V is for Victoria

I have been watching the television series Victoria. It’s incredible.

When I bought it, last weekend, I had heard limited things about it. I heard that it was good, but had no idea as to what the focus of the programme would be, other than Queen Victoria.

As a lover of everything to do with the English monarchy, it was in my hand, paid for, and out of the store before I knew it. I was anxious to start watching. Queen Victoria has always been a subject of interest for me, but one I never pursued much further than watching The Young Victoria on television once. I suppose this is not much different.

There are a couple of things in the life of Queen Victoria, I have since learned through watching Victoria and the subsequent research I have undertaken, that stick in mind more than others.

  1. Queen Victoria was not the daughter of a king. She was the niece of William IV, and due to an obscene amount of luck, though she had three uncles to contend with for the role monarch, she became queen.
  2. Her name was not actually Victoria. She was born Alexandrina Victoria, and when she became queen, she adopted her second name.
  3. She married her first cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg. Though their marriage was originally somewhat arranged, they fell in love quickly and deeply. They had nine surviving children.
  4. She reigned for just under 64 years (from 1837-1901). Up until recently, she was the longest reigning monarch of England when she was overtaken by Elizabeth II (girls rule!!)
  5. She was eighteen when she became queen. There was a lot of speculation surrounding her youth and her sex and whether she was able to rule a kingdom, but she pressed on and became one of the most admired and respected monarchs the United Kingdom has ever seen.

Victoria has Jenna Coleman in the role of Queen Victoria and Tom Hughes in the role of Prince Albert. Both work stupendously together, and tell a wonderful story with the help of their co-stars, producers, directors and alike.
On the whole, I love this television thus far, and cannot wait to see more.

I think it has sparked my motivation to learn more about Queen Victoria. Before you know it, I may be able to spout her life story at length and by heart.

So from one short lady, talking about another short lady, I bid you adieu. And I advise you to watch this incredible love letter to a most admired monarch.

See you Tuesday!

***

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U is for Umbrellas

I don’t know why I woke up this morning going, “Today, I’m going to write about umbrellas,” but here we are.

Umbrellas.

It’s a weird word. It looks wrong, like somebody picked up magnetic letters a child dropped on the kitchen floor and decided to put them in any semblance of an order.

Apparently, the first recorded folding umbrella came into being in 21 AD. I know. I’m astonished too.. It was used as a source of shade on a four-wheeled carriage in Ancient China.
But they were used in ancient civilisations all over the world as protection from unruly and scorching weather.

My first recorded umbrella had Winnie the Pooh on it. It was awesome! It had alternated red and yellow panels with pictures of Winnie on the red ones. I carried it everywhere – much to my parents’ dismay. You never knew when the weather would turn sour!
On a particularly blustery day, about a year after I first got it, my umbrella promptly turned inside out, and was unable to be put right again. I remember watching its funeral procession as it was driven down the driveway to the tip on the tray of my dad’s ute. I couldn’t believe it was gone.

I never did find another umbrella I loved as much; nor have I had such an interest in them. I find myself missing that loud, red and yellow monstrosity. I don’t know why.

Perhaps the most famous depiction of an umbrella in fiction is Mary Poppins’ classic parrot handled umbrella. I’m quite excited at the possibility of seeing it return in the movie remake (Yes, I did just say that).

When I was a kid, I thought it would be such a cool thing to have an umbrella that could talk to you and help you fly. I mean, what kid wouldn’t. I don’t think I ever went as far as testing out my Winnie the Pooh umbrella in this way. I could have been in for quite a shock if, on a rainy day, Pooh began muttering ‘Oh, bother’ at the rain dripping on his head.

Now, though, I just see umbrellas as a pain in the behind. They are bulky and difficult to carry without getting in the way – whether that be folded or unfolded. If there is even the tiniest bout of wind, the umbrella either turns itself inside out, or, the rain ends up soaking you to the bone regardless of whether you have the umbrella up or not.

Though I understand there are immense pros to having an umbrella handy, for me, those cons are irrefutable … even if they are as cool as my Winnie the Pooh one.

***

See you Saturday!

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T is for Tradition

Traditions. Everyone has them. Humans are creatures of habit and repetition. We inherently make tradition.

