My column’s out now: Gloucestershire libraries – why we should save them

It’s “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my weekly newspaper column to my blog so you can have a read…

This week my column for the Gloucestershire Gazette is all about our Gloucestershire libraries, why we should save then & how. To read it, simply click to my Column page.

Hope you like it. Thanks for reading!

**Look out for tomorrow’s  post, “Friday Fact or Fiction”. This week I’ll be posting my short-listed travel writing article written for The Guardian newspaper.’**

Diary of a hopeful author: Being impatient gets me into the wrong car…

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

Last  week I had a cold, this week I have the sulks. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not talking toddler tantrums here, we’re talking a mild, lingering bottom lip, and like a case of bad flatulence, it won’t shift. The reason for my dedums is simple: I am impatient. ‘You’re not checking your book sales again, are you?’ my husband asks as he sticks his head around the study door. I attempt to cover the screen with my palm, but, like a News of the Word Editor in a court room, it is useless. ‘I just wanted to see how it was doing,’ I say, knowing how whiny my voice sounds. ‘And,’ I continue, rising an octave to rival Mariah Carey, ‘things have gone quiet!’ My husband sighs. He is used to me and so deploys the only weapon he knows will work. ‘Do you want me to pick you up some chocolate for tonight?’ ‘Yes, please,’ I choke, and shuffle downstairs behind him to put the kettle on. ‘You know,’ my husband says, grabbing a mug and chucking in a tea-bag (actually, he doesn’t really make tea, but hey! I’m a fiction writer! I ‘m gonna run with it!) ‘you just need to be patient. You’re working really hard. It’ll all come together. You just have to wait.’  

 At this juncture, I must tell you a little story. As I said, I am an impatient sort. I want things to happen pretty much immediately, not only in work, but in almost all aspects of my life. Learning patience – after cooking for kids and understanding what’s happening in The West Wing – is the singularly most difficult thing I have learned to do.  So, to the story. One day, let us say three years ago, we were returning from a family trip to Wales to visit my husband’s grandmother. At the time our girls were aged 7 and 5 and at an age when we needed to stop at the delightful motorway services for a nature break or three. My bladder never quite being the same after two babies (sorry, men folk), I also needed to stop. The girls having now falling asleep, we agreed that I would nip out to use the facilities and run back. Now, it is important to point out here that I was , even then, in the iron-grip of writing and had a deadline to meet for a Guardian travel writing competition. Needless to say, I was keen to get out and get in with maximum speed and with my skirt not in my knickers. All goes well. I run in, do what I need to do, and then, my mind on the Guardian job, I sprint out of the automatic doors and into the car park. Scanning the cars, my impatient autopilot kicks in, and, spotting our red Freelander, I peg it over and, hauling the door open, throw my self on to the passenger seat panting, ‘Come on! Let’s get a move on!’  Now, I don’t know about you, but do you know that dream when you are walking somewhere and then you look down and you are completely naked, in the nuddy, and you feel a wave of mortification wash over you? Can you recall that feeling? Well, this feeling is what came over me when, glancing from the corner of my eye I notice that the car seats in the back are different to my girls’ seats. Strange. And then my eyes fall to the seat covers – leather. What the? Ours are fabric. And then it hits me. I am in the wrong car. The wrong car. I look up to see a man, mid-forties, balding, frowning, staring at me, mouth agape, finger, probably, hovering over 999. ‘OhmigodI’msorry!’ I blurt, and, faster than you can say, ‘naked dream’, I am out of that car and breathing like a phantom caller in a film sketch scanning the parking lot like a crazy woman. When I eventually locate our family car, my husband and girls are in fits of laughter, the whole sorry episode not having missed their unforgiving eyes, and it has made their day. ‘Mum got into a strange man’s car!’ they yelp. ‘Just drive,’ I mutter. But it is a good five minutes before we can leave because my husband is laughing too much for his eyes to focus.

Back in the study and my mind in a work muddle, I break up the fugg by going for a run to clear my head. Showered and back at my desk, I decide to look through my marketing notes for my book The Boy Who Played Guitar. On it there is a post-it note with my writing scrawled on it. I squint (even I can’t read my own writing it seems). The note says: ‘Re-edit book. Get friend to help.’ And it comes back to me. A friend of mine read The Boy Who Played Guitar and loved it – even said she prefered it to David Nicholl’s One Day, to which I choked on my Mars Bar. Crucially, she said that she would be happy to re-edit because my proof reading skills are almost as bad as my patience skills (Oh keep up alredy! See?). Not that there is much wrong with the first version – just the odd mistype here and there (it’s only 99p…) But, if we re-edited, it would mean that I could begin to submit The Boy Who Played Guitar to book review blogs, just like the amazing Amanda Hocking did to publicise her book. At least then I would be actively doing something to promote it and then perhaps I could calm down.

