Guest Writer

This week’s Guest Writer is one who has been featured in this slot a few times. I’m thrilled to welcome Nest Madden back. Here, he tells you about himself:

I’m a former Prison Governor, During my time in HMPrison service, I served both in this country and abroad. My specialism is hostage negotiation and riot control. I spent a period of time attached to both the military and the police. Since leaving the prison service I worked in the US and the Middle East as a security consultant and as a trainer for US law enforcement and certain Arab states.  Now I’ve decided to turn my hand to writing, mostly using my personal experiences as a basis for stories and novels.

Selling Shirts

By

Nest Madden

2018

 

Ray brought my pint of Double Diamond over to our table in the corner.

“There you are, mate. I’ve been thinking…”

“That’ll be a nice change for you,” I interrupted. Ray didn’t look offended. We were after all good mates, had been for years, since junior school really.

“Anyway, we’ve got a chance to make a bit of money, are you interested?”

“I’m always interested in making a few quid, what have you got in mind?” I asked, taking the froth off my pint.

“I’ve got my hands on some of those Ben Sherman shirts, you know the button down collar jobs everyone’s wearing,”

“You mean they’er nicked. I’m not touching dodgy gear. You may fancy going to Borstal but I don’t,” I replied. I was annoyed that Ray would even consider putting me into this.

“No, they’re not nicked, I promise you. I bought them off Ahmed, his sister works in the factory that makes ‘em. Well some of the stitching might be faulty, not double overlocked, or whatever they call it. But they a’int nicked. I paid two quid each for them.”

“How many you got then?” I asked.

“Two gross,” he replied. Two hundred and eighty-eight shirts, at two pounds each. Even I could do the maths, that was five hundred and seventy-six pounds.

“That’s over a monkey, where did you get that sort of dosh?”   I asked with disbelief.

“Borrowed most of it off my old man, he just wants a bit of interest in return, now you in or what?”

“Look, Ray, I’m thinking about it, I just want to be sure I’m not walking into something hooky, that’s all. Getting nicked is not in my plans at all.” 

“Mine neither, I thought we could hire a pitch and knock ‘em out at a fiver each, they’re seven quid in high street shops,” he replied. I thought about it, it sounded a good plan to me, but I didn’t want to seem too keen.

“Yea, maybe. What would be my cut?”

“Shall we say 15%?” Ray said, quickly, like he had it all figured out. It took me a moment to do the maths, I worked it out as £216.00.

“I think 25% would be fairer.”

“25%, you’re kidding, what are you putting into the deal?” Ray was getting peeved, I could tell.

“Alright, keep your hair on, let’s say 20% and call it quits, and I’ll get the beers in.”

“You’re robbing me, but alright I suppose. You are my best mate,” Ray conceded. I got up and went to the bar, taking the glasses with me. I hadn’t thought he’d go to 20%, perhaps Ray wasn’t the business man he thought he was. I payed for the beers and took them back to the table.

“So, we’ll use your van,” Ray had an old Doormobile. “Where is the pitch?” I asked.

“I don’t think it should be on our doorstep, what about St. Albans?” Ray asked.

“Sounds good, when?”

“How about next Tuesday, I’ll ‘phone ‘em and set up a pitch.” So the deal was done, Ray would set up all the details, the pitch, tables, boxes and bags, etc. He would pick me up in his van and off we’d go. Depending how well the selling went would determine if I had to act as his stooge or not. That is to say, a punter who pretends that he is getting a bargain to persuade the other punters to part with their hard earned.

“That’s settled then. Anyway, have you seen those two, sitting in the corner,” Ray nodded to two girls sitting on their own drinking halves of what looked like cider.

“Hmm, very nice. I think I half know the blonde one, Sylvie something, went to the local grammar I think.”

“Right then, time to turn on the charm,” Ray said, as he got to his feet. He hitched his belt up and made toward the table where the two girls sat.

Tuesday was overcast, dull morning. The scudding clouds threatened rain. I looked out the bedroom window and thought maybe this wasn’t the best day to be working at an outside market, still I needed the money and wasn’t going to let Ray down. I went down stairs and fixed a slice of toast and a cup of tea. My mum, as always, offered to cook me a breakfast and I, as always declined. I couldn’t face sausage, bacon, egg and a fried slice that early in the morning. Ray’s van draw up across the street. Grabbing my jacket I pecked Mum on the cheek.

