Sunday in the Park with Nat

‘What about Hester Prim?’

Prynne.’

‘That’s what I said.’

‘No, it’s Prynne. Not Prim.’

‘Ah.’ I say. ‘Prim would’ve been more ironic, given her character.’

‘Names are important to get right, Miss Lynch. A true writer has a responsibility to their readership to produce believable characters—down to their names.’

‘Like yours?’

‘Pardon?’

‘Like your name.’

‘Well, it may sound old-fashioned now but Nathaniel is a fine, reputable name. A notable name. There was Nathaniel Saltonstall and Nathaniel Lee…’

Nat King Cole.’

‘Who? No, no,’ corrects Mr. Hawthorne. ‘Nicknames are for the uncouth.’

‘The uncouth?’

‘My imposing statues in parks, my paintings in galleries–they are all engraved with Nathaniel. Most certainly not Nat!’

‘I’m referring to your surname.’

I recline and swig back the remains of my drink. The man assesses me scornfully across the table, his two thick eyebrows merge into one. I imagine him plonking a large A onto the lapel of my leather jacket. An A or any other letter of the alphabet to publically announce my sins.

‘My surname, young lady?’

‘Yes. Hawthorne.’

‘Hawthorne is a good name. A noble name.’

‘A strong New England name?’

‘Indeed.’

‘Like your great-great-grandfather?’

‘Hmmm.’ He scratches the moustache thatch dwarfing his upper-lip. Whiskers are stroked back into place. A tidier mouth contrasts the messiness of tangled wrinkles across his high forehead.

Hawthorne gulps, then emits: ‘My great-great-grandfather?’

‘John, wasn’t it?’

‘Yes,’ he replies quietly.

‘A nobel man? Upstanding in the community?’

‘Well, I—’

‘Are you not the direct decendent of John Hathorne, judge and executioner?’

‘Aye, I am. You know your history. But who are we to judge the judges? The past is past.’

‘Was your great-great-grandfather not the only judge of the Salem witch trials never to repent for the trial’s destructive madness? Young girls telling wild tales, women hanged?’

‘It was a frightening time in Salem back–‘

‘Mr. Hawthorne, is that wise philosophy, given the current political climate and shenanigans? Should we not scrutinise those holding political power? Have you looked at Twitter yet?’

‘Twitter?’

‘I’ve gone too far,’ I say to the 19th-century fellow opposite.

‘My great-great-grandfather tried to oversee justice in Salem. He had a job to do, Miss Lynch.’

‘You changed the spelling of your surname when you discovered he was an unrepenting man. A man whose ill-judgement inflicted catastrophic harm on Salem’s community. Was it not shame that inspired your identity crisis?’

‘You’ve clearly done your research, miss.’

‘That, sir, is why God created Google.’ I extract my mobile from interior Birkin bag pocket and present it for Hawthorne. He appears visibly rattled by the technology, daring not to touch the silver device.

‘What’s Google?’ His eyes remain fixed on my compact Apple.

‘It’s a writer’s dream, Mr. Hawthorne!’ I tap the Safari app then nudge the phone across the table to his bony hands. ‘Type in Arthur Miller. You’d love The Crucible. Amazing. And talk about memorable characters–there’s Tituba–‘

‘Tituba?’

‘She’s a slave. Not a witch.’

‘Whose a witch?’ The Puritan does not touch the phone; instead, he swings his greying head briskly back and forth, scanning the room for cauldrons and broomsticks.

I don’t compact with no devil.’

‘Devil? What are you speaking of, Miss Lynch?’

‘Tituba says that line in The Crucible.’

Then Hawthorne slowly smiles at me—a full-lipped grin, belying a romantic quality that surely fueled his writing for decades. ‘You are a peculiar girl, Miss Lynch. Enchanting, if not also a curiosity. You know, I was not always such a serious man.’

‘Weren’t you?’ I ask, coyfully.

‘Indeed, no one ever said I was fun at parties—not Longfellow or Emerson—but this glimpse of modern society today excites me. The twenty-first century! Imagine the stories, the novels I could write with this inspiration!’

‘Mr. Hawthorne, if you took a deeper look at today’s world, spent a few hours surfing the web, then you may very well long for a return to the 1800’s.’

‘Surfing? Ha! I’ll drink to that–a toast to the grand, old days and the web of lies today!’ He summons the barman, a portly chap undeniably annoyed to leave the Red Sox broadcast on the flatscreen telly. ‘Two more glasses of your finest whiskey!’

Chilled bottles of Sam Adams land to the table in under a minute.

‘To your health, Mr. Hawthorne.’

He leans forward to clink my glass. ‘A toast to us. Oh—and call me Nathaniel.’

‘So, you used to hang out with Longfellow? Bet you have some stories to tell. What about Poe?’

‘He wasn’t my biggest…my biggest…’ He pauses, perhaps mulling over ravens and Salem or poetry and foreshadowing.

‘Fan?’

‘Did you say fan?’

‘Yes, it means perhaps Poe didn’t have the highest regard for all of your work. He was critical of Twice-Told Tales.’

‘Pish!’ Exclaims Hawthorne, rather too loudly.

The natives seated around us gawk open-mouthed at my dark-suited friend. It may be the starched high-collar or perhaps they recognise him from their childhood literary books. It may be his black hat still perched on head, boasting a brim circumference of a tractor tyre.

‘Shall we go for a stroll?’

‘Indeed, miss. ‘Tis a fine day in our state’s fairest city.’

We stride together across Boston Common in rhythmic steps. We are lost in a formal pas de deux. I swap over my iPhone so to offer Hawthorne my hand nearest to him. He clutches my fingers delicately with his own gloved hand.

A sight we surely are that June day: ambling paths that criss-cross the enormous urban grassy rectangle, bordered by Tremont Street, Beacon, Charles and Boylston. Skateboarders swivel past us at speed and silently I watched Hawthorne devour the visual madness surrounding his misplaced Colonial self.

A gregarious toddler fleeing his young mother’s clutches wobbles our direction. He sports a blue t-shirt emblazoned with an enormous red S, stretching against a yellow triangle across his small torso.

‘That child is stamped with the letter S! What has he done?’ Hawthorne says with a hint of fear in his warbly voice.

