Wednesday, 31 October 2012

184: Nineteen Eighty Four

Dear Diary
Work on my novel outlining my fears for the future of mankind is going well.  I really feel a sense of things coming together and I’m honestly glad I will not be around to see a future like the one I’m setting for Winston.  Big Brother terrifies me and I value my own thoughts too much to consider what such a future might mean for me.

But over the last week I have been plagued with nightmares wherein I find myself living in that very future I describe on the page.  Big Brother watches over me constantly and offers a running commentary on whatever I do.  And the future is very much different from our own time and from the future I imagine.

On Tuesday, Big Brother said, “You are wearing pink frilly pants under your trousers.”  I wasn’t, of course, except when I looked, I was.  They were man’s pants but pink with lacy frills along the edge.  Big Brother said, “You shouldn’t sit so long on your hover chair.  You will find you cannot walk,” and indeed, when I tried to stand up, I collapsed to the floor unable to support my weight even for a second.  I hardly even questioned what a hover chair might be.

On Wednesday, Big Brother said, “You should tidy this house.  A slovenly abode is a sign of a slovenly person.”  That caused me little concern and my dream self pottered about the place, moving a book here, a paper there.  When I did not begin tidying in earnest within 15 minutes, Big Brother said, “Tragedy strikes where sloth prevails.  Take care around the flame.”  Before my dream self could do anything, a candle tipped over onto a pile of papers and began a blaze.  I awoke as the fire began burning my dream curtains and sofa, sweat beading on my forehead from terror or the heat of the inferno I know not which.

On Thursday evening I sat upright in my chair for as long as I could, putting off retiring to bed.  I hoped with sufficient tiredness, nightmares may not come to me.  I had no more than placed my head on the pillow when Big Brother said, “Do not try to avoid me.  I see you awake as well as asleep.  I watch you in your chair, eyelids drooping hoping to outwit me.  What shall I do with you tonight, I wonder.  Tear off your foot?  Put out your eyes?  Smash those precious writing fingers?”  And my foot trembled and I could feel pressure on my eyeballs and crushing pains began in my hands.

I remember little else of Thursday night but when I awoke today I stretched out my hands, amazed to see my fingers still in their sockets and moving under my will.  They were sore and red but otherwise unharmed.  I have spent all of the day clearing my mind of Big Brother and his influence, determined that tonight I will sleep soundly and safely in my bed.  I walked for miles around the cliffs and hope sea breezes will clear my mind.

I will sign off now and give myself over to my dreams.  I hope I survive the night to write another diary entry tomorrow.

Eric A Blair.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

183: Matilda

Before you ask, no I don’t frigging waltz.  Yes, I know it’s a very funny joke and I agree, it is an unusual name.  That doesn’t make it any less tedious each time I hear it, though.  No, my father didn’t have a thing for the outback and no, I don’t want to see your billabong, not unless it is particularly large or an abnormal shape.

I’m named after a great aunt on my mother’s side, I’ve been led to believe.  I’m not sure she waltzed much either, judging by the sepia photograph that is the only image of her I’ve ever seen.  Like most women of that time in photographs, she was upright and her face was mirthless.  She wore a starched frock with a bustle, held a frilled umbrella and balanced a monstrous feather hat on her head.  She looks, one might say, like a real tartar.

However, Great Aunt Matilda was nothing like the image portrayed her at all.  Family history tells of her being so different I wondered if she had chosen to dress up for her picture as some kind of joke.  Great Aunt Matilda was a pioneer, an adventurer and a character.  Gran found a bundle of letters she had written to her sisters during years of travelling, bound up with lilac ribbon and stored in the back of an old bureau.

Great Aunt Matilda was known as Tilly by everyone.  Her own mother said it made her sound like a scullery maid, which she seemed to revel in.  The family wasn’t wealthy but were comfortably well off, holidaying ever summer in Italy and visiting London hotels every Christmas.  She was the eldest girl in a family of eleven children and as such, expected to marry first.  At 17, Tilly declared marriage was a simply awful mistake, one she didn’t intend to make, ever.

After some years of attempting to match her with desirable young men, all of whom were rebuffed, the family stopped trying and concentrated on marrying off the younger girls instead.  That left Tilly free to do as she pleased, so she bought a parrot, taught it several coarse words and set off for an adventure.

