Living the dream

You’re gone.

Your bed lies empty, covers cold, unrumpled,
too neat to have been slept in.
Dirty, food-encrusted plates
have been collected, empty plastic water bottles
have been swept in

to the bin. Your i-pod silently gathers dust.
Your clothes, once draped on every surface or
scattered on the floor are sparse.
Unwanted jeans hang lifelessly, fading
beside the scent of your youth.
Your bookcase shelves are full

of gaps. Your walls bear greasy scars
from posters that once reflected your
passions and dreams. Those dreams
and aspirations, now mirrored in reality, that
helped you spread your wings and fly.

And you’re gone.

©Michelle Harris 2016

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Liverpool Central Library

I walk the path where titles are laid down,
my feet lead on through words I know so well.
Stories once told by authors of renown,
Pirates, Knights and Gods are themes they sell.

Enter within. And stairs, like vertebrae
lead up to view the city from above.
Watching from his singular glass eye,
this guardian protects our books with love.

His hands reach out on each and every floor,
planting seeds of knowledge in fertile minds.
When roots take hold they grow from something raw,
expand to unlock ignorance that binds.

His legs stick out in childish innocence –
a playful space where youngsters learn to read,
where images help words to gain some sense
and tender imaginations begin to feed.

But his heart beats from the Picton Reading Room.
Where iron stairs lead up to books so old
and rare. Soft bindings, woven from the loom,
clothe ancient manuscripts all edged in gold.

One hundred and fifty years. Still he stands
to educate and inform humankind.
A central historic icon. His Liverpool hands
help point the way to freedom of the mind.

