500 words for 500 words

Hello Dear Reader,

How many of you have tried to write a short story in just 500 words? Well, over 90,000 children did just that for BBC Radio 2 and Chris Evans show. I listened to this last year and the depth and brilliance of the stories were amazing. What was the most remarkable was the response to a simple radio request. Send in your stories.

Again this year it was announced and again thousands of young adults wrote their story. I made sure I listened to the show, which was broadcast live from Hay-on-wye. Itself a famous book town which I have visited more than once. Basically, it’s just books. Shops and shops of books. Almost like heaven.

I was taken aback by the winners as I am sure many were. They had some great ideas, beautiful sentences and really did set the atmosphere in their own way. You have to give credit to Radio 2 and Chris Evans for going with something that a few would think impossible given todays digital age.

Yet 90,000 odd wrote 500 words. That is a staggering 45 million words and more. The top 50 stories are online to read and I did hear the top ones read out this morning by some very famous people. They admitted how nervous they were to read such work, to make sure they did justice to the words. You could tell the passion, inspiration and sheer joy each story held.

You really should go and read the top stories. Forget the ages at first, just read. The imagination that goes to create these stories is wonderful. Within 500 words each of them create a world, one that can be explored further. Now look at the ages. There is a certain ‘wow’ factor. How many others will be inspired for next year? How many parents will encourage their children to take part?

What I did wonder, was how many parents felt the pressure of being asked about a competition like this? Could they cope with trying to understand the complex world created before them? Have people lost the ability to use or see words anymore? I know how difficult it can be to just write 500 words for a blog. Most times I rattle on about a topic, which does have a start and end sometimes. But to build a short story that takes something else.

In this digital age where stories are pushed at people, it is pleasing to find that stories are still being written. This event makes young people seek out what is in their imagination and let others see what they feel.

500 words may not seem much but in the right hands those words can create a whole new world. The stories will encourage others I am sure. Chris Evans has made this his own and good for him. These stories will pluck at the heart-strings, will make you laugh and entertain.

Tagline – 500 word stories. Read and enjoy.

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The Christmas Gift

The Christmas Gift

Imagine the scene, Christmas Eve, 5.15pm, in a small book shop on a busy university campus. A man is looking at the books, surrounded by people feeling the same strain of choice. He wishes he had more time, so he can please his friends.

“I can’t do this; too many people, too little time, too many books. They have to be right. If only, I could have the shop to myself.What I would give for that. ”

A desperate plea in the sea of people, but only one other hears. He nervously shuffles on the spot, looking around.

“Who is that man in the red coat? Concentrate. Books, that’s what I am here for. I have a ten pound note and three books to find. Look at this offer, two books for ten pounds and I need three books in fifteen minutes. I hate Christmas.”

The first bead of perspiration runs down his brow as he searches for inspiration.

“Let me think, what about the classics, how about Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol. What’s wrong with that one? Too obvious? Too classic? It’s on TV every Christmas in one form or another. Not the best pick. Wait! The prefect one, The Hobbit. It’s classic, yet modern and there is a new film for Christmas. That’s one, two more to find.”

He clutches his first prize as if his life depends on it. He is irritated by the carefree attitude of the other shoppers.

“What about one of Ernest Hemingway’s great novels. No, that would just cause problems. Put that one back and that one. Why not buy three copies of the Hobbit who would know? Three copies under the ten pounds, it’s so tempting. No, keep looking; something will turn up.”

He needs more time, it’s a wish all of us make at some point, but at what cost? Sometimes the greatest wish is for the wrong gift. He has other worries now; the man in the red coat is looking at him.

“He is talking to the shop assistant now. Who’s he pointing at? Me? Why me? Is he a security guard?”

The pressure of time can make someone imagine details that are never there. Is the man following him?

“Forget him, concentrate on the books, the shop will close soon and that will be that. There is local garage. They might sell something tacky. Look at this, 50 Sheds of Grey. Wait is that a proper book. I thought it was something else? Another colour maybe? No. That’s no good either. Back to the classics. Oh joy five minutes left. I could just close my eyes, grab two and hope. I wish I had more time.”

For everyone, there is a fateful wish, that one last moment with a loved one, the need to find the greener grass and this man is about to experience his fateful wish. A flash of red catches his eye, is he being watched?

“Excuse me, I believe that you need this.”

Startled by the softly spoken words, the man in the red coat appears before him, in his right hand is the offer of a lifeline.

“Who are you? What do you want? ”

He is flustered by the image, the closeness of this stranger.

“I only wish to make your life a little less complicated. You appear to be struggling to find what you desire. Let me help. Take this voucher, it will ease your pain and last a lifetime.”

There is the offer. There is his wish all wrapped up in a beautifully coloured ticket. Would you accept such an offer?

“What do I need to do?”

“Why nothing, just accept the modest voucher, it has a few terms and conditions, nothing a man like you would fail to understand. Consider it my Christmas gift.”

The man in the red coat is smiling; he knows the gift will be accepted.

“Thank you, thank you. You have no idea how this will help me.”

The words glow a little as he takes the voucher, accepting the contract in good faith.

“It is my pleasure. Now you have all the time you need to find those last gifts. I am sure I will see you again and again.”

There is a puzzled look on the man’s face. He should have known better. It is too late now.

“What do you mean… Hello?”

In the turning of a page, the shop has emptied. Everyone has gone. The odd whisper of a ghostly figure drifts past the man or so it seems. He frantically tries to escape pulling at the door, but it won’t open, why? He examines the voucher again looking at the back.

“My God, what have I done!”

