The Book of Henry

This is another short story based on my interest in Medieval history, especially the voices of Tudor women. The Book of Henry is based on the idea of a book club. What would the past wives of Henry VIII say to each other if they ever got the chance to meet as a group?

I hope you enjoy it.

The Book of Henry

Twilight, August 1546 and the queen of England, Katherine Parr is prostrate on her bed, at Hampton Court Palace. The sixth and final wife of Henry VIII is alone, all servers and ladies dismissed. Her body shuddering in shock, Katherine needs time, she doesn’t yet know how much. But she knows she needs to compose herself and think.

Minutes tick by as her breathing slows. Noticing the hairs at the nape of her neck are upended Katherine wonders if the fire has been left unbanked, unattended to.  In weary resignation, she turns to summon a server. But as she does so, she catches sight of a shadow before her, at the corner of her bed. Shaking her head to clear it, she glimpses another shadow moving around the bedpost to her right.

Rubbing tear puffed eyes, Katherine commands, ‘I did not give leave,’ thinking a soft-footed servant has returned without being summoned, ‘fire needs attention.’ Her voice laced with an authority she does not fully feel.

SSB Sept 33 2019

‘What witchcraft is this?’ A low, gruff voice from behind, accompanied by a tang of orange.

An intelligent and rational woman, Katherine Parr, has already used her wits this day to placate her husband Henry and save herself from the Tower. She doesn’t cry out but instead twists her body to locate the voice and its talk of witchcraft. Her ladies know better than to indulge, in this.

‘I ask again, what witchery is this?’

Breath suspended, Katherine discerns, a third shadow, emerging from the bedpost behind her left shoulder, her eyes follow the shape as it travels to join the other two, who have silently moved closer together at the foot of her bed.

As she scrubs at her eyes, each shadow takes on a more defined form, as though someone has outlined them with ink. It stretches credulity, but Katherine now discerns hoods, both the Gable style and the more modern French style, brocade skirts, a glint of diamonds, the hue of rubies and the sheen of pearl. Amongst them, Katherine swears she can see a diamond-studded B.

‘Who are you?

‘How have you summoned us?’

‘Why are we here?’

From each form a question and Katherine hears, the disdain in each one, but it is not for nothing that she is Queen.

‘Katherine Parr.’ She pauses, gathering her thoughts, ‘Queen of England, wife to Henry VIII.’  Whatever is going on, Katherine is still very much alive, and if she can face down Henry, she can do the same with these phantoms. These supposed spectres from his past.

‘How can I have summoned you? She straightens her back, though her throat tightens.

‘Why are you in my chamber?’ Presses clammy palms into the gold thread of her bedcovering.

What do you want from me?’ Inches closer to the foot of the bed.

‘Are you, really?’

If anyone is going to demand answers, it is her. Besides Katherine is far more afraid of the living than the dead.

It’s the third shadow, with the low, gruff voice and Gable hood that answers first, ‘Aragon, Katherine, first and true wife to Henry VIII. Does he yet live?’ Katherine hears a voice resonant with authority and pride.

‘God yes’ answers Katherine, as she watches pale fingers pick cursorily at beads hanging between folds of gown. She remembers well that Katherine of Aragon was a staunch follower of the old faith.

A second voice, ‘Boleyn, Anne second wife to Henry,’ this from the first shadow to appear at the foot of Katherine’s bed.  In a higher-pitch but there is no mistaking the tone of command.

‘Indeed,’ the form of Aragon, observes, wryly.

Boleyn makes no reply but turns instead to the form that has thus far remained silent, ‘well milksop?’

Katherine knows who this must be, she recognises the well-worn term. After the fire and ice of Anne, Jane’s dullness as many saw it must have seemed to Henry, like a soothing balm on a fevered forehead.

‘Seymour, Jane, third wife to Henry VIII.’

Now Katherine Parr knows that she is somehow in the presence of three former wives of Henry, three deceased Queens of England.

SSB 3 Sept 2019

But, by God, what wouldn’t she give, to be in the shoes of Anne of Cleves Henry’s fourth wife? Now styled as the king’s beloved sister and happily, installed at Hever Castle. In any case, where is Catherine Howard? If she has somehow conjured up and called forth three dead wives, why not his deceased fifth wife too?

She is about to ask, when Aragon, speaks again, ‘do you love and honour him?’

Impertinent, and not a question, she is prepared to answer fully. Even in the privacy of her bedchamber, even to a phantom. Though Katherine wonders if, of all his wives, did Katherine of Aragon, love him best? It was still rumoured that her heart had broken in the end.

