Wednesday, 27 February 2013

In The Mist



In the mist
The concrete tower blocks
Rise like shimmered giants
Grotesques with softened edges
Shifting in the curls.

In the mist
Dogs appear wraith-like in the park
Spectral hounds
With imagined jaws
Dripping in the whorls.

In the mist
A train rumbles and glides
Like a dragon of old
Headlight eyes blaze
Snorting in the coils.

In the mist
Crowds assemble like ghosts
And vanish, forming shapes
Like clouds and smoke
Shrouded in the eddies.

In the mist
There are two cities
One real, one on the eye’s edge
In the half-seen corners
Shadows in the swirls.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Raging Hormones

Apologies for the blogpost that went missing over the weekend. I've had a strange couple of days with genuine mood swings, going from feeling absolutely fine, to being grumpy, tired, and exhausted, then suddenly back to happy and energetic again! Very strange. My wife thinks that I'm displaying pregnancy symptoms, which may be possible. Extreme cases even have a diagnosis: Couvade.
Whatever the reasons, here's a poem:

Raging hormones
Up and down
Happy and mellow
To a grump
With a frown
But my wife
Has the bump
It's not me
I'm just the husband
Pregnant
In sympathy.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Imagination



With so many distractions these days, it’s often hard to really let your mind drift, but a lot of good writing should be about letting your imagination run freely, I think. Whatever the type of story you are writing, whether it is based in a mythical country or somewhere closer to home, or perhaps even fact based, the writing still has to have some imagination to it to avoid clich├ęs and to make it readable.
I personally find it very difficult to let my mind go. There’s always something else in my mind battling for attention, whether it be the fact that I have to make food for work tomorrow, or do the dishes, or more often lately, spend time considering what baby items I should be buying.
It also doesn’t help having a one room flat where you have no real space to yourself.
My imagination can let go sometimes though, usually when I go out for a walk, and perhaps the fresh air helps a bit too. I also think that having broader horizons to look at in reality help to broaden the horizons of your creative thinking. Either way, this is when my brain runs at its most free.
The trouble is when you’re out walking it’s not so easy to take notes about the things that you come up with, or at least to be able to take a break for a moment to write things down. I’m usually off to work or taking a trip to the shops anyway. [Reading this back it makes it sound like I have a very hectic life – I don’t!]
Anyway, what I am really trying to say is that the toughest things about writing are both finding the time to physically sit down and do it, but mostly it’s finding the time and space to come up with new ideas and different ways of telling old ones. I’d be grateful for any hints and tips that people have for doing this in the city.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Africa



The most recent wildlife series on the BBC to be presented by David Attenborough whose enthusiasm seems to increase, if that’s possible, for the natural world around us. The series travelled to different areas of Africa for each episode and has been fascinating to watch, and at times incredibly moving. It’s hard not to be amazed by the natural beauty within our world, and Africa’s diverse ecology seems to encapsulate it all. As such this has been one of the best nature series for a while.
Episode one in the Kalahari featured the ever popular meerkats, but also a fascinating battle between two giraffes who swung their long necks at each other like giants battling with tree trunks. Episode two hit the Savannah with bizarre looking birds, lizards stealing flies from the faces of lions, but also the most harrowing moment of the whole series with the death of a baby elephant.
This was an incredibly sad scene, but it made no sense that people complained about the BBC doing nothing to help. They are there to film nature as it is, not to intervene. Perhaps those people who complained should reconsider their consumerist lifestyle that has led to climate change and their own role in the changing weather patterns of Africa.
Episode three in the Congo was an eye opener as personally I never realised that Africa had tropical rainforest, although logically it makes complete sense. Here we saw honey eating chimps and a wonderful night time rhinoceros meet, which showed one of the most hilarious scenes; a male trying to woo a female with some extra antlers attached to his horns!
The fourth episode at the Cape showed scenes reminiscent of Blue Planet, with a feeding frenzy for birds and dolphins, but also a curious migration from some huge fish. And then there was episode five in the Sahara with some incredible ants who can survive the midday temperatures and also the footage of moving sand dunes which took about two years to create.
Before I move to the final episode I’d like to mention the music, which as usual for the BBC was excellent, but I wonder if there was a little too much of it. I’m not sure that something akin to Ennio Morricone was needed for the giraffe fight or any of the other music which told us how to feel. Somehow it felt like it was trivialising the scenes which stand out for themselves I think. Either that or it was like A-Level media students trying to look clever by editing wildlife scenes to match some music.
Now to the final episode which I thought was easily the best, probably because it featured more of David himself interacting with the animals and dealt with the future and the need for conservation. It’s fantastic that there is so much work going on in Africa to try to protect the most vulnerable animals, such as the elephants, lions, rhinoceros and sea turtles. And it proves that whatever we want to do from here in the west, it is impossible without the complete assistance of the locals as they know their animals and environment best.
Overall this was an amazing series and would thoroughly recommend it to anyone who has not yet seen it, especially if you like animal series. And I challenge anyone not to be moved by the sight of a blind baby rhino squeaking!

