What happens next?

“They’ll be wondering where I’ve got to” said the old lady.

I knew she must be talking to me as we were quite alone, standing in the doorway of Angel Antiques sheltering from the sudden downpour. It had been raining heavily now for the last five minutes. I did not perceive her as threatening in any way nor particularly odd. I was one of those people who usually for some reason always attracted strangers as well as strange people of this world. Listening to the old dear, I assumed ‘they’ were her family and responded, “The rain will stop soon enough and we can be on our way”. The old woman smiled and as she did the street lights came on. I could see her quite clearly now. Her hair shone silver beneath the neon glow, glimmering like finely spun gossamer giving the effect of a haloed aura. Her smile was warm and somehow comforting. Her eyes set wide apart were a glorious glinting green not unlike those of a cat. I thought of my cat which just now was most likely curled up snugly on the rug by the open fire indoors. I could n’t wait to get home out of this wretched weather.

I smiled back at the old dear hoping that any fear or anxiety she may be feeling from being stuck here with a stranger would be laid to rest. In truth, I was not really sure which one of us was more anxious. I hated being out in the dark on this dank and dreary November evening. I’d always been scared of the dark. The street was deserted but for us two. Most of the shops along here had been shut down and boarded up and had been for some time as a result of the recent recession. This stretch of road had once been a thriving and bustling business community. How Angel Antiques had managed to keep going was beyond me. Being a luxury trade one would have thought that it would have likely been the first to close its doors. Just at that moment when I was pondering on this point, the door to the shop opened and their stood a wizened and wiry old man with pince-nez perched upon and pinching the bridge of his nose. Peering over the rims he beckoned us into the shop with a wave of his hand to enter in out of the rain, “You’ll catch your deaths of cold out there in this, duckies. Come in and keep warm for a bit. You can look around if you like while I make a nice pot of tea”.

“Please don’t go to any trouble”. I politely responded but he was already gone somewhere behind the counter, to the kitchen I assumed. In reality, I was glad to be in the warm where I could dry off a bit and would happily welcome a hot cup of tea; there was nothing like it to warm you up, with the exception perhaps of a small shot of brandy.

 In the shop the light was brighter than that afforded by the lamp posts outside so now I was able to take a good look at my elderly companion. The old lady wore a beautiful grey full length fur coat. I was unable to identify the animal but was convinced that this was a real fur rather than faux: not something you often see these days mostly because the animal rights people would be up in arms, which for the most part I agree with them but when the coat is practically an antique, I’m not sure it counts . Looking at the old lady, I could not have imagined her wearing anything different. The coat could have been a second skin it fitted so well.

The old guy, who I guessed must be the shop owner rattled back into the room with a tea laden tray. I took the tea offered, wrapping and warming my hands around the cup. The old lady declined to drink any tea but was pleased to accept a cup of warm milk. Mr Angel for that was the man’s name passed her the milk. “Perfect” she said, stretching out each syllable with precise pronunciation.

Opening the door and holding his hand up towards the night sky, the old man stated

 “It’s stopped raining”.

“Ah, yes…time to go home”. The old lady announced.

I enquired as to whether she would like me to escort her home but she would have none of it announcing that she knew her way well around these parts. With a brief thank you to Mr Angel and a smile and a nod of the head in my direction she left.  I finished drinking my tea which had by now cooled down a little. As I was about to leave, a small black leather bound book on a shelf close by to the door caught my eye. I picked the book up and held it, turning it over, in my now warm hands. There was something rather intriguing and inviting about a well bound book that I found appealing. I thought what a shame it was that books were no longer put together by the loving and dextrous hands of a traditional bookbinder. Even worse was that they were now being digitised and turned into ebooks to be read on kindles and iPads. As I handled the book appreciating and admiring the skilled craftsmanship that had lovingly laboured over the encasement of an authors treasured text, I caught sight of the time. Placing the book neatly back on the shelf, I turned to thank Mr Angel for his kindness and hospitality. To my surprise he said that I could take the book if I liked. It had been there for ages and no-one else had ever shown the slightest bit of interest in it. It was mine for the taking. I offered to pay but he would have none of it. I took the book and took my leave but not without thanking him first.