‘He is my king.’

‘Do you love and honour him?’ the form of Aragon, expands, leans in, Katherine senses impatience and hesitates as she pictures the bulk of her fifty-four-year-old husband, the stink of his rotting flesh, filling her nostrils.

‘He is my lawful husband.’

‘Do you love and honour him?’ Accompanied by a shaking of Gable hooded head, as though Aragon is wondering why there is no straight answer to this?

Katherine feels hot breath on her cheek, sees a mouthful of diseased teeth, and presses on, ‘as a subject loves their king, their sovereign lord.’ A drawn-out hiss and then a sigh and Katherine wonders if her answer has finally satisfied this phantom of Aragon.

The forms of Seymour and Boleyn are silent, swaying slightly.

A half hiccup, a half sob from behind Katherine’s right shoulder and as she twists to find the source, she sees a fourth shadow. Without a word, it disincorporates. Dissolves from head to toe. Catherine Howard had been silently present, all along.

‘That didn’t take much,’ a scornful Boleyn.

‘She is but a child,’ a murmur from Seymour.

Katherine turns back to the foot of her bed, Catherine Howard in life, had been married to Henry for less than two years. A young girl of seventeen who had caught the king’s eye and then paid dearly for her foolishness. No matter, she needs to learn what she can from these three who have lived and died through Henry, ‘what must I……?’

Aragon interrupts with, ‘do what you must to survive.’

I’ve done that and more thinks Katherine, as she recalls her last encounter with Henry. Her sobs, her pleading, her complete abasement to his will.

‘Outlive him,’ comes back from the form of Boleyn, as it wanders across to the wall-hangings, as though to stroke them.

‘Ah, yes,’ Seymour’s form trails behind Boleyn as it places both palms above its collar bone, ‘you had such a little neck, as I recall.’ A soft voice from Seymour, but there is no hiding the determined acidity in its’ tone.

‘What more can I do?’ Katherine asks, ‘how long must I keep, going?’

‘Give him a son,’ travels back from Boleyn at the wall-hangings.

‘I gave him a son.’ A murmur from Seymour, her form drifts back to the edge of the bed to face Katherine, ‘did you?’

Katherine’s, ‘no,’ covers the ache that of all those present she is the only one who has never borne a child, ‘he has but one male heir.’ Her voice trails off.

‘Ahh,’ this one sound from Seymour denotes pride, ‘I see.’

The fact that she alone has delivered to the king a son, a legitimate male heir to the throne fills the stillness in the room.  It is the form of Boleyn that breaks it with a hiss, as it skims across the room to face Seymour.

‘A what?’

‘I gave the king a son,’ Seymour’s words, weighed and measured, are laid out in the space between them.

All three turn to Katherine Parr, ‘does he yet live?’

‘Yes.’

‘What about Elizabeth?’ A sharp interruption from Boleyn, if milksop’s progeny is alive, why not hers? Aragon is not far behind, ‘Mary?’

Katherine Parr sighs at the shift in conversation, she had worked hard to bring all of Henry’s children to court. ‘All three live,’ she hesitates, ‘all are legitimate.’

‘None are bastards?’ Aragon, cuts in, direct, to the point. Katherine hears the incredulity in her voice the whole issue of bastardisation had dogged the final years of Aragon’s life.

Katherine Parr chooses her words with care, ‘all are in line, of succession,’ her voice factual, tone neutral. But before she can say more, the form of Aragon turns to Boleyn, ‘after all that, you still could not give him a son?’

More a statement than a question, but delivered with such cold derision that Katherine wonders, at how it must be to carry this burden of bitterness and hurt, beyond the grave?

‘No.’ The form of Boleyn shrinks back, ‘a daughter only.’ Looking closely, Katherine notices the drooped head as the form continues. ‘She was naught but three when I left her.’

There is a tap, a noise outside the door to Katherine’s inner chamber, then it is filled with her ladies fluttering in like trapped butterflies.

‘The king wishes to see you.’

Flutter, flutter.

‘He’s on his way.’

They move swiftly towards Katherine.

The spectres, retreat.

‘He needs your comfort, your reassurance.’

‘More?’ Croaks Katherine. ‘Even now?’

No one answers though Katherine notices the forms of Boleyn and Seymour skim across to the tapestries. Aragon follows at a more sedate pace.

Competent, her ladies attend to their Queen, ‘he can’t see you like this.’ Katherine stands mute as they comb her hair, ‘he may want to spend the night.’ She is still as they dab rose water on her neck, ‘he’s anxious to see you.’ She stands statuesque as they disrobe her, ‘this won’t do,’ and arrange a fresh robe around her, ‘ah, that’s better.’

