…to avoid the effects of grief you have to avoid the effects of love and I for one would not want to live without love in my life.
Taking a train journey makes you realise very quickly how important it is to select the right seat. Sitting next to someone when there are spare seats elsewhere will often reward you with a look that betrays murderous thoughts, or at least a desire to move far away. However, as this would only be possible if they could gather their possessions and slink to another part of the carriage without having to engage the usurper, let’s be honest, that’s never going to happen. So instead they’ll try their best to concentrate on their book, newspaper or mobile device, but will actually be seething at the total bad luck they’ve incurred at being joined on their journey by that train’s (albeit sociable) resident nutter.
Then there’s the very bad move of selecting the seat located nearest the toilet. You may have joined one of these trains; the ones with the roomy toilet carriage that has only one or two single seats at each end with copious room for push-chairs, bicycles and wheelchairs and thought, ‘Ah! A single seat. I’m feeling unsociable today so I will take that gift with both hands.’ However, what quickly becomes apparent when sitting on the seat nearest the facilities is how you inadvertently take on the role of Toilet Guardian, whether you want to or not. Some people may love the prospect of wielding power over hapless mortals with full bladders (or worse), but for me I just want to sit and read my book without feeling obligated to tell every caller that ‘there’s someone in there.’ The scenario follows a little like this.
Someone approaches the toilet and presses the ‘door open’ button. (This is the moment when I pray that the user has remembered to lock the door.) Nothing happens. They press it again. Still nothing happens. To avoid them standing alongside me with a hapless expression of angst on their face any longer, I feel duty-bound to utter ‘I think there’s someone in there’. (I think there’s someone in there? Why do I doubt the fact? I just saw them go in less than three minutes ago and unless they’ve squeezed themselves down the pan to avoid buying a ticket I’m pretty sure they’re still in there.) Anyway, the poor individual mutters a thanks (if I’m lucky) and either waits in vain for about twenty seconds, hoping that their business will be finished rapidly, or scurries away in search of another loo, or more likely to sit crossed legged until the train reaches their destination.
There are moments of levity in the Toilet Guardian’s duty though. Mostly these come about as someone is caught unawares by the door gliding open exactly six seconds after they were convinced they’d locked it, but thankfully usually before they had begun to disrobe. There are also those who think they can hide in the cubicle as the guard approaches with his ticket machine, wildly oblivious to the fact that it’s worth buying a cheap single to frankly anywhere just to escape the toilet’s pungent aroma for the next hour and a half. Yes, I think I may have remembered why it’s probably worth tolerating the other carriage fodder for ninety minutes or so, otherwise you end up doing an unpaid role that frankly is appreciated by no-one and garners you strange looks for voluntarily choosing a seat right outside a toilet. However, if my next shift as Toilet Guardian does materialise this weekend I shall of course be taking notes (as I pretend to read my book), just in case someone forgets to lock the door release…
I just re-read something that coincidentally I wrote exactly four years ago today. I didn’t intend to read it because of the date; it was in an old file and I just happened to see it. However, after finishing it, it struck me that I was saying the same things about making change etc back then that I’m still saying now and was probably saying twenty years ago, so why have I not done it yet? Will I still be saying the same things in another twenty years, having made not the slightest inroad towards accomplishing my goals? Or perhaps they’re not really my goals after all? Perhaps I tell myself as such, just to reassure me that I’m on society’s pre-defined path, although to be honest, I’m not sure I really fit that mould anymore either.
Consequently, where should ‘trying to be a better person’ end and ‘trying to be the best version of me’ begin? I guess it’s time I found out as like everyone, I’m not getting any younger. However, this is one journey of discovery that I don’t believe can be rushed and the older I get I learn a little more about myself. Hopefully when I read this back in four years’ time I won’t still be thinking “I really should…”
I wake, trying to slow my racing heart.
It was a noise, definitely. Someone’s downstairs.
I grab my hairdryer (the only thing to hand) and slowly pull open the bedroom door. I can’t hear anything now but that doesn’t mean they’ve gone. Or did I imagine it? I was having a pretty intense dream when the noise woke me up so maybe it wasn’t in the house at all? Maybe it was in my head.
I exhale slowly, not realising I’ve even been holding my breath and head back from the landing into my room. I feel a bit foolish, although I’m sure to switch on the light before I get back into bed, just in case.
