Sunday, 30 December 2007

Why 'You Can Call Me Al' Is Not A Good Wake Up Song

I have been doing a lot of writing today. I have been thinking and tying up loose ends. I really like this time of the year. I like all the plans I make, and I like the looking back over what I've done in the past year, and thinking about how I will build on it, and do more and do much better stuff in the new year.

Right now I am listening to "You Can Call Me Al" by Paul Simon. It is a great song. I love Chevy Chase. I think at one point I was going to have this song as my alarm wake up song, because it has that ability to put you in a good mood no matter what is happening in your life, but then I decided I would end up hating the song because the bad feeling of having to get up in the morning would eventually override the joy of hearing that song. It would taint it. And so I don't have it as my alarm wake up song. Instead, I have the song "Going To Happen" by Koufax, and I can't bear to listen to it for pleasure anymore. I feel bad for Koufax. And I quite often think I should change songs, and I even go so far as to make lists of possible choices, songs I could never tire of, songs I could never get angry with. But at the end of the day, I don't want to chance it and risk losing another song I love, and so poor Koufax remain as the bane of my morning existence. Sorry Koufax.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Apology to a Christmas Tree

I feel like somebody has broken into Time and fast forwarded it by two weeks. I can’t believe it is the date it actually is. I am definitely NOT READY for Christmas this year. I haven’t even put you up yet. I usually put you up on December the first. It is now the twentieth of December and you are still in your box in the big cupboard in the bathroom. There is a little tree in the front room. (Nothing to do with me, I swear.) It is very cute. I feel bad. I feel like you are missing out. And it’s not that I favour the little tree over you, because actually, I love you, and when you are standing in the corner of a room, dressed in baubles and all twinkly with the lights and everything, you are the loveliest thing ever. But I’ve had so much happening this year that it’s seemed like too much of a hassle to lift your box down from the cupboard, carry it downstairs and into the front room (which is always messy and never has any space in it to do anything), then sort your branches into colour-coordinated size order, then fit everything together, and THEN start trying to untangle the fairy lights. I have made this task a mammoth undertaking in my mind, and so it has got to be the twentieth of December and you are still hidden away in the cupboard.

I really don’t want you to miss out on Christmas. I would rescue you right now if it weren’t 2 a.m. But I will definitely fix this situation tomorrow. And then maybe it will actually feel like Christmas, and Time will seem right again.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Bourbon Tasting Day

Every time I go into the kitchen I get really excited about the Bourbon tower. The count is currently up to TWELVE different varieties of Bourbon Creams. I just looked at the tower when I went to get some pop. Every time, it makes me think: I could REALLY eat a Bourbon right now. We did originally have doubles of some packets, but they didn’t last long. We are now down to one packet of each kind. And we have to save them for Bourbon Tasting Day. On Bourbon Tasting Day, we are going to be giving each kind of Bourbon marks out of ten in various categories. The categories are a closely guarded secret, i.e. we haven’t made them up yet. One thing we do know is there will be two sets of experiments - dry Bourbons and dunked Bourbons. I’m really hungry for Bourbons. I really hope Bourbon Tasting Day is this weekend. I hope it is tomorrow

Hearts and Nails and Secret Dance Halls

Once upon a time a girl snuck out to a secret dance hall in the woods. The woods weren’t very dense, they weren’t like the ones that those brothers hid in to escape the Nazi’s and ended up creating an entire secret village in, with bath houses and workshops and everything that nobody knew about. No, you could walk from one end of these woods to the other in about twenty minutes. And the trees were all pines, so it smelt amazing, like Christmas all year round.

When the girl got close to the secret dance hall, she heard a double bass going bom bom and it made her heart vibrate in her ribcage. She went inside. It was all dark at first, until her eyes adjusted to the light. But even then, it was still pretty dark. She’d brought a bottle of wine with her. She felt like she was turning up late to a party to which she hadn’t been invited. She took a swig from the bottle and stood against the wall, trying to seem like she was relaxed.

