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Memories

Near the summit of a high mountain, a young man sat in a rocky alcove.  Wandering the universal consciousness, he came across an old man. They greeted one another as friends do, and the old man bid his friend to follow him toward the summit. It wasn’t long before the elder pointed out a way-mark.

“Those rocks are memories from your current life. Do you see anything in particular?”

“Yes,” said the young man. “A light shining through the rocks.”

Indeed, there was a small point of light shining through a gap halfway up the way-mark which stood at about two metres tall.

“An old,  insignificant memory holding you back. You have no further need of it. Take a rock from the ground and use it to block out that light.”

The younger man did as his friend instructed and they walked away.

Collecting Characters in The Rain

There’s a sign above my desk I’m wondering about making into a lapel badge. “Warning; Novelist at work. Bystanders may be written into the story.” Then again, if I did that (and it would need to be in French), would I lose all the wonderful stories that fall into my notebook when I’m out and about?

The events and interactions I collected on Monday past gave me at least the material for a short story or an episode for a sit-com. This is where the value of the lapel badge comes into question. Would people go shy and forget what it was they wanted to say or enforce if they noticed it?

Saving €14.10 we took the non-toll route to Montpellier; setting out at 07.30 and according to Mappy, we would arrive at our destination at 10:04. Perfect; that would allow the person at our first port of call an hour to blow away the Monday blues. Mappy however, didn’t note the torrential rain across the region and the journey took almost an hour longer than scheduled.

Inner-city parking at its best, there was nowhere except illegal parking slots free so we took one of those and walked to the halls of residence office in the complex where our son would stay for the rest of this academic year. Amicable introductions quickly went down the drain with the rain outside when within the first minute, the grumpy advisor told us we didn’t have the correct papers and our son wouldn’t be allowed to stay.

Yuri looked panicked. Homeless on day one of the New Year and lectures to attend in the afternoon.

‘So would you mind explaining which papers we have forgotten?’ I smiled and made direct eye contact.

‘This, that and 2 of those,’ she didn’t smile or make eye contact.

‘Oh they aren’t on the list,’ I smiled again, she avoided eye contact.

‘Of course they are,’ she stared into the torrent outside.

‘No, they aren’t. Look, here’s the list and we have all those documents.

Silent scrutiny. ‘Well you are still missing these four.’

‘Apart from number two, your finance office has the other three on the system. Without them, Yuri wouldn’t have been offered accommodation. We will send you the second document first thing tomorrow morning.’

‘I need all four. Please show me what you have brought.’

We handed them over, she returned one.

‘That one is unacceptable, it’s in English.’

‘Yes, it’s a UK official tax document. Your colleagues in the finance office have a translated version on the system.’

‘Do it again.’

Still calm, taking deep controlling breaths. ‘Very well. What about those that you say are missing?’

She listed them again; we knew they were already on the system, I asked her why the repeat. No response.

Several tuts and mouse clicks later, her demeanour suddenly changed to the person we all like to meet. Smiling, friendly and helpful.

‘Yuri isn’t on the email list. Somebody must have left him off. I was on holiday.’

More taps and clicks on the computer followed by resizing of the passport photos we provided and she produced the card key giving Yuri access to the compound entry gates and his room on the fourth floor of block two. The system failed. We had to wait ten minutes for it to come back online but our son was in. His ‘I might be homeless’ look faded, he smiled and after almost an hour armed with a list of four demands for repeated papers, we went to view his nine metre square box with a view.

It was quite a walk from the front gates and our illegally parked car but there was plenty of space on the internal car park so I buzzed the intercom and our new friend answered. She wouldn’t let me in, I didn’t have a pass and as a parent, I couldn’t get one.

Four trips through the unceasing torrents of wind and water, stairs to the fourth floor because there’s no lift and at last, Yuri was installed among his boxes, bags and duvets with just enough time left to catch a tram to his lectures. We did the sensible thing and joined the traffic to Ikea at the other side of the city.

‘There it is! Take the next exit.’

