Amy Revisits her Old Home

So Amy, what are you doing here in South Wales?

FFS! I stared around the interview room: Carpets, sofa, flowers  — ok plastic flowers, the usual discreet tissues all designed to make it feel homelike. Idiots! Didn’t they fucking realise? I thought I’d try victim. TBH I’m tired of rebelling but I didn’t want to give in either. I just wanted what I can’t have! I rubbed my eyes and let slip a tear then reached for the discreet tissues. I made sure I had two to screw around with in my hands and then took a deep breath….

School’s been awful recently. Everyone is on my back. Teachers are more worried than me about my grades. Thing is I know I’m gonna do badly in science. And I can’t get my head around the maths thing. English Lang will be ok  but I’m not sure about lit cause I can’t get the hang of the quotes and things. It’s just nag, nag ,nag; target, target, target, every, flippin day. I need a break. I didn’t ask to be dumped there. I’m a hundred and fifty miles away from where I was born! The valley’s a dead end place – literally. There’s no way out except the B road. I’m not allowed to go down the village unsupervised and the thing is, what they don’t realise is that the more they watch me, the more I want to escape. I’ve got to get away. In the old days I would’ve saved my dinner money but coz I’ve got a care package the money goes direct to the cashless account. They’ve even got my finger print! I pointed to the sheet on the cop’s table then shrugged.

So how did you get the cash together?

The first thing I did was make friends with Seren. It was quite easy really – she’s such a nerdy geek and lonely. A few questions about homework: Was Curley’s wife really a tart? How did she (Seren ) revise angles and shit? And how did she go about preparing for her speaking and listening stuff? It was pathetic really. I mean — no-one bothers with her, she’s so studious. Not allowed to mix with the kids from the town. I think she’s delicate. I know she has asthma and her glasses are coffee jar thick so that she needs to have textbooks enlarged and she has a helper. No-one wants to make friends with the helpers’ kids coz all the helpers do is listen in and report back; or worse still, they gossip amongst themselves.

I was dead careful as I laid my plans.  “OOOH well done you for making friends… Well, Amy, its nice to see you finally making an interest … I hope its not too late ….” Everyone was so ‘encouraging’, like. I mean, way to make a girl feel positive about stuff.

It’s always been way too late. I was born too late to know my dad, and mum didn’t want to know. Dumped me with the oldies – his mum and dad –  and then she buggered off. The oldies’ house was nice though. Not posh or anything. It had a long back garden with a swing. There was  a ginger cat and Bamps always smelled of bacco. She was always making cakes so the kitchen smelled of cooking: Shepherds pie, sausage and  chips, eggs and  beans on toast. We always ate in the kitchen.  Mamgu always said she wanted us to be a proper family.

Yes, but the cash, Amy. what about that?

My plan was quite simple really. Get an invite to Serens, Let them get to know me and I’d get to know them and where they kept things. It was fiver here, a bottle of  wine from the weekly shop – they bought loads. I sold them on to some kids in year 10 after watering them down and rebottling them in recycled screw tops that once had cheap fizzy stuff in them. So when Mrs Lewis the helper said to me that Seren had complained to her about not getting any of her money back, I knew it was time to act. I stalled the helper with promises that I’d ask my care workers of the cash from my allowance. I googled the bus times in an IT lesson. The bus left at 8.14 – the same time I left for school. Ten hours door to door. I was well shattered!

Ok, so tell me now about the breaking and entering. Why did you break into no 4, Woodfield Terrace

 

 

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writing disappointments

Rejection comes in all forms, shapes and sizes and a submission rejection (albeit in a professional context) comes in all shapes and sizes too while dredging up the feelings of  those niggly personal rejections. At the moment it’s still raw. The reasons were cost, diminishing budgets, a huge number of submissions and in this context just not good enough to make the final cut. The letter entered with a jolly “but keep writing.” Hmm yes ok… but the questions How? why ? Why would you want me to keep writing if you won’t accept my work? What is the secret ? Am I just not young and sexy enough? Have I griped enough/too much/too little about writing becoming elitist and academic? If I’m not good enough that’s fine. Was it just a throwaway line?

But please don’t make writing an elitist academic thing anymore than it is now. The more I think about it its becoming more for those in the ‘tower on the hill’ and less about the stories and voices of the day to day.Perhaps I’m just sore and my perspective will change but I don’t think so. One of my pupils wrote a brilliant line about life being timed when a bomb starts ticking (WW1 poetry) and that line made me explode, yesterday with an OMG that’s amazing! I hope she goes on to write more and more.

