Saturday, December 19, 2009

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

either / or

some fictions about a factual day
some facts about a fictional day

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Saturday, August 15, 2009


Coaches spill dusty daytrippers onto an overcast promenade where they trundle back and forth for a few hours, before climbing aboard again - a strange anoraked tide that only rises in the summer months.

Children run, armed with open arms, towards shingle-speckled young gulls, who lift and rise and scatter from the pebbles, only to settle again, a little further down the beach.

For a few weeks blue and sand is not enough, this simple view obscured by whirling waltzers. The fun fair is back in town. High tide drowned by the sound of Phil Collins.

I text to tell you the whereabouts of me and my sandwich. A yapping gull hovers level with me and my breadcrusts. Do you want that on brown or white bread? she said - considering the depth of speckles on the young gulls, hatched this year or last.

Triangles of varied sizes slide westwards like folded paper yachts pulled by the string of the horizon. And a huge yellow buoy bobs like a drowning sun.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

turning over an old leaf

When I was very young I had a picture book. I can’t remember what it was. Perhaps Beatrix Potter. Something clearly rural. On one page there were some leaves, and on one leaf there was a squiggle of white. And it always bothered me.

I didn’t think it could be a mistake. Surely the people who drew the pictures for the picture books didn’t make mistakes. I believed all adults had learned to draw properly, to stay within the lines.

By then I had learned to draw leaves myself. Although I probably made them all the same shape. Coloured them all the same green, unless the felt-tip ran dry, in which case the tree would seem spoiled.

I probably thought leaves were limited to trees, or either side of the stem of a flower, as if for balance. I didn’t realise that all sorts of growing things choose to wear leaves. Hedges and weeds and even the things we eat.

Probably come autumn the teacher piled the tables with pens of red and yellow and orange and suddenly I didn’t spare a thought for the humble green. But I knew that pale wiggle was peculiar, as I’d never been taught to add that to my drawings.

And then today I look out of my back door and see a leaf, in fact two or more. Right there, hiding under the bush where the sparrows form a disorderly queue for the bird-table. And there is that squiggle, just as I remember it from that forgotten story.

And while I might not have learned to draw better leaves, and might still throw a tantrum if my pen runs dry, I have learned to grow my own leaves, and I recognise the work of a leaf miner when I see it.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

one day at a time

From my notebook, earlier this month -

“I put on sun block today because I decided to actually sit in the sun rather than just flirt with it.

Yesterday felt like a good day. Good to be within that particular Tuesday. A good day to pass through. Do I pass through a day or does a day pass through me? is a human life a digestive system for time?

On a daily basis we bite off chunks and nibbles. We chew. We flavour them with different names - work, rest and play. We spice them up or soothe them through our tubes. And slowly but surely with peristaltic grace they travel through our winding passageways. We suck what we need from them. We drain the life from each scrap and then discard the waste. The husks we have no use for - the leftover seconds, minutes or hours that offered no nutriment.”

And since then I’ve tried to pay closer attention to the particular flavour of each day, noting something special I tasted along the way.

- She said she was woken by the seagulls.

- In my hand, reflected birds pass through the lens of my sunglasses. Moments before they would have flown across my eyes. And I wouldn’t have noticed.

- The man I admired holds a large fish he has caught. Note the past tense.

- Every chimney seems to be sprouting gull chicks.

- The cheapest flowers are also the ones I would choose.

- So many bees. I can still hear the buzzing when none are near.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

gone but not forgotten

A few last words on behalf of the tulips -

*  I thought something had died when I looked out of the window this morning.  Pieces of red strewn this way and that.  Bold stains on shy concrete.  Red enough to make the bricks blush.  Thankfully the victim was only the tulips - given up the ghost for another year, petals thrown to the wind.

*  An evening wind teases fallen tulip petals.  Spins them in ever decreasing circles - their red deepens as the light retreats. 

