Exercise and Exorcise

Sunday morning has come around again; much too quickly. It came with two possibilities: a passive, meaningless stretch of twenty-four hours or a moment seized and gently squeezed of its goodness. We chose the latter.

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After a two year battle with the world, I appear to be content. Contentment is so different from its superficial cousin, happiness. Contentment doesn’t wear a showy smile. Contentment doesn’t belly laugh. Contentment doesn’t leave without warning, leaving a grey vacuum that swallows the pain of having to live without it.

Contentment just is.

So here is me, content. And this morning, to build upon this feeling of being here, we went for a run in the countryside. We being my lovely wife and me.

To start with, as we drove to our route, we chunterred a little about aspects of our lives. Our middle daughter has completed her A Levels and has put off university for a year. She now sits with her smartphone, sits and sits. Her bedroom is the stuff left by hurricanes and her mother is reaching the end of her patience. My wife’s workplace is undergoing change (the type of change that has become the byword and trite idealogy of educational institutions, “We must get better and better!”). She is feeling the stress from that and I, having gone through my own psychological wildfire, am on hand to offer a comforting  perspective.

As soon as we reached the area for our run, the world began to lift.

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It’s a difficult run but so rewarding. Up and up and up with calves straining against the effort. A desire to stop to ease the rapid breathing but a continuation in order to reach the top. Once there, the panorama is reward enough.

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We run in a rough circle that takes us along trails in fields and ones in woods. It is the woods that I most like. There is a stillness about so many trees so close together. They stand and watch our passage without comment. On more than one occasion I have been on the receiving end of an arboreal prank with hidden routes reaching up from the ground to catch the toe of my trainers and send me on a slow-motion tumble. Now, I keep an eye on them.

When our run has brought us full circle we are allowed to descend the steep climbs and make our way back to the car that is parked up by one of the most picturesque churches one could wish to see.

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Fully evercised and fully exorcised, we are content.

Checking Out My History

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There’s a woman I know who had an idea for a book. She entered a competition for ‘Women of Substance’ with this idea, and only this idea. She won and got a book deal.

The book was written by both the publishers and her with the publishers doing an inordinate amount of research. She wrote about what she knew best and what she thought about the most, herself. The book sold quite a lot and she is still living off of its popularity.

At the heart of the book was the heart of her success. Her prose were not so special. Neither was the story of her life (which bookended the real tale). The thing at the heart of it all was the revelation that her great grandmother was a woman who was found guilty, with her male friend, of the murder of her abusive husband. They were both sent to the gallows together and were the last couple to do so before capital punishment was repealed.

With this in mind, I set off to find my own past. Surely, between me and my wife, we could find a murderer, sodomite, or just an everyday lunatic who was locked up in a house for the insane and met every night with lupine howls.

I started the search and was confronted by how little our parents had told us. My wife has circumstances that make it doubly difficult to delineate a family tree. Having known next to nothing about my mum and dad’s families, even the discovery of maiden names of great grandmothers or the name of my father’s absent dad brought up a lump of sadness that was unexpected.

My continued search will be for the sake of discovery and to tell the story of ordinary histories.

Dildos and Stockings To The Rescue!

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A ray of sunshine has fallen across our Saturday morning. Outside is dull and damp, but in doors there is a spot of hope.

Saturday morning started off as all Saturdays tend to do. Lucy, our cat, came gently meowing into our bedroom. The weather is grim out there, but that didn’t stop her from wanting, nay insisting, on going out. I crept out of bed, descended the stairs, opened the front door, and she was gone into the gloom. I went back to bed; it was five o’clock.

Later, we were awoken by the sound of our middle daughter moving around. We ignored this and feigned sleep. After about half an hour, my wife’s phone started to do the buzzing thing that has replaced the traditional ring. It could only be one person, our eldest daughter in France. I listened for a short time to the conversation and then went to make the mugs of tea that are so much a part of our awakenings.

Saturday mornings always follow their own traditions. Tea, talk, sample the news, and the porn; property-porn.

Property-porn has been part of our lives for over twenty years. In the early days it meant leafing through the Yorkshire Post property pages. Then it progressed to the internet where property porn is tailored for everyone’s predispositions and quirks. We originally went the French way as old houses and gardens were still the norm for most people’s tastes. After that, we went Spanish: new-builds, sea-views, and pools. Spanish properties are plentiful, although sometimes they tend to lack the aesthetic.

