About lavitaebella

I love to travel, to read and hear interesting stories and to write fiction, non-fiction, children's stories - anything really! My family history is intriguing me at the moment too...Oh, I also love a happy ending. La vita e bella!

A Christmas Fairy or Five

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I came across this poem by Winifred Sackville Stoner Jr and loved it!  It’s called the Five Best Fairies and I particularly like the first verse.

The  joyous CHRISTMAS SPIRIT
Is flying through the air,
He’s  in our homes and in our hearts,
About us everywhere.
We  see him in the night time
When we have gone to bed,
Sitting  on our pillow,
Or floating round our head.
We  hear him in the morning
As soon as we arise,
“Don’t  forget the aged
And little ones,” he cries.
“If  you are well and happy
Still happier you’ll be,
If  you will open wide your heart
And say ‘COME IN’ to me.
I’ll  tell you of your neighbors
Who are both ill and sad,
But  who by deeds of kindness
You may make very glad.
And  for your Christmas presents
Oh, how I hope and pray
That  Earth’s five best good fairies
To you will come and stay.”

“The  first is GOOD HEALTH FAIRY,
Whose aid all mortals seek,
For  he is life’s elixir
And gives strength to the weak.
Without  this gracious fairy
No one can ever know
A  single hour of perfect peace
Away from GOBLIN WOE.
So  treasure this good fairy
And keep him safe with you,
For  he will be a faithful friend
And one that’s ever true.

“I’ll  ask GOOD COMFORT FAIRY
To all your wants give heed,
So  you may never suffer
From dreaded SPECTER NEED.

“A  third most precious fairy
I know will stay with you
If  you have HEALTH to make you smile
And MEANS so you may do
The  little deeds of kindness
And little acts of love
Which  bring true gladness to this earth
From radiant realms above.

“With  health and comfort and true love,
No fairies, it would seem,
Would  be quite necessary
To make this life a dream,
But  as most every mortal
Has hopes of great success,
Reaching  high for certain goals
Toward which they go in quest.
I  pray SUCCESS, the fairy,
Will help to win your part
In  everything you undertake,
In finance, science, art.

“Now,  with good health and comfort
And love and great success,
There  always travels side by side
THE  FAIRY HAPPINESS.
Oh,  may these five good fairies
Forever dwell with thee,
And  then you’ll be as happy
As any one can be.”

A Tree Without Presents

Written for my son’s first Christmas with memories of my childhood Christmases

“When is it going to be Christmas Mummy?” I had asked this question every day, sixteen times a day since half term was over.  

“Christmas is ages away yet…you’ll just have to wait.”

“But it’s been ages since the last one! Why can’t we have Christmas every day?” I never got an answer to that – grown ups just laughed and patted me on the head.

Finally the time got nearer and nearer and exciting things happened at school like nativity plays and Christmas dinner. The tree went up at home which I was allowed to help with. Baubles, tinsel, fairy lights and all good things.

“But where are all the presents Mummy? The tree has nothing under it. Does this mean we haven’t been good?”

“Father Christmas brings the presents on Christmas Eve so we’ll have to wait and see if he’s brought anything for us.”

“When is Christmas Eve Mummy?”

“Tomorrow.” I gave a little jump of joy.  

Tomorrow came. It was time for Father Christmas to bring his presents. I waited all day long and nobody rang the doorbell or left packages on the doorstep. Where was he?

We had lots of jobs to do…shopping to do and things to pick up. Mummy didn’t seem concerned that we hadn’t had any presents yet.

“When is Father Christmas coming Mummy?”

“He comes during the night when you’re fast asleep, but you have to promise to go to bed on time and sleep all night – he knows when you’re awake! Now shall we make him some mince pies? Do you think we’ve got enough carrots for the reindeer and brandy for Father Christmas? Did we get the magic reindeer food to show him where to land his sleigh?”

The day was going so slowly….we all cuddled on the sofa to watch a film and drink hot chocolate. The tree looked so pretty twinkling in the corner. How much better it would look if there were presents though!

We put the carrots and a mince pie on a little plate with a small glass of brandy. “Does Father Christmas really like brandy Mummy?” It smelled revolting!

“Oh he loves it!” She assured me.  

“But if he eats mince pies in everyone’s house he’ll never fit down the chimney!”

“Ahh but you forget that Father Christmas is magical and he can do anything.”

It seemed like night time would never come. I was so excited that I knew I wouldn’t sleep. Bath time and pyjamas and a glass of milk; my stocking was ready on the end of the bed. Mummy and Daddy lay on my bed with me to read The Night Before Christmas.

“Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.”

