Sunday, 26 February 2017

Short Story from writing prompt

I was in a creative mood and as I felt drawing or painting (which I kinda wanted to do) would result in despair and frustration, I decided to try writing instead but of course had no idea what to do. So I googled writing prompts. Writer's Digest came up and every week they have prompts. I was uninterested in this week's, so I went with last week's:

You’ve finally decided it’s time to break up with your significant other. You just haven’t felt that connection for awhile and know it’s time to move on. So you go over to his/her house and, after explaining how you feel, you feel relieved–that is, until your now ex-significant reminds you that it is Valentine’s Day.

Well. This is what I came up with.  Don't normally share anything I write but I thought I'd give it a go anyway. Here you go, Void. I even gave it a title.


Staring at my phone screen, I felt around for a response that didn’t prompt further replies. I just couldn’t deal with him right now. Work is boring, but not that boring. I settled for a, “I’ll see you later x”, hesitating over the number of kisses. When did kisses become so meaningful? Before social media, I’d only ever used kisses in cards to members of my family, not as a piece of punctuation at the end of a written conversation. Now, if I don’t put at least one, it apparently indicates that I am in a mood or being brusque. If I put more than one but less than 4, that means I’m incredibly fond of someone. If I put less than 3, that means I don’t like you as much as I did? It’s all so confusing. All I wanted to do was to focus on something other than his feelings for a short while.

Sighing, I pushed my chair back, grabbed my mug and head over to the kettle. I was watching the laminated bubbles through the clear plastic reach the peak of their frenzy when Sally came over to grab her next sugar hit. As she popped open the biscuit selection tin and carefully selected her next treat, she caught my eye and gave me a smile.
“Hey, how’ve you been? How’s Chris?” Her banshee-pitched voice scraped its way through my ear drum.
I struggled to smile back and put on my best schmooze, “Oh, he’s fine. Busy with a project at the moment. How are you?”
Swallowing the last of her biscuit and grabbed her fourth mug today, she launched into yet another drippy couple story. “William and I are so looking forward to this evening. He got me a giant teddy bear! Can you imagine? At our age!” A beat passed as I smiled at her, quietly sipping my tea. A thought crossed her mind, making her cackle. “I’m surprised it wasn’t another sort of teddy that he got me, if you know what I mean!” She gave me a filthy wink. Then realising she’d been going on about herself again, probed me for more details. “What about you and Chris? Doing anything this evening?”
The idea of telling her the truth, to see how she’d respond, fleetingly dashed across my brain. I came out with the same banal response as usual, “We’re having a quiet night in this evening.”
“Oh that sounds lovely. I’d much rather a cosy night in than going to a noisy restaurant!” droned on Sally, as I made my way back to my desk.
Throughout the day, people seemed intent on sharing their plans for the evening with me or each other, with giggles and frequent bursts of laughter emanating from the kitchen whenever people congregated on a “quick” break.

As I drove to Chris’s after work, I tried to think of the best way to tell him.
“It’s not that you aren’t great, you are, it’s just that I don’t like you that way”, I practised, looking at the car in front. “Nope, that’s lame.”
“Yo, Chris! You’re dumped!” I honked the car, reminding him that the green light means ‘Go’. “Well nobody can say it’s not direct enough.”
“ ‘Chris, I’m really sorry but I think we should see other people. You’re a great guy but I don’t think we’ve got that spark.’ Yeah, that’s a start.”
I pulled up in front of his building, checking myself in the rear-view mirror. With a deep breath, I opened the car door, barely remembering to bring my bag with me.

The door opened before I even knocked; his sweet face beaming, arms open, cooking smells inviting me in. I cringed as I hugged him back and turned my head so he kissed my cheek, distracting myself by pulling off my scarf and coat. We walked through to the kitchen where an expensive-looking set of ingredients were in the process of being cooked and a glass of wine sat waiting for me.
“How was your day, sweetie?” He asked, stirring the sauce on the hob while I stood the other side of the table.
“Oh, you know. The same.” I could feel the stirrings of guilt pulling at my stomach.
Why was he making dinner tonight? It’s just making everything more difficult.
“I hope you like this, it’s a new recipe from Walters. It’s a variation on Beef Bourguinon, using -”
“Chris, we need to talk,” I interrupted, deciding to bite the proverbial bullet and to keep my nerve.