I did as instructed and we found ourselves on a tree lined dual carriageway passing the east side of Ikea. Using my built in GPS, I followed the last exit at the roundabout, two kilometres down the road and we got lost on an adjacent out-of-town shopping centre. The blue and yellow of Ikea was gone and still pouring, the rain kept people off the streets. Nobody to ask, midday had swapped its place with midnight and it took another twenty minutes to find our destination. We headed straight to the café for Swedish meatballs and mashed potatoes with all you can drink coffee cups.

Hey man, the atmosphere was so relaxed and although not very loud, I could hear my favourite performer on the radio. It would have been his seventy-first birthday. I thought you died alone, a long long time ago, dear man who sold the world. The art on the walls reminded me of him too although it was nothing like his. I drifted away to the lake in Sweden and thought about a friend who lives there, hoping it wasn’t raining so hard in Sweden.

I don’t like shopping much but it’s almost a pleasure at Ikea. Especially on a quiet day when the money you are spending isn’t your own. My usual character scans didn’t come to much though. Everybody calm, relaxed, almost clone-like, going about their business with dignity and awareness of other shoppers. By the time we reached the clothing stores in a different section of the Oddyseum complex, it wasn’t far off closing time. Shoppers were easily outnumbered by assistants pretending to be busy.

Still not much to say about characterization until sale signs drew us to a Walmart style store called Géant; the fifth largest hypermarket chain in the world. Needing new clothing for work and a great bargain spotter, Sarah quickly found two tops with 30% reduction labels. Off we went to the checkout and a smiley cashier served us. But no reductions on the till receipt.

‘Oh, I’m sorry. You need a store card to get those reductions.  Go to customer services. They will organise it for you.’

Customer services was a considerable walk and the only person behind the counter leaned on the till looking jaded.

‘No, I can’t help.  Go back to the checkout operator, tell her to refund, issue a store card and then resubmit the goods and pay again.  Go back into the store through the entrance and walk down to the checkouts.’

A security guard stopped us because the alarms sounded when we tried to re-enter the store. We explained the situation, and he spent a few minutes attaching security labels to our shopping. Back at the checkout with the smiley cashier we joined the queue. Five minutes later she informed us that only customer services could issue refunds, we would have to go back. Flabbergasted we did as instructed once more and the customer services lady told us we had misunderstood her. She issued the refund, and we went back through the procedure with the security guard and back to the smiley cashier who had gone off duty.

The new cashier processed our goods, gave us a store card and explained that the 30% reduction was only redeemable against other purchases that had to be made at that store and within seven days.

‘We live two-and-a-half hours away; can’t we use our local Géant?’

‘No, I am sorry; it has to be this store.’

‘Why is this not explained anywhere in the store?’

‘I don’t know you would have to ask customer services.’

We stayed positive, maintained our good manners and left with Sarah’s bargains but we would never see the 30% off.

The rain didn’t let up once all day. Leaving the city, we aquaplaned around a corner and I momentarily lost control of the car when the rear decided it wanted to lead the way. Recovering the situation without mishap we headed for the countryside, deserted villages and very little traffic after our day of unnecessary challenges. It had been such a challenging day we did something unthinkable when we spotted a McDonalds and went in for a drink. If our children found out, our reputations would be finished.

A Hundred Tiny Threads

Isn’t it wonderful when a friend tells you about their success? Judith Barrow told me about hers today with her novel, ‘A Hundred Tiny Threads’ and how it is book of the month for January 2018 in Wales. What a great start to the New Year.
“Judith has lived in Pembrokeshire for thirty years. She is the author of three novels, and has published poetry and short fiction, winning several poetry competitions, as well as writing three children’s books and a play performed at the Dylan Thomas Centre. Judith grew up in the Pennines, has degrees in literature and creative writing and makes regular appearances at literary festivals.”
A Hundred Tiny Threads is a gritty family saga set in Lancashire in the 1900s and Ireland at the time of the ‘Black and Tans’. This is the prequel to the Howarth family saga of three titles (Pattern of ShadowsChanging Patterns and Living in the Shadows) set in the years before and after WW1.

