Friday, 30 September 2011

Summer meets Autumn.

I'm a Summer girl, really. So I've been loving the heat wave this week. It appears I'm not the only one either - I finally made it to my favourite park today with a camera, and took a few sneaky shots of the public's enjoyment of the heat.
So here is South Park in the sun:

A slightly wonky shot of the famous spires - sorry about that, guys.

Some beautiful colour in those trees.

People enjoying the shade under said trees...

Lens flare, woot!

A rather dramatic catch from the guy in the blue shorts - I felt like I should have been applauding, but that would have drawn attention to the fact I was taking their picture.

Beautiful shadows stretched across the grass...

I feel like putting in this photo is bad form, seeing as it's vertical instead of horizontal, but I like it, so the OCD people out there will have to make do :P

And a final full shot of the park from the top of the main hill. How I love this space.

Now I've shown you the Summer, let me tell you the Autumn. Walking along the grass barefoot (of course, why wear shoes?) I came across a patch that had been blanketed with the dried flames of crisp fallen leaves. If you have never shuffled barefoot through a layer of Autumn leaves on a bright green carpet of soft grass, you have not experienced life to the full. I would recommend this experience especially for those of us who specially walk close to the wall so they can crackle through drifts of leaves on the pavement, or find themselves walking the street funny because they want to crunch a leaf under their foot with every step. Yes, I'm talking to you...

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

I've been song-obsessing...

I'm a tad annoyed that I can't link to youtube anymore - the internet sees my new lappy-top as a mobile or andriod. Therefor youtube fails. Sad times.
Anyways, you know how some songs just get stuck to you for a time? Well, over the last week I've had these ones on repeat...

Ed Sheeran - Could just be the bassline.
Ridiculously catchy. Plus it's Ed Sheeran.

The Weekend - The Knowing.
Repeat, please.

One night only - Say you don't want it (acoustic)
Is cute. Also, the lead singer looks suspiciously like a guy I know... Which always makes me do a double-take whenever I see him singing.

Adele - Someone like you.
Ahh, this woman's voice is amaaazing.

Lisa Hannigan - I don't know.
I'm in love with this song. She sings to her future partner, and the simplicity of it is beautiful.

Frank Sinatra- Killing me softly.
Golden oldies. Any cover of this song fails to do the original justice.

Jen Titus - O death.
Drama! Incredibly full sound. Soul-touching. (Go youtubing and look up Death's enterance into Supernatural. It has this song in the background - never watched the series, but this... deity's(?) entrance is awesome.)

Emily Browning - Sweet Dreams.
Daaark and pretty. From the soundtrack of Suckerpunch.*

Manu Chao - Bongo Bong.
Hehe. Sounds like the Gorillaz. Only not. "Je ne t'aime plus, mon amour. Je ne t'aime plus, tous les jours."

Malajube - Montreal 40.
French people. I have no idea what they're saying, but the track is brilliant. As is the music video :)

So there you have 'em. Not one of the most imaginative posts, I know. But I wanted to music share! *runs back to speakers to put all back on repeat*

* Sucker Punch. Good storyline? Nope. Depressing. Leaves much to be desired. Amazing acting? Nope. Vanessa Hudgens, pleeease try to act! Happy ending? ... Debatable. I'd say no. BUT. Very pretty girls in pretty cool outfits kicking the butts of a range of monsters, from zombie soldiers to robot guards, in a video-game style (explosions and dramatic kick-flips included), to an awesome soundtrack? Win!

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Words of wisdom.

"When you breathe, you inspire. When you do not breathe, you expire."

she built a blanket fort.

in a blanket fort constructed from fragile sheets of securities,
padded out inside with cushions of collected comforts,
the little girl curls in the love-light of the lamp through the fabric
and puts her hands over her ears to block out the rage of reality.
if she squeezes her eyes shut in her creatively constructed cocoon,
bites her lips together and hums a childhood lullaby,
the notes will add a throbbing bass of bars to her security.
she's hiding from the adult road to adolescence,
the years of awkward promised pretence before a foothold is found.
in her childish dreams she doesn't have to walk that way.
she thinks she's found a safe-place, and so she sings in her sleep.
tangled between her fingers she holds the string of a red balloon.
her gift to her grandchildren. if she can hold it that long.
the fairy lights above her head pretend to be stars.

Gorjuss - Flying above it all.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

"This little Bluebird came looking for you.
I said that I hadn't seen you in quite some time.
This little Bluebird, she came looking again.
I said we weren't even friends, she could have you."

