Category Archives: weekly writing challenge

Daily prompt: secret admirers

This challenge is; you find a surprise bouquet of flowers with a note. Tell the story

Her arrival at work was met with giggles and comments about her secret life, undeclared lovers and dark horses. As always she pretended she understood what was going on and she laughed along with them. Always the outsider she’d learned to do what was needed to blend in, be one of the team, although of course she never really did, blend in that is. Always on the edge looking in. All those moves as a child perhaps. “Don’t get too attached as you’ll be moving on before long”. Perhaps that’s what she’d taught herself and it had just become a habit. Never quite one of them.

Anyway here she was at work, the focus of some attention and laughter and cameraderie and not really understanding why. What dark horse? What secret lover?

Eventually she got to her workstation and there lay a bunch of red roses. A small envelope nestled in amongst the lush blooms.

Anna, the label read. A secret admirer? For a moment she felt a tingle of anticipation. Briefly. Very very briefly. Unlikely to suddenly have a bouquet in at the age of forty she reminded herself. It had never once happened before. Not once in her forty years so far and unlikely to be the next forty either as things stood. She had already got accustomed to the idea of a single life. A Saga holiday single room supplement was what lay ahead. Bouquets of flowers had no part to play. Of that she was sure.

She opened the envelope. “Thanks for last night. B”. She blushed. Blushed even though there had been no B in her life last night or any other night for as long as she could remember. There was a George once some ten years before but that had never got beyond an awkward meal and a dry hasty kiss on the cheek on parting. No, there was nothing to thank her for with roses after last night. She folded the card back into the envelope.

In her usual flamboyant style in came her young colleague and took her seat with a flourish of Prada bags, silk scarves and heady perfume. She reached into a pocket for her buzzing mobile and listened. Looking at Anna and the flowers reached out for the card and the bouquet and laughed at the misspelling of her name. Silly boy she said, it’s ANNE not ANNA.

Anne. Of course they would be hers. Anna laughed with the others at the confusion. Of course she hadn’t really thought they were hers. Not for a second. Her laughter felt hollow though. Just for a moment she had had a glimpse of a life she’d always longed for. A life with red roses.

“I knew they weren’t for me” she said again and laughed with the others at the absurdity. And even before the words were out she was forgotten as Anne regaled them with her latest romance. A banker it seemed. Crazy about her. Weren’t they all, for a week or so anyway.

Anne sat back at her workstation. On the outside again. If only they’d been for her. Just once.

Daily prompt: from the top

In this daily prompt/ writing challenge you can write anything you like but must repeat the opening line at least twice.

“I never expected it would turn out like this”, she thought as she took off her wedding ring. What to do with it now? Would her tears ever stop? She looked at her hand tanned from years in the Australian sun and the white band left on her ring finger. The mark of their failure.

“I never expected it would turn out like this” he mused as he snuggled into the arms of his new young partner. No more hiding now. Everyone knew yet few approved. He’d never felt so alone. Their condemnation had winded him. Here it was, the moment she had talked about, just the two of them, a moment he had never really wanted to come, if truth be told. But here it was.

“I never expected it would turn out like this” she said as she walked along the Southbank one sunny evening in June with Sandra, her friend of twenty something years as she shared the dilemmas of dating again in her fifties. What to wear? What if he was nothing like his online picture and the witty kindly man he’d seemed to be in his emails. What if he was disappointed and that disappointment showed? What if he he did seem to fancy her? Did people even talk of fancying people any more? She was so out of touch and just never imagined she’d be here doing this, dating again.

“I never expected it would turn out like this” she thought as she got ready for their fifth evening out. She hadn’t reckoned on the anticipating, the fluttering excitement, the eagerly awaited passionate kiss on greeting, the sense of having come home, the joy of a new love. She looked down at her hand, the Australian tan now well and truly gone after years back under the grey skies of London. She briefly recalled the white band of failure. So long ago now. No time to waste. The doorbell rang. A last check in the mirror. “I never expected it would turn out like this” she reminded herself as she headed for the door. “Lucky me”.

Writing 101, day seven : give and take

This writing challenge is about comparing/contrasting two different things or people

What was that rhyme about Jack Spratt and his wife? Half remembered like so many things. Perhaps early signs of the dementia that got a hold of her mother and never let go, squeezing out the very essence of who she was, leaving only the outside recognisable. Fading out and then one day no more.

