ABOUT ME

My photo
Morecambe, Lancashire, United Kingdom
In the mornings I’m a Nursery Cook, the rest of the time a Writer. Been writing for decades: short stories, plays, poems, a sitcom and more recently flash fiction, Creative Writing MA at Lancaster Uni and now several novels. Been placed in competitions (Woman’s Own, Greenacre Writers and flashtagmanchester) and shortlisted in others (Fish, Calderdale, Short Fiction Journal). I won the Calderdale Prize 2011, was runner-up in the Ink Tears Flash Fiction Comp & won the Greenacre Writer Short Story Comp 2013. I have stories in Jawbreakers, Eating My Words, Flash Dogs Anthologies 1-3, 100 RPM and the Stories for Homes anthology. My work’s often described as ‘sweet’ but there’s usually something darker and more sinister beneath the sweetness. I love magical realism and a comedy-tragedy combination. My first novel, Queen of the World, is about a woman who believes she can influence the weather. I’m currently working on a 3rd: Priscilla Parker Reluctant Celebrity Chef. Originally from West Midlands, I love living by the sea in Morecambe, swimming, cycling, theatre, books, food, weather, sitcoms and LBBNML … SQUEEZE!

Monday, 24 April 2017

Priscilla Parker Reluctant Celebrity Chef & Reading in a Pulp Idol Heat




On Saturday 22nd April, I competed in the Pulp Idol heats in Liverpool. Six trains and out of the flat for ten hours to read for three minutes. Madness!?
Pulp Idol is part of Writing on the Wall Festival. In the heats you read the first three minutes of your first chapter and answer a couple of questions. There were thirteen people in my heat and only two were chosen. Despite not making it into the final I, as usual, really enjoyed reading and think I did well. I answered the judges questions, trying not to waffle.
Then I went back to my seat wishing I HAD waffled. There is so much to say about the story within this novel. It is a comedy so unlikely to be taken seriously. One of the judges said the dialogue was good and she could see it as a stage play. I gave up on writing plays a few years back! Oh well ... onwards and upwards. 
 
 
Priscilla Parker Reluctant Celebrity Chef
 
Fifty Word Synopsis
(Fifty words? That's what they wanted for the application. SO. HARD.)
Priscilla Parker’s accidently become a celebrity chef thanks to her TV producer husband. Her story’s interspersed with 'price of fame’ rants, as Priscilla tells of filming shows about UK food producers, searching for her missing daughter, cooking on camera, meeting a stalker, having 2.7 million Twitter followers & nearly drowning.

First Three Minutes of My First Chapter
 
The Cake that Wasn’t a Cake


‘Action!’

‘Five stunning wedding cakes. Traditional, quirky, themed, naked and – last but by no means least - savoury. Looking forward that one, I can tell you.’

No, I don’t know why I added ‘I can tell you.’ Completely pointless. In the script.

I had to walk along the row of wedding cakes, set up on an elaborate stands in the bunting strewn, flower entwined tent. Each cake was covered with a length of fabric. This first piece to camera was just a taster of what was to come. We had to keep the viewers interested, Aaron always said. This meant endless recapping, pauses and reveals. We were constantly covering the same ground from slightly different angles. Tedious. It meant the programmes were slower than I’d have liked. ‘We have to think about Joe Public’, Aaron would say. Personally I thought Joe Public could cope with something a bit faster, and less repetitive. 

It was never my intention to become one of Britain’s most popular TV chefs. Or to be on television at all. I always said I didn’t want to be on it because I liked watching it. And I was right, having since experienced the horror of falling asleep in front of a nice comedy show only to wake to see a Priscilla from fifteen years ago banging on about dumplings while wearing a weird scarf and with a hairstyle I have no memory of ever having.

