Thursday, 30 July 2009

in which it rained on Saturday

It rained on Saturday, almost as though the weather man was in tune with the empty cold that had started in the pit of her stomach and forced itself outwards, icy fingers curling themselves around her, seeping through her veins, seeming to have no intention of ever letting her go. Perhaps it would never be sunny again.
It pounded hard against the window, the dull pitter-patter almost soothing in it’s repetitiveness. She shivered, pulled the blanket closer around her and shuffled closer to the edge of the bed, her eyes stinging as the memories and then the loneliness crept over her again. Every day she kidded herself that it was getting easier. Every night she fell asleep thinking that maybe today hadn’t been that bad; she had remembered something in the middle of the afternoon and it hadn’t made her throw up. That was an improvement. And yet, every morning she woke up and felt it afresh, raw and deep and as painful as it ever was. One day she expected to wake up and find it had engulfed her entirely.

There had been times, extended periods of, over the last two weeks when she had seriously considered just giving up. She had thought about pill bottles and vodka, about razor blades in the bath, about bathrobe belts and shower rails. She knew it would come to nothing. Not because she wanted to spare those who loved her from the same kind of suffering; she was still at the selfish stage, but because she was a coward. Death offered her no guarantees and she was terribly afraid that there wouldn’t be the longed for release; that it wouldn’t bring them back together and she would just end up alone, cold and in the dark with nothing. At least this way she could still remember, even if to do so brought dehibilitating pain.

The problem was that she didn’t think she had ever felt so alone. Loneliness had only ever been a word before. Sometimes, in more lucid moments she pondered how she could feel so lonely when she wasn’t really ever by herself. She had her family. Her friends. Long, seemingly never ending streams of well-wishers. Flowers and cards that covered every available surface and made her want to scream and never stop. There were whispered clich├ęs about time being a great healer, about how it hurts now, but that she’ll be ok, that she had to be strong. She didn’t feel strong, she didn’t know where to start to try and she didn’t want to listen to these people who had little idea how she felt, telling her how she should be feeling, behaving, reacting.

She just wanted to be left alone.

Leave me alone I’m lonely.

All she wanted was to be on her own.
Lie.
All she wanted was him. She wasn’t greedy; a minute would be enough. Just enough time to look at him properly, touch him, smell him, say those things that she really wished she had said before. She just wanted the chance to really say goodbye.
It had always been her problem, wanting what she couldn’t have.
One more minute was impossible. She knew that. She was sad not stupid, but if she couldn’t have that then she just wanted it all, the cards; the flowers; the people just to disappear. She wanted to cry and she wanted to scream and she wanted to smash a few plates. She wanted to stay in bed and not get up, not even to shower and she wanted to crack open a bottle of vodka and drink it neat,through the bottle neck, get blind drunk and fall into a deep and dreamless sleep. She wondered whether to the left of her there would always be this enormous hole, a hole in the shape of him and as the rain poured in time with her tears she somehow knew it would rain on Sunday aswell.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

in which i scribble when i shouldn't be scribbling

She has told herself that tonight will be the last time.
She has told herself the same thing so many times before but this time, this time, she really means it. She can’t take anymore. A line has to be drawn and she is drawing it tonight. If only it were as simple as she manages to make it sound. It is not; he is under her skin. He has been under her skin for almost five years and she hates it. Hates the fact that he is there, hates him for being there, hates herself for the fact that no matter what defences she builds against him they are never quite as inpenetratable as she imagines they are and somehow he always manages to find a crack and slide through it, burrowing under her skin, scorching through her veins, making her ache with a hated longing and so she has decided that after tonight there will be no more.

