Georgiana and Me
by Beverley Bannister
I am me. I don't know why I am, but I just... am. I can feel me and my mind are very mine and I think thoughts that nobody else does. I don't understand why I don't know what I felt like before I was born. I once asked Mama but she didn't know.
When I stood up and asked everybody in my class, all the other children laughed at me. They do that a lot. When we have to take things in for Show & Tell and they take their favourite toys in, I always take my postcard with Queen Elizabeth I on it. The teacher tells them it's rude to laugh at other people and that we all like different things.
I like watching documentaries about Queen Elizabeth I. I want to meet Dr David Starkey and then we can talk about her together. But the other children think I'm strange because I don't like Strictly or any of those silly programmes on CBBC. Mama says it's because I'm special and clever.
I told her that they laugh at me because I call her Mama, too. I don't like calling her Mummy because that's babyish and I don't like the word Mum. It makes me feel funny inside my mouth and it looks like a lamppost made of bacon. I only like words with nice pictures and if I don't like the picture, then I don't like the word.
When I say these things to Mama, she just smiles and strokes my face. I wish she wouldn't do that because I don't like it when people touch me but the kind lady I see every month said that I can tell myself that it is OK when Mama does it.
Georgiana doesn't touch me at all. She is sage and wise. I like those words; they have nice pictures. I read them in a book and then looked them up online. I can't remember which book it was: I read lots of them. I don't like forgetting things and it doesn't happen very often but it wasn't one from the library at school. I don't like those but I sometimes wish I did. The other children do and I just sit and watch. But I think Horrid Henry is really naughty and not funny. If anybody reads it out loud, I start to scream when he does bad things and then I can't stop. I am frightened of Flat Stanley. What if a board falls on me when I'm asleep? I don't want to be flat. The teacher said that would never happen in real life. But if that is true, why would there be a book about it? It's a big, naughty lie.
The teacher lets me read books for grown-ups. I sit in a corner by myself so that I don't have to look at the books the other children read. Mama says it's because I'm special and clever.
Whenever Georgiana comes to visit, we hide. The gardens behind our house are all so different and I love them all, but Georgiana likes the shrubberies the best, even in winter. She likes to hide in the dark but I am younger than her and I am afraid of the dark so she said we could sit among the leafless shrubs in the twilight. She says words like that and the pictures make me feel happy and they taste nice too.
We are sitting here now and I can hear Mama calling but I do not call back. She has smiles in her voice but I want to talk to Georgiana. She was a duchess, a long time ago, and she has lovely long hair with a big floppy hat made of velvet.
'Are we cavillers?' I ask her. It's my new word. I read it in 'Jane Eyre' and then used Mama's iPad again to look it up.
I like Jane Eyre because Charlotte Bronte wrote it and I love her even more than I love Queen Elizabeth I. Mama took me to see where Charlotte lived, with her daddy, her brother and her sisters. It was in Haworth and I want to live there when I'm grown up. Mama says I can't because it's a museum. I said I would change it back into a house for me and Georgiana.
She nodded and said that sounded lovely but because everybody loves the Brontë sisters, it wouldn't be fair to let just one person live in their house. But they don't love Charlotte as much as I do because she's mine, not theirs. And anyway, it wouldn't just be one person if Georgiana was there too.
I ask the question again but still Georgiana doesn't answer me. I sigh. Georgiana never answers my questions.
'There you are!' and Mama swoops to kiss me. I never used to like it when she kissed me, but I've learnt to not mind it now. I don't look at her but I smile a bit. Tonight, I am happy to be found.
'What are you doing my darling?' her voice is soft and kind, 'Sitting here all on your own?
'I'm being special and clever,' I say.
From Reading to Writing
by Glenis Stott
No-one can criticise you for what’s in your head. I learnt this at a very early age. My Dad thought he believed in constructive criticism but what came out was destructive criticism in the form of, You know what you’ve done wrong, and, You know how you can do it better. It often didn’t seem worth doing things because they were never good enough.
Once I learnt how to read, though, I found I could do lots of wonderful things and go anywhere in or out of this world. And no-one else knew what I was doing. I recently reread, ‘What Katy Did,’ and there were some things in there that I thought I had actually done.
I read widely. Thursday afternoons were library afternoons. If I was at school, Mum would choose my books. In the holidays I would choose my own, wandering round and picking books at random. And there was a bookshop at the bus stop when we were going to Grandma’s. I still have, ‘The Painted Garden,’ where a young girl goes to America and appears as Mary in the filming of, ‘The Secret Garden.’ Imagine!
It was a short step from there to making up stories in my head and I found that they helped me go to sleep. I would close my eyes and go into a fantasy world that carried me off into sleep. Me and The Beatles spent about two years going on adventures. Nothing rude, mind. I wasn’t that sort of girl.
I was a critical fantasist. Any contradictions and I’d go back to the beginning and start again. Less of a dreamer and more of an editor. Preparation for when I was free to write my words down. Took a long time to get there.
When I was eighteen, I found a book called, ‘Island,’ by Aldous Huxley. It was beyond my wildest dreams. A hippy ethos. There were birds that flew around saying, ‘Attention,’ and, ‘Here and now, boys, here and now.’ Children could take a break from their parents and stay with another family if things weren’t going well. Inevitably, there was free love and drugs – I wasn’t personally interested in doing either, but it was good to read about it. Inevitably, there was darkness, very dark sometimes. But for me, at that time and place, it was like opening a window to let the air in. It influenced the way I saw the world.
