Thoughts on the 38 Bus

Not much traffic this late in the evening, and the bus surges forwards impatiently. Reflections, warmth, mind buzzing from the class. Breathe for a while, just sit here, let my mind go. Only a few of us, but enough to think about. A besotted couple staring into each others eyes, a young black girl engrossed in her iPhone,  a few old dears and a family with a young boy who is excited to be sitting up there in the front.

This is where we turn up to the station, round we go, she’s a bit off balance, nearly, – that was close – you could see that coming, too much texting – she should sit down it’s not as if we’re short of seats, dangerous texting is, gets taken out of context, too many interpretations, strange how so few words can go so wrong. Not like this evening, I thought that was all right really, not a bad group  – except I always seem to talk too much. Every time I promise myself I’ll keep quite, then before I know it I’m asking questions. Not like some of them they don’t say a word, don’t take any notes either. Just kind of sit there like lemons, not that lemons sit anywhere but I know what I mean.

Did I mean lemmings? No – definitely not.

Talking of jumping off cliffs it should be more of an adventure to throw yourself into  things you don’t normally do just to see what happens, how you will react. But it’s not that strange at all once you actually start, everything has its own props, it’s own gear – there’s Lycra for cycling, thoughtful expressions for creative writing, special shoes for Tango – dress up right, look the part, and then it’s just a matter of learning the rules. Real shame when I’m trying to push myself into the great unknown, as opposed to the slightly less familiar – it would be great to do something totally unpredictable, with no rules at all, but I know that isn’t me, not really. Woah she almost fell again, she really should stop that. Its not her I worry about, its that old lady under her elbow, blissfully unaware she is. Both almost deaf and not seeing clearly, for very different reasons. Opposite ends of a curve, same experience separated by decades, barely touching each other, a little intersection just for a moment, blissfully unaware of each other, it’s only me that notices.

Voice. It’s all about voice. Problem is I can’t find mine, not consistently, not like her. Really consistent that one, a hundred percent softness. Floods of emotions interrupted by little bits of writing. But me – I just seem to be all over the place. Great at night, there’s almost no cars at all, hence the violent turns and the black spots for off balance texters, she’s off again, world of her own, white headphones and flashing thumbs. At least she’s sat down though.  Should be able to find all of the worlds great literature by listening to people on a 38 bus, that’s what he says anyway, just look at her with Michael Jackson’s Thriller  and a messaging system, totally lost, emotional responses echoing across her face, all zoned out and full of concentration.

I do wonder about the feminine girl. So soft and emotional, big and blubbery on the outside. She explains herself yet again, what she was exploring, all the gentle  pictures in her head.  But what’s on the inside? What makes her work?

But to focus – what’s my inside story. What’s my game, I guess that’s what I’m asking. It’s what I would ask in the class, given a chance, but we aren’t going to push each other are we? Not like that, not about ourselves. Supposed to be that what we write is nothing like what we think.. write about the great unknown – but that’s not what I do. I explore myself in real life then I write about it. Push my limits, then make a story – not so creative in the literature department, more on the real life side. More of a documentary,  the writing is. Tell it how it was. Of course I can’t tell them that, you aren’t supposed to do that to people in lifts. Not in real life, not like I do.

So now I’m talking about how it actually is, underneath it all, the only true reveal, a real one, a “real reveal” – that kind of works – or is that a bad example? Its  a fine line, good rhythms and bad ones, just like Tango. Sometimes I think I really can’t stand the music, especially the old stuff, then every so often it  absolutely gets you. Blows you away. Fine line.

Problem with Tango is you need someone else. Like life in general, not much point by yourself, a basic problem for yours truly. Not for her I bet though, that tough one, she never says much either. Hard on the outside, even harder on the inside, not that I’d know, not yet, what’s her game though, really? What would she do if someone pushed hard at her. Tough things break, soft things burst into tears. Same end game,  different routes. Prefer the tough ones, on the whole. Definitely. I like a contest, more of a game, more respect

Ruby – she was a strong one – nothing left unknown about her, I had everything again and again, every little adventure all acted out – her and her avatars and the role playing and all that passion and talent. Once you get invited in you just play in the box, staying  within the walls, their walls, their limits – change little things like how hard, how much rope. How much pain in her case. Fun while you learn, then it’s time to move on – onto the next one. Love the power, whereas that’s exactly what she loved to loose, being helpless, a victim, completely exposed, that’s what she got off on. Wouldn’t catch me doing that – giving yourself to someone, no control..nothing at all… Never. Way too dangerous. Made a great short story that did, just changed the name and used the photos and notes, easy, bashed it out in a couple of evenings.

