My Writers Circle

Workshop => Review My Work => Topic started by: 510bhan on March 30, 2014, 11:34:07 PM

Title: Coffee Morning
Post by: 510bhan on March 30, 2014, 11:34:07 PM
Hi - trying to get over my dislike for present tense and to provide a character study within a story [loose term here]. I wanted to explore the reality of old age for a female character. :-[


Coffee Morning

Valerie’s visiting today. Need to look smart, show I’m not past it. I can cope on my own. Still got my marbles and I’m not incontinent, just a little slow.

May hitches into the kitchen to check the progress of the chocolate eclairs thawing on the countertop. God bless, Carole, she’s done the breakfast dishes too and the tray’s all laid out.

May reaches for a hairbrush. She winces, convinced another ailment has come to accompany arthritic aches and rheumatic pains and thinks she’d better try before her shoulder atrophies through disuse. If she could shrug she would, but raises her brow instead. Soon be dead. Why bother? She shakes her head, instantly regrets it and grasps the darned brush to fix her hair. A comb would be better but it’s harder to hold.

Knots, like knuckle bones, seem calcified, oversized and sore but she tugs short, rough strokes, hopes they catch the matted tats, and pulls, eyes shut. Face screwed up, she refuses to cry.

After half an hour, strands unravelled now, she shuffles on her frame to the mirror. A clip will grip her fringe in the style when she was twenty. One hand leans on the basin to steady her as she pins the curl. Chin low, almost resting on her pigeon chest, her eyes roll in her sockets as she guesses where the clip should go. Golly, it’s hard to do one-handed. May tries to straighten her stoop. The dowager’s hump is so pronounced she can’t lift her head fully. But she persists and gives a toothless grin at the result. Ooh, must remember my dentures.

The rest of the morning she grapples with getting dressed, opts for wide band pop socks rather than tights. They snag on her corns and cling to her bunions but slip over the thick blue worms on her calves. Next, a petticoat to prevent static.  May plonks on the bed and swings her legs to get them through the hole, grabs her Zimmer to stand and shimmies the slinky fabric over her ample hips. No knickers – too fussy when you have to negotiate pulling up a skirt and pulling down a pair of panties on a high-seated toilet aid. Saves time. Much easier to clean yourself afterwards too.  No brassiere either – the straps cut into her shoulders, the hooks are impossible to do up and no amount of wriggling ever settles her sagging breasts into the puckered cups. Pert is in the past. And so she proceeds with her endeavours to complete the task of adding top layers to underwear with small breaks between each garment to recover from the effort. Shoes. She spends an age trying to find a pair of shoes which still fit her deformed feet. Catalogue cripple boots would spoil the delicate combination of fabrics and drape. Oh, mercy, there must be something. But there is nothing. May settles on a pair of silver grey slippers with a purple satin bow and slides her feet in. A little smear of lipstick and a dusting of petal pink rouge adds colour to her face. Perfume from a stoppered bottle, she dabs on wrists and throat.

She gets the job done before lunch. Skirt with elasticated waist, easy to step into. Camisole – no tricky neckline or armholes or buttons, and a loose fitting cashmere cardigan that allows sleeve-pulling without awkward movement. She frowns at the outfit, feels frumpy and dowdy. Sartorial elegance doesn’t trump comfort and practicality. Those days are gone, along with her figure and mobility. But she sniffs, defiant, resigned – she’s not sure – and smoothes the skirt free of wrinkles before she takes another look. The lilac colours suit her fair complexion and a brooch on a scarf might lift the ensemble.  May plucks a large black onyx brooch with diamond accents from her jewellery box and struggles to position it with its fiddly pin.

The doorbell rings. May presses the button to release the security catch and Valerie breezes in. May smiles. “Hello. You look lovely, darling.”

Mwah. Mwah.
“Oh, dear,” perky Valerie says. She moues and extends a manicured hand that brushes against May’s cheek. May notices the slender fingers and their easy movement. “Look at that droopy barrel curl. Who on earth got you ready today, Mother?” She removes the clip, whips the hair around her fingers and secures it in a moment. “Can’t stay long, only have half an hour.” She tidies a pile of magazines and puts them out of reach on the window sill. “Behind on things after doing the laundry this morning and helping Mrs Jones, poor woman. Finally got that shrub clipped back too.” Valerie tut tuts at the sickly looking cyclamen and fetches a jug of water to rehydrate it.
May sits and watches.

“Hardly had time to fit in the gym and get the Christmas decorations out of the loft. Having lunch with the girls from the choir.” The silver framed photograph attracts Valerie’s weaselly eye. She draws a tissue from her cuff and buffs the metal with it before she returns the frame to the sideboard – in the wrong place. “So what have you been doing today?” She pats May’s hair and gives a patronising smile.

May thinks for a moment. Valerie is busy plumping sofa cushions and not even looking at her.

Does she really care? Resentment burns her skin.  Who got me ready? Fixing my magazines? Polishing the photo frame? Watering the plant – as if it’s a help. Just point out my inadequacies why don’t you? You’ve no idea how hard it is. I won’t cry. I won’t. She’ll find out when it happens.

“Mother?” Valerie’s expression suggests she wants a reply.

“Oh, the usual, struggling through. Mustn’t grumble.”
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 2par on March 31, 2014, 07:04:34 AM
Ouch
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: wanderer on March 31, 2014, 09:30:29 AM
A lot of detail, but it held my interest and could read through it, Very dark and poignant, but realistic. I liked it. A few words I think are unique to the UK.

Quote
A comb would better but it’s harder to hold.

A comb would be better but it's harder to hold.

Quote
She spends and age trying to find a pair of shoes which still fit her deformed feet.

She spends an age. . .

Quote
May plucks a large black onyx brooch with diamond accents from her jewellery box and struggles to position it with its fiddly pin.
Spelling: jewellery
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: Alice, a Country Gal on March 31, 2014, 10:53:29 AM
Sio, this is good enough that it drew me in and at the end, I so wished someone would throttle Valerie - a good daughter or even visitor she isn't.

The one thing that threw me a bit was  "Mwah. Mwah."  I'm sure the word has some meaning. I just have no idea what it is.
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 510bhan on March 31, 2014, 11:37:18 AM
Thank you 2par.

Bill - appreciate you catching the typos, I shall go and correct ;) Jewellery is UK spelling.

Alice -- Mwah = an air kiss.

I am so glad Valerie came across as not the daughter/visitor you'd want. She probably thinks she's being really helpful.



Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: Alice, a Country Gal on March 31, 2014, 11:50:52 AM
Quote
Alice -- Mwah = an air kiss.

Ugh - that makes her even more the daughter I wouldn't want around.  :(
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 510bhan on March 31, 2014, 11:52:12 AM
 ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D

May is too polite to say anything.
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: Alice, a Country Gal on March 31, 2014, 12:05:28 PM
;D ;D ;D ;D ;D

May is too polite to say anything.

I understood that, not a problem. I'm just not the type to sit quiet.  ;)
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: junel on March 31, 2014, 12:58:42 PM
Hi - trying to get over my dislike for present tense and to provide a character study within a story [loose term here]. I wanted to explore the reality of old age for a female character. :-[

There's nothing wrong with disliking present tense, no one's saying you have to write in that fashion, write with what you are comfortable, it's fine.  ;)

You know, I was going to do a line-by-line crit of the first few paragraphs, but then I thought, this is clearly no more than a writing exercise so doesn't really call for a line-by-line. What it only requires is an appraisal of the reason why you wrote it, to flex your writing muscles on present tense. On that, as far as I can see, you've done fine. I'm not getting the impression this has been written by someone who "dislikes" present tense.  ;)

Well done, -Junel.  :)
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 510bhan on March 31, 2014, 01:24:26 PM
Thanks, junel -- yes, more of an exercise than a finished product. It might be useful for me whenever some of my characters need to be in present tense for scenes/flashbacks. ;)
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: junel on March 31, 2014, 01:34:03 PM
sorry, i tend not to make myself clear -- what i really meant was write to your strengths, not your weaknesses.

but the point you make is a fair one, better to be a well rounded writer, with many strengths.  :)
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: bri h on March 31, 2014, 03:27:11 PM
Isn't it better in PT to italicise a couple of thoughts, Shvon? Or did I get that one wrang?
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 510bhan on March 31, 2014, 03:28:23 PM
Personal style choice. If you know or can guess it's thoughts -- why italicise? :-\
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: Clarius on March 31, 2014, 03:47:04 PM
Poignant and touching. A mix of internal monologue and third person perspective. Would first person have worked better? A little too much about her getting dressed. Does it seem a little voyeuristic to anyone? Did you miss a trick with the tray and the tea. There's a piece I read once, I wish I could remember the title, in which the author made the simple act of preparing and serving a cup of tea seem, to the aged protagonist, like a labour worthy of Hercules.
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 510bhan on March 31, 2014, 04:04:04 PM
Hi, Clarius, this was meant to be deliberately heavy regarding personal care -- I avoided the tray laid out and took a short cut by having Carole [the carer] having prepared it earlier, implying it was a difficult thing to do.

