Saturday, 1 February 2014

Before I Could Write – Part 13

Yes, it’s that time again.  Time to dredge out some story I wrote in The Youth, pre-epiphany days, to read either out of curiosity at the evolving writing style or just for a good old laugh.  Believe me, reading this stuff hurts me more than it hurts you.


Writing for English class was always difficult because of the rules and structures The School imposed on us.  In Year 8 we were given a strict plan and had to fit our story around it, in Year 10 we were only allowed to write autobiography, and in Year 13 (aka Upper Sixth), we were only allowed to ‘transform’ another piece.  This lack of freedom and imagination stifled The Writing and stopped me from progressing.  Although what I wrote outside of class was still total arse, so perhaps it didn’t matter at all.

Anyway, at age 18 I met one of The Favourite Teachers, who was possibly the second person ever to encourage The Writing.  Unfortunately I was a teenager, so I never actually got on with The Work, or sometimes even turned up to lessons, which pretty much destroyed his opinion of me.  But for what it’s worth,

Me, aged 18, tastelessly steering the Titanic into an iceberg.
And even more unfortunately this was the year we had to ‘transform’ rather than invent, so this is what we get when I attempted to transform Enid Blyton’s The Enchanted Wood:

Change.  It was change; change wasn’t good but sometimes it was necessary.  Mother sat in the jolting railway carriage with her feet planted firmly within the perimeters of one of the square tiles that patterned the floor, opposite her three children, all competing with each other to see the view from the window.  It would have been noticed by anyone passing, if Mother hadn’t drawn down the blinds, that they never strayed over the central line of the carriage; they had been well trained over the years not to intrude on their mother’s silence.

A particularly bright window box flashed past and the children’s eyes lit up in an unhealthy desire for colour; Mother had been sure to keep their bedrooms grey so their small minds would not be over-stimulated.

“I’ll pick loads of flowers,” said Elizabeth.

“To study,” added Mother.

“To study,” repeated Elizabeth obediently.

Mother was proud of how they did as they were told.

The blackened bricks melting away to open fields and clear air reminded Mother of the transformation of the butterfly, but this was without the long months of an ugly and inconvenient chrysalis, this was almost instantaneous.  At last, she could breathe, free from the confines of the city.

We’re in the countryside.”  The children had been silent for almost two hours but now that the tall grey buildings had disappeared and there lay green meadows, their voices became shrill, aggravating Mother’s calm mind.  Her fingers whitened as she gripped the fabric seat; she may have made a mistake, green was colour and colour stimulated the mind.  Her head filled with blood, her ears thundered, she was short of breath, the carriage almost span.

“Do you think there are fairies here?” said Frances.

The words sent a chill down Mother’s back.  She had always been very careful with her children.  As a child herself, some had called her ‘dull’ but she was now successful and she hadn’t read their names in the newspapers lately.  When she managed to buy a newspaper.  It took her so long to get into the shop, having to do everything twice, first with her right hand, then with her left, stopping to check her feet weren’t on any cracks, then having to do the right hand, then the left again, in case she had forgotten to do it before, then having to rub her chest before she entered a room, then having to do it with the other hand, then having to do it again because now it felt odd and then having to do it again the other way, then having to check her feet again and then having to do the right hand then the left again which eventually meant she opened the door and closed it again because it had to be even, not forgetting having to wash her hands every time she touched something foreign like a shop door handle.  Mostly she just gave up and went home, and that took long enough.  But she had become successful by her own hard work; she didn’t believe in luck or gods and she made sure her children were sensible too. 

Once someone had named her ‘cruel’ for not letting them play ‘imaginary games’.  What an imbecile.  She was used to people not understanding her but her beliefs were perfectly justifiable; she was going to make sure her children knew only fact and were disgusted at anything false or fantasy.

There was no Father Christmas in December.  The very idea of a strange man breaking into children’s houses at night was enough to terrify a highly strung child and the thought that he loved the children more than their parents because he brought them wonderful gifts was ridiculous.  Mother spent hours telling her children the dangers of talking to strangers and she wasn’t in a rush to have them raped by some paedophile because he had a beard and might be Santa.  It was a disgusting idea and she couldn’t believe it was still popular.

Her opinion on fairies ran the same theme.  At first, she had been able to control her children’s ideas but recently it had become a struggle.  The popularisation of Harry Potter and The Lord Of The Rings hadn’t helped, as all children suddenly loved magic, brainwashed by the cult of media.  If not magic it was vampires or dinosaurs, so she had had the television banned.  But she couldn’t ban books; she wanted them to be intellectual.  She had even found them sneaking A Midsummer Night’s Dream home from the library.  Mother had been furious but how could she punish them for wanting to read Shakespeare?

The idea of striking a child did not appeal to her but correcting their faults was difficult.  She tried words of encouragement when they behaved correctly but when they caused mischief how was she to stop them?  Standard punishments such as grounding, banishing to their room or no supper were far too long term than an accidental slip deserved, but a short, harsh word only led to stubbornness.  Mother had tried not talking to them when they erred but though they did breakdown easily, it was childish on her part and she was trying to get them to rise above that sort of nonsense.  Besides, most sorts of punishment were redundant in such a reduced space and Frances needed correction.