“‘Bye, Mum, see you later.”

“Where are you off to?” Mum asked, always wanting to know what I was doing, where was I going.

“I’m working with Ray today.”

“You never said, what are you doing?”

“A bit of selling, got to go,” I banged out of the kitchen door and legged it up the ally, before there was an inquest in to exactly what I was up to. I knew she worried but sometimes she could be a pain.

“All right mate,” Ray’s usual greeting as I clambered into the passenger seat. I glanced into the back of the van, there were cardboard boxes that evidently held the shirts and a couple of tressel tables.

“Yea, all good, do you know where this place is? We ain’t going to be driving around St Albans trying to find the market are we?”

“Of course I know where it is,” Ray replied as he slipped the van into gear and pulled away.

“Right mate, two shirts for you?” the punter handed me a ten pound note and I passed him the two shirts. It had been a hectic morning; as soon as we set up punters were on us for shirts. Ray had really picked a winner this time, we had almost sold out and we were down to just about five shirts left. The crowds were thinning now, well it was lunch time.

“Let’s pack it in now, we can get away before the rush to pack up. Get home, get washed up and meet the girls early from work,” Ray said. We were meeting Sylvie and her mate Mandy that evening. We’d booked a table at the local steakhouse, dead sophisticated us.  A couple of bottles of Blue Nun, a pawn cocktail, a steak followed by a piece of black forrest gateau. What woman could resist?

With our evil plan in mind we hustled the two tables away, throwing everything in the back of the van.  Ray set off, he decided to take the route down the M1. We had been going about half an hour when Ray, who kept glancing at the dashboard, said, “We’ve got a problem.”

“What’s the matter?”

“The  engine’s overheating, I’m going have to stop,” just as Ray said it the exit for Scrachwood Services came into view. Gratefully we pulled in and as we reached the parking area the engine cut out and we coasted to a halt.

“Now what?”

“Well I’ll have a look and see if we can fix it,” Ray replied, pulling the driver’s door back.  He hopped out and opened the bonnet.

“Looks like we’ve boiled dry,” he said, gingerly opening the radiator cap. Ray went to the back of the van and got out a jerrycan of water which he dribbled in to the radiator. There was a spluttering and hissing and a thin finger of water appeared between my feet.

“Ray, there’s water coming out from underneath.”

Ray dropped down and peered under the van, “The bloody water pump is leaking, bugger! We’ll have to change it.”

“Where the hell are you going to get a water pump from?”

“I think I’ve got a spare,” Ray replied, getting to his feet he went to the back of the van and started to rummage through a box of assorted bits and pieces that he always seemed to keep in whatever vehicle he had. Finally he found what he was looking for.

“Okay, let’s get this on, shouldn’t take us long if we both work at it,” Ray said pulling out a box of tools. We set to and between us changed the damn water pump. The cost to us was were were both dirty and covered in grease and oil, but when we put the water back into the radiator and ran the engine, no more leaks. We went to the washrooms in the service station to wash-up. After much scrubbing our hands were clean enough but our shirts were filthy.

“We can’t meet the girls like this.”

“Yea, your right. I know we’ve still got a couple of shirts left we’ll use two of those,” Ray said. We hurried back to the van, time was getting on and we need to get going if we were to meet our dates. Ray opened the back doors of the van and grabbed a shirt which he threw to me. I wrenched open the cellophane and pulled out the shirt. There was something wrong, it took me a moment to work it out. There were no bloody sleeves, I looked at Ray, he stood there in almost comic disbelief. He too was holding up a shirt without sleeves. He snatched another shirt from the box. The same, no sleeves. He scrabbled at the remaining shirts.

  “So that’s why Ahmed sold them so cheap, I take it we won’t be going back to St. Albans’ market for a while? I asked.

