You Made My Day

You made my day, I said.

I laughed.

To show

how happy she had made me.

And my cheeks hurt, because they were being forced to do what they would normally have done spontaneously.

Only this time,

My brain had ordered them to stretch,

against their will.

You made my day, I said, honestly.

And she smiled, because she made someone’s day.

You

made

my

day,

I lied through my teeth,

through my smile

which began to feel

stale

On my face.

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Image credit: River Darling

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Tired Demon

You know those days when everything is a struggle?

I am having one of those days today.

I am ‘tuckered out’, as some would say. Shattered, as my parents would say. Burned out, done for, overtaxed, drained, fatigued and prostrated – as the thesaurus would say.

I had a lunchtime nap in my car, and woke up 20 minutes later than I ought to have, feeling groggy and jittery. I stumbled back into the office where the overpowering smell of onions smacked me in the face. Somebody was having an aromatic lunch. One that reeked, pungent and odoriferous, and added another irritated hindrance to the aching pulse in my head.

My head is now pounding, and there is a dull ache in my neck.

And my focus has been awful all through this long and toiling afternoon.

They say naps help when you’re tired! Well, mine certainly did not. It made me feel horrible!

What on earth has possessed me today?

A tired demon?

Well, begone, tired demon. I have work to do.

Calidity

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.

A yawn.

A clatter.

Keyboards clacking away.

A laugh, hushed.

A murmur.

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.

An Uncomfortable Man

I warn you dear reader this post is a little sordid.

The earth is crawling with life. Simply heaving with it. Crawling to microcellular level. Even life is crawling with life. Our very infrastructure is bacteria.

If you get a telescope out and skim the surface of Mars, you would see no life. Remnants of what scientists say might have been, could have been life, but never life itself.

The Mars rover leads a lonely, long existence.

And in this life, we are often lonely. Some of us are. We seek connections with other people.

Some connections are entirely benign, and enrich our lives.

Others, not so.

There is a man at work. A tall man. And he makes me feel vastly uncomfortable.

I noticed it first one day when I was talking to him, and I saw his eyes meander down to my chest. Ok. That was weird. But ok. What made it more uncomfortable was that his eyes stayed there, glancing upwards into my own once or twice, but lingering there.

I brushed that encounter away. After all, it could have been anything. Maybe he didn’t realise what he was doing.

I hugged myself, crossing my arms over my chest.

I was making coffee, downstairs in the business centre news anchor on the flat screen TV hooked up to the wall droning away about something or other. I leafed through the newspaper on the countertop, the coffee machine gurgling as my coffee splattered into my cup. Then there was his voice next to me. So close it made me take a step back and clutch my neck in fright. There he was, standing so close to me I could feel his body heat radiating off him.

‘Alright?’ he said, as though nothing was wrong.

There were some Americans filing into one of the meeting rooms; they had flown over for some big event, and they were part of his agency.

‘Yeah,’ I replied, glancing at them, ‘aren’t you part of the meeting?’ I gestured. So uncomfortable, battling with my distaste.

‘It takes the piss,’ he murmured, ‘but yeah.’

Ok. So go then. And leave me alone.

When I looked at him, I was shocked at how close he was to me.

Then I began to notice it more and more. He was moved to the seat next to mine, and every so often he would lean over, too close for comfort, and whisper something conspiratorial. As though we were in this pessimism towards the company together. Something derogatory about someone or other. Some ridiculous complaint about the weather, because yes, we always talk of the weather, or some moan about the horrible traffic into work. Such normal conversations, so what is the problem?

I tried to be nice. I tried so hard, but I just didn’t want to.

It would have been easy, if I didn’t notice how he looked up every time I stood up. And he would think I couldn’t see but I could feel his eyes on me. And when I looked at him they would snap away, from my chest, from somewhere else.

I began to cross my arms when I stood up, and to scarper as quickly as I could, round the corner. When I saw him walking towards me I would pretend I hadn’t seen him, and turn the other way. Every time he caught me though, he would stand way too close. When he showed me something on my computer, I could feel his breath on my neck.

Once I went downstairs to the receptionist; we have a little repertoire, and I put my hands on the counter and leaned forward. Her eyes met mine.

‘What’s up?’

‘I really hate this man,’ I told her.

Her eyes melted a bit, they cleared as though some clouds shifted to show a sky of understanding within.

‘Go on,’ she said, grimly. And I knew she knew.

