Monday, 20 July 2009

The Morning After

Chloe woke up in her hotel room to a cacophony of ringing telephones, cartoon noises on the television and knocking on the door. The sounds scratched across her consciousness. She couldn’t move, her head hurt and she felt sick. Slowly reaching her hand out, she fumbled for the phone. Raising herself up onto one elbow, she covered her eyes from the sunlight with her other hand. She gazed around the room that was papered with chintz and home to various pieces of antique looking furniture. Clothing had been abandoned on the dated floral carpet. Her bed was covered with miniature sized bottles of gin and vodka. All empty! A half eaten pizza was perched on the mahogany dressing table. Her vision was too blurred to catch her reflection in the mirror. The television was still on and made her head throb. She rooted around the empty bottles to find the remote and pressed the mute button. Her mouth was dry and her face felt filthy from all the make-up she had been forced to wear. She looked down to discover that she was still wearing her dress. She fell back into the pillows to blot everything out.

The knocking on the door announced a sense of urgency. Taking deep breaths to control the nausea she sidled out of bed and made her way to the door, tripping on an empty champagne bottle. Holding herself up by placing her hand on the wall for support she opened the door an inch. A face suddenly appeared very close to her own, making her jump back in fright. The man chuckled with amusement. It was James. Chloe let him make his own way in and went into the bathroom, again having to use her hands on the sink to hold herself up, she felt weak with nausea. Peering at her reflection in the mirror, she inspected the damage. Her right eye was black, there were scratch marks on her shoulders. She reached to the back of her head with her hand and winced in pain. She felt her cheeks burn red. Had she fallen unconscious? She looked closer, she didn’t even recognise herself. This wasn’t who she was. What had happened? Had she behaved appallingly in front of her family? James followed her into the bathroom.

‘Well, you’re alive then?’ He said cheerfully, ‘everyone is sitting down to breakfast soon.’ His smile then faded. ‘You’d better join them, Chloe, you’ve got some apologies to make.’

Chloe cringed. ‘Why? What did I do?’ She gasped, her hand on her chest, feeling the bile slowly rising in her throat. James sighed.

‘In the shower’, he said pushing her into the cubical and quickly turning on the tap before his friend could jump out again. Chloe made some high pitched shrieking noises until the temperature of the water warmed up.

‘I don’t understand, why do I have to make apologies? It looks like someone hit me!’ She cried from behind the glass door. ‘James? What did I do?’

‘What didn’t you do?’ he snorted, Chloe put her head round the door, her eyes wide. He raised the palm of his hand and began to list things on his fingers. ‘You got drunk, you got bored, you fancied some guy, you got in a fight and then you cried like a baby. Oh yeah, and you fell into the wedding cake.’ Chloe hid her head behind the door in shame and fell back against the cold wet tiles behind her.

‘Oh God, I think I’m going to be sick’, she croaked. As the steam from the hot water enveloped her, a flash of the day before came into her hazy mind. There was champagne when they got ready at her mum’s house, champagne in the wedding car on the way to the church. James sharing his flask of brandy, from his inside jacket pocket came into her head. Of course, she had gotten bored with all the photographing and felt tense around her family. Snotty little children kept standing on her dress and her sister kept snapping at her for twisting her hair with her fingers because it would ruin the pictures of her perfect day. So Chloe had turned to the bottle to relieve her frustration.

After the shower, a sorry looking Chloe walked back into the bedroom. A breeze blew in from the window that James had opened and goose bumps appeared on her shoulders.
‘I thought that would wake you up a bit!’ he laughed, passing her a cup of coffee.
‘Well, the dress is ruined’, she mumbled, patting herself dry with a towel.
‘When were you going to wear that pink monstrosity again? You looked like a cream cake. You all did. I thought I was in the baker’s when I saw you lot coming down the aisle’, he scoffed. Chloe tried not to smile but she couldn’t help it.

