Updated stats: Age: 26. Location: Wokingham. Employment: Operations Coordinator and Accounts Manager

I’m ashamed to say that I have completely neglected my blog again for well over a year now, but this does not mean I have lost my desire to write. I am currently spending most of my time working very hard at my job, which can leave me too tired to look at anymore screens in the evening!

To get my creative fix, I have taken to writing and illustrating silly books for my friends as gifts, and publishing them into actual, hard copy books using an online tool. I squeal with delight when they are delivered! I have also been working, when I can, on the three book ideas that I have been developing since university.

More recently I have focussed a lot of time and energy into improving my health and fitness, and learnt a lot about nutrition which has become very important to me. In the next couple of weeks I plan to kick-start my blog again with some posts on how my lifestyle has improved and some of the great products that I have been using to aid me.

Thanks for bearing with!

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  1. A lint roller is no longer just a handy accessory for when you have a new jumper. It is UTTERLY VITAL AND YOU CANNOT LEAVE THE HOUSE WITHOUT USING ONE.

  2. Your windows are no longer tools to let fresh air in to your house. They are potential escape routes and might as well be superglued shut.

  3. When the sun shines through your curtains your room lights up in the pattern of a thousand claw holes.

  4. You’re worried that you’ve just got used to the smell of dirty litter trays.

  5. You tell any visitor/guest/delivery person ‘I have cats that cannot go outside’ through the crack of your barely opened door before you even say ‘hello’.

  6. The notion of leaving a builder/decorator/plumber/oven-cleaning-man/tiler in your house unsupervised is unacceptable.

  7. Walking your cat on a harness backwards and forwards outside your house is entirely normal behaviour and you can’t imagine why your neighbours look at you funny.

  8. Leaving your house with more than one bag in your hands needs careful planning and calculation. Failing that, tranquiliser darts.

  9. Entire rooms have to be planned around elaborate cat climbing-frames and there is a cat toy in your line of vision no matter what part of the house you are in.

  10. Finding an open door or window in your house is a shower of pure cold terror.

  11. Even seeing a door or window wide open somewhere else, e.g at work, looks unnatural and fills you with momentary panic. (Just me?)

  12. Having people over to your house in the summer for BBQs means printing a makeshift sign of a cartoon cat saying ‘Please remember not to let me out!’ and sticking it to ALL THE DOORS.

  13. Realising you haven’t seen the cat/cats for over an hour results in a thorough search of all cupboards, wardrobes, spaces under furniture etc.

  14. You have to work ‘cat litter – bulk’ into your monthly budget.
  15. Due to the volume of time you spend with them (plus the fact you’re crazy) you often refer to your cats as one would refer to their children. This is completely rational.

  16. You think people who say ‘cats are not as much fun as dogs’ must never have seen your purrfect prodigy play ‘fetch’ with a hair tie. Seriously. Believe.

 

This Wednesday, the 1 May 2013, Head of Zeus will publish The Abomination – the first book in The Carnivia Trilogy by Jonathan Holt – and I urge you, no – I beg you, to read it.

I was lucky enough to be sent a copy of this book by a friend of mine from university – who much to my great envy now works for Head of Zeus – ahead of the novel being published. And boy am I glad she sent it to me – she introduced me to one of the best books I’ve ever lay my mind into.

Now I don’t want to give away the plot of the novel – although I feel even if I tried, one small blog post would not do the intricate nature of this book’s plot justice anyway. It will be interesting to see how anyone will summarise a storyline that is so full of detail, so rich with intriguing threads cleverly woven into each other. So without spoilers, I want to tell you about The Abomination and why I am so friggin’ grateful I’ve read it.

Anyone who enjoys a good book will tell you, when questioned, that they relish slipping into a different world when reading. Alberto Manguel wrote in A History of Reading “Each book was a world unto itself, and in it I took refuge.” The Abomination does not just draw you in to one world, but many. You become lost in its numerous layers; an historic time when religious belief was paramount and secrecy and lies were the foundations of society. A new age, where your darkest unknowns are only safe under a blanket of technological encryption – a blanket under threat from higher authorities. A military world, a police world, the world of differences between man and woman. Holt masterfully weaves these layers together in a tapestry so colourful it clashes with itself; the religion of the Fathers and the Priests contrasted with the science, mathematics and technology of Daniele Barbo and his creation. Rape, violence and injustice against women, set against Kat Tapo and Holly Boland – the women striding ahead of men.

