Crazy Chloe by Alex Askaroff #Humour #ShortStory

I’ve already introduced Alex Askaroff. But here’s a reminder. When I was researching for the background of The Heart Stone https://bit.ly/3kOpZYO, and needed to know the technical details for the manufacturing of sewing machines, I knew there was only one person to contact. The man who knows all is Alex. As the emails flew back and forth ( and I wondered how long it would be before he became fed up with my constant and often boring – I’m sure – questions), I realised that there seemed to be nothing he didn’t know. But I also knew he is a story teller – a multi genre writer: https://amzn.to/3pM7vLX . So I asked him to tell a story about one of his days…

Over to you, Alex…

After a lifetime in the sewing trade you would think that I had seen it all. No. Today, Crazy Chloe was going to show me how to abuse a sewing machine in a completely new way.

In the October sunshine I rolled down the hill from Friston Forest. The sun hung low in the bright sky as sheep enjoyed nibbling on the last lush grass that had sprung up in the dewy autumn fields. I was on my way to Honeycrag Close in Polegate and my second customer of the morning. I was a bit wary because I knew Crazy Chloe all too well. She had a reputation in Polegate that actually scared the villagers. She once screamed and threw a bag of dog poo at a dog walker when she saw them leave it hanging on a tree branch. She chased the manager of Barclays Bank up the High Street, shouting about her overdraft. Boy, that woman was tough and knew the value of a penny!

I pulled up outside her pretty bungalow. Her garden was plastered with tiny garden ornaments from her local discount store and looked great. I took a deep breath, no turning back now! Shortly after I rang the doorbell I could see her tiny frame and massive wild curly hair moving towards the door. Last chance to run I thought. “Chloe, how lovely to see you. How are you?”

“Oh, don’t ask. I’m only alive because I can’t afford the coffin! Come in darlin’, I’ve got work for you. Don’t mind the mess. The cleaner broke last year and he doesn’t get out of bed till lunchtime now!”

Chloe showed me into her messy life. We made our way around countless obstacles to a table piled high with junk mail. It was post that she could not bear to throw away. Chloe shoveled a hole with her hands, creating a space on the table. I heaved up her old New Home into the space. “Seized solid!” Chloe announced. “Bloody thing, it’s ‘ardly been a year since the last time I paid you.” I quickly interrupted her with a little correction. “Actually it was three years ago Chloe, and last time you paid me it was with half a pot of honey and two marrows. Not exactly a king’s ransom.”

“Ah, but there were lovely marrows weren’t they? Not that I grew them mind,” she threw in with a wicked smile. “Now down to business. My baby has seized up solid. Won’t make a bloomin’ stitch. She was running slow, so I oiled her like you told me to, but then it got even worse, then stopped altogether!” 

Sewing machine seizures fall into several categories: lack of oil, thread jamming, bearings tightening, gears stuck, shafts out of line and so on. The worst, so I thought until today, is a main top bearing seizure. The top bearings are the largest on a sewing machine and when they go it can be hard work. I could try for a month and they would still never run properly. “Any chance of a nice cuppa, Chloe?

“Only if you have one sugar! Last time you caused a sugar shortage in Polegate! I’m surprised you’re not type four diabetic!

“I don’t think there’s no such thing,” I laughed back.

“Well there should be!” She added, muttering something else under her breath as she went. I sat in front of the old machine and tried to turn it. It was locked. I mean LOCKED. There was no movement at all, not even the slightest wiggle. I let out a deep sigh and surveyed my cluttered prison. I knew Chloe would not let me out of the house until her machine was purring like a pedigree kitten. As I looked across the table I saw a half empty bottle of fabric glue. A sudden feeling of dread came over me. I called Chloe.

“Um, Chloe, what oil did you use on your sewing machine?”

“It’s right there on the table you pillock. Lost your eyes hav’ ya’!”

“Chloe. That’s glue!”

“Don’t be such an idiot,” she said grabbing the bottle. She held it up at an angle to the light and tried to read the label. Then she toddled off to find her glasses. I could hear her swearing like a drunk sailor in the other room. She sheepishly returned. “Do you think that is the problem?”

