Monthly Archives: August 2012

Ballad of Billy Joe

I plan to write something based on this, but would love anyone else who writes and is as fascinated by this piece of American Gothic as I am to have a go themselves.

Watching The Holy Mountain

I’m not sure if this one is cheating within the spirit of the project, but hey ho.

So, watch this…………….

And read this………………………………..

This may shape up to be one of the worst 120 minutes of my life.

I’m sitting in an art house cinema watching The Holy Mountain with my 15 year old daughter and its just not dark enough for this experience.

Within the first two minutes, there is full butt nakedness.

I feel her tension, sitting bolt upright, she silently dares me to say anything, to make a fuss.

I watch the screen and out of the corner of my eye, I watch her, vigilant for any signs of anxiety, desperate to scoop her up, to make our exit and our apologies.

I am dangerously close to committing the cardinal sin of teenage parenting.

I am considering drawing attention to ourselves.

I try to gather myself, take a deep breath.

She is a child of the 21st century, inter-net savvy.

Tweets, blogs, updates her status with the rest of her breed.

I try to convince myself that she’s seen it all before.

Nothing has prepared me for the experience of watching 70s art house actors getting it on in a variety of interesting and unusual ways while my daughter sits next to me.

The wall of embarasment between is almost palatable, it has, however briefly, replaced the usual barriers of indifference and confusion that so effectively keep us apart.

And sitting next to her is a solitary man, bearded.

A stranger – i wonder if her presence is disturbing his viewing of the film and for a second, unbidden, comes the terrible thought – could she be in some way, enhancing his filmic experience.

I physically have to shake my head to dislodge this monstrous idea.

I wonder if I can lure her out with promises of cup cakes, pizza, unfettered Top Shop shopping extravaganzas.

The film ends, we leave.

“what did you think ?” – I ask

There is a pause while she untangles herself from her constant personal soundtrack and removes the tiny headphones

“S’alright, can we go for noodles?”

I decide that tonight is not the night to stalk her Facebook status.

The cat lady and her dogs

People only see what they want to see. i watch them walk past, their eyes slide over me, take in my sign, the dogs, my sensible haircut, comfortable shoes, a stout anorak and their thoughts are so loud, its like a shout.

They’re the straightforward ones, never give a donation, don’t make eye contact, keep walking, sometimes even do that shuffle thing so that they don’t have to come too close.

Then there’s the other ones, they’re more complicated, their thoughts are more muddled, more about them than me

They’re nearly always women, often a little younger than me and they usually give some money, but they try not to engage, don’t speak to me, keep moving even when they drop some coins into the box.

But the ones I like are the other ones, the ones who have time, no-where special to go, no-one special to see. They stop, pet the dogs ask about the cats, they fumble in their pockets, dig out a few coins, tell me about their pets, especially the dead ones, the lost ones, the ones who made them feel loved, special, needed.

They share their stories of love and I try my best to play a special tune for them, give them something to warm them, to keep the cold of their lives at bay.

And I feel lucky, happy to help.

The dogs snooze, they know the routine, up early, see to the cats, load up the shopping trolley, remember the flask and the sandwiches. Don’t want to waste good money on expensive shop bought food, I don’t understand all these people rushing by with their huge paper cups of coffee, a nice flask of mellow birds, milky sweet coffee, just the ticket.

I play, the dogs sleep and we make some money and then home.

The cats are pleased, they gather around us, waiting for food, a cuddle, time on the couch.

I know all their stories.
The kitten shot with an air gun
The big ginger, left in the house when the family moved on, it took a week for someone to notice his cries, another 2 days before anyone did something.
The black and white female, too hungry to feed her kittens, i found her in a box surrounded by her dead babies.
The tiny tortoishell, still covered in scars where someone poured lighter fuel over her.

I know all their stories.
The ones who can’t be touched.
The ones who scratch.
The ones who hide, creep around on the outskirts of the rooms.
The ones who remember their pet lives before they fell from grace,lost their cuteness, got replaced.

I start opening tins, Eric, the nice man in the pet shop, does me good deals, knocks the price down if the tins are dented, throws in a couple of boxes of biscuits, helps me load up the trolley. A kind man, understands about the cats, their needs, does what he can to help.

The cats are hungry, they fill the work surfaces, pawing at each-other, at me, too many of them remember being hungry, I don’t get angry, just try and feel them quickly, make them happy.

