Thursday, 17 May 2012

The End

And that's it, fellow flash-fictioneers, the end of the the deluge, the end of this issue of FlashFlood and the end of the first ever National Flash-Fiction Day.

Things will continue, with more competitions on their way and other events still to come, so don't worry, this isn't the end of everything, just the day.

Thanks for reading the stories and for all your comments. We all hope you enjoyed them.

Keep writing your flashes, we hope to have more issues of FlashFlood through the year, and roll on NFFD2013!

All the best,
Calum, Susi, Shirley, Nettie, Caroline, Susan and Cassandra.
The FlashFlood Editors.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

'All He Ever Wanted' by Whitney Court



Ten years had passed between the last time Jeremy talked to Nina and the very random, very terse email he’d suddenly received from her. He wished he could say he’d forgotten her or that her message had made him close his eyes and jog his memory to place her, but of course, he couldn’t. She was the cause of nearly every effect in his life. His high school sweetheart, the woman he imagined having children with, growing old with and she was ultimately the woman who broke his heart at 18. He’d never seen it coming, the sudden announcement that she was not going to college with him after all. Instead, she’d applied to a school in California, she’d been accepted, and she was leaving everything behind-the small town, the small dreams, and Jeremy himself.
Shattered, Jeremy was faced with rethinking the whole life he’d had planned out. His brother, already in the army, had encouraged him to follow suit. Jeremy considered it, briefly, but finally ended up in school after all. Ten years later, he was working in the financial district in New York. He had carved out a career to be proud of. He had an apartment that would be considered luxury by New York City standards. He worked hard, but in turn wanted for nothing. Nothing material, that is. He wanted many things. All the time that had passed, and he still wanted to know why Nina had walked away. He wanted to know why he had not gone with his brother, his beloved brother. He had to stop himself from thinking further. His brother was gone, a hero and a victim. For all Jeremy had, what he didn’t have felt like so much more. 

And then there was the email.  “It has taken me a long time to track you down. I know I have no right to expect or even ask anything of you, but please, Jeremy, I need to see you. It is not something for an email or a phone call…”
Jeremy wasn’t sure what to do with it. Ten years? But she’d intrigued him. What could she possibly have to tell him after a decade? And so he’d agreed to meet with her. She was in New York, she’d told him to name the place. And now here he stood, taking a deep breath and walking into a coffee shop that was as unlikely a spot for such a reunion as any.
He saw her immediately. Time had not altered her, except maybe to make her even more striking. He tried not to be swayed as he slid in the booth across from her. “Nina.”
Their eyes locked and she slid a photo across the table. He looked down at the face of a boy. It took him only a moment to realize this was not a childhood photo of him.
“This is why? But we wanted children!”  Jeremy was stunned.
“He’s your brother’s”
And now he had his answers.

'Ever After' by Meg McNulty


Easy to think you're in love.  

When your blood is fierce with adventure and your heart is racing like a hawk on the wind, when your skin stinks of dragon breath and every muscle in your body aches and you see her lying there like an slice of perfection, all silk skin and ambrosia and lips that a fairy godmother couldn't make up.  

Those lips.  Damn, just thinking about those lips could get him hot again like that first time.  Leaning over, tasting her breath.   His gorgeous, golden prize.  A piece of royal booty worth slaying dragons for.

Easy to think you're in love then. 

Happy endings right? That's what it all was all about.  You slay the dragon, you get the girl. 

Sweet.

He stared up at the rising sun painted on the ceiling.  He'd commissioned that for her - a romantic gesture.  She said it was off centre.  She got annoyed by things like that, stuff being out of place.  Couldn't bear to look at it every day.  

She got annoyed by way he laughed when the major domo fell over his cane.  "Grow up Philip, you're a king now."  And the way he wore his cloak slung over one shoulder.  "A bit flashy don't you think?" 

