Real Lives

This is not me. Well it is, but the name Lily O’Grady is a pseudonym and there are two reasons for this.

Firstly I’m not very confident about sending my writing ‘out there’on social media. The thought of publishing words I’ve put together and stories I’ve made fills me with fear and I feel embarrassed.

I’ve enjoyed writing for as long as I can remember, my first attempt at a book aged just 6 was bound and put in the school library. It was actually my news book and we’d been asked to write about a play we’d been to see; I just couldn’t stop writing and filled two exercise books.

I had dabbled in poetry as a teenager but most poems became songs as I played guitar and would think nothing of standing in front of the class to perform them. The older I became, the more self conscious I got and so impromtu renditions of my self penned work ceased and I turned instead to a diary.

Through my early married life I continued writing diaries which gradually became smaller and less informative as life got busier and my family grew. I could go for weeks without an entry and then only scratch down dentist appointments, birthdays and things to do.

Lists often replaced diary entries and were the subject of much amusement with my friends as I would literally write down everything I had to do; from getting dressed to making dinner. My lists recorded the minutia of everyday life and I could never turn a page until everything was ticked.

Over the years I would occasionally take the opportunity to write more than my weekly shopping down, most often it would be letters to newspapers. The only ambition I ever held as a child was to become a journalist and so periodically I’d feel the need to voice an opinion, make a complaint or promote something I liked. The birth of social media opened up new avenues for my observations and musings and I took to twitter enthusiastically. It wasn’t long before I joined a local online blog to write about community issues and news in our area.  I had no problem seeing pieces I’d written online because they weren’t personal, this was real time, real life.

The next time I would begin recording a daily diary was completely unexpected and I had no idea where it would end. On March 13th 2013 I was taken ill suddenly and began a hospital journal in order to help make sense of what was happening to me. As my personal drama unfolded I wrote the words we all dread, I have been told I have cancer. This notebook was written up retrospectively into a blog An Unfashionable Cancer,  a story which as yet doesn’t have an end.

Which takes me to the second reason I chose a pseudoynm. Readership of my blog grew and I was asked more than once whether I would turn it into a book. I thought over this idea for several months before deciding to attempt to do just that. It wasn’t as easy as I’d imagined though and I decided to join a local writing group where I’d be able to seek advice and get feedback on my fledgeling novel.

It was then I realised I had a problem, my blog was personal. It wasn’t just my name and events relating to my experience that would be ‘out there’, it was my family and friends as well. Not only that but there were the hospitals, medical staff and other people I’d encountered along the way. If I’m going to elaborate on my story I am also going to have to fictionalise elements of it.

So there it is, Lily O’ Grady was born so that I could use my poetic license and to protect the identities of those people who never asked me to record this journey.

What I hadn’t bargained on was that Lily would give me the opportunity to publish some of my other written work, poems and short stories that I’d never think of putting my real name to. Conversely, the need to hide behind an alter ego has opened a new door and given me a new confidence in my written ability. I may keep her.

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Whispers

Whispers was a recent theme at writing group but having had a particularly busy week I hadn’t found time to write anything. Well, that is until about half an hour before leaving the house.

I didn’t really have much by way of inspiration other than one line, ‘loose lips sink shots’ which came to me when thinking about how rumours spread. Drink can definitely speed that process up as well as elaborate on the truth, sometimes to the ruination of reputations or worse.

See what you think of my half hour poetry attempt…?

Whispers

Overheard, misunderstood

Softly spoken words of love

Misconstrued predictive text

Hurried lines without spellchecks

Status updates flying out

Chinese whispers casting doubt

Loose Lips sink shots

Speech bubbles in knots

Said too much, drunk too many

Sentiment is ten a penny

Swear down told me so

Happiness turns to woe

Lips are sealed, done talking

Secrets out, dead man walking.

 

 

Slow Lane

The topic we were given at writing group last week was Wonder. There is of course more than one interpretation of this word, I chose the verb; the desire to know something or curiosity.

When I did a word count of my short story it was nearly 1300 words and I was attempting to get 1000 and therefore I edited parts of it. Reading it back now I think I may need to put them back in, it ends a little too abruptly and I lost some of the sentiment I’d tried to get across.

What really surprised me though is that since writing Slow Lane I’ve come across this news article that reported on an almost identical idea to that I’d written about. A supermarket in Scotland has introduced a relaxed lane aimed at making the checkout experience easier for more vulnerable customers.

Like most good ideas I wonder why this hasn’t been thought of sooner 🙂

Please have a read of Slow Lane and let me know what you think, should I re edit and beef it out a little?

Slow Lane

Do you ever sit in your car at traffic lights and look across at the person in the car next to you and wonder, what sort of life do they have? Or walk past someone in the street and catch their gaze for a second and have that same feeling, who are you?

