Category Archives: Creative Writing

Addiction,Recovery, Relapse

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Addiction, recovery, relapse; it’s a loop which grips you like a noose. That first step to recovery is painful and frightening. Many addicts are in two minds about it when they take the first step, so it comes to nothing; in no time they are back on the street scoring. It’s claimed that you have to hit rock bottom before you’re ready for recovery, but rock bottom can be an awfully long way down, with untold dangers on the way.

It’s unusual for an addict to go into permanent recovery at the first attempt. They often get into that familiar pattern: addiction, recovery, relapse, addiction, recovery, relapse. This is traumatising for everyone who cares. Each time the addict relapses they are at high risk of overdose, as their tolerance for the drug has gone down. Family and friends often give up on the addict, but they need to know that with every attempt, there is more chance of success, just as every time a learner driver takes a driving test, they are more likely to pass.

So, addiction, recovery, relapse is a loop which grips you like a noose, but a noose can be untied. The circle can be broken, placing the addict in permanent recovery, though only time can tell if this has occurred.

Addicts get clean every day, and stay clean for the rest of their lives. Some of them go on to work tirelessly to support other addicts through recovery, though their hearts may be torn over and over again. I have great admiration for all recovering addicts.

Today, I pay tribute to recovered addicts everywhere; in particular, two brave young women who will remain nameless (it’s enough that they know who they are); a local man called Jimmy, who has become an inspiration to many in this town; Adam, at the Bideford Lighthouse project, and, of course, my daughter Laura.

I live in hope that I may add my son’s name to this list at some point.

With Grateful thanks to Sumyanna, whose thoughtful suggestion has given me new hope, and who may be pleased to learn that she inspired this post.

The Daily Post #Loop

©Jane Paterson Basil

Interesting times

My eldest Grandson and I stayed up all night, watching the results of the general election. It’s now almost 4.30pm. I still haven’t slept; I’m buzzing from the excitement. My family are getting together for an Indian takeaway in half an hour, to celebrate a comparative victory.

The results for Labour were better than anyone expected. Although they got less seats than the Conservatives, the Conservatives didn’t get enough to achieve an overall majority. They have 328 seats, having lost 12, Labour have 261 seats, having gained 31. The Conservatives plan to form a coalition with the Democratic Unionist Party, formed by right-wing racist Ian Paisley in 1971. It appears to have became a little less extreme since those early days.

The smaller parties lost out to tactical voting. It was nice to see UKIP being crushed underfoot, but I’m sad that the Green Party didn’t get more votes. The Scottish National Party had almost all of Scotland after the last election, with 54 MPs. They’ve slipped dramatically down to 35, with some areas plumping for labour, and others going for the Conservatives.

I’m with the Green party, but they had no chance of winning this election; the most we hoped for were a few seats, but I was a card carrying Labourite until the despicable Tony Blair appeared on the scene. I couldn’t continue my membership with him at the helm.

I think Jeremy Corbyn is one of the best things that’s happened to labour since the revered Aneurin Bevan was an MP. I wanted Labour to win. Jeremy achieved the highest vote ever recorded in his constituency of Islington; a wopping great 40,086 (in the last general election he got 20,659 votes, so that’s a an increase of 19,427 votes.) Somewhere in the distance, behind him, were the Conservatives, with 6,871, and the Liberal Democrats with 4,946.

That’s one in the eye for the Blairites who tried to push him out of the leadership. The country loves him, and so do his constituants. He’s a good, fair man, who wants the best for he people of this country.

Theresa May and her Cons have blown it. Political commentators and Conservative associates are pointing the blame for the humiliating result at Theresa May, which seems fair. She ran a terrible campaign, making a lot of slip-ups. Jeremy Corbyn is calling for her resignation, but she says she won’t stand down. The general opinion is that the Conservatives are ruthless cut-throats; she’s blotted her copy book so thoroughly it won’t be long before they dump her.

