365 Day Writing Challenge 52: Memory Lane

365 Day Writing Challenge

52. Memory Lane: What’s it look like? How do you get there?

White light through clear windows

Green leaves glowing in the sun.

Large and austere, but not cold –

full of little details, little nuances

that make it perfect for me.

 

It always hurts my head to think

That a house can be a home to so many people

Be special to so many people

Belong to so many people.

Having someone else paint your home a different colour

And it call it theirs feels so

Violating

jarring, driving past and knowing that it is no longer yours but theirs,

(they,them)

it’s… hard.

 

 

 

365 Day Writing Challenge 46: Dirty

365 Day Writing Challenge

46. Dirty: Write a poem about getting covered in mud.

I loved

jumping in

and feeling the squelch under my wellies

I would find the muddiest, dirtiest part

and dig my feet in, over and over, and feel the earth move beneath me

every step was a joy

just to feel

 

365 Day Writing Challenge 24: Numbers

365 Day Writing Challenge

24. Numbers: Write a poem or journal entry about numbers that have special meaning to you.

88: The house number of my home. I lived there from when I was around two until I was 18. I loved it a stupid amount, and I still dream about it on occasion.

7: My birthday is the 7th of the 7th, my phone number is mostly 7s and my current house number is 7. I can’t help but feel like it’s lucky every time a 7 pops up in a number associated with me (this has been ruined slightly by the 7/7 bombings).

2305: 23rd May, my anniversary with my boyfriend ❤

1603: The year my hero, Elizabeth I died. For some reason it has always stuck in my head and it’s pretty much the only date from history I can remember apart from the World Wars (I’m terrible with dates).

Pi: Because pi is pretty darn cool.

6: This is a bit of a weird one. When I was younger I always imagined the numbers to have personalities. I liked the 6 the best because I imagined her as a really pretty girl (something about the shape – made me think of a ponytail). 9 was 6’s big sister and she was pretty well liked, but she hung out with 7 who was definitely not cool. Lots of their personalities were also based on how easy I found the times tables for that particular number. For this reason everyone liked 5, even though she was an odd number, who were generally considered the strange ones. 8 was the coolest number. But he knew it, unfortunately. 4 was his little brother, and desperately wished he was as cool as 8, but never was quite. 3 was considered almost as weird as 7, and 6 tried to deny that she was related to 3. I don’t know why, but I never really assigned personalities to 0,1,2 and 10. Clearly I didn’t deem them interesting enough. Sorry guys, I’m really tired and that was a bit of a ramble. Clearly I just enjoyed attaching personalities to things that didn’t have them when I was a kid. If I was ever bored at the table I would make a nativity scene with the cutlery. Seriously, Joseph was a fork, Mary was a spoon, and the baby Jesus was a little teaspoon. The knife, salt and pepper, ketchup, brown sauce and whatever else were assorted wise men, shepherds and angels.

Well, I’m going to go to bed now. I wonder if I’ll regret writing this in the morning?

 

365 Day Writing Challenge 15: Eavesdropper

365 Day Writing Challenge

15. Eavesdropper: Create a poem, short story, or journal entry about a conversation you’ve overheard.

Ok, I could think of hardly any conversations that I’ve overheard, and the ones I have I couldn’t come up with any ideas for, so I just made something up.

“Overhawk is go!”
The little boy whispered, well, it was more of a stage whisper, into his friend’s ear. His friend looked at him, nodded solemnly, and they both carried on with what they were doing, as if nothing had happened. I was at a party, a friend of my own had just turned thirty. It was an affair for friends and family, and as such there was a numerous amount of children. Some were running about, giddy with the excitement of a new place and people, others stuck to their guardians, staring up at the adults glumly.

I tried to keep an eye on the “Overhawk” pair as the day went on. From watching them, it seemed that “Overhawk” mainly comprised of them looking knowingly at each other whenever they passed, and the occasional quick, whispered conversation like the one I had overheard. It was clear however that they both took it, whatever it was, very seriously.

I couldn’t help but think of the pair on the drive home. I thought of how to them, that party wasn’t a party at all, but an operation. They were undertaking important work. They had transformed a standard Saturday into something completely different, their own little world. I found I envied them a little bit. I had often done it myself as a kid, lost for hours in a world of my own construction. Of course I still daydreamed now, but it wasn’t the same. They mostly fell into the realms of a better job or great sex. I hadn’t let myself go, truly, into the world of imagination for such a long time. But adults must be able to do it, right? Artists, writers, actors. Living in their own worlds. Maybe it’s not too late for me. I hope not.

