If…

I rarely write poetry (the possible reason may be become clear when you read below!) and I can’t say I’m a huge fan, but I do love a certain rhythm and flow of words. I can be lulled by certain pieces without even knowing why and just occasionally, I’m moved to write something myself. This little piece came from who knows where. I like it, so I’m sharing it.

If I could dream away the darkness past, and paint anew the days of glory,

I’d dry away the first and last of tears that end your story.

I’d hold on tight to all the light and the memories of laughter,

And banish fast the bitter days of pain that followed after.

But history is carved in stone, its stories set forever,

Its galleon sails are fuelled by fact which strain against the tether.

If I could choose the paths we walked, the choices lost or taken,

I’d signpost every pitfall there so nothing was forsaken.

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Luck of the Gods

Luck of the Gods

The cards had been dealt. Truthfully, it was not the hand Tobias had hoped for; had the gods been smiling they would have sent cloud to cover the glorious moon, possibly even rain to deaden sound and blunt the zeal of the patrolling guards. When it rained the sentries tended to huddle in the turret towers warming themselves over the small braziers within only venturing out every half an hour to carry out the mandatory patrols. Cloud and rain – aces and faces, a hand to sweep the jackpot from a jiggery poke table, to be sure. But instead Tobias had been given a warm gentle night with songbirds and fragrant breezes that had the guards lolling and chatting on every rampart and turret of the keep. Obviously the only god watching was the Great Jester, Tobias thought sourly, but it could not be helped. There was a time limit to his mission, and it had to be done tonight. He had been dealt a hand of lows and crows; he would have to play it and hope for the best. He was, after all a gambler by nature and bluff came as naturally to him as breathing.

He strolled, casual as a cat along the perimeter of the rough stone walls. Above him the mumbling chatter and muted laughter of the guards pinpointed their positions but Tobias’s slender form was nothing more than slivers and shadows to those above, his shock of red hair covered by a jackanapes cloth cap and his lean hungry body clothed in colours of stone and stealth. At the base of the garderobe tunnel he stopped. A slick covering of effluence and sewage was enough to make his gorge rise and he stretched his mouth into a wide rictus grin in an effort not to gag. He had hoped that the recent warm spell might have rendered the outpourings of the castle privy into something dry, possibly even concrete, but again the Great Jester was laughing and watching to see what he would do next.

Tobias eyed the revolting mess with disgust. No, not even for Apsara could he bring himself to wade through such filth, besides he would have no chance of stealth smelling like a midden even if he did make it as far as the treasury. No, there had to be another way.

For several moments Tobias stood still and looked around him his long slender fingers resting on his narrow hips. He listened to the lilting nightingales and the whispering trees; he watched a slant-eyed fox slink quietly across the edges of the small town huddled in the lee of the castle and watched the moon shadows flit gently across the stones of the mighty walls. Specks of mica sparkled and danced as the silver light caressed them; shadows and folds of dark and light played over the stones until suddenly Tobias’s fox green eyes widened in astonishment. One shadowed rock in particular drew his eyes: where there should have been stone there was only shadow. There was a hole…a hole in the wall where no hole should have been!

A crooked grin lit up Tobias’s narrow face. It seemed the gods themselves were playing their own game of jiggery poke this night. Spitting on the palms of his hands the young man took a firm hold on the nearest jutting foundation stone and began to haul himself silently upwards. As he climbed he thought of Apsara, her pale fragile beauty that ebbed each day like the fading of a rose. They had known each other all their lives, thrown together by poverty on the streets. Tobias had lost his heart to her the moment they had met; for fifteen of his nineteen years he had been smitten and Apsara, for her part, seemed to love him back. They had always hoped to marry one day, somehow find a home, somewhere safe where they could grow old in peace together and watch their children grow.

