I am trying to write this using sentences of different lengths
When I was 12 we lived over the shop. Literally. My parents had a baker’s shop and the upstairs rooms were our living room and bedrooms and bathroom. There were three of us in the family, mum, dad and me. But sometimes it seemed more like six; my paternal grandmother and my aunt lived only a short distance away with another old lady called Mary Ellen – usually known as Nellie. She was not a relative but had lived with my gran for a long time. Nellie worked as shop assistant in our bakers. As long as I can remember the three of them Gaga (my childish name for my auntie Margaret.) Nannie and Nellie were part of the family. They came to us for meals and before I started school I was taken to Nannie’s house every day where she looked after me while my mum was working.
By today’s standards our little flat above the shop would be considered cramped. But there were good points too. We had a fine view of the street outside from our second floor window. On the relatively few occasions when I couldn’t see across the road because of the dreaded l smog I knew I wouldn’t have to go to school. All buses would be cancelled.
The bathroom was immediately above the bakehouse oven so we had a nice warm floor to stand on when getting into the bath. Strangely enough, though we had a bathroom upstairs, the lavatory was outside the back door. Not unusual in the 1940s suppose.
I took a lot for granted about the house we lived in. Everything was close. We were one of a row of shops and most of our daily needs could be supplied within walking distance. There was a post office, a newsagents, a butcher, a fish shop, a sweetshop, a tripe shop, even a hairdresser and a shoe shop. What more could you ask? This was before the advent of supermarkets or shopping malls.
Well before I was 12 I could run errands to any of the shops on our road, I could go to the newsagents next door to buy a newspaper and twenty cigarettes for my dad. I can’t imagine sending my daughter on a similar errand when she was seven.
Jane and I were walking in the park. A pleasant Sunday afternoon stroll, hand in hand as we like to walk, even if it seems childish to some people. We’d been together for over a year and I was trying to pluck up my courage to ask her to marry me. Suppose she said no!
As we passed the bandstand and the ornamental lake I saw an old lady sitting on a bench. She was busy knitting a small red sweater. She looked exactly like my gran. Gran was fond of knitting; every birthday she made me a scarf or a jumper. Now she’s living in a residential home somewhere on the south coast, I think. We kind of lost touch when she moved there after my dad died. I looked closer – it wasn’t just some old woman who looked like Gran – it was Gran! Dare I approach her? She was getting old, suppose she no longer recognised me? I couldn’t stop the hot tears that poured down my face. Why hadn’t I kept in touch?
I always knew Mark was a big softy, but I didn’t think he was the sort of bloke to cry in public. It was like this; we were out for a walk last Sunday after lunch. It’s one of our customs, even if it does make us look like an old married couple. I like it. But on Sunday we passed this old lady sitting on a park bench. She was respectably dressed, not a bag lady or a beggar or anything like that. She even had her knitting with her, a small red jumper the sort that would fit a toddler about two or three years old. Perhaps it was for a grandchild – or a great grandchild, she looked old enough. Imagine my surprise – and my embarrassment – when for no reason I could see Mark suddenly burst into tears. If the old woman had been frail and in distress I might have understood it. But…I was simply baffled. We’d had a bottle of wine with our meal but not enough to make Mark maudlin drunk. What could be the matter with him?
I went to the park on Sunday. It was a lovely day, the sun was shining and I felt like a walk. My sister had promised to visit. I find Lizzie a bit of a pain and wanted to avoid her. I knew she’d ring before coming, so if wasn’t there to answer the phone, there’d be no difficulty. I even mentioned to the warden of the flats – sheltered housing, it’s called – that I was going for a walk. You don’t have to account for your movements but if Lizzie turned up at least she wouldn’t be trying to persuade the warden to use her pass key to get into my flat.
Anyway I had a nice walk and a sit down beside the pond. I’d got my knitting with me. I like to have something to keep my hands occupied, now I can’t see so well to read unless I get a large print from the library. So there I was knitting a jumper for old Mrs Green’s grandson. She can’t knit now, poor thing, her arthritis is too bad. I was watching the people passing trying to guess who they were and how they were related. A mother and three small children, a father who looked as though he was a divorced dad taking his daughter for a weekly outing and a young couple holding hands. It seems to have gone out of fashion hand holding, now. Unless you are with a young child or a very old person who needs assistance crossing the road. I glanced up at the couple and I couldn’t believe my eyes; the man burst into tears. I hadn’t done anything, I promise. I wasn’t even thinking about my magic gift and I’d absolutely no reason to use it on this young man.
