Friday Fictioneers : Christmas 1914

PHOTO PROMPT © Björn Rudberg


 

Winter of 1914, we made a parcel for Albert – a block of Ma’s sherry-soaked Christmas cake, two packs of Woodbines, a bar of Fry’s chocolate and a hat she’d knitted herself.

‘He’ll need summat warm over there.’ She carressed the stitches, brown and thick as our Albert’s flop of hair.

I hadn’t told her what I’d heard whispered down the pub – the ankle deep water, the bodies lain still and stiff in No Man’s Land till bombs turned them to Flanders mud … the rats.

She slipped a card in too, signed ‘your loving Mother’.

‘That’ll warm him.’ I tried to smile.

 


Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers. See the pic and write a tale. Visit Rochelle’s site to share and to read the other stories.

Notes

Woodbines – at the time, a popular brand of cigarettes mad by the Wills tobacco company here in Bristol. Cigarettes helped with morale in the trenches and were also used as currency.

I was going to use the brand name Five Boys chocolate but didn’t quite have the word count. Five Boys was made by Fry and Son – another Bristol company – and was famous for the image on the front of the wrapper, see below.

 

Image result for five boys chocolate

 

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Friday Fictioneers : The fate of the flower seller

PHOTO PROMPT © Sandra Crook


 

Ninny, they called her.

Sold flowers under the gas lamp, corner of Great Earl Street and Queen Street, Seven Dials. Old enough to be your Nana, though not yet old enough to be mine. Hair dyed black as a coal hole, always a pheasant feather or a silk rose tucked in her crumbling straw hat. Face like a patch of dried chamois leather. Shared a room with some other biddies – a boot lace seller, a sheet music peddlar and one who peddled herself, if you know what I mean.

Nah, don’t know where she went. People just vanish, lad.

 


Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers. See the pic and write a tale and visit the site here to read the other stories.

Notes

Seven Dials is part of the St Giles area of London, not far from Covent Garden. It long had a reputation for being disreputable and was part of the St Giles ‘rookery’ or slum. To read more about the area’s history, see here.

Friday Fictioneers : A nighttime visit

PHOTO PROMPT © What’s His Name


 

The path is overgrown with grasses that reach to Prim’s knees. The lamp swings, stretching and shrinking the shadows into grasping fingers.

Ma says Prim’s too small to visit the privvy on her own at night, but then Da rolled in three sheets to the wind one day and the chamber pot was broken along with the vase Ma puts her violets in.

The wind is blowing in her face, bringing night smells with it as the privvy door creaks open.

A snuffling sound. A yelp.

A vixen and two small cubs’ eyes glow in the dark.

Her secret.


Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers. Write a story and join the fun. See here to read the other tales.

 

 

Friday Fictioneers : Where the pines stand dark sentry

 

PHOTO PROMPT © Ted Strutz


 

Pines stood dark sentry to the rear of the house, the lake to the front.

Sook’s bedroom was in the roof, chill in the winter, hot in the summer when light rippled across the ceiling, an echo of the broad grey of Loch Giutha.

Joshie’s room was bigger but faced the black pines that groaned in the winds or shivered with unseen creatures.

He could keep his big room. The loft was her turret, the house her castle and if the pines harboured unquiet spirits, the water sheltered merrows, kelpies with manes of weed.

And at night the loch whispered.

 


Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers, the acme of writing prompts. See here to join in and to read the other tales.

Notes

Loch Giutha does not exist, but giutha is Gaelic for fir tree.

A merrow – like the more familiar selkie – is a Gaelic word for mermaid, while a kelpie is a mythical sea horse.

Friday Fictioneers : A well-placed kick

PHOTO PROMPT © Sarah Potter


 

The shed door opens under a well-placed kick, the padlock holding solid as the rusted hinges give out.

Inside spades, forks, a wheel barrow with a flat tyre, liquid in a lemonade bottle that smells like turpentine.

In a web strung corner I find a pair of shoes – they’re muddy, worn low at the heel, but once I send the current residents skittering, they fit well enough.

I look up at the house as I leave – sooty, broken glass in the window frames, paint peeling. The mouldering remnants of a house, forgotten and unloved.

I know how it feels.

 


Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers. See the pic and write a tale, see here to join in and to read the other stories.

 

 

 

 

Friday Fictioneers : Owt or Nowt?

 

PHOTO PROMPT © Kelvin M. Knight


 

The sun squatted low, puffs of apricot cloud still bubbling along the horizon. The colours brought to mind summer, despite the cold that had snuck into her boots.

Edith waited patiently outside the bakers for a loaf, a roll or perhaps a chunk of parkin too misshapen or overcooked to grace the shining tables of Clifton. She wasn’t particular – a full stomach for a ha’penny was hard to come by these days.

The baker’s boy tugged the door with meaty fingers. ‘Nowt today.’ The door slammed, snapping off his words.

Sleeping rough was always colder on an empty stomach.

 


Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers. See here to join in and read the other tales.

If you’re wondering what ‘parkin’ is, look here. And if you’re wondering what ‘nowt’ means … why, it’s the opposite of ‘owt’ of course! Nowt meaning nothing or naught and owt meaning anything – Northern English slang dropped down from the Old Norse and still very much alive up north and in our house, we being defected Northerners! So when someone asks is there ‘owt or nowt’ they’re saying is there ‘anything or nothing’.

Friday Fictioneers : A Criminal Conversation

 

PHOTO PROMPT © Roger Bulltot


 

Light from the computer screen filled Campbell’s glasses, masking his eyes. ‘When might your great-grandmother have been admitted to Northmead?’

Sally handed him the details, the paper damp from her hands. Annie Giddings. DOB 4th January 1886. Last seen Bonfire Night 1903.

Campbell hummed tunelessly. ‘Found her!’ he said. ‘Admitted 25th November 1903 for falling into criminal conversations with low men. Hmm … various treatments … Ah! Failing to recover her wits, a hysterectomy was performed.’

The printer clicked and whirred a copy of Annie’s records. Sally clenched and unclenched her fists, relieved Northmead was a ruin so she wouldn’t have to burn it down.

 


Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers. The best flash fiction prompt on the web. See here to join in and to read the other stories.

I saw the photo and though ‘insane asylum’ then did a search for 19th century teatments for women with mental health problems. Some doctors advocated gynaecological surgery such as relocating the uterus and hysterectomy. Read more here.

Read more on the appalling Victorian treatment of ‘fallen women’ and on the foundling hospitals where many were forced to leave their offspring here (this article is also where I found the euphemism ‘criminal conversation’).

As a side note, 25th November is Saint Catherine of Alexandria’s feast day. Amongst other things she is the patron saint of spinsters.