Christina Perri - Bluebird

Tuesday, 20 September 2011


Would you rather pass away
and let time stay
or watch time pass away
while you stay?

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Halfway up the stairs - story. Part eight (end)

When I got back on Saturday afternoon, the children were already home. Mother was sat in the living room with a mug of tea. "We thought we'd be home to welcome you, Catherine," she explained. "And why don't you have a teapot and teacups? I'm drinking out of a mug. It's all wrong."
"I'm not a tea drinker, Mother." I moved to the window. Liam was drawing a goalpost on the shed wall with chalk. "You know that."
"Well, you should still have one for guests. I'll bring you one of my older ones when I next visit."
"It'll only get broken."
Mother tutted as she fingered a chip on the mug's edge. "You really should take more care of your belongings, Catherine. You can't blame all these breakages on the children!"
"I don't." Liam spotted me through the window, and waved excitedly, gesturing with both hands at the chalked shape on the shed, and expressively mouthing "Goal posts! Is that okay?" I nodded my agreement at him, and he grinned and gave me a thumbs up sign, before disappearing into the shed to fetch his football.
"Where's Mel?"
"Oh, upstairs or something. She went straight to reunite Mr Bear and Dolly-de, or so I gathered. Or maybe she's on the stairs."
"On the stairs?" I turned to face her. "Mother, I asked you to keep her away from the stairs! Even you said they were dangerous to play on. For goodness sakes!" I started for the living room door. Mother sighed, "Well I'm sorry! It's not like anyone's needing to use the stairs. I thought she'd be fine." I'd stopped listening, marching out into the hall. I stopped when I got to the foot of the stairs. Mel was sat halfway up with Mr Bear and Dolly-de perched on the steps next to her, singing a little song as she played with Dolly-de's hair. It wasn't a song I recognised. "Halfway up the stairs is a staaair where I sit. There isn't any other stair quite like it. It's not the bottom, it's not at the top!" There was a pause as she lifted Dolly-de onto her lap. She hummed the tune, in the broken way I knew meant she'd forgotton some of the words. Her thin voice echoed off the wooden walls of the big hallway. "And all sorts of funneee thoughts run around my head!"
"Mel!" I called softly."Mel, I'm home!" She didn't respond. Just kept playing with Dolly-de's hair and singing. "It isn't really anywhere, it's somewhere else instead!" I stepped up onto the first step. Step: one. "Mel?" She ignored me, her head turned away, her attention diverted. She was tugging at Dolly-de's hair in time to the song. "It's not at the bottom!" Tug. "It's not at the top!" Tug. I went up to her, put a hand on her shoulder. "Mel, honey?" She turned to face me. Green eyes glinted. Cute little mouth open. Head tilted to one side.
"Who's Mel?"

She sits on my lap and I tell her stories. My bony hands clutched at her dress, her soft, pudgy arms wrapped around my sharp elbows to keep her from falling off. While Liam watches. Protective. Towards the end of their visit, I show her the little sweet tin from the table next to my armchair, and let her wriggle her way off my lap and onto the floor. "Now you go and count the stairs. Go on! Just to make sure. Go and make sure there's still fourteen steps." And I smile. As if it's a game.

Friday, 16 September 2011

A photoshoot with a bee.

So much storying going on! *flails* Last installment tomorrow, me thinks.
I should probably be sleeping. Work calls tomorrow with the breakfast shift, 7 30am start. [ Enter long, contemplative pause here... ] Nah. A few more minutes won't hurt.
I took a photo of a honey bee today. Announcement of the week, right? I was doing a bit of gardening - back aching, up to my elbows in dirt, hands scratched and stung by many, many weeds - with the sun against my shoulders, amidst the smell of freshly turned soil, with the ladybirds for company. Lovely. And there was this little bee, buzzing busily around some pink flowers. Settle, turn, lift, buzz, settle, turn. KeyChild has been kind enough to lend me her Nixon. I fiddled with the exposure, shutter speed, iso, etc etc etc, and the flower turned from black to white to pink in my lense (those settings can be hard to negociate). I took a few photos, as the bee fussed its way along the petals. Experimented with framing, using the flowers to create an asthetically pleasing border for my model. A photoshoot with a bee. "Turn a little more to the left, darling. No, the left... There we go. Oh, perfect darling, perfect. Simply divine!" And then he took off, wings fizzing through the air, headed for the second flower, and my finger hit the button automatically, and lookit! A honey bee in flight!

