Up Hill Struggles #FridayFictioneers

George grumbled to himself as he looked up the hilly path, he didn’t stand a chance in his wheelchair.

‘I’m not enjoying this holiday!’ he shouted.

His family gathered around, telling him not to worry and that they’d give him a hand.

‘I want to be independent!’ George cried.

‘We need to get you a motorized chair,’ his son answered, ‘they sell them in the town here, we shall go there tomorrow.’

George curled up in his wheelchair and began muttering to himself, ‘I want legs. I want legs.’

‘We’ll do the best we can,’ his wife answered.

 

(Inspired by; https://rochellewisoff.com/2019/08/28/30-august-2019/ with thanks).

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The Wasp

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The family had a picnic under the tree. They munched on sandwiches and cake whilst  sipping ice lemonade.

A buzzing alerted mother to the wasps, she waved one away. Father tried to swat another with his newspaper. Then the baby cried as a wasp landed on him.

Then the whole swarm come down! Wasps crawled in the cake’s icing, crept on the sandwiches and fell into the bottle of lemonade. They buzzed around, eager to feast on a picnic they had not been invited too.

Abandoning things, mother gripped baby and father the other two children, they all rushed back to the car and locked themselves inside hoping the wasps didn’t follow them.

Purple Fields #FFftPP

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Hannah’s family could trace it’s business back to the French monks who had lived in the 12th century monastery in the valley. Today, that holy place was in ruins and made a fine tourist attraction.

The family relayed on that draw for customers to their gardening shop, specialist laid out gardens, wild meadows and small woodlands.

Hannah’s favourite place was the lavender field. There were over twenty kinds of the purple, heady smelling flowers. It had been great-grandma’s job to tend the field and now it was Hannah’s. She knew each plant like an old friend, it was just a shame she could no longer smell.

 

(Inspired by; https://flashfictionforthepracticalpractitioner.wordpress.com/2019/08/07/flash-fiction-for-the-purposeful-practitioner-36/ with thanks).

Beach Day #CCC

The hottest day of the year, everyone crowd to the coast. Beaches full of families all enjoying the English summer.

Voices rose and fell, a constant noise like the sea waves. People cooled off in the sea, napped on the sand or walked the promenade. Dogs were barking as they chases balls and each other. Seagulls called and eyed up the food on offer. Music was playing from the pier; rides of the children and gambling games for the adults.

Under the shelter of the sun umbrella, I watched the scene, marvelling at everything.

 

(Inspired by; https://crimsonprose.wordpress.com/2019/07/24/crimsons-creative-challenge-37/ with thanks).

Visit #TaleWeaver

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I hadn’t seen my great aunt Sophia in five years because I had been travelling the world and Sophia only had a landline phone. So, I thought it would be nice to go and spend sometime with her. She was my oldest relative and I loved hearing the stories of her life, family members and past friends.

Great aunt Sophia’s cottage hadn’t changed. There were roses, honeysuckle and jasmine growing up the house towards the thatched roof. There were loads of other flowers and plants in the front garden which reminded me of being in a gardening shop. There was actual a sign with faded words on it declaring Plants for sale on the front gate.

I walked up the path and knocked on the door with the iron knocker. How many times had I ran around this cottage, laughing and chasing butterflies? So many of my summers had been spent out here as my parents, who worked difficult, long hour jobs in London had used great aunt Sophia as a nanny.

‘Sophia? It’s me, Hattie! Are you home?’ I called out.

I tried the door and found it locked.

Dumping my heavy hiking bag, suitcase and duffel bag on the doorstep, I walked around the side of the cottage. The back garden was a huge acre lawn with large trees dotted about to give shady patches and at the sides were long flower beds containing all kinds of bright, sweet smelling blooms, wild flowers and small evergreen plants.

There was no path across the lawn, so I walked on the grass down to the bottom, where half hidden by a weeping willow was a large Victorian glass and iron greenhouse. The door was open and I stuck my head inside to call out, ‘great aunt Sophia? It’s Hattie.’

‘Who?’ a soft, old voice spoke.

I entered the greenhouse, heat wrapped around me, catching my breath and making it harder to breath. Long leaf tropical plants brushed my face and arms, making me feel like I had walked through spiderwebs. Narrow bench tables ran down in rows though here and there, a rickety table or a massive plant pot sat.

