Category Archives: Flash fiction

celebrating Christmas with a strawberry torte

Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – #Family – Berry Delightful by Norah Colvin

I’m having a delicious time over at Sally’s this week, sharing my post about berries. Won’t you join me?

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

This is the third post from the archives of Norah Colvin and this week she shares her childhood memories of mulberries and her flash fiction that week in 2017 in response to the Carrot Ranch Literary CommunityIn 99 words (no more, no less) include music and berries. It can be fantastical, such as the music of berries or a story that unfolds about a concert in a berry patch. Go where the prompt leads.

Berry Delightful by Norah Colvin

mulberries

What is your favourite berry?

Which berries make your taste buds sing?

When I was a child, there was a huge Mulberry tree growing in the backyard of one of our neighbours who was kind enough to allow access to the multitude of children in our family. Each summer the tree would be laden with fruit and we would pull at its branches to gather as much as…

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the benefits of play and using imagination

Let’s pretend — play and imagination

If the title conjures up images of children playing dress-ups with forts and castles, saving princesses and defeating dragons, that’s good. Such was my intention.

Pretend play, in which children use their imaginations, allows them to try out different roles, experience different possibilities and enact a variety of solutions to problems they encounter.

But play and imagination isn’t just for children. It is through playing with ideas that new discoveries are made, inventions are created, and innovations implemented. Without imagination, everything would always stay as it always was. Science wouldn’t progress and stories wouldn’t get written.

Charli Mills of the Carrot Ranch flash fiction challenge Eminence

When Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that uses the word eminence. It’s a rich word full of different meanings. Explore how it sounds or how you might play with it. Go where the prompt leads!, I knew that imaginations the world over would be employed to respond.

Every week when Charli sends out a prompt, writers play with ideas to engage readers with unique and imaginative perspectives on the word or phrase. When all have been submitted, Charli searches for threads that bind the diverse stories together and compiles them into a connected whole.

Charli’s use of the word ‘eminence’ in her flash fiction story was unfamiliar to me, so I opted to stay within my comfort zone. With such a serious and imposing word though, what could I do but play? I hope you enjoy it.

Your Eminence

She glided in, regal robes flowing, loyal subjects lining the path.

“Your eminence,” they bowed as she passed.

She occasionally extended her gloved hand to receive their kisses of adoration or stopped to bestow a gift of royal chatter. Though her crown and responsibilities weighed heavily, she held her head high as she proceeded towards the throne. Decorum dictated every move. She dared not breathe out of sync. Her subjects depended upon her.

When seated, she motioned for all to sit. They obeyed, listening respectfully.

“I decree– “

“Lunch is served, Your Majesty.”

“Aw, Mu-um!”

“You’ll reign again later.”

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Geoff Le Pard's reminiscences of school days

School Days, Reminiscences of Geoff Le Pard

Welcome to the School Days, Reminiscences series in which my champion bloggers and authors share reminiscences of their school days. It’s my small way of thanking them for their support and of letting you know about their services and publications.

This week, I am pleased to introduce Geoff Le Pard, author, blogger, humourist and all-round nice guy. I met Geoff through Anne Goodwin, if I remember correctly. We engaged in conversations on Anne’s blog first, then followed each other and engaged in conversations on each other’s blogs too.

Anne and Geoff had already been lucky enough to meet in person on a writing course, but I hadn’t known either for long when I visited family in London for the first time in 2014. I very timidly emailed Geoff and asked if he’d like to meet up. (This was prior to the Bloggers’ Bash of which Geoff is now on the organising committee and I didn’t yet know of any other instances of bloggers meeting up.)

I was both anxious and thrilled when Geoff, Anne and Lisa all agreed we’d meet up at the British Library. I think we were all wondering if these ‘strangers’ were who they said they were or if they might be potential axe murderers. Fortunately, though some of us may have a been a bit stranger than others, none were axe murderers and we had a very pleasant afternoon together.

Norah, Anne, Geoff, Lisa beside the lock

Since that auspicious occasion, Geoff has entertained thousands, if not millions, of readers with his blog posts that are sometimes hilarious, sometimes serious, often compassionate and always with his own tangent on life, love and anything in between. He has published four novels, three anthologies and one memoir. I have no hesitation in recommending them to you.

But perhaps we should get to the real purpose of this post, which is to provide Geoff with an opportunity of sharing his reminiscences of school.