Oh thank god she’s got off, didn’t see her leave, must have been gazing out the window. She’s gone anyway. There’s only so much second hand Michael Jackson a man can take. The image stays though, at least for a while. People do that don’t they – leave an impression, sometimes. Part of her is still standing there,let’s bring her back. I can  hear the tinny music, see her  black skin between her white tee shirt and indigo jeans, all slim and teasing. Watch her move slightly from side to side. Her frown and hints of smiles as she concentrates on the keys. I can even make her sway as we swing around the bus in front – there she goes, elbow into the old dear, all in my head – wonderful – she’s gone and I never said a word to her, but I’ve been enjoying her company ever since.

Strange how busses have changed so much but the important things are exactly the same. Now they have TV screens and recordings that announce the stop for you. But the experience is still there, the swaying, the best seats, the views into the night, looking down on everything. A sense of progress, lost in the reflections, trust in a competent, invisible driver, in someone who knows where we’re going and how to get us there. The 38 to Clacton Pond. Without the 38 I would never have known, now Clacton Pond is forever a part of my life. I hear it at every stop, every week on the way home from class – the 38 to Clacton Pond.. there it is again, always the same, always surprising. Only me now, and the driver of course, so often like that late at night. Just me and my thoughts, and the sounds and rhythms of it all.

So what is my real reveal then?

People get on, people get off, and me and the bus bounce and sway our way through the night towards an oddly named destination, somewhere I don’t want to get to. But I’ve started so I’ll finish, that’s how it is. I’ve got my creative heels on and I’m playing a strange role. Through to the cross, 6,7 and 8 – resolve. Feel her pause, waiting for guidance, waiting to be lead. That’s a beautiful step that cross, she’s a perfectly responsive woman staring at my chest, feeling every move, sensing my weight, using every hint to attract and deny. So full of watchful passion. I’m not used to all the connection, not at all, not used to someone so much better than me, not used to being clumsy.

The bus carries me onwards. It really is just for me now, there’s absolutely no-one else. On we go, away from the past, all those lost opportunities. Where was I through all that, where was the inner voice? Where was the consistency? What am I really about, behind it all.  There’s nothing special about me, lots of people invest too much and get betrayed. I feel odd, it’s almost like I’m crying, looking out at the world, all mixed up with my own reflection.

But its only a game and I can get off whenever I need to, just like everyone else, can’t I? I can just stop. I thought I could be a good lead, it’s a difficult one, I’m certainly used to just pushing them about, taking control, making them do what I want.

Well my turn now, here we are, here it comes, time to get moving. Shake it all off. Step down into the darkness, and watch the warm bus draw off into the night.

Or I could sit here for a bit, dreaming, looking out through my own reflection and imagining .. just for a while.



The monologue exercise for my current course in Creative Writing with Gary at Evolution. Task is just to write a 10 minute monologue.

I broke so many rules with this one – will be interested in feedback. Expect to get panned..

Vollmond at Sadler’s Wells

Just had to post about quite possibly the most mesmerising dance performance I have ever been to.

I spent this Sunday afternoon watching, and Sunday evening recovering from, Pina Bausch’s Vollmond.

Just to remind myself I took a few photos of the program – many of the images are completely seared into my mind, but a little memory jogger might help in years to come.

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I am so embarassed that this is the first work I have ever seen by Pina Bausch. I intend to make up for this!

Thank you Sadler’s Wells for putting this on, and to the company for such a remarkable, sustained, haunting and physical performance. Simply wonderful.

The lift

There were always rules. Even though they were very specifically designed to be broken.

