Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Talking about fragments; I’ve lived through, and got out of, many phases so I’m sure I don’t have an addiction gene – for the simple reason that I’ve obviously moved on every time to the next one. But, is writing and art addictive in the same way as drugs and alcohol? I watched, Am I Normal? last night, and had to pause when someone pushed forward the idea ‘Just stop’. At first he sounded a bit belligerent and unsympathetic but by the end he’d caught my attention by saying that most people move out of one phase and into the next...and that a lot of addicts stop and move on, eventually too. This is true. And, we are definitely a nanny state.

If being creative is addictive then I’m very happy to be that addict. I’ve had many fun phases where I drank a lot but haven’t become an alcoholic (and we’re talking about waking up in hedges here). There was also the sex; and that was a bit of an addiction I suppose because I’d jump on any old bones if I felt like it – Carrie was always dragging me away from unsuitable men. I get bored if I’m not winning (which is why I could never be a gambler) and got fussier as the years rolled on - very rarely found strange men in my bed. That boredom led me back to education and a more creative life. Now, if anything is addictive, it’s education. I only had a few O’Levels in mind to get a better job, that’s all; I ended up with a degree in drama and it takes all my willpower to stop myself from continuing – I know that I hate teaching so there is absolutely no point in going further. (forgot the TESOL course I did in Barcelona)

All my life I have been searching for something outside of myself, always looking into the future; when I was seventeen I was desperate to find the man who would make me a full-blown woman – it took over a year! I was the oldest virgin I knew. The deflowering and short relationship was so unsatisfactory that I waited another year before attempting it again, which wasn’t any better. Maybe that gives some insight into the way my mind works where relationships and love are concerned. There’s a poem, here on the blog that I wrote for a competition about love; it is not completely biographical, though the conversation about killing the wife-beater is true, but I wasn’t the wife.

I was talking to someone in work tonight and she asked me how often I used my laptop, ‘Every fifteen minutes!’ I said. ‘If I could hang it around my neck like an usherette’s ice-cream tray, I would.’ She’s a normal person, she doesn’t understand; she thought I was kidding. I am using Opera (don’t ask me what it is, it’s an internet thingy) and I can have all my special pages open at the top of the page…and just click click click, back and forth all day, night etc. it’s bloody marvellous! So you are all at the hover of my mouse (when I do that a picture of the page flashes up) and if that isn’t the sign of an addict then I don’t know what is. I know I’m getting worse but I don’t care; I’ve even begun to talk about writing to people who don’t do that kind of thing and can see the pity in their eyes – they think I’m madder than I actually am.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


I’ve been on the road for years, well the best part of five, and the idea of settling on solid earth is fascinating; my mind is running with streams of images and the possibilities are endless – there will be no patterns on my walls; I want to be surrounded, in that new place, with memories. I also dream of organisation and industry...from me. Hope lives here.

19th April 2005
On a Virgin train to Bristol

Grey clouds under white; the sky is thick with British summer-time. I’m travelling backwards; there’s more time to think about what’s before you, like tiny lambs that are just a crumb on the landscape, and screaming fields of rape blaring at you. Across the world a grandson is stomping around beneath a blue sky and I’m on my way to join him. This trip, I’ve learned to tell the difference between the songs of the robin and the blue-tit, and a larch tree from a birch (not silver – I’m not that bad). Also I was reminded how to make a white sauce; I haven’t done that since I was in school. I come away from this month in Devon a wiser woman.

May 18th 2005
Back to work in lovely Budleigh Salterton

It always surprises me when I arrive at a new place that even though the house might be sparkling and clean there are basic stuff that isn’t done; when I got here the out-going carer was listing and worrying about everything and anything, but the mugs were stained and the fridge full of white-label food! And the washing-up liquid was watered down again. I like her but she is bringing the client down to her level rather than keeping them at the level to which they are accustomed.

May 21st 2005

I'll do a writing exercise to jump-start the novel again; haven't touched it for many, many months - every time I decide to work on it I change the format or the focus or some bloody thing or other; I can't even get to the middle of it never mind the end! I'm not just a lazy writer; I'm a lazy everything; artist, potter, photographer. The job I do to earn a living consists of me keeping the elderly company in front of their telly! I try to be some kind of productive by crocheting or sewing patchwork - life is just too diverse. I can't finish anything, except blankets.

June 2nd 2005
Budapest for Bree’s hen-party.

The first meal I had was Chinese! Lovely, and only 900ft which included a glass of beer; that’s about £2.43, in a little fast-food buffet just along from St Stephen’s Basilica. So far, I’m not terribly impressed with the city. My hotel is pretty crumbly and tatty, in fact quite a lot of the place is like that - Budapest could do with refurbishing. Now I’m sitting at a pavement café and have just paid 700ft for a cup of tea! It was Earl Grey though. I’ve got to sort this money out. I think bloody Travelex have done me; I just don’t know where it’s all gone, and now I’m confused about the value of the forint.

1st December 2005

God knows what I’ve just eaten on this plane…and what the hell is Emmental cheese? At first glance I thought it said elemental. There were 14 E numbers in that sandwich, and it tasted like nothing, with a hint of ham. 7 euros for a sandwich and a cup of tea!

Jan 1st 2007
Three weeks in Glasgow

Again I wonder what the hell I am doing, wandering around the world, homeless, rootless, when I’m fast approaching sixty; and then I think, I’ve got years to sit doing nothing in some old-folks home. Though I’m sure I’d have them all doing arty-crafty stuff and turn the place into a growing concern, selling artwork, greeting cards and performing poetry. I’m beginning to fall apart; tomorrow, someone at the gastroenterology department is going to chuck a camera down my throat and check for inappropriate behaviour of my body against itself. I’ve been tidying out some of my life, trying to remember stuff and get it written down for my children, and I have got rid of a lot of junk - but I keep buying more.

April 29th 2008
From my cave

I might have stopped moving, for now, but I’m still travelling in my mind; I see the lovely new flat, the stretch of floorboards and empty walls – Loch Lomond, are you ready for me?

Monday, April 28, 2008


In searching for scraps of work to build a blog post I found this poem I wrote for Carrie’s 50th birthday earlier this year; I made her a scrapbook of our holiday in Gran Canaria.


My friend spreads her branches
all the way from Aberdeen
down the wind to me.

A tree with hands like rafts
and a heart to slice for stepping stones;
she is my wand.

We are driving music, rock legends
for grown-up women
and elegant drunks.

Stages of our growth are evident
in albums, in sequences, in
sentences finished.

The future flashes images of dreams
and rings around trunks till
zimmers surround us.