People were dancing in rows. It was all in perfect time. She wished she knew the moves. There was a sway here, a hand clap there. She drank more wine.

From the corner of her eye she caught a boy in a brown suit staring at her, or at her wine, she wasn’t sure which. She met his gaze and he smiled at her, and at the wine. She smiled back and he took this as an invitation to approach her. When he got within smelling distance she, satisfied that he wasn’t a tramp, offered him the bottle. He declined, pulling a flask from his pocket instead. He took a swig and offered it to her. She wasn’t a whisky type of girl. She stuck to her wine. On the dance floor the bodies pulsed and spun. The bass buckled her legs. It moved through her insides like a pinball. She let the boy in the brown suit lead her outside, where the air smelled of Christmas and where the bass was dulled by the wood of the walls. Taking her hand, he started to sway slowly, pulling her other hand to rest on his hip. She followed his lead, until they were under the pines and the secret dance hall was completely out of sight. They danced and circled and twirled, away from the other bodies, away from the rows and the hand claps.

They decided they would stay in the woods until the sun came up.

The boy made his arm a pillow while they both lay down, looking up through the trees at the stars and the clouds. The girl liked the sound of his breathing. She liked the way her own breaths slowed to time themselves against his. When she turned to kiss him, he was asleep. She kissed him anyway. She started slow. She tongued his lips until they parted, and in sleep he kissed her back.

The boy woke alone. In his pocket was a piece of paper with digits he would commit to memory. In his heart was a girl-sized nail, hammered in deep enough to stem any bleeding, but shallow enough to rupture everything the instant he forgot it was there.

Houmous has a lot of O's and U's in it

Tonight I’m wine drunk. It’s a good kind of drunk. I’m still in control of all my faculties, but I feel like dancing and singing. I should drink wine more often. Sometimes I really like to listen to a song on repeat. I am doing that right now. The song has a double bass in it, that makes me feel like I am in the ’50’s, and I am at some secret dance hall out in the woods somewhere. My housemate is obsessed with the ’50’s, and I really wish he was in right now. I would probably have a lot to talk to him about. And I would enjoy the weird jazz he listens to. I hear it extra loud when I go into the bathroom, or when I stand in the corridor outside our rooms. The jazz he listens to doesn’t really have the same feel as this, though. He listens to the drum type of jazz. It is not great. But I would probably think it was right now, if he were to play it loud enough.

I went on a work’s night out tonight. I like the people I work with. We got a bottle of wine each, with our meals. The food was okay but not great, although the houmous was amazing. The houmous made my night. When I look at the letters in the word “houmous”, it’s reminds me of a set of letters I have in one of my Scrabulous games. So now I am wondering if I have any available M’s. I am not going to do any more Scrabulous tonight, though.

There is a line in the song that I am listening to that goes,

“I found a woman who’s soft but she’s also hard. While I slept she nailed down my heart.”

It’s a good line. I am trying to imagine nailing down someone’s heart, metaphorically. Would it mean that they couldn’t move in the morning? Would it mean that the nailer is in control? All I can think of is a massive long nail. Six inches, I think. It’d still get lost somewhere in the ribs or the shoulder-blade, if it even passed through. It’d have to be something like a ten inch nail to do the job properly. But then, it’s not actually meant to kill. I’m getting away from the subject, because it’s meant to be a metaphor anyway.

I want to write a story about hearts and nails and secret dance halls in the woods. But now it feels like those themes would be a Tori Amos song or even album, which is not what I am going for, even though I don’t have anything against Tori Amos, per se.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Sharks Patrol These Waters

For some reason I just got a song in my head that I haven’t heard in years and years. Well, not even the whole song, just one line, sung in a weird voice: Sharks patrol these waters. And again: Sharks. Patrol. These. Waters. From the Morphine album Yes. I don’t know why I suddenly remembered it. It’s weird sometimes what your brain chooses to spit out. Maybe it was the mechanical sharks on Dragon’s Den yesterday. Maybe my brain was just thinking about sharks and wanted to put the thoughts to music. I think that’s the only shark song I know, apart from the Jaws theme, but that’s hardly melodic. Now I’ve got this voice in my head singing: Sharks. Patrol. These. Waters. I think I’ll have to hunt the record out in a bit, though I can’t really play it ‘cause it’s 3am and my housemates are asleep, so I’ll have to wait for tomorrow.

