50 and 500

For my new writing group we had to try to write a story in fifty words which had a beginning a middle and end. We also had to write another story based on a photo and I thought that should have been five hundred words, so that’s what I did… in fact, there was no limit! Never mind! I have been so busy, what with one thing and another, I didn’t have time to write the 500, but I did find a true story I had written some time ago.

Here they are

Fifty

As I passed she suddenly vaulted the rail; somehow, who knows how, I grabbed her wrist. She nearly took me, nearly dragged me over, but I hung on. Her white face looked up at me. ‘Farewell’ then her hand slid from my grasp and she dropped, fell to her death.

Five hundred

Raymond was a lovely man, a true gentleman, very kind, very helpful, the nicest guy you could ever meet… but he was soooo boring! He really could bore for England; he was nick-named Tirpitz after the German Grand Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz, why he acquired the name is another story.

Tirpitz was a very precise and particular man, as you might imagine; he was a reliable colleague, utterly trustworthy, a happy and devoted husband and father. At lunch time it was inevitable that he would join a conversation and soon everyone would be almost comatose with boredom as he went on, and on, and on, and on… He got a new car, and being the man he was he kept a record of every gallon of petrol he put in the car, how much it cost and how many miles per gallon the car could do.

Many a lunchtime was taken up with the latest mileage of Tirpitz’ spotless car. Alf and Neville who were in the same department as Tirpitz had to listen to his stories before work, at coffee break as well as lunchtime and in the sitting about time after work when everyone relaxed and chatted.

One day, Tirpitz was most exited… his car had over the last week done ten extra miles per gallon! It must be his careful driving (he was an advanced driver… but that again is another story) The following week Alf asked him about the car and its MPG… great news! Turpitz’ careful driving, not accelerating too quickly, keeping the windows shut at all time, checking the tyre pressure regularly, had all given him another extra 8mpg!

The following week, by combining journeys so he made fewer trips, by coming to work earlier so he avoided the rush hour he had added another 3mpg!!!

I cannot tell you the end of the tale, I don’t know how the story finished… but I will tell you that Tirpitz did not have a lockable cap on his fuel tank, and I will also tell you that when they had a spare moment, Alf and Neville would nip out, take out the gallon can of petrol Alf had in his car and pour some into Tirpitz’ car. You have heard of syphoning out petrol, this was syphoning it in!

Snow leopards and the Severn Bridge

I’ve been challenging myself to tackle a list of seventy-three different subjects on which a blog could be written… I’ve done this for the past couple of days, but this doesn’t mean I’m going to do it every day for the next two and a bit months! The suggestions are very wide-ranging and aimed at people from every area of life who might want to write a blog, not just writers. There are some amazing blogs in unexpected sites… this is one of my favourites from a plumbers’ suppliers:

http://www.plumbworld.co.uk/blog/

Back to the seventy-three… today I’m challenging myself to write about…  Current Events… I do occasionally comment on the world around us, but rarely if ever on political issues, and rarely on controversial issues. I have plenty of thoughts and ideas, but for me, my blog here, is not the place where I choose to air my opinions and views. So … current events…

Current events

I read a newspaper everyday, listen to the news on the radio, watch the evening news on TV, follow certain news websites from around the world, and I think in general keep myself up to date with what is happening.

Having relatively young children, it is very hard not to be anxious, depressed or worried about the world today… for example, looking on the BBC website in four different areas of news, local (Somerset) national (England and UK) and international (the world) the gloomy frightening, awful stories seem to outweigh by a long streak the positive optimistic news:

Somerset:

  • Severn Bridge tolls to be reduced
  • Criminal’s movie memorabilia to be sold
  • Vigilante trapped girl’s online groomer
  • Risks to brain-injury baby were missed
  • Health bosses press on with A&E closure
  • Jude Law sparks cinema security alert
  • Flying Scotsman stuck on slippery slope
  • Go-ahead for badger cull in 11 new areas
  • Leaders outline new transport plans
  • Royal Navy helicopter joins Irma effort
  • Yeovil Town 0-0 Cheltenham Town
  • Girl’s organs donated to record 8 people
  • Next generation of wild cranes fledge

