Today's post is rather a long one, I apologise. I have had time to write but perhaps you have time to read?
Firstly today sees the start of the Arvon five day short story challenge. This is a free writing challenge set up in response to the current situation, in order to give writers purpose, direction and fun.
The first challenge directs you to pick three poetry books, two instruction manuals and a recipe book. Then pick one short phrase from each book, no longer than seven words and jot them down.
From these phrases write a short story that pops into your mind. Great fun! Here is my curious little tale. I'll let you try to work out what the phrases were.
Nancy the island rat lives amongst the wooded hedges, granite walls and sandy banks of Bryher. She scurry's past other small creatures that burrow through leaf-mould, and scavenges through compost heaps and scatterings of discarded crumbs.
Her sleek brown body and long snaking tale cause the two-legged creatures to leap about and shriek, which always makes her laugh. Sometimes she has to run for her life when a dog spots her and chases her into a hole, breathless and panicked.
The safest place to live is behind a small wooden gate. On the gate is a sign that says "Danger-risk of electrical shock". Nancy doesn't know what the sign means but she knows that no two-legged folk go past it.
Here, tucked in a nest of grass, horse hair and string is where she keeps her most treasured possessions.
During the cold, stormy winter months she stores bundles of hay, old cloth and the odd egg she finds at the farm. In the autumn it's piles of oozing purple blackberries.
Today though it's summer, she can smell it in the hot and dusty air. Summer is her favourite season, time to feast until drunk with food.
It is also the most dangerous time of year. Only yesterday one of the two-legged folk hurled a stone at her, making her scamper quickly into the bushes. So she comes out at night when the moon sometimes whispers a soft story with the silver light it throws down.
Nancy loves the island at night, still and silent, painted only in shades of darkness.
It is at night when she ventures into the vegetable patch at the farm, the farmer fast asleep behind his window.
Hiding under the towering plants and drooping leaves, she feasts on cucumbers. With their dark green crunchy skins and soft fleshy innards, she gorges until she may burst.
Tonight she has found the first of this summer's cucumbers and she rubs her whispered nose in delight. We don't always get excited about cucumbers but for Nancy there is nothing better.
Silly I know but it's been great fun and who knows what tomorrow's challenge will be.
I also wanted to tell another story. One for those lovers of Bryher that can't be here right now. Follow me on a little stroll. I would say close your eyes and listen, but of course you have to read it!
Perhaps you are strolling down the gritty track towards the fudge stall, feet crunching on the road. Your mouth is already salivating at the thought of those sweet treats. A few tiny midges drift about your face and you brush them away. The sun is warm and soft on your skin, seeping slowly deep into your bones, you watch a honey bee harvesting pollen from the wild geranium and coconut-rich gorse flowers.
The hens at Veronica Farm sing and scratch about in the dust. As you watch them your eye is drawn to the gap in the hedge and you spot the sea. Carefully stepping over the granite pebbles, which rock and roll underfoot, you stand and stare. Drinking in the vast swathes of pale golden sand, scattered with limpet, periwinkle and clumps of pungent seaweed. You know that hidden underneath those heaps of wet weed are tiny brown shorecrabs. Maybe you lift some weed and watch the crabs scuttle into the darkness.
Beyond the sand a turquoise sea ebbs away, further revealing the wonders of the low tide world. Perhaps it is here where you slip off your shoes and dip the toes?
Or maybe you walk on, past banks full of blue agapanthus that dance and wave as you pass. Past the boat yard where people are working and the halyards clink tunefully in the wind.
As you follow the path, curving around the very tip of the island, there is a sense of leaving human life behind. Two oyster catchers mew their enchanting call, skimming the sea's surface below you. Inhabited islands are gone and before you only isolated rocks and Samson sit amongst the silver sea.
The keen breeze that kept at your back disappears, kept at bay by the steep rise of the granite and gorse-covered hillside behind you.
Rushy Bay; glorious, twinkling and silent spreads out before you and you can't resist the urge to take off those boots and sink your hot feet into the softest of white sands.
Wiggle your feet and feel the sand sift through your toes. Sand dunes, blown up in the winter storms, now provide the perfect place to stretch out and close your eyes; listening to the softness of the air in the rushes, the gentle lap of the sea, the odd gull calling...nothing else. Breathe.
You follow the shell-speckled strandlines of high tides past and find yourself at the waters edge.
Past dark granite rocks, covered in stuck-tight limpet and you marvel at how these will be submerged in icy-cold seawater in just a few hours time.
That icy water now slips it's way over your feet, cooling and soothing. The sunlight ripples in a thousand dancing beams across the water's surface. Each step and paddle inches the water further up your calf and you inhale sharply until the numbness sets in.
But you don't leave. The water, the light, the blue of the sea and sky is mesmerizingly magic. Instead you stand, feet in the cool and breathe. Close your eyes and breathe.
Hopefully this has helped to entertain you for a few minutes at least and maybe now you have the story in your minds eye you can close your eyes and walk the walk with me.