Writing Prompt: The Dying of the Light

My entry for the Creative Writing Ink Image Prompt Competition from w/c 6th October 2016, inspired by this picture:

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The light was dying, and the fire had gone out. Without Brin’s firelighting skills she wouldn’t be able to relight it; she was too little and she didn’t have the skills. The valley looked idyllic now, with its alluring carpet of grass, but come morning it would all be frozen stiff. As would she, if her brother didn’t return. Rowena’s jaw set in determination. She couldn’t just give in. What would her Mama say? And her Papa? She was only five, but she was smart. Everyone said so. Before the flood took them away. She gulped her grief deep down inside and tried to focus. Her empty belly rumbled. In response, she did the only thing she could think of to do: sprang up from her haunches and ran, as far and as fast as her legs could carry her.

Some twenty minutes later, when she reached the towering valley walls, she found a thicket of small trees. Not thinking of the bears that might be lurking there, nor of the fate of her brother (who she knew should have been back hours ago with food for their dinner) Rowena strode purposefully into the thicket and began to gather wood.

When she returned to the camp it was almost dark, but the full moon helped her find her way. She hunkered down over the burnt out embers with the small bits of dry wood and kindling she had found, and set to work. She concentrated hard on setting the sticks at the right angle, carefully arranging the kindling in the crook of the bottom piece of wood she had partially hollowed and laid out, just as she had seen Brin and Papa do many times, but never tried herself. Until now. And now, she knew, failure would almost certainly mean death.

Brin walked slowly across the valley floor, dragging his badly wounded leg behind him. He had, he knew, been lucky in his stand-off with the bear. His wounds would heal – he would survive – but that didn’t make his return to camp any less painful. Or diminish his growing concern about his sister’s welfare. He’d had no choice to leave her, but what would his father have said? “Protect her, Brin, to your dying breath”, were his dying words. And Brin would protect Rowena, of course he would. But to protect her he must also bring her food. Otherwise they would both starve. As he walked he felt the weight of the dead rabbit over his shoulder. Hold on little one, he willed. Hold on.

The smoke reached his nostrils before the light from the flames. He stopped and rubbed his eyes, incredulous. As he grew nearer he could just make out the tiny figure lying beside the fire, wrapped in a small fur. He ran to his sister’s side, scooped her up onto his knee and held her close. She stirred from her slumber, opened her eyes and smiled. “Brin?”

“It’s me, little one,” Brin said, returning his sister’s trusting smile. “Was it really you who got the fire going?”

Rowena nodded. “All by myself,” she said proudly. “Like you and Papa used to do.”

Brin laid the rabbit on the ground and Rowena’s eyes widened. “Well you are cleverer than I even thought possible,” he said. “And, to celebrate, we will have rabbit for dinner tonight.”

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The Moon / Reasons to be thankful

I’ve just spent ages staring out of the window at the full moon. I find it utterly mesmerising – magical, even – that from all the way down here it’s possible to see the light and shadows of its surface. It makes me feel so small, but in a good way – like there is so much more to this universe than my tiny mind is capable of fathoming, but that somehow that’s okay, because in accepting that I also accept there is so much more possibility, so much more breadth of experience; so much more life to behold.

Today has been a GOOD day, for the following reasons:

1. I finally had my physiotherapy consultation at the Crystal Palace sports injury clinic and have been referred for a course of NHS physio treatment in Clapham, starting Wednesday. The recovery starts here…

2. I edited one 750 word story, wrote a new 1,600 word story and submitted both to competitions whose deadlines were today.

3. I received an email from the editor of my favourite magazine saying they would consider my recent pitch (but warning me they’ve received a lot of similar subject matter of late – which is totally fair enough and will only serve to make me more inventive in the future :))

4. The sun was shining brightly and warmly all day long – it’s finally starting to feel like summer is just around the corner and I LIKE it!

