Friday, 18 March 2011


White, blank, vast; a blinding, empty space that needed to be filled. I looked at it, waiting to be inspired.

He walked around the room, weaving in and out of our easels enthusing about the day’s lesson.

‘You are artists, creators, translators of your imagination and interpreters of reality. With such big responsibilities, you need to apply yourselves in new ways. Feel the colour, use movement, listen to the music and just be. Conduct that paint from the palette and create your symphony of colour. Be inspired. Put you heart and soul into it. And with that said, let me reveal your muse.’

He moved the screen that usually hid our subject of the day; a nude or still life objects, but today there was just, nothing.

‘Yes, my little gods. Heed my words and create your work out of this space here. What is there? What has been there? What could be there? What will be there? Draw it out. Put your iPods on and embrace the moment.’

He disappeared to make a coffee.

I looked around to see some bewildered faces wondering where they were going to start with the painting. Some were immediately inspired, closing their eyes and beginning to paint in the air on an invisible canvas, creating a concept in their internal world.

He’d told us to bring in some music to listen to so I just picked up a CD that my flatmate had left lying on the coffee table. She’d casually told me that her boyfriend was given the sampler following a recording session he’d done. She mentioned some famous guy was there but I can’t remember his name now. It had been sat there, unplayed, for weeks and instead, had been used as a coaster.

It was last minute, grabbing the CD, so I’d not had time to upload the music onto my iPod. I stuck it in my CD player; yeah that old fashioned device; that I always have in my rucksack. She never said who the artist was and the copy had no written indication as to who produced it or what type of music it contained. I pressed play and loaded my brush.

A voice spoke and it came from my left ear and travelled, as if the person speaking were walking in side my mind, to my right ear.

‘This is Solfeggio Frequency 741Hz.’

That was all he said, in a wonderfully calming, trusting voice. Then the music, if you can call it that, played. It was mesmerising. It wasn’t music per se, more like listening to the universal vibrations; it’s voice. It sounded crazy to think that but it was definitely spiritual, like the Gregorian chants from ancient monks. I listened and the waves of sound and colour lifted me to a different perspective. The room melted away and all I saw was the white canvas, waiting to be filled with life.

I was so absorbed in just being in the moment; like what he asked us to; I didn’t remember mixing the paints let alone applying it. All I knew was if I’d have closed my eyes, I’d have drifted into the deepest of meditative sleeps, to be woken up refreshed.

The music, or rather, the experience, stopped and I kind of awoke, and there was paint on the canvas. My goodness, was there ever paint on the canvas. What had I done? I mean I’m not being big headed but I am a good artist, but today, there was something about what he said and the music, the experience combined, that certainly inspired me beyond what I’d ever accomplished before.

It was abstract, with colour and form fusing in a dance; it was fireworks and sour sweet shudders; it was beautiful, and it was mine.

He came round each of us to critique our pieces and I was more than pleased by what he had to say.

‘Your choice of music seems to have channelled Kandinsky, which is quite appropriate because he tried to create the same effect on the viewer of his works as a musician does with music. But rather than seeing the sounds through the music, he wanted to capture the emotion of it.’

I framed the piece and hung it on the wall in the flat.

Different images came through the more I looked at it. I stared at the negative spaces and other images sprung to the fore, like one of those brain-teasers where the negative space is either a vase or two faces, depending on how you viewed it. The unseen picture developed and I began to understand. I was seeing the hidden emerging and the painting revealed a new message. It was weird. The pieces manoeuvred in the frame like a puzzle, reforming it and turning the negative shapes into a new complete image.

The hidden meaning? He said put your heart and soul into the work. Indeed I had and the reassembled image spoke of my soul; its intention.

I took a step forward away from reality and into a different one. My hand reached out and touched the thickly applied paint. It was almost a 3D form which seemed to pulse hypnotically, pulling me in. As I touched the array of abstract forms it seemed to release sounds and emotions, as if by my touch, I was playing some sort of instrument. The blue was calming whilst the yellow seemed aggressive, yet touching the two created the harmony of green, evoking images of spring meadows. The painting was alive with music, ignited senses and future dreams. It was exhausting to experience despite my elation.

