The Elastic Band Theory Article V | Local artist sells elastic effigy of Botticelli’s ‘The Birth of Venus’ to the highest bidder

Article I

Article II

Article III

Article IV

By Connor St. James, local reporter

3rd March

Upton Chipping-on-the-River resident Ms. Tiffany Crawley has sold a life-sized depiction of Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus, for the sum of £100,000.

Ms. Crawley, a Glaswegian artist who has lived in the Turks and Caicos Islands, sold her most famous work in a bidding war that lasted over four hours. Ms. Crawley’s elastic band sculptures were recently displayed in the Upton Chipping-on-the-River Town Hall Museum and Gallery and were not for sale, but Ms. Crawley told us, ‘the price of rubber has increased so much in the last few months, it felt prudent to sell while I could. I’m planning to move to the Cayman Islands with my husband, with whom I have decided to reconcile after a separation of 15-20 years without parole.’

The buyer is said to be one Barbara Ophelia Nightingale Masters-Preston, whose shipping and packaging business has suffered greatly since the UK supply of elastic bands plummeted over the winter. ‘I’ll dismantle her slowly,’ Mrs. Nightingale Masters-Preston was heard telling neighbours. ‘Venus’s arm alone will ease the packaging backlog I’ve had.’

It is not known what Ms. Crawley will do with her other elastic band sculptures, although it is estimated that their combined worth could be up to £150,000,000.


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Thank you to Liz for the critique!

© Francesca Burke 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Francesca Burke and francescaswords.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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The Elastic Band Theory Article IV | Rubber price soars as UK faces shortage

Article I

Article II

Article III

By Connor St. James, local reporter

22nd January

The price of rubber in the UK has soared this week to record levels.

Leaf blight has infected rubber trees in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, the site of most of the world’s rubber plantations, since last October. Given that over 60% of rubber is synthetic and derives from petroleum, the leaf blight did not initially cause panic in the rubber industry. The onset of violent protests erupting across the Middle East due to President Donald Trump’s latest late-night Twitter session, however, is driving up the price of crude oil from Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. All available oil is stock being purchased by corporations and sovereign states with swift proficiency, especially after a United Nations spokesperson said last week ‘forget North Korea, Word War III will be the result of every Middle Eastern nation uniting against President Trump. Well, at least he can say he’s brought people together.’

This series of events seems to have caused a shortage of items such as car tyres and elastic bands, because no one had thought to stock up on both natural rubber and crude oil, and production of rubber-based items has plummeted. Prices of elastic bands in local stationery shops has increased exponentially over the last two months, with one rubber band now costing around £5.


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Thank you to Liz for critiquing! Part V (the final part!) is available for patrons on 12th February and online here on 15th February.

© Francesca Burke 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Francesca Burke and francescaswords.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Elastic Band Theory Article III | Local resident holds rubber band sculpture exhibition

Article I

Article II

By Connor St. James, local reporter

20th December

Upton Chipping-on-the-River resident Tiffany Crawley has been named as the Upton Chipping-on-the-River Town Hall Museum and Gallery resident artist over the Christmas period.

Ms. Crawley is an elastic band sculptor, and has made almost fifty sculptors from elastic bands in the past four years alone. Pieces on display include a life-sized depiction of Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus, complete with shell and accompanying gods, and a nativity scene with a crib that will fit a real baby. There is also a donkey that visitors are welcome to sit on, a wearable pair of shoes and a set of fully usable armchairs, for which Ms. Crawley has knitted several woolen covers. Also available to view are a set of rings and necklaces, a vest (women’s size 12–14), a snowman based on the Disney character ‘Olaf’ and a scale basket of fruit. The sculptures can weigh several kilograms each due to their density, and can use several thousand elastic bands.

None of the sculptures are for sale, according to Ms. Crawley, ‘because I love my creations too much to part with them. I live alone and am separated from my husband, so I derive great pleasure from my work.’