We can spend up to an hour luxuriating in this debauchery until the real world calls us back. The real world needs finances and I have managed to spend the main part of my life avoiding this hefty consideration. My pension-pot is puny as I thought that I would be a famous writer by now. I am not. And the wife is not overly impressed. Therefore the morning, that started off so well, the porn not the cat, started to slide downhill a little.

“Why can’t you write a bestseller?”

“I know. I wish I could.”

“But it would have to be something that people would want to read.”

“I know.”

It was still slipping downhill and towards a precipice when my wife suggested, sex.

“Sex sells.”

“Perhaps I could write some erotica?”

“I don’t really think it’s you.”

“Cheers.”

So, I am officially a sad old git who can’t get it up for a swift chase of chapters that would titivate the secretly saucy.

“Dildos and Stockings!”

The morning was starting to look up again.

“Why don’t I set up an internet shop and sell dildos and stockings? Buy a pair of stockings and get a dildo, of your choice, free.”

She had my attention.

” I think that you have something there.”

The idea had begun to harden in our minds.

Dildos and Stockings. It’s great name.It could just work.

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At last, things are looking up.

Property-porn, here we come.  

Living With Lots Of Women

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No, I am not a sultan. I am neither a sultan nor a raisin, although some extended time in the sun could change that. 

I have a wife, three daughters, and a female cat. They all treat me as some acceptably odd character who shares their lives. I am no longer at the centre of existence and no longer at the centre of my own small act.

Philip Larkin Knew all about it:

“Something is pushing them

To the side of their own lives.”

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You reach that moment when you have dispensed with thinking about life as one great adventure. The French talk about egotism as revolving around one’s own belly button. It’s like a living birth when everything in the universe is centred on the sole issue of that sole issue, you.

Once out in the open, it takes decades to accept that the world no longer revolves around you. You are not the sun, you are not even a sun, you are a speck in the universe, a galactic smote of dust that travels the great distances without anyone taking any notice.

But, I live amongst women. And they care for me. Even the cat, Lucy, nuzzles me when I am a little down. 

My ladies don’t give me false support. My ladies don’t allow me to wallow. My ladies keep me planted on the ground. They keep me…

I may be on the sidelines now. I may be but an observer of things that are happening around me, but which I do not participate in. I like it. I like the feet-up approach. I like being relaxed. I like not having to act. My ladies accept me for what I am.

So, in this part of my life, I am prepared to relax and to leave the running to others. I will watch, observe, appreciate. And occasionally, I will cheer.

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From Field of Dreams

 

I will not be in the centre of it from now on, but I will be somewhere, enjoying the moments…

With my lovely girls (and wonderful wife).

A Morsel More

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Something else was among them. Its sound, as it planted ancient feet upon the floor, indicated that it walked like a man. Alongside it, ran the first of the notes from a flute.

She recognised the sound as the one that had been in the darkness for sometime now. She had heard it coming from the mobile phones of kids in the street. The first strains had been weak, discordant, and had barely scuttled into the surrounding air before dying, and recoiling.

Over the weeks, she noticed more and more teenagers, decent looking kids mesmerised by their mobiles. And with this, the notes of the flute began to take shape, take to the air and transform themselves into something almost visible. That something, or a fragment of that something, was standing on the other side of her wardrobe door and soon, very soon, she would be able to see what the notes looked like. She waited with the words of her mantra, stuck like pebbles in her throat.

The something’s hand was upon the door handle, its damp palm pressing against the cool metal, its impetus about to push down.

The moment could have lasted forever. Then a current ran through the air; primeval electricity connected each and every particle of her being instantly. The world was frozen, trapped and petrified in an absolute of silence. For that moment, the little girl was able to enter their thoughts. Later, she would remember their cries of despair and exhilaration, hatred and fidelity, anguish and relief. There were so many voices in there, so many emotions and so much conflict. As she pulled herself out from that foul place, she realised that the night carried a howl, a distant rage of pain that cut through her aggressors’ intentions.

For a long while she listened, knowing that they had fled. She waited before resuming her mantra and watching her mind movie. That was until she heard the front door being opened. There was movement downstairs and this was followed by a short cry of pain. The first utterances of a curse was being strangled.

