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TITLE
'Russian Dolls' (1 of 2)
EXTERNAL ID
AB_NG_RUSSIANDOLLS_01
DATE OF RECORDING
2008
PERIOD
2000s
CREATOR
Vivien Samet
SOURCE
Am Baile
ASSET ID
1480
KEYWORDS
poem
poems
literature
competition
competitions
writing competition
writing competitions
story
stories
audios
audio recordings
recordings

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'Russian Dolls' was one of the 'Highly Commended' entries in the adult prose section of the Neil Gunn Writing Competition, 2007. It is read here by the author, Vivien Samet, from Strathpeffer.

To celebrate Highland 2007, Scotland's year of Highland Culture, the theme was 'Highland Spaces'. Judges for the adult prose section were Scottish writer Margaret Elphinstone and Ann Yule, Convenor for the Neil Gunn Trust.

The Neil Gunn Writing Competition is organised by library staff from The Highland Council Education, Culture & Sport Service with support from the Neil Gunn Trust. It was first established in 1988.

'Russian Dolls

Twenty seven across: 'Seclusion at the end of one's career' - ten letters. 'He straightened out the crumpled Press and Journal which was open at the crossword page and pencilled in a word much on his mind: RETIREMENT - 'Perfect!' he said aloud, then scanned the remaining clues before stirring his mug of tea. He had a knack with words and was good at filling spaces.

He put down the newspaper, standing back for a moment to look at the wall he was cementing before switching on the radio. He needed to break the silence in the old corrugated iron boathouse which had served as a garage to his trucks for the past fifty years. The last of them had finally been driven away, leaving a space in the big shed and a feeling of emptiness inside himself.

At first he didn't hear the knock on the iron doors - he was too absorbed with his wall, but then he thought a wind must have got up as he sensed a rattling. He stopped what he was doing and listened: knock, knockety, knock, knock. As it was not a Tuesday he eliminated the fish man, at the same time dismissing the possibility of more interruptions from prospective local councillors as the elections had already come and gone. It passed through his mind that it could be yet another visit from the Jehova Witnesses, but he hoped not as he was in no mood for a conversion - at least not in the spiritual sense. His needs were more concrete.

"Morning Alec, nice day and what's doing? " asked the woman as soon as the door had been opened wide enough for her to get her zip-up Morland boot inside before handing over the milk cartons lifted from the box by the gate.

She had observed some time ago that beside the boathouse a cement mixer, with its accompanying ingredients of sand and cement had arrived. As the weeks passed she noticed that the piles of building materials, which included a load of breeze blocks were gradually diminishing without any visible signs of building in progress. Passing by this time she decided to investigate.

"Oh - it's yourself" Alec said, relieved at not having to rebuff any preachers or councillors while he was working.

"Did you ask what I 'm doing? Building a new community centre of course!" he replied straight-faced.

"That's the last thing - we're needing" she said raising her hands in mock horror, "Unless of course you're thinking of taking up yoga, ballroom dancing or patchwork?"

"You can cut out the yoga notion" he interrupted - "I have already wasted a good part of my life lying flat under a lorry. As you can see I'm now an upright member of society intending to stay that way until I'm laid to rest horizontal, and since you ask it s a garage I'm building."

"What, inside the boathouse Alec? Reminds me of them Russian dolls! Remember how they used to fit one inside the other? "

"It s just a cover-job " Alec stated without further explanation.

"Cover-job?" she echoed staring at the freshly cemented floor. Her eyes moved along the boathouse shelves before resting on an old tin of rat poison which stood between a clutter of oil cans, tools, rusty tins and old coffee jars packed with assorted screws and nails.

"And how is your wife?" she enquired nervously. "I haven't seen her around for a while. "

"Grand thank you - busy as usual."

"What about the rest of the family?" she questioned in a gently modulating tone designed to camouflage her mounting suspicions.
"Now listen!" he said firmly," when I said 'cover-job' I meant protection against the elements like. I intend leaving the old boathouse intact until I finish building the garage inside it, dismantling the big iron shed at the very end. I don t know how I shall lift off the corrugated iron roof, unless I can get hold of a giant tin of sardines and use the key to wind it off from corner to corner. With a bit of luck the swallows nesting in the old rafters will fly off soon. Mustn't disturb em although I might have to wait until it s time for them to flit to one of them hot-spots - mind you, what with all this ozone stuff and climate change they might call my bluff and stay.
Seemingly, red admirals have started to stay put and bask in the heat of the British winter though of course you can't believe everything they say on 'Springwatch.'

