Saturday, 26 June 2010

Journey VI – Hive

The night-time glow penetrated the material of the tent, casting my belongings in a dim, slate grey relief. Something had awoken me. I knew it was not morning or anywhere near. I could just make out the length of my sleeping bag and the bulge of my feet at the bottom of it, and the discarded clothes and other objects filling the space between me and the sides of the tent itself – my socks, my waterproofs, my papers and pencils, my sunglasses and my boots, my hat and my shorts. To my left there were the openings into the rucksack, unzipped, spilling open, revealing containers of coffee, matches, chocolate, toiletries and cutlery, first aid kit and yet more underwear.
I sensed a presence outside rather than heard it. I wondered if I should wake Miranda. Presumably she was in there, buried somewhere among my damp and musty belongings but I had no sense of her. As time had gone by I’d learned to recognise her scent and hear her tiny movements – even her breathing, but the moment was horribly still. I knew sometimes she went out alone at night – to get some fresh air she said, or to clear her head but I knew there was something she was not telling me. I wondered if she was looking for something, or hiding from something, or meeting someone. For some reason this last possibility made me angry and depressed. I lay there on my back, looking at the stitching along the ridge, waiting for something to happen, not daring to move.
She always said she could take care of herself, and she’d told me not to ‘be such an old woman’ but I couldn’t help it. Every time I tried to relax and clear my mind, like she’d shown me, my head just got crowded up again with images of her mangled body and her crying alone and lost and cold out there somewhere. It was like she had no idea how small she was now. A couple of times I’d hurt her just by being a bit clumsy and she’d yelled at me and made a terrible fuss, but then she’d go on at me for suggesting that she was in any danger out alone at night with who-knew-what prowling about out there. I don’t know. It was like she just had to do it, to prove something.

After what seemed like hours there was the unmistakable sound of something enormous shifting, turning and getting up, moving off and pushing its way between the trees. Immediately there was more light and more air, as if the thing had been casting a huge shadow. Then other sounds became audible – the normal night time hubbub of insects and small mammals scurrying around in the leaves. Had they been waiting for it to leave so they could go about their business? Soon after that I heard a tiny person pull open a zip, push her way into the interior of the rucksack and close the zip behind her. I waited for her to settle but after a while I could tell she wasn’t able to sleep either. I asked quietly if she was alright but there was no reply. I resolved to ask her about it in the morning but when I did she claimed not to know what I was on about and changed the subject. Sometimes it seemed like she had only two moods – angry or happy, that was all. Luckily for me she seemed happy most of the time.

Summer was taking on the unmistakable tones of autumn as we moved along. The path she led me along had taken an awkward turn up into the mountains again, through a narrow ravine and along the side of another gorge, which felt wrong to me, but I didn’t like to argue. There wouldn’t have been any point anyway. Miranda travelled up on top of my pack or straddling the nape of my neck, still dressed in nothing but my red silk neckerchief, giving instructions, pointing the way.
At other times she went on ahead, leaving the piece of cloth behind and making me promise not to look as she skipped on ahead, leaping from boulder to boulder, or up into the branches of a tree to get a better look at the way ahead. Later on she’d reappear, demurely, peering at me from behind a log and holding her hand out for her ‘sarong’. Usually she was wearing her evil grin when this happened, but a few times, after a particularly long time away (sometimes she didn’t reappear until after dark) I could see she was cut and bruised and in need of some comfort although she would never admit it. Times like that she curled up into my lap or under my fleece and fell asleep there. I had to be careful not to roll over and squash her.

I didn’t really find out how bad things were until one night I was waiting up for her – a totally soot-black night full of movement and smells. I was really worried about her and lit an extra big campfire because I thought it would help guide her home. It was the first heavy snowfall of the season too and the first real winter night. The leaves were almost all gone from the branches and everything looked stark and spare. I sat there with a piece of meat on a stick, worrying and trying to get it to cook evenly, as she’d shown me (She was a proficient hunter of small animals too). Just below, in a heavily wooded dip full of brambles and fallen branches I could tell there was something waiting. I couldn’t tell what but I knew. I tried not to think about it but as time went on I became increasingly aware of a sweet, fungal stink, like something long dead and yet hot and alive, close by. I waited for the shadows to move.
When Miranda suddenly reappeared I shrieked with surprise and she laughed at me but it was not funny. One of her legs was badly mauled, cut down to the tiny violet bones in a couple of places and I made her lie still, shivering and stuttering, wrapped in my scarf as I tried to make her more comfortable. I kept saying ‘I thought they couldn’t hurt you here’ but she just shook her head. Maybe that was just on the boat. She kept saying she was sorry, over and over again, and how she’d make everything alright. I sat up with her all night as she passed in and out of sleep and the creatures, not one but many, waited outside.

