Arrivals

She keeps her eyes lowered, as she’s been brought up to do. She remembers the strap her father used the time her older sister dared to meet his eye during a conversation on marriage.

She longs for her sister now; for her reliable presence beside her; for the familiarity of another woman wearing layers of hand-sewn clothing and headscarf.

Women, even young girls, race past in their summer clothing. Bare ankles and sleeveless tops revealing alabaster shoulders. She wonders at how they do not feel the cold of this place. She hears strange words emitting from the railway tannoy; she understands very little of what the words are saying. She feels the sharp intake of breath of the young man beside her, in his best suit, a tiny suitcase in one hand, eyes roaming the station platform for a glimpse of his uncle, who is to meet them here.

They are still shy around one another. She certainly has not yet met his gaze, nor he hers. She remembers his eyes looked kind when she saw them in the photograph her parents gave to her. They told her of his plans to cross the ocean, to come to England, where a job in his uncle’s business waited. A prosperous future.

She remembers her parents phrasing the question of marriage to this young man as though there was a choice for her to make. She remembers there was no real choice.

As she stands, eyes lowered in sockets edged in thick kohl eyeliner, she has no way of knowing that she will come to respect and, yes, even love the man beside her, whose white socks she notices peek from below his trousers. She doesn’t yet know that she will come to learn every contour of his body. Couldn’t imagine at this point, four days into their marriage at the age of seventeen, when she hasn’t yet had time to dream what she might become, that she will someday delight at this man’s touch.

That she will be blessed with three healthy children, all of whom they will struggle to put through university, enabling them, at least, to have their dreams met.

But today, here on this cold and damp platform, she could happily swap places with the bearded man a little way off, who shakes a polystyrene cup of loose change in their direction.

Previously published on Spelk Fiction:  https://spelkfiction.com

 

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101 Words

Hey,

Just a quick plug to a lil’ teeny, tiny micro story I have up at 101words website today!

If you fancy letting a bit of flash into your life, please follow the link below…

https://101words.org/crusts/#comment-23772

…or better still, have a go at writing a short, short story in exactly 101 words! It’s harder than it sounds… : )

 

 

Morning Pages

I know lots of writers and creative types advocate the idea of ‘Morning Pages’, (first introduced by Julia Cameron in The Artists’ Way).  The idea is to write three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, first thing in the morning.

I have tried the writing practise of morning pages several times over the years, without success.  My initial objection was to the ‘first thing in the morning’ part…waking up and drinking coffee is about my limit, and I just couldn’t imagine writing anything first thing.

But I have returned to it over the years, trying again and again.  I suppose it’s like any ideas put forward by writers and teachers of writing: some will work for you and some will be disregarded.

Cameron’s idea, I think, is that you can write anything on your mind, to clear out the detritus from sleep, dreams, worries and concerns.  To clean out your head before settling down to the proper writing or creating later in the day.

Modern proponents of this have said they use these pages to write anything that comes to mind, including to-do lists, shopping lists, whatever.  But this doesn’t seem to me to spark any sort of creativity.  Considering whether I need to buy bread and milk that day seems inconsequential to my writing aims.

I suppose it’s a similar idea to that of Natalie Goldberg’s, author of Writing Down the Bones and Wild Mind, among other books on creativity.  She talks about ‘keeping the hand moving’, setting a timer for ten minutes and just writing.  Even if, she says, simply writing ‘I don’t know what to write’, or starting with the same statements over and over again, for example, ‘I remember…’

Goldberg’s ideas have been the ones I turn to most often, sitting and free writing in a notebook, dribbling on the page, perhaps focusing on one of her suggested starters, or just describing the colour of the sky, for example.  This, I have found, has often led to a memory or idea for a story, blog post, or something I want to research further.  Just as often, it has resulted in nothing.  Just the scrawls on the formerly blank page of my notebook.

I know there is a strong school of thought that insists that to be a successful writer, you must sit and write every day.  Again, I can see the positives in this, but equally, sometimes I just don’t want to write.  If I sat down at those times and forced myself, I think I would feel more frustrated than anything else.

I think that all this shows is that there is more than one way to write, or create, anything.  It can be useful to read books about writing, but also, it can sometimes cloud our own ideas and make us feel that we ‘aren’t doing it right’.

Whether it works for you to write every day, or binge write; write when you feel inspired, or force yourself to sit at your desk for ten minutes a day; free writing, structured practise, word clouds, mind-maps…just doing it your own way is the way to practise.

Just writing at all is moving forward.

 

My Name Is

It started with her name.

She gave it up quite willingly; exchanged her father’s for her lover’s at the altar.  Standing there in an ivory dress and her grandmother’s pearls, she had felt a tiny snap as a bit of her broke off, but nobody else seemed to notice.

She carried on much as before, though each time she was called by the foreign, impostor name – at doctor’s appointments and such – she felt a little bit more go.  Each time she was referred to as ‘Simon’s Wife,’ she heard the snap; felt a little less.

Just a tiny freckle, or a finger nail, not enough for anyone to notice.

With each child she birthed – three in total – she felt a little bit more slip away.  She was beginning to notice the gaps now, the lack of an earlobe; the loss of a tooth.  Each time she was referred to as ‘Matthew’s Mum,’ more flesh shriveled.  She kept looking around her to check if anyone else had noticed, but nobody seemed to.

Some days, in the fog of packed lunches and dirty football kits, she struggled to recall her own name – so long it had been since anyone had used it.

And yet, it was such a pretty name, if anyone cared enough to remember it.

Even her husband, grown grey at the temples and stressed around the eye sockets, didn’t use it often.  In company, she was dear, or darling, or simply: she.

