Friday Flash Fiction 434 – End of the Queue

You had to laugh, some of them looked worn out and they’d only been ‘out on the street’ for one night.

Nic was having the time of his life, all night company, places to eat and toilets open twenty four hours. Buildings open to all, light and life and most of all, everyone being nice to each other. Nobody cared who you were or where you came from, which was very different from nobody caring.

He had been given a wrist band, but had no intention of going to see the Queen. He wouldn’t have minded meeting her when she was still alive, some of her family were nearly as dysfunctional as his so she wouldn’t judge.

Nic had a fair idea what was going on at Westminster from chatting to others. Airport security, well he wasn’t carrying anything suspicious that would beep, but they would be on the lookout for suspicious looking people. Anyway, he was content to stay this side of the river. Others had come on their own, some people happy to share with new friends food they had brought or nipped from the queue to buy.

At regular intervals Nic would slip away for a ‘comfort break’ and discarding his wrist band, wend his way by a circuitous route to the back of the queue again and new friends. What a night, he saw the lights on the River Thames with new eyes, taking on the enthusiasm of those new to the city.

At Operation London Bridge Control Room human eyes looked at banks of screens while their colleagues, the digital detectives, scanned images with state of the art face recognition and other skills.

‘Screen six, near the end of the queue, got a loiterer… suspect coming back again, what’s his game… contact officers in that sector.’

Nic thought he was pretty anonymous, an observer, so he was startled to confront the smiling face of a man in a suit with a microphone.

‘We’re live on BBC television, can I ask what made you decide to come tonight?’

‘Oh um yes, I’m a local, so no trouble…’

‘It’s chilly tonight, but you were still happy to leave home comforts?’

Nic was just about to relate another made up life when he spotted them behind the reporter, two police officers and as he turned slightly, two more behind him. Now what on earth should he do…

‘No home comforts mate, I’m homeless, like lots of others and nobody has given us a mention… and if I get arrested nobody is going to care, except perhaps millions of viewers…’

Flash Fiction Friday – Flashback

Simon Simmons, the Radio Three presenter, looked forward to the rest of the day. He had enjoyed a pleasant lunch and he was on time for the afternoon rehearsal. Another town, another concert hall, another orchestra and a conductor he had never met before; Ukrainian, Polish or Scandinavian? It didn’t matter; one of those brilliant young polymaths who spoke several European languages perfectly and had studied in all the major cities.

The music was well known to Simon, he had his notes ready for the seven thirty pm live broadcast; all he had to remember was the conductor’s name and how to pronounce it.

The conductor looked older, shorter than he expected and if he dressed that flamboyantly for a rehearsal, the audience could look forward to a colourful concert. He was checking the music on the stands, a punctual and efficient man thought Simon as he approached him with arm outstretched.

But the conductor did not shake his hand, instead he peered arrogantly at him and spoke volubly in German. Perhaps he had forgotten what country he was in, not surprising the way these maestros charged around the globe.

‘Welcome to England.’

The conductor ignored him and stepped up onto the rostrum to examine the music. They both turned to the sound of approaching footsteps. A young man in jeans and T-shirt appeared from backstage, he spoke in perfect English with a precise East European accent.

‘Good afternoon, you are from the BBC? I am glad you could come to the rehearsal.’ He lowered his voice. ‘Is that your sound man on my rostrum?’

‘No, I thought he was the…’ Simon did not want to offend the world famous conductor. ‘He’s not with us, so he is obviously not meant to be here, though he does look familiar, shall I call someone…’

Before he could finish they were interrupted by the sharp guttural tones of the stranger. The conductor looked puzzled, but replied in German and approached him. The two engaged in lively conversation; the conductor patted the man’s arm and turned to Simon.

‘I presume he can’t understand English, I think he’s German, but I can’t grasp his accent. We may have a, how do you say, ‘nutter’ on our hands, he thinks he is Beethoven.’

Simon felt a lurch in his stomach, that’s where he had seen the man before, in paintings.

The conductor laughed. ‘He does look like him.’

The stranger scowled, well aware they were laughing at him.

