Passing of time

A grey-haired woman sits in a newly upholstered, navy-blue armchair in the dimly-lit, stale bedroom. She rests her head and covers her eyes with her hand as if sheltering them from a bright light. With her other hand, she holds a well-worn book tightly to her chest and can feel her heart beating with every vibration against it.

The Grandfather clock downstairs, beautifully chimes to announce the top of the hour, encouraging the woman to lift her head up. She looks into the mirror on the dressing-table beside her. The woman staring back is no longer someone she recognises.

She watches a tear trickle down her cheek and hang on her jawline until it drops and soaks into her blouse. She sniffs as she looks away, and gazes at the vase of dead – once red – roses on the bedside table, and wonders when it was, she bought them.

The Broken Lightbulb – for the stage

The stage is bare.  Lights are low.  Throughout the performance, an actor will mime ‘switching on and off’ a spotlight on the static narrator.  The spotlight begins as ‘off’.

The Narrator stands centre stage. She takes a deep breath, anxiously anticipating the Actor’s entrance.

Actor enters stage left.  The Narrator closes her eyes as the Actor approaches her and ‘flicks the light switch’ on, on her arm.  The spotlight lights the Narrator fully.  The Actor carries on walking to the other side of the stage and busies himself/herself around the Narrator throughout the monologue.

Narrator:  Something that was needed by most.  Something that shined for them in the darkest of times.

                 Actor ‘switches’ off spotlight.

Yet ignored and taken for granted in any kind of light.

                 Actor ‘switches’ on and off a few times.

Something that’s used and abused, until it burns itself out.

                 The spotlight flickers.  The Narrator looks at the Actor.

It burned itself out for you.

                  The flickering stops.  The rest of the stage lights remain on low.

                  Actor begins to get angry, frustrated and aggressive towards the Narrator, who                      remains static.

Now you moan and abuse it some more. Branding it useless! (Actor mouths the word ‘useless’ at the Narrator.)

                 Actor mouths the following – aggressively to the Narrator.

A waste of energy.  A waste of your (my) energy.  You (I) just haven’t got the time to nurture it. You (I) just haven’t got the time.

Actor throws his/her hands up – dismissing the Narrator, and moves upstage.

So, you discard it.  And – instantly – like the flick of a switch –

Actor ‘switches’ off the other stage lights and exits stage left.  Narrator is now in                    the dark.

You no longer give it another thought.

Slowly, a faint spotlight lights the Narrator.  Rest of stage remains black.

Something that shined in the darkest of times. Something that shined bright for you.  Until it burned itself out.  It burned itself out for you.

Slowly the faint spotlight ‘burns out’.  Stage is black.

Ettie and the Christmas Turkey

Are you hungry, duck?

Not yet, Nan. Thank you. We’ve just eaten dinner.

Ettie was often found preparing and cooking in her small but adequate kitchen and over her reliable 1970’s electric hob oven, with a gas grill section on the top. But a great cook doesn’t need much more than that. Because there, she fed her family.

The smell of her homemade sausage rolls. That pastry… The counted and well-placed layers of lasagne between mushrooms, mince, and tomatoes. And those roast dinners… The succulent meats, golden potatoes, mounds of veg, epic Yorkshires, stuffing, and gravy made from the joint’s juices, all piled on to white china plates with a navy-blue floral pattern in the centre. And there would always be extra veg in mismatched dishes laid out on the white-clothed table, just in case we didn’t have enough on our plates.

Before the modern health warnings came about, Ettie’s meals were fondly called ‘heart-stoppers.’ She’d stir, bake and fry most food in proper lard, with a lit cigarette, just about gripped between her heavy smoker’s lips – oblivious that ash was seasoning the food, below.

Tell them about when Terry carved the turkey at Christmas, duck. I still can’t believe what he did!

One year, on Christmas Day, when our Canadian relatives, Ann and Terry came over to visit for the holiday, Terry was asked to carve the turkey that had been in the oven for most of the morning. As a former butcher, he was entrusted in doing a professional job, which he did, proudly. Except, not knowing it was perhaps a British custom – or a Brown-Belcher one at least – that we thoroughly enjoyed eating the precious, coveted crispy skin too, he carefully cut and threw it all away, before we had a chance to get our eager fingers to it.

“Ah, you silly sod! What’d you do that for?” Ettie yelped, standing completely gob-smacked looking down at the scraps of skin now in the bin, considering whether she could possibly salvage any of it.

“You eat the skin?” Terry asked apologetically.

“Yes!” Other shocked family members cried out in sync at the devastating news.

“But it’s so gross and really unhealthy!” Ann steps in at Terry’s defence, trying not to laugh too hard.

“It’s ok,” Ettie finally let out a sigh. “Christmas isn’t ruined.”

Everyone laughed and carried a dish or glass of something to the decorated table, and filled themselves with the now naked turkey and all of its trimmings, not knowing they would be talking about this Christmas dinner for years to come.

Well, when you’re hungry, you know where the kitchen is, duck. Help yourself to whatever you want. If it’s there, have it. If it’s not there, you can’t.

Will do. Thank you, Nan.

Whatever her cooking methods, you never went hungry at Ettie’s. She wouldn’t let you.

A walk

To take a walk;

finding the importance – the value –

the value in that walk.

That moment you realise –

that moment you realise you can leave it all behind,

by simply putting one foot in front of the other.

A single walk filled with a thousand steps.

Or are they small, single steps that fill – that make a walk?

That make your walk.

I’ve been walking – slowly.

I’m pacing myself – it’s my pace – mine.

I place one before lifting the other, and so on…

I know I’ve got a sprint finish within me, but for now,

I’m enjoying the journey.

I’m enjoying my walk.

Measurements of the brave

It takes a brave soul to hold their ground.

To stay put.

To wait out the storms.

But also, a brave soul to test the water.

To be the first through the unknown door,

knowing they may never come back through it.

Or to return as they once were.

Yet, they go through it.