A Resounding Silence.

The sun tried its best to pierce its way through the heavy clouds that were brooding over the graveyard. Starlings argued in the bare branches of the tree nearby, an irreverent yet timely reminder of life. A sudden gust of wind blew across the line of children, ruffling their hair. One of the boys absent-mindedly ran his fingers through his fringe, then scuffed at the gravel with the point of his shoe.

“Where shall we put it?” The girls moved forward and gently moved two wreaths apart to make room for the plant. Crouching down, they slid the flower-pot on to the tomb, then placed the handwritten card in the leaves and stepped back, feet crunching on the gravel.

Six pairs of eyes looked down at sneaker-covered feet, then up towards the soft, grey, impenetrable sky. I did likewise – like them, I could not bring myself to focus on the sea of white flowers before me. How I wished the sky had been blue. How I wished that the sky had brought more hope that this.

The momentary silence was uncomfortable. Eleven-year-olds are never this silent, and one of the boys answered their unspoken need to justify it by clearing his throat and quietly saying, “I guess it’s time for a minute of silence”. Heads nodded, hands were clasped  together.

Silence ensued. The silence of six children contemplating another child’s grave is unlike any other. It was at this moment that I understood the concept of a “resounding” silence; by definition, silence is devoid of noise, yet silence can speak volumes. The children’s silence communicated so much – feelings and emotions tumbled out of that silence and seeped into me through each and every pore.

The silence spoke. It said that the children had taken yet another step into the hard reality of life, a reality that we parents try to protect them from for as long as we can. It explained that their rounded, pre-teen shoulders were feeling the unfamiliar weight of sadness. The silence reassured me, telling me that they were more mature and more resilient than I had imagined. It was a sad silence that expressed their feelings for the friend who had lost his little brother. It was an angry silence that screamed that life was unfair. It was a frightened silence that asked fate to spare them from the same experience in the future. And a comforting silence that wrapped itself around them and embraced their friendship.

In this roaring silence, a tiny, isolated sound caught my attention. Then another. Light, crisp, clean, almost imperceptible. I would never have heard this sound without the silence. The children noticed the sound too, and their eyes sought its source. The sky had stopped brooding, the tension had disappeared. The first raindrops were falling gently on the ribbons decorating the wreaths.

A voice interrupted the silence. “Ok, I think that’s enough. Wow, it felt like ten minutes.” A nervous giggle rippled through the group. Then they moved. Shoulders were squared, their faces cleared, and determined expressions replaced the worry that had been there seconds before. “Right. Where are we taking him to cheer him up?”

The silence was over.

Post written in response to the Weekly Writing Challenge: the sound of silence.

Daily Prompt: Vice.

I love listening to seagulls. The way they cry in a blustering winter sky can reduce me to tears – it takes me right back to my childhood, when I woke up every morning to the sound of their plaintive call above my attic bedroom.

But in town, they are awful creatures. They crap on everything, whether it moves or not. They attack tourists eating fish and chips, beat up postmen on their rounds, and have even been rumoured to pick on small dogs.

Today’s daily prompt asks for photos showing vice, and I immediately thought of my seagull pals. Here are a few snaps showing how lofty (haha), arrogant, self-important, proud and defiant they are.

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PS. If you haven’t been yet, please head over here and support my entry in the Expats Blog writing contest, “Ten Beret God Things to Know about France and the French” before it’s too late!

Culture

And another Daily Post challenge, but this time it’s a photo! A picture to define culture… Hmm… I have one of those. Taken back home in Cornwall a couple of years ago, this one portrays the great British pub culture, and the age-old conviction that our watering holes are no place for our offspring.

The unfortunate juxtaposition of the dog’s water bowl and the word of warning for thirsty parents outside this pub door was too tempting for words, and I couldn’t resist capturing the moment with Candide Canon. So go to the pub for a shot of British culture, by all means – this establishment kindly provides a bowl of water outside so that our kiddies don’t get thirsty while we’re getting drunk inside. Now that’s what I call good, British decency.

They can't come in, but feel free to leave them outside the pub door.  Copyright: Multifariousmeanderings.

They can’t come in, but feel free to leave them outside the pub door.
Copyright:  Multifarious meanderings.

Roll up, roll up….

 The Daily Prompt caught my eye this time: “As seen on TV. Write a script for a late-night infomercial — where the product is your blog. How do you market yourself? What qualities do you embody that other “products” don’t? What are the benefits of reading your blog?”. Here’s my entry – it was harder than I thought to blow my own trumpet!