***

Nest

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I Challenge You To…

This week’s challenge is to write a story, limerick or poem on the subject of:

Running

Last week’s theme was television. Here are just a couple of the great pieces you sent in:

Keith Channing sent in a very clever one:

I just bought a new smart TV
Now so many things I can see
There’s Homeland and Bones,
Of course, Game of Thrones
But where do I find BBC?

Please visit MWS R Writing‘s website for something very interesting:

https://mwsrwritings.com/2018/08/02/i-challenge-you-television/

I absolutely love Val Fish‘s:

Mesmerised, unable to speak
I’m feeling decidedly weak
Glued to the telly
Legs turned to jelly
At the sight of Poldark’s physique.

***

running

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Markets For Writers

Writing Magazine are holding some themed competitions on their website. The first one has the topical theme of ‘Drying Up‘. Here are some more details:

Prize:

1st: £100 or a writing critique, plus publication on the website

Entry fee: £5

Word count: up to 500 words

Closing date: 1st September 2018

For more details on this competition, click here.

***

nudge

Photo credit: pinterest.com

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Funny Of The Week

Don’t you just love a contradictory sign?!

helpful

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The Strange Workings Of The English Language Part Nine

Here is part nine in my new series, where I take a look at the weird and wonderful world of words. If you missed part one, please click here. You’ll find part two here and part three here. For part four click here. Now for parts five, six, seven and eight.

Q. What’s the difference between the words ‘adverse’ and ‘averse’?

A. Adverse means unfavourable/harmful. It tends to be used to describe conditions and effects e.g.:

The weather had no adverse effect on the harvest this year.

Averse means to be opposed to/having a strong dislike e.g.:

I am not averse to doing the washing up.

Interesting word of the week:

AGELAST

Meaning: Someone who never laughs.

***

sun

Photo credit: pinterest.com

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Guest Writer Spot

Please give a warm welcome to David Faucheux, my Guest Writer this week. He has kindly shared an extract from his book with us. Here’s some information about his writing background before you read it:

David Faucheux is a lifelong resident of Louisiana and currently lives in Lafayette. He attended Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, where he obtained a B.A. in English and later a Master of Library and Information Science. He has worked as a braille instructor and medical transcriptionist. With the encouragement of a friend, he began an audioblog, which he maintained for several years. He continues as a reviewer of audiobooks for Library Journal. His hobbies include dining out, listening to music, and learning new trivia. He has abridged his recent book Across Two Novembers: A Year in the Life of a Blind Bibliophile and hopes to have an audio version released by fall under the title Selections from Across Two Novembers: A Bibliographic Year.

He can be emailed at scopist65@gmail.com

Learn more about the book at www.dldbooks.com/davidfaucheux/

Roux and Remembrance

By

David Faucheux

“Brush your hair; they are messy.”[1] My maternal grandmother did not want any grandson of hers appearing in public looking unkempt. She had standards. Hair was always brushed before running errands in town or going to mail. That’s what she called going to the local post office for the daily mail—“going to mail.” When I asked her if there was anything in the mail, she knew what I meant. I wanted to know if I had any pale green plastic boxes from the library in Baton Rouge; I used a library that mailed out uniquely formatted 4–track, slow–speed cassette books to blind patrons. It made the summers pass for a bored teenager in the country.

Like the beads of a rosary falling through her fingers, thoughts of my grandmother cascade through my mind: the Charlie perfume that she wore to church; her many refrigerator magnets that secured her grandchildren’s drawings; Monday night Bingo at the American Legion Hall with her and her friends. They had the best grilled hamburgers there; I never missed going if I could help it. And then there were Mrs. Regina’s hot dogs at the Charenton Church Hall Bingos; they had the best. I tried not to miss going there, either. 

My grandmother could have made her living by her skill in ironing, producing the crispest Madras shirts and the best knife–edged blue jeans I ever wore. One person thought I had my clothes professionally pressed. She had grown up using heavy irons that had to be heated on the stove. She said that the men of that era wore white suits. Washing them on a washboard was arduous enough, but then they had to be ironed. It was easy to get soot on a suit being ironed. If it happened, the suit would be washed and ironed again!

