Basking

Late May has brought banks of ox-eye daisies and campion to the motorway verges. It has brought sheep and the yellow of rape to the fields next to the veterinary hospital where we go for Winston’s hydrotherapy. A pheasant, statue-still on the banks. Paddocks of horses and foals.

It has brought a fret from the sea that hangs over the river and rolls through town. All weekend, ships sound their horns, the moans echoing in their wake. The park is unmown, freckled with daisies and dandelion clocks. Cleavers climb the fences with sticky fingers. Clumps of grasses and buttercups have been allowed to flower. Tiny cranesbills carpet the foot of the poplar. The woodpecker drums softly – it sounds like the trees are purring. Everything is in that fresh, abundant state of growth, before the straggly mess of late summer.

Before we get there I imagine how the cemetery will be in the soft sunshine of a bank holiday Monday. I imagine the shafts of light between the trees, the dance of flies and the tangle of wildflowers. Others head for the coast. We avoid the crowds for a sanctuary of green and dappled light.

We’re greeted by blackbird song, high up in the trees. An undertone of wood pigeon and the chirrup of magpies. The mournful vibrato of a robin. A crow approaches, feathers accented with white and very tame. He is joined by others. I’ve seen people leave seed here, along the path by the chapel and these crows are obviously used to people leaving them food. They follow us some way along the path.

The cow parsley is almost as tall as us. Drifts of bluebells mingle with pockets of buttercup and campion. We walk overgrown paths bathed in green and patches of grass laid to meadow. The sun plays over the grave markers, casting some in shadow and highlighting others with pools of light. We bask in the tranquillity of dappled sun and untrodden paths.

When you think nobody will ever like a story of yours again; when you think you’ll get nothing but rejections, it’s then that a little good news comes. You begin to doubt the worth of your words, as you tout them from place to place, imagining them a little more jaded, a little more dishevelled as they are studied and turned away. But then suddenly, someone likes what you’ve done, and then it seems altogether better than you remembered. Often, rejection comes in threes, but this week it was successes. A story that made the longlist for inclusion in a prestigious literary journal. A story to be published in another journal. And a story longlisted, then shortlisted, then winner of the runner’s up prize in a competition.

I wrote The Carousel at my local writers’ circle, following a prompt where we were given a number of ‘things’ to write about. It came almost fully formed, a short story of 500 words. I’m pleased to announce it has won ‘runner up’ in the Retreat West quarterly themed flash fiction competition. One of the prizes was to have it professionally recorded by a sound artist. If you have 5 minutes, click on the link to listen to (or read) the story, but be prepared, it’s a creepy one….CLICK HERE TO READ THE CAROUSEL

80 thoughts on “Basking

  1. Your title “Basking” is a delicious red herring. I thought it was going to be basking in the warm sun, which is how this post began. Then you cleverly switched it to basking in a week of triple writing successes Marvelous, Andrea. I listened to your carousel piece and liked it immensely. You definitely captured an eerie atmosphere. The narrator did your piece justice and the carousel music at the end was a plus that just reading it could not have provided, except in imagination. Well done!

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  2. Oh wow, Andrea. First of all, your photos are absolutely beautiful. Nothing I love more than dappled sunlight on a wild path…
    As for your story Carousel – I LOVED it. I decided to listen to it and was enchanted by Holly’s voice and accent. What a wonderful and spooky tale. You have a gift, my friend!

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  3. Congratulations, Andrea! Wow, lots of successes!!! You should be basking in the glow!!!!!!! I will read it later as I have to go feed kitties. Beautiful writing in the post though, and the photos yum! The trees ARE purring. They are so happy.

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  4. Congratulations Andrea! And what a wonderful story “Carousel” is! I listened rather than read. I loved the way that nothing was explained as to the why, how… Indeed you may bask in the tranquillity of dappled sun! Perhaps, given the “spookiness” of the tale, you are basking shark!

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  5. Gloriously creepy story, Andrea. Circuses are so fascinating and unsettling.

    It does feel like good things are starting to happen again. Rejection helps us appreciate appreciation.

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  6. A ‘delicious’ read: words, beautiful photographs and then the good news at the end. How wonderful for you – and for your readers. Bask in this glory for a while šŸ™‚

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  7. Congratulations, Andrea; I’m so happy for you! You’re brave and intrepid, submitting your work, risking rejection. When those risks finally pay off, as they have for you in triplicate this past week, it must be all the sweeter. Bask away! You’ve earned it.

