Tag Archives: WRITING

Gone Fishing

The following short post is in response to Writing for Wellbeing, an initiative by the University of Liverpool, Literature & Science Hub. The course ran throughout the Covi-19 lockdown period and encouraged people to write in response to 9 different themes. This piece is from a prompt about nature as metaphors in mental health. 

I like to cast my net far and wide. A skill I have mastered from 37 years of making four beds every morning. The muscle memory serves me well.

The net encompasses the whole body of water, overlapping the shore on the other side, bullrushes, and rocks poking through. The objects that lay on the far shore are lost and forgotten, like toys taken to play outside and left in the rain.

The net sinks deep in places where the current is strong. On my own, it takes all my might to pull the catch to the surface. Entangled with the outstretched claws and tusks of polar bears and elephants, suspended in the dark trenches and cold water.

There is no fight for breath anymore. They wait patiently to be brought back to the surface to be disected.

The shallow pools offer a more palpable yield. Flamingoes in formation, performing their rudimentary dance. It’s loud and chaotic but the routine brings me peace and clarity. I catch flamingo on every trip and they are delicious.

Lemurs, on the other hand, cause me grief and give me life in equal measure. The most challenging of my daily catch, the striped tails mesmerise and disorientate me and I regularly lose my balance.

Sometimes they resist with such force, the struggle tires me to tears. Other times they are curious about my methods and indulge me, coming right to the surface to reach out or inspect the net and my equipment, before darting away. The unobtainable Lemur, always slipping through my hands.

I am committed to the notion that successfully catching a Lemur, will make me an accomplished angler. For now, I will feast on flamingo and nurture their existence on the water.

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The Tin Opener

The following short post is in response to Writing for Wellbeing, an initiative by the University of Liverpool, Literature & Science Hub. The course ran throughout the Covi-19 lockdown period and encouraged people to write in response to 9 different themes. This piece is from a writing prompt about technology and the environment. 

A stalwart of the cutlery drawer. A modern-day essential ‘bit of kit’. As I sit here in perfect solitude watching great big clouds float by, dragons, bikes, and pitchforks captured in mirror image over the vast lake, I turn the tool over in my hands.

From Heinz 57 to the ground beneath my feet where the ingredients are sourced. The rich, unmistakably earthy smell fills my nose and throat and transports me back to a time of Land Girls and victory curls and a sense of purpose, a day’s work well done. Propeller planes engine overhead then and now, bring me back to my temporary home under the clouds.

Cutting through the earth the mechanical teeth take a clean and greedy mouthful of soil and grass, crawling with wildlife.

A sod, laden with all the nutrients, goodness, and greens yet it cannot nourish my soul with enough enthusiasm to take a bite.

A can of worms is what I have opened, and now I am no longer hungry.

 

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Hurtle

Looking up from the funny cat video playing on her phone, Ellie was too late to move out of the path of the man hurtling towards her.

Followed closely by three pissed off looking coppers, the man, in a state of undress, launched her into the shop shutters, sending her iphone, bag, and half-eaten Kinder Bueno flying across the pavement.

“Oi, Jesus, what was that all about?”

Ellie asked no one in particular. An elderly lady tried in vain to help her up.

“This place has gone to the dogs love, always police about nowadays”.
Another bystander, a teenage girl in uniform handed Ellie her bag.

“Thanks”.

Ellie dusted off her coat and skirt and picked up her iphone, leaving the last of chocolate for the pigeons.

“No worries” the girl replied, “Wonder what he’s been up to?”
“I don’t know but I hope they catch him, knobhead has smashed my screen” Ellie showed
her the shattered glass.
The teen rolled her eyes and flashed her own cracked screen.

“Welcome to the club,” she said as she wandered off in the direction of the library.
Sirens wailed down the high street and came to a screeching halt at the far end, by the post office. Ellie could just make out two police officers manhandling the runaway into the van before slamming the doors and driving off.

“Good” she thought, her elbow throbbing.
The flow of people went back to their day. Traffic noise picked up, buses, taxis, people
returned to the queue in the coffee shop and women pushing buggies went by, en route to the park. Kneeling down to check her bag, Ellie noticed what she thought was a pen, just a foot or two across from where she fell into the shutters. It must have come out of her bag.

