Tuesday 30 July 2013

Flash fiction - The Secret

Here is this week's Trifecta challenge. Below is the word and definition we had to use. Click on the icon below to read other entries.

The Secret

They didn’t have words for what they couldn’t see. They knew the rains came; they knew the storms lashed their giant trees: they knew the lightening broke on the winding waters around them. They knew the sun rose in a whirl of misty yellows. They knew the sun set in a myriad of fiery reds. They knew everything about their world and its shadows. But they knew nothing beyond their green horizon. What they couldn’t see was simply the past.

Only Huachawaca knew, had seen. He would only speak of the time he fought the white man when his bones grew cold and he believed his ancestors were coming for him. They never did. He was as strong as the trees, and had seen as much.

The white men were ghosts, cloaked in different colours. They brought terrifying sounds. They moved differently; like they came from a forest which bore different fruit, different materials. They carried obscure objects. The white man was always looking for something. Huachawaca and his brothers gave them their poison. He didn’t know how many years ago it was.

Huachawaca’s great-grandson crouched on his heels, chin on his knees, facing the old man. His hands were tucked into his thighs. Puji listened. He wanted to know why he was afraid.

We band together against the white man because we are this forest. Like the vines that wrap the trees, making everything one and the same. White man doesn’t understand this. White man looks for something else. He doesn’t understand it is all this here: our soul, our land.

The fire crackled. Palms swayed in the breeze. Monkeys could be heard settling. It would soon rain.

Puji kept his hands closed. Inside he held a secret. He knew it was the first secret like it of his tribe. He had no other word for it. But the secret hurt. The green, jacket button pressed into his palm hurt; like a misunderstanding, a wrong footstep in the jungle. 
330 words

BAND (verb) 1: to affix a band to or tie up with a band
2: to finish or decorate with a band
3: to gather together : unite 


Sunday 28 July 2013

Flash fiction - The Moment

I think I'm just in time for this weekend's Trifecta Challenge: a 33-word piece that has a colour in it. Click on the Trifecta icon below to read more challenge entries and, more importantly, vote! Good luck everyone.

The Moment 

Plitvice National Park, Croatia
Delicate yellows hit the cyan waters, conjuring ripples of light across to the mossy emerald rocks. She inhales the morning’s sweet air and reads the water’s stories, its emerald lines reaching across eternity. 

Friday 26 July 2013

Learning curve #2 - Birds on wheels

It's storming and grey in Luxembourg today. So it's the perfect morning to be drinking tea and writing, with the windows open (finally - a breeze!) and the sound of the rain drops cooling down the city.

As I have mentioned in a previous post (see: http://birdoftheforest.blogspot.com/2013/07/learning-curve-1-birds-of-floating-world.html) I spent the month of June travelling with a friend. And there are some stories I wanted to share here from our adventures. Here is the second learning curve from the trip.

Birds on wheels

When you don't have your own wheels you only have the options of someone else's or your own legs if you want to explore. Maria and I were always happy to use our legs. That's what they are there for: taking us places, up hills, through water, along mountain tracks, through cities. The only trouble, of course, is when you have far to go and not a lot of time. 

In this case, it was the island of Rab in Croatia. We were staying at a campsite in San Marino near Lopez at the north end of the island. The day after we arrived, their summer bus schedule was due to begin. What joy! There would be buses every 90 minutes to get us out and about. Except they didn't come. In fact, the only bus we ever saw during our time on Rab was in a bus park. Maybe Rab is more of a retirement place for buses, because they sure don't like actually bussing about. 

We decided to start walking, try and hitch to the main town of Rab and hire bikes from there. So off we went in the direction of the main road to Rab. Somewhere in my mind it was a mere five kilometres away. We walked. Thumbs out and no one was biting. Strange. No buses and no friendly drivers? What was going on on Rab?! Still walking, Maria behind me suddenly piped up.

"Look. Scooters. We could always rent a scooter."

We stopped. The previous day Maria told me a story which finished with the line, "And that's why I should never drive a scooter again." Now, before us stood a shining purple scooter. It would certainly mean we could get around the island quicker. 

"I could drive it, couldn't I?" I said out loud, convincing anyone who was within earshot. "How hard can it be?"

We asked a bemused man standing nearby the price. No sir, we want it for the whole day. Hmm. Would you take this amount instead? The cash was handed over. The deal done. Helmets found. Holy crap, this was happening. I was to be pilot of this purple scooter. Our lives, and those of innocent bystanders, were in my hands. He didn't take our names, nor any ID; there was no way of contacting each other and I had no idea what I was doing. This was how we rolled.

