Tuesday, 29 December 2015



Nobody's saying that women can't be writers!

Just because Polly Hill, Controller of BBC Drama Commissioning has announced eight new drama commissions and not one of them is written by a woman, doesn't mean that women can't write.

They can.

Women can write all sorts of things!

They just can't write dramas.

(Actually, one can: one of the adapters of one of the dramas is called Fiona but she doesn't have a surname which probably means that she's divorced).

Honestly, women can write a whole variety of things as long as those things aren't drama-based. The list is almost endless! Here are some examples:

They can write shopping lists.
They can write wedding invitations.
They can write love letters.
They can write their signature.
They can write simple, romantic poetry that rhymes.
They can write the dates of all their friends' and relatives' birthdays in their calendars.
They can write pretty greetings on cakes with icing.
They can write down a list of all their favourite baby names.
They can write notes to their children's PE teachers when their child's ecstasy come down prevents them from doing swimming.
They can write christmas cards to their husbands' parents and, if they're really clever, they can sign the card from both themselves and their husbands.
They can write 'help' on top storey windows when they're trapped and need to be rescued by Piers Brosnan.
They can write apology letters to restaurants when they've done their period all over the seat.
They can write thank you letters to Piers Brosnan after he's rescued them.
They can write jealous and hysterical emails to the women their husbands work with.
They can write to Marks and Spencer to complain about the fact that the member of staff who held the door open for them was a woman and not a man.
They can write down an inventory of all the activities their husbands will be undertaking on their business trips to Hong Kong so that they can think about them every minute of every day.
They can write basic children's stories about witches, evil stepmothers, princesses and counting.
They can write the numbers one to ten (see above).
They can write down all the things they love about their children.
They can copy a recipe from a book.
They can write the word 'sorry' on a piece of scented paper to place on their husbands' pillows after their husbands have been cross with them and stormed out of the house after breaking some plates. 
They can write down their body measurements.
They can write down the number plate of their husbands' cars but only if their husbands are reciting it to them very slowly (preferably in person as opposed to on the telephone).
They can write down the Hail Mary (usually from memory).
They can write down a list of all the things their husbands want them to be better at (preferably while their husbands are dictating (slowly)).
They can write cheques to pay for aerobics lessons in monthly blocks.
They can write in their diaries (but only when they're not menstruating).
They can write letters to the Queen.
They can compose a text message (but only on mobile phones that make a noise when the keys are pressed; this way, women can keep focused and not drift off into a daydream about wanting babies).
They can write a polite notice for the front door to say their husbands are too tired to talk to sales representatives.
They can write letters of hope to people in prison.
They can write down quotes (but not from the Financial Times).
They can write short, positive reviews on Trip Advisor.
They can stencil an equation.
They can write dramas that are commissioned for the BBC oops!

Wednesday, 28 October 2015


I'm just going to the park, actually. To feed the ducks. There's more than ducks there, though.

Do you like my badges? I can't remember what half of them are for. That one's from my niece though.

So. Yeah.

I know this journey off by heart.

Willseden Junction
Acton Central
South Acton
Kew Gardens

Richmond's the last one and that's where I'm going.

I'm just on my way to the park.

I don't even live around here. I just go to this park because the ducks know me there.

I like going there. It keeps me feeling good. I mean it helps me feel better.

So. Yeah.

I had a bad year last year.Yeah, I had a bad year.

I had cancer and then I had cancer again, so that's twice and then my mum died and then because of all that I got really lonely and I didn't like being in the flat.

So. Yeah.

It's good to get out. It's good to be outside.

With the ducks.

They all come flocking when they see me. I think they think I'm their friend. Or maybe another duck.

No, they wouldn't think that would they? They're not stupid.

But I do love it there. I don't know why I go there, it's so far away from my flat. I suppose I must just really love it.

So. Yeah.

I take my niece there too sometimes. She's four. She's a little rascal, though. Or a little madam, whatever one you want to say. That's what her mum and dad say.

That she's a little madam.

But she's good as gold really.

But she has to come with her mum or her dad. To the park with me, I mean.

Just because I couldn't cope with her on my own, you know.

She's no trouble though.

She's a little angel, really. Children are, aren't they? The future, that's it, isn't it?

Yeah, children are the future. I look at them all running around and that's what I think to myself, really.

So. Yeah.


I'm glad last year's over, that's all I can say.

It's Richmond next.


Thanks for talking to me anyway.

Someone Saved My Life Tonight. You know that song? By whatshisface.

Elton John. Yeah.

That's what you've just done, if you must know.

I know it's not night, it's day.

But every time someone talks to you, they probably save your life.

That's all I can say.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

The Bus

The thing that Ellie likes best about her new school is the corridors. They didn't have corridors at her old school. Ellie feels important when she walks down a corridor; like some kind of silent animal that knows things. Ellie likes it. But as soon as she realises she likes it, Ellie becomes self-conscious and doesn't know what to do with her hands. They feel too big and too heavy and too part of her body.

Sometimes, when Ellie's walking down a corridor, she sees Laura-Jane. Laura-Jane is half Italian. Laura-Jane says, alright? instead of hello. Laura-Jane is beautiful and dangerous and the boys think she’s fit and Laura-Jane absolutely knows it but doesn’t ever talk about it because she just knows it too much. Once, at lunch, Ellie was sitting near Laura-Jane and Laura-Jane looked over to Ellie and said, alright? and Ellie nodded and said, yeah and Laura-Jane said let's see your shoes so Ellie showed her the shoes she was wearing which was an awful moment. And Laura-Jane said cool. And now, whenever Laura-Jane sees Ellie, she says alright? and Ellie gets an adrenaline pain in her chest.

