Friday Flash Fiction – Digital Dialogue – Absence

‘Hello, is that Luke?’

‘Yes.’

‘It’s Ali.’

‘Who?’

‘Ali, Ben’s friend.’

‘Umm…’

‘Sixth form, best man at Ben’s wedding?’

‘Oh, er yes, so why are you calling?’

‘Have you heard from Ben?’

‘Not since Christmas was cancelled.’

‘Oh it’s just that I, we were wondering… we haven’t been able to contact him.’

‘Why do you need to contact him?’

‘We don’t, we just wondered why none of us had heard from him and they missed the quiz evening again.’

‘I didn’t know my brother was so popular.’

‘Perhaps I could ring your mother?’

‘I hardly think so as she’s been dead for eight months.’

‘Oh er I am so sorry, she looked fine at the wedding.’

‘She was fine at the wedding, anyway, I must cut you off, conference call coming up…’

‘Hi, Ali?’

‘Yup.’

‘It’s me.’

‘Who’s me?’

‘Louise, Tina’s sister, chief bridesmaid, top table?’

‘Louise, of course, sorry I didn’t get back in tou… answer your messages.’

‘That’s not why I’m calling. Have you seen Ben?’

‘No. I’ve been ringing round everyone, no one’s seen or heard from him, phone’s dead.’

‘Oh Ali, I’m really worried now, same with Tina, she hasn’t been on Facebook for weeks.’

‘You were right to call me, but don’t panic; what about your parents?’

‘They’re worried, I mean we’re not one of those families who call all the time, but she’s not answering in our WhatsApp group or anything.’

‘Has anyone been round their flat?’

‘No, Mum and Dad are isolating and I’m on a Scottish island.’

‘Oh so you did get that croft? What about her work?’

‘She’s furloughed.’

‘Now don’t worry, I’ll get in contact with Ben’s company, even if he’s still working from home they would know if he’s on leave. ’

‘Tina would have said if they were going on holiday, she was always talking about going on a proper holiday again.’

‘TG Services, how can I help?’

‘Can I speak to Ben Chambers please?’

‘Chambers, chambers… ben? Chaos here, everyone working from home, except me… I don’t know the name, what department?’

‘Actually I’m afraid I have no idea, can’t you look him up on the computer records?’

‘No, confidential records cannot be shared with members of the public…’

‘Tom, it’s Ali, have you had any luck? No, nor have I, not a trace of either of them. Have you been round their flat? No of course not, you would have popped round last week if you weren’t in Belfast. I’m a hundred miles away so who’s nearest… Gemma’s in hospital, what happened to her? Call the police? I don’t think it’s that serious yet, I mean they could have gone on holiday, stuck isolating goodness knows where and we’re panicking for nothing. Okay, okay, I’ll drive down tomorrow morning make a day out of it. Have you got their new address? No, nor have I, have to message Louise, no I didn’t see her again and now she’s on some bloody Scottish island.’

‘Louise? It’s Ali again. I’m in their road, the neighbours are already regarding me with suspicion. I couldn’t even get in the building let alone find their flat, yes used to be the old asylum, very smart. I have been lurking to catch anyone going in or out, no luck so far, nobody seems to know them, so not likely to find a friendly neighbour with a spare key, not that you can just go waltzing into someone else’s home uninvited… and what did the police website say? Surely the only option is to have them break in and … no I’m sure they are fine, but there could be a clue where they have gone on holiday, somewhere warm knowing them. Not that warm, no, I’m sure they didn’t end up on a Mediterranean island with a wildfire raging. You call the police then, more likely to take notice of a relative, and you will have to give permission for a search…  ’

ARE YOU SURE YOU WANT TO READ BEN AND TINA’S STORY?

Silly Saturday – Censored Scenes

Films, television and the media are to come under strict scrutiny and indecent images are to be banned. People dealing with lockdowns, social distancing and Pandemic Pandemonium ae finding it very stressful when they turn their television on for escapism and relaxation only to be confronted with scenes of people shaking hands, hugging and even kissing. Seeing a crowd scene is liable to cause a total breakdown.

Here is your handy guide to what pictures you must NOT put on Facebook, Instagram or blogs.

Silly Saturday – Stretching Summer

Don’t worry what the weatherman says.

Astronomical autumn is defined by the Earth’s axis and orbit around the Sun, autumn equinox. This year autumn begins on the 23rd September 2019 and ends on the 22nd December 2019.