That night, me and the hubbie catch up. ‘How was your day?’ he asks. ‘Oh, I got another chapter of my next novel written. I’ve only got five chapters to go now.’ ‘Wow,’ he says, ‘how many words have you written now?’ I think. ‘67,000, roughly.’ We sit and stare out the window as the number count lingers in the air. ‘Oh,’ I say, ‘and I’m re-proof reading The Boy Who Played Guitar so I can get it back out there.’ He smiles at me. ‘So you’re feeling a bit better then, a bit happier?’ I consider this. I am lucky to do what I do, I tell myself. It could be worse – at least I am not a Chilean coal miner or the Greek Government, say. ‘Yep. Happier. I know I just have to wait a little longer for it all to work out.’ He jumps up. ‘That’s great,’ he says, ‘I’ll check on dinner.’ ‘What?’ I say, ‘you mean it’s not ready yet? How long does that oven take? Come on!’ My husband sighs and reaching down, hands me some chocolate.

**Out on Thursday “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest newspaper column to my blog. This week it’s about the cuts to our local libraries…**

Media Monday: New York Public Library changes – good or bad?

Writing news

It’s “Media Monday” where I bring you my views on the latest writing and publishing news…

Ah, libraries. I’ve always had this mildly Dickensian image of dusty rooms and ticking clocks with me surrounded by wooden shelves wearing some half-moon specs (don’t know why…), a research book at my fingertips and big loud ‘shushes’ if anyone made a noise. However, since I’m not about to shove my kids up a chimney any time soon, I have to accept that, like it or not, libraries just ain’t what they used to be. Everyone agrees, right? Hmm. Not quite, because over in New York the prestigious New York Public Library  (NYPL) is facing a $300 milion dollar makeover – and some people are not h.a.p.p.y about it.  When the plans were revealed, a letter  to the NYPL, detailed by the New York Times,  was signed by more than 700 eminent figures, many of whom are academics, writers and other prominent persons with bigger brains than me, and, I suspect, bigger bank balances. In it they state that, ‘NYPL will lose its

NYPL research room
People busy working in the New York Public Library – probably reading Dickens

standing as a premier research institution and become a busy social centre where focussed reasearch is no longer the primary goal.’ Okay, I hear you say, and what, pray tell, are these dastardly NYPL officials proposing that has upset this esteemed bunch so? Well here it is: book collections will be moved about to create more space for working, there will potentially be a – wait for it – cafe, there will be more (breathe) computers, and, finally, 3 million books will be moved into storage. That, my friend, is it. Now, let me take you to a time non-Dickensian and somewhat more modern. Let’s call it Obamian, for argument’s sake. It is a time where children, adults and even your granny, are using computers and the Internet for instant research. Documents are freely available – a bit like speech,  academic opinions and fresh fruit.  Instead of dusty room full of ticking clocks and frowning researchers, there are docking stations, internet connections and cake. Yes, there are books. There will always be room for books. It is important to retain them and I really do understand the signatories of this letter and their deep concern that the books will be forgotten, pushed to the basement to be replaced by digital imposters and a robot, say.  But as for worrying that research will no longer be the primary goal of any library as a result of the proposed changes? I don’t think so.

Let me tell you a little secret, signatories. Come on, huddle up. The secret is this: if you cling on to the past, if you stand in the way of change, the number of people willing to do research in the first place will decline. And then what will you have? A room, books, ticking clocks – and no progress. By the NYPL folk investing now in the library, they demonstrate that they understand that times are changing, and that to bring everyone – and I mean everyone, no matter their background, socio-economic group, colour or creed – with them, then they have to adapt, and fast.  If children can look to the NYPL – or any library world-wide, for that matter – and feel it is accessible and relevant to them, then it is a job well done. And it is this result that will shape our future. As for me, I will be there, my imaginary half moon specs on, my iPad in a docking station, a Dickens book open by my side in the cafe. As long as no one tells me to shush if I let out an involuntary yelp as I drop my cake. I don’t want to have to ask for more. 

Do you think the library changes should go ahead? Are libraries to be kept in the past or should they move with the times? Let me know.

If you live in Gloucestershire (UK) and are concerned about the library cuts, you can go to The Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries website for more information on how you can petition and help.

