a flash fiction
For a billion revolutions since its birth, itself not a fleeting moment, the rock communed deep within the soul of the Earth, amongst kith and kin. Suddenly, there came the violent, shifting erosion of glaciers, three, or possibly four, moments in succession. What had been concealed was revealed thereafter; a bleaker experience, the dual wearing punishments of air and water in motion. Still throughout, it reposed in quiet submissiveness beside the mountain’s feet.
When the animated ones first arrived, they showed little interest. The stones watched them skitter and slide, grow and alter: larger, quicker, smaller, taller, slower, and all multiplying until the stones began to discern subtle differences between them; in particular the thin upright ones which took an interest in them as not before.
No sooner had the stones noticed them when a number came with woods and vines, and attacked the ground upon which the greater stones rested. Brutally, they felt themselves being hacked away from their brethren and dragged indignantly to a foreign place. There, these thin creatures hoisted each stone arbitrarily, and without regard to the stone’s sensibility, onto one end and shoved it down into a hole.
No great time has passed yet for a great stone to quell its anger; it burns hot and the energy is immense; it calls out yet the creatures who did this thing appear, in the main, oblivious to its cry. The stone, against hopelessness, must learn patience. As quickly as they came, the thin ones will be gone and the ground will continue to shift and break, and be unable to restrain the great stones. They will find rest again and their dignity will be restored.
Here’s a few more international telly dramas featured on Walter Presents…
Contact (France, 2015)
This is another police drama but with a supernatural twist. A frenchman has a gift for sensing people’s memories by grasping an item they’ve recently touched. He’s convicted of a crime in the US but is freed on condition he works for the FBI. However, he has unfinished business in France; the murder of his parents and a missing younger sister. He absconds, returns home and teams up with his police detective brother’s squad, solving crimes while they hunt for the family’s killer and their lost sister.
I didn’t take to this one, unfortunately. Despite the supernatural aspect, the characters weren’t interesting enough and the individual cases were pretty superficial, It just didn’t shine. Although I watched all eight episodes, I was beginning to lose track of events explaining the parents’ killer. Judging by the final episode’s shenanigans, I expect there’s a follow up series but I’ll probably give it a miss.
Sorry, Walter, you can’t win them all.
Sr. Ávila (Mexico, 2013)
This one is a slow boiler and had me wondering at first whether I’d hit a scrappy patch in Walter Presents… However, around the fifth episode it began to gel.
It’s an odd premise that a nefarious but organised firm of assassins in Mexico can operate surreptitiously behind a legitimate funeral business, and their best man, the eponymous “Mr. Ávila”, sells life insurance over the phone. His is just a cover too, to explain his ill-gotten gains from cold blooded contract killings. He also has the cover of an ordinary family man, albeit a wife with agoraphobia and confidence issues, and a wayward son, an excluded loner who sticks out as prey for school bullies. It’s also quickly established that Avila is having a casual sexual relationship with a younger colleague who wants more than a quickie in the office loo.
However, for me, the show gets interesting due to the street-wise and aspiring teenager who blags a position as his killing “apprentice”. By coincidence, he just happens to go to the same last resort school as Ávila’s son. Life gets complicated for Avila.
And there is a second series. I am averse to follow ups but in fairness, the plot takes on a different direction. Here, Ávila’s foil is his assistant, the cool and seemingly sinister Ivan. It’s darker, slightly less plausible, but nevertheless entertaining.
Neviditelní (The Invisibles) (Czech Republic, 2014)
A comedy drama. A subset of the human population evolved a gene which allows them to breathe underwater. These are people of the water nation and guardians of the world’s water, though derogatively they are referred to as “nixes”. They have their own religion, running parallel to Catholicism but worshipping John the Baptist instead. Avoiding war and conflicts, they have lately gone underground, hence the invisibles, but in the 21st century, in Prague, perhaps their day has come to take their rightful place in the world.