Crouching across, she picked it up. It was a flash drive. An old school looking one at that. Anyone could’ve dropped it but there was no way Ellie wasn’t plugging it straight into her laptop to check what was on it. She dropped it into her pocket and joined the queue at the coffee shop.

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For Your Eyes Only

Lockdown has actually unlocked some interesting new pastimes for me including sewing non-surgical face masks and having a crack at writing erotica. A mixed bag you might say.

It’s day 81 since Coronavirus put paid to my next career move and I’ve found myself trying on a number of new roles. First up is teacher. With three school-age children at home for the foreseeable future, I wasn’t about to let up on the learning routine. Luckily my eldest is a superstar and has managed her work and timetable like a boss.

For the younger two, I’ve constructed tick lists of worksheets, art projects, practical skills, and fun science experiments and baking.  We’ve also enjoyed kick back days in the garden, riding bikes, playing on the Switch and ipads too. All in (just about) equal measure.

I’ve officially mastered banana bread and apple crumble. So that’s the baker box ticked too. Other roles I’ve assumed include film critic, artist, interior designed, engineer, mechanic, photographer, maid, cook, dancer, scorekeeper, delivery woman, and last but not least, writer of erotica. Yep, I said it.

Writing has paid my bills for some time now, but I’m talking what’s on guides, features, and news stories about celebs and communities doing amazing things. I’ve read a fair few books during lockdown and got talking to a friend about why Fifty Shades is much better in the written word than on screen. Despite the kick-off about the use of language when describing the kinky sex between the two main characters. Writing erotica is pretty challenging if you’re trying to avoid getting too poetic with the words.

I thought I’d give it a go. It’s different from my usual writing prompts and well, there’s only so much banana bread a girl can make (and consume).

So, I’ve got 1703 words of pure lust on offer. I won’t post it here, because it’s a free and open platform that anyone can access. This particular body of work isn’t suitable for those age 18 and under. We all know the internet is a big old junkyard, I just don’t want to add anything to the ‘easily accessible’ pile.

If you’d like to read it and offer some feedback, email me, Katereillyjames@gmail.com and I’ll send it over.

Look forward to hearing from you!

 

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Let’s Take A Walk

Home. It’s a mix of social housing, those bought out and modernized and those with identical front doors and garden gates, making sure everyone knows who’s on their arse and who has risen above it after years of graft.

It’s a reproduction of a blueprint that makes up vast swathes of the city landscape. There’s no money here. People get by.

Kids still play kirby here, extra points for lobbing the ball over a moving car. On Fridays, the street is dotted with purple bins. Walking one end to the other requires slalom skills to avoid the debris and dog crap.

There’s a blossom tree, about 50 doors down, right in the middle. It battles against the Spring showers and dusts pink petals over the pavement every spring, they’re prettiest when it rains. Light and dark. The best kind of litter.

The puppy with the big chocolate button eyes, caged in the front yard. Now a 2-year-old dancing around its own muck, still in the same front yard he’s outgrown. He used to whine for you to stroke him whenever you passed by the gate. Now he barks, consistently until you’re out of sight.

When he comes over, he parks at the side of the house. No doubt wanting to avoid embarrassment should anyone recognise his car. My parents park across the street, in front of the privately-owned house, with the double extension, high gates, and security floodlights that illuminate our bedrooms at night. My dads gleaming white, 4×4 more at home on the opposite side of the road.

The top-end, or bottom end depending on how long you’ve lived here, is a shit show. The back of the betting shop, chippy, and pharmacy. An alleyway consistently fly-tipped with broken beds, sofas, and ripped bin bags. The sunbed shop, beauty salon, and mini market, under the art deco style canopy, smell like hair stray, burned skin, ale. The extra-large council bin outside always smells like grease.

The kids who hang around the shops mimic adults. They’ve already grown up in many ways. Hardened to life. Head to toe in the latest North Face. Mini bags slung across their bodies, smoking, spitting, swearing. They’re about 8, maybe 9 at most. Full of pent up aggression. Stealing from the mini-market because they know they can get away with it. Barred for a couple of days until the other, local cashier comes on and lets them away with it again. It’s only a can of Coke, or a packet of crisps. Barring them lasts a day or two.

