Writing 101 DAY 13 – Serially Found – My Dad is Back

On day four, you wrote a post about losing something. Today’s Prompt: write about finding something.

Tell us about the time you retrieved your favorite t-shirt from your ex. Or when you accidentally stumbled upon your fifth-grade journal in your parents’ attic. Or how about the moment you found out the truth about a person whose history or real nature you thought you’d figured out. Interpret this theme of “finding something” however you see fit.

Today’s twist: if you wrote day four’s post as the first in a series, use this one as the second installment — loosely defined.

There were moments over the next 20 years when I glimpsed the dad I adored as a young child. Moments when shared interests collided with a time created opportunity.

He was always helping someone else. But on occasion I would tag along. I got involved in building a shed for a friend of his, a greenhouse for an uncle, church hall renovations and the one I loved most – helping out, with my dad, on the veg stall at the Annual Christmas Fair. I can smell the old wooden hall now, just thinking about it. A smell of old dry, warm wood, mingled with a hint of musty old fabric.

Funny how those old wooden buildings had such a nurturing atmosphere. The original wooden building has now been replaced with a brick one and fewer people use it. Where I live now, we still have an ancient wooden village hall; they call it a community hall here. It smells very similar to the ones of childhood. Everyone appreciates it and its unique aromas create an ambiance that seems to attract a list of regular events going on there.

Other times I would help with watering the plants. This meant filling up a large bucket and a metal watering can with water from the kitchen sink tap and staggering down the garden one in each hand, trying not to spill any. He used to do this twice a day in the summer months.

If there was a drought we would save all the washing up water and whenever anyone had a bath, we had to scoop out as much water as possible to water to fill the buckets and stagger gingerly down the stairs, through the house and down the garden path to water the thirsty plants.

I learned how to take cuttings, dibble out young seedlings and look after the growing crops. These moments of joy, cherished memories, I have come to appreciate more as I have shared them with my own son.

But it took over 20 years before I felt the unconditional love of my dad again.

It took the death of my mother.

I never got on with her, she was a narcissist through and through. It wasn’t long after she died that my dad seemed more open – as if a barrier had been removed, or a veil been lifted.

I could see him, really see him again. I could feel love pour from him. Even his eyes were more alive. He was much more fun and loved to play with my young son. His sense of humour was priceless.

Up until then I had not realised just how much my mother’s presence had supressed my dad. She was so devious and manipulating he must have been under an immense pressure most of the time. No wonder he spent his spare time down the garden, out of sight, involved in an important project or helping out other folk. He missed her of course. Who wouldn’t, they had been together over 30 years.

But the change in my dad was remarkable. We spent more time together, he shared memories of his past, little snippets of his life I wasn’t aware existed before. He actively encouraged family get-togethers, times when we all reminisced indulgently.

As I watched his loving actions and sense of fun during the times spent with my son, it triggered the odd happy memory of early childhood. This was the dad that had been missing all these years and I indulged in the joy of having my dad back again, for now, and being able to share him with my son.

Writing 101 Day 12 – Dark Clouds on the (Virtual) Horizon – Conversations at the Car Garage

Today’s Prompt: Write a post inspired by a real-world conversation.

We don’t write in a bubble — we write in the world, and what we say is influenced by our experiences. Today, take a cue from something you’ve overheard and write a post inspired by a real-life conversation. Revisit a time when you wish you’d spoken up, reminisce about an important conversation that will always stick with you, or tune in to a conversation happening around you right now and write your reaction.

Take time to listen — to what you hear around you, or what your memories stir up.

Today’s twist: include an element of foreshadowing in the beginning of your post.

“Oh no, she’s back again!” I can imagine hearing them say. Their faces confirmed my thoughts.

As I approached the counter one of the staff took a deep breath, composed herself, getting into the role of ‘I am a nice helpful service assistant mode’. Tweaking her smile as she pulled her shoulders back, her chin raised slightly. “Good morning, how can I help you?”

“I have my car booked in again today,” I offered in the friendliest manner I could muster.

