Just A Glimpse
Sylvia West is not disappointed when she goes delving into her family'shistory.
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Sylvia West is not disappointed when she goes delving into her family'shistory.
...Sons do go away, of course, they have to, but her son had been gone for such a long time, and for such a sad, unforgiving reason. He had left because he had confronted his father, and there had been no way for either of them to retreat: the older man, simply because he was the father, and the son, because in Oriental cultures, a son must never challenge his father’s authority...
Sylvia West tells a profoundly moving true story.
Syliva West tells of having to give away a treasured knife.
...A good friend of mine once told me how to recognise happiness: it doesn’t come in large chunks, you hold out your hand and learn how to recognise it, when a little piece settles there like a snowflake...
Sylvia West tells of loneliness and companionship.
...Satisfied everyone was present, the sergeant turned and yelled something at a gaggle of drivers lounging nearby smoking. The forecourt exploded in a clatter of studded boots as they raced for their lorries, onto which the conscripts were herded, cowed and hanging onto their suitcases or rucksacks. Then they drove off to Aldershot...
John Greenwood is called up for national service in the Army.
John Waddington-Feather continues his tale of the fortunes and misfortunes of the Illingworths, a Yorkshire mill-owning dynasty. To read earlier episodes please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/illingworth_house/
At this year's end Sylvia West tells one of the best love stories you are likely to have heard in many a twelve-month.
...Slides and roundabouts, coffee stalls and souvenir shops, all were deserted and safely locked: not the public toilets, I saw with relief. And from somewhere, the smell of vinegar on fish and chips came drifting down. It was mid-October...
Sylvia West's out-of-season visit to a Norfolk coastal resort prompted thoughts of the most expansive kind.
"Not everything that happens has enough substance for a story, maybe not even a paragraph. A sentence, perhaps, will say it all - cast a shadow or create a ripple of pure gold that will alter the road map of a life. For better, for worse, we accept what is given, and continue on our journey...''
Sylvia West highlights events which somehow symbolise both the sadness and the wonder of the human condition.
To read more of Syliva's columns please click on Interludes in the menu on this page.
...Do smokers ever wear perfume or aftershave? I doubt it - my sister never did. What would be the point? No, no, just the unmistakable pungent odour of nicotine - that’s the only perfume a smoker chooses to wear...
Sylvia West, putting into words feelings which rarely find such vivid expression, recalls her beloved sister.
The wonderful Sylvia West highlights the lives of three woman - and in doing so says more than many a 100,000-word volume about what it is to be human.
For more of Sylvia's words please click on Interludes in the menu on this page.
A magazine editor's task is to arouse the interest of possible readers with a clever and pithy summation of the pleasure on offer in an article.
This wonderful piece of writing by Sylvia West would be ill-served by a glib introduction. Read, and remember...
A slim obelisk of pale unpolished stone in a village churchyard launched Sylvia West on a rewarding exploratory mission to discover details of the extraordinary life of Stefan Knapp, fighter pilot, artist, "loving husband, father and friend''.
By clicking on Interludes in the menu on this page you can read more of Sylvia's articles - each one a memorable journey conducted by the most civilised of guides.
Sylvia West's mother wes influenced by the heavy-handed advice of Dr Truby King, a New Zealander who believed and taught that babies should be treated and reared on the same strict regime that worked with farm animals, calves in particular.
The result was immeasurably sad. Sylvia says that Dr King's belief that it was a dangerous indulgence to have too close a bond with a baby ensured that she never knew her mother.
For more of Sylvia's unforgetable columns please click on Interludes in the menu on this page.
…The Princess will be rescued, and the Prince will be her hero. I have a question: why does it always happen that way round? Why does no-one ever rescue a Prince?…
Having received no answer to her question, Sylvia West writes a moving, memorable story of a Princess who found a Prince and promised to look after him. And that promise is till being kept.
Here on Christmas Day is a wonderful, magical, remember-for-ever story, written by Sylvia West.
This is a classic tale. Don't miss it!
...I have learnt how to pick out a memory from the past, to flesh out the bones by just looking at it so that everything comes to life in a three-dimensional way, or so it would seem. If you stare for long enough into the corner of your mother’s kitchen, for example, it is unbelievable what pictures, what minutiae, emerge from the cobwebs of time: that old treadle sewing machine that you forgot was there, the carver chair painted periwinkle blue (yes, you’d forgotten that too) and the way the buddleia flowers outside the window always tap on the glass when the wind blows...
