Saturday

testing

Slip on shoes might have been a mistake for tonight, on reflection, but they are new and they were comfortable for the walk down. She’d been looking for a new pair for ages now and none of them had been quite right. Had a picture in her head of what the right shoes would look like and had dismissed many pairs before finding these. Funny, she thought, that these looked absolutely nothing like the picture in her head. She’d been fairly certain she’d wanted dark green moccasins so how she ended up with tweed kitten heels she wasn’t entirely sure, but still, they were pretty good shoes. She checks out her dangling feet and takes great delight from the green velvet bow situated at the toe, very frivolous; at least she got the green in there somewhere. The main body of the shoe is made up mostly of various shadings of brown, but there is a dark green running through the tweed as well so the right colour on two scores. The toe is a little more pointed than she would have liked but sometimes one has to make these little concessions.

Bloody hell, stupid girl. She catches herself leaning forward to get a better view of the shoes. This; is not a good idea. It would do no good to go flying off the bridge for the sole purpose of self-admiration, which is not what one does in these situations. What would it say on her headstone if she did that? She died in the pursuit of a better view? Not of course that anyone would know that was what she was doing; she supposes people would think she as just another suicide. She shuffles back a little and firmly decides to stop checking out her new shoes.

In theory this is usually a time of self-reflection but she’s not really up to that just yet. It strikes her as very self absorbed to sit and think about herself, very woe woe alas alack, and it’s boring. She’s not going to plunge into a dark and probably very cold death out of boredom. She pulls her jacket round a little closer because it is awfully cold. The old stone bridge isn’t very warm to sit on either; it’s not terribly comfortable for that matter. But then, it’s not supposed to, people in her position probably jump out of discomfort as much as anything. It’s a familiar bridge to her; she used to walk across it every day as a child to go to school, with one white sock round her no doubt scabby knee and the other invariably round her ankles. It used to drive her mother loopy and she was always trying to yank it up but the universal law of long white socks dictates that one will stay up and the other will hover at ankle height. She walked across it every day to go to college in her teens, she had a brief respite when she went to university and now she walked across it every day to go to work. It’s always been her favourite at night though, she likes the slightly art deco lanterns and the way the stone pillars are softly backlit making them look like they flat. On clear nights she could stand at the epicentre of the bridge for hours looking at the swans as they group and disperse on the river. They look so ghostly at night.

Miss, miss, please don’t do it miss

She almost loses her balance at the shock of someone talking to her, its 4am what person in their right mind is out walking on the bridge? As she turns to face her would be saviour one of her new shoes slips off and drops the long drop to the river.

Shit
Look madam, you may be trying to kill yourself but there’s no excuse for bad language

An elderly couple stand on the pavement looking up at her. He looks like your generic granddad in his green wax jacket and flat cap. Rosy sort of round face with tufts of white hair sticking out the edges of his cap. Navy gloves and a matching scarf she decide she likes the man; he was the one who spoke first. The woman, however, she makes her feel sorry for the man. She imagines the poor old sod is pretty hen-pecked by this ferocious looking woman. Padded jacket and badly dyed hair, she’s assuming she was going for red but it’s come out sort of pink looking. Taut unfriendly face made worse by ghastly thin pencilled in eyebrows and blue eye shadow. What the hell are they doing out at this time of night?

I lost my shoe, they’re new

The old woman scoffs and the man looks very sad

You aren’t going to jump are you?

He asks with obvious concern, his partner looks like she couldn’t care less.

I’m not going to jump, honestly, its OK don’t worry

The woman pulls at his arm; she’s obviously quite bored and wants to carry on with whatever they were doing. He doesn’t want to leave it seems, but is soon overwhelmed. They depart, but not before he suggests she should just go home and have a nice cup of tea.

She waits until she can’t here the clopping of the woman’s heels anymore before looking along the bridge again. They’ve gone. She shivers a little and pulls her jacket in again, wishing she’d bought her gloves out. Her concentration is totally lost so she decides to heed the mans advice and head home for a nice cup of tea. Thankfully it’s not far. She heaves herself down, relatively gracefully, from her precarious spot and starts the short walk home, with one shoe on and one foot off she’s limping in a manner which would be comical if it were someone else. She pulls off the other shoe and winces as the residual water on the pavement soaks into the foot of her tights. It’s the earliest she’s ever left the bridge before. Ah well, she thinks, maybe next year.



