642 Things to Write About – #16

The cardboard box took up half of the room…

single-wall-boxes

This is not just any cardboard box. It’s a castle. A cardboard, kind of flimsy castle.

When we were young, me and my brother built (with the help of our Grandpa and Great Aunt) the best cardboard castle-fort you’ve ever seen.

It was painted with gold and silver sparkly paint, bought especially.

Thick black lines covered this paint at intervals, creating what, as a child, I would call “arrow holes”.

There was a drawbridge!

I’m not kidding, an actual, working drawbridge.

The rectangle of cardboard would lower, with a light tap against the long grass below. I say lower, but it would be more accurate to say fell. It was tied to the castle with thick rope that pulled tight when the drawbridge reached the floor. A gate into the cardboard box of dreams.

I remember a corridor. It was narrow and low. I ran my finger tips along the rough walls, here and there encountering bumps where each box was joined with slippery masking tape. Those sections emitted a small squeak as my fingers passed by.

It was narrow in those corridors, but not dark. We weren’t quite advanced enough to make ceilings.

I imagined I was a Princess from ancient myths. Wearing one of those pointed hats, with the whisps of material sewn from the top.

Now, my imagination would take that hat off as I walked between the cardboard walls, grass underfoot. This little girl would embrace the feminine when she wanted to, moving slowly towards the handsome but imaginary knight waiting for her within.

But when my brother called to have a pretend sword fight, the gender binaries of Arthurian legend were eclipsed easily by a child’s imagination. Leaped over, even.

I ran from the cardboard castle of dreams, out the drawbridge to the grass in front. With more cardboard, me and my brother echoed the pretend sword fights of millions of children before us.

Clang,

clang,

our imaginations were relentless, back then. That castle was more than just cardboard, then. To us, that was a real castle – brick, mortar, a place of real danger and intrigue. Even now, my imagination is tempted to agree.

642 Things to Write About – #15

astronomers-see-the-universe-dying-all-around-us-489041-2You meet a girl who, when she closes her eyes, can see the entire universe. Tell us about this girl.

“There’s a girl in this town that people just can’t comprehend, she can’t help transcending what is normal. She works unlike anything that anyone has seen and they’re scared when she’s there now that they’re aware…Her hands could hold infinity inside them to revere, but all they do is fear. They’d give in to new till it was known, treading the untrodden, making foreign home, everything she wanted. Show them strange, offer them the odd. Give them river crossings, watch them leap and run…There’s none as blind as those who close their eyes to change, there’s none as deaf as those who will not hear. Her hands could hold infinity inside them”.

This really quite long quote is part of a beautiful song called “What Matters” from The Clockmaker’s Daughter

The girl who can see the entire universe when she closes her eyes would be of the unusual type. A geeky girl at school. Not necessarily lonely, she would have a lot of close friends. Still, not part of the popular set though.

Just like the girl in The Clockmaker’s Daughter, this girl has a passion for life. She lives life like they do in books and movies. You know, when they use words like leap, run, verve, energy and seize.  This character takes every opportunity and creates opportunities for herself.

And then, when she closes her eyes, she can see the whole universe because that’s what she explores in her waking hours.

Her imagination adds the bits that are beyond the earth’s bounds. But adds them with the expectation that she’ll get there, too. One day. She explores an endless what if in her dreams. She wakes and those dreams become reality, even on the most mundane of days.

This girl gets tired and this girl has obstacles. But she climbs up and over them to stand on top and see the world that was hidden behind. (Shall we ignore the similarity of that image to Satan entering Eden? Good – right).

This girl sounds like a myth.

But you know what? If we work hard, I think we might just make our own myths reality. And oh, what then.

642 Things to Write About – #14

All the glass in the world has disappeared.Reef-shark

Laura jumped awake with cold. It was September and the slight Summer heat that now and again blesses Great Britain had faded without a trace. Dead winter already.

Her blind was bumping gently against the books piled on her windowsill. Glancing with daunted eyes past the unopened copy of Paradise Lost, Laura turns towards the mirror leaning against the wall at the foot of her bed.

