To think or not to think?

Ah well, I’ve just started the new year of my course, and I’ve seen the course materials and the assessment requirements, so anxiety is setting in big time.  I decided to change my primary genre this year from fiction to poetry, ‘cos basically I like writing poetry more. Besides, it takes me ages to think of plots for stories but I can write a poem on practically anything you throw at me (it might not be a good poem, but it’ll be a poem – I give you ‘ode to my knickers‘…)

I do have the odd existential crisis around poetry though. I wonder what its for. Am I just writing it to show how jolly clever I am?  To share a mood, an emotion? How my brain works in weird ways? (Certainly that last one is apparent in much of my work!)

I am thrown by some of the comments at my writers group too. I am one of only a few poets there, and some of the aspiring writers just don’t get poetry – ‘if it doesn’t rhyme it’s not a poem and you are not a poet’ was one memorable comment.  And yes, I know, much as I love ’em all, they are heathens…. 😉

Of course, I can’t agree with that at all, I know it’s not correct. I read a lot of poetry both modern and classic and enjoy the free-verse and rhymes equally, as long as they connect with me in some way –  make me think, bring a tear, make me laugh. And I love layers to unpeel, deeper meanings to uncover, thought provoking ideas, and beautiful use of language.

However, I have to agree, that for many people a quick ditty that doesn’t require analysis is the only poetry they understand and therefore, enjoy.  For instance, who doesn’t like Pam Ayres and her ‘I wish I’d looked after me teeth!’, a poem many of us can identify with I’m sure.

On any creative writing course I doubt very much that this would be described as ‘good’ poetry, and I imagine I wouldn’t get a particularly high mark if I chose to submit something along those lines as part of an assessment. But hey, it makes us laugh, we understand it and empathise, and with it’s tumpty-tumbness, it’s memorable.  Shouldn’t we appreciate that just as much?

But as I said, this was a brief crisis which has now been sat on.  I work hard to write poems that require some reading between the lines.  I like to find rhythm where there was none, and to play with words, spending hours finding the one that’s just right in that particular line making it delicious and dripping with meaning. I don’t often get that right of course, and some might say it’s not worth the effort, but I enjoy the process.  And yes, I’m quietly pleased with myself when the whole thing comes together.

Last week I read an allegoric poem at the writers group which I was really pleased with, and the best they could say was ‘it’s good’ and ‘to the point’. I really wished they had had the time to check it out a bit further, given it just a little more thought. But in this world of rush and instant gratification perhaps allegory and metaphor are too time consuming and are a bit too much like hard work, so I’ll take the approval, albeit for what I consider to be, the wrong reasons. Of course, it might just be that the allegory is all in my head. At what point does it become clear to everyone I wonder? Its ok to have a blanket of layers but I guess it doesn’t need a whole bloomin’ duvet!

Oh dear, I fear all this studying is turning me into a bit of a thinker! I’ll keep on doing what I’m doing and work towards improving and expanding my writing and my thoughtiness… (and perhaps, my vocabulary!)  🙂

Missing you

Hmmm…. just looking at me little blogs stats and realised that it’s been a dry year so far. Mainly, as I explained in an earlier blog (you remember… I’m sure you do…), that I can’t post any of my writing because of publishing restrictions on the course I’m doing (an MA on Creative Writing with the Open University since you ask). I actually daren’t post any just in case they’re half reasonable and I can fish them out when I’m in dire need halfway through next years module. But anyways…

Looking back I can see that actually when I first started this ‘journey’ I wasn’t posting that much creative writing stuff, more a mishmash of things I like, moany posts about life in general, and some photographs. The most activity was around the events hosted by wordpress, such as photo101 and writing101 which encouraged me to post every day. They were most excellent at keeping me on track and a lovely way to meet new online friends and get more followers. They were my most productive times on the site.

