Dinner and Charlotte

When Charlotte made dinner, the kitchen was a bomb site.

A no-man’s land of waste and debris.

Two children flailing their arms, running in and out of rooms.

Screaming.

The smaller one, with the large, round, peachy cheeks, chasing the older one.

Large, fat tears rolled gently down her cheeks, which wobbled with each step she took.

Charlotte wailed, taking her burnt chicken out of the cracked oven. Her blue bows twitched atop her head, sitting on a pile of chestnut curls, all askew.

The older ones watched, shell shocked, from the corners.

Charred vegetables. Broken chair legs. Fire licked the stove ring, the choking sound of gas a gentle, whirring background noise.

What’s wrong, Emilia?!’

‘She isn’t giving me my balloon!’

You should share with your sister, Emilia.’

Charlotte wiped the sweat from her forehead.

A car drew up outside. The engine rumbled, jittering, vibrating, humming through the floor. Then silence as it switched off.

The screaming indoors worsened.

A sigh, in the car.

Then he emerged, his shirt rumbled and his face drawn.

When he darkened the front door, the screaming stopped. The children froze. Charlotte bit her lip, staring at the charred remains of dinner.

He took a deep breath. The damage could be heard from outside, but it did not prepare him for the abhorrent sight before his eyes.

Let us go out for tea,’ he said, calmly.

Charlotte dried her hands on a dishtowel.

It appears,’ she began slowly, ‘that a tiger came to tea already.’

Her crimson face, in all its weariness, broke into a gentle, oh so faint, smile.

The End.

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N.B. I didn’t like this at all. I wrote it, it needed to be written, but it left me with a strange, disgusted feeling in my gut. So I tried to insert a Carlotta-the-fourth feeling around Charlotte, although I’d hate to think of Carlotta-the-fourth feeling like that. Given her era, however, it must have been inevitable. I also wanted to try a ‘Tiger Who Came to Tea’ ending, because making reality a little surreal takes the harsh, uncomfortable edge off it.

My mum says my dad drives her mad. My aunt says her husband drives her nuts, and that he intends to retire in a remote, mountainous area and she doesn’t want to retire there with him. My old neighbour buys her groceries separate from her husband, and they bicker like cats and dogs. They have been married for fifty odd years. I told my mum, ‘I really don’t want to end up like that.’ She replied, ‘well, you will, eventually. Married couples do eventually get sick of each other.’

I don’t want that to happen. I don’t want to rely on my kids to make my marriage interesting. My mother in law doesn’t like to travel or be alone with her husband unless her kids are there. They just don’t have a relationship. And, I don’t know if its because I am 23 and ‘inexperienced’, but I strongly feel that that situation can be avoided. I feel like you can make an effort to like each other, and change with each other, and complement each other over the years?

What is your opinion on the matter?

 

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Anne with an E.

I started watching the recently released Netflix show, with high hopes because of how beloved Anne of Green Gables is to me. The previous TV film and spin off series was captivating and mostly true to the books, if you disregard ‘The Continuing Story’.

I understand that all TV shows and productions are adaptations of original sources, and are to be seen as interpretations, not ‘real life versions of written work,’ no matter how desperately we want them to be. I don’t like watching an adaptation which has been changed drastically to demonstrate another person’s interpretation, merely because I love an original piece of work and don’t like to see that work marred by another, more morbid piece, masquerading as the original source. Do you understand me? I loved Montgomery’s Anne because she was Montgomery’s Anne, and I didn’t like Moira Walley-Beckett’s Anne because it is a fan fiction Anne. Moira would have been better off creating an entirely different character with a similar story, but I guess that is not how adaptation works.

Anyway. I began watching the show, and from the opening scenes I decided that actually, I was peeved and irritated and this was not for me. What first got me was the speech. Anne spoke very much like Megan Follows did, in terms of language applied, however her intonation and expression was highly modern, reeking of the millennial generation and its snarky, questioning lilt. I disliked that so I began to skip through the whole series.

Anne with an E is extremely morbid. People have said it is a good show because it dealt with ‘PTSD, rape and gender equality in the first few episodes’ (reference). Anne appears in this show to deal with her new life as a victim of abuse, suffering extreme PTSD and shrouding all her previously lighthearted ‘scrapes’ in a darkness only alluded to in the books.

This bothers me because this generation seems to be fixated on darkness and illness and pain, thinking that these things and social issues need to be represented on TV shows and films. While that makes sense, it also is worthy to note that not everything needs to be about social justice. One can enjoy the vitality of Anne of Green Gables, and learn some wonderful morals, without being reminded that she suffered in her past.

The greatest thing about Anne was that she never let her suffering determine who she was. She overcame it with positivity and love, she grew and transformed into a sensible and wonderfully strong and able young woman because she was loved when she came to Green Gables. She found a home, and solace, and the books were very much focused on the vibrant characters she encountered and who, essentially, made her eventually who she was; a brilliant mother and a wise and accomplished woman. Completely different from the homely, carroty chatterbox with an overly fanciful nature with a knack of getting into trouble that she was when she first arrived on the scene.

