Monthly Archives: August 2013

Gay Pride- Leicester 2013

So. It’s all been a bit somber here @ rubiesandduels over the last few days.
This blogger needed to find something to celebrate, so headed off to Leicester’s Gay Pride event.
A lovely afternoon with sunshine, music and celebration of diversity and difference.
A reminder that not everything in the world is doom and gloom.
So, no fiction today, just some happy people in a park on a happy day.























So, here’s the deal folks….

If you have read or looked at things you enjoy on this blog, particularly today’s Clowns story, go and have a root in your purse, wallet or pocket and check out your loose change.
Calculate what you can spare and please, please make a donation to any registered charity trying to help children in Syria.

This is not a partisan appeal, I just see to many factions using children as the first casualties of war, again.

If you think the Clowns story is good enough, feel free to re blog, share on Twitter, put links on any social media you use, but please copy this post too and ask people who read the story to make donations to help Syrian children.

I drove to work this morning in tears, with the sounds of screaming,burnt children filing my car.
This is the only thing I can think to do.


The eternal, ever giving, fun loving clowns hit town…..again

This story was suggested to me by a friend, who sent me HIS short story about a clown sentenced to perform, day after day to the children waiting to enter the gas chambers and some how I began to think about a group of clowns,acting outside of time and space whenever children are in pain or peril.

So, thank you to S, for such generous sharing of the eternal clown.

The flan hits the face again, perfect shot and then a pause,
Count 1 and 2
Tip of tongue, shocking pink against a moon white face and the clown licks at the custard covering his eyes and mouth and nose.
He begins a toilette, carefully removing the yellow glop.
The children giggle at the hopelessness of the task and then stiffen, cover their mouths with their fists, become quiet, watchful.
The big clown, completely absorbed in his task has completely failed to notice the two lesser clowns, creeping up behind him, their faces overshadowed by an insanely over-sized bucket.
They mime counting

And then they hurl the water over the oblivious clown.
He leaps into the air, face contorted with mock shock and then returns to earth, his bottom landing first and into the supposedly forgotten custard pie.

The children’s laughter almost drowns out the crump, crump of falling artillery.

And on the Kindertransport, the child’s mouth is a perfect O as she watches a clown bend and twist balloons to make a small pink and red bear. She clutches a stained and grubby stain ribbon, all that is left of her bear, dropped, left behind somewhere in the dark between trains, when the adults said that there was no time to go back to look.
The balloon bear completed, the clown leans forward and dedicatedly lifts the ribbon from her hand and wraps it around the balloon bear.
The child and clown smile carefully at each other.

The wooden boat clings to the shore and even then the movement is enough to make the children puke.
These Peters and Brigettes, sworn to liberate the Holy Land from the Infidel, wait for the journey to begins and while they wait, cold and wet and hungry, they watch the clowns, sea salt eroding the matt perfection of their clown faces, juggle elegantly with an impossible number of silk scarves.

The shack is dark, lit by one guttering candle, there are children everywhere, some almost old enough to work in the fields, others tiny, still reaching out for the mothers, but all eyes are intent on the 2 clowns performing in the least dusty corner.
It is so dark that the children are almost invisible, reduced to just gleaming teeth and glistening eye whites as they watch the clowns chase each other in tiny ever diminishing circles until they are forced to run amongst the children.
The biggest clown tries to hide, choosing the very smallest children to crouch down behind, so that he is absurdly visible, his tattered red trousers are the only patch of colour in the room.
This hiding and seeking game is unsettling some of the older children, reminding them of more deadly games played out in the cotton fields when one of the bucks, most likely a new African, turns rogue, tries to get away, get home.
The clowns notice, pull back and quickly produce an old favourite, the teeny tiny cycle.
They both clamber on, smallest clown on the shoulders of slightly less small clown and legs move madly, piston like as the bike careers into the crowds of children. The clowns clear a path, scooping up the very smallest children to take a turn at the red bicycle ride.

The room is almost silent, just the beep beep of the machines, the steady thrumm of cables and wires and at its centre, the child, still, almost invisible under the burden of leads and bags and drips.
The smallest clown sits at the foot of the bed, floppy hat flopping with the weight of pink plastic flowers.
This is no place for tomfoolery, for noise, for jolly japes.
Instead, the smallest clown, face in shadow, blowing iridescent soap bubbles.
One by one they float into the air and then, soft as a butterfly, one lands on the child’s wrist.
The clown pauses, but there is no reaction.

