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 known 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.


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 Emmett

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.


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.

Andrew James at 'De Slowcookery'

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Panda or a chimney sweeper's girlfriend?

Tears are rolling down my cheek, my nose is making awkward sniffing noises and my handkerchief is within reach. No doubt I am developing a brand new Panda look at the moment. Or maybe look like someone who made love to a chimney sweeper! My eye make up is not tear resistant, unfortunately.

Give me a moment please....... have to blow my nose.
Thank you.

Inspecting the black spots in my paper handkerchief, I realize I need a few more but feel almost sorry to spoil their virgin like white surface with my mascara.
This morning it is different to other times, I very, very seldom have tears running down my cheeks.
But today they are hard to stop.

I know, it should not have come this far. Yes, yes, I know I should have taken measures to minimize the risk of tears but I did not. And here I am, blowing my nose, hoping that nobody can see the black stripes on my face.
I can hear you asking "what are the measures you should have taken?"
Well, to be honest, for instance I should have been keeping a hot tap running. This is a very effective way to avoid tears. Or the exhaust. No no,  not the exhaust pipe! Just the exhaust....
But I did not so.

While typing this (I can assure you this is proving a improbable task at the moment) it feels like the tear-duct of my left eye is finally short of fluid, at least I can see again what I type. Please don't post comments about my typo's.

Sorry, I realize that you might not have a clue why I cry. Or what I just wrote about minimizing the risk for tears. My fault.
I did not tell you that I prepared my evening meal. All ingredients are in the Slow Cooker that automatically switches on at 12. Today is Buffalo Candied Yams. For sure that is where the word 'Yammie!" comes from.

"Did something go wrong with the ingredients?" you will ask.
No, on the contrary, but poor me, I can't stand cutting unions!!

Bon apetit!


Friday, June 09, 2017

Hermits and Internet connections

Do you know that feeling that you want to hide on one of the Hebride Isles? No matter what the weather will be? And preferable no neighbours other than the Seagulls (who can be as noisy as a lively family next door).
And of course the wind, the sound of the sea, the smell and taste of salt on a windy day.

Photo: Helen Varras (Isle of Skye)
In your cottage is a roaring fire, with the typical smell of an Autumn day.
A lazy chair and a cup of fresh brewed tea. The AGA is spreading the tantalizing smell of your evening  meal: Herbed Lamb Shanks with red wine. And you feel if you are in another world. 

At the table in the living room is your laptop, apart from electricity, the only link to the modern world.
Why a laptop in a setting of 200 years ago? Well, you have given up writing a book by hand. Too much paperwork, too much rewriting etc. The only good thing is that rejected pages keep the fire burning.
No, your laptop became a part of you and you tow it around where ever you go.
And with the laptop comes an internet connection.

You love to be a Hermit with an Internet connection.
That is what I call myself regularly for already many years. I am not a Social Butterfly, do not like parties and even managed to hide my own birthdays for others. Not many people know which date that is.
I love my house and the surroundings, I have lovely neighbours and nearby friends. I live in a part of the world that I truly love.
My house, the animals, my furniture, slow cooker (important item in my kitchen!), the garden, the view...... it all makes me feel comfortable and at home. I often think I live in someone else's dream and I value it to the most.
But.... there are times that I want to 'hide', being away from it all. And, indeed, just the sound of nature. No cars, no plains (if possible), no people (not realistic, I know), just me, my animals and the elements.
I love the sun in my face but also the wind or a storm. I love a clear view but also a small foggy world and rain. I love the smell of the sea but also of  fresh grass and wild flowers.

I love........... being a Hermit (but with an Internet connection!)

Just a thought and desire of today.

Happy weekend my dear readers, where ever you are.


Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Blog updates and reviews

Only two weeks to go and Summer begins.
Looking at the weather today, you might think we skipped the Summer and are in the middle of Autumn.
No, it is not cold but the forecast for today is thunderstorms, rain, and wind force 8!
Stormy weather isn't too bad when all the leaves are gone from the trees but right now 'high trees catch a lot of wind'. How true is that today.

