Posts Tagged ‘creative writing’

“I have never understood this about parenthood,” he was saying.
She knew the signs, the worn, ragged expression on his young face, the pitch of the voice, thin and insistent, forcing itself beyond its strength. “This need to identify with them, like… like trying to open up some psychic doorway. Become them….” And them mumbling unformed thoughts he cannot quite reach:
“Sink into a general identity.”

She had learned patience; as though that was her doorway to him, them, the world.

“It’s always been my…” struggling for words they both know will not come, “ I’ve spent so much of my life trying to demystify them. Mum. Dad. See them as people. And it’s such a disappointment. Their petty squabbling all my life. Their insistence on hurt. And, you know, sometimes, Sometimes… Maybe I should have left alone. Which is the most disappointing, them, or finding them as that?”

She looked at him again, guarding her expression. “I have to go. You know that.”

“God yes.” He jumped, “The traffick’ll be murder. Do be careful… out there.” Lame smile, the Hill Street Blues thing. Shared things; nothings, things they have somehow given such a value to.

“Look, you get off. And I’ll get the shopping so you can come straight home, and no…”

“Bye, love.”

*

She sat, hands between her knees, all tight, staring at her empty cappuccino. Sammy waited. Something was coming. She caught a yawn peeping out behind her waiting.

“I… ah. Do you think Dave is ok?”

“Ok?”

“I… ah… Twice now… I’ve…  heard him in the shower. Crying.”

“What? Really crying?”

“Kind of quietly. You know… well, it reminded me of a child. In bed, alone at night.”

“God, Lil., that sounds so sad.”

“I know, I know, I…”

“Has he said anything? Have you…?”

“I tried to. That last time. I met him, you know accidently on purpose, coming out of the shower…”

“And?”

“It was the look on his face. I couldn’t read it. I thought a bit of resentment, blame, but it was washed away by something…. I couldn’t, after that. Maybe it’s a man thing!”

“They’re not that different from us.”

“You’d never have said that one time!”

“Ah, well.”

“Look. I know this is going to sound weird. Bad. But…”

“Lil! I don’t know what I can say!”

“Look, I’ve worked it out: we go for a drink, after. Then I make an excuse…”

“Lil!”

“It’s me taking the risks here. With your histories.”

“How do you know Tony won’t want to come too?”

“Because. Because if he did the state he’s in at the mo., one drink’d knock him sideways. He knows that, and I know that.”

*

“Well, Dave, I’ll have to be getting back too.”

“Oh, Sammy, Sammy. I’m getting old, Sammy. Can you imagine! Only, what, five years between us. Feels like a life-time.”

“You’re only…”

“I’m losing my hair, Sammy. Big time. The plug-hole…”

“It could be anything, change of season. Even alopaecia.”

“Not only that, though, is it. Everything droops. I’ve shrunk horribly where it matters, and everything else just hangs.”

“You’re just out of tone.”

“You and me, we had good times. Those evenings in Durham. Romantic evenings. Lovely romantic evenings”

“You certainly have a long memory, Dave.”

“Come on, you must remember that hotel, those nights.”

“It was draughty, the furniture was dusty; fingermarks…”

“Don’t spoil it, Sammy!”

“Well, who had to clean up, afterwards?”

“But they were perfect. Admit it, weren’t they!”

“You have really no idea, do you Dave! What’s so romantic about ending up douching in a grimy bathroom. While you slept the sleep of the dead!”

“Sammy, don’t be… that’s…”

“That’s how it was, Dave. That’s really how it was.”

“I don’t know why you have to be so viscous. Don’t you understand what I’m saying? I can’t even do it anymore! She never comes near me, anyway. What have I got to raise a flag for.”

“And so you’re going to dribble into your drink for the rest of your life. Give it a rest, Dave.”

“So, and what’s your Tony got that I haven’t? From what I hear…”

“Ok, Dave. You’re on your own. Bye. Oh, and, don’t forget to give Lil my best wishes.”

*

Sometimes I catch myself hoping the car won’t start. I’d sit back, at my desk. A good hour before the cleaners come in. Fresh coffee; feet up. Cars chugging and honking five stories below. The quiet it makes.

Just so very sad to see him ill. Five years now. Improving. But now he knows that’s five years lost. Better, maybe, if he knew nothing about them; so hard to realise… We all live in out heads most of the time. So when something comes and… zonks you like that: nothing to remember when memory is our big resource.