‘What’s going on?’ I said when I saw she was awake the next morning. The wind was roaring in the tops of the trees and had thrown off every last leaf, but our camp was settled in the curve of a small corrie, a bowl scooped out of the hillside and the air around us was still. The first sprays of the new day’s rain splattered against us unpredictably, bringing down tiny twigs and flecks of bark that floated in my coffee cup. Miranda huddled down next to the embers and hugged her cup of coffee. She didn’t say anything. She acted at first like she didn’t know what I was talking about but then gave up the subterfuge. She was extremely tired and in a lot of pain.
I knelt down to make it easier for her to tell me without having to shout but she looked away so I got up and bad-temperedly stomped off, ostensibly to find more wood. I heard her tiny voice behind me as I went. She sounded like she was might have been saying sorry but I kept going. More likely she was yelling at me not to be so melodramatic.
When I got back I was briefly panicked because she was not where I’d left her but then I heard her calling to me from inside the tent. It was raining more steadily now so I decided to join her in there.
She looked absolutely wretched, and if anything, even smaller than before. I got the fire going and put some coffee on to brew, then went in and sat with her. She sat on my leg, leaning against my belly, pulling my fleece over herself.
She said ‘I might not be around much longer. You know that don’t you.’
I said I didn’t and what did she mean. I had an idea what she was getting at but I didn’t want to say it.
‘I’m not really a guide’ she said. ‘I did used to be... I’m sorry.’
‘But, you said...’
‘I know. I’m really sorry.’
‘What about what you said about Kev? You said...’
‘I know. Gabriel, I’m sorry. I was there when you set out. I overheard...’

I look at her, not sure what to say.
‘Lie down with me will you?’ she says.
‘I need to keep an eye on the coffee’ I say and moving her gently aside I step out into the now heavy rain. I knew there was something. Now I don’t know what she’s up to at all. Obviously I can’t trust her.
When I go in with our drinks I find she hasn’t moved. She’s just sitting there, focussing on nothing, huddled in my clothes. ‘Here’ I say and put the little beaker down beside her. ‘Careful, it’s hot.’ She nods.
‘I just wanted some company’ she says quietly, after she’s taken a few sips, ‘before I go. I just didn’t want to be alone. I’m sorry. I’ve put you in danger. The next settlement we come to, I promise...’
I take that to mean we could have stopped before now. I don’t know what I think of that. Actually I’m not so sure I wanted to stop anyway, not now I have her around. I tell her so and she smiles a little. ‘Thanks’ she says. ‘You’re sweet.’
‘I mean it.’
‘But you shouldn’t have been alone, not all this time.’
‘I’m used to it. It’s ok. Anyway, I’m not alone.’
‘Still...’ she says and drinks a bit more before lying back down. The rain has passed and a little sunlight illuminates our bed.
‘I’ve never had a woman before, of any kind’ I say. ‘I don’t need anyone else. This is all I ever wanted.’
‘I don’t think so’ she says, and can’t help herself laughing at me. I can see why.
‘But you know what I mean don’t you?’ I say and she nods but is not convinced. She’s older and wiser. Thinking about it now it’s just ridiculous, but at the time...
After we’ve sat there a bit longer she says ‘Shall we get moving? It looks like it’s brightening up a bit’ and so we do, packing up all the equipment, collapsing the tent and extinguishing the fire. She climbs into one of my long red hiking socks and I put her in my hood and we’re off.

