Quote for the day

There are many reasons why novelists write – but they all have one thing in common: a need to create an alternative world.
– John Fowles

Writing Prompt: Something different

How do we think of things to write about? Do we write what we know? Is everything we put down some variation on what we experience, pure imagination or a little of both?

I’ve often reached for memories to give me something to bring me inspiration or I look the world go by from my perch in a cafe and create stories around what I see. Sometimes it’s fun to look at the world from a different angle. It allows you to see things you may not have noticed before. This evening I lay on the floor of my living room and had a look around at commonplace objects. It’s funny what you notice. From that angle, I saw a candle holder on the window ledge, previously obscured by my red curtains. It made remember when it was given to me, several years ago as a house-warming present, the first time all of my London friends made the trip to Scotland to visit.

Hanging from my bookcase I spotted one of my necklaces. I had been looking for it for months. I bought it during a trip to Notting Hill market with my friend Jayne. It was a warm summer day and we wandered the busy streets looking for a place to stop for tea. She’s married now and living in Leith, far too close for us to have gone this long without seeing each other. I tell myself to call her in the morning.

Pick a corner of your place and have a seat, writing down all that you see. What do your things, often taken for granted remind you of?

Writing Prompt: Listen….

The house is still.

As I lay covered with my duvet, I can hear the outside world begin to stir. There is a series of quick steps towards the house, a little shuffle and steps away, the pace quickening and they fade. I know it’s the milk boy dropping a carton of semi-skimmed on the step. The hot water kicks in and I can hear the house rattle as the water travels through the pipes in the house. The cat lets out a sweet half-snore, half-purr. She’s dreaming of mice. I drop back into blissful  sleep.

I jolt up, awakened by the sharp sound of a lawnmower motor springing to life. Ah, I think, it must be nice out there, the sun must be out. The aroma of coffee, blended with the sound of the coffee maker drift up to me and inspire me to sit up and stretch. The days has begun.

Writing Prompt: Take a moment at any point in the day and just listen. What do you hear? What images are conjured up just by the sounds around you? Describe them.

Writing Prompt: Dead Things

I sat on the back step wearing my slippers, the black ones I pulled from a wire basket at Tesco. The sun setting low into a greying sky gave off the light you see just before an evening rain. I know I shouldn’t have been smoking, but it was one of those days. I changed into my pajamas when I got home and poured the wine. The glass was untouched beside me on the step as I tried to decide what to do next. I pulled my coat tighter around me and weighed up the options.

It’s funny, I’ve always wanted to have the world open up to me and present me with the gift of infinite possibilities. When I got my wish, I felt paralyzed by the fear of what I would choose. In the one hand, I had my life, selfish, immature, open and free from all restraint. You only life once, people always say. You can’t live your life always worrying about what people will say or think or do – it’s all yours, right? On the other hand, I knew that whatever I chose, it would affect others, so I had to be careful. It’s so tempting to live only for yourself, to be selfish with the 70-if-you’re-lucky years you have on this earth.

There are some nights, like that one, when I sit and wonder at how easy it is to do everything normal, to get up, go to work, come home, have dinner in front of the TV and go to bed. Yes, there are some who add a little variety by partying or going to the gym, but to me, these people are already dead. I feel like I’m being smothered by a pillow stuffed with all the things I haven’t done and right now, I’m spitting out the feathers.

I write, I learn, and try to share with the people around me so that I can be reminded that I’ve lived. If you draw a timeline on the wall, eventually, someone will have to add a little dot next to your name. I want an arrow, a gold star for living. It’s a contradiction, I know, to not care what people think, yet want someone to remember me for what I did and what, if anything I’ve manged to leave behind. God Bless human nature.

In the end, I stood from the step having decided very little, but at least one important revelation came to me, whatever comes, I will not regret.

