My Father’s Daughter.

I didn’t enter the water gracefully. It was a precarious balance on slippery rocks, before I lost my footing, gasped as my whole body plunged under the waves. Though it was September and there was still warmth to the sun, the body of water that lay before me was chilling beneath the wind that whipped the surface into tiny white peaks. ‘Keep swimming,’ was the motto, and swim I did, even if the cold of the water numbed my fingers, made my skin tingle. 2 km didn’t sound like much, but previously I hadn’t had much practice. I was rusty and my muscles let me know it!

As a child, my family would have weekly swimming evenings at the local pool, followed by a chippie tea and Doctor Who on the TV. I was lucky to be born when the old Victorian school buildings still stood, before modernisation bulldozed them for clinical, soulless buildings. My school, red bricked and full of ghost stories had a wonderful heated swimming pool alongside it. Even before entering the building, with towel rolled under an arm, the smell of chlorine always tickled the nose, cleared the senses.

The noise at poolside was often deafening! Children shrieked with nervous excitement, trying to stay afloat with giant orange inflatables around their arms. I would emerge from a blue curtained cubicle like a butterfly from its chrysalis, proudly wearing my red swimsuit. Always, my father would be in the pool first, beckoning me into the cradling waters, challenging me. In his youth he had been a finalist in the inter-city championships, had numerous certificates and badges. He still enthused about the sport and would encourage me to swim further than I could ever think possible. 100 metres was a long way for a young girl.

Where I swam now was very different to a pool and I was no longer ‘Daddy’s little champion.’ I was a woman of 40. An infinite expanse of sky, pregnant with clouds arched overhead. Shingle beaches lined the shores and jagged mountains crowded around, like they were bringing me into their confidence. Crows shrieked their good morning. Day would soon arrive and with it the chance of rain. As I pushed my body through the water, soft like silk, Nathan sat alongside me, paddling silently.

I met Nathan at a turning point in both our lives. I was chopping vegetables in the kitchen of a hostel, where I was holidaying in Scotland. Onions sizzled in a pan while tears tore down my face. ‘Something smells good!’ I started and the knife I held clattered to the floor.

‘It’ll be a chilli once it’s cooked.’ I turned to face a larger than life man. He was still wearing his hiking gear and had trodden mud through into the kitchen. ‘Hungry?’

‘Famished!’ He grinned.

The evening sun dipped beyond the horizon, turning the clouds into a kind of pink blancmange. The air was still, sweetly scented. Spring in Scotland has its own beauty. Trees slowly unfurled their tender leaves and rivers raged with melt-water from the mountains. Nathan, freshly showered, and I sat on a bench eating our bowls of chilli in the hostel’s garden. A bottle of wine shared between us. ‘What brings you to Scotland?’ I asked.

‘Adventure,’ he shrugged, then looking up at me he said shyly. ‘A broken heart. You?’

‘I recently lost my father.’ I took a mouthful of bitter wine. ‘We had been estranged the last couple of years, so the news was pretty hard to take.’ I paused. Nathan sat silently, listening. ‘I just had to get away, escape. You know how it is?’ He nodded. ‘I just packed the car and headed up here.’

‘Planning on staying long?’

‘A day or two. Depends if there’s anything to stay for.’ It was then that we shared one of those looks and the world suddenly shifts. Two people, lonely and broken, found comfort in each other’s arms.

Two years later, I found myself immersed in nature, practicing for a charity swim. The northern shore of the lake loomed ahead, trees, tall and prickly stood sentinel. From the water’s surface I suddenly noticed a familiar figure standing motionless by the lakeside, his arm raised in a wave. I stopped kicking, felt my body suspended by the water, while minnows gently swam between my fingers. ‘Sarah!’ Nathan called. ‘Don’t stop!’

‘Do you see..?’ I shouted, treading water.

‘What?’ I looked back towards the shore, to where only trees huddled around a burnt shell of a building. ‘It was probably a dog walker.’ Nathan encouraged. ‘You’re almost there! Don’t give up!’ I stretched my tired arms forward and pressed on for the last 50 metres or so. Soon my legs hit rocks as I crawled out of the water. My muscles ached, my skin purple with bruises. ‘You made it!’ Nathan cried jumping out of the kayak, ‘and in under an hour!’ His feet splashed in the shallows before he draped a towel around my shivering body.

