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Living in a Box

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Thanks so much for coming. It’s really lovely to see you. How are you? And your family? I do hope Aunt Celeste feels better soon.

Would you like a cup of tea? Oh, I’m sorry – that was silly of me. I don’t have a kettle. Nowhere to plug it in, you see. I remember you’ve got one of those lovely stovetop kettles. It gives a little whistle when the water’s hot. It took me a while to stop jumping out of my skin every time I made a brew.

There’s no stove here. It’s a bit of a fire risk of course, but even so, as you see, there simply isn’t the space.

You’ve a tickle in your throat? A glass of water, maybe? I’m afraid I’ll have to let you down again. I’d love to have running water in the place, but it’d get soggy.

It gets soggy anyway. We can’t stop the rain, after all! We couldn’t keep the clouds at bay when the day was ours to save, could we? And now, our home is gone and I live, well, here.

It’s cold at night, but I see you know that. Down jacket, woollen gloves. That stupid hat you bought after we laughed at every single one in the shop, then felt sorry for the shopkeeper.

Shopkeepers don’t look at me any more. They scowl somewhere on the floor nearby. Their eyes don’t want to be sullied by contact with mine. I’ve been dirty for such a long time, you see, that even my baby blues bear the filth of the streets. That’s the only explanation, surely?

I’m sorry. I totally understand you have to go, but before you do, could I ask you something? I hate to… Well, you know… But perhaps you have a little spare? No? I’ll spend it on drugs, you say? I was hoping to buy some waterproof trousers, but I’m sure you’ve heard that line before. You always were so clever. Maybe you wouldn’t mind leaving the hat, then. It always did make me smile.

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Jack and his Ma: A Dialogue

Look at you, Jack! You’ve got crumbs all over your vest and your laces are untied. If you don’t smarten yourself up, you’ll never find work at the market.

Suits me, Ma. You know those greedy farmers’ll work a man to death and pay them half what they promised! I’d rather stay here.

That’s because you’ve never been hungry, lad. All those years after your Pa died, I went without so’s you’d grow up big and strong and look at you – thin as a ferret and twice as sneaky. I’d ha been better off leaving you out for the crows.

Aah, but then who would be here to soak your bunions and rest his chin on your head when it’s raining?

I weren’t always this old, boy. Once upon a time, I had five different dresses and a comb for Sundays and ohhhh. Look what you’ve done. You’re going to be late if you don’t get going. Let me get those crumbs while you tie your laces. And don’t think I didn’t see that extra biscuit in your pocket! You’ll replace the crumbs before the end of the lane, no doubt.

Nonsense, Ma. You’re going batty.

Less of your lip. And don’t forget to take Daisy to the stream by the church. At least if she’s well-watered, they might not notice how skinny she is and you’ll get a decent price.

Yes, Ma. Bye, Ma.

And Jack?

Ma?

This is important. You know we’re in trouble. If we have another winter like the last, then I…

I know, Ma. I love you. Trust me.

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Day Five: Be Brief

Today’s Prompt: You stumble upon a random letter on the path. You read it. It affects you deeply, and you wish it could be returned to the person to which it’s addressed. Write a story about this encounter.

Today’s twist: Approach this post in as few words as possible.

Who sends letters nowadays? Especially with such an important message. I think of all the “oops!” packages from Royal Mail, when it looks like your message has been snacked upon by a goat. They never stood a chance.

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Salt and Caramel April

The man swaggered along the street, his dog pulling on a chain beside him. A crisp wind picked up the crushed leaf dust. I recognised the scent and sound and taste and instinct squeezed my eyes shut in preparation. The gutters, now relieved of organic material, displayed their usual wares of almost-mulch call-girl cards and the innards of a long-discarded cassette.

Disgust flares my nostrils – someone had left their stomach contents in the doorway to the electrical shop. I’ll never know how those businesses survive with their yellowing teasmaids and peeling manufacturer labels in the window. Probably due to the diligence of an old man who mops up student vomit each morning and likes to tinker with burnt-out toasters while whistling along to oddly current tunes on commercial radio.

I know the sort. They never go home. They married the first girl they met and fill their lives drinking first tea, then IPA, excelling at pub quizzes and working until they die. Those who retire barely survive the transition. I can’t decide if it’s tragic or honourable.

The street has changed since he opened shop. His view of the cars passing by is now obscured by a gaudy bus stop advertising some film he doesn’t want to see. Not that he gets to the pictures nowadays. It’s too dear, and besides, the missus would prattle on through all the good bits.

