1 August 2014


There’s a hole of misunderstanding. It hovers between us, just big enough to stop us reaching out our arms and throwing them around each other. Just wide enough to stop us both in our tracks, the edge of unkindness digging hard into both our bellies, keeping us an equal distance apart. And for a moment our minds are somewhere else, rattling about desperately in the back of our heads, picking up and dropping thoughts, carelessly. And we aren't really sure why we are stood here, saying these things, we just stare at the hole and through each other. It is hard to imagine at this moment there was love there at all. For that moment there is just deep loneliness, where the face I kiss I have forgotten and another person is there instead.  

30 July 2013

Our garden - the hideaway

Our garden isn’t very big, just a few metres squared. There is no grass, but the flowers I’d planted in May have crept up tall, and now bow to the left where they can see the most sun. I liked the idea of lots of flower pots dotted around and had gone berserk buying herbs at the garden centre. I hadn’t quite realised the creeper would kill sage and that ‘chocolate mint’ would go skinny with so much sun. The lady next door must have planted her enormous rose bush more than thirty years ago and those pale pink roses that blush deep crimson in the middle look down on me and bob gently when the wind blows. The cat spreads herself out on the mossy table and yawns. It’s her garden really, but I carefully nudge her out the way to make space for my computer so I can sit and write to you. I’d bought our Jasmine plant when we had first moved to London. It’s survived three winters, quite happy in the big blue pot I’d pinched from outside our first tiny flat, four floors up (which of course, means it has survived being lugged four floors down).

After a day at work with people talking nonsense about things that perhaps don’t matter to me much at all, I’m glad that the only things I notice now are the aeroplanes streaking across a pale blue sky and a few birds circling the chimney pots. Early June the creeper started covering our fence, weaving in and around the slats, encircling our tiny garden until it grew so much it became a great green carpet along our garden path.  I had to stop Liam from chopping off the feelers, the branches that wave out and look like chicken’s feet all pink and curled up tight waiting to feel something to hold on to. The creeper might have murdered my sage, but to me, it’s created a place that no one in London can see or touch unless I invite them in. My garden is only a small few square metres of space but in the hot buzz and dust of London, it’s a space I can go to and know I can be me.

4 June 2013

His Shed.

