Arriving! Picture Postcards

You may remember that I recently published a nostalgic post about the picture postcards that used to be sent from holiday destinations.
If not, here’s a link.
https://beetleypete.com/2019/08/14/wish-you-were-here-holiday-postcards/

I added my address to the post, so that people could send me one, if they wished to do so.

***Please note***
I know, it is almost unheard of to publish your home address online. I don’t recommend doing that, and I am not suggesting you follow suit, especially if you are a young female, a woman alone, or a vulnerable person of any gender. But I live in a small village, and have a very unusual dog.
I can be found very easily.

I am delighted to report that I received my first card on Saturday morning, kindly sent by Paul S, a fellow blogger. He even used a first-class stamp!
Thanks, Paul!

I have been advised that I might be getting some more, and when I have them all, I will feature them on a post, photographing the front and back of each one.

So if you feel like changing your mind about sending me one by post, (mail only please, no E-cards) the address is on the link. For those of you that like to create your own cards, or use a postcard-creation app with your own photos, why not send me your own portrait selfie, or a scene you have taken a photo of? Don’t forget to add your name (or blog name) so I know who they are from. I leave the message on the card up to you.

Thanks in advance, Pete.

Moving Day: Part Twenty Four

This is the twenty-fourth part of a fiction serial, in 1320 words.

Tilly was fashionably late. By the time it got to 1 pm, Becky had made up her mind that she wasn’t going to turn up at all. She had checked her phone twice, but there were no messages. Mum had been acting very strange since breakfast. As soon as they had both finished their toast, Mum was running around like a whirlwind. She was cleaning everything in the house, in every room. That was something she had hardly bothered with, since the day after they had moved in. After that, she changed the beds, loaded the washing machine, and started cooking.

It was hard to remember when Mum had ever done so much cooking. Becky had certainly never seen her bake a cake, but she had two on the go by nine that morning. Once they were ready to go into the oven, she began to make all sorts of things that had never been seen in the house before, even her own small loaf of garlic bread. Becky had been tasked with taking out the rubbish, and tidying up her room before it was thoroughly cleaned. But mostly, she had been told to keep out of the way, and to let Mum get on with things. Retreating to her now immaculate room, Becky put everything back into the canvas bag, and crept into her Mum’s room. She tipped up the small armchair in the corner, and hid the bag behind it. Mum would never think to look for it in her own room. At least she hoped she wouldn’t.

By ten-thirty, there was a delicious-looking chicken and mozzarella pasta bake made and ready to cook later, various expensive nibbles arranged in bowls, and two bottles of Prosecco cooling in the fridge. Mum ordered her not to touch anything, then disappeared upstairs to have a bath, and get ready. Before jumping into the tub, she shouted downstairs. “I hope you’re going to change into something nice, Becks. And put some make-up on too. Give your hair a brush while you’re at it, it wouldn’t hurt to make an effort!”

Bemused by her Mum’s attitude to the arrival of Tilly, Becky nevertheless tidied her hair, applied some very basic make-up, and changed into what counted as a ‘little black dress’, for an 11 year-old. Viewing the result in her wardrobe mirror, she decided she looked not unlike a schoolgirl version of Audrey Hepburn. But if they really were going swimming, then what was the point?

It was past two when the Range Rover appeared in the driveway. Tilly stepped out wearing ripped jeans, and a figure-hugging cashmere top. Mum was acting as if the Queen of England had turned up. “Do I look alright, Becks? Is the house clean and tidy? Do you think I have done enough food?” Becky replied with an undisguised sneer. “Just the red carpet, Mum. You forgot that”. Tilly walked in, carrying her Louis Vitton overnight bag. She smelled as wonderful as a night in Xanadu, and looked like a very casual one million dollars, or much more. Mum fawned over her, kissing both cheeks as if greeting the president of an emerging oil state. Becky looked on with interest. It was quite obvious to her that they knew each other. Very well.

