Saturday, 18 December 2010

Something Wicked this way comes...

Tuesday. 7.30pm. Part of my birthday celebrations is a trip to see Wicked: The Musical. Feel unsure about anything to do with a lady the colour of Slimer from Ghostbusters. It also doesn't help that everyone tells me, 'Yeah, it's wicked; get it?' No. I. Do. Not.

Arrive at the theatre looking like the Michelin Man. Hope that every layer of clothing I wear is another degree of cold I can endure. Take that minus 2 degrees Celsius!

As I unravel from my winter armour, we approach the foyer. Walls, ceiling, floor- and all the people in between- bathe in emerald green. The glow distorts faces to sinister, demented levels. All men, women, children and teens look like The Riddler. Wonder if I'll have to solve a puzzle to find my seat.

With minutes before the curtain rises, I take in my surroundings. Red velvet seats and gold leaf d├ęcor. Crystal chandeliers proudly hang from arched ceilings. How do they change those light bulbs? Soon, hundreds of conversations rise up and float down- a chorus of murmurs and shouts. There is a smell- a theatre smell- of polish and something else, something unfathomable. You only know it when you are there.

With the strangeness of strangers, I am transported to how it used to be. Rows of bow ties and ball-gowns. Suited men with ruler spines selling ice cream in the aisle. Suddenly, there's a shriek in my ear. Two guys wearing misjudged Christmas jumpers are jostled and spill beer on my friend. They laugh, while she's left smelling like a brewery. Oh well. At least her hair's shiny...

The lights flicker, the noise falls. And then the math happens. One bottle of birthday wine + warm theatre = sleepy head. My chest is the refrigerator, my chin the magnets. I am disturbed by a fierce clatter of cymbals that jolts me too high to be cleverly disguised as a body stretch. A giggle escapes from behind.

As I prop my eyelids with fingers and thumbs, hoards of school kids pour in from all directions to ruin a song and my perfect stage view. Boy with World's Longest Neck provides me with half a show. A talking goat and a few winged-monkeys later and I wish I had something to throw at his head; a bucket of popcorn or maybe just a bucket. Nah. That would be too wicked. Get it?

Soon enough, it's over. My needle hands sting from clapping longer than advised even though, for the most part, I have no idea what I'm clapping for. I am robotic, following the crowd. They've enjoyed it. The flash of green lights, a blonde who looks suspiciously like Cinderella and a Wicked Witch who is, as it turns out, not so wicked. Imagine that.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Do not conceive in March

June 1991 I had a joint birthday party with my sister and a family friend. Our garden was filled with children jumping excitedly on a bouncy castle, faces painted with butterflies or Batman. Our birthday cake was divided into three. My third had purple icing shaped like a clown with the letters 'HAP' swirled underneath. The 'PY' just could not fit.

Looking at the cake I remember feeling puzzled, not least because I never really liked clowns. Not that they scare me- they barely register on my apathetic scale. What confused me; it wasn't actually my birthday. And even more so, was I celebrating my sixth birthday just gone or more seventh approaching later that year? Perplexed all round.

Yes, dear reader, I am a December baby. The 'best Christmas present ever received' according to my mum- but she's not the one who has to celebrate birth just before Christmas. A time when everyone is too preoccupied with work parties and gift shopping, hanging fairy lights and cooking roast dinner. When the only cards that sell in Clinton's are the hundreds of Jesus in his Manger and those of the infamous red-nosed Reindeer.

Seemingly, the only time anyone remembered my birthday was in June 1991 and that was just a fake one. A deluge of cards and presents- a drought ever since. As a child, I never noticed. Well, except once. Aged ten, all I wanted for my birthday was a tiny V-Tech learning laptop (in 1994 I was the height of cool). Unfortunately for me, all children wanted one for Christmas and it sold out. When I had nothing to open that December morning; only then did I notice.

But usually, as long as I knew it was my birthday- that was enough. In bed the night before excitement fluttered in my chest, toes wriggled in anticipation. I'd wake early with a strange awareness that this day was different, special. I was one year older and that bought change.

Now, it's as if that excitement has drifted away in a birthday balloon, caught on a strong wind and floated far. And as time passed it shrivelled, deflated and popped on a sharp branch of a twisted tree. And what makes things worse is that my birthday is already lost amidst the hectic planning and mental countdown to the busiest and most expensive times of year. As if people haven't got enough to do.

So reader, I understand. I forgive the lack of birthday wishes. I forget. But just so you don't, some advice: If you plan on having children- try not to conceive in March. Makes birthdays far more memorable...

Saturday, 27 November 2010

I predict a riot

Presently, the UK is in chaos. Hazardous snowy weather, jobless millions and a shaky coalition government trying to clean the mess its predecessor left behind.

After years of poor governing and escalating debts, the UK was in obvious need of an overhaul. Drastic cuts, increased taxes and political reform. It was on the cards and yet there was always going to be some who didn't like the hand they were dealt...

A few days ago, thousands stormed the Liberal Democrat headquarters to protest against one such increase -University tuition fees- and the anger of a broken promise. A promise from the Lib Dem leader, Nick Clegg, to scrap those fees completely.

But a seemingly peaceful protest descended into violence. Youths smashed windows with metal implements. A Police Van vandalised, people injured and, eventually, the protest bought to an abrupt end by hundreds of Officers.

Still, they wanted to shout for their cause. One sixth-form student said, '£9,000 a year fees are a joke. For three years, that's £21,000. It's ridiculous.' She's correct. It is ridiculous that after 18 years of education she still doesn't know her times tables.

Reader, I do understand their innumerate frustration. I was a student. I remember the struggle to find the £3,000 per year tuition fees, not to mention the thousands for accommodation and living expenses. University life adds up to one very expensive equation.

And sadly, for most young protesters there, University is not worth the math. They do not want an education. They want an easy ride; 4 lectures per week, booze-filled nights and 40% to pass the year. A three year gap before having to look for work.

But in that crowd, on shards of broken glass, there are those few. Those who articulate their peaceful protest, who have the common sense to know violence is never the answer. They are fuelled by a desire to be more. They want to learn and grow as human beings and show the world their potential.

What happens to them? Amidst the screams of pointless violence, who will hear their voices?

Reader, what say you?

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Farmyard Animals

Last Saturday was my sister's Hen night. One of the rare occasions where women willingly dress like idiots, with a flashing garter, fluffy handcuffs and a giant sash proclaiming 'Bride to Be' in bright pink letters. The white veil didn't give that one away.

The Hen, some chicks- and a few guys I'd never met- assembled in a local bar, where we doused ourselves in glitter because, apparently, nothing says P-A-R-T-Y more than a generous dose of glitter spray. With escalating noise we morphed into a bunch of farmyard animals, annoying bemused drinkers just wanting a quiet pint on a Saturday afternoon. Boo moo.

The train to central London was ten minutes of dirty jokes and laughter, quizzical stares and stupid queries to my sister: 'Are you getting married?' No. She dresses like that every weekend.

On the Party Bus we boogied to music piped through the ceiling, throwing streamers and balloons at each other like five year olds. From club to club, boobs were flashed, pints were drunk, and some danced in heels too ridiculous for real life. I don't think my feet will ever recover.