The Conservative Party should be a laughing stock by now; David Cameron chose to hold a referendum to prove that the people of the UK wanted to stay in the EU, then Theresa May announced a general election, with the idea of proving that the country was securely behind her.

David provided the timber, and Theresa constructed the coffin. Will the next Party leader put the lid on it? We shall see…

The Conservatives are feeling quite sore and tender today. I wonder what tomorrow will bring.

These are interesting times….

The Daily Post #Tender

©Jane Paterson Basil

The Author of my Being. Part 4

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…The continuing story of the trauma that threaded its way into my life when I reached puberty. Click on the links to read Part 1, Part two and Part 3.

WARNING! ADULT CONTENT

I recently turned eleven. Thanks to my mother’s gentle tact, I’ve bathed by myself since the start of pubescence. Now both my sister and I have more space to splash.

I lock the door against invaders,
but the peace of security evades me.
I imagine prying eyes, spying through the frosted window,
dribbling at my prematurely curved body.
I hide my breasts and genitals beneath clean flannels
that my she-devil nipples and the wilful triangle of hair
are concealed from peeping-toms,
and also from me.

I could soak and scrub all day,
but it won’t change the way I’ve become.
It won’t make me clean.
I can never be Me again.
It’s a cruel error,
this forced, false femininity;
this stealing of self.
It’s the end of everything.
Please Lord, if indeed God you be,
let me be a boy.
Let me be me.

I want to wake up free from this monstrous body, throw off my vest and run in the fields
unencumbered by the trials of Eve, but I don’t know how to strike a deal. In my panic, it doesn’t occur to me that a boy must eventually morph into a man. Recent events have made me less sure than ever of whether I like men.

Smashing up against all of this angst and agony, is the worst secret of all, one that often creeps up on me when I see my father’s photographs, and whenever I am alone in the bath. It’s a  humiliation that I try to press down, but I can’t. It thrums in time to the pulsing of my blood, a tantalising tickle way below the belt, lurking low in the belly, beneath budding flesh.

A flimsy flannel may cover up the sight of that rebellious part of me, but it cannot desensitise the site.

The beat is taking me, strumming deep inside,
I try to block advice from some devilish guide
plagueing me with vile and wicked temptation
to stroke and to probe the inner inflammation.
Apalling visions are swishing in my head
of naked women kissing in a sweat soaked bed.
I abhor the excitement which billows within,
insisting that I execute a dark, exquisite sin.

The thrills explode, but as the water grows chill,
I’m chagrined and angered by my weak lack of will.
I wallow in disgrace and I’m sure of one fact
It can’t be normal to commit such an act.
I’ve a nasty suspicion that I’m to blame,
For my father’s iniquitous act of shame,
and not only that, but the juvenile attack
is starting to feel like an earned comeback.

More ignominy awaits. My mother, with her kind sensitivity, has left it as long as is practicable, but one evening she brings the subject up, in as casual a manner as she can muster:

“When we go to town tomorrow, I’ll buy you a couple of bras.”

Heat presses against me, insinuating itself beneath my skin. My heart is hammering. I taste metal, a flavour that’s becoming familiar to me. I knew there could be no remission, but this feels like proof; the final nail, hammering into the coffin of childhood..

“I don’t… I can’t… I… All right,” I reply.

Her eyes slide in my direction, assessing the situation, then look quickly away. She knows I’ll shut shut down or hide my agony behind a mask of anger if she shows too much kindness or empathy. A brief sentence is all I’ll allow. I deal with unpleasantness in my own way. I don’t like soppy stuff, it’s for weedy girls, who burst into tears and let mum cuddle them and make it all better. My problem can’t be resolved, and expecially not in that way. I mustn’t show weakness.

If I was a weedy girl, I would probably be pleased to have reached this landmark. I no longer know what I am, but I’m not like the sissies in the village nearby, with their busty Barbies, frilly skirts, and pink hairslides.

