Happy New Year!

 

A bright shiny new 1970 stepped into the Green Room ready for his moment. It was still 11pm on December 31st 1969, and he saw 1969 across the room practising his goodbye speech.

In a year which has seen the US’s Space Race’s success with Apollos 9, 10, 11 and 12, he has to ask why 1969 looks so glum. And so he does: “hey, what’s up with you? You’re going out on a high with such a rich handful of Apollo success . I’m the one with the problem, having to follow on from you …” “Listen fella, it’s about more than just the Space Race. Other stuff happened too you know. Not so good stuff …” and with that 1969 turned his back on 1970 and focused on his cue cards once more.

1970 strolled over to the bar and ordered a non-alcoholic cocktail “an oxymoron if ever there was one” he muttered under his breath although, after one sip, he had to admit that his mock-mojito was pretty darn tasty and very refreshing to boot. Pondering on 1969’s comment, he thought back: “Hmmm … well, there was that oil platform blowout in Santa Barbara and the oil-spill that followed it. But that Senator with the great name – Gaylord something-or-the-other – is proposing an Earth Day. That could be a highlight for me …” Taking another slurp of that mock-mojito he added: “The Beatles look to have have broken up, what with John Lennon marrying that weird Japanese lady and having a public sleep-in for peace. But maybe someone will make a film of their final year – their performance on the roof of the Apple building was filmed wasn’t it? That could be another highlight for me …”

1969 came over and it was almost as if he could read 1970’s mind. “So, found anything that you’ve not been able to turn into a highlight for you yet? And yes, I can … you’ll be able to do the same thing with 1971 when he comes round.” 1970 recoiled with shock: “Seriously?” “Uh huh. And you know that not so good stuff? Well, there’s the Manson Family murders. I’d like to see you put a positive spin on that little horror story.” 1970 paled slightly. “And what about that Russian submarine which collided with the USS Gato? Yeah, OK, so World War 3 didn’t start. But we now have proof that those darn Russkies are flexing their muscles and doing it too darn close to our shores.” “No, I got that last one covered” blurted out 1970: “The Salt Negotiations in Helsinki! Sure, it’s likely they’ll continue next year – and maybe beyond – but it started in 1969 … and that’s gotta be good news for you. Hasn’t it?” “You really think we can trust those Russkies?” 1969 shook his head sorrowfully.

1970 wandered back to the bar and ordered another mock-mojito. He realised this was going to be tougher than he thought. Perhaps it was time to lighten things up. ”Hey, but you got ‘Scoobie-Doo’ and ‘The Brady Bunch’ and ‘Sesame Street’ all started this year. And those Brits done that ‘Monty Python’ thing, plus they got colour TV too now.” 1969 just grunted, so 1970 decided to try sports, after all who doesn’t love sports he thought to himself: “that guy sailed round the world solo this year, and er Willie Mays joined Babe Ruth on breaking 600 runs. And that Brazilian soccer guy – whassisname Pele – he’s scored 1,000 goals. In your year!” “Don’t you talk to me about soccer!” 1969 almost shouted. “Honduras and El Salvador’s game caused riots, just because one team lost. Damn soccer fans take the whole thing way too seriously.”

1970 could see that 1969 truly was a tough nut to crack. Time for the bigs guns then … “But science is going great guns and not just in the Space Race. There’s that Doctor guy who’s given someone the first artificial heart. And Boeing have a new huge aeroplane – the 747. Even the French and the Brits have tested that Concorde – first supersonic aeroplane – amazing huh? You’ve had one hell of a year in science. Cheer up man, they’re gonna love you out there.”

1969 sighed. He remembered being this shiny and new, before life has a chance to sully him. “Prepare yourself 1970, because for every Woodstock Festival there is a death – be that Brian Jones or Judy Garland. For the long-overdue withdrawal of troops from Vietnam, there’s a My Lai and the covert bombing of Cambodia. For the start of every Led Zepplin, we get the ending of The Beatles.”

1970 looked aghast. “What’re you saying?” “I’m telling you to enjoy the highlights sure, but steel yourself for the low. When it comes to your end-of-year reckoning, remember … you didn’t do the bad stuff, but neither did you do the good. Them out there – they’ll blame you for the bad, but don’t expect them to praise you for the good either.”