Within a few days we come upon our first signs of human habitation for what seems like months – some fields of what were once cabbages and corn – now just severed grey stumps, then an orchard, and then, unexpectedly, the settlement itself, which at first sight seems to be a tall, oddly shaped hill, all peaks and lumps with smoke rising from several places in its summit. As we get closer it looks more and more like one of those massive gothic cathedrals but apparently made of soil and wood. Its steep, terraced sides are overgrown with an unruly embroidery of vegetation interspersed with ramshackle sheds and fences and other, less explicable constructions – masts and scaffolds. Our, by now, broad and well-worn path leads across what appears to be a moat and Miranda says ‘I’ll be in here if you need me. I’m not supposed to be here’ and I hear her burrowing around down in the bowels of my baggage emitting tiny cries of pain, trying to get comfortable. I approach what appears to be a cave at the foot of the hill, pausing a while to take in the people working on the near vertical allotments above. A rampant pumpkin vine swings dangerously over the opening, strung with enormous fruit.
At the gate, two what seem to be guards observe me indifferently as I pass inside, into a tunnel that is almost too low to walk upright in. The heat and the smell are overpowering but not unpleasant – roasted meat, meths and some sort of perfume, like stale after-shave, and it’s very dark. The only light comes from a few feeble and flickering kerosene lamps along the walls. A steady stream of fresh air flows in with me. Gradually, after a few twists and forks in the tunnel I come across more and more of the occupants, sitting in huddles or engaged in some activity – cooking or needlework or perhaps writing, settled among their belongings, looking indifferently at me as I pass or minding their own business. Most seem to be in robes or other loose fitting garments and all seem to be more or less grimy and dishevelled. I’m told later that this area tends to be occupied only by the most ‘useless’ members of the community. A stiff wind whistles past. Moving on, there are more lanterns and the atmosphere lightens too. There is a hot, greasy, smoky gloom about the place and a rich fug of spices and incense and bodily odour. A larger chamber, as big as a small church and apparently carved out of the solid rock is crowded with people in more colourful garb, making jewellery and crockery and food or playing music or games, chatting and smoking and eating. Above us the ceiling is invisible in the smoke and shadows but seems very high indeed. The wind carries the smoke up into the roof.
After a few more bewildering turns in the tunnels, a lot of stair cases and ignoring some low and ill-lit side passages (with yet more desultory residents) we finally come out in a huge chamber, a great dome-shaped space with yet more traders and artisans milling around, some very finely dressed indeed. I wander about among them. Several offer me smoke or drink as I pass but I have no money. I begin to feel that I need somewhere to stop and rest and think. I notice there are small shadowy openings arranged around the perimeter of the chamber and I make for one of them. I sit down and open my pack. I ask if she’s ok in there and she gives me an impatient whisper in return ‘I’m fine. Close the top.’ I look around to see if anyone saw. Some people were looking vaguely in my direction. Should I be worried? I can’t tell. I don’t feel relaxed, that’s for sure.
I find myself something to sit on and think about having a brew. I look about. Nobody seems very interested in me anyway. I look up and see that the ceiling is really extremely high and I realise I can see daylight above, far above, through a tiny opening. That must have been the smoke I saw rising from the summit. Behind me, from the darkness the cool air streams in. It’s like a huge stove, or one of those termite nests you see on the wildlife programmes, with its own air conditioning system. As I sit and marvel at the engineering two heavily armoured figures suddenly blot out my view. I can’t see their faces or understand what they say but the message is clear. I collect up my belongings and follow them.
To continue reading, either go to Lulu to buy or download the book, or let me know when you want to read the next bit and I'll post it on the blog.

Friday, 25 June 2010

Voyage X – Fancy foreign muck

After dark I have need of food. I want something filling, meaty, tasty, home cooked. I never looked forward to casseroles before but tonight it’s just what I want. I know my body doesn’t actually need it, but my mind does. I choose a bowl of chicken cooked in garlic and wine and cream and as I take it to my table by the window I have the clearest memory of a hotel we stayed at on a school trip to Normandy when I was about twelve.
None of the other kids would eat the French food. Some of them cried. They lived on bread the whole week as far as I could tell (and complained about that too – too much chewing I suppose). There was just me and Jessica. I hardly knew Jessica otherwise, and she sat the other side of the dining room with Donna and Matilda. Donna and Matilda complained louder than anyone about the food, about the beds, about pretty much everything that trip, but me and Jessica lapped it up, in silent fellowship (for there was no way we could actually get up and speak to each other under the circumstances) over the bounty of all this, well, foreignness. Our eyes met the second morning over our chocolat chaud. I could see by the way her eyelids fluttered over the brim of her cup that we understood each other. It was magical. Never would we settle for Ovaltine again. And the croissants! We grinned openly at each other across the room with flaky crumbs in our teeth as havoc broke out and children shed real tears for their coco-pops.
But I did talk to her later on that trip, and when we were back at school too. I can’t remember what we said, but I do remember that it wasn’t at all difficult. I wonder what happened to Jessica? I have no idea. And why was I actually besotted with stupid Donna? It seems inexplicable now.

