Flash Fiction: Still life with colour


by Sue Trollip

Outside your front door is a pond with misty sunrises and bloodied sunsets. Already the ducklings are waddling and the snakes are making S bends in the grass. Spring dangles brighter and warmer each day.

The morning mist settles in your work brain, lifting only on the drive home. You breath. Air minus the ducts, light without bulbs, noise that is not white. You wonder where your path is leading and why sometimes it’s an autobahn and others a country lane. Your inner toddler asks ‘Are we there yet?’ but your adult self has no answer.

Bucking the circle of frustration you drive to the lake. Unlike Narcissus you take in the reality. Then you look at the clouds congealing on the blue mountains and smile. Your path ahead is steep so you begin to prepare for the summit. Fastening your seat-belt you slowly raise your hands. Whoohoo!

(150 words)

Photograph ©Dawn Miller

A flash fiction challenge.


Lightening the Load

By Susan Roberts

For the past few months I have been gradually sorting through everything I own, in preparation for the biggest move of my life. This is not as easy as it sounds, especially when you’re a bit of a hoarder. A bit!? Who am I kidding? Yes, all right, I’ll admit it: I come from a long line of people who like to gather things and keep them in case they come in useful one day.

The last time I moved house (see my March 2013 blog-post about the termites – No Such Thing as An Innocent Ant…), I packed 45 boxes of stuff, 30 of which were filled with books and other related “writing” things. This time, I just don’t have the space for all those books. Yes, I can cut down on the clothing, the tools, the crockery, cutlery and old family silver, but what does one do with 8 bookcases of books when you only have space to accommodate three of those bookcases? The largest three, of course. As for the move itself, I’ll be lucky if I have space for 15 boxes in total.

It’s been a long haul and I’m not out of the hoarding woods yet, but I’ve made quite a dent in my book collection. Back in 2011 I bought a Kindle because my arms were suddenly not long enough to hold my reading book at the right distance for my eyesiIMG_0985ght. My vast collection of cheap paperbacks has since become no more use to me than a vast collection of paperweights. In many of these, the pages are now yellowed – even browned – and in some cases spotted too, with crumbling spines and pages falling out. When I next plan on reading any of my old favourites, they will have to be on my Kindle where I can adjust the font size to suit my older eyes. You would think that this might make it easier to get rid of the originals, but it’s still hard to let go.

There is a saying amongst avid readers that books are like old friends, and we all know how hard it is to part with friends. However, there is another saying that a book is not a book unless you open and read it. I like to think that I am now giving all my old books the chance to be new again, when someone else opens them and reads them with fresh eyes.

It’s not just books, though. I have found myself saying fond goodbyes to many lifelong memories. Thank goodness for my digital camera, because I have taken loads of photos of items long held in shelves, display cases and box-files. My entire theatre career’s worth of posters had to go the other week, but not before I had a taken a photo of every single one. I also have several magazine files of theatre programmes, going back to when I was a child. These are harder to let go of, especially since some of them are signed, but I am weeding out the duplicates and transferring the ones I am keeping to more efficient box files which are easier to pack.

Some things are not as hard to get rid of. Two years ago when I moved house because of the termites, I went through everything I owned. Things that I hadn’t thought about (or even seen!) in the eleven years since the previous move re-surfaced and I either chucked them or renewed my relationship with them. I feel that many of those things I kept had a second lease of life and it’s now time to pass them on. The sweet man at the SPCA in Springfield Park always assIMG_2826ures me that everyone’s junk is someone else’s treasure, just waiting to be discovered.

And let’s face it – this is also a simply marvellous excuse to get rid of things that I’ve never really liked but felt compelled to keep because someone gave them to me. All those years of wondering “What if they come to visit and don’t see me using it?” Well, not only will they have to travel a very long way to visit me in the future, but I now have the perfect explanation: “Sorry, but I just couldn’t fit everything into the container, and some precious things had to go, including more than half my books.” If they know me well enough, they’ll know how hard it was to lose most of my book collection, and they’ll make assumptions about everything else based on that.

Jokes aside, strange things happen to your mind when you start letting go of stuff. It’s quite liberating, actually. With each carload of stuff that I take to the SPCA, or to friends, I feel a wonderful sense of release as I drive away with an empty car. I feel that I am lightening my load for the road ahead. I’m not sure what lies along that road, but I don’t want to face it laden down with baggage that I can no longer carry.

Six Of One And . . .

by Jac Dowling

I’ve been experiencing some extraordinary happenings in the world of finance and banking. At first I wondered whether it was me being more obtuse than usual or whether there is/was an active and serious gremlin in the system. Here’s what happened:

Episode One: Last year we had two incidents of current account hacking. The amount of R750 was withdrawn by unauthorised debit order from spouse’s account, on different dates in June and July. After endless phone calls, emails, texts and the rest to Ombuds(ssss), FAIS, fraud depts … I was firmly told that it was neither their problem nor department. Report it to the SAPS fraud squad…right. I didn’t. Turned out that someone in Port Elizabeth (or is it Nelson Mandela Bay?) had authorised a credit firm in Pretoria to deduct R750 per month from our account which is held in a small Southern Cape town. Nothing signed by either of us, no permission requested. Turcreditcardsns out you can just call them and they do the rest. No signature or background required. Bank refunded the money, we had all details other than our names removed from cheque books and I ordered new ones – one each.

