Insidious Demands

– Hey there pretty lady, are you sitting all alone? A beautiful lady like you shouldn’t be alone.

– Oh, erm, hello, I’m just waiting for my friends, they’ll be here soon. Any minute now.

– Why don’t I keep you company then, hmm? You look like you could do with some company, just until they get here.

– Well, um, I’m not sure… it’s a bit of a school reunion, you see? Not an official one, just the old gang getting together again. I’m really quite nervous, it’s been so long.

– That’s why you need me to talk to, make a new friend while you’re waiting for the old ones.

– Well maybe, I mean. Maybe they’ll think it’s rude if I’m talking to someone else…

– Hey now, you shouldn’t be worrying about that, when we’ve got this chance to get to know each other, hmm?

– Well, I suppose. And it’s the kind of thing that we used to do back then, just start chatting to some random stranger. Kirsty especially, I could tell you some crazy stories. Whenever we took the train we’d end up talking to some boys or making friends with an old tramp.

– Well that’s great, I think you and me already have a real connection, don’t you? How about I buy you a drink?

–  Oh I don’t want to start drinking yet. Once the others get here, then I imagine it will be a free-for-all. More alcohol than you can shake a stick at, you know? Not that we were alcoholics, but we did like a drink.

– You don’t need to be so uptight about it, just have a drink with me.

– Oh Kirsty would love you. She did like a pushy fella who’d buy her a drink, she liked to play with them, she wanted the risk. Oh, I can’t wait to see the old gang, I haven’t seen them in years, not that it should matter, I mean when you’re friends with someone, that’s it for life, isn’t it? They say your teenage friends are your greatest friends, right? Didn’t they say that in a film once? But we were all very different back then though, and there were reasons we stopped being friends…

– Right, well that’s interesting…

– Kirsty especially got out of hand, not violent exactly, but, well there were incidents. Not that it was her fault, if I’d had that man as my father I’d have done a lot more than throw bottles at a car. Of course it would be all different if we were kids now, we’d spend our whole lives on the phone chatting to paedophiles. And you know kids today, the only time they actually look at one another is when they need to take a selfie, or a we-lie, or is it an us-y? I don’t know why they need to keep making up new words, like there aren’t enough words to deal with already. I mean there’s a whole dictionary full of the things.

– How about I get us that drink..?

– Anyway, I was telling you about Kirsty, you’ll like her, all the boys did at school. It’s odd because she was never that fastidious about personal hygiene, but then they say attraction is all about pheromones, so maybe she just didn’t wash hers off as much. You’d think the feet smell would mask the pheromones though wouldn’t you?

– Mmm.

– Fastidious, now there’s an interesting word that kids today never use. They’re too busy with their OMGs and YOLOs. But anyway, Kirsty, apparently she’s a big shot consultant now, earning a fortune in the city. Well it’s not really surprising, she was always clever. Clever and bored, that was her problem, school just wasn’t enough to occupy her, she could pass exams without even studying, lucky cow.

– Well that’s great, but maybe…

– Anyway, we all found each other on Facebook, it’s amazing isn’t it? Modern technology? Fifteen years, all five of us scattered across the globe. All going about our business never expecting to see each other again. Then a few clicks of the mouse and there you are, the whole gang together. Kirsty, Jennifer, Archisha, little Sarah and big Sarah. Of course big Sarah is not so big now. She actually looks fantastic. Not that she didn’t when she was a teenager, but, well, you know what it’s like for larger girls, it’s tough. Except it’s probably fine now, now that obesity is so common. Big Sarah would probably be considered quite svelte. Quite svelte Sarah we’d have to call her. Although I expect we’d be arrested under the Political-Correctness-Gone-Mad Act for it. You know at my son’s school they actually have a points system for bullying? Like with driving, you get too many points for picking on other kids and you have to take an anti-bullying test. Well, I said to the teacher, that’s just another form of bullying isn’t it? You’re bullying my son now, how about you take a test? How about I set that damn test? And yes, I did swear, but you can’t let these teachers push you around, can you?