Many of us appreciate how hard it is for older folk to perform such tasks but I don't think many of us realise quite how hard it is simply to get dressed when there are aches and pains restricting movement and the choices they might make over garments which look fuddy-duddy. I used to watch my elderly aunt and try to help her -- painful just to watch. Anyway, I hope anyone reading this has a little insight to the difficulties an older person faces and the problems they have to overcome.

Thanks for reading. ;D
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 2par on March 31, 2014, 05:04:55 PM
Oh the heck with that all. I put on an oversize T-shirt and comb my hair.
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: Mrs N on March 31, 2014, 05:05:33 PM
Hi, enjoyed the second half more than the first. Your writing came alive with the entrance of Valerie. You did a good portrayal of someone with OCD!! Poor Valerie.

First line confused me. I thought you were writing in first person, didn't realise they were May's thoughts. Then had to sort out who was who, which had me re-reading. Just so you know.

Who wants to get old?? Some mornings I feel like May. :(  
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 510bhan on March 31, 2014, 05:06:33 PM
 ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D

I doubt you're old enough to belong to a generation who stressed about twinsets and matching shoes. ;D
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 510bhan on March 31, 2014, 05:07:58 PM
Thanks Mrs N. ;D

Goes to show how dialogue can inject that extra power, doesn't it? ;)
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: Mrs N on March 31, 2014, 05:12:55 PM
;D ;D ;D ;D ;D

I doubt you're old enough to belong to a generation who stressed about twinsets and matching shoes. ;D


I like my shoes to match!! :D :D :D
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 510bhan on March 31, 2014, 05:14:54 PM
Right and left -- obviously! ::)

 :D :D :D
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 2par on March 31, 2014, 05:19:26 PM
I'm so torn about this. I keep avoiding it and yet can't keep from returning. I guess I remember my mother's efforts too well, and now watch my husband's.
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 510bhan on March 31, 2014, 05:25:59 PM
It is hard to find things which make life easy but don't look like 'aids for the elderly'. Godammit no matter what age we are we are still people with thoughts, opinions, feelings, preferences and we shouldn't have to just put up with stuff because we don't want to be a bother or any trouble. It really, really narks me how older folk are patronised or ignored just because they're no longer conventionally beautiful, take time to get things done and complain when things hurt. Nobody gives younger folk a hard time if they suffer a frozen shoulder/golfer's elbow or  migraine or IBS. It's perfectly acceptable and they even get sympathy. An older person complains and they're labelled a crabbity old git. >:(
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: protekme on March 31, 2014, 08:23:03 PM
I didn't know whether I should be laughing or crying. A bit of both, I guess. Good job, 510.
 
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 510bhan on March 31, 2014, 08:23:43 PM
Thank you. ;D ;D ;D ;D
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: Neghe on March 31, 2014, 09:16:57 PM
Just slip artfully into present tense during action scenes and leave it at that.
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 510bhan on March 31, 2014, 09:18:55 PM
Oh, I know . . . just needed to make a conscious effort over something outside my WIPs.  ;) It's a love/hate relationship. Trying to make sure I can be comfortable with it and not get my knickers in a knot. ;D
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: Neghe on March 31, 2014, 09:51:48 PM

Yeah, you do need to get use to it: it's like 2nd person however, it drives many people crazy if it goes on too long.
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 510bhan on March 31, 2014, 09:53:06 PM
Cheers, Neghe. ;)
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: hillwalker3000 on April 01, 2014, 10:24:31 AM
As an exercise, good job. But you painted the two characters black or white - no subtle shading whatsoever. So I couldn't really take to either.

H3K
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 510bhan on April 01, 2014, 10:27:01 AM
Thanks, Phil. ;D
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: Wolfe on April 01, 2014, 12:06:49 PM
Is there any specific feedback you're looking for or are you just asking for our general impressions? Also, if I may, is this just an exercise or is your intent to use this in a novel or similar work?
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 510bhan on April 01, 2014, 12:23:59 PM
No, it was just me doing an exercise and by posting on here, trying to make sure I'd kept my tense consistent. Sometimes I'm lazy in my own docs -- this gave me a 'place' to put it. I don't think I've anywhere planned for something similar. Suspect now it was a cathartic piece.

If I were to rework this as a 'story' I think I might show both of them getting ready for the coffee morning in separate scenes, maybe Valerie on the phone or in the gym after her morning's efforts and have May chat with her carer so I could reveal more of their characters and expectations. Not sure I'd do that in present tense if I invested more time in the story-telling element of the observations.

Thanks for looking. ;)
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: Wolfe on April 01, 2014, 12:28:46 PM
Suspect now it was a cathartic piece.

Funny. I thought the same thing. That's why I asked before I made comment. ;) Didn't want to run you off crying, and create another thread where my vicious insight ran off another member.

You know, cause my favorite hobby is hurting feelings and all.  ;D
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 510bhan on April 01, 2014, 12:31:50 PM
Damn -- now you've spoiled my plans! >:(

 :D :D :D :D
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 510bhan on April 01, 2014, 12:35:35 PM
If however for the benefit of other members you wanted to bare your teeth and point out the deficiencies -- have fun. ;)
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 510bhan on April 01, 2014, 12:44:05 PM
Not just Wolfe -- anyone is welcome. Even if it's just a faults list, it might be helpful to other folk. May as well make a post worthwhile even if it is an exercise. ;)
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: Wolfe on April 01, 2014, 12:46:46 PM
Right. Like I need a new thread saying, "See! Wolfe is not only unprofessional to new members, he's also ugly to old members! Even former moderators! That beast."

Pass.  :D
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 510bhan on April 01, 2014, 12:48:48 PM
Oooh -- scaredy cat now! ::) ;D ;D ;D

The offer still stands for folk who want to let rip . . . with comments based as if this were going to be a short story. ;)
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: Annmarie on April 01, 2014, 12:54:16 PM
I'm shocked. Shocked, I say! I will never look at an older person again without wondering if she's out sans knickers.  :D

The first sentences set me up for first person present. So I was jarred when the name May came up.
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 510bhan on April 01, 2014, 01:00:24 PM
Okay -- so in order not confuse readers over POV . . . with this piece


Thanks Annmarie. :)

You're going to be demented over the knickers thoughts now. :D
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: Neghe on April 01, 2014, 01:12:10 PM

I never use italics for internal dialogue. The tension between the narrative voice and character voice should be enough to tip off the readers. 
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 510bhan on April 01, 2014, 01:16:55 PM
That's what I do -- but it obviously didn't work for this opening as a couple of people have been confused by expectations. The only italics in this are for the sound of the air kiss. I hoped the writing would be clear enough for readers to follow what was descriptive narrative and what was thought.


Thanks, neghe. ;)
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: Neghe on April 01, 2014, 01:24:24 PM

Delve into Deep-POV instead.



Though, a lot of the explanations of how to achieve it that you may find on the net are absolutely ridiculous.
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 510bhan on April 01, 2014, 01:26:26 PM
Thanks for the suggestion. ;)

Any recommendations?
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: Neghe on April 01, 2014, 01:29:15 PM

Yeah.


Later--got to run.
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 510bhan on April 01, 2014, 02:21:32 PM
It's not a story . . . the beginning does not set up anything that might happen really, no foreshadowing. The description of May getting dressed is over-long, though that was somewhat intentional to show how much of a chore it is to get dressed. It needs broken up and needs another person in scene so the conflict is better shown -- perhaps May struggling to get ready by a certain time and maybe her carer chivvying her on -- May refusing help or being humiliated when she has to ask for it. :-X

The end is flat because there is no beginning . . . it's all middle. :P

I've not given the reader enough reason to invest emotion in May, they don't know her enough to care about her getting dressed. :-\

Plus points, it's clean, active voice for the most part and **show** rather than tell [I don't say she has varicose veins, I don't say she has a frozen shoulder and other little touches] :D

What else have I missed?
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: heidi52 on April 01, 2014, 02:31:15 PM
You've made May very typical, maybe too typical. She could be any old woman, anywhere. I think we need a little something different to set her apart.