Apsara could sing with a voice even lovelier than the nightingales which serenaded the night and Tobias had a gift too; he was lucky. Luckier than any mortal man had a right to be. He could read the cards at a jiggery poke table as easily as reading the pages of county news tacked up in the town square each day. Apsara had taught him to read having been taught herself by one of the wealthier boys in the town who had briefly entertained the thought of stealing her away for himself. Tobias grinned grimly. In the depths of winter his knuckles still ached in memory of the lessons he had had to teach the boy. The thought of winter wiped his face clear again. It had been last winter when Apsara had begun to cough. Her beautiful voice had become choked and tangled unable to break free of the liquid bubbling that filled her lungs and chest. Tobias had prayed that respite might come with the spring but so far those prayers had not been heard. He had left her, pale and shivering in the barn where they had been living for the last month. Her eyelids were so stained with fatigue and illness that it was hard at times to know whether she slept or lay silently watching as the world moved around her. Fear gripped Tobias’s heart and made one of his feet slip from its toehold. A sprinkle of gravel fell and above him the guard’s chatter stilled momentarily. The young man froze and pressed himself as close to the wall as he could.

Luck was with him again; the wall leaned out slightly just to his right, he saw the elongated shadow of the man who stretched over to look, his silhouette crisp in the silver moonlight then he heard the laughter and rattle of dice in a bone cup as the guards resumed their own game of chance. Slowly, silently Tobias pulled himself up. His heart was a rabbit inside his chest jumping and quivering with terror, only madness could have planted the idea of breaking into the royal treasury to steal the fabled Paradise Gem – or maybe it was love, a madness all of its own making.

The Paradise gem was the prize of the kingdom, a shimmering globe of gold so beautiful that it was reputed to be not of this earth. A trinket of the gods fallen from the heavens it was said to hold the power to grant one perfect wish. It had been held by the king’s family for generations, unused but always there should a dreadful enough need arise. It brought comfort to the kingdom; the people knew always, there was no need to fear famine or war since the Paradise Gem could restore their fortunes should the worst ever come to pass. Seven hundred years it had languished, its glory hidden, its promise unmet, almost as if the very knowledge of its existence was enough to ensure it need never be used.

Tobias had reached the top of the wall; he slithered over and crouched in the shadow. He was going to steal the Paradise Gem, he was going to take it back to Apsara and wish away her illness. He was going to ensure that they would have their paradise – they would be together always in laughter and in love. To his mind, it was a worse crime to waste such power as the Paradise gem could give than the act of theft he intended to carry out.

Like water Tobias crept along the base of the ramparts. The guards were engrossed in their game of chance and he reached the doorway without trouble. The stone steps whispered beneath his hurrying feet but did not give him away and before he knew it Tobias was in the heart of the castle.

It was darker than he had imagined and cold too. The corridors were hung with a sour slightly stale smell and he missed, at once, the freshness of the evening air and the breezes playing in the grass. Dusty heavy tapestries hung on the walls and rusting blades and axes decorated the tops of doorways which were closed with thick oak doors and heavy iron catches. Tobias had not given much thought to how he would find the treasury, in truth he had concentrated only on actually getting inside the castle. His luck would have to carry him, he decided firmly. A passage snaked off to his left, the steps leading down to the bowels of the building. Tobias hesitated for just a moment before allowing his feet to carry him down.

Smelly oil lamps glowed dully from niches in the walls as Tobias made his descent and the fetid scent of the sweating stones began to make him nauseous. It was said that the treasury was protected by sorcery and spells, Tobias wondered if turning the stomachs of would be thieves was one of those spells? All at once the passage ended, the steps petered out and he was standing on the beaten earth floor of a low ceilinged room. At its far end crouched a doorway its timber door infinitely older than the stonework of the castle. Tobias had heard tales that its site was originally that of a dragon’s lair, and the Paradise gem itself had been the most prized possession of the fabled beast, lost in the battle with the last of its kind. Cautiously he stepped forward expecting at any moment to be stopped or challenged, but the luck of Tobias held still; whichever god was on his side was still being dealt the aces and faces of a winning hand.

Slick with sweat he reached out his hand and grasped the heavy rusted ring before him, he pulled expecting resistance and almost stumbled as the door swung open on silent well-oiled hinges. Inside, to his dismay, were not the heaps of gold and gems Tobias had expected to see but instead shelf after shelf of boxes, chests and scrolls. He closed his eyes tightly his nose stinging with the bitter threat of disappointed tears. He had been so sure, so certain his luck would lead him to the Paradise Gem.