It was gorgeous summer day in the grounds of a country house in Hampshire. Intensely blue sky. Lime green lawns. Immaculate flower beds. We were filming the final show of the eight part Priscilla’s Parties. I’d quite enjoyed the others. Halloween was loads of fun and the informal dinner party would no doubt be a huge hit with the viewers. Affordable and achievable for all.

‘Here’s the first one. The traditional.’

            I pulled the pink silk cover off with a flourish. The thin fabric flew up in the air and fell, wrapping itself round my arm as it landed. Couldn’t have done it again if I tried.

‘Cut!’

‘What?’

‘We’ll take that again, Priscilla.’

‘But I could’ve unwound it as I talked about the cake.’

‘No. We’ll go again. This time try and make it land away from you. If you can sort of fling it behind you so it’s out of the way of the reveal. Okay?’

‘Okay.’

The second time it behaved itself and landed delicately on the floor behind me and the cake.

‘Ta-dah!’ I held my arms around the cake, trying to look awed by its beauty.

Yes, ‘Ta-dah!’ is a stupid thing to say. It was in the script. I knew if I left it out I’d have to retake.

‘Very traditional. Snow white. Five tiers. Rich fruit cake soaked in brandy, layer of marzipan, two layers royal icing. Immaculate piping around the edges. Someone must have an extremely steady hand. Tiny impossibly neat sugar flowers in varying shades of pink with such delicate leaves. And finally …’

The word hideous was bouncing around my brain desperately trying to get out.

‘ … the bride and groom in all their glory beneath a white bower. How lovely!’

Really hideous.

Such a smug faced bride and groom. I hated them and I hated the cake. There were pictures in my head of my own wedding cake and indeed my own wedding day. I couldn’t look at Aaron. I glanced across at the little crowd that had gathered. Various people from the house had come out to watch. I’d spotted the gardener weeding a border as soon as I arrived but now I treated him to a little smile. He blushed and bobbed his head down. Late twenties. Maybe a decade or so younger than me; at that time I was thirty-nine. Shy smile. Tall and thin. Nice. Fit, if you like.
I moved on to reveal the second cake. Pulling off the cover went smoothly. What can I say? I’m a professional. Or at least I was doing a bloody good job of pretending, while inwardly seething about my husband’s affair. I deserved an Oscar for my performance that day, up to the part where I flipped.
***
In the event I only got as far as treating the gardener to a little smile before my three minutes were up. Some people carried on but I just stopped. I must have read slightly slower than in my many rehearsals, which pleases me in a way as I means I wasn't babbling fast to get it over with. After hours on tenterhooks your reading opportunity is over in a flash.

Then you think 'never again' and 'why do I DO these things?' and, after a good night's sleep you think 'I might enter again next year' and ...

... 'I think I'll put my name down for that open mic in May.'

 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 

Saturday, 1 April 2017

THE IMPOSSIBLE THING: SAL’S TIPS PART 2


Sixty-Three pound off. Fifty-seven to go.

Or ... Four & a half stone off. Four stone one pound to go.

I don't do kilos.


Can Resist/Can’t Resist: CRISPS!

Your first line of defence is the supermarket. I finally learnt I can’t buy six packs of crisps. Or large bags. When it comes to me and crisps there’s no such time as later. But my crisps rule has become THE LAW. Shop with your conscious head on. In the supermarket, I choose my two small bags of crisps at the sandwich section as I start my shop. They act my talisman as I brave all the other aisles. It’s amazing; there are new brands out that I haven’t even tried. If they don’t come in a small bag I can’t have them. Simple as that! The rest of the time I keep my crisps in the Londis and they don’t even mind when I refuse the bogoffs and the three for a pounds. Crisps also come after work and after exercise. My days of buying a bag or two from the Spar on my way in are over and that's fine. 

Every time I shop I think about what I can and can’t resist. I’ve made mistakes but try to learn from them. It’s not always about whether a particular food is healthy/unhealthy, high in fat/low in fat it’s more to do with can you keep a pack or jar and only eat one modest portion at a time. My example would be mayonnaise. I like it but I can keep a small jar in the fridge for weeks without getting a sundae spoon and guzzling the lot. Well ... some folk might! On the other hand if I bought a pack of butter I could polish it off in a couple of days, having lots of extra crackers, bread & toast in the process.

