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Travel Narrative Competition

August 30, 2019 6:04pm Published by Jules Smith in Off Piste Posting (Any day thoughts) 20 Comments

Winning isn’t everything

I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus when it comes to my own creative writing. It’s such a competitive field and it’s very easy to think you’re not good/smart/knowledgable enough as your next 10,000 competitors. I’m also not very disciplined.  Being prolific also has a winning edge because failure can’t live with persistence.  If I could master that, I might have a fighting chance. If being quirky and impetuous were recognised qualities I’d be chomping at the gold chocolate medal.

Second To None

I always believed that winning is everything. Nobody remembers who came second.

No one remembers who came second until that person coming second is hot on the heels of the winner.  Getting to the top is one thing, staying there is much harder.

I subscribe to the UK’s number 1 writing magazine for writers and authors. Half the time I don’t get around to reading it and they pile up getting dusty in the corner of my chaotic study where many a pipe dream has come to settle and remembered as another whimsy but just not on a Wednesday.  However, last month I decided to read it and found that they ran competitions.  So, I entered my first writing competition ever.  A travel narrative of 1500 words that transports the reader to somewhere they’ve never been.  I used the basics of a story I wrote about going to Cowboy Church in Texas for the first time ever without ever mentioning that it was Cowboy Church because it’s all about show and not tell, right?  I edited it to death – stripped it and added better and then sent it in.  I didn’t expect anything because thousands of people enter these things who are way more talented than I.

I didn’t win.

But for the first time ever that didn’t matter.  I was shortlisted with my name in print. I could have won.  And maybe next time I will.  Winning isn’t always everything if coming in a list of seconds gives you enough confidence to dare to try.

Proudly shortlisted – Jules Smith

Here’s my entry:

Love bug adults are attracted to light-coloured surfaces, especially if they are freshly painted, but adults congregate almost anywhere apparently reacting to the effects of sunlight. Love bugs help the environment when they are in their immature stage as they are attracted to flowers and are good pollinators.

  I only went out of curiosity more than anything. I didn’t go expecting; I never do. Besides, there couldn’t be much in a field stretching out further than my eye could see. In fact, I couldn’t even tell you what else happened in that part of town or if there even stood a town there at all. All I recall is a gas station about half a mile down the road before I got there. And the car journey on the way. I remember that because it was beautiful. Speeding through nature, past buffalo ranches, open pastures, and the endless foliage of sage and brush. An adventure under the vast Texan sky which is bigger than any sky I’ve yet to witness. What I remember most of all is driving through a swarm of red and black bugs. They hit the truck front like a million bullets. Love bugs, they called them. Hundreds and thousands of love bullets banging into the hood like they were trying to get inside. The wise say you should always pay attention to your journey. 

  I stopped at the gas station which is why I remember the place. I got out of the car to straighten myself out. I don’t know why but I felt it necessary. I remember hoiking up my pale blue jeans that were pasted to the back of my thighs from the southern heat, and tightening my belt. Palming my summer top to iron out the driving creases and adjusting my cowboy hat. Showing the best you have to offer to whatever is about to greet you on the other side. I needn’t have bothered; judgement didn’t reside in that house.  

  It wasn’t anything special as houses go. You could pass it by without giving it a second glance.  Not like some of the buildings I’d frequented in my time that made a point of their grandiosity: painted in gold with fresco ceilings, mahogany woods, old stone carvings, and windows bigger than doors telling timeless stories. Like I said, looking right seemed to be what people paid attention to. 

  I knocked on the front door but nothing happened. Thing is, it didn’t look like a door you should open and go into. Not that it was foreboding in any way, just a normal door. I suppose that’s why I knocked first. I waited and looked down at the scuffed toes of my boots pondering on how I might introduce myself, and at the same time, wondering how it was that I could scratch a new pair of boots within seconds of wearing them. When nobody came I turned the handle and pulled the door open slowly. Opening a door like that makes you look more like a trespasser than not and is likely to have you facing a side-by-side quicker than anything, yet it’s still how we open something when filled with trepidation. It’s funny how we act as humans. A lot of things we do make no sense.  