The first few moments on Beso (our name for the scooter) were quite scary. We were on the pavement and I was wobbling all over the place. I was trying to find a low curb to get on the road. Cars were coming. "Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!"

OK, breathe. The tension in my arms, rigid on the handle bars, was great. Stay on the right side of the road. Use your (cracked) mirrors. Does Beso have brakes? Don't let Maria fall off. Try not to wobble. You need speed to get up the hill. Oh, this is how fast Beso goes. Avoid the lorries. Or at least give them a chance to avoid you. Beso needs help. Lean into those bends. Is Maria still on the back? 

It was 14 kilometres to Rab town, so it would have been a longer walk that I'd thought. Plus, those hills. Croatia doesn't like flat islands. That day we zoomed (slowly) around Rab and visited villages and beaches on all sides of the island. Having wheels meant we could find secret spots for picnics, skinny-dipping and general island fun. It was a freedom we hadn't had so far on the trip. Our own wheels. How special. Beso served us well and, because we are birds and birds are like that, she became part of our pioneering tribe. Like Sally the boat on Dugi Otok. 

One thing we did have to do was make sure we returned Beso with fuel in the tank. Having no idea how much fuel half a tank (or anything) meant, or how far we'd be going (considering our initial estimates were way off) in between adventures, we decided to top her up en route to another beach after lunch. Like pros, we stopped at the petrol station. I indicated, swung in and parked in front of the pump. We remembered which fuel. I got the money to pay, Maria shoved in the pump. I stood there, watching the Kunas (Croatian currency) rise. Except they didn't.

"It keeps stopping. I can't fill her up." 

Well, there was obviously something wrong. Maria persevered while I went to get a man who could sort it out. It's not like we were doing anything wrong. We know how to use petrol pumps. We're not stupid.

Out came the attendant and took the pump off Maria. We watched him with looks that said, See. It's broken or something.

"It's full," he said. 

Cue rip-roaring laughter, falling about the forecourt of the station giggling. Two birds in summer dresses, flip flops and helmets chuckling their heads off, with the all-knowing man and his friend (who had come out to see what all the girly hooting was about) watching in smirking silence.

After 10 hours with Beso, we were sated and full of happy memories, especially with our own
Overlooking Rab town
achievement of not killing ourselves or anyone else. We had explored the beaches and bays of Rab, its beautiful town, drank mate, swam and sunbathed and learnt a little more about who we are, what we can do and where we were. 

You can't ask any more than that: one day, one island, one scooter. 

Learning: Everything about being on a scooter - from driving it to realising that two birds don't often ride on scooters in Croatia.
Surprise (apart from no injuries/death): You can get really far on 18 Kuna's worth of petrol (about £2/$3). 

Beso. Kiss. Rab town marina.

Sunday 21 July 2013

Flash fiction - Super Trouper

I am attempting the short and sweet Trifecta weekend challenge today: 33 words including ring, water and stage. Click on the link below to read other entries or have a go yourself. 

Super Trouper

She doesn’t want this life, but this is her stage. She breathes. Double somersaults, through rings of fire. Carlos catches her before they dive into the invisible water. Cue applause.

Then, she quits. 
33 words

Thursday 18 July 2013

Flash fiction - Overtime

Today I discovered a new flash fiction competition and inspiration has flowed. What a joy just to be and write. Over at Trifecta you are given a word and its third definition as it appears in the. This time you have between 33 and 333 words. Here's my first Trifecta attempt. The prompt and definition is below.


She saunters into the room. All eyes turn to her. Her long limbs settle into a chair. She makes it looks like nothing to wear a dress like that. She folds one leg over the other and rests her hands in her lap. Her fingers sparkle with jewels from her travels. She only wears one earring. It’s so fabulous she doesn’t need two. She makes living look so easy.

Our boss starts talking. I am supposed to be writing, but all I can do is look at her. She is wide-eyed, looking at him with her head slightly tilted. She isn’t smiling, but she looks happy. She seems to be listening. I try to do the same. After a while my neck hurts. I obviously don’t tilt my head enough.

She stands and speaks. She doesn’t go to the lectern and use the microphone; she just stands there, amongst us all, speaking to us like she knows us. We’re all friends. Her hands often move about in front of her. One of her rings matches her lipstick and another matches her watch. Does she know this?

Later, she sends me an email. It’s about finance, but her writing is so open and friendly. She should have emailed my boss, but maybe she’s seen something in me. I start her request immediately. I’m not going until I’ve finished.