We see her getting ready and experiencing lots of pain, but millions of old ladies have pain when they are getting ready. What we need is a reason to care about her. Maybe despite the pain she doesn't go for comfy, maybe she soldiers on, getting into formal clothes because it's an event - her daughter is coming.

Then you could have the contrast of her daughter showing up in sweats and her hair in a scrunchy stopping in on her way to the gym.

You almost have it with the daughter, but she's got to be more. We want to dislike her, because that in itself will  make us more involved with May.

Just my opinion of course.
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 510bhan on April 01, 2014, 02:35:51 PM
Thanks, Heidi  :)

Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: heidi52 on April 01, 2014, 02:46:47 PM
Could be most of what makes her special is in the past. Maybe she was a fashionista when young, always impeccably dressed. Now she's forced to wear frumpy things and even those are hard to get into.

Just brainstorming. Find what makes you want to write about her.
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 510bhan on April 01, 2014, 02:47:59 PM
Sweet suggestion, Heidi! Might rob that idea, good premise. :D
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 510bhan on April 01, 2014, 02:57:29 PM
Might work it with ideas from this poem . . .

Haunting

She graced covers of Vogue and Tatler, the haughty pose,
arched brow and painted pout, recognisable in her tilted hat.
Haute couture draped her frame, pearls clung to her throat,
portraits in profile by famous photographers
filled newspapers, galleries, and Pathé news reels.

But that was seventy years ago, age hangs slack,
crêped thin over cheekbones and vellum jowls.
Her eyes, no longer shine within, their colour slipped,
blue dripped bruises now shadow jaundiced hollows.

Her head is held high in the latest photograph,
there are no pearls at her neck, but a personal alarm
and her expression, somewhat startled like a deer,
could be fear or confusion, but have no illusions
she’s now the poster girl for the latest campaign
promoting awareness about elderly abuse
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: heidi52 on April 01, 2014, 02:59:26 PM
That very well may be May!  ;D
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: Mrs N on April 01, 2014, 05:47:39 PM
Wow, love the poem. That really works for me. You've got under her skin and everything. This hi-lights what a great writer you are whereas the prose version.... :-\
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 510bhan on April 01, 2014, 05:49:19 PM
 ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D

The prose version is seriously flawed -- but in fairness it was an exercise whereas the poem is a finished piece. :D
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: bri h on April 01, 2014, 07:25:03 PM
Maybe its my own experiences influencing me, but I immediately thought what kind of Mother was May to Valerie? There are 'good Ma's, and bad Ma's.' Because we don't know, and it isn't obvious in the decripts then I can't empathise with May, even though I want to.
And Val? I hope her bum and boobs start to sag. You got her down pat, in my eyes. I liked the descripts of May, I just wanted more of her.
And I totally agree with you about the way 'older' people seem to be seen these days. I get the feeling that the young-uns would throw them/us away as easily as getting rid of a tv that doesn't have the same SOTA new 'thingy' as present ones do. Bri
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 510bhan on April 01, 2014, 07:29:09 PM
Cheers, Bri'. May was as good as she could be for her generation, probably raised her in a rather strict, god-fearing environment. ;) Not too  much of a display of emotion, repressed, frustrated at not having women's equality back in the day so never fulfilled her potential, living in fear of doing something wrong or not living up to expectations. ::)
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: bri h on April 01, 2014, 07:32:22 PM
Oh you mean like 'me Nanna?'  ;D Then yeah, you got 'Lizzy' (never to her face) down pat, cos she was just like that. xbx
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 510bhan on April 01, 2014, 07:36:40 PM
The same for many women now in their 90s -- they really did get a raw deal and they did all the 'hard' work at home. Made into baby machines or called cold cows. Daddy was always given much more respect and appreciation. Time spent with him was precious and often fun whereas Mum was a moan.  Rather unfair when you get to know them and realise what they sacrificed in their innocence . . . days of virgin brides etc.>:(
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: bri h on April 01, 2014, 07:47:16 PM
Know what you mean. They were taught to 'know their place.' And if they said owt, the only thing they got was a smack in the mouth. I know that feeling.
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 510bhan on April 01, 2014, 07:51:39 PM
You got it. And if they lived with a good guy, things that caused problems were often dismissed as unrealistic or just not on -- then people got frozen out. Lots of old hurts built up that never had expression. Guilt was a big deal too. And living through the war, making sacrifices . . .
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: bri h on April 01, 2014, 07:54:17 PM
I found out a while ago. That 'problem' girls were dealt with by them being put into hospitals for life. Isn't that awful.
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 510bhan on April 01, 2014, 08:01:21 PM
Not just 'problem' girls. :o

In Stewart's family his youngest sister was given away to an aunt and uncle to be raised. Six bairns, we suspect Gladys had post-natal depression -- but if you admitted to that in those days you were sent off to an asylum because you suffered from mental illness, so all hushed up. My poor sister-in-law never came back to join the family. Still wonders what she did wrong to be sent away. The boys feel guilty because they think they must have been too much for mum to handle and caused the situation . . . bad, bad, bad and so wrong! >:(
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: bri h on April 01, 2014, 08:07:41 PM
Oh wait, wait. Maybe Val coulda' been a 'problem' child? That way, she'd have issues with May? Just a thought.
(thought I'd better get back on topic before I felt a Mods hot breath on my collar) 'Looks around nervously, and scans the skies, looking and listening for their tell-tale wing-beats.'

 ;D
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 510bhan on April 01, 2014, 08:09:33 PM
I think May is more a character who welcomed change, just frustrated that she didn't have the same opportunity -- maybe she's jealous of Val. :-[
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 2par on April 02, 2014, 01:37:39 AM
I wonder if it would be a mistake painting Val in a dark way. Perhaps she is not as bad as we'd like her to be, if only to look at her in contrast to her mother.

It seems to me that Val isn't some young, swinging chick. After all, what is May, 80? Then Val is maybe 50? She's starting to feel her own mortality too. And perhaps she tries to put off growing old. She may want to deny that's where she's headed. She's got to see what's ahead of her just by looking at May. So she covers up her own fears and anxieties by rearranging magazines, etc.
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 510bhan on April 02, 2014, 01:41:58 AM
I think I said in a reply some posts back that Val probably thinks she is being helpful, and, yes, 2par she is probably afraid of what awaits her which is why she's doing her gardening, going to the gym etc. ;)

Thing is though this piece is through May's POV and she can't help but feel hurt after all the effort she's made. ;)
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: Clarius on April 02, 2014, 08:06:01 AM
Nope, still can't get that image out of my head. Knickerless nannies! Gussetless geriatrics! Pantieless pensioners! Commode commadoes! :o The mind boggles, and other parts... "Hello dearie, fancy a fumble, do ya." She shuffled closer on her zimmer frame. "Tell you what love, stick a fiver on top o' that an’ I’ll put me teef in for ya."
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: Alice, a Country Gal on April 02, 2014, 09:48:58 AM
Val struck me as a daughter that breezes in and out, fluffing this, straightening and dusting a tiny bit and thinks she has done her duty. It probably never occurs to her that what her mother needs more than anything else is her company.

Just sit down, enjoy a cup of coffee or tea and talk. Spending more than 3 or 5 minutes with her mother would let her know she has value despite her age.
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 510bhan on April 02, 2014, 12:13:23 PM
Val struck me as a daughter that breezes in and out, fluffing this, straightening and dusting a tiny bit and thinks she has done her duty. It probably never occurs to her that what her mother needs more than anything else is her company.

Just sit down, enjoy a cup of coffee or tea and talk. Spending more than 3 or 5 minutes with her mother would let her know she has value despite her age.

Exactly, Alice -- time is the best thing you can provide . . . and it doesn't cost anything.