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Meteorological seasons consist of splitting the seasons into four periods made up of three months each. By the meteorological calendar the first day of autumn is always the 1st September ending on the 30th November.

This information is issued by the Met Office who call themselves that as they can’t remember how to spell meatioralogecal. In some parts of the world autumn is called fall to save remembering how to spell awtum.

So it’s still astronomical summer in the northern hemisphere, even if all the children have gone back to school and the leaves are falling off the trees.

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You can stretch summer further by waiting till the clocks go back… In 2019 British Summer Time will come to an end on October 27th. Easy to remember as that is the date of my first born’s birthday.

So enjoy some more summer.

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Enjoy 24 stories that take you through the year.

 

sunshine-blogger

Friday Flash Fiction 636 – Heat Wave

Perfect bliss; to come out of the cool sea and lie on the beach soaking up the sun, then plunge back into the waves to cool off again. This beach would be paradise if it wasn’t full of thousands of other day trippers, but when I close my eyes it’s peaceful, I could be alone. The screams of swimmers and the laughter of children fades away and I am drifting off to sleep, the early morning start, to beat the traffic down to the coast, is catching up with me.

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I’m not quite asleep and I open my eyes to observe unnoticed the trio of girls spreading out their towels a few feet away. When they go running and giggling towards the waves I close my eyes again; in this heat wave they are bound to stay frolicking in the waves for a while.

My eyelids are heavy, my towel is moulded comfortably into the warm sand and I am drifting, just as I was in the gentle swell moments ago. Work, studying and responsibilities have floated away.

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The gentle hum of human voices returns and then I hear it; a voice at odds with happy holiday makers, an increasingly urgent cry.

‘Charlie, Charlie, CHARLIE…’

I keep my eyes closed, just someone calling their dog and disturbing my perfect day.

‘Charlie, Charlie, has anyone seen a little boy…

I open my eyes, I am listening, but nobody else is. Where is the voice coming from?

‘Charlie, help, I’ve lost my son, he was here a second ago, Charlie…’

I sit bolt upright, twist around and there she is, sheer panic in her eyes, her mouth fixed open. People start to stir, struggle to their feet in the soft sand. The young woman looks straight at me.

‘Did you see where he went? Someone, someone must have seen him… Charlie?’

My brain starts to wake up, unburdened by parental terror I find myself gearing into action.

‘What does he look like, how old is he?’

‘Four, red hair, purple shorts, lime green top…’

Sounds quite easy to spot, but four is young, can they talk by then, I don’t know much about kids…

‘Go to the Lifeguards, they probably have some system or other, they’ll get a search going… I’ll look around.’

She stumbles off, some granny person is taking her arm. For some reason other sun bathers and parents seem to think I know the mother, know what’s happening.

‘Come on everybody, if we all look, red shorts, purple top and green hair… I mean purple shorts, lime green top and red hair, four year old boy.’

Suddenly everybody is shouting for Charlie, it’s quite exciting, a Lifeguard is running, talking on his radio… I could be a Lifeguard, saving people on land and sea…

Then I see him in the distance with a man, trundling away from our search area. I plough through the sand. Holding the man’s hand, is he being kidnapped? I overtake and trip over a sandcastle in front of them, the boy looks unperturbed.

‘Charlie, are you Charlie, your Mummy’s looking for you.’

‘My name’s Archie.’

‘Clear off mate.’

‘I was just trying to help a lady who’s lost her son, sorry, same clothes …’

The cries and shouts and radio voices reach us and the man turns his head to see the whole beach on the move, moving towards us, recognising the purple, green and red description.

‘My brother’s called Charlie’ says the little boy.

The man suddenly laughs. ‘Bloody child, he’s always doing that to us, getting lost. Come on Archie, no ice cream till we’ve found your twin brother.’

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The game of snap ends ten minutes later when a worried swimmer emerges from the shallows with a grinning sodden child, but now nobody is sure where the mother is.

More tales of land and sea in Times and Tides

 

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Friday Flash Fiction – Waterloo

I got off the train wearily, borne along the platform with the other commuters. It was only Wednesday but I was fed up already, who wouldn’t be, having to go to work on a sunny July day.

How had this happened to me, fourth generation of my family on the train to Waterloo every morning to a job I loathed. Was that what it had been like for Dad, Granddad, uncles and aunties, or did they just accept it as their position in life? Twenty three and still living at home so I could save up, save up for what?