“Please,” he begged in a strangled whisper. “Please, not for me but for Apsara.”

A sound came from behind him, voices and footsteps getting closer as they echoed his own path down the steps. Pushing the door silently closed, Tobias darted behind a nearby set of shelves and hid himself behind the mouldering bulk of a worm-eaten wooden chest. Within moments the king himself strode through the door accompanied by a clutch of old men wearing beards and robes and they in turn by two guards, their armour and weapons glinting in the gloom. Without so much as a glance the party made their way to the far end of the small room and pulled away a stack of scrolls obscuring two doors set into the wall. As they were opened Tobias swallowed down his gasp of awe; in the earthen cupboard sat another small chest and as its lid was lifted a golden glow suffused the gloom and the scent of wildflowers and forests flooded the room. The king and his retinue however looked unimpressed. From his hiding place Tobias watched in wonder as the man reached in and plucked out the shining globe, handling it as casually as an egg.

“So you mean to tell me,” He said in his peculiarly nasal voice, “That we need not fear offending King Torqumond as this,” he cast a jaundiced eye at the globe in his hand, “Will see off any enemy?”

“It is so written your majesty,” quavered the oldest of the advisors.

“But we don’t even know how to use the blessed thing!” He replied.

“Ah yes your majesty.” Tobias could just about make out the watery blue wink the venerable bestowed upon the king. “But they don’t know that. The reputation of the Paradise Gem alone has been enough to keep our enemies at bay for centuries.”

“Humph,” the king tossed the globe back into its padded chest and the thought occurred to Tobias that perhaps a battle or two over the years might actually have done the royal family some good. He had never seen the king before and was surprised at how diminutive and ordinary the man looked. He had, in fact, the same haughty self-entitled attitude of the boy who had thought Apsara nothing more than a commodity to be bartered. Tobias might be poor, he might be a bastard of unknown parentage, indeed he could even be called a rogue and a thief but never would he have treated something as wonderful and precious as the Paradise Gem with such disrespect. Whatever it might or might not be, the thing had been entrusted to the king’s family. Tobias thought back to the tales Old George had told him. The man had lived through famine and war, plague and pestilence; time and time again the Paradise Gem might have been utilised to save the people and reduce their suffering and yet the kings family had elected to lock it away in a room resembling a dungeon, to hide its power and beauty and use it as a threat instead. Like all good thieves Tobias justified the actions he intended to take. He would steal this fabulous jewel; he would use it to restore Apsara’s health and beauty; it was his right as a citizen of the kingdom to do this, it was his right as a chosen one of the gods. He waited until the door slid shut behind the departing men and their footsteps began to echo again against the passage walls. He heard the king ask crossly,” Did anyone else think that place smelled like a barn? Get some cleaners down there Spindrift, in case we have to show them the damned thing to convince them to call off the war!”

Only when the voices and footsteps had faded completely did he finally unfold himself from his hiding place and make his way to the cupboard. With shaking hands he pulled open the little doors and allowed the flood of light and perfume to pour over him again. Tobias felt his heart leap with joy like the hares of March that frolicked and boxed in the first spring sunshine. He felt a swell of love envelope his entire body lifting and warming his spirit like nothing he had ever known save Apsara’s smile. As his fingers closed around the smooth warmth of the globe he heard a singing start within his brain, a song so lovely that even Apsara would struggle to match its beauty. Lifting the Paradise Gem gently he reached into his tunic and pulled out the battered leather ball he had used to win many a game of run-around. Carefully he lowered it into the place the Paradise Gem had so recently occupied; oddly it did not look strange at all. Tobias almost fancied that the king and his courtiers, in their ignorance, would not even notice the difference. Resting the treasure against his chest the young man slipped out of the room and began to make his way back out of the castle.

