Monthly Archives: April 2009

Fiction: The House

It was a square box of a house on a corner lot surrounded on every side by gardens.  To the left of the asphalt drive where my parents parked their cars was a small garden with an ornamental cherry tree planted in the center.  This garden was surrounded on two sides by a low brick wall and the back of it by a wooden fence done with thin planks that were woven in.  Someone had planted lots of shrubs on the borders of this garden, but there was nothing to do there: No where to sit, nothing to hold a lively child in place.  Opening the gates led you to the back door or kitchen door.  There was a thin slab of concrete running against the house on which the rubbish bins were place.  This garden was much larger.  On the other side of the fence was my sister’s fishpond that she restocked with frogspawn every March so that she could watch the frogs hatch.  There was a large pear tree that ripened with sweet-tasting pears every September.  There was a thick beech hedge with honeysuckle117 strands that lay over it, twisting in the breeze and exuding a very sweet scent. This was the garden where we used to like to sit outside in fine weather and have afternoon tea from a trolley that we kept in the garage. Walking around the house in a clockwise direction brought you to the back garden where there was a large cherry tree with sweet fruit and then around to the other side of the house, where the sun was. This was an L-shaped garden, which ran around to the front of the house.  It is the place where my sister and I scuffed the low brick wall as we climbed over it on our way home from school.  This is where my mother planted her roses and where our wedding pictures were taken.

Now the house has doubled in size.  The ornamental cherry tree is gone.  So is the pear tree, and the side garden by the kitchen door where my sister had her fishpond and we had tea outside in fine weather.  The extension has taken over all that space.  The side garden looks much as it did before, but neglected.  The grass is brown, the plants shrunken and a soccer ball lies immobile, waiting to be kicked.

–Cynthia Haggard writes short stories, novels and poetry.  During the day, she is a medical writer and has recently opened her own business.  For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories.  For more about her medical writing services, go to clarifyingconcepts.  (c) 2008. All rights reserved.

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Poem: City in the Rain

The silver rain slid down in sleek arrows
That puddled briefly on the pavement
Before washing away in the gutter

Through the thick haze of rain
I could see the grey buildings
Austere in their greyness121
Grey stone, grey rooves, grey windows,
Like old ladies with good bone structure
Their greyness enhances their beauty.

It was a cold April day
I was standing on a street corner,
Holding an umbrella,
With a pack on my back,
About to step inside one of the grey buildings
To take a French class
In Paris.

–Cynthia Haggard writes short stories, novels and poetry.  During the day, she is a medical writer and has recently opened her own business.  For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories.  For more about her medical writing services, go to clarifyingconcepts.  (c) 2008. All rights reserved.

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Book Review: Anya Seton’s Katherine

51GYRXB2YML._SL160_Though this book was written many years ago, age has not dimmed its freshness nor blemished the rigorous scholarship that Anya Seton employed to write this book. It is the story of an orphaned fifteen-year-old girl who has spent the last four years in an impoverished convent on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent, and has now been summoned to court by the Queen with a view to finding a suitable husband.

So begins the story of Katrine de Roet – Lady Katherine Swynford – sister-in-law to Geoffrey Chaucer, wife to John of Gaunt Duke of Lancaster, and great-grandmother to King Richard III.   Like all great novels, this one gives us the feeling that we are with Katherine as she experiences life in England between the year 1366 when the story opens, to 1396 when she marries John of Gaunt.

Ms. Seton gives us a vivid feel of late fourteenth century England though a brilliant use of detail.  The first memorable incident occurs when the Queen’s messenger tries to make Katherine smile, so that he can see if she has good teeth.  This may seem trivial, but it is through such an accrual of detail that believable historical novels are built. Then there is the first time Katherine dines at court.  As a poor young woman with no dowry, she is placed near the door to the hall with all the humble folk. She is clad in an ill-fitting gown she has had to borrow from someone else. The feast is magnificent and unlike anything she has yet seen, but she cannot eat, for when she raises her head to look at the high table, there are the Plantagenets:  the King, his sons and daughters, garbed in the finest cloths, bedecked with jewels and wearing gold coronets on their heads.  “Yes they are real,” says an amused Geoffrey Chaucer as he watches Katherine gape.  And then he tells her all about them, a deft way for an author to give the reader a vivid introduction to the English court in 1356.

