NANOWRIMO day 13/14/15 A bible circa 1756, with a blue leather binding somewhat foxed.


The problem, she realises, some years later, was the uniform of studied non conformity that everyone wore.
All the boys dressed in ancient suits, hairy tweed jackets, unpartnered trousers, legs taken in so that the DMs at the bottom seemed even larger, even heavier.
Everyone, boys and girls wore old cardigans, collarless white linen shirts, old men hats and in the case of the more eagle eyed girls, tea dresses and cocktail gowns, worn defiantly with big boots and too much eyeliner.

She assumed that he, like all the others scavenged for clothes at jumble sales, charity shops and those strange old fashioned men’s clothes shops that only seemed to exist in medium sized northern towns.

Of course now, she knows that his clothes were simply picked up from the boots cupboard or from one of the many un-emptied wardrobes in unused rooms. His tweed hunting jacket was in fact his hunting jacket, still carrying the musky, dusty aroma of horses and sweat and dried mud. It seemed to fit better than many of the other boys,but she put this down to luck or being a very standard size or simply looking good in tweed.

He never mentioned anything about his home, but then again they were all in the business of re-invention, emerging, slightly grubby butterflies from the chrysalis of suburbia.
Names were changed, an art school nickname often following them into adulthood and even late Middle age, spellings altered, the use of I’s and E’s in place of their old pedestrian identities.

What mattered was the work, oh and the sex and the beer, girls like her working hard to develop a taste or at least tolerance for half pints of Adnams Ale, sipped slowly to make it last, and of course the gossip….who’s doing who, whose work is derivative, who got drunk and so on and so on.
In a college where the land ends and there is only sky and sea and quietly suspicious locals, gossip and beer and the work is what keeps them going, that and huge pots of lentil curry and tuna bake and tea brewed in brown pots and drunk with the obligatory roll up or for those who need to try a little harder, french cigarettes in soft crumpled packs.

The mingled smell of tobacco and Patouchli and slightly damp wool are the scents of her late teenage, early adulthood. A potpourri no one ever smells any more, but she know that if she did she would transported back, immediately, to that time and place.

Their relationship starts in the same understated way that so many others did, a gentle curve from being a bit drunk or a bit stoned, a casual night or two together and then more nights, the borrowing of a shirt, a toothbrush, moving onto the casually draped arms on shoulders, the sharing of one chair in the decrepit student canteen and finally a simple understanding of the fact . They are a couple, although no one ever used that word, but there is shorthand, public acceptance.
Other students looking for one or other of them is likely to ask the nearest half and invitations are given to one of them, sure that it will be passed on.

Looking back now, she wonders if they would have fallen into this, this easy relationship, a play at the world of grown up, Sunday mornings in bed with the big newspapers and at her insistence, the first of a line of cats and kittens who all jump into the nest of newsprint and all suck and bite at her head, but never his, if she had known then that his clothes, his easy manners, the slight hint of out door – ness Indicated more than studied performance, a knowing construction of an art school persona.

If she had known Then that everything about him was Both more and less than it appeared, she sometimes wonders if she would be sitting at this table now, staring into a cooling cup of coffee, the shabby leather bible in front of her.
A reminder of the distance between them, the otherness which at times seemed charming, even a little sexy, although at the end it was just another thing, more stuff for her to beat herself up with.

At college, he seemed like everyone else, everyone was broke, everyone lived in terrible shared houses, even his name was just like all the other boys
“Nick…..Nicko”, it was only on the first visit to his home, his family that she found out that everyone there called him Nicky or in his mothers’ case ” Nicky darling ” as if the two words simply slotted together to make one perfect name.

They hitched, in those days when people were less afraid, where a journey might be become an adventure and where, with the arrogance or optimism of youth, they simply believed that good things should happen to them and unsurprisingly, often they did.

So, of course, it made perfect sense for the last lorry driver to feed them cigarettes and chocolate and drive 20 miles out of his way to drop them in the Yorkshire village where Nicks’ family lived or as he explained when they jumped from the cab, a flurry of bags and byes, quite near the village, a short walk.

She assumed a farmhouse, a cottage, even one of those strange 1930s villas you see sometimes, dropped into a rural landscape as if scooped up, from suburbia.

He turns down a long gravel drive, past the gate house, which she almost steps towards and onwards, around a bend and then there it is. A very, very large house, the sort of house she has only visited in the past to drink weak tea and nibble on homemade scones, the sort of house her mother looks at and expresses a gleeful dismay about the cost of heating it, the sort of house that is absolutely outside of anything in her life, at least to,date.

There is a pause while they both stand for a minute in silence, she’s silent because she wants to, needs to look cool, unimpressed, used to this sort of thing and he’s silent because this moment is what he always does after an absence, drops the person he has become, at boarding school and college and art school and becomes simply himself.
She can almost feel him become taller, more straight backed, his ancient Barbour jacket seeming to wrap itself around him like a second skin.