And this, is a funny find; I have no idea where it’s from, except a vague recollection of a game we played on WF in Writewords...yeah that was definitely it. Different people gave the POV and subject. Actually it was Facebook. Oh, I am getting old. 

Here’s my piece: handbag from pov of poor student.

My God, she must’ve made this. She’s crocheted it with straw; never seen anything like it; little fans or shell shapes with bobbles, and bloody bells. Bloody hell, but it is kinda cute. There’s hardly anything in it - eight pens is a bit excessive. I like the fancy rosettes on the front. Cosmopolitan: that must be some kind of label, not for her though; that wouldn’t describe her – she matches her bags. It’s scary how she discovers the stuff she wears and cooks up. I think one day this bag will be in a museum; someone will take it apart and analyse it all to hell – and come out with bollocks. It’s practically empty and I can’t find what I’m looking for.

‘Where’s your purse Mum? It’s not in here.’

Sunday, April 27, 2008


Tagged by Poppy, so this is a chance to do the 6 random facts over again; the last ones were a cop-out.

I have the most ridiculous things for breakfast; tradition has never made an impact on my life, except where porridge is concerned – salt not sugar. After the first (now, only) coffee I start to think about what to eat, and there are no limits; when I was a lush/drunk, in my thirties, it was often cold curry from the night before (lots of coffee) and craving for cold samosas would drive me around the west end of Newcastle searching little corner shops. I always have or try to do what I want, in the moment. I’m sitting here eyeing up the choice of:

White chocolate; orange Areo; toast; cream crackers and cheese; toast with sliced chicken; or marshmallows - I think I'll begin with them.

I like the CSIs and would sit through millions of them, one after the other, all day and night. I wonder if there’s a name for the kind of person I am; I once watched the whole set of Buffy in a week – that’s a season a day; more than twenty episodes in each. I am perfectly happy with my own company and the added dimensions the laptop and TV can bring. My son and I are rubbing along together in this tiny flat, very happily, as two similarly occupied individuals; separate but together; I write and watch drama: he creates music and plays computer games. We also make use of Instant Messenger; he demands food. I demand that he gets on his bike and go get chocolate!

When I was twenty, Roseanne and I led a starving life in Manchester; not through any kind of altruistic or creative leanings, but because we spent all our money on drinking, parties and night clubs – there was none left for things like food. We were living in a women’s hostel (which is now a nice hotel) which was pretty much a prison at the time; we made lots of friends, who readily shared their food with us; one woman worked in a butcher shop and used to bring me bacon. This is not the first time I cultivated friendship in order to eat; we had just left a job in a hotel in North Berwick where I had to sell my body to both a chef and a night porter to keep hunger at bay – staff meals were terrible.

‘Do it to Marion too,’ was something I said often to my parents, apparently. M-a-r-i-o-n was my imaginary friend. So, after swinging me between them my parents had to swing her too; they had to lift her on buses; search for her in shops; and tuck her into bed. The only memory I have of her now is the name, and how I said it; she was part of my life for over a year and this is one thing I regret not investigating closer – there are a lot of things I should’ve paid attention to that my mother could’ve shed more light on. Why didn’t I think that stuff was important enough to dig it out of her and write it down? I did once tape her talking about her family but it was already too late because she was forgetting names, though she reeled off a huge list of cousins in the order they were born. That tape is lost now. So, I will just have to re-imagine Marion; I don’t know if she was a child too or something quite else.

I much preferred my father to my mother and when he died I was devastated. We had so much in common that my mother hated; Benny Hill, Monty Python, Cook & Dudley – our sense of humour left her cold and she would clank about the kitchen whenever they were on. I was nineteen and he had just turned forty-eight, that day. He died at the exact time he was born. I’d been sleeping on the sofa, looking after him – he had emphysema, we knew he was dying but weren’t ready for it right then. It was a very strange feeling, losing him like that; as if someone had slammed a heavy door in my face. I know I went all peculiar; I couldn’t speak to anyone, not even my friends; couldn’t lift my eyes to people in the street in case of some kind of acknowledgement or something. I think maybe I was hiding from his death.

I worry about what’s going to happen to the bits of writing I leave behind; unfinished, unread. Will they just disappear back into the universe... for someone else to find? I hope so. It would please me immensely if someone could finish them for me. I was thinking about Julia Darling’s unfinished work last week, wondering what happened to it and how it could be finished for her, keeping her voice intact; now that’s something I would love to do, and in a purely selfless and invisible way. I do hope that one of my grandchildren, or their progeny, get the writing bug and can use what’s left of me. So I’m leaving my work to them and my body to science. Sorted.

Saturday, April 26, 2008


Mock Duck tagged me so I’ve got to relate 6 random facts about myself:

1. I hate all sport; even computer games.
2. I like watching musical-acting-all-dancing competitions on telly.
3. I know England better than I know Scotland (my homeland).
4. My eyes are not as blue as they used to be.
5. My hair is not as thick, or as red, as it used to be.
6. My, formerly very shapely, ankles have disappeared.

I tag: Tania   WriterGirl    Amy     Barjoker    


This link is a wonderful surfing find. Check it out; and there are others on the site. I've just spent half an hour prowling in the oddest places. I might be back with more.

and... Scaryduck  

and... Funny dogs   


titaniawrites tagged me with this bookish meme:

1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people, and acknowledge who tagged you.

So, from the stack on the window ledge above my head I pull

Haunted by Chuck Palahnuik, ’is a novel made up of stories; twenty-three of the most horrifying, hilarious, mind-blowing, stomach-churning tales you’ll ever encounter.’

I’ve only read the first few and it is pretty good and horrible. He’s the guy who wrote Fight Club.
The format is quite strange so I can’t work out the title of this section – it could be Dog Years. I must go back to this, and finish it.

Here are the next three sentences:

Mr Whittier, our old, dead monster.

Mrs Clark, our new monster.

‘Today, the Matchmaker says, ‘is going to be a long, long day.’

- not a lot of typing here!

I tag:

Charlotte Duckworth  Anne Brooke  MarlaD  

 The Irish Nomad Mock Duck

Thursday, April 24, 2008


The letters to Psychic Pam are going well; I’m having an hysterical time and looking forward to seeing them all printed out in a few months. Some of them seem as if they’ll fit in better later in the sequence. Got five done now. This seems to me to be a great and very sneaky way to write.

I’m also thinking of putting a spurt on with this novel so have great plans for next week; gotta go see the Pollok mob on Saturday and was thinking of a stroll up Loch Lomond way on Sunday – with a few grandchildren. I want to take photos of Balloch for one of the other novels; the Susan Hill project. I’ve never really taken the time to look at the place properly; always just been passing through somehow – couldn’t name a shop or pub, but there’s a great chippy beside the train station. Quite a bit of that book is set in the area and I’ve barely set foot on the loch-side, I’m ashamed to say - it’s only fifteen miles away!