Since NaNoWriMo ended I can’t seem to kick the 3am writing habit. Which is a good thing, on nights when I have the following day off work, at least. It also means I can get back to writing short stories, which is something I really missed this last month. I did cheat and write a couple earlier on in the month. But there were more that were fussing round me like attention-seeking cats that I had to ignore. I didn’t even post any more excerpts of my NaNo writing. I was just trying to concentrate on the actual doing of it, rather than stepping back and choosing bits to pick out and think about. And a lot of it is utter crap. I was getting pretty panicked by the last week. But I do work best to deadlines. The less time I have to do something, the more I’ll get done and the better it’ll be. It was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever put myself through. But it was good, too. Forcing myself to sit and write when I was totally knackered, or when there were people downstairs watching films and having fun, that was something I wouldn’t have done if I’d not set myself the task. So it got me used to writing every day, which is a great habit to have.

For the last week of it I had to stop playing Scrabulous completely, and I was staying up till 3 and 4am trying to get my word count up by another hundred, another thousand. Then I’d get up at 7am and go to work feeling like crap, and do it all again when I got home. The novel itself is not really a novel. If it made any sense it might be a novella, but as it is, it needs a lot of work and a lot more words. I need to research some of the stuff I wrote about. I don’t really know if you can plant irises in September. I’m sure you can, but whether that’s the optimum planting time, well, that I do not know. But I hit my 50,000 words, and I broke my constant editing habit, and I also learned that on the nights when I have taken all my turns in Scrabulous, and no one is online to take their turn and thus make it my turn again, I end up writing loads. There is a message in there somewhere.

Sunday, 11 November 2007


I have written a story about a cat named James who lives on The Cat Boat, which in turn lives on Chris Killen's fantastic blog. It was a lot of fun to write.

Friday, 9 November 2007


So it's day nine of NaNoWriMo, and my word count is seriously lacking. I am however getting very good at Scrabulous. I'm finding that the more games I play simultaneously, the more “in the zone” I actually get. I am playing fourteen games at the moment. Luckily, no one is online to play with me right now, and so I've managed to add 855 words to my word count today. And there will be more. I have the weekend off, and although as a house we've decided to decorate the kitchen, I still believe I will hit my target of lots of words, by Sunday.

I've added an excerpt on my official NaNoWriMo page, so I've decided to post it on here, too. My novel is made up of thinking parts and action parts. At the minute there are more thinking parts, and not very much has happened, action-wise. This following excerpt is a thinking part...

"It's weird how sometimes you can see the split, where your life as it is and how it could have been diverges. Your life is real, but there is a sense that it is being lived more intensely by another version of you, who made the choices you didn't, followed the paths you pretended weren't even there. You are flesh and bones and blood. But your heart, not the muscle of four-chambers, but the idea of your heart, this is elsewhere: it is not with you in this moment. And you feel it's happier in this other place. That somehow, the life you are living is not the one your heart intended. At all.

There are glimpses of this other life when you least expect them. But they come thick and fast, sometimes. Other times, they will creep into your field of vision so you're not really sure whether what you've seen is really real. It happens most at twilight. This is the time when your eyesight is at its worst, when objects that are actually there can be mistaken for shadows, or thoughts, and things that didn't exist before you dreamed them into being shine out from streetlamps and car headlights and through the branches of trees. And at these times, you really think you are that other person, and all your thoughts are the thoughts that that person is thinking. And there is another life, another home you go home to. And while it is not entirely different from the one you occupy, it's not really the same. Perhaps you sleep on the other side of the bed. Perhaps you don't even sleep in a bed, maybe it is a futon, a hammock. And you know your clothes are different, and in the back of your head you think to yourself: I could have the clothes. They are do-able. But you also know, and tell yourself, that you will never get round to such a big upheaval.