She took a quick sideways glance at her associate service assistant sitting to her left. The eyes said it all! ‘Here we go, good luck, glad it’s not me!’ as she breathed out her tension.

“And what’s it in for?” she enquired in a slightly high pitched over the top friendly voice.

I kept it short. The previous time I had been in to explain the catalogue of issues I had with the car, only the mechanic had fully understood me. But I still hadn’t had any joy with most of the faults.

Then came the bombshell!

“I am really sorry, but your car’s warranty has elapsed. It will cost you ….”

“Hang on a minute,” I interjected. “It was in only in last week and you were happy to work on it then.”

“Well I am sorry, we must have been mistaken…” she speeded through wordy company blurb, but I was having none of it.

“Well I am sorry too,” I broke into her flow. “I bought this car because it had a 7 year warranty and I have had nothing but problems with it. I am told you cannot find them, yet I have had the car independently investigated and advised to bring it back as the faults are not in my imagination.”

I made it quite plain that I wasn’t going anywhere. Many discussions with various members of staff followed and after asking me to move my seat to a ’cooling off area’, disguised as a coffee lounge, they left me the allotted time. When they could probably see that the steam from my ears and top of my head had subsided somewhat, the service assistant was sent to inform me that they would carry out the work they had scheduled and re-investigate the suggested faults. No explanation was given and no apology for the misunderstanding nor time I’d been left cooling off.

When I returned later that day, the major job had been completed. However, the remaining faults with the vehicle were still outstanding.

“We’re sorry, we still cannot find any fault with your steering, or the suspension, or the rest of the faults you mentioned. Whilst we appreciate you may be experiencing them, if we cannot find them we cannot fix them.”

(I could appreciate where they were coming from. However, it still amazes me that more than one independent mechanic can find them yet a main dealer cannot.)

“I can appreciate your perspective but it doesn’t solve my problem. You know, I have previously bought Japanese cars and over the decades have had fewer problems with all of them put together than I have had with this one.”

Her head tilted slightly to one side, the muscles on her face around her mouth tightened stretching the mouth out sideways. Not a smile, not a grimace but it clearly expressed with the raising of her right shoulder, as much to say ‘well, there you go’.

With a quick change of pace and a lighter tone, she dangled my keys in front of me and said, “Your car has been cleaned for you and you will find it on the parking lot just outside. If there is anything else we can help you with please just ask.”

I wondered humorously what she would do if I said ‘yes’!

The greater part of me said, “No, thank you.”

I took my keys and vowed never to be tempted into buying a cheaper vehicle ever again.

Writing 101 Day 11 – Size Matters – My Garden Home

Today’s Prompt: Where did you live when you were 12 years old? Which town, city, and country? Was it a house or an apartment? A boarding school or foster home? An airstream or an RV? Who lived there with you?

Today’s twist: pay attention to your sentence lengths and use short, medium, and long sentences as you compose your response about the home you lived in when you were twelve.

When I was 12 years old we lived on a quiet country lane, in a typically English 1940s accrington brick faced semi with rectangular bay windows and a red tiled roof. It was set in a quarter of an acre of delightful garden.

The people who had lived there before us were an artist and his wife. He had painted the back of the old wooden garage pale pink and emblazoned right in the middle of it, a witch, all in black, on a broomstick flying among the stars. Oh how I wished that I could do that. I used to throw myself off the garage roof in an attempt to fly and had been making these attempts for as long as I could remember, but I was getting a bit bigger and landing wasn’t quite as trouble free as it had been.

My grandma, who had lived with us since I was about 8 years old, one day caught me launching myself off the stairs (in my indoor attempts at flying) and had given me a severe ear bashing about how bad my knees would be when I got older.

The artist had also designed the garden with an intriguing shrubbery and a quaint latch gate within it, which took you down to another part of the garden via a fish pond and a weeping willow. I loved it. I could escape the rest of the family and hide up a tree in the remains of an orchard at the very bottom of the garden.