The three characters I’ve just mentioned are my personal favourite aspects of Holt’s work. Daniele Barbo in particular is by far the most intriguing character I’ve found in a book of late. If, like me, you’ve read many of the thrillers that hit the shelves year on year, the ones that, gripping as they are, all follow the same formula, you will be refreshed by a character such as Barbo. He conforms with none of the stereotypes found in the oh-so-popular crime favourites. His back story has rendered him practically incapable of emotional connection with any other human being. He struggles even socially unless through a computer. Yet to me, Barbo posesses wholly one of the most desirable qualties a person could have – complete and utter loyalty. A loyalty so strong to each individual involved in his website creation Carnivia that he risks his own freedom to uphold it.

I don’t need to bang on at you about the genius of Holt’s language because this is evident from the first page. You are instantly reassured you are reading the work of someone who has put countless months, if not years, of research into this trilogy – the Italian culture laid out before you in all its glory. A military world so well crafted that you lose sight of what is fiction and what is reality. I even felt compelled when I had finished reading to research the events of the novel, so fine is the line between truth and conspiracy. Which is a fitting claim to make of this book which roots itself in a world of lies, masked figures and hidden motives.

If you have read my review of Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, you will know how exasperated I was with the ending of that particular book. A book that had so successfully sucked in its reader, only to end with disappointment and anticlimax. Holt finishes The Abomination with pure class and respect for his audience. You are rewarded for engrossing yourself in his world, yet still eager to remain with his characters as they progress through their next chapters. What more could you ask from the first book of a new trilogy?

There is only so much I can tell you about The Abomination without treading on the toes of its mystery and ambiguity, something I am not prepared to do before the book is published. All I can promise is that if you allow yourself into the world of The Carnivia trilogy, you will not be disappointed, and as Daniele Barbo promised, nor will you be betrayed.

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The Abomination by Jonathan Holt will be pulbished on 01 May 2013 by Head of Zeus

Regardless of what I think of Gone Girl, it is a true credit to Gillian Flynn that I have felt so emotionally involved in this book that I’ve felt the need to write about it. But – MASSIVE SPOILER ALERT. I completely reveal the plot below, so if you are reading it or planning to read it, don’t read all my nonsense below until afterwards.

I happened across Gone Girl in Waterstones a week or so ago when I was browsing for something to spend some Christmas vouchers on. I’d not heard of it, nor was I particularly grabbed by the cover, but the ‘Thriller of the year’ quote from the Observer on the front was enough to make me pick it up. I am a sucker for a good thriller. I am also a sucker for good editing, and the cleverley written blurb got my good-book-juices-flowing, and everyone loves a bit of good-book-juice.

blog-gone-girl-book-jacket

Now. My relationship with this book is difficult. If it had a Facebook status, it would likely be ‘It’s Complicated.’ I don’t in anyway regret buying it or reading it; I couldn’t put it down. Page after page I was gripped and drawn further into it, shamlessly gasping aloud at plot developments, repeatedly slapping my hand against my head in horror at unexepcted turns of events. I consumed it as fast as the story consumed me. But – did I enjoy it? I don’t know.

Let me break it down. I am in complete awe of Flynn’s writing for the first three quarters of the novel; she shaped and moulded my opinion differently with each chapter. I started out indifferent to both Amy and Nick, not quite understanding their marital situation, only just bothering to care, more concerned with the suspected murder. Soon I found myself in deep sympathy with the missing Amy, who’s bastard husband had forced her away from her friends, from her family, from the city that she loved and thrived in, only to spend all her money and have an affair with – brace yourself for the cliche – one of his pretty little students.

I despised Nick. The chapters taken from Amy’s diary made my heart beat faster with unaldulterated anger towards him. I forgot I was reading the lives of fictional characters and believed I was reading the diary of a woman whose husband was ruining her life. And then, I’d turn a page, read a chapter from Nick’s perspective, and be thrown again. Could this man really have murdered his wife simply because, from his point of view, their marriage had not gone quite to plan?

At the half way point, Flynn has me right where she wants me. Diary Amy, as she is later referred to, has tried to buy a gun because she is scared of Nick. Nick is seeing visions of his wife on the kitchen floor, covered in blood, and he’s repeatedly lying to the police. He’s killed her, right? He’s a psycho with a split personality and everything is pointing to the fact he’s murdered his wife. Right.