Apologies to those who have to buy food for others in their household. In this respect, I’m lucky in living alone. On the other hand, there’s no one here to say ‘You’re not going to eat all THAT, are you?’ and no one to be/stay healthy for. As I said in part 1, advantages and disadvantages, swings and roundabouts. And I do cook for children at work. Roast potatoes for seventy. Massive amounts of cheese grated from a 5kg block, USUALLY without eating any. If I think I'm in danger I have chewing gum while I grate. Cheddar & spearmint is just wrong. 


Get Angry

Not with yourself. Not even with the food. With food manufacturers and supermarkets who want you to eat loads. They have their sneaky ways. Sharing packs and grab bags in the front of every shop. They don’t care if a 'family bag' is eaten in five minutes by someone so fat they can’t get out of bed. They just want your money. But really I’m referring to getting angry with The Impossible Thing itself. Take that! I’ll show you, ya bastard. You won’t beat me, not this time. I am stronger than you!

That sort of thing ...


Noticing Change

If you’ve gone down three jeans sizes then of course you’re smaller. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself. Sometimes I can see it, sometimes I can’t. It’s almost like body dysmorphia. I think the brain, bless its clever little grey-matteryness, needs a bit of time to catch up. I hardly noticed my weight loss of thirty years ago or at least I only have one memory of noticing it; that of trying on size 16 jeans. Will that day come again?

This time I’m making a conscious effort to notice change. Got to confess I look in a lot of mirrors and shop windows. Not car windows as they seem to make everyone shorter and fatter. Re-watching my reading videos on youtube from 2012 the other day gave me a shock and it was only about face, neck and shoulders. Once you’ve lost a couple of stone have a look at some old photos. I have a ring I found in my aunt’s house after she died in 2010 that only fitted my little finger but now miraculously fits my ring finger. I had no idea I'd lost weight off my fingers or even that you could. Keep trying to see it in any way you can.

And the changes you get that are as much from exercise as weight loss are even more fascinating. Is that a bone? Is that muscle? What the hell’s that? I think it’s a tendon. I had no idea I even HAD tendons. I may even have ribs. Amazing! And that's my body. As my fitness guru extraordinaire says ‘the body adapts’ So true.

As for other’s noticing, I’ve been lucky so far with the majority of comments being positive, though I was told I’d lost enough after about two stone and had to do some fast talking. 

'I'm a size twenty two now. What size do you think I COULD be? Sixteen? Right. There you go then.'

It may only be a matter of time before someone tells me I look old and tired. I suppose you do begin to look your age a bit more. Its really just that we all have to get used it, me and other people, and this is another good reason for doing it slowly.

 
The Five Percent

Most of us will have heard that 95% of people who lose weight put it back on again and then some. This fact could be used as an excuse. There are many reasons why the 95% fail but ... why can’t I be in the 5%? My fitness guru extraordinaire is in this 5% & has been for some time. I sometimes think about my plan for maintenance. I've even recently thought about going further than my top-of-the-ideal-weight-range target. But I don't really know how hard its going to get. I am prepared to swim more and take longer. Eating less might be more tricky and the words 'Don't get too cocky, Sal.' are springing to mind.


Keep Going

Regardless of the result you’re seeing on the scales or in any other way just carry on. You don’t have to be perfect. Treat yourself occasionally. A planned treat. I go for chips or something with butter I can have in a cafĂ© or restaurant (See can/can’t resist.) I simply cannot be trusted with a pack of butter any bigger than 10g.

Learn these things about yourself. Accept them. Use them. A time when you feel you’re getting nowhere will happen but ignore it and keep going. Keep those habits in place. Don’t let the old ones back in. Don’t give in to feelings of this-is-too-hard-I-might-as-well-give-up. Over last November/December I struggled and only lost a few pounds but I just kept going regardless.

