Some days I struggle to overcome it. I start the day with all the best of intentions. I get up at a decent hour and don’t necessarily feel ‘bad’ when the day begins. This morning, for example. I woke up just after 7am and was ready to get out of bed by the time the alarm went off at 7.30am. I felt okay. The weather was forecast to be good. If not sunny all day long then at least dry with no rain due. It is now 3pm and although it has been a little overcast at times it has remained dry.
Last night I booked a collection on the Too Good To Go app for food at Oaka on New City Road. I have been wanting to try them out for a couple of weeks. I got very excited last night when finally I was able to reserve a surprise bag to collect this evening.
This morning I even booked an extra collection. A surprise bag from Starbucks in the Buchanan Galleries.
I had put off taking a shower this morning. I wanted to try and do some writing – I managed about 280 words of writing – potentially for a writing competition. It wasn’t really much. I should be happy I did something! Even if it was a meagre 280 words. It’s two hundred and eighty more words than I have managed to write within the past two weeks. At least when it comes to fictional prose.
As the morning raced away and then lunchtime followed, I wanted to get some reading done as well. I started my continuation of Jean Rhys’s Quartet but I was distracted and only read two pages.
A little earlier, looking up the info of where the Starbucks cafe was located inside the Buchanan Galleries, I noticed that you could cancel a reservation up to two hours before collection. I contemplated it but decided against it. Once I was showered, I’d feel more eager to go in and collect my foodstuffs.
Except I was growing increasingly lacklustre and disinterested in taking a shower. Some days, demotivation is all-consuming. My personal black clouds grew ever larger and darker. I just didn’t want to face that shower. But I couldn’t wander out without one! The thought of my unwashed hair being seen repulsed me. I thought about wearing a hat just to hide it.
I looked again at where the Oaka diner was on New City Road. A section of NCR is right near Cowcaddens subway station. I got momentarily excited at the idea of it being easier to get to than I had anticipated. It was near Chinatown, right? I could look at the Chinese supermarket there. Erm…no. New City Road continued over the other side of the M8 closer to St George’s Cross. This then meant that if I wasn’t going to walk, I’d have to take the train to Queen Street (hence I reserved the Starbucks bag) and catch the subway to St George’s Cross.
This morning, when in better spirits I had even contemplated walking to the diner. I looked at the time. It was 2.30pm. By the time I had showered – if I was to shower there and then…well. Oh, and there was Starbucks first, which if I walked meant I would need to walk further into the city first, then back again to Oaka. No, I don’t want to shower. I can’t be arsed.
I was trying to read. I wanted to write something. I looked at my pictures of Jim on my wall. “You are sssooo beautiful. So very beautiful. Just look at you. I miss you so very much.” I cried. Just stay home. Cancel the orders. Don’t bother having a shower. Then you can read.
I wanted to share this here just in case of any disruption with the ‘priptonaweird’ blog:
Transitional Period – Blog Renewal & Potential Disruption
My blog is up for renewal in a few days and I am trying to get a new system sorted with it. I’m sorting out a new storage host and this might mean a little bit of sketchy availability of the blog in the interim. I’m trying to minimise the effects of the transition as much as possible in relation to the running of the blog. This has accounted for some of my quietness of late.
My quietness had also been down to being away in Blackpool last weekend to see Hamish Hawk. I’ve been really eager to review the gig but also being mindful of adding to the volume of data to my blog until I sort something out with its storage space before the renewal date. I have been fearful over the past few days that I would have to kiss goodbye to the blog entirely and was trying to come to terms with the notion of it disappearing off the Internet entirely. I’ve put so much work into this blog over the years I would be devastated if that were to happen. I’d like for it not to.
I just wanted to make everyone aware of what’s happening. I’ll also put something up on my University & Unicorns blog just in case this one goes completely offline and readers go to my personal blog seeking out info on what the hell is happening.
In the meantime I’ll post a wee thing about the time away in Blackpool and the Hamish gig in a separate post that I’ll upload shortly. Thanks for your patience. I really hope that there will be minimal disruption and that the ‘priptonaweird’ Simple Minds Space will remain in place and be a great place for Minds fans and live music fans in general as a great source of information and entertainment.
I feel I need to write a little more here. It seems it should be a natural progression that while my Priptona Weird blog is on its downwards trajectory that the University & Unicorns blog should be on the ascent – at least in terms of the frequency of my posts and interactions with said blogs, right?
I’ve certainly been more focused on the aspect of my creative writing and uni study than I have with music and more to the point, Simple Minds music.
Certain other struggles abound. I find my mood fluctuating wildly at present. Mostly I feel incredibly insular and I rarely seek the company of others. I have always been pretty comfortable in my own company which makes it very weird that I should find myself permanently craving the attention of one person in particular and I don’t seem to be able to shut this desire off. That I just don’t have enough self-esteem or self-belief to banish that desire and get away from it. I get eternally angry with myself for not being able to let this desire go because I KNOW how unhealthy it is and I know that this person really couldn’t give a flying fig about me….and yet. And yet.
I just needed to air that thing here.