When I told her, she immediately understood. I felt validated, somehow, as though I wasn’t just imagining things. She nodded firmly at me, and then when I told her who it was she said she felt the same vibes from him. She told me to request to move desks, which I did. I only moved one seat away but it was much better.

A week later, his agency moved him to another building. I heaved a sigh of relief. I felt free again. I almost danced when I left my desk. The air in the office was cleaner, lighter. I no longer looked over my shoulder.

Another week passed, and I get an email. To my work email. Addressed to me only.

Hi Len!

What lovely weather we’ve been having! I hope you’re enjoying the sun, I certainly am!

Hope you’re doing well!

Cheers,

Name

Now, you might think I am crazy. That’s a perfectly normal email, right? Right?

And he never did anything physically inappropriate, right?

He didn’t touch me. He didn’t say anything. In fact, on the surface of it all, he was always rather nice. His email was rather nice too. So you could say I was making a mountain out of a molehill.

And I do think I might have overreacted in my mind sometimes. I have to email him back, because he is in my company, and as my colleague put it, what say he is moved back, and then he asks why I never replied to any of his emails? His new office is literally four minutes away, I can see it from my window.

But I know how I felt. I know how relieved I was when he left. I know how my guts twisted whenever he came in. I know how close he stood to me, how his hands would accidentally brush me, where his eyes would wander. That was real.

I am not complaining at all. I am just stating the fact. He was an uncomfortable man.

 

 

Love Letters #41

Dear Hana,

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.

Yours, always,

Seb

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ebullient

Well isn’t my Monday-Friday daily posting schedule going well! (not)

Fridays are supposed to be my ‘review’ days, and last week I posted a book review. I have not read nor watched anything particularly enticing recently, so I will review this week.

This week was an event. It was an event I will call ‘Ebullient’, which means ‘bubbling over’. This word can have positive connotations; to be in an ebullient mood is to be excited and enthusiastic about something. However, I like to think that it can also have negative connotations! Bubbling over means danger, heat, suspense. It can translate to anxiety, worry and fear.

Excited and enthusiastic I certainly was about this week, but I was also anxious and worrisome and dreading of it. Is that correct English?

So I geared myself up for it in good cheer, talked myself into a great mood, and plunged myself full swing into some hard work and lots of smiling.

I had two days of training, which was to take place at the golf club next to my workplace. Fear not, we did no golfing. We listened to lectures, saw presentations and participated in ‘exercises’. We were encouraged to ‘network, network, network’ and because I am antisocial and socially awkward, I found this particularly challenging. I like watching people and talking to people, but I think I don’t know how to.

They served a delicious dinner, the highlight of which was a massive tureen of profiteroles and oozing, hot, chocolate sauce.

Both days I returned home late, exhausted and zombie-like. How on earth did I survive university?

After this there was a company team-building day, followed by an evening event.

That was exhausting. I learnt a great deal, I like to think I participated well, but it was exhausting. Every laugh I laughed was forced and fake and eventually it began to hurt my brain.

There were some great highlights, some lovely people, and some excellent food.

But my heart raced, my palms sweated, and I wanted to cry and laugh at the same time. I was so tempted to go home, but I forced myself to attend an evening of socialising. It was difficult. But I was ebullient, in appearance at the very least.

I am twenty three years old, and it might be time to accept that while I am confident, I might just not be the funny, capable, social person I used to think I was.

That was back when I had a firm group of friends, you see. Now I am a nomad and my network of security (of family and friends) is spread over several continents.

Now I am drifting alone, sort of on a little bit of driftwood, following in the wake of the mad backwash created by a magnificent cruise-ship. I can hear the laughter, but never be a part of it. I can see the joy, but can’t feel it. I can sense the warmth, but cannot touch it.

I can be on the fringes, but never in the middle.

I can dance through the dance floor, but my arms will be cold.

I can flit from one group to another, but shoulders will get ever closer together.

I can smile my widest smile, but eventually it will fade, leaving a forced ache in my cheeks.

Today was a crap day. Like a hangover, but a social one. I don’t feel like being nice to anybody, I just want to curl up and be alone for a while. I feel like I’ve had too much socialising with far too many people and I need a break!

Good job it’s the weekend! Time to recuperate!

How was your week? Do you enjoy ‘networking’ and socialising, or does it tire you out and make you desire solitude?

Night-sky-in-the-north

Goosey Goosey Gander

I think I have hit a creative slump. I don’t know if its because I am exhausted from working, and travelling to work, and travelling home, and cleaning up, and making tea, and reading books, and trying to be social by calling my friends so they don’t think I have abandoned them..

