These are my musings and observations on my daily life, loves and the laughter that are all a part of my experience of living now in the shires of England.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Short Story - Hard Times by Marjorie H Morgan


It started.  It finished.  What else was there?  Harold Charles, known to others as either Harry or Charlie, depending on who was talking to him, stood back and looked around him.  He couldn't quite put a handle on the emotion he was feeling; was it sadness because it was all over, or was it satisfaction that it was finally completed?  Harold, as he always called himself since his mother had named him, really didn't know what to think or feel. 

For a moment, the very idea that he had a choice over what to think or feel was with him intensely and Harold had to admit to himself that even though this control sensation was part of his secret dreams in this place for these past 37 years he had never thought that it would ever be a reality.  And now here he was, reflecting, in peace, making a choice without . . . Harold shuddered.  He didn't even like to think of the sentence that he had just completed involuntarily in his mind and the new life he was about to begin.  'Sentence,' he mused to himself, 'now that is a strange way of looking at these past years Harold James Charles.'  As he said his complete name the memories of his total existence flashed before him as though he was watching it all on a large screen in front of his eyes, a screen right there on the wall where that precious framed picture used to hang before it so quickly and mysteriously disappeared from its place like Houdini did out of his bonds: Harold could feel the ancient spirit of escapism enter his mind and within moments his mental chains were broken - now he just had to make it all real.

Nobody called him by his full name, the name on his birth certificate, except Edith and his mother when she was alive. 'God rest her soul,' Harold said as he thought of his mother.  Daphane Charles was a proud woman who had worked hard to make sure her children, three boys and two girls, never wanted for any of the basic essentials in life and never coveted the belongings of others by being taught to be satisfied with their meagre home and her abundant love.  She had passed on 'to a better place,' thought Harold, when she was in her early fifties after years of hard times as a single mother.  Harold, the middle child, and the youngest boy, was 26 when she went but had never admitted to another living soul just how much he missed her, thought of her often, and visited her grave whenever he had the chance.  She had been his place of refuge when times were oppressive, and today he longed for her motherly hug, comforting presence, and the total acceptance she gave to him.

Harold straightened his knitted cardigan so that the buttons lined up down the centre of his chest and stood up at the window to wait.  He didn't know exactly what he was waiting for but instinctively he knew that he would recognise it when the time was right.  He remembered doing a lot of waiting over the years.  First he had waited for a good honest woman to marry, that had been for a period of twelve years after his mother had died; then he had waited for ... so much ... so much ... It seemed like the rest of his life.  Harold's mind wandered. As he stood there looking out, he felt tense, and looking down he saw that he slowly clenched and unclenched his fists.  After what seemed like hours, but was in reality only 90 seconds, he snapped himself back into his present and the consciousness that went with his current environment; he then opened his hand and slapped his palm against his right leg.  The anger spread through his whole body, up and down his thigh, he felt rage consuming him as he was aware of every muscle within him coming alive.

Yes!  'Harold, the Patient One' was finally fed up beyond any imaginable comparison: frustrated with waiting.  Waiting for someone to call.  Waiting for someone to talk to him.  Waiting for the bus into town on a Saturday.  Waiting at the back of all those eternal queues.  Waiting for letters to let him know what he could or couldn't do.  Waiting for visitors.  Waiting, waiting, waiting, and still waiting.  All the things that were promised to him as a young, eager teenager, as a youth, as a young man, and finally as an older, respectable elder, ready to retire; all those empty promises were forever floating just out of his reach as his ears were constantly assailed by the platitudes of 'Never mind this time, I'm sure there's a better opportunity coming along for you,' and 'I'm sure something just right for you will come along Charlie boy'.

Harold reflected that it was probably the sarcastic use of 'boy' that made him decide not to wait any longer.  After all, at 63 years old, with a small crop of grey adorning his neatly trimmed short black hair that was the crown of his six foot two frame - which he had got into the habit of holding slightly bent on far too many occasions - he was definitely not a boy any more: in fact he hadn't been a 'boy' for over 50 years.
He picked up his brown felt hat and placed it carefully on his head, taking his time he gingerly picked his way around the obstacles in the room and, reaching for his coat from the stand in the other room, he raised a slightly arthritic shoulder and let the garment fall easily over his back.  Harold James Charles then walked the short distance from the quiet office to the bookies in the High Street and from his reflection in the passing windows he noticed that he looked taller than usual.  Each step made him feel lighter as if heavy weights were being shed from his upright back with the ease of fish scales flying of a repetitive cleaning knife.  He took up his customary position, for a Saturday, near the counter; the picture was in his hand.

