The Giant Fell into the Raging Sea

Here is my contribution to the March 2022 Writing Prompt from Michelle at Putting my Feet in the Dirt.

The giant fell into the raging sea. Oh, the roaring sea. The storm went on for hours, slashing the sails, smashing against the sides, scratching holes in the wood and splintering the deck. The sailors vomited over the sides. In relief? In terror? In dread of their own deaths?

Nobody thought for a moment about the giant until it was too late. They were all slumped in various places when the storm waned. The clouds, thick and heavy and furiously black, quickly dissipated. The sky they left behind was alarmingly blue. Too cheerful, it seemed, for the carnage it left behind.

A loud sobbing sound rose from the depths of the ship. Louder than the slowly fading roar of waves. The sound grew wilder, more grief stricken.

One by one, the sailors raised their weary heads. Sunken eyes, drenched hair, damp clothes.

‘Who’s that?’ one of them muttered.

‘We’re all on deck’ another groaned.

‘Apparently not.’

The wail rose higher in pitch, until the sailors’ ears began to ring.

The captain went to see what was wrong.

When he came back up through the hatch, his face was a deathly shade of green.

‘What is it?’ he was asked, as he pushed past his men to look over the side of the ship. Pushing past them again to run across the deck and look over the other side. His breathing grew heavier as his men crowded him, looking over the edge, craning their necks.

The water was blue and glorious again. The sunshine lapped at the waves, glittering into the distance. The deck was almost entirely dry.

The wailing below was a siren. Screeching into the piercing blue around them. Raising hairs, shivering timbers. The sailors pressed closer together as the captain let out a groan of despair. His eyes were wide as saucers, his knuckles alabaster white as they gripped the handrail.

‘It’s over, lads,’ he whispered, ‘we’re finished.’

The first mate was now striding towards the hatch that led to the underbelly of the ship. The prison cell. Where they had chained the giant using the strongest iron on land. He began to descend, and the other men were quick to surround the hatch, peering warily as the first mate disappeared into the blackness below.

The captain stayed on deck, staring with unseeing eyes into the distance.

There it was. The tell-tale surge of ocean. A giant wave, hiding the monstrous giant beneath its surface. Hurtling towards the ship at breakneck speed.

The first mate emerged from the hatch soaking wet.

‘Giant hole!’ he spluttered, ‘Giant hole! All the creatures are drowning! Giant’s gone! Giant hole!’

Spring (and March)

Hello so, things are beginning to bloom. Small buds on trees. The neighbour’s daffodils. White blossom on blossom branches. Sun lingering in the garden, asking for lemonade. Coats shrugged off, then quickly pulled back on when the biting wind peers in.

I want to ramp up my writing this month.

Next month.

I want to do a March writing prompt challenge – it’s a weekly one, thank goodness, and there are four prompts. It’s run by the lovely Michelle over at Putting My Feet in the Dirt.

The next challenge is actually a twist. It’s a poetry challenge on Instagram, run by a one Savannah Brown. She calls it Escapril and it has been going on for a few years. I may do poetry, but I am much better at prose and enjoy it more, so it might be that I stick to prose. But it’s essentially a list of prompts for every day in April, and it looks like a fun challenge!

Last thing to say, it’s March, folks.

March March March!

Oh glorious March.

I was born in March.

My husband was born in March.

The first blossoms appear in March. The sun feels warmer in March, for the first time in months.

Happiness seems around the corner in March.

It’s my favourite month of the year, for many reasons.

So here is a small ode to March.

Image Credit

Some Questions I Had Today

What causes the sensation of an itch?

Do actors ever feel silly doing what they do?

If we should stop the production of soy to save the planet, why are vegan alternative meats full of soy?

Why was JK Rowling excluded from the Harry Potter reunion?

And finally; Whose idea was it to drop that atomic bomb on Hiroshima? And then Nagasaki?

On Bakewell Tarts

I think I am growing old. Folks, I ate a bakewell tart and did not gag. That is a sure sign of my advancement in age.

It means my tastebuds are mellowing, or falling off, or whatever tastebuds do when they get old. Where you begin to enjoy the taste of things that used to revolt you in your youth.

Olives? Can’t get enough of them.

Marzipan? Used to detest it and now I quite like it washed down with a mug of solid builder’s tea.

And now bakewell tarts.

Horrid tasting things, bit like those cinnamon chewing gums that Halls makes.

But I had just finished a mammoth cleaning session, was sweaty and tired, bit shaky because I realised that while my kids were happy and fed, I had forgotten to feed myself. Went rummaging in the cupboards for something quick to eat, shot of energy so to say.

