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Another Well by Colin Angwin

A few years ago, some sparky copywriter came up with use of the word “silver” as a euphonious euphemism for “elderly”, which is itself a euphemism for “aged”.   The usage has become widespread and a week ago last Sunday I attended a session on Creative Writing given as part of a series of events for oldies grouped under the title of “Silver Sunday”.

 

The tutor, Robert, mentioned a piece by one of his students who came from Eastern Europe, I think, and who recalled that in her childhood she had had to break the ice on the well in order to draw water.   Others from warmer climates had indeed had to use wells for water supplies, but not through the ice.

 

This reminded me of a well I came across as a child.   I must have been about 7 or 8 and I was with my parents in some remote part of India.   One day, as I wandered about the countryside, I saw a magnificent well-head.   It consisted of a huge horizontal wheel linked by a system of large cogs to an equally huge vertical wheel.   This type of irrigation apparatus was and probably still is widespread in Asia and the Middle East and I imagine it has been for centuries.

 

My eye was caught by the third component of the structure, a rope festooned with earthenware pots at regular intervals and looped loosely round the vertical wheel so that part of it trailed down into the well beneath.   An ox was lashed to the horizontal wheel and rotated it by plodding round in a never-ending circle.   This made the vertical wheel rotate in its turn, so that the pots came up out of the well filled with water which, as they passed the apex of their circuit, was tipped into a channel leading to the fields to be irrigated.

 

I picked up a stone and threw it at one of the pots which shattered satisfyingly, shedding its contents onto the dry earth.   I repeated the act with another stone, another pot.   My memory is that I hit a pot with every stone I threw, but my later experience on the cricket field showed that my hand and eye coordination is very shaky so that is unlikely.   It is, however, true that by the time I had finished my little game every pot was broken, and I headed for home well pleased with myself.

 

I dawdled on the way, so that the owner of the well got there well before me and was pouring out the story to my father, who took decisive action.   He paid the man for the damage done, more than generously I have no doubt, and he took a slipper to me, also quite generously.   This is the only beating that I remember his giving me.   I also remember his clear explanation of what the beating was for.   It was not for breaking the pots.   It was for not considering the effects of my action on the farmer, whose whole livelihood depended on the irrigation system I had destroyed.

 

Looking back on the episode many decades later, I also draw two other possibly unfashionable conclusions.   First, corporal punishment can be good – this slippering certainly impressed the desired lesson on me and did not in the least diminish my love and respect for my father.   Secondly, you could be one of the colonial rulers and still behave thoughtfully and fairly to the ruled.

 

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Bicycle Stories…

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Do you have a bicycle story?

Either about yourself or your experience of bicycles?

Ideas, thoughts, stories about bicycles, fiction or non-fiction…

Did you learn to ride a bicycle as a child? As an adult?

Or never?

Let the wheels of your imagination guide you and write a short story, a long story, a poem, or a rant even:

about bicycles…

Please share it with us if you do!

Crime Story Prompts & Competition

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Have an idea for a short crime story? Or fancy writing one but stuck for inspiration? Why not try one of these 10 inspiring  (and free!) creative crime / mystery writing prompts from “Build Creative Writing Ideas” – Here’s number 1 – click below to read 9 more:

1. You wake up to find a post-it note attached to your forehead. This note is a clue that leads you to another clue somewhere in your house. Your roommates claim ignorance but decide that they’ll help you to solve the mystery. One clue continues to lead to another, where will it end?

Then why not enter this Crime Short Story Competition at Writers-Online – click below to see how to enter – Good Luck!

“You think that crime doesn’t pay? It can do, if you win this month’s crime story competition which invites short stories about crime – any crime. Your story can be about murder, theft, twocking, parking on double yellow lines, phishing, computer fraud, or any other offence. Whatever crime you choose, make it pay by winning first prize.”

A Day in the Life – Creative Writing Inspiration

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Here’s an inspiring photography project on Feature Shoot about A Day in the Life of single elderly women in New York City, USA.

In Life Ever After photographer Patrícia Monteiro shows how four women in their 80s and 90s, living alone, live life to the full: soaking up the art, culture, social activities and life in this buzzing city.

“In these four women, the photographer found fiercely independent souls, constantly evolving and engaged with the goings on around them. Despite physical difficulties—Rita, for instance, has a few disabilities—each pursues her interests with as much fervor as ever.”