Ms. Crawley creates every sculpture from scratch, weaving rubber bands together until they resemble the shape she requires. She estimates that she spends around five thousand pounds per year on elastic bands, which she sources from various local shops and some online retailers. ‘I bought the entire stock from the local corner shop once,’ she laughs, ‘and they asked me not to go back without fair warning. So now I shop around, pop into WH Smith or see what there is on eBay. I like natural coloured bands the best, but luminous novelty ones come in handy for appliqueing the finishing touches to a design.’

CORRECTION

By Connor St. James, local reporter

21st December

In the article ‘Local resident holds rubber band sculpture exhibition’, published 20th December, we stated that Ms. Tiffany Crawley spends five thousand pounds per year on elastic bands. That was a misprint. Ms. Crawley spends five thousand pounds on elastic bands per month.


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Thank you to Liz for critiquing, as always. Article IV is available for patrons on 7th February and online here on 11th February.

© Francesca Burke 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Francesca Burke and francescaswords.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Elastic Band Theory Article II | Local residents’ association Facebook group mistaken for terrorist cell

Article I

By Connor St. James, local reporter

18th November

A local residents’ Facebook group was investigated by police this week after incendiary and violent language was flagged up on Facebook’s system.

Police raided the home of Mrs. Barbara Ophelia Nightingale Masters-Preston, president of the Wisteria Avenue Residents’ Group (WARG) which was holding its fortnightly meeting in her conservatory, on Tuesday afternoon. The Facebook group chat was deemed to be a potential threat to public safety after members of the group suggested ‘torching’ a neighbour’s front lawn, ‘executing’ a garden ornament and ‘putting an end to all the foreign rubbish in this country.’

Mrs. Nightingale Masters-Preston, who was released without charge, told reporters, ‘we weren’t inciting terrorism! We were figuring out how to remove an ugly statue from our neighbour’s front lawn! And I told Rupert not to keep calling Remain voters ‘foreign rubbish’, especially since he has an aunt in Spain, but he never listens.’

The Wisteria Avenue Residents’ Group has been banned under the Terrorism Act 2000.


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Thank you to Liz for critiquing! Article III coming 2nd February for patrons; online  6th February.

© Francesca Burke 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Francesca Burke and francescaswords.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Elastic Band Theory Article I | Local homeowners complain about neighbour’s elastic garden ornaments

By Connor St. James, local reporter

4th September

Residents of Wisteria Avenue, Upton Chipping-on-the-River, have officially complained to Upton Chipping-on-the-River Council about the eccentric garden ornament choices of their neighbour, Ms. Tiffany Crawley.

According to the Wisteria Avenue Residents’ Group (WARG), Ms. Crawley, who is originally from Glasgow, is thought to have moved to the Cotswolds eight years ago from the Turks and Caicos Islands. During that time she has become infamous for eccentric behavior, such as adding infrared CCTV cameras and booby traps to her home, and installing a small moat around her house. The real issue arose, however, when she installed an unusual statue on her front lawn: a life-sized effigy of Sandro Botticelli’s paining The Birth of Venus, made entirely from elastic bands.

‘We could cope with the moat,’ said Mrs. Barbara Ophelia Nightingale Masters-Preston, President of WARG. ‘We don’t mind that she’s a bit eccentric, because she always says hello when she goes into the shops and always stops in to the local town hall meetings. We don’t mind that she occasionally has international guests and throws parties that last into the small hours and never invites us. We don’t even mind that she voted Remain, because obviously she is from Turkey. But we do mind about her strange fascination with making things from elastic bands. The statue is an eyesore, and it must be removed.’

It seems that in the past eight years, Ms. Crawley has purchased around 80,000 rubber bands in different shapes and sizes, and has constructed small models out of them. A drawbridge made from woven elastic bands crosses her moat. She wears a necklace made from elastic bands on a regular basis. When contacted for comment, Ms. Crawley would only say, ‘I’m not from Turkey, although I don’t know why that would have anything to do with my Brexit vote. Or my elastic bands.’

‘We all know that she earnt her money in… unsavory circumstances,’ Mrs. Nightingale Masters-Preston told us. ‘She’s really quite open about the fact she used to be married to a drug lord or a people trafficker or an investment banker. I mean, she’s never said which, but when tax season rolls around she’s always joking about shell companies in the Cayman Islands and recommending that we all think of inventive ways to tie up our assets. But that just does not excuse those awful statues!’

