Softie – FFfAW

Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers is a writing challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. It asks that we write a piece of fiction from the given photo prompt in around 100-150 words – give or take 25 words. If you’d like to join in with this challenge, follow the above link to see what to do. The challenge runs from Tuesday to Tuesday every week.

Here is this week’s prompt, kindly provided by Louise at thestorytellersabode:


And this is my story:


Twelve-year-old Charlie braced himself against the biting February wind, scouring the beach as he walked. Dad would wallop him if he didn’t find any coal washed up on the morning’s tide. Mum needed whatever he fetched to supplement the spindly sticks they collected.

The shiny object suddenly caught Charlie’s eye, just nestling amongst the colourful pebbles.

‘You’ve found it!’ a girlish voice squealed as he picked it up. ‘Mum was heartbroken when she lost it yesterday. She’s had it for twenty years. See, the date she got it’s on the back: nineteen fourteen. And you found it…’

Charlie scrutinised the expensive-looking watch. Dad’d be pleased to have it to sell – but furious if he learnt Charlie’d just given it away.

‘Finders keepers,’ he retorted. ‘That makes it mine!’

The girl’s tears flowed and he thrust her the watch. Dad had always called him ‘Softie’…

Eighty-two-year-old Alice laid the flowers on Charlie’s grave, fingering her mother’s watch. Memories of the day she’d met her Softie were never too far away, and she’d meet him again, very soon.


Word Count: 176

If you’d like to read other entries, or add a story yourself, click on the little blue frog:

My story about collecting lumps of coal on the beach may seem far-fetched to many people, but that’s just what many poor families had to do in earlier times. I was basing the story on my dad’s early life in the seaside town of Southport in Lancashire (a very sandy beach, with sand dunes – and not the pebbly beach in Louise’s photo, which I’ll leave her to talk about). He was born in 1922, and times were hard.

The coal would mostly have been carried down in the rivers from the Lancashire coalfield and out into the Irish Sea. The incoming tide would then wash some of it up onto the beach – where poor families made good use of it.

How Charlie and Alice met in this story was not how my mum and dad (Millie and Thomas) met. At the time when my dad was collecting coal on the beach, my mum was happily growing up eighteen miles away, in Liverpool – until the heavy bombing of that city during WW2 took her to Southport. My home town.


72 thoughts on “Softie – FFfAW

  1. Love this story! Very heart touching! I also enjoyed your piece about your dad and how he collected coal from the sea and your mom was only living 18 miles away! Lovely story, Millie!

      1. I’ve studied a little about that, PJ, and know it was a time of hardship for many. We have it so easy nowadays, mod cons and all. It’s hard to think how all the washing for a large family was done without a washing machine – even the bedding and towels. It was a different world.

    1. I think that being a softie isn’t always a bad thing. To me, ‘softie’ goes hand-in-hand with kind-hearted. Times were hard in many countries at that time. Britain was still recovering from the effects of losing so many men in WW1. My dad’s family was very poor, especially after his father left his wife (my grandma) and four children to go off with another woman! There are so many things to tell about every family, I suppose. Thanks for reading, Ineke.

      1. Yes, so much to tell. I am so sad that I never had the courage to talk to my father about his life, he was born 1911. Even my mother did not really tell much about her life she was born 1919 and in the Netherlands. In the middle of everything.

      2. Children didn’t question their parent in those days, did they, Ineke? Everything I know about my dad came from my mum. Dad rarely talked about his early life, or what happened to him in WW2. Your parents were born a little before mine, so would have known more about WW1 than mine. The Netherlands must have been really in the thick of it at that time. I don’t envy anyone living through such awful times.

      3. Yes, when I think about it I should or could have given much more love to both my parents. We never really showed our feelings(that’s specially in my case) Could never reach my father. My time alone with my mother was very intimate at the end. So glad I could be there for her before she passed away. Both my two sisters are ‘difficult’ people. Have a lovely day! 🙂

      4. Fathers at that time were often more detached from their children than dads of today. They were seen as the head of the house and the breadwinner. Many mums didn’t go out to work, so were always there for the kids. That’s how it was in our house, anyway. Like you, I knew my mum so much better. My dad was always supportive of us children but we saw little of him as he built his business up. Unfortunately, he died at 62 – far too young, so I had a lot longer with mum. It’s funny how, after they’ve gone, we spend so much time thinking about things we should have said or done. I’m sure many of us have regrets, Ineke, and I’m glad you had that lovely time at the end with your mum. Have a great weekend, too.

