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….

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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….:)

Blog Your Block

This is what came to mind on a pretty bleak, rainy walk along the beach where I live.  Written for The Daily Post writing challenge called “Blog Your Block”: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_writing_challenge/blog-your-block/ 

The grey pebbles turned and twisted under her sturdy shoes. It wasn’t a pretty beach, she thought. Although there was a kind of pre-historic peace to the place, as if it couldn’t be bothered with day trippers looking to build sandcastles. Only a few fishermen and foolhardy sea gulls clung to the shores of the channel trying to catch a bite for dinner. The coastguard was watching like an ever present guardian angel and a few local inhabitants always had their kitchen windows focussed on the waterfront.

Strange plants grew which had developed around this harsh, salty, barren landscape. Nothing else grew but scrub plants. There were no trees so the wily, quick witted birds had built their nests in the stones and the scrub trying to avoid the footsteps of people and foxes.

When the wind blew people walked at a 45 degree angle and when the sun shone they lay flat out on the uncomfortable stones in bathing suits which were quite inappropriate for the area – more suited to a Caribbean island somewhere.

The rain was penetrating every layer of clothing and she kept her eyes fixed on the pebbles.  Occasionally a crushed shell came into view: a strand of mangled seaweed; discarded ropes; broken lobster pots – the plethora of driftwood which came ashore after a storm.   The tides changed with every minute bringing a new wave of stones and shingle but the landscape never changed.

Weekly Photo Challenge – A Work of Art

I did a post not long ago about how there was a distinct lack of creativity in architecture these days – we no longer seem to put in the effort and time to decorate our buildings as used to happen.  There are a few very talented people that keep traditional crafts alive but not enough.

My response to the challenge this week is from a trip to India that I did – my first one.  I was overwhelmed by the beauty and the colours everywhere.  In an abandoned palace in the middle of nowhere there were some amazingly colourful mosaics which caught my eye.  The walls were crumbling and there was nobody to prevent rot and destruction setting in but the mosaics still shone…that’s what I call a work of art!  Something that can withstand time, the elements and still be inspiring.

 http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_photo_challenge/work-of-art/

 

On the Move

As part of the Daily Post photo challenge entitled “On the Move”, I looked into the past.  I have been collating my family’s history and inherited the photographs from various people.  One common theme running through the photos is that we were a family of boat lovers – in fact my great great grandfather was a boat builder on the census lists.

The photos I have chosen show a different time when leisure time still had standards – even if you were on a boat!  The table-cloth and tea-pot came out; ladies wore pretty dresses and headscarves and you had a proper afternoon tea.  Very “Famous Five” with lashing of ginger pop for the children!

The first three are c. 1950’s with my grandmother looking the part of the “Famous Five” mother.

This lovely lady is my Aunt Win enjoying tea on the River Wey with her friend Polly c.1930.

Tea party on the Wey

Tea party on the Wey

And this is her husband showing us how to survive whilst “On the Move”…I think I prefer the ladies’ way of doing things!

Written for the Daily Post “On the Move” photo challenge. http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_photo_challenge/on-the-move/

Earliest Memories

Who knows what your earliest memory is?  I have flashbacks of all sorts of things but they are jumbled up and confused.  How accurate can they be?  We rely on what other people have old us, photographs, bits of songs or books and if you have a slightly over-active imagination like mine it gets worse.

I remember being a teddy bear in the primary school play.  My sister was still at primary school with me – and also in the play, so I can’t have been more than 7.  We were four bears in bear suits singing the Teddy Bear’s Picnic.  It was put on in Newick Village Hall and Sam did an amazing routine with a light sabre – she was a wizard.  I remember that my sister was a messenger.  God knows what the play was!

I remember ballet lessons with my friend Nicola when we were very small – good toes naughty toes and galloping madly up and down the hall.  Miss Wendy was our teacher and Mrs Stone was the pianist.  This was before tape recorders were common.  Nicola moved when we were 8 I think so ballet must have been aged 5 or so.

I remember Dad coming home from work.  Mum would put us in our pyjamas and dressing gowns and we would drive to Haywards Heath station to pick him up.  I knew he worked in London but had no idea what he did.  When Dad did bath time he would play silly games – hiding us under the towel and saying “Where’s Christopher Robin?” and pulling the towel off.  Fits of giggles!  I am guessing that we were very young then.

Me and Catherine were always put in the bath together and we made cocktails out of all the lotions and potions around the bath topped off with bubble foam.  It was a bit more crowded when our friends came to stay and all four of us girls were put in the bath together.  I was probably made to stay at the tap end, being the youngest.

I remember my sister falling onto the green ceramic soap dish attached to the wall while we were in the bath and gashing her arm open.  She still has the scar.  She must have been taken to hospital but I don’t remember that part.  In fact I don’t remember very much else about that.

I have very vague recollections of Mum being horrified about turning 30 – she was very depressed.  I was only 3 though so I don’t know how accurate that would be.  She tells me that it is true – she didn’t want to be 30 at all, but then who does?

I also remember getting lost all over the place.  I remember I got lost on a cross channel ferry and got bought back by the purser with balloons for everyone.  I got lost in John Lewis on Oxford Street.  Ali and I went to the loo and I somehow got lost and picked up by the store detective.  I was taken to a very odd room and an announcement was made over the tannoy.  My poor mother – how embarrassing!

I also got lost in the Eastbourne Arndale Centre playing on the toy dinosaurs that they used to have and went back into the wrong shop.  Nobody there – I don’t remember how I was found then.

I remember weeping in Uckfield Picture House when we were taken to see The Fox & The Hound, Bambi and ET.  I remember that we used to collect the stickers and sticker albums for all these things.

I remember the sweet shop at the top of the estate after school when Mum gave us 10p to buy sweets.  Penny sweets, Dipdabs, quarters of cola cubes.  All in huge jars behind the counter like something out of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

These are just some of my childhood memories – what are yours?

Shared in The Daily Post’s “Memoir Madness”- http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_writing_challenge/memoir-madness/

Ready-made talent

Shoemaking

Shoemaking (Photo credit: daryl_mitchell)

Written for The Daily Post – the article is about “A Lost Art”.  My take on this is traditions which should have been passed down through the generations but have suddenly disappeared.  Do you know what crafts your ancestors did?  Mine mentioned below are only a couple of generations back but sadly I haven’t inherited any of the talent!  (Or not that I am aware of anyway!)

During my research of my family history I am coming across various professions.  We come from a very working class background filled with domestic servants, gardeners, agricultural labourers etc.  Occasionally though I come across somebody with a trade which fascinates me.  There is my great great grandfather Edwin who was a shoemaker in Brighton and all of the Hutchinsons in Worthing who were boatbuilders.  It got me wondering if I have hidden talents inside me that are just part of my blood?  Perhaps I could secretly knock up a pair of loafers, or a stylish pair of kittens?   I wouldn’t know, I’ve never tried and I wouldn’t know where to learn how to be a shoe maker.  Could I build a sturdy fishing boat or sailing boat and guarantee that it won’t sink?  Surely there’s a reality tv show in this.  We could discover a whole new generation of talent – useful and creative talent though rather than just the same old singing and dancing routine.  That would be something worth watching!