After all that fussing. A complete accident. "Simply divine!"

Ps. On the subject of bees - did you know that the name of the headmaster of a certain now-famous school of wizardery and witchcraft attended by one bespectabled individual actually means bumblebee? Love it.

Pps. Also, another name for an umbrella is "bumbershoot". I am never using the word "umbrella" again.

Halfway up the stairs - story. Part seven.

After the children had gone to school the next morning, I moved the children's beds and favourite toys downstairs. I made a blanket fort in the living room, rearranging the furniture so that there were three sleeping areas. One on either side for Liam and Mel, and one in the middle for me. I set up a treasure hunt along the bottom floor, and set a barrier across the bottom of the stairs. I gathered together our explorer outfits - finding Grandpa's old "Captain Jack" coat for Liam, and sewing big brass buttons and gold braid, and a flower patch, onto an old purple jacket of mine for Mel - and hung them on the coat hanger by the door, with our newly cleaned wellies arranged underneath, and our explorer hats perched on top. I phoned the school and arranged for the children to have a few days off. Then I phoned my Mother. "Of course Liam and Mel can stay with me for a bit! Is this over the weekend?"
"No, Mother. They'll spend the weekend with me, then come to yours on Monday for a few days. Is that okay?"
"That would be lovely, dear. I think your Father and I would appreciate a little young life around the place for a bit! Planning a holiday, are you?"
"No, no. I just thought that the children would benefit from spending some time in an old favourite place of theirs, after having to settle into the new house so quickly." The flattery softened my Mother up, as I knew it would. "Well, that's lovely. Of course they can stay. As long as they like! You make sure you take a break too, Catherine. Don't spend all that time working!"
"I shan't. Thanks Mum. I'll drop them round Monday morning, at about 11."

The weekend was perfect. Mel didn't go near the stairs, accepting my explanation of the barrier without arguement. "That's cannibals up there - we can't go up there, they'll eat us! We have to stay in the jungle down here." We camped out in the living room, toasting bits of bread over Granma's open fire, and telling jungle stories till the fire died down to glowing embers. We drew pictures of the animals we encountered along our expedition, and made juice-cocktail antidotes when Liam got poisoned by a snake. We found the cure for the dreaded Jung Disease, and caught the last living specimen of the Fire Moth, which Mel kept in a glass jar by her bed till I told her we needed to let it go before it became the last dead specimen. Then on Monday morning, we clambered into the back of our Jungle Jeep, and made our way back to "civilisation", laden with our spoils and discoveries.
I spent the next four days mostly at home. I cleared away our jungle. I caught up on the paperwork that had built up. I phoned Mother every morning to talk to the children, and went to see them twice. Mel and Liam seemed more content in my Mother's house. Mel was not as quiet, not as withdrawn, and Liam seemed happier to be around her than he had been at home. I thought maybe we were making progress. That all they'd needed was a break from the stress-residue of moving into a new house. On the last night, I locked up the house and checked myself in to the local hotel for a night. I figured I needed a break too.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Halfway up the stairs - story. Part six.

