Away with the Fairies

3 Nov

When the children asked why Granny couldn’t remember their names, or talked to them like they were her childhood friends, I couldn’t bear to use the words – Dementia, Alzheimer’s. Their little tongues wouldn’t be able to wrap themselves around the syllables, so said she was away with the fairies. It made them giggle, satisfied their curious minds. It made me wonder how long I had accepted the same explanation when my mum used it for my little Nan. How long before I drummed up the courage to ask if it was really the fairies that were occupying her mind. From my reading of the Brownie Handbook, I would have thought it was more likely to be imps, making Nan leave the gas on to boil the electric kettle dry; making her strip to her girdle and knickers, and walk out to meet the postman.

It seemed appropriate that we took Mum out to the woods to scatter her. The roots of blown down trees looked like fairy skyscrapers, with nooks and crannies to hide precious memories. A ring of mushrooms under an oak. Stones neatly piled. Tinkling in the breeze.

‘What do we do now?’ Moya asked.

The rituals at the church and crematorium were for others to command, now it was my turn, and I struggled under the weight of expectation. A new tradition about to be born through this death.

‘Form a circle,’ I said, thinking back to my childhood’s Thursday nights. ‘Hold hands. Now we skip.’

John looked at me, and I knew he thought I’d gone too far.

‘Even Daddy?’

‘Especially Daddy.’

We skipped in a circle as I mumbled incantations from all the cultures that had brewed in my life. Then I broke the circle, stood in the middle, a tight little group, clasping hands around me. I took her from my pocket, and silently asked the fairies to look after her.

This story was written in response to this prompt at Creative Writing Ink

A photo by Robert Lukeman. unsplash.com/photos/_RBcxo9AU-U

New Price

17 Oct

New cheaper price for the ebook of All the Places – you know you want to https://www.amazon.co.uk/All-Places-Ive-Ever-Been/dp/1519115113/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1476742763&sr=8-1&keywords=colette+coen

Moon

15 Oct

Take a moment to look at the moon. It won’t disappoint.

 

What is Writing Worth?

27 Sep

Well said

Scottish Writers' Centre

What is the status of writers and artists in our society? Earlier this year, Sainsbury’s advertised for an artist to ‘voluntarily’ decorate part of one of their shops. The language of the advert made the place of the creative worker plain. The planned refurbishment was for the ‘comfort of our employees.’ The implication was almost an explication: artists are not employees, and, conveniently, therefore, they don’t need to be paid. The large company, rather than the small artist, is now in charge in Britain, the advert seemed to be saying, and the only useful purpose of any aesthetic production is to relax those involved in the far more serious business of selling things. As if this wasn’t a brutal enough message to any ‘ambitious artist’, as the advert is addressed to (not ambitious enough to have a proper job, of course, like running a supermarket), the closing lines of the…

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And Breathe

24 Sep

I know you didn’t know I’d been away, but I have and now I’m home so I thought it was finally time to blog (a little) about what I’ve been up to. Without breaking any medical confidences, I’ve just spent 11 nights in the parents’ accommodation of a large children’s hospital in a city other than the one in which I live.

I’ll not go into details, but suffice to say the whole experience was worthwhile but horrible to live through – and I was only the one sitting by the hospital bed, and not in it.

Anyway, this isn’t a medical blog, it’s a writing one, so here goes:

As I sat, sometimes with my husband, sometimes without, in a variety of wards, kitchens and lounge areas with other parents, I was amazed how much people needed to talk, to tell their stories, to tell the stories of their children. As a women, I’ve been in situations before when I’ve listened to, and told, traumatic stories (normally about childbirth), but my husband hasn’t really and I think he was quite taken aback by people’s openness. It did strike me though how fundamental a need we have to tell these stories, even, or especially, when we are in the middle of trauma/stress/grief.

It also struck me that there is inevitably a form of sympathy competition, where each parent wants to be the one getting rather than giving the sympathy, but none of us want to have the worst story, as that would mean our child might be the one who doesn’t make it.

On a lighter note, as my child did, and is now making good use of her bell to keep me running after her – every day I tried to get a bit of fresh air, and luckily the hospital was situated right next to a large park in the heart of the university area. When I came back my walk I had to regale H with the sights I’d seen. A man on a skateboard isn’t very exciting, but when he’s being pulled by huskies it is. A couple trying and failing to tightrope walk is quite amusing, and a busker who verbally abused posh kids for clapping was just quite disturbing. Anyway, by telling stories about my little walks, it passed a little time.

What didn’t pass the time was me reading, writing or doing anything other than helping H get back on her feet. I had envisaged a Heidi- type scenario with me reading Jane Austen to her, while she lay meekly on the bed. Didn’t realise that once she was off the morphine, I’d be taking over much of her care to prepare us for home. I was absolutely wrecked by the time we left, both physically and mentally, but am finally beginning to re-connect with the outside world, even though H’s recuperation is far from over, and am thinking again about my novel – did I tell you it is set in a hospital…

Final word – the staff at the hospital were absolutely amazing. Comforting, caring and cajoling. Love our NHS.

 

Free Short Stories for 5 days

24 Aug

Because I’ve been an infrequent blogger, I thought I’d give you all a little gift for sticking by me –Five a Day is free for the next five days. I hope you enjoy.

 

 

Update – Event More Excited ‘Lost’ – Writing Magazine

3 Aug

Very excited that my short story Lost, which won second prize in the Writing Magazine’s 750 words competition, is now available to read on the Writers Online website, although you may need to be a subscriber to access. Great to get feedback to in the judge’s comments section.

Update:

Just found out that the story is also in the printed version of the magazine – unfortunately mine doesn’t normally arrive until Saturday, so need to make do with a photography sent via the lovely Ethly Smith, whose book Changed Times is out now.

If you manage to read the story I’d love to know what you thought. And you just know you’re going to get a photo of me with the magazine tomorrow, with a big grin on my face.

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