‘You misunderstand, Mr. Hawthorne—‘

‘Nathaniel—‘

‘Nathaniel. Gone are the days of your bodily lettering. That S stands for Super!’

Super?’

‘Actually, it stands for Superman but I fear we will lose our readers if I inject more fantasy into this farce.’

Superman, you say? Today has indeed been a revelation, Miss Lynch.’

His leather breeches come to a sudden halt outside Park Street station, then a perfunctory swivel of his lean body brings us face-to-face.

‘Thou art quite the interesting girl, Miss Lynch.’

‘Snap.’

‘Snap?’

‘It means I could say the same of you, sir.’

He casts his eyes afar, in the direction of The Public Gardens. I follow his stare to a wide patch of green where a juggler on unicycle captivates a crowd with a spectacular display of ten airborne bowling pins, tossing madly above his head. I mentally erase this colourful clowning melee and replace that spectacle with an imaginary, imposing plinth. On it, Hester stands. In my mind’s eye, the crowd cloaked in drab greys and blacks stand aghast at the woman. In 2017, Hester’s sin would evoke little less than playground tittle-tattle from the parents of her daughter’s childhood friends. I then wonder whatever became of her daughter, Pearl?

‘Fancy a jaunt on the swan boats ?’

Hawthorne retracts his focus from outfield to infield, settling closely on my blue eyes.

‘You truly are such fun…oh, I am afraid I never caught your first name.’

‘It’s Estella.’

‘Estella? Lovely.’

‘Cheers, Nathaniel.’

He snags my hand again, this time with playful abandon and an audible chuckle. ‘Call me Natty, Miss Lynch. Call me Natty!’

And away we head, alighting across the park towards a fleet of enormous, gliding swans.

-End-

 

Photo credit: Vintage The Scarlet Letter film poster sourced @ http://www.allposters.com

Rejection Letters: ‘Perhaps we’re being dense…’

Congratulations!

On finally completing that manuscript, crafting one sublime essay, mastering a poetic masterpiece, achieving your greatest photographic composition…now what?

Since writing here last week about deciding to collate my short stories into book form, aside from finishing the novel currently hogging my hard-drive, I’ve been considering rejection letters that surely will one day clog my inbox.

It undeniably takes guts to distribute one’s work to discerning literary and visual top-brass in hopes of securing their approval, leading to both professional validation and an increase in bank balance. Yes, yes, we all know that casting a net wide in this Writers & Artists pool will inevitably bait rejection but, parking our realism aside, each of us creatives hope for snagging that big break, to arise to the top of murky slush pile, be discovered, not adrift in sea of aspirational uncertainty.

So, this Monday morning, I approach the week with three rejection letters to lift my spirits. I laugh at all three–not just because creative brilliance was overlooked only to be inevitably discovered and produced, but the wording of said letters is quite hilarious.

Plath:

Plath Rejection Letter

I love that The New Yorker admits to perhaps ‘being dense’ in not understanding the correlation between sections of Sylvia’s Amnesiac submission; however, this is a fine example when the crux of a rejection encourages improvement to the writer’s work. Plath heeded their advice, crossed out the section TNY refers to and that deleted poem subsequently became ‘Lyonnesse.’

Plath reads the published Amnesiac here.

Stein:

Stein Rejection Letter

Gertrude Stein is a genius and ‘a trickster,’ says The New York Times in 2012. But Stein received this rejection letter in 1912.  The rejection letter is rather ranting and odd, with Alfred C. Fifield mirroring Stein’s repetition in her submitted manuscript. Fiefield writes:

Only one look, one look is enough. Hardly one copy would sell here. Hardly one. Hardly one.

Hardly one copy? Stein did publish this manuscript, The Making of Americans: Being a History of a Family’s Progress, in 1925. But would you recover from receiving such a rejection letter? Would it pack a hefty blow to your ego, to your confidence? Or, would your skin be thick enough to plough forward until publication? Stein certainly maintained a mighty determined focus throughout her career.

Fawlty:

This year, a survey of comedians and comedy writers/actors cited Fawlty Towers as ‘the best British sitcom of all time’ but its rejection letter sent to BBC’s Head of Comedy and Light Entertainment demonstrates that comedy genius can be overlooked. I wonder if Ian Main, the author of the rejection letter at top, later sat through all twelve of Cleese and Booth’s episodes, tossed back a few whiskeys and reconsidered his perhaps rash assessment that Fawlty Towers was anything other than ‘a collection of cliches’ that would ultimately prove ‘a disaster.’ Fawlty Towers can be marmite—some absolutely love it, some are not massive fans—but it’s survived many decades and Manuel still evokes guffaws worldwide.

A toast today to rejection letters!

Receiving one may punch the air temporarily from one’s gut but clearly, from the above and countless other examples (say hello JK Rowling), one agent’s mud pie is another agent’s scrumptious gateau.

Keep submitting your work. Success may just be one letter away.

Very Versatile

Versatile. I type this word. My immediate association with it is the musical Gypsy, based on Gypsy Rose Lee’s memoir. I hear youthful Baby June then metamorphic Gypsy then, finally, a show-stopping Mama Rose belting:

Let me do a few tricks,

Some old and then some new tricks

I’m very versatile

I learned the entire score of Gypsy aged seven and must’ve sang the words I’m very versatile thousands of times, surely to the point my mother’s head wished to implode.

Twirling sparkly batons in both hands, I slide into splits on the threadbare rug in our sitting room and wished to be a Vaudeville performer. I hadn’t fully realised that I was born some eighty years too late to tour with the likes of the sublime Mae West, incomparable Judy Garland and the outrageous Sophie Tucker.

But I’ve never forgotten once wishing to be Baby June. I was a girl deeply struck by the tragic rise of June’s sister Louise as a wallflower, the neglected sister, who was subsequently thrust into the limelight when June escapes her mother’s toxic clutches. The scene where Natalie Wood as Louise finally realises she’s pretty is quite poignant. Even to me, as that seven year-old girl twirling on the rug.

I digress…

When Cherylene notified that she’d nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award, I heard I’m very versatile in my head. Silly really. But who can fully understand the workings of memory?

Writing this reflective post now, I note the connection between my desire as a child wishing to one day demonstrate my versatility on the stage to the masses with dancing, singing and acting, then fast forward decades and I am here, pretty much doing the same thing on a blogging stage, only with words.

