What Pegman Saw: The failed gardener

Image : Google Street View

The wind brings the scent of Loch Finlaggan and the distant Paps of Jura – tinny water, dying heather, the fuller smell of barnacle geese, now gathering for the winter. Angus scrapes his spade clean, knocks mud from the tines of his fork.

There was a time Moira would come with him, insist on planting sunflowers and cosmos, open faced blooms she said would lure in the bees. He would smile, back bent over his cabbage seedlings.

The wind scorched the feathery fronds of the cosmos, slugs feasted on the sunflowers, biting through the hairy stems, only stumps remaining. Soon Moira stayed at home, leaving the Loch to Angus and the geese.

Perhaps that was when Moira decided to leave, when she realised nothing she planted would flower.

He still grows vegetables but once picked he throws them on the compost heap to rot.

***

Written for What Pegman Saw, the writing prompt that uses Google Street View. This week we are in Greenland, though my story is based on the Island of Islay, part of the Inner Hebrides off the west coast of Scotland. There is a link between the two locations, however – the barnacle geese mentioned are Greenland natives but overwinter on the west coast of Scotland. I just followed their flight path to find Angus.

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Friday Fictioneers: Magda’s Triumph


PHOTO PROMPT © CEAyr

We’d hear the phut-phut of the old Triumph motor bike minutes before seeing it. As it drew nearer, other sounds – the twin rattles of the sidecar’s loose wheel and the cage strapped to the pillion with cable ties.

The din snaked along cobbled lanes, in through open windows, drowned out the excited yabber of playing kids, of old time tunes on the radio.

Then Magda would appear in scratched goggles and a flying helmet, squint-eyed cat pressed to the floor of the cage, claws locked round the wires.

Magda chose to be alone, mum said, but I never learned why.

***

Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers. See the pic and write a tale and don’t forget to read and comment on others, found here.

Short story publication set in Cottonopolis

Cotton mill, Yorkshire, Hebden Water, Gibsons Mill
Image : Pixabay

I grew up in Derbyshire, just a short, uphill train ride from Manchester.

Living in a small town there was little excitement – scouting for bargains at the local Kwik Save supermarket, a tatty nightclub on the market place called the Gaslight, Saturday nights watching drunks evicted from the Gaslight fighting outside Kwik Save …

In comparison, Manchester was impossibly exciting, kind of glamorous in a dirty, dishevelled way and not a little unnerving.

Yes, it was grubby back then, all tumbleweed chip papers and drunks begging for a light, and the valleys of old mill buildings channelled the wind so your face was constantly sandblasted by good Northern grit, but even before its financial and cultural renaissance over recent decades, the city held its head high.

All those towering brick edifices spoke of the great wealth that had poured into 19th century Manchester as the cotton spun in its many mills poured out (The city had 108 cotton mills at its peak in 1853, hence the sobriquet Cottonopolis) and that impressive architectural legacy left an impression on me.

Perhaps that’s why I’ve set my People’s Friend short story

A Straw Hat for Hetty’

in nineteenth century Manchester. The young heroine has grown up in the shadow of the mills, in the choking city slums of the Industrial Revolution.

Writing Hetty’s story has given me a grand excuse to use a smattering of the dialect words I grew up with – ‘summat’, ‘owt’, ‘nowt’ – and to explore the slums of Angel Meadow and the mills of Ancoats.

If you’d like to learn what happens to Hetty, The People’s Friend Special number 171 is due out tomorrow.

So, stop mitherin’, pour yersen a brew and let me spin you a tale, lad.

What Pegman Saw : Last night I dreamt …

Image : Google Street View

I saw them often, the housekeeper and the new wife.

The housekeeper always pinned and pressed, neat and stiff as a mannequin. The new wife trotting along behind, stockings runkled, collar tucked in. Far too young for that suave husband, don’t you think? Young enough to be his daughter.

So different from the first wife. All fur stoles and satin gowns and diamonds. Flinty, though, a cruel twist to her mouth. What happened to her? Drowned? She didn’t look the boating type.

Well, this evening as I was putting Dotty to bed, I smelled burning, sharp and bitter – very close. I pulled back the curtain and there it was – Manderley burning, flames licking the window frames, the roof a blaze of red, tiles shattering to the ground.

I do hope … Do you think anyone was inside?

***

Written for What Pegman Saw, the writing prompt that uses Google Street View as its starting point. This week we are in Portmeirion, Wales. See here to join in.

I saw this view and it looked as if the white house was watching the grand one in the foreground, spying almost. Then for some reason I thought of the novel Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, of a neighbour watching the comings and goings at Manderley, Maxim and the second Mrs de Winter and Mrs Danvers …

The title is taken from the opening line of the novel – Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.

Friday Fictioneers : The end of Coral Ludd


PHOTO PROMPT © Jean L. Hays

You know the Red Mountain Market and Deli? Closed up, oh, fifteen years ago I guess. Round the time we had that spate of fires.

Owner was a guy called Stanley Ludd – brick-coloured hair, smelled of old books and floral disinfectant. Ran the place with his mother, Coral, and what a mean old biddy she was – used to bawl poor Stanley out in front of the customers, beat him sometimes.

She died in one of those fires, got trapped in the library somehow.

Never saw a prettier sight than all that paper burning, flames the colour of new bricks.

***

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

What Pegman Saw : A cold case

‘There are several slash like tattoos on the body, mainly at the joints and the lumber region.’ Doctor Balsano pulled a tissue from her sleeve, dabbed at her dripping nose. ‘I expect to find more once he’s out of the ice.’

The wind cut along the glacier, nipping at Koffler’s fingertips, even through his gloves. ‘Any obvious wounds?’ He stamped his feet, shaking the scree loose, sending it tinkling down the slope.

‘Quite a list actually. A head wound, an incision in the left shoulder, possibly an entry wound. Defensive cuts to the palms of his hands, a broken nose -‘

‘Sounds more like a boxer than a farmer.’ Koffler stared down the valley to the huddle of hikers below, their brightly coloured jackets and hats shimmering against the shale and grubby ice. He grinned. ‘Gave them a shock, huh?’

Balsano shrugged. ‘Murder’s murder, no matter how cold the case.’

***

Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Street View as its starting point. This week we visit Mount Everest, Nepal.

The story was inspired by the discovery of Ötzi ‘The Iceman’ by hikers in the Tyrolean Mountains in 1991. At first, the body was assumed to have been an unfortunate mountaineer, until it was realised how very old he was … over 5,300 years old.

Ötzi has 61 tattoos – thought to be attempts at remedying joint pain – and in recent years scientists have learned that he was, indeed, a murder victim.

He has become one of the most studied human beings on the planet.

Take a look here to learn more.

Friday Fictioneers : What Hanne did after the war


PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

His war work often took Klaus away for days, occasionally weeks.

On his return he would give Hanne a package of dazzling white tissue paper, tied with fine red string. Inside, a glass flower.

Roses, their petals furled and gilded; daffodils whose golden trumpets captured the sun; lily of the valley, crocuses, celandine, all spun and blown, Klaus said, to imitate the garden she’d sacrificed when they moved from Bavaria to an apartment near the Reichstag.

After the war, after the trial, Hanne bought a granite mortar and pestle, took each flower in turn and ground them to powder.

***

Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneer’s. See here to join in and be inspired.

After reading Rochelle’s moving story this week, I got to wondering how other women spent the war. Thanks for the inspiration, Rochelle.