And with that 1969 held out his hand to the bartender holding a large tumbler of Bushmills. Draining it in one, he stepped out to face them …

 

© 2017 Debra Carey


To welcome in the new year in 2017, David wrote a piece. I didn’t. So this is my first piece of #tortoiseflashfiction … and I’m only six-ish months late!

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The First Year

Thoughts from Debs

A little over a year ago, David contacted me with this idea he’d had – an idea for a fiction blog – and asked if I’d like to co-host?

Once I’d got over feeling all fluffy and complimented, there were oh soooooo many thoughts – but simply put, they fell under the heading “another blog?” My fellow bloggers, you’ll understand the thoughts underlying those two little words …

Will there be enough time? Both David & I work full-time and each produce two other blogs individually. I have a burgeoning new business whilst David is a hands-on father to two young children. Time is always of the essence. And there’ve been ideas we’ve not been able to fulfil – yet – because of that limitation. But few ideas are so time-sensitive that they have to be scratched from the potential list, ‘cos frankly, those which are that time-sensitive, tend to happen!

One thing you may not realise is that we respond to our monthly #ff prompts in real time. Only when that tweet goes out do we even start to think about it – honest! They’re scheduled in advance and are promptly forgotten about. We write to the published deadline too, and I can assure that we write right up against that deadline every single month!  Hence our new #TortoiseFlashFiction page …

Will I have enough ideas? Inspiration is a funny thing. I’m the scheduler, so I tend to be the worry wort. And it really doesn’t help – does it? You’ll not be surprised to hear that whenever I force myself not to stare at my spreadsheet, the ideas come. So I’m channelling Davids’s sang froid …

Having the confidence to label myself as a writer of fiction – and this was the big one for me. But, I’ve gone for it and have learned to be self-critical constructively. And the ‘likes’ and comments from you lovely lot do help muchly.

But, the biggest thing I’ve learned is … it’s been Fun.

And so, dear reader, I plan to keep on doing it … and I look forward to seeing you all at our second birthday.

 

Thoughts from David

Wow. A year sure does go fast!

In some respects I have a really bad memory – I don’t tend to remember events very well. But back in January 2016 I talked to Debs about the idea of being writing buddies. We’d been talking about various writing projects for a while and I’d made some New Year’s resolutions about what I wanted to do with my writing. A writing buddy seemed like a no-brainer: someone to talk shop with, share goals, and provide a pre-beta read through of various writings.  I can remember sitting down in the café to discuss the idea and see where we would take it.

(I think it was about then, although not at our very first writing-focussed chat, that Debs mentioned the April A-to-Z challenge.  It seemed like such a good idea at the time…).

A few months and a few meetings later, April A-to-Z completed and some bits and pieces written and discussed, and we started talking about a shared blog where we could trial some of our writing in a more open forum. We launched the blog in September 2016, and the rest, as they say, has been blogged over the last year.

One of my biggest disappointments is that we’ve not been able to get more people to join in with the writing prompts, but on the other hand I’m very grateful to the people who have given this go and tried something that they wouldn’t normally do.  I remain hopeful that we’ll be able to entice more people to give it a trial, but I will be honest and say that I hadn’t realised how big a market, as it were, that this is – if you wanted you could easily do a different prompt everyday of the week for several months and not go to the same website twice.

One of my great delights has been to get some of these stories out into the world.  They are not perfect, but it has been incredibly useful to get into the habit of writing – in the day job I frequently have to write-edit on the fly and so my inner editor is frequently in play.  Giving him some money and sending him off to the flicks so that my writer can have some elbow room has been a interesting experience.

And, at the risk of sounding gushy (don’t worry, no Oscar acceptance speeches here), the blog really wouldn’t work without Debs.  I don’t know if you ever saw Lenny Henry’s sketch about the African Dictator spending the aid money on spurious projects like the ballistic badger launcher?  Well, the set-up here is nothing like that.  Seriously, we don’t have any insane plans here…oh, except the one where we commit to writing two stories a month for the blog. One of the brilliant things about writing buddies is that they always have something to teach you (I hope that’s true in Debs’ experience as well).  Ironically, Debs is by far the better researcher in this area than I – she always has an on-point blog, piece of writing advice, PInterest page or whatever to point to and go “This!”.  I try and pull my weight around here, but it is very difficult, and I am incredibly lucky that Debs likes to find appropriate art-work for the pages, and quite likes spreadsheets listing where we’re going next…

We’d do this anyway, but it is great to have the support of the community and there have been some great comments over the last year – thanks for reading and for your support: do help your self to a cake.

dessert-table-522428_1920

 

 

Birthday #TortoiseFlashFiction

Kitchen of the Future

Tuesday is baking day. It’s a lot of work but after the hell that is Monday washday, it’s a day I look forward to. There’s a lot to do, but the feeling of the flour and fat is a salve to my sore hands. Plus there’s all that kneading … I remember watching Paul Hollywood on TV (my Mum was crazy about his blue eyes) saying how therapeutic it was, and he was right. Sometimes I miss TV, but it’s not like there’s time any more.

