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Gaynor Madoc Leonard
02/19/16 05:48:52PM
302 posts

Winner 2013 - 'Chiaroscuro' by Gaynor Madoc Leonard

Short Story Competition Winners & Runners Up 2009 - 2014


By Gaynor Madoc Leonard

Rising stiffly from her desk, she walked slowly over to the window where light was stealing through the louvred shutters. “Intimations of dawn” she thought, smiling to herself. The very last words of the book she had just completed editing. How apt.

She stretched out her arms and moved her head from side to side, easing the tension in her neck and back. All that was left to do was to send the document to her client and her job would be done.

Just an hour later saw her returning from a brisk walk, laden with newspapers, fresh bread from the local bakery and fruit from the greengrocer. Day was finally making its presence known and the walk had refreshed her mind as well as loosening her muscles. She showered, changed into pyjamas and took fruit and slices of new bread, along with some tea, into the small garden. The sun promised light and warmth but she was glad of the hot drink.

At last she returned to the house, locked up securely and went to the bedroom, opening the shutters wide. In the few minutes before she fell asleep, the sun, a light breeze and the trees in the garden conspired to dapple the room with light and shadow, reminding her of a Whistler nocturne and soothing her into rest.

It was mid-afternoon when she awoke and she luxuriated for a few moments in the knowledge that she wouldn’t be working that night; she was to have an evening out with friends. The checking of e-mails would be necessary but otherwise she had plans for a light lunch and some reading in the garden before leaving for the theatre.

It was a joy to go out on a light summer’s night; the play was a great success and she and her friends chatted for hours over a late meal and drinks in a private club. At 3am, everyone was hungry again so taxis were hailed to take them all to Brick Lane and the 24-hour bagel shop where they asked permission to go into the back room to see the bagels being made before ordering their favourites along with cups of builder’s tea.

By the time they left the café, night was beginning to turn into day. Danny sweetly asked her if she’d like to sleep on his sofa as he lived nearby but she spotted a taxi and hailed it, leaving him with a lightly kissed cheek and a smile. He stood watching, as the cab drove away, and saw her glance back at him, giving a short wave to say goodbye. Glumly, he hunched his shoulders and put his hands in his pockets as he walked home.

At home again, she changed into night clothes and went out into the garden. Sitting with her feet up she thought about Danny with affection; he was a gentle person and she was very fond of him. She knew that his invitation to sleep at his flat had not had an ulterior motive but she didn’t feel relaxed in other people’s homes and, although they had been friends for some time, she was certain that he didn’t understand the way she lived her life.

Why would anyone understand her fear? How could they understand it? It had been deep within her from childhood and she knew it would be with her for the rest of her life.

Now it was summer and the days were long; from the arrival of the first daffodils her heart lightened, no matter if it rained. The days lengthened and that was all that mattered.

She recalled with a shudder the years when she had commuted to work in the City, leaving home before daylight, arriving at the office in the dark winter mornings and leaving it in the even darker afternoons. Now she was at home and could choose to work in the night, lamps keeping the darkness, and her fear of it, at bay.

There had been nights when she had been almost afraid to go back to her house and would go to late films to pass the dark hours away, then on to Soho and Bar Italia, the 24-hour coffee bar, sitting under the harsh and unforgiving strip lighting before taking the last night-bus home.

In the last few years she had taken holidays during the depths of winter, to places where there was more light, but she could hardly spend half the year away.

Once, on a business trip to New York, she had found her hotel room so claustrophobic that she’d gone out at about 3am and found an all-night café where she had sat nursing successive cups of weak coffee and reading a novel. Aware that the café-owner was keeping a wary eye on her, she would look up occasionally and give him a wan smile. Eventually, a police officer had asked to join her and sat in silence for a while before enquiring whether she was all right.

She found herself telling him of her fear and sensed that he sympathised; in return he told her some silly story about his own childhood fear which made her smile and which she didn’t altogether believe although she knew he was just trying to cheer her up. Again they sat in silence but this time it was a comfortable silence.

