The Spiral Staircase

Posted: January 9, 2018 in Blogs
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Happy New Year! Here is the start of a short story I wrote. I hope you enjoy it!

 

  1. Oh, the Loneliness…

‘Ha ha ha ha ha ha’ She still heard the echos of laughter in her mind, hours after the cruel joke that had left her soaked, covered in dirt and with arms and legs full of scratches from where she had slipped trying to get away. She had not examined herself yet, for she was still trying to push down the deep fire of shame in her stomach with the aid of biscuits that she had grabbed as soon as she had gotten to her kitchen and promptly dashed to her room. She had sat in the cold of the Arboretum for a long time after she had managed to get away, in her favourite place underneath the bushes that she had played around as a child, remembering better days in a numb haze. Now she was kneeling on the floor in the corner of her tiny sanctuary, eyes closed, leaning against her bed, focusing on the warm chocolate taste in her mouth with all her might. Her mother had called a few times, but Nicola had not answered. She knew that her mother would need to be attended to soon, as she was pretty much bed bound, but for now… Just the peace of a few solitary minutes would do. Why were the other kids so cruel? She had always been a bit of a loner, but not because she wanted to be. It was difficult for her to make friends, as she had always been very shy and the very thought of approaching anybody sent shocks of panic through her. She missed Veronica. She had been the one friend that Nicola had kept since she was little, but Veronica had always been a very troubled girl. Nicola had not pried too much with her, but growing up, Veronica always seemed to have some kind of scrape or bruise on her, and grew more aggressive in her manner, even slapping Nicola once when she refused to swap her favourite necklace for a book of stickers, which Veronica later apologetically admitted she had stolen. She hadn’t specified where or who from, changing the subject when Nicola had tried to ask. Nicola had noticed that Veronica never seemed to wear any other change of clothing, either. Always a faded black and white striped tee shirt under a pair of light blue dungarees which were a little too short in the leg for her tall skinny frame. Always a pair of battered imitation Nike trainers that looked too big for her and possibly had belonged to her older brother before her and in colder weathers, a long dark brown coat with black buttons that did not match the rest of her outfit. Sometimes she would have her long red hair hidden under a black cap, which she admitted also belonged to her brother, and sometimes she would wear it loose down her back, although it always looked a bit frenzied. ‘The more I brush it, the madder it gets’ She would chuckle, running a hand through it in a exasperated manner ‘Dad keeps threatening to chop it off, but that sends Mum all teary and then he’s focused on getting her to shut up and gets himself all worked up over that instead. Eventually forgets about why he’s shouting in the first place. Short memory. Heh…’. She would often laugh like that when talking about her family. Like she found anything about them the opposite of funny. She never referred to her brother by name, either. It was always ‘My brother’ this and ‘My brother’ that. Nicola thought that his name was Bill, but wasn’t a hundred per cent sure, and didn’t bring him up becuase she didn’t like the cloud that covered Veronica’s eyes when she did. Over time, she grew less talkative, and never looked like she got much sleep. Gradually, her parents, who scared Nicola a little bit and never, ever invited her into their home, stopped answering the door to her when she called, even if she saw the lights on or heard noises indoors and Veronica stopped coming to School. The last time Nicola had heard anything off her was over 6 months before. This deeply troubled Nicola but she didn’t know what to think or what to do but hope that one day soon she would come through the classroom door with all of her attitude and her smirk and her painfully familiar ‘Hey Nico’ like she used to do. The situation had also been a huge invitation for Kelly Harris and all of her hyena girl followers to pounce on Nicola, too. She had always had some trouble or another with them but Veronica used to defend the both of them, even if it had gotten her hurt a couple of times. Nicola on her own, though… it was like a red flag. It had taken them two days after Veronica stopped coming to School before they started to have their fun.

‘Nicolaaaaaaaarrr!’ It was a strangled cry from her mother. Nicola knew she had to get up, and put the biscuits aside. There were only two left from the full packet that she had bought in. The taste long gone, she felt the familiar heavy disappointment in herself that she had done the biscuit binge yet again, after what seemed like hundreds of promises to herself that she would diet, eat healthier, get rid of some weight. She wasn’t an especially big girl, but she was developing early, and her curves were becoming the new butt of her tormentor’s jokes. She had tried to hide in baggy clothes and long coats but it just wouldn’t stop. At 13, she had both just started her periods and realized that she probably needed a bra, but she had not approached her mother about either subject. Veronica had given her some sanitary supplies taken from her house after they had chatted about it a year ago, and she had started to use the, but she was dreading having to go to the shop and buy more when she ran out. She would die of embarrassment, she thought. ‘Nicolaaaaaaaaarr!’ More urgent, now. ‘I’m here!’ She called back. She would see what her mother wanted, and then she would shower. The dampness probably wouldn’t be good for her health, and being ill was the last thing she wanted. ‘No school, though,’ She murmured. She caught a glimpse of her reflection in her chest mirror as she walked past. Dried mud caked the left side of her forehead and her left cheek. It was in her dark brown hair, and very thickly on her neck. Sighing, she looked back at where she had been kneeling. Streaks were on the floor, and her knees were imprinted there. She had thought it was more water than mud. She must have looked a fright wandering the streets like this. She lifted her arm to wipe her eyes and stopped midway… She would probably irritate them more. She opted instead to rub her dirty sleeves with her muddy hands and started to walk out of the door once again. ‘Nicolaaaaaaaaaaar!’ This one made her jump. She made her way towards her mother’s bedroom and opened the door. Their house was small, and old fashioned. Her mother had always taken pride in the fact that it had been built over 150 years before they moved in. Nicola liked it there, too. She had been three when they had moved there, and her father had died 2 months later. She didn’t remember much about him, but her mother had always spoken fondly of him, and any conversation they had about him usually had her retiring to her bedroom in a blubbering mess. It was nice to be sentimental about him, but Nicole hated to see her mother upset, so she did not bring him up often, and for the past 3 years, her mother had not bought his name up at all. She had always had health problems, but had deteriorated over the past 12 months, unable to walk very far and on a large concoction of different medications and lotions. Nicola had always known her to be a bit of a hermit, but shop keepers and neighbors sometimes told her bits about the family’s history, that before her father had died, her mother was full of life and passion, and that the grief of losing him had taken a great toll on her. Nicola found it hard to believe that the frail woman that she tended to on a daily basis was once the life and soul of the party, and would try to press for more information if the subject came up. There was always some kind of distraction, though, that would prevent the teller from elaborating on what they were saying, so Nicola had plenty of joyful half memories, and far fetched tales with no endings, such as a night that her mother had gone to the Indigo Bar, a very popular place in town with high society clientele. Nicola could not imagine such a thing, even if her mother was well. They were a little humble for the Indigo Bar, and although they were far from poverty, she had never known them as exceedingly well off either. But the tale went that her mother had gone alone, dressed in red, to the Indigo Bar. Her father was working out of town, as his job as a builder sometimes took him away from home. She had turned many heads and had drank champagne, and when the pianist had played, she had gone right up on stage and sang the most beautiful song alongside him. She left shortly after. Nicola did not know what the song was, or who the musician was, or why she had gone there in the first place.