“At this age, the women have seen the deaths of lifelong friends and companions, but they have learned to cope with loss. Their late husbands are abiding fixtures in their lives, and Sonia still wears her wedding band. Rita got giddy reminiscing on her boyfriend, Molly shared relationship advice. At one time, they all had careers. A few of them shared photographs from their pasts, although nostalgia was sometimes tinged with heartache. For the most part, explains the photographer, the women didn’t dwell on or concern themselves with thoughts of their mortality, focusing their attentions instead on the joys of the day-to-day.”

Today’s Creative Writing Exercise: A Day in the Life..

Write about a day in your own life, or in the life of a neighbour, or a friend… It can be fictional or biographical, a short story or poem – let your imagination decide! But use Patricia Monteiro’s inspiring photography project as a springboard to get your creative ideas flowing!

You can see more of Monteiro’s photography here:

http://www.patriciapmonteiro.com/life-ever-after/

Don’t Judge a Book by It’s Cover by Kate Simpson

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Here’s another terrific piece of writing by Open Age member Kate Simpson – Thank you Kate for sharing this inspiring short story about an older lady and her husband who is living with dementia – a very captivating piece of writing!

Don’t Judge a Book by It’s Cover

Days of sorrow are etched sometimes in the core of one’s lifetime like the rings round the bark of old oak treas.

I thought of this as I watched the elderly lady in the supermarket carefully pick out her shopping. Something about the way she chose her goods and hovered over the amount made me wonder if  she was recently bereaved. One or two of this and that, and finally at the till her basket seemed empty and meagre. Her purse worn and by far from full.

I wanted to go up and say hullo but shyness stopped me and I let her shuffle off into the distance.

Some days later I saw her again by the bus stop and as it was a cold day I stopped the car and offered her a lift. For a second a proud refusal crossed her face, but the elements won her cold frame over and she climbed into the warmth of my little car.

We exchanged only brief introductions and then she told me where she lived. The silence seemed companionable so I was loath to break it. I was therefore surprised somewhat after her reticence to be asked in for a cup of tea, on reaching her house. I accepted and followed her into the house.

Small and neat but carrying an aura of emptiness.  She showed me into ‘the parlor’ where I perched on a faded chair one of two in the room. Looking around I noted no photos, no ornaments, nothing to say who she was or had been. An outdated television in one corner looked lonely. It’s only solace a small lace doily on top awaiting a plant or object.

The only other fixture in the room was the outdated electric fire with pretend coals. And a small coffee table.

‘Here we are’ Mrs Busby said as she shuffled in carrying a tray on which sat two cups of tea and a sugar bowl. She sat in the other chair and we sipped in silence. My curiosity was growing by the second but I knew somehow she had to be the first to speak. Eventually she spoke softly, as though speaking to someone far away.

Her story as it unfolded was as I had seen that supermarket day one of sorrow and sadness of a magnitude I could barely contemplate.

As she spoke she twisted a worn wedding band. Married when they were 16 and both in service, he joined up and was invalided out with the affects of gas. Life was had after he was demobed, too ill to get a job she had to be both carer and bread winner. Still their marriage survived.

His health got worse and then in his eighties dementia was diagnosed. Still she refused to have him ‘put away’. One day as they sat in their chairs after lunch snoozing gently the door crashed open and a man with a mask on and a baseball bat came in and starting hitting her husband over the head. With all the strength in her worn out body she took a large ornament and crashed it over the assailants head. He fell to the floor. She crawled to the phone and dialed 999

Police came and ambulance. Both she and her husband and the assailant were taken to hospital. Later she was told both the assailant had died of his injuries and she was under arrest for murder.

Once considered well enough to leave hospital she was taken to the local police station and formally charged. Their home a ‘crime scene’ there was nowhere for her to go, so it was decided to keep her in custody. They were kind but nobody seemed to care that she was missing the ‘other half of her life’.

In court she was confused and admitted the crime and given a lengthy prison term. The Judge was gentle and sympathetic and sadly explained to her that because she had ‘confessed’ to murder, he had no option but to give her the only sentence for that crime there was – life.

As sentence was pronounced she looked confused – like a lost child. The police officers out of respect did not use cuffs as they gently led her down to the custody cell and then the awaiting prison van. Her lawyer was allowed to see her and gave her a big hug and when she enquired after ‘her Bill’ told her that he was being looked after.

A model prisoner she served her ‘time’ and despite her grief at being parted for her beloved Bill, almost thrived in the security of the environment she was in, working in the kitchens, quietly waiting the day when it would all be over, and she would be reunited with her beloved. Unlike others she made no friends despite other prisoners trying to help her and make her feel less alone. Her nickname was Gentle Grannie so quiet was she, and when on the rare occasions she smiled, it was as though the sun came out.

