Note Number 63. . . A Cowboy Story for Christmas.

christmasboot

Wayne Hollis Jackson was driving along the old Eagle Trail on his way back from the range. He was still a good fifteen mile away from home and the snow was hitting the windscreen of the truck like a hail of Lux soap flakes. The Jackson’s had always been cowboys, but he was sure glad not to be riding a horse in this weather. After a hard day, he was looking forward to getting back to a warm fire, and a fine bit of good Texan tucker that his momma would have ready for him at the house. His watch read six-thirty, and he had reckoned to be back before seven, but with the worsening weather, he began to doubt getting home at all.

A while later he was passing the McVale place, squinting to see where he was headed, he could just make out Mary-Lou McVale standing by the side of their station wagon flagging him down. He pulled over as close as he could, drew his hat down over his eyes and gathered his sheepskin coat around his body, opened the truck door and ran to Mary -Lou putting his arm around her.

‘What’s up Mrs McVale?’ he said.

The words came tumbling out, a torrent of panic.

‘The pick-up’s broke, the baby’s coming, the phone lines are down, there’s no mobile signal and Joe’s away working on the rigs. He was getting here for Christmas, but I think that ain’t possible now. The baby’s not due for another three weeks but the contractions are coming fast. I don’t see how I’m gonna make it to the hospital. Rightly I should have had my mother here but like I said, the baby’s not due for another three weeks.’

‘Well mam, I’ve delivered a fair few calves in my time, can’t see it’ll be that much different. Let’s get you inside, out of this blizzard.’

‘Won’t your mamma be worrying ’bout you?’

‘Guess she will but there’s nothing I can do ’bout that now. Anyways, she’ll likely think I’ve stayed up at the bunkhouse what with this weather and all.’

‘There’s some stew on the stove if you need a bite to eat.’

‘Why, that’s a mighty good idea, I could be here some time.’

For the next five hours Mary-Lou paced around the living room of the one storey house, moaning and groaning and Wayne comforted her between contractions. He tried to stay relaxed and not let on how nervous he felt about the imminent birth.

‘Do you think, with it being Christmas Eve an’ all, you might have a boy?’ he asked.

‘What, you mean, like a second coming?’ Mary-Lou kinda spat the words out.

‘I was just saying.’

‘I think it’s here,’ yelled Mary-Lou before dropping onto all fours and bellowing.

Wayne manoeuvred her onto the couch.

At just gone midnight, a beautiful little baby girl bawled her way into the world.

‘Oh my,’ said Wayne, ‘a new beginning. Aint that something? What are you gonna call her?’

‘Well, I don’t rightly fancy Waynette, but maybe Holly would be nice, a bit like your middle name? And it is Christmas day after all.’

Wayne stared at the little baby.

‘Imagine,’ he sighed, ‘if Jesus had been born a girl, the world might have been a whole different place.’

cowboy stork

This story was originally created from a prompt set as homework for a writing group that I have just joined, Story Traders, in Bridport. We had to take a character or two from a Christmas Carol or Song and write a story putting them in a modern setting. I chose the Cowboy Carol, which I love and I think my kids loved it too. If you don’t know it, you can listen to a version of it here. 

Note Number 62. . .November Round up . . .

I don’t know about you, but November came and went with such speed that I keep thinking I’m only half-way through. Here’s a quick recap :

1st/2nd The grandchildren came to stay for one night. We had  tea with them all in the afternoon at The Seaside Boarding House in Burton Bradstock, then drove off into the sunset taking the little darlings with us and leaving the parents to enjoy a romantic dinner for two and a night away. The sunsets at the end of October and beginning of November were truly stunning.

sunrise

This is  actually a sunrise not sunset…photo taken by my daughter Emily Rickard (you  can find her on pimpyourrental or emilyrickardstylist on Instagram — it’s worth a look) 

3rd November The Man and I went to see The Wife at the Electric Palace in Bridport. Good film, good story etc., probably a little overhyped, but then aren’t they all these days?  Glenn Close was wonderful but then she looked just like our friend Jan from Bristol, so we were distracted by thinking how much fun it was to see Jan carrying  on with Jonathan Pryce, on the big screen.  The film is about a writer who receives the Nobel  Prize for Literature — but then we learn the truth behind his legendary writing, (The Wife). . .all is not what it seemed.

the wife

Sorry that I can’t find a photo of Jan for  you to compare…

6th  Bridport Film Society (I am on the committee) showed Land of Mine. I had watched it before and saw so much more in it, the second time around, isn’t that often the way? It’s based on a true story, when, in 1945 the Danes used young German POWs to clear the 1.5 million land mines that had been set along the coast. A harrowing but brilliant film.