‘So, I drank your brandy...yeah, I remember that, and I remember getting to the reception and there were more photos. What is with photographers at weddings?’ She moaned.
‘Never mind the photographers! You were first at the bar, the first to the free champagne, you were pissed before the meal started!’ Interrupted James. ‘We were sat with that Welsh couple...remember? That woman who talked incessantly about her sons all the way through the meal...well, until you told her to be quiet. That was a conversation killer!’

Chloe giggled. ‘It’s not funny. You were in a bad mood all day’, he scolded.
‘Weddings are boring. I hate weddings. James, this is the fifth wedding we’ve been to this year and it’s only August!’ Chloe went back to the bathroom with her arms full of clean clothes.

As she put on her t shirt and jeans, she caught her reflection in the mirror again. She gulped in horror as she recalled a large blonde girl throwing a punch in her direction. She felt tears roll down her face as the memory of her shocking drunk behaviour came flooding back to her, bit by bit. The girl was Cindy. They had both made a bee line for the same man on the dance floor. The cousins had never seen eye to eye and this recent clash was the breaking point. Before either of them had even spoken to the poor man they had set their sights on, they had started to shout at one another. Chloe was never the sort of person to argue or fight, especially in a public place, but she had drunk too much and it had turned her into another person.

James picked up the debris off the floor and put it in the bin.
‘This is going to cost you a fortune’, he muttered to himself, knowing that Chloe wouldn’t have the money to pay for it. She never had any money.
‘I remember!’ She cried from the bathroom. ‘I had my eye on that cute of the groomsmen...I remember now - and so did Cindy!’ She said, her voice full of venom. She came back into the bedroom.
‘Yes, you both argued like little girls. Both twenty-five going on fourteen. Cindy pushed you, you pushed her, and then there was some hair pulling and squealing. I tried to stop you both but, to be honest, you were both pretty frightening, and then Cindy punched you in the face and that was when you fell into the cake’, James shook his head in disgust. Chloe could feel her cheeks burning.

‘Sorry. I’m so sorry’, she whispered and tears began to fall down her face. He walked over to her and gave her a hug.
‘I lied about the cake’, he said quietly, ‘come on, you need some slap on your face to cover that bruise’. She’d disgraced her family big time. Together they had managed to cover the bruise so it didn’t look as black. They left the room and walked down the corridor to the lift.
In the lift, Chloe gathered her thoughts and more memories came back to her.
‘Some friend, you picked me up off the floor, took me to my room and let me carry on drinking?’ She looked at her friend accusingly.
‘I was trying to cheer you up!’ He protested, laughing. ‘Anyway, no man was going to mess with you after that nonsense with Cindy. Do you realise you took a clump of hair from her head?’ He exclaimed. ‘It was scary!’ Chloe could feel the humiliation sweep over her face.
‘Oh God, what an idiot! So I passed out at some point?’ She enquired. Her friend confirmed it with a nod of his head.

Eventually the lift reached the ground floor and they walked out into the reception area. Chloe reached out and grabbed James by the wrist to prevent him from walking any further. Opposite them was the doorway to the dining room and there stood Cindy. She was wearing a short, tight red dress, milk white flesh spilt out of it in all directions, making James feel as sick as his friend. Cindy’s red glossed lips were positioned in a pout, her gold ringed hands rested on her hips, her small grey eyes glaring at Chloe. The two girls just stared at one another, the animosity crackling between them. James wriggled away from Chloe’s grip and was about to say something when the man they’d been falling out over entered the hotel foyer, hand in hand with another man!

The Time Traveller's Wife - After thoughts

Curiousity made me choose this novel. It was an international best seller. Film rights have been sold. Wow, it must be good. It made one of my friends cry. So I had to find out what all the fuss was about...

It has taken me a long time to finish this book, mostly because I wasn't really enjoying it. I would pick it up, read a little, put it down and forget about it for a week or two then pick it up again. The good thing is that because of the nature of the story (jumping back and forth in time)
it is okay to have a rest from reading it.

For me, the beginning was a little slow. Mum read it before me and she didn't like it at all. She warned me that the first few chapters/sections (its almost like a diary) would be slow. I'm still not entirely sure whether or not I think those first few sections were even needed.

