Flash Fiction: One day like this

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‘Will he really, Daddy?’ The boys jostled to get a better view.

‘Well, that’s what he says. We’ll see.’

Up on the tower, the man was a speck, but they heard him loud and clear through the megaphone. ‘I open the way! After years of research and frustration, the moment has come!’

Mr. Wright did his best to hide the sight of the plummeting contraption from his sons’ eyes. Shocked and dejected, they walked away in silence.

Eventually, Wilbur said, ‘I bet you it’s possible, though.’

‘One day.’ Orville spread his arms and raced across the grass. ‘Like this!’


In response to Matt’s Flash Fiction Foray, where this week’s prompt was the song One Day Like This, by Elbow. I have to confess: historical accuracy is somewhat ignored in my story, as the Wright brothers’ inspiration didn’t come from the scene described but a toy helicopter (far less gruesome) brought home by their father. I did try pointing this out to the guys over at Warner Bros, but they threw up their arms in disdain. ‘Accuracy? Who cares about that? We need a dramatic hook, Curtis. Get to it!’ On the other hand, several pioneers did die testing their machines, including Percy Pilcher, whose hang glider, The Hawk, is in the picture.

 

Pic’n’Post n° 18: Where was the picture taken?

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Where was the picture taken?

Several guesses last week, and everyone figured it was the badge of a car, so the question then became, what make? Many thanks to Rosa, Thumbup at Live Love Laugh, Atthys at Speak More Light, and Matt from the bookblogger2014, but the winner this week is Hogrider Dookes, who guessed it was a Citroën Xsara. You can check out some of his “thoughts and travels of a geezer on a Harley” here, his account of a recent trip through Provence. Unfortunately, we weren’t at home at the time, otherwise he could have popped in to visit (the invitation still stands, Dookes) and taken me for a spin on the Harley. And he’d have seen the actual car which served for the photo, very much in need of a wash. IMG_1012                                                                                                IMG_1013

Congratulations, Dookes!

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This week it’s back to Where? at the top of this page. Happy guessing!

21st Century Transport

The first time we did a house exchange was with Canada. Shortly after arriving, we got into the car to explore the local supermarket. “Uh-oh,” I said, turning the key. “Battery’s dead.” (As a dodo). So we called a mechanic, who instead of opening the bonnet, said, “Did you have your foot on the brake pedal? No? It’s a Toyota, see? A security measure. $25 please.”

That was a dozen years ago. The Japanese have come on since then. On our recent trip to Mauritius, we hired a Nissan Micra. No ignition key at all, just a remote you toss inside, and then, having put the gear stick in P, trod on the brake and touched the steering wheel three times with your forehead, you press a button. Unfortunately, every time we stopped at a traffic light, the engine stalled, which meant this ritual got a bit stressful after a while. That was until I discovered that it was on purpose, and when you take your foot off the brake, the engine restarts automatically. Brilliant! Perhaps all cars are like this nowadays, I wouldn’t know. Our Citroën Xsara, which entered service at the end of the last century, has a different starting ritual: curse it, kick it, crank it. I get the feeling it’s time we got a new one. I’d love one of those things that zoom around in the sky like Bruce Willis has in The Fifth Element. Failing that, I’d settle for a Nissan Micra.

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Thursday Interview: Olaf Oil

– Olaf, not only do you look like Marmite, but people either love you or hate you. Isn’t that strange?

– Uncanny. But while there’s a chance the world could survive without Marmite, where would you be without me? Stuck on some dirt track in a horse-drawn cart. Let’s face it, even the people who say they hate me would totally freak if I disappeared overnight.

– But do you really have to be so messy? Not to mention the climate change thing.

– Complain to the Committee if you’re not happy.

– Committee?

The BTTS Committee. Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat. Nothing without a price. God was very strict on that when He set it up. He was delighted when the designers came up with me. A few hundred million years to arrive, a nightmare to extract, and what’s the result? Global warming. But since I give you Ryanair, VW campers and Bernie Ecclestone as well, you don’t care. In fact, you so don’t care that you ignore my feelings completely. You exploit me to death, I’m exhausted, heading for burn out, and yet you keep on. No sense of moderation at all.

– Well, what do you suggest? Nuclear’s cleaner but not very reassuring either.

