Santa’s Little Secret

 

This slightly unusual Christmas story was penned by Stephen Oliver, we hope you enjoy it

Santa’s Little Secret

Santa Claus sat in his office and stared out of the window overlooking his new workshop, musing about recent changes in his circumstances.

Fli’i, his head foreman, broke in on his thoughts by knocking politely on the doorjamb in lieu of the door.

There wasn’t one. Santa had implemented his new ‘open door’ policy by removing the door completely. It had seemed the easiest way to do it at the time.

“Good news, Boss,” Fli’i cried. “Production is up by over 300%!”

“That’s good to hear, Fli’i. What with the world market expanding at the rate that it is, increasing production was the only choice we could make.”

“Right, Boss. You want me to see if I can get any more out of them?”

“Why not? You’re doing such a great job. See how much farther you can push them.”

“Okay, Boss. Will do.”

Fli’i wandered out of the office.

I should have done this years ago, Santa thought to himself. It would have saved me so much trouble. This city is much better than the North Pole ever was.

He lost himself in reverie.

The trouble had started when a union organiser on an Arctic safari had strayed from the rest of his companions during a blizzard. He had nearly died before he stumbled into the village during the slack season, just after Christmas, when the elves were relaxing after the seasonal rush.

Since the little ones had nothing much to do, they gathered around him to help during his recovery. Unfortunately, that meant that they heard all of his ravings, as well. Worse, they actually believed the crap he was spewing.

The next thing Santa knew, they had unionised themselves and were making demands. Among other things, they wanted increased pay and reduced hours.

The reduced hours he could understand. Things usually started out slowly enough, but by Easter, they had to begin picking up the pace. The second half of the year got so bad that they were working 24/7. He was lucky that the perpetual sunshine made it harder for them to track time. He wished he didn’t have to work them so hard, but demand had been growing for years.

More pay was an even bigger joke, because he didn’t pay them a penny.

The elves had wandered into this dimension after losing a war in their own. They were such a sorry bunch that he took pity on them. Males and females alike were malnourished and weak. It had taken him months to build their strength up again. In gratitude, they accepted his offer of work and long-term protection.

He had exotic foods imported, at great expense, just to keep them happy and productive. Each of them could eat as much as they liked whenever they wanted to.

They all got to keep some of the toys they made, too, although they never seemed to get the hang of smartphones and games consoles. They could make them, of course, but didn’t know what to do with them afterwards.

They didn’t need money at all.

Santa had always thought of them as a bunch of lovable but simple children. It was because of this trait that the organiser had been able to corrupt them.

He still remembered the first (and only) meeting he had had with the union organiser and his ‘shop stewards.’

When he read the list of ‘demands,’ the first thing that struck him was that the writer had no idea of the real needs of the elves. It was evident from the outset that the union man had been behind the list. For one thing, elves couldn’t even spell such complicated words as ‘intransigency’ or ‘compartmentalisation,’ let alone understand what they meant.

Instead of listening to the man’s rants, he tried to remember why his face looked so familiar. He recognised the heavy jowls, the florid cheeks, the overbearing sneer on the lips. He knew he had seen it before, but he couldn’t recall where it had been.

He was still racking his brains when the man stood up, leant threateningly on the table, and began screaming at him.

A name floated up from the past.

Frederik Augustus Tyranus Silenus Osternic.

As a chubby young boy, he had been mercilessly teased because of his initials: FATSO. He had retaliated by becoming the biggest bully, in turn, at the school, his workplace and, finally, the union he joined when he started his first job.

Santa had to smile when he remembered just how many sacksful of coal he had delivered to the Osternic household over the years.

Osternic took the smile the wrong way, thinking that Santa was being condescending to him. He recalled all the disappointing Christmases when his parents used his ‘presents’ to heat the house. This was his chance to get his revenge on Santa, and he was going to enjoy every moment!

Santa was quiet and logical, tearing each of Osternic’s ridiculous demands apart and showing their inherent idiocy. By the end of the meeting, the man’s arguments had been reduced to shreds, and he slunk out of the meeting with his metaphorical tail between his legs.

The revolution began the next day.

At first, it had been little more than a small strike. Some of the elves laid down their tools and refused to work. A few hours later, entire workshops stood idle, raw materials piled up on all sides. Elves hung around, looking bored, wondering what on earth they were supposed to be doing with themselves.

The initial act of sabotage may have been spontaneous, but Santa was pretty sure that Osternic was behind it, somehow. Others followed soon after, then open warfare broke out between different factions.

The gravity of the situation only became apparent when Santa realised that it wasn’t a fight between elves loyal to him and those against him. They were fighting about who was going to be in charge after they had strung him up from the North Pole itself, which stood just in front of his house.