*  They looked like they should taste of burnt cherry.  They look like they should feel pain.  Unashamed to fall apart so publicly.  I wish we could live like tulips.  Not for long, but vividly, bravely.  I wish I could burn myself into memory and leave bloody fingerprints on your page.

Out with the old, in with the new.  Some plastic wrapped blooms that sit pretty in a vase on a windowsill.  And they too draw me in.  Into their light filled rooms, their hearts bursting with sunshine and serenity.  Delightful, but nothing like their wilder cousins.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

the ghost with the most

Did I abandon my blog? or did it abandon me?  did anyone come in to cut the grass? did it feel lonely?  I didn’t mean to be gone so long.  I followed an interesting looking sentence and it took me further than I expected. 

I’ve been thinking about writing far more than I’ve actually been writing.  Perhaps this is one of the side-effects of The Artists Way which I’ve been working through for the past six weeks. 

It’s like I’m going wild with a cloth, erasing everything previously written on my blackboard.  The air is clouded with chalk dust.  At times I’m choking and I look like a ghost.  But I think it’s making way for a cleaner board, ready to drag that screaming chalk down it again and to see what I’ve got to say for myself.

There are a few things that are taking shape in my notebooks and may appear here soon - a ramble about bravery, and some small stories about strange girls, one who talks to raindrops, one with a red suitcase and a rather odd hairdresser.  

Friday, April 24, 2009

brighter whites

It looks like a small leaf is trapped in the door of the washing machine.  It’s trying to get out, not in.  I can tell by the way it’s pointing, at me, asking to be rescued. 

It’s clear this time she tried to wash a tree.  A little one admittedly, but I’m sure she had use her foot to persuade it in.  She didn’t like the shade of it’s leaves.  It didn’t fit in with the others in her garden.  It wore a demanding shade of green and she doesn’t like to share attention.  She put it on a hot wash with a red sock, hoping to induce autumn.  It didn’t work.  The leaves stayed green until the spin cycle when they promptly dropped off.  She pegged it out to dry while all the other trees giggled behind their leaves at the little winter tree shivering and bare and upended.

Next time she plans to wash a rain cloud.  She swears that with a little effort she’ll get those grey stains out.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

an accident waiting to happen

with photographic thanks to dandelion

the ongoing observations of a tulip watcher -

*  while the crocus work their magic the tulips stay silent.  waiting.  bitter green knots of anticipation.  while the crocus are white and bride-like and virginal, the tulips want it known that they will be red.  they are planning dark deeds, riots and damage and bloodshed in the flowerbeds

*  these tight lipped tulips begin to bleed a little

*  love is discovering I’ve planted her favourite flower, without knowing her favourite flower

*  one day one lazy tulip collapsed over the side of the pot, by the next it found it’s feet again

*  in the bright spring sun the blooms open too far, they embarrass with their similarity to wounds, gaping and raw with a yellow infected centre.  they only show decency when the sun goes in and they draw themselves primly closed

Sunday, March 22, 2009

two's company

Two daffodils in a vase.  One slightly shorter than the other.  Each a little past their best.  Two that have broken away from the crowd - preferring the company of each other and no other.  Two that have sunk their toes into cool water held in good quality glass.  Two friends who grew the same way, inching a little higher every day, facing the sun, never turning away.  Now back to back, silent, speechless.  Not even waltzing in a gentle breeze.  Unable to look each other in the eye - when they used to kiss.  They used to sing.

Monday, March 09, 2009

the skin of my teeth

When I first started writing I used to struggle with sensory detail.  I used to worry that I was somehow rather numb to the world around me.  I was especially un-tactile - forcing myself to stroke brick walls just to get to know them better.  Now I realise that I’m just a rather strange creature who feels more with my lips and tongue and teeth than with my fingers and toes.  As a number of my posts have shown, I’m firmly stuck in the oral phase and proud to be there.


From between my teeth a pip appears.  From a kiwi fruit I ate a little earlier.  I crunch it and it tastes of nothing.  But sounds like the beginning of the end of the world.


