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FLASH FICTION – ROYAL PROTOCOL

I find this short story, which I wrote in 2019, always goes down well with audiences when I read it in public. If you enjoy it, please let me know.

ROYAL PROTOCOL

One has had to learn so much in such a short time.

One was thrust into things, so to speak. One had never gone to school, never mixed with other children. One knew nothing about life other than what one had gleaned from the governess and the nanny. Mummy was always far too busy. One had a hard enough time learning how to curtsey to her. And then one had to have elocution lessons – one thought that one already spoke the King’s English but there you are.

“Lilibet”, mummy used to say, “Why can’t you be more like your sister? She is so elegant. Look how she stands and walks. Try to be more like her, poppet.”

And even now, all these years later, Philip will still tease, “Stand up properly cabbage! You are the Queen you know.”

The hardest thing one ever had to learn was how to wave properly. One just couldn’t get the hang of it.

Daddy said, “Don’t worry poppet. It’s not as if you’ll ever be queen.”

But mummy, nanny and everyone in the Royal Household just kept on and on. You do it too vigorously, they all said.

“Gently does it your Royal Highness”, they would say, “or your arm will tire with all that waving.”

One wanted to be out riding or walking the corgis. Instead one had to waste morning after morning learning to wave.

One despised all the protocol. One doesn’t want or need to have one’s hair styled every day. And wearing make-up was an anathema to me. Who needs lippy when mucking out the horses? Philip agreed. He was so understanding. “I love you as you are cabbage”, he used to say – and still does.

In the end one had to have this ghastly manicure because one was going to be seen at some awful function somewhere. The beastly varnish wasn’t bloody drying so I waved my hands about a bit.

My valet jumped in the air excitedly. “By George she’s got it,” he shouted. “Her Royal Highness is waving!”

And after that one never looked back.

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

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FLASH FICTION – DREAMS

My writing group was challenged to come up with ideas for a short story around the theme of “dreams”. We were restricted to 350 words.

Here’s what I wrote:

REALITY

George felt himself perspiring under the hot lights.

“What’s the crowd like tonight?” he asked Jenny, as she dusted his forehead with powder.

Jenny made a face. “I was making up tonight’s contestant earlier and she asked me to make her beautiful. I can’t perform miracles my dear, I told her.”

A roar came from the audience behind the curtain.

“Tell us your dream! Tell us your dream! Tell us your dream!”

The show’s theme music began. George stepped forward as the curtains parted.

“Good evening folks. Welcome to Tell Us Your Dream. Tonight we’re going to make someone’s dream come true. Who’s it gonna be?”

The arc lights swept over the studio audience, many of whom were standing and waving their arms in the air.

“Me! Me!”

The music pulsed louder and louder and then stopped as the cameras zoomed in on a bespectacled middle aged woman.

A disembodied voice yelled, “Audrey Fisher from Luton. Tell us your dream!”

Audrey’s face lit up as eager arms propelled her forwards and up on to the stage.

There was an uproar from the audience who were all on their feet.

“Tell us your dream!”

George smiled at Audrey.  She was a plain old thing, he thought. A trifle nervous, but that was to be expected.

The music pulsed again. And then fell silent.

George smiled. “Welcome Audrey to Tell Us Your Dream.”

“You know the format. You tell us your deepest hopes, desires and wishes and the Dream Team here will help make them come true. Now don’t be shy.”

“Well George,” responded Audrey, not at all shyly.  “I’ve had a secret passion for a long time now. Someone I really fancy.  I know that if he only had the chance to meet me, to spend the night with me that he would realise that I am the one for him.”

“OOOH!” shrieked the audience. “Audrey! Audrey! Audrey!”

George turned to the audience.  “You know we have no prior vetting of dreams. We never know what’s going to come up or who is going to come up on to the stage.” Then, turning to Audrey he said, “Now tell us more about this chap of yours.”

“Well George,” volunteered Audrey, “he’s not conventionally good looking but he‘s got something. That certain je ne sais quoi.”

