It Is A Box Room

It is a box room

And its walls are beige

Paper plastered aging brick

And the window is large

And it is south facing

Ideal

For the light to get in

Which it does

And it is hot

And it stifles

And it is unbearable

Until at night

When heats absence is worse

 

It is a box room

And it is quiet

Save for the almost inaudible clunking of pipes

Keeping it from altogether silence

It is quiet

 

And it is the quiet which screams

That is louder than things

The quiet

Which taunts

So I fill it with noise.

 

Junky old record players, and

Hi-tech speaker systems, and

Sewing machines blasting on full.

A washer and a dryer

And a sixteen piece brass band

And another

To fill it with noise.

 

It is a box room

And it is full

And it is loud

And it is deafening

And it is quiet

And beneath the paper the walls are falling down

But you can’t tell

 

You just hear the din

And see the decoration

And assume that it’s structurally sound

 

It is a box room

And it is shrinking

And I don’t know how much longer

I can keep on living

In it.

Pareidolia: NaPoWriMo

So my Twitter pal Rachel has informed me that this month is National Poetry Writing Month. She’s doing a poem a day and hers are all going to be excellent I don’t doubt – you can find them here. I don’t usually do poetry. Blogs, articles, fiction – generally prose, that’s my bag. But I’ve been having a weird few days mental health wise and before I carry on with my own April project (using Camp NaNoWriMo to complete the first draft of my novel) I thought I’d give it a crack. I don’t normally do poems, but…here is a poem.

 

Pareidolia

It was a joke.
I made a joke.
I didn’t mean it, so laugh.

I’m laughing; so much my eyes sting,
I’m laughing in my gut,
I’m laughing until it hurts
Because it does hurt
I can feel it.
At my joke.

Have you ever seen a puppet?
A jester, or a clown?
Fooling around?
With a hand shove up its backside,
Nothing inside.
Not really.

Faces painted on inanimate things,
We search for them, too,
We’re trained to,
Patterns they say; but I see faces,
Faces on things that don’t feel,
Don’t laugh,
Not at my joke.
And it was a joke.
So laugh.

Faces are painted on me,
Laughing.
I put them there myself.
At my joke.

And it was a joke.
When I danced at the platform edge,
It was a joke when I said what I said
I wouldn’t have jumped, don’t be concerned.
It was a joke.

I made a joke.
I didn’t mean it, so laugh.

 

 

(The general idea is that it becomes more sinister on a second read through, so if you’d like to read it twice…please do!)

Mountbatten: An Excerpt

Chapter Two

Good lord, Weeks skin is greasy. Is it sweat, or grease? I dont know; it looks like itd be slippery to touch. Doesnt he wash himself? Eugh

“Sir?”

“Weeks,”

“You’ve got two minutes, sir.”

“Yes, right. Good.”

Mountbatten straightened his tie and smiled comfortably into the camera lights. The air was thick with sweat and artificial heat, grumbling with the mumblings of journalists and politicians, the rustling of paper, and the buzz of anticipation.

Carl Weeks, Mountbatten’s right-hand man, had been promised the position of Chancellor of the Exchequer upon the election of Mountbatten as Prime Minister. He was a slight man, with a grey comb over that aged him far past his 42 years.

A sudden thought caught Mountbatten off-guard, and his heart stopped for a second. Patting his chest, he felt for the small egg-shaped lump and found it where he’d left it, in his inside jacket pocket. His pulse slowed back to normal and he stepped forward at Weeks’ nod.

“Good Morning. Thank you all for coming.” Several of the audience blushed at his smile – he was handsome, it was fair to say. A strong jaw and full head of chocolate brown hair, with just a sprinkling of grey on the sides, he could even be forgiven his poor choice in facial hair – a thick, Tom Selleck-esque moustache.

“We’ve had a great campaign so far, and the support that the country has shown us has been tremendous. I, personally, can’t thank you enough for your kind words and solidarity as I pledge to make this country truly great again.” The reporters and the camera operators alike were grinning, some even subconsciously giving a small nod of encouragement.

“I know that, in recent years, smear campaigns have been held against my opponents on both sides, and I believe that this is a testament to the country’s disillusionment with politics. Neither of the main two parties in the outdated two party system were giving the whole country what they wanted, nor what they needed – and the opinion polls show that the Friend of Everyone party is exactly what this country needs.”

Pause for effect are they going to applaud? They should, that was fucking inspiring.

