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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.

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He sat bolt upright in bed, as the scream of terror faded into the darkness

He sat bolt upright in bed, as the scream of terror faded into the darkness. Had he imagined it? No, the vibrations were all around him, as if the very furniture had been infused with the sound. He couldn’t go on like this. Naomi was gone, and she wouldn’t be back. Of that he was certain.

He squeezed his eyes shut, trying to focus on something besides her dark, swinging hair; her bright, laughing eyes and her wide, sensuous mouth. The power she’d had over him was almost tangible, but she had always been so carefree.

“Careless, carefree.” He rolled them silently over his tongue, wondering if there was even a difference. He supposed, bitterly, that it depended on how you felt about caring for other people. Still, his heart ached for her and he thought often of amputees and their phantom limbs. He sat back in his bed and allowed himself to wonder where she might be now.

It all depended which part of Naomi you were asking about, of course. Her head and hands were exactly where he had placed them in his freezer, somewhere between the peas and a ready meal for one. The look of surprise had been preserved on her beautiful face – she had thought him a little mouse, incapable of such brutality. The rest of her? Well, it all depended upon his calculations of the tides.

The thought made him calm again, and he lay down to go back to sleep.

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Blogging 101, Day One: Introduce Yourself to the World

Hi, everyone. I’m Becca.

I am blogging for two reasons – to learn to write better, and to connect with people. I am absolutely horrendous at small talk, but a huge fan of big talk. My dearest friends are those who don’t baulk at my weirdness and are happy to muse and share and think and learn without fear of looking stupid.

My “weirdness” has been diagnosed as Borderline Personality Disorder, after a 30-minute assessment with an NHS psychiatrist, but that has been pooh-poohed by every therapist/doctor I have met with since. Still, some elements certainly apply – seeing disgust and anger in people’s faces that may or may not actually be there; unrequited girl-crushes; taking generalised negative statements very personally; attempting to apply labels to myself to fit in somewhere, anywhere. The larger symptoms, however, of impulsive and self-destructive behaviour are moving further and further behind me with huge thanks to my incredible family, therapy, sertraline and mindfulness.

I am utterly blessed to have the actual best husband in the world. His positive qualities would require a weightier tome than this blog post to list, so I won’t even try here.

I have two two-legged boys, one four-legged girl and one to-be-confirmed, due at the end of April. I’m somewhere between attachment and free-range as a parent, but my ultimate goal is to raise kind, contented, useful human beings who voluntarily visit their old mum every once in a while.

I work part-time as an accountant, and I love it. Don’t worry, though. I won’t talk about it unless it’s really, really necessary. The confidentiality requirements of our profession are there for the protection not just of clients, but anyone who might otherwise be subjected to such drab conversation.

I am a Disney fanatic, and that’s something I like to talk about a lot. I am socially very liberal, and a big believer in taxation and public spending, when carefully considered.

Every click to publish is filled with anxiety. While I’m not afraid of looking daft, I will agonise over what people might think, before taking a deep breath and just going for it. I hope I’ve represented myself truly. Who knows, maybe I might learn something in the process?

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Blogging 101, Day Four: Identify Your Audience – On being socially awkward

Today’s assignment is to publish a post you’d like your ideal audience member to read, and include a new-to-you element in it.

Crikey. That’s kind of tough. I don’t exactly have an ideal audience member, and that’s something that’s coming up a lot in the many, many articles and books that I’m reading about writing.

On being socially awkward

People! It’s exciting to meet new people. They have different stories to tell and perspectives to bring, and an abstract concept always becomes more relatable when someone explains it from their own experience.

But people are polite. They don’t talk about themselves unless prompted. Don’t think, however, that it’s okay to ask them about themselves, because it isn’t. An immensely common blog topic seems to be “stuff you shouldn’t ask me, you fucking douchebag”. This is especially confusing when the no-go topics include stuff referred to in the blog’s URL. It’s almost like those Herbalife reps who wear a badge saying “ask me how!” and then shooting you daggers for, you know, asking them how.

Of course, I started off asking horribly inappropriate questions. As someone of unspeakably uninteresting ethnicity, I went through a few years of asking people about theirs. Do you know if your more recent ancestors are African or Afro-Caribbean? Do you feel a mix of cultures within your identity? I know that’s wrong now, and I don’t do it unless I’m appallingly drunk, which would be even more gauche right now than well-meant racism, because I’m 7 months pregnant.

