Lunch Break Scribbles: The Naivety of Youth

As well as other things taking shape in my life I’m also enrolled on a writing course, for which I have to submit exercises as well as sections of my novel for review. Each exercise is marked in isolation, so it’s great for giving me the freedom and discipline to write hyper-fiction (self-contained stories less than 1000 words in length).

One weekday lunchtime at work (i.e. in an hour) I wrote “The Naivety of Youth”, a first draft of a story that places sensory experience at the heart of scene setting.

While not the finished article, I wanted to make a point of how important regular breaks are. I hear so often people say that they’re either too busy or they simply don’t know what to do with themselves so don’t take the time out.

In the UK you are entitled, by law, to an unpaid break by your employer (length dependant on your contracted hours). Don’t squander the opportunity to look after your mental health, if I can write the below in an hour, then there’s no excuse! You’d be amazed what you can achieve in even thirty minutes.

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The Naivety of Youth (First Draft)

Declan landed three hard knocks on the chipped plywood door. The sound bounded around the room behind, a hollow chamber of noise swiftly chased by the crackled voice of the flat’s tenant.

                ‘I’m coming, I’m coming!’

                There was the jingle of a chain and a shunt of a bolt before the old woman pulled the door open ajar to greet her visitor.

                ‘Who are you?’

                ‘I’m Declan, I recently moved into the flat a next door…’

                ‘What are you selling?’

                ‘I’m not selling anything, I just…’

                ‘Then why didn’t you ring the doorbell?

                Declan glanced to the left. The doorbell of which the lady referred to was caked in deep dirt and grime, he hadn’t even been aware of its existence.

                ‘I tried but it didn’t work,’ he lied. ‘Thing is, I’ve been relocated here and I don’t know anyone. Can I come in? I’ve got some leftover cake from work.’ He lifted the cheap blue bag, its colour imposing on the dark brown corridor it swung against.

                The old lady looked the man up and down several times and eyed up the bag before grumbling and permitting Declan inside. Using her walking stick for support, she waddled across the square room and flicked on a light switch before approaching Declan and making a gesture at the bag. He politely handed it into her vicious grasp that made the plastic scrunch up in recoiled submission. As she headed toward the kitchenette Declan decided to make himself more comfortable and placed a hand on a sofa that faced an old box TV set.

                ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name?’

                ‘Ruby!’ Came the muffled response. The lady was too busy staring into an empty cupboard.

                ‘It’s a…err…nice place you’ve got here…’ Declan lowered himself onto the collapsed sofa, his bum tensing and reshuffling momentarily when he happened upon a broken spring.

                ‘Don’t try softening me up, boy, I know it’s a dump.’

                Ruby placed the half-eaten cake on the stained coffee table and shoved a plate into the hands of Declan. Even though it had the appearance of being clean it still felt sticky beneath his fingers.

                ‘Is this what you call a welcome gift?’

                ‘Well, I did say it was the leftovers from work.’

                ‘You never said such thing!’

                ‘I’m sure I did?’

                ‘Are you calling me a liar now?’ Ruby took the cake knife and jabbed it toward Declan. Declan instinctively jolted backwards in such speed the firm backboard of the chair cracked with the impact. Ruby cackled at the scene just as Declan bent forward in pain.

                ‘I’m not gonna stab you! Young people, so gullible…’

                ‘I’m thirty-four years old.’

                ‘You’re young,’ Ruby said decisively. ‘Now, eat this cake I’ve made you.’

                Declan decided to not challenge Ruby’s assertion, deciding that acceptance was an easier path to take. As he bit into the stale sweetness of the baked item he became aware of how dry the air was in the space between he and Ruby. It sucked whatever moisture was in his throat, it burned at his eyes. When he helped himself to the water jug he found the result even worse; the chemically treated liquid tasted of metal mixed with cleaning fluid as it fell down his gullet in haste. The air dried where the water scorched, the two worked in unison to make the effects of the other worse.

                It was when Declan stopped to look at Ruby that he realised the old woman hadn’t said a word this entire time, nor had she tasted the cake. Instead she’d quietly sat in her faded floral armchair; knife resting on lap, an unnatural smile playing on her lips.

