A story and prizes for my second blogiversary!

The blog is two! Looking back I see I haven’t included as many short stories as I originally promised, so there’s one below. If you tell me what you think of it (good or bad), I’ll put you in the draw for a book prize – could be one I’ve reviewed, one I’ve liked or one I’ve written. UK only, sorry, readers elsewhere, but I’m a struggling writer….

Anyway, you’re all winners, because this story is for you. It came from my writing course at the British Library, when we had to identify an object in the Library to write about. No photos are allowed in the exhibition I chose, so you will have to make do with the brochure, but do visit; it’s free and very inspiring.

bl treasures
About the “Treasures of the BL” , from the current brochure

TEMPORARILY REMOVED

The exhibition’s sparkling name seduced me: “Treasures!” Entranced, I pored over illuminated manuscripts, hand scribed scriptures, painted vellum and pages of early print. I followed a sign that said: To the Magna Carta. But there was only a glass display case, containing a perspex-or-similar stand, and a printed sign with the  message: “Temporarily Removed”.

I racked my memory. What was the Magna Carta, anyway? And remembered: among other clauses, it declared that everybody, including the king, was subject to the rule of law and had the right to a fair trial. It was, in effect, one of the first declarations of human rights.

And now it had gone. Who took it?

Was it taken by a curator, for legitimate purposes? Perhaps it needed a polish, or was dog eared? Or letters had faded and blurred, and the curator had gone in search of ink and whatever medieval scribes used for Tippex – something made of flax, possibly. When she found nothing suitable for a running repair, she took the whole thing away for safekeeping. Temporarily, of course.

It was unlikely to have been stolen. The area bristled with alarms, the Magna Carta would have screamed “Traitors!” as it was lifted, and the thief immediately been apprehended by the elegant Egyptian security man and his Roman nosed Ukrainian colleague, with their ramrod backs and their epaulettes to die for.

I shared my disappointment with a fellow passenger on the trolleybus home. He confided a rumour, and a few days later it was confirmed by a brave investigative  radio reporter. The Home Secretary herself had had the Magna Carta since last Michaelmas quarter day. Picture the scene:

“Basil! I’ve forgotten the law of the land! Fetch me the Magna Carta!”

The under Home Secretary bowed. “You’ll have to fetch it yourself, I’m afraid, Cynthia,” he simpered. “Only you, the PM – and the King I suppose – have the right to remove the Magna Carta from the Treasures Collection.”

So the Home Secretary sent the British Library a pneumatogram and arrangements were made for her collect the Magna Carta at sherry time, to temporarily remove it to Queen Anne’s Gate or wherever it is the Home Secretary resides nowadays. You’d think it would be safe there, but…

… at tea time on All Hallows Eve, she was sitting by a roaring fire, her Persian cat Nero purring in his basket and Basil buttering steaming crumpets for the three of them. She was studying the Magna Carta, her eyes glowing in the firelight.

“This Magna Carta is too long.”

Basil knew that tone of finality. He put the butter knife down and wiped his hands on his pinny. Only that morning, during the regular watch he kept on the Fortnum’s community noticeboard, his careful fingers had stripped the address of a radical organisation from a recipe for gunpowder soufflé. Cynthia’s deft gesture was identical, pinching a section of the Magna Carta between her coral painted thumb and fingernails, and ripping it decisively away.

“Too many rights, too much to police, administer, and communicate. We can never assure them all. The country can easily do without this one.” Rip, tear.

“And this…”

With gusto the gleaming nails scored, tore and flicked.

Much of the Magna Carta lay in shreds on the Home Secretary’s monogrammed carpet. Basil scurried for the bronze dustpan and brush. Efficient percussion filled the room: stiff swipes of the bristles keeping time with Cynthia’s knuckles cracking.

“Decluttering, Basil. Taking back control. A compact Magna Carta will be neater than all that swollen old waffle.”

She rubbed her hands in satisfaction but her hooded eyes remained restless. “Then again, if a job’s worth doing…” She swooped on the shrunken pages.

“I’ve started so I’ll finish.”

That evening the British Library received pneumatogrammed instructions. The investigative reporter was too late to intercept them and could only report post factum. Visitors to the British Library now will find a new sign:

MAGNA CARTA. PERMANENTLY REMOVED

©Jessica Norrie 2018

Please leave a comment below before midnight BST on April 19th 2018 – improvements, continuations, deletions – to enter the draw. And please stay with me for a third year of words and fictions – it’s a fiction, by the way, that the Magna Carta is anywhere other than safely inside the British library, for now. It was something else – I didn’t check what – that had been temporarily removed.

prize 4

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44 thoughts on “A story and prizes for my second blogiversary!

  1. Happy blog anniversary. Love the story. It made me laugh then I caught myself thinking how the Magna Carta is already being shredded and decided it was more scary than funny – and cleverly done.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Yes, so many things that seem quite bizarre actually happen in real life now. It’s a frightening world for our children. The current Russian/ or is it Russian? thing is more like Ian Fleming than real life – but it is real life.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Danke! By the way, we are preparing to publish the German translation of my 2015 novel “The Infinity Pool” in the early summer. If you know of any German language bookbloggers who would be interested in a review copy, I’d be very grateful if you could point me in their direction. Danke again!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hey, thats great! Thank you! Maybe, i know someone from NY Upstate. Mary Ann Niemczura (drniemczura.wordpress.com). She is a German Teacher. Perhaps she is interested in review. I think it would be a pleasure for her. LG Michael

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Congratulations quietgeordie, one more book to fill your day is on its way to you! Or will be if you can let me know your UK address! Perhaps send a message to my personal page on FB with your email, so I can get it privately? Thanks for entering and I hope you enjoy the book – I’m afraid you got the third prize, so it’s mine).

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Congratulations Booksfromdusktilldawn, one more book to fill your day is on its way to you! Or will be if you can let me know your UK address! Perhaps send a message to my personal page on FB with your email, so I can get it privately? Thanks for entering and I hope you enjoy the book (the second prize, a book I have loved).!

      Like

  2. This was a fun read Jessica and very imaginative how you mixed the modern with the old. Am I a bit dense for struggling over ‘pneumatogram’? Something respiratory? I teach my creative writing students to select an object for a character either in their pocket or bag as a way of finding a short character driven story. Perhaps I should take them out of the classroom to find a object next term.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! To be honest I pinched the pneumatogram idea (=telegram equivalent) from Philip Pullman, who’s brilliant at mixing old and new to create a sinister could-be-but-isn’t world, possibly past, possibly present or future somewhere else. I’m hoping UK readers will recognise the model for the Home Secretary though! Thanks for commenting, it’s useful.

      Like

  3. A chilling take on the theme of civil liberties/human rights, executed with wit.
    There are lovers of liberty in all the main UK parties (J S Mill has influenced both left and right as have Whig ideas). Let us hope that the libertarians (across the political divide) keep us safe. Kevin

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Reblogged this on Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life and commented:
    For all of you who have enjoyed the links to Jessica Norrie’s Friday literature posts and her recent Literary column on Smorgasbord.. a treat.. A short story prompted by a recent writing course at the British Library to celebrate her second blogging anniversary. Not only that, if you leave a comment before April 19th you might be in with a chance to win a book. Great story and an opportunity to head over and introduce yourselves. #recommended

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Sally. Yes smorgasborders, do come and introduce yourselves. I’ve got to know some of you already and you’re such a diverse, friendly bunch with so many hobbies and interests. Be as honest as you like about my story too – that’s how writers learn!

      Liked by 1 person

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