There, their, they’re…

Words have been my playmates for decades. Ever since the Ladybird heroes of the sixties, Peter and Jane, and their huge black letters introduced me to dogs and balls and trees and toys, I have been surrounded by their magic.

They have taken me to enchanted forests, deserted islands, posh English boarding schools, scary American neighbourhoods. They have pulled me inside books and kept me hostage within the pages until the last one was turned, finally setting me free to return to my ordinary little life.

Those words were correctly shaped, spelt and structured long before my young eyes were allowed anywhere near their tight grasp. They had been checked and double-checked by editors, proofreaders and printers many months prior to appearing on my wobbly bookshelf. They were simply perfect. Each letter was in its place. Apostrophes were where they were supposed to be, or not there at all. All the grammar rules we learnt at school were respected to a tee. Or to a tea, or to a t? Who knows now? In any case, the words I found in all of my books were written just the way they were supposed to be written.

So what the f**k has happened?

I have tried to keep quiet about this, I swear. I certainly have no intention of becoming part of the “grammar police” force, or even worse a “grammar nazi” (I saw that terrifying term used recently on a blogpost).

But I have to speak up now, I’m afraid. I cannot button my lip any longer. Words are being used and abused and I have decided to stand up here and defend their right to exist in their original form, however dull and dreary that may be.

Yes, of course typos can happen and since we are all writing infinitely faster than ever before, mistakes are bound to happen. And there are rarely editors or proofreaders now checking the vast amount of material which flies freely and fitfully around the globe. But surely we should know the difference between write and right? Or there, their, or they’re?

Perhaps it is just an age thing, a premenopausal feeling of being poked in the eye with a blunt stick (I know it’s meant to be sharp but mine never is) whenever I see one of these screeching errors. Perhaps I am simply a pernickety, ageing, horribly difficult to please pain in the bum. But whenever I see a ‘your’ instead of a ‘you’re’ or an ‘it’s’ instead of an ‘its’ I want to spit on the page I am reading, yank it from the publication and then rip it to shreds. Excessive? No, just very difficult to do when reading on an iPad.

So, to finish off this grammar-rant, or maybe that could now be a grammarant, I have decided to provide below a quick review of the main points which bring the mucus to the back of my throat. And as Peter and Jane would not have said all those years ago – Look and F***ing Learn.

PS If the Chief Superintendent of the Grammar Police reads this and finds some grammatical or spelling mistakes, please give him or her my heartfelt apology’s (😉). Remember that this is all just a peace of thong-in-cheek fawn.

Image courtesy of amazon.com

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Fancy a spam sandwich?

After all the Christmas bingeing and before the New Year festivities hit us hard in the belly once more, how about a light dinner? A quick spam sandwich is on the menu here at OMG tonight.

I’ve never really paid much attention to the spam I get on my site. Okay, I admit it, I didn’t really know where it was.

I have read other bloggers’ accounts of the weird and wonderful nonsense they find in their spam folder. But I never thought of checking up on mine. Until today.

I’m glad I did. It has given me a good thirty minutes of guffawing as I tried to work out exactly what someone or something was trying to sell me.

I can only imagine that the following excepts from a much, much longer piece are all about jewellery. How it found its way here along a long, slippery path of bad translation from Russian (?) to semi-coherent English, fills me with wonder. And giggles. And don’t worry I didn’t click on any strange-looking link before copying it here for your delight tonight:

‘Russians have reason to believe in white and black, instead of tones most typically associated with off white.

lindsay lohan begins to be sad and a person understand why. after you tranquil the actual out of, You laboriously show the doll those things your financial allowance is a ring. she still believes that you’re miser, But you part with their money.’

Whaaaaat?? I honestly wonder what that sounded like in the original version. Surely not half as crazy? He (but he could be a ‘she’ or an ‘it’ or any other type of undefined alien blobform) then unexpectedly goes on to talk about his cousin and her vast, kitschy pal:

‘your darling chosen a beautifully-designed jewelry which has a an element who was the right and an acceptable size your money can buy. this has been a nothing more than I wished to pay, nevertheless it really had my cousin happy.

her very own very good friend that has kind of kitschy essence. vast and as a result showy is more superior in her opinion. ever so when my girl helps to keep researching it then in order to the group wife’s ring, pulling unfulfilled.’