In bed, he favoured other names – or none at all.  She would have liked him to use her name then – especially then – to whisper it as he had before, back when she was a whole person.  A full, energetic, sensual woman with a name and a job title and a purpose.

Now she had other names too big to fill: Mother; Wife; Homemaker.  She felt she had lost her own identity, had become a cardboard cut-out of a person; invisible.

It was with mounting horror that she looked into the hall mirror one hot Sunday afternoon in June to see a gap down her right side, where her arm had been.  Her short-sleeved top just hung, the sleeve pointing out away from her shoulder.  A rounded shoulder blade stump poked out of it, like the nose of a cartoon dog.

She walked out into the garden and poured from the jug of homemade lemonade, awkwardly, using her weaker left arm.  She glanced around the table, but none of them appeared to notice the missing limb.

Matthew played Tetris on his tablet; Sophie texted, fingers furiously tapping the keys of her mobile.  Tim, the youngest, grumbled that he had not been picked for the football team.  Her husband read the sports page of the newspaper.

Simon…she started, unsure where to end.  He glanced up from the paper, slight irritation etched across his face.  Do you notice anything different – about me, I mean?

He flicked empty eyes down and back up so quickly she hardly saw them move.  A tiny smile, indulgent, the way he looked at the children when they gave him a homemade birthday card.

New top – very nice, he said, returning to the football results.

She excused herself to get more lemonade.  Nobody thanked her.

As she walked through the warm house to the kitchen, her left foot faded out and she imagined she felt a tiny piece of her heart disintegrate inside her chest.

First Published in SickLit Magazine – https://sicklitmagazine.com/

 

 

Two Roads

I’ve been pulled in two directions lately.

Decisions – they’re often not easy to make, are they?  The thing I’ve found about them though is this: once you actually make them, the rest just often falls into place.  It’s the hesitation over making them that often causes the problem.

Example: I’ve spoken here before about my need for simplicity, for reducing pressures and complications, following a more simplistic and clutter free (both physically and mentally) existence, opting for a more minimalistic approach to life.

So, a couple of weeks ago, I suggested an innovative solution to my family’s constant shortage of funds at the end of the month: why not downsize our house to something smaller, more self-contained and modern so it needs less heating and utilities, and start living better and freer?  This was something we’d contemplated in ten years time or so, when both our daughter’s were self-sufficient.

But when I suggested it, almost thinking it would probably be a stupid idea at this stage, with one daughter at university and one just about to start secondary school, I noticed a visual and emotional lifting of stress from our shoulders.  Just thinking that we could have a tiny mortgage, and be actually mortgage free in a few years, as well as save money on bills and running a lovely old, but terribly cold and inefficient, house was invigorating.

We’ve been seen as impetuous before.  We often don’t wait for the dust to settle on an idea before jumping straight in.

The house was on the market within the week and we’d seen something smaller and in a great location that was much cheaper than our own property.  Two weeks in, and we were in the middle of a bidding situation on our property, escalating the offers to a sum we hadn’t thought of, meaning my crazy suggestion a couple of week’s ago was becoming a reality.

Home.  It’s an interesting word.  I’ve been examining the idea of it over the past two weeks.  I could see the looks on other people’s faces when I told them of our plans: a mixture between incomprehension and almost envy at our nerve.  I can see their confusion, I’ve gone through it myself.  Because this old house we’ve called home for over ten years is part of who we are as a family.  Our 11 year old took her first steps here; our 18 year old studied for her A levels at this scratched dining table.  We’ve celebrated the joys and woes of our lives over thousands of family dinners, Christmas celebrations, games of Monopoly.

But then I started to wonder if ‘home’ was ever intended to be a place at all.  The things we’ve done in this house have created special memories, but it is us who create those memories.  Often, we hold onto things – whether mementos, people, relationships, houses – because they are familiar, safe; they hold the memories of who we’ve been or where we’ve been.  But if we can persuade ourselves to look beyond them, perhaps we can create new memories and experiences.

If we chose to stay in this house, I’m sure we’d be okay.  We’d have more joys and woes, celebrate more Christmases and personal victories.  But what if we make this leap into the unknown?  What adventures might we get taking that road?

Only time will tell.

 

Meaningful Creation

I am an avid Podcast listener.  It’s a new fad of mine; I love listening to other writer’s talking about their creations and simple lifestyle type Podcasts.

One that recently struck a chord with me was about the ‘Meaningful’ creation of writing.  The host was talking about how we all get so bogged down with the need to create shareable content – whether on a blog, social media, or for publication – that we often overlook the fact that writing, or creating in any medium, for its own sake, is meaningful in itself.

I mused on this a while.  I haven’t been creating as much new writing lately as I’d like, and although I’ve been doing bits here and there, I was feeling a little concerned that I hadn’t had any new work published in a little while.  But reconfiguring my thoughts around this idea, the idea of writing just because, flipped things a little bit for me.

I thought back to when I was younger.  I just wrote and created for the sake of it, because it was fun and an outlet for me.  Then, later, I wrote in a journal, little bits and pieces, until I finally started sending out work.  At those points, I just wanted to get a piece of writing published at some point; for people to read it and enjoy it, if possible.  I never thought about social media shares or likes, or seeing my name on the internet.

Fast forward, and lots of published pieces later, I can often feel disappointment if something I wrote hasn’t been as well received (in my own judgement) as I’d hoped.  This  has the knock-on effect of squashing any creative flow I might have had in the first place.

From now on, I’m trying my best to remember this.  I’m trying to think of what that young girl I once was would have said about having writing published, of how unbelievable that would have seemed to her back then.

I’m trying to remember that the act of creating in itself is meaningful.