REFLECTIONS Issue Eleven ~ Autumn 2011
to the eleventh issue of the magazine, another fun-packed collection of poetry, prose and artwork musing upon such heartwarming n cuddly topics as tragic death, psychological-or real- haunting, loss, chambermaid drudgery, the struggle of the lone musician, and the fact that we're all being f**cked over by the wonderful powers that be!
contributors this time around feature Mr Matthew Banks, whose novella 'Morvella House' continues from the previous issue; shame on you if you missed the prologue- but you're lucky 'cos this installment can stand alone. Matt lives in Hayle. Miss Kate Wilson is my favourite poet and lives in Exeter, as does my favourite man at the politics desk, Mr Adam Brummitt. The other Adam is Mr Adam Grose, from Falmouth, who provides us with his eighth cover for 'Reflections'! Mr Ryan Walker is a musician in Bristol, and has written an insightful piece on his experiences. Miss Laura Quigley has written a beautiful 'script' for a dance performance; she lives in Plymouth. Mr Steven Harris is back in Exeter, and back in the magazine after a two-year gap. Further afield we have Mr Robert Bellisio whose artwork is powerful and at times unsettling, and Mrs Sue Bellisio, with a reflection upon youthful employment in the '60s. They live in Redditch. Their daughter Miss Sara Bellisio lives in Manchester: here, photographed by 'Lethal Images' she wields a gothic violin. Miss Emma Pike has recently moved to Farnham to attend the University of the Creative Arts, and this is her first time in 'Reflections'.It's Mr Solomon Doornails' first time too- current rumour places him in Exeter...
Kate Wilson Losing Sight When the sea stops, when the waves fall flat, a slap on the earth, man will know. Moon beams crashing through sky to rest, sky beneath dry leaves, losing heart. The last eye gathering pools of silver will widen, blink and die.
Blue Moon You lie, hand over eyes, through the day, through the night. Perhaps I should tell you, the first blue moon in three years has appeared amidst clouds that murmer disbelief, shadows intercepting its light. Would it bring you back, to see things cloured blue? Could you believe in a new world, a blue world? I want to tell you, but the moment I blink, I doubt its presence. No blueness, just an imprint of white behind my eyelids, shrinking. So I don't tell you. I let you lie, but I wonder if you still see light behind your eyes.
For Allen Ginsberg I‟ve been a desperate wanderer like you, failing to meet the ends of dreams in days except in dreams, where clouds swathe peach bodies and we love as completely as the gods we‟ve made in marble and stone, caressing each other as they caress cities, holding each other as they hold money. Then the waking hours bring nothing, rows of hardened hearts in bodies, pulsing to the rhythm of wars, forged in the minds of those fleshy gods, with so many names, mouths so full of words we vomit and choke. (and never a line of poetry) I‟ve been a desperate wanderer like you, hiding out in alleys with blind men and their hands tugging on my clitoris until I scream the night red, a scream of satisfaction or dissatisfaction or both. (It‟s the only language anyone knows anymore) I‟ve been a desperate wanderer, I‟ve read the same books as you, finding meagre slices of certainty on yellow pages that make me howl. I‟ve seen the same regurgitated history in television theatres where the tongueless tell the truths of the world. With our billboard smiles, red lips and glowing orange skin, we believe it because it‟s easy. The world is built on histories, justified, serialized, invented melodramas fed in illustrated text books and archived tabloids. I have been a desperate wanderer like you, wondering how the next conveyor belt of redesigned people will look on us; the obsolete, with all our bugs and ticks and too little physical memory. In glass waiting rooms, swarms sit on soft seats asking for pills and pills and pills and pills to cure absence and nerves and time and thought.
Anyway, the last door is left unlocked. There is no pill for that. But after wine and heroine and pretending, at four o‟clock in the morning, the dead hour, when others are bricked in stiff beds, when my footsteps echo like halls of mirrors on empty streets and the sky is luminous grey, I‟m the only person left alive, looking back at the earth on an atlas page, surrounded by stars and bright planets. It hangs, still. I know I‟ve found something.
Ryan Walker Little Fish: What it is to be a singer-songwriter in Bristol As a part of a large school in the middle of the ocean, a small fish has many concerns. It must avoid large predators, fight for food, and is susceptible to the whims of the group with which it swims – if the school swims one way, that little fish had best swim with it. As a musician living in Bristol, I can empathise with that small fish. I am one of many singer-songwriter guitarists in the swirling pool that is the Bristol music scene. Avoiding large predators which are members of the real world making us pay taxes we can‟t afford. Fighting for food – the more we stand out the better chance we have of creating a following and making a living out of this malarkey. Having said that, we are susceptible to the passing fashions, the conventions of modern music. It is easier to play a popular song than chance an unknown title of your own creation. We populate the scene in vast numbers, most of us absorbed in our own world of song writing, melodies, lyric-play and who we believe are the truly important artists to listen to. We are now a boring cliché, given a raised eyebrow and a deaf ear from the majority of crowds. There are several reasons why we are so numerous. Firstly, the guitar is an instrument that every audience knows well and no-one will fear. When an audience sees a musician clambering to a stage (as is often the case) and sees a guitar in their hand, they have a good idea of the type of music that will be played, and they relax.*If the performer is dragging an unusual instrument with them, it can be worrying (I once saw a very serious looking man walk onto a very large stage and play his shoe with a stick for the bewildered audience. It was quite painful). Secondly, the guitar is one of the easiest to transport, cheapest instruments that can accompany the voice by itself. Piano accompaniment is wonderful and rightly popular but is far too cumbersome to be carried around with ease. Anything small enough to fit in one‟s pocket is usually a wind-instrument and difficult to use whilst singing. The final and possibly most important reason for our numerous population is it is easier to depend on no-one and perform alone than it is to perform as part of a group. Finding other musicians with whom you enjoy playing, who you can depend upon to be as dedicated as you, who are interested in making the same type of music as you, is so much harder than performing alone that the knowledge that the music will be more interesting to hear and more enjoyable to perform is consistently ignored. Huge phone bills organising practise sessions, finding suitable places to practise, transport issues, equipment issues, not to mention the tedious inter-band politics are just a handful of the hassles involved with playing in a group. Next to these headaches, the simple quandary of making interesting pieces of music by such limited means is openly welcomed after dealing with the can of worms that is being in a band. *This point touches on an interesting catch 22: it is good to stand out from a crowd, to be remembered. You are something new, a breath of fresh air and you develop a following of your own, celebrated for your talent. But if you‟re too different it is possible to scare off an audience. Most people like what they know. That‟s why cover bands do so well.... This generation of solo guitarists has given birth to new styles of playing as well as a rebirth of the old playing styles of blues guitarists such as Skip James, Jesse Fuller, Dr Isaiah Ross and John-Lee Hooker, not to mention the host of early Bob Dylan impersonators (of which, arguably, I am one).