When you think of this other life, you feel a weight pushing against your chest. You feel it as a loss.

And even though you go about your day as normal, keep your routine, you feel it's just a body going blindly through the motions. You could be carved up into cuts of meat – a shank, a rack of ribs, a sirloin – and still the part of you that's you would be separate from every sinewy part. The “you” of you would still be free to dream, to imagine. So who's to say you can only exist in one space and time? If this “you” is not a physical thing, if it is an idea, a collection of thoughts and memories, then who's to say these ideas cannot shift, be it across time or space or distance?"

Wednesday, 31 October 2007


So I have decided on my title. It is the title of a Hundertwasser painting. I like Hundertwasser's paintings. (My spell check kept trying to suggest “thunderstorms” just then. I like them, too.) My story is going to be a bit about doing gardening, although definitely not in an Alan Titchmarsh kind of way. It will be about a man who starts doing gardening because his life is empty. I am not sure why he doesn't just join facebook. Then his life will be full of “friends” and he can play Scrabulous to his heart's content. But I am glad he doesn't take that path, because then it would be quite a boring book to read. Unless you were an avid Scrabble watcher, and I doubt there can be too many of those. Scrabble is a game you have to participate in to get any enjoyment from. I'm quite sure that's a fact. I know I hate it when it's not my turn. I can't be the only one. If I'm getting near the end of the month and the word count is lacking, I could make him join facebook, though. As a last resort. That can be my safety net. Phew. I begin at midnight tonight!!!!

Monday, 29 October 2007


Today I signed up to the NaNoWriMo write a novel in a month challenge. It feels quite exciting. The idea is to start on November 1st and have a finished 50,000 word first draft by midnight on November 30th. What fun! I think it will be a good thing for me to do. You are not supposed to edit any of it. The idea is just to write, even if it is utter crap. Just to have the sense of fulfilment of having completed a 50,000 word novel. You can edit and try and make good of the crap at a later date, if you want to. But it's meant to be a great way of kicking off the cobwebs and allowing yourself to write for the simple joy of it. I'm a great procrastinator. I think this will force me to finish something, rather than re-edit it a thousand times and never get it done.

I haven't a clue what my “novel” is going to be about. I was tempted to use something I've already been working on, but I think I would be too precious about it. This needs to be something new. I will try brainstorming in a while. (I can only brainstorm with paper and pens. I need to be able to circle stuff and draw lines and add bits to other bits. It doesn't feel organic at all if I try to do that on a computer. And it takes me way too long.)

When I get going, I will be posting snippets(what a great word) on here, along with a running word count. (It says this will help spur me on to keep at it.) I'm fairly confident I can write that many words. They may not be great words, but who cares? It'll be a good exercise in self-discipline, if nothing else.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

When Good Housemates Turn Bad

This is not so much a story, it's more a confessional. It's online at The Beat.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Friday, 14 September 2007

Tales from the Library: blind

There is a man who comes into the Library once a week. He takes out audio books for his wife, who is going blind. One day, he showed me a photograph of himself in a book he was checking out. It was a war book. History. 940 or 942 if we're talking Dewey Decimal. I forget which. Maybe I'll check tomorrow and edit this. If I get the chance. He told me how he'd met his wife at a dance, and how she had waited for him to return from war. This was over sixty years ago. And they are still in love. And he told me how he'd been part of a small unit that went behind enemy lines, how he was the only one still alive, one of two who'd made it back, and how he'd been awarded medals. And he told me how his wife is slowly losing her sight, and how he brings her these books on tape to help fill her days. She had always loved reading. And now she is too frail to venture out. So he does that for her. He tries to pick books she hasn't already had. A lot of them look the same to him. The stories merge into one.