They know how close their Queen had come to being arrested.

Then there is no time, Henry is here.

‘Madam.’

Katherine makes her obeisance. ‘My lord.’

Exhausted, drained she knows she cannot show anything other than joy and reverence at being in his presence.

‘Now, we are perfect friends again…’ Katherine waits, head bowed as the king continues. ‘We can share an evening.’ Henry smiles, ‘I might even stay the night?’

‘Of course.’ Katherine answers.

‘I would think you would want to spend this night with me?’

Katherine realises that her response has not been fulsome enough. She hears the petulance in the, me.

Forcing her head up, lips turned to smiling and praying that her eyes are sparkling, Katherine spies Boleyn and Seymour nodding at her, she catches a fresh tang of orange before answering Henry, ‘with all my heart.’

Acknowledgements/References

Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies – Hilary Mantel

The Taming of the Queen – Philippa Gregory

Anne Boleyn A King’s Obsession – Alison Weir

Word count: 1798

 

Taking centre stage……..

This short story emerged from a writing exercise given to us at one of our weekly writing sessions, related to recall and how we bring our memories forth. As I had previously read David Rock’s Your Brain at work, I used his idea of working memory to construct this very short story.

Hope you enjoy……….

Taking Centre stage 

Julianne, steps out from behind the curtain and onto the stage, enjoying the isolation and the sense of command and control as the spotlight seeks to follow her. Looking out towards the darkened auditorium, she can hear faint rustles, whispered conversations, low breaths as her audience waits. In the dark it is impossible for her to see anything clearly, but that does not matter. She knows that they will come when summoned and allowed to share her stage.

SSB 1 March 2019

The question is, which will she choose first? She closes her eyes, raises her hands, pulls in the breath from her diaphragm and lets out a wail that forces its way up through her core and pours from her throat. Julianne finds to her surprise that her first calling is ‘regret’ and she does this several times until from the very back of the auditorium, particles of light coalesce and take the shape of a young man. And it’s this shape, that of a first love that moves slowly and reluctantly towards the stage.

‘So here you are’, she whispers as the figure glides and stands before her. ‘Why am I here?’ Asked in his familiar low raspy tone, with just a hint of impatience in it. Julianne chooses not to answer, this is her moment and she is going to savour it to the full, because she can. Instead she walks slowly around the figure, taking in his height, the faded jeans and the baggy green jumper hanging loosely over his bony frame. If anyone is going to be asking questions, it will be her.

Turning again to the front, she decides to call again.

This time it’s the music that reaches her first, a disco number from the early 90s and as Julianne’s feet start to tap to Robin S’s, ‘Show Me Love’, another figure coalesces from the middle of the auditorium and makes its way to the stage. It’s the coke dealer, she had met in a nightclub in Lanzarote whilst on holiday. A short blonde-haired woman, who had earnestly confided to her that she wanted a change of career, to move across to something in IT. ‘Ahh, irony’ thinks Julianne as her mouth curls in a smile. However, it freezes as another figure coalesces and makes its way to the stage. ‘What the fuck?’ This time a different woman, same night club. Julianne recognises the tight black pants and the leopard print top straight away. Here is danger, unpredictability. Leopard print was a woman too used to getting what she wanted and had decided that for this night she had wanted Julianne. It had taken all Julianne’s strength to fight past her when the lights had suddenly dimmed in the ladies.

‘Something more uplifting and inspiring’, thinks Julianne as she dismisses ‘leopard print’ and turns once again to face the auditorium.

‘Don’t ever get give up, Julianne’, these words float across from the auditorium, accompanied by the whirr and throb of the Boucherie machines from the factory floor. ‘Thank you’, whispers Julianne as she acknowledges in gratitude the figure of the dark haired, serious looking man smiling down at her. His words had never left her.

The end.

Janice Taylor

www.blueskycareerconsulting.co.uk

 

Cards on the table……

Continuing with my interest in Tudor history, this is my imagining of a final conversation between Anne and Cromwell. I also wanted Anne to have the last word. Hope you enjoy.

Cards on the table...

A final conversation between Anne Boleyn and Thomas Cromwell

‘You came?’

Anne’s first words to her visitor, delivered in a level tone and with a steady breath. Looking at her, no one would guess that she was due to die in less than twenty-four hours. Cromwell finds himself admiring her poise and composure.  ‘I was not sure you would.’ Anne continues, her hands smoothing the skirt of her heavy damask dress. Richly made and looking out of place against the faded and mean tower tapestries.

