This is a piece written from just one of many experiences visiting the residential home where my elderly mum is currently cared for, fortunately without the affliction of dementia.
The coded door clicked open and the now familiar floral aroma swept out to greet me. Inside there were the usual background sounds, quiet unrecognisable voices, doors opening and closing and the occasional chuckle of soft laughter; but all very discreet.
The large communal area was empty except for its high-backed comfortable chairs set in a semi-circle around the electric fake fire on the wall. A short stout lady in smart pale blue tunic distracted me usual path past them toward the wings.
“The lunches are a little late today, can you wait ‘till their done?”
“Hi Jackie, no problem, how are you today? I’ll just sit here for a bit shall I?”
“Make a coffee if you want, you know where the stuff is”
The kettle was hot and the coffee welcome, the chair even more so after the long twice weekly cycle ride. There was music playing quietly from somewhere but it was just to take away the relative silence. Despite the sun outside being the brightest it had been for weeks, the flicker of artificial flames on the curved black glass of the fire captivated my gaze hypnotically.
There was a shuffling sound.
“Can you let me outside please, I have to go home now.”
The voice was familiar although I didn’t really know anything about the person that stood leaning on her walking frame next to me.
“Hello, I’m sorry I can’t open the door, it’s not safe to go outside I don’t think.”
“But I’ve had my dinner and now I need to go and get ready for the children to come home from school!” the wobble in her voice gave away the degree of concern that she obviously felt.
“I think they’ll be able to manage, don’t you?” I tried to sound sympathetic but firm.
“But they can’t get in, the house is locked up when I come for my dinner, I said I didn’t want to come today but they insisted, and it was sponge pudding, my favourite.”
A half-smile lit in her eyes.
“Why don’t you pop back and see if there’s some seconds, I bet there’s lots.”
The suggestion was made with good intention but as much for myself as the frequent conversations like this were always difficult.
“Do you run this place? It’s like a prison, all the locked doors, not like my house, I leave my doors open, my husband was the postman, he used to pop in for a cup of tea every day you know,” the light in her stare brightened at the potential memory.
“That’s nice,” I had always found it helped to be pleasant but non-committal in these situations.
“He’s still at the front, getting shot at they tell me I haven’t seen him for so long, could you find out when he’s coming back?”
The question didn’t require an answer.
“Winnie, Winnie dear, shall we go back and finish your lunch?”
The soft lilting tone of the returning uniform which had appeared from somewhere unseen, was meant to calm and reassure, but also be firm.
“Hi Jackie we were just talking about lunch,” I smiled knowingly at the kind face as she raised her eyebrows as a silent comment.
“Don’t think I’m staying all day again, my husband, he’ll be home and the children, what about the children?”
“The children will be fine Winnie, don’t worry about them,”
“But Charlie will want his dinner on the table ready.”
“Charlie’s not here now is he?” Jackie had taken the confused Winnie by the arm and was gently guiding the walking frame towards one of the wide doors leading to the residents living quarters.
“Can I get the door for you?” having already stood up and stepped forward, my finger was outstretched for the keypad while I was trying to remember the code to unlock it.
“Are you coming back for tea young man? My son is looking for someone to play football with afterwards if your mum would let you?”
“He’s got things to do Winnie, let’s just sort you out and find that lunch shall we, you liked the salmon you said?”
There was a pause in the progress and Winnie struggled to lift her head to look in my general direction.
“Are you going to find those socks I lost, someone keep stealing them you know, I can’t find two the same anywhere.”
“OK Winnie,” I leant forward to appear sympathetic, “you go and finish your lunch and I’ll see what I can do.”
The carer mouthed a silent ‘thank you’ and gently urged the hunched figure forward once more. The door whooshed open from the correct code and then clicked closed again behind the two slowly shuffling figures.
The coffee had formed a bit of a skin but was still welcome. The noises around the building started to ramp up as lunch was finally finished in each of the wings and people appeared from doors and corridors for the day to move into its afternoon phase, mostly napping on full stomachs. Jackie re-appeared and we shared another knowing smile.
“You can go through now I would think.”
“Thanks Jackie, I’ll look for those socks on my way shall I?”