Versatility is a trait I value in others. My blog is very much still in its infancy so Cherylene’s simple act of acknowledging me is honouring. Thanks, Cherylene. Your own blog is versatile in your writing holistically about mind, body and spirit,

According to The Versatile Blogger Award rules, I must reveal seven facts about me. If anyone cares to read on, here’s the skinny on Estella:

  1. I once wrote a novel by accident. Surprisingly, the manuscript was accepted by my first choice from the invaluable Writers & Artists book. Lots of excitement! Too young, too unconfident, I decided instead to pack it away in a shoebox. It’s there now, mocking me, collecting dust. I must unpack it soon.
  2. Motherhood is a mixture of joyful connection and hilarious fun. Gives life purpose.
  3. I grew up engrossed by watching black & white films, musicals and pretty much anything that wasn’t shlock.
  4. I once worked as a carhop waitress.
  5. I have two paralysing phobias. Too frightening to write about them.
  6. I paint, sing, write and make a mean enchilada.
  7. London’s Southbank is one of my favourite spots in the world but my heart will always belong in Ireland.

Apparently I now have to nominate 10 bloggers for this award. Over two months, I’ve sourced so many brilliant blogs. I’m still not entirely sure how this works but will list 10 blogs below whose posts I devoured today:

  1. Bonnywood Manor
  2. Transcribingmemory
  3. Gregory Josephs
  4. Artiche
  5. Richard Berkshire
  6. Grief Happens
  7. Jellyfish Review
  8. Diganta Misra
  9. Ceolsigehanna
  10. Aquileana

[À la Gypsy Rose, I enter stage right, take a bow, remove satin glove and exit.]

Staring You in the Face

Behold, the aha moment!

That nanosecond when at last your brain engages gear.

When the Vaseline smearing your inner-camera lens is wiped away and you perform an internal triumphant victory lap that clarity is now yours. The answer, the truth, all the clues you needed were there all this time…staring you in the face.

Perhaps this aha moment then paves way for a more successful change in life’s direction or attitude.

Perhaps this spark of clarity impounds repercussions for you being last off your mark (aka, you should’ve spotted the glow of neon earlier).

Invite farce and folly to lighten the mood!

Some days, all one needs is a cleverly-drawn cartoon. One with astute caption to reignite synapses and prompt a pause of levity. I love New Yorker cartoons by David Borchart. I’ve held on to this one for ages and always smile when glimpsing The Raven outwitting its opponent with a supremely ironic Scrabble coup de grâce!

‘You’re gonna hate yourself,’ quoth the raven. Not mocking, merely stating the obvious.

It’s that forehead-slapping doh moment that can baffle the sharpest and wiliest of characters.

Have we not all experienced this?

‘Gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door ‘

My blog has idled for over a week.

A raven’s been perched on my shoulder. When I have questioned will I ever find time to post here, he pecks away with cries of ‘nevermore.’

I’ve been writing in my head for hours per day, boasting less-than-impressive actual production on the page. I am plagued by characters’ voices imploring me to type out their dialogue and hit cmd+S so their words and feelings are secure in my hard-drive. I have pretended not to hear them.

To my rescue enters my too-wise-to-be-believed mother, who has never admonished me in my lifetime. I share with her that I have hit a block of writing bricks. As ever, she assures me that ‘even when you are writing in your head, you are writing.’ My mother is an editor, she is truly lovely and I make a note in my journal to keep her.

I wrote here weeks ago about experiencing a resurgence of imagination—lack of imagination is not the barrier now, it’s the feeling of too many projects that damns me to unproductivity. My head houses a hurricane of words that all morph into a cataclysmic crash of lexicon carnage. I dream in technicolour.

Then I woke today with this New Yorker cartoon etched behind my still-closed eyelids. Cue creative epiphany:

Stop setting out each day to (metaphorically) scale the Chrysler Building. Cease raising the daily bar of literary expectations to produce work rivalling Dorothy Parker’s. Writing can be simple. Effectively simple.

This is the answer. Look squarely at what is staring me in face, do not flinch and move forward. Acceptance is key. I am lucky to have several writing outlets:

  • The novel is there. It often writes itself, flowing on my MacBook or woven through grey matter.
  • I love my blog and the connective blogosphere. If I can’t find time to post, reading others’ blogs is an impressive trek through the garden of other writers/photographers/ruminators/bright sparks spanning the globe.
  • This was today’s true lightbulb moment: I’ve amassed a towering Everest of short stories that now suck up the majority of my computer’s memory so why not publish those? Why not, dammit? Why only realise this now after slogging away at them?

 Word-count or words count?

This post has most assuredly gone off piste. So, what I have learned writing it?

A few weeks ago I confessed to cheating on my blog with my novel; now, I am inviting another feisty guest to the party: a book of short stories.

I may self-publish the collection just so feel the weight of it in my hand by end of 2017. Also, bound paper makes a useful gift for friends at Christmas—read it, use the book as a coaster, tear out pages for emergency gift wrap.

I know nowt about self-publishing but, until the novel is complete, this short story concept rocks.

‘Still beguiling all my fancy into smiling’

Consider the raven playing Scrabble.

Inspired by poetry, he is fixed on altering ‘evermore’ to ‘nevermore.’

Be gone!’ I curse the bird, nestling his sleek ebony feathers against my neck.

Today, I am shouting only positive statements to encourage creativity in myself and any other creatives cruising this blog. After all, Poe faced some mighty personal and professional demons but clearly never banished his quill from the paper, nevermore to be writing again!

Poe wrote powerful stuff, did our Edgar Allan. He is credited for inventing detective fiction, the artful writing form of twisting an ending so the reader does not see what is ‘staring them in the face’ all along as they turned pages.

This post itself has been rather a twisting tale: Scrabble, Poe, ravens, overcoming writers block, general musings.

I appreciate your company on my meandering train of thought.

Estella

Imagination in Three Acts

Act 1: The Rouse

I snatched it. I did!

I snatched it, ensnared and bottled it, that elusive and seductive entity. Do you doubt me?

But wait—is it indeed an entity or must it, by definition, then be alive?

It happened today. The sky burned blue, peppered solely with one fascinating cloud. Cumulonimbus—the only cloud name recalled from childhood science, the ‘fat’ cloud, the thief. Yes, the thief!