It was true that Mel was quieter, though. She appeared to have withdrawn into herself a little. As the days went by, she became more withdrawn, her behaviour more erratic. She'd forget where rooms were in the house, or there'd be a moment of confusion on her face when I asked her to go and find Liam, or she'd be sitting at the table and forget to eat. I'd sit in the kitchen and listen to her, playing on the stairs, going up and down, up and down, counting the steps out loud. Always she would get the number wrong. And always she'd get to step seven, and there'd be a pause. A minute of silence. Before the eighth step.
One night I counted the steps with her. We made it all the way to the top. Fifteen. Then all the way back down. Three times. I showed her that she was wrong. She cried herself to sleep that night.
Then one day, Liam came to find me. "Mum?" He stood at the kitchen door, fingers twisting round themselves. His face was white. He jigged nervously up and down on this toes. I put my pen down and turned my chair to face him. "Liam? What's the matter? Are you okay?" I put my arms out and he clambered onto my lap. He put his skinny arms around my neck and I held him close, stroking his curls down smooth. "Mum," his voice was muffled in my shoulder. "Can I sleep in my fort in the loft tonight please?" I leant back and turned my head towards him, and he sat up and stared at his hands in his lap. "It's a school night, Liam."
"I know. I won't stay up late or anything, promise!" He looked up at me, pleading. "I've set up a proper bed and everything, come and have a look!" He slipped off my lap and grabbed my hand, dragging me out of my chair and to the stairs. Mel was sat at the top of the stairs, with Mr Bear sat next to her, conducting some serious conversation with her favourite cuddly toy. Liam let go of my hand and ran past her without looking at her. He didn't pause when he knocked the toy off the step and down the stairs. I caught Mr Bear and handed him back to Mel as I went past. When I got upstairs to the loft, Liam was sat on his makeshift bed amongst cardboard walls, hugging his knees. His body cast a long shadow against the back wall from the desk lamp he had plugged in next to his pillow. I gently pushed aside one of the boxes. "That wasn't very nice, Liam. You should have apologised to Mel for messing up her game."
"Sorry," Liam muttered into his knees. I carefully manuvered myself into position on his mattress, tucking my feet close to my body to avoid knocking over a wall. "So why'd you want to sleep up here?" Liam shrugged. "I just wanna."
"I don't wanna sleep next to Mel. That's all. Can I sleep up here, pleeease, Mum?"
"Liam, what's wrong with Mel?" I turned to face him. "Something's wrong, but I can't work out what." Liam shrugged. His face still buried in his knees. "I dunno."
"Liam? Please help me out here."
"I don't know. But..." He turned to look at me. "Something's wrong with her eyes." I nodded. "Okay." I stood up, keeping my head bent to avoid knocking it on the low ceiling. "Of course you can sleep up here. Stay here as long as you like. But if I see the light on past 8 30, you're moving in with me, got it?" I smiled down at him. His face echoed mine. "Thanks Mum!"
"Don't forget to brush your teeth."

Mel was still playing on the stairs with Mr Bear. The hallway light was off. The street light from outside created a sharp shadow pattern through the banisters that sat in crooked shapes across Mel's shoulders. I sat down next to her. "Bedtime, Mel-bell." Mel hugged Mr Bear close to her chest. "But I don't wanna go to bed."
"It's a school night, Mel. You know the rules." When she didn't move, I put a finger under her chin and tilted her face towards me. She stared at me with those big blue eyes. "Bedtime." For a split second, the eyes flared green. I let go of her chin and flinched back, shocked. Then she blinked, and her eyes returned to blue, and she tilted her head back and screwed them up and whined, like she usually did, about how Liam got to go to bed later than her, and anyway, she wasn't sleepy at aaall yet! But for that spilt second, I'd seen in her eyes an anger and annoyance that was competely out of proportion with the situation; an anger that was almost adult-like in its strength.
I put her to bed. Tucked her up with Mr Bear and Dolly-de, and a bedtime story. She wriggled and giggled throughout the whole process as normal, and I found myself wondering if I'd imagined it. If Liam's remark about her eyes had me seeing things. It was ridiculous.
After I'd checked Liam's light was off, I made my way slowly to the stairs. I counted them as I went down. Step: one. Step: two. Step: three. There were fifteen steps. Always had been, always will be. The trees outside tapped long fingers against the pane of the kitchen window, and the sound skittered along the floor of the empty hall and up my legs and back. The wind shook a dirge out of the leaves. I turned. Put one foot on the first step. Counted out loud. "One." Next step. "Two." Next step. "Three. Four. Five. Six." When I got to step seven, I held the word and the step like Mel did, prolonging each before bringing my foot down towards step eight. "Seveeen..." My foot hovered in thin air, my body almost tipping itself over in its attempt to keep its position. Then just as my foot began to come down towards the eighth step, I found myself falling. Falling through blackness and cold, with the air whistling past my ears, my arms and legs flailing out, my mouth opened in a scream- my foot hit the eighth step with a jarring thud that echoed throughout the hall. I toppled over, my hands slamming onto the ninth step. My breath came short and ragged. "Eight." Pulling myself upright, I continued up the stairs. "Nine. Ten. Eleven." There were fourteen steps. I sat on the top step, staring at the stairs, my body shaking, until the grandfather clock in the hall struck twelve. Then I dragged myself to my feet, and made my way to bed.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Halfway up the stairs - story. Part five.

