Monday, 24 June 2013

REVIEW - The Kite Runner, Liverpool Playhouse

REVIEW - The Kite Runner, Liverpool Playhouse

THERE’S a story within a story in The Kite Runner about a man whose tears could turn to pearls.
  Unfortunately, the man had such a comfortable life that he had to go to dramatic excesses in order to cry, and each time he cried he had to go even further, even darker, to cry his tears and make his pearls.
  The story comes from the young mind of our protagonist Amir, a storyteller. But in adapting Khaled Hosseini’s epic, sprawling, bestseller and condensing it for the stage, it seems that writer Matthew Spangler has taken the premise of Amir’s short story all too literally.
  As such, the atmosphere often cooks but, by the end, the audience has been battered for over two hours with steadily worsening dramatic horrors, with little in the way of respite in between.
  Such is the way of the adaptation perhaps, but it may also be the reason why this particular adaptation, performed on the Liverpool Playhouse stage, did not quite work.
  Still, there was much to enjoy in the Afghanistan-set tale of Amir and his servant Hassan as we see them grow from boys to men in what is proven to be an increasingly cruel world, with little in the way of warmth or comfort.
  Amir is our narrator and guide through this tale, played with passion by actor Ben Turner, who impresses with his energy and lightning quick changes in character from American-accented adult Amir, to the Afghan-inflected child of his memories.
  Farshid Rokey supports the lead well as Hassan, Amir’s stoic friend and tragic plaything of the storytelling fates.
  The other cast members provide similarly robust personas from which to hang the story, and director Giles Croft ramps up the atmosphere where needed by drawing a suitably menacing performance from our bad guy Assef, played by Nicholas Karimi, and employing the whooshing sound of the fighting kites of the play’s title.
  But my favourite thing about The Kite Runner was the employment of the superb tabla-player Hanif Khan, who is on stage at all times during the play to provide breathtaking rhythmical accompaniment to the harrowing story.
  The first half of the play tells of Amir and Hassan’s young friendship, despite their class and religious differences, and of their success in the local kite fights.
  But a life-changing run-in with a gang of local bullies sends our previously likeable lead character into a spiral of selfishness and guilt which breaks up friendships and families.
  It also makes it somewhat difficult to care too much about Amir and his father’s flight from Afghanistan during Russian invasion, and eventual arrival in 1980s San Francisco.
  From here the plot moves jaggedly and painfully from one key scene to the next. Major plot points or dramatic twists are unfortunately signposted so clearly as to appear clich├ęd.
  By the end I felt like I was being whacked about the face with an emotional shovel, designed to bring forth those magic tears. Looking around at the other audience members as the story lost my attention, I saw men and women wiping soggy eyes.
  I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but my tears stayed firmly locked in their ducts. And as the actors took their bows they got a standing ovation from most of the Playhouse audience.
  So if you’re looking for a heavy and harrowing night’s entertainment or just a good old sobfest, The Kite Runner is probably for you. If you prefer your emotional storytelling spread a little thinner, maybe stay in and read a book instead.

Monday, 4 May 2009

The winkle

Well, I said I would be posting something when inspiration struck me - didn't think it would take this long. I have finally written something, so thought I'd post it...

A small boy on a beach ran to me last week and gave me a winkle. A winkle, such a strange and sad little object. I shook and then brushed the sand from it. Poor creature, I thought.
I took the shell and listened but I could not hear the sound of the sea blowing from within. Instead, I fancied I heard crying. Yes, there was a dry sob, sob, sob coming deep from within.
So strange. I immediately wished to smash the shell, to dash it on the deck like a greedy gull, but fought the urge. One thought was playing in my head, like a record, jumping and stuck on the same syllables; like a drifting soul song trapped in purgatory. "Plant me."
"Plant me," it spoke.
"Plant me."
So I did. I scrabbled in the dirt, tossing the clods and broken earthworms aside. In my bluster I'd chopped these worms in half or worse. No matter, I thought - they'll grow anew. Regeneration you see - I'm creating new life and new worth.
Dropping the shell into the moist hollow I carefully recovered the jumble of soil and cloven earthworms, imprisoning the gentle winkle.
And then I waited. I waited for it to grow.
And the rains came and the sun shone down and the winds blew the blossom from the boughs. All seemed but in requiem to the sad little shell.
The thought dawned upon me, smiling grimly, spreading icily across my body like electrical current. I had not planted, but had rather buried the poor creature. Now, beneath the dying pink flowers, it was lost to me.
I must be mad, I thought. Really, I must now be insane.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Catch up with me at Twitter