“OOOOOH!” screamed the audience not understanding a word.

“Tell us your dream! Tell us your dream!”

“After the break,” George announced, “we’re going to let you in on the lucky chap’s name. Back in a mo!”

“Audience please don’t leave your seats!” someone shouted. “The show will be starting again in three minutes.”

Jenny came back on stage to dust George’s shiny, sweaty head. And whispered something in his ear.

George continued to smile at the audience but he turned pale.

“That’s crazy,” he murmured. “I’ve been set up. It’s just not possible. I can’t do it.”

Audrey looked up at him and smiled adoringly.

“Are you ready George to make my dreams come true?”

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

CORONAVIRUS, COVID-19, OMICRON – WILL THERE BE A HAPPY ENDING FOR US ALL?

We all remember the story of Cinderella.  No fairy godmothers for us but aren’t we all wishing for something or someone to come along and take us away from all of this? 

An end to housework and cooking? An escape?  It used to be called a holiday but it looks as if that wish isn’t going to be coming true for quite a while.

In my writers’ group we were asked to dream up the sequel to a well known story.  I chose Cinderella.

You remember that at the end of the tale she had married her handsome prince and was living in a beautiful palace, supposedly happily ever after.

Here’s what I imagine happened next.

Cinderella sighed. Her new life had held such promise. But, after ten years of marriage, her prince had lost his charm. He spent all his time alone in the billiard room and didn’t want her even though she was the fairest in all the land. Letting her ugly sisters move in had been a big mistake. They were forever bickering.

It was probably the lockdown making her feel like this, she decided. Life wasn’t so bad.

Just then Prince Charming entered the room. He was wearing the dress her sisters had been fighting over earlier. And he looked pretty good in it too.

“What ho Cindy! How do you like the new me?”

“Is this some kind of joke Caspar?”

“Try to show a bit more understanding. The world has changed you know. It’s time I came out.”

“Came out of the billiard room do you mean? You spend far too much time in there.”

“I mean I’m fed up being the handsome prince. I want to try life as a princess. From now on you’re no longer to address me as Casper. I’m Cassy. And once I’m a princess you’ll no longer be the fairest in the land. I’m off to show your stepsisters how I look in their dress.”

And with that he flounced out of the room.

Cindy didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry.

“I wish,” she said out loud, “my life could be different.”

At that moment there was a magic whoosh.

“Fairy godmother! How lovely to see you after all these years. I have missed you.”

“Work’s been pretty quiet since this lockdown,” responded her fairy godmother, “so I thought I’d pay you a visit. How can I help my dear? I can manage a little magic. I’m too old for mice but what about a new home now that people can move house again? There’s a nice bungalow for sale.  Much smaller and easier to manage than a palace but it wouldn’t be big enough for your family.”

“It sounds magical fairy godmother. Thank you!”

“My magic doesn’t run to fancy gowns so just get a few things together. Once we’re there I might be able to do more.”

“Once we’re there?”

“Where better for me to retire than in a little home with my Cinderella? You know dear, you were the pinnacle of my achievements. We’ll settle down just the two of us. You can look after me just as you did your step mum and sisters in the old days.”

“No thank you, but I don’t think that’s going to work.”

“You’re an ungrateful child!  You don’t like your home or your prince. And you don’t like being in lockdown. So here’s what I’m going to do, miss fussy.”

Cindy felt the room spinning around her. Faster and faster.

When it stopped she found she was back in the kitchen of her old home, among the cinders by the fire grate.

“Oh no!” Cinderella sobbed. “What am I going to do now?”

The moral of my tale is be careful what you wish for! 

WISHING ALL MY FOLLOWERS – OLD AND NEW – A VERY HAPPY & HEALTHY NEW YEAR.

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

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FLASH FICTION IN 500 WORDS – FREEDOM

A recent task in my writers’ group was to write a story on “The Key”. Was this going to be about the key to success, a hidden key, a music key, a key to hidden treasure? I racked my brains to try and come up with something original. Here’s what I wrote.