She'd say it in that royal way with just a lift of her eyebrows, lips a little tight.  Never raised her voice.  Never lost her temper.  Just looked disappointed.  Like her fairy godmother had waved a wand and turned the coach into a pumpkin.  

And he wanted to grab her shoulders and shake her.  Shake her 'til her hair tumbled out of that stiff little twist and fell around her shoulders the way it was when he'd first seen her.  She had a hundred different shades of sunlight in her hair.  He wanted to plunge his hands into it, let it flow like silk over his fingers and kiss her.  Properly.  Not have her turn away, present a cheek, princess-smooth.  

He wanted to shout, "I slayed a dragon for you!"  He wanted to shout it 'til the rafters shook and those grand tapestries fell off the walls and every friggin' courtier stuffed their fingers in their ears and screamed.

But he didn't.

He stood all stiff and red faced, like a school boy being told off.  Saw the maids shooting him soft looks, feeling sorry for him.  That's when he started to notice them.  Last night the dark one had brushed against him when she poured his wine, asked if there was anything else he wanted.

In that voice.

And there was.  

But not from her. 

A soft snore made him glance sideways.  Sleeping, she looked like she did when he'd first seen her.  Enchanted.  Young.  Before she started carrying a kingdom on her shoulders.

And that was the problem with true love's kiss.  It had a way of sticking. 

Turning , he put an arm around his wife.   Slaying dragons was easy. 

Love, that was hard. 

'The Scent of a Memory' by Lucy Oliver


A flash of bright white light in her eyes. The red skirt tight against her legs. She pulled it high and danced the jitterbug. Whistles made her jump - loud shrill sounds that disturbed her mind.

Cigarette smoke hung in the air, the exhaled white tendrils twisting towards her like spirit fingers. She forced them into her lungs. The sharp smell reminded her of the bed sheets after he returned to his corvette ship. She would rest her face against the warm pillow to trap his scent in her mind.

After he sailed, she haunted the cinema, watching the newsreels. Dozed through most of it, until she heard the word, ‘Atlantic’. Then she would jerk awake, eyes wide and staring. 

The crash of waves on the screen scared her. He could not swim.

Now, she stood still, remembering him, the touch of his stubble on her face, the look in his eyes as he gazed at her. 

 A jive started and she danced again, alone beside the couples. Ferociously twisting, slamming her heels against the floor, sweat sliding down her skin. The jive suited her, fast and quick. She thought she saw him, his face in the shadows, but when she stopped to stare, he vanished.

 She thought of his coat. So long and heavy. Had he suffered?

As she remembered his touch, her tears mingled with the perspiration.  

The band started, ‘We’ll Meet Again.’

This time, she stood still.



A flash of bright white light in her eyes. She heard a voice.

“Miss Lansworth. Eight-five. Bed blocker. Nothing we can do. Take her to genetics.”

She breathed in the scent of cigarette smoke and hoped he had returned at last.

'Flat Taste of Success' by John F King


You wrote major, I said minor.
You might as well face it: you wouldn’t have had the hit without me.
I don’t want it to go to the suits, man.
We were never about that.
It just makes me feel so flat.
All this conflict, discord sowed when there was such sweet harmony.
I said sort it and get back to me, don’t need those ‘see you in court’  blues.
 I’m not asking for everything, not even a half. Twist and shout, in at 10%.
 Fair dues.
I acknowledge you wrote the song, the concept, but without that crucial chord change it wouldn’t have had the impact. You know  that  as well as I do.  
It’s why we stopped making music together.
Why  you stopped speaking to me though I sat by the phone for 20 years.
So 20 years in the charts, let’s call it 9% , respect all those years on the road,
humming the right kind of bars.
20 years at 8.9 % - off the top of my head I’d say you owe me 1.5 million euros,
Yes, you heard me, 1.4 , it wouldn’t even trouble your accountants.
I’ll drop my bank account details on your voicemail, yeah mine’s in the Cayman’s too, makes things so much simpler, don’t you get me?
We haven’t spoken for 20 years,  you don’t even have to now if you don’t want to, as long as you do the right thing.
No, I’d never threaten you, man, you know me, it’s just J.U.S.T.I.C.E.
8 % of the royalties and you can carry on never hearing from me,
That’s all I ask , fair play.
‘Course  we were never a real duo, like Paul and John, Mick and Keith, Elton and Bernie..
Wouldn’t even dream of  bracketing myself with them.  We, alright, I tried most things in my time except blasphemy, you feel me?
Listen, call it groovy at 6.9% and I’m out of your bandana.
Let’s not get heavy man, it’s not in the spirit of what we had.