Hi,

Just thought I'd say, you can catch up with me on Twitter. I'll be posting random bits of writing here:

http://twitter.com/paulbernard

Cheers,

Paul.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

The Daily Postcard

Hi guys,

Well, I returned from my week away from blogging refreshed and considering my next move.

It's been six months since I started The Daily Tale and I thought it might be a good idea to freshen the format up, try something a little different. So I have created a new blog called The Daily Postcard where I will do my daily blogging from now on.

The Daily Tale was an unexpected success and I'd like to thank everyone for taking the time to support me by reading the stories and leaving such great comments.

However, I think the format had gone as far as it could and I was chomping at the bit to try something a little different. I'm quite into photography and wanted to devote some time to that, along with writing. So that's kind of what the concept of The Daily Postcard is - a photo and a short tale to accompany the image.

I hope it will become something the browser can either just dip in and out of when they feel like, or alternatively let their imagination become swept up in the twin assault of the image and the words.

My reasoning for starting it on another blog site was so that I could leave The Daily Tale blog here as an archive for anyone who wanted to flick back and read their favourite stories again. When I've finished my Postcard project I will seek to do the same with that too.

So that's all, I think. I hope you'll join me in The Daily Postcard. See you on the other side...

Please follow the link to The Daily Postcard:

http://thedailypostcard.blogspot.com/

Monday, 7 July 2008

aperture, break, gap, interruption, interval, lacuna, lull, pause, time off

Hello all,

I am taking a short hiatus from my Daily Tale-ing. I will be on holiday for a week and then, when I return there will be a revamp in order for my daily blog.

I hope you'll be back in a week to experience it...

Paul.

Friday, 4 July 2008

Fourth of July

" 'Cos I heard it in the wind and I saw it in the sky,
And I thought it was the end, I thought it was the fourth of July "

Chris Cornell


I saw a firework, dead, burnt, on the street. I reflected on how sad its resting place, how briefly it had burned and now how ignominious its fall.
At one time it had potential. Potential to explode and cause delight. Always while it had potential it was a special thing. A device of magic, waiting to bring wonder. In its short life of usefulness it was above us all. It could fly, it could shower us with metallic petals of light. Great golden arcs that would shard in the sky.
And then, dropping black and crippled onto an unlit street corner it could now only move if kicked or gusted by a force of nature.
Still, at least it had fulfilled its potential.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