                ‘Do you like the cake?’

                Declan suddenly fell to the floor, scrabbling at the stained beige carpet. With his knuckles he pushed back the rag rug and saw for the first time large red patches of stained blood under it. As he gasped and spluttered Ruby kicked him back so the rug returned to its rightful place.

                ‘I keep a tight ship around here, boy, one of which being the importance of keeping the flat next door clear of people like you.’

                Declan tried to utter a response, a plea, but nothing came out.

                ‘P…p…p…’

                The frail, tiny lady towered over Declan, watching and observing his slow demise. It was only sometime later a clanging buzz pieced the stillness of the room.

                ‘Open up!’ Boomed the deep voice.

                Ruby looked from the direction of the noise back to Declan’s tangled body. The corpse’s blood had started dribbling from his nose, falling onto the carpet with a muted pat, pat.

                ‘I told you,’ she stated flatly. ‘You should have rung the doorbell.’

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New Year, Less Me

I’ve kicked of my 2019 in true style, by having a piece of my skull yanked out of socket. That’s right, on the third day of this year I got so bored of life in 2019 that I chose to have a second wisdom tooth removed (sorry 2019, but you really need to up your game).

For those less familiar with my life, you’ll find the delightful account of my last wisdom tooth extraction that took place back in 2016 here. I suppose the main difference between the circumstance of that experience and this is that the first wisdom tooth to be removed was a delightful little critter that was burrowing a hole into the side of my cheek. I was doubled over in absolute pain the day I stumbled into a private clinic to have an emergency removal (thanks massively to Mumma Bennett who scouted out the surgery on my behalf). The wisdom tooth being removed this time round who I will fondly as ‘Left Upper Eight’ had been giving me grief for some years now, but nothing quite like the previous tooth that had being trying to burst out of my cheek, Baby Alien style. Left Upper Eight liked to keep me on my toes, a mouth ulcer here and there, an odd antibiotic-fixing infection every so often to keep me on my toes, but day to day little more than an occasional jab to remind me of its existence.

After a particularly challenging couple of weeks around Christmas time I finally made the decision to be done with Upper Eight’s tricks and be rid of him/her/it(?) for good. It says a lot that top of my New Year to do list was call the London surgery to book in an examination and removal.

I’d had this done before, so waiting for my appointment didn’t bother me in the same way as it had done the years before. Course, the private dentist’s waiting room had had large leather seats and played Heart radio which you could listen to with an selection of Women’s Weeklies. The NHS waiting room at my London dentist is none of these things, but then it’s also less than half the price for what it clinically defines as Band Two treatment. Besides, who really cares about their horoscope for the week when they’re about to have a surgical drill put in their mouth? A Christmas present guide on the Top 111 Coffee Shops in London will do the job.

I was told to go down to the dentist, an unusual experience for this dentistry as in all my previous dentist surgeries I’d become acquainted with nurses leading me through to the chair itself. Pros of this mean no need for that awkward small talk that you have to make both sufficient and short enough to fill the ten second gap from waiting room to dentist, the con is that on this occasion I found myself walking hesitantly down into the basement area of the surgery where my dentist was ready and waiting. When going for a check-up it’s bright and breezy, but knowing you’re going to have a tooth extracted makes you feel a bit uneasy. I had to remind myself that I wasn’t going down to the hull of a ship where the dentist was little more than a drunk sailor with a saw. I put on my best normal look as I walked into the room.

“How are you Alice?” The dentist asked.

“I’m here to get a tooth removed that’s making me miserable in a procedure that short term will make me even more miserable. How do you think I feel?” I thought to myself, nut instead I said…

“Alright, I’ve been better.”

He went through the procedure and I smiled and nodded throughout as he explained the potential complications. To cover his own back, that I was sure of, although the complications became increasing gruesome. I started to squirm in my seat, the private dentist had never informed me of any potential complications before.

“And finally there’s a risk the removal of the bone can cause a hole in the sinus. Why does that cause an issue you ask…”

“I didn’t” I thought.