She opened the door to her mother’s room. The walls were full of newspaper clippings and pictures of the town’s scenery. The clippings were not about anything to do with her, her mother nor her father, and it always baffled her as to what they were doing on the wall. Some of them were years old, and yellow. Some of them were very recent… Getting the newspaper was a task that always needed to be done, and if Nicola were to go home without getting the paper on the way, her mother would fly into a rage only consolable by the assurance that Nicola would go back out to the shop and pick it up. Whenever she asked her mother why she kept the clippings, she would simply say ‘I am proud of my town, girl’ or ‘I just love the mystery of history’ accompanied by a thin smile that looked forced. She could get no more information out of her mother, and eventually she had simply accepted it as a bit of eccentricity. After all, we all have our hobbies and quirks… In the center of the room was a grand double bed, with a steel black frame and about 8 black pillows, and in the center of all of that was the small frame of her mother, swathed in blankets of different browns, blacks and greys. She would not use a duvet, insisting on blankets despite the extra washing that Nicola had to do to keep them all clean. It was almost a ridiculous sight, seeing the small head of her mother in the midst of all of the material, but she looked comfortable, and Nicole supposed that was all that mattered. ‘Hello Mother’, she whispered. ‘Sorry it took me so long to see you’. Her mother opened her eyes, and looked right up to the ceiling, not moving. ‘Nicola…’ The urgency was gone, and Nicola’s name came out in a whisper. Her mother didn’t speak much anymore, other than her name. Nicola cleared her throat, ‘I need to wash, mother, and then I will make dinner. Did you read your paper?’ She had got the paper at lunchtime today, thankfully. Nicola wouldn’t really have wanted to have to go into the shop all covered in mud. She wasn’t sure if she would have even been served. Her mother closed her eyes. ‘I did, child’. Nicola sat on the bed. ‘Do you need the scissors today, mother?’ Her mother shook her head weakly. Nicola smiled. ‘I will be back shortly’. She left the claustrophobic room quickly; her mother’s cries were mainly due to habit, and the actual exchanges were never for that long. Short and forced, although Nicola sometimes wondered whether she intentionally made them so. Thinking in this way would unsettle her, and so she never dwelled on it much.  Down the hallway, through a narrow door, was the bathroom. It always made strange clanking noises, attributed to the age of the house. Nicola crept through the door, taking great care as she opened it. It was the smallest room in the whole place, with the sink and bath nearly on top of each other. The walls were painted green, with white tiles above the bath, each decorated with a painted shell, a lot of them faded with age. Nicola found the plug from the cabinet and put it in the bath, and turned the hot water tap. She had intended just a quick wash before she had seen just how dirty she was in the mirror. Now that she was in here, she was looking very much to a nice hot bath. It would probably lift her spirits a bit too, something that was very much needed. The room filled up with steam and Kelly’s spiteful face drifted into Nicola’s memories again. ‘Heyyy Nicooooo!’ Her screechy voice ringing in Nicola’s ears. ‘I got you a present, as we’re such great friends!’ Nico shook her head, and turned the cold tap on for a while. ‘Why are you so ugly, Nicoooo? Can’t you do something with your hair? Why doesn’t she do something with her hair?’ Hehehehehhhh… the high pitched giggling of her pack, hands holding empty buckets that had once contained freezing muddy water. They had been waiting for her, must have known which way she was going to go. Freya, Kelly’s best friend, had been holding one of those disposable cameras. Nicola remembered her laugh the most, a huge guffaw that almost sounded like she was choking. Why didn’t anybody tease her about that? Nicola had tripped and fell as she had tried to scurry away, and felt about 2 centimeters tall. Because she was wet, and kneeling in freshly rained on grass, she had become sodden very quickly and made a complete spectacle of herself trying to get up, even before they had all started poking at her.  Everybody at school would know about this. Probably already did. She stopped the taps and took off her muddy clothes. Taking a deep breath, she sank into the bath, closing her eyes and letting the warmth take over.

 

  1. Oh, the Sadness…

‘Ok. Here we go…’. Eva stubbed out her cigarette against the balcony rail, and threw it over without looking down. She took the can of Neutradol from the faded white deck chair next to her and sprayed it around the area, and then stood still for a further thirty seconds,  giving a mirthless chuckle to nobody in particular before entering the living room of her fifth story flat, locking it after her. On her way to the bathroom, she lit three scented candles and opened the windows, and checked that she had put the vacuum cleaner back in the cupboard in the hallway. Everything was spotless, dinner was cooking, good. She brushed her teeth quickly, took a swig of mouthwash and checked her reflection. Eve had already reapplied her make up an hour before to avoid it looking ‘freshly put on’, and her long black hair was still up in a neat tight bun, just how he liked it. She took her hair spray and gave it another puff, using her other hand to smooth out her already shiny hair, and then picked up his favourite perfume from the display cabinet. Nearly empty. She frowned slightly at this. She hated asking him for money, but she knew he would not be happy if she ran out of his favourite scent. She stared at the bottle for a few minutes, thinking up the best way to go about asking. ‘Oh!’ Her birthday came up soon, and he would probably buy her another bottle then. Eva sighed with relief, and sprayed herself only once. She would have to make it last if that were the case. Six weeks worth of perfume in the bottle? Maybe a little water, to dilute it. That might work. Back to her reflection, she noticed she was still frowning a little. She took a deep breath with her eyes closed, and tried to push out all of her worry with her exhalation. ‘Stop worrying, stop worrying…’ Eva checked the rest of her appearance. Her yellow vest top had no stains on, which was a bonus, and her light gold chain shimmered against her tanned collarbone, which had healed well. She smiled at herself. Tonight was going to be an easy night. A civil night. No worries. She would be just fine. She washed her hands, dried them on the hanging towel next to her and then went into the kitchen to check on the dinner.

Roast beef was on the menu, and it was looking pretty good, if Eva had anything to go by. The meat had roughly half an hour to go, and the vegetables were steaming nicely. He would be so happy! Eva checked the kitchen clock. Twenty to five. Perfect. He usually got back home between five and half past, and needed a wash before his dinner. If her friends at home could see her now… all loved up and married, a housewife of all things! Eva had always been seen by others at school as a a big dreamer, wanting a career as a Lawyer or a Doctor or something equally as important sounding. Marriage and kids was not for her, she had triumphantly told them, and at the time she had meant it. She had wanted to focus on her studies and maybe travel the world, even made it as far as starting a Business Course at College. She had been the envy of all of her friends, doing what she wanted, when she wanted it. She had the looks and the brains to get far, she’d fancied. Her parents were pretty astounded… probably expected her to do something like hairdressing or cookery, but no. She had wanted to grab the world by the balls and show it who was boss. She had also discovered the delights of socializing, though she had to admit she had started a little young, in hindsight. 16 years old, talking her way into the most established clubs in town; by the time she had finished her first two terms at college, she also knew the names of most of the bouncers around, and had gotten herself pretty comfortable with the nightlife. All it had taken was a bit of red lipstick, a few choice outfits (She had had to alter a lot of her original clothes), and the ‘gift of the gab’. Everybody loved her. Ok, looking back, she could have done with managing her time a little more strictly… She started to miss classes here and there, forgot to hand in the odd assignment, and it had left her more than a little behind. She’d met new friends, much more mature than the jealous ones from School who had taken to sneering at her from the other side of the road… No, these friends were great, more grown up. They’d buy her drinks in the clubs, which was just splendid, as her studies didn’t allow her time to get any kind of job, really. Afterwards, they would invite her to ‘afterparties’ which made her feel very special indeed. Only the coolest people would be at these parties, and it was at these that they would talk about all sorts of grown up things, such as politics, and the environment, and music. A lot of music talk. At first, Eva would only attend the occasional afterparty, as they would conclude into the early hours and there were a lot of illegal substances present at them, which would make her feel quite uncomfortable. What’s more, when she declined taking them, the others would look at her like she was a big soppy drip, and conversation would end up a little stilted for the rest of the night. As she got to know her new friends more, though, Eva had slowly relaxed her attitude towards such doings though, and one friend, a really skinny man named Bev, had gotten her to try a little weed. She had actually enjoyed it for a little while, and although she could not now quite remember the conversation that her and Bev had had that night, it had been the most hilarious, yet at the same time serious one that she had ever had. For her first time, though, she maybe had a little too much. It had eventually made her sick, and she had felt weird for days afterwards. She was also terrified that her parents could smell it on her.

Eva snapped back into the present, realizing that she was standing in the middle of the kitchen with her oven gloves still on. Always the dreamer, she was… He would say that to her, while stroking her hair. Over time, she gradually detected undertones of impatience in his voice, and she had tried to suppress the urge to go into her own little world. He was all about focus, and timekeeping, and presentation. She had met him on an awful day. Eva had overslept and missed an important exam, and she had been worried sick that she would get kicked off her course. Instead of going into college to see what could be done, she had gone to her local Arboretum and walked around for hours, taking in the trees and flowers and finding herself walking alongside the old disused railway track on the outskirts. She had always begged her parents to let her ride the train as a child; for 50 pence it would take you all around the the park and past the lake and then back the way it came, and it used to be one of Eva’s favourite things about visiting. She had been in bits when her parents told her it had closed, demanding that they take her there to prove it. She had been such a stubborn child. Eva remembered standing there at the now empty ticket kiosk, as disbelieving as a 7 year old girl could be, desperately willing Ol’ Jim to come out with his big round smiling face, looking down and with his jolly, booming voice, asking ‘One fer ye, me wee lass?’ It always made her giggle, and Eva remembered the loss she felt even at that age, that she would not hear him or see him again. She had no such time for strolls around the park these days, though. What, with all of the washing, cleaning and cooking that she was required to do… He had a stressful job, and understandably expected a good home to return to. Who would want to return to a pit of an abode after a hard day’s work? They had hit it off right away, that day in the park. He had found her looking like a panda on a bench, smelling like salt water and last night’s beer, feeling quite sorry for herself, and had cheered her up with his sarcastic jokes and funny faces. A couple of coffees later, and she had been infatuated. Over time, they became inseparable. Where she went, he went. He discouraged her drinking and after a few more missed lessons ‘Oh hun, don’t go today, you’re better than that place…’, he insisted that so what if she failed, she didn’t need the college course, anyway. A woman like her should be treated properly. Looked after. The memory of their meeting bought a child-like grin to Eva’s face, as it always did, and she hummed as she set the kitchen table. It was now ten past 5, and it was time to start serving the dinner. Sometimes he called as he was leaving work, but he had not today. Although it saddened her a little that he had neglected to ring, she pushed it away, trying to focus on placing the cutlery in its perfect place. This took a couple of attempts, but eventually she deemed it would do, and turned her attention back to the kitchen counter. ‘Hmm…’ One of her sharp knives was missing from her rack. Had been missing for a few days now. She had tried not to pay attention to the rack whilst she was in the room, but the tugging at the back of her head had finally forced her to look at it. Eva was quite worried that he would notice that the knife was not there, and had tried to find it in little panicked bursts all over the rest of the flat throughout past few days before regaining her composure, but to no avail. She had looked through all of the counters, in all of the kitchen cupboards, even every corner of the living room and had searched their bedroom and bathroom. She had not looked at the kitchen floor, though. Would not look at the kitchen floor. The knife would not be on the kitchen floor… Why on earth would it be there?