Sorry, Clarius -- your head will have to find a way around it. ;D
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: RyanThomas on April 02, 2014, 12:25:15 PM
I really love the fact that you decided to intentionally go out of your comfort zone and write in present tense even though you dont care for it and ultimately i think it paid off for you.  I rather enjoyed this piece. It is a bit descriptive in spots but not enough to keep me reading. I was a little distracted by some of the spelling but as you said it was the UK spelling so its my fault for being a damn YANK! Good work!  ;D
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: Alice, a Country Gal on April 02, 2014, 12:29:34 PM
Ryan, stick around here as long as I have and the UK spelling becomes something you recognize . . . most of the time.  ;)
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: Neghe on April 02, 2014, 12:58:54 PM
Ryan, stick around here as long as I have and the UK spelling becomes something you recognize . . . most of the time.  ;)

Actually...I always thought, color

should be like the Brits spell it: Colour.  :) 
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 510bhan on April 02, 2014, 01:16:03 PM
Thanks Ryan -- glad some of it worked for you. You'll soon get used to the variety of spellings and work out whether the poster is US or UK. If the spelling is consistently weird it is probably not from your home country but you'll learn the alternatives quickly. ;D

Neghe -- you're not allowed to like colour with a 'u'. Funny how 'your' hasn't yet suffered the 'u' removal. ::)

See -- reading Alice's recognize when I would write recognise isn't a problem at all. :D
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: Neghe on April 02, 2014, 03:39:34 PM

Neghe -- you're not allowed to like colour with a 'u'. Funny how 'your' hasn't yet suffered the 'u' removal. ::)


See what I mean...? Okay the truth is that whatever style of English we were taught, English is just a really wired language. However, it's all those oddities that make the best language for writing fiction in--there is always another way to phrase the idea.  ;D   
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: bri h on April 02, 2014, 03:44:15 PM
Do you still think, ~ is a good idea, shvon? 'They'll' never get their heads around it.  ::)   ;D
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 510bhan on April 02, 2014, 03:45:19 PM
Not for discussion here, Bri' ;)
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: Wolfe on April 02, 2014, 04:43:54 PM
If I may offer some advice (stroke my ego bishes or else!) as far as the prose? Right now, it's all introspective. The simple fix is to add another character that acts like a soundboard. Instead of thoughts, have the character voice those issues to another. In this way, the inaction becomes action.

Again, just a suggestion. I promise not to get my panties in a bunch if you don't do it . . . maybe.  ;D
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 510bhan on April 02, 2014, 04:50:47 PM
Thanks, Wolfe -- yep, idiot mistake . . . don't leave a character on their own . . . for too long, anyway. ;D

Cheers. :D
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: Alice, a Country Gal on April 02, 2014, 04:54:17 PM
But Sio, you did have another character, you only need to increase her part.  ;)

Quote
May hitches into the kitchen to check the progress of the chocolate eclairs thawing on the countertop. God bless, Carole, she’s done the breakfast dishes too and the tray’s all laid out.

Only one mention of her thawing the eclairs. Why not made her a little more than just a name?
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 510bhan on April 02, 2014, 04:57:58 PM
Indeed, Alice. :)

I was so concerned about the whole dressing rigamarole I forgot lots of important aspects.

It's not a story . . . the beginning does not set up anything that might happen really, no foreshadowing. The description of May getting dressed is over-long, though that was somewhat intentional to show how much of a chore it is to get dressed. It needs broken up and needs another person in scene so the conflict is better shown -- perhaps May struggling to get ready by a certain time and maybe her carer chivvying her on -- May refusing help or being humiliated when she has to ask for it. :-X

The end is flat because there is no beginning . . . it's all middle. :P

I've not given the reader enough reason to invest emotion in May, they don't know her enough to care about her getting dressed. :-\

Plus points, it's clean, active voice for the most part and **show** rather than tell [I don't say she has varicose veins, I don't say she has a frozen shoulder and other little touches] :D

What else have I missed?
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: cmb on April 05, 2014, 10:11:43 AM
OK, this is just gonna be a quicky, but I intend to be back later.

Valerie’s visiting today. Need to look smart, show I’m not past it. I can cope on my own. Still got my marbles and I’m not incontinent, just a little slow.

May hitches into the kitchen to check the progress of the chocolate eclairs thawing on the countertop. God bless, Carole, she’s done the breakfast dishes too and the tray’s all laid out.

Have a good look at these two pragraphs, Sio. Do you see what you're doing?

It took me forever to figure out who May is. What you've done here, is quite confusing for unsuspecting dumb readers like little old me. Just saying...  :P
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 510bhan on April 05, 2014, 10:39:00 AM
Cheers, Nel.  I'm making note of all the mistakes. Shows up how much more care you need to take when you are writing for 'an audience' rather than just an exercise. :-[ :-[ :-[ Oops.
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 510bhan on April 05, 2014, 01:09:04 PM
In past tense now with additions. :-[


Coffee Morning


May stooped over the phone too late to pick up the call. Her daughter’s voice trilled. “Running late but I’m still coming. D’you need anything?”

She sighed as the message ended. Valerie couldn’t provide what she needed. Besides, the question was silly, Valerie knew May would never impose, be a burden to her. Ah, well, best I get on with things. May tried to straighten and pushed against the chair back as she reached for her walking frame.

Carole popped her head through the doorway. “The éclairs should be thawed by the time Valerie comes, they don’t take long. And I’ve got the tray laid out for you. Maybe she’ll give you a hand with the teapot. The kettle’s full.”

May thought how heavy the kettle would be. “If you don’t mind, maybe just leave out the beakers and we’ll have coffee instead. The china ones with the honeysuckle. We both drink it black.”

“Oh, okay. That’d be easier. I’ll just put this other stuff away. The dishes are done and the washing’s in the tumble drier now.”

“You are a pet, Carole.”

“Just doing my job, May.” Carole folded up her plastic apron. “Need anything to go in the bin?”

May waggled a hand. “All neat and tidy. Managed it myself last night.”

“Well, that’s me. Anything else before I go? I’ve five minutes left.”

Five minutes? Carole used time like a breeze and swept through tasks. A shake of the duvet, a pile of clothes lifted, dishes washed and put away, a quick run of the carpet sweeper . . . But five minutes offered nothing effective when your body absorbed time and the years dragged all the frittered minutes into any movement – a penance for taking it for granted. “No thanks, pet. You have a lovely weekend now.”

On her way through, Carole lifted a well-preserved copy of Vogue. “Funny how fashions come back isn’t it? They’re all doing their make-up like that now. I can never get the eye-liner right.” She set the magazine back on the pile. “Right, must be off to my next lady. See you, May.”

“That was –” But Carole had gone before May could tell her.

Need to look smart, show I’m not past it. I can cope on my own. Still got my marbles and I’m not incontinent, just a little slow. May reached for a hairbrush. She winced, convinced another ailment had come to accompany arthritic aches and rheumatic pains. Frozen shoulder – again? Doctors’ words, the physio’s words  ‘atrophy through disuse’. If she could shrug she would, but raised her brow instead. Soon be dead. Why bother? She shook her head, instantly regretted it and grasped the darned brush to fix her hair. A comb would be better but harder to clasp in a gnarly claw.

She tugged short, rough strokes, hoped they catch the matted tats, and pulled, eyes shut. Face screwed up, she refused to cry. After half an hour, strands unravelled now, she shuffled on her frame to the mirror. A clip would grip her fringe in the style when she was twenty. With one hand steadied on the basin she pinned the curl. Chin low, almost resting on her pigeon chest, her eyes rolled in her sockets as she guessed where the clip should go. Golly, it’s hard to do one-handed. Persistence paid off and a toothless grin smiled at the result. Ooh, must remember my dentures.

The rest of the morning she grappled with getting dressed, opted for wide band pop socks rather than tights. They snagged on her corns and clung to her bunions but slipped over the thick blue worms on her calves. Next, a petticoat to prevent static. May plonked on the bed and swung her legs to get them through the hole, grabbed her Zimmer to stand and shimmied the slinky fabric over her ample hips. No knickers – too fussy when you have to pull up a skirt and pull down a pair of panties on a high-seated toilet aid. Saves time. Much easier to clean yourself afterwards too. No brassiere either – the straps cut my shoulders. Hooks – impossible to do up on your own. May settled on a camisole and jiggled her sagging breasts into an acceptable shape. Pert was in the past.

Thus she proceeded with her endeavours to complete the task of adding top layers to underwear with small breaks between each garment to recover from the effort. Shoes. Oh, for the days of court shoes, high heels and a finely turned ankle. Resigned to the present, she searched a pair which still fitted her deformed feet. Catalogue cripple boots would spoil the delicate combination of fabrics and drape. Oh, mercy, there must be something. But there was nothing. May settled on a pair of silver grey slippers with a purple satin bow and slides her feet in. A little smear of lipstick and a dusting of petal pink rouge added colour to her face. Perfume from a stoppered bottle, she dabbed on wrists and throat. The clock chimed another hour.

