NEARING THE END, A REFLECTION ON 2017

Blog, Uncategorized

2017 has been the most tumultuous year of my existence, and has marched forward with such a pace that I’ve had to force myself to reflect upon these rushing days, and how they have fluctuated so wildly between the macabre and the wonderful.

The year began with a slither of hope; having left university due to various circumstances, I was ready to embrace January for its metaphorical clean slate, and set about trying to organise my life. After a rather chance conversation with my best friend, I suddenly found myself booking all of September off to travel around Europe, which, if I’m being honest, flooded my veins with an unshakeable feeling of dread and fear. I was concerned that I would be unable to get through it without the shadow of my anxiety swallowing me whole, and the image of me experiencing that panicky, illogical mindset somewhere in the middle of Prague wasn’t going a long way in regards to calming me down.

With that in the pipeline, I thought it best to revert from my usual reaction to such worries, and fought against the urge to shut myself up in my room, eat unhealthily, and refrain from human interaction as much as possible. I went out for daily walks with my camera, met up with friends as often as I could, and went on a beautiful trip to Pisa with my girlfriend. The latter was actually an event more significant than I originally thought; I had planned and actually enjoyed a trip abroad without any major incident, and besides from one little episode prior to the flight over there, it showed me that my month long trip would be nothing to worry about, and I let positivity control my brain for once. Upon our return, I worked part-time, and found that to be great too – I was interacting with strangers all day, and enjoying it, and I suddenly found myself free from my burdens.

However, I was pulled back down to reality rather quickly when we realised my grandmother was dying. I know a lot of my friends aren’t that close with their grandparents, yet Grandma was, ultimately, my best friend. Throughout my childhood, I had spent 5-6 days a week at her house, talking extensively about pretty much anything we could, and forming my life-long love affairs with cooking, literature, music, and cinema. She was an outrageously funny, incredibly fashionable, independent lady with a seemingly bottomless wealth of knowledge, and I am blessed to have even known her let alone be related, but that made it all much harder at the end. Watching such an energetic individual slip into their illness, unaware of anything around them, and ultimately become dreadfully frustrated with a life they can no longer enjoy, was possibly the most traumatising thing I have ever witnessed. I think a small portion of myself died with her that day.

The aftermath of the funeral was not great. By my own admission, I am pretty terrible at facing such things, yet I think I was more concerned with my mother to think too much about anything else; in a way, I count myself lucky that I was with Grandma in her final weeks, right up to the very end, as it enabled me to mourn in a gradual wave, rather than experience what others in the family had to. I just felt that everything was becoming a little bit too much, and that I had to get away.

Luckily, Europe was closing in. Before I knew it, Jacob and I were boarding our train for Paris and the journey had begun. I don’t know why, and perhaps I never will, but I did not experience one iota of anxiety throughout the entire trip (which you can see the photos from on my travel page – here). I think it was the relief of being somewhere so excitingly new that left me no time to dwell on anything from home, other than my girlfriend, but she was beginning her own adventure at university. It was, without a doubt, the most enjoyable month of my life, and I think I’ll be able to dwell on the inspiration for my writing for many years to come. More importantly, by the end of it, I was so glad to see Derbyshire, and be back in familiar territory that no longer felt like it was suffocating me. 

On the day I arrived home, however, my dog passed away. It was weird to leave a trip and return from it surrounded by elements of death, but Truffle was extremely old and frail and had given us so much love throughout the years that it felt strangely right she had gone; dare I say it, I was weirdly relieved. The next few weeks were spent writing and roaming around, visiting my girlfriend in York and reading good books on slow trains, and then I had one fateful weekend that has twisted the road of my future once more.

After attending an interview for what I thought was a two-week volunteering position, I accidentally left the room with an internship and, looking forward, the prospect of a full time job in something that enables me to work with the terminally ill, conduct creative writing groups, and work within PR and marketing. This should all start in January, and because of all that has happened this year, I don’t think my anxiety is going to fuck this one up. I am much stronger, happier, and healthier than I was this time last year, and I can’t thank the people around me enough. 

Let me know in the comments how your year has been – what were the ups and downs, what affect do you think it has had on you?

Anyway, here’s to another metaphorical clean slate, may it forever be chalked with positivity. 

Fred x

 

FINDING MY DNA – 26/10/17

Blog

I am, by most definitions, the epitome of a mongrel. On my paternal side, I stem from Russian and Australian blood, and can trace some of my ancestry back for vast generations, yet my maternal side remains a mystery. My mother was adopted as a baby, and to make matters more confusing, her birth mother was also adopted, and thus to trace such things has proved to be rather difficult. I do, however, know that the people I knew and loved as my grandparents share some of the same blood as my mother’s birth family; both stem from European Jewish communities.