    The Carousel is wonderful. Creepy, perhaps, but so much atmosphere conveyed in a few, well-chosen words. Starting this post by taking us on a walk through the cemetery, with beautiful photos of unkempt gravestones peeking through tall grass and wildflowers and a crow watching, set the mood perfectly!

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    • Thanks Rebecca, I didn’t think about the cemetery walk as setting the mood but I suppose it does! I do think we should celebrate rejection to an extent, as it means we’re putting ourselves out there.

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  8. First of all, congratulations on your acceptances! I just listened to “The Carousel.” Wow, what an atmospheric and haunting story. I could envision it in a literature anthology; it’s that good.

    Second, I really the the photos and description of the graveyard. I’ve never seen gravestones nestled in wildflowers.

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  9. Hello, Andrea; congratulations on your successes. I’m chuffed to bits for you. It’s three in the morning now, and I’m on Barn Owl watch. The youngsters have fledged the nest, and are spending the night moving from post to post around the paddocks crying out to be fed by the parents.
    I experienced a once-in-a-lifetime moment last Sunday. Jack and I were inspecting the Bees in their Hive when a Queen Bee emerged from her waxy cell. It was one of nature’s special moments, and luckily I was in the right place at the right time.
    Jack’s flat out a kip at the moment so I’ll listen to the link that you’ve sent us a little later on.
    I’m going to be basking on my favorite bench out front later to watch the Swallows.
    I hope that you enjoy your walks as much as we enjoy your posts, Andrea.
    Take care; all the best.

    Mick.

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  10. How can you ever doubt yourself, you have the rare gift to infuse the ordinary with magic, and draw the reader into a mythological wonderland which they otherwise would have not been aware of.
    It is the overflow of creative contributions in our days; the beautiful and delicate is only too often drowned out by fashionable banalities.

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  11. You are the last person who should ‘begin to doubt the worth of your words’!
    Your descriptions transport the reader to places unimaginably beautiful, and I long to walk on the paths you do.
    Congratulations on your successes!

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  12. Congratulations on all your successes! Enjoy! šŸ’šŸ’šŸ’ Beautifully written post and wonderful photos. I will listen to Carousel over the next few days. Looking forward to it šŸ„‚šŸ™

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  13. That was tremendous! Congratulations Andrea, and what a treat it must be for you too to hear the story fully told. I loved every creepy minute. An awesome bonus to a walk in a cemetery (always favorite places for inspiration for me too.)

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  14. “Carousel” is really good! I thoroughly enjoyed it! What is it about fairgrounds, when there’s no one around? It’s a bit like entering a room where there is a ventriloquist’s dummy but there’s no ventriloquist! Did those eyes really move? šŸ˜‰ Well done! šŸ¤—šŸ’šŸ’šŸ·

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  15. First, Andrea, congratulations on your literary trifecta! How exciting. And your carousel story … absolutely loved it – I could see it as a movie … wading through the wheat to communion. Outstanding!
    And the cemetery is one of my favorite places you take photos of and write about. It’s such a wonderful place to be.

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  16. Congratulations, Andrea on your recent writing successes and wow, The Carousel is superb! I love the story and listened to the superb recording whilst following the words on the screen … even in the summer warmth I got goosebumps. Exquisite writing, amazing and inventive story and thoroughly haunting!

    A beautiful post and your eye for detail and your magical writing is a delight! There is nothing quite like the wonder of dappled sunlight! šŸ˜€

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  17. Your graveyard images stirred up memories, funerals used to be an all too common event in my childhood. Having grown up in a small town where everyone knew everyone, we as children had to join our mother at least once a month at such events.
    As a child one is not particularly interested in sad people, so we wandered off to play among the tomes, having been told not to wake up the ghosts. Preferring the gothic part of the yard just the same as presented by your images that stirred our phantasies. Overgrown and shaded with mature trees, it was chilling and exciting at the same time. Those graveyards a reminder of the ninetieth-century romanticism now presenting a museum, offer spaces for quiet contemplation. We must be grateful for having inherited them.

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  18. Banish all doubt. Anyone who can transport us to fields of dreams and write with such authenticity to creep us out at the next minute is a first class writer. The Carousel was brilliant! Congratulations.

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  19. Congratulations, Andrea on all three acceptances and especially for ‘The Carousel’ which I have read with great enjoyment and will now go back and listen to.
    I love your beautiful photographs of your walk through the cemetery and like your intermittent use of short sentences as you look and listen and wander. Absolutely wonderful!

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