'Tyrants' by Valerie Sirr


Tyrants
You make your father lie down on the floor. You lie flat on your tummy on your father’s back and your little sister lies flat on yours. You are the ham. They are the bread. You feel his heat and the weight of your sister. Your parents’ and sister’s laughs go inside you and join with yours until you grow so huge you fill up the room as if you were an Egyptian king.
Roaring Boy bawls and you begin to shrink. Your mother gathers him up and his mouth bites her breast. You want to play ‘sandwich’ again, but your parents are going out.
You pick your favourite story from your bible. You tell your babysitter about Pharaoh:
“Pharaoh was in charge. He made the Children of Israel be his slaves.”
She ruffles your hair. You push your head into her softness. Her voice goes inside you with the beats of her heart...You wear a golden headdress and a white tunic. You grip the ankh in your hand. You allow your parents and sister to live.
“Why is Pharaoh mean?” your sister says. She knows you know everything.
Your mother steps into the room. Roaring Boy screams in her arms, red-faced and stinky. Her eyes find you where you lie against your babysitter’s breast.
You sit up straight. Your cheeks burn so you say loudly, “Pharaoh’s going to kill boy babies!”  
Your mother and your babysitter roll their eyes at each other.
You don’t know why they do that, but you do know what happens next: Pharaoh’s soldiers search for the baby. The baby’s parents make a basket out of bulrushes and sticky tar. They put the baby inside it. They cover the baby with rushes then they place him in the river and they leave him there.

'Josie' by Stella Turner

It was the only photograph of me as a child. Standing on my parents’ side board for over forty years, its silver frame ritually polished every week. I was dressed like a girl but my mother said in those days children were always dressed alike! My parents were hidden behind a woman who was holding me like a cherished possession. She looked so impressed with me that I kept asking who she was. My mother would sigh and turn away with a shrug. My father saying only her name was Josie. He spoke the name as if it was magical and it hung in the air tantalising and distressing my mother.


The auctioneer turns the frame over and says “twenty pounds, maybe a bit more”. I feel a tinge of regret, slipping the photo into my jacket pocket, but I need the money. My mother wouldn’t notice it was missing. She now lives in a care home. My father, long gone, is living with some young girl in Bexhill. He says she is his carer but she speaks with an accent and looks like she knows a good opportunity when she sees one. I expect his will is in her favour.  


Not much left to sell. The photo is creased. I flatten it out on the kitchen table and stare at the woman. Maybe I could try and find her. She’s probably dead by now. Perhaps tomorrow I’ll visit my father and ask about Josie. If she’s still impressed with me maybe she’ll give me things to sell.

'Crows' by Stan Smith


Crows!  Hurtling down the steep plunging path, I shout at the birds pecking at my backpack.  Those evil beaks and eyes ignore me and their claws remain sharp on the bag’s top compartment. 

We had left the backpacks briefly in the gulley to hike up Cathedral Peak, no one was around.  However we hadn’t thought about these scavengers, they know we have food in there.  Returning from the summit the adrenaline of the triumph instantly vanished once we could just make out that there was movement by our tiny pile of backpacks.  The pile was under attack.  It’s ok, the food inside is safe behind thick canvas, birds beaks can’t open zips …can they?...they can!  Stop thaaat!  My screams are just air and the rummagers pull the guts out of my bag.  Plastic bags are blown away by wind and the burglars drop t-shirts like trash.   

