Month: April 2014

Tattoo

Tattoo

I was sitting in this slightly dingy all night café playing idly with my phone, when a girl slid into the seat of the booth opposite mine and I caught a flash of ink on her thigh through the slit that went all the way up her long leopard print skirt. I tried really hard not to stare but my eyes kept straying back to her legs. I was just curious, that’s all. About the tattoo, I mean. I wasn’t checking her out. Not that she wasn’t beautiful,but…just…you know. When she caught me looking I guess I should have been more embarrassed, but she wasn’t so why should I be? I took the opportunity to ask her about it.

I caught a glimpse of a tattoo on your thigh, I was just trying to get a better look at it.”

Is that some kind of chat up line? You haven’t even asked me for my name” She laughed and tucked her skirt round her leg, covering the tattoo completely.

Oh, yeah, sorry. My name’s Jake, what’s yours?”

Ceri. With a C and an I and only one R.”

Hi Ceri with a C and an I and only one R, I couldn’t help noticing your tattoo. What is it?” She laughed again and was about to reply when the waitress interrupted us to ask if we would like to order any drinks. After ordering a couple of cokes, I turned back to Ceri and waited expectantly.

It’s flowers. They circle my thigh.”

Can I see?”

You really are very forward aren’t you. Do you ask many random girls you have just met if you can see their thighs?”

Okay, when you say it like that it sounds bad.”

Ya think?” She rolled her eyes at me and looked up as the waitress approached with our drinks. I waited for the waitress to leave, and looked at Ceri. She had dark hair piled high on her head in a messy knot and these soft warm brown eyes that I don’t think could ever look stern. She was dressed simply in that leopard print skirt with the slit all the way up, a fitted black t-shirt and this black jacket with a leopard print lining to match the skirt.

So where did you get it done? I have a few tattoos myself. I tend to use ‘Inked Up’ on Sunnydale Boulevard. The girl there is particularly good with the needle”

Uh, this guy I sort of know did it for me. He doesn’t have a shop or anything, he’s really exclusive. Referrals only, that sort of thing.”

Is he really that good?” I couldn’t help sounding sceptical. It must take one hell of a long time to build up a reputation that good.

He’s better. There’s something special about a Magus tattoo. I can’t tell you what, but trust me, there is.”

A what tattoo?”

Magus. That’s his name, or at least, that’s what everyone calls him.”

I’ve never heard of him. And I know pretty much all the tattooists in town.”

Well, like I said,he doesn’t have a shop or anything. Look I better get going. I was meant to be meeting someone but it doesn’t look like he is going to show. It was nice meeting you Jake.”

You too Ceri. Here,take my number. If you ever feel like talking tattoos or something,give me a buzz.” She took the napkin I had hastily scribbled my number on and shuffled to the edge of the booth. As she did so, the slit of her skirt fell open and I could clearly see her tattoo. It was indeed flowers that circled her thigh. It was really nice work too, but that wasn’t what made me gasp.

The tattoo was moving. The petals were opening and closing in some kind of dance of nature and the leaves fluttered as if by a breeze. I stared, open mouthed,totally speechless. She glanced down at her leg.

Well, I guess now you know why Magus tattoos are so special.” She winked at me and stood up, straightening her skirt to cover her tattoo. She chuckled quietly as she blew me a kiss and walked out of the diner. By the time I thought to get up and follow her, she was nowhere to be seen. 

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My Blog Is Alive – Poem

My blog is alive and it’s feeling neglected.

Mailed me asking “Where’s that post I expected?

I know that you worry your writing is weak,

but it’s not like you’re writing in ancient Greek.

It’s Friday already so get a move on,

before you know it the whole week will have gone.

You want to be perfect but in this case

I really think you ought to pick up the pace.

I’m waiting to see just what you’ll come up with.

This is the life that you so wanted to live?

There’s no point whining or throwing a strop;

that’s not going to help you get to the top.

Stop watching Netflix or reading a book,

don’t avoid me by offering to cook.

Get something written and post it now,

or you and I will get in a row.

Visit today, do not be late

think of me as a very hot date.

I know you can do it, you’ll see through the fog,

I have every faith. Sincerely, your Blog.