I haven’t been writing any fictional prose over the past 10 days. I’ve entered two writing comps and want to enter a few more before my new uni module starts. I had intentions of writing for much longer entries for a couple of writing comps – ones with entries that required a minimum of 2000 words written but I haven’t started on any of them. I’m not going to pressure myself. The fact that I have actually entered comps is good and I definitely will be entering a few more before uni starts back up.
As well as making sure I am continuing to write I am making sure that I am reading as well.
Last Monday (14 August), I took myself to Possilpark library (my most local branch of Glasgow libraries to my home) with an application form that I had picked up a few days before from the Hillhead branch that I had since filled out – and got myself a library card – AT LAST. Because Covid had struck barely three months after we moved to Glasgow (and also bearing in mind I was in Sydney for a month around Christmas of 2019), we hadn’t had the chance to get signed up to the library when the first lockdown happened. We did get temporary access to the library’s online resources but then the branches were closed for extended periods of time, etc, etc. When restrictions finally lifted and life went slowly back to normal, I was in the middle of study and had other things going on and I just didn’t find the time to get membership to Glasgow libraries sorted. Until now.
So now, not only am I FINALLY a cardholder of Glasgow libraries and have an ASTONISHING 32 branches across Glasgow at my choosing to visit (with Possilpark, Springburn, Milton, Woodside, Maryhill, the GoMA, The Mitchell and Hillhead branches all within my most immediate proximity for visitation and use) – over the past week I applied to have access to the University of Glasgow library under the UK universities SCONUL scheme. SCONUL access allows students from one particular university to gain access to the libraries of other universities around the country. So, I as an Open University student applied for SCONUL access. With that access granted, I was then able to apply to the University of Glasgow for access to their library – all TWELVE FLOORS of it. I was granted a card, which I collected from the library yesterday. I then spent a few hours investigating the library space. Checking out the various floors, the books on offer, the study spaces and…the views of Glasgow therein. OMG – the views from the upper levels of the library! There is almost a 360* view of the Glasgow skyline from there. And a lot of the study spaces face the window, so…you have that amazing panorama spread out in front of you. Okay, you might have your head buried in books for the most part while you’re studying – but when you need to take a breather, there is Glasgow right out there in front of you.
I began my exploration on Level 9. That’s where the English and English bibliography books were. I had no sense of scale from the floor plan of the library. It seemed as if it was going to not be a very big space with not that many books but OH MY WORD! There are THOUSANDS of books in there. I mean, the majority of books on the shelves are from authors and writers considered to be “in the canon”, with several copies of books of their work. Some of them are very, very old! I used up a good hour just on this floor, scouring the rows and rows of books.
From there I went down to Level 6 – this is where the Russian and East European books were meant to be but I got lost trying to find where they were, despite looking at the floor plan. I just could not find where they were. I decided to try again another time. Or to wait until I can book a guided tour of the library (they do guided tours twice a day at 11am and 2.15pm).
Next I went up to Level 12 as there is a viewing platform up there and I wanted to look at the views of Glasgow. When I got up there though, it seemed as if access was via appointment only which seemed odd – but I think it was the archival section of the library that was only accessible by appointment only and the viewing platform was accessible around the other side – I just didn’t know how to get there. Bugger! I’ll try again another time.
Down to Level 3 next and to the “high demand” area and group study areas – as well as the cafe. The cafe had just closed, so my plan to get myself a coffee and take a breather was scuppered. The “high demand” section is CRAZY! These books are deemed to be in such … high demand … that you can only loan them for 24 hours and some of them for as little as FOUR HOURS! Can you imagine? Being able to borrow a book for only 4 hours?!
Lastly, I decided I’d check out Level 4 – which I thought rather strangely, for a university, has junior fiction and non-fiction sections as well as the music section. Well, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I walked down one of the music book shelves and there were archival folders stuffed with copies of Sounds magazine dating back from 1981! I nearly died of excitement stumbling upon this pot of gold! I turn the corner to walk down the next row of shelves and there’s only bloody NME and Melody Maker mags archived as well! Neither of them date quite as far back as the Sounds archive but still. I was stunned! I even found a little bit in one of them that seemed very appropriate and timely. Little did I think I’d be stumbling across Jim at the University of Glasgow library…in a manner of speaking.
Did I borrow a book? No. I was a little too intimidated by it all yesterday. Overall it was quite the jaw-dropping experience and I will DEFINITELY be frequenting the uni’s library as often as I can.
Before heading to the UofG’s library, I popped into Hillhead library. I had a book to return that I had borrowed from the Possilpark branch that I had just finished reading. I know! I read the book in just TWO sessions! I KNOW! It was only 160 pages long – but yes! Hark at me and my “speedy reading”. Lol
I promised myself I wouldn’t borrow too many books – even though you can borrow up to 12 books at any time with Glasgow libraries, we all know I don’t read that fast! I couldn’t help myself though and came away with 4 books. Two books by Jean Rhys. I enjoyed Wide Sargasso Sea so much that when I saw two of her novels on the shelf, I had to borrow them. The other two I was taken with their titles initially – for very differing reasons. But then they both reeled me in with their synopses. The photo below shows the titles. How could I walk past a title like The Pheasant Plucker – I mean, come on! Lol
I haven’t worked on it for several months. It got pushed aside once I started working on The Gudmut for my uni assignment. It had been a potential frontrunner but the The Gudmut just grew legs and ran.