“We believe in the greater good – and the greatest good, is the British public. The British public who present themselves, and carry themselves with the self-respect and dignity that shapes a nation, and who they are as individuals. Until the majority of you as citizens are happy with the way the country is run, the country is being run incorrectly. So when you go in to that voting booth on Thursday – remember FOE. The only party that cares about you, and the only party that cares about the greater good. To the greater good!” Mountbatten flashed another smile as his voice raised an imaginary toast to the public. The reporters roared and a couple of lights shook with the movement of the room.

Fucking nailed it. I am so fucking brilliant. 

Weeks breathed a sigh of relief at the side smirk on his boss’ face, and then started as his charming blue eyes caught his own. Mountbatten raised an eyebrow to which Weeks nodded fervently and held up two fingers – “two minutes” he mouthed.

“We have a couple of minutes, if there are any questions?” One woman squeaked as her hand shot in to the air.

“Yes?”

“Michelle Truman, Daily Mail -“

“Good morning, Michelle, how are you?”

Michelle nearly dropped her pen as she flustered.

“I’m – thankyou, good, I was – I’m just wondering – are you excited about the move to number ten? The figures certainly look in your favour!” she trembled, rustling the pages of her notebook.

Mountbatten laughed a big, booming laugh that echoed from the marble walls.

“Let’s just see what happens on Thursday,” he said, with a wink that almost caused the journalist to stop breathing. She fell back on her seat with a giddy thud.

Mountbatten stood outside the London hotel, waiting for his driver to pull up. Weeks was weighed down with his bags and enormous leather Filofax, standing nearly a foot shorter than the party leader. The car pulled up and, after a few moments of standing still, Mountbatten looked down his nose.

“Weeks?”

“Oh, sir, sorry, sir, yes,” he grabbed the handle and opened the car door, dropping his organiser and all of the papers it contained on the damp pavement. Mountbatten ignored the fuss and slid on to the leather seat.

After Weeks had gathered his belongings and deposited Mountbatten’s bags in the boot of the car, he climbed in the other side, cringing slightly as Mountbatten checked his watch impatiently.

“Back to the office, driver, I have a lot to do.” He clipped.

“Sir? I thought we were done for the day?”

“You’re done for the day; I have to round some things up.” Best compliment the weasel, he looks like hes about to pass out. “Good work today, Weeks. I think we’re well on the way!” he grinned, slipping back into his press conference projection.

“Thank you, sir!” Weeks lit up, reaching for a handshake. He quickly retrieved his digits as Mountbatten recoiled slightly.  “The opinion polls are looking in our favour, sir. Certainly in our favour.”

When he nods, I can see his bare scalp. Its like peeking through a little head curtain. I bet its greasy under there, too. 

“It’s not over until I’m in that building, Weeks. That’s when the fun really begins,” Mountbatten grinned once more, absentmindedly fingering the lump in his jacket pocket. Weeks nodded silently for the rest of the journey.

The Rift: An Excerpt

So, if you’ve been following me on Twitter you’ll know that I’m working on a novel. I’ve been writing it since November and I’ll be honest, I’ve gone a wee bit stale around the 30k words mark. So in an act of self-indulgence and seeking support, I thought I’d post the first few pages so that, if you lovely readers like it, it might give me a kick up the ass to keep going. Enjoy.

Chapter One

Ellen Was

Two words adorned the page, black ink glistening in the low light. The letters seemed over pronounced, and cut into the thick paper. Written slowly, methodically; a sentence cut off before it could begin. How appropriate.

Ellen was.

Past tense. I’d arrived at the final curve of the S only to find myself winded at the sight of the partial phrase.

Ellen was.

28 years of life and this is what she’d been reduced to. I pointedly looked away from the notebook splayed open on my desk, ignoring both its contents and the fact that the corners of my mouth were forcing themselves down as my throat tightened. I fought stubbornly the urge to cry, before trembling to pick up the pen and try again.

I had not felt grief before. I thought that I had, as each of my grandparents had passed. But they were cold people, if you don’t mind me speaking ill. Not cruel people but, neither were they warm or affectionate.

This was different. A part of me had been torn away, wrenched across a distance too far to comprehend – and yet I still felt connected, tethered to her. The sheer agony of that string of entrails tugged at the wound Ellen had left, leaving me hollow, torn and stung. It was too much too bear. This, I thought. This is real grief.

Ellen had long since been estranged from what little family she had left – and as such, I was the only soul left who would offer a eulogy. It had seemed like a simple task; all I need do was talk about how wonderful a woman she was – and she was a wonderful woman. Yet now, sat in my boarding house bedroom, fountain pen hovering over the diary page, I could not form the words. The emotions I wanted to convey seemed to burst from every inch of me, all fighting for a chance to lay on that paper, but the result overwhelmed me.