Almost as if the Paradise Gem were enhancing his luck, Tobias saw a delivery cart rumble into the yard. It stopped just feet from where he stood in a shadowy corner of the passageway and when the bottles and casks had been unloaded an inviting bed of fragrant fresh straw beckoned him to hide in its tawny golden depth. A quick glance told him that no-one was looking so Tobias nipped out as smart as a cat and burrowed beneath the crackling stems to be carried safely outside of the castle walls. Once he was a safe distance away Tobias crawled from the cart and dropped silently to the road, he cut across the meadows and began to run towards the barn where he had left Apsara.

She was quiet when he reached her, so quiet that his heart banged like a war drum in his breast. Her skin was so pale, her dark eyes hidden beneath bruised purple lids. Tenderly he brushed aside the ebony fall of her hair and leaned forward partly to plant a kiss on her cold skin and partly to listen for breath. Her chest rose and fell so shallowly that for a moment Tobias could not be certain it moved at all. Crooning to the girl he reached into his tunic and withdrew the Paradise Gem. Like the king he had no idea how to use it but he snuggled himself next to Apsara placing the gift tenderly in her lap. Lifting her unmoving fingers he laid them on the surface of the gem and brushed away his own tears roughly.

“Don’t die Apsara, please don’t die,” he whispered gently. “I love you so much I would do anything in the world for you. Please don’t leave me.”

For long moments nothing happened. Apsara drew one small breath after another and then, to Tobias’s joy, her eyes flickered beneath their lids.

“Yes, yes,” he wept openly. “Open your eyes my love and see the gift I’ve brought you.” As if in answer to his plea the girl opened one eye then the other, a sad weary smile rose to her pale lips and she struggled to reach the fingers of the young man next to her.

Saving her the effort Tobias took her hands carefully in his own and pressed them to his lips. As if trying to breathe his own life into her he leaned forward and pressed his lips to Apsara’s mouth, he felt the curve of a smile as she half turned and her arms slipped up and around his neck to pull him close.

“I love you so much,” he wept as his heart broke like a wave against a rock. “Please be well, be happy and strong and healthy; stay with me forever.”

The Paradise gem exploded in a wave of dazzling golden light engulfing the two youngsters in warmth and love. Tobias felt himself rise, the earth falling away beneath his feet and the world shrinking to nothing but Apsara’s frail body in his arms. He closed his eyes tightly and breathed in the scent of her skin and her hair. He felt her ribs jolt and rise as she fought for breath and he squeezed her closer to him than ever. The world was a whirlwind now, a wind and fire that devoured the flesh from their bones yet rebuilt them anew at the same time and when Tobias finally opened his eyes again he saw not the rude walls of the barn they had been sat in but gently rolling hills and gardens and streams that danced and laughed over rocks and pebbles as golden and bright as the Paradise gem itself.

Hardly daring to believe he drew away from Apsara and was astounded to see laughter and life shining from her face. Her eyes were bright and danced with happiness and her body was strong and beautiful once more. Throwing back her head she began to sing for pure joy and the sound was echoed by choirs of songbirds in trees that were lush with fruits of every jewel bright colour. Half turning Tobias saw as if at the wrong end of a spyglass the town they had left behind. It looked small and drab and insignificant, dark clouds hovered on its horizon where a gathering army prepared to march, and a scummy brown mist seemed to cover everything. Behind him he heard laughter and turning back saw two beings as beautiful as the sunrise seated at a table of carved ivory.

The man was a god with tumbling dark hair and jocular sea green eyes, his whole body shook with mirth and although he had evidently lost the game it was also clear that he had enjoyed it anyway.

“Alright,” he laughed at his opponent,” you win. They figured it out after all.”

The woman who sat opposite smiled angelically. Her face was serene like an ocean at rest and her face was too lovely for words. Slowly she lowered one eyelid in a wink to the astonished Tobias and laid down the cards she held in her hand. Aces and faces; the cards had been dealt and for love, it seemed, it had been a winning hand.

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A poem what I wrote

As the late great play-write Ernie Wise might have said, here is a poem what I wrote. It was meant to cheer up a friend who had reached her 50th birthday several years ago but instead made us both rather glum about choices we wish we had made way back when.