I chose to add the photo of myself at Portobello Beach in Edinburgh to this post as it was exactly the beach that I had envisaged all the years I’d been conjuring up a particular image of a beach when listening to the Simple Minds song “Special View”. I always saw young lovers meeting up at a beachfront by a wave-breaker and so Winched To Safety was my attempt to write out a scene involving these two young lovers I saw in my mind’s eye when listening to the song.
So…here goes nothing! As I say, I’ve not worked on it since late April or early May so there’s probably aspects of it I’d change now if I read it before posting it but I wanted to keep it as it was when I left, if for no other reason than to log just how much my writing has changed within the space of a few months. (P.S. You may need to be a Glaswegian or au fait with your Scots vernacular to get the pun intended with the title of the story.)
Winched To Safety
Caught in a reverie she is only vaguely conscious of the sound of the waves lapping at the shore edge. Little gurgling gulps that clap at the already wet and compacted sand. There is a crisp chill to the air. She sits upon the concrete windbreaker that stretches along the beach for hundreds of yards. She told him she’d meet him here at this part of the wall near where it juts out and has a row of bench seats for the sand-weary beachgoers to sit on. Some people that come here just like to walk the promenade and take in the view and never actually walk along the shore or pitch up on the sand. Fewer still take a swim in the ocean. That’s for the gallus and gleakits. Alicia is not one of them. She is among the majority that enjoys the view and the sea air but never sits on the sand. She rarely takes off her shoes and walks along the shoreline. It needs to be particularly warm weather for that to happen and today is not one of those days. Besides, she’s waiting for John and he won’t know where to meet her if she is walking along the shoreline or the promenade.
Taking a second to lift her head from being sunk down and almost buried between her clavicles, she spots him walking towards her. He’s looking out to sea as he strides along. He called her this morning and asked her to meet him at the beach at five o’clock. He had work until four and needed an hour to get from work to here. He sounded tense when he called. It was one of those ‘can we talk?’ calls. Why do people do that? Make a call in which they ask ‘can we talk?’, only to arrange a time for a meeting in which this talk will take place? Why not just say it there and then? Why make such a mystery of it? God, people are bloody weird, Alicia concluded. John was just her kind of weird though. Sort of exotic to her. Not exactly a man’s man. He didnae do the usual guy things. She liked the way he could be both gallus and shoogly at the same time. There was a strange kind of beauty in the way he carried himself. She thought he was stunning and every time she saw him her heart melted away just a little bit mair. It would melt even mair if he smiled his uneven smile at her. It was not his teeth that were crooked. It was the shape of his mouth. The way his lips curled slightly upwards at the sides so that even if his face appeared otherwise expressionless, his mouth always belied a smile of some kind.
As he neared closer Alicia could see he wasn’t smiling but his mouthed always smiled in spite of itself. Her stomach churned into a somersault. Her insides tensed as he reached her. Why did he look so gloomy? He took a seat beside her.
“What’s up? I’ve been fretting about this ‘can we talk’ all day.”
“Oh, ah didnae mean to make you worry. It’s nothing really. Well, ah hope it’s nothing.”
“Okay. So, what is it?”
“Kenny said he saw you with Dougie the other day. He said you looked ‘cosy’. He reckons you were winching him.”
From her bowed-head position in which she had barely been acknowledging John or her surroundings, she twists her head to face him and stares in furrowed incredulity.
“Whit you aon aboot? With Dougie? Why would I? And not even with Dougie but with anyone for that matter?”
“Ah dunno. That’s whit he told me. He swatched you and Dougie winching.”
“And…you believe him?”
“Naw. That’s why ah’m asking.”
“Well, if you’re asking then you must believe him.”
“So, you deny it?”
“Of course ah deny it! It never happened! Ah mean…mon! It’s DOUGIE. He’s a pal and all and ah like him but DEFINITELY naw like THAT! Why would you even HINK I’d get with him?”
“Whit ‘people’? Whit is this, John? Is this your way of breaking up with me? ‘It’s not me, it’s you’. Is that it?”
“No. Ah widnae do that. Ah dinnae wanna break up with you. Ah…ah…Ah’m sorry, okay. Ah messed up.”
“Aye. You did. A dunno whit Kenny hinks he saw but he didnae swatch me winching Dougie bloody Maguire. IAh’d never do that to you. Ever. Not to you. Not to any guy ah was with. Jeez-o!”
John takes Alicia’s left hand. She tries to resist at first but then relaxes and allows him to take hold. He wraps it into both of his and gently begins stroking the back of her hand with his left hand. Alicia returns to her sunken-head position, outcasting all external distractions and stimuli. It takes a while for her to simmer down. She begins to calm from the feeling of her hand nestling in John’s and from his stroking. Her racing heart is slowly returning to normal. He really doesn’t know, does he? He has absolutely no idea how much she loves him. She fears he doesn’t care but given what has been said maybe he does? No, that’s just jealousy. That’s not love, surely?
John looks away and out to shore, his inner thoughts a mangle of words swirling around inside his head. Oh, man. I’ve blown it. I really like Alicia. Actually, the hing is, I hink I love her. Naw. I mean I actually DO love her. She’ll think it’s pish if I tell her the noo. Why did I listen to that gleakit? What would Kenny know anyway? He’s a bam.
