If I dug a hole through earth
Would I fall on through
If I dug a hole through earth
Would I fall on through
Well well well, I see you have found the scales.
Go on then. Stand on it, do. Won’t do you no harm. Sure, a number will pop up, but that should only show you how much mass you have accumulated on your years here on earth.
Would be very different on the moon. You’d weigh less there – but perhaps if humans inhibited the moon there would still be a stigma, just on a different range of weights.
When you were a baby your mother anticipated each weighing you had. They stripped you and sometimes you cried, your little naked chubby body going blotchy because there was a draft. They laid you gently on the hard plastic of the scale and your mother – well she squealed in excitement when she disovered you’d almost doubled in weight since the day you were born. She sure does remember your exact weight and treasures it in her heart for some odd reason.
Yes he weighed 3.45kg when he was born and now he weighs 5.9kg, isn’t he growing fabulously!?
Such pride and happiness in her voice. She longs for you to grow and yet laments your tiny self from a month ago.
So weight is important. If you weren’t increasing in weight they would worry. If you increased too much they would also worry.
It’s just when you reach a certain age. An age where weight seems to become evil and high numbers on a scale are devastating. People begin to become fixated on these numbers, and eat green things in favour of beige things in the hopes that the scales will read them a lower value.
Some barely eat at all.
Those scales you are standing on are just an inanimate object. Revel in your mass. Revel in your form. It takes up just the right amount of space here on earth, and presses down on our planet along with billions of other masses – the comforting humdrum thump thump of earthlings weighed down by gravity.
All it is is gravity. Your weight. Here on earth.
There were three stars, in a straight line. And they followed her wherever she went. Up North, down South. In the Eastern hemisphere, where the world was tropical and the heat and humidity battered her body until she oozed from every orifice. In the Western hemisphere where the days were icy and short and then terribly, terribly long. Every night, three stars in a row.
If she looked up at the sky her eyes searched and searched for three in a row, just like that.
She didn’t know what they were called, or if they were part of some larger constellation. Scrap that, who cares for the constellations.
As long as there were three stars just like that. Just that, as long as there were those stars. She didn’t know what came after that. Just that she had to see them.
When she learned about space it was always with awe. A deep expanse of blackness and nothing and airless floating, containing worlds of light and gas. Black holes bending time and space, folds of dimensions expanding and contracting. Complex and unnerving, terrifying and beautiful.
But when she looked up, all she could see were the stars. Her three stars, amid a myriad of others. Sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on where she was.
Dependable. From her safe haven on earth.
To the night.
As the day wanes, and the sky gives way to the ever-lurking darkness, the sounds of life retire.
But not quite so.
Under a darkening sky, the stars begin to wink. Off and on, in and out, and the purple tendrils of space creep in between them.
And the earth begins to hum, a strange hum that nobody notices by day.
In the silence of the night, they say.
But the night is never silent.
A small face, from the third floor window, upturned towards the sky. It stretches beyond, forever. Stars upon stars, and when you look away, more stars appear, only to be wiped out when you focus on them. And the more you look, the more she looked, layers of stars appeared, until the sky was alight with them, hundreds of thousands, how had she never seen that many before.
And through the years, when life takes her up in its arms, harassing and tugging and screeching like an unstoppable machine, the night still hums with the sound of the earth. Not heard as often, when sleep embraces her warmly, when she snatches at what little she can, she forgets that the earth hums. Hums with the sound of millions, droning through the dark. And the wide silence of space, above.
The night has sounds, you see. Far away freight trains, spilling their hoarse roars into the atmosphere. A dog barking, yowling over the distance, like a banshee over the hills, distorted by the long shadows of trees and the loud silence of night. A car driving by, the engine obscenely loud. And lights in houses, everybody tucked away, except those who dare venture out in the echoing dead of it all. Breathing, as a whole. Breathing, as one.
Dead, but alive.
Alive, but not living.
And the stars, the same, but different. Through older, wiser eyes. Twinkling that same old story, through thousands of years.
And the sound of the earth humming its hum, uninterrupted by machine life.
The sound of the earth, humming, louder and louder, as the inky blackness of the sky spreads its fingers down to earth.
And the stars wink brighter, one by one.
This, this is the night.