That’s when she decided to move from her hiding place, step slowly down the stairs, and that’s when she saw the boy who was taking the car keys.

He had the look of the gangs. He was wearing tracksuit bottoms, a baseball cap and his hood was pulled up. His movements were furtive and for the briefest time she wished she had not disturbed him.

She had opened her mouth to say, “Hello” and had wished she hadn’t. His eyes shot wide opened, and he stepped back hitting his leg on the hall table.

This time, he did not cry out in pain as his immediate attention had been taken up with the thing that had jumped out of the dark. This time, he just stood there waiting for what he thought would be the painful end to his painfully short life.

When the girl saw this, she spoke out again.

“So, they did not get you?”

Moments passed.

“The rats, they did not get you?”

Eventually, “No…what are you doing here?”

There was nothing in his voice which she recognised. It was defensive, sullen and, most probably, dangerous. Nevertheless, she persisted.

“Those keys are for Mum’s car.”

She thought about her mother and the movie started playing again.

“That’s for Mum’s car. You’ll need Dad’s keys, his car is parked in front of hers. It will block your way out.”

 

Again, the furtive look. He was weighing things up, trying to work out what he ought to do. On the stairs was a girl, whom he reckoned was about eight or nine, and somehow she had survived the thing that had happened. He was starting to wonder how and why when they both heard a low groan coming from the next room.

He didn’t know whether to run away or go to help whatever it was that was making that noise. The girl decided for him. She ran down the last few stairs and straight into the room from where the groan had come. As the door opened, he heard her gasp deeply and then scream.

A scream that would wake the dead.

So he ran after her, not to comfort her, but to shut her up. If he didn’t, then the rats might come back. What he saw in there would stay with him through the coming nights.

There were parts, bits that had once belonged to human beings, strewn around the room. A lampshade had been knocked over, its bulb still throwing a maniacal glare across the scene. The carpet was stained deeply red with what had been the lifeblood of the girl’s family. He clamped a hand across her mouth with a strength that shook her. Her scream bit into his smelly palm, her eyes filed with revulsion and accusation.

“Shut your bloody mouth before they hear you. You don’t want to end up like that do you?”

That was when the moan became a discernable voice. It was a voice that carried with it a name.

“Kate.” 

What was left of her brother, had spoken.

His little sister was drawn to him. She knelt and held a hand that could no longer feel. She looked into her brother’s eyes, bloodstained and drifting between worlds.

“Be careful. The boy is dangerous. He knows them.”

“What boy?”

From the doorway, Joel Podrall spoke.

“What’s he saying?”

Kate ignored the question and asked her own once more.

“Which boy?”

But the connection had been broken. Her brother was dead.

Her head bowed forward dropping tears onto what remained of him. It was as if she had lost him twice and the anger was beginning to build within her tiny frame.

The boy was still standing at the door, seemingly afraid to venture inside. Something told her that this boy was the one she had been warned about. She knew right from the moment she had set eyes upon his form, in the darkness of the hallway, that he was not right, but he was all she had.

She needed him to help her to get out of the city and she had to prove that she could be of use and not just a hindrance. She wiped her tears away with the back of a hand that still held blood.

“He said good bye.”    

A Taste Of Things To Come

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The screams had dissolved. They had petered out into near silent pleas and prayers. She had waited, fixed like a butterfly pinned into a glass case, a recording, playing the only prayer she knew, ran on and on inside her mind.

Lord keep us safe this night

Secure from all our fears…

But they had not been safe, nobody had.

Running alongside the prayer was a film. She called these her mind movies and always played the role of director or leading actress.

In this movie, the one that was now sticking in the place where she least wanted it to stick, she had neither been director nor leading actress. In this movie, she had played the part of the little girl who was not seen, or heard, and the little girl who ran as quietly as she could for the only place she had ever felt truly safe, the back of her walk in wardrobe. From there, she had been able to hear the screams of her mother, father and elder brothers as they had been set upon by an army of rats.

However, she knew that they were not really rats because rats did not offer ultimatums.

With her head pressed to the floor, the little girl, now only just eight, listened with mortified engagement as the sudden smashing of glass, her father’s shouts for the family to run into the next room, her mother’s cries of astonishment and fear, and her elder brothers’ anger were replaced with the submissive sound of near silence. She had strained her ears to pick out anything that may have spoken of hope, but none appeared to be there; none until she heard the note.

