Time For Truth, Truth In Time

I was reading Stephen King’s Joyland, which I’d picked up in a charity shop, over my morning coffee when I encountered the following line:

When it comes to the past, everyone writes fiction

Is this fact or fiction, so to speak? This line was unearthed in a work of fiction. And, to further blur the lines, truth can be found in fiction and fiction hidden in truth. But what about what it refers to, in regards to history? Our own history?

Revisionism. I’ve known people alter the facts to suit and justify their own particular narrative. Events recounted that don’t quite match up with our own recollection of things. I guess we all know someone like that.

But what about me? Do I ‘write’ fiction about my past?

I think I’m mostly the opposite. At the time, wherever along my timeline that ‘time’ was, I’d sometimes put a spin on things. Make myself appear more favourable and, forever the storyteller, embellish things for entertainment purposes, playing to the audience.

And of course obscure things I’d prefer not see the light of day. We’re all human and life is a learning curve.

Now, further down the line and removed by years and even decades, I recount how things really were back then from my own perspective (and it’s all about perspective, isn’t it?), with an insight I didn’t possess at the time.

Maybe age brings with it, along with wisdom, a certain candour. A candour maybe recognised by encountering an alternate version of truth in the midst of a work of fiction.

Rosemary’s Bay Bees

What a beautiful day it was today.

In fact, do you know what kind of day it was today? It was a Rosemary’s Baby and Fosters kind of day today.

So much so that I felt that I had to share with everyone on Facebook just how I’d passed the afternoon.

Why have you poured Fosters into a glass?! my daughter Courtney commented.

Because the glass wouldn’t fit into the can, I replied.

Obvious, isn’t it?

One pay-off to be made for the good weather at this time of year is that we have to share it with others. Other creatures, that is. A few days ago I noticed some bees flying around the end of the guttering at the front of our house, guttering that is close to both Courtney’s bedroom window and also her sister Millie’s bedroom window. Courtney and Millie are not the most bug-friendly girls you’re ever likely to meet.

When one of the bees turned up in our living room today I thought, while catching it to release outside, I’d take the opportunity to photograph it in an effort to identify the species. As it dropped onto the window ledge, I placed a glass over it (yes, the Fosters glass) and took a snap of it.

That’s right-the bee was doing what bees do and wouldn’t keep still, flying to the top of the glass. Eventually though, I got a close up.

From this, and from what I’d read when scientifically googling bee nests in gutters I deduced that the bees were most likely to be Tree Bumblebees. Eat your heart out Attenborough.

(Though don’t ask where the tree comes into play.)

And from what I’ve learnt I’ve decided not to take any action and leave them bee (😀) as it’s likely that they will leave the nest by the end of July anyway.

That’s only two months away. Eight weeks. Ish.

You can imagine how thrilled my daughters are by this decision.

Just wait until that sun is out again tomorrow, and the temperature rises, and how those windows should be opened to admit some fresh air.

I’m thinking now that tomorrow could be a Cool Hand Luke in the sweatbox kind of day.

Roaming In Rome, Connecting In Retrospect

What a difference a bit of sunshine makes to our locked-down spirits!

I sat a while in our town centre gardens, drinking a coffee while watching people come and go. It was almost, almost, like the world before, when nothing impinged on our intentions and freedom other than schedules and finance.

The new warmth took me back even further, to around 2006, when I was in Rome. I would get up early and after showering go for a walk along the Tiber. Along the way I’d call for a bottle of water from a small shop that I knew of, tucked away down a small backstreet, that was championed by the locals as it didn’t charge the inflated prices that the others inflicted upon we tourists.

I would loop a route back round to take in Peter and Paul in St.Peter’s Square, up there high on their pedestals, before the crowds arrived with their clicking cameras and eager eyes. As the day wore on, with the sun well on its way to reach its zenith, there were no shortage of churches that I could choose from to seek respite in their cool stone shade.