Friday

wet weekend

Good morning
Morning
Is it still raining?
Of course it’s still raining; it’s been raining since the minute we got the tent up.
I thought it might have stopped for a while in the night there, I heard you go out.
I needed the bathroom.
It was still raining?
Yes, it was still raining.
I thought it had stopped for a while
No, still raining.
Do you want to play cards?
I want a coffee, I want a cigarette and I want some dry clothes, I do not want to play cards.
I’m sorry.
No, I’m just being tetchy it’s OK, but honestly, no more cards please
I am sorry though, this holiday has been nothing but disastrous
It’s a camping holiday, what did you expect? It’s scientific fact as soon as you erect a tent anywhere in the UK it starts to rain
I thought it would be vaguely, you know, atmospheric
Darling, Wales is always atmospheric but only in the hammer horror sense of atmospheric
Do you want to go home?
No, no it’ll be fine, it might stop raining soon
You think?
No
You’re in a mood with me aren’t you?
No, not really. I do need a coffee though, how far is the nearest town, or actual cluster of buildings?
Six miles
We could drive and get some food and coffee? How much money do we have?
About sixty pounds
Well, we’ve hardly spent any money these last five days so
Four days
Wow, has it only been four?
Yes
Really? Only four? Feels like..
Yes only four, I get your point you know
Oh, I was going to suggest we maybe looked for a hostel or B&B or something
I knew you were hating this, we’re camping because we can’t afford a hostel or B&B, we’re not due back for another four days but if you hate it...
I don’t hate it, but it is damp and irritating, I’m sure it wouldn’t be so bad if the weather wasn’t so awful
I can’t help the weather
I’m not blaming you!
The BBC said it would be better than this, the weather I mean
Bloody BBC
Anyway, we can’t take the tent down in the rain it’ll never dry out
I feel like I’ll never dry out!
Now you’re just being dramatic
I am not, all my clothes are wet, we’re living on paste sandwiches and kendal mint cake because it’s too damp to light a fire, my sleeping bag feels horrible…
I have a pair of dry socks in the car if you want them?
That would be amazing, really? You would give them to me?
Of course
Your dry socks, I think it’s possibly the most wonderful gift I will have ever received
Are you being sarcastic?
No, I really mean it
In which case, you’re welcome
Shall we go get some lunch as well? We can drive down, spend the afternoon in the warm and bring back some cold foods and beers maybe?
You don’t mind staying then?
No no, the rain might ease off any day now
I am sorry this holiday has been such a disappointment
I’m happy enough here with you, I just wish I was a bit drier, and cleaner, and fuller
There’s a launderette in the village, we could wash and dry some things; that would help wouldn’t it?
That would be awesome
We’ll take the flask too, get some coffee
I think I love you
I was worried, what with the bad holiday, thought maybe you’d gone off me
Never, is it still raining?
I think it’s easing off
Lovely


Thursday

message in a bottle

When I was fifteen years old I wrote a message and placed it in a bottle. I threw that bottle out to sea. I was an idealistic and overly romantic young thing and it took me many days and dozens of drafts to get it just right. Years later I realize that it was so far from just right, in fact on reflection it was a bit silly, but that is youth for you. I think I imagined myself to be somewhat of a desolate heroine, rather than what I actually was which a totally over indulged child. We had been on the liner for a week and a half before the idea of the bottle came to me. Instead of summering at the family house, as we had for every year in my living memory, mother and father decided we should see the world. I felt far away from all life on this large and stylish boat, I longed to walk through long grass and muse under the shade of trees. It was when I was writing to a school friend I had the idea of the bottle. I knew it wasn’t an utterly original idea but being stubborn once I had the idea I simply had to follow through with it.