What is a group wife, I wonder? Sounds a bit too polygamous for my liking. Anyway, to finally make me just long to press on that link and gain access to my own beautifully designed ‘jewelry’, he (she, it, blob) adds a little tiny teaser. The finale of all finales, making me water at the mouth and ready to buy, buy, buy:

‘this woman preserves hitting jane’s partner that alternate moving upward. Eventually, she will get the wedding band she all the time dreamed of. But it will end up pricing higher once time has passed when compared with what if in case he precisely invested in the bridal ring to start with.’

Poor Jane or maybe poor Jane’s partner or maybe poor cousin, poor doll, or poor Lindsay Lohan. All caught up in buying expensive jewellery when all they needed to do was come to my blog, check out my spam box and buy something exceptional at half the cost. I think.

Spam sandwiches. Don’t you just love them?

Image courtesy of The Spam Brand. And by the by, everything printed in italics above is absolutely unadulterated spam. Cross my heart.

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

Except for my back which is killing me because I was leaning over from the waist for three hours solid. And my knees have a strange aztec design now ingrained on them, maybe for life, from kneeling on our hugely uncomfortable sisal flooring for the same amount of time. And my nails are all torn from trying to rip sellotape from a dispenser which didn’t want to dispense.

But the pressies are now all wrapped, done, dusted and sorted into huge, ugly carrrier bags which are so damn heavy that I think I might have misplaced something. Not a gift. Something internal.

Meanwhile, downstairs, my girls, who obviously come from another planet, or who were swapped with someone else’s baby at birth (surely not both of them?) were calmly and creatively making homemade gifts for the whole family. They then wrapped and stacked their delights into beautiful, vintage-style packages which they had acquired on a shopping trip to a neighbouring town a few weeks ago. It took them all afternoon, preparing, assembling, then tidying up. All of this was done in a harmonious sisterly mode whilst listening to loud music in the kitchen.

Whose kids are these? They have certainly never seen their mother behaving in such a festive fashion or their father ever even entertain such a seasonal thought.

But what they have done is amazing. Astonishingly simple, yet highly effective. And, more importantly, each hand-crafted gift holds a little part of them within it. And that has so much more value than a little present bought from the shops.

So even if my back and my knees are crying, and my nails tearing up, my heart is humming a little tune. The notes are full of love and pride and wonder at how we have been lucky enough to have been offered the gift of being the parents of these extraordinary young women. Nothing else could make me happier.

Merry Christmas to them and to you all.

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Charli’s challenge

image

December 14, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using the phrase “only in…” It can be used to tell a story about a profession, a place or situation. Go where the prompt leads you.

This was Charli Mill’s addictive flash fiction challenge at the Carrot Ranch this week. I’ve just ingurgitated my dose and fortunately it has taken me to a lighter level than my last somewhat depressing post.

So, in an unusual ‘back to my roots’ mood, I came up with a wee Scottish story. Just for fun…

The McWedding Day

“Gorgeous fabric.”

Mrs McGregor slid along the polished pew to get a better view down the aisle to the front of the church.

“You’re absolutely right, Jean. But it’s a wee bit short, don’t you think?”

“No, but maybe too tight on the hips. Makes it rather lumpy over the bum.”

The organist struck up the first chords and every head turned towards the beaming bride, entering on her father’s arm.

An old Irish cousin, one row back, whispered into her neighbour’s ear – “Only in Scotland could you comment on the groom’s kilt as much as the bride’s gown!”

Image courtesy of etsy.com

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For adults only…

If anyone had had a camera to take a photo of my face at the precise moment of discovery, it would have travelled around cyber-space for a century or more.

Pure shock, horror, and disbelief.