The dogs wait, patient, they have never been hungry or worried, they trust me to feed them and besides they know all too well how mean these cats can be.

Later, i count up the money, £8.53, a good day, a whole case of cat food, maybe even a box of own label biscuits, especially if Eric finds a box with a bit of a dent, a corner ripped off.

I find a bit of room for me on the couch, squeeze in beside the cats, feel their warmth against me. I love to look at them, never get bored with it. I didn’t bother to replace the television when it died, why have a telly when you can look at the cats.

I think about what I can have for tea, nice boiled egg, slice of toast, i don’t need to eat much, toast and milky coffee can keep me going all day.

I sit with the cats, my cats, dip my toast in my egg and consider how good my life is,how lucky I am.

People see what they want to see and mostly they don’t see anything at all.



Ethel wakes earlier than the sun.Her tiny meep creeps inside my dreams, pushes me against wakefullness

I sit up, stretch, my mouth gapes in daylight rites. Kitten continues to scream, i think ignoring her, but guilt pushes me upwards, so, i stand slowly , pick up the kitten, we descent the stairs, both thinking what we can eat .

In the kitchen, she is deafening, brutal, strident. I fail in preparing breakfast quickly enough, her shriek starts nagging me. A tiny furry bully.

I fumble, grab the device which frees the meal , try and find the pristine dish in the teetering grubby washing up basin.

Grab a fork, plunge it deep, piercing the heaped meat,, carefully and quickly serve the kitten her breakfast.

She turns away, little interest in me, face deep in the dish.


Then it is the canines’ turn, he is quiet, never fusses but , quietly insistent, eyes catch mine, he believes that breakfast, his due, will arrive in a dish.

The kitten finishes hers up, spluttering, she stares, interested,, realizes the canine, her enemy,still has his medal, she sneaks, creeps , in hunter style , nearer and nearer and reaches his dish. His defensive snarl means little,can be written as little matter.
She eats, face in his breakfast.


Kitten jumps, i let the kettle fall, dog still, expecting punishment.

A minute when time stands still and we are all still, petrified.

Then we begin the cycle again.

Kitten sneaks,canine snarls, I jump.

The day begins.


This looks interesting

The Dress – for Rachel, who always makes me feel as if I am wearing the perfect dress.

The dress is perfect, she cannot walk past, cannot ignore it, even though she knows that this is not the right time. Her life is busy, she needs sensible clothes, warm, easy going, low maintenance. The last thing she needs is this frock, but the dress calls to her,
“we can have fun together”
“i’ll make you wittier,smarter”
“hell, girl, i’ll make you feel taller and thinner too”

The dress is, quite simply, just too much.
She fears that it will diminish her, swamp her, be more than she has any right to wear.
But now she knows it exists, she understands that her life will feel an absence if she does not at least try it on.

At first she feel awkward, its as if the dress is wearing her, she stands in the changing room, her arms stiff. She is afraid to look in the mirror, afraid of what the dress will do to her. She looks quickly in the mirror, expecting, maybe even hoping for failure, wants to be able to shake her head, smile and admit that these clothes are not for her.

But, the dress has not lied, she is taller, thinner, smarter.

So, she takes it home, hangs it up oh so carefully and her life feels richer because the dress is in it.

Just knowing it is in her wardrobe makes her happier, she doesn’t even need to wear it for the dress to work its magic.

And when she does wear it, the dress is always right, the sun shines brighter, the coffee tastes better and she is always more than she can be without it.

Sometimes she forgets she owns it, days, weeks, months, even years pass before she re-discovers it.
Her fingers rub against the soft fabric, the wit in its design makes her smile again and when she slips it over her head, it is as if she had worn it only yesterday and she makes a promise to wear it more often even when she knows that such good intent may not be followed through.

Whatever happens to the shape of her, the dress continues to fit, to nurture her. There are times when she feels almost ashamed that despite her cavalier attitude, the dress always keeps its side of the bargain. always makes her taller,thinner, cleverer.

She makes a new promise to the dress, she will take better care of it.
She invests in a good wooden hanger, a lavender bag to hang around its neck. she clears a special place within the wardrobe, makes sure it has enough space, is not crowded by all the sensible, easy wash, no iron garments.

She celebrates its’ place within her life.

Todays thought……