Category Archives: creative writing

Trinkets and Treats

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Seen from the street, the shop itself seems
neither eager for me to browse, nor to push me away.
It emits an air of indifferent dignity; the sense that –
should I frown – it will ignore me, yet if I show interest,
its welcome will be warm.

The window holds yesteryears’ extravagant
trinkets and treats;
their sepia hints pricked with the kind of modest pride
typical of old gold and porcelain.
If these elite items  vie for purchase,
they do so with quiet grace.

Inside, gifts of both love and duty, mingle with acquisitions
of status and desire.
They pose in glass cases and perch on polished shelves,
with large sculptures artfully arranged within their own floor space.
Some might conceal untold secrets, while the tales of others
were told and retold long ago, by glazed grandparents
to children who wriggled with impatience, their minds
scrabbling for cake tins or trees to climb.

Old treasures are looking-glasses of the dead –
those whose eyes are blind, who leave
no mist on the filigree mirror –
such pretties contain no memories;
yet they retain an air of history, even when separated
from the ghosts who wrote their stories.

Were the proprietor other than Mark Parkhouse,
I might suggest that the glinting acquisitions
were the pillage of thieves, but
I trust this antique dealer.

As I enter, a female assistant greets me.
Mr Parkhouse is a man who knows how to dress;
his quiet presence is such that I hardly
have time to register the grey suit
before my attention becomes concentrated on his face.
It is only when I walk away
that I picture all of him.

As I explain my mission, he rises
from behind his tidy desk and speaks in a warm tone.
I open the box, show him the brooch,
making my usual apologies; I doubt
that this example of costume jewellery has more
than miniscule monetary value,
but it is a beauty, and while I would like
to offer our customers the opportunity of ownership,
I want to charge whatever is due to it.

A lesser man
might fling it aside,
arrogantly spitting the words, “ten quid”,
but he shows respect for the charity that I represent
and for the small vanity which glitters in his hand.
Examining it, he tells me what to look for
and recommends a ten pound ticket.
When he says it hails from the 1930s,
I can’t resist a smile; it matches
my estimate.

The box contains two other brooches;
a slightly damaged, but charismatic marcasite
plus an attractive 1950s piece – another correct guess from me;
I’m getting better at this, but I am still
a beginner.
He takes the trouble to value
my humble offerings.

Before I leave, he exhorts me
not to be shy bringing my optimistic discoveries;
he will willingly impart
the knowledge of his forty years in the business,
and one day Oxfam might hit the jackpot.

Walking back to Oxfam,
a wide grin splits my face.
I let it stay, making the most of the moment.
My heels and my joints are suddenly
well-oiled springs.

Mr Parkhouse knows a lot. This
is what he doesn’t know:
raising the maximum for the charity
matters a great deal to me, but more to the point,
this gentle, rare man
adds bonus points to my store of happiness.
It doesn’t matter that when I see him,
he doesn’t seem to recall having met me before,
all that is important
is that he is
there.

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©Jane Paterson Basil

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On Leonard and Leadership

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A leadership gene has been identified. It is documented that while leadership qualities can be learned, this gene can make the difference between success and failure in the leadership game, but how is leadership defined?

There are various kinds of leadership, and a variety of routes to success.

Some leaders come from humble beginnings, to arduously work their way to the summit, using a combination of wit and skill. Others inherit the mountain from their forbears.

“All roads lead to Rome.” This saying has been carried down to us from the 12th century, when Roman roads were straight, and radiated outwards from the centre, like the spokes of a wheel. Our history books tell of the days when Rome was the self-professed capital of the known world, leading by force.

My roads are twisted and of inconsistent width. Back in my teens, Leonard Cohen achieved success with his song, Suzanne, and along with millions of others, I have trailed behind him ever since. Surely this makes him a leader.

For almost 50 years his voice has comforted me. As I eat breakfast I hear him inside my head, singing a farewell song to Marianne or describing the life of a French Partisan. Sometimes he stands back, not wanting to hog my thoughts. Unselfishly, he lets Buffy Saint Marie step in, or Tracy Chapman tell her raw stories, or Roy Orbison with his hope, his brief joy and all of his pain. I enjoy these brief intermissions, but I always return to Leonard. While I chew my dinner he asks a lucky woman to dance him to the end of love. I want to tell him there is no end to love. In bed, I roll onto my side, preparing to sleep. He sings that it’s no way to say goodbye.

