Friday, 20 November 2015

Bump In The Night

            We’ve bought a new bed frame. The one we had only lasted three years. It broke one Saturday night. It’s not what you’re thinking. We were drifting off to sleep when we heard creaking.
            At first we thought that the cat had crept into the bedroom. Ever since the flea epidemic, which mercifully seems to have passed, we’ve kept her out of there. We can’t shut our bedroom door properly, so we have to drag a bag full of water bottles, tins of Pepsi, etc; in front of it, to stop her barging her way in.
            We got out, put the lights on and looked around, but couldn’t see her, or anything else which might have caused the noise. So we got back under the covers again. And once again, we heard the creaking. Our hearts were thumping.
            The noise seemed to be coming from underneath us. We lifted up the mattress. The frame is wooden, with slats across as supports, which always made me apprehensive. Actually, the slats were fine, but the central beam to which they connected was breaking in the middle.
            That was Halloween, and things definitely did go bump in the night. Since then, we’ve been sleeping on a bed which dips in the middle like a hammock.
            The shop where we bought the bed has now closed up (perhaps for a reason), so we had no choice but to go out and buy a brand new frame, which should arrive this coming week.
            I’m still not writing, at least not anything which I want to show anybody. I’ve kept up Morning Pages and Writing Practice. I’m feeling better, less anxious. Ideas are swirling around. I’m reading again- Nick Hornby’s hilarious FeverPitch (again), and an intriguing biography of Oliver Cromwell, God’s Englishman, written by the Marxist Christopher Hill.
            I’ve also been dipping into poetry anthologies and writing out, in longhand into my notebook, some of the shorter poems. I’m not sure why I’m doing this. To help me absorb the poem better, perhaps. To look at the way the poet punctuates. I read that Natalie Goldberg does this, anyway, and thought that I ought to try it.
            I haven’t mentioned the atrocities carried out in Paris last Friday. Probably, like you, I don’t know what to say about it. I’m still reeling, and still bewildered. I hope that the dead rest in peace, and that their grieving loved ones find peace.
            Maybe I should have been more shocked than I was; but it feels like we’ve seen it all before, and not all that long ago, either. Planes blowing up, innocent sunbathers being machine-gunned. You know what’s coming next: speeches from politicians. Vox pop interviews. Clips of films of shrines, with flowers, candles, soft toys. Shaking footage filmed on mobile phones.

            I’ve tried to be a pacifist, but I don’t know what the solution is to the war on terror. Isil isn’t campaigning for anything, it only seems to want to turn everybody into Muslims, or to kill anybody who doesn’t convert. It’s the legacy of the west’s interference in the Middle East. Iraq, Syria, Egypt have all been turned into hellholes. I don’t think that air strikes work, because they obliterate the innocent as well as the guilty (and, incidentally, the Kurdish forces who have been fighting Isil on the ground). More troops? They might remove Isil operatives, but will they tackle the bitterness, the prejudice, the hatred which created Isil in the first place? Because unless we can tackle that, Isil or its replacement will simply spring up again somewhere else.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Paul Chown: Seed Stories

Paul Chown: Seed Stories:                 Came across another interesting writing exercise, from a book called Writing in the House of Dreams by JennyAlexander ....

Wednesday, 11 November 2015


            I’m sorry I haven’t posted anything for-what? A fortnight? I didn’t have any news, good or bad. I’m still not writing. I don’t know what the hell’s happened to me. Ever since Microhorror finished, I haven’t known what to write or who for. I kept trying to come up with an idea for a horror stage play, but that became like chasing a mirage.
            I was happily churning out horror flash fiction. I completed the story almost as soon as I got the idea. Perhaps my current block I God’s punishment: because I didn’t give the ideas He sent me the care they deserved. Or maybe it’s simply a case of keeping the motor running. You can often get ideas for stories whilst you’re engaged in writing a story (I do). When you stop to think, the ideas dry up.
            This week, I read two stories to my writing group. They were both at least a year old and, frankly, I didn’t care all that much about them. But it was my turn, my week, and I felt compelled to bring in something. I did that last term, as well.
            The group listened, and gave constructive criticism; but as I sat there, I knew that I didn’t want to do anything with them. I felt like I’d wasted everybody’s time. I hadn’t reread them since I wrote them. The characters seemed like cardboard. The group were kinder on me than I was on myself.

            Christmas is nearly here, and the new year, and I feel like I haven’t really done anything. A couple my wife and I are friendly with are moving house. The two of us have talked about moving, wished we were living somewhere else, but this couple have actually done it; and though I wish the couple well, I can’t help feeling a little jealous. We merely seem to lurch from one crisis to the next.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Pulling Teeth

