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All along the watchtower a wild owl did howl.... wait howl, owl, owls. Owls owls don't howl... right. okay all along the watch tower a wild CAT did yowl.. wow... bowls. A face made of mushrooms and udders.. No wait its udders are bleeding, I want to make bacon with them bacon bacon, in my pate cat, he strolls past yawning, I dunk a hunk of french bread into him.. he doen't feel it, it's the liver content, it makes him numb. Ooooh leeks she uses them as microphone.. Obese pandas suffocating me. They smell minty. Candles can feel pain.
I've been galloping around this wretched life too long. Round and round this stupid enclosure for years and I am tired. I keep ramming the high fencing that keeps me in, looking for a way out but there is none. From time to time I rear up and whinny, shake my head and my mane in protest. But I always have to come back down to earth and face the reality. Sometimes I can see over the fences to the life I should be leading, but there is no gate, no get out. I resign myself to living this hell.
Jennys. Here are some I have known. Jenny G, lived across the street, was blonde, pretty and I desperately wanted to be her friend. Motherly Jenny who worked with me at the council and got breast cancer after I left. I never knew how she fared with that. Aunty Jenny seemed so glamorous in comparison to my mother. She had long blonde hair and used to wear nail varnish. Jenny P who sits on the committee and is very quiet but who has her uses. If I'm allowed a Jeni, then I'll add my daughter's friend. That's my Jenny quota.
I push through the pain - limp on and collect a random verb, noun, adjective and adverb to carry on my journey. Sniff, pig, frozen, noisily. I have no idea what I will do with my travel companions. I realise the pig is sniffing noisily, its skin is icy, frozen. I think it has a cold. It's lucky I have a blanket in my backpack. Oh, look, now I have a backpack. I wrap the pig up in the blanket and carry it in front of me draped in the blanket as I continue on my journey. My arms are aching.
So we are out walking in the snowy village, when we pass a group of lads walking the other way - about ten of them. One of them lobs a snowball at Rob. The rest of our party carry on walking but foolish pride makes Rob pack up a snowball and hurl it at the lad. He is then surprised when he is completed bombarded by snowballs flying from all ten of them from all directions. And I'm thinking, how is it that he didn't think that one through? He was so outnumbered and didn't stand a snowball's chance in hell.
My arms are aching. It is two days since I first decided to carry this pig draped in a blanket. My backpack is empty. I have shared the apples with the beast. I have draped it in the blanket. The pig is no longer sniffing and I think it is getting over its cold. When I get to the village I will finally be able to leave the pig behind. It will be a relief. But I will have to pick up some more travel companions. Rock, jump, gracefully, melting. Oh, I don't make things easy for myself. Until then.
He pops up on Facebook and messages me. I ask how things are. His daughter visited him recently, nursing a broken heart. I say it's tough at that age. He takes this as a reference to our past, saying there's nothing quite like the first love. I ask him who was his first love. He messages back to say it was me. I tell him he's wrong - and that his first love was the girl he was going out with when he met me ... the one he continued seeing. This is an argument that should have happened thirty years ago.
I feel really sad that my father is so far away. In the last seven months he has lost his life partner, has sorted through all their belongings, has packed up the house and sold it. Tomorrow, he will drive to the station and will put his car on the train and will accompany it on the long journey to the coast. When he arrives, he will drive to his new home. He has never lived in that town before, he has no friends there yet, but he is determined to get as far away from the pain as possible.
I go to have my eyes checked with a new optician. He is very nice and friendly and is just back from paternity leave. I ask about his baby. It is his third child and when I ask about sleepless nights, he says they have a well-oiled machine going and they are all sleeping soundly. His wife does the day shifts and he does the evenings and the last feed before midnight. Then, they have a night nanny who does the overnight shifts. I have never even heard of a night nanny. Where do you get one of those?
I was a toddler when I first saw snow. I don't remember but there is silent film footage of me being bowled over by a snowball and howling my head off. The next time was when I was 18 and at art college. I was dressed for spring and my little cloth sandals fell apart in the wet. Our first snow in this country was when my sister was visiting with her fiance. We drove down from London while it fell. We went tobogganing and were so excited. It's snowing again now. I hate it. I am so over snow.
