The Elephant in the Room

Following an enjoyable evening with my writing friends, where I found myself relating to some way back experiences, not at all planned, and I really cannot remember why and how it came about now, I have pondered on one of their questions.  “Have you ever written about these things?”  I was surprised by my immediate answer “Oh no it’s too horrible.  People wouldn’t want to read such things.”

Why is truth more incomprehensible than fiction?  Each time we see or read of another murder, assassination, torture, sexual abuse, countries at war where innocent citizens are killed, maimed and starving, I would maintain most of us will utter words of horror and not understand why horrendous things like this can happen. Yet, do we allow ourselves to feel it at any true depth or do we pull down the blind and hope someone somewhere will make it right?

My guess is, that writing about these things will require the writer to truly enter that world if it is to capture the reader’s attention and bring strong emotions to the surface.  In fiction the writer can leave it to the reader’s imagination or be graphic and possibly feel contaminated, possibly ashamed that he/she can grapple with the shit of such situations.

With a mind set on bringing pain and humiliation to the reader does this verge on a kind of unhealthy voyeurism or a sincere desire to produce as lifelike an experience as is possible?

I remain unsure about how truthful I could be if I wrote about my own experiences.  Do I not have the courage or does my protection of others continue at some level  serve to protect myself?

Is this a dis-service to my readers I wonder.  Still pondering …………. Image

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Bite Size Friends

My friends have always been important to me, in fact mega important. From primary school upwards I have loved my friends. Not groups of friends, but those individual friends who wanted to hold hands and giggle about the same things. Friends with parents who invited me into their homes and I believe took me to their hearts.

From those friends I am only in touch with one, and that is mainly by letter these days. We shared the highs and lows of being mothers, wives and aunties. Eventually our lives went in different directions and our visits gradually waned.

Of course, I have made many friends since I left school and enjoyed special occasions with them. The memories much treasured, can always be brought to mind. Sadly some of these friends have died and some once again moved into different styles of life.

What makes me think of friendships on this day? It’s a lovely day, a day for sitting in the garden with friends, sipping at drinks and eating goodies, probably with their children or grandchildren enjoying the freedom of the garden. Lots of squeals and much laughter. However, my garden is quiet, hubby is pottering and I am lazing with a book. It’s enjoyable, but it lacks lustre. As we grow older, friends are pulled in many directions, caring for elderly parents, caring for grandchildren and being there when needed by their children. We all say the same, we have less time now for friends than ever before.

We lead busy lives, either working or in retirement, we tire more easily and probably experience some health problems. It maybe that we cannot drive our cars anymore and visiting is a trek by transport. Our friends are still our friends but we have lost the closeness and warmth of the hugs and kisses and we make do with telephone calls and e-mails, or at least those of us who have ventured into the world of IT do.

I suppose I was naive to believe my friends and I would stay the same. I suppose in some ways we have. It has been my way to keep the contact going, to invite people over, or to drive miles to visit them. As I sit and ponder it is obvious to me that when I stop chasing about, getting us together for meals and drinks, or when I am no longer able to go and house- sit for friends while they spend many weeks away from home, I see less and less of my friends.

It is true, a friend is someone with whom you can meet with after many months or years and still be the same, catch up as if it was only yesterday when we last met. For this I am grateful and leaves me with a warm glow because I know every now and then it will happen. I’m well aware that at the end of the day friends from the past will dwindle for different reasons and that is sad. More reason to be thankful for the new friends I make as I follow new pursuits. It is still the same process, the way two people just click and feel they have known each other for far longer than the short time since they met. One big difference is I was often younger than my friends, whereas now I am often twice their age at least, so gives me a new and interesting perspective of what it is to be an ‘older’ friend.

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You in your small corner and me in mine

I’ve gottcha I mutter time after time.  My knees and back are killing me, but I will get them.  Sometimes I stop and inspect the little blighter, is it , or isn’t it?  Shall I give it the benefit of the doubt? No, it looks too much like the others, so out it comes.  I’ve now got  quite a heap of them you know.  I look around, ready to move on, when I spy another one hiding behind my favourite rose.  Ha ha you thought you had me fooled I say as I viciously attack its roots.  Ouch, I pull my arm back into myself.  My rose attacks me and brings forth blood from my punctured skin. I toss the culprit weed into the heap then groan as I return to a standing position; this gardening therapy is getting to the point where I need therapy – a back massage would not go amiss.  I flop into the swing seat and soak up the sun, swinging gently back and forward content and happy in my own little world.  I casually survey another part of the garden and see to my horror how many more blighters I have to battle with. My musings have directed my thoughts to how true it is that I can only work effectively on one area at a time, that to rush off to pull frantically at more weeds will wear me out and still not get to their roots.  Rushing to make something look right, as we say, papering over the cracks, means we have spent time and energy on something where the problem remains slowly growing until it can break through and ruin all our back-breaking work. Gardens are a fantastic source of information.  If we watch carefully it will teach us all we need to know including patience to reap the rewards of our endeavours and to know the work never ceases. Thank you garden for being there.