I don’t know. I don’t know.

Third week at work this week, and I spent the day working on a few editing assignments, reading up on my training program, and when I had completed that, I had nothing to do… So I planned my blog.

I never really had a plan for this blog, you see. I decided to write one day, at the end of 2013, never thinking this would last because none of my other blogs lasted. Last it did, however, and I am proud to say I have been blogging for nigh on four years!

In light of that, I have decided to no longer blog when the whim takes me, but to adhere to a somewhat lose schedule, which will enforce my creative processes and demand some content out of my fingers.

I figure I ought to be resourceful, and all that, and just because I now have a job, doesn’t mean I ought to let my own goals and aspirations fall into the ditches.

Real grimy those ditches are, I’ll tell you that. I had an old gentleman wade out the other day, positively shaken. He’d been accidentally thrown in there by the lady next door, she had no use for him. She claimed he wouldn’t say his prayers, and he told me the most harrowing story of how she grabbed him by the left leg, threw him down the stairs and then rolled him into a ditch! That was no accident, I assure you. The poor old fellow was convinced it was, however, so I gave him a goose to calm his ruffled feathers and sent him on his way.

I digress.

The plan for this blog is to blog the things I usually blog, but with a little more structure and, well, consistency, I suppose. So everyday for a fortnight I will blog (except for weekends, of course, weekends are for family and books and gardening and delicious homemade things made by my younger brother and my younger sister-in-law – last weekend it was apple crumble made by the brother and caramel brownies made by the sister-in-law – yum!), and each blogging day will cover certain themes and topics. For example, Wednesdays are supposed to be ‘flash fiction’ days, but because my creativity is hanging out to dry, I have decided to turn it into a ‘wherever-the-whim-takes-me’ day.

Charles Dickens was said to be paid by the word, but I am not. However, I pay the word with my eyesight, and use it I shall. Did you know my poor eyesight, according to my mother, is because of hours of reading in the dark after she turned off the lights? Streetlamps outside the window are certainly enough light when you need to know if Mr Rochester really is a cockroach or not.

How are you doing this week? Do you have a blogging schedule, or do you blog as and when the whim takes you? Also, why do you blog?

gooseygooseygander_brooke

New Job

I started a new job on Monday the 2nd of October. I am working as an Editorial Assistant for a medical communications company.

It is my first ever job in a corporate role. I sit at a desk, in an office where lots of other people sit at desks, and I am supposed to be in charge of editing medical journals, manuscripts, presentations, posters and other such publications, which can be found online on journal websites, in medical magazines, on leaflets and at medical congress booths!

Because it is only my first week, I have found it insufferably boring.

Well, I lie.

It has been great, except for today.

Monday was an introductory and training day, but Tuesday through to Thursday I was given several pieces of work, one of which included an 80-slide presentation! I spent a good eight hours on that, over the course of two days, and the rest of my time was divided between other pieces of work, training sessions and meetings. So it was pretty full-on, and I was enjoying myself.

But today…

Today I had a very minor task, taking me about two hours in total. It really didn’t help that I came in 45 minutes early. So I finished that, and have now been twiddling my thumbs all day because there is no other work available. All very frustrating I must say. I know it’s because I am new, and haven’t particularly been trained in a great deal of things, so can’t be given any terribly important pieces of work but for goodness’ sake I just want to get on with it! I have been trawling the internet all day, and reading other peoples’ blogs, which is great because I haven’t had the free time to do that in a while.

Work is about 45min drive from my home, but it usually takes me an hour and a half, because the traffic is horrendous. A colleague told me yesterday that during the school holidays the going is great, and now I am lamenting the minimal holidays school children get in the UK. I tried to leave twenty minutes earlier than usual today, in the hopes that I would arrive early enough that I could leave half an hour early. It took me exactly 45 minutes to get here, with absolutely no traffic on the roads! That made me very annoyed, I have to say.

It means I either have to get in very early, or exactly on time with a risk of being late!

Anyway.

That was just an update on my first proper job in my chosen career path. I am an editorial assistant! Maybe one day in the future I can be an editor of a book publishing house! Maybe! Baby steps, amiright?

To be honest I was shocked they’d hired me, considering I have had no experience in this field, except for very minimal freelance work. Shocked and pleased, emphasis on the ‘pleased’.

 

 

The East Side

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!