The weeks passed. School started. The children loved coming back from their days at school to their new home. We each found our own favourite spots. Mine was the kitchen. The Aga in the corner kept the room toasty warm, and the huge old table was a perfect space for me to spread out all the papers and files that constituted my work. And with the biscuits and kettle within reaching distance.
Liam's was his room. He made a whole world of imagination up there. Using the many cardboard boxes left over from moving house, we built a fort there one weekend. A fort that covered almost half of his substantial-sized room. We also extended it up the secret passage to one side of the loft, so that he had a mini town of carboard houses spreading over a full corner of the house. I bought him packets of oversized marker pens, and he decorated the cardboard walls with dragons and aliens, cityscapes and mountains. There was even a Tardis hidden down one cardboard street.

"What about Melanie?" my mother asked me. "Where does she like to spend her time? I imagine that Liam doesn't always appreciate having his little sister getting in the way of his games in his City." She smiled fondly out of her living room window, where Liam was kicking a football against the garage wall, often missing the white goalposts painted on it. "She likes the stairs, strangely." Mother took a sip of her tea. "The stairs? What an odd place to get attatched to."
"Mmm." I brushed some cake crumbs off my lap. They peppered the green carpet, and Mother's songbird flew down from its perch to peck them up. "We painted her room together last weekend. In pink and yellow, of course. And we set up her toys and belongings on shelves that I put on the walls at her height. But she has a habit of moving her games into the hallway, to sit at the top of the stairs and spread down the steps.
I tried to discourage her. The amount of toys that were left to trip people up and generally cause havoc was ridiculous. But nothing I said or did would change her mind. In the end, it's nice to have her there. She's learned how to tidy up after herself now. And I can hear her playing from the kitchen when I work."
"Stairs are dangerous, Catherine. Little children should not be allowed to play on them." Mother put her cup down on its saucer and looked reprovingly at me. "You should really put a stop to it." I nodded in halfhearted agreement. "How is she otherwise though? Is she settled in?"
"She's quiet." I stood up, and went to the window. Mel was squatted on the grass, poking bits of stick into the dirt to make a circle of wooden pieces, then laying brightly coloured flowers picked from the flowerbeds in the middle of the circle. "She's quieter than usual. I think maybe she hasn't properly settled in just yet. Sometimes when she's playing on the stairs and I'm working in the kitchen, it goes all quiet. When I look over at her, she's sitting completely still on the stairs. Aways the same place, exactly halfway up. Not making a noise. When I get up to go and talk to her, she starts, and looks at me as if I've appeared out of nowhere. All shocked and surprised. It's odd."
Mother rattled her cup in its saucer. "Well I know a good child psychiatrist if you think it's necessary, Catherine."
"Mother!" The shock registered in my voice, and Mother looked at me crossly. "Well, you never know, dear! Moving house can be very unsettling to a child, and after your divorce..."
"Mel does not need a psychiatrist, Mother. She just needs more time." As I left the room, I heard Mother sigh. "Poor Melanie. I never did like those stairs."

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Halfway up the stairs - story. Part four.

Time passed quickly. There was alot to do. The children helped as best as they could with the cleaning and tidying. We made it into a game. Every morning we put on our explorer hats - mine was a straw sunhat, Liam's was a fireman's helmet, and Mel's was a bright pink wooly bobble-hat - and collected our equipment, and went to unearth treasures. We cleared out the rooms one by one, throwing away and donating dozens of binbags worth of junk, coming down each evening covered in cobwebs, and carrying armfuls of treasures to be stowed away in the spare room. Once the house was set to rights, the children would be able to play with, dress up in, and make a mess with all of the bits and bobs put in the spare room. But not till then. A kind of bribe to help get the house done.
One Saturday, we finished at lunch time, and I gave the children leave to play at will in the few tidy rooms. Liam disappeared into his bedroom to organise his belongings. I sat in the kitchen with a cup of coffee, and watched the rain slick grey patterns on the thick glass of the kitchen windows. The cup was burning my hands, but it was a relief from the cold water I'd been sluicing down the furniture with upstairs. I could hear Mel playing with her dolls at the top of the stairs. "How lovely of you to come, Mr Bear! Would you like some tea? Sit up, Dolly-de. Sit ups! There. I pour the tea, shall I?" I closed my eyes. Weariness laid a heavy hand over my eyelids. Mel's voice chattered on in the background; a backdrop set of chords for the melody of the raindrops. "Your dress looks pretty today, Dolly-de! Is it from Sainsburys? I thought so, I got my dress from there too, see? More tea, Mr Bear?" There was a series of bouncing clinks as a teacup escaped and skipped down the stairs. I heard Mel put the teapot down with a clank. "Oh BOTHER."
Her steps tripped their way down the stairs. "One, two, three!" she sang. "Seveeen... eight! Nine, ten, eleben, twelves. Erm. Firteen. Fourteen!" The teacup chimed as it rolled over the uneven planks at the foot of the stairs. I heard Mel pick up it up and start her way back up the stairs. "Ooone, two, sree, four, fives. Six, seveeen..." There was a pause. Silence from the stairs. I opened my eyes. Silence. I waited. Silence. I put down my cup and pushed out my chair. "Mel?" There was a small sound from the stairs. Mel said, "Oh!" She was stood on the step, her foot raised above the next one, her eyes wide and shocked. "Mel? Mel, are you okay honey?" She turned towards me. Eyes blue and round. "Mummy?"
I ran up the stairs and knelt on the sixth step so that my face was just below hers. "You okay?" She blinked. "I'm... I forgotted the number." I hesitated. "It's number eight, honey." She blinked again. "Eight!" She turned away from me and stomped up the stairs. "Eight, nine, ten, elebens, twelve, firteen, fourteen!" She reached the top of the stairs and plonked herself down next to Mr Bear. "I has your teacup Mr Bear! More tea?"
I made my way back downstairs. I'd told her the wrong number, she must have been on step nine. She must have missed counting one of the bottom steps or something. I shook my head and poured the rest of my coffee down the sink. Tomorrow I would send the children to their Grandmama's for a few days. They needed a break from this house.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Halfway up the stairs - story. Part three.