“Well that means when you eat food could get up your nose because the two spaces would become one. I’d stitch it though, you wouldn’t even be aware of me doing that if it happened.”

“Yippee for that” said the dry voice my head as I outwardly smiled pleasantly. Sat in the chair I forced myself to sign the form to give this man full control over something I was beginning to regret choosing. Maybe the antibiotics weren’t so bad.

Sparing all the details of what happened (more because I was both thankfully unaware due to the local aesthetic and having my eyes tightly shut) about ten minutes later, if that, I opened my eyes with a lump of surgical gauze in my mouth and the offending tooth laid bare on a tray. When asked if I wanted to keep it the drugs, gauze and moment itself made my response usual and typically Alice.

“You’re cute.” I said to the tooth. From the corner of my eye I could see the dentist and the nurse exchanging a look. I studied its shape and yellowed colour from the long hook that that previously sat below the gum line. It really wasn’t cute.

“So you want to keep it?” The dentist repeated, slight bafflement in his voice. Clearly I was one of a minority to take such interest in a tooth, at least one of the few people over the age of 11.

Sense returned to me. “Err, actually no, it’s alright.” As drawn as I was to the tooth I remembered I had plenty of other functioning teeth in my mouth to marvel at. The drugs and the moment itself started to wear off, to be replaced with a new sensation in my mouth that made me keen to release myself from the small white room.

“You’ll start feeling pain in the jaw area where the tooth has been extracted, that’s normal.” The Dentist said, before going through the aftercare process. I signed the last form, thanked the man for removing the tooth but took leave my leave quickly. I returned to the flat thankful that its emptiness meat I could groan through the gauze, my pain explicit but implicit to me and myself only.

Which puts me where I am now, currently working through a post surgery recovery plan to get me back to my normal-ish self. There have been ups and downs, downs with the pain, the unable to drink coffee until it is barely warm, unable to eat solid or large meals. Ups when the pain killers kick in and feeling neutral is a blessing, when I get over the foul taste and the salt water temporarily eases the soreness. My tongue has yet to reach that curious stage when it’ll explore that side of the mouth and find the crater that exists where Left Upper Eight used to be. In repulsion the oral muscle will then swiftly retreat back to its former position where it’ll remain in hiding for several weeks. It happened before and it’ll happen again, I just know it.

I’m glad to be rid of my second wisdom tooth and long term know I will look at this as a good decision to make in my life. Short term pain for long term gain as the gym freaks would say. Ironically I’ve been told to stay away from vigorous exercise for at least a week, so I guess that’ll be my excuse for eating cakes and hanging out in coffee bars for the time being.

What can I say? New Year, less me.

 

One Day, One Arm

Well this is a new one for me. Today I went to the doctors and, uninteresting story made short, my left arm was pumped full of stuff. Long term it’s great, but short term it doesn’t half make my life fun.

Said arm is currently in a state of varying nagging pain. Not insufferable, but not ignorable either. It’s a bit like walking through a field of sugar-coated stinging nettles which has been made home to a swam of wasps. Constant background pain with the occasional sharp stab with each false move of the arm. Irritating pain, irritating pain, irritating pain, STAB! Irritating pain, irritating pain, irritating pain, STAB!

Lucky, lucky me.

The result of said niggling pain is a reluctance to move said left arm and keep it as still as possible. In the short term this worked fine, but now it’s debateable what is more noticeable, the tight white bandage or the strawberry red hand which marks the collection point for bodily fluids. Despite appearances I’m still electing to go for ugly hand over hurty arm. Spending a day carrying out tasks with one arm brings no rewards but plenty of challenges. Prepping food, putting headphones on, bodily functions. Right now I am typing this, to the best of my ability, with one hand. In fact not even one hand, one index finger. And my gosh it’s so tedious, every upper case letter takes forever to implement! Going back to correct frequent typos takes forever (if you’re reading this and spotted many missed mistakes I’ve overlooked, sorry but not sorry – same for grammar). I’m currently pumping myself full of sugar to stay motivated enough to type one fingered. There could also be a number of drugs messing with my head, this I’m not too sure of because everything I write is just as equally likely to be natural, wacky, me. It reminds me of the days at school before I learnt to join up writing, when every letter was written out one. By. One. It also reminds me of when Mumma Bennett used to insist on typing each letter on the keyboard.