With the great Energy Crash of 2032, we all had to scale back our lives – massively. Decisions had to be made as to whether we kept warm and could travel some, or whether we got to keep our labour saving devices. Nowadays we have to use our energy so we can save the energy to keep us all alive.

Naturally, hospitals get to use most of the energy, and there’s another chunk for the mass travel system. No more individual transport, unless we’re talking bicycles. They’ve become popular again. Remember all those annoying middle-aged men running round in lycra trying to find their lost youth, well they had a head start on the rest of us.

But back to my kitchen. These days it’s a big room. Biggest room in the house probably, especially when you combine it with the food storage areas. We use some of our energy allocation to have a chill room. It means we have to collect wood to keep the house warm, but it keeps the kids busy, especially in the longer summer months. No sitting them in front of a TV or some electronic game now.

Anyway, back to my kitchen. Monday is washday and although there’s a special bit of the kitchen set aside for it, the whole room gets filled up with steam. I use lye soap, a couple of old zinc tubs and a big old scrubbing brush for the really mucky stuff. I managed to find an old mangle before they became rare as dodos – and it’s a godsend. By the end of the day, the house looks like a chinese laundry and everything tends to smell of smoke, excepting during the fine weather that is, when I can get it hung out of doors.

Tuesday’s baking day, like I said. We eat a lot of bread – we need the calories and the carbohydrates these days as life is more physical, plus there’s a lot less protein around. I prepare the dough for all our bread, even though I only bake some of it. The rest I put away in the larder and till Friday when I do the weekend’s baking. I also make pastry as we eat a lot of pies – most of that goes into the larder too, in day-size rounds. I also do biscuits – lots and lots of biscuits. I keep that old jar filled up, we don’t have many treats and that’s one I can manage.

Wednesday is ironing day. Same place as I got my mangle, I found an old-style iron. I only use it for work clothes, even though it seems silly in this day ‘n age to be worrying about such stuff, but employers still do it seems. I also do the fireplaces Wednesday – clean ‘em out thoroughly, then re-set and re-light ‘em.

Thursday is cooking day. I do some cooking most days ‘cept Mondays – but this is the day I cook most of our meals for the week. I make a big stew and serve it up with dumplings, the rest of it goes into a meat pot pie for later in the week. I prepare the fillings for fruit pies, pop a couple in the oven ‘n put the rest into the larder for later. I always have a veg soup on the go too.

Fridays is dairy day. Dairy van delivers in our area late Thursday, so Friday I get busy churning butter, making yoghurt, cream and cheese. I did a cheese-making course at Neals Yard back in the old days. Ever so grateful for it now as it provides a really good alternative source of protein for us, as dairy is much cheaper and more easily available than meat. We don’t live near enough the coast to get fish, except as an occasional treat.

Saturdays we all get together to clean the house ready for the weekend. I try to make it fun, but it’s a chore, same as it’s always been. But at least I get help. If I’d have to battle with TV and electronic games, there’d be no chance of that. We get it done in the morning and I do us a big cooked breakfast before the kids go outside for a run round. Usually there’s a game of kick-ball going on, and both girls and boys can join in. I prepare everything for our big Sunday roast and then have a sit down. I have the one cup of Earl Grey tea I allow myself a week. I miss it the rest of the time, but what can you do? Our carbon footprints are carefully measured – I use ours for my yearly allowance of Earl Grey and for spices. I pickle and preserve to make sure no gluts ever go to waste. My larder is always loaded up.