My friends behind me up the hillside laugh as I scarecrow towards the gulley.  The crows just peck and pull, they know I’m harmless.

'A Confession (Postscript)' by Jo Bromilow


It is with great regret that I have been forced to classify my experiment as a failure. 

My challenge was simple - I am a medical man, a clinical person and possessed of an incredibly inquisitive and curious mind, and in an age where man feels he can overcome any challenges, I was intrigued to pit the parasiticly resilient human spirit against the sheer overwhelming terror of modern existence that occupies us. 
My subjects (there were five in total - two male, three female, ranging in age from 17 to 89, one regrettably a mother of young children), sadly, all succumbed to the phantom illness which I planted in them - a dual illness combined of despair and hope. Between them they selected varying methods to bring about their demise, from the benign and delicate (sleeping pills) to the Bronteian (exposure to the elements) to the not entirely surprising old age. But die they all did. 

Frustratingly, I feel the youngest may have survived - I interpreted that wild, animalistic run that unfortunately juxtaposed with the trajectory of a car with faulty breaks, not as headlong into death but headlong into life. The jubilant sprint of a creature clinging to life, running for the horizon. The parasite I tried to awaken. Cruelly aborted. Perplexingly unresolved.

And thus, my experiment is deemed a failure, and all those who know me and my work regard me as a devil. Deserving of the fate that awaits me. But they misunderstand my purpose; I never meant to be the devil. I merely showed the subjects the path that led to their own destruction, asked them to map their own fate. I nudged. But I did not push. I did not kill them. 

I do not classify my experiment as a failure. It is notable that all of my patients, regardless of the fact that they succumbed, chose to take control of their final moments. I did not wish them to kill themselves; that was not my intention. I wished to see how they would deal with the news they all thought that they wanted to hear. It comforts me to know that, as so many people pass through life afraid of the end, delaying it, five individuals took the hand of the Reaper and calmly walked into the Hereafter. I feel that that is what I gave them, what I gave the world. A second look at the inevitable. 

Therefore I conclude my experiment, and my practise. I am no longer a doctor, nor am I a free man. I am the nation's most hated individual. And yet, strangely, I feel like I have given it the hope it needs.

I remain inquisitive, optimistic, and hope to find peace.  

Dr F A Lacey, 24th October, 2011

(deceased)

'Cure-all' by Oonah V Joslin


Bill Turner was not the father of English Botany but the name opened doors; in particular that of Lady Tansy Bistort.
“Tincture of Irish Moss for relief of  bitter flux, Hawthorne pills; for strengthening the organ of the heart, Patent Powder to wage war on fleas and lice and nothing will do so well for lightening the hair as this preparation, Madam,” he assured, “bottled by my own hand.”
That was true. He’d squeezed the contents of the plastic tube into a glass jar moments before setting off in his time machine.
The colour proved most becoming and -- she was worth it.
“I trust I find you well, Madam?”
“Tolerably Sir, though...” a stray blond tress escaped beneath her cap, “your cure for sagging breasts tastes a tad bitter.”
“The broth was meant for unction, Madam. But, I have something better. Pray be so good as to try on this garment.”
The lady retired, emerging moments later. “How you tease me Sir,” she said. “Is levity then your cure for gravity?”
The pure silk, red bra with black lace trim, (minus Do Not Tumble Dry) was clasped under her chin; the cups, of no modest size, adorning her ears.
“I should certainly stand out in society, Sir.”
Bill was obliged to put his arms about her person to demonstrate how it should be worn. Her bosom heaved. His mind rehearsed the entire range of Anne Summer’s. And should she tire of him, he could always edge time back.

