Monthly Archives: December 2016

A day in the life ….

At yesterday’s writing group we were given yet another interesting writing prompt by facilitator Annette. Firstly she told us to think of someone from or primary school who didn’t really fit in, was on he edge of things, with whom we were no longer in contact. As that was me I decided to chose someone who made my early days at school better. Once we had identified  a person we were to imagine what they might be doing now.  

A day in the life of Helen.

Being with family for the weekend always raised thoughts of my previous life back in the village, and of those that I no longer knew of.

“Whatever happened to Helen from primary,” I wondered aloud as I channel hopped aimlessly through hundreds of channels finding nothing to grab my attention. My stomach rumbled in anticipation of the dinner to come.

“Helen?” Andrew, my brother asked.  “And stop with the channel hopping, you’re giving me a headache.”

“Yes, Helen, oh, Helen thingumay, who used to live us Churchyard lane.” I replied throwing the remote at him.

“Bloody Witch,” Andrew threw the remote back.

“She wasn’t?” I asked, misunderstanding.

“No, you’re the bloody witch, look….” He pointed at the television. As an announcement came from the kitchen that dinner would be ready in ten minutes.

The channel I had left the television on was Sky News, a channel I usually avoided like the plague.  The ticker across the bottom was describing someone who was doing good works in Africa with AIDS orphans. “What?” I couldn’t see what he meant.

“Watch… Shhh,” he told me gruffly.

As I watched the ticker running across the bottom of the screen suddenly Helen’s name came up. She was the person the ticker was talking about.

“That can’t be little Helen from our school, surely. Just a coincidence, although …” I grabbed my phone. “I’m going to google her.”

After a few minutes tapping apps and searching I found her, and to my enormous surprise found out that this amazing person truly was her.  She even had a blog which I clicked on. The previous day’s entry popped up.  I read it aloud…

“I’ve been here just over three months now, and still cry myself to sleep most nights. I’d never had the picture of it being the ideal place to work but FFS this place is closer to hell than any I’ve ever worked in before.

The good news today is that the meds arrived this morning. This will help ensure some of the children here live beyond ten years old. The bad news is that there are nowhere near enough to keep all the children healthy and alive.  Someone will have to play god.

Little Jamala is very unwell today and her sense of touch in her feet has all but disappeared.  For the last few days she has been complaining that her feet were burning up when in fact they were extremely cold to the touch. The lesions on her skin are worse and without a working X-ray machine we can’t see what they’re doing to her insides. From her lack of appetite and on and off delirium I fear that she is unlikely to last to the weekend. The cot she sleeps in will be empty for no time until the next little body occupies it. 

The sound of the bombing came closer again last night. It gives me the terrors and I can’t sleep. Incredibly, the children seem numb to it all, which hardly surprises me. Their only releif from the horrors is to look inward. 

We gave some of the more able children some of the toys that had been donated this morning after I’d done my rounds. For just a few seconds their eyes glowed and they played. It didn’t last long, it never does.

I’ve three more months of my contract here but how can I ever leave these kids, and babies to their fate? They are the forgotten ones, the ones that no-one will talk about.  I think this is the saddest Christmas day ever, for me.”

Andrew had joined me on the sofa as I read it, so he too could see the Shocking pictures. “Bloody hell,” he commented on what I’d just read him and what we’d seen.

“Dinner’s ready,” came a cry from the kitchen.

We went through together, spirits low, neither of us hungry any more.

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D.E.F.

Douggie (Douglas Edward Farmley) suffered for too long at the hands of his over-protecive mother. As a child, and even as a teenager and young adult she was constantly advising him what not and what to do.  “Douglas don’t feed the dog at the table”; “Douglas don’t fool around while I’m talking to you”; “Douglas Edward for the love of all that’s holy please act your age.”