Rhythm is kept usually using a favoured foot, either unamplified or using a „stomp box‟ of some kind. Some players bring a whole kick drum and high hat with them (like Dr Ross and Jesse Fuller), others make use of loop machines as a more modern approach, creating layers of sound over which they can sing and play lead guitar. In desperate bids to stand out, acoustic musicians often use loop machines to attempt styles which are unsuitable for their instrument; such as techno, dance, and funk (I have seen Michael Jackson‟s „Billie Jean‟ performed as such, many more times than I care to think – when will some people realise that only MJ and maybe Stevie Wonder can do that song properly? There is little point in doing a song if you can‟t do it justice). The most inventive and hard working of performers will build rhythms through the loop machine using the body of the acoustic guitar as a drum. The result is a Latino feel rhythm over which only the funkiest of licks will do. Many guitar buffs see this style as a vibrant and interesting idea, but many others see it as a boring, self indulgent exercise which is almost impossible for many audiences to relate to. Here is a point that I have given much contemplation recently. In Elijah Wald‟s book „Escaping the Delta - Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues‟, the author discusses the audience‟s participation in the quality of the performance. “The audience affects not only styles and approaches to music, but also quality. If an audience is large enough, it will support enough musicians that some of them will be wonderfully talented, and if it is demanding enough, it will push them to realise and even exceed those talents. If it is smaller, the talent pool will be less, and if it makes few demands, then mediocrity will be the norm, even when players are capable of doing better.” Page 250 - Published 2004, by Amistad Books I don‟t think it was Elijah‟s intention to imply that an audience is to blame for a bad gig. But it certainly could be part of it. Speaking for myself and several others I know, if I feel that „who cares, no-one is listening anyway‟ vibe, I‟ll feel resentful and angry. I‟ll try to get out of there as soon as I can and think twice about playing there again. Such repeated experiences will dishearten the most passionate muso. But there is another side to that coin. As a frequent open mic-goer I‟ve seen many a similar act, and am used to feeling (in a very hypocritical way, I realise) the same boredom and flippancy that is thrown at me from time to time. Both perspectives are justified, I believe. No-one is going to give a top-notch performance if they know no-one cares, and a modern audience, especially if it is not a mainstream audience, has very high expectations, and quite rightly so. What could this guitarist possibly do that is new and different? Why should I give them my attention? Are we in for another Oasis cover? I ask that last one quite often. Here is my view: I‟m too old-fashioned to rely on loop-pedals to solve my performance issues. It feels like cheating. I know some people see it as a great solution, I can‟t. I get too frustrated looking at my emails to even consider throwing my performance at the mercy of a machine. I hate being cluttered with stuff, so bringing extra bits of drum kit to lay at my feet at every gig sounds like a drag too. Besides, I‟d forget they were there before the first song was over. As for the playing of unorthodox genres on acoustic instruments... I like the idea of pushing boundaries as much as the next guy, but MC Hammer didn‟t use a mandolin for a reason.
So, the solution can only lie with material. I realise it is easier to say â€žjust write better songsâ€&#x; than to actually do so, but bear with me. Good music will always speak for itself and a brilliant song will always turn heads, after all some of the most popular, original and thought-provoking songs of all time were written and performed by a solo guitarist. The key, I believe, to writing original work that you are proud of is to listen to as varied and as large an amount of music as you can. I always think of Ray Charles as an example; combining gospel, jazz and blues and directly contributing to what became soul. As a songwriter, music itself is the literal food of your imagination, so eat up. In the meantime, keep looking for that perfect band; who have their own practise space and a dedicated manager to organise everything, with a team of sober roadies who will taxi you everywhere. Who listen to as much music as you, want to play as much as you and donâ€&#x;t drive you to the brink of insanity just being in the same room as you. As Bon Jovi said; keep the faith.
Steve Smith 'THE PETERLOO SUITE' Didn't You Used to Be..? Once I was a vole that scampered into an upturned can, tasting sweetly- or not- the sips of dregs, and couldn't get out so curled inside. And you, you stood on the altar, And you, breathed fire into their faces; And you, at the dispatch box dissembling, Yes you- sent millions to their unsought fate. Once I was a deer, shy and scared of humankind, antlers tentative, anxious quaking of contact, dreaming of words to be spoken. Yet you, give the lie to democracy, Tearing scant carpets from those in poverty, Yes you- lounging in mansionsBoiling eagles' eggs from nests you've raided, Scrying for a clue. Once I was a rabbit sifting all I could from life: grazing specks of love at dusk, mind-blowing all at night, at daybreak too. And you: speak of hope and future; Yes you breathe the nightmare's pretence, Shuffling cards where the loaded never die, Plucking rare flowers to snuff them Behind your white clean creased handkerchief. Once I stood before the young and taught them, making up some songs- of freedom to think, of questions to ask at each and every dawning.