30 years on since the day she walked down an aisle in a dress that had made her look surprisingly doll like. Pink cheeks, red lips and way too much lace. 30 years of mostly unsatisfactory marriage, hopes abandoned early on for the children that never came. And now their working days were numbered. How would that be? To be retired. Entombed more like. Day in and day out together. No escape from the yawning chasm of silence that sat between them broken only by the ritual offers of a cuppa or a decision to be made about what to watch on the T.V that never went off. Then lights out and her relief that another day was done.

Just three months to go and I can’t wait to have time, just Vera and me. No need to rush out of the house any more so we can linger that bit longer over the breakfast table. Another tea perhaps or a second slice of toast. The day will lie before us to do as we please. Perhaps time for some of those day trips Vera used to talk about going on or even the ballroom dancing down at the village hall. She was always on at me to give it a go and now we have the time. I’ll suggest it to her but my guess is though she’ll just want to potter about at home, just her and me. She’s funny that way. Never really needed anyone but me. Just three months to go. I can’t wait.
“Fancy a cuppa ?”

Writing 101, Day 5: be brief

The challenge- to write very briefly about a letter you come across that moves you deeply


“I didn’t mean to hurt you. It just happened. I forgot my promise to you made that blustery but sunny autumn day in Edinburgh. Forsaking no other. Forgive me. ”

She folded the letter up and tucked it back into the drawer of the little battered writing desk in the corner of the crammed junk shop.


Weekly writing challenge : expectations versus reality

Expectations, the theme of this week’s writing challenge. So many ways to come at this. So here are 3

1. Not quite good enough.
The parental expectation, real or imagined, of needing to do just that bit better. Exam marks really good, but surely a little better might have been possible. Even now on my iPad scrabble game I eschew the option with the teacher – harsh she is. Even with the really high scores you can pull out of the bag just sometimes, the online teacher says “excellent” and then with an unwritten but understood “but” explains what word I could have put and how many additional points that might have given me.

2. An expectation that it would be forever.
I never imagined he’d break my heart and cheat on me with a twenty something year old, after being together for 22 years. Just never dawned on me. Ups and downs of course over those years but I was the woman he talked publicly of being the love of his life. He certainly was mine.
I’ve changed with this experience. Happy in a newish relationship now but with no expectation of forever. It’s a different way of loving.

3. Expectations of behaving like an extrovert
I love people, find them endlessly interesting. They just tire me. A typical introvert. A whole day with people and I ‘m running on empty. I watch with wonder at people around me who visibly get more and more energised when round others.
I deliver training, I give conference talks to groups of 500 people at a time, I do lots of one on one coaching and can just about hold my own in a professional networking event ( as long as I’ve given myself a pep talk first!) . But put a conference chatting drinks or meal event on after the talk and I’m lost. Just don’t know how to do it. The confident trainer or speaker they experienced turns into a shy person hoping the time will soon come she can slide away for some quiet recharging time ready for the next people event.
There are so many interesting bloggers on this world of introversion and it’s easy in this world to feel one of many. But at the conference events it’s hard to spot the fellow introverts as we ‘re all just trying to fit in and not be seen as anything but the extravert majority. So expert at that camouflage we can’t even spot the other fakers like ourselves.

Ah expectations. So many , so often, so problematic!

weekly writing challenge: the power of names

This challenge is all about the power of names.

I should have been a Christopher I was told. A first born son. Instead a girl, and then another one, a boy and then unexpectedly another girl. The eldest of four. But not the eldest son.

Susan Barbara were the names I was given. Not called after anyone, just names my parents liked, when they realised as I was born that Christopher, the selected name, wasn’t going to work. Thankfully not called after my father’s mother who, given the woman she was, went by the surprising name of Patience. I wonder what age she was when her parents realised the inappropriateness of that name. Many virtues she had – boldness, energy, optimism, generosity, vision, determination but patience was in very short supply. She was in a perpetual hurry to get launched into her next adventure.

Susan Barbara. Nothing much to either like or not like about those names. Deliberately chosen by a mother who had changed her name by deed poll to Lydia when she was legally able to do so. So much did she hate the one she was given. She thought I’d be ok with Susan Barbara. And she was right. No teasing.

So Susan or Sue I was through childhood and adolescence, Susan when either parent was displeased, otherwise mostly Sue. And so it went. All fine. I was a quiet shy girl with a quiet shy name and all was as it should be.

Some years later on my first day at University in student rooms on campus, I came across someone looking as lost as me. I’m Brian, the too keen young man in jeans with ironed creases down the front (unforgivable it seemed to me). I’m Susi I replied. It was all quite unexpected. The confident assertion that I was a Susi. Not Susie, but Susi. A stand perhaps against the perfectly fine but predictable safe Susan and Sue. A new life, a new name, impatiently ready, like my grandmother, for my adventures to start.

weekly writing challenge: golden years

This weekly challenge is all about age and ageing.

