Happy birthday Trish Takes Five!

Trish is celebrating one year as a columnist for the Lincolnshire Free Press.
Trish is celebrating one year as a columnist for the Lincolnshire Free Press.
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TRISH TAKES FIVE: By award-winning blogger Trish Burgess

I would write 500 words... and I would write 500 more.

In fact, I do write 500 words every week for this column and have done for a year. Happy Birthday Trish Takes Five!

At first I made it a personal target to write a piece with exactly that number, before I realised the accompanying photo can be shrunk or increased to fit my story.

When I’m feeling very garrulous, I have been known to extend the column to such an extent that I fill most of the page. But, in the main, 500 words is just enough.

I am given free rein, within reason, to write about any topic. I try, if possible, to keep it local, so have written about theatre groups and my hankering for Pacey’s white rolls.

But as the idea is to just take up five minutes of your time, I might talk about holidays, car journeys and TV programmes. I’m very grateful to my husband who is often a great source of material: he is very accommodating and just rolls his eyes as I share stories about his love of whisky or his inability to decorate a florentine.

In effect, what I try to do is write ‘My News’ which I remember as a child was a weekly task I always relished. I would tell my teacher everything: all secrets from home were shared with her. I once wrote that my daddy thought she was lovely and that mummy was very cross. Needless to say my poor father was so embarrassed he refused to go along to parents’ evening the following week.

Looking back at my old story books, it’s a wonder I am able to make sense of them at all as, in the 1960s, my school had adopted the Initial Teaching Alphabet (ITA).

This was a system designed to help young children read and write, adding 14 extra characters to the alphabet to represent certain sounds.

It was a very bizarre method and lost favour when it became clear that some children found it difficult to transfer to the accepted alphabet at the age of seven.

‘School’ was written as ‘skwl’, ‘nice’ was ‘nies’ and ‘great’ was ‘graet’; the ‘a’ joined to the ‘e’. The teachers also had to mark the work using ITA.

At the end of one story, in traditional red pen, are the words ‘gwd sentensez’ and ‘eksellent’.

Across the country there will be many young children writing 500 words for the short story competition run by the BBC in association with Hay Fever, the family and children’s programme of the Hay Festival.

I know at Ayscoughfee Hall School, where I have been a governor for many years, the children have been working hard to create a piece of fiction they hope will impress the judges.

Keeping the story within the word limits is going to be tough. If any of them are unsure, use this column as a guide as it is exactly 500 words long.

Well, it is now.