7th/28th My Wednesday afternoon Laban Dance is back in full swing. Wendy has us dancing with towels — hmm, you may well ask. It’s brilliant actually. We all love following her choreographic ideas,  whilst all the time she encourages us to create our own sequences. Wendy bases a lot of the  dancing on myths and ancient stories of the  Gods.

From the 12th – 16th I went on a Flash Fiction Writing Retreat, run by Amanda Saint from Retreats West and held at Retreats for You in Sheepwash, Devon. It was a brilliant three days of writing, working with other writers under the excellent tutelage of Amanda. We each created at least three pieces of flash fiction per day ready to take home and lick into shape. Some pieces will be put in the bin, some developed and I’ll maybe start a few new ones. I need to have nine stories ready for April 2019, for publication in November 2019. Of course, Amanda will not use all of them but I’m hoping to send her a few that she won’t be able to refuse.

Retreats  For You Outside….Happy Writers Inside

19th Almost as soon as I had I returned to Bridport, we had to rush off to Bristol for babysitting duties. Then to  Maidenhead to visit our other granddaughter and from there to London, where we spent two nights in the city. I had lunch with an old friend that  I hadn’t seen for about  8 years — it was such fun catching up. Fortunately, I remembered that she always wore amazing earrings.  Shock horror! I had left my earrings in Bristol so had to  borrow a pair. There was no way I could lunch with Sheila without a decent pair of rings in my ears. Do you have friends with great fashion or accessory tastes? Not that I bother to ‘keep up’ with anything it’s just that sometimes one has to stop and think about these things.

my borrowed earrings copy

My Borrowed Earrings (rather nice I think – thanks step-daughter Jackie)

21st The Man and I went to the Jermyn Street Theatre in London to see Billy Bishop Goes To War.  Based on the true story of a fighter pilot from WW1. What a treat that was. The theatre is very small, seating only 60 or so people and the action takes place right in front of your nose. If you need the loo you have to walk across the stage area, but of course you can’t do that when the show is in progress. Charles Aitken played the younger Billy Bishop and Oliver Beamish played the older Billy Bishop. Both actors were honestly superb, creating believable scenes of war in the mud and trenches and in the skies. The staging was brilliantly put together so that the action could take place all over the world without any changes.  Hard to explain but it  was clever. I cannot wait to go back to this little theatre, what a find.

 

Left-hand side is the set. Right-hand side. See how close the  front row is? 

On the 24th November I was asked to judge the Young Farmers’ Entertainment competition. Not knowing what to expect I went with an open mind and full of interest (and full of cold for that matter). It  was a great evening, with four clubs  taking  part, each one giving us a performance for no longer than 30 mins including  set-up an take-down. The programme was as follows.

Sturminster Newton YFC – Sturminster Newton’s Got Talent
Sherborne YFC A Night at the Oscars
Marshwood Vale A Day at the Races
Puddletown YFC Puddletown YFC Entertainments

They were all brilliant, I had a good laugh and enjoyed the music and singing. It  was difficult to choose a winner but in the end I went for Marshwood Vale. A fast paced and hilarious day at the races. I even forgot my cough and cold for a few hours.

Marshwood Vale YFC

Marshwood Vale winnng group receiving their prize — photo courtesy of  them…hope they don’t mind I nicked it off facebook. Your’s Truly is looking a little pleased with herself don’t you think? 

I haven’t included every single thing that was in my diary for November,  you would have become bored, (perhaps you are anyway) but, we had some lovely dinner dates, a game of cards, a haircut, a writing meeting, among other things  and of course The Man did some cycling. All good stuff,  culminating with lunch at the Station Kitchen in Bridport  on Friday 30th  November – my son Thomas’s birthday. He would have been 35, but sadly left us when he was 27. The family never forget his birthday. Most of us can be seen sporting odd  socks for the day – a speciality of his. Lunch was good, he would have enjoyed it. Especially the bit where The Man spilt his water all over  my lap.

The Station Kitchen decorated out for Christmas. . .and my Sea Bass.  Yummy. 

Thomas and Me

And finally a throwback to 1983. . . lovely smiling mummy and son

What was that hair all about Ninette? 

Note Number 61. . . Be Aware, be Very Aware. . .Is there a day for you?

calendar

It seems to me that every day is an Awareness day for at least one thing, often several, be they animal, vegetable, mineral or abstract. A couple of weeks ago I saw on Facebook that it was International Day of the Pug! I couldn’t believe it. Okay if you have a Pug I suppose. I began to browse the Internet for other National and International days, and was astonished to find that there are hundreds in the UK and probably thousands in America and elsewhere in the world.

