Sunday 18 August 2013

Flash fiction - Circles

This weekend's Trifextra challenge has taken a huge swing up The Happy, Hopeful Hill. Hoorah! 

The photo below is our inspiration and you can read my 33-word effort underneath. Click on the photo to read more entries and be sure to comment and vote - there's some wicked (as in brilliant) imaginations and writing over there. There's also a great 2-minute video showing the passing year. The photo is a compilation by Eirik Solheim of different days throughout the year, taken at the same location in Oslo, Norway. Enjoy!


Every moment before birth; trees smile, the sun winks, leaves cavort. They may rest, but they always return. Daily, monthly, yearly… Life is a rainbow. Open your eyes; you will be reborn, too. 

Wednesday 14 August 2013

Flash fiction - Valley of the Jolly Underwear Store

I've been a bit absent from Julia's Place recently, but the prompt this week is hilarious and I had to give it a go. I think you'll see where the image took me! The photo on the left is the prompt. Enjoy! Comments much appreciated!

Valley of the Jolly Underwear Store

“Yes Sir, I assure you they are state-of-the-art. Nothing better. And they come in all sorts of colours. What’s your favourite, Sir?”
He said he thought that would be obvious.
“Of course, Sir. Green. How silly of me. And how would you like them packaged?”
He told him he’d like them delivered. To a field over yonder where the corn grows. Where else?
“Right, no problem, Sir. Express flight. You’ll have them by tonight.”
He smiled. After all these years, finally a pair of pants to cover his dignity. He was no longer in his prime. What did advertisers expect? 
100 words

To read more stories, head over to Julia's Place here: 

Tuesday 13 August 2013

Learning curve #3 - The long and winding road

Kotor Bay, Montenegro, is quite simply stunning: a winding mass of water surrounded by dark green mountains majestically peering down at you. The old town of Kotor, rich in maritime history, nestles at the bottom; its cobbled streets and squares full of the silent footsteps of old sailors. At night, the old walls of the city light up, a jewelled crown protecting its king's head.

Curving up to the top of the mountain is a road, which affords spectacular and sweeping views of Kotor, the bay and beyond. Maria and I had heard about this drive and wanted to do it. After renting Beso (see HERE) we thought we'd be safe doubling our wheels from 2 to 4. No matter that the Brit drives on the wrong side and the road is a series of never-ending switchbacks that don't all feature on the local map. Let's do it.

View from the church tower, Perast.
We picked up our car in the morning, I was designated driver for this adventure) and drove round the bay to check out Perast. This small, old village languishes on the coast of the bay, pining for its days at the front line of seafaring adventures, fishing frenzies and pirate battles. Nowadays it takes care of holiday makers wishing to escape, wandering visitors like us, and its many (still standing) churches. We climbed to the top of its main church and hung out with its big, green bells and the wonderful view. We watched a diver swim out with a spear to fish. We waited, but he didn't come back with a huge catch wanting to share it with us, so instead we went for a dip ourselves (without spears) That's the thing with water, we realised. We just had to get in.

With me driving, I was prepared for some Alonso Formula 1 jokes. Turned out that while speeding along, it was my stupidity that was funnier than the whole surname thing. There are two things you need to know about driving in Montenegro. One is that your lights have to be on all the time, even in the brightest sunshine. The second is that the speed limit rarely goes above 40mph because no one can be trusted and bends are apparently for overtaking on.

So there I am, concentrating on remembering that the gears on the right of me and trying not to drive in the middle of the road when Maria gently reminds me we've been told not go over 50kpm. I glance down briefly. "We're only doing 20," I reply. Um, that would be the RPM you're reading there. Well, if that didn't make my passenger more comfortable I don't know what will. Talk about instilling a bit of faith! I slowed down.

We wound back through Kotor town and started the climb up the mountain. The road was about wide
View point on our way up the
mountain above Kotor.
enough for two normal-sized cars. Anything bigger and there were nervous looks from all drivers. On one side: cliff face. On the other: drop-off into the abyss. Of course, the views were distracting. I gripped the wheel and kept my eyes on the road.

Then, there was a bus. I'd just turned left up another switchback and coming straight towards us without any intention of stopping or room to pass was a coach. I'm not going to argue, I thought. I'll reverse back to the corner where it was wider and he'd have enough room. Between the rock face and the road were weeds and grass and I tried to keep close to the edge as I went back. The coach kept coming.

