Tuesday, 25 September 2012

My Grandfather's Eyes - Prologue




I have never been beautiful. And, of course, my appearance has deteriorated over time.  It is something I have become used to.  When I look in the mirror these days, and that is not very often, I am not surprised by what I see.  Nor am I disappointed, as I have given up hope of catching myself in a good light. 

Let me tell you what I see.  First, the shape of my head is noticeably irregular, with a medium-sized bump just in front of the crown.  Next, my forehead is lined.  It always has been, ever since I can remember. People used to say I must be a deep thinker.  Only some of them were being kind.   Now the lines are deeper, but the traces they follow date back to my school days, when they did not go unnoticed by bullies.  My eyes are large and green; some might say they are intelligent eyes, that they are insightful or sincere.  I have learned not to set much store by what other people say. 

I have meagre lashes, but it is usually boys who have the lavish kind.  My nose is straight and my mouth is full.  My hair is mousy, fine and thin.   I used to buy shampoo for flyaway hair, when I believed in such nonsense.  When I was young, I wanted thick, straight blond hair, like my friend Lizzy’s.  We all want what we can’t have.

There is perhaps nothing so far to complain about very much, you might say. 

And so I come to my moles: the unnatural, crawling growths that spread themselves over the side of my face and the underside of my jaw.  If you could see me now, you would probably recoil. I have noticed that even the most educated, the most sympathetic person has difficulty in hiding the innate disgust my moles excite in them.  Ah yes. Disgust is not too harsh a word, I can assure you.  And the others? Those who make no attempt to hide their feelings towards me?  They cannot help themselves, but stare in horror at what they see, as they sit on the bus clutching their shiny, plastic bags full of new things or as they push their wholesome choices around the supermarket.   Young children are the worst.  I do not admire their honesty, as their obsequious parents do. 

My moles. My nevi.  How can I describe them?  I should say they are more or less dark brown in colour, although there are two above my left eye that are noticeably lighter.  My husband called them Castor and Pollux.  All have a rubbery, soft texture and, apart from one large mole near my ear, are hairless.  The one near my ear has short, thick hairs that bristle untidily.  My husband had a name for this one too.  He loved me too much.  He couldn’t help it.  None of us can choose whom we love.

What more can I tell you?   That I am ambivalent to my nevi? That Castor and Pollux are my favourites?  That I like them for being different?  You may think this kind of reasoning is strange and I wouldn’t blame you.  I can only explain it as a truth, a principle that has grown inside me as my moles have swelled and spread; have become part of my life.   Now, I am not sure I could be separated from them. 

There was a time when I believed my mother loved me. A time when she called me beautiful and, because I was not yet self-aware, I let myself be preened and cosseted in exchange for the comfort I felt from the warm glow of her approval.  I did not notice how she suffered. I did not recognise the mortification that lay beneath her smile.

However, a story must start somewhere nearer its beginning, and so I will go back and show myself more clearly to you, before I reveal what I have done.  I expect that you will judge me.

But I do not care.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Excerpt from new thriller - My Grandfather's Eyes


I have had enough of this hospital waiting room. I have been here for hours and yet nothing has happened.  The nurse who deposited me here, with her tight bun and disinterested manner has not returned and I am left in the dark, not knowing and tired of surmising the fate of my husband. 


This place is claustrophobic and the inadequate chair has turned my legs to jelly. I feel as though I have been shut away in a giant glass box, like a creature in a medical experiment or at an exhibition, although of what I do not know. I get up carefully, like an old woman. I am thirty-two years old, not yet past my prime and yet no longer young.  I open the door and look towards the double doors that lead to the front entrance of the hospital, where there will be a coffee machine.  It is enough of a lure, although I don’t expect much. Anything is better than waiting here in this desolate forgotten corner.


The linoleum floor is thick and smooth, it muffles the sound of my footfalls so that when I swing the door open, I am hit by the echoing sound of people talking quietly in a large space.  I have been sitting on my own for too long and it is difficult to turn my thoughts outwards.  I stand for a moment and get my bearings, looking for a vending machine and somewhere to sit. I pull out my purse to look for some change.


