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Medicine Ball

I thought it was about time for another short story, so here goes.

Although fiction, I did attend a private grammar school in Bolton, Lancashire, back in the 50s/60s…

MEDICINE BALL 

By Paul Beech

Bates and Fisher were best friends until one day during the Autumn Term when, at the tuck shop, they fell in love with the same girl.

Janet from the class below was not exactly pretty but had a quiet aura that appealed somehow.

She offered them each a sherbet lemon and both accepted with thanks. Fisher gave her a chunk of cinder toffee in return but Bates, reaching deep in his pockets, turned crimson.  He had only a couple of bob left for bus fares.

He pulled out a coin but Janet stilled his hand. “No, don’t leave yourself short,” she whispered.  “It doesn’t matter.  Not at all.”  Her brown-eyed smile nearly dropped him on the spot.

Fisher might ordinarily have given Bates a chunk of cinder toffee too but didn’t this time.

~

They managed not to speak of Janet for nearly a week. They did have a scrap in the Boys’ Locker Room with Fisher forced to submit, but this was all in good sport, as many times before, no malice in it at all.

Then out of the blue Fisher said, “I don’t get it. I’m the brighter one, better looking by far, more manly too.  So why’s it always you, Bates?  Always you Janet makes eyes at when she thinks I’m not looking?  It’s not fair.”

Bates, suddenly flushed, shook his chum by the lapels. “My dad lost an arm in the war.  He cannot drive.  Yours ponces about in a Bentley.  Is that fair, Fisher?  And what d’you mean, ‘more manly?’”

~

The final straw was the note. It was slipped to Bates by Janet’s friend Elspeth after lunch.

 

Darling, how it pains me every time to see you at a distance, wanting you so, your arms around me, your kiss. Please ring – you have my number.  Let’s meet again soon. 

Desperately, 

Your loving Janet xxx

 

Fisher sneaked the note from Bates’ blazer pocket as they climbed the spiral staircase to the Geography Room.

“You dog,” he said, and Bates kicked him back down.

~

It was bloody. And exercise with a medicine ball should never be that.  But Bates and Fisher were not in the Gym to improve their upper-body strength.  No, at the final bell they’d headed straight down to settle the score between them.  It would be a dual, their chosen weapon PICKLES 3, the heaviest medicine ball on the rack.

Fisher was the taller, the stronger, but with his left ankle swollen from the kick it was an unequal contest. After many a dirty throw from Bates, he now lay gasping on the floor, blood bubbling from his nose, with Janet bent over him sobbing.

She turned to Bates with hate-filled eyes. “How could you?”

~

Fifty years on, an ageing jazz musician in America found a vintage medicine ball for sale on the internet. It was British, well stuffed, marked PICKLES 3 in fading white paint, and he bought it for $160.  His name was Bates.

 

Copyright © Paul Beech 2016

 

 

 

Curlew Sunset

Since publishing my first collection, Twin Dakotas, in August, I’ve felt in the mood to experiment a little with my poetry.

I love the ancient Japanese short poetry forms haiku (focussing on nature) and senryu (similar but focussing on human nature). Purists would probably have a fit, but I thought it might be fun to combine senryu and haiku in alternation as stanzas in a longer poem.  And in the following, written in September from observations in Connah’s Quay and Flint, just down the Dee Estuary from my home here in Shotton, this is just what I did.

I’ll leave it to you to decide whether the experiment was successful! Have a nice Sunday, everyone.

 

CURLEW SUNSET

.

her multi-coloured hair

distracts the eye

from her bones

.

dereliction

a wasteland

sycamore spinners spin

.

haggard on a bench scribbling

he sips soup

dreams of fame

.

curlew sunset

a small abandoned boat

in the saltmarsh

.

a single line

on a stained page

“her multi-coloured hair”

.

Paul Beech 

Copyright © Paul Beech 2016

 

Burwardsley Update

A couple of things…

My review of the Burwardsley Mini Folk Festival, posted here six days ago, was published yesterday (29th October 2016) with a lovely photograph of St. John’s Church on a wonderful local website, Tattenhall Online, and received many hits.  I’m delighted of course – thrilled, if I’m honest!

The mini folk fest, Burwardsley’s first and a hugely enjoyable community event to be sure, raised a whacking £767.40 for repairs to St. John’s Church. A great success by any reckoning.  Kudos to Pam Moyle for organising it.

Have a nice Sunday, everyone.

Paul

Copyright © Paul Beech 2016

Burwardsley Mini Folk Festival

Gosh, what an event it was, the Burwardsley Mini Folk Festival held in the Village Hall on Saturday 15th October 2016, a fine autumn day, to raise funds for repairs to the parish church, St. John’s.

Burwardsley is a tiny village in deepest rural Cheshire, nestling in the lee of Bickerton Hill, from which there are stunning views as far as Wales, Merseyside and Shropshire. St. John’s, dating from the 17th century and now a Grade II listed building, is built of buff sandstone with a pyramid-roofed bell turret at its west end, a gorgeous, much loved Anglican church with a loyal congregation.

The Mini Folk Fest was organised by a local lady who serves as a sidesperson at St. John’s: the wonderful Pam Moyle, our friend and fellow Chester Poet, whose own first book, From Here, a collection of her beautiful rural verse, is just out from Cestrian Press.

The whole event, which opened at 1pm, had a traditional, community feel to it with stalls selling everything from pewter repoussé art to cup-cakes. My partner Maureen Weldon helped at the book stall whilst I did a spot as storyteller for a group of young children who sat on cushions and listened open-mouthed before going to get their faces painted.