Sarah had that feeling often as she sat at her checkout desk in the town centre supermarket. Each weekday between 8 and 4 she would chat to a steady stream of shoppers at her till about everything and nothing. People she knew and strangers alike would small talk their way through their grocery packing. Special offers, what’s for dinner, trouble parking, plastic bags and of course the weather were hot topics during Sarah’s working day.

None of the above lingered for long in Sarah’s mind, the talk came and went just as the conveyor belt rolled endlessly around. There would however be the occasional customer that would ignite Sarah’s curiosity to the point where she woud become distracted. In the same way you forget the lyrics to a song or the name of an old neighbour, some people would niggle at Sarah’s subconcious like stories without an ending.

For some people the supermarket checkout was the start of their day, hurrying to grab their morning paper and milk before work. A lot of shoppers went in and out almost blindly, picking up their regular items, following a mental list as part of their routine lives. Quite a few were just lonely, the brief few minutes spent passing the time of day with Sarah may be the only words they’d speak for hours. The lunchtime rush included local school kids harrassing the browsers just out for their fresh loaf and whatever took their fancy for tea. Later on the school run Moms with one eye on the smart phone, the other on the terrible two trying to escape the trolley seat.

The final hour of Sarah’s shift was often where her curiosity would run wild. Boredom having firmly set in after a day full of trivial talk and white noise. It was also the part of the day that brought out the half hearted shoppers, those that knew they needed something but didn’t quite know what. Maybe they’d finished work and couldn’t decide between a takeaway or a ready meal. Others may have been out shopping earlier and forgotten something or changed their minds. It was a consumer twighlight time, too late for dinner, too early for the evening big shop.

The woman struggling to unload her basket this afternoon looked to be in her mid 40s. Casually dressed she could’ve been younger but her hands gave away a few more years. There were wedding and engagement rings on her left hand and clipped onto her shouder bag a keyring holiding photos of a small girl and boy. Had she smiled Sarah could see she would be extremely attractive but the pained expression on her face almost distorted her features.

As the bottles and jars rolled down the slope of the till the woman struggled to catch them and stand them inside her bag for life. The fruit and veg were getting a battering as she tossed them haphazard into the carriers and her bread would never regain it’s loaf shape after being squashed under the frozen veg. Sarah had offered help with packing, that over used yet compulsary line that cashiers the country wide must mutter in their sleep. The lady nearly bit her head off and yet still complained. ‘You’re going too bloody fast’ as Sarah swiped cartons and packets through the scanner.

Opening her purse to pay, the contents spilled out accross the floor and as Sarah knelt to help recover loose change the woman snapped again, ‘Just leave it will you, stick it in a charity box or something’.

Sarah held her breath when at the third attempt the shopper finally entered the correct pin number for her debit card but said nothing as the woman glowered at her almost daring her to react. Throwing the bulging shopping bags into her trolley she spun it around quickly and marched away just as Sarah noticed, ‘Your card, excuse me, hey….’

What the hell is wrong with her, she must’ve heard. Jumping up Sarah grabbed the Till Closed bar and apologising to the couple who’d started to load their shopping, took the debit card and headed for the exit.

It didn’t take long to find the mystery shopper as she was now cursing the coin slot in her trolley which was refusing to give back her pound coin. Sarah approached cautiously, “Excuse me you’ve..”

“Why me, why now?” Tears began rolling down the woman’s face as she leaned forward over the trolley.

Gently, Sarah took her by the arm and lifting the bags asked, “Where’s your car?”

Sobbing now the woman lead the way to a small hatchback and opening the drivers door slumped inside, her expression blank, the tears still falling.

Lifting the boot Sarah placed the shopping inside, rearranging it as best she could. This story couldn’t be left untold, a combination of curiosity and concern led Sarah to climb into the passenger seat where she waited as the woman composed herself.

Turning to look at Sarah now she spoke, “I thought I could do it, I needed shopping, it all seemed so normal but no one knows, they can’t see my pain.” She took a deep breath.

“My husband died last week but life goes on, the kids need feeding, bills paying, dogs walking and yet nothing will ever be the same. There’s no till for beareaved shoppers or those suffering illness, you don’t have a queue for having a bad day, lost your patience or losing your mind. We all stand in line and make the same noises, move in the same direction but some of us just want to shout, ‘Help!’

Walking back into the supermarket Sarah paused to watch the queues building as the evening rush began thinking about what the young widow had said.

Maybe I should speak to management she wondered, is it about time we had a slow lane because you never know what baggage the person next in line is carrying.

 

 

 

Urban Ghosts

It was the third week I’d attended the local writing group and the first time I’d written a poem, the topic given was Ghosts.

