Back in the Habit #3 : Aurelia


The constant dusk of Christmas-time. That was where she came from. Originated out of the spirited ether, like any other fairy. I believe she had wishes, but she never voiced them to me. She wanted me to share my thoughts. She elevated me, made me vital. Her being was not important to her. Only mine was.

She used to charge the railing across the footbridge with static energy, and I watched her, distracted from our conversation, feeling it build inside my own hands, despite not touching either her or the metal. She was not affected.

We would marvel at the sporadic floods, the surprising things that happened in the half-lit evenings. This was the best time of year for the curious and the young. Those with nothing to lose and nothing to work towards. Endless summers of Christmas.

“Do you think you’d like to spend some time with Aurelia tonight?” My mother brought her into my social life, encouraging enterprise and acceptance. Willing me to be a better person in the future, or at least do her part in enlightening me, should there be any depth to me at all. I believe she doubted that, and subsequently, herself.

I found Aurelia interesting; captivating at least. I used to watch her. She didn’t need anyone in particular for company; she required no response. She mused happily as long as you were looking, smiling, or something. Some kind of acknowledgement. She did appreciate that much, like anyone would. Perhaps she did teach me some manners.

She trickled down the steps at the far end and waited for me, flickering a bit of thread in her fingers. She folded in two as a bike came out of the tunnel and into her stomach.

I don’t remember feeling protective over her. I remember arriving at the bike, tugging it out of the way, discarding the rider’s excuses. A little blood showed on her lips as she looked up at me and caught me looking back. She was grateful, and I embraced her.

This was not supposed to happen to fairies.


Written in response to the brief on the 330 Words blog – one of my new favourite games!

Castle Howard at Christmas

Seeing this post evoked some memories for me of times when I had to be up early and go outdoors in the cold, before the sky had rubbed its eyes clean of sleep. Here is one of those times… Granted these photos are not fantastic, but they have nostalgic value for me, and I think they give you enough of an idea of what a wonderfully picturesque place Castle Howard is.

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The Morning After The Night Before

Ok, so I didn’t get up until about 12pm. But I thought I’d take advantage of the subdued contemplation that seems to fill the air today, the morning after the night before.

One thing has occurred to me today – something I feel may explain a rather hungry gap inside my psyche – perhaps my dawdling mind’s submission to the phrase ‘use it or lose it’ is something to do with the fact that, for quite a few years now, I have not been very close with my dad.

Dad and I used to do things together. We disassembled and reassembled computers, studying all the parts, we dug and filled ponds (not just with water, but our very own micro-cultures of weeds and wildlife), we trekked up mountains and he’d tell me (sigh-worthy at the time) stories of his favourite memories that had just been jogged, we picked up dead creatures and fungus and inspected them, we discovered. And when I lived with him, he would be there to answer questions. Whenever they came up for me. If he was at work, I’d ask him later. We would always eat together (He was pretty strict on that point, and having been fed up with the autonomy then, it is a habit I now deem worth taking advantage of while you have it in your power to eat together. The phrase “You’ll thank me later” springs to mind, funnily enough, like everything else that is appearing in my life in twos at the moment. Oh, parental clichés.) We would discuss things; something I always found engaging and fruitful until it started to involve my performances. Something a little too personal there. I have never been good at taking criticism and instead tend to defend mercilessly my clearly rough first drafts of anything. If it’s good enough for me, it’s finished and infallible…

Anyway, I believe that I was far more mentally active when I was little. Maybe it changed when my brother came along and my dad had two little minds to fascinate and befriend. Maybe it happened when I moved away from home. Maybe when I finished my education and moved into full-time work. Disillusionment aside, a lot has changed since I was three years old and had time in a day to demand to be thrown in the air and swing between my dad’s legs, to make a painting with some glue and pasta, to trip to the park and get disproportionately jealous of someone else’s Ribena, despite not even liking it, (Sorry, Mum) to get on with climbing trees when older girls were getting bothered about boys, to write down everything I did in that day because it assumed to be worth an illustrated story. To watch and ponder Chorlton and the Wheelies.

Image from Talkback Thames

I miss these days, but things have changed and they most likely won’t come again. I am going to have to find other ways to re-instill my habits of curiosity and discovery. Time moves on, and whether we’re staggering along behind it or fresh and ready for what’s to come, it’s up to you to keep track of where you are and where you want to be.