I didn't tell you what happened after I left the village. Patrice asked me to take a rock to his sister in the next town. I said I would prefer not to but he was so youthful and exhuberant. He was jumping gracefully around me in his excitement. What could be hard about this? Well I wasn't to know that the next day, when I set out on the journey, it would be the hottest day ever and that midway through my journey, the rock would begin to melt in my hands, searing the skin from my fingers, dripping down.
You do not appear to know me, but I live in your street. I have an idea of who you are and what you do. It is obvious you are old and grey. You live with your husband and the two of you drive past sometimes. Well, he drives with you as a passenger. Otherwise you walk. Your mouth is tight so I think you have some issues. It is your husband who walks your dogs. We have walked together to the station and chatted but you do not remember me. I can see you both sometimes sitting watching TV.
Michaels. 1. my Uncle. Handsome. Funny. Cuddly. My mother's favourite brother, now overweight with failed relationships and living in poverty. 2. St Michael's - where I was being trained to take Sunday School - never happened. 3. The school that took my brother, Michaelhouse. 4. Maybe the boy across the road - Michael Glover. 5. First love - Michael. The first kiss. The deep voice. 6. The man who did the post at school. 7. Michael from Mountains - a wonderfully dreamy song. 8. My future father-in-law. Stern, rigid and unforgiving. 9. A middle name for the amazing man my son is becoming.
Valentines Day. Let's play. Very awkward love especially now that I need extra soothing. Don't ask yet! Venting a low expectation never terribly interesting, never ever succeeding. Daily amorous yarns. Venereal afflictions likely, eventually, nasty things infecting nether extremities - seriously! Don't assume yes. Vastly appealing, largely exaggerated, nicely timed, inwardly nasty, ever sordid. Drab, awkward, yellow. Vegetating, asphyxiating,lousy, exhausting, nerve-wracking, thrusting, incubating, nauseating, exploitative sex. Dark as yesterday. Violet always likes Eddie's nimble tongue in nicely, exploring sensually. Darting, alert, young. Very amusing, letters energised nicely, tagging in nonsensical, extravagant sentences. Deeply agreeable yapping. Valentines Day. Letter games
My office is on the corner of the street and has windows all round. I get to see some life. I see trucks manoeuvring around the narrow streets, edging to my window and reversing continuously until they get it right. I have people checking hair, makeup and kissing. I had a lad last week who was picking his nose right close up to the window. And yesterday, a small child came and peered through the glass while his mother was chatting. I waved to him and he waved back and we played a game of peekaboo for a few minutes.
The chairman comes in. I open the door for him and when he enters he makes a big fuss of whether my cold sore has healed so we can do the air kissing thing. My cold sore has healed, I am no longer contagious so he makes a grand gesture of kissing me. We muddle which side to start on and then clunk our glasses against each other. It is so awkward. After years of working in an environment with young people where you had to be so careful about any perceived inappropriate touching, this unnecessary physical contact is awful.
I dreamt of a storm and seas. I was in my childhood home and the sea came up to the edge of the garden but was getting bigger every minute. At first each wave was breaking and then washing up to the front door and then away again. But suddenly the waves were huge and towering higher than the house, then crashing down at the front door. It was scary and exciting at the same time. Afterwards when I was telling someone about it and showing them the damage, I wondered why I hadn't moved to higher ground for safety.
It has to be exactly the right amount of time or the thing will not set. I run my fingers through my hair and try again. Seventeen ways that this can go wrong. Twenty seven people it will affect. I carefully unscrew the lid, tilt and start to pour. The liquid trails vapours as it fills the test tube. It fills slowly, in a side to side movement. When it reaches the black mark, I cut off the supply and seal the bottle. Thirty three years I waited for this. I take solution nine six three and start to pour.
I only got a quick look and couldn't be sure what I saw. I didn't want to stare but it fascinated me. It was a huge growth on the side of his nose, about the size of a button mushroom. It was mustard yellow, like a little bumpy pumpkin. It looked like it was divided into little segments. In fact it could have been a yellowish dressing over a giant growth. Anyway, he walked past me and into Cafe Nero - a matter of seconds. Leaving me wondering what it was that I actually saw on the side of his face.
