Category Archives: Prose

The fisherman and the water maiden

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In a land not far from here, in a time not long ago, there lay a small village at the edge of the shore. Many of the men made a living out of fishing, leaving their wives and children before dawn and returning with the setting sun –or not at all-. The shoreline near the village was treacherous, littered with sea caves and underwater reefs, just waiting to drown an unsuspecting sailor.

 

It was perhaps because of that, that the sailors often returned with stories of the water maidens, beautiful blond women whose songs were what caused the drownings. Despite their lethal reputation they were thought to make excellent wives for those cunning enough to entice them to the shore. In fact, many of the older families in the area boasted of having a water maiden as an ancestress.

 

Now, in the village lived a poor young fisherman with his mother. The lad was reckless, as young people tend to be, and often brought his boat far closer to the rocky shore than what most might consider prudent. One year the young man was making the customary wine liberation “to appease the Old Man Sea”, as his elders said, when a most unusual thing was caught in his net; a golden comb inlaid with pearls. The fisher knew if the stories, so he threw the comb right back in the water, not particularly wanting to be at the receiving end of a water maiden’s wrath.

 

Little did he know that the comb belonged to one of the daughters of Old Man Sea himself, who, having never tasted wine before, had been drawn near the boat by the unfamiliar sweet taste overpowering that of the salt in the water. The dawn the fisherman returned to the same spot and cast his net once more. The newly-risen sun painted the water gold and out of it came the most beautiful creature he had ever seen. Her skin was pale as foam, her eyes were the blue of the deep ocean and her hair the gold of the sand on the shore. Remembering the stories he had heard, he offered her some of the stone-baked bread that he had brought to lunch on. The maiden took one look at it and laughed, as tiny waves rocked the boat gently.

“Your bread won’t do for me!” she said. “It’s too hard.”

With one last laugh she dived underwater and disappeared.

 

The fisherman returned home and that night and every night after his dreams were haunted by the water maiden’s laugh. Every morning he would return and cast his net on the same spot, hoping to catch another glimpse of her. One week later his patience was rewarded. The mid-spring sun was burning overhead when, with a mischievous smile, the water maiden reappeared. This time the fisherman offered her unbaked dough, but the maiden shook her head and a cascade of pearls fell from her hair to the boat.

“Your bread won’t do for me!” she said. “It’s far too soft.” With one last wink she disappeared underwater once more.

 

The lad returned to his mother with feverish eyes and a bag full of pearls instead of fish. One look at her son’s sorry state was all it took for the woman to understand the situation. Knowing that this was the sort of love-sickness that cannot be cured, she set off to help her son win the maiden. For the next few days she gave him half-baked bread with the instruction to offer that to his fey sweetheart. Indeed, in a week’s time, when the water maiden appeared to the fisherman with a shy smile, he offered her the loaf and –to his delight- she accepted it.

“My name is Awel,” she said softly before diving once more to the wine-coloured sea.

 

The fisherman almost jumped after her in his despair, but before he could the sea grew choppy and out of its depths appeared the Old Man himself, followed by twelve girls, all identical to Awel.

“Choose wisely young human,” said the Old Man. “Pick the one you have been courting and you may take her and all that is hers to your land-bound house.”

 

The fisherman studied the twelve sisters carefully. They were all silent, all gazing at him with the same sweet-as-wine smile playing on their lips. And yet…near the middle of the line one of the maidens had breadcrumbs on her lips. The young man looked at her in the eyes and said,

“You are Awel.”

 

With sparkling eyes Awel stepped inside his boat, dressed in a bride’s white raiment.

“Know this young human,” Old Man Sea said once the couple had settled on the boat, “my daughter shall be your wife and bring happiness and prosperity to your house. But take heed! If you strike her unnecessarily three times she, and all she has brought, will leave you.”

The fisherman was so entranced by his bride-to-be that he eagerly promised never to lay a hand on her for anything other than a caress.

 

And so the young human brought the water maiden to his house and made her his wife. Awel was always cheerful and industrious, and the couple were happy together. True to the Old Man’s word, from that day on the fisherman prospered, his nets always full and his boat safe, no matter how treacherous the water he treaded. Awel bore him three sons and three daughters and there was never shortage of laughter and merry-making at their house.

