Perfect Family Tales And Other Trivia

The art of the short-story writer is that of the cartoonist. It is the magical craft of creating entire worlds with a few simple strokes of a pen. Tales told by an idiot? Maybe! But my tales are also a mix of reality and fantasy; truth and lies; some based on my own family; others, not. Readers must guess which characters are real; who are inventions - and who are an amalgam of both. Please draw the boundaries for yourself.

Friday, 25 September 2015

‘Why They Went AWOL’

“I have a story to tell about the opening of the film, Saving Private Ryan. This was about 17 years ago and my then best friend – I’m sad to say we’re no longer in touch - took me to a local premiere of the movie.

“Believe me, what happened to a bunch of old guys sitting in the audience behind us was just as frightening as some of the action on screen.

“It seemed so real, although it was a different time, a  different  campaign. I  felt  like  I  was  back  in   Vietnam, with bullets bouncing round my head and the stench of napalm everywhere.

“Yeah. It was the sound …  the uncannily realistic noise of bullets hitting flesh which made me put my head down. Once you hear it, you never forget it and if that doesn't turn you, I don't know what does.

“Then you see and hear skin ripped open.  Jagged  bones  stick  out.  Brains  splatter.  You  glimpse a  wrist without its familiar hand; a splintered femur sticking out of shredded meat where there was once a leg. And blood; there is always so much blood.

“My old friend was one of those gung-ho military types who wanted to join the armed forces for all the reasons war films scream at you. Eventually, he did.

“I think  he  managed  to  get into  a specialist air force unit. But as we lost  contact years ago, I’m not one hundred per cent sure.

“Anyway, at the time I didn't have a television so I knew nothing about the film except that it was a World War 2 story about a platoon and that it starred Tom Hanks. My friend was very excited about it and billed it as ''super-hard-core-realistic’.

“When we got our tickets and went to sit down, the studio was quite full and the centre rows were dominated by a crowd of about twenty old men. They all looked very serious and I had a distinct impression that they were war veterans.

“We sat several rows in front of them. Then the movie started. It’s D-Day and  we’re thrust immediately into a massive grinder without pity or remorse and we stared slack-jawed while men were turned into meat and sprayed about the beaches.

“I felt heavy, stunned and simultaneously desperate to look away and compelled to keep on watching while searching for  some sort of redemption that would rationalise all that death; justify the sacrifices made. But there was none.

“At last, night fell but the accompanying curtain of darkened silence crashed like a volley of gunfire from a hilltop.

“Then something made me turn around to see how the old guys had coped. But their  seats  were  empty.  They’d all sneaked out.

“We stayed to watch the rest of the  film,  somehow  stumbling  through  scene after scene of brutality and misery. Finally, it was over and as the credits rolled  I sighed a micro-mini yawn of relief.

“But that was short-lived. Before we left the building I needed to use the rest room and as I pushed open the door, I discovered the men who’d gone ‘AWOL’!

“They were all in there. Weeping. Some were clutching the wash basins hiding their faces. Others hid inside the toilet cubicles. A few were hugging one another while still more simply stood alone. Silent. They tried to hide their feelings but this  made things much worse.

“The  movie’s  opening  scenes had  dug  something up out of the souls of those men; something they'd buried and kept secret for God knows how long. It was so powerful they couldn't even get out the building before it broke them down.

“I reckon they shouldn't have been there. They should have been with family and friends; perhaps somewhere private where men may weep openly – shamelessly. They should have been on a couch, in a living room, like my grandfather, drinking buttermilk and watching The Price is Right.

“They should have been anywhere but that filthy, public toilet, in tears, trying to keep out of the way of the young men trotting in and out just to take a pee. It was much worse seeing that than anything the film had shovelled at me.

“There was nothing I could say or do. So I crept out. Wordless”.

DSC_0142 16x20_BW.jpg

Here’s Pete Seeger’s story behind Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

“I had been reading a long novel—And Quiet Flows the Don—about the Don River in Russia and the Cossacks who lived along it in the 19th century. It describes the Cossack soldiers galloping off to join the Czar’s army, singing as they go. Three lines from a song are quoted in the book:

‘Where are the flowers? The girls plucked them. Where are the girls? They’re all married. Where are the men? They’re all in the army’.

“I never got around to looking up the song, but I wrote down those three lines.