The room I rented in the Whitechapel Women’s Boarding House held a single bed, a small and battered table and chair, a sink, and one lonesome bookshelf, atop of which sat the since untouched Bible that my parents had forced on me during their first visit to London five years ago, in 1935. They had declined the funeral invitation; I hadn’t blamed them. London was far too tense since the War broke out nearly a year earlier. We’d not seen any attacks, but we’d heard rumblings and rumours of their imminence.

Ellen’s room was the same as mine, mirrored on the other side of the thin wall, through which I could more often than not hear Bob Crosby or some other Orchestra hissing from her wireless. I’d complain that she had it too loud, that it was disturbing my reading. Without it, the silence screamed louder than any overture could have.

Ellen was.

Ellen was my best friend. My confidant, my platonic soul mate. Far too stubborn, far too superstitious, and not quite as intelligent as she thought she was. She had a sharp tongue and her wit was sharper, still. We’d spent five years living in each others’ pockets, drinking cheap sherry in jazz bars, claiming to be artists and bohemians despite not having an ounce creative talent between us.

Ellen was hilarious, and flippant, and altogether rebellious. Her mother had been a suffragette; even been in prison and gone on hunger strike. She ultimately died from complications of pleurisy, which she’d developed from the force-feeding. Ellen spoke of her often, despite having been just six when she died. Unable to handle raising her alone, her father had sent her to boarding school as soon as she turned eleven. This, she did not speak of often. As far as I knew, she hadn’t spoken to him at all since coming to London some six years later.  

How do you sum up a life, everything it stood for, everything it accomplished, everything it meant, every breath it drew, in a sentence? How do you reduce a human being to ink and paper?

Ellen was.

I heard the door to the shared bathroom finally open and grabbed my tatty wash bag, sprinting to the room in my dressing gown and leaving the eulogy. I habitually raised a hand to knock on Ellen’s door, to let her know she could wash when I was finished. I caught myself mid-knock. Winded again.

The only sensible black suit I had access to was cruelly the one I borrowed from Ellen for functions. Once scrubbed and dressed, I buttoned my coat and walked, alone, to the church yard. 

Ellen’s one remaining family tie, her younger brother Tom, had been the one to plead with her to accept the vaccine, but she remained convinced that it was laced with something; that she’d be making herself vulnerable to poisons and other ailments. She ignored Tom’s pleas. London was straining under the threat of air raids and real life villainy, and here she was, succumbed to a bout of damn influenza.

Tom braved the journey to the capitol, from his home in Kent to mine in Whitechapel, and greeted me with a warm, lingering embrace outside the church.

“Cassidy, thank you so much for arranging this,” he attempted a watery smile.

“Somebody needed to,” I tried not to sound bitter thinking about the pair’s father and how he had ignored my letters.

Once my dear Ellen had been lowered into the cold February earth, entrapped in a cheap unvarnished crate to the accompaniment of a low wounded moan emanating from my throat, Tom offered to buy me a drink. “I know I need one,” he half-smiled, timidly.  

The pub landlady, who had grown used to seeing Ellen and I gossiping most nights, clocked our black clothes and sullen faces, and refused to take any money for our drinks. The short, rosey woman rested her hand on mine and gave me a warm, slightly pitying smile. I avoided her gaze, mumbling a thanks for the sherry and shuffling towards Tom, who was still wrapped up in a grey scarf despite the fireplace in the pub burning a cushioned warmth into the air.

We sat quietly by the window of a tiny, almost empty pub; me facing the muscular but shorter-than-average builder in his ill-fitting suit and incorrectly knotted tie.

“What’re you thinking?” he looked genuinely interested, as though my expression had been one of sudden epiphany.

“I’m not,” I replied. “I just…what do I do now?”

Tom didn’t answer.

My life had revolved around Ellen. I hated my job, I had no husband, I’d run away from Devon and my family six years earlier when, at 23, my father had introduced me to his friend’s son – a 30 year old life insurance salesman to whom I quickly became engaged. I’d seen many girls go the same way – married and in love and then suddenly withdrawn and shy until you’d never see them again. I refused to become that woman, and so the first time Charles hit me was the only time. I stole cash from his sock drawer, packed a bag and headed for London. I found a job in a laundry, a room in a boarding house – and a friend in Ellen. Charles must have loved me at least a little; he never phoned the police about the money. And so my life of daily torment and nightly bourgeois began.