Before we begin the interview though, I’ll allow Geoff to tell you a little of himself:

Geoff Le Pard started writing to entertain in 2006. He hasn’t left his keyboard since. When he’s not churning out novels he writes some maudlin self-indulgent poetry, short fiction and blogs at geofflepard.com. He walks the dog for mutual inspiration and most of his best ideas come out of these strolls. He also cooks with passion if not precision.

Welcome, Geoff.

Let’s talk school. First, could you tell us where you attended school?

My schooling started at 3 at Miss Stark’s nursery school in a large house about half a mile from home (mum walked me everyday). From there, at 5, I went to Maple Road Primary in Whyteleafe, in leafy Surrey this time about 2 miles away (I caught the bus – until I was 6 with mum, after that with my older brother (he was one year older). At 11 I moved to a local Grammar school, Purley Grammar school for boys, about 4 miles from home (I cycled) until I was 12 when the family moved to south Hampshire and joined Brockenhurst High School, also a Grammar, where I stayed until 16 when I moved into the adjacent sixth form college until 18 (the school was seven miles away and involved a daily train journey after a cycle ride).

Did you attend a government, private or independent school?

The nursery was private but the remaining schooling was Local education authority funded. Grammar schools were an attempt by the post war governments to give the best equivalent of a private education to those who couldn’t afford it. To enter you had to pass your 11 plus. I failed mine, had an interview as I was ‘borderline’ (makes it sound like it was a mental health issue) and was granted a place – I still think Paddington Bear was my saviour – this post explains my reason for thinking that.

What is the highest level of education you achieved?

I went through the sixth form, took four A levels (two maths, history and French plus S level maths – not sure what the ‘S’ stood for but it was meant to be equivalent of first or second year at uni – I managed 100% I was told – get me, much good it did me) and then attended University (Law, at Bristol University), and later in life went again for a masters (Creative Writing at Sheffield Hallam)

Geoff Le Pard's highest level of education

What work or profession did you choose after school and was there anything in school that influenced this choice?

I chose a law degree at Uni that lead to a career in the Law. I can cite the following influences from school:

  • One of my school friends had already chosen law and it sounded cool;
  • I went to a careers’ evening organised at school and the two reps from Southampton University were law lecturers and they were the coolest people there
  • My maths teacher wanted me to go to Cambridge and do maths and he was anything but cool

What is your earliest memory of school?

The sandpit at nursery and the leather indoor slide and being made to stand in the corner for running when told not to.

I recall the terror of my first day at primary school, the sun in my eyes through the high windows and all the other children; I also remember the old fashioned radio speaker on the wall – a large wooden box with a brass speaker in the middle and listening to a story on it. There was a separate playground for the first and second forms (years 1 and 2 nowadays) with a high wire fence around it, like a tennis court that we stared through, like caged animals, at the older children in their playground

What memories do you have of learning to read?

I’m pretty sure I could read before I went to primary school but unlike my older brother I didn’t really enjoy it. I have to thank him for inadvertently (in the sense that I was an irritating little shadow who he needed to rid himself of) persevering in finding me books to read and converting me to the joys of reading. This post may give you a sense of my journey

What memories do you have of learning to write?

Ah me! Handwriting has never been a strength – a school report, noted in the post above, said I achieved a B in my handwriting exam and the remark from my teacher was ‘I don’t know how he managed it’). We had lined books in which we repeated our own take in cursive writing and mine were not things of beauty – again, perhaps I should indulge another post, here with examples of my work.

What do you remember about math classes?

I was always ‘good’ at maths (if you ignore the geometry report cited above – ‘utterly confused in exam – good term’s work’). I didn’t always grasp a concept immediately like some but it didn’t take long and I generally could work back though to first principles if taught properly.  For some time it looked as if maths was my way into university until I was lucky enough to have an inspirational history teacher in the sixth form (years 11 to 13 now) who taught me to widen my horizons. He was cool.

What was your favourite subject?

History and the more modern the better.

Geoff Le Pard tells what he liked best about school

What did you like best about school?

Play time, friends, being praised, winning badges, some school dinners and certain teachers. In secondary school I would add in sport and, after the age of 14, learning.

What did you like least about school?

Geography, biology, any sense I was in trouble, shepherd’s pie, girls until I was14 (my terror was different from there on) and certain teachers.

How do you think schools have changed since your school days?