The clowns are processing, Russian doll figures made real, biggest, smaller, smallest.
They lope across the playground, clown shoes dip into last nights rain puddles.
They are playing kazoos but the sound is almost drowned by the screams and shouts of children as their skin burns and bubbles.
The clowns, undaunted, try to make more noise, reaching into pockets to pull out impossible instruments that cannot have been hidden in such baggy pants.
Drums, trombones, cymbals appear, the smallest clown tries to execute some business, catch the middle sized clowns’ ears between the two brass discs….but the children are weeping, reaching out for help.
The clown dog, small , brown, a little yellow ruff around his neck, trots from child to child, terrier face wrinkled in distress, a growl just held back.

The clowns regroup.
Take stock and then the biggest clown scoops up the little dog, musical instruments vanish back into hidden pockets and they walk away.


Hunger 9- the fat woman’s lament

She is hungry, constantly hungry, engulfed with appetite.
Nothing satisfies her, even as she fills her mouth, she is searching out the next spoonful, the next plate full, the next meal.
Even when she sleeps, she dreams of food, a line of plates stretching as far as the eye can see on snowy white sheets.
The plates are heaped with food, fruits and breads and cakes tumbling to the floor.
In her dreams, she sees herself fall upon freshly baked bread, can taste it’s warm doughy mass against her teeth and lips, her fingers pull at grilled meat, become greasy, shiny with warm fat, pale cooked blood.
She licks them, sighs in pleasure and wakes herself up, pillow damp with licking or chewing or salivating, she cannot tell which.
In supermarkets she peers into other people’s baskets, other people’s lives, remains unconvinced that they are satisfied with their low fat yogurts, their pitta breads,their one lonely chocolate flapjack, half hidden under a bag of salad leaves.

Her hunger rules her, in quiet meetings she cannot believe that the others cannot hear her stomach growl and complain, she makes excuses, flees to the nearest bathroom, storeroom, quiet corner and placates it with bags of smarties, packets of wine gums, loose biscuits crumbling to dust at the bottom of her handbag.

When she eats with others, colleagues, friends, family, she is forced to sit, actually sit on her hands to stop herself reaching out, reaching over and across people to grab at left over food, barely touched plates, ignored side dishes.
Friends who know her well simply pass over their plates when they have finished.
Then watch as she eats one, two, three meals, but it’s never enough, never, ever enough.

Sometimes at night, when she lies, warm, drowsy, body scented from the expensive oils she drops into her bath, hands resting on her rounded, almost full tummy, she wishes she could hold onto this feeling, this peace forever, but she knows, knows full well, that in three, four hours, she will wake, ravenous and will pad on soft night time feet into the kitchen and stand at the open fridge door, hands squishing cheese, soft, cheap bread into an approximation of a sandwich.

The cat will wind around her legs, eyes on the look out for dropped crumbs of cheese, bread, a litany of miaows to tell her that he too is starving and she will reach down and share the final bite of her late night snack with him.

She is big, of course she is big, but with a joyous glamour that means that men stare at her, at her breasts, her full behind, when she walks down the street and other women suddenly feel all angles, too small for their place in the world when they stand next to her.

No-body knows about the hunger that drives her on, the emptiness, the longing for enough.

The hunger has its compensations, she is a baker of cakes, a sharer of sweets, the go to girl when pre-menstural pangs strike her lean, controlled friends.

The many men in her life find that she is the source of un-acknowledged, never aired fantasies in which they imagine themselves buried, enveloped in soft giving flesh, feeding their own hungers, their own needs, mouths full, busy, stuffed.

Her world is full of people who want to feed her,who unknowingly worship at the alter of her hunger, market traders who throw extra aubergines, their shiny flesh almost as seductive as her own, waiters who bring her extra portions, sly slices of pudding, tiny coloured glasses of sweet liqueurs, other people’s parents, who despairing of their own daughters’ bird like appetites, turn cheerfully to her, heap her plate, fathers’ using the excuse of serving another dish of trifle to pat her arm, the curve of her shoulder.

Sometimes, she wonders what it would take to fill her, wonders if her body would actually explode before she reached that moment of satedness, wonders if she would, could actually die of happiness at that moment.

And then one day, quite out of the blue, something magical, something wonderful happens.

It is Thursday, grocery shopping day and she is standing, overwhelmed by the beauty of the piled, pyramided perfection of the soft fruit display in Waitrose.
She stretches out a finger, the nail currently painted a deep purple, perfect counter point to the orange of the tiny clementines, strokes their rough skin and sighs with pleasure.

She hasn’t really noticed the man, standing quietly, perhaps deep in thought as he stares at the wine purple grapes.