 

Another Amy episode in the pipeline

 

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Amy 2

This also contains swearing so if you are offended don’t read it. I would however appreciate feedback. It is possible to excel only in language, and to hide that ability. It’s the easiest thing in the world to underachieve. It is Amy’s gift for language which makes her funny and expressive and I am pretty fond of her  but she is in for a rough time!

 

I could see my form tutor speaking, but I couldn’t hear him. I could hear noise, but I couldn’t understand what he was saying. He hissed and spat, but well… I just wasn’t getting any of it. He was sooooooo angry!

I was still sore and tired after being dragged back to the house last night.I’d only had about four hours’ kip. Didn’t want to come to this dump anyway – but my support workers said ‘routine’, ‘normal’ and ‘boundaries’ and ‘importance of education’ so many flipping times it was easier just to get dressed. I pointed out to them my jumper was still manky and smelly. They said it was my fault for bunking off. ‘Consequences’ Duh! I wonder if they play jargon bingo when I’m not around?

So after they left me at the school gates I swapped it for a hoodie.   To be honest, sleeping rough ‘adn’t done me much favours neither.  The cold gets to you. Any warmth you get is superficial – doesn’t reach inside. And like I said I was sore. But my form tutor wanted me to take it off. so I said ‘No.’ They don’t like it when I say ‘No.’ I explained to Sir that I was still cold, and I was getting achey and fluey and that my jumper was smelly. He told me to borrow one off the stock in the cupboard, but they’re just as bad – you never know who’s been sweating in them… who’s been sweating in my jumper? LOL, just about any minger!

So there he was speaking at me, mouth moving, moustache (ugh!) with drips of spit, and I got suddenly tired. “Fuck it!” I thought, over and over the words in my head beating time with his words like some cuckoo clock in my head. It went on for quite some time, I tell you —  he waxed lyrical, as the saying goes. I mean who knew you could get so much milage out of ‘smelly, school jumper, cold, fluey achey and No.’ And all the time the f words like a tune in my head, ding donging until  the words jumped out of my head and into the space between us!

That stopped him! And then he did the teacher thing: wide eyes, eyebrows high above the frames of the glasses and then that sarcastic thing of ‘I don’t believe I heard that.’ To be honest neither could I. Sir’s alright! He’s not the best English teacher I had and he’s definitely the worst tutor I’ve had but he’s okay. He just doesn’t get anything that isn’t level five, gymnastic and two parent families.

I tried to say I was sorry that it just slipped out like but I found myself in the deputies’ office and it was a two pronged attack, of choices, life choices, moving forward, attainment qualifications, boundaries, language, counselling school support worker respect. Then it got to the more serious stuff like inclusion, exclusion,cooperation, restorative justice and then the D word – Detention.

So here I am in the school hall freezing in my school blouse and jeggings. How bloody mean can they get? The deputies’ corridor of death is warm and snug and my hoodie is hanging there: pink and lovely with my name on the back. It was a present from the foster home before last. I miss her, but she had to stop fostering me because her mum got sick. And home time won’t be much fun. My support workers will be called in for a four pronged attack and while I know they won’t feed me gruel, or send me to bed without any supper, it’ll be a loooong, boring night with two fifty something prison warders, no internet privileges or phone – again! So I’ll have to read. But that’s ok, but  if I told them I love reading, I bet they’d withdraw library ‘privileges’ too. So a three bee night for me: Bath Book and Bed!

 

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Thoughts on Language

I’ve been pretty much preoccupied with ideas of language these days. Who speaks? Are they speaking for themselves? Are they giving voice to others?  What kind of register is used?  What is lost when a basic register meets the professional  – complete with jargon? What do you do when you lower the register as a professional? Is it patronising or is it possible to find a common ground? I feel pretty much alienated as I read job advertisements full of jargon and corporate speak. and find myself asking, ‘Yes but what does it mean? What do you do on the day to day basis?’ So lots of questions about language  but no real answers. According to the science of Facebook – my vocabulary hovers around 30k words – yeah I know, one of those random tests. I was quite pleased. But if I as a graduate feel alienated, and feel that the language is difficult, obscure and irrelevant to experience; if I feel  that I don’t know what they want when filling in a job application, how do others feel?  I explore these issues in this short piece which contains  a lot of swearing. So if you’re offended by F bombs leave the blog now.   But you, see that brought with it other questions about language. Who am I to put swear words in the mouths of teens? Who am I to write about experiences I have not had. Lots of people have asked me what happens to Amy (of Amy’s Diary).  This is the next phase which I have planned and written an opening extract.