It took me another four days to successfully steal a bottle and a cork. I swiped it from the kitchens late one evening after sneaking out from my cabin. Oh but it was a thrill, I had never attempted a burglary before in my life and I felt oddly underdressed for the occasion in my plain white cotton smock. In my head somewhere I was certain master burglars should wear black. The kitchens were not empty, obviously the chef had gotten very drunk while playing cards with the kitchen staff after hours, as he was passed out in a pile of cards and cigar butts. His snoring was deep and damp sounding and my heart never failed to jump every time his sleepy rhythmic tune did start. After looking in boxes and cupboards for some time I had dismissed three bottles on account of being green glass before getting a fright from a shifting chef in the corner. I was insistent the bottle should be colourless; this was how I had imagined it to be. After what felt like a breathless hour, but was more likely no more than thirty seconds, the chef resumed his snoring and I resumed my hunt. A perfect bottle lay behind some small sacks of flour and I wrapped it in my shawl and ran out of there and back to my cabin as fast as my little legs could take me.

I stored my perfect bottle under my bed wrapped in my favourite lace shawl for a further seven days while I tried to write the perfect message. Not only did the words have to be the right words, they had to look right. I was determined that the paper be thick and cream and the writing be black and poetic looking. I wasn’t entirely sure what poetic looked like but I suspected it had to be very swirly.

The paper turned out to be a problem, mother and father didn’t have any suitable letter paper and the only paper I had with me was lilac and I considered this to be too overtly feminine. I wanted bleak romanticism, not girly romanticism. At dinner one evening my mother received a note from the captain. I couldn’t tell you what the letter said because I only saw the back of the page, and I wasn’t overly interested, what interested me was the paper. Thick and cream and exactly what I was looking for. I begged my mother to ask the captain for several sheets of this beautiful vehicle to my vision. She relented and I was presented the next day with six sheets. To my massive dismay however, the paper had a header and a footer to it, the footer stating the name of our captain, the header of our boat. I remember I near cried myself to sleep that night with dismay. In the morning I tore a piece if this cursed paper in half and threw it to the floor before leaving for breakfast. After breakfast I returned to my cabin to fetch my parasol, it was an un feasibly hot and my skin required some shade, when I noticed the cleaner had moved my torn sheets to the bed. I studied the edges of the torn line and found it pleasing the way the threads and fibres teased out along the torn sides. With shaky hands I took another sheet and tore a thin sliver from the sides of each sheet and tore the header and the footer away and was left. Left with a perfectly disheveled cream piece of paper. The remaining four sheets receive the same treatment while I plan the words for my message.

I had at first thought I would leave the family name and house on the letter so that whoever found the bottle could contact me after, I’m sure at some point in my childish daydreams I imagined this would be the way I would meet my future husband, but I dismissed this idea as a cheapening of the romantic vision. It would be purer to send it out unknown. Actuality can be painfully disappointing sometimes. I practiced my message many times over on my plain lilac note paper before risking it on my few precious sheets of cream. I altered my hand writing to be exquisitely swirly with much emphasis on the tall and the long letters. Initially it was far swirlier but I believed it made it fairly unreadable so toned it down somewhat. I wasted two sheets of cream because of smudges and blotches before my message was written. I took no risks and let it dry for one night and one day before I rolled it up to go into the bottle. I tied it with a thin black ribbon and applied the cork.

It was night when I threw it out to sea, the moon was full which I felt to be important, and the night sky was full of stars. The deck was empty and as I threw my precious much laboured bottle out to sea I wished it well upon a star.

Many years later I am on another holiday, no longer fifteen or quite so idealistic, but I like to think a trace of romance still lives in me somewhere. I leave for home in three days and my husband decided today he would like to go visit the local mariners museum. I was less than enthusiastic, my desires to walk through long grass and lounge beneath trees had never faded, a stuffy museum isn’t my idea of fun but, we make these little sacrifices for those we love so I accompanied him with nary a grumble. For some time I was content to watch him as he intently read the descriptive labels that accompanied every object placed in this quaint little building, occasionally he would turn to point one out to me and his innocent interest in these things warmed my heart. Near the end of our tour he turned with a smile to me to point out an object placed on a green velveteen cushion in a dusty glass case. My eyes widened as I saw what lay there, with the cork still in and the black ribbon wrapped around the note inside.

“It’s never been opened, not in forty years the label says” says my husband “I wonder what the note says?”

With a smile I take his hand as we leave to go to lunch. I know his mind is still on the note so I tell him it’s far more romantic if we never know. He squeezes my hand in agreement and happily, together, we go about our day.