She says the browned edges of the Jerusalem artichoke taste like bonfires.  I hadn’t noticed until then, but they do.  And suddenly I’m eating the beginning of November.  I’m devouring piles of censored books.  I’m sucking on cannibal roasted bones, and kissing boys who have spent their evening torching car seats in derelict playgrounds.

haiga #14

Sunday, March 01, 2009

more than words

Annie at Ink Haven recently tagged me.  I don’t usually get involved with these things, but this one seems quite useful.  It asks me to list five things I do to support and spread the love of the written word.  And I do love it.  But sometimes it’s good to examine and reaffirm that love.  And whilst I’m not sure how I exactly support and spread that love, I do butter a slice of what I like and offer others the occasional bite.

Ten years into regular writing and I find I’m still thrilled, excited and indulged daily by the simple pleasure of it.  Choosing words, discarding some, making sentences for sentences sake.  Imagining a path and following it.  Painting word pictures and sending them on postcards to myself.  It costs next to nothing and can fill an entire day, or the time it takes the kettle to boil.

I like to give my words a comfortable home.  I indulge them by buying beautiful notebooks for them to rest in.  This is the delicious tactile side of writing.  Turning smooth and heavy pages, words sliding quietly along feint lines or making their own way across a blank page.  I’m always on the look-out for the next perfect receptacle.  At the moment they are settling into a black Rhodia Webnotebook.  I write with a cheap ballpoint pen that looks like a wasp!  I once wrote a piece for a writing class about a paper addict which was very loosely based on me!

I’m bricking myself in with books.  They fill every available shelf and teeter in piles where piles shouldn’t be.  I read them too.  And I try not to feel guilty about my infidelity to music - which was my first love and used to assume it would be my last.  But those spinning discs of silver no longer lay sole claim to my heart.  Now they have to share me with my paper-spined friends.  I read every day and feel almost seasick if I can’t, and I give gifts of books to my friends whether they want them or have time to read them or not!

I try to appreciate and reciprocate the network of support and encouragement that blogging offers to writers.  Sometimes all this time with pen and paper and the echo of your own words can feel a little isolated.  I’m unlikely to invite a friend around only to say ‘listen to what I’ve written today, what do you think?’.  Bloggers build bridges between desert islands.  I try to post fairly regularly with things that I like and I think my readers might too.  I like to read good blogs and take time to comment thoughtfully (most of the time) on their content and execution.

I’m recently learning to challenge myself - edge closer and at times even dangle over that precipice I’ve stayed back from.  I’ve always been guarded around real-life writing, stammering over the word ‘autobiographical’ - but I’m starting to work on something that seems to feature me.  Or at least me as a bit-part, a walk-on extra.  It’s a little bit scary, but fun too.  I feel like young cress, spindly and pale and flopping about.  I need to toughen up and grow true and head for the light.

Friday, February 20, 2009

rubbing the lamp

It’s feels like I’m taking dictation from life at the moment - a lot of everything and nothing filling my notebook.  A few scraps in the meantime…


She sleeps in a knot.  Come morning she will untangle and stretch and enter another day that will confuse and tie her.  She’s a ribbon, a string, a fraying bootlace.  She sleeps like a boiled sweet - wrapped in a folded sheet, twisted at each end.


Wednesday market stall - mesmerised for a moment by a tumble of colour contained by glass.  Like something from a fairy tale - dreams of genies and potions.  Actually just a heap of cheap nail polish.


She’s like a cat in that new cardigan.  She’s moulting.  Leaving a hairy path behind her.  We know where she’s been and we follow.  The beads clatter around her thin wrists and we think it’s the sound of her bones.

his black heart

The stick man announced his arrival with a tumble of pencils.  In sentences of varying lengths he spat out broken bits of lead and brushed the shavings from his hair.  He danced a merry doodle and hummed the tune of ‘Is There Anybody There?’.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

an anti-valentine

A little something to counter-balance all that love flooding the highstreet today.