‘Nighthawks!’ She said suddenly, with a light laugh.

He smiled, ‘I like that one but my favourites are the seascapes.’

‘I love those too, especially The Yawl and The Lee Shore.’

‘I hadn’t expected to end my shift discussing Edward Hopper paintings in an all-night café!’

‘I’m so sorry, you must want to get home and get some rest, not sit talking to a crazy person who’s afraid of the dark.’

‘You’re not crazy; everyone’s scared of something. But maybe sitting alone in a café in the night in New York City isn’t the wisest thing to do.’ He looked out of the window, ‘It’s beginning to get lighter so I’ll walk you back to your hotel. When do you leave the city?’

‘Thank you. I leave this afternoon. And thank you for being so kind and patient.’

He shrugged, ‘Try to get a little sleep before you go.’

They walked slowly back to the hotel and she thanked him again. Before he left, he hesitated and took her face in his hands, kissing her deeply before turning and walking briskly away.

From the hotel doorway she watched until he’d turned the street corner, aware that they had had a real connection and even more aware that she would never see him again. Back in her room, she sat in a chair by the window and looked out at the street far below before finally falling asleep.

On the flight home, she had thought about him as she sat in the half-light of the cabin, scarcely noticing the film on the screen in front of her. Arriving in London, she took a taxi home and lay on her bed, exhausted from lack of sleep and a sense of loss.

Time eased the ache in her heart and life went on although she never forgot him. She had a measure of success in her work as an editor and published romantic novels under a pseudonym, stories which she despised but which were, nonetheless, lucrative. Bodice rippers, pretty nurses falling for handsome doctors, sexy vampires, the usual suspects; they all made money. She knew her limits and was pragmatic.

In her own life, there was the occasional affair but she didn’t want a lover around all the time. She had her own way of living and neither expected nor wanted anyone else to share her home. So, in the predatory night the lamps would burn while she worked and in the day she would sleep in the gentle sunlight.

One night, having hosted a supper party, she invited Danny to stay in the guest room. At about 4am, he wandered into the kitchen to find her busy editing a novel.

‘Is this what you do? You work all night?’

She sighed and put aside the manuscript. ‘Yes, this is what I do.’

‘But when do you sleep?’

‘I sleep in the day time; when morning arrives I’ll have breakfast and go to bed.’

During the next few minutes, she explained, rather reluctantly, about her fear of the dark and how she had reinvented her life to cope with it.

He rubbed his eyes tiredly, ‘Now I understand why you turn down my invitations to stay over and why you don’t have a permanent partner.’

‘That’s not the only reason I don’t have a permanent partner, as you put it. I’m used to being on my own and I don’t want anyone else living here on a long-term basis. Selfish, I know, but I’m being honest!’

He laughed. ‘I’m afraid I have to sleep now. I’ll leave you to your work.’

‘That’s okay. I’ll see you later.’

He shuffled out of the kitchen again, wearing a pair of pyjama trousers which were far too big for him and made him look like Charlie Chaplin. She smiled as she returned to the manuscript and then winced at her client’s grammar and spelling.

Out of courtesy to Danny, she delayed her breakfast; when he eventually arrived downstairs, clean from the shower and dressed but rather dishevelled and dozy, she gave him poached eggs on toast with mushrooms and tomatoes while she nibbled at some toast and sipped tea. For several minutes he didn’t speak as he devoured the food. When he’d finished he sat back and closed his eyes.

‘That was great, thank you. I’m sorry I haven’t spoken much this morning.’

‘That’s okay with me; I’m not one for conversation before I’ve had tea and toast, or even before midday for that matter. Read the papers if you prefer.’

‘I’d rather ask you a question. Now that I know why you’ve turned my invitations down, do you think that you might go out with me? I mean as more than just a friend. I’m happy to work round your schedule.’

‘I’m not sure that you’re being fair in asking me that at this time of day, when I’ve been working for several hours and I’m looking forward to some sleep!’ He looked disappointed, even hurt. Hurriedly she added, ‘I’m joking – it’s sweet of you and I’d be happy to go out with you.’