At this point, flight was the only option.

He almost lost his life when they found him fastening the magic reindeer to the sleigh. Fortunately, he was able to jump in with his wife and children, who grabbed as many of the loyal elves as they could. Fli’i, Floo’hoo, Markio and Wialid, his four foremen, plus their spouses, accompanied the family into exile.

By the time they finally landed in the city, the revolution was over.

The last that Santa had heard from the area was that they were trying to set up a workers’ cooperative under the rule of President for Life Osternic. The aim of the new government was to take over his function as Father Christmas.

He wished them well, but somehow doubted they would succeed. With no production facilities, due to the destruction of all the workshops, and no imports or exports, since the only flying reindeer had left with Santa, their future was going to be very bleak.

His own future hadn’t looked much brighter at the moment. He was still trying to persuade his suppliers to let him have the raw materials they could no longer deliver to the North Pole, when Floo’hoo came into his office, full of excitement.

He had been on a purchasing trip with his mate, standing on her shoulders under a long coat. They had stopped off in the Far East and had accidentally wandered into a sweatshop. Seeing how the people there were working twelve hours or more a day for little pay, they realised that this method could help keep the production costs down.

“We can’t do that,” Santa protested. “It’s unethical and unfair.”

“Boss, we worked for nothing,” protested Roo’har, Floo’hoo’s mate.

“Yes, you did,” Santa replied. “Except that you loved your work, you were well fed, and you got all the toys you wanted. Unlike these people, you don’t need sleep, either. Plus, I have been protecting you from the Xarilii, who were trying to wipe out your species. They still are, as far as I know.”

“He’s right, my sweet,” Floo’hoo added, reluctantly. “He’s never made any profit out of this. Instead, he’s always looked after us out of his own pocket. These people are being exploited because they have no other choice. We had a good thing going with our bargain. Oh woe, that we ever listened to that madman.”

“It was such a lovely idea, too,” Roo’har lamented. “Isn’t there some way we can implement it anyway?”

“I don’t know how,” Santa replied sadly.

He did finally get his personnel problem sorted out, with a little outside help.

His memories were interrupted by Fli’i’s knock on the doorjamb.

“I’m sorry to interrupt your planning, Boss,” he apologised, “but I’ve got someone here who insists on seeing you at once.”

“Who is it, Fli’i?”

The elf’s expression was embarrassed and somewhat worried.

“I’m afraid it’s… your brother.”

Oh dear, Santa thought to himself, he’s come to see how I’m getting on, now that I’ve had to go to him for help. No doubt he wants to gloat, as well.

His brother brushed Fli’i lightly aside as he walked in. His red suit was trimmed with sable instead of ermine, and his beard was as black as Santa’s was white. Otherwise, it was plain to see that they were twins.

His brother sat down uninvited and gave a pointed glance out of the window into the workshop.

“How are they doing?” he asked abruptly. “Are they all that I promised?”

“They are. I’m not going to ask you where you got them from because I already know that. What I want to know is, what inducements are you using to get them to work 24/7 without pay?”

“Oh, that’s an easy one,” his brother smiled. “I’ve promised them that, if they continue to work like this, I won’t send them back again.”

“That would work, I suppose,” Santa acknowledged, albeit reluctantly. “Is there any particular reason you’re helping me? Some nefarious plan you’re cooking up behind my back?”

“Can’t I just be helping you out of the goodness of my heart?”

Santa’s expression was as sardonic as his brother’s.

“Anyone else, maybe. You, no. You don’t have any goodness.”

“Ah well, maybe I deserve your mistrust, given our history together. Let’s just say that I don’t want to see your little enterprise fall flat on its face after all these years, and leave it at that, shall we?”

He stood up and walked over to the window. Standing and looking out over the hive of activity in the workshop, he went on.

“Actually, I have been having some space problems recently, especially the numbers of inferior people I’ve been getting. Your need for workers is helping me get rid of some the losers I’ve acquired over the years. It’s a win-win situation for both of us.”

He turned back and looked at Santa.

“Admit it, I’ve been a real help to you, haven’t I?”

“Yes, brother, you have. I’ll eat crow and say: ‘Thank you very much.’ Satisfied?”

“Eminently. Ah, I see your wife is bringing us tea and some of her excellent cake.”

His brother turned back to watch the workers below while Mrs Claus busied herself with the contents of her tray.

Isn’t it ironic how unimaginative our father-mother Antas was? Santa thought to himself. He-she couldn’t even think of two names that weren’t anagrams of his-her own.

In the meantime, His Infernal Majesty Satan, Monarch of All the Hells, turned away from his contemplation of the damned toiling in his brother’s workshop to accept a cup of tea and a slice of Victoria Sponge.

