Saturday 5 December 2015

Day 5: Winter Scenes by Margaret Bulleyment

I collect and save newspaper clippings and any bits and pieces I find that feature fascinating characters, or situatio
ns that make me think"What if?"

A lot of my stories - 'Winter Scenes' included - come from that. I like my stories to have little twists and the background is often a place Iknow well, or find particularly interesting.

I usually write short stories and have had several published by small presses - 'Wyvern', 'Alfie Dog' etc. However I also enjoy writing short plays and I have had a couple performed professionally in competitions
in small theatres. Having your words come out of an actor's mouth isvery satisfying, especially as you hear the audience's reaction.

My full length chidren's play 'Caribbean Calypso' was published by Trinity College of Music and Drama in 2011, as runner up in their International Playwriting Competition for a play for primary-aged
children. It is based on the Tiger and Anansi stories - althoughcrucially, there are no tigers in the Caribbean.

My writing routine is to write when I can, but I have found that I have to book my writing into my diary, just like everything else, or other things can take over all too easily.

I write in my "playrom" which is bedroom three (my husband has bedroom two) with my clavinova behind me and with cupboards of music and bulging bookcases, on either side. It took two long days to empty the room andthe same to restore it, when we were decorated recently. I face the window which looks out on our front garden and lots of village trees.

The photo is of me aged four telling stories to my "face" mittens - a present from Canadian relatives. It made a change from lining up mytoys, putting a blackboard in front of them and teaching them.

Sadly, I am an unoffical expert on early children's television. I don' tmean 'Muffin the Mule' and 'Andy Pandy' - everyone remembers them, but Lotte Reiniger silhouette films, 'Tales of Magpie Wood' and 'Whirligig.'
Should you ever need anyone who can sing the theme for 'Billy Bean and his Funny Machine', you know whom to contact.

An extract from Winter Scenes   

 Today, there’s ten of them. But which one is it? Boho cardigan middle-aged lady? Pixie boot student? Leather jacket guy? Who is it and what am I going to do, when I find out?

   Winter Mystery Tour Lady
   c/o Ashmolean Museum
   Beaumont St
   Oxford OX1 2PH

   Thursday Nov 6

   Dear ‘Miss Snowflake’? (Sarah? Susan? Sorry, I did not quite catch your name, but I know it began with an ‘S.’)
   I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your Mystery Art Tour yesterday. It was fun just showing up and not knowing what the theme was, never mind what I was actually going to see. And what gems those Konstantin Korovin (spelling?) paintings are!!!!! I‘d never heard of him and just thought that Impressionists were French, painting in all that light and sun, down south. Who would have thought that Russian winter scenes were in the same movement?
    What a great idea to show people hidden corners of the galleries, rather than just the most famous stuff and I bet you enjoy it more than giving yet another talk on Ucello, or the Alfred Jewel.
    Keep up the good work.
   Winter Tour Lover

That was the first time anyone had written to thank me for a tour. A proper letter even, written by someone who sounded as though they had a good sense of humour. I found it in my pigeonhole, along with all the usual mundane missives and email printouts and it made my day. I took it home and showed it to Mum, like a toddler with her first finger painting.
“Winter Tour Lover is quite right,” she said, when she had finished reading it. “After all, the tours were your idea and they’ve been very successful. And it’s to John Stevens’s credit, that he has so much faith in his younger members of staff, that he follows up their ideas.”
The Head of the Education Department just happens to be a friend of Mum’s, but I like to think I got my position on my own merits. I can at least copy the letter so he sees it and perhaps, we can use the beginning of the second paragraph, in our publicity shots.

   Thursday Nov 13

     Dear Sarah, (I listened harder this time)
   Another enjoyable Winter Tour, yesterday. Yes, I know I could have done a different tour on another day, with someone else, but I wanted to hear you again and catch the bits I missed last week.
    It was good that parts of it were different this time – you obviously don’t just repeat yourself parrot-fashion. The fact that the paintings are some of your own favourites, came over very well. It was interesting that someone who sounds so British, was born in California and I loved the description of you aged five in this country, seeing snow for the first time and trying to eat it. That must be why you like winter scenes so much. I do too.
    Our friend Korovin, would have taken snow for granted where he came from, although the little figures all by themselves in the middle of his paintings, look like they’re struggling a bit. When it snows in Russia, it really snows – not so much snow games, more like survival games.
   Best Wishes
   Winter Tour Lover

About the Author

Margaret Bulleyment began writing fiction after a long career in comparative education.
This encompassed an international school in Stockholm; an American High School on a NATO base and teaching Music, English and Expressive Arts; with diversions to the former Czechoslovakia and a children’s opera workshop in Canada.
She has had short stories published in anthologies, including CafĂ© Lit, and on story websites; her children’s play Caribbean Calypso was runner-up in Trinity College of Music and Drama’s 2011 International Playwriting Competition and she has twice had short plays performed professionally, as a finalist in the Ovation Theatre Awards


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