At 4am I stumbled from a taxi, purse empty, tools of torture in hand (evil evil shoes), litres of coconut rum swished against an empty skull. I remembered how to walk but keys and locks required a brain I'd left on Bond Street.

Ten minutes later I was inside. Forgetting that I was twenty-five years old, my mum had waited for my return; cold tea perched on one knee, face slopped in sleep against the sofa. She made three rounds of ham sandwiches and, ravenous, I ate whilst recounting the night's events at a decibel my Dad made sure I knew about later.

And just like that, it was over. A night- planned for months, expected for years, anticipated for days- done. A flash of booze and pinched feet, the over-zealous hands of strangers who groped as you danced by, the buzz of music too loud still ringing in ears. And while I still find glitter in places you wouldn't expect, I realise there is something bigger looming on the horizon. Not quite a speck anymore, not so distant. A wedding.

And so it goes...

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Rear Window

From my rear window
Smudged with the greasy print of fingers
And the smeared corpse of an unwanted spider,
The children play.
Fields lush with green beneath spiked boots
And padded shins.
A whistle blows.

Beyond this glass screen,
Leaves like orange lemons,
Sharp sheets of fire
Burn crisp from starched branches;
A season of weakened spirit,
So it seems.

Past the broken fence and compost heap
At garden's end, to the next street,
The woman, the Adulteress, lies in wait;
Pinching the stub of a cancer stick
To calm nerves before her Lover arrives.
It's exercise.

Birds of black wing and eye
Burst forth from the old Oak next door,
Where neighbours burn tyres and wood
At all hours;
Their garden filled with the carcasses
Of cars and trucks,
And beer bottle lids glint in sunbeams
Like a thousand golden raindrops.

Through the barren hedge where ivy spills
Outwards like green entrails,
The Stranger known for twenty years
Pegs grey whites on a frosted line
With a disheartened sigh;
She retreats inside with an empty basket
Of forgotten dreams.

From my rear window
This play of string-less puppets
Unbeknownst
Act for me in their Acts
First or final,
Who knows?
A whistle blows.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

When someone you love becomes a memory, that memory becomes a treasure

What can I say about grief without sounding pretentious? We all know the deal- death is a part of life; loss will get better with time, so on and so forth. Blah blah blah. Whatever I type sounds trite and forced, akin to something that graces the pages of a self-help guide in a bargain bin of a 99p store.

My Granddad died. I had longed for his passing- to see him free from his painful existence. 'Life' does not fit. Despite my expectation, the news stunned the breath from my body.

After a loss there is a moment when you realise things will never be the same. A millisecond, an intake of breath, a beat in your breast. You'll never hear his voice, his laugh. See his face. Hold his hand. Share his smile. And all too soon, time intrudes into seconds, a breath exhaled, a beat in your head. And that's it. Change. Forever.

Now, reader, I think of him. Fear I did not know him as best I could, wish he was here so I could ask him thousands of questions unanswered, study him with my eyes and trap his detail to my memories. He would be the feast and I would gorge because I could never be full.

Instead he watches me in black and white from a silver frame on the edge of my desk. A smile teases his eyes. He is free. And, for now, that I will treasure.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Trapped in Glass

Yellow lights flicker in their dusty overhead shells, like moths trapped in glass. Wheelchairs wait empty in the corridor. Each footstep disturbs an embedded urine stench.

We pass open doors of elderly- shiny eyes poking out from furrowed skin and folds of starchy sheets. Who knew hope was in a footstep? In the distance, a shrivelled voice of vocal chords strained and mouth parched. The kind of yelp pulled from the string of boots. Help, it said. Help. It tugs my heart one way but feet go another. Guilt leaves an unwelcome taste.

I sit in the corner of the room where my Granddad lives out his days. They are numbered. The wrinkled weight of his body rests in a bed he has not left for four weeks, and counting. Muscles, nerves, control have all left him and he waits, we wait, they wait.

His bed faces the window- a sky grey with seriousness, the lone magpie perched on a tree bare from seasons change, the window glass marred with fingerprints forgotten.

But Granddad sees nothing.

With a bib around his neck we feed him spoonfuls of mashed food, share sad broken laughs with our Benjamin Button, the irony of life in reverse. I grasp his hand, stroking the lines of history carved into skin like a well-read map. Briefly, his grip tightens. Blue eyes fix on mine, lip quivers. 'I'm ready but I'm scared.'

It's a pithy whisper but I hear him. My fingertips stroke his brow and I engulf his frame in blankets, as if warmth will keep his fears at bay. It's a small comfort but to whom?

As we leave, the lights continue their amber dance in dusty shells and I wonder. Though his limbs are feeble, his mind is strong. My Granddad, the moth trapped in a glass. If I could set him free, he would fly.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

The Unwelcome Guest

If someone dares to tell me I cannot do something, I will prove them wrong. Until that objective is achieved, my actions are absorbed by an unmitigated focus. But there is one area of my life where this system of logic fails miserably. Just as I am raring, ready, I stumble.

But the problem is not an inanimate object that can be moved from my path. It exists in the mind- a place with depths too dangerous. Part of my subconscious has drifted outwards into conscious thought. That little questioning voice is fully fledged and vocal. And with every option and opportunity that I let pass me by, through choice or convenience, or unavoidable circumstance- that voice gains strength.

Now, it is far too loud.

It's the fear- oh, the dreaded wrench of gut fear- of discovering what you thought, hoped you were good at, you probably are not. It's the reason why I don't push myself out there into the world. Why I don't send poetry or stories to magazines and competitions. Why I will never approach a publisher with my novel. Why I think my writing will only be confined to this meagre blog. Oh, it is sad.

On the days when the silence is unnerving and stealth-like in its speed to engulf me, doubt is my only company, an unwelcome guest, my constant companion. Always there, its negative waves erode and chip me until I am rubble and dust.

And now, what little self belief I had in my abilities as a writer has shrivelled. It ventured outside with tentative steps, only for a raincloud of doubt to drift over and soak it, in all its greying scepticism.

Some days, reader, I pray for drought.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

The Game of Life

I had a fight with Father Time. The scythe-wielding bastard tried to kick me up the backside. 'What are you doing with your life? Time is ticking. You'll be thirty before you know it.' At which point I threw his hourglass to the floor, scattered glass and grains of sand. It probably explains why I went to sleep in July and woke up in September. Blog wise, that is.

Reader, I appear to have reached that stage. The mid-twenties alarm has bleeped. Of late, everyone has a question about the direction of my life, questions swathed in the fabric of time. 'When are you going to settle down?' 'What career path do you want to follow?' 'You know you're not getting any younger...?' And so on and so forth.

Seemingly, the countdown has begun. A peaked sense of urgency to abide by conventions. I'm stuck in The Game of Life. I'm a little pink peg in my little plastic car and, apparently, I need to put my foot down. Marry a blue peg. Buy a house. Have 2.4 children and live happily ever after. Roll the dice, take these steps and do as others must.

But what if you want to take one step forward and three back? Appreciate the journey, ignore the destination. Enjoy the unexpected. Are you going against nature just because you deplore the stereotypical sense of life's expectations? If I don't tick a box on the list of lifetime achievements, is that a life half lived?

