Ian had very sad news for the group. Ann Flynn’s husband died recently and the funeral is on Friday at the Pilar Chapel of Rest at 1 p.m. Our thoughts are with her. Also Jane had very bad news about Pat, who she was informed died yesterday. Having looked so well when we last saw her, she unfortunately developed bronchitis back in the UK. Also TJ has gone back to Ireland because his sister is very ill and waiting for a transplant.
Last week it took Ian 20 minutes to explain how the Secret Santa and the Christmas meal would be organised and today it took another 20 minutes going through it again and picking out Secret Santa slips.
Brenda told us that she had sent 3 sample chapters of her book to an agent and was asked to email her full manuscript as a Word document along with a short synopsis and CV, and they would be glad to consider her book, which is good news.
Ian will be sending an email out with the subjects for the next 6 months, including hot pens with a twist. Ian is away for the next 2 weeks so someone else will have to take the chair. Good luck to whoever it is!
Darren read out part of his novel. It was a gripping tale of mounds of bodies, with twisted limbs, grimacing in death. The ‘repentees’ who were clearing away the billions of bodies were prisoners who were given a devil’s deal. If you did one year with the clean up squad you were free. They all had to wear breathing apparatus and given drugs to numb the pain to enable them to bear the burden. Very few survived the ordeal. They had to wear wrist bands which would explode if they did not check in for work. It is set in the future and tells of an Armageddon awaiting the world. A spellbinding story that I can’t wait to read in full. There were some good comments from the group about style change and characterization.
Maureen’s story was a conversation with a computer. ‘Hello I am Sarah from PayPal. I am your automated customer support assistant.’ ‘I want to send money to a UK bank but the fields don’t match’. ‘Please rephrase your question and I will be able to give you a better response. Would you like more information on how to send the money?’ She repeats what she wants to do. ‘Can you tell me more about your issue?’ Request repeated again. ‘Was this helpful?' Me, ‘no’. ‘I am a virtual assistant and I cannot think. I do not know what you mean. Can you be more specific?’ Me ‘ha ha’. ‘ I am sorry that was too complicated for me’. At that point Maureen switched off.
Christine’s poem was about a Christmas pudding.
It was the night before Christmas the children were sleeping, the stockings on the mantle, mum was weeping. Her husband was a soldier in a war torn foreign land helping people for a reason she didn’t understand. He was due home for Christmas but it was getting quite late. She heard the doorbell, and her returning husband was there. Thank goodness for that, we were getting worried.
Ian’s story was called Santa didn’t come. Because Santa never turned up the little boy asked his mum ‘Was I really bad? He had to ask his mum because he didn’t have a dad, who had just died. ‘No you have been very good.’ He took his mum’s hand; it is up to him to take his father’s place. ‘I hope next year is better, I wrote to Santa saying please bring my daddy back.’ Chris said ‘where’s the knife?’ We were all suicidal by this time.
A new member Pam Brennan introduced herself; she likes to be amongst creative people, and is a painter and artist,
Kathy had written a poem to Avril who had presented us all with a handmade card, ‘I cannot express in words, it is not in my power, Avril you are a star, a little flower’
Gerry’s story was read out by Maureen. It is set in 1475. The storyteller’s father was a huge man with a booming voice who controlled every aspect of his life while his mother was timid, subservient. He had got to get out from under his father’s dominance, so leaves to seek his fortune. After 2 hours of walking he was hit by loneliness and excitement. At 17 he was a boy entering the world of men. He looked out for something to eat in the forest and saw a young woman lying on her stomach with her hands over the water like a statue. Her hands went into the water and she pulled out a fish from the stream. She picked up a large stone and hit the fish on the head. ‘Are you going to help? You behind the tree, come and help.’ Her face was dirty as were her hands and feet. ‘Are you hungry? Follow me walking upstream’. We hope he will be writing more as we all wanted to know what happened next. It is a voyage of discovery.