When it came to bedtime, we went up the stairs together, counting them one by one. Step: one. Step: two. Step: three. All the way to fifteen. She pouted a little at the unfairness of it, as I tucked her into the makeshift bed between mine and Liam's on the floor of my room. "But there was fourteen Mummy, there was! Cause you goooes..." She lifted her hands in the air above her head. "Five, six..." Her right hand patted the air. "Seveeen..." Her right hand stretched towards the ceiling. "EIGHT!" She dropped her right hand as her left hand shot up towards the ceiling. "Nine, ten, elebens..." Her left hand continued patting the air till she got to fourteen. Then she smiled at me triumphantly, as if she'd proved a mystery of the universe. "See?" I said that I did. And apologised for the apparently wrong number of steps that evening. Liam clambered between the layers of his sleeping bag next to Mel. "I'm sleeping here tonight cause I've got to look after you and Mum," he explained unnecessarily to an uninterested Mel. I left them counting the cobwebs on the ceiling, to the yellow glow of the hallway light, and went to continue unpacking the saucepans and crockery in the kitchen.
When I finally went upstairs to bed, it was past midnight. My feet carried me up the stairs one tired step at a time, my eyes half closed, and when I got to the top of the flight, I stumbled. My foot had lifted itself in preparation of another apparently nonexistant step, then fell with sickening speed and weight to slam against the wooden floor of the hallway. My body swayed with the shock of the unbalance, and I clutched at the wall to steady myself. My bed was welcome in its sleep-inducing comfort. I fell asleep to the snuffly sounds of Mel's breathing, and the shuffling of Liam as he continued to move, even in his sleep.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

I take shelter
in this way.
hide away...

Maybe I had said
something that was wrong.
Can I make it better
with the lights turned on?

The xx - Shelter

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

And so it comes down to this. Again.

Halfway up the stairs - story. Part two.

