A Sadie Frost Day

Writing 101, Day 11 – If we were having coffee right now...

Ok, I’m cheating with this one, because, well for a start, I don’t drink coffee. We’d have to be in an alternate universe, and I thought I might be able to write something jolly around that, but thinking about it made me get all heavy with gloom.  I couldn’t help but start that in my alternate universe there wouldn’t be atrocities…

So instead I’m treating you to a short story I wrote years ago as part of the creative writing course I took with the Open University.  Reading it back, it has it’s flaws, and I was limited by word count, so it’s not perfect, but a bit of fun, and well, it starts in a coffee shop….

A Sadie Frost Day

He had asked her to meet him at the coffee bar. It was unusual and she was wondering why the hell they couldn’t just meet at home? She had been at work when she got the text:

‘Need to meet urgently. Come to Starbucks NOW’

She had texted back

‘Am at wrk, will hv to be lunch’ and just received the one word response ‘NOW’

Her curiosity aroused, she had made an excuse about a doctor’s appointment and trotted across town as fast as she could.

She didn’t see him straight away. He was sitting in a corner with a paper held awkwardly, and rather conspicuously, to hide his face. She grabbed the top and pulled it down

‘What’re you playin’ at Bobby, I was busy.’ she said testily

‘sshh, keep it down. Sorry. Look it was, is, kind of an emergency’ To her surprise she saw he was trembling. He looked unusually shifty.

Celia dropped her bag down on a vacant seat, and sat down opposite him. Today he was wearing a long black wig, and pumpkin orange lipstick. His homage to Lucy Liu extended to an over-tight, over-skimpy black dress, complemented by staggeringly high, red, size 12 sling-backs. His masculine, muscular legs were wrapped in shiny flesh coloured tights, like chicken in cling film.

‘What is it now?’ she said, not without some concern

‘Its mum. I’ve, err, lost her.’ Seeing the instant change in Celia’s demeanor he bristled ‘look I’m sorry, but you know how she is. Oh god’ he wiped his hand across his face and she noticed the swatch of make-up it left on his palm.

‘Just because you are a drag queen, does not mean you have to be a drama queen too’ Celia was used to his histrionics, and used the term drag queen just to rile him. He had first turned his attention to dressing up in his early teens, when Celia was still too young to understand what was going on. Since then she had never known what he was going to look like from one day to the next. His ‘look’ was always based on some celebrity or other though.

She left Bobby ostentatiously dabbing at his eyes with a lace handkerchief while she went and got them both a ‘skinny latte’. Sitting back down she started to interrogate him as if he were a child: where had they been? Why were they out at all? How could he lose her?

Slowly Bobby began to recount the events of the morning

‘Mum was up before me this morning. It was one of her good days. She’d put lippy on and everything. She put on that fancy frock, you know, the one with the big red poppies’ Celia cringed. That dress was strapless, short and sequinned, and the most inappropriate piece of attire she could think of for a woman in her sixties.

‘She came and got me up – pulled the covers right off me she did. She was so full of it this morning Cee, so cheery. Anyhow, she’d made me some pancakes. Pancakes! Can you imagine? They were horrible. Horrible. All rubbery and chewy. But she stood over me while I ate them. Then… she told me what to wear – Lucy Lui! Huh! This is much more of a Sadie Frost day. She wouldn’t have it though ‘Lucy Lui’ she insisted. She did.’ Bobby paused and blew on his coffee sending a little breath of foam scooting off the top.

‘Love it when it does that’ he grinned showing the lipstick on his teeth for the first time. He wasn’t an artist when it came to applying make-up Celia observed.

‘An-nee-hoo..’ Bobby’s favourite expression was that one elongated, ill-pronounced word.

Pursing his lips and sticking his little finger out, he theatrically sipped at his coffee

‘So. We caught the bus. Can you imagine it? What the old ladies thought of the two of us, mum all dolled up, and me Lucy Lui on a Sadie Frost day’ he shook his head and sucked his teeth emitting a soft whistle.

‘She wanted to go to the park. Go to the swings like we used to when I was little, she said. Potty. She’s potty Cee, no mistake.’

‘Yes. I know’ Celia had finished her coffee and had begun staring out of the window to see if she could spot the poppified dress amongst the crowds. ‘I think you should get to the point where you lost her’ she said with an edge of irritation.