Now, I have no interest in meeting my “real” relatives, as they are not the people that have made vast sacrifices and loved me unconditionally throughout my life, and thus will never rival the connection I have with my family. I do, however, possess an insatiable intrigue to discover more about my identity; I want to know more about the history swirling in my veins, and I have no idea what to discover. All that we are aware of, on my mother’s side, is that her birth father was an upmarket individual who was married, and had an affair with her birth mother. She has met the latter, who I understand has passed away now, yet I never had the opportunity, and remain unsure of what my answer would have been should I have had the choice.

What I do know is that I want some more information regarding my ancestry, and have therefore ordered a DNA kit; the results should be with me in about 8-10 weeks, and I will, of course, divulge my results. I am excited, and weirdly a little nervous (for someone who is extremely proud of various parts of my heritage, it would be a little strange if it was revealed to be false), but for now, all I can do is wait.

Fred x

THE DAY MY DOG DIED – A POEM

Writing

We map the ground,

Frozen hard as twisted bone,

Woven antler on father’s knife

That crests our fireplace

At home, waiting, violent-still;

We cast ash to dirt,

Watch it settle in paw prints,

Turned to stone, brushed by breeze

That used to roam

These hills, the grainy moors.

 

We sit around the fire,

Licking heat with orange tongue,

Crackled coals barking from

The depths of shattered lungs,

We coil into the armchair,

Vacant leather, fur still clung,

And wonder where the grass

Now is, that you bound among.

 

MY OTHER WRITING – HERE

 

 

THE GREAT RETURN – 5/10/17

Blog, Uncategorized

One month ago, I was sick of this place. Nineteen years in the quiet isolation of the Peaks had led to a stagnancy of my appreciation and gratitude; if you were to be fed a Michelin star meal thrice daily, you would most likely lose all knowledge of its greatness with haste. I thought it was time for a change of menu, and ordered from the buffet section; 13 of Europe’s greatest cities, an ‘all-you-can-eat’ of splendour and awe served promptly on the drop down tables of 21 trains in 10 different countries. I was busy. I was privileged enough to see what many consider to be some of the most beautiful things on Earth, and appreciate them accordingly, yet I found something unusual stirring from my being. I was yearning to return.

Far from the cacophony of blaring horns and perpetual sirens, an age away from the hordes of tourists, weaving traffic and dirt riddled streets, lies the Peak District. My travels taught me a lot of things, most notably, that nothing is quite like the acres of ochre clay, deep soil, twisting rivers and emerald greens I am lucky enough to call home. It is a place that cannot be attributed as the creation of a genius artist, nor the design of a Renaissance master; it simply exists, eternal, in effortless glory.

Whether it’s the sharp frost of a winter morning or the rolling blues of summer skies, although I admit the latter is a bit of a rarity, it’s easy to lose a sense of reality when separated from the rest of the world by the great spine of the Edges that run goliath through the land. I used to detest this detachment with a passion, worried that I would be stuck here, trapped like a lamb behind a fence, yet now I see it for the blessing it really is; an offering of peace and tranquility, a bubble of serene independence.

I don’t think there is a single person raised in this landscape that could honestly claim to have not been moulded by it. As children, we enjoyed the freedom of space, adventuring into the woodlands, biking to the moors, building dens, lighting fires, seizing the opportunity to relive great battles with sticks and valour and learning to live with a grazed knee or bruised arm. The local farms taught us to respect wildlife and educated us about the intricacies of our food chain; their ethos on hard work and commitment to the land making them role models for those of all walks of life, regardless of future aspirations. As a writer, inspiration couldn’t get much easier to absorb; the magnificence of the land and the eclectic variety of the people ensure that there is always something to talk about, a story to tell; all I have to do is listen.

I have, after much deliberation, finally realised that no matter where I end up in this life, I will always have a home in the Peaks. I have no choice but to carry this place with me; it’s shaped who I am, how I think, and how I act, and has built loving communities with those around me. I suppose it’s true, after all, that the Derwent runs deep in our veins.