In a novel, his family would have greeted her frostily, judged her, made her feel small and suburban, but the reality was more complex and in the end far more difficult to live with.

His father, the most silent man she had ever met, simply accepted her into the landscape she now has squatting rights on, the commoner allowed grazing rights, but always mindful of the temporary nature of this possession. He rarely spoke to her, but he rarely ever spoke to anyone, blood relative or not but instead moderated his pace to fit in with hers when over the years the evening dog walk became part of their ritual together.

His mother adored her, simply adored her, another woman in a sea of sons and men and when later, much later, she produced only granddaughters, this adoration was cast in bronze, in steel, in iron.
They were the women, standing facing the tide of males, palms outwards, defying the sea or was that the semen to come any nearer.

She glances down at the bible again, just one Of the many markerS of the difference, of distance between them.
She has tried so hard over the years to appreciate his family’s possessions, their patina of age, of quality which means that they never really wear out, never really look tired but proclaim quietly, gracefully that
” we belong to the kind of family who know what crockery their serious, studious ancestors used, because they are still using us…and We expect to be used for many years to come”
She tries to understand, to see the beauty, the value, the history in their everyday objects, the pram used by the last 3 generations may have fitted Happily into a hallway large enough to park cars in, but she knows it will fill, in fact overfill their terraced house, a malevolent burgundy toad of a pram.
So even though she knows it causes a Discreet shudder, hints of half spoken phrases, Modern, Jerry built, not made to last….she ignores them all and buys a defiantly contemporary pram, all collapsible edges and clip on extras.

And later, when she is regularly showered with bags of knitted baby clothes, worn not just by her husband and his brothers, but also she suspects his father and a clutch of uncles, nephews and other assorted male relatives, she becomes Adept at smiling sweetly and then always managing to leave the bags behind.

To be continued.

NANOWRIMO 2014- day . A neon pink hair slide in the shape of a Minnie Mouse bow – circa

NANOWRIMO…day 12. A neon pink plastic hair clip in the shape of a Minnie Mouse bow circa 1993

She can remember exactly when and why they bought the bow
A tantrum brewing in the Disney store
Feet starting to drag on the princess pink carpet
The wail like a klaxon cutting across the small world tune which plays over and over again
” its a small world after all, it’s a small world …..”

Voice drowning out the other, the nicer children, thE children who stand entranced by the larger than life-size Bella and the Beast, hands reaching out to touch the primrose yellow dress, the wooden fangs, caught in a permanent grimace of pain and loss

” I wanna Princess, I wanna princess, I wanna princess”

And all around the nicer type of parents, mothers of Emily and Poppy and Hugo and James and Beatrice, smile a secret shared smile, but still she feel the judgement.
” why can’t people control their children any more”
” my child would never do that “
“If she was mine, I’d give her a good sharp slap”
” I hate working with horrible bratty children and their horrible, horrible parents “

The noise is getting louder, the child has taken to the carpet, like a very angry snow angel she lies on her back, kicks her arms and legs about and screams
” I wanna princess, I wanna it now”

And of course her husband has moved away, distanced himself from the reality of parenting, not his cosy pre christmas vision, admiring the Santa Claus, hands wrapped around mugs of steaming hot chocolate, a bag of holly and mistletoe to finish their traditional Christmas tree. This is not what he ordered and he simply stands, a careful 4 feet away, expecting his wife to make this better, to restore the Xmas status quo.

Her daughter arrived in a hurry, 2 weeks early and ever since has put energy, focus, a level of determination into getting away from her mother.
Creating herself
Dressed in blue, greens, reds, supplied with garages and wooden cars and teeny tiny real metal tools, she quickly turned her back on this egalitarian, gender less world and demanded only clothes that were pink or at a push a delicate lilac, acquired Barbies and Sindys and their minuscule plastic shoes , the ones that always made the Hoover emit that strange smell of burning, even when she swears to herself there are no pink, doll sized stilettos to be seen.
She doesn’t like to think how, examine the actual,mechanics of how her daughter has collected her sizeable clutch of posing, pouting, super-breasted bonsai women.
She suspects toddler terrorism, cat burglary. An extortion ring, but doesn’t ask and her daughter doesn’t tell.

The child runs a guerrilla campaign, sneaking bows and ribbons, tiny neon teddies, t shirts ablaze with sequins and glitter into a nest of girlyness she hides under her bed. Presents come from grandparents, absent aunts and of course her own mother, under the guise of kindness, being a “good grandparent”. She has provided the pink plastic wand, the fairy wings, the sleeping beauty dress and the most special, the most iconic, the very best, at least in the eyes of the tiny embryo wanna be Barbie standing, twirling and spinning while she keep one careful eye on her reflection in the mirror, preparing, even though she doesn’t know it, her selfie face, her social media persons.
As the mother stands in the Disney Store, while her daughters’ gets louder, impossibly louder, she has at least a micro happy thought, a realisation that it could be even worse, her daughter could be wearing those bloody awful pink shoes.

