Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Reader (short story)

He always loved reading. He read books and newspapers even before his governess was supposed to teach him reading and writing.
His parents were so proud of him and his father loved to tell everyone who showed even a little interest, how intelligent his son was. Yes, 'his' son. It was only 'their' son if the little boy did not live up the expectation of his father who also wanted to teach him horse riding, hunting and mathematics because, one day he was going to be the Monarch of the Glen. The grand estate and Loch Locherty was going to be his, long after everyone else had gone. Therefore the father was hoping for male offspring of his son and decided who the boy was going to marry long before he could read. As said before, this was at a very young age.

The father introduced his son to the visitors, standing near the enormous fireplace in the cold and dark hallway with in the middle a pompous staircase that led to the first floor, surrounded by hunting trophies and portraits of proud and grim looking ancestors.
Waving with one of his costly cigars made of the finest tobacco, his round belly pushed forward like a display for the golden watch chain, he exposed his young child as the 'natural equivalent' of his own bright and well developed brains which of course his whole pedigree was well known for.
The child learned at a young age that he was more a subject of proud presentation than a son of flesh and blood with emotions and feelings.
His books rescued him from the harsh and cruel world within the boundaries of his existence in the Scottish Highlands with no one else than his father, a mother with a long lasting migraine, a governess who was not know for her exceptional beauty and a long row of servants he was not allowed to talk to: "They will not add anything valuable to your intelligence."

Maybe this was one of the reasons he started to read books at such a young age. His governess was more than willing to teach him the alphabet and to help him to decrypt the symbols called letters.
The children books given to him were soon not satisfying enough and he silently slipped into the library to hide a book or two under his silk blouse to read them in the nursery.

It took a few years before the father heavily disappointed, discovered that all his son could do was reading. Of course he blamed his wife - still suffering from headaches - who had little interest in her son. But to no avail.
The governess was blamed but was not fired because she kept his Lordship's bed warm during lonely nights and she was good at it.

The boy grew up without love but with the wonderful stories in all the books of the library of Bramhall Castle. He read and read and read. And after his father passed away and the governess became the nurse of his mother, he openly sat in a chair near the roaring fire in the library. The servants brought him food and drinks and kept the fire burning all year round.

The boy became a man who's mother passed away. The governess stayed but was seldom seen; her old rheumatic feet could not walk the stairs any more. And when she finally died followed by a modest funeral, the Reader did not even notice it.
Surrounded by his books, he never felt lonely. Not even when all the servants left the house and he had to take care of his own. He survived a long time on little food and water. While he sat in his straight chair behind the old folding table covered in books, the castle crumbled down around him. Ceilings gave up and caused an extra layer of dust on top of the books in the library. And on top of the reader with his long white beard and hair, his skin tightly leathered around his bones.

Photo: @forgottenheritage (Instagram)
This is what the brave adventurist saw when he explored the long forgotten castle, embedded in large bramble bushes, ferns, trees and so many varieties of weed he never saw before.
The silence in the library, the old man in the chair who still held a book in his mummified hands, he would never forget this.
The police came and said they were going to investigate the 'suspicious' death of the man everybody had forgotten about.

The adventurist returned to the castle shortly after the body was removed and took a photo. The chair as shiny as 30 years ago; shielded by the body of the Reader against thick layers of dust.

Helen

Word of thanks: the photo of @forgottenheritage (Instagram) inspired me to write this story and I was given permission to use the photo as an illustration for which I am very grateful. "I am a great admirer of the photo's of your Instagram account!"

Link: the beautiful book Forgotten Heritage by Matthew Emmet

Note: the story is pure fiction!A figment of my imagination!

Monday, June 26, 2017

One of those days

It is one of those days today.

A day full of all sorts of emotions and one of them is feeling homesick. Strange though as I am at home! And I do feel at home at home! I blogged about homesickness in my Dutch Blog (translation button available) so are not dwelling on that subject here.

