Written By You

The Fall – A Short Story in Three Parts – Part One

This is a short story in three parts, by 10 year old Alice

 

 

 

My mates are all leaning against the peeling black-painted gate, chatting and laughing, while I stand, nearby, twitching nervously.

“Oi,” Jules waves for me to come over to him. “Now, I have a suggestion. Kieran here,” he pauses, gesturing to me by his head, “is new to our gang. What about we see if he is worthy, eh?”

They all chuckle, nodding, with sly grins. I don’t understand.

Jules raises his eyebrows. Jules’s blonde curls, flapping in the wind, obviously getting in his eyes, always lure girls in.

A stout boy, leans over, and Jules whispers in his ear. He laughs, and tells the other boys. But not me.

“I have a friend up those steps, Flat 33. Go get some skunk for us, okay?” Jules flings a several notes at me, and I bend over to pick up the missed one.

I have no idea what skunk is. I have no idea what this money is for, what is up those stairs, or what is on the third floor. And I especially have no idea what is on Flat 33. I don’t really want to have an idea what any of them are.

I pause, trying to work out my odds.

“Awh, are you scared? Awh… lil’ baby Kieran is scared…” a spotty boy says, patronisingly.

I flatten out my fleece, and finger my ear piercing that I never really wanted. “Am not,” I say limply, and head towards the stairs Jules was pointing me towards, shivering in fear. Once I am out of the gang’s sight, I scurry to the top of the stairs, and flatten myself on the nearest wall. I check my surroundings. Grimy white walls, dusty steps, bent rails, squawking of birds, faint clomp of high-heels, and a strong musty smell.

Hearing the gang laughing, saying I will never do it, I straighten my back, and I stomp up another two flights of stairs. Once I get to the second floor, I wince. I just want to cower into a ball, and fly back down the stairs, and go right back home – no, not home, to somewhere safe. But I can’t. Ican’tIcan’tIcan’t! While still hunched, I stare along the balconies either side of me. Squinting terribly, I can make out three doors on my right and one says ‘16’. It must be on the other side. Turning towards the left, I hope for no risks. I am still clutching a crumpled collection of notes. I decide this isn’t a safe call, and stuff them into my fleece pockets, trembling. I reach Flat 33. I freeze. Gathering up every last morsel of courage inside me, I force my hand forward. It shoots forward, hitting a single bash on the door.

All I can hear is grumbling, creaking, and soft footsteps. My heart misses a beat as the door opens.

He looks me up and down. “Here to buy?”

I nod my head. He ushers me in. His flat smells strongly of that smell of the wood chip in a children’s playground, and a tomato plant. It made me feel slightly light-headed it was so strong. An over-powering smell of cigarettes oozed from the walls, making me feel dizzy and sick. I try not to breathe it in, but I soon run out of breath. It’s horrible.

“So, who told you about this place?” the man said, his voice crackly with age. He had a pipe in his mouth, sticking out diagonally.

“Jules, he said you were a friend to him,” I say, trying to mimic his bold Cockney accent.

“Ah yes, that arrogant Jules. Brash young thing he is,” he said. “So, what do you want?”

“Skunk,” I say, uncertainly.

He gives me a look, with no real emotions, or indications of what he is thinking. He picks out a small plastic bag, filled with a murky green powdery substance inside. He lifts up his hands, and raises his eyebrows. He obviously doesn’t think I can pay it. Confidently, I stuff the notes into his palm, beaming.
He shuffles through the small heap of crumpled notes. “You’re five quid off.”

My face sinks. “That was all he gave me.”

“Ah, my prices have risen,” he smirks. “I’ll make him pay it when he next comes. That happened last time, made one of his mates get it for him. Lazy lad he is. He has to pay £10 extra you know… and it’s still rising…”

I let him burble for a bit, while I back towards the door, holding the tiny plastic bag in my clammy hand. When I get the chance, I slip, “Thank you!” in his babble, and leave.

I fled down the flights of stairs, but once I was in the eye-view of the gang, I slowed down and coolly strolled. Jules gave everyone a cigarette, who casually slipped it between their fingers, and filled it with a tiny portion of the murky green powder, and inhaled. I tried to copy everyone with holding the cigarette properly, but it kept on slipping. After I filled it with the last of the green powder, I took a long, anticipated breath.