But Tilly slid past Mum, and made a bee-line for her. “Why, Becks, you look wonderful! I hope that you didn’t go to any trouble for me?” Behind her, the Range Rover was executing a noisy turn, before speeding off back in the direction of the country lane. Mum was so weird. Almost simpering at the presence of Tilly. And what was she wearing? Nothing appropriate for a Mum, that was for sure. A midnight blue cocktail dress, in the daytime. Too low at the front, and far too short for a woman of her age. Then there was the hair and make-up. Rollers had obviously been applied, giving a Hollywood curl. Her eyes were crazily black, and the blusher on her cheeks made her look like someone in drag act. Even with that shock of unnaturally white hair, Mum looked like a high-class tramp. Tilly more or less ignored Mum, despite her blatant effort. “Becks babe, let’s go up to your room”.

Dumping her expensive bag on the bed, Tilly turned with a smile that could launch those proverbial one thousand ships. “So sorry I’m late, darling. Let’s give the swimming a miss until tomorrow morning. We can have a great time catching up, and spend some quality time together later. What do you say?” Becky was calmer now, and wise to all her flattery. “Yeah, that’s great, Tilly. We can chill out, have a nice meal later. Mum has cooked enough for ten”. The older girl oozed confidence. Leaning forward, she planted a soft warm kiss directly on Becky’s mouth. Smiling, she breathed the words. “Oh, we are going to have such a wonderful time, my beauty”. Inside, Becky was calm. A difficult night’s sleep had made her sharp, and hardened her young heart. She beamed at her supposed friend, in a pretence of adoration. “I’m sure we are, Tilly”.

Not much happened at all, leaving Becky wondering if something had changed. They spent the late afternoon in the living room. Tilly was talking nonsense, and Mum was flirting with her as if she was Brad Pitt. Becky found it plainly embarrassing, and felt out of it, as if she was in the way of the other two. Dinner was no better, Mum roaring with laughter at Tilly’s often crude comments. When it came to bedtime, Becky was beginning to lose her nerve. What if Tilly held her to all that stuff she had spoken about? Mum tried to drag it out, as if she didn’t want the girls to leave her, and go upstairs. She poured Tilly a large glass of the white wine, schmoozing up next to her on the sofa. Despite Cathy’s attentions, Tilly kept her gaze on Becky. Winking at her and grinning, rolling her eyes in mockery at Cathy making a show of herself. When she had finished her wine, her voice adopted a commanding tone.

“Time we were going up to bed. We don’t want to end up sleeping in late tomorrow”.

Up in the bedroom. Tilly turned up her nose at the relatively small bed, though she hadn’t mentioned it earlier. “I suppose it will be cosy enough for two, but it’s going to be a tight squeeze later, for sleeping”. Becky perched on the edge at the end of the bed, looking down at her feet. Tilly had already peeled off her top and jeans, and was wandering around in her scanty underwear. Becky stayed resolute; still fully dressed for now, and refusing to look at the amazing figure of the older girl. Tilly was rather tipsy. She planted her hands on her hips, and raised her voice. “Something’s wrong, I can tell. This is not working out like we talked about, Becks. That bed is pathetic, you don’t seem at all interested, and I am left wondering why I bothered to come. I might just as well go and climb in with your Mum. At least she’s got a king-sized bed”. Becky shrugged, a sense of relief washing over her. “Please yourself, if you feel like that”.
It hadn’t escaped her notice that Tilly knew how big Mum’s bed was.

Tilly straightened up. “Well you might not be interested, but I can tell you that Cathy is. At least she was the last time, and the time before that”.

With an unpleasant leer on her face, she turned on her heel and left the room. Seconds later, she could clearly be heard next door, though the voices were muted at first. Then there was laughter, then quiet. Later, there were other noises. Even Becky knew what they were.

But she didn’t care.

Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

Disability.

Not for the first time, I woke up today thinking about disability. I will be 68 next birthday, and other than the usual ‘old man’ aches and pains, occasional bad Vertigo, and some eyesight issues, I have managed to escape anything worse so far.

When I was young, Polio was still a common disease. I would see children having to wear metal calipers to brace their legs, and saw documentaries on TV about people who had to spend their entire lives in an ‘Iron Lung’, a cylindrical machine that breathed for them. By the time I was at secondary school, aged 11, I was already counting myself lucky to be fit and healthy.