Nofel afaelgar am hynt a helynt teuluoedd yn swydd Gaerhirfryn yn y 1900au ac yn Iwerddon yn nyddiau’r ‘Black and Tans’. Y stori hon sy’n rhagflaenu saga’r teulu Howarth (y tri theitl Pattern of ShadowsChanging Patterns a Living in the Shadows) a osodwyd yn y blynyddoedd cyn ac wedi’r Rhyfel Byd Cyntaf.

This is a must read for me because I was born in Lancashire, my family history goes back to Ireland and my knowledge of Irish history could be better. Judith’s eye for detail should be a great help.
The intense details leave little to the imagination as the struggle to survive is real and incrementally built as loved ones go and unyielding hatred makes loss worse. It is a layered view of life as characters find challenges on many fronts. Barrow has a keen eye for detail which builds up a feeling of reality in this chronicle of lives lived in harsh situations. The writing is painfully real and feels just as overwhelming as life; decisions quickly taken lead far into the story as a whole. This is apparently a book which precedes three others relating to the same family through several generations. Certainly it is just as diverse, with as many backstories and complicated feelings as real families tend to inherit. There are many elements of tragedy here as well as determined love and strands of hope. This is a superb book for those who like their novels immersive and intense, real life of people around them in times of trial and progress. (Amazon Review)
If you have success to share, shout it out, I love to share positive news.

Homeless Ashes Feature Film

In the northern hemisphere, we head to our shortest day. Friends in the south enjoy their summer and I smile as Luna Moon Hare heads toward another battle between the holly and oak kings. She’s carried the crown dropped by the oak king in his defeat against the holly king back on the longest day of 2017. The next battle takes place on Thursday, 21 December at a little before 17:30 CET.

The oak king is favourite to win this next battle marking the start of his journey to bring rebirth and light back to our part of the world. The wheel of life keeps turning and the holly king is expected to win in the south.

That, my friends, is only the tip of the story which is one of many that all point to the same outcome; rebirth and light.

When the earth was created there was darkness and light followed. The sun is our living and divine fire, representing our own internal light. Chadogya Upanishad talked about a long highway going to two places; one at the start, another at the end. The rays of the sun do the same, starting at the sun; they enter the human body, start from there and enter the sun. We are light and we burn away the darkness on our journey to enlightenment.

This story is told to a traveller who has lost his way at the start of my next but one novel, Supper in Jerusalem. Upon hearing the story, he realises the path he must follow starting with one of his greatest strengths; compassion. He sees disaster all around him and hears the call to challenge.

Similarly, I see disaster in our modern society but not something from Supper in Jerusalem. I see Homelessness and it’s not something just to notice at Christmas.

Actor, Marc Zammit is working on a project to focus attention on homelessness through a full length feature film, Homeless Ashes. This crowd funded project needs to raise £95,000 to complete this outstanding film. A large amount but nothing compared to the costs of a romcom.

Marc is passionate and committed to the project and will not stop until this film is made.

Raised on a council estate, he has been acting for 17 years. Unable to afford drama school, Marc worked delivering milk from the age of 12 to help fund his career. When he went to drama school, he made a promise that if he were to reach success in his career, he would give something back to the community. He has gone from strength to strength and has found the path to make a film he believes will make waves.

Homeless Ashes is a dramatic feature film that will raise awareness of homelessness but it will also be an entertaining film. It will take you on an emotional rollercoaster and is full of raw passion while highlighting the issues of homelessness.

In 9 locations, on 1 day and 10 hours hard work . . .

‘. . . we managed to film the short on a £700 budget!’

If you can help Marc complete this film by offering a small donation, please visit Homeless Ashes at Indiegogo . You can watch the short there too. Every donation counts and you may even find yourself on the end credits!

Please share this post and let’s see if we can make a difference to the Homeless Ashes budget.

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