Category: Writing

Longer posts that I might actually have researched or at the very least I’ve thought about before posting.

Beneath our feet

Do you ever get one of those weird compulsions to do something that you would never do? Like wanting to jump in a river fully clothed, or eating an entire raw onion? It’s kinda hard to explain and most of the time I just ignore them but the other day one of them struck me on my walk home from work.

It was a gorgeous day so I left work a little early, thinking to meander my way homeward and enjoy the evening sunshine. Early  spring had delivered the first buds of green and I was quite content, plodding along with no desire to hurry, lost in daydreams and the casual nosiness of the urban wanderer. I took lanes and paths I’d never noticed before, turned into streets that lead me to hidden parks and gardens, and comforted myself that I was  heading in roughly the right direction home, most of the time.

It was near one of these little parks, on an unfamiliar street, that my foot caught on a manhole and I stumbled. It was enough to jolt some adrenalin into my system but not quite enough to send me to the ground, just a few awkard stuttering steps before I  caught myself and got my feet underneath me. I prepared my worst glare and turned round to see what had had the temerity to trip me up and break me from my revelries.

The manhole cover was slightly raised at one edge and clearly hadn’t been properly seated back in place. A long crowbar of dulled iron lay nearby and I looked around, presuming to see a work van or even a worker on tea break somewhere but there wasn’t a soul in sight.

Clearly someone had forgotten to put the manhole cover properly back in place.

I huffed loudly to no-one and was about to turn and walk away, but my conscience got the better of me. I would do a good deed, unseen and unheralded, bonus integrity points for me! I walked over and lifted the crowbar.

It was heavier than it looked, but I raised it up and one end slipped into the required notch in the cover. My brain started searching for whichever Greek polymath introduced the idea of fulcrums, as it would only take a small push with the crowbar to drop the manhole cover back into place.

I paused. My mind shifted from polymath to compulsion.

What is down there under that manhole cover?

No, I mustn’t.

But there’s no-one around, no-one to see, no-one will know.

I looked around again, slowly checking over one shoulder, then the other, then check again to be sure. Not a sound, no dogs barking, no children laughing, no-one in sight. I shifted my grip on the bar and with one smooth motion, eased the manhole cover up and out of the way.

I stood there for a moment, peering down into the darkness beneath my feet. My eyes slowly adjusted until I could make out a tiny spot of light, far far below me. A shimmering sixpence at the bottom of a dark well, an object that had no right in being there, the blackness deeper than I thought possible. Was I just seeing a reflection? The light from above reaching out to touch the edge of nothing? I waved my hand in the air over the opening but the dot of light remained constant. No, not a reflection. How odd.

I looked around, glad that there was no-one else nearby to witness my behaviour. I knelt down beside the opening and, putting a hand on each side, lowered my head and shoulders down until they were inside the entrance and blocking most of the light.

Far below me the dot of light expanded. In it I could see colours and shapes forming and moving, like an out of focus film reel that my brain couldn’t quite make sense of. I leaned in further and the dot grew again, the shapes solidfying, shifting into a semblance of… wait, was that  a dog?

I sat up and sheepishly looked around, the street was deserted still. I glanced back down into the darkness to see that the dot of light had shrunk once more.

Ahhh, it’s an optical illusion! How clever! But how does it work?

Intrigued I leaned in again, moving slowly, watching the circle of light below me grow; the further I leaned, the larger and clearer the image below me became.

I was starting to be able to pick out familiar shapes, there was a bright blue car, and there a pink dog lolloping around a bright orange field. Every now and then a flash of colour and a new shape blossomed into view, colours clashing vividly. Purple bananas hanging from turquoise trees.

I leaned further and further in until I was at my limit, barely clinging on with most of my upper torso disappearing into the ground. It was then I heard a voice above me ask what the hell I thought I was doing?

I pulled myself back out, cracking my head on the wrought iron edge of the manhole on the way. I sat back, rubbing the back of my head, and squinted up at the woman standing over me.

She was older than I and carried the quiet air of school ma’am authority. She was looking at me with a stern  but bemused look, the naughty boy caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

How could I explain what I’d seen? A strange world at once familiar yet surreal, an reflection wrought in the wrong technicolours?

I clambered to my feet and as dusk fell I told her about tripping on the manhole cover and that I was just checking that nothing or no person had fall in. I lied. It was easier than trying to form the words that held the truth, most because as I was not entirely sure what that trush was, what had I seen?