It’s only when I’ve pulled the duvet up to my chin and decided to read for a few minutes that I notice my wardrobe door swinging slowly open. I can’t see inside but I’ve got this horrible idea that there’s someone hiding there.
As I try to decide whether I should have a look or just call on a neighbour, the door springs open and he’s in the room. I don’t even have time to scream before it’s over. Then I’m standing over myself watching the scene unfold.
He’s trying to make it look like a robbery gone wrong and I want to shake him by the shoulders and tell him it’ll never work. The detectives have witnessed this sort of thing all too often and they’ll see through it straight away.
I bend down and whisper in his ear that he’ll never get away with it and for a second I’m sure he hears me, but then he’s tipping the contents of my handbag out on the bed and taking ten pounds cash from my purse, along with my bank card. I can read his thoughts; I’m inside his head as he wonders what my PIN is, but he’ll never figure it out. He’s none too smart this one.
To be honest, it kind of makes me wonder why I ever went out with him in the first place.
So I haven’t been doing too well keeping up with the daily prompts, however when I saw today was childhood, I really thought that was one I could get on board with.
Childhood for me was a mixture of emotions and experiences, some happy some sad and some forgettable; just as it is for every other person on the planet. However, the prompt also made me think about how we define childhood and how we decide when it is over. For instance, I consider myself a forty-one year old big child. I love soft toys, watching cartoons and laughing at farts and fortunately for me my husband is just the same (not so much the soft toys, but there you go.) Perhaps it’s because we don’t have children that we have not felt the need to grow up and act responsibly, (although we know plenty of people who do have children and don’t act the way they probably should either) so I’m not convinced that’s the only reason. We also met when we were barely out of childhood ourselves and have been together since we were eighteen, so maybe that is a contributing factor too.
I’m not suggesting that I see the world through a child’s eyes as that probably wouldn’t be a healthy outlook for someone of my age, however I also don’t think that there’s any harm in trying to look at everything around you with a child’s wonderment, hopefully as yet unsullied by adulthood’s cynicism and weariness. It’s admittedly hard to do at first; we’re taught that adults should behave a certain way which usually doesn’t include standing in wonderment with your mouth open or jumping up and down clapping your hands, but once achieved it’s then remarkably easy to let yourself be carried along on a child’s enthusiasm for something new and incredibly rewarding too.
So that’s my thought about childhood; who says it has to be over once you grow up?
I’m not always a fan of responding to prompts as I somehow feel I should be able to draw inspiration from everything around me via my own imagination. However, all writers sometimes need a little bit of help and that’s why I decided to try writing a response to the daily prompt.
Solitude conjures up a multitude of different reactions for me; I imagine standing looking out to sea and feeling the overwhelming sense that there is so much more to our existence than we can imagine in our earthly forms and that one day it may (or equally may not) be revealed to us, probably when we leave this life. I can equally feel solitude in a room full of people which is not necessarily such a pleasant experience as having suffered from anxiety and depression for many years, it can be a knock-on reaction to how I am feeling that day. Finally, I frequently long for solitude in these overpopulated isles of ours and wish, just occasionally, that there were still enough places free of people to get truly lost or avoid seeing another soul for days or even longer. However, when I’m feeling in such an unsociable frame of mind I have to sometimes remind myself of the old adage ‘be careful what you wish for’, as was I suddenly to find myself truly alone, without family, friends or even strangers to pass the time of day with, I feel I would be more unhappy than I could ever contemplate. Yes, people can be annoying and I certainly see plenty of those during my days at work, however I can’t imagine I would be happier suddenly finding myself totally devoid of human company either.
Solitude will mean something different for everyone; whether it is being away from total strangers or getting time apart from those whom we’re meant to hold dearest to us, however we should all bear in mind that one day we may all wake up and find ourselves completely alone and I for one would not relish that thought at all.
I wonder sometimes about what kind of fiction will be written in the future by generations who have been brought up in the shadow of today’s ‘celebrities’. When I was young we had really inspirational people to look up to, or even if they weren’t majorly accomplished, they had at least some promise of talent or something else to recommend them. Nowadays however, it seems that young people are being exposed to such luminaries as Big Brother, TOWIE and even vaguely famous people who should know better are jumping in via ‘I’m a Celebrity…’ etc.