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No win!

It occurred to me the other day as I pondered whether to change my energy supplier, that  when I look very carefully into whether I would truly be better off to change, it is absolutely minimal.  They (them out there) really do hold all the cards you know.  What they say I would save over the year, is offset by the fact that I have to pay thirty pounds to come away from the original supplier for each of my accounts, The money I would save, according to them, is £80 per annum.  Not so attractive any more … and if I should want to come away from them they will charge thirty-five pounds per account to leave them.  Mmm, can’t see any true benefit anymore, plus to get the deal I must sign up to monthly direct debits and have the dual fuel account.  The more I look into the next “fantastic deal” that comes my way the more definite is my belief that there is no such thing.  There is always a catch to make certain I remain the loser!  Well at least that’s how it seems.  I regularly receive a cheque made out in my name for something like fifty thousand pounds, yet  it is never signed as apparently it is waiting for me to contact the company to claim it.  I suppose it is possible that I am missing out on a very good deal, but I’ll never know because it goes straight in my recycle bin. 

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Wake Up Dance

I hold my breath and wait, quiet as a mouse caught in a trap.  Tightly wedged between the tiled wall and the cool white vitreous china toilet pan I lean my head against its cold surface trying to relieve the pain.

The recent episode flashes through my mind and I feel vomit in the back of my throat;  the minutes tick away, but I dare not make a sound.  I cup my hands against my mouth attempting to prevent the urge to spew the contents of my stomach into the bowl.  I have learned well the unspoken rules.  No matter what pain I suffer I am not allowed to make a sound.  He calls these episodes our special game and the rituals must be maintained.

I listen carefully and intently.  I am waiting for the next ritual.  He sometimes uses his key, so he can leave the house silently and on other occasions he will let the door bang, but not be gone so that he can catch me out.  I strain to hear.  I am sure I heard the click of the front door although I am reluctant to move just yet.  I wipe my tears away with the back of my hand and very cautiously ease myself out from the cramped space.  I sit on the toilet seat worried that he has sussed me.  I believe I have now grasped the rules, that is of course if he sticks by what he usually does.  Another five minutes pass.  I feel it is safe to move now …I breathe properly for the first time since running into the bathroom, literally feeling my stomach unclench as I do so.  I creep outside the door and look over  the bannister.  It appears he has gone.

Now the ending can begin.

 

I wonder who will be on duty.  I frantically use quick dial to call up the Samaritans.  I am in he foetal position on the couch and wait to see who will answer my call

I sigh with relief.  It is a woman’s voice: her voice.

“Oh Carol I’m so glad it’s you … this is Dawn.”  I am so tense my voice comes out with very little volume.

“Hello, can you speak up please?”

“Yes it’s Dawn.”  A stream of words pours instantly from my mouth.  “It’s started all over again.  I have truly tried so hard for it not to happen.  I must have done something wrong because he said if it wasn’t for me his life would be miles better.”  I am sobbing and gasping for breath.

The silence worries me.  Carol has never been lost for words before.  I can feel the panic rising up inside of me and I breathe deeply to stop myself from screaming.

“Are you badly hurt?”

Relieved that she is still there I gasp.  “Not enough to go to hospital.”

“Okay” she says and then there is another long silence.  I can hardly bear it.

“Are you there Carol?”  I ask anxiously.  “Please don’t give up on me.  I will stop it honestly I will, but you must understand it is so hard.  I love him so much and I don’t know how I could live without him … and … I know deep down that he loves me … like I always tell you, it’s because I frustrate him with my silly ways.  Sometimes I get careless.  If I feel depressed I get very emotional when he threatens to leave me.  He says he only shouts and raises his fists to let me see how  unhappy I make him”

I stop, waiting for Carol to say something and think to myself, how much longer am I going to keep on saying the same old things?  I no longer feel confident enough to speak and the, without reason, I have a sudden insight.

“You know what Carol? it’s when I beg him to let me start again and promise how good I can be that he starts his ghastly game.”

Carol’s ruthless tone hits me like a brick.  “But it’s not a game is it Dawn?  It’s violence.”