I settle in a padded chair outside the hospital crèche.  The brightly coloured pictures are out of place without electric light and children’s voices. It is late and the building seems to sleep.  There are hospital staff chatting in murmurs.  I catch odd words. They are people with nothing to do, who should be doing something.  They eye me suspiciously and I ignore them.  I insert coins and push buttons and soon have a cup of hot liquid that gives off an aroma of chicken soup.  I sit and watch the receptionist who is talking to a woman in a white coat.  Her legs are muscular and her shoes practical.  She puts a hand in a pocket and takes out a pen, glancing in my direction.  Then she puts the pen back in her pocket. It is a strange place to work, I imagine.  You would always be dealing with pettiness or tragedy.  It would be depressing. Also, I decide that the atmosphere is wrong.  It is too officious.  It reminds me, inexplicably, of bad science fiction films.


I have a yearning to be entertained.  I want to watch people. I want them to be unpredictable.  I want Lizzy to walk in and throw her arms around me. None of this will happen.


The bad coffee is strong and hot.  It revives me a little and gives me a chance to review my situation.  Now I think about it, it seems that I have been foolish to wait.  There is so much I could have been sorting out at home to make things easier on myself later.  I wonder why I had wanted to stay and realise that there are two reasons:  firstly, it is easier not to go home, where other people will be arriving, and secondly, I have no idea what Richard has told the doctors. 


Until I can speak to him there is no point in making any plans.  That is why I have to stay.  I look for a telephone and dial my home number. I do not use my mobile phone.  I do not know why.   Instead, it plays dead in my pocket.  The large grey and black public phone rings twice and is answered. It is Lizzy.


Time advances slowly. I wade through a present thick and sticky with chaos and I wonder how to extricate myself from a growing sense of inertia.  I glance back at the telephone remembering the feel of the receiver in my hand and the sensation of the vibrations travelling down the line, miraculously translated into words.  I wish I had not called home.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Fifty Shades of Green

I read a recent article on E L James  http://uk.finance.yahoo.com/news/how-rich-is-e-l-james.html along with millions of others, presumably, wondering at her good fortune and wishing it were me wearing the smug expression.

I am in the unenviable position of not having read the dratted book and not wanting to buy it.  I put this down to pettiness and an inflated sense of my own importance in the world of literature.  I would be loading her coffers and betraying my high standards. Also, I understand that there are rude bits that might either shock or bore me, according to the comments left by those who have read the ' best-selling book in Britain of all time'.

Surely this must be wrong. I climb onto a higher horse and think of Shakespeare, Dickens, J K Rowling or Eric Carle.  How could we love her this much?  

One answer that springs to mind is that it is because she has become controversial, and everyone loves a good fight.  Or it could be that we really do think about sex most of the time and want to find out new ways of doing it. Then again, it may be that, just as we will queue for anything that looks as though someone else might want it, we will buy a book that is popular because everyone else is doing so.

The fact remains that E L James has written a book that has outsold every other book written and distributed in Britain to date.  I would pinch myself if I could find a part of my body that wasn't already blue.  Or should I say green?  

Yes, I am envious.  I'll admit it. But I have an idea, courtesy of Jak in Ambleside who reports that locals receive a free pair of fluffy pink handcuffs with every purchase - perhaps a free pair of Playboy bunny ears with every copy of Bunny on a Bike would do the trick?  

In the meantime, I shall content myself with skimming the first (free) chapters on Amazon in an effort to be as outraged and pedantic as possible.  When, one day, I become more magnanimous and less bitter, I will download the book and give it my undivided attention over a cup of coffee and a suitable electronic device... 

Bev Spicer is the author of Bunny on a Bike (humorous memoir of a Playboy croupier in 80s London:    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bunny-on-a-Bike-ebook/dp/B0089FB71O/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1346661353&sr=1-1

New book out soon:  My Grandfather's Eyes (dark thriller).