"Wait, you're really close to the rock." And Ker-BRUUUUM. The coach passed. He had enough room because I was now in a mini ditch. Turns out the grass part between the cliff and the road isn't level. First lesson learnt. I didn't have too much panic about this because I hadn't hit anything, so any damage would be unseen when we gave the car back. We were just stuck. I tried to get us out, but the power of a 1.0-litre VW Polo is about as helpful as, well, me driving it at that moment. So, we got nowhere.

Luckily, a car that passed us behind the coach had seen what happened. He stopped at the corner, as I went running towards him. The German Saviour (and he wasn't the only one on this trip) got to it, ripping out branches from under the rear tyre and getting behind the wheel to do what men do best: get girls in cars out of mini-ditch-up-a-mountain-pickles.

Once again, we were saved! Except we were still only half way up the mountain. The adventure continued. Cue very cautious approach to every oncoming car. But we made it. At the top of the mountain, a valley opened up, at the centre of which lies the village of Njegusi. We drove through, marvelling at the funny chicken-hut cabins and the cured hams hanging by the road. Deep green forests stretched out before us, rising up to the other side of the valley. We decided to see what was on the other side.

The valley and Njegusi.
As we left Njegusi, we spotted a hitch-hiker at the side of the road, heading our way. One good deed deserves another, and we had been saved by many who had stopped for our thumbs at the sides of roads. We picked him up. Imagine. You need to get somewhere. Two girls are in a rented car, the passenger with a map sprawled out on her lap. They have no idea what they are doing or where they are going. They are driving at a third of the speed that locals drive at. Have they been in a crash already today? But you get in anyway. Poor bloke. It was probably the longest and slowest hitch of his life. He sat back to admire the view as we laughed at what he must think of us.

Cars are girls, and like all our other modes of transport, this one deserved a name. She got Flo. I'm not going to offend anyone with that name by explaining our reasoning behind it, but she joined our little gang of bikes and boats and scooters and things with wheels and motors that became part of our adventure. And Flo's little adventure didn't stop there.

After a mate and cake overlooking the water and mountains, it was time for the trip down. This was
Important pit stop to refuel. 
less nerve-wracking: the brakes worked, I knew what to expect and I was quite happy to let faster drivers pass us by. Am I going near that edge or rock? No siree! We have survived this far and there are now less German Saviour's on the road to come to our rescue.

Fast forward about 3 hours. We'd parked up back in Kotor near the supermarket so we could climb around the city walls up to the fort, do a quick shop for dinner and then head back to our apartment for a run and feast. The climb was brilliant and sweaty; the views special. The sun dropped behind the mountain on the longest day of the year. The sky turned a hazy red and the water a deep emerald. We imagined ourselves guardsmen of the fort. We followed a rocky path to a tiny stone church, its roof moss-covered. We counted the churches in the town below.

You could tell where Flo was parked after we left the butcher and the supermarket. Of course you could. It was dark and there she was, guiding the way with her lights on. Oh bollocks.

"In terms of situation, I don't mind this one," I said after Flo didn't start. Maria agreed. We had wine and food and we could safely leave her there the night. The man from the car park came to help. I searched the boot. Excellent! These must be jump leads... Hang on... No, quick, put them away before he sees we're trying to give him tow ropes to start Flo with. Two girls. One car. Another pickle. Another saviour.

We got home and I managed to park Flo without dropping us off into the water. It was then time for a run around the bay. Finally, our long and winding road led us to wine and dinner on our balcony, under the twinkling stars of the shortest night of the year.

The old walls of Kotor lit up, Kotor Bay, Montenegro.

Learning: You always get your chance to give back. Take it.
Surprise: Maps don't feature every bend in the road.

Monday 12 August 2013

Flash fiction - Survival


Gripped by the terror encircling, he cried out one last time. The harrowing silence fell on pointed ears. He sat, limbs curled underneath him; frozen by history and the blinding winter. Old Grey smelt the end.

The cave provided time to think about his next move. He admired the pine trees, like statues ladled with snow. The birds had long gone. And they? Why had he stayed? Pride? His ancient love of living at the edge of life. Major had warned him. But then, Old Grey had always won. Until now.

The forest stretched out before him, his land of battles: for territory, for love, for his family, for his past and their future. The endless winters had broken into summers full of promise, but they now dwindled to nothing. Everything was on the move, and yet… they had remained.