Wrong. I turn the page and in one short line I’m knocked backwards with the revelation that Amy is alive. I’m just recovering from this to discover Diary Amy was a fake. Every diary entry I’d read spanning the length of her relationship with Nick, everything I’d found myself drawn into, emotionally involved in, was created by her character to frame her husband. I feel betrayed by Flynn, but in the best way possible. She’s tricked her readers on all levels, and I’m floored by the extent of her genius, her clever writing and plot development. Amy knows about the affair, Amy knows about everything and its payback time. My hatred for Nick still burning bright, I’m sucked into her game and want her to win, until it registers with me that I’ve been duped. I have no concrete evidence of what is real and what Amy has created. I am practically back to square one, I know nothing about this young woman I have sympathised with for two hundred and forty three pages. As a result, everything I think I know about Nick is erased. Flynn has manipulated me in the same way that Amy has manipulated everyone and everything around her. At this point, I’m still thinking – genius. I’m thinking this is the best goddamn book I have ever freaking read.

Sadly, that is probably the last good thing I have to say about Gone Girl. As Amy reveals the extent of her lies, things become completely ridiculous. I don’t know whether Flynn was relying on her reader to be so sucked in at this point that she could get away with the transition from thriller to complete fantasy, or whether she is purposefully offering an extreme exaggeration of a woman scorned. Like a warning to men everywhere: hey buddy, spend your wife’s money and cheat on her, and you’ll find yourself framed for a murder you didn’t commit, hated by the nation and facing the death penalty. SO KEEP YOUR WILLY IN YOUR PANTS. Did Flynn want women everywhere to rejoice at Amy’s brilliance? Her calm, meticulous planning in the face of her husband’s scandal. Her determination after finding out her husband is shagging someone younger, prettier and more carefree than her, to not only shame him with the fact he’s been found out, but to make sure he DIES for his actions. I mean really, REALLY?! Don’t get me wrong, Flynn makes no doubt of the fact Amy is a sociopath. She’s got history with this sort of thing, she’d just upped her game because her husband cheated on her. But I still can’t buy it, and I’m losing any sort of hold I had on the purpose of the story.

The ending is simply insulting. There is no other way to describe it. All the brilliance of the first part of the book is erased by the way Flynn brings it to a close. The supposedly strong-minded, deeply scorned Amy (who on reflection, by the way, is a spoilt, ungrateful little bitch) ends up running back to Nick because he said something nice about her in a TV interview. I am not even playing that down – he appears on a TV show to trick her back to him so that he can prove what she has done, says that he wants her to come back so he can be the husband she has always wanted, and she FALLS FOR IT. This woman, who has spent months planning the demise of her cheating, miserable husband, hears a few nice words about herself and crumbles back into his arms. What sort of a representation of women is that? Not only do we apparently turn into off-the-radar nutters when something bad happens, we lose all sense of pride and resolve at the muttering of a compliment. And Nick, ultimately pathetic and so desperate not to become his women-hating father, takes back the woman who had put every fibre of her being into sending him to deathrow. Oh, and did I mention she murdered a man while she was pretending to be dead? But its okay, because she got out of it by ‘abusing herself with a wine bottle every day’ to make it look like he raped her.

So Nick and Amy live happily ever after. They even have a baby, which Amy made possible by having Nick’s sperm implanted into herself at a clinic, because they aren’t sleeping together. They aren’t sleeping together because she’s a terrifying murderess. That bit I can understand, at least. But where did Amy get Nick’s sperm from? From a clinic in which he conveniently deposited sperm a while back. Another contradiction in terms. Independent Amy, off to the sperm clinic to do the job herself because Nick isn’t man enough to do it for her. Yet the ultimate goal – get pregnant to keep him, make him stay with her, trap him because she can’t be without him. The whole idea sends my head into spiralling confusion.

I can just about grasp the concept of them getting back together – Flynn writes an impossible love story of two people who are so well suited, so well connected that they can manipulate the other into ruination with mere words. Nick can’t live without Amy because no one will compare to her brilliance, no one will know him the way she does. And Amy can’t live without Nick because no one will understand her need for the Perfect Husband, for the Perfect Life. Okay, fine, I can just about grasp that.

It just wasn’t quite the ending I was hoping for throughout the whole gripping, twisting and thrilling tale. What was I hoping for? Of that I am unsure, but feel it is the author’s responsibility to deliver it and for me, she didn’t quite do it this time.