I’m the last one in the office, but I’m happy. I’ve done a good job and tomorrow she will see that. Maybe she’ll invite me for lunch. We’ll become friends. We’ll go shopping. We could go on holiday together. She’d be great to wander round markets.

I turn out the lights and stop by the toilet. Someone else is still here and she’s in a cubicle crying. It can’t be her. I peek through the crack in the door. It’s the boss’s fat PA with her head in her hands. Phew. It’s not her. I turn and leave, still happy. 
328 words

1a : a loud roll or peal  
b : a sudden sharp noise 
2: a sharp witty remark : quip
3a : a narrow break : fissure      
b : a narrow opening —used figuratively in phrases like fall through the cracks to describe one that has been improperly or inadvertently ignored or left out 
4a : a weakness or flaw caused by decay, age, or deficiency :unsoundness  
b : a broken tone of the voice  
c : crackpot 5: moment, instant 

Go to www.trifectawritingchallenge.com to read more entries. 

Wednesday 17 July 2013

Flash fiction - The Escape

The Escape

I’ve noticed some things that happen in England when it gets hot. Everyone gets outside and goes a bit red. People fire up their BBQs and eat overcooked meat. Men start to order drinks with fruit in which they would otherwise balk at. And some people book holidays to Scotland where it’s suitably cool.
I just wanted to get out and get in on the summer action. We’ve all been cooped up during the never ending winter. And then she wanted to make a boiled egg salad! Are you joking? Being boiled? In this heat?

Give me sun and let me fry! 

Click below to be taken to Julia's Place for more 100-word stories using the above picture as a prompt.

Tuesday 16 July 2013

Learning curve #1: Birds of the Floating World

I love being surprised. I recently returned from a trip which took me and a friend from Vienna, Austria to Tirana, Albania, via Croatia and Montenegro. It surprised me every day. Bliss.

When you are on the road, the worst thing you can do is not learn. The second worst thing you can do is not laugh at yourself and your situation. If you travel like I do, you find yourself in situations you haven’t thought through; those which are unexpected, often difficult and hilarious and… a complete surprise.

These moments teach you something. They teach you about yourself and more about life and what’s out there. I’ll be sharing some stories from the trip that upped my learning of myself, my friend and life in general. Here is one of them.

Birds of the floating world

Maria and I rented a boat to explore Dugi Otok (Long Island) in Croatia and its surrounding coves and islands as well as Kornati National Park nearby. The boat’s owner was a big personality by the name of Branco who knew everything about everything. And he didn’t trust two girls with his boat.
“You realise I am stuck here in case I have to rescues you?”
“You MUST behave!”
“No rocks! Something goes wrong, you have to pay.”
“No, I do NOT trust you.”
“We see if you survive.”
I know it sounds as if we were taking away his speed boat or prized yacht, but it was simply this:

Sally rests in her bunker after a heavy day out on the seas around Dugi Otok, Croatia

For lunch on the first day, we anchored Sally (above) near an island. After our picnic and beer on board, we swam in the clear, warm waters, marvelling at how far down we could see and enjoying following the fish with the goggles. At one point we both looked up. "Does Sally seem to be moving away?" I put my head down and swam after her. Sure enough, the anchor was being dragged along the sandy bottom far down and Sally was swishing away with the current. I got hold of her and we pulled her into shallower waters. We needed to get better at anchoring. 

Once we had clambered back into the boat (not for ladies, it’s truly ungraceful) we decided to go round the island and dry off en route, then anchor again and grease up with sunscreen. This we did. Except when I went to pull up the anchor, I couldn’t. Captain Maria (I was deck hand) came to help. It wouldn’t budge. We had suddenly become anchor experts. 

The island of spectacular swims and
an anchor situation
At this point, there was still no need to panic. At least we were safely stuck and not drifting out in the open ocean without fuel. We tried revving Sally to the max in all directions to budge the anchor, but power wasn’t one of her strong points and we got nowhere. So, I donned goggles and jumped in to have a look.

It was choppier on this side of the island and I couldn’t see all the way down, so I decided to have a go at following the rope and diving. One deep breath and down I went. The goggles filled up. And it wasn’t such a deep breath. I got so far before coming up. But I had seen just three arms of the anchor: surely if we shot Sally in that direction it would definitely budge?

It didn’t. The sun was still high in the bright blue sky. This anchor situation wasn’t a problem. We had options:
  • ·       Keeping diving until we got the anchor free
  • ·       Wave at another boat so they could do the same to free it
  • ·       Cut the anchor rope (we would never hear the end of it from Branco)
  • ·       Call Branco (we would never hear the end of it from Branco)
So, I decided to have another go. Long deep breaths; last one; and down. I got further this time, tugged the rope, ran out of air and went up swallowing the ocean. “There’s nothing holding it down! I can see all four arms!” We had no idea what was going on down there. 