“Later, in an airplane, I was dozing, and it occurred to me that the line ‘long time passing’—which I had also written in a notebook—would sing well. Then I thought, ‘When will we ever learn.’ Suddenly, within 20 minutes, I had a song. There were just three verses. I stuck the lyrics to a microphone and sang it at Oberlin College. This was in 1955.

“One of the students there had a summer job as a camp counsellor. He took the song to the camp and sang it to the kids. It was very short. He gave it rhythm, which I hadn’t done. The kids played around with it, singing:

‘Where have all the counsellors gone?  Open curfew, everyone’.

“The counsellor added two actual verses:

‘Where have all the soldiers gone?  Gone to graveyards every one.  Where have all the graveyards gone?  Covered with flowers every one’.

Joe Hickerson is his name, and I give him 20 per cent of the royalties. That song still brings in thousands of dollars from all around the world”.

  • No matter the war – or the era - the savagery is the same. The above is amalgam and lightly fictionalised version of the candid thoughts expressed by contributors to the website about Steven Spielberg’s film, Saving Private Ryan. 

Natalie Wood

(© Natalie Irene Wood – 25 September 2015)

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Alwayswriteagain: כתיבה וחתימה טובה 5776

Alwayswriteagain: כתיבה וחתימה טובה 5776: With every good wish for a happy, healthy and sweet Jewish New Year, 5776 from Natalie Wood and Brian Fink in Karmiel, Galilee, Israel. ...

Sunday, 28 June 2015

‘The Price of Love’

Wedding.Dress.NoteThe day I proposed to Eunice was Saturday 20 July 1957.

A big day for us during an exciting period for Britain.

“Most of our people have never had it so good”, Prime Minister Harold MacMillan told a Tory party meeting just about the time I was down on one knee in the front room at Eunice’s childhood home in Garforth, Leeds.

And the joy seemed infectious, because an hour later as I turned on the radio to listen to the day’s sports results, I heard that Formula One stars, Stirling Moss and Tony Brooks had won the tenth British Grand Prix motor race  at Aintree  near Liverpool.

So as a newly engaged man and car enthusiast, I felt as though I’d won a major trophy of my own. I was in heaven!

Everything kept getting better and when, two years on almost to the day, we were wed at the local church, life seemed nothing short of wonderful.

I remember turning round and gasping as Eunice almost floated up the aisle towards me in a gown  designed and mostly hand-stitched by her mother. She was  a bespoke seamstress who had told me drily some weeks before, “When you see our girl in her frock, there’ll be no hidden label or snipped sales tag. You can’t put a price on love”.

Sure enough, my girl – yes, she was now ‘my’ girl -  looked gorgeous. Her long, slender frame and tiny waist were set off to perfection in the gown which was made from ivory lace with a floral motif, whose embellishments – so I was reliably informed – included  a peplum and a net underskirt.

We thought we were really grand as we’d saved enough to put down a deposit on our house in Garforth with a five day honeymoon in Bridlington.

“Bridlington - very bracing!”, said Eunice’s Dad with a wink as he booked our wedding breakfast at Castle Grove Masonic Hall in Headingley.

But all that seems so long ago. The years of working in the bank and helping to raise our beloved daughters  seem to have vanished in a trace.

My darling girl has now left me  after 56 years, her lovely face and figure ravaged by  a horrible illness so bravely borne in her final weeks with the devoted help of the staff at the local hospice.

Wedding.Dress.NoteI don’t want my name  revealed, but must say that I decided to donate the dress to the charity shop connected to the hospice after I found it lying wrapped in tissue in a box at the bottom of Eunice’s wardrobe. I wish any lady who takes this dress to have a life with her loved one for 56 years like I did. I was a lucky man to marry a lady like mine.

Some weeks after I left the parcel at the shop, I was astounded to learn that television and newspaper reporters were interested in what I did and that I’ve caused a bigger kerfuffle in a few days than either Eunice or I ever made in our entire married lives! It can only be because people are intrigued by the unsigned note I pinned to the gown when I left it to be sold.

I’ve now let the shop staff know my identity and they have promised to keep that private.

But I’ve saved the best bit to last: The shop manager decided to auction the dress via eBay rather than to sell it direct. She received a flood of enquiries from places as far apart as the USA, Australia and even Hong Kong. The result was amazing as despite the dress having a few minor flaws, the sale netted £2,910. I can’t believe it as that’s £500.00 more than we paid for our first house! It’s very difficult for me to get my head round that. Never mind. I am elated that the dress has raised so much money. Thanks so much to everyone, I'm very proud.