 

So happy was the fisherman, that he was willing to overlook some of his wife’s more… peculiar habits. She might like her fish raw but the food that she served on their table was always perfectly cooked. So what if the floor of their house was never quite dry? They lived close to the shore, some damp was inevitable. So what if the children grew as wild as the seals at the sea caves? There were six of them and born as closely as they were, there was always a baby to focus on.

 

Life was as perfect as could be for the fisherman until, one day, he returned to find the house empty of wife and children. Awel had a habit of taking the children to the sea, but she always brought them back before her husband returned. The fisherman didn’t have to wait long before his family walked through the front door, laughing and soaked to the bone. Torn between fondness and exasperation he lightly pulled his wife through the door. All laughter immediately stopped. Awel looked at her husband.

“This was the first strike,” she said. “Take care.”

 

The fisherman loved his wife and had no intention of losing her. For the longest time he paid extra care, fearful that he might forget himself and bring her closer to her departure. Alas the day he feared came sooner than he thought. After a particularly nasty storm, news reached him that one of his closest friends had drowned. The entire village gathered to pay their respects to the unfortunate man when, amongst the cries and tears, Awel’s lilting laugh was heard. Despite her years away from the sea, she still remembered the tricks her sisters and her would use to lure young men to their caves whenever they felt like taking a lover. The fisherman, embarrassed by his wife’s reaction and not privy to her knowledge, lightly rapped her hand. Once more her laughter stopped and she looked at her husband with sad eyes.

“This was the second strike,” she said. “Take great care.”

 

The third and final strike came not long after the second. Awel’s eldest daughter had grown from a child to a maid and, as maids are bound to do, she fell in love with a young man from their village. The wedding was swiftly arranged, but, amongst all merriment, Awel cried knowing her daughter forever locked in the land and forever out of her reach. Forgetting himself and not wanting to cause a scene, the fisherman lightly struck her hand once more. Awel looked at him with tear-filled eyes.

“This was the third strike. Now my house and yours will forever be divided.”

 

A sound like a thunderclap shook the wedding hall to its foundations, a wild ocean gale followed it, and in its wake Awel and her five remaining children disappeared, taking with them the fisherman’s preternatural luck.

Faery Queen May and the Minstrel

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Once upon a time, in a small village by a long road, there lived a young man who wanted nothing more than to become a minstrel. Day in and day out he would labour with the lute until his fingers bled. No matter. The notes fell flat and scratchy to the ears of his unfortunate neighbours. Day in and day out he would practice his singing until his throat was hoarse. No matter. The ballads of desperate lovers sounded like market gossip when he sung them. Still the would-be minstrel practised, determined to achieve fame, to one day travel to the distant capital and perform before the king and all his gold-arrayed court.

 

The young man lived with his mother and grandmother, in a small house near the long road. They had a garden in their backyard and made a living by selling fruit and vegetables to their fellow villagers. The minstrel’s mother was at her wits’ end with her daydreamer of a son.

“Thomas,” she’d say, “go and water the garden.” And Thomas would go out to the garden, but get distracted, grasping for words to describe how the sun light made the water drops gleam, and half the garden would be left dry.

“Thomas,” his mother would say, “take this basket and go to the market to sell our wares.” And Thomas would take the basket to the market, but get distracted, listening to the sounds of life and people, and half the fruit would go unsold and spoiled.

 

The grandmother was old, some said as old the long road. She moved little and spoke even less, but her eyes were sharp as hawk’s and she saw what burned her grandson. One afternoon, as Thomas sat in the garden, practicing the lute in vain, she called to him and spoke thus:

“Child, I know what ails thee and how to remedy it. And if you do exactly as I instruct you, you will become as great a minstrel as ever’s a minstrel been.”

Thomas set the lute down and swore to do exactly as she instructed. The grandmother pointed to the long road.

“Tonight,” she said, “the court of Faery Queen May will go a’revelling through this road. Mark me well. Go and sit yourself on the ground and draw an iron circle around you. Then play your lute as ill as you have ever played. They will invite you to their dance, if only to stop your music, but heed them not and stay a’playing. They will ask your name and that of your master, but heed them not and stay silent. Know this well grandson. If you speak to them, or move out th’circle they will take you with them and it will be years before you find your way home. They will tell you many things, many great secrets, and if you keep your peace and pay them heed, I guarantee, a minstrel you will be, as great a minstrel as can be.”