And you, who affect to bumble and Bluster, only listening to the glasses You clink, think you're born to rule A sceptred isle, with cutthroat smile And compassion faked. Once I raked the earth and planted seeds like apple pips: each unique, growing their own way, forcing through frost, sucking rain, praising the sun. Now: who am I? And who are you? On a Royal Wedding You don't wanna trust the prince and his bride with her white dress flowing over bloodstained steps, (pierced by the long-dead eyes of poets); You don't wanna trust the longtailed twit, slippery with the power he believes is his, (snarl the cardinals, lords and sundry others decapitated); You don't wanna trust the fourth estate, gagged n bound n flagellated, (holy writ, wholly shit!); You don't wanna trust the folks in blue, poised with shields n batons, injustice rampant, (innocents imprisoned, an innocent killed); You don't wanna raise your red and white, your teacups and saucers, your bunting, your coasters, ya cute lap-trays poorly transferred and cracked, already fading... You don't wanna trust your TV set, twitters and facebookers, manuscripts and scrolls, cuniform tablets and scratches on walls, swallowing whole all this shite.
The First Time The first time I realised that 'they' were wrong Was when I wrote 'mam' Instead of 'mum' at school At five years old And they criticised my spelling, Or handwriting prowess; I- knowing me, probably very rationallyExplained, at five years old, My Manchester-accented genealogy, But noI had to change it to a 'u'. I was very upset. I cried, Later, confused. I knew I could spell, very well: I was helping the girl with Long blonde hair next to meRead her Janet, her John. (Someone threw up over her hair I remember, during a schools TV, And her name was Jane). But I knew then not to trust Always in those you're meant to trust in 'Cos they only know what they know Or are told what to know and think nothing else Or know wrong stuff and want you to believe it too Or know stuff they know is wrong but just can't help it Or are forced to Or can't honestly care. All events are small. That's how they start, initially.
Let's smash up restaurants / n vomit in
champagne-buckets / in fancy-dress! (mmm better ban that photo) /
In- let's see- The Hundred Acre Wood! / Knock Owl off his perch with a
catapult, / pour cocktails down Kanga's pouch! (shame about Roo...) /
riot! Let's riot! Let's riot! Let's riot! Let's riot! Let's riot!
Let's send Biggles off to die in Persia, / pull the plug on the Swallow and
the Amazon, / n nick the matchgirl's matches, / put her on the social! (what, no social?
Let's enslave Mary Poppins / n keep
her in the cellar, / it's only six months in porridge old chap / if you get caught- / yah get the
same for a botttle of water!
We can even do it
while / we're on holiday again! /
come again, / look at me darling with love! (where's my flounder?) /
We're the ruling class- / we can get away with murder! / let's taser 'em,
baton 'em, / pepper-spray n grind 'em down (what, is my knee jerking?) /
Let's infect their minds / with advertising: /
trainers n TVs n X-factory dreams- / it's I who will be in the history books: / I stuck to my guns, sold 'em to despots ;) (you can have plastic bullets for free)
Dark Ages The stone cannot lie, the dragon fantasised: Infanticide grew red Crosses on shields; swordsmen and bowmen, Invading or trading When the volcano blew from another new world To make an Age Dark. While manuscripts are few, legends procreate And stories surround: He rides a white horse, steals and deceives, As eagles soar from Cumbria To Avon and Badbury, Mummerset playing With wishes of gold and eternity; In caves uneaten by brine the wasted bard hides, Harp unpicked, beard crystallised Like string dipped in saturated solution. And the dragon smiles And the sword is loosened so that Once again he meets his lover, Once again she meets her fate; Once again she meets her lover, Once again he meets his fate; Words dissolve into the lake, Sun glinting on scars. Gwenefear combs her hair Down to the river where Ophelia's searching For somesorta meaning And combing her hair right down To her painted patterned toes, She lies down gazing Water-eyed at the stars. Somewhere behind her there's shadows Come cubist out of the dark Trees n leaves n holts n hills, Spilling blood to make their mark Where truths lie and mirrors hide, He's down somewhere within, He'll be discovered: Phoenix ash, Prometheus liver, Spreadeagled heart, Never-giver-up of secrets Wormhole-lead as earthquakes Shudder questionmarks rained On red-cloaked phantoms Dye-bleeding somewhere
In Kernow or Libya, Persia or Lyonesse, Waves surging. And he'll be reborn they say, He'll be reborn they whisper Or shout while they're blowing each others' heads off onscreen. Patterns of aeons, ions, and Soundwaves and particles of light Never end just keep on going As stumble he did Over the marshland To throw the brand Clear into the lake And lied three times To the rooster cock-crowing And lied three times To the judge and the jury And lied three times To his master the sun And just for good luck To his lady the moon; Her hand was pale as she held it at last, All past being passed she tried to forget him And the dragon bit his own scaled tale And slithered back down the wormhole well To regenerate shards of holy grail For breeding. Take a look. Take a deep look, As you dive into a deep pool Or just stand skimming Stones from the banks of the river Downstream from the severed goat's head, Netting minnows you fisher, Netting souls, you sinner, As they sail him half-dead to the isle, Swatting flies and banshees Through the paddled-fields of battlefields To come. And he'll be reborn they whimper, He'll be reborn they stateFlags n pennants n bunting draped Over granite tor n crustacia chalk, The glinting harbour n valleys of clay, The mountain pike, the river's rush And the spike heaven-would Of the temple's spire.