England:

  • Tube blast is terror incident, say police
  • Harrow Fire
  • Timber yard blaze brings rail chaos
  • Ex-footballer Clarke Carlisle ‘missing’
  • Emergency landing after plane loses wheel
  • Boy detained for killing love rival
  • Briton dies in Sri Lanka crocodile attack
  • NHS workers demand 3.9% pay rise
  • Gang sentenced for ‘territorial’ killing
  • Church ‘did not anticipate’ bishop row
  • ‘Annoyed’ customer failed in blackmail bid
  • HS2 ‘may disrupt city travel for years’
  • Suspended sentence for Redmayne stalker

UK:

  • Tube blast is terror incident, say police
  • Pound hits highest since Brexit vote
  • Bank hints at interest rate rise
  • Briton dies in Sri Lanka crocodile attack
  • Timber yard blaze brings rail chaos
  • Wealthier areas asked to build more homes
  • Ex-footballer Clarke Carlisle ‘missing’
  • New guidance targets type 2 diabetes risk
  • Man admits killing toddler in crash
  • ‘I was abused by nuns for a decade’
  • Bombardier announces Belfast job cuts
  • Boy, 14, slashed in face at school
  • Lancashire loss confirms Essex as champions

World:

  • North Korean test splits world powers
  • Swedish politician ‘raped for his beliefs’
  • Swedish festival cancelled after rape claim
  • Saturn probe Cassini is incinerated
  • Full article Saturn probe Cassini is incinerated
  • Ex-CIA head quits Harvard over Manning
  • Manilla police removed after teen deaths
  • Paedophile furore wrecks Iceland coalition
  • Trump repeats ‘both sides’ controversy
  • Tunisian women free to marry non-Muslims
  • Irma-hit nursing home loses funding
  • Google sued over ‘sex discrimination’
  • Mayweather criticised over Trump defence
  • Lady Gaga in hospital with ‘severe pain’
  • George Harrison’s sitar to be auctioned
  • Snow leopard no longer ‘endangered’

So mush to fear, so much to be angry and appalled about, so much sadness and tragedy…

There is good news in among it all though…  let me find a good news story in among each of these section of current events…

  • The death of thirteen year old Jemima Layzell in 2012, from a brain aneurysm must have broken the hearts of her parents and family and all her friends. However, from her untimely death, she transformed the lives of eight different people, including five children. She donated her heart, pancreas, lungs, kidneys, small bowel and liver and gave life and a decent quality of life to eight strangers. Great good came from her tragedy – and maybe this will make more people think about becoming organ doners after their deaths. I rally believe there should be presumed consent unless someone actually opts out.
  • it’s harder to find a good news story among the UK news items, I guess we could ‘borrow’ from Somerset news that cranes have successfully bred on the levels and marshes of our county… I guess the fact that a plane made a successful emergency landing after losing a wheel is very good news
  • for Essex who beat Lancashire at cricket, it’s probably the best news that they won – they weren’t actually playing Lancashire, but Lancs lost against Somerset so Essex won the County Championship Division 1
  • … and what good news from the world can we find? It is a triumph for Tunisian women that they are now allowed to marry who they choose. The best news  for the snow leopards is that they are no longer endangered, but merely vulnerable

A true story of a strange fellow

This is a true story, but I have disguised everything which might identify the people involved.

Rachel was seventeen when she met Jimmy; they met at a disco, many, many years before. She and her gang of friends used to go to different clubs and places around town, and Jimmi was one of the guys who was always there. He was two years older than her and a guitar teacher, which seemed glamorous to Rachel and her friends! They went out a couple of times but it wasn’t destined to be anything more than casual.

Rachel moved away the following year, and didn’t return to live in the town except to visit her brothers and parents. Her brother Rick used to bump into Jimmi from time to time; Jimmi went through a bit of a bad patch, not professionally, his guitar teaching was as busy as ever, but he had a few personal difficulties.