‘Really? My new exhibition starts at the gallery on Tuesday; there’s a private view but you know about that. Will you come and then have dinner with me?’

‘I’ll come.’

‘Why are you giggling?’

‘Your hair is sticking up all over the place – it looks funny.’

‘So much for romance, eh? So much for being the suave suitor.’

They both laughed and then Danny got ready to leave. At the front door he turned and kissed her gently on the cheek before heading home.

Tired, she went to her bedroom and lay down, falling asleep almost instantly. In the middle of the afternoon she was woken by rain falling heavily against the windows. She turned over and looked out to the garden. Slowly she sat up and stretched before going over to the glass doors and opening them to a clean, fresh breeze. She went outside and stood in the rain, looking up to see the sun shining brightly behind the grey clouds. Summer would soon be over.

The clouds scudded across the sky, the rain stopped suddenly and sunbeams played across the garden and the glistening leaves, creating light and shadow, shadow and light.

Gaynor Madoc Leonard 2013


updated by @gaynor-madoc-leonard: 11/24/19 06:16:51PM
Gaynor Madoc Leonard
02/19/16 05:46:19PM
302 posts

Winner 2011 - 'The Last Cottage' By Gaynor Madoc Leonard

Short Story Competition Winners & Runners Up 2009 - 2014

The Last Cottage

by Gaynor Madoc Leonard

The bag was suddenly heavy. Gratefully, she sank onto the rough bench outside the cottage door and closed her eyes.

As she relaxed, her senses sharpened; there were the calls of seabirds, the scents of wild herbs and grasses, the salt air and the warmth of early spring sunshine on her face.

Opening her eyes, she smiled gently at the familiar view. A few doughty sheep grazed near the edge of the cliff, at ease with her presence and with the crashing waves far below, their lambs heedless of the danger as they pranced around each other. Revived a little, she rose slowly from the bench, picked up her bag and went into the cottage.

In the living room cum kitchen, threads of sunlight dappled the scrubbed table and cushioned chairs. A fire in the old hearth gave out a cheering welcome with its crackling warmth. Skirting the table, she carried her bag toward the rear of the cottage and through the low wooden door. It was as she remembered, the high metal-framed bed with the clean but threadbare counterpane.  Intricately embroidered pillowcases and sheets, worked so many years before by old women for her grandmother’s bottom drawer. The old washstand still standing in the corner, marble-topped and scrupulously clean. Mrs Lewis was a stickler, her work-reddened hands had moved quickly but firmly over that marble; no fuss, no nonsense, that was Mrs Lewis, but a kinder heart had never been.

She put the bag onto a hard chair by the bed and opened it. There was little enough in it but then little would be needed. Taking out her India shawl, another relic of the old days, she went back to the kitchen and the fireplace, where she moved the already filled kettle onto the trivet above the flames. The teapot and caddy stood ready, all that was now required was milk which she knew would be in the tiled and slated pantry. She found it in a covered jug, next to a crock filled with fresh bread and an old meat safe containing some local cheese.

Soon the kettle was boiling and she made tea in the proper manner, the ritual being as important as the drinking. Her shawl wrapped around her, she poured herself a large mug of tea and returned to the bench outside.

The light was fading now, the horizon displaying a stunning array of colour ranging from ruby to tangerine, as though the sun was giving a crescendo finale to the symphony of the day. A flock of starlings added their showmanship by swirling through the sky and the scent of herbs intensified.

A tear trickled down her cheek as she sipped her tea, wrapping her hands tightly around the mug. But there must be no tears now, this was a gift. The cottage, an old friend offering protection; the sea, its constant movement and sound her comforter; the scents of nature filling her heart with memories. He had loved it there too. The years had passed but she could see him in her mind’s eye even now; striding confidently across the fields, swinging his backpack and helmet carelessly, his hair ruffled by the breeze and a broad grin on his face. The man from that faraway place called Iowa, where she had never been. In his short life he crossed an ocean, married a red-headed girl from a Welsh village and found his end in a field in Flanders. In that cottage, they had passed their brief time together, warming each other in the old metal-framed bed while he told her tales of freezing cold winters and short summers so many thousands of miles over the sea.