I planned to go food shopping but wait until tomorrow. I already have an appointment with a dear friend who is also a hairdresser. She is always very successful in upgrading my market value. Unfortunately the value only lasts for two weeks or so ;-)
Instead I have been busy upgrading my Dutch Blog. I know, I did it a month ago as well but I wasn't satisfied with the look.
www.helenvarras.blogspot.comI plunged into the help section of Blogger to find out how I can add my own Header. It turned out to be very easy (click Lay Out and edit Header, choose if you want to replace it all - like I did - or another option).
Than I made a new Logo (wondefull app called Logopit Plus), went to Picmonkey.com and designed my own header.
It sounds and is as aimple as this but of course before I was happy with the logo's and the background (paper) of the header, it took me a while. It had to match with the colours of the new theme I have chosen on Blogger.
One day, when I have plenty of time on my hands (when ever that will be, I am probably still busy in the home for elderly people in 30 years time...) I am going to design my own theme.

I also added pages to my Dutch Blog.
One with Slow Cooker recipes (currently only one so please feel free to send me your recipes!) and a page with the reviews of my e-book 'Observaties'. The reviews are slowly but surely dropping in. A big thank you to everyone who took the effort to write one!

I also made the Dutch and English Blog easier to navigate; less bulk information, and added a Skype Chat button. Feel free to chat with me on Skype but please stay on topic: books, writing, translations. This will be much appreciated.

Keeping up with Social Media is time consuming and I do not have so much free time but I will do my very best and also added a Pinterest account. The link is in all my blogs next tot the Facebook, Instagram etc. tab under the header.

Off I go, writing on a short story for a writing contest, deadline end of June.

Enjoy your day!


Saturday, June 03, 2017

Are writers / authors normal people?

Before I will try to answer that question, let me first define the word 'normal'.

adjective -    conforming to the standard or the common, usual, not abnormal, regular, natural

psychology - approximately average in any psychological trait, as intelligence, personality, or emotional adjusment.

If I hear some one say "I am just a normal guy" my first thought is "Oh dear, I am so sorry!" because 'normal' sounds sooo boring to me! I do not know about you though. Maybe you love 'normal' because it is predictable, no unexpected surprises or actions. You marry a normal person and know it will be like that for the next 60 odd years or so. You know what time the other person wakes up, goes to bed, the newspaper he or she reads, the things you talk about, the job, the holiday destination, the same camp site where other normal people stay each summer again, the same beach, towel and suntan lotion. Just to name a few but here of course, my assumption of 'normal' might be completely wrong.
Maybe you are brought up 'normal' and find happiness, shelter and comfort in 'normal'. And there is nothing wrong with that if it works for you.

But it does not work for me.
In many ways I am not brought up 'normal' which does not mean I was brought up 'abnormal'.
I come from a family not being afraid to look for and find unexpected things in life. But also things that happened to us without looking for it, were hugged to make the best of it.
No, my life has never been and still is not boring, thank goodness.
I am afraid I haven't inherited normal genes from both sides of the family. Changes of directions in life were often more common than uncommon (here is a contradiction! :-)

So... is a writer / author a normal human being?
To me, everybody who is creative is not (quote)conforming to the standard or the common, usual, not abnormal, regular, natural (unquote). If you have the gift to create something from nothing, whether others like it or not, there is a little door in your brain which opens to show you what you can do, create or achieve.
And if you are not afraid to open that door even wider, you can achieve or create more then you imagined at first. Said that, I understand that not everyone is gifted with doors or the same amount of doors. Who cares, you only need one to do something creative.

I also understand that the fear for failure is lurking around the corner and if you fail, what would others think of it. Can you cope with the feeling of failure, are you afraid that people point at you saying you are a looser. Afraid loosing friends.... Oh yes, I can think of many reasons why you prefer to keep the doors in your brains shut.
But does this not stop you from being creative? Exploring your gifts, even if you think you don't have one, is an adventure for life. And you know what is truly beautiful? Your gifts are not all visible at once. It is not so that at the age of  let's say 20, all your gifts suddenly pop up. No, sometimes and more often than not, they are there when something happens in your life. What ever you think of life, one thing is certain, you can not predict it! Fortunately you can't, it would kill all your skills and gifts.

Writers are 'fairly normal' people like you and me. Most of them live in houses, have family and friends, appreciate good food but they have a skill of making stories from scratch. Short stories, novels, poems. They play with words, sentences, chapters. They create people who don't exist who do things that they have never done before because the are invented by the writer. Maybe that is not normal. But definitely not abnormal!

Writing does not always come natural. Of course you must have the drive to write. Not everyone is a writer (or sculptor, photographer, marathon runner, back packer, bungy jumper etc).
It does not matter what you write and it does not always have to be published! If writing is just a way to express your self without offering it to the world, that is fine too. That is not abnormal.

Have I answered the question if writers are normal people? Is it abnormal when I confess I don't know?

Wishing you a wonderful weekend!