Rick always thought Jimmy was a bit of a strange guy ‘an odd-bod’ as his parents described him. Rick realised that Jimmi was actually a couple of years older than what he’d originally said, but that was ok… he was pleasant enough, but they drifted out of each other’s circles – Rick was involved with the rugby club and socialised there. Rick married and he and his wife had lots of different interests which kept them busy. Jimmi, as far as Rick knew, still went to the same clubs and discos, and still wore the latest fashions, even though he was by now quite a bit older than the other ‘clubbers’.

Rick and his wife had children and became involved in their children’s activities – rugby, like their dad, swimming, scouts and guides… all the regular stuff kids do. Rick and his wife had their own social life, they went to a dance class to learn the tango, she joined a book club, he learned the ukulele and joined a little band, they had a wide social circle and went on holiday with friends as their children became older and wanted to do their own thing.

Phil was waiting at the station for his wife to come back from a trip to London when he was greeted by a weird-looking guy wearing a wig – it took Rick a few moments to realise it was Jimmi! Jimmi was a couple of years older than Rick, but he was wearing the sort of clothes Rick’s twenty-year-old son wore! They had an awkward conversation and Jimmi asked after Rachel and then he had to go, he had a ‘gig’, he said.

Rick mentioned this to his parents, who said they’d always thought Jimmi wore a wig, and they’d always thought he was very strange…  Years passed and Rick’s children left home, married settled down. Rick and his wife retired and were very busy and active – they had a camper van and travelled far and wide round the UK, Ireland and Europe. They were always busy and active, Rick still very involved in the rugby club and was on the committee, his wife now teaching the tango, and both of them members of the village society and involved in the planning of the annual fruit and produce show, the autumn carnival, Christmas activities, and the spring duck race.

It was the town’s food festival and Rick and his wife drifted along to meet up with their children and grandchildren. Rick had wandered off and was looking at a stall selling Greek olive oil when he noticed a little impromptu coffee bar nearby. He couldn’t help but stare at the odd-looking person sitting there. Espadrilles, ripped jeans, long shirt, leather jacket, bracelets, plaited leather wrist-bands, tattered bands from festivals, beads, rubber charity bands – the usual random collection of things a kid might have. There was a mass of gingery hair and a reggae Rasta beanie, which Rick only knew as a slouch because his grandson had told him. Rick caught a glimpse of an artificially tanned face hidden behind massive blue-lensed glasses; he looked away, took the change from the Greek olive oil man, and hurried back to his family.

A couple of days later, Rick was taking a short cut to avoid traffic but met another queue along a narrow country lane. The reason for the little tail-back was a car parked in a gateway but protruding into the lane. As Rick squeezed past, giving a thank-you wave to the car coming in the opposite direction who’d waited for him, Rick saw the owner of the parked car, shutting the boot. The man, hitched a guitar onto one shoulder, a low slung canvas bag hanging off the other. He adjusted his Rasta beanie, locked the car and went through the gate.

Rick glanced after Jimmi… the man might want to look like a twenty-year old but in reality – and his parents’ word ‘odd-bod’ came back… After seeing Jimmi at the food festival, Rick had done a little research; Jimmi was actually ten years older than he’d said when he went out with Rachel… so now Jimmi was actually seventy-one… A strange fellow and sad, very sad…

Inspiration… just a little tickle of an idea…

I usually flick through the BBC page for news, but also for articles and videos in what they call their magazine. Today my eye was caught by a photo of a young man, just head and shoulders, leaning back against a wall. He looked a little like a young David Bowie. The question was posed ‘when was this photo taken?’ A tricky one because looking at the rather handsome young face, the tousled, longish hair, the expression, it could have been taken yesterday, or any time in the last thirty or so years. A reporter went out onto the streets of London and asked passers-by when they thought the photo was taken, and answers ranged from recently to the sixties.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/entertainment-arts-40523826/the-colourist-changing-the-appearance-of-historical-photos

As you can tell, they were all good answers, and the thing which shocked everyone was that it was actually taken in the 1865!! The reason they were deceived, and I was too, was that the photo had been coloured digitally. There were other photos too, a whole range, some very moving and one tragic and heartbreaking.