This month I’m attempting NaNoWrimo – National Novel Writing Month. . .It’s a website where you can join other writers and attempt to scribble 50,000 words during November. I probably won’t manage it but I want to finish my novel by Christmas and this seemed a good way to try and stick to my goal. https://nanowrimo.org

It’s also Movember https://www.awarenessdays.com/awareness-days-calendar/movember-2018-mens-health-awareness-month/ when men grow their beards and moustaches to increase awareness of men’s health.

kissing lips

Mwaah!

National World Kissing Day is the 6th July, apparently, this day started in the UK but is now worldwide. And, you’ll love this, the record for the longest kiss was set in 2005 at 31 hours and 30 mins!! Did they not eat, drink, breathe or anything else during that time? I will have to look up the rules. http://www.holidayscalendar.com/event/world-kissing-day/

World Egg Day was on the 12th October this year so we’ve missed that which is a shame as Meringue, Coddle and Soufflé would have enjoyed contributing. I’ll have to put it in the diary for 2019.
https://www.incredibleegg.org/world-egg-day/

hens2

My absolute favourite is International Talk Like a Pirate Day 19th September — shiver me timbers, that’s hilarious — I’m definitely considering a party for that in 2019. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Talk_Like_a_Pirate_Day

pirate-clip-art-pirate-clipart-3

Here are a few more awareness days that you might not have heard about. . .I’ve picked one for every month from now until October 2019. But there are many more to choose from.

Hug a Bear Day 7th November (my mother’s birthday)
International Mountain Day 11th December (Climb every . . .)
National Popcorn Day which is every 19th January
Random Acts of Kindness Day 17th February (a lovely idea)
International Plant a Flower Day March 12th 2019
International Dance Day 29th April 2019
International Day of Living Together in Peace 16th May (I like this one)
International Picnic Day June 18th 2019 (strawberries and cream — oh there’s probably a day for that!)
Children’s Art Day 6th July
International Left Handers Day 13th August
World Rabies Day September 28th
World Smile Day 7th October

You can start your own awareness day if you like but I think it might be hard to think of something new. . .or find a spare date!
http://www.national-awareness-days.com/starting-your-day

Note Number 60. . .Breaking News. . .They’ve Cracked it. . .(excuse the puns). . .

Nest of Eggs

 Clutch of Eggs 

The Blue Maran, Soufflé, (we think) has LAID SOME EGGS. Six of them to be precise. A nice half-dozen. I thought she might have shot them out all at once but, I was put right by the farmer’s wife, who told me, (whilst falling about laughing at my ignorance), that the hen will only lay one egg a day. So she must have made her secret nest a while ago and started laying. The farmer found them in the paddock — lucky no-one else found them first. The grass in the area needs strimming and the farmer has not had time to do it yet. The Man is busy cycling in The Alps, I can’t get him over the road to lend a hand right now. But, as soon as he returns, whether he likes it or not, he’ll have to help out. Otherwise, no eggs for him!

Soufflé and her eggs

From Field to Table. Delicious Breakfast

Thank you girls! Beautiful yellow yolks.

Note Number 59…Meet The Girls…

hens‘You BOUGHT sweetcorn for them? You paid money for something to feed them when they’re happy with scraps?’ My farming neighbour was incredulous.
‘Well, it wasn’t from Waitrose,’ I said.
I was visiting my new hobby which I am able to enjoy at the farm opposite our cottage.

I had an idea a while ago, that I would like to keep some hens but there’s no room in our garden, so I approached my neighbour and asked her if she would allow me to buy three hens, to join her three and then there would be six, and I could have some of the eggs. Yeah! I was quite happy to pay for food etc., and she agreed with the arrangement.  I don’t think she thought I would be quite so ‘silly’ about my girls.

At the end of July I went to Forde Abbey Fair… bought 3 young ‘point of lay’ hens, put them in a box and brought them back to Wooth. They had to spend a couple of hours in a vacant dog kennel at the farm because, apparently, it was better to introduce them to the others in the hen-house, during the hours of darkness. Don’t ask me why, perhaps it has something to do with the moon. They seemed happy enough the next day, but were kept inside the small run for a few days, this is enclosed within a much larger run for daytime use. It’s taken a while for them all to settle down and get to know each other. A few days later I was told they were running in the big pen by the farmer, ‘Your pullets are out!’ he shouted across the road. I made a quick check about my person before I realised what he meant. Then rushed over to check my little darlings.