And she is at peace, in the thundering hoarseness of earth, the trains in the distance, the snippets of humanity, the wind rustling through blades of grass, the insects, teeming at her feet. She is at peace, as the world sleeps around her, and the earth keeps on humming.
She is at peace. For now.
Today is a real Monday of a day, folks.
Nobody in the office wants to talk. All conversation is terse and halted. Stumbling and awkward.
The air is heavy and thick, and breathing is difficult. The heat pounds outside on the glass, in that silent scheming way it has. Condensation forms a layer of sweat on the lips of windows, and the small puffs of air we get through the slim cracks, made so because this country is an infrastructure of Health and Safety, are few and far between.
Alex uses two screens, her hazel eyes scanning first one and then the other. Her long neck pulls her head sideways, almost like an inquisitive sparrow, but there is a look of tense determination on her face. I feel irritated every time I look in her direction, so I don’t.
She always has work to do, and when she doesn’t she actively seeks it. She is like a badger sniffing out of its set. A mouse tottering to and fro. A beaver stacking wood. A long neck waving here and there, alert and watching, snapping up a job the moment it comes through. Scavenging. She is an honest working person but she drives me mental with her oblivious morality.
And the Woman Who Laughs is wearing jodhpurs today. Jodhpurs. And a waistcoat. And a cowboy hat. Indoors. She might as well have bells hanging from her hems.
The fields in the distance sizzle with heat. The sun shimmers on the green, a lazy haze over the slopes. Even the birds seem too tired to chirp. And minuscule cars on the distant hills glint brightly in the sun as they wind around the curling country roads. I contemplate drowsing in my car for half an hour, but the heat in there is ten times worse.
Keyboards clacking away.
A laugh, hushed.
A conversation in the far end of the office.
Hello. I have a query today.
Goddamnit these people never answer the phone!
I would like to go home now please.
Do you know what a wastrel is? I didn’t either, until Master Jeffman called me one today. A wastrel of a boy, he said, shaking his meaty fist at me. What is a boy to do, when called a wastrel? What did I do? I fed the pigeons with his share of the corn, that’s what I did. I fed the pigeons and thought of new ways to become a worse wastrel than I already am. He missed his corn, at supper, and blamed the cook, who was beside herself. I felt truly a wastrel, then, and owned up to it. Suffice it to say that my revenge was short-lived, and I must be more resourceful in future when I decide to carry out acts of subtle retaliation.
On Saturday Twig and I stole some bread from the kitchen. It was for the ducks by Het’s Pond – they seem a little on the waify side lately. Twig reckons it might be because the pond has frozen over, and they have nowhere to fly to. If you’re really quiet of a frosty dawn, you can hear all the manner of bird calls. Jenny wrens, jack daws, tom tits and robin redbreasts. The ducks are quiet, then. You can see them just about waking up, stretching their wings and giving their feathers a sleepy shake. The world is beautiful at dawn; we swing our legs over the side of the bridge and yearn to fish – only we can’t break that stubborn, thick surface of the water.
Twig reckons they should have called it ‘Het’s Lake’, on account of the pond being 40 acres wide. I told him quite dismissively that the idea had already been put to the Council, but to no avail. Twig reckons he is a visionary. He has started wearing those glasses he’d squirrelled away last year, and introduces himself now to the others, the new ones, as ‘Dr Blackadder’. Never to the Masters, of course, they would whip him to a pulp. A prime fellow is my brother, I say, in utmost sarcasm.
In the morning, sometimes, the folk at the House bring their skates down and have a capital time of it. We watch from the bridge, they shout eloquently at each other and have snowball fights on the ice, twirling about and making quite a show of it, their valets and servants bringing them hot cocoa on silver trays, traipsing down the side of the slope as though summoned by magic, floating over the snow like angels of warmth and luxury.
The dawn is our time, though. Our own time, away from the Masters, away from the drudgery, away from the relentless hours of physical exertion. We fall asleep at night as soon as our heads hit the pillows, but we always wake up just before the first light of dawn, when the stars, bright and twinkling in the winter sky, are just starting to fade. We wake up and drag ourselves down to the side of the lake, we listen to the birdsong and saturate our souls in the still atmosphere of a waking world.