There were also unofficial recommendations, agreements – things that were just common sense really. Not wearing neck jewellery was a good example, as short a skirt as possible. Things like that prevented us from going completely off the wall. You have to have something to cling to.

Then there was the effect of time. We just got better, little things make a difference. I remember the first time the lift doors opened and she was nervously standing right in the middle. No bra, as arranged, no underwear.

The next time she was against the wall, leaning provocatively against the side mirrors. By the third time the doors slid back she was already in the corner. ‘No bra’ stayed with us but the effect of my elbow on her chest was entirely secondary.

The main thing is the pressure. How hard, and where. The thumb, the centre of the palm and the index finger are everything. There’s a subtle and so important level of strength – a crushing weight.

By the fifth or sixth time we had it down perfect. This is the seventh.

Incoming text. I reply with a single letter. That is the end of all communication, that’s part of the rules. Everything has to be done by instinct and in silence.

The light flashes and the ping identifies which lift it would be. I cross over and stand outside the doors. They start to slide open. She is leaning against the back right corner – on her left side are mirrors, behind her dark glass.

I look her over. That was a recent improvement – not turning around. So I just walk in, staring at her and keep watching her with my back to the open doors, waiting for them to close behind me.

I watch her breathe out, gaining us long, precious seconds. She exhales completely and holds it. Her mouth is slightly open, as she forces the air from her lungs she slowly bends over and flattens a hand against the mirror. We are both counting it out in our heads. Finally the doors close.

I move quickly, lifting and slamming into her, right leg between hers, left hand in the small of her back and my arm across her chest, fingers and  thumb loosely around her neck. I look into her eyes, dilated pupils, a darkness that gives me complete permission. I push the palm of my hand against her throat and start slowly to squeeze. Her eyes close, she begins to shake. The effect is instant, soft moans as my grip tightens, gentle gulps as she begins to  fight for air. I squeeze harder with my hand, restricting the arteries on the sides of her neck with my finger and thumb. Just 5 more seconds and she is floating, gasping. I place my mouth over hers and exhale into her, filling her with the wetness and scent of me. She can’t breathe. She doesn’t fight or resist, she looses all control. She is spinning now –  her head shaking and her knees give so that I am holding her up by the throat. Slightly harder, I force my chest against hers and her head bends backwards. With 3 seconds to go she shakes with pleasure. I squeeze, making sure that the brain is starved of as much oxygen as possible and slowly lick the inside of her lips. She moans and splutters, I press all the weight of my body against her, crushing her against the mirror.

Her eyes are completely shut and I know she cannot hear me, but I whisper into her mouth, promising to fill her. The ping of the lift arriving is our signal and as I immediately let her go she drops helplessly into a crouch, gulping for air and fighting to recover her senses.

I walk out and back down one flight of stairs to my desk, wiping at the wet stain from her.



This is an assignment in my current creative writing course. We had to write a sex scene between two office workers who have an existing relationship, taking place in a lift as it travels between two floors. 11 seconds.

The exercise is really interesting because sex is damn hard to write about… the challenge was to write something immediate, in your face and that the reader feels enaged with.. did I succeed?


Photo Processing

Keen to practice my skills from my Lightroom course yesterday I will be posting some processing results for comment. Just simple before and after pairs.

The processing for this post is a simple 3 step sequence of white balance + pushing up the whites + sonic screwdriver – all applied to this long distance snow scene up in the Ashdown Forest during the snows of January.

Before :


After :


Much improved I think!


Third Angel : Part II

I knocked and after a short wait opened the door slowly to peer into the gloom of the office. For a moment I thought it was empty but as my eyes grew accustomed to the darkness I could see Gill stretched out on the floor under the window.

‘Pull up a pew Mark. How’s everything? Good week?’

I smiled, sat down and eyed the case files on the desk.

Gill stood up, pulled up the blind, straightened her hair and brushed at her trousers. I was already getting used to her lack of conventional behaviour and enjoyed working for her.

‘Grab the file – surprised you haven’t already – Julia Booten – she’s been through the mill a bit.’