The Vision

She looked at the image long and hard. She scratched her head to show him that she was thinking about, thinking long and hard. She moved her head around to jaunty angles, ways that she almost never moved her neck.
No matter what she did, or how she considered the possible illumination of the piece of artwork he displayed proudly before her she couldn’t ascertain any relevant meaning from it. It really was just a mess of paint to her.
She contemplated telling him this. Maybe he’d appreciate what it said to her, but she bit her tongue. She bit her fingernail as well and then stopped in case he was looking at her.
He wasn’t looking. He was sat on an old red sofa, spotted with paint and ripped open in places so that the stuffing poured out like fat. The sofa was turned away from the easel, away from where he worked so that he could at least try to switch off from his mind’s displays for a while.
The radio was on at that low volume that is as annoying as too loud. He was thinking, this artist, about something someone had said to him earlier. He stared at the music coming from the radio.
He found that he often realised that something interesting, something insightful about another person, had been revealed to him in conversation and he would only pick up on it later. By this time, the conversation had long faded to dust and there was little chance to query the interesting party. Another wasted opportunity.
“Celine,” he called without taking his eyes from the stereo. “What do you think?”
She stopped looking at the splurge on the canvas before her and bit her nail again. “Well, I loved the funny picture of the radioactive clown,” she said. “Very surreal!”
He smiled and nodded. He was pleased enough, but he found himself fighting not to ask her about the latest piece, the work he was proudest of.
“I’m glad you liked it,” he said. “Honestly, I am.” She moved uncomfortably in her jeans. They were just a little too tight and she felt it now as she walked back to the couch. The room was lit by just the spotlights pointing on the two easels and as she stepped away from these she felt more confident.
She picked up her long drink and nibbled the edge of the glass. There was room to sit next to the artist, on the couch, but Celine opted for a leather armchair facing him. She sat down slowly with her knees together and sipped her drink. The spotlights flared in her ice-cubes as she tipped the glass back.
“It’s a shame,” said the man, “that you didn’t like The Vision.” He referred here to the title of the strange abstract painting, and not in some grandiose way to his overall method or philosophy of painting.
The girl gulped her drink hard and swallowed an ice cube. It stuck in her chest and made her entire body tense up. She gritted her teeth against the cold.
“It’s not that I didn’t like it,” she said. “It’s that I didn’t understand it.” She fumbled now as the ice moved on away from her chest, “I’m sorry, sorry about that Robert. I just didn’t quite get it, maybe.”
“It’s a shame for us both, that you preferred the clown,” he said.
His words barely hung there for a second before her reply: “Why, Robert?”
Robert shook his head, then dropped it to the side a little and raised his eyes to look at her. His eyes looked softly and sadly upon her. “Maybe you don’t know why yet. But you will later,” he said.
They didn’t say anything for a minute or so. Just looked.
A buzzer sounded at the door. A man spoke.
“It’s David,” Celine said. “Shall I tell him to come up?”
“No, it’s fine. I have to finish up here. I’m tired. Goodnight Celine.”
Celine stood awkwardly and put down her glass. She looked down at Robert for a moment and then turned and stepped carefully across the wooden floor to the door, unbolted its latch and pulled hard. The great old metal door swung on creaking hinges.
“Goodnight Robert. I really did like your pictures, you know?”
Robert nodded.
“Don’t forget to lock the door behind me,” she said, stepping out of one world and into another.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

The octopus

A man standing on a beach casts his pet octopus into the sea.
He holds it by three of its legs and swings it in dizzying circles before letting go to send it flinging back into the sea where it was spawned. As it plops into the water, a red ball, he hopes it’s the last he’ll see of that octopus.
Sinking into its new home, the octopus lingers in the swell, growing accustomed to the new tastes and sights, but soon it spreads its legs and swims off into the deeper waters, in search of dark rocks and things to eat.
The man sits down on the sand. He has had that octopus for three years. It was a treasured gift of a former lover, now gone.
The waves break ever so gently on this shore. So gently, in fact, that the short breakers have created a tiny shelf at the point where the sand remains dry and full. Upon this shelf climbs a green crab. It has come from the sea, allowing itself to be deposited there by the tide.
It sidles towards the man, unnoticed, then nips at his sandals and toes.
“Woah!” the man lets out expressions of concern. He looks for some flotsam to flick this crab away or something heavy with which to crush its shell. But before he can find this he hears a voice.
“Brian, what have you done?” He stares down at the green crab. “You have cast away your only friend.” The crab speaks. And it addresses him by name.
“Strange creature,” says Brian. “How came you to speak so, and know my given name?”
The green crab replied that he was one of the great seers of the sea, and with the lobster, the ray and the narwhal, views all that occurs both above and below the waves.
“The cockles sang to me, from the rocks over there,” continued the green crab. “And then the sprats and starfish whispered to each other that the octopus had returned to us, before his time.”
The green crab explained that the octopus was a great talisman, a conduit between the realms of sea and land. Such creatures were placed in homes throughout all the continents of the world, allowing the seers to get a clear view of the airy world above them, helping them make decisions and policies for life under the sea.
“Even your partner, Selkie, was put into your life by us. Once she thought a bond had been established between you and the octopus she knew she had to return to the ocean.”
“Now, you must go and retrieve your octopus, Brian. You must try. Only you can find it.” And with these words the green crab motioned with its right claw, beckoning Brian towards the sea.
Brian stood up, proudly and with purpose, now. He had to do this, he knew, though it seemed impossible. He would swim and swim, and search and search, until he found his red octopus once more.
He stepped into the light foam of the surf and pushed on until he was waist deep. Then he turned back towards the crab and waved. The green grab seemed to be waving too. Brian lifted his legs from the sandy sea bed and started to swim and swim.
It was difficult to move his arms though, and his legs cut sluggishly through the water. He looked to his arm as he tried to take it from the water. Fifteen small octopuses of various colours were clinging to it, dragging on it.
As he stopped swimming he felt the myriad suckers of a thousand tentacles attaching themselves to his body. Hundreds of octopuses grappled with him and he began to feel sharp stinging sensations across his body. A larger tentacle then wrapped about his head and Brian slowly disappeared beneath the blue waters.
The green crab, safe on the shore, stopped waving and skittered off across the wet sand, feeling satisfied and looking out for a warm rock pool to hunt in.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Reunion