© Liola Lee 2013

This was a writing competition titled ‘What happens next?’ set in Writing Magazine a few years back.  That said, I never actually entered it as did not really think it would get anywhere but it’s good to do writing exercises to get the imagination working. It has just lain dormant in my files ever since. Anyway, posting it here just because I can.

 

A Tale of Two Dogs…

Life is life! How good it is to be alive with the promise of each new day! Every morning when I wake up I am so grateful to be here for another day! Not because I am ill or unwell but just because I have the opportunity to make this a great day, my best day or just a day when I get through all the challenges and obstacles that I may come up against which are at times many, and more often than not are what I put in my own way!

This last couple of weeks has been hard going to some degree! Let me try to explain or show if I am able.

We have two dogs, named Princess and Lexi, which is short for Alexis, if we are being specific.  In reality they are actually my daughter’s dogs, though I am the one that looks after them for most of the time. They are beautiful dogs packed full of personality and playfulness. They are truly adorable most of the time, such as now where they are curled up closely together gently snoring in unison as if they are one. They hate to be separated. They did not arrive as a pair but a pair is what they have become.

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Princess is brindle in colour, some would say brown but that would be wrong. Her fur is short and neat, in places her fur is even shorter and smooth, some may say bald but that too would be untrue. Her  dark brown eyes are soft and kind. She looks at you in such a knowing way as if to say, “I know what you are feeling”. She is a funny little thing, not too little like a toy breed, medium rather than big but to me just a funny little thing. She has wide shoulders and short  bowed legs, and has a wiggle when she walks which is rather cute and endearing, and her front legs dish outwards as she holds her head high in a somewhat defiant manner. When she lays down or rather reclines or sits, she always has her left ear cocked upright with the tip just ever so slightly folded over downwards; her way of staying on guard I guess, though in truth that left ear always looks just so.  She has a little white sprinkle of a stripe that starts between her eyes resembling an upside down ‘V’ which travels down to her nose . She reminds me of a small badger with it’s colours reversed. When she wants something she sort of grunts (is that a word I can use?) like a little pig with her grunts getting louder until she makes herself understood. She has something quite regal about her as she goes about her day, Princess by name, and a princess by nature. My daughter gave her that name and it’s as though she has somehow grown into her royal like persona.

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Our Lexi (Alexis) is as they say another ‘kettle of fish’. What exactly does that mean, ‘another kettle of fish’? Not really sure why I said that. I think it is one of those expressions I picked up in childhood from somewhere and anywhere. Having looked it up, it has it’s origins in Scotland and the North of England, which make sense now as my Nan was a Scot, and the family lived first in Scotland , and then moved down to Sunderland where my Dad, and one of my Aunt’s were born, in addition to spending some time in Leeds. So, I must have heard my Dad say it on occasion. As for meaning, it depends what is said in front of it. Here it just means ‘thing’ or ‘different’. It can also refer to a mess or a muddle which does not have any bearing on what I am trying to say about our Lexi, though as a young puppy she did make lots of mess, and somehow managed to muddle through to the beautiful dog she is today.. Unlike Princess, Lexi is neither brown nor brindle. Lexi is an orangey, gingery , coppery colour, and when the sun shines down on her she has little flecks that glow creating a gilt like glittery glow. Her once puppy green (yes green) eyes are now amber to blend splendidly in with the rest of her. Lexi has longer legs than Princess, and her conformation is more balanced. She has four white socks from which her pointy claws curl out and down.

To get back to the why’s and wherefores, of the last couple of weeks, and as to why it has been hard going, I shall tell you now. Lovely Lexi underwent major surgery as she severed or ripped her cruciate ligament in her right rear leg so we were told. We are not sure quite how she did it, but do it, she did. According to the Vet our only way forward was to operate. Our dear little dog had to have some sort of implant put in to hold it all together. She is making great progress but keeping a young active dog quiet, still and calm is a mammoth task and not so easily achieved, especially when there are two dogs and one is still bounding and crashing about. That said, in reality Princess has been gentler with Lexi than usual, though she still takes Lexi’s toys but she has given Lexi space when she needs it, and snuggles too when in demand. There has been only one collision when Princess crashed into the sutured leg,  which set us back a bit but each day sees Lexi improve little by little. She has to be led in and out on a lead, and lifted up steps of any kind. It has been two weeks since surgery and the subsequent implant, so it is still early days but hopefully time will heal her and all will be well in our world.