A tired face and dull skin. But refreshed eyes looking back.

That’s what she expects to see.

But see this she does not.

The bare board that usually supports the glass stares back instead. Curious, and suddenly remembering that she had closed her window very tightly the night before, to keep out the cold late-Autumn air, Laura raises her blind. Her window was there. Window-frame, at least. Utterly glassless.

On a train to London, Will and Sarah are standing. Uncomfortably. Will is squashed against the side, trying his best not to lean on the emergency don’t-break-me glass. Suddenly they’re hit by a cold wind. Chilling them through.

Hair blown all around. Noses very cold and very red, very quickly. Commuters are looking about in confusion. A man with grey hair in an old-fashioned pin striped suit is moving his hand towards the window. Those watching expect the hand to hit the glass. But it doesn’t. On it travels. Outside the bounds of the metal train, that hand discovers to all that the double layer of glass has disappeared.

The wheels of the train grind against the tracks, sending visible sparks into the air. Will looks behind him to see the glass from the emergency break has disappeared.

At the London Aquarium, an early morning  tour for school children has reached the middle and most exciting section – the shark tank! The shark fins are cutting through the water, tails flipping from side to side. The fish seem so close!

No one has time to notice that the glass disappears before water floods out of the tank. Luckily these fish are tame. (You can even pay to swim in the large tank if you’re mad enough). Lucky because this isn’t Jaws. More like Finding Nemo,the intelligent fish seize their opportunity for escape.

Launching themselves with the water, through the holes in the wall where glass windows once sat, the fish aim for the Thames. Screams follow the sharks, particularly, as they fly through the air and hit the water by the street below. It’s a big leap for the fish to make. But, by and large, make it they do.

The children still inside the aquarium are drenched but grin broadly. Gradually, they let go of the side bars each had grabbed, attempting to prevent injury. Like Doctor Who and Rose, not wanting to get sucked into a parallel world, they had clung on.

They watch as shark fins, poking from the murky water of the Thames, head in threes away from London and out to sea.

Memories

I’m going to tell you a story.memories

Well, three stories actually, but don’t worry they’re only little. I also hope they’re not too self-indulgent. I promise, there’s a point to this.

The news broke this week that Vitamin D can help prevent dementia. We all know dementia sucks. Really, genuinely – it sucks. But just admitting that isn’t enough. That’s not news. Prevention needs to be our priority.

So what about those three stories? It would probably help to tell you that I have known three grandparents in my twenty years. All three have forgotten me.

My Grandpa died of Alzheimer’s the day after my 18th birthday. (Sidenote: his funeral was the day before my Cambridge interview. They told me I was “weak” and “too emotionally involved”  – but that is a post for another day). His illness was quick. So quick it ended almost before it began. That’s how it felt anyway. I’ve found that the brain takes a little while to catch up with life sometimes.

That’s how Alzheimer’s works. It’s so fast. One minute that person is present, themselves, they know you when you walk in the room. And when their eyes settle on you there’s that look of recognition. Followed by warmth and a smile.

Next minute they’re gone.

Well, no that’s not quite true. Alzheimer’s is unlike any other disease because the person you once knew and loved, their personality is gone. I don’t know where but like steam from a kettle it disappears into the air. Yet their body remains.

My Grandpa fell over, half in the street – half in the road (another side note: not one person helped him). After that, it all went down hill. He forgot who we were. I won’t share what I saw in the hospital, of any of my grandparents, because it wasn’t nice and I don’t want that to be my lasting memory of them that I share.

I said Alzheimer’s is unlike any other disease, but it is, of course, a branch of dementia. Only, dementia works much, much slower.

My Grandad had dementia for seven years before he died.

It’s strange how normal it can become. For your grandparents not to know you, I mean. After I while we’d stop going to see them. Maybe twice a year. I don’t know if that makes us bad people, but it was difficult. Not just for us, either.

Try to imagine living sat in the same chair every day (not that you’d remember day on day, I suppose, but stay with me). These people come and visit you. people who seem to know you, but they’re strangers. You have to sit and have tea with them as they desperately try to rustle up a conversation.

