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DUSTING OFF AN OLDIE

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Do you ever get fed up with those seemingly endless reprises (as if that word is somehow better than repeats!) of television shows? Do you want to throttle the station managers? Scream at the programmers to give us something new? Or at least something WE want to see, not what some ratings-driven minion says is market-requested? Maybe air something new and give new writers some exposure.

I know I did. Often! Especially when I was one of those writers.

It’s been a long time since I paddled in the murky waters of script-writing and Hell will probably be a frosty place before I do so again. I still write the occasional article, but, on the whole, I’m happy enough with my other interests. All the same, I would like programmers to stop foisting the same old bimbo crap twaddle on us.

I’m not saying I want classic shows for 52 weeks of the year, but a small helping of some of my old favourites would be lovely. Oh! Could this please be arranged while the sports nuts are glued to the Beijing shenanigans!

Bring back “The Likely Lads.”

And “Northern Exposure.”

And what about a re-run of the very clever “Seeing Things”?

A Canadian flash of brilliance in the dark days.

And now that I’ve primed you lovely readers (ooh, yeah! I know how to lick boots!) here’s something that has been aired before, but never blogged.*

FIRE !

Jessie stood on the middle rail of the fence and waved, with both arms, to the engine driver. You had to be on the fence, ready, when the train passed as the track curved then, to go through the cutting, and the driver wouldn’t see you.

She started to count the wagons, but only got to fifteen when she saw it. A wisp of smoke!

Her sandals slapped on the path as she sped back to the house. In her hurry she ran too close to the holly bush, but hardly noticed the scratches.

“Fire in the cutting!” Tea cups rattled onto saucers, chairs scraped as the grown-ups rushed outside.

By now the wisp of smoke was a thick, white plume as the flames licked across the summer grass. If the fire got across the fence line it would reach the houses.

Jessie’s grandmother dragged the heavy cover from the well and lowered the first bucket. Uncle Vin and Tom, nearly sixteen, grabbed old potato sacks from the wash house. Granny soaked the sacks with the first bucket of water and the men ran down to the fence, jumped over and headed across the paddock, beating at the sparky grass.

Granny hooked a chain onto another bucket and lowered that, too, into the well. Jessie’s mother, dragging more sacks from the shed, called to Jessie to take her little brother next door to old Lucy Marples and to stay there. Lucy, who was minding her baby grandson, took Sam inside, then led Jessie to the old rain water tank at the botom of her garden. “Not much in this, but we’ll get a hose out for the men.”

Together, they dragged enough hose to reach from the tank to the fence. Lucy showed Jessie where one paling was loose and they prised it open and pushed the hose through. Tom, running back for more sacks, saw what they were doing and yelled: “Thanks!” They could hear the fire now and could see the angry, red line. Dry bracken and seed heads cracked and spat more sparks ahead of the flames.

“Better come away, girl.” Lucy took Jessie’s hand. More people were in the paddock now, all beating at the grass. Jessie could see ever-so-posh Dulcie Harrison, her long skirt tucked into her knickers, thrashing away at a gorse bush.

They reached the house just as Tata, Lucy’s son, arrived. “Sparks from the engine…” But Tata was already racing down to the fence.

Jessie and Sam stood on Lucy’s back porch and watched, frightened, but fascinated. It seemed like hours and still the greedy flames advanced, new patches catching and flaring up.

The thwap! thwap! of sacks. The crackle of sparks and flames. And the choking sounds when someone breathed in too much smoke.

And then, just like a tap being turned off, the wind dropped. Dead calm.

And the flames, like a bully outnumbered, made one last, defiant flash and subsided in a smouldering sulk.


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I’m surrounded by frames and off-cuts of foamcore and non-Sporran paper scraps. I’ll probably need to use some of the frames for the coming exhibition. But the rest need to be put away. I am also surrounded by the not-yet-put-away laundry from yesterday. (Some of which probably should be ironed!) OH! It’s hard to get good help.

I was talking to a friend who couldn’t understand why a mere head cold had laid her out for a couple of days. I said it’s probably because she thinks she’s still 20 and can just work it off.

With all the other things on my plate, I was rather proud of myself for declining when asked to take part in a haiku exchange. A sort of round robin in verse. But the sensible neurons kicked in and said:”Don’t be daft! You’re overstretched already!”

Whoever said that with age comes wisdom just might have something there. Mind you, wisdom sometimes drags its feet!