Slipping through a gap, I saw a white haired and hunched woman in her late eighties, sitting on a old wooden chair, looking around confused. Sophia was so much older then I had last seen her, there were more wrinkles, her skin was too tanned with sunlight, her eyes looked duller, her hair shorter but she was still great aunt Sophia. She was wearing a pale blue summer dress with a white lacy trim.

‘Your only grandniece, Henrietta. Hattie. Hat. We spoke on the phone this morning, auntie Sophia. Remember?’

Sophia stared at me, taking in my boy short brown hair, sun kissed skin, my too thin but muscular body, the torn jean shorts and white crop top I was wearing.

‘Ah! Hat!’ Sophia cried.

She struggled to take off the thick gardening gloves she had on.

‘Here,’ I said and helped her take them off.

‘I was just repotting these baby cacti,’ she replied.

I looked at the tray she had been working on and saw lots of new cacti in tiny brown plastic pots. There was a mix of different kinds; some looked like little tufts of fluff, others was straight and tall, there were round pin cushions, some had different colour ‘buds’ on them.

Behind the tray, more cacti grew and some were quite big having been in the greenhouse for more then forty years. I realised we were standing in cacti corner and the familiarity of it made me feel right at home.

‘You should have seen some of the cacti I saw in America! They were huge!’ I spoke.

‘Is that where you’ve been, Hat?’ Sophia asked.

I nodded, ‘I went to California, Texas, Arizona, Washington D.C, New York and Louisiana.’

‘All of those?’

‘Yes. I’ve been to other counties too. Canada, Japan, China, Australia, New Zealand and Italy.’

‘Your parents funded it?’ Sophia asked, knowing it was true.

‘Mostly. I did work in a few places. I taught English.’

Sophia patted my hands, ‘I bet they were glad to get rid of you again.’

I sighed and decided not to get into that argument. It was a part of an old family feud; parents having children and not bring them up themselves; old traditions and rich fathers.

‘It’s too hot in here,’ I said, ‘let’s go in and I’ll make us afternoon tea.’

Sophia agreed and we left the greenhouse for the coolness of the cottage. In the kitchen, I found everything I needed to make a pot of old English tea, sandwiches, and small cakes. I brought everything into the living room which was soft and cosy.

Sophia was dozing in a large armchair and I took the other one. The windows were open and I could hear bees buzzing and smell the flowers outside.

I poured the tea and give Sophia a cup.

‘How are you?’ I asked, ‘have you been trying to go out?

Sophia glanced at the windows, ‘no,’ she replied.

I clutched my saucer and cup, wondering how to carry on this conversation. Great aunt Sophia had agoraphobia. No one knew for how many years she had suffered with it, she had had lots of treatment but nothing worked for long.

Now, it was so easy to blame it on her old age; she struggled walking and standing, she had bouts of confusion and she didn’t have many local family and friends to visit anymore.

‘And why would I want to?’ Sophia picked up, ‘the world is a bad place. I’m safe here and anyway my plants need me.’

I sighed and sipped my tea.

‘You must have seen the badness in your travels. I worried about you. I got all your postcards…’ Sophia trailed off and got up to go to the fireplace where there was a stack of postcards resting against the wall.

‘I saw lots of good and amazing things too. I got photographs to give you,’ I replied, ‘and I’m glad you got my postcards.’

Sophia sit down again, postcards in hand, she shuffled through them, looking at the imagines of all the different places.

‘Do you like them?’ I asked.

‘Yes. Very nice,’ Sophia replied, ‘where are you going to go next?’

‘Nowhere.’

‘You’re staying at home?’

‘I’m going to stay here and look after you,’ I said.

Sophia smiled but said, ‘I don’t need looking after, child!’

You do, I thought, instead I replied, ‘I meant help you out and stuff, like I did before.’

‘Right then. Those cacti still need potting. Off you go!’

I rolled my eyes, grabbed a cake and left the cottage for the greenhouse.

Somethings never change but I was happy to be back again.

 

(Inspired by; https://mindlovemiserysmenagerie.wordpress.com/2019/07/18/tale-weaver-232-july-18th-visit/ with thanks).

Port #WhatPegmanSaw

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They sat on the pebble shore, reflecting on what they had seen in the museum. It had been a shock to see the half section of the Mary Rose which their distant ancestor had sailed upon, looking so well persevered.

