The Outsider

Piece written on the theme of Inside / Outside for Writers HQ Flash Face Off for the week commencing 11th May.  The below image was one of the prompts provided and I based my piece on this.

Image credit: Vidar Nordli-Mathisen

The Outsider

We like those days. Cool, dry, still.

One of our favourite sights is when it is hazy and the mountains on the far side of the lake appear as light blue triangles. Reduced to shapes that do not mean anything, could be anything. Between the sky and the water.

Those of us that share the lake. Those of us that share the breathing of the air around and above the lake. Those of us that share its weather.

Those of us with gills and fins swimming through the water in the lake.

Those of us with wings and feathers soaring in the air above it.

Those of us who live and work around the lake, during the night or during the day.

Those of us who walk along the path around the lake, a circuit that takes hours to complete and never leaves sight of the shore. Starting at the village, passing the harbour, skirting the woods. The path passes yards away from the window of a room at the back of the old house. Your house. None of us ever see you come in or go out.

We never look in through the window. Maybe a glance. Through the open net curtains. When we are walking past, following the path, maybe we glance in. On sunny days when the yellow wallpaper is illuminated and the room looks like the inside of a sponge cake. When we are walking and hungry. But we never see you in there, looking out at us. We never see anyone inside. We might glance in and see a simple wooden chair in the corner. We might think of it when we are tired and longing for a seat.

Those of us with wings. Those of us might flit and land on the windowsill and twitch our heads from side to side, looking through the glass. Seeing but not comprehending the inside. What it is that goes on in that room, from day to day, month to month, how time passes there. How time passes for you.

We like those days. Cool, dry, still. We understand what the lake and the surrounding hills and woodlands will be like in the different seasons.

Who will come and go.  Which services will run.  Those of us on four legs.

How the waves will lap.  How warm they will be. Those of us with fins.

Which flowers. Which grubs. Those of us with wings.

We who spend so much time outside, us outsiders.

All of us. We get a sense of these things, the rhythm with which time passes at the lake. When things will be hard, when things will be beautiful.

Always Gonna

Piece written on the theme of Always / Never for Writers HQ Flash Face Off for the week commencing 4th May.  I will be reading this as part of an event on Crowdcast at 9pm this evening.

Always Gonna

4am, Rick Astley is on Ciao-Ciao’s mind.

“Alllwwwaayyss gonnnnaa giiiivvve yyoooouuu uuupppp…”

The voice, demonic – slowed like a tape warped on a loop of broken heart. Astley in all-denim moving with treacle slowness, his dance a taunt. Astley gyrating in his trenchcoat in an alleyway.

“Allwwwaayyss gonnnnaa llleetttt yyoooouu ddoowwwnnnn…”

This is not dream. This is product of imagination, stuck on the brambles that grow in Ciao-Ciao’s mind, never more thorny than at this time of the night-morning. 4am in all its stillness, the bogs and marshes devoid of light or movement, only the sound of the far away fog horn emitting like a pulse.

Beside Ciao-Ciao, Albert-O (gently sniffle-snoring (which must be evidence of having settled deep (recharging (but if so, why always slow and stagnant on waking? (maybe something unsettling (many many layers in his dreaming… (the sound of The Pet Shop Boys singing over and over, “YouWereNeverOnMyMind-YouWereNeverOnMyMind…”, the sped-up vocals in a mocking chipmunk-pitch, the song never giving up) buried deep) somehow remembered on waking) as if rest only adds to woes) replenishing fears and worries) and all this hidden, disguised, made to look peaceful) long inhalations, soft exhalations) sleeps, dreams.

“Allwwwaayyss gonnnnaa rrruuuunnnn aarrroouunnnndd…”

Really stretching out the syllables, doing all he can to rub in the acute sense of doubt. Now the image has lodged in Ciao-Ciao’s head, it will not leave again or cede to sleep.

“Aaannnnddd ddeessseeerrrttt yyoooouu.”


Sunrise brings things to life, drags the ground back up into verdant, undulating hills. At breakfast time, whilst they share eggs and coffee, Ciao-Ciao, fractured and brittle, worries that Albert-O (sluggish, beaten) won’t put up with this much longer. That Albert-O will give Ciao-Ciao up, let Ciao-Ciao down, run around, desert. Make Ciao-Ciao cry, say goodbye, tell a lie, hurt.

As soon as Albert-O has gone to WorkRoom One to do whatever it is that Albert-O does in there (first thing – firing up the video of You Were Always On My Mind to watch over and over until Albert-O feels loved again), Ciao-Ciao goes to WorkRoom Two and digs out a copy of Never Gonna Give You Up by Rick Astley.

When the record comes to life, the tempo is reassuringly upbeat, Rick’s voice is strong, warm, dependable. Ciao-Ciao listens five times over until sure again – Albert-O is never never never never never gonna give Ciao-Ciao up, it seems obvious in the daylight.