Tuesday

means and ends

She’s the cat that got the cream, she’s the early bird who has her worm, she’s the goose that laid the golden egg. She’s won and her face will tell you so on this bright winters day as she slowly moves her way through the city, making sure everyone she wants to see will see her with her prize.

They told her it would never happen, everyone had. Her parents, his parents, her friends, his friends, although his friends hadn’t so much told her as laughed her down with cruel words and the occasional lobbed beer can. Even he himself had told her never, but she was determined, she was certain, she would have her day. Her day had come so it was only right she should smile, a smile that dazzled all that saw it, a smile that radiated warmth and joy and happiness and peace and love. Such a glorious smile almost makes this unfortunate girl look beautiful. Such a glorious smile lights her face in a way the most expensive of make ups had never achieved. Such a glorious smile on the face of almost any other human being would have spread like a fit of the giggles. This smile had warmth and it had glow, but it was not for sharing, oh no. The edges of this smile came with a smugness that is never attractive, there was a meanness under the smile, a snide I told you so to all that had doubted, it was the smile of a comfortable winner and the longer you looked like a magic eye picture before your very wide eyes that smile became a sneer, the eyes were shooting daggers to the doubters, to everyone, all but her and her man. He isn’t that noticeable at first, the smile gets you initially and it’s only when you see it for what it is and avert your eyes from hers you see him. He looks so small, he takes some recognizing, and when you do finally place where you know him the bile rises in your throat and gravity abandons your poor swimming head and lying down or throwing up is what you need to do. What you want to do is wipe this image from your head but you know it’ll be burned there now until the end of your days

She is completely unaware at the horror she is inducing, convinced in fact that it is jealousy and shock that is contorting the faces of her much loathed onlookers. She expected this, it’s why she’s out, and everyone needs to see that she won. Her own mother thought she was dead, silly old fool, she’s got everything to live for why would she be dead? Her own mother was another doubter though, she knew this, and mothers’ platitudes had always galled her. Plenty more fish in the sea dear, mother had said and mother never replied when she’d told mother that she knew which fish she wanted. She knew she wasn’t blessed with good looks or witty repartee or a quick mind but she’d also known as sure as day is day that he was her one. There could be no other for her. Her friends had tried to tell her it would never happen and ease her gently into her status as rejected but she never really thought of them as friends, they were people she had taken up with to show him how popular she could be. One of her so called friends had tried to kiss him once at a party she had manoeuvred her way into. She didn’t like that, but she bided her time. She never thought much of his so called friends, always keeping him away from her, laughing and making jokes at her expense. Poor boy probably hadn’t realised what bad people he had taken up with. How could he have known the true depth of her feeling if they had always kept her from him?

Her mothers fears weren’t far off she reflected, but fate intervened and made everything ok. After years and years of waiting and longing, after one drunken night when her so called friend made a move on a man she had marked as hers, when she thought she may be losing him for good and forever she made the decision that if she couldn’t, well it was only fair that no one could. When she found out through her mother who had spoken to the woman at the post office who was friends with the woman from the doctors whose daughter was best friends with his sister that he was going to be going away with his family for Christmas, well she knew this was her chance. None of his friends would be there to stop her. Scotland they were going and to Scotland she followed. She waited outside their rented cabin; she had some food and a blanket. She watched them all on Christmas day opening their presents and eating their dinner, she heard the laughter and the music and the only time she felt anything was when she caught a glimpse of him, that familiar leap of the heart. She knew she was doing the right thing.

In the evening she knocked on the door and to the amazed faces of all that were gathered told them how much she loved him, she poured her heart out but at the back of her mind she knew this wasn’t right. She should be alone with him. Soon the protests started and the shouting, it was the family she decided, all the family. He told her it would never happen, they told her it would never happen. The family she decided were cruel and he had to say it because they were there. They told her he was going to get engaged to some other girl. Some city floozy. Someone else. They threw her out and she decided right then that if she couldn’t, well, no one could. She waited outside the cabin that night until all were asleep and she went to look at the car, she fiddled with its insides, stabbed bits and twisted bits and tore at bits. She sat up all night watching the house, waiting for them to leave. In the morning they all piled into the car, the stupid fools, they all got in and made their way down the steep drive to the town, she watched them go. She stood atop the hill and watched as the car began to wobble across the road, its rapid acceleration down the drive, as it careered off the side of the winding lane it was supposed to turn into. If she couldn’t, well…