'Nobody's Home' by C Kirby


It was over, just like that.  I, personally, never thought it would happen.  It was them - our enemy.  The whole thing reeked of their thirst for violence, their lust for blood that turned brother against brother, state against state.  As the war progressed, it claimed just about everyone I held dear and that was when I started to learn how to hate.  Quite a trade, really.  We gave them literature, music, art and they gave us war, hate, and killing.
Expecting destruction and desolation, the scouts reported worse.  Ruins, everything was gone, all the sculptures, paintings by our great masters, all our art, literature, the very essence of our culture lay strewn about, like some giant jigsaw puzzle.
I was studying some plans for several emergency housing projects when Hans came scurrying in ‑ all legs, as usual.  He was so agitated that it took a drink and several minutes before he could explain himself and then I needed a drink.  His scouting party had found someone alive, as incredible as that sounds, trapped beneath the ruins. The scouting party had received no orders regarding survivors, so they sent Hans back to me.
It was my first trip outside the shelter and I was astonished, aghast at the destruction.  I hadn't imagined this in my worst nightmares ‑ had always clutched to the dream that something would be left.  What is this victim was one of them. What then? 
Reaching the site, we were greeted by a pleading voice.
  "Hello?  Are you still there?  Is anyone there?"
I moved closer to the hole from which the voice was issuing.  Trying to pierce the dark and see the voice’s owner, I squinted.  "Hello," I answered softly, slightly surprised at the sob that greeted me.
"Oh, thank God you're still there.  Help me!  My legs were pinned." 
Hans had gone for a lantern and, until he returned, I wanted to keep the voice talking. "It's all right now.  Just be patient a bit longer and we'll get you out and to a doctor.  What's your name?" 
"Sam.  Please, hurry."
Han returned with the light then and, as it pierced the shadows of the hole, my fears were confirmed ‑ it was one of them, the killer of our children and mates.  I saw in the faces of my companions and knew what my own face must have betrayed.
Simultaneously, we turned our backs with a sharp click and started away.
The voice pleaded with us, to forgive him, not to blame him for the ignorance of the others, to help him.  He kept screaming for us to come back.
And we would come back… in a week, possibly two.  When the enemy was dead and the voice was silent.  Then, our fight would be complete.  They would truly be gone forever and we would be free to live again. 
But, then, after all, what else could we do?  There’s nobody here, but us cockroaches.

'Damson Tree' by Cathy Lennon

When we first bought this house, one April, we watched with delight in the weeks that followed as the fruit trees in our back garden blossomed foaming white. At summer’s end the tallest, a damson, dangled blue-tinged fruit from every twig. With ladders and buckets we harvested them. In the steaming, shabby kitchen I hummed along to a contented tune of bubbling jam pans. I gathered jars and pots to warm and fill. I labelled them proudly, kept some, gave more away. That tree was showing us the joy of putting down roots, blessing the fruitfulness of our new life together.One bright Sunday morning, two Septembers later, visitors arrived to find our house still sleeping with curtains drawn. Unhurried, murmuring peacefully, they wandered into the waiting garden. Tempted by those overladen boughs they filled carrier bags to bursting with plump, bittersweet fruit and left them by the back door as they tiptoed away. All the while, across town, I sweated and swayed, moaned and panted, bore down and cried out and gave them a first grandchild. 
Four days later I came home to cellophaned bouquets that remained unarranged. I sat transfixed by the back door, bedazzled in an Indian summer sun and gazed, awestruck, at my damson daughter, sleeping furled like a bud. By my side two purple-weeping bags oozed, ignored.
Seasons passed with all their changes. Like me the damson bloomed and cropped again. From time to time as I paused wearily at the sink, letting a tap run, loud chaos about me, I stared blankly at that tree, standing loyally there in my neglected garden. We exchanged grim nods of silent solidarity.
Across the garden, in another September, drifted giggles and shrieks as my two lean-limbed fairies stretched and jumped to reach those dusky fruits. Squabbling over the stepladder, they filled their little pails. If I was feeling energetic, I squeezed out a Sunday crumble or two. It seemed a shame to waste them. The girls preferred picking them to eating them though. More often than not, the dark pulp languished, in lumpen, unappealing bags at the bottom of the freezer drawer, was pressed on visitors to take away.
Andrew wanted to cut the tree down. It’s too big and it’s in the wrong place, he said. He’s right. While we were out, he felled it. I didn’t want to watch. 
There’s a pond where it used to be. Nobody really liked damson jam anyway. In middle age our crumble days are kept to a minimum, for fear of calorific consequences. The girls are going too, out into the world where they should be. One day I hope they’ll find their own damson tree. Now and again, from a corner of my eye, I catch the remembered ghost of mine. From the gleaming, empty kitchen I stare out through the window. It flickers there. I feel again that overwhelming rush of love and pride, the fear, the joy, the awe of that September damson time.

