Carlisle was successful.
After 30 years of hard-work, perseverance, determination, he had everything to show for it. He wasn’t rich but he had enough, enough for a house, a family, a car.
He was happy. More than could be said for the others he saw around his neighbourhood as he drove into work every morning. He saw them waiting for the bus which was famously late, that was if it came at all. He saw them walking their dogs, avoiding eye contact with anyone else. He saw them as lonely, shut off, living their lives by routine. Walking the same mud-trodden route wearing the same grubby boots every day, every month, every year. Walking their dogs into eternity, he often thought.
This morning, as he was walking from his front door to his car, Mr Grey trudged past wearing his faded overcoat and shabby Wellington boots and nodded hello. He was like a puppet on strings, his little Jack Russell on its lead doing all the work, pulling him along each day.
Carlisle opened his car door and sat himself in the leather seat. He put his key in the ignition and watched Mr Grey through his rear view mirror as he continued aimlessly down the street.
He had an overwhelming urge to run after him. An urge so powerful that Carlisle gasped for breath. Maybe he should run after him. Save him. Be saved.
He was panting like he’d just run a marathon. He tried to open the door but could not move.
He was trapped.
He was hyperventilating. Pressed in by his life saver seatbelt.
The leather interior was closing in on him. Where was all the oxygen?
He felt as if he were bouncing off the walls. Who was the puppet-master?
“Oh. Oh. No I was just… my head was somewhere else! I’m fine, honestly. I’ll buy some, don’t worry.”
Mechanically, he had answered his phone. His body following its routine like nothing was wrong. His wife, after running the kids to school had spotted his lunch left behind, forgotten.
He brought his boots over to the sofa and sat himself on it, carefully tying the laces tightly.
Next to him was his dirty plate, his empty glass, a full ashtray. He stood up.
She wanted to tell him not to go, that she did love him, regardless of all he’d done wrong.
They’d never been close.
He left the room. She stood up and followed him to the front door, about to open her mouth to tell him it wasn’t his fault, and that he should stay.
The door slammed shut.
“Bye” she whispered.
This was for DAY 5 of the Writing 101 challenge. I decided that rather than write a letter I’d write about the absence of one, the challenge here was to keep it as brief as possible so I wrote this post in under 100 words.
Has it ever occurred to you that your thoughts are all you know? That each one of us experiences different thoughts, a different voice in our head telling us what to do. Our own voice or someone else’s? No one else’s.
Because if it’s inside your head how do you know that it’s real? If all of this is inside your head how can any of it be real? How can the people sat in a room with you, all breathing, thinking (if they are), be real if you can’t see inside their heads. “I think therefore I am”, I think therefore you’re not.
You’ve known no other, but your own voice echoing around your own empty, lonely head. Lost in a sea of thoughts. Trapped inside your own mind, dictated by its presumptions, judgements, experiences, emotions, desires, shame, perception, reasoning, knowledge.
Many of which remain hidden even from you. Never found, never rescued.
No one will ever know you to the extent you do. No one will ever appreciate you for what you are in your entirety, the things you don’t say rot and become stagnant inside your own mind.
You will never know anyone like you know yourself. Still exploring, still finding out things about yourself. You hate yourself. You love yourself. Does it matter?
It’s all you’ve known. It’s all you’ve got…
A booming voice: “Are you with us today?”
I blinked. I was in a classroom, everyone was looking at me glad of the distraction from the trigonometry drawn in flaky white chalk on the blackboard at the front. The light coming from the window at the front stunned me. The silhouette of a tall commanding figure loomed over me, hand on hip, chalk between fingers.
“If you spent as much time lost in your own head as you did found in my classroom you’d be top of the class!”
This was for DAY 4 of the Writing101 Challenge. As part of a 3 post series, the topic of today was something ‘lost’. I decided to write about a school student lost both inside their own head, and found inside the classroom.
Others in this 3 post series will be about something ‘found’, and about the concept of ‘lost and found’ and will follow at a later date.
The Primitives – ‘Crash’
On camping holidays with my family we listened to an album that came free in The Guardian newspaper of ‘indie hits’ which had this track on it. This was one of our favourites not to be surpassed by ‘Gorvinda’ by Kulu Shaker.