Laura Quigley A Winter Journey The summer sun brought drought and death, and with it a silence we could no longer call our home. The earth perished with us. Where once there had been many, now we were just two, and so we two took flight, and flew far into the winter north, swapping seasons in search of water and new lives. The old man, my Papa, snored and stirred beside me, his hand still over mine in gentle fear, curled up cocoon-tight and night-lit in the airline‟s cheapest seats. I peered out through the misty window for my first glimpse, far below, of the clustered spirals of frosted houses that marked our new location, not yet a home, just a destination, a name in an old atlas left me by my mother, nearly forgotten, a place on a map yet to be discovered, nothing to me yet, just a stop, a getting off, an end to this part of the journey. My little fingers marked the angles of this new place on the moist glass; white and blue and yellow towers erect like crayons against a thunderous grey, crumpled-paper sky. We landed through dark flurries backlit by the airport‟s blazing yellow lights, like searchlights in an alien world. Doors opened and the rush of air made me gasp. Not just cold, but crisp, with frost fairies nipping at my skin. For the first time, I could see my own breath and shared it with Papa and he smiled through worried lines. He put me on his shoulders as we stepped across the shining wet concrete, the chill making my eyes water as I stretched to see over the crowd. We were again two among many, but now the many were strangers to us. Queuing between the sheets of frosted glass, dragging our solitary suitcase through the neon and machinery, feeling hollow, feeling strange, we were coated in everything we owned and yet still cold. Strangers who had to explain their papers before they‟d let us through. But there were others there still stranger. One man caught my eye, proud in his white trousers, navy blazer, little anchors on his hat, and boat shoes like he‟d just stepped
off a yacht, laughing with his friends in the Green Zone as they piled their luggage high on many trolleys. I gazed at him, uncertain, smiling, but he just frowned and walked away. Papa had good papers, much to his relief, and he soon found us a place to stay, walking us through blinding blizzards, along concrete hard shoulders, cars rushing by, headlight demons screaming through the slush and flurry. With the last of our money spent, Papa struggled with me up the stairs to hostel beds, kneeling before me at the first door, desperate to explain why we had to sleep apart. “We are lucky, little one,” he pleaded as he pushed me into a room of beds already full of silent female strangers. Not our people. Not my people. Not Papa. “Lucky to be here, so sleep now, little one. Stop your tears. Things will look better in the day.” But the day brought icy pavements and snowdrifts, in shades of grey that burned into my eyes, street trees like black spirits in the forever twilight. Papa, still in summer shoes, slipped and made a joke of skating, but as he clutched my hand, I felt the cold already in his ageing bones. Being young, I thrived and adapted to the new sun. My skin became crystal, my flesh resilient, my fresh heart burned and bloomed in this world of brittle water, too cold to flow. I grew up in the city drinking ice by day and feeding on the illuminated nights, working in the high tower, oblivious to storm clouds and falling skies. While Papa, he cleaned the twilight streets. He dug out the snow and ice, washed bins and drains of rancid slush, and cleared the paths for others to get to work. And each night I hurried back to our cheap apartment, to pour heat over Papa‟s hands, wash his broken skin and wrap his brittle fingers for another day outside. He listened to the stories of my day with pride, though his eyes watered like the mildew on the windows. But the years of cold weakened his soul till one night I came home to find him frozen, unbending like a statue on the doorstep. I heaved Papa to his bed, but his lips were blue, unmoving, never to say another living word.
The room was quiet, where he died. The mist on the windows turned to tears, pooling on the sills and falling to the floor. I gazed out at snowdrifts and made my plan. Papa would have liked my plan. I found our old suitcase under his bed and took it out into the snow and opened it. Cupping my hands again and again with ice, I filled the case till my hands were numb, and dragged it, packed and frozen, back upstairs. I made space in the case for Papaâ€&#x;s body, packed down the snow, fashioned his limbs so he would fit inside, and encased him in the ice. I squeezed shut the case and labelled it, and counted the money we had left â€“ this would be a one-way trip, I knew, it was all I could afford, but finally I was taking Papa home. Pulling the suitcase through the airport, I was startled to see again the man with anchors on his hat. The frost concealed Papa from the scanners, but I was terrified this man with prying eyes would see through me. He approached, intrigued it seemed by my appearance, smoothing grey streaks in his hair, but I turned an icy stare and flew away. And so at last I brought my Papa back to summer and laid him here to rest. The perished earth accepted him, and the ice around him melted into soil, like a drink of winter, and as the sun rose, the land brought forth green shoots and a moist wind kissed my skin. As that winter faded, so would this spring begin.
Note: This piece was originally submitted for consideration for the Merge 5 Dance Festival, to be held at the Bike Shed Theatre in Exeter in early December. It didn't win, but all the submissions will be on display at the Bike Shed during the festival. I'm really looking forward to seeing the winning story performed.
Matthew Banks MORVELLA HOUSE ~I~ Reaching the house, Nicola pushed open the front door, and walking wearily into the kitchen, sank down into a chair. She lay back and closed her eyes. Somewhere beyond the haze in her mind, she heard a voice…the words struggling for recognition… “Mummy.” Slowly raising her head from her hands, and wiping away a stray tear, she tried to smile despite the pain in her head. “Yes darling,” her voice quiet, restrained. “Are you happy?” The words floated across the pain and struck a chord. Was she happy? She didn‟t know the answer. Her eyes were heavy, her head ached, and more than anything else she wanted to break something. “Mummy.” Slowly turning around, Nicola found the room behind, empty. Delicately, she shook her head as the pain worsened. “April,” she thought aloud. How long she had been sitting in the kitchen, again she was not sure. She was no longer sure of anything. The greyness of the light seeping in through the window just made her feel alone and everything felt strange. The cup trembled on its saucer as she pushed it away, its contents cold. She placed her head in her hands again as the pain became more violent. Slowly, she began to speak as though there were someone with her. “We were young when we met. Your Father was so devilishly handsome, so charming and attentive. I think I fell in love with him when I first laid my eyes upon him. He was an officer in the air force and when he proposed I said yes in an instant. I was sixteen, but my parents gave their permission. After six months we were married…” She paused, as if collecting her thoughts. A creaking on the stairs made her look up. “Charles?” Another creak, but no response. “Charles is that you?” she called.