Anyway Harry came past as I was eating and asked me what was wrong with British food? He stood with his knuckles on my table and leaned over me, like a badly shaved, pink gorilla. I moved my plate slightly, aware that he tended to spit when he talked. He noticed the movement and leaned closer. I could see the broken veins in his cheeks. In the seconds this encounter took I couldn’t help thinking that if this was the best face his life had had to offer, what the hell had the rest been like?
‘Hey?’ he said, leaning even closer.
‘What?’ I said, leaning back.
‘All this namby-pamby foreign crap. Don’t fucking deserve to... I said “What’s wrong with some good old British, or English I should say, roast beef?”’ and he pointed to the food counter and grabbed me under the arm, tried to lift me up. I twisted and stayed sat down, defiant anger at last coming to the surface. He turned and glared at me. ‘Fucking ponce’ he said and shoved my plate from me, getting his his fingers in the gravy in the process.
For a moment he stood there, with his hand raised, looking at the gravy, his lip curled in disgust, like it was vomit rather than food on his fingers. ‘Give me that’ he said indicating a serviette. I took my time handing it to him, looking into his face the whole time. I think my expression was of cool surprise. I hope so. I wanted him to understand that it was him that was bizarre, not me. I managed to keep calm anyway.
After he’d gone I went up and got a fresh plate of the casserole, although I didn’t feel much like eating. I knew I hadn’t won. He’d just get worse.

After he’s gone I find myself thinking some more about that trip to France and Jessica and the rest of it. I really miss her. Isn’t that weird? It’s been years now and I have absolutely no idea what happened to her. She turned up by chance once when I was at the shops and was very chatty and it still didn’t occur to me until later that she maybe liked me. I can’t believe how dense I was. I suppose it just didn’t seem very likely – she being really lovely and everything, and me being, well, me. God, I was stupid. I remember when I got back from that trip I was really full of it, or so my mum said anyway – really ‘difficult’ apparently.
To continue reading, either go to Lulu to buy or download the book, or let me know when you want to read the next bit and I'll post it on the blog.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Joe VI – Pogle’s Wood

I’ve been to quite a few sessions with Joe now and mostly I don’t know what to say. It’s getting embarrassing but I don’t want to stop coming. He keeps asking me questions about my parents and school and work and girlfriends but it all just feels like such a dismal mess and I don’t want to go into it. I just want to forget about it. I’ve told him what Ray and Harry and that lot said about my future and about trying to explain to them about my painting and why they insist on explaining it to me instead. He said it’s a very good question. They probably feel threatened.
‘That’s the trouble with old people these days’ he said. ‘They think they know everything.’
That made me smile.