I’m pretty sure it is, Chloe. The reason it slowed in the first place is that you had the motor switched to half speed. I suspect you then glued the moving parts together to make sure it never works again!”

“NOOOOOOO.” She howled. “NOT MY BAAABY. You have to save her,” she wailed in desperation. “Look I’ll give you two sugars, no, three. I’ll give you the whole bag. I’ve got loads!”

“Let me see what I can do Chloe. Now if you can get me four sheets of kitchen roll. Not one piece cut into four like last time, I’ll get to work.” I had seen she had not managed to get the top and bottom off so she could only have ‘glued’ the side needlebar assembly. Chloe shuffled off as quickly as a witch on bonfire night and I got down to work.

An hour later the New Home was stitching like new. I had taken the needlebar out and scraped every last bit of glue away. Then I had carefully reset the whole machine, including the half speed setting. I left with a large muddy pumpkin, a jar of blackberry jam, half a pot of oil, sorry, fabric glue, and yes, you guessed it, some sugar poured into a plastic Chinese take-away container (I knew I’d never get a whole bag). No mention of money was made or forthcoming. I did not have the guts to ask for any. Visions of the Polegate bank manager running for his life always stopped me from trying.

Chloe waved me away with the words. “I ‘ope I don’t see ya’ again luv’. Enjoy the pumpkin. I nicked it from the allotments the other night! Same as your marrows last time.” She howled with laughter and slammed the door.

I put my stolen goods on the passenger seat and pulled out of Honeycrag Close. Sweet Lord I love this job. No money, countless crazy customers, and the most life affirming, soul fulfilling way to grow old. I knew that as sure as the sun rises it would not be long before Crazy Chloe did something else stupid to her baby and I would be back!

Links to Alex Askaroff:

Website: https://sewalot.com/

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3pM7vLX

YouTube: https://bit.ly/3pQkInk

Thank you, Alex. A lovely story that made me chuckle. I‘m sure the readers will have laughed as well at Chloe’s antics.

Judith Barrow Author MA BA (Hons) Dip Dramahttps://judithbarrowblog.com/
https://twitter.com/judithbarrow77

https://www.facebook.com/judith.barrow.3
https://www.honno.co.uk/authors/b/judith-barrow/
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Judith-Barrow/e/B0043RZJV6

My Review of Advent by Jane Fraser #TuesdayBookBub #NetGalley

Book Description:

Winter, 1904, and feisty twenty-one-year old Ellen has been summoned back from her new life in Hoboken, New Jersey, to the family farm on windswept Gower, in a last bid to prevent the impending death of her alcoholic father. 

On her return, she finds the family in disarray.  Ailing William is gambling away large swathes of Thomas land; frustrated Eleanor is mourning the husband she once knew; and Ellen’s younger twin brothers face difficult choices.

Ellen, tasked with putting her family’s lives in order, finds herself battling one impossible decision after another.  Resourceful, passionate, and forthright, can she remain in Gower, where being female still brings with it so many limitations?  Can she endure being so close to her lost love?  Will she choose home and duty, or excitement and opportunity across the Atlantic?

My Review:

I loved this book for so many reasons. Jane Fraser’s writing style is superb; the story is a good one, the characters well rounded, the dialogue immediately summons up each of them, the descriptions evoke instant images.There is not one word wasted.

The protagonist, Ellen, is multi layered, the reader becomes aware of her fragility, both emotionally and physically as the story progresses. She has striven to distance herself from her family’s needs, from a lost love, by going to America – yet still,on her return to the farm, she is drawn in by those needs, by that love.

To paraphrase a sentence in the book, “long days, short time.’ – the story only covers a brief six months, but each day is long, each day needs to be endured, dealt with by Ellen. New decisions have to be made. And all the while we are listening to her internal dialogue: learning her history, of her relationship with those in her life, getting to know them through her eyes; discovering how each fits into the society and era of Wales in the early twentieth century, what is expected of them. How, in the past, through no fault of her own, she didn’t fit in, and now refuses to succumb to others’ expectations.