Many years later, I went to work in the London Ambulance Service, as an EMT. Soon after completing my training, I was shocked to become exposed to disabilities I had never even heard about, let alone seen. I learned about the ‘unseen’ sufferers, those too badly disabled or physically deformed to be able to go outside much, or participate in things that the rest of us simply took for granted. They were sometimes collected in buses, and taken to attend ‘special schools’. Schools that were not only adapted for their needs, but where they could be educated with people who had similar conditions, and understood living with them. Those too disabled to go to those schools might be home-schooled, or have private tutors.

I met young people whose bones were so brittle, they could break them just by coughing. Brain-damaged teenagers fully aware of their situation, but completely unable to communicate at any level whatsoever. One young lady who had been born with undeveloped bones in her arms and legs, so although she was twenty-five years old, she resembled a floppy rag doll, and I could pick her up as easily as I could a pillow. A man with such disfigurement of his facial bones, that he was unable to speak clearly, or eat and drink properly. His elderly mother cared for him, giving him liquid food and drinks through a tube that passed down inside his nose, something he had to keep in permanently. He rarely went out, as he had bad experiences of being mocked in public.

Many I encountered had been born disabled as a result of their mothers taking Thalidomide, for morning sickness. That great drug scandal of the 1950s left so many children without properly formed arms or legs. Or both. Alongside those who had congenital conditions, I also came across scores of people who had become disabled as a result of accidents, or after having to have limbs amputated surgically. They had led outwardly normal lives at one time, until that life was turned upside down by the events of one day, or by contracting a medical condition. Suddenly, they needed help with everyday things, often very embarrassing things to need someone else to do. They had to consider learning to cope with prosthetic limbs, using crutches, or being confined to a wheelchair for the rest of their lives.

This necessitated a re-think about how they lived, and everything they were used to doing. Beds moved downstairs, specially-adapted toilet and bathroom, and restricted access to public buildings, and most forms of transport. The loss of much-loved active hobbies in many cases, and even the break-up of relationships, when partners couldn’t cope, or the disabled person didn’t want to be seen to ‘tie them down’. Before I was 30 years old, I started to get some insight into just how much such things affect peoples’ lives.

Adding to the list were those disabled by Mental Illness, Epilepsy, complications of Diabetes, severe Asthma, Dementia, Arthritis, Blindness, and Deafness.

Most of you will not have worked in a job bringing you into contact with disability on a daily basis. And even those of you who have personal experience of your own disability, or that of a child, sibling, or parent, may well not have ever encountered those with ‘extreme’ disabilities. But over the last 20 years, we have all seen a greatly increased awareness and understanding around the whole issue. The Paralympics, injured soldiers returning from foreign wars, and disabled people working as presenters on TV shows and news programmes; as well as those actively campaigning for better access to buildings and transport.

Attitudes are changing, but there is still a long way to go yet.

What I learned during those 22 years was remarkable. With almost no exceptions, all those people stayed cheerful. Many were in fact much happier than I was, and they coped so admirably with things I could hardly imagine. They had no demands, few requests, and inspired me with their determination to live the best lives they could.

Moving Day: Part Twenty-Three

This is the twenty-third part of a fiction serial, in 1370 words.

For the rest of that week at school, Tilly stuck to Becky’s side whenever she had the opportunity. She started to use the bus each way again, and always sat next to Becky at the back, ignoring the moans of the two younger boys she had displaced. They seemed to instinctively know not to push it, and acted rather wary of Tilly. Lunch breaks were spent together, with the older girl cuddling Becky at every opportunity, and chatting to her as if they were the same age. Bridie ignored them both when they were on the bus, staring straight ahead, and not saying anything to either of them.

By Friday afternoon, Becky was feeling rather sad. Even though she knew it was all an act, this new-found relationship with the gorgeous Tilly was making her feel so good. She was ready early every day, and excited when the bus stopped outside Tilly’s house, and she rushed in to snuggle up close on the usual seats. Part of her wished that all the other stuff was just a dream, and that life could go on just like this for her and Tilly. She found herself dreaming about her at night, and having difficulty getting off to sleep, as she pictured her in her thoughts. It was a constant emotional battle to keep grounded, and to remind herself that it was just fake.

