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.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Silence


Silence.

The greatest silence is the absence of your loved one’s voice.

I cling to the unique sounds of people. I can freely reproduce their images and - for a time - inhale their scent, but nothing can reproduce their voice. Nothing.

The silence is loud.

I run from the silences of their absence.

I arrive to the sound of loud silence. There is only a void that I can’t avoid.

Memory fails. I am left with ... silence.


Copyright © Marjorie H Morgan 2012

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Storage (Chapter 2) - Fiction by Marjorie H Morgan



Chapter 2

It was the week before William had ended up in the hospital that the pains had started in earnest. He was sat outside a church when the first stab of pain hit him in his chest. Of the dozens of churches in the town William only likes to sit in the vicinity of churches that at least several hundreds of years old. He had once said - when the suit he was wearing was new and he’d worn it to the office - that churches built within the last few decades were more like arcades than places of worship. His colleagues had laughed with him at the time, but the more he thought about it he began to believe that they were laughing at him really. It didn’t bother him now, nothing did. Since Beryl was gone the only permanent things were the buildings.
William knew that he could not get any sense of reverence for a place built with red brick and without stained glass windows. He had tried for several years to find a good church to be in until, in his own opinion, he knew far too much about the inside of churches. None of them ever fit him. The people inside them were also ill-matched to his needs.

The last church he’d truly felt comfortable in was the one he’d been in with his wife, when they’d been on a walking holiday in the Cotswolds. They had stopped off in Gloucester and visited the tiny Beatrix Potter shop before spending a pleasant few hours inside the huge cathedral and surrounding grounds.
William drags a smile out of his memory as he sees himself and Beryl sitting quietly together in The Lady Chapel as the sunlight streams through the stained glass windows and makes patterns dance at their feet. They turn to each other spontaneously, reach out and share a gentle squeeze of the hand before returning to their own separate thoughts.

In recent years the only time William was really quiet was when he was in or near a church. He stopped believing in God when Beryl got her diagnosis. Prayers became like whiffs of smoke from a late-night bonfire. But the lure of the big buildings, especially the churches, kept pulling him back in. It was more than his job that made him seek out those familiar spaces.

Beryl was not that keen on old buildings but she saw the joy it brought to her Wills, as she alone called him, so she suggested many visits to ancient buildings just so that she could see that extra look of pleasure on his face. Then she would return to her own thoughts knowing he was happy.

In the early years Beryl loved the country walks when they would clamber, hand-in-hand, through unfamiliar country side, discovering new paths together. Then, as the decades and the familiar country paths wore away the bit she liked the best was the resting between the walks. Once she’d got to 55 it wasn’t as much fun for her as it had been two decades earlier. ‘True enough,’ she mused to herself, ‘it keeps me fit and I can get around much better than the ladies from the W.I. but I’d much rather have a dog to walk with than all these endless country walks from post A to post B – and they all look the same in the end.’ She never said that to William though. There was a lot that they didn’t talk about. They’d talked about dogs when they were first married, in their twenties, William had said that it’d be better to wait for a while, to see, when the children came along, he said. They never came, neither did the dog.

It was over dinner on their twentieth anniversary that William had confessed to Beryl that he never really liked dogs anyway. Beryl already knew this, of course, but she acted surprised. It made her wonder if he didn’t really want the children either. They were supposed to be a package deal.

That Friday morning it was the bench that William was sat on that was the only thing preventing him from dropping to the ground as he struggled to breathe. It was not the one that he’d had erected for Beryl a year after her death, it was one on the other side of the church. This one caught the sunrise and gave William a good view of all the people on their way to work. He thought that they scurried like beetles. No one seemed to look at anyone else. All they looked at were the machines in their hands. The connection was an invisible one – on waves that floated in the air. William never used his mobile phone after Beryl went. He didn’t see the point. His connection was in solid things. That’s why he liked the building. The church – that wasn’t going anywhere. The solid wooden benches – they were fixed into the concrete. Permanent. That’s where the consistent sun would be in the afternoon – Beryl’s bench. William liked to see the sunset when he was near Beryl.