What I most admire about this author’s writing is the brevity of words in bringing the background, the setting, the weather, to life on the page. A sentence, here and there of poetic prose immediately evokes a sense of place. Wonderful.

Whilst I realise that, for some readers, there may be not enough background fleshed out – and it’s difficult for me not to give spoilers here( i.e. Ellen’s life before America and her life there) – I felt the subtlety of the writing that covers both of these events was enough for me and the absence of that backdrop doesn’t take anything away from the story.

Advent is a book that will stay with me for a long time. I have no hesitation in recommending it to any reader who loves a well written historical family story.

Links to buy:

Honno: http://bit.ly/3nUfXYa

Amzon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/2WNt8yn

To read more about Jane, please visit the interview she gave previously on my blog: http://bit.ly/3fxNPX4

My Time on Meet the Author: Judith Barrow With Michelle Whitham

Good evening my lovelies.  I hope you’re all well and finding plenty to amuse you and any children you may have during lockdown!  Today I’m delighted to welcome the lovely Judith Barrow on to my blog with a wonderful interview.  She’s is talking to us about writing as an escape, connecting with others through her love of walking, the hilarious tale of Mr & Mrs Wilson (don’t miss it!) and her most recent book, The Memory……

GENRE(S):

Cross Genres: Mainly Family Saga/ but also includes Historic Fiction/ Crime Fiction

TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF:

I’m originally from Saddleworth, a group of villages at the foot of the Pennines in the North of England but have lived in Pembrokeshire, Wales, for forty years with my family.

I have an MA in Creative Writing with Trinity College, a BA (Hons) in Literature with the Open University, a Diploma in Drama from Swansea University. I’ve had short stories, plays, reviews and articles, published throughout the British Isles and have won several poetry competitions. I’ve also completed three children’s books but done nothing with them as far as publishing goes.

I’m a Creative Writing tutor for Pembrokeshire County Council and I also hold private one-to-one creative writing workshops.

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START WRITING AND WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR IDEAS?

I’ve written since I was a child; it was a way to escape. My father was the head of the household; what he said was the rule. I didn’t always like it and hid in my writing.

HOW MANY BOOKS HAVE YOU WRITTEN AND PUBLISHED?

Three books (appallingly) written; never to see the light of day again! Five books, if we include this year’s one, so far, with Honno Press (https://www.honno.co.uk/): Pattern of Shadows, Changing Patterns and Living in the Shadows; a trilogy but also stand-alone books. The prequel to the trilogy, A Hundred Tiny Threads (written because the parents of the protagonist, Mary Haworth, Bill and Winifred, kept mithering me to tell their story). And, in March this year, Honno have published my most recent book, The Memory.

Different from the last four in that it’s more contemporary but still a family saga and written in two time-lines. I’ve also signed the contract with them for another book I’ve already written, which will be published in February 2021. There is another book that I Indie published in 2012, Silent Trauma: its fiction built on fact and a bit of a long story how this came about. It’s the story of Diethylstilboestrol; a drug; an artificial oestrogen, given to women, approximately between the years 1947 – 1975 in the UK, to prevent miscarriages. In short, I became involved in the charity because a relative of mine was affected by it. I was asked to write an article for their monthly magazine. After that, women began to contact me and the article turned into a story, then into a book. The charity was closed in the UK due to lack of funds and lack of interest by the British Government. I’d already had contact with many women and the charity in America: https://desaction.org/ through researching and getting quotes so, when the book was finished, I sent the manuscript to the committee of the charity. I needed to know that they approved of it, that it told their story honestly and that there was nothing in it that would offend or upset anyone. They answered and said I’d told the story as they wanted.

WHICH OF YOUR CHARACTERS WOULD YOU WANT TO BE STRANDED ON AN ISLAND WITH, AND WHY?

