an odd exercise

Today, as part of a rather odd writing event, I wrote the following piece, from a standing start, in six minutes. The prescription was as follows: Agatha, Matt, and the five senses. This is utterly unedited, and sold three books:

‘Stop, look, listen’, said Agatha, as she felt young Matt tug on his reins. For his part, he had been humming the Marseillaise for some time now, a tune whose second verse, with its furrows of blood, was not to Agatha’s taste. What’s more, she was increasingly aware that her son was feeling the effects of a rather excessive intake of fruit juice on the bus. Not only were his hands sticky, but his hum was turning into a whine, like wine becoming vinegar, and she began to imagine the smell of the bus’s diesel fumes being infused with his piss.

Without willing it, her hands dropped the reins as she felt the hand on her shoulder and the whisper in her ear. A split second was all it took. The scream of a passer-by mixed in with the screech of brakes like two flavours of ice cream melting in the sun. She smelt burning rubber. Her heart stopped. There was silence. She felt the heat of her jeans spread as she turned to look.

There, looking directly at her was her son. Unharmed. She stepped forwards to envelop him in her arms, scoop him up to safety.

She didn’t see the lorry. She didn’t hear the lorry. She didn’t feel the lorry. But she smelt fear, and tasted death.

One for sorrow

There are occasions that bring the keenness of the razor’s edge of luck we all ride into sharp relief, never more so than when an untimely death is sprayed across a beautiful day in spring, that season which stands for everything antithetical to a sudden, brutal end. As I drove to my first game of the season, top down, sun shining, nothing but good things to look forward to, my day took on a manichaean hue. Continue reading

I have something to tell you …

‘You have Parkinson’s Disease.’ These words, once uttered, change everything. Even though many PWP already ‘know’, or at least have deep suspicions about what ails them, these words uttered by the representative of the medical world confer patienthood. It is these words that make you ill: it is these words which legitimise your symptoms; it is these words which stamp you irrevocably with the label ‘patient’. Words are transformative, and these words of diagnosis are poetry in the highest, purest sense: poetry is a word derived from the Greek poieo: to make.
And they say that words will never hurt you. Continue reading

Vox pox

(First published in Parkinson’s Movement 2013)

Many years ago, I was at my parents’ house when the phone rang. Naturally, I answered it. On the other end I found an old family friend, whose voice I recognised immediately. ‘Hello David’, she said. ‘Ah, no, it’s Pete’, I replied.’ ‘Very funny, David.’ ‘It’s not David, it’s Pete.’ A small pause. Some repetition. Eventually, she became rather irate. ‘Look, David’, she said, ‘I’m getting very tired of this …’ She would not accept that my voice was not that of my father, they were so similar. Several years later, on the day he died, the phone rang once again. Continue reading

Who you calling an asshole?

Things are getting rough on the interweb. The problem is, opinions are morphing into threats are morphing into actions such that people, such as Dan Hodges, in this rather disturbing but, I must say, refreshingly honest piece, are becoming afraid to post opinions or, what is worse, hold to their convictions for fear of retaliation. Dan begins his piece, naturally surrounding the Charlie Hebdo massacre, with these words:

Just before I started this piece I was about to tweet the picture of the cartoon of the prophet Muhammad published by the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. I was going to do it “in solidarity”. And then I stopped. I stopped because I was scared. Continue reading

Age cannot wither him/her

Apparently there’s a hoo-hah over Stephen Fry’s imminent marriage to a twenty-something comedian. People (especially on that new-fangled instrument, the interweb), are without so much as a by your leave suggesting that the 30-year age gap is perhaps somewhat wide. Hannah Jane Parkinson has written an article which unwittingly explains exactly why scepticism surrounding the shelf-life of such relationships is rather well-founded. Continue reading

Don’t mind me, I’m just an artist …

bb stack

So, you’ve survived the hell that is Christmas and the purgatory (literally in some cases) of New Year’s Eve, and you’re staring at a blank screen, waiting for the words to be transferred from the very depths of your soul into 12pt Times New Roman by that magical process they call ‘writing’. Continue reading

Small beer

As Oscar Wilde never said, if there’s one thing that is almost as good as playing cricket, it’s talking about playing cricket. Indeed, it could be argued that we play better in our narratives than in the game itself. This, of course, would be a wild and unjustified accusation. It is true, however, that one of the great joys of cricket is the post-mortem, carried out, according to tradition, in a nearby hostelry or at the clubhouse. Continue reading