Reading the odd short stories of Murakami has inspired me to try to write more of them. Odd little snippets that don’t really do much except float into view and out again. The Calderdale competition will be coming up soon I guess as well. It would be nice to have a few to choose from rather than rush something at last minute like last time. Oh the twist is he’s a dog? Didn’t see that coming, telegraphed a mile away.

So. I will take whatever random thought hits me and follow it for about three thousand words.

Today. The first of march. White rabbits, St. David’s day. Hug a librarian day. White rabbits make me think of two things. Alice in wonderland, the mad hatter’s tea party, and Harvey, the six foot rabbit. Though I don’t remember if he was White. The big stuffed (obviously fake) rabbit outside Harvey’s wine bar in Leeds was certainly white. Well, dirty grey. I assume he started out White. Did he have a suit on? I don’t remember. To think all the times I stood outside waiting for a taxi and I never noticed.  But perhaps he wasn’t there long. I went to the bar once I think with girls from school. It was an awful night, showing up just how far we’d drifted apart.  Someone copped off with a bouncer. I was largely ignored.  Not long afterwards we escaped into our respective lives – college, university, work, families, and Harvey’s closed down. I’m not sure if it turned into a lap dancing place straight away but it certainly is now, and a rather faded, dodgy looking one at that. All the windows covered, making you wonder about the near naked women who must be wandering around inside, wonder what they’re thinking about. Wondering how they got there.

Alice in Wonderland always felt like it should have happened to me. Like an episode from my childhood. Not that my childhood was particularly noteworthy – but there’s something about those early years that makes me think of ghosts and fairies, bluebells and bomb holes.  Bomb holes were what we – or somebody – called the grass covered dips in the wood. Perhaps they were signs of quarrying from earlier times. The track down through the wood had been carved through steep sides of rock – probably by the people who dug the canals, or laid the railway at the bottom. So maybe they dug the bomb holes too.  But whoever was responsible, they created a beautiful landscape ripe for soft thin fairy grass and bluebells to grow beneath the twisting oak trees. My memories are full of birdsong and whispers in the soft spring breeze. I would say they must be false memories, because I was way too young when I lived there to be allowed to wander around the wood (which was over a busy road and quite far from my house) without my parents. But I’ve been back since, and it was just as I remembered. In fact, I knew short cuts I couldn’t possibly have known, and felt a pull in me, a joy at being home.  [Nb – mysteries solved, curiouser and curiouser]

But there was no white rabbit. No Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, and no playing croquet with flamingos and doormice.  I may well have at some point eaten something, or drunk something which made me bigger, because I certainly seem to have expanded from the small 6 year old who was sure she saw fairies hiding behind the bluebells. Heard their laughter like crystal chimes.

The next stage of my life lacked magic.  While “nicer” perhaps in many ways, the area we moved to was more urban, and if there was mystery there, I could not see it. Not because I didn’t look. At this time my interest in the occult, and horror stories, spiraled out of control, and I found myself stalking the streets at night hunting vampires. Not to stake them, you understand, but to dramatically offer myself to them for eternity.  (A fantasy that remains desirable even now, though I would be less happy to spend eternity in my current body than I would have been as a teenager)  If vampires exist in suburbia, they don’t seem to be interested in teenage girls.  Age difference is all very well but if it starts to stretch into hundreds of years then it gets silly. Plus – can you imagine how annoying teenage girls must be when you’re immortal? *shudder*

Perhaps the very normality of my world at that time was why I never felt I fit in. I drifted towards others who seemed to be different, the quiet, the exotic, the funny, the shy. Sometimes we clicked, and sometimes I was too different for even them.  We looked for haunted houses and walked through graveyards at midnight, became blood sisters, and floated candles in walnut shells to see whose love was stronger for the boy we both craved.

She grew out of her grey walled bedroom before I did.  I was the more natural baby goth. Though perhaps more of a hippy chick, as we would have called them at the time. Tasselled and layered skirts, patchouli oil, and candles with wax dripping down over the obligatory Black Tower wine bottles at either side of my desk.  I cut myself for the first time with a wilkinson sword razor blade I found in my dad’s handkerchief drawer (along with condoms, and a keyring with a selection of naked men on it) – I had a crystal wine glass of water, and a bottle of dettol.  I carefully cleaned the site (my knee), and made a small, not very deep cut. First, just to see it bleed. To taste the blood.  It wasn’t what I would call “self harm” then. Maybe it became so later on – though not particularly “bad”.  It was curiosity. It was almost a date, with myself.  I don’t know if I’m conflating two different nights – but it could have been valentine’s night, when she went out with him.  Of course that would elevate the possibility of it being an expression of my inner distress – but I’m sure it wasn’t meant as such.  It was more of a “sod it then, I’ll treat myself”. But I suppose you don’t always treat yourself to something that’s good for you.

This started out with rabbits.  She is a vet now.  She always loved animals, and persuaded her father to let her have a rabbit. Then a rat. Then another rat. Then the rats became many rats. At one point, there were 17 I think. But there were far too many, and the mother ate most of them.  They were lovely rats, one dark, the other white and brown. I can’t remember their names now.  I remember the feel of their little feet scrabbling around in your hair, their noses snuffling into the warm of your arm pit.  To say she became a vet in the end (which was always her dream, and she never gave it up despite what was not the easiest of pathways) – there was a point at which she was dreadful with those animals.  There were too many – and once they were moved out of her bedroom and into a custom built shed in the garden, they were out of sight, out of mind. Her father refused to have anything to do with them, and so when she went away for long periods of time either with her mother, or on exchange programmes etc – I would go and take care of them. I remember one time changing the sawdust / bedding and finding maggots at the bottom. It was disgusting. I had to clean it out with a pressure washer and disinfect, and check over the poor creatures which luckily were ok.  Were they just the next big thing? Like the guitar, the keyboard, the bike?  Some things endure though.