One day, Ellie is on the bus home from school and someone at the back shouts, hey.  She looks behind her and there's a boy, a man maybe, looking at her. He’s got stubble and dark, dark hair and big shoulders and his voice is deep; the kind of deep voice that you only have after having had a deep voice for a few years. He's the one shouting hey and he's shouting it at Ellie. Ellie says, do you mean me and the boy or man says come over here a sec and Ellie says why and he says cos we wanna ask you something. So, Ellie walks over to him while the bus is still moving which makes her wobble from side to side. She doesn’t know where to go after she’s arrived at the back of the bus. But then the boy or man says fucking move over, Matt, let her sit down, you prick and Ellie sits down next to him. She can smell him and his smell is sweet and thick and she likes it. He says what's your name then and Ellie says, Ellie. And he says cool, what do you think my name is and Matt and some others start laughing and looking at her. Ellie says, you’re Mark, aren’t you And the boy or man looks at Matt and says, wicked. Ellie looks out the window a bit. Then, Mark nudges her thigh with his thigh and says, how old are you and Ellie says twelve and Mark says fuck off I thought you were much older than that. And then he says how old do you think I am and Ellie says, I dunno, maybe twenty five and Mark says fuck off I'm eighteen. And his friends laugh into their jackets. So does Ellie. Not into her jacket, though. Mark looks at Ellie up and down. And Ellie says did you really think I was much older and Mark says fuck yeah, like sixteen. And his friends laugh into their jackets again.

Ellie looks out the window and doesn’t know if she’s smiling or not. She rubs her hands for no reason and she can feel that the skin on them is really dry. This is because she had swimming today. The skin on her hands and face is always really dry after swimming and she hates it. She hates how her hair goes after swimming, too. It feels like it’s made out of a cold, liquid metal.

Mark says, oi, I wanna ask you something and Ellie turns to face him and she can feel the sun coming in through the window and warming the back of her head. Has anyone ever told you that you're beautiful? Ellie feels like she needs to swallow but that if she does, it will make a stupid noise, so she doesn't swallow and when she starts to speak, there's quite a lot of saliva in her mouth and she nearly spits a bit out. And she says no, not really. And Mark says well you are. You're well beautiful. And Ellie says that's cool and clenches her jaw and gets a griping pain in her stomach.

At home that night, Ellie's mum tells her she has to have a bath. She has to get in the same bath water as her sister. The way the water looks reminds Ellie of that milk with no fat some people drink. In the bath, Ellie thinks about Laura-Jane. She thinks about the way Laura-Jane walks and the sound of her voice which is husky and cool. Ellie hears her own voice in her head doing Laura-Jane’s voice. She can tell that she’s really good at doing it. Ellie wonders what Laura-Jane’s handwriting is like. She bets herself it looks like foreign writing, in a good way. Ellie wonders what Laura-Jane’s bedroom is like. She bets herself it’s like an eighteen-year-old’s. Ellie thinks about Laura-Jane being with a boy. She thinks about Laura-Jane climbing on top of a boy and taking her top off and letting her hair fall down over her face and saying something amazing at just the right moment. And she thinks about how much the boy would like it and how lucky the boy would think he was to have Laura-Jane on top of him. And, after a little while, Ellie shakes her head quickly and involuntarily, and then she says no out loud without meaning to and feels ugly.

On the bus the next day, Mark sits next to Ellie without asking. He tells her what aftershave he's wearing (Fahrenheit), what he has for breakfast every single day (one and a half pieces of toast with marmite), who his favourite super model is (Claudia Schiffer), which football team he supports (Juventus) and what NVQs he's doing (Business, Media Studies and Health & HFitness). He gets Ellie to repeat all of it back to him so that he knows she's listened. She has listened. Mark makes jokes about Ellie being in Year Seven and asks her if all the boys in her year have squeaky voices and no stubble. Mark shows Ellie his own stubble and gets her to feel it. Ellie can see that some of the older girls on the bus are watching her do it which makes her really, really want to stop. And Mark says, a bit too loudly, you know what I said yesterday about you being beautiful, it's still true. You're really beautiful and you've got fucking good legs for a twelve year old. Ellie does a laugh that’s more a noise than a laugh and goes red and looks out the window and wants Mark to stay and go at the same time.

Mark and Ellie discover that Mark lives really close to where Ellie's dad lives. He asks her how often she goes to her dad's and she says every Wednesday night and every other weekend. Mark gives Ellie his phone number and says you can call me whenever you want. He says, you should call me tonight actually. Ellie tries to think of a secret place near her house where she can do this.

Mark sits next to Ellie on the bus every day now. His friends say, so, are you two going out now and Mark says fuck off, you bunch of pricks. He gives Ellie a picture of him so she can look at it at school. In the photo, he's wearing a suit and a bow tie because he's going to his end of year ball. She looks at it about twenty times a day.

One day, at lunch, Ellie sees Laura-Jane who's talking to some of her friends about being fingered. Laura-Jane looks over at Ellie and Ellie says alright? and Laura-Jane says have you ever been fingered and Ellie lies. Laura-Jane says to her friend, if she can get fingered so can you, Lucy, you frigid slag . And everyone laughs. Including Lucy. Laura-Jane asks Ellie if she's got a boyfriend and Ellie says yeah, he's eighteen, he's doing NVQs. And Laura-Jane says you fucking lying bitch and Ellie says do you wanna see a photo of him and Laura-Jane says yeah go on then, so Ellie shows Laura-Jane the photo of Mark in his suit and bow tie. Laura-Jane passes the photo around the group and someone says fucking hell I know him, that's Mark Hardy he's a fucking pedo.

On the bus a few days later, Mark tells Ellie that his mum and dad are going away for the weekend and that he has to look after the dog and that she should come over. Ellie wants to and doesn't want to at the same time. And she says yeah ok cool. Mark says will your mum let you and Ellie says I'm at my dad's this weekend and he'll drop me off anywhere I want.

Ellie gets to Mark's house a bit too early and he's still wearing a towel from the shower. Ellie's wearing jeans and trainers and a jumper. Mark's house is small and old and there's lots of red furniture and a dog. Ellie doesn't know how to look at or talk to the dog. The dog sniffs Ellie between her legs and Ellie laughs even though she hates it and Mark says, he’s got good taste, hasn’t he.