All copyright belongs to Anne Phillips.

 

I love this bridge at night. It’s like a bridge of hope. Cars swing on and swing off sweeping the water with white and red lights. It’s even better when there’s a full moon hanging over the mountains; and the world is so still it feels like you are held in an endless silence. It’s the bridge that links: Island, mainland, water, mountains, farmland. Concrete and tar suspended in mid air on steel strings. It’s like flying. I can see the length of the coast. Some nights its windy and the rain hits side-wise. Sometimes at sunset the colours catch my breath it’s like the world is on fire. But sunrise, that’s a promise that is. A lovely fat gold ball of a promise that my day’s gonna be ok.

You alright, Amy?

Amy. Use the persons name to get them to engage. Get Lost! I shake the copper’s hand off my arm. I’m not gonna fuckin jump, ok? I’m waiting for the sun.

Amy, it’s three o clock in the morning. It’s freezing. Come on –  you’ve got to go back.

Same old, same old! and I’m dragged to the car. The PC sighs.

Amy come on. You know you always go back.

Only cause I know there’s no fuckin choice! Two of you one of me, and God knows how many fuckin caseworkers support workers care plans and bits of paper. Don’t you get it? I’m a person I got rights and feeling too. I zone out. She mutters about duty of care, local authority care… her words disappear as the cop car slides along the A55 then to the valley, up to the village,  further up the hill to the cottage they’ve rented. Well, no  care home or foster home would have me – not after that last one!

I know I smell. The copper’s hand hovered over my head  – didn’t quite touch me and in the car now, she holds her breath or breathes through her mouth. It makes me feel like scum.So what? They don’t need permission to have even an hour’s freedom. They get to eat, sleep cook shop whenever they like. They don’t get it that smells is what happens when you’ve bin sleeping rough. I stink – cooking smells, sweat smells. My clothes are covered with street dust and dotted with bird shit  – bloody seagulls at the back of the Chinese takeaway! Its nice and warm by the vent. Hell though if I’m feeling hungry!

It’s the  care workers that get me . No! Don’t get me! They’re so full of jargon: plans, justice, restorative justice, sanctions and then we get to sit down and “discuss” why I bunked off again.  They discuss. I’m “sullen and quiet –  unresponsive”. I don’t “engage”. I saw all this on a report once.You see a lot when people think you can’t read much! That’s how I knew they found me another foster home. But it was across the border, so I got desperate like! I didn’t think it was a lot of damage – I mean that’s why they have things like insurance and premiums. I was lucky that it was described as an accident. Could’ve got a criminal record. Still had to change schools though.

And, well, bunking off? They call it “absconded”. The more posh the word, the more workers, agencies, e mail, paper and phone calls  are involved. If it’s absconded then they can call the police to get me in the car to force me back –  the workers can’t touch me –  literally! It’s the only power I had and that’s why there’s two of em now!

 

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A Literary Eveningand three Amys

Let me  just preface this that aside from an A grade in English Language my O levels were grim. I left school without many formal qualifications. Those came later.

 Something strange happened this evening. I was at a short story event in Bangor, listening to Thomas Morris speak about his experiences, education and process that led to the publication of his short story collection, and his subsequent prize of Welsh Book of the Year. Annwyl is the word that springs to mind for this young Welsh Writer. Compassionate, Funny and intelligent are the others. It’s fair to say I came home buzzing with ideas, first lines and a fair dose of envy and admiration. 

He read a story, Clap Hands, about the life of a single mother, Amy. It follows a series of events and characters who are random, funny, and real. The story is closely observed, sympathetic and scarily close to home. Indeed it was as if he had observed my childrens’ antics when I became a single parent. Thankfully he hadn’t! 

As usual there was a Q&A session and as usual, I was too shy to get to grips with my concerns. You see, this is a 20 something to 30 year old man, writing about a woman probably slightly if not a little older. 

How did he he accomplish it?  