‘Maybe I am my father’s daughter after all,’ I panted.

‘And more,’ Nathan cupped my face in his hands. ‘He would have been amazed at what you can achieve.’ Wells of tears unexpectedly flooded my eyes.

‘Really?’

‘Yes. Sure, he would have been jealous. Swimming in a lake! That has to beat swimming in a pool any day!’

‘I suppose,’ I smiled through chattering teeth.

‘You’ve swam further than you’ve ever done before. He would have been so proud of you!’ I felt Nathan’s lips, hot on mine as he wrapped his arms around me. I leant into his warm body.

‘I know it sounds silly but I could have sworn I saw him standing by the boathouse.’ Nathan looked to where the wooden structure stood derelict. There was no other living soul, save them at the lake.

‘Perhaps he was, cheering you on as he used to.’

‘It’s a nice thought.’

‘Come, let’s get you warm. A strong, celebratory coffee is in order. Perhaps I’ll buy us cake!’ We turned our backs to the lake laughing as we went, and the rain that was promised began to fall.

© 2016 Christine Lucas


I haven’t written anything of note in a while. The above story was written in response to an advert for submissions for an anthology on wild swimming. Needless to say I was not successfully chosen, so I’ve posted the piece for you, my lovely readers. It was written with a word count restriction, so forgive the fractured feel to the narrative.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Christine x

Blogs I’ve Enjoyed in 2016.

Since it’s December and the end of the year is fast approaching, I thought I would share with you all the blogs I have been enjoying over the past 12 months!

14875907_10154199400664200_679149005_oSharon’s wonderful Sunshine and Celandines, has become a long standing blog which I follow. She writes about food, days out/holidays and her life with gorgeous Labrador Hugo. I have enjoyed our blogging friendship and the sharing of writing topics such as joining Wild October!

Keeping with the theme of nature. Another three blogs which I look forward to reading are:

  1. Ramblings of a Roachling, where Louise posts beautiful pictures of her walks and life in the Peak District. She also blogs at 30 Days Wild!were 30 days has become a life long love affair with nature.
  2. Nicky at Too Lazy to Weed writes a fantastic blog with detailed pictures and information on the critters that live in her not so manicured garden!
  3. During June’s 30 Days Wild I came across Emma’s Discovery Hub and Twitter page. Both are full of informative facts on wildlife.
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Grasmere

A source of inspiration for my recently discovered ‘wild’ swims, is SwimmingTheLakeswhere the author is challenging herself to swim every lake and tarn in the Lake District!

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Mexican Quinoa

My favourite ‘go to’ website for recipes is Chungah at Damn Delicious. Her One Pan Mexican Quinoa makes a wonderful nutritious meal and the ingredients can be swapped and changed depending what’s in the store cupboard.

When the mood grabs me, I dabble in a little creative writing. Sue’s weekly #writephoto, where she posts a visual prompt, is and can be stimulating, as you can read here.

Classical music is another big passion in my life. I don’t know how I came about Charlotte Hoather’s blog but I enjoy reading updates on her performances and her studies.

If the London theatre scene is more your thing, then Rukaya vlogs about the many stage shows happening in London!

So there you have it, a small snapshot of some of the blogs I follow. If you have any blog suggestions then do post them in the comments below. I look forward to discovering many more fantastic blogs!

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Moonlit – #writephoto

red-moon-011

Composed in response to Sue Vincent’s #writephoto post.

The sky had turned a velvety indigo, speckled with starlight. The full moon’s white rays danced on the surface of the lake. Its beam like an arrow, pointed to where the woman stood. She had discarded her shoes and stood barefoot on the stony shore. Listening to the trance-like sound of the water as it touched the rocks, she edged slowly towards their icy grip. ‘You shouldn’t be here.’ She smiled coyly, turning towards the silhouetted shape of a man coming towards her. His footsteps crunched as he drew alongside her. She trembled excitedly as she felt his arms encircle her waist, the touch of his cold lips on hers. She pulled away shyly.

