Monthly Archives: January 2014

Truth isn’t Stranger than Fiction: It is Fiction.

The week before last I posted what I termed a “small literary experiment” on this here blog:

(A Life Just Ordinary https://fredamoya.wordpress.com/2014/01/13/a-life-just-ordinary/ ) It may not have appeared to anyone who read my short piece of fiction like an experiment at all. A bog-standard piece of third person narrative describing a character and one incident in her life. Nothing unusual or experimental in that you might say.

Only I lied. A little bit. Because technically it wasn’t a piece of fiction. Some who know me in real life may have  suspected it was not entirely fictitious but this matters not as the main reason for my trying this experiment was to find out how convincingly I could write about my own life in the third person and maybe convince others it was fictional.

The real deal?

I decided to do this after reading two other blogs that week. The first was from Drew Chial where he explored trying to keep his memoirs out of his fiction (read his blog here : http://drewchialauthor.com/2014/01/13/keeping-my-memoir-out-of-my-fiction/ . The second was from Cedrix Clarke who posted an old story of his written when he in his twenties of which he said those who read it would get to know him better ( http://www.cedrixclarke.com/2014/01/the-me-i-used-to-be/ ). Both of these blog posts inspired me to show myself up as the kind of writer I currently am: one who really only knows how to take  real life events and embellish it in the guise of fiction.

Nothing’s ever what it seems.

The story I posted two weeks ago I had actually composed about a year ago and is in fact a memoir from my childhood. I find it incredibly difficult to write completely fictitiously and cannot help bringing memoirs in to all of my writing and I probably don’t try hard enough to not do so. I don’t apologise for this (even though personally I believe this makes me a less accomplished writer than most.) But  I reason as someone who struggles with character writing  who do I know best? Whose thoughts can I delve into most comprehensively? Who’s motivations do I understand above all others? I have a range of experiences and I also have a range of personas (as we all do) which I can draw on for different purposes, both in life and on paper. I believe a variety of my own characteristics pop up in some form or another in most of the characters I write.

Anyway, back to the post “A Life Just Ordinary.” It came from the fact that I have toyed with the idea of writing an autobiography or full memoir for a long time. I probably never will as realistically it’s a hell of a job and it would be slightly narcissistic of me to expect anyone would wish to read it, although some friends in the past have hinted to me that I should write one. (“I don’t want to read your children’s fantasy adventure, but if you write your life story I’ll read it” – which I find bizarre as they know most of it!) They have said this possibly because some interesting stuff has happened to me or possibly because when I recount certain episodes of my life to people I seem able to do it in a way that interests them; usually tongue and cheek; usually with humour.

However if I was to write one I would want to do something different.  I’ve thought about it more in terms of experimenting with how to present one. An anonymous autobiography? As a piece of fiction similar to what Jeanette Winterson did with ‘Oranges are not the Only Fruit’ (although that’s been done before) or perhaps as a series of short fiction pieces? And I have experimented with all of these approaches just for my own writerly fun. I’ve experimented with me as female and male protagonists, dead, alive, first & third person. From this I have  discovered that writing in the third person  is much  easier for me when writing about myself because I feel it allows me to a look on my experiences in a more detached way rather than in an involved way, which can be too emotional.

If I did ever write an autobiography I would probably opt to write it in a series of short stories about a main protagonist who of course would in reality  be me.  The challenge in doing this, as I see it, would be to do it without it being strikingly obvious that the main protagonist was me. if that makes any kind of sense.

The piece I shared two weeks ago was just my way of finding out if I could pull it off. It was by no means a polished piece and I could easily have made Lily a boy and disguised myself further. There were obviously some details made up for the purposes of  fiction as is always necessary when you bring other people in to it, but also in order to make the mundane and ordinary more dramatic. There were a few minor details altered in the piece from the events which actually took place but essentially it was as it happened, interspersed with other memories from other times to help the story.  The feelings and thoughts of Lily, however, were all mine. Or rather my ten year old self’s feelings. Although on re-reading the piece I realise my views, personality and feelings have not changed greatly in nearly 30 years!

Through these experiments  I also want to prove that writing the ordinary, the mundane, the what you know rather than complete fiction often can yield good results. I had some great responses to the piece the other week and the character Lily seemed to go down well. So I think I can take her/me further.