A troupe of belly dancers, called Halabia, were fantastic in swishing silk, and I’ll bet Burwardsley had never seen the like! During the evening half, Maranella, a medieval folk group, were tremendous too.  Truth is, every act was brilliant in its own, very entertaining way; similarly every reader at the open mic, including Pam (of course!), Maureen (with not only poems of her own but also a harmonica/oral rendition of Thomas Moore’s ‘The Meeting of The Waters’), myself and Mike Penney.

With a delicious hotpot along the way (thanks, George!), the event continued until nearly midnight, concluding with a jamming session with all musicians joining in. Maureen, on harmonica, played the first sweet bars of ‘Danny Boy’ and one by one the others followed with accordion and guitar, the song soon building into something truly moving, marvellous and memorable.  It was the perfect close to this most friendly, colourful and heartwarming of folk festivals.

St. John’s Church so deserves the best of care and it was a pleasure – an honour indeed! – for Maureen and I to do our bit for the cause.

Paul Beech

 

Copyright © Paul Beech 2016

Twin Dakotas – First Review!

Here is the first review of my debut collection Twin Dakotas: poetry and prose, recently published by Cestrian Press.  It’s by Patricia Salamone, who regularly comments on my posts here.  Pat is an American author whose blog The Writer’s Desk is one of my favourite places on the web.

To say I’m chuffed would be an understatement – I’m positively glowing! Now, in a humble/proud way, I can feel that my creative labours over the greater part of my adult life have not been in vain.

 

Pat’s review:

I have just finished reading Paul’s book of poetry and prose, Twin Dakotas.

I have taken my time reviewing this book because it is so beautifully written. You can’t help but read the poems and prose over and over.  Each time you do, your feelings will soar in a different direction.

I have finally decided that my favourite is ‘Twin Dakotas’. However it was a tough decision because I loved each and every poem and prose.

Paul takes you down the path of his life in such a beautiful way, you want to stop along the path and savour every word.

It will stir every emotion you possess but in a beautiful way. You will want to re-read this book many times.

Kudos Paul!!!

The Best Way

Here’s a poem I wrote twelve months ago, following a visit to Parkgate on the Wirral Peninsula.

Overlooking the Dee Estuary, the village was once a major port before the river silted up and is famous for its association with Emma, Lady Hamilton, Lord Nelson’s mistress. Nowadays the vast saltmarsh is of great interest to bird watchers for its rich variety of wildfowl, waders and raptors.

Maureen and I enjoyed wonderful fish and chips there!

The poem is included in my first collection, Twin Dakotas: poetry and prose.

 

THE BEST WAY

.

Why that way, towards the hills,

towards that blinding line as the sun sets,

skein after skein, honking?

Why not out across the sea?

I walk the Old Quay, wondering.

.

Waders cry in the flashing fire of the saltmarsh.

The glowing sandstone of the low wall

thrums with ancient knowledge.

Yet it is in your high-altitude honking

I find an answer:

.

Instinct, trust in instinct, it’s the best way…

.

I take her hand in mine

and we sing.

.

Paul Beech.

 

Copyright © Paul Beech 2016

A Journey Begun

As a youngster at junior school, I was praised for my articulacy but was actually a slow reader and couldn’t spell for toffee. It turned out I was long-sighted and made to wear spindly Council specs with round lenses, which I hated because they pinched my nose so tightly I had ugly bruises either side.  They did the job though: they corrected my eyesight.  And when Mum bought us Enid Blyton’s ‘Adventure’ novels, my reading really came on apace.  I was Jack, the lad with Kiki the parrot on his shoulder.  Later came Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Ian Fleming.  I was Sherlock Holmes, James Bond…

My Grandad Dawson was my real hero though. A World War I veteran, decorated for bravery in the trenches, he’d gone on to become a Chief Inspector of police in Civvy Street.  He was a gifted raconteur and I’d listen spellbound for hours as he recounted episodes from his military service and police career.  Never will I forget his warm northern tones and turns of phrase.

I was hooked on stories of all sorts and discovered I could tell a good tale myself, a chip off my grandad’s old block. I would be a writer.

***

Aged nine or ten, I invented the game of ‘Stop!’ which I’d play with my younger brothers.

“Stop!” I’d call, and whatever we were doing, whether sauntering through a park, spinning flat stones on the tide, netting crabs, turning cartwheels or throwing snowballs, we’d freeze on the spot. “Think!” I’d command, and we would think about where we were and what we were doing at that particular moment in our lives, that particular moment in the history of the universe.  We’d stretch our five senses to the limit and beyond, seek even to connect with the ancient perceptions of prehistoric man.  Then, after maybe thirty seconds, maybe a minute-and-a-half, I’d cry “Carry on!” and we’d resume whatever we were doing before, but with that frozen moment banked in memory and somehow the richer for it.

Later, reading Dylan Thomas and Louis MacNeice, I found another way of capturing such moments: poetry. And I began composing stanzas in my head.

***

So there you have it, how I came to poetry and prose as a Lancashire lad many moons ago, when I carried a Box Brownie camera and rode a Dawes Domino bike. My first book is out now yet still I have far to go, the higher regions of verse and narrative to explore.

This journey begun is my life.

Paul Beech

 

 

My debut collection, published by Cestrian Press 2016, is Twin Dakotas: poetry and prose (ISBN 978 0 904448 50 4), price £6.50.

If you’d like a copy, please email me on paulbeech@msn.com and I’ll get back to you.

 

 

Copyright © Paul Beech 2016