 

My niece is doing Criminology; second year, now. God, I’d love to have done something like that. Options on our ACAS forms were post-war rationing.

Kids get all the best deals.

 

 

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As black-on-black of stellar crows
chase by eyrie earth,
they leave it reeling.
Their monstrous battles
are star deaths, sunbursts.

When they mate times tense,
pressured;
the incubation of the egg
our doldrums.
The hatching
moves time on a notch.

Feeding the newborn,
our periods of acquisition;
when the fledgling flies
we feel its wrench, absence
like the loss of a god.

There is no knowing
they will ever fly here again.

BRUTALISM

Posted: June 10, 2018 in Chat
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He walked out of there into a mechanical world. It should have been a new world, the old world new again. But it was a mechanical world.

The hearing aids were the new part; they were calibrated to the loss of the higher frequencies, and so upped the treble for him. The simple laws of materials and their resonances meant those upper frequencies had the tinny sound of some ipod ear pieces.

He walked out of there expecting to hear the world as he had known it; it was not that world. What he heard was a mechanised version: a bird flew by, flapping its wings for take-off and height-gain. There was instant visual and environmental recognition, here was an urban pigeon entering onto a length of flight, the road to the next junction, maybe. It was too built-up for wood pigeons, though they had the same flapping-slap of flight. But this time it sounded like a rustling newspaper, a large broadsheet. This was not that familiar sound to vision connect he knew so well.

His cotton trousers brushed soft cotton socks; it was a rasping sound. That was wrong. He was so intent on this hearing phenomena, these anomalies, the car just missed him. The slightly off-centre focus of his hearing, a little further to the back of his head, skewed his balance; he felt he was lurching around. By the side of a road this was not good.

He came to that junction in the road and turned, off the curb again, on then off.

‘Did you see that fool, then?’

‘Drink. Or drugs.’

‘Shouldn’t be out.’

‘What a tosser.’

He walked away quickly. This is what he got the aids for, to hear conversations again. But this…. All those times outside of conversations, anything not one-to-one, anything with background music, or just sounds blanking out all finer sounds…. And this is what he needed them for? To hear this kind of thing? Everything has its plus, and its minus.

He was in the shopping precinct now; all around were conversations. He was no longer shut out, separated by a blurred barrier of sound, now he could hear. And what did he hear? Conversation as social glue, as recognition codes among women, and among men; the youths uttered a kind of blank-faced vowel-heavy monosyllabic talk. Back with their girlfriends they were animated and fully vocal again. This was bonding, rather than intercourse: all had come outdoors to re-register themselves as social beings of a certain type, place, age, social level.

That hiss. What was it? It was the hair over his ears, the ear pieces. Whenever his ears moved, and it was surprising how often, or his scalp moved – that too – whenever all the continual physiological responses of his head occurred it gave a hissing sound, like a simmering. It should be a lower sound, a rustle of hair on plastic, on packed plastic, not hollow; but a rustle.

It was then he began to notice the changes in the new sounds, a mismatch of known sound from recognised stimuli, and this altered sound. His sense of balance, ok, that was expected and explainable: his mind listened to these new sounds despite himself. His mind was so taken up with this that it left his vision to fend for itself. And so, that object glimpsed for a second, and which he had glimpsed so many times and knew to be a faded flower head over his high garden wall, now gave him a sudden alert.

He was home, and brushing up the soil he had just walked in with a hand brush. What was that? A crow cawing somewhere close. It was his shirt brushing the flock wall paper as he moved. Nothing was matching with anything else. His mind supplied the correct explanations, but the cause was not the right one. Although vision was always king, sound was the council of ministers, the underlying sense and explanation to everything seen.

Now every sound had borders again. Things you are not aware of, things taken for granted, things slowly accustomed to, building up, accumulating, as your own sense of self grows. And now how very untidy this house – everything overspilling. My god, he thought, Where’ve I been?

The week was taken up with tidying, only, the clarity was like a razor. He became ruthless; everything went. His comfortable apartment became… stark, sharp edged, with high-lumin light bulbs that gave no mercy.

A part of him found he could not stay indoors longer than needed. He interpreted this as being focused, energized. This mismatch set up a sense of restless energy that frequently tipped into acts of anger, sudden bursts, that made no sense to him. He’d leave whoever he had hurt, and walk away amazed at himself, appalled at himself, and thrilled.