Poem for the day


by: Charles Baudelaire

    • AN we suppress the old Remorse
      Who bends our heart beneath his stroke,
      Who feeds, as worms feed on the corse,
      Or as the acorn on the oak?
      Can we suppress the old Remorse?
      Ah, in what philtre, wine, or spell,
      May we drown this our ancient foe,
      Destructive glutton, gorging well,
      Patient as the ants, and slow?
      What wine, what philtre, or what spell?
      Tell it, enchantress, if you can,
      Tell me, with anguish overcast,
      Wounded, as a dying man,
      Beneath the swift hoofs hurrying past.
      Tell it, enchantress, if you can,
      To him the wolf already tears
      Who sees the carrion pinions wave,
      This broken warrior who despairs
      To have a cross above his grave–
      This wretch the wolf already tears.
      Can one illume a leaden sky,
      Or tear apart the shadowy veil
      Thicker than pitch, no star on high,
      Not one funereal glimmer pale
      Can one illume a leaden sky?
      Hope lit the windows of the Inn,
      But now that shining flame is dead;
      And how shall martyred pilgrims win
      Along the moonless road they tread?
      Satan has darkened all the Inn!
      Witch, do you love accursèd hearts?
      Say, do you know, the reprobate?
      Know you Remorse, whose venomed darts
      Make souls the targets of their hate?
      Witch, do you know accursèd hearts?
      The Might-have-been with tooth accursed
      Gnaws at the piteous souls of men,
      The deep foundations suffer first,
      And all the structure crumbles then
      Beneath the bitter tooth accursed.
      Often, when seated at the play,
      And sonorous music lights the stage,
      I see the frail hand of a Fay
      With magic dawn illume the rage
      Of the dark sky. Oft at the play
      A being made of gauze and fire
      Casts to the earth a Demon great.
      And my heart, whence all hopes expire,
      Is like a stage where I await,
      In vain, the Fay with wings of fire!

Many of us crucify ourselves between two thieves – regret for the past and fear of the future.

Writing Prompt: How to disappear…

I start by cleaning out the car. Once it’s spotless and every inch is free, I go to the house. I pack for the unlikely place. Soon, there is a set of duffel bags filled with thick socks and jumpers, scarves and my heavy coat. I’ve been to the local Tesco and bought them out of cat food. I leave a note for her care and preferences in toys and IAMS cat food.

My passport is missing and I panic until I remember that after my last trip I hid it in a wooden box in my office. Once retrieved, it goes into my handbag along with my wallet, heavy with cash and one credit card. Every other one is shredded and paid off. I owe nothing.

Once the car is loaded, I add a few essentials, a few mementos, a picture frame, some jewellery, a cuddly toy gifted by a friend. The last thing to go in is the one thing that will keep me going. The box is hard to lift, but I wedge my hands beneath it, careful to hold the bottom and lift with my knees. Throwing my back out now would be a bad start. Tennyson, Whitman, Patrick Hamilton, Hardy and Yeats are coming along…

With everything secure, I go to my computer. Every account is deleted. No profile that I can think of remains. My blog, so carefully cultivated over the years vanishes in a puff of ones and zeros. You can still find traces of me here and there, a hint and shadow of what I let the world know about me in my careless hours at online broadcasting.

With a precise and vicious swing, the computer is smashed, full strength against the stone fireplace. I go after it with a brick for good measure. There is nothing left of circuit board and plastic. The screen is dust. I send a message to three people via my phone before it meets a similar fate. I don’t want to worry anyone.

I wander through the house checking each room for any clues and find them. My journals, years of scribbles remain in stacks on the floor of my office. They are easy to despatch. I gather them in my arms like innocents, unaware of the fate that awaits them. In the garden, there is stone planter, just large enough. I place them tenderly inside, soak them with fuel, conveniently close by the barbeque and light a match. I spray more fuel on them to make sure there is no resurrecting them once it’s done.

Everything is ready.

I pick up my drowsy cat and kiss her head again and again until she meows to be put back down. She stretches, purrs into my hand and falls back to sleep. Her food bowel is full and instructions for her are clear. She’ll be fine.

I lock the door, but make sure the cat flap is open before getting in the car.

The key turns and without looking back I pull away from the house, and as I reach each turning, I flip a coin. I’ll keep flipping until I stumble upon a place that brings me peace.

Writing Prompt: What would you do if you wanted to run away?

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