I’m frantic to protect him. “I know, I know, but he doesn’t mean to hurt me.  He just gets carried away and forgets his own strength.”

Carol stays quiet.

“Please speak to me Carol.  I know I keep saying the same things and that I let you down by not leaving him, but I will try soon, very soon to pluck up the courage and walk away.”

“Dawn, it’s nearly twelve months since you began to contact us here at the Samaritans, and I promise I will always listen, and to say I am not here to judge you. I feel you might find it more helpful to seek one to one counselling where you can have on-going support instead of hoping it will be me who answers the phone to you.”

“But I like speaking to you Carol, because you understand me, you do understand me don’t you Carol?”  I am crazy to be comforted.  There is an awful whine in my voice.  “Please don’t give up on me.”

“Where are you at the moment Dawn?”  Her question takes me by surprise” Oh … where I usually am.  On the couch; straight from the bathroom.  I know I promised you that I wouldn’t do it any more, but it’s kind of comforting when I hurt. I’m sorry, really I am. Give me time. I will stop honest I will.
I wait for Carol to reassure me as she always does.
“Mm. I sometimes wonder if I know the steps to this dance as well as you do now.”
I am shocked, I don’t understand. “Pardon? What dance?”
Carol gives a little sight. “How long have you got Dawn?”
I look at the clock on the opposite wall. “Oh my goodness, I’ve got less than two hours to sort things out. I have to go Carol.”
“You do realise don’t you Dawn that you end your call in the same way each time you phone?”
“Do I? I hadn’t noticed. I’m sorry I will have to go Carol. Thank you so much for being there for me I do appreciate it.”

Stepping into the shower and setting the dial to the highest spray setting, I brace myself to feel its full force upon my tired and battered body. It is painful, but not half as painful as Rick’s last words to me. I use baby shampoo. I have learned over time that at least this reduces the stinging.
Dabbing my body dry with the softest white bath towel I own, I see my image in the mirror. It makes me wince. My left eye and jaw is swollen and bruised. Thankfully I have not lost a tooth this time. I give a yelp when I lift my arms to dry my back and have to take small short breaths to reduce the pain. It’s a pain I recognise. I have broken ribs. It really is humiliating to admit that I know the signs from previous occasions.
I take my time to pull my jeans on and decide to wear a long-sleeved shirt-blouse rather than a jumper. The thought of pulling one over my head is awful. The rules are that I must be fully clothed with no flesh showing.
Smarting all over, I brush my hair wishing it was not so long and tie it into a ponytail. I have often thought of having it cut and shaped with some highlights to give me a younger look. I shudder just to imagine Ben’s disapproval and my cowardly failure to stand up for myself.
A sickening sharp pain zips in my left ear. With my hand pressed against it I feel another wave of nausea. What started as a twinge is now a raging throb. I know what to expect, it will be torture for hours, possibly days.

In the kitchen I find the paracetamol and swallow three tablets with a large tumbler of water. I still have a lot to do.

Before I clean up the debris and straighten the furniture I place a bottle of champagne into the fridge. It has to reach the correct temperature. I then scrub at the blood splattered on the oven and cabinet doors and mop the floor.

Feeling rather delicate and tired I go into the dining room and open the French doors onto the paved terraced patio and breathe in the early evening air. I resist the urge to go out to sit and relax in the cushioned chair at the white wrought iron table for fear of being caught out in the act.

Instead I move about careful not to cause myself any more pain and start dead-heading the crimson geraniums growing amongst the deep green ivy and blue lobelia. With the yard broom I clear away leaves and creamy coloured rose petals, dried petunia and fuchsia flowers. Once in pristine order, which is how I want my life to be, I go back indoors.

It is the bedroom next. The bedspread has to be straightened until it is exact with not a crease in sight. I rub furiously at the mirror to remove the smudge my face made when he rammed it into it. I have to remove all tell-tale signs of our altercation from the place.

I repeatedly check all the rooms for any visible signs of my having been dragged and pushed. So fixated is my quest it numbs the incessant stabbing pains that battle for attention. It has to be this way if I am to block out the whispering voices inside my head.

I begin to clock-watch waiting for his key to open the front door.

I have to complete a mental tick box list that is now fused in my mind. This is how the plan works, and then everything goes back to normal.

I understand the drill. He will arrive home with a look of reparation and a bouquet of flowers, pausing for a moment before handing me the flowers, and asking me what I have been doing. I will ruefully reply “Nothing much.”

He embraces me; it is grim striving not to flinch from the pain. He will tenderly take my face in his hands and kiss me on the mouth. He will convince me that he loves me more than I will ever know, insisting that nothing can change our love for each other.

