Keeper of the Castle #FridayFictioneers

‘Oh my god! I swear I just saw a face at that window! Oooh, maybe the castle’s haunted?’ Tiff gave a theatrical shiver.

‘Or maybe you’ve been watching too much Supernatural?’ said Chloe. ‘Let’s go in and have a look round. Look, that doorway over there isn’t boarded up properly.’

‘Bloody hell!’ Tiff stepped in a huge dog turd. ‘I’m always so unlucky.’

She wiped her shoe ineffectually on the grass. ‘Oh, come on, let’s just go.’

A pair of black eyes watched them leave. He snarled, fangs glinting in the candlelight as he lashed out with his taloned hands.

Next time.

A 100 word story using the photo prompt above for the Friday Fictioneers, featuring a guest appearance from the Check Out beast. 

Harry Potter and the Slightly Impressed Teens

My youngest daughter has just finished the Harry Potter series so we booked tickets for The Making of Harry Potter Warner Bros. Studio Tour London. Or Harry Potter and The Amazing Money Vanishing Spell as I prefer to call it. We thought it would be a fabulous family day out so off we went.

Of course, we totally forgot that it would involve two teenagers being seen in public with THEIR PARENTS. Despite the fact that everything is exciting and fun when they’re hanging out with their mates – Love Island memes on social media, inane YouTubers eating chillies or Shawn Mendes just existing -, when they’re with their parents, nothing is cool.  They could be presented with a singing, diamond-pooping Basilisk and they would just respond with an eye roll. Imagine if someone saw them, enjoying themselves with their family?! Even people they’ve never met and will never meet again???!  They would be immediately struck off the Cool Teen List.

Anyway, dragging two reluctant teens behind us, we entered a massive warehouse housing many of the actual sets used in the Harry Potter films. Whole scenes are recreated, from the Great Hall and Diagon Alley, to Platform 9¾ and the Forbidden Forest, along with Dumbledore’s study, the Weasleys’ kitchen and the Potions classroom.

It was pretty amazeballs* but, to be honest, after a couple of hours it did start to get a bit repetitive and there isn’t really a great deal to do, except look at the props, costumes and creatures. The fact that we were really hungry and kept hoping that the Backlot Cafe would be around the next corner probably didn’t add to our enjoyment.  Obviously, once we found the cafe, we had to try a Butterbeer, which was incredibly sweet, like drinking a packet of melted Werther’s Originals with eight spoonfuls of sugar and a dollop of double cream on top. Diabetes in a tankard.

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Fortified with plenty of fat, carbohydrates and sugar, we continued the tour feeling much jollier. Until we came across the Dursley’s house and I realised that it bore a striking resemblance to my house. Yep, I actually live in Privet Drive. KMN.

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My favourite bits were Diagon Alley, and seeing the beautiful drawings and incredible models that the Art Department made.

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As well as the cost of the tickets and lunch**, there are also plenty of other opportunities to throw your money away buy add-ons, such as having your photo taken ‘flying’ on a broomstick, and of course, there’s the shops. Plural. Three shops in all, the last one almost as big as the entire tour.

My daughter really wanted a Draco Malfoy wand, which retails for £29. For what is basically a stick.

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Meanly/wisely (depending on your viewpoint), we didn’t buy it, telling her she could just go to the park where she could choose from an endless supply of ‘wands’. Instead we pointed her towards the more sensibly priced stationary section.

With lunch and few items from the gift shop, four hours with Harry cost around £200 for four of us. I would definitely recommend it if you’re a HP fan as it was fascinating to see the huge amount of work and skill that went into the films, and the model of Hogwarts at the end is just stunning. And, amazingly, the kids said they kinda enjoyed it too! Result.

 

*Saying things like ‘amazeballs’ may be part of the reason why my children are embarrassed to be seen with me in public…

**To be fair, you could bring your own food and drink and the tour guides told everyone that you could eat this in the cafe.  But I didn’t know this before we got there so wasn’t prepared! 