©Michelle Harris 2016

Back Stage Drama

stagedoorLuke huddled deeper into his coat as he emerged from Leicester Square underground, trying to focus his thoughts on the upcoming matinee but finding them being pulled back to his pregnant girlfriend, Emma. He smiled unconsciously as he walked along, remembering her teasingly trying to entice him back into bed, urging him to call in sick. She’d said it would be a kindness to his understudy, letting him play the lead, and while that may be true it wasn’t exactly professional. Besides, he still got such a buzz playing this role and didn’t want to miss a single performance. His casual elegance and confidence gave the only hint that he wasn’t just another tourist as he made his way through Covent Garden, preferring to leave the tube one stop early and walk the last stage in order to avoid the congestion at that station. He turned into the alleyway that led to the stage door, quiet at this time of day, and was almost at the end when the door jerked open and a young girl emerged. Her hair was tied back into a rough ponytail, not her usual style, and her face was devoid of make-up but he still recognised her.
‘Lucy, I didn’t know you were in today’ he greeted her, surprised when she glanced up at him to notice the glimmer of tears in her eyes. ‘Are you okay?’ he queried gently.
‘I need to see you, after the matinee. It’s important’.
‘Ah, Luce, you know how it is on Saturdays love, with two shows. Come back though and I’ll try to pop my head out, say hi’. She looked up at him almost pleadingly then, quietly saying
‘Not today Luke, I need more’. He must have looked as baffled as he felt as she continued, ‘I’ve left something for you…’ Her voice tailed off and she placed a hand on his arm, ‘Please Luke…’
‘I can’t promise Luce, I need to dash now darling girl but we’ll talk at some point, maybe grab a coffee again eh?’ He bent then and gave her a swift hug before walking through the door, already putting her to the back of his mind as he signed in until the doorman handed him a package.
‘This just came for you mate, young girl left it, the one who’s always here. Think she’s got a bit of a thing for you, I’ve seen it before’ he grinned. ‘Lucky buggers you actors’.
‘Nah, she’s just a kid’ Luke returned the grin, taking the package. He turned and almost ran down the corridor to his dressing room, yelling in response to the stage manager’s barked questions that yes he was finally here, yes he knew he was cutting it fine and yes he would be ready on time! Dropping the package on a table he shrugged off his coat. He’d initially thought the lights around the mirror a little pretentious but now felt they helped his room feel cosy as well as serving their actual purpose, and he quickly stripped off and began to apply his make-up, all thoughts of Lucy disappearing as his mind turned to his imminent performance.
It was several hours later when Luke emerged from the theatre, freshly showered but tired and with the unopened package in his hand. He’d forgotten about it and when he’d dashed out between performances Lucy hadn’t been around to remind him. Whatever is was couldn’t have been that important after all, he reflected, but he’d take it home to look at all the same as no doubt she’d be back next week. It was funny, he’d never really thought too much about her before, what she did for a job or whether she was still in education, where she lived or… well, anything really. He felt a little guilty then, that he had never really taken time to get to know her, although he had shouted her a coffee on a couple of occasions. In truth though, she was just another fan, albeit sweeter and less pushy than most and he thought of her in a similar way to his younger sister’s friends; no trouble, pleasant and always around.
Sunday was spent baby shopping with Emma, it was only a few weeks now until he would become a father and he still couldn’t decide whether he was more excited or scared. Lucy and her package were far from his mind until he was about to leave for the theatre again on Monday and he noticed the package, lying where he had left it on Saturday night. He grabbed it as he passed, sticking it in his bag as he headed for the tube. He figured he should look at it on the way, just in case she was there today expecting something to be signed and decided also that he would endeavour to ask her about herself, get to know her a little. He grabbed a Metro newspaper as he passed the stand; never too much in it to read but a brief synopsis of the news was all he ever wanted. A glance at today’s headlines was enough to remind him why. The first two pages alone included a story about an old man being mugged, a hit and run in which a young child had been seriously injured and a suspected suicide found in the early hours of the previous morning, a young girl apparently. He didn’t read any of the details, just felt immense sorrow for her parents as he thought of his own child, not yet born but already so very much loved.
Thrusting the newspaper into his bag, he noticed the still unopened package and pulled it out. Lucy was so loyal, it would be nice to be able to do something for her for once. He slid open the envelope but instead of the expected photo or card to sign, there were some sheets of paper stapled together in one corner. They looked like they had come from a notebook of some description and it was only on a closer look that Luke realised they were diary pages. How strange that Lucy should give him something so personal. He felt slightly unsettled, he didn’t feel he should be reading this but it was obviously what she wanted him to do. The first page was dated almost eighteen months ago.
June 15th 2013 – Today was the best day of my life! I finally got to meet Luke Appleton and OMG he is so gorgeous! I was so scared when I actually saw him, when he came out the stage door, but he was lovely!!! He spoke to Sophie first then he turned and he winked at me. Me! I actually think he likes me! I asked him to sign my programme and he put ‘To Lucy, thank you for coming, love Luke’. LOVE LUKE! The play was great but I always knew he’d be good if I ever got to see him live and now I have. I’m so happy right now, I have to go and see him again soon. I wonder if he’ll remember me next time?