Harder work, more pressure put overtly on children to perform (we had exams that were as difficult, we just weren’t bombarded with how important they were meant to be), a more rigorous structure to what they learn, less scope for great teachers to go off topic, far more Big Brother is watching you – we had scope to break rules, places to subvert – it seems today the rule breaking has to be in public and so is more likely to be chastised. I hear evidence that in certain places behaviour has degenerated but good teachers have always controlled classes. The punishment regime is less physical today and children are believed more than before. Perhaps the biggest changes are children are listened to more and teachers have less time to teach (or should that be to educate?)

What do you think schools (in general) do well?

When they do it well they inspire lifelong learning and in my experience that comes from the spark of an individual teacher capturing a child’s imagination. They give a child tools to learn, to teach, to educate him/herself – reading and writing and, no doubt today IT skills and after that to be inquiring, not to accept what they are told is the answer but to question – the ability to frame the right question is perhaps the greatest gift a teacher can give a pupil.

Geoff Le Pard says teachers need to teach children to ask questions

How do you think schools could be improved?

They can spend more time educating and less teaching. The tyranny of the curriculum is one of teaching’s greatest challenges. The notion that if you learn to a script and regurgitate that script and you will succeed is one of life’s top five fictions; no actor worth their salt merely delivers a script – they have to understand it, live it, get beneath and inside it. That is precisely the same with learning. Get beneath the surface, go round the back, take off the lid and see the workings and that way so much joy will be had and so many avenues will be opened. Good education acknowledges the world is round and that all we can ever do is proceed to the next horizon and see what’s there; bad teachers are education’s flat earthers.

 

thank you for your participation

Thank you for sharing your reminiscences of school and thoughts about education in general, Geoff. It’s been wonderful to have you here. I learned so much I didn’t already know about you. I enjoyed hearing your perspective on education and agree with much of what you had to say about it.

Find out more about Geoff Le Pard

on his blog

TanGental: Writing, the Universe and whatever occurs to me

and his author page

Geoff Le Pard’s Amazon Author Page

 

Geoff’s Books:

My Father and Other Liars by Geoff Le Pard

My Father and Other Liars is a thriller set in the near future and takes its heroes, Maurice and Lori-Ann on a helter-skelter chase across continents.

Smashwords

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

 

Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle by Geoff Le Pard

Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle is a coming of age story. Set in 1976 the hero Harry Spittle is home from university for the holidays. He has three goals: to keep away from his family, earn money and hopefully have sex. Inevitably his summer turns out to be very different to that anticipated.

Smashwords

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Life in a Grain of Sand by Geoff Le Pard

Life in a Grain of Sand is a 30 story anthology covering many genres: fantasy, romance, humour, thriller, espionage, conspiracy theories, MG and indeed something for everyone. All the stories were written during Nano 2015

Smashwords

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Salisbury Square by Geoff Le Pard

Salisbury Square is a dark thriller set in present day London where a homeless woman and a Polish man, escaping the police at home, form an unlikely alliance to save themselves.

This is available here

Smashwords

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Buster and Moo by Geoff Le Pard

Buster & Moo is about two couples and the dog whose ownership passes from one to the other. When the couples meet, via the dog, the previously hidden cracks in their relationships surface and events begin to spiral out of control. If the relationships are to survive there is room for only one hero but who will that be?

Smashwords

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Life in a Flash by Geoff Le Pard

Life in a Flash is a set of super short fiction, flash and micro fiction that should keep you engaged and amused for ages

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Smashwords

 

Apprenticed to My Mother by Geoff Le Pard

Apprenticed To My Mother describes the period after my father died when I thought I was to play the role of dutiful son, while Mum wanted a new, improved version of her husband – a sort of Desmond 2.0. We both had a lot to learn in those five years, with a lot of laughs and a few tears as we went.

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Life in a Conversation by Geoff Le Pard

Life in a Conversation is an anthology of short and super short fiction that explores connections through humour, speech and everything besides. If you enjoy the funny, the weird and the heart-rending then you’ll be sure to find something here.

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

 

If you missed previous reminiscences, check them out here:

Charli Mills

Sally Cronin

Anne Goodwin

Look for future interviews in this series to be posted on Sunday evenings AEST.

Coming soon:

Hugh Roberts

Debby Gies

D. Avery

with more to follow.

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water conservation on World Water Day

What’s water to you?

Last Friday 22 March was World Water Day.

Sustainable Development Goal 6 is crystal clear water for everybody by the year 2030.

Many of us living in developed countries take access to clean healthy water for granted. We turn on a tap and it is there. Even though it is free and plentiful, the sale of water in plastic bottles is increasing and the bottles are contributing greatly to the destruction of the environment.

