Pic’n’Post: From Snow to Snow

Aberystweth

‘We did have a lovely time, didn’t we?’ Dorothy patted his hand, a faraway smile gracing her lips. ‘That man who took the photo of us on the beach, I do hope he sends it to us.’

Frank didn’t know what man she meant, nor what beach for that matter. How many beaches had they been to since they met? You lose count of things like that. ‘I’m sure he will,’ he said.

‘Could you fetch me a glass of water, dear? And my book? I left it on the kitchen table. From Snow to Snow.’

She was right. Both the title and where she’d left it. Frank was always pleased when she got things right. She was reading everything Frost had written, savouring the resonance of the words. ‘Here you are.’

He’d startled her – she jumped. ‘What do you want with me?’ Her eyes, lit from within, blazed with malice and dread. ‘Don’t come near! Get out!’

He wondered whether to give her the book in any case. It was a hardback with an olive-green cover. The cover had a pleasant feel, firm and grainy. He stood there, running his finger across it, a circular movement, several times, before taking it back to the kitchen.


Though I posted my own picture (Aberystweth beach), the story was actually inspired by this one on Theo’s photography blog (look around – it has lots of other of amazing pictures too). Although the picture is beautiful, the bleakness of that snowy road stretching into the distance made me think of the landscapes of the mind all too often inhabited in old age.

Pic’n’Post: blogging event open to all, any time. All that’s required is a picture and a text (not necessarily fiction). Round ups every fortnight. See the new, flexible  rules here. Have fun!

The end of this blog?

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Llewellyn had been a soldier himself once, of a lowly rank. Never could he have achieved the status of those he was now so eager to watch: fifteen warriors, known as Dragons, the finest men of the realm, selected to fight for their country. On the outcome of this battle depended the future of his homeland.

He was far away. Sent on a distant mission, he had no grandstand view of the battlefield, which was bordered on all sides by a moat where crocodiles lived. But he’d made his way to a vantage point and had the next best thing – a pair of magic glasses, procured after much haggling from a peddler of wondrous devices. As the signal was given, and the first attack was launched, he squinted through them and marvelled to see each thrust and parry, each clash of sword and mace.

It wasn’t a senseless battle: there were rules. Points were awarded for each opponent thrown into the moat, and at the end, the whole country of the losing side must swear fealty to the victors. Llewellyn’s heart was in his mouth – the Dragons would either emerge victorious or bow down to their dreaded enemy, the Roses.

For 70 minutes, the combat swung back and forth, each soldier straining to push his opponent back, but not a single man yielded. Then, with ten minutes remaining, the Roses found a new resolve, slowly driving the Dragons towards the moat.

Unable to bear the tension, Llewellyn looked away. He uttered a prayer. The next few seconds would decide the future of his country. Eventually, his mouth dry with apprehension, he turned his head – and saw nothing.

‘What?’ He fiddled with the controls, shook the glasses furiously, desperate to see even the haziest blur that would tell him if his country had won or lost.

A couple of passers-by, who stood, perplexed and alarmed, observing him, later spoke of a madman hysterically jumping up and down on the remains of an inanimate object.


This is a true story. It’s happened before and I fear in my bones it’s going to happen again. Tonight. The Six Nations. Wales v. England. That’s Rugby Union, if you’re wondering. The rules are slightly different from what I’ve described, but basically that’s what it comes down to. Getting no official coverage in Mayotte, I have to go through some shady internet streaming site that chooses to freeze at the most vital, heart-stopping moment. So please don’t worry if you hear no more from this blog henceforth. It’ll simply mean I’ve smashed my computer.

The Incredibly Cruel Creepy-Crawly

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Dear Literary Agent,

I’ve written this fantastic book. It’s about an incredibly cruel creepy-crawly that kidnaps the Duchess of Cambridge and takes her to the planet of Vglchbaaal, where she has lots of adventures. I won’t tell you the ending because I don’t want to spoil it for you, but you’ll be relieved to know she does get safely back. Wouldn’t do to kill off the Duchess of Cambridge, would it? The title, by the way, is The Incredibly Cruel Creepy-Crawly that Kidnapped Kate – I just love that alliteration, don’t you?

