642 Things to Write About – #3

European FlagThe entire neighbourhood is beige and grey, but at the end of the street sits a bright blue house. Who lives there?

Instinct says a bear. Yet, to say a bear would be to rip off someone else’s 20 year old idea, and that would surely put me amongst the beige and grey of the neighbourhood. Who wants to be there? 

I don’t think anybody lives in the bright blue house. I imagine inside would be a life of success, joy and community that everybody wants. Every now and then we take our turns to knock on the door, sure. Some press the little white bell on the left hand side, pushing it level with its ring of light as an out of tune, diminishing sound resounds. The button springs back and with it the sound leaps up with hope. Maybe this time we’ll get in. The more hands on among us distrust the technology and go for a traditional knock. Swift, sharp taps on the wood should get us heard, no?

No. The door remains firmly shut.

There are many options at this point. Some shrug their shoulders, back away and retreat towards home – maybe if we get back quick enough no one will notice we even tried. The safety of a life where we don’t push boundaries. Some of us glance around; did anyone see? No? Wonderful. Yes? Crap. Give them a little smile and they’ll give one back, we all know the feeling of standing in front of that door, forever outside and never within. Turn back up the path and back into the grey, side by side with they who watched you fail you walk away.

What about that person constantly running at the door, seemingly held back by a bungee? No matter how hard they run they never seem to get any closer. Do we feel differently about them? Probably not. We’re all in the same boat. Maybe the boat was once bright red and blue, with swirly white writing on the side announcing its name: the United Kingdom! It said. And proud we were.

That pride prevails no longer. Our boat has turned grey and all we can see is a small speck of blue in the distance – don’t kid yourself that we’ll be let back in. And yes I say boat deliberately. Our tiny island is nothing more – a life boat on the Titanic, perhaps, launching itself from a ship still afloat, because it was half full, they argue. Apparently that’s enough for it to launch. Didn’t they needlessly waste lives because Titanic lifeboats did just the same? Those of us who voted to remain in the EU are left without life jackets in the sea. Our life boat is disappearing in the distance (albeit slowly) and the ship dumping us in the water to fend for ourselves. WE made this decision, after all.

Enough of metaphors. They blur things, make them incomprehensible. The UK’s decision to leave the EU still doesn’t seem quite real, but what does is the shame and embarrassment permeating everything we’ve done in the last week. My country is a mess. This country that I used to be proud of for its loyalty, its democracy, its downright weirdness. We’ve fucked ourselves over and the future is falling apart right in front of us. If it wasn’t so tragic it would be funny – we’ve done this to ourselves. Nigel Farage may well be laughing, but he’s about the only one.

The door hasn’t just been locked to Europe, but our economy’s gone to shit and jobs in the City are falling as employers race to leave us behind. I don’t have anything new to say that other people haven’t already said far more eloquently than I ever could. But right now, Britain in the wake of Brexit feels a whole lot like resigning ourselves to that grey street for a long time to come. Maybe the blue door of a brighter and successful future will be easier for us to open one day. Now? It’s been locked and bolted like never before.

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642 Things to Write About – #2

Teapigs peppermint teaAn old couple stops you in the street and says you’d be perfect for the job…

…Of making them tea. Old, dementia-ridden grandparents and unwell parents tend to require a lot of tea. And so I learnt about tea the hard way. If you can’t remember how you take your tea don’t worry, I’ll remember for you. A family of tea drinkers makes it difficult not to be infected with a need for the stuff. Strong, obviously. And more often than not Early Grey, although I make a great herbal when tasked with it. 

Mint is difficult to perfect. Do you want it super strong so the leaves leave marks on the bottom of the mug? Or would you prefer just a hint of the mint, refreshing the hot water and ready to give you a boost in the sluggish afternoon? If we’re getting really fancy, what about some mint leaves crushed in the water? No?

I could just give you the hot water, with milk and tea bag on the side. This is how they made me serve it when I was a waitress. It reminds me of the theory that you can tell a lot about a person by the way they take their tea – never trust anyone who likes their tea anything less than a tanned brown. And more than two sugars? Definitely not.

We could even do away with the tea bag altogether and see what we can make with hot water. Add a slice of lemon in the morning and your digestion will be going strong all day. (I should probably warn that it might make you a tad gassy though – maybe we’ll skip this one?)

If the budget can stretch to it I’ll indulge you in Tea Pigs. AKA silky pyramids of joy. They have a liquorice flavour that I’ve not been bold enough to try; maybe we should brave that one together. At Christmas we can snuggle up with aromatic, bright red teas. Have you ever noticed that the tinking of the tea spoon against the side of a mug sounds remarkably similar to the silver and gold bells that line Santa’s reigns? No – no, me neither.

A large mug of tea might not be able to fix all the world’s problems, or even its small ones. But in my experience when something bad happens, and you don’t know what to say or do, no words will give more comfort than: “I’m putting the kettle on”. And that, dear old people whom I have met in the street, is what I will do for you. We won’t just drink tea, oh no. We’ll goddamn luxuriate in it.

642 Things to Write about – #1

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Message in a bottle washed up on beach

**Disclaimer** This turned into a far more fucked up story than I intended it to be, please do not judge. I do not endorse what happens in this post at all. The narrative voice may be insane, who knows – but it is in no way me. Personally, I blame the referendum. I hoped Remain would storm it and yet here I am at 3 in the morning trying not to panic about my doomed future, looking at percentages that are now genuinely 50:50. This is not okay. Hopefully my next post from the writing prompts in 642 things to write about will be a bit more cheery. And I sincerely hope it comes from a Britain still in the EU.

You’re enjoying making sand castles on the beach, when the ocean waves wash up a message in a bottle. You pull out the message: what does it say?

You might expect that a message in a bottle would be from a stranger lost at sea, desperate for help, food and water. I think that’s what I would expect, too, if I found one. Actually, I think I’d be quite disappointed if the letter wasn’t a call for help. It’s just occurred to me that you might feel the same; in which case, I’m sorry. 

Though I’m not lost and calling for help, I am still a stranger, which I guess holds a certain mystique. All you will ever know about my story is what I’m writing to you now. What if I lie? Messages from strangers need trust apparently – and with that I’ll take you into my story.

The hand by which my words guide you through this story once led a small child with eyes shining and palms sweaty with excitement. We were climbing the white cliffs to see the sea, sublime in its terrible power yet somehow fascinating to youth. A lightening bolt flashed through the dark, rumbling sky. The landscape was briefly lost to a blinding brightness and its effect faded slowly, like when the sun burns dots into your vision when you look at it slightly too long.

Our tread was dulled against the still dry grass as we crept forwards towards the edge. The rain was being held back by the swelling charcoal clouds, heaving their weight along with a deafening wind. Jacob’s hand slipped from mine as he moved in front of me, taking the lead. He approached my husband’s back.

We’d said we were just popping to the loo; Jacob had even put on a show of crying with his desperation, really grabbing this acting opportunity. My husband had his hands buried deep inside his pockets, fighting to keep out a coldness I couldn’t feel. I held Jacob in my gaze as he started into a run. His hands stretched out and all his force was behind him as he pushed my unsuspecting husband from the side of the cliff and into the crazed water below.

I walked up to join my son by the cliff’s edge and as I came level to him something in the grass tinked as it made contact with my shoe. I bent and picked up the empty bottle. Soon it will follow my husband into the sea. We are just a neglected wife and son, doing what we can to take our lives back.

But then again, I might be lying – like I said, I am a stranger. You work it out for yourself.