She listened silently then beckoned me out of her way. I stood and watched in silence as she used the crowbar to slide the cover back over the hole, dropping it in place with a deep heavy thunk.

She turned to face me. With a nod she said that that was done and next time I should cover manholes not peer into them. It was phrased as a statement, a command to be followed. She held my gaze as I murmured and nodded in acquiescence, and after a few seconds she turned on her heel and walked away.

I watched her go, the long iron crowbar swinging lightly in her hand. I looked down at the manhole cover, admiring the intricate patterns and strange words that adorned it. In the distance a dog barked and the birds began their evensong.

The Teddy Bear

As they round the corner the pier reaches out in to the early evening gloom before them, colourful lights glow and flash, calling them forward; a magical wonderland of pulsing stars, glistening in the dusk. As they get closer the noise starts to build, the cheery organ music from the older stalls tinkles along over an electronic bass thump as the fairground evolves, new exciting rides sitting alongside tradition, wooden horses merrily going round and round whilst spaceships swoop and spin overhead. Laughter and screams, shrieks and shouts punctuate the thinning air.

They wander past the outer stalls, smiling as they are beckoned in for a quick game, an easy game of skill. Come on Sir, you look like you have a good aim, you can’t lose! Hoops, balls and targets, stalls lined with lavishly cheap looking prizes for the successful.

At the next stall there are yellow ducks bobbing on the slowly circling current, a weary teenager looks at them as they pass, his eyes full of all the hope someone who wishes they were anywhere but here can muster. She glances back then turns, tugging his sleeve. He glances at her and his heart melts all over again as her excitement bounces them forward. The stall teenager looks up as they approach and intones the price and rules of the game for the thousandth time.

They pay and both pick up their weapons, first one to get a duck is the winner! They laugh.

She was so excited, babbling about her own childhood memories, this first test of skill and achievement still vivid in her mind, brought to life for him through her smile, her wide eyes scanning the ducks as they drift past, choosing her victim carefully.

He lunges forward but misses his first few attempts, the ducks bobbing on what is suddenly a faster current than before. He doesn’t care; he can hear her beside him, laughing in her wonderful cadence, cursing as she too misses then, at last, a triumphant exclamation!

Turns out the ducks aren’t all yellow and she’s managed to snare a red one, a top prize awaits and she immediately points at the large teddy bear. Soon it’s in her arms; she holds it close like a child, a tender poignancy in her eyes as they softly close. It’s never far away, even on days like today.

Maybe the fairground was a bad choice, he thinks.

Her eyes open and she holds the teddy bear out in both hands, giving it to him. One prize she can give. The melancholy is etched on both their faces now as their hands touch and he pulls her in close, enveloping her and the teddy bear in a hug.

“It’s ok” he whispers.

“I know” she says, and turns her head to kiss his neck.

They set off again, quietly determined to have fun. The smell of hotdogs drifts over them and soon they are munching away as they wander. Later on they laugh in the hall of mirrors, scream on the ghost train and on the giant swing she closes her eyes as they spin higher and higher, a single tear rolling down her face, chilled in the evening air.

Candy-floss next and with sticky faces they head for home. Leaving the heaving sounds to the night behind them. They walk home in silence, holding the teddy between them, one paw each, swinging it back and forth.

He can remember it all to this day, the excited buzz of the crowds, marvelling at the strongman as he bent an iron bar as thick as his arm, gasping as the latest greatest ride rocketed people around the sky in spinning circles, up and down, higher and higher until their delighted screams became one, and the lights merged with the stars above them.

They didn’t go back to the fairground again. Life moved on or rather it moved on around them. They remained where they ended up, stuck, lost, unwilling to change, scared to let go of their grief.

Sitting on the edge of the bed he realises he is crying, silent tears drop to the floor as he clutches the rediscovered teddy bear in his arms. He had made it through her clothes and belongings, through well-meaning friends and old photos. He didn’t realise the unspoken memory was waiting here all along.

She is gone and he will be soon. Gone from this house at least, the last vestiges of their belongings being boxed up, shipped up, thrown out, moved on. He found the teddy on a high shelf at the back of the cupboard in the bedroom, out of sight for so so many years and as soon as he reached for it the memories were quick to follow.