This is all doom and gloom. Honestly, sometimes there would be a little light of humour. If you looked at things differently. Like when my Grandad told us about how he’d won the 100m at the Olympic Games the day before we visited.

These stories were rare, though, and they depend on the character of the patient.

The drawn out nature of dementia means that you get used to the monotony of it. Almost fall into the trap of expecting the sufferer to be there all the time. That’s why, the week before I heard the news that my Grandad had died I was making plans to visit with my Dad and brother when I returned home from uni. Then the phone call came.

It was at that funeral that my Gran looked at me and my brother and said words I’ll never forget.

“Who are these two then?”

That was almost two years ago now. My Gran’s in a home now, more forgetful each day. Anyone with old relations will know that infections, while they leave our loved ones alive, always make things a whole lot worse. My Gran can’t remember my Grandad anymore. I always knew that when I heard that news, things would have reached their worst point.

I don’t know when to mourn. What’s coming is inevitable, but to an extent it’s already happened. My Gran isn’t my Gran anymore. But we just keep on, trying to pretend that she is.

And that’s why I’m writing this post. Because right now I need you all to go and do a sudoku puzzle and get yourselves some vitamin D. You’re all strangers but I need you to do that. One day, I guess, strangers might just be our families. And I like to think that we all have something in common as humans anyway.

So. Go and do a puzzle, eat a fish – a whole fish. Never regret any memories that you have. No matter how cringey, never regret them. They are memories, at least.

Please, just do those things. Do those things and you’ll be grand.

642 Things to Write About – #13

the_jeremy_kyle_show_02

Describe a situation where you feel very uncomfortable.

I am sat on the sofa watching Jeremy Kyle. Peaceful. At least, as peaceful as you can be when watching Jeremy Kyle.

In the kitchen are two housemates I really quite dislike. They’re in a relationship. The soppy type. Everything you hate about PDAs and over-enthused lovers – this pair is that.

“I love you, Eskimo. Eskimo, do you love me?”

The pet name Eskimo is an unusual one. Please don’t ask me where it came from, I don’t know. Although, I once saw them playing with a very fluffy hooded coat; perhaps that’s the root.

“Baby, I love you, of course I do. I can’t believe it’s been a year, baby. I can’t wait for our holiday to Paris. Baby,I wish we had more time together but I can’t wait to see you again in three weeks. I love you so so so much baby”. Some attempt to cover early Justin Bieber was occurring apparently.

“I love you, now and for all eternity. I will love you, forever and ever. You’re my girl, you and me forever. Us against the world, right Eskimo?”

Sat on the sofa, trying to spend some quality time with Jezza, I couldn’t help but wonder why they thought the world was against them. Two twenty-nothings at university in England. Privileged. No one to separate them.

Maybe I, watching a show that feeds from the failure of toxic relationships, am representative of the cynical sect of our society. Doubt that I should judge flooded in for a second.

Still, I turned the shouting TV up. Anything to block the sound of kissy noises now escaping the kitchen.

We shouldn’t waste our time on cynicism. I need to take life less seriously, I think. They probably do love each other. Why shouldn’t they share that? And maybe, just maybe, their families don’t approve of the relationship. It’s possible.

My train of thought continued similarly. It was berating me for being so judgmental. So unnecessarily judgmental.

Thump.

Thump.

Thump, thump.

No.

Nope, nope – it was getting faster.

I let out what I can only describe as an exasperated wail. Get me out of this damn house.

My coat was upstairs, but I would go without today. I ran out the door, not caring that it slammed on the way out.

I take it all back. I’ll be a cynical realist very happily, thank you.

All I could think as I ran down the street, coatless in the rain, was: “That’s where I cook my food!”

642 Things to Write About – #12

Football celebration

Jeff has just scored the winning goal in the football championship. He is a hero, and he is being carried on the shoulders of his teammates. You are the reporter who gets to interview Jeff.

Jeff how do you feel?

My voice is drowned out by the shouting team as they bounce him on their shoulders. The deep, incomprehensible vowels of male yelling resounds. Celebration.