It’s not even as though this, whatever it is that they have, is enjoyable. The thing that Hallmark always forgets to tell you is that actually, love hurts. Her life is like a rollercoaster and she never was a fan of theme parks. The up and the down, it makes her sick and she struggles to keep up with his games. She holds his hand and she listens; she counsels him on his love life; she talks him through his ‘girl troubles’ and when the latest floozy gets back on the plane she picks up the pieces for him even as her own heart shatters around her. She laughs with him; she cries with him; she sits with him under the stars and she lets him tell her that he wishes they could be together. She swallows down the anger, bites back the bitter ‘then why the hell aren’t we, you coward?’ and she leans into him, lets herself believe that he means it and then when the moment is broken she pretends it doesn’t hurt, pretends that it doesn’t cripple her the way he acts around her in a crowd. Pretends it doesn’t matter that he is hers but not at all. Each and every time she feels another tiny piece of her heart break away never to be replaced and yet she is unable to stop herself from letting it happen time and time again. When it comes to him she is weak and the pain is almost a comfort. She lets him act for all the world like he doesn’t give a fuck; lets him avoid her, belittle her, apparently detest her and still, when he loses it finally, when the carefully constructed wall that he has built around himself comes tumbling down around him she can’t help but be the one to pick up the pieces, he is a jigsaw she knows by heart.

She wants to hold him, to be held by him. She wants to pretend like everything is alright. But it is not alright and she can no longer pretend. Nobody tells you that when your heart breaks it the pain is excruciating, and she has had more of the pain than she can stand. He will never belong to her. He will pretend to belong to a long string of other girls, each one lasting a summer or a winter. He will tell her he wishes he belonged only to her but in reality he will only ever belong to himself, and that is what kills her. For a long time she pretended that they were just two people, that they didn’t have baggage and fears and hopes and heartbreak; that they were one and one equalling two and that that was enough. Truth is, it is the one thing that is never enough and that is what has brought her to this; to make a stand, to pretend that his lies and his cowardice and his running and his games hasn’t broken her, made her lose sight of who she really is, in the hope that one day she won’t need to pretend. One day she will be able to say she doesn’t need him and she will mean it.

She has told herself that tonight will be the last time. It will be a clean break. There will be no more.
She hadn’t bargained on him looking so broken. She hadn’t bargained on him holding her; on looking into his eyes and seeing herself; on letting go being quite so hard. She finds that as she tries to walk away she only walks closer; that when he holds out his hand and offers to lead she only wants to follow; that when she steps into his embrace they really are the perfect fit and whilst she knows deep down that it will never work she can’t help but be tempted by an altogether different game of ‘lets pretend’ to the one she had set out to play. She takes his empty promises and she wraps them around her, she steals the warmth from his smile and she pretends, again, that she maybe believes that maybe this time it will change.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

in which i share some writing

I scribbled this down about a month ago. Before I discovered the blog. I will, at some point be posting new stuff on here - when I have time to actually write the words bouncing around in my head that is, after all, I'd be a fool to embark on a creative writing course if I didn't actually write, would I not? But for now, this is where I was at on June 18th....

Daffodils.

I saw you standing there, waiting and I stopped, the sight of you like a punch to the stomach, almost knocking the wind out of me. Somehow I hadn’t been expecting to see you. I’d walked all this way and still I was surprised you were there. I stopped and I watched you. I wondered how long you’d wait for, how long it would take before you decided I wasn’t coming and got back on the train. I wondered why I’d come and whether I should turn around and walk back away, my feet re-tracing my steps as though in rewind. I studied you, scrutinising you from a distance, watching you from behind my over-sized sunglasses. You were taller than I remembered and your hair longer. It suited you, brushing against the turned up collar of your jacket as you turned your head. I felt my breath catch in my throat; I didn’t want you to see me, not yet. I wanted this moment, this precious fragile moment to last that split second longer, I wanted to impress on my memory the tilt of your head, the way your arms hung loosely at your sides, one hand clutching a bunch of daffodils that I somehow knew you’d picked from the side of the road, your scuffed Converse, the jeans slightly frayed at the hem. I wanted to know that I’d never forget the shape of your mouth or the way your face in profile was the most beautiful face I’d ever seen. I wanted to take a second to just pretend. And so I stood and I watched. You looked away, glancing around the crowded station as though something much more important commanded your time; as though the station should be grateful for your deigning to grace it with your size nines. If you were nervous you didn’t show it. You were self assured, you were perfect and in comparison I felt clumsy and out of place. My flowery dress billowed around me in the wind too strong for June; my own Converse pumps seemed cumbersome on my feet. I asked myself again why I’d come. I asked myself why I thought I could stay away. The phrase, so I believed was ‘catch 22.’ Damned if I do, damned if I don’t. I shivered suddenly. I wished I’d picked up my cardigan but I knew that it wasn’t cold it was de-ja vu. I’d been here before. We’d been here before only I was older now. Wiser. So I’d have myself believe, anyway. I took a deep breath; I ran a hand through the hair that had been teased into perfection with curling tongs but was now wild and unruly; I swallowed the nerves, shoving them to the back of my mind, quietening them with a silent but firm ‘shush’ and I stepped forward.