He searched out the cleaner parts of the city. The Business sectors? No; vacant buildings accumulated there, closed-downs. It became a tumbleweed centre. No, the places he gravitated to were the financial sectors. Behind their black windows they generated as much energy as they had before. This time, they did it clandestinely. Their offices were… sharp-edged, minimalist, with high-lumin light bulbs. This was his new home.

But even there, a part of him shrank away from full commitment.

The straight abrupt angles of the building in front of him was the promotion of common sense and business confidence, of four-square achievement; solid, dependable. This was the crown of the great city.

Now, however, it and many of the ones in this style, especially in close proximity like this, their own financial sector, now radiated to all an overbearing feeling of dullness, of deadness of spirit and enterprise. They had come represent the hubris and failure of an economic system that was flawed at heart.

His hearing was now like that; it dictated to sight a different, diminished repertoire of sounds to meaning.

CATWALK

Posted: March 25, 2018 in Chat
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Pink black slouch and lounge;
retro’s specific to the twenty year limit’s
periphery of reference.
Silk and rustic; heraldic, synthetic
admixtures of wool, Kashmir, satin.
Alice-blue gingham, with crinolines:
white is still pure, romantic,
without sins.

The sound track guitar on overdrive
distorts its chords to a programmed pulse;
and even if the music is a love song it is
tuned to a sulphate beat: dance, cruise, music
for the catwalk; lizard-like; ambient.

Panelled and fish-tailed dusty grey; a train
of gauze, lampshade head-dress;
kaftan and puckered waistcoat, djbella,
patterned with satin, sheer. Sateen
 swimsuit under high head-dress and train:
colour transforms to shape, shape to colour.

To look cool, even though the room is rising,
keen, though the style is low, look
catwalk-kitsch in full face-mask,
in Edwardian layers, as the room spins hotter.

The beat is an astrakhan flashbulb pulse,
the keyboard an embroidered burnt umber,
and that guitar again, perspex, translucent;
the singer’s voice a textile acid yellow.

A sampler tape labeled Sex Sounds – Normal.
Design after design; a model turns,
throws a red carnation to the camera.
We all applaud; we are all the show.

 

It being Sunday, the character of the gift of this day is still to be found at the bottom-back of its drawer in this house.

Should I therefore dedicate this state of mind, of this momentary loss of angst, to that delayed discovery?  I am reminded of that couple’s shock and wonder at finding her father’s  fob-watch long kept and pristine in its packing, to be worth many thousands of pounds because of the uniqueness of the mechanism: a real tic-toc movement, and not just the regular toc-toc of most of our days.
Their Sunday was a full movement, and expansive, whilst the regular was a shot-off, half-hearted regularity that proves the normality. Their characteristic gift was the uniqueness that was the real and the rule that all else fell against in a mouthy clatter. I was happy to see them, their surprise was genuine, there was no stain of deserving in their expressions, it ran through them like unused mill water, as open to the sky as their faces to the switching emotions started up by the antiques expert’s pronouncement.

As open to the sky, nothing hidden away, but also not kept in oneself – running clear as language expressing itself fully for once, rather than the wasted, tragic form of one’s usual self-expression. Hmm. Something comes clear after long, long months of rustling through the drawers and cupboards of oneself: strange to find within oneself a kernel, an object of outsideness, almost a door… a fissure?… no, but more of a technique, a quality, of the outside.

On waking… is maybe the best of times, the day’s long building-up, re-building from sudden ruins, the affirmations of a self not yet underway, defences down, and all the regular little tropes of selfishness not yet active: don’t think, and so activate them all. Rattle around emptily inside one’s head before it stalls, gets in gear its sense of self – and open to a surprising adventure, tending the modes of thought and memory like young, vulnerable plants – young lettuce, in their beds? No, I can take anything but not that – lying idle there outside the narrow frame of one’s daily … a billiard’s game: earnestly try to pocket those balls that are aims, or thoughts, or hopes, down their appropriate holes of achievement, but constantly having your elbow nudged when lined-up for shooting. And by the other-self that cannot allow achievement, that dark one so coloured with doubts and sulks and glooms, and little else of any worth. The task therefore is to turn these around: the pattern says to turn them inside out: positive those negatives….

This day’s little hidden gift pays homage to patterns, but still runs around wiily-nilly as though sufficient such running could make one pay little heed to the constructions of one’s activities.

And which is best, of most value? The gift itself… or the packaging?