 **Out on Wednesday: “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry from my Diary of a Hopeful Author…**

Friday Fiction: Final part of the award-winning story, ‘The Woman Who Walked To School’

It’s “Friday Fact or Fiction”,  where I write a little something for the weekend for you to read, be it fact or, um, fiction. This week, it’s the 3rd and final part of a short story I have written, called The Woman Who Walked To School

 

 **STOP PRESS: Last Friday this short story was awarded the runner-up prize in the Wotton Arts & Literature Festival**

The woman who walked to school  (Part Three – final)

 

For the next week, Margaret felt as if she were floating like one of those maxi dresses in the breeze.  While she couldn’t bring herself to stand and have a full conversation with the glamorous group, on Tuesday, she did manage to smile at them. On Wednesday, she looked in the mirror and reached for the hairbrush. On Thursday she popped on some blusher. And on Friday she slipped on a dress.  Mercifully, Thomas had now begun nursery, so, after walk-to-school week was over, one morning a week, Margaret had a window of freedom for herself. But, first, she just had the Church vacuuming to do.

‘Ah, Maggie,’ said the Vicar when he saw her, ‘just the person.’

‘Hello.’

‘I wondered,’ he said, ‘if you could host and serve at the annual visit by the Bishop? We’re all very excited!  It would only be for the evening,’ he smiled, ‘and you do do it so well.’

Margaret pulled her cardigan tight. ‘Um, which evening is it?’

‘Let me see now…Ah yes, Saturday. 16th July. That alright?’

Helen’s party. Margaret felt her heart race. ‘Um, I’ll have to check my diary. I think I may have…Well, I may something on.’

His face dropped. ‘Oh. Oh, of course. We may struggle without you though, Maggie. You’re a real shoulder to lean on.’ And with that, he left Margaret to her vacuuming.

            No energy left in her, Margaret switched off the machine and let out a breath. It sounded daft, she supposed, but was this the way it was always going to be? Was she forever to be viewed as a shoulder to lean on? A doormat? Yes, everyone could rely on her. Yes, she found it hard to say no, found it hard to walk away from people and situations when help was needed. But sometimes…sometimes she just wished it wasn’t always so. She had never asked for any help, even at the hardest of times.  When her husband was ill in hospital, when her kids where sick and she was out of milk and bread, or when she was struggling to come to terms with the death of her father – she would simply cry herself to sleep. She wasn’t a shoulder to lean on; she was a mound of jelly to be squashed with one thud.

            Saturday 16th July came and went and Margaret stayed at home. She called Helen and sent her apologies, and she contacted the Vicar and said she was sick. In a way she was. While she didn’t like to lie, she knew she couldn’t face anyone. She was fed up; fed up of her life as it was. Something had to give. As the final week of the school summer term came to a close, Monday morning popped up again and Margaret closed the door to walk to school. Once at the gates and the eldest waved off, Margaret was picking up Thomas when she heard footsteps running up behind her.

‘Margaret!’ came a breathless voice.

Margaret turned. Helen stood, shoulders heaving, bag slid to her arm.

‘So glad I caught you!’ said Helen, fanning her face. ‘God, I’m so unfit. I’m so sorry you couldn’t make it to the party. How you feeling now? Better? God, heels are hell.’ 

Margaret tucked a hair behind her ear. ‘I’m okay, thank you. I’m better.’  She popped Thomas on to her hip.

 ‘Oh good,’ said Helen. ‘Look, a few of us are going for a coffee. Fancy joining us?’

‘Um…’ Margaret squeezed Thomas close. Coffee? Her?

‘Oh,’ said Helen, taking this for rejection, ‘sorry, you must be so busy. We always marvel how you’re so energetic, all that walking and so patient with the kids and Church. We’re all in awe of you.’

Margaret frowned. ‘Really?’

Helen nodded. ‘Yes. That’s why we’ve never really plucked up the nerve to talk to you. Sounds daft, doesn’t it? God, I’m sorry. It’s just you seem so,’ she searched for the word, ‘together.’

Margaret let out a laugh.

Helen laughed, too. ‘So, fancy a quick coffee? Bring Thomas?’

Margaret smiled. ‘That would be lovely.’ And so, with the morning sun on her back, Margaret, for the first time, headed off from school for coffee and a chat with the group of mums. 

 

Copyright © Nikki Owen 2012

Thanks for reading! Next Friday I’m switiching to ‘fact’, posting a travel article written for The Guardian. Have a lovely weekend.