“Who did this? Who the hell did this?” I muttered over and over, my eyes flitting between my colleagues trying to see who looked the guiltiest.

None of them did, but they were all laughing. And laughing. Because it was me, the mum of the show, the fifty year old prude, the one who doesn’t like to mock or tease or talk about anything ‘naughty’.

So if it wasn’t one of them, who was it, goddammit?

“Someone on the bus” my clever colleague remarked. And of course he was undoubtedly right.

Some snotty kid, sitting right behind me, pencil-case to hand, a felt tip pen at the ready, waiting to have its cap removed and trailed across my jacket with the quick flick of an experienced wrist. My drooping hood at the perfect height for his hand. The fake fur inside that hood just thick enough to prevent me from feeling even the slightest scratch of the artist’s tool. Crafty. Little. Git.

I do now remember a lot of hilarity going on in the bus that day. And it was no bloody wonder.

Drawing an almost prehistorically naive picture of a very small part of a man’s anatomy on an ‘old woman’s’ jacket must have made their day. It certainly made my colleagues’ day.

Not mine, however. It took me many long minutes of insistent scrubbing to take it away.

But naturally I couldn’t let it disappear without leaving some evidence of its existence, in true Grotte de Lascaux style.

So let me now make your day too, dearest punks. Cast an eye over this magnificent piece of modern artwork upon textile, circa 2017.

Priceless.

One colleague suggested it may be a double scoop ice cream cone. Nah, don’t think so…

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Flashy Selection Box

Some of you may be wondering what on earth has bitten me and made me start writing all this flash fiction. Nobody? Oh well, I’m going to tell you anyway. Or try to tell you because I’ve been asking myself the same question recently. I did try to explain the feeling as that of an itch being scratched. But I suspect it has become more than that. I think I’m addicted. And it’s not the first time that something has grabbed me and won’t let me go. Small ads had the same effect on me just a short while ago.

But flashing is nothing like looking for a vintage teak table with matching black leatherette chairs, or an absolutely unaffordable house with both a view and a pool.

At least I’m using my brain doing this and not just wearing out my already tired eyes, scrolling and scrolling through the equivalent of a gigantic messy jumble sale.

How does it work, did I hear you ask? Nope? Come on, ask. So, now the flash fiction contest is over, the regular challenge starts with a weekly prompt from an extraordinary lady named Charli Mills. We then have 99 words, no more no less (not including the title) to come up with an idea and turn it into a story, going down whichever path we choose. Charli then collects all the entries and posts them the following week on her site. The variety is amazing. Everybody has a different take on the same prompt, some funny, others sad, or thought-provoking, or troubling, or just downright insane.

And since Christmas is a-comin’, below is a little selection box of some of my veerings into Flashland.

The prompts for these three examples were a more eloquent and detailed version of the following:

1. Self-care.

2. Five things we need every day.

3. A chair on a porch.

As soon as I read the prompt my brain moves into first gear and I’m off. By the time I reach the office I have an idea. By the time I get home it is almost in place, or if my boss has left, it is already on the page at wordcounter.net and ready to be pasted and posted before I leave work. But shhhh…

I hope you enjoy these little snippets of fiction which strangely seem to come from somewhere beyond my normal brain cells.

Blue Moon

She never knew which one to choose. She owned dozens, all lined up in neat, colourful rows inside a shiny, purple box.

Their names were so extravagant – Mayfair Lane, Undercover Show, Pussycat was Here.

She settled for Misty Jade, a colour from the depths of the Caribbean sea.

Slowly stroking the brush onto her short, brittle nails, she dreamt of an island, with warmer climes, where she wouldn’t have to work so hard.

A place where she could paint her nails, lie back and idly watch them dry, every single day. Not just once in a pale blue moon.

S.L.E.E.P.

Heather pulled the pink woollen hat over Emily’s curls.

“What do you need to do at school today?”

“Sleep!”

Emily knew their routine by heart. “Smile. Laugh. Enjoy… I can never say the fourth one.”

“Empathise.”

“Yeah, that. And play.”