© David Rollason
This is a fun, fantasy piece but written with a small degree of hope behind it.
The sea whispered soothingly against the brilliant white of the sandy shoreline. The waves bobbed up and down as they washed slowly closer to the foaming edge of the waterline but the plastic tube that poked out of the crystal clear water was not really visible to those relaxing on the beach.
The snorkel wearing explorer that I was pretending to be sank back into the water and I moved further along the edges of the coral reef as there had been no-one of interest at that particular point. When I next surfaced it was just enough to see along the water’s surface still hoping not to be noticed. This time an eagle sharp eye inside the mask caught something that sent a tingle down my spine. Not just the fluorescent pink speedos, but the brilliant white smile that caught the sunlight on the smooth and tanned face of its wearer. That person was chatting with what looked like an over friendly guy but luckily neither noticed that they were being watched; that was good, for now at least.
After making a note of where this person was on the beach, I slid back under the water and splashed my way back to the jetty near the beach bar that stood out on stilts into the clear warm waters.
Sweeping the droplets of water from my face and closely cropped scalp, there was an exchange of mask and air tube for a drinks tray that the bartender was holding out. It had become a regular custom to take refreshment later in the afternoon after a swim but today was slightly different; today I needed to know more about the eye candy that I had spotted. Silently I indicated to the barman that we needed another one more of the tall cold glasses that was already dripping with condensation in the heat of the day.
Feeling the temperature of the sand through the still damp soles of my feet and still dripping sea water, I made my way along the beach trying to look relaxed but knowing I had a rather special goal in my mind. The journey was not as easy as you might have thought, there were several pairs of the brightly coloured swimwear similar to those I was looking for but none had the beauty of the wearer I was being drawn to.
Admittedly there were many members of the body beautiful crowd who frequented this private beach front of the Shangri-La’s Boracay Resort and there were even more up in the infinity pool above them, but the muscles and curvaceous figures had little attraction today; neither did the undoubtedly beautiful women fawning over most of them.
Taking a long pull through the straw of one of the drinks, I was concerned that it might be getting warm in the summer heat buffering off the sands, but it was not too bad; for now anyway. Eyes searched further ahead and my strides became a little longer. Then quickly, there he lay, a firm sculpted torso propped up on one elbow, long moulded legs stretching out off the edge of the tastefully bright hotel towel.
The flash of his white smile was almost dazzling set in soft brown features where dimpled cheeks framed rich full lips that curved into a wide crescent smile which outshone all others in view. Long fluttering eye-lashes flirted innocently with the another guy’s equally smooth flawless body, which was noticeably trying to slide closer to the other. My approach went unnoticed to him but I knew this interloper stood no chance of sampling the affections of the dreamy features that looked up as I finally joined the non-event.
“Nemuel my dear, I think someone needs to go and get an iced drink to cool off!” My words were directed at the soon to be retreating well-muscled figure, “the bar is that way or the sea is straight in front of you!”
He took the hint easily, not that he would have done anything else as I stood menacingly over him. It was just a game really, I knew that my Nemuel had eyes only for me and likewise me for him; it was the way it had been since we first made contact in cyber space all those months before.
“David, you are so bad, he goes to my mother’s shop, he was only chatting!”
“I know but it doesn’t do any harm to let these others know that you are with me, you don’t mind do you?”
He narrowed deep-set beautiful green eyes in mock disapproval but reached out a long slender hand to rub against the reddening skin of my rather white body still holding the now not so cold drinks.
“You should get out of the sun, you’re too white,” he laughed a gentle but exquisitely rich sound that made my insides move and I could feel the damp swimwear getting tighter.
Sitting down before I embarrassed myself this was after-all still a private if busy mixed sex beach complex.
“Will you rub some more cream on me then?” I pretended to be upset by his comment, “We can’t all be as naturally beautiful as you can we?”
The stoking of my leg turned into a gentle slap to my thigh as I slid onto the towel he had straightened out from the other guy sitting on it.
“You just lie down and I’ll look after you as usual, you poor white boy!”