Natalie Wood

(© Natalie Irene Wood – 28 June 2015)

Sunday, 24 May 2015

‘A Witness to Israeli Racism Speaks Out’

Anna Grynhaus, Social Affairs Editor,

Liberal Israel and Modern Orthodox Rabbi René Bloch examine the tensions tearing the fabric of Israeli society.


I was dashing through my office door, desperate to join our news team on Rabin Square, Tel Aviv, when René Bloch rushed past,  almost knocking me flat!

Ethiopians.01Apologies and explanations brief, Bloch suggested that we go together to observe the Ethiopian protests first-hand.

Soon we were dodging police stun grenades and water cannon as we  pushed our way          through  the huge and increasingly violent mob screaming for minority rights.

With little time to think, it barely occurred to me that the riots were happening  on the streets between Liberal Israel’s offices and the square named after the premier whose legacy is synonymous with peace.

Then Bloch shouted: “Protest? A rally against racism? It looks like another war zone!”

All this had begun when I  arranged to meet him to discuss his experiences fighting racism inside the IDF during last year’s war in Gaza.

We had been due to discuss minorities other than Ethiopians. But events overtook us when the protests erupted and Bloch arrived before I could postpone our date.

He is among veterans of Operation Protective Edge who feel some              personnel lost their sense of morality during the campaign and he came to this magazine, hoping that we’d offer him  a platform for his views.


A French immigrant with experience of physical antisemitism in his home-country, he  found it ‘inexplicable’ that the Israeli police should brutalise anyone – let alone those from an ethnic minority.

How could they “even consider striking a uniformed soldier without provocation? Soldiers and police are like first cousins. After all, they both protect fellow citizens”, he said.

In civilian life, Bloch is an academic attached to Tel Aviv University. But he has also seen action in several wars and was promoted to the rank of staff sergeant during the campaign.

Below  is his verbatim view of how the  underlying schisms of Israeli society are cracking its democratic facade.


«Today’s events are just the sort of situation I predicted – and dreaded – when I argued with my military colleagues.

“Many times in the mess hall I found myself to be an appalled, powerless witness – a mere bystander - to the unashamed naked racism I met, even within my own unit.

I approached Liberal Israel to set the record straight when the magazine learnt – mistakenly - from my friend – your correspondent - Yotem Levi that I’d suffered racial abuse from other personnel.

“That’s not true. But what is undeniable is that there’s another war erupting on our streets and it’s a battle we must all join to repair the integrity of Israeli society.


“In France, yes, I was a victim. But here in Israel I am safe because I am white and European. Yet as an ordinary serving soldier, I felt ashamed -personally betrayed - by other men’s naked prejudices and their hate speech.

“My unit is formed mainly by people who come from middle to low socio-economic backgrounds. During the war, they made murderous remarks about whether or not to kill Arabs. Even genocide was justified. The talk became quite hysterical.

“Some people insisted that all Arabs were terrorists and then went on to make other hateful remarks.

“There are no Arabs in my unit. But there are Druze and they never make racist remarks. Instead, I heard extremist views expressed by both religious and very secular Jews – like Russians. Their views may sound different but the end result is the same.


“Undemocratic values go hand in hand with the views they express. They even talk about wanting to have an apartheid kind of system where Israeli Arabs don't have any rights; or accuse anyone who dissents from the mainstream of being a traitor. I was – still am - very frightened to think that these people may hold the majority view in Israeli society and that among them were those who recently helped to elect the new government.

“Did I punish them for their hate speech? Even with the rank of staff sergeant, I do not have that authority. I do not have a command. They are my peers.

“I have never tried to talk them out of what they say, because I have to continue living and working with them and want to avoid conflict. But how I did not scream out in rage, I don’t know.

“Their divisive talk is not about envy or only about poor education – although both play a part. The culprits are racist because they wish to differentiate between ethnic groups in society and want this difference to be enshrined in law, even to the point of Arab citizens losing the right to vote or having basic health care. They say Arab ‘lives are not important. It's O.K. to attack Arab citizens as a response to Palestinian violence against Jews’.

“So, yes. Whether we discuss Arabs or Jewish ethnic minorities, I think it's both about poor education and the type of upbringing that doesn't sanctify democratic values and equality under the Law. The remedy must lie with legislation that protects equality while punishing racism and racist activity. Even more important perhaps, we need education that teaches pluralistic and democratic values. But I worry that neither of these are presently possible under an administration that looks like becoming ever more right-wing and undemocratic.