Why Everyone Should Belong To A Book Club

Rules Of Book Club

At my completely non-bookish day job, my colleagues and I were talking about books, reading and how fabulous the printed word could be. One of my colleagues, J, told us that she belonged to a book club. Now the first thought that popped into my head was pretty much “Desperate Housewives read a book and talk about it over Martinis for the 5 minutes that they aren’t gossiping about their neighbours/friends/colleagues/celebrities. Unfortunately for J, that’s near enough what it is like in her club. She’s really not that kind of girl, she doesn’t really like the genre of the books they suggest, but she reads them anyway because she is the dedicated bookish type and because you never know when a book will come along that you absolutely love, but don’t know why. (J loves Wuthering Heights. I’ll never understand that. As far as I could tell, nobody is ever happy in that story, ever!) Of course when it is J’s turn to choose a book, they all complain about her choices because it isn’t their ‘thing’. Expand your mind ladies, J does it for you!

Another colleague, K, and I suggested that J form a book club with people who at least like similar stuff. If you like horror and paranormal thrillers, a book club full of chick lit/romance lovers is probably going to be hard work. This idea was pounced upon and became a bit of a work thing. J, K, and I have similar taste in books. J sent out an email to the rest of our team, looking to see if anyone else was interested in joining our freshly made Book Club. For some reason, J’s email was assumed to be a joke. None of us can work out why; Book Club is a very serious matter, don’t you know? After repeating many times that Book Club is real, we gave up trying to convincing the others and started looking for books. J and I started looking up the Top 100 books etc., compiling lists, making spreadsheets… K brought us back to earth with “There’s a lot of stuff on your lists we probably won’t enjoy reading. We all like Paranormal, Sci-Fi and Fantasy, why don’t we read more of those kinds of books instead?”

Oops! In all the excitement, J and I had forgotten that we were making a book club based on our bookish tastes. Thank you K for bringing us back down to earth. I’m glad one of us didn’t get carried away with ‘Top 100’ and ‘Books you must read before you die’ lists. Of course then we reached the ‘fun’ part. How do you pick a book that we would all want to read, but none of us have read already?

K and I have read The Name Of The Wind but J has not. J and K have read Enders Game, but I have not. We very quickly had new individual lists for reading (Lets call that Reason 1) but couldn’t think of a book to read that none of us had already just gone and read. In the end, I googled “top ten fantasy authors”. Amazon came back with a top 10 most popular authors list, and lists of their books. Number 3 on that list is Brandon Sanderson. We have picked his novel The Way of Kings as our first book club book.

So, from my story about making a book club, we have Reason 1: You get a great list of books recommended to you by other bookish types before you even start looking at books to read with the others. This is great for me because I read pretty fast. Our book club meets every 2 months at the moment because J can’t bring herself to leave her other club. I could read most books within a week so my shiny new list of books to read will help to occupy me between times.

Onwards now to Reason 2: You get to know people better and/or meet new people. I already know J and K as they are colleagues, but I don’t know them well. Until a week or so ago, I worked on a different team. Talking about book club (Rule 1 of Book Club, never talk about Book Club. Shhh don’t tell anyone!) has helped me to settle into my new team because it gives me something to talk about with J and K besides work. For you, it might be that you’ve moved to a new town and you are looking to meet some people. It could just be that your friends and family aren’t as bookish as you and you just want to meet some people that you can talk to about books.

Book clubs generally work by each member choosing a book that everyone reads, then the next time they meet, they talk about it. This leads me on to Reason 3: You will read different kinds of books. Now, going back to J’s experiences, it’s not always fun to read loads of books in a genre that you don’t like, so I would recommend finding or creating a club with people with a similar taste in literature, but even then, you will find yourself reading and, most probably, enjoying books you may not have even considered reading otherwise. I’m a lover of all things paranormal and mythological but usually the books I favour are based on earth. I have just finished reading The Shining by Stephen King. I should have read that a long time ago, but that is a classic example of what I enjoy. J and K are more Sci-Fi and fantasy lovers. I have read a fair few Trudi Canavan Novels in my time, I love them, so fantasy is great for me too, but I will no doubt end up reading more novels based in fictional places, on fictional planets or other planes of existence. I am looking forward to that. My personal reading list is full of the classics because of the creative writing course I am studying, so some fantasy will balance me off nicely.