Stephen Oliver

Resting Written by Tessa Thomson

Santa’s House Drawn by Jane Pobgee

This post features a Christmas poem by Tessa Thomson and a drawing by Jane Pobgee. Both are extremely talented young ladies.

Resting

The door was locked, the latch held fast

The windows blocked with boards.

Cobwebs hung around the glass

Ivy spread in hordes.

The garden kitted out with nettles

Stinging stockinged legs.

Hands held high to keep from catching

Brambles, briers and thistle heads.

Nestled in the tiny wood

Nearly out of sight.

Waiting as if stuck in sleep

The cottage painted winter white.

Silence covering all around,

No noise from distant roads.

But then a tiny muted sound

Of music soft and low.

Through a little glimpse of clean

In a window pane,

A smallish man sat in a chair

And smiled and smiled again.

He had a very long white beard

And wore a suit of red.

A fire brightly lit the room

As the old man bowed his head.

I thought he might drop off to sleep

So heavy seemed his eyes.

But then he turned to look at me.

The look was clear surprise.

Then I stood rooted to the spot

Afraid to run away.

The door was opened just enough.

The old man said, “do stay”.

“I’ve had a  busy time,” he said

As I stepped through the door.

“I think I may have seen you once.

Are you at 34”?

He seemed to fit the tiny house.

All measurements seemed exact

For someone of a rotund build

With features fit to match.

He sat me down with cake and tea

Served from a tiny pot

And started to let rip his tales

Of work, as was his lot.

And so the tales went on and on

About his working life.

And how this was his holiday home

Away from toil and strife.

He told of how he saw the world,

It’s good points and its bad,

It’s times of inhumanity,

And how it made him sad.

But his job’s not to dwell

On things he couldn’t change.

But rather to give joy all round

With gifts exotic and strange.

We chatted on with this and that

And laughed at things quite weird.

Occasionally deep in thought

He tugged his long white beard.

A man of gentle fun and mirth

Of kindness and of care.

Who saw the world for what it was:

Cruel, unjust, but sometimes fair.

He saw the harshness others shared,

He saw the bitter wars.

He watched the children growing up,

The scars, the pain, the sores.

He felt it deeply, as we talked

I felt his pain inside.

I left that night with greater hope

For earth from ills worldwide.

Tessa Thomson

THE NAUGHTY FAIRY

                     

The Naughty Fairy?

This Christmas short story is Written by Jan a lovely little piece.

“I hate Christmas!” said the Head Fairy.

    “Yes, I know you do.” muttered gnome sighing, putting on his leather apron on over his red top and green trousers, ready to start work.”You tell me every year.”

    “Well, it’s such a lot of work and for what? Nobody cares any more. All too busy with them silly phone things and  games, to pay much attention to the Christmas tree.” She flounced about getting ready for her next round.

      “ “In My day –  yada yada yada…….” “quoted gnome, raising his twinkly  blue eyes to the ceiling.”Just get on with it. The sooner you go the sooner  you’ll be back for a nice cup of tea and biscuit. Go on. Off with you. ” 

     She made a rude face behind his back, then with wings fluttering irritably, flew out the door of the workshop into the cold frosty night.

      “It’s alright for him” she fumed to herself. “ He sits in the warm all day making toys, drinking coffee, eating biscuits any time he likes, no wonder he’s so fat”.

      She flew round her patch, peeping through windows, checking that the fairies on the top of Christmas trees were properly dressed, skirts all fluffed out, wand at the ready and, most of all, smiling. The majority were well trained and complied but there’s always one and that one was Matilda. Many a night Head Fairy

 had found her dancing on the floor, singing, swaying and waving her wand to the beat of  music. She had told her and told her but she took no notice.

      “Oh! Matilda” she groaned. “ you know the rules. You can have a break, fly down, stretch your wings when the family are safely in bed, not a minute before, why do you persistently disobey. Why?”

      “’Cos I’m so bored sitting up here”  moaned Matilda. “And anyway they all out at a carol concert.Won’t be back for hours.”

       “And what about the dog? He’s gone too has he? He nearly caught you the other night remember?”

        “Well he didn’t did he?” Matilda answered rudely.

        “No, not that time. You fairies don’t appreciate how cushy your job is, just sitting up there for a couple of weeks then it’s back to the attic where you can play with the other toys to your heart’s content. Whilst I am out in all weathers, rain, snow, frost and fog trying to do my job.”

        “Oh stop going on, Head Fairy. You love it really and you have all summer in the workshop, getting the new fairies ready.”

