Friday, 27 March 2015

Word of the Week

This week my #WOTW is ...


I've been feeling unnaturally tired recently. I thought it had gone away but it's back again this week. It makes no difference how much sleep I get or what quality the sleep is, I just feel bone weary all the time. I'm trying to improve my diet to see if that helps but if not it's back to the Drs and see what he suggests.

The Prompt - Presence

A Presence
Tom opened the door for the third time to check that he wasn't really going crazy. The room beyond was dark and still, a faint reflection of the hall lamp winking off the glass in the photo frames. Stillness and silence oozed across the threshold. The lounge was definitely empty.
Frowning, Tom closed the door again and rattled the handle to be sure that the door was firmly closed. Whatever he'd heard it wasn't beyond that door. One final rattle of the door and Tom walked back into the kitchen to finish making tea. Clicking the kettle on he leaned against the cupboard and waited for the water to boil. He'd obviously spent far too long living alone if he was getting spooked by every little creak in the house.
Since Marie had left with the children the house seemed unnaturally quiet. He'd been used to noise - the TV, music, chatter, feet pounding up and down the stairs, the dog barking - the soundtrack to his life as a husband and father. Now, as a divorced dad of two, he rattled around the house alone, hardly bothering to turn on the TV or listen to music anymore. Each evening he returned to silence, magnified in contrast to the din of his office and his commute. From 7pm to 7am he spoke to no-one and no-one spoke to him. When Marie had first left he'd been surrounded by well meaning friends trying to fill the place of his missing family. He'd gone to the local pub on his way home and even joined the pub quiz team. But nothing had worked. He still felt totally alone and silent for half of each day.
The kettle clicked off and he went through the motions of making a pot of tea. Sitting at the kitchen table Tom was aware of every sound in the house - the tick of the clock, the click of the central heating coming on, the bus driving over the speed bump outside the house. So it wasn't surprising that he was hyper sensitive to any new sounds. And that tapping was definitely new.
Just on the edge of his hearing Tom heard it again. A quiet, rhythmic tapping, as if someone was tapping a stick or cane on the floor. It was muffled, as if in another room and Tom was sure it was coming from the direction of the lounge. Yet he knew that there was nothing in the lounge, nothing that could tap like that. So what was it and where was it?
As quietly as possible Tom crossed the hallway, reaching slowly for the handle of the lounge door. The tapping sounded slightly louder in the hall but still with a muffled quality. As soon as Tom's hand touched the door handle the tapping stopped. It was as if someone had felt or sensed him touching the handle and stopped at the very moment he made contact.
Feeling very foolish he moved his hand away from the handle and the tapping started up again as soon as he backed away. The frown returned to his face as he tried to think of a logical explanation.
He was alone in the house, he knew that. As soon as the tapping had started this evening Tom had checked every inch of the property. He was convinced that there must be an animal trapped in the house, perhaps one of next door's cats, and the noises were the pesky thing trying to escape. But the house was empty. Nothing in the house made a sound like the tapping, no appliance, nothing he could find. All the windows and doors were shut so it wasn't something tapping in a draught. Tom was at a loss to explain it.
He reached forward to touch the handle again and as soon as his fingers brushed against it the tapping stopped. He kept his hand there for several minutes and listened intently to the silent house. Again he let go of the handle, straining his ears to work out the location and direction of the tapping, which of course had started up at the instant he'd stopped touching the door handle.
The sound was faint, almost too quiet to hear but it was regular, rhythmic, unsettling. Tom was sure it was coming from the lounge but as he put his ear against the door the tapping seemed to move from the lounge and was now coming from behind him. He turned around, listening carefully as the sound was again coming from the lounge. Whatever was making the tapping noise didn't want Tom to find it.
A sudden breath of chilled air brushed across Tom's neck. He spun around fast, scanning the hall and kitchen. Nothing. He knew that he windows were all closed, he knew that he'd closed and locked the door when he came in, he knew that there was no way a draught could be blowing through his hall. Yet he'd felt its cold caress. The tapping increased in volume and frequency, now more like a drum beat than something tapping on the floor. It seemed to be coming from the kitchen now.
Tom walked slowly towards the kitchen door. He pushed it slightly and it slowly swung open. Nothing. The harsh fluorescent light cast few shadows and the kitchen looked exactly as it had when he'd sat at the table drinking tea. The noise was now behind him and he could feel the draught across his neck once more. Tom turned around until he was facing the lounge door and the noise again seemed to be behind it, coming from his empty, deserted, usually silent lounge. Tom stood very still in the hall, staring at the lounge door, trying to make up his mind what to do.
He could feel a strong, steady draught blowing down the hall towards him and the drum like beating was slowly getting louder.
With a deep breath Tom grasped the door handle, pushed the door open and prepared to enter.    

