Date Night

 

He says my flat is like the Tardis, loads bigger inside than it looks from the street. He’s right, too. It’s got a tiny doll house front door and a staircase that goes round and round and up in a barley sugar twist, my living room blooming high and wide as you go in. My rooms are pretty like a chocolate box, soft furnishings of quiet pastel; the porcelain figurines my Gran left me lined up in rows on the shelves and along the mantelpiece, and on the top of the telly.

He calls our Fridays date night, but we’ve never been on an actual date. No dinner in a candlelit restaurant, or necking in the back row in the pictures, no dancing hip on hip, and lip on lip. I’ve never put on a nice dress for him or painted my face, and gone walking into town holding hands. But, just look at him. Tall and lean, hair thick and clean and blond like the beach in holiday brochures; close my eyes and I smell the sea, same as when you hold an empty shell to your ear and the water laps on a shore, right there.

One Friday, I watch from the bedroom floor as he’s pulling his jeans back on. The belt buckle slaps against his thigh.

‘I love you.’ It’s a shock when he comes out with it.

‘What?’

He blinks. ‘I love you.’

My words whoosh out. ‘Me too.’

‘Really?’ More age slips from his face.

‘Of course.’ But my larynx sheds rust.

Air is snatched from my lungs as it hits me. I’m not in love, am I?  I don’t love him, not at all. I don’t even bloody well like him. Not as a person. This isn’t what I want. He isn’t what I want.

I want to be in love.

I want to be happy, the sort I read about in books. I want to die of summer, feel the sun kissing my face more surely than he ever could.  I need the feel of a firm hand curving my hip and pulling me close, lips resting softly on my temple, the small of my back moist and sticky, cheeks flushed and pink, my pulse racing in my wrists. I want it all, and more.

And yet instead, I gift him a shy smile. Coquettish and coy, I get up and walk over. He covers my mouth with his. As our tongues dance awkward and slow, bumping this way and that, moving out of time, the figurines around us, my figurines, curl their spines into round shells, strike a pose, and freeze frame. The pile carpet thickens under my feet and, the ceiling pressing the top of my head, it bends my neck crooked, the walls around me closing in.

(First published National Flash Fiction Day Flash Flood Journal, June 2017)

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The Critical Sense

In the second year of English A Level class, at age seventeen, we were handed a book. A slim volume with The Critical Sense printed blandly on the over, our tutor warned us from the beginning, ‘this book is hell.’

And he was right. The most boring book ever written, instructing us on how to criticise poetry and prose.  We had to pen essays on the bloody thing for the next eight months. Horrific.

Whether one can learn how to critique by reading and analysing a book is debatable (that might be one of the essays I wrote, come to think). Fact is, in 2016, a *few* years later, Amazon and the internet have made reviewers of all of us.

Authors need five star reviews on Amazon, and lots of them, to sell books. Fair enough.

But.

Award under full marks and reprisals start bleeding through, naming and shaming the new sport.

Music reviews on blog sites and webzines are the same; everything must be declared ace or it’s sucked in cheeks, waggling fingers and passive aggressive sub tweets.

Reviewing is largely a thankless task. Reviewers are reviewed, critics critiqued.

As critics we can only say what we see, hear and feel.  The last one is as important as the rest. Puff pieces simply won’t do.

Of course there are always those wanting to make a name for themselves by slaughtering sacred cows, nothing new about that. And giving one measly star on Amazon because a book took 2 days to arrive or you didn’t like the look the postman gave you when he delivered it, is plain daft.

Hey – everyone’s a critic these days.

It’s important that authors, musicians, actors and creatives know that we largely go in desperately wanting to be thrilled. I always want to fall in love.

A book or performance making me happy is one of life’s most beautiful things.  I think that’s the same for all of us, pretty much, yes?

@cathbore  

New stuff

I have work coming out in some really nice places over the coming weeks. This blog post reads a bit like a list, so I apologise in advance for that!

An essay on sisterhood will be in the A Room of Our Own anthology, the book is raising money to keep the organisation’s website going so they can continue their valuable work.

Another essay, about my non-motherhood and choice to not become a parent, is in issue 2 of I Hope You Like Feminist Rants later in the summer. My writing on housework is in issue 1 of Rants, which you can purchase here.

My flash fiction Good Times, originally published in Slim Volume 1 : No Love Lost (2015), is published in CRUSHED, a book of writing and art on the subject of heartbreak is out this month (May 2016). Editor Charlotte Apsin is producing a zine to go with it.