Anyway, I seem to be engrossed in coloured pencils and art at the moment rather than the written word so I thought I might share this little ditty and make it my blog for this month.

Enjoy.

The Inner Trollop

I’m 50 years old but my clock is still ticking, have I left it too late to do my own picking?

In my youth I stayed pure, only did what I ought to;

I went out of my way to be a good daughter.

But now that I’m old and my body’s gone south I feel overlooked; rather down in the mouth.

How unfair it all seems, this late burst of desire for handsome young men with eyes full of fire.

Their gorgeous young faces, their legs long and lanky, and their perfect firm buttocks – two eggs in a hanky!

Why did I shun nookie just to stay in good graces? How could I have put my libido in stasis?

I turned away offers and hundreds of kisses, deciding instead to be somebody’s missus

Yet I wound up alone somewhat wiser but sadder regretting each day that I should have been badder.

I’m told an old fiddle will play the best tune, how I long to be fiddled – Oh God, make it soon!

I’m not asking for romance or love ever-lasting just the thrill of two ships in the night as they’re passing

I demand one last fling, one last crash, bang and wallop, to release at long last my repressed inner trollop!

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The Compass & The Clock

Consider the difference between the compass and the clock:

The former is a natural device driven by the forces of nature. It may not guarantee pinpoint accuracy or precision in the short term, but follow it long enough with trust and patience, and it will eventually guide you to where you wish to be. The clock, in contrast, is an entirely man-made thing invented to rule over an entirely man-made conception. Dependent on batteries, sun, fire or a simple winding motion for its power its petty dictatorship will rule your life with a rod of iron. Place your trust in the clock and it will direct your life with unerring accuracy like that of a rat in a maze. It will force you to race from one place to another, always on time, always in answer to a summons of some kind, and rarely where you actually want to be.Its little hands will grab greedily at the minutes of your existence with no care for thoughts or dreams or actual choice.

The compass however will allow you to travel your own dreamy path with detours here and there to appreciate the more scenic routes to your final destination. The compass will allow choice, preference and relaxation; what it will not provide are promises. It tells you only that you are starting here and will, if you follow its prompting, eventually arrive there. Along the way you will experience joy, sorrow, pleasure and pain in an endless variety of measure. There will be loss, wisdom, mistakes, love, laughter and grief. It does not promise any or all of these things but the compass will promise you the time to enjoy each experience as you choose. The compass employs no pressure to state ‘you must move on now; you have spent long enough here’: It gives you only choices.

Unlike the low lazy sweep of its magnetic cousin, the clock hurries and hustles and bustles. Do this it demands; go here, go there, be at this point by then and above all DO NOT BE LATE! Turn here; jump there, if you don’t do this now you will miss out. The clock is all panic and fury; empty promises of, if you will do this according to my time, you will achieve everything you ever wanted. Some who give themselves over completely to the tiny tyrant may indeed achieve a level of perceived success and happiness but what the cog-driven despot does not reveal is the most important fact of all: Eventually we will all arrive at the same destination and it will not matter whether we do so with twenty seven matching pieces of pig skin luggage or whether we own nothing more than the clothes we stand up in, we are all headed for the same ultimate destination. And, to be honest, isn’t it a well-worn truth that the journey is frequently more interesting than the act of arrival?

So, consider the compass and the clock; the meandering path or the five lane freeway: which one will you choose?

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Doing Things The Hard way…

Has pretty much been a way of life for me. I’ve always had this weird sort of twisted honour system inside my head which made me feel everything had to be done a certain way.

Take art for example; As a child I loved to draw. I got into quite a lot of trouble as I wasn’t always too particular about what I drew on. My Mother was not amused when she saw the horses I had lovingly added to the western film pages of her treasured film annuals in red crayon; likewise my early murals were not appreciated either but it was not until I took art in secondary level school that my confidence was so dashed that I took up writing instead.

I admit I’ve always been more of a copier than a freehand artist but I enjoyed it and using my own system (which I later discovered was the same one used by many an old master!) I tended to render pretty good likenesses of such folk as The Bay City Rollers and Marc Bolan. It was easy pocket money from my gullible classmates and also meant I was left alone by the class bullies to a certain extent.