I’m sure you’ll adore this book because it’s full of suspense and my Mum says it’s brilliant. It includes a 200 page dictionary of the Vglchbaaalian language so readers can understand the dialogues. I kept them in Vglchbaaalian to make it more authentic.

I enclose my bank details so you can send me an advance on royalties. Or if you prefer, just pop a cheque in the post.

Have a great day!

Arnold

 

 

Dear Arnold,

Thank you for sending me The Incredibly Cruel etc., which I have now considered. Regretfully, I am going to pass on this. I wish you all success in finding suitable representation with another agent.

Yours,

Sydney Lushpile, Literary Agent.

OK, the proper way to write a query letter is a bit different. But of course, even if you’ve sweated over it for hours till it’s perfect, the chances of getting anything other than a reply like the one above are much, much smaller than Wales one day beating the All Blacks.

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Enough said.

On the Book Country discussion board, Jay Greenstein puts it this way: Publishers aren’t looking for writers who are as good as those they have. A new writer has no following, so they need the great reviews that bring in readers. So first, your work should be at a level where if they took your submission and mixed it with that of ten writers currently with books in the stores, an acquiring editor couldn’t tell, just by reading, that yours is the one unpublished writer’s submission. And in fact, yours must be the best of the bunch.

Such is the harsh reality of the publishing world.

Who and why

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Well, that’s me. It was cold in Aberystweth that day. I took my family there because it’s where I first saw the sea. Luckily I’ve seen a few more seas since, including the Indian Ocean in Mayotte, where I currently live. Much warmer.

I might be finding inspiration, thinking up a brilliant story. More likely, I’m wondering when we can all go back and sit in front of the fire. And have dinner. Guinea fowl in cider sauce (recipe available on request).

I’ve written of who in other posts: writer, retired, French, Welsh, blogvelist. Also of the why (see Dear Reader), which is to connect what I write with people who maybe, hopefully, like and want to read it.

Welcome, then, to this blog. If you want to accompany me on the journey, I’ll do my best to make it pleasurable, bountiful and enriching. Bienvenue à toutes et à tous! 

British? What’s that?

I left the topic of nationality on the prickly question of Britishness. And prickly’s the word – not for nothing have our Celtic friends north of the border adopted the thistle as an emblem. Whether they ever secede remains to be seen, but they’ve got the message across: not all Brits are created equal.

When I say friends, I also mean cousins. Because my Mum was all Welsh (but would have preferred to be anything but) and my Dad was half Welsh (but didn’t seem to mind what he was). Which makes me 3/4. But then, shortly after becoming French, I annexed the remaining quarter. Think of it as a form of compensation.

Strictly speaking, it was probably more than a quarter. We lived in Powys, then called Radnorshire, a stone’s throw from the border. Practically on top of Offa’s Dyke. I went to school in England. Never spoke Welsh in my life. Still don’t know the words to Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau. Never been to an eisteddfod. Don’t like leeks. Got an accent as RP as they come. People say to me, ‘Welsh? You haven’t got an accent.’ And I answer, ‘No, I’ve lost it.’ Truth is, I never had it.

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Prediction: We’ll be leading until five minutes from the end. And Gatland will say, ‘There were some positives to be taken from the game. But we have to be more clinical.’

But as Tom Waits put it , ‘I never saw my home town till I stayed away too long.’ Or in my case, ‘Never found my Welshness till the French got it all wrong.’ Because after the millionth time you’ve heard all Brits referred to as ‘les anglais’, you start to feel the tug of those non-English roots, drawing you back where you came from. A windswept hill with clumps of fern and grass grazed bare by sheep. Might not be everyone’s bowl of broth but hey, to me it was home. Cymru am byth!