Circus

 

 

The Bank Holiday weekend was fun-packed for our family with a teenage sleepover enabling us parents to let our hair down by having a superb Indian meal out in the evening followed by drinks and dancing in the city.

The glorious weather allowed relaxing times spent in the garden quaffing Pimms and lemonade listening to bird song and the tranquil trickle of the water feature. A huge roast gammon, glazed in Victorian chutney, was cooked and carved up on the Bank Holiday Monday for visiting grandparents followed by family board games and a few drinks.

The highlight of our long weekend was our annual visit to Giffords Circus at Fennells Farm in the Cotswolds to watch ‘My Beautiful Circus’. This is a charming, talented troupe that works its way around village greens between May and September, predominantly in Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire.

There is a well-known clown (Tweedy), jugglers, trapeze and high rope acts, balancing acts, dancing, colourful costumes and much humour. The show always features a live band; talented musicians and singers, trained horses, dogs and fowl (dancing chickens and a vocal turkey have been observed to date!)

The atmosphere is wonderful; family orientated with the feel good factor of an old fashioned big top. Nell Gifford, the Circus founder, appears in her shows and during the finale all the children in the audience are encouraged into the ring to dance with the troupe members.

During the interval those with a sweet tooth can buy candy floss and popcorn, there are home made pizzas, pulled pork or sausage brioche buns and divine crispy chips with toppings. Teas, coffees and circus merchandise are available from the smaller tents and painted wagons.

We have been to the show for several years now and always intend to make it a family outing in future years. To date we have been fortunate and spent these afternoons under blue skies in warm sunshine with lovely views of the rolling countryside.

On one occasion I would like to stay on during the evening for ‘Circus Sauce’. This is a three course candlelit meal, served in another tent, where you sit with the Circus family themselves after their final show that day.

So that sums up my week perfectly: Circus.

 

 

 

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The Tree Fairy

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As she folded away her silvery wings
And tucked her legs under a delicate chin
Fairy gazed from the tree top high
Through the branches at an indigo sky
The ethereal moonlight cast its shadows
Starlight twinkled, magicians dabbled
Shooting stars danced through the night
A captivating, enchanting sight
Witches chanted in the glades
Elves were mining in the caves
Tree Fairy settled down for her evening
Whilst foresty magic continued weaving
Through the hollows, caverns and trees
Mystical powers at work, not make believe

The Selkie

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The wooden cabin is silent and empty. It is somebody’s rural escape on the edge of the highland loch. The driveway is flanked by large, dark boulders and the entrance is uninviting to strangers. Higher up by the lodge itself, ferns and overgrown rhododendron plants, heavily laden with vivid purple flowers in spring, have invaded what would have once been the small garden.

Down by the waters’ edge, ancient rocks are strewn amongst the small shrubs and grassy tussocks. The young woman staying in her friends dwelling perches on a rocky outcrop and gazes far out across the water. The mountains tower in the distance; hues of greens, greys and mauves. Snowy peaks at the highest, rockiest points. When she focuses on the shallow water close to her feet, Freya can see the fine gravel and silt of the lake bed; a scuttling crab and the small fish that dart here and there in a flash of glistening scales. The vast stretch of water gleams in the sunlight, the sky is an azure blue dotted with white wisps of cloud.

Out here in the wilderness she can forget her recent troubles; the financial difficulties resulting from the unexpected redundancy, the miscarriage, the constant arguments at home, the blame culture, the day to day family dramas. Here in the remote solitude she will concentrate her mind on what really matters; mentally and emotionally sorting herself out. To be strong once more for the others by healing herself. To overcome the anxiety and feelings of utter worthlessness that are spiralling her into a pit of despair.

After several moments of quiet contemplation, Freya gasps involuntarily as something catches her eye and she bends closer to the surface of the water. There is a faint ripple and she knows she hasn’t imagined it, there is a face staring back at her from the shimmering liquid. A pearl white face framed by long, chesnut brown hair. There is a flicker of a smile on the pale lips and a form of acknowledgement in the sea-green eyes. Then a glimpse of what looks like flecked brown seal skin highlighted by the intense rays of the sun that penetrate through the water.

Pushing back a stray lock of hair that has worked its way loose from its makeshift pony tail, the woman feels a strong desire to lower herself fully clothed into the icy cold water. She has no doubt that the creature is beckoning her, willing her to join her in the shallows. Tempting her into deeper, sea green waters. For a moment some inexplicable force is encouraging her to wade in. It becomes so strong that she is dangerously close to succumbing and striding in up to her waist, then her shoulders. To let the chilly water pull her in and envelop her body, until she is fully submerged amongst the reeds. Forgetting her troubles, a weight lifted from her tortured being.

