My very first doll I ever selected for myself, was … in today’s perspective … very un-PC. I was five or younger when I chose it. From our dairy farm in Whangarata, in the Waikato, the family went on a day trip to Auckland. It may have coincided with a visit to my mother aunt, Aunty Raynee – I’m not sure. But it coincided with a visit to Farmers, then known as Farmers Trading Store, in the main street of the big city. Farmers was known for its size (multi-storey) and the vast range of products. More importantly to us children, it was known for its extravagant children’s department, which had an entire floor for kids, including a playground.

More significant to us that day was the toy department. So many aisles of toy shelves! And…dolls! They were not the adult reach height of modern stores. All were only the height of a child’s eyes, and the top shelf sloped in layers stepping up higher towards the rear, allowing the dolls to sit each one behind the other, clearly visible to any child. Each different model of doll had its own section, clearly demarked from its neighbours, and overhead was the sign naming the type of doll.  We two children strolled back and forth along the aisle in front of the dolls, until we’d chosen the dill we wanted.

My choice was a little baby doll, dressed in a

"Nigger" doll as sold in the 50s
My choice was not dressed as this is. Image found via Google search

 blue-and-white domed fastened shirt, and a pair of blue overalls. His head was black and tightly curled, his skin was brown, and his lips were pink. On arriving home with my new doll, Mum (Dad?) asked me what I was going to name him. A redundant question to me – the store had his name well displayed, and no new name was needed, I thought. “He’s got a name. Nigger.” I remember saying it in a very determined voice.

No one suggested that was not appropriate, so Nigger he remained – for thirty years. I knitted him (garter stitch) a pink tee-shaped pullover, a pair of knickers, and a cap. I kept him with me when at age eighteen I left home to attend teachers’ college. He came with me when I married, and when my new family moved to Huntly (NZ’s then new power station town) he came too. He’d aged in colour, but still sat on the top shelf of my wardrobe. Between 1980 and 1986 he had to go for repairs – his rubber bands in the joints had given up. Sadly, the woman who replaced the rubber bands used too tight a band, and the tension was too much. The body part cracked at the neck joint. When it came back from that repair she’d not been able match the colour of his skin, and eventually broke again, this time beyond repair. Putting Nigger into the garbage was heart-breaking!

Many years later, Mum took up doll making. Hers were china dolls, for which she sewed and stuffed the body, affixing the head, arms and legs. Being one who’d sewed, knitted, stitched smocking and tatted lace for baby clothes, she clothed each doll herself. No store-bought ready-made clothes for these babies. Each was displayed in her lounge, and on the guest beds or dressing tables.

One we had was her very first china doll, which she had over-glazed. Another was one she made for our daughter, and dressed in a beautiful long frock to match a dress-up frock one she’d made for my daughter from a bridesmaid’s dress we’d found in the gutter outside our house while on a walk together. I so wish I had a photograph of the two girls together!

Composed for the self-imposed ABC for 2018 challenge, the ‘D’ prompt

D – ABC for 2018 Challenge Call

Again …. late in posting. d-image
But, here it is…

Suggestions? a “D’uh!” moment, Dialogue, a Day in the life of …, Doubt, Deluge, Drums (rock with that), Drama, Dogs … you get the idea.

The letter starter should have been posted on February 12th, and due by February 25th. But, as you know by now, I’ve not kept to my own schedule.
So, all I ask is, write a post – a poem, a short story, an opinion piece – on any topic that comes to you to match the letter of the moment, and have it “live” by March 19th (a fortnight away.)

Comments and ping-backs to your own post are welcome. have fun

Conjuring Up Ideas…

ConjurerAKA – using imagination to find inspiration; is that not a feeble link between the Daily Prompt and my own self-set blogging challenge?

Where do my writing ideas pop out from? They’re conjured up from my imagination, or a memory, or an attempt to recall a vivid dream,.

It’s not a matter of, like the traditional image of a modern conjuror, waving a black stick with a white tip over an upturned collapsible top hat (until Penn & Teller do their thing – revealing the ‘secret’). Nor is it the steaming black iron kettle, billowing clouds of vapours from the weird ingredients in the stew/broth, with wizened women circling it while chanting mystical words.

It’s… points noted, a process of sifting and sorting words, phrases, sentences, conversations, scenes, action… Anything which I can put together to build a story filled with realistically lively and memorable characters and moments.

Moments – they’re all I’m ready for yet. Oh, I’ve tried to get a book-length work or two finished. I’ve done the NaNoWriMo thing – many times. Never finished a novel length piece yet.