– Ok, um, I really need to go now…

– Oh sorry, sorry, I got totally side-tracked, I was telling you about the gang, wasn’t I? Well there was Jennifer, sweet, mousy Jennifer. All the boys who didn’t go for smelly Kirsty, went for Jen. I never really understood why, I mean, she was pretty in a bland, unthreatening way, but there was no spark to her. Maybe that’s what they liked, someone who’d make them feel sparky by comparison. Boys don’t like to try too hard do they?

– Lady, let go of my arm…

– But I haven’t told you about Archisha and she’ll be here any minute. And hers is such a lovely story. When she joined the gang she was much like Jennifer, mousy. She followed us around with those big eyes, trying to make jokes, but she wasn’t funny, just awful. Then one of the boys took a shine to her and then she started to take a shine to herself, you know? I mean, we helped her out with make-up, lent her clothes and so on, but it was a total transformation, she blossomed. Became a bit full of herself to be honest, and she didn’t stop cracking those awful jokes, but the boys would just laugh and laugh, trying to impress her. I suppose they thought she was exotic, or is that impolitically correct now too?

– I need to go, please let me go…

– Yes, that’s right, you run along now. Run right along.

 

Originally posted March 19th 2016

Look At This! It’s A Thing!

I am the shill, hear me roar!

IMG_6907
An orangutan unimpressed with my roar

So here again is a small excerpt from my book which got published, and you can even buy it right here. It’s all about magic, love, drugs and the pursuit of something, anything, beyond the humdrum. It’s about how imagination is a powerful force for both creation and destruction.

Vurt is raging now, preaching about the evils of cocaine, of billy, the evils of all drugs.

“It’s all just sloppy! Sloppy and messy. Look at yourselves choking and gacking and sweating.   Don’t you get it? There’s nothing cool about this. This is too easy, too obvious. Anybody can take cocaine!” His podgy face is patched with red and he is lurching about the kitchen in a frenzy of belief. I shimmy over to the breakfast counter, lick my finger and dip it into the powder sack. Cant makes his way over and is looking at me all cute-eyed and squirmy. I hold out my white-coated finger to him.

“Suck on it rich boy.”

He narrows his eyes, takes my hand in his and my finger into his mouth. His tongue is rough like a cat’s. He starts gagging, flailing around for something to take away the taste. I jive away across the kitchen. Vurt is still preaching, so I put my hands on his shoulders and dance in time to his words.

edging 2

Or if spending money seems a bit drastic, then there’s the easier way of getting more of my writing and hearing about my new project as it happens, by signing up here.  This is perfectly safe, and I won’t spam you with lots of emails, I’ll only write when I’m doing something interesting.

 

Shameless Self-Promotion

I am a shill. I will continue my campaign of pestering, but I will keep these posts brief and just post a little from my just published novel Riddled with Senses. It’s the story of what happens when the lives of two teenage girls collide; one a drug addled cynic, the other a bizarre loner whose imagination has taken over her life.

If you are intrigued by the style and ideas in these small snippets, then you will probably like the book, so if you fancy something to read…

Nobody mentions it, but there are two types of insanity. One is the unstable mind, that’s the one they make films about, the romantic insanity, a person out of control and capable of almost anything. But the other is the madness of the stable mind, where behaviour is illogical and damaging but every day it is exactly the same. This is the life of my parents, irrational and distressing, crazy as a flock of loons trapped in a plastic bag, but never changing.

Goodreads

This is a general post about Goodreads, plus a small plug and a few questions for all you smart internet-sters out there.

What is Goodreads?

I suspect most of you already know what this website is, I’m always last to be a newbie, but in case you don’t know:

Goodreads is a massive hub for both writers and readers. It has many forums, discussing fiction and the ideas in factual books, as well as authors sharing information about the art of writing and how to self publish. It also allows authors to put up their books and information about themselves, so that readers can find them.

I am now on there!

My just-published book Riddled with Senses is now up, right here, in fact.

And now the questions…

  • So do you use Goodreads?
  • If so is it for learning about new books to read? Or promoting your own writing? (or both?)
  • Are there any good books you have found through it?
  • Do you write on the forums?
  • Which groups have you found interesting/useful?

And, if you’re interested in connecting up with other bloggers on here, then please say your username – I’m on there as Petra Jacob, and currently friendless, so if anyone wants to add me, that would be great.

 

Update! Update!

riddle-cover
I wrote this!

