Category Archives: New writing 2018

hashtag me too


He said he liked my sweatshirt, said wonder woman was his favourite when he was a kid

hashtag me too

i see your compliment and raise you

This boy in my french class keeps staring at me

hashtag me too

i see your gaze and raise you

They made us read a book where a woman got hurt in olden times

I see your literature and raise you

When he reached across my desk to get a paper clip, his hands brushed my shoulder

hashtag me too

I see your uninvited touch and raise you

In the pub, with work friends, he made a joke about big breasted women

hashtag me too

I see your banter and raise you

He asked my friend to ask me if I fancied a drink sometime

hashtag me too

I see your assumptive behaviour and raise you

When we kissed, he put his tongue inside my mouth

hashtag me too

I see your boundary pushing and raise you

We got drunk, we had bad sex, in the morning, i wish we hadn’t

hashtag me too

I see your issues around consent and raise you

He told me that i had to chose, him or my friends

hashtag me too

I see his controlling behaviour and raise you

He told me it would really help my grades if i had 1-2-1 tutorials with him on a sunday morning at his house

hashtag me too

I see his abuse of power and raise you

He pushed me into  a doorway and told me he had a knife

hashtag me too

I see your stranger rape and raise you

My father only touched me when he was very drunk

hashtag me too

I see the child abuse and raise you

 

 


more and more i find myself thinking about chi chi the panda – part 2


It is the 1970s and the TV is black and white, there are colour TVs of course, but they still have a black and white one and sometimes that’s a problem.

Sometimes when other children come round, they notice, notice the TV, notice the holes in the carpet in the hallway, notice the saucepan instead of a kettle.

But pandas work well in black and white . For once, the children don’t feel as if they’re missing out on something, don’t feel as if they’re getting second best.

It is the first time that Claire can remember actually watching the grown up news, properly watching, not just waiting for it to finish and she sees the panda being carried down the steps of an aeroplane.

Weeks pass and the panda story grows, and Claire watches them all. These are the things that she learns about pandas;

They eat bamboo shoots, only bamboo, nothing else will do.

Chi Chi the panda has come all the way from China, she is a present from China.

Whenever she is on TV, there are always men in suits and the kind of hats her dad wears when he goes to work.

A famous architect has designed her new home at London Zoo.

London Zoo is in London which is a long way away from where they live.

For Christmas, Claire asks for a panda, really she wants Chi Chi or at least the chance to go all the way to London to see the real Chi Chi, but she does get a small fluffy black and white bear, who she calls Chi Chi and  plans makes a zoo home for her out of a cardboard box on the day after Boxing day when they have nothing special to do.

She also receives;

A famous five book

A selection box

A wade whimsy china rabbit

A new swimming costume

A charm for her charm bracelet, she has nine now and wears the bracelet all day on Christmas Day.

On Christmas Day evening, when the adults are opening a bottle of wine and all the nice quality street have been eaten, she lies quietly on her bed and strokes the bear’s soft fur and whispers her name out loud

Chi Chi

Chi Chi

Chi Chi

 

 


The house of dust ….2


Once upon a time, in the house of dust, there lived a boy and his mother.

But then, back then, the house was just a house and the mother was a woman and almost, sometimes, a wife.

And if you stood in the garden and looked over the roofs you could see into the school playground and sometimes,the mother, the woman, the almost wife would stand there and watch, trying to see the boy in the playground.

She was never sure if this watching was a good thing or a bad thing and she never told the boy that she watched.

She was never sure if that  was a good or a bad thing.

But mostly, she stood in her own bedroom, waiting and watching. Her eyes travelling along the cul de sac and onto the main road that led  past the school and into the town.

In those days, those once upon a time days ,there was no phone, no inter-connectedness, so  there was only waiting and watching, playing those tricksy  games, trying to fool the fates

” If I see a lorry on the main road, he will definitely come today”

“If I walk downstairs and refuse to look out of the window, he will come just when I’m not looking”

” If I say, very loudly, I’m going to bake an apple pie, he will be here to eat it this evening ”

And sometimes, just often enough to make the watching and the waiting not an act of madness, she would see him, see him turn into the cul de sac, suitcase in each hand, his pace slowing as he reached the garden gate, him trying not to look annoyed as the gate squeaked, needing oiling, still hanging on one hinge.