I can no longer remember the day I found, with horror, my first grey hair, wiry and curly in a sea of dark brown hair. An unwelcome guest at any age, let alone at 24. Nothing had prepared me for that. It was pulled out of course but one by one more appeared. It was the early eighties and though henna really had been part of the earlier decade it seemed to do the trick. Rather have increasing lots of brash orange than grey. Seemed the smart choice at the time. And then the grey turned orange bits began to outnumber the dark brown bits and so finally defeat was acknowledged. Grey I was.

And now I like to think a little Judy Dench-ish, but a younger version. If i look anywhere as good as her at her age I will be delighted. I look in the mirror and am happy with my silver grey hair. So few of my peers are grey, on the outside anyway – between them they keep hairdressers in business topping up alternative colours. Not ready yet for grey. I can understand them. For me it’s different. So much longer to get used to it.

The lines mystify me a bit. My carefully lit bathroom gives me the start to the day I need. All looks generally fine til I later catch sight of myself in an unexpected mirror and wonder who the face belongs to that is looking back at me. Surely those lines aren’t mine.

I remember being a teenager and my very eccentric grandmother said, in her eighties, that when she looked in the mirror she was always surprised because she still felt young inside. With the arrogance of teenage-hood I looked at this very very old lady who wore knickerbockers and smelt of lavender and wondered how on earth she could think that. And now I find myself in a similar spot. I feel not much different inside – more experience, a bit less certain on my views on everything (my student years where all seemed to clear…), more tolerant, perhaps a bit less spontaneous, the occasional twinge in one hip. So I feel very similar inside but that face belies that feeling. So I’m sometimes surprised at the face that looks back at me. Surprised but not unhappy. It is a face that shows a life well lived so far – open to more that lies ahead.

My grandmother was always my role model. Eccentric, given to passing fancies and enthusiasms, with a gusto for life and living. Hopelessly impractical, an adventurous spirit, someone you never forgot meeting. Intensely embarrassing as a teenager to be invited to afternoon tea with her in town – because she always told everyone around how clever her granddaughter was – how mortifying. But at the same time I loved her stories, real or imagined, it didn’t matter much, of her life out in Africa running a coffee plantation where enthusiasm was greater than expertise so she saved herself from financial ruin by marrying the local Barclay’s Bank Manager. Such impressive problem solving!

She spent a life challenging the norms of what a woman like her was supposed to do or say and died in her late 90s, having spent almost every penny she ever had, which was lots. Until the last few years was still a force of nature. I really loved her and her energy.

Here a great photo of her in her car which she drove across Africa with a female friend. What a surprise she must have been to so many.


Very rarely do I mind being older. Almost always I am happy to be the age I am and look the age I am. No need for all the things people do to try to cheat time that give them tight faces and foreheads that don’t move.

Getting older along with all my long term friends is just fine with me. We look out for each other, share glasses round the table when people can’t read menus, prompt each other when we forget names or tell the same story twice. And mostly we keep each other laughing, sharing, loving and enjoying the lives we have. Who could want for better than that!

Weekly writing challenge: the sound of silence

I thought for a bit about this challenge – silence, perhaps something left unsaid or something better left unsaid, or just silence. Lots of ideas came to mind. One i decided to pursue – the silence you experience when it feels like time has stopped moving…enough explanation. Right into it.

Back from a couple of weeks in China, a strange greeting, tension in the air she didn’t understand. Perhaps jetlag or not having seen each other in a while. Troubling. But she went about the little normal things after a trip, while he finished the last of some work on a laptop on the dining table. Cases opened, things thrown in the washing machine, phone put on charge, a shower. The shower head lower than normal. Strange. She adjusted it back up.

Feeling a bit more refreshed, the smell and feel of an overnight flight now gone, she dressed, thinking about the evening they were going to spend together. A few words exchanged but not many. He needed to get the report done so she continued.

She ambled through to the room that had become an office though little used for work, each preferring the brightness of the living room. She plugged in her ipod to synch and download the next lot of podcasts for the long flight back to China in a week. And as she connected, up on to the monitor screen popped a photo.

Time almost stopped in that moment. Her brain ever so slowly took in what was before her. An image. Of people. Of Paul. And who was that draped on his lap? Debbie, the twenty something year old from his office. What was she doing that for?

A sharp intake of breath. Silence. Time stood still for what felt like forever. A rush of emotions and still no sound came. She closed her eyes and opened them again hoping that it was all a mistake. No mistake.

In the silence, breath held, eyes now full of tears, her life changed had forever.