She had written to the family who she had imagined living on some vast plain amongst endless tracts of grain but there had been no reply so she grieved in solitude. As time went on, there had been offers but he had been the only one for her. She had tasted the sweetest the most fragrant of honeys, nothing and no one else would do.

She chuckled to herself as she remembered his first comment about their little home. “This feels like the last cottage in the world,” he’d said, gazing at the cliff edge and the horizon beyond. He’d been charmed by it and had, in turn, charmed the Lewises, whom he’d helped with chores around the farm nearby. In her bag were three photographs of him; one taken on their wedding day, he in his uniform and she in her Sunday best; another of him taken just before he went away to Flanders and the last was taken in the hay field at the Lewises’ farm, both he and she sitting with mugs of cider after a long day of haymaking. Laughing, happy.

She didn’t need the pictures in front of her to remember every single moment of their time together; his laughter as he attempted to pronounce simple Welsh words and to sing her national anthem.

She shivered. There was a chill in the air. Again she rose from the bench and went inside. Adding wood to the fire, she made herself a light supper of toasted bread and cheese and some hot milk heated in a pan over the flames.  She filled an old stone hot water bottle from the kettle and went into the bedroom. Sleep came easily that night; the familiar sounds were as comforting as a lullaby and the night was dreamless.

Next morning, she rose early, refreshed, and made tea and toast. Leaving the cottage, she breathed in the fresh salt air and walked to the edge of the cliff, amongst the grazing sheep and dancing lambs, to look at the sea crashing into the rocks below. He’d once told her that he hadn’t seen the sea until he joined the army and left the USA and that it was the most extraordinary and frightening thing he’d experienced up until that time. But for her, the sea was a healer; it washed away sadness and melancholy and left her feeling fresh and new.

Reluctantly leaving the cliff’s edge, she squared her shoulders and walked purposefully toward the small church a mile away. Only once did she stop and, lifting her face to the sun, she spread out her arms and twirled around, breathing in the clean air before leaning down to pick some wild flowers.  For a moment, she felt a little dizzy but it passed and she continued on her way.

The churchyard, damp and cool in the shade of the trees, was full of shadows. She stood at the lychgate and hesitated for a moment. Taking a deep breath, she pulled the shawl around her shoulders and went in. Almost all the gravestones were old, covered in moss and so worn away that the names could scarcely be read. But there was one that was clean and clear. She knelt beside it and placed the little spring flowers in the small vase in front of the headstone.  Softly, she sang an old Welsh lullaby, her hand stroking the gravestone gently. There their child slept, forever. Fate, dismissive of human feeling, had taken their little daughter in the influenza epidemic. One thing she’d never known was whether he’d seen the picture of his child which she’d sent to Flanders in the last letter.  She liked to believe he had and that he’d had something to smile about before the end. Yes, she was sure of it.

She pushed herself up and stood quietly, looking at the tiny grave, and turned to go into the church. Inside sunbeams played on the wood and stone. Most of the windows were plain glass and the church was simplicity itself. Had she really retained any faith? It was hard to say with the traditions so ingrained in her. She gazed at the plain altar; this building had been there for over a thousand years, and probably there’d been an even simpler building before it, perhaps even dedicated to an older god. What did her beliefs matter after all that time? Nonetheless, she had been let down by this all-powerful and loving god. What had he done for her? Taken the only man she’d ever loved, along with all the other young men who had been loved, and taken their only child, the flower of that love. She sighed wearily. She had thought over it time and time again but what did it matter? The world had been there for millions of years and would carry on without them.

Leaving the church and graveyard, she walked back to the cottage slowly. Her spirits lifted a little as a blackbird watched her warily, his little brown wife searching for titbits while he offered protection. Soon, their children would be born and would learn to fly above the fields where she walked, and so it would go on until the end of time.