Anna and my writing routine

A work-mate’s post on her writing routine encouraged me to remember that there are techniques to the relaxation, brain engagement and atmosphere elements to writing; ways to coax out the best of your imagination and finesse by making it feel special. So, here is a little dedication to my own red carpet treatment…

During the past year or so, until life got so full, I had been taking one whole day a week off with a friend for a tea-fuelled (milk, no sugar, brewed for two minutes only) brainstorming and writing session, a bit Pythonesque.

Here we talked about sleep paralysis, about fairy tales, about maidens sealed in glass coffins where they would sleep and be observed for eternity, about demons and incubi, about the people who wait for others that they are bound to. It was here that we came up with the premises for both of the full length plays we have written together, Wait and Close.

The Nightmare

Wait turned into a Victorian gothic thriller focussing around a young trainee doctor who takes on the role of guardian at a wealthy household,  to watch a young woman, the only child. Locked in her bedroom with her day after day until he can no longer relate to his previous concept of time, the doctor sifts through evidence of a life before her constant, unshakeable sleep, gradually piecing together his own perspective of her being, her habits and story.  The room is plagued with incubi, haunting her body and taunting his mind, controlling everything. The doctor begins to lose his grip, while yet forming an inseparable bond to his situation.

Close , initially my friend’s brainchild, became an unexpected free joy to work on; having never taken on someone else’s original idea and developed it with them before, I found it an incredible experience, at times of course unsteady, but with reassurance and a lot of faith on her part, it really blossomed. At every stage  – the director’s vision in proposal, the first set design chats, the actors coming in – the script grew, changing and settling at once, and the result was something very satisfying, something we will return to again and again.

Anyway, I digress (a large part of my routine). Before a few years ago, I had never understood the concept of writing with someone else, or even writing in company. Then I had a housemate called Anna, who was rather dependent on company, and used to come in and just sit next to me to read in our snug. This was something I had never done before – we would sit quietly, getting on with our own thing, but we were with each other. I grew to find it a real comfort.

Now, I find it difficult to get on with writing or other work without someone here – granted, this is usually a gaming or sleeping boyfriend; perhaps I need someone to ignore, but I am fond of the company nonetheless. I am dependent on having a dependent in the room. A distraction to overcome, a ‘hello’ and a cuddle to work towards.

Other ‘techniques’ I utilise tend to be being known as a writer, and consequently receiving plenty of beautiful notebooks as presents, and getting excited about moving through each one to the next. The cat also helps, of course, by sticking her arse in my face every now and then.

That pretty much sums it up for me really. Despite my OCD in other areas of life, I am surprisingly messy when it comes to writing. I wait for latent inspiration and then just run with it in the moments I feel energised by an idea. I wouldn’t preach my approach, but I am grateful for because it serves me well enough and I produce material that I am proud of.

As far as stimulus goes, I am freshly obsessed with Freshly Pressed, and I do like to whack on a ‘bangin toon’ like this to keep me going sometimes…

Wayside #5: Mum

It is 2000. I am not celebrating the millenium. My mum has picked me up from school (I am in year nine) and has paused on the way home in a little layby on the country lane.

She is telling me something ridiculous. Impossible. Something that makes absolutely no sense, follows no logic. Something that makes me no better than all those kids I don’t respect. All those kids that are stupid; whose stupidity is blamed on their situation. I am a stupid kid now.

She tells me that she and Dad are getting a divorce. I have an inkling that it is her decision, despite the shell-shock suddenness of the fact that they are even parting. This was never an option. I have clever parents. I am infallible.

Yes, they are miserable, but no, they would never break up. Don’t be stupid.

I cry quite a bit, I’m not sure why really, and I think of these things; who my parents will be friends with (who will get the old friends, and who they will find anew), where I will live, the inevitabile Choice, Christmas, school, explanations, associations, prejudice. I feel confusion most of all.

Eleven years down the line, my parents are still bitter and childish when it comes to speaking of each other and their doings, their habits, their traits. I can’t count the scoffs, the rolled eyes, the bitten tongues. If I’m brutally honest, it certainly did change me. I avoid them like the plague, moved so far away for university that I made it difficult, near impossible, to visit them, and when I do actually get to spend time with them I watch my language like a nursery assistant. The smallest trigger and they’re off.

However, two very positive things have come out of it – my family my be didvided, but it is growing, in the shape of my step-mother and her new bump. We’ve never had littles in the family before, and my brother and I can’t wait. Perhaps the prospect of a little practice for my own future endeavours, with one so close to my heart, will shorten the distance of the journey ‘home’.