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Unlock The Mind

Just publish free writing? Unedited? You must be mad. Nobody needs to see my stream of consciousness. It’s dark. And besides, there are things I should be doing. A nappy that needs changing. A dog who keeps licking my arm to let me know she needs a walk. A client who needs chasing. Breakfast plates that need cleaning up so that A doesn’t just graze all day.

I can’t just publish. It’s too confessional. I’d have to admit that sometimes I struggle to remember children’s names and so have trawled Facebook for the past ten minutes to find out. Or that I just chucked the sofa cover on top of the sofa because I can’t even deal with wrestling with it right now. Or that I am not going to write for 20 minutes because I do things in 15 minute blocks and my craziness likes to keep things consistent:

Either a) do an entire job or b) if it would take more than 15 minutes, then do it in 15 minute blocks and reassess.

I have so many timers. Bosu bells, iPhone, oven, Chrome extension. Even a playlist that’s as close to 15 minutes as I could get. It means no Boo To You parade music, but some days that’s a good thing.

I don’t know how to write creatively yet. I’m still too stuck in all the things I’ve been unable to say in the real world. If you know me, and how weird I am, you must be thinking “Dear God, how can this woman find even more to say?” I can’t promise it’s useful, or even nice, but I have to, for the sake of my togetherness as a person, get it all out.

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I am a rock

It’s not cold up here; it’s fresh. I’m not stifled; I’m comforted. If you’d seen what I’ve seen, you’d shut the door and lose yourself in literature too. The well-considered words of poets are lush and bolstering, while the blurted inconsequences of lovers unsettle and mire. I wash one cup, or I drink from the bottle. I have no need to turn my pillow, as its cool counterpart lies alongside. I know why “untouched” is uttered in reverence and “touched” is a term for madness. I let someone in once, and she slaughtered me in my own bed.

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Fly on the Wall

Blogging 101, Day Eleven: Make a Prompt Personal

Today’s assignment: publish a post based on your own, personalized take on a blogging prompt.

If you could be a “fly on the wall” anywhere and at any time in history, where and when would you choose?

It’d be interesting to be a fly on the wall anywhere that Jesus taught. I’d like to hear what his actual words were, not somebody’s translation of another somebody’s interpretation of what Jesus said. I want to know how much Paul just threw in to add his own flavour, as his words have caused more harm and sadness in this world than any other person in history. I can’t blame him one bit. If I were writing gospels now, I would certainly be tempted to add such things as “and it is an abomination to lie on an aeroplane seat as you lie on a bed, for it crushes the knees of the poor chap sitting behind you” and “thou shalt not listen to loud music on cheap headphones so that everyone else can hear its tinny residue”. You know, important stuff, in the hope that it’d stick. I’m being irreverent by referring to it as a flavour. It has more of a “let Daily Mail readers come up with laws” feel to it. Crikey. That’s gone and done it. I’ve referred to St Paul as a Daily Mail reader.

In all honesty, my Bible knowledge could do with some polishing. I had the obligatory Church of England school religious education, and I began to read the NRSV while baby one was a newborn, as something to do while up at some horrendous hour being milked like a fine prize cow. I didn’t retain as much as I’d have liked – I didn’t retain much of anything around that time except baby weight – and I remember getting absolutely stuck on the Book of Job. The translation had a few too many double negatives and some phrases that felt like sarcasm in my hormone-addled state. I came away wondering what on earth the message was supposed to be. I wouldn’t like to be a fly on the wall in Job’s experiences. They sound truly abysmal.

I’d be a horrendous fly on the wall. I’d also be horrendous at Just A Minute, failing for certain for repetition and also probably not being particularly funny. I couldn’t be a bystander to great events – I’d want to dig and prod and find out more than what was going on at the surface. Politicians and statesmen fascinate me – probably more than ever as the result of watching both the new and old series of House of Cards. They have to fulfil this public need for someone calm and in-control, and they (mostly) do it so unbelievably well. I just want to see what’s underneath. Every so often we get a glimpse – Gordon Brown’s wonderful “bigot” remark, or John Prescott punching a protester – but I want more. I want to know the driving force behind their careers and their decisions; how much they truly believe in the individual policies they have to promote in order to achieve their larger goals.

The actual situations in which it would be worthwhile to be such a fly are extremely limited, because the concept seems to rely entirely on the confirmation of facts. Was Queen Elizabeth I really the Virgin Queen? What happened to the ships and planes lost in the Bermuda Triangle? Who was Jack the Ripper? Of course, to have been present at any of these events would present further issues – the very reason for their mysterious nature is the danger or discomfort one would have to experience in order to witness them.

In conclusion, I don’t think I’d like to be a fly on the wall at all. I’m much more of a participator than a watcher.