Writing me Down

Friday, July 21, 2006

Photograph (Activity 22.5)

It is the summer of 1986. The grass is studded with daisies, and the trees rustle overhead. We pass the gleaming windows of the tech college where I have just finished studying. I step quickly forward, and turn to take a photo of my two art-student friends, Karen and Justina. Karen shrieks and lets her long, red hair fall forward to screen her face. She puts out her left arm in a parody of an automaton-like walk. Justina, her dark hair secured back from her pale face with a black scarf and red rubber band leans forward, mouth open as if to bite Karen’s shoulder. Both girls are wearing long macs. Justina’s does not quite conceal the fact that she is heavily pregnant. Her dark eye makeup and large earrings are all that remains of her goth days. Just off the frame is the flat where we lived together for a year.
This is one of a series of photos that I took just before I left Lincoln to go to University to study Business Studies. Justina soon gave birth to Sam and moved to a house in North Lincoln with Sam’s father, Paul. I later received a photo of Paul and Sam. Karen moved back with her parents in a Lincolnshire village and started her own crafts business selling on stalls. A long time later, I received a phone call from her inviting me to a religious seminar. I declined, and never saw or heard from her again.

Friday, June 30, 2006


I was picking daffodils when
I noticed the thrush.
A strand of couch grass
showed me her nest
in the hawthorne
by the fence.
Over its rim her white throat
speckled chest
two dark eyes
I left the gardening ‘till later
so as not to disturb her.

I missed her journeys
to and fro -
went to check,
found the nest
Glancing down I saw
her baby
on its back
throat stretched
thin, transparent
tiny beak pointing north.

I saw her again
gathering leaves
dropping them
clattering off
into the trees.

A few weeks later
I heard her song
fluting into the evening air
and something in her music
healed me.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Tea with the Queen

The day my Gran met the Queen for tea
she didn’t shake the royal hand.
It was my Grandad who'd been invited.
There were cucumber sandwiches,
china cups with tea,
small cakes,
icecream and jelly.
Yes, really!

The day my Gran met the Queen for tea
she didn’t see the royal face
but – oh! – the Queen looked lovely
even from so far away.
It was in the gardens, Gran told me,
with everyone in Sunday best
smartly dressed with gloves on,
even though it was sunny.

June morning

Trousers damp at knees and ankles,
thigh high young green stalks of wheat,
path of cracked clay slick with dew-grass,
swallows chatter on overhead wires,
a squadron of swifts scream overhead,
two bare trees groan with starling-fruit,
poppies gleam vermilion silk,
purple flags the proud iris,
roses ramble round the porch,
the air thickens with mock orange,
on Church Street corner a small brown deer
greyhound-size just standing there,
ponies and donkey lie in buttercups,
a skylark bubbles its song through the air.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Don't count your chickens before they're thatched

It was perched on the edge of a cliff
when I saw it. Clucking, looking fat.
Nearby a haystack stood, listing sideways
as if sliding off its needle.
From a blackberry bush
dozens more chickens rushed
out like a cloud, and
stood around their stray mother.
Then with a whir the breeze blew down
the hay onto the clucking crowd.

Glimpsed on a bike ride

ponies like bookends
two foals asleep at their feet
among buttercups

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Point of View


Ben felt the hedge digging into his back. It stank under there of cat shit and something else that he couldn’t name. He felt Jake’s body tense up beside him.
“What …?”
“Shhh. The old codger’s coming out.”
Ben peered underneath his pulled-down hood and saw a pair of flat grey lace-up shoes stepping down the doorstep. Ben started to sweat. Why had he let Jake talk him into this?
The grey shoes turned down the front garden path away from them. Ben took a deep breath – and then held it, as another pair of shoes stepped down. Brown, flat lace-up shoes on a pair of stout ankles. Ben had a bad feeling about those shoes. They reminded him of Mrs Garrison from juniors. The shoes paused.
Oh, God. She even sounded like Mrs Garrison. Ben shivered and hoped Jake hadn’t noticed. The brown shoes started to walk briskly towards them. Ben’s thighs burned with crouching down for too long. He dipped his head even lower, allowing the hood to completely obscure his face. He felt a sudden urge to stand up; pretend he’d just lost a marble or something. What a bloody ridiculous idea that was. Who’d believe a fourteen year old boy was playing with marbles?
The brown shoes stopped on the edge of the grass in front of them.
“I suppose you two think you’re invisible in there, do you?”
Ben peered out – up the stout legs, past the brown coat and into the grey eyes of Mrs Garrison.


Mrs Garrison – Lavinia to her close friends – checked inside her handbag while Mr Garrison was tying his shoe laces with much puffing and grunting. She rummaged through the contents, trying to locate the brown envelope. It wasn’t there.
“Bernie – did you take the letter out of my bag?”
“What …? Oh, yes. Sorry, dear, I think I did. I left it in the kitchen … somewhere.”
Mrs Garrison tutted and walked into the gleaming kitchen. The envelope was on the side, half tucked underneath the Parish Magazine. She picked it up, slotted it neatly into her hand bag, and turned to follow Mr Garrison out of the door. But something about the garden caught her eye out of the kitchen window. There seemed to be less light somehow, something crowded about the border …?
She followed Mr Garrison out of the door and closed it firmly, hearing the latch click into place. Something troubled her. She stopped and sniffed the air. Stale cigarette smoke – faint, but definite. She could recognise it at 50 paces.
Ignoring Mr Garrison’s impatient huffs, she turned and walked towards the hedge. She was sure of it now. There was Someone in the hedge. Two pairs of trainers.
“I suppose you two think you’re invisible in there, do you?”
She knew the face that peered out at her very well. Ben Wilson. She never forgot her previous pupils, even when they grew up and became Doctors and Lawyers. Which Ben was unlikely to do, in her opinion.


Ben and Jake crouched in the prickling hawthorn amongst the stench of cat mess and fox musk. It was Jake who had suggested that they do this house. Ben hadn’t been in this neighbourhood before, but Jake had spotted an opportunity. It was Jake’s Dad who tipped him off. Jake had overheard his Dad telling his latest girlfriend that the house would be empty that day and she was wanted to go in and clean it that afternoon.
Jake nudged Ben to keep quiet as the door clicked open and Mr Garrison stepped out. Mr Garrison was a grey man – grey, thinning hair, grey shoes, grey zip-up anorak. His face was grey like recycled cardboard from too many years of Mrs Garrison. He turned and walked towards the gleaming green Rover, his pride and joy.
Ben and Jake breathed again. Then Mrs Garrison stepped out and closed the door with a smart click behind her. She paused, her harsh face wrinkling as she sniffed the air.
Ben and Jake tensed, feeling sweat trickling down their backs.
Mrs Garrison turned and walked straight towards them, her handbag swinging vigorously at her side. She stopped right in front of them.
“I suppose you two think you’re invisible in there, do you?”
Mrs Garrison recognised Ben’s face peering up at her. She remembered all of her previous pupils.