Which  ways would her narrative be similar or different had she told it herself? I find it problematic that we never hear her voice directly and I wonder if this is a rehash of the nineteen thirties when women were portrayed through the eyes of men, because they were too busy and confined in the domestic sphere or in Amy’s case, caring for a widowed mother, three children, and the endless drudgery of jugglng finances, hoping the ATM will spit out some cash, that thefood cupboard will last till payday and that her absent husband will finally send home maintenance for the kids. All this while hanging on the telephone for responses from the various agencies in her life!

It is an excellent story  filled with the pervasive anxiety about the next thing to go wrong, and peopled with other characters I want to know more about. One character has been through the care system. Coincidentally, she was called Amy by her birth mother until being renamed. It got me thinking about Amy’s Diary, and mine and Anne Collis’s Amy who negotiates school and the care system. I still wonder what happened to her. Tonight I had an inkling. I suspect she left school with minimum GCSEs and had some difficult adventures. I think her story will be gritty, difficult and contain the odd profanity. Lets hope I can make it as compassionate as the one I heard tonight. But what I was unprepared for, was the fierce urge to protect her and her story. I have no idea where that came from! 

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Just Another Friday Night at the Pub

 

 

“It was Friday night. I watched her, peeped from behind my curtains. She waved- friendly enough; looked as if she was getting over the death of her mother.  Getting dark it was. Shouldn’t be out that late, I thought to myself. And what of her father, on his own in that cottage? They’re so careless, teenagers these days; take no account of other people’s thoughts and feelin’s. An’ ‘im jus’ lost his wife! I have to say though, she looked beautiful -sort of gypsy-ish. Her hair back combed an’ frizzed like. She was wearing a sea green topped draped around her front with just a pair of straps tied behind. No wider than shoe laces! How these girls can wear tops like that in cold weather, I’ll never know.”

 

 

“I saw her too. I’d been to the garej for fags an’ a magazine. And there she was, striding down the main road confident and smoking!”

 

“Shouldn’t be smoking after the way her mam died.”

 

“…I watched her! Top ripplin’,’eels more like a dangerous weapon. How these young girls can walk in them ‘eels I’ll never know. Shouldn’t be smoking she should, not with that chest of ‘ers. Doreen, her mother’d, be mortified if she knew, turning in her grave no doubt. Poor bugger.” 

 

 

“Yes. But don’t iw think ‘at Emlyn should know?  P’raps ee does!  ‘Tisn’t right, mind! He should do more for his daughter – sort her out like; take more of an interest.”

 

 

The women gabbled, as Emlyn sat in his living room nursing his whiskey glass in front of a blazing fire, the 1812 shaking the window frames. “Bitch Bach Blin!” He thought to himself. “She hasn’t got an effin’ clue. No bloody idea!” He clecked the tumbler, and poured another, larger whiskey. He clecked that too while the bells and guns of the 1812 clanged in his head. ‘Dressed like a bloody tramp she was. Doreen bach, what am I going to do with that girl of ours?

 

 

His wife’s framed image smiled at him from the top of the sideboard.  ‘That was one of the good days.’ He mused. They had a lovely long walk over Penmaen Mawr; a September walk, Doreen’s favourite time of the year, when the heather covered the mountains, bruising the landscape. It was the last walk they had taken, just him and her -though he hadn’t known it then. To celebrate the fact that she had been well enough he had captured the moment as she hung on to the stile. “Couldn’t tell she was sick, really,” he mumbled into his tumbler. Her hair, thinner, curlier and brighter auburn, was hidden under her floppy, fleece,cap. It made her look arty, trendy, and confident;it disguised the fact that she was ill. Emlyn’s eyes filled with tears; a combination of whiskey, self pity and grief.

 

 

The noise of the 1812, gave him impetus. Emlyn lurched to his feet and igam -ogammed up the narrow cottage stairs. He slipped. Banged his elbow on the white – washed stone wall. Swore violently. Swept into his daughter’s bedroom. Stopped. Whiskey woozy he swayed from side to side; intoxicated and uncertain in this girly territory.  Sian’s room was stuffed with soft toys; littered with dogs, sheep, teddies, and ducks:  A rainbow coloured, kapok stuffed, and furry, pastel, zoo.

 

 

The bed springs creaked as Emlyn sat down. He caught a whiff of Sian’s deodorant. He picked up the bear – Sian’s companion since babyhood. A matt, pointed nose and eyes like blackberries stared back at him; concern stitched all over his brown, dusty, face. ‘Oh Harri,’ he murmured to the bear, ‘what is our Sian up to tonight?’