The truth is I don't know where I'm going or what I'm doing. There is no dreaded sense of urgency or desire to conform. No fear of setting down roots before I wilt. I appreciate the unknown, the randomness that is my life. I enjoy playing the game, just not by the rules.

To ask me what I'm doing with my life is like asking a monkey for the square root of pi. You'll never get the bloody answer...

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Tainted

At the weekend a man was murdered. Violence never fails to shock and annoy me. There is always an underlying frustration as to how people can be so incredibly evil (and stupid).

But there was something about this murder. Society is such that I could have snatched this act from the front page of any newspaper in any part of the world. But I didn't. It happened around the corner from where I live.

The man died on the streets that I walked as a child, where I rode my bike in the summer heat. He died opposite the fish and chip shop where I watched my Great Uncle Tom devour a plate of jellied eels and mash, with a strange mix of horror and delight. He died where my memories were made.

And I can't help but feel a loss. Not just for those lives ruined by a knife in one careless hand. But for the loss of good memories. The loss of safety- that innate feeling that allowed one to walk the streets without fear or question. Now, the value of my home and the comfort that evoked has slowly dissolved. Everything around me feels tainted by an evil plague.

I know bad things happen in the world. But as petulant as it sounds, I don't want it in my periphery. If bad things have to exist, and sadly they do- good and evil are as synonymous as yin and yang- I want it to exist in some other world that I don't have to think about. Occasionally I wish I was still a child and awareness was just a word in the dictionary. It would sure make life liveable, sometimes.

I wish I was naive enough to believe that was even possible...

Monday, 12 July 2010

I miss you too...

Do you remember that day?
I didn't wave you off to school,
Instead I lie in bed
Waiting for pain to subside.
The last moment I saw
Your worried little face;
Tears on red cheeks,
A flash of fear in green eyes.
Later you came to see me:
Your soft peachy hand rested
There upon my grey face.
You said it felt like marble.

Do you remember that day?
You wore black lace
With pretty blue shoes;
I thought they should have matched.
I gazed from afar,
Under the wooden arch
Where I married your father
While you threw down black soil.
Later I came to see you:
What once was my hand rested
There upon your peachy face.
You said you felt cold.

Do you remember that day?
You were only sixteen
Forced to leave home;
I wanted to hit your stepmother.
You moved into the flat
Above the model shop
And when the door closed
Eyes wept like the day I left.
Later I came to see you:
What once were my arms rested
There upon your sorrowed shoulders.
You said you felt so alone.

Do you remember that day?
Dressed in white
Holding peach flowers;
I wanted to tell you I was so proud.
You walked down the aisle
Clasped in your father's hand,
Stepping and smiling
Despite the stab of pain.
Later I came to see you:
What once were my lips rested
There upon your sullen cheek.
You thought it had been a boy.

Do you remember that day?
You turned sixty
Surrounded by friends;
I wished I had reached that age.
You laughed with guests,
Opened cards and presents
Feeling pleased
The day had gone so well.
Later I came to see you:
What once were my hands rested
There upon your tired face.
You said 'I miss you mum...'

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Eleven thousand doors to eleven thousand lives

On Sunday I ran my local Race for Life to raise money for cancer research. The race is popular in the UK; apparently women love to dress up in pink to walk or run 5k. I signed up with basic knowledge of the event: Busy. Far too much pink for my liking. And it would be silly...

We stood beneath a cloudless blue sky, on a heath thirsty for green. The weather grasped the body like a hot second skin. Thousands gathered in pink t-shirts, hats, tutus and feather boas, bunny ears and fancy dress.

Attached to the back of every person was a sign which read, 'I race for life for...' Before me were thousands of doors to thousands of lives. Some raced for mums, dads, uncles, aunts, brothers and sisters. Friends. Others raced for themselves, or for someone known by someone else. We were strangers bound by one common thread.

Perhaps the cause was still raw for me but I had never felt so moved. My surroundings were immense, the horizon tipped far and endless and the people ant like and tiny. It was like I had floated up and out of my body and I was privy to a weird giant puppet show from above.

And in that moment, I walked to the start line aware of my own insignificance- my own mortality. How trivial matters had been given the right name. How grateful I was to be there. Sure, I was boiling hot, sweaty and aching before the race had started. But I was hot, sweaty, aching and alive.

It's amazing how these things hit you in the strangest of places. Particularly when you're sandwiched between two women dressed like Betty Rubble from The Flintstones. Well. I did say it would be silly.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Top Ten: Signs you're getting old(er)

Living at home with parents in their sixties is taking its toll. At 10pm, the TV is turned down to minuscule levels; I'm still watching. They wake to pee at hours of morning not meant to be seen. At the weekend they've experienced a full day by 2pm; I'm just getting up.

Like or not, we age. Bodies peak, faces wrinkle, mobility slows. But there are signs that tell us the metaphorical hill might be closer than we think, as well as living under my roof...

1)
You enjoy cups of tea a little too much. After a long day out the first words are: 'I'm dying for a cuppa.' You might say you're 'parched'. If accompanied by an expression more appropriate on a man lost in the desert, you have old fartitus.

2)
Unlike the youthful frivolity of living payday to payday, you speak of investments and bonds. You know the inns and outs of ISAs like you know your ABCs. The thought of putting money away is positively orgasmic. Yes! I'll be £200 richer in 20 years! Yes! I'll have what she's having- a 3.6% tax-free ISA please. Sexy.

3)
You often start a sentence with, 'When I was your age...' Enough said.

4)
You obsess with parking your car outside your house. Come home to find a strange car where yours should be, you're hysterical. What follows is persistent peeping behind net curtains, watching, waiting, for that pesky car to move. When it does, two seconds later, you follow. Car in rightful place = relaaaax.

5)
You're strangely sensitive to changes in room temperature. You have a telepathic link to the thermostat and can sense when changed. If anyone dares to turn that dial by two degrees, you'll know. It's like the spidey-sense for old folk.

6)
If you can say: 'I've spent enough of my lifetime cooking to not want to do it anymore,' well, you are old people. Old. And perhaps a teeny bit lazy. Making beans on toast three nights in a row is not cooking. I'm just saying.

7)
Your kitchen is a hive of forgotten activity. Taps left running in the sink. Dishwasher half unloaded. Teabags over-stewed in cups of cold tea. Warning: age related forgetfulness results in massive water bills, dirty plates, and thirsty house guests.

8)
The legal ability to vote, drink, drive, or watch an 18 rated movie no longer holds any excitement. You've been there, done that, and worn the t-shirt so many times it's worn out. A bit like yourself.

9)
When you reminisce about movies or TV shows, no one has a clue what you're talking about. That's because they were probably rolling around on a floor somewhere trying to learn to crawl. Or hadn't yet been conceived...

10)
You can tell it's going to rain by the creak of knee or pain in your hip. Joints telling the weather is not just a circus freak rarity, although it should be.

So reader, remind you of anyone?

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Return to Room 101

Day: 1 trillion and fifty-six
Job rejections: Fifty billion
Outlook: Bleak, still

It's 9am. Sunshine and smiles have burned out and a shrivelled cloud of dreary rises from their ashes; a grey stench to permeate skin and spirit. It feels like my heart's been dug out from my chest with an ice-cream scoop, cold chest sewn shut with wire and barbs. Job centre day.