Mrs. Crawley has refused to remove the statue, which has become something of a tourist attraction and has its own account on Instagram. As there is no law against lawn ornaments, it seems that lodging an official complaint with the local council is the only thing WARG can do.


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Thank you to Liz for critiquing! Article II coming 28th January for patrons; online 31st January.

© Francesca Burke 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Francesca Burke and francescaswords.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Sea Witch’s Revenge Part III

Part I / Part II

‘So you will ask your grandfather tonight?’

‘Yeah. We always have him round for dinner. I’ll… I’ll see you at school tomorrow?’

Roger nodded. ‘Good luck.’

The next day Roger didn’t cross paths with Jimmy once. Given the size of their school, this was a cause of mild concern. Perhaps Jimmy had made it home only to realise he was insane and hallucinating mythological creatures and skipped school to recover. That’s what Roger had considered. But at the end of the day, as Roger headed for the gates, Jimmy caught up with him.

‘Granddad gave me this.’ Jimmy pulled a small bronze telescope from his pocket. ‘I told him everything, and he admitted he had a ‘brief romantic encounter’ with a sea witch at some point during the 1940s. I refused to ask any more questions. He said that explained why I had refused to go fishing with him for the last six months. He was quite relieved, actually, he thought I was distracted over a girl.’

‘What a relief,’ Roger agreed. They did not speak again until they reached the beach.

There she was, lurking in the surf. Her hair, on second viewing, appeared to be made of seaweed.

Jimmy stopped, wincing. ‘I can’t go any further.’ He handed Roger the telescope. ‘Tell the hag that my grandfather apologised for stealing her coral. He would have come himself, except he’s got one leg and several cats to look after.’ He paused. ‘We’ll know if this works because I’ll be able to join you.’

Roger approached the beach feeling like he was approaching a dog of questionable repute.

‘I’m quite surprised you’re here, dearie,’ the hag said. Her black eyes never left his face. ‘I wasn’t, to be honest, expecting to see you this far down the beach again.’

‘I imagine you weren’t,’ Roger agreed. He inhaled salty air and wondered how Jimmy had stayed sane all those months, staring at the sea but never stepping towards it. ‘Here, I have something for you.’ He held out the telescope. ‘From James I, with deepest apologies and kindest regards. He would have come himself, except he’s got one leg and several cats to look after.’

The hag stared. Roger imagined no one had managed to surprise her for at least sixty years. ‘How did you know?’ she asked. Roger pointed back up the beach.

‘The thing is,’ he said, ‘if you’re going to try to curse somebody around here, you should probably check they don’t go to school with somebody you’ve already cursed. Or that they don’t know the sailor who broke your heart and stole your tropical plants.’

‘Fair,’ the hag said grudgingly. There was a silence during which a small crab made its way from the end of a strand of her hair to the top of her head, where it buried itself. She exhaled. ‘Well, I suppose my coral is dead after all these years. This telescope is… well, also not alive.’

‘That’s true,’ Roger said swiftly. ‘But you were never going to get your coral back, alive or dead, because you banish everyone who touches it from the sea for eternity.’

‘You may have a point,’ she admitted. ‘But what do I get in all of this? I have no coral and no revenge on you ridiculous humans.’

‘Well, now you have a new ornament for your tropical plant collection. Gardens could always do with a bit of decoration, don’t you think?’ Buying gifts for his grandmother had come in useful, after all. ‘And wanting something you can’t have takes its toll eventually.’

‘I suppose you’re right.’ The hag sighed. ‘Very well. I, Mildred of the North Sea, do accept this gift as compensation for my loss, and henceforth lift all curses inflicted upon anyone I have deceived.’

‘Your name is Mildred?’

‘Your name is Roger,’ she pointed out. ‘I didn’t judge you for that.’

‘True,’ Roger agreed, ‘sorry.’

‘You know, I could still give you that potion,’ Mildred offered. Now she clutched her telescope, the teeth missing from her mouth appeared to be growing back. Her hair was starting to look a bit less seaweed-y and even the stench of rotting fish was receding. Maybe Jimmy was right: harbouring emotional baggage aged you.

