Let’s talk about love, #2

Source: Let’s talk about love, #2

Here’s a taste of real life to add spice to my fiction. I think after forty years I can stand to reveal this much.

Hearts & Other Dead Things

Out of the ordinary writing, to support an extraordinary cause.hearts-and-other-dead-things-finalSource: Hearts & Other Dead Things

NINE THINGS I’VE LEARNED ABOUT BEING AN AUTHOR

My fellow Crooked Cat authors Jeff Gardiner and Jane Bwye chatting about what writers need to learn to survive the journey from writing to publication.

Jane Bwye

These are valuable tips indeed. Jeff Gardiner, editor and master of several genres, is well qualified to write a continuation to my “Author Countdown” which started by accident a couple of weeks ago, when my blog “TEN THINGS…” broke hit records last month.  We’ve shared a successful library talk, and a book signing. A quiet, self-effacing man with a lovely family, and we have Africa in common. Welcome back, Jeff.

1.  Cope with rejection. This one is important. You can’t afford to be overly sensitive or sentimental about your creativity. Very few writers get their stories or novels accepted immediately (follow this link to make yourself feel better – http://www.literaryrejections.com/best-sellers-initially-rejected/). Rejection is part of the process. As one of my friends likes to say, “Cry me a river, build a bridge and get over it!” Have faith in yourself and your book and send off some more submissions…

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Treading on Dreams

Here’s the excellent novel from Jeff Gardiner (Tirgearr Publishing) about the journey we all make into full adulthood – and the inevitable mistakes and disasters along the way. Jeff does romance-with-humour and darkness-with-hope very well, and this is a great example. Jeff is the editor of my first novel, The Calgary Chessman, published by Crooked Cat.

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Hi Yvonne. Thanks for having me on your blog. It’s kind of you to let me do a guest post about my contemporary novel, TREADING ON DREAMS (Tirgearr Publishing) which is currently at the sale price of only 99p/99c. It explores the difficult subjects of unrequited love and obsession, with student, Donny, pining for housemate, Selena, who is engaged to the seemingly perfect, and older, Melvin. In the extract below, Donny finally gets the chance to spend a day with Selena – alone. He tries everything in his power to not waste this opportunity to impress her.

One recent reviewer said: “The journey is intriguing and Jeff Gardiner depicts it with adept skill! Treading on Dreams is an engaging, fast-paced story that defies prediction and yet has enough intrigue and romance to totally thrill every reader!” (Crystal Book Reviews)

Blurb:

Donny is obsessed with his housemate, Selena – but his love is unrequited. He enthusiastically accepts her willing friendship, which only fuels his deepening fantasies.
Jaz is their crazy landlord who likes sleeping with women – lots of them. He takes pleasure in educating the once innocent Donny in the hedonistic pleasures of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll. It blows Donny’s mind.

Selena is engaged to Melvin – the perfect man – but is also keen to befriend the ever-demanding Donny … until she falls pregnant and her wedding looms.
Donny expresses his true feelings at the wedding, causing mayhem and anger. But there remains a chink of hope: perhaps Selena’s marriage to Melvin is not quite as perfect as it seems.

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Extract from TREADING ON DREAMS:

A few days later, Selena furnished him with the best news ever:

‘I’m afraid Melvin can’t make it on Saturday now. Some vital medical conference has come up. Do you still want to go to London?’

He had to fight to stop himself from grabbing her and kissing her on the spot. Here was his chance to spend an entire day with Selena and have her to himself. At night, he imagined a million ways to seduce her, fantasising kissing her and telling her how beautiful she was.

Finally, the great day arrived and Donny’s ablutions and preparations became slightly excessive. Neatly shaved, doused in cheap aftershave, and dressed smartly in chinos and a collared shirt, he made bacon sandwiches for them both for breakfast to set them up for the long day ahead.
On the tube, they got on the first District Line train, got off at South Kensington, walked through the subway and out to the corner of Exhibition Road and Cromwell Road where ahead of them stood the imposing edifice of the Natural History Museum.

‘I remember coming here when I was five,’ Donny told her. ‘The blue whale was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen. I couldn’t believe its enormous dimensions. I never realised that they’re bigger than any dinosaur that ever lived. Awesome.’