This week, I went to the dentist’s for the first time in three decades. The last time I visited there, I hadn’t even left school. Back then, my family never troubled the dentist unless we had a toothache. But over the years, people have been telling me to get regular check-ups.
            Over the years, my teeth have yellowed a bit but essentially have stayed the same. I even have wisdom teeth which stubbornly refuse to fall out. Children and teenagers are fitted with braces, which was unheard of when I was at school. But then, in my time, men didn’t have their backs waxed, either. And you would never have gone to the gymn- that was like going to work after work.
            In the past fortnight, though, I’d felt excruciating pain whenever anything I ate touched the left hand side of my face. Two particular teeth there were sensitive, two wisdom teeth that surely had to come out. I wasn’t bothered about the pain- everyone knows that going to the dentist is painful- but the cost. Finally, though, I decided that I couldn’t indefinitely eat on the right hand side, and so I made an appointment.
            The firm I chose are called Mydentist, and they're good. My dentist was a young Polish, or Eastern European woman, who said: “Goodbye, my dear,” as I left. She was calm and friendly, and didn’t lecture me- which I thought a dentist would. She gave me fillings. I didn’t feel anything, but a couple of times I felt like I was suffocating or drowning, so held my hands up in panic, at which, patiently, she would stop until I got my breath.
            She took an x-ray of my mouth. I nearly gagged on the plastic tag which goes into your mouth, until she told me the trick of pressing my chin with my index finger. I’d forgotten all about the upside down faces peering at you under surgical masks, and the gleam of the lamp above your head- I don’t ever remember getting sunglasses before. I have a tooth which needs to come out, but because it has stuck itself to my jawbone- the phrase is impacted, apparently- she could not do it there. Instead, I have to go to hospital to have it removed. In the meantime, though, I’ve been given antibiotics. My pain came, not only from the tooth but a mouth infection. Since I’ve been taking them, I’ve felt a hundred times better.
            I feel proud of myself for conquering my fear, albeit after thirty years. But then, I think, the longer you fear something, the more fearful that thing can seem as time goes by.
            I’m still not writing anything, apart from morning pages and writing practice. But that’s alright. An idea will visit me, any day soon…

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Total Recall

                        The house I grew up in has been put up for sale. My wife spotted the advert on the internet. Which means my mother, soon, will be moving out.
            My mother and I had a blazing row, soon after my father died, and she threw me out of that house. I’ve never been back.
            In a way, it’s a relief. There was a lot of unhappiness in that house. I feel like a curse is about to be lifted. I won’t say I never had any happiness there, but always, in the background, there was tension. The older I got, the more I came to realize that I belonged to a weird family. Alan Bennett said, about his own family, that, without it being anything special, it was utterly unlike anyone else’s. So it was with mine; the difference being that the Bennetts at least seemed to be on each other’s side.
            I feel slightly like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Total Recall, in that all my happy memories seems false. My poor dad was putting up with more than he ever let on.

            I hope that my mother will be happy, wherever she ends up, and I hope that the house’s new owner brings some happiness to it.

Friday, 25 September 2015


                The past fortnight has been a nightmare, and all because of fleas. We had to cancel our week away- to celebrate our wedding anniversary. In fact, we barely got out of the flat. Every day, we were decluttering, vacuum-cleaning, spraying with Indorex, etc.
            From my wardrobe, in which I was keeping, not clothes but books, I threw out ten bin liners’ worth. I virtually filled the estate’s recycling bin single-handed.
            Worse than that, though, we were scared to go near our poor cat. We couldn’t stroke her. My wife would shriek whenever the cat drew near.
            It got to the point where we thought we couldn’t keep the cat. She originally came from Battersea Dogs And Cats Home seven years ago. I couldn’t bring myself to take her back there, it would break her heart. I went to see the vet, to ask whether she would be prepared to put down an otherwise-healthy cat. She said it was up to us, but that she could help us rehome our cat. I felt disgusted with myself when I left. I burst into tears out in the high street.
            People who don’t love animals might not understand this, but our cat is like a member of the family. In fact, it was my wife’s idea to get her, after our first cat passed away. Having a cat there made her feel less depressed and anxious. So it tears me apart to see her acting so coldly towards the cat.
            We couldn’t tell anybody. Even though our flat was spotless (thanks predominantly to my wife), we felt ashamed. We always gave our cat Frontline flea treatment, which up until this month worked perfectly. But then, without warning, Frontline apparently stopped working, at least in cities. The fleas there had become resistant to it. I’m hoping that the new stuff, Advocate, will do the job. We will find out in another fortnight.
            I’ve barely written anything. I haven’t even done Writing Practice. For the whole week I was off, all I did was wake up, vacuum-clean, declutter, go back to bed again, all the while trying to calm my wife’s nerves (and she would tell you that I didn’t do a very good job of that). I was glad to go back to work, although even there I wondered whether they were living on me.
            My writers’ group met up in a pub one night, prior to the start of the new term. It was good to see them again, generally chit-chatting, and not always about writing, either.
            There were a few incidental happy times. Walking up to the cafĂ© for a break. It felt good to have more space. And I’ve got the vacuum-cleaning (which you have to carry out every day for a month) down to a fine art. If you put some music on, it can even become enjoyable. We got a new machine, a Dyson, which I can thoroughly recommend.

            But on the whole, though, the nightmare continues.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Tania Writes: Short Stories Wanted for Refugees Welcome Antholog...

Tania Writes: Short Stories Wanted for Refugees Welcome Antholog...: Greg McQueen, the wonderful person behind the 100 Stories for Haiti fundraising anthology in 2010, has decided once again that he can't ...