Roger thought about it. ‘I’m all right, thanks.’

Mildred shrugged. ‘If you ever need me, wade into the sea and shout my name. I probably won’t try to drown you.’

‘Thanks,’ Roger said, and watched as she disappeared into sea foam. He wondered where the crab would go when her hair turned back into hair.

Jimmy joined him at the water’s edge. ‘Why didn’t you take the potion?’

‘How did you know?’

Jimmy crossed his arms. ‘Lucky guess.’

Roger exhaled. ‘I thought I might… stick around for a bit. What about you?’

‘Yeah, I was thinking about doing the same.’

‘So,’ Roger said as they walked up the beach, ‘did you pay to enter the museum every single day?’


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Thank you to Liz for critiquing, as always.

© Francesca Burke 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Francesca Burke and francescaswords.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Sea Witch’s Revenge Part II

Part I

‘Are you here to steal the coral?’

‘Maybe,’ Roger replied. Jimmy stuffed his hands in his pockets.

‘That coral carries a curse. If you touch it, you’ll never be able to go near the sea again.’

Roger found he was not surprised. In fact, if he examined his feelings, he would discover that he was more shocked that Jimmy knew his name.

‘I can prove there’s a curse,’ Jimmy said after one of those awkward silences that gets worse the longer you leave it. ‘I mean, if you want to know I’m not lying.’

‘All right.’ Roger followed Jimmy down the path he had taken from the beach as seagulls danced above them. Not ten feet from the shingle, Jimmy stopped. He gazed at the horizon as he waited for Roger to understand.

‘You got cursed,’ Roger realised. ‘You… can’t go near the sea anymore?’ To be honest, they were already fairly close to the sea. Close enough for most people, anyway.

‘Nope.’ Jimmy squinted out at the beach. ‘I mean, I physically can’t. If I try to walk any closer-’ he stepped forward then stopped abruptly like a cartoon character who had just walked into a glass wall. ‘I can’t move any further. Not that I’d want to try, though, because the closer I am to the sea – or that bloody coral – the more I get these awful headaches. It’s like I can hear the sea inside my head, screaming at me.’ He said it lightly, like he was describing a migraine, but Roger caught the edge in his voice. ‘I tried to take the coral to the sea hag,’ Jimmy continued, ‘but when I realised I couldn’t reach the sea I put it back. I thought that might un-curse me.’ He shrugged. ‘No luck.’

‘Why did you do a deal with the sea hag?’ Roger asked. What could a boy born to thrive in a large city’s financial sector want with a bit of coast on the edge of the map?

Jimmy pointed up the gulls.

‘You want to be a seagull?’

Jimmy laughed, taken aback. ‘I want to fly.’

‘Oh.’ Roger allowed himself a moment of embarrassment.

That, too, got worse the longer he left it.

‘I want to breathe underwater,’ Roger confessed.

Jimmy’s mouth quirked. ‘You want to be a fish.’

‘Sea person,’ Roger corrected. Jimmy waited. ‘I don’t like this town,’ Roger admitted. ‘It’s too full of people who know your full name. I’ve always wanted to be able to leave whenever I like.’

Jimmy nodded. ‘But it’s hard to leave.’

‘Not if you’re good at school,’ Roger argued. ‘Not if you’ve got a family who would be proud to wave you off to sunnier climates.’ Not if your name isn’t Roger.

Jimmy shrugged. The handknitted sweater was a little bit worn on the shoulder seam. ‘There are things other than bad grades that keep you in this town.’ Roger nodded. His hands were starting to feel cold as he had forgotten to put his gloves on, but there are times when one must forfeit comfort for a seminal conversation with the most popular boy in school, especially if that boy has just confessed that he experiences excoriating pain on a regular basis. ‘I like my family and I like my life,’ Jimmy continued, oblivious to Roger’s goosebumps, ‘but I’ve always wanted to be able to, well, fly away.’

They stood until drizzle started to fall. Roger tried not to think about the hope he had allowed to grow in his chest while he was talking to the sea hag.