        Snow was now falling fast.  Head Fairy shook the flakes off her wings and returned miserably home, only to find   Gnome with his feet on a stool drinking tea and munching biscuits, she let rip.

         “I’ve had enough” she said. “I’m worn out. And that Matilda will be the death of me. I’m sure my wings are getting thinner. I wish they could be fur lined.”

     “ You’d never get off the ground gel” said Gnome grinning.

      “Oh shut up, you know what I mean.”

     “Well ask for some help then.”

       “I can’t ‘cos They would retire me if They thought I couldn’t cope”

      “Well you’ll just have to carry on being a martyr then. Won’t you?” chuckled Gnome as he waddled off to the kitchen to make another cup of tea.

       Head Fairy went and stood by the fire to try to dry her wings before she went on her last round. She did three rounds a night. One early evening, one about nine and then the last one after midnight to make sure all the houses were in darkness so that the  fairies could safely take their break. Conscientiousness was her middle name. Other Head Fairies only did two.

        “Right. I’m off to do my last round” she informed Gnome

      The night was bitter cold. She shivered as she flew over the snow covered rooftops. To take her mind off winter she turned her thoughts to summer at the workshop. How beautiful it was, with doors open,  perfume  drifting in from the flowers in the garden, trees rustling their  leaves,  birdsong and the buzzing of the busy bees gathering pollen. Gnome hammering out  new toys and her  busy getting the  fairies ready. They’d take their tea and  sit outside at a table, drinking in the warmth of the sunshine. Oh how she wished she was there now instead of out in the freezing cold.

     Arriving at Matilda’s house she could not believe her eyes. Matilda was nowhere to be seen.

      “Oh, for heavens sake what’s she up to now?” She muttered angrily..

     She, Matilda, was having a great time. Her household had gone away to take presents to relatives, staying overnight, taking the dog with them.  They had accidentally left the drawing room door open, Matilda could not resist.  She hopped down, flew  through the door to the rest of the house. Being inquisitive by nature she thought it was a hoot, nosing around. In one small room where  there was a peculiar sort of seat thing, she noticed that the window  was ajar, and without a second thought she flew out into the inky night.

        “Brrrrr, it is cold out here.  Head Fairy was right. But it is so beautiful. I’ve never seen a night sky before. Are those twinkly, shiny things, fragments of jewels I wonder? “She perched on a tree branch for a rest, looking over the snow dusted rooftops, seeing coloured lights flickering both inside houses and outside ,and strung around a very large Christmas tree sitting in the market place. Matilda flew and perched on the tip of the star which adorned the top.

      “Wow!” she said.”Will you just look at that. Those trees look as if icing sugar has been dusted over their branches. And the

moonlight coming and going between clouds seems as though someone is turning the lights  on and off.”

         Matilda was mesmerised by the scene. An owl hooted, a dog barked , snowed slithered off a roof and landed softly on the street below. Suddenly the church clock  chimed out the half hour, the noise startled Matilda so much she fell off the star and tumbled

down the tree, ripping her dress, dropping her wand and the pine needles scratching her  as she somersaulted, landing  on the  wet snow.

       “Ouch!”said Matilda. “that hurt.”   She looked at herself, what a mess, dress all mucky and torn, wand broken, as she had landed on it and wings soaking wet.

       “I think it’s time to go home, don’t you Matilda? Yes I do.” she answered herself. “Oh heavens, I can’t remember how I got here.”

       She flew round and round looking for her house. Up and down streets, peering in windows hoping to see a tree with no fairy but she couldn’t.  Then, panic set in.

        Meanwhile, Head Fairy had gone through the glass into the house . She flew around  calling Matilda . Then  she noticed the open window.

        “Oh No! Matilda. You haven’t, have you? Course you have”  she said with angry resignation. “I suppose I’d better come and find you.”And out the window she went.”

        She flew round and round her patch, hoping to find Matilda but not a sign of her. Her head began aching, she was shivering and her wings felt heavy.

        “ Where the devil are you, Matilda. I can’t look much longer, I feel rotten.” And with that she crumpled and fell to the ground.

           Matilda started crying. “I’m so silly. Head Fairy was right I shouldn’t be naughty.  Look where it’s got me. Please , I just want to go home.”

         Through her tears Matilda noticed something on the ground. She flew to take a look. “Oh! It’s Head Fairy.” she cried “ Oh dear,  she must be very ill. What can I do?”

        Head Fairy opened her eyes and mumbled “Get me back to the workshop”.

     “But I don’t know the way” she wailed.

“I’ll guide you” muttered the semi-conscious Fairy.

     Matilda struggled to carry Head Fairy as her wings were soaked and heavy but somehow with instructions they made it to the workshop. Matilda put Head Fairy down gently in the comfy armchair by the fireside and folded her wings in.