And I saw those Kipling’s bakewell tarts looking back at me with their one-eyed innocence. The one eye being the glacé cherry on top.

And I picked one up and popped it into my mouth…. and it was SO BLOODY GOOD. My mouth immediately watered for more. So I had a cup of tea and two more!

SO GOOD.

What foods did you hate but grew to enjoy?

This is what a Bakewell tart looks like. The base layer is shortcrust pastry, and then there is jam, followed by frangipane. On top is icing and a glacé cherry. life

Stone Cold Silent Still

It is different this year.

I can feel it and smell it and taste it.

There are more lights.

Twinkling through the night.

Signalling the happiness that seems to lie beyond reach but… oh hey, hullo, what is that softness I feel in my fingers as they graze the icy air? Could it be…?

Entire streets in my town are lit up. Santas climbing through windows and peering down chimneys and knocking on doors, carrying sacks of what we can only assume is hope. Desperate hope.

And people who never made an effort are making one.

It’s a bit like the American movies.

We take little one out for a small walk before dinner, when it’s pitch black under the heavy drapes of the winter sky at night. And all the houses are decked for conquest. Each competing with the other.

So eerie, if you stand still and let the breath cloud away in front of your face. Stone cold silent still, twinkling lights in the darkness. Sometimes faint bells ring and sometimes a disjointed jingle sears through the thickness of cold.

But then a pair of bright eyes meet yours from down somewhere by your knees, and tiny little fingers grasp your solid warm ones, and little feet stamp stamp stamp excitedly, and it’s not eerie after all. It’s joy. We all need a sprinkling of joy.

I see a light at the end of the tunnel. I am so so scared, but so hopeful too!

What are your plans for the holiday season this year, folks? Can you see and taste and smell it yet?

Lockdown for me

Fireflies and blossoms dying and grass growing from seed carefully sprinkled on freshly raked topsoil. Every single day things grow. New shoots poke out from between the cracks in stone tiles, and lilies shoot up so high they are a shock to see on sunny, summery mornings.

Hunger sitting in a belly, for hours and hours, gnawing and gurgling until it is satiated with a plate of spaghetti tossed in olive oil, garlic, chilli flakes and lemon rind.

Small brown paws explore fresh compost, putting it into empty buckets and down little shirts, tumbling over soft baby skin and fat cheeks streaked with the remnants of what a baby has had for lunch.

Exploring waits for no man. Exploring does not even wait for a face to be washed.

Diggers and dumper trucks work hard at removing rubble from an ancient building site, the old Victorian signage toppling down under the sheer brute force of heavy metal machinery. Large brown eyes stare in wonder as the dust rises around high-vis  jackets and yellow hats reflecting the glare of a May sun.

Lilacs dying and being replaced by masses of large round yellow roses, their lemony scent overpowering and sailing with the breeze down a deserted road.

Broken images and a clamour of familiar voices from a computer screen, then silence and the thumping of little feet from room to room, carrying objects from one end of the house to the other.

Shrubs miraculously turning into trees, and the incessant watering of lupins lest they shrivel their purple blossoms up and wilt.

Daily bursts of motivation following slumps of deep exhaustion, and days blurring into a sludge of minor events following each other like dominos.

What is lockdown like for you?

Food for Comfort

There is this beautiful book that I have become acquainted with, and it is called Midnight Chicken by Ella Risbridger. It is the perfect recipe book, just filled with the most decadent, good quality foods you can imagine. You can just think of eating these lovingly made dishes in the comforting, cosy glow of lamps, on rustic tables, using aesthetically pleasing cutlery, while the city just carries on outside. A loved one to share food with you is always a bonus.

My favourite ingredients to use lately are lemons, olive oil, coriander and garlic. You can combine these any way you please and you are guaranteed that the outcome will be decadent. Comforting. Quality.

The best food, in my opinion, is rice. It is so versatile. So filling. You can do so many different things to it and have an entirely new outcome every time.

I take my saucepan out, and drizzle in some extra virgin organic oil, turning the heat to low. I hum while I smash my garlic under a large knife, peel the skin off, and chop it up into little pieces that I throw into my pot. The garlic sizzles gently and the warm smell of it cooking gently wafts my way as I deftly squeeze the juice from a lemon, turning my spoon around to pull out the pulp. I don’t mind pulp.

