Tuesday, 17 October 2017

DO GHOSTS EVER DIE?



A very short story I wrote a few years ago. I used to work in the textile industry. This was written after I left driving past a factory (not the one I worked in) in the process of being demolished. A workman was sitting eating his lunch. I imagined all the other workmen through the years when the factory was a facory.

The man sat on the loading bay in front of the rotting corpse of the factory, that rose fully four storeys above him.  All about him the bulldozers cracked the factory like an egg, for the silent workmen in helmets and masks to fill lorry after lorry with the dust strewn remains of the buildings.    
The man did not have a hat. The man did not have a mask. The man carefully unfolded the package that lay beside him, and began to eat his carefully prepared lunch.
Dust swirled, and bricks tumbled, and wood cracked, but the man sat, and ate, and wiped his face free from the sweat of the mornings work.
A  sudden  tilt  of  the head back towards  the  factory,  and  a disappointed  face, and the man rose and stretched,  then  folded his carefully prepared sandwiches away.
He looked out at the small crowd that had gathered on the hillside opposite the factory, that watched and winced with every whip of the bulldozer against the crumbling building.
A sudden shout and the workmen turned to gather at the safety of the gate. Then the sudden gathering of noise and the man walked deep into the bones of the factory that crumpled to dust, and he was gone.












































                          

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

THE SMELLY SOCK FAMILY



I used to make up stories about 'The Smelly Sock Family' and tell them to my two boys when they were growing up.  I never wrote them down at the time, only recently writing a couple of stories from what I could remember. I turned one of them into the poem below.  Hope you enjoy.


THE SMELLY SOCK FAMILY  

The Smelly Sock Family
Mum, and dad, Sue who was twelve, Janet eleven
Simon seven

Lived, where do you think?
The very bottom of the washing basket. 
Amongst the maximum of stink.

Now our noses may twitch and water.
For them nothing else could compare.
The smelly sock family were really very happy there

They had a lovely home
The smelliest of dirt, the greenest of grimy grime.
The Smelly Sock family always had the best of time.

Still Janet who was eleven
And Simon seven
Wondered, as you do, about the rumble and the roar above.

 ‘A monster lives up there. ‘Their father said.
That all Smelly Socks dread.
‘A washing machine.’ And left the rest unsaid.


Both Janet who was eleven
And Simon seven
Promised to never go in search of the monster that all Smelly Socks dread.

Next morning
Can you guess?
What they did instead.
.
Over piled up jeans and shirts they climbed
From the very bottom of the washing basket to the very top.
Not daring to look down both wanting secretly to stop.

The top they reached and peered over to see what they could see.
They gulped and wished they’d stayed in their smelly beds.
The Washing Machine Monster was everything their father had said.


What was that horrible yucky smell that made them cough?
Air freshener?  Fresh air?
They could smell it everywhere.


‘It’s horrible.’ Said Janet.
Said Simon. ‘I want to go home.’
‘Don’t’ Shouted another Smelly Sock called Jerome.

A human being fed the monster
Jeans, and shirts, and Jerome.
Jerome pleaded. ‘I want to go home.

‘We’ve got to help him’ Simon said
And tumbled onto the floor right onto his head. 
His sister had no choice but to follow.

They had almost freed Jerome
When up they were scooped with a whoosh and a shout
Into the Monsters mouth with no way out.

Trapped, ‘HELP.’ All three did shout. 
 About to be made clean and fresh
They had to get out.

They stared out the monster’s mouth
Jenny and Simon frightened and sad.
Then they spotted their big sister and were never so glad.

Jenny and Simon shouted. ‘Sue.’
She saw them and knew exactly what to do
To get them out before the Monster woke up.

Sue climbed and climbed
Her smelly sock yucky green grime
A slimy glue that stuck till she looked right into the monster’s mouth.

Nudging the latch that held the Monster mouth shut
With her smelly sock heel
Janet, Simon, Jerome escaped, never happier did they did feel.

They all crawled and rolled as quickly as they could
Hiding behind table legs when they should
Whenever the human being came near.

One time the human scooped Simon up
But he wriggled free, dropped, bumped his head, again, on the floor
Next day he knew it was going to be Smelly Sock sore.


The others grabbed him and scampering up the basket they went
Then rolling all the way down
Bouncing of jeans and shirts and an old dressing gown.


When they landed they had bruises aplenty
But safe. And more important still smelly.
That night they celebrated with a tee shirt bowl of smelly jelly.