Sighing deeply, Cromwell stares unwaveringly at her. The silence between them stretches and tautens as each think back over their past encounters. They had been allies once, when had that started to change, wonders Cromwell.

Anne is at peace, she knows and accepts that she is going to die. The only questions now are, how well and why? In answer to the first only time will tell, the answer to the second stands attentively before her. This is the reason behind her requesting a final interview with Cromwell, so she can fill in the final pieces of the puzzle.

SSB Nov 3 2018

She arranges her face, her dress, her whole body as Thomas Cromwell stands before her, his face impassive. That this man has been instrumental in bringing her so low, amazes her. The same man, who had tirelessly and determinedly facilitated her marriage to Henry, only to then outmanoeuvre and conquer her once Henry had grown tired. Why did she not see him coming? This silent, clever assassin, who hid behind his books, his clerks and his evidence, only to emerge right at the end?

Cromwell on the other hand, had been careful to arrange his face before entering the room. There is no hint in his demeanour or the way he holds his body that suggests victory. He is not here to gloat.

‘I thought you were owed the courtesy.’ he replies, ‘I take no pleasure in this, this is not personal.’

‘Of course, it’s personal,’ snaps Anne. ‘Can you imagine where you’d be if I had given the King a son?’

‘Why am I here?’, interrupts Cromwell cutting across the question and flying straight as an arrow to the point. He is a busy man and there is only so much courtesy that is owed Anne.

Why indeed? Wonders Anne, what possible difference can this final conversation make, now? None, absolutely, none and yet she wants her answers, still. Besides she has one last piece of business for Cromwell.

So, to business first. ‘My daughter Elizabeth’, she murmurs, ‘will you do what you can for her?’

Cromwell regards the tiny woman before him, diminished by her circumstances as he considers his response. His feelings towards both Henry’s daughters are practical, pragmatic. Should anything happen to Mary, Elizabeth would doubtless be called upon in the absence of a son. Anne is a spent force, an irrelevance, but one never knows with the children. Best to keep Elizabeth safely tucked away, in case she is ever needed. So, yes for State and country he will do what he can for Elizabeth.

‘You must do your part.’ he answers, ‘No last-minute heroics or foolish declarations. Show yourself penitent and humble, so the King’s last thought of you is peaceful.’

SSB Nov 2 2018

Cromwell struggles, he feels his words might choke him as they leave his mouth, but he knows his King and knows that the Henry has already moved on. The best that can be hoped for with Elizabeth is that she is kept out of sight, out of court. Henry will need no reminders of Anne.

Anne simply bows her head in acquiescence. If she notices Cromwell’s struggle she chooses to ignore it. Now the business is concluded, she wants to talk about something else. ‘Mark Smeaton, my brother, gentle Norris, William Brereton. You spun quite a web around me Cremuel.’

Cromwell smiles at the old affectation and decides he will meet her part way. ‘I needed to be certain and I needed you to be caught fast.’

‘How long?’

A tactical question, Cromwell notes, interesting.

‘It took some weeks, months. We moved carefully, cautiously.’ He does not share, that care was needed in case the King changed his mind. He also doesn’t share that the King was fearful of her. What good, he wonders, would that do her, now?

‘It was not our intention to alert you’

‘Our?’ queries Anne.

‘My people, my clerks, my associates, trusted colleagues’

‘So, why am I dying?’ Now, it’s Anne’s turn to fly straight as an arrow to the point. This is the knowledge she wants to take with her.

Cromwell finds he cannot face her. He pauses and looks away as he considers this question and weighs each response. Which one will he offer to Anne? The king wished it? You would never have been content to live quietly in a convent? The king fears you, believes you to be an enchantress? The king did not want another Katherine, he did not want to be tied to another troublesome and unwanted queen? He needs peace and quiet? I don’t know? He decides after a few moments that it is kinder to give Anne an explanation that she can die with.

‘Wolsey. Thomas Wolsey, my patron, my mentor. You are dying because it is the price you will pay for my old master’s death. You are dying because had you been left to your own devices you would have destroyed me and my family.’

As he offers up this explanation, something shifts within Cromwell, letting free a coldness that creeps through him. A dispassion that takes him by surprise, he thought he would have felt a little more. But this has been business, he knows with quiet certainty that had their positions been reversed, he would have been the one losing his head and not by a French swordsman either. There was no realistic scenario, that allowed them both to live. One was always going to kill the other. Henry, the King was merely the means.

Straightening her back, Anne absorbs his words and responds with, ‘Revenge, Cromwell?’

Still not seeing the whole picture, thinks Cromwell, noticing the switch in his name to English.

