Look who’s talking. (R’s story)

Boy, what a terrible afternoon I’ve had. You just wouldn’t believe what my Ima has put me through.

Today I wasn’t with my Ima, because she didn’t exist. Everyone knows when you don’t see someone, they don’t exist. Anyway, I was at work, watching and playing with the nice lady who cooks much nicer food than my Ima, (even though I admit it does look the same) and suddenly my Ima existed again. No warning, nothing, she just arrives while I was eating my supper. Well that put me right off my food, and no matter what coaxing and distracting she tried, I wasn’t going to have one more bite. No sir. I didn’t mind as I was sure there wouldn’t be any consequences.

Anyway, then I wanted to leave right away, and my mean Ima made me have a clean nappy, (what was wrong with the old one?) shoes, (does anyone know the point of those?) and a hat (I didn’t mind that so much-I do look pretty fly in a cap) before we left. Finally we got out of the door, and my Ima tries to put me in the buggy. The buggy! I can’t remember exactly what was so bad about it, but I know I was definitely not going to get in there, so I started walking in the right direction. But Ima wouldn’t listen to me and kept making me go the other way. She seemed to be getting frustrated every time I went the right way again, so even though I was correct I let her make the wrong decision and followed her instead. Eventually we got to the park. It took much longer than usual. I’m sure it would have been quicker my way, and definitely if Ima had stopped asking me to get in the buggy every time I stopped to look at flowers and leaves.

The park is my favourite place, but someone had forgotten to open the windows or put the fan on, cause I was very hot and uncomfortable. I can’t see how that would affect anyone else, so I was hoping that Ima would be especially good and well behaved to make me feel better. No such luck. First she offered me some water, which I drank. But then she took out my juice. I’d never seen it before, but it must be mine-as everything is. She started drinking from MY juice! I let her know how upset I was by throwing my glasses on the floor. That’s the best way to show her that I’m cross. She had the cheek to tell me off about my glasses, but didn’t make me wear them again. She gave me my juice back, and I took a sip and decided to keep the lid in my hand so she couldnt put it away. She asked me for the lid. I said no. She asked again. I didn’t answer as I’d already told her no. My poor Ima, she only recently started understanding yes and no, so sometimes it’s hard for her. Then you will never believe what happened, she SNATCHED the lid out my hand and put it back on the bottle! Boy was I angry. I sat on that climbing frame and kicked and shouted. But nothing, she just walked away like she couldnt even see me. Eventually she came back with more juice, and the ultimate insult- a straw. What does she think I am? A baby?! I threw the straw on the ground where it belongs. Gosh I was hot and uncomfortable, and something else… that’s right, hungry. Why was I hungry? Didn’t I finish supper? Why didn’t my Ima let me finish my supper? I couldn’t remember but I’m sure it was her fault. This day was going from bad to worse.

Just then my phone rang from Ima’s bag, and she had a quick chat with the man inside the phone. He sometimes sounds like my Daddy, or Ima’s friend Auntie M, but mostly he sounds like my Nana. I wanted my phone very much, but Ima wouldn’t let me have it for no good reason. That upset me for nearly 7 seconds until I found a breadstick. Remind me what was wrong again?

Things were looking up. I decided to find a new game, and started climbing up the stairs to the slide sideways. How fun! Why do people do it frontways? I wondered. But here comes Ima again, spoiling all my fun. Yes yes, I hear you telling me to turn around and climb properly, but I don’t want to. No, stop it! Stop lifting me off the slide, I want to climb this way! Ok FINE. I can wait.. I can be patient… Let’s pretend I’m walking towards the swings… and yes! NOW! I ran towards the slide and started climbing sideways again, but … OUCH! Why am I on the floor?! Why am I all dirty? Why does my arm hurt? Where’s my Ima and why did she let this happen to me? Horrible terrible parent, why didn’t she warn me this could happen???