He knows he has to let go but he’s so tired of all of this. Tired of going through it, tired of putting on a brave face. It’s only stuff, they say, things that don’t have value, and anyway you’ll still have your memories, they say. He doesn’t want to tell them that the memories are fading, he can’t hold on to them long enough when they arrive, and they are nothing but blurred, grainy, over exposed photos that fade further day by day.

He wipes his face with the back of his hand, holds the teddy out at arms length for one last look, then drops it in the box marked Trash. It falls back and looks up at him. He turns away, everything is past now.

Later that day he sits and waits for them to pick him up. They arrive on time in their fancy big car, all emblems and corporate imagery. They’ve sent two of them as if to remind him of his change of status. His place in the world is different now; he is no longer the key-holder and feels small and weak as one of them lifts his suitcase, the other his arm to help him out to the car. They fuss over his seatbelt and throw his suitcase in the back. He doesn’t complain, just stares out the window at the home he’s leaving, the life once lived.

As the car pulls away his eye catches the pile of bin bags and boxes lying on the pavement, ready to be collected. The final parts of his life. A sorry pile. Next to it is a box marked Trash. He can see the ragged ears of the teddy, its face tilted to the sky, glazed eyes raised to the heavens.

The Tree

I love mornings like this, the late winter chill fading away as the sun climbs lazily into the sky. I can feel the gentle dew on my extremities starting to warm, and the ground beneath me stirring into life.

There is a gentle breeze playing over my naked branches and I find myself yearning for spring, for the new growth it will bring, leaves that will play in the wind, I long for their rhythmic rustle. I miss my little snowdrop friends already but soon the daffodils will start to appear, tiny glowing suns that never fail to brighten my day.

Over on the other side of the field I can see the humans arriving on their machines, so noisy and smelly. The things they are building are as tall as me but there is something cold about them, unnatural. The humans come in the morning and leave as night returns, and more and more of the strange things rise up from the ground.

I never understand what they do.

I’ve been watching them for a while now, they are getting closer and closer. Recently they started making black patterns in the ground. One of the patterns is reaching out to me it seems, but I don’t know why.

Some of the humans are coming to look at me. They are such odd things, like birds or bees they move around a lot which I think is sad. Why can’t they be happy in one place, each day unfurling anew around them? I don’t understand it.

They are beneath me now. What is that they have around my trunk? It tickles my bark.

I never understand what they do.

Little noises from them, first one then another, back and forth, like birds singing to each other. One of them has picked up a shiny branch, ohh a horrible noisy smell and the shiny branch is moving and whirring. The human that grew it is moving it towards me, more tickling. The shiny branch is making all my tiniest branches jiggle and shake. What silly thing are they doing?

The shiny branch is disappearing into me, maybe they think I need a shiny branch? But what would I do with it, my branches are all I need, once the leaves have unfurled from deep inside me I will be complete again and all my power will return. I don’t need a shiny branch as well, don’t they understand?

I long for my leaves so I can breathe again, but I hope the humans aren’t still ruining the air. My air used to be full of life and stories, now it feels empty and sad.

The human is taking the shiny branch away! It must realise I don’t need it after all.

Ohhh wait, it’s trying to give me it in a different place, buzzing away at me. I’ll need to grow some new bark. The buzzing of the shiny branch makes me think of a giant wasp, trying to get inside me. I remember a long time ago when I made friends with a whole family of wasps, they created a wonderous new branch that hung from one of mine. They were my friends for a whole summer but one day, as winter approached, they all left and their branch broke and went to the ground. I can still sense parts of it down there.

That’s odd, the buzzing has stopped and now they are pulling out a bit of me. Why are they doing that? That belongs to me. I don’t mind them taking bits of bark, I have plenty of that but I need those bits. How rude of them. Silly humans and their noisy shiny spinning branches.

More branches now, with shiny ends. They are disappearing into my trunk. In and out as the humans swing them back and forth.

I never understand what they do.

More tickling, they are putting another long thin bendy branch round me. It is connected to one of their noisy machines. It’s spouting horrible fumes into the air, I’m so glad my leaves are hidden still.

The bendy branch is tugging at me, this is so very odd.

Now the sky is moving or is it the ground. I’m so confused.

Where have the humans gone, they were below me but now they are over there beside me looking at me. They are smiling. The sky is in the wrong place now. So is the ground. And I can’t feel the earth beneath me anymore.