Monday, 23 March 2015

The Prompt - Cinderella

Ah, Cinderella, in your beautiful pumpkin coach, heading off to the ball. Glass slippers newly polished, party frock sparkling in the candlelight. Is this the template for parties to come?

All little girls secretly want to be Cinderella, to wear the beautiful dress and win the heart of her prince. I know I did. I had a party dress as a little girl, my special dress that I was only allowed to wear to birthday parties. It was blue and white with a blue satin belt which tied in a huge bow at the back. There were delicate flowers embossed on the material and a froth of net underskirts to puff it out. Every little girl's dream. All my friends had a special party dress and it was with great pride that we swished and rustled through a succession of parties at our classmates' houses. We all felt like Cinderella when we were dressed in our finest with our hair washed, brushed and tied up with ribbons and bows. Too young yet to worry about finding our Prince Charming at the ball.

As we grew older the fashions changed but the ritual of dressing up remained as important. In the place of party frocks and birthday presents came make-up, jewellery and the importance of finding your price. We primped and preened in each others bedrooms, swapping clothes and gossip, preparing as part of the mating ritual. Whoever you had your eye on needed to be enticed by the warpaint and gaudy, attracted by an outward show. Only then could you dazzle him (and it was exclusively him at that  time) with your sparkling wit and personality.

Unlike Cinderella, we had to kiss many frogs before we found our prince. A sad lesson was learned the day we realised that the bait we were using wasn't very good at attracting princes but was a powerful drug to losers and wasters.

So, sorry Cinders, you'll have to go to the ball on your own. My Prince Charming doesn't socialise much and he ain't impressed by frocks and glass slippers. But then I guess you already know that, don't you?

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

What I'm Writing

Intentions were good this time last week. I fully intended to write something everyday, to live the dream!

Of course that didn't happen. I wrote blog posts which I suppose counts as writing although it's not what I meant by writing something everyday.

However, I have done a fair amount of mental writing. This is what I call all the planning and pondering that goes before any meaningful writing. I always worry that I haven't thought things out enough when I start to write, then everything peters out as it has no direction. All my mental writing has been frustrating as nothing substantial has made it on to paper.

So I think I need more direction, focus even before I can produce anything. Maybe that's why I usually manage to get something written for The Prompt linky. Today I have to go into Oxford so I'm using this opportunity to visit the Ashmolean. I'm going to look at some pictures and try to use them as prompts for a little short story or poetry writing. Next week I may have something more substantial to share!

Monday, 16 March 2015

College Reunion

Last weekend I headed off to Weymouth for a reunion of my old college. For some of the attendees it was 40 years since they left college and for me it's nearly 40 years since I started at the college so I thought I'd pop along and catch up with old mates.

I'd forgotten what a faff the 4 hour train journey is. It all went smoothly, even though I nearly got on the wrong train at Reading. Having booked in advance I had all my tickets and an itinerary to follow so my usual anxiety levels were fairly low. I loved looking out of the window on the journey, so many lovely things to see. I can't remember the last time I saw so many deer, I think it must have been when I last went to the deer park at Magdalen College.  Some were obviously farmed deer for venison but there were some sizable wild herds running from the sound of the train. There were also rabbits, swans, ducks, pheasants, herons, lots of wading birds at Poole Harbour which might have been avocets or maybe oyster catchers - I'm not much good at recognising birds! It was most pleasant to gaze out of the window and enjoy all the wonderful wildlife. I was also thrilled by the New Forest area - impressive wooded areas and sweeping barren heath land. I hope to make a trip some time and see more of this lovely landscape.

There was some hoohah over the booking at the hotel over dates - they had a different date from mine! Luckily there was a room available so I didn't have to sleep under the pier!  The room was comfortable with all the facilities I needed - TV, tea and coffee and some scrummy biscuits!