At the cottage door, there was a basket filled with a slice of ham, new bread and freshly-churned butter, cream and a pot of jam, a stone bottle of ginger beer. Here were the riches of the world, simple and good food given with affection. She fetched a plate and cutlery and a beaker for the ginger beer.  Sitting outside on the bench, she ate and drank with pleasure. He had never drunk ginger beer before he arrived in Wales but he’d loved it, as he had loved her and the country where she was born. The green grass, the rain and the sea had entranced him as much as her long red hair and pale skin.

Today the hair was faded and she had long ago cut it to shoulder length. Her face showed suffering, not just from bereavement but from a deep inner physical pain. The walk had tired her and her body ached.

The next few days followed a similar path; she rose, broke her fast on the bench outside the cottage, did what little cleaning and washing were needed and then spent her time on the cliff. Her mind was filled with snippets of poems he and she had shared in their time together. He, of Scottish ancestry, had recited old verses learned at his father’s knee.

On the Sunday, she awoke to pain and struggled to rise. Determined, she dressed and walked slowly back to the church for the morning service, conscious of her ambivalent feelings toward this god to whom she was to sing praise.

After the service ended, the old familiar hymns still ringing in her ears, she walked with Mrs Lewis through the churchyard, hesitating at the child’s grave. The older woman could see her pain and put a helping hand under her arm. The old couple took her back to the cottage and made a comforting pot of tea. They left her by the fireside, distressed at their inability to help. When they had gone, she went outside again.

All afternoon, she sat on the bench, breathing in the sight and sounds of the land of her birth. Once again, the sun offered a joyous and colourful end to the day although this time it was adagio rather than fortissimo. It left her heart full and without regret. What was that verse he had quoted to her? Something about “I have lived and loved, and closed the door.” Yes, that was it; indeed she had lived and loved and now she would close the door. She went back into the cottage calmly and with acceptance. In the bedroom she undressed and folded her clothing neatly, putting it in a drawer. Taking out a new, clean nightgown, she put it on and lay down on the bed, closing her eyes. As the last of the evening light died away, the lines of grief and pain faded from her face. Her eyelids fluttered for a time and then were still.

Spring turned to summer and the grass on the cliff top was sprinkled lavishly with small flowers. The lambs were now grown and rabbits chased each other under a cloudless sky.

A sudden gust blew a path along the cliff top, directly to the cottage. The door was blown open and the wind sighed through the tiny house on the cliff. The curtains fluttered in the kitchen, where the fireplace was cold and cleared of ash; the door to the bedroom creaked open, revealing a bare mattress on the metal bed frame.  The front door closed again quite gently and the wind gusted toward the churchyard, picking up tiny wild flowers as it went, until it reached the resting place of a small child with a newer grave by its side where it scattered the precious blooms on both mother and daughter.

Gaynor Madoc Leonard, 2011

updated by @gaynor-madoc-leonard: 02/19/16 06:05:14PM
Gaynor Madoc Leonard
02/13/16 01:31:20AM
302 posts