Nothing, so she slowly raised herself out of her chair and made her way into the long hallway. It was gloomy and she could see no one. As she turned a bend, she saw that the front door was open. Frowning, she closed it. The sound of footsteps behind her, made her turn around, but there was no-one there. “Charles is that you?” she called, a little more irritated now. Suddenly, bouncing down the stairs, a small rubber ball which stopped by her feet. “Philip, is that you?” she called crossly. “Are you home from Eton?” She was a little annoyed with herself now for allowing her imagination to run away with itself. The house was quiet and no sound replied to her question. Stooping, she picked up the ball and then mounted the stairs, one by one, with great effort. “Philip! I‟m not happy if you are playing around. You scared me,” she scolded. Reaching the top of the stairs, she looked down the long corridor. It reminded her of her first view of Morvella House. The car had stopped outside the two granite pillars that held the iron gates, and she could see the long drive that lead to the house, the white stones glistening with the morning dew. She remembered how small and neat the trees were on either side of the drive. Now it was all over grown and weeds grew between the stones. Charles had been ecstatic over his inheritance. He had slowly driven up the drive to maintain the surprise for her, and when she first glimpsed the house, she hated it. It looked vile, set back into the hills, looking down upon the village like some Olympian god or goddess. It looked as though it were staring back at her. She shuddered at that thought. And she remembered the pyramid-shaped mausoleum that dominated the sky-line, looking down on both the house and the village below. Charles had told her that that was where his ancestor Tobias Heylt was buried. “Isn‟t it beautiful?” Charles had said in hushed tones. He had turned to her to see her expression. She remembered that she had feigned delight – more for his benefit, for she would never want him disappointed in her. She remembered that all she could think was, „Oh God, Oh God, Oh my God!‟ They had parked outside the house and got out. “This is where I grew up,” he‟d said. She had smiled that sweet smile of hers. “It‟s been empty for a while,” he‟d told her. Somewhere inside she had thought, „I can be Mistress of this.‟ How wrong she had been. She should have known. It had been Charles‟s mother‟s home and there could be only one Mistress. Her presence was felt in every room, from the carpets through to the wallpaper and painting. Charles had refused to allow her to change anything. She was glad that his mother was dead. She remembered the old couch in the lounge. She had thought it would be comfortable, but its big arms and cushions were cold, hard and uninviting to her, but Charles thought that it was comfortable. Then when she had come to clean it one day, she had found the tiny skeletons of at least twenty mice, yet there had been no evidence of how they had got in there; and the smell was awful… she had got so upset that Charles had begrudgingly burnt the couch. The memory of the smell reminded her of the dank damp smell that she had smelt in her bedroom and she was sure that she had seen a dark shape at the end of the bed. She had turned to wake Charles, but he hadn‟t been there, yet he had gone to bed with her. She also remembered the metal clanging sound that had awakened her at 3.15am, every morning - but Charles never once heard it, even when she had woken him. He thought that she had just dreamt it.
She walked along the corridor and as she did so, a door to her right slowly opened. She spun around to see who was there… there was no one. She pushed the door open wide to look into the room. The curtains were drawn, and she could see that it was the nursery, and a flood of memories washed over her with such force that she had to gasp for breath. She was sure that the nursery was further down the corridor. She didn‟t remember it being this room. This was the room which both Philip, and later his sister, April, had had as young children. The cot was still in the centre of the room with the yellow stars and moon mobile hanging above, and the brown teddies were on the red toy box by the window. As she turned to walk out, she noticed the Victorian china doll in its flowery dress and blonde curly hair sitting on a rocking chair. It had been made in April‟s image and had been a present from… she couldn‟t remember. Its dark empty eyes seemed to be staring at her, and the crack from temple to cheek in its porcelain… she had to leave. She walked out of the room and pulled the door tightly behind her. As the door shut, she was sure that the doll had looked away. Opening it quickly, she saw that the doll was in the same position, watching to see whoever came into the room. Pulling the door to again, Nicola continued to make her way down the corridor, her feet unsteady due to the pain that she was in. At the end of the corridor was another door, with a wooden sign simply saying „Philip‟s room.‟ She opened the door to see grey light seeping through the windows. “Philip” she called, her patience finally running out, due to the constant throbbing in her temple. “Are you there?” Silence. Nicola entered and walked across to the large blue toy box that was at the end of the bed and opened the lid. She placed the ball inside and closed the lid. She looked around the vibrant room with its colourful animal prints once more and then left. She made her way back to the kitchen and made herself another Earl Grey tea. Nicola liked her tea in a china cup and so she delicately emptied and washed her cup and saucer. Once made, she sat back down. The pain was getting worse, and she struggled to get her thoughts into some form of order. She remembered vaguely that Philip was boarding at Eton and would not be home until Christmas, and that Charles was at work. Yet she could not remember where April was! She should be here, yet the house was silent and she was nowhere to be found. She grimaced as she thought of April, not because she didn‟t love her, but because Charles didn‟t. Philip was the first born and a male, which was always what she and Charles wanted, and he had made that abundantly clear. Anything after that was down to Nicola, even though she hadn‟t wanted anymore children. Philip had had a nanny, early private tuition and then was whisked off to Eton at seven. April had been born five years after Philip and was totally different from her brother. She was beautiful in every way yet for some reason she had repulsed Charles, and he kept away from her as often as possible. „I had no choice in the matter,‟ she thought bitterly. Nicola hated Charles‟ mother, for she never invited her to the house, and said nasty things to both the children and Charles about her, which she knew because she‟d heard the children talking. She hadn‟t liked the way that his mother had favoured April over her brother… Philip was the first born and should have been favoured. Nicola was glad Charles‟ mother was dead. But Philip had loved his sister… „Well someone had to‟ she thought, then instantly regretted it. „I want to break something!‟ The thought took her unawares. What was wrong with her she wondered through the continuing pain?