‘It was in the park, Cee. I only took my eyes off her for a minute or two.’ He was now staring doggedly into his cup as if the words were written there ‘There we these lads. Wolf-whistled me they did.’ He tittered to himself. Celia occasionally wondered if he only dressed up like that for attention rather than because of some innate urge, but the thought evaporated as quickly as it had come. No-one could keep up that pretence uninterrupted for fifteen years.

‘Well, they were very flattering. And one of them Cee, he would have been just right for you. A real looker he was’ Bobby was always trying to set Celia up with odd bods he had met, though he never showed interest in either women or men, and never had done as far as Celia could remember. She suspected he survived quite happily on narcissism.

‘We ought to go to the park. See if we can see her. She should be easy enough to spot in that dress’ she said, scraping the chair against the floor as she stood.

Bobby caught her arm and for the first time looked straight at her, his brown eyes framed by false eyelashes giving them the appearance of two crazed chrysanthemums.

‘I was glad’ he confessed soberly ‘I was glad to get rid of her. She was driving me mad, all that pottiness’ and he fluttered his polished nails around his temple.

‘You left her’ it was a statement rather than a question.

He could snivel all he wanted, she didn’t mind if he was miserable for a change. She had been the long-suffering sole breadwinner in the household for as long as she could remember. Neither she nor Bobby had known their respective fathers. They were long gone and followed by a succession of ‘uncles’ over the years. It was amazing that there weren’t more siblings to look after.

Their mother was bi-polar, the disease once known as manic-depressive. Her moods swung from over-jocular and inappropriate to the deepest self-destructive gloom. As well having a chameleon brother, Celia had had the far more disturbing experience of growing up not knowing how her mother would behave. In the past six months alone she had been hospitalized with slit-wrists and arrested twice for indecency.

Bobby coped by escaping into his own preternatural world. His eccentricities were not appreciated by prospective employers and he had never had a paying job. One day he would be Frieda Kahlo, with a thick black line joining his eyebrows in the middle, sombrely announcing

‘My art is my life’ and the next he would be Blondie, belting out ‘Sundae Girl’ in his baritone voice at the local karoke bar. It was fair to say that Bobby had a mercurial nature.

Celia sighed. She realised how tired she was of picking up the pieces of their chaotic lives.  The office was some respite from the madness, but she felt alone there. How could she tell her colleagues about her mother, or Bobby? How could she take anyone home? She needed to escape.

‘Bobby, get a grip’ she said opening the door ‘I’m going back to work. Mum can find her own way home and you can……well, see you later’

On the way back, she stopped in the Estate Agents and by half past three that afternoon she had rented a tiny studio flat.

By five, there was a splash of unseasonal poppies spread out on the grass in the park.

It turned out that Bobby, in a fit of pique, had pushed his manic mother off of the little bridge that spanned the lake in the park. Far from wolf-whistling, the lads at the park gate had ridiculed him and been more interested in his flighty, flirty mother. The mother had, of course, been delighted with the attention and joined in enthusiastically with the derision. Being upstaged by a pensioner in a mini skirt had seriously irked him, and not given to arguing, Bobby had just seized his chance for revenge.

In court, dressed as Marlene Dietrich, he said he hadn’t meant for her to drown. He just thought a dunking would ‘bring her down a peg.’ He was out of sorts because ‘it wasn’t a Lucy Liu day’.

Bobby became a celebrity in his own right – ‘Transvestite Matricide’ with his picture alongside it, was splashed all over the papers.

He couldn’t wear a dress where he was going though.

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The Fast Life

Writing 101, day 10. ‘Let the scene write itself’.

40 mph 2When I was forty we moved ‘up North’.  The year flashed by in a flurry of finding homes and schools, and settling in and seeking friends. A comfortable and smooth suburban road, my fortieth year was fleeting. But on reflection… Forty was slow.

In my fiftieth year I celebrated a half century of living.  Working full time, the decade hurtled along. Motherly fussing over A level angst, and woefully watching my girls turn to women overnight. And then they left.  My nest was empty. I studied and worried and filled that gaping gap with grief. My fiftieth decade passed so quickly on that bumpy B road.  But on reflection…. Fifty too was slow.

Now, it’s over sixty years since my birth. I grasp life, clinging to my youth with white knuckle fear of declining body and mind. Years roll by as fast as miles on a motorway.  Long stretches of similarity so often give way to curves and corners in my world. I expect the unexpected – a sudden ‘slow down’ or ‘obstruction in the road’. I’m flying along in the fast lane.