That was the only time we really spoke in depth. He takes books, says hello, makes smalltalk, but since that day, he's not opened up again. Maybe the Library was exceptionally empty that day, or perhaps he just needed to share his story, show someone his photo, his place in History. It's too easy to see him as just an old man. I wonder how many others are in the books on the shelves. I wonder how often I see the person underneath the creaking bones and the slow movements, wonder how often I'm blind.

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

private plane

I wish I had a private plane. Actually, I think I'd rather have a helicopter gunship. They seem like they're easier to take off and land, what with not needing a runway and all. Obviously I'd need a pilot, a pilot who was on call all hours of the day and night. But he'd be a total A-Team fan, and would LOVE being a chopper pilot. It really would be his life. It would get tricky sometimes, convincing him that he really didn't have to “take out” the neighbours from down the street who would invariably complain about the noise. But that's the only time the guns would be of concern. And he'd be easily calmed down with a few soft words from Lionel Ritchie. Recorded, of course. I might one day be able to afford a helicopter gunship, but I don't think I'll ever have the money to afford Lionel Ritchie.


He pretends he has all the answers. He holds these to his chest, but when she peeks up close, she sees that he has only gathered air in the folds of his garments. She understands that he has to feel important, that his way of engaging with the world is by setting himself apart from it, looking down on all its marvels. But at the same time, she can't bring herself to swallow what he says, knowing it's based on a fallacy. He thinks she is walking away because she is somehow jealous of him, of his world, and she lets him believe that. But she is walking away because biting her tongue is beginning to really affect her vocabulary, and that is something she can't allow.

sorry somehow

I put cress seeds on your carpet while you were away. And then I watered your carpet. I thought it would be funny. And it was, for a bit. But you get back tomorrow and somehow, I don't think you'll get the joke. Sorry.

standing by the sea

Once, there was someone who loved you enough to wait for your return. They stood on the beach and hoped the waves would somehow carry you back. There were letters. You wrote your life into folds of paper, left the imprint of promises where they'd be seen in the half-light of a morning room. But you took so long. And, tired of waiting, the one who loved you most let you drift from their heart, replaced you with constancy and the spoken word.

Tales from the Library: rekindling

Even though I work in a Library, I haven't really had much chance to actually deal with books of late. It all seems to be computers and DVDs and reader's accounts. And then posters and leaflets and this survey or that survey. I've only just figured this out, wondering why I've had so many negative feelings about it recently. I miss alphabetising entire sections. I miss getting angry at the crappy covers of Ken Follett books. I miss knowing which books are where, and being able to take a reader straight to the title they want. I seem to have lost that communion lately, which makes me sad. I don't get the chance to sneakily read the cover blurbs anymore. I can't properly engage with people when they ask for recommendations. I feel like I work in an office, but at the same time, I feel totally out of my depth in that world of invoices and paperwork. (Although I admit I do have an unhealthy obsession with post-it notes.)

Tomorrow, I'm going to make a point of rekindling my love affair with the shelves. I'm going to pull out Tony Parsons and Murakami and even Josephine Cox. I will stand them up for all to see, and let them dance on the shelves together, urging someone to take them home and into their lives. I'm going to make a standing collage of Mills & Boon lovelies – have the one where the sheik falls for the businesswoman teeter next to the one where the doctor takes on the innocent pregnant gal and her bun, and let the one where the millionaire steals the heart of his secretary-who-he-pays-to-pretend-to-be-his-wife nestle up close against the one where the rocket scientist woos the sexy but workaholic lady vet. (I made that last one up, but it probably does exist.)

I need to get back what I used to love about my job. And that means not getting bogged down with new responsibilities, but finding a way to balance what has to be done with what I want to do. And it starts amongst the pink-covered tales of romance. Where the names of the authors – B.J. Daniels, Candance Camp - never cease to make me smile. What better place to rediscover my true love.