I’m doing a photo collage for a woman; I took the pictures of her children the other week but couldn’t get a perfect one with all three, hence the collage/art idea – supposed to be going out today to buy a frame but too lazy. There’s always tomorrow – gotta have it done for Saturday!

God, isn’t my life always about the last minute? Yes oh yes. I’m almost finished the blanket for my nephew. Angel was striking poses with it wrapped around her last night in work so I’m going to take the camera in tomorrow night and capture her. If she says it’s okay I’ll post one.

I was reviewing April in my head last night and feel that I’ve been pretty much full of death and destruction (aren’t I always?) but not in a depressing way, I don’t think. On the whole I’d say I was a very positive and optimistic person; cynical too, but that’s allowed in this climate.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


1996 (snatches from my journal)

I still haven’t got the lovely wee car back yet; they’ve broken something else while they were fiddling with the exhaust and are searching Scotland for a new part. God knows when I’ll get it back, I’m demented waiting on these bloody buses or forking out for taxis; I must’ve spent £30 last week on them alone…and in the time I’ve spent on the buses I’ve read four little Penguin 60s and a half of William Golding’s The Inheritors. Brilliant.

She came home from hospital today and the torrent of abuse began the first time I refused her extra painkillers. I think she expected to be in charge of her pills and could take them whenever she wanted. She hadn’t been in the house five minutes when she attacked Amazon - in fact the ambulances were still in the road! I stuffed Amazon outside with busfare to the shopping centre and when I returned to the living room THE MOTHER had begun to throw money around the room; there were at least nine pound coins, all heading for my head.

‘Well, it can stay there,’ I said, ‘because I’m not picking it up.’ They’d scattered under the sofa, across the room, under the TV. I felt the tears behind my eyes. She began to cry and scream and then to sing. I phoned the hospital and asked advice about the little extra pill she’s allowed between the others if the pain is very bad. I’m just muddling along, but I won’t be bullied.

No-one came near today; no nurse, doctor, home-help, social worker. I don’t know where she’s going to sleep tonight; she’s terrified to lie down, can’t get her legs up on the bed. She’s huge – bigger than I thought. She tore off her bandages while I was cooking dinner. She said the hospital staff had put ‘bad stuff’ on her legs, on purpose to hurt her, just for pure badness. She’s going to sue them.

Back in 2008

– this clip is from the two weeks before my mother died; she went out like a tornado. A doctor described her as, Mad, bad and dangerous to know. She had persuaded me to get her out of hospital, that she would be fine when she was in her own house. I’d moved lock stock and children back up to Glasgow from Newcastle to do this (in the last year of my degree). I think the nursing staff was just glad to get rid of a difficult patient; she’d been throwing things all over the ward. Apparently it’s to do with hallucinations; she had water infections, leg ulcers...actually her body was drowning itself.

Obviously, no-one was looking at the big picture; they let me fall into this well and didn’t care enough to examine the situation properly. I ended up, a week later, sleepless, with my clothes inside out and back to front. It was a complete nightmare and the only support I got arrived on the last day because I’d broken down on the phone to someone with clout. When this stranger turned up I cried on her shoulder. She promised a wheelchair taxi if I could get my mother in the chair and out of the house; there had been a lot of biting and scratching going on – she’d completely refused to accept medical care for her legs or go to hospital. ‘Oh, I’ll stuff her in it all right,’ I said. I felt like a soldier going off to war, having to gather my courage for the onslaught. She had ballooned to a million stones, mostly water, and could barely stand, and I was knackered.

She'd tried to bite the doctor and nurses; she fell in the middle of the night and refused to go with the ambulance to hospital; two doctors offered me a bed for her and she wouldn't go; the only way out seemed for me to have her committed - thank God it didn't come to that.

I have to deal with the guilt incurred by the release I felt at her death, and temper it with memories of my real mother; that mad old bitch wasn’t her, and the whole incident was made worse by the money situation, the broken car, public transport and lack of support. Home carers have no idea of just how bad it can really get, until they’re so deep in the job that they can’t escape. I am glad that my experience was so short, but it is painful to accept and acknowledge that relief.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Letters to Psychic Pam is new. Yes, another project, but it’s just a little one; I have to write a letter every day to a fictional character for about four months or so, then it all sits together as a piece of work – what’s it for, where’s it going? I don’t know yet, but it tickled my imagination. I found the idea in the writing workshop site in my links and thought I could take it somewhere. The story is based on a real situation but I’m twisting and turning it into my own thing. They’re only about 500wds, and I don’t absolutely have to do one every day but, at the moment, I can’t wait to see what comes next.

I began the other day with 60yr old Isabel writing a letter to her psychic, asking for a tarot reading through the post. After creating the first one, I was worried about getting interesting stuff every day; when this (previous post) fell out of my head yesterday I sniggered all the way to the end. So, am looking forward to seeing what happens.

Other writers are always telling me to focus on one thing at a time but it seems that, after all these years, this is the way I work...and I am inching to the end of stuff. Maybe it’s because of the poetry; poets need to put work away for long periods of time so must have lots of projects – and I learned a bundle from sending work out far too early. I have some poems, started twenty years ago that are still not quite right; some of these have been rejected many times; they’ve been re-worked, moved back and forth from poetry to prose and back again. I know they have heart; a diamond inside them – I just need to find it.

I must be feeling my age; this is the second elderly MC I’ve come up with, but I like her – she is off her tartan trolly, and is in fact a stalker on two fronts. This will be fun.

Happily, I am writing every day, at the moment; sometimes just for the blog but that’s okay. Stress is not something allowed in my life, these days. I’m working slowly towards some kind of crescendo that will be a re-birth for me – then maybe I can quit the day job and play with words all day (I don’t need much money). Ideally, there will be some clay in there too; the idea of settling down in a new flat with space for all my stuff is exciting; photography, pottery, art and crafts. I can actually see it being just a couple of years away; it sits in a frame, well-lit, at the end of the corridor but I am sauntering towards it: not running. I’ll get there, eventually, without breaking a sweat; we wouldn’t want to appear too desperate, now would we?

Monday, April 21, 2008


Dear Psychic Pam

I was waiting for my little yellow bus today but a white one turned up instead. Things like that throw me off balance. Do you think it means something? Is it a sign that things are moving on without me? Our usual driver sat behind the wheel and spun my ticket out of the machine but there was someone in my seat. Somehow, the day is getting out of control. My hands keep attracting my attention; they look different – much, much older than they were yesterday, though I haven’t really noticed them for a maybe it all started weeks ago, months even. Do you think it’s possible that I’ve been abducted or something? I mean surely I would’ve noticed these changes.