I never understand what they do.

The old room

His chair sits to one side of the bay window. The unloved leather is cracked, shiny dark patches worn smooth, seams barely holding on, tired with all the life it’s seen. Cold air creeps through the rotting window frame, tickling the rising pale curls of smoke as they fade into nothing.

Beside the chair a small table, the walnut ringed with decades of cold drinks. On it a small wooden pipe stand, a heavy oversized cut glass ashtray, and a leather pouch spilling pungent dried entrails.

Another puff; a draw and dull pop from his lips as the last embers glow and die. Fragrant fumes drift on the gentle draught as he watches nothing beyond the glass outside.

The mantelpiece on the far wall watches over the room. Standing firm and heavy with memories and dust. Ornate gold frames the mirror above it, reflecting the spirals of smoke as they rise from his pipe. A few memories dot litter the surface, photos of old friends, mementoes of his past.

The charcoal in the grating below is long cold, winter has passed. An ancient iron poker is propped to one side, the diminished stack of wood at the other holds those lucky enough to have avoid sacrifice.

Across the bay window from his chair stands the bookcase, the inherited wood dulled and scarred by the centuries. Books of varying ages, style and condition line the shelves, each space filled, this way and that, wherever it fits, however it fits. One shelf displays a card for a birthday long since passed, the last writings from the dead scribbled inside.

Beneath all this floorboards peek through carpet, curtains hang striped by the sun.

Across from the fireplace stands the sideboard. A behemoth of carved wood and ornate brass handles, it fills the entire wall. The men from the antique store brought it in through the window.

On its there are two carved doors to either side, while the centre is devoted to three large drawers. It stands tall on feet that curve and twist from floor to base. It has been well polished in the past, but now it shows only tarnish and neglect. An unloved and forgotten relic, dust hugs every crevice chiselled by skilled hands.

Atop the sideboard, slap bang in the middle, is a white vase. Simple and modern, clean lines. It holds fresh flowers, shimmering reds, splashes of sunlight, sparkling jewels of colour.

Strange bright lights in this tired old room.

Found in song

Walking in silence through the nest of headphone cables, dodging pigeons and detritus as she picks her way through the tangle of closed minds. She lets her ear guide her on days like today, days where she doesn’t need a place to hide away. She walks past shops whilst buses and taxis produce their every day noise.

Roaming where she wants to, from busy streets to quieter parks. Over head the birds sing out and the wind cries as it rustles leaves, sweeping through the trees. Kites on a string reach the highest heights.

She keeps to herself, just trying to keep her head screwed on, philosophising some.

She stops to sit on a bench that is picked out for her in sunlight, she rests her bones, knowing the loneliness won’t leave her alone. She lets the warmth wash over her and listens to the world as it turns, as it quietly sings in its long forgotten tongue.

The chords progress, minor turns major, reflecting the sunbeams all around her, visions in chromatic wonder.

She closes her eyes and starts to hum a broken melody, back and forth, over and over. She ignores this as best she can, she is practised in this routine now, letting the notes seep in and be accepted for what they are. She knows not to force it. She sits there as the sun beats down, just lets it be. She wonders. There is still a light that shines on me, shine on until tomorrow.

A cacophony of little children run past her, all giggles and shouts, tiny feet pound out staccato steps that she stores away.

The sun fades as she rises from the bench. Dazzled by the change of light she heads home, as the pregnant sounds kick and writhe in her head.

Home and her head is full of voices, she can only hope her house holds no lies. She picks up her guitar and strums, trying to capture the melody, coaxing it out into the light once more. She adjusts her fingers, maybe here? No. Here. There, there. She can feel it beginning now and knows she is safe to capture it. She plucks a pencil from the table and marks down some notations, her looping forms tumble and fall like dice.

She plays it again, letting it adjust itself, feeling the hooks growing as starts to pick up pace, the cadence and rhythm start to emerge as the music is born, another badly strung declaration, gently smiling.

Months later, she watches from behind her keyboard as the light breaks over the crowd before her. The moments of recognition as a trumpet heralds the melody writ large. The syncopated beat mirrored by the shuffling crowd, older than children in body but never in mind. Strings breeze in as the melody builds. She watches the faces, some with eyes closed and upturned to the ceiling, like a hundred flowers searching for the sun.