An eagle cries in the desolate landscape and Freya jolts back to reality. She is cold and feeling fatigued and confused. Now there is neither a human or a creature present before her; just the clear water and the silty loch bed itself. She blinks and momentarily rubs her eyes, has it all been merely a vision or a trick or the light? Perhaps, just perhaps, she muses to herself the ‘Selkies’ of Scottish and Irish folklore really do exist. And, quite possibly, that these mythological creatures have the power to infiltrate the human mind.

THE END.

A selkie is a seal-like creature in the water who changes into a human form upon land after shedding its skin. Originating from Scottish, Irish and Icelandic folklore.

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Storm in a Teacup

 

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Rain Shower on the Window:

She sighs and lifts her slim ring finger
To trace the water droplets as they linger
Slowly each one trickles down the glass
She knows her wedding band is a farce

Each crystal drop represents a tear
But she mustn’t cry or show her fear
Their arguments rage thick and fast
She muses the marriage won’t really last

A clap of thunder and a lightning strike
Her aching heart and emotions of dislike
Then a ray of sun breaks through the rain
And the warming light alleviates her pain

She feels his arms wrap around her waist
The words flowing fast in their haste
To seek forgiveness and apologise
A storm in a teacup he does surmise

Fromage

Have you ever tried a raclette dish?

Having eaten them on French Holidays in mountainous regions (the Jura, Alps etc) during my teenage years, I have recently reminisced and purchased my very own raclette maker as a middle aged parent.

So what actually is raclette you might ask? Well traditionally it is a meal of melted Swiss cheese eaten with boiled potatoes, charcuterie, mini pickles and such like. It is a Swiss dish with a variation as a French dish. It is different to fondue as it is not served in a sharing pot with long handled 2 pronged forks, does not include alcohol (white wine, Kirsch) and is not as viscous.

The cooking apparatus seems to vary abroad; I’ve had huge slabs of half round cheeses hanging above the heated section and I’ve used machines comprising of shovels (handled trays) in which you cook the cheese. I’m pretty sure there have been open flames in some examples… but that might just be embarrassing memories of my parents over-cooking the cheese in a French restaurant!

At the weekend we tried out our new machine from Vonshef. The small version has eight shovels underneath, a marble cooking stone and a griddle section above. It is substantial for a family of 3 or 4. You place it in the centre of the dining table and set the electric dial to the temperature you require.

RECIPE:

  • Thinly sliced steak strips (seared in the frying pan first)
  • Sliced chicken strips (I sprinkled paprika on these and seared them in the pan)
  • Red pepper slices
  • Chesnut mushrooms sliced
  • Chorizo pieces
  • Gouda
  • Emmental
  • Roasted new potatoes oven cooked in olive oil & sprinkled with rosemary (and/or garlic cloves)

It is a lovely meal to share with family and friends; a slightly different way to entertain. Perfect during snowy or dull, cold winter evenings. Children enjoy the ‘cooking at the table’ aspect and having the choice as to ‘what’ they dish up onto their plates. The fun task of scraping delicious melted cheese onto potatoes and meats from the mini shovels.

I’ve been to the deli this afternoon and we will be eating raclette again over the weekend.

Bon Appetit!

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#WoTW

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Candle

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During the snowy period I found myself reading about the Danish way of ‘Hygge’ – warming fires or candles, cosy blankets, hot chocolate, fresh flowers, baked treats, long lingering meals with family and friends, board games, books, laughter and contentment. Hygge is a feeling, a way of getting through the winter months in Scandinavia.

Since then I’ve been practicing the art myself. Scented candles are lit most nights, the family reads under cosy blankets, we always eat together 6 or 7 nights of the week anyway, we love hot chocolate and games. Flowers and light fill the hearth.

So whilst looking at my living room full of candles one evening, I wrote an acrostic poem:

Candle flames

Aglow they flicker

Nostalgic memories

Deep and mesmerising

Light dances

Enchanted evenings

 

#AcrosticPoem   #WoTW

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Winter’s Poem

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The snowflakes dance
Then snowstorms flurry
Icicles form like magic wands
Ice crystals glint, freeze on ponds
See Natures raw beauty
White, pure, translucent
Frozen water, snow capped peaks
A reminder to us mere mortals
Of powerful Mother Earth forces
The freezing wind, her icy chill

 

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The Cabin in the Snow

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The young woman surveyed her surroundings with a grimace; the snow was gently lining the forest floor. Mossy rocks and lichen encrusted branches protruded through the soft icy blanket that was forming. It was cold, bitterly cold in the darkening woods and Amber was aware that within the hour nightfall would engulf her.