I always submit to his caresses, every time spellbound by his promises of everlasting love.

He then carries me in his arms to the bedroom; removes my clothes slowly, teasing me with gentle bites to excite me. He then asks with concern who inflicted these injuries on me. He weeps as he kisses the bruises and cuts and exclaims he will kill the swine.

Fear and dread overwhelms me; suppose I get it wrong this time. It is imperative I know the next move; up until now I have guessed correctly but it is always chancy. I begin my familiar inner chant – all will be well he will love and adore me if I just do what he wishes.

Without warning Carol’s words flash through my mind. What did she mean by a dance.

I can’t make sense of it. Except for that most extra-ordinary remark our conversation was much as it always was. I make myself really think about it. What is a dance? It’s a number of steps set to music. Does it matter if you dance the steps out of order? Only if you have a partner I guess. It takes a lot of practice for two people to dance perfectly together. It is conventional for the man to take the lead and for the woman to follow his lead. I remain perplexed. Carol has always shown me a lot of understanding, but today I can’t say that. I am convinced she has lost interest in me and wants me to stop ringing her and for some reason I feel upset. The word dance constantly flits around my mind and I imagine I am in the arms of my Rick. He is the perfect partner and we are dancing with ease.

It is wonderful. We are vibrant, smooth and accomplished. I can feel the excitement, our bodies licked into each other, almost moulded into one. I sail; I fly; and my feet hardly touch the ground. My dress sparkles with sequins and Rick looks a million dollars as he supports and guides me around the floor. We appear to have the ballroom solely to ourselves and it feels euphoric. Imagine then my surprise when I realise that other couples have joined us on the floor. It is thrilling, we are contestants! Filled with enthusiasm I eagerly look into Rick’s eyes, only to see they are ablaze with displeasure. Appalled I wonder how I can pacify him and in my anxiety I forget the steps and falter; my foot clashes with his. He loses his balance, trips and in an ungainly heap we both fall to the ground.

My daydream comes to a startling halt. Shaking with shock I feel raw with emotion. What would Rick say if he knew I was capable of conjuring up such a nightmarish fantasy? Shivers run up and down my spine. Suddenly I understand Carol’s comment.

The key went into the lock. Rick was home. His face dropped. Where was she? He gave a perfunctory glance into each room, becoming more anxious by the moment.

“Dawn” he bellowed.

The silence curled itself around him and he fought for breath. She was supposed to be in the hall waiting for him; where was she? Pulling his inhaler out of his pocket he sucked in to ease his gasping. Bloody woman was going to be the death of him.

He walked unsteadily into the kitchen and sat down at the kitchen table. Still fighting for breath he opened the fridge door. Where the hell had she put the champagne? Gulping for breath he glanced through the French doors. Confused and unnerved he stared in disbelief.

Slowly he opened the door and stepped outside.

An envelope propped up against the bottle of champagne had his name written on it. He ripped it open and yanked the letter out. Beads of perspiration ran down his face. What the hell had she done?

Before he could react he heard the door bell and knew they had come for him. He smirked and reminded himself that Dawn would never go through with it.

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Am I seeing into the future?

Relaxed.  I have cooked a dinner for my elderly parents.  The television is many decibels above my normal listening volume and I find myself frowning as the noise bounces in and out of my ears.  I have reassured them that nothing is a problem and they will stay for another three days.  I want them to enjoy their stay of course I do.

I have made their bedroom as comfortable and safe as is possible.  It is the least I can do.  In fact I need to know that once they are in the room I should not need to worry and can cut-off for a while.  Then I know I won’t.  It is similar to looking after another person’s child, a child who you feel you know and understand and yet you soon find you have a job on your hands.  They miss the things from their own home, it is freezing outside of the lounge which shows a temperature of twenty-four degrees, and twenty-two in the other rooms, and no amount of explaining helps.  I suggest we wrap a blanket on their laps as they sit side by side and they are horrified.  They would rather I turn the heating up.  I, on the other hand, am wearing summer clothes so that I can tolerate the heat!  I do believe my heating bill will double, so when I maintain it costs me nothing to help them and let them stay whenever they wish, it isn’t quite true.

Conversation is not as easy as it used to be.  Hearing can be hilarious.  Misunderstood and constantly endeavouring to converse by repeating the same thing until the penny drops.  They are happy though.  I am exhausted and look forward to a good night’s sleep aware that it will all start again in the morning.  I will have to rise early to ensure I get into the bathroom first, otherwise I will start my  day at least two hours later than usual.  I have been caught out before and was still to be found in my dressing gown at eleven.  I set the table and then realise it would be far easier if I only dished up what they want and put it in front of them.  I see jugs, cups, dishes of those nice bits and pieces that go with breakfast, picked up and put down by shaky hands.  I humour and insist that the spilled milk is no problem!  When all is completed, I dash around clearing up and try to do a few personal things  before the inevitable cup of tea will need to be made.