I was intrigued by the photos – I’ve seen other similar photos from bygone times which have been coloured and it really does bring those real people who lived before to life. It’s possible to engage much more with such pictures. A little thread of an idea came to mind, a little idea for a story which revolves round old black and white photos of people which have been digitally enhanced. I won’t say more until I have jotted a few ideas down – I may share the first draft here!

Here is another short film about colour photography:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/magazine-39266423/photographing-the-russian-empire-in-colour

If you want to read my books which all started with a little trickle of an idea, here is where you can find them:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lois+elsden

By the way – I would love to see my featured photo in colour… i wonder if I could do it…

The Professor… again

Looking at different ways of telling true stories, so the bones of the narrative are there but the flesh and clothing are different, my writing group read some of the pieces I’ve shared here. One they particularity liked was ‘The Professor’ – I have shared it here before, but here it is again.

This really is a true story, although I’ve concealed the identities of those involved:

Snick was the most generous and kindly man who would open his home to anyone who had need of a meal, a chat, a whisky or two, so when the wife of an in-law asked if he could visit an old gentleman in a care home, an old gentlemen whose family all lived far away and could rarely come to see him, Snick was happy to go and meet him. The old chap’s grandson had been engaged to the in-law’s daughter, which is how there was a connection.

The old man was the father of a very well-known – famous in fact – actor, much respected and admired, and was the grandfather of the actor’s three children, all of whom became household names in varying fields.  I shall call the old man Mr Smith, and his son Raymond – nothing like their actual names!

Every week, but on different days, Snick would visit Mr Smith; he was an interesting old man, full of stories and still with great curiosity about the world despite being a little decrepit due to his age. After knowing him for several months, Snick invited him home for Sunday lunch, which Mr Smith very much enjoyed, especially meeting Snick’s family.

One day, when Snick visited, he found Mr Smith had something on his mind; his son Raymond, the famous actor, was visiting and he wanted to take him out for lunch but was hampered by his infirmity and the fact that he didn’t know which restaurant to go to. Snick asked if perhaps Raymond and the old man would like to come to lunch, chez Snick. The old man was delighted and excited, and so it was arranged.

Snick was on his own, his family away from home. He had pondered on the menu but happened to have been given a pheasant; however it was rather small for three people so as he also had some tenderloin of pork, he combined the two, a delicious meal was on the menu!

The visitors arrived and were welcomed.

“Ah, Professor! How kind of you to invite me and my father for lunch, delighted to meet you!” exclaimed Raymond.

Professor? Snick was not a professor – how mysterious, but before he could say anything the old man was telling Raymond what a wonderful friend ‘the professor’ was, how kind, how generous, and there was no opportunity to say ‘Actually, I’m not a professor‘. After a pre-lunch drink, with conversation flowing easily between the three men, they sat down to lunch.  The pork and pheasant dish, accompanied by perfectly cooked vegetables, including broccoli and runner beans, was greatly enjoyed, so much so there was little left for Snick to have as a meal the next day!

As the weather was clement, they took Mr Smith out for a walk round the village in his wheelchair, chatting easily and comfortable. Home for a cup of tea and then, with the old man flagging a little, it was time for them to leave.

After this, Snick continued to visit the care home, occasionally meeting Raymond on visits; he was always greeted as ‘Professor’, although the father and son did call him by his name in conversation. One day Snick received a call from the care home, not unexpected as the old man had been failing in his last few visits, but Mr Smith, at the age of ninety-four, had died peacefully. A few days later the care home rang again with details of the funeral, and Snick decided he would go along to say farewell to his elderly friend.

As Raymond and his children were so well-known, Snick anticipated that there might be a real crowd of onlookers as well as friends and family of Mr Smith. He decided that he would arrive just a little while before the service commenced, and just slip in at the back of the chapel. However when he arrived, he was greeted with cries of ‘the Professor! The Professor is here!‘ and an usher whisked him into the chapel to a reserved seat in the front pews.