She rubbed her frozen hands and hoisted the large rucksack from a tree stump onto her back. Pulling the colourful bobble hat tighter onto her head she felt far from cheerful. It was desolate here, no humans or animals in sight, no birdsong. Just the crunch of her footsteps on the icy path that wound its way through the tall firs.

Keep walking she willed herself. The cabin is in the clearing by the lake as the woods give way to the rugged mountains Greg had told her. It will be warm and dry, give you the space and isolation that you are seeking.

A twig snapped behind her, Amber spun around but she couldn’t make anything out in the gloom. A deer she mused or a fox perhaps. She stared at the shapes emerging from the snow and shivered. Jeez it was eerie here in the fading light, the smell of damp wood filled her nostrils. She felt spooked by the noise and forced herself to walk faster. Her heartbeat was thudding loudly, her breath ragged as she increased her pace on the winding path. The mountains must be close she thought, the route was definitely steeper and rockier now, the trees were thinning out.

The shrill cry of an owl nearly made Amber jump out of her skin, she heard its feathered flight as it glided somewhere above her in the woodland canopy. She thrust her hand  into her padded jacket and drew out her mobile phone. Damn no signal, well what did she expect? The tears that pricked her eyes were hot and salty, I must not cry she thought angrily. This was my choice to come here to escape my demons. Only the forest seemed to have its own spectres to contend with.

Then as she rounded a bend, the sight couldn’t have been more welcoming yet menacing at the same moment. An oval lake lay before her, it’s silver water appeared mirror-like in the emerging moonlight. A log cabin hunkered under a rocky outcrop as the firs petered out. Chopped wood spilled out of one side of the outhouse, an axe leant against the wall.

Amber bit her lip, she gazed in concern as a whisper of grey smoke lazily curled from the metal chimney. She inhaled the smell of sweet pine logs in the air. Heard the loud whistling coming from the cabin door. Her body shivered involuntarily; no one was supposed to be here.

The End.

#prose4T

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The Grieving Man

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Writing Prompt: “Whether you believe in me or not, I will continue to exist…”

Andrew surveyed the bedroom for what felt like the hundredth time, it seemed so desolate and bare now that his beloved wife had finally succumbed to the dreadful illness. Over a few months the woman so full of vitality and character had emaciated before him. He blinked trying to prevent angry tears, he felt like he had been torn apart and the anguish was unbearable.

The broken man picked up a bottle of her heady perfume and sniffed the spray slowly, deeply inhaling the scent of her. A shadow falling across the band of sunlight that illuminated the room failed to catch his attention. With her untimely death, a part of him had died also. His heart had been broken, he’d loved her more than anyone could ever had imagined possible. And now she was gone. Forever.

He wearily dropped onto the side of the king size bed and raked his hands through his unkempt hair. His head bowed, he finally allowed the painful sobs to engulf him. His whole body shook as he let the grief flow. Unheard and unseen, the shadow slowly crept closer.

Andrew felt it then, a cold touch on his tear soaked cheek. It was gentle; a mere butterfly caress. So familiar a touch yet eerily alarming. And then as he lifted his head he caught sight of a figure in the long antique wall mirror, she was gaunt and her skin so pale from the illness, porcelain white. The  long hair raven black with flecks of grey. Emily.

He stared at her reflection in confusion, he was hallucinating from fatigue and hunger he told himself. He hadn’t looked after himself since she’d died, succumbed to huge tumblers of whisky and passed his evenings in a drunken haze. And then a soft welsh voice whispered so closely to his ear, “whether you believe in me or not, I will continue to exist”.

#FlashFiction

 

 

 

 

Fireworks, Flames & A Woman Scorned

Whimsical Writer

100 Word Challenge Prompt: As the flames leapt skyward. Week 173 #100WCGU

The Prompt: Fire. Week 89 #ThePrompt

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Lois wiped the tears from her cheek and then smirked. She took one last look at the dog-eared photos and bundle of letters before bitterly throwing them into the crackling fire.

As the flames leapt skyward she knew that this was the end of one difficult journey and the beginning of another. The young woman gazed thoughtfully into the glowing embers, eyes glinting cat-like.

Fireworks projected their beautiful colours across the dark night sky. Gem-like bursts of emerald, sapphire, ruby and diamond cascaded down from the heavens.

No one at the bonfire night party realised the plan that was being hatched, revenge was at work!

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Bonfire Night

IMG_0220The enormous crackling fire was mesmerising; the crimson flames gradually licking higher as the cool November breeze stirred up the embers. Hypnotic and powerful if you gazed into its molten core too intently.