Mary Haworth, the protagonist of my Haworth trilogy. She’s strong-willed, so, whatever we’d need, whether it was food, water, some sort of shelter, or a boost to morale, I know I could rely on her. She makes the best of any situation and isn’t thwarted by obvious difficulties. She is tolerant, so would put up with any whinging (which no doubt I would do if too hot, too cold, hungry, thirsty, or bored). But can also be quite frightening when her temper’s up – so she would scare away any wild animals that threatened us. She’s an empathetic and good listener and can also tell a great story, which we would both need to help pass the time until we were rescued… hopefully by my husband who had missed me.

WHAT OTHER JOBS HAVE YOU DONE OTHER THAN BEING AN AUTHOR?

For years I worked in various departments of the Civil Service. But in my time as a stay-at-home mum with the children I had various part-time work: teaching swimming, hotel receptionist, cleaner on a caravan site, sewing slippers, making novelty cakes from home, working in a play school/nursery, working in a youth club. Would being on seven committees at various clubs (swimming, badminton, Scouts, Playgroup, PTA, athletics, gymnastics etc. etc.) that the children were involved in, be counted. I wonder? It felt like work at the time!

OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU ENJOY DOING?

Walking. I walk the Pembrokeshire coast with husband, David. There are a hundred and eighty-six miles of paths and we’ve covered a lot of them but only in stretches. Pembrokeshire is a glorious place to live. I sometimes write about the walks on my blog – and, through that, have made friends with many other walkers from all over the country who pass on their favourite places as well. And David takes the most stunning photographs (though he’s too modest to say so himself), so we always have memories to look back on when he uploads them onto the TV. And I have the most wonderful screen savers!

NAME ONE BOOK YOU THINK EVERYONE SHOULD READ AND TELL US WHY?

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King. As the write-up says: “Part memoir, part master class; a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft. It comprises the basic tools of the trade every writer must have”.  I couldn’t say it in a better way. This is a book I read a long time ago and it spurred me on when I was in the doldrums of the second book syndrome.

WHAT IS THE BEST THING YOU’VE DONE IN YOUR LIFE SO FAR?

Get married. I wrote a post about it; says it all! http://bit.ly/39h9ajW.

YOU WIN A MILLION POUNDS – YOU GIVE HALF TO CHARITY.  WHICH CHARITY DO YOU PICK AND WHY? WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITH THE REST OF THE MONEY?

A cancer charity because I was so well looked after when I had breast cancer and, also, because it’s affected many others in my family. I’d put money on one side and persuade my husband to hire a gardener (it’s an acre of land around the house and, though he wouldn’t agree, is too much for him). I’d have a cleaner so I wouldn’t have to do domestic trivia and could have more time to write. I’d give some money to the local animal rescue centre. (Can we get away with not counting that as a charity?) The rest of the money would be shared between my children and grandchildren.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE TIME TO WRITE, AND WHY?

I’m usually up at five because that’s when my brain works. I try to resist looking at any social media until I’ve put 1000 words on the page or when two hours has passed. If I don’t have any classes to run later I’ll carry on writing. Otherwise it’s time to start on the domestic trivia of the day and hope to get back to writing later. I always try to get an hour in at my desk in the late evening but, usually, that’s a mistake because if I get carried away I lose track of time and, before I know it, I’m almost catching up to the next day’s writing time. Hmm, does that make any sense at all? Perhaps I should say, I write until I stop! Anytime – but sometimes it turns out to be rubbish.

WHAT WAS THE STRANGEST, FUNNIEST, FULFILLING TIME OF YOUR LIFE THAT INSPIRED YOUR WRITING?

I have to say it was when we let the apartment attached to our home, as a holiday let during the summer months. Though hard work it provided me with a wealth of stories. People are a mystery to me most of the time. I’ve added one here:

The Naturists

 They must have been in their eighties. Mr and Mrs Wilson from Wigan

 Dilapidated car

 ‘Would you mind if we practiced our Tai Chi on the lawn?’

 I sense Husband’s alarm. When I glanced at him I saw he was breathing rapidly and his eyes were bulging a bit. But his ears were still their usual pink; bright redness is the usual signal of him being overly upset.

