What Pegman Saw: Ironwood

Image: Google Street View

The Compound was as I’d imagined – clipped lawns, blocky redbrick buildings, rows of undernourished Ironwood trees lining cobbled paths. Everything beautifully neat and clean, conscientiously scrubbed of personality.

It was hard to imagine Fiona teaching there. Her rooms at Oxford had been a cave of crumbling books on every subject from alchemy to growing bonsai trees, archaic scientific instruments, fossils – there had even been a stuffed alligator suspended from the ceiling until the porters put in a complaint to the college chancellor.

How could the jigsaw of her personality – the pot smoking, Scotch drinking, jazz playing academic – possibly slot into that sterile institution?

“Hi-ho, stranger!” She pulled me into a bear hug, at once uncomfortable and comforting. “How you doing?” She held me at arms length, examining my face. “Let’s retire to my snug,” she said, threading her arm through mine. “Jim Beam is waiting.”

***

Written for What Pegman Saw, the writing prompt that uses Google Street View. This week we visit Singapore. See here to join the fun.

Notes

The Ironwood tree (Eusideroxylon zwageri) is a rare hardwood tree native to Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines known for its resistance to fungus, insects and bacteria. It’s a tough old devil, in other words and I thought it made a good analogy for Fiona – resistant to change, very much a survivor!

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48 thoughts on “What Pegman Saw: Ironwood

  1. It can be hard for a round (bumpy, fuzzy, eccentric) peg to fit into a perfectly-squared off, well-manicured hole. But it sounds like Fiona has kept her sense of self and hopefully carved out her own funky space in her “snug.” (Love that term, too, is that common?)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I learned about snug bars in Ireland, and had the chance to be invited into one with an older man once and my oldest daughter…they are an add-on to a bar, a more private area for whatever kind of conversation. Loved how Lynn used it here.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You still find them over here occasionally in the older style pubs. I think men often used to go to the public bar and women were tucked away in the more sedate snug. Sounds quite nice!

        Liked by 2 people

    2. Thanks Joy. Yes, not everyone fits into the spaces society makes for us, do they? It’s a brave, confident soul who makes their own way. ‘Snug’ isn’t that common, though it used to be (and sometimes still is) used to refer to a particular section of a pub. Men would go to the public bar, women and people who preferred a less rowdy spot to drink would sit in the snug. Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah, not what I was picturing but now I get it — and I can’t help but want to go there, because as you say, it has such a nice friendly ring to it!

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  2. You’ve written yet another delightful story, Lynn! It has so many merits, but the one that stood out (for me) is the brilliant and subtle use of POV. The use of the phrase “I’d imagined,” right at the start of the story, immediately puts the reader at the focus, so all your great descriptive writing has double the intensity because you’ve taken us there. And how clever to make the reader first person, rather than Fiona, the subject of your story. Absolutely wonderful – I am in awe!

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    1. Ah, Penny! Not sure where to start with your lovely comment – such a glorious thing to read. There are times when I do wonder at my own skill level/ writer’s instinct (I know I could improve on so much!). But a comment like yours gives me heart that I can do write, at least to some extent. Thanks so much again. How’s your novel writing? Good progress?

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  3. Lovely phrasing and imagery in such a small space. Kind of forces the same economy as a poem, dunnit? I like the phrasing in the last line especially, also seems you’re using a lot of red in your last couple pieces. Is that a subliminal desire for autumn leaves, perhaps? πŸ˜€

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    1. Thanks so much Bill. I was working at being economic in my phrasing and description here. Gotta be paring stuff back, I think. Hadn’t noticed the red theme. Probably looking for danger … Thanks Bill πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No, thank you Lynn…nice to see your writing continuing to sharpen and bloom. Perhaps a pruning analogy there, for the florist…?