There had been no sign of Charity at all. Since they had talked in the bedroom, she hadn’t appeared. Becky had gone looking for her at the tree, but there was no trace of her, not even the lingering smell that indicated she had been there. But one thing was glaringly obvious. The tree was getting bigger. Much bigger. In the few weeks since she had come to live there, the trunk seemed thicker, and many more branches drooped down to touch the water too. Even when she didn’t crawl under the canopy, Becky could feel something by just standing close. An energy, almost like electricity. If she stood still and closed her eyes, she could have sworn she heard something too. A low humming, reverberating along the ground.

Around the house, Mum wasn’t mentioning the weekend. Irritatingly, she carried on as if nothing unusual was happening. Acting somewhat bright and breezy, making her favourite meals, and turning up with special treats, like the Belgian Buns that she knew Becky loved so much. But she wasn’t about to be fooled, or lulled into a false sense of security by all that. Although she could never be one hundred percent certain, she still didn’t trust Mum. And this out of character behaviour just made her all the more suspicious.

On the way home in the bus, Tilly was chatting constantly about what fun they would have when she came round the next day. As they got close to her house, she suddenly asked Becky for her mobile phone number. In all that time, she had never asked for it before, and Becky wondered why. “Is it so you can let me know if you are going to be late? Or perhaps you are going to cancel at the last minute?” Tilly grinned, and gently stroked the side of Becky’s face. “Nothing like that, I promise. I just want to phone you later, when you’re alone. We never really get the chance for a proper chat at school now, do we?” Becky told her the number, and watched as Tilly entered her as a contact at lightning speed. Then she turned the phone round, so Becky could see that she had the number, and could read the contact name she had added.
‘Beautiful Becky’.

Her face flushed as she read that, and she didn’t know what to say. Luckily, the bus stopped outside Tilly’s driveway, and she got off quickly, calling out “See you tomorrow” as she slid the door closed.

That night, Mum still didn’t say anything about Tilly coming round the next day. Becky went up and did her homework, and when she came down for dinner, she saw that there were more Belgian Buns as a treat. Mum had even taken the cherry from the top of her one, and placed it onto Becky’s bun so she would have two. After eating, they watched a film on DVD. Becky couldn’t concentrate on it, her mind was racing. Just before ten, her mobile rang. Mum jumped with surprise. Nobody ever rang Becky’s mobile. Grabbing her phone, she headed for the stairs. “I’ll take it up in my room, Mum”, she called out as she ran up them two at a time, swiping the screen to accept the call.

Closing the door tight, Becky went over and flopped onto the bed. “Hi Tilly”, She was going to try to sound excited, but realised she didn’t have to try. The voice at the other end sounded like an older version of Tilly. Slightly croaky, and breaking with emotion. A hint of breathlessness made it seem like a secret that they were even talking. “I’ve been thinking about you all night, Becky. Have you been thinking about me? Are you alone, maybe up in your room? Or is your Mum around? Can you talk privately?” The questions came slowly; measured, deliberate. “Yeah, I’m alone in my room, Mum’s downstairs”. Tilly purred like a cat. “Oh, that’s good, because I want to talk to to you about when I sleep over tomorrow”. Becky stretched out properly. She was still wearing her school uniform, not having bothered to get changed as she hadn’t planned on going anywhere. She pulled the tie from around her neck with one hand, and threw it on the floor.

Tilly started to say things. They were things that Becky hadn’t expected at all. Sensual things, outright rude things, using words that Becky had never heard before, and lurid descriptions that made her imagination go crazy. Even though she was alone in the room, Becky felt the heat as she blushed from her face all down her neck. Tilly’s growling voice and the things she was saying made her tingle all over, until she was visibly quivering. Her toes felt as if they were being tickled, and she wiggled them around so violently inside her thick tights that they started to feel sore. It was as if she was being dipped in warm honey, and she was beginning to give in to Tilly’s skillful seduction. Then she heard the voice grow louder, asking something. “Becky, are you still there? Can you hear me?” She snapped out of the reverie, and replied. “Yes, I was just listening”.

