So. Apologies for my long absence.
I had a week’s internet outage, courtesy of Virgin Media; Stanley had a health scare (that warranted a worrisome short time in hospital, he’s better now); and then I (not to be outdone of course) had one too – that will go on much longer and probably not be sorted for months. (I win, she says glumly.) I’ll no doubt bother you all with this latest health scare sooner rather than later; but not now. Not today. Today I am catching up on my lackage of posts this month.
Today, here are some more writing exercises. It’s my favourite, my literal favourite, and you’ve read me do these ones before. Just pick a load of random words – concepts, things, emotions, whatever. Write your list, and then image away. Just see what comes to mind. A scene, a feeling, a speech, a tiny flash fiction – you get it. And then, if I like any of them, I can use them later, incorporate them into something else. Or re-write them. Etc. So here are some. Little flashes of nowt in particular.
More postage in a minute…
…often cursed her dead mother. A consequence of living with lots of old Catholic women, was that Mary was often compared unfavourably to the Blessed Virgin. Mary was neither dressed in a pale blue robe, meek, nor blonde. She had dark curly hair that she kept cut short, and she felt angry a lot of the time. She held her head up and looked people in the eye, always. She wore black as it felt like limitless space and possibility to her. She never felt meek.
I carry my sorrow with me, as a stone in my pocket. Some days it swells and I have to get it out and hold it in my hands, to stop it tearing my clothes and making me fall over. Looking at it magnifies it, but also makes it manageable. Some days, like today, it is but a small piece of gravel in my shoe somewhere, I can barely feel it.
…is the blue sky overlaid with a heavy lace of clouds, and green leaves shaking and straining against the branches of the cherry tree. Caught by wind, caught by nature, caught here on earth but waving at the sky. All possibility is within those things: all possibility here and now and always, all at once. Joy stretches through me and runs light like a cat, quick through my garden, heavy as a bee dusted with pollen, drunk and greedy.
…as the walls of her last bedroom: a sky blue, a stretch out forever blue. The whole room looked much bigger, the bed a white clean plumped up haven on a sea of calm.
Amanda knew her mum would love the Royal Wedding mug, even as she ‘tsked’ at the £9 Waitrose was charging for it. At least it said ‘Kate and William’ and not ‘Kate and Wills’ – which would have made it sound like a marriage between a human and a dog. It was an ugly mug though – strange toby jug style with a flat disc at the bottom to stop it falling over, and a large lip around the top. An over stylised handle. Lots of beige, and badly transferred gold leaf. Still. Her mum would love it.
When she saw it in the charity shop, she knew it was the kind of skirt that provoked dreams of another life. Chiffon, deep dark red, and cut A-line on the bias – it would swirl, demanding dancing. She stopped, ignoring the rain, ignoring Ben in his buggy craning round crossly and starting to yell, as she stared at it and calculated the damage if she bought it (approximately one nights dinner for herself). She allowed herself a vision of dancing at a fairytale ball – something Viennese, echoes of the seventeenth century, Robin dancing with her, his hands heavy round her waist and shoulder. He would look into her eyes (while wearing his own brilliant flouncy shirt), and she would feel a click of completion. She escaped the rain, and went into the shop.
(Four months later, the skirt lay in her wardrobe, with some others. She hadn’t been quite able to do up the zip and didn’t want to break it trying. She was telling herself she was dieting into it; whilst sitting downstairs and eating her daily bar of Dairy Milk.)
When she had heard the story of Cinderella, she had thought that if a girl was to wear a glass slipper it would turn her to glass. Why would it not? A perfect shoe, unmoving, ungiving, no humanity could wear that – so to slip in your foot (which would try so hard to spread a little, to find comfort), would of course turn you into a glass person. It was the only explanation. Otherwise the glass slipper made no sense. Penny liked things to make sense, and modified the story each time she heard it. Of course, this meant that she changed the story entirely from the moment Cinderella got dressed.
…worried that if he didn’t start writing soon, he would just die and that would be that. It was bad enough to have imaginary conversations with one’s biographer one’s whole life (and now be 70), without having achieved a single biography worthy action or consequence. But to simply die and still have achieved nothing? He coughed again, feeling the gurgling phlegm rising again. He went to the toilet to spit. Chromic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease wasn’t anything romantic like typhoid (no La Boheme here), but it was still a slow death sentence to an unfit man of his age who had also had 2 previous heart attacks. He sat again at his desk. His fingers waited over the keyboard. He thought about bravery, and time.
…was the worst day of the week. Monday had a horrible inevitability about it. Tuesday meant Monday was over, there was almost a lightness to it. Thursday meant the end was in sight, Friday just had to be endured, though with small pockets of joy. The weekend was when life got actually lived. Wednesday was adrift in the middle – Wednesday really was work. Wednesday was a long day.
A car was what you did when you didn’t have a horse, Carly thought, with joy. She sped along the field, feeling the amazing sense of Kelt beneath her, an engine, a breathing passionate welding to herself. She felt the wind in her hair, felt the clods of earth torn loose by his hooves spray out. In the corner of her eye, between gasped breaths, she saw cars slide smoothly along the A-road. They had carved a path, they had their straight lines. But Kelt: he could practically fly.
In the morning, after the honey cheerios, came the one and only thing that would weld her to the day: coffee. A plain and cheap instant coffee, made interesting (and palatable) by 3 teaspoons of diet hot chocolate. She held it to her face, cupping the mug with both hands, to feel its warmth and energy. She smelled its curling sweetness. Then drank it down in 3 or so mouthfuls, ingesting it like the drug it was.
Newspapers were things that annoyed her on the tube. Broadsheets spread and flipped in her face by self important men with no sense of space. They were also responsible for a lot of worry and angst under the guise of education. Phoebe opened her novel and felt superior. I might be reading fiction, she thought, but I’m not being depressed by it; I’m being inspired. She lowered her head and surrendered her consciousness to the story, blissful.
It was her first garden, and she almost didn’t want to touch it or do anything with or to it. It grew and grew – brambles in the hedge, the hedge sprouting messy tall shoots, and bumping out at the sides, like a fat man with a huge beard. The lawn became a meadow with a random self seeded sycamore shooting out from the top left hand side. She watched the grass wave and shy in the wind, hypnotised. Then David mowed it and all at once it was tidy and that was amazing too. The mad borage and comfrey infestations fought with strong stemmed thistles and giant poppy plants all around the edges; but the lawn was stripy and calm.
The rosebuds were all neat children compared to their overblown and floppy mothers: red and curling outward so much their scarlet petals dripped one by one to the ground. So open they fell apart.
Upstairs in the old Law Library in Senate House, Anne looked out over everyone. She sat, with a comforting tower of books barring her from the stranger at the next table, and watched the studious below. Heads bent over their books, highlighters and orderly pages stapled together. She returned herself to her own work, seeing a similar collection of highlighted notes, tidily pinned together. I belong here, I work too, she thought. A soft smile warmed her, her bent head shielded by hair. Alone in a collective hush of learning.
Seeing someone look at you, and knowing that if you turn up your mouth and let your feelings of joy at seeing them flow to your eyes, you will see it mirrored back to you: this is one form of love.
The idea of a frozen landscape, a captured white. Steps cracking and crunching a path through silent trees holding still with cold. Seeing far into the forest and confusing the horizon for the ground. The idea was to come here for quiet, for isolation. With a puff of vapoured breath on the air, you realize with a chill: there is no one here but me.