For some reason, it was my Ima who looked like she had had enough of the park and the whole afternoon, even though it was me having such a terrible time, and she picked me up and after a quick cuddle put me in the buggy. I was about to moan for food, when she read my mind and gave me a whole packet of breadsticks to eat. Boy, that’s more like it. Normally I only get one or two, which would make me cry when they were done. As I finished the breadsticks, she already had a peppa pig ready on the magic phone for me to watch. It was amazing. She must have been feeling very happy to give me so many treats all in one go. I hope she knows how lucky she is not to be hungry, tired and far too hot like I was, and feeling so rubbish. But I didn’t dwell on it. After all, I wasn’t hungry any more after the 17 breadsticks, and much less tired and hot after the shady ride in the buggy home.

But when I got home, I was angry. What a bad day I was having. Ima didn’t seem to understand, or at least, she wasn’t doing anything about it, so I decided to cry and whinge non-stop for a while. But if anything-she got less sympathetic. I wasn’t sure I could take much more of this treatment. She carried me to the bathroom and started running the bath. A bath! I don’t want a bath, I shouted, I hate baths!

(Ten minutes later.)

Why are you trying to take me out of the bath? I want my bath! I shouted. I love baths!

You probably wonder why I decided to have an Ima in the first place after all this negligence on her part. Well, on days like today I wont pretend I don’t ask myself that question. But most days aren’t like this. Most days she doesn’t make the world too hot, or keep me hungry for what must be hours, or refuse to play with me or be wantonly mean. Most days she tries not to give me too much time to myself, and offers me lots of delicious broccoli and not too much yucky chicken. In fact, as crazy as it may seem, once we all go to sleep at 7pm, I will probably miss her, even today. I will probably miss her enough that after a little while, I will cry very loudly so she comes in and I can have just one more quick cuddle. I know that she doesn’t mean to be difficult. She just doesn’t know any better yet. She’s only an Ima after all.

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Loneliness

He stood in the centre of the world, and watched the people passing by. An old couple hand in hand walked silently across his path, and he smiled at the idea that they had been holding hands for a lifetime, even though for all he knew they were newly-weds. He didn’t think so though. Something about the way they had no need for speech, and the uncanny way they almost looked the same as one another, gave the impression they had spent decades not just falling, but growing in love.

A child skipped past his feet, lost in his own world of thought. He looked instinctively for the parents watching, and found a young mother across the way, never letting her eyes move from his tiny figure as the child enjoyed his imagined independence. The boy’s innocence was palpable, and as he watched his limbs dance to silent music, he tried to suppress the white envy from spreading across his chest. He moved his gaze from the child and shook his head in self directed frustration. Children should be innocent, and the boy didn’t deserve to be looked at that way.

A young couple arguing caught his attention through the crowd of faces. They moved their arms in passionate gestures, talking over one another, each clearly desperate to win, rather than be heard. He clucked his tongue gently, knowing that the lesson couldn’t be taught until they were ready to learn it. The intensity of their argument moved him somewhat. You don’t argue unless you care. He hoped one day they would learn to talk as emotively as they fought.

Faces and figures passed by, some he knew, some he didn’t. He saw wives, and thought of his own, who knew him better than he knew himself most days. He saw siblings arm in arm, and thought of friends who were closer than brothers to him, and family members who almost filled that gap, in fact-so closely that an outsider wouldn’t see the hairline fracture which kept them from slotting in as neatly as they would in a perfect world. He watched parents lamenting the crises their children weathered alone, and wondered if his own parents were looking down on him and if they were proud.

As he watched the population of the world move seamlessly in unison, like a dance too impossibly complex to choreograph yet still somehow working perfectly, he knew that all those people were here somewhere, hidden by time and space and sometimes mere fate. He wondered what he would say to any of these people if they were standing close enough to ask with genuine concern why there were tears on his face.

He might try to respond with the truth, and let the crushing weight of sympathy take his breath away from the pain for that single moment. He might laugh it off and give the questioner the relief of not having to find some words to fill the empty silence. He might pretend he hadn’t heard them, and start a new conversation, drawing attention to all the things they had to talk about rather than the one thing they didn’t.
In all honesty, he’d probably just turn away and get lost in the crowd once again. They wouldn’t understand the answer anyway. And there was nothing more lonely than that.

A Perfect Afternoon

There were noises all around them, but they were only noticed with the briefest moments of attention. A child running and laughing, an old couple deep in conversation, a dog or two barking and jumping in the distance.