We’d had a couple who had stayed with us before and practised their judo on the front lawn. It had been quite entertaining until the man did his back in (or should I say his wife did his back in for him with a particular enthusiastic throw). They’d had to leave early with the man lying across the lowered back seat with his feet pointing towards the boot and surrounded by suitcases.  ‘Good job it’s an estate car’ Husband said in a casual way turning back to tend to his lawn where the husband had made a dent.

 I digress.

‘Tai Chi links deep breathing and relaxation with slow and gentle movements. See… ‘ the wife explained, taking in one long breath that made her nostrils flare alarmingly as, at the same time, she stretched out both arms. She felled Mr Wilson with one blow. I remember thinking at the time when her husband was smacked on the nose, that he should have known better than to stand so close. After all he must have realised she was going to demonstrate. ‘It’s a health-promoting form of exercise, Mrs Wilson said, cheerfully, as we all helped her husband back on his feet. ‘Sorry, love.’ She dusted him down. ‘It’s like a form of meditation, you know, exercises the whole of you, not just your body. Helps you to stay calm and gives you peace of mind, like.’

‘You didn’t do it right,’ Mr Wilson muttered.

 She ignored him. ‘We only took it up a month or two back,’ she said to us.

Husband carried their two small suitcases into the apartment, his shoulders shaking.

I clamped my teeth together. When I spoke I knew my voice was a couple of pitches higher than normal but there was nothing I could do about it.  ‘Is that all you’ve brought?’ I peered into the boot of the car.

‘Oh, yes, just the two bags. ‘Mrs Wilson linked her husband. ‘We travel light, don’t we Sidney?’

He nodded but said nothing.

There are two things I should mention at this point.

One, my mother was staying with us and her bedroom window looked out onto the front lawn.

 And two, we quickly discovered that this wobbly (no, I’ll rephrase that); this elderly couple were Naturists.

On the second morning after they’d arrived I drew back the curtains of my mother’s bedroom to see the two of them on the lawn, practicing their Tai Chi.  Despite their years their movements were graceful, there was no doubt about that. They moved forward in one continuous action, their hands held out in front of them.  But it wasn’t with admiration but in alarm that I watched them. Because they were completely naked. And I was standing side by side with my mother.

 It was when he turned towards the house and bent his knees and squatted that my mother made a choking noise and fell back onto the bed.

 Now I know this is totally out of context and misquoted (and I apologize wholeheartedly to Shakespeare) … but the words that sprang to mind when I gazed at him, were ‘…age shall not wither…

Well it was a very warm morning

Mum kept her curtains drawn for the rest of the week

AND FINALLY, TELL US ABOUT YOUR MOST RECENT BOOK AND WHERE WE CAN FIND IT?

Irene Hargreaves lives with her husband, Sam, and her mother, Lilian, who has dementia. It has, for a long time, been a difficult relationship between the two women and, over the last few years made worse by Irene’s mother’s illness. Irene is trapped by the love she has for Lillian which vies with the hatred she feels because of something she saw many years ago.

The book runs on two timelines: Irene’s life from the age of eight, after her sister, Rose, is born and her grandmother comes to live with the family, with flashbacks to happier times with Sam, and in present tense, over the last twenty-four hours when Irene knows she needs to make a decision.

The book. published 19th March 2020 by Honno>. Purchase here: Honno ~ Amazon

Where to find Judith online: Website ~ Blog ~ Twitter ~ Facebook

FINAL WORDS FROM CHELLE…

Thank you Judith for this wonderful interview.  I think we’ll all agree that the story of Mr & Mrs Wilson is quite hilarious – what a shock it must have been for your Mother!! I definitely think we can get away with not including the local animal rescue as a charity – I’d be donating my money them too.  A cancer charity is always a good cause that is close to so many people’s hearts and I’m glad that you were well looked after.

I’m also lucky enough to have been gifted with a copy of The Memory by Judith and Honno so keep an eye out as there will be a review up in the coming months! (Thank you Judith!).

I hope you’ve all had a good day and stayed in and safe.

Any comments for Judith, just drop us a comment or contact her using the links above.

Chelle x