It’s a new category darling


I’ve asked women I know only via a social media group to send me photos of themselves, clothes they love, snapshot sentences about their relationships with fashion.

These will be the starting point for a collection of fiction, prose poetry and other stuff.

Strike a pose.

 

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Room


1. Yellow

We painted the walls sunshine yellow

A busy frieze of buses, bikes and boats because we weren’t going to buy into any gender stereotypes

Hung mobiles, placed posters

Carefully fitted cherry red handles to door and drawers, ensuring we left no sharp edges.

2. Pink

Already feeling the space between you, other children and the world

I chose the pinkest pink i could find

Festooned every surface with fairy lights

A cabin bed with a tower of teddies standing sentinel

Stack boxes each with a picture of what lived inside for ease of tidying

And on your special shelf, your treasures, silver fairy wings, a horseshoe from your first pony and one bear, too precious to be simply part of the cuddle toy hoi poloi

 

3.Accent wall

The accent wall is black and white abstracted flowers

So, black desk, black duvet on the bed that made into a sofa

Your pad i called it

You hung posters of bands whose names i didn’t know

And i learnt to knock

Learnt that often your choice was not to let me in

 

4.White

The walls are utilitarian white now

Filthy with handprints, footprints, smeared make up, other stains

Bed a mattress on the floor, after you destroyed the third bed in some inarticulate howl of rage i stopped replacing them, stopped repairing furniture, stopped worrying about the shattered shards of mirror glass

i used to make speedy sorties inside when i had run out of plates, bowls and cups

Excavating only to top layer

Careful to not see that unfilled prescriptions, the unattended appointments

Now i just buy new crockery

 

5.Doors and walls

i’m waiting for the day when the policy want will to look inside this room, will want to look for clues, will want to look for meaning

We will stand on the threshold, me squirming with shame, they already on task

i will smile some terrible social smile

Tell them how sorry i am, tell them how nice it used to be in here.

 

 

 


valentines day


its valentines day and the trafic is at a standstill

gridlocked

we’re going nowhere

and i’m tapping, no, actually i’m punching the steering wheel

come on, come on, come on

as if my voice alone can make movement

 

its valentines day

and all over my network

bunny bookins is wishing mr fluffy a really special day

Kevin is wondering if you want to play hide the carrot ….later

my texts are terser

i’m on my way, i’m coming, please wait, just wait

 

its valentines day and every song on the radio is a fucking love song

and now i’m starting to sob

those shoulder shaking, snot making sobs

 

and i’m seriously considering just driving down the hard shoulder

i’m sorry officer, it was an emergency and besides its valentines day

 

the man in the stationary van next to me has had enough time now to see that somethings not right

so, he gets out, taps on the window, asks if i’m alright

and i look at him

hair standing on end

snail trail tracks of tears

mascara on my chin

i nod and smile and tell him i’m fine

its valentines day and finally, we’re moving, a miracle

and i make a 40 minute journey in 25

and when i get there,

you’re still there,

you’re still there

and you make that special noise of recognition

that

bpppphhhhhhhh

so we feed you mints and carrots and apples

your favourite things

 

afterwards, the vet hands me your headcollar and lead rope

 

and its valentines day

and i’m driving home alone

my thumb brushing over the brass buckle of your best headcollar

your leather high days and holidays headcollar

and i’m beginning to understand that this

this is going to be my valentine’s day memory

 


this thing is the saddest thing


This thing

This thing is the saddest thing

This is sadder than the face my dog pulls when a bigger dog steals her tennis ball and runs away with it

This is sadder than the time someone told me i was a poor friend and my first thought was well no more late night drama laden phone calls from you then

Sadder than my mother’s fridge, a neat line of pale blue saucers, each containing a tablespoon of left over lunch and in the fridge door, 5 unopened cartons of milk, just in case.

This is sadder than when at 17, 18, 19, your heart broken for the first time, you lay on the bed, quite convinced that you would die, because who could endure such pain

Sadder even, then when later, at 40, 50, 60, veteran of multiple failures of heart, you know all too well that you will survive this break and the next and the next.

This is sadder than food banks

Sadder than my neighbour, beginning to lose language, beginning to feel meaning slip away

This is sadder than the boy in the doorway, his dog wrapped in a coat and a duvet, snug as a bug in a rug, but when I look down, the boy is wearing shoes, but no socks.

This is the very saddest thing

This is the hearse and this is the coffin that doesn’t fill it

And all the flowers and helium balloons and teddies in the world cannot erase this space, cannot fill this gap, cannot hide this hole

This is the very, very saddest thing

And then the lights change and they turn left and I execute a clumsy right hand manoeuvre

It’s hard to drive well when you’re crying for someone else’s saddest thing.