 

 

REFUGEE – A SHORT STORY

Uncategorized, Writing

Nobody else knew that the fountain was alive. He watched, spine pressed into the metal bench, as they walked past, blind. Tall men in woollen armour, brogues tapping over the cobbled street, phones pushed to ears, umbrellas tucked under arms like rifles; a steady stream went by. For a moment, he thought that one man was going to talk to him; he shuffled nervously as the strides closed in, recoiled as the arm outstretched, then heaved relief as it stubbed a cigarette on the bin beside him and joined the others as they marched.

He’d sat there for hours, staring, shivering. Burrowed hands in pockets of the jacket he’d been given, zipped so far up it threatened to close a clasp around his throat; I’d rather that than freeze. The fountain spat again. A different cycle, a change in bursts. He lost himself to the vision.

“Come here, quick, look at it!” A desperate whisper ripped towards him. He looked down from the tapestry of stars to see her hand grab his, and although he hated her for dragging him inside, the warmth of skin, velvet, silk, was apology enough. He followed.

“Stay quiet. Don’t you dare wake her.” She ordered, tiptoeing without elegance, crawling without sound. Soon, her hand left his and placed a palm upon the door. It crept open, aware of the necessity of stealth, and she turned to him and smiled.

“Look how fat she is.”

Their mother lay, propped against cushions, safe in slumber upon the floor. Faint moonlight shone onto her form, fell with the delicacy of whispers, and revealed that she had, indeed, become quite fat. They watched. Her belly was another being; a crescent, lifting, falling, stalling at the peak as if to try and reach the sky. She nudged him, pushed him forward so there was room to lie together, and propped her head upon his arm.

“That’s how we were made, you know. Dad told me.” She reported, proud of forbidden knowledge that she’d stowed away for weeks. He heard but did not listen. Look at it rise and fall!

It had stopped. The water collapsed, a drunkard, without a shadow of its grace. He looked around; even the men had left him now. He thought about standing, yet he knew as soon as he placed his weight onto weary feet, the fountain would roar again, mock him for his impatience or drench him in its wake. He paused. Seconds later, it was back, bored of elegance, of steadiness and calm. The rhythm took him, bellowed with laughter at his stillness and pulsed within his veins. He shone red with embarrassment. I can dance like that.

The sand was still hot under their feet. The sun had passed over like a tyrant, unforgiving, burning indiscriminately as they sheltered in the shade. He had got her a drink, shaking, nervous, trying not to drop it to the ground. They sat together, hiding, and he drank her words. Bathed in her presence. Soaked up her scent. She inched closer until her lips tickled the hairs upon his ear.

“Can we dance?”

Thoughts flew like arrows through his brain, it’s too hot, I can’t dance, I’ll look foolish, it’s too hot, I can’t dance, I’ll look foolish… She retracted, he composed himself and leapt up, held her waist, circled her feet, fingers entwined, moved with the energy of the moment without thought nor fear. They laughed, the sand burned, they went fast and hectic in the middle and slow and loving in the shade, a cycle, a pattern, I don’t want this to end.

It did. He grew jealous of the water. Angry at the past. He wanted to leave now, run toward the rabble from before, but he was jealous of them, too. He was stuck. Resentment grew within his chest and he didn’t care about the cold anymore; the fountain turned to fire.

It’s everywhere. He awoke to the smell of burning. Screams raped the divine silence of night, calls for help, for God, for mercy. A cacophony of suffering. A nightmare, surely. He ran, naked as the first man, muddled from the grip of sleep; movement, voices, the world sounded like a thousand horses raging into war, where are they? The rooms were empty aside from the thunderclouds of smoke. Where are they? He was outside now, facing the fury of the blaze, orange, red, warning of the danger it possessed. They were running. Neighbours, friends, lovers, handfuls of clothes, fleeing out towards the hills. His lungs drew plumes of sickly smog, eyes stung with heat and fear and tears. Where are they? A hand, not theirs, clawed at his skin. A mouth, not theirs, screamed echoes. He ran. He had no choice.

He closed his eyes, understanding now why the men ignored the fountain. His breathing had become shallow and sharp, and he fought to suck it deep. The bursts of flame had sunk and died; he embraced the cold once more. Just listen.

The waves slapped lazily against the boat, never-ending, a constant battery of sound that simultaneously reassured and nauseated. He was sick. Hanging over the metal frame he retched like an animal, spitting and frothing just like the ocean was below. He would have been ashamed if the others weren’t asleep, or pretended to be at least, huddled, drowning in their own way, a tsunami of despair.

It ended. It had all ended; the fountain swirled and groaned as if someone had pulled the plug, draining slowly away into a silence that was louder than the world. He could feel her hand, velvet, silk, even as he froze.

 

 

MY OTHER WRITING – HERE