Lower Your Expectations!

I always envy Grace when she sets off on one of her journeys – we don’t have a camper van, but I also abhor organised trips. This weekend we only made it as far as Stratford upon Avon – when we were asked at the hotel if we were with the Bridge Group – ‘Certainly Not’ I replied. Looking round Shakespeare’s birthplace and sitting by the river in the sun writing was more my scene.

Anecdotage

A wonderful lady I worked with years ago sometimes used to say ‘Lower your expectations’. She would use this phrase whenever we felt jaded or that events were taking a downward turn. It was intended to be droll-and it was, because it always brought a smile to our faces.

But the idea of lowering expectations is not without advantage. If I consider a worst case scenario in life then the outcome will either be a] as I expected or b] not as bad as I expected, both of which are better than a disappointment.

I can apply this approach to all aspects of life. We have just embarked on a new expedition into Europe, intending to travel in directions hitherto unexplored [by us]. The preparations for this odyssey seem endless and difficult, partly due to it’s being the first major road trip of the year and partly because my brain…

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Friday Flash Fiction – SixSixty

In Good Spirits

I had hoped to get on the computer this evening to follow up my research at the local library, but my husband’s idiot friend Paul was coming round for dinner with some new update, App or whatever they call them. For all I know he could be a computer genius; as I am a technophobe who only knows how to Google I have no way of judging. Both men dispatched the meal quickly, eager to play with the grown up toy. I was only half listening to what Paul was saying with his mouth full.

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‘I’ve really done it this time, what Houdini and Arthur Connan Doyle failed to do; you two are going to be the first to try it out. You both must know some dead people.’

‘What are you talking about Paul?’ I finally asked.

‘Ouija-App, Soulbook, Ethernet; not sure what I’m going to call it yet, that doesn’t matter, the point is it works, it’s true.’

‘What is?’ asked my husband.

‘Haven’t you been listening? I started from the premise that there is nothing out there, only electricity and the radio waves living people have broadcast. Then I formulated the search on the theory that if we did survive after death we would most likely be in a form of electrical energy, after all, don’t our brains work with electrical impulses?’

‘You are no scientist, nor a doctor’ laughed my husband.

‘That’s an advantage, my ideas are fresh and unfettered.’

‘So who did you contact?’

‘Somebody I had never heard of… all the better, I could not know anything about him.’

‘No proof that he ever existed.’

‘Yes, he told me where to find his gravestone.’

‘Another computer geek is just having you on, he was their great granddad or they looked him up on the internet.’

‘No reference to him on Wikipedia, a nobody who lived and died and left nothing behind except the epitaph.’

‘Not a very interesting person to chat to on the other side’ I said.

‘On the contrary, he had fantastic ideas when he was alive, but nobody listened to him. He has been waiting for someone like me to get in touch.’

‘Pudding, coffee?’

‘Bring coffee upstairs to the computer, let’s get started.’

I felt the first misgivings. ‘Are you actually serious?’

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‘There he is, my Facebook friend Nathanial.’

Indeed, there was a black and white picture of a Dickensian character.

‘People put old photos on Facebook all the time’ said my husband.

‘But the photos don’t usually write their own comment… look.’

Hello Paul, couldn’t find a better photo than this, I see you have your two cynical friends with you.

Paul tapped at the keyboard, words appeared in the comment box.

‘Give them a chance, this is all new to them.’

A reply came back straight away.

Perhaps they would like to meet the original inhabitants of this house?

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A shiver went down my spine, we lived in an old house, I had been researching its history, but perhaps I could play Paul at his own game.

‘Let me type a comment.’

I tapped in ‘Yes I would, if they tell me their names and when they lived here.’

Words appeared instantly in the comments box.

Benjamin and Martha Helston, married 20th June 1876, took the lease on this house 5th July 1876, were blessed with a son Samuel James 8th September1877 and two daughters…

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‘Stop, this is creepy, have you been looking at my research notes Paul?’

The writing on the screen continued, while I found the paper notes I had taken at the local library just that afternoon.

…and you can see where he marked his height on his tenth birthday –  on the scullery wall where you stripped off that ghastly wallpaper recently.

My husband gasped. ‘Of course SJH, those markings prompted your interest in the history, didn’t they Love, but we haven’t shown Paul yet what we’re doing in that room…’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every Picture Tells a Story

We have shelves full of them, boxes in the loft; barring a house fire or aircraft crashing onto our roof, a large collection of photograph albums, some inherited, could be passed on into history. Black and white pictures on black pages, sticky pages unpeeling, flip up albums of 6×4 prints. But the days of calling at the chemist to collect a packet of prints, the hoped for best shot out of focus, are a mere memory.