Bonfire night revellers were talking and laughing; oohing and aahing as the colourful pyrotechnic displays rained down from the inky night sky. Jasmine stood on the periphery of the green, watching the villagers with their sparklers, hot dogs and scalding jacket potatoes.

She felt withdrawn from it all, knowing this was to be her last night standing in this place. She glanced across at her estranged family and friends and shrugged; what was done was done the young woman mused bitterly. No one seemed to care about her existence, her feelings, her passions anymore.

Boom! A huge firework cascaded down from the heavens with a thunderous sound; splitting the sky apart with ruby red shards of light. The crowd were enthralled, craning their necks, as the rich bright jewels majestically floated towards them.

In the spot where Jasmine had stood lay a soft powder blue lambswool scarf and mittens. The only visual reminder that she had even been here on this crisp, clear Guy Fawkes Night. No human cries emitted from the fire but wafting from the greedy flames came the sickly, pungent smell of roasting flesh and hair.

#FlashFiction

Adventures in Iceland ~ The Golden Circle (Travel Blog)

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Day One: 

Travelled by hire car from Keflavic Airport to our wooden holiday lodge at Utey; overlooking the lake and mountain backdrop at Laugarvatn. Utey is situated in  the ‘Golden Circle’ region of South West Iceland. A perfect base for exploring so many of the geological features that this amazing country has to offer.

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Day Two:

A short drive to Geysir (free parking & entry) to observe the regular Strokkur geyser eruptions and bubbling, steaming hot springs.

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Followed by a visit to the dramatic falls at Gullfoss (free parking & entry). Cafes and gift shops at both sites.

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Day Three:

A short drive to Pingvellir National Park (9000 year old lava field) where the European and North American continental plates are widening by 1.5 cms per year. We paid a visit to both the Information Centre (free parking) and the Visitor Centre (small carpark charge but free entry to the lookout, canyon & waterfall).

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Amazing views from the lookout over Pingvallavatn lake and Pingvellir Church (1018) followed by a walk within the Rift Valley (Almannagja Canyon), across the Assembly Plains (Logberg) to Oxarafoss waterfall (20 metres high). Cafes and gift shops at both centres.

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Day Four:

A longer drive (200 miles) in the hire car from Laugarvatn to Selfoss to Reynisdranger on the South coast. Stopping initially at Seljandfoss falls (60 metres high), four falls the first of which you can walk behind (free parking & entry). Small outdoor cafe at the site.

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Driving on past Eyjafjallajokull volcano whose last eruption caused suspended flights & delays in 2010, (free parking but entrance fee to the volcano visitor centre).

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Next stop at Skogafoss falls (62 metres cascade) with a rainbow at its base and 500+ steps to the viewing platform at the top of the falls from which you can overlook the coast and walk further upstream in the mountains (free parking & entry). Several cafes and shops nearby.

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The main road takes you past snow capped mountains and the glacier as you drive down to Dyrholaey Island, a bird spotting nature reserve accessed by a causeway (free Carpark & entry). Concluding our day trip at Reynisdranger with its black volcanic sand beach, basalt columns, sea cave and volcanic stacks and arches. Lamb soup and Skyr cake at the ‘Black Beach Cafe’ was welcome (free parking).

Day Five:

A short drive to the Kerio crater, a 70 metre deep scoria cone and lake (entry fee). Followed by a trip into the steaming hot spring hills of Reykjadalur (free parking, outdoor cafe) overlooking the ‘hothouse town’ of Hverageroi. Down in the town, the 2008 earthquake here created a fissure which can be viewed under the glass floor of the shopping centre (free parking).

Afternoon drive to The Secret Lagoon (The Gamla Laugin) where we enjoyed steamy bathing in Iceland’s oldest swimming pool. The waters are warmed by very active thermal springs (free parking and on site cafe).

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Day Six:

A drive through vast, desolate lava fields following Iceland’s longest river; Pjorsa.

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Followed by a brief stop at the Viking Homestead reconstruction at Pjooveldisbaerina, a remote spot with the buildings exhibiting low grass covered roofs.

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Before taking Route 32 to Hraunejar with snow capped active Hekla volcano to our right. Late afternoon we stopped at Skalholt Cathedral en route back to our holiday home, you can admire beautiful stained glass windows and see the original earthworks for the previous religious settlement.

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Finally, very late in the evening, the Northern Lights made an appearance; from the verrandah we viewed several wondrous streaks of green and red which danced and swirled before they disappeared at 2.15am! Another tick off the ‘bucket list’.