Jane wrote on ‘wait till I get you home’, the subject from another week. The narrator was walking home when she saw Ben, her son. What was he doing? Wait till I get you home. 12 year old Ben was taking flowers from Mrs Brown’s garden. If I have found that you have thieved how can I face living here?’ ‘Mum she asked me to take her daffodils.’ When asked Mrs Brown said Ben brings her a lot of joy. ‘You must be so proud.’ ‘I puffed up like a bird and held Ben close.’
Avril’s poem is from the point of view of a fed up Christmas pudding. This must be a first! There is a dead turkey on the table. I will be set on fire. How thrilling, they will take their spoons to me to look for the coins. I don’t like that grandpa, I am going to set alight his beard and make him fart like thunder. Hilarious!
Mary’s story was about a Christmas spree. Eating everything in sight, it was a terrific night.’ The evening consisted of food with alcoholic drinks at every stage of the meal. Several glasses of sherry with the turkey, brandy with the Christmas pudding and rum with the mince pies. ‘I will probably spend tomorrow in bed. I was only sick twice.’ That reminds me to stock up with Rennies.
The next Mary’s story was about Christmas puds again. I feel full up now. It was 30 years ago and she had to make a Christmas cake as it was the done thing to produce homemade goodies. She had a brand new microwave and a sure fire recipe for Christmas cake. There were a lot of ingredients to go in the magic appliance for 20 minutes. She followed the instructions and it smelled delicious but looked like pudding. Started again, there was a disruption and she ended up with another pudding. Eventually she had enough Christmas pud to feed the whole street. Her husband came in, looked at the recipe and said that looks easy. ‘You do it then Mr. Smarty’. The result was a perfect cake. He read the instructions properly and found that you had to use a different kind of flour. Her family had pudding with cream, custard, yoghurt and ice cream. She hasn’t eaten Christmas pudding since.
Thank goodness Chris’s story was not about Christmas pudding. It was about Sweden and a recent visit to Stockholm. Things happen on time in Sweden, there is no manana there; you have to be punctual, Swedes remove shoes when they enter a house; some people take shoes to change into, and you have to make sure your socks haven’t got any holes in them. Alcohol shops are few and far between. A bottle of gin costs 27 Euros. (Don’t go to Sweden Mary) They drink a lot of coffee and eat coffee bread with it. Most shops have tickets with numbers on that you have to pick to get served. Swedes line up properly in a bus queue. They speak English from an early age. Chris’s Swedish is not perfect, she thought she was asking the hairdresser for highlights when in fact she was asking for her to put cornflakes in her hair! In Sweden you have the right to hike across private land and friends will take you to a nearby lake or forest and collect wild berries and mushrooms. You have no daylight hours in winter but indoors is warm. Very picturesque. The group thought it would be a good article for such as the Sunday Telegraph.
Brenda read out the start of her story about Lottie. The year was 1867. Her brother put her on to the horse drawn trap. ‘Where are we going? We are going on a trip. Are we all going? No your brothers and I have work to do but we will come and visit.’ Mum gave her a squeeze. ‘It is a fine house you are going to with kind people who will take care of you. Soon you will be strong and healthy and return to your brothers and me.’ Lottie felt frightened and looked back at her mother who looked small and frail. Her bloom had given place to despair on the day Pa died. Pa had worked on a farm while ma ran the home. Her brothers helped Pa while Lottie’s tasks were to help around the home. As the only girl she felt special and protected. She was a sickly child and had arrived early with lungs not fully formed, but had a zest for learning. Pa took to his bed, and died of a fever 8 days later. Ma grieved for a year and became withdrawn. She said to Lottie, ‘You are an excellent seamstress and cook. You will find a gentleman and make a good wife.’ Lottie wondered if she had been punished for her weakness. ‘Why does Ma not love me anymore?’ Willy said ‘Lottie, Ma still loves you as we all do, you will get strong and healthy and come back to us.’ Lottie remembered her family as she set out that cold winter day. Very evocative. There were plenty of comments on Brenda’s story and the group wish her success in her undoubted future career as a published writer.
Next week is our Christmas meal. I think I will be cancelling my order for Christmas pudding as a dessert.