My First…holiday abroad

HOLIDAY ABROAD

My first holiday abroad was in 1997, when my family went to Ibiza for a week. I remember being so excited about it, rushing around imagining what it was going to be like on a plane, what the food was going to be like, whether there would be a beach or a pool. I packed carefully, over the space of about three months, conducting a little social experiment with my toys to check which ones were suitable to remove from the group for a week and to weed out those who might not deal well with the aeroplane. My brother had this fantastic book which had drawings of all sorts of vehicles that had been visually chopped in half so you could peep into all the rooms. It was meticulously labelled, and I pored for hours over the image of a military aeroplane so I knew exactly what to expect from our flight.

It’s amazing how much detail you remember as a child. I can remember the name of the person who took care of our table at the hotel restaurant – Raquel, her name was. She had a kind face and bright auburn hair, and teased us over our Spanish pronunciation. The hotel felt like a 5 star mansion to me, and I explored it as if I were its king. The restaurant was tired and clearly hadn’t been updated since the 80s, the ornate coving around the top of the room had paint peeling off it. But to me, it was a fancy palace. It was so fancy that they had wall-to-wall buffets where you could choose to eat whatever you wanted. I could eat chips for dessert? I didn’t have to eat mushrooms? I was giddy with all that power.

I feel like that was my first true taste of what it is to be able to choose, a privilege that middle-class westerners like myself are very much spoilt for. It’s a bit sad that I can remember this being a novelty. Now it’s just life, I guess.

I got carted off to some kind of activity camp for children for a number of days a week. Actually, now I think about it, I can’t remember whether I was forced to or whether I chose to. Thinking about it, I imagine I probably wanted to – I liked meeting new people. We did arts and crafts all day, and there were water fights and origami planes, and these wire bound notebooks with a very special pen that we could write in over the course of the week. There were tasks and activities in the books that we could do when we were back with our families, and we could note them down and win awards. At the end of the week there was a prize-giving ceremony, and the kids that received the awards had these weird cardboard cutouts of armless people that I now realise were supposed to look like Oscars, but at the time I had no idea what that was, of course.

The holiday wasn’t just my first trip abroad. This was the holiday where I first learned to dive, something I was both petrified and excited about. I was awful at it. Belly-flop after belly-flop I went down, red marks stretching across my tummy and my goggles dislodged. Chlorine in one eye. A tear of frustration quickly wiped away.

But I practised. Diligently, every single day, I insisted that we go to the pool. I marched us to the deep end, and I asked for help. And over and over and over again I threw myself into the water until finally – I did it. I remember that feeling of my arms outstretched, the water coming towards me and my dumpy little legs held as straight as I possibly could. And then that feeling of euphoria as I find myself suddenly able to glide down into the water with no resistance, the water pushing on my body and that second that I crash to the surface, momentarily so blinded by excitement that I forget to breathe.

I did it. But, I wasn’t done. With a determination that I wish I had even half of as an adult, I got straight back up and did it again. And again. And again. Until I could do it perfectly.

On the last day of our holiday, I was so nervous I would forget all about everything that I needed to buy a momento I could keep forever. I used all my pocket money on a terracotta figure in the tourist shop, a dancing woman with a determined grin and the fanciest ra-ra skirt. Black and white polka dot. And although I think she disappeared in about 2002 when my parents moved house, I can still remember her tiny painted face perfectly, forever engraved in my memory.

Pudding.

This was a short piece I wrote for ‘Tough and Tender: Volume One‘ by the Crybaby Collective (available to purchase via Lulu or Amazon.com)


1.

 

I saw her lying there, beckoning with one finger

a dark lock of her dark hair carelessly caressing her temple.

I knew what she wanted. I could see. She was hungry, but so was I.

 

She was belly-up, round folds of skin with dark creases

melting into the armchair.

Her jumper hoisted up by its rough fabric, but not tweed

Inexpensive. Patchy in places.

but not her smooth velvety skin. Soft, and gently rolling.

 

She was exposed and alone and I wanted to look away but I was addicted to the plush shirring of her body

I wanted to tell her, but her warm creamy thigh was flashing like a beacon and I can’t tear my eyes away from the freckle that winks as she flexes her leg.

Her eyes, oh her eyes. Melting my core with a complicated deep chocolate streak and the burning green fire iris.

The wicked flames burn something within me; a soft and delicate centre that oozes perverted leering and drips with saliva and wit.

Her eyes are locked onto me and finally

 

yes, just like that

 

but more, I need more

 

she gently leans forwards, and I eagerly lean up towards her to glimpse the gaping neckline as it drops towards me and


2.

 

Once again the unstopping mechanism we call time whiles away my day

and we arrive home exhausted, tumbled through the vacuum packed train that aches and groans across the city.

The smog rolls off me as I roll off my uniform and discard it uncaringly on the floor, where it will lie forlorn until Thursday.

The pause as I unthinkingly do it again. We. That word. That loaded, cruel word.

We were two letters, joined together, only making sense as a couple, a duo. Like us, just two letters, but so warm and tender with intimacy.

I am the single lonely letter, always detached and always flying solo.

My heart reaches out to you with every afflicted limb but I’m torn apart and there is no limb left.

I’m just an echo where there used to be a person and a voice, but now there is just a shadowy reminder that I existed.