As usual, arrive early. Impressions count. Man with cheeks of mottled skin takes sly sips from a silver hip flask engraved with the words 'Employee of the Month.' The irony plays with my smile and loses.

The level one crowd is thicker than usual and I'm forced to stand. Woman to my left kisses her teeth. Mottled skin man tuts loudly. My foot taps a beat. An impatient chorus rises up and falls flat.

Patience not a virtue I practice, I march over to an employee whose stress is scoring red over her chest and up her neck. She sees me coming, her eyes widen and she sighs before shouting, 'Oh for heaven's sake, I can't catch a break!'

Twenty-five minutes later, still waiting. Three employees off sick and the rest have to pick up 'the slack.' Being called thus offends me. Finally my name is mumbled. The man chews gum with a slow rinse of his jaw and sighs heavily. The only thing they all do so well. 'Right,' he yawns. 'I'm gonna make this quick.' What's new?

Without a glance to my form or a care for my progress, he forces me to sign. As I tear a hole in the sheet with a blue Biro, I feel it build, a scream pinched about my throat. It's May, people. MAY! And I still don't have a job. What am I doing wrong? Why are you not helping me? Hello. Can you even see me...?

The truth hits, a raw thwack. Face burns. I'm just another name on a badly printed form. A box to be ticked, not a person to be helped. I'm a number, not a soul.

I don't like this truth. I wish today was a liar.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Child of Ignorance, Mother of Misery

I don't step on pavement cracks. Opposite my window is a mirror to reflect bad spirits. Every day I rub Buddha's belly for good luck. Crossed knives- I panic. I must throw salt over shoulder when it spills. If I see a lone magpie, I always say hello to his wife and children. And don't even get me started on walking under ladders.

Superstitions are an awkward subject matter. From my Dad they evoke a shrug and an eye roll. One friend takes them very seriously- to the extreme of burying the shards of a broken mirror in her back garden to stop the beckoning seven years bad luck. Another friend sees superstitions as a simple weakness of the mind.

In 1898, Robert G Ingersoll wrote an extensive essay on this subject. He listed, with vehemence, every superstition of his time to demonstrate their lack of evidence. He declared their roots to be a supernatural enemy of science, a disregard for cause and effect, of intelligence and reason. 'Superstition,' he wrote, 'is the child of ignorance and the mother of misery.'

Over one hundred years later, this is laughable. Even the most intelligent people partake in some form of superstition, however small. Perhaps without conscious knowledge of doing so. Picking up a penny from the street. Rubbing dice in hands before a throw. Fingers crossed with a wish. There's no madness in it. Or weakness. Superstitions are subconscious seeds sown as we are nurtured- taught at nursery, repeated as rhymes.

They may be crazy old wives tales. Fragments of a delirious imagination. Outrageous notions that have no scientific basis or proof. But I like them- these rituals. There's an element of security within them. A belief that by performing these rituals, we are protected from a potential evil, or provided with welcome good luck. There is no sense to it, no reason. But reader, do we need one?

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Voting for Ghosts

Thursday. I wake from a fitful slumber, feet cold, face hot. As I inch feet to steal the warmth behind my knees, red digits flutter in my periphery. 9.29pm. Late. I'm late. Legs tangled in sheets prevent a successful leap from the bed and I plunge, head first, into the bedside table. Corner stabs temple. Shards of pain to the power of three. Underneath my eye, a vessel starts to twitch. One hand has twenty fingers. That's not right. I'm late...

'Are you alright, love?'
Fingers of cold bone jab one hot cheek. Three outlines of a blurred figure enter my vision. A thousand tonne fog rests on my head but it's only air.
'My head hurts.'
'Pfft! I've known pain far worse.'
'And you are?'
'Name's Emily Davison. Come now, you're late.'

I spin my body out of its circus tangle and off the bed. Vision follows two seconds later. Liquid muscles and jelly bones quiver as I heave myself up onto feet that don't feel like my feet. Hand seeks out the pain bleating relentless in my temple. Contents of stomach don't feel safe. I clutch my side, as if that will help.

The four walls of my room have broken and dispersed. A white descends to curl around me, a whisper to my flesh. I follow Emily along a floorless corridor of fog.
'Where are we going?'
She smiles. I gulp. We reach open nothingness. A woman strides out, her neck held rigid by a high white collar. The sternness of her nose is intimidating.
'Wait. I know you. You're-'
'Emmeline Pankhurst.'
It's official. I am late. For my check-in at the Bethlem mental institution.

A ballot box slides out from the white. A pen drops from nowhere. A voting form appears crumpled beneath the painful twist of my fingers. Empty boxes loom, waiting to be ticked. Tick me. Tick me. No! Tick me. Emily creeps forward.
'I didn't throw myself under that horse for you to stand there.'

Emmeline glares at the pocket watch in her weathered hands. Red digits flutter. Pen hovers. Mind quivers. Somewhere, Big Ben chimes ten but I'm not watching the news. My heart leaps. I fall.
'You're too late. You've missed your chance. I'm terribly disappointed in you.'
I'm faced with the pointed stare of two suffragettes and their suffering. Pain has found a beat and plays like dirty hip-hop in my head. I sink into the fog and drown in it.

Thursday. 9.45pm. Wake face down on floor. Spine jarred; feet, thighs, knees tangled upwards against the edge of the bed. Temple aches. I heave myself up onto feet that feel like my feet in a room that looks like my room. Stagger over to my calendar. 7 days to go. Not late after-all...

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Expect nothing. Live on surprise.

She lives where no one can see her. But I can. I know her face, the shade of hair, the shine of eyes. I hear the tone of her voice and how it breaks when she's angry with me. A lips quiver with a fleeting memory. The violent twist of her hands when she's uncomfortable. To my surprise, she constantly changes her mind. I build expectations and she knocks them down before I'm finished. Lego beliefs strewn across the floor.

My novel's protagonist. Antagonist, more like. Sure, she was never set in stone. I never knew what she looked like, what she believed in. What she ate for breakfast. That is not how I work. I am not a planner. I don't do spider-diagrams or character maps. I write.

But now my protagonist has leaped from the realms of character and is flesh, blood. She is a person with skin, veins, feelings and secrets untold. She has evolved beneath my fingertips. With every heavy score on the keyboard, she breathes life. I feel like Victor Frankenstein - without all the stealing of dead body parts.

Of course, I have not created a monster. Nor do I feel disgust when we are together - there in on the blank page, cursor blinking. But I am afraid of her. Of what she can do. I lead her along one route and she resists, wishing to go another direction. I want her to say one thing and yet she says something else, unexpected. I feel like she is writing this book and I'm just the body to use.

Is it normal - to be overwhelmed and lead by your character? Reader, what do you think?

Monday, 12 April 2010

Rant of the Day

I have an issue with injustice. A fundamental part of me - a gene - roused with anger at the very thought of people doing wrong and getting away with it. So intense, so intrinsic is this, I often adopt the behaviour of spoilt child: feet stamped and shoulders slumped.

