Sunday, 24 November 2013

The Doorway to Everywhere Else


The town’s excruciating road system caused gridlocks everywhere! I never had much vim or vigour after work, but the little I did have I used on tailgating the car in front and cursing its driver. 

If I had a pound for every time someone said to me, “You’re just trying to be different,” I’d probably be twenty or so pounds better off by now. Admittedly, in the great colouring book of life I did deliberately go over the lines in some places.
Quite unprepared for it I found myself adrift in the ocean of adulthood. Stability bored me and unpredictability scared me. But one thing I was sure about was shaking the dust of Pobblestrum off my feet once and for all.
In moving to the outskirts of Bogcragston I had exchanged Ladies and Knights for ladies of the night, wychert-lined alleyways for litter-lined streets and cob cottages for derelict hovels.

Oil leaking tractors used to cover rain-drenched farmyard rubble with multi-coloured patterns. As a little girl Kyla had imagined those sparkling hues were the places where rainbows had touched the ground.
No longer a little girl Kyla was like so many young women, empathetic and perceptive. She worried about the state of the world and the shape of her nose. She was also determined that come hell or high heels she had to get out of Omnidowns at the earliest possible opportunity.
So she scrimped and she saved and finally had enough money to put a deposit down on a small flat in the suburbs of Bogcragston, the county town. She didn't move there because it was picturesque.
It wasn't.
In fact Bogcragston was one of the few places that had its appearance enhanced by the introduction of speed cameras.
The concrete roads were constantly covered with fuel spills and acid rain. Not rainbow residue anymore though, just toxic eyesores now. But despite her keenness to leave home she often felt like an exile from fairyland.
Although, oddly, she was probably the only one in town who was fine about the evening traffic. She quite enjoyed the unhurried pace. Oblivious to the car behind she found herself absorbed by some radio programme . . . your cells die, are then replaced, and the cycle of life goes on. Apparently every seven years you get a new nose. An idea that rather appealed to her.


From the outside my front door was just the same as the next. Granted, a different colour from Kyla’s next door, but much the same in every other respect. From the inside it sat at the foot of evermore, the doorway to everywhere else. Beyond it bands of gypsies could have been waiting for me to join. And how I dreamed of vardos!
I couldn’t leave though, not just yet. But there was no point in blaming the door for that any more than accusing the driver in front of following too closely.



Written and conceived by M J Race

Copyright © 2013 M J Race


All rights reserved worldwide. No part of this publication may be reproduced or distributed in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the author.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author's imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.



Sunday, 27 October 2013

The Storm Before The Calm



Dalmatians weren't that common around here so mine got all the attention. Neurotic middle-aged loonies were everywhere so I didn't. But that was fine.
There were different constellations now it was autumn, but the sun still shone brightly for many of our walks, not marred one iota by the impending rain, but rather by those who forewarned that it was coming. Leaves were dying on every branch, but seldom did death look so radiant. It wouldn't be long now before the public footpaths, the historic rights of way, would be carpeted once again, just as they had been for hundreds of years before.
In the meteorological offices experts studied their seaweed and fir cones in order to accurately forecast the weather ready for the tabloids to exaggerate. Of course farmers had their own mystical and unfailing know-how when it came to the weather. They knew, for example, that red sky in the morning meant, 'shepherd's warning.' They knew when it was dark over Will's mother's house it was going to rain. And they knew it was going to rain too when the cows laid down in the fields. In fact, to the agricultural community it was a pretty safe bet that if almost anything happened it was going to rain.
Nada was a fair-weather dog and considered it adventurous just to stand still in a field with the wind rushing past her and pretending she was running. But that didn’t stop me from dragging her out whatever the weather.
Just as the rest of the country were filling their coal scuttles and battening down the hatches I headed up to the ridgeways. There were always going to be days it would rain, but life goes on, just a little damper that’s all. There'll be worse days than these.
From the hills the valley resembled a teacup and the storm therein would soon blow over. For now at least there would be fewer people around to ignore me in favour of my dog.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Theology for Loonies



When my previous employer returned my soul and my P45, I had no idea what to do with them. A chapter had well and truly ended. But life continued, and it hung on like grim death.

I felt the urge to take my newly restored soul along to church for a bit of a clean up job. If nothing else it would be the one place where I wouldn’t be upstaged by my Dalmatian. Ironically perhaps, the one place I would have preferred to have transferred the attention.

Dad’s ministry was respected throughout the parish, nay, diocese. But being a protégé of Reverend Sourby he didn’t quite project the optimism that salvation suggests. Often misinterpreted as reverent solemnity, he was actually as miserable as sin. The type of man, for example, who when told to, “Take up thy bed and walk,” might still complain of, “a slight twinge.”

Having thought long and hard about it, I finally filled in the application form and transferred my spiritual account from the Anglicans PLC to the Baptists.

OK, so that was my soul taken care of, now what about my P45? I needed to earn some money.


Only a few weeks ago the summer dusks saw butterflies and moths swapping places like The Changing of the Guards. But the demise the wasps finally spelled out the end of the season.

While traversing pastures old, the parched fields of summer gave way to the boggy swamps of winter. From dusty great expanses to squelchy marshland seemingly overnight. A veritable Wellington wonderland. I’d been creating memories for tomorrow, even if I never revisited them. And I’d found a time to think . . .

What would I do with my dog when I began working again? How to get a job without going through those demeaning interviews? How to avoid deluded managers with no clue about management?