By lunch, May finished dressing and assessed her choices, pleased at her independence. Skirt with elasticated waist, easy to step into. Camisole – no tricky neckline or armholes or buttons, and a loose fitting cashmere cardigan that allowed sleeve-pulling without awkward movement. She frowned at the outfit, felt frumpy and dowdy. Sartorial elegance didn’t trump comfort and practicality. Those days are gone, along with her figure and mobility. But she sniffed, defiant, and smoothed the skirt free of wrinkles before she took another look. Not quite my Vogue days, but . . . the lilac colours suit a fair complexion and a brooch on a scarf might lift the ensemble. May plucked a large black onyx brooch with diamond accents from her jewellery box and struggled to position it with its fiddly pin.

The doorbell rang. May pressed the button to release the security catch and Valerie breezed through. May smiled. “Hello. You look lovely, darling.”

Mwah. Mwah. “Oh, dear,” Valerie said. She moued and extended a manicured hand that brushed against May’s cheek. May noticed the slender fingers and their easy movement. “Look at that droopy barrel curl. Who on earth got you ready today, Mother?” She removed the clip, whipped the hair around her fingers and secured it in a moment. “Can’t stay long, only have half an hour.” She tidied the pile of magazines and put them out of reach on the window sill. “Behind on things after doing the laundry this morning and helping Mrs Jones, poor woman. Finally got that shrub clipped back too.” Valerie tut tutted at the sickly looking cyclamen and fetched a jug of water to rehydrate it.

May sat and watched.

“Hardly had time to fit in the gym and get the Christmas decorations out of the loft. Having lunch with the girls from the choir.” The silver framed photograph attracted Valerie’s weaselly eye. She drew a tissue from her cuff and buffed the metal with it before she returned the frame to the sideboard – in the wrong place. “So what have you been doing today?” She patted May’s hair and gave a patronising smile.

May thought for a moment. Valerie was busy plumping sofa cushions and not even looking at her.

Does she really care? Resentment burned her skin.  Who got me ready? Fixing my magazines? Polishing the photo frame? Watering the plant – as if it’s a help. Just point out my inadequacies why don’t you? You’ve no idea how hard it is. I won’t cry. I won’t. She’ll find out when it happens.

“Mother?” Valerie’s expression suggested she wanted a reply.

“Oh, the usual, struggling through. Mustn’t grumble.” May cackled and coughed.

“What is it, Mother?”

“You’ll find out soon.”

Valerie’s brow knitted. “What, Mother? What have you been up to?”

“Be a dear and make the coffee would you? You might want to sit down when I tell you my news.”

Valerie sauntered to the kitchen, chatting as she went. “News? Oh, you’ve done something? You’re not sick are you?”

“No, no. I did a photo shoot on Monday.”

Valerie brought in the éclairs and coffee. “A photo shoot? You? I thought your modelling days were over.” She sneered and then laughed.

May lifted an éclair and took a bite. “Hmm. For Help the Aged.”

Valerie’s chin jutted and her nostrils flared as she tilted her head in a quick dismissive gesture. “Hardly Vogue revisited, then.”

May cackled again and blotted the cream at the corner of her mouth. “No – part of a campaign to raise awareness for elderly abuse.”

“Mother!”

May used her napkin to hide a grin. “It was only acting, sweetheart. They thought my modelling experience might be useful. I got a free personal alarm and I’m a poster girl again.”



Haunting

She graced covers of Vogue and Tatler, the haughty pose,
arched brow and painted pout, recognisable in her tilted hat.
Haute couture draped her frame, pearls clung to her throat,
portraits in profile by famous photographers
filled newspapers, galleries, and Pathé news reels.

But that was seventy years ago, age hangs slack,
crêped thin over cheekbones and vellum jowls.
Her eyes, no longer shine within, their colour slipped,
blue dripped bruises now shadow jaundiced hollows.

Her head is held high in the latest photograph,
there are no pearls at her neck, but a personal alarm
and her expression, somewhat startled like a deer,
could be fear or confusion, but have no illusions
she’s now the poster girl for the latest campaign
promoting awareness about elderly abuse .




Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 2par on April 05, 2014, 02:29:13 PM
Damn it, I love this. Go sell it someplace.
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 510bhan on April 05, 2014, 02:41:01 PM
Thanks, 2par. :D :D :D
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: wanderer on April 05, 2014, 03:03:06 PM
Very detailed and well done. Didn't recognize a few expressions and words, but enjoyed it and it was an easy read without stumbling over anything. Nice job!
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 510bhan on April 05, 2014, 03:04:15 PM
Thanks, Bill. I appreciate you coming back to this. ;)
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: Alice, a Country Gal on April 05, 2014, 03:04:42 PM
Coffee Morning


She sighed as the message ended. Valerie couldn’t provide what she needed. Besides, the question was silly, Valerie knew May would never impose, be a burden to her. Ah, well, best I get on with things. May tried to straighten and pushed against the chair back as she reached for her walking frame.

I read the paragraph above as May's thoughts. If I'm right - I have to ask, would she think of herself as May in this context?

Carole popped her head through the doorway. “The éclairs should be thawed by the time Valerie comes, they don’t take long. And I’ve got the tray laid out for you. Maybe she’ll give you a hand with the teapot. The kettle’s full.”

May thought how heavy the kettle would be. “If you don’t mind, maybe just leave out the beakers and we’ll have coffee instead. The china ones with the honeysuckle. We both drink it black.”

“Oh, okay. That’d be easier. I’ll just put this other stuff away. The dishes are done and the washing’s in the tumble drier now.”

“You are a pet, Carole.”

“Just doing my job, May.” Carole folded up her plastic apron. “Need anything to go in the bin?”

May waggled a hand. “All neat and tidy. Managed it myself last night.”

“Well, that’s me. Anything else before I go? I’ve five minutes left.”

Five minutes? Carole used time like a breeze and swept through tasks. A shake of the duvet, a pile of clothes lifted, dishes washed and put away, a quick run of the carpet sweeper . . . But five minutes offered nothing effective when your body absorbed time and the years dragged all the frittered minutes into any movement – a penance for taking it for granted. “No thanks, pet. You have a lovely weekend now.”

On her way through, Carole lifted a well-preserved copy of Vogue. “Funny how fashions come back isn’t it? They’re all doing their make-up like that now. I can never get the eye-liner right.” She set the magazine back on the pile. “Right, must be off to my next lady. See you, May.”

“That was –” But Carole had gone before May could tell her.

Seriously like the larger part Carole has now.  :D

<snip>


The rest of the morning she grappled with getting dressed, opted for wide band pop socks rather than tights. They snagged on her corns and clung to her bunions but slipped over the thick blue worms on her calves. Next, a petticoat to prevent static. May plonked on the bed and swung her legs to get them through the hole, grabbed her Zimmer to stand and shimmied the slinky fabric over her ample hips. No knickers – too fussy when you have to pull up a skirt and pull down a pair of panties on a high-seated toilet aid. Saves time. Much easier to clean yourself afterwards too. No brassiere either – the straps cut my shoulders. Hooks – impossible to do up on your own. May settled on a camisole and jiggled her sagging breasts into an acceptable shape. Pert was in the past.

Just a nit-pick. Were it me, I would put the skirt on first and then the slip . . . if it is a half-slip that is. Much easier to start from the outside in when they are pull on.

Thus she proceeded with her endeavours to complete the task of adding top layers to underwear with small breaks between each garment to recover from the effort.

This sentence confused me, you mentioned the slip and later you say she chose to forgo panties and bra. So what other underwear would she be adding?


<snip>

The doorbell rang. May pressed the button to release the security catch and Valerie breezed through. May smiled. “Hello. You look lovely, darling.”

"May" twice in one sentence?

<snip>


Does she really care? Resentment burned her skin.  Who got me ready? Fixing my magazines? Polishing the photo frame? Watering the plant – as if it’s a help. Just point out my inadequacies why don’t you? You’ve no idea how hard it is. I won’t cry. I won’t. She’ll find out when it happens.

Love the fact that May is now seeing her daughter through clearer eyes than it seemed in the first version.

<snip>


“No, no. I did a photo shoot on Monday.”

Valerie brought in the éclairs and coffee. “A photo shoot? You? I thought your modelling days were over.” She sneered and then laughed.

May lifted an éclair and took a bite. “Hmm. For Help the Aged.”

