Death’s Apprentice – Part Five

My heart gave a start as the door to the back was flung open. Several things happened at once; a tall man with a large hook nose and wearing dark blue overalls covered in soot burst into the room just as Lola yelped and disappeared behind my chair.

‘Lola!’

‘No dogs! No dogs! We don’t do dogs!’ called the man, flinging his arms in the air like he was swatting flies.

The receptionist jumped up. ‘No, Mr Black, he’s here for the job. His name is Joe Bones. I told you about him -’

He stopped his arms still high in the air. ‘You did?’ he asked, turning to look at the receptionist.

‘Yes, just now.’

‘Oh, I don’t know,’ he snapped, ‘how am I supposed to remember everything?’ He turned on his heels to look at me. ‘Mmm,’ he said, looking over his thick round glasses at me, ‘you’d better come through then. But not the dog!’

‘Okay, I er…’ I looked a Lola. I didn’t think she’d want to go anyway.

‘Leave with me,’ said the receptionist, who was now standing beside me although I hadn’t seen her move at all.

‘Are you sure?’ I asked.

‘She’ll be fine with me here,’ she said, taking Lola’s lead, ‘now go on Mr Bones, go and do your interview before you miss out.’

I followed Mr Crow through the door and into the back of the funeral parlour. There was a funny smell, of acid and melted wax, lavender and something that reminded me of a fly spray my nanna used when she was still alive.

‘Down here,’ said Mr Crow, taking a dirty handkerchief from the top of his greasy overalls. He wiped his forehead with it then stuffed back into his pocket.

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My Grandad

I don’t know why but I’ve been thinking about my grandad a lot lately. I was 11 when he died and I was devastated. It was probably one of the most profound things that has ever happened to me. I’m 42 now and still, I feel it. Not as deep or as intense as when it first happened but, even after thirty-one years, the grief is still real.

Recently, I saw a quote by Jamie Anderson on Pinterest that hit me in the feels:

“Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot…Grief is just love with no place to go.”

Anyway, here’s a little memory of my grandad. He couldn’t talk or walk properly because he’d had several strokes but still, he was my hero.

The Red Leather Chair

The smell of frying bacon drifted in from the kitchen and my stomach groaned in anticipation.  Grandad looked at me with his smiling blue eyes, his thick white eyebrows arched high above his black glasses.
‘Sorry,’ I giggled, shrugging my shoulders, ‘had no breakfast this morning.’
‘Uh,’ he replied, with a shake of his head, a gentle smile erupting on his face as my stomach complained again.  He pointed to the telly with a crooked finger and then to his ears.  ‘Uh-uh.’
I flashed him a cheeky smile and shrugged again.
Shep, my Grandad’s long-haired collie, stirred in the seat beside me.  He yawned loudly, stretching out and laying his head on my lap as I wrapped my hands in his glossy coat and turned my head towards the telly just as it was announced by the heavily bearded commentator that Giant Haystacks and Big Daddy were due in the ring.
Grandad shifted forward to the edge of his seat, his walking stick clattering to the floor as he unbuttoned his shirt sleeves and rolled them up past his wrinkly elbows in preparation for the fight.
‘Fred, do you want sauce in your bacon?’ shouted Nan from the kitchen, but Grandad was oblivious to it all; he’d only got eyes and ears for that small black and white telly.
Shep leapt from the sofa, dashing behind it as my Grandad’s red leather chair began to dance around the room, the wood and leather creaking and straining under his weight, his grunting harsh but still with lashings of warmth, becoming louder as he lost his mind to the wrestling, to his life as a boxer in the army.
I could never tell anyone who won any of those fights we watched on that battered telly on the Saturday dinner-times we spent together; I was far too engrossed in Grandad’s face to care.  The strokes had robbed him of many things; his speech, the ability to walk or eat independently, but as we sat there I became lost in the sparkle in his eyes and the stories that had become etched in his wrinkles.  It was during these times that I could see my Grandad was still a man and was still truly alive.
But the red leather chair sits empty now; still and lifeless like the room in which it sits.  His grey trilby is still perched at an angle at the back of it, his walking stick abandoned on the floor.  The smell of cigars lingers in the air along with the smell of his hard-earned sweat.  But now the warmth has disappeared and a numbing coldness is seeping into the room through the cracks, filling me with emptiness.