And now I’m sixty-five. I’m writing a book about an island. It began with an idea about a hippy finding an island that had been given to his great, great grandfather in 1880. He’s had good and bad experiences with drugs and he needs a fresh start. But it’s expanded, spread to include lots of ideas I’ve found in books and in life. It isn’t Huxley’s island but it’s my island and we are going to grow together as I’m writing it.
As one door closes
by Mimi Ramsey
I wish they would be a little bit more considerate of my feelings, it’s not all about them, not a single please or thank you, ever….
Without fail, without a grumble day after day I stand tall and watch them constantly argue, mentally and physically abuse each other over what seems like the pettiest things yet they still continue to treat me like shit. Over time they argue I get the brunt of the pain, they abuse me, they torture me and hurt me.
Yet they continue to play the victims, she cries as she doesn't feels she is loved. He gets angry as he can’t take much more of her insecurities. A constant battle of love and hate, a roller coaster of emotions with no sign of any resolutions. They pace the room in a furious rage, they are playing a drastic, terrifying game that no-one is going to win, whilst I can only stand here and spectate. I can do nothing, I feel helpless and alone.
The amount of times I have brought into this fight for absolutely no reason. I get pushed and shoved, hit and slammed, treated with no respect.
It’s nothing about me yet I hurt the most. I’m never heard, apart from my cry of pain every time you close me of.
I wish they would stop all this arguing, just take a moment to consider my feelings, just take a step back and look what they are doing to each other. Stop being selfish, in a world of pain and constant battles, look at the bigger picture.
Be kind. Think about their words, their actions, how just taking a moment, a second to think and be mindful, become present, they could change a lifetime, their future and others.
When one door closes another door opens, but if only they would consider how to close the door it would make the world a better place for everyone.
Inanimate Object Exercise
by Sue Massey
Malcolm’s late this morning. He must have had a heavy night. Probably the reason he didn’t take me with him. Malcolm is rarely sensible or thoughtful. Mostly he behaves like a complete idiot without consideration for man, beast or inanimate object.
Not like Rob. Rob and I had a wonderful connection. Rob was an instructor for the local council. He knew everything about the road, and took great pride in me, his trustworthy companion. He looked after me. I gleamed, ran like a dream, as a result of which neither of us let each other down. On one occasion he asked me to help Josie for a couple of weeks. I liked Josie. She was a sensitive sort, treated me kindly and made sure I was safe at night.
It all went downhill when Rob gave me away to Malcolm. They’ve been good mates since schooldays. I’ve heard their tales of cycling escapades. Malcolm lost his driving licence for too many speeding offences. He had to get to work somehow and would never in a million years contemplate catching the bus. So that’s why I’m with him. Leaves me propped up against the fence overnight. Wouldn’t matter a hoot to him if someone took me away. I might prefer that too.
Back to this morning and it’s obvious we’re going to be late. Here he comes, stomping out of the house, face like a smacked bum, wearing his gaudy Lycra cycle gear.
And we’re off. He’s really pushing it. I can sense his anger. He bounces in and out of potholes. Splashes through puddles. Overtakes slow moving vehicles. Dodges in and out of parked cars. Tings the bell at anything that moves. There’s a horrible grittiness as he changes gear, horrific squeal when he pulls on the brakes, and the back tyre is squishy.
We cut across the park. A yapping Yorkshire terrier chases after his bright yellow legs. Malcolm kicks out at the dog.
“Oy!” shouts the incensed owner, fading away in the distance. Malcom sticks up the V. He pedals manically out of the park, bounces down the kerb and joins the main road. That was a close shave as he avoids a double decker, and swerves into the bus lane. He’s got a sweat on as he tanks along towards the traffic lights. Looking ahead he sees they are about to change to green and undertakes a red Mini that’s indicating left. Undertakes! Stupid Malcolm is in the wrong place. He’s not turning left. He’s going straight on. The red Mini turns, collides with Malcolm and knocks him to the pavement. Malcolm effs and jeffs at the poor woman who is clearly in shock as she steps out of the car.
“I’m so sorry. Are you alright?”
“No I’m not. You knocked me off my bike, you stupid cow.”
“I didn’t see you.”
“Didn’t see me? What were you doing? Texting? Putting on your makeup?”
“How rude are you? I’ve never had an accident in 40 years’ driving. You’re completely in the wrong. Haven’t you noticed the warning on the back of buses and lorries that cyclists shouldn’t ride up the inside of a vehicle? You’re in the driver’s blind spot. That’s why I didn’t see you. Cyclists should take the centre of the lane for going straight on. What do you think that box is for? It’s for cyclists to keep safe, and be seen, you arrogant man.”
“I can cycle where I like, and you knocked me off.”
“You’re not hurt? In fact, I actually don’t care about you one bit. I’m more interested in that.” She points her finger. Irate motorists hoot their horns. Malcolm and the driver continue their spat. She’s definitely right; miserable Malcolm isn’t.
Me. She’s pointing at me. I’m in a sorry state. My front wheel is buckled. Front forks bent. Handlebars twisted. I’m going nowhere. What will happen to me? Malcolm won’t want me now. I’m neither use nor ornament. I hope he takes me to the tip, or offers me to someone who will rebuild and cherish me. Maybe Rob will take me back? Anyone will be better than Malcolm. Ciao Malcolm!