Although it was not a Saturday: it was a Wednesday, a race day, and quite busy, nobody made Harold wait for a thing that day.  When he went to the counter to place a bet to win on 'Going All The Way' in the 3:15, the other people parted like the Red Sea in front of him.  Was it because Harold had an impatient air about him, was it because his neat brown check trousers were uncharacteristically marked with dark red irregular patches or was it because of the blood stained machete that he carried loosely, but with skill, and the knowledge of adept use, in his good right hand?

Harold wept silently as his chosen horse won;  he really knew how to pick the winners.  That was something he had learned while waiting and watching.  Harold wept because his mother would be so sad; he wept for all the younger versions of himself that he knew were just around the corner of life because he knew they would still remain invisible and hated; he wept because he had wanted the sun on his face when it was his time and it was windy and cold today.  Harold James Charles wept with the tears racking his body as the machete rattled against the legs of the stool and he asked aloud of nobody in particular, “Why did it have to go all the way to this? Why did this have to happen? Damn people love to do daylight robbery on man and man, that’s why! I’m not stupid you  know... What did you think would happen? Every dog has his day.” The last few words were almost whispered. Harold was tired now. But he looked up at the people around him.

Silence responded.

The only sound that Harold could hear was the occasional audible sob. He was shocked and snapped his head in both directions to see who in the bookies was crying. Hw suddenly realised that it was him. His own sobs were interrupting the silence as the film of an unfair, unjust life played in his mind's eye while he sat on the stool with his back turned to the counter.  Harold had made his choice when he received his letter that morning stating that due to 'unforeseen circumstances' the company would close down in the next three months and all employees had to see their section manager at 10:00 that morning.  After being told that 37 years of dedicated work was done without a “legally binding contact of full-time employment,”and “I'm sorry that there is nothing we can do to help you financially - hard luck this time Charlie”, Harold nodded understandingly and left the office quietly and without a word of dissent - as was his custom.  As he walked in a slow and thoughtful manner down the iron treads that led from the engineering section manager's office he heard the staff laughing that “that was easier than we imagined” and congratulating themselves that they had had such a stupid worker for all those years costing them next to nothing to get rid of. 

He had matured quietly in this company, from an apprenticeship to a fully qualified driller he had steadily completed his time. There were opportunities to go to other companies or to try other paths but he had, in his own way, enjoyed his work despite the constant ribbing from his work colleagues because he knew that he excelled in anything that he put his mind to regardless of external recognition.  As they baited him he remembered the words his mother had used to instructed him and his siblings with, and he bit his lip and let it all pass with a smile.  “Children, come . . .” she would call them to gather around her lap usually as the dusk fell she and had finished her evening cleaning job, one of three that she usually had at any one time, “Come, let me tell you a story”.  Harold wished he was a child again, he didn't want to be old and to know what he now did.  For a moment the memory was almost too much for him to recall, but he needed the strength that he had felt when she was the centre of their world.  He had felt that anything was possible in those days, he had believed that the world would indeed be his oyster if he wanted it enough.  He had wanted it but had never managed to get within the reach of any of his major goals. He remembered that as children they had jostled for a position on the settee or on the floor around her thick stockined legs and listened to the woman who they all adored despite her strict discipline.  Whatever story she told always had some kind of moral in it which, although they didn't pay much attention to it at the time – that understanding came much later, for Harold it had arrived today. He was remembering those evening tales that acknowledged the wisdom of her words.  

Harold also knew that they all remembered her differently, this had become clear 5 years after her death when a disastrous Christmas of trying to recreate the atmosphere of their family home had caused an ugly argument.  Since then they had stopped talking about her when they met because of the pain that each of them felt about the way she was remembered and the way she had died. Some things are best left alone. Others are not.

Harold returned to the office an hour later at 11:42 and paid back all of the silent suffering that he had been made to endure.  He had used to chop cane in his teens so his movement was good, and his allotment was used to the sharp shiny machete, but never before this day had it been used on anything but plants.  He went about his task with a single-minded determination that he could not remember since he ran barefoot across the fields in an effort to be the first one home and to share the news that he had yet again won the class prize for the most outstanding student in the school year.  He had gone to the garden shed where he had spent many a happy hour of reflection with his cigarettes and radio while preparing for the satisfying work that he did working with the soil and seeds.  Today the shed was a cold unwelcoming space where he sat and carefully and purposefully honed the edge of his tool until it was bright with menace.