The couple walked together. Sometimes hand in hand, sometimes a few inches apart, helping each other push the stroller when the road got bumpy or steep to climb. They talked, constantly, ravenously, sharing the appetizers and main courses of each other’s days since they last had time to simply speak without distraction. Sometimes it’s like that; a moment in time opens up where you can talk on a deeper plane than all the hundreds of conversations preceding it. The sweet desserts and after dinner treats of banter and private jokes made the afternoon glare of the travelling sun seem not too bright to focus and pushed the noise and interference of the busy park to simply fade into the background.

At points, they turned to the little person who was never out of thought, and almost never out of sight. He was watching the world go by with such intent and interest, that you’d be forgiven for thinking he was controlling the elements with his very gaze. Never taking his tiny eyes off the world around him, so as not to miss a second of the changing afternoon, he babbled and motioned and smiled towards his parents, silently thanking them for the security and love for which he didn’t know any different.

They lifted him from his seat, and each took a tiny hand in theirs, letting him lead the way as fast as he could go, and as slowly as they could manage. Watching him navigate the world around him for one of the first times, putting pressure onto the earth and feeling it push back, grinning with sheer joy at what he could achieve, the couple smiled at each other in disbelief, at the miraculous and god-like capacity of simple love.

The afternoon got colder, and the trees on either side of the path changed. They had been shade from the bright rays of the late day sun, and they were now rustling protection from the early evening wind. The boy was tired, and grateful to be carried across the uneven grass, where only time would teach him how to walk steadily. The couple were happy to be silent, people watching, swapping quiet thoughts with looks and touches of hands and shoulders; gratefully aware that they were sharing something both rare and special.

They walked back through the trees, hand in hand, feeling the cool air lighten the very steps they were taking, watching the sun streak across the sky, like a child sponge painting impatiently, filling the page with innacurate colours and swirls of shape, yet somehow creating beauty with his lack of inhibition. They breathed in contentedly. It was a perfect afternoon.

 

Writers Block

After suffering from writers block last week, I’ve compiled a list of ideas for those of you writey types afflicted with the same disease. We all have times when the creative spring dries up, our pencil stops scratching mid-sentence, and we are plunged into self doubt and frozen inaction.

Of course, you may enjoy staring at the blank screen, watching the cursor blink, or gazing into the semi-distance waiting for inspiration to strike. If so, carry on by all means. If not, then I give you…

Top Tips for Curing Writers Block

1. Change your topic
Writing something completely different can often help clear your mind enough to get back onto the project at hand. If you are stuck in the plot of your novel, take a break from it and work on a short story or some prose, and let a different concept fill your mind for a day or two.Coming back to it a while later, you are bound to be able to see the problems from a different angle, and carry on where you left off.

2. Keep Writing
Taking a break from writing for an afternoon is a great idea. I’m also a big fan of sleeping on it. However, taking a week off to ‘recharge’ may work for some, but is more likely to stretch into longer. Inaction breeds inaction. Even if you need a holiday from your subject matter, try to keep writing something every day, even a diary entry or a blog. (Facebook statuses dont count.)

3. Borrow
Stuck at the beginning of a masterpiece? Not sure how to even begin? Try borrowing a line from one of the greats, search for quotes online and use that as a springboard to get writing. Having never written a sonnet before, and wanting to surprise my husband, I found myself staring at the screen blankly, until I borrowed the first line from John Barlas. Note the quotation marks, as  am certainly not advocating plagurism. Sometimes the first line is all you need to inspire your own masterpiece.

4. Get out more
Get inspired. Take a trip, or failing that, a walk. Go see something you’ve never seen before, find someone new to speak to. Broadening your mind cant fail to give you new persepctives on your plot themes and your characters. It’s also a well earned break under the guise of ‘Research.’

5. Read Read Read
When reading a great authors work, it is rare not to be able to note his or her influences shining out from their own pages. Reading other people’s writing, whether in the same genre or different, not only inspires your own, but makes you a richer person with stronger ideas to present, and characters to build. It doesnt matter what you choose, but make sure your own library is fully stacked. Even a book you think shouldnt have got past the slush pile can only serve as a reminder that there is hope for your manuscript yet!

