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At the Science Museum we decide to start at the top in the medicine section and work our way down. There are many memorable implements but the one that elicited much discussion was the chastity belt. It was made of metal and had a jagged piece of metal the shape of the vagina to prevent unwanted entry. It looked pretty uncomfortable. Earlier in the day, I read an article in the paper about a fish that had been caught, which had apparently been responsible for biting off the testicles of two people, resulting in them bleeding to death. Strange world.
I decided to tidy out the drawers - the ones where we stuff everything we don't know what to do with. There were multiple paper clips, staples, elastic bands and pinboard pins. There was a lot of dust. I found old mobile phones; cables from who knows where and a keyboard. I found cds I thought I had lost, a photograph of me when I was 21 and a pile of home-made greeting cards. There appeared a flute that no one plays and two cameras that no longer work. I sorted them carefully, replaced them and shut the drawers again.
I dreamt John was telling me we should get together for a bbq and I was agreeing. He was actually telling me there were people in my garden having a bbq. I went out there to admonish them thinking they must have thought no one owned the garden. They said they were using my garden because it was in a bad state and they didn't want to ruin their own garden. I made them extinguish the fire and sent them away. Afterwards I laughed about the whole thing and was pleased to find they'd left their dessert in my fridge.
I've been telling everyone at the writing group that they should be on this site every night writing 100 words. They don't understand why and make excuses why they can't: 100 words is too limiting; it's too restrictive; how can you get anything out of it? Well all I know is, that there's a competition coming up on the theme of water and they're all like, "well we don't know what to write." I do a quick search of my 100 word entries and there are loads of little nuggets of ideas that I can expand. So I'm well sorted.
The end of an era. We sweep out the room, wash down the surfaces and take out the black bags of rubbish. We shut the windows, pull down the shutters and take one more look around the empty shell. Our dreams have been carted away in boxes and bags, thrown in and piled up high. The colour of the furnishings, the smell of hope and the sound of our joy at having achieved something, have all disappeared. We feel a mixture of sadness and relief. We tried but our efforts and enthusiasm were not enough. We lock up and leave.
I get distracted by T's insistence I watch the Youtube clip of the fungus that turns ants into zombies then grows out of their heads. That leads me to the videos of people having botfly maggots extracted. I remember the satisfaction of removing the botfly from Laura Bruce's bum cheek. She came back from Malawi with it. If you didn't iron your clothes the maggots got transferred to your skin. We put vaseline on its breathing hole and when its head appeared, we tweezered it out. There was an appreciative audience gathered for this. All standing around Laura Bruce's bum.
I plan the menu for tomorrow's lunch for eleven. Lentil loaf and roasted red pepper sauce for the vegetarians and roast chicken for the others. I make a chocolate cherry pudding I have never made before, an unusual recipe as you cover the cake mixture with a hot water, sugar and cocoa mix. Somehow it came together. I worry there is not enough there for everyone so I choose a second pudding - a raspberry crowdie - the easiest pudding in the world but heaven. I've yet to find someone who doesn't love my crowdie. Oaty. Creamy. Sugary. Raspberry-y. Yum yum.
I have a few abortive attempts at take off. I run along the flat grass, starting slowly and picking up speed, flapping my arms like crazy but at the last minute, just as I am feeling lighter and like it could happen, I slow myself, turn and stumble to a halt. The last time, Lucien runs alongside to encourage me and as we reach critical speed, he lifts off, but I slow and stop. Once he realises, he tilts and circles. I can tell he's annoyed. I gesture for him to fly on without me. I will never get it.
When I ask her where she is going, she tells me it's none of my business. She's not dressed for woodland in her short skirt, her shoes and short socks and no sign of anything to put on to keep her warm. Just a weird cloak thing with a hood. She struts past me. I watch her go but I am concerned about her. So I follow. Slipping behind trees, darting alongside her all the way. She ends up at the derelict old shack. I know the crazy woman who lives there. I've seen her howling at the full moon.
My sister is blonde. My sister is thin. She has a slightly pointy chin. Her eyes are wrinkly, she has smiled a lot but her brow tells me, she frowns a lot too. She is very houseproud, loves her clothes and enjoys going shopping. She buys good wine and food and lots of meat. She is kind, thoughtful, stressed and anxious. She is mostly busy but she likes a good book. And sometimes she lights the candles in her bathroom and fills the bath with scent and bathes in the flickering light. But not very often. Which is a shame.
