A Few Extracts
Under the Pear Tree
We were suddenly awake, shocked into consciousness as the train jerked violently and slewed to an abrupt halt. We fell heavily from our seats, luggage crashing down on us from the overhead compartments. In an instant, the train now motionless, there was a deathly silence over everything, and only pitch black darkness. We scrambled to our feet and flung open the carriage window, peering out into the biting cold air. There, some way ahead, silhouetted against the fog and the lashing rain, we could just make out some of the carriages tipped over on their sides, crashed into each other… complete wreckage. Then, there were voices shouting, and the loud hissing of the steam engine.
Life is Definitely a Beach
Once a year, God flicked a switch and glorious golden sunshine smiled on my little beach, dancing and glinting on the now calm sea, drying out the rotting shacks in the nick of time after the winter storms had all but demolished them. The heavy grey sky of yesterday was transformed, now brilliant blue. And suddenly there were people everywhere. Families with laughing children sitting on brightly coloured rugs and blankets. Curious teenagers stooped intently over teeming rock pools. Fathers teaching their offspring to swim in the peaceful, cooling water. Mothers knitting and reading Woman’s Weekly, stopping now and then to pour strong dark tea from a Thermos flask. Boys and girls with ice cream cones, laughter turning to tears when the sun melted their delicious treat too quickly. Cream soda in glass bottles with rubber stoppers. And music from little portable radios, which amazed me because the only radio I knew was the huge dark wooden box full of valves and accumulators and wires, that crackled and fizzed in our sad little home. No music for us, though. Just weather warnings… Dogger Bank… visibility nil… winds north to north west… spoken so perfectly by the man with the rather melancholy monotone voice.
And the other shacks would come alive – people arriving with bags and bedding, dogs and dominoes, swimsuits and sandwiches, to spend a weekend, or even a whole week, in their little ramshackle holiday homes. This, now, was truly a summer paradise.
Broken Lives, Broken Minds
You can’t explain to people – even those you know well – what it’s like to wait, to hope, to pray, to build your hopes up at the slightest encouragement and then watch those hopes crash and be destroyed, time and time again.
To ache, to hurt, to scream silently inside, to cry so much the tears don’t come any more, to spend so many nights without sleep that you feel you must surely die of exhaustion.
To count seconds, minutes, hours that go by so slowly it’s as if time simply can’t make the effort any longer and has slipped away.
But the most inexplicable part of this horror is the emptiness, the longing, the desperate aching in every part of you – body, mind, soul. Not one tiny cell can escape the pain.
Experiencing heartache for a month, a week, even one single day is bad and I would never try to make light of anyone else’s suffering. But thirteen years is – well, it’s a hell of a long time.
It’s a long time of hell.
Breaking the Chain
The washing is done, the house is tidy, and I’m standing in my kitchen, making myself a cup of coffee. I look out of the window at the garden where the two dogs are playing, and some of the plants are starting to struggle through the earth now the weather has improved a little. It rained earlier, and everything looks fresh and clean.
It’s all so amazingly normal! I smile to myself as I stir the hot drink, and I feel once again that wonderful sense of immense gratitude that washes over me like a warm shower at the end of a full and happy day.
All of my days are full and happy now, but before the ‘now’ that is my new life, there was another life, full of days that were very different. Dark days, days full of fear and dread, days when every waking moment was a living nightmare that seemed to go on forever.
I never stop being thankful for this new life, for being able to leave all of the bad times behind me, where they belong. In the past….
(Untitled, to be published)
I pick up my keys from the hallway table and step outside into the sharp afternoon air. The drive through town is its usual comedy of errors, with endless queues, ever-changing traffic lights and the sudden random appearance alongside of a lycra clad cyclist, just to keep me on my toes.
Twenty minutes or so later I pull up opposite the entrance to the little school building, park the car and cross the road to join the other mums and dads thronging in the foyer to collect their girls. A quick chat with someone I know, a few nods and smiles exchanged with others and then a gaggle of animated young ladies spills among us, some clutching books, others carrying gym bags or violin cases. There she is, my lovely, lively, full-of-life nine-year-old daughter.