 

Just Keep Swimming
(My half-way non-food treat)

And that’s what I continue to do.

It may take another two years or more. Will I ever be walking around still ME - still SAL - but not fat? What on earth will that be like? Will I suddenly fall over? Will I get my head around it? Is it exciting or scary or both? I can barely imagine it.

Impossible, surely? We’ll see …

Sal

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

THE IMPOSSIBLE THING: SAL’S TIPS PART 1


Can’t believe I’m doing this but … I’ve lost 61 pounds … I’m entitled.

Why Now?

We all need a good reason. I’ve tried to work out what mine were.

a) Turning fifty. Yes, I’ve also turned thirty (too busy to have a crisis!) and forty (trying to stay sane in a horrible, horrible job) so here I am. In a good place. Morecambe! I find myself living a mile and a half from a sea view pool and with nine miles of promenade and a designated cycle path to Lancaster (where I work in a much less horrible job). When I moved here I had no plans for swimming/cycling. Is this the universe speaking?

b) Having a friend - my fitness guru extraordinaire - who's shown me (NB. NOT told me, would’ve been a big mistake, SHOWN me) how she does lots of exercise in order to be able to eat more and stay slim. That day after the Squeeze concert in October ’15 when I was swimming, I could see her from the pool, running three and a half miles on a treadmill because she’d eaten that big pizza. (I had a big pizza too!) That was the moment. Coupled with thinking ‘I LOVE swimming. Why on earth don’t I do it more often?’

c) I practiced acceptance for decades. Then, through two things I achieved earlier that year – giving up my Coke drinking to reduce my headaches & making an effort to look after my ‘kitchen hands’ better by use of gloves and copious amounts of Savlon – I realised I don’t have to suffer stuff like that so began to think ‘what next?’

d) The realisation that I've used my determination, stubbornness and, dare I say it?, intelligence to do a variety of things over the years (Eg. Two degrees, being good at my job (& leaving the horrible, horrible one), moving to a different part of the country, buying a flat ... go on, have a think, look back and acknowledge your own!) so WHY NOT THIS ONE?

 Your Own Rules

We’re all different. We all have advantages and disadvantages. We could all make excuses or say someone else has it easier. Stop all that right now. How you decide to do it is dependent on you. Make your plan (a vague one to start with is fine) based on your job, lifestyle, home situation, what exercise you can do, favourite foods, best times to eat, etc …

 Start

Beginning anything is hard. Do it gradually. Don’t launch yourself into a strict diet and gruelling fitness regime straight away. Or even at all. What are the foods you eat loads of that are high fat or high sugar? Make some rules about rationing them. (I began with Sal’s Crisps Rule) Don’t give them up altogether. If you have a lot to lose don’t fall into the trap of thinking it’s pointless because what difference does one more of anything make? You’re starting and you can build on that. Don’t change to lots of foods you wouldn’t normally eat. You’re starting something you want to be able to carry on. Choose smaller. Choose less. Choose to stop when you feel full. Choose to wait until later. Choose that but not that and that as well.

If you have a moment where you want to eat everything in sight, stop & think. Can I ride this out? I’ve done this a few times and it really does reinforce the belief that you can and will do it again … AND your kitchen cupboards get a good tidy out. I have to confess I cried twice last year. Once when Victoria Wood died and again when I really wanted a big tube of Texas BBQ Pringles but didn’t want to break my crisps rule (No, I wasn’t in the shop!) Or, if I can’t ride it out, do I give into it in a planned way? Then, congratulate yourself for not going as far as you might once have done. Calmly stick to your rules and they will become habits. Unbreakable, possible, sustainable habits.