 

Stop it.

 

I feel it, I burn with desire but I self-douse with a shower of guilt and fading memories of we, of us

of once two letters, now one.

I am starved of you but learning what it means to be without you.

 

Stop it.

 

Casting my eyes about the room, my amatory senses awaken. I prepared for this. I fucking prepared.

A conquest to be had, an affair to be met and forgotten: my aphrodisiac knight in shining armour, my sick fantasy.

I lick my lips and sink into the forgiving armchair and I forget to judge myself, but I’m judging the sweet divine pudding of my dreams staring back at me.

No longer I, but back to me. Now us, now we. I already have a fork in my hand, and there is no time for flirting. I’m an uncouth, capricious delinquent with no time for manners, I lean forwards, and I cry like a baby as I devour you whole.


This was originally published in February 2017 in’ Tough and Tender: Volume One‘ by the Crybaby Collective (available to purchase via Lulu or Amazon.com).
All profits made from the anthology are going to Planned Parenthood.


Blank Page.

This was a short piece I wrote for ‘Tough and Tender: Volume One‘ by the Crybaby Collective (available to purchase via Lulu or Amazon.com)


The blank page.

Blank. Totally, unapologetically blank.

Fingers hovering above the keys, waiting — just waiting — for something brilliant to type. You’d like to type something brilliant. Something meaningful, that people will look at approvingly and think “Yes! This is me!” or frown at whilst internalising a shout of “I disagree!” — or they will be so incredibly moved by the profanity of what you’ve written that they will cry; heavy, choking, nasty tears. Or silent deadly ones that will slide down their face uncontrollably and they’ll hastily wipe away hoping nobody will notice.

The page is still blank.

You are hoping and willing for your brain to conjure up something so beautiful, something so brilliant.

Yet, inevitably, time goes on, and the page is still blank, still empty. You’ve got so much crammed in your head, but nothing wants to come out.


I remember a time when writing was a breeze. When I was seven, I fashioned a ‘night torch pen’, a tiny flashlight tied to a biro, which meant I could stay up until the small hours, scribbling away in one of the many notebooks I had to hand. All sorts of stories would pour out; tales of crazy Mayors, who only dressed in brown and held dinner parties for the local fishermen on a Tuesday, or stories of a cat that thought it was a fondant fancy. Half-written science-fiction novels that started with such vigour but ran out as soon as I realised I knew nothing about aeronautical engineering and that gravity was still a little bit of a puzzle to me. (I still to this day wonder how on earth the Millennium Falcon could come out of hyperspace into the area where Alderaan was supposed to be, and somehow it automatically adjusted for the change in gravity without leaving them splatted against the back of the cabin. I can explain that one to you over a glass of wine if you’d like to discuss further. I am truly a delight at dinner parties.)

I was told off at school frequently for not paying attention — because I was reading ahead, or because I was secretly writing away under the desk. I wrote a 6-part novel when I was 9 about a haunted house, which was based on a school trip we’d been on when I was 7, and I was sent to the headmaster’s office for not working. Instead, he read the entire thing over two hours (okay, 6-part novella, if you will) whilst I sat outside writing in yet another notebook, convinced I was in trouble. Eventually he called me in, told me quietly that I was very talented, and he was happy to read any other stories I’d written.

I started a fantasy thriller when I was 11. I submitted the first chapter — a graphic description of an elf being beheaded by a magician — into a competition for under-14s. It was, perhaps, a bit gory and in hindsight maybe a little more adult that the other entries might have been, but it was good enough to win. I got the impression that it blew most of the other entries completely out of the water. I had the story published, and was given an award, and I was incredibly proud of myself. I continued writing the fantasy thriller — in fact, I even rewrote and completely changed the first chapter. Award-winning or not, I had new ideas I wanted to inject into it. New characters, new approaches. I was buzzing with plotlines and imagined maps of this fantasy world I was creating.

If anyone was destined to spend the rest of their life writing, it was me. But did I? Absolutely not.

I can’t even begin to work out what happened. I was bursting with stories, and then I just seemed to run into some trouble. I wrote poetry and songs at university, and tinkered about with a story — which I wrote a good 75,000 words of. Then about five years ago — I just ran out. It’s like my brain just switched off. Am I an adult now? Was this inevitable? Or have I broken myself, somehow? And if I have, can I ever be repaired?


My fingers tentatively hover over the keys again. I have tried bringing it back, I have really, really tried. I’ve tried notebooks. I used to fill up hundreds of notebooks, with ideas or names or drawings of things that I liked. Now, I have hundreds of notebooks but they reflect what it feels like inside my head. They’re just empty, waiting to be filled, sadly knowing that they never will.

My heart aches slightly as I’m writing this, because I know it to be true. I know it to be the saddest secret I ever have. I still habitually buy notebooks because I know I have the want to fill them, but they just pile up and up and up, and I’m thinking about how much I want to write but how little I have left to say. They will never be filled, and I will never be fulfilled. And that is why I will always be thinking about the blank page. I will always allow my fingers to hover above the keys, as I think about how much I want to say and how I just can’t find the words to write.


This was originally published in February 2017 in’Tough and Tender: Volume One‘ by the Crybaby Collective (available to purchase via Lulu or Amazon.com).
All profits made from the anthology are going to Planned Parenthood.