Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Read & Write - Tuesday Fiction

I thought this week I'd share a piece that I wrote a while ago which has sort of ground to a halt. I'm not sure if it's worth persevering with or if it's just a little bit of whimsy that has had it's day. So I'm sharing it here in the hope of a bit of feedback, good, bad or indifferent!


I stood and waved frantically as the car moved slowly into the distance.  I think I waved long after it had vanished but I wanted to be sure they had gone and I was finally alone.  The quiet was almost solid and I drank in the silence.  This was exactly what I needed, some quiet and solitude to sort out my thoughts and hopefully to get the second novel on track.  If nothing else, going ‘off-grid’ would stop the nagging of my agent who was staring to call twice a day.  Second novel syndrome; the inability to put more than three words on a screen before doubting your ability and hitting ‘Delete’.  Plenty of writers had suffered from it in the past and I was the latest in that long line.  

 I turned towards the cottage and took in all the 'period features'. It was more run down than I remembered, desperately in need of a lick of paint and the garden was a wilderness that made my small plot at home look like Kew. Everything needed some attention. But that wasn't my problem; I was here briefly to sort my writing out and to chill for a while away from the annoyance of other people's expectations. 

I picked up my bag and entered the cottage.  Luckily I’m not the tallest soul or I’d have knocked myself out on the beams.  This cottage screamed quaint, although it wasn’t quite chocolate box.  First things first, tea!  There’s no problem too thorny that can’t be sorted out with a cup of tea.  The kettle wasn’t electric or even from this century but that didn’t matter too much.  But the clanging from the taps was another matter.  It gave up a dribble of water with a degree of reluctance.  At this rate it might take a while to make a pot of tea!

But, like many things, I’d exaggerated. I was soon curled up on the saggy sofa with a nice cup of tea, halfway through a packet of digestives.  The soothing qualities of a cup of tea settled me immediately and I became aware of how tired I was.  Despite not having done all that much recently I was amazed at how weary I felt.  Not the sort of tiredness that comes from hard, physical labour but the sort that comes from what my father called ‘world-weariness’; a feeling that everything was too much effort, too much trouble.  I just felt worn out by life.

My eyelids began to feel heavy and I was in danger of tipping the cold dregs of my tea into my lap.  Time to turn in and refresh myself.  In my usual slovenly fashion I left the tea cup on the draining board, swilled the tea pot out and turned the kitchen light off; out of sight, out of mind.

The bed wasn't made up so I pulled my sleeping bag out of my luggage and decided that all domestic tasks could wait until the morning. Winding my alarm clock I was shocked to see that it was only 9 o'clock. Still, I wasn't going to be playing by the rules for a few weeks so if I wanted to turn in nice and early then that was my business. Thankfully it was dark enough and quiet enough for me to sleep.

I woke with a start several hours later.  Had I been dreaming?  It wasn’t unusual for me to wake in the middle of the night from a vivid dream.  In fact some of my best story ideas were loosely based on dreams I’d had.  Not all dreams were suitable of course; who wants to read a dozen stories where the heroine gets rescued by either Johnny Depp in Captain Jack costume or Benedict Cumberbatch in Speedos and a deerstalker?  No?  Just me then!

 I had no recollection of a dream and I was pretty good at remembering my dreams, or at the very least whether I had been dreaming. It was still dark outside and by squinting at my clock I saw that it was only 3 am. Perhaps I hadn't been as tired as I thought and this was all the sleep I was going to get. I struggled out of my sleeping bag (must get that zip fixed or I'd end up entombed) and padded into the kitchen to make tea. The taps clanked again and I was glad that there were no neighbours to wake. At home they'd be banging on the door to complain about the noise by now - did those people have nothing better to do than listen for the slightest sound we made? 

While the kettle was boiling I wandered into the lounge. I'd left the curtains open last night and I was stuck by how dark it was. No street lights, no neighbour's windows in view, no security light going off every time the cats went out. True and pure darkness. The sort of darkness that looks like velvet, soft and rich. I half expected to hear a violin playing melancholy music to accompany the atmosphere. On the other hand it was the kind of darkness that things could loom out of. The kind of darkness which, with a touch of mist and a chill in the air would be perfect for the Hound of the Baskervilles to race out of.
I was wrenched out of my reverie by the kettle whistling in the kitchen.  Enough imagination for one morning, Kitty, pull yourself together.  As I poured the water into the teapot, something caught my eye outside.  The merest movement on the edge of my vision.  Almost too small to register but by this time I’d got my imaginative juices going so was feeling  extra sensitive to everything around me.

