Cafe Stories – The Burglary and The Diet


The café is at the crossroads.  It is set back from the road, with a large parking area at one side and a smaller grassed area at the front.  There are tables and chairs on the grass, in case anyone is brave enough to sit outside. From my seat by the window, I can look down the High Street and today being Friday, it is quite a busy thoroughfare.  I am surprised that the elderly couple, who normally sit at the table across from mine, are not here. I wonder what the problem is and hope nothing has happened to either of them.

Halfway through my first cappuccino I look up and see them at the crossing, waiting patiently for the traffic lights to change. I relax and smile, happy that they seem alright with no outward sign that anything is amiss.

Seated at the small table at the back, next to the magazine rack, Barry the Builder is eating his full English. I only see him on Fridays, but I am reliably informed that he is here every day without fail.  He is working on the new housing estate where, according to him, the houses being built are expensive, but have a ‘great spec’.

Next to me, two ladies are discussing the diet that one of them has just started. It seems quite harsh – no carbohydrates, no fat, no sugar, lots of protein and three vitamin supplements every day.  The one on the diet has lost 1 stone so far and tells her much slimmer friend she is determined to continue until she gets to her desired weight. From where I am sitting, it seems she has a long way to go.  I look at the Danish pastry on my plate and wonder how many calories it contains, but eat it anyway.

The elderly couple are telling the waitress that their house was broken into last night and have spent quite a long time with the police team.  Recounting the story, the lady is visibly upset and Kath, the owner of the cafe, comes forward with a pot of tea and a comforting arm.  The man says that the police phoned him, just before they left the house, to let them know that two boys have been apprehended.

I feel for them.  We were burgled once, a long time ago and it took quite a while to stop thinking about strangers rifling through our possessions and being worried about leaving the house empty for any length of time. Kath thinks it’s disgusting and says that quite a lot of houses in the area have been broken into during the past few weeks.  Barry gets up to pay his bill and tells the couple that if he had his way, the boys would be flogged. They think it a bit extreme, but Barry is convinced that it would stop the boys doing it again.

The friend of the lady on the diet, orders another coffee, ‘could you do me a large latte?’ she asks in a sort of self-satisfied voice, Kath tells her she will bring it over. With friends like that, I doubt  the diet is going to last for long…

 

 

 

 

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Tuesday morning on the 10.25


Countryside as Seen from a Moving Train

 

“Are things any better with Jack, or still the same?”

“They’re still the same.  I’ve tried my hardest to find out what the problem is, but nothing I do makes any difference. I’m afraid I have just given up.”

As the two women take their seats across the aisle from me, I try not to stare. Their conversation has aroused my interest, set my imagination to work.

I wonder what on earth could be wrong with Jack and think up several different scenarios.  Is he ill? Perhaps he only has months to live and couldn’t bring himself to upset his wife and family. Or is he facing redundancy and feels depressed, wondering how the family will manage without his salary? Or has he found someone else?

I decide it must be the latter. It will explain the change in his attitude to his wife, the reason why she has given up.   He doesn’t really want to be with her but just can’t bring himself to end their relationship.  I imagine them in their semi-detached house with small manageable garden, they have a mortgage and three children; the youngest would not have been planned. They used to holiday abroad for two weeks each year, now they take one week and spend it in a caravan somewhere in the Devon, barely speaking to each other.

He met the woman who became his mistress at work.  She is tall and slim with a terrific personality, quite attractive with a great sense of humour. His wife was like her when they first married, he tells her, but now she is more interested in the children and her family than him.

The train races along and I am tempted to take out my notebook, but it is in my bag on the luggage rack and I am unwilling to cause a disturbance. I resist the temptation. I make a mental note to always make sure the notebook is in my handbag. The conversation between the two women is spasmodic, their voices low.  I find it hard to hear anything further without making a fool of myself.

As the train enters a long tunnel, I have the opportunity to study their reflection in my window.  Although a slightly distorted view, I see two women in early middle age; the one who had asked the question seems the younger of the two and is now reading a magazine.  The other woman, the “wife”, is half-heartedly nibbling on a sandwich, staring into space.

Small stations flash past. The train will only make three stops before reaching London. I find that I feel sorry for the wife, she probably has done nothing other than carry on as she always has.  Perhaps she too longs for more; a more interesting life, a more attentive husband, but feels it’s too late to do anything about it.  She is just resigned to things the way they are, getting on with the mundane tasks life has handed her; a home to run, a husband and children to care for.

I decide that she looks like a ‘Susan’ and her friend is called ‘Louise’.  I am busy creating lives for them and their families when the train pulls into Paddington. I gather my bag quickly from the rack and follow the two women from the train.

“There they are” calls Louise, pulling Susan’s arm and hurrying her along.

They walk towards two young women, waiting by the coffee shop.

“Where’s your dad?” asks Susan sounding worried.

So, Jack hasn’t even bothered to come to the station. I feel sad for her; she is still hoping for a change of heart, while he obviously just doesn’t care anymore.

Suddenly there is a commotion and out of the crowd a man comes running, being pulled along by a very excitable West highland terrier.

“Oh Jack” Susan cries  stooping down to grab the dog, who is  trying his best to jump up to her, “you’re back to your old self.  I was so worried we were going to lose you.”

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I feel more comfortable writing ‘memoir’ pieces and would welcome your feedback if you have the time.