“You’ll be more comfortable in a bra,” she murmers.

It’s evening, so I can’t run off to my world at the bottom of the field below my house, but when I go to bed I can plan how my first conversation with Paul will go. I see him, sprinting through the field towards me, his hair bouncing. In a moment I’ll reveal myself…

The next day, mum and I go into a low-key shop, a shop that’s not brazen about its bra display. I can’t look at the bras. To me, choosing one would be like selecting which type of lethal poison to take when you have no wish to kill yourself. Mum rummages around, then picks one up and asks me if I like it. I’m several feet away, trying not to look like someone who’s being bought a bra, so I mutter that it’s fine. I’m too embarrassed to try it on, so she guesses the size, gets two, and says that if they don’t fit she’ll bring them back and get a different size.

At home, I obediently go to my bedroom and try on one of the bras. It’s a horrible white pointy thing – this is 1966, and horrible white pointy things are fashionable. It feels uncomfortable, but I was expecting that. I can’t bear to look at myself, so I don’t know whether or not it fits. I take it off. I only plan to wear it for school. I go downstairs, where mum is trying to look indifferent.
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“Do they fit?” she asks.

“Yeah, thanks mum, they’re lovely” I say, attempting to sound keen.

As it turns out, they don’t fit. Anywhere. I endure months of increasing itching and chafing before mum risks suggesting that I may have grown out of my first bras. We go through a slightly different routine, with a marginally less painful result. My mother, without fail, does her best for her strange, repressed boy-daughter. She has many difficulties in her life, and, however it may seem, I do my best not to be one of them, perhaps with less success than I would hope. Wanting to please me, she asks me if I like the style of my current bras. I don’t want to her to feel she’s failed in any way, so I say yes, thereby precipitating the purchase of exactly the same ugly, uncomfortable style. The fit is little better. I come to the conclusion that the mistake of my birth is worse than I thought. Not only have I inadvertantly been made into a girl, but my shape has been inaccurately designed.

Still, I think, at least this time I didn’t have to go through the discomfiture of being present when my mum bought the bras.

My father has taken to covering up his disgrace with fake jollity, adopting a hail-fellow-well-met attitude whenever I’m present. This is an in-between time in our relationship; it could go either way. He could apologise, and make whatever dumb excuse he may please. All my life he’s been a hero to me, so I’d be eager to forgive him, but in addition to being sexually driven, he is proud, arrogant, and selfish, so there’s little hope for real repair, and anyway, maybe I’m in the wrong, too. I’m the one who’s turning into a filthy monster. What he did could be partly my fault.

©Jane Paterson Basil

The Author of my Being. Part 3

… The continuing story of the trauma that threaded its way into my life when I reached puberty. Click on the links to read Part 1 and Part two.

I would like, at this point, to introduce you to The Author of my Being. The link below makes interesting reading – and viewing; even for me, although there is no information of which I was not already aware, and no photo which I haven’t seen. I grew up surrounded by them.

Remember, the photos you see are pre-1955… many of them are a little risque for their time. I believe the originals of the prints on this site are in the posession of my sister, but I have others.  I couldn’t bring myself to throw them away. They form an important part of my history, and who knows, they could even be valuable. I keep them hidden well out of reach, as some of them depict adult family members.

Dear reader, please say hello to a charming, intelligent and likeable man. I say this without a trace of sarcasm – he was all of those things, and so much more…. Here is a link to my father, the eminent photographer:

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↓ ↓ link ↓ ↓

,ANTONY BASIL

↑ ↑ link ↑ ↑

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Beyond that, I’ll keep this post short…

A while ago I was looking for images of one of my daughters, when a photo of me surfaced. My dad, having been a renowned photographer, before he gave it up to become a toil on the land (all of which you know, if you clicked on the link), gave us each a Brownie 127 camera. One of my brothers must have taken the photo, which was captured just as I was stepping out of our kitchen door. The expression on my face made me cry. I looked at that photo so many times over the years, wondering at my expression. I never made the connection before. Suddenly I knew; it was taken just after my dad had deflowered my mouth with his tongue.