This notion is given a lift by the failed suicide-by-drowning of a prominent charismatic businessman and lobbyist, Ivan Lausman, under police investigation for illegal activities. It appears he has an incredible affinity for water. Could he be their promised “messiah”?
Lots of fun.
Did you know we dream only in black and white?
No? Neither did I.
I’ve been reading Aldous Huxley’s The Doors of Perception, the one which begins with him taking mescalin, and in that book he claims this is the case. Apparently, dreaming is nearly always about symbolism and symbolic stories don’t need colour as it’s irrelevant.
I’m not so sure but being one who rarely remembers dreams upon waking, I have no personal evidence. The trouble with TDOP for me is as soon as Huxley thinks of something and writes it down, it becomes fact. He sees no need for explanation or evidence.
I wondered if this monochrome dreaming was influenced by black and white movies and telly. His mescalin experience took place in 1953. Most western people’s exposure to imagery would have been black and white ones and so, when dreaming then, it may have played out like a typical movie. This could mean that nowadays, it’s likely we dream in full colour. But I don’t know.
I am aware of a new thing – furniture banks.
Trying to fit your old things into a new home can be like trying to solve a jigsaw puzzle with pieces from a different set. In our old house, I had built a wardrobe across the width of the bedroom at its far end. In our new house, we have only a small cupboard and so, as a stop gap, we googled places were we might pick up a cheap chest of drawers, ideally a “tall boy”.
A tall boy is a chest of drawers with a small footprint, usually about five to seven drawers, ideal for a spare corner of the room.
We found there was a furniture bank in a town nearby. This is a charity organisation which takes in good unwanted furniture, makes repairs and offers them to folk setting up home but unable to afford furniture. This is a great scheme but like all ventures, it needs funding – warehouse, workshop, tools, vans etc. – so the funding is acquired by selecting special pieces deemed “unsuitable” for their clients and offering these for sale to the general public.
So, we set off for the shop to see if they have a tall boy. They didn’t but it was interesting to see what they did have. Had I been in the “antiques” business, I would have been in my element. Or a curator for a furniture museum, there were pieces from all decades of style. I checked out a couple of dressing tables with drawers on both ends with a view to reconstructing it as a tall boy but, in all honesty, I don’t have the time; it would defeat the purpose of finding a stop gap in the first place.
Hanging in the entrance to the vast warehouse was a framed print with a price tag of £15, discounted to £12.50 for the week. The picture was jolly in its way but the frame was a beautiful thing. I’m not good at identifying timber; it may be cherry or a type of mahogany, I really don’t know – maybe someone knowledgable can help. In the sunlight, it glowed a warm russet hue. With the glass front and a sound backing – even a good hanging cord – it was a snip. Needless to say, I bought it.
Obviously, I had to check on the print. It was a French street scene in the naive style by a French painter, Michel Delacroix. Sadly, no apparent relation to the famous Eugene Delacroix. According to his biography, he was born in 1933 and although producing work fairly prolifically in this century, his signature theme is Paris during the nazi occupation. Possibly, I think, slightly before the occupation as I can’t see any evidence of it in his paintings.
It’s quite jolly, it reminds me of L.S. Lowry’s Salford street scenes. It’s the sort of thing which should hang in doctors’ surgery waiting rooms. I am in two minds what to do with it. There’s no rush until I find an alternative subject for its frame but I think it may end up in the paper recycling bin.
image: “Fête Forain” by Michel Delacroix (click on pic to embiggen)
As a fish of the species Carpio Minimalis, I’m a sure sucker for articles on streamlining life. This one on “capsule wardrobes” drew my attention. (I didn’t read it thoroughly, the site is one of those interrupted with irritating pop-pops which cut across my grain; I just read enough to grab the idea and run.)
I think it’s a great idea though not a novel one. Many of the good and great, and I dare say a few bad ones, have adopted an efficient wardrobe method, reducing the time wasted in choosing what to wear on any ordinary day and avoiding the meltdown when it comes to the special occasion.
In a nutshell, the concept with the capsule wardrobe is to throw out the crap and leave only that which is deemed beforehand to be desirable and wearable. In other words, a reasonable system of dressing.