The tears slipped down his lignite hued cheek as he waited for his time to come.  Each tear, like acid on paper, burned his soul with pain, as it represented an unjust act, an ignorant remark, a distasteful cruel comment, another lie against his unsullied character.  The years of bearing it all without any outward sign of the effects took their toll on his body today.  He held the 7 year old picture of his long service award ceremony in his left hand and, thinking of all his hard work for the company and their final treatment of him, Harold straightened his hat and held his head high - there would be no more bowing for him.  He had waited patiently for his time, his turn, and his right to be.  Now with a strength and dignity he had been unable to display openly for decades, he used the machete to open the door to meet his mother.  As unconsciousness covered him he laughingly thought, “No more waiting and being invisible for me ...”


(2002)
© Marjorie H Morgan 2012 

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Father’s Day and Love


I never seem able to celebrate Father’s Day in the same way as so many other people do each year. This is not because I never loved my father, it’s more because I didn’t like him or understand him for many years of our relationship. I have grown to love him more now that he is dead but that still does not give me permission to forget the negative things that lined our relationship. Before you get all up in arms about that statement let me tell you that I have forgiven him but I’ve not forgotten – there is a difference.

My dad was amazing. I know that even more now.

I have recently discovered his first post office savings bank account that he opened when he arrived in Britain. This small slim volume details more than how much and how regularly he saved his wages. It also tells a story of love and determination. My dad came from a humble country background in Jamaica where all he owned was a couple of goats and a donkey (as he would repeatedly tell us), but he was determined to make a difference for his family. He did.

My father never became a property tycoon, however he did buy his final house outright for cash twenty five years before he died. He came a long way in physical, social and economic terms from the time he swapped the beautiful, sunny island of Jamaica for the leafy, cool countryside of England.

I didn’t really understand him that much as I was growing up but through records of his past, that I’m finding now, and pieces of memory that I have stored – but never made any sense at the time – I am piecing together a more complete picture of a truly amazing man: my father – Michael Morgan.

I grieve, with love, for my loss and previous misunderstanding of him.


Friday, 15 June 2012

The day my life changed


37 years? Really? If feels so fresh in my heart.

The day my life changed beyond comprehension was when my mother died. I still had my father but I felt like an orphan. I still had all my siblings but I felt lonelier in the midst of them. I was suddenly shipwrecked.

As I’ve grown my grief has grown with me, it’s a second skin.

Time will never be enough for me to understand why - then or now.

I miss mummy. Still.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Sponsored life


Here in the UK we have a wonderful system of traffic control that utilises roundabouts. Some of these are filled with floral tributes that would grace the Chelsea Flower Show others, however, look like lumps of concrete left in the middle of the road.

As a driver of several years experience I am used to roundabouts of all varieties (especially hailing from Wiltshire where the roundabout system in Swindon is legendary – a virtual Magic Roundabout system). However, it was a relatively recently phenomenon that caught my attention whilst driving the other day.
I noticed a sign, strategically placed on one of the busiest roundabouts in town, suggesting that people may like to ‘sponsor a roundabout’. This made me laugh. As you’re probably aware by now I have a rather bizarre sense of humour.



I have heard of sponsoring people to run races and raise money for charity, sponsoring endangered animals, sponsoring remote villages, children and other seemingly worthwhile causes - but sponsoring a roundabout? C’mon! What would you sponsor a roundabout to do?  Become a roundabout? Hmmmmm.

It transpires that companies want to sponsor roundabouts to be advertising hoardings for them. In the same way that they can now sponsor a verge, or a grass verge, a flowerbed, a city centre or a car park. Yes, you can sponsor practically anything nowadays, and all for your own materialistic gain.

I wondered if it was worth considering sponsoring a life, your own life.

Sounding a bit radical now, aren’t I? (Think this is any more off the wall than sponsoring a raised lump of concrete on a road?)


The benefits are endless if you sponsor yourself. Instead of a local business or company reputation being enhanced you could be investing in yourself and reaping your own enduring floral benefits.

This can be your legacy of joy to those around you. I think it matters for your today and your tomorrow ... and mine. Back yourself, you’re worth it. I’m doing it today.

Just sign on the dotted line below and you’re good to go.


I, ................................................................................, hereby invest in myself and I will hereafter receive bundles of joy and happiness that I deserve.



Saturday, 9 June 2012

Total inspection of self



Artists of all manifestations constantly put pieces of themselves on display for total inspection. Every time you read something you are having privileged access into the mind of the person who wrote those words. Our minds are our most secret and private places, this is where our thoughts reside until we display, write, or act them out in our everyday life.

With a book, the person who wrote it speaks directly to you, in your world at the time you want to hear them; it’s a very personal connection. The way each person understand a book is different, because their lives are always marginally different from everybody else.