The three lads, bounding through the weeds at the trackside stopped for breath.
Johnny, the youngest, legs wobbling with the effort, wanted to sit down but he fought that feeling with all his might. He was out with his dad now.
His brother, Michael, stood up as straight as he could, sucked in a lungful of air and puffed out his chest proudly. His father patted his head rather heavily.
Dad had come to see them today and their mother had rolled her eyes. It was their uncle’s birthday, their dad had said, and so he had thought of something for them all to do. ‘A family outing’, he called it.
They’d crawled under wire fences, scrambled down dirty banks and jumped from heights that Johnny had previously thought impossible to survive. These were all things his mother and his teachers had told him never to do, but here he found himself, on an overgrown railway embankment, with his father, watching the trains go by.
“Not far to go now, guys,” said Peter. He was revelling in his new found role of leader, a figure to be feared and obeyed. “Just round the next bend,” he said, “that’s where it happened.”
They hacked onward with their feet until they came to a brown stone wall. Peter led them slowly down the bank and onto the gravel at the side of the railway track. A curving tunnel opened cavernously before them.
“Right,” he said. “When I say the word we’re going to run for it. There shouldn’t be another train for 10 minutes anyway, but we’re better safe than sorry.”
Michael looked a little incredulous at this, but Johnny pushed in front of him, eager to race away into the darkness at his father’s command.
“Now come on, son. Michael’s first up and then you follow him on. I’ll be close behind you, okay?”
Johnny nodded; Michael said nothing and just stared ahead into the gloom and then at his shoes.
“Alright go,” said Peter, but Michael didn’t move.
“Come on Mike, head up and run for it.” Michael’s body moved, almost imperceptibly, but again he held himself back.
“For God’s sake Mikey, fucking go for it you prick!” His father raised his voice and his hand and Michael was away.
He ran blindly into the darkness, stumbling upon the rail and then vanishing. His father screamed after him to bear left and not to trip on the tracks, his voice echoing about him in madness.
Peter held Johnny by the shoulders as the child strained to follow his brother. As soon as his son stopped struggling, Peter plunged ahead of him onward into the tunnel.
He found it curved round gently and then light flooded back into its far mouth. Out into the daylight, not far up the track, Michael sat on the rail, crying.
Peter ran on, out of the tunnel towards his eldest son but his mind was gripped by responsibilities and he turned around to see what he’d forgotten. Johnny came then, whimpering out of the darkness, rubbing his red eyes and peering at his father with that look of fear and disappointment that can tear at a man’s chest.
Peter strode towards him, picked the boy up with one arm and then stumbled across the thickly piled gravel at the railside until they reached Michael.
He resisted the urge to grab the lad roughly with his spare arm, instead holding out a hand to him. “Come on,” he urged, adding: “I’m sorry.”
Michael looked up graciously and took the hand. Soon they were all sitting on the grass bank looking back at the railway.
“This is it,” said their father. “This is the spot where your uncle Mikey died.”
They all stared at a spot on the track and imagined it happening there. Noticing there were two different sets of tracks before him, Johnny spoke up with a sniff: “Dad, which side was it, that uncle Mikey got hit by the train?”
His father looked long and hard at the two sets of track and didn’t answer for a minute. He realised he couldn’t remember. He had no idea any more.
Peter scratched his beard a little, turned to his boys and pointed at the track nearest them. Three pairs of eyes converged on that point.
A horn sounded in the tunnel and a train rushed by. “It’s early,” said Michael.