 

  1. The Woman who knew.

 

‘Oh Come ON, honey… you know she meant nothing… I was drunk, I told you this a million times! When are you going to see me? …Yeah! …yeah. I was DRUNK! It was a MISTAKE! I’m SORRY! …Hon-No! Honey, you know how much you mean to- …What do you mean I broke your heart, I- …Jessica. JESSICA! Listen to me, damn it! JE-Jessica. Look, we can talk, let’s have a coffee, straighten this out. I’ll come and pick you up, we can sort this out like adults, we can sort thi- …post office? I am NOT calling you a post office that’s ridicul- …No I am not laughing. I swear to you I am not laughing. I love you, I made a mistake. …her name? I don’t know her damn name, I was drunk. D.R.U.N.K. …She meant nothing, honey, plea- No I am not drunk now. …no. Honestly. No! Listen. I am not drunk and I love you. I made a mistake. …WHAT?! …What d’ya mean I sound drunk I ain’t drunk, how can I sound dru-What the hell did you just call me? …Yeah well you ain’t no angel yourself. I know about you and Bill, I know all about you an- Yeah Bill! …Don’t gimme that, Bill from up the Foundry, you know who Bill is… Don’t give me that,  I know, hon! I know about you and the Hicks twins, I know all about the porno stuff, I know about… yeah the PORNO STUFF! …Yeah you heard. No I am NOT throwing that in your face, I am sayin- I am SAYING that we all got our skeletons, we all make our mista- WE ALL MAKE OUR MISTA- I’m not shouting at you. Stop being such a stubborn bit- Listen, I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m SORRY. Jessica? Jess? Damn it!’ Mike threw his phone against the wall and took another swig of his nearly empty bottle of JD. The phone was already full of cracks on the screen from many previous arguments and drunken rages. It was a wonder it still worked at all. Women. Bane of his damned life. He ran a hand through his long dark hair and winced. No matter how much he drank he could not get rid of his headache. Three weeks now, since some guy had clobbered him around the head for ‘coming on to his girl’. Who says that? Did he think he was in some kind of 80’s movie? Mike had nearly passed out from the blow, and the bouncer’s only show of compassion was to dump him on some bench outside the club which had served as his bed for the night. He had only been talking to her; besides, she was definitely not his type. Tall, boring, no curves at all and a face like a horse.Thinking about it, it may have been Mike’s vocal observation that had landed him the punch to the head. When he had been ungracefully woken up the next morning by the motorised street cleaner that had made him dream of his head being sawn off, he had noticed that some charitible soul had put a pizza box under his neck as a pillow. Shuffling home with bits of dried cheese and tomato on his bearded cheek would have probably driven him to realise that he probably needed to look at where he was headed in life, if he weren’t so focused on how badly his head hurt. Three weeks later and the intense throbbing had settled into a dull ache at the back of his skull. It never completely went away, despite the vast amount of spirits and beers he tried to medicate it with, and it was really starting to vex him now. He supposed he could go and see the doctor if it kept up, but he knew that they would get on his back about all the drinking and smoking and the ‘lifestyle choices’ he was currently partaking in. Besides, he hated doctors and he hated hospitals even more.

Mike took a cigarette out of the carton and lit it, noting that he was nearly out of those, too. He spent a few minutes debating whether he was too drunk to use his car to grab more supplies before deciding that he would not risk it, and that he would walk to the nearer, more expensive shop down the road. He wasn’t really in the mood to move, but he was not prepared to go dry for the rest of the night, either. His phone call to Jess hadn’t gone the way he’d wanted it to, but he knew that she’d call back before the night was over. She always did. They’d been on and off for over a year now, and it was either really good, or really bad. They’d started off as ‘friends with benefits’, but somehow, it had snowballed into this cycle of jealous hell rife with explosive arguments and passionate sex. Neither of them had been faithful to one another, neither of them really wanted commitment and when it was bad, Mike was sure that they truly hated each other’s guts. The thought of her with someone else was somehow even worse, though. Not knowing who she was with and what she was doing, especially knowing what she was like, would bounce around in his head for days on end. He would be lying in bed next to some Jane or Sarah and still have to force himself not to text her, and soon enough he’d find himself dropping by the haunts she frequented. Sometimes he’d go just to talk to her, and give her the spiel of missing her and loving her, all that stuff that women love. Sometimes he’d get a rise out of talking to some of the Janes and Sarahs while he knew she was near, feeling her anger and jealousy from all the way across the room. He knew she did the same. Mike stubbed out his cigarette and got up, room spinning slightly as he stood. He was only in his t shirt and boxers, and had not been out all day. His flat was dark and miserable, with grey torn wallpaper in every room, and closed curtains that were once cream, now with that unmistakable yellow tinge that nicotine loves to gift them. Empty beer cans and spirit bottles, full ashtrays, and junk food wrappers decorated the coffee tables and littered the floor. The living room and the kitchen were all one room, and the sink was piled with dishes that were weeks old. An open packet of paper plates that Mike had bought about a week ago stood balancing for room among a bunch of clutter on the work surfaces. ‘The single man’s dream’ He muttered to himself. Jess hated how messy he was, but never lifted a finger to help. Besides, he had been to hers, and she wasn’t much better. She had a housemate. Some blonde girl who was never in, named Elena. Though they had met maybe two or three times, save passing each other when out, Mike couldn’t stand Elena. Whenever there was any kind of row between Mike and Jess, Elena’s name would pop up like an angry rash. ‘Well Elena said that I deserve better’. Ugh. ‘Elena is gonna help me move away from this dump of a town. I can’t stand it, full of scum and losers and users like you!’. Honey, she can’t even move herself. ‘No, I’m serious this time. It’s over. We’re finished. I have to go, I’m going out with Elena’. Elena can go shove her sage advice where the sun don’t shine. Her name had been mentioned tonight, and Mike knew that Jess only bought her name up because she knew how much it irritated him. Even thinking about her now gave him a new spark of annoyance which prompted him to finish his bottle. This prompted him to get his arse moving to fetch more. With a stretch, he went to find himself a pair of trousers from his pit of a bedroom.