That was then and this is now…..


I was the speed poet at a recent spoken word event….3 ideas from the audience, an hour to incorporate all 3 into a poem. i wasn’t too thrilled with the end result, but one of the suggestions….being 18 ,stuck with me.

 

At 18 I was careless,

Let things slip through my fingers, pretty boys, opportunities , a fabulous Biba frock,

confident that around the corner was a bigger, better, shiny thing.

At 58, things still slip through my fingers, arthritis is clawing at my joints, I’m losing my grip

And around this corner is probably another corner.

At 18, in the room, in the squatted house, on the street that nestled beneath the 3 tower blocks,

I filled the space with mirrors, papered the walls with pages torn from the glossy magazines that Jem stole so stylishly from the better department stores.

On days where there was not much going on, we recreated those photos, expressed dissatisfaction, but each of us secretly  a little in love with our own reflections.

At 58, there are days when I don’t recognise the woman who smiles hesitantly at me from plate-glass windows.

At 18 I was all about brazen presence,

Walking through the market at 6am

Grey fedora

Men’s vest slashed just below my breasts

No bra and on my feet workmen’s boots, spray painted silver.

At 58 in my sensible dog walking coat and my sensible dog walking shoes and my sensible dog walking hat, I am almost not here.

The boys who congregate on the park to smoke weed are solicitous when they spill from their bench onto the path

“mind” says one, ” that lady needs to get by”

At 18 I knew everything I would ever need to know

At 58, I tentatively offer these 3 truths

Dogs are better than hot water bottles

You cannot own enough pairs of reading glasses

And never take a good nights sleep for granted.

 


your cleaner hates you


Your cleaner hates you

Not of course in the way she hates Crocs, Jacob Rees Mogg or the kind of people who talk about going for a cheeky Nando’s ,

But, make no mistake, your cleaner hates you.

And just because she knows the names of your dog, guinea pigs and husband and remembers to ask about your son, studying what was it…..forensic physiology and photography ……don’t be fooled, your cleaner hates you.

Sometimes, your cleaner wonders what exactly it is you do all day, given that you have a woman to clean your house and a woman to iron your clothes and another, slightly younger posher woman to walk you dog….

Oh, they hate you too.

You tell your cleaner that you have projects on the go as you waft to your study on the 3rd floor, your room of your own

What you don’t do up there….ever…..is bring down the multitude of mouldy and malodourous mugs, some homage to a long gone undergraduate lifestyle and your cleaner would like you to know that emptying an ash tray into a wicker waste paper basket is exactly the same as not emptying it all but with additional hoovering work.

Your cleaner hates you.

Your cleaner has flicked through your expensive moleskin bound journal and quite frankly her advice would be to not give up your day job, if of course you had a day job to give up.

Your cleaner hates your poetry.

Your cleaner hates the rumpled crumpled used tissues your leave in your unmade bed.

She hates the ring of pubic pelt around your bath, but at least she knows for sure that you’re not a natural blonde

But most of all your cleaner hates the notes

The ‘House in a bit of a state today, please work your usual magic, kiss kiss”

The “ If you get time today, can you empty all the kitchen cupboards, clean them and put everything back, but you know, just better, kiss, kiss, kiss”

The ” Don’t bother coming for the next 2 weeks, we’re away, kiss”

Come the day of the glorious revolution, you will find yourself not with your back against the wall, instead, you will be issued with an official cleaner car,

12, 13 years old, prone to making noises of terrifying potential expense that you will be forced to drive everywhere with the stereo as loud as you can bear, while you mumble prayers to some god of paupers transportation

Please just let the car last a few more months

And every time you hit a speed bump or a pothole, the buckets and mops and Hoover in the boot will jump into the air and crash down with another layer of cacophony chaos

And you will get to wear cleaner clothes, badly fitting grey joggers and a sweatshirt full of holes where neat bleach has burnt through fabric to meet soft bare flesh.

You will become your cleaners cleaner

Your cleaner, your ex cleaner will look you in the eye and she will know that you hate her, but actually, actually, your cleaner, your excleaner, well actually,

Your ex cleaner won’t give a flying f******.


fashion forward styling tips for fabulous funeral wear


Black….well duh. The go to choice, respectful and respectable. A million Victorian matrons can’t be wrong. see them swathed in serge and velvet and bombazine. A year of black and then grief dependant, a move to purple or grey or sensible navy blue.

Black is the colour of my true love’s hair.

Black is the colour of suburban goth, the colour of the beatnik, the colour of the broken-hearted.

But, black drains you, everyone knows that and today, if she is drained of anything else, she will be weightless, nothing left, an empty husk and may simply float away, carried by the winds, drifting above this car on this journey.