Turning the paper over Luke noticed a heart drawn on the back with LP loves LA written in it. He’d figured she had a crush on him but it was a little odd that she was sharing her diary pages with him. He frowned, his brow furrowed in concern as he picked up the next page.
Dec 14th – Happy Christmas to me!!! I went to see Luke again today to give him a Christmas card as his play ends next week and Mum said I couldn’t go after this because she needed help getting ready for Christmas with Dad being gone. It’s not MY fault he’s gone, I miss him so much. I really wanted to go and see Luke next week too as I don’t know when I’ll ever see him again. Anyway, I gave him the card and he said ‘Thanks Lucy’. Just like that. ‘Thanks Lucy’. HE REMEMBERED MY NAME! I’m so happy and he didn’t remember Sophie’s name but she’s not been with me every time but anyway I know that he treats me differently to her. To all of the girls. He gives me this special smile. He’s so lovely.
Luke grimaced unconsciously as he was reading. He probably did treat her a little differently and remember her name because she was always there but he’d better be careful. She clearly was a little more attached than he’d like but it sounded like her Dad had left so he could understand her looking for a male substitute. Not that he was that much older than her, nine or ten years probably, but old enough to feel somewhat responsible. There were more pages with hearts and kisses and Lucy Appleton written all over. He ran his hand through his hair, groaning slightly. God this could get messy, he maybe needed to have a little chat with her, let her down gently.
April 5th – I hadn’t seen Luke since last year, that’s five whole months and finally he’s doing another play so I went to see it today. I went on my own, Sophie said she was bored of me drooling over him. More like she’s jealous because she knows he likes me and she’ll be so jealous on Monday when I tell her what happened! Luke was really pleased to see me and took me out on an actual date. He said he’d missed me! We went to this little café and he bought me hot chocolate and he had a latte. He couldn’t stay long, he had to get back to the theatre but he gave me a hug when he left and he kissed my cheek. I can still feel it now.
It wasn’t a date! Luke leaned back against the carriage window, trying to recall what had happened. He remembered being surprised when she’d appeared, it was Chekhov, not exactly the sort of thing he imagined she’d be into and very unlike the previous comedy she’d seen. He’d been on his way out for a quick coffee and to pick up a sandwich and felt sorry for her as it had been chilly so offered to buy her a drink. They’d only been there a short time though, how could she possibly have imagined that was a date? He probably had given her a hug and a kiss too, but he was an actor, it was de rigueur to be a little theatrical, a little European, everyone in the West End was. A glance out of the window told him he was approaching Stockwell, he’d shortly have to change. There looked to only be another page or so, he’d have time to glance through them if he was quick. He needed to prepare what he was going to say to her if she turned up today and at the moment he had no clue.
I hate him! I want to die. He cheated on me, why would he do that? I thought he loved me. He has a girlfriend and as if that wasn’t bad enough she’s pregnant. Pregnant! With Luke’s baby. It’s so unfair. I love him and I know he loves me. She must have trapped him, that must be it. He’s too nice to tell her it’s me he loves and I bet it’s not even his baby! It was in the papers and everything. I wish my Dad was here. He’d tell me what to do. I miss him so much and Luke would have made
The rest of the sentence was smudged and indecipherable, she’d obviously been crying whilst she’d been writing this. Luke was scared for her now, this was too weird. She clearly needed help. He felt angry too, although he tried to block that out, about the way she’d written about Emma and their baby. He was just about to gather his things to change trains when the date on the last piece of paper caught his eye. It had been written on Saturday morning, the day she’d handed it over to him. He sank back into the chair with a feeling of dread.
November 8th 2014 – This could be my last day and I’m scared. But I can’t do this on my own any more Luke. My Dad is the only man I ever loved but he died. And then I met you. I know your girlfriend is pregnant but even if it is your baby I don’t care. I need you. You have to decide Luke. By the time you read this, I’ll be waiting for you at Kings Cross. I’ll wait by the Harry Potter trolley, it’s a bit out of the way there. I’ll stay until 11.30pm, which gives you lots of time to get there after the show tonight. If you don’t come, if you choose her, then I’m going to go to my Dad. I love you Luke.
He felt sick. His station passed but he sat there numbly, reading and re-reading the final page. He hadn’t read it when she’d expected but surely it had been an empty threat. This was clearly a cry for help and he’d ignored it until it may be too late. He tried to put his thoughts into some coherent order, panicking slightly when he realised he didn’t even know where she came from. Then the Metro headlines came back into his head. No. Oh no. He slowly pulled out the paper again. And there it was in black and white. Lucy Pinder her name had been. She was only nineteen. Her mother was said to be inconsolable. Her husband had died less than two years ago. Lucy was their only child.
Luke and Emma’s baby, a girl, came into the world on a bright February morning. He had looked down at her and been overwhelmed with love. ‘I’d like to call her Lucy’ he said and turned away from Emma as the tears threatened. ‘I love you Lucy’ he whispered and softly kissed his daughter on the head. Emma’s heart filled with pride as she heard him tell the baby ‘I will always be here for you, to listen to you, to love you and protect you’. She never heard his silent prayer to the older Lucy, to ask for forgiveness for not realising how much she had needed him, for not being there to protect her.

