The Breakfast Surprise

Breakfast Surprise (40x40cm)

**Words by Amber L-J**

Breakfast is important. In those first moments of your first meal, it sets the tone of the rest of your day. As a child, breakfast was crafted with fascination, from animal-shaped pancakes to intergalactic cereal; It almost felt like a small window to eat, before the contents of my plate would make their escape.

My favourite meal was a boiled egg, with regimented soldiers placed alongside and ready for combat. It is a ritualistic meal – tapping my spoon against the egg, removing the top and dipping the soldier into the salivating, saffron yolk. It is seemingly a quick meal, and I was always eager to start my day and escape from the ordinary into my wild imagination. But this was a moment that I would savour, leading to an unusually quiet morning in a house of frequent, chaotic energy.

To eat soldiers felt fit for a soldier, an occupation that I manifested for myself that day. But that could wait. I placed my cowboy gun nearby, ready to go should an epic battle present itself in the middle of my breakfast.

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Reunited Once More

Paula & Chris’ Village Wedding (70 x 100 cm)

**Words by Amber L-J**

A joyous wedding scene, with no masks or social distancing in sight.

A historical scene from our lives before the life-changing pandemic that has eclipsed 2020 and 2021 (so far).

The invisible enemy, which dominates all media coverage and conversation, has often left us feeling as if there is no end in sight.

England has made incredible leaps in medical science with a vaccine, the chance for the most vulnerable in society to be protected from the unpredictability of COVID-19. There is a steady progression, with the government hoping to vaccinate fifteen million people by mid-February.

A small but growing light shines in the dark.

Hopefully there is an end in sight, and with that lots of celebrations to be had. Whether that is the revival of a lockdown birthday, or a wedding without a restricted guest list. There may be no special occasion in mind, it may be as simple as hugging your loved ones without fear.

On our hands and knees, lost, our eyes have adjusted to the darkness. On our feet now, we slowly follow a guiding light to the door of the future.

Normality will no longer be something taken for granted, but something that is cherished.

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Winter Wellies and Hens

Winter Wellies and Hens (30 x 30cm)

**Words by Amber L-J**

I look through the frosted window of my front door, to see a blanket of snow resting on the chickens, soft but icy. Only their red beaks peak through, contrasting to the perfect white, as bright as the blank page of a new chapter.

Once the door is opened, the warm air is sucked out of my home into my glacial surroundings. The cold air pinches my cheeks, and rises in pearl clouds from my mouth with each breath. My wellies greet me at the doorstep, offering to protect my feet from the cold and slippery ground. Like Cinderella, they perfectly fit for the occasion.

The clean slate from the snow is marked with my brown boot marks, as I gingerly walk toward my velvety-plumaged companions. The hens look up and see me, with their fluffed-up feathers shielding the cold. They gather around my feet, and I lean down to pet them with my gloved hands.

I am reminded of snow days as a child, listening eagerly for news that schools were shut and the day was ours. I scoop a handful of soft snow, pressing my palms together until I have created a solid white globe. I throw aimlessly, as if in the midst of a snowball battle, and it lands in the white abyss. It is a day of quiet bliss, with only the muffled creaking of snow underfoot.

**Article Continued on Page Two**

The Bursting Buds of Spring

Bursting Buds (30x30cm)

**Words by Amber L-J**

The moment I’ve been waiting for.

The squeaky wheels of my friends bikes down the street and then, ‘Are you coming out to play?’

In my worn denim, only on the arches of my feet do I reach the windowsill and pull myself on the seat. I look out onto our garden, hoping to see the bright and beautiful colours of Spring.

The yellow daffodils and tulips are the first to bloom, firmly rooted and drinking in the sunshine. I look over to the orange roses, my favourite flower, and noticed their buds are still closed. Today brings the possibility of change, of growth and opening.

I look back to the gravel pathway and notice two new bicycles strewn across carefreely. I rush down the hallway, catapulting myself down the stairs using the banister. My trainers are placed by the front door tactfully by mum, which I put on whilst sitting on the doorstep, greeting my friends. After a lengthy debate, we decide to play hide and seek. Without warning, one child puts his hands over his eyes and we quickly scatter, the overcrowded flowers brushing our legs.

I lean against the large, ancient oak tree, with my fingers feeling the grooved bark. I slide down the trunk, making myself as small as possible.

There is a unique silence of this Saturday afternoon, with only muted counting in the distance. It opens my ears to the blossoming garden, closed buds pending. The orange roses behind me finally burst open, causing my head to swivel. Their bold and fiery petals fascinate and draw admiration, specifically a childlike wonder.

**Article continues on Page Two**

Charismatic Chickens: The Most Exotic Hen House

The Most Exotic Hen House (60x60cm)

**Words written by Amber L-J**

“At my grandmother’s house, there was one rule: no one was to sit on the dark pink, velvet sofa.

It always looked so inviting, with deep, sunken cushions encased by wide, pleated arms. But this was more of an aspirational piece than one of comfort, reserved for the most sophisticated company. With no family or friends meeting this unachievable standard, it was as if my grandmother was expecting a visit from royalty that never came.

This being said, a flock of pure, white hens with crimson beaks were treated as loyal pets which roamed the estate freely. But even their presence was not welcome anywhere near my grandmother’s most prized possession, with the living room door closed at all times.

One day, when my grandmother was moving to a new house, the family helped move her furniture outside in preparation for the moving van. The chickens were to travel with us.

A home which held so many fond memories, I walked through each vacant room, with only faded pencil marks left in the kitchen to mark the youth and growth spurts of myself and my siblings. Over the years, the chickens’ claws had scraped along each floorboard, also leaving their mark.

On that crisp, summer morning, as we say our final goodbye, I twist the door handle. A sudden gust of wind outside rushes through the wild flowers, with speckled sunlight dancing on the red-clay, earthen brick walls. This force of nature means a dramatic thud of the door fully ajar.

Before my grandmother can react, the chickens seize their opportunity; they dash outside, at different speeds but with the same destination in mind.
The most exotic, and the most forbidden, hen house.

As my grandmother looks on in pure exasperation, the chickens burrow down happily on the sofa cushions, basking in the sunshine.”

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