 

Thomas thanked his grandmother for her council and determined to do as she had ordained. And the wise old grandmother, knowing her child’s child to have more heart than reason, gave him a spoonful of pine honey to hold in his tongue before he left the house, with the instruction not to swallow until dawn broke.

 

That very night the minstrel drew a circle of iron in the middle of the long road and sat himself in. Before long Faery Queen May’s court appeared, dancing and singing their way out of the woods and into the crossroads before Thomas. He looked and saw as fair maidens as he had ever dared imagine and even more so. Their skin was white as the glow of stars, their eyes glittered like gems and their voices were as melodious as any nightingale’s. They saw Thomas and beckoned him with sweet smiles to come and join their revel. But Thomas merely picked his lute and started playing as ill as he could.

 

Before long a faery, wrapped in the greens of leaves, came and stood on the edge of his circle.

“What is you name fair youth?” she asked. “Who is your master? He is poor master indeed, to have taught you so ill. Listen to the wind as it brushes my leaves, that is how you should brush your strings.”

Thomas listened to the way the wind brushed the leaves but spoke not.

 

The moon was half-up in the sky when another faery, wrapped in the blue and crystal of the deep forest pool, came and stood on the edge of his circle.

“Where do you come from sweet one?” she asked. “Who are your parents? Your music will ne’er be sweet if you lean on your lute so heavily. Mark my light dewdrops hanging from the flowers. That is how light your body should be.”

Thomas marked the gathering dewdrops hanging from the flowers but spoke not.

 

On and on, all night long the faeries revelled in his tunes and every now and then one of them would come to stand before Thomas. They tried to get him to sing but the honey made his tongue heavy and unyielding. They tried to get him to join their dance but the circle kept him in. And as the minstrel listened to their words his fingers grew deft and swift, and as the night passed the notes came sweeter and smoother, as good as any minstrel’s of the past.

 

At last Faery Queen May stood before Thomas. She spoke not but gazed at him with sad eyes, and Thomas gazed back and saw that she was fairer, so much fairer than her companions, shining light the full moon amongst the stars. At last Faery Queen May spoke.

“Oh dearest one, your music will ever be but notes unless love touches your heart. Come with me, beloved, and let me teach you about love.”

She offered her hand and Thomas, spellbound by her beauty, swallowed the honey and sprung to his feet, but! As his hand reached through the circle dawn broke. Like a flash the faery court disappeared and Thomas was left alone on the long road, with a head full of wisdom and a heart aching for love of the Faery Queen May.

 

He picked the lute in his hands and, as he walked the long road back to his small house at the small village, he played and sung. His old grandmother heard him and wept, for she knew what it meant to have fingers as swift as the wind in the leaves, hold light as dewdrops hanging from flowers and a voice as sweet as a lover’s yearning for their love.

How March came to have more days than February

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Once upon a time, back when the world was still fresh and young, and the months barely more than children, things were a lot different than what we know now. Out of the twelve sons of the Time March was the shortest, having been born with twenty-eight days instead of thirty or thirty-one. Not that it bothered him. By the time his turn on the Wheel of the Year arrived people were more eager to prepare for his brother April’s arrival and the actual beginning of spring. March, for all his quick temper, was good-natured at heart and didn’t mind helping the people adjust from his elder brothers’ icy temperaments to the youngers’ warmth and exuberance. So he had a bad habit of dealing frosts with one hand and sunshine with the other. Who could blame him? He was stuck right in the middle!

 

Truth be told, most people didn’t mind March’s changefulness, thinking of him as the actual beginning of spring rather than the more accommodating April. There was one though, one who dislike poor March more than anyone in the world and that was Old Missy. Old Missy lived in a small house at the edge of her village with her two goats and her giant cauldron. She was cheese-maker and there was little she enjoyed more than complaining about everything and everyone around her. None, not even the months could escape her tongue-lashings and she always seemed dissatisfied with something, be it the weather, the children playing near her house too loudly or her poor goats for not giving the right amount of milk.

 

When March found out, he took it upon himself to change Old Missy’s mind. He heard her complaining about the children’s’ noise so he blew cold winds to send them back to their mothers’ hearths. Still the old woman complained.

“Ah March! Fickle March! You blow your cold winds and make my old bones ache. You send the earth back to winter’s sleep, no grass is growing and what will my goats eat?”