Twenty minutes later and he was stumbling down the three miserable flights of stairs that connected his home to the outside world. It was empty tonight, although usually it was littered with vagrants, all hunched up and shifty-eyed. They didn’t usually do much but nod when he walked past, but he had heard more than the odd scuffle in the early hours, and he wanted to keep his peace with them the best he could. Burglary wasn’t really anything that Mike was worried about. The only thing that he could think of that was anywhere near worth stealing was his small, ancient TV. It was in worse condition than the phone. Mike did not bother checking the mail in the small row of postboxes next to the front entrance, although it did cross his mind as he passed it. It was full of letters and he knew that none of them were bound to be good news. His Internet had been cut off 9 months ago, he was barely keeping up with rent and the various utility companies that plagued him with numerous phone calls day and night were certainly due to send their people to pay him a visit any day now. He shook his head and opened the door, letting in a gush of freezing air that Mike welcomed with a deep breath. Sure, it sobered him up a little but he could remedy that later. He descended the steps and started making his way through the front car park, cutting past a row of cars, his at the end.  The car was his brother’s, and Mike only had it because he had been looking after it for him at the time of his death. They hadn’t really got on in later life, although Mike remembered following him around like a lost puppy when they were kids. ‘Not the time…’ He muttered, quickening his pace and shoving his hands in his pockets. It really was a cold evening, tonight. Approaching him on the street, two seemingly homeless old men were laughing and joking with each other. Well, one of them seemed merry enough anyway. One of the men had a big worn brown coat on which was far too big for him, long brown trousers and a woolly hat with a hole in the top of it. His smile revealed few teeth, and bedraggled grey hair poked out around his shoulders. The other had an unlit pipe in his mouth, and was dressed in faded black, with mad curly dark brown hair and a very unkempt beard. His boots were caked in mud and so were his elbows, but he didn’t look like he cared much. Mike couldn’t tell whether he was smiling or not, and his thick browed eyes were looking down at the ground. As they got nearer to Mike, the one in brown lifted a bottle of what looked like vodka or gin at him. ‘Ayyeeeee, how are ya?’ He stopped right next to Mike and drank deeply, before offering Mike the bottle. Slightly bemused, Mike shook his head with a terse ‘You’re alright, thanks’ before trying to step aside. The man in brown chuckled and slapped his companion on the back. ‘He’s too good fer our gin, our Jim. He’s too good fer our gin!’ The man in black, Jim, Mike guessed, crossed his rather large arms and frowned at some spot to the right of Mike, and said nothing. The man in brown chuckled again, and suddenly danced a circle around Mike. Mike felt the beginnings of anger start to rise in his stomach. Not wanting to start a brawl with two old men, he started to walk faster away from them. The man in brown did not follow him, nor did he shout after him. Instead, he carried on his chatter to Jim. ‘They dow see the descent until they stub their toe on a step, ay that right our Jim?’ His voice got quieter, yet Mike could somehow still hear the words clearly. ‘A bit of gin fer our Jim, we’ll be alright, dow you worry about tha,’ A low grunt followed, and Mike heard nothing else. The shop was in sight, its neon green light flashing ‘OPEN’ and he chose to focus on that, instead. As he reached the door, it swung outwards, nearly smacking him in the face. ‘Jeez…!’ He closed his eyes and ducked to the side. The step he had had to take threw him off balance more than he thought it would, and he flailed his arms out blindly. After a few seconds of regaining what little composure he had, he turned once more towards the door, and jumped. A small woman, maybe in her early twenties, stood watching him. She was beautiful! Long black hair and piercing green eyes, which were further illuminated by the shop sign, rendered him speechless. ‘Uh…’ He became aware that she had probably seen the mini spectacle that he had just created. She was very still, almost frozen in place. She didn’t look scared, though. The opposite, actually. Just standing there, in front of the now closed door, staring at him. She had on a long red coat with pockets, which her hands were in, and knee length black boots on. Her tights were ripped, but they looked good. She looked good. Her eyes suddenly narrowed and out of nowhere, Mike felt a jolt of panic in his head. He looked around for a second, bewildered, before settling his gaze back to the woman. Her expression was like before, and despite himself, Mike felt relieved. She spoke softly. ‘You.’ Mike didn’t know how to respond. ‘Uh…’ Oh you’re such a smooth talker.. She narrowed her eyes again. This time, it was as if she was thinking… and she looked at him for a more than comfortable amount of time. Finally she talked again. ‘You are lost?’ She took her hand out of her pocket and touched her chin with her index finger. ‘No, not lost. Fallen. You are fallen.’ She let her hand linger for a second before putting it back in her pocket. Mike frowned. He could not take his eyes away from her, and he couldn’t think of a way to respond. The woman looked away, still with her thoughtful expression. A black van sped past noisily, and her hair blew around her face briefly before settling back down. Underneath her right ear was a plait secured with a silver band. Why had he only just noticed it? Her voice was harder, the next time she talked. ‘Hmm. Yes. Fallen. But I’m not…’ Her piercing gaze returned. ‘How old are you, Michael?’ Mike frowned again. He wanted to ask how she knew his name, but what came out was simply ’27’. Back were the narrow eyes. ‘You remember nothing, no?’ He had nothing to say to that. Perhaps she was mistaking him for someone else. Skinny, long haired men with beards were commonplace around here, he guessed. She snapped sharply. ‘No. I know. Better than you do.’ Her hand came back to her chin. ‘Go. You came here for this, no? Go.’ She gestured towards the door to the shop, and then she started to turn away. ‘Oh!’ She looked at Mike again, her eyes wide this time, and maybe a trace of urgency or …fear? ‘When you are hearing a little too much of what you want to hear… Seeing a little too much of what you want to see… Stay vigilant, Michael’. She turned fully this time  and walked away. She didn’t look back, and Mike didn’t follow. He watched her for a few minutes until she became a red blob in the distance. Woken from his daze by the first raindrop of the night, he decided that drink was the best solution to the weirdest walk to the shops he had ever had.

 

  1. Comfortably numb…

 

‘Don’t listen to them, sweetheart… They’re just jealous… They’ll get theirs… Come and sit by the fire…’ Nicola was wandering in a forest full of vines and flowers and berries and and the trees were talking to her, and they were talking to her in such comforting voices that they were making her want to just find a little space in the bushes and curl up. She could smell the fantastic scent of the flowers and she could see how juicy the purple and red berries were and the thought of them bursting in her mouth was just so wonderful, that maybe in a little while she would pick one or two and bring them to her little space with her. She wandered along the old beaten path, noticing deer trails and the odd footprint here and there, and soon she could smell the campfire up ahead. The forest got thicker and thicker and the voices got lower and lower and then the snickering started and the tone changed and soon they were not comforting her, but saying wicked things such as ‘If you did something with yourself, they’d have nothing to tease’ and ‘You’re such a frump, it’s a wonder they don’t say worse’ and then they would make snide references to her mother that she would drown out the best she could. The branches started getting caught in her hair and the berries didn’t look so good anymore, in fact they looked quite revolting and the thought of eating a single one made her want to throw up. It got hotter and hotter, the nearer she got to the fire, yet her legs would not turn her around no matter how much she willed them. The forest parted and it was not the quaint little camp fire that she imagined but a roaring wildfire that hurt her face to look at. The trees were on fire and she could see dancing shadows and she could hear manic laughter and howling wolves and only then did her legs let her turn the other way. She ran and ran and could feel hard stones under her shoes and the branches whipped at her face and the tears, oh the tears! She pushed and pushed  through the growing darkness until suddenly the ground crumbled below her and she tumbled into the rive-

‘Nicolaaaaaaaar!’ She gasped as she rose, splashing water everywhere and choking on the water she had snorted in her panic. It took Nicola a fair few seconds to take in her surroundings and realise that she had fallen asleep in the bath. The water was cold and her fingers had little wrinkles on them. How could she have been so stupid? She slowly got out of the bath and dried herself off. Still drowsy, it took her a while to put her clothes back on, and she noticed that her mother had not called her since she had been woken up.

To be continued…

 

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Enough.

Posted: December 14, 2016 in Blogs
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If there’s one thing I can’t stand in this world, it’s bullying. Teasing, yes. Banter, certainly. It isn’t proper friendship if you can’t take the mickey out of each other. Well, that’s how it works down my end anyway. Bullying, though… Making somebody hate themselves to the point of self destruction… Making them scared to leave the house… Having them doubt their own sanity, or their perception of the world around them… Sickening.

brokenglass

 

I once had a friend, a few years older than me. Her name was Hannah*. I’d only see her on Weekends, as she lived by my Grandparent’s house and I’d often stay there on Saturday nights. She was a disabled girl, although I never found out quite what was wrong with her – I was too young to understand properly and she had a swing in her back garden so I was happy to leave it at that. She didn’t have a physical handicap, but she seemed mentally younger than her years, and very quiet. We’d ride bikes and play Kerby just fine, though, and I’d spend my Sunday afternoons chatting her ear off while she’d smile and occasionally reply. Now, I eventually noticed that none of the other kids in the cul-de-sac wanted to play with us. In fact, they seemed to actively evade us. I assumed it was ‘us’ and not ‘her’ because it wasn’t like I was Miss Popular in my social cliques. I switched School and moved house a few times throughout my childhood, so I’ve always found it hard to settle and relax around people – something I’ve bought with me into Adulthood, I guess. These other kids, though, they avoided us like the plague.

Well, one afternoon, I had tried calling for my friend and she wasn’t in, so I just played in the front garden pretending I was a Sorceress Warrior or something (I do miss the pure untapped imagination of Childhood and the freedom of expressing it without anyone batting an eyelid). It was a very animated and noisy affair. Suddenly, I was aware of unfamiliar eyes on me, and when I turned around about 4 other kids were watching me. Now, see… I’ve always been a ball of energy, but a shy ball of energy, which is where a lot of my frustrations come from, and also why I later latched onto alcohol so easily. Alas, I was too young for alcohol at this particular time, and I was suddenly acutely aware of how boisterous and stupid I looked a couple of minutes prior to this intrusion. So I bolted and hid behind my Nan’s car.