Oh I know I shouldn’t need that push and shove, but you know what it’s like, life gets in the way and there’s all sorts of excuses I could use – for instance, I have to take the dog to the vets in a mo’ and I’m busy bracing myself – it’s fair to say she doesn’t like it much! Anyone who’s met my dog knows she is a nervous sort and that’s enhanced a 100 fold on a trip to the you know where’s. It’s emotionally draining. No, not for her.. for me…

Anyhoo, I digress. One of the other reasons I haven’t been around here much lately is because I’ve taken on a couple of other sites (suttonartgroup and retwords) so have been busy making them look all pretty and alive whilst letting my poor flower die off a bit. This needs to be redressed methinks.

Therefore, I hereby promise to prattle on and post more frequently despite the limitations, and one day, when I eventually finish this darn course, I’ll be able to share that mountain of poetry and prose that is building up on my laptop.

Hope it’s worth the wait….

A bit of Christmas flash fiction

img_0791I was lucky enough to receive this exciting looking box for Christmas.  As you know, I love to write but, like most others, often have days when my mind can’t come up with anything worth writing.  Nonetheless, looking through some of the ‘tools’ in my ‘toolbox’ I admit I was a bit sniffy.  Their are sticks with random sentences, wheels with different protagonists, settings, obstacles etc, and ‘sixth sense cards’ which just seemed to have random ideas on.  In fact, my daughters and I had an hilarious half-hour trying to string these together into some sort of story.  It was rubbish of course, but fun.

However, once the Christmas festivities were over, and I was in a bit of a slump, I looked properly at the ‘instructions’.  Basically I should pick out three or four cards put them face down, turn over the first one and write about it for three minutes using the timer supplied, then the next and so on.  Not unlike some of the exercises we did on my creative writing course so ok, I’ll give it a go, I thought.

The cards I picked were:

I was dressed in a completely inappropriate shade of pink

Sticky raspberry yogurt

Yoga girls toenails

the sound of a garden hose

I honestly followed the rules, and amazingly I was quite pleased with the result.  So pleased in fact, I’m sharing it with you here.  Enjoy!

No Lady

I was dressed in a completely inappropriate shade of pink.  For my age that is.  Fifty year old women shouldn’t wear pink, or so my father used to say.  He’d know of course.  Women’s fashion was his thing.  He’d been a hairdresser in the 60’s, and met Mary Quant, or so he said.  She let him help design some of her collections, so he said.  He had an eye for fashion that’s for sure, especially the skimpy sort.

Apparently, some of his clientele was sure he was gay because of his good looks and nice manners, at least that what he said. Though it was probably because of his delicate fastidiousness in all things, which may have been appealing in the fancy salon, but drove us all mad at home.

I remember the day I spilt sticky raspberry yogurt on the carpet in the living room.  He was livid. Pinker than the yogurt with rage.  Made me scrub at it for ages until any hint of spillage had been eradicated completely.  I was only six. I had sore hands when I finished and dad wouldn’t let mum put any cream on them or anything. I think she was sorry for that.  I think she was sorry for a lot of things.  Including marrying my dad.

She was a model in a department store.  Modelling the clothes for other, richer, people to buy. She was pretty in a fairly conventional way but had to work to keep the slim figure that Twiggy was promoting around that time.  Dad even cut her hair the same as Twiggy’s.  He really liked that boyish look.

She used to practice yoga. It was the only time she seemed at peace.  Sitting cross-legged on her mat on the bedroom floor, quiet, closed eyes.  Once I painted all her toenails bright red while she was busy meditating and she didn’t even seem to notice.

My brother and I must have been a handful for her, but she never really complained, just meditated and smoked her funny cigarettes to ‘keep her calm’.  Dad would’ve been furious if he’d have caught her smoking, and we were sworn to secrecy.  No dirty ashtrays in our house, no dirty anything. Except dad.

Once I remember my brother and I messing about in the garden after it had been raining.  It’s fair to say that we got a bit carried away and were making mud pies and throwing them at each other, and at everything else in the garden too. It ended up like the Somme.  When dad found us, he turned the hose on full blast and made us stand naked under its powerful spray for a full ten minutes.  We were frozen stiff by the end of it.  The sound of a garden hose still makes me shiver.