They entered the crowded front lobby. Families sat round the dinosaur skeletons; groups of foreign tourists huddled together to listen to talks given in various languages. Donny followed the complex map to sort out a logical pathway through the labyrinthine galleries.

Pointing to a booth, Selena followed him into the darkness where a film played about sperm whales. It was a magnificent sight to watch them up-end and flick their tails leaving the fluke standing perpendicular in slow motion.

‘Isn’t nature incredible?’

His heart raced when Selena decided to rest her head on his shoulder. The touch of her cheek through his shirt coupled with the hot darkness made him flush until he had difficulty breathing. How he wanted to hold this moment in time. Sitting stock-still, not daring to move, he closed his eyes and imagined what her skin would feel like to touch.

He finally awoke from his reverie when Selena moved and stood up.

‘Let’s find some lunch.’

They chose a small brasserie and ordered lunch. Selena selected scampi and potato skins, whilst Donny preferred the Cajun chicken with fries.

Next, they caught a tube to Covent Garden.

As they ambled down a narrow side street, they slowed down behind a woman who was dawdling in front of them. From nowhere Donny was shoved firmly aside. A figure dashed past, towards the woman and before their very eyes, he snatched her handbag from her shoulder. She screamed and turned round to them.

‘My handbag. He nicked my handbag. Get him!’

At first, Donny wondered whom she was speaking to. The swiftness of the action left him confused. He’d just seen a crime happen and this poor lady was shouting for him to help. He looked ahead of her and saw the man turn the corner. If he ran, he might catch him. But it would be useless. He’d be lost in the crowds never able to keep up. So he stayed where he was. The woman breathed heavily and leant against a shop window. Selena went to comfort her, leaving Donny ambling behind. He knew he should say something.

‘He’d gone before I could do anything. Sorry.’

‘Call yourself a man? My purse, credit cards, driving license, mobile…what am I gonna do? Thanks for nothing.’

My God, how stupid of him. Why had he hesitated? Why didn’t he run after the thief? He imagined now what a hero he might have been if he’d run and called out, even scared the man into dropping the bag, but it was too late now. The man had got away and he looked like a coward. He kicked a stone and walked on. Selena caught up with him.

‘It’s okay, Donny, there was nothing you could do. She doesn’t want any help. I said I’d phone the police but she got funny with me. I assume she’s alright.’

‘Let’s go home.’

On the tube train, Selena fell asleep and Donny shuffled in his seat until he positioned his arm around her and the scent of her hair filled his nostrils. He gently woke her up when they drew into Ealing Broadway station.

What would it be like to wake up next to her each morning?

During the short walk home, their hands met and Donny took hold of hers. To his delight, she didn’t complain or pull free. As they reached the front door, their hands unclasped.

‘Thanks for a lovely day, Donny. I’ve really enjoyed myself.’

‘No, thank you. I had the best time ever. You’re great company.’

‘Well, I suppose I should get to bed,’ Selena yawned.

‘Can I tempt you to a drink? Bottle of white?’

‘No, really, I shouldn’t or I’ll never get up in the morning.’

‘Okay. See you sometime tomorrow then. Night.’

‘Night, Donny.’

She disappeared upstairs.

Donny stayed downstairs for a while, flicking through the channels before deciding to go up himself. Once in his pyjamas, he contemplated creeping into Selena’s room just to glimpse her once more, but knew he never would.

Snapshots of the day pulsed through his head like an electric current filling him with a thrilling sense of confusion and bliss. But then suddenly they were all wiped away by the memory of a shadow pushing past him, followed by a scuffle, and scream.

‘Call yourself a man?’

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Buy Links for TREADING ON DREAMS:

Tirgearr Publishing: http://www.tirgearrpublishing.com/authors/Gardiner_Jeff/treading-on-dreams.htm

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Treading-Dreams-Jeff-Gardiner-ebook/dp/B00J4Z63PI/ref=sr_1_sc_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1427895419&sr=8-1-spell&keywords=jeff+gardiner+treading+on+deams

Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/Treading-Dreams-Jeff-Gardiner-ebook/dp/B00J4Z63PI/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top?ie=UTF8

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Author Bio:

Jeff Gardiner is a UK writer who was born in Jos, Nigeria. His first novel, Myopia explores bullying and prejudice among teenagers. Igboland is a novel of passion and conflict set in war-torn West Africa. Treading On Dreams is a tale of obsession and unrequited love. He has recently signed a three book deal with Accent Press for a trilogy of YA fantasy novels.