“Right.”

Heather prayed hard that her daughter would taste these five ingredients every day of her life, both now and later.

The yellow bus arrived and Emily skipped aboard, grinning at the driver. She turned to wave.

“Sleep well, my petal-face.”

“You too, Mummy. You must try hard too.”

Heather smiled. It was a start. A very good start.

No Goodbye

It was the most beautiful armchair in the whole house. Carefully crafted from a thick coppery leather, it had softened and smoothed since it had left the shop all those years ago.

A faded, red, feather-filled cushion sat far back into its spine, rubbed shiny where her body had pressed hard against it every day, for as long as they could all remember.
They would have loved to drop wearily into its comforting warmth, but it had sat empty for months, ever since she had slipped slowly from its embrace onto the cool porch floor, without even saying goodbye.

P.S. Why not give flash a try? Then we could be junkies together…😉


Image courtesy of notintherulebook

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Winner of Flash Fiction Contest #4

Remember the Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest I entered in October? Well, I just have to let you know (in spite of the fact that I hate bragging) that one of the judges chose my story ‘Linea Nigra’ to be her equal second favourite. Holy McZoly!

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

Scars

By Irene Waters

During October, the Rodeo, which was the brain child of Charli Mills from Carrot Ranch, gave us a wonderful opportunity to put ourselves outside our comfort zones by writing different forms and genres. Personally, I found it difficult, challenging but always fun and judging by the number of repeat entries, so did many others.

It was a pleasure to lead the fourth contest and come up with a topic and judging criteria. The topic – Scars – was inspired by a quote by Stephen King – whose book on writing should be read, I believe, by all aspiring writers. He wrote “Writers remember everything … especially the hurts. Strip a writer to the buff, point to the scars, and he’ll tell you the story of each small one. From the big ones you get novels. A little talent is a nice thing to have if you…

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Sweet Sunday

Fire’s on. TV’s on. Feet are up on the coffee table. The poor girl in ‘Don’t tell the Bride’ is going to hate what he’s preparing for her.

And even if I am loving this moment there are still two things missing.

The family. Hubby’s marathoning. Big daughter is in her tiny flat, in her university city, studying, I think. And her wee blister is at her boyfriend’s parents’ home for lunch, undoubtedly showing them how lovely and well brought up she is.

So there’s only me and the cats at home. Weird.

Even weirder was my singleton’s Sunday lunch. This is usually a big affair à la française, with a starter, then painstakingly prepared main course, wide variety of cheeses, and an amazingly special dessert. The girls rush from wherever they may have been partying the night before to be here on time. We use the fancy tablecloth with the fancy matching napkins. We sit for ages around the table, chatting and eating and drinking wine. Our Sunday lunch is sacré.

Not today, my friends. Pizza and sweets. That was it. Oh, I nearly forgot the hummus spooned directly from the tub into my mouth as I stood waiting for the oven to heat up.

I’m still scoffing the sweets as I type. Silly, childish, jellified things, hand-picked by the torn-face boulangère at the end of the street who I imagine assumed they were for my children. Or did she think grandchildren? Bitch.

But you know what? I quite enjoyed it. I wouldn’t want it every week. I’m feeling a bit stuffed with saturated fat and highly refined sugar. And I missed the chat from the bunch. But frankly, getting the Sunday lunch shift off now and again is quite a sweet treat.

Yummy, yummy in my tummy. Aren’t these the cutest little things? That penguin was delicious.

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In training…

Heavens to Murgatroyd, I’ve been absent from this space for over two weeks. That’s the equivalent of two years in blog-time.

And no, I haven’t been swimming in the Caribbean, nor skiing in the Alps. I haven’t been sent on a mission to teach dressage to Peruvian horses, or break dancing to circus poodles in Japan.

I’ve just been doing bits and bobs, dribs and drabs of this and that, willy-nilly, here and there.

And above all I’ve been hesitating. For the first time since this little bloggie was set up last year I have been humming and hawing. And not because I have nothing to write about. I have a list of almost fifty topics scribbled onto the notes page of my pet iPad.