She looks around for her husband, for some moral and in fact physical back up, but he has moved further away, turned his back, hunched his shoulders to distance himself from the scene in front of them.

The noise is not stopping and the glances are less conspiratorial now, more openly critical.
The other customers really want this to stop.

She cannot, will not buy the desperately desired princess dress up costume, but some compromise Needs to be made, before and she has to admit that this would not be the worst thing that could happen, they are asked to leave, put on some Disney list that will bar them from any entry to any element of the Magic Kingdom and then she sees it
A large neon pink plastic bow, a barrette she thinks, remembering the neater girls at primary school, the girls whose socks matched their hair ribbons, who kept pink flavoured lip balm in their pencil cases. They wore these , it was one of the many marks of difference, but now is not the time to revisit that old tale.

She takes A deep breath and grabs the bow and then, in the same tentative way one might offer a biscuit to an unknown, uncertain dog.

The child stops crying and the mother can feel the collective out breath of relief from all the other customers.

The child looks at the bow and then at the parent, calculating, making a decision, weighing up the possibility of being able to continue crying and screaming and the likelihood of actually getting the pink and white nylon ball gown and then decides.

Her hand grabs the bow and in a single split second, her face splits, not with the tears and noise that has filled the shop with sound that seems to have gone on forever, but with a smile that lights up everything around them and says, sweetly, nicely
” thank you mummy, it’s beautiful”

There are shoulders, backs stiff with disapproval as they join the queue to pay, she has, she knows,been marked out as weak mother, a pushover, but the silence is so wonderful that she really doesn’t care.

Outside the shop,her husband is waiting, looking away from them , his attention on the line of other children waiting patiently to see Santa and his elves.

The child skips, clutching the red and yellow carrier bag, occasionally stopping to look inside and stroke the pink barrette.

Nanowrimo day 11. A silver clarinet and a grade 8 certificate circa 1978.

Many students who enter these exams have taken a course of music lessons with a private tutor, although some are self-taught. Often this is a way for children to receive music training over and above what is provided at their usual place of learning, although private lessons are also popular with adults who turn to music later in life.


Music exams are set in both theory and practical aspects. The theory examinations are taken by pupils of all instruments and typically cover areas such as musical notation, construction of scales and composition.


The practical exams concentrate on the particular instrument favoured by the pupil, for example piano, guitar or flute. They cover elements such as playing set pieces, technical work including scales, sight reading, aural, musical knowledge and improvisation.


In the United Kingdom the music exams are graded from 1 to 8, with Grade 1 being the entry level, and Grade 8 being the standard required for entry to higher study in a music college. Additionally, Trinity College London offers an Initial level qualification at Entry Level 3 of the UK Qualifications and Credit Framework, and ABRSM offer a Prep Test qualification as a useful preparation before the Grade 1 exam. LCM offers two Step exams at this level and VCM offers four Introductory grades aimed at those in the first 18 months of learning.


The clarinet used to live in its little leather case on a shelf in her teenage years bedroom, nestled next to her unabridged Oxford English Dictionary, Her thesaurus and from age 15 onwards a beautifully colour coded revision guide, which often took so long to execute that there was little time left actual revision, but the ritual of preparation was all, stood in for actual revision, made her feel as if she was taking some control.

But the clarinet was different, there was no need to put rules of practise up, no need to set a timetable, playing the clarinet was itself enough reward.

She could and would play for hours, her body twisting around the notes, moving at one with the sounds, lost in the music.


And of course, with this level of commitment came exam success, lots of success, grade 1,2,3 on so on and so on. The certificates carefully framed, climbing up the wall, notes and scales nailed, techniques captured, a personal history of skill, of practise, of achievement.

On occasions, she found her mother simply standing there, a duster in hand, looking up at the framed music grades, her lips moving while she read the words, her fingers pressed against the glass.

They would smile, a little awkwardly and then her mother would go for cliché 27

” well, this isn’t getting anything done “

Cliche 35

” here I am wool gathering away”

Cliche 58

” heavens, I really need to get on”

Sometimes the girl wonders what would happen if she put out a hand, stopped her mother leaving, halted the constant cycle of cleaning and cooking and clichés and asked her what she was actually thinking about when she stood looking up the proof of her daughters’ unexpected, unasked for musical prowess.