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When we joined a camera club over a decade ago, only half the members had converted to digital, now the colour slide show has been replaced by digital images projected from a computer onto a screen. Charity shops are full of old cameras. The real enthusiast used to be someone who had his own dark room, now he has a computer, sophisticated software packages and a good quality printer. Digital photos can be printed out by anyone, a trip to the supermarket machine, put in your memory device and collect.

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Unlike a roll of film, digital never runs out. Many computers are full of thousands of unseen images, lost to history as technology changes. From pictures taken on mobile phones of news as it happens, to bumble bees captured with the most expensive macro lens; everyone is a photographer now. I prefer compact cameras that point and shoot. But for the ‘technowhiz’ with the right software and a lot of patience, there is nothing that can’t be done to a digital image; cut down to size, lamp posts erased, colours altered, several snaps melded together or the photograph turned into a painting. My book covers are all created with digital designs using original photographs.

Authors are advised to have a website; you can build your own or find a website provider. I found myself with a template; a digital scrapbook waiting to be filled, not just with words, but with pictures. The means to an end became an end in itself.

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Visit my website for seasonal pictures, travel views and a picture quiz.

https://www.ccsidewriter.co.uk/

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Facebook; social interface, time waster, or something more sinister? It does not need to be filled with family photos and intimate details of your life. Artists and photographers just enjoy sharing pictures and many of us relish seeing places we are never likely to visit ourselves.

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I have my camera or my smart phone with me all the time, still recording holidays and family events, but looking out for the unusual and interesting, snapping anything that might be suitable for future blogs or Instagram.

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Ironically, despite this revolution and the explosion of digital colour everywhere we look, people love old black and white photographs; most of us are intrigued if we visit an exhibition. We enjoy the iconic images and the best photographers of that era took beautiful pictures. There is a clarity and sharpness in black and white photographs that has never been present in colour images. The other attraction is that past lives are captured, whether it is a crowded city street or an individual’s gaze, every picture tells a story.

 

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It might seem that in modern life onlookers are all too ready to snap or even film disasters with their smart phones, but keen photographers are often reluctant to take photographs of people going about their normal day, fearful they will be seen as terror suspects or unsavoury characters. It would be a shame if the early Twenty First Century was represented by rural scenes and cityscapes devoid of human beings, I enjoy taking natural shots of people.

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Visit my Beachwriter’s Blog to see my latest pictures of people and places.

https://www.ccsidewriter.co.uk/chapter-five-beach-writer-s-blog/

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Silly Saturday – Strange Species

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Is your computer safe?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Or are you having flights of fancy?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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P1100878… at your door?

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…or in your garden?

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Trotting by your house?

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In your neighbour’s garden or…

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…dropping by for dinner.

…and if you get the chance, don’t forget to check who has access to your computer.

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Friday Flash Fiction – Fortunes

On The Pier

I did the test that morning, it was positive. I should have been pleased, but all I could think about was last night’s Crimewatch. Of course I had no proof, just a gut feeling, so instead of phoning I went for a walk down to the sea front to clear my head. I wandered onto the pier and that’s when I had the idea.

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I stood beside the gypsy caravan and read the sign.

LET ROSA TELL YOUR FORTUNE… AND GIVE ADVICE

Nervously I climbed the two wooden steps and opened the creaky door. It was pretty and cosy inside, not scary at all. A grandmotherly figure beckoned me to sit down; her cheeks were rosy and her dark eyes sympathetic. She took my hands but did not look at them.

‘Er… do I have to pay?’

‘No dear, I would never take money from one so deeply troubled.’

My mouth was dry, I didn’t speak.

‘You will have your wish, a beautiful son; but if you want to see him grow up you know what you must do today. Go now.’

‘But I don’t understand…’ I mumbled, as she motioned me out.

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But I did understand. I climbed down the steps, closing the door behind me and reached into my bag for my mobile. I tapped in the number that was etched on my brain, the Crimewatch number.

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More flash fiction and longer stories in Someone Somewhere.

Take a peek.

 

 

 

A Novel Experience

Catching up with family and friends is always very pleasant, especially if it involves eating out. It is even more enjoyable for a writer if some of those present are reading or have finished one’s latest novel. But if someone says they have read the second in your trilogy, but could not find the third volume on Amazon, it is embarrassing to admit you haven’t finished writing it.