But what of seventy? Dare I look beyond? Do I inevitably set out, slow moving, on curling country lanes? A pedestrian? Or perhaps fork out for a Ferrari, put the pedal to the metal, and speed away?

What do I do?

Writing 101, Day 9 – What do you do when your not writing?

You ask what do I do
when I’m not sitting side-by-side
with a sharpener
scrawling in my ridiculous
childlike script on
blank sheets of sepia paper
or staring at a screen
where fought for phrases
turn to text

You ask what do I do
when rhythm is erratic
and rhymes
don’t.
When alliteration alters
instead of enhancing
when allegory is elusive
metaphor meaningless
and similes absurd

You ask what do I do
when words don’t spill
and I have no story to tell
how I pass the time
in that hollow void
when secrets attempt escape
to compensate
for lack of imagination
and skill

You ask what do I do
I live.

Dear Nature

Writing 101, day 8 – write a letter

I thought I’d drop a line to see how you are.  To be honest, I’ve been a bit worried about you lately. You seem to have been, well, let’s say, a bit of a drama queen lately.  What with all the whipping up the wind, and lashing down with the rain, and frankly, no-one likes the fog and the drizzle. Also you seem to have lost your blue paintbrush, preferring to use that nasty gun-metal grey to wash the sky.  Of course, that means there’s not a lot of green either.  Ok, the red and golds are quite nice, but really, they do look better under a sunny sky.

And while we’re on the subject… those leaves.  Look, I know there’s this arrangement with the trees, that you give their branches a rest from time to time, but please could you organise it so that you don’t get into a huff just as the leaves have fallen.  It gets so darn messy. Leaves bloomin’ everywhere.  Couldn’t you just blow them into a neat pile, instead of trying to see how much of a blanket you can cover my garden with?

Oh, and the acorns.  Look, I know trees have to procreate, but do they actually need to produce a gazillion acorns? Surely half a dozen would be enough. Let’s face it, there’s not much to be done with umpteen bins worth of acorns. Even the squirrels are quite overwhelmed.

Now, you know how much I love the animals in my garden don’t you? It’s lovely to see the birds feeding, find hedgehogs wandering about, see the squirrels running along the fence, or find tiny mouse holes here and there.  But there are just a few teeny tiny adjustments that I’d be really grateful if you could make.

Firstly, the birds.

Please ask them not to poop on my patio table. It’s really not nice.  They’ve got their own bird table to poop on if they must.

The Hedgehogs

When will they learn to keep out of the way of my dog? They wander about in the middle of the garden at night, and the dog makes a beeline for them and won’t leave them alone.  I have to go out there with a flashlight, in my jimmyjams and slippers, and physically drag her away.  Could they stay in the far corners please?  There is after all, plenty of piles of leaves for them to hide under.

The Squirrels

Oh they’re so cute.  They gallop along the top of the fence, their fluffy tails bobbing and swooshing.  They tussle entertainingly with the birds as they hurtle along branches.  They’re great.  But…. Would you see to it that they stop burying acorns in the middle of the lawn please?  I’m going to have an oak forest there this time next year I think.

The Mice

I love the mice. Their cute little hands. They’re so teeny tiny. Who’d a thunk that they could do so much damage? They’ve chewed the garden cushions that live in the shed y’know? And they find their way into my house sometimes.  If they’d just stay where they are supposed to be and eat what they’re supposed to eat we’d get along just fine.  Errmm… that goes for the spiders too.

I should elaborate.  You know I have this thing about spiders.  A phobia.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t not like them, they just give me the heebie jeebies. They can’t help being spiders and I know they don’t really mean to scare the living daylights out of me. Why oh why oh why do they have to come into my house though? I’ve got nothing for them to eat.  Those mega granddaddy spiders who run across my carpet when I’m sitting minding my own business, they are asking for trouble (not from me, I just scream, but my husband insists on squishing the poor things).  They can live a long and quiet life if they just spin a pretty web, away from where I’m likely to walk into it (ewww…) maybe decorate the trees with their lace, and we can cohabit without incident for either of us.

Oh sorry, I seem to have gone on a bit and it’s all about my problems, but as usual, you are causing havoc across the globe one way or another – droughts here, floods there, hurricanes, earthquakes.  What the hell is that all about? It would be nice if you could take a few breaths and just calm yourself.  It would be so much easier if everywhere was temperate.  No one place too hot or too cold.  No one without water, and no-one with ruined properties.