It was on one of those days, easy and long, that I was sat having a beer next to the Colosseum when my wife messaged to inform me that the girl we fostered had shaved off her eyebrows!

Talk about being hooked right back into the ‘real’ world back home.

It’s funny how different places bring different memories, small connections that lead into each other over time. Hopefully soon there will be new places offering new memories and connections to be made down the line.

Anyway, that particular memory found a home in my second poetry collection In Brigantia, born of a conversation with one girl that made a connection with the recollection of another.

Books For Christmas

I’m not very good at self-promotion, in fact I’m a publisher’s nightmare, but as it’s that time of year again when people are looking for gifts for themselves or for others, below you’ll find the link to my Amazon page.

If you check it out you’ll find my two poetry collections, Heading North and In Brigantia, along with a couple of anthologies I have some fiction in. If anyone wants to buy anything I’ll love you forever. If anyone doesn’t want to buy anything I’ll love you forever too. I’m kind of promiscuous that way.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/kindle-dbs/entity/author/B018IRS81O?_encoding=UTF8&node=492564011&offset=0&pageSize=12&searchAlias=stripbooks&sort=author-sidecar-rank&page=1&langFilter=default#formatSelectorHeader

Trying Not To Shout About The Sprouts

City Jackdaw followers may have seen my recent post about how, even in the midst of a national pandemic, the sprouts that we’d had for tea turned out to be the most disappointing thing, so far, of 2020.

Well today was the day of redemption. Or, to put it more accurately, today should have been the day of redemption.

For what day is it today?

Sunday.

And what do we eat on Sunday?

Why, Sunday lunch, of course.

It just so happened that this afternoon my wife’s mother was being discharged after a couple of days in hospital, and Jen was going with her father to pick her up.

“Keep an eye on those pans,” was her departing instruction to me, “when they start to boil turn them down.”

I think you know where this is going, don’t you? But there were mitigating circumstances.

Nine days ago Peter Sutcliffe, the man better known as The Yorkshire Ripper, died, having caught Covid-19 whilst still incarcerated for his crimes and refusing treatment. People of a certain age and geography will remember how his reign of terror paralysed the North of England as he struck in Leeds, Bradford, Manchester, Halifax, Huddersfield, Keighley and Silsden, before being finally caught in Sheffield.

And, coincidentally, as the news of his death broke (and was mostly celebrated), this book was already on its way to me:

And I was reading it while I was also on pan duty.

When they start to boil, turn them down

Well I remembered that much, and after putting my book down a couple of times to venture into the kitchen, found that both pans (one containing sprouts and the other mixed veg), were indeed starting to boil and so did as instructed.

Because the kitchen windows were steaming up, I opened the back door to let the air in, and then, to keep the cold draught out, closed the joining door behind me when I returned to the lounge.

It also kept out the smell of burning. Though Jen detected it as soon as she came home. Fancy that.

“What’s burning?”

“How do you mean?”

“Did you turn the pans down?”

“Yes,” I replied, thinking myself on safe ground.

We both went into the kitchen. Then it became a question of semantics.

“There’s no water in them!”

“They look okay.”

“They’re burnt.”

I peered in at the sprouts, picking up a fork to stir them around a little. “They’re not. Not all of them. Just the ones touching the bottom.”

“I gave you one job to do.”

“You told me to turn them down when they were boiling, which I did do.”

“And keep an eye on them.”

“You said to keep an eye on them before turning them down. I thought you’d be back sooner.”

“I thought you’d top them up with water when you checked them.”

She hadn’t mentioned anything about checking them after I’d turned them down, though I guess that sounded reasonable.

“You did check them again?”

I decided it best not to go down the verbatim route.

“Well . . . “

“Well what?”

“Every time I got to the end of a chapter the Ripper struck again.”

She looked like she was going to strike again, too.

“I should have known. You were reading . . . ”

Anyway, I didn’t think they were too bad. The sprouts were smaller than the ones of my last post, and so were softer, just how I like them. They just tasted a little . . . smoked.

