Thirteen Tales – Cycles

Here is my favourite story from Scott Andrew Bailey’s collection ‘Thirteen Tales’.

thehouseofbailey

Cycles

(Originally published in Thirteen Tales)

www.scottandrewbailey.uk

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Orange light tried to sparkle off the wet tarmac. Otherwise all was still, even the three figures that lay in the road.

Two were face down by the kerb, the other was splayed out in the middle of the street. Their faces were hidden by motorcycle helmets. Leather jackets and jeans completed their ensemble.

Houses watched over them, silent witnesses. The life behind the pastel curtains was at rest and undisturbed.

A bedraggled wreath sagged at the foot of a lamppost, close by one of the figures. Notes were scattered around it, most of the writing now had run away into the gutter, the thoughts washed away.

The silence intensified, remained heavy over the scene even as the three figures stirred and slowly rose.

They pulled off their crash helmets and shook out the confusion in their heads. As they walked towards…

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Opting Out

 

When I was a teenager, among my fantasies of what a future husband might be like was a desire to be a vicar’s wife. This was partly religious sentiment, partly a crush on an older chap at youth group who wanted to become a vicar, but most of all the attraction of achieving an identity, a career and a home all in one package with little effort on my part. This imaginary young vicar would worship me almost as devoutly as God, preach in a wonderful baritone voice, look divine in a cassock …and in the bedroom, though details about the bedroom part were very hazy.

Other candidates for the perfect husbands were vets, explorers and policemen. I didn’t marry a vicar, but I was right about the desirability of securing a secure position in life; as it turned out I was not very good at doing careers. Armed with some brains and motherly encouragement; ‘you don’t want to end up working in a shop’ or ‘you don’t want to be one of those girls who just takes any job till she gets married’ I ventured to seek the interesting and the worthwhile.

I have never thought of myself as someone who suffers from depression, anxiety or has mental health issues. I always assumed any career failures were entirely my fault and even if I had heard of such a thing I would never have dreamed of suing my employers for letting me down when it was me that let them down. Armed with other words of wisdom from my mother ‘I don’t need a doctor to tell me when I’m depressed’ I developed a simple strategy, escape. Not literally, as in disappearing without a trace, though I could see the attraction and I did cross to the other side of the world. The nearest I got to a medical issue was my periods stopping for three months, a sure sign your body is telling you something and they returned after my escape. But how close do we all come to mental health problems?

In my newly enthusiastic reading of The Big Issue, an article about a homeless man who lived in his car touched a chord. He had been a teacher, had a nervous breakdown, couldn’t work, lost his home. If he had escaped sooner, taken a safe hum drum job perhaps he would not have dropped out.

My avoidance tactics have applied in other areas. I don’t drive. I did get a licence when I was seventeen, but even driving in a small city presented challenges such as going round roundabouts, turning right and parking in awkward spots. I don’t regret letting the driving lapse. My friend at work suffered immense stress adding to traffic problems by driving her children to the nearest grammar school miles away. I was not stressed as our children had no choice but to walk to the nearest school. The potential terrors of multi storey car parks, edging out onto busy roads, being obliged to offer lifts to unknown places negate the convenience and independence of driving.

So what did happen? I married a policeman, we got a police flat to start with and my grandfather was delighted I was marrying someone with a secure job. Then we had children, further delaying career pressures and resulting in me doing all sorts of ordinary jobs which turned out to be very enjoyable. Perhaps I should have been a writer from the start – writers can write about life without the stress of actually participating in it.

A Leap with a Leaf

As a child who suffered chronically from car sickness I have never liked motor vehicles and longed only for a pony. I’m sure we’ve all heard apocryphal stories of efforts to create reliable electric cars vanquished by the oil companies. Are plug in cars at last becoming viable?

Anecdotage

On the whole, vehicles are one of my non-interests, along with football and cricket, talent shows, fast food, misery memoirs and a few other tedious topics.

In a discussion on cars I’m interested in reliability first, followed by comfort and economy in equal measure. In a blatant betrayal of gender stereotyping I have opinions on colour, preferring black over any other but accepting of anything except pink, orange, red or lurid.