'Flood' by Chris Cole

The flood came and went in one night so to many of the townsfolk the wet carpets and two metre tide marks were treated in personal isolation. It was often only when they attempted to call the office, some grateful for the excuse not to work, that they found the lines down and they began to suspect that they were part of a broader picture. The assistant mayor muttered and swore as he fished his favourite tie from out of the basement laundry room. He would have no answers for the angry public. His young boy stood naked in the front room, smiling broadly as he looked out of the French windows. In the middle of the lawn were many balls, all different sizes and all thought lost to the garden next door.

'The Right Way to Do Things' by Matthew Adams


So we need to convince this guy were going to kill him, right. said Vinnie, pushing the cheap trilby low over his eyes.
Lawson sighed.
But were not, said Lawson, Remember that Si..Sorry, Vinnie. Were. Just. After. The effin. Money.
For fucks sake…” snapped Vinnie, spinning round.
Lawson raised an eyebrow.
"OK OK..Right, sighed Vinnie, turning back and pouting as he reached up to knock on the door.
He paused.
Wait, he said.
Now what, thought Lawson, sighing again. Effin perishin out here.
Vinnie crouched, placing his baccy tin on the floor, sheltering behind his long coat as he made a rollie.
Got to do things right, muttered Vinnie as half a pack of papers blew away.
Too much Tony Soprano, thought Lawson shaking his head. Not the right way to do things, all this dress-up and menaces.
The credit-card companies had it right these days. Warm offices. Tea on tap. All recorded messages, automatically telephoning people,                twenty-thirty times a day. 24 hours a day, everyday. Now that was the type of collecting he could get used to. Respectable like.
Vinnie stood, adjusted his hat again, put the rollie in the corner of his mouth, scowled, and only then banged on the door.
Eventually, it opened a crack.
Aaawwww! said Vinnie, sulkily.
Lawson grinned, and crouched down.
 Hello young man, your daddy not home today?

'Simple Brown Vase' by Antony Barkworth-Knight

“But you know what she likes, right?”
Dave looked at me exasperated, he'd been through this a thousand times before and still I got no better at understanding.
“Just get her what she wants, what she'll love you for.”
He was right. I picked up the car and headed to the out of town shopping mall, into the large department store, up the escalators to the second floor and within two minutes I had it in my hand, a simple brown vase.
I wrapped it that night in cream paper and placed it in the center of the coffee table. Under the diffuse light of the dimmers it blended perfectly into the room. A sickness came over me. If someone could show all this to my twenty year old self he'd be suitably enraged. I held my head in my hands and rubbed my eyes; the midlife crisis wasn't going to happen, not tonight, not tomorrow, not ever. I closed the door on my teenage self and went to bed.
When she opened it the next morning she cried. Small tears bouncing off the surface of the vase.
“How do you know me so well?” she asked and kissing me on the forehead she rose, placed the vase in the center of the mantel piece and left the room.
For some time I sat and looked at it, that simple brown vase, innocuous, unoffensive, mediocre, and I too started to cry. For every day left on this earth, I could love her.

