Roses Are Red

Roses

After an interminable number of photographs: bride and groom; group shots; with family and without; the entire wedding party; the reception was in full swing. Cake eaten, speeches made, it was time for the dancing. The band had set up beside the swimming pool and the guests made their way to the dance floor. But first there was one more ritual in a ritual filled day, the tossing of the bouquet.

It seemed the bride didn’t know her own strength. What should have been a gentle toss became a mighty throw. With her back to the crowd of wedding guests she hurled the bouquet over her shoulder, high into the air. Splash! What had originally been a presentation bouquet now lay floating in the pool. The roses floated there, bright in the sunshine, their red colour contrasting with the blue of the water. Slowly they drifted apart, separating into two loose bunches. There was a lighthearted struggle as a group of female guests vied for the pool-net to fish the remains of the bouquet from the pool. The bouquet had started out with twelve red roses but two hadn’t made it as far as the water. Unnoticed, one guest bent to pick up the two roses that lay at the side of the pool. She lifted the flowers to her nose and savoured their perfume, a faint smile flitted across her face. She stood up and walked over to the best man. He bent towards her in greeting and she whispered into his ear, ‘Here’s to this time next year.’ Her lips brushed his cheek. He reddened. She walked away, he returned to his wife.

She mused about whether it was unlucky to gather only part of the bouquet, a part picked up off of the ground, at that. No matter, if everything went as planned, she’d be married in a year’s time. Gaining the bouquet, or at least a part of it, had been a bonus. That small action in itself reassured her she was on the right path.

He watched her from across the patio. Was she making a genuine play for him? He glanced at his wife, cold and unforgiving, with rarely a kind word to say to him. After two loveless years he could be forgiven for yearning after something more. He looked back at the pool. The tussling over the pool net was long over. A small group of women stood giggling over a soggy handful of roses, the remaining flowers floated out of their reach. He strode over to the pool and took up the net, with his superior reach he was able to snag the rest of the flowers.

With the balance of the roses dripping from his hand he, made his way to the woman who had approached him earlier. Offering her the remains of the sodden bouquet it was his turn to whisper in her ear, ‘Why wait until next year?’

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Written in response to the Creative Writing Ink November 6th writing prompt competition

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Still You Are Remembered

One hundred years on from the end of the war,
And still you are remembered.
Few alive remember your face or your name,
But still you are remembered.

Who would have thought you’d be remembered today?
Yet still you are remembered.
Age will not wither you nor time erase you,
And still you are remembered.

In the eleventh month we celebrate your name,
Still you are remembered.
On the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day,
In silence you are remembered.

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A poem for Armistice Day. Written in response to the Lichfield Garrick, Voices of the War poetry competition.

I Am a Compass

Compass

I first met her lazing beside an alpine lake, high in the mountains. She drew my attention for two reasons. Firstly, she was the only other walker on her own. Secondly, she bore a representation of a compass rose on her inner right forearm. I approached her and opened up a conversation.

‘How’s that working out for you?’ I asked, pointing to her arm.

‘What? My compass? It works just fine, thank you.’

‘Really? You can tell what direction you’re walking in by referring to your arm? You’ve got to be kidding me.’

‘Yes, really. I can’t explain how it works, it just does. I stand up facing the direction I want to go in, stretch out my arm, index finger extended, and wait for the tingle. When I’m pointing due north, I get a distinct tingle along the length of my arm. Apart from that, it’s just like using a regular compass.’

‘I’m amazed. Does it work every time?’

‘Sometimes it seems to fade away. When that happens I recharge. I suppose you could describe it as a process of recalibration. I wait until the fall of night, then face toward Ursa Major and search out the pole star. I point at it, then slowly draw a virtual line downwards to meet the horizon. Then, in the morning, standing in exactly the same position as the night before, I line myself up with that point. Invariably, at that moment, I feel a strong tingling in my arm. I’m then ready to go until it once more fades away.’

‘I’ll say it again, I’m amazed. Do you ever experience any problems with magnetic deviation? Do ferrous metal objects or electromagnetic fields affect your accuracy?’

‘No, I’ve rarely noticed anything like that, even on board ship it seems to work just fine. The only thing I’m wary of though is thunderstorms. I’m not really sure what it is with a storm but the tingling sensation doesn’t feel right. I think maybe I’m scared of attracting a lightning strike under those conditions.’