He looks down, gazing at Alicia’s hand in his, then looks up wanting to see her face. She’s looking down at her lap. Loosening his grip on her hand he motions to get up off the wall.
“Ah’m gonna go.”
Grabbing on to his right hand as he starts to pull away, Alicia pleads, “Wait! Please! Can we take a donder along the promenade? I have something to say. Ah just needed a minute.”
They walk a little way along the promenade. All the time Alicia has been trying to conjure up the courage to say what she wants to say to him. The breeze has picked up since she arrived and it carries the saltiness of the sea in its strength. As she wets her lips to speak, the saltiness reaches her mouth and brings with it a brief attack of nausea. Her nerves almost get the better of her. Nothing can be gained by remaining silent. Still holding John’s right hand in her left, she slows her pace and leans upon the windbreaker. He stands beside her. She turns to stand in front of him.
“The first time ah keeked you, ah knew. You were so different to any guy I’d met before. The way you can be so… Gallus but shy. The way you are with your pals. The way you smile at strangers, even the jakies and the bams. The way you treat your maw and da. Everything. Your hair, your face, your eyes. I feel boak saying it but I pure love everything about you. The way your ears stick out. The way you laugh. You cackle like a wee hyena. You melt my heart. I adore you. And I would never, EVER kiss someone else while I’m with you. I’d never want to. You’re everything. The whole package. I love you.”
He smiles that proper smile. Broad and brilliant.
“Ah thought I fucked this up. Ah dinnae know why ah paid any notice of Kenny, the shite wee bawbag. Ah wanted to say it after. Ah wanted to tell you that ah love you but ah thought you’d hink it was me just saying it for the hell of it. That you’d be too fumin’ to care or think ah was being real. You’re braw, you are, Alicia. Ah love you n aww.”
They lean into each other. Sweeping strands of hair away with gentle fingers, John looks into Alicia’s eyes. She’s got eyes the colour of Bucky bottles. Bucky gives him the boak, but he loves her eyes. Their lips meet. Now the salt tastes good, Alicia’s inner voice whispers to her.
She remembers the first time they met and the first time they kissed. Now that was a winch! Not an accused winch. Not a winch that didn’t actually happen but a real one. She’s sure that the thing she loves most about John is his lips. Those ones that permanently curl into that fixed smile of his. John ‘luscious lips’ Lachlan. That’s what he’d been from that day on.
“Ah was never going to stay angry with you. Kenny’s a bolt and ah cannae believe that you actually took anything he said for real. I was fumin’, aye. But if you didnae care, why would you be jealous? That’s what I was hinking anyway,” Alicia said once they stopped winching.
“Can I come back to your bit?” he asks her.
“Aye. You might even get a lumber…mabbies.” Now it’s her time to smile.
My apologies for the length of this. Strap yourselves in – but it’s Sunday afternoon (when I posted this it was anyway), so I hope that means you have some time to read it…(I have two short stories attached to this post, hence it looks so lengthy!)
I’ve been grappling as to whether enough time has elapsed to be able to share this or not. I really don’t want to jeopardise anything when it comes to my university studies, so I am being very mindful of what I share in relation to it. So, this is one aspect of doing creative writing that I am conscious of. The other is the catch 22 situation that is arising from me wanting to build upon my experience of the creative process by entering work into writing competitions but then conversely not being able to share anything that I am writing because most work that goes into competitions needs to be previously unpublished work – that also means never published on any social media sites or on blogs.
So, while I am writing things that I feel really good about and want to share, unless I have no intention of entering it into a short story or flash fiction comp, I can’t share it here!
What I can share with you now are my very first fictional creative writing efforts for my university degree. I won’t be talking about marks in relation to them – only to say I was happy with the mark that both of these pieces of writing scored – I’m hoping that keeps it vague enough?
I’m not wanting to share them in any kind of boastful way at all – I hope they’re good. They were wonderful things to produce. I enjoyed writing both of these pieces. The Gudmut required some research which I absolutely LOVED undertaking. I get a real buzz out of researching things.
I came into wanting to study my DipHE in English by working through the creative writing aspect of the course simply through wanting to improve the way I use writing as a tool of communication. I wanted to be able to express myself better, with better use of language and syntax. To feel like I am really understanding what I am doing with language and how best to use it. All of this was in relation to writing non-fiction and factual writing. I honestly didn’t think fictional writing was something that interested me or that I could or would be any good at – at all! This most recent module of study has really smashed down the wall of my ideas on that and has revealed to me how wrong my assumption was that “every story has been told” and “I have nothing new or different to add to the plethora of fictional writing that exists in the world”.
Not every story has been told. Although, yes, it is true that there are only seven basic plots in storytelling – like there are only 12 notes in music – the scope, shape and dynamics in which these things can be manipulated (in storytelling it can be through the three act story arc or the 12 act ‘heroic journey’ – whilst in music it’s in relation to chord arrangements, tempo, timbre, etc, etc) and drawn out can provide an endless array in which the same basic story can be told again and again in many, many varying ways. This has been the most valuable insight I’ve been exposed to during my uni studies so far. The realisation that, like with any other creative discipline in life – fictional writing, creative writing CAN be learned and developed. That one is simply not just “born with it”. One can have some element of a natural aptitude towards it, but with tenacity and focus it can be learned, honed, refined and perhaps even eventually mastered.