  The hour was early which made me feel like I shouldn’t be going inside just yet but a few people were milling around a long table and chatting. I stood for a moment trying to search for something familiar even though I’d never been before. I put my friendly smile in place as I approached and fiddled with the cotton tassels that edged my pretty tunic. I should’ve made sure they knew I was coming, I thought. Maybe it might pay me to be less impulsive. Turning up unannounced in places all the time without consideration to how others might feel. I always did things like that and thought about them afterward despite constantly berating myself for doing so. But this time it didn’t matter because as soon as they noticed a fresh-face I got sought out with smiles and kind words. Greeted with friendly hugs and doughnuts for breakfast. Not just any buns but an array of all different kinds from plain to jam filled and even those with icing and sprinkles on top. Each cake a different sweetness but just as yummy. And that sweetness didn’t dissipate whatsoever. This sugar sprinkled itself all through that room and didn’t leave a spot untouched. This house that you might well drive past without a notion contained more love inside than I’d ever witnessed. And not the kind loaded with sugar-coated pretence that we often come across, but something more akin to warm honey. The kind that mends you from the inside out. That’s the best I can explain the feeling. I’ve known love and I’ve lost love, like we all have the same. But this kind was different. I considered myself impervious to this particular magic but somehow it found the cracks where the mortar had fallen out and seeped in. I’ve gotta tell you that this scared me half to death. I find myself wary of anything too good to be true. Surely it would find a way to trip me up or turn sour. The thought of losing something wholesome like that can’t fail to give you the fear. And if you took to it and lost it, that only goes on to blacken another piece of your heart and leave you tutting at the world with folded arms. Best to keep your guard and stay protected if you can.

  But that honey love, well, it stands alone. It neither forces or betrays. It lets you have a taste and leaves the spoon in front of you should you wish to take some more. It doesn’t run out or turn bad and it has no agenda. You can test it all you want. I think that’s what unnerves me the most of all – I can’t find a way to prove its unreliability or insincerity because it doesn’t give up on you. Well that doesn’t fit my script.  And that makes me laugh inside a little and shake my head. What gets into us to make us so contrary? All that any one of us is looking for is that warm, honeyed love. We try and seek it out in everything we do. Folks tend to substitute other things to make that feeling come about. They buy themselves trinkets or convince themselves that this next thing will be the answer. Now, don’t get me wrong, there ain’t nothing better than a fine pair of new boots to make me go giddy with excitement but in the end it’s just a passing treat. Like most treats, they are quickly digested leaving you hungry again. The good stuff isn’t found in the pretty toys or the grand facades, it’s found inside. Like I found inside that house that you wouldn’t likely pay heed to as you passed it by. 

I received my message. Loud and clear. Like being struck by a piece of two by four. “Never give up, never back down, and never lose faith”. I’d never heard a delivery quite like it, but then I’d never come across the real cowboys before. Those that stand up and tell it plain and simple. The salt of the earth kind that stick to the rules and don’t quit on anything. And, perhaps I hadn’t had reason enough to listen in the past. Serendipity, chance, coincidence? Call it what you want. If it’s real enough and meant for you, you’ll find it and know. And you’ll listen. You’ll hear what you need to and not just with your ears.

  There’s always a hum in Texas. Day or night you can hear the strumming coming from the long grass or trees. There’s always a background noise. A sense of something more going on that you haven’t quite connected with. This time it somehow resonated when I stepped outside of that little house. I felt wholesome. The wilderness no longer barren; the rustic frontier no longer a divide. Limitless possibilities beckoned. Like I’d been pollinated with something sacred. I drove away with the dust spraying out from my back wheels – leaving the detritus on the country track behind me. 

  I’ve only ever been to that house in a field a few times but I think about it often and what I might’ve missed had I kept on driving.  Sometimes you can end up somewhere quite unexpected and find the something that’s been missing. The something, as they say in Texas, that makes you feel “gooder”. 