I’ve got work in the University of Liverpool Centre For New & International Writing’s journal, on  page 18, published last week.

I was made up to have a flash fiction, The Other Woman, included as part of Hayley Webster’s All The Words book festival also last week, you can read it here.

I wrote about LightNight here, and Liverpool Biennial here, for Getintothis.

52% starts its summer break next month, I make my final appearance in this series in a fortnight. The next series starts in the Autumn!

That’s it, I think. For now…

@cathbore

Words and music

Go together, so well. I had a very short flash fiction short story The Torn Soul published over at 101 Words this week. It’s a very sad story, and inspired in part by a song. I do this a lot, take a couple of words or a sentence from a song or poem and play around with it, turn it into something new and mine.

It does mean though that I live in a quiet terror that I’ll be found out, especially with smaller groups and songwriters and poets who might stumble across what I’ve written. But I haven’t had any angry responses so far; most people take it as a compliment, I think.

I hope so anyway.

In Liverpool, we have a bar called The Bumper. I don’t know who writes the witticisms on their sign each week, but they’re bloody wonderful. It just shows what can be done with so few words:

bumper students.PNG

bumper autocorrect

bumper auto

You can read The Torn Soul here.

@cathbore

Unfortunately there isn’t a budget for this, but…

This is a piece  I wrote last year but is still very relevant .

 

I received an email from a casual acquaintance informing me of his new job (hurrah! Many congrats! said I) and associated project.

How exciting, I enthused. In these austere times it is always inspiring to hear of a fellow creative doing well.

“I’m looking for a short film script to be developed by my students,” he says.  “Would you be interested?”

My instinct was, bloody hell yes. That’d be marvellous. As a freelance writer, I’m always interested in new ventures, how lovely of you to think of me…

Then I read further.

“Unfortunately there isn’t a budget for this, but your work will be seen by top industry professionals”.

I can hear the collective groan from fellow writers as they read this. It’s a familiar missive, not just for us writers but other creatives too.

We shouldn’t have to spell it out, but writers need money to live.  To some people this is news, that writers have bills and mortgages much like anyone else. Writers, we sit by the magic money tree and pluck tenners from its branches; this is what some people think. The truth is, if I had taken on this unpaid work (I didn’t), the hours and days spent on this script would replace my paid writing work. You know, the thing that pays my bills and mortgage. What can I say? It’s greedy of me, I know, but the cats need new shoes and I in fact have no magic money tree at my disposal.

That’s my first point, the whole cash thing (or lack of it). Point two is the top industry professionals part. The problem is for me, if I write a screenplay for nothing, those “top industry professionals” will know it. How brilliant for my image!  I may as well have a sign over my head saying “mug”.

My current mug, my "Farage F*CKING MUG"
My current mug, my “Farage F*CKING MUG”

far2Farage Fucking Mug Pop Sex

Low pay is an issue affecting so many people. Minimum wage is still too low, but the £6.50 for adults is underpinned in law. For creatives though, minimum wage is often seen as a luxury.

Last year, I was offered the opportunity to lead a project. It wasn’t writing, but creative in nature, and paid £17.50 per hour for a 2 hour session each week. Hardly a fortune especially for the skills the role required, but a rate easily leapfrogging over minimum wage. By the third week, language shifted from “rates of pay”, to “we don’t want you to be out of pocket”. £25 was suggested to me, in cash. That’s rather a dramatic cut, I thought, then on the way home it slowly, horribly dawned on me. They meant not the original £35 per week, but £25 for the entire three weeks.

That’s £4.16 per hour. £8.32 per session.

Let’s do some sums.

My bus ticket to and from my home to the venue is £4.80.

For the first two weeks I took a bottle of water to drink, but on the third I forgot (sue me) and bought a cup of peppermint tea, at £1.60.

I was asked to promote the venture too, adding more hours of work for the money.

Adding up the pennies, this project was costing me money. If I wasn’t working on it, I’d be at home on my laptop, writing for people who give me money to work for them. If I continued with this project, I’d be paying to work.

I’m sorry, but this isn’t morally right. It just can’t be, from whatever angle you look at it.

In the past I’ve had suggestions that pay rates should be less because there’s been an “element of (my) training” involved in a project, that it’s good publicity for me – a very common line, and the big one – “when we get some funding…” or “there’s a possibility of paid work in the future”. Heartfelt at the time, I’m sure.

