The Girl Who Floats Up Hills

Couple Embracing

Simon doesn’t do heat, and he doesn’t do hills. He comes from the Marshes in Southern England, where it’s cool and damp and you can see for miles. So how he found himself in the centre of Lisbon, walking up a steep incline in the midday sun, is a mystery to him.

Simon spies a shady spot up ahead where two tall buildings are closing in on each other, squashing the shadows between them. He thinks if he can make it to the shade he’ll be fine.  He’s starting to sweat, and mosquitoes are crowding round him like a personal entourage.  He doesn’t mind, though, they remind him of home.

As he pauses for breath, Simon notices a girl on the other side of the tram tracks. She smiles at him and calls out, ‘American?’

Simon, who thought his mid-length trousers and navy blue t-shirt made him look quintessentially English, is a little put out. ‘English,’ he says, frowning.

The girl smiles and skips over the tram tracks towards him, her flower print dress fluttering around her knees like a thousand butterflies. Simon tries to return the smile, but it’s more of a grimace as he’s still panting from his short walk.

‘You should have taken the tram,’ the girl says. She sounds almost American, but Simon detects an accent hiding in the elongated vowels. ‘Then you wouldn’t have to puff and huff.’

‘Huff and puff,’ Simon says, in between huffs and puffs.

‘Excuse me?’

‘We huff first, then we puff,’ he explains. He holds out his hand, ‘Simon.’

‘Adelina,’ says the girl, but she doesn’t take the sweaty palm Simon offers. ‘Thank you, Simon, I will try to remember to huff first. But you should have taken the tram. I don’t think you will make it to the top.’

‘The tram looked hot and crowded,’ Simon explains. ‘And at the hotel they told me to watch out for pickpockets – especially on Electrico 28. Anyway, I’m fine, I’m fitter than I look. I’ll make it.’

Simon pushes on up the hill, he turns once to see if the girl is following, but she’s just watching him, an amused look on her face. Simon’s legs are pumping like pistons, his heart is bursting out of his chest, and the sweat marks under his arms have joined together, turning his t-shirt almost black. It is only the thought of Adelina’s mocking that keeps him going.

When he reaches the shady part of the route he leans against a dilapidated graffiti-laden wall, the plaster crumbling on contact and falling to the ground in a blizzard of flakes. Adelina laughs and runs effortlessly up the path towards him. It’s as if she’s floating on a breeze, only there is no breeze, just muggy oppressive heat.

‘Half the way there, Simon,’ she says and claps her hands.

Simon looks up and sees that Adelina is right. On two counts. He is only halfway there, and there’s no way he’s going to make it to the top.

‘Maybe I should take the tram after all,’ he says.

‘But the pickpockets!’

‘I’ll take my chances.’

Adelina smiles, ‘I make you a deal. I teach you about pickpockets so you can take your tram, okay?’

‘And in return?’ Simon asks. Adelina doesn’t seem to understand. ‘What do you want from me?’

‘A kiss from a beautiful English boy!’ she claps her hands again and laughs.

Adelina and Simon lean against the wall side by side. ‘See the man there,’ she says. ‘In the green t-shirt, and that one, the tall one behind the fat man with the blue and white striped shirt, and the lady in yellow, do you see them? They are working together. They dress like tourists, but see how they stand back from the crowd? They are looking for a victim. Now watch.’

Simon watches. As the tram trundles up the street, the first man steps forward and drops something on the ground, as he bends down to pick it up his accomplices close in on the man in the striped t-shirt. They move fast. The tram reaches the stop, blocking Simon’s view.

‘Did you see it?’ Adelina asks.

‘I think so, the tall man took the fat man’s wallet, right?’

‘No, you missed it! It was the girl. The green t-shirt is the decoy, but so is the tall man, he pushes to make the victim push back. When he’s busy pushing the  tall man, that’s when the girl moves in and takes the money.’

‘So the girl has the wallet, shouldn’t we do something?’

‘Too late, see the man over there,’ Adelina points down the street. Simon can’t see anything except a man in the distance hurrying away. ‘He has the wallet now.’

‘Him? He’s miles away!’