The house I live in is another world away from the one I found out there in the middle of a field. But that doesn’t stop the honey coming or being available like I thought it might. It’s still there for my taking. The love still finds a way to reach me from that little house thousands of miles away as fast and furious as a swarm of springtime love bugs.

 

Friday Night In A Flash!

July 26, 2019 1:28pm Published by Jules Smith in Off Piste Posting (Any day thoughts) 6 Comments

The Challenge:  A Minute Poem

Write about something that can happen in sixty seconds using only sixty syllables (8,4,4,4, x 3)

Err, Ok then.  How about a typical Friday night out?

Getting Ready

The Ladder

Lipstick is perfect, eyebrows too,
Powder not cracked,
Contour exact,
Hair, quite a do.

Torso wafted through perfumed air,
Slip on the dress,
Nylons are next,
Ten denier.

A moment to sheer second skin,
Slide over knee,
Hear it break free,
Ladder shows shin.

The Drink

Margarita

Some might say she’s the Devil’s tart,
Full of suspense,
Disables sense,
Captures the heart.

The waiter’s witch, shaken with ice,
Dressed as a wench,
In orange French,
And zest, for life.

The minute made Señorita,
Drinks in the game,
You taste her name,
Margarita.

 

Meeting The Man Of Your Dreams

Third Base

A little bit anxious when he
knocks at the door,
date number three,
means giving more.

He’s holding some wine and wearing
a grin, carnal
of course, as he
wants to see skin.

Wham-bam and thank you, the deed is
soon done, who knew
sixty seconds
could be such fun!

 

Happy weekend!

What A Load Of Bull!

July 18, 2019 12:30pm Published by Jules Smith in Off Piste Posting (Any day thoughts) 14 Comments

Satirical Snapshots Eventually Getting Round To Posting!

And as usual, there’s a lot of bull….

The County Fair 

Nothing says you’re in England quite like a Big Wheel, a man in a suit and a bowler hat, a pretty girl in boots, and a white coated pubescent walking a giant bull.  It all goes on over here.

Farmers – they’re a bit mad aren’t they?  I can attest to this from an experience I had at a “Young Farmers Ball” once upon a time.  A man in tweed and expensive wellies, who’s not afraid to ram his arm up inside a heifer, is of a different breed.  And when drunk on cider at a posh do full of fillies in frocks they’re even worse.  Maybe all they can see is cattle?  Terrifying.

Off I went to the County Fair to see what was going on.

Farmers are very proud of their moo cows.  Brushing them, making them stand correctly by hitting them with a stick, and smiling whilst a burly judge has a good look around them and pins a rosette on his favourite.  I don’t quite know what he’s looking for… Is it going to make a good burger? 

Look At The Cajones On This Beast!

My word! 

Well, the farmer judge turned up in a fitted tweed two-piece and seemed to be in his element.  

Get a load of this fine rump! He had a good old stroke around that and seemed to adopt this rear position with ease.  Like he’d maybe done it before…

And then straight underneath for a good old feel of Mr.Bull’s swinging tackle!  

Why?

Brave.  And, like I said, a bit mental. 

And if you’re not about the bollocks you can take a turn at pulling titties.  

Or, understand the fine art of fleecing with our Nobby!

Who seems to have the Norfolk horn…

It’s all very animal farm.

However, it’s not all bestiality.  For those looking for a bit of refinement there was falconry, giant tortoises, some classic cars, and a rather nice show of horse and cart riding.

I quite fancy my hand at this!  How very elegant and refined! I could see that looking pretty good parked outside my house next to my truck!

This event rounded off nicely with a magnificent display of horsemanship.

Not that my mind was on sausages or anything but you can’t leave a good farming show without a bit of Lincolnshire’s finest meat.

A footlong too.  They make ’em big over here.  The farmers are always saying so.

Take a gander at that, my American friends! You have some competition from across the pond.