Consequently, when I used to ask the kids (mostly female) I worked with what they wanted to be when they grew up they said ‘famous’ unequivocally; not nurses, doctors, hairdressers, astronauts, scientists or pilots, as we did when we were young. Yes of course, I used to want to be a pop star; I sang into my hairbrush pretending to be Madonna or Kylie along with the best of them, but that wasn’t my ‘forever’ ambition (that would be writer-no more realistic I guess!) but I always knew it was a fantasy; a make-believe that was fun for a while until I grew up and got a ‘real’ job.
However, thanks to the X factor and The Voice etc a lot of young people (and not so young) want, no expect, to become famous singers, make millions and marry a rapper, whether they’ve actually got any talent or not. This means that they are drifting through their younger years in many cases, believing they don’t have to try hard at school or find work they’d enjoy because they’re going to become famous and rich. Worse, it’s often not because they’re good singers; that would at least mean they had talent and stood a chance, but often they just want to become famous any way they can. I used to hear them wanting to emulate the women they saw on shows like Big Brother; getting famous could mean no more than taking their clothes off or sleeping with a Z-lister and if these are messages they’ve picked up by age ten then what will they be doing in their teens?
I appreciate not all kids think like that but the area where I worked was quite socially deprived and these kids were vulnerable and impressionable and just the sort of kids who may get taken advantage of by dubious types. Equally, I saw many girls who were smart and who could’ve gone onto college, university or found a great job who, because it was the example they’d been fed either by older relatives or by the endless TV-tripe they watched, ended up treading water or marking time until they got pregnant somewhere after their seventeenth birthday.
It seems that no matter what law-makers think, how much young people (and especially girls) are influenced by less than perfect examples for aspiration is usually directly linked to social status and opportunities for them and those around them.
Of course, this may mean that these young people have an opportunity one day to discover a writing talent and then perhaps jump on the ‘misery-lit’ bandwagon, however I would hope that they would be nurtured in any obvious literary talent before they’d left school. This again is hit and miss though as I knew several kids who showed promise in a literary direction that was largely ignored by the schools they went to.
Therefore, we need to think carefully about the influences these young people are exposed to from a young age if we want to see great writers emerge from every sphere of society as it always has done. There’s still time to act, but how much? I guess no-one knows the answer to that one.
I’m lately messing with ideas about jealousy and resentment; to what extremes would a character go if they felt that they were always being sidelined in favour of someone else? If they felt that another person seemed to be making the headway that they felt was owed to them? If the balance of their mind was already disturbed, how much would it take to finally tip them ‘over the edge?’ I am enjoying exploring this darker side of an individual and get the feeling that my third novel will expand on this topic still further. Great times ahead!
‘Javier! My champagne is distinctly lukewarm!’
Marina Halliday tutted impatiently as the waiter reached her side, apologised, and scurried off again with the offending object. As he returned with a fresh, chilled glass of the sparkling wine he placed it into Marina’s hand, showering her with platitudes.
‘Many, many apologies Señora Halliday; forgive me.’
‘Well Javier, you have been an extremely naughty boy to let my champagne spoil, and it has rather upset me, but…’ Marina leaned closer and slid her hand up Javier’s thigh, ‘…if you come to my room around midnight I may just forgive you.’
‘Si Señora, si,’ smiled Javier, ‘I will see what I can do, but my work is very great this evening.’
As Marina lay back on her sun lounger and sighed unsatisfactorily, Javier went up to her daughter Holly.
‘And how about you Señorita Holly; would you like me to refresh your drink?’
Holly smiled conspiratorially and held out her glass, but before Javier could take it, Marina intervened.
‘No Javier. Miss Holly may not have any champagne until her twenty-first birthday tomorrow. She may however, have more orange juice if she wants it.’
Javier took the still outstretched glass as Holly scowled over at her mother.
Quietly, Javier leant in to where Holly was lying in her Moschino bikini and muttered.
‘Twenty-one tomorrow Señorita Holly; we must think of a suitable birthday present for you, yes?’
‘Oh I’m quite sure you will,’ murmured Holly mischievously. ‘Come to my room tonight at eleven.’
Javier leant away again, and winked at Holly, before collecting his tray and returning to the other guests at the opulent resort.