His acclaimed collection of short stories, A Glimpse of the Numinous, contains horror, romance and humour. Many of his short stories have appeared in anthologies and magazines. Jeff also has a work of non-fiction to his name: The Law of Chaos: the Multiverse of Michael Moorcock.
“Reading is a form of escapism, and in Gardiner’s fiction, we escape to places we’d never imagine journeying to.” (A.J. Kirby, ‘The New Short Review’)

For more information, please visit his website at http://www.jeffgardiner.com and his blog: http://jeffgardiner.wordpress.com/

Aurora in Tatters, an alternative fairy tale

My writing friend Kim Walker https://nutsandcrisps.wordpress.com/2015/04/13/my-lovely-blog-hop/ has tagged me in this blog hop. My current work-in-progress is a novel with fairy tale aspects, so I thought it might be nice to post this short story, also based an a traditional story that we all know.

Aurora in Tatters

(A well-known fairytale in new clothes)

Deep in the long-ago, when days were long and the rivers were full of fish, there lived a reindeer herder, who spent the days running with his herd over the wide tundra. The joy of his life was his wife, Anushka, and their baby daughter, Aurora, named for the flickering curtains of light that hung in the midwinter sky.

In the summer, Anushka rode alongside her husband and shared the work, and the baby was wrapped in richly embroidered garments and lashed to her cradle, which hung from the back of the largest reindeer, so that her earliest memories were of snow and trees and the yellow grass and tiny flowers of the tundra, all swaying and moving in a rhythm of hoofbeats punctuated by the sound of harness bells. But one day, when Aurora was still a young girl, Anushka sickened and died. A reindeer herder cannot manage his herd alone, so Aurora’s father took another wife: a strong woman with half-grown daughters of her own.

The woman was a good worker, and handled the reindeer well, although she preferred not to sully her hands with domestic work. Her daughters were spoilt and idle, and the lazy girls would beat and pinch Aurora until she agreed to do all their chores for them. When Aurora tried to speak up, her stepmother scolded her for her wicked lies. Her father looked at her with sad eyes and said, “Aurora, it’s not like you to complain,” and for his sake she tried not to respond to her sisters’ spite.

Not long after, Aurora’s father also died and she was left alone in the world apart from the stepmother and the wicked stepsisters. Now the work really began. There was mending and weaving to be done, and the dense, colourful woollen embroideries of the Sami, until her fingers bled and ached. There was cooking, and collecting fuel, to keep her sisters warm and fed while they lay before the fire and gossiped about this one, or that one who had caught their fancy. And of course there were always the reindeer. Aurora’s strong, young fingers were ideal for teasing out burrs in manes and coats, for reaching deep into straining bodies to ease the birth of calves, or just as a comfort for youngsters to suck on when they were first weaned.

The mother could not run the herd alone, and the sisters had learned nothing about the beasts, so it was for Aurora to check hooves and antlers, soothe sore joints and groom hides, comfort the weanlings and gut and strip the carcasses of mothers that had not made it through the dangerous hours of birthing.

There was no new clothing for Aurora, no footwear when her feet grew, no rich, decorated holiday coat or fur-lined hood to comfort her days. Her clothing grew grey and ragged with use, and her breath froze on the lining of her hood, so that on winter days the icicles jangled and rattled against her face. The sisters spoke of nothing but the coming summer gathering, when all the herds come together and there is feasting and dancing. This year the son of the most powerful herder would choose his bride at the solstice celebration. There would be a great dance, all day and all night, to find out which of the young women had the strength of body and will to make the best match, and both sisters fancied themselves as the chosen one.

Come the day, Aurora was exhausted. She had been up all night, sewing through the long, long hours of midsummer half-light, and had completed her sisters’ festival coats with moments to spare. They had shown their thanks with a pinch and a kick as they left the tent, swept away by their mother to enjoy the day. Aurora lay on the floor, too tired to move, and closed her eyes – just for a moment. Her eyes shot open again at the sound of a voice. She scrambled to her feet and turned to face the woman who had just pulled open the flap.