By the time Father Christmas was wishing everyone a good night my eyes were closing. I could see my flat empty stocking lying across the bottom of the bed. Would he come? Would I get to see him? What did he really look like? Zzzzzzzzz

I woke up sleepily not knowing where I was for a second and felt a heavy weight pinning my legs down. It was Christmas! “Mummy he came!” I ran into their room with my heavy stocking and jumped on the bed to open all my presents in a mess of wrappings and bows. “Wait I have to check something.” I zoomed downstairs. I peered in the lounge half expecting to see Father Christmas snoozing on the sofa. The mince pie was gone with just some crumbs left, the carrot too and the brandy was half gone and I turned to look at the tree and there was a MOUNTAIN of presents under it in every colour and size. I sat and stared in wonder and thought that now the Christmas tree looked just right. It was Christmas.   

 

Introducing the Past

Today I walked my son through Worthing town centre, along the sea front and to the end of the pier, which looked stunning in the sunlight.  I was explaining to him the long line of ancestors who came from Worthing and although a 9 month old is only going to babble and yawn at my incomprehensible ramblings it gave me a great sense of peace to introduce him to the past.  I supposed that many of them had walked along the same route, some pushing prams like me possibly.

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One or two people stand out not for being famous but for having exciting adventures or amazing things happen to them.

James Hutchinson had a boat building yard near the lifeboat house inWorthing and it is said that he built one of the largest yachts to grace Brighton beach for a Captain Thulleson in 1858.  The yacht was 32 feet on the keel and 10 feet on the beam.  She was said to be much admired by everyone who saw her.  How satisfying must that have been to have created something with your own hands that was so well thought of!

There was also Henry Finnis who owned the Running Horse pub – a merchant seaman for 50 years since the age of 12 and worked his way up to the rank of Captain.  In the course of his career he sailed around Cape Horn, to Eastern India and to Chile during the mid to late 19th century.  How exciting would it have been to have seen those places for the very first time arriving after an immense sea journey?  You don’t arrive anywhere these days without having a notion of what it’s going to be like.  For the last 30 years of his life he ran the pub and was one of the oldest licensed victuallers inWorthing.  He died aged 71 in 1911.

Moving House 1939

My grandfather was nothing if not an accountant and we are lucky enough to have a couple of cash books of his recording all their expenses from their wedding day up to the birth of their first child…As I am moving home shortly it’s going to be interesting to do a comparison!  Here are the 1939 sums…(very faint because they’re in pencil! Sorry.)

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And here is a picture of my grandparents on their wedding day (19th August 1939).  They first moved into their house on 23rd September 1939.

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Find a Muse in the Masters

In today’s writing challenge, you’ll choose a scenario (or invent your own) and write a poem, a short story, a vignette, a scene, or flash fiction based on Nighthawks by Edward Hopper.  Writing Challenge from the Daily Post: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_writing_challenge/find-a-muse-in-the-masters/


The Nighthawks by Edward Hopper 1942: Public Domain

“You!   Whaddaya want?”  the bartender barked.   “Can’t ya see I’m busy here.”

Real busy, she thought, looking at the other two customers in the place.  The two men were sitting at either end of the bar wearing identical dark blue suits, ties and grey fedoras with a black band around the rim.  The each nursed a mug of dark coffee.  They looked like a couple of gangsters.  They studiously ignored each other.   Neither one had looked up when she entered the bar.  She could use a drink right now, but it looked like the most exciting option here was going to be black coffee.

She slinked past them in her brand new, red silk dress.  It swished becomingly around her calves and brushed against her sheer seamed stockings.  Cute black heels and a patent black belt broke up the red.  Her hair clashed gloriously with the dress; blue eye shadow and thick kohl eyeliner completed the look.  The whole ensemble had cost her her savings.  Not even a flicker from either of them.   “Coffee, doll.  Make it strong.”   She perched next to the second suit and reapplied her fire-engine red lipstick using the back of a spoon as a compact.  The curved surface allowed her to get a better peak at the man sitting on her right.  She had a good view of his friend across the bar.

Her thick ceramic mug was plunked down gracelessly in front of her.  “You spilled a bit doll.”  The bartender glared at her until she put her coins down on the counter top.  She scrambled in her purse and found some bits and pieces and slid them into the pool of coffee.   The bartender wiped the spill and the coins off the bar with his rag.  She carelessly lit a cigarette.  “Gotta light hon?”  She asked the suit.

He reached into his suit pocket and slid the metal lighter wordlessly across the bar, still not even looking in her direction.  She was looking though – she now knew that he wasn’t carrying a piece.  Not a gangster then, or a dick.  She regarded his twin through the cigarette smoke and sipped at the strong coffee.  She leaned both elbows onto the bar in a deliberately provocative gesture and exhaled slowly – the smoke curling around her lips and creating a grey halo around her red hair.