I am a self confessed realist in my writing,, I rarely write anything which has not some element of truth or realism in it. This may seem strange considering I spend a lot of my time writing a fantasy adventure trilogy for children. However, if I consider the story, it is not TOTAL fantasy. The world of the elflings mixes with the human world and there are references to real life events in history. (Yes, it is as odd and weird as it sounds. An epic fantasy adventure with a half historical/ half fantasy world setting. Hmmmm. Selling the novel well here aren’t I?…..

Anyway, I digress. On the subject of writing fiction with an element of truth it is  worth pointing out I also write short 140 character stories/poems on Twitter every Friday. This is part of a fun game created by Amy Good called Friday Phrases. (find out more here:  http://www.amicgood.com/blogs.php?id=103&cid=241 )  Bar one, all of my Friday Phrases so far has been rooted in something which has happened to me. Some have been exaggerations based on one tiny event and twisted in my imagination. Each one has come from either some small, often innocuous, incidental event or at times some huge life altering time  in my life. Maybe one day I’ll reveal more about that. Or perhaps I should work harder on writing real fiction!

Who knows? For me writing is fun, often cathartic. If  other people want to read what I write and enjoy it, well then that’s a bonus.

Every snap shot can tell a story.

As always, Thanks for reading.

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In the Strangest of Places

Today (yesterday) I stumbled upon a great story prompt. A real, live, out of nowhere story prompt.

A similar view to the one mentioned in a moment, only looking back from across the other side of the river.

One which I invite any writers among you to use if you wish. It would be an interesting experiment to see the array of different stories which would undoubtedly come out of it. I have my own ideas of course and soon I’m going to write a short story based on what I found but for now, allow me to explain.

So it’s Sunday afternoon and myself and my 5 year old decide to take an after lunch walk. This entails pretending to be ‘Ninja Dinos’ (he a T-Rex, yours truly a Stegosaurus) and taking with us: a plastic knight’s sword, a pirate cutlass, a backpack of plastic food supplies, not to mention our imaginary dragons ‘Ninja Strike’ and ‘Ninja Rainbow’ on whom we shall ride.

Now I must set the scene for where this action took place so the story prompt can be visualised. (As for once damn it, I left my ‘phone with camera at home. I was trying to live in the moment rather than have distractions but isn’t it typical the one time you REALLY could have done with modern technology you decide to go all hippy, mother nature?)

So picture the scene:

The small suburban modern housing estate we live on faces north overlooking a fairly open expanse of disused scrub land which is overgrown with wild, yellowed swathes of long grass flattened by the winter winds. The whole area probably measures no more than half a kilometer squared.  A small river runs along the western edge of the estate running parallel to the scrub land where a tiny, unused and dilapidated childrens’ play park also sits at the helm. On the opposite eastern side runs a busy section of the M6 motorway, separated only by a fence so that the hum of passing traffic is pretty much constant.  At the far end of the scrub land between the river (which curves to the east and passes under the motorway)  there is a tiny copse of woodland which separates us from the river, another housing estate across the way and an old market town in the next county.

It was for this small area of woodland we were headed (to fight off the goblins and trolls who lurked there trying to take over our territory, if you must know.) The last time we had been there was with toy bow and arrows playing Robin Hood. Then we had needed to seek shelter under the protective canopy which the thick early autumn leaves provided for us when we had been caught in a sudden flash downpour.

But today the wood was an entirely different place.  Today we could see from one end of the wood right to the other through the mass of intertwined branches and twigs as the mostly deciduous trees had lost their autumn glory. Apart from the bright blue sky peeping between the trees’ spindly fingers, most of the colour we had previously witnessed had been drained by the winter months and now only greys and washed out hues of brown remained. Naked trunks stood straight up out of a carpet of soggy rotten and rust coloured oak leaves which have been unable to dry out from the constant deluge of precipitation we have had this winter.

And it was as we trudged through the wood, looking out for our sheltering spot from the autumn walk, that we came upon the most intriguing scene.

We had entered the wood through our usual path from the north and after a few metres turned off onto another path to the left.  As we sneaked along this leaf strewn path (trying hard to avoid snapping the twigs beneath our feet lest we should give away our location to the goblin enemy) we discovered, in a small clearing on our left, a most mysterious scene.

The first thing to catch my eye, due to the contrast of the greys and browns surrounding us, was a lot of colour dotted around the ground in a haphazard fashion. At first it looked as though someone had dumped a load of rubbish in the wood but then I spotted a broken up, synthetic  Christmas tree. It caught my eye because it was of the white, glittery variety rather than the usual green. It was in three pieces scattered at various points in the tiny clearing and a split, plastic, black plant pot lay nearby.

