Thursday, 2 March 2017

Day 2 - "This has made my day."

"This has made my day!"
"Like, I'm not even kidding, the rest of the hours might as well take the rest of it off and just chalk themselves up to tomorrow. Today has officially peaked."

He grinned at her in amazement. Camel coat studded with grey and black fluff from that enormous scarf draped loosely around her shoulders, dirty blonde hair not quite grown out enough to stay behind her ears; the strands hastily and ultimately fruitlessly pushed away with a habitual nonchalance at rapidly successive intervals.

A video of a dog riding a tiny bike.
That was all.
You'd think there was free money involved, but no.

That something so simple could elicit such a genuine, heartfelt and arguably even excessive joy was one of the many things he loved about her.
I mean liked about her.
As a friend.


The expectant look from under rapidly descending hair suggested a question had been left unanswered. Fuck any question that wasn't "Why aren't we kissing?" quite frankly, but he got the feeling that that particular declaration would elicit nothing even close to dog levels of joy and, quite frankly, he didn't want to spoil what had been a lovely afternoon.

"You should get a hat."

"What?" The scarf slipped from her shoulder, exposing her neck with an almost clich├ęd shiver.

"If you're cold," he felt his hands move to catch the falling material, and quickly grasped the lining of his pockets instead, "you should get a hat. It would stop you being cold and keep your hair out of your eyes: cosy and efficient."

"How did you know my Tinder bio?" The flash from both baby blues and pearly whites plunged straight to the pit of his stomach.

"Ha. I'm uh, I'm not sure efficient isn't some kind of a back-handed compliment. Maybe that's why you're not getting any matches?"

The flush in his face pulsing right to the tips of his ears, her eyes eventually darted to something way off behind him.

"Maybe. Or maybe, I'm just looking in all the wrong places? I mean, they do say you should surround yourself with the things you love and everything else will follow, right?"

He swallowed.


It clicked.

"Pets at Home. You're talking about Pets at Home, aren't you."

"Maybe... I mean, they're baby rabbits, but that's almost as good as baby dogs."

"You are a complete and utter-"

But his feet were already heading in the direction of the pet store, pulled by the physical embodiment of a joy so infectious he couldn't help but laugh.

"LOOK at them! Why would you look for love anywhere else!?"

He smiled.

"You're right,"

He watched as she leaned closer over the pen, hair all-but cascading in front of her face as she pushed it repeatedly back across her cheek, delightedly making noises that he was sure no self-respecting rabbit would ever recognise or respond to.

"This has made my day."

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Day 1 - Blank Space

It's that ear-rush of silence.
A blinking cursor betrayed by a heavy, laboured e. lip. sis.
The inked equivalent of an ineffectual, trailing "...and, so, yeah."
It's flat and stark, as far as the eye can see.
Face down, cheek to the expanse.
A goldfish mouth of words that escape without forming.
Distracted isn't the word. Distraction requires a distracting thought. This is a lost train of thought run aground. Standing room only; no survivors.
At least a (writer's) block makes a noise when you strike it; an empty screen still hums.
The silent, blank-paper stare shows no remorse.
Then again, if those looks are killing unjustly, then why don't you have something to say?

Monday, 6 April 2015

Day 35: Dear Me

Dear Me,
Right, deep breath.
This isn't going to be easy, and you've been putting it off for nearly a week, but it's ok, you've got this.
So, firstly, it's not OK. Not really. Not at all in fact. About a week ago, you received one of the two calls that every child dreads, the one that boils down to your Mum being in hospital and it not looking good.
It's not looked good since.
It's not looked good since you sat sobbing on that last train from Paddington, the first train you could get on, wracked with fear and despair and an overwhelming sense of the world being dragged from under you.
It's not looked good since you were first ushered in to that cubicle in A&E, through the ambulance entrance normally not even open to the public, or since the heartbreaking but strangely calming conversation with the organ donor doctor.
It's not looked good since you re-entered that room in ICU, at 6:30am, coming on 24 hours awake, ill-prepared for the next 6 hours of watching the life slowly drain from your own mother's body. But then, I don't think anyone could ever be prepared for that, not really, and neither do you, not really.
You've been scared of writing this, I know. Scared of what it would do, what it would mean, and scared of what it might do to those going to read it who have been going through this too.
But in truth, it has happened, and it is awful, and heartbreaking and devastating, and all those other gut-wrenching adjectives and it is precisely these reasons why you should write about it.
It is because of this writing challenge that your Mum was able to read how much she meant to you, still means to you, a few short weeks ago, on Mothers' Day no less, and to know in no uncertain terms how much you loved and still love her, and how grateful you are to have been blessed with having her as your Mum.
It still hasn't sunk in and it won't for a long time, perhaps it never truly will, but for now, there is a small comfort in knowing that you were able to express those things to her, in your own time and on your own terms, as a qualifier to all those other things you uttered sat by that bed, grasping her hand with all your might, tears streaming down your face.
At the end of the day, that's precisely who this is not about: you. This is about your Mum who raised you, and loved you, and was fiercely proud of your writing and creativity and who would have wanted you to carry on.
So, that's what you must do now, and keep choosing to do every day, in every sense, because she was and still is your Mum, and that is how you were raised.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Day 34: What's The Point Of Twitter?

