Thursday, 7 January 2016


It’s launch day for the anthology, Tales from Elsewhere, which includes a story written by me. There are some brilliant and wonderful tales in this book.

I pondered what to blog about, on launch-day, and have already written about our group of writers on my personal blog - here, so I think the perfect thing is to offer you the out-takes, the bits of writing at the beginning of this project that never stayed in the story.

September 2014

My notes from that weekend include phrases like, ‘It’s bosomy here…’ There is also an unfinished poem, but I want to let that lie around for a while more.


Liza had felt the invitation, the crisp flick of paper in her hand; she feared her sweating fingertips would smudge the officialness of her name, her right to go drive up that lane listening to the arse of her poor old car dragging its tail on the un-gouged middle. This place was nowhere, with no witnesses...anyone standing on the moon would never give that landscape a moment's thought, wouldn't know of its existence.
She stepped out of the car in a gravelled circle and pushed the door closed with a click. Someone knew she had come, would have heard her scrunching up the lane and now the gravel could bring the meeting onto the path. Liza was instantly taken with a table and chairs set out under a tree but she turned towards the cottage's open door.
'Hello,' she called.
A sound from the door on her right might've been an answering voice – Liza opened the door and walked in...into a bathroom and found a little round woman sitting in a bath with all her clothes on.
'Did you want to speak to the Oracle?' the wet woman asked.
'Is that you? Are you the oracle?'
'Well, I'm in her bath so it stands to reason that I am probably her.'
'But you're fully dressed.'
'Which is my own business in my own bathroom.'
'I'm sorry. I shouldn't have done that, but the front door was wide open.'
'You must be expected then. Take a seat.'
She motioned for Liza to sit on the fluffy lid of the toilet.
Liza sat and looked at the woman.
'Why are you taking a bath in your clothes..if you don't mind me asking?'
'Why should I mind you asking me personal questions?'
'Well, there was no answer at first then I thought I heard someone say, Come in.'
'What's your name dear?'
Liza took out her invitation and waved it. 'I was invited,' she said, 'though I don't know why.'
'Well, Liza. Perhaps you might like to climb that little tree and pick me a few apples before we begin.' She pointed out of the window.
'Begin what?'
'Introductions of course.'
Liza stood up and peered around the flapping curtain out of the open window.
'Oh. Okay,' she said, and left the room.
She walked down the side of the garden, looking into bushy corners but no one appeared. It was a big space, not quite a lawn but pleasant short grass. Picking the apples was only the first task of seven; there were mushrooms to get, chestnuts to gather from the cemetery and Ginger-beer to bring up from the old schoolhouse. Now she was stuck at the fish and had no idea what the other two chores would be.


I can't see Liza in the kitchen but I know she's still staring at that gutted fish on the kitchen table; she knows it's dead but can't get past the wide eyes, won't chop the head off because it's a vile thing to do but is in a quandary about serving it up cooked. She's a carnivore for God's sake. Distance is a dance. I only met her a few hours ago and already she trusts me to teach her something that will help her to cope with all the things she can't talk about.
September here is bosomy. I live under this tree, sit outside all day and pretend it can change me, make me more fundamental, grounded in the basics that exclude electronics...and yet, knowing that the skies are hoaching with technology and I was reduced to candles, oil lamps and scrubbing carbolic wouldn't bring me the tranquillity I'd need to fulfil my purpose – if I had one. Liza thinks I have; she heard it from a good source.


'Oh I do love a bit of company,' said the Oracle when Liza came to join her under the tree. 'You arrived on time dear, now come sit. I feel the skin holding us together burst, seeding our words into autumn...'
'I feel as if I've been here for days.'
'And all the better for it. Tell me now, what is it that consumes you?'
'Last night I dreamed about a woman who could astral walk, talk to others and live a different kind of life but her body was killed while she was away, and all I can think about now is where does that leave her? Are we attached to our bodies even when we're gone? Would she be a waif-ghost?’
'What do you think?'
'I'd want to believe the most, the positive but the state of the world these days, what with all the privatisation and food-banks, I'm leaning towards the opposite. She's fucked, isn't she?'
'But she doesn't exist in the world of politics so cut them from the picture and see what's left.'
'The fish must be cooked by now,' Liza said.
'Yes, the others will be along soon, oh yes I hear them coming up the lane.'
As they walked up the lawn voices drifted through the trees that used to be hedges.

There had been no introductions, no names, just women passing bowls of food to each other. Sauce boats sailed up each side of the table, crossing at one point before being captured and re-filled. The great fish had been picked clean, only remnants scattered inside the curved cage. Liza loved the way the steaming flesh had slipped off the bone just from the hook of a fork. Apples, cheese and cake appeared like magic as hands lifted the old course away...the talking caught her at every turn – she couldn't keep up. There was wine but not too much to notice and yet there must've been a lot. She counted fifteen at the table, though some of them just wouldn't stay still and their faces blurred into smiling characters from a story she'd read in her childhood. What was she doing here?

The next morning, in the middle of all the small conversations going on all over the place, there were shouts and laughter, and two heads rising over the lilac bushes. A little round woman was taking photos of the two gyrating women on the trampoline. Liza stood behind her and watched her capture them up in the air, legs and arms dancing – she was breathless just watching them and the world was suddenly quite overwhelming. Why was she here? And then a memory slipped into her mind – had she eaten anything? She couldn't remember the taste of the fish the night before, but she must've had some...she was right there amongst the others, who were all eating and enthusing and congratulating the cook. When she looked down there was a mug of tea in her hand.
'I am here. It is real, isn't it?'
No one answered her; she wasn't sure if she'd spoken out loud, but it was pretty noisy where she was and anyone passing was watching and laughing at the trampoliners.

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