The best recommendation I can give for this book is that every time I open it up to refresh my memory to write this review, I can’t put it down!  If you know of someone young or old who loves reading historical novels and has not yet read this one, buy it for them now!  It would make the perfect gift.
–Cynthia Haggard writes short stories, novels and poetry.  During the day, she is a medical writer and owns her own business.  For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories.  For more about her medical writing services, go to clarifyingconcepts.  (c) 2009. All rights reserved.

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Fiction: I sit in a dark room…

I sit in a dark room all day long.
In winter, it is cold, and I can feel icy shafts of air that ebb around my rubbery feet.  In summer, it is so hot I wonder my feet don’t melt.  I nap with my nose pressed up against a tire.
Now that I am growing old I don’t get out so much. My companions appear and disappear more frequently than I. My immediate companions are pleasant enough. They bide quietly on either side of me and don’t take up more than their fair share of space. The one to the left however, owns a person who thinks it’s neat to park on a diagonal. He claims he does it to miss a pillar. But I think he likes scooting near my fanny.
The companions I hate most are large, high and noisy.  When their pets get into them, they roar, belch and lurch, leaving behind a deafening silence as the garage door lowers gently to thankfully hide them from view.
The other day, my pet took me out to have my coat re-done.  Rust-colored patches have been appearing on my dark-green exterior.  I knew what was going to happen, because I could hear him talking about it.  I tried to stall things by well, stalling.  When that didn’t work, I tried a little lurching myself.  I didn’t want a new coat of paint! I like my dignified dark-green with a gold-stripe up the side.  It is suitable for an old lady like myself.  Was my owner going to paint me red?
I should have known better.  My pet grew up in an art school. I came out of my ordeal with…a dark green color and gold stripe.  I looked exactly the same as before, a shade lighter and sans patches.
My pet calls me Heloise and I am a ten-year-old Honda Accord.181

–Cynthia Haggard writes short stories, novels and poetry.  During the day, she is a medical writer and has recently opened her own business.  For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories.  For more about her medical writing services, go to clarifyingconcepts.  (c) 2008. All rights reserved.

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Poem: The Tree

Rooted in the earth,
Its roots as thick as my wrist,
The tree Tree001nevertheless
Rises gracefully above
Me.

Its truck is straight for many feet
As it thrusts itself above ground
Then spreads itself in green arches
High above.

A light breeze ripples through
Making the leaves shimmer and glisten
Scattering water droplets of recent rain
Down on me.

I stand there, neck craned and take it in,
This lovely majestic thing
That is much older than I
And likely to die after
Me.
–Cynthia Haggard writes short stories, novels and poetry.  During the day, she is a medical writer and has recently opened her own business.  For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories.  For more about her medical writing services, go to clarifyingconcepts.  (c) 2009. All rights reserved.

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Book Review: F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby

41fnvtrge8l_sl160_Set in New York City in the early 1920s, this is a classic of twentieth century American literature.  Nick Carraway, a well-to-do young man who rents a house on Long Island (in West Egg village), narrates the story of the mysterious Jay Gatsby and his relationship with Daisy Buchanan and her husband Tom.  It is also a story about the growing sophistication of life in the early twentieth century, with it undercurrents of growing convenience (embodied in the motor car) and growing cities (New York).
The bright young things in their new-fangled clothes with their brittle witticisms provide the sparkle, but it is the dashes of tragedy that make this novel memorable and great.  If you have never read this novel before and would like to get a sense of life in the twenties when so many things seemed to open up for so many people, this is the perfect novel for you.

–Cynthia Haggard writes short stories, novels and poetry.  During the day, she is a medical writer and owns her own business.  For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories.  For more about her medical writing services, go to clarifyingconcepts.  (c) 2008. All rights reserved.