He stopped stirring. Was it me, or did he straighten his shoulders before turning to face me? His face had his winning smile plastered on.
“That sounds ominous! Did you scrape my car again?” his words teasing but his voice belying something... was it anger?
“Sit down. Please.” I could feel my hands tremble, so I put them behind my back. “Look, I just want you to know that you’re a great guy.” I took a breath.
“Harrie, please, not today,” Chris put his hand out on the table, his hurt eyes threatening to undo me.
“No, Chris, I’m sorry, it’s just that I-”
“I know. It’s not me, it’s you, right? Always sounds lame but actually, in most break ups it’s true, isn’t it?” He tried to laugh it off. This caught me off guard more than if he’d cried.
“Chris, I’m sorry. I think we should just end it now.” I ended quietly, looking anywhere but at him.

Chris sat there quietly, playing with a crumb on the table. A minute or two ticked by and the quiet was agonising. I tried to make a move to go, but he looked up at me, the raw emotion I’d expected earlier piercing me through his eyes.
“You could have waited, just one more day. We could have had one last evening together.” His voice caught, proving to me again that he was more emotionally invested than I ever was in us.
“I needed to do it today Chris. If I’d waited till tomorrow, then why not the next day or the next? I’m sorry.”
I left him like that, sitting in his neat little kitchen, surrounded by the wonderful smells of his cooking.

I tried not to cry, tried not to feel guilty about doing us both a favour and ending it sooner rather than later. I got home and dumped my coat on the floor, making straight for the fridge where a refreshing beer was waiting for me. I popped off the top and took a long swig. So much better than wine.

I sunk onto my sofa and moodily flicked through the channels. Perversely, there seemed to be a RomCom on every station. I settled for the news. Somebody somewhere had to have it worse than me, right?
“Good evening Minnesota and a happy Valentines Day to you!” The cheerful greeting of the weather anchor made my heart stop.

...Valentine’s Day?

Saturday, 31 December 2016

Reading Challenge: Read only female authors for a year part 3/3

I thought I'd update my list of female authors/books that I've read since I wrote in March.

* - indicates a book I've not read before
  • The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay and Diaries - Emma Thompson*
  • Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen*
  • The Otori Trilogy, The Harsh Cry of the Heron and Heaven's Net is Wide* - Lian Hearn
  • Emma - Jane Austen*
  • Shadow Scale - Rachel Hartman*
  • The Blue Sword - Robin McKinley
  • Volumes 1 - 7 of My Love Story!  - a Manga by Kazune Kawahara*
  • Anya's Ghost - Vera Brosgol*
  • Everyone Worth Knowing - Lauren Weisberger
  • A Book of a Thousand Days - Shannon Hale
  • Uprooted - Naomi Novik*
  • Go Set A Watchman - Harper Lee*
  • The Mediator series (6 books) - Meg Cabot*
  • Eligible - Curtis Sittenfeld*
  • Alice - Christina Henry*
  • Red Queen - Christina Henry*
  • The Girl of Ink and Stars - Kiran Millwood Hargrave* (Urgh! She's the same age as me!)
  • Virgins of Paradise - Barbara Wood
  • The Faerie Thorn and Other Stories - Jane Talbot*

So so far, 24/34 books have been ones I'd either never finished (Heaven's Net is Wide, Emma) or not read before at all.  Well done me.

I'm currently rereading Curse This House by Barbara Wood, but that won't be done by midnight tonight!  I have some new books coming by her, as I couldn't find my copy of Green City in the Sun and when searching for it on Waterstones Marketplace, I saw they had copies of her other books, so I have two of those coming as well. And I have a tonne on my kindle that I bought or got for free that I need to read, including Austen I've not read, Middlemarch and The Cursed Child screenplay.

I've really enjoyed reading only female authors - I've come across some really fun and interesting literature. But I will not mind being a bit more flexible next year - there are a couple by male authors I want to read!

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

日本の最後の数日間 - Last few days of Japan

The Last Few Days of Japan

We spent the last few days shopping and trying to spend our hard-saved money. I bought a bunch of rare Moomin plush toys. I regret not buying Too-Ticky and the Groke as well, since I've got some money left over, still!

We bought our limited edition Pikachu couple plush, dressed in traditional Yakuta and kimono. A his and hers Pikachu. Awwh.

We tried our best to spend time eating good food and just relaxing and visiting places.  We went to a big woodland park in Tokyo, we spent one day completely penned indoors because of a typhoon... that was a bit dull... but we just had some relaxed fun.