“April” she said aloud. She remembered that at the same moment that April had been born, her cat had given birth to six still born kittens, and that was when the local servants had started to leave, and she was shunned by the people in the village. Charles had said that that was all in her head too. Oh they were always polite, but they never stopped to speak for long and none ventured up to the house to visit her socially. Gradually all her friends stopped visiting and she had felt truly alone. In the end Charles had arranged a party for her, thinking that it would ease her melancholy. She smiled at that memory… it had been a good party with most of his friends from the base being there as well as a few of the locals. A lot of alcohol had been drunk, she remembered that well. Then another memory flooded her mind – someone at the party suggested that they try a séance and that it would be a fun thing to do. Yet she hadn‟t been so sure. Setting up a home made Ouija board on the dining table, she remembered being a little out of her depth. Charles had put her at the head of the table, making her the thirteenth person. She hadn‟t wanted to place her delicate finger on the glass, but she couldn‟t let Charles look bad for the sake of her hesitancy, she had to be the perfect wife. Everyone had been laughing and joking and drinking more. She had slowly begun to relax, and then the glass had slowly started to move, from letter to letter…she couldn‟t remember much once the glass had started to move and she couldn‟t remember what it had said, although she knew it was important. Charles had jumped up and knocked the glass and cards to the floor, shouting, „End this.‟ Everyone had stared at him, shocked, and her head had begun to throb. And that had ended the party. The guests had made a hasty exit, and not one spoke to her as they left. They had just looked at her strangely. Her hand trembled at that memory. Charles had been so cross, although she didn‟t understand why, and he had refused to answer her questions after the guests had left. She couldn‟t remember if he had even come to bed that night… How long she had been sitting in the kitchen, again she was not sure. The cup trembled on its saucer as she pushed it away, its contents lukewarm. The house was cold, still and silent and she was cold. She placed her head in her hands as the pain became more violent. Then, she thought she heard a muffled scream. “April” she called out again, “Where are you my darling girl?” Her eyes were heavy, her head ached, she was no longer sure of anything, and more than anything else she wanted to break something. She didn‟t understand why she was feeling like this. Hadn‟t she had the perfect life up until the party? Now she wasn‟t so sure. She played with the golden ring on her finger. Another memory came to the fore. After the party, Charles spent more and more time away from her, Philip rarely came home from Eton during the holidays and April… “Mummy.” Slowly raising her head from her hands, Nicola tried to smile despite the pain. “April?” her voice quiet, restrained. “Where are you?” The words floated across the pain and struck a chord. Where was she? She didn‟t know and yet... Her eyes were heavy, her head ached, and more than anything else she wanted to break something. “Mummy.”
Slowly turning around, Nicola found the room behind, empty, though she was sure she heard the sound of feet walking on the wooden floor. Then realisation slowly dawned on her… Charles was away and not coming back… Philip was away and not coming back… and…and…April was gone… “April, oh April my darling girl where are you? Mummy loves you… April” her voice broke through her restraint. Something had happened… something that should never have happened…Yet she could not quite remember what it was. She got up from the table and made her way down the corridor to the stairs. The front door was open. Looking out to see if there was anyone there, she could see no-one. As she turned to close the door, she thought that she saw someone in the garden, heading towards the summerhouse, then it was gone. „What‟s wrong with me?‟ she thought as she closed the door and frowned. She was sure that she had closed it… now she wasn‟t. Taking more effort than before she made her way up. She walked past the nursery and as she did so the door opened slightly… she walked past Philip‟s room and the door opened slightly…she finally came to a stop in front of a door on the left hand side and she took a deep breath. The notice on the door seemed to stare back at her. Square in shape and decorated with flowers and fairies, it was the gothic lettering that made her tremble – April‟s room… her hand shook as she reached for the door handle. It felt cold under her touch, and she hesitated. “Mummy.” The voice seemed to come from behind the door. She turned the handle and opened the door. The room was cast in grey light and the colours seemed to have been bleached out of the fairy prints on the walls and the bedspread, once white, now a dirty grey speckled with faded rust splattering spots. There were no toys strewn on the floor and no dolls upon the shelves. It wasn‟t how she remembered it, the room had been bright and colourful, like Philip‟s room, and it was so cold in here, and there was a strange smell as though of alcohol and cigar smoke. She didn‟t like it. Memories came flooding back of the night of the séance… “April…I‟m so sorry… so very sorry…” her voice no more than a whisper, her frail body lowering itself onto the bed. She pulled a pillow to her and buried her face in the softness of the fabric. April‟s face came to the fore. Her golden locks twirling around as she played and her green eyes full of mischief, full of love. How she had loved to be cuddled and told stories. Charles may not have loved his daughter, but he did give her something… Philip loved his sister and he gave her something…but Nicola had failed to give her daughter anything and it was this realisation that took a hold of her now. Everything had changed after that night… she remembered her scream at what she had seen… a confirmation of what she had suspected… she remembered going down into the study and getting something… she remembered three explosions, one after another… she wanted to break something. She slowly got up off the bed, made her way down the corridor, down the stairs and into the study, Charles‟ study, where he kept his war memorabilia and his guns. Outside, as though carried by the wind she heard voices of children seemingly laughing and joking, but glancing out of the window, she could see that the garden was empty. The summerhouse glowed red with the vibrancy of the roses… she didn‟t like it… it reminded her of… Opening the desk drawer… she took something out, it was heavy and it was cold. The house felt expectant and mysterious, as if it were waiting for something to happen. Using the last of her energy, she made her way back to April‟s room.