Over their evening meal she feels their eyes on her, her mum and dad, watching her carefully, hardly daring to breathe, the very look she will wear herself in the future, in her future as she stares at baby elephants and Komodo dragons and rare, rare butterflies on expensive, glossy as the brochure holidays.

She knows her parents are confused by her, not the intelligence, they are, after all, perfectly smart people themselves with drive and ambition to see her better than them, more successful, a fuller life, but, it’s the music that puzzles them, not the music itself, they are children of the 50s and 60s, have bought LPs, been to concerts, have favourite musicians, it is the actual making of music, the idea that someone, their daughter, could learn to make tunes, string notes together, look at a page of dots and dashes and decode them into the music they hear on TV adverts. This is what puzzles them, this is what seems so hard to understand, this is what makes them shakes their heads, wonder out loud where the talent came from.


She remembers her first music lessons, a 5-year-old who chose the clarinet on the basis that it had such a neat little case and was at a scale for her to manage and not feel dwarfed by.

Her mother was pleased, she had dreaded the violin, the screeching of strings in pain or a piano, a trombone or God forbid,  a harp. Items that would fill the house, not with sound but their very physicality, a harp would take over the sitting room,ma trombone would only be playable on the upstairs landing.


And of course, it is the era of James Galway, he of the golden flute, the catchy tunes, a clarinet isn’t  a flute, but it’s close enough and seems quiet ,containable, another tick in the box labelled ” stuff we do that our parents didn’t do with us”, alongside, ballet, swimming and Brownies.


At first she approached the clarinet, the weekly music lesson in the same slightly distracted but compliant way that she met every new activity her parents presented her with.

It’s not as if she actively disliked anything, but really she was perfectly happy drawing, painting, inventing complex social stories for her large box of plastic jungle and farm animals.


But, the clarinet is different, she quickly understands that this is a solitary skill, something she will always be able to turn to. It is not a secret, not really, but practise, repetition, scales played up and down hour after hour create a space which no one tries to fill with anything else and its only when she creates this space that she realised how desperately she wanted this secret, almost secret time.


And, it’s easy, the clarinet is not difficult. Something she would never admit to her parents or even the procession of music teachers she worked with over the years, making music, moving her fingers in the prescribed ways to create the notes is not hard.

Compared to her painting which never really feels under her control, even when she does exactly the same, day after day, there is no guarantee that the work will be the same, no guarantee that today she will be able to create what she managed to create yesterday.


She works her way through the grades, the music becomes more challenging, practise takes up more time, other children drop by the wayside, worn out by school and music and guides and fencing and drama club and….and…..and.


But she stayed with it, sailed through grades 6 and 7 and then she is facing grade 8, the final music exam, after this there is only real music, college, possibly a professional career.

Other people, parents, teachers, music teachers, youth orchestra leaders are keen, suggest several colleges that she could audition at, only she knew that she wouldn’t , couldn’t, shouldn’t.


Even at 17 or 18 she knew herself, knew that her nature was not completest, that in adult life she would drift, easily distracted, perennially enthusiast but often falling away.

But this, this solid achievement, grade 8 in the clarinet,  is proof that she can, in fact has, stuck with something, seen it out.


The clarinet stays with her, is sometimes played, but as an adult she has less need to create secret     and safe places to hide in and besides that, she knows that this achievement doesn’t really count, doesn’t really signify. It’s nothing compared to heroic and often failed battles to control paint, shade and line.


Music is simply about following rules and practicing until the rule becomes second nature, a collection of lucky genes, the right shaped fingers and lungs have allowed this to happen.


The clarinet mostly lives under her bed now, occasionally taken out when a guest remembers that she has musical talent, but generally it gathers dust, but cannot be thrown out.


The certificates, on the other hand, are filed carefully in the grey box of important stuff, the box she will rescue in the case of a sudden house fire.


She’s really not quite sure what this says about her and has decided that it’s simply part of her internal mapping, as little worth questioning as the geography of her home town.

NANOWRIMO Day 11 – a man’s brogue, brown, tooled leather, designed by Patrick Cox circa 1993

She reads through the typed sheet again, checking carefully for crimes against the grammar police, for non ironic cliches, in fact for anything that will allow the other members of her writing group to settle around her work, black wings beating, claws shredding paper and her own soul under the guise of helpful feedback.


She is unsure about this task,but has, within the coded language of writers groups everywhere, had a  bit of a go, which everyone knows means has spent hours staring at blank paper and that the offering for group crit is in fact draft 6 completed at 4 am today.


Choose a significant object, choose an object, a thing that means something to you

Said the group leader

Don’t think too hard

Describe the item and then write up to 1,000 words responding in any way to the object.

He added

And so,

She shied away from the task all week, on occasions found herself wandering from room to room, picking up and discarding things that could easily be described as significant,objects illuminating scenes from her life, without giving too much away and then on Friday she makes her decision, prompted by a lackadaisical attempt to tidy the seeping shoe rack and the shoes which are beginning to escape up the stairs.


