Tuesday, 14 July 2009

I'm a 21st Century Reviewer of Culture...

Just a quick post to say that I am quite proud of myself today as The London Word has published my review of an Exhibition that I visited. I feel that my foot is on the ladder and I'm crossing all my body parts that I will be a bona fide writer and employed journalist in no time at all. Let me know what you think...


Saturday, 11 July 2009

RED SHOES - A short story...

Hi all,
have been hampered by internet issues but will def be back soon with lots to say.. I have so many notes in my notebook of things to bring up on this blog.
Meanwhile here is a short story I wrote a couple of months ago that I hope will brighten your day...

The three women tried not to look at each other as they sat squashed together at the back of the crowded church. They’d never met before and the situation was discomfiting because disabled by the occasion, they were unable to use the usual English antidotes to awkwardness involving strangers; humour and self-ridicule. Instead, they went with the old tried and tested stiff upper lip and pretended that they did not notice that they were pressed up against each other, breast to breast, sometimes feeling the others’ breath on their cheeks.
Cassie stared at the floor and noticed that the woman sitting on her left was wearing bright red shoes and purple tights. She frowned. How could this woman wear these clothes on this day and yet the three of them could not even exchange a word about their uncomfortable surroundings for fear of breaking an unspoken, unknown rule.
Her own clothes had been carefully constructed to look, elegant and sombre yet still beautiful. Black, silk and lace, long sleeved, above the knee dress and black, fringed, shoe boots, black blazer, simple jewellery, black headband with a bow. There was something about dressing right for the occasion which made Cassie feel calmer and as if she was helping. It was like she was watching herself in a film and approved of her own character’s visual place in it. Additionally, her entire social circle from university was there and the girls as usual, looked like the walked off a catwalk. Cassie had to keep up. Though for some reason, she still managed to always look just a little bit scruffy. She was not what one might call high maintenance.
She glanced up at the balcony and saw hundreds of faces she recognised: friends, lovers and others. She should be up there with them, not down here. Though she was not sure that she could cope with that, being up there with those people, most of who would probably talk about the tragedy and then two seconds later be on the phone to their drug dealer in preparation for the weekend or en-route to Selfridges and a serious spree. This lifestyle, their lifestyle and fitting in to it was a constant pressure. This death, the death of their friend and fellow-student would not change anything. These people whom she’d been unable to detach herself from would learn nothing and still consider themselves superior and untouchable. Cassie had found them to be metaphorical car-crash’s embodied in living, breathing human beings; it’s wrong to stare, to involve yourself but you just can’t help it. They weren’t wrecks of run-arounds either, only the beautiful and shiny, expensive automobiles.
She knew she would cry today but maybe because of expectation and sentimentality, not actual sadness. This was her first funeral, ‘twenty-one,’ she thought to herself, ‘well I’m younger than I expected, but I’ve done quite well.’ Again she had a sense of being part of a Hollywood film; grand church, full of glamorous people and minor celebrities and a twenty-one-year old, beautiful boy, dead from a deliberate drug overdose. Four different illegal types had been found in his system apparently and though they can’t have helped his depression, in the end, it was the legal drugs, the sleeping pills and Ibuprofen that he had taken that night when he got home, boxes and boxes of them, which had ended his life.
Cassie looked back at the red shoes and purple tights. This was a woman who didn’t care about others opinions. A woman who expressed herself how she wished. Cassie bet she wasn’t disillusioned by her life. She pulled out her notebook and wrote,
“Red shoes and purple tights, extrovert or self accepting.
I want to live life by my own rules again.”
Jane could feel the tears welling in her eyes already, as she picked out eight-year-old Louis, her daughter’s close- friend and her connection to the family, sitting in the front pew with his parents and siblings. That poor, poor boy must have been so sick to want to leave all this behind, she thought. In an attempt to stop her tears she glanced over at the young girl who was sitting on the other side of the glamorous woman in red shoes sitting on Jane’s right. She must’ve been a friend of his, the boy’s as she seemed to be a similar age. She was very beautiful, long and lean with a beautiful face, too much eye-liner and un-brushed hair. Her nails were bitten, her fingers had pen all over them and her bag which she was currently rifling through, was full of papers, notebooks, receipts, make-up and several packets of cigarettes. Her clothes though, looked surprisingly expensive and had the pulled-together, shabby-chic look that even Jane had realised was currently fashionable. She was pulling out a notebook from her bag now and scribbling something in it. It looked like a poem or a verse of some kind. She wrote in haste, as if a necessary action. Jane admired this simple innate act. She couldn’t remember the last time she had felt impassioned to do anything for herself.