©Michelle Harris 2016

Fallen from Grace

Fallen from Grace
He had no idea where he was. He gazed around, trembling with fear or maybe shock and neither knowing nor caring which. Hurting so badly. Stooping over in pain, his leg dragging him down, he tried to move, to warm himself up. He blew on his fingers, cold breath that pained him to exhale. Pain was good though, it meant he was alive at least. Trying to put his scrambled thoughts into some kind of order. He needed to regroup, it was crucial he headed in the right direction. There was no longer any noise from the battle to guide him. It was incredibly quiet now after the mayhem of the last few hours.
‘Come on soldier!’ he commanded himself, ‘sort yourself out lad’. He paused, giving himself time to think. Last night had been spent curled up under a bush, lost and scared. He wished he was home. An image of one of his Mam’s meat pies jumped unbidden into his mind, brought on by hunger no doubt. He could almost feel the warmth of the gravy in his mouth and he licked his lips as spittle ran, unnoticed, down the greying stubble on his chin. Mam and Da would be missing him he knew, not to mention little Emily, bless her. So grown up she thought she was, but such a kid really and he needed to be with her, back with them all. That was his job as her big brother, to protect her. Oh, he knew what they all said, he was protecting her, protecting the whole country in fact, but he hadn’t asked for this.
He gave himself a mental shake; there would be time later to think of home. His head hurt. He lifted his hand to feel a sticky lump where the pain was. He must have fallen trying to escape the gas, so many had fallen. He’d had to leave them lying there. Nasty business this war was. They’d said it would be over by Christmas but that was months ago now and if anything it was getting worse. He wasn’t even sure it would be over by next Christmas or if he’d survive to see the end of it. He wiped his hand on his uniform, there wasn’t much blood, and he figured his injury couldn’t be too serious. Suddenly he stiffened and his gut instinct told him to shuffle back slightly. He could hear voices. English voices. His heart was racing now, something was very wrong. He leaned back into the bush where he had spent the night. Everywhere was so green. Where was he? The voices faded and he breathed a little easier, trying to calm himself.
‘Are you okay Sir?’ William jumped, stumbled and would have fallen again if the man’s hand hadn’t steadied him. Confusion filled his mind and the young policeman could see it in his eyes as he asked again, more gently this time, ‘Are you okay?’
‘I’ve been separated from my battalion Sir, 2nd Royal Dublin Fusiliers, we’re in France….’ He hesitated, before continuing, ‘I think we are, but….’ He glanced around in bewilderment and stopped. He had nothing more to say. The policeman spoke gently.
‘You have a nasty bump there, mind if I look at it?’
‘I fell’, William muttered, ‘it’s nothing’. The policeman picked up his radio.
‘Can I have an ambulance, St James’ Park, an elderly gentleman has had a fall I think, possible concussion, he appears very confused’.
William looked shocked then, elderly gentleman indeed! He looked down at his uniform again, noticing for the first time the rips in the material of the left breast pocket. He lifted his hand to examine the tear and instead just saw an old man’s hands, wrinkled and dry. He looked slowly back at the policeman as a thought began to dawn.
‘Can I ask what day is it? What date?’ His voice trembled slightly.
‘Monday 9th November 1970’, the policeman replied, as the sound of a siren drawing closer could be heard. He looked at William, in his uniform, asking then
‘Were you at the Remembrance Day Service yesterday?’
A vague memory was trying to surface in William’s confused mind, of pinning medals on to his jacket, walking through the park in the sunshine. Of running youths, jostling and jeering at him, pulling his cap off and ripping at his coat as he fell. Then nothing.
‘I don’t think I made it’ he whispered, ‘the enemy finally got me’.