At first she thought it had been the sound of somebody hissing and then it had changed into something more soothing. For a moment, the notes of a flute fluttered into the spaces beneath where she lay. Once more, it changed into something closely resembling a caricature of a human voice, one that whistled, grated and cajoled.

“…the way they died…want to suffer…are young…for people like you…join us…die.”

There was a brief pause and then an answer came back from Tim, her eldest brother. Even through the pain and the tears, she knew his tone which was one of defiance.

“…you…rather die…like you.”  

Then the fury increased again and the muffled cries of her brothers were extinguished.

After that, came the time of searching.

She knew that they were scenting the air, following trails, feasting on morsels and glorying in their hour. She froze as she heard feet treading their way up the staircase. They were after more things to do and her scent had caught in eager nostrils. She listened as the footfalls reached the top and then waited for the inevitable.

They picked their way along the passageway, taking it in turns to storm each of the bedrooms. The sounds of ripping, tearing and smashing ensued and she realised that nothing was being left to chance. The prayer arose within her and became a mantra. If she said it enough times, believed its lines, then God might just save her.

The entry of the rats suggested otherwise. They fell upon the room like grave-robbers, intoxicated with triumph.

The feet stopped at the wardrobe door. She was wrapped up in coats, only half hidden, but she prayed. And in this prayer she asked (she knew she wasn’t really supposed to ask God for anything for herself) for a cloak to be thrown around her. She wished for a cloak like the one Harry Potter had, an invisible cloak. If this had been part of a book, she would have been granted one. If God had been watching, he would have thrown down his heavenly threads and woven a garment for her, immediately. God, she wondered with the tiniest fear of being disrespectful, was not watching what was going on. He had not heard the cries of her family and did not see those creatures dressed as rats.

A few feet away, the things hesitated as if drawing out the delicious torment of the scene. The little girl visualised the cloak she was about to pull over herself. It was green with threads of gold woven into it and along the hood were symbols like stars that caught the moonlight and shone it back. She hid, pulled deep within this invention and waited for the end.

Secure from all our fears

If I should die before I wake…

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My Wife, The Piper, Liam Flowers and The End of The World…

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We had a conversation this morning. It was one of those not quite awake conversations that happens on Saturday morning when there is no work to put a stop to them. 

“Don’t get me wrong,” she said. I knew that there was some honesty coming. “I like your blog, but it’s not going to support us. It’s not that tunnel that you are looking for.”

In the last twenty months or so, the writing has been coming thick and fast. It’s as if all my old injuries and wounds have set about healing themselves, all at once. It’s a Doctor Who thing; complete regeneration and a new-build exterior. I have been careful not to become all nice and good about the world, as a born-againer would likely be. The world still exists in its pre-breakdown mode, shit and getting shittier, so no amount of glossy- over by an inner ‘positive-mindset-self’ is likely to change it. But what I am doing is expurgating myself of the false beliefs about my life and its values.

“I wish you would rewrite The Piper. I loved that book. It is as real to me as yesterday.”

The Piper was my first novel, an imperfect issue that came kicking into life just less than a decade ago; on the eve of my father’s death. The book was my way of showing that I wasn’t a dreamer, that I had real talent. So, I chose a book about the coming apocalypse, set in a school, led by an imaginary Piper who was based on Pan, an Anti-Christ type boy, an animated corpse that had turned to leather and the holy trinity in the form of three brothers. What type of dreamer would dream that up? Anyway, my father escaped having to read it as a result of him dying. And I escaped any redemption.

“I want to rewrite it. It’s just finding the time.” But I knew that I was lying.

I have a friend who didn’t want to upset me when he told me that he thought my writing now was much better than the writing of The Piper. That was my baby he was talking about. It may not have been perfect, but it was mine. It’s a thing that is rarely done, offer an honest critique about the appearance of another person’s baby.

“Your kid is as ugly as a mule’s arse! If you don’t mind me saying.”

That’s why I have kept it in darkness. My ugly mule-arse baby sits on my bookshelf, lonely and wanting to be loved.

“I love it,” my wife said. “I love it.”

Now I am being asked to become Victor Frankenstein. My little imperfect issue needs a face-lift. It needs rewriting for a modern world. It needs to be accepted.

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Liam Flowers, come forth.