Needless to say,  that kept my mouth full for a while…

All Rhodes Lead To Genoa

June 27, 2019 11:38pm Published by Jules Smith in Off Piste Posting (Any day thoughts) 16 Comments

Satirical Snapshots Bringing You Travelogue Thursday!

You might have noticed I’ve been away. And you’d be right.  It might serve you to pay attention when I go on holiday as I have a canny knack of picking just the right time. 

Floody Hell

My first trip was a top secret, extremely last minute get-away to Rhodes in Greece. Timely to the point of divine wisdom because as I left on a rainy day to a glorious 30 C balmy island, England turned into a river of hell and non-stop rain den.  There were floods everywhere and not a drop to drink.  Needless to say, everyone despised me. 

I thought about their watery plight as I meandered through my own flood…

Which was tough.  And actually, my hotel was hard going.  Upstairs to the pool – up more stairs to the other pool. Downstairs to the beach, downstairs to the dining area. Up and down stairs more times than I’ve trodden a stair in all my life.  It took me three whole days to figure out that if I was going up and down stairs all the time that there had to be a non-stair route in the middle.  By which time my calf muscles had decided to knot into balls of steel and threaten to snap when going down the slightest of slopes.  When the Greek guy who drives the golf cart around the premises asks if you need a lift 100 yards away it’s safe to say that other guests have noticed your sluggish gait and whimpers.

Still, the waiter at the pool bar served up a spectacular antidote…

Despite this being all-inclusive, let’s buy it on the cheap cos the English are holidaying here, gin and tonic, I have to say that the sun and salty breeze made it taste out of this world.  So much so, I have returned with a new found desire for un-named liquor brands sold at Lidl mixed with inferior tonic.  Greece has a way of erasing the snobbery.

But when this is your view, how can it not?

I found a beautiful bay down the road at Kalithea Springs: perfect snorkelling, an elevated, horizontal bed, a vista, and butlers on tap providing Feta and Fanta within 17 minutes of a finger click.

But there comes a point when you need to get your hat on and out into the thick of it all.

I decided to descend on Lindos which is a beautiful and typical Greek fishing village. Like a true Knight I set out to see the Temple of Athena Lindia until I realised that 10,000 other people had too.

The heat was searing down and as I looked up the great mountainous walk to the Acropolis I spotted someone puking about halfway up and decided to give it a miss. Fortunately, I’ve been here before so bailing out didn’t seem so bad.  At the end of the day, the beauty and history of Lindos is not something you want to share with excessive crowds whilst boiling to death.  The whole essence of the place is spoiled by this along with the need for Greeks to open up a “Mikey’s English Food Bar” to attract tourists. I come on holiday to escape such things.  However, I walked the back streets and managed to avoid the madding crowd.

With more steps…

But much better cafes…

And a delectable door or two…

I’ve discovered all the things I love about life by extensive travelling but not in the way I thought I might.  It is by finding what I do not like that I have truly uncovered what I yearn for to calm body and soul.

Keeping it simple is what works for me and if you can manage to lose yourself in a Greek island, it’s almost perfect.

However, no time for that because I had to move on to the…

Italian Job

Bags unpacked, clobber washed, and back on the plane to Genoa.  The capital of Liguria.

Italy is one of my favourite places and Liguria in particular as I spent 3 months there back in my early 20’s.  I spoke wonderful Italian, hardly spent a penny, and ended up meeting a Mafia gang and bringing them back to England.  I must blog that story – it’s fabulous!

Anyway, what I particularly love about Italy is the food, the wine, the passion, and the go-slow tempo against a dramatic backdrop.  

Fresco and Frascati…

The best MacDonalds I’ve ever been inside was in Rome.  The building could rival the Trevi Fountain with its flamboyance!

I walked the dusty, cobbled streets in search of Bardolino and espresso, pasta and prosciutto and whatever Genoa had to offer.  Which, on the first night was utterly atrocious.  