I have made inroads to this core for several years now and for me it works. Let us have a peek into my wardrobe. Note, it is a man’s perspective only…
Socks. Some people, I know, don’t wear them and I’m a little envious, however, in England, I feel these are essential items, for general comfort and against the cold. Can I, though, be forgiven for regarding those who wear colourful and comical socks with a bit of derision? What are they trying to do?
My choice is to settle on a plain sock of a particular colour and wear only those. Honestly, nobody is watching your socks and nobody cares. Though black isn’t the perfect colour, I have chosen it because it is pretty ubiquitous in the socks department. Grey may be better but black is absolute and more available. The extra advantage is you’ll never have more than one odd sock.
Shoes. Honestly, if shoes were indestructible, I’d probably be happy with one pair. As they’re patently not, it’s prudent to have a reserve pair for when things go wrong. Three pairs is an extravagance but acceptable. Four or more is utterly insane. Normally, I reach for my favourite pair, always.
I am just talking about everyday shoes. Obviously, other footwear is necessary for different purposes like hiking, exercising, rough work and indoor wear.
Shirts. There is something simple which sets the polo shirt high above its poor relation, the common t-shirt: its collar. Yet it is equally as comfortable. I think the collar gives it more versatility. Subtle patterns or weaves are okay but I tend to avoid stripes. Stripes tend to suggest something which may be unintended; they can also play havoc with body shape. Again, when opting for plain shirts, nobody’s watching, nobody cares.
Polo shirts are so plentiful, you can pick them up in the sales. I tend to buy several colours at a time, which does cause a modicum of angst when choosing which to put on in the morning, but I usually go with the mood of the day or what I intend to get up to. Like, if I’m thinking of cooking a tomato ragu or a curry sauce, I’m not going to pick out the white shirt.
Navy and black are good colours for sombre and sober events, like funerals or interviews, worn under a suitable jacket or sweater. White carries off pretty well too, under the same outer clothes, for slightly less serious occasions, or on its own in hotter weather. I steer clear of colours under the jacket to avoid the holiday camp entertainments representative, or the slightly dodgy secondhand car salesman look. Consideration applies to suitability of colours to the complexion: I couldn’t pull off wearing yellow, for instance. Reds just about work but any shades of grey, brown, blue or green suit me like leaves on a tree, so I tend to go for those.
Trousers. Everyone lives in jeans, why fight it? A pair of smart trousers in reserve is all I need.
Underpants. Ha ha. Who cares? Who sees? Why should you care who sees? Pick a comfortable brand, pick a readily available colour, buy in bulk. Nobody cares!
Now the things I’ve decided I don’t want are suits and ties. Ties are utterly too useless and if I ever find I need a suit – probably by an invitation I can’t refuse – I will cross that bridge when I come to it, possibly by hiring an extremely decent suit rather than keeping a cheap chain store one in the cupboard. I don’t see it happening to be honest.
I hope that was a fun peek. Here’s that article I mentioned above, if you can stand the pop-ups,
image by Andrej Lišakov via Unsplash.com
Thinking a little more about it, I wonder how similar writing is to angling for a fish.
You should know the fish, your quarry, its repose, what attracts it and what it likes to eat. You bait it appropriately and when it bites, rather than haul it in, care free and rather clumsily, you play it, carefully and craftily, until it is in the net and yours.
I prefer the British way of angling where the fish is set free again, to be tempted and teased by other fisher folk at another time.
I read a story once and now I can’t remember who it was attributed to or who its subject was other than the subject was an eminent thinker. This man would often be seen at a certain lake or riverside, sitting beside a rod and tackle box. Actually, I’m not sure about the tackle box, the absence of one may have drawn the narrator to enquire about his method.
When asked if he’d caught anything, he would reply “nothing”. Then when asked whether he ought to consider changing his bait, he said he never baited his hook to avoid any possible distraction of having to deal with a bite. He simply enjoyed sitting by water, hidden in plain sight amongst fellow anglers so not arousing suspicion, and he found this peace conducive to his true purpose: thinking.