Ahem, please note: I have posted the following both as a post and as a page – the reason for posting as a post (post post posty post) is because I needed some explanation as to why there is such length between posts to be present. Now that I’ve got that off my chest, please continue.

________________________________________________________

So my name is Holly Martin, and the date is Wednesday 30 January 2013.

The reason I have included the date is because this blog has been running for a couple of years previous to today, but it was set up originally for University purposes and has since been neglected. I had a brief fling with another blog – which I can’t even remember the link for – which centered around me trying to eat well and excercise often. Hence why the fling was a brief one.

I am rekindling my love affair with this blog because I miss writing little snippets of thought on a regular basis. As my dream and goal is to one day become a published author, I need a platform on which to practice regularly and gain feedback, and here it is. I’ve edited some of the previous posts in the sense that I have deleted some of the ones we were ‘required’ to do for assessment purposes, as they were not a true reflection of me or the way I think. I have left ones which I think are interesting or show an honest side to me, mainly my creativity.  I’ve also changed the name to just my initials, if you are wondering what those three random letters stand for. Its Holly Lucifer Martin. I JOKE, it’s Louise, it’s Louise; I am not the devil reincarnated.

I can’t gurantee that I will be consistent in my frequency of posting to this blog; like anyone who works full time, life tends to get in the way of what I would truly like to be doing with the hours in the day. But I do intend to keep using it and I hope if you enjoy what you read so far you will suscribe or come back from time to time to see what other nonsense I have imparted.

Some brief details:

I’m 24, I live in Berkshire with my boyfriend (who is sort of famous by the way, but I don’t talk about that much) and two stunning Bengal cats, Luther and Lola. Over the coming weeks you will probably find photos of them here as I rarely shut up about them. I am fast becoming Crazy Cat Lady, with capital C’s and everything.

I currently work as Operations Coordinator for an Orthodontic company. If you need any advice on braces or teeth alignment I’m your girl. Don’t all rush at once. But seriously, it’s a job I have progressed in since I was 18 and I put a lot of time and effort into it.

Writing is my thing. Well, creativity is my thing, because I like to draw too. But I one day hope to make a living from writing. I am aware many people have the same aspiration, and many don’t follow through with it, so the only way I can prove to you I mean it is to make sure that one day you are sitting with a copy of my first book in your hands. Or perhaps it will be so far into the future that it will be downloaded directly into your brain, but either way is fine by me.

I’m sorry, I said that was going to be brief and it wasn’t particularly. Also, did I mention that my boyfriend is sort of famous?

On Friday 11th March 2011 I did what I always do first in the morning; I checked my Twitter feed. As I worked my way up from the point at which I had last checked the night before, through some general mundane bed-time related updates, and the odd drunken-tweet that never fails to amuse, the tone of my timeline took a sudden change. From here, somewhere around the ‘early hours’ mark, and within the space of about ten tweets, I learnt of the horrific events that had unfolded while I had been asleep.

One of the largest earthquakes ever recorded had hit Japan and caused a tsunami to engulf the country, causing, as we are all now aware, mammoth destruction and devastation. Twitter was telling me that no one in the country was safe, that the death toll was rising, and that we must pray for the poor people effected because sadly, there was not much else we could do.

The devestating effects of the earthquake which hit Japan on March 11 2011

The trending topics that blinked alternately at me from the top of my Twitter app said it all. #Prayforjapan. #Tsunami #Poorjapan and even, if somewhat insensitively – #Godzilla. I clicked on each one and scrolled through, the devastation becoming ever more apparent and frightening. There were thousands of people in danger and I was glued to my timeline for updates on the country’s safety.

It occurred to me around two hours later that despite fervently watching Twitter for updates on the events in Japan, I hadn’t once felt the need to visit a mainstream news website or even turn the television on to watch the live coverage from the BBC. Yes, I’d read tweets from @BBCBreaking and @SkyNews which provided me with facts; the ever rising death toll and the amount of people missing, for example. But, I’d found myself provided with information through friends, associates and people I didn’t know but had found through the related topics that were trending. Information such as the phone number to ring if you were worried about a loved one in Japan. The website to visit if you wished to make a donation to the rescue mission. I even found myself ‘retweeting’ this information; I was part of this massive news-sharing conversation.

