Dream Flight


Happy New Year!  I hope you all enjoyed the holidays, however you celebrated them. It’s good to be back at Friday Fictioneers Central. Huge thanks to Rochelle for finding time to organise this group in between writing novels, visiting family or icing the odd cake, and my thanks to all who contribute each week making this a fantastic group to be a part of.

Copyright Melanie Greenwood

                                        Copyright Melanie Greenwood

Genre: Fiction

Word count: 100

Dream Flight

‘Would you really buy one, if you won the Lottery?’

‘Well it’s on my list. I’d love one.  Just think of the freedom, taking off whenever you wanted…’

‘What else is on your list?’

‘A long stay at a health farm, I fancy the one in Arizona where all the celebs go to get their fat sucked out.’

They both laughed as Mel placed the magazine back on the bedside cabinet.  She sat on the bed, reaching for her best friend’s hand. There would be no flight or health farm visit; they both knew it, but it helped to dream.

 

 

 

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Christmas traditions, then and now


father-christmas-and-snowman.jpg

There are lots of Christmas traditions and I came across a few interesting facts on some of them –

Why do we eat turkey?

Long ago, it was the smell of roast goose or the head of a boar that filled the Christmas air in Britain. Then in 1526, a trader named William Strickland imported six turkeys from the US and sold them in Bristol, for tuppence each. The birds were popular because they were tasty, and practical. Cows were more useful alive, chicken was more expensive than it is now, and other meats were not as popular.

……….. And why mince pies?

Mince pies are the modern descendant of the Christmas Pye, a large dish filled with shredded pigeon, hare, pheasant, rabbit, ox, lamb, or mutton, mixed with fruits and sugar. It had an oblong shape, said to resemble Jesus’s cradle. After 1660, they became more like the pies we eat now.

What about Christmas cards?

The first person ever to think of selling Christmas cards was a civil servant named Henry Cole, who had worked on the introduction of the first postage stamp, the Penny Black, in 1840. He was too busy that year to write to all his friends, so he commissioned a designer named John C. Horsley, of Torquay, to design a card with the words “A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year To You”. In 1843, the year that Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol, Cole went a step further, by commissioning 1,000 cards. He used some, and put an advertisement in the press offering the others for sale at 6d each. One card from that batch was sold in December 2005 for £8,500.

( from “What’s Behind Christmas Traditions?” by Andy McSmith, 2008 Independent)

 =o=

Each year I tell myself that I will be more organised and not leave things to the last minute and each year I do exactly the same as the year before.  I think that for me, all the rush and bustle involved in the run up to Christmas is part of my “tradition”.

I love the carols played in the shops, the fact that people seem more friendly toward each other, the last minute present wrapping, the food that we wouldn’t buy any other time of year, the board games, the falling asleep after lunch, the old films on tv, the presents from relatives who seem to forget our age and size, the list could go on.  But most of all I love spending time with my family and friends, I just love Christmas.

I want to share this card with you, it’s by the brilliant Jacquie Lawson and sums up my memories of happy childhood Christmases

http://www.jacquielawson.com/cards_christmas.asp

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy 2013

 

Murder and Mystery on a Steam Train


I was looking for some inspiration for a gift for my husband’s birthday and whilst searching the web, I came across a company called Charming Events.  I read the list of different events they arrange and the Murder Mystery Evening on a Steam Train practically jumped off the screen! My husband is probably Agatha Christie’s biggest fan and also bemoans the fact that there aren’t any steam trains any more.  So with two of his boxes ticked, I sent off for more details.

We travelled down to Sussex with a couple of friends and arrived at the very impressive Ashdown Park Hotel, where we were to spend the night, at about 3.15pm on Friday afternoon. To add to the atmosphere of a bygone era, already suggested by the brochure, we found the hotel was serving afternoon tea as we arrived! It was divine.

Our itinerary said we should be in reception by 6.15pm in order to check in and meet our fellow sleuths.  We met up and boarded the bus that was to take us to a railway station owned and operated by the volunteers of The Bluebell Railway. The work they have done and continue to do, to keep the railway running is nothing short of miraculous.

Everyone was intrigued as to how they would carry out a murder on a train, (we were thinking Murder on the Orient Express here) but it soon became clear that we were first to watch a play, enacted in the improvised theatre above the waiting room of the station, by the brilliant actors of “The Company Upfront”.  The play ended with a character being murdered and our job was to solve the “crime” with the help of our detective packs, whilst we were served dinner in a Pullman carriage of the Golden Arrow, travelling sedately through the Sussex countryside.