And holy fork I wish I had known this 30 years ago!!! I have to believe that at 52, it really isn’t too late and that, like with most other times in my life, I’m just “fashionably late” in arriving at the party. Lol.
I had convinced myself that you needed some kind of “gift”. That all inspiration and skill just … delivered itself to those gifted enough to channel it out of them. That is, of course, utter bloody hogwash! All it requires is drive, focus and tenacity.
During the pandemic, I lost my way in enjoying writing. I felt like I had too much to say and I was finding it easier to do vlogs. Sometimes I still desire putting things across in a vlog. I am feeling like that again at the moment but not in the way I was during the height of the pandemic. Then I just struggled to write. It was most likely down to the circumstance of the pandemic itself and the fact that I was very badly grieving the loss of my mum which I didn’t realise I was doing at the time. I accepted that I was probably going through a point of grief but at the point of it I felt like it was other things happening in my life that was causing this… “writer’s block”, if you will. The reality of it is, with the beauty of hindsight, I was grieving deeply for my mum. On top of that, I was perimenopausal. Not a great combo, it has to be said!
The past 18 months of being a university student have been incredible. I really have found a new lease of life with this and I am ssssoooo excited to continue my journey. I am really looking forward to the next phase, moving up a gear to Level 2 study and honing in on the creative writing side of my studies when the academic year recommences in October.
My apologies for the long blurb. In the future I hope to share some more of my creative writing with you. For now, and without any further ado, may I present to you my first two “professional” pieces of fictional prose writing.
The first was submitted without a title (yes, that’s how green I was at submitting pieces of fictional prose writing!) but if I was to give it a title now? I think I would call it (because I love alliterative things)…
P.S. Getting it to render the titles in headers and italics was a mare. Can’t work out how to centre align the titles, either, let alone the text within the stories that needed to be centred as well, so I hope they read okay and all of it makes sense.
Vinnie races out the front door and runs to press the down button for the lift. Jeanie is anxious of his enthusiasm but is thankful for it none the less. Where did the time go? Five years has passed by in no time at all! Before she knows it, he’ll be starting his first job, she tells herself.
She locks the front door of the flat just as the lift pings and the doors open. Vinnie jumps over the threshold of the lift as if he’s jumping over the world’s widest and muddiest puddle. Jeanie fumbles at placing the keys in the inside pocket of her handbag. She makes it into the lift just as the doors begin to slide shut. As the lift descends, Vinnie runs circles around her. Averting her eyes from Vinnie, she stares blankly ahead in an effort to ward off the rising nausea.
Nine floors down and ‘ping,’ the doors slide open. Waiting at the lift doors is Vinnie’s best friend Mark and his mother Sally.
“Mornin.’ How’ya feelin’?” Jeanie asks Sally.
“Alright. A little nervous for Mark. Excited for him too. How are you?”
“Okay, I think. Nervous too, more for me than Vinnie. He cannae wait to start school and I am thinking, ‘What am I gonna do without ma wee boy?’ Sad, in’t it?”
“Naw! I get it. Especially ‘cause he’s your only one. I’d be the same if Mark was my only boy,” Sally rubs Jeanie’s arm.
“Do you want to go and get a coffee somewhere after this?”
“Aye. That’d be great.”
It feels surprisingly warm, which seems odd to say in August, but not when you’re in Glasgow! The pleasant weather only helps to fuel the enthusiasm the boys have for getting to school. It’s only a short walk from the block of flats to the school gates. They cross the park from the flats and reach the road where the school is located. Kids and their mums are converging along the pathways of the park, all heading to the school. Exuding a mix of emotions and corresponding facial expressions. Some, a mix of enthusiastic child and furrow-browed mother. Occasionally the reverse. A number of them both appear happy. These are usually the mothers with more than one child accompanying them. They are the happiest mums. Then there are the sad pairs, with both mother and child looking as if they are about to be parted forever. As if they have been told it will not only be their first day apart but their final day together.
Jeanie, Sally, and the boys arrive at the school gates. A school administrator is standing by the gates with a clipboard in her hands, marking off each new arrival.
“Good morning. Are you excited for your first day?” she asks Vinnie.
“Yes! I am!”
“That’s great. And the name?” shifting her eyes to Jeanie.
“Devlin. Vincent. Vinnie Devlin.”
The administrator places a line across a point on the page.
“Okay. Vinnie, you’re in classroom K3, which is over on the left side of the main block. Head through the main entrance doors and you’ll see the directions for the corridor when you get there. Enjoy your first day, Vinnie.”
Too embarrassed now to reply with words, Vinnie flashes back a bashful but broad grin.
They wait for Mark and Sally by the main entrance. “So, which class is Mark in?”
“Do you think it’s better or worse that they won’t be in the same class?”
“Cannae tell. I guess they can’t distract each other, and they’ll get to play at break times.”
“What time is it now?” Sally checks her watch.