The middle however, kept me turning the pages over. First of all there was the intriguing love story, thats what this novel is. Just another love story but written in a clever format. One of the lovers has a sort of illness...he time travels...and not through choice. It just happens. So because of this I kept turning the pages to see what happened next and to fill in the gaps that would be left. Some sections were so short you were perplexed and then another section will crop up that linked back to that short one. Its almost as though the author wrote the story in chronological order and then cut it up, mixed it about a little and put it together again.

Loose ends are tied up way before it finishes and I found myself skimming the last few pages/sections. I know, my bad but I just stopped feeling so curious once the main plot had come to a close. The rest seemed pointless. The end was a cliche but I won't disclose the details in case you're yet to read it.

But hey, thats just my opinion on it. You might think different.

I haven't really enjoyed the last few books I've read. English Literature has been a tough subject to study at Uni but its working. At long last I've used my brain and I obviously need a more stimulating read than a love story or chick lit novel. However, before I tackle more classics and the reccommended 'I am Legend' (I've promised my boyfriend I'll read this before watching the film), I've borrowed a friend's copy of Twilight. I know, its cheesy and meant for teenagers (but how many of you have read Harry Potter?) but once again curiousity killed the cat and I need to know what all the fuss is about!

Friday, 17 July 2009

Going Back To The Roots

Sometimes I look forward to the day I have my own children and sometimes I hope I never have children. Every time I go back to my parents house I get nagged at like I'm still a teenager. I love my parents to bits but why can't they grow up with us? I mean, sometimes I get the distinct impression that no time has passed them by since the day I left home.

They only live 5 miles away so I see them on a regular basis and my trips to the family home are always the same. My dad will see me arrive but still insist on saying 'who's that?' when I let myself in. Then he'll stick his head out of the door to inspect my parking.

I'll go and sit down at the kitchen table which is never an easy task. Every flat surface (including the chairs) will be covered in newspapers, magazines and junk mail. I will have to gather it all up and then seek out a flat surface that isn't already covered in paper. This task is followed by a tut from dad. Its not even my house, why should I try and tidy up? In fact, when did the child EVER tidy up the family home? I'm supposed to make the mess!

Cups of coffee will be made. Mum will make it, I will remind her I require one sugar, I get it and there isn't any sugar. So then I go to get the sugar and she will tell me its about time I stopped taking sugar. Why is this such an issue? I have taken sugar in my coffee for years, I like sugar in my coffee. Why should I have to give it up?

Dad will hover over us, making sure we use coasters and don't spill anything. He shouldn't get wound up over a bit of split coffee or a ring mark on the table. These things happen. He can't accept this though and so he'll always suffer from high blood pressure.

Mum will get the ryvitas out and offer me one (they're always on diets so jaffa cakes are never an option). Dad will then sit there watching over me, making sure I drop crumbs onto the plate and not anywhere else. I think he has OCD or something. He'll make me feel like I'm 5 again.

When we were kids, eating chips in the back of the car was a treat. He would cover the entire car with newspaper before we were allowed to eat the chips and he would stand over us until we'd finished. Then he'd yell 'put your hands up in the air where i can see them' like we're criminals or something and then he'd rub our hands clean with his handkerchief. If he didn't watch us, yes, we would wipe our hands on our legs or on the seats but that is what children do isn't it? However, I'm 29 now. Is it necessary to watch me eat?

Once the cups and plates are cleared he will leave us to it and go back to his newspaper. The rest of my visit will involve mum telling me that same old story about my cousin getting married. I've never met this cousin, I'm not going to the wedding, I was never invited..probably because she's never met me, but my mum will insist on telling me all about it anyway. Then she'll talk about some poor old dear I've never met who has just popped her clogs. I will get an hour's worth of useless information and gossip before I can speak about anything.

The last few weeks my visits have been slightly different. I've met someone you see, so I'm expected to volunteer information about it. What have we been doing, where did we go, are we seeing each other this weekend. The dreaded 'when will I meet him' question. As it happens, I'm meeting his parents this weekend and to this my mum snorted 'well I hope you're going to sort those roots out' and she pointed at my head.