Food was a big part of my memories. I loved her creamy white beans. She was very particular about freshness. She knew the new crop of beans came out in September. “Old beans from last year cook up yellow,” she often said, and waited for the new crop. She boiled them twice and tossed out the water; vitamin–rich cooking water be damned. Then she used a pressure cooker to produce this creamy effect. Late summer was corn soup time. She’d buy a bushel of corn from a local farmer. I can still recall her sitting and energetically brushing off the corn silk, then using a knife to cut the kernels off the corn cobs. That always intrigued me, but she never let me try. Likewise for the okra. She held each okra spear and sliced it into thin coins. I used to like looking at the openwork pattern inside each slice. The okra was then smothered for us to enjoy. Additional okra was cooked and frozen to be used in shrimp okra gumbo (think a thick, roux–based[2] soup) during Lent, as she never ate meat on any Wednesday or Friday during this season. Even now, I would never eat meat on Good Friday, lest her ghost come back to haunt me!

I remember her weekly Pokeno games.[3] When we appeared briefly at the start of ceremonies to say hello, the ladies loved to switch to Cajun French. We knew they were talking about us or gossiping about matters that little ears were not supposed to understand. I regret never learning the patois or dialect native to my culture, but all my grandparents told of being punished for speaking it at schools during the 1920s and 1930s. It was not a time of multiculturalism or inclusion. In some ways, it sounds as though my grandparents were recent immigrants to the United States, although many of our ancestors arrived here in the mid–18th century.

I stayed with my grandmother during the day when in fifth grade I missed half a year of school recovering from eye surgeries. I’d do my schoolwork at the white Formica counter in her utility room while she prepared lunch for my grandfather and me, talked to her sister on the phone, or  kept an eye on her soap operas. I must have been more disciplined then.

My grandmother lived until 2006 and was the last of my grandparents. As long as she lived, I felt safe, protected from my mortality by a buttress of two generations. I knew she’d make 90; she did not. Whenever I smell lemon spray starch or the rich brown aroma of roux, I think of her.

[1] In French, the word hair, or les cheveux, is plural. Sometimes traces of French lingered in my grandmother’s English or that of other elderly family members.

[2] In Cajun cooking, roux is a dark brown concoction made of flour and oil that provides a rich flavor base for stews and gumbos. It’s made blond for crawfish étouffée.

[3] For a description of Pokeno, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pokeno_game.

New WraparoundCover

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I Challenge You To…

This week’s challenge is to write a story, limerick or poem on the subject of:

Television

Last week’s theme was food. Here are some of the super pieces you sent in:

Keith Channing sent in another true story:

We’re spending this week in our camper,
It was that, or a spa for a pamper
Although quite good looking,
It’s too hot for cooking.
Can anyone send us a hamper?

Ladyleemanila sent in two pieces this week. Please visit her blog to read them:

https://ladyleemanilablog.wordpress.com/2018/07/26/i-challenge-you-to-food/

It’s great to see Kevin back:

I asked her
For a juicy pear.
Of course I meant fruit to buy
But she gave me a black eye.
Dear reader, please tell me why …!

And Jason Moody, with two:

Whenever I’m in a mood
I turn to my dear friend, food.
The feeling does pass
Adding weight to my ass
Next time, one portion, not two.

Burgers and chicken and
Chips
Taste lovely but sit on my hips
It drives me insane
‘Cos I’m hungry again
Now where is that packet of crisps?

And here’s a fine one from Steve Walsky. Please visit his website for a read:

https://simplicitylane.wordpress.com/2018/07/27/hurray-for-national-milk-chocolate-day/

Anne Copeland always has a thought-provoking piece to share:

I wish I could remember wonderful memories of good times with family
But that was not to be.
But what I do remember is the food you made.
It was the food that nourished not only body
But that of soul.
You were proud of being an excellent cook.
And you constantly cooked wonderful foods
That most of my friends never heard of.
Kidney stew, Prune Whip, Blueberry Dumplings, Fruitcake with Hard Sauce.
The list went on and on
And you could probably have written a cookbook.
But you never did.
I wish I could have remembered your cooking
With sharing and love and laughter shared as we ate
But I never did.
I wish we had all been able to communicate openly
As we shared about your cooking and how wonderful a food artist you were.
But we never did.

***

television

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