It wasn't till I was in my thirties, had been married, divorced, and had two children, that I moved into Granma's house. We opened the heavy wooden door, and I watched the dust rise around my children's feet as they scampered into the big hall and ran circles through the downstairs rooms. I supervised the removal men as the children made a racket upstairs. When they came down for drinks and biscuits, panting and flushed, they were covered in cobwebs and had dust balls clinging to their clothes. "Children! You look like you've found the messiest part of the house to play in!" Their replies were indignant. "We weren't playing!"
"Yeah, we weren't playing!"
"We were exploring!"
"I'm an explorer, Mummy!"
"We found such coooool stuff!" Liam leant forward over the table towards me, while Mel stuck her grubby hand into her glass of orange juice to fish out a broken section of biscuit. "Mum, I found a sword in one of the rooms! A sword! And there's a wardrobe that's still full of clothes - I found a coat that looks like Captain Jack's from Dr Who, can I have it pleeease, and I found a hat with roses on it that Mel was wearing, but then she sat on it, but I think it's okay, and there's a lion's head on the wall in the hallway, or maybe it's a tiger's - Mum, why is there a lion's head on the wall? - and I found my room!" Liam paused to take a breath, and I took Mel's drink off her and fished the soggy biscuit out with a spoon, which she took off me and sucked contentedly. Outside, the removal men were manhandling a running machine out of the van, and Liam stood up on his chair in his excitement. "Muuum! Did you hear me? I found my room!"
"Sit down, Liam. Which room was it?" I tipped Mel's drink down the plughole, watching as it made an orange track through the layer of dust on the surface of the china sink, leaving behind islands of biscuit, then poured her a fresh cup. Liam had sat down, but was now swinging back and forth on his chair, the legs making rattling noises against the uneven grey tiles. "It's the one next to the bathroom. Can I have that one? It has a huuuge window in it and a secret passage to the loft!"
I remembered that room. It used to be Granpa's study. I only went in there twice as a child. The window was the same in Granma's bedroom, reaching from floor to ceiling, looking out over the now overgrown garden. "Yes, you may have that room, Liam. Go tell the removal men that's where you want your bed and your boxes to go." He leapt off his chair and disappeared out of the door, and I sat to watch Mel gulping down her juice. "What did you find on your exploring, darling? Did you find your room?" Mel swiped her mouth with the back of her hand, leaving a smudge of grey dust across her chin. "Liam founded a hat! With flowers on it, but it was all dirty so I didn't like it so I left it... somewhere. Um. And I found aaa..." She rolled her eyes up and opened her mouth wide in an effort to remember. "I founded a thing. It was quite big and had things on the side..." She gestured vaguely with her hands. "And it was all metally, kind of. And it was really heavy!" A bright smile. "So I left it. Errrm. And I found aaa... bed! It was huuuge! It was a biiig bed, Mummy, can I have a biiig bed?"
"Maybe when you're older."
"Aaaw, okays. And I founded a room that Liam said was mine and it had a pink carpet." I picked up the dishes from the table and started to rinse them at the sink. "And there's a lion in the hallway, and the bathroom door has flowers on it, and I founded a broken cup in the sink in your room, and the door to the downstairs toilet creaks alooot! And I founded a mouse nests in the wardrobe, and I counted the stairs and there was fourteen! And then I also founded a dead butterfly, which was sad. I put it in the hat. I'm going to tell the removal mans where Liam's room is."
I smiled as she scrambled down from the chair. I'd have to go and find the mouse nest and relocate them before Mel got too attatched. It was cute the way she counted the stairs, considering the amount of times I used to do it. Stomp stomp stomp, up and down. And then to Granma to collect my sweetie. "There's still fifteen stairs, Granma!" And how she'd go on about the odd number of stairs.
My smile faded. Fifteen? But... My feet clacked across the hallway floor as they carried me to the door. "Mel? Mel, where are you, honey?" Liam was outside with the removal men, getting in their way as they threw boxes at each other, and swung around our furniture. He hadn't seen her, and I issued an automatic safety warning, which the removal men batted aside with a goodnatured "We're keeping an eye on him, Mrs D", before going back into the house. She wasn't in any of the downstairs rooms. I clattered up the stairs. My mouth automatically formed the numbers as my feet hit the steps. Stamp: one, stamp: two, stamp: three. My heart beat faster the nearer I got to the top. Stamp: nine, stamp: ten, stamp: eleven. I tripped on the thirteenth step. There were fifteen steps. Of course there were. Childish error, that's all.
She wasn't in any of the top rooms either. My voice bounced off the old panelled walls. She wasn't locked in any of the wardrobes mistake. She hadn't fallen through the broken slats of the old king-sized bed. She hadn't tripped over an uneven floorboard and knocked herself unconcious. I went back downstairs. Fifteen steps - once fifteen steps, always fifteen steps.
As I reached the front door, her voice caught my attention. "Mummy?" She was standing halfway up the stairs, one hand clutching the banister, peering through the wooden poles. "Mel! Where've you been?" I ran up the stairs and sat her on my lap. She poked my cheek with a finger. "I been exploring!" Her body was warm and soft against my chest.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Quick Post - No.11

Just lookit this.
And remember to fly, once in a while.

Halfway up the stairs - story. Part one.