My first car, like many first cars, was a humble, ancient, faded turquoise Austin A40 with steering wheel so huge that steering around a corner was akin to half an hour’s workout on a rowing machine. Subsequent vehicles became newer, though never new. My least old car was also the worst, an indigo VW Polo that exhibited some kind of electrical fault and let me down with irritating frequency-most famously by giving up at traffic lights at a busy…

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Into Infinity

 

 

Do you keep a diary or resolve to keep one every New Year? Many years ago I was given a five year diary which lasted at least a decade of good intentions and still has many blank pages, but it does record some major life events; if anyone can ever decipher the tiny writing crammed into the allotted space per day and year.

In more recent years I received a handsome note book blissfully free of dates. I vowed to keep a journal for the purpose of preserving the art of handwriting and recording family history. Released from the obligation of daily jotting I would devote several pages to important events and places and people visited. I haven’t yet recorded Christmas.

But I am onto the third gift journal. Each entry begins with a few neat sentences but quickly deteriorates into a cramped scrawl, especially if I am lounging with my feet up on the sofa. I imagine the diarists of old would need to sit upright at their bureaus to be able to handle their quill and ink.

In the unlikely event of me becoming a famous author posthumously, will my family be tempted to burn these diaries and journals to protect my reputation? If they bother to look at them they will find no scandal (there is none to help in the fame stakes), no salacious details of non writing activities at home. Hopefully my jottings will be a unique personal account of everyday life in the early years of the Twenty First Century.

And which will last longer, the paper books or this Blog? When I needed to look up a previous Goodreads blog about the River Thames I typed in ‘Janet Gogerty Sandscript River Thames’ and up it came, from over three years ago; will it be there forever? Will our WordPress Blogs  float through the ether into eternity or only until the internet is switched off?

Like radio waves going on forever into space will the billions of words on the internet still be out there somewhere when the whole infrastructure collapses and the electricity is switched off for good? Will our Facebook posts and e-mails be accessible to clever alien archaeologists or future earth scientists? If so then, Greetings from 2017 A.D.

Christmas Issue

‘Big Issue, Big Issue’ a phrase heard by most of us quite often unless we live in the remote countryside. Until last week I always said ‘No thank you’ or slipped by in the crowd, feeling guilty when the seller said ‘Have a nice day.’

Lots of people no longer carry cash, but that was not my excuse. There is no issue with selling the Big Issue; it is not begging, but a straightforward transaction, without the minefield of indecision when faced with people begging. The police and councils urge us not to give directly, but to support homeless charities. If someone is busking, playing an instrument well without electronic backing and cheering everybody up, I’m happy to put some money in the violin or guitar case.

I have always thought, are there not other jobs in the warm, not standing all day, that these people could be given? One thing I know about the Big Issue is you should always take your copy. The Big issue Manifesto says ‘…a handout up, not a handout… always take your copy.’ A while back a family member told me  ‘I bought a Big Issue, well I told him I didn’t want a copy, but I gave him £2.00 and told him to keep the change.’ ‘No… ‘ I cried ‘what about his pride… and anyway, it costs £2.50!’

Magazines have a strange habit of piling up unread. Over the years I have bought magazines I need or want, Radio Times because I love the radio, ‘Parents’, gardening, knitting, writing. I  avoid glossy magazines about ultra successful glamorous women or ‘Real Life’ supermarket mags about distinctly unglamorous women.

So it would be hypocritical to buy a magazine I wasn’t sure I wanted because I couldn’t browse through it in a shop. Are the many Big Sellers I have passed grateful I have spared their pride? The other issue; even if you buy a copy every week, you will probably pass half a dozen different sellers and have to apologise that you already have a copy.

The other week we passed a new chap on our way for coffee and my friend remarked she had seen him before and he wasn’t selling many, because he wasn’t engaging with the public; we had soon invented a back story for him, ex serviceman etc. Before we got to the table to meet the other friends she had delved into her purse and disappeared back outside, returning with her Big Issue. I felt doubly guilty, so last week I bought a copy off the same chap and had a nice chat with him.

