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Evidence that I don't always finish what I start
I've just come across this piece I entered for an 'Opening to a Novel' competition a few years ago. I wrote it, entered it, heard nothing, and years later I find it in my files. I'm most intrigued to know what I intended to write next, should they have written back and said they liked it.
We lay calm in our beds that
night. Even the baby, for once, slept soundly; even the dog, out in its kennel.
And perhaps that was the odd thing, after all: how trustingly we
slumbered. As if fate had gifted us a few last wholly innocent hours, before
innocence fell away for ever. For when I woke, in the early morning – what was
it? A difference in the quality of the light? Some new texture to the silence?
But I opened my eyes, and I knew it. Something had changed.
Even Mother seemed subdued
at breakfast and her eyes were dark and heavy.
I would say, heavy with an omen, but at that time, she didn’t have the
knowledge. None of us did, except for
Marielle, whose tongue was in mutiny, and who just made tunes at the back of
her throat while feeding her baby, and spoke no to us with her eyes when we
tried to guilt the truth out of her with rebukes.
Not having the knowledge was
an ache, because since Marielle and I slid out of Mother’s womb six minutes
apart, we had never withheld private, secret things. We had even shared breaths
in the night, lying face to face so close, and exchanged darknesses that were not for the
ears of Mother and which would have sent Father scrambling for his wide brown
Now, my twin had a secret
bigger than the whole earth, and it sat between the two of us, a solid thing
behind which she played Peek-a-Boo, only not with joy.
‘When is Father returning?’
I asked, while spooning brown sugar into my breakfast drinking chocolate.
‘Soon, I am sure,’ Mother
said, but her words fell like stones, as though each one were dead before it
left her mouth. I even put an extra
spoon of sugar into my china cup, and she didn’t see, or if she did, she let it
‘Will it be a long voyage?’
I said. Father worked on ships as a
circus performer, teetering on high wires until crowds went ‘Oooh!’ I had only watched him once when we were
twelve and he performed in a local show put on by the Lord Mayor, and that was
only because Marielle and I had tiptoed out into the dark evening when Mother
thought us asleep in the big bed with the dip in the middle where our bodies
lay like two halves of a whole. We had
pulled cloaks on over our nightgowns and slid our naked feet into boots which
we didn’t stop to lace, and had edged into the back of the hall just as Father
was placing one long, slim foot in front of the other long, slim foot as though
in a ballet.
‘Is that Father?’ Marielle had whispered. ‘So – so gentle.’
I stirred the sugar into my
chocolate, clink-clinking the spoon against the cup, and baby Georgia tugged
away from Marielle’s breast to cry. Milk
sprayed from my sister’s nipple and she covered her breast with the thin cotton
of her dress as though with shame.
‘It’s a natural thing,
Marielle,’ said Mother. ‘Here, give me
the baby. I’ll rock her.’
But Marielle would not and
had not, since the baby’s birth six weeks before, given Mother the baby. ‘I am grieving for that little one,’ Mother
had said to me when Marielle was in the garden, pegging white muslins and
flannel squares on a line so that the breeze and they could play. ‘I am grieving, and she is only just born,
Mother did not know that I
had seen how she would watch
for when Marielle had turned her back, and then, walking close to the baby’s
cradle, rest the back of her hand against Georgia’s hot, sleepful cheek, or
twist a lock of baby-fine hair between two fingers. I wouldn’t have known she was doing it, but
her breaths would come faster, like they did when she ran away from Father or
chased a chicken around the yard to break its neck.
A crossword book travels with me everywhere now. It's a hobby that's developed into an addiction over the past couple of years. If I'm stuck at a bus stop, waiting - a daily occurrence, and sometimes twice or thrice-daily - I'll whip my crossword book out, turn to a new puzzle, and while the time away filling in the clues.
I've nearly missed my bus many times. Buses sneak up on people with their heads buried in books, then hurtle past to punish you for not staying alert. There are some bus drivers around here who probably keep a joyful tally of the number of people they've outwitted this way.
Never mind missing buses, though. My bigger problem, currently, is that the book I'm carrying around is filled with general knowledge crosswords. My husband bought me this for Christmas, forgetting that I do not possess General Knowledge.
I possess only Generally Forgotten Knowledge and it's so far down, at the very ends of my brain neurons, or wherever knowledge r…
Is it just me? Is anyone else affected by the colours of food?
I've just made an omelette for my lunch. On my days off (Mondays and Wednesdays) lunch is usually an omelette. I'm trying to avoid bread. We have fallen out, bread and I. I can eat most anything else and not put on weight. I have one thin slice of bread: suddenly I'm the size of a Juggernaut and can't get through normal doors.
Two or three slices of bread, and people pass me saying, 'Look at that hot air balloon, out walking.'
I reached into the cupboard for eggs for my omelette, pulling out a box of eggs that looked different from those we usually buy. My husband bought them - they're called 'Burford Browns' and there's a message - I call it a warning - on the box: 'With deep brown coloured shells'.
Fine. Deep brown coloured shells I can cope with. Who cares about the shells? They go in the recycling, to shell heaven.
But when you crack these eggs for an omelette, inside the…
We are on holiday in Tenby, Wales. Paul and I come here most years, renting the same house each time because it has an original version of Monopoly with the metal tokens such as the top hat, boot and iron. We also like the pretty duvet covers on the beds. And there's a sea view, which is also nice.
It's a bit quiet this year - usually we bring some of our offspring with us. We are missing them. In part, this is because our she-was-on-Masterchef-once older daughter always does the cooking. We've been sitting around waiting for dinner to arrive before remembering she's not here and leaping to our feet to run to Tesco.
I'd like to share some of my holiday pictures with you. Fear not. My holiday snaps tend not to feature panoramic views or cathedrals.
This is post-op and relieved Rat, although his look says 'If you'd known the difference between a wall ornament and a light fitting, none of this would have been necessary ...'