We asked two of our contributors to write something – anything – in their own natural handwriting. Here is Hugin‘s contribution.
We asked two of our contributors to write something – anything – in their own natural handwriting. Here is Hugin‘s contribution.
The castle stood on the edge of the cliff. For centuries it had stood there, and it was as strong and majestic in ruins as it had been in its glory days. Instead of the hustle and bustle of busy servants, and the dancing and feasting of the earls and their guests, there was the constant to-ing and fro-ing of the sea birds who nested high on the ruined tower.
Standing alone on the cliff edge, she was reminded of how few centuries had passed between that time and now. It seemed only a breath away to her. She could imagine it all as though she was witnessing it there and then, and the busy and inexhaustible chattering of the birds simply made it more real.
But it was an eerie place to wait for someone. There were dark, long evening shadows everywhere that she looked and, whenever a bird flew overhead, the shadow seemed to block out the light for a moment. Why had she arranged to meet him there? And why was he so late?
She glanced up at the sun and then tried to blink away the bright lights that hovered in front of her vision. He wasn’t going to turn up, she decided, listening to the silky sea song below her that rippled its merry music as it brushed into the cove. He wasn’t going to turn up. She would have to keep waiting.
The shadows grew longer and longer, and she began to think of the many troubling things that the evening could bring with it. Where there had once been fires, there were now just patches of darkness that led up to blocked chimneys. Where there had been dancing and merriment, there were now only long grasses waltzing in the wind.
She knew in her heart that she had waited long enough for him. And she knew, deep down, that he was not coming. But she would give him just a short while longer. After all, she thought to herself as the chill wind picked up around her, she had waited five hundred years – another day in eternity would make no difference.
We went to see Noises Off at the Old Vic for all the wrong reasons. In actual fact, the sole reason we opted for that play in that location was because it starred an actor we all admire greatly: Robert Glenister. The decision to travel 500 miles in the middle of winter was made before we even knew anything about the play. It was only weeks after we had booked our travel, accommodation and (determined to “do the theatre experience properly”) tickets for the best seats in the house, that I began to wonder if maybe we hadn’t done things the wrong way around.
Our trip to London started off brilliantly, watching a film at the cinema in Inverness (a luxury at any time of the year but particularly in winter when the 215 mile round trip is not to be recommended), a beautiful train journey down the length of the country, and meeting my friend in the Royal Navy for the first time (which also doubled up as a fantastic – if speedy – tour of London!). By the time Lydia, Ginny, Clemency and I had tucked into a delicious meal at our hotel, returned up to our eighth floor rooms, admired our sterling view of London At Night and dressed for the theatre, the play had a lot to live up to.
As anyone who has been to the Old Vic will know, the interior of the theatre is exquisite and, although our seats were hardly worth the extra £25 (each) we paid for them, we were pleased to have such a good view of the stage. The play was immediately amusing, although the first act saw more restrained tittering than out-and-out belly laughing. I was particularly pleased by the director’s decision to have members of the cast coming out of the audience, something that took me back to my days as an A Level drama student, although here it was done to far greater effect.
The interval came at the end of a promising first act which, although it provided a lot of entertainment, was also slightly too close to home for anyone who has been involved in amateur or small-time dramatics. Ginny confided in me later that too many of the things in the first act reminded her of moments during her time with various amateur dramatics groups and I can’t help but agree with her. During the interval we also sampled some extremely delicious ice-cream which can’t be faulted in any way other than that: a) it just didn’t last long enough, and; b) I was unsure as to how I was supposed to access the spoon!
It was really during the second act that the play ‘got going’ as far as I was concerned. So many moments of pure comedy genius, delivered with fantastic timing by the cast, had me screaming with laughter, unable to stop myself breaking into spontaneous applause at the parts that appealed to me the most. The play really went from strength to strength: the sequence with the flowers was hysterical, and Ginny had tears in her eyes from laughing so much when a cactus came in contact with Mr Glenister’s posterior. (She’s a lovely girl.) It really was a stroke of genius to set the second act backstage, especially as the set then reverted to its earlier layout for the third and final act, which was also so full of humour that we couldn’t stop laughing.