So I just got an email telling me that my book is now on Amazon, which is all kinds of ridiculous and exciting.

Here’s the page Amazon link

And here’s an extract, in case you’re in the mood to be persuaded (or dissuaded, whatever takes your fancy).

I try to exist only as an unreal being striding with large steps across the ocean. In the small, grey, scurrying world I live a little less each day, shrink my shadow so the pedestrians can’t step on it, breathe a little less of the stagnant air. I have a method, it has taken many years to perfect.

“Don’t become another dull fart,” my grandmother used to hiss, “the world has too many dull farts, just look at your parents! They’re like talking wallpaper. You have to be different, you have to stay shiny, not get weighed down and dusty, they’ll never find you if you’re weighed down and dusty.”

“Who?” I would squeak.

“And don’t behave. Don’t get too attached, don’t become part of the parade,” she said through blue smoke curling around brown smoke, her eyes darting to the door to check Bloater wasn’t listening in, “the routines, the rules, it’s all dust. You have to keep shaking it off or you’ll end up looking just like the rest of them. You have to stay shiny.”

 

A Novel Extract: Riddled with Senses

This is a little bit from my novel which is currently weaving its way through the printers. It’s written mostly from the point of view of a Hazel, a bitter seventeen year old, here writing in her diary right before her life gets thrown upside-down. It’s a little different to how I write now, more intense, more cynical, more lyrical I think.

Finally we tumbled wearily into Ditchley Park where we are slouching the morning with relief, isolated in nature where pedestrians daren’t tread. Outside the fence we can see them hurry and fluster from one dull detail to the next, huffing and rasping, out of focus at the edges of our movie.

We stretch out the hours sinking into the grass. Cant makes a small crop circle in the grass, walking his fingers in a spiral, pretending to be a little alien impressing the ants. We talk in rhymes, feel out of time, easy, tricking the light and dancing the dust, sleazy, slightly stoned and wheezy.

“This is how life should be,” declares Cant and I know he’s right, of course it should, no shouting, no hither and thither, no distress. We wonder why our tragic species ever strayed from the park, why leave the place we truly belong in order to create a world of confusion? Is that really evolution? Why do we need forms, bar codes and barriers? Why spend all that time building things only to smash them up to make space for new things? Why bitch and bicker? Why catch trains or buy stamps or wear stilettos?

“If people just thought to ask us, we could sort all this mess out,” says Cant thoughtfully chewing on a daisy, “but people never think.”

“If someone set up cameras and a news network in the park, then we could share our newfound understanding with the world,” I add.

We fill in the gaps to our New Theory of Where Man Went Wrong, plotting his tragic journey from park to street; his simple beginnings surrounded by grass, with easy access to the public toilets and the mobile cafe selling hot drinks and dogs to the complexities of corners and escalators; from happy, upright species to hunched, wary carcasses.

“The biggest nail in the coffin was when we started building banks,” declares Cant.

We’re thinking of selling our thesis to a science graduate, they’re all fucked on drugs anyway, they’d never realise it was bollocks and we could make a fortune.

When lunch comes around we walk back to school slowly and sadly, vowing one day to return to the park and bring others, to show them the way life should be. Back in the melting and solidifying streets, we pick up our pace, our thoughts quickening, becoming brittle, our spines in a stoop, our brows in a furrow. We become townies once again.

 

 

The Polite Girl

These walls shall run red with your blood and echo with your screams. Not as revenge, but as a smoothing of fate, a coercion with destiny. Your horror will finally satiate me, your end will be my beginning.

Clare shyly raised her hand and Mrs Devonshire turned instantly towards her,

“Yes, Clare?”

“Is the answer Slovenia, miss?” asked Clare.

“Yes, excellent work,” Mrs Devonshire smiled with a tip of her head, wanting Clare to feel warmth radiating out from her. Clare looked down at her hands.

Of course it is excellent, cretin. I can toss you meaningless facts while your future is sealed.

Mrs Devonshire turned back to the board and started speaking, but was interrupted by the bell. Twenty-seven identically dressed children filed towards the door, Clare moving with them, trying to lose herself in the flow. Mrs Devonshire stepped forwards, blocking her; she spoke discreetly,

“Now, Clare, you know you have your meeting with the therapist now?” Clare responded with a duck of her head and an embarrassed shrug. It was lies, she wasn’t embarrassed, but it was what they wanted.