The first tradition we are introduced to as children is, obviously, birthdays. Every year, we roll out the streamers and the balloons and endure the dreaded birthday song, written by Patty and Mildred J Hill in 1893. Sorry, ladies, but to sit in silence whilst a room full of people sing that song to you is completely awkward and embarrassing. No. Just … no.

But birthdays are the first form of tradition we become attached to, because who wouldn’t want cake and presents just for them?

Then comes Christmas, Hanukkah, Passover, Thanksgiving, New Year, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day – and they’re just some of the big ones.

Then we have family traditions. For instance, my family get together in November and bake bucket loads of cookies every year. And when I say bucket loads, I am talking BUCKET LOADS. It usually takes between 2 and 3 days to bake them all (8.30am-5.30pm, at least 4 or 5 people working). That’s the scale I am talking about. What can I say? We have a big family, and we like to eat.

I have mixed feelings about traditions. I like the fact that we find enjoyment in revisiting those things we have done every year for so many years. I like the fact that some traditions span generations and years before and after we are born and die. I like that aspect.

But traditions are also dangerous. We become too comfortable with the traditions we hold. We become set in our ways. We don’t want to deviate, we want to stick with what we know – our comfort zone, and the memories that remind us of childhood.

I am one such person. I like pattern; I hate change. When someone decides to disrupt my routine without telling me, or consulting me, I start to freak out. Though I am getting better with handling such things, I’m still not great. To all those who have to deal with me during those times, I apologise. Though I go along with the altered plans, I grumble and growl and generally dig my heels in as much as possible. I’m stubborn; very much so. I’m your friendly-neighbourhood Grumpy straight out of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.

But is tradition good, or bad?

I’d like to think that it’s good. Not just because I am set in my ways, and I don’t like deviation from ‘the plan’, but because if we did not have tradition, we would have no vehicle in order to remember those things and people that we have lost. We carry out tradition to honour those who are no longer with us. We do it to remember who they were, and the joy and hope they have provided us with. They are an opportunity for us to look back and see how far we have come, though we still carry out the same tasks year in, year out. It gives us togetherness and kinship that oftentimes are out of our grasp.

***

See you Tuesday! I’ve got another five word challenge coming!

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S is for ‘Supernatural’

Supernatural is my fave. It’s my go to. I have the third episode of the first season playing on my television as I write this. It’s the one where there’s something mysterious in a lake drowning a whole family of people …

But, Sarah, what is it about Supernatural that you love so much?
I don’t know. I want to say the humour, but that didn’t really kick in full force until about season three or four. I’m not a fan of the horror genre (which is definitely the vibe the writers were striving for in the first couple of seasons). I don’t think there’s an actual equivocal reason; I just love it.

It’s the fact that Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles and Misha Collins are manufactured from fine wine, isn’t it? Don’t lie.
Excuse me? Who do you think I am? I mean, it helps … but that’s not the reason, no.

What’s your favourite episode?
That’s like asking me whether one particle of air is better than the one next to it. But … I have an intense love of the ridiculous, so there are a few episodes that stand out from others:

  • ‘Bad Day at Black Rock’ (Season 3, Episode 3) – Sam and Dean encounter a lucky rabbit’s foot. If you touch it, and it remains in your possession, you are all sorts of fortunate. If you lose it, you have so much bad luck, you die.
  • ‘Mystery Spot’ (Season 3, Episode 11) – Sam relives an endless amount of Tuesdays on which Dean dies every single day in every way possible eg. falling pianos, slipping in the shower, and eating bad tacos.
  • Wishful Thinking’ (Season 4, Episode 8) – There’s something fishy going on when everyone in a small Washington town has their every wish coming true. There’s talking teddies, superhuman kids, the whole shebang.
  • ‘The Curious Case of Dean Winchester’ (Season 5, Episode 7) – Dean makes a series of questionable life choices, and ends up becoming an octogenarian for half an episode. What’s not to love?
  • ‘Changing Channels’ (Season 5, Episode 8) – Parody central. The Winchesters find themselves in a series of TV shows and advertisements they can’t seem to find a way out of.
  • ‘The French Mistake’ (Season 6, Episode 15) – Alternate reality. The brothers break the fourth wall and find themselves in ‘real life’ where Dean is Jensen and Sam is Jared. Riveting stuff.
  • ‘LARP and the Real Girl’ (Season 8, Episode 11) – Charlie + Live Action Role Play + Fairies. Yup.
  • ‘The Purge’ (Season 9, Episode 13) – Sam and Dean go undercover at a health retreat where people’s fat is being extracted by the bucket load (and sometimes to the point where they die). Gross, but still a fun one.
  • ‘About a Boy’ (Season 10, Episode 12) – Sam and Dean find themselves in some twisted version of Hansel and Gretel (yes, even more twisted than the original), where Hansel turns him into a pubescent teenager. Awesome.