After reaching into one of his many pockets for a handkerchief William had found a loose piece of cloth that could have once been a handkerchief with his initials in the corner. There was something raised on the material, it may have been the once blue lettering reading WJC: his initials. Beryl used to buy him a new set every birthday and Christmas. He’d come to expect it. The cloth he found was now used to wipe his clammy forehead. He hoped it was from Beryl. He missed her. William looked at the dirty rag in his hand and then shrugged. It was a lopsided shrug. He had difficulty raising his left arm, his strongest arm, so he’d had to rifle through his belongings with the weaker right one. Now he gave in to the reality that he was losing even more control over his body. He felt like his body was undergoing a partial landslide.

After that first unexpected incident there was another one a few hours later, then they seemed to come at more regular intervals. He didn’t fight them or try to get any help. As often as he talked to random people in the street about everything from God to politics but his favourite subject was always buildings. But he never talked about his own home. It was still a beautiful building. He’d designed it himself. He would walk past it occasionally but never go in. William never said much about himself. He wasn’t interested in himself any more, so why, he wondered, would strangers be curious? Especially now that his time was nearly over.

As the week wore on and the physical pain destroyed him from the inside out, William had moved about the town less and less. He had his usual routine of visiting caf├ęs and restaurants as they were closing so that he could get the remnants of a good meal. But because he was moving less he didn’t need as much food. He missed being near the bakery. That was the place he liked to visit the best. He’d often hunker down near the back door and wait for one of the bakers to come out for a smoke then they’d give him the burnt or unsold loaves from that shift. It was always warm there as well. The layers he wore were thicker than his bones but they still didn’t keep him warm.

At the bakery it had taken them years to get used to him. He was going to that back alley where the delivery trucks parked each morning longer than some of them had been working at Fresh Bake, so frequently he’d have to give the newcomer time to get used to him being there. However, he increasingly tired of getting accustomed to new routines. After the first four years the old staff started leaving messages about him for the newcomers, so it got easier to get his ‘donations’ as he liked to call them. He’d never actively begged for anything. He just sat in the same place for hours. Sitting, waiting and talking. Talking to himself or to anyone who’d come close enough to listen.

It was easier to get close to him in the first few years after Beryl died because then he still used to wash. After a while his regular contacts didn’t seem to mind his smell so much, but they still didn’t touch him. Nobody did really. Nobody until the ambulance staff had picked him up, and then that nurse. The one who had the pain in her eyes. She smiled at him.

William was slipping away when he started searching his memory for where he’s seen her before. He had a good memory. He could pick out a type of stone, a architectural style or a face without prompting. That’s what got him all his early promotions. He remembered things well. Now he was trying hard to remember this one face in front of him. It wasn’t working. He sighed. Then he remembered as his mind started to get cloudy and the elephant-sized pain shot in a heavy zig-zag from his arm to his chest to his head. Everything else on him was numb. Opening his eyes, William looked at the nurse. She reminded him of Beryl when she was younger, when he was younger. When they were both alive.

They’d met in a cafe on a Saturday morning. It was Beryl’s new Saturday job, she was just starting her third morning and he had noticed her flame-coloured hair as he’d raced past to meet a friend. He was always on the move. People called him a social climber. After circling the shop for the next half-an-hour after he’d spotted her, he’d summoned up the courage to go in and order a drink. That was the only time he’d had a knickerbocker glory. It was the first thing he said when he’d regained the power of speech.

He sat at a table by the window studiously pretending to study the menu when she’d appeared before him.

“Can I take your order?”
“Um. Yes.”
“What would you like?” She prompted. “Would you like me to run through today’s specials?”
“Um. I’ll have a ...” He stuttered for a few minutes while looking away from her to the menu.
He wore his nervousness like a new pair of shoes, it made him accidentally knock the menu off the small table, she retrieved it with a smile and handed it back to him.
“Shall I come back when you’ve had time to think about what you’d like?”
“Um. No. No, it’s OK.” He looked to a nearby table where a woman was sat with her child, “I’ll have ... one of those,” he said as he pointed to the long glass sat in front of the smiling girl. He didn’t want her to leave him.
“A knickerbocker glory?” Beryl questioned his choice.
“Is that what they’re called?” He laughed.
“Yes. Are you sure you want one of those?” She smiled at him.
Although Beryl was not supposed to question customers on their choices she couldn’t help it with him. There was something about the way the light shone in his eyes that made her braver that she was used to being.
For a moment she thought his eyes were different colours but she put that down to the new awning at the front of the shop. Her boss, Janice, was always complaining that it hadn’t gone up straight since the day it was installed and as Beryl stood there with her notebook in hand she was sure that that was the cause of the changing colour of his eyes in the sunlight. It was several dates later that she really looked into his eyes and discovered the truth.