“Never goodbye, only goodnight,” whisper.

Millions of appreciative fans feel the same way about him. He touched our lives while he was with us, and he continues to do so after his death, so I say he is a leader. This post is about leadership, but it could be about any one of a thousand subjects which would always lead back to Leonard.

I’d like to commit to writing a Leonard Cohen post one day every week, highlighting a different song each time, but although he is always with me, it’s unlikely it will happen. So, no promises.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Without Prejudice.

They were the ones who were licensed to carry guns, but I didn’t know that, the first time they rang my bell. I opened the door to a pair of bulky uniforms, sharp sharp fabric, fussy buttons, oppressive numbers that shone and those fluorescent waistcoats that go over the clothes, making policemen look twice their size.

In front of the two men, Laura jerked and sagged, jerked and sagged, her recently pristine  jeans reduced to rags as if she’d shredded them with a blunt knife. Vertically sliced ribbons of denim danced wildly in the keen wind, batting at a few fallen leaves that flew over our low wall. Even in the thin street light I could see her knees and thighs were mottled reddish blue. She should have been freezing, but the cold must have melted before it reached the heat of her seething mind.

At this hour of the night the street was empty, but had anybody seen my calm reaction to the presence of the police, they may have been surprised. While addiction is booming, yet few people’s lives are like mine. My children had unique ways to include me in the details of their strife, and, traumatic as these incidents were, I had learnt to maintain a calm facade. This wasn’t the fist time the police had brought her home in a dislocated state, but this time they asked to come in, and Laura falteringly led the way.

We sat at the kitchen table, while the policemen introduced themselves by name, and gently said my daughter was not in trouble, but if didn’t mind, they’d like to talk to her until she felt calm, and I didn’t need to stay, by which they meant they wanted privacy, so I went through to the sitting room.

I never discovered what had happened to her. She couldn’t remember – a familiar scenario.

I never asked what they discussed, although the police gave me a those details which they knew Laura would not mind them sharing.

After that, they brought her home on several occasions. I wasn’t informed of the details of her escapades, these two policemen were discreet and kind; it was enough for me to know they had both her best interests and mine, at the forefront of their minds.

The second time they came, they explained that they were the rapid response team, so they were constantly armed, but since guns are rarely required around these parts, they worked with the regular team. I admit I was surprised; I would never have expected that such compassionate men would choose to bear arms, but thinking about it afterwards it occurred to me that they were a sensible choice; they’d be unlikely to use their skills without due care.

Her psychosis was hard to deal with, and sometimes when they brought her home in a dishevelled and confused state one or the other of them would join me in the living room for a breather, before returning to the fray.

Often, after these events, she would return to a sensible frame for a while, but sometimes nothing could change her manic state, and she would run up and down the stairs all night, laughing, weeping, screaming, demanding that I urgently find whatever item sprang to mind; a half-remembered ornament or a different roll of tape to that which she was using to wrap around a dress or a dislocated rhyme about a false memory. At 4am, broken from trauma and exhaustion, tears may be streaming from my eyes, but still she would scream at me, until, suddenly laughing with glee, she’d run out of the door, and I’d be torn between hoping that the police would bring her home, and dreading it.

One time they concluded that she needed to speak to an addict in recovery. In order to facilitate a helpful chat, they phoned a few relevant organisations, but none of them could help, so in desperation, knowing it was against the rules, they called up a woman who had “helped them with their inquiries” a few days before, and she had a long talk with Laura, after which she was in a better frame of mind.

Sometimes she was in such a bad way that those two policemen would take her to A and E, to try and get her assessed for psychiatric care. They’d wait with her, and attempt to persuade the team to see her, but she’d be refused, since psychiatrists won’t see people who are under the influence of drugs.

The police have no official authority over hospital decisions, but just once, they succeeded in talking a doctor into admitting her into a ward, using a trumped-up diagnosis, in the hope that a psychiatrist would see her the nest day. They let me know she was safe, and showed up at her bedside the next morning with a pot of her favourite yogurt. She was still refused y the mental health team, so the police brought her home to me. She was thrilled by her adventure, and for a few days life became easier.