It’s got to rain now and again, so let’s have a proper downpour that leaves proper puddles, not this general weepy dampness.  If we’ve got to have clouds, let’s have a few breaks in them so we can look up and say ‘I can see blue’ now and again. I’m sure you’d feel better for it too.

Anyhoo, I’m sorry to nag, but as I said, I’ve been a bit worried about you. However, I have to say that red sky this morning was mesmerising.  Good job!

Best wishes

K

The Trouble with Tatts

Writing 101, day 7 – be inspired by a tweet (choice of five)

I’m with her on this one.  I could never get a tattoo because I just wouldn’t be able to make up my mind. Firstly, what to have, and secondly, where to put the darn thing.

I did for a while fancy have a ying yang symbol, after all I am a gemini and I have twins.  It is the symbol of a philosophy I can relate to and understand in many ways.  But I saw a TV comedy a few years back where someone had had one done, and another character remarked that she thought it was a road sign.  Well, that blew the tin lid off that one.

I could have my daughter’s names, perhaps entwined with roses… but that seems a bit daft and frankly, a bit twee. I know who they are – their details are engraved on my heart for goodness sake, and anyone who spends five minutes with me knows who they are too (yep, I’m a bragger, what can I say!). They can see how I feel about them by the way my eyes light up, and I go all soft around the edges, without having to see a sagging image drawn on my ageing body.

And that’s the trouble with tattoos. Without a doubt some are works of art (though from ones that I’ve witnessed most aren’t), but they will shift and change as we age. Your dragon might be a beautiful fierce creature now, but in 10 or 20 years time it’s going to be a shrivelled up old lizard.

I have another problem with inks too.  This is purely personal and I don’t want to upset or alienate anyone, but to me, tattoos look a bit grubby.  The perfect gleaming skin that you were born with has been permanently violated, by that indelible mark. It doesn’t matter what the picture or how cute the message, it just looks a tad seedy. Sorry. (while I’m at it the same goes for loads of piercings!)

Of course people have been finding ways to decorate and change their bodies for centuries. You’d have thought we would have grown out of it by now.  The bound feet or heads of different ancient cultures shock us.  Lip plates and elongated necks from different tribes make us drop our jaws in disbelief.  Lets face it, we all have different opinions on what is beautiful, but those views, have an ebb and flow just like any other fashion.

Remember a few years ago when everyone was rushing out to get a Celtic armband tattoo? Or when butterflies on shoulders or backs became a common sight on women of a certain age.  Then the slightly younger ones moved on to little vines twining around their hips up to their increasingly flabby tummys. and more recently writing, scrawled over various bits of body, has become popular. What sort of regret will those people have when they realise that they are forever associated with one of those cheesy phrases that now over populate facebook.

Yep, I’m not keen.  I believe that for most of us a tattoo is ‘gilding the lilly’.  Experiment with make-up if you must.  Try fake tattoos, but don’t permanently deface that beautiful body!

All I want is a room somewhere…

Writing 101 day 6 – Where do you write?

Generally I reserve time in the morning to write.  A couple of hours dedicated tapping on my laptop. I could of course, spend all day, but that ends with my having a guilt trip about not getting the housework done or the dinner ready, so I try and limit my absorption.

Of course, some days my mind is a blank.  There is nothing, nothing, to write about. My life is dull, my imagination run dry.  I think it is with these days in mind that I choose to sit on the sofa in our sitting room when I’m writing (yeah we have a study, but who uses one of those for goodness sake! I’d have to climb over the mountains of paper an’ everything).

We are very lucky to have two comfy rooms with sofas.  One, which I tend to call the living room, is where we sit in the evening and watch TV, or loll about and read the newspapers on a Sunday morning.  It has a bay window overhung by our very old oak tree at one end, and French windows looking out across the garden at the other.  I treated myself to a chaise longue when we decorated and that is in front of the French windows.  It’s where I drape myself to catch winter rays or watch the rain in summer, it is most definitely not made for working from. The sofa in here is facing the fireplace not the window.  And there’s the rub.