When people have too many children, it makes other people judge them. We are borderline with three. Just exceeding the norm and slightly irresponsible, but not enough to be judged extreme. I once knew a family who had nine children. It was remarkable and they were a nice family, decent well behaved children. But they always seemed a little unkempt, unloved, unspecial. The children were embarrassed and resentful and it was difficult for them to be seen as individuals. Their mother was haggard and dowdy. Their father strutted with the air of someone who had done something noble and great.
When I can't sleep I do the alphabet thing. One letter word with 'a', two letter word with 'b' etc. This is how far I get. A by cat does every father gardens handheld insomniac juxtaposed kleptomania listlessness magnificently neurosurgeries oversimplifying personifications quarrelsomenesses representativeness straightforwardness transcendentalnesses unselfconsciousnesses. At this point I am cheating using the internet. And weirdly there is a forum where someone asks, "i need to continue to z which should be a 26 letters word however i am stuck at u which is 21 letters eg. unconstitutionalities. thanks". Actually, I made it to p on my own.
Thirteen days to go until the 26th. It feels like a hundred years. While everyone is waiting for whichever date it is that the world will come to an end, I am waiting for the 26th. I keep imagining how it will be. I get butterflies thinking of it - fear, anticipation, excitement. I will wake on that morning (if I manage to sleep at all the night before), and the light will be different. The people around me will be different. The way I view life will be different. It will feel as if a huge weight has been lifted.
This feels like a train carriage. The carriage is full. I can't see any of you. I am shouting into the carriage, telling you about my life, my dreams, my plans. You hear me, but I can't see how you're reacting, what you're thinking. And you're shouting too. I can hear what you say, but I can't see your faces. I don't know if you mean it, whether it's real, or whether this is your imagination. The train trundles on with all of us shouting into the void. Clickety clack clickety clack clickety clack. All change please. Mind the gap.
I wake again with a start, lists in my head, fast beating heart. The washing gets hung up, dishes get done and the children are fed, checked and seen through the door. I collect my bags, packed lunch, find my glasses, phone, keys. I sign up with the traffic for the drive to the city. Stop at the reds one by one by one. At the last lights before town, I watch the pedestrians, shuffling through their lives. When the green light beckons, I slip the car into gear and, with a flicker of fear, turn left instead of right.
On the 14th, it would have been their fifty sixth wedding anniversary. It was the first time in fifty six years that they haven't shared this. He will have woken that morning with only himself to make tea for. There is no one for him to say anything to, let alone, "Happy Anniversary". It is not something they celebrated much. None of us did. Now I wonder - had I known that 14 January 2011 was the last time they would be together on their anniversary, would I have bothered to send a card or an email? Hindsight's a wicked thing.
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I am trying to forge new pathways in my brain. The old ones are boring and eroded. It's time to redraw the map of how I think, feel, respond. This is hard work. It is not easy to travel through untamed territory, wade through long grass or hack back undergrowth. I make myself go to an event I would not normally attend, talk to people I would not usually engage with, spend time doing activities I have never tried. I listen to different music, travel by train instead of car, eat things I don't like. So, am I still me?
I met my first true love at fifteen. It was a blind date that was to last sixteen months. I adored the man. Now, so many years after that time, I can remember little about the time we spent together but I can still summon the intensity of our relationship. I can remember the thrill of our first kiss and the music that became our theme tune, still reminds me of him. I have been married now for twenty nine years - a good marriage. But the sixteen months of that first love, carries a tantalising weight that outweights the reality.
I snatch glances at the family sitting near us in Pizza Express. The little girl rocks in her high chair. Her sister gets down from her seat and goes to give the little one a hug. When they leave, the children are given balloons. The little one wears a red beret and her big sister is rubbing her balloon on this to make electricity so her balloon will stick to the wall. The smaller child stands perfectly still while her sister rubs her head, and with each stroke, the beret is sliding backwards and forwards over the younger one's face.
I think about the day - any encounter that mattered. I am trying to remember a face, any face that I met for the first time. The person who served us in the coffee shop - I think it was a woman. But can't be sure. The two people on the table behind us who I suddenly worried may have overheard our conversation. I looked at them but couldn't identify them again. But the person in the supermarket - I remember her face. She annoyed me by throwing my shopping down the conveyer belt. So her shrewish face is imprinted in my memory.