Anyway, I digress. Yes, I’m wearing an outrageous long and tight flamingo frock, complete with feathers and sequins.  I’m wearing a wig of shoulder length silky blonde hair, and I’ve made sure my make-up is impeccable.  My entire torso is squeezed into spanx, giving me the curves my mother would have had if it weren’t for dad denying her chocolate and pies for years. Despite dads opinion, I look fabulous, even though I do say so myself.

I’m neat, and clean. Dad would be proud.

Or maybe not.

I’m not sure that he thought the way he treated me (us, my brother suffered just as I did), that he’d turn me into a full blown queer old drag queen.  Shame he didn’t see it, I would’ve enjoyed that.

I squish my stub under my stiletto, hitch up my boobs, and head out to face the rowdy crowd in the grubby nightclub. Easy money.




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
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.

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!

So what does it mean?

Posted in response the Daily Post weekly photo challenge.  This week’s theme ‘Inspiration’

Strangely, I’ve found this a toughie.  When I’m stuck on these challenges, my first thought is ‘well, what does that actually mean’?  Of course, I kinda know, but what is the actual definition?  On these occasions, I don’t go for the usual quick internet dictionary, I go to the study and dig out my big ol’ Oxford English jobbie.  You know, an old fashioned, proper big book of words.  It’s a fat tome, with fine paper pages that rustle when you turn them, a red ribbon page marker, and finger hole marker thingys so that you can find the right initial letter easier. Apparently, it contains over 240,000 words, and I’m guessing that I will never use at least three quarters of them.

Whenever I look up a word, I always, always, find others around it that I’ve never heard of (did you know an Inselberg is an isolated hill rising abruptly from a plain, or Inspissate means to thicken or congeal? Me neither…), so I usually end up distracted from what I was doing (like now).

So back to what inspires me.  Well, the definition in my dictionary is ‘The process or quality of being inspired’ errmmm… yeah….. ok, use it properly….to inspire is to ‘fill with the urge or ability to do or feel something; create a feeling in a person.’

So my dictionary itself inspires me to think about words, enjoy them, and learn.  I’ve taken some pictures of it for you (below). Dull isn’t it. The thing with books is that you have to hold them and hear the pages, feel the heft (Ok, I admit it, I even smell my books) to appreciate them.

So what else inspires me? Well, everything and anything.  The sunshine, my dog, the flowers – hey even looking at my baggy belly inspires me to go to the gym – (don’t worry, I won’t be posting a picture of that!)

The thing that’s been inspiring me recently though is a lovely idea for cheering up chronically sick children, PostPals. All you have to do is send a letter, or email to one of the ‘Pals’ to give them a smile.  How brilliant is that? The children themselves are inspiring in their bravery (especial love to my friend Lewis who suffers from a form of the devastating Batten’s Disease). If you are interested please visit the PostPals website by clicking here.

Inspiring me today:

What’s it mean? Wednesday

Magniloquentspeaking or expressed in a lofty or grandiose style; pompous; bombastic; boastful.*

What a great yummy word!

Say it out loud – it starts with that hard ‘g’ at the back of your throat, then a roll of the tongue, and ‘oh’ and then softens off at the end with a gentle ‘t’.

Mind you, you’d probably be guilty of that very thing if you threw it into a conversation or bit of writing.  I must say, I hope I’m not magniloquent.  I like to think that anything I write is fairly simple, readable, and concise, and I do tend to use pretty basic language (let’s be honest here, I’m not actually sure I could use anything but simple words even if I wanted to).  Sadly though, even simple words can easily be misenterpreted, or not interpreted at all, and as bloggers, of course, we should be very considerate of that.

I often write verses the meaning of which is perfectly clear to me. Yes, of course I use metaphors and similies and all that stuff, but I always think they’re obvious not just to me, but to any other readers too. Clearly they are not. Well, not to everyone.  Our minds work in different ways.