William remembered the sickly taste of knickerbocker glory as he was laying in the hospital with the nurse holding his hand. “What a peculiar thought,” he mused to himself. Then he smiled as he thought it was a sign that Beryl had come to meet him.

William knew that Beryl had gone, but this young woman looked the same through his new pain. She had the same colour hair and the same light touch of sadness draped over her shoulders that he had first noticed in Beryl. It was the warmth of her hand and the memory of Beryl that made him wink at her. Then as he closed his eyes he remembered who the stranger was and squeezed her hand. She was the girl who touched his shoulder when he was sleeping on Beryl’s bench one evening. She’d been crying at the other end of the path near a recently dug plot and he’d been sleeping so he hadn’t seen her at first, but as she walked past him she took off her long black scarf and handed it to him.

“Here,” she whispered, “Take this. It may help to keep you warm tonight.”

“Thank you, love,” was all he said as he stuffed it behind him on the bench and returned to dozing some more.

When he woke up a few hours later he found an old sleeping bag next to him with a note saying, “I thought you could use this as well. Keep warm. R x” He knew it was from scarf lady. “Red R” he called her in his mind.

This memory was seen through a one-way mirror. Rosie didn’t recognise him because he had a full beard now and several more layers of grime. When she’d met him that day in st James’ churchyard he only had a small amount of stubble on his face, and he still had a functioning razor with him that he used before he went to sit in the church grounds at weekends – those days were always special to him. He liked to look his best for Beryl.

(Go to Chapter 3)

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Connections


When I think about connections I automatically think of those people I am closest to. Then, like a mathematical diagram, the mind map of my connections gets wider and more spidery. The theme of connections seem to assail me at every turn this week. It may be because I’ve been thinking about a break in connections, a renewed connection, a repaired connection and yet undiscovered connections. It may just be because that is what I am constantly aware of in life: our connectivity on this planet.

In a book I am reading the new chapter is simply headed “Connection”; it greeted me this morning as I finished meditation on the previous chapter.  

Each connection is a contract. We need to have conscious responsibility for each link we have.

But what is it that connects us? Love, respect, need, trust, memories, hope and belief. These are just a few things that I can think of that join me to others.

What is a joint? It’s the location where two or more things make contact. I have connective joints in my heart to so many people, places and memories. Like a diagram of a Victorian plumbing system my heart is a complex maze of ephemeral and eternal links. Each link leaves a mark because it is spectacularly peculiar in its touch. Each connection is special and cannot be replaced with any other. Every bond is ingrained in my life.



I remain connected for ever. That’s the reality of my life.

Strength and flexibility are the main necessary components of lifelong connections. I think that we sometimes need to be like the Cortland Main sheet rope which has more than 52,000 individual strands with a minimum tensile strength of 1845 tonnes.


Too easily we witness the break in connections that maybe should remain intact. There are forces that can separate people, but – if it is the right thing to do – we can resist the external force and hold tight to the multiple strands that link us together. There is strength in the connection.

One thing to remember is that we are all ‘works in progress’ – I have a folder on my computer with the same name. That’s where I store pieces I have started writing, ideas I have that I make notes on, unfinished essays and stories. I connect to it frequently, I add to it, I alter things, I enjoy what I find there: that folder reflects my life – I am a work in progress. It’s where I connect to myself.

Connect with me?