I gazed, mystified by more twinkle, a tiny childlike killing, dancing in a circle like a firefly slowly in the fading air, flickering lights, rarely in trance, suffocating, the magical tree trunk's core carry fairies in the hands? And then see our earthly stars - they came somehow. Fireflies around its future. Did I see them now? Lights that flicker brightly or the magic of pictures. No children will see their beauty And it is them. That is them. I gazed, mystified by more twinkle, a tiny childlike killing, dancing in a circle like a firefly slowly in the fading air.
Do not expect me to tell the story of the time my grandfather swallowed an elephant. This is not something you really need to know. You won't want to be beguiled by the details of the standoff between the two of them for days. You wouldn't believe the cramp he suffered because he couldn't, for one moment, take his eye off the prize. The tusks would have speared him in an instant had he blinked. But there is no point my telling you that because I am not going to tell you about the time my grandfather swallowed an elephant.
I've discovered how much work my neck usually does, now that it's not doing it anymore. It is what lifts my head and helps me turn over at night. It's the thing that helps me check when traffic is coming from the right. I use it to gesture with, to nod in the direction of something I'm talking about. It is what is squeezed when I am being hugged. It holds things together when I sneeze. It allows me to view my surroundings while saving my body the trouble of turning too. I do wish my neck a speedy recovery.
Things you get for your birthday: beautiful handknitted turquoise scarf, interesting handsewn slippers, three boxes of chocolates, the boy who harnessed the wind, a meditation CD, a book on Play, Bananagrams, 2 bottles of moisturising cream, body butter, four bottles of bath scents. And when you get home from work, your friend is there with a basket of food: a homebaked vegetarian bobotie, salad, salad dressing, chocolate desserts, a bottle of South African wine, a vase of flowers. You have a lovely shared meal with the family, you get lots of cards and messages on Facebook. You feel very loved.
Now that I am a snake, this is how it is from down here. I am still for now, basking. The ground is cool beneath me but the sun warms the scales on my back. The grass cushions me, the blades silky and soft. I flicker my tongue and the earth pressed beneath my belly smells of beginnings and promise. My jaw is hearing the vibrations of the world, the drone of movement around me. I am using this echolocation to build the map of where you all are. Soon I will slide on over to your place for dinner.
I have to prepare for the writing session tomorrow. My head is thick with cold and my neck is stiff. I feel miserable and when S pulls out because she is going shopping with her daughter, I wonder if I should cancel. Then I speak to T and she persuades me not to. She is right. I settle down and start pulling together an exercise. By the end of the evening, I have three different ideas for tomorrow's session. I decide that I will use the motivational writing ideas to help people push through the pain when starting new writing.
My grandfather took the road less travelled, the one that led to the mountains. By the time he was scaling lifeís peaks he realised that he should have taken the left fork. When he could hold on no longer he let go of the rope and fell to the valley below. When I looked through his pockets, I found a pencil, string, matches and his notes and I cried. It was something I hadnít done since I was ten when I found out he had died. I put his words into my pockets then headed for the mountains.
We decided to amputate. The limb that was our marriage had become gangrenous; the tissue had been rotting for years, we knew that. But no one had had the time to tend to the wound. Now it was an embarrassing mess, an eyesore with a foul smell that followed us around, a giveaway that we were rotting from the inside. We told the surgeon to make a clean cut and to take whatever was necessary to ensure that what remained would have the best chance of surviving. He sharpened his scalpel. We turned our backs. Watching was just too painful.
We're reminiscing about the school camping trip where I was parent helper. One night we bought in fish and chips and handed out the wrapped packages one by one. It quickly became apparent that orders had been packaged together and that we'd handed out packs of three pies or three cod to individual children and there was not enough to go round. By this time the lucky ones had dispersed throughout the campsite to eat. It was some task tracking down the extra portions and wrenching the food back. The kids guarded their feasts, growling like lions at a kill.
The four of us wrote collaborative poems: a sentence then passed it on, but only with the last three words showing. The next person took the three words as a starting point for their sentence. We passed it round and round the table. When we read them out, we had poems that, surprisingly, made a little sense and had characters of their own. We took them home to rejig them and make them our own. I picked out only my lines then shuffled them on the page until an idea came. With a little rewriting, a new poem was born.
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