“Let me help you mum.”
“No, it’s ok.”
“But it’s so painful to watch!”

Today’s events have also reinforced my firmly held belief that very British person chooses to ignore the blinding obvious out of fear of causing offence. Why do we do it? Say no evil, there is no evil (that’s how it works, right?) Returning back to the office from my not so merry outing with a large white bandage it did cross my mind that the fashion statement might come into water cooler dialogue. I had it all prepped, “oh goodness Alice, are you ok?” someone would say. “It’s fine,” I’d wave off “just medication, this is temporary.” Total times I had to pull out this comment? 0. Now, I will accept that I wasn’t particularly desperate to tell my co-workers the full details, but I was surprised by the lack of comment. People looked at the bandage enough, so much that I was actually quite relieved that the medical wrapping wasn’t positioned on my head or chest. They knew it was there, some of them may have even notified my attempts to shift through paperwork one-handed (FYI not easy) but nope, we will let the strangely limp human carry on. It’s character building. I elected not to tell clients on email/phone of this development. When I am chasing for something or vice versa the last thing either of us care about is the state of my left arm. Do you still have four limbs? Yes. Am I getting my quote today? Yes. Ok, well I’d love to chat but I really would rather not. Bye. Simples.

The minor pain will be gone by tomorrow, but going through this makes me value those who have to put up with pain constantly. Fair play to those sorts because, as you can tell, I’ve barely made it through twelve hours without going cuckoo. I feel like Peter Griffin that one time he was in a wheelchair.

(Apologises for image quality, YouTube scroungers can’t be choosers)

I’d like to write more on this but my right arm is beginning to ache from the typing, my left arm has been stung my wasps again and my brain is trying to work out how the stuff to prepare dinner and tomorrow’s lunch with minimal limb usage. It’s going to be interesting and quite likely coffee stained. Who knows, maybe we’ll get a hot beverage burn in there for good measure.

Come Sit With Me

Come sit with me. Come sit here in the caffeine filled haze we call paradise. The legal high that our fathers and their fathers before have relished, for here we are one. The mothers, the students, the disapproving men with broadsheets in hand, everyone has a home here.

Let me pass you this extra I have acquired. Do you take milk? The sugar is over there. The chair next to me is a little worn and mismatched, but that is the norm. Brush off the crumbs of the previous tenant and join me in weekend conversation.

The background music will lull you into a false pretence of your own class and status. The type of music you recognise but do not know. They are the backing beats that serve as melodic distraction from the mess surrounding us. I have heard in booksheleved corners that it improves the taste, what do you think?

See that man behind my left shoulder? I know him to be a regular. The frustrated writer who huffs and sighs over work that will never make it to print. Chomping on cheap nuts and downing brown goo in paper cups, for he cannot afford the china. He is a freeloader of the establishment, clinging desperately to an image that cannot be sustained. I remember when he used to sip on only the finest quality beans and nibble on pastries with young women, but those days are gone. We have all changed since those days.

My friend, you look a little troubled. Don’t be. In this world we are all addicts of our own making. I only seek to show you the truth that lurks in the steam. Save your pity for Africa, it is a wasted emotion in this Latino supplied space. I see you have finished your drink. Would you like another? It would be my honour. They serve only the finest cheap substances here, it is why we never leave.

I am so happy you came to sit with me my partner. Now stress no more and relax, the fresh coffee will be here soon.

 

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An Unwise Wisdom Tooth

As I found myself sat in a medical waiting room all I could think of (besides the pain) was “here we go again”.

This time around however there were some minor differences. For one, the cause of my being there was not a smashed in face, but a troublesome wisdom tooth (unfortunately there are no photo ‘beauties’ of my injuries. I mean who can forget this stunner?)