I look as if I am lost, and am looking for a way home.

to be continued…

©Jane Paterson Basil

Dinnertime

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Showered and fragranced, she slips into well-chosen clothes; clothes with the perfect mix of sexy and casual, as if it’s only by chance that she looks that way. She smoothes down her hair and applies the right amount of make-up – not too much; she doesn’t want her look to appear contrived. She checks in the mirror, and sees the reflection of a naturally alluring woman with a lovely figure. Her disguise is perfect. She leaves the house, and walks slowly down the road, with the merest suggestion of a wiggle, a carefully designed expression of uncretainty on her face.

She catches the eye of every man she passes. They look interested, but always, something startles them, and they recoil in horror, before making a wide berth – sometimes even crossing the road to avoid walking past her. She’s getting hungry; it’s been days since she’s managed to lure anybody back to her lair.

Presently, clouds cover the sun. Shadows fade. She spots a meaty giant of a man walking her way. He sees her lost-little-girl look, and pauses to ask her if she is OK. She gives him her well-worn story about only having moved into the area the previous day, and not being able to remember her way home; it always works. He asks for her address, and offers to walk her there.

Her sensitive nose picks out aftershave, lemon soap, coffee, fresh bread, ham, the ingredients of coleslaw, an encouraging tang of lust, and knows she’ll have no trouble. Beneath those ugly scents is the delicious perfume of blood type A, rhesus positive; her favorite flavour.

She sighs in anticipation of her feast.

Written for Michelle’s Photo-Fiction Challenge

©Jane Paterson Basil

Empty threats

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In the UK anyone who owns a TV, or watches TV programmes on a computer, must, by law, have a TV licence, which costs £147 a year. I just looked it up on Google – as I have no TV, I don’t need to know how much it costs. The licencing fee pays for our non commercial channel, the BBC.As there are so many TV channels these days, some people probably never watch the BBC, but they still have to have a licence.

I haved lived at my current address since May 11th, 20th 2015. I received my first threatening letter from the TV licencing company a few weeks after I moved in. It began by warning me that I could be fined some ridiculous amount of money if I didn’t get a TV licence. It told me how much a TV licence cost. Somewhere at the bottom it said that if I didn’t need a licence should go to their website and tell them – but then it said that they may come and check p on me anyway.

I didn’t feel like telling them I didn’t need a licence if they weren’t neccesarily going to believe me, so I ignored the letter.

A few weeks later I got another, slightly more threatening one, which also had the smallprint telling me to let them know if I didn’t need a licence, and that they may check up to see that I wasn’t lying.

I ignored it.

They sent another, and another. Each one was more threatening than the last. They were going to bring round the heavies and look for a TV, they were going to take me to court for non-payment… non payment of what? Why should they assume I have a TV? The vehicle licencing people never accuse me of having a car. What gives the TV licencing people the right?

I don’t like uncalled-for threats, and I don’t like the suggestion that I may be a liar, before I’ve even opened my mouth.

I ignored all the idle threats.

They didn’t visit me. I have a feeling that they wouldn’t be allowed to enter the building if they tried. Neither did they take me to court. It would have been difficult for them to do so, as they don’t even know who I am. The letters are always addressed to  “The addressee”, or some such nonsense.

Having used up all of their tactics to no avail, they then started right back at the beginning, with a repeat of their very first threatening letter to me, and now they’re systematically the whole rigmarole all over again.

The whole thing has made me quite cranky – in the American way (bad-tempered or irritable), but it’s given me a great idea.

A lot of the art in the famous Tate Modern art gallery is considered by many to be pretty cranky – in the British way (eccentric or strange), and some of the work submitted for the Annual Turner Prize is no exception – Tracey Emin’s ‘unmade bed’ being a famous, and controversial example.