Sylvia West extols the values of memories and friendship.
Sylvia's wonderful columns deserve to be added to your own personal store of things worthy of being remembered. To read more of them please click on Interludes in the menu on this page.
Sylvia West tells a story of a disturbingly effective revenge for betrayed affections.
...As we look up the slope of our road, we can see this tiny, roof-height meadow burgeoning before our eyes, with dandelions and the odd buttercup thrusting their heads up to the sun. Some people clucked and disapproved when they first saw it, I can’t think why. It will be lovely in the Spring, when the birds have dropped all kinds of seed, and there are butterflies and ladybirds, and it’s a cat-free haven for sparrows and robins, blackbirds and pigeons alike....
Sylvia West presents a reassuring account of life in an English village. There's a hatching, a dispatching, some sadness, and a general feeling of goodwill and neighbourliness.
To read more of Sylvia's columns please click on Interludes in the menu on this page.
...we were only allowed to peep into the front parlour downstairs to look at Grandma’s set of red and gold lustres placed on the mantelpiece. If the fire was lit - as it had to be sometimes to air the room - the crystal pendants would glitter in the light of the flames, and the damson coloured glass supports with delicate gold patterns would become rich ruby jewels...
Sylvia West, with a camera-eye discernment of detail, recalls childhood visits to her Grandma, and Gran's brother, Uncle George.
To read more of Sylvia's visual words please do click on Interludes in the menu on this page.
A friend sent Sylvia West a rose. A very special rose. The friend is a young man, a prisoner in an American jail. For a time he was on Death Row…
... I watch people walk quickly by and wave a polite ‘no thank you’ at her. I watch people treat her as being invisible. I watch people stop to try and have a conversation. There’s no getting out of buying if they do that. Oh yes, I do it myself sometimes, now that I’ve got over the pique of having my coffee and flapjack rejected. I know she hasn’t got the hang of decimal currency yet: it’s best to have some lose change if you decide to stop. I wish someone would teach her how to have a proper smile. But why has no-one told her that we like to hear ‘thank you’? I haven’t heard it, not once....
Sylvia West sympathises with a girl who sells the "Big Issue'' - a girl who does not understand English. But what of empathy?
...He rarely left the house, and the once sweet, melodic harmonies from his piano were replaced by discords and disharmony. His cat strayed down to the main road and was killed, and there was no-one left to comfort him. There was no-one who knew him well enough to comfort him, and he answered the door to nobody. There was nothing anyone could do...
Sylvia West contrasts the life of a reclusive musician with that of a couple aged 83 and 92 who, whatever happens in fair weather or foul, always manage to pull each other up again.
To read more of Sylvia's wonderful columns, which are as deep and memorable as many a novel, click on Interludes in the menu on this page.
... My taxi driver to the hotel told me he had gone to Anchorage for a holiday and never left, and I could understand why... Sylvia West's alluring account of a very special holiday will make you long to visit Alaska - though once there you may have second thoughts about a sight-seeing trip in a little plane.
...in a matter of weeks frogs appeared and set up home. It was always damp on the cap and after rain the water rose considerably: an ideal nursery for tadpoles. Just letting in the light had a wonderful effect. Fern spores drifted invisibly down and clung to the damp cracks in the bricks. Whatever else might refuse to grow, ferns never fail. It was a beautiful, delicate little cave, baby ferns sprouted everywhere, the frogs and froglets cavorted in the water, then climbed into the pipes to explore. The local cats tiptoed across the planks and didn’t fall in, stopping to stare at the baby froglife evolving below....
Sylvia West tells of the rediscovery of a long-unused well, and of the astonishing need which it now serves. And if you don't already know what a cenote is you will have to read through to the last paragraph of this wonderfully satisfying column to find out.
...The road has a top and a bottom, an up and a down, a slope that leads to a busy flow of traffic. Eight on one side and six on the other, and all the people smile! How lucky we are! How strange for a road to have a soul. It wasn’t always so, but now there’s an air of peace, of warmth and friendliness, and everybody shares...
Sylvia West, with a keen eye and ear tuned to the joys of nature, alert to good neighbourliness and the gentle tides of life, writes about a day in the life of the place where she lives.