Simon had an idea, it seemed a shame not to harvest the situation for future broadcast anecdotes, especially if they let him do The Proms this year. He motioned to the Steinway piano at the side of the stage.

The conductor smiled in agreement. ‘Let Beethoven prove by playing to us.’

He turned and spoke in German to the stranger, who strode over to the piano, then halted. He examined the instrument, lifted the lid carefully and propped it open, then fingered the keys as if they were a lover’s body. He played a few chords, held his ears, then nodded in approval.

As he played exquisitely, both men recognised a Beethoven sonata, though the tempo was faster than they expected and he added extra flourishes.

‘So he’s a brilliant musician,’ said Simon ‘as are many visiting soloists. Ask him what today’s date is.’

A few brief words were exchanged.

‘Twenty Seventh of February’

‘That’s today’s date.’

‘1813…’

ooo000ooo

An extract from Maestro, one of the short stories in Times and Tides.

 

Three Billboards, Three Episodes, Three Continents

Once upon a time you could watch television or go to the cinema. If you loved a film, chances are you would never see it again, unless it ended up on television. If you missed an episode of your favourite serial, that was it, gone for ever. The advent of video machines changed everything; you could go to Blockbusters and rent a video of your favourite film to watch at home. If you were going out or did shift work you could record your favourite programme and come home to find you had pressed the wrong channel…

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Since then viewing has become far more complicated and gone are the days when everyone watched the Sunday night drama and talked about it on Monday. Catch up, iplayer, fire sticks, boxes of all sorts, Netflix, cables and satellites; gigantic screen televisions down to watching programmes on your phone; take your pick. But a good film, comedy or television drama still stands out.

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I love a good comedy. We don’t have Netflix, but we know someone who does and the fact that they moved thousands of miles away doesn’t seem to have stopped us using it. So we have been catching up with ‘The Letdown’, the hilarious and realistic Australian portrayal of parenthood. If you have ever had a baby or there are new babies in the family you will recognise the scenarios. Gone are the days of sitting bored and lonely in the dark watches of the night, feeding a baby who is very cuddly, but not intellectually stimulating. Modern breastfeeding mothers are on their smart phones exchanging sympathy with sleepless mums all over the world and probably looking up the latest advice on the many Facebook support groups. The downside is that new parents are under pressure more than ever to do the right thing, whatever that is. If you get the chance, join Audrey as she meets other mothers and thinks they are all doing it better than her…

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We have finally caught up with Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri. After seeing it reviewed on one of our favourite film programmes, knowing it was co-financed by Film4Productions, I was confident it was my sort of film, even though I don’t like films with lots of swearing and violence. The next day, talking about cinema with a friend, I mentioned there was a film coming out that Cyberspouse and I both wanted to see, though by then I had forgotten what it was called and what it was about.

https://www.film4productions.com/productions/2018/three-billboards-outside-ebbing-missouri

It completely lived up to our expectations. Dark indeed, with violence and swearing, but the humour was brilliant, the story poignant. To carry off a film like this you need the best actors. My only pre conceived idea was that Francis McDormand would be good, but Woody Harleson and Sam Rockwell were also brilliant.

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A Very English Scandal on BBC television was three episodes of perfect Sunday evening drama. Russell T Davies’ production was blackly comic (are you sensing a theme here of my taste in viewing? ) and has had viewers agog.  Political scandals are not new, but the 1979 trial of Jeremy Thorpe, the leader of the Liberal Party and Member of Parliament for North Devon, revealed years of cover ups, lying and a farcical attempted murder that you couldn’t make up. It was also a story, familiar now, of a man in power abusing the trust of the most vulnerable. Even today, politicians who are gay often don’t ‘come out’ till their mother has died, or to avoid upsetting their family’s religious sensibilities. Before 1967 all sexual activity between men was illegal throughout the United Kingdom with heavy criminal penalties and was a sure way to destroy one’s career. Thorpe’s sexual encounters with other men and his affair with Norman Scott had to be kept secret, even if it meant killing the young man. Perhaps the public were most upset that the Great Dane was killed by mistake, Norman was only spared because the gun jammed.