It’s all driving me crazy and I’m annoyed at myself for being paranoid, but when I saw that the big clock on the Pearce Institute was obviously new I nearly fell off the pavement; it was smashed before, wasn’t it? I’m scared to look in the mirror in case there’s a stranger there. So I’ve locked myself in my room – I don’t have a mirror in here but I need to avert my eyes from the glass doors of the unit. The news is normal, I think; it’s only me who’s a bit bonkers. I watched Who’s Line is it Anyway and got a shock when they put on the alien masks; there was a flicker of recognition in the back of my mind. If I’d known I was mad when I was over at the hospital visiting my friend I would’ve popped into A&E for a quick brain scan. Do you think I need one? Should I just get a taxi over there now, do you think? 

I know you can't really answer that.

Oh I don’t know what to do for the best so that’s why I’m writing to you Pam; you always help me to see the real world. I think I’m going blind – I have to keep rubbing my eyes to get rid of the film that makes everything blurred. I know I’ve asked you before but do you think it’s possible that I might’ve been taken? I don’t know how else to explain all the goings-on; I can hear music too – it comes from all directions at once...that must mean that it’s really on the inside, doesn’t it? My feet tap to it, honestly they do – when they think I’m not looking. When I catch them they freeze. It’s just occurred to me that it might be a circulation problem; that affects the extremities, doesn’t it? Are your eyes extremities too?

I know you’ll forgive me rambling on (you always do) and I hope you can recognise all this as something – hopefully nothing serious, and offer some advice. Even the coats hanging up behind my door seem to be twitching, and the cat has totally disappeared...and this is the tenth floor of a flat! Though I hear her sometimes. She wouldn’t take food from me the other day; do you think she recognised that my hands were those of a stranger? Who am I Pam? Do I sound different to you?

Signed:  Very Worried in Glasgow (Isabel)

Ps; I’ll be waiting by the door for the postman.

Sunday, April 20, 2008


It’s very strange, coming across these old pieces of writing and getting a glimpse into my old self; I’m glad I covered some of my thoughts. I remember me, at twenty-odd, standing in a bar, trying to capture remnants of old politics but nothing survived because they hadn’t been written down. I keep telling Amazon that she will regret not writing. So she has scattered bits of diaries (which are better than nothing) but the laptop makes all the difference; now it’s easy to nip in and type a quick note, and Bibo will save her. I can just see her old self cackling at the language of messages and outrageous statements of her twirling twenties.

I recently found Musician’s old diary amongst my stuff that survived the fire, and the skip; from when he was about seven. There was a line in it that said, ‘I hate Maggy Facha. She takes my mums muny.’ There are only a few pages covered. I don’t even have that from my childhood so whatever is dragged out of memory will be fashioned/tainted by this old head; and the thoughts and ideas are lost forever. My young life was spent reading instead of writing. Just imagine that teenager; I know that I searched for the right man to de-flower me for a good couple of years before he turned up, in bed beside me, sleeping; we woke together and consummated something in the middle of the night – and there were definitely no rainbows or fireworks...but it would’ve been very interesting to hear it directly from that me.

All the school reports I’d saved have disappeared; I wanted to embarrass my children while they berated their own kids for lack of attention, grubby and untidy work etc, but they were lost in the fire. So now, I am collecting biscuit tins to keep important bits in; mind you, at the moment said tins are full of crafty stuff and important documents are still lying around, unsafe in the world. I am so obsessed with memories and losing old pieces of our lives that I have multi-copied all the photos and my writing onto discs that are spread around everyone’s houses. All the old negatives are missing too; I always meant to check and sort them out.

I wish I had kept a record of illnesses and injuries; over the years the lives of three terrible children kind of blend and fade into each other that I only remember broken bones and a few stitches but not who had Chicken Pox or German measles. I began keeping diaries in the mid 80s but it was all pretty sporadic and there were an awful lot of hangovers and drunken ramblings (they’ve gone too). I don’t think there were many intelligent musings in them, so not a huge loss. If only I had been the perfect mother; I might have written up amusing daily reports to go down in family history – instead of grabbing as much personal time as I could while they slept. Things might’ve been very different with this old head on that younger me.

Saturday, April 19, 2008


1993 (from my journal, still on the train)

‘There’s the sea!’ Amazon stands up. We’re coming up to Berwick. I like the coastlines; see myself as The French Lieutenant’s Woman, standing on the edge of land, pointing my tragic but beautiful face out to sea, watching for my future, waiting for something to happen. I want a house where the air is on the move: not stagnant. Well-travelled air and a great expanse of sky. Sometimes I stand on the pier at Tynemouth, looking out to sea. I’ve never been further than one night in Amsterdam.

TocToc is 16, Musician 12, Amazon 11…and I’m still alive. I dreamed the other night that I was smoking; I haven’t smoked for nine years. The skin on my fingers is white/pink – nicotine stains long gone, nails white-edged. I dream a lot; sometimes they’re so strange I fear for my sanity – not the usual crazy feelings but real questions. I once dreamed that I halved Amazon in two; put the bottom half inside the wardrobe and sat the rest of her up in bed. A day or two later a loud knocking on the door made me so afraid of what I’d done, that there would be a social worker at the door who wanted to see Amazon…I thought I’d lose her. So, I went to put her back together but the bottom half had withered slightly. I managed to stick her together for the interview, which I don’t remember, and everything turned out alright! I don’t know why I halved her in two.

A gypsy told my fortune last week. I saw her coming but couldn’t make my body avoid her. She grabbed my hand and talked fast with a strong Irish or country accent into my face. I couldn’t break free and could feel passers-by watching us as we stood beneath the hot air vents in the shopping centre. She said everything would be alright, that someone long-dead watched over me and that a man loved me. She said I would move house but not far. I kept asking her how much it would cost and she kept talking. As she tucked a small bunch of lucky white heather into my fist she asked me for three pounds.

I couldn’t speak throughout the spiel; my chest was bursting into my throat. She took the money and I walked hard for the Haymarket exit, stumbled into Northumberland Street gasping for breath, trying to hold off the tears. Why am I crying? I said to myself over and over again.

I glance at the children, ‘Look at the cows, they’re lying down. That means it’s going to rain.’ TocToc is teaching them to play Chinese Patience. They’re not listening to me. I press my face to the window as the train curves; I can see its head and tail until my breath clouds the glass. Berwick is behind us now, only half an hour to Edinburgh. We spent a week in Berwick when Amazon was one – she had her first birthday in a sand pit; the beach was impossible; it reeked of rotting seaweed, fumes waving up the cliff to keep us away from the edge.

