Ghost song

So, all the ghosts line up to sing the song

And I am swayed by their determined tune.

I know their thoughts are only shades of mine,

Undone too soon.

They step so lightly they might not be there

But for the cold that takes the place of breath.

Unseeing eyes have served no use at all

Since meeting death.

The soul can find what perfect sight cannot

But fails to hold it so it slips away.

Why ghosts demand a chance to hunt it down

I cannot say.

In life we dance between the broken lines

Of waking life and silent, dreaming pain.

To seek the hidden place where these two meet

Is less than sane.

But sanity is not a treasure dear

When holding it must block the chance of sight.

The ghosts regret the follies that they shunned

To keep the light.

So all the ghosts line up to sing the song

My voice rings out although my lips are still.

I hope this tune will be the last they chant.

I doubt it will.

Pictures of a girl

His eyes were drawn by the crow as it flapped across the garden on wings like borrowed rags.  He watched until it was a twitching dot, then nothing.  Only then did he return his attention to the pictures in his hand; smudged, old, yellowing, pencil portraits.  The same little girl, drawn from different angles: just her head.   She had large, striking eyes framed by long, curled lashes.  In one picture, she had her eyes closed and a ghost of a smile lay on her lips, in another her eyes were hidden behind the dark floppy fringe, but they were definitely all of the same girl.  Same bow-shaped mouth.  Same dimpled chin.  Same crescent birthmark at the side of her nose.

He looked up at the house.  He’d only lived there for a month, in fact he’d never even visited the area before he’d seen the house, then, one day … absent-mindedly clicking on estate agents’ sites on the internet.  It was just there: the perfect house!  Three bedrooms, original fittings, garage, large garden, much further away than they’d considered moving and a lot more than they’d planned on spending, but it just looked right.  It shouldn’t even have been in the search results.  Just a fluke, really.

Buying it had been much easier than he’d expected; the seller accepted his offer, which was quite a bit less than they’d been asking.  They’d inherited it and just wanted to be rid of it.  His own house had sold quickly, which came as a surprise, and everything just seemed to go smoothly.  Coming here would help them make a fresh start!  It would be so much easier because it was so far from everyone they knew: his family, her family, their friends.  What was left of them!

He jumped as she knocked on the kitchen window.  She was pointing down towards the sink so he nodded, even though he had no idea what she wanted.  He put the pictures back into the tattered envelope they’d been in, slipped it into the satchel that leant against his deckchair then, scooping up the bag, he walked into the garage. 

When he entered the kitchen, he couldn’t see what his wife was doing because everything looked so dark, but as his eyes adjusted, he saw she had potatoes in a sink full of water.  He sighed, picked up a peeler and asked, “What did your last slave die of?”

She laughed and replied, “Asking too many questions!”  She walked away.  He could hear her humming in the living-room.  It was nice to hear her humming again after all this time; she sounded happy when she hummed.  He hummed too: quietly.

They ate their dinner in the garden, chatting about the unexpectedly warm weather, the list of jobs that would need doing around the house, whose turn it was to wash the dishes.  They talked of everything and nothing at all.  The light had barely begun to fail when they finally went indoors and, in spite of an earlier conclusion, he washed the dishes, finding the robotic motions and warm water peculiarly soothing.  He couldn’t hear her humming now, but he heard her laughter occasionally over the noise of the television.

He dried his hands and, gently turning the back door handle, slipped into the garden.  He took a deep breath and identified honeysuckle, lavender, earth smells.  For some reason they made him hungry.  He opened the door to the garage and went in.  Reaching up to the highest shelf, he brought out the bag with the drawings in them and slid them back out.  Standing under the bare bulb, he scrutinised them for something new, some sign to make sense of them; he knew there would be none.  On each piece of paper, just the girl’s face and a date in the bottom, right-hand corner.  He’d looked at them five or six times a day for the last week, since finding them in a box in the attic, underneath some moth-eaten curtains, a few old books and a stack of newspapers dating back forty-something years.  He’d held them up to the light, smudged the pencil markings with his finger to check whether they were real and, time after time, he had placed them side by side with the tiny photograph from his wallet.  Comparing the dark hair in the drawings with the dark hair in the photograph.   Comparing the large, long-lashed eyes, the bow-shaped mouth, the dimpled chin and comparing the crescent-shaped birth mark on the face in the pictures, drawn before he had even been born, with the identical birthmark on the face of the seven-year-old daughter, whose death had come so close to destroying his marriage.