Sadly few of my mates from college were at the reunion but a good time was had by all. Everybody was friendly and I made some new friends for the evening. Good company, wine and plenty of dancing made for a lovely weekend. Sadly my phone camera failed to work in the darkened disco room so no photos were taken so you'll have to imagine me bopping away to T-Rex!

I had some time to  kill before my train home so I wandered along the sea front and took a few pictures. 


View along the sea front towards town.

   View of what's left of the pier - no idea who the old couple are, they followed me all the way down the Esplanade!

The inviting beach and sea - I avoided the temptation to paddle!

The best ice cream parlour in Weymouth - shame it was shut for the off-season.

My healthy Costa breakfast - look, carrot cake with sultanas in must count as one of my 5 a day!

Friday, 13 March 2015

The Prompt - Gift

'Gift giving is relatively easy', thought Julie, as she strolled through the third department store of the morning; 'it's the gift buying that's the problem.'  Why was everyone so difficult to buy for?

Nobody had a decent hobby to buy for - no stamp collectors, knitters or fans of the latest trendy thing on TV in her family! Oh no, they were all free spirits, flitting from one thing to another several times a year. Or worse, they had no interest in anything. So how do you buy gifts for people like that?

The fall back was so boring. Another beautifully wrapped pair of socks. Books that they would never read, probably gifting them back to Julie for her birthday.  By far the worst was the dreaded gift voucher. The gift that said 'I have no idea what to get you and I can't be bothered to give it any thought or time, so here's a piece of plastic for you to stick in a drawer and forget.'

The shelves of the store heaved with tempting items; beautiful silky scarves, cut glass vases, bottles of scent in every size and design. But still nothing that screamed out 'Buy me for Mum!' She could have bought dozens of things for herself and her friends but Mother was another matter.

Julie had always struggled to buy gifts for her mother. Each birthday, Christmas and Mother's Day she'd worried about what to get. When she was a small child she carefully wrapped something she'd made at school or Brownies and wrote a card in her best writing, concentrating so hard that her tongue peeped out of the side of her mouth. She fretted about whether the present was good enough, would please her mother and make her smile. And every time her mother would smile a stilted smile, tear the paper off and with a 'That's lovely, dear' dismiss Julie's gift for another year.

 As Julie grew up she realised that she would never buy a gift that thrilled her mother. The things she bought went through stages - the childish handmade gifts of her early childhood; the endless bottles of scent of her teenage years; the too expensive, trying too hard gifts of young adulthood. Sometimes these gifts vanished upstairs to her mother's bedroom never to be seen again; sometimes the gifts re-appeared after a few months to be re-wrapped as a gift for someone else. The latter was the most hurtful of all - it was her mother saying 'This wasn't good enough for me but it will do for someone else'. It felt as if her love was being parcelled up and passed on to someone else, someone that Julie had not intended it for.

The jolly seasonal music filtered into Julie's consciousness once more and she found herself humming a cheesy tune from her youth. Around her shoppers bustled, looking stressed, hot and angry. The yearly ritual was obviously a chore for many of them and judging by the scowls and frowns on their faces they felt as rubbish about it as she did. Her fingers clenched in her pocket and a wave of anger swept over her. Why was she wasting her time doing this, fretting about this, knocking herself out worrying about a gift for someone who'd hate whatever she gave her?

It felt like an epiphany. She didn't have to do this. This was a social convention that she could choose to ignore. The gift she chose would always be a disappointment to her mother and a disappointment for herself. Julie turned around and strode towards the exit. A blast of chilly air hit her in the face as she left the store, making her eyes water. This year she'd avoid the disappointment, the forced smile and the feeling of failing at a fundamental daughter skill. This year she'd watch others give gifts that her mother would find inadequate and smile to herself.

Julie headed to the card shop and was again embraced by warmth and seasonal songs. She walked slowly along the display and selected a watercolour of roses in muted violet and blue. As she queued to pay she began composing the message to write inside. A few words, nothing too flowery or soppy, her mother hated that. Julie would convey her love, enjoy her mother's company and not have to worry about the dreaded present opening moment. This year would be different.

This would be Julie's gift to herself.