Sammy had told her to watch, take mental notes.  People opened up to women.  Men opened up to women dressed like her, or at least took them to a seedy motel where she would be able to go through his wallet.  She didn’t like dressing like this but she liked to eat.  She had been instructed to dress “nice ya know, look the part kid”.  She was to sit and wait for one of them to approach her and make conversation.  What happened after that was unclear, but she understood the implications.  This gig would pay her rent for the month and for some of the dress!  So far she couldn’t see anything particularly note-worthy.  They were just two guys having coffee late one night in “Phillies”.  Neither of them seemed remotely interested in her, so there was nothing to report back on.  Actually scratch that – she started making a mental list.  Suit number 1: smoker, no gun, nicely manicured nails.  Drank his coffee black.  Slim build – the suit wore his suit well.  Not the same for suit number 2: suit buttons straining a little, but hadn’t bought or been able to afford a new suit.  There was a sugar bowl and milk jug next to his mug so obviously had a sweet tooth.   Supported by the fact that there was a flash of gold in his mouth from having teeth filled in.  She couldn’t see any point in being here.  As long as she still got paid that was the main thing!

To be continued….

Linked Hands

This was a photo of a dramatic sculpture which I took on a holiday in Bruges.  The joined hands could be used for a cover of several book themes: struggle, love, conflict, hope.  Pick one – and create your own story!
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Created for The Daily Post – Cover Art Challenge – http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_photo_challenge/cover-art/

 

Midnight Sunshine

I had enormous misconceptions about Norway before I went there – I confess this was my second trip but the first had been funded by other people and was work based. This was a very spur of the moment long weekend away to visit family who have re-located to the Stavanger area, so costs were kept to a minimum. The stories are true that it is pricey to dine out etc, but this was a great chance to get away and see something a bit different in early June when the days were so long. The weather forecast looked good (sunny and clear blue skies); the flights were amazingly good value (with Norwegian Gatwick to Stavanger at about £70pp) and we were booked into accommodation chez famille.
We arrived on the late flight into Stavanger and it was really mild – gone were the images of Norway being cold and dark, although I’m sure Winter can be pretty bleak. We left the airport and city behind and headed up the coast a little bit to my cousin’s house and without taking our bags in they suggested we go down to the waterfront. This was at about midnight and my body cried out for sleep but I was intrigued to see “the jetty”. I knew that they lived on the waterfront, but had no idea what it would be like. You couldn’t see too much in the semi-darkness of after-midnight but there was an incredible moon shining right over Stavanger city which we could see sparkling in the distance. A sense of peace descended – we were out in fresh Norwegian air, surrounded by water and mountains enjoying the moon. We stayed there until about 0230 – nobody wanted to move – this was something that we never get to see at home. It was heaven and we hadn’t seen it in daylight yet!
We awoke to the news of breakfast on the jetty! Hurrah! The sun was shining, the coffee was strong and breakfast had never tasted better. PJ Norway 2014 003I dangled my feet over the edge but couldn’t quite reach the water. We were sitting on the edge of a fjord with crystal clear water, mountains, rocky islands dotted around, boats merrily bobbing etc. Stavanger is the starting point for a lot of the fjord cruises but happily we saw no evidence of the cruise ships at all. I had packed my swimsuit and was tempted to jump in then and there but I had heard how freezing it was going to be and chickened out. The clarity of the water was such that you could see every crab, starfish and jellyfish intimately. Our neighbours came down to join us and in what I imagine to be “true Norwegian style” plunged straight into the icy water with what sounded like fluent cursing but in fluent English told us it was lovely and refreshing – yeah right!
We had many plans laid before us but I would have been really happy to stay exactly where I was with a book and just be in the middle of nature. It was so peaceful! Dutifully though we had to go and see some of the local area. First stop Preikestolen or Pulpit Rock – an “easy walk” so we were told. I made my excuses early claiming unfitness, general office lifestyle etc but was told again that it was an “easy walk” so we strapped on our hiking boots and Camelpaks and got the ferry over. (Easy walking in my mind doesn’t require Camelpaks, snacks etc). Anyhow let’s just say that I didn’t find it easy at all and managed about 1 1/2 miles before my lungs decided to stop working!
Much more to my style was cocktails on the harbour front in Stavanger town centre (averaging about £10 per drink). There were loads of people crammed into every outdoor space around the harbour – obviously the sun was creating a holiday atmosphere and red faces were sitting on boats, in bars and almost hanging from the rafters. We had dinner in a quirky old wooden restaurant on the waterside which resembled an old ship inside. It was possibly the best steak I’ve had in a long time although we could have been more adventurous and gone for reindeer or whale!
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The following day was slightly overcast and perfect for fishing I was told so the boys went off in a little motor boat to catch us lunch and it was a feast of Pollock…Us girls sat on the terrace looking at the views, reading, chatting and watching the boys row back because they’d run out of petrol. Our friendly neighbour went out to rescue them after a while – lovely people these Norwegians. They don’t like to assume that you’re in trouble but only too willing to help. It probably comes from being quite outdoorsy folk – they all just seem so capable. The evening was sailing time – but there was no rush….Because the light lasts so long you don’t have to hurry anything, so after a meander along the shore we went sailing at half past 8 at night. No wind and very gentle but quite pleasant to be on the water in the bright sunshine – it could have been midday! We were gone for a couple of hours and there was our lovely neighbour to meet us and help put the boat away.
The following day after a communal breakfast with our neighbours and a spot of impromptu Beatles over the breakfast table PJ Norway 2014 133we headed for the old part of Stavanger – all white-washed and cobbled streets with beautiful photo opportunities especially with the white against the blue sky. We also covered the other side of the harbour with loads of pretty coloured streets and shop fronts, the oil museum (more interesting than it sounds!), gorgeous chocolate shops, the cathedral and park and a smashing pub for lunch. There is no shortage of places to choose from and whilst it is expensive, everything we had was large portions and amazing quality
We saw some further delights yet on the way back to the airport which we weren’t expecting at all. Norway to me is not a place with sandy beaches and yet there is the most beautiful stretch of sand at Sola just near the airport – it has a pretty nice hotel on the beach too. We also visited a beautiful church on a bluff which has crumbled down and rather than rebuilding in stone has been renovated with glass which opens out on to a lovely bay below – quite inspiring if you were listening to a sermon. There were also the 3 massive swords in the rock on another sandy beach which was packed with day trippers, kids with buckets and spade, people hunting the shoreline for shellfish.
In short there were enchanting surprises that gave us a weekend that seemed to last a month.  You have to try it – money be damned!
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The Skeleton Danced at Midnight