Every single member of the cast was superb in their roles, but I must admit to being particularly impressed by Jamie Glover. Not only was his comic timing impeccable, but his excellent and untiring physical performance was both hilarious and inspiring. I suppose I had previously identified him as “the son of Julian Glover” and so potentially it was for that reason that I was particularly impressed by his performance. But I am henceforth far less cynical about his identity, having been more than convinced by his competence as an actor.
As Noises Off is still running at the Old Vic until the 10th March, I won’t go into too much detail about exact moments in it, in case I ruin someone’s viewing experience! However, what I will say is this: go and see this production of the play. If you watch nothing else this year, watch Noises Off at the Old Vic. It’s just the thing to beat off those vicious winter blues and set you thinking about just how many things in your life are actually a farce just waiting to be written!!!
In one of my favourite television programs, Psych, there is a point where the main character asks his father if he thinks it is possible to miss a ‘moment’ in life. His father’s reply is that life is made up of ‘moments’: “you’re having one right now”.
I think that’s something that I’m only just beginning to realise about life. Every Christmas morning I wake up at five to six and think “I won’t get to wake up on Christmas Day for another year”, and this rather odd understanding of the situation sets the pattern for the rest of the day. I worry that next Christmas won’t be as good as the last, especially after impromptu moments of laughter and magic.
Every Christmas Eve from me being five to being seventeen, we would go to my Great Aunt’s house for a day of feasts and jollity. It was the official start of Christmas and we would be so full of Christmas cheer after our time there that it really felt like Christmas began there and then. Relatives who we never saw at any other time would come and say hello and we were always so excited to see them. Sadly, my Great Aunt became ill and could no longer host us, although we had her and some of the family round on the following Christmas Eve which was our last in the area. I was initially terrified that the loss of this tradition would mean that our Christmasses would never be the same again – and I was right. Many times a year – and especially at Christmas – I think of my wonderful memories of our visits.
But every Christmas brings something remarkable of its own. Last Christmas, I gave you my heart, but the very next day… no, not really. Last Christmas, I played Christmas Carols on the piano on Christmas Eve, whilst members of my family sat and listened, each eagerly taking in every bit of the festive season. Earlier today (although not Christmas Eve) I sat alone in the “Tree Room”, watching the tree and thinking about each individual ornament and what it meant to me in particular. They all mean something. It was a ‘moment’, different from last year and all the years before that. Next week, I’ll be worrying that I won’t have a moment like that again, but they keep coming up… and just when you’re not expecting them.
It helps that we’re a family of traditionalists, especially where Christmas is concerned. It would take pages and pages to write about all the many traditions that are included in our family’s Christmas, so what I write here won’t even begin to scratch the surface of what I could say! We have age-old traditions – the Christmas Tree, the Nativity figurines that can be found in almost every room of the house. We have family traditions that we have enjoyed for many, many years such as Mum reading The Children of Green Knowealoud to all us ‘children’. Other traditions have come about in more recent years, such as the need to have a gingerbread house for Christmas Eve, something that started in 2009 – the only Christmas we have ever spent away from home.
Tradition is a fluid art. We mould it to fit in with our needs, and it provides a backdrop for many of our most wonderful experiences. But we don’t even need to look for those ‘moments’ for them to find us… I’m having one right now.
Merry Christmas! xxx
Marguerite looked down at the cake in front of her. It was about six centimetres tall with a diameter of around twenty centimetres, cloaked in thick, rich butter-cream with a thin drizzle of syrupy jam across some of the top. All of these things Marguerite loved, but here they were on a fruit and nut cake. A number of previous experiences catapulted themselves to the front of Marguerite’s thoughts, reminding her of her nut allergy.
“Any for you, Margie?” her hostess asked, plunging a large knife into the rich flesh of the cake, causing the metal blade to thicken with butter-cream. She knows, Marguerite thought angrily, she knows that I shouldn’t eat this. “Any for you?” The hostess repeated, sliding the hefty slice onto a delicate china plate.
Marguerite felt the eyes of the other three occupants settle upon her, silently disapproving of her reluctance to eat the delicious morsel that the hostess had lovingly prepared for the event. Terrified of the turmoil she was about to cause; Marguerite put her hand out to receive the plate. Taking a pastry fork, she scooped up her first mouthful and hoped for the best.