And once she saw him, she wanted to run out of the house, leap on him, smother him with kisses, but, in the cul de sac it was the 1950s, it was still the 1950s into the 60s and even the 70s and her neighbors  already watched her watching and she knew  that the boy played alone in the playground, walked to and from the school behind the gaggle of children from all the other houses and so, she waited behind the front door, counted to 10 before she moved down the hallway, trying to look as if she had been disturbed in the middle of some housewifely task.

And when the man, the father , the almost husband was there, she watched the boy, watching him, waiting. The boy drawn even further into himself, sometimes, when she stood in the kitchen at night, watching the man standing at the very edge of the garden, smoking into the darkness, she would see the boy, back against the fence staring at the father, the man, but, all her attention needed to be on the man, all her attention needed to will him, this time , to stay.

Sometimes, she wondered what the boy saw, wondered what he read in the man’s angry gestures, the cigarette thrown into the bushes, stub glowing red for a second or two before the damp leaves extinguished it, the slamming of doors, the silent eating of indifferently cooked mince.

She wondered what the boy learnt as she watched him, watching the man, the father, the almost husband and sometimes she wanted to ask him, but, there was really no space between when the man was there and when he was gone, she drifted back into her own waiting and watching and the moment was gone.

Eventually, the man, the father, the almost husband stopped coming at all and the boy became taller, almost a man himself and she found herself watching for him.

She found herself standing at the bedroom window, neck craned to catch the first glimpse of him as he turned into the cul de sac, his brief case always in his left hand, his pace slowing as he reached where the garden gate used to be, stepped over the rotting wood and took the front door key from under the broken flower pot.

One day, when she was standing, watching and waiting, she almost didn’t recognise this almost stranger, almost man walking towards the house.

She wonders what he remembers of the father and starts another round of waiting. 

The house slips further into becoming the house of dust.


The house of dust…..1


Once upon a time there was a boy and he lived at the house of dust, but that was then and it wasn’t the house of dust, not yet, just a house where a boy lived, in a house where, if you stood in the garden, you could see the school.

The boy was never sure if this was a good or a bad thing.

And in the house, which wasn’t yet the house of dust, lived the boy, the mother and sometime, but not always, the father.

And the boy was never sure of this was a good thing or a bad thing.

When the father was there the boy would watch and wait, wait for the father to go away, because that’s what men did, they went away and he knew that when he was a man, he would go away too, do the thing that men do.

And he would watch, watch for the signs the mother never seemed to see. The father standing in the garden, a woodbine in his mouth, looking over the rooftops to the main road, the father in the kitchen, pushing the mound of washing up away to find a clean cup to make a single cup of tea, the father, his pockets jingling with change, walking to the phone box next to the school and then one day when the boy came home it would just be the boy and the mother again and the house would move   closer to becoming the house of dust.

The mother would cry and he would stare at her, not knowing what to say, a

part of him wishing that he was enough, even while he held the secret of his own future going away close to his chest.

And sometime later, the father would come again until one day, he stopped coming, although the mother continued to wait, continued to stand at her bedroom window, continued to talk about him as if he had simply popped out for a few moments and would be back in time for tea.

The house began to slide, to find its true nature and the boy became taller, older, almost a man and he waited, waited to become a man, waited to leave and all the time, the mother waited too.

The mother and the boy, both playing a waiting game……..

 

To be continued.

 


More and more I find myself thinking about Chi Chi the panda….part 1


The woman is being driven through London in a triumph spitfire in a heat wave in 1990 something.

The car is not hers.

The man is not her husband.

Even the year does not feel as though it will at any point be her year.

But the child, shoehorned into a space not really big enough for anything larger than an overnight bag, the child is most definitely hers.

And the child is the reason for this trip, this jaunt, the Sunday afternoon educational outing.