When I was first given this topic on day -2 of this writing challenge I will admit to briefly considering the true, but admittedly rather generic platitudes I could envisage throwing its way: 'Twitter is about community, and togetherness.' etc, etc.

Today, those inverted commas crumbled.

Today I was privileged enough to be in the room at Channel 4 as a group of incredible young people entered in to an impassioned dialogue with MPs and senior Channel 4 staff about what would change #IfWeRanThings.

Privileged enough to not only be in the room, but to be on Twitter capturing, pushing and furthering the conversation happening both among attendees and those outside the room: a frenzied stream of opinion, observation, sheer expectant energy and a whole load of selfies. People not in the room, at their day jobs, at school, somewhere across the country, the other side of the proverbial closed door, engaging with, informing and even just witnessing the conversation, in all its nuanced, fast-paced and damn important glory.

Pretty cool, right?

Today, in that room, the point was made that social media is power, and that young people are so incredibly powerful. Twitter, social media, is a tool for mobilising, uniting, sharing, a tool for seeking, and connecting, and amassing a movement on a global scale in a way that generations before us simply couldn't, in ways they simply didn't have access to. The instant connection, the spread of a message, the force of conviction and the promotion to power in every which sense, right from the traditional to the newly-conventional: we are the most powerful generation there has ever been.

Twitter is part of my job, but it's more than that: there are up to 5 accounts linked to my phone at any one time including my own personal one and I make no secret of the fact that community management and the power of social media for good is something that can often be relied upon to get me out of bed of a morning. (I have a life, honest)

A tweet is an expression of a moment.

I have witnessed first-hand the power of being called out to directly, albeit as a branded identity, in a moment of solitary anguish, and conversely being essentially CC'ed in on celebrations of youth, and of life, and know the vital power of being able to engage with each of those moments, across the whole spectrum, and ensuring that in those moments, those young people feel heard.

Twitter is not a broadcast channel, and to treat it as such belittles both it and its users. All 288 million of us.

Twitter is designed for dialogue, be you brand, band, or bank, and every time you start that conversation there are 288 million people listening, 288 million potential connections.

That may sound daunting, but to me, that says 288 million possibilities.

Yes, Twitter may seem without a point at times, but, when what you see on the platform is entirely curated by you, to that I would counter that you're just not following the right people, and with 288 million possibilities, you really are spoiled for choice. And if you're not following me, @abigailchantal, then quite frankly, on your own head be it.

After all, Twitter is power.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Day 33: Elephants

Eyes lock

A moment's pause, a hitch of breath.
A thud down through the pit of your stomach

Suddenly aware of your tongue, your lips, the moisture in your mouth, the tension of muscles as you slowly swallow for no reason.

A sigh.

Of contentment, of relief: a burden lifting.
No distraction, no gimmicks, just, being.

That gradual, familiar warmth of just, knowing.
See yourself in their reflection, recognise your best mirrored back through increasingly familiar eyes,
Quiet, giddy excitement punctuating the unspoken

The elephant in the room.

Inspired by this from Nick Helm.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Day 32: Dear Future Husband

Dear Future Husband,

Hi :)

Alright, so, nice one Abi, a smiley face potentially not the best first impression, but I'm nervous OK: a life sentence is a pretty big deal, and I was just trying to be polite.

I have so many questions, least of all who you are, where you are, and how we might come to meet, but I guess at this point you may not be able to answer any or all of those either, so like me, they can wait.

I wasn't sure how I was going to organise these thoughts, (yeah, that'll be a recurring theme, and not just in my writing) but there's one thing I think bears addressing straight off here: expectation.

For all I know, future husband, you do not exist. (Is a rhetorical letter a thing?) For all I know, marriage, monogamy and the standard, socially accepted template existence is not in my future and that's OK. A little daunting perhaps, but OK.

This idea that we are all mere halves of a whole, killing time before we cobble together our existence with the boy next door or Dave from accounts seems pretty, well, limiting. I suggested further up this letter that I'm waiting for you to appear, future husband, but that's not strictly true, and as questionable as my track record is with men, I would like to think you're the kind of person who would more than encourage the whole not-waiting thing.

For a while though, I was. For a while I was a person who couldn't quite see her worth as a whole entity, a person dragging her heels and telling herself that things would be better, things would be OK and that life would be so much more, when you, or a pretender to your throne came along.