Friday, April 18, 2008


I’ve just had a call from Hamish, on Morag’s phone; he was almost made a widower because a junior doctor and young nurse put Morag on a fluid that she was seriously allergic to! (to which even) Why don’t they flag this stuff up in great red letters? She went into anaphylactic shock and has been back in intensive care and high dependency. This makes me sooooo mad. After Amazon’s brain haemorrhage and subsequent pregnancy, she had to relate the whole story at every ante-natal visit because they wanted to know why the elective caesarean? NOTES are there for a reason.

This was one of my visiting days – I always have a fit when he uses her phone to call me. I mean, you see the name come up and pick up with a, ‘Hello dear,’ but different voices make your stomach churn. A couple of years ago, I answered the phone to Louise and her daughter’s voice threw me. She told me that her mother had died from breast cancer. I hadn’t seen Louise for maybe six months because I was travelling round Devon, but she was fine. There was a vague memory that she was going for a test...but, dead in six months! My god.

I am constantly amazed at how the world changes when I’m not looking; I expect everyone and everything to continue on the same level, to stay the same. When I left Morag on Monday she was almost sprightly, moving around, going to the toilet, talking up a storm. She knows her own body and all the medication, which is great because she has to be on top of all the stuff new and strange staff don’t know; there have been quite a few occasions when she’s had to stop them offering her the wrong medication. If she had been asleep when they’d given her that fluid the other night she’d be dead. She made them stop the drip but it was already too late.

I spoke to her for a minute so I think she’s okay but she’ll be on my mind all weekend now.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


1993 (from my journal)

Sitting by myself, wearing white leggings and big T-shirt; bare feet up on the opposite seat, boots under the table, and a pile of library books. I’m watching a man with dark hairy arms. He has a pinky ring on his left hand, and a sturdy beard buried in The Scotsman. Long hairs seep out of the neck of his cotton shirt. I wonder about his hands, how the long fingers would feel on my neck, tangled in my hair. Men like women with long hair. The glint of gold on his collar bone brings me to my senses; I can’t bear a man in chains. A child is grizzling further up the carriage; please let them get off at Berwick.

Farmers are out hosing their fields. Still in the flat countryside of England, windbreaks of young trees laze in the beating sun, fields of rape-seed turn the landscape into a painting with pylons etched between long looping power lines like suspension bridges. Our table is littered with Yorkie bars, plastic glasses and orangeade. We were lucky; the train was empty – I’d forgotten to book seats and had been worried, but soothed with the idea of us all in separate carriages. TocToc, Musician and Amazon spread themselves out around the car but are now sitting together playing cards.

We have become civilized travellers. I used to be the mad woman on a train, screaming at my children under my breath, between my teeth and kicking their feet under the table. It was a case of, ‘Sit there, be quiet, give him that, leave her alone, don’t say things like that, look at the sheep, there’s the seaside, don’t, you’re the oldest, don’t talk to him then, play cards, shut up, leave me alone, give him some paper, see the mist rolling in, no you can’t, just because, shut up and sit down, Jesus Christ, you’re disgusting, blow your nose, I don’t know, another hour, watch my coffee, WILL YOU GIVE HER SOME PAPER!'

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Ooooh, the scene I've been pondering these last few weeks suddenly fell out of my head last night at work. I had to get this bad character out of his flat after a row with his mother, and thanks to a prompt from my Flash 2 group it all came together; I often use their challenges with on-going projects. So, I was very happy to discover this character tearing the pages out of a bible and throwing them out of a window.

To me, that’s one of the most exciting things about writing - that feeling of freedom, of letting loose with no boundaries where you can make people do anything at all. When he tore those pages out of the book I couldn’t wait to get the window open, and could actually see the scraps of paper flying on the wind, up rather than down.

Also just discovered Scrabulous in Facebook; haven’t played Scrabble for years. I wonder if they have a version of Trivial Pursuit. I’m playing a game with Stella – isn’t it brilliant that you can do something as sociable as board games with friends who are 150 miles distant? She’s in Whitley Bay and I’m in Glasgow. Last time I saw her we were spending quality time with two other friends in The Biscuit Factory art gallery in Newcastle the other year...falling in love with portraits of Jersey cows.

Oracle and I had lots of time in work last night to chat and fell into words and prompts in creative writing; I’m going to set up an envelope of lines and words for him and he’ll do one for me. He’s trying to build a writing group but is having problems finding people; he’s afraid of those mad egotists who want to read their novels to an audience but won’t listen to other people’s work or take in criticism. We had a very strange woman in a Newcastle group who studied her own work and rustled papers and bags while others were reading – it’s so rude! I think that finding or growing the right people for a writing group one of the most difficult things in life.

Looking forward to work tonight; hoping to finish that scene. Off for tea and penguins now.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


The Irish Nomad (from my links below) has got me thinking about death; she blogged about the Irish writer Nuala O'Faolain who has just been told that cancer is killing her. My mind leapt to Julia Darling; she continued writing in her blog until she had no energy left - this is what a writer does, in my mind. I have added a link to her website, straight to the blog, which I've already reversed so it's easy to read from the beginning; before she even knew it was called a blog! It is a stunning testimony to her character and view of the world...and how she portrayed it in her writing.

She was such a laugh; I've just been reading some of it now and I miss her all over again; and Newcastle - no-one writes about the North East the way she did. And Live Theatre; Newcastle has an amazing theatre and poetry scene. I have tried to integrate since I've been back in Glasgow but it's not the same; there doesn't seem to be the same quality in the work being performed at open mic sessions (poetry). And, there isn't the same prolific playwriting going on either.

At the start of the blog she is writing 'TheTaxi Driver's Daughter', which reminds me of an hysterical morning in a writing workshop we both attended up at Newcastle Uni in the late 80s and early 90s; we'd been set an exercise to finish the phrase, 'The Tree of...' and pick words out of a box. Mine was 'Ready Meals'. I won't tell you what Julia had because it's in that novel. It's a great read.

That workshop was brilliant; run by Margaret Wilkinson and Gillian Allnut - boy they sent us on some fantastic trips, made us do weird and wonderful things in the name of Writing From the Inside Out. There's quite a lot of Julia's work on the website, and links to radio plays and interviews - loads of interesting surfing.

The radio interview where Nuala O'Faolain talks of her swiftly approaching death is so sad but compelling listening. It's Irish radio programme RTE. I think we all need a little conversation with death before the big event. You can really feel the silences and her struggle with emotion, but she controls herself and gets to make the most heartbreaking statements. I think there are few people who connect with you like this in your life; they make your mind work - both Nuala and Julia.  I haven't read Nuala yet but I will.