Okay, so not that unusual. A dumped Christmas tree in a wooded area next to a housing estate. No story there.

Scattered around the broken Christmas tree, however, were many other items. Mainly plastic children’s toys including a transformer, police car, character toys and pieces of a chunky toy train track, among others. But there was an abundance of them and it was sad to see, what would have once been loved items, half buried in the mulch of winter leaves.

There were also beer cans interspersed between the toys.

Okay, so someone from the  estate across the way dumped their old toys after getting new ones for Christmas along with their alcohol cans and Christmas tree. So what? No story

But what intrigued me more about the scene & began to rev up my story engine were the following items:

-A small child’s shoe. (Would fit a 2-3 year old) Just one. I couldn’t find the other. I searched the whole area but could not find one.

-Half a wooden box overturned. It was lined with green baize inside and a few small slugs and snails had made it their home.

-A compass.

We picked through the abandoned items with the tips of our plastic swords and both mused on the possibilities of why it was all here. What story had this scene to tell?

Now the reality is I live on the cusp of an area where there is a bubbling sub culture of alcohol, drugs, teenage sex and unemployment. The woods are often used as a hangout for the local teenagers during the long summer evenings, the evidence of which is always plain to see. (Not so much in the dark, even longer winter months.) The river often has abandoned shopping trolleys dumped in it and lads ride their noisy quad bikes up and down the river banks. (The picture below shows walkers last winter, today there were lads on motorbikes in the very same spot.) I am not stereotyping.

So the realist in me says all this stuff was just dumped there by a family who had no transport to take it to the municipal tip.

Abandoned snow covered trolleys in the river. No they are not swans.

But… the storyteller in me couldn’t help but think beyond the reality. I couldn’t help wonder what if, what if….? Why…? What could have happened here…? And it was the storyteller in me who had the initial thoughts rather than the realist.

The distribution, the placement and variety of items was enough to make me think there was more of a back story to their final abandonment. Something more sinister than simply being the final resting place in a convenient dumping ground. Damn not having that camera with me!

So what do you think? Just a readily explained dumping of random junk or prime story telling inspiration?

I think it  definitely goes to show story ideas can be found in the most unexpected and strangest of places. I certainly feel such observations provide better imaginative prompts than something presented on a piece of paper entitled “story prompts”. I know from teaching that children respond much better in writing exercises if the prompt is visual, even if it is contrived. I hope I get around to using this story prompt in my writing soon and when I do I’ll post it on here.

And if you feel inspired to write a story based on this prompt please share. I’d love to hear your ideas 🙂

Thanks as always for reading

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A Life Just Ordinary

This week I’ve decided to bite the bullet and publish an excerpt of something else  I started writing last year alongside Prophecy on the blog. It is the seed of a story I have and have had for a while and it is very rough in its first draft. There’s no reason for putting it on here other than to allow myself to remember I have written other stuff which lurks on  USB memory sticks – ironically often forgotten. Perhaps some of you will enjoy it and that would be a bonus.

Its working title is “A Life Just Ordinary.”  Hope you enjoy.

Lily always felt she was different to everyone else. ‘Weirdo’, she would hear them whisper. But she knew it wasn’t because of the short, wavy mess of flaming auburn hair or liquid green eyes – though these features  alone struck her far from the madding crowd of dull and mousey mediocrity which surrounded her in the classroom. Lily wasn’t entirely sure why she always found herself alone at playtime, circling laps around the perimeter of the yard internally singing obscure  pop songs from the 1970’s, but she did. Most children her age wouldn’t even have heard of the songs she sung. If other children were singing it would certainly not be to the tunes Lily chose. No, they would be singing something by Michael Jackson or Madonna. Everyone knew they were the new stars. However inappropriate it was for a  ten year-old girl to be singing ‘Like a Virgin’ at full pelt, that’s what most girls would be doing –  had they been lapping the perimeter of the playground alone that is.  Lily’s peers would innocently sing along and  try to emulate their singers as only children can. ‘Relax’ by Frankie Goes to Hollywood had been banned from radio play but ‘Like a Virgin’ hadn’t. The 1980’s were a time of contradictions and confusion. However Lily wasn’t involved in this confusing world because Lily occupied her very own world. Lily knew exactly what she was singing. Every lyric was clear and relevant in her mind. Sometimes she would sing them with such gusto and clarity in her head, she felt almost as if she were singing them aloud and that she would burst if she did not allow the song out. Could the other children tell? Did she even care?  Did she sometimes sing out loud without knowing it?  Perhaps that is why they called her weird. But it did not matter. She continued. She believed whole-heartedly in the sentiments behind the lyrics.