I have probably missed a few. There are so many to choose from.
Writing the synopses like that makes me cringe. It makes them sound so idiotic. But that’s the beauty of them. Trust me on this.

Who’s your favourite character?
Oh, God. No, no, no, no, not God … he’s not my favourite character … He’s cool, though.
Dean’s my favourite. I try not have them, though. They’re all great, and loveable, despite their flaws.

Somehow, Supernatural has this power to cheer me up. It’s full of unnecessary and heartbreaking death, and some pretty horrifying creatures, but somehow it cheers me up. There’s a meme that describes the feeling perfectly. I swear, I’m not nuts. It’s the humour, as I said before. It’s the comedy that the writer’s have paired with the horror, that makes me smile.

So, if you have never watched Supernatural, I hope this post has inspired you to give it a crack.
If you have watched Supernatural, you’re a wonder and I love you.

I will catch you guys on Saturday. Don’t forget to give my social media a follow!


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Q is for Quotes

I’m a fan of quotes. I like that one sentence can sum up someone’s view, someone’s mindset at one particular moment in time.

I just find it interesting that something as powerful as a sentence, orated or written, usually by a person we have never met before, can motivate us, inspire us, speak to us, on a level that an ordinary conversational sentence cannot.

One of my favourite quotes comes from Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand:

Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark in the hopeless swamps of the not-quite, the not-yet, and the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved and have never been able to reach. The world you desire can be won. It exists.. it is real.. it is possible.. it’s yours.

This quote has been with me for a while. It reminds me not to lose faith – in me, in my writing, in my ability to write. It reminds me that people there are people out there that aren’t going to believe in me, or that I can make something of this, but that writing is the fire that burns within me, and I shouldn’t let others try to put my fire out. It reminds me that, though there are days that are frustrating and full of disillusionment, it doesn’t mean that all hope is lost. I need to have faith and determination.

Another quote I found recently comes from Outlander by Diana Gabaldon:

Because to step outside the group, let alone stand against it, was for uncounted thousands of years death to the creature who dared it.

This quote I like because, to me, it sums up one of society’s flaws. Outwardly, we promote individuality and how important it is to show the world who we are individuals. But as soon as someone steps out from crowd, whether that be with their opinion or their identity, they are judged because they are different from what society deems as normal. We must be individual, but we must assimilate.

The next quote I was reintroduced to is one from Reality Bites said by character Troy Dyer (played by Ethan Hawke):

Honey, all you have to be by the age of 23, is yourself …

I found this quote again when I was the age of 23. I am now 24, but I think that it still applies. In fact, I would argue that it applies to all ages. You don’t have to be a doctor, you don’t have to be a mother. All you are obligated to be, throughout your entire life, is yourself.

Have a think about which quotes have spoke to you. What are they? Why do you like them? Did they help you understand yourself better, or understand the world around you better?

***

See you Tuesday!

xxx

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Bookworm

Happy Saturday! A short story for you!

***

I was seven when I bought my very first book with my own pocket money. I had been eyeing it off for months and pestering my mother to please buy it. Its glossy dust jacket and strong hardcover boards sang to me over her claims that I must save up my pocket money.

I pressed it to my chest and told my mother there was no time and that another person would buy it from under my nose.

‘Well,’ she said, looking down at me with her hearty chestnut eyes, ‘you’ll have to start saving right away.’

Each week we went to the bookstore to visit my book. I cooed to it and brushed my palms across the spine, the cover and the pages. Each time I asked my mother to buy it and each time she would shake her head and help me do my sums to see how much more pocket money I needed.

‘Oh, it’s so close, Mum,’ I would say, even when it wasn’t.

‘Keep saving,’ she would say.