 

So March tried again, eager to make Missy happy. He gave her warm, sunny days so that grass would grow for her goats to eat and for her old joints no to hurt. Still the old woman complained.

“Ah March! Fickle March! You grow hot and spoil my milk before I can make cheese. Your sun makes folk and beast lazy and none will come to my house to buy my wares and how will I live with no profit?”

 

Every day for all his twenty-eight days March tried to make the old woman happy. He brought rain to cool the heat, she complained of rheumatisms. He made flowers bloom in her front yard, she moaned the colours hurt her eyes. He coaxed the birds to sing sweetly by her windows, she groaned for the noise that wouldn’t let her sleep. At last the twenty-eighth day arrived. Old Missy sat on her porch and cackled in delight.

“Ah March! Fickle March! There’s still some life left in these old bones! You tried your best but I beat you and lived through all your topsy-turvy weather!”

 

March, exhausted as he was, grew angry. He had tried everything in his power to make Missy happy and still she mocked him. He wrapped himself in a cloud of early-morning frost and off he marched to his elder brother’s icy castle. He found February tending to his snowdrops.

“Brother February, grand me a boon,” March said, as he joined his brother’s gardening efforts.

“If it is in my power, will all my heart,” February answered and another flower bloomed cautiously under his gaze.

“There is an old woman mocking my powers,” March said. “Grant me three days so that I may punish her.”

 

February nodded silently. He knew of Old Missy and of her bitterness. His bad leg had been bothering him a lot more lately. Maybe it would do him good to roam the earth less. So he chose his three coldest days and gave them to March. The younger month thanked him and, armed as he was, stood right over Missy’s house and blew the worst storm that the old woman had ever seen. For three days the wind tore and the rain fell and when April finally poked his mischievous head around the corner, he found the old woman and her goats hiding under the giant cauldron for protection, the house having been completely blown away.

 

Thus February became the shortest month, March gained three days and an old woman learnt the value of silence.

Veni, Vidi, Trepidati (I came, I saw, I panicked)

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A bit of context please! The following story is based on an “adventure” of sorts I had last year. I might sound unlikely but, yes, it did indeed happen!

Saturday, 26th of October, 4:30

Espresso shots so far: 1, mental awareness: 35% (zombie), panic attacks: 1 (minor)

The special tune in the alarm clock and the obligatory pre-trip nerves appear to be the only reasons I am functioning at this infernal hour. It also appears that caffeine and sugar do not have their fabled WAKE-UP effect on me. Note to self: Do not trust advertisements again.

 

Stumbled over my backpack twice while looking for my hairbrush. Found it under a pile of clothes awaiting ironing. Dread to think how it ended up there. Was under the impression last night that all I would need in the morning was ready to be packed. I stand corrected.

 

6:30

Mental awareness: 45% (systems booting)

Taxi arrived the moment I opened the door. Thank heavens for good timing, or flat mate would have had my head for making noise so early in the morning. Will probably still do when I return… Had to kick the door close. Coffee still in hand, I had to wrestle a backpack and a drawstring bag onto the backseat and then proceed to make pleasant conversation with driver. Now, why do I have a bad feeling I am missing something important?

 

6:45

Mental awareness: 60% (systems loading)

Arrived at the rail station. First thing I noticed was the train on platform, preparing to leave. Yet, it appears I am about an hour early. That can’t be right. Better check with the nice gentleman by the platform doors after I finish my breakfast.

 

6:46

Mental awareness: 115% (panic attack imminent)

A MISPRINT! THERE WAS A MISPRINT AT THE TICKET OFFICE! I had specifically asked for the train leaving at 7:30, so that I would not have to pull an all-nighter just to be at the train station on time. Now I realize that the printed time on the ticket is 6:30. How could I have possibly missed that? Still, deep breaths, deep breaths now, no reason to freak out just yet. I can change the ticket for one on the very next train to London, no harm done, just a slight delay, right? Right? Oh, who am I kidding? THIS IS TERRIBLE! WHY ME?

 

7:00

Mental awareness: 95% (systems operational), mood: bad

Apparently printing error was my fault. Had to buy whole new set of tickets for part of the journey. Think that I hate the railway system a little more than I used to. Had to waste ten minutes waiting on a queue just to talk to someone. Conversation at the ticket office proceeded as such:

Me: There was a misprint in my ticket. Can I change it for a later one? Preferably one for the very next train to London.

