Chepstow

July Workshop

U3A Creative Writing 1st July 2020
Participants: Jude, Laraine, Hermoine, Barbara, Lesley, Val

1) I woke up because someone was screaming below my window (Jude)
Both cats were sitting bolt upright and staring at the curtains.
I hadn’t dreamt it then.
Several times I had jumped out of bed in the past because the front door bell
was ringing, and no-one was there.
With heart racing I sat up in bed and listened. All was now quiet.
Should I get up and look outside the front door? Ring a neighbour? Ring the police?
What if someone was hurt…being murdered!
The minutes ticked by with no further sound.
The cats settled back down and went back to sleep.
Well, if they don’t think it’s anything it probably isn’t. I lay back down and switched
off the light.
Lying in the dark mulling over what things the scream might have been, I remembered a time when we had just moved here. I was on the telephone talking to my brother and suddenly there it was, that heart rending, unearthly scream. It must be a woman being attacked outside the door!
My brother laughed on the other end of the phone. “I know what that is. It’s a mating vixen.”
Yes, I comforted myself, that’s what it was. Another mating fox. I went back to sleep.

‘I woke up because someone was screaming below my window.’ (Laraine)
I looked at my Fitbit, it was 2.30 am and very dark as there was no moon that night. I went to the open window and looked out but I could see nothing. I thought perhaps it was a fox or maybe an owl. I was just going to return to my lovely warm bed, when I heard it again. It sounded even louder now I was fully awake. What to do? Back to bed and ignore it, or go downstairs to find out what it might be. Although bed was the more attractive option, I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep unless I found out what it was.

I put on my dressing gown and slippers and padded down the stairs. In the hallway I found my wellies, tucked under the dresser where they lived, and pulled them on. Unlocking the free door, I pulled it open and went out. It was so black I couldn’t see the hand that I held the rail with. When I should have remembered was a torch, but just as I turned back the scream came again. Nearer this time. I peered in the direction I thought it had come from and saw a…

1) I woke up because someone was screaming below my window. (Hermoine)
I had gone to bed early and my bedroom is in the quietest part of the house. There is no traffic there, only a square of green grass and rarely a soul goes past. I often like to just sit and look out at the lights from the Severn bridge and the constant changing sky.
Having decided to go to bed early, I read for a little while and soon drifted off to sleep.

Suddenly I nearly shot out of bed because there was a loud, screeching outside my window. It must have been loud to wake me, because I wear hearing aids and can barely hear without them. I could not think what it could be and, waking suddenly from a deep sleep, it was very unsettling and scary.

I drew back the curtains and stared out, but could see nothing. Now I could hear nothing. I was completely disorientated and quite upset, also quite scared. I sat for quite a while, hoping to have some clarification into the noise, but, although I listened for nearly an hour, I heard nothing more.

Could only deduce that it had been a bad dream I had woken from. There were no reports of anything amiss the next day, so I wasn’t witness to anything terrible.

2) Zoom (Hermoine)
Everyone is doing wonderful things with Zoom on their computers. But I am not very accomplished with doing these modern things on computers.
My grandson, aged 16 is the computer expert and can fix anything that is wrong with any of our computers, also the neighbours machines.
Unfortunately lockdown reared its ugly head and Zoom suddenly was the ‘in’; thing’ with everyone keeping in touch. Church services, bible classes and various other things I involved came and went without me being in the know.
I now wait for an end to Lockdown and a better knowledge of Zoom

2) Zoom! (Lesley)
Well, I’m still not sure about it.
A friend was anxious to try it out and nominated me as a volunteer. It wasn’t a good day. Being the early days of the coronavirus lockdown I wasn’t feeling my best, and I hadn’t been sleeping well. Learning a new skill was not really on my radar that day!
However, I got the gist of it and tried it out. Mind you, I haven’t Zoomed with anyone else yet. I have watched Zoom sessions others have made, and must say, they vary a bit as to how successful they are. People forget their sound is switched off and start talking with obvious results. People wave their hands about, shout, laugh, trying to attract the miscreant’s attention. Mind you, when it works well it’s very worthwhile.
Personally I prefer one-to-one on Skype.