One line glows, deep blood red, ‘Thank you for your soul. You can browse all these books forever. L’

In a small bookshop, on a busy university campus, if you look closely sometimes you can see the ghostly outline of a man. He is trapped.

Mark O’Donnell

 

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A challenge – 140 character poem

Dear Readers and maybe poets,

This morning I managed to write a short poem in 140 characters (actually less). Now I know that many haiku’s can be written in 140 characters but this was a quick 4 line poem. So I decided to post it here as a challenge. It’s just a bit of fun to try. Why did I write this? Well the washing machine we have makes a darn tune when it finishes and it does remind me of what the late great Douglas Adams might be thinking. Remember Marvin? This washing machine is just to cheerful to make sure you know it’s done. Hence the poem. So here it is enjoy and see;

Poem

Is this the shape of things to come

A washing machine that sings and hums

Douglas would be laughing now

As we are tortured by this row

 

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The Joy of the Proms

Hello Dear Reader

The BBC Proms, such a varied event is underway once more. I have already listened to a few of the proms and last night I sat down to Mahler’s 5th. It is very difficult to describe to people what you end up listening too particularly here in words. There are the odd one or two you can sort of hint at, Da-Da-Da-Darrr, is one. (Guesses allowed no prizes given)

I do find that a full orchestra is something of a joy to hear. It gives the music a life of it’s own and each time there is just a little difference that makes it special. I think that is why the BBC Proms are important. They have such diversity that it does cater for almost everyone.  There are 58 days of Proms, on some days three or four concerts played over 12 hours. That is a lot of music. It is all here http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms . It’s not only the music, it’s the musicians as well. They play over thousands of hours of music, it is a mental and physical battle to reach the end.

The BBC Proms are well received and supported by a loyal following, yet it is growing and changing. Musical, film and now jazz Proms have recently drawn in a different audience. Also shows such as Doctor Who, very popular, have shown that music comes in many forms.

Each year, many people tune in to watch the Last Night of the Proms, with well known classical works. Sometimes, you have to dip into the unknown and find a gem such as I heard with Mahler.  I did once challenge a radio station to play something from Star Wars. At the time, I suggested that many film pieces were as good as classical. Last night, I found some of Mahler’s work very much like a soundtrack. Full circle.

So dear reader, this little classical work is complete, the last bars played.

Tagline: “Da Da Da Dar”

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HayDay

Dear Reader

It has been a while since I last wrote a blog, a review of Captain America. I do intend to review X-Men:Days of future Past very soon. This blog is or will try to be, different. Why? This past weekend I had the good fortune to visit the Hay-on-Wye book festival. It was very much a spur of the moment thing really. I have always wanted to visit this famous event and without knowing it I managed to plan a weeks leave at the right time.

Why was it so important to go? Because of my love of books and writing really. I have been to Hay a number of times and managed to find a book I long thought would never be found. In today’s world, I suspect I would have used the internet more and located a copy. As it was the fun of searching through second-hand bookshops made it more of a discovery to me.

The actual festival takes place just outside Hay, in a tented village very much like a few other places that appear these days. The festival has grown somewhat and given the attention recently from BBC Radio 2’s Chris Evans, it is in my view trying to fire the imagination of all writers and readers.

There is something to be said for acting on impulse. Sometimes it can bring surprising rewards and this weekend I had three. The setup of the festival was very straight forward, no need to pay to get in just wander round and enjoy the atmosphere. You could however pick one of a number of talks that were taking place throughout the day. Having looked at the various talks there were two that caught my eye both it seemed were fully booked.

Well, time to wander again. This is when good fortune smiled. I talked to one of the many volunteers who suggested we check the returns. A quick return back to the ticket sales and guess what, yes they had two tickets for a talk by Tom Hollander the star of BBC TVs show Rev.

I did mention impulse before. Well, it also pays to ask a second time. Good fortune smiled again and I got two tickets to listen to Benedict Cumberbatch and friends reading from a collection of letters.

To listen to any actor live is for me a joy. You can hear the true reflection of the character they are portraying in their voice. The letters were from a new book each one read by a variety of well known people. Every single person who came on stage delivered their letter with passion and energy, to the degree that you did feel the real emotions behind the words. There were so many people who appeared each one standing out. However two letters and their readers stood out; John Lloyd and Rob Brydon. John Lloyd delivered a memo which was both risky and so humorous, whereas Rob Brydon gave us Richard Burton in all his wonderful tones. If he had said, ‘Broadsword calling Danny Boy’ that would have been it.

The exchange of letters between two World War Two sweethearts as read by Benedict Cumberbatch and Louise Brealey (Molly from Sherlock) was almost as if they had written them themselves. Again the passion, tender care, the off-hand comments all shone through these two people. It was brilliant and I would recommend buying the books;

The second talk had an equally wonderful set up. Tom Hollander who starts as the central character from Rev, along with James Wood and Jon Canter have written the Rev Diaries. They talked about the creation of the book, why it happened and how it enabled the author to expand that world beyond the small screen. It was a very interesting insight into the whole process and once again showed the passion behind these characters. Tom Hollander read two parts from the dairy, which if you think about it, you could see the character thinking about but in a television show can’t always articulate. There was also the change to get the book signed which I did. However, I did not just wish to have my book signed without making at least one comment. That was to Tom himself on his wonderful portrayal of Dylan Thomas. I also shook his hand, to which I think he was a little surprised. That to me added to the signing and the day.

What did I take away from my first trip to this festival of literature arts? Firstly that books are alive and still doing well. Secondly, that the festival is also very much alive considering the number of people who attended. Thirdly, that impulse really does pay, as does asking just one more time.

Tagline: ‘Broadsword calling Danny Boy’.

 

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