This particular trip we were in Clitheroe in Lancashire and on our way to have some drinks at The Inn at Whitewell on a particularly rainy day. We reached a road with a sign bearing the words ‘ROAD CLOSED’, but rather than turning back like most people would, my dad, adamant on getting to The Inn at Whitewell after we had spent several hours sat in the tent with the tap tap tap of the rain on the canvas discussing what to do that day, got out of the car and moved the sign out of the way, announcing “It’s the only way to go! It can’t be closed!”. My mum, my brother and I were silent. In the background the stereo chimed “so shut, shut your mouth, cause I’m not listening anyhow”. We drove tentatively along this road for such a distance that we started to think it’d all be okay!
We saw a flash of yellow in the distance getting closer and larger by the second. Suddenly, the realisation that a huge JCB truck was heading towards us with an angry builder in it hit. My dad, panicking, flipped the car around, doing the fastest handbrake turn I’ve ever seen. The car crunched as the lyrics “don’t look out you’re gunna break your neck” resonated, in his haste my dad had knocked the back of the car on the steep cliff side on the edge of the road.
We sped off, leaving our bumper and an angry builder behind us.
Enya – ‘Orinoco Flow’
I remember this song from my childhood as my mum used to listen to it in the kitchen when she was clearing away from dinner. For years and years I was sure the lyrics were “Save the whale, save the whale, save the whale”, my mum would sing this along with me when I was a child.
Recently she told me that 20 years ago when I was born, the nurses recommend she take relaxing music into the hospital with her to calm her during labour. My mum took this Enya album with her on tape. Needless to say, it didn’t exactly work and accidently (or not) she ended up leaving it there.
The Beatles – ‘Blackbird’
To me, this song speaks of absolute freedom in achievement. I love The Beatles and so this list had to include one of their songs! This is a song is like a lullaby to me. I can always return to when I’m stressed or missing in direction and it relaxes me like no other.
This post was for DAY 3 of the Writing101 Challenge. Today, the challenge was to write solidly for 15 minutes without editing about 3 songs that meant something to you. I must be honest, I struggled to choose 3 songs!
The only occupants of the room were the spiders who had made it their home. Their thick webs spread like cotton wool, joining across the corners of the darkened ceiling. The room looked and smelt like it had seen no other guests for a long time, the scent of mildew and damp was overwhelming and many flecks of dust floated through the air, catching the bright light that penetrated the room in streams through the bare and clouded window. The light somehow looked out of place. The room almost recoiled from it, dancing instead in the shadowy corners.
In this interrogatory light was a chair, straight backed with a faded red upholstered cushion upon it. Its legs and back were a dark mahogany wood that gave an impression of lost grandeur. It sat directionless and desolated in the centre of the room.
Even the cold temperature of the room felt unwelcoming and would have made the hairs of someone used to the cold stand on end.
What had been this room’s purpose? What had it been used for?
It was too small to live in, yet the chair revealed that it had once been inhabited for some purpose. Three of the walls were sparse, their only trait being the dirt and grime that had accumulated over a long period of time. However, on the remaining wall, opposite the window, was a darker and cleaner rectangle where an archaic painting had once hung. The floor was decorated with a darker stain in partial light of a worrying reddish brown colour.
This is written for Day 2 of the Writing101 challenge: A descriptive piece.
Summer, 2026. July to be precise. And the height of the tourist period. People in odd fashions with unfamiliar accents frequented the streets, excitingly hurrying from one object to the next. Many of them struggled with a currency that was unfamiliar to them, having never encountered in their lifetimes our numeral system of ones, hundreds, and God forbid, decimals! This put many off visiting.
Ten years previously, the majority of Britain had been unfrequented by tourists as even Brits would travel places hotter, louder, more exciting and usually cheaper than the attractions in their home country. The ability to experience a new culture, or just sandier beaches. However, people flocked in their hundreds to experience Britain’s rich and vast history, and who knew where they came from.
Time tourism they called it.
A multimillionaire industry that had taken off several years after the discovery and invention of time travel had been let into the public eye. It had been a grand spectacle seeing the contraption they told us was a time machine disappear into thin air, racking in figures larger than that of the broadcast of the lunar landing in 1959. Naturally, the ability to time travel had been kept a secret by the government for at least a decade before that. At first only the most affluent and most important had been able to travel, but soon the likes of GenerationJet, RyanYear and BritishTimeways (as they were all now known) cottoned on, offering budget manipulation of the time vortex for everyone.