For instance, I changed the name of a recent poem I posted.  The original name was ‘Suicide Son’ which is kinda what came to mind as I was writing it, but I thought it was a bit of a horrible title, both shocking and unpleasant, so I changed it to ‘Why?’ (you can read it here).  From the comments I’ve had both on the blog and from family and friends, it is obvious that this has several completely different interpretations to the one in my head when I wrote it.

Not that I mind. Perhaps the original title would have made the intention clearer, but I think poetry should be open to interpretation, and it’s just as well that not everyone has a macabre mind like mine. And after all, I can console myself with the fact that I find even the most famous poets work pretty mystifyi ng sometimes.

Anyhow, I guess making things a bit ambiguous isn’t quite the same as being magniloquent, so I’ll just keep on keeping on for now.

Toodle-ooo!  🙂

*definition courtesy of

Tick Tock – am I wasting my time?


The clocks went back an hour on Sunday morning, and my body clock has not yet adjusted.  So with my brain’s usual contrariness I woke up at what would have been 6:30 a.m. on Saturday but was in fact 5:30 a.m. today.  Normally of course, the alarm alarms me into half wakefulness (enough to reach for the snooze button) and it needs two more attempts to rouse me to the point where I can crawl out of bed.  This morning though, I was wide awake. Waiting.

It occurred to me that I have wasted an awful lot of my time waiting one way or the other.  I suspect at least a couple of years of my life were spent sitting in the car outside of various establishments waiting for the kids to come out of drama/violin/gymnastics/St John’s/choir classes or other kids parties.  And later, as taxi driver extraordinaire, waiting in the car at a distance from whichever pub or club they’d been to.

Then there’s the level crossing further down our road that we had to cross to get to their primary school.  Heaven only knows how many hours I’ve lost sitting waiting for the trains to pass.  The other day me and the dog were there for 20 minutes – that’s five trains worth. Twenty precious minutes of my life, gone, just like that.

And while we’re about it, what about waiting at airports, stations, waiting for buses, waiting at the dentist, the doctors.  My life ticking away while I’m sat reading out of date copies of ‘Practical Caravan’ or ‘Angling Times’ neither of which I have any interest in whatsoever.

A couple of weeks ago we watched a fantasy type film called ‘In Time’ (see the trailer here) where everyone lived until they were 25 after which they had to buy time, otherwise they were ‘terminated’.  Time was currency, and everyone had a clock built in to their arms which they could see running down.  Employment was paid in hours.  The wealthy could live forever.   Poorer people ran everywhere to save their precious minutes.

Of course, it was daft, but I did find it thought provoking (and actually much better than it sounds – worth a watch).  It made me think about the hours I waste, and the difference between wasting time, and, well, living.

Am I wasting time when I play games?  Is playing Candy Crush Saga on my phone any worse than sitting watching pap TV or reading a bit of entertaining chick-lit?  Am I wasting time when I’m writing?  Aaagghhh… now there’s a question.

I certainly spend a lot of time writing, or at least messing about on my blog, tweaking it, reading other blogs etc.  Hours pass by miraculously quickly and I often think ‘I must stop this and do something useful’.  And then go and do a bit of sewing, which if I was making clothes might be termed as useful, but I don’t, I make soppy things out of felt (you can see some here!).

I suppose it brings me back to the question of why we do creative things.  Whether it’s wasting time to just enjoy yourself.  Lose yourself in creating something original, unique, perhaps even entertaining or useful.

I’ve searched the internet for answers, and not really come up with anything definitive.  But I have had a deep think about my motives.  My motives for wanting to write, to want more followers, more readers, this urge to foist my thoughts on the unsuspecting public.  After all, I don’t think they’re particularly enlightening thoughts, probably not original either for that matter. It doesn’t even earn me any money for goodness sake!