Valerie’s chin jutted and her nostrils flared as she tilted her head in a quick dismissive gesture. “Hardly Vogue revisited, then.”

May cackled again and blotted the cream at the corner of her mouth. “No – part of a campaign to raise awareness for elderly abuse.”

“Mother!”

May used her napkin to hide a grin. “It was only acting, sweetheart. They thought my modelling experience might be useful. I got a free personal alarm and I’m a poster girl again.”

I can almost see Carole's expression in this sections. A cross between shock and fear of what others may say if they see her mother's newest photo.  :o  

[/quote]


Sio, although the first version wasn't bad, this one is much improved. I was able to like May more and grin a bit at Carole's total clueless attention to anyone or anything other than what directly impacted her. Don't think she was too thrilled about May's news either.  ;D
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: bri h on April 05, 2014, 03:07:45 PM
Hmm? Story--crit--story--poem. You're a sly vixen aren't ya? ha ha. Love the re-work, and the poem that follows. xbx
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 510bhan on April 05, 2014, 03:12:54 PM
Coffee Morning


She sighed as the message ended. Valerie couldn’t provide what she needed. Besides, the question was silly, Valerie knew May [not sure how to differentiate between 'she; if I used it -- seemed to me it would refer to 'Valerie'  . . .  any suggestions?]  would never impose, be a burden to her. Ah, well, best I get on with things. May tried to straighten and pushed against the chair back as she reached for her walking frame.

I read the paragraph above as May's thoughts. If I'm right - I have to ask, would she think of herself as May in this context?


The rest of the morning she grappled with getting dressed, opted for wide band pop socks rather than tights. They snagged on her corns and clung to her bunions but slipped over the thick blue worms on her calves. Next, a petticoat to prevent static. May plonked on the bed and swung her legs to get them through the hole, grabbed her Zimmer to stand and shimmied the slinky fabric over her ample hips. No knickers – too fussy when you have to pull up a skirt and pull down a pair of panties on a high-seated toilet aid. Saves time. Much easier to clean yourself afterwards too. No brassiere either – the straps cut my shoulders. Hooks – impossible to do up on your own. May settled on a camisole and jiggled her sagging breasts into an acceptable shape. Pert was in the past.

Just a nit-pick. Were it me, I would put the skirt on first and then the slip . . . if it is a half-slip that is. Much easier to start from the outside in when they are pull on.  I think her trying to wriggle into the slip -- to get it over her ample hips -- would be easier as a first task, besides, she is trying to follow order. :-\

Thus she proceeded with her endeavours to complete the task of adding top layers to underwear with small breaks between each garment to recover from the effort.

This sentence confused me, you mentioned the slip and later you say she chose to forgo panties and bra. So what other underwear would she be adding?
 I suppose the socks and camisole as they are 'underneath'. . . .  :-[

<snip>

The doorbell rang. May pressed the button to release the security catch and Valerie breezed through. May smiled. “Hello. You look lovely, darling.”

"May" twice in one sentence? Again -- differentiating between 'she' could cause a problem. I suppose I could rearrange it with the speech first followed by She smiled to massage out the second May. ;)

Thanks, Alice -- all helpful input as usual. Cheers. ;)
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 510bhan on April 05, 2014, 03:13:50 PM
Hmm? Story--crit--story--poem. You're a sly vixen aren't ya? ha ha. Love the re-work, and the poem that follows. xbx

Thanks, Bri' just trying to work it. :D
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: bri h on April 05, 2014, 03:15:33 PM
An' yoah doin' a fahhn jab, missy." ha ha.
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 510bhan on April 05, 2014, 03:17:02 PM
 :D :D :D :D Why, thank you, kind sir. :)
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: Alice, a Country Gal on April 05, 2014, 03:21:40 PM
Quote
She sighed as the message ended. Valerie couldn’t provide what she needed. Besides, the question was silly, Valerie knew May [not sure how to differentiate between 'she; if I used it -- seemed to me it would refer to 'Valerie'  . . .  any suggestions?]  

Well, when if I were thinking something similar, it would probably be something like: "Valerie knows I would never impose . . .  or, Valerie should know I would . . . "

Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 510bhan on April 05, 2014, 03:28:06 PM
Cheers, m'dear. Shall steal and apply. ;D ;D ;D
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: cmb on April 05, 2014, 03:35:05 PM
Reading and re-reading. Something doesn't work for me here, but I can't put my finger on it. Very annoying for me, and worthless to you as well.  :-\

OK, I'll just go ahead and try to tell you what stood out to me at first read.

Dialogue: I like how you've worked Carole into the story, but her dialogue sounds off to me. Not by much, but just enough to throw me out of the story.

This sentence: "Valerie knew May would never impose, be a burden to her" makes me stop. You're repeating yourself. I'd go for either impose or be a burden, but not both. Tighten it up.

Oh... I guess that's what's bothering me: Your writing isn't tight enough to my taste. Then again, it probably does suit your MC, so it's probably just me.

Another quibble: It seems to me you're messing up your tenses a bit now, going back and forth between past and present.

Sorry to sound negative. I don't mean to be. I do like the story, but I'd just rather see it written tighter. Much tighter.
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 510bhan on April 05, 2014, 03:46:16 PM
Thanks Nel -- the confusion is probably because I haven't italicised internal thoughts -- they're in present tense, the rest is in past. Guess it didn't work for you -- and yes, the mc would ramble and rander slightly. I think tightening would make for a choppy read or lose the detail, which is an important part of showing what life holds for older, slower women. Part of the intent here is to have time moving slowly and the longer narrative style seems to do that job. May labours over the tasks and has to think things through before she tackles them in order to have the most efficient means for her. I wanted the reader to experience the time taken too. :-[

Carole's dialogue? She's May's home help and letting May know what's been done and if she wants anything else done in the time left to attend to her.

Thanks for the comments and your taking the time to come back to this.  ;) :)
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: Dawn on April 05, 2014, 03:51:46 PM
I'm just reading this now, but one thing that struck me straight away was about her stooping over the phone. My gran does this, she would shuffle with her walking frame to the phone and then answer. I don't think she would have to push against a chair to reach the frame. Maybe have her hold onto the table and then reach for the frame.
I might not be explaining myself, but anyone in need of a frame wouldn't have it so far out of reach to have to do this manoeuvre.

Right off to read the rest.
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 510bhan on April 05, 2014, 03:55:44 PM
Thanks Dawn -- just a different picture in our heads. My auntie's phone used to sit to the left of her chair on a table -- her chair would be in the way when she'd try to get to the phone if she was shuffling about, so the frame would be abandoned as she stooped across and tried to lift the receiver or press buttons. Then of course she'd have to steady and balance herself to grab the Zimmer again. Never found out the way to allow the phone to have more than six rings. :o
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: cmb on April 05, 2014, 03:59:55 PM
Thanks Nel -- the confusion is probably because I haven't italicised internal thoughts -- they're in present tense, the rest is in past.

Ah, I see. That would explain it. Maybe it would be good to italicise internal thought? Avoid confusion?


Guess it didn't work for you -- and yes, the mc would ramble and rander slightly. I think tightening would make for a choppy read or lose the detail, which is an important part of showing what life holds for older, slower women. Part of the intent here is to have time moving slowly and the longer narrative style seems to do that job. May labours over the tasks and has to think things through before she tackles them in order to have the most efficient means for her. I wanted the reader to experience the time taken too. :-[

Hmmm, I see what you mean, but it doesn't work that way for me. What I did experience, is an older woman who's struggling to keep her head together. As if she's forgetting and fights the forgetfulness with everything that's in her.

I didn't experience time slowing. You won't be surprised to hear I'm slow. Much slower than I should be at my age. It's the EDS. I know what it feels like not to be able to lift a teapot. I know how much of a struggle it can be to get dressed. But that's it. I'm slow. Not incoherent.

Now, if you want May to coem across as a little incoherent, that's fine, but if not, than I think you've missed the mark.


Carole's dialogue? She's May's home help and letting May know what's been done and if she wants anything else done in the time left to attend to her.

I got that, but it's just that the dialogue sounded a bit forced to me.  :-\


Thanks for the comments and your taking the time to come back to this.  ;) :)

yw  :)
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: Dawn on April 05, 2014, 04:07:39 PM
In past tense now with additions. :-[


Coffee Morning


May stooped over the phone too ( this sounds too similar to stooped) late to pick up the call. Her daughter’s voice trilled. “Running late (you have late already) but I’m still coming. D’you need anything?”