 Slow

I made the decision to aim to lose a pound a week. So what if someone with over eight stone to lose should be losing more. My rules. Besides, if you lose a pound a week for a year you’ll have lost 3 stone 10lb and that’s a noticeable amount on anyone. In my first year I lost 3 stone 4lb. Good enough. I decided to do this because, having stayed the same weight for decades, I realised I just needed to tip the balance slightly; bit more exercise, bit less of certain foods.

I remember at the slimming club all those years ago hearing the words ‘only a pound this week’ over and over. So what? It adds up. This not a quick fix, it’s a sustainable lifestyle change. I really wanted to avoid the ups and downs. Putting on weight you’ve already lost then trying to lose it again is very disheartening and some say it messes up your metabolism, making it harder and harder to lose. It took me till the age of fifty to realise it but a calm relaxed approach is good. And my plan for when I get closer to my target is not to go much stricter food-wise but to take longer for each pound. So what if I take two, three, even four weeks for each one? My rules. Slow.

 Exercise

I like eating too much to be able to do this without exercise and I’m lucky to have chosen something I actually enjoy. I don’t want to do classes or have a programme. I hate being told what to do. I like to be on my own, doing my own thing.

Just keep doing a bit extra. Push yourself. Walk up hills, marvelling at how it’s getting easier. And exercise isn’t just to burn calories. You’re making your heart and lungs healthier, building muscle, lifting your mood, feeling in control and getting out and about for fresh air and vitamin D. One other thing I didn’t for foresee; swimming and cycling have made me feel better about taking my place. I used to walk on the prom or be in town and think I was in the way of more important folk. But now … I need this lane because I have to swim a hundred lengths and … ding-ding, I need you to get out of my way because I’m cycling and your walking. This is the done thing on the promenade and when they turn you can smile and say thank you and feel rather important in the process.

I’m now getting up at 5.30am weekdays and doing ten minutes of weights/floor exercises. If you are losing a lot you need to get some muscle under your skin. Clothes that feel the part (no one will see me in that sports bra and leggings!) and the ipod shuffling help me. I hated it to begin with but now think it’s a good way to wake up.

And, after yet another swim, cycle or exercise session I say to myself ‘You did it. You said you were going to and you did it’, reinforcing the belief I’ll do it again. And again … And again ... And again …
 
That’s it for now. Look out for part 2 coming soon, which includes 'Noticing Change' so I'll just put these photos here ...

July 2015
Photo by Stella Turner

July 2016
After losing two & a half stone
Photo by Stella Turner
 
 
...
 
 
July 2017
'Stella! Will you take my picture?' (five stone off???)

 

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

TWO TON TESSIE AND THE IMPOSSIBLE THING: HALFWAY


The Impossible Thing is ‘to find out what it’s like to not be fat’, something that, as an adult, I’ve no experience of. I didn’t want, nearly 18 months ago, to say ‘I’m going to lose 8 stone & 8 pounds’. It would’ve been, for those who’ve not met me in real life, a big fat arrow above my head with ‘And that’s how fat I am!’ emblazoned across it in embarrassingly sparkly letters. And a lot of pressure.

I worked out this amount based on a target of one pound under the top of the ideal weight range for my height/age. The pound under is to make it a grand total of 120 lbs, an easy figure to divide into stages.

So I’m halfway. Sixty pounds lost and - strange new meaning of the word - ‘only’ another sixty to lose. They’ll be harder of course. Impossible? Only time will tell.

I've been eating less but I'm not on a diet. I've learnt over the years I can't stick to them and when you stop you go a bit mad. I refuse to go to bed hungry. I've eaten a lot less of certain things over the past year & a half though. Less crisps, chips, cheese, chocolate ... & maybe some other things that don't begin with a C.

At the end of October 2015, I joined the health club, committing to swim at least nine times a month. Nine is the magic get-my-monies-worth number. I’ve now been swimming for seventeen months. Nine thousand lengths in the first year alone. In July I started cycling. Buying Brenda, my bicycle, was the highlight of 2016 for me. I began the year with no clue I’d be cycling again after 30-plus years and I absolutely love it. It only really feels like exercise when I go uphill.