©. Liola Lee 2019

Images are Princess and Lexi, hopefully as described. Lexi’s eyes are amber but on occasion look quite green as in her picture here, depending on light

 

 

 

 

Story time…

“…then I’ll huff, and I’ll puff, and I’ll blow your house in”, bellowed the big bad wolf in the most ferocious, and gruffest of  voices that he could muster. This, he did to the first, the second, and the third little pig. Such is the stuff and nonsense that fills children’s fairytales some may say, but not I and maybe not you either. Most of the tales, stories and fables we heard as children, and in our turn tell to our own children have an important message rooted somewhere within. Something that needs to be said but in a way that young minds can relate to. Oftentimes (now there’s quite an old fashioned word), the message is crystal clear quite early on, and near the beginning even.  At others it is for the reader to discover as the story unfolds word by word, page by page, picture by picture.  Stories are repeated over and over again, and possibly, and most likely become ingrained in the young subconscious mind, a seed waiting to grow and realise the lesson when the lesson needs to be learnt somewhere along the line that is life. Let’s face it, most children love being read to! Many Mums and Dads, and children of all ages get to  share a special time, with storybook characters who may be good, bad, beautiful, ugly and changeable.  Story time is a time for make believe, play and characterisation. There’s many a parent out there who puts on their best funny, happy, angry, sad voice. I know I did, and my husband too. Our children loved all the verbal playacting and if we did the voices differently as happened on occasion, the little cherubs  would say “no, not like that, like this” as they piped in with how you had said it last time.  It’s part of the fun!  Part of the ritual.

So where was I? Oh yes, I was talking about the inherent lesson that lurks within, between and beneath the lines. In the aforementioned tale of ‘The Three Little Pigs’ which was accredited to James Orchard Halliwell (later Halliwell-Phillips) the lesson is about how hard work pays off, and how by working hard, putting in the time and effort and  building strong foundations, you can achieve a safe and secure world for yourself where you can ‘keep the wolf from the door’ as it were. Of course it is a good lesson, and there is much to be said for working hard, and reaping the rewards of ones efforts, and the idea of a sound structure speaks for itself. However, you have to remember that this story was supposedly written in the mid 1800s, therefore Victorian times. People, or at least the working masses did have to work hard in those times to literally put bread on the table.  If you did not work hard, you may starve. So in this particular story the message is clear. That said, I think if the story had been written today, there may have been another angle that said that yes, it’s good to work hard but that play is just as important. I think today the onus would be on striving for and achieving balance. We all want to avoid the clutches of the big bad scary wolf which may appear in many guises but all work and no play pushes us too far near the edge, and if we are not careful we may trip over and fall into a quagmire.

Another thing that springs to my mind regarding the ‘fantasy’ of fairytales, and may be food for thought is how much a story can change through the telling as it is passed down from one generation to another. In one version of the above, the antagonist is a cunning fox rather than a big bad wolf. There is, it seems a version too where the three little pigs have names, and individual personality traits but that is another story. Where the changes in stories take place is often not known, and is lost somewhere in the telling. My point is that stories whether fairytale, fiction or reality should be told. We are the storytellers, and it is for us to ensure that those who follow in our footsteps know the stories so that they too can pass them down when it is their time to tell. So perhaps today or tonight put down that extension of your arm that is your mobile phone, pick up a storybook and share it with young ears.

In years to come you will be glad that you did!

© Liola Lee 2019

I captured the image of wolves shown here at Longleat Safari Park earlier this month.

~ The Three Friends ~

Bullying has to stop! ‘The Three Friends’ written by new children’s Author Samantha Howatson. A must buy if you have children, godchildren, nieces or nephews! Oh and pets! A really beautiful story of three friends! Grey the Rabbit, Bella the puppy and Sherlock the Budgie. I read it yesterday for the first time, and have to say one of the best children’s stories around today! It tackles the subject of bullying, being different, and being the ‘Other’ on a level which children can understand and relate to! In addition, it is also beautifully illustrated by the Author. It educates them on how it is okay to report bullying. Definitely one for the bookshelf!