But I have come to a conclusion:

The reason I write all this stuff and nonsense, the reason I post it on my blog for all the world to see (if they care to – come on world!), is to leave a mark.  A mark of the real me.  Not the me that is a mum or daughter, or wife even, nor the me that colleagues knew, but the nugget of me, that even I don’t know about until I start putting things on paper, the central joy of the absurd, as well as the deep chasms of darkness, that my inner self seems to dwell in sometimes. It is the yin to my outward yang.

Most of my family have found it hard to understand why my short stories tend to bend towards the dark side.  Only the other day my mother complained that they never have happy endings.  To be honest, I don’t know where they come from either, but that’s just how I write.  Some people start out with a plan, a ‘beginning, middle and end’, but I’m one of those folk whose hands practically take on a life of their own when I’m bashing out a story on a keyboard.  I don’t know what’s going to happen to the protagonist until there it is, on paper, a sticky end again.

And as far as verses go (no, still can’t bring myself to call them poems) well, they just turn up in my head as a rhymey line or two, and I knock them into some sort of shape from there.

So, basically, as well as leaving my mark, for posterity sake (my words will be around a lot longer than me), it reveals the individual in me, not only do my family, friends and followers get to know me better, I get to know myself too.

Therefore I conclude:

Writing is not a waste of my time. Yay!!

Between the posts

Well, Writing 101 is finished (boo…)

But hey….Blogging 201 is just starting (yay!!)

First challenge is to post at least three goals for my blog.  Hmm… that’s dead hard that is.

They’re asking me things like ‘why do you blog?’ and crikey, I don’t know.  I just do.  I like it, I like writing, I like interacting, I like reading other people’s blogs and pinching their ideas (not really, just getting inspiration, honest!), and I like seeing my stuff looking pretty. I like my friends and family to see how I’m keeping myself busy, and making them laugh, and wince sometimes (hehee).

Sooo…that’s why I blog.  Now I know.

The blogging 201 pixies are also asking me to set myself three goals for my blog.

So, what might they be…?

Ooh.. I’d like some more followers please.  It’s so lovely to see the dubree in the corner light up with likes or comments, but it really makes my day when I get an email saying ‘so and so is now following your blog’.  That’s splendid.  Yep, lets have some more of those, say reach 220 by end of November. Sitting at 180 as of this morning, so doable I hope.

Of course, to get more followers I’m going to have to do some work.  Have been publishing daily through the course of writing 101, so I’m going to give myself a break here, and just endeavour to post something at least three times a week.  Perfectly doable I think.

Thirdly, for your delight and entertainment, I’m going to establish a new feature.  No idea what.  I could do with your help if I’m honest.  Have come up with one or two ideas:

  • Madness on Monday – plenty of madness in the world to talk about methinks
  • Terrible joke Tuesday – hmm… know plenty of those too…
  • Wordy Wednesday – my ‘word of the day’. Today, by the way (ok I know it’s Monday, smarty pants… I’m just sayin’), it’s Balter, which apparently means ‘to dance gracelessly, without particular art or skill, but with some enjoyment’ – I do it all the time!
  • Thirsty Thursday – actually this one already exists in our house, but not in a bloggy way, more in a ‘time for a glass of wine’ way.
  • Fabulous Friday – well, I’m fabulous every day of course but not blingy, more sophisticated and genteel (hmm..!) but there is plenty of bling out there that catches my eye and makes me gasp with wonder at what people are prepared to wear.

What do you think? Any of ‘em any good? Well, I’ll leave it for now, and surprise you!

Anyhoo…there you are.  Three, perfectly achievable goals.  Better get off and start doing something now then.


heatI’ve been in this room since 6:00 a.m.  It was an abnormally hot night and I couldn’t sleep.  Knowing I had a deadline to work to didn’t help, so instead of enjoying the comforting embrace of my bed, I came down here to the study, the coolest room in the house.