I made a sound of my own against his comment but it didn’t mean anything. Having to turn over to my front quickly, the consequences of the pleasures I was about to get from the touch of cool sensuous fingers on my fast burning skin was almost too much to believe. Inside I was starting to burn with another kind of desire yet to be fulfilled with my exotic and beautiful Pilipino friend.
Reluctantly closing my eyes, I hoped that it was not all a dream but the soft, purposeful kiss between my shoulder blades made it very real indeed.
This is a piece written about taking my Nigerian girlfriend to the remote and very ‘English’ village where I lived back in 1979
Home Grown Refugee
In a place where white is historically the norm
face of colour was brought although still born…
in the same country, here she was delivered,
to a place where faces frowned and sentiments shivered.
Feelings hidden, forced smiles slice forward
while onlookers take an all too obvious step backward,
Although people are just that, just people,
She finds herself excluded, a social cripple.
Faces stare showing gross disappointment,
and sensitivity falls well short of warmth or compliment.
Only one stands up for this wrongly excluded,
And tries to point out the pain of hate to the deluded.
Forced to justify her race, her colour and even creed,
It’s like a trial, you cringe, and your ears almost bleed.
It’s hard to believe this face of colour could be so cast down,
Not quite cast out but a refugee still, only home-grown here born.
Can we ever see past skins of a different pallor?
What does it matter, the faith of the wearer?
Who is so much better to make a discriminatory judgment?
Where can this terrifying difference find positive evolvement?
Eventually accepted, she in general, but not specific,
Life is tolerable, maybe acceptable, but somehow peripatetic,
Often referred to as the dark one, ha, sometimes the chocolate beauty,
But underlying the smiles still her difference, sits awkward and acutely.
The shock of the cold weather is something we should be used too after living all these years, why does it never feel that way?
The ice-cold air stings ears
Its whistle stimulates tears
You only popped to the shops
But it’s as though they’re lopped
Off. Push cycle peddles harder
If colder but it’s faster
Ignore the hood of your hoodie
It’s not cool, youthful but shoddy
This will teach you a must
As off the bus too late you cussed
That favourite warm hat gone
It’s too late for looking wan
It’s an age degrading mind
That finds many things left behind
The ice-cold air stings ears
It whistles, not calming those deeper fears.
This is an experimental story-line, just to see if it has the motivation to live……
The dust in the moon’s developing atmosphere gave a rather misty view of the small blue marble that had been emblem of the colony all those decades before; before the settlement and terraforming process had really got hold. The process and any kind of atmosphere had only become a reality of the last 100 years but the introduction of the recognisable organics in the last twenty.
The polymer skinned tunnels and habitats that the early settlements had used were long gone, not that very many knew about them or would recognise them as they had been constructed on the edge of the dark side of the moon and out of prying eyes from the intelligentsia down on Planet 001. It had been part of just one of many plans for escaping the dying planet. First there had been the orbiting space stations that developed into launch platforms to get things to the moon to make a launch pad for Mars more viable. Before that could work well, technology made a few of its unexpected leaps and the Mars colony was attainable without this relatively short hop. Once started, the seemingly abandoned system continued to develop and with the many distractions in the chaos of failing humanity and competing artificial intelligences, it had been enough then and was more than adequate now to disguise the ambitious plans.
The original higher organics were also long gone but they had served their purpose. Fortunately, most of the recognisable fauna and flora had endured on this mainly grey, dusty, pox marked rock.
A heavily built creature lifted its head, distracted from picking off the tiny green tips of struggling vegetation to watch the colourful earth rise. Although it had never been there, something deep in its gene structure must have held onto something that the AIs’ had never been able to replicate. Oh yes they were superior in almost every other way but the core, now self-generating algorithms had never been able to find that one thing that made other life different. The interruption of this nondescript organic meant that it had also stopped breathing, just long enough to suffer from the lack of any substantive gas mixture and it wavered on its large flat feet before instinctively turning towards where it knew there was more to be found. The other similar creatures hardly lifted their low heads but waved short trunks as their compatriot re-joined them. It was greener around there but still predominately lifeless.