Death’s Apprentice – Part Four

Crow’s Funeral Home sat at the end of high street, sandwiched in between Everheart Florists and the King’s Head pub which has been derelict for over twenty years. Crow’s (established 1854, or so the peeling gold lettering over the door told me) was a shabby red-bricked, double-fronted Victorian building.

I pushed open the black door and entered but Lola wouldn’t cross over the threshold. She began to grumble.

I closed my eyes and sighed.

‘Come on girl, don’t do this now.’

I turned to face her. Her teeth were bared and her hackles were raised.

‘What’s up, Lola? Come on now,’ I said, pulling her by the lead, ‘don’t be stupid!’ But the stupid dog wouldn’t listen and dug her white claws into the pavement.

‘Lola, come!’

The dog sat down in silent protest.

‘Can I help you?’

‘It’s this stupid dog,’ I said, ‘she won’t…‘ But I lost my train of thought as I looked up and into the eyes of the most beautiful woman I’d ever met. Her eyes were emerald green, and her hair was the colour of wild red roses. My heart began to skip a beat.

‘We’re closing in a minute but if you need some help?’ she asked, slipping on a pair of black shades.

Lola growled.

‘Be quiet!’ I snapped as I tried to regain my train of thought. Why was I here? Oh yes. ‘I’ve come about the job in the window.’

‘Oh right, come in, come in,’ she said, standing to one side of the doorway, so that I could enter.

‘Come on Lola,’ I said, pulling on the dogs lead. She would not budge.

‘Let me,’ said the receptionist. She took the lead from my hand, gave it a sharp tug and then let out a hiss that sounded a bit like that of an angry swan. The dog stood up and lowered her head in submission and the receptionist pulled her inside. I followed, impressed by how easy she’d tamed my unruly dog.

The Funeral home wasn’t what I expected. The right-hand side was taken up with a selection of headstones of various shapes and sizes and stone, and a small variety of coffins of different styles and materials including oak, wicker and (for the more environmentally minded) cardboard. Beside the coffins, there was a black covered sample book containing fabrics from silk to velvet and linen for the lining of your choice. The receptionist’s oak desk sat to the left of the room, covered in papers, an old fashioned rotary-dial phone and a large porcelain vase of Stargazer lilies which filled the air with their pungent aroma. There was also another smell in the air, something disguised by the lilies but equally as pungent but I couldn’t quite place what it was.

‘Please sit down,’ said the receptionist pointing to a set of four oak tables arranged around a small table, and I’ll tell Mr Crow you’re here. What’s your name, please?’

‘Joe Bones and thank you.’

The receptionist disappeared through a door at the back and returned a few minutes later.

‘Mr Crow will see you in a minute,’ she said, as she took her seat behind the desk.

Lola was quiet now. She curled up by my feet on the deep red carpet.

The clock on the wall read 5.00pm. I looked at the magazines on the coffee table; The Funeral Times, and Funeral’s Today. I didn’t pick them up; they looked like they’d been there since the place has opened.

So, you want to be a writer?

So, you want to be a writer?

Here are six tips to help you on your way!