Behind the chippy and the betting shop is the very last house in the street. It’s been bought by two developers in the time I’ve lived here. The first one renovated it by hand. From wedding the 30ft long driveway, to replastering and fitting new windows throughout, he did it on his own. I’d stop and say hi sometimes, tell him the transformation was looking great.

It went on the market at the same time kids jemmied the new PVC door open. They smashed the windows, started a fire in the living room. Pulled the plaster off the walls, exposing the electrics. Eventually the top floor window fell out, framing the weeds that grew again in the front garden. I often wonder what the developer felt like, seeing his hard work destroyed and vandalised, just as he was set to sell and move on.

Kids leave bikes in the front gardens. Lost baby shoes and dummies are propped on the fence posts in the hope of a reunion. Primary age kids walk and cycle alone to school on the next block.

On the opposite side, about 20 houses up lives a lady and my cat. My cat had a litter of kittens at home and once she had nurtured them, my cat bogged off down the road to charm the Whiskas out of my neighbour.

I know all of this because the neighbour kindly knocked on my door and told me she had adopted my cat, renamed her Sasha, and moved her into a very comfortable bed from John Lewis. Occasionally I catch the cat, who I refuse to call Sasha, pissing in my back garden.

I moved here because the house is close enough for us to all walk to and from school every day, It’s also a short walk for my eldest daughter to see her dad regularly too. When I moved in I was 9 months pregnant and the house was in a sorry state. Unable to see my feet and stand any longer than 30 minutes, I relied heavily on my parents to help make the shell a home.

For the first few weeks, we all slept in our own beds, but in one room. It felt like incubation as my body completed the last of the preparations before my son was born. I didn’t want to move out of that room, having the girls close was a huge comfort when it felt like everything around us was in disarray.

Another gift from this house in the ghetto was a life long, real friendship. I may have only been here for 5 years, but my friendship with Kate, just 50 odd doors down has spanned 25 years. Never knowing that when we met in senior school, we’d be mums, neighbors, and Friday night kitchen disco dancing queens, all this time later. She’s a blessing, her kids are amazing and I’m so lucky to have her and her mum next door but one.

Speaking of blessings. Denise lives two doors up. She’s a nursery nurse at the children’s hospital nursery. Caring for and educating the children of health care professionals. Denise has a family of her own. Her partner of more than 25 years lives in a house in the next road. They have their own space but share a life together. Denise always knocks on my door with Christmas, birthday and Easter treats for the kids. For absolutely no reason other than she is the kindest soul.

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The sun comes up in the mornings and illuminates a pyramid gable end of the house out the back. A satellite dish the only blot on the golden bricks. I look forward to this and in the summer months I can time it along with when the bin truck comes on Fridays to collect the purple bins dotted along the street. It’s home.

 

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Malted Milk

I dunked my malted milk a little bit too long and en route to my mouth, it landed with a splat, in my pen pot. Saturday mornings in bed with my laptop – summed up in one FFS moment. 

I woke up with an urgency to write today. Which is awesome. I made a coffee, grabbed a haul of inspirational prompt books which sit on my bookshelf and dived back into bed with a stack of biscuits and a determination to get 500 words down on the page.

What started out as a desire to create, it slowly turning into a procrastination exercise to avoid having to clean my pen pot. All my good pens, the ones I keep from the kids, the hotel pens my boyfriend has swiped from hotels when he travels with work, and all the ace freebies, now coated in a thick layer of malted milk and coffee.

Is it considered old school to still write with pen and paper? To put a blog post live I obviously have to transcribe my writing into digital format, but it feels more personal and real to write a first draft on paper.

I got a tonne of photos printed out yesterday too. Is that old school now? I’ve reverted back to my teens and stuck a load up on my wall above my desk. Pics of the kids, the dog, the boyfriend, snaps I took in Paris a few weeks back. The woman in the photo shop explained that people rarely print now unless its to go straight in a frame on the wall. Or in a cute keyring, snow globe or Valentine’s Day gift (yep, it’s almost that time again), but more on that later.