      5. The same with us. Dad always working, mum at home. Now that I know how dear those times with my mother were I keep on writing about my past. Hope that one day when my son/his wife and grand children read it they would see how things were during my time.
        Hope your Sunday is as beautiful and sunny as here today. Warmly Ineke

      6. This is August bank holiday weekend in the UK, so Monday’s a day off work for many people, too. It nearly always rains on bank holidays – a standing joke over here. It’s been pouring down today where we are, but quite sunny further south. Our weather is really fickle! The weather always gets better once children (and teachers) are back at school. It’s so unfair of it to do that! Lol .

    1. Thanks, Michael. I could never write a whole novel as ‘Romance’ but I do think that most stories have some elements of it somewhere. Love is all part of life, after all.
      Yes, an enduring love is a wonderful thing. Unfortunately, there aren’t many loving relationships that last for many years nowadays (or perhaps ever. In the past – when divorce was difficult – many marriages seen as ‘happy’ were just for show.). I’m happy you liked the story, Michael.

    1. Hi Michael. You’re right, where would we be without such a wonderful thing as coal? It’s seen as the bad guy nowadays, and the main contributor to global warming, but without it, the industrial revolution would never have happened at the time it did (for good or bad, whichever your viewpoint).
      Thank you for the amazing comment about my story. I really appreciate that.

    1. And that’s a lovely, lovely comment, Chioma, thank you! I agree, most people who get called softies are really kind and generous people. It’s unfortunate, that unfeeling people too often take advantage of their kindness.

      1. Me too! It’s so upsetting to see someone being ridiculed as a ‘pushover’ or being taken advantage of. It’s the ‘hard’ unfeeling types I dislike so much.
        Hope all is going well, Chioma. Life moves on, and you’ve become an old hand at blogging now. Haha. As you know, my blogging has been minimal this year but now that my flash fiction book is published, I should have a little more time. I just need to get Book 3 of my trilogy finished then I can really ‘party’! 🙂

    1. Thank you, Andy! Every now and then I like to write a’sort of’ romantic story, although I could never write a whole Romance novel. That would kill me off!
      Btw I finished reading your book a few weeks ago, but I’ve been frantically getting my book of flash fiction pieces finished, edited and formatted for publishing on Amazon. That’s all done now, so I have more time for my blog, and writing the few reviews I owe people. Yours is first in line, and will be done some time this week. Thanks for being patient – and for liking my story! 🙂

      1. Hiya Millie > Yes I didnt expect to see a romantic piece on your blog but its great seeing what a versatile writer you are. Its a mad world writing isnt it. I dont think people realise how busy and hectic it can be. Phew > Where do all the hours go. Oh and thanks for putting me top of your list. Marvelous 🙂

  2. Such a lovely story, Millie! And, for it to include how your mom and dad met makes it really special. I love ot hear how people meet and the circumstances behind it.

    1. I find the best stories come from real life, and I’m sure you could write more than a few, too, Jessie. Families are complicated things and most have something interesting that can be developed into a story or even a longer novel. I love hearing about how people met, too. So often it gives me that “aah’ feeling. Thank you so much for liking my story!

    1. Hi Diane I’m a beach girl, born and bred, so whenever I see a beach picture – with or without pebbles – I think of my dad’s stories about how he collected coal. He also went out shrimping, but I’ll leave that for another tale. There are lots of shrimps off the Southport coast. Thank you for the lovely comment.

  3. Oh, Millie, this is such a beautiful, romantic story at a very difficult time for poor people. Thanks for giving the background that inspired it.

    1. Well Irina, you know more than many of us about difficult times, and I love your posts about your early life. 🙂 My dad’s family was poor, but it gave him the incentive to work hard in life and get out of the poverty trap – which he did. By the time I was eight, dad’s business really took off, and he never looked back. He was fortunate enough to be born with intelligence and a great business sense. Beach scenes always remind me of his days of collecting coal. Thank you for the lovely comment!

    1. Oh yes, people dubbed as softies are usually the very nicest and kindest of people. Selfish and/or aggressive people are the ones to avoid at all costs. Thanks Ali. 🙂

    1. And that’s a really beautiful comment, Shivangi. Thank you! If people like this story, I’ll include in in my second flash fiction book. But that won’t be for ages yet. It’s good to see you still do some of the challenges. I never find time to do more than this one nowadays.

  4. Please do include this story in your book Millie. This is endearing and touching!! I do not do a lot of challenges Millie… Just this one and that too on and off. Other times, just some random posts! As for your book, wishing you all the good luck and I am sure it is going to be great!

    1. My first book of flash is already published, Shivangi. I was thinking of using this story in a second book – if I ever get round to it. Like you, I love the challenges, and miss doing them when I’m busy writing my books. WordPress is such a great place.