‘Well, at least you’re safe in the knowledge that you can’t lose your compass over some ledge. Still, I’m going to stick with navigation the old-fashioned way.’

I got my map out and laid my compass on it. I fingered the route I had marked and took a bearing. Orienting the map accordingly I stood, ready to resume my day’s trekking, waved my goodbyes, then strode off into the mountains.

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Some weeks after my walking holiday I was saddened to come across a story in one of my trekking magazines about a death in the Tyrol. Apparently there had been an unseasonal run of severe weather in the area where I’d been visiting. As a result a number of casualties had occurred. One woman had remained unaccounted for in the aftermath of a thunderstorm of unprecedented proportions. When the mountain guides eventually retrieved a body it was found to have been hit by lightning numerous times. In an attempt to identity the unknown woman, certain pertinent information was being revealed to the public. She possessed an unusual tattoo on her right arm, that of a compass needle along with the letter ”N” at the base of her wrist.

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Written in response to the Creative Writing Ink November 1st writing prompt competition

Stopping by Woods on a Stormy Afternoon

Stopping by Woods

It’s that time of year again. That time of year when the sun hugs the horizon in the late afternoon. This is a time for dramatic sunsets and none more so than when the sky is overcast by a storm. I’d been driving all afternoon and as I drove, I’d been noticing the black clouds building. I could feel a photograph coming on. I continued to drive while waiting for the right contrast of sun and cloud. I was after a dramatic shot and needed a view with the right focal point. In my mind’s eye I could see the photograph I was searching for but feared that shot was not to be found here on this stretch of road.

As I drove on, the road went deeper and deeper into the woods. There was no landscape to be found here. All there was, was an endless vista of trees and nothing else. I decided to experiment. The subject might not be exactly what I was after but it would give me the chance to get the camera’s settings right in anticipation. I stopped the car on a bend, making sure it was lit by the evening sun. I walked back along the way, constantly checking behind me, until I came to a place that felt right. I lifted the camera to my eye, framing the car in a way that, again, felt right. Focusing the camera so that everything in the frame was sharp, I started shooting. As I shot frame after frame I altered the aperture in search of the perfect contrast.

I studied the results. I’d found the right setting for the effect I was after but something was missing. Marking the spot where I’d been standing to take my photos with a rock, I then walked back to the car. Opening the driver’s door I switched on the lights, then made my way back to where I’d been standing. Once again I framed the car with my camera and resumed shooting. That was better. The red of the rear lights and their reflections stood out, adding some much needed colour to the scene. Satisfied, I returned to the car and continued on my way.

The afternoon wore on and the skies grew darker. Before long the sun had set and any thought of catching further dramatic landscapes went with it. When I arrived home that night I reviewed the photos I had taken that afternoon on my laptop. I found one the one that stood out in terms of contrast and printed it off. Not bad by any means but I had to acknowledge that it was no match for the picture that my imagination had conjured up. I can’t tell you what was amiss with the shot. Perhaps it was making something as mundane as my car the focus of the image rather than the imagined bucolic picture of my mind’s eye, one featuring a stone cottage lit up by the sun’s dying rays.

Still, this time of low sun and storm meant there’d be plenty of opportunities to realise that picture of my imagination. It was a time to persist but, perhaps, I should locate that lonely stone cottage before continuing.

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Written in response to the Creative Writing Ink October 25th writing prompt competition

It’s an Actor’s Life for Me

Let me introduce myself, I Sir, am an actor. You may not have seen much of my work since I graduated from the academy, but I assure you that I have been constantly active. In between times I’ve taken many an odd job to make ends meet. I’ve been a bank teller, I’ve waited table in numerous cafés, and even, at my most desperate, taken on the distasteful job of working on a dustcart. For a while I worked in an emporium, but I’ve never worked in something as vulgar as a common shop, I have my pride. One of my most memorable occupations was the time I was employed as a steward on the cross-channel ferry but, unfortunately, that came to an end with the introduction of the channel tunnel.

I’m often asked what genre I prefer to which, I reply, the one that pays the bills! I do have a preference for the stage. I enjoy appearing in Shakespeare. I’m not fussed. Comedy, tragedy, romance, it’s all the same to me. You can’t beat the Bard. My television work is varied. I’ve played a detective in a long running crime series but also enjoyed a number of guest star appearances in a cult science fiction series.