It was as though the crowd parted to let me through, everything seemed to fade into the background, everything except you. You stood, still and sharp against your now blurry backdrop, my own real life cd cover. I moved slowly. I wished I could move slower. I wished I could turn around and run, but that was your role, not mine. My heart raced, pounding against my rib cage as though trying to get free. I wondered if I could bear it. I wondered if I could let you back in only to lose you again. Shame on you if you hurt me once. Shame on me if you hurt me twice, three times. A hundred heart-wrenching times.

‘Only a coffee.’ That was what you’d said, in that half-laughing tone, trying to convince me yet knowing I was already convinced. You were leaving in the morning you’d said. And I’d said, to the cat, that that was what made it ok. You were leaving in the morning and that was what mattered. It was when you hung around that the damage was done. Yet somehow I knew that when you left you’d take another fragment of my soul with you. I knew you’d hand me the daffodils and I knew they’d sit in a vase on my dining table until they wilted away to nothing; I knew you’d buy me dinner; I knew you’d make me laugh; I knew you’d smile at me, draw me in with those big brown eyes, hold me steady in your gaze like I was the only person that ever mattered; I knew you’d kiss me and that you’d taste like aniseed and cigarettes; I knew that when you undressed me you’d inhale, bite down on your bottom lip, look at me as though I was the most precious thing you’d ever set eyes on, looking at me as though you ached to touch me; I knew that for those few moments I’d feel glorious and free and incredible; I knew you’d run your finger down the scar on my shoulder and I knew you’d say ‘remember when’; I knew the memory would threaten to engulf me from within, starting in the pit of my stomach forcing it’s way through my blood like poison, stinging, hurting, all powerful; I knew in the morning I’d waken and you’d be gone; I knew I’d lie still for a moment, strain to hear the sound of the shower, or of coffee being brewed in the kitchen; I knew I’d fall asleep with my head on your shoulder and wake to nothing, the daffodils the only proof that you were ever there; I knew that despite myself I would cry. More than anything else I knew that I should not be here. That this, this none relationship, was the most destructive relationship of my life.

You stood, you turned, a slow smile illuminated your face, like someone had flicked a switch. I felt my own face offer you an answering grin. You laughed, a deep musical sound, you held out the daffodils and I knew in that instant that I would put up with it all, I would live with a lifetime of waking up alone, a lifetime of the debilitating emptiness that you always left in your wake, I’d put up with it all time and time again in exchange for these rare but exquisite nights of magic.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

In which My Sister's Keeper makes me cry. Properly, actually cry.

I have to confess to actually rather liking Jodi Picoult, she is my guilty secret, and her novels make up the majority of the ‘P’ section of my bookshelf.

My Sister’s Keeper was the second of her novels I read, the first being The Pact. It’s not one of the best. I enjoyed it, don’t get me wrong, but I still maintain she has written much better. Second Glance for one….

My Sister’s Keeper is absorbing, it’s funny and it’s moving and it asks some very pertinent questions; how far should a family go to save a child? What if that means infringing on both the rights and the welfare of another? The situations Picoult has created are imaginable, the characters very real , the ethical dilemma makes for a compelling story and the twist at the end almost reduced me to tears BUT it is also overly sentimental, in the same way that The Lovely Bones is overly sentimental (I hate that book); contrived to cause tears and therefore rather lacking in subtlety. I have heard of people weeping at the book. I did not. Don’t get me wrong, I do not have a heart of stone and the shock and force of the ending left me with a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye but the emotion throughout seemed a little obvious.