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Also, due to the severity and urgency of my condition, I was in the waiting room of a private dentist instead of one belonging to a NHS dentist (the type I would normally choose). Having your regular dentistry tell you that ‘there are no dentists on site on a Friday’ and suggest you call 111 or go to A&E is a bit of an inconvenience when you have a tooth protruding into your cheek. In such a state I was happy to take mumma Bennett’s advice and go private. Thanks also to the quick thinking and research of mumma Bennett, I was able to go to one locally which had an emergency appointment slot. Unfortunately this slot was in 20 minutes and I had no idea where I was going. Never in my life did I expect to be running to the dentist.

With (somehow) a bit of time to spare I was able to take in the waiting room. The background music was a suitable soundtrack of Heart Radio (because who doesn’t love a bit of Ed Sheeran?) but I’ll leave you to spot the main difference between the private waiting room compared to an NHS one:

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Well, other than the fact it’s the most stylish waiting room I’ve ever been in, there were zero people in there. Heck, even the receptionist left me alone for a while. I know it goes without saying but in the NHS waiting rooms are considerably busier. Also, the people on reception never put out free tubes of toothpaste and if they did they’d watch you like a hawk to put you off taking them. I may have taken a few…(look, if I’m going to go private I’ve got to try and offset the costs somehow.)

Went in to see the dentist and he confirmed what I knew to be the case, that it was the wisdom tooth causing the pain I was experiencing. What I didn’t quite realise was how bad it had become. Over the course of several weeks the tooth had started to stick into my cheek and, well, rub. It certainly explained why it was hurting to talk and eat and also why the mass consumption of gum aesthetic had done me no good but made my throat numb to hot drinks (when one is in pain, one much clutch at silver linings). The dentist also showed me a delightful photo image of the tooth in question on a screen in front of me. I know I’m British but I couldn’t help feel a bit awkward as I lay in a chair with the pair of us spending about five minutes looking at my infected cheek. To my knowledge in the NHS it’s “your tooth needs to come out”, “ok” and you go from there. It was when he asked to have the image saved that my mind started to wonder. I mean, what does he want to do with that photo? Does he have a album of all the wisdom teeth he’s ever pulled out, or does he just keep the favourites? When I leave, will I have the option to select the image and get it made into a key ring?

Wisdom tooth extraction is, in my squeamish mind, not something I find either interesting or fun to talk about. Number one reason why I couldn’t be a dentist? The noises. I’ll leave it there.

Surgery done and dusted I was presented with the tooth. I wasn’t really sure what I was meant to say, whether I was meant to go ‘yippee!’ or ‘good, I can verify you are a dentist now”. Not knowing what to go with, the first thing that sprang into my mind, the very thing I thought would be appropriate in this situation was simply “well, I’m certainly not going to get that put on a necklace!” The room  was silent. I’ll admit the statement lacked impact on account of the aesthetic and the cotton wool shoved in my mouth. The delivery was a little off.

I tried to salvage the situation when the dentist asked me with genuine concern if someone was coming to pick me up. “Oh yes,” I said, “family are coming. I’m going to walk home from here, it isn’t far.” I pointed out the window to a patch of street paving, “I’ll just avoid walking on that stretch of pavement, I tripped and smashed my head on the pavement there a few months back!” I said it light heartedly, but instead of mild chuckles, the dentist looked at me in a very concerned way. The nurse looked at me like I was a puppy with a broken leg. I knew I wasn’t going to win over this crowd. I left the room like a true stand up comedian.

“Err, anyway, thank you very much for seeing me,” I said, “it’s been a blast!” And walked out the room.

A blast?! I’d just had a dentist rip out a tooth from my gums and I described the whole experience as a blast? All I can hope is that the awful humour can be explained on the drugs migrating from mouth to brain.

I tell you what certainly wasn’t a blast, the bill. Yep, that would be the main difference between NHS and private. Again, I can only assume the numbing drugs helped me get over that.

Anywho, post surgery I was unable to smile but that was about it. Here is proof of me trying so hard to use my face muscles, so hard:

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You can probably see a little it of swelling, but luckily that is the extent of the physical short-term impact of the extraction.

I’ve been feeling a bit up and down but I’ll be back in work and back to my normal, fully blown awkward self in no time. Maybe I’ll even start thinking up what my next calamity in about six months’ time will be…