6. Don’t take yourself too seriously
No-one needs to see todays writing except you. If it isnt the best work you’ve ever done, so be it. The pressure you put on yourself to create a masterpiece is probably a large reason why you can’t even put the date on the page today. Take a deep breath, start writing, and know that if it isnt great, you’ll edit it into shape another day. 

What else have you found helpful for curing the dreaded block?

A ‘fantastic’ hobby..

I’ve been told that as a kid I was a huge liar. Apparently the majority of what came out my mouth was completely untrue. I would come home from kindergarten telling all who would listen about the fireman that came to show and tell, and skip in from a day out with my dad boasting to my family about the fancy dessert we went out for that evening. As a child, it was fairly harmless, and also pretty easy to spot, as kids tend not to know when they’ve gone too far. It was unlikely that this fireman offered me (and only me) a lift on his engine and took me to put out 7 fires, letting me sit on the top of the engine “for a better view”. Similarly it’s not overly convincing that my dad let me have “18 ice creams cause I sat really nicely in the car on the way”.

My mum tells me that my lies, while not convincing to many others, had me well and truly fooled, and I sometimes found it hard as a child to seperate reality and fantasy.

There is a well known phenomenon of teenagers (often boys) who construct alternate personas through comic books or video games to escape the torture of adolescence. Fanboys (or Fangirls) are often so obsessed with their topic of choice, that they know even the minutiae, unfortunately moving them further away from any hopes of being popular or accepted. Luckily, the teenage years pass eventually.

But some people seem to have this problem well into adulthood. if you google re-enactment groups, there are endless fully grown adults, who spend far too much of their free time dressing up in costumes and pretending to be someone else. Supposedly, preparing for the role of the Joker contributed to the demise of Heath Ledger, as he couldnt shift the character from his own. Jack Nicholson (the original Joker) has said something very similar. The internet has opened doors for all of us to try out alternate characters and find like-minded individuals from across the globe, however odd our fantasy of choice.

A close friend of mine from the states sent me the photo below.

Just a bunch of adults out for some sport. Great to keep fit and active and spend time with friends. Look closer. What are they holding? Is that…? Yep. Broomsticks. These ‘adults’ are out for a friendly Quidditch match. With no sense of irony whatsoever. No cameras, no sarcasm, just good clean wizarding fun.

I dont get it. Isnt there enough going on in real life without hiding behind fantasy? I wrote recently about those with seemingly impossible dreams, who try out for reality TV. I would class that as fantasy also. We all have secret wishes and hopes that will probably not come true. We all like to pretend certain things to ourselves when no one is watching. If you have a look at Iamneurotic.com, you will see that most of the people around us have secret weirdness that they believe in, which the rest of the world may find strange. I truly hate going round a roundabout more than once. I dont know what I think it going to happen, but it freaks me out just thinking about it now. As a passenger not a driver, this is pretty difficult for me, but if I had the choice, I’d rather go fifteen mins out my way if I’ve missed my exit, than go round again. -Shudder-
Here’s another secret. Until I was a teenager, I used to talk to the numbers while making a house of cards, bargaining with them which ones I would use if they didnt fall down on me. If the house collapsed, the ‘offending’ card would be exiled and not used again. True story of a much younger, youngest child.

So dont we all have idiosyncrasies that border on the fantastic? Whether it is a full blown persona, an impossible dream or just a secret belief, we all dip into fiction from time to time.

I think the real secret is how we channel it. An old teacher of mine once said to us during class that love was only okay because we had made it socially acceptable. In reality being so obsessed with one person that you only wanted to be with them and you moved in together, got married, stayed together for your entire lives was entirely irrational. It was as much an addiction as any other drug or toxin, only society had put the word ‘love’ on it and made it pretty for us. Perhaps the same is true with imagination. Channelling your fear or your dream into creativity, art or music or writing, and labelling it ‘fiction’ or ‘expressionist’ makes all the difference. Certain things I’ve seen in the Tate Modern certainly would not be seen as art unless they were on that podium.

It’s when we let our imagination take over our lives, and we lose sight of ourselves and our day to day life underneath it, thats when we get into trouble. Because we cant stay hidden in fantasy forever, and we cant let it impact on our reality, for when the lines blur too much, how do we even know who we are? Certainly we’re not acceptable judged against societal norms.

Seriously though, playing Quidditch. That’s just weird.