These policemen, and others in our town, went above and beyond the call of duty for my ill, addicted daughter, at the same time giving the impression that it was all in a day’s work. There are many stories I could tell; many examples I could give of their kindness, patience, and generosity to both my son and my youngest daughter. Despite the difficulties my children wrought, rather than treating them like criminals, they recognised what they were; victims of a disease – a disease which invades our culture, and eats our children from the inside. It’s a tragedy that the mental health practitioners don’t see it this way, or perhaps they can’t afford to, since mental health is a massive issue and too little is spent on it.

Whole we hear of the rare mistakes and acts of police corruption, caring acts like these are too rarely mentioned. The majority of individuals who join the police force do so to be of service to the oppressed, and many of them recognise the disguised colours of oppression – a job which is becoming increasingly difficult since their budget was cut by a government that doesn’t lift a finger to help the dispossessed.

Seen through eyes that hold no prejudice, our local police shine.

©Jane Paterson Basil

That Shrinking Feeling

Fly-ride

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“Mum!”

She told me it would be dangerous to use my power lightly, but when I saw the insect just standing there in the park, I couldn’t resist shrinking so I could take a ride on the back of the fly. It was exciting, like the best fairground ride, but without the predictability. It was fun watching mum wondering where I was, and getting scared.

“Mum!”

She can’t hear me. My vocal chords are too small, and although she’s frantically looking for me, I’m too tiny to see.

I wish I’d listened when she said I was not experienced enough to reverse the effect without her help.

“Mum! MUM!”

Mum, please come and set me free, before the spider reaches me.

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Written for Michelle’s Photo Challenge #101. Click the link to join in.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Colour me

colouring

Today, I’ve been wasting time looking for answers to questions that don’t matter much to me. I found an oojamaflip called colorquiz. on the interwhatsit.

In the site’s own words, “ColorQuiz is a free five minute personality test based on decades of research by color psychologists around the world. There are no complicated questions to answer, you simply choose colors with a click of the mouse!”

Apparently, this test is based on the work of Dr. Max Lûscher and is used worldwide, most notably in Europe, by psychologists, doctors, government agencies, and universities to screen their candidates. Since the 1950’s the test has been given to hundreds of thousands of people.

How could I resist?

My results describe a combination of the way I used to be and the way I’ve been since certain events in my life sent me crashing to my knees.

Thank you for asking; yes, my knees have recovered, although I still get the occasional twinges in other parts of my body.

Without further ado, here’s the analysis…

Oh – first I should tell you a couple of things:

1. They’re wrong about my sexual activity; these days I carefully avoid that messy occupation, and all involvements which may lead up to it. 

(Ha! My results touch on that point in the section titled “Your Stress Sources”) 

2. I have no idea why the analyser repeats that section. Maybe it’s trying to lead me astray by awakening my curiosity concerning sexual activity. 

(No chance, pal)

Here’s the analysis. I copied and pasted it, and therefore take no responsibility for any small errors.

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Your Existing Situation

“Craves change and new things, always looking for new adventures and activities. Becomes restless and frustrated when she has to wait to long for things to develop. her impatience leads to irritability and a desire to move on to the next project.”

Your Stress Sources

“Not a team player and is unwilling to be involved in most activities. In the past she was over involved and now emotionally drained. Due to her fear of over involvement, she now chooses to remain uninvolved with the activities around her. “

Your Restrained Characteristics

“Although she feels isolated and alone, she is afraid of forming deep, meaningful relationships. Is conceited and is easily offended.”

Current events have her feeling forced to make bargains and put aside her own desires for now. She is able to find satisfaction and happiness through sexual activity.

Current events have her feeling forced to make bargains and put aside her own desires for now. She is able to find satisfaction and happiness through sexual activity.

Your Desired Objective

“Highly optimistic and outgoing personality. Loves to learn new and exciting things, and craves new interests. Looking for a well-rounded life full of success and new experiences. Does not allow herself to be overcome with negative thoughts or self-doubt. Takes life head on, with enthusiasm. “

Your Actual Problem

Is afraid she will be held back from obtaining the things she wants leading her to act out with a hectic intensity.