5. I spoke to two extremely special people in my life, who made me feel amazing and who I love beyond words.

6. I managed to cook a delightful supper (albeit from a recipe, but shhhh, don’t burst my bubble) of aubergine stuffed with chorizo, tomato, spinach and ricotta. NOM.

7. It’s a full moon – and as I said above, I just love a full moon (maybe I was a werewolf in a previous life).

Just wanted to share the above really. Because it’s all too easy to forget to stop and look around once in a while at all the wonderful things and people that we’re blessed with in our lives – and to appreciate each and every one of them for the richness that they bring.

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The weight of the world

I don’t usually write poetry but today at lunch time I took myself off to Potters Fields to sit with the sadness I’m currently feeling for some people close to me, and out poured the following (pretty sure today’s post won’t meet the 200 minimum word quota I set myself but sometimes an artist must suffer for her work, and now is one such time):

The weight of the world

If heartbreak had a physical weight, this bench would have buckled years ago. So many came and went, sitting with their burdens when carrying them became too much to bear.

The late summer sun, whilst beautiful, seems now to taunt the hopeful souls who stroll and sit beneath it, catching the last rays before the seasons roll inexorably on.

Above the fading blooms two butterflies (who did not get the end of summer memo) frolic in the air, rising and falling on a breeze so faint it hardly stirs the blades of grass below.

Is this an end or a beginning? In some ways it is neither, but rather just a phase in the constantly shifting cycle of existence.

Why is it only humans want answers? Simple: Because the universe already knows.

(…and will you look at that, I’ve just broken the word count barrier).

In Bruges: Part Two

Today the sun came out in Bruges, and it seemed to breathe a whole new lease of life into the city and all who dwelt in her. This was helped in no small part by the fact it was also a “no car” day in the centre, which meant that shop owners could display their wares out on the street, creating something of a carnival atmosphere. Bands and street performers could be found at every turn, and there were food stalls and craft stalls lining the main canals (one of which we couldn’t resist, so in addition to the four large bottles of beer I’m carrying back I also have a huge ceramic tiled plate-when in Bruges..).

We strayed a little off the beaten track this morning and were glad of it. Away from the throngs of tourists there are hidden gems to be found; cute rows of cottages, sprays of beautiful flowers and interesting churches. The architecture in Bruges is stunning, and it’s worth seeking out the back streets to really get a feel for the place and its history. If you walk far enough away from the centre, as we did along Langenstraat, you reach the canal and are greeted by the sight of several windmills, standing tall and proud against the backdrop of the (today very beautiful) sky.

We didn’t make it up the belfry tower, in part because we couldn’t face being caught up in the hordes of tourists queuing to go up it and in part because we decided we’d rather spend our remaining euros on a beer and some lunch. Afterwards we wandered around the chocolate shops one last time before returning to our hotel – the Jan Brito, where we had a lovely ‘knight’ room with beamed ceiling and enjoyed the morning fry ups immensely, but were slightly less enamoured with the ridiculously slow lift and tenuous plug socket connections for charging – to collect our things and make our way to the train station.

It’s been short and sweet, Belgium, but I’ve had a great weekend in your fair land. Until next time.

Don’t be S.A.D

Much as we may hate to admit it the signs are becoming increasingly harder to ignore; daylight hours are waning, the sun is slowly starting to retreat out of our reach and there’s a desperate aura surrounding the pavement drinkers that says that they know their outdoor drinking days are numbered. In the words of my beloved Game of Thrones (the most amazing TV series since 24, for those of you who may not be familiar with it and have clearly been living beneath a rock for the past year): Winter is coming.

It’s not as if we can bemoan the lack of decent summer weather this year, though as a nation of moaners I’m sure many people will. After last year’s wash out the past few weeks have been almost entirely pleasant – we’ve even had a mini heat wave for goodness’ sake! (Bless). You can’t say fairer than that, eh? And so as the nights draw in we must accept the fact that no matter how well the weather gods treat us, the summer season will never feel long enough.