She sighed as the message ended. Valerie couldn’t provide what she needed. Besides, the question was silly, Valerie knew May would never impose, be a burden to her. Ah, well, best I get on with things. May tried to straighten and pushed against the chair back as she reached for her walking frame. (This reads odd to me)

Carole popped her head through the doorway. “The éclairs should be thawed by the time Valerie comes, they don’t take long. And I’ve got the tray laid out for you. Maybe she’ll give you a hand with the teapot. The kettle’s full.”

May thought how heavy the kettle would be. “If you don’t mind, maybe just leave out the beakers and we’ll have coffee instead. The china ones with the honeysuckle( would she call then beakers if they are china whi pretty designs, sounds like best tea set)  We both drink it black.”

“Oh, okay. That’d be easier. I’ll just put this other stuff away. The dishes are done and the washing’s in the tumble drier now.”

“You are a pet, Carole.”

“Just doing my job, May.” Carole folded up her plastic apron. “Need anything to go in the bin?”

May waggled a hand. “All neat and tidy. Managed it myself last night.”

“Well, that’s me. Anything else before I go? I’ve five minutes left.”

Five minutes? Carole used time like a breeze and swept through tasks. A shake of the duvet, a pile of clothes lifted, dishes washed and put away, a quick run of the carpet sweeper . . . But five minutes offered nothing effective when your body absorbed time and the years dragged all the frittered minutes into any movement – a penance for taking it for granted. “No thanks, pet. You have a lovely weekend now.”

On her way through, Carole lifted a well-preserved copy of Vogue. “Funny how fashions come back isn’t it? They’re all doing their make-up like that now. I can never get the eye-liner right.” She set the magazine back on the pile. “Right, must be off to my next lady. See you, May.”

“That was –” But Carole had gone before May could tell her.

Need to look smart, show I’m not past it. I can cope on my own. Still got my marbles and I’m not incontinent, just a little slow. May reached for a hairbrush. She winced, convinced another ailment had come to accompany arthritic aches and rheumatic pains. Frozen shoulder – again? Doctors’ words, the physio’s words  ‘atrophy through disuse’. If she could shrug she would, but raised her brow instead. Soon be dead. Why bother? She shook her head, instantly regretted it and grasped the darned brush to fix her hair. A comb would be better but harder to clasp in a gnarly claw. (Don't think you need gnarly claw)

She tugged short, rough strokes, hoped they catch the matted tats, and pulled, eyes shut. Face screwed up, she refused to cry. After half an hour, strands unravelled now, she shuffled on her frame to the mirror. A clip would grip her fringe in the style when she was twenty. With one hand steadied on the basin she pinned the curl. Chin low, almost resting on her pigeon chest, her eyes rolled in her sockets as she guessed where the clip should go. Golly, it’s hard to do one-handed. Persistence paid off and a toothless grin smiled at the result. Ooh, must remember my dentures.

The rest of the morning she grappled with getting dressed, opted for wide band pop socks rather than tights. They snagged on her corns and clung to her bunions but slipped over the thick blue worms on her calves. Next, a petticoat to prevent static. May plonked on the bed and swung her legs to get them through the hole, grabbed her Zimmer to stand and shimmied the slinky fabric over her ample hips. No knickers – too fussy when you have to pull up a skirt and pull down a pair of panties on a high-seated toilet aid. Saves time. Much easier to clean yourself afterwards too. No brassiere either – the straps cut my shoulders. Hooks – impossible to do up on your own. May settled on a camisole and jiggled her sagging breasts into an acceptable shape. Pert was in the past.

Thus she proceeded with her endeavours to complete the task of adding top layers to underwear with small breaks between each garment to recover from the effort. Shoes. Oh, for the days of court shoes, high heels and a finely turned ankle. Resigned to the present, she searched a pair which still fitted her deformed feet. Catalogue cripple boots would spoil the delicate combination of fabrics and drape. Oh, mercy, there must be something. But there was nothing. May settled on a pair of silver grey slippers with a purple satin bow and slides her feet in. A little smear of lipstick and a dusting of petal pink rouge added colour to her face. Perfume from a stoppered bottle, she dabbed on wrists and throat. The clock chimed another hour. (I think if your going to say this about the clock you need to mention it prior to this)

By lunch, May finished dressing and assessed her choices, pleased at her independence. Skirt with elasticated waist, easy to step into. Camisole – no tricky neckline or armholes or buttons, and a loose fitting cashmere cardigan that allowed sleeve-pulling without awkward movement. She frowned at the outfit, felt frumpy and dowdy. Sartorial elegance didn’t trump comfort and practicality. Those days are gone, along with her figure and mobility. But she sniffed, defiant, and smoothed the skirt free of wrinkles before she took another look. Not quite my Vogue days, but . . . the lilac colours suit a fair complexion and a brooch on a scarf might lift the ensemble. May plucked a large black onyx brooch with diamond accents from her jewellery box and struggled to position it with its fiddly pin. ( I don't get why she would put her shoes on before her clothes?)

The doorbell rang. May pressed the button to release the security catch and Valerie breezed through. May smiled. “Hello. You look lovely, darling.”

Mwah. Mwah. “Oh, dear,” Valerie said. She moued and extended a manicured hand that brushed against May’s cheek. May noticed the slender fingers and their easy movement. “Look at that droopy barrel curl. Who on earth got you ready today, Mother?” She removed the clip, whipped the hair around her fingers and secured it in a moment. “Can’t stay long, only have half an hour.” She tidied the pile of magazines and put them out of reach on the window sill. “Behind on things after doing the laundry this morning and helping Mrs Jones, poor woman. Finally got that shrub clipped back too.” Valerie tut tutted at the sickly looking cyclamen and fetched a jug of water to rehydrate it.  (I like this works well)

May sat and watched.

“Hardly had time to fit in the gym and get the Christmas decorations out of the loft. Having lunch with the girls from the choir.” The silver framed photograph attracted Valerie’s weaselly eye. She drew a tissue from her cuff and buffed the metal with it before she returned the frame to the sideboard – in the wrong place. “So what have you been doing today?” She patted May’s hair and gave a patronising smile. ( can't picture her patting her head if she has just done her hair, maybe her shoulder if she is sitting?)

May thought for a moment. Valerie was busy plumping sofa cushions and not even looking at her.

Does she really care? Resentment burned her skin.  Who got me ready? Fixing my magazines? Polishing the photo frame? Watering the plant – as if it’s a help. Just point out my inadequacies why don’t you? You’ve no idea how hard it is. I won’t cry. I won’t. She’ll find out when it happens.

“Mother?” Valerie’s expression suggested she wanted a reply.

“Oh, the usual, struggling through. Mustn’t grumble.” May cackled and coughed.

“What is it, Mother?”

“You’ll find out soon.”

Valerie’s brow knitted. “What, Mother? What have you been up to?”

“Be a dear and make the coffee would you? You might want to sit down when I tell you my news.”

Valerie sauntered to the kitchen, chatting as she went. “News? Oh, you’ve done something? You’re not sick are you?”

“No, no. I did a photo shoot on Monday.”

Valerie brought in the éclairs and coffee. “A photo shoot? You? I thought your modelling days were over.” She sneered and then laughed.

May lifted an éclair and took a bite. “Hmm. For Help the Aged.”

Valerie’s chin jutted and her nostrils flared as she tilted her head in a quick dismissive gesture. “Hardly Vogue revisited, then.”

May cackled again and blotted the cream at the corner of her mouth. “No – part of a campaign to raise awareness for elderly abuse.”

“Mother!”

May used her napkin to hide a grin. “It was only acting, sweetheart. They thought my modelling experience might be useful. I got a free personal alarm and I’m a poster girl again.”



Haunting

She graced covers of Vogue and Tatler, the haughty pose,
arched brow and painted pout, recognisable in her tilted hat.
Haute couture draped her frame, pearls clung to her throat,
portraits in profile by famous photographers
filled newspapers, galleries, and Pathé news reels.

But that was seventy years ago, age hangs slack,
crêped thin over cheekbones and vellum jowls.
Her eyes, no longer shine within, their colour slipped,
blue dripped bruises now shadow jaundiced hollows.

Her head is held high in the latest photograph,
there are no pearls at her neck, but a personal alarm
and her expression, somewhat startled like a deer,
could be fear or confusion, but have no illusions
she’s now the poster girl for the latest campaign
promoting awareness about elderly abuse .