Mark's bedroom is downstairs instead of upstairs. There are loads of pictures of super models on his wall and he's got a double bed and his own shower room. Mark gets changed in front of Ellie and Ellie laughs a bit and picks at her sleeves. Mark says we should sit on the bed and watch some TV. So that's what they do. They do it for ages. Ellie starts to need a wee but doesn’t say anything about it because of having to walk to the loo in front of Mark.

Mark puts his hand on Ellie's leg and says I wanna kiss you and then he kisses her. He kisses her for ages until her lips and cheeks are sore from his stubble. Mark lies down and brings Ellie with him so that she's on top. They carry on kissing and Mark's face gets red and he starts to breathe a lot. He holds onto Ellie's hips and moves them up and down so that she's rubbing against him. They stop kissing so much but Mark keeps moving her up and down on top of him and closes his eyes and says fucking hell a lot. Ellie looks out the window which is at the head of Mark’s bed. She sees an old woman in the next door garden hanging out the washing. The old woman's arms are shaking and it takes her a few tries to get the sheet over the washing line. But she does it eventually.

Mark's eyes are still closed and his face is really red and really hot and really sticky. His hand moves towards the buttons on Ellie's jeans and he starts to undo them. Ellie looks down at his hand and then she sees her own hand grab his and move it away. Mark tries again and Ellie moves him away again. He tries again. She moves him away. Mark says just fucking get your jeans off and Ellie says erm, but... and sits up. Mark says fucking hell, you're a cock teaser and then his doorbell rings. Ellie gets the same adrenaline pain in her chest that she got when Laura-Jane first said alright? to her but this is the bad kind.

It was Paul at the door. Paul is Mark's mate. Paul says are we going then and Mark says yeah yeah and Paul says is she coming and Mark says, I dunno why don't you ask her

They all get in Paul's car. Ellie sits in the back. She really needs a wee but she didn't want to say before they left. Before Mark gets in the front with Paul, he puts his hoodie between Ellie's legs and says keep that warm for me will you.

They drive for ages. Ellie really needs a wee but she doesn't want to say anything. Mark and Paul talk about people Ellie doesn't know and tell stories about girls' tits they've seen and say stuff about women they drive past.

When they get to the cinema, Mark and Paul make a joke about Ellie seeing a PG. Ellie is bursting for a wee now but she still doesn't go to the loo, even though the loo's right there in front of her. She just keeps quiet about it. During the film, Mark puts his hand on Ellie's leg and squeezes her thigh and kisses her neck and whispers in her ear that she's got amazing tits for a twelve year old. Ellie crosses her legs for the whole film and when it's finished her feet and bum are numb and her bladder is screaming.

Outside the cinema, Paul bumps into a girl he knows and they all talk for a bit. Nobody talks to Ellie though because she hasn't been introduced. Ellie doesn't know what to do with her hands, but it’s much worse than when she doesn’t know what to do with her hands when she's walking down a corridor at school. When the girl leaves, Mark says she is so fucking fit. And then he says to Ellie, you could be that fit if you wanted to be and looks at her as if he's a bit angry. Paul calls Mark a pedo and punches him on the arm. Ellie can't believe how badly she needs a wee.

In the car on the way back, Mark and Paul play a game about who they'd rather fuck out of a list of famous women. They ask Ellie who she'd rather fuck out of each of them. Ellie tells them she can't decide and Mark calls her a fucking whore as a joke. Ellie starts to get really scared about wetting herself. She nearly asks if they can pull over but then she changes her mind.

After a while, Mark says to Ellie are you coming back to mine and Ellie says she can't because she has to babysit her little sister and she needs to get back before eight. And Mark says to Paul I told you she was a cock teaser.

As soon as Ellie closes the front door at her dad's house, she runs up the stairs and into the bathroom. She sits on the loo for about ten seconds before any pee comes out. She pees for ages. Maybe even two whole minutes. She hears her brother and sister playing a computer game in her brother's bedroom. They play a lot of computer games together. They know all about them. When she's finished peeing, Ellie stays sitting on the loo for quite a while. She suddenly feels tired and kind of empty. She closes her eyes for a bit and tries to remember what the film was about. She thinks about how she wished she’d bought some popcorn. And then, after a few minutes she hears her dad's voice shouting dinner! from the bottom of the stairs.

Saturday, 1 August 2015


Tim sits on a patch of grass near the cathedral and asks people for cigarettes and money. His face is red and puffy because of drinking and his glassy eyes look like they’re too young to belong to his desperate body.

He calls passers by sir and miss. Like at school. But Tim didn’t go to school much.

I left when I was about 12. Just sort of ran off a lot. Went for big walks around Sheffield and out to the peak district. Fucking beautiful there though. Really sorts your head out. I mean, I was just a boy really but I had a lot going on in my head, you know? Like, my mam was fucked and my dad was a right cunt.

Tim sort of chuckles, as if it’s all water under the bridge. He says he had to get out of Sheffield when he was about 17 because people were after him. Bad people; real nasty bastards. I’d got this girl pregnant and like, her brothers and their mates were gonna kill us, you know. But there was loads of other bullshit too. Like, gangs and stuff. I dunno, I reckon I would’ve died. Yeah, I’d definitely be dead by now. I was a right cocky bastard.

Tim started drinking when he was about nine. He used to steal tinnies from the shop and drink them in the park. I got caught once, by the shopkeeper. He was a Christian. He said I’d be dead by the time I was 20. That shat me right up. Didn’t stop me though, did it? He chuckles again.

He says he does think about his child. He doesn’t know if it was a boy or a girl but he has a feeling it was a boy for some reason. He’ll be about 30 now. Tim was in and out of prison for much of his thirties, mostly for violent crimes and stealing. He talks about anger and sadness and forgiveness with the kind of language that makes it obvious that he’s picked up some of the go-to, self-help phrases from the group therapy he had when he was inside. I’m not as angry as I was but there’s still a lot of pain, like. I still don’t know what to do with myself half the time. He says that he felt more at home in prison than anywhere else. People understood each other there. There was a sense of belonging, like a family. He misses it, in a way; the security, the routine, the stories he heard, the stories he told.