I’m not sure why I didn’t just run in the house. I’m not sure why I thought the car idea would work. I just crouched as small as I could and stayed as quiet as I could, thinking this would be enough to make the strange faces go away so I could go back to slaying Ice Dragons and marrying the Prince. When I heard the first ‘Oi’ I temporarily forgot how to breathe. It was only when I heard the second one, coupled with giggles, that I slowly crawled out from the haven of ‘Behind the Car’ in a moment so embarrassing I still have the odd flashback today. They were standing at the end of the drive, and at that moment the drive seemed very long, and you know when you’re walking past someone attractive and you’re so aware that you’re walking that you seem to be doing it wrong? It was like that. They were surprisingly friendly, and they asked me if I wanted to play. I said ‘Ok’ and I went over to their drive and they had barbies and space hoppers and those ball pad things where you throw balls and they stick to those green and pink velcro pads. I was suddenly in the popular group and I had no idea how I’d done it.

velcro

The next week, they called for me. They were making lemonade and selling it to the neighbors if I wanted in. This was the kind of stuff I’d mocked on cartoons for not being how life really was, along with selling cookies and actually having punch at schools. Making lemonade?! Of course I wanted in! Actually, I think we just did lemon squash but we still had a stand and sold it for 2p a cup. At some stage in the day, Hannah rode past on her bike and gave me a wave and a huge grin, and I waved back. She didn’t come over, though, and the air suddenly felt quite heavy behind me. When I turned back to my new pals, I almost knew what was coming. ‘We don’t like her’ ‘She’s weird’ ‘We always wanted to come and say hello to you, but you were hanging around with her’ ‘You can hang around with us, but that means you can’t hang around with her any more’.

Well.

I wasn’t very old, about 9 or 10 at a guess. They were my new friends, I didn’t want to lose them and no, I didn’t tell them to shove their lemonade up their arse like a Good Samaritan. I said ‘Fine, I won’t’ and felt bad inside. Then we played on someone’s shiny pogo stick for a bit and that made me feel better.

Hannah would call for me. I would say no. Only she didn’t quite get it, so she’d stand outside my house anyway for ages. When she’d eventually go home, I’d go around to my new pal’s back garden and their flashy huge climbing frame and have a right old laugh. After a few weeks hiding in people’s back gardens, I started to brave the cul-de-sac again. Sometimes I’d see Hannah riding around, and she always had that wave and big smile for me. If I waved back, though, there would be disparaging looks all around. ‘If you go back to her, you can’t play with us any longer’. It was very clear. Us or her. No in between.

That was their mistake, though.

Had they allowed me to play with them and remain friendly to Hannah, I might not have seen the situation for what it was for a long time. They had every right to choose who to be friends with, and who not to be friends with. It was an awful thing, shutting a girl out because of something she couldn’t control, but the truth is that this kind of thing happens among children, and sadly amongst adults too. After the fuzzy new friendship haze had faded, there were a few things that clicked when they told me I couldn’t interact with Hannah. Firstly, Who are you to tell me what to do? I’ll talk to who I want, not who you want. Secondly, being mean to people sucks. Not even returning a wave, that’s mean. Thirdly, I was taught to treat people equally. Maybe those were prioritized wrong in my head, but I’m a stubborn soul who doesn’t like being bossed about, and again, I was young. So I dropped the in-crowd of the cul-de-sac, went and got my bike and remained friends with Hannah for another few years.

Now if that seems too afternoon-movie-on-channel-5 to be true, I understand. I don’t talk about her much, and as I did get older, I did move on. I started having friends from School around, and I saw Hannah less and less. Sometimes I’d see her sitting on her porch and she’d give me that same wave and big smile. I’d often wonder if she’d understood why I didn’t see her any more. I hoped she did.

There have been stupid times in my life where I haven’t stood up against bullying as much as I should have. When I’ve heard something I’ve disagreed with about someone and laughed along, or ignored it. Sometimes I’ve said things myself, not thinking they were that bad.

But then…

There came a time when I let myself get run completely into the ground, not able to see what was going on around me. There was a time I felt insanely let down, heartbroken, by people I trusted, and stayed quiet, hoping that my wounds would heal and I could start again. There was a time when I had to run away, because I felt broken from all angles. Even this made me feel ashamed. I don’t run. There was a time that it all became a black hole inside of me. There was a time I didn’t think I’d get back up. I still have days that seep through from that time where I’m not sure if I’m going to make it. The first picture from below is from November 2014. The Second is from April 2015, on a train to Brighton.

 

I never, ever want to feel the way I felt on that train again. And I would not wish it on anybody else. 2015 was a dark year. I almost lost myself, and when I did come back, it was nearly as somebody I didn’t like. It is important to me, though, that the people I love know that I truly love them. It’s this love that has pulled me through. The thing is, if there is anybody that I am close to feels like how I felt that day, I would want to help them. That is who I am. I can’t not care. If that became the case, there would be no point for me.

I have zero time for bullies.

Hopefully, I’ll be blogging about daft stuff again before you know it.

Thank you for reading.

Jo x

*Name changed for privacy and all that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Different…

Posted: November 10, 2016 in Reviews
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When I was 7, my mother and I moved to a place where I encountered my first hard, cold, real taste of racism. Not the sneaky hidden sort, not that ‘misplaced’ comment that popped out, not the words with double meaning that if subject to confrontation can be hidden behind ‘I didn’t mean it like that’ and ‘You’re overreacting, it’s just harmless banter’ nor the sly references that they think we don’t get but in fact we blink and plough through because it’s not worth chasing up on. Not those. It’s one of those images that has been burned into my brain for years. A group of angry people outside, shouting at us to ‘Get the fuck out of our estate’. A brick through the window.

All because of me.

I had made a new friend and she had come around the house to play with me. She was blonde and white and a little younger than me. I remember her sitting there in my living room, crying in confusion and fear at the noise outside, wanting to go home. Her home was past the crowd. I remember feeling guilty to have caused them to come to our house. The crowd that had gathered because a 7 year old mixed race girl had moved into ‘their’ area. I guess one of the good things I can take from this experience though, is that after this happened, that blonde, white girl still decided to become my friend. Her family continued to have me play around her house, and they still allowed her to come to my home, even after that disgusting incident that put her, as well as my family in danger. I’ve always been taught to find the silver lining. Try to be an optimist.

multiculturalism

Growing up in that area, and going to school around there… it was not easy. Even without the colour thing, I was a bit of a weirdo, tall for my age, a major tomboy and stupidly shy. Still, over the years I got through, making friends and building up some defense against stupid racist idiots by means of learning how to hit back, practicing my comebacks and in one bizarre ‘blackie’ incident, painting my whole arm black. When I moved out of that area and into a similarly …tolerant area, I was still in secondary school, which was at least a bit more mixed, so I just sort of kept my head down and got on with it. The incidents seemed to lessen significantly, save for St Georges Day (Sorry but it was true) and that was easily solved by not leaving the house at all on that particular celebration.

playstation-sonyps3

That’s where this came in handy…

The years passed and I went to College and got a job and I found that the gaps between racial incidents seemed to widen. Don’t get me wrong, it was still there sometimes. It was mainly unspoken and coldly polite, and all you had to do was either acknowledge that you probably wasn’t welcome here, or in braver moments, think ‘screw them, I can’t help being me’ and plant your arse firmly in the ground for longer than you intended just for the loffs. Perhaps that’s childish. I don’t know, sometimes that stubbornness in me remembers that I’m supposed to stand up to bullies and I can’t help it. Anyway, that was my reality. There was nothing I could really do about being brown so I just sort of learnt to live the best I could with what I had. Stayed ambitious, worked my arse off and I guess, dealt with it. I had other problems, of course, and they did affect me throughout life, but I have always worked, and I always try to put all of myself into my jobs and my passions, even at times when my personal life was not so great.

me-and-sonic

Now, after a while, I started to think of race issues as… not gone, but, a lot less serious than they used to be. I thought that the world seemed to be turning in the right direction. The friends I had made over the years… the multiculturalism that I saw everywhere… The promotion of Women’s Rights, LGBT Rights… it just seemed like we were finally realizing that we shouldn’t waste our time being judgmental and hateful towards people who are different.

I guess I was ridiculously, heartbreakingly naive.