And then I met Nancy. She was our art tutor for five years. I won’t mention her last name as there is a very small chance she might still be alive and you never know who might read these things! For some reason Nancy just loathed me on sight. I had imagined a shared love of horses might give some common ground. they were my favourite subject and even though my enthusiasm far outstripped my skills, I enjoyed drawing.

By the end of my first year with her however I no longer enjoyed art and certainly didn’t have the confidence to draw pop stars for anyone any more. By the end of my second year I actively disliked it and was in real danger of dropping the subject when choices came around. I was told constantly that I had no talent whatsoever; no sense of style or perspective and, in short, should never venture near a pencil again let alone anything more demanding. I was taught next to nothing about different mediums or expressing myself through art. Apart from criticism my work warranted very little attention at all as far as my art tutor was concerned. I suspect that my burgeoning preoccupation with all things fantasy didn’t help matters. Fairies, knights and dragons were the stuff of ‘children’s illustrators’; a slur apparently on par with that of someone who spits in public. Nancy’s hero was Picasso and when I was overheard, by her, to remark that Guernica resembled a kids jigsaw which had been dropped on the floor, my fate was pretty much sealed. I hasten to add that in later years I discovered for myself Picasso’s exquisite ‘Blue Period’ paintings and understood a great deal more as to why she had admired his work so much.

So, my drawings got worse and worse as time went on and I began to draw less and less. Nothing would come out the way I saw it in my head and I had no idea of how to go about solving that. Until now. Today I drew probably the best picture of my whole life. Having joined an art studio a few months ago simply because it was cheap and would encourage to start creating again (in the hopes it might rub off on my non-existent writing muse!) I began to muck about with different mediums. I made hideous clay ‘things’ for want of a better word; did some glass fusing and have plans to mess around with pyrography and glass engraving at some point.

What impressed me however was a lady named Carol who sat quietly in her own little corner every week painting. I started chatting to her and she mentioned that she had started by reading a book from the library and buying a box of watercolour pencils. From there she had progressed to watercolour and acrylic and had even had a go at oil painting. The results, she said philosophically, were varied to say the least but she kept everything she did and enjoyed her weekly sessions. Sometimes things are so simple we don’t even see them when they are in front of us.

Off I toddled to the library where I found an intermediate book written in a very straightforward style. To my astonishment I discovered I had not only been using valid methods of producing art in my younger days but that tracing paper was allowed. TP had been one of Nancy’s chief bugbears: According to her it was not allowed; it was CHEATING!

Well actually it’s not. Using it and the technique of masking I have created something fantastic (to me anyway) and because I’m so proud (and sad possibly) I intend to post it here for the whole world to see…if I can figure out how.

My self confidence has been restored to a point; certainly enough to encourage me to keep going anyway. I’m cross with myself for being so critical and hard on my work for so many years but I’m even angrier with the person who dismissed my efforts at a time when just a little encouragement would have gone a very long way.

Art is as subjective as writing. No-one has the right to say this is wrong or this is rubbish; all we have a right to is an opinion and that opinion should be kept to ourselves unless asked to share it. Which is why I’ve learned another valuable lesson (the hard way) I may never get into print, I may never have the approval of other artists and writers but as long as I value what I do and love what I create then nothing else matters. Art for art’s sake or art for your own sake? Whatever: Life is short; too short to spend learning things the hard way!

watercolour pencils

The First of Many…

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Time to talk dirty…

There is one term which appears to incense people who regard themselves as ‘real’ writers. I am referring of course to the infamous fan fiction. There are those who see it as puerile and nothing short of plundering the ideas of others whilst some regard it as a compliment of the highest degree. I’m not honestly sure how I would feel if someone took characters I thought of as my own and re-wrote them; hopefully I may find out some day but one thing I do know: If something affects me enough to put pen to paper (metaphorically of course) then it’s achieved its purpose. The only bad story is one which elicits no response at all.