We had a great time. The dinner was delicious; characters from the play travelled with us and went from carriage to carriage, to be interviewed by “the detectives” in the hope that they could help us to solve the crime.  There were some great actors taking part, lots of laughter and also serious concern as each of us rattled our little grey cells in an attempt to solve the clues and find the answers needed to complete our crime sheet.

Unlike the master detective Hercule Poirot, we changed our minds two or three times, before we handed in our crime sheet.  Back at the station the winners were revealed – we weren’t among them. We did have the right murderer but didn’t get all the right clues, so no bottle of wine for us.  We didn’t care. We had a great evening, thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience and went back to the hotel for a steaming mug of hot chocolate, just like Miss Marple would have done!

Revisiting my Dream House


 

This morning for some reason I can’t explain, I took a detour from my usual route into work. Most days I take the same route and my journey passes almost as though the car is on auto-pilot, although I like to think I am still in charge!

Today though, I found myself driving past my dream house.

I first saw this house in the late ‘80’s. The house was everything I had dreamt would be mine one day. The rooms were generous, with high ceilings and large windows, letting  in lots of light.  There was a large lawn with flower beds and trees at the back of the house. Behind a hedge,  there was a vegetable garden and a small greenhouse in the corner with tomatoes and cucumbers growing inside. Beyond that, was a rough area with a compost heap and a huge water-butt to collect the rainwater, for use in the garden.

My boys were quite young then and I could see them playing in the garden with their friends; climbing the trees and running around chasing each other, having lots of fun.

I imagined entertaining our friends there too, with barbecues on lazy summer evenings, relaxing and chatting together, while our children played. There were enough bedrooms for family and friends to stay for weekends or even longer and the hall was the perfect place for the Christmas tree. I could see it, lights twinkling, baubles shining, presents stacked beneath its boughs, waiting to welcome everyone to our home for Christmas.

My husband thought the house was too big; the gardens too time consuming and the work that would be needed on the building, daunting in the least. He couldn’t begin to see the potential that I saw that first day. Yes it would take time and money, and yes we would have to employ a builder, as neither of us is much good at DIY, but it would be worth it. We would have a home we would love.

We made an offer for the house, just below the asking price. “You never give them what they ask for first time,” my husband said when I begged him to give the owners the price they wanted. I was surprised how much I wanted this house.

But this was the time of gazumping. Prices jumped not by hundreds, but in some cases by thousands of pounds. And so it was for us. Our offer was rejected, so we offered the asking price, it was rejected again. We increased our offer and had it rejected yet again. We went as far as we could and after much anger and tears on my part, we realised that the house would not be ours.

We eventually found another house we liked and we have been there ever since. It is quite old and has lots of similar features, a beautiful garden that the family enjoy, but for me it has never had that certain charm that the other house had.

Today, as I stood and looked at the house from across the road, I thought it looked tired. The windows had not been replaced and now were badly in need of a coat of paint. One of the gates had come of its’ hinges and was hanging at an awkward angle. The hedge, once so neatly trimmed, was overgrown and parts of it trailing on the pavement. It had a look of neglect about it that I found upsetting.

As I got back in my car, an elderly man came round the corner with a newspaper under his arm. He walked slowly towards the house. I watched as he stopped and stared at the gate, before going in through the front door. Surely he wasn’t the same, rather dapper professor, who had taken us round his home all those years ago, pointing out his favourite flowers and proudly showing us round his greenhouse?

He was about the right age. But if it was him, what happened 25 years ago? Why did the sale fall through? Did the owners change their mind? I’ll probably never know.

I felt quite sad for a moment, but then very annoyed with myself. I have been very lucky. I have a happy, healthy family, good friends and a very nice home. I drove off hoping that, regardless of whatever had happened all those year ago, the old professor had been happy, living in my dream house.

How to cheat……. and get away with it


 

Roast Beef

With some friends, who are acknowledged “foodies” coming for Sunday lunch, I decided to stay safe and cook my signature Sunday lunch dish – roast beef with Yorkshire puddings and all the trimmings. My butcher carefully selected a lovely piece of beef for me, a large piece as I think that the larger the joint, the better it cooks and tastes. He also put some fat on top “makes the gravy taste better”. He always does this and I always throw it away, thinking heart attack, cholesterol levels etc., see, I do pay attention to medical information.