But so had Red. Old Grey pictured those crimson eyes searching the forest’s dark purple corners.  He had to finish this before everything he had survived was lost forever. Red was stronger now, and quicker. Red’s time was soon.

But Old Grey knew parts Red didn’t. He knew holes and ravines and fallen branches that Red still had to find. He stood stiffly and sniffed the air. Trapped bugs, leaves hung with winter’s ice, and forgotten human footprints filled his senses. He closed his eyes.

Little Grey was safe. For now. But he would have to be moved before the next snowfall. Old Grey hated to use the word home, but this is what his horizon was. Major had wanted him to look further. He couldn’t grasp it then. He saw it now. Maj. Remembering her again swiped his breath from his lungs. He opened his eyes and looked out, barely able to face the journey ahead without her.

There was a twinkle in the distance, then two. He might have to say goodbye sooner than he wanted, but he could still save his last son.

He padded out gently into the woods.

The word we had to include was GRASP: its third meaning is to lay hold of within the mind, COMPREHEND.
There's more writing to enjoy; click on the Trifecta icon above. Comments welcome, reads appreciated! 

Friday 9 August 2013

Snapshot: Life

There is a moment when you realise the permanent change in your life that has befallen you. It doesn't fly in on the wings of a grand bird; it is smaller and more unassuming. But that moment is there: in the greetings of recognition from the grocer; in the new, colourful card in your wallet; in the walk of your neighbourhood; in (dare I say it) the local bike app. 

When things change you need cornerstones. Simple, regular, beautiful things. They lead you to the moment when it isn't change any more. It isn't different.

It's your life. 

With wine while watching Dirty Dancing at the Open Cinema
in front of the palace.

Weekend brunch: Scottish salmon, local veggies and eggs
and German white pudding. Heart of Europe.

Cooking lasagne for friends.

Moments on the wall. Got to be surrounded by
happy people. 

The view from our new house as we wait for the
estate agent to arrive and show us around, Wasserbillig.

Tuesday 6 August 2013

Flash fiction - 15 days to go

This week over at Trifecta, the word is WEAK and its third definition is:

Weak (adjective): Not factually grounded or logically presented.

I was in the middle of writing something, but then overnight my thoughts took a different course and ended up here. Surprisingly for me. Comments and advice welcome! Click on the icon below to read more entries.

15 days to go

I’m moderating tonight. It’s a surprise, but the guy from CNN’s wife is in labour with twins and was going to divorce him if he did this. I thought they might get some other hotshot to do it, but they chose little old me. Janice keeps texting me. She’s even made popcorn and that idiot neighbour with the big tits is coming over to watch the debate. Like she has a clue. She may have married that senator, but he died. Bet she doesn’t even know which party she’s supposed to vote for. 

It’s not the cameras. It’s not the audience. It’s those two asses I’m worried about. I can’t believe that half this country actually wants one of these loons to run it. And the rest are behind the other cheeseball. I know I’m going to have to resist the urge to knock their heads together.

The red corner: Big, Bad, Well-Oiled and Rich, it’s Red Dickk from Texas! (With two Ks? What is that about? All the better to kick you poor people with?)

The blue corner: Smarmy, Intellectual, Well-Read and Driven, it’s Blue Karl from Vermont! (Karl with a K? You know what his Mamma was thinking about with that one.)

“I believe education is key.”

“It’s what we need for a brighter future.”

“We can make that difference. Can you?”

“We got to be resourceful.”

“That’s weak and you know it. We’ve promised something tangible.”

“History is on our side.”

They keep going, verbally hitting each other with more of the ridiculous and meaningless. I keep them on track. Red Dickk sweats and repeats himself. Blue Karl rolls his eyes and laughs to himself like he knows some secret plan. I wish I had an ejector seat. 

At least everyone back home can turn off. I find out the next day that, incredibly, 50 million people stayed with them, with us; and I won’t be doing the next one.

I should have used my moment more wisely. 

Saturday 3 August 2013

Flash fiction - Decision

A little 33-word story from the photo prompt below from our friends at Trifecta. Happy reading and writing this weekend!


The moment before leaving the shadows is uncertain, vague. I crack, a delicate, empty vase, with the pressure of the decision: Who am I? Where to go? I step back. I can't, yet.

[ changó ] / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Please read more entries at