For the past month I have followed the story of Constance McMillen. Aged 18, she was banned from taking her girlfriend to Prom in Mississippi. When fuss was kicked, the event was cancelled by the school - exposing McMillen to a flurry of abuse from peers. A Prom was later staged by parents but McMillen was sent to a fake venue with only 7 others in attendance. The rest of the school bigots had their heterosexual dance elsewhere.

When I read this, my heart was a caged bird. I felt its fluttering in my ears and, soon, my gene was roused. Anger lurked like an insidious lump in my throat. As evident from previous posts, I have no place for prejudice. Particularly this behavioural form. It is fine to have a difference of opinion but to enforce this difference on others and its resulting behaviour is both offensive and unjust.

McMillen already lives with one difficulty- that her sexuality does not fit the 'accepted norms' of society. Of course, this is arguable. I live in a place fully accepting of the LGBT community. Clearly, McMillen does not. Furthermore, to be faced with an array of prejudicial abuse from her school, her peers and their parents is one difficult step too far. Where is the justice in this?

Discrimination of this kind is an insult to human nature and its malleability. We have such great potential to learn from past mistakes and grow in acceptance of all things, of all people. And yet we continue to exist in a fixed sphere of intolerance and the more we do so, the more injustice occurs. I'd like things to change.

What say you, reader?

Friday, 2 April 2010

Into the looking glass, and what we find there...

I was five when we moved to a new house. My first memory of it was the three things left behind by the previous owners: an oxygen cylinder and mask, a green velvet chair with no cushions, and a mirror. Victorian tall- its solid mahogany feet pinched the carpet and its silvered glass only shined for one minute after a polish before the dust motes settled.

It looked like an ordinary mirror. Only it wasn't. It was my secret door to another world. I would step through to play inside this mirrored place where I talked and walked backwards- where everything and everyone was forgotten and my only worry was if someone else discovered my secret. And as I grew older I would sit at length, cross-legged, staring at my reflection until I slowly dissolved into nonsense.

Have you ever done this, reader? Looked into a mirror long enough that you disappear? Not for reasons of vanity- often there are no reasons. The need to do so is just because. But sometimes you stare so long that simply looking becomes a search for something far deeper than pleasing appearance: meaning.

I did this yesterday. I was tidying the box room, shifting books and junk to make room for more, when the sun pierced everything. A single golden beam filtered through the curtain, striking my old playground, and light danced about the walls in jolly abandon. My gaze caught on the shiny pane, past smudged prints, dust and greasy streaks, and into eyes. And what started as a general derision directed at those eyes- What are you doing with your life? Where are you going? - soon became a detached wonderment.

Recognition vanished and the face before me morphed into shapes- circles, ovals- randomness. Who was this before me? For that matter, who was I- did I even exist? Question after question dropped seemingly from nowhere into my grey matter- matter that existed somewhere beyond the wall of somewhere else.

It was the strangest of sensations. A tingle, a chill so unsettling that time ceased and everything but this stranger faded to nothing. But as quickly as I dissolved I came back, pulled by the light that danced across the silvered glass and drew my gaze- and myself- up and out of nonsense.

I went back to tidying books and boxes of junk. But golden light flickered, my spine tingled and the unsettled followed me like a grey cloud - a burst of iced air. My mind drifted to the looking glass and I couldn't help but wish I was five years old again...

Monday, 29 March 2010

Dream, Hallucination or Prediction?

Last night I had trouble sleeping. This is nothing new. I haven't slept properly in seven years. There comes a point when I am so tired I cannot function. Words. Backwards. Become. Spots appear around me and I reach out to grab them, thinking they're weird alien beings come to eat me alive. Then come the tears. I weep and moan- wallow in self pity, cry and pray to a God I don't believe in. 'Why God, Why? Why won't you let me sleep? I hate you.' This is the point where I pass out face down into my pillow. Maybe He really does exist. Or a She. Possibly an It. I fear I'm going off point here...

I had a dream. I discovered the secret to time travel. Or was it a dream? Maybe I hallucinated. Maybe my brain was so fed up with being awake 24 hours a day that it created this weird story to keep itself occupied- to pass the time. Perhaps I unlocked the psychic inside and can only make predictions about the future during an insomnia-ridden daze. A bit like the psychics who can only predict things with a twenty pound note in their hands.

In my dream there was a chart about time continuums, followed by a long vomit-inducing algebraic equation. On a table sat a box that looked like a modified version of the Flux Capacitor. After all, that is what makes time travel possible.

Doc Brown wasn't there. Neither was Marty McFly. But Steven Spielberg was. I felt that Back to the Future is masquerading as a piece of fiction when really, it's fact. I think Spielberg did find the secret to time travel and it really does involve a 1981 DeLorean. This is more plausible than a phone box as Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure suggests. Now that's just stupid.

Please note this is a re post. Normal blogging service will resume shortly...

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

I dreamed a thousand new paths but woke and walked my old one

For some time I have felt awash with the tedium of routine. The longer it lingered, the more its weighty grip choked and squeezed me dry. Drip by drip everything fled- inspiration, motivation, purpose. So I decided to set myself a challenge. Step away from my electronic life and embrace the world beyond it. Could I exist one week without modern comforts and would it give me the inspiration I craved?

Day 1. Instead of my usual routine- computer on, check emails, search jobs- I go for a walk. The wind is brutal with my curly hair, rain blistering against skin and my shell quivers. But it feels good. There is something quite freeing- exhilarating- about full lungs of fresh air. By the time I reach home, fingers pink and numb, a new idea simmers and I feel like I'm on to something. I go to bed and read a book by candlelight. As golden flames lick shadows, the story leaks inspiration. If I'm going to embrace this simple life and live like Walden, I won't do it by halves.

Day 2. Bypass the computer and march outside. The elements are far more forgiving and the sun welcomes me with a warm hand. I buy a stack of newspapers and sit reading headlines and job descriptions. I usually do this online- quickly- eyes roam speedily and I click link after link until I arrive at a different subject entirely. Who says you can't link a PA job in Hammersmith to a 1979 Pink Floyd album? But there's no option of that in Greenwich Park, with black fingerprints and a pile of paper yet to feel the wrath of my Dad's recycling mission.

Day 3. Job centre. World's slowest typist tells me to continue my search online. 'No,' I say. 'I'm not using the Internet this week.' She glares. 'And why is that?' I hesitate. 'I'm hoping it will inspire me- not using the computer or watching TV. I feel a bit overloaded with information and need a break from it.' She sighs. 'Don't we all, dear. Don't we all.' The walk home is lengthy but full of people and I watch like I'm watching TV. I just wish I had a remote.

Day 4. Desperate to check emails, I almost crack. Somehow, willpower awakens and I throw a bed-sheet over the computer, as if that will help. My netbook appears- shiny, compact- attracting me like a Magpie. But I've come too far. Later, mum asks if I can find out about an Actor and again- the lure of Google almost proves too much. 'Sorry- the Internet Movie Database will have to wait.' Damn.

Day 5. I feel tranquil. My brain works efficiently and I am fully accustomed to writing with a pen again. At first my handwriting was a brutal scrawl needing its own translator. But now it is delicate and beautiful and I imagine my pen is a quill and my tea-stained paper is really very old. Add these to candlelight and maybe I will write like Shakespeare. Re-reading my work later, I find that perhaps it does have too many malapropisms and oxymorons. Hmmm.