He still sees his mum every now and then. We don’t really get on, we never did. But, you know, she’s my mam, so… She lives in sheltered accommodation in Chesterfield. She won’t be around forever. She’s not well. A lifetime of drinking has given her cirrhosis. Tim says that the wardens in her accommodation just leave her to it these days. She’s just wasting away to be honest with you. Bit like me; like mother like son. Another chuckle. He has a sister but he doesn't see her. She got married and moved down south. She's all posh now. She washed her hands of me ages ago. He tells a story about when he and his sister were kids and she caught him drinking behind the house. He says she was furious with him and nearly broke his arm trying to get the can out of his hand. I dunno what she does. She's probably a fucking policewoman or some shite like that.

Tim’s dad died about ten years ago. He just dropped dead in the pub. Just like that. Good riddance, I say. The world’s a better place without him to be honest with you. Tim pulls up his t-shirt to reveal a scar from when his dad stabbed him at the age of 22. They had a fight that got out of hand and the next thing Tim knew, he was on the floor in a puddle of his own blood and his dad had disappeared. I had to walk to the hospital. I dunno how I did it. Fuck’s sake. Tim shakes his head and looks around at the people walking past him. He nods hello to someone and asks if they have any spare change.

It starts to rain. Tim’s badly rolled cigarette starts to come apart in his oversized hand. He takes a drag of it, coughs violently and spits out the contents of his lungs onto the grass. He looks up at the sky and raises his eyes to heaven. Fucking Manchester weather, he says, and starts to chuckle again. 

Thursday, 9 July 2015

From Bristol to Bristol


You don’t know me but The Ordeal suggested I contact you because we have something in common which is our name.

The Ordeal said that you might be able to help me or at least write back to me or send me a sign or something. I don’t know about that, really. The Ordeal sometimes has big ideas and says things that I can’t fathom. Maybe you know what I mean.

So. A little bit about me.

I am a very small part of the state of Louisiana
Louisiana – the state with the most beautiful name, in my opinion
You may think I am biased
You may well be correct

I am situated between a duck and a diamond
I have a straight line running through the bottom of my heart
My beginning and my end are ambiguous to outsiders
Because there aren’t any signs to where I am
Nor are there any signs when I am
But I know that I am because I feel it
I feel it when there is weather
And when there is a commotion of birds or wasps
And when there are bells ringing in Church Point
And whispers of melodies from the bar
And when insiders lie down in my meadows and love each other
I feel all of those things
I hope you believe it
But I would understand if you didn’t
Because sometimes I don’t believe it myself

It says somewhere that I am a populated place
But other times, it says somewhere that I am nothing at all. But I don’t know about that, really.

I feel that more and more these days; that I am nothing at all. I can’t explain it very easily but let me try to embelish a little by writing a list of the words or phrases that are making me have this feeling:

The Tree
The Other Tree
You might have noticed that I stopped writing the list before finishing it because The Feeling started to come really, really strong. Maybe you know what I mean.

The Ordeal told me that we should be in contact because of these feelings I’ve been having. The nothing at all feelings. I don’t know if I should tell you or if you will be interested but sometimes the nothing at all feeling is so potent that I feel unable to see. I cloud over. I fold in. I stick to the sides of myself. The air around me dies. The colours go away. I miss… I miss… I don’t know what.

Maybe you will write back to me. Maybe you won’t. Either way, The Ordeal said that the act of writing this down might help me to feel better. But I don’t know about that really.

Yours in hope,

Bristol, Louisiana.

Sunday, 5 July 2015


What is that, then, a cello? Do you play that? That's wicked. I do music too. Well, I used to do more than I do now. I used to do loads, just like in my room. But I'm always making up little tunes when I'm on the bus and writing them down in my little book. I'm a drummer mainly. Well, also I'm a dancer but me and my mate used to do a lot of music together. She's concentrating on her dancing more at the moment though. We used to dance together. We both got into the same school, like a performing school. The Brit School. Yeah, I got in. But just before I started, I messed up my ankle really badly and I couldn't go in the end. Well, maybe I could've gone but, I dunno, I think I lost my confidence and I just sort of stopped. So I never went. So, yeah, I suppose I just fell into beauty therapy really. I like it though. But, yeah, I suppose it's not exactly what I want to be doing. But I dunno.

I would like to go to the Brit. I was well excited when I got in. I should apply again but, I dunno, I just kind of think everything happens for a reason, you know? I haven't really danced for ages. I dunno why. I haven't thought about it much. I mean, I have thought about it. Maybe it just wasn't meant to be. But, you know, I'm only 22. I could probably start training again. I dunno what happened. My mum says it's a confidence thing. But yeah.

I think my mum's right about the confidence stuff. I used to never get nervous when I was dancing and performing. But now, when I think about it, I feel all sicky. I should start again, like slowly. But also, my boyfriend didn't like it, the dancing and performing. Well, actually, he's my ex now. We broke up yesterday. I'm ok about it though. I woke up this morning and I was like, yes. Oh my God, he was well bad to me. He hated my dancing and all my mates. So we broke up. We were living together. I've been trying to break up with him for ages but he sort of wouldn't let me. Like, yesterday when I told him it was over for good, he stole all my stuff, like my wallet and my keys and my phone and he wouldn't let me leave the flat. He basically trapped me inside. I was like, I am not having this anymore, you know? It was my nephew's birthday as well and I missed it cos I was trapped in the flat. I've cancelled all my cards and I'm getting a new phone. He's still got it all. I don't care though. I'm free of him now.

I feel bad about my nephew though. That was another thing about being with my ex. I hardly ever saw my family. And I'm really close to my family, you know? Like, we're really tight knit. And I just kept thinking, my nephew and nieces aren't gonna be this young for much longer and I want to enjoy them and have fun, you know? Show them a good time. And soon, they'll be grown up and I would've missed it all. So, yeah, I'm definitely better off without him. I'm staying with my mum now. She doesn't really know everything that happened. She'd shoot him if she knew. He didn't work or anything either. Well, not legally. He was a waste of time. But yeah, he hated my dancing. He was like, 'you're not hot enough to pull it off' but then, when I tried to make myself look hot - well not even hot, just like, cool - he'd say I was trying to get other blokes' attention. But I wasn't! I just wanted to look good when I was performing, you know? It's all part of what it's all about.