Episode two: I get sms to say cheque books are ready for collection. Hike off down to bank and am presented with six books in my name. Nothing for spouse. Slightly puzzled by this I returned four of the books, reckoning that what I have will probably outlast me anyway, and re-ordered the missing book. Last week an sms came through asking me to collect the cheque book. Presenting myself at the enquiries counter with a big friendly and expectant smile, I explained my mission (third visit) and waited . Voila, six cheque books appeared, in my name. Nothing in his. So I sat down very firmly on a friendly chair and suggested they trash the six and find the one. Thirty minutes and three clerks later – by now the queue was getting longer and somewhat tetchy – the book materialised, I woke up and tried to exit invisibly.

Episode three: I went shopping at two local supermarkets, used credit card and drove home. Half way there sms came through from bank’s fraud dept asking whether I’d just tried to purchase R8000 worth of furniture from a Jo’burg store. Turned out a Mr Msh…… had presented a card with his name and my number embossed thereon. But, because he didn’t have the cvc number, it was refused. Quick call to fraud stopped the card and I then had a word with the store manager who said the guy concerned was very dodgy and didn’t want to take no for an answer. Funny thing was, I hadn’t used the card for ten days prior to that. I was assured by both supermarkets that such a thing could never happen – no cloning, no skimming, no nothing.

Finale: New card arrived within three days; I collected it, changed the pin and all was rosy, or so they said (at the enquiries counter). Sailed off to do a big shop, filled bags and presented new card. Declined. Six tries and three managers later I had to unpack all the bags and leave with nothing. Their system was down they thought. Next day I visited the other supermarket, did a big shop, packed it up and presented my card. Declined as fraudulent. By now we were getting a tad hungry and I was in no mood to be polite, which became obvious when speaking to the fraud dept of our bank, yet again. Apparently they’d stopped my new card because of the old one being stopped – very very sorry.

The moral of this story? You tell me! Happy banking.

When all is forgotten

by Penny M

So, okay, I forget sometimes; like when it’s my turn to blog, renew a script, go for a check-up, or service the car. The list goes on. Just as well, I can’t keep pets here; thankfully, my plants are the forgiving sort.

Have you ever tied a knot in your handkerchief to remind you of something and then forgotten what it was you were supposed to remember? ‘No,’ I hear you say because, of course, you use Kleenex or Twinsavers.

I learnt a trick (too long ago to remember). The night before, I had to visualise myself walking towards the front door where I would remember what I had to take with me. It worked for things like my gym kit or lunchbox, provided I didn’t want to skip gym or fish paste sandwiches. It wasn’t that helpful for going home; my mother resorted to threats after I left my second jersey behind at school. Unfortunately, fear exacerbated the problem.

I (indistinctly) recall, when startled into a rush of wrong-way adrenalin by a question I couldn’t answer, wishing I was Rosy the Elephant, Bristol Zoo’s oldest one (with more than a few novels in her trunk). I was skinny then too, so the extra weight didn’t worry me.

Did I mention the time my lift-club-of-three driver forgot two of his passengers? We chatted away on the side of the road for about thirty minutes until we realised that he wasn’t coming. We arrived at work to find him there already, blissfully oblivious. We never mentioned it; well not to him anyway.

I can relate – when I get focussed, meal times roll past until my stomach is screaming and a quick fix just won’t do it. Now that I’m in the writing game, twenty four/seven (pay dirt for the real thing), I sometimes don’t know what day it is until I forget my Blog.

So here it is. Next time you forget, remember you aren’t the only one.

P.S. I now fill in the calendar on my mobile with every detail so that, when the alarm goes off, I know exactly why. Thank goodness for technology, much better than keeping a diary and forgetting to look at it. I will add a monthly reminder labelled blog, set one week in advance of due date. Then Sue T can relax.


Goldfish, Tina Fey and basil … a rambling mind

by Sue Trollip

A colleague at work has four goldfish on her desk. I have never encountered goldfish living in such luxury. They have Mediterranean ocean blugoldfishe pebbles beneath their … fins and oxygen. They are also the happiest goldfish I’ve met. They dance in those oxygen bubbles then, I assume, speak to each other in Mickey Mouse voices. They seem to spend a lot of time playing together. Charades must be interesting with a three-second memory.

I recently finished Tina Fey’s book (she is rumoured to have received a $6 million advance for it) and I found two sentences of great wisdom in those pages.

‘Don’t be like that kid hesitating at the top of the watersides over-thinking things.’

So perhaps those goldfish know how to live right.

The other nugget was when it comes to the number one rule of beauty:

‘Who cares.’

And when I look at my hair this morning I know it will be my mantra for the day – hell who am I kidding, for the rest of the week … possibly longer.

There’s a basil plant on my window ledge that is also battling to contain its tendrils. So I made some pesto pasta for dinner, simply to help that Triffid out of its torment, somewhat.

And I’m blaming my ramblings on the weather, yesterday sunshine and daffodils, today snow!