       “Who’re you ?” growled Gnome, “And what’s happened to Head Fairy? Is she alive?”

        “Just” she croaked..

       “I’m so sorry Mr Gnome” stuttered Matilda “It’s all my fault that Head Fairy is so ill. I disobeyed her and she had to come looking for me. Will she be alright?”

       “She’ll be fine. She’s as tough as old boots. She’s got a fever and a bad cough. Nothing that a few days rest and some of my special cough medicine won’t cure” answered Gnome.

 “I told you to get help, didn’t I?”  said Gnome shaking  his head as he looked directly at  Head Fairy” But No you wouldn’t listen.  Now you’ll have to do as your told for a week or so, what d’you say to that? Your daft eejit!”

        “I have to get back” said Matilda.”If you could just tell me the way I’ll be off. I must be back for when the family return”

         “You’re not going anywhere young fairy” Gnome said ominously. “I need you here to look after her and take over her duties till she’s well.”

     “ I can’t, I have to get back. If my family come home and notice I’m not there, what then?” pleaded Matilda.

            “ Well,” said Gnome thoughtfully.”We’ll have to think our way round the problem, won’t we.  ‘Cos you look a mess right now. I know, you could take a new fairy and put her on your Christmas tree then return”.

       “A brand new fairy on their Christmas tree would stand out  like a sore thumb” interrupted Matilda.

       “OK. Take one of those reconditioned ones from the pile by the door.” said Gnome irritably. “They won’t notice the difference. Then by the time you get back I’ll have had a word with Them and have sorted something out. I’ve drawn you a map so you can find your way home. Off you go and don’t be long.”

      On her return, Gnome informed Matilda that They had changed her format so she could now pass through glass in order to carry out the duties of the Head Fairy whilst she was ill.

Matilda bowed her head  but underneath she was half ashamed of herself but also half excited at being able to do something useful  instead of just sitting on a tree.

      “Thank you Mr Gnome” said Matilda  respectfully. “I won’t let you down.”

        “Well” said Gnome in a serious voice. “I should hope not.

        Then he started laughing. A big grin spread over his red face, tears began coursing down his cheeks and he held the sides of his wobbling belly.

        “You two  are a right pair aren’t you” said Gnome between guffaws.”  the naughty one and the proud one BOTH getting their  just deserts  AND on the same night. Who would’ve thought that I wonder.? I hope you have both learnt a valuable lesson tonight. Have you Matilda? And you Head Fairy?”

       “Yes Mr Gnome I have. That being naughty has consequences, not just for yourself. but other people too. I will try harder not to be naughty.” answered Matilda with humility.

       “Good. And you Head Fairy, what have you learnt?”

       “To not be too proud and stubborn to ask for help” she said begrudgingly.

        “Right, now that’s all sorted   I’ll make us all a nice cup of tea” said Gnome with a smile.  He turned to see two repentant faces, looking hopefully up at him.

      “If you both promise to do better” the recalcitrants nodded their heads furiously.  “I’ll see if I can find a few biscuits to go with the tea” And with that he turned, still laughing to himself. and disappeared into the kitchen.

Jan Cunningham

    

Success for our Whittlesey Wordsmiths and seasonal stories for your enjoyment.

Photo by Jonathan Borba on Pexels.com

Despite the turmoil of the last year our members have had some remarkable successes and there are more projects in the pipeline.

The Covid restrictions robbed Wendy of the book launch activities lined up to promote her excellent autobiography The Railway Carriage Child.

Tessa has had poetry published in The Poet magazine as has Cathy. Val Fish has had an article published in the Daily Mail also some of her  limericks for which she has an outstanding talent often appear on Esther Chilton’s Blog and in the Daily Mail.

Stephen’s work is now receiving the recognition it deserves, some of his short stories are now appearing in collections both on line and in print. These are Of Silver Bells and Chilling Tales and What Lies Beyond.

Cathy is publishing two more of her books Pond People and The Godmother, they will be available early in December. These join Witch Way and The Year Before Christmas

Phil has published his first novel Killing Time in Cambridge, fresh deliveries will be available early in December.

Also available are the Wordsmiths first two excellent collections; Where the Wild Winds Blow and A Following Wind.

Books published by the Whittlesey Wordsmiths are available locally for collection or delivery at prices  often cheaper than Amazon.

Click here for local deliveries

As it is that time of year again we will be adding a seasonal story or poem each week until Christmas.

Here is one from Cathy, first published in Witch Way and other ambiguous stories with the title Christmas Spirit click on the link to read the story.