Zoom (Laraine)
Zoom! The ground flashed past us. We were picking up speed all the time. Now we were whooshing upwards towards the highest point. I held my breath. We tipped to one side, then we were hanging upside down. I couldn’t bear to look. I heard someone scream loudly in my ear. They sounded terrified. I didn’t know who it was because my eyes were squeezing tightly shut and I was gripping the bar in front of me with both hands. They were calling it a white knuckle ride and I understood exactly why. I bet my knuckles were white, not to mention my face. Now we were upright again but climbing to another huge height, before plummeting down an almost vertical one. The end was in sight now and we splashed through a huge water pit, which sprayed everything on the ride. We slowed to a stop and I stood up rather gingerly. My legs felt quite wobbly.
‘Well, “I said, “at least I didn’t disgrace myself!”
“No, you did very well,” John said, “apart from that dreadful noise you made all the way round!”

3) She should never have looked (Hermoine)
I am sure most of us have seen something they wished they had not. In m case it was as letter that arrived for my daughter. I d sometimes get post for her, but this time I did not even look at the envelope as I opened it together with my other post.
It is a letter from the hospital regarding her recent appointment. She has to go there every three weeks for tests and treatment in a clinical trial for a rare type of cancer of the skin. She has had this for ten years and been through chemo and radiotherapy, both of which are painful with bad side effects. All this has been done with stoicism and without asking for any help.
Each time I ask her how she is, she tells me that she does not want to discuss her health, so I have not heard any news latterly.
Having opened the letter inadvertently, I should not have looked at the contents, but curiosity is a very strong urge and I did look. And I wish I hadn’t!

3) She should never have looked (Laraine)
She quickly wrapped the box back in the tissue paper and put it in the bag. She placed it back in the wardrobe and closed the door. She went downstairs to the kitchen and made hers a cup of tea. Then she started cooking dinner. Chilli con Carne, Peter’s favourite. As she chopped the onions and stirred the tomatoes and meat, she kept thinking about the box upstairs. The empty box upstairs. Had he taken out the precious object that had lain inside it? What had he done with it? Perhaps, oh dreadful thought, he was seeing someone else, had taken the bracelet out and given it to her. She doubted herself. Surely he wouldn’t do such a thing and anyway he’d have left it in the box, wouldn’t he? Maybe there hadn’t been anything in the box, perhaps she’d imagined it. But no. She remembers it exactly. A gold bracelet, with filigree along the edges and sapphires set in it. The front door slamming interrupted her train of thought.

“Just going up to change,” Peter called. He wasn’t long and as he came into the kitchen, he smiled at her. He was so attractive when he smiled, she could understand why women chased him. He had a box of coffee creams in his hand. Her favourite! He must be feeling guilty. “Why don’t you have one?” He said, opening the lid for her. She was about to point out that dinner was nearly ready, when she looked down at the box, there, nestled among the chocolate delights, was a gold filigree bracelet. “Because you’re worth it!” he said with a smile.

The night sky was studded with a thousand stars (Barbara)

The night sky was studded with a thousand stars. A crescent moon cast a tarnished silver light on the black waters of the ocean. A chill breeze flurried around her. She hugged her cardigan closer.
 
It was impossible not to feel terrified being here alone.  Marianne could not believe what had prompted her to take the boat out by herself.  She was very experienced in taking this particular boat out onto the ocean.  The weather had been perfect when she left and she was thoroughly enjoying herself when, suddenly the engine died.
The thousand stars felt like a thousand prisons! She felt relieved for the light of the moon at least, and tried to put her thinking cap on. What had been the instructions for engine cut-outs?
Marianne’s ventures in the boat had been few and far between lately and memory was the last thing she thought she would need on this occasion. Such a shame! Her enjoyment was short-lived. She felt cold and frightened, and the friendly moon had now disappeared behind a cloud. Nothing for it but to sit quietly and wait for it to appear again. She felt for her mobile phone. Ah! At least she had that. Fumbling in the dark she tried to turn in on. Funny how, when you most need it, you have forgotten everything about how it works! Marianne held the phone as close to her eye as she could, but still she could see nothing, and her fingers couldn’t make out the once familiar buttons. Suddenly, the boat lurched to one side, and the phone slipped out of her hand, into the black water.

