Sunday, 27 December 2009

Letting sleeping dogs lie

I stumbled over the zipped-up bags of clothes on our bedroom floor (substitutes for wardrobes), negotiated my way around the metal poles holding up the ceiling in the hallway, gingerly crept into the kitchen, found the recently moved light switch and overcame my surprise once again that the room looks entirely different from how it did a week ago. Having done all that and on my way to my arsenal of medication, I almost tripped over a fat slug heading in the same direction. The appearance of uninvited guests is somewhat inevitable due to the holes in the walls but it was enough to destroy my illusion that I was destined to go back to sleep at any time soon. I wasn't sure what to do with it. Elongated, shiny and probing its way across the lino, it clearly needed to be stopped. Taking it outside would make me cold and I didn't like the idea of putting it in the bin so that it could squirm its way around the Christmas rubbish. So, I picked up the salt cellar and tipped out a neat ring around it, about 8 inches in diameter. I think I was hoping that after I'd left the kitchen, it would consume the salt and go quietly. Not so. It instantly sensed what I was up to. I'd left it room to reverse and do U-turns, the kind of which I hadn't considered slugs to be capable. A panel of judges sitting on the perimeter would have had their work cut out in criticizing its lightness of movement and manoeuvrability across the dance floor.

Now, here I am, back in bed, wide awake and checking my emails, only to hear that my sister in Australia has problems with wildlife too: bats, mango trees and her dog. You see, she wants the mangoes but so do the bats. The dog could scare away the bats except that the dog isn't nocturnal and obviously, the bats are. It's a bit like the slug problem. Had it been daytime, I would have asked my husband to dispose of the slug and he would have gleefully skewered it or something equally disgusting. He's asleep and not at all nocturnal. Presumably, the reason why we all sleep in shifts is to make room for twice as many creatures to coexist. So, you let sleeping dogs lie and let your slugs and bats do their own things and try not to notice what's going on. Or you write about them.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Tiny Christmas Story 4

He thought he'd missed the shooting star but as Roger unfolded the paper, there it was. Because everyone else was so engrossed in their own presents, they didn't notice it travelling around the room. Roger made his wish and watched as it came to rest on top of the tree.

Friday, 25 December 2009

A (Tiny) Christmas Story

Traditionally, it is the children who are awake at 4am on Christmas morning so here's to breaking with tradition and wishing you a very early Merry Christmas, unless, of course, you're in Australia in which case I'm rudely late.

Anyway, here goes:

Caroline was doubting her sanity. She found herself wanting to put exquisite things under trees, to bake moist, dribble-inducing cakes and to arrange colour coordinated tableware in patterns. She didn't know whether to sweep up the footprints or to leave them as evidence that the fantasy world wasn't hers alone.

The prompt for this one was 'Stealing my mother's spectacles'. This was actually one of Sarah's going way back to August. I squirrel them away so that I can use them when the creative cupboard is a bit bare.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Tiny, tiny story 2

Yes, Officer, I can describe her. Her head's usually down. Looks like she knows her place. Doesn't push the boundaries. Rarely looks you in the eye, not wanting to attract attention, I expect. She's let herself go. She's been inside a lot but always comes out or writes at Christmas.

In case you're wondering, the prompt was 'Your neighbour describes you to the police'.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Micro Fiction

I don't usually post any of my creative stuff on here, preferring to keep it for myself until it has fully developed into something else or not as the case may be. However, seeing as it's Christmas and I'm not working on my novel or doing much else in the way of writing, I thought that I would, just for the holiday period.

Very generously, Sarah Salway posts daily writing prompts and I enjoy responding to these as a means to keep my creative juices flowing. I tend to keep to a 50 word limit because this seems to work well for me, not only in the context of it just being an exercise but because it's fun and feels like playing. I tend to write them very quickly and this is an important part of the process. If I thought too much about what I was going to fit into 50 words, I'd tie myself up in knots! So, here is a taster of what I get up to when I've got 5 minutes to spare:

Hiding the gun in the cake seemed like a good idea at the time. It was only when Bert remembered how Charlie never chewed, he'd realised it would be a problem. Charlie happened to contract a cold and within a week, he'd started coughing up bullets. He killed ten people.

You will have gathered that these are not serious pieces of writing and most frequently, I don't even save them anywhere. They probably reflect my mood at the time which is maybe a little disturbing when you think about it .......

Friday, 18 December 2009

Snow Friends

I decided to take a picture of Monty in the snow, knowing that sadly, this will probably be his last winter. He's particularly doddery at the moment although no doubt he'd say the same about me. Just as I was about to snap the picture, Marmaduke crept into the scene and for a moment, I think Monty forgot that he's around 108. Apparently, you're never too old to play in the snow.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Rambling Through The Rubble

I've been writing a bit less recently, not necessarily by choice but because I'm tied up trying to maintain some sort of order in the house. My MA and Counselling courses are well and truly finished and the our building work is well underway. Our living room resembles a squat, with the number of bodies sleeping in there having increased to three. Floor space is at a premium and competition is hot for room to make footfall between the boxes of Lego and piles of clothes.