 

Merry Christmas? #3LineTales

It’s been a busy few weeks while we’ve been off for the summer holidays. I sent my children’s book to several agents…I can now consider myself alongside the likes of JK Rowling as I’ve had my first rejection email!  Woohoo!

I’m currently working on a ‘cosy mystery’ novel, trying to fix some major plot holes before I hand it over to my editor at the beginning of October.

Less than two weeks to go before school starts. Chances of me signing to an agent/finding freelance work/winning the lottery before then??  Answers on a postcard etc etc.

In the meantime, here’s a quick Three Line Tale using the photo prompt below:

Merry Christmas?

Jeff bounced up and down on his chair, clearly desperate for me to open the oddly shaped present, covered in Santa wrapping paper. ‘Careful! It’s fragile.’

I gently pulled off the paper to reveal the hideous remains of a horrible snake type creature, its huge jaw lined with ferocious sharp teeth. ‘I got it off Ebay. Emily’s going to love it; it’s amazing!’

Emily did not appear amazed, choosing instead to suck on her toes. ‘Well, it’s certainly unusual, Jeff,’ I said, ‘but I’m not sure it’s quite appropriate for our six-month old baby’s first Christmas.’

photo by Samuel Zeller via Unsplash
Photo by Samuel Zeller via Unsplash

Stop the World – I Want to Get Off

I’ve had enough. I really have. The world seems to be on a downward dash to destruction and/or insanity.  From falling sperm counts, acid attacks and pay rows to Trump, May and the ongoing Brexit saga.

But what has really got my goat in the last week or so is pubic hair.  Or, rather, the lack of it. I’m old enough that I don’t care what my noo-noo looks like. I was brought up in the ’70s and 80s when women were real women and men were turned on by women who looked like they still had their pants on when naked.

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A friend of mine recently bought a collection of ’70s Mayfair magazines from eBay so this is no false recollection on my part. We enjoyed a trip down memory lane (which, coincidently, is where we used to find jazz mags in those days; tossed into hedgerows and verges, sad and rain-soaked, their pages stuck together) looking at some of the most hirsute ladies one could imagine, posing in a variety of the usual soft-porn settings – hay bales, satin covered sofas, wild meadows etc. Obviously, these magazines are sexist and degrading to women, but I kinda think they should be introduced into sex education at school. Not only to see what pubic hair is supposed to look like but also to see women who haven’t had any breast augmentation, liposuction, trout pouts, botox, fake tans or eyebrow enhancement. It would be a huge eye-opener to boys being brought up on a diet of Love Island, Pornhub and Naked Attraction.

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For those of you lucky enough not to have caught Naked Attraction, it’s like Blind Date, except that the choice of date is based solely on the size and shape of contestants’ penis/vulva/arse/stomach/breasts/nose/teeth, as their naked body is revealed from the feet up.

I watched an episode (ok, two…) on my sister’s recommendation. The most shocking thing about it – except how amazingly dull it actually is – is that there was not a single pube to be seen. And that included the men. Are we really raising an entire generation who believe that pubic hair needs to be removed and that it’s sexually appealing to look like a prepubescent child?  And don’t even get me started on the tattoos.  Or scribbles, as I prefer to call them.  Why is every participant on Naked Attraction covered in tattoos??  I really don’t mind the odd classy, beautifully done tattoo.  It’s just that I haven’t seen any.

The lack of pubic hair doesn’t trigger* me so much but it makes me salty** on behalf of my teenage daughters, who are being brainwashed into believing that natural lady parts aren’t supposed to be hairy.

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It actually gets worse. The Perfect V is a company whose Range of beauty products is designed to keep your ‘V’ in shape, and make you feel good all over – whether you want to bare it all, or lose your underwear anywhere, anytime, Fifth Avenue or Strøget.

Yep. They’re talking about a range of products designed for your tuppence. Not just one product. Ooooh, no. Eight products ranging from an exfoliator and gentle wash to beauty sheets, serum, mist and ‘luminzer’. Yes, you read that right. A highlighter for your fanny.