And these feet are headed towards the sleeping chamber…

I’ll leave you with a haiku that didn’t make the exchange:

bamboo bending low

looks into the melted snow

and sees the moon’s face

*The copyright remains with me so if you’d like to use it, please ask.

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Author: dinahmow

A New Zealander, currently living in tropical Queensland,Australia (with 2 cats and one Main Man).Old enough to remember George VI, white tennis balls and life-before-television.You want more? Read the blog!

13 thoughts on “DUSTING OFF AN OLDIE

  1. Nice haiku. Your story about the bush fire brought back lots of childhood memories of summer on the farm and the ever present threat of fire. I remember whacking at the flames with a wet hessian sack, and the men would make a chain and pass buckets of water from the creek or well. Even more frightening were the times my father would go off to fight a big fire in another area and I feared for his safety.

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  2. carol…yes, anyone who has lived in country areas during drought has these memories. And don’t some of the “modern” city folk scare the stuffing out of you when they flick their fag ends about!

    m…thankyou. I used to contribute to a haiku magazine, but it’s slipped away over recent years.

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  3. How about ‘Preston Front’?

    And, I didn’t realise you wrote the Railway Children!

    And and, the haiku, so lovely, now do it as a haiga!
    😉

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  4. I loved Northern Exposure (well, until Joel left… Then, boring). Didn’t know you did script writing earlier in your life. You’re a veritable fountain of hidden talents!

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  5. Ziggi… forgive me ziggi
    I do not know preston front
    I’m not in England.

    And I’m not old enough (quite!) to have written Railway Children. Cheeky young whippersnapper, you!

    tara…Joel left ? Waah! But if Chris-in-the-morning is still there I’ll survive! That show was so well-written and presented.

    I submitted a couple to BBC, but got the famous “thanks, but no thanks.” Did manage to push a few ideas though.

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  6. Hey!
    Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving the lovely comment about Barker and his new do. Actually, he still looks and acts as pompous as ever, so the hair length makes no difference to him, except that he is cooler.
    I ADORE your header photo on your blog. Where is that?
    I am battling a head cold myself at the present, and was interested to read your comment about how much lower they lay us as we age! And I thought it was just me!!
    We don’t even bother with network TV…I doubt that we will watch the Olympics either. My husband gets movies from NetFlix and we are entertained by them in the evenings.

    xo

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  7. judy…welcome!
    TV in this house is really a waste of time as we don’t watch much, beyond the evening World News.
    You’re not the first to ask about my banner.
    It’s one of the many available with WordPress and is called Ocean Mist by Ed Merritt.
    I don’t know where it is, but it reminded me of a place I used to go to in North Wales.

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  8. Hi Dinah! I, too, miss the oldies but goodies. Loved Northern Exposure, AND Chris-in-the-morning!! I always liked shows like St. Elsewhere and “Absolutely Fabulous”. TV now is a vast wastland of blah! Oops, am I sounding OLD?

    The “Fire” story was good. I have dabbled in short stories, but nothing published or printed.

    Where are the traveling sketchbooks? Yours is the only one I’ve seen so far. I guess everyone is busy with other things now.

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  9. kate…yes, I guess some of us are showing our age. And it seems we ALL love Chris-in-the-morning!
    The sketchbooks are out there somewhere. There was a lull, then a brief avalanche and now another pause as some of us go on vacation and some of us panic about deadlines. But I think Melanie’s should reach you very soon.

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  10. Dinah, you said the story aired before, where? It’s fascinating to find out new little tidbits of the lives of people in the blog world.

    I loved Northern Exposure. When my sister first visited me in here in my small western town and we walked down my little downtown strip, she exclaimed, “It looks just like Northern Exposure!”. I thought, I wish it was. Wouldn’t it be great to be surrounded by all those quirky, philosophical people in the local pub and store. But no, only on TV.

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  11. ellen…hello! I thought you’d pulled the plug on the computer for summer?
    That short piece about the fire is something I wrote aeons ago, initially for a school publication, but I don’t think it ever was printed there; I used it a couple of times in creative writing classes.
    As for living with those quirky people – why!yes.I’d love that. I think we all need a healthy mix of Bohemian characters around us.(You could fire a bazooka down our main street and not hit one!)

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  12. The best thing about Northern Exposure? They got the NA spot on. SPOT on.

    that story was excellent. it could have been taken place here, today, out in Eastern Washington around one of the numerous little valley settlements out in the wheat. excellent!

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