© Liola Lee 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dick and Jane

Jane’s discharge was absolute. She was better now, healed, a beacon of light to the other residents who still had time to serve. No longer on section, Jane was free to go. No more visits by the psychiatric team. No more case reviews, no more anything in connection with the white coat brigade. She was released without ceremony, to go on her way wherever she saw fit. She was no longer their concern. Jane walked away from the centre. She did not turn and look back. She had things to do, places to go and people to see. Time spent incarcerated delays living. As the doors closed behind her she walked forward with an air of quietude . She knew that she would catch up with everything in the end, and that all would be okay or at least okay in her world.

In contrast to her exit, Jane had not arrived at the centre quite so quietly,  which was more a hospital really, and the residents in truth patients. On arrival at the centre some 24 months or so ago or something like that, she had screamed like a barking mad banshee, and struggled with the nurses who were just guards in disguise with a bit of nurse training thrown in for good measure.  She would not make it easy for them, her captors but would fight them with all the fight within her until they were willing to listen. Days, weeks, months, and finally two years passed.  Jane learnt how to play the game, and now she was free to go. 

Dick had dropped Ella at Nursery, and had returned home. Work could wait. He had more important things to do today, rather than go to the office to work on the new accounts. The accounts could wait, there was something else that could n’t. Arriving home, he noted that the gate was closed. Knowing he had left it open earlier, and also knowing that the Postman also always left it open, he was a little on his guard, though not afraid. After all this was Jane, his Jane. He had been expecting her, though he had thought he may be home before her. 

He opened the door slowly, and as quietly as he could. Walking into the hall he could smell the unmistakeable heavy scent of Yves Saint Laurent’s Opium, Jane’s signature scent; it was heady just like her. The door to the kitchen was open, not wide open, just open a few inches, and not quite enough to see into the room. He hesitated for a moment, then went into the kitchen but there was no-one there. He was a little surprised as he was sure she would be sitting at the table waiting for him. It was what she did or at least what she used to do when she wanted to confront him with something, nothing and anything. It was just her way. He wondered if she had learned her lesson. After all, that had been the point of this last two years.

He walked back out into the hall, stood at the bottom of the stairs, and called out ‘Jane’ .

No reply. Nothing. Just silence, and that perfume. That smell took him back to that first meeting with Jane, back to the beginning.

Where was Jane? She had clearly been here. There was no mistaking that but where was she now? He was both puzzled and even a little perturbed, annoyed even. Predictable Jane was being unpredictable. Dick hated unpredictability. Jane would have to answer for that. Just wait until he caught up with her. He knew he should have gone to collect her and bring her home himself. She could never be trusted to get things right. Back in the kitchen Dick clenched his fists, and punched both down hard on the table. Being solid Oak the table withstood the attack. Dick’s knuckles did not. Dick sat down at the table, looked down at his bloodied throbbing hands. This was not quite the reunion he had imagined for so many months.

Dick looked up at the large clock which hung on the wall on the other side of the table. It was coming up to 2.30pm. Had he really been sitting there for all this time. Taking a deep breath, Dick stood up, he stretched out his fingers. The blood had dried. His hands hurt but nothing broken, not any bones anyway. He needed to pull himself together. Ella finished Nursery in half an hour and he must be on time. He was always on time. Turning the tap on, the water ran cold as he rubbed the blood from his hands. He watched as the now diluted blood washed away down the plug hole. He dried his hands, checked them once more for stains and getting his things together, he went out the front door to get in his car to go fetch Ella. Had he locked the front door. He was unsure, so went back and checked again, and again, and again, his OCD resurfacing from somewhere past,  until he had satisfied himself that the door was indeed locked. 

© Liola Lee 2018

This was a writing exercise set by Stephen King in his book ‘On Writing’. Whether he would think I had hit the mark or not is not up for debate. I have still to finish his book. This I plan to do this year along with the others I have started but not yet completed. That said, this could be the start of a story maybe?