Shadows – by Emma Tringham

I like to hide in the shadows sometimes, especially when I’m feeling low. I don’t want people to look at me, to judge me, that’s it – I’m so scared of being judged. In the shadows you can hide, you can lurk, you can avoid the glare of public scrutiny. And there is something almost exciting about a shadowy life, or being a shady character. If you don’t have to worry about what people think of you then you can behave any way you choose, as long as you avoid the sunlight, creep around in the shade.

You can find a darkened pub on a sunny day and congregate with other shabby, shadowy figures. You can enjoy the smell of warm beer, the security of a dark corner. And you can plot evil deeds!

If you’re that way inclined…

But I don’t think I am really. I only want to hide when I’m sad. And the closed curtains, the darkness, the safety of the duvet, they only prolong the sadness. It is much better, if you can, to get up, to get outside, feel the sunshine on your face.

And I do love the sunshine. I’ve decided to chase it more often. To seek it out and bask in it. To enjoy its warmth and energy.

And I don’t really want to get involved in dark deeds. I prefer things upfront, honest, brightly lit.

So I guess I’m not a person to hide in the shadows. Well, only occasionally. But soon I’ll be out again, to search for the light.

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Work – by Emma Tringham

I’m scared of work

It’s a phantom that haunts me

I’ve driven it from my mind

It was hard, overwhelming, so stressful

Overshadowed by others’ expectations

I hated it

And I miss it… terribly

I miss the excitement

The challenge

The chance to collaborate and create

I miss the friendship

The sense of identity

I miss the moral high ground

Who am I now, without it?

I don’t know what to say at parties

I don’t know who to be

But I know that there is more to life

Than mounting tension

And exhaustion

I don’t have to dance to their tune any more

I need to recreate myself

Find a new purpose

A new team

A new challenge

That’s my vocation

Writing about a famous painting – Emma Tringham

 

They surrounded her, the many shades of their brown skin melting into the background. She was paler, higher caste, the centre of everyone’s attention.

She accepted that attention grudgingly. She had to sit under the light, her pale skin illuminated, whilst they sat in the shadows. They tended to her, but she was the one stripped to the waist – half naked, on show. She rounded her shoulders and dropped her head under the glare of their ministrations.

The darkest girl of all sat behind her, oiling and plaiting her hair. Another massaged ointment into her creamy skin, whilst still another began the painstaking work of applying the henna to her hands. She watched meekly as the intricate patterns took shape. How would she ever be good enough for this? How could she rise up and face the world so elaborately adorned?

Several other dark faces just watched her. They marvelled at the conscientious observance, but accepted it as merely the methodical adherence to a time-honoured tradition.

She felt expectation calling, the guests calling, the world calling, him calling. She’d never even seen his face, and he’d hardly see hers when she was finally ready and it with covered with the veil – a shroud to hide here, that was it: she was at once both hidden and revealed. Everyone would stare at her as she peered through the lace fretwork.

What would she see, standing up there, amongst the jewels and the flowers? Who and what would he be? She had no idea, she just knew he was her destiny.

And the dark faces around her gave no clue. They were mute in their submission, their cowed toil. She envied them and their dark skin. They would never have to face such expectation. They could creep away to their hovels and hide. She must face the glare of the light in her parents’ eyes.

Writing inspired by a famous painting – by John Barber

They’d wiped the blood from the pitch fork. An hour earlier it had been found up to its hilt in the back of the young man on top of the hay stack. How it got there they had no idea, who the young man was they had no idea either. He took it out slowly. He was clearly dead. The blood round each spike was dried a dark red. It had been some hours since his fatal wound. He placed his foot at the base of the young man’s spine and withdrew it. It didn’t ooze but there was an audible slurp as metal unstuck itself from his vital organs. Poor chap, they thought. What had he done to deserve this? They had been in the middle of hay making on their little farm, the pitchfork left at the bottom of the ladder, there was more to do tomorrow.

They left him there. The flies were already laying their eggs in the warm sun, by this afternoon the smell would be unbearable.

They were quiet people, they never troubled anyone, they had no contact with their neighbours. Why should they now? It wasn’t their problem. Who would find him? He clearly hadn’t been missed. The buzzards would finish him off. It might take a while but they wouldn’t need the straw ’til next winter.

They said little to each other, they both knew the score: keep quiet and live a simple life. When she went to join him he had started a new rick.

The Leap – by John Barber

It was a leap of faith, a leap into the unknown. He wasn’t a risk taker always cautious always careful.  He was Taurus, steady, dependable and reliable.

No matter how many times he had tried he just found it impossible to take that plunge into the unknown. He had never taken drugs, never smoked, never played chicken with his mates when he was younger, never had unprotected sex.

Even his mates found him boring, so did his girlfriends; but his mum and dad were proud, he had never got into trouble, never caused them angst, never gave them a moment to fret about.

This leap was one he had been tempted to take on many occasions but never quite managed it. If he didn’t take it now perhaps he never would. He deliberated, prevaricated, pontificated, looked around for inspiration, but no, it was his decision alone.  Only he could make this momentous leap. His heart was pounding, his mouth was dry. His mate Jim kept on at him, “Come on, yes or no? For god’s sake it’s not life threatening, you won’t come to any harm, your house isn’t at risk.”

I can’t decide.”

It’s always the same with you. I’m fed up with your caution, it’s so annoying.  Believe me, it will be alright.”