I ignored the protest marches and I ignored the snide remarks that were returning. I ignored the sensationalist headlines and the growing resentment towards the ‘immigrants’. The looks, the smirks, the unease. I ignored the feeling in my stomach, even when it made me feel sick. I told myself it was just me, and I told myself that it was fine. My friends are still my friends. My town is still my town. The old man who came in to my workplace and took great delight in talking to me as if I was 4… well, there’s always one, isn’t there?

And then Brexit happened. The run up to it was as tense as a staring competition between Steven Seagal and The Rock. The rubber band broke on June 23rd. Things went from dead-leg uncomfortable to full blown pins and needles.

This week, the leg just plain came off.

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The uncomfortable truth just hit us in the face with a baseball bat, and it’s going to sting for a long time. When I say us… I plain don’t know who I’m referring to any more. Which of you that I know personally have been harbouring these feelings, deep down, and for how long? I don’t know.

I really don’t know.

This fact stings harder than any buffoon who can say outrageous things and still get elected.

I hope I’m completely, utterly wrong. I hope I’m being ridiculous, stupid, a bit slow… I hope that I’m being the one saying outrageous things. I really do.

Making mistakes that I can work on, I can deal with. Looking at decisions I’ve made and realizing I could have done things differently, fair enough. Things I have done, as Joanne the human being, I will take responsibility for. Good and bad.

I’m finding it extremely difficult, though, to deal with the realization that I, and many, many other people never, ever belonged because of the colour of our skin. I thought we were better than that. I really did.

Posted: November 2, 2016 in Reviews
Tags: , , , , ,

Hi. My name is Joanne, and everybody hates me. Oh wait, sorry. That’s my paranoia talking. Stupid thing, paranoia. Gets me every time. But does it? …I think my instinct has a point, here… No, no no… don’t be stupid. Nobody hates you. Why would they hate you? It’s your mental health issues talking, here. You know, your anxiety and depression. It’s not like you’re a vile, pathetic human being, is it? Just ignore it. Rise above. Onwards and Upwards. 

Oh shit, even my inner voice is being passive aggressive, now.

I’ve spent the past couple of years switching between the well known guilty emotion and the ever popular terrified emotion. There are more than a few things that contributed to both states of mind. I’m not going to bore you with details but if we’re going to start somewhere, then you need to know a bit of back story. If you want to carry on judging without any direct knowledge of me then go ahead. I’m tired of trying to please you.

me-lettle

Around 2012 I went through a period of trying to rebuild my life after a relationship breakdown and I didn’t cope very well. I utilized unhealthy coping mechanisms and became a bit of a mess. With a period of sofa hopping time combined with long term work in the nightclub/bar scene, my lifestyle was unhealthy, and I was very unhappy. I stopped sleeping, I stopped eating and I put my body through a lot of hangover hell. ‘Wahh, wahh, Jo’ You may think. ‘Everybody goes through crap in their life. Suck it up’.

Suck it up I did. After the cracks from this unsustainable lifestyle started to show both personally and professionally, I got help from the doctor, sorted out my habits and rented myself a flat, just around the corner from the pub I worked in.

I liked that job. I liked the people I worked with immensely. I liked the flat. The first year of living in that place was great. I got back on track, and I started to feel something that resembled happiness. Started to see my son regularly, sorted out the pay day loan trap that I had fallen into, had a strained but improving bank balance and a healthy support network who helped me even with things like furnishing my flat. Also I picked up my guitar again for the first time in yonks and performed/hosted an open mic called Guitar C*nts. Things were good.

old-imperial

 

And then I fell off the wagon.

Much worse than before.

It cost me my job.

It is my full responsibility. I fell in with people that enabled what I had been trying to avoid and I paid dearly. What followed was a lonely mess of a few months at a different bar, the loss of some close friendships, and exhaustion. Complete, utter, exhaustion. Mentally and physically. I could also feel myself turning into someone I wasn’t. One day I snapped at those people on the High Street who are always trying to get you to sign up to things. Another evening I got into an argument with a bouncer. My weight went down to the lowest I’ve ever been. I took stupid fucking risks with my personal safety because fuck it. Things were wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong, and the people I surrounded myself with at the time did not have my best interests at heart, at all. I stopped writing anything decent, stopped seeing my son and stopped caring about anything. So I left.

Ok, so… so far, this is very me, me, me isn’t it? God, Jo. Can’t you think about others for a while? You weren’t innocent were you? Strapped to a chair while the evil ones poured spirits and weed down your throat, were you? Dragged to the pub by your hair, aye?

Well.

No.

And that’s why I hated myself enough to become very ill at the end of last year. Down in a financial mess again, feeling like an ugly failure, and noticing a strong resentment towards me from family, friends and strangers (No Jo, thats p-a-r-a-n-o-i-a, stupid!), I screwed up performances, did terribly at the latest job I had, went to fucked up parties, dressed like I was homeless and eventually ended up in the hospital. More than once.

The most hurtful thing about it all is that I let everyone down. This was something I’d overcome, once. I used to be open about it. Wanted to talk about it so that others who might be suffering might be more comfortable, and get help. I’ve started and stopped so many blogs this year because I just didn’t know how to type anymore.

The reason I have remembered how to type, is… All that, up there… that is how my mind treats me. I am constantly awful, constantly terrible, the worst judge of myself. And being this way allows others to do it, too. It’s already happened. The way my mind works, though, I believe you if you think I’m a whore. I don’t believe you if you think I’m a talented musician. I believe you if you think I smell like shit. I don’t believe you if you think I’m pretty.

gaslight

This means I give you too much power, and it will destroy me if I cannot change.

I have made my mistakes, but the destruction is always aimed at my own face. As a friend I will be loyal to you, take the piss a bit, probably be late to meet you, drink a little too much, and get your birthday present about 2 weeks after the event.

I will never make you feel like you are going insane, though. I will never attempt to ruin your life. I will never, ever scheme against you. I will never fuck you up. I will never discriminate against you because you are different. In fact, I embrace it.

To Be Honest.

Cheers.

 

 

 

 

 

Selfie-Esteem Issues…

Posted: June 11, 2016 in Blogs
Tags: , , ,

You’ve gotta love a good selfie, haven’t you? Hang on, I got that mixed up. I meant those constant selfies that are everywhere are a pain in the ass, aren’t they? Nope, got it wrong again. Bloody selfies and their constant habits of existing. How about I ask why we post selfies in the first place? I mean to me, it’s pretty obvious. We have now, for a while, been in an age that contains both internet accessible phones with front cameras and a big load of websites that you can stick your face all over. There are other things too, but in relevance to this topic, I think that should wrap it up.

But it doesn’t…

IMG_20160611_161138

Effortless… careless… artsy… also the 7th take and filtered to the nines.

There’s selfie guilt all over the place. ‘Sorry about the selfie buuuuut-‘ Stop. Why are you apologizing? I’m not the selfie police. If I have seen a few too many pictures of people’s faces for the day I will simply scroll past yours and then not think about your picture anymore. I am guilty of doing the Pouty McPoutface selfie. Some might think that because of that I see myself as some kind of sultry fox that imagines that many men would go weak at the knees at the sight of such a magnificent scowl. In all truth I don’t smile much in photos because any of the pictures I take that I do risk a grin in are horrible, awful things that should never see the light of day (in my eyes).

I tend to dislike photographs of myself being taken unless I’m drunk, so if anybody else takes a photo of me at any other time I do this apologetic half smile, half grimace thing whilst also trying to escape. If I’m drunk it’s pretty much the same except I’m either standing on something I shouldn’t be, caught in mid-shout or caught in mid-guzzle (oh how ladylike). When taking a selfie in which I’m attempting a happy expression, I become acutely aware that I am grinning like a maniac to convey happiness to a device in the middle of an empty room and so the grimace slowly creeps back into any picture that I take.

chandler smile

I guess where it gets worrying though is when you hear stories of people who find their lives consumed by getting the perfect selfie. Teenagers wasting hours, days and even months taking hundreds of pictures, and the general anxiety about how their selfie would ‘perform’. I guess there will always be extreme cases, but it is worth remembering that when you find yourself uploading pictures for THEM, rather than because YOU like them, you’re not really on a happy route anyway. The world is a critical place, and you could upload a picture of a drawing pin and somebody, somewhere would hate it.