 

Round and round her head they danced like a ballerina pirouetting, weaving their magic and speaking to her like nothing else could. The wind rushed over her head as the autumn leaves tumbled down from the great sycamore tree which dominated the otherwise concrete yard. The tree was always a tricky spot to navigate on her circuit – the rest of the perimeter being so straightforward merely being a series of straight lines. Starting from the walls of the dining hall, Lily would stay as close to the massive grey breeze-block walls as she could. Upon reaching the infant’s small pebble-dashed dining hut she would turn right and follow it round to the point where double white lines painted on the playground meant the building could no longer be followed but instead she was forced to cut across to the perimeter fence.

The fence was bottle green and low with a criss-cross pattern ensuring that the busy road was visible. Lily couldn’t hear the road when she was head-singing, even though it was a main road leading into the city. Buses and cars, lorries and vans, motorcycles and pedestrians noisily passed by with a reassuring regularity. Ball games were banned on the playground because there had once been an incident (long before Lily could remember) when a boy had misjudged his own strength in throwing a tennis ball to his friend. The ball had catapulted over the fence smashing though the windscreen of a passing Ford Cortina, and hitting the driver in the face. The stunned driver had subsequently lost control of his car and crashed into a tree on the opposite side of the road. The head teacher had spoken gravely to the children the following day saying that, regrettably ball games were to be banned because, “even though the driver has not been badly injured and luckily there was nothing coming on the other side of the road when he lost control, I do not feel I could take such a risk again. Therefore it is with regret that all ball games are banned forthwith.” Most children knew the ban had been far more to do with the constant call on kindly passers-by to retrieve rogue balls from the pavement. It was common knowledge that complaints had often been lodged with the school, usually by aggrieved pensioners who could barely bend down as it was but never felt they could say no to the distraught school children hankering after their lost possession. The incident with the driver had been a good excuse for the head teacher to keep everyone happy; everyone that was except the children, who had resorted to many other forms of break time entertainment; most of which would, in the ensuing years of political correctness and health and safety, be themselves banned.

Lily was grateful that she didn’t have to navigate balls on her journeys around the playground. The sycamore tree was bad enough. Navigating other children who dared to get in her way was infinitely worse. If there were balls too then she really had no idea how she would ever complete even one circuit of the playground during a playtime. Why couldn’t the other children just stay in the middle of the yard? Why did they need to hang off the fence like monkeys in a zoo? Standing there, slouching, scowling – one leg up chattering and twittering on about Lord only knew what. Because she never heard what they were saying as she breezed past them, the lyrics of the same song dominating her thoughts; circling round and round in her brain. She stepped around her fellow faceless, nameless peers and then squeezed through the gap between the trunk of the sycamore and the fence, climbing over the exposed roots. The tarmac of the playground had started to crack. It would not be long before someone would see the need to chop the tree down lest its sprawling, untamed roots should completely destroy the yard. But for now the tree was a focal point for playing marbles. It made for perfect games having nooks and crannies which the marbles could snuggle safely into, rather than roll uncontrollably across the smooth, flat tarmac. Even Lily occasionally joined in – occasionally. The sycamore wasn’t so bad. She’d miss it if it was gone. But navigating it was still the bane of her life when she was in her own world.

Beyond the tree lay Lily’s favourite spot and here she would linger. No one really seemed to inhabit this spot very often – the furthest corner of the playground from the building. The corner where the main road met the small side road, lined with Edwardian terraced houses. The corner where the rusty old sign with the school’s name rose up high, perched upon two cylindrical metal posts – the royal blue paint peeling off them, weather-beaten and corroded. It was here Lily would linger – not stop moving but wrap her hands alternately between the two poles and skip round them as if dancing around a maypole – the melody of her songs still resonating in her head, until she did finally move away from her favourite spot.