Sylvia West tells a ghost story which will satisfyingly haunt your memory.
Do you encounter ghosts in the supermarket? Sylvia West has cause to wonder.
...It is a place of unbelievable excitement in my memory bank: a place of noise and working men and powerful coal-cutting machines, the end of the road, a blank, black wall of something buried deep in the rock that long ago was forest and tree ferns and more forest. This wonderful glittering seam of black diamonds used to be hacked out with pick-axes, but now they would cut it out, throw it on to a conveyor belt and take it away in the trucks to be sorted and washed and the shale discarded...
When Sylvia West was a little girl her father, the manager of a Somerset mine, took her 1,000 feet underground on Saturday mornings to show her where coal came from.
Sylvia recalls her father's dream of transforming a bare, black, unsightly mound of shale into an island of colour, a glorious splash of gold and orange among the workings of the mine.
...We had set out early this morning to sail to Native Point, a summer camping ground on a small island about three hours away. It is looked upon as a sacred place. We sailed in under a blue sky, and in twos were rowed to the shore in a skiff. The sand was strewn with creamy stones, the fine-ground silt of long-gone tropical seas, rock hard now and glinting with tiny facets of shell and the orange curl of miniscule crustaceans. Huge skulls of bowhead whale lay bleached and scoured by the wind, and everywhere between the glacier polished rocks were the bones of bear and arctic fox...
In diamond-bright words Sylvia West tells of a visit to the Inuit people who live at the top of Hudson Bay.
...every fold and crease in our brain tissue must hold the spores of every thought, every dream, every disaster we’ve ever known, yet how many of them take root and come to the surface to be recognised?...
Sylvia West recalls a teacher called Mrs Moss - and a wonderful moss-grown "wall'' of childhood memories.
...Oh please, can I come in?” he said. His voice was little more than a whisper...
The small middle-aged man and his dog are allowed into the hallway of a terrace house. And there he ambarks on that long and mysterious journey from which there is no return. Sylvia West tells of an astonishing event.
Arthur sets out to go to the chess club on a chilly September evening - and he does not return home. What can have happened to him? Sylvia West tells a sad story.
...There is a spring a little way up the hill, and it is the best tasting water in the world. It finds its way down to the valley bottom, and down there, in the depths, the dragonflies live and lay their eggs. They are the ballet dancers that we wait for. As if on cue, two or three rise up to greet the sunlight, then a few more, then more, and still more, until hundreds, maybe thousands, are dancing and swooping, gliding, floating, a few yards this way then back again...
Sylvia West paints an alluring portrait of a hidden valley in Portugal.
“Please tell Annmarie I’m so sorry to hear that her mum has died,” said a voice...
Sylvia West tells a true story about a fragmented family and a lonely lady.
...One year, my Grandma visited when the fair was due. Perhaps my younger sister was ill, but Gran was allowed to take me down the High Street, straight into the jaws of unrestricted pleasure. I’m sure I skipped away, and the clouds of “thou shalt not” were nowhere to be seen as we left the house and walked into the gentle noise of chatter and tinny roundabout music...
In this richly nostalgic must-read column Sylvia West paints a word portrait of her Grandma, and of a fair-day in a West Country village.
Sylvia West sees the deep wells of sadness and loneliness hidden in newspaper column personal ads, and suggests a cure for a great deal of unhappiness - hugs.
"If only hugs were mandatory in the world, and everyone was obliged to both give and receive them, can you imagine what a transformation would take place?''
"We all knew that Liz wanted more than anything to be married. Simply to be ‘a married woman’. The problem was that she had no social life at all, and no chance of meeting anyone, and she was on the wrong side of thirty, as they say. There seemed to be little chance of her dream becoming reality.'' But then she meets Tom the plumber... Sylvia West tells of a woman who finds a kind of happiness.
What gift should you get for the wife of a lottery winner? Sylvia West tells of a woman whose quality of life has faded to a murky grey.
Sylvia West introduces us to a man who goes barefoot into the supermarket - a man who years ago used to show up on her doorstep, egg in hand, asking if he could join her family for breakfast.
Sylvia West paints a vivid and tempting word portrait of an old derelict house in Portugal.
Sylvia has written a number of short stories for Open Writing. This is the first of her "fact'' articles to appear in our Web magazine. Watch out for further Interludes in the forthcoming weeks.