Playing board games, that’s old school. ALthough I heard yesterday there’s now a 10 minute game of Monopoly available. Probably because no one can afford to buy anything and they’ve swapped out Jail for moving back in with you folks.

Speaking of board games, I took the kids to see Jumanji: The Next Level, at the flicks last weekend. Since watching the original and first instalment reboot featuring Karen Gillan, The Rock and Jack Black, they’re been obsessed. I found myself saying “You know it started out as a board game, right?” quite a lot, as the digital SNES looking game in the film, brought the story up to the modern day expectations. Still, at age 5, 8 and 14 it was a refreshing change to find a film we all wanted to see.

SPOILER ALERT: Danny Devito and Danny Glover are in the latest film and make it a must see if you’ve followed the franchise.

Back to the old school. Tell you what else I absolutely love doing, hold on to your hats here people, it’s about to get raucous. I love doing Sudoku in the free Metro paper you get on the buses and trains. My commute into town seems to go much quicker while I’m wracking my brain trying to get the squares lined up with the correct digit. It’s probably the only time of the day I’m not talking, or listening to music. I’m fully engaged, kicking myself for not trying harder in GCSE Maths and wondering if the woman next to me is silently screaming out ‘YOU’VE F*CKED UP THE TOP RIGHT HAND BOX, YOU TIT.

I dabbled a bit in Brain Training on the DS when I could be arsed remembering to charge it. But providing I’ve got a pen, which come on, who hasn’t got a random biro in their bag? I’m good to go, even if it needs a wipe clean first. Malted Milk, FFS.

 

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I’m a Story-teller, whats your superpower?

It turns out I don’t have super powers in the traditional sense, I mean I can’t fly, nor can I become invisible, although I can turn into the HULK when my kids really try my patience!

I do have some super skills though, in the form of being able to turn my hand to a number of jobs which over the years have kept me afloat and helped me to turn situations into stories that engage with readers.

When I was studying to be the next Stella McCartney, I cleaned toilets at Broadgreen Hospital at the weekends to afford bolts of Calico for my first ever clothing collection. I’ve been a call centre operative, a kitchen assisant, a merchandiser, a sportswear sales assistant, a facilities manager, an administrator, a auditor, a receptionist and an exectuive PA.

Throughout all of these roles, I’ve stored the memories and drawn on them when looking for inspiration for characters and searching for examples to give to clients. Plus interviews no longer phase me.

pigeon

I’ve also juggled full-time parenting during these roles as my little brood expanded from 1 to 4 in just 10 years. Being a mlti-tasker comes as standard.

Being a Journalist is all I ever wanted to do. I worked hard during my NCTJ course, juggling classes, work experience and my children. Just a year since I started out I’ve picked up a tremendous amount of experience, some incredile contacts and ultimately my dream role.

What I love about freelance work is that its so unpredictable, the absolute opposite to how my home life works. Everything is regimented at home. From packed lunch boxes to bedtime routines, it’s all done to the letter……because it’s the only way I can get us all out of the house by 7:45am.

The other aspect of freelance work I like so much, is the relationship building. Some clients I work with on long projects that involve developing and implementing strategy over a number of months. Some I work with for just a day. No two days, nor clients are ever the same.

I absolutely love hearing people’s stories. How they came to be in business, what they sacrifice for the sake of providing a service or developing a product and being their own boss. The long hours, taking work home, never being able to switch off. It’s an exclusive gang that only those who are self-employed, or closesly related to those who are, really understand.

Helping people is second nature to some, and being able to support businesses with their admin, marketing, social media and advertising makes me happy. Whether its turning my hand to tax preparation or writing advertorial articles……or even hand writing 100 company Christmas cards, to know I’m relieveing a little of the workload gives me great job satisfaction.

Can I help you? Drop me a line katereillyjames@gmail.com

 

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Spare Parts

This weekend I sat in a caravan in North Wales writing about a Barrow in Furness engineering company. This my friends is the future of journalism.

I’ve officially finished 6 months of NCTJ exams and studies and submitted my e-portfolio for marking. In the same week I’ve weathered the EU referendum storm, submitted 12 months worth of personal documents to HMRC who seem to think there is someone else living in my house who claims tax credits and met with Carole, my business mentor, who is hopefully going to help me set up as a freelance journalist.