And I think of you, Hana, and how I am not truly a wastrel, unless I have wronged you in some way. I am not a wastrel, if the world welcomes me at dawn, and allows me to live in the miraculous time when the skin kisses our part of the globe, and turns night into day. The air shifts, the songs start, and the day stretches, yawns, and slowly embraces the earth.
Diana Peach from Myths of the Mirror tagged all her followers (of which I am one!) in this exciting tag all about books! I don’t usually participate in tags (mostly because I am lazy and like to generate content the minute my fingers touch the keyboard with no prior thinking, planning or organising), but I could not pass this one up.
If you would like to take part, feel free to accept this tag!
1. Do you have a specific place for reading?
I would usually say my go-to place is my bed, now that I don’t live at my family home anymore, where I would have to hunt all over the house for a quiet spot to read. My bed is comfortable and allows for any reading position, be in lying down, upside down or sitting up. I usually take a book with me wherever I go, two if I can squeeze them into my handbag, just ‘in case’.
2. Bookmark or random piece of paper?
Both! During my childhood years I was a serial dog-earer but since becoming an adult recently I discovered that dog-earing was a treacherous habit and must be nipped in the bud immediately. So I use old receipts and train tickets… anything I can find in my handbag, really!
3. Do you eat or drink whilst reading?
I do, it’s antisocial I’m told, but I do. My whole family does, which is why some of our more loved books are a little sticky.
4. Music or TV whilst reading.
Neither, I can’t really focus with personal background noise, although I don’t mind it if I am in a public space – it’s psychological, somehow. If it isn’t my music it doesn’t bother me.
5. One book at a time or several?
Oh, several. I am very motivated by mood. I take two books with me when I go out, one serious, heavy one and one lighthearted or ‘much-read’ one in case I can’t mentally handle the more serious one. An example of this contrast would be Vanity Fair and What Katy Did – one is severely depressing while the other is more up-beat and hopeful.
6. Do you prefer to read at home or elsewhere?
I love to read at home, although I have enjoyed many a book on the bus or train during my countless long commutes. Nothing, however, beats reading at home by the soft, warm light of a bedside lamp, whilst being wrapped snugly in a comfortable blanket. Nothing.
7. Read out loud or silently?
Silently! Reading out loud would slow me down! Having said that, my husband who is dyslexic and despises reading, does read out loud, and I feel for the poor fellow because it does make for clunky reading. Sometimes I read for him, but it gets tiring for sure! It takes a great deal of patience to read aloud to someone. I also find that the act of reading aloud distracts me from the content that I am reading! I don’t take it in, and have to read it again to absorb it.
8. Do you read ahead or skip pages?
I have a terrible habit of being impatient whilst reading and reading ahead – I never skip pages, of course, that would be an absolute disgrace. Sometimes I spoil books on myself by reading the end. I always tell myself off about it but still carry on doing it, my curiosity is too strong. Sometimes I do it while telling myself that I won’t read far enough to actually ruin anything but it is a poor self-convincing tool, because what else can I expect from reading ahead!? It is a rude habit and must be stopped immediately – I need somebody to slap me on the wrist every time I do!
9. Break the spine or keep it like new.
Well, I like to keep my books as pristine as possible, lined up in my bookshelf in height order (I did this so well as a child, but now my husband does it for me because he thinks I am too messy – it is very surreal), so I like to keep the spine like new but when you read a book so many times, the spine is bound to break at some point. I am wonderful at mending and patching broken spines and ripped covers – I had to do it so much as a child, coming from a big family of book lovers and book-rippers. When I was smaller, I liked to think of myself as Mo from Inkheart, mending books and fixing spines.
10. Do you write in books?
Yes, sometimes. I don’t like to tarnish another work with my ‘lowly’ opinions, but I love reading comments other people leave in books! I always thought that it took a very confident, self assured and intellectual kind of personality to write in a book. My father, a collector of books, writes little notes in them. I revere my father; I think he is vastly intelligent and wonderfully talented; his work is on par with none I have ever seen before, and his meticulous skill is one which I can only dream of achieving, so maybe that is why I am loathe to think I have thoughts worthy enough to grace the pages of a printed book!