So… it would appear that I write sitting on the sofa in the sitting room because the sofa faces the large picture window which gives me a view of the garden (this is news to me too… I’ve never really thought about it before!).  We have a pear tree just in front of the window, which is where I hang the bird feeders.  All manner of birds come to get their share of nuts, seeds, insects (yuck, those dried ones…) and fat balls.  In fact, I have my own little viewing gallery right there.  The room is always bright and cheery, and in the finer weather I can open the door onto the patio and hear the birds bickering while warm breezes circulate.

However, lovely and entertaining as the view is, there are I think, other subliminal reasons why I use this room.

In the sitting room I’m surrounded by memories.  I have cushions scattered about that I have made from tee-shirts bought as reminders of holidays but never worn (right now I’m leaning against a huge gold picture of Mickey Mouse bought as a tee-shirt at Disney in Florida nearly 20 years ago) Photo’s and souvenirs from trips to distant places, a selection of LPs from my youth which we can’t play ‘cos we don’t have a turntable, plants that are growing way too big, in fact just about everything ‘wot I like’.

This room is also the room where we play board games at Christmas, huddled around the coffee table, snacks and drinks on the floor, yelling at each other with frustration or glee when we win or lose or get totally outmanoeuvred (to be truthful its usually only me that that happens to). Where we sit quietly in our ‘oingy boingy’ chairs from Ikea and get stuck in a novel, or where we work out whether or not we can afford that next holiday.  It’s a room for parties – push back the chairs and there’s a good space for a boogie, and for yoga practice – its got a perfect wall for practicing handstands against.

I never thought a room could be inspiring, but with my selection of oddments and memories right here with me, and my wild garden only a glance away, I doubt I’ll ever completely run out of things to say!

Just in case I do though….

We’ve been asked by the wordpress fairies to ask our readers for suggestions on what to write.  I don’t know any more than that at the moment, but if you’ve got any ideas just let me know by commenting below, for now… I’ll think about a contact page later 😉

Have a good day!

I say ‘tomato’…

Writing 101, day 5.  Use a quote as inspiration.

Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.

Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

On the surface, my husband and I are two very different creatures.  He is academic, one of the clever ones, who shone at school and studied at Oxford.  Me, well, I was a thickie. Someone who really didn’t achieve, who hated school and left as soon as possible without any further education.

However, when we met at an AmDram society, and he was my leading man, we clicked immediately.  Laughing at the same things, talking endlessly about nothing in particular. The rest, as they say, is history.

Over the course of the last 34 years he has encouraged me when I wallowed in self-doubt, to the extent that I ended up gaining an Open University degree, and being comfortable enough (just about) with my writing to publish poems and short stories on my blog. He pushed me to apply for jobs I didn’t feel good enough for, yet got anyway. I feel he believes in me.

On the other hand, I think I have taught him to let go of his serious side once in a while, and be silly (equally important in my opinion), relax and enjoy life and see the funny side whenever possible. I’ve done my best to support him in some life-changing decisions, for instance, when we upped sticks and moved our little family ‘up North’.

Even after all this time, we remain individuals.  I know he categorically fails to understand my love of technology, or for that matter, my dedication to yoga practice.  But then, I’m bored to tears by the endless history programmes he enjoys.  He likes cooking, I do it because I have to.  I like loud music, he tolerates it. We are opposites in many ways, but opposites that complement each other – I can fix his laptop, he can make delicious meals for me!

Of course, we have joint interests too, which together with our shared experiences of parenting, homebuilding, travel, joy, doubts and sorrows means we will always have common ground.  Things to reminisce over in our rapidly approaching old age.

I don’t like to talk about it much, but he is my second husband.  I was liberated from the first one nearly forty years ago, so it seems irrelevant.  But I understand and appreciate the deep truth of the quote above particularly because of the experience of my first marriage.  That man was extraordinarily possessive and jealous.  I was very young and didn’t really realise it initially, but he treated me like a possession to be paraded and put back in a box.  I wasn’t allowed out on my own or allowed to wear make-up to work in case I attracted attention. I naively believed that it was because he loved me so much.  In reality, it was a destructive, humiliating, and one-sided ‘marriage’.

That has all passed, and though it is a life lesson that has not been quite forgotten, at least it’s been overwritten by happier times.  By marriage to a good man who is happy for me to make my own weird stamp on the world.  Who, in cheesy Hollywood speak ‘completes me’, who is the yin to my yang, the broadband to my laptop.  Ok, we may bicker occasionally, sometimes we need our own space, but that quote above says it all ‘we quiver to the same music’. We have true love and for that I am deeply thankful.