There was still some screaming by the time she got there, his sister. She soon stopped. When she was sure they had all gone she called an ambulance and the police. They took their sweet time mind. She had worn a ring on her wedding finger for years now, a protection mechanism she thought against the intentions of others, she told them she was his fiancé. They were staying at the cabin and the other were going for supplies, she wept a lot, of course she did, her love had just died. She didn’t care if her story stood up long because she didn’t plan on living much longer. That’s when the ambulance men delivered the news that he, her love, her one, wasn’t dead. He was injured badly though, they got the air ambulance out to him. She sat by him in the hospital. She organised his recovery and found him a home with her savings. She nursed him every day for nearly a year. The others were cremated, she didn’t care about that though, there was no other family to care. She tended to him until he was well enough so she could take him home and show the others that in the end she’d won.

She sees the woman from the doctors’ daughter looking over her and makes her smile as broad as it can be as she bends over the wheelchair to wipe the long sliver of drool from the open mouth of her beloved.
She’d won.

Wednesday

wings

But Dad
No buts
But…
I said no buts!
I’m cold.
I told you to put your scarf on, son
It’s itchy though

The large man looks down at his son and shrugs before going back to work on the wings. George considers this to be a great injustice, but at seven years old George considers most things to be a great injustice. He considers the haircut his father made him take last week to be an injustice, he looks like a pudding bowl. In George’s opinion the clothes his father dresses him in are a great injustice, the other kids wear blue jeans not brown cord trousers and none of the other kids have to wear a duffel coat. He expressed this opinion to his father once and the large man told him he didn’t want to be just like the other kids and he would thank him one day for the head start into individuality. George didn’t understand what his father meant but he did understand he wanted jeans. And trainers, he would rather have trainers than these stupid shoes. He scuffs his shoes in the gravel a bit to show his distaste for them but a sharp look from his father soon causes him to cease. Georges scarf is an injustice he got away with not suffering this morning because his father was tired. A bright blue woollen thing knitted with scratchy wool. George hates his scarf and avoids wearing it whenever he can. George doesn’t understand why his scarf makes his father so sad.

The second biggest injustice in George’s opinion is the way his father makes him spend every weekend and holiday with him working on the wings. George hates the wings, he didn’t always hate the wings, once upon a time he loved them. Back when the wings were a new project it was exciting, but the novelty has long worn off. The fun went and the seven year olds enthusiasm soon waned. Every weekend and holiday for months and months now George has been dragged down to the shed to help with the wings. The shed is a large breezy construction at the end of the long garden, a garden which once was quite pretty George remembers. There were sweet-peas of purple and yellow. He used to help harvest the little seeds from the pods to plant the following years and put the flowers themselves into little glasses of water about the house. They smelled nice and made the house look nice. George was sad that there were no sweet-peas this year but his father had been too busy with the wings. Another favourite of Georges was the dahlias that grew around the shed, bright red pompom flowers which would tickle his nose when he tried to smell them. He used to crawl underneath the bushy flowers when he played hide and seek. He remembered every winter the bulbs (which in George’s opinion looked like dirty potatoes) had to be dug up and bought inside or the cold would kill them. The bulbs got left out this winter so there were no dahlias to hide under this year. Not that there was any hide and seek. His father was too busy for sweet-peas and dahlias and hide and seek, the only thing his father had time for, it seemed to George, was those cursed wings.

George, George pay attention will you, go fetch me that bag from the kitchen, with the new glue in, there’s a good boy.

George scowls, turns on his heels and marches out of the barn like door to the shed. He considers going to hide in his room for the rest of the afternoon but as much as he hates his weekend confinement in the shed he hates seeing his father upset, more. He looks sadly around the garden at the overgrown lawn and the little ivy covered patches that were once flower beds and spots his blue and white football in one of the patches. Excited for a moment, he climbs in to retrieve it but as soon as he does his excitement is deflated, along with his ball. He tosses it to one side and runs to the back door to fetch the glue for his father. The kitchen is as cold as it is outside and dirty dishes pile the work surfaces, George doesn’t like to look at these too long as he can imagine little bugs on them like he learned about at school. George hates bugs and especially the little ones. Every now and then his father will spend an entire day cleaning the dishes and all the other dusty things in the house, but as soon as they run out of dishes again they go back to paper plates and plastic throw-away cups until his fathers next manic day. One day at school George learned about recycling and the environment and he told his father that they shouldn’t use all these things that get thrown away. His father told him to feel free to wash the dishes himself but George doesn’t want to touch them because of the little bugs that he can’t see so the dishes stay where they are.