And the cost of these ‘V’ vitals? A mere $300.  $300!!!

So, now not only do young women need to feel insecure about their figure, face, skin and hair, they also need to worry that their foo-foos are ugly.  But don’t worry, because Perfect V offers you the stylish, branded solution to your defective twinkle.  Their marketing is pretty slick with an aspirational video of a beautiful, stylish Scandi woman emerging from her morning dip in the ocean, wrapping herself in a cashmere cardi before heading home to eat berries and rub cream into her bits.  (Or eat cream and rub berries into her bits, it wasn’t quite clear.)

The Perfect V™ product line is for anytime or après any kind of hair-removal and always for beauty’s sake. It is pure, indulgent pampering*** and love for your “V.” It is a multi-tasking luxury skincare formulated to rejuvenate, enhance and beautify the “V.”

Sadly, I’m sure enough women will worry that their fanjos aren’t up to scratch and will be convinced to buy this tosh.  Which (disappointingly) has been invented by two women, who no doubt don’t care that they’re bringing a new insecurity to women and girls, as long as they’re raking in the cash.

Mind you, having watched Naked Attraction, I’m sure that products for men to pamper their John Thomas’ will be right behind: The Perfect P, anyone?

Right, time to get off, this is my stop.

 

*Teen slang. It means you’re getting cross

**This one means you are now angry.

***Nothing to do with beauty products is ever ‘pampering’.  It’s just bloody hard work.

Thinking About You

‘A party?? No way; you’ve got exams coming up. You need to start buckling down and thinking about your future.’

I stopped the car and Lizzy opened the passenger door. ‘Oh my god, you won’t let me do anything. I hate you!’

She slammed the door and, dragging her rucksack on the ground behind her, stropped off towards the school gates.

Aggghhhh. Teenagers. I breathed deeply to calm down, pulled out into the road and turned on the radio.

‘…the singer had already left the stage when the explosion occurred. 22 people, including children have been killed, with more than 60 injured.’

I listened to the rest of the news, barely able to take in what had happened. Innocent children murdered at a joyous occasion. Families destroyed. Parents devastated.

The news finished and one of my favourite songs came on. I started to sing along, but I heard the words properly for the first time; my voice cracked and tears started to flood down my face. Tears for the families left behind. Tears for the parents who would never see their children again. Tears for those who died, scared and alone, thinking about their loved ones.

When I heard that sound
When the walls came down
I was thinking about you
About you

When my skin grows old
When my breath runs cold
I’ll be thinking about you
About you

 When I run out of air to breathe
It’s your ghost I see
I’ll be thinking about you, about you

I pulled the car over and grabbed my phone, hitting the saved number. Pick up, pick up.

‘What?’

‘Go to the party. Buy something new. Enjoy yourself. Enjoy your life.’

‘Thank you!’

‘I love you, Lizzy.’

‘Love you too. Later.’

‘Yes. I’ll see you later.’

***

Lyrics from Skin by Rag’n’Bone Man © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Songwriters: Dan Bryer / Jamie Scott / Jonny Coffer / Mike Needle / Rory Graham

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A story using the photo prompt above for the Friday Fictioneers.

The tragic events of Manchester have been constantly on my mind this week and my heart goes out to the families and friends of those murdered and injured in this senseless attack.

Heart of Rome

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Rio was banging on again about his favourite topic: himself. ‘Obviously, I’m the principal figure as I represent America.’

‘I’m sick of your incessant claptrap,’ said Dan. ‘You won’t be so important once a tangerine buffoon destroys your precious America.’

‘That’s the leader of the free world you’re talking about.  Just watch your goddamn mouth.’

‘Surely Angela Merkel’s the leader of the free world nowadays?’

‘What?! You come over here and say that!’  Like that was going to happen.

‘Alright, alright, keep your bird-crap toga on.  Why so grouchy – dropped one of your coins in the fountain?’

Rio would have rolled his eyes if he could.  ‘That’s the Trevi, you ignoramus.’