I make jewellery but I also write too. I have four books out as I’m writing this and, as you know from previous posts (see A Writing Experiment? and New Year, New Projects) I have more in the works. Here are my top six tips to get you writing:

  1. Read. A lot!! I love reading so this isn’t a major issue for me. Reading will make you a better writer. You need to learn somewhere, right? So why not learn from those who came before you? It’s amazing what you can get from other writers. You’ll pick up writing techniques, grammar tips and vocabulary as you go. Learning by osmosis – what’s not to love?
  2. Get yourself a notebook and a pen, go somewhere quiet and write! You don’t need any expensive gadgets to start. Just time, inspiration, and a notebook and pen.
  3. Practice. And Practice. And practice… Once you begin writing, keep going. The only way to get better at anything is practice. Maybe take a writing course to hone your skills. Writing courses come in many shapes and sizes. Some are free and some are run by fabulous, well-established writers (Neil Gaiman, I’m looking at you!).
  4. Get feedback. This gives you an outsider’s perspective of your writing. People can tell you where your weak points are and when you’re doing something right. You could join a local writing group for this. I did and it improved my writing considerably.
  5. Get a thick skin. You’re not always going to write fabulous prose. Sometimes your work will be utter crap. Don’t be afraid to face that fact. And even when your work is absolutely amazing and fabulous, people will tear it apart and make you feel like dirt. Unfortunately, this is something we, as writers, have to live with. Not everyone is going to love what you write and you need to learn to live with that. Write anyway!
  6. Write! Make sure you write, even if it’s just a few words every day. Don’t just talk about it. Write it! Write your first draft even if it’s utter rubbish. Don’t worry, everyone’s first draft is crap. But as they say, you can’t edit a blank page! You can edit your writing though. And edit. And edit. Rewrites will make your writing shine!

As Charles Buckowski said:

“There is no losing in writing, it will make your toes laugh as you sleep, it will make you stride like a tiger, it will fire the eye and put you face to face with death. You will die a fighter, you will be honored in hell. The luck of the word. Go with it.”

 

Death’s Apprentice – Part Three

I’d got no cash on me, so I ran down to the cash point on the corner of Archer’s road, leaving Lola at the vets in case I “did one” without paying. I punched my pin number into the machine and groaned as it flashed back that I was now only five pound off my agreed overdraft limit. I clicked on the thirty-pound button and waited for the machine to vomit out my cash. I needed a job, and quick, especially now that I’d been kicked out of school. And I needed to get Lola out of that shit hole.

Somehow.

Easier said than done when you had the surname Bones and the shithead for your stepdad.

I stuffed the money in my pocket and turned to go back to the vets just as the sky gave up its load again. Shit. I began to walk down the street as bus trundled past, its wheels hit a pot hole and sent a shower of filthy water all over me.

‘For fuck’s sake!’ I said, jumping to the side as the water cascaded over me. I was red hot inside, boiling anger simmering in my belly. Water had collected in a dip on the path. I aimed a kick at it and water shot into the air and splattered on the window of Crow’s Funeral Home. There was a small sign sellotaped to the inside of the glass which read:

Help wanted, hours variable, apply within.

Maybe God did exist after all.

I had to get Lola first. Couldn’t take the chance of the vet reporting us; that would mean a good kicking for Lola if the RSPCA came round and talked to shithead. He’d probably go for Mom too now that he knew I’d fight back.

I ran down the street as quickly as I could, handed the money over to the receptionist and waited for the printer to eventually churn out the receipt. And then waited for the vet to bring Lola out. Her tail started to wag as soon as she saw me. I thought it might fall off. She looked brighter now, but even so, the vet seemed reluctant to give her back. His hand hovered mid-air, holding her lead tightly.

‘Joe.’

‘Yes?’

‘A dog isn’t a toy. They’re not playthings to take our frustrations out of, do you understand?’

I stared into his blue eyes. My heart ripped in my chest. Tears threatened to spill like the rain outside.

‘I would never hurt her,’ I said, ‘she’s the only thing that’s ever shown me love.’ I grabbed the lead from his hand and ran out of the door before I betrayed myself any more. Real men don’t talk. Real men don’t feel.

Learning New Things

So, this morning I’ve been learning something new. I’m learning to sew using a sewing machine. I’m quite proud of myself as I’ve managed to make a tote bag which is actually a bag!!! 🙂 It’s a functional, fully operational bag. I am quite amazed at myself (ha ha)!!!