 
 
Brenda

 

 Welsh Chippies

At the age of 17/18, I lost 4 stone through a slimming club. The woman who ran it became obsessed with me being her ‘Slimmer of the Year’. She told me about someone my height who’d ended up a size eight. ‘She wasn’t big boned after all!’ What a thing to say to a 6 feet tall teenager who arrived at a size 24 and still had stones to go.

There was no such thing as an interim target or a suggestion it was fine to get partway and work out how to maintain. Just a lot of meat. As much as you wanted. (A decade later I stopped eating meat altogether.) I got to within 3 stone of my too-strict target, went on holiday to Wales and put on 11 lbs in 10 days. Not sure I could manage that now and don’t want to try. Those Welsh chippies are good. This is what happens if you deprive yourself too much. Falling off the wagon onto a massive greasy chip butty. What a way to go!

But that was all a long time ago. And this next bit is even further back.

 

Two Ton Tessie

Okay. This is hard but here goes.

A list of names I got called at senior school, 1977-82:

1)      Fatty

2)      Big Bertha

3)      Tank

4)      Two Ton Tessie

5)      (As I walked into a room) ‘There’s a total eclipse of the sun.’ Also an occasional mention of tidal waves as I got into the pool.

6)      Hey Fatty Boom Boom (Sung of course. Only that part of the song. The rest is too … er … affectionate?)

(It’s all right. Feel free to laugh at any time.)

7)      Explosion noises to accompany each step I walked. (Do you stop walking or walk away?)

8)      A reaction as if I was about to go for them, possibly hit them. Running off/protecting themselves from the wrath of the scary giant girl.

 
1979. Sierra Nevada, Spain. The giant scary girl.
(That figure in the background is a long way off ...)
 
But I wasn’t angry and I never wanted to hit anyone. I was … EMBARRASSED & ASHAMED.

This kind of thing happened regularly. I hated going from lesson to lesson, the time it mostly happened. All boys of course. Perfect boys. They weren’t greasy-haired, spotty, lanky or ugly in anyway. Oh no. They were perfect.

Now of course you can google stuff you don’t understand but I couldn’t possibly have asked my parents what numbers 2) & 4) meant. It had to be kept secret. I was deeply, deeply ashamed. I mean, who’s fault was it they were calling me these names? Mine of course. How embarrassing. At one stage, I can remember making a conscious decision, at break times, to find the quietest place I could and sit completely still. Try to be invisible.




 
 
1980. Rhine Valley. That scary giant girl again, bless her.
 

 

1982. At school with one short friend & one skinny one. Three flicks!

 
          I’ve recently – finally – googled. Big Bertha is a weapon. Nice. Did they know this? Where did they get their information? Why do I still know nothing? Perhaps their parents had a book of ‘Names to Call Fat Folk’? If there's a book full I guess I got off lightly. Should I google?

And I found clips of Tessie O’Shea. Not sure about the massive shiny dresses, the fact she gave herself that name (or did she?) and sang about her double chins but I think I’d rather be her. She’s just a large jolly singing lady. I like her!

Better than being something used in warfare.


 
Tessie O'Shea - 'Two Ton Tessie'

Clothes

I have to admit to having a bit of girly streak when it comes to clothes. In November '15 I was walking to the pool (Walking. BB. Before Brenda) on a cold dark Sunday at 6.30am entertaining a fantasy about buying size 20 jeans. Now, I'm not saying everything you imagine comes true (My first novel was never made into a TV drama starring Christopher Eccleston, for example.) but 11 months later, I got there. I’ve packed away many of my size 26’s (will I need them again?) and brought a few new things along the way. Going into Monsoon (a shop I could never buy clothes from before) and buying jeans and a top really shouldn’t be as thrilling as I found it.