“I know you don’t like it, but it’s important for someone who’s been through…well, what you’ve been through.” Mrs Devonshire’s voice was dripping with pity and Clare smiled a wan, long suffering smile, before quickly escaping out of the door.

You know nothing of what I have been through, how dare you presume! With mediocrity stunting your growth, you cannot conceive of my experiences. You believe because you have stolen my life, that you can define it? Idiot!

Clare’s therapist was called Tom, he spoke slowly, with a tone that rose and fell with the regularity of a ticking clock.

“Now, I think that last time we met we were making some real progress talking about the abuse you suffered…”

Clare had quickly zoned out. She had no difficulty keeping an interested look on her face, while her thoughts swooped and danced. Her face was mild, but her thoughts boomed.

You would call the creation of a God, abuse? You would rather grovel in your mentally healthy cage, so clean and empty of glory? That was not abuse, it was a release from the bone cage.

Clare wasn’t allowed contact with her parents, they were considered a toxic presence, but it didn’t matter, they had taught her what she needed to know. They had given her strength and knowledge that dwarfed anything these scurrying ants had ever known. So she attended the therapy sessions, she sat through school, she kept her expression neat. She kept the raging vengeful God inside, all her power and fury waiting, just like she had been taught.

“You’re probably experiencing many emotions that are difficult to process: guilt, anger, feelings of abandonment…”

Clare did not feel abandoned. Her parents had set her free. They had made the ultimate sacrifice, having trained her, empowered her, they had thrown themselves into the jaws of the system, so that she might escape.

But like all good parents, they would never leave her on her own without giving her instructions on how to survive, how to evolve, and how to smash her way through the world leaving bloody, wailing destruction in her wake. It just wasn’t her time quite yet. She folded one hand in the other and looked dreamily out of the window, while the therapist droned on. This fool would be the first to die, she would make sure of it.

 

All That’s Wrong with Technology

A previous story of Bert here

Bert didn’t really pay much attention to the TV, instead he liked to have it on as a background to inspire his theories. They were watching an old episode of Star Trek, and Captain Kirk and Spock had just beamed down to a planet that looked a lot like painted fibre glass. While his wife carefully combed chewing gum out of the cat’s fur, Bert relished his indignation,

“Look at that! He used his communicator to talk to Uhura, then he just shut it again! Look! He’s just carrying on with his life! He’s not opening it again to check Facebook, is he? He doesn’t hunch over his communicator with a glazed expression for hours on end! And Spock and Kirk are still talking to each other, and they’re even looking at each other, instead of glancing down at their communicators all the time, hoping no one will notice. I tell you, Star Trek got it all wrong, they had no clue how stupid we were! No one could have predicted that.”

March of the Luddite

Most people shuffle reluctantly into old age, but not Bert. Bert had spent his youth feeling put upon, pushed to do stuff, to get involved. He looked forward to his twilight years as if they were surrounded by a warm golden glow: he would get old, he would buy slippers, he would complain, he would watch the kind of crap gameshow telly that his peers scoffed at but he secretly loved. And now it had happened. He was only fifty-four, but he had leapt on the chance to be a curmudgeon with gleeful determination.

He was sat in his favourite chair, the one that had dark patches that perfectly fitted his head and elbows. The one that groaned in tune with his own groans when he sat down. He was watching old episodes of Deal or no Deal that he seen many times before, so that he could mumble along. When the adverts came on he did puzzles on his iPad while he grumbled to his wife, who was doing yoga at the other end of the room.

“Technology thinks I care about it way more than I do,” he said. He waited for a grunt from his wife to show he was listening and then he went on. “All I want from my technology is for it to do my bidding; I press the button it does the thing, the end. I don’t want it to know me, I don’t want it to suggest things to me or to disagree with me. ‘Are you sure that’s what you want to do?’ says some text box and then it does something I didn’t want it to do at all. ‘How about you personalise the experience?’ it wheedles at me. But I don’t need a cutesy photo on my phone to express my personality. ‘D’you want to announce to the world you just bought a toaster shaped like an armadillo?’ No, I bloody don’t.”

