Yesterday I was pleased to give a public reading of two of my short stories at the Chorleywood Literary Festival. Both stories were written in celebration of public libraries.
I attended the Festival to represent the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) at an event called the Indie Author Fair. This was a pop-up bookshop organised by the author collective Triskele Books in association with ALLi. Around 40 indie authors were involved, so I was very lucky to be chosen as one of a dozen readers.
Originally I’d planned to read a story from my summer collection, Quick Change, but at the last minute I thought it more appropriate to select a story that celebrated books and reading.
I’ve had two stories about libraries published this year, one in Eating My Words, the official anthology of National Flash Fiction Day, and the other in Change The Ending, which used flash fiction to foster positive outcomes for local government – an unusual and inventive use of fiction! When I asked the IAF’s compère, Perry Iles, which of the two I should read, he answered “Both!” So I did, and they went down very well with the audience. Good call, Perry!
I’d like to share those stories with those of you who weren’t at the Festival, so today I’m posting on my blog the story from Eating My Words – the one that had to be written on the theme of The Senses. This story was inspired by my husband’s Open University science degree course. By an extraordinary coincidence, he happened to be studying a module on The Senses, and kept sharing with me fascinating facts from his textbook. The narrator of the resulting story is an elderly gentleman, who is emphatically not based on my husband!
I’ll share the other story with you later this month, so if you don’t already receive my new posts by email, pop your address in the “follow the blog” box form on the right of this page to make sure you don’t miss it.
Please Remain Silent for the Benefit of Other Library Users (In Hushed Tones)
Why, Miss Blossom, how lovely to see you back in the Reading Room, it’s been a while, has it not? I hope you’ve been keeping well. The Times? Yes, I’ve finished with The Times. Please be my guest. No, no, I’ve definitely finished.
I was just going to toddle along to the Science section until I saw you. Yes, Neuroscience, actually, it’s a new interest of mine. I’ve been spending a lot of time in that department lately. Fascinating stuff, absolutely fascinating.
Just yesterday I came across a fact I’d never known before. Tell me, have you ever noticed that although the smell of polish hits you the minute you enter the library, you cease to notice it after a while? Apparently, that’s nature’s way. We’re all programmed to stop noticing a smell, good or bad, within moments of first sensing it. Yes, unpleasant smells too. Yes, I suppose it is a blessing. That must be why that air freshener company has been advertising a device that alternates between two different perfume reservoirs – so that the user is constantly reminded that it’s working.
No, no, I don’t watch much commercial television either. I just happened to switch over by mistake.
But the same applies to all the other senses, according to the book I’ve been reading over in the Science section. If you hear a sound repeatedly, it fades into the background. Yes, trains passing your flat at night, that’s an excellent example. You only notice them when they stop – when there’s a strike and they don’t run. I’ve noticed that too. You’re so right. Next time I’m kept awake by the cessation of striking trains, I shall – there, I shall say it! – I shall think of you.
And have you noticed how the same food or drink, day after day, ceases to be pleasurable? Yes, that first cup of proper English tea after a trip abroad is always the best, you’re quite right.
And as to touch, well, I never notice the cat curled up against my arm on the bed at night, once she and I have settled down. Your cat sleeps on your bed too? Sooty sleeps on your bed, curled up into the small of your back? Oh, Miss Blossom, I say! I wonder whether our cats would be friends if they met?
The other sense? The fifth one? Does it work for the sense of sight? Well, do you know, I am at odds with the book on that one. Because, Miss Blossom, because – and I don’t care if the librarian is looking daggers at me since you ask – no matter how often I spot you in this Reading Room, and no matter how long I gaze at you before you look up and notice me, I will never tire of the sight of you . Oh Miss Blossom, dare I ask? Would you care to join me for the afternoon in the Science Section?
To read more stories on the theme of the senses, and wonder at the amazing inventiveness of other writers featured in the anthology, you’ll find Eating My Words available as ebook and paperback available to buy on Amazon.
Quick Change is currently available as an ebook for Kindle, and a paperback will be available from all good bookshops from the end of November.