Rio 2016, here I come!

I’ve started going to the gym again this week.  I’ll put that in perspective for you; when I last went to the gym on a regular basis, Comfortably Numb was regularly on the radio.  However, it was the Scissor Sisters version.  Still!  It’s been a while.  I started going to the gym because my doctor has prescribed exercise for me, for my arthritis, and when he told me I should go swimming a few times a week and I told him I couldn’t afford to do that.  He laughed, then realised I wasn’t joking.

So, thanks to the good old NHS (long may she rest in peace), I have 12 weeks in which I may:

  • Use the gym for £1 a time
  • Swim for free
  • Go to Badminton classes for £1
  • Go to Yoga classes for £1
  • Go to Pilates classes for £1
  • Stay in the house and do nothing


To be fair, that last one was already an option and I don’t intend to take it.  Nor do I intend to go to the classes because:

 a) I know I would throw the badminton racquet at the bird-thingy by accident and hit somebody

 b) I have no lateral movement in my hips at the moment so there would be only one Yoga move available – ‘the bored stand’ (There may be a more mystical name for this but I don’t know it.)

c) I’m not remotely interested in flying a plane and I probably couldn’t afford to buy the fuel!


So, while I won’t be availing myself of all that’s on offer, I do intend to take up the gym and swim options.  Perhaps it’s the poet in me.  So, on Wednesday I went for my ‘induction’.  Now, I don’t know about you, but when I hear ‘induction’ I think ‘of labour’, and to be fair my induction on Wednesday was ‘steps taken to lead to something incredibly painful yet eventually productive’ so I think I was thinking along the right lines. 


I had waited about 5 weeks for my appointment, which is great because that gave me extra time to work myself up into a panic, lose sleep, imagine the tortures ahead but not, apparently, dig out suitable clothing.  So, when the day came, I borrowed a pair of short-ish tracksuit bottoms and a T-shirt from my husband; I say ‘borrowed’.  He was out: I took them!  In the gym, I had to submit to a humiliating physical assessment, carried out by Xena: Warrior Princess, or at the very least, her stunt-double.  Apparently, explaining how fat I am IS rocket science.  Well, science-y maths!  There were graphs …percentages …a pie-chart that merely succeeded in making me want pie, when all they really needed to do was ask me if my clothes still fit me; I’d say ‘Not really!’  There’d be a bit of a knowing nod from Xena and we’d get on with it.  But, no!  I have to understand how much I have let myself go in order to claw my way back into society.  There were a lot of numbers that I do not wish to discuss in a public forum.


So Xena commenced to talk me through my exercises of which there were 7: 4 ‘cardio’, 3 ‘resistance’.  When she explained what resistance means I was dying for her to say, “I will say zis only once!”  She didn’t!  She programmed the machines for me, carefully explaining as one might to a 4-year old that these machines can be dangerous if misused.   “Never get off the treadmill while it is still moving!” she warned.  I wondered if she had ever encountered somebody with arthritis in both hips before, and if she had, how often she’d seen them leap from a moving treadmill.  Personally, I was doubtful I’d be able to get on it at all without a ramp and a couple of huskies, never mind get off again.


Her m.o. was such that she would explain how to use something, start me off on it, go and talk to somebody else, which for some strange reason seemed to include looking in my direction and sniggering a lot.  Perhaps they’ve read my hashtag game tweets.  Who knows!  Anyway, Xena left me on my own quite a lot considering I’m so new to this and the machines are so dangerous but I managed not to kill myself or anyone else.  I resisted the urge to ramp the weights up to 20Kg on the Abs machine: why risk it?  It’s not like I need a 6-pack!  I was very careful to wipe down each machine after use with an antibacterial wipe and some blue tissue (even though I didn’t even come close to sweating) because I am a considerate gym-user and when I spun the pedal of a strangely uncomfortable stationary bike into my right shin, I swore so quietly, I’m certain nobody could hear me over the sound of One Direction and the Sky rolling-news channel which were competing for attention amidst the grunting musclemen and huffing supergrans who were busy with the apparatus.  However, I may have made a slight error of gym-etiquette.  I’m not sure because nobody went through a check-list of this with me.  Does anybody know if it’s frowned upon to put the incline up to 6 on the treadmill and sing ‘Running Up That Hill’ at the top of your voice?  Me neither: maybe I’ll just swim!