‘Neither should you.’ She heard him laugh. ‘Ed, what would your husband say, if he knew you were here with me?’ She chuckled. ‘With a straight woman too!’

‘What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.’ She started walking, gingerly at first deeper into the water. Sharp stones cut into her feet. The fabric of her long dress grew heavy.

‘Why did you come?’ She heard him sigh. ‘And don’t give me that ‘I’m confused’ line. You’re 50! You should know who you are by now!’ Ed looked shocked.

‘Lisa,’ he paused, thinking of the right words to say. ‘You know there’s always been something about you.’ Lisa stood knee deep in water. She could see Ed’s features blanched by the moonlight. He looked ethereal. She shivered. ‘It’s always been about you. 20 years ago, you were all I could see and now…’ he broke off.

‘And now?’

‘I don’t know what’s happening between us?’

‘Me neither,’ Lisa sighed. ‘Though it feels different somehow.’

‘Yes, less possessive.’

‘Have you told Lee about me?’ Lisa noticed Ed’s stance, uncomfortable, with his hands in his pockets.

‘No, what could I say?’

‘The truth,’ she scoffed.

‘He knows there’s been women in the past.’

‘And he’s fine with that?’ Ed nodded.

‘I’ve just not told him that there was one that left her mark on me.’

‘Literally,’ Lisa thought, picturing the scar Ed bore on his chest, where she had sliced him with a kitchen knife after one of their many heated arguments.

‘What are you doing?’ Ed asked, exasperated, as Lisa walked waist high into the lake.

‘Standing in stone cold water,’ she shivered.

‘You’re mad!’

‘I’d rather be mad than dead inside.’ She turned to face Ed, her dress soaking up more of the insidious cold, dragging her downwards. ‘It’s like the moon has nothing to be sad about… her blacks crackle and drag,’ she quoted Sylvia Plath.

‘You’re more sloshing around, than crackling.’ Ed grinned.

‘Join me?’ Lisa laughed nervously, before her scream pierced the night sharply. She’d felt her feet stumble, slip on mossy stones, before her whole body succumbed to the water. She exhaled loudly, raising above the surface, giggling fitfully, thankfully to still be alive. Concentric waves rippled all around her. A man swore angrily as he stormed away from the promontory with a camera and tripod under his arm. Lisa managed to find her feet and stood dripping.

‘You ok?’ Ed called.

‘Yes,’ Lisa smiled. ‘Looks like I’ve ruined his photographs.’

‘Ignore him!’

‘Seems I have a knack for ruining things for people.’

‘Don’t believe that!’ Ed sensed Lisa’s jovial mood was turning.

‘Perhaps it would be better if I wasn’t here at all.’ Lisa looked towards the vast darkness of the lake. Peaks of night covered hills glowed orange with street lights from the nearby town.

‘Never think that!’ Ed gazed at Lisa’s white skin glowing in the moonlit. Her dark hair tumbling over her pale naked shoulders. ‘You look like a nereid.’

‘Come?’ Lisa beckoned, watching as Ed reluctantly peeled the shirt off his back, unbuckled the belt from his jeans.

‘I can’t believe I’m doing this?’

‘You can do it!’ Lisa felt herself slipping further into the icy water, until her whole body was submerged. Her rapid breathing was echoed by Ed’s, who’d waded bravely into the lake towards her.

‘Oh f**k, oh f**k!’ He cried as Lisa held her arms out. ‘Why do this?’

‘I just want to feel alive!’

‘There’s better ways to feel alive!’ Ed bounded through the water, droplets glittering like diamonds in the moonlight, flew all around. The fabric of Lisa’s dress wrapped itself around her legs, threatening to pull her down.

‘I’ve got you!’ Ed called, reaching for Lisa’s body, holding her firm. Face to face they breathed each others breath.

‘No one must know about us.’

‘Like I’m going to publicise it,’ Ed mocked.

‘I mean it.’ Lisa implored, her consciousness pricked. ‘Paul must never know. It would break him.’

‘We both have something to lose.’ Lisa closed her eyes and let Ed kiss her. It was an impassioned caress filled with years of want.

‘I still love Paul, but he will never understand what we feel for each other,’ she murmured. ‘I love you so much.’ Lisa ran her cold, wet fingers through Ed’s hair, shivered as he muzzled her neck.