 I peered out of the window but all I could see was my reflection in the window and the endless velvet darkness. Probably a branch blowing in the wind. Nothing to get excited about. I took my tea and went back to bed. The sleeping bag had gone cold and wasn't as welcoming as I'd hoped. I lay on my side and watched the steam rising from my mug. The alarm was set for 8 o'clock but I didn't think I'd be able to sleep for a while so I switched the alarm function off.

I daydreamed for a while, making patterns from the steam swirls, trying to decode the faded pattern on the curtains (Roses? Horses? Houses?).  My mind wandered off and once again I found my eyelids getting heavy.  I allowed my eyes to close and I was soon in that blissful place where awake and asleep meet.  The warmth of the tea spread through me and I felt all my muscles relaxing, the tension leaving me as I drifted off again.

Suddenly I was wide awake. There had been a sound.  Something from somewhere, loud enough to wake me but not distinct enough for me to identify.  I was laying full length in my sleeping bag, tensed up and stiff as a plank.  Get a grip, woman.  What’s the worst it could be?  You’re in the middle of nowhere so it’ll be a branch breaking or an animal barking.  It’s not like the nutter noises you hear in the city; drunks trying to break into the shed thinking it was their Auntie Rose’s house, teenagers who thought the whole street wanted to join in their drinking games, wannbe ganstas with the windows of their VW Golf’s wound down sharing their dodgy taste in music.  Those were things to worry about in the early hours, not the odd badger coughing.

The sky was starting to lighten so I glanced at the time; 5.37am.  Early enough to feel virtuous if I got up but also early enough to get a jump start on the day.  I fought the battle of the sleeping bag zip again and grabbed the mug from the bedside table ready for the first cup of many.  After some clanging and groaning the tap relinquished some water and I began the ritual of tea making.  The morning was lightening and I could see more of my surroundings.  The garden was very unkempt, messy beds which may have contained a range of bedding plants once but now just looked like a mass of leaves and stalks.  There wasn’t a flower-head to be seen.  The shrubs were desperately in need of pruning and for a millisecond I wished that I’d bought my pruning saw with me.  The only garden tool I really loved; it gave the impression that I’d done loads of work in the garden when all I’d really done was saw through everything in sight and pile it all up under the tree ready to be shredded for mulch.

Those overgrown shrubs and trees were obviously the cause of the noise this morning.  The slightest breeze and they would have tapped against the window panes, putting the wind up tired, nervous wannabe writers.  Having solved that mystery I felt up for the day.  Rummaging through the cardboard box so carelessly plonked on the kitchen table I found a loaf of bread, some butter and jam.  That was breakfast sorted out, providing I could work out how the grill worked on the antique cooker.  The last time I’d seen a cooker that old had been before my mother had updated her first kitchen.  It was beige and stood on little cabriole legs, the door opened out on a hinge and it fastened with a little hinged clasp.  The highest heat was gas 15, hot enough to fire up the local crematorium or to shatter Pyrex (I have experience with this one!)  The grill was at eye level and needed lighting with a match – and yes, it did blow back making me jump the first time I did it!  As I wasn’t familiar with how it behaved I stood and watched the bread toast with eagle eyes and panicked that it was toasting too quickly, pulling the grill pan out too hard and dropping it onto the burners with a clatter.

Despite all this I managed to cobble together a decent breakfast including my third cup of tea of the day.  I decided that after washing the dishes I’d go for a walk around the local area and then try to get myself sorted out ready to tackle some writing.  Before I got any new writing done I needed to go through what I had and do some honest editing of what I already had.  With any luck there would be something that could be salvaged or tweaked, something that had the germ of a good idea or sparked an idea.  Nothing I’d come up with so far and got my creative juices flowing and if this retreat didn’t help the maybe I was destined to be a one hit wonder.    


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