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 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.

Writing 101 DAY 3 – Commit To a Writing Practice

Today’s prompt: Write about the three most important songs in your life — what do they mean to you?

At the mere mention of ‘song’, it conjures up bird song and the dawn chorus. I simply adore waking to the sound of the birds, so vibrant with energy and enthusiasm for another day. I think it must be absolutely wonderful to be able to live life with such simplicity. There are numerous particular birds whose song is music to my ears. I love the sound of the skylark, its wings fluttering away as it soars high in the sky, so far up you can barely see it. It conjures up warm sunny summer days, the gentleness of the breeze as it caresses my exposed skin which just indulges in its own freedom. Freedom from those many layers of clothing that stifled the life out of it during the long winter months. The skylark for me symbolises freedom, liberation and self-expansion, a time with space to stretch and expand into the warmth of the sunshine around me.

My other song is the song of the wind. I love the sound of the wind as it plays tunes through obstacles. I live in a windy place and it is amazing just listening to the different sounds. You get used to the type of wind by the noise it makes. During the winter it can sound angry and ferocious as it hits the windows and the sound of the glass tinkling as it flexes with the force upon it. Any exposed edge will make a tune, a hum or a howl, a fluttering or a whine. In the summer months I lie in the long grass with the insects and just feel the gentleness of the breeze as it moves over me. Sometimes it feels like it has come along to play, teasing me as it creeps up on me and then quickly disappears. I can feel it but I cannot touch it. I listen for every change in tone as it moves through the grasses, gently whispering, telling me stories of ancient tales.

My third song is the song of the sea. How I have cherished the times I have spent sat in the lee of the wind drinking in the sounds of the water moving over the stones. For me it was a place of sanctuary, a retreat, a place of calm serenity. The movement of water over the rocks and pebbles felt like it was washing my troubles and as each wave retreated, the pitch of the sound made me tingle with energy all over. This was a place to contemplate but not to think. The sounds interrupted any though but seemed to encourage gentle contemplation.

So my ideal heaven would be lying of a large warm boulder on a rocky seashore, indulging in the sensation of the warm whispering summer breeze whilst listening to the songs of the skylark the sea.

Writing 101 DAY 2 – A Room with A View

Today’s Prompt: If you could zoom through space in the speed of light, what place would you go to right now?

It is really interesting to observe my reactions to a simple phrase – today’s title. My mind works rather like a tree’s visual form. The trunk, just me and then, with merely a gentle prod, my thoughts shoot out along every branch and twig faster than the speed of light. It is no wonder that I have had difficulty even beginning to write!

The thoughts have memories attached, all those places I have enjoyed, flashing through my mind at lightning speed. Along with the memories visually whizzing by there is even more going on. Attached to them are the emotions, feelings and sensations. Ah, it’s all too much mind retorts.

Then a thought strikes me. Yes, this is how I see my world! I am the room and believe it or not, I am the view. As I ponder this, I am watching me view my world. My perspective of this world. It is mine, for only I can perceive it this way. It is all happening at once, this is why my mind cannot handle the concept. I wonder, is this why I have built in filters? So I don’t go on overload!

I notice the emotions that arise as I feel my reactions, there is the gentleness of my breath as I notice the multitude of thoughts begin to quieten. The stiffness in my shoulders eases and there is a gentle lowering of the skeletal structure of the shoulder area, rather like a balloon slowly losing air. I am feeling calmer, stiller and am suddenly, not violently suddenly, but gently suddenly, becoming aware that I feel more at one with myself again. My mind is still engaging in this task but the tension has gone, this experience is one of feeling good. I stop to think momentarily, yikes, there’s that tree again!

Now, where was I?

Yes, I am the room and I am the view. Words almost fail me but this time from a state of ease and sheer pleasure as I indulge in the experience.

Writing 101- Day One – Unlock the Mind

To get started, let’s loosen up. Let’s unlock the mind. Today, take twenty minutes to free write. And don’t think about what you’ll write. Just write.

Keep typing (or scribbling, if you prefer to handwrite for this exercise) until your twenty minutes are up. It doesn’t matter if what you write is incomplete, or nonsense, or not worthy of the “Publish” button.

And for your first twist? Publish this stream-of-consciousness post on your blog.

I cannot remember a time when I did not have some urge to write but by the time I had reached for a piece of paper and in more recent years a dictaphone, or mobile phone’s voice recorder, most of the poignancy of the thought had dissolved into the ethers. I may then spend the next 20 minutes or so trying desperately to retrieve it even though I know from years of repeating this habit that it most certainly does not work. I may stand a chance of accessing a diluted version of the thoughts if I just accept that this is the way it is and totally let go of ever remembering any of it. It is as if I then become aware of the thought as if it were a cloud, slowly dissolving but I have caught it and the essence of what was in it, just before it finally disappeared forever.

Now there have been times when I have written things down. Somehow whatever was going through my mind in some way gained momentum, as if it was determined to be remembered. There was a time in my life when I was moved to support different people and short poignant verses would appear. Written on a nice card and given as a gift was quite transformational for them and lifted my spirits in the bargain.

Like most people, I was forced to write reams and reams at school, was expected to write essays about subjects I really did not resonate with and fictional stories where the focus was on the grammar. I can remember leaving it late in the day to do the work of a fictional piece and I chose to write a ghost story of all things. As I began to write, the story began to unfold by itself and for a while I was lost in it. That was until I scared myself rigid! Despite the fact that I knew I had made it all up, the horror thoughts just would not go away and it took me ages to get to sleep that night. I had to leave finishing the piece of work until break time at school, in daylight! I rushed the end of it just to get it finished. After that I had an even greater reluctance to write anything.

Years late I tried again. I purchase a correspondence course and wrote some dodgy short stories. I was then given an assignment to report on an actual occurrence, a news item. The critique was such that it again put me off writing. I had not embellished, sensationalised the news report, not made it appealing. For me that just seemed cruel and dishonest and I decided in that moment that a career as a journalist was no longer a desired destination – I would have to think of something else.

Time moved on and still the desire to write was there, tapping me on the shoulder, nagging me at the edge of my consciousness. Along came another course, this one had a different take on writing. It looked appealing and attainable. It was a daily course that encouraged me to write anything, just anything for a full five minutes without stopping. The point was to just get something down on paper (or screen). It worked, whilst I did the course, which for me was positive progress. And now this, 20 minutes, wow, that’ll stretch me and it has. Now let’s see if I can make it to Day 2!