Guest Writer Spot

This week’s guest writer is Rachel Garrod. It’s my great pleasure to welcome her to this slot for the first time. Here is a little bit about her, in her own words:

‘I am 48 years old and for the past 3 years my husband and I have lived in Spain near Marbella. Ostensibly the move from the Uk was due to my husband’s retirement but also an opportunity for a better quality of life, the chance to get a dog – Columbus – and for me to develop my writing. I joined WB before we left and have found it very useful and motivating.

‘I now write a monthly blog on health related matters (I am a respiratory physiotherapist and stop smoking counsellor) and a bimonthly article writer for Home and Lifestyle magazine here on the Costa as well as my WB assignments. I have joined a weekly short story writing group here which is a lot of fun – hence plenty of short stories! I also still practice Physio and lecture so am keeping busy. And yes … It is a better quality of life here!’

A change of fortune

by

Rachel Garrod

It had been a shit few months. Rebecca´s cheating boyfriend had dumped her, the indignity of it – him dumping her! The novel she had slogged over every night and weekend had been ceremoniously rejected by more than one editor. Simply not up to our standards wrote the snooty agent at Red Lion publishing and now her landlord had told her she would have to move out of her cramped one bedroom flat in Clapham, as he wanted to sell it.

So it was hardly surprising that she was feeling mightily pissed off and even a bit depressed. She sat morosely at the one table in the flat. Her hair, lank and needing a cut, drooped in front of her like a dirty bead curtain. Aimlessly she turned the page of the local free paper when unexpectedly an advert caught her eye. Rebecca wasn’t normally susceptible to advertising from quacks and weirdos, as she thought of them. Charlatans promising to change your life with a crystal or tell your future from your hand, but her mood was so low that today it seemed as though this was written just for her.  Need to turn your life around? she read, I can help you gain clarity and inner peace.    

Along Clapham High Street scurried a procession of people huddled in coats and swaddled in scarves and hats. They reminded her of a line of furry caterpillars she´d once seen on holiday in Portugal. She passed trees bearing plastic bags instead of leaves and barely noticed the steady stream of Pound Savers, hair-dressers, Argos shops and pharmacies that seemed to be the staple of all high streets nowadays.

His name was Connor, he´d said when she had phoned and he lived in this tenement block. A nondescript grey brick building, probably an old council property now privately owned thanks to Maggie´s legacy. He opened the door and she thought how well he suited his environment, dressed as he was in shabby brown corduroys and a soft fleecy jumper. But his bright blue eyes were welcoming and when he invited her in his soft Irish lilt filled the hallway with a melodious tune.  He bustled around making tea and he quickly placed unexpectedly pretty china tea cups and a matching pot on the table in front of her. Connor reached out and took her hands in his. Normally reserved, Rebecca was surprised to find she didn’t feel uncomfortable, holding hands with this stranger. They said nothing for what seemed long minutes, he just smiling slightly and she feeling strangely warm and at peace. 

Connor released her hands so she could sip at her tea and chatted amicably with her. He was a gardener he said, had worked in banking but got sick of it all after the recession and scandals hit. He liked the harmony of gardening and the simplicity of working outside. He liked being his own boss too, he said and Rebecca nodded thinking how much she disliked her boss and her crappy job in the post office.

Their tea drunk Connor took to holding her hands again across the little Formica table. They were quiet and Rebecca found herself reflecting on her cheating, now ex-boyfriend. He´d been a pig really she realised, even if he hadn’t cheated on her he still would have been a crap boyfriend. Never turning up when he said he would, letting her down at the last minute. There was that one time at a party when she could swear he´d been kissing a girl in the bathroom, even though he insisted he hadn´t the girl´s perfume clung to him like a scandalous necklace. She was better off without him – and for once this old cliché felt like the absolute truth.

Connor smiled. “Feeling better?” he asked.

“Yes, funnily enough I am. Was there something in that tea?” she joked.

He poured another cup for her, “No nothing, but sometimes tea and a bit of chat can be pretty helpful when you´re feeling down.” She thought it was probably something more than that but the thought wouldn´t form words in her mind.  

Instead, growing silent again, Rebecca considered her novel. All that hard work and the disappointment at each rejection. One editor had been quite sweet she remembered, saying it was a fair attempt at a first novel but not sufficiently rounded out to be publishable. Rounded out, thought Rebecca, that´s what I need in my life. More variety, excitement, more people, more stuff! Because of the book, or maybe that was just an excuse, she´d been pretty reclusive, seeing only the boyfriend – now ex- when he deemed it worth the trouble. Maybe it wasn’t good enough to be published she suddenly thought. Maybe she´d had a lucky break. A flop wouldn’t have helped her self-esteem much would it? The main character in her novel, a woman of a similar age to Rebecca, had been gutsy and full of spark, she´d upped sticks and moved to Spain working in an Irish bar. Rebecca had loved writing the scenes in the bar, the craic was always full on and she´d actually been jealous of her character.

A slow realisation came to her. She could change her life, if she wanted. She looked at Connor´s neat fingernails mildly surprised they weren´t dirtier; he was, after all a gardener. But what else was he she wondered? A healer? A carer? It didn´t matter she supposed. Whatever he was, he hadn´t lied. He had helped her gain clarity.  

Connor gently broke into her thoughts, “So have you made some plans?”

Rebecca realised she had. “Yes, I don´t know why I didn’t see it before, thank you, Connor. I´m going to chuck in my awful job, take advantage of losing my home and move to Spain. I´ll get some work there easily enough I´m sure. I even speak some Spanish,” Standing to leave Rebecca gave Connor a hug, “And you know, I bet there´d be plenty of work for gardeners out there if you wanted to come with me:”

***

If you’d like to see your work in my Guest Writer Spot, please contact me here or by e-mail: esthernewton@virginmedia.com. I accept stories, poems, articles – in fact, anything and everything. All you have to do is make sure your prose is no longer than 2000 words and your poems no more than 40 lines.

***

You-only-learn-to-be

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7 Responses to Guest Writer Spot

  1. Viki Allerston says:

    I really enjoyed this, Rachel. I loved your blunt language, the sort we all use in our everyday conversations, but rarely put into our writing. Your usage of `shitty’ etc makes your story more real. And I guess we’ve all had experiences which at the time seem dreadful but in hindsight are the best thing that could have happened. Esther is a testament to this! Keep writing – I look forward to reading more of your work. regards, Viki Allerston

  2. A very nice little story. Great to see that Connor, a pot of tea, and a friendly chat helped both of them.

  3. Jason Moody says:

    Good quote. My screenwriting tutor told us a few years back, “when you start, make no mistake, you are bad. What you write is bad. You need to write the shit out of your system!”

    Wise man.

  4. Viki Allerston says:

    Hello Rachel, I left a comment as soon as I read your story. Don’t know why it didn’t show up. Friday 13th and I had no end of computer problems! Enjoyed your story. Loved the blunt words like `shitty’ which we use in conversation but not usually in our writing. But such uses make the work more realistic to my way of thinking. How often what appears at the time to be a disaster, in hindsight was the best thing to happen. Esther, herself, is a testament to this! And the same with your character. Keep writing – I look forward to reading more of your work.
    Regards,
    Viki Allerston

  5. AJ.Dixon says:

    I quite enjoyed this 😊 I love the helpful introspection prompted by a nice cuppa! 😄 A very nice story and a great guest post. I hope to read more from Rachel in the future!

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