©Michelle Harris 2015

Life…

Life…

Life throws me curves

That I can’t yet handle,

Shows me roads

That I’ve yet to wander,

Gives me dreams

That I’ve yet to enjoy,

Hurts me like

You wouldn’t believe.

Tears my heart

‘Til it can’t stop hurting,

Sears my soul

‘Til I just can’t bear it,

Wrings me dry

‘Til I feel so wretchéd

Leaves me low

So hard to succeed.

Gifts me passions

That I need to follow,

Serves me hope

On a golden platter,

Lights my way

With a shining beacon,

Shows me the way

So I must succeed.

©Michelle Harris 202

Kindle, Nook or old fashioned book?

I do like advances in technology, on the whole, but i’m just not sure about some of them.

I was never happy with the demise of the old LP’s and 45’s and even now I buy CD’s rather than download music, even if I then put it on to my iPod. There was something very special about opening up an LP and getting out your record, setting up the arm on your record player and listening to it going round. Somehow, downloading music is so impersonal.

I have the same issue with kindles and nooks.

I love books, always have done. I love to browse bookshops, the muted tones people speak in, the world laid out on shelving in front of me, the pure smell of the newness of it all. Or a second-hand bookshop where books are worn with love, dog-eared and thumbed from repeated readings, inscriptions written on the fly leaf telling of others who have shared their love of reading with another.

My eldest daughter received several books when she was younger as presents from friends, all inscribed from children she knew along the way, some she still sees now but others from nursery school that she no longer has contact with. These books hold friendship and memories within their pages, a gift that can’t be taken away and they still grace her bookshelves long after she has ceased to read them.

My younger daughter recently received an Amazon voucher as a birthday present. She was delighted as she could choose her own book, but I admit to feeling slightly cheated on her behalf. In years to come she won’t recall who gave her the book she chose and other than a thank you note informing the child of her choice, he never saw it nor handled it.

For me personally reading a book is a tactile experience that I don’t see could ever be equalled by using a hand held machine. I won’t be rushing to buy one any time soon – where on earth would I put my bookmark?!

Writing for expression.

I was inspired to start writing again by a friend of mine, though he doesn’t know it. I read his blogs and wish I could express myself so eloquently. I’m not uneducated, I just didn’t use my education to it’s fullest. I was the child who ‘got by’. I achieved what I needed to, went to college to get my nursery nursing qualification and off I went to London for what I have always considered ‘the best two years of my life.’

Actually, i’ve come to realise recently, they weren’t. They were good, there’s no denying that and with the knowledge I have now I would maybe have made different choices and lived my life differently. But I didn’t have the wisdom of hindsight, none of us do, so my life choices were made by my younger self.

I don’t have regrets, they are a waste of time.

How can I regret the birth of my beautiful daughters, my raison d’être? Because essentially, they are what matters. And if my choices were ever wrong, then my daughters wouldn’t be here. So no regrets.

I do want to further my education though. I’ve always wished I had passed my English Literature ‘O’ level (yes, I am of that age, pre GCSE!’). I got an ‘A’ in my Language and my English teacher could never fathom the discrepancy between the two. Actually, it was her teaching. It was uninspired in literature to say the least. One of our main topics, I recall, was the war poets. I spent a long time being bored, learning poems by rote without really understanding the depth of meaning behind the words. Shortly after leaving school I saw a play entitled ‘Not About Heroes’, detailing the friendship between Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, two poets whom i’d completely misunderstood for that Literature exam. Suddenly, on stage in front of me, they came to life. I realised then what impact the right teaching can have on a child and also how the use of drama can improve learning and understanding.

So my blogs will be of this journey i’m taking now. My quest for knowledge of literature, hopefully my GCSE in Literature, followed by my ‘A’ Levels in Language and Literature. I share my love of drama and language with my own children and with the children I work with but find it hard to share with others. I guess this is my chance to open up my thoughts and ideas to those who may be interested enough to read it and maybe some who would like to discuss it.

If you would like to share my journey I would love to have you along. Feel free to join in with your ideas and your opinions.

Michelle