It’s safe to say I’ve been under a bit of pressure the last few months which may go some way to explain the weekly bouts of sickness I’ve been experiencing. I’m not pregnant, just thought I’d make that abundantly clear. But low and behold, mid Sunday roast yesterday, the mystery illness made an unwelcome return and I’ve been living in the bathroom ever since.

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Despite the crippling stomach pain and inconvenience of living in the bathroom two days a week, the worst thing to come of this situation is my deteriorating relationship with food. I swing wildly from small amounts of granola and ‘safe’ food, to absolutely nothing, to a boneless box from KFC…..and a tango. I’m getting to the point where I’m too scared to eat. During my last week of exams I ate just over 2000 calories in three days because I couldn’t afford to get sick, no where near enough sustenance for a busy mum of three.

I made the HUGE mistake of googling my symptoms around 2am when I got bored of courting the bathroom tiles. Stomach cancer, ulcerative colitis and acute pancreatitis and a tearful call to NHS direct later………..and it looks like my gallbladder is broken. Which isn’t so bad because it turns out you don’t need one!

Awaiting a scan at the moment to see what my options are.

On the positive side I’ve lost almost a stone and my work productivity rate is through the roof. Silver linings eh?

 

 

 

 

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Imagine

I carried out an act of vandalism yesterday, or maybe its classed as activism? All those who know me will be shocked and concerned about my welfare as I don’t do things like this, I’m straight-laced Kate, never get into trouble, get along with everyone and don’t like to rock the boat. Well never fear…….what I did wasn’t arrest-worthy….but I made a point.

I was enjoying a wonderful family day out at the Liverpool International Music Festival yesterday with my mini dudes (pics in the Inspiration gallery) and having devoured our picnic watching Alisha Dixon entertaining the crowds we wandered over to the family area. Sponsored by Liverpool John Lennon Airport the family section of the park was based around a huge man-made beach complete with buckets and spades and giant ice lollies, perfect for summer selfies! My little ones sat and listened to stories, made fairy tutu’s, crafted ice-creams from tissue paper and sported some pirate inspired glasses. They ran wild among giant strawberries, chased a very hungry caterpillar and finally wound up with Sharpies in hand (arghhhhh every parents worst nightmare) to add their scrawl to a giant LIMF cut out with the city skyscape printed on it, specifically for kids to depict their take on Liverpool life.This is where I committed my (not really) crime.

IMAGINE

Armed with a blue Sharpie, prised out of my toddlers hand I quickly scrawled ‘Imagine, Save Our Libraries….Hospitals For The Soul’ above an official illustration of John Lennon. I know…I KNOW…..move over Banksy, Kate is the new face on the scene of graffiti activism! Okay, so it was hardly a mass protest but its something I feel strongly about and I saw an opportunity. I wrote my message in the hope it might make just one person return to a library. I’d like to think John Lennon would approve.

Like most major cities around the UK, Liverpool is facing major cuts to public services and one very close to my heart is the regional library closures. Our city central library is a thing of beauty, after a monumental make over, taking years and costing millions it is now a multiple award winning centre of information and technology. I’m truly proud to have such a gem at the heart of Liverpool, from the stunning roof top view on the fourth floor terrace to the dedicated children’s auditorium complete with stage and toddler friendly bean bags, not many cities host free services like this.

The best bit is, all this greatness filters down to our smaller, suburban libraries too. Fitted with banks of PC’s, huge stocks of factual and fictional tomes plus a whole host of community based drop-in sessions from story time with Book Start to preparing for school courses and financial and welfare advice supported by local councillors. So why are we closing down these places of education that benefit everyone age 0-106?! I understand that cuts have to be made and money has to be saved but these regional out-posts provide much needed social interaction, support and last but not least, jobs to local people.IMAGINE

If you love to read, please shelve the Kindle and go and borrow a book from your local library, meet the staff, take your kids to listen to brilliantly animated people reading Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton and Jacqueline Wilson…because as long as the public are supporting them, the libraries stay open. To find out more about how local people are doing their bit to save our libraries click here……11 year old Elysce writes from the heart.

For more information on Liverpool Libraries, click here

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