Dad

Poetry

I was from another world,

and so were you.

When I think of you,

I think of hills.

Long, long walks

off into the unknown –

I think of the wind in my face,

crisp, clean, clear.

I think of the autumn leaves.

I think of the magic you bring –

that something new and different and exciting

could be waiting

around any corner,

any time.

We aren’t from different worlds any more.

Common People?

Articles

She came from Greece, she had a thirst for knowledge,

She studied sculpture at St Martin’s College,

That’s where I caught her eye.

Common People by Pulp is one of my favourite songs. If you haven’t heard it, it describes an encounter the singer/songwriter Jarvis Cocker actually had with a girl he met, who told him she wanted to “live like common people/I want to do whatever common people do/I want to sleep with common people/I want to sleep with common people like you”. It’s a good song to dance to at a party, but it’s also full of emotion and anger. It’s full of anger with the girl in the song but also with all those like her. Those who “will never understand/How it feels to live your life/With no meaning or control/And with nowhere left to go”.  But even when I was drunk and belting out the words, I always felt an uncomfortable twinge – almost of guilt. Because I didn’t feel I was “common” enough to be singing the song so angrily. The song tells the girl that if she wants to be common as she declares then she should “rent a flat above a shop/Cut your hair and get a job/Smoke some fags and play some pool/Pretend you never went to school”.  This describes the sort of life I never knew growing up. I’ve never smoked, playing pool infers spending the weekend in the local pub which is not my thing, and I most definitely went to school, in my Clarks shoes no less, the ultimate symbol of being a middle-class goody-two-shoes.

Now I’m older, however, I feel I’m a little more qualified to being “common”. I realise how little money my parents had while I was growing up, despite our big house – all of our clothes were from car-boot sales, or hand-me-downs.  You can trace the same outfits in old photos from my oldest cousin, to my older sister, to me, and finally, very worn, to my little sister. I also definitely felt poor (if, as the song suggests, you must be poor in order to be common) when I was a student, and I’ve scraped by on benefits several times since leaving uni.

I said pretend you got no money,

She just laughed and said “Oh you’re so funny”

I said, “Yeah? Well I can’t see anyone else smiling in here”

   Now I’ve written all of this down, I realise what a bizarre notion it all is. I don’t know if this is the same in other countries, but in the UK growing up there was a fine balancing act you had to maintain in order to be seen as ‘cool’ – to have enough money to buy every new trend, but not so much you were seen as ‘posh’. As the song says, some people “think that poor is cool”. Clearly I must be one of them – even if purely because I felt it was something I was excluded from.

So what does it mean to be “common”? Is it just another word for “poor”? Or “ordinary”? I searched the internet for answers. Most definitions were negative – “not rare”, “without special rank or position”, “falling below ordinary standards”, “lacking refinement”, and for the phrase ‘common people’: “characterised by a lack of privilege or special status”. The more positive ones emphasised a sense of sharing and belonging: “belonging to or involving the whole of a community or the public at large”. The example given is common land, but I wonder if the same can be said of a public mentality? Maybe being “common” simply means “one of the people”. Maybe you are only “common” if you feel you are.

I have been thinking about all of this even more so recently because of the recent UK election result. The Conservative party won. The kindest view of the Conservatives is that they are well-educated with a focus on the economy and a good financial plan. The harshest is that they are privileged, rich, predominantly white men who don’t care about ordinary people. I tend towards the latter view. Despite being devastated by the election result, I felt such a sense of solidarity with the people around me – my Facebook feed was full of people with the same view as me, there were riots outside Downing Street, and the North was (and still is)clamouring  to join the more liberal Scotland. For once I did feel “common” – just part of one group who were truly angry against a state that didn’t understand them. And that is the feeling that Common People gives you – especially when you’re all out in a big group, shouting the words. It’s a song that makes you feel that it is us and them.

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Poster of David Cameron burning a fifty pound note in Manchester.