Monday, April 14, 2008


You receive an unexpected bill that you can’t pay; burn a green candle, mark a copy of the bill with money oil, visualise yourself paying it, ask the gods to help you. Add a piece of Sympathetic Magic by writing PAID on it, then burn it and send your request to the universe.

Angel, Shan and I were pondering the question of money oil; what was it? Another quiet night in work; we swung in our chairs as I entertained them with my pagan research. It was decided that to make money oil you’d have to put a magic number of coins, in a jar of oil, maybe sunflower, and just let it stew. But I said I’d google it when I got home.

Of course, nothing is that simple...and then again; see what I found!

Magical Oil Recipes
by D. Sylvan of the Sibylline Order.

The following recipes are measured in drops, blended with enough base oil to fill a 1/2 ounce bottle. I prefer sweet almond oil, but olive, avocado, or jojoba will do. Olive is the cheapest but also has a smell of its own that may interfere with the recipe.

Fast Money Oil                    Even Faster Money Oil

7 drops patchouli                    10 drops patchouli
5 drops cedar                patchouli is a great money-draw
4 drops vetivert
2 drops ginger

So I’m just popping out for some Patchouli.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Friday, April 11, 2008


I couldn't get my wifi to work this morning and went off in a huff, thinking, I'm not staying in here with no internet! I took myself up town to buy wool. Oooooh, it's lovely. I've got three blankets on the go in work right now; I was trying to use up the old stuff that's been lying around for ages - that means that they are interesting!

If you're ever in Glasgow and want to buy wool, pop into Watt Bros on Sauchiehall St. I needed white cotton to do a doily thing for my boss so had to get it in John Lewis (hardly anywhere sells wool these days - shocking but true). I prowled the shelves looking for the cheapest and it was £2.50 for 50g! Anyway, there I am, standing in the queue to pay when I notice this woman with a handful of assorted balls, which I imagined were for blankets or craft work; I whispered to her that she'd find better bargains in Watt Bros and shook my huge carrier bag at her. She was three behind me in the line, so I don't think the whisper was invisible.

The sun was shining, I hadn't worn a jacket; this is when Glaswegians go mad, thinking that summer is just around the corner but the old Scottish adage is...'Ne'r cast a clout till May is oot!' I felt elated and free, brave in the face of chill air; when the sun landed on me it warmed the dark corners of my memory - dreams of flip-flops and strappy tops. I've cooped myself up in that room every weekend with a machine on my knees; suddenly the other day I realised that I was in danger of Deep Vein Thrombosis if I didn't get some exercise. The fifty yard walk from Buchannon St subway is better than nothing, it's a start.

It was unbelieveably quiet in work tonight and I crocheted up a whole 100g ball between calls. There was only three of us on, and no food being passed around - so I was a good girl. I'll take the camera into work tomorrow and catch the WIP.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008


Whenever I need to know something I wait till I'm in work to ask Oracle; he is the font of all knowledge. For instance, there was a news item the other month about mercury that I couldn't get my head around; think I first heard of it on a writing forum and posted an answer, 'What! What! What?' So, before I'd even taken my coat off I asked him, 'What's all this about mercury?'
'Oh retrograde,' he said, and went on to explain that the planet Mercury affected communication on Earth some months of the year but that this time it was lasting longer than usual - hence the newsworthy-ness.

I turned to Shan and said, 'For God's sake don't tell him I thought everyone was talking about mercury: not the planet!'

Oracle is also the very proud owner of a sonic screwdriver, which he is never without.


Herman has friends who get him to house-sit while they're away; now they've got a fabulously enormous flat screen telly on the wall - which, added to their cute little garden, makes visiting much more attractive. (We both live in flats and have portable TVs) So it feels like we're at the cinema when in front of anything bigger than 24"....and sitting in a garden, drinking wine is just sooooooo decadent to us poor townies.


I don't need feeding but Angel often brings me food; when she makes Shepherd's Pie there is always a dish for me, so I put away whatever I brought into work for my break, or offer it to someone else. Last week it was roasted chicken portions. I must get myself up off this bed and cook something for this wonderful woman. She gave me a recipe that I've been longing to try; maybe tomorrow I'll shop. The trouble with this job is the generosity of others - they are keeping me fat!


to be continued.....

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


I had lunch with Tilly a couple of weeks ago; haven't seen her in over a year. She looks amazing - must be all the sex; she's back with her old flame and the weight just falls off. ME makes her life hell at times but it seems to be sitting quietly behind her right shoulder at the moment; she still needs a walking stick though.

Her younger son is getting married in August, before the older one ships out for Iraq. I don't think (I know) I wouldn't want even one of my sons in the army, never mind both. She was an army wife so she has remnants of that mind-set still, I imagine. But it must be hard, especially with all that's going on these days. And then, all that has always been going on somewhere.

So she's planning this wedding, in a matter of months, with no money, as you do. I remember grudging the nine quid I had to pay to get married! That's all that remains in my mind about it; the £9 must've been for the licence. The bride-to-be was with us for lunch, and she's lovely. I think it must take something completely extra to make a good army wife. I made an excellent oil rig worker's wife but there is a great difference between two weeks apart and two months...on a regular basis.

Tilly and I met when we worked in the Psychic Centre about ten years ago, when she had lots of time to dabble in the arts of the white witch. Over the years the ME has worn her down and she doesn't have the energy for extracurricular activities, though sex changes all that; it has a very healing effect on her. I do worry that all this activity around the wedding is going to do her in completely though, no matter how well she appears to be. Come September I think she'll be exhausted.

I think the time we give to people we love creates more energy around us; I've been wasting my time on myself and am knackered - I need to go buy some running shoes to make up the distance between me and my family. I must put this laptop down and socialise; get out of this bed, this cave, this homeless pause that is my life right here and now.

Monday, April 07, 2008


Glasgow is hot stuff, apparently; there’s snow all over Britain and, again, we escape – so I don’t suppose I can really complain about the weather since I’ve been back. They were deep in it in Aberdeen last month and all we had was a five-minute flurry, enough for me to say to my grandchildren on Easter Monday, ‘Oh look, it’s snowing!’ My son bought sleds for his kids the other year and so far they’ve only managed to use them once, and that was just frost.

I’m sure there used to be more snow, when I was a child. Every winter we made slides on the pavements; great black slashes that we polished, standing like tight-rope walkers, flying down the street, faster and faster...terrifying the life out of the elderly – who put salt on our fun. Of course beating the snow into a death-trap wouldn’t be allowed nowadays; and I’d be amazed if the kids even knew what a slide was. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating the right of snow to lie around my life and make me scared to go out in case I fall and break a hip: I’m just noting the difference.