LEST WE FORGET – NOVEMBER 11TH

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Flanders Field

With the annual remembrance commemorations drawing near, Tessa has marked this time of reflection with a poem expressing not only her thoughts but those of most of us.

LEST WE FORGET – NOVEMBER 11TH

We travel in our hordes to see that place

Wherein our loved ones fell without a trace.

Marked and blanketed by stones in white

Covering that great plain, that great site.

Farm hand boys and factory workers

Friends from villages, schools or clubs.

Joined together, left their homeland

To lie in fields, decayed amongst the scrub.

Their voices call out still across that plain

Feet are still heard thundering, inches gained.

Hearts were in their mouths, panting fast

As struggling, reached their enemies at last.

The bodies lay before them in the mud

Mingled with the dirt, the crimson blood.

No time to mourn a brother or a friend

Just pass them by, praying for the end.

Guns that deafened now are stilled

Armies of boys and men were killed.

Some now just memories to their kin

Some carried pain through life like sin

They gave us freedom, free to speak

They made us strong not kept us weak

We live in peace and fear no man

They gave their lives so we just can

Tessa Thomson

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In the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them
(For the fallen, Laurence Binyon)

A place in France

This post is by Sandy Snitch one of our members. A story of a special place, lasting memories and a lost love.

Our Place in France

A short piece, which I thought I’d lost about a holiday home in France.
A llname
The cottage held my heart from the moment I stood on the steps, the cold air almost took my breath away———I. knew this was where I wanted to be, to make it home for  holidays for friends and family. I turned to look at my husband smiling, smiling with his eyes (a thing little seen of late).I knew he  loved it too. We wanted it! Far more than we wanted to pay but with some negotiation, it was ours.
Strange as it may seem, we first encountered the owners at a street cafe , situated in front of an estate agents,who, of  course were at lunch from tweive until two!
I ordered our moules frites in french, we then started speaking in English about the properties we were hoping to view.
The man on the next table spoke, “Ere, a you  English? Red you talking about cottages, were got one to sell. Give you the address, come when you want, we’re aving a bbq , tomorrow,  Come over then, if ya want!”

The following day it was sweltering hot, no air. The car had an efficient cooling system  we followed directions to the area of Southern Brittany, which was really picturesque , with small towns and scattered hamlets, and popping out  from the greenery was the , name we were looking for!
We were too late for the bbq, but that was not  a problem, it was too hot to eat!

It was love at fist sight. Over the years almost every half term, and holiday we were at the cottage. We cleaned, scraped, polished andpainted, everyday there was another job which was tackled with gusto. We pruned trees, built fences, set gardens, made rockeries, and best of all we made some wonderful friends, of various nationalities, who were as willing to help us, as we were to help them.
The climate was great, a micro climate on the top of a hill! An orchard with peaches, pears, plums, apples, chestnuts and hazelnuts, deer in the woodland at the top of our land.

Our Back Garden

We had a vegetable plot, surrounded by roses and soft fruit, and also a very old  well, which anyone could use in drought, and if they were the owners of a sixty foot rope!
We didn’t even think  of other places for the holidays, this was our paradise  I painted almost anything that didn’t move: pictures, windows, white goods. I made quilts, embroidered, all by dim lights and warm wood burners, Terry never stopped using his considerable building skills, renovating old buildings, but best of all I believe he enjoyed building  bonfires!
The wood for the three wood burners was coppiced from our own trees. We used hours cutting, splitting and stacking, ready for the cooler days two years hence!
We enjoyed our thirteen years of ownership, but were sane enough to know that the work never stopped, and as we slowed down, the  four hundred metres of hedge still grew, and the four acres of land still needed cutting,
It was time to  leave
The bustle and work emptying the cottage left little time for regrets,and knowing that the lovely young couple who bought it, walked up the steps and together said,
“This is it, we want it!”
We go back to the area, we go back  to the friends, we pass by the end of the road. But after all these years we have never driven by “our” cottage!

But I still miss it like hell!
We go back to France,   we go back to see the friends we made, we go back to the village, and pass by the end of the road, but we have never  yet gone past the cottage!It still hurts like hell.

Covid 19

We are fortunate to have within our writing group some extremely talented writers and poets, one of our most talented poets is Tessa Thomson.

This is her poem about Covid 19, something that has touched all our lives in some way.

A new dawn

COVID – HOW OUR LIVES CHANGED

Suddenly I’m free to start something new to do.

Suddenly there’s time enough just for me and you.

Suddenly the streets are bare, the thoroughfare is clear

Suddenly we feel the fear and hold our dearest near.

It crawls amongst us night and day forming like a cloud.

Covering great swathes of land, continents in shrouds.

Shifting like the desert sands engulfing all in sight.

Quietly taking young and old fearless in its might.