The thin and still developing atmosphere had begun by installing the simple oxygen engines above the moon’s polar caps and drilling down into the ancient ice and other chemical reserves stored deep under the surface. It had been the great plan that humans would step to the stars but it was their self-destructive nature that had ruined any chance of that happening. In-fighting between political, social and monetary systems meant that it would never get off the ground, literally. Despite there being many rocket launches, the greed of man ensured the sabotage and destruction that typified humanity at the late stage in its short existence, the plans only became viable when a simpler but arguably more intelligent race took over from the failing organic madness. The plans had always feasible, it was other elements that doomed them to failure, now, with those out-of-the-way, a few of the more developed AI systems continued the process and were covertly witnessing its success.
Paradoxically, the latest operators of the experiment had of course no need for such an environment, each was self-sustaining and independent in almost every earth-bound environment. At that point they had constructed themselves to require nothing more than the core programmes of their individual or collective roles; until this point.
This is a piece that should be self-explanatory, for some anyway….
From a quiet without peace
in a box without exits,
sky barred from the inside,
in a world with no light.
Hard bedding, hard seating,
hard walls, floors and ceiling,
hard luck for your freedom
locked safely away.
A pad mate that you had
no choice in selecting,
nice boy or some nut case,
you just hope for some care.
Try making some new friends
take note in the choosing,
you may get a little
more man than you need.
Blue jeans and thin sweat shirt
give no man one quarter,
ill fitting and shapeless,
it’s wear it or freeze.
In cell or out yard side,
time passes but no speed,
your term locked around
you will take its own pace.
With smart shirt and black shoes,
tie clipped at the bull neck,
young warder or old hack
takes pleasure in pain.
Not always the hard kind
but inside your psyche,
they hold all that keeps you
from knowing your name.
With hard times ev’n good times,
the choice is no longer
the one, maybe once
was all yours to command.
Just sit out your sentence,
the loss of your loved ones,
all memories and fancies,
locked safely away.
This morning, here in the UK, I heard a so called debate on the television about some proposed new scheme for warning the youth of today, including from 4 year olds and up about the dangers and warning signs of sexual abuse. To be funded by the government of course, I acknowledge that it is a very serious subject but it was the straw that just about broke this camel’s back. You might like to make a cup of tea first for this.
I won’t discuss that particular issue in detail as it is still only a proposal and hopefully common-sense will reign and it will be tackled more sensitively given its importance. My thoughts here are on parental and social responsibility in more general terms.
Firstly, to address the Nay Sayers of this world who will no doubt be the first to respond (if anyone does). I fully understand that there are always cases and circumstances where any generalisation that I may appear to address will-not and cannot apply. Although this small but important minority often makes the headlines, the bigger picture is just as important. To get the resources, backup and support that these genuine case deserve, society needs to stand up and take responsibility for themselves so that those precious and always limited recourses can be better directed.
There are so many areas where the principals I discuss can be applied but I will stick with the more obvious, hopefully for it to become evident for the rest.
Case One: The number of Children that are born in a family.
I have no problem what-so-ever with large families. My mother was one of nine, but, given the high street availability of contraception both general and advanced, why is it that many of these families are reliant on state benefits and all manner of other social aid? The more cynical side of me hears ‘keep having them luv and rack up the benefits’ but in many cases it is so true. The more reasonable side of me thinks that, if you can afford the family you want then have as many as you want! At least in recent years, all be it lip-service to the problem, child benefit is being limited a little; too little too late? I could repeat that phrase many time but will refrain from it if I can.
Case Two: Obesity, especially in children.
How, in all that is sensible, is it the responsibility of government for the type of food that is shoved into the mouths of ourselves and our children. I say ‘our’ children as I have had two and so am not very far above the situation while standing on this, my little soap box. The type of food, but mostly the volume of food is a growing problem. It is a proven fact that it costs as much at eat a balanced and healthy diet as it does to eat the absurd volumes of processed and nutritionally irrelevant food that so often fills the freezers and cupboards of the western world. I am almost driven to tears when I listen to proposals for a Sugar Tax to deter the sales of sweets and sugar laden baked beans and the like. When ever did a hike in price ever stop people doing or having things, they just go without something sensible or even worse options. Why are we, the public, funding gastric bands for teenagers? Why are school children having to go to a breakfast club? Why are schools being undermined over promoting healthy school dinners? We have all hear of Jamie Oliver’s school dinner campaigns, those parents who were bringing McDonalds (many other fast foods are also available to deride) to the school fence to placate their nutritionally uneducated children’s palettes should surely face criminal proceedings!
