Wednesday Word Tangle


I have mixed emotions towards fairgrounds.

It might stem from the temporary one that visited out town every summer when I was a teenager. Several stomach-clenching rides were set up on what, for the other fifty one weeks of the year, was the market place. These rides appeared at worrying speed and were taken apart even quicker. How safe can tons of very complicated machinery be when they seem to rely on half an hour’s construction and a few steel pins to hold them together?

As well as rides there were stalls where you could win goldfish and very cheap, dangerous soft toys filled with pins by flinging things at other things. There was candyfloss, drifts of chip paper that rolled down the street like tumble weeds, the music was so loud you had tinitus for several days afterwards and everywhere stank of cheap burgers and stale ketchup.

Worse was the fact that it was such a big deal when I was a teenager. You had to go to the fair, even if you only had enough money to buy one hotdog, even if you really didn’t like been spun around on the Waltzers by a twelve year old with an attitude problem until you had whiplash.

That’s not what the fair was about, though. The fair was about dressing up, seeing people and being seen. Mainly, for me, it was seeing other teens- one’s who could wear pedal-pushers or ra-ra skirts and not look fat, hot and uncomfortable- chew each other’s faces off while I consoled myself with a toffee apple.

Then there’s today’s word- CAROUSEL.

This week, it’s not about the word itself, but about what it means. To me it means fear, horror, nightmare’s- think psychotic clowns if you’re wondering where I’m coming from.

There are several reasons for my sitting in a corner, rocking and weeping at the mention of this word.

Firstly- let me take you back to when I was around eleven. I was at the fair and decided to go on the carousel (We in the UK often call them Merry-go-rounds, which has a quaint, whimsical quality to it, so wholly innacurate as far as I’m concerned). There were several rows of horses- I decided to sit on the outer row. I paid my money. The music started. The carousel began to spin. Everything was fine, the world dashing past me in a colourful blur- pretty. Then the ride gets faster. And faster. And faster. In the end, I have both my arms wrapped round the neck of my horse, my knuckles white, my head tucked in, my legs clenched against the wooden saddle. It doesn’t make any difference because I’m sure I’m slipping, I’m sure it’s spinning faster and if it does I’m done for. I imagined some crazy, Igor-esque lunatic, cranking some huge, steam-punk machinery, laughing like a maniac, winking his one good eye, lisping,

‘Thcream if you want to go fathter!’

Just at the moment I thought my pathetically weak limbs would give out, the thing began to slow. When it finally stopped, I clambered shaking from the revolting wooden torture intrument, swearing ‘never again’- and I never did.

Reinforcing my prejudice against all things fairground is the song Carousel by Siouxsie and the Banshees.

It opens with woosie, off-key notes which entwine with fairground music. There’s a nightmarish quality to the whole thing- you’re not sure if you’re awake or dreaming, a music box plays. The lyrics describe small, weeping children being strapped to snarling horses, cockerels and other garish, terrifying creatures by dwarves. I kid you not. There’s mention of monsters- a lot. Images of being lost in a hall of mirrors, of being small and alone… It’s brilliant and absolutely terrifying.

I’m put off for life. You’d have to truss me up and sedate me to get me onto one of those things again.

In fact, scrub my opening statement, I don’t have mixed emotions towards fairgrounds- they’re threatening, trashy, soul-sapping, loud, overcrowded and may just be the cause of me needing some very expensive therapy.

CAROUSEL- my worst nightmares carved in wood. 

Ta to Katy for startig W4W and just making it so darned fun 🙂


Wild is the Wind


Buxton in Derbyshire- ever heard of it? It’s a spa town one thousand feet above sea level, built among the rolling, pitching hills and moorland of the Peak District.

Being so high, it has its own micro climate. There’s many a time I’ve caught the train from Stockport on the way to visit my mum, and as the engine pauses at each little station- Davenport, Woodsmoor, Hazel Grove– the grass beyond the window becomes low and scrubby –Middlewood, Disley, New Mills– the incline of the track grows steeper- Furness Vale, Whaley Bridge– and there might even be a smattering of snow on the limestone peaks. By Chapel-en-le-Frith the temperature in the carriage begins to dip and once the Dove Holes scrap yard has flown past the window, you know you only have five minutes to grab your bag from the rack and wrap up warm.

Brace yourself is my advice. It’s usually windy, always a few degrees colder than even Dove Holes (pronounced Duvuls by some locals) and most streets rise up or round a hill, meaning that in the winter you struggle up or slide down to the shops. Every road out of town snakes through open moorland, so most years it’s cut off from the outside world as the snow descends, and when it does, it feels as though the town itself hunkers down to wait for the thaw.