“Did you like what you heard?” The voice was back to sounding like a soft growl. Becky sat up, fighting to come to her senses. Something about the way Tilly was speaking made her feel hypnotised, and she realised what was happening just in time. “Er, yeah. It sounded great. But I don’t know anything about all that, you do know that?” A soft laugh came in reply. “Don’t worry, my beautiful Becky. Leave everything to me. Night, night, sweetheart”. With that, the call ended, a long buzzing tone indicating that Tilly had hung up.

She dropped the phone onto the bed, and walked quickly across to the bathroom on the landing. In the mirror, she could see the redness was still there. Her cheeks were still hot, and the colouring extended down below the open neck of her school shirt. Still trembling, she ran the cold tap, and splashed water onto her face, and the back of her neck. The shock of the water calmed her down, and gave her back her full senses. It had been close, very close indeed. She had almost succumbed totally, she knew that. Now she knew why Tilly had insisted on phoning her tonight. She was going to have to try very hard not to keep thinking about all the things she had said.

Back in her room, she jumped to see Charity sitting at the end of the bed. The girl had a grim expression, and was shaking her head.

“You have to be more careful, Rebecca. Keep alert, or it will be the worse for you”.

Kingdom Of The Little People

On Friday, I was sent a link by my close friend, Antony. Some of you will know that he used to work with me before I retired, and he is also an excellent photographer. He took the photo on my ‘About’ page, and many of the close-ups of Ollie that I have featured.

The You Tube film he sent me lasts only 17 minutes, and I urge you all to take time to watch this very affecting documentary.

The Kingdom Of The Little People is a theme park in mainland China. All the entertainers who perform there, and the staff who work there, are short people. Some have dwarfism, and others stunted developmental growth. Not one of them is any taller than four feet tall. They all live together at the Kingdom’, and perform shows for tourists to earn a living. They earn a good salary, about the same as an IT professional in the local region around Kunming.

The theme park opened in 2009, and is owned by a wealthy entrepreneur. The shows performed include dancing and singing, as well as scenes from traditional fairy tales, and Chinese folklore.

The whole concept of the park has been attacked and vilified by many western newspapers, as well as organisations like The Little People Of America, and Handicap International. It has been compared to a ‘human zoo’, and accused of exploiting little people, of and exposing them to ridicule. The British actor, Warwick Davis, who was born with a rare form of dwarfism, has called for the theme park to be closed down. He is well-know for his acting roles, including parts in ‘Willow’, ‘Star Wars’, and ‘Harry Potter’.

But if you watch the film, you may feel, as I did, that the opposite is true. In a country with no opportunity for such people, and where they are often publicly mocked in villages and big cities alike, this park has become a refuge, even an oasis for them. They live with people like themselves, and get well-paid to entertain the visitors. Their accommodation may seem basic and cramped by western standards, but they have most modern conveniences, form loving relationships, and enjoy sport and the usual recreational activities. Most of all, they have confidence, companionship, and a sense of self-worth that they lacked before going to work at ‘The Kingdom’.

I loved this film, and it really got to me. I watched it again before posting this, and didn’t change my mind.

Moving Day: Part Twenty-Two

This is the twenty-second part of a fiction serial, in 1058 words.

The next day at school, Becky was brimming with renewed confidence. The session at the tree had given her a new outlook on life, and all her previous worries about the new school had faded away overnight. By lunchtime, the weather had improved, and she went to sit on a wall outside to eat her sandwich. Before she could bite into it, Tilly appeared. She sat down on the wall next to her, smelling of perfume and clean clothes. As she crossed her legs, Becky heard the swish of nylon from her expensive sheer tights. The older girl edged closer, until their bodies were touching. Despite what she knew about Tilly, Becky couldn’t help but admit to herself that she was definitely attracted to her.