All his mother’s pleas and instructions fell on deaf ears. At a very young age he had decided that his mother was nothing but a worrier. He had no intention of having his inquisitive native being suffocated. He knew some of her suggestions were for his own good, but he wanted to find out for himself.

********

One evening while watching the television with his parents as a particularly annoying teenager he  could hold back no longer and let free with his trapped wind. His mother, naturally, scolded him immediately. “Douglas, please don’t. It’s not polite,”

“But mum, doesn’t everyone fart?” he replied.

“Well I don’t.” His mother looked suitably affronted.

“Then we must have a third person in the bed some nights,” Douggie’s dad added as he winked at Douggie laughing. Douggie laughed too.

“Don’t Edward, For goodness sake,” Douggie’s mother chided her husband.

“My dear everyone F…” Douggie’s dad began.

“Enough, enough talk of this ….” his mother trailed off, “I’ll put the kettle on. One day Douggie you will remember some of my words and they will save your life.”

***********

Many years later Douggie was happily engaged and looking forward to a happy and settled life.

His best friend, Simon, had arranged Douggie’s stag party, but had not been given one important piece of  information.

The festivities started in a local restaurant, where Simon insisted that everyone get a good meal to line their stomachs ready for the heavy drinking that would come later. Simon knew that Douggie loved Chinese food and had booked the best place in town.  Because there were thirty in their party the easiest way to get food to the table quickly was with a set menu. Simon had discussed this with the restaurant manager the week before so that when they arrived at seven o’clock their table was already laden with a selection of delicious looking and smelling food.

“This looks amazing, mate,” Douggie enthused punching Simon gently on the arm. In his head his mum’s voice started up ‘Douggie, don’t….’  which he silenced by accepting a bottle of the beer and taking a generous gulp.

“Here you go, mate,” Simon said passing Douggie a plate of the starters. Without looking Douggie took a mouthful of the Chinese toast.

Within seconds Douggie’s face went a bright red and his eyes started to water. Just a couple of seconds more he was having difficulty breathing and started to pull at the collar of his shirt. His eyes closed as he started to fall.

“Douggie, Douggie, Are you okay,” Simon shouted as he rushed back to Douggie’s side. He was just in time to catch Douggie as he fell.

“Someone call an ambulance quickly, he’s not breathing,” Simon shouted in a complete panic.

As Douggie fell into unconciousness he heard his mum’s voice one more time ‘ Douggie whatever you do don’t eat fish, we are both dangerously allergic, just one mouthful could cause anaphylactic shock. Don’t ever forget: Don’t. Eat. Fish.”

30-prawn-toast

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The alphabet blog Challenge

I have recently been challenged to write stories using  letters of the alphabet in chronological order. Today’s was ABC. Aunty Bab’s Christmas / Aunty’s Best Christmas.

The next short story will be D.E.F. and so on….

Within the story there are several places where this format is used (the first letters of words in the alphabetical order) – How many did you notice?

25-abc

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A.B.C.

Aunty Babs’ Christmas was going to be a good one this year, well at least she hoped so.  Her family were due any minute. Her son, Andrew, had prepared the dining room and it looked the best it ha in years. She’d made sure she had prepared everything in advance so that she could spend time with everyone and not just be slaving in the kitchen.

The first ones to arrive were her favourite niece, Amy and her good for nothing boyfriend, Colin. This year Amy brought Christmas crackers along with the presents. She was so thoughtful. Amy’s boyfriend came empty-handed as usual, but Aunty Babs chose to say nothing.  She had planned a peaceful and loving day and so it would be. Although Babs chose not to say anything she had made another mental note in her mental ledger.

Gradually the house filled with relatives, and noise levels gradually rose.  “Anyone bring Cava?”  Thomas shouted from the kitchen.

“In Aunty’s bloody cupboard,” Dave shouted back. He’d bought half a dozen bottles to liven everyone up and had stashed them in the coolest cupboard in the kitchen the day before because the fridge was so full of food.