‘Not revenge Anne, never revenge. Justice and self-preservation’

‘Tell me then Cromwell, did you believe the charges against me?’

What can Cromwell say to this? At this late stage, perhaps he can afford to be magnanimous and acknowledge the ridiculous nature of the charges against her. Would he dare? He decides not. ‘Does it matter now, Anne?’ His tone resigned, regretful. ‘In the end, the king believed them and that is all that matters. Is there anything I can do for you now?’ He enquires as he starts to take his leave and contemplates the body before him. He has, he feels, extended his courtesies and it is time to get back to the living. For that is what Anne is to him now, a breathing body and he finds that he has no more words to say. But as he turns to take his leave, Anne has one last thing to say.

‘Be careful Cremuel, you may be next.’

Janice Taylor

https://www.blueskycareerconsulting.co.uk/

Word Count: 1182

Gloria, a reluctant Guardian Angel …

Today’s story emerged from a writing exercise a few months ago, where we were encouraged to write with exaggeration and hyperbole. I think I managed it, in any case I hope you enjoy.

Gloria, a reluctant Guardian Angel…

Gloria is an infinite being, capable of existing across and within all dimensions, who has also been assigned the role of guardian angel to a group of humans on the planet earth. It is fair to say that Gloria is not entirely happy about this, as she has a bit of sass and attitude towards the humans and can think of any number of things she would rather be doing than watching over a raggle, taggle bunch of pesky humans.

Still she has been assigned, the work is there to be done and so she goes on.

Technically speaking, Gloria is as old as time itself and has no defined gender but chooses to show up on Earth, to the individuals in her group as a black, working class woman in her fifties. There is she feels an imbalance between power, gender and race, so she has determined to do her bit to redress this. There’s always an agenda with Gloria.

SSB June 1 2018

So, when it is necessary for Gloria to travel around on Earth, anything with an engine is preferable to constantly having to rearrange her molecules and squeeze them through interconnected dimensions. She considers this too much like hard work, much to the frustration and annoyance of her mentor Christine, who thinks that it is far too undignified for an infinite being to clamber about on Earth on a human-made machine. Especially the 1959, 250cc Simpson motorcycle that Gloria currently favours, which meets her needs and suits her tastes.

And today, Gloria is riding her red Simpson to see Rainbow. The one human from her group that challenges and tests her patience the most. And as the wind rushes through and around her, Gloria thinks back over their past encounters.

Encounter One:

‘What do you mean, I’m not your only human?’

A surprising first question, thinks Gloria as she introduces herself with the usual preliminaries. It can’t be everyday an infinite being visits you in your home. One would have thought there would have been other, more pressing questions, still perhaps it’s the shock.

Gloria takes a breath to create the space she needs to collect herself. She is after all supposed to have infinite wisdom and patience, but the question and the way it has been asked has challenged her. So, she responds with:

‘How many of us infinite beings do you think there are? Of course, we have more than one human to look after. What books have you been reading?’

‘I suppose so’, is Rainbow’s grudging response

Encounter Two:

 ‘I’m your Guardian Angel, not your fairy Godmother. I don’t do wishes. Do you see a wand, a diamond tiara?’

Is Gloria’s incredulous response to Rainbow’s written list of requirements, presented at their second meeting:

Dear Gloria

Since our first meeting, I have had a chance to consider how we might best move forward with our working relationship. I think it’s important that we establish rapport and trust, so I want to know if you can help with some or all, of my most pressing issues.

I need to have found my life partner by the time I’m 28, this will make it easier then for me to have children and continue with my career.

To enjoy a comfortable lifestyle, I do need a marketing role, £38,000 a year, this will enable me to run a reasonable car, something around 5 years old.  I also need to be able to buy my own property.

Levels of fitness, I know I need to put in some work, but if there is anything you can do?

Contacts for my career, if I’m not your only human you probably know the right people.

Smaller bum, not too small just a slight narrowing will do

With thanks and anticipation

Rainbow 😊

Rapport and trust, wonders Gloria as she reads the letter a second time and asks, ‘what is this symbol by your name?’

‘It’s a smiley face, I didn’t think we knew each other well enough for kisses.’

Rainbow is more interested in what Gloria can do to help her buy her first home, get her first job, interview well and meet Mr Right and thought it would be helpful to present this list to Gloria. None of which is of the slightest interest to Gloria, her purpose is to build and strengthen Rainbow’s resilience and ability to withstand whatever shit, life on Earth throws at her. Or as Christine, her mentor would explain it ‘support the inner work.’