The first fall of snowflakes in Winter,
The soft warmth of the Summer sun,
The first fruit to be picked in Autumn,
The cobweb perfectly spun.
The skipping firstborn lamb of the Spring,
The first carol at Christmastide,
The first note of a bird’s sweet love song,
Winter’s first Snowdrop espied.
The first baby bird to greet the morn,
The first leaf to turn red and gold,
The first deep pink rose of the Summer,
The power of Winter’s hold.
The first crowing of the cock at dawn,
The rising of the silver moon,
The dancing, twinkling stars at midnight,
The powerful sun at noon.
These are some of the things to look for,
When life’s troubles seem not to cease,
Because they are the ingredients
Of a recipe for peace.
I had known him long ago. Too long ago to think of now – in truth it was a lifetime ago. I had laughed with him, drank with him, travelled with him… he had always been there. But paths split and fork to form different directions that must be followed and now… Now when I look at him he is so sad. He is an autumn tree that has watched its young leaves fade and die after the splendour of an all-too-short summer. He is the uneasy hours of darkness, when all but the troubles of the world are sleeping. He is still a man, but I cannot recognise him; his eyes so sad that angels would weep to look upon them, his face so lined with grief that even the laughter of a thousand memories cannot brush away the sorrow. Once I knew him and I loved him, but now, in his pain, I find I know him not.
This one follows on from number one, and not only numerically. It is important to remember that, whilst not eating is not such a good idea, not drinking could have some things to recommend itself. I say this because at that meeting I arrived really early…
Well, anyone who knows me will tell you that I don’t really like tea that much and, when I’m out, I avoid it at all costs because people never make it milky enough. So I chose to buy myself a coffee whilst sitting and waiting for my person to arrive. As I say, I was early. But he was late, so I found myself drinking more and more coffee. By the time he arrived I had drunk so much that the caffeine had managed to completely take hold. I bought two more; one for me, one for him and proceeded to talk and talk. Actually the talking was pretty amusing at times, but we’ll get there in good time!
Well I didn’t drink this cupful as, exacerbated by the empty stomach, the last two, three or four cups had completely gone to my head. Alcohol has never affected me as much. So, what do I do instead of drinking the coffee? That’s right, I decide to tip it all over me. Whoosh! and all that planning what to wear becomes void as my smart clothes act as a (very uncomfortable) coffee filter. So, of course, you act shocked and mortified and definitely don’t swear. Right? Wrong. The word was out of my mouth before I could stop it.
So, you think that’s as bad as it gets? Oh no, my humiliation continues… I did it all again five minutes later!
And the moral of this story is: don’t spill coffee in a meeting.
Well, if you do spill coffee then don’t swear.
Definitely don’t do this twice.
There has got to be a point for everyone where they have a meeting with someone who they are dying to impress. I’m not talking about a date or even that “magic moment” where two people’s eyes meet across a crowded room… nope, I’m talking about that mundane and slightly awkward job interview, or meeting with a potential client. There are a couple of things to avoid, and I thought that I would have a muse on them with regard to an experience I had a couple of weeks ago…
1. In the beginning… don’t book a lunchtime slot. It’s just not a good idea, especially if you don’t specify that you’re meeting for lunch. The chances are the other person will be so concerned that he/she might not get anything to eat that they will be late in order to ensure they aren’t famished for the meeting. And if you have to book a lunchtime meeting then for goodness sake eat something. Yes, there is always that risk that a stray crumb will catch on the side of your mouth, but surely it has got to be better than spending the entire time wondering where you would fall if you passed out from hunger. In my experience, I spent the last half hour of the meeting staring straight at the person’s eyes as every time I looked away I got this slightly nauseating lightheaded feeling. To be honest, looking at his eyes wasn’t an unpleasant experience at all – they were very nice, rich melty-chocolate eyes, but I have been forced to wonder several times since what the poor guy thought of me gazing at him like some kind of creepy Mystic Meg figure.
More to come…
Casimir put his hand out to steady himself. With his remaining eye he could see blurred images of the land in the distance; those hills that always seemed so far from his reach. Away to the south, on the road that he had just left, he could hear agitated voices in a language that he did not understand, although he knew that they were looking for him and that they would not stop searching until they found him. But he had to get to those hills and would not allow anything to stop him before he had achieved that which for so long had been his only aim.