‘I’m sorry,’ Jimmy said eventually. ‘I know how tempting that deal is.’

‘That’s okay,’ Roger managed. ‘I’ll find another way,’

Jimmy, to his credit, did not enquire further. Roger, to his credit, did not ask how Jimmy had met the sea hag himself.

‘I want to stop her from cursing anyone else,’ Roger decided. ‘I’ve not got the time to come and stop the next person she meets.’

‘You think I had the time to come and stop you?’ Jimmy asked drily.

Roger immediately felt bad. Clearly Jimmy had less going for him than his aura suggested. Roger wondered if he had a family business to look after – or, worse, just members of his family. ‘How did you know I’d come to the museum today?’ Roger asked.

‘I’ve come to the museum every day since I was cursed,’ Jimmy said, stuffing his hands back into his pockets. ‘I didn’t want anyone else to get cursed either.’

‘Am I the first person you’ve met trying to steal the coral?’

‘Yeah.’

‘How long ago were you cursed?’

‘About six months.’

Six months of voluntarily returning to a place that caused horrific agony. The longer this conversation continued, the more Roger realised how badly he had misjudged the charismatic star of his science class.

‘I did some research on sea hags when it first happened,’ Jimmy said tentatively. ‘The legends vary, but often sea witches are meant to be really proud and hate sailors.’

‘We gathered that,’ Roger pointed out.

‘Yes,’ Jimmy said, with the manner he took when he answered an obvious question in a lesson. ‘But what if we made it up to her? We could ask for an exchange. Something in return for un-cursing everyone.’

‘I would suggest giving her coral back,’ Roger mused, ‘but since you’re the only one of us who can touch it and I’m the only one who can reach the sea, that might go badly. Besides, I don’t think she really wants it back. If she did, she wouldn’t curse everyone who tries to bring it to her. I think she’s doing it because she’s wants revenge on humans for stealing from her. Maybe… maybe we could give her something she would appreciate, like something of the sailor who stole the coral originally.’

An eye for an eye, or thereabouts, felt suitably logical. Roger felt rather like he was organising a birthday present for his grandmother.

‘About that…’ for the first time all afternoon, James looked uncomfortable. ‘I think I know who the sailor was.’

‘Wait, you’re not him, are you?’ Roger demanded. ‘You weren’t also cursed to live forever and haunt the museum?’

‘What? No! It’s, um…’ James cleared his throat. ‘He… he was my grandfather. James I. He was a sailor, and my dad is always bragging about how half the stuff in the museum is from him. Sorry, I should have mentioned it earlier. I didn’t want to… put you off. Any more than you might already be.’ He coughed.

‘James… the first,’ Roger echoed. No wonder Jimmy had a royal air about him. ‘No, it’s fine. This is already quite a strange afternoon.’ Jimmy still looked uncomfortable, but maybe he had another headache. Or maybe Roger just had that effect on people. ‘So you think we should give her something of your grandfather’s? Like what?’

‘He always carries a telescope,’ James said thoughtfully. ‘I think he picked it up in the navy. I’ll ask him tonight.’

‘You mean he’s still alive?’

‘Why wouldn’t he be?’

‘I just… The sea hag seemed really old. She looks ancient. As in, should have died a century ago ancient.’

‘Maybe she grew into it. Maybe that’s what people do when they spend their entire life wanting something they can’t get.’

‘Maybe,’ Roger said quickly, fiddling with the gloves in his pocket. He wondered how old he would look in a decade. He wondered how old Jimmy would look.

They walked back to the museum and stared at the coral as though it might impart wisdom from its pedestal. It was impressive to look at, but not as impressive as it would have been when it was alive. Roger didn’t want to linger; Jimmy was doing a mediocre job of hiding that his hands were shaking.

‘So you will ask your grandfather tonight?’

‘Yeah. We always have him round for dinner. I’ll… I’ll see you at school tomorrow?’

Roger nodded. ‘Good luck.’


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Thank you to Liz for critiquing. Part three is online next week!

© Francesca Burke 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Francesca Burke and francescaswords.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.