Saturday, 26 June 2010

Moving Out.

This was a nice neighbourhood. The Davies family had to agree. Plenty of room inside and out. Lots of families so the kids had plenty of friends to play with. An easy commute for Pete. A good school nearby, with lots of PTA activity to keep Jan occupied.The forest round the corner was wild enough to be exciting for the children but safe enough not to provoke parental anxiety. After such a long time searching, it was a relief to unpack their bags, and settle in.

Time passed. Susie and Paul got married and left home. Allie finished her A levels and began to be excited about University. Joseph got the lead in the Year 10 school play. The twins, Jenny and Georgia, went camping with the Guides.  Life was good that summer.

It was Joseph who ran home with the news that another  chemical spill was flowing through the forest. The streets were awash with foam and unbearable smells. Allie followed quickly afterwards to announce the bulldozers had arrived, combing the territory, destroying everything in their wake.

"Not again," said Pete, "We've only just got settled here."
"I must phone Susie and Paul," cried Jan.
"There's no time," said Pete, "You know the score. We've got to go. They'll find their own way."

The family gathered what they could and hurried through the streets, covering their mouths with their gas masks so as not to be overwhelmed by poisonous fumes. Escapees from the bulldozers limped past with broken limbs. Some, already overcome by wounds and toxins, settled in street corners to die. The usual carnage.

The Davies knew how to survive. They had done it many times before. This was just the first assault. They headed for the deepest part of the forest, where the chemicals had not yet penetrated, where the bulldozers struggled to clear. They dug themselves in at the base of the deepest tree. They clung for dear life as the bulldozers swooped around them, the chemicals poured out over the foliage. They breathed into their gas masks and waited.

At last the cries and shouts faded into the distance. The foam dissipated, leaving a slimy residue across the paths. The bulldozers disappeared.

"It's time," said Pete.

They trudged across the slippery landscape, trying not to weep for their lost paradise. They could mourn when this was all over. At last, they reached the edge of the forest, and a chasm that yawned between them and safety. The ground shuddered, bringing the chasm closer.

"Jump!" said Jan. They jumped. First the twins, then Allie, then Joseph. Jan pushing the children ahead before she made the leap. Pete was last, the ground was shuddering again, the chasm opening up.

"Come on Dad, come on," the children cried. The chasm was widening. He closed his eyes and with a running leap, jumped across it's increasing gape, grabbing the ground with the power of all his legs.

The family gathered themselves together and went in search of  a new home.


"Are you scratching?" said Angela Smith later that day.
Sarah looked up. "No."
"Let me check," Angela peered between the strands of Sarah's hair, "Yes,you are. There's a whole family of nits in here. I expect it's like a forest to them."

She sighed, and reached for the teatree and nit comb.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Bad Weather Warning

The radio warned of bad weather. Only go out if necessary, the announcer said. Well I thought it necessary, and it wouldn't be for long. Just a few of us out on the street, determined to make our point. I braved the wail of the wind, that blew my umbrella inside out in seconds, breaking three spokes as it did so. I endured the lash of water saturating my clothes, oozing into my skin. I had promised to be there, and so I would.

The crowd was unexpectedly large. As if the rain and wind had thrown down a gauntlet and people had risen to the challenge. We marched to the sound of a drum beat, drenched. We would not let the cold defeat us.

We did not expect the soldiers. Fully armed soldiers standing on the corner as we moved towards our final destination. I thought they were there for show. To intimidate our rain-soaked bodies back home, with our bedraggled tails between our legs. We refused to be intimidated. We marched on.

A sergeant-major barked an order, and the soldiers blocked our path. Our leaders hesitated for a moment.  Then stood their ground.  Some called for quiet. Others began to chant. We halted. The soldiers cocked their rifles. The rain poured down.

Who knows what triggered it. A shout? A stone? The slip of a finger? Too hard to say in the noise of the gale and the blurring water flooding from the sky. But we all heard the unbelievable sound of a shot. So unreal  I thought it must be a car back-firing. Until I saw the mass of people begin to run in different directions. Another shot. And another. A squeal of pain. A crack of bone. The soft thud of bodies tumbling to the ground.

I ran and ran and ran. Shouts echoed all around me.  Shots ricocheted off buildings.

And the rain kept falling.

(Bloody Sunday - In Memoriam)

Friday, 11 June 2010

#fridayflash A Woman's Work

I wake at six to an unfamiliar ceiling. Alex is snoring, and I can just hear the sounds of Ben stirring next door.  So I must be in the right place. It takes a moment for realisation to dawn with the sunlight peeking through the cracks in the curtain. We won, though I never thought we would. We Won. Therefore We Moved. And now my life will change in - oh, so many ways.

I don't need to stagger out of bed, and peek out of that curtain, to know the street below will be full of paparazzi.  I've no intention of doing that - giving them the chance of a rapid snap. Me in my nightie with my hair all over the place. No doubt the day will come and I'll let down my guard. Some photographer will get lucky on the back of my hitched up skirt or drunken pratfall.  But not today.

Cherie, Sarah, Sam. They've all been here before me. Modern women - who juggled careers and children and lived lives independent from their husbands - until they reached this bedroom. How did they stand it? Cherie, one of the brightest of her generation, reduced in the public eye to a scrounging scally. Didn't Sarah have a job in PR once? Somehow it submerged into twitter and her husband's smelly socks. As for Sam, she gave it all up the minute she crossed the threshold. A family can only take one alpha parent after all. And someone has to be at home for the kids.

Of course I supported Alex when he said he wanted to be party leader. A girl wants to stand by her man when thinks he's in with a chance. I just didn't expect him to get it. Still, I thought, it won't last long, we can return to obscurity soon. No-one expected the Prime Minister to call a snap election,  but it should have been a shoo-in. Our electoral pain should have been over in a month. We should have lost with dignity, and got on with the rest of our lives, knowing, that at least we tried.

All it took was a  few thousand votes. A two percent swing the other way and we'd have been back at home drowning our sorrows. Because of those few thousand people bothering to go to the ballot box, I'm lying here staring at an unfamiliar ceiling. Wondering how the hell we manage a life that had enough complexity in it already.

The clock blinks six fifteen in red digitalised numbers. Ben potters into the room and climbs in bed for an early morning cuddle. Alex continues to snore.  In a minute, Alice will wake. In a minute, I'll have to work out where we have breakfast, find school uniforms, determine how we get them there. In a minute Alex will be woken and dragged off into a world that will consume him utterly. I doubt that I will see him much before tea time.

A woman's work is never done.