Bringing me nicely on to Reason 4: If you are a writer, reading can only help you get better at your craft. When I was very new to the writing scene, I have read up lots of tips on how to improve your writing. One of the most prolific pieces of advice out there, is to read. Read your genre, Read outside your genre. Read something. Read it again. Basically read everything you can get your grubby paws on. Even the milk carton. With a book club, you not only get a plethora of different books to read and share, but you also get feedback on the story from other people’s perspective. This is invaluable to a writer. You are giving and hearing other feedback as readers, to someone’s piece of writing. This will help you to understand your own readers and how different people will interpret your writing in different ways, like you and your Book Club buddies will with the books you read. You will also notice the building blocks for a story, the techniques writers use in storytelling, how every author has their own unique ‘voice’. Do you remember English Lit classes at school? Pulling apart a book and looking at all the different aspects of a story, it’s composition, and how it all fit together to reach the conclusion at the end? Book Clubs encourage you to do this. I will often read books and not notice any of that, because I was lost in the great storytelling. Discussing the books and the storyline with others encourages your to see past the story to find all those little building blocks, all those things that will make your writing even more ‘amaze-balls’ than it already is.

And finally, on to Reason 5: Its fun! Everyone has stressful elements in their lives. Be it work, family, writers block; its a natural part of life to deal with these things, but sometimes you just need to relax and unwind. Often I do that by myself with a good book, but now, once every couple of months, I get to go to the pub at lunch (I tried for happy hour after work but was out-voted) and have a chat and a giggle about a subject that I am passionate about. Sure, it will help my writing, but for me that is more of a fantastic side affect of spending some time with some like-minded readers having a chat and a giggle about a book (possibly amongst other things). The only thing I would recommend is to be aware that it is, first and foremost, a book club, so keep the gossiping to a minimum/save it till after you’ve talked about the book. If you want to spend more time with your Book Club people talking non bookish things, you could always suggest a few drinks in a pub somewhere after, or arrange a book club night out. It doesn’t have to be serious, but Book Club should be about the books.

Book Club rules borrowed from here

Do you belong to a book club? If you do, what are the good and bad parts of your book club? If you don’t, have you ever considered joining or creating one? Do you actively avoid joining one? If so, why? I’d love to hear from you.

Que Sera Sera

In a dark corner of a village pub sat an old man nursing a pint of bitter. He was there every night without fail, just sitting and staring into the depths of his drink. He had been there for so long that the villagers no longer noticed him. It was like he was another oil painting on the wall or broken piece of furniture that everyone avoided. His hair was white and stuck out crazily around his heavily wrinkled face. He had a dark wooden cane which he used for walking; he was never seen without it. His muddy brown eyes darted curiously around his surroundings every now and then, between long periods of silent brooding. Nobody spoke to him and he spoke to nobody. Even the barman didn’t attempt conversation. He just poured the old man a pint and took the money offered silently. I looked around my new local pub, curious as to why such a sad old soul was being left to fester in the corner, ignored by his neighbours.

I’d not been living here long, but I was being welcomed like I belonged in the little village of Adstock. I had been born there, but my family had moved away when I was two so I don’t remember. My parent’s moved back here after I moved out and went to University. I went straight from Uni to teaching in a school about an hour away. I am ashamed to say that I had only ever visited my parents a handful of times in the intervening years. They had somehow always ended up coming to visit me instead. They lived in Spain now. They won some money on the lottery and bought themselves a beautiful place out there with their own pool and a balcony leading off their bedroom with fantastic views. I was now renting their house from them in Adstock. It wasn’t exactly ideal, but after my husband Matt and I filed for divorce there wasn’t much else I could do. It hadn’t been a bad breakup, there was no adultery, no recriminations, not even any arguments. Matt and I just drifted apart and didn’t know how to get back to each other. Once we had decided not to keep trying to repair the damage in our marriage, I’d said a tearful goodbye and moved out fairly quickly. It hurt so much walking away but I couldn’t face seeing him; feeling the chaotic swarm of emotions that engulfed me when I looked at him. Adstock was far enough away that I didn’t have to see anyone I knew, and nobody here really knew me.

After a few weeks, my curiosity got the better of me and I asked the barman about the man sitting in the corner. I couldn’t bear the desolate look in his eyes or the way he clung to his pint like it was some kind of lifeline. I needed to know what had happened to this poor man that he seemed to have nothing to live for. Of course I had tried talking to him first; his eyes had met mine for a few seconds before he went back to staring at nothing and ignoring everything around him. The barman took his time answering me, he frown slightly in thought and wiped down the bar absent-mindedly.

“John Walters was a scientist. He’s got some fancy letters to go after his name but he refuses to use them. He abandoned his research and went to work on a farm just outside Adstock years ago. I can only tell you the urban myth about him. I can’t tell you how much is true, or how much is exaggerated gossip, here-say, or just plain made up.” He stopped for a moment to serve someone at the other end of the bar and then came back over to me to lean against the pumps.