‘I love you.’ She quivered in his arms.

‘How can we make this work? We both have very different lives?’

‘I don’t know.’ Ed looked towards the Great Bear and the north star, as a sailor would, looking for direction. ‘We can’t keep using unplanned conferences and meetings as an excuse or they’ll grow suspicious.’

‘Perhaps we should cut our losses, say our goodbyes.’

‘That’s not what I want, nor I believe do you.’

‘But someone’s bound to get hurt.’ Ed held Lisa close, afraid that if he let go, she would slip from his sight. As moonlight bathed their heads, a shooting star carved its way across the sparkling tapestry of the night sky.

© Christine Lucas 2016.


Lines taken from Sylvia Plath’s – Edge.

The woman is perfected.
Her dead
Body wears the smile of accomplishment,
The illusion of a Greek necessity
Flows in the scrolls of her toga,
Her bare
Feet seem to be saying:
We have come so far, it is over.
Each dead child coiled, a white serpent,
One at each little
Pitcher of milk, now empty.
She has folded
Them back into her body as petals
Of a rose close when the garden
Stiffens and odors bleed
From the sweet, deep throats of the night flower.
The moon has nothing to be sad about,
Staring from her hood of bone.
She is used to this sort of thing.
Her blacks crackle and drag.
Sylvia Plath, “Edge” from Collected Poems. Copyright © 1960, 1965, 1971, 1981 by the Estate of Sylvia Plath. Editorial matter copyright © 1981 by Ted Hughes.
Source: Collected Poems (HarperCollins Publishers Inc, 1992)

Sunday Sevens #15

Phew! These past seven days have felt like a long week! I was thankful for the weekend!

TroyDavid and I have been worrying about our owl finch, Troy. He became ill on Sunday last, sitting on the floor twisting his head. The phenomena is called twirling. It is very upsetting to witness. All week I have felt helpless. We have put him on a course of anti-fungal medication in the hope that it is an ear canal infection. Troy seems to rally of a morning but come nighttime he relapses again. We have isolated him, in the hospital cage and will try anti-mite treatment next week. His mate, Tux has joined him in his cage for company. The picture featured is of Troy in good health.

I think I’ll get all the sad news out of the way first! One of the main events on the world stage this week, has been the attack on Bastille Day revellers in Nice. In Liverpool, in a recurrent display, the iconic St Georges Hall was sadly lit up with the colours of the tricolour in solidarity.

20160715_222805

41dd4ZhCx5L._SX310_BO1,204,203,200_I finished the latest book I’ve been reading, Rachel Kelly’s Black Rainbow. I read it for an online book group. It was only 99p, which was a positive. The prose is about the author’s two bouts of depression and how ‘words healed’ her, though I think it was prescription drugs and support by health professionals and her family who contributed to her recovery. I was not enamored with the book. I drew nothing from the narration, indeed halfway through the book the author’s attitude really alienated me and I grew quite hostile! The many interjections of ‘supportive’ poems really didn’t call to me, highlighting that depression is an individual illness. My own mental state may have caused my severe reaction to the book, but on completion, I felt empty, devoid of any feelings, not even relief in finishing the book. Have you read the book? Perhaps you gained more insight than I did.

And now for the good stuff!

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On Friday, David and I attended the Liverpool Playhouseto see the Globe Theatre’s touring production of The Merchant of Venice, starring Jonathan Pryce. I was amazed to have acquired tickets as the play was a sell out! It’s not a play that sits easy with me. I find the antisemitism hard to watch. The Globe’s production relies heavily on the play being classed as one of William Shakespeare’s comedies, as the comic scenes starkly juxtapose the heavy drama. From the outset the play is performed with gusto by the cast. The musicians and ensemble came onto the stage singing and dancing 10 minutes before the billed start. David and I had just found our seats when the music struck up! The actors encouraged audience participation, to the extent that Launcelot (Stefan Adegbola) even dragged up two willing members of the audience to grace the action on stage. It made me think of how very different Shakespeare’s audience was to that of our own modern audience who silently watch voyeuristically from the darkness.