Act 2: The Conundrum

For there I was, supine on garden chaise lounge, draping myself à la Bette Davis, feeling the full-force of dramatic existential crisis:

Am I a writer? I pondered to the non-responsive atmosphere above.

More questions followed, in the form of internal monologue:

A writer? Am I worthy of such declaration to friends, to family? Proclaiming writer’s status to the greater masses with whom I have only the flimsiest of relationships, based almost entirely on fibre optic cable giving juice to my internet? Perhaps I am now a dried-up writer. Has my creative brain dissolved to dust?

I panicked:

Shall I relinquish this over-glamourised life of words and word-count, plotting intricacies in novel form and pitching the perfect short story? Or, do I revert to nine-to-five clock-punching again?

Self-questioning perpetuated. Evidently I swept away into complete daydream, transported back in time where I graced The Silver Screen and not this current reality:

Perhaps I am not, in fact, Bette Davis but Mary Pickford—a queen of silent movies who looked quite fetching and had much to say yet her voice was muted. Maybe I am better off being silent. Damn!

I needed to get a grip.

I needed to snatch it or I would not survive.

If only the world was a film set. If only I could remain in the garden this sizzling afternoon with a pitcher of Mai Tais as companion. But, sadly, there the fantasy had to end.

Act 3: The Revelation

I began this week with a confession to my blog, a confession of infidelity. Now, another confession: this afternoon’s garden drama was purely an exercise in procrastination, to avoid my laptop. Also, neighbours consider my random 1940’s starlet shtick quite worthy of over-the-fence-tittle-tattle so there was a bit of folly in my temporary madness.

But just when I was resigned to beam back to 2017 and stare frustratingly at a blank Word document, it happened. There it appeared. That aforementioned elusive and seductive entity. Playing hide-and-seek in the sky, held captive by the porcine cloud overhead.

I glimpsed it.

I fluttered lashes and narrowed my focus.

I zeroed in on the spot.

No, it was gone again.

Wait—it’s there!

Stay still! I shouted skyward, alerting Sue at number nineteen to raise her head from weeding flowerbeds.

I unfolded body, reached up into an elongated pose that would have knocked Bob Fosse’s socks off, and I snatched it. And now it is mine.

Imagination. There it was. All this time. Up there. Sleeping on soft clouds, mocking me when it awoke.

I clutched it to my silk gown—no, more a practical playsuit—and felt its energy reverberate within.

Amongst the garden weeds and daffodils, I stood jolted to life by the surge of imagination. In seconds, its petrol fumes ignited my mind and body to action. I high-tailed it from outdoor film set to indoor sound stage and now I am here.

Existential and creative crises have been banished to the stratosphere.

I am here, typing at speed and ready for my close-up.

Because I snatched it.

[Slow curtain, the end, as sassy Bette quipped.]

Thanks for reading. Just to remind: all writing and original photographs published on my blog are copyright of Estella Lynch and can only be reprinted by my permission.

Confessions of a Random Blogger

Dear Blog,

Today’s the day I muster the courage to confess: I have been cheating on you. You have never been far from my thoughts—in fact, I think of you many times per day, wanting to connect but unsure how to cut through the excuses and get in touch.

You mean so much to me.

‘Tis true that our relationship is still new and fresh but already you have become an invaluable part of my life. Our connection has broadened my world, added meaning and given me space to thrive, explore my playful self and express my vulnerabilities in words. You have introduced me to a vast number of fellow creatives across the globe—writers, photographers, poets and brilliantly-colourful characters. I miss my blogging world.

It’s not you, it’s me.

So, this is the reality–I miss you. My days the last fortnight have either been:

  • An exercise in awakening with head buzzing with fresh ideas, then I burn a beeline to my laptop, eager to write some zingy blog post then check in with those blogs I follow and cruise around for others. Do I do it? No. Instead, I descale the kettle, pair up my socks or perform any other procrastination sloggery that distracts me from sitting down and writing a damn post. Then I chastise myself when the sun goes down, slip between sheets with promises I shall rise with birdsong the next morning and embrace my blog. I have been sinking into I-need-to-blog-but-cannot-concentrate quicksand. Sheesh!
  • On rare days when my writing brain triumphed over fidgeting body and I sat determined at MacBook, fingers have danced across the keyboard, writing the penultimate chapter of my novel. You see, this is the confession: I have been cheating on you with my novel. You are both lifelines in ‘My Write Life’ but this novel keeps demanding I bring it to the boil, that I set each page alight and give readers a mighty fine page-turner. I am determined to complete this so, until my manuscript nets 100,000 words, you and me and the novel-in-progress must work together as a happy threesome.

Perhaps other bloggers sometimes feel this way?

Life can prove distracting. Procrastination is the devil’s work. Creative inspiration sometimes morphs into an elusive or even absent friend. But do hear me, my lovely blog—you are never far from my mind.

Let’s do lunch soon!

My best to you,

Estella x

P.S. As a writer, I am a perpetual magpie who collects images and ideas then ferrets them away for a day when they require an airing. I saved this brilliant comic by Summer Pierre a couple of years ago—I loved her fine cartooning and how adeptly she captured ‘Things I Think Every Day.’ It resonated with me, this daily cycle of life. Today, Summer’s illustration screams a wake-up call in my direction, an urgency to leap out of the daily slog cycle and write. Check out her fantastic Paper Pencil Life blog.

One Award, Two Buses

It’s that old adage: ‘Wait ages for a bus then two come along at once.’ So, here I am—firing up the blog after a fortnight’s hiatus—and I return to find I’ve been nominated by two different bloggers for The Liebster Award. Delighted!

Thanks to Book Meets Girl for nominating me. I see that The Liebster Award is intended to ‘Discover New Blogs’ so, in this online world of sharing our words and images, awards such as these can be a lovely means to discover new voices and honour their author’s contributions.

What I like about Book Meets Girl is that it’s a mixture of book reviews and writings about life. Many of the Book Meets Girl’s entries are prompted by The Daily Post—a brilliant blog for inspiring writers and photographers, a site I adore for kickstarting my own writing and where I read many creative entries interpreted by one simple word—and in these entries, I gain insight into the personal life of Book Meets Girl.

As I have just nominated eleven bloggers on my other post about The Liebster Award, I am going to adapt this nomination acceptance slightly. I’ll answer the eleven questions and post eleven questions out there for anyone to answer, should they wish to comment.