It’s up to Rainbow to sort out all the other stuff and do the outer work.

‘Then what’s the point, if you are not going to make my life easier? Why are you here? If you can’t smooth my path through life, create opportunities, open doors, make the right introductions, why bother?’

Is Rainbow’s not unreasonable reaction, finishing with ‘what does a Guardian Angel do anyway?’

SSB June 3 2018

Encounter Three:

Gloria arrives prepared with an answer to Rainbow’s last question.

‘I am here to watch over you, be with you and help you weigh your choices and options. All the other stuff is largely bullshit. My job is to help you survive and thrive in the world you live in and this is not going to happen if everything is laid out on a plate for you.’

‘I beg to differ.’ Is Rainbow’s retort. ‘Can I get a different Guardian? What if I choose not to work with you?’

At this point Gloria rolls her eyes and takes a slow and considered drag from her roll up and answers with:

‘Doesn’t work like that, it’s one of those immutable laws. You get what you are given, and in this case that’s me, though you can of course choose to ignore my counsel. But I would suggest you pay me some heed, if only to reduce the amount of willy waving and fanny flashing you’ll come across.’

‘The what?’

‘The noise people make when they don’t have anything real to say.’

‘Oh, balls’ mutters Rainbow, as she realises that Gloria has had access to every thought and impulse she’s had since birth.

That’s just how Guardian Angels roll.

Encounter Four

‘Gloria, doesn’t quite seem like the right name for a Guardian Angel, I’d have chosen something more….’

Rainbow’s voice trails off as she becomes aware that the sunlight has disappeared, and she appears to be staring down a black hole…’

There is complete silence as Gloria, fights to retain her composure reminding herself that it’s not good form to throw one of your humans into the void.  That really would cause her mentor considerable stress. So once the impulse has passed, Gloria responds with:

‘My name has more meaning and significance than you could possibly know, and I choose it to honour all women, past and present. Besides Rainbow?’

Now that she is no longer staring into the void, Rainbow can reply with:

‘Well, yes, I suppose you have to work with what you’ve got. Changing tack, she continues with, ‘Will I ever become like you?’ as she looks critically at the DM booted, black woman standing before her.’

‘You’ll be lucky’, mutters Gloria.

The End, well for now.

Janice Taylor

http://www.blueskycareerconsulting.co.uk

Total word count: 1192

 

Elizabeth and Anne:

A conversation between daughter and mother 

Have long had a passion and interest for Tudor history, particularly, around Elizabeth I. However, thanks to Hilary Mantel I have more recently, become as intrigued by her mother, Anne Boleyn. To me it is deeply ironic that it is Elizabeth, Henry the VIII’s second daughter that reigns on her own for over forty years, when he was so preoccupied with begetting a son.

But sad, too, that Elizabeth never really knew her mother, so this is my imagining of the two women having the opportunity to talk frankly about their lives and it’s my small tribute to them, both.

So, without further ado I give you:

Elizabeth and Anne:

 A conversation between daughter and mother 

SSB 3 Jan 2018

It is the year 1558 and Elizabeth the newly crowned Queen of England, is finally able to retire and take a few moments for herself. It is late, and Elizabeth has already been attended to by her ladies and she is now ready to rest.

She’s enjoyed her wonderful, whirlwind of a day, full of pomp, ceremony and moments that will stay with her for the rest of her life and so she is ready now to close her eyes and dream.

Or so she thinks, as she observes through her half closed eyes a form moving silently and purposefully towards the foot of her bed.

All Elizabeth can see initially is a form, and she assumes at first that it is one of her attending ladies, ‘What now?’ she thinks irritably, ‘Surely I can rest?’

It is not until the form reaches the edge of her bed without stopping to make a bow and await permission to draw closer, that Elizabeth realises it’s not one of her attendants. As Elizabeth is about to demand identification, and cry out, the form seats itself at the foot of the bed, smooths out it’s skirts, turns to Elizabeth and says:

‘Do you not know, me Elizabeth?’

The voice is cool and imperious, belonging to someone who is also well used to commanding respect.

As Elizabeth stares, it’s the headdress, the French hood that provides her with the clue. The last time she saw this style was on a portrait, of her mother Anne Boleyn, a portrait that had been lovingly commissioned by her father Henry VIII.

It is her mother Anne, somehow real and present and she wants to talk to her daughter.

SSB Jan 1 2018

‘You have done well, Elizabeth.’

This cool assessment, of Elizabeth, delivered with just a hint of maternal and familial pride is not overly affectionate. No one would guess that within this cool exterior lay a fierce pride, deeply buried that the daughter of the ‘Goggle eyed whore’, as Anne had been known, was now on the throne of England.