MM loves playing with figurines.

MM  has Peter Pan syndrome, and loves playing with figurines.

Do you need a break from 24/7 news and long for an escape route to accompany that glass of Chardonnay and bar of chocolate in the evening? Could you do with a quick fix of humour to blow away the blues? If you’d love to have a good laugh without having to invite friends around for dinner and getting all the washing up to deal with too, then switch off the TV and get over to Multifarious Meanderings to poke some fun at everyday life.

 Penned by an expatriate mother of three who is not only one can short of a six-pack, but is proud of it too, this no-nonsense collection of life’s experiences will titillate your funbuds and leave you with a smile on your face.
Travel through time in MM’s archives, and discover the author’s mishaps as she strives to communicate in the States, finds truffle-hunting dogs under her neighbour’s tractor, copies off Wonder Woman at parent-teacher meetings, examines the perplexing issue of the Lost Sock Dimension, discusses Herr Hormone and his PMT henchmen, and much, much more.
Learn about nature with MM, who gives you the low-down on the migration of the lesser-spotted boob, and reveals the true, grim story behind Larry the Louse’s regular visits to your child’s scalp. Her recent symptom-checker for Peter Pan Syndrome has turned up trumps for many readers, who are now finally able to put a name on their condition and will meet one day in a cyber playgroup to play Lego together.
And there’s more!
MM provides, free of charge:
  • A humourous glimpse of her everyday life in the south of France.
  • The reassurance that things could be worse as you discover MM’s run-ins with the world.
  • An opportunity to chat with some lovely bloggers from all over the world who regularly pass by, and to check out their wonderful blogs too.
  • A reply to your comment on her posts (MM is a blogger who enjoys interacting with her visitors).

So head off to Multifarious Meanderings for an unlimited trial period now, and double, triple or quadruple your order….. It’s all free, fun and without any commitment on your behalf. All you need is five minutes of your time, and your chucklecard number. See you there!

Junk!

MM is feeling guilty, because she doesn’t have much time for blogging at the moment. New posts are in the pipeline, I promise… and lots of reading, too.  In the mean time, here is my contribution to today’s daily prompt about junk. I’m fascinated by the way nature or humanity repossesses unwanted objects that are abandoned.  I’ve got a fair few pictures I took with Candide Canon -here are a few examples I found locally. I hope you enjoy them!  MM.

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My Menagerie.

I really should be working. But up popped this little gem from Daily Prompt in my mail box: “Do you have animals in your life? If yes, what do they mean to you? If not, why have you opted not to?”

As we didn’t have enough on our plates with a home that is a permanent hard-hat area, two jobs and three children, we decided to add a little spice to the family equation and get some pets. Here’s a quick introduction to our menagerie.

Firstly, meet Smelly Dog. Smelly dog is six years old, and she is my best friend whilst I’m working alone at home. She lies on the ground beside me in the kitchen as I type away, and yelps, snorts, whines, growls and twitches her feet as she chases after what I presume to be animals and bad guys in her sleep. I’d love to be able to see her dreams.

She has a soft spot for cheese of any description, and for some reason thinks that rolling herself copiously in animal dung (the stinkier the better) makes her smell good. We go for long walks together, and when I need to talk, she lies her head on my lap, listens patiently, and doesn’t repeat what I tell her to anyone – not even the cat. She defends us ferociously – at least from a distance. Her radar hearing picks up on footsteps before we can see anyone anywhere near the house.  Once the alarm has been rung, she hides behind us and barks protectively. She has a perfect memory, which makes visiting the vet’s a complicated issue – I generally have to cajole her and usually end up carrying 28 kilogrammes of shaking Golden Retriever into the waiting room.

Water: her favourite hobby.

Water: her favourite hobby.

Now meet Murphy. Murphy is my unlucky black cat. We adopted him when his predecessor decided to tackle a truck, and lost the battle. (As my mother rightly said, with a name like “Calamity”, he was doomed from the start anyway.)

Murphy was found on a petrol pump in a box containing 12 kittens. We adopted him from the vet’s when he was three weeks old, along with a stock of bottles and special kitten formula. He looked like a kind of off-beat gremlin. His gut dragged along the ground, and he belched copiously after each bottle. Needless to say, the kids fell in love with him immediately.