Simon and Jenny’s mum and dad were not pleased
But not too angry after they heard how they had rescued Jerome.
Simon said.  ‘It’s good to be home.’

Janet and Simon and Jerome became the best of friends.
Will they ever climb again to the top of the Smelly Washing basket?
Well that all depends.

They made a promise did Janet who was eleven
Simon seven.
But what do you think?

Maybe their eyes glancing upwards to the very top of the smelly washing basket
Is a clue
What they might do.

.

TREASURE TRAIN: FAMILY SHARED READING EVENT

The below is an event designed to encourage sharing reading enthusiasms across the generation through their individual favourite childhood reading.


TREASURE TRAIN: AN INTERGENERATIONAL PROJECT

AIMS:

--Through a love of books read as children various generations of a family brought together to share memories of their favourite childhood reading through discussion, writing and drawing.

--For the children to witness their mother/father/grandparents enthusiasm for reading and to see them not just as adults but as fellow readers.

--To encourage adults to re visit childhood books to re kindle a love of reading if needed by connecting with their individual reader’s memories.

--For adults to see reading not as an obligation or something from their distant past but as an activity that creates family memories.  For both adults and children to see the library as a place where those family memories are created.

--Building partnerships across agencies.

--Inclusive and encourages discussion of all types of reading ie: novels; comics.

FORMAT    

Duration:   60 minutes

PART ONE

--Intro:  All families together in one group.

             : Publicity for event to encourage both adults and children to bring their
               favourite childhood book.

      :Facilitor to explain format including show example of   
       a Treasure Train.  

      :to share his/her own childhood reading. 

      :to read from his/her favourite book. 

      :to encourage families to do the same to the wider group.
        

PART TWO

Discussing/drawing/writing:  families find their own space.

Each family work together to write down and/or draw their own individual and family
experiences/memories of reading.


Some questions to ask themselves to get started.

--favourite character(s) and why.
--what age when first read.
--how did they get the book—library/present.
--what was the cover like.


Idea:   See example.

Each A4 sheet of paper represents a carriage on a family Treasure Train.

One carriage for each memory of a childhood book.

Each member of the family works on their own carriage. 

Each member of the family can have as many carriages as they wish.

At the conclusion they join all the carriages together for one whole family
Treasure Train with a front page of the family name.

Optional they can draw as a family a train engine on a separate A4 sheet to lead the
carriages.

The length of the train is endless.  It can be added to later at home or other
members of the family not at event can add their memories.


PART THREE

Bring families together again in one space.

Encourage to discuss and share with wider group.

Families take Treasure Train home with them encourage to continue and add to.

Encourage to take books out of the library. Adults could borrow other books from same author of favourite book or other books remembered during event.       


MATERIALS

Facilitaror favourite childhood book.
Libraries display of childhood books from stock.
A4 paper.
Coloured pens/pencils/erasers/staplers.



Example of a 'carriage.'

Another emotional very much part story!


I worked for my dad during the summer school holidays and the day would always start with a yawn and an early morning stroll past the salivating wolves next door to my dad’s factory.   
Of course they weren’t really wolves, only two of the biggest Alsatians I’d seen in my sixteen year old life.  All hunched and stalking muscle. Teeth in a permanent snarl, and eyes that never left you as you past them by.  I can’t remember ever seeing a human being unless of course the wolves weren’t wolves but werewolves.
The two monsters stalked the Scrap merchants and weren’t chained. They roamed the broken up cars and machinery that lay scattered amongst the yard.  The dirty black and rust brown of their coats a perfect camouflage amongst the mashed and broken backed machinery.
Sometimes when I walked along I would be drawn into thinking that they had been taken away in the night, that my dad’s complaining about them roaming free had finally borne fruit.
Then the rush of black and brown muscled fur would kick the heart into fifth gear.
So every morning I strolled past them, mouth dry, eyes straight ahead, trying to stop myself breaking into a run.  Every morning it was past them to the loading bay where that morning’s papers where getting loaded onto vans to be distributed to the various Menzies shops in Airdrie and Coatbridge and beyond.  Every morning it was into the office alongside the loading bay, and the lady that worked in the office, with a good morning, and what year would I be going back to after the summer holidays; this while she handed me my dad’s papers—the Glasgow Herald and Daily Record—and took the money if it was that time in the month for bringing the account up to date.
She was like something out of the sixties, or maybe it was the fifties. Hair lacquered into a bowl shape; make up that creased and cracked as she struggled to work the skin underneath; her eyes huge under black pencilled eyebrows.  She could have been anything from thirty to sixty. 
The walk back to the factory was just as nerve wracking and it never got any better.
Still I always volunteered to get the papers and was disappointed if I was late and someone had gone before me.
A test of nerve?
I delivered the papers to my dad who was sitting behind his beech desk; grey telephone sitting to his right, those days’ orders in neat piles on the desk. 
He would read the Herald and I would take the Record out to Jim and Eddie in the Ducat.  The kettle would be whistling, cups already milked and sugared; bacon would be sizzling on the ancient stove. Rolls would lay open all buttered and ready.  Bottles of sauce, both red and brown, and grimy with use, would sit waiting on the small table by the window.  The sixteen inch TV would be on, the sound low. 
In a space that could barely squeeze in two, never mind three, I watched the TV, Jim read the Record, and Eddie sat his sixteen stone frame in the leather seat marked and cut with age.
After the tea and rolls I would know if I was spending a day in the factory, or going out in one of the Lorries.  If it was the Lorries I would hope it was up to Perth, or down Ayrshire way.  That would take the whole day.
No farm roads though.  Hospitals; factories; high street shops.
And let the sun shine.