Of course, holiday makers were banned from travelling forward in time, lest they find out something they shouldn’t. But everyone knew the scientists and the politicians had been to the future, or at least been informed, and knew what was coming next. There was a thriving black-market business, however, of underground and unsafe contraptions, makeshift time machines to travel people into the future for a cut-throat fee (often quite literally). Many never returned. This information was well known, but as far as the government went it was just another way to clean the streets and get rid of problem causers, who cared where they ended up?
Locals of 2026 were strictly prohibited from conversing with foreigners beyond the likes of their own times, and any enquiries beyond small-talk and “What’s the weather like in 3153?” were not permitted. Rigorous checks were carried out in the underground buildings into which time tourists arrived, these structures somewhat resembled the combination of an airport and a subway and having no windows they prevented potential time terrorists from viewing any of the outside time-zone until these checks had been carried out. These checks ensured no disruption of the time continuum that could be caused by tourists bringing in foodstuffs, weapons, or any other objects from beyond the time they were travelling to. There were rumours that the holidaymakers were bugged on arrival to prevent any unpermitted conversation with locals.
The only way locals could gage any idea of their future existence was by the look of the visitors, who naturally would receive plenty of stares. Locals, such as hotel or restaurant owners, whose entire livelihood depended on their mingling with the tourists, often placed bets upon those frequenting their premises, estimating from which time period they came based on their attire, accent, and etiquette and exchanging those round metal coins tourists thought so strange as they did.
I really enjoyed this Weekly Writing Challenge with the concept that a picture is worth a thousand words.
He’d been awake all night. His bare feet were blue with cold but he had one intention and one intention only. He had his path and he must follow it.
Scouring far and wide he found the place, he had travelled miles and miles over the cold hard ground to get to this point. He stood there, a stream lapping around the tough skin on the underside of his toes.
It had been a hard night, and the night before that had been too. The nights were the worst, no light, no sense of direction. This was a difficult point to reach, he thought. Not many could have done it. What did that make him? The silence echoed off the snow, even the running water seemed to be silent. Waiting. Silence was his enemy.
He saw the figure above him, facing away. Did he know he was here? Did he know he had been followed? His very own silent voyeur, just as clueless as he was as he gazed into the vast, unending countryside before him, blanketed with snow, shrouded in mist. What did he see? He desperately wanted to know and nearly screamed it out into the unanswerable air between them. But no, he had got this far.
He looked behind and saw his footsteps. He remembered taking each one of them, some tentatively placed in the snow, as if with indecision, others more clumsily located. It had not been easy, the figure in front of him, made ghostly by the mist, had and still did escape him. These footsteps smelt of desperation, he thought.
It was hard to know, he reflected, what to do next. Often we focus on the journey, and not on what we’ll do when we get there. When we get to the end we ask the same question. And he now asked himself: what next?
Following on from old work I’ve done, this is another piece I did in high-school when we were asked to write about something that annoyed us. Justin Bieber would probably be today’s equivalent but have a read and maybe you’ll empathise.
Is there one thing that makes your blood boil? Do you feel that if you are reminded of it one more time your head will explode? Does it make you feel as if you want to plug your ears and cover your eyes just so that you can escape from it? Would you go through extreme pain just to obliterate it from the history of the universe? My answer is yes. ‘High School Musical’ makes me feel like this.
I’ll start by making my argument a little less one sided. I will point out it’s good points… Well, that’s the end of that then!
Just for starters, Zac Efron is one very big reason why ‘High School Musical’ makes me want to pull off each of my fingernails, very slowly, one by one. He must have some amazingly mysterious ‘X’ factor, which I just can’t seem to see. Apparently he’s super attractive. I fail to notice this. Vanity is not the most attractive feature in a man, superstar or not. He’s had a nose job, for heck’s sake! He wears makeup too, and not just the discreet kind. Oh no, Zac isn’t going ‘Au Natural’. Five-inch thick foundation plus a whole tube of mascara equals total meltdown under the hot lights.
Okay, so what else? The singing, (if you could call it that). The singer’s voice changes with each song. Surely they could have made it slightly more convincing, couldn’t they? Or maybe not. I wonder what would happen if we burst into spontaneous song in the middle of a geography test for instance? Or if we jumped on the tables to dance… a detention and a behaviour comment in our planner, no doubt at the very best. The voices are distinctly nasal and most of the girls sing in pitches only audible to dogs. Since, ‘High School Musical’ is so popular, you’d think the songs and singing might be slightly more bearable to the human ear. Do we not recognise a musical instrument anymore…?
