The road to nowhere;
a road of indistinct nature
that baffles and bemuses.
A creature of comfort,
a black hole in the middle
of a City of Bones.
The clouds open up
beneath my dogged stride
sheets of purple rain.
The ground beneath me rumbles
and a great crack sunders the earth.
I ride through the darkened skies
on the creature’s black-winged back.
Ruby eyes illuminate the space,
burning leaves, baking the tarmac.
And oh, how the city groans.
“Time to earn your place at the dance this year,” Mother said, shooing Pepper out of the door into the bitter frost of a late Hampstead afternoon. “While you’re about it, tell that fir tree that it’s wanted inside. And don’t forget to shake the ice out of its branches – the last thing I need is puddles in the living room.”
Pepper sighed and stomped up the garden path, thankful at least for her thick leggings and Doc Marten boots. The air smelt of stagnant defrosted droplets and woody conifers. Would this be the year she managed to entice Mr Keats to the dance? Hmmph. Unlikely. However much Mother hoped so.
“You’re wanted inside,” she said to the fir tree on her way past. There was a gentle rumble of earth beneath the snow white blanket as the tree uprooted itself and shuffled towards the back door. Pepper turned, hands on hips. “Aren’t you forgetting something?” The fir tree stopped mid-pace and drooped. Gripped by an idea, Pepper gathered up her skirt by the hem to make a cradle and stood beside the tree. “Well?” she said. The tree bristled its needles and shook its branches in irritation. It was enough to loosen the icicles that dropped with an off key tinkle into her skirt. Read the rest of this entry
I have always been fascinated with the world that lies beneath London. I guess that travelling through the underground system every day sets off my imagination and so, many of my stories link to underground stations and stops. Getting ahead takes us a little further, literally into the bowels of London.
Although we take it for granted, London Underground uses tunnels originally built by the Victorians and an interceptory sewage system that delivered London’s reprieve from the ‘Great Stink’ of 1858. When it comes to feats of engineering, the Victorians were never short of imagination. You only have to look at the legacy of their work in London to realise that it was an era of industrial revolution and innovation.
My initial approach to research is usually with the people. I love the stories behind people and I’m fascinated by human motivation and behaviour, so I try to link the human stories to a place, then link the stories to each other. I like to get out and write in different places; parks, cafés, libraries, museums, underground stations, benches or anywhere in London where I can soak up the atmosphere and let it spill over into my fiction.
Place is important to me, but my stories are driven by character. I have to say at this point, that I didn’t take my research to the logical conclusion and into the London sewage system, that would be… well, eww. I found this wonderful book called London under London: A subterranean guide, by Richard Trench and Ellis Hillman, which explores the labyrinth of the city beneath our feet. So I let my own imagination run loose and exploited the use of ‘what if…?’
If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs… (Rudyard Kipling)
Apprehensive about my day,
but books break the boredom and
chatter gives up its secrets.
Coffee fuels the adrenaline;
excited hardly cuts it –
green-eyed and go, go, go…
Irritated by the hoards,
orange and yellow destinations lure me
and people put the place into focus.
Perfume clouds me in waves, while
pastries smell better than they taste.
Red is the colour of rage with
traffic fumes, noxious and nasty.
Trains are going somewhere, while
the tannoy speaks a language of travel.
This is a place I pass through en route to somewhere else.
I met him on the tube in the tunnel between Kentish Town and Archway.
The lights dimmed with their flawless flickering,
illuminating the ghost of his smile, in yellow lamplight.
A figure in the window, the dreamer wanders.
The smell of fetid fruit hung ripe in the air as the other passengers sat,
slack-backed with telescopic hearts, dull eyes of slithering killers.
A snorkel splutter splintered the silence, and my heart slammed into my ribcage.
Was it fearlessness or foolishness that made me say,
‘What the fuck are you doing here?’
He smiled all the while, eyes boring a hole through my soul.
The train jerked into motion, lights exploded into being and the passengers stared at me;
the eccentric lone woman, talking to an empty space outside the window.
I sail alone with no sails at all.
A million voices chattering down
with the talk-talk of rag events
like written rogues of runaway bones
and players to porcelain poly perspex.
Makes no sense to me at all,
reverse the words, shake it up
in atomic deconstruction,
hoping to emerge in the right order.
His sail ship is docked in port,
waves slapping the wood,
air that tastes of salt fish and seaweed,
screeching seabirds calling to warn
and the thunk-thunk of footsteps on wood,
as he stops in front of me and sighs.
‘You could have called,’ he says,
retrieving a golden pocket watch
and handing me a Nokia to the future.
Welcome to the Bloodletter’s Arms for our annual seasonal celebrations. Tonight I’d like to introduce you to our speciality house tipple, which has been fermented in oak coffins for the discerning taste of our gothic clientele. It’s red, bubbly and bursting with the taste of iron girders. We call this one, ‘Vlad to be here’. I propose a toast to you all, to an eternity of indifference and alternate reality. Here is my secret recipe.
(WARNING: This is not for the faint-hearted; children should not try this at home without adult supervision.)
- Take partially germinated human blood and mix with eggs to make a frothy mush. This process converts the human form into dust, which is used to re-group into a new species.
- The new species is drawn off once the dust is spent and boiled in a vat over an open fire.
- Separate new life form from the fire and cool in a blood bag labelled, ‘handle with care’.
- Water is then added to convert the life form into something you might not want to take home to meet the parents.
- It smells like a chundering traction gurney and spews heat like hell’s fire from the underground that fuels London.
- Suck it up quick before you gag and preferably not within sight of anyone in their right mind.
- Twelve hours later, your skull splits open and peels you from the inside out.
Some people feel slightly nauseous, but once this process is complete you’ll feel perfectly normal.