Surprisingly, it’s not where I usually care to write.  It always feels a bit insular and claustrophobic. The ceiling height bookshelves with their jumble of dog-eared books seem to bear down on me, and it gets increasingly difficult to ignore the pile of bills and letters that bury the surface of the desk.  Instead, I usually prefer to spread myself out on the sofa, with my laptop atop my lap.  From there I can gaze out through the French windows across our higgledy-piggledy overgrown garden. I like to watch the wildlife foraging in its borders, although our neighbour’s tend to complain about it a bit.  They have what Greg calls a ‘council house garden’, flowers planted like soldiers in colour coded uniforms

I went up to wake Greg at 8:00.  He was still sleepy.

‘Where have you been?’ he asked unfurling his long limbs. If you didn’t notice his life-etched face and his cropped-to-disguise-the-bald-patch hair, you might think that my husband was one of those gangly teenagers yet to take full charge of their body

‘Couldn’t sleep.  Ridiculously hot. Don’t know how you manage it.’

‘Mmm… it is a bit on the warm side.’

I threw the heavy curtains back letting in a burst of light.

‘God, what time is it?  I need to get going.  Have to meet ‘The Bugger’ in town this morning.’ ‘The Bugger’ was his affectionate name for his boss.  Greg and The Bugger had been working together selling insurance since before I’d met him 22 years ago.  I always joked that they were more like a married couple than we were.  He certainly seems to spend more time with The Bugger than he does with me these days.

He left in a rush, half an hour later, barely remembering to give me my cursory morning kiss on the cheek as he went.  At 47, I still think he looks dapper in his grey suit. Especially with that purple tie that Izzy bought him for his birthday last year.

She has to buy post-able things now she’s at uni.

‘Do you know how much it costs to post a parcel mum?’ she had complained, making what I imagined was an excuse for forgetting my birthday.  As if I didn’t know! After all, I had been sending packages of food, silly socks and make-up almost weekly since she’d left!

As usual, I was thinking about Izzy when I opened my laptop, checked my emails, and then facebook, to see whether there were any messages from her, or better still, photo’s that her friends had posted.  I love seeing those. They are nearly all the same – a group of four or five friends, heads together, all with raised beer glasses and all grinning drunkenly.  Happy pictures.  There haven’t been any of me like that for a long time.

There was nothing new on-line today though, so, begrudgingly, I open the file I’d created yesterday.  I’ve been commissioned by a small local paper to write something around the changing environment and its effect on our town.  It won’t earn me much, but keeps me occupied.  I’ve long since given up the dreams of earning big bucks. The ‘school of hard knocks’ Greg calls it.  All those brown envelopes with their grey rejections enclosed.  I’d rather not bother any more, just do odd bits and bobs, like this article.

God it’s hot.  Its only 10:00 a.m. and it’s unbearable. My head is thumping.  So, without guilt, despite knowing how appalled my prissy mother would be (‘Geraldine! The neighbours!’), I strip off down to my underwear and pad semi-naked through the house to the bathroom.  Running the shower as cold as it can go I step under and let the water run over my body.  It makes me shiver, but not unpleasantly, so I stay there for a full five minutes before stepping out into the heat again.

I can’t bear the thought of drying my hair.  I rarely tie it back, it’s not quite long enough, so I have to scrape it flat to my head giving myself a Croydon facelift as Greg calls it.  Trying it out, I can see in the unforgiving mirror, that it does indeed pull my eyes up slightly at the corners, but it also makes me look hard and sour faced.  I decide to keep it pinned up anyway though, just to stop it sticking to my neck sweatily.

I dig out an old shift that I bought when we went to a garden party a few summers ago.  It’s a bit big now, but at least its pattern of yellow flowers is cheery, and better still, the soft cotton feels cool against my skin.  It’s too hot for underwear so I decide to go ‘commando’ and, stopping only to get some aspirin on the way, head back to the study.  The icon on my laptop is flashing to tell me I have a new mail message.  It’s from Izzy:

‘Hi Mum

It’s really hot here today, is it the same there?  We’ve decided to skip lectures and go and swim in the river instead – how exciting is that!! Might even skinny dip hehe.. – don’t worry just saying that to shock you.  Go on admit it, you nearly fainted hehehe.   Anyway, hope you’re ok. Speak soon, Iz x x’

Her emails always make me smile, especially the ‘hehe’s’.  I can imagine her tittering to herself as she is typing.  I respond:

‘Fully understand you wanting to skinny dip.  Think I might go down the canal myself, perhaps take nana with me!  Can you imagine us wrinklies?  Bet you want to poke out your mind’s eye now!! Lots of love mummy x x x p.s. be good, and keep safe!’