 

 

Sian was not thinking of teddies. She patted the condom in her pocket, freshly dispensed from the ladies’. She had no intention of using it tonight unless she met ‘The One!’ Highly unlikely in The Llew, but she felt better it was there, just in case: Anyway, it was what all responsible teenagers did, wasn’t it? Keep a condom at the ready.

 

 

Sian swigged her WKD and lit a Marlborough in exasperation. Llinos was still texting Tomi who had gone to watch Man U that weekend. ‘Look!’Llinos beamed. ‘Dwi’n dy Garu di! It looked more liked dwdygrd to Sian who squinted at the text message, nodded then smiled inanely at Llinos who was busy thumbing a ‘Luv iw 2 babe! XXX’, to Tomi. Sian rolled her eyes. God! It wasn’t worth the hassle.

 

 

The volume of the music increased as the football boys walked in. Litres of body spray wafted beneath the low ceiling of the cellar, as the freshly showered and gelled lads strutted towards the bar and Steve, the bar man, perked up. Takings’ll be good tonight,’ he thought.  Glain, who made up the trio with Llinos and Sian, sat up, pulling her Babylissed hair straighter and adjusted her v – neck top so that its scarlet folds teased the top of her camisole. Llinos flicked her shoe-string emerald straps, lit another cigarette and exhaled as she has seen Sandy do in ‘Grease’. Her stilettos were just fine. She crossed her legs lifting her shoulders. A tiny wave flickered from her hand as she smiled at the boys.Tonight was the night. Sian patted her pocket again.

 

 

Iawn, Daf?’ Sian singled out Dafydd the centre forward who beamed. ‘Iawn, doll. You ok?’

‘Better, now that you’re here.  Tyrd. Come and talk to the three of us. Bring your mates.’

 

 

‘What the hell do you think your doing? Be ddiawl ti’n ‘neud, y lembo?’ Llinos hissed at Sian. ‘I can’t afford to be seen with other blokes, yeah? Tomi’d go nuts, yeah, if he thought I was looking at another boy -especially if he’s centre – bloody – forward. I’m going home.’

 

Sian grabbed her.  ‘Paid! Don’t go yet. We might have a bit of hwyl. Anyway it’s only a bit of harmless fun. Have a chat with the footie boys, flirt with them a bit. You might be missing something.’

 

 

‘Oh, yeah,Tomi’s really  going to see it like that, yeah? Du –uh. Talk to the …’ Llinos placed her palm in Sian’s face; who turned and hooked her fingers lightly in the waist of Daf’s jeans. Sian smiled at Dafydd. ‘Take no notice hon. Llinos may be on a lead but I’m not.’

 

 

Daf could hardly believe his luck and readily put his hand in his pocket to buy the girls a drink. Sian switched from WKD to white wine as it was cheaper. She clecked it; and had a momentary vision of her father with his whisky glass and raised her glass in a silent toast to his image. She swallowed a few times then held out her glass to Dafydd and smiled. She twirled her stilettos at him. Dafydd, mesmerised by her blue eyes and blonde hair, willingly paid out yet again.  ‘Tonight is looking good,’ he thought giving the thumbs up to his team mates. They lowed in reply. He bought Sian another WKD, and for her, the music and conversation became louder, and the Llew became more exciting.

 

 

Tina Turner, Elvis, the Bee Gees, Mcfly – a mix that reflected the ages of the pub customers. Anthems and favourites certainly, just not the chapel kind. A few drunk souls began to dance, -the married mothers mainly. ‘I’ll never be like that,’ Sian yelled at Glain and Llinos. ‘You won’t see me pissed in a pub and drinking to forget some brat that I had.’

‘Nah! Just pissed to forget er Mam. Bechod!’ Glain retorted silently.

 

 

Llinos slipped away when Glain and Sian began to dance in the centre of the floor; cigarette ends and beer splashes were spongy and wet beneath their feet. Sian moved her hips, swayed her arms in time to the music. Daf could scarcely believe that this beautiful girl had grown up with him in school and chapel. He was sorry about her mother. It couldn’t be easy for a young girl to lose her mother, like that. He’d heard his mother talk about it with the rest of the women from Merched y Wawr – The dawn ladies, who sipped tea, cappuccino and baked Bara Brith for funerals; and occasionally organized trips to eisteddfodau and the Chippendales. He watched Sian dance in her sea green top. Not a mermaid or anything like that just one hell of a sexy girl -a real pishyn.

