but there’s no pressure. If you want to leave a comment with a link, that’s great, but if you don’t feel ready to share yet, that’s also great. Or you could decide that you had a good session at the ‘gym’ and want to submit it somewhere, or use it as the basis for other work, which would be amazing. It’s up to you how you use this prompt. The only thing I would like to insist on is that you enjoy yourself.

Here is a picture and a quotation. The challenge is to write something that is sparked off by one or both of them. It doesn’t have to be directly related to either, just the story you hear when you see them. It’s limited to 500 words (or less, lots less if you need to, or a little more, and I don’t check), and you should try and finish it by next week. It can be prose, poetry, fact or fiction – just have fun.

Photo by Ram Gopal on Unsplash

“Whom are you?” he asked, for he had attended business college.

George Ade

If you wish, leave a link in the comments and I will drop in, read and comment, and I encourage everyone to do the same. I’ll also be sharing stuff on Facebook and wherever else I can think of. There are no prizes and no end goal, unless it is to have fun writing. I hope I get to see some awesome stuff sparked by this. Good luck!

Straightening Up

Photo by Mateus Campos Felipe on Unsplash

“Seriously, just stay there.” Ben glared at his wife.

Helen looked shifty. “It’s driving me nuts.”

“You cannot come in and rearrange the pictures.” Ben said. “We hardly ever visit Aunt Violet, the least we can do is be good company.”

“Those pictures make my eyeballs itch.” Helen said.

“She’ll be back in a second.” Ben said. “She’s just nipped out to get your favourite brand of tea. She’s an old woman. Let her have her way.”

“But they’re not straight!”

“It doesn’t matter. Look out the window instead.”

“Have you seen the state of that garden?” Helen said. “She can afford a gardener, I’m sure.”

“We don’t know that she has any money.” Ben said. “She’s my aunt, not yours, and for all I know she hasn’t a spare penny. But she was really kind to me when I was a kid.”

Helen fidgeted on the dusty sofa for a moment. “Perhaps I could come over a couple of times a week and do the garden. I remember it being really nice.”

Ben looked out of the window at the weedy flowerbeds. “She’d like the company.”

“And I could give her a hand with the pictures.” Helen said.

“Will you forget about the pictures.” Ben snapped. “It’s not doing you any harm.”

“But they aren’t straight!” Helen wailed. “I can’t bear it.” She jumped up and adjusted the dull print at the bottom.

The picture swung a little on its cord and settled straight for a second. Then, in front of Ben and Helen’s appalled stare, the picture sagged and pulled the nail right out of the plaster. As the picture fell, glass and frame shattering on the wooden boards left bare by the antique carpet square, the dry plaster behind the picture hook cracked and gave. Slowly, like snow sliding from a steep roof, shard after shard of the plaster fell, in widening sections, bringing down the pictures with it. As the dust settled gently over the remains, the coving at the top sagged.

“No,” Ben said, shaking his head. “No!”

With inexorable slowness, the plaster coving pulled away from the wall and slid majestically down, crashing into the furniture as it fell.

Helen looked at what had once looked like an antique drum table but now looked like kindling and the cut flowers that had been placed on it strewn among the wreckage of the glass vase. “I think I’ll give Aunt Violet a hand with the house over the next few weeks.” She winced as another chunk of plaster slid down the wall. “Or as long as it takes.”

Ben shook his head. “The whole house probably needs replastering and redecorating, and goodness knows what else.” He turned to his wife. “But I suppose you can make sure that the pictures are straight then!”

Writing Challenge 25th November 2019

The reason I’m posting this prompt because I like writing a little flash fiction. It’s something I treat as going to the gym for my writing muscles. If you want to join in, that’s brilliant, but there’s no pressure. If you want to leave a comment with a link, that’s great, but if you don’t feel ready to share yet, that’s also great. Or you could decide that you had a good session at the ‘gym’ and want to submit it somewhere, or use it as the basis for other work, which would be amazing. It’s up to you how you use this prompt. The only thing I would like to insist on is that you enjoy yourself.

Here is a picture and a quotation. The challenge is to write something that is sparked off by one or both of them. It doesn’t have to be directly related to either, just the story you hear when you see them. It’s limited to 500 words (or less, lots less if you need to, or a little more, and I don’t check), and you should try and finish it by next week. It can be prose, poetry, fact or fiction – just have fun.

Life is full of surprises, but never when you need one

Bill Watterson

If you wish, leave a link in the comments and I will drop in, read and comment, and I encourage everyone to do the same. I’ll also be sharing stuff on Facebook and wherever else I can think of. There are no prizes and no end goal, unless it is to have fun writing. I hope I get to see some awesome stuff sparked by this. Good luck!

Numbers

room number on wall
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Steve looked at Darren. “The information is here?”