The thing is, we are told one minute that we are becoming a self indulgent ‘selfie’ society, shamelessly uploading flattering pictures of ourselves like nobody’s business, tut tut, and then the next we are told to love ourselves, get over our body issues, eat that burrito if we want it and wear that damn bikini. It’s basically love yourself but not too much because bleugh. It’s weird, that it can be classed as attention seeking and a self esteem boost in one breath.

unflattering.jpg

Sometimes I look like this…

What I would say, is that if the state of your day is dictated by whether or not you nailed the perfect angle after the 60th time you tried the effortless ‘My hair is such a mess’ picture after you styled it for two hours and got the house lighting just right beforehand, then yes, maybe calm down a bit. If you feel you woke up on the right side of the bed today and took a photo and actually that’s not a bad picture if you do say so yourself, then share away. There’s nothing wrong with liking your face a little bit, sometimes.

Six Sachets.

Posted: March 6, 2016 in Blogs
Tags: , , , , ,

werta.jpg

Thought I’d share a little poem I wrote about a man, a man I thought was crazy. He probably was. He might not have been. I never saw him again. I was working in customer service, and it was a quiet day. I’ve seen a lot of odd sights, this one I still remember quite vividly. The story has been recounted by me to others a few times. It stood out for a reason, I guess.

 

Six Sachets

He came into the place, where I earned my keep,

And he asked me for a cup of tea,

I did as he asked, and demanded my fee,

And six white sugars, he placed before me.

It took a while to register the payment,

And I looked up and said ‘This is not what I meant’

‘We take payment in coin, not in condiment’

‘I’m sorry Sir, but here, your sugar can’t be spent’.

sugar

He picked up the sachets and apologized,

And fumbled around for a compromise,

The light bulb came forth, his tea he would buy 

With six brown sugars, and hope in his eyes!

I shook my head, ‘Sir, not this again’

‘Have some water, and be on your way’

And I threw the undrank tea down the drain,

The sewer, the only one here to gain.

In the grand old kingdom of the World Wide Web, and all of the tools and technologies that accompany it, I have to wonder… I have to wonder if we are giving all of ourselves to the Internet, warts and all. How much of you is online? How much do you need it these days? What are we turning into, as a species?

7of9_borg7

Well…

 

 

I have been writing in my blogs about the pen being my tool, yet really, the pen has been obsolete in my posts to you. The keyboard is a more accurate description. I know the layout perfectly. Where the numbers are and the hashtag is and of course, if I need to press Enter, I can do it without looking away from the screen. I just typed the entirety of this without looking down. It is a necessary skill these days to be able to use a computer. More often than not, you must apply for jobs using online application forms, even if it is for a Saturday job for a bit of pocket money around college. I remember when I had to run down hand written application forms to various places I hoped to work twelve years ago. This is practically unheard of now, except maybe in the odd independent business that still accepts CVs. Still, those same businesses will still advertise their jobs using social media means such as Facebook and Twitter and you can bet that they will have their own pages on there. It would be foolish not to, as the competition is harsh and a lack of online presence would be a great loss to them.

batman-hates-social-media

 

Don’t get me wrong, I use the same tools myself. I have a Facebook account, a Twitter account, and a LinkedIn account which I use to not only connect with my friends but to promote work that I have done. I have a Facebook and Twitter page for my MOSH (Ohh cheeky…) blog, which itself is purely an online form. At the bottom of each article that I write on there, and sure enough, on here, there are many ‘share’ buttons to circulate them around the web. These are indispensable, because these days, your success rides on your online presence. Is it getting to a stage where there is a possibility that it can override your physical presence, though? I would say possibly. Having home Internet is now becoming a crucial part of the ‘essentials’ of what you need to get by. Food, water, power, Internet. To be without it means that you would have to spend some time finding somewhere with Internet to do things that need to be done. Can you survive without it? For now, yes. Bills still come in paper form, but you are discouraged to receive them in that way. We can still entertain ourselves with means of books, but they are getting replaced with kindles, where you can store thousands of books at dirt cheap prices, even for free sometimes. For convenience, services such as Netflix promise hundreds of films and programs at your fingertips for you to watch, and they only ask for a small monthly fee and a working Internet connection.

tv-fuzz.jpg

Otherwise…

 

Is it becoming too much? Would I be asking that if I were 15 years younger? Is this how people felt about the television when I were a wee lass, being told that sitting so close to the telly while eagerly watching Buffy that my eyes would turn square? Maybe. Maybe it is just my age showing. As we get older, we naturally reject new technology because we are used to what we are taught. But I don’t know… The world seems quieter now, somehow. I’ve seen ironic posts on Facebook about how everybody meets up, only to look down on their phones through the whole evening by those very people who are doing it. It’s not just when everybody is out though. You can be sitting at home with family members all caught up on what they are doing on their phone/iPad/Tablet/etc… It’s crazy. So much going on in their heads but so quiet. At least with TV, you still watched together, still laughed together. Talked about the thought provoking dramas and the fascinating documentaries. You watch those on your own now. You can show others, or recommend links, but you have your own screens, and that in itself separates you.

Mobile phones are making us anti social

Like this but…

I’ve been the customer waiting to be served while the bored guy behind the counter has been smirking down at his phone, making it clear that I am just going to have to wait until whatever funny thing he has just been Snapchatted has been replied to in turn. It is very annoying. Yet I have also unwittingly been the worker behind the bar, hurrying to reply to a Facebook message before serving the thirsty old man who’s come for a pint before his bus is due. I have gotten my phone out between pulling pints because I’ve felt like I’ve had to reply to someone RIGHT THAT SECOND. I’ve gotten my phone out after busy periods to ‘Joanne?’ ‘????????’, and the likes of ‘I can see you’re online, have I done something?’. I see angry posts criticizing others for not replying the minute you message them… ‘They look like they’re offline but they’re only appearing offline, you can tell because it has 1m next to their name’. There are some times where that is perfectly justified but I’m guessing that the reason why said person wants to appear offline is that they don’t want to or can’t talk right now. There is a difference between checking notifications and being able to have a full blown conversation. With an email you would probably be happy to give the recipient 24-48 hours to get back to you, but in the world of instant communication there seems to be this need for a quick fire response that even ‘dude, I was on the bus, it was packed, my head was in somebody’s armpit’ weighs nothing as an excuse.

acenoreply

It’s been 3 minutes!

I haven’t been online much in the past couple of months, and it isn’t the first time. I have a tendency to be simultaneously awful and brilliant with technology, and the subsequent breakages/losses of phones and Internet and the like mean that I have not had it to hand all of the time. Granted, in these periods I have still gone to Wifi zones armed with a netbook, a blog to write and a Facebook flavored itch that needed to be scratched but again, I have felt compelled to because of the feeling of ‘missing out’ and the fact that most communication happens online. You lose the connection, you don’t know what’s going on. You don’t know what your friends are doing, and you are much more limited than others about the news (by the afternoon, your morning paper is out of date. Heck, by 9am probably). So you go outside. You walk around, you see it everywhere. Heads down. Phones out. Earphones in. Quiet. Welcome to the future.

Can you hear me now?

Posted: February 6, 2016 in Blogs

Do you have that feeling? That dull ache in your stomach before you drag yourself out of bed, ready for another rainy day? Are you approaching the world with a saggy distant melancholy, or a buzz from deep within? Why are you sad? Why are you happy? Do you ask too many questions? Do I?

News-guy

Are we supposed to be mechanical? Trudge through an uninspiring day, no questions asked, no reach for purpose? We are like cogs… I need you, you need him, he needs her, she needs me. We all make a difference, in our own ways. The butterfly effect. Consequences… Your decision to turn left or right on your route to work will surely impact someone you might never meet, and their decision to skip the lift and take the stairs may well impact you in a way that you will never be aware of. Cogs. What happens when you start to think of life in this way? It’s enough to drive you mad, so you don’t. You just live the way that you live… You can make conscious choices to improve your diet, start recycling, start smiling at people throughout your day. Just little things like that, but even then, you may not realize the power of the effect that you are capable of, just by forgoing the scowl and giving out a bit of cheer instead.

audrey hepburn

 

There used to be a lollipop man, a really old man, whom I would encounter on the way to my part time job in Bloxwich. I’ve told people about him on more than one occasion, although he will never be aware of how much of an impact he made on me. Sometimes I would see him in his designated spot, at the side of the road next to the school I briefly attended as a child, or I would see him walking up the street where I lived. Each time our paths crossed, he would greet me with a huge smile on his face, brightly saying ‘Good Morning!’ with all of the jolliness in the world. His effect was profound, his grin infectious, and I would continue my journey feeling happier. There was never a time that I would walk past to see him grouchy, or grumbling, and thinking about it, it was such a rare sight to see. Even thinking about it now makes me feel good.