My father was a keen gardener. Well actually, he was more obsessive than keen. When we moved in he dug up the whole far back garden, which was a beautifully designed miniature golf course, rolled it flat and reseeded half of it as a flat, boring lawn.

The other half was dug over for vegetables, a greenhouse and a cold frame. We had all sort of vegetables and fruits. My favourite was the garden pea. Delicious, straight from the plant. Only thing was we, that is my brother and I, were forbidden to pick any.

Needless to say that was the worst thing you could say to us! My brother was caught hiding the evidential shell under the plants. Me on the other hand had a few years more experience than him and had learned only to take a few, too many and my dad would notice, and bury the shells deep in the grass of the field next door.

I always preferred to help my dad in the garden rather than my mother in the housed. It was far more interesting outside with nature, the wildlife and the elements.

Writing 101 Day 10 – Happy Wednesdays with Grandma

Today’s Prompt: Tell us something about your favorite childhood meal — the one that was always a treat, that meant “celebration,” or that comforted you and has deep roots in your memory.

Free free to focus on any aspect of the meal, from the food you ate to the people who were there to the event it marked.

Today’s twist: Tell the story in your own distinct voice.

Instantly I read today’s challenge, 2 dishes leapt to mind. The first was Lancashire Hot Pot, made by my loving grandma. But a much simpler dish that brought back more than just the feelings and the smells but almost the whole room. As I noticed this, it became pretty apparent which was my most favourite meal as a child, poached egg and chips.

Grandma would bring out the low table from the front room. I can picture it now … it seemed so big, like about four feet long and over a foot wide. It stood about eighteen inches high on its slanted black turned legs and had a brass disc on each foot. I remember the legs screwed in at each of its four corners, I got told off one day for dismantling it. I chuckled at the thought.

The top had rounded corners, was covered in cold, clean glass under which was a painting of red roses. It was all edged in a black band which if it moved too quickly stopped my plate from landing on the floor.

She would place it on the bright red patterned carpet, wedged close up to the luxuriously thick red hearth rug and close to the open fire so I could keep warm. The fireplace was a creamy beige colour, small chips and cracks on the hearth from years of dropping things on it. At one side, an almost full coal bucket, distinctly battered and black from years of use. On the side other a small dull copper pot the size of a small mug, filled to bursting with paper spills. I loved to help make them – bits of rolled up newspaper slightly longer than a pencil with a twist on the end. These were used to light the fire in the morning save burning fingers with short matches. They were also a carryover from the time when Grandad was alive, he used to light his Senior Service cigarettes with them. On the mantelpiece an array of brass ornaments propping up notes, or opened letters. Apart from the old wooden carved clock ticking soothingly on the wall behind me, all I could hear was the pfut, pfut of the small flames as they flickered and the occasional crack or ting of the burning coals and rubbish she had recently thrown on the fire. I could always lose myself in that fire, it fascinated me.

I was always brought back from my reverie with strange creak of the door opening. A deep red- coloured velvet curtain hung on the sitting room side of the door, suspended with a strange contraption of angled metal rods. As the door was opened the curtain lifted slightly, preventing being dragged under the door as it opened, pure genius, could do with one of those now. In wafted the smell of homemade chips, delicious. Ooh my mind shot to the kitchen, gosh I can remember that in detail too. “There you go,” she would say in a loving way, “that’ll make you grow big and strong.”

Beautifully crisp chips and fluffy insides, cooked on a gas stove in a pan two inches deep in lard, a real treat. Chips were a rarity in our household but if I visited Grandma on a Wednesday, this was what she always treated me to. And, I was allowed an egg. I wasn’t allowed an egg at home because I point blank refused to eat the white. I just couldn’t stand the taste nor the texture, it just used to make me gag. So I was not allowed eggs at home, but Grandma allowed me to leave the egg white. I would pull my little basket chair up to the table, pick up the big knife and fork, stab a chip with my fork, cut it in half to let the steam out and create a better surface for the yummy yolk to stick to. I loved its creamy runniness, dipping the chip into it and savouring every mouthful.