Lives are lost, hearts are broke, tears seem endless too.

Cloudless days are not enough to see this drama through.

Gathered round our sets at night we see the totals grow.

Watching tales of gallant folk whose lives have been laid low.

Masked and gloved our heros work to stem the tide of loss.

People dying all too soon as if a coin were tossed.

In our sadness, in our grief we care for those at hand.

Helping neighbors, giving now support throughout the land.

Time will come when all will be not normal as before.

For we are changed forever now. For now we know the score.

But in our hearts and with each one together we will know,

That desperate times will see us all put on the greatest show.

Tessa Thomson

There was a young man from…

 

This post is from the very talented Valerie Fish. Not only is Val a terrific storyteller but she is an absolute star in the world of limericks.

writer working on typewriter in office
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

 

We are fortunate to have in our writing group, the extremely talented, Tessa Thomson, who writes the most beautiful poetry which often induces teary eyes round the table when recited at our monthly meetings…

Then at the other end of the scale, there’s me and my bawdy limericks! Well to be fair, they’re not all like that, although members of the clergy do have a tendency to misbehave….  And there’s a difference between being risqué and downright rude, I would hate to offend anybody.

I have been composing limericks for years, I have hundreds of them, enough for a book, which may be one day I’ll give a try.

What is it about a limerick that I find so attractive?  I love that sing-along A A B B A rhyme meter (an anapaestic trimester, I’ve just learnt);  I love the challenge of composing something that hopefully will make people smile, and I like to inject something different into my limericks, get that final twist. Sometimes it will take ages to find the right word, not the poshest or the longest, but the right word; it can make all the difference.

Where do my ideas come from? Sometimes I will have a prompt; in my early days, my local radio station ran a weekly limerick competition, incorporating a place in Cambridgeshire.

This was my winning gem:

This is from a while back, when Eastender’s viewing figures were a lot higher than they are nowadays…

At a fancy dress do down in Bury

Maid Marian had a drop too much sherry

It wasn’t young Robin

Who had her heart throbbin

‘Twas Little John who made Marian merry!

 

I am a regular contributor to the Daily Mail, where it pays (actually it doesn’t!) to be topical.

 

After Phil’s Christmas cracker with Mel

She decided to kiss and tell

To her best mate Lisa

Who gunned down the geezer

In a classic crime passionelle

 

 

And a couple more with a soupcon of Francais.

 

Late for school, couldn’t get out of bed

I’ve been summoned to see the head

In a fait accompli

No detention for me

Sir’s been given the sack instead

 

The wife got wind of our affair

When she came across a blonde hair

In the marital bed

(She’s a flaming redhead)

It’s au revoir to the au pair

 

My poor hubby doesn’t always fare well, I hope he realises it’s ‘what I call’ poetic licence…

 

It was all planned, a cruise round the Med

Now thanks to Covid 19, instead

I’m stuck home on my tod

Whist hubby, the daft sod

Is self-isolating in the shed

 

Last night I dreamt of the Azores
Palm trees, clear blue seas, sun-kissed shores
Sadly paradise
Was lost in a trice

Woken by hubby’s thundering snores

Here are those naughty men of the cloth….

 

With his sermon about to begin

The priest had to suppress a huge grin

Cos just minutes ago

Out the back with a pro

He’d committed a cardinal sin

 

Tired of living a life of vice

She went to her priest for advice

‘You must renounce your sin’

He said with a grin

‘But one last performance would be nice’.

 

Forgive me, father, I concede

I have sinned in word thought and deed

With Sister Theresa,

She begged me to please her

The poor girl was in desperate need

 

Followed by a few random risques…

 

The best man was proposing a toast

But he just couldn’t help but boast

‘Today’s stunning bride’

He drunkenly cried

‘Was yesterday’s notch on my bedpost!’

 

I just couldn’t believe my eyes

I have never seen such a size

There was no topping

Her melons, so whopping,

She waltzed off with ‘Best In Class’ prize

 

Under the boardwalk of Brighton pier

A drunken encounter cost me dear

I gave him my all

Up against the wall

The little’ n’s due early next year

 

Said the dentist, clutching his drill,

‘Now just open wide and sit still,

First a tiny prick,

That should do the trick,

You won’t feel a thing – but I will!’

 

 

I’ll finish with a nice clean one for all you animal lovers out there, I know we’ve got at least two here in Whittlesey Wordsmiths.

 

Lay quivering in his bed

Blankets pulled over his head

‘Whizz bang and pop,

Please make them stop

I’m waiting for walkies’ he said

 

I hope you have enjoyed this small selection of my work, and in these troubled times have put a smile on your face.