Adelina nods. ‘Now you know all about the pickpockets, I claim my kiss,’ she says.

On a narrow street halfway up one of Lisbon’s famous seven hills, a sweaty English boy and a mysterious Portuguese girl in a flowerprint dress embrace and kiss. They take their time, enjoying the taste of each other’s lips. The girl wraps her arms around the boy’s body and kisses him gently on the neck, then pulls away.

‘Now, go catch your tram, English boy,’ Adelina says, still laughing. ‘And no more huffing and puffing!’

Simon watches her skip up the hill. She slips down a side street and disappears. Simon realises he is grinning. His jaw hurts, but he can’t stop. He feels almost light enough to skip after her, but his legs still ache so he crosses the road and queues for the tram.

He is still grinning when the tram pulls up. He grins at the pickpockets, unnerving them so they step back and leave him alone. He grins at the conductor when he asks for his fare. And he even grins when he reaches in his pocket for some change and discovers that Adelina didn’t just steal his heart. She stole his wallet too.


Written for the Daily Post: A Picture Is Worth 1000 Words Challenge. Click the link for details and maybe give it a go yourself? Mine is exactly 1000 words –  it wasn’t obligatory, but I like counting words and it just happened to be pretty much 1000 words worth of story. Hope you enjoyed it 🙂

Out For The Count


I like counting things.

When I’m walking home and it’s too dark to read, I count my steps in twenties. First forwards, then backwards, then in French, then in Spanish. If I’m still not home, I start again. I’ve had several pedometers too – they do the counting for you, but I still join in to check they’re working properly. Am I sad? Probably.

NaNoWriMo was great for counting – number of words written, number of words still to write, average words per day. I even did the 666 thing (I found out about it on the forums) – where you write down the 666th word and the 1666th and the 2666th and so on, and then you see if there’s some kind of secret message from the dark side.

Anyway, December hasn’t been much fun on the counting front because I’ve been sick for days. My brain stopped functioning completely as soon as NaNo was over –  all I could manage was groans and whimpers punctuated by the odd moan. It was one of those special ‘variety pack’ illnesses too, a new symptom every day, sore throat, cold, headache, fever, general bleurghiness etc.  I manage to trawl through a few blogs and occasionally mustered up enough energy for a virus-laden ‘like’ or a flu-filled comment, but that was all.

So, total word count since December 1st (not including this) – I’ve no idea but I think it’s somewhere between one and three. I vaguely remember trying to write something on fever day, but I tore it up and threw it away the next day (coughing-my-guts-up day).

Today is the first day I’ve felt okay, but I had to go back to work, so my word count remains effectively zero.

Tomorrow though, I’m going to write, because my brain is functioning again and I really really miss writing. And then I’m going to count the words, and then I’ll count them in French and Spanish (maybe even backwards) because I really am that sad.

Photo credit: designwallah / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND
Photo credit: Strep72 / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

By the way, in case you were wondering, here is my message from the other side.

“Postman them my radio splutter It’s left but of is thins close what’s wear Speed it be knot is to anywhere hasn’t after button much me That rather all really then the They’ve start our or jump for go down when trouble A you in on fighting until police No of find.”


Word Of The Day: Soul
Photo credit: h.koppdelaney / Foter / CC BY-ND

You’re probably wondering why ‘soul’ is my word of the day. Is it because of its many religious, philosophical and psychological meanings? Is it because it is the animating and vital principle in all humans? Is my interest in this word borne out of a deep love for soul music? Or, perhaps because I am a cobbler who spends all day mending shoes (and can’t spell)?

Nope. It’s answer D: None of the above. The reason I truly love the word ‘soul’ today is because it’s my 25,001st NaNoWriMo word!!!!! (Cue party poppers, trumpets, joy and merriment in abundance).

This means I’m into the second half of this rollercoaster writing ride (try saying that, Jonathan Ross), so tonight I’m celebrating with a nice cold beer. And tomorrow I’ll start thinking about the other 24,999 words.

Cheers! (And best of luck to all the other WriMos 🙂 )
Photo credit: Wen Nag (aliasgrace) / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

The honeymoon is over … but I’m still hoping for a happy ever after.