Hhmm think I might just treat myself one day to some ‘proper’ chips.

Writing 101 Day 8 – Death to Adverbs and What a Joy in Doing So

As I perch on a dry mossy boulder, my feet buried in the softness of the field grass’s new spring growth, I indulge in the sun’s increasing warmth as it climbs towards its daily peak. As the gentle breeze brushes the longer grasses of last year’s growth, they tickle my ankles, making me giggle and fidget on my boulder. The breeze pauses a moment, as if taking in a gentle breath. In the silence I can hear the distant cry of the buzzard, its sound sends a ripple of shivers along my spine and outwards, through my skin, making my skin feel as though it is moving and shrinking in a pleasing vibrant way.

I can just detect a hint of a smell wafting up from the west towards me, the aroma of the salt of the sea on the breeze, tickling the inside of my nose, tempting me to leave my soft mossy perch for a wander down to the shore.

I contemplate this moment of thought and decide, I want to continue indulging in nature’s endless array of experiences from this perspective, just for now.

Maybe later, there is so much to absorb just being here, now, in this precious moment.

Writing 101 DAY 5 – Be Brief

Today’s Prompt: You stumble upon a random letter on the path. You read it. It affects you deeply, and you wish it could be returned to the person to which it’s addressed. Write a story about this encounter.

Today’s twist: Approach this post in as few words as possible.

Congratulations Mrs Barker!
You have won our Annual Spectacular Giveaway which this year is a Jaguar F-Type Convertible.
To collect your Superb Prize please bring along this letter to the Annual Spectacular Giveaway Day on Saturday 12th April 2015 at 2 pm.
We look forward to seeing you there.

Writing 101 DAY 4 – Serially Lost

Today’s Prompt: Write about a loss: something (or someone) that was part of your life, and isn’t any more.

‘Serially Lost’ immediately conjured up many images, a flow of them in fact. How appropriate the words. Over the years I have lost so much during my life that the pain and suffering opening me to an eternal journey of self-exploration and one which has become a way of life now. Ever exploring, ever expanding and thankfully experiencing the pain of loss less and less.

I have lost numerous people and animals in my life from a mere parting of the ways to their passing from this world of form. I have lost games, races, possession and I have on many occasions ‘lost face’!

But one that sticks in my mind that I would like to share is the loss of my father. In fact, I lost him 3 times, there was a fourth but that is way too complex a story. Here is the first experience I can remember.

In my early years I had a loving, caring and fun relationship with my father. I have snippets of memory where we spent quality time enjoying each other’s company, playing games and laughing. He was a keen gardener and I enjoyed ‘helping’ in my own way with watering the plants, particularly the tomatoes in the greenhouse. Just thinking about it I can link with the balmy warmth of the heat contained in the tiny space and smell the intensity of aromas emitted from the tomato plants.

“Be careful” he would say. “Mind your dress on those leaves, if you brush against them all the green will come off your dress and mummy will have to wash it.”

I don’t remember liking mummy very much.

After a couple of years my father’s work took him away from home during the week and I felt such loss and abandonment. I pined for his return. We eventually moved to the area where he worked and joy returned to my life, at least for a short while. But then my grandfather, my mother’s father, became ill with lung cancer and it rocked the whole family’s world.

My brother had arrived on the scene and my mother had long since lost interest in me. I experienced life as if I was an old doll, dated, no longer desired. A new replacement had come along and all attention was on the new addition. I felt like I was just a nuisance and I began to withdraw further into myself.

My grandfather’s illness also rocked my father. He smoked the odd cigarette but he immediately stopped smoking. He drank the odd ½ pint of bitter when he and his brother went to the occasional football match together. He became tee-total. He also became fanatically religious and devoted himself to his religion. He read the bible and lectured us all on its morals and teachings. I became judged and punished. I was forced to attend Sunday school every Sunday, no long able to wander hand in hand with a loving caring, sharing father, along the riverbank on Sunday afternoon indulging in nature’s beauty, appreciating the seasons.

My father was gone from me and it rocked my world.