‘You calling me thick? Sacrilege, mate, I’m like that with the Pope.’ Dan attempted to cross his immobile fingers to demonstrate his close relationship with the pontiff.

‘Will you both please put a cork in it?’ snapped Niles.  ‘400 bloody years of listening to your arguments, and I don’t even know what you gits look like.’

‘You’re not missing anything,’ said Big G.  ‘Blimey, look at that Swedish lovely there.  Bet she’d love to hop on this bad boy.’

‘For the twenty thousandth time,’ said Dan, without exaggeration, ‘the pole between your legs is AN OAR.  It’s not your John Thomas.’ Oh, to be able to rise up and shove that oar where the sun don’t shine.

‘I distinctly heard Bernini say, when he was carving it, “Lucky old Ganges, everyone will be jealous of his whopper.”’

‘Yes, whopper OAR!’

‘Well, why’s she smiling and having her photo taken in front of me then?’

‘Because she wants to show her friends back home what the biggest dic- I mean, idiot, in Rome looks like.’

‘Ha! You said it, biggest dick!’

And so on, ad infinitum, for another 400 years…

***

Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers) is in Piazza Navona in downtown Rome.  It was designed in 1651 by Gian Lorenzo Bernini for Pope Innocent X.

 The river gods represented by four giant figures at the base of the fountain are  the Danube (Europe), the Rio de Plata (Americas), the Nile (Africa) and the Ganges (Asia).

Danube touches the Pope’s personal coat of arms, as the river closest to Rome. 

Rio de la Plata is sitting on a pile of coins, a symbol of the riches America could offer to Europe.

Nile’s head is covered with a cloth because, at that time, no one knew where its source was. 

Ganges carries a long oar, representing the river’s navigability.

***

This is my entry for the Sunday Photo Fiction, which involves writing a story of around 200 words based on the top photo prompt.

Photo © Sally-Ann Hodgekiss.

U Got The Look #3linetales

Honestly, what did I do before I discovered writing prompts??  It’s great, I never have to think about what to post anymore.  Mind you, it does mean that I haven’t written much about all the incredibly exciting things that have been going on in my life recently…exciting things like work (ugh), cooking (ugh), washing-up (ugh), shopping (ugh).    Hmm, maybe not writing about them is a good thing.  Here’s a Three Line Tale instead:

Lost in the mass of teenage girls screaming along to The Style’s biggest hit, I’m All Hers, I gaze at Pete, their heart-throb lead singer: I stare at his carefully tousled hair framing his perfect face with its chiseled cheekbones, piercing blue eyes and soft lips, his muscular body displayed to perfection in a tight t-shirt and ripped skinny jeans.

I make sure he is looking at me, before I mouth, ‘Do you want me to mend those for you?’

He glares at me, shaking his head and rolling his eyes, ‘OMG, Mum! You’re so embarrassing!’

 

Another One Bites the Dust…Worst Honeymoon Ever #FridayFictioneers #flashfiction

‘I knew those bloody snails were a mistake,’ croaked Benjy’s new stepfather from the ensuite before vomiting again.

‘I had them and I’m fine,’ said Mum. ‘Maybe it was all that brandy?’

Benjy bounced out of bed and grabbed a book. ‘Read me Wimpy Kid!’

‘Wow, you’re hyper. Did you take your meds?’

Benjy nodded.

He needed to calm down if Mum wasn’t going to get suspicious. It was another three weeks until his prescription was filled.

A heavy thud came from the ensuite.

‘Terry?’ said Mum. Silence.

Benjy smiled. Now it would just be the two of them once more.

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A 100 word story using the photo prompt above for the Friday Fictioneers.

A is for Award #AgghStopThat

The best thing about the A-Z Challenge is finding new blogging pals, such as Outside Perception who has nominated me for the Mystery Blogger Award. Thanks very much ☺

As part of the award, first I have to reveal three things about myself:

  1. I was part of the team who developed the Poking Tunnel™
  2. My favourite breakfast is cold pizza with a cup of tea (PG Tips/Redbush blend)
  3. I suffer from misophonia so there’ll be no apple eating in my vicinity

Then answer five questions set by Outside Perception:

Tell us about something that you used to believe only to find out it was incorrect? I thought that guerrilla warfare was gorilla warfare.

