A short story – Rocked Awake

Earthworm by Judy Darley
I’m chuffed to bits that my mini myth Rocked Awake has been published as part of Dear Damsels‘ nature theme.

In the story, a mother attempts to solve the riddle of why her baby daughter is usurped in her crib by wild flora and fauna. Nature’s clues lead her to a fresh interpretation of the changeling myth. 
Here’s a fragment from the centre of the tale:

This morning, it was an earthworm, fleshy and pale, curled into a shape like a shepherd’s crook.Sometimes it wasn’t even a creature that breathed – last week my daughter had been usurped by an acorn.

You can read my full story, and the other fabulous words published by Dear Damsels, here.

Pandemic prompt – more wine…

More Wine by Judy DarleyThis heartfelt plea on a pavement near my home caught my eye. As the lockdown continues, the parameters of our world narrow, along with our viewpoints on essential and non-essential items.

Could this post-it note provide the prompt for a story for our peculiar times, with a focus on our shifting priorities? Alternatively, use it as part of a found poem.

If you prefer, use this prompt to jump forward to when our country is run by the kids currently being homeschooled by day-drinkers.

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to judydarley(at)iCloud.com to let me know. With your permission, I may publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

Porto in five senses – touch

São Bento Railway Station by James Hainsworth

There’s more to see (and touch) at São Bento Railway Station than trains. By James Hainsworth

In February 2020, my hub and I spent a long weekend in Porto, little knowing that the coronavirus pandemic was about confine us for the most part to our own homes.

In this time, I believe it’s vital to recall the beautiful, wide and varied world that exists beyond our immediate locality, and with this in mind I’ve been sharing a five-part travel guide to Portugal’s second largest city.

Each Tuesday in lockdown I’ve posted a new travel guide to Porto focusing on a different sense, beginning with the most evocative – the sense of smell. Last week was all about the sounds that knit this city together.

Today I’ll guide you through this characterful town via the sense of touch.

Touch – the city walls

Porto is famed of its tiled edifices, one of the finest examples of which is the foyer of São Bento Railway Station (Praça de Almeida Garrett, 4000-069 Porto, Portugal).

Porto tiled boulder by Judy Darley

Even some of the boulders are tiled in Porto. By Judy Darley

I couldn’t help reaching out to run my fingers over the city’s ancient walls. This was before touching became a risk-seeker’s adrenalin sport, don’t forget. The moist atmosphere, which is part of the reason why so many buildings are tiled way and beyond our own bathroom tiling at home, ensures that any uncovered stones tend to sport lichen or lovely moss.

Porto craggy walls by Judy Darley

Stepping inside buildings such as Chocolateria Ecuador (Rua de Sá da Bandeira 637, 4000-437 Porto, Portugal) reveals the textural riches within, as well, in this case, the scent and flavour sensations.

Chocolateria Ecuador by James Hainsworth

Treat your sense of touch, taste and smell at Chocolateria Ecuador. By James Hainsworth

Plus, quite a few shops we visited have their own shop cat mewing out for a consensual stroke.

Porto shop cat by Judy Darley

Come on in to meet today’s special purr-chase. By Judy Darley

Explore Porto’s other sensory offerings

Porto in five senses – smell
Porto in five senses – taste
Porto in five senses – sight
Porto in five senses – hearing

A 75-word story – Other residents’ symptoms confine you

Perretts Park during lockdown by Judy DarleyMy 75-word story ‘Other residents’ symptoms confine you’ is the story of the day on the excellent Paragraph Planet.

I often use writing to soothe myself, and this small piece is a response to my worries about my dad, now confined to his room in his care home due to other residents’ Coronavirus symptoms, with no way of understanding why. It’s a situation that makes me feel powerless, so all I can do is wish him memories of tree branches and leaves, and transform his four-wall cell into a forest.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I’m writing rather a lot of Coronavirus fiction at the moment.