 

They are driving through London in a sports car to the Natural History Museum to look at dinosaurs and polar bears, to press buttons and read tiny labels. They are going to have fun.

The husband, the car, the A to Z and a possibly misjudged Vivienne Westwood frock are all on loan, borrowed from a friend who childless herself does not quite see that a museum in August may not be fun.

They may not have fun.

The man has never been to a museum with a child, he is not prepared for the whirlwind of movement, the restless gallop from thing to thing, the urgency of what’s next, what’s next.

The child sees the gift shop, latches onto a leopard head hat, furry,  fully lined, designed for winter days.

It is a ridiculous item on a day when the sun has made the leather seats of the sports car so hot that the mother has spent the whole drive lifting her thighs away from heat, hoping that her wriggling has no sexual message for this borrowed husband in this borrowed car.

It is her third public parenting fail of the day.

“You can have Coca Cola and cake ” she says

The tea room is in the basement, green tiled, cool, surprisingly deserted and there, by the entrance is a panda, a stuffed panda in a glass display case.

Even the child stops for a moment and then walks up to the case and looks carefully at what’s inside. A slightly discoloured stuffed animal, a wall of black and white photos and a small pyramid of less discoloured soft toys.

The woman joins her and then realises that this is not just a panda, this is Chi Chi the panda. This is the panda from her childhood, from her one visit to London zoo, her first memory of watching the grown up news.

She remembers her vigil at the concrete enclosure, with the concrete walls and in the middle a concrete shed and  how she and her brother and sister stared at the sheds’ partially open door, willing the bundle of black and white fur huddled in the furthest corner to come out, to make this standing in the cold actually worthwhile.

The man, the not husband is standing next to her, he shakes his head

“Sad” he says “Poor animal on her own for so many years”

He and the child head towards the counter, they are looking at cake, both eying up the very pink ones with many, many smarties on top.

When they leave the museum, the child is wearing the leopard head hat, growling and snarling at everyone they pass.

They drive away, to return the husband, the car, the A to Z and the frock to their rightful  owner.

The only evidence of the woman’s silent tears are 2 tiny water damage spots on the silk on the left sleeve of the borrowed dress.


16 and a half Reasons to be nice to your cleaner


1. She knows what lives behind your sofa

2. She knows what goes on behind closed doors

3. She could, if she wanted to, clean your toilet with your toothbrush. She doesn’t, but she could.

4. She knows you wear the same pyjamas for  a week, or is it two ?

5. She knows who takes anti depressants and who should, really really should

6. She could, if she wanted to, rewrite your magnetic fridge poetry into an rant of polish obscenities, she could, but actually she doesn’t have the time

7. She knows whose son is drinking cider and whose son is dealing weed

8. She knows whose daughter keeps a razor blade in a tiny tin under an almost still fluffy gnarled greying bunnikins

9. She could stop for  moment and think about what it would be like to sit at a scrubbed (by her, of course) pine table with Pilates pals and eat lemon drizzle cake, she could, but  she knows that you monitor the hoover as it trundles from room to room,  so she could, but she daren’t

10. She knows you didn’t make the lemon drizzle cake

11. She knows you did eat 3 packets of crisps, 2 large mars bars and a gluten free chocolate cake in bed this week

12. She could tell you that her children got far better A level results than yours, but she won’t. She guards her privacy,  the knowing  and the knowledge is one way street

13. She knows you are £234.57 overdrawn one day after payday.

14. She knows that you shop in Aldi now, but carry it home in your Kath Kidson jute shopping bags.

15. She could make a fuss about the underpayment, the didn’t have any change, the will sort it out next week, but she won’t. Instead, she has taken to letting the Hoover run on, unminded, while she stares out of the windows, stealing back time.

16. She knows it won’t be long now until you are the one picking up your husbands toe nail clippings from the bed side table,  scrubbing your own pine table, washing the plates your children leave under beds to  until they fester, become concrete, difficult to clean

and then when she meets you,  in the street , sometime  next week  next year, maybe your excleaner, well, she will be very nice to you indeed.