It was…. calming. It was addictive.

 

 

Featured Image

 

Read More...

Language & Literature

What’s in a name….?

 

 

Do you ever wonder why people can’t pronounce your name correctly? Or struggle to say a friend’s name right sometimes? Here Avani tells us about her experiences, and how we can make the effort to pronounce things as best we can!

 

Do people always get your name wrong?

My name is Avani and let me start by saying: I get it.

Sometimes I spend ages teaching someone how to say my name properly (Uvni would probably be the best way to write how it’s pronounced) and other times I really can’t be bothered. I wish I had an easier name, or that people would just work harder to get it right!

 

Why do we find some names really difficult to pronounce and others really easy? 

 

Here in England, people have names which come from all over the world. These names might be from places where a different language is spoken, and the different languages may also use different letters or characters to those we use for English.

My family, for example, come from a part of India called Gujarat. The Gujarati language uses a syllabary (a set of sounds) rather than an alphabet, but the syllables don’t always match up with English letter. The ‘v’ in ‘Avani’ (વ in Gujarati script) should actually be pronounced somewhere in between the English ‘v’ and ‘w’ sounds, but there isn’t an English letter that sounds exactly the same and this makes my name harder for people to remember! Also the ‘a’ and ‘u’ sounds in Gujarati are written using variations of the same symbol (અ (u) and આ (a)), which is why my name is spelt with an ‘A’, but pronounced using a ‘U’. Here’s what ‘Avani’ looks like written in Gujarati: અવનો – cool, right?

 

Languages which do use the same letters as those in English, may not pronounce all of them in the same way. This means that names that look similar on paper may be pronounced differently depending on where in the world someone lives. In Spanish, for example, the ‘j’ and ‘x’ letters are more like (but not identical to!) the English ‘h’, and in German, the letter ‘j’ sounds more like the English ‘y’ – can you imagine all the different ways people around the world must pronounce ‘Jesus’? You can listen to a few here!

 

Screenshot 2013-10-20 at 18.09.42

 

 

It’s not only names from other countries that are hard to pronounce though! Have you ever thought about which common English names might be tricky for someone learning the language to get their head around? What about the name ‘Thomas’? We say it with a hard ‘T’ (like the one in ‘tree’, rather than the one in ‘three’) even though it is spelt with a ‘Th’, and we say the name ‘Charlotte’ with a ‘Sh’ sound (like in shop) even though it is spelt with a ‘Ch’ (like in chop). It must be hard to keep up with which names follow the usual pronunciation rules (like Theo or Charles) and which ones don’t!

 

 

What can I do if I think I’m pronouncing someone’s name wrong?

 

It is always worth checking with someone if you think you’re saying their name wrong – even if you’ve known them for ages and are embarrassed about asking, chances are they’ll be really glad to have an opportunity to correct you! However, it’s also important to remember that even if you know that the way someone says their name is different to the traditional way of saying it, you should always say their name like they have asked you to. Many people living in England, for example, prefer to go by a nickname or a more ‘Anglicised’ (English-sounding) version of their name to make things a little easier – so if you know a ‘Jesminder’ who prefers ‘Jess’, or a ‘Paulo’ who prefers ‘Paul’, you should respect their decision!

 Screenshot 2013-10-20 at 18.08.40

 

If you’ve just met someone new and have forgotten how to pronounce their name (or even if you’ve met them a few 

times) – don’t despair, they probably won’t mind if you ask them again! If you are too embarrassed, though, there is a huge variety of pronunciation websites out there which will be able to help you. Click here for a good one!

 

 

Do you have a hard-to-pronounce name? Or have you ever been in an embarrassing situation over getting someone’s name wrong? Do you live in another country – which English names do you really struggle with? I’d love to hear your stories!

 

 

As well as trying to get people to say her name right, Avani Shah is currently working on a book for 8-12 year olds. She also blogs about her childhood and teenage experiences (Away with the Mice) and writes about words, etymology, and spelling for a website called Spellzone.

 

Title Photograph: Daisy 2008

Nom & Malc 2008

RiPO 2012

 

Read More...