I’ll come clean and admit I’ve written fan fiction for years, not under this name and never using characters from books, always television or film. For the most part it’s simply fun, a little self-indulgent at times but with no harm or disrespect intended. The groups I belong to wish only to extend the limited life awarded to our heroes so that we can lose ourselves in the make-believe for a little longer. On a slightly more serious level the exercise has lifted bad writer’s block on several occasions. The frustration of not being able to write can be helped enormously by actually completing something and the fact that your characters are already in place makes it on par with finishing a jigsaw or crossword puzzle. It clears the mind and frequently sparks off an original idea.

As with all things internet, the sheer quantity of fiction out there means that a lot of it will be diabolical and that’s not even referring to the APPALLING level of punctuation, grammar and basic spelling in some cases, but every now and then amongst the interminable lumps of coal, you will stumble across a diamond. I imagine it’s the same feeling most slush pile readers experience when a story leaps out and grabs them; just when you are reaching for the sick bucket/ brandy/ razor blades you find someone who does understand how to portray a character properly. They understand dynamic and plot and (far more importantly) in the case of humour understand that making a character shout rude words and behave like an imbecile is not the way to go.

Comedy is bloody difficult to write and I openly admit to envying those who can do it. They are few and far between and of course, laughter is subjective anyway. Even more difficult is romance. How do you avoid the cheesy soup of cliché whilst still managing to hook your reader into a sincere love story? That in itself throws up maybe the biggest bugbear even amongst  the already shadowy group which is fan fiction: Slash/yaio. Same sex fiction makes up the majority of stories out there. I don’t know why because I don’t get it. Doesn’t mean that some of it isn’t good, doesn’t mean I have a problem with same sex stuff per se but when the original characters have very obviously been written as heterosexual then I guess it has more to do with the author than the story.

Anyway, the reason for this blog is because lately I’ve been going through one of those times when you just can’t seem to find a good book. I’ve tried really hard to find something which might keep my attention and it says a lot when I tell you that fan fiction has made up the bulk of my reading lately apart from A History of Ancient Britain by Neil Oliver at bedtime (and that’s only because it’s easier to hold lying down than a laptop!). Disappointment after disappointment has followed starting with A Round Heeled Woman by Jane Juska all the way through to The Exmoor Files by Liz Jones with a dismal diversion through Clive Barker, John Harding and Keith Donohue along the way. There was a brief burst of brightness when I stumbled upon Shel Silverstein’s the Giving Tree but at just over 600 words it didn’t last very long and made me cry into the bargain. I’ve actually forgotten several other volumes which rather validates my comment about no reaction being the worst reaction. So, back to fan fiction.

The really good writers on these sites are taking characters and adapting them, in fact with very little effort many of them could be sending the stuff out as original pieces, and before the clamour starts up let’s be honest here: There is no such thing as an original story any more. Everything out there is derivative in some way. In fact if there was any sense in the world of publishing someone out there would be licensing these amateur writers within the  canon they are using and selling the stuff because the demand and the talent is there. Love it or loathe it fan fiction is a very real part of the modern literary world now and I for one look forward to the day when we can all creep out from under our rocks and say proudly: Yeah, I wrote that!

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Whatever Floats Your Boat…

Generally speaking I remain unaware of fads and fashions; I am either unwittingly ahead of them or else far behind, marching to an entirely individual drummer, but other people’s fascinations fascinate me. I have always been curious as to why something ignites a passion in the heart of another and it’s led me to explore and learn about a wonderful array of subjects over the years, but the latest one really has me scratching my head. Not in disgust or disapproval, simply…puzzled.

I won’t go into the whys and wherefores of how I stumbled across the area of cosplay; suffice it to say it is a by-product of a current interest I’ve cultivated. When I mentioned the phenomena to my daughter she laughed (a lot) and informed me it was far from a new thing and that she had had several friends in university who took part in conventions and meetings. I suppose I’d always been aware of the whole Star Trek-dressing-up-as-a-klingon thing but I didn’t realise it had a name. When I was a kid I dressed up like my heroes too; I wanted to BE the characters who peopled my fantasies and games, possibly I suppose because at such a tender age one doesn’t recognise or understand the deeper implications of why one is so enamoured of ones heroes. But, as I grew older, like everyone else, I lost the sense of fun and escapism which allowed me to play without inhibition.