There’s always “something” wrong, or at least, “not right” as it develops: Things missing, overworked, unrealistic, mismatched, POV failed… What’s missing may be a link between scenes, a character trait, “showing”, a plot point, a character motive… Overworked dialogue, or description, or backstory… Unrealistic dialogue from an established character, or the setting’s “off” for the tale’s period, the setting doesn’t suit the genre… Mismatched tenses, dialogue, character names to characteristics… POV fails as I mind hop, as I change from third person to omniscient, or selecting first person,– the most innocently challenging POV I’ve come up against – then realising he can’t know everything.

Conjuring up writing ideas is the easy part. Writing a work to completion is, for me, the tough part. Which is why I’m glad I have people who willingly critique foe me – no holds barred.

This post is to fulfill my self-imposed challenge, and that of a WordPress Daily Prompt.

ABC for 2018 – C (late)

Hoh, boy, am I late…C-images
But then again,  it’s never too late, and it’s better late than never, right?
If I’d kept to my own schedule, this challenge I’m setting for myself (and anyone who wants to take it up) would have been posted wa-a-a-ay back on January 16th!

Take the letter of the challenge, and write a post based on your own word starting with it, and have it “live” in two weeks’ time.

Comments and pingbacks welcome!

(Shoulda been by January 29! Sorry)



Blue Blanket

originally titled ‘Mwanamke na Blanketi Bluu’ –
– Woman with Blue Blanket

Resignation – that’s her expression; maybe some anger or bitterness, as she’s every cause to be so.

Woman with Blue Blanket

     Walk to the aid camp, Siti. Take your family away from this dreadful place. Soldiers raiding at night. Thieves who break in to steal anything you own that they can sell. Paying for water – with what I ask? You don’t want to sell your body for a ration of grain, like some other women do, do you? And your children are getting more sickly every day. This is a dirty place.

The aid camp will be clean. The water is clean. You will be able to rest at nights, instead of, like me, sitting awake with an old chair leg to hit anyone who breaks in. Oh, I know you do – I can see through the cracks in the walls between our houses. You have a hoe as well. Me, I’ve got my dead husband’s shovel, hidden under my mattress on the floor. You should put that hoe where no-one can see it, or they’ll come after that as well.

But tonight, you take your children and you start walking. Follow the stars of the Jackal. Hide during day-time. Climb over the hills of the Dead Forest and you’ll see the aid camp from the crest of the mountain ridge. Take some water with you, and these – these flat-cakes I’ve made for you all. No, I can’t come with you – my foot is too swollen to walk. Besides, there is only me. You have two beautiful children who need to get away from here. Go tonight. I’ll bring you a spare blanket to tie things into. I’ll come after the sun goes down. Until then, goodbye, my sister.

     So, Siti walked; she slipped out of the battered and burned out village, heading away from the soldiers who camped or squatted in houses at the edge of town. This detour meant she had to circle wide around the village to be heading in the right direction. There was no moon, but the starlit sky readily showed her the guiding stars. Her boy of ten years walked beside her, carrying the baby sister in a sling across his back, and a bag of small things important to little boys in one hand. His Mama had at first scolded him for wanting toys, but he had insisted there were no toys, only “helpful things, Mama”. So she did not ask Issa again.

On her back was the bulk of the blanket slung over her shoulder. In it was a water skin, a small bag of strips of dried goat meat, a crinkled and bent tea tin, inside which were a dozen flat-cakes. There was a spare blanket – blue, and small, for the children to share. Siti had found some soft wire – she would use it to tie the corners of blankets to the skeleton of a tree to make shade for the day. How glad Siti was that her good friend had given her a blanket the colour of the desert – it would help them in hiding if soldiers on patrol drove past on the roadway. Though she stayed an hour’s walk from the road, it also headed in the direction she wanted – no, needed to travel.

After three days, her son was becoming weary. His eyes were beginning to lose their sparkle of mischief and good health. He began having to put baby sister down and rush off to pass a motion and bury it – and in a hurry too. He had what the white nurse had called ‘diarrhea’, and she knew as yet, there was nothing to be done. Issa was ashamed to talk to his Mama about what his body was doing to him.

By the ninth day, although she had been rationing the water carefully, Siti realised she would have to do without more than one small drink a day. The flat-cakes and goat meat were still in good supply, so careful had she been to make sure Issa had a fair share but no more. But she became worried when she found green and black marks on the flat-cakes one day. After eating one each, and baby vomiting it a few hours later, Siti knew they would have to be discarded. She buried them, and they moved on after bundling their meagre belongings into the blanket slings. She did not see Issa dig up the flat-cakes and hide them in his bag.

Travelling at night, and resting by day, Siti often fell to sleep in the heat and fatigue. One day she woke to find Issa was missing. She gazed towards the roadway. In the distance, a convoy of green army trucks was kicking up a storm of dust as they roared away from the hills, back towards her village. She lay back against the trunk of their sheltering tree, and wondered if it would be wise to go search for her Issa. Then he was beside her, coming from a side direction. His face was beaming with delight.