After the service the family pressed him to come back to the ‘reception’ which he did, and much as he wanted to explain he was not and never had been a professor, he just let it go, and murmured he was ‘retired’.

Later he pondered on the mystery of it all… In fact his brother had been a professor, but there was no way the in-law who had originally asked him to visit Mr Smith would have confused them, especially as she had never met his brother. In the end, he decided that the in-law had deliberately promoted him… He didn’t mind. he had very much liked Mr Smith and Raymond, and the members of the family he had met… and being ‘the Professor’ had amused him… and it made a better story!

The Professor – a true story

This really is a true story, although I’ve concealed the identities of those involved:

Snick was the most generous and kindly man who would open his home to anyone who had need of a meal, a chat, a whisky or two, so when the wife of an in-law asked if he could visit an old gentleman in a care home, an old gentlemen whose family all lived far away and could rarely come to see him, Snick was happy to go and meet him. The old chap’s grandson had been engaged to the in-law’s daughter, which is how there was a connection.

The old man was the father of a very well-known – famous in fact – actor, much respected and admired, and was the grandfather of the actor’s three children, all of whom became household names in varying fields.  I shall call the old man Mr Smith, and his son Raymond – nothing like their actual names!

Every week, but on different days, Snick would visit Mr Smith; he was an interesting old man, full of stories and still with great curiosity about the world despite being a little decrepit due to his age. After knowing him for several months, Snick invited him home for Sunday lunch, which Mr Smith very much enjoyed, especially meeting Snick’s family.

One day, when Snick visited, he found Mr Smith had something on his mind; his son Raymond, the famous actor, was visiting and he wanted to take him out for lunch but was hampered by his infirmity and the fact that he didn’t know which restaurant to go to. Snick asked if perhaps Raymond and the old man would like to come to lunch, chez Snick. The old man was delighted and excited, and so it was arranged.

Snick was on his own, his family away from home. He had pondered on the menu but happened to have been given a pheasant; however it was rather small for three people so as he also had some tenderloin of pork, he combined the two, a delicious meal was on the menu!

The visitors arrived and were welcomed.

“Ah, Professor! How kind of you to invite me and my father for lunch, delighted to meet you!” exclaimed Raymond.

Professor? Snick was not a professor – how mysterious, but before he could say anything the old man was telling Raymond what a wonderful friend ‘the professor’ was, how kind, how generous, and there was no opportunity to say ‘Actually, I’m not a professor‘. After a pre-lunch drink, with conversation flowing easily between the three men, they sat down to lunch.  The pork and pheasant dish, accompanied by perfectly cooked vegetables, including broccoli and runner beans, was greatly enjoyed, so much so there was little left for Snick to have as a meal the next day!

As the weather was clement, they took Mr Smith out for a walk round the village in his wheelchair, chatting easily and comfortable. Home for a cup of tea and then, with the old man flagging a little, it was time for them to leave.

After this, Snick continued to visit the care home, occasionally meeting Raymond on visits; he was always greeted as ‘Professor’, although the father and son did call him by his name in conversation. One day Snick received a call from the care home, not unexpected as the old man had been failing in his last few visits, but Mr Smith, at the age of ninety-four, had died peacefully. A few days later the care home rang again with details of the funeral, and Snick decided he would go along to say farewell to his elderly friend.

As Raymond and his children were so well-known, Snick anticipated that there might be a real crowd of onlookers as well as friends and family of Mr Smith. He decided that he would arrive just a little while before the service commenced, and just slip in at the back of the chapel. However when he arrived, he was greeted with cries of ‘the Professor! The Professor is here!‘ and an usher whisked him into the chapel to a reserved seat in the front pews.

After the service the family pressed him to come back to the ‘reception’ which he did, and much as he wanted to explain he was not and never had been a professor, he just let it go, and murmured he was ‘retired’.

Later he pondered on the mystery of it all… In fact his brother had been a professor, but there was no way the in-law who had originally asked him to visit Mr Smith would have confused them, especially as she had never met his brother. In the end, he decided that the in-law had deliberately promoted him… He didn’t mind. he had very much liked Mr Smith and Raymond, and the members of the family he had met… and being ‘the Professor’ had amused him… and it made a better story!