Her figure said she was young, but her face was lined and full of experience. She was dressed from head-to-toe in embroidered finery, white on white, and the absence of colour was somehow more beautiful than the colourful work Aurora had spent her best talents on that morning. Her mukluks and hood were made of a sumptuous, buttery-white fur. Her eyes were black, and bright. Aurora had never seen her before.

She held out her hand and Aurora took it, bemused. “I am Anelka,” she said, “and you are my sister-daughter. I have come to bid you join the dance.”

“No, no,” Aurora protested. “I can’t go to the dance. I have nothing to wear.” She pulled her rags around herself and hung her head.

Anelka gestured to a bag that lay at her feet. “I had thought you younger,” she said, “but you are thin enough. I think these will fit.”

Aurora upended the bag and out poured the most gorgeous embroidered garments, made of finest wool and bearing her own family’s sigils and designs – the narwhal, the tundra lily and the great ice bear. The clothing fitted her perfectly. At the end her aunt slid her own feet out of the beautiful ice-bear fur mukluks and passed them over to Aurora, along with the bear fur hood. Aurora’s fingers, tired to the bone, ached as she tried to tie the laces and her hands shook.

Anelka knelt and tied the laces for her. Then she handed Aurora an otterskin bottle. “Drink it,” she said. “It will help.”

Aurora tipped the bottle to her lips. She tasted lichen, herbs and the strong, harsh spirit the reindeer herders brewed, distilled over ice in the bitter winter nights. She drank. The concoction worked like magic – dispelling her fatigue and filling her with confidence. Her cheeks flushed and her eyes brightened. Throwing her arms around her aunt, she hugged her hard, then ran as fast as her legs could carry her to join the dancing.

It took half the night for her to work her way in to the central group. All round her, the older members of the gathering were failing, one by one, and settling down to drink, and talk, and watch the young ones dance on. At around midnight, her elder stepsister gave in, stumbling to the side and sinking to the ground. Groaning, she clutched her ankle and moaned, “if only I had not worked so hard today. I am sure I could have lasted the night.” Her sibling lasted scant moments longer. Her complaint: “I am sure the ungrateful child has made my mukluks with a wrinkle in the sole, and now I have a blister.”

Aurora danced on, blissfully unaware, shaking out her plaits and stamping the ground down under her strong, long, never-tiring legs, shedding her layers of beautiful clothing as the hot summer night wore on. As dawn fluttered across the sky, the half-light broadening into the golden glow of a new day, she raised her head and at last everyone could see her face as she met the eyes of the man for whom they were all in competition. They were the only dancers still standing. He was tall, not a youth but in the first strength of his manhood. His grey eyes warmed as he looked on her, and he held out his hand. “So, it is to be you,” he said as he lifted Aurora’s hand above her head and turned her in a full circle, so that all the people could see her.

Aurora dipped and twirled in this final step of the dance, but as the drums thudded into silence and the singers’ voices fell she stepped away. Her voice rang out clearly over the heads of the gathered crowd, although her words were directed to the man who stood before her.

“I thank you for this dance – I will always remember it. I am sure you would make a wonderful husband, but I am not ready to marry. I am going with my aunt into the deep north to hunt the great ice bears. Perhaps when I come back we can dance the summer dance again, and we will see who has the strength to finish.”

Her partner gave no sign that he was disappointed. His face was grave as he bowed his head to her, although a smile quirked the corner of his lips. “I shall look forward to it,” he said. His hand rested, briefly warm, in the small of her back as he escorted her to Anelka’s side, and he bent and scooped up the pile of her discarded clothing and handed it to her.

His father joined him, and the two reindeer herders, old and young, stood and watched the women walk away. They moved lightly, like wild animals themselves, through the reindeer and the herds closed around them. As they disappeared from sight, the younger man bent to pick up something lying at his feet. He laughed. In his hand he held one, beautiful, ivory-coloured bear-fur mukluk.