Unsympathetic employer: I am afraid we cannot change your ticket. You will have to buy a new one.

Me (beginning to panic and not really caring about my account balance at this point): Fine! I need to get to Cardiff. It’s an emergency.

Unsymp…You know what? Let’s call him Joe: Well, the next cheapest fare leaves at four in the afternoon.

Me (hyperventilating as next train to London arrives at the platform): No, no! You don’t understand! I need to get to Cardiff as soon as possible! Just give me a ticket for the next train.

Joe: Very well Miss. That’ll be *** pounds.

Me: Gah!

 

Now sitting on the train on my way to London, I find myself unable to focus on anything other than homicidal thoughts involving printers, credit cards,Ticket office employees and  P. “I can’t access my bank account,” he said! “Can you come give me a hand sis?” he said. “It’s not that far!” he said. Ugh! Deep breaths now! Perhaps some calming music will help.

 

8:30

Mental awareness: 65% (still sleepy), mood: annoyed

Almost in London and struggling to keep myself awake. The effect of the music might have been too calming. Opposite seat has been taken over by someone who can’t possibly be anyone other than a retired Inspector Gadget. He has spread more electronical devices on the table between us than I thought possible and his legs have expanded to the point where I have to practically climb ON my seat to avoid being stepped on. Too tired to do anything more than the occasional glare, to which he is impervious, as he is hidden behind his newspaper. I hope Dr. Claw gets you sometime soon, you leg-space invader!

 

9:15

Mental awareness: 85% (not bad…), mood: cautiously optimistic

Unbelievably made it to London Liverpool Station with time to spare. Was not sad to part with Inspector Gadget. Had brief moment of confusion as I tried to find my way from Liverpool Street to Euston Station. Decided to play it safe and run the distance. In retrospect not a good idea since I was carrying two very awkwardly shaped bags. My mother was right. I need to exercise more… Must have been quite the show, bursting to the platform out of breath, bags nearly flying out of my hands and asking panicked about the train to Cardiff. Somebody must have been having a good laugh at my expense since I had barely caught my breath before the train rolled on the platform….

 

11:00

Mental awareness: @#$%*blue screen of death! @#%$!&*

Birmingham has more than one train stations. BIRMINGHAM HAS FIVE BLOODY TRAIN STATIONS! WHY, UNIVERSE, WHY? Ticket said change trains in Birmingham, so when I picked up the word “Birmingham” over the frustratingly quiet intercom I –of course!- hurried out of the train. Seeing no trains bound to Cardiff, I started worrying but figured two ticket-related mistakes in one day are too much even for me. So I did what every mature person would do in my situation and popped to the closest information desk to ask directions. Turns out I was one stop early and that Birmingham has what appears to be an “international train station” in addition to the one where I was supposed to be at. It’s been a while since I wanted to punch something so much…. Nearly out of options, there is only one thing left to do: hitch a ride to the proper station. I will take it as a sign of mercy that the next train arriving on the platform was going the right way and was full enough for no conductor (no matter how dedicated) to attempt to check for tickets. It took fifteen minutes of doing a sardine impression and nearly twisting my ankle when the driver hit the brakes and I had nothing to hold on to, but I made it. Finally, finally the right station, the right train, the right time and minimal running involved! It’s nearly over! I am almost there! Dare I say it? What could possibly go wrong now?

 

11:05

Mental awareness: 35% (secondary system rebooting)

I…I think I might be lost. There should be a staircase leading to the platform right about here. Instead there is a solid wall. Harry Potter reference? Or did I just breeze by the stairs without seeing them? Whilst looking for them?

 

12:00

Mental awareness: 90% (secondary system reboot successful), mood: pleasantly surprised

What are the chances of sitting next to a friendly guy just because you launched yourself to the first free seat you found? Yes, there are still gleams of sun (figuratively) shining down on me. Fully intended on spending the rest of the journey reading and/or listening to music. Does not seem to be the case now. Guy sitting next to me not only talkative but actually interesting.