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Often the reading experience is out of our hands.  A friend has finished your novel after at last finding her Kindle charger. It was lost during the process of moving; she thought that may have been why the middle part of the book seemed to move slowly.
Whether your readers have a real paper book or are dependent upon electricity, they bring their own experience to the novel, it is out of the author’s hands. Sadly we can’t expect every reader to take a week off work and live undisturbed in isolation, so they can give our novel the attention we think it deserves. Those who devour a book in a week and get ‘lost’ in it are the writer’s dream. In reality people drop their paperbacks in the bath, can’t read their Kindle on the bus to work because it makes them feel sick, or lose their book down the back of the sofa. They read at bedtime and fall asleep after one page, or they wake up in the middle of the night with raging toothache and read their Kindle to try and take their mind off the pain, so that your novel is forever associated with misery.

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Outside factors may encroach; family dramas involving lots of form filling take over just as they reach chapter three of your novel.
Even if reading is proceeding well, each reader has memories and moods; they read your words through a prism of their own.
An author whose novel is turned into a film may see his book as others see it. We have all seen a film and thought it unlike the book. I saw a film after enjoying a well known novel and thought the film was rubbish, felt indignant on behalf of the author. I was later surprised to hear him talking on the radio about how pleased he was with the film adaptation.
Despite your readers’ experiences and the impossibility of seeing into their minds, if they say they loved your novel and were left stunned by the ending you know they’ve read it ‘properly’.

 

If you are feeling strong enough, visit my Amazon author pages for a glimpse at my novels.

https://www.amazon.com/Janet-Gogerty/e/B00A8FWDMU/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Janet-Gogerty/e/B00A8FWDMU

 

Easter Eggs

                  Easter Eggs; I wonder if I would still remember how to foil wrap them? A skill I learnt one winter many years ago. I had joined a job agency in desperation; a bit of a come down after the Christmas season in Harrods toy department, but then that was the point of a working holiday, different experiences.

Croydon, South London, early on a grey winter’s morning, a disparate group of people get into the agency mini bus. We are being taken to a sweet factory to do the Easter Egg run. ‘Paynes’ it certainly isn’t, Paynes stands large, bold and gleaming white on the main road; we pass it on the way to our factory, shabby and forlorn down a side road. We are going to help produce anonymous eggs, for cheap mugs in unknown shops.

My heart sinks as we walk in, staying on at school and going to college was not meant to lead here; but everyone should experience real life, preferably straight after leaving  school. My ex schoolmates, probably all successfully teaching, nursing or doing post graduate studies, would have been astonished to see me on the factory floor, earning sixteen pounds a week.

The first and only skill we have to learn is how to wrap the egg in foil. There is a knack, you either get it or you don’t; if you think about it you don’t. We take it in turns to wrap or put them in packing boxes. If an egg breaks we are allowed to eat it, the only perk of the job. Everyone says it will put me off chocolate for life, it doesn’t.

The regulars operate the machinery, centrifugal force turning liquid chocolate into eggs. They clean the machinery with the managers torn up old vests.

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Now I cannot remember any names.

The West Indian woman is the most articulate, in contrast to the homely local woman who says all she knows is work; after a full day she goes home to cook separate meals for all her family. I vow never to do that and I don’t.

A tiny coloured woman has tears in her eyes as she tells us her brother is in prison on Robben Island, I have no idea where that is or what it is. A young woman from Ghana has immaculate, copper tinted, strangely straight hair; after several weeks I notice with surprise there is a join, a glimpse of natural Afro hair; why did she want to wear a wig? Her husband is studying in London and they have left their two young children behind in Ghana with their grandparents. I am shocked.

A young local girl wears tight trousers, only West Indian woman has cottoned on that she is four months pregnant and tries to persuade her to tell her parents and wear more comfortable clothes.

Two young French women, friends who love English pop music and giggle a lot, are probably the people I have most in common with.

Lunch is only half an hour, but we don’t want to spend any longer in the so called canteen. I take sandwiches and there is an awful drinks machine, from which unrecognisable hot and cold liquids pour into flimsy plastic cups. A world away from Harrods Staff Restaurant, but we get to meet the regular staff; one lady has spent twenty years dipping bars of nougat into coconut.

Above the basins in the dreadful toilets are notices such as ‘Don’t spit in the Basins’. Who would do that I wonder?

It took two or three buses to get to and from Croydon, most of my journeys were in winter semi darkness. Now I can’t remember where the factory was or what the area looked like. Maybe the new tramline has ploughed through the site. But every Easter I wonder what happened to those people I only knew for a few weeks.