 

 

 

Dai Williams thought so too -her Dad’s friend. Dai had been watching her worriedly. He decided that she would need a fatherly eye as she walked home. As far as he was concerned, it was Emlyn’s bad luck if he didn’t know what his lovely girl of a daughter was up to in the pub. Dai wasn’t one to go telling tales. The rhythms on the juke box changed and the boys ranged around the pool table wielding their cues like spears.  Sian continued to dance, twining her arms in a Celtic knot pattern around the football team; flirting with each one, inviting each one to show that he cared for her.

 

 

She was oblivious of her effect. Each pair of male arms seemed strong and muscular- welcoming even. She felt safe and supported by each one. She held on to Huw first of all who grinned delightedly, and placed his Half – a – Carling on the rim of the pool table. Her body draped over his wrapped him in the smells of turquoise silk, Calvin Klein. And Marlboroughs. It felt great to hold Sian, but Gwenno, his girl, would give him hell if she knew.  Huw kissed Sian and gently set her in Deio’s arms.

 

 

Deio, the best goal keeper since Dewi Rhys left for uni, displayed his talents by netting Sian as she tripped over his trainers. ‘Prat.’ She mumbled and theatrically lit another cigarette. Two lighters dazzled; flickering in her eyes as she attempted to light one of the two cigarettes held between four fingers. Four Fingers!  Four? The noises in the pub became indistinct and rang like sea – water in her ears.  A longing for Emlyn, her dad, overcame her and Deio was the surprised recipient of a fierce hug.  A cheerful faced boy, with auburn hair and freckles, Deio was tall with pale blue eyes -striking and combined with a genuinely kind nature made him the ideal friend.  He was worried to see his mate, Sian, in such a state. She could hardly stand and was making a fool of herself.  Sian clung to Deio, slurping her Smirnoff Ice and slurred, ‘I love you. You’re special. Be special’ nice to me tonight.’

 

 

Deio stared down at Sian as she insensibly muttered the words he’d wanted to hear since the end of year eleven. She puckered her lips and gently kissed him only to miss. Deio knew she’d have a head in the morning. ‘I love you. I do. Why don’ you look after me? I miss my mam. Dwisho Mam. Dwisho hi ‘nol.

 

 

Meanwhile, Emlyn, lay on his daughter’s bed clutching Harri who smelled Sian’s perfume and shampoo. Emlyn wished fiercely that the evening could rewind to seven o’clock. Over and over his words echoed around the empty cottage shot with Sian’s stinging replies. Emlyn cringed. ‘Nothing but a bloody slag. No way you’d go out looking like that if your Mam were here.”

 

 

‘If Mam were here, I wouldn’t be going out. I wouldn’t need my friends as much. If Mam were here she’d take me shopping, and you’d say my choice of clothes was ok. If Mam were here, you’d say I looked nice – you wouldn’t call me a slag or a bitch bach blin. How could you? I hate you! I hate you! I wish it was you who died and not Mam. I want her back. I want my Mam. She didn’t deserve that. But right now, you do! Calling me a slag! Mam wouldn’t. I want Mam.’

 

 

Sian slammed the bedroom door and white plaster dribbled off the landing wall onto the carpet. She cried. Her sounds were muffled by a pillow and her stuffed menagerie. Later, slammed the back door and march off down the lane as quickly and as elegantly as she could manage in her unfamiliar heels. ‘Oh Sian, what have I done?’ Emlyn had held his head in his hands and stared at his wife’s picture. ‘She’s right, Dor. The child is right. You’d have known what to do, where to go for clothes. You’d have known how to handle her. I can’t even hold her. It’s confusing. She’s my child, so young and beautiful and so much like you Doreen. So much like you when we first met in school.’

 

 

Emlyn sat in Sian’s pink room holding Harri, the toy and companion she had held through childhood, through the long nights of her mother’s illness and the confusions of teenage life. He wept. Elsewhere, Sian hung onto the lads, her exploits filling the chapel and Merched y Wawr mouths with self satisfaction. Downstairs the CD player was dumb. Emlyn opened the medicine cabinet and pulled out a packet of Resolve. Only one sachet left.  Good job for him it was Saturday tomorrow. Sian would need this more than him. He placed the sachet with a pint glass of water on her bedside cabinet.