The first emotion is my drive to write. The chapters in my new book are adding up nicely. I love the subject and hopefully find Dutch proofreaders to bring me back down to earth as I might be too lyrical at times. Please contact me if you like to volunteer.
When I am writing and need to stop because it is dinner time for the ZOO and me, it feels like I want to take my book to bed and read more and more before falling asleep. But there isn't 'more and more' yet as I still need to write it. That is how I feel about the book, the characters and the development of the story.
I once read: "Just write what you know and invent the rest" and this is so applicable for this book. One of my own fantasies dating from 2002 is going to be fulfilled in the book. Word count today: 22.000

And all of this I write at home. When I look up from my laptop, I see a green garden, yellow sweet smelling roses, lazy dogs enjoying sunshine (finally after a few dark rainy days), I hear the wind in the trees and adorable baby birds yelling for food.
The table in the kitchen is my writing desk. In the corner of the work surface near the oven, is my beloved Slow Cooker sending lovely smells of Thai Chicken Curry
my way. Next to the laptop my favourite Wiener Melange (my only sin). Parrot Rose is saying funny things sitting comfortably on her perch.

This morning my dear friend Elizabeth was here and we had a lovely time, as always.
I am looking forward to the visit of a second cousin - well, in this case a 12th or so cousin as we share the same great great etc grandfather in 1600 - next Saturday. I promised him (the cousin) a Slow Cooker meal, of course British as we both love the UK and Scotland.

Life is good. I know that and that is how it feels and still there is that indefinable feeling that came over me a few days ago and that refuses to leave me.
Photo: Helen Varras
Maybe it is indeed a little bit homesickness as my thoughts often wander off to Yorkshire.
No, I was not born in Yorkshire but ever since I visit it since 1979, I do feel at home. The Dales, the Moors, the lovely villages, the sound of the Grouse, sheep and their lambs. Even the bad weather - often 4 seasons in 1 day - is appealing. And last but not least, the Yorkshire people with their wonderful sense of humour which you don't find anywhere else (Scotland, yes).
Wonderful and wicked. They play with words in a way that makes me laugh and it challenges me to reply which I do without thinking too much. It comes naturally. And the humour keeps your mind sharp.

Yes, I know, even in Yorkshire you need to work for a living; life in the UK does not come cheap. I understand the people who move to Spain or France.
Still, nothing beats the beautiful scenery and the sense of humour of my most beloved Yorkshire.

Dear readers, I close my eyes and allow myself to cross the North Sea.
Fantasy and imagination; two beautiful gifts.

Helen

Saturday, June 17, 2017

My relationship with James

James is special, very special. I love him to bits.
No, he is not the love of my life but my feelings for James are.... eehhmmm... special to say the least.

He is always there for me, is patient, not afraid of trying new things, warm hearted, easy to handle (although sometimes I need gloves and no, James a not an animal), he is not demanding, he is a money saver and best of all, he cooks me lovely meals.
I can't tell James that his cooking skills are the only reason I love him. It would break his heart so please keep this between us
.
Yes, my cooking skills are at the bottom of my skill list. My mother (an excellent cook) tried hard to teach me cooking but never managed to be successful. It often smells delicious but doesn't taste good.
I love baking cakes and quiches and are very good in that but here it ends. Well, you can't do everything right, can you. My late husband was an excellent cook like a good friend in Spain but both could and can not bake cakes.

The problem with cooking is that you have to know in what order you need to prepare and cook, it feels like juggling with pots and pans. And here it is where it goes wrong for me.
Plus, when I write my book, I tend to forget the time. As soon as the dogs ask for food, I know it is half past 5 and always too late to cook a good meal.

That is how James came into my life. He saved me by taking care of my meals. Healthy meals.
Around 6 (Dutch dinner time) the only thing I have to do is laying the table. Nothing more and nothing less. James has taken care of the rest.

But (I can hear you asking) who is James exactly, how does he look like. Is he handsome, tall?
No, he isn't. He is (depending which James we are talking about) appr. 20 - 25 cm. 'tall'. James comes in Aluminium, Black or Red. James is either hand operated or digital. My James is Red and looks terrific in my kitchen. His favourite place is on the work top, always accessible.

James is his surname, Andrew his first name.
My James is Andrew James. My James is a Slow Cooker!

Bon Apetit.

www.deslowcookery.nl
Andrew James at 'De Slowcookery'
Helen