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Fiction: I never complain

It doesn’t take much, does it, for people to start complaining.  I mean you might think they would actually do something about it.  But they just want a good moan.  Take the other night, when the government announced on the Telly that it was going to tighten up on the drinking laws in this country.  A good thing, if you ask me.  But look at the uproar it’s caused.
143You would think people would be pleased that the government is actually paying attention to this issue.  I mean, everyone who lives in a town of any size has to deal with packs of young men – and nowadays young women as well – piling out of the pub at eleven at night, three sheets to the wind, and behaving abominably.  I pity those poor people that have to live near a pub and put up with the noise, the refuse and the mess.  You can’t get to sleep with that row going on, and nobody cares.  You can beg as much as you like, but the landlord doesn’t want to turn the music down for fear of scaring off his customers.
I don’t know what’s wrong with young people these days.  Why do they like that pounding music?  No one I know likes it, and I’ve asked many of my friends.  They listen to it with headphones on, and you can still hear it!  Manys the time I’ve had to lean forward on a bus, and tap some young person on the arm and mouth a request to turn it down.  They can’t hear a thing!
There’s no consideration nowadays, no manners.  Everyone looks so disreputable, they dress in these horrible outfits that are torn and dirty, and shove past everyone without a by your leave.  I remember a time when a man used to doff his hat, every time he saw a lady. What is the world coming to?
–Cynthia Haggard writes short stories, novels and poetry.  During the day, she is a medical writer and has recently opened her own business.  For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories.  For more about her medical writing services, go to clarifyingconcepts.  (c) 2008. All rights reserved.

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Poem: Moving Away

I’ve become a different person since I moved away.  images
I left my home, left my country, traveled many miles and landed in a place I did not know.
I had to learn how to live anew.
I had to create a life, make plans, make new friends, set a course of study, seek advice, and accomplish goals.
I was eager to learn, so I snapped up every opportunity that came my way.
And over many years I discovered things that surprised me about myself.
I did not know I was practical.
I didn’t realize how much I thrived in the real world, after living in a world of dreams in my head.
I didn’t realize I had the quickness to cut deals in a freewheeling, wheeler-dealer society. And so I changed.
A dear friend once told me that I was like a roseimg1 growing over a wall, spreading my petals in the sunshine.
And so I made myself a home.
Found a family in my friends.
And made myself comfortable,
Like a cat.

–Cynthia Haggard writes short stories, novels and poetry.  During the day, she is a medical writer and owns her own business.  For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories.  For more about her medical writing services, go to clarifyingconcepts.  (c) 2009. All rights reserved.

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Book Review: Greg Mortenson’s Three Cups of Tea

51y1wzsq3wl_sl160_When Greg Mortenson got lost coming down K2 and drifted into an impoverished Pakistani village, he had little thought beyond trying to survive.  But he was so struck by the kindness and hospitality of the people he met, he became determined to do something in return.  He decided to build schools.  However, in a striking and moving scene, the village elder turned him down.  “We need a bridge,” he explained.   And so Mortenson learned his first lesson in patience.

The title comes from the custom of drinking three cups of tea in Pakistan and Afghanistan: The first time you share tea you are a stranger.  The second time you take tea, you are an honored guest. The third time you drink a cup of tea, you become family.  “Doctor Greg,” said the village elder Haji Ali, “you must make time to share three cups of tea.  We may be uneducated. But we are not stupid. We have lived and survived here for a long time.”

Mortenson writes that Haji Ali taught him the most important lesson he’d ever learned:  to slow down and make building relationships as important as building schools.

This is one of my favorite books.  It is an extraordinary story of grit and determination, and a willingness to be open to the unfamiliar customs of a different culture. This would make a perfect gift for that friend or family member who has a passion for helping others.

–Cynthia Haggard writes short stories, novels and poetry.  During the day, she is a medical writer and owns her own business.  For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories.  For more about her medical writing services, go to clarifyingconcepts.  (c) 2009. All rights reserved.

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Fiction: The Lillies

Flower detailsThe lilies flopped in the cut glass vase, dropping yellow powder, brown flowers, and leaves in a swirl on the glass-topped cabinet.  The cabinet stood between two pedestals with marble statuettes of the Goddess Aphrodite.  Behind, a graceful banister curled downwards to the small foyer.  On one side was a conservatory leading to the lush gardens beyond.  On the other side, was a breakfast room leading into a large, open kitchen that in turn led into a dining room and then living room.  In front of the flowers were two large oaken doors that opened to reveal a graveled driveway that circled around a fountain that plashed water into its stone bowl.  DolganUchaf4Around the driveway and out to the right, the drive went straight down the hill and curved left at the bottom, where it exited onto a country road.  If you turned right, you headed in the direction of Wales.  Turning left took you in the direction of London and the train to Paris.

–Cynthia Haggard writes short stories, novels and poetry.  During the day, she is a medical writer and owns her own business.  For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories.  For more about her medical writing services, go to clarifyingconcepts.  (c) 2009. All rights reserved.

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