If it seems crazy, it must seem especially so to those who live in places without access to regular supplies of clean water.

The figures quoted on the World Water Day website are astounding:

  • 2.1 billion people live without safe water at home
  • 1 in 4 primary schools have no drinking water service
  • about 159 million people collect their water from ponds and streams.

And so, the list continues with one horrifying statistic after another.

Water is essential for life, not only for drinking but also for many of our personal, societal and global everyday activities. According to business reports, it is even more precious than gold. Maybe we could live without gold, but we can’t live without water.

Learning about water — the water cycle, its uses, conservation and pollution — is an important part of everyone’s education. Sometimes we find teachers in the most unexpected places.

Bill Nye - everyone you meet can teach you something

Charli's flash fiction challenge a bucket of water

Not surprisingly, education is the theme I’ve taken in my response to the flash fiction challenge set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch this week to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that features a bucket of water. What is the condition of the water and what is the bucket for? Drop deep into the well and draw from where the prompt leads!

water more precious than gold

More Precious than Gold

The children observed the bucket.

Teacher explained, “Let’s find out about what’s in the bucket. Ask only ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions. Do not say what you think it is.”

Is it wet?” “Yes.”

Is it a liquid?” “Yes.”

Is it heavy?” “Try.” “Yes.”

Do we drink it?” “Does it come from clouds?” “Does it make puddles?”

“Yes. Yes. Yes.”

Is it more precious than gold?”

Don’t be stupid,” spluttered Andy. “It’s water!”

Teacher glared. Andy’s smirk dissolved.

Ahmed looked squarely at Andy. “In my country

Teacher closed the book. Ahmed’s lesson was more effective than any she’d prepare.

getting the most out of life

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size is a point of view

It’s a point of view

Have you ever been faced with a task, at work or at home, that seemed so big you didn’t know where to start?

Have you ever been hustled by a supervisor, external or internal, to make a start whether ready or not?

Have you ever jumped in, hoping it would all work out in the end?

Have you ever chipped away without any real sense of direction and eventually found what you were looking for?

Charli Mills flash fiction challenge chisel

It was of these situations I was thinking as I responded to this week’s flash fiction prompt set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a chisel. Use chisel as a noun or a verb. Think about what might be chiseled, who is chiseling. Be the chisel. Go where the prompt leads!

Perspective

The monumental task cast a shadow deep and long, miniaturising the toolkit at his feet.

He shook his head, muttering complaints and impossibilities.

The supervisor appeared. “Better get started. No time to waste.”

He rummaged through the toolkit, lifting, inspecting and replacing each implement in turn.

“What’s the holdup?” bellowed the supervisor.

He grabbed the mallet and whacked the stone. “Take that!” Chunks smashed around him. He wiped his brow and whacked again.

“Great. You’ve started at last,” encouraged the supervisor.

Later, as the light turned, the shadow faded and diminished. He lifted his chisel and refined his work.

size is a point of view

Of course, I’ve had the opposite happen too. I’ve begun a task that I thought was miniscule but turned out to be mammoth. What about you?

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Image of quarry by Ann Jessica Johnson from Pixabay.

 

a flash fiction story about a mouse

What’s a mouse got to do with it?

A furry mouse or a magic mouse? Which do you prefer?

This week, Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch got herself a new computer with a new mouse. She thinks it’s a magic mouse. I hope it is.

Carrot Ranch flash fiction challenge - mouse

In her excitement, she put out the challenge to writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a mouse. It can be real, imagined, electronic or whiskered. Go where the prompt leads!

Mice feature prominently in stories, poems and songs for children.

Very young children learn the nursery rhymes Hickory Dickory Dock and Three Blind Mice.

Rose Fyleman’s poem about Mice is always popular for children to learn and recite in school.

There is the fable about The Lion and the Mouse, the story of The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse and the more recent The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear.

As a child, I enjoyed the song Windmill in Old Amsterdam. Perhaps you remember it too?

But I think my favourite mouse story is that of Possum Magic, the classic picture book by Mem Fox. I’m not referring to the picture book itself, but the story of how it came to be.

Possum Magic by Mem Fox

Mem shares some of the goss on her site. You see, Hush started life as an invisible mouse in an assignment Mem produced as part of a course in children’s literature. She was awarded a high distinction for the story and, over the next five years, sent it off to nine different publishers. Each time the story came back.