Pigeon Wishes
Photo credit: Stuart Hines / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

I loved NaNoWriMo in the beginning, truly worshipped and adored it in those early heady days. It was a whirlwind romance (complete with pre-wedding nerves). Days 1 to 4 were a glorious haze of eager scribbling (and even more eager word-counting). I woke every morning thinking: today I get to write! I thought it would last forever.

By Day 6 the cracks were starting to show. Nothing specific, just niggling doubts in the back of my mind. Can I really do this? Is it worth the effort I’m putting in? Am I destined to become just another statistic? A non-winner? (I don’t like the L-word.) I had the NaNo Blues. But I brushed aside these negative thoughts, cuddled up close to my NaNo and wrote.

By Day 10 the honeymoon was well and truly over. I wrote as I had done every day since Day 1, but it was different. It felt like a chore. I found myself staring at the ceiling and waiting for it to be over.

We almost split on Day 11, me and my NaNo. We need a break, I said. I need some space. It’s not you, NaNo, it’s me.

I went for a walk along the seafront to clear my head, and I passed an old couple huddled on a bench sharing a portion of fish and chips. That was when I realised I couldn’t just throw away everything I had with my NaNo. I went straight back home and picked up my pen.

So I’m working at it, taking it a day at a time. And hopefully by Day 30, me and my NaNo will be like that couple at the seaside, knowing that the first flush of romance can’t last forever, but still holding hands.

Either that or I’ll be joining this girl on the train tracks 🙂 :

Day 371: It\'s Cool to Fake Romances
Photo credit: amanky / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

NaNoGuilt: What’s That All About?
Photo credit: canonsnapper / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

I don’t normally worry about the state of my house. Not ever. Housework is way way down on my list of priorities. So how comes that’s all changed now it’s NaNoTime?

On Sunday I wrote 2000 words then cleaned my front room from top to bottom. As a sort of penance. I even did the skirting boards, and anyone who knows me will know that I don’t do that sort of thing. The skirting now thinks that I’ve been bodysnatched by some alien or Stepford-wifed into some kind of robot; the door to the front room keeps eyeing me nervously wondering if it’s next.

It’s the same deal with the kids and husband (who all come much higher on my list of priorities you’ll be glad to hear). I’m making extra efforts to do stuff with them when this is the one month in the year when they’ve agreed to let me have some space. What is wrong with me?

On the plus side, I might come out the other side of November with half a novel, a happy, well-balanced family and a very very clean house.

I have to go now, I’ve written 2,800 words today and must atone for my sins by washing up.

Anyone else experiencing this? Or better still, anyone have a cure?

NaNoWriMo: Ten Things I Know Now That I Didn’t Know Before.
Photo credit: so lets hang out / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

It’s day four, I’m on target and I’m gaining a lot from this experience. Here’s ten little snippets I’ve learned so far:

  1. My NaNoNovel is not the greatest novel of all time. There’s a few bits and pieces that are really nice, and I’m enjoying getting to know my characters, but it’s not the best piece of literature ever written. That’s okay though, because it’s NaNo and it’s all about the wordcount.
  2. Writing fast and under pressure is exhilarating, intense and liberating.
  3. I’ll be cutting half of that exhilarating, intense and liberated writing come December.
  4. Most days, there is no time for blogging! Not only no time, but no creativity. My creative juices are squeezed dry by the time I’m done writing and thinking about writing and planning my writing for the next day.
  5. Talking of planning, I should have done more of that before November. A lot more.
  6. I can write 1667 words in a day! In fact I can write them in a relatively short space of time. I tend to spend about two to three hours a day on the actual writing, and so far I’m over on the word count most days.
  7. Resisting the urge to research is really hard.
  8. Resisting the urge to edit is even harder.
  9. Resisting the urge to surf the net is harder still. There’s a button on my computer which turns off the internet. I know it’s there and I know what it does, but there are strange forces at work which stop me from using it. I don’t understand how. Why can’t I just press the button and kill the net?
  10. There are only twenty-four hours in a day, and sometimes that’s not enough.
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