Write a new piece using at least five of the nouns from Bradbury’s sample list, above: The lake. The night. The crickets. The ravine. The attic. The basement. The trapdoor. The baby. The crowd. The night train. The fog horn. The scythe. The carnival. The carousel. The dwarf. The mirror maze. The skeleton.  Challenge the The Daily Post – http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_writing_challenge/bradbury-list-twist/

The skeleton danced at midnight with the melody of the carousel reverberating through his hollow bones.  He yearned to touch the carnival animals gain and jest with the dwarves.  His life with skin and flesh had been full of colour, light and music and how had he had loved it!

The crowds spun through the circus screaming with laughter and candy-floss induced mania.  It was a sugar-spun world.  The fat lady solemnly ate her way through fifteen courses; the bearded lady combed her hair and the iron man lifted trucks to practice his art.  Animals preened in their cages and the big top shone like a beacon in the night sky.

The carousel had been his creation with the pretty horses with their painted tails flying.  How he loved their graceful motion.  Up and down and round and round.  They never stopped their flight until that fateful day when he lost his footing and fell under the painted horses’ hooves.  He lost his flesh to the carousel but honoured it with his bones.

Fifty Word Inspiration

For this week’s challenge, use one of the fifty-word stories below as inspiration for a post.

I have chosen the following from the Daily Post challenge – http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_writing_challenge/fifty-word-inspiration/

Decade is a period of ten years.
Century is a period of one hundred years.
Millennium is a period of one thousand years.
“Together forever” lasts a fortnight.

That is, statistically.
That is, in about 90% of cases.

That is also why romantic mathematicians are so hard to come by!

(“On the Importance of Not Being Literal” by Standing Ovation, Seated)

***

A mathematician once said that “together forever” lasts a fortnight and after a passionate two week fling Tess had to agree.  Visions of bridal gowns and corsages danced across her mind.  She could get a job here and give up her boring office existence for sun, sand and sangria.  Life could be a beach….couldn’t it?

“Ladies and gentlemen we have completed our pre-flight checks…” intoned the nasal air steward.  Tess rubbed the sand between her toes and smiled ruefully.  Her “forever” had finished.

(It’s not 50 words, but it’s close!)

 

Worlds Colliding

Worlds colliding to me is when I came face to face with the fact that I am turning into my mother….

This is the challenge this week from The Daily Post….here goes!

It’s not so much the different “me”s that worry me.  How often have you started doing/saying something only to realise that your parents express themselves in exactly the same way?  Or you look in the mirror one day to discover that there is a certain resemblance in the mirror which you are sure wasn’t there yesterday.

I am very lucky that my parents are wonderful people but you spend so long trying to forge your own character and personality that it comes as a bit of a shock when you realise that you have become what you have been fighting against.  That whole teen angst thing was pointless; the “nobody understands me” part is void; the rebellious/goth/new romantic period was just a phase; the disappearing off round the world to find yourself was just geography.  You create all these different “you”s throughout your life and come back full circle to where you started.  The very brilliant Stephen Fry said on a Michael Parkinson interview once that humans are the only creatures who try to be what they are not.  You will never find a bear trying to be a duck.  Perhaps we should all accept the person we are?  In my case, my mother….:)