Last night I went to see the film adaptation. ***spoiler alert***

I was expecting it to be sad – for all it’s sentimentality it is a pretty harrowing subject matter and I knew that ending was going to be hard to watch on the big screen. I knew I’d cry. I knew Kez and Helen would cry. I was prepared. Or so I thought…..

Did I enjoy it? Well, I suppose if I was some kind of masochist then I would say yes, I did. As it is I don’t know if it is really prudent to use the word ‘enjoy’ to describe a film that had me welling up from the word go and crying so hard I had tears pouring down my face and dripping on to my chest. This film is sad, and it doesn’t let up for a second. It’s not an emotional rollercoaster; it’s an emotional slide. It starts off horrifically sad and it gets worse. Even I, secure in my knowledge that Kate is alright in the end sobbed my heart out watching her and her family deal with discovering she is terminal and watching her health disintegrate; the love story with Taylor, her relationship with Jesse and Anna, the ‘final’ trip to the beach, Sara’s battle to save her little girl, the effect it had on each member of the family and their relationships with each other, it was all just utterly heart-wrenching. The last time I cried like that was when somebody actually died. Cameron Diaz’s portrayal of Sara was incredible, and I related so much more with her in the film than I ever did in the book; she seemed almost cold in the book and thus aggravated the hell out of me but watching that film she became human and I felt for her; her desperation was palpable. It was a very well done yet still somehow terrible film. I shall not be watching it again. I shall not be recommending it to anybody, and I shall no doubt be spending the rest of the day feeling like I do now; like I have been through massive emotional hell.

I knew I’d cry. I did not know I’d have to hold in the body wracking sobs. & my almost cocky assurance that I knew just how sad this film was going to be blew up in my face; I was not prepared because the film is not the story I knew, Campbell is made into an almost unnecessary character and Julia is completely written out, Anna is eleven (I am sure she is thirteen in the book?) and the ending, well, it couldn’t stray further from the book if it tried.

How do they compare? Well, this is strange for me, because I am usually overflowing with indignance after going to watch the film adaptation of a book I have loved. I find itvery hard to watch a film for itself, I can't help but nitpick, and it is so very very rare that a film ever comes close to what exsists in my mind. This time though it was different. I didn't compare, probably because I was too busy crying, and I have not come away being angry at the discrepancies. Shocked? Yes. Wrongfooted? Yes? Confused? A little. But angry? No. I really do feel that My Sister's Keeper works well as a film, as a seperate entity to the book, just don't ever watch it.

And on a totally seperate note I finally saw the trailer for The Time Traveler's Wife on the big screen. It bugged me when I saw it on You Tube but oh dear. I think they may well have totally ruined a really incredible book; that trailer nearly made me cry, and not in the way it should have. That isn't Henry, and that is certainly not Clare and all of it, every single thing I saw in those couple of minutes is totally and utterly wrong. This story is not some chick lit rom com romp, it is a wonderfully clever, well crafted beautiful love story and some stupid film people have taken it and destroyed it. It deserved so much more :(

Monday, 13 July 2009

in which i am excited

On Thursday I am going to London. This makes me very happy, because not only does it mean I get to escape from the office for a day, and sit on a train with Neil Gaiman’s ‘Coraline’ – I have several of Neil’s novels which I plan to devour over the summer, Coraline being the first - it also means I get to spend the day with the lovely Jen. I am VERY excited. If I could change anything about my life at the moment it would be to have Jen and another friend of mine, Sue, living closer than they do so the prospect of a whole day with Jen is definitely high on my list of ‘fun things to do.’

Jen is lovely, and very clever. She recently graduated from Edinburgh University with an MA in English Literature, and is now officially a struggling writer, fingerless gloves and all. Although I think at the moment she is managing to pay her electricity bills! She is working on her first novel, which I can confidently say is going to be fabulous – and I say this not because it’s what you do when your friend is writing a book, but because I 100% believe it - and working part time at what sounds like an amazing little bookshop. She is a lucky girl. I think I could be accused of living vicariously through her….

So there you have it, my plan for Thursday; 4 hours of uninterrupted reading time, lots of squeeful hugs, Camden Market, Hamstead Heath, tyre swings, ice cream and photographs. The only question is, what does a girl wear….?