On a shelf, sat the china doll, its dress covered in rust coloured spots and its dark, empty eyes seemed to be watching her, accusing her. She stopped. Hadn‟t it been in the nursery? She wasn‟t sure. She looked around the room and again her eyes caught sight of the rust coloured splattering of spots on the bedspread. For one second they appeared red. She struggled with the pain, she struggled with trying to remember… then realisation dawned… “Daddy, I love you.” “April…” Voices in a haunted room, the light bleaching the colour, the memories washing over her, like the sea over the shore… in the silence there was an explosion of sound, a thud… something was broken… ... to be continued ...
Solomon Doornails The Waiting Room: Three The receptionist is not there When I arrive, It is one o‟clock so She must be Taking her lunch. A sanguine sign in Comic Sans, excitedly tells me to sit and wait until someone comes “shortly”. The lady opposite, Has spent years of Her life, developing The perfect posture. She is waiting For her husband who Has some painful condition That is only whispered, Amongst their closer Friends At Church. The tall and handsome physio, Comes out with her Husband. Concluding Tones of voice, Shallow banter And talk of hydro-pools. The receptionist still hasn't Come back from her packet-o-pasta Lunch in some stale Staff room. I wonder if they know I am here? The grey trolley bumpers That line the walls, the Blue high comfy chairs Suck the light from The windows, the floor Faux granite lino stretches Around the corner To where
a disembodied voice Talks about a patient who Is doing really well, She uses her day off to Come in here, and Her pain has gone. Just Fatigue now. Some leaflets stare at me Faces of old people Modelling for bits of Paper called 'Stopping Smoking' 'Going on holiday with a Lung Condition' and 'Living with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease' all make me wonder How the human body can Be so badly designed. The receptionist has choked On her Marks n Spencer salad In a box, I wonder if she will be missed?
The Pavement. The floor is scattered, fun time clothes, discarded in a stressful frenzy. Grey squares, become ineffective guardians of possessions left to die. You canâ€&#x;t tell what happened here in the early hours. The world was glowing pale orange, there were voices and words whispered, taxi doors slammed, spitting, fitting and missed punches. Mates gathered in bunches around the pair as hair was torn, Curtain peering Mrs Green, living in fear of the animal in her own mind, called the police. Nine nine nine, was her security blanket. No man had ever given her that stability. The silence of the night now creeps in only drowned by the seagulls culling serenity through echoes towers and walls.
Sue Bellisio Hotel Story That summer I became a femme de chambre. This was the poshest hotel in Leeds, the British Rail one in City Square, near the statue of the Black Prince. The foyer ran the width of the frontage, and glittered. Huge chandeliers, marble pillars reflected in the marble floor, dazzling lighting, vast flower arrangements and snooty looking staff kitted out in BR colours. Backstage, through the double doors at the left, were miles of harshly lit functional corridors. I stayed in the hotel because of the early starts, sharing a room with an Irish girl who slept in her underwear. We put our blue and white check nylon uniforms on straight over our bras and pants, because the work made you very sweaty. Early morning teas were made in a little kitchen on each floor. The crockery was chunky and white with the BR logo in red and black and the teaspoons giant and silver-plated. That was where I got my scar. I found a jug with a crack and being a nicely brought up girl knew germs lurked there. I put it in the sink, pulled it apart and gouged out the end of my middle finger. There was a lot of blood, but it didnâ€&#x;t hurt because of the shock. Miss Savage the housekeeper was not pleased. She sent me to St Jamesâ€&#x;s in a taxi and they grafted some skin from my arm over the hole. I had fourteen stitches. Each room had a warm feel as you went in, with its deep red curtains, bedspread and upholstery and low lighting from the three foot tall bedside lamps. There was room for two easy chairs and a coffee table as well as the double bed, wardrobe and dressing table, but no television or coffeemaking facilities or fridge. This was the 1960s. Chambermaiding meant vacuuming, dusting, cleaning the bathroom, putting out clean linen and general tidying up. Every day the heavy starched sheets were changed, that is top sheet to bottom unless it was obviously dirty, and a fresh one on top. You could tell which guests had staff at home. They were the ones who left face powder all over the dressing table, spilt drinks and threw towels on the floor. Every room had to be cleaned, even the empty ones. Each had an ensuite bathroom. It was my turn for an unannounced spot check from Miss Savage. She ran her finger round the tumbler (dusty) and the bath (dustier). I learned my lesson.
You tapped on the plastic fingerplate with your key and often couldn‟t hear a reply, so you went in gingerly and if there was someone there said “Shall I come back later?” If they said “No, do it now” it may have been because they wanted to touch you up as you were making the bed. I was upset at first but got used to it; it was easy enough to ignore. I cleaned the top floor where the deputy managers slept. One of them was a touch too naked and friendly when I took in his early morning tea. The other had the smelliest feet in Christendom. We all laughed about him, poor man. You changed both sheets every day; you used gallons of strongly-scented cleaning stuff; you opened the windows wide even though it let in the traffic fumes, but it was no good. The room was impregnated with the pong. One of the girls used a cloth to get the dust from the edges of the carpet where the vacuum cleaner couldn‟t reach. She must have been obsessive about cleanliness, or very frightened of Miss Savage. She and I were put to carpet cleaning. The only way to do it properly was to scrub on our hands and knees, working backwards towards the door, using 1001. “1001 cleans a big, big carpet, for only half-a-crown.” She talked and talked about her past. Her family was very poor and this was her job for life. I tapped with my key – no answer. I went in with “Shall I come back later?” and the man mumbled “Do it now”. It was Spike Milligan. He never spoke another word to me but I have met him, haven‟t I? I also met Eleanor Bron in the lift and she didn‟t speak to me either. Then I went back to the Sixth Form and nasty Latin and Greek. It had been very educational.
Steven Harris Neurotica All is purgatory and silence, Twisted shapes off in the dark. Check the bed at night for monsters: Someone left the door ajar. Nothing louder than a heartbeatMuffled like a baggy drumFinds the ears I fill with fingers; More a rattle than a hum. In the distance must be houses, Comforts I can't see from here. All is waiting and damnation, Silence, purgatory and fear.