When I finally brought The Complete Tales of Beatrix Potter to the counter, the lady there smiled down at me. Her eyes crinkled tightly in the corners and the irises were ice-blue.

‘Today’s the day,’ she said, ‘I hope I will see you again in here soon.’

‘I have it now. I don’t need another one.’

‘You might just,’ she said.

‘No. One is good.’

A couple of days later, I finished The Complete Tales of Beatrix Potter. The dust jacket had become dull and I no longer wanted to clutch it as much as I did when it was under the bright lights in the shop. I wondered what stories the other books held. I never thought to look at the others each time I visited my book. What if there was another one that sang louder and with better timbre?

‘You’re back,’ the lady behind the desk said as the bells on the back of the door jangled my arrival.

I nodded, not stopping to chat.

‘I told you, you would want another one.’ She called after me.

I searched through every case to find a gleaming book—one that shadowed my other one.

I could hear my mother chatting quietly to the lady at the counter.

‘… it took her a couple of days. I have never seen her so captivated.’

What’s “captivated”? I thought as I pulled dull stories from the shelves and pushed them roughly back in. I scrunched my nose at Guinness Book of World Records. The cover gave an extravagant and exaggerated dazzle—it looked like the book I was looking for, but it couldn’t hold a note longer than a couple of seconds.

I tugged a copy of The Gruffalo out and with it came Where the Wild Things Are. They tumbled to the floor in my attempt to catch them both before they, inevitably, fell on the floor.

‘MUM!’ I bellowed across the store, ‘I FOUND THEM.’

‘Inside voice!’ she hissed from the counter, ‘What have you found?’

‘The books that I am going to buy next. Do I have enough money to buy them?’

I held out my money in my palm for her to see.

‘Let’s see,’ she said, shifting the coins around so we could count, ‘You have one dollar, two dollars, three dollars, and twenty, thirty, eighty cents. And you need,’ she turned the books over to see the price stickers, ‘$17.35 for The Gruffalo and $19.95 for Where the Wild Things Are. So you need $37.30 all together and you already have $3.80 so you need to save $33.50.’

My balloon of pride at finding my key-perfect books immediately deflated.

‘I’m never going to get that much!’

‘How about I give you $10 to get you started? Then when we get home we can make a pocket money chart like we did last time.’

‘Does that mean that I have enough money to buy one book?’

‘Not quite, but it’s closer.’

I nodded. I ran my fingertips over the covers of the books and placed them carefully back on the shelf.

‘I’ll be back soon.’ I whispered to them and followed my mother out of the store. I didn’t even say bye to the waving lady behind the counter.

It took me a couple of months to raise the money. I worked solidly doing chores around the house.

One night, elbows deep in the plastics drawer, my mother pulled me aside.

‘What are you doing, baby?’ she said, slowly prying a container from my hands.

‘I need five more dollars.’ I replied, trying to take the container back so I can put it in its appropriate pile.

‘You don’t have to do this now.’ He eyes had that look of pity in them.

‘But, I need my five dollars.’

‘What about,’ she said setting the container on the ground, and pulling me in for a hug, ‘I give you the five dollars now. You’ve earned it. You’ve been helping Dad and me around the house for so long, I think you deserve those last five dollars.’

‘Really?’ my face stretched into a wide grin, ‘Do you mean it?’

She nodded.

The next day, I walked into the bookstore, clutching my $33.50.

I don’t think I’ve ever looked back from that day.

***

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N is for Novels

It’s no secret that I love a good book.

They are my sanctuary. My loves.

My favourite types of books are the ones that engross me by challenging the way in which I view the world that I live in. They make me think.

An example of this would be Aimee Bender’s The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake.

The protagonist of this novel has a gift (or maybe its a curse) that causes her to feel the emotions through food. For example, if her mother was sad whilst baking a batch of cookies, the protagonist would feel those sad emotions as she ate the cookies.
It got me thinking about how this gift/curse would both enhance and ruin someone’s world. It made me think about the things that we choose to ignore, the things we fail to consider, about the world around us. When we buy food, we walk into a café, order the food, eat it and get the hell out of there. We don’t care who made it, we don’t care about the process of cooking (provided it’s not going to make us sick). All we care about is whether it tastes good and whether we get it in a timely fashion. We are a selfish species. We care about things that only benefit us.
Though I don’t suddenly deeply care about the backstory of the chef that has prepared my food, I have, since reading, tried to be more considerate of those around me. To not be so selfish, and to remember that just because I may be having a good day, it doesn’t mean that every one else is.