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Storage (Chapter 1) - Fiction by Marjorie H Morgan


Chapter 1 (Revised)

The first sound that William was aware of after the darkness threw him to the ground was the noise of the heavy plastic doors as they swung closed behind the ambulance men who were retreating from the room. He didn’t like it. The sound slapped him back into an awareness that he had avoided for decades. He frowned as the harsh lights assaulted his eyelids. He didn’t want to let it in. Then, suddenly, he did. He wanted it. All. He suddenly ached for the noise, the light, and the touch of … someone.

Feeling like an escaping balloon from a child’s birthday party he started to relax and was surprisingly content as he slipped happily between consciousness and his dream from then on. He felt warm at last. This lasted for what seemed like an eternity, but was in reality two and a half minutes. Then, without any fanfare or ceremony William exhaled. It was a deep and satisfying sensation. Nobody else was aware of it. He was having his own private performance.

The ambulance men were long gone back to their truck when the man they had brought in was signed over to the emergency team on shift that night – he was no longer their responsibility. The junior doctors were the ones who had to worry about him now. The crew had bagged him on the way in from the docks. He was big sick. All they wanted to do was to get him through the doors in one piece. Now they were off the road until they had cleaned up their truck. Then they would wait for another call from control, hopefully not another blue one straight away. He was their last job, the clean up was the next one. Their part in his life was over.

Behind the sign reading ‘Authorized personnel only’ the staff on duty in St Thomas’ A & E department had been experiencing unusual lull in the intake that night. They were appreciative of the chance to breathe and restock the supplies. They knew it wouldn’t last long. They were right.

Rest time was over a mere five minutes after it had begun.

Like well rehearsed soldiers engaged in a military operation they took their places around the body that was suddenly in front of them.

“On two …” Hugh, the junior doctor, who was leading the shift that evening, took control. “One, two …”
The man was lifted up and moved. Then they started work.

“Where are the obs?” The question was asked from the side of the bed where the nurses were already starting their life saving routine. The team moved like synchronized swimmers. Arms reached over and through others. They looked like a couple of octopus as they worked. In moments they had everything in place.

“GCS is 3 people, we’ve got to bring him back.”

Commands and responses flew through the air. Voices gave steady reports of the readings coming from the equipment that was already attached to William’s body. The team were confident in their actions. William lay still and let them knead him like dough. He didn’t move. He couldn’t move.

After several frenetic moments there was a break in activity as they all stood back. The temporary silence around William was buffeted by the noise of people doing the exact same thing in adjacent spaces. The collision of voices as they invaded the already damaged bodies was due to continue all night. The six people in the room inhaled as one.

“Who is he?” The nurse at the foot of the bed asked the room.
“He’s a nobody.” Came the flat reply.
 “Doesn’t he any ID on him?”
“No.” Another tired voice responded. “According to the ambulance crew they found him on the underpass by the river, he was on his last legs then. Some kids down there drinking, probably going to rob him but, look , he hasn’t got anything…”

Dr. Hugh Cross took a moment to look at the notes that had been handed over with the man in front of him.

“And, he wouldn’t speak to them either. So he hasn’t got a name. And he can’t speak now we’ve tubed him,” the staff nurse looked up at the rest of the team who were standing ready for the next action to be dictated. They all looked up at the monitor by William’s head. It made faint noises. They knew what would come next. Trying to fill the inevitable space they discussed him as he disappeared before them. The silence that followed the long steady tone on the machine was heavy.

“Time of death …”

One of the technicians spoke. “The crew brought that stuff in with him, that dirty blanket and bag, that’s all he came in with, apart from the clothes he’s wearing - if you can still call them that.  They’ve seen better days.”
“Poor sod.” Staff nurse Jane Clarke started the final process.
“Another one bites the dust …” This evening the attempts at humor didn’t result in any responsive banter. Nobody hummed a tune.
 “We did our best. We couldn’t do anything else. Could we?”
“Not much point really.”
“What possessed them to call us? Was he even really still with us when he came in? They don’t usually bother. Now we’ve got all the paperwork to do. They could have left him there and then…” Hugh sounded bitter, but he was not. He felt afraid. In that moment he remembered hiding in a wardrobe when he was 6 years old. He remembered thinking that no one would find him and he would remain lost behind his mother’s evening dresses for ever.
“…somebody else would have the bother not us.” Jane turned away from William and switched the monitor off. Hugh was glad that Jane was speaking. He felt like he was in a time whirlwind. He sensed the room spinning

Although they were used to finishing off each other’s thoughts this time everyone felt uncomfortable. They all sensed it, but no one wanted to voice it.