Pleased with my attempt at humour, I turn my mind to the article I am supposed to be submitting no later than 2:00 today.  To be truthful, I don’t much care if it’s late, but decide I ought to try and make an effort.  I can hear thunder rolling in the distance as I google ‘environmental issues’ but the resulting sites are so broad I don’t know where to start, so try again using ‘environment+local’ and find an English Heritage site.  There’s nothing new on there though and I realise getting an original perspective will be difficult. We’ve been warned about the dangers for years, God knows why the paper wants something from me now.

The light is reflecting on my screen and it’s making my headache worse. I draw the curtains and the dust that drifts from them makes me sneeze. In the semi-darkness I fumble about in the over-filled desk drawer until with relief, I manage to find the spare pack of tablets. I can still hear the distant drum-roll of thunder as I swallow a dose.  I need them to work, the heat is stifling.

My mobile rings.  Izzy set it up so it plays ‘Always look on the bright side of life’ when anyone calls, and I loathe its cheeriness today.  She also set it up so that I can see on the screen who is calling.  Now it says ‘Your hubby’ with a smiley face next to it.

‘Gerry, it’s me.  The Bugger says we have to take the bloody client out to lunch now.  It’s bloody miles away.  So much for leaving early today. Glad I’ve got air conditioning in the motor I can tell you.’

‘You said you’d take me to the docs’

‘Sorry love, can you take yourself? There’s no real need for me to be there is there? Just make sure you tell him everything.’

‘No, it’s alright, I won’t go.  I’ll ring them and cancel.’

‘No, don’t do that.  You need to see someone. Just make sure…’

But before he finishes his sentence the signal fizzes and dies.

Greg has been nagging me to see the doctor for a while.  He says I’m ‘not myself’.  I’m not sure if I am or not, to be honest. Not sure who ‘myself’ is these days.  Anyway, I certainly don’t feel up to going to the docs on my own today, and besides, I’d have to go on public transport which means interacting with the ‘great unwashed’ as Greg calls them.

Looks like the signal has gone completely, and when I get back to my laptop, the internet is down as well.  Bloody heat.

The cotton dress sticks to my skin as I go to the kitchen and thrust my head into the fridge to feel its cold breath on my face.  I half fill a glass with ice from the integral ‘ice-maker’ that we had been so impressed with all those years ago.  The fridge is looking a bit faded now, its once shiny, brushed aluminium, exterior just looks a bit grubby, and there is a blob of black mould inside at the back.  I dread to think what food item is embalmed in it.  I fill my glass with juice, add a splosh of ‘something to liven it up’ and lean back against the metal door.  Perhaps I should write about global warming. Today must be proof enough for even the most sceptical individuals.

I go to the front of the house and peer through the window.  There is a miasma of heat rising from the street.  I can’t see a single soul.  Next door’s ranks of flowers are drooping and even Mr Next-Door isn’t out there with his watering can.  The sky isn’t the clear blue you would expect on such a sultry day it’s just pale grey again.  The days have been grey for so long now I can’t remember what a clear blue sky looks like. I hear the sky is grey all over the world.

Still there is no rain.

I must get on with the article.  Closing the study door behind me, I switch the light on and sit down at the laptop.  Irritatingly I have a connection again, so there’s no excuse not to get to work.  On the web there is talk of imminent disaster – solar flares, holes in the atmosphere, and minute catastrophic movements of the moon in its orbit, but I don’t know which to believe.  So much terrifying information out there, and these days it’s hard to tell which is based on scientific evidence, and which is just written by scare-mongering idiots.