Could barbecued sprouts be a thing? I’m not sure, but I think when Jen asks me what I want for Christmas this year I’d better say “Pans.”

Now the pots are all stacked up by the sink, and to get back into her good books I should make a start on them. But, speaking of books, you see, the Ripper is about to get caught . . .

A Glimpse Into Tuesday

I think I need more sleep. I put ketchup in the bowl today instead of washing up liquid.

As we’d say around here, it’s been chucking it down all day. Which translates as ‘it’s been pouring with rain’.

And so, I spent the afternoon inside, watching the first of this two-part documentary:

It passed the time while confined to the house, and I love most of the artists that are covered in it.

Music illustrates our individuality. It’s as though you don’t pick the kind of music that you like, the music picks you. You can have the same background as me, we can share the same context and life experiences, but what turns you on can turn me off, and vice versa. Certain styles speaks to each of us differently. We react to that which moves us the most.

August is coming to a close. Summer is coming to a close. With the night closing in, I’ve started this new book.

Some time back I read and enjoyed Johnson’s short novella, Train Dreams, and thought I’d give his collection of short stories a try.

I have heard of a woman who claimed that she once fell in love with a man because he recommended this book to her. Again – individuality. He searched his memory of every book that he’d read before, and somehow struck the jackpot. Found the one for the one.

The pressure, though, of getting it right. I wouldn’t fancy my chances.

Anyway, that’s enough for now, I’m only one story in. The rain is still tapping on my window.

Rochdale Blues

Have mask, will travel. Border crossings, on a damp and languid day.

Heading once more back to Manchester by train, having started a new book, Water Shall Refuse Them, along the way. The author, this being her debut novel, has been getting comparisons to Shirley Jackson and, although I’m only fifty or so pages into it, the protagonist does have a bit of Merricat about her.

Rochdale, the penultimate stop on my journey, in the dark, wet afternoon never looked so bleak.

The next few weeks are looking bleak, too. With rising figures, Rochdale is on the brink of following Leicester into a possible new lockdown. Though I don’t live in the town, my own town comes under the borough of Rochdale, and another lockdown is the last thing that any of us want.

After leaving the train, I caught a bus outside of this Rochdale Road pub, The Marble Arch, established in the Ripper year: 1888.

A renowned pub that brews its own beer, it has been some years since I’ve been in there. Possibly over twenty.

Maybe I should have called in for a pint, today, while I still can.

Stuck Indoors; Stuck Not In The Past

Books and music, music and books,

of all the arts these are the two that I’ve lost myself the most in since childhood. And sometimes, of course, I combine the two.

One Train Later is the autobiography of The Police guitarist Andy Summers. I read this book in the last few leisurely days.

I was already familiar with the group’s hits, staple fare of the airwaves since I was growing up, and now this lockdown had afforded me some time to work my way through their albums. Acquainting myself with their less well known tracks, I made my way through their material in chronological order, allowing me to chart their development in a way that their fans at the time would have experienced them.

It further cemented the belief that my musical taste is fixed, mostly, on this side of the millennium.

Of course, there are a few exceptions, (and I don’t think it healthy for anyone to live solely in the past), and nothing can beat stumbling upon a great busker on the streets of Manchester when loaded down with bags in the wake of your wife’s shopping trail.

But that is a luxury currently denied to us, and so in the meanwhile it’s this:

books and music, music and books,

with hopefully good weather and copious amounts of coffee.

Summer Lions

I’m sitting in the garden, once again, this time reading Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine.

It’s summer. I can smell summer; taste summer. My jackdaws are lining up along the neighbour’s rooftop, tethered by the sun.

It’s in the autumn I’ll think of my father; my grandparents, see the young ghosts of my brother and I playing cricket in the ginnel, dwarfed by walls I can comfortably peer over.

For now, it’s my children, playing with the dog as I pause to watch, mid-sentence, laughing on the threshold of a great beyond.