Rather than head to India where she might find any number of family friends, Tilly went to Egypt.  Swathed in pale cotton, she rode a camel across deserts and explored temples thousands of years old.  She wrote to her sisters with vivid descriptions of the inside of the pyramids, told them about excavations looking for tombs in the Valley of the Kings and drew pen pictures of the king’s Winter Palace, the Nile and of her parrot in a palm tree.

Years passed and Tilly stayed in Egypt, settling into life in Cairo and Luxor with ease.  She befriended other English families and sometimes helped on excavations.  She was there at the discovery of a new pharaoh’s tomb and wrote long letters home describing the golden treasures inside.  And she imagined the life the pharaoh had before he died so many years ago.

In middle age, Tilly returned to England following the death of her beloved parrot.  We couldn’t find more than the odd trace of her after she came back, although we know she lived in the family house until she died at almost 80 years of age.  She never married, never bought another parrot and never returned to Egypt.

I have promised myself that when I have time I’ll try researching more about Great Aunt Tilly.  When I have money I’d like to visit Egypt like she did and I’ll climb in tombs and pyramids and worship in temples at dawn.  I can’t draw but I’ll buy coloured postcards and take hundreds of photos to show my own sisters.

Until then, I’ve bought myself a parrot and I’m teaching it to say “bugger”.

Monday, 29 October 2012

182: Noughts and Crosses

Penny made the first move, offering Simon a date at her local wine bar.  “Let’s meet there,” she said.  “It’s close to my house and not far from the station for you.  The food is plentiful and cheap, if we get hungry during the evening.”

Simon blocked her off, with reasons why the wine bar wouldn’t do for a first date.  “Isn’t it your local if you live that close?” he said.  “What if someone wants to come up and chat?  They might spoil the moment.  Besides,” he added, “I don’t really like wine.  Wine bar lager is usually pretty bad.  How about my mate’s house warming party?”

Penny liked a good party, but she was worried a house party might be a beer-fuelled lad-fest, not the thing for a first date at all.  “That sounds great, but maybe we should get to know each other a bit better before I meet your friends,” she said.  “I wouldn’t want to put you in an awkward position.  What about a pub in town then?”

Simon wondered if he could convince Penny to come to Pete’s party.  They had been on a booze cruise a few weeks before and the last of the imported lager would definitely go at the party.  Maybe they could find a pub near Pete’s.  “We don’t need to go into town, it would just be noisy and full,” he said.  “Perhaps we could try the pub on the corner by the British Gas place.  Do you know it?”

Penny knew exactly where Simon meant.  It was two bus rides away and it didn’t sound like he was planning on collecting her from home, so maybe she would have to get herself back alone at the end of the date too.  “That’s quite far away from my house,” she said.  “Two buses usually and they don’t run too often in the evening.  Maybe we could see a film in town instead?”

Simon and his friends were due to go and see the latest zombie film the following weekend and he considered inviting Penny to come along with them.  Maybe not a perfect first date, he realized.  But then, just the two of them at a horror film, snuggling up in the dark?  “That could work,” he said.  “Fancy ‘Zombie Night Force’?  It got five stars in all the reviews.”

Penny groaned to herself.  Did this guy have any idea about dating girls?  Probably just planning on groping her in the dark.  “I don’t like Zombie films much,” she said.  “Too much gore, even the funny ones.  Maybe we could see a comedy?”

Simon just knew she meant a rom-com, something about girls and relationships and getting married.  What a nightmare.  “I don’t think there is much comedy out at the moment,” he said.  “Unless you know of any?  What about a band instead?  There’s a local band plays every week in the pub I mentioned earlier.  By the gas place.” 

Penny knew when to retire gracefully and admit defeat.  “Tell you what,” she said, “I’ll call you sometime.”

Sunday, 28 October 2012

181: Lord of the Rings

Denny wore bright blue silky shorts, the kind with a high waistband and long legs, flashy and trashy but exactly right for the ring.  They matched his eyes, his mother said.  They probably only matched at the start of round 1.  By the end of the 15th, if it went that far, it mightn’t be possible to see if he had eyes at all, let alone if they matched his shorts.  But if Denny looked like that, you should see the other fella, his mother said.