It being Sunday, the character of the gift of this day is still to be found at the bottom-back of its drawer in this house.

Should I therefore dedicate this state of mind, of this momentary loss of angst, to that delayed discovery?  I am reminded of that couple’s shock and wonder at finding her father’s  fob-watch long kept and pristine in its packing, to be worth many thousands of pounds because of the uniqueness of the mechanism: a real tic-toc movement, and not just the regular toc-toc of most of our days.
Their Sunday was a full movement, and expansive, whilst the regular was a shot-off, half-hearted regularity that proves the normality. Their characteristic gift was the uniqueness that was the real and the rule that all else fell against in a mouthy clatter. I was happy to see them, their surprise was genuine, there was no stain of deserving in their expressions, it ran through them like unused mill water, as open to the sky as their faces to the switching emotions started up by the antiques expert’s pronouncement.

As open to the sky, nothing hidden away, but also not kept in oneself – running clear as language expressing itself fully for once, rather than the wasted, tragic form of one’s usual self-expression. Hmm. Something comes clear after long, long months of rustling through the drawers and cupboards of oneself: strange to find within oneself a kernel, an object of outsideness, almost a door… a fissure?… no, but more of a technique, a quality, of the outside.

On waking… is maybe the best of times, the day’s long building-up, re-building from sudden ruins, the affirmations of a self not yet underway, defences down, and all the regular little tropes of selfishness not yet active: don’t think, and so activate them all. Rattle around emptily inside one’s head before it stalls, gets in gear its sense of self – and open to a surprising adventure, tending the modes of thought and memory like young, vulnerable plants -young lettuce, in their beds? No, I can take anything but not that – lying idle there outside the narrow frame of one’s daily … a billiard’s game: earnestly try to pocket those balls that are aims, or thoughts, or hopes, down their appropriate holes of achievement, but constantly having your elbow nudged when lined-up for shooting. And by the other-self that cannot allow achievement, that dark one so coloured with doubts and sulks and glooms, and little else of any worth. The task therefore is to turn these around: the pattern says to turn them inside out: positive those negatives….

This day’s little hidden gift pays homage to patterns, but still runs around wiily-nilly as though sufficient such running could make one pay little heed to the constructions of one’s activities.

And which is best, of most value? The gift itself… or the packaging?

Harold Nicholson (1886-1968), in his Chichele Lectures, Oxford University, 1953, and published as The Evolution of Diplomatic Method, Constable, 1953, repeated several anecdotes from his earlier book, The Congress of Vienna, 1812-22: A Study in Allied Unity. Constable, 1948.

The anecdotes are all about the fights for precedence and position among ambassadors.

He writes, to begin with:
In 1504 Pope Julius II had composed a table of precedence, under which the (Holy Roman) Emperor (Maximilian I) came first, the King of France second, the King of Spain third, and so on down to the smaller dukes, despots and princes. Under this table the King of England came seventh on the list, after the King of Portugal, but just in front of the King of Sicily….

This would be the last years of England’s Henry VII.
How different perspectives give completely different evaluations! On what did Pope Julius II base his table?
Contemporary England certainly seems determined to get back down here.

The real juicy quotes are as follows:
Ungainly incidents were always occurring, one of the most notorious of which took place in London in 1661, when the coach of the Spanish ambassador tried to push in front of that of the French ambassador, a battle occurred with loss of life among the footmen and postilions, diplomatic relations were severed between Paris and Madrid and a very real danger of war arose.

All in one breathless sentence, note!

He gives a further, hilarious, example:
As late as 1768, at a Court Ball in London, the French Ambassador, observing that the Russian Ambassador had established himself in front seat next to the Austrian Ambassador, climbed round over the back benches and inserted himself physically between them. This led to a duel at which the Russian Ambassador was severely wounded

Interesting to note that the second anecdote is a direct follow-on from the first, and yet the term ‘ambassador’ has been capitalised/upper-capped in the second. Copy-editor, anyone?

And we thought we had seen it all!
President Trumps’ barging the Montenegro President out of the way, for his celeb photo-shoot is peanuts next to this.

 

Harold Nicholson was the husband of Vita Sackville-West, based at Sissinghust, Kent. He was a knighted as Sir Harold for his diplomatic duties. At one point he was First Secretary to the League of Nations. He became a Labour MP after resigning from the Diplomatic Corps.
His was a ‘colourful’ life.