      1. Yes sure it is Millie! 😀😀😀 I will check out your first book as soon as I am able to. And yes, I will always wait for your travel posts, they are always adorable.

  5. Thank you, Ellespeth. It’s funny how any prompt relating to time can inspire so many stories, many to do with memories, others about time travel or the future in general. I had a few ideas for this one, and although Louise took the photo, the necklace was Nicola’s – my elder daughter’s. 😀

  6. just love these sort of stories! old world charm and romance really fading in our hurried world, i would fall for a softie every time…love the connection to the memories of your parents growing up days….this was an inspiring photo prompt. ironically my mum and dad met when he was on shore leave from the Navy and she was picking sea shells along the beach on her school class trip….memories like these are so precious and i was so happy to read your little piece…Gina

    1. Hello Gina. Yes, I think most of us would prefer a kind-hearted and generous person to a mean and selfish one. I agree about the photo, particularly the way Louise arranged the little necklace among the colourful pebbles. She and my elder daughter, Nicola, had a great holiday in Whitby that year.
      It seems our dad’s have the Navy in common, too, although my dad’s time was during WW2. He loved the sea, though. Your story about how your mum and dad met is really lovely, and certainly a very precious memory. Thank you so much for liking my story! Millie

  7. What a lovely story. Collecting the coal that way rang true to me – I’ve heard very poor people would scour ash heaps looking for unburned coal from other people’s fire sweepings too.
    Weren’t they lucky to have found each other that way? A lovely story with a lot of heart. Be nice to read more about them 🙂

  8. Millie, such a lovely touching story. I felt I wanted to read more and more. I felt a bit of a connection there. You mentioned that your dad was born in 1922, my parents were born in 1923, times were tough, they went through hard times too. It saddens me that things were that way. Sorry, I am just feeling a bit emotional. Hope you are well Millie (once again, I am so far behind, and have loads of catching up to do) Have a beautiful week. x

    1. Hello Lynne! It’s lovely to hear from you again. I know you haven’t posted for a while. I hope everything is OK. I’d assumed you were having a break from blogging – I’ve had a few of those this year.
      Yes, many people of the time of my story had it hard. It was post WW1 in the UK and WW2 happened not so long after it, bringing more hardship and poverty to people. We’re very fortunate that things became easier as we grew up and never knew things to be as difficult. Parents had to work very hard to give their children a good start in life and believe me, I get very emotional thinking about it all, too. As for catching up. no one expects you to. Trying to read several posts from everyone will drive you bonkers! I generally try to read one or two and even that takes ages. We all take breaks at times, so we shouldn’t feel guilty about posts we’ve missed. (People keep telling me that, so it must be true! Lol.)
      I’m really happy to hear from you. (Please excuse the rambling reply!) 🙂

  9. A lovely tale. I always marvel at the amount of coal washed up on the beaches of Northumberland. A very welcome source of free, and much needed, fuel, at the time you write of.

    1. Thank you. Meritings. Yes, there seems to be coal on a lot of beaches. I can imagine there’s as much on Northumberland beaches as there is around Lancashire and Yorkshire. As you say, poor people welcomed it.

      1. I’m sorry I took ages to do some catching up. I’ve been trying to ‘get on’ with Book 3 of my trilogy, as well as getting my book of flash fiction up on Amazon, and my blogging time’s been just knocked for six! Hopefully, now the ‘flash’ book is sorted, I’ll be here a bit more often. I didn’t realise you were in Northumbria, Peter, until you mentioned it in your comment. I thought you were down south somewhere. Northumbria is a beautiful county. I’ve been up to Hadrian’s wall so many times, I’ve lost count. We live in Nottinghamshire now but I’m from Lancashire and my husband’s a Yorkshireman.
        You’re very good at writing Limericks! 🙂

      2. You are too kind – again. No, not in Northumberland, but we do go up there twice a year, normally stay in Warkworth. I’m in Nottinghamshire too, although from Staffordshire/Shropshire/Cheshire border originally.

      3. It’s a small world, Peter. Your original home area is very lovely, too. I suppose there’s wonderful scenery all over Britain. We spend a lot of time on short breaks all over the country. It’s something we promised ourselves we’d do once I retired from teaching.

      4. We decided, when I left the Army, that we had done enough foreign travel and would discover our own country, and there’s still a great deal to see!

      5. There is a lot of Britain to see! And, like you, Peter, we intend to see as much of it as possible. It’s a great way to spend some of our retirement.

  10. We feel exactly the same. We’ve spent a lot of time away this year in places in England alone. There are so many beautiful places and historic sites to visit. If it wasn’t for the unpredictable weather here, there’d be no need to go abroad at all! 😃

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