Waiting for my train home, I walked around Grand Central Station in Birmingham with my precious Monsoon bag and the words ‘size 20 jeans, size 20 jeans, size 20 jeans’ chanting in my head. Laughable when most women would think such a size was unheard-of-ly massive but for me an achievement. I have four items I’ve acquired, from charity shops or on sale, now hanging in my wardrobe that don’t fit but will. Impossible? We’ll see.
 
***

I plan to blog again soon with my tips. Ha! Me doing weight loss/fitness tips? How ridiculous!

Sal

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

'My Ladies' and the Poised Pen Another Place Competition


This is the flash I got a 'highly commended' for in the Poised Pen Another Place competition.
First, the picture prompt ...
 

Photo by AJ Walker
 
 
 
My Ladies
 
 
He watches himself at the water’s edge. The sky’s heavy, the grey blanket sea breathing at his feet. Standing upright feels like too much effort. It would be easy to sink beneath the damp sand or be swept out to sea on the tide.
Tim observes himself from a distance these days. It’s easier. Safer. It wasn’t worth going anywhere or talking to anyone. He always messed up. He lives mainly in his head. Free. Protected from embarrassment.
Mum says he made friends easily as a child. There’s a photo of him in her album. Early eighties. Three year old Tim on the promenade hand in hand with two teenaged girls. Sisters who stayed for a week.
‘They fell for my little Timmy. You called them ‘my ladies’. You cried when they went home.’
Of course Tim didn’t remember. He stares hard at the photo, willing himself there again. The girls are laughing. Big hair, leggings, fluorescent lime green and orange tops, fingerless gloves. Tim’s in shorts and stripy t-shirt, swinging between them with an expression of pure delight. Carefree and happy.
Within a decade he’d found himself unable to look at or talk to the guests. Mum would push him into the dining room with a teapot, a loaded toast rack and a prompt. He would mumble, making a fool of him
 
He watches a ship pass, experiencing a surge of anger towards the folk on board, folk who always said and did the right thing, who talked, laughed, lived, made love, did everything casually without thought.
There’s another vessel close by. A dingy with two women in. One of them gives a cheery wave. Tim sees himself turn.
No! What if they aren’t waving at him?
But there’s no one else on the beach.
They’re giggling and calling out words he can’t catch. He stares at them. They’re alike, mid-forties maybe.
They are waving at him.
Could they really be back after all these years? How did they recognise him?
He watches himself run into the water to greet them and, without giving it a moment’s thought, follows.
 
 


My certificate!
 
 
Me reading 'My Ladies' at the Poised Pen event on Friday 4th December. I also read 'Hot and Sweet', 'Tiswas' and 'To Do List' in the open mic. Thanks to judge Nik Perring for choosing my flash, to AJ Walker for the photos and to the Poised Pen Writers Group for the competition and the reading opportunity ...
 
Photo by AJ Walker
 

Monday, 7 December 2015

Sal’s One Off Just for Fun (with mystery prize) 50th Birthday Flash Competition : The Results


First of all, a massive thank you to all who entered. Never imagined I’d get as many as twenty-three entries.

More thanks go to Faith Cobaine, who supplied the photograph and the inspiration, and to Stella Turner for keeping me informed of progress, posting the flashes for those who couldn’t and for sending me them to judge.

The Masterpiece by Cathy Lennon has been removed from the competition, due to me being lucky enough to hear her read it on the 14th November at the Write Now story slam in Chorley. She won that competition, reading a slightly longer version of The Masterpiece in the final and receiving a cash prize.

It was hard to decide on my shortlist of seven – I found things to like and admire in all the entries - and even harder to pick the final order. All seven will be mentioned here.


Special mention for ‘Shakespearean Sonnet for a Seaside Statue’ by Sue Denim (No Twitter name. Who is this?)