Me and my mates are going out to celebrate on Saturday. I've not seen them properly for about a year. He didn't really let me. Well, it's not that he didn't let me. He'd just get all moody and not talk to me. Oh my God, sometimes he wouldn't talk to me for like three days. And when you're living with someone, that's hard to deal with. So, yeah, I'm having a night out with all my girls. We've planned everything out, what we're wearing, where we're going, what music we're gonna listen to when we're getting ready, even what we're gonna eat at the end of the night. I'm either gonna have a kebab or some chicken. I love it. There's an amazing place to get chicken in Clapham.

Yeah, it's gonna be wicked.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

What's Happening?

Mum? What’s happening in the morning when I wake up for school and even though it’s far too early I get up and I get dressed in my room and then I sit in on the landing for about three days waiting for you to stop being asleep and I look at the wall and then at the floor and then at the wall and then at the floor again and then suddenly, on the floor there’s an enormous spider coming right for me and I completely freeze and can’t do an absolute thing about it and then I realise that it’s not a spider but just some fluff but the fluff is definitely moving towards me anyway?
What’s happening then?

Mum? What’s happening when Amy at school gets Alex to tell me that she doesn’t want to be friends with me anymore even though I can’t think of anything that I did to Amy at all to make her want to stop being friends with me and now, whenever I walk past her or try to say hello to her she closes her eyes for about two seconds and her neck goes all rigid and she does a little sniff even though it doesn’t seem like she needs to sniff and then she pretends that she’s laughing at something somebody said even though she’s not near enough to anyone else in the room to be able to hear funny stuff?
What’s happening then?

Mum? What’s happening when you take me out to a restaurant for a burger and in the restaurant there’s a spiral staircase in the middle of the room and stuck to the banister of the spiral staircase are lots of different coloured satin gloves that look like they are full of actual hands that don’t like the look of me and I can tell that they can tell I’m scared of them and when my burger arrives I'm absolutely not hungry and I just want to go and hide under the car without even eating my burger?
What’s happening then?

Mum? What’s happening when I wake up in the really dead and awful bit of the night at your friend’s house in a bed that I don’t understand and my hands are far too big for my arms and there is a spinning wheel in my head that’s going really fast and really slowly at the same time and I come downstairs (even though I can’t remember coming downstairs at all) and I open the door to the smoky living room and it sounds like everyone in there is talking in a different language and I suddenly feel like I'm completely on my own?
What’s happening then?

Mum? What’s happening at the supermarket when I see Ben from school with his dad but Ben doesn’t see me, and his dad keeps nearly falling over and Ben has to help him walk and when I watch Ben and his dad go outside, Ben’s dad actually does fall over and when Ben tries to help him up from the ground, Ben’s dad tries to punch Ben in the face but misses and smashes his own hand into a wall and then screams at Ben to help him up?
What’s happening then?

Mum? What's happening when we go camping and I'm supposed to be in bed but I can't sleep and I really quietly unzip the front of my tent and I can see you sitting on a bench next to a man who has a wife and the man with the wife puts his hand on your knee and then his hand goes up your skirt and, as quick as a flash you take his hand away and you try to stand up but the man's hand pulls you back down again and you do a little shake with your shoulders to try and get his hand off you and then he takes his hand off you and then the man with the wife's wife runs over to you and starts shouting at you and so does the man?
What's happening then?

Mum? What's happening at school when Mr Hilton asks the class a question about Mussolini and I put my hand up to answer but Mr Hilton asks Anna to answer the question even though Anna doesn't have her hand up and Anna gets the answer wrong and then Mr Hilton goes over to Anna's desk and, in front of everyone leans over her so that his body is really close to her body and then he puts both of his hands on both of her cheeks and tells her she's the prettiest girl he's ever seen and that she could get all the answers in the world wrong but he wouldn't care because he could just look at her forever?
What's happening then?

Mum? What's happening on the TV when there's a comedy programme which is just lots of men (and sometimes one woman) sitting at a table making jokes about things that have been in the news and then one of the men makes a joke about the one woman on the programme and the joke is about what the woman looks like or about the man that she's going out with or about how she's not very good at something and the camera stays on the woman's face for quite a long time and the woman doesn't say anything for quite a while but then just starts laughing with the men?
What's happening then?

Mum? What was happening with my friend who got really drunk one night and got in a taxi to be taken home by the taxi driver but instead of taking her home, the taxi driver beat her up and raped her and then threw her out of the taxi onto the road and when she reported it to the police, the police officer asked her about the clothes she'd chosen to wear and got a bit cross with her about how drunk she was?
What was happening then?

Mum? What's happening when I read about people like the Prime Minister and the President and the Pope on the news and the kinds of things I'm reading are that they all say that they think that things like poverty and inequality and climate change are really bad but when I read that stuff about them, something quite physical and alarming happens to me and I suddenly want to get a tank and drive it all the way to 10 Downing Street and then the White House and then the Vatican and crush the absolute fuck out of all three of those places because even though it's perfectly reasonable for those men to say that they think those things, there's no getting away from the fact that all of them inadvertently kill people because of the things that they say are right and wrong and the thought of all of that makes the bones in my body actually shake?
What's happening then?