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  4. the snug sounds so cool and was just reading about Jim Beam – and that had a culture grab that was tasty.
    and never knew of the ironwood tree being resistant to change and infection – which reminds me that Florida palm trees have some type of rice-sized pest that is killing the trees fast – curs of circulation in the tree – hope it works out –

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    1. There seem to be so many tree diseases and pests devastating tree populations. Our horse chestnut trees (a favourite with young kids for centuries for their ‘conker’ seeds and the games you can play with them) are being slowly killed off here. It’s a sad thing to see

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      1. oh I grew up where there was one huge chestnut tree down the road and we loved the “conker” seeds – hope they can recifty the issues

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      1. Hi Lynn. I’m sorry I haven’t been keeping up with things. there have been reasons. I need to catch up with you. How is the serious writing going?
        As for me, I left my gall bladder with a nice surgeon in NDDHospital yesterday. In return he gave me four holes in my belly and a bright blue belly button. I don’t know which of us got the better deal but I’m feeling on top of the world. A few weeks from now I’ll be devouring all of North Devon’s stock of cheese.

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      2. Oh, Jane, poor you! I work with a girl who had hers removed years ago and she feels much better off without it. I do hope that’s the case for you and you recover quickly. Life without cheese is, indeed, a grim prospect :). I hope you’re all well aside from that. As for me, the short story and serial writing is ongoing – The People’s Friend have been and continue to be amazing to work with, just a shame there aren’t more similar magazines to sub to. I’ve sent my novel opening to a handful of agents – 2 rejections so far. If it’s a standard no from everyone, I’ll take another look at it. Just pootling, trying to improve my craft, pick up some tips from a writer’s site I’ve joined – Jericho Writers. Always trying to improve. Hope you’re well, dear Jane. Take good care x

        Liked by 1 person

      3. You’ll get there, I’m confident you will.
        The only thing that bothers me about the op is that there’s this weird etiquette around here; everyone who knew I was having the op and had already had their gall bladder removed – most of my neighbours, it seems – insisted on showing me the scars AND telling me about their hysterectomies, gastric bands, et al. Do I now owe each of them a peak at my bruised and bloated belly, I wonder…

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      4. Kids do it too. I used to feel inadequate when pulled into the scar contest in adolescence. All I had was a tiny mark on my knee from falling off my push-bike. Even now, I’m behind the game. Everyone else around here seems to have more to show. I think I’ve had too healthy a life style to win the cup for the best collection of war-wounds.

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      5. Oh, I think they save some back for that too if the city centre on Saturday night is any indicator! But some of them can persuade Mum and Dad to buy the plants for them, whereas money for the other things might be a tough sell πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

      6. What a pretty plant! I love salvias too. Have loads of them in my garden, but not this one I don’t think. I did grow cleome from seed for the first time this summer. Very pretty flowers, has leaves that look like weed leaves and it smells like it too! Apparently people have been raided cos of the smell. Not in Bristol though – if the police turned up every time someone smelt weed here, they’d never do anything else πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

      7. I was kidding about Salvia Divinorum. It’s a Mexican plant, general acquired for it’s psychoactive properties. I saw the plants for sale at Glastonbury festival, years back when legal highs were mostly plant based..
        The police are no longer interested in weed. I’m told that if a neighbour informs the police (Ha! grasses you up) that you’re growing weed, they still confiscate the plants, but don’t arrest you unless it’s a large batch. However, if they are are called in about an unrelated incident, they ‘don’t see’ the plants, as long as there are three or less. I don’t know if that goes for the whole country or if it’s just in this area. Around here the police prioritise sending the crack dealing gangs back to London and Birmingham. And they know almost as soon as a gang hits the town. Three cheers for our North Devon police!

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      8. Still pretty, though πŸ™‚ I can imagine the police turn a blind eye again and again. The drug is too rife to come down heavily on personal use. At least North Devon police sound like they have crack gangs on their radar. Awful, corrosive drug

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Love a ‘character’, someone larger than life. If been drawn to several myself in real life, especially confident women. Love a ballsy woman πŸ™‚

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  5. What a lovely warm ending to this piece of flash fiction. You brought us home in the perfect fashion and ‘cave of crumbling books’ has to be the best piece of imagery I’ve read this week. Classy writing as always Lynn.

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