 

1:00

Mental awareness: 95% (really good), mood: best so far

Talked through the entire trip to Cardiff with cute guy next to me. Good mood appears to equal good luck since we appeared to be invisible to any and all conductors that passed by us, and I might have my ticket but he apparently lost his somewhere along the way. Topics ranged from travelling to babysitting (the inevitable subject between two people with too many younger cousins, nieces and nephews). Only half an hour left before this journey from hell is over and I must say it looks like it will end on a high note. Now, if only P. would pick up his phone…

 

1:45

Mental awareness: 100% (navigation system at full capacity), mood: stormy

Don’t worry, he said. I’ll pick you up from the station he said. Moral of the story? Never trust your little brother. Having toured the entire station and found P. waiting… nowhere, I finally managed to get him to answer the phone. It appears that it was LoL night, last night and every night, and he had only just woken up. Due to his phone ringing. Never mind. I am a grown woman, fully capable of navigating this city. To which I have never been before. Saddled with bags. With no map. In the pouring rain. I better get same damn good brownie points from the universe out of all this.

 

2:20

Mental awareness 80% (energy levels falling), mood: confused

Men come from the same planet as women, right? And dust is dust no matter how busy you are, right? Right? Took me nearly half an hour to found P.’s accommodation building, no thanks to this country’s inability to signpost the roads properly…. Had to face my immortal enemy: electronically locked doors. Tried to call brother and was promptly informed that I did not “have enough credit to make this call.” Tried following the instructions by the door and put the room’s code (which should have opened the door). Failed spectacularly. Tried again. And again. At this point a security guard came to see what’s the fuss. Explained the situation and was escorted to the reception, while (very understanding) guard went to knock on P.’s door to inform him of my arrival (and most likely wake him up). Popped in thirty seconds later to tell me that there was someone coming. Was that my brother? Lo and behold here was his Royal Lateness in his pajamas and flip-flops, coming to pick me up. Yes, he had only just rolled out of bed.

 

Walked up the stairs, through a maze of corridors, to his room. Paused nervously at the door.

“You weren’t joking about giving me a hand with cleaning, were you?” he asks. Would have cheerfully slapped him if it weren’t for the fact that I was so tired. As it were I limited myself to a frustrated “Just open the damn door!”

 

At this point I think a description of what I’m surrounded with is necessary. I will start with the premise that the expression “bombed” is no longer a cliché but very much a feasible reality. The drawers under the bed are hanging half-open and half-empty. The bed itself unmade (of course) and half-covered in posters. The desk practically invisible under the module handouts, empty bags of crisps, laptop gadgets and the occasional bundle of pennies. The kitchenette a qualified hazard zone. Nearly all the clothes stuffed in the laundry bag. Three bags of garbage by the door. Clusters of dust and fluff at the corners. I’m afraid to leave my perch on the bed to check on the bathroom.

 

Moral of the story? Never, under any circumstances, visit a first-year in university accommodation. The trauma is not worth it.

The Drowning

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The gentle breeze that greeted them the day before like a childhood friend’s caress had transformed overnight to an old warrior’s booming voice. The girl released the last knot from her sash as the wind picked up again, sticking the wet sarong on her legs and whipping the long hair to her face. In the grey-gold sunrise the waves below looked like mercury. Sprays of foam flew all the way up the cliff, where she was standing, landing at her feet and putting away the candles from the night before one by one.

 

She had stayed up with the full moon, sitting away from the others and their noisy laughing talk as the hours grew longer, the air colder and the sea wilder.

 

With a hysterical laugh she took a few steps forward and jumped in the water.

 

The water had been inky black and, even with the moon shining above, they had nearly lost the shore as they tried to swim out.

 

A deep breath bringing air to salt-burnt lungs. Another wave dragging her to its embrace. The current taking her by the hand, leading her in an intricate dance, now waltzing towards the ocean, the next moment back to the shore. The rapidly rising sun burning overhead, changing the water surrounding her from nearly silver to foggy grey and blue. Another large wave and then the silence –blessed silence- of the underwater. Darkness behind closed eyelids, blood pumping against eardrums, pressure building against the temples.

 

She had lain on the pebbled shore and named the constellations that were still visible, the stars going brighter with each breath held a little longer, until she was racing amongst them and she had to remind her body to breath, counting inhales and exhales, one-two, one-two, one-two.

 

Her body was left to move with the water currents, while she floated above it, flying with the wind until the need to exhale became too strong and she slammed back inside the heavy, heavy body, crawled to the shore, even as the waves pulled her legs back in like an insistent lover.

 

He had come to sit next to her, the touch of his hand too warm, sticking to her skin. Her breaths were heavy, doubly now that he was close, and she pushed him away violently, ignoring the surprised words from the others.