It’s just as well, as Murphy carries his name well. Initially chosen because he is the same colour as MM’s favourite Irish stout, his name is now associated more with Murphy’s law, which dictates that anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Now aged seven, Murphy takes on a typical resigned look every time we get near the vet’s. Here are a few picks of his various injuries. He has fallen off the roof, been run over by a car, and his face has exploded (see here for that story).  He has probably cost us more than our three children combined in medical fees.

Murphy doesn’t walk – he prances effeminately along on rubbery legs, delicately placing his paws one in front of each other as if he was the feline equivalent of Claudia Schiffer prowling down the kitty-cat walk. Until this year, Murphy hated being cuddled, except when he asked for attention himself.  I swear that if he was human, he would be an ungrateful, sardonic, self-indulgent and narcissistic teenager complete with gothic complexion and a pierced nose. His no-nonsense, no frills realism struck a chord in me. I related to this cat, as I am very much the same most of the time and am not permanently pawing at my family for cuddles.

The only cats P.F ever liked got killed or disappeared. He saw Murphy as a parasite until he exploded (Murphy, not P.F. P.F does explode from time to time,  but figuratively speaking, not literally). The postapocalyptic Murphy is unrecognisable, asking for cuddles, leaping up on to PF’s lap for cuddles, and sleeping between us on the pillow. Miracles apparently happen – with the help of a large dose of anaesthetic.

Murphy doing his legendary impression of a ready-to-roast chicken.

Murphy doing his legendary impression of a ready-to-roast chicken.

Happily, any doubts about him having died during post-explosion surgery and been replaced by an identical cat at the vets have been dispelled by the fact that he continues to eat too much and redecorate the house: Murphy is bulimic, and chooses a different place to throw up each time.  We are laying our bets on Murphy living to a ripe old age and putting that old adage about 9 lives into disrepute.

Then we have the Daltons, P.F’s babies. They are around three feet long, lie curled up together in a big ball, and don’t do much except eat mice and crap. Oh, and help me get rid of unwanted visitors. “Do come in for a coffee. I just have to feed my snakes first” is a very efficient way of finding out just how much those visitors really want to see you…..

Last and not least, there is Jamie the 3rd. Yes, you got it, his two predecessors were sent down the great white telephone to goldfish heaven. Jamie the First appeared in Little My’s water-glass at her uncle and aunt’s wedding in Paris, when the magician unwittingly chose the only child who was in the middle of moving across France to benefit from his Jesus style “fish and water” act.  Little My was thrilled, and was not going to give up her new friend for all the money in the world. When PF suggested that she freed the little chap into the nearby lake, he was told where he could stick his advice in no uncertain terms by a determined little girl with a trembling lower lip. Jamie survived his trip and finally died six months later in his new home in the South of France. Brigitte Bardot would have been proud of the kid.

Daily Prompts: When nightmares echo reality.

Daily Prompt: Nightmares

by michelle w. on February 19, 2013

Describe the last nightmare you remember having. What do you think it meant?

I have had the same nightmare for the last nearly 24 years. I have never written about this.  It  is distressing and not the kind of thing I felt I should share until today – maybe speaking about it will help.

In my nightmare, I am a few feet from a young boy, lying alone on the turf of the football pitch. His face is tinged blue, his eyes and mouth are open. I push past the people in front of me to the fence separating me from him, but it is too high. The exit gate is locked, I can’t get to him. I talk to him, but don’t know if he can hear me.

More stretchers arrive. More victims. I have to stand there, an unwilling observer of human suffering like the people around me. A man walks slowly down the pitch, trousers soaked with fear, tears running down his face. A drunken supporter screams abuse at injured people.  I hug a sobbing stranger on a step. Later, much later, we get on the bus home. The only sound was that of grown adults weeping.

I always wake up feeling that I have been punched in the stomach by the concentrated dose of human compassion, courage, grief, terror, anger, stupidity, cruelty and inadequacy I experienced that day. I awaken with the guilt of having survived, and the anger that 96 people died on the day they were supposed to enjoy a football match.

I know full well what this nightmare means. My brain has never processed the horror of seeing this happen in 1989, and my conscience cannot accept that I was incapable of doing anything to change the victims’ destinies. Time does nothing to take the memory away, and becoming a mother has made it more difficult.  I see the boy again and again, because I need to know if he survived. I never will.

Time up.

This post is very different to what I usually write. Time to try my hand at a bit of fiction with today’s Daily Prompt: The Clock“Write about anything you’d like. Somewhere in your post, include the sentence, “I heard the car door slam, and immediately looked at the clock.”