The same is true of visual or audio arts. They come to each of us as a special medium. We receive the work in our own unique way and our mind uses its individual filtration system to complete the total inspection of the art, and then stores it in the vaults of the memory after it has been accepted by our imagination.

My imagination is different to yours. I’m as glad as you are about that fact.

Each offering of art invites inspection.

Dancers put their whole bodies on display – from head to toe. The dancers convince the observer to passionately view the physicality of life that we all desire. Each presentation of art – whether in visual, written or audio form – does the same thing, it resonates in its individual medium and space and it is also transferred inside the viewer’s head where it transforms the receiver’s imagination.

Actors, like dancers, play who we are back to us. They play with our emotions. Actors have to be constantly aware of their bodies – what it looks like, how it is perceived, how it works to achieve a particular end. They are mirror of ourselves and they continually confront us with images of ourselves.

Art creates things that remain even after the unique creation - whether it be a performance, reading, viewing or listening - is over. Each word, act, jump or note is a record, albeit temporary, of the creator. It says, “I was here. This is a part of me.”



Friday, 8 June 2012

Changing patterns


In June 1998 I wrote the following:

“The mountain inside my soul
Nobody cares but me
My fears follow me into my dreams at night”

One day I awoke from my sleep and was told I was talking as I slumbered. I had said, “I feel safe but not loved.”

I know what it is to be loved.

I know what it is to be safe.

I didn’t have them together at that time.

I do now.

To get from there to here I had to learn this fact: I must change my choices and my patterns to have a different outcome. I also found out that I can move forwards when I take responsibility for my feelings and choices.

When I feel broken I know that I don’t have to remain broken. I have the choice to pick up the pieces and make myself whole again. I do this by making different choices and by breaking my destructive patterns.

I have changed my patterns.

Any fears I have I air them in my waking hours and thus leave my sleep time to pure sleep. The changes abound.


Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Short Story - Monday's Leap by Marjorie H Morgan


Monday's Leap                     



For a moment the fear of what was behind him was forgotten while he turned to face the horror of what was before him.  All he could hear was a loud, low rumbling that seemed to start at the centre of the earth and concluded with the deafening guarantee of something solid and large just around the dark corner that he had to travel in the next 10 seconds. 

Tony didn't know what to do, but he had to do something. 

So, while swallowing what felt like his last breath, with hardly any saliva in his mouth because all the moisture in his body was either in cold bullets on his forehead or running, to his own embarrassment, down his legs,  he lifted his feet, heavy with dread and took the necessary step forward.

It was only a second later that the sound repeated and enclosed him again in its hugeness.

The reality of what he saw was more than he could ever have imagined, his eyes involuntarily sank deeply into their sockets and his tongue was suddenly too big for his mouth; but he was not the only one seeing something new in his view.  Tony could feel eyes all over him.  He wished he was smaller, even invisible but there was no point in wishing now, there was nothing to do but move.   Quickly, without giving the thought a chance to form properly, he started to run.  He ran with such speed that his heart, that he momentarily thought had stopped, pounded with the ferocity of a hungry lion against his rib cage. 

His sudden movements startled both himself and his watchers.

The eyes that were once watching him with a confidence that had given Tony the impetus for action, blinked in an unnerving sign of unison and the mass of associated flesh followed his rapid, flailing movements across the damp, dark, cold feeding ground.  Never before had they seen their food behave in such a cavalier manner.  Amusement and shock could have been found in their eyes if Tony had the inclination to stop and look around him.  Stopping was not an idea that could have entered Tony's cerebrum in that minute, which was passing as slowly as the last hour in an exam room when you can't think of anything to write and you still have three essays to tackle. 
Tony felt his heart stop as his balance left him and he started to fall forwards into the slimy flooring of his death room.  His 23 seconds of running felt to him like he had been in the gym for 4 hours on the treadmill.  He'd got nowhere.  He was exhausted.  His clothes were heavy with all of his expended bodily moisture.  Panic hit him before he hit the ground and he straightened up in a last desperate attempt to stay alive, in one piece and with a touch of sanity in his grasp.

Tony willed himself forward in a semi-upright stance, he dared not contemplate what his watchers were doing, he didn't have the time or energy to focus on anything but himself.  Propelled by the intense desire to live and the fear of an unknown but promisingly terrifying end, he threw himself - calling on all his deep reserves of strength, across a gaping hole that stood between him and a life of freedom.