But for once I have started to overthink this blogging affair and have been wondering what may actually interest my followers. In the old days there were only my parents, sister and daughters to think about. Now I have new readers. Ones I know only virtually, others whom I don’t know at all. How did they find me and why are they following me is one of the topics on that list.

The more I hummed and the more I hawed, the more I realised that in fact there is absolutely nothing of any interest to anyone who reads this (except my mum who likes to know what I’m up to). There are no parenting tips, no recipes, no writing advice, no contests, no book or film reviews. I could certainly try and give you some but I can’t guarantee the result.

So I apologise wholeheartedly to anyone who may be looking for those sort of topics. Maybe you should go and look elsewhere.

What the last couple of weeks away have taught me however, is that this space is in fact just a practise ground. A running track, an indoor bike, a rowing machine, a place to hit golf ball after golf ball into a big sprawling net.

In other words this is where I am training for my own personal Olympics. They are coming soon I swear. And they will be taking place right up there inside my box-filled attic of a brain. When I’m fit and ready I will go up there and start sifting through the boxes, one word at a time. Sorting and scribbling until I finally come up with something that is more than just a silly blog post which gives my family a quick chuckle.

Yes, I’m talking about the B word. What I’m working up to, what all this blogging business is about. An interesting, amusing, readable, lovable BOOK.

In the meantime, bear with me, try to remember the aim of my game, ignore the smell of stale sweat, and most importantly just look at the muscles I’m getting on these two typing fingers.

Photo courtesy of Metro.

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On the buses

Remember, remember the month of November. It has different connotations for us all.

Movember is moustache month for the guys (which reminds me that I really need to do something about my own dark stubble). They have a month to let their hairy lips raise awareness for men’s health issues.

NaNoWriMo is the National Novel Writing Month of November when highly motivated and prolific writers spend every waking hour writing a complete novel in just thirty days. No, of course I’m not participating in that. Are you crazy?

For me this is Busmo, or Mobus, or maybe even Nobus. Name it as you wish. This is the month when I, oh priviliged, spoilt brat of a woman, have to take the bus to work.

How come? Because the thousand-place free car park beside my office is otherwise occupied. It has transformed itself into a gigantic, shiny, noisy, candy-floss-flavoured fairground. And since I have no intention of fighting with the other nine hundred and ninety-nine car owners for the twenty spaces which remain in town, I went and bought myself a bus pass and have started to discover what life is like on the other side of the road.

Life is stressful and snappy and sad and smelly. I am no longer an independent driver but a fully dependent passenger. Decisions on when to leave and the choice to dilly or to dally are no longer mine to make. The clock dictates my every move.

It rushes me from the breakfast table to slap on my warpaint and run out the door. It makes me gobble my lunch in five minutes flat. It forces me to harass my colleagues and shove them away without a final loo-stop.

I’m a pain at home and a pain at work. Everything I do is timed by the little numbers ticking loudly inside my head. If I miss that one I’ll be late for work. If I miss this one I’ll get home at nine.

And the journey itself is worse. Nobody smiles. Nobody laughs. Everyone stares straight ahead, with the same sad look set hard into their face. It screams – don’t look at me, don’t talk to me, don’t dare give me the hint of a grin! Phones are scrutinised. Bags are placed on empty seats as protection against the unwelcome neighbour. Dirty clad feet are set upon the bright green velvet of the chair across the way. They speak loudly too, those feet. Bugger off, they say.

Three more weeks to go until the fair is over. Then another week to clean up the sticky, oily mess. Will it be enough to stop looking at my watch, stop sprinting out the door, stop sighing at the bus stop when the headlights don’t appear? Will I have time to get a smile, a nod, a quick ‘Bonjour’? Will I ever manage to teach the other passengers a quick Michael Jackson song or a dance as we all weave our lonely way home? Or will I need to do this every day for many years to finally accept the sadness and stress of a trip on the buses?



Photo courtesy of street.nm

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