West Coast Eisteddfod Short Story Competition 2014

She was a woman who had never knowingly forgotten a slight, whether real or perceived. At 85 years of age, she fizzed with an energy fuelled by resentment and righteous anger. Her hair, dressed in its tight perm, echoed her world view. Daily viewing of Jeremy Kyle had persuaded her that many of the world's troubles could be solved by banning sex before marriage. Anything outside her experience was suspect; at any given time, drinking wine or any other alcohol, reading books, watching TV dramas (aside from her favourite soap opera), not being married, living in London or travelling by taxi, might be considered beyond the pale. When her husband was diagnosed with dementia, she took it as a personal affront and something which he had done deliberately to annoy her. Chris sighed as he returned his mobile phone to his pocket. Another message demanding his presence. His mother insisted that his father should not go into a nursing home but she never failed to don the veil of martyrdom as his chief carer. He knew that eventually she would agree to the nursing home and then claim it as her own idea. Running his fingers gently over the Roman mosaic on the table in front of him, he gazed at the partly lost image of what had probably been Apollo. Sadly some of the head was missing but he could see that the craftsman who created this floor of minuscule tiles had been a true artist. Many such creations had passed through his hands but none had a signature. Those craftsmen had simply done their work and moved on. He thought of his father who, like this Apollo, had lost part of himself. The god could, in theory, be restored, but his father could never be repaired. Pieces of his mind, like the tesserae before him, had disappeared and would continue to do so until, eventually, he would be a shell. Later, on the train, as he nursed a plastic cup of whisky, he wished he could like his mother but there was no denying it was hard to do so. Her impatience and her parochial views had given her little in common with her husband, the marriage eventually becoming a competition to see who could annoy the other most. Chris's father had a wider experience of the world and was a clubbable man, but he was of that generation that didn't speak openly about emotions. His mother, on the other hand, always gave out more information that Chris could wish for. Like his father, he had travelled and taken and taken an interest in the world, While perfectly content and at ease with the modern, his heart lay with the ancient. As an archaeologist, his work was scientific but he was moved beyond words by a newly-found fresco or mosaic, so often as gaily-coloured and vibrant as the day it was made. His attempts to explain his fascination to his mother had failed; she would invariably change the subject to some local gossip or one of the fund of stories from her early life. He, in turn, had mastered the art of pretending to listen, nodding his head every so often to give the appearance of attention. When he reached his parents' home, his father was sitting blankly in an armchair, awaiting the arrival of carers to take him up to bed. He was able to recognise his son although he didn't appear to know that he was in his own home. Christ's mother looked at her husband with pursed lips and proceeded to catalogue all his misdemeanours at length. He sat down wearily and allowed his mind to wander. His imagination took him along the Appian Way in bright sunshine while a voice in the background told him of vast amounts of laundry and horrors in the bathroom. After the carers had settled his father, Chris and his mother sat in the kitchen where Chris repeated all the advice he had given numerous times about nursing homes or home nursing. She sipped tea and conceded that a temporary stay at a nursing home would mean a rest for her. Hiding his surprise, Chris vowed to telephone the GP in the morning. Happening to look up, he noticed that on a shelf above his head was a photograph of his father, taken just a handful of years before and printed on ordinary paper; it had faded as alarmingly as the subject himself. How long would it be before it disappeared altogether? As he lay on the uncomfortable bed later that night, he thought about his own life. Now in late middle age, he too had known what it was to be broken. Relationships had fallen by the wayside but, in that, his own life was little different from any other man's. He enjoyed his work and he had a small group of friends. When his time came to leave the world, he would have left an almost invisible footprint but nonetheless he was content. After a tiring night, during which his father visited the bathroom five times, Chris contacted the family doctor who came to review the situation in the afternoon. Within hours, a placed had been found at a nursing home for two weeks, so that Chris's mother could rest. He felt tremendous relief, despite the temporary nature of the arrangement, hoping it would be the first step in finding a long-term solution. In the meantime, the sly look which Chris saw sometimes in his father's eyes told its own story. While there was no doubt about the older man's condition, Chris was certain that his father did as much as he could to infuriate his mother. In turn, his mother continued to harangue her husband about his shortcomings during their six decades of marriage and tell anyone willing to listen about her own health problems. For the next two days, Chris heard but did not listen to her complaints and, on the third day, his father was taken to the home. Having ensured that the old man was comfortable, Chris returned to the family home where his mother continued her recital of the various wrongs done to her during her long life. On the journey to his own home, he reflected on his family . In his childhood there had certainly been laughter and fun; although his parents had worked together in their own business, his father had taken the traditional role in that he played golf with friends and visited his club while his mother had taken the role of home-maker. Consequently, their home was very much his mother's domain; there were few photographs of his father's family or records of his history and the house reflected his mother's personal story. As he became less physically able, his father had been obliged to spend more and more time in the house where he seemed more like a visitor than a member of the family. The one time