Mum? What's happening when I think about the word 'terror' and 'terrorist' and then I start to think about good and evil and the more I think about those, the more I realise that there's no such thing as either of them, not really, and that when we talk about things like wrongness and evil, we are often just talking about some people who are very, very, very not ok in a way that is unfathomable to me and always will be, but the kinds of things they are not ok about are not unfathomable to me, and by that I mean the themes of their not ok-ness; the categories of it. And I start to think, 'well, I mean, yeah, of course. Sometimes, you want to do terrible violence and sometimes, terrible violence seems like it's the absolute answer and it sometimes might even seem beautiful because when someone or something hurts the fuck out of you, you want to hurt the fuck out of them back, but worse, and it would feel so good because the person or thing who hurt the fuck out of you first is probably the person or thing who's got more of the power than you have and to really hurt them - to really destroy them - would feel powerful and clean, but I suppose that's one reason why having a society is a good thing because it means that there can be a thing that's better than you; a thing that is bigger and calmer and more measured than you, so that if you do want to do terrible violence, you can either tell society before you do it so that society can help you, or you can be judged by society after you've done it, but that kind of thing only truly works when things inside - the mechanics - are truly working and I don't think that things are truly working because if they were, there wouldn't be far too many women and mentally ill people in prisons and women wouldn't be blamed for being raped and people of colour wouldn't have to be scared of being stopped in the street by the police for no reason and children wouldn't be terrified of going to school and people wouldn't be going to bed hungry and isolated and confused and men would be allowed to cry without it being weird and young people in care wouldn't be much more likely to not have jobs or live in poverty and families wouldn't be demonised for being from a different country and people wouldn't care more about homeless dogs than homeless humans.'
What's happening with all of that stuff?

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Dead Line

It’s one of those very still, hazy evenings. The view from the fourth floor window of this hotel room seems strange and unfamiliar despite the fact that this is a city you think you know like the back of your hand. Things look different from above, don’t they?

You take off your shoes and sit on the bed. You wonder if you’re allowed to get in the bed. You probably are. After all, you’ve been told that the room is entirely yours for the duration. You look around. There are lilies. A jug of water. 

A red telephone.

It rings. You knew this was going to happen. It makes you smile. You decide to let it ring three times before you answer.




Hello. You are through to Dead Line.

How often do you think about your own death?
How often do you talk about death and dying in your everyday life?
Are you afraid of dying?
How do you feel talking about death and dying?

‘Oh, if only you knew’, you think. There’s a part of you that wants to answer these questions in a more nuanced and conversational way rather than dialling them through, multiple choice style. But there’ll be time for that later. You’re told that your answers are being processed. You trace your fingers along the spiral telephone cord while you wait to be connected. Music plays down the receiver. You can hear yourself breathing. Maybe you’re a bit nervous. You lie down, facing the dead-still outside view.

And then there’s the voice. A woman. She’s upbeat, but calm. She tells you about herself. She’s an academic who lectures about death and dying. She talks to you about the kinds of people who go to her lectures. Some of them are death midwives. Death midwives. She teaches them about different traditions around death; the fact that Jews don’t tend to have flowers at funerals; that Muslims prefer to die facing Mecca; that Hindus like to lay the dead on the floor.

She tells you about her own, very real brushes with death and that she’s been told by a Tibetan monk exactly when she’ll die. She asks you if you have any questions. You do.

And then your time is up. You put the phone down and get up from the bed and walk towards the window. 

And you hear a sound. A dial tone. It gets louder. The light changes. The sound distorts. The light brightens, framing the window. You step backwards and sit back down on the bed, the sound and the light enveloping you, giving you a hug, telling you that this is just for you, entirely yours. You take some deep breaths and look out at your city. Things really do look different from above, don’t they?

(As published in Theatre Bristol Writers)

Friday, 27 March 2015

A - Z #12

Jobs You Probs Shouldn't Do If You've Ever Been Depressed

(Or, Fuck You, Daily Mail)

Astronaut cos you might jump out of spaceship on purpose
Baker cos you might stick your head in the oven
Cleaner cos you might drink bleach or swallow a load of broken dishes
Dog walker cos you might train the dog to kill you
Engineer cos you might engineer your own death
Farmer cos you might lie in field when it's minus 15 degrees with no clothes on
Golfer cos you might club yourself to death
Hitman/woman cos you might hit yourself
Inventor cos you might invent a new way to kill yourself
Jackhammer operator cos you might jackhammer the fuck out of yourself
Knitter cos you might knit yourself into a suicidal stupor
Long distance lorry driver cos you might drive off the edge of the planet
Milliner cos you might invent a special hat that suffocates you
Nun cos you might pray yourself to death
Optician cos you might stare at those letters until a subliminal message appears
Poacher cos you might jump into a bear trap headfirst
Quilt maker cos you might make a poisonous quilt for yourself
Runner cos you might run into a burning building
Swimmer cos you might swim into loads of sharks
Teacher cos you might teach yourself how to commit suicide
Undertaker cos you might end up undertaking yourself
Vending machine operator cos you might make a vending machine fall on you
Window cleaner cos you might decide to fall to your death from your window cleaning thing
X-ray technician cos you might radiate yourself to smithereens
Youth worker cos you might inject yourself with loads of cans of cokes

Thursday, 12 February 2015

The Cream

Jane woke up with her mouth wide open and her hand in a bad position. For a few seconds, she had no idea where she was. She could smell the duvet cover and she knew it wasn't the smell of her own one. Her eyes slid over the bed to the unfamiliar wall paper which was something to do with birds and trees. Nearby, a wooden blind she didn't recognise hung over a window that framed a strange view of a tiny, nondescript gard-


She was at Paula's house. She was at Paula's house for the second time in her life. But this was the first time in her life that she'd stayed over.

And then, with a rush of body science that hurt her chest, Jane remembered what she'd done the night before. She pulled herself over to the side of the bed and draped her head over the edge of it to look underneath.

There they were. All the things. From the bathroom. Unopened. Unused. Un-hers. They'd been under the bed all night. Jane looked at them with pride and fear. There was a bottle with cream in it, three bars of posh soap in over the top wrappers, a pink sponge that hadn't been touched and some perfume still in its box. They were all perfectly perfect. But also, they were weird because they were so unlike the kinds of things that were kept in the bathroom at her own house. Oh my God, they were so fucking pretty that she hated them a bit. The words, tasteless and tacky sounded in her head in Mum's voice. 