Then, on the Thursday, which was 4 days before our flight, in the evening at around 10pm, the cockroach appeared on my bed, freaking Him out a bit.

I was in the bath and he actually came running to tell me there was a roach on my bed. He didn't manage to catch it because by the time he came back with a mug from downstairs, it had scuttled off somewhere.

He was onto airbnb for an alternative place as almost as fast as the cockroach could run.  We booked it and set about packing and tidying and shaking out everything to make sure there were no roach eggs or roaches hiding.

When he was out buying bug bombs and spray, the roach reappeared, making me jump. I managed to get it under a mug. (No squishing! If it's a female, that's the worst thing to do!)

I am not proud of it, but there were lots of shrieks and squeals as I tried to catch it and a lot of shudders and gagging.

I don't mind cockroaches out and about in the wild. Then it's interesting and I don't have to be too close. I DO MIND THEM IN MY ROOM, it would seem. I actually like them less than spiders, in the house. Spiders gross me out no end. As I don't live in Australia, I'm not afraid of them, but I don't like the way they look or move. 8 legs is too many (or too few, since I quite like centipedes and millipedes).

Anyhoo, caught the roach, then He managed to set it free but sprayed it to death.

They're just a part of life, in Japan. It probably came in up the drain in the bathroom. It probably came in because of the typhoon. It was a male, but we weren't too happy about sleeping in the room after that... we cranked the air con up to discourage any others coming out.

The next morning, after buying antiseptic for my toe, we moved out. It was oddly sad and we felt nostalgic - after all, we'd been living there for a month, pretty much.

We moved to a two-bed flat near Ginza, the rich part of Tokyo.

We made the most of our time in Ginza - we ate out the Friday evening, spending a ridiculous £301 on a set meal around Ginyu beef.  It included our drinks and two appetisers and a pudding, but when we did the yen to pound conversion, we were shocked.
So yeah. That's that... we had the money to spend, so it wasn't so bad.

When visiting in Japan, if you have the yen, you have the yen. It's not worth converting to pounds much to justify things, unless you want to tell yourself "it's fine to get that stuffed toy - it's a collectable and only £10..."   We knew that 40,000 yen would be expensive but hadn't tried converting it accurately.

Then the Saturday, we went to Gundam front, to see the life-size model of a Gundam. I'm not a massive franchise but I humour him. We did a bit of window shopping as well.  We went into the Gundam museum and he got to climb into one and put a coat on and sit in a seat... he was happy.

Gundam Front - 27/8/16

Then the next morning, on the Sunday, we cleared out and flew home.

And that was the end of our Japanese adventures.  We were ready to go home, but we have had a great time.  We were very happy to get back to our own hovel and have a computer each to play on and t.v. to watch in English and I got to drive my car for the first time in 4 months (I MISSED IT SO MUCH) and yeah. Lots of conversation fodder for us!

日本の23日目 - Japan day 23

After our week of travel, we kinda mooched about a bit for a day or two, recovering. I thought I had a blood blister, caused by pinching of my toes, but it turns out it was just a scab over a horribly fleshy bit of nail or something. Yeah. Nice.

So with much gauze, tape, plasters and anti-septic, I have to play nurse on myself. Ah well.

Day 23 was awesome. It was our trip to Disney Sea Tokyo!

We only went on three rides, but we had a great time wandering around and queuing... it wasn't a busy day, but for the Journey to the Centre of the Earth, we had to queue for 2 hours. The ride itself lasts about 5 minutes. C'est la vie.  There was much screaming involved - we were both quite tired and lost our nerve a bit. We knew we were going to burst out of the side of the volcano and have a big (read: not that big in reality) drop, and the anticipation got to us, I guess.  Still, it was a good ride - it had flame throwers and weird alien-like gremlin things and darkness and light shows and sound effects.

We also went to Terror Tower, that was fun. I don't know why I didn't expect the ride to be the way it was - I mean, it was kind of obvious from the "how the house got haunted" video and light show.  Hindsight is amazing.

I'm glad I hadn't eaten before that right though - I definitely felt my digestive organs shift as we got dropped. Yep. We didn't scream in that one, just held on quite tight - the people behind us though were going at it full pelt, having their voices projected to the people outside, in the streets far far below.

Disney Sea, despite having "sea" in the name, has no water rides. None. There is a splash area, if you are getting front seats to the shows on the lake, but apart from that, it's literally just because it's on the coast.