When I finally turned on the television to watch the events unfold on the BBC news, it struck me that a lot of the information I had received from Twitter wasn’t available to me through the mainstream forms of journalism. The newspapers couldn’t give me the personal insights of terror that I got from reading the tweets of those who worried for loved ones in Japan; the sort of insight that gives you a fuller, deeper understanding of the extent of what has happened. The news programmes took days before they mentioned the ways in which you could donate to Japan’s rescue mission. What was happening here – had social media taken a massive leap over the mainstream news channels?

Is social media taking over from the traditional practices of journalism?

Not quite. Of course, many people still tuned into the news programmes for their information, or bought the newspapers to read up on what was happening. But this, obviously, was not the first time that social media sites had acted as news distributors.  Shayne Bowman and Chris Willis write in their paper We Media of the terrorist attacks of September 11 2001. They talk of the ways in which people turned to social media sites such as blogs, chat groups and forums for information when the major news sites crashed under the massive demand for information.  Dan Gillmor explains in his book We the Media: Grassroots Journalism by the People for the People that this turn to social media on 9/11 was profound. Because of the Internet, news was being produced by regular people who had something to say or show, and people were interested in this citizen journalism because it was news that the American media couldn’t or wouldn’t provide.

So, with people turning to social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook with every big news event, is social media reshaping journalistic practices? Richard Sambrook, the director of the BBC Global News Division was quoted in The Guardian in 2009 with the opinion that Twitter provides you with information; but information is not journalism. “Journalism needs discipline, analysis, explanation and context.” he said. “Journalism is still a profession.” Frederica Cherubini published an article on Editorsweblog.org in March this year in which her opinion echoed that of Sambrook. She explained that while a blog post, a Facebook status or a Twitter update are all forms of sharing the news, journalism is about much more than this; it is indeed a profession.

But is the profession of journalism under any threat from the rise of social media? Laura Casewell is the senior features writer for the country’s oldest press agency; Birmingham based Caters News. She has written for magazines such as Reveal and Closer alongside having articles published in The Telegraph, The Mirror and The Sun. When I posed the question to her – “Do you think social media has reshaped journalistic practices?” – her answer was an indisputable “Yes.”

“In news breaking situations, every journalist wants to be the first to get the story out there. In one sense, sites like Facebook can be extremely helpful to us. We use them to quickly source photos or family details, even in some cases phone numbers and addresses. But the problem is that a story can be broken on Twitter by someone who isn’t a professional journalist. To our audiences, this might make our profession seem a little redundant!” Despite Laura’s concerns, she went on to tell me “In terms of features, Twitter and Facebook are nothing but beneficial to me. I use them as a means of finding case studies and stories. I can reach so many people through Twitter, and Facebook is great for searching groups and talking to people online who might want to share their experience.”

Laura then, it seems, like many journalists now, is embracing social media as a tool to enhance her journalistic practices. Whether it’s a case of being almost forced to do so by the overwhelming use of such sites isn’t clear, but one thing that is becoming ever more so  is the power social media harnesses in relation to journalism. In an interview with Cindy Kim which she published to her blog in 2009, Del Jones, reporter of USA Today, stated that he joined the social media craze when he realised the rate at which Twitter was growing. When asked whether social media was helping or hindering the journalistic profession he answered, “Helping those who are good at employing it.”

Will we still tune in to watch the news, or will we simply turn to Twitter for information?

So it would seem the way forward for journalists is to embrace the effects of social media as it strengthens its connection with their profession. From a personal opinion, I am confident in saying I will look to Twitter for my news and information for the foreseeable future. It is, and will be for a while, the first place I turn when a story breaks, on the basis that I will be provided with citizen journalism alongside the mainstream, professional updates. This is an undeniable sign that social media has indeed reshaped journalistic practices. Surely then, as many more people adopt the same internet habits as me, journalists should embrace these changes and employ social media tools to the best of their ability, to make sure we as readers are receiving news and information in the best ways possible.

Grazia Go Nude

As nudes, pale pinks and khakis rule the catwalks and enter the shops I have a look at who’s selling what and get creative with my colouring pencils.

 Obviously, by nude, I don’t mean going outside, bearing all, completely starkers. I am of course referring to that pale, peach slash beige like colour that appears in many different shades and in many different forms. At the moment, its everywhere, and I love it. Grazia recently did a fashion shoot of some of the latest nude trends to be taking the fashion world by storm, so I’ve got in on the act and had a little look myself.