Which leads me neatly onto the next case.
Case Three: Self-inflicted medical issues.
You can find on late night television almost every night, ‘entertainment’ programmes about our hard presses police, fire and ambulance services tackling the stupidity of drunken irresponsibility and worse on our streets. Disappointingly I am realistic enough to know that you will never get certain layers of society to accept responsibility for themselves, that unfortunately has always been a lost cause. Let me illustrate a point of responsibility; some years ago, I was unfortunate to have a collision on my car, (there are no such things as accidents remember), an unsuspecting road worker stepped backwards in-front of me where there was no time or room to avoid a coming together. The young chap was fortunately unhurt and no damage to the car, not that that mattered. After the embarrassment for the guy when his foreman made him strip almost to his underwear to check for physical damage, there being none we exchanged details and all went on with our day. Two weeks later, I had a letter that was a bill for the ambulance that the foreman had decided he needed to call, just in case. I had no problem with the bill but it illustrates how we seem to be going backwards in our thinking on such things; you won’t get a bill now where I think you still should. Why do sensible members of what is supposed to be a civilised society have to foot the bill for drunk people causing a public nuisance, drug addicts who refuse help to get off their addiction, clinically obese people who refuse to address their diets, people requiring operations but refuse to give up smoking or drinking or many other situations that you can easily identify.
I will reiterate my earlier submission that there will always be genuine cases that are out of an individual’s control and I am fully supportive of those, it is these that should be getting the resources that are, in my opinion, being wasted on those who self-inflict.
Case Four: Being polite.
It is easy to push this subject away with the old potato of it being a ‘generational thing’ but how rotten that potato is going to be in the very foreseeable future; if not already. When and where did that basic civilised concept of Respect disappear? I’m not talking about the Emily Bronte type lords and ladies contrived and protracted protocols but it is something of a rarity now to hear a simple Please or Thank You. Personally I press the point whenever I can and will often make a show of an individual if only for my own satisfaction. From such little acorns, civility might grow rather than the slide towards the lowest common denominator, as are so many things and I stand by an old but timeless adage that I was bought up with, “If you have nothing nice to say, then say nothing at all.” How much easier it is not do something rather than actively offend, abuse, swear and disrupt. This ties into the next case; and the last for now anyway.
Case Five: Discipline.
What happened to the concept of being punished and accepting it, for doing something wrong? I have to say for the cynical reader, I have done plenty of things that I shouldn’t have, but you will never have heard me complain about any justifiable punishment. My further comments come from observing five generations in my lifetime; my grandparents, my own parents, me and my siblings and now own children plus their youngsters. What a terrible and escalating downward step change there has been over that time in the attitude towards other people in general. This now so often falls to ‘passing the buck’ where it’s social services fault, the government for not providing facilities, the television stations for showing violent films, video games that make mass murder a thing of fun; everybody but those that it is. Keeping up with the neighbours or school mates for the latest tech often foregoing everyday living basics. Worse of all, mistakenly thinking that so many things in this life are a right, when really they are a privilege; I could write a blog on that one alone (perhaps I will). Just one example, taking children out of school in term time to go on holiday. If you have children in school are you really happy to deny them a block of their education for a few hours of sun? Some will pay the fine as it’s often still cheaper than the inflated prices of holiday weeks but think nothing of the effect on those that they should be responsible for. Fines mean nothing to most whereas two weeks in the sun or two weeks at her Majesty’s pleasure? You might guess which I would advocate,;but still have them pay the fine and upkeep while behind bars if I could get away with it; (another blog brewing there I think).
If you have read this far, congratulations; not many will have I’m sure.
Call me a ‘grumpy old man’ if you wish, I have broad shoulders but even those are crumbling in despair of a society that is going to have to somehow manage itself and the anarchy that is going to overwhelm us as the generations move forward.