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Tales from the Library: forest

Today I locked myself in the interview room and cut out big letters from sugar paper. I am working on a wall display. The letters are brown and are meant to look like wood. The theme is nature. I am also cutting out flower shapes. And leaves. I am glueing the leaves onto the letters. I am glad I am not out in the Library proper. It's been too busy lately. I'm trying to think of other reasons to lock myself in here. This room is so peaceful. I have pulled the blind across so no one even knows I'm in here.

I found some blue paper in the cupboard. It is a kingfisher blue. I wish there was more of it, but the sheet is small. I would wrap myself in this paper if it was bigger, and if it was thinner. But it won't bend around a body very well at all. I decide to make it into a bird. The bird's underbelly will be orange, for contrast. The bird will perch on top of the letter “d”, above where the leaves are glued. It will have more the effect of a branch than of a tree. But that will be okay.

The other year, the theme was Pirates. I got to say “arrrrr” a lot. We made pirate hats and wore them. It changed the air in the Library. It felt like an adventure. These leaves and wooden letters are supposed to lend an air of the forest to the Library. Oh the irony. There will be butterflies and beetles for small hands to cut out, to colour in. And we will read stories about hedgehogs and rabbits, and other woodland creatures. I remember when they made “hedgehog” flavour crisps. They were amazing. The stories won't be about hedgehogs being eaten.

If I hadn't run out of green paper, I would lock myself in the interview room tomorrow, and the day after that, and I would cut out leaves of all shapes and sizes. I would cut out so many that they would fall off the table and into massive piles on the floor. I would stick a ball of Blu Tack to each leaf. And when the children came in, I would press one leaf into each tiny hand, and after counting backwards from three, I would whisper to them to stick their leaves to the walls, to the windows, to the bookshelves, to the books. To anywhere they would stick to. Until the Library became a forest once again.

Sunday, 22 July 2007


I stop by the fence to collect my thoughts. Absently, my fingernail follows the grain, circles the knots. I do this when I'm thinking: trace lines and outlines, doodle new shapes over what's already there.

He doesn't expect me. It's too early on a Sunday morning for him to be dressed. I'm standing on his porch as his confusion slips to happiness and back again. He steps back to let me enter. It's then that I kiss his cheek. Giddy, I walk past him, into the heart of the room. And he follows. His mouth opens, and before the question can spill out, I press my lips against his, stop him, start this new thing. And after a time, when the standing needs to become sitting, we tumble clumsily into his bedroom, onto his bed. This Morse Code Is All Wrong, his fingertips whisper into my hair. Isn't It? To which my only reply is a shifting of our centre of gravity. And then it's no longer a question. Then it's his skin and my skin and the soft of the sheets and the gold of the sun, and the shadow of him clouding over me, over my better judgement. Quickly, it becomes breath and air and oxygen and I feel myself collapsing and falling, over and over and over.

We should sleep but we don't. We are quietly stunned. Smiling. And then not smiling. My skin is singing and is also on fire. His breath, accidental on my shoulder shakes my skin to spring forth its Braille: I Wanted This All Along.

I don't know what to do. Or say. In my head, when this happened, he was the instigator. I had my speeches all planned. But I have no words for walking on a Sunday morning to his house, kissing him and then pulling him into me on his bed. All my speeches were centred around him getting too close, wanting too much. I have no words for this. I want to stay, but instead I find myself slipping back into my clothes. I mumble something and leave. What Have I Done?


I've put too much sugar in my coffee. I wasn't thinking. Linus is opposite me, his hands cupped around his own coffee: black, no sugar. I can't leave the table and make a fresh drink. The recollection comes to me that hot, sweet drinks are good for shock, and this allows me to relax a little. It's only been four hours, and I can still feel him inside me. The sensation kills any regrets.