“Of course we can go out! I agree cheerfully.  It will take another thirty minutes to find coats, hats and confirm they have everything they need to have with them.  I could do the ironing any time!

Nicely tired, and back on the settee, they tell me they enjoyed their trip out.  I make the next cup of tea.  They are cold again.  I will have to change into lighter clothing ….

I try to be understanding, although every now and again a little well of frustration bubbles up inside.  Can I learn anything from this.  Will my daughter feel the same towards me when I am ninety?

I try to be confident that I will be different.  I will not lose my hearing or my sight.  I will know about technology.  I will stay up to date with life.  I will still have my friends, and I will dress according to the weather not the house.  I must remember to move about enough to avoid getting cold and stuck in my chair.

If I don’t could you remind me of my resolutions please?  Or if not can you be kind to me when I’m in my dotage.  In the meantime I think I will stay in denial about old age. 

By the way I do love my Mum and Dad.

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Memories that aid my writing of characters

For any of you who might have tried to read this blog yesterday, I apologise for it having no content. Possibly says something about my memory! I have to admit that being new to blogging I have not quite conquered the whole process, so I will endeavour to rectify my omission now.

To give credence to my characters I am sometimes forced to enter the recesses of my mind to make contact with distant feelings and the following is an example.

I had simply tried to contact my husband to pass a message on to him. I telephoned the company and the receptionist immediately informed me that he was out to lunch, and then added, his usual Friday lunchtime outing. My heart thumped furiously as my mind spiralled out of control. What lunchtime outing? As far as I knew he had never bothered to join the lads for drinks. He enjoyed, his sandwiches and newspaper enough. My rational thinking closed down. I calmly told the receptionist not to worry I would catch up with him later.

I stared at the telephone receiver in my hand. How could he? Past hurts and painful memories saturated my mind. I had the word betrayal resounding within me.
Unable to sit still, I decided to go for a spin in the car. I began to drive with no location in mind. Behind the wheel I felt I could be in control of my feelings.
After a few miles I really wanted to be with someone, but who? Who did I trust enough to talk with? The person I truly wanted to be with was my loved one, but he was out lunching.

I decided I could safely see my sister-in-law. She knew her brother well enough.

She greeted me with delight and suggested we have a little lunch together. We chatted about nothing in particular, until I was unable to contain myself any longer. I shared my discovery and waited for the reassurance I desperately wanted. Would you believe she added to my misery. Apparently she had her suspicions about him during his previous marriage. I felt nauseous, especially as she seemed unaware of how upset I was. Obviously these were her own imaginings she had no proof or evidence to support what she said. In fact it was as if, because I had confided in her, she enjoyed running down the men in her life. She believed we had something in common. My head ached and I escaped as soon as I could from this barrage of spite.

My reaction to the situation was to seek comfort, to feel loved and secure. I resisted the urge to seek out a former man friend, and walked around a Superstore without purpose for at least an hour.

I went for a coffee and wished I still smoked. I must add, that this was long before mobiles, so I had to endure the hours until we both returned home.

I was home before him. I busied myself preparing dinner having already ensured I looked my best and wore his favourite perfume. My hands trembled as I whisked the cream until it was good and thick. I had re-run the conversation we would have until it was driving me crazy. I silently pleaded for him to get home quickly. The waiting was excruciating.

I listened for his whistling. He always whistled as he came along the garden path. I never had to wait to hear the key in the door since we had moved in together. It had become familiar and reassuring. This time there was no whistle, but I did hear the key turning. I looked up and was immediately struck by the sad look on his face. He smiled hesitantly. “Have you been alright?” he asked. I did not intend to beat about the bush and told him frankly that I had not had a particularly good day.
He nodded and proceeded to tell me that he knew about the phone call and had worried all afternoon about what I was thinking. He explained that there were two of them by the same name at the company. The Receptionist had a personal grievance with the other one and knew she was wrong to have not checked out who I was. She had asked my husband to pass on her sincere apologies.

It all ended well, but it had caused both of us unnecessary pain. We became more in tune with our individual vulnerabilities and has indeed enhanced our sensitivity towards each other.

If I wished I could in my fiction use this conflict and turn it into something very damaging and possibly irretrievable.

However, it is the emotions that help me most to revisit them in their rawness.

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