"Never get a house that doesn't have an odd number of stairs."
That's what my Granma always said. "You don't want a house with an even number of stairs, oh no." She'd shake her head and purse her lips. "You want a house with an odd number of stairs. Like eleven. Eleven is a good number of steps for a house. Or fifteen. My house in Cransbury used to have fifteen steps. That's why I bought this house, as well. Fifteen steps is a good number. But you don't want an even number, no no."
I'd be sitting on her lap. Her bony hands clutched at my dress, my soft, pudgy arms wrapped around her sharp elbows to keep me from falling off. She would lean back in her chair and tap her fingers against my knee. "You pay attention to your old grandmother, now." She'd smile at me, her eyes crinkling around the corners. "You listen to your crotchety old grandmother now. She knows what she's talking about!" Then she'd show me the little round sweet tin from the table next to her chair, and let me wriggle my way off her lap and onto the floor. "Now you go and count the stairs. Go on! Just to make sure. Go and make sure there's still fifteen steps." And she'd smile again, like it was a game. And I would go and count the steps. Stomp: one. Stomp: two. Stomp: three. All the way to the top. And then back down again. Stomp: one. Stomp: two. Stomp: three. Just to make sure. Then I'd go back to my Granma, and she'd give me a sweet from the tin, and let me choose if it was a pink one or a yellow one. Then I was free to go and play while she and Mama talked.
When I was eleven, I asked her why. Why should I only have a house with an odd number of steps? And she said, "Well, it's bad luck, isn't it child?" And looked at me all surprised, as if I should have known.
When I was thirteen, I told her that the number of steps in the house wasn't going to change. If there were fifteen steps, there were always going to be fifteen steps. And she looked at me as if I had thrown a stone at her in the street, her thin fingers tight and white and tangled in her lap, and I went and counted them again for her. All the way up to the top and back down, and then again. Just in case.
When I was fifteen, my Granma died. She left me the house in her will. It was dusted and cleaned, and covered and locked up, and left for when I turned twenty-one. Twenty-one was a respectible age to own a house, Granma said in her will.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

"In search of a lifetime
to tell when he's home.
In search of a story
that's never been known."

Nick Drake - Three Hours

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Male multitasking impressitivity.

So today on my way to work I was standing at the side of an always busy main road waiting for a chance to cross, when a man in a suit, riding a bicycle, and shaving his chin at the same time as cycling, came careening round the corner opposite me, and wobbled off down the road.
Surreal much.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Me: I'm so ooold! D:
My little sister: Now you can drink alcohol at your wedding!
Me: I already could. ...What wedding?

Halfway up the stairs.

The stairs in this house are one step too few. On both flights. In our old house there were fifteen steps. I counted them one day. And then forgot what number they were. Then counted them again to remember. I used the number to make sure that when I was going up them in the dark, or while I was carrying something big so that I couldn't see my feet, I still got to the top/bottom of the flight without falling over. Now, after at least fifteen years in our old house (how nicely the numbers coincide), my feet are so used to fifteen steps that I'm constantly falling over myself at the top of these fourteen-step flights in expectation of another step, or ending at the bottom of the flight in a jarring thud as my foot hits floor sooner than it expects. Dammit.
Ah, but having fifteen steps was important for another reason. Not only because it's a nice number (a comforting number, a kind of comfortable number), it is also odd. An odd number of steps when I was a child was important. I assume you know AA.Milne? The author of Winnie-the-Pooh. Delightful writer. He wrote a poem, that my family used to sing when I was a child.

"Halfway up the stairs
is a stair where I sit.
There isn't any other stair
quite like it.
It's not at the bottom,
it's not at the top.
But this is the stair
where I always stop.
Halfway up the stairs
isn't up and isn't down.
It isn't in the nursery,
it isn't in the town.
And all sorts of funny thoughts
run around my head.
It isn't really anywhere,
it's somewhere else instead."

I've got the structure wrong, but the words are right. Or right enough. Memorised as a little girl. It took a few years for that song to sink in, but when it did, I stomped my way up and down those stairs, counting and then counting, till I was sure when I'd found the half-way-step. Then that is where I would sit. With a book, curled up against the wall out of people's way. Or with a notepad and pencil, scribbling nonsense. Or just for a minute to peer through (and later over) the banisters, just in case there was something worth seeing.
Now these new stairs don't have a halfway up. There's just that moment, for a split second, when your foot is suspended in midair between the seventh and eighth step, with your body wavering in space, when you're exactly halfway up the stairs. Not a particularly easy place to think.
And now that I've realized what it is that makes my body feel that tiny bit uncomfortable while going up and down those stairs, I feel like I'm missing something. I'm missing a step.