I am not going to write a political comment this week, not here anyway. Instead I want to tell you about the Leominster Festival. Now I know readers of this blog come from all around the world and have no interest in where Leominster is and what’s happening in its annual Festival. That’s as it should be – this blog is about my writings and not about where I live. Nevertheless I would like to urge anyone who lives close enough to come and have a look at this lovely pace and join in our yearly extravaganza – in particular come and join in our literary events.
The Leominster Festival is a much smaller affair than well-known Festivals like Edinburgh Fringe, Hay, or Glastonbury but it has a bit of the flavour of each. There is music, there are a variety of theatrical events and there is literature. The last is where I have an interest.
We run a writing competition. This year the theme was “Paint the town – with words” as the theme of the whole Festival is “Paint the town”. We don’t have huge prizes but we do have some vary nice certificates for all the shortlisted entrants courtesy of our sponsors, Orphans’ Press (there’s a story there). The entry isn’t large, which is good as there are just three of us doing the judging, and mostly comes from our primary school. We have an Awards Ceremony which I compere. I am always delighted to find that the children on the shortlist have a wide variety of backgrounds and characters – and as many boys as girls are winners. We have a guest of honour to hand out the certificates. This year it is Anne O’Brien. She is a local author who writes historical fiction based on the lives of the formidable women who were daughters or wives of medieval kings. There are a number of writers that occupy the same genre but Anne is successful – a top ten best selling author no less. We have a short break after the ceremony and then Anne will give her talk – that’s a ticketed event.
On Saturday 10th June we will be holding our Bookfair which this year is part of the Family Funday. As well as bouncing on the bouncy castle and eating ice creams and watching the various entertainers and the dog show, children can come to our tent and be enthralled by storytelling. Meanwhile, the parents and older children can browse the books by local authors that will be on display and for sale. The authors will be on hand to chat about their work and there will also be discussions on topics such as fantasy fiction, short stories and romance, and writing memoirs.
The Bookfair is an opportunity to sell. All my books will be on sale and I hope, that just for once, people come with some cash in their pockets.
From what I’ve just described, perhaps you can understand why I haven’t done much writing recently. For a couple more weeks I am raiding my box (well, computer file, actually) of discarded stories, but then I will get down to writing: a new Jasmine novella in which she finally resigns from the police force (that’s not really a spoiler because that is where Painted Ladies, the first Jasmine Frame novel, starts), Molly’s Boudoir – the 4th jf novel, and a new project (I do like to have a few things on the go.) Here, then is this week’s stopgap. This is a short, light-hearted piece. I can’t remember precisely when I wrote it but it was a task for one of my writing groups. The assignment was to write a short piece for radio.
5 minute theatre – Mission to Mars
[ theme music]
Presenter: Welcome to this special edition of the Universe Tonight when we are going live to the USA for an interview with Professor Zarkov of NASA who is leading the team directing the Mars rover Curiouser and Curiouser. Good evening Professor.
Prof.Z (East European accent): Good afternoon.
Presenter: Thank you for joining us Professor. I gather this is a busy time for you.
Prof. Z: It is. As you know the rover is currently traversing the Wells crater which has provided us with some interesting results.
Presenter: What results are those Professor
Prof. Z: Well, initially we noticed that the floor of the crater is completely flat and only covered with dust.
Presenter: That is unusual?
Prof. Z: Definitely. Nowhere is completely flat and Martian landscapes usually have rocks and boulders in them.
Presenter: So what does it mean?
Prof.Z: We are about to find out. Curiouser is using its moveable arm to drill into the surface. We have a sound and vision feed from the rover. Of course with the time delay we are hearing what happened about fifteen minutes ago.
[sound of metallic screeching]
Presenter: That’s not a very nice sound, Professor.
Prof.Z: It is a most unexpected noise.
Prof.Z: Because it reveals the surface of the crater is not made of Martian rock at all.
Presenter: What is it made of then?
Prof.Z: It seems to be…I can’t believe it… the spectroscopic instruments are saying that beneath the dust the surface is a mixture of iron, nickel, chromium.
Presenter: Those are metals.
Prof.Z: Yes. It’s stainless steel.
Presenter: Does that occur naturally.
Prof.Z (getting heated) : No of course not. Are you stupid?
Presenter (flustered): I’m sorry Professor Zarkov. What is your opinion on this discovery?
Prof.Z: Well, obviously it shows … good lord.
[Deep sounds of a tray being scraped across a floor]
Curiouser’s position is changing.
Presenter: You mean the rover is moving?
Prof.Z: No, the floor of the crater is moving and carrying the rover with it. I think I can see… (speaks away from microphone) yes, tell it to move the camera. Yes, damn it I know it will take half an hour. The floor of the crater seems to be, um, opening.
Presenter: You mean the floor is hollow.
Prof.Z : Apparently. A section some twenty metres in diameter has opened up. I can just see down inside. It’s dark but I think something is moving.
Presenter: You mean there is something alive under the crater.
Prof.Z: I didn’t say it was alive, you fool. I just said it was moving. Hold on. It’s climbing out of the hole.
[sounds of feet shuffling through sand together with other rustling, slurping noises]
Presenter: This is remarkable Professor. What is happening?
Prof.Z: I don’t know. It’s gone out of the field of view. The Rover is pointing its camera in the wrong direction. Oh, it’s coming into sight. Urgh! It’s disgusting.
Presenter: What does it look like?
Prof.Z: It is difficult to describe. Sort of crab-like, with an insect-like head and octopus-like tentacles. It’s huge. Purple goo is dripping from its legs and abdomen and orange smoke is rising from its carapace. Oh, no, it’s tentacles are reaching towards the rover. It’s lifting the rover up holding it close to its head. Those must be eyes
[ booming noise which rises and falls in pitch]
Presenter: What’s that noise, Professor?
Prof.Z: It’s coming from the creature. I think it may be speaking.
[The sound changes to a garbled voice which quickly resolves into English.
Creature: This planet is an area of special scientific interest. Fly-tipping is not allowed. This material will be disposed of sustainably and a fine imposed on the owners. Our bailiff is empowered to confiscate goods to the value of the fine plus expenses.
[noise of metal being compressed]
Prof.Z: It’s damaging Curiouser.
Presenter: Can’t you stop it? Tell the creature to leave it alone
Prof.Z: Of course not. The rover wasn’t built to make conversation. Good heavens, what’s happening now.
Presenter: What Professor?
Prof.Z: Something is rising from the crater. It’s like a rocket except there aren’t any exhaust gases. It’s rising into the sky. Oh. The camera feed has gone. Curiouser and Curiouser has been destroyed.
Presenter: This rocket-thing, Professor. Where is it going?
Prof.Z: You heard the creature. They want to collect the fine. The Martians are coming here.