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MORNING SERIAL; The Rice Paper Diaries by Francesca Rhydderch.

MARI is afraid of the school building, its bricks wet and oily like the seals who dry themselves off on the rocks down by Cwmtydu. She is nervous about the cruel fairy angel from the party, who has a name, but she can't remember it. She dreads being on her own with her in the school, having to go to the toilets which she has seen are the other side of the yard.

Every time her mother asks her if she wants to play with other children, like she did at Stanley, she shakes her head.

The scratching sound reaches her again, coming at her from the slipway between the boatsheds and the rocks overhanging the beach. It is a sharp metallic noise, rhythmical and relentless.

She lowers herself down the steps, using her hands to stop herself from slipping.

'Ha, ha, ha!' It's a man's laugh, ricocheting against the sides of one of the upturned boats on the slipway.

'You're right, there, boy.' The slipway is stacked with lobster pots made of metal and rope.There are tufts of sea plants sticking out of some of them, drying off. They have a mysterious series of inner nets like cobwebs. Boats are turned on their bellies so that they look like the brokenbacked rock on Penpolion, propped up off the ground by neatly stacked towers of splints and bricks and tyres. They look funny with their hulls up, emptied out somehow.

'Hello. Who's this, then? Elsa's girl, isn't it?' There is a man behind one of the upside-down boats, its hull white and smooth like the underbellies of the gulls that wheel around in the sky above them. He has tiny feet and a tiny head, but an enormous middle with trousers that hang off a belt made of blue twine. He has pulled his hat down over his forehead but it doesn't hide his nose, which is shaped like a cauliflower. Behind him is another man, facing away from Mari, who is rubbing down the tip of the hull with a metal scraper. Flecks of red paint are flying out in all directions.

Mari slips out of sight. It is high tide; water reaches her feet in an upwards rush.

The Rice Paper Diaries by > Francesca Rhydderch is published by Seren at PS8.99 wwwserenbooks.com CONTINUES TOMORROW
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Dec 4, 2013
Words:389
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