The act of writing something down in the middle of everyday life reminded Jane of her ex-husband, but this girl was nothing like David. David’s every move had been planned. He wrote specifically when other people watched. He was an artistic person, a great writer but was well-aware of it and cultivated this writer-rock-star persona which, Jane conceded, had worked well for him and had probably won him the woman he left her for. Tatiana; a twenty-five year old Russian who was studying for a Masters in French Literature and Culture at King’s College. Tatiana was hard-bodied, hook nosed and wore Agent Provocateur underwear, black, patent, Christian Louboutin gladiator sandals and leather. Worse of all though when Jane had asked David why, he’d said
‘Because she has things to say, she argues with me, she talks about de Pizan and Baudelaire and she vehemently hates Flaubert, even though I love him. And she says my knowledge of French literature is so English... All you ever talk about is the babes... ’
Jane had nodded solemnly because she really had no idea what David was talking about, though it sounded like French restaurants and also because she had a suspicion that even in this moment, the most serious of her life, David was trying to show-off. However what hurt most of all was that David had left her not because she had let herself go, but because she was boring and because she couldn’t talk about some French tart while he fumbled around in her M&S briefs. Since the break-up, what was worst of all was that the kids loved Tatiana. She treated the oldest two, Flora and Leo like tiny adults which made them feel important and valued and she gave Gilla; Jane’s youngest at three, the most incredible Russian toys and sweets every time she saw her.
Since he’s left her a year and a half ago, Jane had given up on herself. She didn’t care what she looked like, who she spoke to, what job she had. Only the children mattered. When she was with them she was happy and aside from a part-time job in a local boutique, she did not function or spend time in the adult world and it was easier.
However, there was something about this girl sitting near her and this boy in the coffin that made her think. This girl was passionate, she did things for herself, she lived. The scruffiness of her appearance was not, like Jane’s due to a lack of respect for herself, but was simply the marks of life as she galloped full throttle through it. She didn’t care if her nails were chipped or her hair was messy, she didn’t have time for tidying her bag. She had better things to do. Jane envied this enthusiasm for life.
She took out her wallet and her mobile from her bag and looked at a photo of her beautiful children as she texted the babysitter. She loved them so much and she was a very good mother, but she knew that she should start pursuing her own life again too, seeking her own happiness. If this boy’s too-short life taught her anything, it was that.
The movement of the woman sitting on her left jolted Blue out of the trance she had been in, as usual she had been going through the lines of her latest play in her head, blocking out the church full of people. At first she felt irritation but then remembered where she was and glanced across. The woman was looking at a photo of some children, presumably hers and writing a message on her mobile telephone. Blue was wearing her contacts and could just about make out that she was asking after ‘the children’ and sending ‘big hugs’ and saying she would be home by five. She felt a strange pull in her stomach. It was the sporadic twinge that reminded her of Ophelia. Her daughter had turned thirty last week and she hadn’t seen her for five years.
She’d never wanted nor expected to be a mother. At thirty she had had a successful stage career and worked in several films and was still working non-stop. She had married her plumber, James Appleyard. It was the name that first drew her, quaint and irresistibly old-fashioned and then it was his calm, his normality. He was her rock. When she got pregnant, she was in love yet all she could think of was her figure and loss of work. When “her rock” seemed to place her between him and a hard place, she bolted. She had her baby and the first few years were surprisingly happy. Blue lived in a town house in Portobello and she and her young daughter became constant companions. Blue loved having a little girl to dress. James saw his daughter as much as he could. However as the years passed the resentment began to creep back into Blue. She started blaming her daughter for losing her roles, she was tired all the time. Eventually Ophelia moved to James’s. They drifted apart. Blue was incredibly critical of her daughter. Ophelia felt her mother saw her as a burden.
Five years ago when Ophelia was twenty-five, she’d told her mother of her dreams to train as a midwifery nurse. Her mother had vehemently disagreed with this decision. Ophelia or Opie as she was generally known, thought her mother didn’t respect her and that she was being selfish and controlling. Sharing the same fiery temper, neither of them would back down; that was the story.
Five years later and they were still in the same position. Blue was not cruel or disagreeable, she was loved by her friends because she was entertaining, amusing and confident in herself. She had no other regrets.
Tom, the boy in the coffin had been Blue’s student. She taught acting courses and he’d attended. He was talented. She caught a glance of his mother who’d covered her face with her hands in the pew. She felt the woman on her left anxiously look at her watch and the scruffy girl on her right wiped away a tear. “I’m too old,” Blue thought, “for tantrums.”
The three women left the church side-by-side when the service had ended. They had imagined many things about each other. Their Englishness had stopped them from conversing, but they had learnt more about themselves from their observations. They all left the church with renewed vigour for fixing their lives, they are not guaranteed to do so. The snapshot of time inside the church and the humanity that made them strive to pluck something good out of an unthinkable tragedy is what lingered as they all took their separate paths home, one in red shoes, one writing furiously and one smiling at everybody she passed.