He sees the blue plastic bag from the hardware shop hanging on the back of the chair so grabs it and heads back to his father. The large man is sat in one of the fishing chairs with his head in his hands, his brown and grey hair sticking up at odd angles. His father is sad and George doesn’t like to see him sad so he reaches out and touches one of his fathers’ big hands. The large man looks up and grins wearily at George, He scruffs his sons’ hair and takes the bag, heaving himself up with a sigh.

I’ve got a big important job for you son, think you’re up to it?
Yes dad
Good lad, I’m going to glue these two crossbars here and I need you to hold them steady for me ok?
Yes dad

George takes hold of the bars while his father bends over to do the gluing with a very serious look of concentration on his face. George thinks his father has aged a million years recently. George used to think the lines on his fathers face were beautiful because they were smiley lines, back when his father would hug him or pick him up he liked to trace the smiley lines with his fingers. George used to hope one day he would have a lot of smiley lines just like his dad. Now he thought his smiley lines just made him look old and tired, the smiley lines lose their magic, thinks George, when the smiles no longer reach the eyes. Once his father has glued the two pieces together he glances at the old watch on his wrist;

Look at the time, you hungry son?
A little

Which is technically a lie and lies are bad, George knows this, but he think his father would be sad to know how hungry George is and has been for a couple of hours now. Making his father sad is worse than lying, thinks George.

Come on then, we’ll go get a sandwich eh?

They walk single file to the kitchen, Georges’ small frame behind his fathers’ large one. George thinks his father looks smaller now too, more hunched over, like he’s folded up on himself. He used to think his father was the biggest man ever and would protect him from anything and now he feels he needs to protect his father. Paper plates come out of a packet and bread and cheese from the larder. His father cuts thick slices of cheese for the sandwich which George hates, he’d rather have it grated up, and the bread is left unbuttered. George is pretty sure he likes his sandwiches with butter and pickle but he would never tell his father because his father has been making them like this for so long now he would be upset. George takes his sandwich with a thank you and bites into the slab of cheese and bread and tries his hardest not to pull a face. He watches his father distractedly taking bites from his sandwich, crumbs spilling everywhere. George wonders where his fathers thoughts are when his eyes look distant like that.

George concentrates on his sandwich, the quicker he gets it eaten the better he thinks. When he finishes he notices his father looking at him with tears in his eyes. Panic wells up in Georges chest and he tries to figure out if he has done something to make his father upset or if this is one of the sometimes sadness that happens. The distress must show in Georges face because his father comes over to pick him up and hug him, something his father hasn’t done for a long time now.

Shh son, shh, it’s ok, the wings are finished now and tomorrow we’ll take them down to the pier ok, we’ll fly like bird men ok, don’t cry son, don’t cry

George chokes back a sob and hates himself for crying. He looks over his fathers shoulder and sees the pictures on the wall of all the wings from the years before, he sees bicycle-kite which was his favourite; and yellow wings. He named those last two sets of wings but doesn’t think these new wings will get a name. He knows that these wings are special this year because they aren’t flying on the bird man day like all the other years. They didn’t even start making them until bird man day this year, before bird man day his father just did a lot of crying but that’s ok, George did a lot of crying too.

George stops looking at the pictures and weeps softly into his fathers’ broad warm shoulder. In George’s opinion by far the biggest injustice is that his mother isn’t here this year to fly like a bird man too.