How did I get here? How did they get there?

One thing leads to another, but not always the other I expect! I get fascinated by a little something and before I know it I’m thousands of miles away on a different continent. Names interest me, and I side-track into finding out about the person with the unusual name… So it was with the name ‘Edwin Clogg’. There is a grave in a local churchyard to an Edwin Clogg who gave his life trying to save a young boy from drowning. Interested in the name I pursed it and found here were many Edwin Cloggs, mostly coming from Cornwall… but one who cropped up in a newspaper report from Australia.

It seems that one of the Cornish Cloggs went to Australia with his young family, including an Edwin, and later this Edwin became the licensee of a hotel called the Camberwell Hotel. I couldn’t be sure when I found that snippet that the Edwin I had found was actually connected to the Cornish Edwins. I looked into the history of the Camberwell Hotel and deviated from Cloggs to George Eastaway, the man he bought the land and built the hotel – the Camberwell Inn when it started.

Here are some of my notes:

The Camberwell Hotel, formerly the Camberwell Inn was opened in 1857 by George Eastaway. George, in many articles about the inn/hotel, is said to have come from Camberwell in London after which childhood home he named his hotel. In actual fact George came from Bristol with his family and it was to Bristol he returned when he gave up the Hotel. George was born in Bristol in 1805 and became a boot maker/master, a skilled man, and employing six men; this was a works, not a little cobblers shop. He was married to Martha and had several children,  including Elizabeth, George, Susanna and Catherine in Denmark Street, in a house called The Bunch of Grapes. George junior was  a bonded warehouse clerk before the family left for their new life and new adventure in Australia. Elizabeth, however, had married a Frederick Cooper and stayed at home.

The family arrived at  Port Phillip, on 21st January, 1853, aboard the Barque Velore, George, his wife, Martha, his daughter Catherine and son George. However, eight years later, Martha died on 12th May 1861; George lasted another six years until his health broke down and in June of 1867, he retired and returned to England, to Bristol with Catherine. They lived with Elizabeth, now a draper’s assistant, and his granddaughter also called Elizabeth.

The area in which George purchased land in the early 1850’s was known as Camberwell because it actually did have a similarity to the original London area as a junction for different routes and roads. Gradually a little settlement grew up, but it was the area gave the name to the inn, not George, it already had that name when he arrived. Like many settlers at the time, George, had different occupations as well as the hotel; he had bought the land and while everything was being started out, including the building of the place, he did other work in the area including a time at Red Gum Flat, Baroondara where he may have been a gardener. He was licensee from 1857-61 of the Camberwell, and then a man named James Bulley took the hotel. George returned in 1863 and remained there until he departed for England on the good ship Norfolk in 1867; he was held in great esteem by his friends and neighbours, who wished him God speed when he left. George was the first landlord/owner, and he was obviously well-remembered, but others held the license until Edwin Clogg took it over in 1887, twenty years later.

So the Hotel had quite a history before Edwin and his wife Ellen bought it; the other landlords must each have a story to tell, but not here, not now.

So you see, from a grave in our neighbouring village, to Cornwall (via conscientious objectors in WW1, confectioners and importers of Japanese goods in Derby, fruit farms in Somerset, cobblers in Bristol, land purchase in Australia) I end up at a hotel in Camberwell, Melbourne… and there is a whole other story to tell about the Australian Edwin’s son, Edwin John… who had some very strange and distressing experiences… but that’s a story for another time.

I have checked my research, but I may well have made errors, even major ones – so if you see a mistake I have made, an incorrect assumption I have drawn, please do let me know!

My featured image, bu the way is in Bristol, a five minute walk from where the Eastaways lived.

Meanwhile, if you want to read about other places I have mentally wandered off to, then you can read my totally fictitious and totally imaginary books:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_2_7?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=lois+elsden&sprefix=lois+el%2Caps%2C154&crid=2LCHAVDWH04R9&rh=n%3A341677031%2Ck%3Alois+elsden