– Renewables. If you put your mind to it, you could. The G7 has pledged to decarbonise the global economy by the end of the century – a step in the right direction, sure, but given your past record on that sort of pledge, allow me to be sceptical. I’ve started a band to raise awareness, The Fossil Fuel Four. There’s me on guitar, Cole Coal on drums and a great couple of vocalists, Natural Gas Gwen and Felicia Fracking. Would you like to hear our latest song? You want the oil but you mustn’t spoil the planet. There’s too much spill, hey, stop that drill, let’s ban it! Woo, woo, yeah, yeah –

– Ah, thank you, Olaf, very nice. But I was wondering – it’s great meeting a Norwegian, but when I requested an interview, I was told it would be with Omar from Saudi Arabia.

– He was busy. Also, he sings off key. We’re basically the same anyway, except I’m beneath the sea and he’s under sand. But when we started out, back in the Paleozoic, it was just one world, you know? So strictly speaking we belong to everyone. And instead of fighting wars over us, we should be shared between the whole of humanity. But I guess that’s not the way you go about things, is it?

Vazaha Homo Decrepitus

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We saw several species of wildlife in Madagascar, but one of the most common was vazaha homo decrepitus. Whereas mzungu, the term for a white person in Mayotte, has no particular connotation, vazaha in Malagasy comes with baggage. Though it can refer to any white person, often it means ‘old (or very old) white man with money, paying for the company (and more) of young Malagasy women.’ Now I’m not young myself, but some of the specimens we saw were as doddery as they come. Muriel, our hotel proprietor, put it rather amusingly:  ‘When they leave France,’ she said, ‘they’re Paul Préboist, and when they get here they’re Paul Newman.’ I didn’t know Paul Préboist, a French actor who died in 1997, but all became clear when I googled him.

Unless the girls are under age (which happens) the issue here is less moral or legal than economic. Due to poor governance and political instability, Madagascar has stagnated for decades, making any specimen of vazaha homo decrepitus a very attractive proposition for a young woman who has nothing to sell but her body. Muriel was in two minds about it. On the one hand her hotel does well, as they congregate there for Sunday lunch, arriving on quads, their hair (when they have any) blowing in the wind. On the other, she said, they often behave towards their companions with detestable arrogance and contempt. Which makes it a human issue too.

The economy of Madagascar being unlikely to change any time soon, one can also look for the positives. For the girls (and their families) a level of financial comfort well above the average. And for the vazaha, when you look at the alternative mode of transport, what could be better than rejuvenation as Paul Newman on a quad?

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As a footnote, and tying in with  my interview of Adam’s Rib, here’s a quote from yesterday’s Guardian about men and women in ancient times, before economic differences upset the apple cart. Mark Dyble, an anthropologist who led the study at University College London, said: “There is still this wider perception that hunter-gatherers are more macho or male-dominated. We’d argue it was only with the emergence of agriculture, when people could start to accumulate resources, that inequality emerged.” Link to the full article here.

Sunday Poem: Rain and Internet

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Back from two weeks in Madagascar, where travel during the rainy season is a challenge. The taxi-brousses, minibuses crammed to bursting with goods and passengers, average around 20 miles an hour. On the positive side, the people are so friendly that to focus on any niggling discomfort seems churlish. No blogging, of course, but as we all know, it does us good to disconnect from cyberspace for a while, doesn’t it? Although of course, knowing is one thing, accepting is quite another.

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This wonderful country, Madagascar,

Is now exceedingly wet.

But despite the rain, I’m sadder by far

Because there’s no internet.

Merci, Dédé!

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Since France must now administer Mayotte, it’s generous towards the administrators. I think the reasoning is that if you live in mainland France, you’d have to be mad to go anywhere else; therefore, to attract public sector employees, you must give them all sorts of perks. Among these are free transport from the Metropole. Furniture, car, plane ticket – they’ll even pay for your dog if you have one (not for your spouse, though, or at least not for me – a retired blogvelist doesn’t count).

So we stuffed our Panda full of stuff we thought would be useful – cushions, shelves, boxes of books, microwave – and put it on a container. For some reason which was never made fully clear, it arrived a month late (something about getting lost near South Africa), and when we did finally unload it, we saw we’d forgotten the metal sides to the crappy sub-Ikea bookshelf.

My suggestion was three or four bricks between each shelf, but Mrs. B. had something more aesthetic in mind. And you have to admit, the result’s pretty classy, n’est-ce pas?

Now, I could stop there and let you suppose I did it myself. But I cannot lie. Anything more complicated than putting one brick on top of another is beyond me. So the shelves were stacked against a wall, and the books remained in their boxes, until Dédé, my DIY genius of a brother-in-law, came to visit. And a couple of days later we had our bookshelf.

Not without some effort, though, to which I greatly contributed. Well, I took the photos, anyway -:)

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Now I wonder when I’ll get round to unpacking those boxes…