Day 6. Worry sets in. Have not written my blog for a week nor have I read any. Emails probably stacking up too. And mum is still on about that bloody Actor. I hesitate before ripping off the bed-sheet, rubbing the screen like it's my precious. Oh Google. How I missed you.

Well, reader. You can't say I didn't try...

Monday, 8 March 2010

Missing

A major search is underway for inspiration, reported missing last week. Inspiration was last seen in a feisty struggle with imagination, creativity and common sense, all of which compete for attention daily. With each passing hour, there are growing concerns that it may never return.

'Inspiration can take many forms. Some days it is a book, a painting, or a walk in the park. Often it is a musical score or a burst of madness.' This constant evolution of identity is proving troublesome for those involved in the search.

Described by many as a stimulation of the mind and, often, a brilliant idea, inspiration has been likened to a bolt of lightning or a 'light-bulb' moment. It is known for leaving in times of difficulty and has earned the reputation of 'fair-weather friend.'

Yesterday, however, LiveWriteDream begged for its safe return. 'The nights are the hardest. When I can't sleep, inspiration usually helps me. It fills my time and allows me to write the hours away- a faithful companion. Without it, I am nothing.'

Anyone with information regarding its sudden disappearance is asked to contact LiveWriteDream immediately.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

The Perfect Day

It was the perfect day to dump a body. Steel grey sky. Mist poured heavy from the heavens and fogged thicker at the feet. Rain lashed and speared flesh. All this worked in our favour. Today, people would stay inside. They'd seek the warmth of the fire. The closeness of the kettle and stove. The distraction of the TV. Of course, that wouldn't include the work crowd. But we had a plan for that. I thought of everything. He doesn't do much. He just stands there looking pretty. Even that's pretty hard.

The clock read 9.25. Peeping between the rags we call curtains, I checked that everything was in place. Car 10 yards away. Check. Keys in pocket. Check. Body wrapped in black sack tied with rope. Check. I ticked them off my list with a red ballpoint pen.

At the door, the wind sliced me with its frosted knife and I watched with watery eyes as he dragged the body up the basement stairs. The neck snapped as the head hit every step and I wondered why I had to do everything my damn self. 9.29. Rope burned its twisted pattern into my palms and, for the second day in a row, they were red. I shrugged and set foot outside.

My breath was heavy and the rain pricked the sack covered body. Our feet squelched mud and, soon, his face was smudged with the stuff- brown dirt speckled and smeared over his blue jean arse. I wanted to laugh but some part of me crawled out from within and took over. My cheeks fell.

I fished for the car keys and pressed the button. The lights flashed orange and he yanked the boot open, wiping and flicking the rain from his face with fevered hands. I let it run off me, rivulets down my eyes, drops hanging to a point from my nose. I breathed in the lung-harsh air and blew out white.

It took four swings to get it in. We whacked the head on the brake light and it cracked. I cursed him- thoughts of the Police pulling us over. The ice couldn't get any thinner. Boot shut, I climbed in. He sat in the driver's seat, hand hovered over the ignition. I smacked him with the cup of my palm and we jolted to a start.

At the edge of town, the hedges filtered out and the dirt track moulded into solid road. The wipers squeaked blunt blades across the dirty screen. An army of black umbrellas poked their pointed ends to blame an ashen sky. Mail was posted. Dogs were walked. Feet hurried. My cheeks rose and a jolly tune filled my head and forced itself out between my lips.

The car slowed to a pedestrian pace and I turned to him, hand cupped and ready. His eyes flitted between the road and the rear-view mirror. He was a dog's whimper and I turned. The sack rose up from the uncovered boot and rustled as air was sucked in and out from the shrivelled dead lungs inside.

I had not thought of everything.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Age is a prison from which we cannot escape...

Staring at my Granddad, I had a revelation. He's 96 years old- and looks it. His chin drapes leisurely onto a sunken chest, skin stretched thin and rough. Fingers skewed- he means to point ahead but points left without realising. He's blind in the left eye, deaf in the right ear and both hips are fake. And he has one leg longer than the other. Evidently, he has a lot going for him.

I watched him sleep in the armchair. Listened to the slight whir in this chest. The slip slap as he unconsciously sucked up streams of saliva running down the creased valley at the corner of his mouth. Breath too quiet, fistfuls of fear pounded my chest but the alarm abated when he woke with confused eyes at my expression. If this is my gene pool and I'm in for the same inevitability- I don't want to get old. Well, old old.

It has been said that aging is a prison- a sentence we cannot escape. Though we may try. Some yield to the surgeon's knife. Others simply lie. But these are no means of escape. It's mere escapism.

Besides, with age we gain. Love. Experience. Memories. The strength of these possessions can act like a remedy to the harshness of aging. A sort of therapy for acceptance. Why we don't mind the odd wrinkle around the eyes because we remember the laughs that made them.

But is there a point where aging- living - is cruel? My Granddad spends all day in the same chair, watching a TV that he cannot see. Images blurred beyond pattern recognition and voices a shrivelled whisper to his ears. He barely has the strength of muscle or mind to heave his weariness from his seat. He doesn't live. He exists. He crossed that line and now waits in a realm akin to limbo. Surely waiting for your own death- willing it- wishing for it- is a vicious hand of nature?

Reader, what do you think?

Sunday, 14 February 2010

The Book of Love

The Book of Love is long and boring; no one can lift the damn thing. It's full of charts and facts and figures, and instructions for dancing. Apparently, it also contains music, flowers and heart-shaped boxes. A highly original book, I may add.

I did not make this up. All credit goes to The Magnetic Fields- the band- not the electric current.

With all the red-love heart-shaped mess occurring in the world today, it got me to thinking. What if there was a book of love? Would it be of help or hindrance? Let us imagine...

The book is red and pink and the letters 'o' are shaped like hearts. Cupid's soft profile peers from the back cover, his wings embossed gold. He wrote it when his career hit a rough patch; his bow and arrow deemed a dangerous weapon and confiscated at Airport security. Still, the silver lining was a spot on the New York Times Bestsellers list. Every year for eternity. In bookshops it sits between 'How to get rich for life' and the other big seller, 'Instruction manual for Babies, Children and Unruly Teens.'

Every home has one. Pages dog-eared and scuffed from years of reference. When a guy doesn't call, the girl flicks through its wisdom searching for the answer to her prayers. Chapter 5: 'what to do when a man isn't interested' is especially scruffy in most households. When a man can't understand his other half, chapter 11 often comes in handy: 'reading between the lines: a woman's prerogative.'

With this modern age, there is even an e-reader copy of the book available for download, as well as an iPhone 'Love' App. On dates around the world, men and women flick through phones, hoping to avoid a disastrous dinner, just as their dates excuse themselves for the restroom.

Hmm. This alternate reality sounds too Stepford Wives for my liking. Where would our conversations be without date disasters and love woes? Hearts are meant to be bruised and broken sometimes. Love isn't always supposed to be easy. It's dirty and messy and can screw with your head. Much like life. On that note...