“Where is he?” I ask my Gran, as I walk into the living room, balancing three cups of tea in two hands.
She’s knitting meticulously. Her metal needles clack together and she barely glances up as I place the cup on the pretty lace doily in the centre of the glass coffee table.
She lets out a sigh. Her eyes flick up quickly in the direction of the French windows, but she doesn’t miss a stitch.
“Down the garden…”
“Oh, okay. I’ll take it out to him then.” I say, placing my tea next to hers and gripping the handle of the third mug firmly. I hear her mutter something about me spoiling him as I tiptoe my way over the rug and step out through the sliding glass doors.
Their new house has stepping stones leading down the long stretch of grass, and I continue my tiptoeing across them, thinking how much I would have loved hopping along these twenty years ago, each one an island and the grass a deep sea.
Closer to the end of the garden, I pass the honeysuckle bush, with its arms all spindly and blowy in the breeze - as if it’s trying to tickle the daffodils two beds down. But it’s when I get nearer to the dahlias lined up in a row like short green soldiers that I spy him. Just a few wisps of white hair on a bald head, popping in and out of view inside the shed. I walk up to the door and poke my head around it to peer in. He’s bent over, fussing with something on the floor. I wonder how he’s managed it for a moment, and then I see the garden kneeler turned on its side - the perfect bench, being just that little bit higher than the chair on his right. He is picking at a muddled up bit of grey string and I see that his hairy eyebrows are knotted just as tightly in concentration.
“I've got you a tea.” I whisper, smiling in at him.
“Oooph!” He lets out a loud, dramatic gasp as he sees me, jumping a few inches on the kneeler, grinning and clasping his hand over his heart as if I’ve just killed him.
I laugh and lean over, planting a light kiss on his bristly cheek and placing his tea on the table next to a pair of garden clippers.
“Hello, love.” He says, winking at me. He shuffles and gets up off his kneeler, carefully lifting a tomato plant off the old wooden chair beside him. Taking his time, he brushes off some loose soil onto the floor and sits down himself, leaving the upside down garden kneeler for me.
I perch on the kneeler and take a deep breath. I can see why he loves it down here. It’s warm. As the sun breathes in and out from behind the odd cloud, light filters through fifteen year's worth of garden dirt smattered on the windows, leaving a gentle sepia hue all around us. The light gently brushes the old flowerpots, trinkets and rusty tools balanced on the shelves. I think to myself that it’s probably a good thing my Gran’s not allowed down here to come and wash the windows - any more light and I’d worry they might crumble.
“Here.” I say, reaching over and taking the grubby string from him. “I’ve got nails made for this job.”
I wave my pointed pink lacquered fingernails at him and begin picking at the knot in the piece of string. Admittedly, they don’t really belong in this shed. They shriek of make-up aisles in shops with artificial lighting. But I pick away at the string, listening to him explain how it’s for that honeysuckle that’s gone a bit wild, and in no time at all I’ve untangled two long bits of string, and wrapped each into two tightly coiled balls.
He leans over to show me his tomato plant, pinching the stalks gently.
“Hm. Bit stringy this year. But y’never know. They could be all right.” He says fondly, lifting up the baby leaves.
I remember us planting seeds together when I was small - tomatoes, radish, occasionally lettuce - in white, squeaky, polystyrene boxes. I recall the excitement of poking my little finger into the soil, just a few centimetres deep and popping in the seed before brushing across the soil. We’d both tap the top for luck and I’d thought it the most magical thing in the world.
“What on earth are these?” I ask him, spying a pair of dusty black leather shoes. Picking one up I dangle it in the air to inspect it carefully. They look like no one has worn them since the seventies. As I brush off the dust, a woodlouse crawls out the heel. They seem to have lost their laces a long time ago, leaving the tongue to waggle freely at me.
“They’re Uncle Les’.” He says, picking up the other shoe and turning it over, before tapping the bottom firmly. “Go on, have a guess.” he says, tapping the numerous small holes in the sole. His eyes sparkle.
“I’m… really not sure.” I say, wrinkling my nose.
“They’re his old golfing shoes. I took all the spikes out. Perfect for the garden. Well. He’s a nine and a half. So they’re a bit big… but not bad.” He says.
I giggle and tap his hand gently.
“Not bad at all.” I say. “Don’t forget your tea.”
As he reaches for his cup, I look closely at my Gramps. I remember him being so much bigger. I look into his face, at his paper-thin skin and love how his eyelashes splay out erratically along his lid. As he tells me about Uncle Les’ shoes, I watch him talk, watch how his eyebrows dance with each expression like two hairy caterpillars kissing in the middle of his forehead. Six or seven wrinkles pile up and gently nudge the wisps of his white unruly hair, that float almost above his head like they aren’t attached at all.
“Oh, thanks love.” He says, after I hand him another ball of grey string, this one too; unravelled and duly coiled. I can do things so much quicker than he can. I tuck my converse around the legs of the chair and shift a little. I’m impatient. I'm not used to sitting still for so long, and I suddenly feel warm in my leather jacket, and think perhaps we should go back inside, because Gran’s still sat in her chair, probably wondering what we’re still doing down here.
“Shall we go in?” I ask him, leaning to the left slightly to look through the window. The sun’s gone in behind the clouds. A purple haze has fallen over the house and it looks as if it might rain.
He looks up at me, his speckled brown eyes lock on mine. They always speak so much more than he ever does. I see they are the same eyes, framed by the same two hairy caterpillars, that saw me run like a lunatic around the garden, curl kitchen roll into jam jars for growing runner beans and jump like a spider over stinging nettles to pinch raspberries from next-door’s allotment.
“I’ll be in in a minute.” He says fiddling in a rusty looking tool box. “Just want to do this…”
“Okay.” I say, standing up and brushing the soil from my jeans. I hesitate. Suddenly I'm not sure I want to leave. “Don’t forget your tea.” I say, again.
He nods. And wanting to hold on to this person, this memory, this slow playing film reel from my past, I close my eyes tightly, smile at him and walk back up the garden. 

15 May 2013


The orange dots on the black square screen click quicker than I can blink. I know I've got 5 minutes until the 270 bus arrives at my stop. That's just 5 minutes to say something worth writing about. 5 minutes before the daily routine of the 8:07 bus comes roaring up the hill and hissing - it stops; puffing at this usual spot. I pause to think. A man stops by. Looks at me writing, and then up at the black square screen. Now 4 minutes. There's just too much to say to in 6 long months. Lots of stories. Lots of times when after silly things have happened and I've sat in the quiet and said - 'Now that would have been a great blog post'. I smile. The man looks away quickly. 3 minutes. Wow - hasn't that gone fast? Though, I suppose, so has 6 months - filled to the brim with a new job, a new house and everything else in between... A sort of hibernation, maybe? Storing up my stories over the winter to let them burst out in the middle of May like these unexpected rain showers. Then again. They just as quickly stop, don't they? Now, I'm stealing 5 minutes in the morning. I glance up. 1 minute. I'm cutting out a little bit of the hours that are set so strong, to scribble in a notebook. At the bus stop. Well, it might be more of a scribble than substance - but I'm writing again.


1 November 2012

Dead Rats Tails

I crash through my front door porch - umbrella first, and kick my sodden shoes into the shoe basket by the front door in a manner to suggest I've had quite enough of Tuesdays. My fringe is stuck to my forehead, creating a little channel for the rain to run down my nose and plop on the floorboards in my hall. I sigh, and as usual try to avoid stepping on the cat as I make my way down the hall and into the kitchen to put the kettle on.

"I know, I know. I'm coming." I say to her as she mews and widens her beady eyes.

I happen to look up before I open the kitchen door.
How funny, the glass is black.