But who are them? The rich? The successful? And if so, what does that make Jarvis Cocker now? Pulp sold over 10 million records, and Cocker has since done well in several areas, including having his own BBC Radio 6 live slot. Does he still feel like a common person? I also wonder about J.K Rowling – now a billionaire, Rowling is still a Labour supporter, vocally and financially, and it is clear from her interviews she still holds close the times when she was poor, a single mum and trying to get Harry Potter published. So is being common just a state of mind? My grandma, who was a teacher and married to a head teacher, and who also now has a comfortable pension with a large house, grew up in a poor Northern factory family. Five minutes of conversation with her and it is clear she still associates herself adamantly with the North, and the working class.

Laugh along with the common people,

Laugh along even though they’re laughing at you

And the stupid things that you do

Cos you think that poor is cool

   So, what does it mean to be common? Is it just a lack of money? Or a state of mind? Or a political stance? I suppose the whole dilemma is similar to one we all face: wanting to be unique, special and individual, but desperately wanting to fit in. Wanting to show the world how talented you are, but not wanting to lose that sense of belonging with those around you.

As for me, I realise this is a much more tangled and complex argument than I originally thought. But I won’t feel guilty listening to Pulp again.

Sing along with the common people, sing along and it might just get you through…

(Featured image from Raumrot)


© Kate Warren and Rebuild, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kate Warren and Rebuild with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Broken Bridge

Articles

I recently read a novel by Philip Pullman titled The Broken Bridge, in which a girl named Ginny tries to find her true identity. Although I found the novel to be clunking in places, and certain parts of the plot to be not very well explained or put together, it was thought-provoking. At the end of the novel, Ginny is discussing her life and everything she has found out with her father. He explains that the reason why he has lied to her about so many things is because of the intense fear he had felt since childhood, due to his abusive mother; and a father who always looked away.

It was this idea of “looking away” that got me thinking about my own family – not just my parents and sisters but my aunts and uncles, cousins and especially my grandparents. The status quo set by my grandparents seemed to be to sweep things under the rug, to “look the other way”, but also to be “tough”, to not show any emotion that could be construed as weakness or vulnerability. From a very young age my mum and her siblings were given the message that not everything was acceptable for discussion – only certain subjects, certain feelings. This included not just their own feelings, but those of others. They learnt that it was easier to look away, to pretend everyone and everything was alright.

But how does this relate to abuse? Well, my mum’s generation grew up in a world where Jimmy Savile was able to abuse hundreds of children with no consequences, despite dozens, perhaps even hundreds of people knowing. My generation’s experience is almost the antithesis of that: we grew up in a world obsessed with abuse, with newspapers telling us there was a paedophile waiting around every corner, where a man who is nice to a child he doesn’t know is viewed with heavy suspicion.

Despite the constant reminders of “stranger danger”, stories of child abuse of terrifying proportions (such as in Rotherham and Rochdale) still surface in the news with scary regularity. What I find most worrying about these stories is that they were originally covered up – be it for political reasons or just plain incompetency – just as Jimmy Savile’s crimes were. My cynical side wonders if, despite all the progress we have made, we are only able to talk about abuse if it is sensationalised – that despite our culture’s constant awareness of abuse, those faced with it in reality are still inclined to “look away”.

We have come a long way, however. My boyfriend pointed out to me that when Jimmy Savile began abusing children, ChildLine didn’t exist (it wasn’t established until 1986). What could children who were being abused do? Go to the police? The police themselves would have been ill-equipped to deal with such issues, even if they did believe the children. There was very little training to deal with adult victims of violence and rape, let alone children. And if their families were anything like my mum’s, abuse would be an unheard of subject. So yes, we have come a long way, but we also have a long way to go. We need to find a place for abuse in the public mentality that is not thrust under a glaring light by the media, but where it is also not lurking in the shadows – a place of understanding and compassion, where everyone’s main concern is to help the victims.

I do remain hopeful, especially on a personal level. When I was at two of my cousins’ joint birthday party a couple of weeks ago, my boyfriend took a picture of all ten of the cousins. Every time I look at that picture I think of us, and I think of our parents, and our grandparents. And what I think is that we are going to do better than them. I love them dearly and will always be grateful to them, but I think that we will not look away the way they did.

(Featured image from Frankenfotos)


© Kate Warren and Rebuild, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kate Warren and Rebuild with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.