I'll admit that the idea that having a partner (and thus being deemed worthy of love by someone) was a crucial box to be ticked, held me back for a while, but it occurs to me that while the prospect of sharing a life and of building memories and traditions with someone sounds pretty fucking great, if nothing has come before that, if you've both sat around and told yourself no to the world and all its opportunities and experiences, then, future husband, what the hell is there going to be to talk about?

It occurs to me that in all this the other unhelpful thing is this judgement from others based on the idea that your worth is decided by anyone other than yourself. When people question your lack of a relationship, compare you to peers who've fast-tracked to wedded bliss and family, tell you 'your time will come.'

Well thanks, well-meaning bystander, but what if it doesn't? Let's say I'm staring down the barrel of 60-odd years of no one-person to come home to, no big day, no honeymoon, no fairytale I do. Am I a lost cause because of it? A wasted life? Of course not. Someone not in a relationship, or a marriage, or any kind of partnership is fulfilled, enriched, passionate, and content, just as the family with 2.4 children, maybe even more so, but there's clearly something about society's restrictive narrative that prompts us to pity, to console, to go out of our way to view the situation negatively.

There may well be negative feelings associated with not being in a relationship, but no more so than the ones that can come with long-term partners and family life.

To live is human, not to live either alone, or in tandem. There is no qualifier.

I've got better at not caring though. I could tell you future husband that I simply don't care what other people think now, but that would be a lie, and well, that's not the best thing to base a marriage on, now, is it?
Learning to trust your own judgement, listen to your own reasoning, isn't something that came naturally me, and it still doesn't. Every day I make a choice, and a conscious effort to uphold it, and as with everything, the repeated action in time becomes habit. Maybe by the time we meet I will care even less.

Dear future husband, I hope you are a reader. Not least because a love of books and the written word is a sure sign of a beautiful, intriguing, attractive mind, but also because as your future wife, it's my duty to let you in on a little secret.

As your future wife, there will be times we disagree, times we shout and fight, and times when I inadvertently tail off mid-sentence, or brush away a question.
This is not a test; a hand of cards dealt around a dimly-lit table with the stakes set high at A Happy Ending. Nor is it a game to play, to taunt you or rile you, but instead a part of me that I am simply declaring, right here, right now, cards on the table, long before we have even met.

You see, as a writer, not everything in my head makes it out through my mouth. Often, writing acts as a voice for the thoughts, feelings and questions that, perhaps ironically, I cannot always find the words for, at least not out loud. Often, my subconscious plays out here too, things I am perhaps unaware of or hadn't really realised, or even considered about myself, scattered across seemingly unrelated subjects, like the occasional glowing ember among the ashes of a dying fire.

So dear, future husband I hope you are a reader, because my writing can tell you more about me than I ever could, for better or for worse, and while there won't be a test, my writing is very much a part of me, and the secrets you may inadvertently unearth could well be some of the secrets to our happiness.
That may sound selfish, and indulgent, but future husband, hopefully you don't misunderstand me. Perhaps you, too, are a writer, and I can glean that same kind of unspoken understanding from you, but if not, know that however it is you choose to express things, I'll be listening.

Future husband, apologies that this is a bit of a long one, I mean, especially if you're not a reader, (Be honest, did you even make it this far? And yes, I realise that this is a redundant question if not) but in the words of the girl in Mean Girls who doesn't even go here, I just have a lot of feelings. If you're not appreciative of that reference, wait, who am I kidding, we wouldn't be married if you weren't at least vaguely appreciative of that reference, forget I even said anything.

So I'll sign this off now. Don't feel obliged to respond, but hey, it might be nice...

Until we meet, have fun, and here's to our future adventures, wherever, whenever, and if ever they may be.


Saturday, 21 March 2015

Day 31: Fate and Fairytale

It's funny when you look back on the choices and circumstances that have led you to a certain point or place and consider the exact chain of events that have resulted in your now day-to-day.
I read a quotation recently that proffered the idea that "There's nowhere you should be other than where you are right now."
That to me suggests that acceptance is optimal and while that is of course true up to a point, the right amount of restlessness and seeking of a particular kind of enlightenment is both healthy and productive.
The interesting sequences of events for me are those that seem to stray in to the realm of oddly fortuitous serendipity. Those almost inexplicable choices that mysteriously align and seem to lead you down a certain path or towards a certain outcome and eventually cause you to stop and consider the possibility that some kind of 'higher power' or perhaps reasoning might have played a part in where you find yourself.
That feeling of "imagine if I hadn't" that seems to accompany the overwhelming sense that things are almost exactly as they should be, thanks to a series of (un)fortunate events and some sort of cosmic alignment.
I think there's a certain comfort in the idea that every now and again we can take a back seat of sorts and revel in the idea that 'no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should' (Desiderata <3) but while we may well only be a passenger of sorts, it is still up to us to be present and to react in our own best interests and ultimately help fashion our own endings, fate or no fate, fairytale or otherwise.