As I had a long bus journey that evening the lightweight magazine was ideal and in a couple of days I had read it from cover to cover; it was full of engaging articles about people of all sorts and what could be more interesting for a writer? I was filled with virtuous zeal and determined to buy the next issue and tell him how much I enjoyed it. I passed by another half dozen sellers in the meantime, but this week he wasn’t there!

Plan B; the least I can do is e-mail the letters page of Big Issue to enthuse and buy this week’s copy from the next seller I see.dscn7250

 

 

Frost and Fireworks

It’s that time of year when writers look forward to getting more writing done. Northern Hemisphere days grow shorter, helped by the man made device of putting the clocks back to Greenwich Mean Time. My Australian relatives are now eight instead of seven hours ahead, making that very modern tradition, Skyping, more complicated. All our traditions at this time of year go back further than we imagine; from Diwali to Bonfire night it is light we cling to. Imagine our ancestors in the long nights; when they looked out of their huts or caves they would see nothing but impenetrable darkness – no Kurling up with a Kindle for them.

Halloween, Monday October 31st, the day after the clocks went back, was a day  of brilliant sunshine, winter had never felt further away. Enjoying an outing to Kingston Lacy, a National Trust owned house and grounds, the sun was blissfully warm on my face, the autumn colours beautiful. On Friday we had a journey to make from south coast to east coast; it rained heavily all day long, it was hard to tell when dark day turned into early evening, but the car lights shining in the teeming rain had a certain beauty of their own. Saturday found our family gathering freezing in the garden for fireworks. Anyone too cold used the excuse of going back in the kitchen to comfort scared dogs or children. Sunday brought bitter but exhilarating winds on the beach.

Back home, Monday night brought the first frost in our area.The weather had changed so much in one week, but this was not a surprise; accurate satellite weather forecasts are broadcast endlessly and even before you get out of bed you can look at you smart phone. If mine  says ‘Bournemouth Rain’ I know it will be a good writing day, even if it clears up later there will not be time to get out in the garden to plant spring bulbs before it gets dark again.

 

Sunshine and Showers

If you love both gardening and writing much is dependent on the weather. Autumn, even with a small garden, is a time for tidying and bulb planting, but also refreshing with as much colour as you can bring back from the garden centre. If the sun is shining after a night of rain, it is a treat to the senses to be digging and watching bees buzzing round late summer flowers, but your writer demon is tapping on your shoulder.

Wouldn’t you like it to pour with rain so you can get back to your computer. You haven’t touched your novel, your website is weary and you haven’t LIKED the posts of your fellow authors on Facebook…

But I have found time to dust and vacuum my website so do visit http://www.ccsidewriter.co.uk where the sun is always shining.

Return and Reboot

We have arrived home from our 24 days away to find the house still standing and unburgled. But I could not access my Command Control Centre (computer in the bedroom); due to my insistence on unplugging everything electrical while we were away lest lightning strike the house. Strange white messages appeared on a black screen, pressing F1 was not enough and long suffering Cyberspouse had to reset the computer’s body clock and re-boot it. But I still stand by my sensible precaution as our local area did have a dramatic storm while we were away. We also have the electrician in this week leading to more switching off and rebooting. But today I can get down to some writing as housework is out of the question with the electrician working in every room.

September brought a very hot late summer especially in Kent and there was only one rainy hotel afternoon when I actually got out my notepad. The rest of the holiday was spent with family or visiting interesting places and spotting ( and sneakly photographing) fascinating people. So I have returned with no progress on my novel, but plenty of ideas for more stories.

Pens, Paper and Preparation

Holiday preparation for an author? Packing notepads of various sizes and some pens is not enough. I have been busy working my way through reams of scribble for my current novel. I like writing in long hand first, but I can’t actually read my writing, hence the need to quickly transfer from microscrap paper and macrosoft brain to Microsoft Word. Then edit and put on several memory sticks in case a burglar steals my computer, or worse, the whole house blows up while we are away.

In the meantime there is work to do in the ether; refreshing my website so it looks as if I have visited it recently and am not dead, blogs to write…. just in case the various portable electronic gadgets we are taking with us do not connect to the internet. And where are we going? Find out in the next blog.