I would much rather paint. Writing is a poor second cousin. With painting, the art starts with the planning and preparation. You decide on the format. You buy the materials: the canvas, the primer, the wood for the stretcher. You hammer together the frame and cut the canvas to size then tug and stretch it rhythmically and methodically staple it down. You apply the primer, coating every corner and watching the canvas become paintlogged. Then you can start to paint. You grab your biggest brushes and begin the outline of the painting, before working in the detail. Writing cannot compare.
Sometimes I dry up. I have nothing left to say. I decide that I will never be a writer and that the will not to write is greater than the will to write. I get this from time to time. I feel like a fake, a fraud. I have modest success with little apathetic spurts of writing. I am a failure and a disgrace. I should take a back seat and make room for the real writers out there, the ones who value their readers, push the boundaries and work their socks off. Pep talks like this really don't work.
We are riding a horse. It is somehow our responsibility, and we are riding it around a garden. Suddenly we fall off, not in a buck-you-off, hard kind of fall. Just a gentle roll, both of us ending up lying on the grass. And the horse prances around for awhile, then it finds a gap in the wall around the garden and it gingerly steps through and is gone. We are not too bothered until someone asks where it is. Then we are concerned and look everywhere for it. We find it in another garden, safe and sound.
Michael, you suggest picking up from where I left off, so here's the next part of my story. We find it in another garden, safe and sound. The crocus has flowered now. We have no idea why it's here. All we know is that when we woke this morning, there was a hole in the ground, the earth was newly disturbed. and the crocus was gone. Now we're taking it back. We wait until the coast is clear. You keep watch. I run in and dig it up. Then we leg it home and plant it back where it belongs.
I put down my laptop and invite her to come and cuddle with me. We talk about the games we played. There was the bird game where I'd hold up my hand and open and close my fingers in a flapping movement and move my hand slowly towards her. I'd say, "this is the 'p' bird", or whatever, and she'd have to guess what the letter stood for. The bird would come closer and closer and if she guessed correctly the bird would fly away. If not, it would pinch her or punch her or flick her or tickle her.
This is foolish but I'm desperate. I'm stealing your hundred words, like a blind man searching for the universe. I need to get this done, and they were there for the taking, your silent words. I've reached into your entry, taken your words and have made them explode into the cosmos. Iím beginning to sincerely believe that there are unseen forces and powers out there, preventing me from writing well. There are invisible barriers, barriers unseen, unnoticed. I know it's me who has created them. What do I really see? I see a desperate person, a blind man searching.
The noises you hear when you're waiting for something to come into your head to write about: the slow hum of the central heating - a constant that sounds like the sea when you are far enough away you can still hear it but you cannot hear the crashing of the waves. This is punctuated by occasional ticking - the radiators expanding in the heat, I presume. The backburner emits a noise sometimes - a clonking noise just before it clicks into action on the instigation of the thermostat. There is no sign of human life save for the tapping of my typing.
My mother was so thin that when she woke in the mornings you would hear her crack. Just opening her eyes was a shattering experience and the gentlest touch could splinter her into shards, brown and sharp like creme brulee topping. Everything she did, had to be planned. To sit her up in bed, we used feathers to nudge her into place hour by hour. We dragged silk cloths over where we wanted to touch her, a soft stroke to remind her we were there. She became a jigsaw puzzle that had been nudged into a ridge of dislodged sections.
It's Monday and nearly the end of January. Deadlines are dropping around me like sharply pointed arrows. I hear them landing with a thud around my being. My task is to catch them before they land but I fail hopelessly. The problem is I set myself big challenges and I am fired up about doing these things, but at the last minute my enthusiasm and confidence wanes, and I don't think I have what it takes. Then I am overwhelmed with the sense of failure as my challenges crash to earth around me and everyone can see I am weak.
I get caught up in the double deaths. I don't know the men or their families but I become part of their world. I have children around the same ages, my children hang out in some of the same places and they have watched these young men busking. I imagine how it would be to be those parents; I walk past the flower shrines that emerge in the city in the places they used to busk; I feel drawn to read the messages and look at the photos, but I don't because I worry I'm intruding into someone else's grief.
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