I stop dead in my tracks, my hand clutching the doorknob.
The glass is black? 
I look closer. The glass isn't black.

I see the flash of iridescent wings and hear the whirring, fizzling hum hover over and around me, darting in and out and settling into a continuous speed. I'm not mistaken; there are hundreds of big black bluebottle flies - the kind that land on dog shit - crawling on the inside of my kitchen door.


I didn't expect to be dashing up the aisles in Sainsbury’s supermarket looking for poison. I'd wanted a cup of tea and back to back re-runs of Channel 4's Who Do You Think You Are? in my pyjamas.

"Cat food... Light bulbs... shoe polish... bleach... where's the bloody fly spray...?" I mutter to my Mum, pressing the phone into my head with my shoulder as I balance my shopping basket, heavily loaded with J-cloths and an obscene amount of bleach.

"These flies don't just come from nowhere, Lizzie.” Mum says to me, all matter-of-fact. She pauses. "You don't think the old woman who lives upstairs... What's her name-?"

"Myrtle." I say.

"-Myrtle. Well, with that many flies I wouldn't be surprised if Myrtle's dead, darling. It only takes days for a body to start decomposing..."

"Oh my God - she's not dead, Mum!" I yell, horrified. "I'm pretty sure I heard her banging upstairs yesterday." I grit my teeth. I still can’t find the killer fly spray and I am so sure it should be somewhere near the disinfectant and bin bags.

"Well, I'd give her a knock just in case, and if she doesn't answer, I'd ring the police."
"Don't you think ringing the police is a bit dramatic?" I reply, distracted suddenly by a shelf full of Raid fly killer.

Mum pauses and then in a manner to suggest she knows how to win this one, she says; "Hang on - Steve's here!"
As Mum explains the whole palaver in great detail to my very considered Stepfather, I choose the neon yellow and black can of fly spray. It looks the most economically unfriendly substance on the shelf, so I throw it in the basket. Mum finishes her sentence with a resounding; "So, don't you think she should ring the police, Steve...?"

"Okay, I'll knock. But you know it's probably going to be a dead rat." I say, unconvinced. Filled with an sense of dread at what I may be about to find, I hurry to the counter to pay, and with a resounding bang, place my basket on the conveyor belt.


I stand outside her flat in my plimsolls, leggings and black anorak, clothes I'd thrown on in a hurry. I hop from one foot to the other as I wait for her to open the door. The hallway is dark and I look around briefly in case there's a switch I missed somewhere. Overgrown spider plants dangle from the banisters and cast long spindly shadows up the wall, stealing the glow from orange streetlights dotted up our road.

I place my hands up to the mottled glass panes and peer in. I squint to the right and then the left, watching how the grey light from deep within the hall plays in the mottled glass, splaying out beautifully.  The sound of faint canned laughter creeps out from under the door. There's a glimmer of hope she might be watching TV from the sofa, inside, and perhaps just didn't hear my knocking. But as Mum pointed out, the TV could have been on all night.

I decide to knock again, a little louder this time.
"Hello? Hello, Myrtle? I'm Lizzie - I'm from downstairs. I was just wondering -"

- if you're dead? No, don't be silly.

"- if I could ask you something..." I yell louder than before, and rapping three times on the glass window pane.

Nothing moves inside. I imagine her sitting all dead in her chair, gooey, big black flies zipping around the living room, the TV's canned laughter chortling inappropriately. I shiver. I wish there was a bloody light in the hallway.

I remember Mum saying something about the smell. I sniff through the keyhole a couple of times, but don’t smell anything particularly nasty. It's been a good minute. I decide to knock again, even louder.

"Um... HELLO? Are you there, Myrtle?!" I bang again, this time on the wood, so the spider plants jump. 

Silence. Not even a peep.

Oh my God, I'm going to have to actually call the police. 

As I go to get my phone out of my pocket, and debate whether I'm in a big enough emergency to call 999 (probably not), I see the light from behind her door, glint slightly.

I look up. I feel the hairs on the back of my neck prickle, and a rush of blood shoot to my head, all in the space of a second.

Very slowly the door opens half an inch - I spy wide eyes peering out from the dark at me and a flash of white on leathery skin. Then I hear the scream. An hollow, gurgling, high-pitched scream sprung in short bursts of sheer terror.

I'm nearly sick with shock. My toes curl in my shoes.  I scream. I scream because I'm petrified - because I think she's dead - because maybe she really is dead - and there's nothing worse than a ghost in a lace nightie.

But she's not dead - and she's still screaming. A small, wrinkly Jamaican lady shrieking in my face, showing holes where her teeth should have been and lassoing a wooden broom around her head. I realise I've put my hands up pathetically to protect myself. I stutter something about being from downstairs. I'm shaking so hard.

As quick as she started, she stops. Takes a wheasing breath, and as casually as she was asking me in for a cup of tea says in a heavy Jamaican accent;

"Aahhh, sorry me darlin'. I thought you was burglars."