Stories published by Paragraph Planet are live for just 24 hours. In case you missed mine, here it is:

Other residents

Pandemic prompt – tap

Porto green tiles by Judy DarleyWe’re often reminded at the moment of the dangers of proximity and touch. The coronavirus can survive for a surprisingly long time on hard, shiny objects, which means an unwary touch could spell danger.

Imagine if the risks are not of falling ill, but falling in love. Perhaps a polished pebble passed between two strangers could result in instant friendship, or a hand wrapped around a contaminated railing* could give a careless passerby the ability to fly. Maybe a finger tapped against a tiled wall could mean hearing the thoughts of every person who trudged by in the past day or so.

There are endless possibilities. Where will your imagination lead you?

*Don’t try this anywhere but at home…

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to judydarley(at)iCloud.com to let me know. With your permission, I may publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

Porto in five senses – hearing

Seagulls above Porto Cathedral1 by James Hainsworth

Seagulls above Porto Cathedral by James Hainsworth

Late in February 2020, my hub and I flitted off for a long weekend in Porto. We had no way of guessing that within a couple of weeks we’d be in lockdown, confined to our homes.

Porto’s attractions may be closed for the foreseeable future, but I believe it’s more important now than ever to remember that a whole world exists beyond our immediate surroundings.

Each Tuesday in lockdown I’ve posted a new travel guide to Porto focusing on a different sense, beginning with the most evocative – the sense of smell. This week is all about the sounds that knit this city together.

Porto busker on Rua das Flores by Judy Darley

Busker on Rua das Flores, Porto, by Judy Darley

Hearing – Porto’s street musicians

While Fado, the Portuguese songs of lament, rolls out from a number of bars as well as part of a Cálem port tasting package, you can’t go wrong with a bit of busker-appreciation in Porto. The streets are peppered with musicians and singers; the more tourist-heavy the route, the more performers you’ll encounter. Even on a breezy day in very early March, people paused to listen to this musician on Rua das Flores.

Porto tram by Judy Darley

Porto tram by Judy Darley

There’s also plenty of ambient noise here – the whirr of approaching trams and the cry of seagulls choosing which monument to settle on are two that seem to sum up Porto’s romantic character.

Explore Porto’s other sensory offerings

Porto in five senses – smell
Porto in five senses – taste
Porto in five senses – sight
Porto in five senses – touch

Pure Slush invites bacon-inspired stories, poems and non-fiction

Windmill Hill City Farm pigs cr Judy Darley

Feeling pecking and inspired? Indie publisher Pure Slush is currently open to submissions for their 18th Volume, intriguingly titled The Tyranny of Bacon.

Submissions close on 10th May 2020.

They say: “Can you write a story or poem and include bacon somewhere? (…) We are looking for submissions that are original, tell us how bacon is part of people’s lives, or what life might be like without it … or anything about bacon!”

PLEASE NOTE: Endless diatribes about the good (and bad) qualities of bacon are not what they’re after.

Your submission must be:
• original story, poem or non-fiction
• 50 word minimum and 1000 words maximum

and somehow be about or include bacon!

Find more details here: pureslush.com/submissions/current-submissions/the-tyranny-of-bacon/  

Pandemic prompt – immortal

AC is immortal by Judy DarleyThe current lockdown has necessitated exploring a local walking routes in an attempt to retain sanity. Recently I wandered alongside a housing estate with the above graffiti.

Who could Anna Campbell be? If you look closely you’ll see that the original texted stated ‘Anna C. is dead’, with the word ‘dead’ painted out, perhaps by Anna herself, or a loyal friend, and replaced with ‘immortal.’

What’s the story behind this message and the change made to it? Is it a defiant shout-out or a warning?

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to judydarley(at)iCloud.com to let me know. With your permission, I may publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

Porto in five senses – sight

Torre Clerigos views by James HainsworthIn February 2020, my hub and I flew to Porto for a city-break. It’s difficult to imagine how easily we took that freedom for granted before the coronavirus spread into a global pandemic.

For a long time, I thought I’d wait until life goes ‘back to normal’ to publish my impressions of Porto, but I’ve realised how important it is to remember what an extraordinary world exists beyond the homes we’re now confined to.

Each Tuesday over the coming weeks I’ll post a new travel guide to Porto focusing on a different sense,

Two weeks ago I began our five-part journey with the sense of smell.

Last week we tucked into the sense of taste.

This week we’ll explore the sense of sight.

Torre Clerigos by James Hainsworth

Torre Clerigos by James Hainsworth

Sight – climbing high for panoramic views

You can’t beat a tower for views. Torre Clérigos’ lovely, spindly structure has been standing for more than 250 years, but only opened to the public in 2014 following a full renovation. The baroque tower is more than 75m high, with 225 steep winding steps that open up into narrow viewing platforms offering a 360° panorama of the city.

Torre Clerigos church by Judy Darley

Your entrance ticket includes a visit to the church, Igreja dos Clérigos, which is circled by walkways that take you up and up, with openings at all sides and levels to offer views of the church and all its treasures from every possible vantage point. There’s also a museum that includes the exhibition Passion, Journey of Shapes and Images of the Christ.

Torre Clerigos Christs exhibit by Judy Darley

A wall of Christ. Photo by Judy Darley

Reaching the top of the tower takes patience and persistence as there’s only room for one way traffic, which means everything comes to a halt whenever a tourist wants to go down. The steps are winding and uneven, so do be careful, and take your time.

Torre Clerigos by Judy Darley5

On the way up the winding stairs, narrow slits offer glimpses of Porto. Photo by Judy Darley

It’s well worth the spiralling pilgrimage, however. From the highest level you can view everything from the bridges and port houses to the nearby Livraria Lello bookshop (Livraria Lello, S.A. Rua das Carmelitas, 144 4050-161 Porto Portugal), credited with inspiring JK Rowling while she was writing Harry Potter. We decided to pop in (which required more patience and persistence than the tower!), after we’d drunk our fill of the sights from Torre Clérigos.

Torre Clerigos by Judy Darley1

The serpentine queues waiting to enter Livraria Lello are nothing compared to the crush within, where people edge toe to heel with one another through the glorious space where books look on in wonder (I assume). Think the exact opposite of social distancing and you might be able to envision the intensity of the crowds.

Livraria Lello by Judy Darley

Livraria Lello – one of the world’s most beautiful bookshops, even without the Harry Potter fame. Photo by Judy Darley

Explore Porto’s sensory offerings

Porto in five senses – smell
Porto in five senses – taste
Porto in five senses – hearing
Porto in five senses – touch

Enter The Rialto’s Nature and Place Poetry Competition

Dragonfly nymph by Judy DarleyThe Rialto is inviting you to send in your nature and place-inspired poetry for their competition celebrating the natural world. With our personal universes shrunken to the spaces within walking distance of our homes, wildlife has begun to gradually take back the streets, making this the perfect topic for our peculiar times.

What have you glimpsed in your pond, on your windowsill, in the places for the most part now vacated by humans?

The deadline for entries is Friday 1st May 2020.

Hosted by The Rialto in association with the RSPB, BirdLife International and the Cambridge Conservation Initiative, the competition will be judged by Pascale Petit, whose seventh collection, Mama Amazonica (Bloodaxe, 2017), won the Royal Society of Literature’s Ondaatje Prize 2018 – the first time a poetry book won this prize for a work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry best evoking the spirit of a place.

Nature and Place Poetry Competition Prizes

1st prize – £1000
2nd prize – £500
3rd prize – £250

Once the current pandemic restrictions are lifted, one entrant will receive a personal tour with celebrated nature-writer Mark Cocker of his most cherished wildlife places in East Anglia.

How to submit your poems

You can submit up to six poems in one batch. The entry fee for the first poem is £7 (including an administration fee). The fee for each subsequent poem in the batch is £4.

If you wish to submit more than six poems you will need to make a second submission, which will include a second administration fee.

Find full details of how to enter here.

Got an event, challenge, competition or call for submissions you’d like to draw my attention to? Send me an email at judydarley(at)iCloud(dot)com