My answers to the eleven posed questions:

1. What is the first book you remember actually choosing and reading yourself?

The Velveteen Rabbit. I was about seven and thought it was such a sad book. I can still feel that sadness for the rabbit. I was also given a Velveteen Rabbit stuffed toy and, over the years, its blue coat scuffed and faded, its tail ended up resembling Einstein’s wiry hair. Sadly, my bunny never was kissed by a fairy and came to life. I finally agreed to donate my toy when I exited my teens. Fondly remembered, poor ole rabbit…but he was loved.

2. What is your favorite food?

Steak with peppercorn sauce. Divine.

3. How do you feel about T.V.?

I’ve little time to watch. It’s collecting dust.

4. Who is your favorite Disney Character?

Shrek’s Donkey rules with wit and heart.

5. Minions, Marvel, D.C.?

I like a good Minion.

6. Where is your favorite place to read?

Bed, under heavy duvet.

7. What is your favorite book(s)?

Too many. Here are two: Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant (Anne Tyler) and Spoon (Amy Krouse Rosenthal).

8. What is your favorite time of the year?

Summer.

9. How do you feel about the current adult coloring book hobby?

Sadly, it’s become a saturated market—they’re everywhere! But I find colouring a meditative pastime that can reward one’s efforts with an artful creation. I don’t own one of these books as I prefer to paint.

10. Where would your dream house be located?

Either ten steps from the beach or a three-story house in Kensington. Both, please. Or anywhere I can write, with light-filled inside space and luscious garden.

11. Cooked fish or Sushi?

Prawn with chili, garlic and lime.

Here are eleven questions for anyone who would like to answer. Answer any or all of these below, should you be so inclined:

  1. What’s your most favourite blog post you’ve written? I’d love to read it. Post a link below.
  2. Your house is on fire! Aside from people, what do you save?
  3. Your autobiography—what would be its title?
  4. Congratulations! Hollywood wants to make a film about your life! What actor would play you?
  5. What’s your greatest fear?
  6. I need a new book. Recommendations?
  7. How long have you blogged?
  8. Can you share three blogs for people to check out?
  9. I’m rather fond of espresso martinis and Barolo wine. What’s your favourite tipple—either non-alcoholic or liquid bullet?
  10. Has the world gone mad?
  11. Cheese—it’s a staple of life! What’s your favourite?

Thanks again to Book Meets Girl for my Liebster Award nomination.

Estella

My life: La La Land or Moonlight?

‘I’d like to thank the Academy for this award—‘

Oh, now…wait…(Estella puts down statuette, checks with Warren Beatty, snatches the envelope out of Faye’s slender hands and rereads the card).

‘Sorry, folks. Scratch that. I’d like to thank the lovely Cherylene for this Liebster Award nomination. I am sincerely chuffed to be nominated and know that she considers my blog worthy of recognition.’

Since I began blogging not so long ago, Cherylene has continued to ‘like’ my posts and I have enjoyed her writing at Living vs Existing. Cherylene invites readers into both her real-life and creative world. She blogs about physical and spiritual wellness, and also writes poetry, like this recent reminder to ‘Stop and Think.’

I’ve been asked to answer eleven questions about myself. Deep breath:

1. What do you enjoy most about blogging?

Two things: first, it gives me a platform to write whatever I want—fictional stories, life-reflections, nonsense; secondly, I am baffled by the mad mixture of varied blogs online and it’s an impressive world of people all putting themselves out there to blog, sharing their words and photos et al. Inspiring stuff indeed!

2. Are you a meat, fish or veggie person?

Carnivore.

3. Use one word to describe yourself?

Curious.

4. Which word would you use to describe your life at the moment?

Chaotic.

5. If you could change anything about yourself – would you?

Only one thing? Goodness! Today I would change my motivation to exercise. I’m tall and have always been slim but I need to get out and move my body. I’ve always returned from a swift walk with a head filled with writing ideas. If only I could find my Nike trainers. They are buried underneath books.

6. What moves your decision to follow another blog?

I enjoy reading all blogs. I tend to follow blogs that are creative, blogs with sharp writing, ideas and/or images that captivate.

7. Do you believe in giving second, third and fourth chances in relationships?

Depends. Is it salvable? Is there still love and passion?

8. Do you have a favourite sport to play or watch?

Huge football (soccer) fan.

9. Which is more difficult for you to stay away from sugary food or fast food?

Driving by a window where someone will hand me a burger—well, that can be mighty tasty when you need a food fix.

10. What’s the most difficult thing about blogging for you?

Finding time.

11. Has your blog met and or exceeded your expectations thus far?

Far exceeded.

I understand my next move is to nominate eleven bloggers and ask them eleven questions. By doing this, I simply want to acknowledge those bloggers for their well-carved space—no requirement to participate!

Questions:

  1. Which is your favourite blog post you’ve ever written? [Please post a link so I can read it.]
  2. Do you prefer the city or countryside?
  3. Cats or dogs?
  4. Comedies or thrillers?
  5. Coffee or tea?
  6. Words or images?
  7. Meryl or The Donald?
  8. Parties or private moments?
  9. Are you a world-traveler or home-body?
  10. What/who inspires you?
  11. Why blog?

I nominate:

  1. Calliope Writing
  2. The Enchanted Outlook
  3. Cindy Knoke
  4. Kate
  5. Love Ur Own Life
  6. Simple Ula
  7. Flittering Soul
  8. Mums the Word
  9. Space, Time, and Raspberries
  10. They Once Called Her Pumpkin
  11. Christy B.

Thanks again for encouraging me to sit, write and connect with other bloggers, Cherylene.

Estella

Girl of 100 Lists

Cardboard time capsules prop up books on shelves lining my sitting room walls. My life preserved in boxes, overstuffed with lists—some are vertically-scrawled on torn scraps of paper with names of boys I have kissed and global cities I once upon a time hoped to visit; other lists boast of a more mature woman, meticulously itemising future drygoods purchases, my employment history and a balancing of household bills.

For all negativity propelled at the dysfunction of hoarding, I consider these boxes of perceived clutter to be my treasure of gold.