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Love in Season

If you're alone this Valentine's, or indeed during any other season, don't worry, you never know what's just around the corner:

Love can spring forth, like bluebells in March
Love can appear from an empty sky, like a summer shower
Love can fall from above, like autumn leaves
Love can be hibernating, in winter's coldest hour.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Antenatal Class for Valentine's



We had the first of our antenatal classes last night; something that I was dreading. I’ve always struggled with these types of group learning, whether it be school, University, evening creative writing classes or work training sessions. Being within a group of people who I don’t know (and are therefore unable to trust) is just one of them. But it’s also the pressure you often feel to have to say something important.
I’ve never been the most vocal of people, or at least not instantly. I like to think about things carefully, go over all the pros and cons and more often than not come down somewhere right in the middle of any argument. So, when people ask what I think, or whether I have anything more to contribute, I rarely have anything to say, usually because it’s already been said by someone else, but also because I’m still unsure.
Having gone there with deep reservations I found that it wasn’t quite as bad as I was thinking. No more participation was required than you wanted to give, and of course I had my wife’s hand to hold. The other factor was that most of the information is directed towards the mother anyway and so the focus is somewhat away from me.
The demographics were fascinating to me though, and I think an antenatal class can tell you a lot about an area. There were six couples, all of whom were married, and two single women. Of the couples, none were a White British pairing and neither of the single women was British either.
That there are multiracial and multinational couples in London is not too much of a surprise, but the fact that all the couples were married was a big surprise to me. Marriage is making some kind of a comeback at the moment, and for many reasons the ideals of marriage are a big news item too.
As a natural cynic I can’t help thinking that most people are getting married because they like the idea of a big showpiece occasion rather than thinking about the years and decades that come after. But perhaps I’m wrong.
Perhaps in a world where things change so quickly and so dramatically, where information is available at the drop of a hat, where progression and year on year improvement is the ultimate desire, this world that is now incredibly unreliable and scary is making people latch on to something can give them constancy. And whether you are two men, two women or a man and a woman, what else can give you that social constancy as a marriage?
It’s a somewhat romantic thought I guess, but I’d love to look at data correlating number of marriages with social upheaval.
Any thoughts?

I’ve been writing more poems lately since starting up my new blog. It’s helped to have a bit more of an outlet. I’m thinking of sending some out into competitions too, not that I’ve ever done that well with them in the past, but it’s pointless to give up. Of course Valentine’s Day always provides a poem requirement, and I think my wife was satisfied with this year’s effort. I was too in fact.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Love Poem

A word which means so much to those who hear
Their names affectionately twined with it
For they know that it's opposite is fear
Of loneliness, when age and illness hit

A word which can with ease bring forth a smile
By turns a darkened brow and grimace too
For jealousy makes kinder thoughts turn vile
Though love will lift the hearts of those who're blue

For love is all you need they sometimes say
Though sometimes too it burns, or scars for life
But what else in this world keeps war at bay?
It's opposite; which keeps us all from strife

What can you lose, if not yourself, in love?
To be at peace, and flying like a dove

Monday, 11 February 2013

Squirrel At The Window

Flash of fur
Bushy tailed
Hop, skip and jump
Window ledge to window ledge
Stop
Look
Claw tap on the glass
Stop
Look again
Watch
Stay or go?
Tail twitch
Dive
Down the drainpipe 