 

 

 

As he put out the light, to listen and wait for his daughter, Sian was escorted home – Deio on one side, Dai Williams at the other. It was a moonlit night and the sky was peppered with dim stars. Wisps of air, the hint of autumn, formed in their mouths as they spoke. Sian’s feet were freezing but she was too drunk to care. Her shoes dangled like broken limbs from her wrist. She sat down on the stile to rest. The path led to the mountain that hovered as black as judgment. She sang:

 

 

 

Dacw Mam yn dwad ar ben y gamfa wen,

 

Rhywbeth yn ei ffedog a phusern ar ei phen;

 

Y fuwch yn y beudy yn brefi am ei llo,

 

A’r llo yr ochr arall yn chwarae ‘Jim Cro’.

 

Jim Cro crwstyn, one, two four, a’r

 

Mochyn bach yn eistedd mor ddel ar y stol.

 

 

 

 

 

Ond ‘di Mam ddim yn dwad dim mwy.’

 

Sian’s voice floated out of tune into the chilly night. Dai swallowed. He would have to have a talk with Emlyn tomorrow. Deio shrugged off his hoodie carefully placing it over Sian. ‘Iawn from here, boy?’ Dai was anxious to get home. He had a hobble at seven in the morning.

 

Iawn. We’ll be fine. I’ll make sure she gets home and I’ll lock the door behind her and put the key through the letter box.’

 

‘Ok. Nos da. Nos da, Cariad’ Dai ruffled Sian’s hair and turned into Ty Gwyn Lane.

 

Deio watched Dai walk down the lane and Sian leaned her head on his shoulder. ‘You Ok, Deio? Deio, be’sy’? What’s the matter? Are you cross with me?’

 

‘No cyw.  Not cross just worried, yeah! You could have got into big trouble tonight.’

 

‘But you looked after me and walked me home. You’re my mate! Ti yw fy ffrind.’

 

Eventually Deio shushed her singing and managed to bundle Sian through the cottage door. Emlyn heard the key rattle on the flagstones in the porch. He heard both Sian and her bed groan as she collapsed fully clothed. Emlyn punched his pillow and turned over.‘Yes, Sian, I’m your mate.’ Sighed Deio as the gate clicked behind him.

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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9.23 pm,Crewe

Train stations are evocative places. I’m always reminded of journeys – departures and arrivals, hellos and goodbyes. I’m reminded of train travel with friends and family, those I have waved off and those I have welcomed home. I was stuck at Crewe one night waiting for a connection after a long journey where I failed to get a job – and this piece happened. A

Bruno Mars croons on the soundtrack and the play list is dancy but the floor and the bar in this windswept  cafe are empty -all but  cleared of Sunday travellers.  There’s a Brief Encounter moment as a Virgin train hurtles through on the central tracks bound for Liverpool . Others trains are London-bound:  T shaped lights in First class illuminate the snug, curved seats – All very Orient Express

Passing trains – for the Pennines, Manchester, Liverpool and branch lines  are sucked out of the station into the neon spotted dark; each carriage conveying its own hopes and disappointments. In the bar the radio jangles –  the voice of the presenter strikes a rough alto; blonde, estuary and flat – far from here; and her youth and vibrancy are almost alien.

The bar’s blue light reminds her of France – and the seedy pubs of her  youth. Circular and neon its is almost violet on the curves as they reach infinity. Trolley cases rattle on the mottled concrete outside and the wind sweeps through the station again. This time a Pendolino hammers through the station, and her glass of Shiraz ripples. In the corner of the bar the  woman scribbles –  all green ink, green thoughts and travel-  sick. She is lost in the LED neon space and it is as if the stars hide as she sways to the rhythm of the soundtrack while she writes.

A stranger walks in wearing straight legged bleached jeans. He is man-bagged and young – man and he fiddles with his lanyard, the red remnant reminder of a long day at a distant office. The woman  is stuck – in Crewe –  and the network sprawls around her and beyond. She is travelling home; on her way home, from home. She is a geographical contradiction of mountain, coast and river, that straddle North and South  – a mishmash of accents.

The express trains still rush through and the branch lines and cafe vibrate. She thinks of the home she has left, the home she has created and the home she returns to now. Suddenly her dreams are all films: Brief Encounter, The Railway Children. She recalls long lost lines LMS GWR and thinks of her grandparents who once walked this station.Celia Johnson’s eyes and cut class accent follow her on to her connection and while she dozes, she sees picket fences, moonlight picnics, and hears Jenny Agutter’s shout in her dreams.

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