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When I was seven I was at school with a girl called Lorna Kerr. She wasn't a special friend but strangely I recall her birthday - 1st February. I think I remember her because of what happened when I walked home with her just the once. We got to the supermarket and she walked through a door at the side of the building. I didn't realise this was her home. I hadn't known anyone who lived in a flat and possibly didn't know what a flat was and I waited outside for ages worrying about why she didn't come out again.
We lured him into our happiness trap, dribbled it in syrup and wafted the smell of coffee and waffles down the alley where he walked. He followed our trail of enticing images, larger than life billboards along the way with pictures of fluffy puppies, warm dressing gowns, hot cups of soup and soft breasts. We drenched the road in pastel colours that danced playfully ahead of him. We played sweet music splashed through with sounds of waterfalls cascading. We wafted a gentle warm breeze that fingered his hair and clothes. There was no need to beckon; he followed his heart.
I want to write about Egypt and what we're seeing on television. It would be good if I could describe how I admire those people and am humbled by their courage. I try to imagine how it must feel to be someone in those crowds or to know someone in that crowd or to lose someone in the chaos. But I can't get my head around it. So I moan about work and complain about the drudgery of daily life and my pathetic little problems. And every little bit of writing I do is just a snapshot of the mundane.
I am no longer anonymous. You know me. You know what I'm thinking. You know I have children, that I hate my job and that I am creative. You've an idea of conversations I have with my partner. You're aware that I wasn't born in this country and you have a picture of what my childhood like, what plants we had growing in our garden and people I was at school with. You might think you know about my relationship with my parents but that piece was fiction. It's possible that this piece, or parts of it, are fiction too.
Is it just me, or is that picture of the pig a huge distraction? When I sit down to write every day, I have no idea what I'm going to write. I open the little writing box and think "What shall I write today?" and my head replies, "Pigs. Write about pigs." I try to ignore it as I would a naughty child demanding attention. I determine that I will write about anything but pigs. I will write about camels, asteroids, Phantom of the Opera, buses, wheezing, mothballs, autumn, table tennis, Scrabble, weevils, popcorn, underwear and undergrowth. Never about pigs.
I see Sarah has a baby pig now, an abandoned wild boar which shares her new life in New Zealand. It didn't take her long to revert to type. Her past animal co-habitees include a mad sheep, house rabbits, chickens, chinchillas, rats, two cats, a pond full of newts, a cockatoo, various rescued field mice and a worm farm. The only things she took with her were her mother, her children and her Newfoundland dog. She was determined to simplify her life. That's why she went. Now she's adopted this pig. It's a slippery slope, Sarah, a slippery slope.
You come to my table here at 100words and I'm ashamed. I've nothing to offer you. I look in my store cupboard. I donít even have the staples to whip up something light. I know you're hungry and I wish I could prepare you something sumptuous - a three course meal so memorable that you would speak of it with your friends or family, even strangers. You would detail each course, reliving each mouthful. It would become your life's mission to track down recipes so you could try to recreate this feast. Sorry. Today I can only offer you crumbs.
This time a week from today, I'll wake up sick. I'll see the kids off to school then start studying. At midday I'll fetch the boy for his interview at another school. When I get home I'll study some more. I'll get the dinner done early so the girl can go to her singing lesson. When I get home from that I will try to study some more. When I realise I remember nothing and I'm sure I'll fail the exam the following day, I'll throw a tantrum, weep and say how hopeless it is and how useless I am.
Danny and Jack are in the kitchen. I hate the way they talk about women. They know I can hear. They wouldnít have the courage to talk like this if I was in the room with them. Itís degradation by stealth, a bloke thing that comes from fear. Girls are complicated and mysterious. Boys donít understand them and canít deal with the out-of-control stuff - physical and mental - when theyíre around girls. So boys lurk in a half-world waiting for a chance to vandalise what they canít have and canít control.