Having completed my shopping the previous day or so I thought, straight after breakfast I started to prepare the vegetables. I got the beef ready for the oven, nicely sprinkled with freshly ground black pepper, in it went. I then had a coffee and a quick scan of the Sunday papers, before deciding it was time to make the Yorkshire pudding batter. In my store cupboard are quite a few types of flour, but horror of horrors, there was no plain flour in sight.

Now, I have been foolish enough to attempt to make Yorkshire puddings with self raising flour in the past, the results have been something entirely inedible and could be used for Frisbee practice! So I asked my son if he would be my saviour, pop down to the village shop and get me some plain flour so I could make the Yorkshires.

I was out in the garden when he got back, he shouted that Mrs Williams hadn’t any plain flour in the shop, but had given him some of Aunt Bessie’s. With that he was off to his rugby match, I heard the front door slam as I rushed into the kitchen.

What I feared was there, on the kitchen table, two packets of frozen Yorkshire puddings courtesy of Aunt Bessie, whoever she may be! There was no time to go anywhere for plain flour, indeed, there wasn’t anywhere to go to, well not and be back in time for lunch. With the smell of roast beef wafting through the kitchen, I stared at the frozen offerings. I couldn’t serve these to the foodies, could I?

 I opened one packet and took out the frozen puddings. Hmm they seemed the same diameter as my small bun tins. I carefully took one pudding out of its’ tinfoil, there was a small amount of grease in the bottom but not much. So I took some fat from the roasting tin, put a very small amount in the bottom of each of the twelve spaces of the bun tin and put the tin in the oven. When the fat was hot, I placed a frozen pudding in each one. Then, with fingers crossed, into the hot oven they went.

They were perfect; the foodies showered me with compliments on the lunch and asked how on earth I managed to make such tasty Yorkshire puddings? As my son had not yet got back from his rugby match, I just smiled and said nothing.

Aunt Bessie's Yorkshire Puddings

A long weekend at Updown Cottage


We had talked with friends for ages about going away on a long weekend break for my husband’s birthday; first it was going to be in a log cabin in the Lake District, then we discussed a weekend in Cornwall – always a favourite, then  a weekend in Paris became The One, but as the weeks went by nothing was arranged. Then I saw Updown Cottage and was hooked.  I made an executive decision, the cottage was available, so I booked it!  

Almost at the top of Gold Hill in Shaftesbury, Dorset, with absolutely superb views from practically every window, we all  fell in love with it straight away. The fact that we had seen it loads of times, but never knew where it was, only added to the enjoyment.  OK I’ll explain

 Do you remember the Hovis ad on TV in the 70’s?  If you do, you probably thought, like me, that the little baker’s boy was pushing his bicycle up a steep hill in Yorkshire, when in fact he was struggling to the top of Gold Hill with his basket full of bread.

The cottage has been beautifully renovated, with all available space utilised so well that you have everything you need, including a baby grand piano! The kitchen has all you need to cook to your hearts’ content, but if you don’t feel like cooking, you can order a meal and a chef will come to you! Wonderful idea.

Shaftesbury, an ancient hill town and the “Shaston” of Thomas Hardy’s novels,  is just at the top of the hill. There’s lots to do and see in the surrounding area, just don’t forget your camera as the views are stunning.  I lost count of the “oohs” and ahhs”. 

Jane and Simon, the owners, make sure you have a warm welcome, not least with a basket of goodies from Turnbull’s delicatessen to tempt you. Turnbull’s is only a short walk away, make sure you pay them a visit as they also have a cafe selling their own cakes and pastries, the apple cake is to die for!!

If like us, you have never visited Dorset before, start with Shaftesbury and a stay at Updown Cottage, you won’t regret it

Views of Gold Hill and Blackmore Vale  (Updown Cottage is the one with the shutters)

Now you can watch the Hovis ad again –  http://youtu.be/CFLBvLxLJMI

A morning in the attic – up to my knees in memories


This all came about because my OH couldn’t find the black luggage label.  The label is one of two we purchased in a little shop in Jasper, three years ago; it is made of black leather, with a cut out of the first letter of our surname in a contrasting pink leather – sounds a bit OTT, but trust me, it looks very smart when attached to one end of a piece of luggage. And different. I have never seen any more like them anywhere. I found the other one, the pink one with the black letter, but there was no way he was going to take that one with him on his trip!