   Topshop are stocking these great trousers, called ‘Chino Pants’ by Richard Nicoll for £60.   

Chino Pant by Richard Nicoll - £60

 A tad steep for students, I won’t pretend, but gorgeous none the less and would really add that fashion element to a simple white top or blouse. I’m also a huge fan of the Topshop utlity trousers that are mixing the nude theme with the re-emergence of the combats. (I’ve mentioned them before, see it here..)   

Also hitting the spot with the current trend are New Look and River Island. Just a couple of the items they have on offer to complete your new nude look are pictured below, but have a look at the extent of their collection, its impressive! You don’t need a huge bank balance and a career in modelling to try out this look, just head to the high street to go nude. (That sounds like I’m encouraging streaking, I’m sorry, I’m not.)   

River Island Sack Dress - £29.99

New Look Waterfall Jersey Jacket - £22

H&M Nude Tunic and Katie and Charlie working their bold prints.

 
To prove I’m not all talk and no action, I recently dabbled in this nude trend myself. I found this simple nude tunic dress in H&M for the ABSOLUTE BARGAIN of just £13! It only comes in one size so for really teeny people it may be slightly too big, but for size 8 and above it looks great as a dress with bare legs or as a comfy but sophisticated top with leggings or skinny jeans. Katie and Charlie are also wearing another popular trend for the coming summer, bold prints. We’re already seeing summery slips and maxi dresses hitting the shops and it seems vibrant is just as cool as nude this season.
 
To round off my nude-themed learning experience I whacked out the colouring pencils and indulged myself in a fashion illustration inspired by the pages of Grazia’s shoot. My advice is, if you are feeling brave, take off your safe black dress or your worn out dark denims and go nude (colour wise) for a day. If you don’t like it, your black dress will forgive you and take you back, I’m sure of it.

Nude Inspired Fashion Illustration

 
 

 

 

Another of our Professional Writing assignments was to create a script for television in a genre of our choice. We were asked to write the opening eight to ten minutes of the programme and specify which channel would be suitable for the show. I chose to create a crime drama that I named ‘Forensic’ to be shown on BBC One. As a HUGE fan of programmes such as CSI:NY, Criminal Minds, Silent Witness and Waking The Dead, I was eager to try my own hand at crime writing.

Below is a small extract from my script, if you would like to read the full piece (which of course, you would) you can do so by clicking here.

INT. SCHOOL KITCHEN – DAY
A friendly, plump DINNER LADY, who looks to be in her late fifties, is bustling around the kitchen. She is by herself, finishing up after the school day. The large, stainless steel kitchen seems very empty and quiet. She carries two large, fit-to-burst bin bags towards the door.

EXT. SIDE ALLEY, SCHOOL – DAY
The dinner lady heaves the bags on to an already over flowing pile, misjudging her efforts and knocking the bags to the floor.

DINNER LADY
(muttering)
Tsk, damn bin men. Easiest job in the world and they can’t even do that properly, leaving it all here in a…

She stares at the cause of her abrupt halt. A YOUNG, DARK-SKINNED BOY’s body lays lifelessly in a pool of blood beneath the scattered bags, his school uniform stained deep red around an unnatural whole in his stomach.

DINNER LADY (CONT’D)
(screaming, backing away frantically)
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! SOMEONE, SOMEONE HELP!

 

Hooked…? Read on.

      WAIT! If you haven’t read Part One of this short story, please do so before you read any further! You can find it by clicking…HERE. Wouldn’t want to ruin it for yourself, would you? If you have already read Part One you are very sensible and please continue. I would also be very grateful for any constructive criticism you may have regarding my short story, although nothing too horrible please, I’m not sure I could handle it…

      On this particular evening I was admiring the woodland with my children. They bounced around beside me, happy and content now winter had passed. Their rich golden heads – a hereditary gift from both their mother and I – bobbing dizzily from side to side, occasionally bumping into each other as they enjoyed the sun and the gentle breeze. The woodland was calm, my family and I the only company for the newly emerging bluebells, interrupted here and there only by a tiny bird or mouse, until I felt her footsteps through the earth below me.