 On the one hand, this is not a flash, on the other hand, I’ve tried and failed at writing a sonnet in the past so I take my hat off to the author. It looks and feels authentic, though I’m no Shakespeare expert. I like the Eric statue in a way I never did like Morecambe & Wise themselves (preferred The Two Ronnies). I see the statue as a separate character, the one who was left just as a foot when someone tried to steal him, the one folk ask for as a stop on the bus and the character I put in my story ‘Eric’s Grand Day Off’, seeing the light very soon.

So I recognise the references in this, which are built into our culture like words running through a stick of rock. It’s cleverly done. I particularly enjoyed the lines …

‘The notes that sounded when a tune thou played

Were all correct, thou said, but might belong

In some order more fittingly arrayed.’
 

Eric and Stella
 
 

Eric's Foot
 
 

 
Special mention for Mum by Ed Broom

For most original take on the prompt. Of course that’s a municipal Christmas tree! For being funny and for a character who's a very tall woman. Wondering what size feet she has. But she is ‘amazing’ and has totally shown Ryan’s doubting friends.
 
Honourable Mention for Soul Mates by @firdausp
 This is lovely. The idea of hearing your shadow’s smile as ‘a little swish of the lips’ and of it ‘pooling around my feet’. This shadow is perfect, ‘more fluid and graceful’ than its owner, if that’s the right word. The ending is very touching, the shadow ‘spooning me from behind, a reminder that I’m never alone’, and yet, it seems this character is.
  
Honourable Mention for Woman at Work by Liz Hedgecock
Not always keen on writers in stories but this works rather well. It uses the prompt so effectively and I love the idea of an umbrella being this woman’s – and everybody’s – work.
 
In Third Place … Squeeze Me I’m Yours by FE Clarke
 A flash made up of THIRTY TWO (tell me I’ve got that right!) Squeeze songs is really quite something. Talk about writing for the judge. Because I THINK I may have mentioned Squeeze on Twitter recently. Once or twice. This gets its placing for the research that's clearly been done, (though if I was being Miss Picky I’d say its Last Time Forever not Last Thing Forever), for the utter cheek of it (most of these words were written years ago by Chris Difford), and for ‘Where is my black coffee in bed, labelled with love; where is my slap and tickle?’, which is where I began to laugh out loud.
 
 
Me and Squeeze and Slap and Tickle and now a Squeeze flash ... who knew?
 
In Second Place … The Feel of Rain by Voima Oy
 Lovely take on the prompt, with the double meaning of the title. The character comes across brilliantly. Great idea to make her a private detective. The second person point of view works well, like an imaginary conversation with someone you’re watching but can’t show yourself to. Suggestions of backstory though we never find out why she left him.
 
In First Place … Me and My Shadow by Jacki Donnelan
 An original take on the prompt, beautifully written without a single wasted word. I love the concept of sending your ‘bold and poster-sized’ shadow out on a’ first date in real life’ then becoming jealous, changing your mind and lashing out at her and her ‘charcoal perfection’. The denouement is fantastic, as we are left wondering at the nature of that final gasp, pondering what happens next.
 

Thank you all once again. I am in awe of people who run a comp every week. I know I couldn’t and don’t want to. Just remember, without the three recently lost comps, you can all find flash (and short story and novel) fodder wherever you look. You can write it and submit or enter in any one of a number of comps, possibly winning money and the glory. Many of you can write in genres I cannot begin to understand. Speculative, fantasy, sci-fi and steam punk, whatever that is. Some of you have a miraculous ability to churn out a first draft of 50k in a single month, while doing all the other things you do. Most of you are there congratulating the moment anyone wins something, a thing I struggle to do. And one of you writes and performs very funny poetry, as I discovered recently.
I know it’s good to have short deadlines forced upon you and the instant gratification of comments and placings within a few days and I’ll be the first to admit I have been seduced by this myself in the past couple of years. But flash prompts are EVERYWHERE and YOU have the drive, commitment and ideas to go it alone whenever you have to.
 Good Luck and Enjoy!
 Sal