“Look, Mama, I have bought us some more water!” and he showed her a shiny narrow oblong tin, with a screw-cap on the top corner. He unscrewed the cap, and poured a cupful into the half-gourd cup she carried. “The soldiers on the road. They are not bad men like in the village. They are white men, from another country. I sold them something for the water.”

“And what did you have to sell, my young Issa?”

“The silver frame of Grandfather’s photograph. The picture of him in the army. The white soldier liked it, and said it would pay for a can of water. Did I do right, Mama?”

“Yes, Issa. That frame would have bought ten cans of water, but right now we did only need one. You did well Mr Ten Years,” and Siti smiled at him.

That night they resumed their march. They reached the foot of the Dead Forest hills by sunrise. Siti decided to climb her way up the hills, to shelter from view in the gullies and clefts of the ridge. This meant they could stay nearer the road, which at the top of the ridge crossed into a country where the bad men from her village would not be allowed to cross. Then she could go to the aid camp.

They ate goat meat strips – supply of which was greatly reduced. They were down to only two a day each. But they had water. Issa still had flat-cakes. Surreptitiously he ate one and another, so he could refuse one strip of dried meat and not be hungry.

Siti used small boulders to anchor corners of the blanket on the gully sides, and they settled for the day’s rest. Issa’s  stomach grumbled and growled.

“See, Issa, you should have had another strip of goat. You are hungry now!”

“No, Mama, I am alright. Thank you.”

As Siti and baby dozed, he felt stomach pangs of pain, so hurtful they made him draw his knees up to his chest to try to make some comfort. Suddenly he knew he had to get away from their little shelter, as his bowels were churning like aunty’s old cake mixer. He ran up the gully’s side, away from the family, away from the road they were walking parallel to. He quickly found a scoop-shaped piece old tree branch, and started to make a hollow. He squatted, and relieved himself – although his stomach still shot pains through him. He stayed crouching for a long while, as the black mess kept coming. Eventually it stopped. He was able to reach some dry grasses to clean himself. Then he covered over his signs, and threw away the scoop he’d used. He weakly walked further from the place, wanting to gather handfuls of dusty sand to rub over his hands to clean them more.

As he walked, rubbing clean his hands, his head spinning with illness, he did not see where his feet were taking him. He screamed in fright as he dropped over the edge of a split in the ground, deep into a cleft. His neck snapped as he bounced against the sides. Issa died before he hit the bottom of the shaft.

Siti awoke with a start, unsure of what had woken her. There was baby, curled up against her, sucking on a corner of the blanket. Her Issa was … not around. She stood, and called his name. Her voice echoed through the gully. She saw footsteps imprinted in the sand and dirt, so she followed them. She came to the place at which he’d relieved himself. Her nose wrinkled at the smell of sickness he’d not been able to completely cover. Siti used her hands to throw more dirt over his place.

Now his trail led her further on. She could see where he’d scooped up handfuls of dust. She could see his footsteps … and the edge of a small chasm–where they stopped. With her heart pounding inside, Siti called his name softly as she carefully approached the edge, Peering down, she saw him – and knew he was dead.

She could not stay to give Issa a proper mourning. Siti said her prayer to the gods as she lugged dead branches and dropped them to cover his body. They would perhaps hamper any jackal or hyena trying to tear his body into mouthfuls. She dragged small bushes out of the ground, and threw them down as well. These she hoped would stop bad soldiers from seeing his body, and going to it to check his pockets and strip his clothes. She picked up a few sticks, and swept away as many signs of her work as she could. The ground looked rough, but breezes would soften it. She swept away their footprints as she returned to the baby.

Exhausted as Siti was after such dreadful work in such dreadful heat, she took two cups of water, knowing her Issa would expect them to now drink his share. She poured a third cup for baby. As she screwed back the cap, she felt the can was much lighter than it should be. She shook it. It sloshed more than usual. Siti unscrewed the lid again, and adjusting the angle to let in sunlight and still allow herself to see. She found the can was now only a third full. How?

A glance at the place where the can had been sitting told her. The can’s seal at the bottom had been leaking for who knew how long. The ground on which it had been sitting was soaked by its constant dribble. At this point, Siti became as close to weeping as ever she had. But Siti was resolute. Having begun the trek to find aid, she would not insult her Issa by giving up.

She looked through his little bag. There were the paper wrapped flat-cakes! Aowe! He had been eating the dirty food to let the good food last! Now the tears came, sliding down her cheeks, as she gasped for breath, trying to smother her sounds to avoid upsetting the baby girl.
Looking again into the bag she found he had prepared well to help her. Three small value coins – not worth a lot, but they would buy something. Her enamel brooch. Ordinarily Siti would be angry to discover he had taken it. But when the bad soldiers had come to their poor house and ransacked it for furniture and anything of value, Issa must have snatched out the brooch before they could find it and take her small yawa wood box.