I was working for a company everybody except me thought was exciting; Bright Designs was going places, but I wasn’t.

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I stopped on the busy concourse and stood still for the first time ever; I usually dashed straight for the escalator to the underground. Around me everyone was rushing, I thought of Tim my old school friend, in Thailand teaching English, travelling cheaply and posting beautiful pictures on Facebook. Voices intruded into my Land of Smiles fantasy and my eyes focussed on a couple at the barrier to platform 13.

You just don’t get it, do you Josh? A train to the seaside is not my idea of a surprise holiday, even if we were staying together.

I stared at Josh, smart looking bloke, but sounded like he was as successful as me with women.

I don’t understand Lizzie, I thought you wanted to get away for a few days and talk.

It’s too late for that.

Lizzie disappeared into throngs of commuters oblivious to her little drama, out of sight before Josh had even turned his head. He tore off his back pack and threw it on the ground and then, as if he could feel my curious stare, he looked up at me.

‘Hey mate, care to swap lives. Looks like you could do with a trip to the seaside, train leaves in ten minutes.’

He proffered his train ticket.

‘You wouldn’t want my dreary life Josh.’

‘So neither of us have anything to lose, go on, hand me your man bag and take my rucksack.’

 

What on earth possessed me? I slung the back pack on my shoulder and put the ticket in the slot at the barrier. Josh had already gone, taking my wallet, paperback and ID pass for Bright Designs with him. I patted my pocket, my phone was the only thing I still had of me.

Settling into a window seat I almost laughed out loud, runaway train. Nobody except Josh knew where I was going; I didn’t know where I was going and I didn’t care.

As the train moved off I looked at the ticket, Bournemouth. Then I casually dipped into the rucksack as if I knew what was in it; a wallet with notes as well as several debit cards and a thick envelope, signed for delivery. I had no compunction about opening it, Josh wanted me to have his life. Afterwards I realised what an idiot I had been, it could have contained drugs or might even have exploded.

But all it contained were two sets of keys, detailed computer print out maps, a set of directions and two pictures, a row of beach huts and a smart white apartment block. What was Lizzie missing? My initial thoughts had been – arrive at seaside, get ice cream, go for a paddle. But now I was going to have a holiday.

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Just when we would have been having coffee at work I was standing on the cliff top. The sea and sky were unbelievably blue, the air balmy, this was a dream. I followed the instructions for the beach hut and descended a steep path with cliff on either side framing a view of sparkling sea with land on the horizon.

Ten minutes later I was in the little wooden hut divesting the rest of my work life and putting on swimming shorts out of the collection of beach gear handily provided. With the warm sand between my toes I was a child again. I plunged into the sea, not as cold as I was expecting. My freedom was complete as I struck out through the gentle waves then turned to look back at the cliffs, I was out of my depth and out of my life. I whooped like a teenager, how I wished everyone at work could see me; perhaps not. This was a holiday that would not be posted on Facebook.

Liebster Award (Retro)

For more tales of land and sea dip into…

 

 

 

Silly Saturday – Starting Summer

Hurrah, Meteorological Summer starts today, you don’t have to wait till the summer solstice. The weathermen like to divide the year up into seasons of exactly three months according to the Gregorian calendar. Don’t forget, if you are living in the Southern Hemisphere summer is not starting for a long time. If you are a school child in the Northern Hemisphere you may already be on school holidays or may have a long time to wait yet.

If you are on top of Mount Everest it is time to come down, the weather window is nearly over and monsoons are coming. If the summit is as crowded as last week you will have to queue up to come down.

NZ Queenstown

If you are Teresa May, May is over and you only have a week left as leader of the conservative party, but perhaps you have a summer walking holiday to look forward to.

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Summer means we must all look happy and smile at others… if they look up from their phones long enough to notice. If you are a gardener it is safe to plant out your summer bedding and discover how many weeds have taken over… it also means that the non gardeners in the family will have to cook dinner if they don’t wish to starve – the long summer evenings mean you can stay out in the garden watering and dead heading forever.

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What does summer mean to you – putting the chairs out in the garden or going swimming in the sea?

What is your favourite summer song – Cliff Richard’s Summer Holiday or Lovin’ Spoonful’s ‘Summer in the city’?

sunshine-blogger

 

 

 

Friday Flash Fiction 240 – Secret Garden

The ground floors of department stores are bright, white and overpower you with a nauseous mix of perfumes. On board the yacht I have a stomach of iron, but I was not looking forward to hunting for my sister’s favourite perfume.