Anyway, this time, as I take my seat he says ‘What was your favourite TV programme, back in life?’
I’m still buzzing from thinking about Lucy. I asked her, very casually, about making a drawing of her and she smiled sexily and said she’d think about it. I can’t believe it. I can’t think.
Why is he asking me this? It seems a very long time ago. Watching telly. I remember kid’s stuff, American cop shows, British comedies, Columbo, Dad’s Army, Scooby Doo. I smile and look up, embarrassed at my lack of sophistication.
‘Don’t think about it too much. First thing that comes into your head. Go!’
‘MASH!’ I say, triumphantly, because it’s both true, and quite cool.
‘That’s too cool. You thought about it for too long. What was your first thought – really? I promise I won’t laugh’ he says grinning all over his face. Why don’t I trust him?
‘You go first’ I say. He does that thing where a person gives a world weary look upwards as if to say “God help us.” or “Why me?” or “Get on with it.” Why isn’t there a word for that expression? Maybe I should invent one. You could say ‘They all wooked at me’, or maybe ‘She made a wookie’ or, for parents ‘Don’t wook at me my lad!’
So anyway, he gave me a wookie and said ‘Starsky and Hutch. There, your turn.’
‘I was going to say Pogle’s Wood, but then...’
‘No, good choice’ he says. ‘I preferred The Clangers myself.’
‘It was that guy’s voice... whatsisname...’
‘Oliver something...’ We stop and think about it for a moment, draw a blank.
‘It’ll come to us’ he says. ‘Why?’
‘Why what?’ but I know perfectly well “why?”
‘Why did you like Pogle’s Wood? God, it’s like blood from a rock sometimes. I’m trying to help here.’
‘By asking what my favourite TV programme was?’
‘Yes. I was trying to subtly come at some issues you’ve been avoiding by a different route. Ok?’
‘I’m sorry’ I say, and we sit silently for a while. ‘Is it worth going on with this?’ I ask, tentatively.
‘Why are you so bloody reluctant to be straight with me about this stuff? I’m not here to play guessing games with you.’
‘I’m really sorry’ I say again.
‘Look, if I may say so, your life was a fuck-up. You were ignored, humiliated and rejected, repeatedly. You got precisely nowhere. Do you want to do all that again? Or do you want to take this opportunity to sort some things out and maybe do a better job next time, because, frankly, that’s all this’ indicating everything around us ‘is about, as far as I can work out – doing better next time. Do you get that?’
‘Yes’ I say ‘I do.’
‘So... Are we ready?’
‘Yes’ I nod heavily.
‘So tell me why the fucking hell you liked Pogle’s fucking Wood so fucking much... you wanker.’
I have to grin. He laughs a little to himself. Sometimes I really wish he had been my friend instead of this... counsellor, or whatever role he is supposed to be in. Nobody really talked to me like this in life – Justine maybe, but she had her own problems. Nobody asked me how I was getting on. Nobody told me what I needed to know.
‘Pogle’s fucking Wood... erm... was a small, safe, cosy place’ I begin. ‘Pippin always had his friend Togg to have these little adventures with and his parents, Mr and Mrs Pogle were always there for him when he came home, and...
‘...and the flower?’
‘I don’t know what that was.’
‘Some sort of Fritillaria is my guess. Maybe a Codonopsis.’
‘You what?’
‘Never mind. It gave advice didn’t it? I don’t remember. A benign spirit-of-the-woods sort of a deal?’
‘A mini God?’
‘A handy, garden-size deity. Useful.’ We both ponder this for a moment.
‘Oliver Postgate’ I say and we both nod.
‘Voice like home baking...’ adds Joe. We nod nostalgically again.
‘Wouldn’t it have been a bit claustrophobic though, living in a hollow tree all the time with just your parents and a squirrel? What happens when Pippin leaves home and encounters the flesh pots of Camberwick Green?’
‘He never does’ I say with certainty. ‘It just goes on. There’s always things to do.’
‘But don’t you think you have to have new challenges, new experiences...’
‘He does, all the time, in the wood, there’s always unexpected things.’
‘How big is this wood?’
‘Doesn’t matter. It’s nature. There’s always something new to look at. Or you make something new happen.’
‘And you never run out? Never get bored? What about growing up? You know  – Mr and Mrs Pogle die, you inherit the hollow log, and then what? Are you going to mate with the squirrel? Leave a lot of weird mutant tufty progeny?’
I think about this for a while – not mating with the squirrel obviously – but change, growing up, leaving home. I can’t imagine the Pogles’ lives changing. That’s how it should be, forever.
‘Would you not be just a teensie bit curious about the outside world? How does the rest of the world look to a Pogle?’
‘I don’t think they think about it much.’
‘Put yourself in their place. How does it look to you – the outside world?’
‘I can’t believe you’re asking me to identify with a soft toy.’
‘Just do it.’
I close my eyes, go to the edge of the wood. I can see it very clearly. ‘It’s just a huge empty field. I look through the hedge and I can’t see the other side. It’s frosty and there’s stubble – brown and dead.’
The outside world is bleak and empty as far as the eye can see.
I tell Joe this and he sits for a while, considering, and I leave.
To continue reading, either go to Lulu to buy or download the book, or let me know when you want to read the next bit and I'll post it on the blog.

Voyage IX – Art appreciation

For some obscure reason The Rat Pack, as they have become generally known, are still keen to have me at their table. I feel more confident about politely declining but they insist. They don’t make me play cards, and they let me drink coffee if I want to now, but they won’t let me go. I don’t know why. Liz ignores me.
‘Can I get you anything from the bar?’ says Ray, unctuously. I don’t want yet another coffee. Actually I’d really like a beer. I say so, quietly (why am I embarrassed?) They look at each other knowingly. All I know is I feel tense the whole time. Eventually they get on with whatever game they’re playing and I can excuse myself.
I breathe deeply up on deck. The sky is definitely bluer now, and the birds are serener, blown about like kites on the buffeting wind, long forked tails streaming behind them, ducking and diving among the waves. I settle down with a book on my lap and watch for hours. The air is still very chill but I’m cosy in my sleeping bag and I look drowsily out into the distance. The lack of a horizon no longer bothers me much. Sometimes another ship like ours can be seen in the distance. I have a sense of some huge migration through the eons, across the universe, all moving in parallel towards... towards what?