While Mem found the rejections disheartening, she was encouraged by family and friends who believed in her story. So, she sent it off again, and the tenth publisher asked her to “cut the story by two thirds, re-write it more lyrically, make it even more Australian and change the mice to a cuddly Australian animal. “

Mem did as requested, changed the mice to possums, and so Possum Magic was born. The book was published in 1983 and remains one of the most popular and best-selling picture books in Australia. (While not mentioned on the site, I seem to remember reading that the book had almost 30 rewrites!)

When I first heard this story of Possum Magic, I was younger than Mem was when the book was published. The story inspired me and encouraged me to hope. I loved Mem’s yet attitude (though I didn’t yet know it as that), her belief in her story, persistence in pursuing its publication and willingness to learn from others. Without those marvellous qualities, Possum Magic may never have seen the light of day. It may have languished in the bottom of a drawer somewhere with other forgotten manuscripts.

How many manuscripts do you need to take out, dust off, and send on their way?

Here’s my little story in response to Charli’s challenge this week. I hope you like it.

A Mouse Backfires

“Eek!“ shrieked Granny, toppling back on the chair, arms and legs flailing.

“Thwunk!” Her head struck the wall, silencing the children’s sniggers.

Granny slumped motionless, eyes closed, tongue lolling from her slack jaw.

Barney gaped. “D’ya, d’ya think she’s dead?”

“Don’t be silly,” admonished Eliza, older and wiser. “She couldn’t be. Could she?”

The children tiptoed closer.

“What if she wakes up?”

“What if she doesn’t?”

“I’ll check her pulse,” mouthed Eliza.

Suddenly, Granny jolted upright, eyes staring blankly.

The children gasped.

“Gotcha!” laughed Granny. “But that is a clever mouse.”

“How did you —?”

Granny winked. “Granny knows.”

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flash fiction challenge about backing up

What’s got your back up?

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills has urged writers to have a backup plan in place for their work. She suggested a variety of ways including storage on USBs or external hard drives, in the cloud or as hard copies. She also warned that no method is fail-safe.

flash fiction challenge to back up

The cautionary post preceded, as her posts often do, a flash fiction challenge to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using the term backup. You can back up or have a backup, just go where the prompt leads! However, there is no suggestion of caution in her final phrase ‘go where the prompt leads’.

When I began to consider how I might use the term ‘backup’, I was soon faced with the complexity of our language and wondering how we ever learn to make any sense of it at all.

Back up may be used as a two-word-phrase or as a compound word. The words, with their regular short vowel sounds and consonants, are easy to read and pronounce, even for the youngest beginning readers. Individually, their meanings are clear. Back refers to a part of the body or a location behind. Up is the opposite of down. But put them together and the complexity of meaning emerges with possible use as nouns, verbs or adjectives.

Below are some examples of meanings that can be applied to the phrase:

Feeling annoyed

Perhaps the most literal translation is in reference to a feeling of annoyance; for example, He got his back up when they insinuated he was always late for work. This use comes from a cat arching its back when annoyed.

Move backwards

The truck driver was told to back up to avoid blocking the driveway.

He had to reconsider and back up when the others told him he was wrong.

Teachers may need to back up on what they had planned when they realise the children are not understanding their lessons.

Blocked

The backup of traffic was caused by an earlier accident on the narrow bridge.

The water would back up in the gutters and overflow every time it rained due to the leaves from the overhanging trees.

Support

It is important to back up any science report with evidence from research.

The situation was escalating, and the police were relieved when backup arrived.

The backup singer was required to take the lead when the performer got laryngitis.

Alternative strategy

You need a backup plan in case this one doesn’t work.

You need to backup your digital work in case your computer crashes.

Posture support

One birthday, thoughtful Hub gifted me a wearable device for supporting my posture during long hours at my desk. Sadly, it was complicated, and he was the only one to don it, semi-successfully. Those of us less brave to even attempt were in stitches as he manoeuvred himself into it. Having failed to convince me or anyone else to try, it has been relegated to the back of an (unknown) cupboard ever since. Mere mention of the BackUp causes fits of laughter and it remained #1 inappropriate gift for many years – until he presented man perfume on another birthday.

This is a true story. No names have been changed to protect the innocent. I tried to find an image of the device online, but it seems the design has probably improved over the years. The one Hub gave me had straps to go around the knees as well as the back.

You’d think with all the different meanings of ‘back up’ that I’d have no trouble finding a story to write. However, since the description of my birthday surprise is 99 words, no more no less, and for the fact that I have no backup plan, that true story will be my contribution this week. I hope you like it. Perhaps truth is stranger than fiction.

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