Jane breathed in with her nose. Under the bed, she could smell a too strong, too sweet, Paula-ish scent. She wanted to rip all the things open and touch them and have them on her. She knew how they would feel; waxy and fruity; thick and gloopy. She wanted to get under the bed and bury her face into them; to chew on them in a never-ending gobstopper way. But she knew that she wouldn't go that far. It was almost enough to just have them there. It was almost enough.

Jane heard Dad and Paula downstairs. Paula was laughing at a joke she didn't get. Dad was laughing at a joke he didn't find funny. Jane thought about Dad and Paula sleeping in the same bed and got a pang in her spine. She thought about yesterday. About how she had made a fuss and caused a scene. About how she had run away to Diane's house when Dad had told her they were going to Paula's for the night. About how she had told Diane to call Mum and how Diane had said, Jane, Mum's on holiday, darling. About how Dad had come to Diane's to get her and how he'd promised she didn't have to go to Paula's house but how they'd ended up there anyway and about how she couldn't remember how this had happened.

Jane thought about all of that for a bit.

Her nightie was all twisted up around her legs and her bum was out and it was getting cold. She thought that she wanted some toast or some cereal. She thought that she wanted to get dressed or go for a walk. She heard sounds from below. A radio. A cup on a table. A clearing of a throat.

Jane sat up in the bed and looked at the door. At first, she was looking at the door. But after a while, she was staring at the door. She wasn't thinking about anything, really. She knew what she was going to do. She'd already decided. So the staring at the door wasn't Jane coming up with a plan and organising the logistics. It was just Jane waiting.

Paula's bedroom was really big. There were flowers on the curtains and cuddly toys on the bed and a silky thing hanging on the door. There was also a photograph of Paula and Dad on the bedside table. In the photograph, they were laughing. Jane wondered who had taken the photograph but she couldn't think of anyone.

Jane stood still for absolutely ages.

Jane was holding the unopened bottle of cream from the bathroom.

Jane started to feel sick-ish.

Outside, there was a scream which made a noise come out of Jane's mouth without her wanting one to. The scream wasn't a real scream. It was more of a yelp. The yelp was made by a grown up. The grown up was telling a child off for running into the road without looking. This whole thing lasted for about ten seconds, which is actually quite a long time, especially when you've been standing still for absolutely ages.

Jane's hands had become a bit hot. The bottle of cream from the bathroom was starting to feel heavy and Jane had begun to lose her grip on it a little bit because of sweat and the passing of time. She walked over to Paula's dressing table which was big and white and very mirrored. 

Jane looked at her own face in the mirror. Then, she put the bottle of cream down and pulled her nightie really tight against herself with both of her hands. She looked at the shape of her body in the mirror. As she did this, she didn't decide anything. She just looked. With one hand still clutching her nightie against her, she opened one of Paula's dresser drawers which was filled with knickers and bras and other things with straps and clasps that Jane didn't understand. She put her hand inside and had a feel. Everything was smooth and thin and wispy and light. Jane could feel that The Moment was about to happen. It was one of those times when people say, it's now or never.

Jane didn't know this but she was holding her breath. She reached for the bottle of cream with a shaky hand and snapped it open. She turned the bottle on its head and held it over the drawer of underwear and started squeezing. She squeezed for a long time. She did all of this without breathing any breaths or thinking any thoughts. Those things would come later.

After lunch, it was time for Jane to go back to Mum's house. Being in the car with Dad was Jane's favourite thing about Dad. She liked watching him doing the driving and she liked the music he listened to. Recently, the seat belt in the passenger seat had started to smell like a mixture of Paula and cigarettes. As Dad was driving too fast down all the country roads, Jane looked out the window, as usual, and pretended to be a different person, as usual. She was making up a story about how she lived in a flat in London and got a bus to school (but not a school bus, a public bus) and she was getting to a really good bit in the story about the kind of bedroom she'd have in the flat when she was interrupted by Dad, who said,

I think we need to have a little chat, don't you?

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

The Man Who Didn’t Go To His Father’s Funeral.

Dad, I’m not ready to get in touch. Please don’t be in contact. Leave it to me. There’s nothing wrong. Everything’s fine.

I googled: should I go to my estranged father’s funeral.

We were estranged. That was my choice.

For my entire adult life, I’ve tried to understand what happened to me.

There’s the cold palmed, sweaty, midnight horror. There’s the memory of my dad pushing my mum out of a moving car. The memory of us being locked out of the house on Christmas day, in the snow, in our pyjamas. The memory of him shutting himself in the front room, smoking three packs of cigarettes and drinking three bottles of wine and screaming at anyone who went near him.

Over and over. Over and over. And when you’re a child, your parents are the weather. 

If you want to know about affection, there were these times:

He once told me we were going to Homebase and he let me sit in the front of the car.

He once had to go to Birmingham and he took me with him and he bought me a comic on the way.

He once said to me, when I was about 17, ‘you’re a very handsome chap aren’t you?’

So. There they are.

If you want to know about Family Dynamics, there is this:

My sister protected me from him. If he hit me, she threw her dinner at him. If he bullied me, she tried to stab him with a knife. She tried to kill him on a number of occasions. They would fight physically. He would hit her around her head with all of his force. My mum would have been on the floor somewhere, having already been beaten by him.

There were no adults in our house. There was me, I was the youngest, there were two other children, there was a father who behaved like a cracked up three-year-old, and there was a mother who was absolutely incapable of protecting us.

And, when you’re a child, your parents are the weather.

If you want to know what this is about, it’s about this:

He died last Christmas eve. In the morning. He was 68. The funeral was today.

I could have gone.

I couldn’t imagine going, though, because I had decided so long ago that I wasn’t going to. But I also couldn’t imagine not going.

If you want know about the questions I’ve asked myself, I’ve asked myself these:

What is the statement I’m making? What are my reasons? What have I decided? My sister said that she didn’t care what my reasons were, that she wanted me there, and that if I wasn’t going to be there, then that was it and there was nothing more to talk about. My other sister said she didn’t understand my reasons, but that she didn’t need to understand them, and that we should all stop dissecting what the other one thinks. 