As I said earlier, I’m an actor. I live for my craft. When forced to take on a job outside of my profession I treat it as a part. I’m not just some mundane employee, I am playing the part of an employee, whatever that may be. It’s a form of method acting of which I’m very proud. I’m never just an ordinary person in a dead-end job. I’m always polishing my acting skills and performing the part to the best of my ability.

Do you want fries with that?

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Written in response to the Microcosms 300 word competition number 139 with reference to the prompt: Actor; Café; Memoir

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This piece won the competition as the Judge’s pick.

Of the 16 excellent stories, this one resonated with me the most. I loved it. It was well-crafted and funny, and identifies with some of the jobs actors really do while “resting” and how they try to get through each day. Here in faraway Singapore, several of us will be residing in these or similar jobs when the curtain falls on ‘MacBeth: The Comedy’ (if we could afford a curtain).

Art for Art’s Sake

Banksy

A recent spate of guerrilla graffiti had taken the town by surprise. You could hardly turn a corner without being confronted by a newly stencilled image. One moment there was a blank wall, the next, a work of art. Both the local council and the police were eager to find out who was responsible, to put an end to the potentially expensive vandalism.

It had started with the simple image of a girl with a balloon. At first the locals had been delighted to have their very own Banksy. But, as the images proliferated, their enthusiasm dwindled. Before long there were images appearing on every surface possible. It was a nightmare for the council which was unable to decide whether the images were works of art or vandalism. A few, discrete, works of art were one thing. It got the press interested and got the name of the town onto the nation’s lips. There was even the prospect of profit to be made. Any image painted onto council premises would be considered the property of the town and, as such, could then be sold at a profit through one of the many auction houses interested in this type of art. The problem was the proliferation of these images, although popular with the public, had a tendency to drive down the price that could be realised at auction.

The police were of a mind to arrest whoever was responsible on charges of public vandalism. The council however, if it was honest with itself, would be content with a limited number of these images appearing over the course of the year. This would keep the public happy and, hopefully, keep the council’s coffers topped up. The council and the police came to an arrangement; if the culprit was found he or she would be bound over to keep the peace but no further action would be taken, provided new images did not exceed six images a year, all painted on council property.

The council’s plan was put into action. They monitored paint sales within the town hoping to track down the perpetrator. They deployed teams of skilled vigilantes to roam the streets by night. As the weeks went by, so the appearance of new images reduced. New paintings, especially ones which were repeats, were quickly erased, much to the chagrin of those whose property had been defaced. It didn’t take long for the public to cotton on to the council’s plan of monetising the artworks that had been appearing round the town. People were incensed by what they considered the council’s attempt at a monopoly.

A scheme that seemed to have started out as a way of devaluing street art, soon became perceived as a brilliant bit of manipulation by the artist concerned. By flooding the town with myriad images the artist has succeeded in pitting the council against the public, and vice versa, as each vied with the other to make a bit of easy money. The whole scheme had ended up highlighting greed and avarice by all. Money had triumphed over art, for art’s sake.

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Written in response to the Creative Writing Ink October 18th writing prompt competition

A Messy Romance

It was a romantic, if lonely, setting for a first date. Other than the fiddler, the two of them were alone in the vast space. The violinist, staying out of earshot, serenaded them with a medley of tunes; light and merry, the music went unheard by the two lovers intent upon each other. To say they were besotted was putting it mildly. A table had been set in one of the smaller alcoves surrounding the dance floor and it was there that they dined in silence. Waiters flitted in and out of the room, attending to their needs, bringing new courses and taking away the finished plates.

As they dined, they gazed intently into each other’s eyes. This, as you can imagine, had undesirable consequences. You try eating a lavish four course meal whilst staring into the eyes of your loved one. It wouldn’t be long before you both started to become distracted as you witnessed the resulting mess. That perfect little black dress becomes a little less perfect as it becomes decorated by each proceeding course. That sharp, stylish suit degenerates into something that perhaps a homeless person might wear.

Oddly enough, neither party seems to be aware of the deteriorating state of their clothing. One of the waiters coughs quietly to attract the lovers’ attention and deposits a tray of hot towels on the table, hinting that they might want to clean themselves up. They seem to wake, as if from a trance, and make a half-hearted effort at cleaning each other up. Matters are improved but they still look a mess. They exchange a grin, rise from the table, and take a quick turn around the floor before exiting, oblivious to anything but themselves.

Just going to prove, as we all know, that love is blind.

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Written in response to the Microcosms 300 word competition number 138 with reference to the prompt: Fiddler; Ballroom; Romance.