Like a lost woman who found herself on a park bench.

Only one

“Ask yourself if you would do it if nobody would ever see it,
you would never be compensated for it and nobody wanted it.”
– Ernst Haas (via)

There must be a reason I write. I write here, I write in a journal, I (don’t really at the moment) write short stories, and I (definitely not at the moment) am writing a novel.

I write.

All of it because I want to, for me and my own personal reasons which I’ve mentioned here before, at least that’s how it started.

Reading that Ernst Haas quote made me realise one of the reasons I’ve been a bit blocked on my novel. During NaNoWriMo I wasn’t thinking about anyone reading it, I was writing for me, writing to meet a target number of words every day yes, but it was (and still is) a first draft that no-one will ever see. I was writing a story I wanted to read.

However having let it sit for a while, which was always part of the plan, I find myself revisiting it with the expectation (hope?) that it will be read by others in the future. It wasn’t a conscious decision and it hadn’t even occurred to me until that quote sparked the thought in my head.

I’ve mentioned On Writing, the book by Stephen King that really helped me get my head into the right place to tackle NaNoWriMo, but I’ve forgotten one thing that he is very VERY clear on.

You write for one person, and one person only.

So that’s what I need to do, finish the first draft in the same vein I started it, write it because I enjoy writing, write it to tell a story that I want to read. I am my own constant reader.

Walking Home

The bell finally rings and as one we rise, chairs scrabble across worn tiles as the dull intonation from the teacher behind her desk – take your time and remember to do your homework – bounces and echoes round the room with no ear willing to catch it. We all want out. The first of us stream down the corridor and quickly overwhelm the metal door, with all its dull edges and cross hatched safety glass, that marks the boundary of our freedom. We spill forth; the thundering of feet on the ground where we play, a tumult of immature noises rising and merging as the classrooms empty.

At the main entrance to the playground the parents await. Some are peering keenly, trying to desperately spot their child amongst the bustle, to pick their beloved face from the mass the rushes towards them so they can wave and call. Other parents stand back and chat with a practiced weary distraction, these are the parents of the older children, the Primary 5s and up, they’ve been waiting there for years, know the ritual well and are fed up of being told just HOW EMBARASSING it is that they even exist at this point in time, this crossover from school attendee to escaped convict.

BY the time I’m old enough, as I live close to the school, I’m trusted to make my own way home. My independence comes with the realisation of control. I can choose my route home, who I walk with, the pace I walk at, when I stop, when I start.

There are three exits from the playground we are allowed to use (the front of the school is out of bounds), one to the left, two to the right. The main exit is on the right, but I can leave by either if I choose. Beyond the school walls further choices can be made; stick to Bonhill Road or Townend Road (right and left exits respectively). After that decision more choices are revealed; veer off Bonhill Road and through the old folks home, head for Round Riding Road (which opens an additional two routes and so on). But most days I stick to one route. The lane.

The school is an old red sandstone building, the playground surrounded by a 1000 foot high wall made of thick stones that will stand there until time ends. At the main exit, there is a sloping gap in the wall, wide enough for a car, through which most of the children pour. But further along the wall there is a smaller space, big enough for a door though it has never had one that I’ve seen. That is where I head, away from the many to the path of the few.

Some days I run, desperate to be first, to be away, to be alone on my walk, to avoid the pushes and trips, the jostles and shouts, as long as I am first to edge of the playground I know the majority will turn right and walk down the street to another place as few of us turn left as I do. To be first doesn’t guarantee sanctuary, but does bring a thin veil of protection.

If I’m not first, I try to be last. I deliberately fumble at the zipper of my jacket, I slowly pull my satchel over my arms and onto my back, I saunter the corridor and as I finally leave my hand touches the warmed metal handle of the door, the recent ghosts of classmates still lingering there. Ahead of me, shouts ring out, an inflatable football slaps against stone, a goal scored in a never ending game. Once through the door I pause at the top of the steps and watch the herd as it retreats, slowly splitting in two, left and right. Walking slowly through the playground I follow the rest that are heading my way, wondering if I can sneak past them all, knowing I can’t so lingering as long as I can, aware that the janitor will soon sweep me up and chase me out.

The lane was there from an early age, as soon as I was trusted to make my own way home safely I knew it would be mine. In latter years the bullying dictated I follow the same strategy but with military precision, to be first or last was key and that decision soon came to be habit. To this day I am first, early for things, pushing ahead and not looking back.