Another that has had a similar effect on me is Jennifer Niven’s Holding up the Universe (review here).

The male protagonist, Jack, has a condition called Prosopagnosia, or face-blindness (video to help you understand it here). It means that he cannot recognise faces – not even the faces of his parents. Every time he sees a face, whether the first or the thousandth time, the person is as good as stranger. He wouldn’t be able to pick his mother out of a line-up.
This book made me, again, consider something I take for granted. Something that I can do without thinking. It made me think about how scary and big the world would seem if I couldn’t recognise a familiar face in a crowd. It made me think of how strong people with this condition would have to be. In some ways, I find it incomprehensible.

And, in the process of writing my own first novel, I am brought back to the same thought:

Am I challenging someone else’s world view?

I guess only time will tell…

Don’t forget to follow me on social media, and I’ll see you Saturday! xxx

M is for McFly

Welcome to Tuesday. It’s two days post Christmas, and we’ve survived the craziness that comes with the festive season. Now, we prepare for the introduction of a new year and, therefore, promises that we make to ourselves, we have no intention of keeping.

This time of year has me thinking about the things in the world that fuse together to compose my identity. It makes me reflect on who and what has got me to the point I’m at. Of course, there is the obvious friends and family, but what about the music you listen to, the books you’ve read, the art you’ve seen. How has that impacted your identity?

You might be reading this, dismissing this concept, but those who have had their hearts touched by a song, an artist, a book, an author, will get what I am talking about. McFly, British band, have done this for me.

For those of you who have never heard of McFly in your lives, where have you been? They’re a four-piece band who shot to the top of the UK Pop Charts in 2004 with their first album, Room on the Third Floor. Since then, they have released four studio albums, two greatest hits compilations and have had a stint as two thirds of the UK supergroup McBusted.

I’m not sure how I stumbled across them … but I’m glad I did. Their music has helped me so much over the years. It just has this quality that somehow makes me feel better. It reminds me that there is purity in the world, and that people come together and prosper with the assistance of music. It makes me smile, and belt out the lyrics at the highest of volumes.

But it’s not just their music that has formed who I am. In 2012, the members, Tom Fletcher, Danny Jones, Dougie Poynter and Harry Judd, released an autobiography about McFly’s journey called Unsaid Things … Our Story (review here). This book opened my eyes.

It’s easy to view celebrities on pedestals – perfect, flawless, untouchable to life’s detrimentalness. And to be honest, that’s exactly what I had done with these men before I read this book. Their book reminded me that the members of this band are only human. They have illness, they are susceptible to addiction, to depression, to insecurities, nervousness, they make mistakes, they regret, they love, they lose, they cry. And, though they shared their deepest and darkest secrets and flaws in this book (which would have taken a lot of guts), it just made me fall even more in love with them.

They gave, and still give, me strength to tackle my own demons and come out on top.

Now, on the tail end of 2016, they haven’t released new music as McFly for a while, but they are by no means done. They are pursuing other avenues, and killing it. From what I can gather, Tom is busy being a Dad to two beautiful boys, he’s on YouTube, writing children’s novels, and musical adaptations of those novels. Danny is happily married to Georgia Horsley, and writing for some of the big named bands, he’s also a new judge on the UK Voice Kids. Harry is happily married to Izzie Johnston, and he has an adorable little daughter named Lola. And Dougie is in LA pursuing an acting career.

It warms my heart that these boys, thrown together at the start, have formed such a beautiful and unbreakable bond. Though, their sole goal may not be to release new music, they have said that they aren’t done being a band.

So, if you’re feeling down, go and listen to them. I certainly will be. And mark my words, I’ll be chanting this:

Another year over, and we’re still together
It’s not always easy, but I’m here forever

– ‘The Heart Never Lies’, McFly

I’ll see you Saturday, lovelies!

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K is for Kindness

It is, obviously, important to be kind.

Imagine a world where everyone is unkind.