11. What books are you reading now?
Currently I am reading The Handmaid’s Tale for the first time, a book which I discovered whilst listening to Jenni Murray’s ‘A History of Britain in 21 Women’. I don’t have much time for reading anymore, unfortunately, so it is taking me quite a while to get through it, usually on my lunch break. It has ensnared my curiosity, that’s for sure! I am also reading Perfume Island by fellow blogger Curtis Bausse – I am halfway through it and thoroughly enjoying it. Curtis has a writing style which is reminiscent, to me, of that of William Golding – he has the marvellous ability to use few words to create crisp images and emotion even though the reader has never experienced these feelings themselves.
12. What is your childhood favourite book?
I really can’t choose, there were so many, and all dependant on my mood at the time! I will go by the most read book in my childhood.. or three books.. it was the Anne of Green Gables series, book 1 through to 3. I can still recite entire passages from Anne’s life, and her experiences and thoughts influenced much of my hopes, dreams, aspirations, language, preferences and thoughts even today. What sticks with me the most is her enchanting combination of the beauty in nature with a magical fairyland. She made it all so real – a tree wasn’t a tree but the home of a beautiful dryad, a lake wasn’t a lake but a bowl of glittering diamonds – and Paul Irving’s famous thought, ‘Do you know what I think about the new moon, teacher? I think it is a little golden boat full of dreams. And I think the violets are little snips of the sky that fell down when the angels cut out holes for the stars to shine through. And the buttercups are made out of old sunshine; and I think the sweet peas will be butterflies when they go to heaven.’
Living in the desert like I did, I was starving for this kind of beauty. How can words create images of lands so real, yet so intangible? It’s a stunning phenomenon.
13. What is your all-time favorite book?
I really, really cannot say. I love so many. So, so many. They are like my precious children, and to favour one over the other is to maim a heart or slight a soul. High up on the list are the Anne series, Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings, all books by the wonderful James Herriot, Alcott, the What Katy Dids, Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre et cetera. Don’t well-loved books make you feel like you have been given a literary hug?
What’s your favourite book? And why do you love it?
There were some witches, on the East end of town. Only witches, mind. Nobody else lived there, because they simply weren’t allowed. Not that there was an outright statement saying so. It’s just that, somehow, there were never any houses for sale around there. Schools could be seen, but were never listed on national websites. Enquiries were made, but never replied to. Eventually people gave up, and realised that any regulars simply were not permitted on that side, and it was no use pursuing the matter.
If you walked down their streets, a distinct smell wafted into your nostrils.
The smell of burnt.. cake. Sharp, sweet, and slightly frustrating.
Their streets were spick and span. Neat as a pin. Not a blade of grass out of place. The flowers grew politely in their assigned beds and boxes and hanging baskets, and didn’t dare peep over the edges. The pavements were a neat, uniform colour, each tile placed evenly and with care. The cars were parked in order of colour, so a person standing at the very far end of one of the streets saw a rainbow of cars parked along the right hand side. Not the left, mind. That could get you killed.
When newcomers drove through town, they marvelled at the East side.
‘Be careful,’ the man who ran the newsagents would say, ‘thems the streets what those witches live on.’
‘Don’t go down the East end,’ mothers would caution their little ones on their way out to play, ‘that’s where the witches live.‘
Sometimes children would wander down to the East side. They would peep around hedges, which almost looked like they were paintings, drawn out to be mathematically correct in proportion. They would try, sometimes, to peer through windows. They never succeeded at seeing any of the goings on inside the quiet houses. A pitch blackness would greet their eager eyes.
A pitch blackness, I will assure you, which arose from some mysterious magical power, rather than a lack of electricity. The windows looked perfectly normal, and witches certainly don’t believe in blackout curtains, so only some kind of spell would allow nobody to see what went on in the drawing rooms of the witches.
Not many human children, however, got away with these nosy antics. Sometimes, if a witch became particularly irritated by bright eyes or the edge of a curious nose peeking around the corner, accompanied by the sound of terrified giggling and scuffling, a human child would rise to the sky with a look of wonder on his or her face, and be promptly and firmly set down right on the edge of the East side, next to the sign that read, in curly lettering, ‘Welcome to the East Side of Pickletown. Please drive carefully. Do not pick any flowers or step on any lawns.’