“Eight fifty-five. How long do you think we’ll be? Twenty minutes? Meet you back here at, say, nine-twenty?”
“Okay. See you later, Mark. And be good!” Jeanie says with a wry smile, pointing a playful finger at him.
“That’s you telt!” says Sally, stifling a laugh.
The boys wave each other goodbye and part at the entrance hall. Jeanie leads Vinnie down the left-hand corridor and stops as they get to the door marked K3. Standing in the corridor, Jeanie bends down in front of Vinnie to be at eye level with him. She softly brushes back the sandy-coloured hair from his face, adjusts and straightens his pale-yellow school shirt, tidies up the tuck in his shorts, inches up his socks and tightens his laces. She then places her hands lightly on his shoulders, looking into his wide-open ocean blue eyes.
“Now, you do everything your teacher tells you to, okay? Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Be polite. Remember to say please and thank you. And don’t forget, Mammy loves you! Okay, are you ready?”
“Come on then. Let’s go in.”
Jeanie waits for Sally back at the main entrance. A few seconds later she appears from the opposite corridor.
“How did it go?”
“Okay. Vinnie’s teacher seems really nice, and he already seems to like her so that’s a good start. How did Mark get on?”
“Great, aye. I’ve got a good feeling from his teacher. Ready for that coffee?”
“As I’ll ever be.”
Right now, Jeanie was unsure how she would keep a coffee down. She was hopeful that by the time they arrived at the cafe her stomach will have settled. The only thing Jeanie was sure of was that the day was going to be a long one.
The morning air is cool and light and the rocks leading down to the riverbank are slippery with dew. Down by the water’s edge, away from the more jagged rocks, three tribeswomen wade into the water. Led by the one called Merindah, the women check the traps early each morning. It’s the height of the yabby season – Murrai’yunggori. The flying foxes are returning to the coast from their inland winter camps. The summer camps of fruit bats swell in numbers and the waratahs begin to bud. At this time of year, the yabby traps are full to overflowing. The tribe refer to it as ‘badoburra’ – a flood or deluge. This morning the yabbies are ‘badoburra’o’ (flooding) in abundance.
Richard Morgan has split from his companion officer, Tom Wilkins, and is surveying a section of the Shoalhaven River alone. Both he and Wilkins, along with other officers dispersed elsewhere, have been sent from the settlement at Botany Bay in search of Peter Burgess. Pickpocket Pete. He was sentenced to five years hard labour and transported to New South Wales for offences his nickname implies. Burgess fled the settlement and is believed to have headed south. He escaped three weeks ago.
From a surreptitious vantage point upon a promontory and obscured from view by dense scrub, Morgan observes the women wading around the river’s edge. He’s never eaten a yabby. He has heard that the locals eat them often during the breeding season. Does this suggest they taste good? The notion sets him salivating. He wouldn’t think they’d be eating things that weren’t tasty, but they eat those big caterpillars, so perhaps it’s a case of needs must.
Morgan fixes his gaze upon Merindah. There is something about her he finds intriguing. A certain expression etched on her face. A squinch that looks as if she’s trying to catch a thought, or perhaps it is just the glare of the sun upon the water’s surface? They’ve been lucky today. There must be at least forty yabbies in those traps. They certainly eat better than we do, he muses. How long have these people survived like this? He’s only been here three months and is already tired of the meagre pickings. As a member of the New South Wales Corps, he knows he’s lucky. The convicts are starving. The crops keep failing. He can’t blame them for wanting to escape the settlement.
He continues watching the women as they weave their way from the riverbank. Are they heading back to camp, he ponders? He decides to make his way down from the promontory to intercept them. When reaching them, he uses a few local words he has learnt.
“Wedaeo. Wurar. Gubba. Wiribanga. Wugarndi. Nandiri?” Hello. Sorry, apologies. White man. Lawbreaker. Runaway. See?
He places a hand on his forehead, shielding his eyes and mimes looking around. He then looks back at the women for recognition that his words have been understood.
Merindah looks around to her companions, Keira and Lilardia. They look back at her bemused. She looks back to Morgan, staring at him with a squinting-eye scrutiny.
“Illa. Bunamara’wa’mi. Dyirrun’wa’mi. Gudmut. Yaluwaninmin!” No. You offend me. I mistrust you. Red bull ant. Get away!
The women brush their way past him and head onwards to the camp. He can only make out the words ‘illa’ – no, and ‘gudmut’ – a word they use for the officers. What else she said to him is unknown. By her expression and tone of voice, he assumes her words were dismissive.
Morgan waits a moment, then turns to appear as if he’s heading off in the opposite direction and darts behind some shrubbery nearby. Once at a safer distance he begins following the women. As they approach the camping ground, he takes refuge behind the trunk of a tall blue gum. He knows of cases where other escaped convicts have been aided by local tribes. Could Burgess be hiding here amongst this clan? The chances are slim, but worth investigating.
At the campsite, Keira and Lilardia have prepared the yabbies. Four huts surround a clearing at the centre of the camp with a firepit. To the side of the main firepit is a smaller coal fire. Two men stoke the fires, shuffling tempered pieces of coal between them. Once satisfied with the fires they retreat to their huts, reappearing shortly after with an array of weapons.