‘I want to take you down to meet her this morning so here’s a quick summary. Young single mother, numerous social services interventions, severe depression – catastrophic house fire – she was rescued but her two children died. Two years later convicted of arson. Broadmoor for the last 18 months. Several claims of abuse while there, all of which were not upheld. Clumsy but probably genuine suicide attempt prevented. Stopped talking a few months ago. Moved to us as part of the shut down of Broadmoor. The file is well worth studying, she has some interesting obsessions and delusions – she believes in angels.’

‘Is she talking now?’

‘Not to me Mark. I haven’t got enough time as you know but I wanted to try first. So at this stage I’m looking simply for a way in, a way to get her to open up. I don’t know if it’s possible in any reasonable timeframe, but can you make her your priority this week? I’m back here next Tuesday’

‘Yes of course Gill, whatever you need.’

‘Any concerns, immediate thoughts? I’d like to take you down now?’

My mind was full of questions, the first meeting is so important, I was confused why Gill with her all experience was skipping so many details.

‘Self harm? Danger to others? Is she likely to open up to a man?’

‘On the men side – maybe not, to be honest – that’s what I thought so I wanted to try first. But you’re patient and excellent. And all we have.’ She smiled at me. ‘Bring a book or something? It’s not likely to be that fascinating at first, based on my experience. Just be there, see if she will talk given enough time?’

I nodded. 

‘On the risk side, yes you should be careful. I was going to go over this. She hurt some people at Broadmoor, claimed self defense and reading between the lines it might well have been. She has the occasional fit and lashes out. But like most she didn’t deserve the security level she got. Normal stuff, lack of resources, mixed wards.’

I flicked through the first few pages while Gill continued in her confident, business like way.

‘She is a self harm risk, though nothing recently. She did try to kill herself after all, and she has some interesting scars. But actually I don’t think that’s a huge concern – she seems to be quietly fighting her own battles, focused on something, just no idea what. We do have a cam on her of course.’

‘Shall we?’ she stood up, I picked up the file and we strolled down to the ground floor and round to one of the flexible space crisis centre rooms.

‘We put her in here just to try to keep her calm. She’s been short on privacy for a very long time.’

Gill held the door open an inch and reached out to touch me on the arm. She looked at me with that kind of mood breaking quiet intensity she could turn on at will.

‘Don’t expect too much Mark. I’m going to introduce you, just in case it makes a difference. It might, because I am a woman and because we have spent some time together. But actually she has never said anything coherent to me. Then  I will leave, and maybe you could try to stay for a while, just to see if its possible without her lapsing. Small steps.’

 ‘Of course’.

Gill opened the door.

‘Hello Julia, there‘s someone I want you to meet. This is Mark.’

She was sitting on the edge of the bed, her pale skin gleaming with sweat. Her arms were crossed over her chest, her hands pulling at the short  nightshirt near her shoulders as if hugging herself. She was slowly rocking.

‘Mark is going to be here with you whenever you want him to be. He’s just going to listen. He wants to help you.’

She didn’t respond, and stared down at her feet, watching them trace small circles on the floor. I could hear soft murmurs, almost whispers.

‘Hello Julia.’ I said, quietly. ’I am just going to sit over here, you don’t need to say anything, and I am not going to come any nearer.’

I sat on the small chair, looked at Gill, who nodded, shrugged and quietly left the room, closing the door behind her. I was alone with Julia for the very first time.

January 2013 Highlights

My monthly creativity review for January 2013.

With no trip abroad scheduled until March photography was a continuing learning curve, with an interesting trip to capture skateboarders in London and more general experience around Sussex.

So here are 10 of my favourite images from this month :

Higher resolution access on Flickr is here.

On the writing side I started my second 10 week course with Gary Mepsted and am really happy with the amount I am learning, especially on a way of planning my writing that works for me and has really increased my productivity.

The task this course is to write a 5,000 word short story, first person, on the theme of unrequited love. I have decided to write about personal feelings interfering in the case of a mentally  troubled woman. The introduction is posted at “Third Angel“.

Looking ahead for February the writing of the short story will be my focus, trying to get well towards completing my first full piece of creative writing. I am also booked on a Lightroom workshop which I am really looking forward to.

And good to see that the Three Jolly Butchers Writing group is continuing!