Darren looked around. The church clung desperately to the past. The old style pews were still here, along with the ten foot high board painted with the Beatitudes. Illustrated scenes from Foxe’s Book of Martyrs were painted around the walls. He found it faintly depressing. “Yes.” He said, absently flicking through the prayer books. It was the 1662 version of the Book of Common Prayer. What did he expect in a church that catered to elderly vampires. He took a photo of the numbers board with his phone.

“What does it mean?” Steve stared at the mismatched squares jumbled together in the slots.

“Hmm?” Darren said.

“That number at the top – Matt 7:7.” Steve walked up to it. “It’s some sort of code.”

“It’s the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 7, verse 7.” Darren said. “ It says ‘Ask, and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you’. You should come along to Bible Class. It’s about asking for God’s blessings, usually, and often quoted in the Prosperity Gospel movement.”

“And the other numbers?” Steve said, staring up.

Darren had already turned to get out of the door. “It’s just numbers for the service. There’s the chapter and verse of the Bible readings, the Psalms, the collect and the hymn numbers. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a church without something like it. And in this case they are also the map reference we need. Let’s get a move on before they catch up with us.”

Writing Challenge 18th November 2019

The reason I’m posting this prompt because I like writing a little flash fiction. It’s something I treat as going to the gym for my writing muscles. If you want to join in, that’s brilliant, but there’s no pressure. If you want to leave a comment with a link, that’s great, but if you don’t feel ready to share yet, that’s also great. Or you could decide that you had a good session at the ‘gym’ and want to submit it somewhere, or use it as the basis for other work, which would be amazing. It’s up to you how you use this prompt. The only thing I would like to insist on is that you enjoy yourself.

Here is a picture and a quotation. The challenge is to write something that is sparked off by one or both of them. It doesn’t have to be directly related to either, just the story you hear when you see them. It’s limited to 500 words (or less, lots less if you need to, or a little more, and I don’t check), and you should try and finish it by next week. It can be prose, poetry, fact or fiction – just have fun.

room number on wall
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

I take a simple view of life: keep your eyes open and get on with it.

Sir Laurence Olivier

If you wish, leave a link in the comments and I will drop in, read and comment, and I encourage everyone to do the same. I’ll also be sharing stuff on Facebook and wherever else I can think of. There are no prizes and no end goal, unless it is to have fun writing. I hope I get to see some awesome stuff sparked by this. Good luck!

Choosing the Battles

rain dropping from roof
Photo by Anna King on Unsplash

Tim put another log on the fire and then leant back. He hadn’t bothered to switch any lamps on as the light faded, and the flickering glow danced around the room, throwing shadows against the wall. It was that time of year again, when he wondered whether he had done the right thing, whether he had chosen the right path. A scatter of rain hit the window and he could hear the wind rising in the trees. There was a knock on the door.

Tim walked down the hallway, switching the lights on as he went, and checked the peephole. You didn’t get many surprise visitors this far out in the country, and he didn’t think it would be Estelle. She was visiting friends over in Rochdale and was staying the night. He did not expect to see a thin, hunched young lad, damp and bedraggled in the porch light. It could be a trick. Tim slid the chain on and cracked open the door. “Yes?”

“Mr Timothy Arndale McGuigan?” the young lad asked, shivering a little.

“Who are you?” Tim answered, peering around him for any possible accomplices.

“I’m Kane Thelwell, and I’m here on behalf of Major General Alistair Arndale McGuigan.” Water dripped from his plain brown hair. “He’s asked me to pass on some messages.”

“Alistair McGuigan is dead.” Tim said flatly. “He can send no messages.”

Kane turned, as if listening to someone. “No, I can’t say that! Or that! Okay…” Kane squinted through the rain back at Tim. “The Major General says that you wanted to call your first cat Cowshed, because a friend had a cat called Cola as…”

“Alright, alright.” Tim unhooked the chain and ushered the lad in. “You’re soaked!”

Kane managed a smile. “It’s a bit wet out there, sir.”

“Stay there!” Tim ordered. “My wife would kill me if I let you drip on the sofa.”

After a brief whirlwind of activity, Kane was perched on a bundle of towels on the sofa, his hair roughly dried and a large mug of hot chocolate thrust into his hand. Tim put another log on the fire and sat back in his chair. For a moment he watched the stiff winds whipping the flames up into the chimney and turned to Kane. “How did you know about my cat Kimble?”

Kane glanced uneasily at a space at his side. “I can see ghosts.” He said. “Sometimes I get paid to help people out with hauntings and stuff.” He glanced again and nodded. “But this time I’m doing a favour for Major General McGuigan, as a way of saying thank you for his help.”

“What do you mean?” Tim said.

Kane shook his head. “The Major General wants to pass on a message to you. He says he knows that he always told you to be a soldier like him. And that you became a solicitor instead. He says that he talked about you going after money instead of glory.”