When I was twelve, we moved into a house similar to the ones in the picture above. See the funny dormer window, jutting out of the roof? That would’ve been my bedroom, the one I shared with my fifteen year old brother. Even the sandstone’s similar, except ours was sooty and blackened from a century of coal burning.

I remember ice on the inside of that little window: hunched by a one bar electric heater, colouring in my Doodle Art posters: listening to Wild is the Wind by Bowie, the scratch as the arm lifted from the record, the click as it settled into the opening grove- that song always on repeat.

I tried to paint a mural on that sloping roof-wall. It was intended to be a castle-topped crag, fire-breathing dragons swooping majestically around the turrets. But the paper was wood-chip so impossible to paint on and anyway my artistic skills let me down. Dissatisfied by my ow inadequacy, I went off the whole idea. I still remember being offended when my mum painted over my grey and black splodges.

I don’t have many shining memories of that house. We’d left behind a semi on the outskirts of town, a vegetable garden and the wilderness of the hills, for a terrace near the town centre, where there was nothing but a mossy-flagged back yard and the serenade of drunks singing and laughing their way home from the pub.

I passed through the years of mental illness people call their teens in that house. I skipped school from there, scraped a few ‘O’ Levels and dropped out of ‘A’ Levels, all whilst sleeping under that roof, staring through that dormer window.

And now I live in another terrace house. It’s in the South-West of England, where the weather is many degrees warmer and the spring flowers come up a good four weeks before they do in Buxton. I still live on a hill, but because the winters are kinder, the Gulf Stream closer, we don’t hunker under the same snow-laden skies.

And anyway, I look on that old house more kindly now. I’ve walked past it several times since we all moved out and it’s bright and cheery, a pleasant family home.

It seems the blackness left the place when I did. Funny that.

Writing 101- Today’s Prompt: Where did you live when you were 12 years old?Which town, city, and country? Was it a house or an apartment? A boarding school or foster home? An airstream or an RV? Who lived there with you?

PS Can’t believe I forgot Wild is the Wind when I talked about my favourite songs the other week…

This is a happy house


When most people meet me they find I’m Friendly, Affable, Smiley, Mumsy (like a group of really tedious dwarves) but my fiction is often Dark, Scary and Violent, the kind of dwarves you don’t want to meet on the walk home from the pub.

I’m a glass-half-full person, carrying a hidden Gothic underbelly.This means I can be totally chilled and positive (Global Warming? Man, the earth will survive. Nuclear annihilation? Nothing a nice hot chocolate and group hug can’t sort) whilst simultaneously being drawn to graveyards, spiders and creaking door hinges.

I’m Mary Poppins wearing Morticia Addams’ undies beneath my frock.

So, when it comes to music, my favourites allow me to dip my toe in sorrow, go ankle deep in heartbreak, and sink up to my neck in melancholy. Sometimes, It’s good to wallow.

First up…

Last beat of my heart, by Siouxsie and the Banshees.      Forget My Way or Wind beneath my Wings, this is the only track so far I’m definitely having played at my funeral.

When I hear it, I’m twenty again, listening to this for the first time. I’m sitting on the floor of a scruffy flat, desperately in love, wrapped in the arms of that love, wishing the four minutes of this song would last for the rest of my life.

From the opening drums to the introduction of an accordion and the off-kilter lyrics, it’s not mainstream. But as a piece of music to accompany my coffin disappearing behind those crematorium curtains, I can think of none better.

Next please…

Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis by Ralph Vaughan Wiiliams.      Let me just say, I am NOT a classical music fan. Generally speaking, you put me in a room with a symphony playing and I’ll feel instantly depressed… and not in a good way.

But this music moves me. That opening sweep of strings can bring me to the verge of tears.

I don’t know if any clever boffin-types have done studies on this, but I definitely think there are notes/ key changes/ chords that have a direct connection to the emotion-triggers in our brains. They’re like magic buttons you can press to make you feel.

Vaughan Williams isn’t considered a world-class composer by many and the ‘hook’ is  from a work of 1567 by another man, Thomas Tallis, but if I want to take the hand of Melancholia and sink beneath the waves of her welcoming sea, I choose this one.

And finally…

Well, it could be Echo Beach by Martha and the Muffins, the tiny, perfect pearl that is Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want by The Smiths, Close to Me by The Cure, Rabbit Heart (Raise it Up) by Florence and the Machine…

But I’m gonna go forHappy by Pharrell Williams. I shouldn’t, I know. I like nothing else by Pharrell and he needs a good slap for teaming up with Robin Thicke and making Blurred Lines (no, no link for that one- if you want to listen to that rapey, sexist drivel you can find your own way).

But the sun’s shining and sometimes I need to take off my black lace gloves, expose my pasty white skin to the world and soak up some Vitamin D. And it’s the catchiest song ever- damn it!

Clap along…

This was written for the Writing 101 Day Three challenge. It’s late. Soz.