Some of the children enjoyed being airlifted in such a fashion, and would conduct little expeditions with their other daring little friends into the East side, purposely poking their heads over hedges. They would scream with laughter whilst floating through the air, shouting that they were flying, and altogether feeling mighty smug and superior.
Then they would attempt to trawl back into the East side, for another ride.
They didn’t ever get one, however. They could never step beyond the sign. No matter how hard they tried to put their feet beyond the sign, they couldn’t It was as if some kind of invisible wall was blocking them. It was mighty frustrating for them, of course. They could plainly see the bit of pavement they couldn’t touch. Their brains were convinced they could walk there, because there was no visible obstruction. However they simply could not, so they attempted running at the wall at top speed (not a very wise idea, I assure you), only to be flung backward on to the pavement in a rather painful manner. That stopped them, alright. They would then give up and plod cheerfully back into their respective side, nattering on about who flew the highest and who was thrown back the hardest.
Not a bad day of earnest playing for the little ones, that’s for sure!
It was the last day of summer.
The last day the frogs leapt in unison. The last day the Rooks flew into town, sailing on the wafts of music which floated up between the long fingers of flutists. The last day peach gowns were worn, gossamer and chiffon wafting gently in the breeze as though underwater.
It was the longest day of the year, the shortest night. Some reckoned the night didn’t come at all, because the sun was peeking blearily over the tip of the horizon, hiding her fiery hair, but not quite low enough so her rays didn’t escape and lighten the blackness of night.
Penny’s parents were preparing for the sunset, the sunset that would never come.They ran around the kitchen like headless chickens, and she smiled to herself.
She watched them from her corner in the kitchen, where the small window fit neatly into the little alcove, and was a porthole to the view of the sharp, steep landscape outside their house. She sat on a small red cushion, worn and faded from years of use, on the small wooden window seat.
When she turned back to the view outside, she saw the Rooks. An entire flock of them. A colossal black cloud, swirling over the mountainous city, like an ominous vortex. Their hoarse cries rising in the sky, a bellow of extortionate proportions. The very utensils shook on their hooks, the mugs rattled and the cupboard doors vibrated with the sound of over a thousand of them, and Penny slammed her hands over her ears.
The music from the city was drowned, and the sun sank lower in the horizon. She watched as they soared around the city once, twice, and a third, final time, before they swooped upward, covering the sky, and bringing darkness onto the world. Pitch blackness draped her window, and Penny found herself looking at the glass and seeing only her dim reflection, and the reflection of the wooden kitchen in it.
She turned to her parents, they had stopped what they were doing, and were standing, frozen, eyes on the window. The house began to hum with the screeching outside. It was beyond anything she could imagine, and even though they heard it every year, the sound was momentous. Time-stopping. Gut-wenching. She felt it in her bones, her heart was beating to the sound of it. Her breathing changed to match the shift in tune. The sound was increasing. Louder and louder, the vibrations more and more intense, until, as the clanging orchestra outside reached its peak, a sudden silence filled the room. The darkness outside surged, replaced by a dim twilight, and Penny stared up at an empty sky.
The Rooks had vanished.
The remaining twilight would hang over the world for a few weeks, before the black tendrils of winter edged their way across the sky, bringing frost and snow.
The last day of summer.
Once before my husband was even my husband, and he was just my ‘beau’, I mentioned to him that I really like cake. Sponge cake with cream and fruit. The next time he came over he got me a massive fresh cream cake topped with the most fresh and sweet strawberries I’d ever tasted. It came in a white box and was frankly the most beautiful cake I’d ever seen. That was probably due to the fact that nobody had ever bought me a cake before, and the entire cake was mine.
Did my siblings have a bit of it? Oh, sure, they had a lot. Did I have any? Possibly a third of it, for breakfast the next day.
I was all dreamy and floaty thinking he’d got me the cake because I’d mentioned how much I love cake. It wasn’t even a Victoria sponge! It was A FRESH CREAM CAKE. Which is seven steps above a Victoria sponge, and three above a chocolate gateau. Three below an ice cream cake, of course, because nothing beats an ice cream cake. BUT STILL. It was my own romantic cake.
Turns out, he didn’t actually get me the cake because I said I liked cake. Who doesn’t like cake, anyway? It was just something he thought he would get me. He didn’t even register that I’d said that. He was thinking about something else. So much for romance, eh?