Tuesday

as festive as I get

All is dark and still, warm and comfortable you lie, but confused, so very confused. One heavy arm flops to the side of you and scrabbles around looking for, looking for… got it, press a button on the mobile phone and wait for the screen locked sign to disappear. It’s a horrible blue light you reflect, then, state you’re in any light would be pretty horrible right now. 2.45am, what a time to wake up. Pretend it never happened maybe, close your eyes and fall asleep. All is dark and still, warm and comfortable you lie but awake now, so very bloody awake. Perhaps if you think about what you were dreaming of, if it was a good dream try to climb back inside, if not then use your imagination damnit it’s what you’ve got one for. Dream, there was the sea, and a boat or was it a raft, could have been an island and… oh it’s no good it’s all too hazy.

It feels like an age lying there in the dark, not even feeling a little bit sleepy. Blank your mind, blank your mind, does anyone really ever blank their minds? Doubtful, you decide, very doubtful. It’s Saturday tomorrow as well, Saturday today even. Prime lie in time. It’s no good. The heavy arm reaches out again into the cold dark air and flicks on a lamp. Ouch, should’ve shut your eyes maybe, oh well, too late now. Under the pillow is the battered paperback picked up from a charity shop last weekend for fifty pence, might as well read some of that as do anything. They say that reading can help you get to sleep. They are slightly lacking when it comes to tips of focusing on the small print when you’ve woken up confused at 2.45am in the morning mind. The paperback goes back under the pillow. Thirsty now, great, you don’t want to get out of bed, bed is warm and out of bed is not warm. Movement means you have to actually admit to being awake as well. It’s times like this you wish you were one of those well prepared smug so and so’s who keep plastic bottle mineral water next to the bed, evian probably, that’s naïve backwards you fools. Although it is not likely those types ever get a break in their perfect eight hours sleep anyway.

Feeling a lot better for mentally bashing a whole population subgroup it’s time to reach for the cheap blue dressing gown that is, right where you left it, on the floor next to the bed. Freshly laundered it smells like home which never fails to tug at your heart and give that not so unpleasant ache. It’s nice to have people to miss. It’s nice to know you’ll see them soon too. Wrapped up and forward planning you reach around in the bag of clean washing yet to be put away to look for a good thick pair of socks, the flooring to the kitchen is bloody cold. After discarding three pairs because of holey toes a compromise is made with one intact blue sock and one intact black sock. Quietly slip out of the door and pad down the hall as not to wake anyone, keeping the lights out which isn’t too scary as a streetlight outside the building gives a little illumination.

The kitchen is communal and is supposed to double up as a living room so is fairly large, yet vastly ugly. Whoever designed this thing should be shot, although judging by the interior chances are whoever designed this thing is probably long dead anyway. It may be that it is supposed to be a recreational area but you’ve never seen anyone in here for other than the purposes of cooking. To be quite honest, you never see anyone in here, it is an antisocial building. Maybe it’s the kitchens fault. Like a squat rectangle painted a charming anaemic institute green, to the rear where the “leatherette” (plastic) armchairs line up the window is large, spanning the width and near enough the height of the wall. This has to be a health and safety issue up this high but who dares complain when the rent is a pittance? The centre of the room is occupied by functional steel and chipboard tables with plastic chairs. Two by six, reminds you of a classroom almost, never used these tables, never intend to. The kitchen would put you off your food. The other end a greasy oven and microwave nestled in a grey work surface, surrounded by grey cupboards, fitted with grey padlocks. Plastic white kettle, with grease, and plastic white toaster, oddly grease free. sit on the work top looking forlorn. Coffee, you’re awake, you might as well. From the pathetically inadequate little cupboard the cafetière and coffee is salvaged. The kettle has water in it already but instinct always tells you to replace it. Instinct or paranoia, one of the two anyway. The kettle boils, the cafetière is filled and you pad back to the sanctuary of your room and the warmth of your duvet. Wash out a mug, pour a coffee, get into bed. Sip, reach, press button on phone, 3.15am.

