Whittlesey Wordsmiths are having a very productive year, two individual members, Tessa Thomson and Valerie Fish have published their own books. Tessa’s book is of poetry and Valerie’s a collection of limericks. Stephen Oliver has had a number of his short stories accepted for publication, nine at the last count. The Wordsmiths are in the process of completing their two Christmas collections carefully gathered together by Cathy Cade. Cathy is not only an ace editor and proof reader but also a prolific writer too, having published three of her own books. She has had great competition success with her short stories and poetry.Whittlesey Wordsmiths have also benefitted from the artistic talent of Jane Pobgee, not only for illustrations in our upcoming collection of children’s Christmas stories but also in Valerie’s and Tessa’s books.
These are a few of Jane’s drawings.
Jane’s drawings have a beautiful simplicity and capture the essence of the poem, limerick or story they accompany perfectly.
Here is just one, from the upcoming children’s Christmas stories.
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.
This post is another about favourite poems, Jan Cunningham shares some of her favourites and a fond memory.
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”.
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,
This is a slightly less than enthusiastic review by Jan following a weekend away in Norfolk.
My husband Bill and I escaped to Norfolk for a short break in autumn last year. As the weather forecast was good we thought we’d take advantage of it.
On the Sunday evening we booked a table at the 16th century Royal Hotel Mundesly, for a carvery. Yum Yum, a favorite of mine. As we drew into the car park my mouth started watering.
We were greeted and taken to our table by a young lady dressed in the old style for waitresses: Black dress, white apron and a white coronet in her hair. The dining room was spacious and could easily have served a hundred covers. On the way to our table I noticed various other eating areas and a spacious comfortable looking lounge. It was a large Hotel.
When asked what we like to drink Bill enquired as to what draught beers they had.
“None Sir” replied the waitress.
“OK what other beers do you have?”
“Are telling me that you have NO beer at all?
It was a classic Victor Meldrew moment. I wished I’d had my camera handy. The shock and outraged look on his face would have won first place in any photographic competition.
“I quietly asked about white wine.
She listed three” We have Pinot Grigiot, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.”
“Pinot Grigiot will do nicely, thank you.”
She went off to get it. After a good while I watched her walk back empty handed.
“Sorry Sir, we have run out of the Pinot”
Bill just sat ,gave her a special look but never said a word.
“Chardonnay will be fine” I said.
Whilst waiting for our drinks Bill starting singing softly “There’s nothing so lonesome, so morbid or drear than to stand in the bar of a Pub with no beer”
Paying the bill at reception the young man asked if everything had been alright.
“No, it wasn’t” declared my husband.
“Oh, why Sir?”he asked.
“Because you haven’t any beer.”
“Oh. But we do Sir. We have I.P.A. and Pale Ale” he replied.
Bill is partial to a pint of I.P.A.
We will not be returning or reviewing this establishment. Bill’s remarks would be unprintable.
Jan’s piece is about a recent U3A trip to a Buddy Holly tribute concert. Many of us of a certain age remember Buddy Holly with a mixture of nostalgia, gratitude and sadness, gratitude for his music evoking for many of us a fondly remembered youth, a time of optimism. Sadness that such a talented young man along with J.P. “Big Bopper” Richardson and Ritchie Valens died so young, all three were in the same plane. A sadness echoed later by the death in similar circumstances of Otis Redding.
Last Wednesday Bill and I went with a merry bunch of U3Aers on a charabanc to Northampton to see “The Buddy Holly Story”.
Leaving Whittlesey at 10.30 am and arriving in Northants at 11.45am left us plenty of time to look around the town and have lunch as the show didn’t start until 2.30pm.
On our walkabout, we noticed a small, old fashioned pub called the Wig and Pen. Ambling back, we wandered in looking for lunch. Inside was a long bar on one side and opposite were small wooden round tables with stools, in front of cushioned bench seats for people to sit and enjoy their pub grub. At the far end, up three steps was a smoking area with wooden tables and chairs in a modern style, (me, being me didn’t appreciate that fact even though there were ashtrays on the table, Bill pointed it out to me later).
We sat down and were immediately attended to by a delightful young waitress who was pleasant and helpful. Suddenly we were startled by rain falling on a wide area of corrugated plastic roofing above us, making a deafening noise like rounds from a machine gun. We remarked to the waitress that we hoped it would stop before we left as we hadn’t come prepared for rain.
She replied with a laugh that we needn’t worry about that as she would give us an umbrella from behind the bar. Apparently, they have quite a collection of forgotten brollies. Fortunately, the rain had stopped when we left.
The show was excellent. It told the story of Buddy Holly’s musical career, how he started and his rise to fame, eventually becoming a worldwide success but only for a short time as he died in a plane crash in February 1959 aged 22 years.
One time Buddy Holly was invited to perform in Harlem. In those days it was unheard of for a white man to play to a black audience. Two black ladies who were present at the time laughed rolled their eyes and told him “You’ll never get off that stage alive. They’ll eat you.” Buddy just shrugged “A gigs a gig” He performed. The audience was stunned when he first went on stage but by the time he finished they were completely won over. A small victory for racial integration.
The young man playing Buddy Holly was exceptional, as were his three “Crickets”. I was quietly singing along to the songs remembered from my youth as I think so were plenty of others. The whole cast danced and sang with energy and enjoyment.
At the moment in the story when Buddy Holly dies the curtains were closed and a lone guitar was spotlighted centre stage for a few moments.
Then the finale which was fast and furious, pounding out favourites hits and encouraging the audience to join in. Some members stood up, waving, clapping their hands and singing along. I’m sure a lot of us had our own memories of the fifties. I was fourteen years old and had just discovered jiving. Oh Boy! did I enjoy dancing.
As we left the theatre happy and contented, I wondered if the lead singer, when he was playing his heart out in the finale, giving the music and dancing his all, whether in his mind’s eye he wasn’t seeing us but imagining the bright-eyed, young girls who would have been swaying, swooning, screaming, crying at the front of the stage of his idol Buddy Holly.