Hour Glass

(Photo credit: Ömer Ünlü)

I struggled in vain, my fear and anger fuelling the adrenaline coursing though my veins. I was firmly anchored to the chair, my wrists and ankles deadened by the tightness of the tape. Rubbing my face against the shoulder of my pullover in a futile attempt to remove the tape placed over my mouth, I could smell Emily’s perfume. Emily. Please don’t come home tonight. Please stay at work late, please go for a drink with the girls after work, please get stuck in a traffic jam but please, for the sweet love of Jesus, don’t come home.

It had been easy for Anna to get into the house without me hearing her. I’m always half asleep when I surface in the afternoon, and she knew it. All our married life I had worked nights, and she had gradually replaced my presence in the evening with the bottle. First a glass of wine, then two, until I regularly found her asleep on the couch on my return from night shift. Eyes closed to the fresh-faced early morning T.V presenters, she was spread across the couch with the empty bottle at her side, the glass hanging from her fingers.

The bottle comforted her, never asked her any questions, and was always there when I wasn’t. I was no competition, and she couldn’t face life without her newfound companion. The divorce had been messy, and Emily had been my saviour. Anna had never forgiven me.

She hit me hard on the back of the head as I entered the kitchen.The wine bottle smashed with the impact, and I found myself lying on the tiles in a myriad of emerald coloured shards, staring up from between her dirty trainers into her laughing, drunken face. “Don’t tell me that hurt; it was empty, you wimp!” I rubbed the back of my head. “Wouldn’t be like you to waste alcohol,” I fired back.

She crouched down beside me. “Drink this, it’s aspirin”, she said as she pulled my head backwards and forced a small glass of liquid down my throat. Shortly afterwards, everything went black.

When I came around, I was firmly taped to a kitchen chair. She had swept all the objects off the table, and the floor was littered with opened mail, fruit and smashed crockery. A photograph and the kitchen wall clock had been neatly put in their place. I stared woozily at the picture of Emily and I, immortalizing our happiness after she had scraped me out of my misery and catapulted me into back into life.

Anna took a marker pen from the pen pot. She slowly and deliberately penned a moustache and beard on Emily’s face. Despite the rage in the pit of my stomach,  I feigned disinterest. “Why the clock?” I asked her. She grinned, and pulled a package from her rucksack. She thrust it in front of my nose. “See this? I made it. All by myself”.  Wires, dynamite. Oh, Christ.

She turned the strange contraption over and over in her hands, her eyes sparkling like a child who had constructed a new imaginary world. “The therapist told me I should take up a hobby, do you remember? I bet he didn’t think it would be explosives. It’s amazing what you can learn on internet these days”. She pulled up a chair and started unscrewing the back of the clock. “I’ve been practicing this every week for months. Wouldn’t want to miss the fireworks for a silly mistake, now, would we?”

As she talked, she fixed wires to her package. She admired her work with satisfaction then propped the clock up carefully against the  block of dynamite before heading over to the door, wires in hand.

“You’re not going to do that? Surely not? What would killing us do to make you happier? You’ve lost the plot, Anna, you need help. Let me help you”.  The panic was growing in me. She returned, kissed me on the forehead and stretched a piece of duct tape across my mouth. “This is part of my training,” she whispered softly in my ear. “You see, I’ve met someone. If I get this right, he’ll take me on. Remember the therapist? He wanted me to find a job to get over the alcohol, right? Well, it’s done”.

Anna held my face in her hands, her clear blue eyes boring into my soul. “She’ll be home soon. She’ll open the door, and the dynamite will blow. Time over. That’s good enough for me. If I can’t have you, neither can she”.

She grabbed her bag and stepped over the glass and debris to the stove. Slowly, deliberately, she turned all the knobs. “Oh, by the way. The clock’s not part of the equation; it’s just for you to see time go by as slowly as it did for me when you ran off with your redhead. Watch that clock!”

She climbed through the window, closing it carefully behind her. I concentrated on the sound of the gas hissing out of the hobs and the ticking of the seconds hand as it made its way slowly but surely around the clock face.

As each second passed by, Emily got closer. The hourglass was running out on us. I concentrated on the photo. Emily’s smile, her green eyes, her red hair. I twisted my arms desperately to stretch the duct tape, but it was as cold and unyielding as Anna had ever been. I heard the car on the gravel. The engine cut out. I heard the car door slam, and immediately looked at the clock. The key turned in the lock, and the door handle moved slowly downwards.

The best thing since sliced bread: “Candy”, the queen of my humble abode.