However, it is this apparent coolness that stings the romantic Elizabeth into blurting out:

‘Did you truly love him?’

Elizabeth, is of course referring to her late father, King Henry VIII and she notices how the air stills and cools around the form as it appears to consider this question and then turns slowly to face her, to answer with a cold and emphatic:

‘No’

Another pause and then:

‘No, he was the king. I was a young girl, already promised to another.’

Immediately, Elizabeth has another question:

‘Why didn’t you just become his mistress?’

At this the form of Anne snorts with derision, and responds with:

‘Would you be sitting on the throne of England now, if I had done that?’

In a tone heavy with sarcasm and disbelief.

Another pause and then:

‘You would not be Queen if I had made that choice.’

Acknowledging the truth behind this, Elizabeth stares down at her hands, but a small part of her thinks, I might have had you as a mother, though, but aloud she answers  with a:

‘You paid a very high price for my throne’

‘And one I would pay again.’

Is the immediate response.

‘Can a woman really reign by herself?’, whispers Elizabeth half to herself, half to the apparition.

‘By God’s grace, you can, and you will.’

Is the stern and swift reply, from the form of Anne, as she turns again towards her daughter, eyes unfathomable and determined.

‘Though they will expect you to marry.’

Now it’s the turn of the air around Elizabeth to become still, as every muscle in her body tenses.

‘I think not.’ She enunciates carefully.

‘I may cede my person, but I will never cede my crown or my kingdom.’

At which point, the form of Anne starts to flow and lose shape like wax on a burning candle, thinks Elizabeth. And as it fades, she swears she can hear a faint:

‘That’s my girl.’

The End

Janice Taylor

www.blueskycareerconsulting.co.uk

Mr B. and the ‘Safety Chickens’…………

The story behind the story.

Inspired by the chickens my sister used to keep and the fact that she wanted three as the third was always ‘the safety chicken’. Just In case something happened to one of them.

I’m also tickled by the idea of chickens having far more intelligence than they are normally credited with.

So, without further ado, I give you:

Mr B. and the ‘Safety Chickens’…

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This is a story about three chickens and one fox, who over a time, develop a ‘grudging’ respect for one another.

First let me introduce you to, Mr B as he likes to be known. An urban fox, well used to and well suited to life in the city.

“Hello, my name is Bernard, though I prefer to be addressed as Mr B and I am a rather clever and resourceful fox, even if I say so myself. 

 Must say I love city life, it’s so much easier, than living in the country. Moving here was certainly, one of my better decisions. Food is far more accessible and just easier to get. 

 I have made my own home and space carefully hidden in the same garden as three chickens. 

 Three pesky chickens

 I say pesky, because despite my best efforts, I have yet to gain access to their coop or lay a single paw on them. Not for want of trying I can tell you” 

Now let me tell you a little more about the chickens, firstly their names, Hannah, Holly and Henrietta.

Three rather special chickens, also well used to life in the city. The traffic noise, the hustle and the shenanigans of the urban foxes. And as it turns out, they are a very good match for Bernard, despite his best attempts to keep them under continual surveillance.

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So, let’s go to them directly, to hear what they have to say….

Henrietta: – ” ‘Does he ever get bored of watching us, all the time?” 

Hannah: – “No I don’t think so, though I wonder how much he knows about what we are really doing?” 

Holly: – “Enough I think to realise that we are no ordinary chickens. he’s probably worked out that we have learnt to strengthen our coop. He barely bothers to come near it, these days.” 

“Hmmm, still we can’t take anything for granted ” – Hannah

As you can see, these three chickens are clever and resourceful matched against a seemingly clever and resourceful fox.

Each has their own distinct personality but to Bernard they are simply the ‘safety chickens’. Because he never sees just one, he never sees just two. For Bernard they are always, always in threes.

They are also always busy doing something, they are never alone and never still. In fact, half of him wonders if it is still worth trying to catch them, as over the months he’s noticed a physical change in them.

So, back to Bernard, to hear what he has to say: –

“It’s almost as if these chickens know that the fitter they are, the tougher they are going to be to catch and eat. Every day I see them they are doing something physical.

 They also seem to spend a lot of time, pecking around the humans and their machines and generally getting under their feet” 

Bernard is genuinely perplexed by the behaviour of the chickens, he has a hunch that something is going on, but can’t quite put his finger or ‘paw’ on what it is.

Unfortunately for him, he just happens to be sharing the garden with three of the leanest, meanest, most physically fit chickens he will ever come across.