And there is it, under a pile of trainers which cannot fit anybody anymore.

One brown, Patrick Cox wannabe loafer, size 10, left foot.

She can remember exactly when she last saw this as one of a pair, it’s certainly a significant object and she is so close to the deadline that, really, it will have to do.


Coffee on, a sneaked cigarette before she starts and then pen and notebook and this is the piece she wrote.


The Patrick Cox Wannabe loafer.


My husband, the wannabe

Always wanted to be a wannabe

Always will be a wannabe

Perhaps he wanna be a wanna be


( she likes the rhythm of this, can imagine it and herself, if she was significantly someone else, performing the piece to an audience, a smoky upstairs room in a writers pub, where somehow the clean air rules have never taken off)


My husband saw Jamie on the television, swooping and flying around London streets on a Vespa

My husband wannabe Jamie


He buys a wannabe Vespa, cheaper, but somehow so much less Italian.

He wanna ride and fly and swoop, but he wannabe braver first, so, this bike, this wanna be bike lives in the covered walkway beside the house where I used to hang the washing on wet days


( she decides not to include the prayers she mutters to any deity out there on his one and only outing on the wannabe bike, let’s keep it light)


My husband buys The Face because he wannabe what everyone there already is.

He leaves them in untidy piles in the bathroom, claims to be building a wannabe archive and gets annoyed when the corners curl, the pages get damp after over-vigorous toddlers in the bath at bath time.

He wannabe younger, or at least younger than the contributors to The Face, I sees his lips moving as he reads, working out ages and where he sits on some continuum of wannabe- ness

When he is 36, something he doesn’t wannabe, really doesn’t wannabe,  he stops buying it.

Says nothing.


( the older he got the more panicked his birthdays became, veering between nights when E and C did not equal MC2, but ended in clubs where he danced, sadly, like someone’s dad and years when the birthday word itself was banned, ignored, spoken only by small children who knew no better )


He wannabe stylish, quirky, the kind of man who gets photographed in street style articles.

He wannabe a model, not the young airhead type, but the grainy, the grimy, the ones who’ve lived a life.

He wannabe spotted, spends 3 visits to the clothes show, walking like a wannabe too near those identical women, the spotters from Storm and Models 1.

They look behind and In front and through him.


( his vanity drove her mad,how much time does it take one man to get ready for an evening out, she became reconciled to dabbing on her makeup in the less good light in the less good mirror in the hall)


He wanna own an icon, he wannabe an icon, he wants to be a be, no wanna, just the actuality of existence.


So when one christmas,I  spends a lot of money, buys perfect pair of loafers, Patrick Cox Wannabes in a rich chocolate brown…….

He doesn’t get the joke.

He doesn’t wannabe the laughing stock.


( they managed to keep the row contained until after food and after quality street and after chocolate reindeer and after Wallace and Gromet and  after the inevitable fail of the first Christmas toy, but when it comes it’s vicious.

Ripping the wrapping off everything that’s remained hidden for so long.

On New Year’s Day, he moves out, and weeks later, when she has begun to see that he don’t wannabe married to her anymore, she finds just one of the Patrick Cox Wannabe loafers, just one hidden in the back of the newly single wardrobe.


She is under the word count, but not by an amount that will cause any raised eyebrows, but will be seen as polite, not taking up  more than her fair share of time, of attention.

She doesn’t wannabe seen as needy, she doesn’t wannabe seen at all.


She rubs her  fingers across the soft leather of the loafer and wonders, yet again, where the other one might be, might wannabe.

Nanawrimo day 10. A unmade bed circa 1983. Made from reclaimed pallets and found mattresses.

When she sits up in bed in this bedroom, this now bedroom, this 2014 bedroom, sometimes, just sometimes it takes a moment for her to orientate herself, to actually see which bedroom, which year, hell, what decade.

There have been many bedrooms, some shared, some solitary, chaotic, tidy, large, small.

This bedroom, the 2014 model is probably both the neatest and the nicest. Furniture picked up on day trips to Brighton, a stuffed swan that moults the occasional Snow White feather onto the Arctic white duvet, heaped with grey white pillow slips. Sometimes she is amazed that there are so many shades of white, so many names and that she can name them, can move confidently around a Farrow and Ball paint chart, is quietly surprised that she cares enough to choose one shade of white over another.


In the past, that other country, all bedroom walls were painted white, just white, in large industrial sized tins, marked economy white paint and applied quickly often to cover up more serious horrors underneath.