Freedom

Kila lifted her hand up to the door again.  Nothing.

She shook her head perplexed. Why wasn’t the door opening? This had never happened before.

When the Ministry of Security and Home Affairs had first mooted the idea of integrated keys there had been an outcry.

What next will they want to embed in our skin, people had asked.  But, as with the notion of vaccine passports, back in 2021, everyone had soon got used to the idea. And who nowadays used an old fashioned key?

Kila rubbed her hand and tried the door again.

What was she going to do?  Without her palm key she wouldn’t be able to activate anything. How was she going to make phone calls, write, bank, show her health record, her ID? This was the stuff of nightmares.

She looked around in case anyone she knew was passing.

“Kila!” It was Alik reaching out a friendly elbow in greeting.

“Alik! Am I pleased to see you!” She smiled happily at her neighbour and elbowed him back.

Alik wasn’t smiling.

“What is it? What’s wrong?”

“My key’s no longer working,” he said.

“That’s odd,” she responded, “neither is mine. What do you think is going on?”

“So you haven’t heard the news?”

Kila shook her head. “What are you talking about?”

“There’s been some kind of security lapse. None of the palm keys are working. Not just yours and mine.  But everyone’s.”

Kila’s eyes widened in amazement.

“But that’s crazy. How are we going to do anything? The whole system will breakdown! It’s like they had back in the old days with the internet. What are we going to do?”

“We’re marching” announced Alik. “We’re marching on the Ministry. Listen!”

Kila listened and for the first time could hear the shouts of an angry mob.

She could just about make out the words, “freedom from the key” being repeated over and over again.

“But I don’t want freedom from the key.  I like my palm key. It gives me freedom to do everything I want to do.”

“But it gives them control over us,” answered Alik. “We want freedom from control.”

Now Kila could hear the mob chanting, “Freedom from control. Freedom from control!”

Alik elbowed her again. 

“Come with us Kila.  Join the protest.”

Kila stepped back.

“I can’t Alik. Keys give us freedom. You must see that.”

Alik scowled. “Keys belong to our colonial past.”

Kila shook her head and elbowed him away.

“NO!”

“Kila – wake up! Happy birthday my darling! 21 today!

 Her mother was leaning over her. She was laughing and dangling something in her face. A large silvery beribboned cardboard key.

“Happy 21st birthday! Today you get the key of the door! That’s what we used to say when I was young.   But it’s all change now. The Prime Minister was on TV just before announcing a new idea. They’re going to impregnate keys into your hand. Can you imagine! Whatever will they think of next?”

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

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POST #219 – HERE I AM AGAIN!

Hello

I’m back! Did you miss me?

I may have been away but there’s been quite a bit of activity in my absence.

Firstly I was contacted by the actor Illona Linthwaite who had seen my poem about the women of Greenham Common. She asked for my permission to read it at the event on 5 September which marked the 40th anniversary of Greenham.

In 1981 women had set up a peace camp at RAF Greenham in Berkshire in protest against the site being used to house nuclear missiles. The Greenham women, as they came to be called, lived there 24/7 under the most primitive conditions. Their non violent protest became news world wide.

In December 1983, 50,000 women joined hands and encircled the base.  Hundreds of women were arrested and one woman was killed. 

Nuclear missiles were finally removed from the site in 1991. However, a camp remained there until 2000 when the Greenham women won the right for a memorial on the site.

I was very pleased and proud for my poem to have been selected. It was read by Illona throughout the day with women joining in with the line, “Down on Greenham Common.” If you search my posts, you will find, “Dedicated to the Women of Greenham Common” on March 7 2011 – yes I have been blogging all this time!