“He’s the fifth one this year you know.” Rosie felt brave enough to speak when the cleaners came into the room.

As they removed their gloves and aprons Hugh spoke again.
“The last one took me two days to complete the forms. I’m not doing this one. I’m dog-tired. One of you will have to do it.”
 
William John Chatsworth breathed his last breath inside the emergency room at 11:37. He had wanted to make it to the weekend, he’d always like going special places on the weekend. It was Thursday.
The staff stood back and sighed. His body, emaciated under the layers of the wardrobe that he always wore, sighed in response.
Each of them relished the quiet time and the group of them were reluctant to move for a while. Two of them were in their third day of the night rota and were already showing signs of the frayed nerves that they usually acquire after several intense nights fighting to save lives or limbs.

All present in the brightly lit room, except William, had chosen to exchange their time for different amounts of money and the chance to give their gift of healing to all who came through the smooth sliding doors. William, who had just left the room, had arrived too late to receive any benefit from them.   

William, also known as chatty Willie, hadn’t been inside a hospital since his wife died fifteen years earlier. He had been inside anywhere much. He liked the open air. It gave him a sense of freedom.

Gloved hands reached over his body.
“I guess we’d better get on with it. Who’s going to help me? We have to find something on him, you know, something to give us a clue.”

“I’m off for a kip. Sorry. You can do this, can’t you? Call me if a real emergency comes in. If nothing big comes in then please let me be. I’ve only had three hours in the last two day. Give me a break, please. Just five minutes, that’s all.”
With that Dr Cross, who was nothing like his name, swept out of the room and headed to the staff area. He was about to cry but didn’t know why, so he put his head down and walked rapidly away from his colleagues.

Like ants following a trail of sugar three others left the room just as quickly as Hugh did.
The two nurses that were left in the room didn’t protest, instead they chose an air of business efficiency as they set about their next task.

The layers of clothes were pulled back and they automatically recoiled as the smell rose from him. The gloved hands on both sides of his body worked like unknown robots. He was as anonymous to them then as they were to remain to him forever.

“How can people live like this?”
“Beats me. I’ve got to have a shower every day. This once a year washing thing would drive me mad.”
“Maybe it did, maybe that’s why he’s like this.”
“Oh, c’mon! You don’t believe that any more than I do. He’s just another example of people who opt out of the system and make it harder for the rest of us. Look at him.”
Two pairs of eyes surveyed the body they were stripping. This searching for identity was undertaken with a detachment they had had to acquire. The form on the table was no longer a person, it was a mystery to be solved. Written up and filed away. Under NFA: homeless man.
“He’s what? Maybe in his late 50s? Early 60s at a push. He must have had a home some time recently.”
“God, you say this every time, Rosie, but they don’t all have somewhere or someone who is going to miss them. Some of them are just alone. They choose that. Can’t you let it go? Just this once?”
“Someone must miss him.”
“Will it shut you up if I agree with you?”
“Will you two give it a rest? And just get on with finding something on him. We can’t have another John Doe this year, it’s too early. The other one has just been buried. I read it in the paper last week.”
“See, that’s what I mean,” Rosie raised her head towards the centre of the room, talking to all of them but no-one in particular. “We’ve got to find him someone who cares that he’s gone.”
“It’s enough having to touch him, I’m not going to take him home in an urn as well,” dry laughter spun across his body. William, however, did not hear it.
“Look, here you are. I’ve found something. Some papers in one of the coat pockets. Looks like letters of something. They may have an address on it.”
“OK. Put them in there.”
The silver tray became William’s new identity storage unit. The papers were joined by some newspaper cuttings.

“Is that it?”
The small pile of grubby papers sat to the left of William’s cooling body. He had no more use for them. Earlier that day he had fingered them lovingly and smiled. Now they meant nothing to the people gathered around him. They had closed his eyelids. The brown and blue mismatched eyes were visionless.
 