‘So’ says Ray, once we’re all settled in for the evening again, ‘what sort of art do you do?’ Every time they mention it the word art seems to be italicised.
‘I don’t know. Landscapes, portraits, you know. Oils, pastels, charcoal.’
‘Have you got anything with you?’ says Solly, perhaps a little too eagerly.
‘Course he hasn’t’ says Brenda, laughing at him.
‘I have actually. I’ve been doing a lot lately. Hang on...’ and I dash off down to my cabin to fetch some pieces.
I get back and they’re all still sitting there waiting. I open the folder and let them to clear a space before I lay my pile of papers on the table. Solly immediately starts looking through them but Ray and Brenda pick up the top one, a big piece I did early on – a view of the deck with all the travellers there, rugged up on their deck chairs. There’s an empty, rather bleak expanse of sea and sky beyond, almost but not quite indistinguishable in the same chalky grey. I’d exaggerated the perspective a little, changed the angle of the deck and made the figures lean out of the frame at you. They look a little like mummies wrapped up there with just their faces showing, or patients on their way to the operating theatre, or the morgue. Some of them look out of the picture at you but there’s no expressions on their faces.
Harry says ‘Let’s have a butchers then’ and takes it from them, not very carefully. He and Liz look at it together.
‘What’s it supposed to be then?’ says Harry, handing it back to me.
‘Well, it’s the view up on deck...’
‘I can see that’ he says impatiently. ‘Why’s it all, I don’t know, skew-wiff? It’s all at the wrong angle. Here let me show you’ and he picks up a pen and a spare piece of paper and starts to explain about perspective (incorrectly as it happens). I’m furious. Why can’t they let me have this one thing? Why do they have to make out they know more than me about everything? They could have asked me what I was trying to achieve with the distortion, maybe learned something, but no.
After a minute or so trying to get all the lines to meet at the horizon he screws up the paper and I say as politely as I can ‘I do know about all that.’
‘Well why don’t you do it then? Look there’s no point doing it wrong if you know how to do it right, just to be different.’
‘Well...’ I look around at the others. They don’t seem so appalled at my modernism so I decide to try to explain. It’s disconcerting. They don’t usually listen to me much at all.
‘I chose to distort the perspective deliberately, to emphasise the weird atmosphere. I wanted to show that we were all alone out here and we didn’t know where we were going and we didn’t know what to think about it.’
‘So, why didn’t you just paint that, realistically?’ says Brenda.
‘Well...’ I try to think how to explain without riling them even more. ‘You can go and look at the “real” version any time you like. I wanted to say something else about it, to remember what it actually felt like.’
‘These birds look more like vultures...’ says Liz.
Harry looks at it a bit more, clearly a little disturbed. Pictures here have a sort of a life about them. It’s not just that the eyes follow you; the heads seem to swivel round to watch you too. I painted the thing and I still find it unnerving.
‘Oh for God’s sake put it away’ says Harry after a while, almost throwing it at me. ‘Why can’t you paint something nice?’
‘What, like kittens and flowers?’ I say.
‘Are you taking the piss?’
‘Oh leave him alone Harry’ says Brenda.
‘Well nobody’s going to want that on their wall are they?’
‘This is that punky bloke isn’t it?’ says Solly, looking at another one.
‘Yes. Damian’ I say.
‘It’s a good likeness’ says Brenda. ‘Has he seen it?’
‘He sat for me.’ Solly raises his eyebrows approvingly. Brenda shows it to Harry who looks away with disgust on his face.
‘These are quite good’ says Solly. ‘Lot of potential...’ as if he knows about such things.
‘Thank you’ I say.
‘Very... impressionistic’ he says, smiling at me as if he expects me to be impressed with his knowledge.
‘It’s more post-impressionist really’ I say ‘or maybe a bit expressionist. Have you heard of Kirchner?’
I see his enthusiasm dampen immediately. I knew I shouldn’t have corrected him as soon as I said it. I pick up my pictures and take them back to my cabin and the game resumes.
Why do I even try?
To continue reading, either go to Lulu to buy or download the book, or let me know when you want to read the next bit and I'll post it on the blog.

A life backwards

It's in the nature of blogs of course that you come across the latest postings first (or you find yourself in the middle.) Normally it doesn't matter but if you want to read my novel in order, the first installment is as you'd expect, the oldest posting.
Thanks for your patience.