I wake at 4am worrying about the move. The guys arrive on time and pack up the van. I tidy the desk of the office I am leaving. Suddenly my colleagues have gathered around. They have signed a card and bought me gifts. I hang around to clear away the last of my stuff then I walk through the large open plan office saying goodbye to everyone. Some hug me and some are crying. It's raining as I drive to the derelict old building that will be my new base. I sit in the quiet and wait for the van.
Why does it continue to rain? What makes the cat behave strangely? How can they stand that stupid laugh of hers? Why can't I focus? What will happen if I go for that interview? What if I don't? When does he get in? Why does the doctor always want to give me pills instead of explanations? Will I enjoy that movie? When will things get easier? What is it that makes me sabotage myself? Why do people like shopping? Why don't I? Why didn't I try harder? Why don't I just let it go? What on earth was I thinking?
I become aware that something is not right while I am still in that half-asleep-half-awake place you hang around in just before you awake. I feel the heaviness in my body. When I enter the fringes of consciousness I struggle to make sense of what's changed but I fall in and out of understanding. It is only when I open my eyes and I am finally fully alert that I recall that it's my legs. I cannot feel my legs. I am overwhelmed by the nausea of remembering anew that I will never feel my legs again.
Yesterday while we were having breakfast in the Saffron Cafe, I picked up a leaflet promoting a gathering today at King's Wood to protest against the government's plans to sell off woodland. I was immediately fired up to text Kate to suggest we meet up there to support the protest and then afterwards they could come back to ours for dinner. And I meant it. But when today dawned, I knew that my priority was to prepare for the interview tomorrow and to study for the exam on Wednesday. I realised that saving the woodland would just have to wait.
He brings me breakfast in bed - a tray with toast, juice, coffee, a little vase with a single flower in it and a sealed pink envelope covered with red hearts. He has included my vitamins, my pills for joint pain and a bottle of hair dye. A newspaper on the side of the tray is open to the small ads. He has circled in red the information about a weight loss programme that has been proven to work. He's also jotted down www.loveunderwear.com. The envelope contains a twenty pound note, grubby, crumpled and very tatty around the edges.
I remember one that got away. Dark hair, medium unremarkable build. His killer weapon was his face. He had a broad smile with shallow dimples on each side. His teeth were crooked, the front top teeth coming together in a cheerful jut that rested on his bottom lip when he was listening. He had large brown eyes which sparkled with life. This is a cliche but it's true. I cannot pinpoint what made his face so lovely to look at. Maybe it was proportions, an even balance and spread of features. I would give anything to see that face again.
She takes small steps. They're small steps but they're quick. Small steps in quick succession trying to keep up with the giant strides of the man who is pulling her along by her hand. Her steps are small and quick and not always even. Because he is walking fast, she has to sometimes do an extra little step or two and her heels don't touch the ground at all. His steps are giant, striding and even. His hand is hot and strong and squeezed around hers. There is nothing she can do but take small, quick, uneven, tip-toed steps.
When Danny rolled up with a van, I laughed. Heís always talking of moving out and itís always been just talk. I thought that bringing the van was a petulant spur of the moment thing, a kind of ďIíll show herĒ in response to my ďyeah rightĒ when he'd said it before. He'd brought Jack to help and when they carried the stuff from his room, it wasnít loose as Iíd imagined. It was boxed up. They carried box after box to the van. He must have been packing for days. I had no idea.
I will try to pick out the good things about my new office. It's going to be hard because it's disgusting, dusty and decrepit and I feel unsafe there. It should be condemned. However, there is the view of the park where I can watch people with their dogs and see kids playing. It is within walking distance of the town. There is a swimming pool over the road. It is quiet.There is an okay beach and a grand pier apparently. I am told that in the summer it is lovely. I am not planning on staying that long.
I just I won a little money on the lottery. I feel lucky. But if you added all Iíve spent buying lottery tickets, Iím sure the stats would show that I am not lucky at all. I once saw a chat show where they were discussing luck and whether it is a reality or a perception. They mentioned one man who had been struck by lightening three times. Was he unlucky to be struck that many times or was he was lucky to have survived that many strikes? I like the positive spin and today I feel lucky.