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I’d like to run through a couple of details with which I have issues:

1. “Not a team player and is unwilling to be involved in most activities.”
If they’re going to take that attitude I can do without their help, thank you very much. I’m perfectly capable of figuring out my personality all on my own. When I finish writing this post, I’m off for my weekly game of one player, one sided hockey, and I bet I’ll win. I always do.

2. “Is conceited and is easily offended.”

Conceited? How dare they suggest such a thing. While I know I’m the most intelligent, compassionate, brave, beautiful, intuitive and considerate person on the planet, I’m also humble, and grateful to my incredible brain and my delectable body for providing me with all of these qualities. I think the analyser is jealous of me. What’s more, I’m not easily offended.

This is my honest appraisal of the analysis:

There are a couple of glaring innaccuracies. There’s the bit about sexual activity – which I’ve always tended to  find intrusive and disempowering, and this:

“Does not allow herself to be overcome with negative thoughts or self-doubt.”

Wrong! I wrote the book on self-doubt – but I didn’t have the confidence to approach a publisher.

Other than that, I can relate to the results, which suggest – quite rightly – that I’m a solitary sort.

I’m itching to try the test again, just to make sure it gives the same results – I can remember the exact order in which I selected the colours in both parts of the test.

I wonder if the compilers were/are sexist, and whether the results would be the same if I ticked the man box.

Heh heh heh…

I’m an analyser’s nightmare, and proud of it.

If you want to try the test yourself, here’s the link to colorquiz. I’d love to know how it goes.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Stirrings of the Mind

My thoughts have been a bit disordered lately, with the result that I keep starting poetry and not finishing it. None of it seems good enough. This morning, I woke up feeling insignificant. After doing a few things around the flat, I switched the computer on and decided I’d do a bit of reading. The first post I came to was written by Reena Saxina, and it changed my outlook.

Just like that.

I couldn’t miss the opportunity to share this lovely poem on my blog.

I hope it has a similar positive effect on my readers.

Reena Saxena

The incessant buzz

of thoughts that shatter

thoughts that inspire

thoughts that pass unnoticed

unnerve me.

My ideas are raw,

unfinished, unsophisticated

likely to be scorned

or laughed at.

I silence the voice.

The bees in my bonnet

have multiplied

they do not let me sleep

threatening an explosion

if not released.

Expression helps sanity

I am not God, but

it is nothing to be scoffed at

I have a sane voice

amidst loud, ungodly creatures.

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Smemtogis, so much more than a poem.

I’d like to begin this post by explaining; it wasn’t my idea, it was Ellen’s. In fact, Ellen made me do it. Yup. Not my fault; Ellen’s fault, and if you want to know who Ellen is, you’ll have to go to her blog, but I warn you; once you get there you may have trouble tearing yourself away. However, that’s another matter entirely. I’m not here to publicise Ellen’s blog, hilarious though it may be. No, I’m here to tell you that I’m not responsible for this post.

Great! I shouldn’t have added the link. Now all my readers have wandered off to read a better blog, and I’m left all alone, talking to myself like an idiot. They won’t be back. Once they’ve discovered that blog, they’ll forget all about me. Huh; I ask you, where’s the loyalty? Not that anyone’s here to answer my question; they’re all lapping up the words of somebody  else, which is what I’d rather be doing, instead of sitting around on my own, talking to myself.

It’s probably for the best – I don’t really want those two or three halfwits my host of magnificent friends who think I’m sensible and level headed – and not at all obsessive – to know I went back to that silly ‘I Write Like‘ site, to carry out further experiments.

So, gather around, everybody. If you want to read about my previous experiments, you can find them HERE, and THERE.