(It's actually a total rip off to have Disney Land and Disney Sea as separate parks with separate tickets - they're right next to each other and on the same shuttle train line.)

We also went on the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, which wasn't exciting but interesting to go on, for the effects and things. The queue for that was a bit long, too.

Then we went to get pizza from Zambini's just in time for the big show of the evening: Fantasmic.

I'd not seen a proper Disney park show. I wasn't massively eager to see it until I read about it in the leaflet and thought, "cool".  I was so wrong - they're not just fireworks. They're amazing.

It was of course based loosely on Fantasia, with Mickey appearing at the top of a giant sorcerer's hat, in the middle of the bay. The hat was of course projecting images and clips from various films and it was a celebration to all the imagination. (Reminiscent, to the song from Willy Wonka, sung by our dearly departed Gene Wilder)

Then of course, the drama starts: the Evil Queen's mirror appears and the hag manages to magic herself out of the mirror and into the hat, switching places with Mickey. Maleficent and Ursula show up and the Mistresses of Darkness take over!  Then Maleficent turns into the dragon! And Mickey manages to spark fireworks and stuff at her (with his wand) and eventually she is defeated. Not going to lie, both the show and my photos are pretty cool. #ego.

I filmed teeny bits of the show, at points and have sewn them together. I wasn't going to film the whole thing, because I was a bit wary of my camera's propensity to lose large film clips (though that might have been me, as well). I also wanted to get some really cool photos, which you can't really do when taking shots from a film of that size. And cool photos I got!

A great end to the day!   We popped over to Agrabah market to collect an engraved present we'd got for His Sister, nipped into a stationary store where I got some really lovely postcards that could be framed and He got an anniversary (15 years since opening) Nano Block Mickey Mouse.

Then we went home, tired but happy - and determined to return and stay in one of the hotels for a couple of nights, next time!

DisneySea Tokyo - 24/8/16

日本の日18および19 - Japan days 18 and 19

Travelling to and exploring Hiroshima

We left Osaka feeling happy that we'd covered pretty much everything. It's very much a small town with a great nightlife, but not a lot of other things to do. We'll definitely go back for a day or two in the future though, and spent more time in Kyoto.

We were roughly 2 hours from Hiroshima, so we got to our hostel/hotel by 3pm. It was waaaaaaay hot!  So very hot.  We got to the room, whipped on the air con and sat around in our undies for a while, cooling down. You're welcome for the imagery ;)

Hiroshima is mostly made up of 1950s style buildings... the reasons of which don't need elaborating on, really, cause it's obvious.  It's small, contained and home to some really lovely gardens and parks. Pretty much all the transport was conducted using buses or trams.

We got a tram to the town center - a woman saw us looking at the timetables and asked if we wanted help. She then told us which tram to take and even said she was going towards where we were going and would show us the way. So very friendly and nice! Her name was Miyo, if I remember correctly.

There we found an official Shonan Jump store, which was easy to spot, what with the giant Goku statue outside.

Yeah. We like Dragonball in this house. I still think he should have been Kame-hame-ha-ing back at Goku, but never mind.

We found somewhere to eat and then had an early-ish night, ready for the next day ahead!

August 20th - The Peace Park, Memorials and Museum

As I said, there isn't a whole lot to do in Hiroshima, which is really sad, considering that in the 30s it was a center of culture and upcoming commerce. However, things happened to change all that.

We went to the peace park - It was a beautiful day, easily climbing into the high 30s but not too humid. He says it was humid, I say that were just sweating enough to feel as though it was. I really think it was too hot to be humid. Doesn't really matter, I guess.

The "A-bomb Dome" is a landmark in Hiroshima, and the area around it has been turned into a park. The building had been a culture and commerce building, with the dome being specially designed by a Dutch architect, made from blue and green glass. It sounded beautiful. The only pictures of it were in black and white, and everything after is just a shell, so I am just imagining it.

I wasn't too keen on taking photos, really. I have strong feelings about war, WMDs and everything, but there were lots of Japanese tourists there too, taking photos, so I felt a bit less awkward about it. I was a lot quicker about it though - no artsy shots (though the building is very obliging in that respect) for me!