Day Seven:

A day spent in Reykjavik, plenty of cheap parking near the sea front and concert hall. Visited the undercover weekend flea market to browse silver lava jewellery (considerably cheaper there) and try food samples (donuts, liquorice, chocolate and fermented shark). The cafe in the market served tasty paprika fries, hot drinks and cakes.

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An afternoon walk via the lake and then short trek uphill to Iceland’s largest church; Hallgrimskirkja. Followed by hot drinks in ‘Roasters’ arty coffee shop which was playing good old fashioned vinyl . Concluded our city visit by strolling around the main shopping streets.

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Day Eight:

A return visit to Pingvellir National Park to walk along the shores of Pingvallavatn lake and to visit Silfra, one of the worlds best dive sites, where a chasm is flooded and the water is a gorgeous turquoise blue. Good views of the innocuous looking, snow covered Skjaldbreiour volcano from the national park.

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This was followed by a short drive to Geysir in the afternoon where we had the good fortune to see Strokkur erupt three times in quick succession.

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Day Nine:

A relaxing day spent at Fontana Spa with a sprinkling of snow during our visit. We took a bread-making tour first to witness rye bread being cooked in the ground adjacent to geothermal springs that bubbled at the edge of the lake. We sampled the warm, dark bread with thick butter and had the opportunity to buy the remainder of the loaf.

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The spa consisted of geothermally heated saunas/steam rooms, a bathing platform into the icy lake, several pools of varying temperatures and a restaurant (which served a good buffet lunch).

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TRAVEL TIPS:

Cheapest supermarkets are the ‘Bonus’ chain; look out for the pink pig on a yellow background in the towns. Alcohol can only be purchased from off licences (Vinbudin), not supermarkets. If you haven’t hired a 4×4 you shouldn’t be travelling on the F roads. Some tourist sites are closed during public holidays. Spas rules are that you shower naked prior to entry in the pools. Some interior roads aren’t open until the summer months. Currency is Icelandic Krona. English is widely spoken.

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Geysir 2017

 

Apparition at the Window

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Lightning tore through the sky and a crack of thunder stirred Beth from her slumber. She glanced sleepily at the ancient wind-up alarm clock that was ticking loudly, three in the morning. She groaned and flung her arm over her face to mask the bright light that was infiltrating the old fashioned bedroom.

A few minutes later, an anguished whisper from over by the window made her raise her head and stare in horror at the apparition that was gradually appearing in front of her. A young woman with a translucent quality, old fashioned skirts and stricken features was talking to herself and wringing her hands in angst. She slowly turned her back to Beth, flung up the window sash and deliberately swung her legs over the sill. A wretched scream and sickening thud stirred Beth into action and she raced over to the glass.

The wooden sash was firmly closed, she traced her hands over the thick pane noting the water droplets gliding down the glass as a torrent of rain drenched the outside world. The storm raged on. Craning her neck, she looked down into the dark garden below but there seemed to be no trace of a body on the grass. The lake glinted in the moonlight, reflecting the zigzags of light as they ripped through the ebony sky with destructive force. The atmosphere was charged; electrical and foreboding.

Beth rested her head wearily against her hand, her dark hair falling over her shoulders in tangles from a disturbed sleep. Am I going mad? She pondered as the forked lightning lit the bedroom once more. The recuperation invitation to her great aunts house in the country was not going according to plan. This was the third night in which the ghostly presence had appeared in the room in the oldest part of the manor. Perhaps I’m just feeling spooked by this old house Beth mused. It was crumbling and in disrepair like so many properties passed down the generations that sadly became dilapidated money pits, leaching the life out of their very foundations and owners alike.

That would be a perfectly reasonable explanation were it not for the huge oil painting in the drawing room. The portrait of an attractive young woman with auburn locks and penetrating green eyes who very much resembled the lady of Beth’s visitations. Once the lady of the house, her great aunt had told her the previous day during afternoon tea, whose tombstone in the chapel nearby referenced a disturbing and premature death.

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Prompt word: Window  #ThePrompt

 

 

Reflection ~ Flash Fiction Piece

Whimsical Writer

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The dark haired young woman hugged her knees to her chin and gazed out across the vast stretch of water before her. The loch was flanked at its shores by mountains that were hues of mauve, green and grey. Heavily wooded at the lower reaches with towering pine trees that gave way to rocky, jagged summits.

She closed her eyes and listened to the gentle lapping of the waves against the shoreline of the remote loch. It was really good not to hear the usual city sounds – there were no voices or music, no engines, sirens or exasperated vehicle drivers hooting. Instead there was the calming sound of the water, the rustle of the ferns, the whispering of the trees and the wild birdsong.

Mia felt the sun gradually warm her skin, ease her grief and seep into her soul. She had really needed this break, to escape daily…

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