The few that walk that lane know each other, our houses and homes on a similar route, and we know the lane that leads away from the school and eventually back to the main road. We know where the puddles form when it rains, where the nettle patches will reach out to scrape bare legs in the summer. The lane traces the backs of gardens and passes by a large patch of (still to this day) vacant ground. Long grasses, wild bushes and trees claimed it long ago and in the warm months, if you walk very carefully, or stay a while and listen, crickets will start to play their symphonies whilst birds swoop low and gorge on the rising wall of insects.

Beyond the cacophony of those insects, aside from the swooping birds and occasional bats, I sometimes saw a lone cat. A large ginger beast that would fade in and out of the long grass. A tiger hunting prey. It would stop sometimes and look at you, a challenge? An acknowledgement? I did not know cats back then, but I knew the word aloof. The aloof tiger, deigning to pause and glance in my direction. It always continued on, undeterred, knowing the scruffy boy in the grey shorts and brown leather sandals posed no threat.

Across the piece of wild abandon is another road that plunges away towards the town centre. That boundary is marked by an old iron fence, with a locked large gate to one side. Some of the bars are buckled just wide enough for a child to squeeze through. Between the lane and that gate, winding its way through the grass is a faint path. Often enough walked to be visible, seldom enough walked that brambles and other jaggies have been able to take up residence and stretch out their arms, silently waiting to snag your socks or rip their tendrils across your shins.

Beyond the usual weeds, the vivid greens and yellows of the grasses, wild flowers tried their best to throw some colour against the dull canvas. They were joined by the detritus left behind by man, spikes of red from rusting cans of Coke, sparkles of silver from foil wrappers, the occasional discarded pornographic magazine in all its tawdry vitality. These were the colours of the place, they remain painted in my memory.

On through the lane now, one foot then another, turn right at the t-junction towards Scott’s house, then left when you re-emerge on to the main road. Then plod onwards past the dancing school (held in someone’s front room), past Patricks house then Isobels then the entrance to the Old Folks Home – a place of smooth winding pathways and home to many cycle races in the summer – then on to the corner of the sweeping crescent I called home.

First house on the right; chips in a fake newspaper cone on a summer evening and home to my best friend. Then the policemans house on the left; ignore the loud barking dog, you’ll realise later he’s as gentle as a puppy. Childless houses on the right that held all manner of guessed secrets and mysteries. Dr. Wales house on the left; War of the Worlds and always the promise of a sandwich. Then our neighbours house; Number 11, and the boisterous Captain, keep an eye out if he’s washing his car, he’ll try and soak you too! Then, finally, home. One foot on the low wall, leap the flower bed and a hop step and a jump to the front steps.

Through the door, hang your jacket on the coatrack and head to the kitchen to recount how your day was.

It was always ok.

Of course it was. I was home.

Seated

I look around at the others. We are all in our usual positions, legs planted firmly on the floor, facing our desks, backs straight. The low murmur of the black machines, the rectangle glow, the clicky-clacky, soft thumps vibrating through wood and metal to the floor. I can feel them through my feet.

Our soundtrack is the gentle thrum of the air boxes, the buzz of the overhead bright makers. Today the air boxes push warm at us, some days they push cold. I think it changes over time but I’m not sure what time is any more.

At night, when the bright makers are sleeping, an Upright will walk past every now and then, shining his beam over us, checking we are present and correct.

That’s what they used to make us say, during the time of Movement. ‘Present and correct’, like we were in the military. ‘Present and correct’, and an Upright would make a mark on the board it was holding using a long thing device, a dull scratching sound for each of us.

That practice ceased as the time of Movement ended. Now we are always present and correct.

The older ones, like me, remember those before days. Today we only see the Moving Light when it appears beyond the See-Thru, but somewhere in my deepest memory banks I know I saw the Moving Light in other places, with no See-Thru framing the view. Everytime I try and think of it, one strange word always floats into my mind, ‘green’. I do not know green, not any more. I think green might have been like the Under but my brain doesn’t let me think of such things.

Most days it’s all clicky-clacky.

There are long days when the clicky-clacky is again and again. The Moving Light appears and disappears slowly. Some times we have days where the Moving Light zooms across the See-Thru and we are all chattering away, fast with clicky-clacky and excitement.

