I’ve always been interested in writing but in my busy working life there just wasn’t the time. Now, in retirement, I have no excuse. The act of minor creation is fascinating, especially when working to a cryptic theme set by the month’s chair-person.
I have no ambition to write a 600-page saga. I prefer the short story and flash fiction range. A number of my flash-fictions have been published in the Shrewsbury Flash Fiction website. There’s no money in it but I write mainly for my own pleasure. It’s like fishing – some cost, no financial rewards but a good way to enjoy three hours.
I have entered a number of short story competitions. Polite “Thanks but no thanks” reaction so far but hope remains. Self-advice: “Keep trying and be encouraged by the many rejections Ian Rankin received before he sold his first novel.” It would be nice to find a good home for my short fiction collection. These tales are usually in range of 2500 – 5000 words and have therefore not been offered to competitions where short work is preferred.
BWG have taken part in local literary events at Bridgnorth and Wolverhampton. I have enjoyed being the coarse prose-writer among all those gifted poets.
A March wind in October blew Winston’s fence down. It wrecked my mini-greenhouse, my box hedge and my wife’s prized flowerbeds.
Straight after breakfast I decided to ask him what he was going to do about it. I rang his bell. No answer, but his car was there and he never walked anywhere. I went to the back of his house. There he was, standing by the remains looking thoughtful. He saw me. “Sorry about the fence,” he said. We studied the damage. “It’ll have to be rebuilt,” he said. “I’ll never use timber again. It never lasts. Every ten years or so I have to replace it. I’ll build a wall instead.”
I said I didn’t think he’d go to all that trouble at his age. He said, “Brick walls are best. I’ve got a book on building. If Churchill could enclose his garden I can. It might take a little time, that’s all,” he said as Molly called us to coffee.
The next day a couple of men came to remove the wreckage. Hardly had they gone when a small foundation digger arrived and Winston quickly took his first lesson. Before long he had a nice neat trench going the whole length of the garden.
Two days later a contractor poured the concrete foundation and Winston was soon ready to start building. I politely offered to help but he said something about retired bank managers and their dainty hands. I was quite relieved.
As I said, it was October, and a wet one at that. The trench flooded and Christmas loomed. His incontinent dog had taken a liking to my garden. Winston, wanting to remain a good neighbour, planted a stout post in the middle of his lawn to hold the long chain and the dog. I thanked him.
New Year was no better. Building would have to wait for warmer weather. In the meantime he took the advanced building course at the old Polytechnic.
After six months of open plan gardens I was used to the illusion of great space. It was almost a disappointment when, just before Easter, the bricks, cement and mixer arrived. In his new safety jacket and hard hat Winston was ready to start.
Realising that our presence wasn’t needed, Sheila and I headed south for the sun. For reasons I won’t go into now, our month’s holiday became two until, at last, it was time to turn back.
We got home in the afternoon. The wall looked, shall I say, right. The recycled bricks matched the house; the pointing was perfect. Winston was mowing his lawn.
Seeing us, he said, “Welcome home. Molly’s got the tea. Tell us about your holiday.”
We talked about French roads and Roman traffic. I praised his wall and he said he would espalier a line of fruit trees and I should do the same.
Sheila and I spent a happy week planting flower beds. We left space for Blenheim Oranges and Conference Pears. A month later an urgent call from our eldest son in Australia made it pleasantly necessary to go east. Adelaide in May is a pleasant place.
In June we were home again. The wall was twelve feet high.
I dialled Winston’s number.