White, think of all those tiny wizened asian widows wrapped in layers of silk and cotton as if they are something fragile to be protected by tissue paper.  White widows, sometimes with a incongruous pop of colour, a fire engine red pac a mac, lime green crocs, a tartan shopping trolley on wheels.

And white is the colour of virgins,  of bridal nights and lost innocence and in this, her new state, she too is virginal, touched for the very last time.

And although her anger is white-hot, burning hot, her grief is making her clumsy, awkward.

White requires too much poise, a neatness and a lack of tears.

Red, red for passion and roses and valentines day and god knows there was passion and hearts and flowers and unsuitable underwear in not quite the right size.

And red says, warning and danger and look at me and red says stop.

Stop, she thinks, I want this to stop, but all the traffic lights in the world cannot stop this journey, in this car to that place.

All week, the women in her phone have been sending soft fabric packages, some have come with long letters, others just signed with a kiss, but all have added those five letters, their rallying call when life gives you fucking lemons, again.

CCUYB

(chin chin, up your bum)

Don’t be a lady

Don’t dress for your age

Don’t be quiet

Most of all, don’t be quiet

Do not go quietly into this or any other dark night

The women in her phone have been sending her things

A sequined jacket

A leopard print beret

A dress of spots and stripes and stars

But most of all, they have been sending her lipsticks, red lipsticks,

some clearly expensive, nestling in black velvet drawstring bags, others picked up in the weekly grocery shop, dropped in to the trolley, their purchase easy to hide from cock wombles and non cock wombles alike.

Lip sticks have names and right now, in this car on this journey she finds herself head bowed, lips moving, not in prayer, there is no prayer to make this better, but instead she lists the names of all the lipsticks that now cover her dressing table.

Obsessed

999

Ruby Woo

Dragon Girl

Devil

Pirate

Fire and Ice

Underage Kiss

 

She is surprised how comforting this is.

 

 


shoe shopping with my mother – fragments


This is the shop where they buy the school shoes.

This is the mother who will pay for the school shoes.

This is the rocking horse which the children get to ride, but only after the shoes have been paid for.

And this is the daughter, body hunched into a seat which is too small, staring down at her feet which are far too big for her and for this shop.

This is the assistant, hair pulled back into a neat pony tail, smile just beginning to fracture as she carefully unpacks the 3 pairs of shoes from the startrite boxes.

And these are the shoes, sensible, well made brown lace up school shoes.

The daughter cannot even bring herself to look at them, if she looks at them, acknowledges them in any way, then she will have to try them on and if she does that, her mother will make a choice and then she will actually have to wear these shoes every single day and if that happens then she might, really might die.

The mother is wearing her best social smile, wishing that the assistant was older, a  mother, so that they could both raise their eyebrows, smile at each other rather than into some hideous middle distance and most importantly, she wishes that the assistant was old enough to simply bully her daughter into actually trying on the shoes , so that this can finish and they can leave.

The daughter has curled her feet under the chair, her feet, she is making it clear her feet  are not going to be involved in this and are not going to be cooperative.

These feet have been encased in Dunlop green flash tennis shoes since school broke up. The plimsols are now greying, the laces frayed and the big toe on her right foot has begun to poke through the fabric, a flash of badly chipped red nail varnish, the remnants of early holiday optimism.

This is a nice shoe shop, where nice children from the schools which most certainly do not have names that include the words secondary modern in them, come to buy their nice school shoes once they have bought their nice new uniform from the dept store that sells the uniforms for the better schools.

And there, piled up next to the mother are the bags from that department store, the shoe shop assistant can see the corner of a green blazer poking out from the largest bag.

The assistant is silent now, her smile gone, she is simply waiting, wondering which of them, the mother or the daughter, which of them will break first.

The silence seems to go on for ever, the assistant looks at the shoes, the mother looks at the daughter, the daughter looks down at her nails, only just visible from underneath the fraying cuffs of her brother’s 4th best cricket sweater.

Finally, the mother cracks

“We will take them in a seven please”

The daughter winces, can’t help herself, nobody, nobody in the world, no other girl aged 13 has size 7 feet, secretly, she is terrified that they will keep on growing forever, that eventually she will end up with a pair of feet so huge that they will dwarf the rest of her body, that she will be almost completely feet.

The assistant knows that this is all wrong, she knows that she should go get the special xray foot machine, she knows that both she and the mother should take turns to press down on the toes within the shoes to access growing room, she knows that the child should walk up and down on the carpeted floor to gauge comfort, but, instead she simply takes the box to the cash desk.

The mother, removing her purse from her handbag, follows her, takes care not to look back at the daughter.

And the daughter, the daughter stands, moves towards the rocking horse and then checks herself and walks instead to the shop door and stands, one hand on the door handle head bowed, waiting to leave.