The little chime sounds to say I have mail. Beep, it goes, you have mail.I play this game where I can't look because I am here writing. It is most likely spam. It is usually spam. Sometimes it is mail from the writing group promoting some open-mic event or a competition. The least likely email would be one from a family member. Well that's not really the least. I suppose that getting an email from someone who has died is the least likely option. That would be so cool ... where you could email home from the other side.
When choosing a baby you need to decide what type you want. Some people choose a baby for its looks - a particularly beautiful breed or favourite colour. You might think a baby who has been hand-reared would be particularly affectionate as they will have had a lot of positive early contact with people. While it is true that hand-reared babies are often responsive to people, they can be rather volatile or even aggressive if they do not get their own way. But with a little forethought you can choose a baby which will settle easily into your life.
Tomorrow, I have to be a duck. I will practice today starting with the waddle: deliberate step, lifting opposite leg and step. I need to ensure I raise each buttock cheek in turn to perfect the wobble. I will learn to crane and tuck my neck alternately depending on the situation. I have to remember to tilt my head to one side to view, with just one eye, objects of interest. The hardest thing is going to be perfecting the throat jiggle to get food or drink down my gullet. That, and using my arms as wings. And growing feathers.
I didn't really believe the duck thing myself, but I woke on a blanket on the floor and immediately found myself preening an itch under my layer of white feathers. When I stood, my head was bed height. Navigating the staircase took a hop-flutter technique - awkward in a space with limited wing-spread space. The kids were already in the kitchen preparing their packed lunches for school and they mumble-greeted me as usual. I thought it typical they hadn't noticed, then one of them crumbled a crust onto the floor and clicked their fingers to motion me over.
I'm populating the Kindle I got for my birthday. I buy some books and also download a couple of freebies then wish I hadn't.
The very first page of this one is pissing me off, "Near the top of the embankment, Mireya paused and pushed her sweaty mane of curly brown hair back from her brow. If she had hoped to restrain it, she failed as it returned to its bushy cloud around her face." Arrgggh. Sweaty mane? Bushy cloud?
"When she plopped to the ground, the thud was audible."
No one would ever pay for this rubbish.
The days have been warmer and I can bear to look at the garden again. It's always there but when things are so bleak, it's hard to engage with outdoors. Suddenly today I see buds on the trees and bushes, things are looking green and the bare trees between us and the papermill are thickening with growth. The vegetable patch has a few leftovers in it but the earth is bare waiting. We've left it a little late again this year however we will get in seeds and will start the cycle again of trying to grow our own food.
We were the last to arrive at the camp yesterday - five families who have met once a year since 1998. This is the only time we see each other but it is very comfortable. There are the old traditions: lots of chocolate, wine and beer; drop scones for breakfast; amazing shared meals and home-baked bread; jokes about the desserts I bring and the joint solving of the Guardian cryptic crossword. This year a single ukulele made its appearance and we realised there were three ukulele owners among us. Next year it will be duelling ukuleles all round, I'm sure.
What is it about walking that makes people fanatical? I understand that being in nature is invigorating: breathing in the fresh air, smelling the woodland, catching the odd glimpse of an animal... I give you that. But, traipsing up hills, striding through bogland and stumbling on tree roots?
They made me do three walks on the weekend and I moaned all the way. All I wanted was to get back to camp, to stoke up the fire and to read or sleep or draw or write poetry - maybe even poetry about walking. But I did not want to walk anywhere.
I'm back at work and would give anything to be back at the camp. The office is gloomy and cold. I fire up the fan heater to clear the chill. I still feel like a stranger; the usurper who took someone else's job during the restructure. I make tea and try to work. I'm surprised how close to tears I am. While I'm looking out the window at the drizzle, I notice the ladybird on the inside window pane. I lure it onto my finger, open the window and watch as the little creature unfolds its wings and flies away.
The Tip Jar