“When John was in his late 20’s, he was one of the most brilliant minds in the world. He might be now if he permitted himself to use it. He was given an apprenticeship with this mysterious scientific research laboratory. Nobody can remember what it was called exactly, but everyone agrees it had an obscure name like The Lab, The Science Lab, Lab of Learning or something like that. John was obsessed with time travel and rumour has it that he succeeded. At the time, John was in a relationship with a girl called Maria. Maria was beautiful, intelligent, funny, caring, gentle, cheeky, charming; everything a man could possibly want in a woman.

“Like I am sure any man would if they had the ability, John wanted to know what his life would be like in a few years time and whether he would still be with Maria. He tested his time machine on himself and went forward in time by five years. What he found broke his heart. He had married Maria and had twin girls, but she had passed away. He didn’t know how, but he had arrived in the future on the day of her funeral. He watched her mother and sister blame his future self for her death. They shouted and sobbed that it was all his fault and she would still be alive if it wasn’t for him. Understandably, John was horrified at the desolation he glimpsed on his future face. The idea that he had killed the love of his life was a terrifying one. One he didn’t think he could ever live with. He came back to his own time with an aching heart, unable to shake the misery he had seen in the future. He destroyed his machine, quit his dream job at the lab and pushed Maria away. He was afraid to get too close to her, afraid his love for her would ultimately kill her.” The Barman, Mike, broke off his story and looked up at a burst of laughter coming from across the room. It jarred, so removed from the emotion of the story I was being told, and I winced slightly at the sound. The ladies of Adstock had a book club, which was really just an excuse to have a drink and a gossip, and by all accounts were thoroughly enjoying themselves. Mike glanced up the bar to make sure nobody was waiting to be served, and when back to his story.

“The first few months were the most difficult for him. Everyone thought he was crazy for breaking up with Maria, especially because he couldn’t give her a real reason. She could tell he still loved her and tried to win him back but he was adamant that it was for the best this way. In the end she gave up trying but she never got over him and despite dating a few guys she met, nothing ever lasted. John moved away because he couldn’t bear to be near her. Three years later she was diagnosed with a brain tumour. It was inoperable and the doctors told her she only had a year to live. As determined as she was, she survived for almost two years. Maria’s funeral was held on that very same day John thought he had avoided. Maria was still dead, and her mother and sister still blamed him, saying that she hadn’t really lived after he left her, that she would have been more willing to see a doctor if she had been happy and if she had been seen earlier they could have operated. John was devastated. He didn’t know what to do with himself. He had avoided everyone who had even the smallest link to Maria so he hadn’t known she was dying. He didn’t know anything until he had received the dreadful phone call.

“He knew now that he had made a terrible mistake. Not only had he lost the love of his life, but he had removed 5 years worth of memories of her from his life. Worse, he had never had the opportunity to tell her exactly how much she had always meant to him. He should have married her. He should have had children with her. Suddenly he pined desperately for the twin daughters he would never know. Five years before, when he had seen himself alone with two little girls, he had been afraid. He didn’t know how to raise children alone. He never imagined he would be able to do it, let alone long to do it. He never got over the loss of his family and the realisation that he only had himself to blame for the isolation he found himself drowning in.

“He has been working on the Farm outside Adstock ever since, and lives in a tiny cottage on the farmer’s land. He comes here every night to drown his sorrows. He speaks to nobody, and believe me, many many people have tried. All newcomers to Adstock try. You are welcome to, but I don’t suppose it will do much good. You are better off just leaving him to his thoughts.”

The barman fell silent. I was staring at my glass thoughtfully, pondering all I had heard. I felt for the old man sitting in the corner, but the barman was right. There was nothing I could do for him. He was just waiting to die so he could be with his love. In my opinion, Mother Nature was being rather cruel in making him wait such a terribly long time. It also got me thinking about my own situation. I had often thought in the last couple of weeks that I would have been better if I had never met Matt. I had moved away so that I was away from everything that would remind me of him. After hearing John’s story, I couldn’t help but think back over the years I had spent with him. All the times he made me laugh, the times he held me as I cried, all those incredibly tender moments we had shared since we had first met. The thought of not having those memories cut me to the bone. There is no way I could ever give them up. Not for anything in the world. I could feel the tears start to form and my bottom lip trembled. I hastily drained my glass, thanked the barman and left. I kept my head down so that passers by wouldn’t notice the tears as they began to fall. I hurried home and picked up the phone. I hesitated for just a second, took a couple of deep calming breaths, then dialled in the phone number for my old home.

“Matt? It’s Beth. Can….can I come and see you?”