Jeff sees me below: “alright boys, let me down, let me down. Thanks lads, see you in a bit, yeah? Oi, make sure you don’t start without me!” He yells this last after his teammates as they run back to the pitch-center to continue celebrating with the surrounding crowds. His eyes are glistening as he tries to stay cool, betrayed quite obviously by the grin spread all across his face.

He turns towards me. “Alright, Jas? Yeah I’m feeling great. I mean you can imagine. We just won the World Cup! Never in our wildest dreams did we expect this. Definitely no one expected it at home. But look at us ! We did it!”

He makes a little, unconscious bounce as he says this; his excitement spilling out into his actions.

I reply: “You did! Things were looking pretty bad until around 15 minutes to go, though. How did you manage to turn it around?”

“Yeah, well, Steve really pushed the boys at the end – no way were we drawing this match. I don’t think we could have taken the stress of penalties if I’m honest. It was win outright, or nothing. We just pushed on and kept attacking, attacking, attacking. You wait for that breakthrough and seize the opportunity as soon as it’s there. So yeah, that’s what I did. It had to happen eventually with all our attacking, really.”

“Do you think? We’ve seen so many teams this tournament keep pushing to not get anywhere. Your goal was great, you showed off some real talent!” I felt like I had to give this informal reply. Jeff was so focused on his team that he didn’t seem aware of his own talent.

“Was it? I haven’t seen it yet,” was the polite reply he opted for. He did allow a touch of excitement to tinge his voice, though. Barely there, but noticeable.

My turn: “Absolutely! Watch it back when you get in, it was great. Dipped right over the goalie’s head.”

“Classic move, right?” He laughs.

“Do you think this means big things for you future? Whispers of an offer from Chelsea are going around the press room (don’t tell anyone I told you).” I smiled at him broadly as I communicated the news. This is what footballers build careers for.

“Well, that is exciting news. There are bright times ahead, I guess. But I don’t want to get ahead of myself, you know? These boys behind me are why I play football. They make work fun, every single day. I love where I am, and there are still challenges. We won, yes. But like you say the win wasn’t easy. An easy win isn’t fun. I’m happy here and this is where I want to be right now.” He’s still smiling, so hard I’m surprised his cheeks aren’t aching. It was like he was stood on a trampoline, perpetually bouncing gently.

“I won’t keep you any longer. Go and enjoy your beers and a late night with the lads! – go – go! Well done, Jeff. Well done!”

He’s excited and draws me into an unexpected hug, before running back to his team. They shout as he reaches them and he’s soon engulfed into the mass of bodies. He’s happy, he knows what he wants. And everybody wants him.

642 Things to Write About – #11

One morning Jessica wakes up and realises she is magnetic.magnet

Smack!

What was that?

Only the sound of Jessica’s alarm clock whacking into her head at 6:30am on Thursday morning. One way to make sure she wouldn’t be late today, I suppose.

One way, except it took Jessica a good 15 minutes to prize the clock away from her head. Plus, she was left with a headache resounding about her skull, as if her head had been the clock, rattled about loudly and strong until someone was good enough to turn it off.

It took Jessica a little while to realise that she had turned into a giant magnet.

The biggest clue came when she tried to make her morning coffee and cereal.

As she headed towards the kitchen, a rattle started up as metal forks and spoons, scales and saucepans bounced in their drawers, pulled relentlessly towards Jessica. But suddenly she was pulled herself. Towards the fridge she flew – her first encounter with a bigger magnet than herself.

There was no chance of Jessica making it to work now. Flat against the fridge, with arms and legs to the side and cheek pressed to its surface, Jessica looked like she was wrapping the fridge in a giant hug. She was met with a cold response.

Her eyes looked bored as they wandered about the room, up, down, side to side, and out the window. We’ll back slowly from the room out of that same window, out and up into the sky to watch Jessica’s house disappearing below us. You might see, out of the corner of your eye, a circular metal object, hovering in the distance not far from Jessica’s house.

But before we go so high, notice one thing. The fridge has a slight wobble as it reacts to Jessica’s weight against it. It suggests disaster, but we don’t want to see that.

Up into the clouds we go.