OK,” he said “…let’s go for it. The Chicken Vindaloo please.”

Writing about a famous painting – by Alana Florio

It was like a television, the static and fuzzy colours were battling for attention. Boats were riding around on the sky-scape waters. It began to look like the sky had fallen to the ground and created a pool of dreams within the busy cluster of people.

The contrasting lighting of the shade created an aura of mystery. The grass was bright and bold, full of life and spring. Beautifully coloured trees flourished, soaking up the bright haze of sunlight. Children were frolicking and dancing in the spotlight of sun while the parents kept perfect posture and watched like eagles to ensure their child wasn’t the first to fall into the glimmering shores.

Some people would name this place paradise; however I believe it was almost too perfect. It was as if they had reached the edge of the earth where the lands were all perfect and pleasant. It was as if the people were so unaware of the troubles outside of their fairy-tale dream.

But their fairy-tale lived on, the steam boats still chugged along the peaceful waters and the children still screamed and laughed; everything remained too perfect.

 

Something On The Road – by Richard Ince

I was walking along a favourite footpath on the Downs. I had come down the hillside, into a small clump of beech trees where I often stopped for a break. Ahead I saw what I thought was a small branch on the path. Then I realised it was a crutch. A crutch ? What an odd thing !! I stopped and looked around .

I called out several times, “Hello, is anyone here ?” No answer. The grass on the hillside was very short. I could see that there was no one there. I walked into the trees. There was no undergrowth and grass does not grow long under beech trees, so in a few minutes I assured myself that no one was lying there.

I sat down on my favourite fallen trunk. There were so many thoughts in my head. What had happened? Where was the owner? You don’t usually get people with crutches walking on uneven terrain such as the Downs. I didn’t feel like walking on straight-away, so I just sat and let my brain do some work. There weren’t any logical answers. So the illogical ones appeared.

Perhaps, like the crippled Lazarus in the Bible, he was cured suddenly. He threw away his crutch and walked on singing. Or perhaps his time had come and he was whisked away to heaven up a celestial ladder. But his mortal remains would still be left on earth, wouldn’t they?

Then it dawned on me. Somewhere nearby, perhaps in a camouflaged tent, there is someone with a film-camera transmitting me live to a TV show. Perhaps millions of people have seen someone walking past the crutch without even pausing . Perhaps a hidden microphone has picked up my, “What the fuck?” and are wondering what I will do next. So I pick up the crutch and continue my walk. When I get home I’ll take it to the police station.

Red Roses – by Ceri Lea Pullen

I am a beautiful pink rose that shines bright at night

I can set your mind free when you look at me

If only you knew what I feel like when you touch me

I will unleash you

I come alive when the sun shines on my lovely petals

If you dare to know how I grow

I am sweet and can be bitter

When I’m angry my petals turn red like fire

My petals will roar at you

I am a little Satan when I get touched

I’m sweet like pixie dust

I’m newly sprung in June

I can sing into your red heart when you’re burning up

You are an ancient proverb that whispers in my ear

I am a strong source of comfort that will always wipe away all your tears

I am the voice of reason telling you to rest

Roses are red, violets are blue

There is not a single rose as shiny as you

My love is like a red, red rose

My love is a melody that’s played in June

My roses will make you like the sun

While the sands of time will make you run

I will lift you up high in the sky

My petals are like a flame that will cover you when you’re feeling shy.

I want to be a Train Driver – by John Barber

Standing on the platform wide

We watch the people sat inside

She holds my hand against the throng

It belches steam but hasn’t gone.

Is this our train, is this the one?

She pats my head, be patient son.

The wheels so big, how do they move

Stay on the track between the grooves?

Why does it smoke and let out steam

Who cleans the paint and makes it gleam?

The guard is ready, flag in hand

The driver waits for his command.

Oh how I want to drive this train

No car for me, no ship ,no plane.

To stand upon the footplate proud

To wave at any passing crowd.

It starts to shunt, it gathers pace

I bet he’d win in any race

The rhythm of its belching smoke

Increasing with each piston’s stroke

The boiler working overtime

Creating steam for every climb

Up hills and inclines through the snow

What e’er the weather it must go

I stand in awe of what I’ve seen

That grand leviathan of steam

Now in the distant puffing still

Its whistle faint, its pitch quite shrill

My mother gives my hand a squeeze

Here he comes, she looks so pleased

And waving from the lofty cab

The driver, yes, you’ve guessed, my Dad.

The Elephant in the Room – by John Barber

My mother has always had a thing about elephants. There isn’t just one elephant in the room, there are hundreds. They are everywhere – wooden, pottery, porcelain and brass, almost anything you can think of. Even on the walls there are images: photographs and paintings, some with her in them or other members of the family, but mostly ones she has bought over the years.

The whole family have encouraged this habit. Every birthday and Christmas: elephants in every guise – scarves with elephants on, slippers with a trunk, bedspreads with the head of a big bull elephant, magnificent and majestic.

Now she has dementia. It’s odd but this once obsession now gives her turmoil and angst. “What are all these things?” she will shout on a bad day. The television, the vases, the furniture, the dog are never the subject of her distress, just the elephants in the room.

Over the past two years we have removed them, one by one, to try and help her. Now we are down to one large elephant that no one seems to want. She still complains, but no one has the heart to get rid of the one elephant in the room.