A reflective list–

  1. Scientific: Educators uphold that each human possesses a natural preference for how they best learn. Does your brain boost when moving your body? Perhaps then you tick the Kinesthetic box. I thrive with words—ideally with the aid of bullet-points on notecards—thus, I am designated a Read/Write learner. I often cite this internationally-recognised morsel of fact as proof that my lifelong addition to list-making is a biological condition—not a quirky habit.
  1. Evocative: I was never a girl who knew what she wanted to be when she grew up. I was always a writer but also painted, danced, studied law and fronted bands. I love this list (attached). I recall the sun-filled afternoon ten years ago when I leaned my red head against that of a charismatic bassist, after he convinced me to belt the blues in his local band, and jotted down set-list ideas. What a mixed-up mixture of tunes! I see ‘Valerie’ there and lurch slightly with sadness for Amy Winehouse; I applaud our aim to perform alternative versions of Dylan and Lou Reed and The Smiths. The band proved a mild success. Then I left. The bassist tragically died of a heart-attack too young. I cast eyes over this list and remember all of this. I revel in memory of the vivacious, vigorous girl of my youth and measure her against who I am now. What would grace my set-list today?
  1. Emotive: I discovered an old To-Do list yesterday on which, amongst seven actions, number six was a prompt to purchase a card for my Uncle David. That is the only item not crossed off on this list. I did not buy the card. David died a month later. The regret in my belly is a shaming, black mass. This was a timely discovery to reflect upon as my mother spoke about her brother recently and I realised the pain of loss shall always lurk within her.
  1. Momento: My lists are precious mementos of spaces where I have reclined with pen and paper, when I expressed a fleeting thought, outlined ingredients and method for a delicious recipe, encapsulated what I ate, whom I loved and what my DIY plans were to redecorate the nearly twenty bedrooms I have inhabited throughout my well-travelled life.
  1. Memento: Remember this Guy Pearce film where his character suffers short-term memory loss every five minutes? As I age, I am him. My memory is fading at speed so I employ post-its daily to squiggle ideas for writing plots and reminders of big events for the day. My fridge is speckled with them.
  1. Moments: Etched in my long-term memory, this vivid day: I am a lean, long-legged twelve year-old girl, coasting on my new ten-speed bicycle in summer sunshine. Clipped to beltloops is a vintage Walkman, into my ears streams a classic Go-Go’s cassette. Belinda Carlisle is singing ‘Girl of 100 Lists’ and, even in that yet-to-fully-blossom body and mind, I feel a connection beyond my years and my small town, affinity to a woman singing about her obsession with lists. To observers, this would strike as an ordinary girl on an ordinary day but that moment was a gift to me. Hell–if an all-girl rock band could make lists sound cool then, by association, I felt that much cooler myself.

Oh, for the love of lists!

 

Estella Lynch,  2017

All writing and original photographs published on my blog are copyright of Estella Lynch and can only be reprinted by my permission.

Outlier: A Writer’s Life or Fictional State of Mind?

Today, I go without food. Stale bread for my boy, the last drops of milk I selfishly steal for my coffee. I need that injection of caffeine or I cannot make the school run–I need it to inject petrol into my eyelids. He will have to go without Rice Krispies today.

I deliver Ritz crackers smeared with peanut butter to his lap, a store-brand box of apple juice as accompaniment. The slim cardboard drink fits awkwardly into his fist. I remember when he would hold his drink with two dimpled hands. I am lost in this reverie of when he was tiny, then retreat to the kitchen, murmuring promises under my breath that soon we shall afford freshly-squeezed juice in see-through bottles, containers that offer you a glimpse of an orange pulp pond under the lid. I look at these expensive drinks on shelves in my supermarket and salivate, virtually tasting nutritious sweetness guaranteed to ignite a happy, sunshine feeling throughout my body with each sip. Energy would be restored.

He is licking peanut butter from the crackers. I fix eyes on his silhouette from the kitchen. It’s cold today. I daren’t boil the kettle again for another coffee. The milk is gone anyway. Soon we will afford better juice. How stupid I sound. I should be grateful for being able to give my son breakfast not murmur promises to him. Years of promises remain a steady, unbroken stream. Undelivered ‘some day we will have’ mantras, spoken to his cherub face. In the corner of the kitchen this morning, shoulder pressed against my cool fridge, I curl fingers over my eyes. I shield shame from my boy.

I have tried. Tried my best. I see now that our poverty is easing onto my son’s radar. The other boys have Playstations. They have sleek, shiny bicycles and look forward to holidays in France. I observe his smile weakening as he reassures me that I am the best mother in the world and he is happy. I consciously distance myself from comparing my life now to when I earned a six-figure salary and amassed a collection of over one-hundred pairs of stilettos and practical pumps for work.

I curse the decisions I have made to render us into this stifling existence. I hold firm affirmation that the big break I need to regain my footing is lurking behind a cunningly disguised hiding place around the bend. I dream one day of being discovered. I am determined to write every day and apply for jobs employers ultimately declare me too experienced to fill, then my talent as a writer will emerge from this darkening, abridged life of not sleeping and my daily state of ‘just getting by.’

I am hungry. I won’t empty the box of Ritz crackers so there will be a few left to munch when we have our tomato soup tonight. Soup again. But my boy smiles at this meal: his small but maturing face still crunches with delight at mealtimes when I serve the heated tin of Campbell’s aside toast topped with circles of ham for eyes, a knob of cheese for a nose and squiggles of bright yellow mustard for a mouth. He still laughs at this, my gorgeous boy. How long will he source joy in my efforts to dress up our bare cupboard with such imaginative folly?

I never cry. Okay, untrue. I cry at silly triggers. Not the obvious ones about my life or personal hopelessness. I cried yesterday when I moved the sofa and trickles of coins littered the floor. The relief! I watched an old man last weekend incite an argument with a group of young boys in the park. The teens were dropping wrappers and plastic bottles indiscriminately as they munched and gulped along the path, paying no heed to the littered trail that exposed them as culprits. They didn’t care. They don’t care. The old man cared. He spoke up, shaking his walking stick their direction and ordering them to pick up their mess. The stick was a mistake. One lad grabbed the end—not harshly but enough to stop the flailing action and it scared the old man. I watched them lock eyes—two men: one shrunken and silented by the world; the other, youthful and brash in his loudness. The young gang then continued on their way, discarding detritus in their wake. The pensioner retreated to the nearest wooden bench. My son continued holding my hand, looking up at me for answers. I cried. Not so much for the old man or the fear of what is happening in our world, where people stomp around dirtying the few public places left for me to bring my child. It costs nothing, an afternoon of kicking a ball around together in the park. I didn’t even cry because how deeply saddened I felt that this is the world my son will inherit. A world of rudeness and entitlement by some who still have not reached the age of shaving their pimply faces. And it was not a big cry, so do not worry that my son witnessed any outdoor breakdown by his mother. No, it was a simple cry, over in seconds. A release of grief in a moment of helplessness, a sympatico felt for the old man who similarly inhabits a world where he knows what is right and has a good heart, but he is also silenced and he has then, invariably, been disempowered.