I love Sundays, for I get a lie-in. John gets the roast cooking and does the roast potatoes. We have a dual-fuel range cooker which is pretty efficient. We can run it on wood, or use some of our energy allocation. There’s always a fruit pie ready in the larder for John to slide in to the oven when he takes out the roast dinner, and the children help with the vegetables – everything’s been cleaned and prepared, so there’s no sharp knives needed – but I always lay the table. I kept my nice china and we use it on Sundays. Silly really, but it makes me smile even when I’m washing it all up on Sunday evening.

Before you know it, we’re back to Monday and it’s washday once more. No cooking on Mondays, so it’s cold meat and cold roast potatoes from Sunday, with pickles and preserves from the larder. Best bit of a Monday that is.

I kept my old Readers Digest Cookery Year cookbook – that way I know what’s in season. I bought a book on mushrooms before – I enjoy the occasional forage and that way I can recognise what’s safe to eat and what’s not. We’re so lucky our village had a great bunch of people who’ve always kept allotments. They helped us set aside quite a lot of land for planting – gardens, bits of park ‘n what-not. We all help out with the planting and harvesting, so we have a regular supply of fresh produce.

I never thought the future would be like this. I’m pretty sure I expected robots and perfect, modern, clutter-free homes. What we have is hard work – but I can’t deny that I always sleep well and there’s the added bonus that I never have to watch my weight nowadays.

© Debra Carey, 2017

10000 steps a day

“It’s surprisingly hard to walk 10000 steps a day.” I said to Sam.  “I’ve been doing this new walking thing for about six months now, and I think that I’ve managed it about twenty times.”

I’d started focussing a bit more on walking after I met the Brigadier.  I’d taken him for a colonel as soon as I saw him: the neat tweed suit, erect bearing, and a no-nonsense attitude that seemed to radiate from within.  The plummy voice was a perfect fit.  The man was in danger of being a walking cliché, but in just five minutes he’d changed my life.  He looked eighty, but was actually over ninety.  Our friendship had grown over the last six months and we ‘d skirted around his military experiences; an impressive collection of medals told a story of a career of service around the world, some intensely prosaic, others a Chinese curse embodied.

With everything that he’d lived and seen, he maintained a generous sense of humour and still walked a minimum of five miles every day, usually more.  After a chance meeting, where we’d found that we both lived within walking distance of the park, I’d realised that I’d been drifting into a sedentary lifestyle and decided to do something about it.

I’d been a bit boring about it to some extent, but I’d been working on my friends to get them to come out for a walk on occasion.  Sam had been the most resistant, but had finally caved.

“Here’s the app that I use to keep track of things. I usually manage five to seven thousand steps, but that 10k requires planning as much commitment.  I always used to think that you could get 10k in just by moving about a bit during the day, but even walking in to work these days I struggle to get the steps in.”

“Is it going to be like this for the whole walk?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I was persuaded to come out today on the basis of fresh air, good conversation and a decent cup of coffee at some point and, so far, we’ve just talked about – no, you’ve just talked about – the number of steps that you ‘re walking.”

“Oh.”

“I mean, I get that it’s important to you, but perhaps we could diversify things a bit.  Like, oh, I don’t know.  If we assume that 1000 steps is a kilometre then it would take you nearly 19 days to walk round the M25, at 10000 steps a day.”

“No way!”

“Or, if you use this app, you can set yourself challenges based on a scale model of the solar system.”

“You are a complete swine! You’ve been stringing me along about going walking for ages!”

“Yeah… but you still love me.”

“Humph.  You’re buying the coffee.”

“Fair enough.”

“I wonder how far the Brigadier’s walked…”.

©David Jesson, 2017

#FF Prompt #TortoiseFlashFiction

TORTOISE

In honour of our first birthday, we thought we’d widen the scope of #TortoiseFlashFiction to embrace more than just David’s propensity to think of a great idea but have no time to write within the deadline. So, we’ve added a new page for everyone to use when slow in responding to a #ff prompt.

And to start the ball rolling, we thought we’d revisit some of our flash fiction prompts to date. Choose one (or more) from below and get writing …

Prompt 1 :  The Cake
Prompt 2 :  Kitchen of the Future
Prompt 3 :  Walking Distance

And if we didn’t select the prompt you have an idea for, remember there’s that new #TortoiseFlashFiction page just a-waiting …

 

Deadline for submission : 2pm on Friday 8th September 2017.
Word count: anything from a drabble to 1,000 words.

 


As always, please post your story in the comments or provide a link there to your site. You can also send us a note via the contact page and we’ll post your story for you, with appropriate accreditation.