If you want to know about some of the things I think about and some of the things I feel, there are these things:

People say that decisions are difficult but I don’t buy that. I think that decisions are fucking easy. What’s hard is getting to the point where you know you can live with the consequences. I felt massive relief when he died. I felt like it was my birthday for about a week. There was a lightness in me that I hadn’t felt for fucking years. But I feel incredibly sad for him. I don’t think death is sad, I think loss is sad and I think that sadness is sad. 

If you want to know what the story is, it is this:

It was in September last year that I told him not to call me again. But the estrangement is actually a lot older than that. Through my late teens, we’d hang out. He’d re-married and I’d go to his house and there was a very brittle attempt at him being a dad. And then it all kind of went wrong. He turned up at the pub one day. I was with my friends. He got really, really drunk and he asked me what I thought of him and I said I didn’t want to talk about it. And he said, ‘oh, come on, I know your childhood was difficult’ and I think I said something. And the next thing I knew, he’d punched me square in the face.

I was 18.

And that was kind of it for me. The estrangement happened after that.

His mother bullied him and was violent with him and his father was very distant. He went to university and became a chemist. He ended up working on the stock market. And then, he basically turned into a total fucking bastard somewhere along the line.

The last time I saw him was at his mother’s funeral, last year. He looked like the deadest person there. Before her funeral, I was telling myself it wouldn’t be as bad as I was expecting it to be, it was just an afternoon with an old man I hadn’t seen for a long time. But, fucking hell, it was so much worse than I could’ve imagined. It was awful. I was sitting there thinking, you’re going to kill yourself.

And now he has.

He drank himself to death. 

I cut off all contact with my dad. I was estranged from my him. And now he’s dead. And today is his funeral. And I’m not there. And this is what I’m doing. To mark him. 

Before I told him not to get in touch with me, I was having rolling panic attacks for about three months. A lot of my anxiety was to do with the belief that if I stopped trying to be perfect, stopped trying to work hard all the time – to do everything perfectly –  if I just relaxed, I would turn into him. When I was estranged from him, it was impossible for me to have a problem with him. So, I realised that actually, the problems I had were the parts of him that were embedded in me as memory, or as habit.

All those realisations are very difficult. 

If you want to know what I consider to be the truth, I think it is this:

People who feel hurt, cause hurt. If someone is hurting you, you can’t be the one who stops them hurting. That’s how abuse happens. If you can’t move away from someone who’s hurting you, that’s abuse. And the ‘can’t’ can be for whatever reason; it could even be because you don’t want to. If someone chooses to be in an abusive relationship, it doesn’t make the relationship any less abusive, it just makes it more fucked up. 

If you want to know a bit more about me, there is this:

I went through phases of my life when I was in proper trouble. I went to live in Japan. I did a lot of drugs and a lot of clubbing. Every day, really. I didn’t eat. I was being abused by my partner. He used to hit me and throw my dinner at me, which obviously made me feel like I was back at home. And I remember thinking, ‘this has to stay an abusive relationship. I can’t allow this to become a relationship that’s just two people fighting each other.’ Because if I’d done that, I felt as though I would have lost myself.

It wasn’t epiphanic, but when I was about 24, I started to try and sort myself out. It’s taken 15 years so far and I’m still going. More recently, during the time when I was having a lot of panic attacks, I studied my condition really hard. I did a lot of reading. And I got to the point where I understood exactly what was happening to me. And before all this studying, I imagined that at the moment when I understood everything, it would be like a magic spell and everything would unravel. Of course, it didn’t. And that’s a false belief that I lived under for a long time: that I could just understand my way out of some very big problems.

I’m a Buddhist now. Not religiously, but just because it works. It’s a way of inhabiting the present that doesn’t drive me mental. I discovered that my anxiety was an attempt to stop time. My undeveloped self – the fearful, snotty four-year-old who gets to control things when it all goes to shit – was terrified of time passing and what that meant. So, he attempted to stop time magically, with the muscles of my body. I try to notice the passage of time now, I try to notice that each moment has a different quality from the next.

A lot of my periods of being anxious were characterised by extreme dislocation from reality, and I think that was a place I went to a lot when I was a kid.  A state of freeze. Of shock. Of feeling, quite literally like nothing was real, like I wasn’t there. 

I cut off all contact with my dad. I was estranged from him. He was abusive. And now he’s dead. And today is his funeral. And I’m not there. And this is what I’m doing. To mark him. 

If you want to know some of the things I remember, I remember this:

I used to spend a lot of my time in the garden, away from him. I’d be constantly looking at and studying all the tinniest things; we had a pond with all these tiny animals in it and I remember all the flowers and all the plants in minute detail. And my dad would come into the garden and mow the shit out of it all. So, there’s a quite painful symbolism in that, looking back. There’s a lot I can’t remember but then there’s a lot I remember in photographic detail.

Some of the most painful memories I have are of him being really cruel to animals. There were loads of tiny froglets in the garden, thousands of them that had just hatched out in the pond, and he just mowed them up with the lawn. I can remember being absolutely distraught, begging him to stop. And he wouldn’t. He told me to fuck off. 

If you want to know about anger, there is this:

My sister feels vast, seething cauldrons of anger towards my mother. It’s taken me quite a long time to feel anger of any description; it would immediately channel into fear or despondency or depression or anxiety. My sister channelled her pain into fury. But I think doing that kind of thing only gets you so far. If the only way you can cope is though fear, then you end up with a serious anxiety issue. If the only way you can cope is through anger, then you burn everyone. 

If you want to know what this is all for, it is for this:

Some parents are so fucking shit that you shouldn’t go to their funeral. 

I wasn’t even sure if I should tell anyone that he’d died. Because it would have been like ‘I feel like I need to tell you that my dad’s died because my dad’s died, but, you know, it’s fine because I didn’t like him.’ 

I cut off all contact with my dad. I was estranged from him. He was abusive and violent and a bully and an alcoholic. And when you're a child, your parents are the weather. And now he’s dead. And today is his funeral. And I’m not there. And this is what I’m doing.

To mark him.