By Eithne Cullen
Welcome to July’s Thoughtful Tuesday page. Summer’s here at last! People will be feeling very end-of-term-ish, ready to relax and rest for the remainder of this bright season.
This fab image from Afsana Elanko captures the feeling of these lazy, dandelion-filled, summer days.
Our new theme, Literary Passions And Guilty Pleasures, gives me a huge scope for sharing some great writing this month.
Thomas Nixon has been sharing some fantastic flash fiction with us; here’s another that chimes with anyone who enjoys the immediacy that flash stories bring.
The end of her life was still a few steps away. Enough time to panic, not nearly enough time to come up with an escape plan. She cast her eyes towards her father, who stared ahead, latching himself onto her arm.
Tears swam down her cheeks, dragging mascara with them in skinny black tributaries as they stood before the doors.
“Happy tears,” her father muttered, eyes forward.
“What?” she murmured.
He turned to face her, expressionless. “Tell them they’re happy tears.”
The doors opened in that instant, revealing pews on either side filled with smiling faces, eager to watch the ceremony.
© Thomas Nixon, 2023
I’m taking the opportunity of sharing a couple of opinion pieces, reminding us that we use words in all kinds of ways, positive and negative, to share passions and annoyances.
The first piece, by Sanpreet, about an event, gives us a little reminder to use our passions to good advantage.
Giving Yourself The Permission To Fail
The world is now so black and white, there is one who succeeds and one who fails. Could there be one who is stuck in between these worlds? If so, is their place in heaven or on earth?
From a young age, children are taught that winning is the real deal and everyone else is a loser. We’ve created a vicious cycle where the joy of running the race is less important than winning the rat race. We ask ourselves: “Will I succeed first, or will they?” instead of saying: “I had fun and learned a lot running.” A child who wins the race is praised; the one who loses the race is criticised. What are we doing to our future generation and what has been done to our own generation?
I vividly remember learning to swim at the age of eight. Although I enjoyed swimming, I was scared of the deepest part of the pool, imagining sharks prowling hungrily, waiting for me to jump into the water and hunting me down to gobble me up. I imagined red blood bubbling up to the surface for my parents and friends to see.
For a brief period, I refused to get into the water and then slowly, through encouragement from my coach and my mom, I decided to risk the shallower pools. But whatever they said did little to my resolve to never visit the deeper ones. “No thanks! I will stick to the pools where I can see the clear water under my feet!”
By this point, my coach had given up; rightfully, as he had a handful of kids to coach who needed his attention. My mom called me over and, as we chatted, we walked along the sides of the pool. She suddenly stopped and said: “Look, Dad’s here!” Excited, I turned my eyes to wave… and she pushed me into the pool!
Horrified, my face hit the water and in I sank. I waved my hands frantically as I struggled to breathe. Panicking, the fog in my brain closed in. As I was on the brink of losing myself, I opened my eyes wide and looked around me. Time paused, the fog in my brain cleared. My fears melted away and my reflexes kicked in. All those months of practice took over and I pushed myself up, up until my nose broke the surface of the water. Opening my eyes, I saw my mom. She was panic-stricken. In the brief moment it took me to regain my sense of self and make my way to the surface of the pool, my mom had condemned herself a million times for pushing me in. But when she saw me, a smile broke out on her face, joy erasing the fear. What can I say? Being a parent means you need to sometimes push your child to the limits to help them learn to survive those limits.
That fall taught me something: there are no sharks in the pool. In fact, I don’t have to worry about them at all. What would you expect? I was eight years old!
Years after, as I ponder the incident, I draw parallels between it and my life. The phase before failure is that moment when you are frantically struggling for breath, wondering if you will die. But, once you open your eyes, the fog in your brain clears, your fears melt away and you gain a renewed sense of purpose. And that, my friend, is when you have learned from that failure and are ready to succeed. You haven’t succeeded yet, but giving yourself the permission to fail will ensure that you learn what you need to in order to succeed. You will emerge bolder, stronger and more beautiful, becoming a better version of yourself.
© Sanpreet, 2023
Here’s a piece from Vic Howard about one of his bothersome literary bugbears.
A Three-Letter World
The history of the past 100 years has been a stream of constantly changing three-letter acronyms.
It all started with HMV. His master’s voice was our first radio gramophone on which we listened to the BBC on SML short medium or long wave channels.
Radio was not very good until VHF very high frequency was introduced.
Long-playing records started to disappear when CDD compact digital discs made their entrance, which was more convenient but not always a better sound.