Happy Valentine's Day, readers.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Happy Blogiversary!

A year ago today, I became a Blogger. What a fun-filled tumultuous 365 days it has been. Let us hop aboard my non-existing time travel device and go back to the beginning...

I introduced myself in a list of random facts. Wrote about the importance of memory and acting your shoe size. Explained how the violent relationship with my abnormal appendix came to an end, and the first rate hospital service provided during recovery. Throw in some poetry, a Top Ten series and a few jobless rantings and you have the perfect mix of what my blog represents. Sadly readers, this isn't a recipe. Apologies.

In order to keep this blog going, I've decided to shake things up. A bit like a couple desperate to add some spice in the form of handcuffs when their sex life goes stale. Here's a list of what's coming up (no pun intended) this year:

1) The LiveWriteDream Blog Review:
Occasionally I will pick a random blog to read and review. If I like what I see, I will promote it. If I don't like what I see, well, I'll write that too, constructively of course. Perhaps it will end in a libellous lawsuit, perhaps it won't. Nevertheless, I'll have fun trying.

2) Rant Day:
On a yet to be named day of the week, I will write a purely rant-filled post. This will be about something that has annoyed me, be it what I've read, seen or experienced. It may even be about a celebrity. Not so fond of those. At present, all of my blog posts are general rantings so you may have to wait until everything stops annoying me. Readers, it may be a while.

3) The LiveWriteDream Blog Award:
Currently, I am creating my very own blog award to present to my favourite bloggers here in the blogosphere. I can't promise it will be fancy. It may look like it was created by a 5 year-old. But it will be given with love and admiration and should be displayed proudly for all to see. Just like the stick-people drawings by a 5 year-old given to her parents and stuck proudly on the fridge door.

And there you have it. The new and improved LiveWriteDream. Coming soon(ish). Maybe. When I can be bothered. Oh, the anticipation!

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Room 101

Day: 1billion and twelve
Job offers: Zero
Outlook: Bleak

It's 10am. Job centre. Perv guy waits outside. Slouched against grey stone, puffs of white smoke trickle between a crooked yellow smile as he nods in my direction. I wince and walk inside.

Level One. The swarm of unemployed builds. We look like normal people and yet underneath our soft human skin there lies a bitter soul, hopeless, seething. The smell of vodka and shampoo overwhelms. It mixes with damp clinging to a worn leather jacket on bony shoulders. I shuffle away with an awkward smile. The kid behind glares up with demon eyes black and clicks a tune with his tongue. I throw evils in his direction. He clicks faster, louder. My nails dig a deep crescent pattern into my palms.

Later, name called, I sit as the woman types quickly without looking at me; her fingers heavy and pronounced on every letter. Keyboard clicks, tongue clicks. Head hurts. Her pupils flit over my form once before she signs in hurried blue strokes.

'Can I ask you a question?'
The woman sighs, head cocked to one side.
'If you must...'
'Well...' I struggle to find the least offensive words. Inside, my bitter self sharpens her bite, ready to lunge.
'Look, I haven't got all day.'

The clock says 10.30am. Clearly she's lying.

'Do I get any guidance at some point?'
'What do you mean?'
'You know, do I get to chat with someone about my prospects or potential job avenues?'
'What do you think this is?' She lifts eyebrows to furrowed skin.
'Well, you're just showing me a computer screen of jobs. I can do this at home, online.'
'Go do it then.'
She pushes my form towards me and shouts 'next' over my shoulder. Demon child pokes his tongue as I stagger away.

Floating downstairs, my eyes sting. I refuse to let them win, and battle with my lids to keep them open, to stop the flow. Outside I gasp air and let its crispness flood my lungs, clear my head. I shake myself and walk away, leaving the dreaded place behind. I do not look back. Until next time.

Monday, 1 February 2010

A novel taster...

I don't know why I'm here. Here in this decaying building with single paned windows that rattle in the slightest breeze and walls so blue I feel sad just looking at them. People come but never go. We sit, talk and listen until it's time to sleep and if we're unlucky, we wake, sit, talk and listen all over again. It's one endless nightmare of circles. I hate circles. They always make me dizzy.

I don't know how I got here. I opened my eyes to the blue, the strangers, to closed doors. I stood- grogginess clung to my sandpaper skin and tasted grey in my sticky mouth. Lead-filled bones had slept for a hundred years except no Prince had kissed to claim me.

I ran at the doors, shoving them with the full force of my body. Arms jarred, elbows cracked, the metal threw me. I landed on my backside. Brushing dust, I walked over and shook them again. All doors opened. What made these so special?

Whacking them with my palms, I rattled the handles, pounding fists on thin panes of glass until my chest heaved. Pain nestled in my joints and stayed there. I didn't care. I just wanted to get out. Later a dark-haired woman peered up from her magazine and pressed a button. Two burly men walked out of nowhere and pinned me to the floor with big fists and heavy thighs. The hard edge of a boot made an imprint on my cheek as one of the men pushed at the clothes around my hip. I flushed as hands touched bare skin. Hairs provoked rose sharply from my neck. I felt the violation rush down my spine. The fierce prick of an ice-cold needle would have floored me had I not already been there. I felt like shouting for a Doctor or a Lawyer but wasn't sure which was needed first.

Whimpering, my breathing slowed. Thousand tonne eyelids blocked out the light and the boots, and I felt my fists slacken to palms. I was air and nothingness, clouds and stars. And then, I was night.

So reader, what do you think?

Monday, 25 January 2010

The more elaborate our means of communication, the less we do so

A month ago today I deleted my Facebook account. I originally joined in 2006. Final year of University. In the computer room queue, people discussed how many friends they had in this strange online community and were eager to update their statuses. I joined more out of intrigue than desire to accumulate my friends into a concrete number. I'd always thought it weird when someone could reel off how many friends they had. The fact that they bothered to count alerted my senses to a loser from loserville.

Soon enough, the bug had bitten. I jumped on the bandwagon- it felt dirty, wrong- and so right all at once. I latched onto the novelty of being social without seeing anyone. Housemates would message me from their bedrooms instead of calling up the stairs because it was more fun that way. I could sit at my desk and still chat with my friends. 'Hey, I'm in the library trying to study!' 'Really? I'm at home writing my essay. Cool.' Yes, it was.

I became the Facebook master. I can hold my own in a conversation but give me a blank page and I am witty perfection in cyber form. It became an addictive tool of procrastination when I really should have been writing my dissertation about Gray's Model of Impulsivity. (Don't ask. I may harm you).

When I left University, however, things changed. Stepping away from my social network- where conversations started online and were resumed in the real world- suddenly I had no real world. My only way of communicating with University friends was through this non-social channel, and it grew tiresome.

All the non-verbal tools of communication- recognition of facial expressions, body language, eye contact, gestures- had no forum on Facebook. Then there's the auditory means of communicating, such as voice tonality. Can we really glean true meaning of speech if it hasn't been spoken?

The accumulation of these points made the decision to quit Facebook an easy one. Friends pleaded with me not to leave and I admit, sometimes, a part of me didn't want to. A small part. When I finally deactivated that account, I felt surprisingly liberated, a feeling which continued. It was no longer necessary to constantly check my page or think of something witty to say. The pressure was off.