A young man, with more make up than the girl assistants, came skillying up.

‘Good afternoon Madam, may I help?’

For a moment I was so fascinated I could not answer. He looked like a beautiful slender doll, high cheek bones, rosebud lips, hair spiked immaculately and dressed totally in black. His charm was enough to make me, in my jeans and anorak, feel I was as entitled as any other woman to grace these hallowed halls of beauty. He laughed when I confessed my predicament. I had forgotten the name of the perfume.

‘Can’t you phone or text her?’

‘She’s just started a three hour exam and I’ve got to get back to the harbour while the tide’s high.’ I looked at the shelves full of elegant boxes, none of the names jogged my memory.

‘Treat yourself instead; what do you miss most out at sea?’

‘Flowers?’

I was talked into buying an expensive tiny bottle.

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In my cabin I cautiously removed the delicate stopper, sniffed and was transported to a walled garden I had visited as a child. A summer scent never recaptured until now. How was such a scent created? How did the young man choose so perfectly?

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Silly Saturday – Staycation

 

There’s a hold up on the motorway,

After junction 59.

Rain is heavy, sky is grey,

Traffic stopped in line.

Must mean we are on holiday.

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Day two and still it rains,

But we have an agenda,

Uncle Ted to steam train,

Then visit Aunty Glenda.

She’s in the Royal Infirmary.

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Day three on sunshine beach,

Lots of places to go.

No holiday is complete,

Without a secluded cove,

Scenery and strangers to meet.

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Bridges over rivers and bays,

Lighthouses, harbours and piers,

Rolling fields and bales of hay,

High crumbling cliffs to fear.

Where shall we go next day?

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Houses of National Trust,

Cathedrals with towers to climb,

Great statues of rust,

Museums and art sublime.

Then home at last we must.

 

Salisbury Cathedral

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some Like It Hot

As new migrants in Australia, the first time the thermometer hit one hundred degrees we were very excited, a Century meant it was very hot; instead of sheltering behind venetian blinds in the relative coolness of indoors, in the days before most homes had air conditioning, I walked around marvelling at the sensation of the dry heat. If the thermometer hit one hundred degrees Celsius you would be dead. After a week of the temperature reaching over one hundred degrees Fahrenheit every day, the novelty wore off.

Since then the world has moved to Celsius, leaving only the USA and a few other countries using Fahrenheit. But one hundred sounds more dramatic than the slightly higher forty Celsius. When I worked at Heathrow, an English girl told me the first time she arrived in Kuwait she felt as if she had been blasted by a giant hairdryer. A Kuwaiti passenger told me no one had to work if the temperature rose above fifty degrees, but officially it never got hotter than fifty. A Singapore passenger told me the heat was not a problem as every building was air conditioned. I asked ‘What if you want to go for a walk?’ He looked puzzled. Why would you want to go for a walk?

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Those who have lived in hotter climes might wonder at the fuss we are making about our heat wave in Britain. Temperatures over thirty, so early in the summer, have weather forecasters excited. We have had heat waves before and after our wet winter the reservoirs were full, so we shouldn’t run dry yet. Despite the usual comments such as ‘it won’t last’ and ‘we’ll pay for this later’ the heat wave shows no sign of ceasing, though some places have had rain. Our relatives, visiting back from Las Vegas, saw rain only once and looked forward to getting back to their air conditioned house.

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We are not prepared for hot weather, we don’t have air conditioning, shutters and awnings or a tradition of siestas. In the garden, early morning or evening watering has become part of the domestic routine for those who cherish their flowers. The holiday atmosphere is fun; breakfast and dinner in the garden and days by the sea. Our beach hut feels worth the rates we pay the council for the tiny patch of concrete it stands on; it provides shade, changing room and a kettle. Daily swims have become the norm; as far as I’m concerned there is no point in having hot weather unless you can paddle or swim in a pool, river or sea.

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Hot weather is no fun for those who have to work out in it and especially fire fighters. The heat has brought destruction to the moors with peat fires. It is equally oppressive for those who can’t get out. A lady told me it’s the first time in ninety four years she hasn’t worn a vest!

But the biggest cloud, or absence of cloud hanging over our holiday mood is What if it never rains again, is this another big warning about global warming?