Billie and the Poetry Inspector -Extract
It’s no fun when you have a million ideas but can’t write them down. But everything can change when you meet a Poetry Inspector…
That evening Billie had a nasty swirly feeling in her tummy so she told Mum about the Poetry Inspector’s visit,
‘But that sounds fun Billie! Why are you so upset? You enjoy poems as much as anyone.’
‘I do enjoy them,’ sighed Billie in her tiny mouse voice, ‘but I don’t know how to WRITE a poem and I can’t think of any words I could use.’
Mum smiled, ‘Of course you can Billie. Now where did you put our weekend words, you haven’t lost them have you?’
Billie was puzzled, she couldn’t remember losing any words but then she was always forgetting things. A tear rolled down her cheek,
‘Oh Billie,’ said Mum softly. ‘I’m sorry. Please don’t cry. I was joking. You didn’t lose anything. You know lots of wonderful words and you’re great at telling stories.’
That night Billie couldn’t sleep. It was true that in her head there were lots of interesting words like speculate and shimmering. There were also stories about cities in the sky, magic footballs and snails that could cast spells but when she came to writing them down she couldn’t think where to begin or what order the letters came in…
The King and the Consommé - Extract
Some people are never satisfied, especially those who don’t know what they want. Can a serving girl outwit a king? Read on….
An unusual hush fell. Everyone knew that the King was especially glum this morning because his porridge had tasted like the inside of a knight’s glove. And now he wanted consommé! But what was it exactly? No –one seemed to know. Finally one of the footmen said,
‘I think it might be a foreign thing, like frog’s legs?’
‘You’re right!' exclaimed the little servant girl who had been consulting with the nightingale in her heart. ‘It is a foreign thing! A thin clear soup made out of meat bones,’
The servant girl gathered all the ingredients and set to work scraping the bones and rendering them down into a sweet nutritious jelly. But when the consommé was made and the king tasted it, he grimaced,
‘ This is not what I wanted!’ he thundered, ‘It’s too thin and tastes of straw! I want apricots and plums! Bring me apricots and plums!’
My mother took to wearing black. People assumed my father had died when in fact he was very much alive, although increasingly reclusive. They say it’s a colour best avoided in age, that it leaches the complexion yet she carried it well, perhaps because this was not the dull black of mourning but something lacquered, steely, almost iridescent.
I noticed a change in her step too. Her walk had become staccato, a kind of bobbing motion, which gave her, an agitated air. I enquired if her joints were playing up and she eyed me with one of those unnerving stares I had so feared in childhood. Expressing concern about her health incensed her, reminding her of the fact of age, something she assiduously ignored,
‘Nothing wrong,’ she had said shortly, flipping one sleek sheathed leg over the other.
In the past year she had become increasingly disdainful of my presence, ignoring invitations and jibing harshly at my vegetarianism, a lifestyle choice that deeply irritated her.
‘Give me a good steak any day,’ she would mutter, though no longer under her breath. Even so, I was unprepared for Tuesday’s discovery.
I arrived just after nine and spotted my father busying himself down by the apple trees. He looked preoccupied and since the back door was open I walked straight in
My mother was standing at the kitchen table, her dark head bowed over what I took to be the Sunday joint. Oblivious to my entrance, she picked with ferocious intensity at the meat, nails flashing. I coughed politely and she swung round, a ribbon of dark flesh trailing from her lips. Sensing my shock, she pushed the carcass under a tea towel and began stacking the dishes,
‘You should have knocked, ‘ she said after a while.
‘Yes,’ I agreed, ‘I should.’
She turned away from me abruptly signalling an end to the conversation. Feeling chastised and frankly unwelcome I slipped away without alerting my father to my presence.
I slept badly and woke irritated, deciding I should return that morning and have it out. But she was nowhere to be seen. My father was digging in his usual spot, his greeting wary. He looked tired, I thought.
‘Is Mum alright?’ I asked
He was silent for a moment, his gaze on the open fields and I felt the prickle of his own unease,
‘Surely, surely,’ he replied, ‘a little sharper than usual. Is that what you mean?’
I noticed that he would not meet my eyes so I waited until he spoke again,
‘Yes,’ he began slowly,’ you ruffled her feathers yesterday, catching her with that pigeon.’
I nodded my assent.
‘Carrion,’ Dad continued slowly, ‘she’s always had a taste for it. Strange some might think, but really no different to game, that same strength of flavour.’
I hid my revulsion, nodding as if I understood,
‘Where is she now, by the way?’
‘No idea,’ he said, his voice harsh now. ’You know your mother, always flying off somewhere.’