So reader, it has been a month. I am in contact with those I wish- not the false set of friends acquired. Gone are those people whose friend requests I accepted because I walked past them in school or smiled at them at work. I have no care except for those I really care about. Now I write letters and pick up that thing called a telephone. How very old fashioned of me...

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Top Ten: Pet Peeves of the 21st Century

Everyone has a pet peeve. People, situations, habits that grate, like nails down a blackboard. Things that get on nerves and put backs up, whatever that means. Wait, what does it mean? Answers on a postcard.

1) The iPhone:
So called smartphone. Do we really need one product to make calls, send emails and take photographs? What if you wanted to make a call whilst taking a picture? Not possible with an iPhone. Massive fail. I also stand by my earlier comment: it looks like it's been made by aliens. Who knows where they've hidden the probes. Beware.

2)
Facebook:
Hailed as the social networking place to be, Facebook has lured 350million people to waste time staring at their computers. Whether updating your status (yeah, I really wanted to know what you ate for breakfast) or uploading photographs (oh look, she's vomiting over that guy in the club-good times) you're not exactly being sociable. It's also a place rife with stalking and spreading lies. Nobody has 1000 friends. Unless you're Heidi Fleiss.

3)
Twitter:
Advertised as 'the best way to share and discover what's happening right now' by microblogging in 160 characters or less. If what you've got to say is that small, it's not worth sharing. Witty or not.

4)
Climate-change bandwagon jumping:
Environmental issues have existed for hundreds, if not millions, of years. Buying bags for life, recycling and less car usage do not change the fact. If you've only just started giving a damn about the environment for your great-great-great grandchildren, well, you're a big fat bandwagon jumper. Not cool, people.

5) X-Factor/Britain's Got Talent/America's Got Talent/Pop Idol/American Idol/Popstars the Rivals:
For years I've endured people who can't sing/dance/sing & dance and, listened to people discussing those who can't sing/dance/sing & dance. I don't care if Jedward make you laugh. They don't have talent, or the xyz factor, they don't pop and they're not idols. I may end up in rehab- the first breakdown caused by Simon Cowell's money-making machine. Susan Boyle got there first? Oh well.

6)
Botox fever:
Popularity of Botox has increased considerably in the last decade. No longer a seedy little beauty secret, women (and men) are sticking needles of fat into minuscule lines that even magnifying glasses can't see. The result? Fish faces. Permanently stunned/scared expressions. Grow old gracefully, fish face.

7)Twilight:
Not the time of day. I like that. I'm talking about those books about the vampire, the werewolf and the pale girl. However poorly written, they killed a few hours. But they're certainly not worth all the screaming hype. Four words for you, Stephenie Meyer: Bram Stoker, Ann Rice. Let them show you how it's done.

8) Text Speak without the texting:
A popular peeve gets a 21st century twist. Shorthand in text messages is acceptable. But skipping vowels and consonants in emails, letters, blogs and essays is lazy, taking poor spelling and grammar to another vexing level. Learn to spell you lzy bstrd.

9) Orwellian Prophecies fulfilled:
No newspeak as of yet. But Big Brother has infiltrated every aspect of our world and not just on TV. In every shop, street and car-park, there is a feeling of being followed; a desire to glance over ones shoulder. Being treated like potential criminal whilst trying to reverse park. Annoying.

10) Celebrity Nicknames in real life:
Brangelina. Bennifer. TomKat. Spork. Cringe fest linguistics. Now non-famous people are doing it. Without the holy matrimony. It was cute. Until I vomited in my mouth.

So reader, anything you'd like to add?

Friday, 15 January 2010

Progress is impossible without change

Two months ago I posted about words, darkness and echoes. Yes, reader. I had decided to write a novel. Since then I have practiced the art of hurling words and punctuation at a harsh white page that mocks me, and waited for them to form coherent sentences.

Have I accomplished my mission? Well. At 30,000 words, it's half done. No title as yet. And the story keeps evolving no matter what I do. It has a life of its own. Sometimes this scares me, so much so I should stop and cut all ties. But then it might just hear my negative thoughts and try to kill me. No, reader. My novel isn't trying to kill me. Just the process of writing one.

My expectations were, I believed, realistic. I assumed it would be a difficult challenge. One I thought I was ready for. My story plagued my mind for months and in an effort to exorcise it, I wrote more. Soon six pages begged to be defined and labelled a 'novel.' So I did.

Encouragement was heard from all corners, even those in the blogosphere. So I persisted. Chipped away at the idea, sketched out plot. Wrote and re-wrote. Hit stumbling blocks, writer's block; blocks of all kind determined to outwit my pursuit.

Nothing, however problematic, can get in the way of my determination. (Take that procrastination demon!) Sure, it takes a few knocks. But I shall persist by every means necessary. Except killing. Won't do that.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Snow, salt and frozen peas

This weekend I ventured into hell. Just an average Saturday afternoon doing the weekly shop. It's usually busy. Hyper kids running along aisles, breaking eggs. Babies howling in abandoned trolleys by the milk or frozen peas. Elderly shoppers inconveniently taking up space as they tick off their shopping lists with shaky hands. This time, there was one extra variable that changed everything. It had snowed.

As a result, Tesco morphed into a dystopian horror film where I expected blood and fire at every turn. Women fought over loaves of bread. Men arm wrestled for pints of milk and argued over tubs of salt. Children watched with frightened eyes wondering what in hell happened to all the adults.

Attempting to manoeuvre around the aisles, prams bashing into the backs of my heels, trolleys ploughing into mine, I stopped. Up into the clouds I floated and peered down at the manic ants around me. Row upon row of empty shelves. Nothing left except ice. Pet food. And marmite. Turns out people don't love it after-all.

What is it about the sight of snow that generates mass hysteria? Outside temperatures freeze but inside, our own mercury goes into meltdown. It is highly unlikely that people are going to starve to death without five loaves of bread and eight pints of milk. A little bit of the white stuff (snow, I mean snow) and madness breeds faster than the horniest of hamsters.

Since last Wednesday, we've had five inches of snow in London. People couldn't even make a proper snow angel with that pathetic excuse for a snowfall. But they can make five hundred sandwiches and ten thousand cups of tea, should the need arise.

The mind boggles.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Those days

When I'm ninety,
skin wrinkled, wise eyes,
glasses perched like windows
on a cottage that improves
with age,
weathered and worn,
I'll remember those days.

Days when I was five,
I'd run miles from
the neighbours' dog,
teeth bared and barked
behind shabby gate.
Lungs full, I'd skip
over pavement cracks
and bottomless puddles
from the afternoon rain
that I never saw.
It never rained in those days.

Days when I was six,
happiness played
in the bee-filled garden,
auburn hair merging
with blades of green grass,
dandelions and daisies.
I'd stare into sky blue
spotting faces
and shapes the clouds made,
trying to figure out if the sky
was moving or if it was me.
It was always me in those days.

Days when I was seven,
I'd play music through
headphones bigger than my head,
pretend I was the star;
Ken and Barbie were my fans.
Without care who saw,
I'd dance around the house,
the street and shops,
wearing Wellies, a dress
and a Freddie Krueger face mask.
I'd never do that these days.