This is probably closer to my relationship with writing and blogging; not so much fishing for readers but fishing for thoughts, amongst the company of fellow bloggers.
We have reconnected. Yesterday, while the rain poured, two guys dug a slit trench and laid UltraSuperFast fibre optic broadband right into the house. None of this fibre optic up to the street cabinet and wet string from there onwards (cough British Telecom) – it is 2019, don’t you know?
It’s been a funny week of low tech retro entertainment. I finished some downloaded episodes from Walter Presents, played the iPad at Scrabble and watched a bit of ordinary telly.
The Scrabble was interesting. The iPad has the advantage of an immense dictionary at its disposal – some ridiculously dubious words were played earning at least 35 points a piece – but then it would often play a guileless move, opening up a potential triple word score. It was all lexicon and no tactic.
Qi was one of its favourites. (Noun. the circulating life force whose existence and properties are the basis of much Chinese philosophy and medicine). Yet, oddly, it rejected my use of the word Zen. There’s no level playing field when your competitor is also the referee.
Qi was a good example of words it played gaining 10 points for the Q tile without needing a companion U tile. They were all dubious looking to this average native English speaker but it had me thinking about the peculiarity of marrying Qs with Us. Wouldn’t just a Q do?
Self-identifying serious writer, Martin Amis, uses a dictionary all the time. I’m delighted by his confession because so do I. Really it’s to improve my sparse vocabulary but, like him, I often find the meaning of the word isn’t what I had in mind.
It’s interesting what he to say about talent, finding rhythm, and avoiding accidental alliteration amongst other things. He talks about crafting a sentence. I’m not sure how much I put into crafting a sentence. While I think that poetry ought to be recited, I hadn’t thought that way about prose; I probably thought this was a fundamental distinction between the two forms. However, yesterday evening I was remembering all the times when a passage in a novel enthralled me. I decided it wasn’t the narrative but the pattern of the chosen words. They were crafted, I imagine, for such an effect.
I suppose I haven’t any high aspirations for my blog posts but I still maintain if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. I shall try to pay more attention to the rhythm in a sentence, resort habitually to the dictionary and thesaurus. All this will be time consuming, of course. I will make my mantra: shorter and better.
To those I follow avidly and all the crazy ones who follow me, it may seem like I’ve given up this blog. But, no, it’s a forced absence as we have moved house into one which has no internet connection (21st Century shock!).
The installation should take place in about eight days. There’s a pub up the road which probably has free wi-fi; I’ll see what I can manage in between unpacking and making the home ours.
Until then, then.
I think this is an interesting post on Lit Hub, I blog I follow. It’s an excerpt from a book by copy editor, Benjamin Dreyer, an “utterly correct guide to clarity and style”. How many of the bad habits he cites do you make?
(Hey, I initially typed how many of his bad habits do you make?)
As bloggers, I don’t suppose we have to worry too much about correct style and grammar, though clarity is still important. Blogging is more about social media, less about literature. Yet I always maintain the old saw that if a thing is thought worth doing, it’s worth doing well.
I honestly don’t know how well I’m doing but I do try. Notwithstanding that I went to school – a grammar school, to boot – my confidence in my English is frail. I’m not in possession of an extensive vocabulary, my spelling can be atrocious and lessons in grammar have for the most part been informal.
One thing I tend to do now which I never did when I started writing is edit with intent. This can correct many of the silly mistakes and run a sanity check – or clarity check – on the piece, but also it makes me question what I’ve done with grammar, especially tense. Man, I have a real concern with tenses. It’s like operating a machine without a manual, it seems to work but is it working the way it’s intended to?
Also, I’m learning to tighten things up. My venture into flash fiction prompts with word count limits has made me aware of this. The irrelevances, the tautologies and repetition, the pointless adverbs, the inconsequential detail. A rose smells sweet but if there isn’t a nose to appreciate this, why mention it?