The general consensus assured me that’s not how life works, you’ve just got to get on with it. No one likes their job. You’re not supposed to like your job! That’s what you get paid for.

I had stepped outside the box now and wild horses couldn't drag me back in to it again! But time lost is time lost forever and I had to do something.

I’m still roaming the pasturelands with my dog today. But these days we’re joined by an increasing number of other canine companions. And these days people pay me for the privilege.

And furthermore, my dog has dealt with my P45 for me.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Crossing Swords



I thought I knew this area like the back of my hand. And by road I did. But the fields were another matter. I’ve been rediscovering the locale while circumnavigating the dog-walking circuits and strolling the lengths and breadths of the footpaths and bridleways of the area. No longer just the trans-village routes either, but now the inter-county rights of way too.
I’d been walking towards a fading sun that evening before pausing for thought on the footbridge between the maize and the Miscanthus fields. Someone else’s broken conversation was carried to me on the wind as I stood there trying not to listen:
“A cold, eh? What you need for that is eucalyptus . . .”
“Isn’t that what George Formby used to play?”
Their voices came and went until finally silence prevailed and they went their separate ways. It wasn’t long though before I heard a lone voice aimed directly at me, “Penny for your thoughts.”
“You’d want your money back,” I replied nonchalantly.
“Try me.”
“I was just gazing through the gaping holes of what might have been,” I told her, “and feeling like an interloper in my own life. In my mind I looked back at the blank canvass with which I’d started, tarnished now with an unsightly splodge rather than the resplendent work of art I would have preferred. All right, I admit I did deliberately go over the lines in the great colouring book of life, but even so . . .”
“Don’t talk such bollocks,” she said sensibly, “Mind you, you’re right about one thing, I would have wanted my money back. Come on you miserable old sod, let’s walk.”
It quickly struck me how overrated walking into the sunset was. You can’t see a thing!
Trudy and I continued to cross paths and frequently cross swords too.



Written and conceived by M J Race

Copyright © 2013 M J Race
 
All rights reserved worldwide. No part of this publication may be reproduced or distributed in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the author.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author's imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.



Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Stopping Wallowing


During my ‘wallowing-in-it’ period I wrote this (among other things):

"I keep getting out of bed and breathing in and out, somehow knowing I won't always have to remind myself to keep getting out of bed and breathe in and out. Somehow knowing, one way or another, there is a light at the end of this tunnel. And it isn't so very far away.

Days won't always be spent gazing hazily in the direction of walls, or whatever happens to be in front of me.

Every crisis is unique, and none last forever.

Life-changing evolutions into the unknown don't happen everyday, and are not necessarily bad things. I am looking forward to the silver lining now. When I get to the end of this tunnel I'll turn the corner and see where that leads me, and into what I'll metamorphose."

Three years on in the refuge of my parents’ home and all I have to show for forty-eight years on the planet are seven boxes. While they still remain firmly closed to this day, my own chrysalis is beginning to open.

I now have more to show for life than things. And what I have now won’t go into boxes. 


Saturday, 14 September 2013

Dog Ends, Dog Poohs and Dog Collars



A series of events that seemed unfortunate at the time made me decide to withdraw my services from my then employer, sell up and return home. Initially I enjoyed a period of what can only be described as "wallowing in it."
In the interim years dad had scaled the dizzy heights of St Ivy's church; from a simple parishioner to a sidesman, from a church warden to a minister. Being aged and retired though, he was only a 'second fiddle minister,' but my reverend father could bury and marry folk just like the best of them.
Dad was 'enthusiastically' mentored by Rev "Black Cloud" Sourby, who may not have been as joyless as he first appeared, but he certainly knew how to disguise his evangelical zeal and Christian good cheer. This was the very man who'd coined the phrase, "Grimace, God loves you."
St Ivy's was one of those ancient churches. Not the sort of place where one goes to be healed; there was no wheelchair access for one thing. Although, with some careful manoeuvring it might just be achievable. However, with a few modifications and a bit of careful thought it could be made totally impossible.
No, it was more the sort of church where you went in healthy and came out worse for wear. Just one of the sermons delivered in those morbid tones would have been more than enough to give migraines to the untrained.
But Rev Sourby could lend something to a funeral service that few others could.

Anyway, as I was saying, I had moved back in with my parents, for my sins (or theirs), but quickly learned how privileged I was. If for no other reason than hearing about all the latest local deaths before they became public knowledge. And some before they’d actually happened.
I made one or two tentative attempts to re-integrate myself back into a life that once was by attending village fêtes and so on. Some people looked exactly as they had years before, almost as if they had rotting paintings of themselves in their attics. While others were totally unrecognizable, but I didn't know who they were.
Likewise, I was just another stranger in their midst. A lifetime ago the locals knew me because I was an appendage to a pillar of the community, albeit a spotty and obnoxious one (me, not the pillar). Now no longer youthful, I was an alien on my own stamping ground. For me, around every corner there were constant reminders of bygone days. For the villagers, around every corner there was some greyish, balding bloke with a fag in his mouth who they'd never seen before and didn't care if they ever saw again.
That was all about to change: after another series of events which seem unnecessary to describe, I bought myself a Dalmatian (a spotty dog rather than a Croatian person). I became an indoor type with an outdoor life. A life which consisted primarily of dog ends, dog collars and now dog poohs.



Written and conceived by M J Race

Copyright © 2013 M J Race


All rights reserved worldwide. No part of this publication may be reproduced or distributed in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the author.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author's imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.