They brought in a new one the other day, pushed it over near me. It’s odd how you forget what it was like, being new. He said he wanted to get up and walk. We all said we didn’t know what that meant but maybe some clicky-clacky would be just as good?

He seemed upset when we said that, and then something strange. I’m not sure any of the others saw it, maybe I imagined it, but I was sure his wheels moved a little without an Upright to help them… a tiny little movement but then it stopped, almost like it had never happened. Most odd indeed.

He’s quieter today. He was given a Shake by an Upright yesterday; he had shouted at the Upright, said ‘Help’ and ‘it’s not fair’ but the Upright shaked him and I think that has helped him realise that clicky-clacky is good and anything else just means a Shake.

I think I had a Shake a long time ago, but thinking about it makes me scared so I try not to remember it. Sometimes it creeps back in and the same word is repeated. Silence. I find being in silence is best now. No more Shakes. Silence.

Yesterday two Uprights came through and stopped and pointed at all of us. They weren’t Uprights like I’d seen before, they had white darts around their chests, one had a centre colour that was striped, the other had one single bold colour. They talked a strange language that none of us understood.

“When did they transition?”
“Most of these transitioned several months ago, some over a year”
“Do they remember anything? Did they have names?”
“We have their names stored somewhere but they rarely remember things, the transition is a slow thing. You’d be amazed at how you can alter the thinking of someone just by changing small details every day, hell, if I wanted to I could’ve made some of this lot be desks… but of course that isn’t as useful”

The Uprights made a noise after this and walked off.

Oh well, not much I can do about that. Back to the clicky-clacky for me.

Reading and Writing

It’s a vicious cycle, debilitating one moment, inspiring the next, it feeds my desire to learn and slowly pulls at the insecurity of my abilities. It is fuel on the fire, stoking my passion to explore my own literary ideas. It is the pulled thread, unravelling my dreams.

Is this what it is to be a writer? To be found reading with wonderous awe as a story gathers pace before your eyes, the skilled manipulation of the reader crafted through each sentence, each line of dialogue pulling you deeper into the world the writer has created. The slow, building sense of envy, as I reflect on my own bludgeoning attempts at the same.

As the days pass, I flip flop between these poles, repelled one day, attracted the next. Both strong forces, equal in strength, that can’t be mastered; they are in my DNA, hard coded and irrevocable.

I’ve managed to maintain my reading habit since those first quiet days of the new year, I’m choosing my books with some care for the moment, re-reading an old favourite, re-visiting childhood memories (unaware if I ever read the BFG or if it was always on the periphery of my library going).

Perhaps too carefully though; these writers seem to offer easy words, a flowing tumult of imagery, plot and pacing wash over me, serving to further highlight my inferiority. I should not hold my candle up to the roaring infernos of Dahl, King, and Christie.

Yet, each time I do I find the embers of my meagre offerings glow a little brighter, small flickering flames leap up from the ashes and whisper of hope. It is enough, it is always enough, to push me to battle on.

I read because I write. I write because I read. It wasn’t always so, it does seem like a new normal is being established.

Hidden words

I can sense it, sitting there, judging me, mocking me.

It taunts me every day. No good, it says.

I ignore it. Then I think about what it holds and it reveals itself to me further, insights and ideas bloom, a rough patch of ground speckled with wild flowers.

Then it changes.

It changes.

From one day to the next, as the viewing angle skews, it morphs before me, pushing itself into new shapes, the end disappearing further beyond the blur of the middle.

I read. Books that are ‘Glorious, unexpected, superbly written’ (I know this because it says so on the front cover, the words inside echoing the declaration).

I read. Articles that are diligent and focused (I know this because the articles flow, words burble gently towards a well crafted conclusion).

I write. Sprawling blog posts that wriggle away from me. Fish out of water, desperate to breathe.

Still it calls to me. Luring me in, time and again.

Read me, it says. Write me, it says. Love me, it pleads.

I turn back towards it. I commit.

In reply it laughs at how easily I am swayed, and dances off into the spotlight of my fears.

In November I wrote a book. I created a sly troll that in all of its ugly beauty, the terrifying mess holds my gaze. I cannot not look.

I read. I write. I love. I commit.

And slowly – oh so creepingly, painfully, achingly, frustratingly, infuriatingly slowly – it bends to my will.