Damn!, she thought. What on earth shall I do? The water lapped around the boat and the noise of it seemed louder. Was the wind getting up? There had been a light breeze before but surely, surely it was stronger now. Only one thing for it, she’d have to try and sail back to the harbour. Just a couple of problems with that. She hadn’t sailed for years and was defeated rusty on the mechanics of the whole thing. And she hadn’t expected to need to sail so she hadn’t paid much attention to doug’s instructions. On the other hand, she had to do something and couldn’t rely on being rescued because even if help did come it might not arrive in time because she was definitely drifting towards the shoreline.  It a nice flat, sandy section of shore. Oh no! It was outcrops of rock, with cliffs looming behind it.
 
Where were the paddles for use in an emergency? If anything was an emergency, this was. She searched the boat and with relief grabbed the two oars, freeing them from the casing. As she looked up again, a great spike of rock was racing towards her, surely about to dash the little craft into a thousand pieces and cut her in half. Desperate she started paddling, using all her strength to battle the huge waves.

She struggled with the waves, paddling hard, desperation giving her aching arms extra strength and energy. The rocks loomed ever closer. Clearly she was losing the battle. She lunged the oars into the stormy water again and again. It was no use the rocks were almost within touching distance. Then she remembered her lodestone. She let go of one oar and watched it slip away from her out of reach into the sea. She grabbed her lodestone just as the boat was dashed onto the rocks. She was thrown into the churning waves and dragged down and down into the depths of the ocean floor. She still had her lodestone in her hand.

5) 20 ways to avoid sitting down to write (Jude)
I’m good at this. I’m very good at this.
In fact it isn’t a talent confined to my writing skills.
I’m excellent at procrastination full stop!
To avoid doing something I really should do I will find 100 things to do first.
Now, I really do want to write. I enjoy writing once I get started. It’s the getting started that is difficult.
Let me see.
I should put out the recycling (in actual fact, yes I should!), do the dishes, feed the cats, make the bed. I really ought to look at my bank statement first. I’ll just go on Facebook for a minute. The vacuuming urgently needs doing. Have I got time to cook my lunch first? Oh yes, I promised to ring that friend. I can’t keep putting it off. I really need to make a list. I’ll just have a cup of tea.
Shouldn’t I really be outside while the sun is shining? Writing is for wet days.
I spend half an hour looking for pen and paper to make my list and get side-tracked by the view from my window.
Those weeds need pulling out. I shall be living in a forest soon. I hunt round for my gardening gloves and kneeler and pop out just for a few minutes.
Two hours later I look at my watch. Tea time! I haven’t got time to start writing now.

5) 20 ways to avoid sitting down to write (Hermoine)
Go into the garden and start weeding. By the time you have finished you will have forgotten you intended to write – or do anything else for that matter.
Put on the TV and get distracted,
Search for pen and paper – they must be somewhere
Start baking and writing is soon forgotten
Ring a talkative friend and by the time you have finished talking, time for doing writing has passed.
Go for your daily walk, but take in more views and suddenly you have walked miles.

5) 20 ways to avoid sitting down to write (Laraine)
Well first you can watch tennis. I knew it’s not the same as the real deal, but it has been fun to travel back in time to the 1970s and watch Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova. It was still frilly knickers and no Hawkeye in those days. Then there was Federer, my favourite, losing to Nadal. Fantastic players both. Today, Ivanisevic and Rafter. I know who wins this one though. Ivanisevic, in as a wild card 11 years after he lost his final with Agassi. Definitely the underdog, having been on the wane for some time, and Rafter in the ascendant. Well, not what you’d expect at all. Got to say the Aussies are very noisy, it’s more like a cricket match with the Barmy Army. It’s very distracting.
Of course if you get bored with tennis you can always make a cup of tea and cuddle the cat who is determined to sit on your iPad!

