Polishing the Pebble: Editing

Call me masochistic, call me an oddball, but I love editing. Perhaps it’s my long-missed vocation as a substitute English teacher talking, but if I can’t look at a piece of raw writing and make it better then I might as well take up watercolours or piano.

This is where the art of writing really begins for me. Due to the aforementioned masochistic streak, I keep all of my drafts upstairs in a filing cabinet. Just occasionally I’ll dig out the first draft of a piece like ‘Tagged’ and, once I’ve finished shuddering at the raw product, I’ll marvel at just how much it has changed from its original form. For me, a first draft is a chunk of stone hewn from a rockface. When editing, it’s time to park the plant equipment and bring out the hand chisel. Here are a few tips that I’ve found useful when adapting my first draft…

Continue reading “Polishing the Pebble: Editing”

Out of Sight…

First down was the family goldfish. Flaccid and limp-finned, it had been surreptitiously slipped down the plughole as Sean’s daughter slept, shortly to be replaced by Goldie Mark II. Sean was aware that protocol demanded that the long-serving Goldie Mark I be flushed down the toilet with full military honours, but the en-suite was a chemical toilet and dissolving a family pet in what was essentially a pit of bleach felt a bit…premeditated.

When it came to the disposal, there was remarkably little fuss. Goldie did a couple of laps of the sink before finding his eternal rest and…was it Sean’s tired eyes playing tricks on him, or had the plughole widened ever so slightly in anticipation of its feast? Pulling the light chord, he went back to bed. Continue reading “Out of Sight…”

Knit and Knatter

You sit there like a mother hen, all your little chicks around you.

You’re at the head of the circle. Circles don’t have heads, but you are indisputably at it. Maybe it’s the teapot and tray of biscuits placed proprietorially at your feet. Maybe it’s the way that the ‘Tifton United Church’ mural sits directly above your head, like you’re the centerpiece in a postmodern interpretation of the sodding nativity. Continue reading “Knit and Knatter”

Smoke and Dust

There it stands. My cathedral. Quite literally the pinnacle of my career. It was once a spectacle. A reference point for others to navigate by. It is there, they would say, so I must be here. Now my chimney is doomed.

Standing above the crematorium at Hopewells Hospital, the stack was a landmark, but also so much more. It was a portal into another world. People would start their journey at its base, lumpen masses waiting for transcendence. They would end it ethereal, curling around its blackened rim before being tugged away by the breeze. Used by thousands, beloved only by its creator, it stood to serve, not only pointing the way to heaven but giving its users primary ignition on their ascent.

The locals gather around it now, baying for its demise on their plastic garden chairs. There were no crowds when it was completed, but tearing something down? Why not make a day of it, and bring the kids too?

A crass countdown begins. I planned every brick in that tower and yet I, and it, are denied the dignity we provided for so many. The loudspeaker echoes off its façade – a noble final defence against the inevitable.

A button pushed. A guttural rumble. A rush of rubble and dust mushrooming towards the earth.

 

***As always, I’d be delighted to hear your thoughts/feedback!***

Beyond Cleopatra

It’s really not so unreasonable, darling.

Every icon is defined by their attention to detail, by the emphasis they put on minutiae. By their idiosyncrasies.

Cleopatra used to bathe in asses’ milk. Phoney? Maybe so, but it demonstrated a willingness to go beyond what was thought reasonable. It demonstrated an inclination towards virtuosity.

Like Cleopatra, my face is my fortune, and whilst she could innovate using donkeys, these days going within a kilometre of a dairy product in New York City is enough to get one court-martialled for crimes against ethical wellness.

No. Nowadays we are forced to go further. Which is why I’m sitting in the first class lounge at JFK Airport waiting to fly to Frankfurt for no particular reason. Usually I have photoshoots to attend, ad campaigns to launch, skincare products to front, but when I’m not working I like to fly east.

Why east, I hear you ask as you thumb through the latest magazine with my face on it, as you devour every last scrap of gossip on a celebrity website. Because, my little pimple-faced, crows-feet-creased sycophants, the earth spins counterclockwise. A couple of long haul flights every week, and I’ve put miles on my odometer without tyres having touched tarmac. For every week you are getting burnt to a crisp by UV rays, I spend only six days. Whilst I am not turning back the clock on ageing as such, I am jamming a collagen needle in the cogs, all the while racing towards a rising sun.

What age, they’ll ask.

How is it done, they’ll wonder.

Well that’s how – with a T-Rex-sized carbon footprint and enough face cream to re-enbalm old Cleo herself. I’ve done more orbits of the earth than a GPS satellite. It’s called dedication, darling.

And they say you don’t require brains to be a model.

***As ever, all comment welcome!***

Surveillance State

‘About bloody time,’ muttered Brian, getting up from his chair and stretching, his fists pressing into the small of his back. ‘My shift ended fifteen minutes ago.’

‘All right, all right. Not like you’ve got a hot date, is it?’ Cassie put her coffee on the table and glanced up at the screens. ‘Anything for the handover?’

‘No movement for a while. Temperature normal. Camera four is partially obscured by a book he’s put up there, but not so much as to compromise line of sight. Still no indication that he’s onto us.’ Continue reading “Surveillance State”

Fly and I

You’re bloody irritating, d’you know that?

Today is my lie-in – the only morning of the week that I can call my own. I didn’t even get a good kip; I had to sleep with the window open you see? The sound of traffic and drunken reveling was the price I paid in exchange for tempting a breath of warm, moist warm air into my bedroom.

And now my lazy morning is being disrupted thanks to you. Yeah, you – clever enough to find the crack in the slider window yet seemingly too senseless to find your way back out again. So here we are – you buzzing and thunking against the window pane, not one of your six legs able to gain purchase, and me hunkering beneath the covers, trying to ignore your increasingly frantic attempts.

What are the chances that, of all of the windows in all of the houses in all of the streets in Dundee, you’d choose mine?

And then I think, what are the chances of us being in the same room?

Let’s take it right back. I can remember learning about the reproductive system in Biology. I was one of three-million sperm trying to get to that egg. I faced down some serious numbers. I’ve subsequently avoided meningitis, rickets, polio, bird flu, and any number of scrapes, bumps, and road traffic near misses to take my place under the duvet here.

All of this pales in comparison to what you’ve experienced, of course. Literally born into crap, you had to worm your way around decomposing matter as a maggot. Once you were flying, the fun had just begun. You were fair game for spiders, frogs, birds and wasps, not to mention the cavalcade of pesticides, flytraps and swatters arrayed against you. And the half-opened window, of course.

Which kind of brings me to my point. If my parents, upon seeing me writhing in the maternity ward, were to place a bet on my meeting you they would face infinitesimally large odds. They’d get laughed out of the bookies. I’m not usually one for fate or destiny, but you must admit the maths are pretty compelling. It feels like a benevolent force has nudged you through my window, eager to prompt a meeting that will change the course of both our lives.

Should I usher you outside again? It doesn’t feel a memorable enough finale to such a journey. An owner/pet scenario then? The girl and her fly? That doesn’t seem likely. Perhaps you have entered my room as a muse; maybe you should prompt me into some profound reverie, some sudden…

Thwack.

Gotcha.

 

***As always I’d be delighted to hear your thoughts and comments on this!***