**Look out for  my “Media Monday” post on, um, Monday. A short, sharp snippet on the latest writing news…**

Latest column out now & asks: should we shop locally more?

It’s “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my weekly newspaper column to my blog so you can have a read…

This week my column for the Gloucestershire Gazette is all about shopping locally and asks should we shop in our local stores more often? To read it, simply click to my Column page.

Hope you like it. Thanks for reading!

**Look out for tomorrow’s “Friday Fact or Fiction”. This week I’ll be posting the 3rd and final instalment of my award-winning short story ‘The Woman Who Walked To School.’**

A snotty nose ends in a short-story award…

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

I’ve gone and got myself a cold. Well, not ‘got’ one necessarily but rather ‘acquired’ one from my daughter who’s been sniffing and coughing her way around the house for the past week. ‘Blow your nose,’ I say to her, sniffing and handing her a hankie. My husband looks at me. ‘Err, honey?’ I look up, my mouth hanging open because I have lost all ability to breathe through my nose. ‘You’ve got a little something streaming down your face.’ I touch my chin and realise that my daughter is not the only one requiring a tissue. ‘Oh damn it,’ I mutter to myself, to which the youngest hollers from her bedroom, ‘Whoohoo! 50 pence in the swear jar for mum!’  I stumble into the bathroom wondering why they only tell me about the swear jar and not my husband, when I promptly slip on a sock and land face first in the laundry basket. My husband walks in and points. ‘Look at mum, girls!’ They come running in. ‘You’ve got pants on your head!’ they yell, clearly delighted. I sigh and, after a few choice words to my husband and a further declaration of the swear jar by my youngest, I haul my snotty self from the smelly socks and PE kit, I wonder if I can go to Barbados and maybe stay there.

And so, this is pretty much how it has been all week, perhaps minus the head pants. Come Friday, I am sat at my laptop checking my emails and deliberating whether to have a crumpet with jam or Marmite for my snack (you can’t say I don’t make ground making decisions here…) when up pings a message in my inbox. Seeing the sender’s email, I happily click it open and read. At this point I have to tell you that I am rubbish at taking bad news. Utterly bobbins. Depending on what time of day it is, I can either a) go quiet, b) stomp or c) cry. I can also perform all three at once – it is a skill us ladies have honed over many a year, and a skill which on this particular Friday I display, with may I say, a special finesse. The email in question is unexpected. It is also not intended for me. It’s funny when you receive an email about you, but not for you – a bit like eavesdropping on a conversation at a smoky party. The good news is that I really don’t mind the comment in question that the email raises – but it perhaps just would have been handy if I had been told directly by the sender as opposed to through a crack in the door. But, such as things are, you’ve got to make the most of it and I think I’m pretty right in saying that, thankfully, give me a bit of bad news and, once I’ve dried my face, I’ll grab it by the legs like a snappy Jack Russell and not let go until I’ve sorted it out. 

And so, it is during this ‘Jack Russell’ period that, feeling low, I get a call from my good friend to remind me that in the evening we are due to attend the local literature festival short story night. Naturally, I had completely forgotten. ‘What are you going to wear?’ I ask her. I hear the phone drop. ‘You okay?’ I ask. ‘Jesus,’ she says,  returning, ‘the washing machine’s flooded the garage. Got to go.’ I put down the phone and wonder if perhaps Bali is nice at this time of year.

That evening, my friend and I attend the Wotton-Under-Edge Arts Festival literary evening. As I am normally a bag of nerves at these things to which my default position is to babble on like a  kiss on Blarney Stone, I was very grateful my buddy could be with me as an antidote to my waffle. Her default position in such nervous circumstances is to completely clam up, so between us we make quite a pair. We sit down, a bit late, and look around. The average age is about 65. ‘I’m sorry,’ I whisper to her, uncertain what is ahead. ‘It’s fine,’ she says, smiling and swigging red wine, ‘this is making me feel young! I love it!’ And do you know what? The evening is great. The two ladies hosting the event are the writer Sue Limb and Dr.Rosemary Bailey – and they are hilarious (think The Golden Girls meets Ab Fab and you’re about there). As the short stories are read out, everyone listens, laughs and applauds what are, without doubt, some well-crafted tales, particularly from the junior entry group.  Come the interval, my friend turns to me and asks what the name of my short story is. ‘The woman who walked to school,’ I whisper. And, just as I say this, they announce the next story to be read out – and, yup, it is mine. Like a man in a Zumba class, having your story read out loud is strange. ‘My heart’s banging,’ my friend whispers. ‘Poker face,’ I reply, ‘keep your poker face on.’ I say this because what I don’t want to do is reveal what I really feel – namely I might cry (seems my reaction to happiness is the same as to bad news – no wonder my hubbie gets confused.) To my relief, not only do they read it, but they like it too, commenting on how well constructed it is, how observant and how true. By the time the winners are announced I am breathing hard, and when my name is given as third prize runner-up, my friend can hardly sit down. ‘Yay!’ she mouths as I go up to shake hands and receive my prize. Yay! Afterwards, several people come up to me to comment on how much they enjoyed my story. I am so touched, it is very humbling. Indeed, one lady asks me if I can send the story to her daughter in France as she thinks it may help her adjust to life in a new country with a new baby. What can I say – I am honoured. It is all I can do to not cry there and then like a jelly mound of hormones.