 

Lightheaded and giddy she let another stilted laugh escape her lips before standing on shaky legs and moving to the water again. The winds that she dreamed of never lasted enough, not hardly enough to drive the maddening pressure of people and their thoughts…

 

Voices disjointed as they reached her ears, too many different words crashing against one another and why can’t they just be QUIET for one moment?

 

…against her mind. Another deep breath and she dove under again for just one more minute of peace…one and a half…two…before the burning became painful and she burst out of the water, in front of the wave, swallowing water instead of air.

 

She had burnt her finger whilst lightning the candles, trying to save the battery on their phones just in case, because of course they’d remember to bring drinks but a flashlight had been too much to hope for.

 

This time it took longer to resurface and by the time she is on dry ground again they are all there to berate and ask and even as she coughed the last of the sea from her lungs and tried to fill them with air (when did breathing become a chore?) the ever-present pressure is back. So much noise and how can anyone understand anything, answer anything, when voices and faces blur in a mess that is not the fault of an oxygen-starved brain.

 

In the semi-darkness the ground had seemed so inviting, the faces, drawn with sharper lines from the yellow-orange light, friendlier somehow. It was an illusion, as much as her race with the constellations but she had allowed herself to believe it, if only for a few moments, before the noisy talk had started again.

 

What were you thinking? Are you alright? Do you need some water? (I just drank a wave-full, I think I’m all set.) Did you get dizzy? That wave was huge! How could you miss it? It’s too windy, we shouldn’t have stayed.

 

What’s wrong with you tonight? Can’t you have fun? Why were you carrying matches anyway? What else do you have in that bag? Did you bring any water bottles? We’re nearly out of drinks? Did anyone bring food? Where’s my phone? Where’s my shoes? Is that a shooting star? Quick! Make a wish!

 

Even as she dragged herself to her bag and picked her things from the ground her eyes kept returning longingly to the waves. She could hear them whisper invitingly, and though she followed the others back to the house, well, wouldn’t it have been better if she had stayed under, in all the peace and quiet?

R is for Red

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Oh red! My favourite colour. And apparently one of the “traditional” Christmas colours. I wonder why…. No, I’m not being sarcastic, I honestly wonder why. I get why they use it on Valentine’s Day (even if the association is incredibly morbid, if you think about it) but the only naturally Christmas-season thing (and just to be clear, I’m using “Christmas” as an umbrella term here because December-religious-celebrations sounds awful)…What was I saying? Oh, yes! The only seasonal thing that’s naturally red is the holly plant’s berries. And Santa’s outfit doesn’t count, sorry, that’s Coca Cola branding all over that image. Sorry if I just ruined somebody’s childhood.

 

If I had to rationalise it (bad idea) I’d say it’s because of the gloomy weather outside. Let’s be honest, in most of the Northern Hemisphere the weather right now is cold/snowy/rainy/freeze-your-toes-off/not pleasant. So what best way to stave off the blues caused by severe Vitamin D deficiency but make the inside of your house as bright and colourful as possible? Or that could be just me. It still doesn’t explain the horror that is those multi-coloured Christmas trees I saw (purple and bubble-gum pink, seriously?) but you have to admit, with as warm a colour as red, you’re bound to feel a bit better.

Q is for Queues

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One of my favourite Christmas songs (yes, I do have a few) is the “12 Pains of Christmas”. It always amazed me though, how they don’t mention the inevitable queues right before and right after Christmas. Queues are a tradition of their own, with rules, customs and code of conduct that appear incomprehensible to the outsider. Personally, as long as I’m not in a hurry, I find them hilarious. The things you overhear, the looks you get, especially around this time of the year! I’ve already finished my Christmas shopping and there is something very satisfying about standing in a queue at Tesco with only a milk while everyone else in the line is loaded up their ears with Christmas stuff. The expression “plan ahead” was hardly ever more apt.

 

There is only one kind of queue that I don’t care for. The one that forms in bus stops, especially when the bus is late. Especially at this time of the year. IT’S BLOODY FREEZING! The last thing you want (if you have my tendency to stuff your bag full of books) is to wait ten minutes out of the bus while somebody in the bus is taking their sweet time counting change. Have it ready jackass! Or get a pass! Some of us are freezing our toes off.

 

What’s your worst kind of queue? Or are they all just plain horrible?