I clambered back in the boat with seawater rushing out of my nostrils. “OK. I'll have a go,” said Maria, getting the goggles off me. A couple of years ago we did a personal training session together at a pool with a guy who made us swim in all sorts of styles and do random lung enhancing exercises. We were very hungover and rubbish at the time. But it turns out Maria was paying attention. She might not be the most elegant of swimmers, but when it comes to diving, she’s got it covered. She filled up her lungs and dove down. I watched her fade into the wobbly blueness. And then the rope was loose. She came back with our anchor! “Drop it before you sink!” I shouted, pulling the rope. It had been 5-6 metres down. Go Maria!

Back in the boat, all we could do was smile and laugh to ourselves. We were saved. The anchor didn’t sink us! And, more importantly, Branco would never know! As Sally took us back to our island past a seagull colony and other green islets we took a look at the clouds high above the mainland in the distance.

“Look at those clouds. Don't they say something?”
“They do. They say LIVE.”

And we sure know how to do that.

Learning: Sometimes the one thing you need to rescue you is right in the boat with you.
Surprise: Anchors really work. 

Monday 15 July 2013

No time like the present?

I've written before about the journey being as important as the destination. You can't get where you want to go without the journey, after all.

I feel like I've been in transit for a while. Over the last three years we have moved five times: from Argentina to London (and within) to Luxembourg via Norfolk a couple of times. There have always been boxes. There has always been the sense of nearly there, but never quite. There has always been the word When... Fill in the blank with various hopes: we have our own place/I get a great job/we move/we are married/we have enough money. You get the point.

Two days ago, my husband and I arrived in Luxembourg. For good. For some time. Maybe even some years. He's just got a job here and married life proper starts for us. It's been a while coming and I am excited and happy to be here. It's a beautiful, small city with plenty of parks, bars and a feeling that you really are in the heart of Europe. There's a mixture of languages in the air: French, English, Luxembourgish, German, Portuguese and us chatting away in Spanish. It's sunny and warm. The red wine is tasty and cheap.

But, as well as the wonder and excitement when you move to a new place, there is also the operational, logistical, social and administrative jumps to make. We're here in a permanent place, but not in a permanent apartment. So there's still a lot of When going on. Throw in a few Ifs and a large handful of Maybes and you realise we are still in transit. I can't buy pillows or cups or curtains because I have some arriving at some point. I don't know when and I don't know where it will all arrive to. But when it's here I can... Again, fill in the blanks.

All this moving makes us leave the present again. The thing I wanted was to get here and just be. Live together again, just us, feeling our way around. So as we wander new forests and avenues and squares and cycle paths, I spend my energy ignoring the infinite possibilities all around us and try to concentrate on the now. Because it's beautiful.

And because, finally, our future is here.


Sunday 14 July 2013

Short story extract - The Other Me

I haven't had time to write much this week. However, I've just signed on to read some entries at Julia's Place and at the eleventh hour I realise I can enter. I read her prompt for the 100-word challenge for grown-ups (100WCGU) and part of a story I am working catapulted to the front of my brain. The prompt is heat and here is the extract from my work-in-progress. Its working title is The Other Me.

My favourite part of losing my virginity was the heat. I’d never felt so warm and cosy before, but the heat of having Daniel lying on top of me, rubbing me, pressing himself into me, it just felt so… human, so warm. We were two pink lobsters, interlocking claws, growing redder by the minute and I just loved that hot, sweaty feeling. Afterwards, we got under my duvet and tried to stay as close as possible, but he wasn’t on top of me anymore, so it wasn’t as warm. He laid his head near mine, sideways on as I stayed on my back feeling his heat drain away, wanting to always get into bed and feel like that. 

Tuesday 2 July 2013

Flash fiction - Company Getaway

I absolutely love the prompt at Julia's Place this week! Happy writing! It is this photo:

Company getaway

Walter smiled, but he felt stupid.
How had he missed the email? Well, he had been busy. The council was increasing his team; he’d had new recruits to train. It wasn’t like the old days where you stayed in the same place for years. These days he liaised with the posties, the wheelies and the doggies. You had to keep up.
Of course, they still liked to mock the newbies and their dress code. But Walter was a traditionalist and kept his team to grey or black.
So he didn’t mind them having a laugh at their annual beach party. He just wished he didn’t look so rubbish.