Tim pressed his lips together and turned back to the fire. After all these years, the words still stung. “I am a damn good solicitor, you know. I’ve been invited to apply for a position as a District Judge.”

Kane paused and listened to the unseen presence at his side. “But you’ll take a pay cut if you do that.” He said.

Tim shrugged. “I’m not exactly on the breadline, and judges get a respectable salary. Besides, I’ll still get a share of the profits from my firm.”

Kane sipped his hot chocolate and listened again. “The Major General says that you were handling a divorce recently, the Atkins. He said that you encouraged them to reconcile.”

“They were just going through a bad patch.” Tim said. “It would have been wrong to force the divorce.”

“But you could have made a lot of money out of it.” Kane said. “The Major General says that the other solicitor was itching for a fight.”

“They didn’t want to divorce.” Tim said. “They just needed to have a long talk. And they’re happy now.”

“The Major General said you walked away from that fight.” Kane said.

“It was the moral thing to do.” Tim said coldly.

Kane cocked his head to one side. “But you went in hard for that financial settlement.” He said. “The Cawlstone one. The Major General said you fought that like a tiger. He said you spent hours on the books over that.”

“It was the right thing to do. I was merely pursuing a fair settlement against unfair tactics by the respondent.” Tim said. “It was a challenge.”

Kane listened for a moment, then nodded. “The Major General said that you did the right thing both times. That you showed excellent judgement and good leadership.” He paused and nodded. “He says to tell you that you made the right choice, in those and the other cases he saw. That you choose your battles with skill, use well considered tactics and strategy and that he is proud of you. He says you would have made a good officer, but you’re doing pretty good where you are.” Kane listened again. “He says to tell you properly, that Major General Alistair Arndale McGuigan is proud of you, his son, and that he always will be.”

Tim swallowed. “Thank you.” He said. “And I’m proud of him.” He hesitated. “I love you, Dad.”

Kane looked at the space next to him and smiled a little. “I think he loves you too.” He said. “He says, goodbye.”

“Wait, Dad, hang on!” Tim leapt to his feet, but Kane was shaking his head.

“He’s gone home now, passed over. He’s not here anymore.”

Tim lowered himself slowly back into the armchair. He found himself breathing a little harder, as if he had been running. He let the conversation sink in slowly. He turned to Kane. “Thank you.”

“No problem.” Kane said awkwardly, sipping his hot chocolate.

“Seriously, thank you.” Tim said. “It means a lot.” He managed a smile. “And that is just the way Dad would have said it.”

“He seemed a bit hard work, but he was a good man.” Kane said. “He helped me out with a problem last week, and I don’t think I could have managed without him.”

Tim smiled a little sadly. “He was a great man to have on your side.” He hesitated. “You say you are employed to sort out hauntings?”

Kane nodded. “Well, sort of sort out. I can see and hear ghosts, but I can’t make them do what I want.” He thought for a moment. “I could never have got the Major General to do anything he didn’t want to.”

Tim laughed. “That sounds like Dad. But what is your fee?”

Kane shook his head. “No fee tonight. It’s my way of saying thank you to the Major General. I don’t mind.”

Tim looked at the hunched young lad, with his battered trainers and worn, cheap jeans. “I feel like I owe you a great deal.” He said. “Are you sure there is nothing I can do for you?” He watched the emotions cross Kane’s face, as he struggled to resist temptation, before he gave in.

“Could you give me a lift to the station?” Kane asked.  

Writing Challenge 11th November 2019

The reason I’m posting this prompt because I like writing a little flash fiction. It’s something I treat as going to the gym for my writing muscles. If you want to join in, that’s brilliant, but there’s no pressure. If you want to leave a comment with a link, that’s great, but if you don’t feel ready to share yet, that’s also great. Or you could decide that you had a good session at the ‘gym’ and want to submit it somewhere, or use it as the basis for other work, which would be amazing. It’s up to you how you use this prompt. The only thing I would like to insist on is that you enjoy yourself.

Here is a picture and a quotation. The challenge is to write something that is sparked off by one or both of them. It doesn’t have to be directly related to either, just the story you hear when you see them. It’s limited to 500 words (or less, lots less if you need to, or a little more, and I don’t check), and you should try and finish it by next week. It can be prose, poetry, fact or fiction – just have fun.

clear glass bottle with white flowers on table
Photo by loli Clement on Unsplash

Peace demands the most heroic labor and the most difficult sacrifice. It demands greater heroism than war. It demands greater fidelity to the truth and a much more perfect purity of conscience.

Thomas Merton

If you wish, leave a link in the comments and I will drop in, read and comment, and I encourage everyone to do the same. I’ll also be sharing stuff on Facebook and wherever else I can think of. There are no prizes and no end goal, unless it is to have fun writing. I hope I get to see some awesome stuff sparked by this. Good luck!