Category Archives: Creative Writing

Where am I now?

I plan to share some of my story at some point so I’m experimenting with creative writing. Honest, critical feedback welcome.

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You know those TV dramas you get about delinquent kids from broken homes, who always end up living with some super nice foster family? The ones we call ‘gritty’. It’s usually a white man and a white or black woman who desperately want to help a troubled child, and they have a nice home with clean bed sheets and towels and mugs that aren’t chipped to prove it. They have a kitchen table they can sit at, which they do, with the mugs that aren’t chipped, warming their hands, while they discuss what to do about the latest addition to the household. They really seem to care. They worry about the best way to deal with the psychological trauma they’ve invited to their home, memories of tormented mothers, violent fathers and heroin needles on kids’ playgrounds. The kid always runs away. Maybe back to the playground. The kid is always found. The kid always takes it out on the nice couple, who the kid won’t call mum and dad at first and isn’t expected to, of course. Eventually the nice couple with the white man and the black or white lady win the kid over and they all muddle on, somehow. The washing machine works properly. The windows close properly. The kid is still haunted but, ultimately, everything is going to be alright. We know that.

That’s where I am now. I am the child and the mother. I adopted myself. I have a little teapot that makes one cup of tea and lots of different types of tea in my cupboard and when I open it I know that everything is going to be OK because I’m in the nice house, now. With the nice people. The carpets stretch out onto the streets and the whole world, in fact, seems safe again. Sometimes I make myself a cup of tea late at night not because I am thirsty but because I want to touch the mugs and the kettle and the spoons and the milk and all of these things that suggest I am in the nice house. The happy house. I’m happy here. I feel the mugs and they are solid, but I know they are easily breakable, and I can’t stop the shaking inside me, the quivering, the haunting. When they become chipped I throw them away. I think to myself, count your blessings girl, you can’t have everything – but you can have a nice cup of tea. Eight mugs, 6 plates, 5 bowls and 4 saucers. I am truly blessed.

And I feel I want to tell my story. I’m the kid in the TV show who doesn’t want to open up but obviously has so much to say. So I prepare. I write. I experiment. I try ideas out. If it’s all to come out, that which has been kept inside, it must be done carefully, it must be decommissioned, decontaminated, handled with care. It’s toxic. I have to do something with it because it can’t stay here. It’s corrosive. I have to pass it on or else blast it into space and that won’t be easy. So yes, it has to go somewhere. I’m trying to find the words. How many will I need? How many blessings? Do I really have everything ready to paint the picture? Can it all be conjured up, brought out, emitted, if I can just get the right words in the right order? Will you understand? I’m at the kitchen table, mug in hand, but where are you, reader? Are you ready for me to begin? Turn the TV off and take a seat with me. I’m going to tell you a story.


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1992

I’m experimenting with creative writing as I’m contemplating writing a book, perhaps an autobiography. I welcome feedback, particularly harsh and honest responses. Here we go…

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Emma felt increasingly sick as she spun around on the… err, well, she didn’t know what it was called, actually. The spinny-round thing. It had an orb at its centre, once red judging by the chipped paint now largely replaced by scabby looking metal. It reminded Emma of a planet. Mars. There was an old Mars bar wrapper underneath it too, which somehow seemed to add to this idea. The wrapper was faded by the sun at one end. Emma decided she wanted a Mars bar.

Mars had satellites. Four seats, one of which Emma was sat on. Sat on Emma was a small boy. He was four. A little boy. Emma was a big girl. She was 9 – practically a teenager. The boy was called Luke, and he clung onto her as they circled Mars. Emma was worried about falling and returning to Earth, as the particular patch of earth she was likely to land on was peppered with broken glass. It was pretty, though, like a shower of stars. They glistened against the black floor of the playground, a smelly plastic affair that seemed to Emma like a mixture of tarmac and bath sponge. Much of her world was carpeted this way: she preferred grass, but there were bugs in grass and they might sting you. Emma was afraid of insects, and wasps, so, thinking this, she threw her near empty can of Cherry Coke across the park and out into the universe, where it collided with her sometime-sweetheart and sometime-tormentor Matt. It was a space attack.

“Oi,” shouted Matt, “Fuck off!”

“Don’t swear in front of him,” Emma mouthed back, nodding towards her adopted child. “He’s only four!” Matt didn’t seem too concerned though. “Ya should’ve thought about that before you started throwing stuff at me. You fat cow.” Emma had been getting called a fat cow quite a bit since her mum had bought her a silver bomber jacket for Christmas. It was summer now but Emma refused to be seen in public without it. It was becoming dirty and worn at the sleeves and several other girls on the estate had since got their own bomber jackets, orange, blue and neon yellow. But Emma was the first.