I have been reading this boo over the last couple of days; I finished it last night, actually. It’s called Holding Up the Universe, and it’s written by Jennifer Niven. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll have seen all the photos I have posted of it.

In this enchanting novel, Niven discusses the importance of kindness and the detrimental effects that unkindness can have. It got me thinking about the kindness that I show to people. It made me consider whether there is such a thing as too much kindness.

I try to show as much kindness as I can manage. If someone asks me to do something, I will usually try my best to help them out. I offer my assistance when someone looks like they are struggling. I like giving gifts just because I appreciate the recipient, and I want to see them smile. But sometimes I wonder whether my attempts at kindness go a little too far.

There have been times, and I am not going to mention specifics, that I have let my kindness go so far that I have let the recipient of my kindness walk all over me, just because I want to please them and I don’t want to let them down.

Though being earnest and kind are great qualities, and I am in no way demeaning them – they are valuable and sometimes impossible to find in a person – you need to find a balance. But the thing is, I don’t know how.

I’m hard wired to do what is expected of me. My default is to try to make people happy, and when I can’t do either of these things my brain starts to panic. I will usually start to cry, and I will go through a series of stages trying to problem solve. This is a vain exercise. Because everyone knows you can’t change the past.

I believe in the power of kindness. I respond well to someone being kind to me. The best way to motivate/convince me to do something is to give me positive reinforcement. Criticism, though needed in some circumstances, merely makes my brain produce a series of farts and then give up, hands up in surrender. Plus, kindness promotes self-esteem – which most members of society (including me) tend to lack.

Perhaps, though, I am in a better situation than some. Because, isn’t better to be kind and to know that you have made someone else’s life easier or brighter, than to be purely selfish and to make others feel smaller to make yourself feel superior?

“Do unto others as you have them do unto you.” It’s an old quote. But it’s poignant, and will be so ’til the end of time, because no matter how hard we try to eradicate it, there are always going to be people that are unkind. Just remember…

“You are wanted.
You are necessary.
You are loved.”

Holding Up the Universe, Jennifer Niven

Find your balance. Be you, but don’t do this by make others feel like they shouldn’t be themselves. Treasure your friends, treasure your family, treasure those that you may not get along with, because the truth is …

Everyone you meet in this world contributes to the person you will eventually become.

Think on that.

Much love to you all. x

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See you Tuesday!

 

The First Snow

Oh, Hi, there,
Hey,
How you doin’?

It’s Saturday again… only two more Saturdays ’til the end of the year! … I think I might throw up.

Where has this year gone????!!!

Today I thought I would give you another creative piece … something to sink your teeth into this holiday season … cue courtesy holiday Insta snap *click*

So … grab yourself a cup of tea, and let’s get on with it, shall we?

***

The First Snow

All she could hear was the soft crunch of her boots compressing the freshly fallen snow to the pavement. She knew that she shouldn’t have been out there. It was far too cold. But seeing the snow made her brain go fuzzy, and a smile to stretch as much as her face would allow.

It was ‘the first snow’ – that’s what her sister coined it. It was the most magical, the most vibrant, the most breathtaking. When she asked her sister, Naomi, why the first snow was all of these things, she had said just this:

‘Because it is, Poppy, it is.’

Poppy spent the next half an hour reading her encyclopaedia. If the first snow was coming tonight, she had to know why it had superpowers. But the encyclopaedia just said that snow was frozen rain. Boring!

Now, though, seeing it – being in it – she finally got it. The first snow. The garden had transformed – everything was covered in white. The shapes were less harsh and everything was so, so quiet.

‘Poppy!’ he mother called from the back door, ‘Time to come back inside!’

Poppy, cheeks rosy with the chilled air, plonked her bottom on the ground. Her parka puffing around her middle. She needed a few minutes longer.

‘Poppy!’ she heard her mother again.

Slowly, she peeled off her right glove, and stuck her entire hand in the snow beside her. The sensation was thrilling. It sent shivers up her spine and down to her toes. It looked so soft, like a puffy pillow, but it felt crisp and grainy – not to mention numbingly cold.

‘The first snow,’ she muttered, leaning back lie flat on her back, ‘The first snow.

***

There you have it! A bit of festive flash fiction for this Saturday!

I’ll see you Tuesday!

Stay safe

xx

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