'A Chance in Life' by Gillian Brown


He doesn’t look back, he isn’t ashamed or afraid like I am. He reaches out to hold my hand. I take one glance over my shoulder and wish I hadn’t.

‘What will happen?’ I ask.

‘Don’t worry. We did the right thing,’ he says.

I grasp his hand. My throat is as dry as sandpaper and my head throbs as if someone is hammering nails inside. Every muscle in my body is tense. I fear if I let go I won’t be able to stop the torrent of tears backed up behind my eyes. I must get to the exit. Away from this place. Into the anonymity of the street.

I repeat the words. ‘A nice home. Loving parents. Plenty to eat. A good education.’ All the things I yearned for myself and never got. A chance in life.

‘That’s right,’ he says.

Hanging onto his words, I focus my eyes on the rectangle of door at the end of the corridor. I start to run. The echo of our footsteps accelerates like a drum roll towards a finale. I clutch my throat. ‘If I don’t get out of here soon…’ I yank his hand, unsure if I want him to stop and turn back, or keep going.

‘No,’ he says, dragging me forward. ‘We decided, remember?’

As we make it to the door, a high-pitched scream tears at my heart. Her cry is like a hand reaching out for me. I stop dead, ripped up inside. She’s just three weeks’ old. I look at him, his buttoned-up face. He shakes his head.
We’re through the door and out on the street, leaving behind a tiny life in someone else’s hands.

But her cry stays with me. It always will.

'Geraldine' by Angela King


 She arrived in late spring, just as the desert heat begins to drive sand into every fibre of the city and mother announced she couldn’t cope. Hardly more than an adolescent bag of bones Geraldine was meant to provide an inclusive remedy for mother’s woes. My sister and I loved her from that first day.


    Father had chosen Geraldine because she was the only applicant with any English. He arranged her flights and collected her at immigration. He’d never been so embarrassed. She arrived in a cherry-red cardigan which drooped to her ankles and obviously started life on someone ten times bigger, no shoes on her feet, nor any form of luggage. Father was convinced immigration suspected him of trafficking but all her papers were in perfect order. Despite appearances Geraldine was extremely proficient.


    Although English was hardly her first language she’d received an elementary education from one of the last outposts of the Missionary Society. She took the view that God’s word should be uttered in hushed reverence and being that God’s word was plainly English all conversations with our new nanny assumed a sombre gravity, as if some revelation was about to be disclosed. Prayers were said before every meal, and at bedtime, and she wouldn’t tolerate swearing, even from father. Although the family found her behaviour antiquated we soon learned Geraldine was abundant with affection and possessed a delightful giggle which could override any fit of sobriety.


    Even mother couldn’t wear her out. The house shone, visitors smiled and all our childhood anxieties seemed easily rectified. She became more like an older sister than a nanny and when mother announced she was expecting it was Geraldine who went into raptures and counted the days.


    By her own request Geraldine’s wages were paid directly to her parents. They were farmers and because she had no brothers she must support them until she found a ‘good husband’. Mother showered her with gifts in the hope she would stay, expensive gifts, relevant to a lifestyle completely alien to Geraldine. Father, appalled by this generosity, enquired what use Geraldine had for Chanel No. 5 only to find she had sent the bottle to her parents.


    “Whatever uses have your parents for perfume?” Mother snapped.


    “Oh Miss, they put everything to good use.” Geraldine apologised. “And after some trials they found a few drops deterred the wild pigs from raiding their vegetable bed. They wondered how soon I could send more.”


    When baby was due mother decided Geraldine should accompany her home. Worried about being cold she wore virtually every item of clothing she possessed layer-on-layer. Not only did it negate any need for a suitcase it alerted Heathrow to the impression she was involved in an entirely different felony, that of smuggling. The strip search took hours. Geraldine was neither bemused nor angry, only confused that the officers didn’t believe her explanation - she needed both hands free to help mother. Why else come to London?