That night, arriving home after my friend gives me a well done hug that could have squeezed the life out of a boulder, shrieking, ‘You won an award! For something you wrote!’, my husband pours me a large glass of red by way of celebration. I tell him all about the evening as well as the eves drop email early that day. ‘Are you cross about the email?’ he asks. I shake my head and sigh. ‘No. It’s okay. It’s good to get feedback – they know their stuff. I’ll make the most of it, and hopefully things will be even better.’ He narrows his eyes at me. ‘You cried about it, didn’t you?’ I nod. ‘And stomped?’ ‘Hmmm.’ I pull a blanket over my legs and peer at the TV. ‘Is that Stephen Fry?’ My husband nods. ‘It’s QI.’ I am about to reply when I promptly sneeze all over the couch. ‘Bloody hell, honey!’ says my husband. ‘Aha! 50 pence in the swear jar for you!’ I’m telling the girls. Take that, daddy!’ He tuts, leans to the side and hands me a tissue. ‘You’ve got a little something on your nose.’ I take the tissue and sniff. Maybe Crete is nice at this time of year.

**Out on Thursday “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest newspaper column to my blog. This week it’s all about shopping locally…**

Pottermore and the magical rise of the ebook novel…

Writing news

It’s “Media Monday” where I bring you my views on the latest writing and publishing news…

 

Pottermore. Or maybe Potter more more more, because, since it’s launch a month ago, Pottermore, the flagship e-book store of the Harry Potter book series written by J.K.Rowling has sold more books than forecast, with the latest sales figures topping £3m, according to industry insider, The Bookseller. Now, you don’t have to be a wizard to work out that, naturally, a lot of the success of the website is down to the books. Since they were first published, more than 400 million of the Harry Potter series books have been sold, with translations into 67 languages with  millions of children, like my daughter, obsessed with wands, witches and the prospect that one day they might invent a real invisibility cloak (there’s always hope.) Of course, another part of the Pottermore success is down to the website itself.  It’s interactive! You have to register! You can make potions on it, have wizard duels on there and even, even, be sorted in your own Hogwarts house (can I be Gryffindor? Please?). But of course, as well as the great branding, engaging writing and good-old fashioned wizardry plots, the other element of its success is all together more modern, namely the ebook.   All the books sold on the Pottermore site have been in digital form, and it’s this ease and speed at which people can purchase them, together with the anonymity the medium provides, which has helped sales enormously. The books have been sold as bundles and heavily discounted, which of course all helps, but it’s success mirrors a wider trend which has been sweeping the publishing industry. According to latest figures in The Telegraph last week, sales of ebooks quadrupled last year, while sales of paper novels over the same period dropped by a staggering 12.5 million in the UK alone. What does this say about the future? Are we witnessing the decline of the paper book? Many readers are polarised by this, stating that nothing can replace the feeling of the page between the fingers and the relaxation that it brings. Certainly, I know from experience that reading a book can quite literally reduce your heart rate (mine drops to around 50bpm!). Some people claim that an eReader cannot have this same calming effect, particularly if that eReader is, for example, an iPad where the temptation of checking your inbox or surfing the web  is only a fingertouch away.

The publishing industry it is true, is nervous about the future of books. But this is perhaps due to the fact that they are suffering from a lack of ability to embrace change? Look at LPs and CDs, now all but replaced by the downloading of music to MP3s and iPods. And if you’ve ever seen the Oscar-winning film The Artist, you’ll know what happened when the talkies were introduced. Stand in the way of change and it may just run you over, whatever industry you are in. But change should reflect the past, and if the past is a paper novel, then so be it. The answer, I think, is to make room for both formats in a reader’s bookshelf, and the sooner we embrace this fact, the sooner the industry will move on and everyone will benefit, with the bottom line meaning more books will be available, helping more people to read. Now, whether it’s Pottermore or not, that’s a little sprinkling of magic we’d all welcome.