And it’s that first white bedroom that she remembers now, 19 Argyle St, Norwich. Escaped from student halls, student houses into her own tiny house, part of a row of terraced homes, snaking around the new high-rise blocks. Built by the Mustard Kings to keep their workers warm, to keep them close, A few short steps between home and the factory, out before the hooter, home at lunch and thenlater a wave of workers heading home for tea.


The bedroom in this house has remained untouched,floor still covered with  Lino patterned to resemble floorboards, which then she saw as simply tacky, but now she recognises the meta texturality and feels a concept coming on, the lino marred/improved with mysterious gouges where nobody would set furniture and the wallpaper, an eclectic mix of shepherdesses, roses and brown trellis.

From this bedroom,this now, 2014 bedroom, she sees this wallpaper with different eyes, kitsch, post modern, ironic. She might even seek it out for  knowing feature wall decoration, but then, white paint was the only answer. Everything, walls, doors, dado rail, skirting boards covered with layers of cheap white paint, reducing the room to a dazzling cube, a box of nothing and in the centre,exact centre, dead centre, centre stage……

The bed, the bed that even now, her shoulders, hips and elbows remember, the ghost of an ache, the memory of a stiff neck, the feel of pillows burying her face, the warm weight of too heavy quilts, needing a superhuman effort on a crisp winter morning to kick out, unfurl body from foetal curl and …..leap, leaping, sometimes creeping into another day

This bed, that bed, the White room bed was about  so many things,secrets and gossip and whispers and truths and lies .Slept in at a time when sleep came easy, not need to lure it in, chase it down like a frightened faun and then grabbing hold, trying to stop it leaving. A time when simply rolling over, a deep sigh was enough to push her into a dream time, a sleep time, emerging a glorious 8 or 9 or 10 hours later, binging, gorging on sleep, before she even knew that sleeplessness might be more than just a life style choice


That bed welcomed her when unthinking, dressed or not, day or night, she fell into it and into sleep, comfortable enough in her own skin that anyone could join her for cups of tea or cuddles or badly rolled spliffs or even sleep.


Of course, the room did not start with the bed, the bed came later, before that there was just a mattress on the floor, easy to reach out for ashtrays, books, half eaten slices of toast, everything she could ever need just a stretched hand away.


But she grew to see that she deserved better, needed more, some permanence, some hint of structure and so, the pallet bed was born, timber and space reclaimed, made hers, made by her.


She had no car, but in the ramshackle, do it yourself community in the terraced houses, she knew a man who owned a hearse, which turns out to be almost the perfect shape to transport pallets and so, for several weeks, he would kiss his lady, pat the dog and wave a slouched farewell to children, some his own, and friends and the mad boy who lived in the back bedroom who only ate brown rice and then only late at night and the two of them, man and a woman not his lady,  would go a pallet hunting.


The pallets piled up and finally she knew she had enough to make a princess bed, so rounded up the men and formed them into a chain gang.pallets from garden to staircase to emptied bedroom, ready for transformation.


In her mind she could see her new nesting place, off the ground, big enough for impromptu tea parties, wide enough for a many lovers as could be tempted up the wooden staircase, past the chipped paint and into this room.


The bed,when she has finished, is vast, takes 2 mattresses, many pillows, a heap of nesty duvets.

She lashed the pallets together, using rough rope, a life raft, something to cling onto in a stormy sea of desire and doubt and deception.


The bed was perfect, she haunted jumble sales, found old lady bedding, hand embroidered pillow cases, a precious feather quilt, sheets in stripes and checks and dubious colour choices.


She found candles to balance in chipped willow pattern saucers, balanced on corners of the giant bed and then stuck frangipani and frankincense joss sticks , chosen more for their names than their actual smells, in the half melted wax dripping from candle to saucer to sheets. Generally, she avoided major fires and incendiary incidents, just the occasion singed pillow and a slight aroma of burning feathers.


And this is the bed she discovered how to love, how to love love itself, how to love those other sweat slicked bodies in that perfect moment when experience outweighs ignorance and before bodies themselves have begun to droop, to slide.

Yes, there was a lot of sex in this bed, the best sort of sex. Playful, self-congratulatory, caught in mirrors left artfully to lean against walls, catching a glimpse of twined, entwined, engulfed.

But it wasn’t just about sex, there was a lot of other love in this woman made bed, the obligatory gay best friend, pots of earl grey tea and smudges of nail polish left on the sheets, when they became too raucous painting each other’s toe nails.


And of course there were the friends, in a house with dubious heating, it made perfect sense to cuddle up under feathers, an intimacy of language, shared secrets, half shared desires.


And the good nights on her own, reclining on her royal barge bed, held tall by a tower of pillows, the book she should have been reading and the book she actually was, the crumpled packet of chocolate biscuits and cigarettes, always cigarettes and an ash encrusted saucer.

She would writhe against the sheets, feeling not solitude,but space, room to move, room to grow.