            As the dog-walker approached I watched as the small, cream dog bounded alongside her. She was accompanied today by a tall man, a fellow dog-walker I presumed, as also added to the pack was a large labrador, his big pink tongue lolling casually from his mouth. I talk here of course, of the labrador’s tongue, not the man. I considered quietly the idea that I should perhaps get a dog of my own to attract the attention of this beautiful woman, the only woman to have ever caught my eye since my wife. She was so different from my wife that I could scarcely believe I had even noticed her, her hair was dark and seemed to capture and keep the light, a stark contrast from the glow of gold my wife had radiated, and her skin was pale, like beautiful, smooth ivory. Her elegance emitted almost a sense of coolness which you might imagine to be unpleasant, but as I watched her walk and chat amicably to her acquaintance I lost myself in her, and felt a warmth I’d never felt before almost washing over me, trickling through me like new life in my veins. As she swung around sharply to face me, however, I snapped out of my dream like state and realised two things, very fast, and at the same time. In my preoccupied condition I had failed to notice the small woolly creature approach me, sniffing and sweeping its nose from side to side along the soil, to finally reach a standstill in front of me and do none other than cock its leg. I’d also failed to correctly identify the warm, relaxing sensation that washed over my entire body as I gazed at the woman I implored to acknowledge me. Now, as she looked directly at me, turning her graceful body towards my family and I and striding purposefully back the way she had come, I realised my mistake.

            “Harvey!” She addressed the small, lamb-like dog. “Stop pissing on that poor daffodil!”

 I wrote this short story for a recent assignment as part of our Professional Writing unit. It revolves around the grief the narrator has had to deal with in the past and looks at his new love interest, a mysterious woman who catches his eye in the woods. This is part one of the story, part two will follow shortly. The story is named ‘A Blooming Affair’ and hopefully you’ll find an interesting twist to the tale of this flowering romance. Oh, it was also a great excuse to put up pictures of my adorable Bichon Frise – Hugo, who features in the story but under a different name. I wanted to protect his privacy, you see, didn’t think he could handle all the press and papparazzi outside his door… enjoy.

            I saw her almost every morning and evening, strolling through the woodland with her small, woolly dog. So woolly, was he, in fact, that on first glance I mistook him for a sheep. She was beautiful, this dog-walking lady, in my eyes anyway. Yet she never noticed me, and we never spoke. She’d come close but never close enough and I would find myself static, surrounded by my family; invisible to her and unable to talk. I studied her when I could, picking out the graceful detail on her face and in the way that she walked. I was captivated by her despite the overwhelming realisation that she was out of my league, a completely different species. Through her beauty I attempted to derive her age and I’d hazard a guess that she was in her late thirties, although sometimes when she’d pass me on one of her evening walks, perhaps after a stressful day at work, her attractive face edged elegantly closer to her early forties. But anyway, what was age? I’d lost track of mine many years back. 

            I wouldn’t be lying if I said I was lonely.  An onlooker would question how I could possibly feel such an emotion, because, amongst other things I was part of such a massive, beautiful family. I had brothers and sisters and cousins and second cousins, aunts and uncles and even an ancient old grandma. Bless her, we all thought she’d give up the ghost long ago but year after year she came back fighting. But this supersized family, as loyal as there were, for they rarely left my side, couldn’t replace the gaping, aching hole that punctured my life; the real core of my loneliness – the death of my wife. Four years ago, during a particularly long and deadly winter she had contracted a fatal illness in which she simply could not withstand the icy depths of the harsh season, and although much breath-holding was carried out by my relatives for a new lease of life as winter faded, my soul mate passed away and spring arrived with a fresh wave of grief and loss. I found myself left not only without a soul mate, but without a soul.

            As the years passed I withered through the dark winters, crippled by the cold and the memory of what had happened, curled into myself and hidden, distanced from my family and friends by the heaviness of what held me down. Every year I’d think I’d reached the end, that I couldn’t possibly bring myself out of this. I felt the weight of the earth above me and the cold froze my soul, the hard frost of winter and of loss immobilised my senses as I struggled through the pain. Seasonal affective disorder stretched to its extremes, tautened by the grief and memory of my wife.

“Keep trying, Dad” the children would whisper through my dark veil of mourning and the dirt and debris of things I couldn’t deal with, and I’d withdraw even further into myself, believing surely that I would let them down and never make it through the cold. But each year spring would arrive and I would feel my heart begin to beat again. The weight would lift and I would push through the depths of my grief until I could feel the sun on my skin once more.

(For Part 2 click HERE because it’s really exciting and you can’t carry on your daily life without knowing what happens…)