This is how my heart was broken

It wasn’t so much stamped on as left underneath a cushion on a battered sofa until someone’s aunt sat down with a loud rude sound.

It wasn’t so much burned as found in the ash-tray the morning after - wearing a coat of grey dust and smelling of spilled beer.

It wasn’t so much smashed as left with a crazed glaze like old china, or a starburst like a bullet through a cartoon window.

It wasn’t so much chewed up and spat out as held beneath the tongue till body warmed and malleable then taken out and stuck beneath the desk for someone to find clinging to their trousers on another day.

It wasn’t so much broken as neglected, abandoned, defaced, deflated, lost.

Friday, February 06, 2009

hate crimes

Her hair offends me the most. To wear it so black and still appear cheerful. Almost a bowl-cut but a bowl-cut from the trendiest bowl. And those glasses that frame her eyes like they are a priceless pair hanging in the Tate Modern. Framed so I’ll notice them, or they’ll notice me.

I know these evil wishes can sprout legs and hurry back to bite me - but for now I’ll bless them and send them on their way, with an address, a map and a deadline.

I hope she spends her days dry and childless. I hope she is widowed young - the wrong side of forty five. I hope one leg develops a drag that sends her round in circles. I hope her hair curls.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

out for the count

It’s hard to get going on some of these cold mornings.  A few warm-up exercises are called for.  And recently I’ve been having fun with the photo prompts provided by Sarah Salway. 


She has unusual tastes, not ones catered for on  How can she explain the boy of her dreams would have legs like chimneys, hair the colour of roof tiles, could only sleep at forty five degrees, and would talk exclusively in smoke signals.  Falling should always feeling like falling.

 * * * 

As each home failed them they moved on, to somewhere smaller and apparently safer.  And each time they took a souvenir.  The door hinges that survived the fire.  The name plaque from their daughters bedroom door, found buried in the flood mud.  The last supporting beam the woodworm chewed through.    

 * * * 

He fell in love with her eyes.  Both of them.  The greenest green of jealousy.  Voodoo.  Leaves.  He dreamed bad dreams whenever she stayed.  And this morning he woke, her gone, no note.  Just a pair of contact lenses on the pillow.  Which he ate, just to recapture her taste.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

a midnight snack

Late one night when no-one was looking I swallowed a hyphen.  The one from the middle of your silly surname.  I felt it scrape the walls of my throat on the way down.  I felt it sink into my stomach, weighing that sack lower in my body.  It was not easy or quick to digest.  I recalled my mother’s warnings about going to bed too soon after certain foods - all talk of things ‘laying on your chest’.  I dreamed of cream and chocolate sauces smearing the bed sheets.

When I woke I’d forgotten my sudden snack.  But in the morning mirror I noticed a dashed black line running down the length of my body, all the way from head to tail.  And when you got up you were no-one I recognised.  Just a someone broken in two.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

fletcher's monkey

I have sticky attention.  It’s like double-sided tape.  I choose something to attach it to but the other side stays peeled and primed and ready to grab any bits of fluff and litter that pass my way.

I enjoyed the novel I just read, but a fleeting detail has stuck to my tape and now I can’t shake it.  A little red monkey drawn onto a lightbulb in a boarding school.  Everywhere I go that monkey is in my mind.  He has nothing to say for himself but still he lingers.

I wonder what keeps him here.  Is it his colour? or the unlikely place he hides? is it that he remained nameless? or that when we meet him he is the only friend of the girl far from home?  or perhaps it’s because he wears a fez?

Either way we are stuck together until my glue dries and he drops off.  And he’s got me wondering what other strangely attired beasts burn on bulbs that hide beneath demure shades.  What other primates flash sixty watt smiles.  He’s got me wanting to slip into other homes and draw snakes and tigers and jellyfish onto the light fixtures of strangers.  I want to know that someone somewhere is turning on a secret hummingbird at sundown.