I’ve called them, Soufflé, (a Blue Marane), Coddle (A Columbia Black Tail), and Meringue, an Amber Star. Much better names than those suggested by my neighbours which were, Kiev, Chasseur and Cockauvin!!  Needless to say, I preferred to call them by the egg related dishes.

The little Darlings

From the left:  Soufflé, Meringue, and Coddle – Meet the Girls 

For a week or so, there were two groups of three hens, hers and mine. Integration is taking time. Nothing is laying anything at the moment. I hope my little chickadees haven’t upset the equilibrium. . .

Rest assured, I will be ‘clucking’ twitter logo copyas soon as  I get my first egg!

I could watch them for hours…

Note Number 58…Grammar and All That…Innit?

Grammar-owl_2

Everyone says that these days, English grammar is slipping. I would agree, although sometimes it’s a matter of evolution. Language is a form of human communication – a living thing. It changes with time, age and usage. BUT, there are some things that grate a little and others that grate enormously.

Today we have lots of text speech.

— thank u 4 the w/e

— LOL

— CUL8r

We now have a myriad of #s This week I had to look up what #OOTD meant after my daughter had posted it on Instagram. Answers on a postcard, please!

We older folk get frustrated with what we consider to be the deterioration of both written and spoken English. I expect I’m opening up a can of worms but I have a few pet hates. Here they are:-

Should of...(or would of, or could of) instead of should have etc.,

I was sat (which is apparently okay but I would always write or say, I was sitting. It’s a conditional conjugation I think. Now, I’m no grammar expert but it just feels right and looks right to me.

I wish I was…I prefer, I wish I were, which is correct, but little used.

Up until… is wrong. It should be until, or up to. 

their; their; there. Commonly misused.

Listening to BBC Radio 4 this week an interviewee kept saying, ‘it’s sort of... ‘ it is the most annoying phrase and she repeated it several times.  My late husband (not to be confused with The Man who is still with us), used to say, ‘It either is, or it isn’t, it cannot be sort of.’

The Man, does not like tautological statements. . . Reverting back; Pretty unique; dry desert; adequate enough. 

I am quite sure that many people reading this will have their own opinions as to what is right or wrong. I am also sure that there will be plenty of others wishing to correct or disagree with me. Carry on — I like a good discussion.

PS #OOTD  stands for Outfit Of The Day

grammar

Note Number 57…A Writing Retreat…

I’ve just returned home after four nights away in the beautiful Devon countryside, in the village of Sheepwash. It was a writer’s haven. Good healthy food, endless cups of tea or coffee, (and delicious wine), homemade cakes, flapjacks, gluten-free or vegan if required. Debbie Flint knows how to look after her guests at Retreats For You

Wine O’Clock…Table Laid for Dinner…Debbie working hard in the kitchen.

I loved my bedroom which was spacious, well-appointed with kettle, tea, coffee etc., towels, bathrobe and slippers. A writing desk close to the window where I could look out to a street in the village.  My one concern had been that I would have to share a bathroom (although large) with three other guests. I need not have worried. I never once met anyone coming in or out, nobody ever had to knock on the door to disturb me and I didn’t have to knock on the door to get anybody out! There was another bathroom on the ground floor, so we all managed very well thank you.

Retreats for You the big white house in the corner. My lovely room. The Village Square  and Pub at Sheepwash. Two lovely horses walking by my window. 

This was a screenwriting retreat organised by Retreat West . Our teacher, for three mornings was C M Taylor, or Craig to us. You can follow him on Twitter @CMTaylorStory. He shared his screenwriting and novel-writing expertise with us and we were all enthralled. Well, I’m easily pleased. NOT TRUE! This week I have learnt; techniques for structure, planning, character building (fictional character that is not mine) and so much more (what a cliché cop-out). From a personal point of view, I recieved some solid advice about which point in the story to begin my novel, which I hope to finish one day AND I would like to write the screenplay for it. A girl can dream can’t she?

the gang

All working very hard…(I need a haircut!)

Above all it was a productive, fun week with lovely people, all with one common interest— WRITING.

Amanda, Sylvia, Gayle and Craig…hope to see you all again soon and Debbie of course oh and Linda and the lovely young… something beginning with N…but not Ninette, I am so bad at names (help me out here screenwriting chums).

I am going back in November for the flash fiction retreat run by Retreat West, you can find the link here…hurry, there are only two spaces left!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I have borrowed a book from the library in the Phonebox, I went cycling twice in my four day visit, I had a brilliant time. Devon is a beautiful county