Monday, 30 June 2008

The dream box

At 3am I was awakened by the sound of struggle.
The TV whistled to the sound of static and its glare lit up vague bookcases filled with things I may have read. The couch stank with the droppings of a day and night spent filling oneself with carbohydrates and poisons.
I stood groggily. A tiny fly buzzed by my hand. The curtains stood open and I saw mellow streetlamps fizzing on the other side of the road.
I could hear Sarah in the bedroom. Her twisting movements on the mattress caused the sheets to whisper and the springs to croak. She spoke, but too quietly to be heard between walls.
My mind moved slowly, as if through water, like a mill-wheel or the great paws of a bear. She must have come in sometime after eleven. She mustn’t have wanted to wake me. But why didn’t she turn the TV off at least?
I sensed objects moments before I crashed into them or stubbed my toe. The buzz of the fly and the TV faded to the tune of Sarah’s breath. She swallowed air like she was drowning somewhere.
I made it to the hallway and could see that the door to the bedroom was open wide. I slid over the passage by stretching my arms forth and allowing them to catch my weight as I dripped across the space. There I held myself, crucified within the wooden frame of the door, staring at Sarah.
The curtains were drawn tightly in there and it took perhaps a minute for my pupils to compensate for the freshness of the darkness. And there she struggled, against the whims of her mind, against the heat of the morning, against the suffocating covers that she gripped like a lover.
Collapsing then, into the room I loomed over the foot of the bed like a spreading ghoul, a watching phantom delighting in his handiwork. Using the edge of the bed as my guide to her, I moved around keeping Sarah always in my gaze.
She spoke to someone, entreating them. Such a helpless thing she was, and as I saw the sweat trickling from her brow I moved to wipe it clear; moved but slipped to my knees at her side.
And there, in a small box floating perpendicular to the bedside I could see her dream; sparking, cold and full of fear. All life and colour was being drained slowly from the screen before me. Inside it, Sarah floundered in the midst of a muddy veil as black shapes, amorphous clouds of soot, flitted about pushing down this grey net around her so that it began to cut into her lips and gums when she screamed.
I tried to get to my feet, to turn myself off from the horror I was viewing, but in either field of my vision I could see separate Sarahs writhing in synchronized agonies and I was transfixed.
I sat there, watching those demons plague her until the light from the dream grew as dim as the room. As the final drop of colour and the last pinprick of light faded from the dream box, my head slumped against the mattress. Soon I joined Sarah in dreams again, and my head whirled there until morning.
When the daylight lifted my eyelids several hours later I was damp and shivering and crawled into bed beside her. She’d discarded the quilt and was now sleeping coolly in a loose ball. I dragged the covers back on with my last drops of strength and sanity and snuggled in behind her.
Time stabilised soon after, our temperatures aligned and our bodies took on that soundless motionless sleep; the sort of sleep that adults envy in their children, as they watch them in fear and awe each night. They stand there helpless wondering where their child has gone to, what they are seeing and how they can possibly protect them there.

Friday, 27 June 2008

An ode to lunch

Finishing the week, with some symmetry, and following on the poetry theme, here is a paean to that time in the day when we put down our tools and briefly run wild: lunchtime.