Lowering the sandwich, Becky looked up at her, raising her eyebrows. She wanted it to seem that she had not forgotten that she had been snubbing her for days. Tilly tossed her head to move her perfect hair from out of her face, and licked her pouting lips. “I was thinking, Becky. How would you like if it I came over to your place at the weekend? If the weather stays like this, we could go for a swim in the river. I’ve just got an amazing new one-piece swimsuit, or if nobody else is around, we could just go skinny-dipping”. She looked down at Becky with a wide smile, her eyelashes fluttering slowly, heavy with mascara. Leaning further in, so that Becky could smell her sweet spearmint breath, she added, “I could stop over the night too, if you would like that. We could have a nice sleepover, a pyjama party sort-of thing. Though I don’t wear any pyjamas, I should warn you”.

Becky felt like a cobra in a basket, being charmed by an expert flute-player. She had to confess that Tilly was very good at this sort of thing. But the blatant sexuality of her words made her blush. That was something she wasn’t used to at her age; a girlish crush was one thing, but what Tilly was implying was something else altogether. Keeping her cool, and not wanting to give away what she knew already, Becky did her best to sound excited and impressed. She responded to the older girl’s attentions in the way she was sure was expected of her. “Oh wow! Really? Go swimming and hang out, and you would sleep over too? That would be great, Tilly. I have been so lonely since we moved here”. Tilly seemed to be convinced, and had taken the bait. She lightly placed an arm around Becky, and put her full lips right against the younger girl’s ear. “Well you won’t be lonely anymore, I guarantee that”. Then she stood up, and started to walk away. Without turning, she called back. “Shall we say Saturday, around midday?” She didn’t wait for a reply.

Biting into the sandwich, Becky watched as Tilly walked in the direction of the playing field. By the corner of the netball cage, she stopped and pulled a phone out of her bag. She had a brief conversation, smiling all the time. That far away, Becky couldn’t hear what was being said, but it was a safe bet that she was either ringing her father, or speaking to Cathy. She had only been at school for less than four hours, and the plan had already been discussed.

The wheels were in motion.

When she went to get the bus home that night, Tilly was there too. All smiles, and pulling Becky to the seats at the back. She sat close, whispering about how much fun they would have at the weekend, taking every opportunity to touch Becky’s leg, or push herself softly against the younger girl. Now she could see through all this, Becky enjoyed the charade. Let her carry on with her idea of seduction and flirting, she thought. I know her real character now, and I will just play along until the right time. But part of the impressionable young girl still inside her did enjoy the attention, and the convincing show of affection. She had to really struggle not to surrender to that.

When they got to the village, Becky stayed on the bus until the others were off. She guessed Bridie would have something to say, and she was right. Turning in her seat, Bridie shook her head. “I thought I had warned you about Tilly, girly. You mustn’t let yourself get taken in by her. She may look wonderful, but she’s rotten inside. Don’t believe anything she says, and most of all don’t let yourself get involved with her. I promise you will regret it”. Becky didn’t trust Bridie anymore than anyone else around the village. And she wanted her to know it, and to stop interfering. She walked to the side door, and then leaned forward, speaking quietly. “From what I have heard, you didn’t take your own advice, Bridie. Just because you can’t have her anymore, you want to poison her for anyone else. Just stay out of my business, and don’t come to my house again”.

Bridie’s face turned bright red, and she sat back heavily into her seat. She would like to have said something, but decided to shut up. This new girl knew her secret already, and it looked like she would never escape the Vospers.

In the house, Mum was standing in the hallway as she walked in. Her expression was serious. “I did as you asked, love. I phoned Reginald Vosper, and he said he will start things moving. I expect you will be approached by Tilly soon”. Becky looked at her Mum for some time, trying to read either truth or deceit in her face. “I have already. Tilly couldn’t wait, and spoke to me at lunchtime. She’s coming for the weekend, so she said. A sleepover, then swimming. Or swimming then a sleepover. She didn’t make that clear”. Her tone was deliberately sarcastic, but Mum hadn’t noticed. “I can make myself scarce, if you want to be alone with her, Becks. Leave you some food, and think of a reason not to be around. Whatever you think best”.

Becky started straight into her Mum’s eyes, her gaze was intense.

“Oh no, Mum. You have to be here”.