The worst thing about this country is the weather; sometimes summer consists of a handful of warm weeks in May, which will have disappeared from our memory by July. I remember one year, maybe 1978, waiting for a summer that absolutely never arrived! I’m sure I would’ve seen it, because I was looking. My son was two and I had washing on the line every morning; that’s why I know the sun didn’t shine – I lived in a very bad area and had to sit out and guard the I had a pretty relaxing year but no tan.

I’ve spent the last five years between Devon and Spain and almost nine months have passed since I came back here – it’s been a long winter. I have recently become aware that I know England better than my homeland of Scotland, so plan to change that this year by exploring the wilds of the islands and highlands with my camera. I am ashamed to say that I haven’t been further north than Fort William or Inverness and Ullapool...and the only island I’ve set foot on is Millport (which is the town, I can’t even remember the name of the island).

Meanwhile, I have half a metre of pale grey fleece around my shoulders to save on heating; summer is bound to be here soon and the thought of catching great images of the Western Isles in the coming months fills me with enthusiasm, if not heat.

Sunday, April 06, 2008


If you throw away my words after I’m dead I’ll disappear completely. I want to leave something; need to be more useful than a flash of selective memory in the minds of family and friends. I’d love it if some future relative unearthed my scribblings and were entertained and hopefully stimulated enough to make changes in their lives, because of me; I hope to be more than an image in a scrapbook (of my making).

The other night, I watched the dead body programme; a new Horizon for the future of our parts, where medical schools can put in an order for a bunch of knees or a clutch of forearms, with hands attached. Apparently there is a huge market in human spares; the actual parts are not for sale – the cost is for the work involved in the butchery process.

So, do you want to leave your body to medical science? Yes, I think I might. There was a mention of a website at the end of the programme, I popped in there and eventually found the site I was looking for, with the information on how to put yourself in the hands of probing students. This is the link to The Human Tissue Authority.

It’s not just the working, warm parts that are useful and necessary:

After you die they can strip skin to be used as grafts

A spine costs $900 and is used for testing orthopaedic implants

In the US corneas are worth $6000 a pair for transplanting

Forearm & hand is only worth $383; used for surgical practice; learning techniques, like keyhole

Tendons can be up to $1000 each

Shoulders are complicated to remove, $510 each. They’re used for orthopaedic research and surgical practice

So, treat this as a kind of living will. My body doesn’t really matter to me. Of course I might be too old, or riddled with something that would make them reject me when the time came; there might be a glut of cadavers. In that case just stuff me in a rented coffin, straight from the morgue to the fire...with no services or witnesses. I won’t be there - I’ll be in the pub with you!

Though, wouldn’t it be great if, by then, there’d be a way to extract thoughts and memories from our brains; complete productivity.

Saturday, April 05, 2008


I'm spending the day in bed with my lover, the laptop: not going to visit the Polok mob and being sociable, again. Happily, there's a chunky chicken stew bubbling in the slow-cooker. I want to play in my blog; just discovered labels, and a lot of the old stuff needs sorting. Well, that's my excuse; I never worry about these hermit periods that dot my life: I do often give a second glance to my eating habits, which become stranger by the year. Breakfasts this week have included: beef stew; marshmallows; Tuc crackers followed by custard creams; Hamwiches, without bread; but the most normal was probably cheese sandwiches made with Scottish rolls.

I must go up town tomorrow and buy a pair of decent walking shoes (lost mine in the fire) so I can walk to work and get a smidgen of exercise. I blame the laptop; I just can't bear to take my eyes off it. I thought Amazon was going to borrow it last night and was distraught at the thought; when I arrived home from work at 1am and saw the beautiful beast smiling at me from its place by my bed I almost sobbed with relief. I've only come to notice this passion in the last year and now I'm ready to embrace it, go public - make some kind of anouncement.

I AM IN LOVE WITH A MACHINE and if it asks me to marry it I'll say YES!


Morag is doing well; she told me yesterday that she was given permission to feel cautiously optimistic. She looked good and is a little more mobile; lost a couple more tubes and drugs plus the catheter...going to the toilet!

I remembered to make the card; it's their aniversary today so she and Hamish will spend some time together tonight, watching telly. Because she's a long-stay patient, and in a separate room, the staff don't mind if he stays past visiting time.

She was telling me that Hamish had a phonecall from the fraud squad the other day; the bank branch, asking him if he was in America. 'No, no I'm not,' he said. They told him that someone had captured his details and used his card in Walmart, spending around $1,000 and $11 in MacDonalds! Well done his bank; this had been spotted almost immediately. Apparently, the thieves try to spend £1 to test if the card number is valid and if it's a hit they can copy the card. Hamish only lost that initial pound and now the bank's fraud team will pass it on to the police.

So happy aniversary you two - I hope there are many more to come.

Friday, April 04, 2008


My shoes are too big. I bought them in Aberdeen the other month, at the end of a tiring and boozy weekend with Carrie.
‘This is the best time to buy shoes,’ she said, ‘when your feet are swollen.’

Apparently not, for me - it must’ve been the accumulation of champagne, white wine, lager, vodka & coke, Tia Maria and Cointreau & lemonade...of course, the cakes and chocolate wouldn’t have helped either, nor all the standing at bars. They were reduced to £2 in Primark and I have worn them with socks and trousers so think I’ve had my money’s worth. I love them; pretty kind of silver ballet slippers, more metal-coloured than shiny – definitely not suitable for climbing trees.

I haven’t had a drink since, so my feet sit lightly in the shoes and flap them on and off as I turn my chair in circles. It’s been pretty quiet recently at work; I’ve crocheted a lot of blankets and am now on to handbags which I line with curtain fabric to give them body. One has ended up looking like something that Terry Pratchet would give to a witch’s assistant for collecting squirrels’ secret hoards (or maybe Magpie feathers).

I’m swinging on my twirly chair at work, contemplating the artex ceiling and thinking, I don’t need to wear make-up, nail varnish or jewellery; all my embellishments are inside my head. I am The Faraway Tree; my mind just climbs up my limbs and leaves through the hole at the crown, into space; an installation to populate with word-art; a fabulous Etch-a-Sketch. I suppose this puts the interpretation of the statement, I want to be a tree, in a completely different light. Oh for Dame Wash-a-Lot and the fruits of all seasons; my life would be empty without Enid Blyton.

I often wish my visitors were insubstantial, less demanding. I’m not crazy, just very enthusiastic about things; if I can’t see it then I want to know what its thinking. Life isn’t easy; sometimes we need a little stimulation, it helps with circulation, especially if you have a sedentary job, which I do. The most satisfying thing about being single is the selfishness you are allowed to get away with; it gives you a sense of being in control.