Saturday, 9 February 2013

The Tricksters, part 3



In his head, Pete is back there again. He can smell the grass beneath his feet and feel the strong breeze ruffling through his hair, and he describes it all to them.
Over to the right is the big marquee where the bands will play later. It’s black and purple, with long, sturdy brown ropes coming down to attach it to the ground like giant spider’s legs. Just beside it is a longer, flatter white tent, where the never-ending buffet will be set up. If he faces that direction he can already smell the grease of warm sausage rolls and vol-eu-vents.
Behind him and to the left they are setting up the bars. The one in the middle will sell just wine and that drink that no middle-class person would be seen without in the summer, Pimms; the sign has just gone up. And further left is the row of porta-loos that stretches off into the distance.
None of the rest of his graduating class is here yet, except for Paul, who is up on top of the ladder that he is currently holding. Both of them are already in their DJ’s. Paul’s belonged to his father, whereas Pete is wearing his grandfather’s old cufflinks.
As they listen, Alan and Greg are thinking about their own graduating balls. Alan can remember little of his, except for the fight he started with the captain of the ladies boxing team. After drinking for too much he had begun to spout sexist jokes, to the amusement of his drunken friends until their girlfriends whisked them away for quiet words.
It was later on, when even more drunk, that he found one of the few girls he had yet to upset during his degree course, an attractive girl if a little short of stature and Sporty Spice hair. In his drunk head he was chatting her up, but it was only later he realised that he had been talking like his father. He hoped now that he hadn’t said anything too upsetting. He still bore a physical scar, but the words he had spoken would have been a lot worse.
As for Greg, well, he doesn’t want to go there right now and blocks his thoughts by continuing to listen to Pete.
‘It was Paul’s idea. He wanted to give something back to everyone, something good. Something that everyone would remember the Summer Ball by. They certainly got it, but it wasn’t what anyone was expecting.
‘We had to get some advice from computer guys first and of course, being poor students we had no money to rent the equipment that we needed. So we decided to get some advertisements. It’s amazing how well planned it all was, but then Paul was meticulous in that way. That’s why his practical jokes were so good. That’s why they always worked. He was so good that when the tragedy happened everyone thought that it was the best joke he’d ever pulled. Until he didn’t come down of course.
‘The adverts we got were from a couple of the local student pubs, as well as Colchester Castle, Colchester Zoo, the local train company and the ferry terminal at Harwich. It was a bit of a mix really, which was good. I guess they hoped that they would become graduation days out or something.’
‘So what was it? What was the idea?’ Greg croaked.
‘Oh, of course. Yes. The idea. We hired one of those digital signs and connected it to a computer. Along with the adverts the idea was that over the course of the day people would come up to us with messages that they wanted to display and we would put them into the computer and they would come up onto the sign. Shout outs effectively, which everyone would be able to see.
‘The sign was attached to two poles, which were held in place with guy ropes and cables ran from the computer up to the sign. I think we ended up with poles that were too big though really, and with it being a windy day we kept having problems with the sign flapping about and cables coming loose. It was on one of these occasions that the tragedy happened.’
Pete took a deep breath and a sip of tea. Alan had switched off the television some time ago and so the only sound that could be heard was the ticking of the clock in the hall, the traffic occasionally humming along the main road outside and the three of them breathing.
Pete wasn’t too sure how to continue the rest of the story. The events still fairly jumbled up in his own mind. It had all happened so quickly that his brain had never really placed the correct sequence together in the same way as at a live event that you never see repeated on television has. You remember the before quite easily and you remember the after quite easily and you remember the event happening quite easily. But not how it unfolded.
‘I suppose it began when Carla came up to request a message. We had slips of paper made up so that people could write their messages out clearly to ensure that there were no spelling mistakes or wrong words used. Since we had three requests for people to marry them over the course of the afternoon it would have been terrible if we had gotten the wrong name. I don’t think that any of those couples ever got married in the end since the proposal would have ever been entwined with what happened to Paul.
‘I told Carla that the paper’s were over by the computer, but then she gave me this grimace, pointed out her shoes and then pointed out the muddy patches that were now around the computer table. I’d had a crush on Carla every since the first year at Uni. She had long dark hair and soft honey-brown eyes that were like treacle. And a smile that made my chest pound.
‘Of course I said that I would be quite happy to go get a paper for her as long as she would take my place holding the ladder that Paul was on as he fixed the sign. She agreed and took hold of it. But just I was returning; that’s when it all happened. Perhaps it was fate. After all, the chances of those things all happening in combination are so slim. No one was ever given any official blame, but I always have. I’ve always known that it was my fault.
‘I think the first thing was Paul shouting “Got it running again”. I looked up to see that the sign was displaying “Park and Tide at Harwich”, a clever play on Park and Ride for the ferry port. Then I heard a mobile phone ring and looked back to see that Carla had taken her hands off the ladder to take a call. I’m sure I shouted, “Carla. The ladder”. But I think it was lost in a huge gust of wind.
‘The ladder rocked. I began to push Carla out of the way in order to steady the ladder. The paper I’d picked up from her flew out of my hand and strangely I still have a very clear memory of it flapping away in the direction of the porta-loo’s. I grabbed the ladder, but not in time to hear a scream of terror from Paul. I looked up, fully expecting to see him falling off the ladder and let go of it instinctively in order to try to catch him. But that was the other mistake I made.
‘Paul had been desperately trying to get both his feet back on the ladder, but as I took my hands away the ladder fell down completely and clanged to the ground. But not loudly enough to cover the screams that suddenly appeared from all around the venue. One of the cables had wrapped itself around Paul’s neck and now he just dangled there in the wind like an old sock on a clothes line.’
Alan and Greg gasped, and Greg muttered something unintelligible.
‘But the worst thing was the sign itself’, Pete continued. ‘The link had been partially severed and only part of the advert could now be read. The “Park and Ti” at one end and the “arwich” at the other end were very faint and all that could be seen clearly were the five letters in-between. They spelled “de at H”’.
‘I saw that!’ Alan suddenly cried. ‘It appeared on the internet a couple of years ago. I thought it was some sort of sick joke’.
‘If someone took a photo and then put it on the internet, that is sick’, Greg said. ‘But it obviously wasn’t a joke’.
They both looked at Pete who looked suddenly drained of blood. His face was pale and looked a little sticky from a sheen of sweat.
‘I was seeing psychologists for two years. They helped me get some perspective, some drive, some desire to continue living. I decided then that I would keep Paul’s memory alive somehow, keep his legacy going. I owed him that. Carla didn’t see any therapists, and she killed herself exactly a year to the day of the event. I blamed myself but maybe she blamed herself more. Paul had died because she didn’t want to get her shoes dirty and twelve months later she hung herself with a pair of shoelaces.’