Sigh. The next time you check your phone it’s 3.45 am and all your coffee is gone, surely that can’t be healthy. Time to make a plan, the bakery opens at 7am and there is a 24 hour convenience shop near by. In the morning, well, later in the morning you will fetch fresh warm bread rolls from the bakery and bacon and a paper from the convenience shop. You will make more coffee and spend the morning in bed reading the paper, listening to low level radio babble and indulge in some fine bacon rolls. If no one has thieved it (and you wouldn’t put it past them) there should be some butter in the fridge. That’s a plan. Press, light, phone lock, 3.55 am. What on earth to do until then The coffee might have been a bad idea as the fidgets have set in, none of the films you own look appealing and you don’t want to lie down again to read the book. Pulling aside the thin curtains bought from ikea which your mother disapproves of because they’re not lined (they look good) and rolling up the cheap bamboo blind you thought might compensate for that (it doesn’t) you see the road is very quiet. Cars parked up tight along the roadside with frost on the windows, the one streetlight on this side that works illuminating the graffiti on the bus shelter (Dave L/S Vicky 4EVA) whilst a badly flickering one lights up, well not a lot really. More flats, more cars, the off-licence with its shutters down.

Whilst you pull on your clothes you wonder if this is such a good idea, you promised people you wouldn’t do this. But it’s so quiet, and it has gone 4am, all the clubbers will be home. Besides, it’s December and it is bloody cold, no one in their right mind will be out on a night like this. No one in their right mind, yes, you consider there may be a message here but it’s too late now. The gloves are on, and fine gloves they are too. Two years ago from a market these gloves and still going strong, asides that hole between the thumb and fingers but you’ve been planning to stitch that up for a while now and when you do they’ll be right as rain. Charity shop duffel, cheap MP3 player and an army store satchel. Throw the phone in and put on a woolly hat, it is cold out there. You plug the earphones in on the way down the stairs, can’t remember what you put on there last, it doesn’t hold a lot of songs so you hope it isn’t some sappy emo songs you gathered especially for a mix cd for your mum. That would be quite unbearable. Outside the building the first song starts, sonic youth, skip tracer, perfect.

Breath fogs up in front of you as you walk and you try to figure out where to walk to, maybe if you go down the high street, along towards where the PC world is then left down that road with the big Victorian terraces are, you’re sure there’s a park down that way. Well up that way, if memory serves you correctly there’s a stonking great hill to get to it. Bracing you tell yourself, bracing. The high street is eerie deserted, no cars no people, many suspicious looking puddles. Some shops have shutters, some have elaborately decorated shutters. The electrical stores all have the lights on so if you peek through the grate you can see the high ticket items you could rob if you were so inclined, and of course could move through sheet metal. Pubs deserted with the Saturday night aftermath laying in the pavement outside like a turner prize exhibit gone wrong. Step around the suspicious puddle and hold your nose. Looks like this off licence is still open, remarkable, sudden urge to buy cigarettes. Haven’t smoked for three years and don’t intend to start again but ten won’t hurt.

Cold cheeks and warm ears, you’ve seen one car drive past and that was a police car not in any hurry. Up towards PC world and left up the road with the big Victorian houses. They are beautiful you think, but so sad in a way. The intricacies and the size in this dark midwinter illumination make them look gothic and foreboding from the outside. Large trees sway gently alongside them and you tell yourself one day, one day.

Press, phone lock, 4.45 am. Take the hill slowly because it is cold and there is no hurry really. The park isn’t going anywhere. Tom Waits, Hold on, sudden urge to sing. Definitely not a good idea. Autumnal leaves, all brown now lie crisp on the pavement. Yield to the urge to kick a little pile and feel somewhat like a five year old, which is absolutely fine. You’re starting to feel very glad you woke up at this ridiculous time. Pause for breath… and on.

The park is technically closed, the sign says so, wrought iron railings painted a very dark and very British green indeed fence the park in. But, as is the case in many inner city parks, maintenance is low priority and there is always a bent railing somewhere to provide a gap to squeeze through. There is a bench over there, by a memorial monument that looks very tired. This would be a good place to sit. The view from here, you would imagine, is not amazing of a day time. The city is grey and smoky, the hum and drum of a million people going about their daily business have worn it down, the city is aged and unclean. The view of a night time however, the view is spectacular. The grey and grime are hidden by darkness and there could be anything down there, all you see for miles are the orange glowing grids provided by the street lights, mapping out the roads, masking their nature and opening up for you only the potential, the possibility. Like surfacelevel stars these orange lights twinkle their secret glow for as far as the eye can see. R.E.M., electrolite. Static fills the air and fills your nose and tickles your skin. Your hair stands on end. You watch the cloud of your breath and hold it. You imagine a great big sigh of the sky.

It starts to snow.