My inspiration came from living near a town centre and the contrast between day and night time activity. As soon as the shutters are up in the morning you’ll see a steady stream of elderly shoppers but as the day goes on the age range drops until younger evening revellers appear.

It occurred to me I’ll probably know nothing about most of the older generation who go about their business anonymously. The opposite can be said for the younger generation who can be located on most social media with a Google search.

Urban Ghosts

I walk amongst the great unseen, whose beds are made, their houses clean

Buttoned up, can’t stop, list in pocket, daily shop

We clip our coupons, miss the queues, heads down, sensible shoes.

Listen, you may hear our curses, Lord have mercy, give me strength,

Jangling nerves, bells on purses.

What you see is what we’ve got, content to plod on with our lot.

You look straight through us, beige and grey, colours like the dawn of day

In sunlight ghosts don’t cause a fright, scream or rattle deaths request

No, you’re the ones come out at Night

 

I see you from the other side as I scroll down your wall of pride

Smiles false, heads tilted, who you’ve kissed, who you’ve jilted

A never ending eulogie, let’s talk about Me

The table laid, fingers spread no ouija letters gels instead

No glass needed, talk is Cheap;

So I said an’ he goes, door slammed, bottle smashed, threw me out.

Poltergeists of our High Street

I see right through you graveyard shift, everything is on display

You’ve nothing left it’s in your face and everybody else’s place

Our skeletons are locked away, no secrets see the light of day.

 

You hear voices in your head, I see you talk while no ones there

And yet you move through places, faces never seeing, we leave no traces.

Non believer, self deceiver.

Shallow end of box set griever.

There’s no sin that can’t be mended, cross over, join the queue

Are you scared you’ll be unfriended?

RIP your wicked ways embrace peace, tranquillity, your halcyon days

Forget things that go bump in the night, drop that shroud,

Walk into the light

 

 

 

 

 

 

Talking Shop

TALKING SHOP

It wakes much earlier than the shops their shutters like heavy eyelids

Rise only when the clock strikes nine their muted staff all work on time

The mass produced, top end, on trend uniform for fashion sheep

They don’t go where talk is cheap

For fabrics, haberdashery, hardware, software, toys and pet stuff, clothes and makeup

See it all from phones to carpet down the market

Hear the traders bark through rows of multicoloured tarp.

Distorted offers, lost in brummie like a train station tannoy

In between, the Nannas bustling trolley conga, make the day much longer

If you don’t shout up, move through, who’s next, long wait, for God’s sake!

Louder still the traders call, animated voice crescendo,

Wholesale masters of innuendo, “Firm pair, nice plums”,

How to turn a mere exotic fruit into some faux erotica

Down the line, mind the pallets, watch your wallets,

Get your moneys worth, salt of the earth

Grab yourself a knock off scent, you’ll hardly tell the difference

Apart from the name and the smell, it’s Calvin Klein for £2.99?

Fabric sellers by the dozen, silk and satin, jersey, cotton

Multi cultural rugby scrum,

A meeting place for economising human race

Flower seller, fortune teller, things for cooks, books, more for less, fancy dress

My discount’s more than him up there gives, punctuated with expletives

Small change, no exchange, first to get it, no credit.

Then back towards the old main drag to ATM’s and 5p bags

List ticked, hand picked, no fail, retail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello

This weeks theme for the writing group I attend was ‘Hello’. Nothing immediately sprung to mind for this title, a couple of story ideas but nothing that prompted me to start writing them down.

I’d had a recent conversation with another member of the writing group about my use of twitter. I have two accounts, the one I’ve attached to this blog is very recent, my other is for my business and I’ve used it almost daily for nearly 10 years. It’s no surprise therefore that I often think in 140 characters! I often find myself thinking about what I’m about to say before the words leave my mouth. This is how I came up for the idea for Hello.

My poem is based on a meeting, it could be strangers meeting for the first time or old acquaintances, a blind date or a chance encounter. I just imagined waiting for that moment and the thoughts and words that would run through my head.

I’d love to hear any feedback 🙂

 

Hello

Tongue tied and lost for words before the door has opened

When not a word’s been spoken, I search vocabulary and hope

My first impression won’t be wasted

Small talk often made in haste is never meaningful

Just chit chat and pleasantries

Weather talk and commentaries

You’allright? Looks like rain. Got time for tea?

Long time no see.

Running through conversations with no one but myself to make them

Wondering what you’ll say when you catch sight of me today

Will dialogue exceed parameters set by 140 characters

Or will short and sweet be the extent of this impromtu meet and greet

I evesdrop as I stand in wait

Privvy to the trivia of passers by

Inconsequential observations made by social butterfly’s

Those more inept at repartee, feign ignorance and walk away

Anticipation wipes my head of whats to come and still unsaid

It leaves the only word I know

Will lead the way to more

Hello

 

New Page

I love lists, as a young child I would plan my day with ‘Things To Do’ – although that may have something to do with only child syndrome. A diary was another must have from an early age and I would write each entry so carefully so as not to make a mistake and ruin a page; you can’t tear a page out of your week!