There will never be enough days spent languishing bare-legged and brown-skinned in the park, or sipping cocktails on a rooftop at the many pop-up bars that spring up like rabbits as soon as there’s a hint of summer blooms scenting the air. We will never eat enough ice cream (FACT), nor spend enough time building sandcastles on British beaches like we did when we were five years old. We will never have our fill of wandering by the river on a hazy summer’s eve as the sun starts its unhurried journey towards the horizon, pulling a veil of pink across the sky.

It’s true that winter creeps up like a thief, wrapping its cloak of darkness around our shoulders almost before we know what is going on. But lest we complain about the changing of the seasons we should remember the positives that each season brings. Winter may be cold and dark but it also offers cosy nights in pubs drinking mulled wine, and even cosier nights in sipping on hot chocolate. It also boasts the accolade of being the festive season, which brings families together and puts delicious food on the table. So you see, it shouldn’t be feared but rather embraced.

The changing of the seasons is Mother Nature’s way of showing us just how wonderful this world we live in really is. Granted, the seasons in this country tend to be particularly harsh, but if it was always summer and never winter would we really appreciate the summer as much as we do? What would we have to grumble about then?

Bank holiday ramblings

Today is an April showery-May-the-4th. Not having anticipated this in the wake of several glorious days of sunshine, this means I am umbrella-less, and therefore at the mercy of the weather gods. The situation is further compounded by two factors. Firstly, not only is today April showery in nature, it is also blustery. This, perhaps, bodes not well for a rooftop (ergo ‘open air’) party in East London. Secondly, sleep deprivation levels are high, my fail safe plan of having a quiet night in to prepare for the weekend having been woefully unmatched by the plans of the other residents in the abode in which I slept. Hence there has been no morning run around Regents Park (though see earlier point about rain-does this let me off the hook on that one?)

In short, conditions for embracing a full on weekend of social engagements are far from optimal. But you know what? It doesn’t even matter. Because not only is it a bank holiday weekend (I’ll admit it smarts slightly that I won’t be paid for Bank Hol Monday, since Mondays are my official days off now I’m part time), I’m also en route for baby cuddles in Herne Hill. And everyone knows baby cuddles make EVERYTHING better.

As i don’t have a snap of today’s cuddle, here’s one that was made earlier (ie last time)

April showers

The alarm goes off. You open one eye, wary of the encroaching day. One foot hangs over the edge of the bed and you wiggle your toes to determine the air temperature before reluctantly throwing off the covers and getting up. As you trudge towards the bathroom you pull back the curtain and grimace. The sky is full of dark grey clouds, pregnant with rain. You fight the urge to return to bed and continue on your slow pilgrimage towards the shower mecca (which may not make you ready for the day but will at least erase the fug of sleep from your head and the dried spittle from the corners of your mouth).

You shower and dress in sensible clothes that are appropriate for the gloomy weather; a woollen dress, thick tights, a cardigan and jacket. You grab an umbrella and head out of the door. It starts to rain as soon as you step outside the door but you’re prepared, and so you open your umbrella and continue on your journey to work.

By lunchtime the wind has got up, rendering your brolly useless against its mighty power. You battle your way through the hurricane to buy your lunch and retreat back to the office, thankful that you were at least sensible enough to bring your winter coat.

After work you step out of the office to find the wind has died away and the sun is shining brightly. It’s several degrees warmer and there’s not a raincloud in sight. As you’re going for drinks it seems ridiculous to take your winter coat with you, so you decide to leave it in the office, along with your umbrella which is also hardly required in these conditions.

The alarm goes off. You open one eye, wary of the encroaching day. Your head is pounding from the previous night’s excesses. As you trudge towards the bathroom you pull back the curtain and grimace. The rain is beating down so hard the street is barely visible. Still, at least you’ve got your winter coat and umbrella. Oh no, wait…they’re at the office. You admit defeat and retreat to bed.

The view from my office window demonstrates the unpredictability of April weather – one set of white fluffy clouds and one set of foreboding grey ones, with a strip of blue sky inbetween. Talk about confusing – how’s a girl ever meant to know what to wear?!