Merindah enters one of the huts. Her husband Jemmy and Burgess are inside. She addresses Burgess.
“Gudmut. Nandiri’o’mi.” Red bull ant is looking for you.
“You said what? Minyin?” He knows that the word minyin means ‘answer me’ or ‘why’, depending on its tone.
“Tamuna’dya birad’o dali’nga.” Did not speak to him. She speaks to him in pidgin. “No talk to him. Said go away.”
“Allawah naway. Ngalawa dudba’dya.” Stay here now. Remain sheltered. She translates her words. “Stay in hut. Hide.”
From his spot behind the blue gum, Morgan observes the workings of the camp. Apprehensive to approach until he spots Merindah. He cannot see where she is right now. Perhaps in one of the huts? As he ponders her whereabouts, she exits a hut along with Jemmy. Continuing his observations, his mind wanders. Mystically, this place is a haven to them. Look how they flourish. They never appear in need of anything. They eat well. They may look scrubby, but they’re well fed. They never seem sad, and he’s never seen them argue or act violent towards one another. They make music and dance. The other officers think they’re barbarians. He doesn’t see it. He thinks they are as civilised as the settlers.
Suddenly he feels hindered by his military jacket. This red mark of the gudmut. This weighty attire is far too impractical for the weather conditions here. It may have been cool when he arrived but now the days are already sweltering, and it’s only spring. He is tempted to remove his jacket but resists doing so.
He waits until the tribesmen leave the camp to go hunting then starts to approach. The women are working around the centre clearing, tidying away the remains of the morning feast of yabbies. As Morgan approaches, the women stop what they are doing. He addresses Merindah.
“Illa. Nandiri. Gubba. Wugarndi. Naway?” No. See. Whiteman. Runaway. Now?
“Illa. Walanga’dya’nya’mi. Minyin?” No. You followed us. Why?
Sensing he struggles to understand her words, she speaks to him in pidgin. “Chased us. Why?”
“Nandiri. Dudba. Wugarndi.” See. Hide. Runaway.
“Wurar wunan. Illa gubba galumban’nula worriwarra. Tamuna’o’mi.” Sorry silly man. No white man in the camp just now. Excluding you.
From behind him, Burgess emerges from the hut. Creeping slowly towards Morgan, he carefully loosens the strap of the musket on the officer’s shoulder by gently nudging the musket’s butt end. As the strap falls, Burgess grabs a firm hold of the musket. Alerted to the movement from a change in Merindah’s facial expression, Morgan swings round to find Burgess standing in front of him, the protruding bayonet pointed at his chest.
“I heard you were looking for me. Well, here I am. Now what?”
“How did you manage it?” replies Morgan, unflinching.
“Being here with them. How did you get them to trust you?”
“Easy. I’m not a gudmut. They could see that. They wanted to help me, look after me and feed me. But now the question is – what are you going to do? Well, I guess the question is more … How fast can you run? You see the thing is, I don’t really want to kill you. I don’t want to be pointing this weapon at you, but can I trust you enough to let you go? This place is a hellhole without living the way these natives do. I mean, just look at that garb you’re wearing. It’s not even fit for this place. It marks you out. Do you know why they call you a gudmut? You run around with no direction like a little red bull ant. A tiny, weeny insect with a tiny bite that doesn’t hurt anyone. Just an inconvenience. A pest. No one’s scared.
So, run, gudmut. You’ve seen nothing here. Go back to Botany Bay. You never saw me. If you run and come back with more men, it’ll end badly. Mark my words. It’s really very simple. Go now, keep your mouth shut and live. Come back to arrest me and die. Your choice.”
Walking through the scrub, Wilkins heads towards the campsite. He pauses as he spots the clearing in front of him. Taking up a spot behind the same blue gum that kept Morgan out of sight, he observes the camp. First, he spies Morgan. He then sees the three native women standing behind him. His eyes darting quickly to the left, he spots Burgess with the musket pointed at Morgan. He tries to map his way there, quickly configuring a route into the camp and ensuring he approaches Burgess from behind.
Moving forward from the safe coverage of the blue gum, he creeps closer to the camp in short stops, using as much dense scrub as possible to remain hidden from view. The huts are just a few yards in front of him. He needs to tread very lightly from this point. If those native women see or hear him coming, he’ll be toast.
As he inches closer to the camp clearing, he edges along the side of one of the huts seeking to remain hidden from view. He carries his musket ready to fire. When he reaches the front of the hut, Merindah sees him. Burgess gleans a change in her facial expression as she calls out ‘GUDMUT’! He swings round and before Wilkins has time to fire his musket, Burgess fires at him. The impact forces Wilkins to squeeze his trigger. Morgan falls to the ground, shot in the abdomen. Wilkins bleeds copiously. A wound to the chest. The bullet lodged in his heart. Death is imminent.
Merindah is transfixed looking at the rivulets of blood mingling with the dry earth of the camp clearing. A colony of red bull ants are drawn from their nest to inspect the sweet trails of liquid. Gudmuts feeding on a gudmut. Conscious of his shallow breathing, she waits for Wilkins to intake another breath. He doesn’t.