Sometimes, she would read all night for the pleasure of seeing the sky lighten, the street lights click off and then, satisfied by her lifestyle choices, would burrow under the duvets and sleep until lunchtime.


And then she remembers the other nights, lying alone, in the days when sometimes, just sometimes being alone felt like the worst thing possible. Her stomach a knot of misery,head thrust Under pillows, blocking out this nights pain, this nights recriminations.

A loop of loss and pain and loneliness.


When finally, the little mustard houses are, ironically, knocked down to provide low cost housing for ordinary workers, the bed is left behind, the only piece of furniture in an empty house. She rationalizes that it’s only student junk, that it’s too hard to get the pieces down the steep narrow stairs with the killer sharp bend 3 steps from the bottom, that it will not fit into the new flat.

But actually, she knows she cannot share this bed with anyone else, it is too heavy, but it’s not the wood that weighs it down.


Several Saturdays later, she makes the pilgrimage to IKEA, buy a collection of blond pine struts that will, after several attempts, become a bed, but never the bed and decides that from now on her bedding will always match and tone in with bedroom walls that will never be white again and that she is simply too old to light candles near a bed.


The irony of that last decision only becomes apparent 25 years later.

NANOWRIMO 2014 – Day 9 – a child sized silver and gold charm bracelet, circa 1935



And in this dream she holds her grandmothers wrist,

Skin translucent,

Bird boned

Pulse racing to catch up with everything else….everything already gone


And her grandmother is wearing her charm bracelet, her wrist so thin, so tiny that the bracelet has never needed to be re-sized.

This fact a boast in adult life

” my wrists are the size of a 6-year-old child”

Spinning around on feet, lotus flower feet, hardly filling the black patent shoes she wore all her life.


Everything about her tiny

But tiny like a razor blade, able to give more hurt, more blood than seems possible from such a tiny, tiny thing.


The first charm then, aged 6, a single ballet shoe, hanging in splendid isolation on the thin silver chain,

But she knew more would come, birthdays, Christmas, a first communion, bridesmaid gifts and all chosen by other people, all to tell her something about herself, something about their view of her, something, a blueprint, on how to be a good 7 and 8 and 9 and 10-year-old.


The charms multiply

A horse’s head

A tiny ( see, here’s that word again ) crucifix

A car

A handbag

A lucky clover

A horse shoe

An ornate key


And more and more and more

Until, in adulthood, the bracelet weighs her down, keeps her earthbound, a tracking device for high days and holidays.

Just follow the chink, chink, chink, as reliable as thread or stones or breadcrumbs.

Fairy story themes for the least fairy story grandmother of them all.


And in this dream, as she idly picks up the charms and lets them hit against each other, she sees another bracelet, another grandmother, another wrist.

But this wrist is fleshy, soft to the touch, warm, inviting and she cannot help but rest her cheek against this flesh and carefully, slowly touch and stare at these new, these other charms.


With the absolute truth of dream logic, she knows that these are the other charms, for the other life, the tiny ( see, here it is again) talismans her grandmother would have chosen for herself.

A pair of silver wings…no longer earth-bound, flying free.

One hob nailed boot….in this life, this dream life,  her feet will hit the earth, stomp, stomp, stomping. Each step sending a jolt of potential through her bones, making this, this other bracelet rock and shake and fill the sky with noise.

A pair of golden scissors, able to make the first cut, the deepest cut, the cut that tears away the traces….setting her free.

And, a single solid pewter heart, no cutesy cuts, no need to join it to another to make a whole, complete in its own shape, it’s  weight in a palm, comforting,finished.


And finally, hanging in the very centre of the piece, a slice of cake, silver swirls of icing, a chip of Ruby to represent a cherry.

Fairy sized for fairy appetites, but in this life, the grandmother takes up more space, makes more noise, has more hunger and more right to fill these hungers.


When the woman wakes, she finds her own fingers encircled around her wrist,,thumb and fore fingers not quite able to meet and full of hungers that she knows can only be filled by


And long walks in shiny red doc martins

And noise, much, much noise.


NANOWRIMO 2014 -day 8 – a Hewlett Packard laptop



The half term holiday drifts on, she has a raft of genuine tasks to get through, marking, tweaking schemes of work, researching the artists the children will be studying when they return.

She is busy, truly busy, there is no time to sit at the kitchen table, open the manual and set the lap top and besides she needs some time to herself, some time to relax, some time to recharge her batteries.


But, by Thursday morning, with the return to work looming, it’s funny she thinks, Wednesday feels like lots of holiday left, but somehow a few more hours, that movement into Thursday seems to signal that school is just around the corner and she knows that she has run out of jobs, having been reduced to tidying and colour coding the airing cupboard last night, when the holiday still stretched ahead of her, so, she takes a deep breath and puts the kettle on.