Thomas found the it and the special Cava glasses. He popped the corks and poured everyone a good measure to start the morning off in the usual tradition, with a weak bucks fizz for the older kids. He found a tray in the cupboard under the sink and brought Cava into the living room on it for everyone.

“Ahhh, beautiful Cava,” Janice said after knocking back half her glass in one gulp. “And a beautiful Christmas tree, as always Aunty,” she added.

The tree was in its usual place in the corner of the dining room and everyone had deposited their presents under the tree as they had arrived. Not only was the tree beautiful it was also the centre of a big circle of boxes all beautifully wrapped.

“Lunch at one,” Aunty announced. “This year I have been super organised, I’ve got everything ready and because Christmas is at the weekend this year it’s all seemed so much easier, and not a bloody chore,” She laughed.  “I’m just going to light the candles in the dining room and we’ll be all ready. We’re a couple of chairs short as always. We’ll have to take some of these in.”

As the Cava flowed and Aunty Babs continued to bustle around everyone got into the Christmas spirit. Just before one o’clock Aunty Babs carried the hot dishes of delicious smelling food through to the dining room. “Andrew bring chairs through for those without,” she called back into the living room as she settled herself at the head of the table.

“Eat drink and be merry.” Aunty Babs clinked her glass against Janice’s who was sitting to her right.

“Let the feasting begin,” Janice replied laughing.  “But first A Big Christmas thank you to Aunty for doing us all proud again with such a marvellous spread.”

For the next hour or so the hot plates were passed around, food was distributed and chatter filled the room. It wasn’t long though before curiosity of what presents everyone had got was getting the better of the younger children.

“A break could be nice now, Aunty,” young Samuel suggested as knives and forks began to clatter on the plates as everyone finished the main course.

“I think you’re right,” Aunty agreed laughing. She knew that Samuel was more interested in getting his presents than really just taking a break. “Andrew, Brian clear the plates can you please and we’ll open our presents,”

With help from everyone Andrew and Brian cleared the table in double quick time.  One by one the presents were opened.

Finally Andrew took the last present from under the tree and passed it to Christine. Although they had been going out for about two years this was her first Christmas with the whole family. He hoped it hadn’t been too stressful for her.

Aunty waited with baited breath as Christine unwrapped the large box. Andrew bought Christine’s present when he had taken Aunty Babs Christmas shopping in the town centre a few days before. She knew what it was and couldn’t wait to see Christine’s reaction.

Inside the first box was another smaller box that Christine lifted out and unwrapped to find another smaller box still. As she started to unwrap it Andrew moved in closer, and as she took out the final box from inside the last one he got down on one knee. Christine opened the box to find a stunning diamond ring.  “Really?” she asked.

Andrew winked at her. “Yes, will you marry me?” he asked.

“No way,” Christine replied suddenly.”This was supposed to be a bit of fun,” she added.

Andrew looked crestfallen. The room was deathly silent. Aunty Babs couldn’t beleive her ears. This wasn’t the way things were supposed to go.

Christine took the ring out of the box and slipped it on her finger. “You idiot, of course I’ll marry you. Sorry was that in bad taste? I was just joking.”

Relief flooded through Andrew’s body as the room seemed to breathe a communal sigh and congratulations began to be shared from around the room.

“Aunty’s best Christmas yet,” Janice said raising her glass.

25-abc

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Merry Christmas?

A non-traditional Christmas Story. 
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Kurt rolled over and tightened the duvet round his neck to keep out the cold. ‘Has he been?’ he asked himself the traditional question silently, knowing the answer. He looked at the bedside alarm clock. It told him it was six minutes past three. ‘Such exactitude from such a small piece of kit,’ he thought and smiled for just a second.

He could feel Florence at the bottom of the bed pushing against his legs. He lifted his head just as she looked up at him. “Are you cold, old girl?” he asked. “Come on then, come snuggle under the duvet for a bit.” Florence needed no more encouragement and wriggled into the tunnel Kurt made for her by lifting the duvet beside him.