In goes the juice, just when the garlic is sizzling  but not browned, and in goes some freshly grated lemon zest, and in goes a healthy amount of salt. And in goes some pre-soaked rice, and also a nice heaped teaspoon of bright yellow turmeric powder. I stir it and sniff it and pour in some water until it covers the rice so that when my wooden spoon is inserted in the pot it covers the spoon halfway when the tip of the spoon is on the rice.

I then make sure my heat is turned as low as possible, put the lid on my rice and let it cook gently.

I then take some coriander, garlic, olive oil, salt, curry powder and smash all that together in a mortar and pestle. I have a lovely paste, which I smear onto some freshly defrosted cod (or fresh!). Into an oven dish it all goes, shoved in the oven for a good 25 minutes.

While my food simmers and sizzles away, I chop up an avocado, some cherry tomatoes, some rocket, some coriander (yes, again!), some cucumber and squeeze some more lemon over it, salt and pepper, olive oil (YES!!!) and toss it all up. Maybe some sumac? How about a little sprinkling of chilli flakes? Yes, that’ll do.

And then the yellow lemon rice is done, on a plate with a piece of soft salmon, the salad on the side, a drink poured into a glass, set on my rickety green table that is actually an old garden table but we don’t complain.. and that is my favourite meal ever.

(for now).

What is your favourite meal ever? What are your go-to ingredients? If you could only ever eat one food for the rest of your life what would it be?

(mine would be rice!)

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I LOVE lemons! Image credit: Still Life with Lemons and Oranges. Luis Melendez 1760s. (National Gallery, London)

A Secret Thought

Folks, I was exceptionally greedy today, and had two helpings of chocolate cake with custard after dinner. Dessert is not a normal occurrence in our household, mainly because I don’t make any, and my husband cannot cook. Scratch that, he has NO INTEREST in cooking and therefore cannot make anything remotely edible. Much like me when I am forced to watch old Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson boxing matches. Yawn.

The custard came out of a tin costing 75p, and started its life in powdered form. The old me would have lovingly made it from scratch out of egg yolks, which would have resulted in a ridiculously creamy, warm, homey concoction. The new me does things by halves, and so I ate chemical-tasting custard and I damn well enjoyed it because custard is not a regular occurrence in my household. My son is allergic to eggs.

This time last year my son was 2 days old, and I was cloudy with hormones and recovering from a c-section. I thought he was the most beautiful thing on earth (I still do think that), and my feet were swollen like balloons. I don’t like to think about the immediate aftermath of the birth, to be honest. My mother stayed with me for a week and in my horrible, swollen, post-surgery, post-labour hormonal self, I was a total bitch to her. I did not trust anybody with my baby and could not sleep a wink for over a week; every time my eyes closed my dreams would rise up, cluttered and clustered and mountainous, full of events and sweat, and when I awoke I felt as though I had run a marathon. I was crying, uneasy, anxious and altogether rather horrid. This lasted, gradually fading, for a year. I am still suffering the repercussions of it and while I adore and cherish my son more than anything, I can’t help but have clouded thoughts.

I know this ought to be about him, because it is HIS birthday, and why am I so bloody negative when millions of women have births and c-sections and still manage to make the day about their kids. Don’t get me wrong, I never breathed a word about these feelings to anybody. I genuinely showed everybody sincere happiness, and I danced with my boy and told him how he was one that day, and how special he was to me and his dad, and he relished it all with big smiles and mild chatter. I was all laughs and smiles, folks. But as I walked home from the park, the winter sun shining, spring so clearly on its way, my boy nodding off in his pram, I couldn’t help thinking of the events of last year, and my personality change, and how horrible I was and how awful I felt.

When I got into the house, I put the pram away and rocked my son to sleep, tidied up and washed the dishes and out on a load of washing. I went outside and swept the garden of all the weeds I’d pulled up, I cleaned the tiny hand prints off the window, the table, the fireplace edges, I mopped the floors, I peeled and chopped some onions and put some pasta on to boil… and I just thought about it all and my heart sank.

That is how I can explain it. Mind you, this is all deep within the most secret crevices of my heart. I will never let my son know how I feel.. maybe when he is much much older and time has erased the rawness of it all. Or I will never tell him because there is no way his birth is the reason for this. I can’t have him thinking it is his fault because it most certainly is not. I can’t even describe it. It’s like a lump on my chest, that I can smother with life, but it does rear its head, and it is always there. I am always aware of it. It’s a fact of life, folks, that sometimes, a woman’s mind and body just are never the same after they have had a child.

You can say, well Lenora, get on with it. Well. I do get on with it. I do. I am happy, as everybody around me will attest to. I am full of cheer and joy. Just here, in this nook of the internet, I sometimes release these little feelings like gentle moths.