"Well, I don't envy the swallows packing off to Africa or wherever - Orkney is plenty warm enough for my summer break - I never could take the heat" she said, pulling off a Shetland glove to fan her face. Remembering her reason for going into town that morning was for the monthly farmers market, she glanced at her watch and turned to go.

"Mind you get that community centre finished before I get back Alec - see you later!"

"Fine Mrs Ross and not a word to anyone about that body buried under the cement."

He noticed her pale foxglove - purple complexion deepen as she struggled with such a disturbing thought and watched as she walked as fast as she could to the bus stop. Attempting to distract herself from the buried body imagery before it had the chance to cement in her mind she started to compose in her head a shopping list of random items which she repeated to the rhythm of her steps: 'smoked haddock fillets, honey roast ham, non-stick baking parchment, cream crackers, mushroom soup, skimmed milk, double cream and a bottle of Harveys Bristol dreams.'

By the time she boarded the bus into town she felt more calm as she smilingly showed the driver her loyalty card.

"It's your bus-pass we need dear, not your Tescos card Great! Thank you," he said despairingly handing her a concession ticket then waiting for her-to take a seat-before driving off.

Meanwhile Alec carried on with his task - keen to get the job finished so as not to risk leaving his car outside for another winter - besides without the truck these were the only wheels he had left.

The boathouse stood between his neat cottage and untidy scrap yard. His son was a regular visitor to the yard, usually on the look-out for scrap-metal to weld into sculptures. He would ferret around for stuff to use in his Glasgow studio; at one time he experimented using crushed garbage to create original veneers. His mother once said her son's development could be followed from scrap-book to scrap-yard.'

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'Russian Dolls' (1 of 2)

2000s

poem; poems; literature; competition; competitions; writing competition; writing competitions; story; stories; audios; audio recordings; recordings

Am Baile

Neil Gunn Writing Competition (audios)