Deep in my core, I feel a rage of power rumbling like lava—it’s a determination and knowledge that I have everything I need to propel me and my boy out of this life, towards something better; for now, though, I sat on a park bench alongside an old man, contemplating how to share my voice with the world and consider tactics to increase its volume. Using my voice–not a cane–as weapon.

Like the majority of television-gazers each December, I also weep at John Lewis Christmas adverts. We know these are designed to be emotive, to elicit tears from even the hardest-hearted of individuals, yet the advertising trap ensnares us. I cry. I cry for the images of family portrayed in beautifully-filtered videos: always a mother and father and child experiencing holiday magic in a knife-to-the-emotional-fortress scene where a dog or penguin or gorgeous garden features. A child wishes for Santa and dreams come true. Yes, it is obvious. I don’t cry then for what my boy and I do not have. Not because I no longer can afford to shop at John Lewis. Not for my present circumstances. But I weep at the surging attack on my nostalgic sense of when my little-girl-self stood at the window of my grandparent’s house and expelled Christmas wishes with hot breath against cold glass, then traced my finger through the steam to make small pictures my grandmother would rub with gusto to remove from the pane.

I am determined not to reach a day when I reveal to my son how poor we are becoming. I sold my grandmother’s jewellery last week. The sole possessions left to flog now are my grandfather’s coin collection and the pearls my mother gave me on my sixteenth birthday. But these I want to save for my son. Maybe someday he will hold each cold coin in his hand, as I did decades ago when sat on my grandfather’s lap, running my unwrinkled fingers around smooth edges of round and octagonal metallic circles. I have looked into selling this collection and the reward would be next to nothing. This is purely a sentimental hoard. Copper and silver with little value, only precious to me, stored in my closet but I remain hungry.

Perhaps one day my son will love a woman enough to enclasp my strand of pearls around her neck. He might streak his lips near her ear and whisper tenderly that he loves her. She would feel warmth emanating from his body, the warmth that fills his body now, the blood connection he and I once shared when his heartbeat began inside of me. The blood now circulates through his small body, pumping his life in rhythmic beats, nourishing his organs, blood flowing to extremities so his fingers still move and can clutch that juice box and crackers, tie his own shoes and control the telly via remote.

I pray he becomes a man one day who is fortified in the knowledge he can excel at whatever his passion. I fear my shame will stick to him and diminish his destiny to be a grown up with loving heart and integrity. Despite barriers, I trust I have carved a childhood of learning for him that solidifies his mission to be a human emanating kindness to others and to himself.

My belly is empty. I last ate yesterday morning. My hands tremble as they hover over keyboard. I am mistyping sentences because I lack any source of energy to sustain me. I hear my son watching cartoons in the other room. He is giggling at silly voices of puppets and animated characters.

I will write myself to a better life. I will do this for him, for me.

After an indulgence of soup tonight, I shall write with a steady hand.

[Daily Post]

Thank you! My Black Cat Blue Sea Award

This must be a million-dollar question: why do people blog? Why put yourself out there, share your words, your photos, poems, thoughts, musings and snapshots of your life? Are you seeking connection, promotion or an audience? Are you motivated to inspire others with your blog, boost creativity in a global community or perhaps you simply want to create an online space that is purely yours.

Hand on heart, I kick-started this blog for all of the above reasons. As I inch forward with it, however, I learn there are additional gifts and this morning awoke to discover a lovely gift indeed: a nomination from Living vs Existing for The Black Cat Blue Sea Award along with a message about how much she enjoys my writing. A huge thank you, Cherylene!

Living vs Existing aims to ‘Enlighten, Motivate and Inspire Change’ via blogposts. Cherylene’s first short story is a sweet tale of two contrasting families, a story with a moral theme at its heart: ‘It does not matter  where you start in this race called life; all that matters is how you finish.’ Predominantly, Cherylene gives readers a glimpse into her life, from sharing her poetry to insight about mind, body and spiritual well-being. The joy she has in her life from her two boys and in her writing shines through!

Cherylene’s response to her own Black Cat Blue Sea Award questions are here. These are my answers to Cherylene’s prompts:

  1. If you could go to any period in time within your life, would you go to your past, your future or would you remain in the present and why? The future strikes me as quite a scary prospect at the moment, what with quite mad political friction heating up, so it’s a toss-up between past and present. I’d like to visit the 1950’s/60’s to experience the upswell of writers and artists I admire in print and film, but also to experience the enormous change in politics and music over those two decades. But that would just be a visit. I could not live without my MacBook and iPhone so, for technological and creative reasons, my feet are remaining planted in present day.
  2. What is your all-time favourite movie or television series? Too difficult. Father Ted and Catastrophe are the sharpest of comedies on television so are favourites. Favourite films range from Some Like it Hot to The Player, O Brother Where Art Thou to Pulp Fiction.
  3. When no one is watching or listening, would you consider yourself more of a singer or a dancer? I’ve been both a singer and dancer but these days, I belt the blues more than pirouette. A singer. Definitely.

I nominate the following bloggers, knowing that all may not respond but hopefully they shall be heartened just by receiving this accolade from a fellow blogger.

  1. Shivamt25
  2. LOVEUROWNLIFE
  3. Aroused
  4. Mum’s the Word Blog
  5. Out of My Write Mind
  6. BEXoxoBlog

Questions for these six bloggers:

  1. Why do you rev up the computer and blog?
  2. If Hollywood were casting an actor to play you in a film, which actor of present/past cinema do you see in that role?
  3. You’ve been contracted to write a novel—what would the story be about?