And suddenly,he leans towards her and with no warning, pops a grape into her mouth, she is so surprised that she bites down, feels the grape explode with juice and skin and sweetness in her mouth and then she has swallowed it and the pleasure is such that her eyes close, just for a second, but when she re-opens them, he is gone, a bunch of tissue wrapped grapes placed carefully in her basket.

She stands for a moment, the after taste of sweetness in her mouth,her throat and then she understands, that for the first time in memory, that she is not hungry, not hungry at all.

Slowly, thoughtfully, she heads towards the checkouts, but stops to leave her basket, abandoned in the ready meals isle.

She heads out, into the darkness, suddenly knowing exactly what she has been hungering for.


Hunger 8 – Prana

It is the longest day of the year, summer solstice and in this far, far northern corner of far, far northern Scotland, today of all days, surely, the life force of Prana will flood her very being, nourish her as she has been promised.

She unzips the tent slowly, crawls out on hands and knees. The tent is small, cramped, but she is travelling light, trying so hard to travel into the light.

She knows, from all the YouTube videos, the booklets, the workshops that she should be naked, should bare her body to the energy of the sun, but she has been cold for so many days now that she is reduced to wrapping herself in all the clothes she has carried with her and so, she lies carefully, the ground feels hard against her body and waits for light nourishment.

She can only hope that her own toxicity, her own negativity will not get in the way, will cause her to fall back on food dependency, stuck in a treadmill of hunger and consumption.

She has prepared so carefully for this journey, meditated, fasted, cleansed her mind, let go.
She is ready.

But no-one told her it would be so hard, so lonely, even for her, so used to walking away from things, from turning her back on each life she created, fabricates.

Lying next to the tent, face raised upwards to drink in the watery early morning sun, she begins to enumerate the many giving ups, using her fingers to count.

Vegetarianism, the first step, so easy, everyone was doing it,they shared recipes, grilled waiters in cafes, crossed the road rather than walk past butchers shops.

Veganism, a tearful farewell to cheese and a far more tearful loss of her cat, her animal companion, who faced with a diet of soya milk, voted with his paws and moved two doors down.

With vegan ism came a new body, lean, boney and she basked in her new shape, her new definition.

She sought out small shops, read food labels carefully, took pleasure in rejecting offers of food, took to carrying small plastic containers of snacks in her ever present back pack.

Raw food came later, when she read about the dangers of cooking, the poisons in saucepans.
Food preparation became stripped down, a matter of slicing and dicing, taking pleasure in colour and texture alone.

The smells of food cooking began to repulse her. She found it impossible to use public transport, the other passengers stank of fat and sugar and processed sweat. She could no longer bear the city, a charnel house of dead food for almost dead people.

She moved further and further north, seeking somewhere pure, somewhere clean and then one day, in a cyber cafe where the scent of warm milk seemed to hang heavy in the air, she discovered it

Light nourishment. Prana, a life free of the tyranny of food itself, a body fed from the very sun itself.

The videos showed men, women glowing with energy, their eyes and skin clear, the voices sure, confident.

She would sit, on the one chair in her tiny house and close her eyes, visualise her future, a being made of light, able to take nurture from the planet herself, above food, above hunger, above any need.

She tried so hard. Fasted. Meditated. Waited.

But each time, her body betrayed her, dragged her back, demanded attention.

She grew thinner, insubstantial, but the body refused to give up its needs.

She decided that it was her personal possessions that tied her to the body, kept her earth-bound, so, one morning, she walked out of the tiny cottage, her belongings reduced to all the clothes she now wears to keep the cold at bay and the tiny blue tent.

And now she is here, a few steps from the ocean, waiting.

Waiting for the transformation, waiting to be raised above hunger.

She is suddenly very tired, very cold, raising herself, slowly, painfully in one elbow, she crawls back into the tent and enveloped in a soft blue light, she closes her eyes, licks her cracked, dry lips and drifts into sleep.


Yorkshire Sculpture Park – Summer 2013

It is a tradition @ rubiesandduels that every year in the big summer holidays, we fit in a visit to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, this year, with only 3 days of holiday remaining and with rubiesandduels junior declaring that she was far too adult for family outings, it all looked too close to call, but at the last minute, a friend agreed to be my sculpture buddy and off we set up up the M1.

This years’ summer exhibitions promised much, the copper sulphate bed-sit, Yinka Shonibare MBE and the Ortas’ work in water and water poverty.

I can hardly express how much I like the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, where else can you see cutting edge artists, enjoy a good walk, bask in the formal grounds and drink very good coffee and all for the cost of the car park.