Having stopped at a random cafe type restaurant that looked pretty nice, I found that I’d eaten better ravioli out of a smart-price tin at Asda.  The waitress was a surly bint with a severe hatred for tourists and had the audacity to bring me cold red wine.  In Italy.  That’s when I lost my shit.

“No.  I cannot possibly drink this,”  I stated – all snobbery back in full play. 

“You want it caldo?”

“No, I want it room temperature. It should complement the warm breeze of the evening.”

“You can ‘ave it ‘ot or cold.”

Wow. Where am I? Grimsby? I swear to God I nearly slapped her. 

 Fortunately, all righted itself and the next few days found me eating local dishes in beautiful places,  such as gnocchi pesto and focaccia for which Genoa is famous. 

saluté to that!

After a few hard-heeled days of scouting out the city, I took a train to Santa Margherita / Portofino for a day of seaside swag and sophistication. Pretty, idyllic, and very expensive.

As you can see, everyone else in Genoa had pretty much the same idea except they weren’t stupid enough to forget to bring a towel and have to pay a gazillion Euro for a sun-bed and a rag. But it’s still not as expensive as Copenhagen. That is going to take some beating. 

 

 

 

 

Icy Little Bitch

February 22, 2019 12:25pm Published by Jules Smith in Off Piste Posting (Any day thoughts) 12 Comments

Cocktail glass in shadow

Satirical Snapshots Bringing You Fabulous News On A Friday!

You could only make this up in fairyland where the most beautiful dreams come true.

I can’t actually believe it. 

How all the right things have managed to come together all at once.  I mean, how often does that ever happen? A miraculous melting pot of marvellous. 

The Magical Ingredients

Cocktail glass with lyrics

The sun is shining. In England.  In February. I don’t know what’s going on cos it should be snowing, but spring has arrived and temperatures are in double figures.  

It’s a Friday. Best day of the week. Nobody works on a Friday.

And, best of all, the icing on the cake, the pièce de résistance ?

It’s only National Margarita Day!

Oh yeah, baby. No joke. And I’m all in. 

Mad hatter and cocktail

Please feel free to listen to the song I wrote about the best cocktail in the world here. Enjoy yours, have one for me, and I’ll see you at the crack of noon next week.

Cheers!

 

Dawning

June 11, 2018 2:40pm Published by Jules Smith in Off Piste Posting (Any day thoughts) 22 Comments

A pale pink English rose

Watching him flutter around the seed holder was a beautiful distraction at 4. 30 in the morning.  Little Robin Redbreast. Nature made sure we could see that bursting glow from your chest and we humanise it as it is our nature to poetically do so. Little Robin: your heart was meant to scare and ours to scar, it seems. 

Wild seeds on the floor discarded in haste for those more succulent that took preference.  Snatching at the tastiest lest some other flighty friend may come and get the pickings. Skirting swiftly after feeding to a nearby rose to preen. Her pale pink petals offering delicate layers of softness. Curled and yellowing slightly at the edges despite her face being a few days old. So heavy, her pretty head, that it bows low to the ground in submission while buds of her own family reach up tall with robust new life. Fresh colour. 

Summer at dawn. New summer.  The beauty as it develops from the dainty hold of spring into an overnight swell. Everything vying for attention and singing out its glory. Brighter, bolder. Softer, sweeter.  The songs in the air piercing the early morning silence. Such peace, such heavenly peace, though momentary which makes it all the more delicious.

 Existing silently in that moment and soothing tired eyes that should be sleeping. Tired eyes set to become weary with necessity in but a few hours. Bare skin traced by gentle breezes allowing an awakening at the same steady pace that the sun throws out her kisses.

Thoughts. So many of them. Each tumbling over the other for priority. Some amalgamating and forming branches. Setting them free without reprimand and being able to whisper them to the unsullied sky without even talking. Silent messages sent out into the ether with a hope of answers. Dreams released and untangled where nobody can snatch them and put them into files marked X. Impossible possibilities clinging to the hope of a new day. 

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