Then of course she realises that instant coffee will simply not do and she may, for may read, most definitely will, need a formidable quantity of Marlboro Red, preferably soft pack.


She grabs her coat, performs the usual keys, bag, purse ritual and heads off to the parade of shops at the top of her street. Walking down the road, made suicidally  slippery by huge piles of soggy un- tidied leaves, she remembers Murphy, the invisible dog, her constant companion age 5 to 8 and her right hand curves naturally, rightly around his blue leather lead. She wonders if she is now old enough, sensible enough for a real dog and while Murphy sniffs at a lamppost, she makes a decision.

If she masters the bloody machine still crouched on the kitchen table, then, she will get a dog, nothing too large, too boisterous, a terrier maybe. Murphy’s’ breed was always somewhat mysterious, if pushed, she would describe him as a brown dog and open her arms to indicate his size.

She can see herself walking a medium-sized brown dog, the sort of dog whose tail wags, who lollops along, mouth open in an engaging smile and she cannot help but smile at the image, the almost dog is already making her happy.


Decent coffee, 40 cigarettes and an emergency packet of penguins later, her feeling of resolve is still strong, all she needed she realises was proper motivation, it’s easy she decides, get the laptop working, take it back to work, look for a dog.


This feeling of positivity lasts beyond the first cup of coffee and the first delicious cigarette. She unearths the instruction manual and the plug thingy and even manage to find the on button. It’s going well, the machine makes a happy noise, all she has to do is configure the settings and install the word processing package which is on a disc sellotaped to the manual and then it all begins to fall apart.

The machine is black, the buttons are black, the various holes and slots are also black, she can see nothing which seems to look like the place you might put a CD.

But, In her mind’s eye, she can still see the little brown dog and clinging like a survivor to the wreckage of the good ship positive thinking, so, she refills the kettle, lights another cigarette, somehow just not as delicious as the previous one and decides instead to configure the settings.


7 minutes later, her head is on the table, a badly extinguished cigarette still smoking in the saucer and she is in despair. The screen has gone from a pleasing Mediterranean blue to a frightening black blankness having clicked and buzzed and told her that there had been an error.

When she tries to turn the machine off, by pulling the plug from the wall, there is another strange noise, almost a sigh and then all the little flashing lights go out.


She leaves the lap top on the table until Saturday, hoping, almost praying that it will, as her car has done on many occasions, simply mend itself with no input from anybody else.


Nothing, no lights, no happy noise, no pretty blue screen, even the strange sigh/gasp noise has gone, this is a very dead machine and it’s only now with just over 24 hours to go that she understands the enormity of what has happened.


She prowls around the flat, trying to come up with a solution, something that will believable, not make her look like an idiot, but will also ensure that she is never, ever asked to take any type of expensive machine home again and then, like a bolt from heaven, she knows exactly what to do and she smiles and pops the kettle back on.


As is only right and proper, it is of course, pouring with rain on Monday, all holidays should end in floods and weather disaster. It allows her to take a taxi with no shame and to jolt her into a touch of low-level guilt about her currently dead car, parked or perhaps abandoned on her parents drive, again.


She struggles Into school, laden with marking and of course the box and nestling inside the lap top.

She takes a deep breath and then adjusts her face into an appropriate expression and knocks on the Head Teachers’ office door and begins to speak at the same time as she enters the room.

” I don’t know what to say….I’m so embarrassed, it was a terrible accident…..he didn’t really mean it…”

She allows her voice to trail off and the head bowed, tears at the corners of her eyes, shoulders shaking with emotion, she explains how her dog, Murphy, enthusiastically greeting her, somehow jumped up and managed to knock a whole pot of coffee over the shiny new lap top.


Her remorse and shame is so obvious that the Headteacher struggles to be annoyed, cannot produce her usual withering sarcastic comment and is reduced to patting this new young colleague on the back and offering non school issue tissues. The subject of IT is never brought up again and by the time that all teachers play confidently with PCs and laptops, she has long left education and can continue her Luddite existence.


She lifts the coffee mug to her mouth and is genuinely shocked when she tastes stone cold coffee. Somehow, she has lost half an hour, wasted a cup of good french coffee and even left her chocolate biscuit uneaten on the plate.

Absently, she picks it up and feel a wet nose pushing against her knee, the dog, the current dog, sensing an opportunity is reminding that he is still here, still happy to help with the consumption of unwanted Jaffa cakes.


She jumps to her feet, there are things to be done and she must remind her daughter to buy cat food. She could text, email or even message her on Facebook, but instead she finds the pack of neon post-its and scrawls a note and then she places the uneaten Jaffa cake on top of the post – it stuck to the centre of the table.


In her experience, a post-it and chocolate are the most reliable way of getting messages across to other people.


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