I’d like to submit an arwork to the Turner Prize contest. I need an old TV which has had its guts ripped out. I couldn’t use a functional one, as I’d need a TV licence for that. I’ll tear up all of the many letters I’ve received from the TV licencing company, and artistically paste them on the TV sceen, making sure that the visitors and judges get the gist of what is written on them. My entry will be titled “Slapstick TV.”

I think it could be a winner.

The Daily Post #Cranky

©Jane Paterson Basil

Her Tenacious Spirit

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My daughter’s first breath wheezed with a puny meow, but the sounds increased in depth and volume, until much of our oxygen was gone.

As Laura grew, the list of  her sufferings expanded. Flakes fell from her raw skin, exposing oozing flesh. Eggs brought out blisters, but nuts could kill. Her lungs stuttered, her stomach hurt, yet sometimes when she cried, I could find no reason.

Like a child flung from paradise and plunged into hell, pain battled with bafflement and anger.

She was a cracked cog in the wrong machine, juddering through school and fumbling youth, misunderstood and not understanding the rules, a magnet for juvenile cruelty, adolescent jibe, unkind adult attack.

She was so timid, so unprepared for society, yet she became determined to partake. Bravely she tried to play the game, and for a while she held her own.

At seventeen my daughter had grown into physical magnificence and apparent independence. She moved into her own home, and even took care of a hapless, helpless young friend.

Away from me, dark creatures circled around her. Grateful for the attention, and unable to tell the difference between angels and devils, she thought they were good people, but they stole secret pieces of her.

Each time she tripped, she fell out of my reach, and every fall cut deep. Her frail self-esteem shrank to invisibility, and she began self-medicating todull the pain.

In the wake of addiction, her hard-won dignity was stolen by dirty brown liquid on a stained spoon.

In my mind, a zigzag line on a graph indicate the moments of hope and the months of despair. The months became years, constantly stretching all of my fears. Laura lost weight to the point of danger, her face took on a course texture, her limbs developed a dance of their own. Psychosis set in. In the mud of her mind, monstrous men marched through locked doors, raped her, tore out her hair and bruised names onto her legs as she slept. She stritched sticky tape across all entrances, to know they’d been there.

Inanimate objects leapt across tables. Worms wriggled in her epidermis. Receipts she found on the ground revealed secret messages. Light fittings concealed hidden cameras. Poisonous gas seeped through walls. The Ministry of Defence needed to be informed.

The police and others in authority warned me she was likely to die, adding that they didn’t now how she had clung on so long. Some hoped that a mishap would land her in hospital for a decent time. So did I, if it may save her life.

Her life took her to nightmare places, and her mind carried her far beyond. If there is anywhere blacker than a starless night, she has been there.

My friends and many strangers promised to pray for her recovery. They sent caring messages and prayers. I shared them with her, and gradually saw a change. At the same time I kept my distance, explaining that the drugs made her abusive, and I would not tolerate abuse.

I would never have guessed that her spirit could be so tenacious. A year later, kind messages still arrive, and I still convey each one to her. She feels nurtured, which in turn makes her feel worthy. My struggling child is a fine woman now. She knows she can have a better future. She’s clean, and temporarily living with me. The sparkle in her eye reflects back onto me, making me shine. I glow with pride when I think af all she has already achieved. she’s fought her way through countless ills, and come out of them strong and positive.

Next week she’ll move in with someone wonderful, who has seen her potential. He hates drug addiction, and will support her in every way, with no hidden agenda. He’s comfortably rough around the edges, which suits Laura well, but more than that, he’s a wise, thoughtful, family man. Laura has a new family to love, and to be loved by.

And what of his interest in us? Fraternity, and a wish to see Laura well and moving forward in life.

It will happen.

Written for The Daily Post #Tenacious

©Jane Paterson Basil