Friday, 10 July 2009

In which I am looking forward to the weekend

This week has been long and tedious. A new employee – who has been off sick for two days in her first week, but who otherwise is shaping up ok; a boss who I would suspect was pre-menstrual were he not male; a pile of work that seems to keep on growing. I am tired and I am fed up. I am pleased it is the weekend.

This evening Helen is coming over for Chinese and pear cider and a film. Maybe Notes on a Scandal. I am intrigued as to how it will compare to the book, or by comparing am I setting myself up for despair? I do think Dame Judi Dench will make a marvellous Barbara. I also plan to finish The Whole Day Through, by Patrick Gale and get stuck into some nice and easy crime. Hello, Harlan Coben!

Saturday means lunch out, gardening, cleaning and snowboarding and please all keep your fingers crossed that the sun shines on Sunday. I wish to picnic.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

In which I write my first blog review....

Left alone over the weekend I finished Sharon Osbourne’s second book ‘Survivor’ which I may or may not come back to muse upon at a later date; it was eye opening to say the least, although not as ‘enjoyable’ as ‘Extreme’, and then devoured ‘Private Papers’ by Margaret Forster. This one took me rather by surprise; I found it hard to get into at first and wondered whether it’s seemingly choppy narrative would mean it would be one of those novels I ploughed through purely because I hate to leave a book unfinished. Luckily this was not the case.

‘Private Papers’ is a well-crafted novel following the lives of one family as seen through the very different eyes of a Mother and her oldest daughter. The story begins with Rosemary, the eldest of four daughters coming across her Mother, Penelope’s, ‘private papers’; her version of the family history. Whilst Rosemary agrees with the facts, her interpretation is wildly different and she begins to tell the story, the way she sees it so what we have is Penelope’s story interrupted almost by an indignant Rosemary wishing to set the facts straight and telling us the same story from a different angle. Both Penelope and Rosemary are strong, well crafted characters and their contrasting viewpoints make utterly compelling reading, although the sudden switches in narrative are a little unsettling in the beginning.

This novel reminded me a little of Kate Atkinson’s ‘Behind The Scenes At The Museum', which whilst totally different in narrative and structure, covers similar themes over a similar time frame and is equally gripping as a study on family relationships. ‘Private Papers’ also demonstrates how easily different aspects of life can be interpreted and misinterpreted. If you like Kate Atkinson, the above mentioned novel in particular then I would quite confidently recommend this to you.

This is the second of Forster’s works that I have read recently, the first being the equally enjoyable ‘Have The Men Had Enough?’ and I can’t help but feel that she really does deserve to have wider acclaim; her understanding of family and the relationships within is spot on and her narrative is at times both touching and humorous. I will definitely be adding her other novels to my already ridiculously long ‘to read’ list.

Monday, 6 July 2009

in which i jump on the blog wagon

At 26 I have decided it’s time to stop sitting around regretting and to start seeing if I can atone for the sins of my past. Don’t I sound dramatic? Worry not though dear reader as mass murderer I am not. What I am is a young woman regretting the mistakes she made when she was a silly little girl that resulted in her dropping out of college and not getting any formal qualifications other than her GCSE’s. Yup, I really was that stupid. So, in an effort to do something about that, and, in an effort to stop my brain stagnating which it really feels like it might be doing, I have signed up with the OU. My short-term goal is to achieve a diploma in Creative Writing and Literature. My long term goal? Well, a BA in English Lang/Lit would be nice but we’ll see.

The first course starts in October – a 30point creative writing course, and so here I am setting up a blog to chart my progress, waffle about books I like and books I don’t like and probably moan quite a bit about my job. I manage a small company, for my sins. Not bad for a college drop-out huh ;) and whilst I do, for the most part love it – I enjoy the challenge, and managing my little team, seeing us grow and develop gives a certain feeling of satisfaction – I would much rather be curled up somewhere with a good book or a note pad and paper. & if I have to work at all; I appreciate not many people can make a career out of reading books, mores the pity, then I would like to do what the marvellous Vanessa did here: Fidra blog. I think she might be my hero, actually. Opening my own book shop. That’s my dream……