At times I felt I had travelled back in time as the stage design, lighting and costumes all gave the stage a kind of authenticity. There was much gravitas to Jonathan Pryce’s Shylock. I liked the interchanges in Hebrew between his onstage (and off) daughter Jessica, (Phoebe Pryce.) Rachel Pickup’s Portia was another highlight for me, she graced the stage elegantly yet her diction commanded you take note of her character! She had many a wise word to say.

Overall it was an enjoyable two and a half hours. David even treated me to Cheshire Farm ice-cream during the interval, scrumptious!

Saturday, we arose early. I dragged a reluctant David to Sheffield, to tour the streets in search of their herd of colourful elephants. We visited the Crucible where I recited tales of when I visited in 2013 to see my favourite actor, Jonathan FirthWe took in sights such as the Winter Gardens, Cathedral and railway station. We saw 31 of the 58 elephants in the two hours we walked. Below we pose with our favourites!

Have you been to the theatre recently? Seen any interesting art installations?

I hope you have a joyous week ahead. See you next Sunday.

Christine x

Sunday Sevens was devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins.

Week Six of Start Writing Fiction

I thought last week was difficult enough with falling behind with my studies, but this week has been even worse! We have been thrown task after task after task!! Below is one such task. It was to envisage a character through dialogue. I quite enjoyed writing it. It just seemed to flow. Hope you enjoy it too? And as always any feedback is most welcome!

 

She walked over to him, unsure whether he had seen her or not. ‘Would you like a second cup Sir?’ She noticed him start. He looked up into her eyes and to Olivia it looked like he had been found guilty. Guilty of sitting in a coffee shop alone. Guilty of a pupil seeing him outside of school. Guilty of being found reading ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’. ‘My favourite book!’

‘Well I thought I would give it a try since one of my star pupils loves it so much!’ He blushed or she thought she noticed the colour rise to his cheeks.

‘Would you like me to get you another cup?’ He shook his head.

‘I don’t think I’ll be staying much longer.’ He looked at his watch.

‘Are you waiting for someone Sir?’ He smiled his assent.

‘Though I don’t think she’s coming.’

‘Maybe she’s been held up?’

‘Maybe,’ he sighed. ‘Though somehow I think I’ve been blown off.’

‘No Sir, surely not.’

‘Well I have been waiting here for over an hour.’

‘There’ll be a plausible explanation I’m sure.’

‘Please don’t tell your class mates I was stood up. I really don’t want them knowing that I am a sad lonely old teacher.’

‘You’re not old!’ Olivia caught herself.

‘Older than you!’

‘Not by much.’

‘By enough.’

‘I’d date you!’ Olivia not only surprised herself but her teacher sat upright too.

‘Would you now,’ he released a strained laugh, showing he was trying too hard to make light of the matter. ‘Anyway,’ he changed the subject like a click of the fingers. ‘What are you doing here?’

‘I work here.’

‘I can see that, but why, you have your studies?’

‘I need the money Sir.’

‘Call me Adam. Sir is so stiff and formal.’ Now it was Olivia’s time to blush. She lowered her gaze. ‘Why do you need the money?’

‘I’m saving to go to Paris,’ she blurted.’ I’ve wanted to go since I can remember!’

‘Paris is a lovely city!’

‘Have you been?’ Olivia couldn’t stop the rising excitement within her. Adam nodded. She desired more than anything else to be able to share her dreams with someone. Adam, her teacher seemed the most qualified than anyone she knew, to be the one she shared them with. She sat down at the table before him. ‘What’s it like?’

‘Olivia!’ a shrill cry broke Adam’s description of music filled streets, the Seine glistening in the moonlight and Art, not just in the galleries but on the buildings that lined the boulevards. Olivia arose from her seat under the glare of her boss.

‘Sorry I have cups to wash.’

‘Perhaps,’ Olivia looked down at Adam with wide eyes. ‘We can continue this conversation at school, Monday.’

‘Yes, maybe.’ She walked away, forgetting Adam’s empty coffee cup on the table.

© Christine Lucas 2014.

Ideas for a Story

As you may know I have embarked on a short, free creative writing course with the Open University.