So you see, sometimes I don't want to have children of my own, because once a parent, always a parent. Surely its exhausting to be nagging all the time? Don't get me wrong, I love my parents. I get on with them really well, but the nagging....can't the nagging be put to rest now?

Friday, 10 July 2009


I've been quiet about my results this semester. I'm going to stop being so shy and share the news.

My average is a 2:1 which is awesome but the grades themselves just aren't quite high enough. I think one of the modules has been done wrong so I'm going to have to question it and I seem to be disappointing myself all the time with English Literature. It really is quite a challenge that subject.

The Victorian novels are hard to read and so I find it hard keeping up but I do it. I have to. My essay writing is terrible though. I love writing so much but I have trouble adapting a scholarly style. Its frustrating more than anything but thankfully a few higher marks in other modules have kept me in the 2:1 bracket.

I was over the moon with my Publishing elective. My overall grade was 71%. I have never had a first before! I was in tears of joy when I found out because I put everything I'm made of into that module. Myself and a group of other students worked really hard and published an anthology of poetry for local poet, Michael Molyneux. Publishing is definitely what I want to do when I graduate which is why I desperately want to keep getting 2:1s for my work.

Thankfully I have supportive people around me who will help me improve my essay writing over summer so that I can push my grades higher. For the first time in my life I actually feel passionate about something and really ambitious. I never thought I was one of those people but I am now. I want to do well, get a great job and just be as successful as I can. My intern job at the university has also given me some wonderful new opportunities that will make my CV stand out from the rest. I can't wait to get started on some of the projects that involve clan-u press and workshops for school children, to help them write a creative piece for a competition our faculty has set up.

Hopefully in two year's time I will be a copy editor's assistant and writing my own bestseller :)

The Smelly Man

I've started making regular trips to Manchester, so that means experiencing public transport. Nothing takes me out of Preston much, I'm used to transporting myself via my feet or my little car (a silver saxo with pink flowers on the bonnet, you might have seen it). Public places are great for people watching (or people judging, someone once said to me). So I always make sure I've got my notebook with me. It looks a bit dodgey I know. I could be mistaken for a trainspotter but I'm hoping my irish smile, fabulous taste in trainers and handbags deter people from making that assumption.

On Wednesday I made one of my trips to Manchester. I sat down on the platform, opened up my novel and began to read. While reading a particularly sad part of the story, my attention was taken away when a nasty stench of cigars, BO and mustyness found its way into my nostrils. An old man in a grubby rain coat sat down next to me. I didn't want to be too obvious but I wanted to check he wasn't one of the drunk tramps that have increased in numbers since the weather turned dry (some of them can be quite aggressive). So I peered over the top of my paperback and looked at his feet. His shoes looked decent enough and his trousers were clean. So I ruled out the idea that he was a tramp. I didn't feel like I could get up and move because it would be rude. He would know that I wanted to get away from him because he smelt so bad, so I breathed through my mouth when necessary.

3 minutes passed by and my face was turning blue. I couldn't make out the words in my book, I was going to suffocate if he didn't move! Then a long Virgin train headed to London Euston pulled up on the tracks opposite and the old man started to fidget. He pulled out a tatty notebook from his pocket. I couldn't help myself, I'm a nosey person. I had to see what he was writing. Down one side was a list of numbers and next to some of these numbers were town names. He looked up at the train opposite and then scribbled Preston next to one of these random numbers. I forgot about his nasty odour as I became fascinated in what he was doing.

The train began its journey to London and he got up and walked forwards a few steps and then stopped. Coughed and then with his left hand reached under his rain coat that was covered in stains, put his hand near his buttock and tugged at his trousers. He clearly had a 'wedgey'. He coughed again and staggered off. I was left on the bench feeling amused but I stopped myself. He was just a sweet, lonely old man with a quiet hobby doing no one any harm. As I watched him walk away I wondered if he had anyone to look after him. His clothes under his coat were clean enough. I tried to think of reasons why his coat was so filthy but my train came and disturbed my thoughts. I hope he's okay. If I come across him again I'll smile and say hello.