Not that there’s anybody left, they just couldn’t wait to run off and check out Ellen’s… wait a minute, there’s one… hi! HI!… I see you… tucked behind that chair at the back of beyond… poor thing… what’s that?… you want a wee?… Oh. You want to leave. . . . . .It’s OK, I won’t be offended… you can go and join the others… go on… I won’t mind… here you are, have the link >>>>>>to Ellen’s blog<<<<<<

…Yeah,  that’s fine… you go off and have fun… don’t mind me… waffling away to myself… ALL ON MY OWN…

…oh, no, I did it again. I should never have mentioned that other blog… should’ve known this would happen… next time I post a link to a blog, I’ll make sure it’s one of those niche blogs where the posts all show photos of blank sheets of foolscap paper, or describe different methods of cooking pebbles, …

As I was saying, someone else is to blame, for Making A Suggestion – it’s true it was only a Suggestion, but everyone knows that I’m a sucker for a challenge, and to be fair, I did my best to hold out.

The Suggestion: Try feeding the ‘I Write Like’ analyser something in a foreign language, or something written in gibberish.

I said I’d managed to give up my ‘I Write Like’ habit.

My tempter came back with, “Surely just one more won’t hurt.”

ice-1089622__340I’m not made of stone, and I’m no angel.

Perhaps you can imagine how it feels to be confronted with such wicked temptation. I attempted to write something witty and clever like, “Shan’t”, but as my fingers reached for the letters S and H, I heard the algorithmic sirens singing sweet music in my ears, calling me home to them, and as I touched those two keys, a shock ran through me, paralysing my whole body… and my teeth all fell out, and my hair stuffed itself down my throat and a big dog a huge lizard a giant dragon swallowed me whole and then I cut my way out of it’s stinky old stomach with a key that I sharpened with my teeth a toothpick that I didn’t need any more because I didn’t have any teeth, and then it breathed fire all over me and I went up in flames and I had to throw my last two 6 packs of extra strong lager over myself jump in the bath and then I decided I’d had enough of all that malarkey, and p’raps I should just go with the flow.

See? I can say anything I like, as there’s nobody here – you’re all reading some other blog… huh… just ‘cos she’s funnier than me… 

 I chose the nonsense option, and stuck it in the ‘I Write Like’ postbox.

The more sensitive of you will divine that if my gibberesque poem had a meaning – which it doesn’t – it would be an impassioned plea from a woman whose lover has forsaken her, in order to live out his dream of collecting discarded toenail clippings circa 1960. He takes up residence in a disused railway carriage which has been discarded beside a rubbish dump that’s been derelict since November 1969. However, he meets a professional sand sorter who had to take early retirement – since there was little call for his services in the UK (or any where else for that matter). The sand sorter believes him to be the reincarnation of his beloved dog, and starts feeding him lids from dog food cans – which he claims Rover enjoyed, though in fact it was the cause of his demise. I’ll leave you to figure out the rest for yourselves.

It’s a tragic tale – or it would be if it wasn’t gibberish. Even written as it is, it may move you to tears – except you’re all at some other blog, mopping tears of mirth from your laptop keyboards.

Here is the poem, with the ‘I Write Like’ analysis beneath it:

Smemtogis,
florpangal seg flostus
kringle-bingle sot plerostus
pantsa bost e thinto tost
Smemtogis, roastie baestie clost

sa smemtogis,
retsi drostal yentiodalistiation
retsi retsi binkle em deigh
sa, sa smemtogis

sa de sa de sa smemtogis
sa de sa
de sa
de
smemtogis

smemtogis draapsetit ste grender toenail clippings turg foret tes voeru de glgogogin ind weorister pusk ste banglseje dogwim dg thretmacil would return ud stanstastive sairdostle quirdsit est di e sedit grrr doset ste fo fo stankle diddo vinkstew not a bloody dog renlex ada bo bo skiddle help dodedo ouch that hurts

smemtogis
sa de sa smemtogis
retsi

smemtogis oh oh oh

I write like James Joyce

Astounding.

I ask myself, “Am I really going to post this on my pretty little blog?”

“Yes”, comes the reply.

The End

~~~

….Oh, so you didn’t all desert me… well, off you go – there’s nothing left to see…

…….

…All right, if you must know, I conducted one last, final, terminal, ultimate, climactic swansong of an experiment. I copied and pasted everything that was written on the analysers home page, and this is what I learnt:

The ‘I Write Like’ site writer writes like Cory Doctorow

Try saying that quickly.

With grateful (I think) thanks to Ellen, who can be found at Notes from the UK.

©Jane Paterson Basil