I don’t mind doing some work on a voluntary basis, if the cause is close to my heart. Us creatives are generous with our time, we realise it’s a privilege to earn a living doing something we enjoy. There’s so many people out there doing jobs they can’t bear, I’ve been there myself. I don’t even have to get dressed or drag myself out of bed to earn a crust, I know I’m on to a good thing. But I believe in a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay. I note, as other creatives do, that those generously offering such bonanzas as free publicity and access to faceless, nameless top industry contacts, aren’t doing so for free.

Or even at £4.16 per hour. Interesting in itself, I think.

@cathbore

I have a flash fiction GOOD TIMES in a new book Slim Volume: No Love Lost (Pankhearst, Jan 2015).  

Book news

There are two books out this week with my work in them.

On Monday 5th Jan, Sisters Born, Sisters Found (Wordforest) is out via ebook. In paperback already, it carries my feminist essay “You women! You’re such bithes!”. The book is an exploration of sisterhood in all its guises. Thanks to editor Laura McHale Holland from Wordforest for all the hard work she put into producing the book.

cath bore

On Tuesday 6th Jan, the ebook version of Slim Volume : No Love Lost (Pankhearst) is also released, with the paperback available since December. I help celebrate anti-romance with my flash fiction “Good Times”. Edited by Kate Garrett, the book is a full of beautiful stories and poetry. I read “Good Times” on YouTube:

A (slightly late) launch for No Love Lost takes place in Sheffield on 29th January, details here.

@cathbore

Dumped

My phone is quite a posh one, for me. I’ve had it for two years. “It’s just come in,” said the woman in the shop who flogged it to me, with a knowing nod.

“Oh has it?” I tried to be nonchalant but she knew she had me.

“Look at my new phone,” I said to husband, who resented his Blackberry Curve from that second on.

It’s a good phone my posh phone so I’m told and true enough it looks nice, all black and flat and shiny. If I threw it at someone it’d hurt like nothing else, but I’m not sure self-defence is one of its features. It carries loads of apps, the bulk of which I never use – they’ve not fulfilled their destiny, which is sad and as my contract nears its end I admit that posh phones are not for me.  The photographs my posh phone takes are terrible, at gigs I am faced the next day with purple blurry people. The Purple Blurry People are not a psychedelic garage band, sadly, just rubbish images. Family and friends develop pie faces with my phone photos or seem haggard, half human-half exhausted sprite. One set of photos I took was freakishly good, so fine and clear and clean even now I can’t believe that my phone took them. They look like art shots (by my standards), will you look at the drinking glass on on the bottom one?:

colorama altrincham
Colorama launching the Temari album in Altrincham (May 2014)

 

The good photos, they never happened again. On the night of the good photos I think my phone steeled itself, took a deep breath, puffed its chest out and thought tonight we’ll take one for the team or she’ll bin us, but it was too late. The rot already set in, and photos of Lucinda Williams I took just weeks later make me want to weep, still. I won’t share them, I have some pride.

This week I decide to get rid of my phone. I plan it with care because I know what will happen, I’ll ring up the phone people and they will throw sales patter at me, try and convince me to carry on paying £TOO MUCH each month for a phone I don’t really use, with their smiley voices and promises of things for free.  I’m sucker for “and we’ll throw in this for free, just for you…”.  It’s a snake oil approach to marketing, the belief that people will pay the earth to get something for nothing. Not me, I decided. Not now. I’m a changed woman. I’m going to be brave and bold like the early feminists and take a non-compromising approach.

I email the phone people, saying I want to cancel my contract. No arguments, begging or passive aggressive tricks will work on me!

Email sent, I steel myself for the phone call, the one where they want to carry on being my friend, but I am confident in my mettle. I’ve read Martin Lewis and know how to bargain, get money off a new phone, more minutes and apps for free, the apps I will never use. I am no fool.

Two days go by and I wonder if they’ve lost my email (on purpose) but on the third day, I get a missive back.  It is short. ‘We accept your notice and will close your account on 18th January…”

I have been let go, they found no arguments or sub clause within my contract in letters so tiny a pixie would struggle to read. I’m free! It was easy. But I admit I’m deflated, shaken. They called my bluff. It’s a bit like dumping someone and expecting tears and drama but instead they shrug, blow a raspberry and mutter ‘I wasn’t that arsed about you anyway’. The phone people could at least put up a fight, fake a bruised heart, squeeze out a few tears. It’s only good manners. What does Martin Lewis say about that? I’m searching his website now, can’t find thing.

@cathbore