Marina pushed up the brim of her hat and turned to face Holly.
‘I don’t know what’s got into the pool boys these days. When I used to come here years ago, uh, a few years ago, the men in their late teens or early twenties couldn’t wait to attend to your every need, especially if it meant earning some extra…, whatever the currency is in this country.’
‘Yes mother, it really is too bad,’ giggled Holly, as Marina took another long sip of champagne and settled back onto her lounger.
Holly Halliday hadn’t wanted to come on holiday with Marina; in fact it would normally be the last thing she’d do, as she had enough of seeing her overbearing mother when in England. Not that Marina was there much either; her jet-set lifestyle of book tours, chat show appearances and ‘entertaining’ meant that watching her mother on ‘Oprah’ was often the closest she got to her, which suited Holly fine. Being the daughter of a best-selling author cast a shadow over Holly’s life, and she hated being put in the shade by anyone, especially her mother. Holly felt Marina was a hypocrite; writing books about men and relationships, despite being married four times, and none of them what anyone would call successful. The longest relationship lasted barely three years, yet Marina Halliday had carved out a stellar career in print and on TV, and Holly resented the fact that it seemed to come so easily to her mother. Hell; she resented her mother, full-stop.
Holly was no slouch though, and could also manipulate a situation when she wanted to; the chance to celebrate her twenty-first birthday on a friend’s luxury yacht without having to organise a thing was too good a chance to miss, and Holly never missed a chance to party in style. Besides, it was a choice between spending a fortnight in this Latin-American paradise courtesy of one of her mother’s ‘Gentleman friends’, or two weeks in some muddy Loch with her friend Portia’s family at their Scottish Castle. Portia’s brother Hamish had been in love with Holly since they were children, and Holly was secretly concerned that he would have popped the question that weekend while they were out on some windswept moor, wrongly imagining himself as a romantic hero from a Brontë sisters’ novel. Hamish had recently become a Laird in his own right, thanks to his Uncle ‘popping his clogs with no sprogs’ as Portia had eloquently put it when they last saw each other, and Holly feared that the only thing missing from his huge rural estate was a wife to share it all with.
Portia DeMarie was Holly’s best friend, although in their exclusive circles even a supposed best friend would stab you in the back for whatever reason they considered justifiable. Holly and Portia spent their time with a select group of other privileged, young, beautiful women, whom the tabloid press had nicknamed ‘GYROs’ with no little sense of irony. This stood for Gorgeous, Young, Rich and Outrageous, which neatly summed up the daily ambitions of their group.
Holly loved the attention; she had always wanted to be famous and considered it worth pursuing, to the detriment of everything else. Marina on the other hand felt that her daughter had to marry a rich and well-positioned man in the near future, to ensure that he maintained both of their positions in society, and Marina devoted all her energies into finding such a man ‘before the minor Royals have pinched them all’ as she frequently said to Holly.
It irked Marina greatly that Holly was far more interested in having fun and trying to be in the newspapers than she was in wooing suitable prospective husbands, and Holly knew that if her mother found out about Hamish’s desires then she would pack her off back to the UK before she could say ‘private jet’. Fortunately for Holly, Marina considered Portia’s parents ‘rather vulgar’ for preferring to ‘slop about knee-deep in mud’ rather than spend eight months of the year in more luxurious climbs like her, and Holly therefore knew that the chances of them meeting, let alone talking, were thankfully slim to none.
Holly was looking forward to meeting up with her girlfriends in a few days’ time; Portia, Serena and Tamara were using Serena’s family yacht for some sun and fun, and would be mooring into the closest port to the resort by the end of the week. Holly had enjoyed the last few days of tanning and shopping but she was sick of her mother’s interference in her life and couldn’t wait to cut loose with the girls for a while. Holly’s twenty-first birthday was the perfect excuse for all the girls to get together, and Holly knew that the muted celebrations with her mother the next day would be nothing compared to the debauched rowdiness that would take place on the yacht, and apart from the mind-blowing sex she’d have with Javier that night, there was nothing much to recommend making a fuss about her birthday at all. Holly didn’t care what rules Marina tried to lay down when they were sharing the same airspace, but in her opinion turning twenty-one changed nothing; all her life, if Holly had wanted to do something, she had done it, and to hell with the consequences.
My first novel is still available on Amazon Kindle!