Now paper, folded and creased together. The edges had become roughened a little, bouncing around in the bag. Siti unfolded them. Issa, so young, so sensible for his years. He had found their official papers, and had been carrying her marriage registration with her birth-date on it, his own birth registration, his baby sister’s; the papers that showed Siti owned their house with no debt. And ,so useful right at this moment, she found a half packet of “chew gum” he had been thrown by one of the bad men in the village.

Siti knew she could use it. After chewing it until it was sticky and pliable, she stuck it onto the end of a small stick, propped the water can so the leaky spot was not in the water but above it and waited a while as the drops ran from the hole. She used the stick to push the gum into the can and cover the leak. She was not sure whether the water would lift the gum, but she had to try. So she would not pull away the carefully placed gum when she pulled away the stick, she reached in with her finger tips and snapped the stick off, just as far below the lid as she could.  With the lid screwed back on, she propped it up on a branch over head, and watched it for a while – long enough to see she had successfully mended it.

Siti packed up their shelter, and began climbing the mountains, letting herself head closer to the roadway – which would lead her to the border. Now having to carry baby as well as their bundle of belongings, Siti found it hard going. But, for her Issa’s spirit, she did not give up. She was determined to be at the border by sunrise.

At the aid camp, baby was put into a hospital tent, on a liquid drip feed. She, Mama, was examined and declared healthy enough to be allowed to stay at her baby’s side. The aid camp brought around two meals every day. In the morning, a porridge, with added fruits Siti did not know, but they tasted good. As the dusk gathered, the second meal – a bowl of vegetable and grain stew, with fresh flat-bread.

And all through the day, anyone could go to the tent where the aid workers distributed drinks. Water – never rationed. Milk for children – Issa would have enjoyed that. Hot tea, with lemon, sugar or milk – whichever one wished for. She would carry her tea back to baby’s tent, and quietly sit outside it with her children’s blue blanket as a shawl, gazing back at the Dead Forest ranges. Siti would think of her Issa, and how close he had come to this place of safety, how much he had done without her knowing.

Siti would let herself feel angry, how her home nation had let down its people so badly.

Although the original title is Swahili, this story was in no way written to reflect badly on any particular African nation or its problems. Refugee awareness was of the time — if not of the action.
The photograph credits will be attributed as soon as I recover the data. At the moment, I believe it was captured by a National Geographic artist/reporter

This post was created from a story written in 2011, as the ‘B’ exercise in my self-set blogging challenge – ABC for 2018. Comments, RePosts, PingBacks to your own ‘B’ post are all welcome. Thank you

© Lynne R McAnulty-Street, Rotorua NZ, 2011

memory lane

Memories flood back to me
on gusts of wind and gentle breezes.
I follow the lane of my early childhood days,
between tall, close windbreak trees
which provided welcome summer shade.
Away down there at the end of the lane,
on the right hand side, was our farm gate.

In summer’s school afternoons,
I would climb to stand on its lowest rail,
my arms over the top, and stand there
as my sister unlatched it and passed through.
Me, I’d wait till it was latched again,
enjoying the breeze in my hair,
as I’d stare at the view,
and climb over when I was ready.

I see the line of trees up the left side
of the gravelly drive. So old their trunks
had grown through the Number Eight.
One, fallen an age ago, bare of its bark and branches,
pulled down the wire fence it lay on.

The milk stand sat in front of the fallen trunk.
We would pass it as we wandered
up the gravelly drive to the farmhouse.

To the right was a slippery grass covered bank
down to the creek which separated
the horses’ paddock from the rest of the farm.
We stuck to the drive, or walked on its left.

The farmhouse, nestled behind a gated hedge,
its verandah, never sat on.,
its front door never approached.

We all used the side gate in the picket fence,
crossed the sea of concrete,
and came to the back door after stepping up
onto the quarter-circle porch, all painted red.

The building opposite the house–four areas in one.
The farm workers’ quarters–one room,
filled with the junk by previous owners.
The wash-house–its copper, two concrete tubs, and its mangle.
The tool shed–full of hand tools, gardening tools, and poisons.
The last, entered around the corner
out of sight from the windows–the out-house real,
with its purple squares of apple wrappers on a hook,
its candles waxed onto the dwangs,
spare torch batteries for the night’s walk,
and its broad, solid timber seat with that dire hole

ABC Challenge for 2018 – B

Choose any theme, subject or topic you like, to match each letter posted each fortnight.

Ideas for ‘B”?

Brass, Biography, Brothers, Babies, Bores, Bands, “BarStewards”, Bars… but don’t feel restricted to these suggestions.

All I’d love to see, is the First letter in your post titles being the letter for the fortnight. Doable?

Publish your post for the current letter by January 28th, please.
Leave a link to you post in the comments below, and a “Ping-Back” to this post.