The wooden hull of the ship had dripped the protective water being sprayed a upon, making it easier to imagine the Mary Rose riding the sea waves.

They had seen items that their ancestor might have used on board and learned about the life he’d lead. They felt closer to him now then they did before.

 

(Inspired by; https://whatpegmansaw.com/2019/07/06/portsmouth-hampshire-uk/ with thanks).

 

 

The Party #TwitteringTales

The engagement party was in full swing and Ren couldn’t be happier. She grabbed a bottle of wine, popped it up and poured the thick, red liquid into a glass.

‘Stop!’ her sister cried.

‘That’s the rare vintage from great-great-grandpa’s vineyard!’

‘Oh! Too late…’

 

(Inspired by; https://katmyrman.com/2019/07/09/twittering-tales-144-9-july-2019/ with thanks).

 

 

Postcard Story

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Dear family,

London is mad! It’s huge, so much to see and do. We’ve been around so many museums and shops that my feet are dead! My brain is overloaded right now. Uncle wasn’t wrong when he said we wouldn’t do everything in a week!

Tomorrow, we are off to see the Queen. Though Dee says we won’t really get to meet her, it’s just her house and stuff. But I’ve been practising my curtsy and manners anyway!

Hope the weather is nice back home and everyone is doing well!

Love, Twins.

The Grave Digger’s Cottage

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Alice said goodbye to her friends and started to run home. Now eleven, her parents let her walk alone but she was only allowed a certain distance. To school a few streets away, the park next door and the corner shop.

She laughed loudly, excitement spilling out as she went. School was over for another day but also for summer. There was a whole two months of playtime and adventures waiting for her.

Alice lived behind the village church and across the graveyard. Her house sat on the back edge of the cemetery, over shadowed by a massive weeping willow tree. It was a small cottage with a yellow thatched roof, red brick chimney, small frosty windows and set apart from all the others in the village. It was called the Grave Digger’s Cottage.

There many routes she could have taken home, but Alice took the quickest. Cutting across church grounds and the straight path that ran down the centre of the graveyard. Opening the gate of her front garden, she skipped up the gravel path, lined with bright summer flowers then opened the front door.

‘Hello, grandpa!’ she shouted.

‘Hello, Al!’ the distant echoing voice of her grandpa called back.

Giggling, Alice took off her shoes and left them with her schoolbag in the hallway. Downstairs there were only three rooms; the front parlour, living room and kitchen/dinner. Upstairs there were also three rooms; a small bathroom, her parents bedroom and her grandpa’s room. Another staircase led to the attic which was Alice’s bedroom.

Alice went down the hallway, through the kitchen to the back door and stepped out into blazing sunshine once again.

Her grandpa was in the back garden, sitting on a stool next to a low table and he was putting together flower bunches. His skin was tanned a deep brown from days spent outside and his figure was stooped from years of being bent over digging. He had a thin cloud of white wispy hair and rough outline of a white beard. His eyes were blue like the colour of the sea lit by the sun.

Alice had been told she looked like him but she had never been able to see it. Yes, they had the same colour eyes and once grandpa’s hair had been chestnut brown like her’s was now. Alice’s skin though was paler and definitely not wrinkly!

‘School is finally over!’ Alice cried.

‘Is it really?’ grandpa questioned.

Alice nodded, ‘are mum and dad home yet?’

Grandpa shook his head, ‘your dad’s watching over an evening exam at the university and your mum had a late meeting to go to in the city. It’s just you and me till bedtime.’

Alice smiled, spending time alone with grandpa was the best. He told awesome stories, let her do want she wanted and allowed her to stay up late.

‘Would you like a hand, grandpa?’ Alice asked.

‘I’m almost done,’ he replied.

Alice sat down on another stool and watched him wrapping green garden twine around the bunches of mixed flowers. Alice knew he had grown them himself and when the flowers were ready, grandpa would cut them and put them together.

‘There we go. Right, would you like to come with me, Al?’ Grandpa asked.

‘Yes, please!’ Alice said.

Grandpa give her some of the flowers to carry and he took the rest. Together they went out into the cemetery. At a handful of headstones, they placed the flowers into the vases and grandpa did some cleaning and weeding if needed.

Countless times they had done this and Alice knew the stories of all of the headstones they visited plus many of the other ones in the graveyard. Grandpa had known a lot of people buried here because they had come from the village and the graves they visited were of family and friends. Grandpa had also buried some of them.