When my ex-boyfriend’s sister began to “collect” animals in a similar way, I wondered if she too was interested in becoming a vet. It turned out she was pregnant. I don’t know if she knew she was expecting when she started gathering rodents – or if it was some unconscious way of her body trying to “nest build”, or teach her the nurturing skills she would soon be needing.  Despite having such an early start, she’s an excellent mum, so perhaps the rabbits did the trick.

No Mad Hatter’s tea party. But there was / is a mad hat. I bought it in Top Shop on a day trip home with friends from university in my first year. It’s a slightly oversized top hat. A friend bought a brown one with a ribbon round it, and mine is black. I only recently got round to accessorising it with turquoise and tartan ribbons, french playing cards and a peacock feather. It’s rather spiffing, but it does make me want to go to more folk festivals so I won’t attract quite so many odd looks when I wear it.  I went out in another hat on Remembrance Sunday, a pill box hat with a large poppy attached. Children seemed to think I had come down from another planet. It’s not as though I live in a town where unconventional atire is particularly rare. Since my dull years in suburbia, I have been drawn to places with a little magic about them. University life was populated with Vikings and Vampires, Ghosts and Werewolves. It was not unusual to be sat in a pub and see a Roman centurion wander past. Generally they were in fancy dress, but legend has it that there were places you could see whole legions wander by, knee deep in history as they walked on the Roman road a foot below the modern floor.
me in my top hat
When I wore my hat, with a pinstriped two piece made up of trousers and waistcoat, over a very nineties white shirt with long pointy collar and big cuffs, I was called “chic” for the first time. (The second, and last time came several years later, and as it came from a beautiful gay man in a burgundy velvet suit I was rather pleased) I was told I had “sartorial elegance”. Hah. It’s easy to be elegant when you have collar bones.

Looking now at a passport photograph, slightly predating that time, I am astounded by how different I look.  It’s not just the obvious – I had short hair then, now it is long, I was 18 then, now I am 34, I was a bit chubby then, now I am obese. But my face structure has changed. My nose seems straighter, my jaw – though it is a little jowly now, is more womanly, and then it was quite butch. I look like a reasonably handsome young man, in this particular shot.  Now, I look like somebody’s mum.  I wonder when that happened.  I wasn’t actually enormously butch back then. Perhaps I’d just had my hair cut for the photo – so it’s looking quite severe. Butch is a frame of mind.  If I lost the weight – which I am trying to do, of course – I wonder what I’d find beneath the years.  I’m told I can look reasonably young for my age. I imagine that would be even more so if I were at my right weight.  My mother’s genes are pretty good. She’s a very young 59.  My nose is different though. Not quite aquiline, but very straight from a certain angle. I had a fall, ten years ago, when I fulfilled one of my worst nightmares and tripped and fell on my face. My hands were in my pockets, so I couldn’t catch myself as I landed. So, *smack*, my teeth, my nose, connected with the floor. My front tooth broke, and so, I think did my nose. But not in a rugby player, bent in the middle kind of way. It kind of got straighter, and sharper – as though a sliver has been chipped off. When I got my teeth fixed, it turned out they’d been straightened too – so the little gap inbetween had reduced. I joked I’d got a free nose job and dental work. Sad to say though, I used to like that gap.
me at 18 years old
I have a book about rabbits. When I say that, I don’t mean I have the Collins guide to rabbit keeping.  I wrote a children’s story about rabbits. Meant to be the first in a series, but I haven’t illustrated it yet so it’s kind of stalled. I could send it off to a publisher without illustrations I suppose, but I don’t know how much input I would have into who did get to draw it if it were to be accepted. I have quite a clear image in my head of how I would like it to be.  Too precious, that’s my trouble.  I tried to start drawing for it, but most of my bunnies came out looking vaguely terrifying. Psychotic rabbits with scary eyes are not necessarily what you want for your 3-5 year olds bedtime stories. Though I dare say I would have loved it.

It was my wallpaper that gave me nightmares then.  Mr Happy.  Laughing.  Quietly.  Poor little Mr Happy, in a wall full of other mister men.  And suddenly, they all become Mr Happy. All laughing.  Quietly.  And then getting louder, and louder, and all the Mr Happies merge into one giant Mr Happy and they are still laughing. Holding his sides he is laughing so much. And then he is laughing not jollily, but in a sinister way. And he is laughing at me.

Insecure, moi?  That’s one thing they never say about only children. You never feel at ease with others. Even in your family you are in the way of your parent’s cosy twosome.  No sibling rivalry, no competing for affection, but no cameraderie, no belonging.  I’d have taken the bottom bunk for that.

No Vikings in my current home. No rabbits for me either – though I’d love one. A house rabbit to confuse the cats.  Or one of those huge, monster rabbits.  There were some rather attractive rabbits on stilts wandering about at the Duck race the other year, and some Cavaliers and Roundheads got into a bit of a scrap on the Packhorse bridge.  Dragons have been known to wander the square, and an enormous purple hippo.  There’s talk of crocodiles in the canal, but I think that may be more to do with the local smoking flora than fauna.  No Vikings, but a pair of excellent Hatters – their sanity is none of my business, and certainly magic in the air.  I am trying to tease it out in the novel I started in last year’s NaNoWriMo. Seeing the town behind the town, the pulse beneath it all.  Lets hope I get it finished.

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