“When we arranged to meet, you asked me about the controversy surrounding Arab Knesset member Hanin Zoabi because of her actions during the last war.

“Ideally, I support all Knesset members’ right to express their views, especially when they represent a section of the population that is not often heard. But there must be a limit to that freedom of expression should it endanger State security or is extremely offensive to some citizens (like justifying murder).

“Yet I’m unsure if such behaviour causes racism. It already exists. But certainly, it does nothing to help to combat it.» 


Mark.UlyseasThis piece first appeared in the June 2015 edition of Live Encounters magazine ( edited by Mark Ulyseas, a faithful supporter of Israel and all matters Jewish.

Natalie Wood

(© Natalie Irene Wood – 24 May 2015)

Saturday, 23 May 2015

‘On First Looking into Hitchcock’s Holocaust’

“Then felt I like some watcher of the skies”

(On First Looking into Chapman's Homer -

John Keats)

“I can’t believe my own eyes” gasped Yehuda Danzig, even as he dabbed away the tears. 


“There’s me. Look – look – Michael – it’s us. Do you  recognise the picture  snapped at Bergen-Belsen Nazi concentration camp in April 1945 soon after we were set free? We’re on the right – I’m in the dark cap - and you’re just behind me wearing a light cap.

“It’s brought it all back: how a fragment of our family somehow survived a nightmare labyrinthine journey from home in Czechoslovakia with stops at transit and labour camps and then  a death march,  only to arrive at Belsen in late summer 1944.

“You remember that Stepmother was there but that Dad had been separated from us and died at Berga concentration camp?

“Our other brother was there, too, but only one sister as the other, who was disabled, spent the war in an institution.

“I’m aged 82 now, Michael, but still I shiver uncontrollably when I think of the incessant, unrelenting outdoor roll calls that took place, no matter the weather. They were absolute murder during the winter.

“We had practically nothing to eat; no water and we were covered with lice from head to toe. We all had typhus and we all behaved like zombies.

“Then, when on a day in April 1945 we  were suddenly told ‘you are free!’, the words were meaningless. It was a British soldier who had spoken and it was only when his words were translated into German that we began to understand. But when we tried to go outside we discovered that the piles of dead bodies had not been collected and they were stacked so high we couldn’t get out of the barracks.

“Then the British sent us to a nearby displaced persons’ camp while they razed the Nazi camp to the ground. I guess the photograph was taken about two weeks after we were freed as we look quite clean and better fed. We didn’t stay with our liberators for long as we were anxious to return home.

“But when we arrived we almost wished we hadn’t bothered as the only other relative to have survived was an uncle who had lived out the war in hiding.

“Then about three years later, a British rabbi visited our town and took us three boys to the UK. Then you and I re-located here to Toronto, Canada but were separated again when we were fostered by different families.

“I went on to study electronics at technical school, became involved in the Habonim Zionist youth movement and lived in Israel during the 1950s. I came back here in 1958 where I married my darling Etty – a fellow Habonim member. We have two sons and four grandchildren.

“I have to tell you, Michael, that I never told my kids what happened to me until they were adults. Now, not only do they each have a copy of the testimony I’ve given to the Shoah (Holocaust) Foundation but also the wonderfully clear monochrome still image of us from  Alfred Hitchcock’s documentary film that he directed 70 years ago – just as we were freed.

“Don’t you think we look strangely happy – even carefree – although we’re grinning at the cameraman through slats in a barbed wire fence?

“Michael – you’ve been very quiet while I’ve babbled on. Michael? Mikey? Oh, no! I’ve  just remembered something else. You’re not here - are you? I’ve been chatting to myself. You’re were my dear, sweet kid brother. Three years my junior and you left me 18 months ago. This time, even with my wife’s help, I can’t start over again”. Yehuda.Danzig.-02jpg


Author’s Note: Source: The Times of Israel :-

German Concentration Camps Factual Survey, a Holocaust documentary film made 70 years ago, was produced by Sidney Bernstein for the British Ministry of Information. Its original purpose had been to document the liberation of the German concentration camps in 1945 and to provide evidence of the atrocities to the German public.  Alfred Hitchcock was initially credited as "treatment adviser” to  the project.

Natalie Wood

(© Natalie Irene Wood – 23 May 2015)

Saturday, 9 May 2015

The End of

John.StrotherIn announcement that could well be the opener for a micro-mystery, Jon Strother of has announced the closure of the website.