So here it is:

Sorry, my photography skills suck! The bags okay though 🙂

It’s not of a good enough standard to sell but I’m really not that bothered as I love the fabric so will be more than happy to keep it!! Was that the idea all along….???

Probably!

Anyway, the main point of this post is don’t be afraid to try new things! 

What’s the worst that could happen?

I’ve really enjoyed today and I’ve made something that I’m really proud of.

Here’s something else I’ve made this week:

It’s a resin bag charm or keychain with a secret faux pearl. Find it here on Etsy.

Today is a good day!

Hope your day is going well too 🙂

To Forgive? Or Not Forgive?

To forgive, according to the online Oxford English Dictionary means to:

  1. Stop feeling angry or resentful towards (someone) for an offence, flaw, or mistake.
  2. No longer feel angry about or wish to punish (an offence, flaw, or mistake)
  3. Cancel (a debt)
  4. Used in polite expressions as a request to excuse one’s foibles, ignorance, or impoliteness.

We are told by many people that in order to heal we need to forgive the wrongs that have been done to us and the wrongs we have done to ourselves. But, perhaps controversially, I don’t think that’s always the case.

Peg Streep, in the article, When You Should and Should Not Forgive, says that, “For all that we culturally admire the ability to forgive—it’s associated with magnanimity, spiritual growth, and, of course, religiosity—it remains a somewhat thorny issue from a psychological point of view. In layman’s terms, the ability to forgive is widely seen as evidence of how high humans rank in the chain of being—animals don’t forgive, after all—so it conveys a moral superiority.”

Forgiveness is seen as the ultimate goal, the only one true way to heal. We are expected to forgive and whilst many times this can prove beneficial to us, it’s not always the case. Sometimes we simply cannot forgive despite all the pressure put on us to do so. Does that make us bad? Does that mean we cannot move on?

No. It doesn’t.

Forgiveness isn’t always the answer, especially in manipulative relationships.

Someone close to me hurt me very badly. I will state now, it’s not my husband, he has only ever been a rock to me. I will not name the person, nor will I tell you what they did because that doesn’t matter. I forgave that person. After all, we’re only human, we all make mistakes.

Then that person hurt me again.  By doing the same thing. And again. And again. Despite what people say, I cannot walk away. Why? It’s complicated.

In this instance, my forgiveness of that person allowed the hurt to happen again and again. I’m not blaming myself because I’m not responsible for what that person did to me. But, I am responsible for my reaction to what they did.

Sometimes in narcissistic or manipulative relationships forgiveness will not do. Forgiveness makes you a target because, in part, you think that person will change, will not want to hurt you in the future now that they know they’ve hurt you. In these types of relationships, forgiveness can make you the victim again and again. To the manipulative person, forgiveness is a weakness to be exploited.

So, what can you do?

I found that acceptance has helped me.

I’ve accepted that the person in question is a shitty person, that they will keep doing what they do and they will keep playing the games they play. That’s on them, not me. And, I don’t forgive them for what they’ve done to me but, I’ve accepted it’s happened and will happen again if I let it. Acceptance has made me stronger, it’s given me back the power. What has happened has happened, but I won’t let it again. I’m in control of how I respond and how I deal with the other person. I can’t control them, but I can control my response. I don’t forgive them and that’s not just okay, that’s bloody beautiful! I’m free from expectation. I’m free from the forgiveness trap. I’m free from anger!

That’s not to say you shouldn’t forgive if you need to. That’s your call. All I’m saying is, there is another way. You can move on and heal without forgiveness.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Pinterest (not mine, but I can’t find anyone to attribute it to); “Sometimes you have to accept things the way they are and move on.”

 

Further Reading:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-compassion-chronicles/200803/forgive-or-not-forgive-is-the-question

https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/disturbed/201208/why-you-dont-always-have-forgive

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/tech-support/201410/when-you-should-and-should-not-forgive

https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/forgive