I thought perhaps it had got inside one of the other bags and said as much, which was a mistake and  resulted in an attic search on Saturday.  Our attic, like most I guess, is the respository for things that don’t quite fit anywhere else, or you can’t quite bring yourself to throw out. Like luggage which takes up far too much room to be stored anywhere else; an old artificial Christmas tree, which gets a revamp every year and placed in the porch and all the decorations that adorn the “real” tree when it comes, various tins, boxes, bags, records, my old hockey stick, a pair of crutches (??) the list goes on. 

So, rather begrudgingly, I took myself off to the attic, armed with a couple of bags for sorting the rubbish and my phone in case there was an emergency and I was needed (please) and the thought I would catch up with my twitter friends if I got bored!  That worked out well,  until I realised I was spending a little too much time tweeting and not enough time sorting!

I checked the luggage and found the black tag, yes! That is when I should have stopped and gone downstairs triumphantly with the find, but I didn’t because underneath the oldest of the bags, was a pile of photographs.  And so I started going through them. Big mistake, huge.

You remember those pre-digital days, when we took snaps on rolls of film we bought at the chemist or supermarket, wound carefully onto the spool in the camera, away from bright light in case we damaged it?  Then when we had finished the roll, it rewound, if you had the latest camera; or you had to rewind by hand, turning for ever until the film was wound back into its’ case. Then you took it out and handed it in to be developed.  You waited with bated breath, hoping that the photograph you had taken of your grandmother’s 80th birthday party, with all those relatives you had never met before, turn out OK as they all want a copy as a keepsake.  Well, there were envelopes full of photos like that!

Photos of my children on their first bikes,  at the beach, on a slide, running in the egg and spoon race; a birthday party with a cake in the shape of a fire engine all red icing with white ladders on the top; school outings and new uniform days,  the first day of “big school” all wide-eyed and anxious; scrubbed within an inch of their lives, ready for whatever was coming their way.

There were photos taken at friends weddings – why did I ever think I would look good in an outift like that? It is the clothes that date the photographs more so than the people, who somehow manage to stay more or less looking like they always have. Then the babies started to come along and there are piles of photos of them.  Then, from somewhere at the bottom of the pile I found photos of my parents.  They have both gone now, but looking at them, laughing into the camera lens, on holiday in Ibiza, the Yorkshire Dales or the Scottish highlands brought tears to my eyes and I remember them more clearly seeing the photographs, than  I ever do just thinking about them.

I spent a long time in the attic. My knees were sore and I only had a small pile of rubbish to show for my morning’s work, but there were lots of happy memories

Staying Young


1. Enjoy the simple things

2.Laugh often, enjoy your life

3.If  you are wrong, admit it

4. Tears happen but you WILL endure

5. Keep learning new things don’t let your brain get idle, keep it working

6. Look after yourself, eat sensibly, exercise regularly

7. Tell the ones you love that you love them, every chance you get

8. Only keep friends who are cheerful – you don’t need the miserable ones

9. Don’t envy others – you have all you need

10. Love yourself, if you do, others will too

Life is not a dress rehearsal, seize it with both hands and enjoy it

To tweet or not to tweet, that is the question……..


Why would you want to send out little tweets to people you don’t know and probably never will know, is it in the hope that you will get lots of followers and so think you are a mini celebrity?  Or is it that you are so frustrated with your life, that you want to invent a new you, that could be anything you wanted it to be. Or is it that you have things to say that need saying and Twitter is the only place you can get your voice heard? Whatever the reason, there are millions of twitterers out there, sending millions of tweets every hour.

I started tweeting a few months ago to see what it was all about and found, to my surprise, that within a few days a lot of people were following me.  I had no idea how this came about and still don’t, but then I found that I too was following people and I haven’t a clue how that works either.  Some of these people are just blatantly selling themselves or their business and it all seemed to be about self promotion. Not many want to comment on what’s happening in the world, if they aren’t telling me about what they can do, they seem quite happy to retweet others’ comments or links to articles in the press. 

 Perhaps I am missing the point, or expecting too much. I do exchange regular tweets with some great people who are in the same time zone as me.  We send tweets on all sort of things, but the time difference means I miss a lot of what happens from my followers and followees on the other side of the world.  That said, I have found that even though I am not sure how it all happens, I do enjoy tweeting and probably that’s what it is all about, so I shall carry on and hopefully one day I will find out how it all works