when Chris had seen a difference was when his mother was in hospital following a fall. Then his father had come alive, cooked for himself and looked after the house. Soon after his mother returned home, she started to re-assert her authority and his father shrank again, starting on the downward slope to his current condition. Daily calls reassured Chris about his father's comfort at the nursing home and his mother's now undisturbed nights, and arrangements were made for regular stays at the home. Over the next four months, Chris and his mother settled into a routine where he would visit as much as his work allowed. He could understand her frustration at the older man's behaviour and lost patience himself on a number of occasions. It was very difficult to deal with someone who was now unable to reason or apply any logic to normal everyday tasks; equally, it was terrifying to see how quickly the human mind could deteriorate. Only about a month before Christmas, an urgent telephone call informed Chris that his father was seriously ill so he made arrangements with his colleagues and caught the next available train. At the nursing home, it was explained to him that what had seemed to be a mild chest infection had very rapidly turned into pneumonia and his father had been taken to the local hospital. In his room, Chris's father lay palely on the bleached sheets, an oxygen mask covering his face. The old man didn't even open his eyes and the young nurse touched Chris's arm gently in consolation. Chris looked briefly at her and nodded before sitting by his father, noting the thinness of the old man's skin and the bruising which appeared so easily. His mother was not present, having elected to stay at home. Sometime in the early hours of the following morning, at that time when one feels most vulnerable and chilled, Chris heard his father take a final breath. The old man's skin still seemed warm beneath Chris's touch and the nurses allowed him to sit while they removed the oxygen mask and all the other paraphernalia which had been keeping their patient in reasonable comfort. No tears came to the younger man's eyes but he felt an emptiness, a lack of something. The hand beneath his own became colder and, at last, a young nurse came and touched his shoulder, indicating that he should go to the waiting room so that the staff could do their job. Mumbling his thanks, he moved awkwardly to the door and turned briefly, whispering "Goodbye, Dad". Having sat in the waiting room nearby for a while, he shook himself and looked at his watch; it was only 5am. A motherly woman came in with a cup of tea for him and he took gratefully, drinking it to the last drop before slipping into a doze on the sofa. Only when the breakfast trolleys clattered past about two hours later did he awaken, moving his limbs stiffly and stretching. Out in the reception area, he found a member of staff who told him the funeral director had already been contacted and would send someone to collect his father that morning; in the meantime, Chris could check the older man's belongings and take them home with him. There was sympathy there but a practicality which helped in a strange way; an hour later, he left the hospital in a taxi, carrying his father's goods and chattels. Back at the house, his mother was sitting in the kitchen drinking tea. She was silent as he told her of her husband's last hours and, without responding to him, she sorted through the items in the suitcase and took soiled clothes to the washing machine. Later, when the funeral director came to the house for further instructions, she played the part of the grieving widow to perfection, taking the undertaker's professional sympathy as her due. Neighbours and rarely-seen relatives called at the house to find her wearing black and an air of sanctity. Chris, in the meantime, took care of the practicalities, made countless cups of tea and kept his counsel. With the funeral arranged for the following week, Chris left his mother, knowing that neighbours would keep an eye on her, and returned to his work. The mosaic still lay, broken and endlessly fascinating, on the table, but a colleague had created a computerised drawing showing how it must have looked some two millennia previously. When the mosaic was finally exhibited, the drawing would be displayed alongside it, just as during the funeral, a photograph of his father would be displayed at the crematorium, showing him as he had been when whole. A they left the chapel after the ceremony, the man who had once been both husband and father now merely dust in a small container, those who had attended the service clustered around, patting Chris's hand consolingly and making a fuss of the widow who, relishing the attention, leaned heavily on the stick Chris knew she didn't really need and dabbed her eyes with a suspiciously dry handkerchief. He was to stay only one more night at the family home, having ensured that his mother had enough provisions for some time to come and would have company from time to time. She went to bed early, which was a great relief. He could not have stood any more diatribes against the dead man. Suggestions that she might occasionally take a taxi out to coffee with a friend or relative had merely resulted in a look which Medusa would have envied so he gave up that idea. Back at his own home the following day, Chris unpacked the photographs and memorabilia from his father's early life. The young man in the pictures smiled out at the world, entirely unaware, as we all are, of what was to come. Chris picked up one photo which showed his father laughing at a dance and placed it side by side with the faded picture from his mother's kitchen. Both had value for him and he stroked the photographs, just has he run his hands gently over the mosaic of Apollo. He placed a small picture in his wallet, his father in uniform and grinning at the camera, then turned out the light and went to bed. Several weeks passed and, at the museum, the Roman exhibit was being unveiled, along with the drawing showing how it must have looked when first completed. Subtly lit. both looked extraordinary; the original colours glowed and Chris stood transfixed. He and his colleagues had preserved and, for all intents and purposes, made whole again a piece of history as well as a work of art. He had been unable to mend his father but, in the wallet in his pocket, he still possessed the whole man his father had once been. Gaynor Madoc Leonard 2014

