Sometimes it’s Hard: A Poem for Lockdown

A quick something I pulled together on a ‘work from home’ coffee break. I’m certainly no poet, but every minute of creativity helps.

Sometimes it’s Hard

Sometimes it’s hard to be strong,

Always tough, never wrong,

To be your own cheerleader, all glitter and smiles,

Hiding away all your wiles.

Being that Goddess, proud and stiff,

Forgetting they were the stuff of myth.

Sometimes it’s hard to be defiant,

Always immutable, never a tyrant,

To absorb words as tiny letters, strung in voice,

And to blink away the pain, like you have a choice,

Laugh and joke and go with the show,

Let the pain flow later, when nobody knows.

Sometimes it’s hard to be one human,

Always demanding, never realistic,

Using rhymes to romanticise, and cover the cracks,

Thinking the world could fall gently into verse,

If only.

Sometimes it’s hard,

Just hard.

When some say stay and others shout “move!”

And you’re stuck in the middle, not knowing what to do.

Because to blame the world is arrogance, to blame yourself is pathetic,

So where do we turn when homes become prisons?

The unused vocal cords darken with rust,

And what few words remain fail me.

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Mr Blobby’s Take on Mental Health

With everything else going on at the moment, there are a lot of people also talking about mental health (and for good reason, like so many it’s a topic close to my heart).

The way I see mental health, it’s a lot like Mr Blobby’s house. Now, bear with me on this…

(By the way, if you don’t know who Mr Blobby is, he/it was my life in the 1990s and the single weirdest thing to happen to British TV, as demonstrated by Jack Whitehall.)

(My understanding is that to anyone who didn’t grow up with this character it’s the scariest thing you’ll ever come across.)

What’s Mr Blobby got to do with mental health?

The outer bubble

When it comes to how you look and act (especially on the internet), to most of the world you’re like an episode of Noel’s House Party, living this amazing life that people absolutely envy you for. Grand houses, upbeat music, laughing along the way; you’re living the dream!

The secondary bubble

Your friends and family meanwhile, they know you better than that. The flashy estate on TV, that doesn’t exist, that isn’t the real Crinkly Bottom. No, the real CB is somewhere in Somerset, remind me again Noel…?

Gotcha, near Chard.

Those close to you, they see you as being more like Mr Blobby’s house ‘Dunblobbin’. This unique and random construction that is completely random and, to be honest, a bit bizarre. But, they know you’re owning your take on weird and that’s why they love you so.

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The inner bubble

But sometimes, it’s really not okay.

Really, things are like Dunblobbin after it was rediscovered in 2014, almost two decades after the park closed…

I.e. in your own head, things are a mess

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And deep inside, you don’t even recognise the things you see and feel. And it’s not quirky or unique, it’s scary.

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Guess what? Sometimes life is tough.

And I’m not saying that in a ‘they’ve run out of avocados at the supermarket’ kinda way, I mean it’s tough, as in a real challenge.

A short while ago I went through a rocky patch when event after event hit my life like a kick to the shins. While writing was great for getting out the anger (maybe one day I’ll publish the drafts), it wasn’t helping me get out of the rut.

The game changer came when one of my good friends sent me several texts:

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Admittedly she’d had a little to drink at the time, but it actually made a massive difference in my mood.

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I always harp on about lollipop moments, the idea of recognising someone for the things they don’t see, that I’d never thought about receiving it in return.

(Video for context.)

I realised that while I loved writing, sitting alone in my house and getting pent up over the things I couldn’t change would get me nowhere. So I started going out more, re-engaging with people I hadn’t seen in years. And God did I feel better for it.

There are still things I’d like to change and nothing is ever stable; like all humans I have my good and my bad days. But I just wanted to say that to anyone not feeling entirely themselves that it’s okay. Things can get better.

Never underestimate the power of friendship…and Mr Blobby.

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Nb – for anyone interested, here is a great mini-documentary video charting the rise and fall of the Crinkley Bottom theme park.

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Update: This post was originally drafted in January 2020, prior to the mass spread of Covid-19 across Europe. Author fully endorses staying safe and being considerate of others in the prevent of further spread. Be kind.

STOP BUYING ALL THE TOILET ROLL!

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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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