My laptop gets moved around periodically to protect it from falling plaster and is generally less available to me. Therefore, I've spent far less time on Facebook, checking my email repeatedly and asking Google random questions. I thought that this would be a good time to be reunited with my journal, which, I am ashamed to admit, I had neglected whilst writing my novel in November. It feels like a good time to pick up the pen, embrace its portability, spontaneity and freedom from electrical cables or absence of threat of perilous destruction from dust penetration. What I hadn't expected when I reached underneath my bedside table for my journal was to discover that there was rubble in my pencil case. It's not a particularly fancy case, made of clear plastic, not because I'm going to enter any exams but because I get a bizarre pleasure from looking at my collection of pens and highlighters. However, it is dulled and fogged over by a salmony coloured brick dust. At first, I was a bit saddened, then amused by the idea of 'rubble in my pencil case' as a writing prompt. I turned back to my laptop. Caressing the film away from the screen, again tinged pink, I felt a very familiar phrase bouncing like a ball inside my head and rebounding off the dusty shelves. 'Think of the end result, it will all be worth it' I tell myself. And it will. So rather than focus upon the rubble in my pencil case, I will look at the dust as a rose tinted view of the future.

Now I am going to snuggle down underneath the quilt on the settee, turn up the television and use the cat to get warm.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Destruction and Creation

The builders have been in for two and a half weeks now. We've never done this before, not to this scale. They're remodelling downstairs to make the kitchen bigger and knocking down the walls of the smallest room to accommodate a staircase for the loft conversion. As the practicalities of our plans unfold daily before our eyes, we are thinking more creatively about the space.

It's all very exciting seeing our home change by the day. Yesterday, was exactly a year since we moved in here with the intention of making these changes. We're not property developers, we just liked the feel of the bungalow, its location and saw its potential. You don't have to watch too many property programmes to know that it always costs more than you think, you will hit problems and you will inevitably change your mind about a few things along the way. We're ticking all those boxes at the moment.

It's all very well seeing the potential from the outset but as walls come down, we're getting more creative. Perhaps it was the night we spent (me, fully dressed) in the freezing cold with our bedroom opening on to the kitchen, a hole in the ceiling and the roof where a chimney has been removed, separated only by a hastily-erected dust sheet? Is open plan the way to go? No, I don't think so. We're not really open plan types. I understand to a point, that if you have limited space and need to move around more freely, then of course it makes sense. It also makes sense to be able to close a door on the rest of the household at will. But yesterday, in between counting chickenpox and nursing my own sore throat, we looked around our expanding kitchen and made a big decision. The pantry and the boiler cupboard are going. I love my pantry but here's the truth: it's full of rubbish which could easily be condensed into something much smaller. My fantasies of popping in and out of the pantry, Nigella-style will have to stop. It would allow us to have a bigger table in the kitchen and will create much space because its walls are so thick. As for the boiler cupboard, well, the boiler is being replaced next week anyway so it could easily go somewhere else. And then the back door which is between the two cupboards in question can be bricked up because we're getting a new one at the back of the house and hey presto, we've got ourselves a whole wall to play with and against which we can place our range cooker. Simple.

So, just as we thought the main demolition activities had ceased (and no doubt, so did the builders) I'm going to break it gently to them over another bacon and egg sandwich that they'd better order another skip and some more bricks. Does it sound like we're out of control? We're not really. We have made a huge concession. The planned conservatory is being either put on hold or scrapped and we'll wait until the new year to get the existing bathroom done so we're not being completely daft but there's no point in going around doing things half-heartedly, is there? My only worry is that in doing so, we lose the charm that first attracted us here in the first place. But that's just it. So much attention to detail and care was put into the original construction of the house (it was built by a builder for himself) that it deserves the same now. Yes, we're changing certain things. It's going to have an upstairs for a start but it should blend seamlessly with the original style. We're not even changing the footprint of the house. Yes, we're ripping out the pantry but it's to make space for us so that we can continue to protect the house's identity and yet breathe a new life into it. The whole kitchen revolves around us retaining the original English Rose sink unit, built, we believe, by bits of leftover metal at the spitfire factory after the war. You see, they knew about making old things into something new. They knew that some things have outlived their use and rather than become a museum piece to be preserved for nostalgic glances, they can be remodelled into a new form. To get to that moment of realisation, they must have had to tolerate some uncertainty and chaotic thought. Then, unexpectedly, someone in mid creative flow came up with the idea of making kitchen units instead of aircraft intended for battle. Creation arising out of the ashes of destruction. Isn't that what creativity's all about? As a pair of very nice 'cultured builders' (their words, not mine), I'm sure they'll understand.