What do you think of ebooks? Are they the way forward? Do you think paper novels have had their day? Or is there room for both? Let me know.

**Out on Wednesday: “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry from my Diary of a Hopeful Author. This week it’s all about my runner-up prize in a short story competition…**

Friday Fiction: Part 2 of The Woman Who Walked To School

It’s “Friday Fact or Fiction”,  where I write a little something for the weekend for you to read, be it fact or, um, fiction. This week, it’s part two of a short story I have written, called The Woman Who Walked To School

 

 

The woman who walked to school  (Part Two)

 At the end of the soup lunch, Margaret was exhausted. She’d served and cleaned, and all with one eye on Thomas, who, in his two-year-old wisdom, had decided that the Church was his new racetrack. To her surprise, no one helped. At not one time did any of the Friends, including the Vicar, offer to assist Margaret with the serving or keep an eye on Thomas for her. By the end, her forehead was damp, her hair wild and her stomach rumbling. ‘Oh,’ the women said, smiling as they rose to leave, opening the Church doors, the July sunshine flooding in, ‘that turned out so well, so easy. We must do it again. We raised £75.’ ‘Yes,’ they all agreed, pleased. ‘What a success, let’s do this again.’ Margaret could by now only manage a weak smile and a nod, but, as she popped Thomas on the potty before she began the washing up, she watched the women bustle out and realised she had a choice. She realised that she didn’t have to do this anymore.

From that day, Margaret tried to make herself feel a little better. Like an amnesia sufferer experiencing flashbacks, from time to time she would recall snippets of her former self. She would remember how she used pay regular visits to the hairdresser, how she’d have long, candlelit baths, how her diary would be well thumbed and overused, how she’d meet her husband for drinks in a bar after work just because it was fun.

Wiping Weetabix from her sleeve, the following Monday Margaret began her usual journey to school. This week it was ‘Walk to School Week’, and she was always mildly intrigued to see the usual 4x4s and sharp tailoring replaced with weather-ready wellies and battered brollies. Margaret watched as these glamazons marched their offspring to school with their heads held high and their make up in place. If the day was sunny, out would come their floaty maxi dresses, Birkenstocks and cashmere cardigans, all the time with Margaret watching them, pulling at her t-shirt wishing she has hidden at home.

So, it was during this week, when Margaret was scuttling to and from school, that Thomas happened to step on the hem of the dress of one of the glamorous mothers.

‘Oh, my, I’m so, so sorry. Thomas! Here, let me,’ Margaret said to the woman, reaching to wipe the dress.

‘Please, no. Thank you,’ replied the mother. Margaret stepped back. ‘I’m Helen, by the way,’ the mother said, holding out her hand. Margaret squinted in the sun and propped her hand on her brow.

 ‘I’m sorry,’ Helen said, ‘I didn’t ask your name.’

‘Margaret,’ said Margaret, thinking how the woman’s voice was all chocolate soufflé. Hers, she thought, was more of an upside down cake.

The two shook hands. ‘Well, nice to meet you,’ said Helen who began to walk away, then, hesitating turned back. ‘Look, Margaret, we’re having a summer party at our place in a fortnight. 16th July. Just a few drinks, barbeque, that type of thing. It’s eight until late. You should come.’

Margaret smiled; she suddenly felt light-headed.

‘Um, I think I have something with my address’, said Helen, rummaging through her bag. ‘Ah.’ She pulled out a card and handed it to Margaret. ‘This is us. Address is on there. Please do come, your other half, too. Would be simply lovely to get to know you, have a chat.’

Margaret gazed at the card with its gold lettering. ‘Oh, um, yes,’ she said, looking up. ‘Yes, I’d…well, I’d love to, thank you.’ Thomas pulled at Helen’s dress. Margaret took his hand.

Helen smiled. ‘Isn’t he a poppet? Well, nice to meet you.’

Margaret grasped Thomas’ fist. ‘Yes,’ she smiled, ‘nice to meet you, too.’

Copyright © Nikki Owen 2012

Thanks for reading! Part 3 of The Woman Who Walked To School will be posted next Friday. Have a lovely weekend.

**Look out for  my “Media Monday” post on, um, Monday. A short, sharp snippet on the latest writing news…**