Summer’s Music

By Jacqueline Dowling

The images of childhood have no symmetry. They swirl and surge beneath the currents of the sub-conscious, tossed coloured and shifting through the ever-changing prism of life. They fly free, like skeins of wild geese filling the silence with their cries and the rushing of myriad wings.

The music of one glorious childhood summer has tempered my thoughts and attitude to creative writing throughout life. I make no apology for indulging my love of writing straight from the soul, for the sometimes unorthodox usage of words, images and for allowing imagination to soar with birds and race down the wind.

Perhaps the words are not meant to be published, therefore adherence to norms doesn’t always take pride of place. The music, however, always will.

Mine was a magical childhood. One spent running wild with the ponies on Dartmoor, exploring Cornish lanes and hearing everywhere the music of the wind, gulls wheeling, eagles soaring over crags and, on long summer nights, nightingales in the woods.

Exploring orchards heavy with ripening fruit: picnics between the roots of ancient oaks. Places of long tender grass and mossy smells, the sound of bees loud in our ears. And in dusty attics the musty-cidery warm yellow smell of withering apples set aside for winter. Wandering home along dusk drowsy lanes, meadowsweet clotting the space above. Hedgerows of foxgloves, fuschias and daisies and the late ambered cornfields brilliant with crimson poppies.

It took many years of living in Africa to feel red dust between my toes, to hear the crescendo of towering thunderstorms overlaying soft sussuration of wind through grass.

‘We like your stories’ one editor wrote.

‘But they are too English. Change the genre and African-ise them, then re-submit.’ So I did.

I lay on sun-warmed rocks at night, high in the Koue Bokkeveld and listened to the stars. They were so close you could almost touch them. They crackled, sparkled – nearby a shy leopard padded softly, almost soundless. From caves above us the staccato barks of baboons made their own kind of music. And a distant river sang its own song.

On an island beach, under softly clicking palms we listened as the sea wove its adagio through the coral sand…

The music of words, of thoughts and imagination – the music of the soul.

I wish every child could hear it.

Author’s note: In spite of all the non-conformity, I do keep a copy of Lynn Truss’ work and several Thesauruses (or should it be ii?) on hand, at all times! just in case.


Herbert in the House

By Susan Roberts

It’s that time of the year again. The first chill winds of autumn have been circulating for a while, and this is the season when my least favourite visitor arrives.

Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy having visitors. Especially the friend who stayed with me the other week. We chatted into the night about books and writing, while consuming red wine and devouring glorious chocolate-covered nougat. No, the visitor I dread is Herbert, with his tendency to hang about in my lounge, uninvited and unwanted.

I particularly loathe seeing the end of his green tail dangling down in my line of sight. Yes, Herbert is a snake, but let me make this clear: Herbert is not a pet! Herbert is not even the pet of my pets, although my cat Galadriel is convinced that I invite him in just for her to play with.

Herbert is about seventy centimetres long, pencil-thin and emerald green with patterns of black dots arranged along his body. He’s a Spotted Bush Snake, and I’m supposed to take comfort from the fact that they’re not poisonous. Well a dog isn’t poisonous either, but being bitten by one can be pretty traumatic. What nobody seems to realise is that if Herbert bit me I would probably die of fright, just from the terror of seeing his snake-mouth attached to my pale, trembling flesh. “It’s okay, he’s not poisonous” wouldn’t be the first thought to rush through my brain in that situation, and I don’t fancy dying of a heart-attack just because Herbert decides to surprise me.

So wary am I of this element of surprise, that for most of autumn I am too scared to look up at my lounge ceiling in case I see green coils hanging from the rafters. In fact, I recently draped twenty-two metres of gathered, white pongee lining across those rafters. Yes, I told everyone it was for the Bedouin-tent look, for the insulation, and to minimise the endless spattering of gecko-poo that rains down throughout the summer, but I had a darker motive: I don’t want to see Herbert!

As soon as I walk through my front door I put my head down and whip off my spectacles so that I won’t see him lurking up there, adding a few last minute geckos to his winter feeding scheme before he hibernates. And I certainly don’t want to see if Herbert has brought any friends or relatives with him.

We’ve had this problem before, Herbert and I. He doesn’t understand that I must see only one of him at a time. That’s why I call him Herbert. It’s my attempt at believing that he’s the only one, and that he’s tame enough to name. (Why that name? Word-play on the term Herpetology – the study of reptiles and similar creepies. It was a short, lazy jump from there to Herbert-ology.)

Needless to say, the first word that jumps into my brain when I see him is not Herbert, but SNAAAAAKE!!!! – usually yelled at full volume. My cats are very good at protecting me from him. Or his eardrums from my yelling. I’m never sure which.

“Yes, Galadriel – you can play with Herbert if you want to. You’re a little too clumsy to catch him, but as long as you chase him outside, we’ll all be much happier.”

Winter – bring it on!

The Storm after the Quiet

By Michelle Dennison AWA Julianne Alcott

I am lying on my bed, glaring with frustration at the exuberant storm thundering overhead. I am frustrated, because I cannot write.

For months, I have been unable to set aside sufficient time to work on the novel I plan to finish yesterday. There have been several important things that needed doing, and I could never justify neglecting them.

January and February passed, and I gazed longingly at my story files, and sadly turned to more pressing matters.

By March however, I couldn’t handle it anymore. I was becoming irritable and restless. It had reached the stage where I realised that I needed to write, or all the other things I had to do would be affected. I had to write, or I would be a worse person, a worse mother, a worse employee.

There still wasn’t enough time though, so I snatched minutes here and there. I jotted down ideas in my school diary while classes were filing into the hall for assembly. I dived out the shower and scribbled a few lines on the back of a till slip before I forgot the thought. I put my morning routine out of sync because I was planning the intricacies of a fight scene instead of making breakfast. (the complicated nature of the fight scene made multi-tasking impossible)

Eventually after a few weeks, I gathered all my scraps of paper and set aside a Saturday evening to put it onto my computer. I had only typed a few lines when I heard the ominous rumble of thunder.

I have known several friends who have had their desktops fried in thunderstorms, so I wasn’t going to take any chances. I switched everything off, pulled the plug out of the wall and stretched out on the bed to sigh over lost opportunities.

So here I lie, not wanting to think of my novel, because then there will be more bits of paper to add to the pile I already have to deal with.

The world around me is quiet… I strain my ears and hear no sign of the storm. It is over! As I sit up to slot the plug into the wall socket, the thunder rumbles again, like a giant hungry tummy that can’t be satisfied.

And so I start to write this blog. Despite the storm, I have still found something to write. Now I just have to put this piece of paper where I’m going to find it again!

Tailor Time

By Penny M

‘Time is a dressmaker specializing in alterations.’ Faith Baldwin

The seamstress has been nipping and tucking at the contents of my skin for decades. A trillion seconds clothe me with wisdom and wrinkles; from undercover grey to heels, my story has stretched to tiptoe away with my life.

Disrobing is unwise whilst grandchildren peek from the womb and know no shame. A web of instant intelligence holds youth in the pockets of dreams where human threads of silver are seldom found.

Plastic endures in the fabrics of a multitude of makeovers.

I-pods and pads, blue teeth (?), shades that render speechless eyes, rings and ink work in every region, accessorise where feathers and brooches once held fashion together.

Whilst the dress may change, the dummy is constant but the real truth is that nothing is.

And if the Emperor really is naked what are you wearing today?