People ask me if I’m lonely, and what do I do with my time and do I want to go sit in the local pub with them or spend my Saturday nights in clubs watching fifty-year-old women wobbling around like misshapen Barbies to bang-bang music. No; I’m in clover and this field is mine. Nobody’s getting on a lawnmower and cutting my grass, unless I request it.

A woman on her own is travelling; she is definitely not a ballerina, twirling herself dizzy on a musical jewellery box to the tune from The Bodyguard.

Thursday, April 03, 2008


This poem is about twenty years old but is now so dated that I don't think anywhere would take it. Its place is here, uncovered, with all the others in the post below.


Cavaliers on the weekend tour
we keep eyes peeled for well-heeled
men with wallets, and hair just groomed.
My hot lips squint from lurching cheers
in clouded rooms, guessing careers
comparing body parts to heights
though any one might test the means
come the end of the long long, night.

Sliding from cocktail to bar, Whores
they call us. We laugh at sneers
slant eyes across pints of Coors
nudge elbows ‘Had him last year -
condommed to the armpits, no fear’

and necks stretched against boisterous bites
walled up dark lanes with trembling knees
come the end of the long, long night.

Now bare-back riders buck no more
no sucking and jumping bones, dears –
safe sex penetrates…no encore.
Fingers don’t feel the same here,
turns the spear into a gloved peen;
in these diseased years thighs are tight
the months are passing, now eighteen
come the end of the long, long night.


So cancel my ticket to ride
blow sweet kisses, goodnight good knights,
sing softly of white wine and beer
come the end of the long, long night.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008


I watched this guy the other night, working his way through a tv programme about penis size, penis envy and fear of what’s normal. He himself had come to terms with his 3 ½ inch member and even had a plaster cast made of the little beast. Apparently, he’s a comedian, so is dealing with his problem in public and trying to force other men out of the woodwork; there are thousands of them willing to chat, complain and moan about it online, incognito.

No-one would talk to him, well women did when asked what they thought about the question of size; there were mixed answers but most of them imagined a minimum of five inches. The men he tried to involve in conversation about their prize possessions were astounded and too embarrassed to seriously take part. But by the end of the programme he had over a hundred men send him photos they’d taken of their ‘chaps’ with their mobile phones, which were then mounted on a white-walled space and shown to the public.

Can you imagine this room, wall-to-wall penises; all shapes and colours, close-up and very personal? He had to coerce the first group into the room; they’d been huddling in the foyer with drinks, scared of being in the same room as a multitude of naked dicks/cocks/chaps/members, whatever you want to call them – they didn’t want to face it or each other. But, by the end of the showing he had persuaded quite a number of these visitors to enter a little curtained booth and take Polaroid snaps of their BITS which were also pinned up alongside the main exhibits.

All the way through this, every time the interviewer mentioned his little package, I was remembering two brothers that Carrie and I had in the 80s; when we compared notes the next day we were astounded to realise that in their case it ran in the family. In those days I measured dicks by doing one potato, two potato; a female fist might only be about 2 ½ inches high – these brothers only reached half a fist! I have to say that in a case like this SIZE DOES MATTER.

I think the end result of this programme was very arty; what a stunning thing is a room full of penises...they were so cute!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008


I saw a sign in the local shop for dry cleaning; it costs £5.30 per item. Seeing that notice took me back to 1969, when I thought I was a woman - a fifteen year old piece of skin and bone with no breasts. Out in the wonderful world; my first a job was in a Glasgow boutique. Walls painted black, clothes rails hooked on chains that dangled from the ceiling and music on a loop so that we all knew which song came next; My Cherie Amour crawled through our minds, Proud Mary boomed, and Back in the USSR banged. We boogied Bad Moon Rising and blasted Alright Now out of the open glass doors; we were the biggest attraction in the street.

I was the youngest on the staff, and last in, so it became my job to take the shop-soiled merchandise to be cleaned at the nearest launderette with a dry-cleaning machine. I’d get on the subway with my bag, and a little pile of money. It was a good skive and got me away from the manageress! Shetland wool crew-necks had black lines across the shoulders from dust and customers’ grubby fingers, sliding the hangers along and along. I got to read my Mills&Boon in peace for an hour and smoke loads of fags before smoothing and folding and stacking the laundry back into the bag; the fumes from the chemicals would turn my head. Later in the day I’d have to iron everything and return them to the rails. I often wonder if shops still do that; or do they just sell off the soiled and damaged stuff cheap. That was another thing; I had to make repair whenever I could, invisibly – burst seams, hems, replace buttons…I even had to dye something once, I think; perhaps it had faded from being in the window. I’m sure I had to sign the official  secret’s act.

After a couple of months, and with a few wage packets under my belt, I became a fashion statement. We would strut out at lunchtime, and sail through Central Station to the chip shop - sure that everyone was staring at us and turning green with envy at our daring style. We wore midi skirts, maxi skirts, tightly-fitted corduroy bell-bottoms and long-sleeved, narrow T-shirts with stars on; were made up with Miner’s Face Shapers and Rimmel Black Tulip lipstick (my father told me that if I ever collapsed in the street people would think I’d had a heart attack…my mother was mortified every time I left the house). We could only afford chips for lunch; most days I brought in bread for the toaster upstairs; I needed all my money for cigarettes – Players No10 were the cheapest, and if I paid child’s fare on the bus to and from work I could afford a pack of 20 a day. Sometimes I just stared out of the window and didn’t have to pay at all.

The Look was everything; I’d never been so stylish in my life. At one time we all had page-boy hairstyles, and we’d dot a few freckles across our noses with a brown eyebrow pencil. False eyelashes spiked from top and bottom, like long spiders’ legs; underneath we’d either draw or paint spiked lines – eyes were the thing. I have a vague memory of leaning on the handbag counter and looking up at boys who’d come in with their girlfriends. I thought I was stunningly beautiful, and, the sad look was in. When I was sixteen I assumed the world had been created just for us. It was a private club and we were the only members; no-one else could ever be as fabulous as us - except those who could afford to shop at Biba or Busstop.

The window dresser began to train me up, and the window became my stage; I would strike a pose, sitting on the floor at the feet of my mannequins…a doe-eyed dreamer, catching the attention of passing boys, sailors and unbeautiful teenagers. A new girl took over the dry-cleaning, though I still spent a lot of time at the ironing board, getting the packing-creases out of window stock. After many months I felt I was in control of my environment; choosing colour themes and styles gave me the confidence to argue with the manageress about sale items of the wrong hue going in my display. She didn’t have a creative bone in her whole body. I stormed out of my beautiful career and took a job in a café on West Nile Street. It was late 1970 and things were never quite the same again.