A group of school children passed by the window, blurred by the frosted glass. I followed them absent mindedly with my eyes.

“More and more of them coming back, now,” Tom said, lighting two cigarettes in his mouth before casually handing one to me. I took a long drag. “They reckon the threat was a load of rubbish, now. No Germans are about to bomb London, it’s a load of madness,” he rolled his eyes.

“It certainly looks like they’ve changed their mind at any rate,” I flicked ash into the crystal bowl in front of me. “It’ll be over by the time spring rolls around, that’s what everyone’s saying.” I half-heartedly echoed chat I’d heard from the delivery men in the laundry, unsure whether I believed the words.

The political small-talk distracted me for a moment. I swirled the dregs of the dirty golden liquid in my glass and my stomach let out a groan. It struck me that I hadn’t eaten all day. The nausea I’d attributed to grief perhaps was some percentage of hunger. I took another long drag on the cigarette, hoping to maybe fill up with smoke so that I didn’t have to think about food. I didn’t want to think about how dinner would be served at home in an hour, or how I’d sit in my assigned seat opposite no-one. And so I continued to drink.

Stage Show Prep – By People Who’ve Never Done A Stage Show

(First post, woop!)

I’m performing in a stage show later this year. I’ll put the dates and links at the bottom just on the off chance you’re interested. It’s taking place in theatres across SE England, and moving further out as we move into 2018.

The difference is, the cast members…are also the band. You see, we’re performing a show based on two of my favourite films: The Commitments and Blues Brothers. The first act will see us repping our best Dublin accents and starting up a Soul band, and then the second act will see us recreating the story of the famous duo, Jake and Elwood, and their mission from God. If you’ve seen either of these films you’ll know that they centre around musicians, so it’s quite a cool way to turn an awesome gig into an awesome stage show.

ladies
From Left: Mel, Kay, Me! NB. Mel left after the last run, and her part is now played by Leah, who is also lovely.

We’ve done a run of this show before, albeit a short one. But this time, there are script changes, special effects – and some new cast members. Honestly, it’s looking and sounding pretty great, I’m super excited. For the record I am playing Bernie/Aretha.

However, as the logistics are starting to come together, it’s becoming apparent that none of us have particular stage-show experience, outside of AmDram and our initial run. So things such as quick-changes and character shoes are things we’re having to research ourselves (particularly the female cast members).

 

It’s utterly bizarre having been obsessed with makeup, and been trained professionally by makeup artists, for so many years, only to have so much of your knowledge turned on its head. We can’t use foundation with an SPF because of the stage lights, we need a sweat-free primer, setting powder, and everything needs to be ten times as dramatic to stop us getting washed out.

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Me during the show’s 2014 run

On top of this there’s dancing – sweet baby jesus, if there’s one thing I abhor…Though we have an actual choreographer, so we may survive yet. We also have a director and a musical director, just in case you’re worried we’re going to turn this into a shambles. We got this covered.

But all in all, it’s shaping up to be an amazing – if difficult – show, and every member of the cast and crew is pouring their heart and soul into it to make it as amazing as possible – which again, is quite a feat considering this is all going off our own (particularly Elwood’s) back.

I honestly cannot wait. And I know I complained about the makeup but in all honesty, I get to buy loads of new makeup. So I can’t complain. 😉

Sidenote: If you do this sort of thing  on the regular and have any advice – for the love of god leave a comment and tell me it!

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Shameless Plug:
Here’s where/when the show is on: 

  • Saturday 22nd April 2017 Braintree Arts Centre
  • Saturday 6th May 2017 Colchester Arts Centre
  • Saturday 13th May 2017 Haverhill Arts Centre
  • Saturday 20th May 2017 The Broadway Barking
  • Saturday 17th June 2017 The Brentwood Theatre
  • Saturday 1st July 2017 The Millfield Arts Theatre Edmonton
  • Saturday 8th July Fisher Theatre Bungay
  • Saturday 30th September 2017 The Hazzlit Theatre
  • Saturday 7th October Luton Library Theatre
  • Saturday 14th October The Quay theatre Sudbury
  • Saturday 11th November The Cresent Theatre Birmingham
  • Friday 17th November 2017 Watersmeet Theatre Rickmansworth

 

If you fancy coming to see the show, you can find upcoming dates and tickets for just £15 here:

https://www.facebook.com/cttbbb 
http://bluesbroscommitments.co.uk/