Mother gave Frances a glancing blow just below the right cheekbone.  Frances’s eyes filled up but Mother was used to this and began her reprimand before Frances had a chance to blackmail her mother with salt water.  “Fairies do not exist,” she admonished, then, deciding it was an excellent time to demonstrate her knowledge, as it might encourage Frances to learn the dictionary like her, rather than look for fairies, Mother added, “Except a South American Humming bird and a slang and derogatory term for a homosexual man.”  Mother caught a slight grin on Joseph’s lips, but it vanished in the same instant.  “And I don’t want you ever to use that word.  Mock those that are wrong not those who are different.”  Then, returning to the subject, Mother continued, “The type you are referring to, Frances, came from Greek and Roman mythology, from the three Fates who were the Goddesses in charge of birth and life and I’ve told you many times what idiots the Greeks were.  That was before humans developed into a cultured race.  Now shush.”

Mother began to enjoy the reinstated silence when she heard Joseph.

“It’ll be cool here though with rivers and woods to explore.”

Mother wanted to correct him before he had finished talking but the sound of disordered speech made her queasy.  A sharp, piercing glare silenced him.  Mother was always quick to stop ideas forming.  The children were very quiet in her presence; if only she could be sure they were silent because they were sensible and had no cause for noise rather than they had secret fancies running wild in their imaginations.  “I hope your interest in rivers and woods is purely geographical, Joseph,” said Mother, glowering at him as the train shuddered to a halt.

At the cottage, the children ran and skipped around the garden.  Mother did not approve.  It wasn’t that she didn’t want them to enjoy themselves, she just didn’t want them playing.  Today she had a ready-made excuse; they would have to help their mother clean and tidy their new home.

Mother had checked the area months before she had decided on the move.  There was nothing remotely remarkable about it.  There were no neighbours; it was five miles from anywhere.  She could grow vegetables, have hens for eggs and a cow or goat for milk and not have to cope with the stresses of the town that were making her life unliveable.

Mother kept her children busy, doing chores for her, but they were excited from the move and wanted to help.  She had to stop them being excited; excitement led to a blunt mind.  Would letting them out encourage or wear them out? 

“Can we have a break for an hour, Mother? ” asked Joseph.  Mother let them.

There was a wood at the back of the house, just thick evergreen that led nowhere.  She had made sure.

While they were out Mother checked the house for order.  She opened a drawer slowly so its well-oiled runners didn’t enable it to slip off and fall to the floor.  The floor was a harsh judge, dealing everything that hit it the same punishment, oblivion.  She knocked a mug over; it bounced free.  Mother breathed deeply and carefully and took out a little book.  She made a note in the back; a line of dits scored the page; everything had to be noted.  She looked back at the drawer; everything was straight…  No, her finger rolled a pencil left by one circumference…  Everything was straight.

Mother moved outside and observed the children.  They looked at the trees. 

“Do you think Mother will let us have picnics in there?” said Joseph.

“Picnics?  It’s too weird for that, don’t you think so, Elizabeth?” said Frances.

Elizabeth was blank, “It seems normal.”

“No,” said Frances.  “The leaves can talk.”

“What?”  Elizabeth gasped  “Oh…  Yes,” she agreed at the silence about her.

Mother listened in disbelief; there was no noise.

“It’s magic,” cried Frances.

Mother had thought an hour wasn’t enough time to get into trouble but she was too lenient.  She must punish herself for that.  What now?  The children were too near the wood.  Panicking, Mother called to them.  But why?  Think rationally.  Of course, what did the children crave more than their stupid games that warped their minds?  Food.  Their greed would save them this time.  “Teatime.  TEATIME!”

She hadn’t actually prepared anything so Mother only had bread and jam for them and they had to get the jam themselves as Mother couldn’t touch anything sticky, but they didn’t complain.

Mother was agitated.  Joseph opened his mouth; he was going to mention the wood.  Now was the time.  Scare them away.  With their imaginations they would not go back.  “It’s dangerous in that wood.  People don’t go in there.”

The children were startled; no one had mentioned the wood but now their thoughts were excited. 

Too late Mother realised the damage of her hasty action.  “But that’s just backward thinking.  It’s just a normal wood.”  It wasn’t working.  “So don’t go too far into it.”  Why?  Mother needed to explain everything properly otherwise they would be more intrigued.  “In case you get lost.”

It wasn’t working.  Punishment then.  The thistles were asymmetrical.  It didn’t matter if they were weeds but they threw off the balance of the garden so Joseph would have to pull up all the thistles while Elizabeth and Frances would dig over the garden.

They’d tire eventually.  Mother kept them busy and kept them apart until their hands bled and they only spoke of sensible matters like education and gardening.  The children were good little children.  They did as they were told and worked very hard, were polite, and loved their Mother.

So… do you guys actually read these things?


  1. Yikes. She's a psycho. And she thinks Father Christmas is a paedo! :\

    It's quite original, at least, to make hers the narrative voice. You're like, "For god's sake get those children away!" But since we're in her head, it's not like *we* can escape.

    1. I think the original idea was to take parts of the story and turn them into metaphors - the magic was the children's escapism within their minds from an abusive upbringing... but that totally didn't happen.


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