Daily post really must stop tempting me. Today, they gave us our daily bread with the following question:

Most of us have heard the saying, “That’s the best thing since sliced bread!” What do you think is actually the best thing since sliced bread?

This got me thinking, and here’s the result….

“Candy”, the queen of my humble abode.  

All the Fashion

(Photo credit: Amarand Agasi)

I can hear you all sighing and saying “Here we go…. TV, computer and mobile phones”. Well, no. Although I am sure they have revolutionised our lives, they has also landed us with kids who are connected to their mobile phones by invisible umbilical cords, use books as door-stops and think that the most famous navigator in history is Internet Explorer. So no, communication technology is not the best thing since sliced bread.

“That’s all very well and good”, you say, “… so stop hedging, and answer the question”. My reply is probably going to have some laughing, whilst others will be beating their feminist breasts and seeking out my IP address in the firm intention to send me my Women’s Lib subscription pack. Nevertheless, I’m going to slap on my under-50’s housewife hat and give you my answer:  The fully-automatic washing machine. Oh, yeah. Mine is called Candy, and she positively rocks this joint.

So why is Candy my heroine? How can a simple washing machine make humanity’s day?

Simple. Whilst some American families were already enjoying the luxury of the very first electric washing machines in 1928, here in Europe we had hand-powered dinosaurs or simply washed by hand, with the added thrill of putting our fingers through the wrangler along with little Johnny’s long johns. Washing the laundry was the household equivalent of a triathlon until the first excruciatingly expensive but fully-automated washing machines were ripped off the shelves by hysterical homemakers in 1947.

The lack of reliable contraception most probably leading to a large family, I’m therefore guessing that the average mother spent three-quarters of her day washing the laundry, giving her biceps that would make Rambo go pale with envy. Her fingertips looked like a bag of prunes, she sweated like a horse and had back pains that must have made childbirth feel like a holiday in the tropics in comparison. I suspect that many a child thought twice about dropping his dinner down his front faced with the strength and nervous exhaustion of a mother who had spent most of her day hoisting sodden sheets in and out of cold water.

Now let’s have a look at this situation today, boys and girls. (Yep, in this modern day and age, the boys are concerned too.) Hands up those of you who just have to press the button on a miracle machine and still manage to have Mount Etna in dirty laundry towering in the corner of the bathroom? Does clean laundry spill out of a basket that is progressively pillaged by kids wearing nothing but their underwear and a pair of headphones? And last but definitely not least, who hasn’t experienced that bottomless vortex when the washing machine splutters and dies and the repair man can’t get the spare part for the next three weeks?

A modern-day Playmobil laundry drama.

A modern-day laundry drama, played out in true MM style. Little My does not like playing Playmobil with me. (My own photo:  Not to be pinched, ta muchly.)

I have a vivid memory of such an incident as the mother of three small children. I defiantly blocked the exit to our home with my 6-week old baby in my arms as her two-year old brother hung on to my legs, beamed and said “Pipi, Mamma!” before peeing copiously into his last change of clothing and leaving me stranded in a pool of urine.

The repair man clocked the regulation “recent mother” shoulder badge of newborn’s milk spew on my shoulder and looked anxiously at my haggard face as I hung baby Little My over my arm, face pitched dangerously towards his sports shoes.

“I do realise how difficult it must be for you with three young children,” he mumbled. I eyeballed him, and fiddled quietly with the door keys in my hand. He quickly realised that I was inches from swallowing the key and forcing him to strip off and trample my laundry in the family tub until a solution was found.  If he wanted to leave the flat in one piece, he’d have to think fast.

“I’ll just call my boss and see if we can lend you a machine, Madame”. Whilst he called, I watched my six-year-old happily playing in the colourful multitude of damp washing draped artistically over the furniture. He chased his imaginary enemy from one makeshift sheet-tent to the other, using the elasticated corners of the sheets as a hiding place for his get-away jeep and chocolate spread sandwich.

“It’s all organised, Madame, we’ll bring you a replacement machine tomorrow at ten”, our Messiah announced with a relieved grin.  Mini-Bigfoot pointed his imaginary gun at him, and said “Bang. You’re dead”.

“Thank you so much”, I replied sweetly. I opened the door then watched him gingerly avoid the puddle of pee and flee down the stairs as my soaking wet two-year-old waved a cheerful goodbye from the landing. I was saved from disaster. Yep, the fully-automated washing machine is most definitely the best thing since sliced bread.