Come to think of it, I suppose art took its place. I drew and painted whichever musician, actor or mythical character was captivating me at the time. Then, when my enthusiasm outstripped my skill, I took up writing. I still fantasise but I make my fantasies into stories. Hmm, interesting theory. But I digress.

This particular branch of cosplay involves game/anime characters from a film and having spent far too many hours on youtube(in the interests of research, you understand) I am astonished by the degree of commitment and attention to detail some of the participants show. As with all things, representations range from the sublime to the ridiculous but what cannot be denied is the fun and pleasure the people concerned seem to find in their hobby; past-time;interest? I’m not sure of the terms and don’t wish to insult anyone.

My reactions range from honest bewilderment to furtive admiration. What could someone possibly gain by dressing up as a non-existent character and standing on a stage to be judged? Then again, how fantastic it must be to belong to an extended family of others who share your passion. Because I come from a repressed generation anyway (believe me there’s no way anyone could not remember growing up in a small town in the 70’s) I would never have the courage to do what these people do but if I were young enough, thin enough, brave enough, would I find the bravado to stand on a stage and display what I would think of as a very private obsession? Probably not. Because of my advanced years I probably wouldn’t even be brave enough to attend a convention simply to speak to the cosplayers; besides they are for the most part, understandably perhaps, a little defensive of outsiders. From what I can tell they get a lot of flack about what they do. Except in Japan of course.

Something else I found quite extraordinary was the fact that a nation known for reserve and self control should embrace wholeheartedly the conception of cosplay, in fact one young man whose name, I think, is Daniel Choo (Kaname?) took my breath away when I watched some of his videos on youtube. He literally BECAME the character he was representing and was loved and adored because of it.

Could it be that we are all artists on the inside? Could it be that however repressive society may become we will strive to express our individuality somehow? One of my friends bakes, knits and has taught herself to crochet. She needs to creat. A few others write fanfiction (that’s a whole other post to delve into at a later date!) and whilst, in their own words, the fanficers are so far into the closet about it they can see Narnia, they still enjoy it and sometimes produce better work than some so-called paid professionals. My daughter breeds birds, takes photographs and has just purchased a batik kit to resume where she left off in university; she’s also waiting impatiently for the day my grandson can wield his first crayon. We NEED to create, it seems, we NEED to display ourselves (even secretly) to say this is ME; this is what goes on inside my head! It nurtures a small spark of hope that one day the arts will shrug off the corporate machinations which are attempting to suffocate talent  on the great alter of manufactured cookie-cutter uniformity.

How did I get here? Oh yes, cosplay: People who dress up and emulate heroes, heroines, creatures who somehow reflect an inner need. Maybe we are all silently holding out for our hero? And since they are so thin on the ground these days is it really so surprising we should create our own while we wait? Like I said a couple of hundred words ago, I’m not sure how I feel about the cosplay community. Asking others why they thought people might do such a thing produced answers as diverse as: seeking attention: because they’re sad: because they have nothing better to do. It seemed I was in a minority in thinking they did it because they wished to show the world how they felt, and because there was a sense of belonging attached to it. Because they wanted to share their passionate love of a fictional character with others.

Like I said, I’m not too hot on fads and fashions but I do know this: An old, old creed states:- so long as you harm no-one else, do as you will. It’s something I’ve always tried (not always successfully) to do and if dressing up in costume and meeting with like-minded folk floats your boat then more power to you. I’ll stand in the shadows and watch enjoying a vicarious thrill because, unlike my favourite character from that world, I am not a hero and my honour has shrivelled beneath the onslaught of possible ridicule; I’m not prepared to sacrifice myself for it. But whilst you’re re-enacting those battles and waving around your oversized swords spare a glance over one shoulder now and then. I’ll be the one waving to you through the wardrobe doors before I scuttle back to Narnia.

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