He never got very far with his puzzles, to be honest he didn’t really like doing them, they made him feel stupid. So instead he used them as an opportunity to complain.

“And I don’t like this wavy fingered thing either. Touch screen technology, is that what they call it? My fingers don’t do that. On a good day I can tie my shoelaces. I don’t want to accidentally open a dozen programs every time I try to type.” His point made, the adverts over, Bert wriggled deeper into his cardigan and sighed a happy, contented sigh. Life was always good now.

Gone Girl – A Tale of Abuse

gone-girl

There’s been plenty written about Gone Girl, about whether it is feminist, anti-feminist, post-modern and so on, but I’ve not seen anyone talking about how it seemed to me – a story of domestic psychological abuse. The victim in the story is worn down, isolated and humiliated while the abuser is manipulative, controlling and demanding. However, this is not seen as a story of domestic violence because the victim is a man.

For anyone who hasn’t read it, the tale is of a woman who marries her ‘perfect’ man and then tries to change him. When he doesn’t change in the way that she wants, she slowly destroys him; then disappears and frames him for her murder. The book is about him trying to prove his innocence.

At first when they get together, Amy pretends to be someone she’s not  (the ‘cool girl’) and when her real personality comes out – uptight, bitchy, controlling – he doesn’t like it and she takes this as a rejection and betrayal, for which he must be punished. From Amy’s point of view, she is the wronged party (which is common with abusers), she doesn’t accept that she started the relationship with a lie. Everything he does is taken as a slight. She sets him tests that he can only fail, and then instead of discussing it with him, she acts hurt; putting the blame for a situation she created, onto him. He learns to be constantly wary of letting her down, but her moods are so unpredictable, he can’t avoid getting things wrong. She isolates him from the people he loves, she belittles him until he starts to doubt himself. She slowly and deliberately breaks him, so that he becomes emotionally numb and dependent on her as the only one who can make him feel. If the genders were reversed, there would be no doubt that this was a well-written tale of abuse.

What set me thinking about this again was seeing a friend a few days ago. This friend has been in an abusive relationship now for over a decade. His wife is like Amy, in that she has a need to be perfect and believes that she is and he is not, so he must change. She insults him in front of his friends, shoves and pokes him, and blackmails him (if you leave me you’ll never see the kids again). Some of his friends think she’s a bitch, but no one acknowledges that this is abuse. Crucially, he doesn’t recognise this as abuse, and is now so worn down believing himself to be deserving of her scorn, that he can’t walk away.*

I think we are reaching a point where it is acknowledged that domestic violence can include women being violent towards men, but psychological abuse towards men is never labelled as such,and is even made a joke of. If a relationship is manipulative and isolating, and involves the slow destruction of one person’s psyche, then it is abuse.

More disturbingly, women are often encouraged in society to change the man they love. Instead of pursuing their own ambitions, they are expected to live out their dreams through their male partner. I’d have hoped this would have changed now that women have careers and passions outside the home, but it still seems to be a normal part of society. Of course, we all want to change small things about the ones we love when flaws affect us: persuading your partner to be a little more careful with money or a bit tidier; but these should always be minor details in a relationship built on genuine love and respect for who the other person is. And it’s a two-way street, a discussion, not a demand. If you genuinely don’t think someone is good enough for you, if you don’t respect their hopes for the future, then don’t marry them. Trying to ‘change your man’ to fit your own ideal is abusive.

My friend’s wife recently said to him,

“You were always intended as a project. I married you because I thought I could make you into something great. You’ve failed me.” To her, this is completely reasonable. Sadly, he now sees it the same.

Until we recognise that women can be perpetrators of abuse and that that abuse does not have to include violence, there will be no chance of stopping it. If we want equality then we must recognise that men can be vulnerable and that a relationship is about mutual respect and acceptance of each other’s failings, as well as a celebration of our differences. I think Gone Girl highlighted this brilliantly, it seems a shame that no one picked up on it.

*I feel I need to explain, my friend is not a submissive or weak man, he has always been funny, confident and tough. To look at him you would never think him a victim. I’ve found this is often the case with abused women also, it seems that if you and everyone else believe you can’t be a victim, then you are more likely to become one. Perhaps because your abuser’s interpretation that they are the victim fits better with your belief that you are strong.