So, the copper sulphate bed-sit, created in a condemned bed sit and then laboriously dismantled and transported to Yorkshire, a cross between a Christmas grotto and a disturbingly David Lynchean interior. The crystals are huge and invest a small, claustrophobic space with an other worldliness.

Yinka Shonibare MBE is a conceptual artist working across photography, painting, film, sculpture and costume and I wanted to love his work, but the more I looked, the more I found that I was admiring the fabrication and the skills of the craftspeople who have brought his concepts to life.
I have no problem with conceptual artists using other people to realise concepts and Shonibare is an artist with specific physical limitations following a disabling illness,so needs to use the skills of others to bring concepts together, but and it is a very personal but, I wanted to see their skills and talents recognized and their names somewhere within the exhibition.
But, the exhibition is beautiful, witty, whimsical and addresses the big issues with an assured and light touch.
I defy anyone to not enjoy a fox wearing a suit made from African batique fabric, carrying a golden gun and a mobile phone.

The Ortras’ husband & wife have a lifetime retrospective in the Long Gallery, so a long walk, a climb up the piece “77 steps” – is it a sculpture or a convenient short cut?
And, as is so often the case @ The Yorkshire Sculpture Park, in the midst of pieces I struggle to connect with, some little gems of line drawing and decorated ceramics.

So, breathing a sigh of relief that tradition has continued into another summer, we headed home.








Sometimes, some nights, her hands fumble, she drops the matches and then she has to stand for a moment, regroup and then, slowly, carefully open the box, grip the new match tightly and light the candles, until they are all glowing inside the coloured glass jars.

And then she feel the children, her children, feels their presence, feels their breaths, warm on this cold night and for the first time that day, she is calm, able herself to breathe without feeling that there is not enough oxygen in the air.

She knows now, that if she is very still, very quiet, that she will, if she concentrates, be able to see them both, just out of the corner of her eyes and so, she stands and waits, willing them to come to her.

Her son is the first, his hair sticking up at impossible angles, face grubby, in need of a good scrub, a soak in the bath and afterwards wrapped in a towel, carried, a bundle of warm, still slightly damp small boy, to bed, his head, suddenly to heavy for him to hold, lolling against her shoulder….she pushes the thought away and instead feel his hand, almost holding hers.

She knows now, not to grab, sudden movements frighten them, send them away, but extends her fingers, one by one, feels almost the touch of his hand in hers and she sighs, risks a look down.

He is not looking at her, his eyes are fixed on the candle light, mouth open, his face glowing in the soft light and they stand together in silence, waiting.

Her daughter is still louder, still more, more drama, more presence, just as she was….before.
The candles flicker and then she is here too, standing next to her mother, face turned away, staring at the flickering night lights.

The pink t-shirt, new that day, seems too thin, inadequate for the chill of this autumn evening.
She wants to gather her up, warm her from her own body, but knows that this will send them away, will leave her here alone, with just the candles for company.

” look” she says into the night air ” I have brought you something” and she reaches, slowly, carefully into the carrier bag hanging on her wrist and brings out a small pink bear, glitter in its’ fur, sparkling in the candle light.

She places it on the ground and reaching into the bag again, she pulls out an impossibly large black plastic spider.

Before, before, she knows her son would have laughed, grabbed the toy, chased his screaming sister around the house, waving the spider in her face.

But now, the children stare straight ahead, all their attention focused on the lights, the movement of flame in glass.

She places the toys in the little pile on the ground.

Somedays, some evenings when she comes, a toy or two is missing and she needs to believe that the children have taken, to where ever it is they are now, have taken some comfort from them.

She shivers, her skin cold, knows she cannot stay much longer, knows that her husband, waiting for her in the car park, head resting on the dashboard, hands at exactly ten to two on the steering wheel, will, soon, appear on the other side of the street, no nearer, a mute presence and that it will be time to leave.

He has started talking about taking the candles, the toys, the coloured night light holders down, stopping this nightly vigil, but she allows the words to wash over her, floats through her days, waiting for darkness.

She looks down again at her children, their faces rapt, eyes shining, but not on her, never on her.
Carefully, she fans the fingers of both hands, almost, but not, touching theirs and then she leans forward and starts to blow out the candles.

She feels their howls of protest
“Not yet, not yet, we’re not ready”
And so she waits, leaves one candle burning,as she does every night and empty carrier bag flapping on her wrist, she crosses the road to join her husband.

The children do not acknowledge her leaving, they stand, close together, hand in hand, all their attention on the final, remaining flicker of candle light in the dark.