TCC cover art front_MG_4463 edited

From Texas to Poldark, via The Shire

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There’s an interesting article in The Times today (‘When TV is your style guru’, Harriet Walker) about the way in which, these days, we get our fashion information direct from film and TV – the article cites programmes such as Game of Thrones and Mad Men as being particularly influential.

Now, I don’t think this phenomenon is new. If I look back to my own teenage obsession with fashion, it was influenced far more by film than by magazines (which I couldn’t afford) or newspapers (which were bought, rarely, by my parents and not available for me to read).

I always had an interest in clothes, fed in part by my Auntie, only six years older than me, who passed down some very trendy 1960s clothing. I especially remember the hot pink tartan kilt and matching skinny rib jumper, and the lurid orange nylon bell-bottom jumpsuit that produced marvellous amounts of static, creating a lovely light show under the bedclothes, or in any darkened room.

But the experience that suddenly made me aware that fashion was created, and then fed to the public, as opposed to being a response to public taste, was going to the cinema to watch the John Wayne film Hellraisers. This film about oil well cappers, based on the freely reimagined fictionalised biography of famous oil firefighter Red Adair, was costumed by a wonderfully inventive and elegant designer, Edith Head.

It’s probably fair to say that my attention was caught by the clothes not only because they were especially gorgeous, but also because the film was pretty slow. And then there was that essential moment of serendipity – the following day I went to play with a friend, and her Mum had a fashion magazine with an article specifically about the film costumes, and their designer. It was the first time I’d associated a particular person with design, and it led to a happy few years searching out Yves St Laurent and Chanel and a wealth of other designers, and hunting down other films dressed by Edith Head (there are a lot!) not to mention becoming one of those sad people who sits in a darkened cinema and watches the credits roll up.

These days one of the things that impresses me is the quality of costume design in modern productions. Gone are the days when the crew could mock something up out of metallic knit and call it chain mail. One exemplar of this drive for perfection is Peter Jackson, whose Tolkien extravaganzas, deservedly trumpeted for their creativity and production values, should also be appreciated for their painstaking attention to detail in costume design – everything from the weave of elven cloaks to the design of jewellery.

I was thinking on just this topic last Saturday, when I watched the most recent episode of Poldark. I know it’s hard to tear your attention away from the swooningly lovely Mr Aidan Turner, but do me a favour – next time, take a brief glance at the dresses worn by Demelza (upmarket peasant girl, but beautifully made and fitted) or Verity’s half mourning – delicate subtleties in shades of grey. And the menswear is just as good – subtle differences in station and attitude in matters as simple as the turn of a cravat, or the length of a coat. Another example of this drive for realism and believability in costume design is Outlander, recently filmed in Scotland and showing on Amazon Prime. Gorgeous work, from hessian rags to full tartan regalia, all with just the right amount of dirt for verisimilitude.

I am eagerly awaiting the sight, when spring finally arrives, of kilts on the street in numbers, or the return of the cravat. No, there’s nothing new in looking to film and television for fashion tips. It’s been going on since the first Victorian playhouse opened. Long may it continue!

Bee and Let Bee: Carol Anne Hunter

A nice little ramble about bees… I like bees… much more interesting than having me bumble on.

The Romaniacs

We are delighted to welcome Carol Anne Hunter, author of Project Me, to Romaniac HQ. Get your cake and coffee, put your feet up, and enjoy this beautiful story.

Let’s bee having you, Carol Anne …

Carol Hunter Author Pic

My novel, Project Me, a comedy about starting again at fifty, was published last year. I’ve received the usual feedback from friends and family but one two-para piece of romantic rambling about bees is regularly cited as a stand-out point. The thing is, I stole these two paragraphs from a random short story I wrote a couple of years ago, changed the wording a little and used them as a device to give my character hope when she was near breaking point. The ploy worked a treat. So in the hope of warming away your winter blues and giving you something to look forward to, here is the latest version of the whole story…

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Unintended Guardian

mythos legacy

“The Mythos Legacy, where real myths find real love.” Unintended Guardian is a short (too short) but very tasty introduction to the upcoming Mythos Legacy novels. It may be brief, but it gives a very clear flavour of what you can look forward to. I can already tell that the Mythos books are going to contain humour, fun, a gentle eroticism, and that they will reference a whole world of mythological creatures.