And that concludes my wayside series. I’m sure, however, you feel there is something I’ve left unsaid… Tell me your stories.

Wayside #4: Jamie

It is 2008. I am on msn chat. Jamie is telling me – typing in his bedroom – that he has gone round to see, and kissed-and-stuff, his ex. In my bedroom three minutes down the road, I see these words pop up on my screen, one sentence, one afterthought, at a time. I have short, dark hair. Chin-length, dyed.

I go to a friend’s house. We pretend to ourselves and to each other that we are working on a project together, instead of killing time and distracting me from what might otherwise be dealt more attention than it was worth. We are aiming for a swift upheaval from a silly game that I almost sat down to play for keeps. She dances around to songs that she ‘loved’, and I hated, at the top of her usual scale of animation and liveliness. I appreciate it, but am my usual subdued self. An observer. I feel like I am waiting for something.

Jamie calls me something like ten times. I ignore it. Eventually she answers, with my permission, and speaks to him patiently, telling him that I don’t want to talk to him. He sends a message that says he is pacing around thinking, and could I call him if I can? I don’t call. I stay the night at my friend’s house, probably the only time I ever do this during my uni life save for drunken laziness. I don’t have the same kind of friendships here that I did in the Forest. Here, it is about drink, or projects. Not mutual personal interests or shared experience.

A week later, I hear there was more than a kiss. I hear there was a lot more to the ex than I realised. Everything the ex had said to me in a horrendous chance encounter was probably, not true, but as good as true. I should have let that dog lie. I find myself laughing. The whole thing is ridiculous. I am above it. Another week later, I go to him. I proffer friendship and forgiveness. I will later know that this was too readily given.

We chat, we laugh, he is awkward, I am less so than before. I come out of my shell. We part ways, having known each other very briefly in this capacity, and I think,

“What good closure.”

He asks when he will see me next. Somehow, we are back on. I decide to let this roll. Go with the flow. It took him two years to persuade me to be with him, I might as well give it more than a paltry two weeks and one mistake.

Two weeks later, I am in the Forest. I am on msn chat. I have been taking photos of the big house and garden to show Jamie. Jamie types to me, hundreds of miles away, that he is stressed; I am stressful, this is too intense, he doesn’t want all this, he doesn’t want a relationship, he needs space. The same words are appearing on my screen again, but this time without the excuse of another girl.

Hours later, I am still on msn.

A friend fills the gaps and tells me about the other girl. This time, I take it to heart.

Like where I’m going with this one? Introduction and other posts in this series at the wayside.

Wayside #3: Martyn-with-a-y

It is 2004. July. Martyn-with-a-y is later than me to get here. Busses in the Forest aren’t great. I sit against a tree trunk and read a book. By the time he arrives, I am anxious, but I hold that in. I don’t blurt or blabber, I am just grateful to see him. I smile and say little. We have not seen each other for a few weeks. Parent taxis in the Forest aren’t great either.

We almost run through everything before I even stand up. By the roadside, the crossroadside… We run through the positives and the negatives, the logistics of why we should or shouldn’t invest more time in this bond.

“I don’t really want it to end, but then I don’t really… mind if it does. I don’t have any strong feelings either way really.” I nod. It has fizzled out. Somewhere, I must have done something wrong. I gave him too much space, maybe.

We wander through the woods for a long while, our last sunny alone time. He remarks on how the bracken smells like semen. I remember how he likened egg-white similarly inappropriately the first time I had dinner at his house, with his mum. I think that I’m going to miss his bent for inappropriate conversation.

I obsess over Martyn-with-a-y for a good few years, perhaps several, perhaps more. I tell people how he was the love of my life, and is still one of my best friends even though we don’t talk more than once in a blue moon, we understand each other, he is patient and supportive with me, he is there when I really need him.

I call him years later when I go for a test at a hospital in the nearest city to my hometown – still an unfamiliar, ugly environment to me, alien. He answers, and listens, and even gives compassionate words of support. I love him still.

I think of him most fondly of all those who have left, imagine that it’s him who rescues me when I am alone and in doubt, and with no prospects on the horizon, when I am sad and unfulfilled, it is him who turns up out of the blue and pronounces his mistake, his regret and his wish to make ammends and catch up.

It is 2011. I am in love again. I love and am in love, and am loved. Martyn-with-a-y is alive, well and happy, somewhere, and I am sure that I still need him, but only in that capacity – I am happy as long as he is happy, as I am with any other of my friends that I truly care about.

Like where I’m going with this one? Introduction and other posts in this series at the wayside.

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