A never ending dream, it seemed, with that familiar music repeating, repeating, and repeating itself. The concept of time had changed and though I knew only minutes had passed, I’m sure I’d been caught up in the painting for hours.

When she came home she looked up at my new masterpiece with delight, clapping her hands and feigning a forbidden touch. Her boyfriend was laid on the sofa staring at the painting.

‘What’s that you’re listening to?’ she said.

‘Oh, just something on her CD player. Great piece isn’t it?’ he said, pointing up. They both stared. ‘She really put her all into this one, didn’t she?’

‘I was just going to say that very same thing. Funny that.’

Friday, 11 March 2011

5 K

Still anticipation. Heart thumps increase, pumping adrenalin filled blood round the ready body, revving up like F1 racing cars on the grid.

Zen focus precedes the report that reverberates round their ears.

Then, the fire. The smoke. The gun.

Like startled gazelles they leap forward, bouncing muscle off muscle, as they hustle their way from the tight pack, into the freedom of space. Some speed off with impatience; or selfishness, greedy for the prize. Their awareness is masked by tunnel vision, and the end.

There is gentle gracefulness in the art of their movements, as they battle with the elements: the sun, warm and comforting; the breeze, cool and refreshing; the earth under foot, unpredictable, from grassy, morning dew softness, to stones and splashes from puddles; and a cocktail of scents from the bakery, exhaust fumes, pet excrement and sweat.

Relaxed muscles move in piston motions, powering the machine forward with robotic precision. Air is utilised in efficient gaseous exchange; rhythmic breath, relaxed and meditative. Their mantra: Control! Control! Control!

Others gasp as if they’re sensing their last Earthy breath, and the pistons become sluggish as acid clogs up the machine, and pain seeps in like whey through a cheese cloth, slowly dripping, leaving the body curdled.

Unfortunate ones are defeated, and cast themselves aside like leaping lemmings and retch by the trees, or slump to the ground, sweating, stumbling, mouths gaping for the need of life fuel; air and water. Those that pass them send out cries of encouragement that float by unheard.

The end must come and when it does, what blessed relief. Chemicals surge through the power machine, a euphoric mix of adrenalin and endorphin, pushing them on. At the end, they all stop. The machine stops but the heart’s fuel is still racing, pumping, flowing, moving, coursing through.

Queues form as they are ushered like cattle into different pens where the record keepers await to scan their barcodes. Thirty minutes and one second; a personal best! Some have recovered quickly but most are exhausted. They’ll return though, next week, for another park run.

Friday, 4 March 2011


What a relief that Philip’s gone. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll miss him loads but he was becoming a nag in the end. I suppose I should be grateful he let me stay in the flat. I mean, he could have sold it like he did the car. Twelve months without big bro. Actually, if I think about it too much, I might make myself cry. What was it he said to Mum and Dad?

‘I’m taking a year out to travel. I’m leaving tomorrow night. Sis, here are the keys to my apartment; don’t mess it up. Mum, can you keep Tibbs. I don’t trust her to look after him.’

Mum was devastated and cried instantly, wringing her white knuckles in her apron. Dad stood up, shook his head and made us all a cup of tea. There was nothing they could do to stop Phil. He was their golden child who could do no wrong, with his A- levels, degree and masters, great job and understanding employers. Then there’s me, Sam, the slightly over weight, lazy (I admit to that) so and so. Don’t get me wrong, I know my parents are proud that I’m a nurse but they say I lack drive and ambition, not in my job but in my life generally.

‘You’ve got no get up and go, Sam. Look at Philip, juggling work and his sports and fund raising. Don’t you want to achieve something in life?’

‘Yes,’ I think, ‘peace and quiet from you two.’

I got my wish and here I am, end of week one in Phil’s flat, living the easy life; house sitting. So I thought. Five minutes ago I opened an email from him; he’s in Tokyo. Can you believe that he thinks I won’t manage the up keep of his beloved flat (sorry, apartment), that he advertised for someone to share with me? He must have sent the photos pre-Tokyo 'cause noone would share looking at its present state. According to the message, I’ve got thirty minutes before he/she arrives. I really should read my mail more often.