Although Christmas is always enjoyable it’s the New Year I like the best, getting to hang a new calender, start another diary and make a list of hopes, dreams and resolutions. The the  festive season can be so hectic and we lose our routines so the start of a New Year means it’s time to turn a page and start afresh.

This Wednesday was the first meeting of 2017 for the writing group I’ve joined and I was so pleased to be back, it’s been such a welcome part of my week. The subject we’d been given to write about for that meeting was Taking Chances. I chose to write about the risks I’d taken in starting a business and the chances I’m taking on with a new venture. In hindsight I could just as easily written about how fortunate I was to have discovered the writing group and plucked up the courage to join. It’s a chance I know I won’t regret.

At the start of the meeting along with the Happy New Year’s there was a hope that one or more of us may get published in 2017. It dawned on me then that I’d missed this off my New Years list, I’ve added it now.

Next weeks topic is ‘Hello’ so I’m off to make a start as a few ideas have come to mind, hopefully I’ll be able to share my work next week.

 

And the Winner Is…

I think that the only poetry I’ve written in the last 20 years has been rhymes for my children’s Easter egg hunts; think the riddler meets Dr Zeuss and you’ll image the kind of thing. Before that I wrote songs as having learnt guitar aged 7 I fancied myself as a singer songwriter and would perform my self penned tunes to anyone who would listen. When my quest for pop stardom never materialised (or rather I took up violin aged 10 and couldn’t sing and play at the same time) I gave up writing in rhyme until my kids arrived.

When we were asked to submit a poem for a competition at the writing group I attend I panicked a little. Not only because I’d need to write one but also read it out to the group, I felt quite embarrassed. However, one of the themes we’d been given was shopping and the first thing that came to my mind was Birmingham Rag Market. I Love the Rag Market, the people, the stalls, the hustle and bustle, the noise, smells, it’s just so alive.

My completed poem, Talking Shop came quite easily and was jam packed with descriptive text, I could’ve gone on and on. When I read it out at the group, to my surprise they asked for it again, they really seemed to enjoy it. The feedback I received from that day gave me a huge boost of confidence and so I submitted my poem to the competition, fingers crossed.

A few weeks later the results were received and when they were read out, Talking Shop had won first place! My very first poetry win aged 48, I was so proud. You can find this poem in the menu under the poetry heading, I’d be grateful of any feedback.

Seasonal Writing

At our last writing group meeting the theme had been seasonal writing. My own favourite story from this time of year is The Little Match Girl which I read over and over as a child. I therefore penned my own version for 2016 which was well received at our meeting, it was even suggested I try entering it in a short story competition. Please find it under the short story heading in the menu, I’d love to hear any feedback. Oh, apologies as I know it’s the season to be jolly but you may have to reach for the tissue box.

New Girl

I wrote a lot as a child and had ambitions of becoming a journalist. Our local newspaper received many handwritten letters, articles and stories from my younger self but unfortunately my career path went another way. Until recently I wrote little and seldom, former dreams of getting published barely entered my head and were hardly ever mentioned.

After my children left home I found I had far more time on my hands and so began looking for new ways to occupy myself. It occurred to me that I hardly ever picked up a pen and paper, even reading was often limited to news items mainly via my laptop or phone. I’ve always had a keen interest in current affairs, maybe now was the time to look again at my journalistic aspirations.

My search began with higher education, having skipped A Levels I looked at various possibilities including sociology and English literature. However, I soon realised that for most establishments I was way too far past there maximum age entry or lived too far away from the colleges that could accommodate me. I knew I wasn’t disciplined enough to take on an OU course and so my search diversified to include creative writing courses.

Again I was stopped in my tracks as courses weren’t close enough to home and the only local one I found was under subscribed to and got cancelled last minute. In a last ditch effort to find an outlet for my new found love of prose I Googled writing groups. There were several possibilities but only one near my home, it had to be worth a look.

The group meets every week for a couple of hours and has been going for over 20 years, some founder members still attend. From day one it was obvious the group held a wealth of knowledge and expertise as well as being extremely welcoming and enthusiastic about their subject matter. I haven’t missed a meeting since.

Still very much the new girl I’m enjoying discovering my written strengths and weaknesses as well as getting stuck into many of the writing exercises and weekly homework. This is where my blog comes in. I’m learning that all feedback is good feedback and so want to share my attempts – mainly short stories and poetry, with a wider audience.

All critique will be gratefully accepted.