Immobilised by the scene in front of him, Burgess is drawn out of his frozen state by Morgan’s painful cries. He cannot let Morgan live now. They can’t look after him! He looks to Merindah. She’s fixed upon Morgan, concern furrowing her brow. She wants to help him and alleviate his pain. She looks to Burgess.
“Banyadjaminga’ba’wa’nga.” I will help him. “Me help him!”
“Illa! Bugra.” No! Kill. “I kill him. Stay back.”
“Illagara’wa’mi. Murin’wa. Banyadjaminga’ba’wa’nga. Buyi’o’nga.” I refuse to obey you. I will not listen. I will help him. He is dying. “No! Me help him!”
“Then what? Minyin. You free him? Minyin!”
“Nay. Midiwinyi’ba’nya. Karbo madingara’nya’nga. Namuru’ba’mi’nya. Yanma’ba’nya moon wawu. Wingara’dya’mi mandingara’ba’nga.” Yes. We will abscond. After we free him. You will accompany us. We can go anywhere. You considered releasing him.
Her emotions fuel her long reply in her native tongue. She speaks in pidgin. “Yes. Let him go. We run by river. Leave huts.”
Merindah points to Wilkins.
“Gudmut yinya gugun.” Red bull ant there dead.
She looks back at Morgan.
“Illa narang naway. Buyi’o’nga. Manwari’o’wa’nga.” No different now. He is dying. I am saving him.
Merindah moves towards Morgan, but Burgess steps in front of her. Holding the musket downwards, he stands over Morgan and thrusts the bayonet into him several times until his wailing ceases.
Burgess looks at Merindah’s pained face.
“I’m sorry. I had to. We need to leave.”
When the tribesmen return from the hunt, they see the blood on the ground. Where is the body? Burgess, Merindah, Keira and Lilardia had carried the bodies into one of the huts.
Daybreak. As Merindah awakens she tastes the metallic bitterness of the blood heated by the morning sun. Soon everyone is out of their huts and ready to leave. Men, women and children of the tribe. Also, the gubba (white man). They head to the river, further away from where the bodies had been disposed. They’ll walk a long way before they feel safe enough to settle anew. The river is long. There is no talking, just walking.
A good friend suggested that I read the Russians (reading is as much a part of the process of writing as anything else). Although I’ve read Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita, I’ve not read anything else by any other Russian author. The idea of reading Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, et al scares me. I’ve been recommended to read Nabokov, which I will do – as he might just be a little more accessible than the other two. If for no other reason than length and volume of dialogue. I’d like to read other Bulgakov works too at some point.
Myself and the OH went to Milngavie yesterday and we ended up perusing an Oxfam shop there. It had a decent book section. I have come to the idea of trying to pick up at least one book from a charity shop each time I am near one and so yesterday I was determined to leave Milngavie’s Oxfam shop with one book in my hands.
Well, blow me down. I found this! I’ve never heard of this author, but their name is obviously Russian. I checked out the details of the book and was taken with it being a collection of short stories. That appealed to me. The price also appealed as most other books I looked at with some initial interest to purchase were selling for £2.99. Mr Turgenev’s offering was a more appealingly priced £1.99. So, Mr Turgenev came back with me from Milngavie. I’m looking forward to diving into its pages.
I have to say that I’ve taken a real dive in mood recently. The only thing that has given me any real positivity of late has been my A112 module results for uni.
I have entered my first piece of creative writing prose into a competition but despite what the rules/guideline for entry states, I’ve had no acknowledgement of my entry so I am just slightly concerned that my email has gone into their spam folder and will never be seen. Yay!
I have another piece I’ve been working on for entry into a short story comp the writer’s magazine I’m subscribed to runs. I still need to iron it out. The deadline for that is on the 15th.
Yesterday I started on another one to enter into the Oxford Flash Fiction prize, but I am worried that what I have written for it is waaaaaaay too dark. I don’t want to say any more about it or give any detail on the story as it has to be unpublished work that is entered.
So, yes, despite my low mood I have tried to keep myself focused on my writing and getting some stories developed, etc. It’s hard not to write darkly when you’re down.
I guess the Simple Minds tour news hasn’t helped the situation but I am not admitting that to anyone else but myself (and whoever reads this – definitely not my OH or certain close friends read any of my blog stuff…and that’s okay. It lends a certain freedom to what I feel I can say here, if I need to air things) and I am trying not to dwell on it because there is no changing the situation.
I was meant to go to a gig on Tuesday night but I felt so low and so dark I just couldn’t motivate myself to go out. Actually, I was in a state of panic thinking about going so I decided it was best not to as I was just trying to fight a nervousness that wouldn’t calm down – until I made the decision not to go. I then spent the rest of the night really down on myself for not having the strength to pull myself out of such an awful state of panic.
So I am just trying to keep creative. I try to write every day, even if it isn’t much, or it’s for the blog (the other blog) or some other non-fiction writing rather than fictional prose or short story writing for competitions. Anything that means I am typing away and getting words down on a page, or on the screen.
I’ve just gone over the halfway point of my uni break. I don’t feel like I’ve been as productive as I would have liked but I am at least writing and…I’ve entered a comp! Even if I’m worried that my entry has gone nowhere and I’ve had no confirmation that it was received.
I’ll try my best to keep the old stiff upper lip – pull the old socks up and just…get on with things.