I don’t see anything wrong in viewing Anne as a survivor of mental and physical abuse, because, ultimately, that is exactly what she was. I know that this series is meant to allow the viewer into the deeper, darker recesses of Anne’s brain, because in the books we only ever saw Anne in the third person.

Montgomery wrote about Emily Starr, through Emily’s own eyes and words, in Emily of New Moon and the sequels, and in there we do see some darkness and hints of abuse and more adult themes, I suppose. However, Anne, for me, was a focus on the love, light and beauty in the world. I want it to remain so, and for that reason I will not be watching the new Netflix adaptation. Anne is the voice of my childhood, and there are some things that shouldn’t be tainted through adult eyes, and Anne is the ultimate of these things for me.

If you do watch it, I hope you enjoy it, as it seems to be well-made with love for Montgomery’s original work.

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Love Letters #36

Dear Tom,

It was Anne Shirley who told her darling husband-to-be Gilbert that she was ‘alone but not lonely’ one beautiful evening whilst walking through the graveyard of Summerside, that year she was away teaching there. A mighty dreadful time she had with those Pringles, I tell you. I was reading of her walks on the train; the countless descriptions of wind surging through the tree lined avenues of the most wondrous places on P.E. Island, and I felt the cool breeze on my face, I saw the violets in their numerous beauty, I smelt the flowers in bloom and the voice of Rebecca Dew echoed uncomfortably close to my ear, that I looked up abruptly, only to see the heads of my fellow modern train passengers, oblivious to my rapture, in raptures (or otherwise) of their own. I laughed loudly at some point, her characters do come up with the most curious things! A rather stern Aunt Mouser told her niece to not quote the bible flippantly, and then turned to Anne and said, ‘You must excuse her, Miss Shirley, she just ain’t used to getting married.‘ Tom, forgive me when I tell you that I found this so funny that tears streamed down my face!

When I turned the book over, there was a little ode to Montgomery, saying that her work ‘continues to draw countless visitors to Prince Edward Island each year.’

I will be very frankly honest with you, dearest, when I say that my heart sank when I read that. I imagined the Prince Edward Island will not be as I imagined it if I ever do go. I made up my mind then and there to never go. I don’t want to see roaring cars and buses and city roads with white paint. I don’t want to see areas of desolation and corrugated iron roofs. I don’t even want to see people wearing modern clothes. I don’t want to see tourists. Granted, they may be like-minded tourists, but tourists they will be nonetheless. I want it to be just how Anne and Emily and Pat describe it, and my heart aches to know it will never be so. I was born too late, I suppose.

I last read Anne of the Island at the age of fifteen. I was reading the first three books over and over again, and only recently did I stumble upon the fourth book, all these years later.

I was trying to fault Anne, I found, whilst reading the fourth book of the Green Gables series. I was trying to fault her for being ‘too perfect’ or ‘too beautiful’ or ‘too well liked’. She is well liked enough, and is able to deftly turn everybody and make them adore her, sure. However, I couldn’t help but fall in love with her adult self again, all these years later as an adult myself and not a child.

Anne is timelessly incredible. She is not too beautiful, because she doesn’t see herself so, and many others pointedly tell her of her carroty hair. She is not too perfect, because she tells Gilbert in an epistolary fashion that she has to accept that not everybody will like her, when certain people very vehemently do not. She is not too anything, and yet she is perfect. She is who I aspire to be.

She is hopeful, she is resourceful. Her words dance with life and laughter, and I imagine her grey eyes to be starry and full of light. She talks to everybody, is friendly with everybody, tries to help all sorts of people. She even cancelled her trip back home to sit with forty year old Pauline Gibson because she knew Pauline was lonely and henpecked by her grumpy old mother. How selfless is that? I don’t doubt that a lot of people were like that at the time, and didn’t think twice of being so generous with themselves and their time. Nowadays everybody is so ‘busy’, so ‘private’, so ‘personal’; never talking to strangers or even trying to find out who one’s neighbours are! Nobody just calls on a newcomer anymore, nobody sends each other cake, nobody calls each other over for supper unless they know them very well, and that is why, I suppose, a lot of us are so lonely!

A little sprinkle of Anne makes any day brighter. I found my day to bloom after reading a few chapters of her, and my heart ached a little, because I would never be able to meet her or become chums with her or wonder the nooks and crannies of the Island with her. She makes a small town like a little heaven here on earth.

I learnt from her to find joy in every aspect of my life. I learnt that even though I don’t live in Avonlea with her, I can find my own little Avonlea just where I am.

I love Anne Shirley, and I can see why others do too; and I am excited to finish following her journey through the eight precious books penned by our very own Lucy Maud Montgomery. Over and over again, delving into the land of magic, spirits and the most eccentric little characters one could ever dream up. She makes my heart yearn for something I can’t quite touch.

Yours most truly,

Amelia.

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James Hill