Alice looked back their cottage, the roof could just be seen through the trees and wild growth. Alice sat down on one of the tombs, the stone was cold against her bare legs but she didn’t mind.

‘Grandpa, tell me the story of our house again.’

He looked up from pulling weeds out from around a Second World war grave of his uncle.

He smiled and began chatting away, ‘when the new church was built in the eighteen hundreds after the old one burnt down, they also built a cottage for a grounds keeper to leave in. The man and his son who first lived there were also grave diggers and that’s how the cottage got it’s name.’

Alice nodded.

‘From that day on, every man who lived in the cottage – expect your father- was a grave digger and also church grounds keeper. We had to make sure that nature didn’t take over and the paths clear for visiting people. We had to help plot out the cemetery, decided where to bury people and dig those graves. Then when the headstones arrived we had to plant them in the ground over the right grave.’

‘And what else, grandpa?’ Alice demanded.

‘And we were night watchmen too! Back in time, grave robbers would come and dig up fresh bodies to sell to doctors for science. People would also try to do cheap burials by doing it themselves and we had to stop them! Then there’s tramps and teenagers who muck around and make place untidy. We had to get them out by dawn so visitors wouldn’t see ’em and get a scare!’

Grandpa clawed his hands and made swatting movements in the air. He growled low like a bear before coming over and tickling Alice, who broke into giggles. Then he sat on the tomb next to her and they looked out over the cemetery.

‘Did you ever see a ghost, grandpa?’ Alice asked.

‘Plenty!’ grandpa cried, ‘I saw the ghost of little girl once, way younger then you, and she was running along the path just there. There’s the woman in blue who walks around the church, crying for her lost lover. A black dog with red eyes that’s spotted in the bushes and shadows of the trees. He’s said to guide souls away.’

‘And there’s also the headless man!’ Alice shouted.

Grandpa laughed and spoke, ‘that’s one of your favourites, Al.’

Spots of rain began to fall.

Grandpa pointed out a large bank of grey cloud coming over to them and declared it time to go home.

‘But you will tell me, won’t you, grandpa? The story of the headless man,’ Alice questioned.

Grandpa helped her down from the tomb. Hand in hand they walked back towards The Grave Digger’s Cottage.

‘Of course, I will! As long as you promise not to lose your head with fright!’ Grandpa replied.

Alice laughed and shadows grew long on the ground.

Small #WritePhoto

an old, carved stone whose recesses are stuffed with red and black ladybirds.

It was a too hot summer afternoon, so I had taken toddler Ava into a shady patch of the lower garden. We sat on the grass, in the dappled shadow of an oak tree which rose up over the reminds of the old family chapel.

Whilst Ava played with some of her toys, I looked at the fallen stone walls and large pieces of stone decor. It was hard to imagine what the chapel had once looked like but I had seen some photos and though it had been small it had been a splendid place.

On the other side of the chapel, out of sight down a sloping hill and nested around three willow trees, was the family cemetery. Every Bartlett was buried there and when her time came, Ava would be too.

I on the other hand, just a nanny, would be buried in the village church graveyard where all the other past servants of Bartlett Manor where.

‘Look! What’s it!’ Ava cried.

I turned, frowning and  saw the three year old pointing to one of the decorative stones. Picking her up, we went for a closer look.

Crowding into the nooks of what might have been a corner stone of the outside ceiling with a now moss covered leave like pattern on it, with hundreds of small ladybirds.

Ava squealed and tried to stick her fingers into the crawling mass. I grabbed her hand and pulled it back.

‘They are only baby ladybirds,’ I explained.

‘Lay-d-burs,’ Ava tried to pronounce.

I laughed at her and clapped her hands together as I sang;

‘Ladybird, ladybird,
Fly away home,
Your house is on fire
And your children all gone;
All except one
And that’s little Ann,
And she has crept under
The warming pan.’

We laughed together then carried on watching the ladybirds.

‘What lay-d-burs doing?’ Ava asked.

‘Napping. Like you should be doing,’ I replied.
Ava pulled a face and began to make a fuss. I quickly settled her down on the picnic blanket and started to read some fairy tales to her.
The heat and tiredness got to her and she was soon asleep.

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2019/06/06/thursday-photo-prompt-choices-writephoto/ with thanks).

Ladybird nursery rhyme quote from; https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46960/ladybird-ladybird