It was at these times that Lily was her happiest. The road didn’t exist, the other children didn’t exist, the houses, the school building, the lunch time supervisors, the pensioners passing by; none of it existed. All she heard was the music in her head and all she saw was the blue sky or the towering cumulus clouds, the swirling leaves and the glory of the sun shining. All she felt was the sharp, cold wind whipping about her face and refreshing her soul before having to return to the real world of the classroom – the noisy wooden floor and the clitter-clatter of footsteps and the high-pitched Irish lilt of her teacher’s voice. The smell of musty old books lingered and the taste of chalk hung in the air choking those who passed the threshold. The wooden desks with the lift up tops and years of biro-ed graffiti with their long disused inkwells, some without the sliding metal cover told unspoken stories of times gone by. If Lily had to sit at a desk where the metal cover was damaged or missing, she felt unnerved. She couldn’t quite explain why, but knowing there was something missing that should be there did not sit well with Lily at all and it played on her mind. She could never quite work out why they couldn’t have ink and long feather quills to write with rather than the crude instrument of a yellow and black HB pencil they were made to use. The world Lily inhabited in reality was ordinary. The world Lily inhabited in her head was full of possibility. But the only escape from the ordinary world was in her mind. Not that there was anything to escape from. Lily had a very ordinary, normal life where nothing eventful ever really happened. She had a mum and a dad; a sister and two brothers. But it was only in her imagination that she felt truly happy; a melancholic kind of happiness; a happiness of what might be one day. Lily had no idea if other children felt like this. But she doubted it. They looked at her differently and so she felt different to them – unique in some way although not special. No definitely not special. She knew she was an outsider and she was happy to be so – for most of the time.

“Lily! Come and play ‘tig’!” Lily heard Claire shriek at her. She winced.

She hated playing ‘tig’. She was often asked to play. It was nice to be asked she thought and it was always Claire who asked her. Claire was all right Lily supposed and Lily had been to Claire’s house once or twice to play. Claire’s mum had fake brick wallpaper in the main sitting room on the chimney breast wall surrounding an electric fire with an even more fake coal effect and glowing red light. Lily felt quite depressed when she went to Claire’s home. It seemed darker than her own house – despite the fact the two buildings were essentially the same. Both were ‘two up two down’ Edwardian terraced houses. Each had a narrow back garden or yard with disused coal sheds and outside loos. Each had a galley style kitchen, neither of which was fitted. Lily’s kitchen may have seemed brighter simply because the cupboards were made of bright orange Formica; a throwback to the 1970’s, but still in a workable, usable condition. (Other than the third drawer down which had been broken for as long as Lily could remember.)

Everyone Lily knew lived in one of these types of houses; all a variation on a theme. She knew that other types of houses existed. If she climbed up and stood on the struts of her back fence, and craned her head over the top she could see two large semi-detached houses with long gardens and sweeping lawns. One of the houses even had patio doors. Lily knew she wanted one of these houses when she grew up and she spent endless hours sketching versions of the house over the fence on paper, dreaming of the day when she too would own a piece of the suburban dream – a semi-detached house. A roller blind would hang at the bathroom window; a green one she thought. Long curtains with tie-backs would adorn the patio doors from the lounge leading onto the garden. Lily lived the suburban dream in her head. It was, after all, only over the fence. Not too far a stretch of the imagination.

“Lily!!” Claire’s voice was coming closer and despite Lily’s best attempts to ignore it she knew that the inevitable outcome was a begrudged game of ‘tig’.

“So are you coming to play ‘tig’?” Claire was tugging at Lily’s arm.

“Only if I don’t have to be ‘on’ again, replied Lily scowling as she was led by Claire over towards the side of the playground where some of the other girls in her class were gathered. Rose and Jane, Sunnie and Misha and a couple of girls from the year below were standing up against the dining hall wall. Claire ignored this request and continued dragging Lily by the arm.

“Wicked!” remarked Misha as Lily approached alone; Claire having run ahead at the moment Lily had begrudgingly agreed to the game. “Silly Lily is here. Now we can finally play. You’re on,” Misha shouted at Lily as the group scattered to the far corners of the playground. This scenario had been repeated numerous times before. Lily was used to the name calling. She didn’t even particularly mind it because to her mind it lacked any imagination.  Think of an insult and rhyme it to your name – not too inventive. She felt sorry for Misha in many ways. She didn’t despise or hate her. You had to care about someone to despise or hate them. Lily was indifferent to Misha and Jane, Rose and Sara. It was the fact that Claire never stuck up for her that upset her more. Not the name calling. Despite the bullying nature of the girls, Lily complied with playing the game each time she was asked – partly because she wanted to feel included in a group (any group) and partly because she didn’t want to fall out with Claire. It was also partly because she couldn’t be bothered to argue and partly because she could out-run them all and knew that within seconds she wouldn’t be ‘on’ anymore anyway. But that day, for reasons unbeknown even to Lily, she didn’t run after them. She stood in the spot where they had left her and didn’t move. She stared after them and waited. Waited to see what they would do.