A link to Tessa’s blog:

https://tessathomsonpoetry.wordpress.com/page/1/?wref=bif

 

Valerie Fish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

POETRY PLEASE

This post is another about favourite poems, Jan Cunningham shares some of her favourites and a fond memory.

Pam Ayres
Pam Ayres website Pam Ayres (picture credit Pam Ayres Website)

 

My go to Poet (ess? who knows these days) is Pam Ayres.

When the black dog visits, when I wished I’d never got up that day, when everything goes wrong, when I keep dropping things to the point I’m screaming —-sitting down and reading a few of her poems soon has me  smiling, then giggling, often  laughing out loud and I’m cured—- for now.

Her poems are down to earth, about the every day, the small things in life, she is observant, witty and poignant. I cannot choose just a single poem, so I’ve picked two which I think demonstrates her range:

 

CASHED AT THE CASH POINT

 

My Grannie was coshed at the cash point

She had only just entered her pin

When out came the dosh

And down came the cosh!

But Gran, not a gal to give in …

 

Turned round and kneed her attacker,

Saying,” Buster, you’re  making me nervous!”

The machine on the wall,

Having witnessed it all,

Said: “Thank you for using our service”.

 

7Am Procession

Poor  old babies, row on row,

In the day care joint they go,

Strangers tend them, fill their tummies,

Tuck them in instead of mummies.

 

There is one particular poem, whilst not being a favourite, haunted  me for years because of the childhood memory it evoked and because I could only remember the first four lines. This poem my Dad would recite to me when he was shaving. I would curl up in his big armchair with wooden arms and he would have his shaving mug on the mantle piece above the black lead stove and looking in the half moon mirror would lather his face and begin reciting:

 

The Sands of Dee

By Charles Kingsley

O Mary, go and call the cattle home,

And call the cattle home

and call the cattle home

Across the sands of Dee

The western wind was wild and dark with foam,

And all alone went she.

 

The western tide crept up along the sand,

And o’er and o’er the sand

And round and round the sand,

As far as eye could see,

The rolling mist came down and hid the land:

And never home came she.

 

‘O is it weed, or fish, or floating hair –

A tress of golden hair

A drowned maiden’s hair

Above the nets at sea?

Was never salmon yet that shone so fair

Among the stakes of  Dee.

 

They row’d her in across the rolling foam,

The cruel crawling foam,

The cruel hungry foam,

To her grave beside the sea,

But still the boatmen hear her call the cattle home,

Across the sands of Dee,

 

I sat mesmerised.

 

Jan Cunningham

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Observations of Life on Holiday by Gwen Bunting

Before we had the Corona Virus, before we were all locked down and isolating Gwen wrote this piece about a recent holiday. Holidays seem like distant memories now.

group of person sitting inside cafe le dome
A meeting of strangers Photo by Elina Sazonova on Pexels.com

 

On a recent journey I could not help but find people’s behaviour fascinating.  Some being friendly; others reserved; and others downright aggressive.  As the journey progressed observations became very much clearer.

The mum and daughter syndrome: the mother commenting to me, that now she was a widow she could enjoy all things SHE wanted to do,  as opposed to her late husband’s  dominance.  Little did she know she had spawned a duplicate of her husband; a daughter!  The daughter was an aggressive type, would barge her way to the front of any queue. Wow betides those poor souls in her way.

The quiet man who gave off the aura of ‘don’t speak to me’ was an interesting personality.  He had a partner, whom conversed with him, but his sole intention at the dining table was to eat as much as he could in the time allocated. His partner was quite different.  Nice friendly person.

The very tall man, his wife was bent over due to a back problem. Preventing her falling by constantly holding her hand.  How dedicated can one be:  Never had a chat with him, but on leaving the group he warmly shook your hand saying ‘it was a pleasure to have met you?’

The sad lady who had dementia and caused a lot of anxiety for her friend, who had not realised she was so confused.  Her wanderings around the various hotel lobbies very early in the morning asking when the coach was leaving and having her bags packed.  She realised on some occasions she was confused.  It made life difficult for her friend, most of the group supportive when needed.

The gentleman who requested they change his bottle of freshly squeezed orange juice as this one contained too many pips.  He got his way after many arguments.  His face was not dissimilar to a beautiful pencil drawing on display in one of the hotel lounges.  The said ‘orange juice man’ was extremely tall and as we were in Viking country I would have enjoyed researching his family history.

The various nations with whom we shared our hotels with were varied.  One nation in particular took it upon themselves to attempt to clear the buffet of all foods.  Hiding  loaves of bread, butter pats and boiled eggs into every orifice that was available to fill.  Life is very interesting when you are travelling and gives me lots of ideas to write stories about.