'Russian Dolls' was one of the 'Highly Commended' entries in the adult prose section of the Neil Gunn Writing Competition, 2007. It is read here by the author, Vivien Samet, from Strathpeffer.<br /> <br /> To celebrate Highland 2007, Scotland's year of Highland Culture, the theme was 'Highland Spaces'. Judges for the adult prose section were Scottish writer Margaret Elphinstone and Ann Yule, Convenor for the Neil Gunn Trust.<br /> <br /> The Neil Gunn Writing Competition is organised by library staff from The Highland Council Education, Culture & Sport Service with support from the Neil Gunn Trust. It was first established in 1988.<br /> <br /> 'Russian Dolls<br /> <br /> Twenty seven across: 'Seclusion at the end of one's career' - ten letters. 'He straightened out the crumpled Press and Journal which was open at the crossword page and pencilled in a word much on his mind: RETIREMENT - 'Perfect!' he said aloud, then scanned the remaining clues before stirring his mug of tea. He had a knack with words and was good at filling spaces.<br /> <br /> He put down the newspaper, standing back for a moment to look at the wall he was cementing before switching on the radio. He needed to break the silence in the old corrugated iron boathouse which had served as a garage to his trucks for the past fifty years. The last of them had finally been driven away, leaving a space in the big shed and a feeling of emptiness inside himself.<br /> <br /> At first he didn't hear the knock on the iron doors - he was too absorbed with his wall, but then he thought a wind must have got up as he sensed a rattling. He stopped what he was doing and listened: knock, knockety, knock, knock. As it was not a Tuesday he eliminated the fish man, at the same time dismissing the possibility of more interruptions from prospective local councillors as the elections had already come and gone. It passed through his mind that it could be yet another visit from the Jehova Witnesses, but he hoped not as he was in no mood for a conversion - at least not in the spiritual sense. His needs were more concrete.<br /> <br /> "Morning Alec, nice day and what's doing? " asked the woman as soon as the door had been opened wide enough for her to get her zip-up Morland boot inside before handing over the milk cartons lifted from the box by the gate.<br /> <br /> She had observed some time ago that beside the boathouse a cement mixer, with its accompanying ingredients of sand and cement had arrived. As the weeks passed she noticed that the piles of building materials, which included a load of breeze blocks were gradually diminishing without any visible signs of building in progress. Passing by this time she decided to investigate.<br /> <br /> "Oh - it's yourself" Alec said, relieved at not having to rebuff any preachers or councillors while he was working.<br /> <br /> "Did you ask what I 'm doing? Building a new community centre of course!" he replied straight-faced.<br /> <br /> "That's the last thing - we're needing" she said raising her hands in mock horror, "Unless of course you're thinking of taking up yoga, ballroom dancing or patchwork?"<br /> <br /> "You can cut out the yoga notion" he interrupted - "I have already wasted a good part of my life lying flat under a lorry. As you can see I'm now an upright member of society intending to stay that way until I'm laid to rest horizontal, and since you ask it s a garage I'm building."<br /> <br /> "What, inside the boathouse Alec? Reminds me of them Russian dolls! Remember how they used to fit one inside the other? "<br /> <br /> "It s just a cover-job " Alec stated without further explanation.<br /> <br /> "Cover-job?" she echoed staring at the freshly cemented floor. Her eyes moved along the boathouse shelves before resting on an old tin of rat poison which stood between a clutter of oil cans, tools, rusty tins and old coffee jars packed with assorted screws and nails.<br /> <br /> "And how is your wife?" she enquired nervously. "I haven't seen her around for a while. "<br /> <br /> "Grand thank you - busy as usual."<br /> <br /> "What about the rest of the family?" she questioned in a gently modulating tone designed to camouflage her mounting suspicions.<br /> "Now listen!" he said firmly," when I said 'cover-job' I meant protection against the elements like. I intend leaving the old boathouse intact until I finish building the garage inside it, dismantling the big iron shed at the very end. I don t know how I shall lift off the corrugated iron roof, unless I can get hold of a giant tin of sardines and use the key to wind it off from corner to corner. With a bit of luck the swallows nesting in the old rafters will fly off soon. Mustn't disturb em although I might have to wait until it s time for them to flit to one of them hot-spots - mind you, what with all this ozone stuff and climate change they might call my bluff and stay. <br /> Seemingly, red admirals have started to stay put and bask in the heat of the British winter though of course you can't believe everything they say on 'Springwatch.'<br /> <br /> "Well, I don't envy the swallows packing off to Africa or wherever - Orkney is plenty warm enough for my summer break - I never could take the heat" she said, pulling off a Shetland glove to fan her face. Remembering her reason for going into town that morning was for the monthly farmers market, she glanced at her watch and turned to go.<br /> <br /> "Mind you get that community centre finished before I get back Alec - see you later!"<br /> <br /> "Fine Mrs Ross and not a word to anyone about that body buried under the cement."<br /> <br /> He noticed her pale foxglove - purple complexion deepen as she struggled with such a disturbing thought and watched as she walked as fast as she could to the bus stop. Attempting to distract herself from the buried body imagery before it had the chance to cement in her mind she started to compose in her head a shopping list of random items which she repeated to the rhythm of her steps: 'smoked haddock fillets, honey roast ham, non-stick baking parchment, cream crackers, mushroom soup, skimmed milk, double cream and a bottle of Harveys Bristol dreams.'<br /> <br /> By the time she boarded the bus into town she felt more calm as she smilingly showed the driver her loyalty card.<br /> <br /> "It's your bus-pass we need dear, not your Tescos card Great! Thank you," he said despairingly handing her a concession ticket then waiting for her-to take a seat-before driving off. <br /> <br /> Meanwhile Alec carried on with his task - keen to get the job finished so as not to risk leaving his car outside for another winter - besides without the truck these were the only wheels he had left.<br /> <br /> The boathouse stood between his neat cottage and untidy scrap yard. His son was a regular visitor to the yard, usually on the look-out for scrap-metal to weld into sculptures. He would ferret around for stuff to use in his Glasgow studio; at one time he experimented using crushed garbage to create original veneers. His mother once said her son's development could be followed from scrap-book to scrap-yard.'