“That’s perfect, snuggle up tight, my gorgeous little hot water bottle,” Kurt said leaning back and rearranging the duvet to keep as much of the warmth in as possible. He slipped his arms back under and stroked Florence’s long fur. In other years he would have found more pleasure stroking himself, or… but not this one.  Florence was his lifeline and he hers.

Lying there Kurt’s mind wandered from one thing to another as quickly as a bullet train. He knew sleep would no longer be his. Three hours had been his record recently. He tried to turn his mind off, but thoughts constantly pushed his efforts away, especially thoughts of previous years. He closed his eyes and begged for dreamless sleep, or even endless sleep.

” … all your kisses…” the radio alarm boomed out. Kurt opened his eyes a fraction. It was seven thirty, and he had forgotten to turn off the auto-alarm. He stretched and realised he must have fallen asleep for the last half an hour or so. Florence snuffled beside him and licked his leg. He, in turn, tickled her ears.

On the radio the music was annoyingly chirpy, and when ‘Jingle Bells’ started to play Kurt leaned over and clicked the machine into silence.

“Shall we get up, girl?” Kurt whispered. Florence’s head was immediately above the duvet. Further down he could feel her tail wagging.

Kurt threw back the duvet and slipped his legs over the side onto the cold floor. Florence bounced to the ground and watched his every move.

“The three S’s first,” Kurt told her, “Then we’ll go walkies.”

Florence followed Kurt to the bathroom and watched each of the ablutions. All the while Kurt chatted to her and from time to time she tilted her head to listen and wagged her rear end.

On the way back to the bedroom Kurt stopped by the tree. His decorating had been a bit lax this year he decided. The tree definitely looked sad. Most of the decorations were still in the boxes. He just couldn’t… There were four presents under the tree, none with his name on, he already knew, for he had been the only Santa this year.  Florence sniffed one of the packages. “Walkies first,” he told her. “then you can open them all.”

Although outside it was bitterly cold Kurt hardly noticed as he threw sticks for Florence over and over again. He loved to walk through the fields in the morning, and this day was no different.  Meeting a couple of his neighbours they exchanged Christmas greetings, although Kurt felt none of the cheer of previous years. ‘Merry Christmas?’ he thought.

Finally, with Florence panting, Kurt put her lead back on and they returned home. He shucked off his outdoor shoes and slipped on his sandals. He hung Florence’s lead back up on the kitchen hooks and put the kettle on, popping some toast in the toaster at the same time. Florence watched, with her usual intent interest, as she always did. Kurt reached up and pulled her bowl and food out of the cupboard. She didn’t miss anything and started jumping up and down excitedly until he put the bowl in front of her, when her focus changed to the food.

Kurt made his tea and put some butter on his toast. As he passed the heating thermostat he switched it to a higher setting and slumped onto the couch. In the kitchen he could hear Florence crunching away on her biscuits, and smiled just at the thought of her.

As he crunched himself, on toast not dog biscuits, he considered the turns his life had taken over the last year. The toast got stuck in his throat. He washed it down with a gulp of tea. He’d lost any appetite again, and setting the cup and plate aside he closed his eyes and softly cried. Florence ran in from the kitchen and climbed onto the couch beside him. She stuck her muzzle under his elbow and edged closer as Kurt sobbed.

“Sorry, old thing,” Kurt told her “Stupid old bugger aren’t I?” Florence stared at him then lowered her head onto his lap. “Fucking Cancer,” he said bitterly.

24-xmas-tears

 

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Tears are not enough

I’ve just read this quote from Jan Richardson, a fellow writer that I was introduced to (online only sadly) a few months back, on facebook.

Grief is a wild creature. Grief will resist every attempt to tame it, to control it, or to keep it tidy and well-behaved. Rather than managing it, grief asks instead that we tend it, listen to it, question it. One of the surest ways to calm it is to give it some space in which to speak—or to holler, or weep. 

