A week off work was just what the doctor ordered, so we packed our bags and headed south for some relaxation. We had booked in to Chester for a few days, but along the way we stopped off in Blackpool.
I had never been to Blackpool and I had heard conflicting reports about it over the years. Some people seem to think it’s a poor and distant cousin of the entertainment strips that exist on the other side of the pond, while others swear that it’s the best fun you can have with a bucket, a spade, and a pocket full of copper coins. Well, the truth is some where in the middle.
It’s fair to say that the weather (which wasn’t great) had a negative effect on my opinion, because everything looks better in the sunshine – even those ubiquitous tourist stands. We didn’t go up Blackpool Tower because with the fog we would have been lucky to even appreciate we were a few hundred feet off the ground. Still, it’s England in the middle of October – what more do you expect?
But we had fun walking along the prom, and killed a few hours in a clutch of arcades and attractions that really don’t seem to have progressed much past the 1980s.
My grandma was two months short of her ninety-seventh birthday, when she took her final breath yesterday. The dementia had seen her deteriorate over the last half dozen years – slowly at first, but then quite rapidly towards the end – so she hasn’t been the woman I loved for a long time. That person had already moved on, and I have had to make my peace with that.
Still, it’s difficult for me to let go of someone I have known my whole life, no matter how diminished she was when that final curtain was drawn, and no matter how much I wanted it to be over for her. I have wished for her to pass on peacefully in her sleep many times. Is that a little selfish? Sure. I own that. But that pain; that emptiness; that confusion. Those moments when there was just nothing behind her eyes, which were all too frequent in the last few months. She didn’t deserve that – few people do.
On Friday I had been advised that she likely only had a few days left, so I went to visit her yesterday afternoon with the intention of saying goodbye. She was asleep – the doctors had given her a drug to calm her down – and she didn’t look much like the grandma I had seen even just a couple of weeks earlier. She was thin, gaunt, and curled up in the foetal position, and she never acknowledged my presence, but I sat there and I cried for all the good years and the good times we had had just the same.
As I left her side an hour later, after kissing her on the forehead one final time, I knew I would never see her again and that I was just waiting for that phone call. I didn’t expect it quite so soon, but just five hours later she was gone.
But my grandma’s death isn’t about letting her go, or putting her in the rear view mirror. It’s more about making sure I remember the person she was, when she was vibrant and full of life, and about treating those times with the respect they deserve. What she became in the last six years is not that person, and I won’t be remembering her that way. Dementia may have taken my grandma from me, but it won’t rob me of my memories.
Our two kittens, Tess and Frankie, are a couple of weeks shy of their first birthday. I’m still reluctant to leave them to their own devices when they’re outside, but I’m learning to live with it.
Yesterday I came home from work, sat down to a spot of writing, and let the girls out into the back garden for a while. Not long after, I turned around to see Tess had snagged the wing of a pigeon and – despite my attempts to stop her – was dragging it inside.
She let it go in the utility room, where it made an attempt to escape through the kitchen window… except it was closed, so it proceeded to smack itself against the glass while Tess tried to finish off the job she had started.
After I got the window open the pigeon squeezed out and dragged itself to (relative) safety, and I spent the next hour cleaning up blood, feathers, and DNA from all the surfaces.
I have worked for the last ten months, during the pandemic – and for that I am grateful – but yesterday was my last day. Tomorrow I begin a new job, one that is more in line with what I am looking for. The hours are better, and there are absolutely no weekend shifts… and for that I am even more grateful.
When all is said and done the money is probably going to work out to be less than I have been getting, but after weighing it all up I quickly came to the conclusion that it’s not always about the money. In fact, it’s rarely about the money. As long as everything is covered with a little left over, the rest is gravy.
Unexpectedly, I spent last evening – the day after my birthday – in the Accident & Emergency Department at hospital. A few hours earlier I had closed the side door of my van at work with my right hand, and forgotten to move my left one out of the way. For a split second I feared the worst.
Fortunately, when I opened the door my fingers were still intact, although the pain I could feel and the amount of blood coming from my hand suggested I was in a bad way. I didn’t have anything in the van to stem the bleeding so I went to the nearest house and was given a towel… which did the trick, until I was able to bandage my fingers properly.
Some painkillers, super-glue, and a couple of x-rays later and – thankfully – there doesn’t seem to be any lasting damage. My ring finger and middle finger of my left hand are bandaged, and there’s a measure of swelling and bruising, but after some rest I should be back to normal in no time.
I had my first COVID vaccination today, three days before my birthday. It was a strange half hour wait in the queue, watching everyone going in before me – wondering why l had been chosen to be protected along with all these old people, before I quickly realised that I was one of them too – but it also felt like the beginning of the next chapter.
Hope was in the air this morning – you could taste it. I’m sure most of that was in my head, but we’ve been living with this social claustrophobia for over a year now, so I’m prepared to go with it and believe in the brighter future they keep telling us about.
I also got a cracking idea for a story while I was waiting for the nurse to stick me with the needle, so there’s that too.
Dolan’s Cadillac is a simple story of revenge, but while the motivation of the protagonist is easy to understand – and is explained in the opening couple of pages – the execution of his plan to accomplish this is complex and detailed.
The beauty of the story is in the meticulous planning of the revenge plot, so much so that it almost feels unnecessary to find out if he is even successful… but we do eventually get to see how that plays out too. In less capable hands this story could have been a chore, but King does here what he does best, and this opening salvo is fun all the way through.
Dolan’s Cadillac is a lengthy but very good start to King’s third collection of short stories, and a high mark for the others to reach.
My short story, When the Bleeding Just Won’t Stop, is now live at Bare Back Magazine… although I would advise against going there if you’re a child, or in any way prudish about sex.
This story started life as a simple sex scene – mostly as an experiment to see if I could write one. I find that descriptions of the act itself, in fiction, are usually boring and inconsequential to the plot, and in that way they have about the same importance as characters going to the bathroom, and you don’t often read that on the page. Of course, sex is more titillating than the toilet, so I understand the appeal.
Once I got into writing the sex scene, I started wrapping a story around it and developing the characters, and then the whole thing took off from there. I think it’s a good story, and a thoughtful piece of erotica that has something to say.
Check it out if that kind of thing takes your fancy.
As I’ve said before, this is my first time with cats, and it’s also the first time I’ve been aware of the sterilisation of a pet. It was quite a heartbreaking journey to the scalpel this morning, as both Tess and Frankie cried almost the whole way there.
Not to make it about me, but it was quite upsetting to know that they were frightened and confused, and that I was the reason this was happening. They hadn’t asked for it. At least once I wanted to turn around and take them home, but I know this is for the best, and that they will recover quickly.
I hope that this operation won’t change them in any fundamental way, and that their personalities will remain intact. I want Tess to continue to be the inquisitive troublemaker, who loves to sit in boxes and purrs like a Harley Davidson; and Frankie needs to still be the cautious one who takes her sister’s lead, and always looks like she’s trying to do long division in her head.
January has been a long month, as it usually is. But, at the very least, it has got off to a positive start with my writing.
Earlier this month I had my first short story acceptance since 2015. I’m not greedy, but that’s an extremely long drought for me. I don’t really know why either. Sure, I’ve written less in the last few years, but I’ve still been putting my work out there. Either my standards were getting too high or my writing just wasn’t hitting the spot anymore. Maybe it was a little of both.
Either way – to keep the metaphor going – I’m glad I’ve finally found some water. The story should be going live online in March, and I’ll talk about it more closer to the time.