Thanks again to Cherylene—it’s been a reflective and enjoyable exercise to post this, to connect with other bloggers. Gratitude to all who have read this and to the nominees who participate.

Estella

The Champion of Charades

Tipples toppled down merry throats, the guests warming themselves by crackling fire—some slouched whilst patting their overstuffed tummies, others arranged their legs in lotus position, backs straight and eager to glean what adventures awaited them before dessert.

‘Charades?’ Maurice queried the group of eleven other warm beings sat around the skewed circle, an equal balance of men and women.

Jonty extracted vintage briar pipe from pursed lips, his other hand pinching the lapel of tartan waistcoat and proclaimed: ‘A champion idea!’

‘Indeed!’ The rest of the gaggle agreed.

‘Bunny is the charades champion!’ Boasted Maurice, Bunny’s fiancé who idled most at his days at Father’s vineyard, savouring liquid grapes before firing purple streams of wine into spittoons.

‘Good girl yourself, Bunny!’ Puffed out Pierre, circulating a stock of Montblanc pens and watermarked paper to his guests. ‘A champion girl!’

Bunny beamed with pride at this affirmation from her old school chums. She had never been champion of anything at school—hardly passed a subject each term—but Mother’s call to the Headmaster of Claridge’s Day School netted Bunny admission despite her universally-acknowledged inferior intelligence. Requiring little reminding to the Headmaster, Bunny was Bunny Richmond of the Richmond Richmonds, a family dripping with riches and titles. Whilst her brain was under no pressure to perform at school, Bunny had excelled to inspire fellow Claridge pupils in all matters of disguising provocative brassieres beneath cashmere twinsets and mastering the art of peeling curly lemon twists for martinis. She was a good-time girl.

‘Oh, Maurice! That was a million years ago at summer camp!’

‘Yes, but when you are crowned a champion you are a champion, m’dear,’ her fiancé clarified. ‘And if I remember rightly, you were the champion of strip charades!’

At his risqué disclosure, the ensemble tittered and guffawed, some tinkled expensive pens lightly against their lead-crystal flutes of bubbly. Bunny blushed at the yesteryear memory of late-night frolicking with fellow campers amongst the lush Welsh cabins on the lake. That was a summer to remember. There, the posh young teens assembled in secret when those in charge tucked into bed on 300-count sheets. There, the boys with exploding Adam’s apples enticed girls blossoming to womanhood to kick off the games with Spin the Bottle, then Truth or Dare. Strip Charades was the finale of the night and, like tonight, a youthful and rather bawdy Maurice had played compere.

‘A jolly good night that was! One to remember, Bunny. One to remember!’ Shouted Jonty, looking her up and down with obvious jut of his strong jaw, evoking a greater volume of guffaw from the guests.

Lord Harquest’s daughter, Angelica, tried to calm the throng sprawled out across the wall-to-wall Persian carpet her father had imported to match the floor-to-ceiling crimson curtains. ‘Shush now! This time we’ll keep our clothes on—we were kids then! These are the teams.’

Angelica reeled off the list of six names, followed by confirmation of the other six who would oppose them. Half a dozen then retreated to the drawing room with paper and pens, the other half remained in situ and began writing their charade clues—ones that surely the other team would never guess.

Fifteen minutes and three more bottles of Dom Perignon later, the full group reassembled and each team captain released their folded clues into shiny brass bowls atop either end of white marble mantelpiece. Jonty stoked the fire, illuminating the room further and reddening the guests’ cheeks.

‘The champion must go first!’ Christina heralded from her supine perch on chaise lounge.

‘Here, here! The champion!’

Butterflies fluttered Bunny’s belly and, were she not feeling increasingly squiffy from three hefty glasses of Barolo with the Beef Wellington and six flutes of champagne since, she would have retreated. But it was stirring to hear herself be proclaimed ‘a champion.’ Such victory had not been bestowed upon her bodacious and audacious self since life was a day of dreaming of her future.

‘And we have the perfect clue for you to start us off, Bunny.’

Antonia pressed a small, folded paper into Bunny’s manicured hand which Bunny unfolded, careful not to allow her team a glimpse. She stared at the word, written in neat and fanciful blue ink, gulped a weighty dose of oxygen then nodded to Pierre who clutched his gold Apple Watch, timer primed for countdown.

‘Go!’

Bunny slid the folded paper up the inside of her left wrist, tucking it inside the her pink cardigan cuff. To her team of faces staring agog, Bunny clasped her hands together, making sweeping gestures over her head in celebration. Her team remained mute. No guesses.

Next, Bunny extended both arms out each side of her body, bending them at the elbow then crunching fists together to show off her muscles. No guesses, just silence staring back at her.

‘One minute left,’ chirped Pierre.

She decided acting out the word was a fruitless exercise. She would break the word down into syllables.

Then they were on a roll. Three syllables they guessed when she brandished three fingers from right hand on left arm. Bunny nodded affirmation.

Third syllable was an easy guess: she acted out various prepositions of place and, once the team shouted out a stream of ‘ins’ and ‘behinds’ and other guesses, they correctly nailed ‘on.’

The second syllable called for more brazen actions. Bunny squatted and mimed that she was unrolling loo roll from the wall.

‘Pee!’ Blared Georgina, smug look on her flawless face when Bunny nodded.

‘So,’ Maurice said swiftly. ‘Three syllables. Something-pee-on.’

Bunny nodded.

‘Anyone?’ Maurice asked his team.

‘Fifteen seconds!’ Cut in Pierre.

Bunny was now desperate. How could her team be so dim? How could she lose this, lose her title? It may not be much, but she had her reputation to preserve.

In mad flurry, Bunny resorted to the only means for ensuring victory: she tore off her clothing until only the smallest of smalls shielded view from her most private of privates. The room fell collectively silent with twenty-two pairs of glassy eyes taking in the performance of Bunny’s lifetime.

Bunny ran to the mahogany coffee table which Jonty had pushed into the corner to make room for their game. Her long, bare legs leapt gracefully onto the wood. Upon landing on the table, Bunny extended her arms above head, imagining herself grasping a gleaming trophy, engraved clearly for all to see: ‘Bunny Richmond, the Charades—‘

‘Champion!’ They shouted in unison.

Indeed—Bunny was victorious!

 

via Daily Prompt: Champion