I also managed to offend a girl by asking her what she thought of The L Word. A mutual friend had introduced her to me as “my lesbian friend, Jess”, and any attempts to ask her about her job were shut down fairly quickly, so I’d been at a bit of a loss for conversation. She informed our mutual friend that I was “obsessed with lesbians”.

“What kind of music are you into?” sounds like a date going badly.

“Where are you off to on your holidays?” has too many socio-economical implications and has been done to death by your hairstylist.

Questions about family status are another can of worms. Appearing to have a heteronormative agenda, or inadvertently picking at the fresh scars of loneliness, infertility and domestic strife are all risks best avoided.

I tried a new approach; something along the lines of “I’ll show you mine; then hopefully you’ll show me yours”. That wasn’t much more successful, and the description sounds a lot like some kind of emotional flasher. Oversharing doesn’t always encourage others to open up. In fact, it often seems to make people feel uncomfortable. I didn’t realise quite how much until I read a Modern Mrs Darcy post describing that horribly awkward feeling that washes over you when someone overshares and began to ruminate extensively over how many people I’d made to feel that way. It’s truly a wonder that NICE still recommends group therapy.

I have, therefore, left a trail of not-so-broken hearts in my wake when I’ve realised that the intimacy was not reciprocated. A feeling of foolishness combined with an inability to unsay and undo means that I’ve blocked all contact from plenty of lovely people I’ve been lucky to know because I simply didn’t know how to get back on an even keel.

A lot of my social awkwardness comes down to compulsion, and it’s not until several hours later that I start kicking myself for what I forgot to hold back in the heat of the social moment. My wonderful creative writing teacher, Hilda Sheehan, mentioned in class once that her writing has helped stem her blurting, and I hope that might work for me.

Lovely readers, I will be putting this out to you, if I have identified you correctly. Do you consider yourself to be socially awkward? How do you react (internally and out-loud) when someone overshares? What are your most appropriate conversation starters? And if my oversharing has made you feel awkward, then just pretend that you haven’t heard me and we can rekindle our acquaintanceship with no harm done.

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She walked slowly up the long, winding driveway, her dress trailing in the mud.

This post is part of a series devoted to the Writers’ Workshop run by Lynn at Salt and Caramel. I must confess that I am unlikely to post any of these on time, but I will endeavour to get the writing done! I rather enjoyed the prompt, as it brought to mind a mix of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca and a Style Me Pretty photoshoot…

Prompt: She walked slowly up the long, winding driveway, her dress trailing in the mud.

She did not bother to glance behind her, knowing full well that nobody would be following. A grease stain smeared her cheek and her feet still ached from long-discarded shoes. Her grey eyes had lost the very light that made everyone call her beautiful and yet the windows of the house fixed upon her like she was all they could see.

Everything was grey now. The ominous sky bulged and rumbled. The sandstone hung sallow and wan. The silver satin and lace sagged under the weight of moisture rising from the ground and hanging in the air. Only a few hours earlier had been blue and white and green, but she had sensed change coming.

How naïve she’d been to think that it could’ve carried on forever. A girl like her didn’t belong with a nice man in a nice family. She belonged to the house. It kept her soul in a box under the stairs where nobody would ever find it, and she would always have to return. Her eyes caught a movement in an upstairs window. A pale figure clad in black was watching, with the tranquillity that comes with having been right, having always known. She was coming home.

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Writing 201: Poetry, Day Nine — Landscape, Found Poem, Enumeratio

Virtual Landscape

Winner-takes-all

Sitting on a similar pile

Plainly

Every minute of every day

Ever more atomised, more fragmented, more individualised

A libertarian’s wet dream

Thoughtful contrarian

Enough dirty cabs

Certainly economically

‘Sharing’ economy

Astonishing numbers

Existed recognisably

A brave man

Stratospheric numbers

Nascent network

Compounding existing inequalities

This Faustian deal

Undreamt-of

Personally, socially, culturally

Winnowing away

Catalyst for change

A great tool for persecuting people

Quite disturbing and problematic

Profound, structural change

Many-tentacled