updated by @gaynor-madoc-leonard: 02/13/16 01:31:37AM
Gaynor Madoc Leonard
02/09/14 04:16:33PM
302 posts

Cumbrian lullaby

Welsh History

In the Telegraph this weekend, a journalist wrote about walking around Cumbria. For those of you unfamiliar with the UK, Cumbria is in the north-west of England and what is generally known as the Lake District (very beautiful). The name Cumbria is related to the name Cymru and, as I have mentioned in the past, sheep are still counted using Brythonic Welsh numbering. The article contained part of a Cumbrian lullaby in the ancient Cumbrian/Welsh language:

Peis Dinogat, e vreith, vreith

O grwyn balaat ban wreith

Chwit, chwit, chwidogeith

Gochanwn gochenyn, wythgeith

The translation was given as:

Dinogad's smock, speckly, speckly

Sewed from the fur of martens

Whistle, whistle, whistly

We sing, the eight slaves sing

That's as odd a lullaby as I've ever come across but there it is!

updated by @gaynor-madoc-leonard: 11/11/15 10:39:06PM
Gaynor Madoc Leonard
12/22/13 09:45:18AM
302 posts

Beware of Lewd Women

General Discussions ( Anything Goes )

Ha ha! This Mr Elmy was definitely a quack. I think the French disease is the clap but I'm not sure; and I think the French called it the English disease (as one would expect!!). As for lewd women - women have always been blamed for men's faults so nothing new there.

Gaynor Madoc Leonard
12/06/13 10:52:13AM
302 posts

Scotland's vote

General Discussions ( Anything Goes )

SJ. the EU issue is coming to the forefront at the moment; Scotland said that they wanted to remain in the EU but Spain have raised objections (this may be partly because of the Gibraltar problem at the moment) and there are rules about it anyway so it's by no means a given that they will be able to stay, even though they want to.

We don't have oil but we do have water (remember those villages which were drowned for the benefit of England?!) which we could cut off but I think we will not secede from the Union. We do need to make our separate identity known on the world stage and make England respect that.

Gaynor Madoc Leonard
12/04/13 05:07:02PM
302 posts

Scotland's vote

General Discussions ( Anything Goes )

Haha! Some of the lyrics in Come Together are not exactly anthem material! Mind you, given our multicultural society I suppose Jerusalem isn't quite on the money either.

Ceri's got something there with The Archers theme.

Wales is the only country within the UK with a really stirring anthem.

Gaynor Madoc Leonard
12/04/13 02:29:39PM
302 posts

Scotland's vote

General Discussions ( Anything Goes )

Yes, God Save the Queen is the British anthem for the entire union and there's been a lot of talk about the English having an anthem (and why not!) with Jerusalem being put forward as a good alternative.

Gaynor Madoc Leonard
12/04/13 01:22:03PM
302 posts

Scotland's vote

General Discussions ( Anything Goes )

Suggestions for a new Union Flag if Scotland becomes independent:

Gaynor Madoc Leonard
12/02/13 01:50:18PM
302 posts

Scotland's vote

General Discussions ( Anything Goes )

This Cymru Culture article reflects just what Reg has been talking about.

Despite this being the correct link, it doesn't take you to the article. If you go to and click on "featured articles", it's the one headed "The Braveheart Effect" dated 1st December 2013.