Nothing wrong in asking for a pay rise


 

A recent survey by YouGov for the Sunday Times, found that British women are less likely to ask for either a pay rise or a promotion, than men.

I’m sorry, but this isn’t news to me and the findings don’t surprise me in the slightest.

Although women can manage the household budget and make most of the larger financial decisions at home, they are totally embarrassed about managing their own worth in the workplace.  One friend once confided that if she was worth a pay rise, then her boss would make sure she got one.  I wasn’t sure if she was scared of being told ‘No’ or not confident enough to ask.

Most men don’t seem to have the same reluctance, they also have more confidence to stand up for themselves and on average get paid more than  women doing the same job – (on a personal note, this has always seemed an appalling situation to me, employers should set a rate for the job irrespective of the gender of the person doing it.)

In these uncertain times, hanging on to a job, any job, it a top priority for men and women alike. Unfortunately, most of the low paid, part-time jobs are done by women and when cuts have to be made, this is where the axe usually falls.

I haven’t any solutions and perhaps it is just that women are more interested in the broader picture of life, than the narrow view provided by work; whatever the reason women do need to find more confidence in the workplace.

See the full YouGov survey results here

One Child – for Right2Write Prompt 9 Stop Terrorism


One Child – for Right2Write Prompt 9 Stop Terrorism
Amazing piece, we all should read this

helenvalentina

The death of one child
is the death of the world

Sand arising as mother earth
shakes off her despair
and hungers for an artist’s vision there

Reptile brain awakens
flooding the system
with fear and alarm

The eye watching over us
blinking so slowly
means us some harm

The death of one child
is the death of us all

The universe turns
slow and elliptical
creating and recreating itself through pain

Grasping for a victory
or a vengeance creates
blood on blood

Devastation fields
Streets of fallen limbs
Nothing is good

The death of one child
is the death of the world

(c) Helen Valentina 2013, All Rights Reserved

For Right2Write prompt 9 at http://howanxious.wordpress.com

Checkout the other prompt entries and join in! Spread the word on a prompt on such a vital topic to us all!

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Where trees are fallen


Another week, another post for Friday Fictioneers. Follow our leader Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, then join our merry band.  Thanks this week for the photo go to Roger Bultot.

copyright-roger-bultot

Genre: Fiction

Word Count: 100

Where Trees Are Fallen

“Jarvis,the car! Get me away from these people.”

“They’ve just returned you as their MP, for a second time sir.”

 “And what happened to my previous majority?”

“Yes that’s odd, especially as you were born here sir.”

We don’t mention that, remember?

 “Sorry sir, I thought….”

“You didn’t think, otherwise you wouldn’t have allowed that moron in to rant at me”

 “But you altered the route of the new railway. The land had been in his family for years.”

 “Tough. It’s called progress.”

“Surely you could have listened sir?”

“I did. Now get the bloody car!

 

 “Sir, about the car…”

 

Give me a land of boughs in leaf,
A land of trees that stand;
Where trees are fallen there is grief;
I love no leafless land.”
– A.E. Housman

At the moment we have great arguments raging here about the new HS2 train which, if it goes ahead, will cut a swathe through huge chunks of the English countryside. The photo made me think of all the trees that are in danger, the ancient woodlands that will disappear.

 

Click on Mr Froggy for more stories

Remembering the Song


Another week, another photo prompt from Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for Friday Fictioneers. This amazing photo is courtesy of David Stewart and you can see how others have interpreted the prompt here

Remembering the Song

Grey haired, quietly waiting,

I make no movements now for you to marvel at,

My joints seem permanently fixed,

Not flexible or free from pain.

Nothing could help me sway to your music now

Though I remember our song, few would think there ever was one,

Or believe that here there once was joy, pleasure, movement, grace.

They see a body, stiff, unyielding, closed, and think that it was always so

And that my mind must be the same.

They raise their voices and wave their arms about

I’m not yet deaf or dumb, just old.

I scream in silence.

Vacation in Las Vegas & electing a President


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This is the view from the window of our hotel in Las Vegas. We were here last 25 years ago, my husband had heard so much about the changes that had taken place during that time that he has spent ages planning a return trip.

Well, the city has certainly changed and grown since we saw it last, but apart from the dazzling lights and razzmatazz of The Strip there’s a lot of buzz here about the forthcoming election.

The buzz we have got has mostly been from taxi drivers who are very keen to tell us how they feel.

One summed up what most of them had told us, “the politicians all shaft the working man, so best vote for the one who will shaft us the least.” (He said his vote was for Obama).

I laughed with him at what he told us, but reflected that I could have been talking with a taxi driver back home, or anywhere else in the world for that matter. The sentiment would have been the same.

I will watch the results with interest and be thinking of Joe the taxi driver, he will be working but listening to his radio.

Yes, I’m a woman


Yes, I’m a woman.

I push doors that clearly say PULL.

I laugh harder when I try to explain why I’m laughing

I walk into a room and forget why I was there.

I count on my fingers in math.

I hide the pain from my loved ones

I say it is a long story, when it really isn’t, just to get out of having to tell it.

I cry a lot more than you think I do.

I care about people who don’t care about me.

I cry at sad movies, but will watch them again and again

I listen to you, even when you don’t listen to me.

And a hug will always help

Don’t know who wrote this, but I like it
I also like this sunflower; it is one of three that were in the bunch of flowers I bought in the market on Saturday
I love the yellow colour, so uplifting and happy, makes me smile
I like odd numbers too

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.