Friday, 6 March 2015

Word of the Week

It's been a week full of thinking and pondering - either of which could have been my WOTW. However I've decided on something which is the result of all the thinking so my WOTW is

I've long harboured dreams of writing or being a writer. But I've not really done much more than dream. Oh there are files on the hard-drive with 'novels' saved to them but nothing which is finished or polished in any way. So I guess I'm a frustrated wannabe writer.
This week I've been thinking about why I want to write and why I've found it so hard to actually do it. Some kind and encouraging comments on previous posts about my writing have convinced me that what I need to do is just write. Seems obvious, doesn't it? Well it's now a lesson (hopefully) learnt so in the next few weeks I intend to write as much as I'm able. Even if it's only 10 minutes of mindless word doodling then I will try to do it. I also have to grasp the nettle and share more of what I write - I tend to clutch my babies to my bosom and fear for their lives if I let them fly. But I think unless I do let them see the light of day I'll never improve or gain any confidence in what I write.
So watch out world, I may be writing about you!   

The Prompt - Anticipation

Here is the moment, the moment I knew was coming. There is nothing I can do to stop it. It comes at me like a runaway train, no brakes, no slowing. It will hit me and I will be powerless to stop it.
Do I want to stop it? No. I'm embracing it, drawing it closely to me, looking forward to it although I'm scared by the power of it. I have to surrender to it, let it flow over me and drag me under. There is no escape, nowhere to hide. It is coming ...

I've been here before. Each year this feeling begins to build, knowing that the day is approaching when I will face this single moment. I always forget what it feels like, how all consuming it is, how it occupies all my thoughts for days before the event.

I've forgotten what it feels like, how it lifts my spirits on a dull day, how it warms me in its soft, sweet embrace. It feels like so long since the last time. Oh, how I've missed it! How welcome it will be to surrender to it once again.

So here it is. The moment. The glorious moment, long anticipated, finally here. My hands trembles and my heart quickens, a slight flush warming my cheeks.

Time to do it. Time to indulge and enjoy.

Time for the first piece of chocolate since Lent began.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

What I'm Writing

In an effort to get my mind focused back on writing I've decided to link up with The Muddled Manuscript and write about why/what I'm currently not writing.  Seems like the time was right for me to discover this linky - I'm fantastic at not doing things, after all!

I've always scribbled rather than written. A few times I've made an effort to be more disciplined and write regularly and with some idea of writing a formed thing (won't grace it with the name novel, even if it is saved on the hard-drive as such) But somehow I've always felt like a dabbler and therefore a fraud. This whole writing thing is supposed to be something that burns so hot within the writer that they have no choice but to do it. Somehow I'm so good at putting things off that I can put off writing for weeks, therefore I'm not a writer, right?

See how confused I am?

This week is the same, I've yet to sit down and write (apart from this, obvs!) So that means I can't be  a writer, yes? Still with me? Yet my head is bursting with stories and ideas. As a child I spent hours skipping up and down the garden telling stories - weird or what? So how do I get the discipline to pop them down on paper or screen?

I guess one of the reasons is my working class heritage. Writing isn't like real work. Therefore it's not something to spend time on, especially when there are more important things to do like ironing and running the hoover over the cat hair carpet.  I'm also prone to the odd distraction - not the ironing or hovering of course! - there are cakes to bake, cats to pet and terrible daytime TV programmes to watch (be rude not to now they've gone to all the trouble of making them!)

So what am I to do?

Well this week I've done one thing about it; I've joined up with this linky and sat with the TV off for 10 minutes to write this post.  Maybe that's OK for now, maybe that'll do Donkey (see what I did there?)

So now all I need to do is turn off the TV more often and convince myself that writing is real work. Maybe then I can do it more often and get some of these stories out of my head and onto the hard-drive.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

The Prompt - Reality


The moment when you realise that little girls from terraced houses in Birmingham don't become ballet dancers - reality.

The moment when you realise that you probably won't marry David Cassidy, Steve McQueen or Robert Redford - reality.

The moment when you open the exam result envelope and realise that you should have studied harder - reality.

The moment when the man you thought you'd marry tells you he's changed his mind - reality.

The moment when you realise you've found The One - reality.

The moment when your handed a new born and realise things will never be the same again - reality.

The moment you're left alone with said new born for the first time - reality.

The first grey hair, the first moment you look in a mirror and see your mother looking back - reality.

The moment you realise you're probably not going to write a Booker winner this year - reality.

The moment you learn to accept all this and be content with your lot - reality.