Okay I'm going to put the cat amongst the pigeons here, but why the poem? Could this not be reworked into the story. Could May not finish the scene by putting her pen down or show her writing the last few lines? Maybe an idea springs to her mind and she writes last lines?

Just an idea.
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 510bhan on April 05, 2014, 04:08:36 PM
Ah, I see. That would explain it. Maybe it would be good to italicise internal thought? Avoid confusion? NO NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER! :D Oh, okay, maybe. Nobody else seemed to have a problem though -- well if they did, they didn't mention it.


Hmmm, I see what you mean, but it doesn't work that way for me. What I did experience, is an older woman who's struggling to keep her head together. As if she's forgetting and fights the forgetfulness with everything that's in her. She's not forgetting anything but like many her age, in her nineties, she's aware it can happen so is especially careful to make sure she isn't forgetful. She's pretty organised. It does say in the beginning that she hasn't lost her marbles -- the fact that she mentions that demonstrates her 'awareness' it might happen.

I didn't experience time slowing. You won't be surprised to hear I'm slow. Much slower than I should be at my age. It's the EDS. I know what it feels like not to be able to lift a teapot. I know how much of a struggle it can be to get dressed. But that's it. I'm slow. Not incoherent.

Now, if you want May to coem across as a little incoherent, that's fine, but if not, than I think you've missed the mark.  ??? ??? ??? Not intended to come across as incoherent, just slow and careful -- states in the opening I'm just slow. Wants to make life as easy as possible for herself within her limitations. Wouldn't you at 95?


I got that, but it's just that the dialogue sounded a bit forced to me.  :-\


yw  :)
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: bri h on April 05, 2014, 04:12:46 PM
Oh, okay, maybe. Nobody else seemed to have a problem though -- well if they did, they didn't mention it  "HAH!"  ;D ;D
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: cmb on April 05, 2014, 04:18:59 PM
She's not forgetting anything but like many her age, in her nineties, she's aware it can happen so is especially careful to make sure she isn't forgetful. She's pretty organised. It does say in the beginning that she hasn't lost her marbles -- the fact that she mentions that demonstrates her 'awareness' it might happen.

See, that's what I thought.


Wants to make life as easy as possible for herself within her limitations. Wouldn't you at 95?

I already want to do that, and I'm much younger than that.  :P
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 510bhan on April 05, 2014, 04:19:39 PM
Hi Dawn -- already explained the choreography in a earlier post. ;)

stooped too late --  :-[ :P

Running late . . . maybe, I'm a bit behind?
Doesn't sound like Valerie -- wanted more of a 'rush' with the things she does to contrast with May's slowness. Any suggestions to avoid the repeat?

The gnarly claw replaced all the stuff about knuckles -- wanted to show her hand.

It's slippers she puts on. She doesn't put them on before her clothes. Perhaps I should add 'had' finished dressing in the next paragraph where she is doing her assessment of what she put on.

She's fixed the curl -- no reason why she can't pat her head. :-X The cow. >:(

The clock? Hmm -- if it makes you happier I could give it a mention earlier, but I don't see it as a big deal as is. Time's moved on -- clocks chime, more to show the type of furniture and stuff May has in the house as well as acting as a measure of time passed. :-\

Bugger the poem -- it can go. >:(

Cheers, m'dear. Thanks for the read and the comments. ;D
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 510bhan on April 05, 2014, 04:20:29 PM
Oh, okay, maybe. Nobody else seemed to have a problem though -- well if they did, they didn't mention it  "HAH!"  ;D ;D

Except Bri'  . . .  in a PM ::)

 ;D

Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: cmb on April 05, 2014, 04:22:33 PM
Oh, okay, maybe. Nobody else seemed to have a problem though -- well if they did, they didn't mention it  "HAH!"  ;D ;D

Except Bri'  . . .  in a PM ::)


Hahaha! I knew I couldn't be the only one.  ;D  :P   ;D
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 510bhan on April 05, 2014, 04:24:17 PM
Still NEVER NEVER NEVER. ;D
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: cmb on April 05, 2014, 04:26:45 PM
Your work, your choice.  :)
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 510bhan on April 05, 2014, 04:29:37 PM
Exactly. ;D Very little else we have control over. ::)
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: cmb on April 05, 2014, 04:32:22 PM
Yep. Go ask May.  ;)
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: bri h on April 05, 2014, 05:24:21 PM
May your 'zimmer' never lose its shine, shvon.  ::)

I saw someone's comment above (apologies, I can't remember who) I really liked the idea of an old (for wont of a better) 'used-to-be,' writing a poem of her 'old' times. I liked the suggy that she finishes the last line, then on hearing val's warble, she puts the pen down to concentrate on her. It has a resonance and a nostalgic feel that I really like. I think it's a good idea to promote yourself in the story as an author AND a poet. Kinda 'killing two birds with one pen' as it were. In my opinion, the poem completes it. JMHO. Bri. x
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: Alice, a Country Gal on April 05, 2014, 05:28:33 PM
I can't be the only one that liked the poem at the end. Surly not.

I thought it gave a nice before look at where then aged May came from and an insight into why she wasn't happy with the way she looked now because in her mind she probably (when not looking in a mirror) thinks of herself as she looked why back when.
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: cmb on April 05, 2014, 05:30:50 PM
I like the poem at the end too.  :)
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 510bhan on April 05, 2014, 05:31:14 PM
Thanks Bri', Alice and Nel, I'd have to think about it. Trying to work this 'exercise' into some sort of cohesive 'story' has been enough of a challenge for the moment. It's still an exercise as far as I'm concerned so it will live my docs with all the rest of the crud waiting for proper attention. I'm dying to get back to Muriel #4 so my head is not really in the right place for this -- as you've probably seen with the number of poems I have posted recently. ;D ;D ;D ;D

I only continued with it to show courtesy to the generous comments from members who put their time into the exercise and I didn't want to look as if I hadn't considered what people had said. ;)
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: bri h on April 05, 2014, 05:37:09 PM
Have enjoyed the exercise with you, poppet. So thanks to you, too. xbx
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 510bhan on April 08, 2014, 01:37:46 PM
It seems the poem does have relevance and merit but I'm not sure how it could be incorporated in the body text. If I put it at the front I think it would be too much of a giveaway and would raise unsatisfying questions for the reader and if I put it at the end it's like a postscript but possibly provides insight into May's behaviour. Can't see her writing it but then how would she come across it?

Oh why did I start this? How can it be used effectively?

Thinking aloud here . . . maybe she could remove the 'poster' from an envelope and the poem is in there too? Nah. Maybe Val could hand her the mail, which she opens after Val's gone, and it's a poem from a fan who remembers her from the old days?  ??? An old flame?
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: Alice, a Country Gal on April 08, 2014, 01:42:12 PM
Quote
Maybe Val could hand her the mail, which she opens after Val's gone, and it's a poem from a fan who remembers her from the old days?  Huh An old flame?

I like that idea.

I like good endings and a poem sent at the perfect time to give her spirits a lift would fit for me.  ;)
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 510bhan on April 08, 2014, 01:44:30 PM
Thanks, Alice. I'll see what I can come with. :)
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: bri h on April 08, 2014, 04:51:55 PM
Or how about . . . she has to write poetry to prop up her meagre pension? And what does she write about? Her past life, of course. Then you have the foundations for two stories. May's . . . and Val and May's. So she's just putting the finishing touches to her memoir poem when in walks Val? xbx
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 510bhan on April 08, 2014, 04:56:06 PM
I don't like writers writing about writers or writer-y things -- complete turn-off. I'm sure there are similar readers. :-[

Nice idea that it supplements her pension but ---  :-\
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: bri h on April 08, 2014, 05:02:45 PM
Np's. x
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 510bhan on April 08, 2014, 05:08:46 PM
Keep thinking for me. ;D
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: bri h on April 08, 2014, 05:17:26 PM
Keep thinking for me. ;D

Too big a job for you now, is it? I knew one day if I waited long enough I'd be able to take over . . .  ;D x
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: 510bhan on April 08, 2014, 05:23:03 PM
You rascal! :D
Title: Re: Coffee Morning
Post by: bri h on April 08, 2014, 05:25:26 PM
You rascal! :D

Gawd. I have you callin me a 'rascal.' Someone else (can't remember who?) callin me a 'cheeky monkey.' I'm starting to regress to the 10 year old I used to be. The names 'fit,' then.  ;D