What if myths are real? What if there is another world alongside our own, inhabited by creatures we know only from story and legend? What if they are looking for love – an all too human characteristic? And what if one woman chooses to write a series of books about them – and that woman is Jami Gold, whose writing is clever, clear and sublimely entertaining. It’s got to be good, hasn’t it?

The Guardian here is Griff Cyrus, described by Jami’s protagonist as “a Viking of a man, all long tawny hair and broad shoulders.” In the Mythos world he is a gryphon ( part lion, part eagle) and he cannot bear the touch of sunlight – the sun is forbidden to him until he can undo his great error of three hundred years ago, when he lost the treasure he was supposed to be guarding. Solving his problem, and freeing him to walk in the light of day, require the assistance of his human neighbour, Kala, and the way in which she goes about it is very entertaining. No more shall be said on this point…

The first full-length Mythos novel is the upcoming Treasured Claim – a dragon story with a difference. It promises much.

Jami Gold is no stranger to those of us who are practicing the writer’s craft. She has a very good website, full of useful tips and information, and I’ve featured her in my blog before. I find her writers’ worksheets particularly useful. http://jamigold.com/

Musing on Mariposas

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There I was, lying back in the dentist’s chair with my mouth open, trying to resist the urge to bite him. I distracted myself by reading the poster on the ceiling above me – Butterflies of the World.
Now, there are many words in European languages that differ only a little from one language to another. Book is le livre in French, libro in Italian, el libro in Spanish – derived no doubt from the Latin. Of course, the English word is ‘book’ , like the German ‘buch’, but we use the latin derivation in our word ‘library’.
Cat is gato in Spain, chat in France and katze in German. It’s γάτα (gata)in Greek, suggesting that the languages of Europe may have acquired their cat words from Greek, rather than the latin Felis (which nonetheless resembles our common cat name, Felix).

I can play this game for hours. Sad, I know, but true.

But this close resemblance between languages is not true of butterflies. Take a look at this list:

Butterfly (English); mariposa (Spanish); papillon (French); schmetterling (German). There’s no etymological relationship at all. So what is it about butterflies that transcends the shared relationships between the languages of western Europe.

How about further afield? Romanian? Fluture. Dutch? Vlinder. In Italy they are farfalla.

The Greeks called them πεταλούδα (petalouda), which brings up an evocative image of flying flower petals. The Romans, on the other hand, called them papilio. So the French, at least, can identify the forebear of their word. But what about the rest of us? Even the Italians, so proud of their descent from the Roman empire, have chosen their own word (I’ll never be able to cook up another meal of Farfalle in Arrabiata Sauce without thinking about flying flocks of pasta).

What is it about butterflies? This is not a rhetorical question – I really have no idea. Fun to think about, though, isn’t it?

A rose by any other name

A snippet of my work-in-progress. It’s running under several titles at the moment, and I just can’t make up my mind which is the right one. Should I be straightforward (Rose Cottage) – referential (The Briar Wood, a painting by Edward Burnes-Jones) – tangential (The Ties that Bind) ? I don’t know yet – it’s fun to leave it hanging.