They are clever and cunning and at this moment in time are quite frankly running circles around Bernard.

They are determined to avoid being caught and eaten, and so between the three of them have devised a strict regimen of physical and chicken brain training to keep them alert and one step ahead of Bernard.

So, let’s go back to our three chickens and hear what they have to say:

Holly: – ” For us, it’s all about ‘skills and drills’. We need to keep ourselves in ‘tip top’, condition so we can keep ourselves out of trouble.” 

 Henrietta: – “Absolutely, we realised a long time ago, that we couldn’t rely entirely on the humans to keep us safe. Must give Mr B, his due, out of all the foxes we’ve had to deal with over the years he has probably come the closest to breaching our defences.”

 Hannah: – ” Yes, he has, I’m even wondering if he’s finally realised how we learnt to strengthen our coop.” 

Indeed, this is true, Bernard has noticed how frequently the chickens scratch around the humans, whenever they are in the garden, appearing to do what chickens normally do.

In fact, what they are really doing, is busily learning more and more about the human machines and how to use them.

Where else would three chickens have learnt to fortify and strengthen their coop? Bernard is a pretty intelligent fox but so far, he has been unable to find any weakness, no obvious way into their coop.

It hardly seems worth the effort of checking these days……

Here’s Bernard…….

“I can’t swear to this but I’m sure I’ve seen them trying to use the human machines.

 I’m convinced that their forays towards the humans and their things are not entirely random or accidental. Those three are definitely, up to something.” 

 Poor Bernard, you almost feel sorry for him, well almost……

Our three chickens know they can’t take anything for granted, as far as Bernard is concerned. They hold the firm view that he will never give up, that is just what foxes do.

Because of this they are highly disciplined about checking the coop every day for any signs of damage. And punctilious about their daily exercise regime.

They believe that these days there’s a lot you need to learn and do to survive, as an urban chicken. It’s a tough world out there.

Luckily for them the humans quite often work outside in the garden, with their laptops and our ‘clever’ chickens have learnt to ‘google’ and cover their tracks whilst extracting the information they need.

Their motto is: –

‘Too tough to eat and too clever to be caught’ 

And for the moment this is working for the them, I guess only time will tell if this changes.

Until next time

Janice Taylor

www.blueskycareerconsulting.co.uk

 

 

 

My ‘transformational’ business………..

The story behind the story.

It’s been just over a year since I started blogging my stories, so it seems appropriate to go back to my very first story, ‘The woman who turned her husband into a dog’ and see how things have turned out for her.

So, without further ado I give you:

My ‘transformational’ business ……..

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“Hello, it’s been at least three years now since I first shared my story and things have certainly moved on quite a bit since then.

‘My husband’ is doing very well, all things considered.  I keep very good care of him and I believe he’s a lot happier – with less responsibility and lots of regular walks.

However, as he was the main earner in our little household – I had another problem. I needed to find a way to supplement our income, dog food, vets bills and doggy treats, don’t come cheap. Particularly as I too want to enjoy some of the finer things in life.

Over time it had dawned on me that if I could turn one human into a much loved pet – perhaps I could do it with a few more.

Clearly I would need to refine my technique, package and brand my service. Then perhaps, just perhaps I could build a  business, with a real future.

So, dear reader that is precisely what I have been quietly doing these past year or so, working on my brand, my marketing and identifying my ideal client.

As, it had occurred to me that there must be other women, perhaps some men too – who would find it, how can I say, more ‘convenient‘ to have their spouse/partner ‘transformed‘. At the right ‘price point‘ – my service would be far cheaper than divorce and not as ‘permanent‘ as murder.

So, it has been with infinite care, circumspection and discretion, that I have launched my ‘transformational‘ business and achieved enough success for clients to start finding me.

With my website and a few carefully worded tweets – potential clients are starting to find me and the transformations have been successful and well received so far.

Of course I need to be very careful with my contracting and agreements. Don’t want to find someone changing their mind – once the transformation has been completed. There is no ‘going back’ with this, though I may well develop this ‘option‘ in the future.

I conduct careful and in depth interviews to be very sure that each client fully understands the consequences of what I do. That they fully understand, the change is irreversible.

Currently I am limited to dogs – but I can see a lot of potential for my business. Especially as a few enquirers are starting to ask about other animals. Cats, pigs and goats, I have even had someone ask about a chicken . It’s all about ‘innovation‘and ‘development‘.

I’m even wondering whether I can franchise this out  and train others to do what I do and branch out that way…

The  sky’s the limit I say…………”

Until next time……….

Janice Taylor

http://www.blueskycareerconsulting.co.uk