singin in the rain

It’s weird, because as I’m typing this, I’m in the middle of what some might say is a ‘low’ point in my life. I can see out of the window that it’s currently raining, which matches my reflective mood I guess. Yet I’m warm and comfortable, I have a cigarette in one hand, and I’m doing something I feel natural doing. So I’m thinking that if I calculate this day by day, it’s not so low. I’m used to hustle and bustle, being social and putting fingers in many pies. The thing with that, though, is if you aren’t careful you start to lose track of what it is you’re actually meant to be doing. The definition of your identity becomes saturated and in the rare moments that you stop to think, and ask ‘Who am I? What do I do?’, the whole question and answer becomes nothing but a big question mark. I was one thing to one person, another to another, and nothing definitive to myself. Am I a writer? …sometimes. Am I a singer? …when I feel like it. Am I a manager? …well I have the experience to, if you want me to do it. That in turn causes the feeling before I get out of bed. The dull ache. The answer to at least one of those questions should be ‘YES. THIS IS WHAT I CHOSE TO DO, AND I’M GOING TO BE THE BEST THAT I CAN BE’.

calamity jane

There is no avoiding being a cog. That is what humanity is, I’m afraid. You stop functioning properly, and you become a spanner in the works. As exciting as that sounds, it means that all of the cogs around you become affected, and some will break with you. You can be a happy cog, though. You can even be an exciting cog, a colourful one. It’s about unity, and taking as much as you give out. It’s about choosing what role you want your life to play and sticking with it. If you leave the house with a bad mindset, bad things will happen. If you are angry at the world, the world will bite back. Notice the good things that happen around you instead of picking at the annoyances. See if it doesn’t make you feel better.

The Stairway to…?

Posted: February 5, 2016 in Blogs

I suppose you could say I’ve done a lot, seen a lot, and felt a lot… I suppose you could say that. But I ain’t felt it all yet. I’ve not allowed myself to.

rocky

‘…Wheeze…’

I call myself a writer and I call myself a musician because my tools come in the form of a pen and a guitar. I guess the ink ran out in my pen and the strings needed tuning on my guitar though because the goods stopped appearing for a while. I boshed out the odd article when I could, but not with thought and passion. I sang some songs in front of people but my sets got shorter and the covers came creeping in, the only original being a broken-heart boohoo song that annoyed me the more I played it. I started to approach my performances with a sense of dread, not because I don’t enjoy performing but because I didn’t feel that my sets were worthy of an audience anymore, nor did I have any more songs left in me to write. Sitting, trying to string together chords with words that I could not keep in my head, coupled with frustration at myself, I was trying to drink more from the once full pool of creativity that I knew I was capable of. The thing is, there wasn’t anything left in it. I’d never seen it quite so empty before. No juice for writing, no juice for playing, and soon, no juice for anything.

writers-block.jpg

‘The wheels on the bus go square, square, square…?’

They say that you can be your own worst enemy. Looking back, things shouldn’t have been so bad. I could have had a proper time out earlier and the world would not have fallen apart without me. A proper recharge, time with family and friends, and some chicken soup or something… but no, I HAD to get an article done, I HAD to practice for a gig. The thing is, that mindset meant that what I actually got done was nothing productive, and yet nothing restful. My batteries didn’t get recharged, they just sat in a corner, silently humming as they used the emergency power reserve to get my sorry self out of bed on an auto pilot. I did the rounds at work like a robot. I did my short open mics with no fulfillment. Spoke to friends and family out of duty (And they tried, so hard, to help me), spending as little time with them as I could before retiring to my flat to sleep. All of the time, the self criticism banging at my head. I knew I wasn’t delivering. I was tired. Needed a break.

type

‘Write ALL of the WORDS!’

Well now I have had one. Technically I am still in one. I am resting, and I am writing because I feel like it, and that is a wonderful feeling. My creative pool is re-filling, and it is doing so because I’m actually letting it. I’m playing the guitar like I love it again. It’s true that pressure is needed in some instances. Deadlines and big shows and all of that jazz, yes, there’s a place for needing to be at the top of your game. For now, though, I’m treating this time off exactly like how I should be treating it. I’m making sure I’m healthy, for a change. The reason why I’m doing this is, as I said, I ain’t felt it all yet. I haven’t done all I want to do. As long as I remember how to look after myself, there’s much more that I want to give. I want to look forward to seeing people I love and I want to approach the drawing board with the passion I know is inside of me.

 

 

zombie banner

When I started this blog, I thought it would be full of fluff and nonsense. I guess mostly it is. And Zombies. But you know, it’s easy to be a keyboard warrior, telling you that you won’t survive when the apocalypse happens. But I don’t know you. In my life pulling pints and ‘avin a larrf’ with the old regulars, I saw many faces, and heard many tales. I even knew a lot of names. I knew of the old bus driver troupe, the retired armed forces and the struggling musicians doing the ol’ open mic circuit around the town, networking and bemoaning their poverty over a Merlot or Double Jack ( I am allowed to say this, for I was one of them). Over time I learned a little about who was in whos clique and that so and so had fallen out with so and so because of some so and so that happened back in 1983 or something. But I never knew if ol’ Jimmie who comes in every evening for his Guinness after work didn’t have a history in Kickboxing, and I never knew if Sandra ‘The Wino’ Silverstone didn’t have a shelter waiting because she saw this whole thing coming around the time we all became so ridiculously dependant on mobile phones and apps and all of the other things that kept our eyes away from our very surroundings. I wrote those blogs with a pedantic view on why we would not survive because I was Miss ‘O Ye of Little Faith’ Pessimistic and I forgot that we humans can actually pack a mean punch if we are backed up into a corner. We have teeth.

sean of the dead

And brilliant, well thought out plans…

 

So here it is. We, as a species, WILL survive the Zombie Apocalypse, because:

When we are threatened, we band together.

pirate zombie

Say what you will about looking out for number 1, loving yourself first, and all that jazz which involves basically justifying yourself for being selfish when push comes to shove. I have seen people help old women in the street who have fallen down. I have seen a bag left open on a pub counter for the amount of vital minutes it would take for an opportunist to snatch the visible purse. I have worked in an environment where one of the girls we worked with got attacked on a night out, and as a unit, my colleagues worked together to ensure she was looked after, and that she got to the hospital safely. I have seen unity in simple things, like a cuppa made for a friend who has had a terrible day, and long ill paid tired shifts, made better by silly games and customer banter. Recently I saw an experiment conducted on the TV by Dave Gorman, in which he posted a variety of bank notes to himself ranging from £5 to £50, all in visible envelopes. They all returned to him untouched. The amazing thing is that I wanted to them to be. It wasn’t a case of me sitting there and thinking ‘Ahh I bet that some of them will be empty’.

postman pat

Kudos, Sir!

In my time living and working around the Midlands I have seen and felt the help given when in need, and I find it hard to believe that the same species would be reduced to mere wild animals if insanity struck. The reality of an apocalypse would be harsh, cold and desperate. To survive alone would be terrifying to an everyday man or woman like you and I. I think that the first thing that I would do if I were on my own when disaster struck would be to try and locate another breathing human being. I think you would too.

Survival is built within us.

zombiegunner

We forget this. I forgot this. A lot of us are in bubbles of our own making, with cars, roofs over our head, clean water, clothes on our backs, and routines that we have, be it the work slog, the school run… A life that some may bore of, yes. But it’s relatively safe in its humdrum way. Now everybody has to make tough decisions in their lives. Even if it isn’t tough compared to another person’s choice; That doesn’t matter. It’s your pressure, your choice. Every choice has an effect that ripples through to your friends, your family, strangers, maybe the world. Now you can’t really consider that in an everyday decision, such as what to have for lunch, otherwise really, your mind would melt by the time you reached noon. But everything we do causes everything that comes afterwards. We do it anyway. And everything boils down to survival. We should brush our teeth not because we were made to since childhood, but because we learn that if we don’t, our teeth will rot away. We learn life skills that apply to us, in our surroundings, but if our surroundings change, we adapt. Right now, it is very oriented towards technology, because that is what is around us. But if technology falls and we have to start again, we will. We are human, and we are the same kind of human that built fires when there were no light bulbs, and used our feet when there were no cars.

Zombie brushing teeth

Even the Zombies gotta keep those pearly whites goin’…

So yeah. There will be casualties. And my previous points stand. But we’re strong. We will band together. And although there are always going to be bad eggs, we have the instinct in us to look out for them. Likewise, there are always going to be cracked eggs, and weak eggs, such as the people with conditions that need crucial treatment, but the majority of the strong will help. When the crazy wave hits us and tears apart the cozy lives that we know, and we are left with the aftermath, the ones that made it through it will rebuild and show the zombies what for. Because we’ve survived this long.