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The most scandalous thing about the trial was the judge’s totally biased summing up for which he was later lampooned by comedian Peter Cook. All those accused of conspiracy to murder were found Not Guilty.

This delicious three part drama, with its dark humour, worked because of the excellent acting in every part, it was Hugh Grant’s best ever role and Ben Wishaw is always brilliant in every character he takes on. We watched in real time and the icing on the cake was the showing straight afterwards of a 1979 Panorama documentary, intended to be shown after Jeremy Thorpe was found guilty. It had never been shown before. And there was more drama to follow. Tom Mangold who made the documentary, was walking his dog in the park and met a man who claimed to have also been hired to kill Norman Scott, but didn’t go through with it. Andrew Newton, the man accused of the attempted killing was claimed by police to be dead, but is now claimed to be very much alive, living under another name. Gwent Police have reopened their enquiry into the scandal. Sunday night news showed a plainclothes officer knocking at a front door; of course no one was in, another amusing post script.

https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/tv/reviews/a-very-english-scandal-review-bbc-episode-3-hugh-grant-ben-whishaw-a8381421.ht

 

Ask The Author

 

‘Meet The Author’ on the BBC 24 Hour News Channel is usually the cue for Cyberspouse to sigh and reach for the remote control; we’ve caught up with the news, watched tomorrow’s newspapers being discussed, seen Film Review and ‘Click’ featuring the latest technology. No one actually wants to watch news 24 hours a day, hence the interesting filler programmes repeated at intervals.

Meet The Author is a simple formula, a presenter and author chatting. In the unlikely event of me being invited to participate, the interview might not go well. It is pleasing when anybody is interested enough to ask questions, but we Indie Authors must remember that in the real world life does not revolve around our current novel and connecting with other writers on the internet. When someone you haven’t seen for a while, or who has just been introduced, asks if you are still writing, do not reply with heavy sarcasm ‘Does the earth still revolve around the sun?’ Smile and say ‘Oh yes, still writing all the time’ and refrain from adding ‘You obviously haven’t looked at my website lately.’

Another common question is ‘How long does it take to write a book?’ perhaps many authors do know, but I have no idea. I lose track of when I first typed the title, let alone when the original ideas or characters popped into my head. Toby my camper van detective started as an exercise we were given for writing group, he first took an active role in a short story, ‘The Ambassadors’, in An Eclectic Mix Volume One published by AudioArcadia.com 2015. He also features in my two novellas published last year. He must be wondering when I am going to finish his novel; this year I hope. It is nearly three years since I had the idea for an opening chapter of a novel, when we went to the cliff top at high tide the morning after the Valentine’s night storm of 2014, inspiring the title ‘At The Seaside Nobody Hears You Scream.’

The follow on question is ‘How much time do you spend writing?’ Every available opportunity is the simple answer. When I first started with a second hand lap top on the dining table, connected to nothing except electricity, I wondered what authors in writing magazines were talking about; time wasting on social media? Even after acquiring sole use of a desk top it was a while before I realised you could have more than one page open at a time. Now writing my blog or novel is interspersed with messaging friends and relatives, looking at the latest family photos from (depending on the time of day) Australia or USA. And of course chatting with writers from all over the world. Dashing downstairs when the doorbell rings, the washing machine beeps or the oven timer goes off are all ways of avoiding deep vein thrombosis, but can seriously disturb the creative flow. Breaks to hang the washing out or put the chicken in the oven are ideal if you are editing; your brain and eyes need a break from the screen.

‘What sort of books do you write?’ A fair enough question, but ‘all sorts’ would be the best answer. ‘Quarter Acre Block’ is my only novel that could fit a genre, family drama. My trilogy encompasses family drama, love stories, crime, medicine and music; as strange things happen it is also science fiction. The real answer is I enjoy writing about ordinary people; especially when extraordinary things happen to them.

You can read the stories featuring Tobias Elliot Channing, private investigator specialising in missing persons, operating from a camper van, in Someone Somewhere.