6) But it’s my birthday (Laraine)
But it’s my birthday. Well it will be on Friday and I’m going to be watching the replay of the 1977 final of Virginia Wade beating Betty Stove in the Wimbledon final, became I missed it live. I was a student at the time. In those days women’s finals were held on Fridays so we had lectures. We asked Dr Lawrence very nicely if we could miss it, but he said we had a visiting lecturer in so no chance. Never being one to take things lying down I decided that if I couldn’t watch it, maybe I could listen to it. The others never thought of it, perhaps they weren’t as creative. Probably just that they weren’t as stroppy. Maybe they didn’t have a radio. But I did. It wasn’t one of these tiny modern mobile types. It was a transistor. Not huge, admittedly, but not tiny. I loaded it into my bag and got the earpiece ready. The lecture began. The match began. Every now and then I signalled updates to the other students. I listened to the lecture with one ear and the match with the other. I wondered whether the Doc knew. I have no member of that lecture, but the match still lives on today. And on Friday I shall watch.

7) There was a strange light in the sky (Jude)
I had been reading all afternoon and when I put down my book I noticed there was a strange light in the sky. I reached quickly for my camera with which to catch it, but the light was changing as I watched. Trying to capture the scene was useless.
It had been a stormy day with dark clouds and heavy rain, just the kind of day to curl up with a good book. The hours flashed past as I became engrossed in the story, and I hadn’t noticed the light beginning to fade.
I thought back to the weather forecast. Had they said it would clear up later? That eerie light appeared to be the sun suddenly appearing as it sunk down over the horizon. Was it the sun, or something more mysterious?

8) Angel cat (picture of a kitten with wings) (Jude)
I often think some of my cats are really angels, sent to me in times of need. I think other pet owners would agree.
However, that’s not to say all cats are angels. They can be little devils too! Coming home late and worrying us to death, or torturing some poor little innocent creature as if in glee, before despatching it.
They wake us up in the night, ridding themselves of hairballs. (Make sure to tread carefully when you get up with bare feet!) Trample all over us if we don’t get out of bed early enough. Scratch holes in the carpet, ignoring the lovely new scratch board we bought specially.
But they do seem to know when we need that extra kiss and cuddle. They love to sit on your lap and chirrup softly while gazing at you with loving eyes. They peer anxiously at you when you sneeze, and ask if you are OK. They adore you when you are eating ham sandwiches and will beg appealingly for a crumb.
They will sit in your hair as you sleep, and you dare not move, despite being too hot.
Yes, all in all, cats are real friends and I will venture to say, many really are angels.

The Heavenly Choir (Lesley)
This could be it for me, I have been living close to the edge all my life. When one is a cat one is expected to take risks.
There was the time I jumped down underneath the floorboards when the central heating was being installed. If they hadn’t heard my pathetic miowing I could have been stuck down there for ever,
I have had encounters with horrible dogs, one of them was especially dangerous. It took all my strength to fight him off. The claws and teeth certainly came out on that one
I was asleep under a car, when suddenly the engine started and it drove off missing me by a fraction.
That rat I encountered on my travels gave me a fright, it was him or me but I got him where it mattered.
A kid came to visit once, pretending to be so nice. “Here pussy, pussy” he would say, then, when no one was looking picked me up and squeezed me so hard I could hardly breathe; the claws and the teeth went into action to get away. That was a close thing.
The same kid cut my whiskers so I couldn’t what holes I could get into safely, I nearly came a cropper with that one too.
I got chased up a tree by a huge dog, I went so far up I couldn’t get down. The Fire Brigade had to rescue me.
Last year I had to have an operation because there was a problem with my kidneys, something to do with eating too much dried food. That cost them a pretty penny.
Now I am old, I feel listless and tired. I have had a good life and eight times I have come close but now I think I am ready to meet up with my old mates. Perhaps we could form a heavenly choir.