Friday, 29 September 2017


I don't call the below a memory.  An impression of one filtered through the years.  It will be different from other members of my family.  Parts of it will be mis remembered but emotionally they're real.

When I was growing up we were lucky to go a number of holidays.  A lot of the time it was Blackpool!



A MEMORY OF DANCING     BLACKPOOL.

When I was growing up there were two places we went on holiday—Scarborough or Blackpool. 
This is a story about Blackpool and in particular Blackpool Tower.   A story because like all memory it is part fact but mostly emotion.
The first thing that always pops into my head about Blackpool is the excitement on the journey down at the first sight of the tower.  It turned into a game, a very competitive game between me and my sister as to who would spot it first.  You could see it for miles before you actually arrived in Blackpool.
The second thing I remember is arriving in Blackpool itself and the sudden pulse of energy sweeping your way carrying off any tiredness or tetchiness brought on by the long journey.  Even my dad who had to drive the long long way—it seemed to takes days when I was eight or nine.  It must have seemed like weeks to him with two crabbit and snarling children in the back of the car.  Quiet or sit in your seat weren’t words that me and my sister understood very well!
Jumping ahead over the booking into the bed and breakfast; the dragging on parents along the promenade with its swarm of laughing ‘kiss me quick’ hatted people; passed the ‘clickety click’ of the bingo callers; the pull of the puggees; the swirl of sand on the pavement overlooking the beach; the rattle and groan of the trams my mind is weaving along the corridors of the tower itself to the huge ballroom.
There we settle ourselves amongst the well-dressed holiday makers.  For day has turned to early evening and the candelabra is twinkling like the toes of the dancers waltzing around the ball room.  My dad brow furrowed in concentration as he manoeuvres a tray of drinks onto our table.  Coke for me and my sister.  Bacardi and Coke for my mum.  A ‘half’ and a ‘half’ for my dad—a whisky and half of lager.
My dad was never one for dancing as far as I can remember.  My mother on the other hand loved it.  The tower ball room was her holiday.  And a huge part of mine though of course I never really thought of it like that then—the beach, the pleasure beach that is was my holiday!
The smile on my mother’s face, the glance my way.  ‘Here we go.’
The hush and then the distant sound of music.  Music getting louder and louder as the stage parted and rising to thunderous applause was Reginald Dixon sitting at his seat back to his adoring audience playing ‘I Do Like to be beside the Seaside’ on the huge size of the stage 3m/14r ‘Wonder’ Wurlitzer pipe organ that became the backdrop to the whole stage.
‘Remember. One two three one two three.’ My mum would whisper as we headed for the dancefloor.  I tried to lead and my mum let me but guided me as best she could. 
Looking back now those moments have risen above the sandcastles on the beach; the ‘log flume’ on the pleasure beach; the trying to get a glimpse of the crackle of electricity along the wires above the trams.
The ball room was packed and sometimes it didn’t matter if I lead or not we just circled around on one spot since we couldn’t move any direction.  When I think back though I can only see my mum and I dancing.  My mum the scent of a rare night out perfume mixing with cigarette.  My mum not at the kitchen sink or peeling potatoes or straightening my school tie. My mum humming along to the tunes blaring out from the stage occasionally the words forming into song especially when it the repertoire circled back to ‘I do like to be by the Seaside’ and both of us singing me sometimes in tune. 
My mum was always in tune.