The next lovely thing to have happened is that one of my poems, “A Martian’s View of Earth” (posted on 9 July, 2020)was selected for publication in, “When This Is All Over” an anthology of work written during the pandemic and published in aid of Rennie Grove Hospice Care. You can buy it here: https://amzn.to/3xi8iay

Round about the same time, my local writers’ group, WATFORD WRITERS, published an anthology of poems and prose written during lockdown, “2020 Vision”. My short story, “Touch” (posted on 15 March, 2020) and two of my poems, “The New Normal” and “The Lost Year” were all chosen for publication. If you’d like to support Watford Writers and also the
Watford Covid-19 Appeal, you can obtain a copy of “2020 Vision” from http://www.watfordwriters.org

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OH (other half) and I also recently visited Windermere in the beautiful Lake District. Some of you may have seen the TV documentaries on the Windermere children – kids who had survived the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps in the second world war were brought to Windermere where they were helped to recover from the trauma they had experienced. I was so moved by their story that I wrote a poem about it and I’m proud to say that it’s going to be published on the website of the The Lake District Holocaust Project.

I’ve also been busy writing some new poems and short stories which I will be sharing with you in the next few weeks.

It’s interesting how lockdown has released creativity in so many of us – whether it is in painting, gardening, cooking, baking, arts & crafts, DIY – or, as in my case – writing. I don’t think I have ever written so much as I have during these strange times!

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

MY 218TH BLOG POST SINCE MARCH 2020 – TIME FOR A BREAK!

I’m taking a break from blogging for a while but I plan to be back later in the year.

In the meantime, here’s a piece of flash fiction I wrote for a competition set by my writers’ group – watfordwriters.org

The subject matter was, “The Mistake”. This story can be read on a number of levels – where do you think the mistake – if there was one – was made?

Thank you for following my blog and for all your feedback over the past months.

I am always pleased to receive your comments and likes. See you again soon!

FLASH FICTION – THE MISTAKE

Cathy could hear the happy shouts of the children playing in the garden.

The phone rang.  “Mrs Collins?” It was an unfamiliar voice.

“Yes?” Cathy tentatively replied. Not another cold call!

“Your husband has been having an affair with my wife.”

Cathy laughed in disbelief.  “You’ve made a mistake. You must have the wrong number!” She put the phone down.

It rang again.

“I’m sorry if I’ve given you a shock Mrs Collins, but this is not a wrong number. There’s no easy way to put this. Your husband Gary, who works at Ridgecombe School, has been having an affair with the teaching assistant Janice, who happens to be my wife.”

Cathy was shocked into silence.  Outside she could still hear the children playing but she felt that her world had stopped.

She remembered how Gary always seemed in such a hurry nowadays to get to work. He’d also been quite short with her of late.  Was it possible? Could he be unfaithful?

 “Are you still there Mrs Collins?” said the voice.

“Yes, I’m here”, she replied weakly. “How do you know this?”

“I received an anonymous letter. I confronted my wife and she confirmed it was true. I thought you’d want to know.”

Cathy put the phone down. She was shaking.

Gary would soon be home from work. Should she confront him? He’d be bound to laugh it off. And she would laugh with him. Just some silly prank caller. Maybe a former student who had a grudge against her husband?

Cathy threw herself into household tasks. Somehow she managed to give the children tea, get them bathed and into bed. 

Not long after she heard Gary’s key in the door. What should she do? Should she say anything at all? Why should she believe someone she’d never met?  Yet, the more she thought about it, the more convinced she was that it could be true.  Gary had changed towards her in the past months.  And he’d been coming home late quite often – staff meetings he said.

After dinner, over the mundane task of stacking the dishwasher, she casually asked,

“Do you know someone called Janice?”

Gary looked startled.

“Why do you ask?”

“I received an odd phone call today. A guy who said he was her husband. He seemed to think the two of you were having an affair.”

Gary took his phone out of his pocket and began fumbling with it. His eyes did not meet hers.

“Are you having an affair Gary? Are you?”

Cathy gripped the steak knife angrily in her hand.

“Look at me!” she screamed.

Gary looked up and she could immediately see from the guilty expression on his face that the caller had been right.

*************************************

ONE YEAR LATER

Cathy Collins visibly trembled as she was escorted into the crowded courtroom.

“Catherine Elizabeth Collins – do you plead guilty or not guilty?”

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems