Fiction: Pancake Day

February 2016 Blog Challenge: Blog 9 of 29

As a child I was happy to create stories and loved the escapism that they offered.  As an adult, I have now returned to the fiction form and have embarked on writing my first novel (of a trilogy). It is a blend of semi auto-biographical and fantastical elements, which feels to me like arranging a giant patch work quilt of my life: There are some favourite scraps of my own old clothes, which I am adding to, embellishing and turning into a brand new pattern.

Part of my blog challenge this month is to boost the content of this first fiction book.  Each excerpt, which will stand alone on this blog – will eventually be woven into the larger fabric of my book design.

Shrove Tuesday – Pancake Day

pancakes

That year of 1974, on the Sunday before Pancake Day, Ariel was skulking in her bedroom because she sensed that Mariel would be manifesting very soon. She’d crammed all her chores in to Saturday: laying the fire, scrubbing the kitchen and digging over the vegetable patch – all with such thoroughness and willingness that she would be left alone and unquestioned by her mother, and ready for when her Tutor came quietly to call.

With spring approaching and lighter nights lengthening, they spent much of their time together gazing at, and learning about the moon, and its mysterious influences. As a student in the craft of flying, moonlit nights were perfect for practise, for she could clearly see and learn the landmarks that she needed to navigate by.

When learning her lunar lore, Ariel, who rarely remembered numerical concepts, knew that Shrove Tuesday can fall anywhere between 3 February and 9 March, since it is exactly 47 days before the moveable feast of Easter Sunday, in turn determined by the timing of the current moon cycles.

More importantly to an impatient teenager, it was – for her – the day that started the slow tick down to Easter and her very next stay in Tregorwith Castle.

Now, with lunch out of the way, she dozed while she waited for Mariel to appear. She slept easily as all her chores had made her tired and especially too, since if they were to fly then she would need all her energy. She also did this because Mariel always liked to arrive by stealth and surprise. Ariel would always sense intuitively that Mariel was on her way, but could never expect her – instead Mariel would manifest suddenly at what she deemed to be the least expected moment. Her explanation was, that this unexpected element of surprise kept her movements secretive, safe and untraceable; yet Ariel suspected that her mentor did it more because she liked to keep her student on her toes, and not least because she always loved to make the most dramatic appearance possible.

Ariel could always see the smug satisfaction gained when she would turn around and find that Mariel had momentarily manifested and was smirking behind her, especially if she had made her jump with shock. Today though, she simply felt Mariel’s presence, sweetly through her slight sleep and she opened her eyes to see her feathered friend, fanning her awake, with the whisper of her wings.

“So, my sleepy sylph, wake up – it is time to Shrive” said Mariel. “To what..?” Ariel replied, sitting up and yawning. “To shrive, to absolve, then to resolve and release.” “Oh”, thought Ariel, “it’s going to be one of those lessons…”

“In order to fly” Mariel continued, “we have to think airily and eat lightly. You know already that in the hours before a long flight you must only eat the lightest of meals – in order that you are nourished enough to sustain yourself, but not weighed down by food and fat.”

Ariel’s mind wondered off to an advertisement she’d recently seen on Television, where a beautiful slim woman, ate airy, delicious, bread and was able to float easily away over a beautiful landscape in a sumptuous hot air balloon. She was slim and could float away because she was dieting, but for all that, she could still eat this special bread. Ariel’s mother, typically, would not buy the slimmer’s bread for her, since it was nearly twice the cost of their normal white sliced loaf… Of course Ariel couldn’t counter argue that she needed the slimmer’s bread so she could fly, so she just coveted it with a quiet pout, instead.

Mariel raised her voice to distract Ariel out of her floating thoughts: “So as we eat lightly, so also must we think lightly. For if we have heavy thoughts, then we are weighed down by woe and will not be able to navigate our flying journeys with the necessary elegance and ease. As we come to this point in the moon’s cycle then, starting our preparations for the approach of Easter, it is time to Shrive. To do this perfectly, you must let go of the dark words in your mind, of your fears, and of your cares. You can do this by confiding in me, my child. And you may confess your darkness’s to others too, but be careful as to who; for your confidences can be turned into curses if they are given into the wrong hands.

So tell me now what ails you; tell me what worries you; tell me what you are scared of; tell me of all that is wrong with your world.”

Ariel suddenly felt silently shy and dry of words. She was not used to revealing her thoughts to Mariel. She was used, instead to receiving Mariel’s lessons and her endless wisdoms, but not to share the cares of her mundane, earth bound world.

“I see this has silenced you, my sweet student, so let me ask you, gently and carefully – what was the last thing that you were afraid of?”

Ariel’s mind shot back to the bullies at school and soon she shared her secret tears and stories. More quiet questions from Mariel then came, and more answers Ariel returned. She spoke of the hardness of her mother, of their lack of money, how her mother would complain about her father and kept him firmly out of their lives. She cried and sniffed her way through her wandering woes.

Mariel next said, “So – now say to me of what is wonderful in your world. Tell me your blessings, and tell me all the things that you could ever be grateful for.”

Ariel hesitated and so Mariel said “how about your father – tell me about him.” And so Ariel spoke of Charles and she loved to be with him and all her Cornish family. And on, Mariel questioned through all the sweet areas of Ariel’s life in turn. They spoke of Tregorwith, of her favourite dress, of her dolls, her best friend and more besides.

“Now,” said Mariel “sense how you feel. Are you heavier or lighter in mind and heart?”

“I’m much lighter of course” Ariel smiled back, happily.

“Wonderful my little one, you are absolved. Your cares are let go and so today you will fly easy. But our conversation today cannot cure all these cares alone. To remember the importance of lightness, you must now lean into Lent. You know that in the Christian way, many give up sweets and treats for 40 days. For us this is critical in another way. You have to be lean and light to fly, so for Lent we will spare ourselves the sweets and the treats, so that we can fly light in every way too.

It’s not enough to do this jettisoning on one Lenten day when you have me near, so you must also leave out food treats, in the Emissarriat way, for the length of the 40 days of Lent. This will train you even more to be light of body. It will also remind you, every one of those 40 days, to remain light of heart. Keep this practice, in all the years that you are able to fly through life.

Know too, that your cares can return, so I have this gift for you.” She handed Ariel a small journal, covered in leather, embossed with golden entwining flowers. “This your journal. Keep it close. It is not created to record your cares – but to let them go and so to celebrate the wonders of your world. In it, write down your stories, and scribe out the things that you love. Tell too in these pages, waiting for you, of the things that you would love to be. Set down your dreams and all your airy plans.”

“Thank you. It’s so beautiful” said Ariel. “But my mother will find it, I know she will, she will find it and pry and poke fun at me. She’ll laugh at my dreams. She always does.”

“Look at your book” Mariel replied. “Look at the lock there. Here it’s tiny matching key”. I’ve set some magic over it. Keep it safe – out of sight, and these dreams and schemes, she shall not see.”

All’s well Ariel, so let’s fly, lightly, now.”

Ariel hid the journal under her bed and suddenly they were out in the skies. Mariel took her by the hand and raced her upwards through the flying, rushing world. They soon came to a village and hovered over a Pancake Race, taking place in a field below. Men dressed up as frowsy housewives, with floral aprons and scarves round their head, ran clumsily round a race track, tossing pancakes heavily, as they went. They looked so funny, with their male socks and shoes all at odds with their female garb. Ariel and Mariel laughed along with the crowd of friends and family.

Mariel whorled them round the world, swiftly, to stare at a series of Shrove spectacles. There were feasts and carnivals, fancy dress and bell tolling prayers. Ariel marveled at the speed that she was whisked around the globe, sometimes barely glancing at the happenings below. They spanned through Shrove days, through days of the week, through rushing wind and warm air. Round and through, up and along. Ariel was taken by the hand and swept along with the easy flight of Mariel’s magnificent wings. She beat her own wings barely for practice and to steady herself along the way.

Then suddenly they were back to Sunday. Back in her bland urban home. Landed in the bedroom above her mother’s suburban head.

“Happy Shrove Time” Mariel said. “Enjoy your pancakes on Tuesday, for that will be your final feast before you lighten for Lent. Remember to keep the writings in your journal light too. Show it to me again..?”

Ariel reached under the bed to pull the precious book out and of course when she turned back to reveal it, her tutor had flown and gone.

She looked down at the gorgeous book gift, then held it up to her nose to smell the fine leather. Next she fitted the tiny golden key into the lock and turned it with the sweetest, most satisfying click. She smoothed her fingers over the heavy, cool, cream coloured pages inside, turning them to gently flatten them against the stiff spine, to ready them for writing.

Ariel reached for a pen from her school bag and started to write. She wrote of the colourful sights she had seen that day and how they had taken flight seeing Shrove spectacles across Europe.

She wrote of the things that she had to look forward – to seeing her father and visiting Tregorwith.

She wrote that although her mother did not make cakes and soups and other such complicated things, she always made pancakes for them on Pancake Day.

And on Tuesday evening, there she was, sitting waiting at the table. He mother stood at the cooker and the pancakes come straight off the pan on to Ariel’s plate. Her mother handed her the plastic lemon, so she could squeeze the sharp juice from it and then she unrolled the sugar bag, dipped a clean teaspoon in to it and sprinkled her annual treat, daintily and thoroughly. Her mother then cooked her own pancake and embellished and gobbled it in the same way, until they had happily eaten 3 pancakes each.

So she had Shrove-feasted and now it was time to lighten for Lent. Much to her mother’s annoyance Ariel easily gave up puddings, despite being offered them nearly every evening for the next 40 days.

“You’re a strange one” her mother would say. “There’s no need to starve yourself. I went through the war and would have been glad of even half the food you turn your nose up at now.”

“But Mother,” Mariel thought “you can’t fly…”

~ Sandra Peachey

PS: This blog post is a fiction and yet I also write about my own experiences.  In fact a collection of my ‘Peachey Letters’ have been gathered together in to a beautiful book, exploring all the facets of my ‘real’ life in all its’ badness, banality and beauty. This is love seen in every aspect of the life that I live.  In it you will find the dark and the light of love, in a way that will make you think, entertain you and let you know that you are not alone in life, what ever it holds for you… It is of course the perfect Valentine gift. You can buy ‘Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life’ by Sandra Peachey, from book websites any where in the world, including on Amazon (in both Paperback and Kindle)

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