There is the building, left as a reminder. There's a memorial to the Koreans that died (we didn't see that one), one to the residents of Hiroshima and the Children's Peace Memorial. This one was particularly touching - you can read about it in the photos - it was made after the death of a girl suffering from leukemia caused by the radiation and over a thousand schools chipped in to have it made. An amazing feat when you consider there was no social media or JustGive pages and whatnot.

After, we went to the museum that is in the park. It was cheap to get into and emotionally gruelling. They reconstructed part of a street as it looked from inside a building, with the city in flames through the brick window frames. They had horribly realistic wax figures of a mother and two children walking through rubble, arms out in pain and agony as their clothes had melted into their skin, blood and plastic dripping from their fingers. The mother looked shell shocked, the daughter stoic and the little boy, about 10, had his face scrunched up in pain.

There were many artifacts, donated by grieving relatives - the shoe of a girl who'd died and whose body wasn't recovered. The uniforms of the many teens who were only there because they'd been sent in to help demolish some buildings to create a fire path (which was why the casualties were higher that particular day). The step outside the bank, with the shadow of the person who'd been sitting there waiting for it to open.

There was a scale model of the town and the surrounding area, with a red ball hovering over the impact site - the red ball was representative of the bomb 1 second after detonation.  A man was telling his grandchildren about it and how he had lived just beyond the hills the other side of the model. Those houses, beyond the hills, were protected by the blast, pretty much. (Him indoors managed to translate enough of what he was saying to grasp the gist of it.)

I lost my cool/emotional control a bit when reading about the bomb itself. They had all the information about its construction donated by the organisation behind it. They had a life size reconstruction. What got to me was that they were aiming for the hospital.  Absolutely disgusting. There was no tactical advantage - it was purely a aim-for-the-citizens-and-helpless-to-prove-a-point. I know it ended the war. I know that. But I don't think the ends justified the means in this case.

I know that the Japanese were far from clean fighters in warfare and less than civilised towards their captives. But you know what? The West doesn't really have much to stand on, either. Just look at the atrocities they have committed and are still committing in various countries all over the world. Look at Iraq. Look at Syria. Look at what the anti-communist meddlings of the Americans did in Afghanistan. They created their own monster, just because they weren't comfortable with the idea of communism (great in theory, lousy in practice) or the influence of the Soviets. Look at how the way the Americans behaved in Vietnam - the most disgusting war to date. I just feel, quite honestly, that the entire A-bomb saga was a war crime in itself - particularly Nagasaki's. I'm sure that is an unpopular opinion in both America and probably over here, in the UK. Sure, the one aimed at Nagasaki caused less damage and loss of life, but that was pure accident. That was unintended - they misjudged when to drop it and thank goodness it was before the mountain and not after. They knew for sure by then what the bomb was capable of and they still went ahead and ordered a second one. There was absolutely no need for that - I agree 100% with my history teacher there.

I skipped through the photos of people suffering burns and post-radiation effects. I'd seen enough of those on my GCSE course. I knew very well what happened to those poor people and I was feeling emotional as it was. We watched a video of a man reciting a recount of a boy who'd survived the blast and was trying to get home, how he had to help his friend get home - his friend had had the soles of his feet burned/blasted off.  There were artist impressions of it, to help with the imagery.

We signed one of the petitions that the Japanese government is pushing, promoting a complete nuclear disarming of nations by 2020. It's not going to happen, but I signed it anyway. They had a small section around Obama's visit to Hiroshima, too.

Afterwards, we left and headed back in towards town. We went to a famous feudal garden, which was relaxing and beautiful. The feudal lords had this thing about "miniature landscapes" - so in their gardens they'd have lakes or ponds to represent particular areas of the sea or country. They had a mini rice field to pray for bumper crops. They had a large mound in their gardens to represent Fuji. It was extensive and quiet, an odd contrast to the built up area around it. So that is what most of the photos are in the album.  Some really lovely bridges and areas.

We went back to our room to rest a bit, as the heat swelled up my feet a LOT and it made them too big for my shoes (which caused a major in-grown-toe-nail issue later... I'm booking a doctor's appointment for it.) then we bought some food from a local supermarket and ate in our hostel. We were getting ready for our 5-hour journey back to Tokyo the next day!
It was nice, sitting in the communal area, reading my trashy novel (blog post about it here) whilst eating some bento. Just chillin'.

Here are the photos from Hiroshima. A beautiful town, with a lot more to offer. We'll probably go back, to visit the islands just off the coast from it - there are some ryokans we didn't know about, for example.

Hiroshima - 20/8/16