Linus says we have to talk, and he's right. But I don't know what to say. I want to recite a poem to explain myself, but the only one that comes to mind is that Benjamin Zephaniah one about food, and suddenly I'm hungrier than I've ever been before in my life.

Are We Going To Do This? He asks. And he means give it a shot, see what happens. And I nod, because I've already leapt into that one feet first, so I can hardly play the friendship card now. And I know I should be as happy as he is now. His eyes are shining, but I know it's partly tears, and I also know I caused them. He's been hurt already. Four hours in. I know this is just the tip of the iceberg, too. So I can't be happy. But I'll pretend.

(This is a chapter from a work in progress.)

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Tales from the Library: horrible

Today a horrible woman came into the library. She had heard about a book that had just come out, and she wanted it. I checked the catalogue and we didn't have it yet. We don't always get new books right away. They have to be processed and catalogued and allocated. She wouldn't let me explain this to her. She decided the library wasn't going to buy the book and she wanted to talk to whoever was in charge of buying books and force them to get it. The Dalai Lama could be the one buying our books for all I know. The books are bought by shadowy figures who hole themselves up behind stacks of old Whitaker's Almanacs. Theirs is an impenetrable fortress of dusty tomes and long-forgotten language. You can't just Give Them A Call. The ringing of the telephone would shatter their fragile eardrums, it would send them mad. And then nobody would buy the books. And slowly, the free dispersal of knowledge and mythologies would grind to a halt.

I hate it when people shout for no reason. Maybe her pit bull genes were having a bad reaction to being indoors, but still, that's no excuse for being rude. I attempted to explain to her again about new books, but she just wanted to hear her own voice. She was spouting something about the library HAVING to have this book BECAUSE IT IS SOCIALLY RELEVANT. She actually repeated this line six times. I was counting.

In the end, I told her I could fill out a request card, but until it was actually on the catalogue, there was nothing more we could do. She would simply have to wait, something she's probably never done in her whole life. (Did I mention she pushed in?) She then started on about all the money being spent on books about slavery, that it was THE BIG THING lately. Thus reducing the abolition of slavery to just some new fad that everyone was jumping on the bandwagon of.

What I wish I could have said: Excuse me, Madam, but I don't think everyone has a brother on crack. In fact, I'm sure a fair few of the patrons who frequent the libraries of this City do not even have brothers, let alone brothers on crack. So it would appear this book might not be AS SOCIALLY RELEVANT as you seem to think. If you want it that badly that you have to go into a library, ignore the information presented to you and shout yourself into a rage about it, then why not do yourself and everyone else a favour and log onto Amazon and buy it yourself. You obnoxious, racist bitch.

But I didn't get the chance. My boss intervened, reiterated what I'd tried to tell her, then asked if I'd like to go for my break. I swear we're going to have to get a punch-bag for the staffroom.


They have added 27,000 new words to the Oxford English Dictionary. Prink is one of them. I had never heard it before. There were others I had heard. They'd been spoken in bars, in rooms, even on the news. But “prink”, I had never encountered before today. It means: to dress up; decorate oneself with fine clothes or jewels; preen. I try to fit the word into my mouth, imagine how I might use it in conversation. It would have to be in context, of course. I doubt my friends are aware of this word. They are not the “prinking” kind.

Friday, 22 June 2007

The Somersault Of Atoms

This short short story appears online at Six Sentences.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Killing A Camera

Nathan closes his eyes. He is far from where he used to be. The sun back there lent his face the colour of sand. Now he stares out, pale, from the mirror and wonders will his eyes lose their blue, too. Everything in this place seems washed-out, scribbled over with a variety of different shades of grey. He misses the life he was happy living. He misses the colours.

He ties his shoelace and breathes air that tastes of metal and fire. He greets each morning with a resolution to make the best of how things are, but by the time he's opened the door and walked across the gravel to the gate, this resolve has morphed back into crushing despair.