Well, how sounds the call to arms that dost the luncheon bring?
Can any man amongst thee lay a feast befits a king?
Women tell in hush-ed corners that the sandwiches are near;
While men they rush and falter, just an hour to sup their beer.
Oh the midday hour, and hunger's power, it doth a madness start,
Whence gluttony meets lunacy and pulls one's sense apart.
But me, I stroll oblivious as I pass the gawpers by,
And I shall greet thee, starkers, eating lettuce from a pie.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Lakeland (part three)

Rose stole into her mother’s room and peered about it. The curtains were drawn but daylight seeped about the drapes.
After a moment she could see the strange shape of a figure upon the bed. It was naked and its body bulged in places her mother’s didn’t. Everything was bigger, from the arch of the back to the width of the arms.
Rose’s mouth opened slightly, but she bit her bottom lip and kept herself standing there.
Beneath this mass of flesh writhed her mother. She whimpered, as if she was being crushed against her will but had finally succumbed to the inevitability of oblivion.
Everything about this scene was unrecognisable to Rose. The room had changed from the place she had known. It had never been a joyous place, but it had been a place she recognised and felt safe in. Now it was tainted with strange noises and unfamiliar scents.
Afraid of waking the great beast that was draining the life from her mother, Rose whispered: “Mummy, are you alright?” At no response from either figure she raised her voice so that it became a bizarre croak, a sound unlike any she’d ever emitted before.
Her mother seemed to open her eyes at this point and become aware of the monster, squeezing the vitality from her. But instead of fighting it off and comforting her child, scolding words were issued forth and deities were called upon.
“Oh my god, Rose! Get out of here, get out now,” shouted her mother. The creature atop stirred now, to see what the commotion was all about. Its face lifted to look at her mother and then turned slowly to regard the little girl.
Rose saw the face of a man staring, almost without comprehension, into hers. At this point she let out her scream and darted back through the door.
Her mother called after her as she fled down the stairs: “An hour. An hour was all I asked for, Rose.” The slamming front door separated a mother’s cries from a daughter’s tears.
Rose ran blindly from the house and across between the rows of perfect little cabins until she reached the grassy meadow. Here the wet grass rubbed her face mixing clinging rain water with salty tear drops.
She strove on through the tall grasses, until she fell through the last of the thicket and landed in the shallow stream that runs out into the lake.
In the summer, her and Chester would wade through here chasing brown fish and splashing each other with the cooling water. Today she just sloshed through it, soaking her knee socks and ruining her shoes. She dragged her little legs on through the stream toward the lake, sobbing hard so that it was difficult to catch breath.
Through her bloodshot eyes she saw the great expanse of blue water fanning out in front of her and Rose wanted so much to become a part of that beautiful tranquil scene.
Through her splashing she became aware of another pair of feet crashing through the water, coming towards her. She slowed down and soon felt an arm around her shoulder. She wanted to sink into this person, whoever they were, but she held still and let them turn her around.
It was Chester and as she hugged him there in the stream all her fears and strange thoughts flowed seamlessly away through his arms and into his chest.
Rose’s big brother sat her down on the grass bank of the lake, took her socks and shoes off and rubbed her feet to keep them warm.
She’d stopped crying now, but her voice wavered still. “We have to stay out here a little bit longer,” she said, shivering a little. “We’re not to go back in the house just yet.”
Chester looked into his sister’s eyes and nodded gently. He sat down on the bank too, put his arm around her shoulders and they looked out together across the lake at the boats and the ducks, the green hills and the slowly greying sky.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Lakeland (part two)