“Come on Lily!” Claire’s voice suddenly shrieked in Lily’s ears. “You’re on. Don’t just stand there.”

Lily stood there.

Claire stopped running and stood next to Lily. “You’re ‘it’ Lily. You have to chase us.”

“Why?” enquired Lily with cool detachment. “Why do I have to chase you?”

“Because that’s the game silly!” replied Claire.

“I understand the point of the game,” said Lily matter-of-factly. “I was just wondering why it’s always I chasing you; rather than the other way round.”

“Because that’s how we play,” replied Claire in her simple naivety. “Now come on, let’s get on with it,” she said, once more taking Lily by the arm.

“Get off me!” snapped Lily, shrugging her arm from Claire’s grasp. “Why me?” she shouted. “I am sick of always been on.” She almost spat the words out. “Of always being the one who you all think will just do as you want, with no thought for me or how I feel. I don’t even like the stupid game! You’re meant to be my friend but you only play with me if they aren’t around or you want me to be on. And I have had enough of it; enough. Do you hear? DO YOU HEAR?!” By now Lily was red in the face and shaking with the sheer effort of articulating her words out in a coherent sentence with the anger and emotion that had suddenly welled up inside of her and with the effort of saying all these things without giving way to tears. As she had spat out the final words, Lily had grabbed Claire by the collar of her dress and shoved her up against the wall next to the dustbin.

Claire shook in fear, yelling at Lily to let her go.

Claire had never known Lily like this. They had been all the way through infant school and junior school together and Lily was normally so placid; so calm. She did everything she was told to do by teachers, hated the idea of getting into trouble. There had been that time of course when Lily had run out of the classroom and hid in the cloakroom when she had been shouted at for not doing her homework. They had all thought it peculiar at the time but that had been different to this. That wasn’t anger or aggression like this was now being inflicted on Claire. Lily was kind. She was giving. Not violent or vindictive. She would do anything friends or peers asked her to do. Once, Claire remembered, she had even drawn pictures of the Thundercats cartoon characters at the request of all the boys in the class because she was the best in the class at drawing. She didn’t ask for any money or sweets for doing them. No one offered anyway. They just knew that if they asked she would say yes. That was Lily. She would do anything for anyone.

What they, and Claire, didn’t know though was Lily was not being benevolent or a saint out of the kindness of her heart. She complied simply because she wanted a quiet life. Doing as you were told, whoever might be doing the telling meant a quiet life. Lily never shouted or sulked or stamped her feet. She got on with her work and left people alone. She did exactly as the teachers told her and never told tales on other children, even those who would thoroughly have deserved to be told on.

Upon hearing somewhere in the distance, through her blood filled ears, the shrill scream of a dinner supervisor, Lily released Claire with another shove. Claire fell against the steel dustbin and the lid fell off and clattered noisily to the ground.

Lily stood on the spot, breathing hard as the usual yelps and screams and laughter of children came back into focus and echoed about her. Claire was sobbing on the shoulder of the kindly dinner lady who had come to her rescue. “She just lost it!” Lily could hear her saying. “Oh I don’t think I’ve ever been so frightened in my life!” A slight exaggeration thought Lily. Lily knew what Claire’s dad did to her mum. Lily knew Claire had definitely been more frightened than that.

“Is this true?” asked Miss McClenny gently, directing her soft Irish accent in Lily’s direction. Miss McClenny was notoriously the nicest dinner lady there was at the school. She was smaller in height than most of the children, always wore a soft lemon-yellow cardigan and had short, dark brown hair with a perm in keeping with the fashion of women who had been young during the war. The fact Miss McClenny’s hair was so dark often surprised Lily because Miss McClenny must have been at least 60 by Lily’s reckoning. Lily’s mum had some grey hair and she was only 30, so Miss McClenny must have grey hair Lily reasoned.

“Yes,” admitted Lily as the soft voice asked the same question of her again. “Yes I did do it.” She hung her head and couldn’t look up. All her previous anger had dissipated and she was suddenly regretting her outburst.

“Well then perhaps you could tell me what all this has been about.”

It was hard to feel anger when Miss McClenny was around. She was like a grandmother on the playground – kind and cuddly and understanding. Lily explained what had happened. The details of the incident went no further. Lily had to apologise to Claire of course and Claire had to accept of course. No more was ever said about that day. But Lily was in some ways glad she had lost her temper. She was never asked to play ‘tig’ again.

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