The friends he's made see the shell of who he was. They see the gold of his hair and his camouflage of freckles and hold him up, marvel at him, wait by his feet, eager for scraps of stories. He has words. Plenty of them. He has enough words to build a suspension bridge all the way back to the place he loved, stopping off on the moon for a game of hopscotch along the way. But he knows they are only words. They have no power here, other than to tempt a circle of onlookers to listen, to want to know him. He tries to enjoy this, knowing it won't last, knowing he'll only be new for so long, and then he'll just be Nathan.

There is a girl who lets him kiss her. The first time, she told him his skin was rough, that he felt like leaves left out in the sun too long. He tried not to take this badly. She didn't mean it to sound like it did. She was just voicing her analyses out loud. He is well aware he is little more than her science project. He doesn't really mind. She is pretty, and she lets him kiss her. In this new grey world these two facts in themselves count as a huge splash of colour.

He knows he's lucky to have been accepted. There are others who have lived here all their lives who are still considered outcasts. They sit at tables punctuated with empty seats, cracking all the wrong jokes. They definitely don't get to kiss the girls. He could so easily have ended up an outsider. He has this shred to be happy about, at least. It just isn't really anywhere near enough to cancel out how immensely cheated he feels, having to leave his better life behind. He doesn't want to “get over it”, because that would mean giving up who he is. And for what? To become another grey bundle of flesh and bones, sitting blank on buses, walking briskly in the rain.

Nathan leans against a birch and thinks to himself: even the trees are dying here, fading themselves away to pale grey-green. He'd heard this was a green and pleasant land. He feels he's been grossly misinformed. All he sees is a cloud-encroached cityscape taking its final painful breaths, and trying to suck out the life from all who dwell in her. He can feel it happening to him, and it makes him want to pull his t-shirt up to cover his mouth and then make a run for it, and keep on running until he can breathe real air again.

The girl who lets him kiss her is telling him about something they are going to do later. It seems to involve sitting around and not much else. There will be kissing, she assures him, but this isn't the reason he nods his head and says: yes, yes I'm there. The reason he agrees to go is he has nothing better to do.

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Before Traffic

I always wanted a brother. You were the closest I ever got. I remember sitting on this bench by the river with you, waiting for dawn to become day. Neither of us had slept. On a coffee high we'd gone skating at three ay emm. We witnessed the reversal of the normal world. Carved shapes in the quiet of that lull before Saturday begins.

A lot of it was about freedom, back then. We sketched bold lines around ourselves and refused to let reality in. We worked night jobs to pay the rent and bought records with the change. And we pushed ourselves every day to be better than the greats. You'd take an empty parking lot and convert it into a playground. I'd pull leaves from my hair and give to each a thousand names.

I can stop and sit here and know we have something real. Something beyond gender roles and sexuality. These trees offered us shelter a long time ago. Sometimes I see that girl when I look in the mirror. Sometimes, before the day has got its teeth into me and gravity has exerted its pull. We are all half an inch taller when we wake. And our hearts have four chambers. You occupy the space in mine reserved for climbing trees, fairy lights and face to face sleeping. If I miss more than the physical proximity to you, it's only quiet nights with notebooks, and that bathroom light that never came on.

Who we were then brings us to who we are now. A lot has changed, and yet. There is always a rediscovery of old selves when we walk familiar paths. I cannot pause here, dazzled by the carpet of silver leaves, and not think back to how your body never fit you right, how your bones were always at odds with everything else. And when we hugged, I imagined bundling you into a pile, scared you'd break if I let you go too quickly. And when we hugged, I imagined me melting and never having to be solid again.

I stand solid now. And it's not so bad. And you're more breakable than you thought you were, but you're okay. Everything fixes with time. I'm glad that you're back in my everyday. Sometimes it's almost like you're in the next room, and if only I knocked loud enough, we could be drinking bonus cups in that space between time before real traffic starts. It's good to find who I was again. Nice to look behind my eyes and find staring out a girl who once threw herself off buildings. A girl who learned the secrets of flight.