Lakeland Estate was a grouping of twenty-four log cabins, set on the shores of one of the Lake District’s favourite stretches of water.
Many of these cabins were sold as holiday homes or timeshare properties, but Rose, Chester and their mother lived there all year round.
It was often a very lonely experience, especially in the winter when few people visited. It was cold too. Their mother felt the cold bitterly.
In summer it was better. There were always other children to play with, though they rarely stayed longer than a week at a time. Rose and Chester formed more firm friendships over the course of one summer season than many children managed in their entire youths.
Sometimes, when Rose grew tired of gazing at the bobbing boats or the dabbling drakes, she would turn around and stare at the grouping of the cabins, laid out perfectly before her. Each cabin had been placed in a spot an exact distance from the next, and that pattern was repeated on the row behind, going back up the hillside. Each cabin was offset to the side of the one in front of it, so that each had a forward view of the lake. It was all of a pleasing fit.
And then the cabins themselves, they too were made to an exacting design. From a distance it almost seemed like they couldn’t or shouldn’t possibly be able to stand up, without the tree trunks buckling and falling apart, scattering the insides of the house all over the front lawn.
But these too interlocked and joined in a perfect design, as if nature had decreed it so. The strange 3-D jigsaw of a genius giant.
It was their house, the fifth property (the first cabin to the left on the second row of properties) that Rose now approached, and her eyes flicked about the front windows for signs of life. She saw no movement.
Gingerly, she stepped up the single metal step outside and tugged ever so gently at the door so that it made almost no sound as she clicked it open.
Looking at the clock Rose could tell that she’d been outside for just over half an hour. That would just have to do.
On the kitchen table she spied a familiar sight. An empty bottle of red wine lay on its side there, its last drops spilled like holy tears. Upstairs she heard music playing.
At once, Rose was struck by some unfamiliar feelings. She felt uneasy in her own house, as if the rules of normality had ceased or at least been changed. She had an urge to go upstairs and see if her drunken mother was alright. But the blood froze in her veins as she thought about mounting the first step on the staircase to her mother’s bedroom.
She hesitated and held there, one brown shoe seemingly nailed to the stair carpet. Her ears, her entire body strained to hear movement or a voice up in the room, her mother’s room. While by no means off bounds to her, Rose didn’t like to go near her mother’s bedroom when she was drinking.
After what seemed like ten minutes, there on the stair (it had really been just two), the little girl began her climb in steady earnest.
Deftly and with some experience she avoided the creaking stair. The music, blaring from the radio, got louder with every step.
Outside her mother’s open bedroom door she hesitated. Looking past it, down the landing, she could see the door to her safe, pretty room standing slightly ajar, beckoning and welcoming her.
Rose proudly ignored the lure, the temptation to run, and listened for noise in the room. She heard the rustling of the bed sheets and the sound of laboured breathing from within. Fighting her cold blood once again, the girl stepped into her mother’s room.

...to be continued...

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Lakeland

A blur of blue and white, the two children in their very best clothes ran down to the shoreline.
There, they picked out stones and pebbles, the flattest ones all the better for skimming the furthest.
The two siblings, Rose and Chester battled furiously. Each strained to flick their arms quicker, harder, stronger than the other.
Chester caught a good one. Two, three, four, five, six. His broken piece of slate hopped the small waves breaking on the lakeside and whizzed on like a rotor blade toward the horizon.
Rose managed just a couple of small leaps before her stone sploshed into the clear shallows at the side of Derwent Water.
Chester was buoyed by his skimming success. “Maybe I can hit one of the boats out in the middle?” he cried, jumping with excitement.
Rose turned and walked to the grass bank at the edge of the small pebbled beach. She plonked herself down and looked up at the afternoon sky, scudded with cirrus, scraping the day clean.
“How long will mummy be?” she asked Chester, with the hint of a whine. “I’m bored already.”
Her older brother let out a brisk ‘tsk’ noise. “She said to play out for an hour or so,” he replied. “Come and throw some more stones.”
Chester was trusting of his mother, and happy to play out at the lakeside and in the nearby woods until the sun began to make its first dip beyond the Cumbrian hills. But Rose was not an child spirited by the idea of adventures into the hills, climbing the tall trees or swimming in the lake, come summer. She sought the comfort of her favourite chair, her books and her bedroom.
“I’m going to the meadow to pick flowers,” Rose said with a sniff, turned her back on her brother and began to march in the direction of the wild unkempt grasses growing to the side of Lakeland Estate.
She knelt and the long plants bowed under her weight, protecting her knees from the wet ground. It had rained earlier and the spring leaves were dappled-down with sunlit dew. Rose watched one of these leaves for five minutes, until she witnessed one of the water droplets successfully detaching itself and falling into the thick undergrowth below.
Nature fascinated her. She loved to collect frogspawn and watch the tadpoles grow. She would stare from her bedroom window with wide-eyed fascination as lightning flashed across the lake during a summer storm, while poor old Chester quivered beneath his covers.
She liked to look at it, but she hadn’t learned to love it yet. She grew quickly tired of being outside, she was cold and bored now. It was time to head home.

...to be continued...