Matt shouted over again: “Why are you hanging around with that little kid anyway?” Emma put both her hands onto the circular bar she’d been using to spin her and her small passenger around Mars and tried to slow down. She realized her hands would smell of metal now. These things happened in space.

The world started to come into focus and Emma became dizzy as the spinny-round-thingy lurched to a halt. She was facing the estate. The playground was surrounded by a small metal fence, painted green, but, like Mars, it was faded and chipped. There was a gate on the other side though no one used it, only little kids who came with their mums. Emma and her mates climbed over the fence, after racing to it, of course. Last one from the estate to reach the fence had lurgy. Everyone knew that. Beyond the fence was the park, a strip of grass that wasn’t cut very often and was full of old school books and free newspapers. Emma could see a copy of the Recorder flapping about. Beyond that was the alleyway, another metal fence made up of endless black bars which arched and curved at the top, joined by horizontal bars at the top and bottom. On the other side of that were wooden fences with holes in them, out of which poked blackberry bushes and, from time to time, vicious, slobbering dogs and more small children with dirty faces.

Emma looked above this, though, to the house with the red and white flag hanging out the window. She understood this was the England flag, but she had no idea why someone would want to have it on their house, the corner trapped by a closed window. There were at least two people who seemed to think it was a good idea on her estate though. Emma’s eyes jumped to the right as someone two houses down opened an upstairs window, one of the smaller ones on top, and she heard music coming out. I’m gonna get you baby, they sang, over and over. Emma wondered what they were going to do with the baby when they got it.

“He’s my friend,” she replied. “I like him”. Emma did like him. When she was older – which seemed like it would take forever, whenever she thought about it, which was all the time, according to her mum – she wanted a baby boy. All the young women on the estate had little baby boys and girls and Emma couldn’t wait to join the club. She had a toy iron at home and was prepared for the hardships of life ahead, which her mum frequently went on about. Emma thought her mum moaned too much. She would never moan if she had a little baby boy.

“He’s really funny, you know. He says dead stupid stuff sometimes. Said his name was ‘Rachel’ yesterday!” Now she had Matt’s attention.

“You what?” he mouthed, leaving his jaw open in theatrical shock.

“Yeah, he told me he’s a girl. Swear down!” Emma was thrilled by the attention and couldn’t wait to blurt out more. Plus it was true. She never told lies, Emma. Matt couldn’t stop laughing. “Argh, that’s naughty! I’m telling Pete.” Pete was Matt’s dad. Well, sort of. Matt didn’t know his real dad but Pete went out with Matt’s mum and made her smile more than he made her cry and Matt had never actually seen him hit her so he was OK in Matt’s book. And Pete would want to know about something like this. “It’s not his fault, he’s only four, he doesn’t know what he’s saying,” said Emma, defensively, though simultaneously egging him on: “Go on, say it again, say you’re a girl.” Her passenger was swinging back now and Emma held onto his little legs. He was scared he was in trouble, but also pleased that the older kids seemed to be paying attention to him. Really paying attention.

“I’m a girl.”

Both Emma and Matt laughed, Matt hysterically so. This was just about the maddest thing he’d ever heard anyone say in his life. He couldn’t believe it. Pete wouldn’t believe it. No one would believe it. It was unbelievable. He asked the boy to say it again.

I’m a girl, said the boy, though he didn’t say it out loud this time. Not fair. They didn’t believe him. He knew he was a boy, of course, but he also knew he was a girl. Of course. Obviously. He couldn’t really explain it. His mum never spoke to Emma’s mum, as far as he knew, and she certainly wouldn’t be seen dead talking to the likes of Pete. Too common. He should probably just go home now, before he got himself into more trouble, but he didn’t want to leave Emma. He asked her to walk him home.

“See you later, alligator,” screeched Emma to Matt as she and her small ward headed towards the fence. Matt responded by throwing the empty can of coke back at her, but it turned out it wasn’t quite so empty after all and Emma got yet another stain on her bomber jacket. It would have to go in the wash again and Emma’s mum wouldn’t be happy. The washing machine cost money. Emma’s mum would have to put another 50p into the electricity box. Emma wondered if she could run it under the bathroom tap before her mum saw.

“Why are you going, anyway? I was only joking with you,” said Matt, who looked a little sad around the eyes.

“I’m just gonna walk him home and I’ll be back out later,” Emma reassured him. Emma was pleased that he would miss her, but she had to be grown up. Duty called. “I can’t let him walk home alone,” she said in a lowered, though perfectly audible voice that implied there was no other option. “He’s only a little boy”.