“God. I hope that when I die I amount to more than some mouldy old bits of newspaper.” The nurses turned to see Hugh leaning against the wall by the doors. They hadn’t heard him return.

“Sure you will, Hugh. You’re still on the fast-track remember. All those bonds and shares will come in handy when you decide you’re not going to muck in with us commoners any more. I’m sure Daddy will find you a cushy position in one of his companies. Either that or we’ll soon be calling you ‘Mr’ and you’ll pretend you don’t know us anymore!”

“Funny thing is, I think I’ve seen him before.” Hugh ignored the last remarks.

“They all look the same – and smell the same – when they’ve got to this condition.” Jane Clarke shook her head as she efficiently searched the body.
“Don’t get all weird on us now, Hugh, I think you’d better go and have a stiff drink – only coffee though! Remember, we’ve only just come on. Is it even kicking out time yet?” glancing up at the clock on the wall she sighed, “Our night is just starting. Man up.”

Nobody spoke.

“Anyway,” Jane continued awkwardly, “When could you have seen him? He’s stinking and dead, your stinking rich and … nah, you’d better stop that excessive partying at the weekends ‘cause it’s making you see things.”
“What about his shoes?”
Jane’s derisory laughter filled the room. It was hollow.

 “Oh, come on, Rosie, not the feet again. I swear you have a foot fetish, girl! But, if you’re so keen, you can do them.”

“I will,” her response was tired. She was tired all over. It was his eyes that made her want to finish the job completely. He’d somehow got to her. They had been trained out of making the connection with the patients that came into for a service, as they put it, they had all been trained to do their job and forget the bodies that came and went. Most of the time the training was adequate. Sometime, like this Thursday evening, things were different.

Rosie had arrived at work after an argument with her partner and wasn’t in the best of moods. She’d forgotten to bring any change or her credit cards and was therefore without money for food all night. It didn’t matter that she had worked with most of the team for months, and with some of them for a couple of years, she still did not feel comfortable borrowing money from them, even for the evening. She had had that trained into her as well. From childhood. ‘Look after your money and it’ll look after you. Stand on your own two feet.’ Drummed into her. Her parents’ voices were ingrained into her head. The years alone had also made her independent. The streets were the best teacher.

When this man laying in front of her had horizontally burst through the doors she had been put off all thoughts of food, anyway. He had a very unpleasant damp smell to him. His clothes had the scent of the streets infused into them. He was hanging on by a thread – if he was hanging on. The team had tried to kick start his life, but they got to him too late. As he lay on the  bed their firm hold on him brought no rewards. Rosie looked around her, the smell he wore didn’t really disgust her, it just unsettled her. It made her nauseous. She remembered that smell - too well. But her colleagues didn’t need to know about that.

The memories started flooding back and Rosie thought she was hallucinating for a moment. A thought implanted itself in her mind. It was a more recent memory. Just before he died she was sure that he had winked at her, from his one brown eye, and she felt a smile from him. Although she hadn’t seen his lips change shape Rosie had made a connection with the dying man and now she couldn’t just let him go without doing the search properly.

His shoes and socks came off.  He had three pairs of socks on. Inside the last pair was a small silver key, wrapped in some dirty material that could have started out as cotton wool. It was attached to his big toe by a piece of string.

Later Rosie sat alone in the break room. The coin she had found in the bottom of her bag had supplied her with the chocolate bar she was eating. Staff always eat the worst meals at night in the hospital. Rosie is used to eating odd meals at strange times she did the same through her training. After the medical education she had paid for by working two different jobs and studying when she had breaks getting on the night shift seems like a familiar routine. This is her new way of life. And it suits her more than usual at the moment because it takes her away from Stuart at nights.

He has changed. Or she has changed. They may have both changed. It is the time of night when if you stop moving for too long your brain rearranges known facts into a jumble and you have no idea what is right or wrong anymore. Rosie shakes her head sadly and thinks that memories can lie to you. She quickly pops the last bit of the chocolate bar into her mouth, licks her fingers clean and is immediately glad she is there, in the lonely and dark room, and not at home next to him in the bed. He has felt cold to the touch since February.

(Go to Chapter 2)
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