Dad pulls the car in to the kerb and parks neatly in front of her front gate. ‘My front gate,’ she says to herself. The frenetic excitement of the auction has faded, and now she just feels nervous.
Over the last twenty-four hours her imagination has been working overtime – she’s pictured everything from the perfect cottage, with a lamp glowing in the window, to an enormous hole in the ground with a glimpse of wreckage at the bottom of it. She knows these extremes are ridiculous – it’s just going to be a house with a few issues. She doesn’t mind issues. She knows what she’s letting herself in for, right? After all, it’s what she’s always dreamed of doing. Not many people can say that they’re truly following their dream.
She gets the key out of her purse. She’s slightly disappointed that they won’t need the bolt cutters. The handover yesterday had been fairly straight forward. She’d read some more paperwork, written her signature several times, and handed over the money after a brief visit to the bank. Now her savings account is £12,000 poorer, and at the moment all she has in return for it is a slim receipt from the auction house and the key. It opens a huge padlock, linking two halves of a chain that holds the gates closed. They are proper industrial gates – two sheets of corrugated iron on rusty hinges. She wonders what the original gates were like. It’s a broad gateway, in keeping with the high stone wall with its flint border. Much too impressive for ‘Rose Cottage’. She wonders if she should change the name.
‘Come on, love, stop dreaming. It’s perishing out here. Let’s get in and find out what we’re dealing with, shall we?’
Dad’s the practical one in the family. She’s glad that he’s with her. Mum couldn’t come – she has a hair appointment over in the town, and anyway she says she doesn’t want to see it until it’s finished. She’s not wildly excited that Laura spent her inheritance on property. She thought Laura should get a complete makeover and maybe take an overseas holiday.
‘You’re never going to meet anyone in that office full of girls, unless one of the accountants decides he wants a bit on the side, and you know what I think about that sort of thing. You should put yourself out there, enjoy life while you’re young. It won’t last forever, you know.’
Laura is never sure whether Mum would like to see her safely married with 2.4 kids, or out there partying forever. Mum’s party life came to an abrupt end when she became pregnant at seventeen, although now that Maisie’s left home and Laura is working, she can see the fun-loving side of her Mum finding its way out again. Dad would rather stay at home and potter in the garden (he’ll be exactly the same at eighty as he is at forty-five). Mum’s the outgoing one.
It occurs to Laura as she fumbles to fit the key into the padlock that Mum would have enjoyed the suggested overseas holiday much more than Laura herself. She wonders if she can send Mum away for a few days, and if Mum would accept it. A week on a party island would put the spring back in her step. She tucks the thought away for further consideration.
The padlock snaps open and the chain tumbles to the ground. Dad gathers it up and stows it in the boot of the car. Laura waits for him. Now that it comes down to it, she doesn’t want to take her first step into the unknown by herself. Together they push on the gate. It doesn’t move. At least, it moves a little, and then springs back, as if there is something slightly yielding behind it. They try pulling it. No, that doesn’t work. It’s definitely the kind of gate that opens inward.
Laura puts her shoulder to the corrugated metal and shoves hard. Her feet skid backward on the gravel. She bends her legs slightly and really leans into the gate and, grudgingly, it moves inward a couple of inches and stops. There’s a dark mass blocking the space beyond. Laura pushes one hand into it, and jumps back, swearing. Her arm is marked by several long scratches where thorns have torn her skin. The area inside is a dense mass of brambles.
Dad leans on the gate for her, so that she can get a better look. She’s none the wiser, though. All that can be seen at the moment is ropy stems and giant thorns. There aren’t even any blackberries.
‘Get in car, love,’ says Dad. ‘We’ll go home and get t’ladder.’
In times of stress, Dad always reverts to his Yorkshire roots. Laura hugs him – he’s the best Dad in the world. In no time at all they’re back with ladder, pruning saw and two sets of secateurs and gardening gloves. She’s changed into some old clothes – there’s no point in looking like Office Girl today. There’s serious work to do.
Dad holds the ladder as she climbs to the top of the wall. As she goes, she notices that fat tendrils of bramble vine are already spilling over the top; she helps herself to a couple of blackberries that have ripened in the sun. She could have guessed there would be a bramble problem, if she’d paid more attention. At the top, she leans forward to peer into the space beyond. All she can see are brambles. Everywhere. It’s as if the whole space is filled with them. Towards the middle, the brambles rise into a sort of dome. A huge dome. If there’s a house in there, it’s massive – and completely covered in brambles. She can’t tell whether to laugh or cry.
She’s still in shock when she gets to the bottom of the ladder. She grabs it, and offers Dad the chance to climb up and take his fill. ‘Bloody Norah.’
The ladder starts shaking, and she realises that he’s laughing. He takes a minute to calm down, before making his way back to level ground. He has tears in his eyes, he’s laughed so hard, and for a moment Laura is furious. This is the end of her dream. Instead of Rose Cottage, there’s just this monumental mound of thorns and stuff. And now Nanna’s money is gone. She’ll never have another chance. Dad gathers her into his arms as she bursts into tears, and pats her lovingly as she cries into his shoulder.
‘There now, pet. It’s not so bad. Your old Dad knows how to deal with a few bramble bushes. We’ll be through them in no time.’

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