And another thing… The film isn’t even on a ‘High School Musical’. It’s the auditions. The auditions. They make such a big deal about the auditions. What happened to the musical? Or do we have to eagerly await the sequel?
Merchandise. You can’t escape from it! There’s the Easter eggs, the singing Barbie dolls, the board game, repulsive t-shirts, the birthday cards (£5 is too much to pay for a card, even if it does have Zac’s beautifully crafted nose on it)… the list is endless.
Actually, I’ve thought of one good thing. My little brother has to dance to it every week in his drama class. My, oh my, revenge is sweet.
This is a short piece I wrote when I was in high-school. It’s a little embarrassing to read through now but I thought it was worth a post.
As any secondary school teenager will tell you, one of the most traumatic things that we young adults have to deal with is fitting in. This, on top of spots, boyfriends, girlfriends, friends in general, hormones, homework, home life, exams, and irritating family members (cough, mother!). As you can imagine, it can all become too much. So, why not become a social misfit I hear you cry?! Well, if we were all social misfits then there wouldn’t be a point to fitting in. It just doesn’t work like that: our teenage lives must be made as dreadfully and excruciatingly painful as physically possible; like being dropped in boiling oil or being burnt alive. So this is a helpful guide to try to make fitting in just that little bit less painful.
So… what exactly is ‘fitting in’? Fitting in is all about being yourself. Woah! Stop right there! Fitting in is not about being yourself. It’s about getting respect. And this leads us to our first step on the long and difficult trek that is fitting in: climbing the social ladder. To do this, it is essential that you must be well-liked. For this to happen, you have to possess some mysterious ‘It’ factor. What’s the definition of ‘It’? Oh, that’s asking too much… Basically it’s money, or looks, or a car or an attitude or some other ridiculous meaningless thing that will earn you a bit of R E S P E C T. So, the social ladder? Let’s get straight to the point. Have ‘it’… and if you don’t? Well, basically you’re doomed to trip on your first step in climbing the ladder. Or the equivalent in a game of snakes and ladders – go back to the beginning and try again.
To explain the high school set up, there are the basic cliques. ‘The Plastics’ (AKA the popular kids), ‘The Goths’, (who generally wear black and enjoy being depressed) and ‘The Nobody’s’ (who are somewhere in the middle of the popularity scale). Last, and kind of the least are ‘The Nerds’. You may wonder if ‘The Nerds’ have swallowed a calculator due to their amazing mathematical abilities. So slot yourself a place in one of these categories and you’re on the road to success.
Next, we should consider the inevitable. Parents. Even if your parents think they are the next Presley or Monroe. Do not, I repeat DO NOT, let your friends know they even exist let alone get to actually meet them. If your parents act weird in public then that’s a one-way ticket into Social-Reject-Ville for the rest of your school life. An easy way to avoid this happening is to keep them chained up. Don’t let anyone see them. Just like you wouldn’t want anyone to see a patch of back acne or a rabid pet dog.
Music taste is also very important. You can’t have a different opinion to your ‘friends’ (assuming that you have already taken at least one or two tentative steps up the social ladder). Don’t let them see bands such as Abba or S-Club7 on your iPod or MP3 (if you’re guilty of this, you know who you are. Delete immediately!). Try to enjoy anything ‘hip’, ‘hop’ or ‘now’ or hop off the ladder.
You want people you don’t know to think you’re cool, so you must train your ‘people skills’ like you would a workout in the gym. Practice in front of the mirror. Oh, and something I’ve learnt from experience. Do not stand there, mouth open like a drowning fish, when someone you don’t know talks to you. Usually, I find that a good technique to use is to smile at them and hope they don’t think you’ve had something injected into your face or that you’re in terrible pain and baring your pearly whites at them. This may prevent them from making any deep conversation for a few minutes as they ponder whether you were trying to be nice or if they had something stuck in their teeth from lunchtime.
So. Now you know. The steps to fitting in, one step at a time, steady as you go. Hopefully, by using these techniques to the best of your ability, you’ll have a happy high school life. If not, there was obviously no hope for you to begin with.