But he insists that the community of flash writers will live on.

Strother says: “I am sorry to announce that after nearly seven years running our website, will be closing.

“However, Friday Flash is not going away.

“We have a great community here, and I don't see that changing anytime soon. Thanks to all who have contributed to the site over the years”.

Writers will continue to use the site’s Facebook page to post links to their stories and I shall still pen  PerfectlyWriteFamilyTales  with a view to their Frdayflashappearing in ebook format.

Wishing all my fellow flashers well in their many endeavours.

Natalie Wood

(© Natalie Irene Wood –09 May 2015)

Sunday, 29 March 2015

‘The Best of the Rest –a Modern Fairy Tale’

Thou hast nor youth nor age,

But, as it were, an after-dinner's sleep,

Dreaming on both’ 

(Act 3, Scene 1, ‘Measure for Measure’,

William Shakespeare)

Sleeping Beauty woke up and rubbed her eyes but didn’t recognise where she was.

“I feel like I’ve slept for a hundred years”, she said.

“You have”, said the handsome prince who’d just kissed her on the hand. “There’s such a thing as too much kip. C’mon, kiddo. We’ve got work to do”.

And without a further word, he swept her off the bed, on to her feet and helped her skip down twenty flights of the castle’s ultra swish stairs so she could see what had happened to the people of her little kingdom while she had been snoozing.

Unlike Princess Aurora, as she was popularly known, everyone else in Kalachi, Kazakhstan was afraid to fall asleep.


Almost every fourth person in the tiny, 600-strong community – including children and some animals –   had been affected by a sinister sleeping sickness.

One woman granted an audience said, “Please, forgive my impertinence Your Royal Highness but I have to say that you and I -  we’re just the same”.

“I don’t think so. Who might you be, my good woman?”

“I might be dead. But thankfully I am still alive – if only just. My name is Lyubov Bilkova and like many of your other subjects I’ve suffered a mystery illness that makes people fall asleep for no reason and then remain unconscious for days.

“This has happened to me eight times. One moment I’m talking, the next I’m asleep. Also, at other times I’m still awake and – oh, dear this is so embarrassing – but people start to think I’m drunk!”

“Are you?”

“Of course not,  Your Royal Highness! I’m tee-total. I’m also a highly-skilled fine seamstress and you were warned not to enter the sewing room while I was working, But as usual, you did not listen to your dear, late mother. A typical sixteen-year-old, if I may say so”.

“No, you may not – on pain of death. Otherwise, carry on. Do!”

“So, as we all say, one moment you can be talking normally to your friends and the next - you’re asleep …”

“What else happens?”, asked Princess Aurora, now more sympathetic as she realised this had also affected her.

 “Often, we feel weak, can’t talk properly or remember things well. Even when we don’t fall fully asleep, we feel sort of drowsy or even drugged.

“Sometimes I’ve slept twice round the clock and my best friend once slept for a whole week. When she did wake up, she was so confused she started seeing weird things and the doctor had to calm her down”.

“Goodness me! Anything else?” asked the princess, now genuinely agitated.

“Yes, one day several school kids in one class  all drifted off  together”.

“Are you sure it wasn’t simply a boring lesson?”

“No, Your Royal Highness. This is a really serious story; not a fairy tale, despite what comes next.

“In January this year, a woman claimed that her cat was struck by the disease. She said it fell into a sort of comMada following a bizarre outburst of hyperactivity in the early hours of one morning that saw it attack her dog and then bite her”.

Princess Aurora was now deeply upset and consulted the most learned medical team in the land. But they were baffled. All they knew was the same as everyone else:

The disease seemed to strike in ‘waves’. It appeared more common during a thaw than when the ground froze and was apparent also when the wind blew from a particular direction.

Then one royal adviser had the temerity to express the painful truth.

When Sleeping Beauty’s mum and dad were on the throne they had traded with the kingdom next door.

Kalachi, he pointed out, lay adjacent  to Krasnogorsk, an old mining town that had produced uranium ore for nuclear weapons until the late 1980s. Concentrations of radon at that particular place remained four or five times above normal. And there were still uranium ore mines nearby. Maybe,” he said, “the problem comes from there”.


Author’s Note:  “Sleeping sickness traps Kazakh town in waking nightmare” (


Natalie Wood

(© Natalie Irene Wood – 29 March 2015)