TV could also be recorded at home on VHS video home systems, but pretty soon these were replaced by DVD digital video discs.
Computers then turned up with their CPU central processing units, which contained ROM read-only memories and RAM random access memories.
The advent of broadband and the Internet meant we all had to have a URL universal resource locator address. That was when I started to be DHC driven half crazy trying to keep up.
The latest to appear on the scene are the LLM large language models of computer software, which are capable of NLP natural language processing. These are used, for example, in GPT generative pre-trained transformers, which are currently being predicted as the artificial intelligence that will replace humanity if not controlled properly.
It makes me want to use a four-letter word!
(victor george howard)
© Vic Howard, 2023
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Vic. I had a colleague who was so fed up with these abbreviations he invented the term TWA… three-word acronyms to cover them all!
While I’m sharing personal writing, I was really touched by this next submission by George Tidbury.
Muv And Farva
During the 16 years we fostered for the London Borough Of Barking And Dagenham (LBBD), from the day of our first placement, 24 hours after our approval, we always had a placement. At one time, we had four children under the age of two in our care. We didn’t drive and used to take the children out in two tandem buggies. People asked how we managed. We put it down to organisation.
The local authority put us on numerous courses, including ‘Giving evidence in court.’ For many of the children we fostered, Pat, my wife, was required to give evidence in court and these courses provided knowledge and the confidence for her to carry this out. Once, the local authority applied to put a child up for adoption who was in our care and Pat was told there was no need to attend court for this case. But, at about 11.30am that same day, we received a telephone call asking if she could attend the court as soon as possible. The judge had suspended the hearing and was asking for the foster carer to produce her foster carers’ diary (a detailed daily log for the child in care, to be produced in court if requested). The court sent us a car and we were whipped off to the Royal Courts Of Justice. Pat was sworn in and the judge thanked her for attending. He asked her to turn to a specific date in the diary and read it to the court, which she did. The judge thanked her for attending and told her she could go.
On another occasion, Pat received a telephone call from our social worker, asking if she could accompany her to the local hospital to collect a one-year-old baby girl who’d been in a house fire and had suffered smoke inhalation. The mum had been high on drugs, a fire started in her flat, she ran out to get help, the door slammed and she couldn’t get back in. It was the authority’s intention of obtaining a full care order and the baby would be adopted. She could be in our care for many months.
The baby continued to thrive. She attended a local nursery which she enjoyed, becoming a little character in her own right. When I collected her from nursery, she used to look out of the window and tell the staff: “Here comes me farva.”
After two years in our care, the local authority obtained the full care order and began to look for prospective adoptive parents. The baby had to have a final meeting with her parents, with the mother having the final contact in our home. The baby’s father was serving a prison sentence in Wormwood Scrubs and I had to take the little girl there with the social worker for the final visit. He’d not been with the baby since her birth. At the end of the visit, his kissed his daughter and shook my hand, asking me to make sure she went to a family who would love her and keep her safe.
After two years and four months, the baby left our care to live with her new family.
Our family has been an integral part of her life. Now a mother herself, she has visited us many times since her adoption and we have regular telephone conversations. She still calls us “Muv and Farva,” as does her 11-year-old daughter.
© George Tidbury, 2023
My final choice for today’s page comes from Clare Brown. She’s been sharing her poems about calling out for help when your mental health is not at its best, in order to promote the charity Shout. You’ll see she uses her own passion for writing poetry to share the message so clearly expressed in the title.
You Are Enough
You haven’t met all the people who are going to love you yet.
The world is big, there are aeons of time, no need to fret.
You are enough just as you are,
You are the most unique you there is, by far.
It’s important that you stay true to you,
Know who you are and what you do.
Never apologise or try to be someone you’re not,
Recognise the wonder of the you that you’ve got.
You are enough, today and every day
And, if some day, you think that you’re not enough
You can text Shout to 85258 to talk about that stuff
There’s no need to ever be alone
It’s so easy to text Shout from your phone
© Clare Brown, 2023
Shout is a mental health charity. Accessible 24/7, it provides free and confidential text messaging support services for anyone who is struggling to cope. Website: giveusashout.org.
Finally, thanks to all who have contributed to today’s page. Remember you can submit your own work, whatever your literary passions and guilty pleasures, to pentoprint.org
Read Issue 17 of Write On! Magazine here.
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Our new theme, Literary Passions and Guilty Pleasures, gives me a huge scope for sharing some great writing this month.