This is the second ‘large’ piece of writing I have been tasked to do. It was inspired by a short video introducing the course and I have tried to pull a story from one of the images featured. Of a young woman sitting, awaiting a bus with an over night bag on her lap. Let me know what you think of the first 500+ words and if it has any promise for me to continue with. Thanks. Christine.

 

I remember… how he looked the morning he walked into the class room. The bright spring sunshine flowed into the room, touching the heads of twenty four rowdy teenagers and me. I sat gazing out of the window to the park below. The trees were heavy limbed with pink blossom and daisy heads interjected the green grass of the playing fields. I watched as an elderly man walked his dog, a young mother pushed her baby in a pram while talking into a mobile phone. All life was going on before me while I sat stifled and bored awaiting the new form teacher to arrive and to begin another day of endless classes. Don’t get me wrong, I loved studying, was always in the top 5% of classes but life at present seemed an endless chore. Mother had just remarried to a pig of a man, Dan and my older sister Melanie, had started her first semester at Manchester University studying politics. So it was just ‘little old’ me in a house far too large for three people, (two of whom I tried to avoid at all times,) and Jake the Border Collie. ‘Perhaps I’ll take the dog for a walk after school,’ I thought and then the door was flung open and in he walked!

It was his confident swagger that gripped me first. He didn’t look much older than 25, but his poise gave him the air of a much older man. I think I half envied him then! Confidence was never a strong character trait with me. Indeed that was why I was sitting alone while the rest of the girls in class were all huddled at the back chatting to the boys, the good looking boys I may hasten to add. He breezed in and demanded such attention that everyone fell silent. ‘I’m Mr. Blake and I will be your new class teacher.’

It didn’t take long for the brassy ones of the class to pipe up, ‘sir, which school have you transferred from? What subject do you teach?’ The latter was voiced by the girls who were suddenly sitting alert like animals in anticipation of food.

‘Poor Mr. Blake,’ I thought. ‘He’s a carrot dangling before all these hormonal girls, many on the verge of womanhood,’ He bent over his desk and peered into the class register. He patted his shirt pocket, looking for something.

‘I’ve forgotten my glasses. Forgive me if I get your names wrong. I’m rather short sighted.’ His voice was rich and soft like the wind sighing through the trees. If I closed my eyes I could picture his voice coming from the radio late at night, announcing some relaxing piece of music. I smiled as I thought I wouldn’t mind lying in bed listening to his voice all night. ‘Olivia Edwards,’ he was saying my name. ‘Olivia Edwards is she here?’ and then I opened my eyes. He was scanning the sea of faces before him looking for someone he thought resembled an Olivia.

‘Here,’ I managed to squeak. His eyes rested on my face and I half envisaged a slight turn up of his lips.

‘Nice to meet you Olivia Edwards,’ and inside my heart pounded.

Interview Nerves.

An extract from ‘After Plato’.

Charlotte stood buttoning up her blouse as her reflection smiled back at her. She shrugged on a grey jacket that matched her knee length skirt. She remembered the lines in the typed letter that she had received. ‘We thank you for your application and would like to invite you to an interview.’ Charlotte had stood frozen to the spot as she read the letter out to Harry after the postman had delivered it a week ago today.

‘Do you think they will like me?’ Charlotte asked, stroking down the creases of her skirt.

‘I don’t see why not, you know your playwrights, you would probably be more useful in the press office than the box,’ Harry replied. He was sitting on the edge of the bed watching Charlotte get ready for her interview at the local theatre.

‘Well it’s a start. I could work up the ranks.’

‘A career woman eh?’ Charlotte giggled as Harry grabbed at her, pulling her onto the bed next to him. He felt her body tremble as she lay in his arms. ‘You don’t have to be nervous. They will adore you, like I do!’

‘Oh Hal, you are sweet,’ Charlotte smiled throwing her arms around his neck and welcoming his soft kisses on her lips, her neck.

‘Just take deep breaths and think what you are going to say before speaking.’

‘I will,’ Charlotte sighed. ‘I’ll think of you when I am in the interview. Your love will carry me through,’ she closed her eyes and held Harry close.

‘Don’t think of me too much or it’ll leave you breathless.’ Charlotte smiled and clung to Harry like he was the sustenance that gave her life meaning.

 

Christine Lucas 2014.