If given the choice between Cake or Deathwhat would it be?  Ooh, death please. No, no, I meant cake. Definitely cake.

What was your imaginary friend’s name and what special skills did they have? I already had two brothers, a sister, a dog, cats and a rabbit. There wasn’t room for anyone else to move in, imaginary or otherwise.

What is your all time most watched movie? Those Glory Glory Days’. It’s about a group of teenage girls growing up in London in 1961 who are obsessed with Spurs as they become the first team to win both the League and the FA Cup. My sister and I watched it almost every day during the summer holiday of 1984. I’m not into football at all but that doesn’t matter. ‘Those Glory Glory Days’ is a funny, sweet film about the friendships and frustrations of growing up.

When you have downtime…(Laugh.. yah I know) Ok, If you ever had downtime… What would you do?  Drink prosecco/G&T/beer with a huge bowl of crisps/nuts/antipasti (yes, it’s pretentious but I lived in Rome for three years…and saying that probably makes me even more pretentious ☺) whilst flicking through aspirational magazines, with articles such as How to Enjoy A Walk in the Rain, Discover Your Dosha (no, not, as I thought, how to locate coins you’ve dropped down the side of the sofa but how to determine your body-mind type) and Look at Us With Our Perfect Life (‘Interior designer Arabella – ‘Well, I picked out the drapes for my friend Figgy’s study’- and banker Flynn invite us into their beautiful beachside home, full of treasures they’ve picked up on their travels.  What is their secret?  Flynn: ‘I get paid £250k a year.’  Look, here’s a picture of them with their children, Bobby and Fisher, enjoying a trip to the local organic/gluten free/mercury laden fish stall.  ‘Oh mother, how scrummy!’ says Bobby’) where I hate literally everyone in there whilst secretly envying them and wondering why I don’t commute to my garden studio each morning to create artisan pottery for two hours before taking a break to drink herbal tea as I walk my French bulldog along the beach.  Yes, I’m bitter.

Favourite post of mine?  Hmmm. Either this story based on the lyrics to Hotel California or this post about the time my friend and I had our clothes stolen during a illicit midnight skinny dip. Funnily enough, the only time I’d venture into a swimming pool now (naked or otherwise) is at midnight.

Next I have to nominate other bloggers (Jeez, there’s actually quite a lot to do for this award…) I’m going to choose some of the new bloggers that I met as part of the A-Z Challenge:

Baby Gates Down Working full-time with two girls, Louise moved online because there was no space left at home.  Intelligent, funny and thoughtful – what more could you ask for??
Iain Kelly works as an TV editor and has hundreds of short stories under his belt.  His A-Z was particularly creative, utilising a children’s poster as the basis for an exciting 26-part thriller.
Ramblings of K writes about her experiences of new countries and cultures.  I’m impressed with how many countries she’s ticked off on her world A-Z list.
Weekends in Maine Activities, tips and trivia about life in Maine; from childhood memories and spontaneous trips to adventures and family life.
Rochelle Wisoff-Fields An published author and illustrator, Rochelle is also the host for Friday Fictioneers, where a picture prompt inspires bloggers to create a complete story in 100 words or less.

And here are my five questions for them:

1 Happiest childhood memory?
2 Tea or coffee?
3 Which ‘Friends’ character would you be and why?
4 If you could go back in time, what would you do differently?
5 Summer or winter?

Don’t worry if you don’t have time/don’t want to participate.  I’m free and easy like that 🙂

Rules: 1. Put the award logo in your post and link back to the creator of the award. 2. List all the rules. 3. Thank whoever nominated you and leave a link to their blog. 4. Tell your readers three things about yourself and answer the questions set by your nominator. 5. Nominate readers and notify them. 6. Ask your nominees any five questions of your choice.  7. Share the link to your best/favourite post of yours.