Sunday, 15 May 2011

Tic Tocc no.5...and a short story

You know, I've been trying to post my efforts for Kat's fifth Tic Tocc challenge since Thursday, but life keeps interrupting. But now, children in school, phone off the hook, and no appointments for an hour or so, here goes - at last!

As seems to be something of a habit down here in 'Tales', I've adopted, shall we say, a 'loose' interpretation of Kat's brief, namely to create something around what might be found inside the copper kettle.

The picture reminded me of both my Grandmas, not because either has or had a copper kettle, but the the kettle reminds me of tea and cake, something they always had in plentiful supply.

Officially, my twenty minute artistic effort for the week was to make the extremely yummy gingerbread cake, it took me that long to weigh out and mix the ingredients. This photograph took me ages though. I was aiming for magazine artistry, but as you can see, that didn't happen!

I chose different elements which remind me of my Grandmas; the fabric, the china, and the broach. I copied the recipe onto a piece of paper, to make it look as though it belonged to them; their recipes tended to be written, if they were written at all, on scraps of paper. I tried to make my paper look old by soaking it in tea, and smearing it with cake-mix. But I think the result is disgusting, rather than authentic, although this could be because I know I caught dog-of-small-brain licking the paper while I was trying to set up the picture. Yucky!

Anyway, I also wrote a short story. I'm not showing off here by the way, only on Friday I thought I'd shelve the picture idea, get two birds with one stone, and write something for both TocTocc and 'Friday Flash'. Only problem was the story was abysmal. It was so bad on Friday, I could hardly bear to read it myself, never mind post it online. I'm still not particularly pleased with it, but I think it's as good as it's going to get! Here goes...


Good Afternoon, and welcome to Ambrose House.

No really, welcome to Ambrose House. It’s my job to mean it, just as it’s my job to stand here holding the door open, corporate smile plastered across my face, and dressed in a random tartan upon which you’re almost bound to remark. Unless you’re actually Scottish, in which case you either roll your eyes, or puff with nationalistic pride. Me? Oh, I just work here. It’s my job to welcome you here, here to Ambrose House, one of the finest hotels in Scotland.

What an amazing place, you say, throwing your arms wide in rapture at our antiques, our ambiance; even our cobwebs brim with historical anecdotes. Not that we have any cobwebs, mind you. Mrs McLeod dusted in here only yesterday.

“Good afternoon, and welcome to Ambrose House.”

You hear the voice, and turn. I hear the voice, and melt. Fraser, the duty manager appears in the foyer to welcome you. I see you are impressed by his suit, his air of responsibility. Me too; I don’t blame you. And have you noticed his eyes, I wonder. Forget-me-not-blue, that’s what I’d call them, so lush you could drown in their depths without noticing. Not that I will ever drown in Fraser’s beautiful eyes. To him I am invisible. The only time he sees me is when he remembers there’s something wrong.

You spot the old copper kettle hanging by the fireplace, and your brain registers your parched mouth. A cup of tea, you say to Fraser, that would be nice. Are there tea-making facilities in the rooms, you ask. I bite my lip to stop laughing out aloud. A hotel like Ambrose House doesn’t have tea and coffee-making facilities in every room. If you want a cup of tea, it’s my job to make it for you. Or at least, it used to be. Fraser throws me a queasy glance.

“I’ll get someone to bring some tea,” he says, turning away from me. “And how about some cake, or sandwiches? If you come this way, I’ll show you upstairs.”

You follow him like hungry seagulls following a trawler, or the children who danced after the pied piper. I stand in the foyer, waiting for the next guests, and glare at the copper kettle. It’s all the kettle’s fault, I think, scowling at its polished, shiny surface. Everything was all right until the afternoon when a tiny Japanese lady walked up to me, carrying the gleaming kettle. Fraser used to like me.

Please,” she said, and held out the kettle. I took it, and smiled even though I didn’t know how to explain it wasn’t for sale.
“Please,” she said, and gave a tiny bow. “You make tea?”
Oh. Relief ebbed through my body. I opened my mouth to ask which room she was staying in, but pride seized my tongue. We are supposed to know our guests by name. Fraser expects us to know that Mr and Mrs Newman are staying in the blue suite, while Mr and Mrs Oshwani are staying in the turret.
“You make herb tea,” Mrs Oshwani said, and she handed me a tiny paper packet. “You boil water. You bring upstairs.”
Right away Mrs Oshwani, I said, and I hurried through to the pantry. I emptied the packet into a teapot, and poured on the water. I wrinkled my nose. It smelt odd. But that’s oriental medicine for you, or so I’m told.

Mr Oshwani frowned as though he hadn’t been expecting me when he answered the door. I explained I’d made tea, and set the tea tray down on the table. He thanked me, and I hurried back downstairs to finish setting tables for dinner. I was still busy when Grace, our evening housekeeper, arrived to turn down the beds. Her screams still reverberate in my ears.

“Who was the last to see Mr Oshwani alive?” Fraser asked. The policeman pursed his lips.
“Me,” I said. “When I brought him the herb tea.”
“What herb tea?” They both asked.
“The tea Mrs Oshwani asked me to make, I said, biting my lip.
“Mrs Oshwani?” Fraser’s eyes turned as cold as the sea in springtime. “Who is Mrs Oshwani, Theresa?”
I swallowed. The way he says my name makes my knees go weak. But he wasn’t smiling. The policeman leaned forward, his mouth pulled into a thin, humourless line.

“His wife?” I guessed, but both men’s scowls deepened.
“There was no ‘Mrs Oshwani’ staying here,” Fraser snaps. “Mr. Oshwani was staying here on his own. But I think you know that, don’t you?”

I didn’t. I hadn’t looked at the guest list that day. But I make sure I do now, not that it matters. I should leave really, but I’ve done nothing wrong, and besides, I’d hate to give Fraser the satisfaction. So I smile when I open the door, and I say “welcome to Ambrose House.” But I’m not allowed to make tea.

Hmmm. Definitely not one of my better ones... I think it's on a par with my photography skills.


  1. You get an A+ for effort! Just think how creative you were, regardless of how you think it came out. I love it all! How sweet to honor your fond memories of your grandma. The entire post is lovely.

  2. Thanks Roban, that's really nice of you to say-so. Actually, I think it's the story of my life; the ideas never quite follow-through!!!

  3. Stop putting yourself down! I genuinely enjoyed this story - there was so much intrigue, it was witty, it had a little hint of romance or infatuation on her part and it transmitted a real good sense of the setting and atmosphere. I thought it was great!

    And I love that you don't always interpret the prompts in a straightforward way because that's what it's all about - stretching your imagination. This just makes your results so interesting and thinking of making a photo arrangement inspired from memory is an excellent idea! In fact I shall soon have to write about the wonderful example you set by thinking outside the box!
    Thanks for sharing your fab results!
    Kat Xx

  4. I enjoyed the story, too! It certainly didn't end up where I thought it was going to!

    And your photograph made me hungry!

  5. Kat, (blushes) I'm just really bad at reading instructions!

    Anne, the cake was rather fab, even if I do say it myself!

  6. A funny and charming story! I thoroughly enjoyed it. I love the monologue and the twist at the end. :)


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