Convictions He crosses himself but it's an affliction: The addict's compulsion, The whore's conversation. He talks like a priest But lacks the conviction of faith. She's thin and afraid of sin and the devil. Her body's neglected, Her instincts are tethered. She glides like a nun whose soul has been severed, Not saved. I stare into space or scream at the silence. The poets have licence To feed off the violence. To think for themselves And call it a crisis of grace.
The Last Blue Smoke We sit on the ledge, The jumper and the talker, Sharing one last cigarette before the final act. The city below, Still sleeping mostly easy, Dreaming of the little comforts cranks and jumpers lack. It's not so far down But far enough to break you; Impact is as much a verb as talk, Or smoke, Or die. We sit on the ledge, The coward and the madman, Sucking down the last blue smoke, Exhaling. And it's time
Clifton at Midnight Giant, amber moon Throwing lazy shapes across a yellow street. Lost; I do not care. Half asleep, Uneasily tidal, Faking one last mad-eyed neon glare: I hurl sodium and explicit words At cul-de-sacs and dying stars. Calmer, Later, Moonbeams act like mediators. Pacified, I'm past it anyway, But once upon a thousand times This town was mine.
From the Freak Files Political Pontification from The Politics Desk By Adam Brummitt An open letter to the representatives of The United States Congressional Delegation and members of The Parliament of The United Kingdom: Dear Public Servants, In the wake of the riots that raged throughout much of England this past month and in light of the coming occupation of The London Stock Exchange, I would – at risk of being redundant – call to your attention that you, by base definition, are public servants. This is to assert that you are the servants, the shoe-shiners of those who you would seek to vilify. You are meant to serve the public, the public is not meant to serve you. Your personal belief system, lifestyle, social status, financial strata, and all manner else that are you should not and does not mean a good fuck. You are where you are because the whole of these nations cannot fit under a single roof. You are, however, meant to represent their interests, not merely the rich bastards that fund your campaigns. The „base criminality‟ that so many have flippantly regarded these recent demonstrations to be is an indication of naivety, insensitivity, and dangerous ignorance. Without civil unrest, there would have been no cause for this violence, and it seems a long and timehonoured that violence be the last-ditch action of the oppressed. Indeed, would King John have committed his signature so willingly to the Magna Carta had the barons of the selfproclaimed Army of God not have been surrounding him intently with weapons in the ready? It has been the belief of many that anyone dismissing the actions of rioters throughout England as anti-social youth disorder is overlooking several major issues. "It's very sad to see. But kids have got no work, no future and the cuts have made it worse," said Hackney electrician Anthony Burns, 39. "You watch. It's only just begun." It is hoped by some that those whose middle-class bubbles have yet to burst might pull their heads out of highly highly-privileged arses, and this includes most of you in civil service. We'll see them in the streets in three month's time when the dire social atmosphere actually begins to distract from Eastenders and the most recent 'app' for their iPhone. It is a luxury of those at present unaffected to comment and condemn the actions of these youths from a distance and comment so on a reality of which they know nothing. As for sympathy equating to advocacy, this strikes me rather as a similar intolerant dictum of being either „for or against‟ the previous American „presidential‟ administration, with all those wanting further discourse being regarded as terrorist sympathizers. It has been distressing the fact that those of us that appreciate the context and cause of social unrest are thought to equivocally defend the mayhem of the riots throughout England. There is a difference between condoning these actions and appreciating the atmosphere that has precipitated them. The worst of a society reflects its essential truths, and were this merely a matter of greedy youths run amok the last such occasion of violence would not have been under Thatcher in 1981. Rather, it is the consequence of unregulated, coddled people of plenty who conduct business with an avarice that far exceeds a looter fleeing with a pair of Nikes he or she could not otherwise afford.
I address you, servants of our collective voice, as you are as much us as we are you. We, however, are not the 1% of the population that represents more than two-thirds its wealth. You, however, have for decades allowed this small cadre of the affluent to go without regulation for so long a time as to allow the financial divide to become systemic. The rioters are as much a part of this system as the bankers and investors, and vice-versa. Neither may ultimately appreciate the broader reaching implications of their part in this morally crippled society, but you do not accept your responsibility to care for the general welfare of your constituents, it calls into question what good you are doing us, and should it be deemed so we will do away with you whether through organized occupation or the consequence of aimless violence precipitated by your negligence. This may seem to be idealistic drivel, but it also reflects the foundation on which the principals of these governments were built - not any god or gods of any persuasion. Civil unrest breeds the manner of aimless violence that is but a taste of what might come. It is not to be condoned, though neither is it to be dismissed as being unprovoked. Take off your paisley ties for an afternoon and genuinely contemplate the ultimate repercussions of the decisions you make, for this is a powder keg and you are tempting fate with fire. Yours Conditionally, We, The 99% of the People (As Articulated By Adam Brummitt, Professing No Ultimate Representation of Anyone But Himself and Those in Agreement) 7th October, 2011
Published by Steve Smith / Reflections Magazine copyright Steve Smith 2011 Editor - Steve Smith Sub-Editor - Vicky Franklin Front Cover - Adam Grose Inside Covers - Emma Pike Back Cover - Sara Bellisio/Lethal Images Mid-Section Art Robert Bellisio- www. jafgatfineart.co.uk 1- Dichotomy 2- Moonlight Echo 3- Moonlight Hotel 4- Miro Shuttle 5- Emily's Attic Other Stuff Steve Smith P.B. Shelley: 'The Mask of Anarchy' 1819 +Vicky's dolls' house All work is the copyright of the authors and artists email- exeterreflections@ gmail.com Twitter- @ ExeReflections We're on Facebook too!
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