One day she was called into the warden’s office and there a nice lady from the social told her that her husband had been serving ‘his time’ in a dementia home, until the night before when he had quietly passed away.

Inside her grief and guilt that somehow she had caused it grew to such a magnitude that she considered ending her own life, and then she would she told me, give herself a shake and remember the stoicism of her generation. ‘You just have to get on with it – don’t you love’? I just nodded quietly.

Years later once again she was called into the warden’s office, this time to be told she was ‘free to go’ – A nice lady from Age Concern met her as she crossed the threshold into the world again, and drove her home with a bag of Asda groceries ‘To keep you going until you get on your feet”.

On returning to the outside world, she found it a strange and lonely confusing place. The ‘home’ she had shared had long gone and she was rehoused in this little cottage we sat in. No one had bothered to parcel up her mementoes of her previous life. It was as if that had never happened. The only memento her worn wedding band.

Her story having been told, her shoulders sagged and a lonely tear coursed down her cheek. I took her hand but said nothing for a while. Then my words were simple “Thank you for sharing your story with me. I feel incredibly honoured” “What a brave lady you are, may I come and see you again”?

“Don’t you think I am one of those charity cases coz I’m not”

“I wouldn’t dream of it” I replied “but we all need friends do we not and I would be honoured if you would be mine”

“Well put like that – I think we can as the girl’s taught me to say – seal the deal – with another pot of tea”! The glint of humour in her eye made me want to get up and hug her, but as my girl’s taught me ‘slowly slowly catchy monkey’!

Over the years Mrs Busby or GG as my girls’ called her became an all important part of our household, I did not tell my husband even the full story until today when we finally laid her to rest with her beloved Bill, he gave me a hug and chuckled “So I have been entertaining yet another ex con under my roof!” For only he knew that I too had been ‘inside’ for a much less milder misdemeanor – but never the less I knew the fears of prison life and what GG must have been through.

© Kate Simpson

Let’s Fly Away! by Caroline Bennett

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We have a wonderful piece of member writing today by Caroline Bennett, who presented this inspiring short-story about ‘flying’ as part of our exhibition at the Second Half Centre, London, in 2014 during London Creativity & Wellbeing Week.

A big thank you to Caroline for sharing your wonderful writing! We look forward to reading more of your work!

It was not a face to face question, it could not have been, for I was taking a shower at the health club. Thus there was a whole line of splashing shower heads hitting their targets: well exercised bodies  being rubbed and prodded and the noise around me was wet and echoing.

It came through the tannoy system, accompanied by an orchestra of droplets; it came to my ears after I’d rubbed the shampoo out of my hair. “Come fly with me, come fly, let’s fly away…….”. I stood still for a moment, hands limp by my side as Frank Sinatra continued, “…. in Llama land there’s a one man band and he’ll toot his flute for you……”

Where is Llama land I wondered? Peru, Colombia? And I could imagine the flutes they play in the Andes tooting away. Frank Sinatra in Peru? The ratty old leader of the ‘rat pack’ stomping about  with his gang of famous friends singing to  the people of Peru? And why did he want ME to fly with him? With his well known toupee I would have thought that flight would be a risky business but I supposed his ‘ol’ blue eyes could still sparkle at 40.000 feet.  Could I explain to Frank, who  is said to be a member of the Mafia, that I was terrified of flying, suffered from altitude sickness and, anyway, preferred Dean Martin’s throaty croon?

So, sorry Frank, ‘my shoes are meant for  walking’ and that’s just what they’ll do, and  one of these days these shoes are goin’ to walk all over you’ and I shan’t be with you on your ‘perfect flying honeymoon’ either.

© Caroline Bennett

Exercise – Proverb Inspired Stories

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Today in our Creative Writing Phone Group tutor Mike Loveday set us a very inspiring task to write a short story inspired by a proverb – some of the following helped to whet our creative appetites:

  • Never judge a book by its cover…
  • A leopard cannot change its spots…
  • Good fences make good neighbours…
  • Never look a gift horse in the mouth…
  • A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush…
  • A cat may look at a king…
  • A drowing man will clutch at a straw…
  • A house divided against itself cannot stand…
  • A new broom sweeps clean…
  • A nod is as good as a wink…
  • Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime…
  • He who laughs last laughs longest…
  • Necessity is the mother of invention…

Choose one of the proverbs to inspire your short story. It doesn’t necessarily have to be about the exact meaning of the proverb. It could have a more surreal interpretation, or be the starting point for your story. You can spend 5 or 10 minutes – or even longer! Enjoy! And please share with us so we can give you feedback!

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