The inimitable Jan Watts has definitely come up with the goods with this marvellous piece.
Although only an audience attended rehearsal in this developing play, it is easy to see that the finished work will be absolutely fantastic! The subject matter is one of personal substance and you are gripped from the very first minute with the chaos but intimacy of the storyline. The characters are so clearly defined that they grab your attention and draw you into the personal plight of each one.
Written from very personal experience, Jan has hit every nail on every head in her portrayal of confusion and social upheaval that families go through where so often Grandma is literally left holding the baby. The moving story of Kinship Care is portrayed perfectly but tempered with a perfect degree of amusement from the character of the Great Gran although even she has a poignant edge to her performance.
The combination of intuitive actors who all play strong and very real parts plus an important and often overlooked topic, even without a set, props or costume, I would have paid to see this one any day.
Please keep an eye out for further developments of this work as it moves to full stage production, hopefully later in the year.
Follow Jan and all her great work on her Facebook page from here – Jan Watts
This is the first part of a trilogy; it should be read as that. It could be interesting to see what questions the set or its parts may raise.
The tearful individual had walked over to acquire something, but quite what it was he didn’t seem to know. A shoulder to cry on, a sympathetic ear or just an escape from the difficulties that followed him round the recreation area?
The two had known of each other for some time, not really on an even footing but there had always been a classifiable link. Age was the only spoiler, to the outside world that is but such things had never seemed to be a problem for them; how society judged was its own concern. Here in the quiet that had been honestly sought and genuinely found, there was nothing that could be judged inappropriate; not for them anyway.
The younger slid his facing chair closer to gain a little more reassurance, knees touched to cement the transfer. Eyes didn’t need to meet nor words be exchanged as this wasn’t the first time they had been this close. The younger’s feelings now were just some of the many things stirred up by confusing natural developments which were at the same time, exciting; the possibility that his peers were going through the same things hadn’t proved to supply the empathy that he found in the here-and-now.
As if this current need had to be identified he held out a hand, not knowing where to place it or even what he wanted to be done with it, he relied on the experience of age. The slim pale fingers were taken gently but firmly to appreciate the warmth of the others body; their trembling finally stopped. Still no words had been exchanged, only the certainty of protection.
The background banter and noise faded as the rowdy group worked out that there was more fun to be had without someone older being in their field of play.
It was now just the two of them.
Neither moved nor communicated further, not verbally anyway as eventually the older gently lifted the boy’s chin to see if he was ready to talk; as he had done several times in similar situations. A flashing glance from the clear grey-green eyes told the older no but, although the smile of reassurance that was offered went unnoticed, the touching knee changed to a full leg length as the younger slipped easily round onto an adjacent chair. Single hands of each gripped palm to palm and the contact zipped up forearms to elbow and onto uneven shoulders. The smooth movement set a mop of manicured sun-streaked hair falling to one side as a delicate and as yet acne free cheek rested onto the pointed shoulder of the older. Still no words were shared.
Their breathing synchronised sympathetically and the world around them faded that little bit more.
It was difficult to make out who made the next move, perhaps no more one than the other but the response was so immediate as to make it impossible to assign blame; the underlying driving emotion for either party was likely to be very different.
It was actually the older’s hand which had been first to unclasp which allowed it to brush past the short-haired nape of the younger’s fine neck where it griped the developing shoulder to pull the figure tighter into him; the freed younger hand slipped easily into the heat and comfort of the older’s thigh. Each paused to gauge any immediate reaction; again, outwardly, there was none.
They had sat side by side before, trying to work out who was helping whom. Then, conversation had found nothing more than a mutual acceptance of a friendship but with a growing awareness of more than only that. For the younger it would have been sensing and appreciating maturity that his peers were still working out, for the older it was definitely an opportunity to live many moments that had never been realised at that volatile stage in his own life.
The impending escalation would provide adventures for them both, although inevitably in contrasting ways.
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inspirational,philosophical & my perspective towards society.
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In the kingdom of life, with the strokes of the brush, the bow and the pen, artists have sowed their hearts to contrive, fields rivalling in beauty the Garden of Eden.
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