This really resonates with me.

Grief is  a complete bastard and a close friend that really has it in for you.  Before this year I thought I knew grief was, after all I am a trained psychotherapist. In the 80s and 90s friends were slipping away far too regularly as HIV and AIDS swept our community. I’d watched my mum die, outlived my dad, seen many of my extended family pass on and have lost some well-beloved pets. Just three years today we had to say goodbye to our wonderful boy, Xali, and that pain is still fresh. However,  none of these are a patch on how I feel these days.  The depths are so much deeper than I ever imagined. The darkness more complete. The loss total.

Grief is not one thing. It is different every time it visits. It is different for everyone each time. Grief is multi-faceted and much more than two-faced.

I know my family and friends find my anguish difficult to ‘watch’ but like many have said they cannot take it away or, most of the time, help much at all. At times I have had to shut down and retreat from a world in which I find it more and more difficult to connect, and yes I have considered ending it all on more than one occasion.

Containing others’ feelings is something else too. For me it has never been easy to hear any of the platitudes or to hear about other people’s experiences, which can never be the same. I know I have offended some with my retorts, replies and silence; some people have stepped back and now maintain their distance. I hope they’ll be there later if I get through this.

20-tears

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19 December 2016

First job of the morning was to catch Sprout and box him up ready for the vets (vaccines), after dog walking of course. He’s always the most difficult to catch which is why he’s normally left to last.

First try: fail. He managed to stretch out and block entry to the carrier. I normally get hold of all their feet and in they go. He wriggled a bit too much, and gave me a nice little scratch. Luckily I had got him into the Office (Jane’s room) so slammed the door, also a good policy as the dogs were already excited by the goings on.

For a while he hid under the sofa. A waiting game ensued. He came out after a few minutes to see if he could escape from the room. I  pounced and managed to get him in the carrier amid a lot of complaining (him not me). Door fixed closed and we were ready. All the way down in the car he let me know he didn’t like the situation.

At the vets he was very well behaved. Oscar likes all our cats as they all just sit there while he does what he has to do. I’d forgotten that Sprout is still listed as Max at the vets. He was originally named thus because we decided we were at Max-capacity and that he had to be our last rescue. He’s the one I fed with a syringe every three hours for about three months and of course we’re well imprinted on each other.  It’s funny how keen they always are to get back into the carrier at the vets, Sprout jumped straight back in and was quiet all the way to our front door.

Once we were home he settled down in his favourite place of the moment to sleep off his experience. Of course all the others had to give him a good checking out first.  He’s none the worse for his outing, better off even. And I’m forgiven as this afternoon he cuddled up on my chest when we had our siesta.

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When I was walking the dogs first thing this morning Nando called out from El Tacó bar. He wanted  to let me know they had a couple of packages for me. The SEUR man knows to leave things there when I’m not in. I knew one was my new toothbrush, but the other was a nice surprise. I was a bit miffed at missing Mr SEUR as I wanted to give him a little something for his lovey service throughout the year.He is always friendly and smiley. I guess I’ll have to buy something else online now so he has to visit again!

Once we were back from the vets I popped up the road to the bar to pick up the packages. As I had guessed one was a new toothbrush. The other was a delightful package of goodies from www.poundland.com –  Thank you to my kind benefactor(s). Perfect timing too, I’d just run out of twiglets and mustard!!

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The plan had been to meet Ingo and Edith at the seafront for a coffee this afternoon. The miserable weather put pay to that. So I’ve had a just as lazy day as usual. It’s still raining and blowing out there as I write now, so I’ve bumped up the heating for a warm and cozy evening in front of the box with my kids.

And to brighten the miserable day a little more I’ve just had a €30 donation to Tony’s fund, which is great. Another anonymous gift- but we both know who this was so thank you very much indeed (You know who you are!).

 

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