He seemed to hang in the air for eternity.
'I must look into the aspects of time perception and circumstances when I'm next in the lab.' he thought to himself, willing himself to have a future.
His thoughts seemed to interrupt his movement through space and he dropped on the edge of the hole.  He started to scramble up, pulling frantically at anything he could grasp above him with his fingers and making footholds with his knees, elbows and hips in the falling unsafe sandy mire.  Tony wasn't sure whether he could feel his blood dripping into the sand, leaving a track behind him or whether he was supposed to be without skin on his knuckles and knees.  He couldn't remember looking at his exposed bones and muscles like this before.  Why did these things concern him now?  Confused and frightened and continuing his fight against the call from gravity, he cursed Newton and, dismissing exhaustion as another unwelcomed intruder into his life, he commanded the muscles that remained intact in his body into motion.  He moved.  Another miracle!  He repeated the manoeuvre. He moved again.
'Perhaps there is a God,' he mused.  A prayer to this previously unacknowledged Presence emitted from every remaining blood vessel in his body. 'Save me,' they screamed like a gospel choir reaching for that high elusive note.

A blinding light hit him.  Was this his deliverance?  Did he just open his eyes or was it always there, had he been running without seeing?  The questions tumbled around him like the disappearing ground.  Whatever had happened he now knew that he had to get to the source of the light.  Was this an answer to his hurriedly created prayer?  It was only 7 seconds since he had fallen on the edge of the hole and the owners of the eyes had acknowledged that their food was trying to escape.  The noise of their eyes opening and closing sounded like bat wings flying in ever decreasing circles around his head.  There was the heat as well.  Behind him, getting closer, getting hotter.  The heat started to singe the hairs on his legs.

Ahead of him the light grew brighter, he had to force his tired arms upwards to shield his eyes, the heat grew hotter behind him, he felt like he was on fire.  The old Bible story of the three Hebrew boys in the fiery furnace flashed into his head as the flames licked his back.  Something brushed against his legs, tugging at his tattered clothes.  He knew it wasn't the fire, this was something else.  He couldn't bear to look.  Once again the anxiety of the moment choked him and his heart seemed to stop.  His breathing, now so desperate and shallow, spluttered.  He heard a scream at the same moment as the tugging intensified.  It was ear splitting.  He dared to look around for a brief second, saw no one, saw the eyes closer than he could bear, and realised that the scream, still resounding, was coming from him.  He turned his head back ahead of him and as he closed his eyes the light still shone burning holes into his eyelids, he could feel the tears streaming down his face. 

Absolute statements sprang to the front of his mind.  He was afraid.  He was in danger.  He was going to die.  Why had he been so stupid?  Why had he taken the risk?  Would any of his questions ever get an answer?  Tony cried for his mother.  At 26 years old, 6 feet 4 inches and 15 stones in weight, he cried like a baby.

That's just how they found him.
Curled up in the foetal position on his bed with his thumb planted firmly in his mouth.  Sobbing and shaking. 
He never spoke again. 
He had a phobia about eyes, he couldn't stand to have eyes watching him.  He also refused to be kept warm, the heat appeared to unsettle him even more.  His colleagues refused to speculate, in public, about what could have happened, they just came and erased his computer disks when he was finally given his new lockable white coat and taken to a padded secure room.

Nobody ever explained how he got those scars on his hands and knees and the burns on the backs of his legs.  He hadn't been out of his house for three days before they found him.  The weekend had passed and his presentation and demonstration of virtual reality before the Swiss delegation was due on that Monday morning.  They had been looking forward to the ground breaking news that had been systematically leaked over the previous months.  Now, the project had been shelved, the other scientists were reluctant to talk about 'Project Isaw'.  They took turns to visit Tony, sharing their responsibility, each wearing dark glasses when in his presence.
All copies of the programmes had been destroyed.
Except the one that Chrissy kept. 

Four years later, after the discovery of Tony that Leap Year's morning, she switched on her computer, selected the programmes and started on the journey to her own unknown reality.  What would she discover?  Would she be able to share what she learned? 

"Press enter," prompted the screen.  There was no hesitation in her fingers, she had planned and prepared for this.  The screen in her head displayed "Welcome to Reality ..." she heard the computer disk whirling before her and then ...  the system failed. 
"System overload," flashed brightly and then disappeared.  The screen went blank.  The power had failed. 'Damn!' she thought.  With frustration in mind Chrissy tried to take off the visor, but it wasn't there, she wasn't there.  She wasn't sat at her computer, she was here in reality.  Automatically, as if she had rehearsed it, she moved, she turned around.  The shock arrived without warning like a falling two ton breeze block, there was nowhere to turn back to.

It was at that moment, with a weird sense of strange familiarity, that she knew . . .




(2003)

© Marjorie H Morgan 2012












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