Now the house phone is ringing.

‘Mum.  Mum, it’s me.  I couldn’t get through on the mobile. You ok?’

‘Signal went down. Think it’s back now though.’

‘We couldn’t swim in the river.  There was a whole load of dead fish floating on the top.’

‘Oh God.’

‘Yeah, it was horrible.  Some were still alive and really, like, gasping.  They’re saying it’s pollution from the factory upstream.’  I could hear a wobble in Izzy’s voice. She was always soft on animals, didn’t like to see anyone or anything suffer.

‘That must’ve been ghastly to see sweetie.  Are you ok?’

‘Yeah, yeah I think so.  We thought we’d come to the pub, but it’s absolutely packed.  You can’t get near the bar.  I think they’ve run out of ice and cold beers anyway.  Oh god, can you hear that?’

‘What?  What is it Iz?’

‘Not sure. It’s really…’ The phone went dead.  I had heard a noise.  Thunder, I think. Maybe the phone mast has been struck.  Maybe there is lightning.  Maybe there is rain.

Rather than worry about my daughter, I feel relieved that she is quite possibly experiencing a downpour.  Hope it comes this way soon. I’m sure it’s getting hotter.  I open my laptop and look for a weather site.  It tries to connect for about five minutes before I give up and look for a news site instead.  That won’t open either.  I console myself with the knowledge that everyone must be doing the same.  It’s always so much slower at busy times.

I need another drink.

Settling back in the study I mutter ‘Patience is a virtue’ as I pull out my battered old notebook.  I don’t use it so often these days, preferring to tap out my thoughts on the keyboard rather than scribble them in my embarrassing childlike scrawl.  Despite the stabbing headache I try to start jotting a few notes.   They quickly become smudged by the drops of sweat from my forehead hitting them.

A big rumble of thunder makes me jump. It’s definitely closer.

Then another ominous rumble. The laptop whines a shutdown and the light goes out as the electricity pings off. I open the curtains but to my surprise no light comes in.  Instead, outside it is dark.  Black as a moonless night.  There is another rumble. Closer.

There’s no traffic, no people.  The street is empty, dark and still.

Candles. I know there are candles in the living room, the smelly ones that Izzy bought me for Christmas.  I’m not religious, but I am slightly scared, so I pray,

‘Dear God, help me find the bloody candles.’ Tripping over my own feet I manage to crack my shin on the coffee table.  Is ‘shit’ allowed in a prayer?

There is a colossal boom, not quite overhead.  Izzy must have been scared if it was this bad. I wish I was with her.

I find the candles, mostly by sniffing out their ‘Christmas Cheer’ scent, but there is nothing to light them with. It seems even darker. How can it be this dark at midday? And so meltingly hot.

Stumbling through to the kitchen, I feel sure my leg is bleeding, it feels wet, but I can’t even see enough to inspect it.  It’s eerily quiet without the whirr of the fridge and tick of the oven timer.  I grapple around on the worksurface and eventually grasp what I recognise to be the gas-lighter.  As I click it on, another boom of thunder makes the house shudder in its foundations.

With trembling hands I manage to light the candle.  It’s a pathetically small flame, but I can just see the almost empty gin bottle and I swig back the dregs in one gulp before heading back to the living room.  Then I freeze, my skin prickles and erupts into goosebumps, as a rumble that starts low pitched and rises to an almighty heart-stopping crack, shakes the house so hard that I hear it imploding.

Screaming my daughter’s name I run to the door and fumble with the lock until it swings open. The sky is no longer black, but a shimmering saffron heralding a savage, searing wind that bowls me backwards.

Now there is nothingness. No rain, no street, no houses. No Mr & Mrs Next-Door or their soldier flowers. The Bugger, Greg and Izzy, are all gone.  I glimpse the vastness of the universe before my flame gutters and dies.