He stormed into the room.
What do you think you’re doing?” he demanded.
“N, nothing,” she muttered, “I only….”
He paced the room, examining the papers, the books, the pictures on the wall.
“What are you hiding?” he yelled.
“I’m not…” she began.
“Where is he? I’m not stupid. Where is your lover? Where are you hiding him?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” she whimpered.
He seized her arm and twisted it till she screamed with pain.
“He’s been here. I can smell tobacco and look -” he picked up a cigarette butt from the carpet.
“My father…” she said.
“Rubbish! Your father smokes a pipe.”
Before he had time to realise what she was doing Amelia spun round, raced across the room and slammed the door behind her. He heard her cackle of triumph as she turned the key and shut him in.
Extract from a gothic-type story. Unfinished.
The letter in a round childish hand listed things the writer wanted. A bicycle, a football, a sledge, an I-pad. (Clearly a budding computer nerd.) I’d have loved to deliver it. But it was addressed to Father Christmas, the North Pole. Why on earth didn’t he send a tweet?
Writing 101. Task 4 – Serially Lost
What is the thing I would most miss if/when I lost it? That’s easy – the ability to read and write. If my sight deteriorated to the extent that I couldn’t read words on a page or letters on a screen I would be devastated. Thanks to modern technology there are ways to lessen the impact; large print, moon and braille of course and various ways you can have books and other material read to you, talking books and magazines which must be a godsend to people without sight.
The ability I have lost almost completely is not sight – I am glad to say, but writing. Not the power to generate words, sentences and ideas and string them together. I am glad to say I can still manage to do that. It is actually writing by hand on a piece of paper that I can’t do any longer. My handwriting is so atrocious that even I find it difficult to read and the only pieces of writing I now do by hand are signatures on cheques and when I have to sign for a parcel delivered to our house. When faced with a portable computer screen to sign I can almost never produce a signature that is readable. I’m thankful the delivery men seem to accept any kind of scrawl and sometimes even write the name for me – poor old lady she obviously can’t cope with modern technology, better fill in the form for her.
I know people of my age and even some older folks who can produce lovely copperplate script. Some people are so fond of pen and paper that a letter doesn’t really count if it is typed or word-processed. I am just profoundly grateful that I live in the age of computers and I can write on a screen, alter and edit as I go along and then print the whole thing either on paper or to a file for future use.
Yes the failure of handwriting is a real loss. It’s one I can cope with, but a loss all the same. If I want to make notes at a meeting I can’t manage with a reporter’s notebook like I used to use, I need my i-pad. Fine, but I also need to charge my device and have access to Wi-Fi or the Internet.
So it’s farewell to the quill pen and beautiful calligraphy in italic script but at least I am living in the twenty-first century and I have aids to writing in the form of computers and PCs, I-pads and smart phones. I have much to be thankful for.
15 minutes free writing – not sure what is meant by this term just keeping on stream of consciousness for 15 minutes. I should be able to do that, the prompt about “three songs that mean the most to you” has to be ignored I can’t think of ONE song let along THREE that mean anything at all to me. Songs and all kinds of mucic are just a form of noise, sound without any form or meaning, a pleasant or unpleasant background to whatever is going on in the rest of the world, the rest of my life.
Sound, noise, words, letters, speech, writing – all ways of conveying meaning, all more or less useful.
Empty your mind – an empty mind a blank sheet of paper, tabla rasa or whatever. I do try to do this consciously in the mornign when I wake up and do a sort of first thing mediation to start off the day. I lie down, relax as much as possible, then envisage my head as a sort of room, a big square space and take a broom to clear it out, sweeping the dust and debris away, leavng a clear space. Sometimes it works. Then I think of my feet as having a sort of tap to drain out all the miseries and bad things, all the tempers and sadnesses, all the frustration and angers I feel and I imgaine then pouring out of my feet and draining away so I have a clear feeling and a nice blank place to start on next day. Then I imagine a funnel with a pipe leading into it and the end of the pipe going into my head. I see all sorts of good things pouring down the funnel into my brain. things like love and peace and joy and caring and happiness and if it is a good day and my imaginative visualisation is workign well I am ready to get up, have a shower, clean my teeth and face the world as it comes at me. Try it, it works, really – or at least it works for me.
Not sure if this exercise/task is supposed to be entered on my blog. Seems to vague and unplanned and also too personal. Will leave it for now and look at The commoms to see what other people have felt about this.