He had a golden cape too and at first glance the blue and the gold seemed to clash.  So Denny’s mother sewed a gold seam in his shorts and blue piping on his cape, to bring them both together she explained.  Denny called it blue stripes.  Fighters don’t have piping, he said.

Then she fixed on a good strong clasp and a cord that knotted at the neck.  Denny said it looked like a curtain cord.  His mother told him not to be so daft, even though it was a curtain cord.  It looked good and probably nobody else would notice.  Denny could swish his cape about from side to side, like a matador, teasing his opponent the bull.

Denny wore proper boxing boots, in the smallest size there was.  He couldn’t lace them up himself yet, so his mother helped him with the criss-crosses and the knot.  He managed the bunny ears himself, most of the time.  For his next pair, he hoped his mother would buy him a pair with zips along the side, so he could get himself ready for the ring, like a big boy.

Denny chose his music without any help.  He knew from the start it would be the theme from Rocky, his favourite movie ever.  And as Rocky’s theme played over the tannoy, Denny moved out of the wings and shadow boxed all the way into the ring at Atlantic City in front of 10,000 roaring fans.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

180: The Woman in White

The woman in white had been dreaming of this day since she was a child.  In her dreams, she wore long dresses and figure-hugging dresses and cocktail dresses and crystal-encrusted dresses and plain dresses and lace dresses and satin dresses.

The woman in white chose this venue very carefully.  She viewed churches and hotels and lodges and themed rooms and registry rooms and anvil rooms and marquees and gardens and follies and town halls and great halls.

The woman in white picked the menu to include all the best foods.  She sampled chicken and lamb and partridge and mousse and truffles and steak and cheese and soup and cake and roulade and profiteroles and gravy and custard and chocolate.

The woman in white wondered who to invite to her day.  She knew sisters and cousins and neighbours and children and adults and workers and friends and best friends and old friends and pub friends and parents’ friends and friends’ parents and dog walkers and hill walkers and people who bought their coffee everyday where she bought hers.

The woman in white loved flowers.  For her bouquet, she considered roses and freesias and baby’s breath and carnations and lilies and sweet peas and pansies and daffodils and tulips and heather and cornflowers and poppies and gladioli and French marigolds and crocuses and begonias and violets and orchids and sunflowers.

The woman in white wants to marry the perfect man.  He would be tall and handsome and kind and clever and funny and sweet and honest and friendly and loving and gentle and patient and strong and caring and wonderful and special and faithful and forever.

The woman in white met her perfect man, but he wasn’t all that tall.  The woman in white found her perfect dress and it was nothing like any of the dresses she had dreamed of.  The woman in white had a silk bouquet in colours she hadn’t thought of.  The woman in white invited the most important people to join her.  The woman in white ordered from a normal menu and had chips with her wedding breakfast.  The woman in white drove 400 miles to an old blacksmith’s shop and it drizzled on the day.

The woman in white got married and had the most perfect day ever.

Friday, 26 October 2012

179: Brave New World

The metal was hot but he knew he had to pick it up.  He took the handle in his right hand, the plastic cool and smooth to his touch.  Despite its uneven shape it was well balanced as he lifted it.  He looked at it like he’d never seen one before, much less even used one.  True, he hadn’t really used one, not without help.

He’d had a few lessons over the previous few weeks but he wasn’t really confident that he remembered that much.  Her words went in one ear and although they didn’t quite come out the other, they did seem to scramble around inside his brain.

She’d given him a leaving present of all the things she thought he’s need in his new life.  He packed them away in the old banger he’d had for his 18th birthday along with his clothes and one of those packs he’d found on the internet containing “one of everything you’ll ever need.”  There weren’t any of the things she’d bought him in the pack.  She was always right.

It was time.  He couldn’t put it off any longer.  He held it poised like he’d seen her do a hundred times, a thousand times.  He put it down on the surface, shuffled it about and picked it up again.  Straight away he saw he had made a crease, almost 8 inches long.  Did he spray it now?  Or was that before? 

He smoothed the fabric, got the iron ready for a second go and wished he’d listened to his mother more closely.