I wonder what he/she’s like. The email said A. Man is coming. Does that mean it’s a man coming or perhaps Miss Man, or Mrs Man or worse Ms Man, or funnier Mr Man? I hope it’s Mr Tidy; Phil would kill me if he saw the state. Oh God, why do I spend so much time day dreaming? God, that’s the door.

I let her in. A. Man is a she, and a foot taller than my four-foot-ten squat body. I’m jealous as she’s athletic looking and wears make up.

‘Hi, I’m Abigail Man and you must be Sam Jones, Philip’s sister, right? I’ve just come round to introduce myself and I’ll be moving my things in the morning if that’s okay.’

The door is only open ajar, yet she shimmies through the space and walks into the centre of the room, where she pirouettes like a humming spinning top.

‘My my, not tidied up from the party, eh?’

‘What party? Oh yeah. I’ve been busy,’ I said, trying to cover up my gaff. ‘I just got Phil’s email, you know. He’s in Tokyo, you know and there’s the time difference, you know.’

Stop me now. How dumb do I sound? She’s sure to think I’m an idiot and a messy one at that.  

‘I’m sorry, Abigail.’ I say, inviting her to look at the mess again. ‘I’d love to offer you a drink but I’ve run out milk and chocolate hobnobs.’

‘Like I said, a quick hello. I’m off to Reno’s for a meal in ten minutes, so I’d better go; the taxi’s still waiting for me. If I could have a key that would be great.’

I give her the spare and watch her leggy legs trot down the stairs like a gazelle leaping over brush wood. Shutting the door with one hand, I reach with the other into my right back pocket for my mobile to text Joanne about my house guest. I correct her twice that she’s not my flat mate and it’s an apartment; it’s amazing how important words become and how chic and grand one feels, and obsessive and ridiculous one gets. Me? Chic? I tell her not to ring me and throw the mobile on the sofa as I make headway through the domestic disorganisation.

I can’t believe I’ve been at it for three whole hours. My gosh, I must be having fun and I’m not being sarcastic either. I’m feeling sweaty and giddy now. I wonder if I’m having a hypo like those skinny celebs in those mags. I’d better eat some chocolate just in case.

When I bend down to grab a bottle of lager from the fridge to accompany my medicinal chocolate, I catch site of myself in the oven door. I look like I’ve been in a sauna; my cheeks are bright red, and I can see them pulsing like Belisha beacons, and my short hair is now showing it’s natural curly, pre hot-iron state. I deserve these, I say to my reflection and I really mean it. I know I’ve done a fine job for once.

The next day, Abigail rings to say she’s on her way over with her belongings. It’s nine-thirty and I’ve just got out of bed. I run and open the windows, draw the curtains back, and run into each room spraying blossom air freshener like I’m graffiting an imaginary wall. Perfect. From now on I’m the perfect host. I’d better get changed.

Luckily, Abigail is delayed in traffic and so I’m ready thirty seconds before the key rattles in the lock.

‘Honey, I’m home,’ she jokes.

I thought she’d have brought more than the two cases, but she says she has some stuff stored at a friend’s house and she’s bringing them little by little; books mainly she says, for her work.

She drapes herself on the red leather chair, fanning out her flared, blue skirt and pulling down her contrasting yellow jumper over her invisible tummy. I leave the peacock preening whilst I (ever dutiful servant), fetch a tray with two plates, knives, butter and jam for the breakfast of coffee and croissants she’s brought. Not wanting to show myself up in front of Abigail as a gannet, I surreptitiously make myself a peanut butter and banana sandwich, disguising its preparation and consumption with exaggerated banging of cupboard doors, and clinking of cutlery against crockery.   

Abigail informs me that Philip has filled in some details about me, mainly my job and that I work shifts. She says she works as a freelance writer and doesn’t have to work from home because the laptop allows her to be mobile. She will work in a cafĂ© or library when I do nights so the apartment would be quiet during the day whilst I sleep. How considerate.

‘There’s no need, honest. I’ve three alarms to wake me up most days, so don’t feel you have to keep out of the way on my account.’

‘Okay, but please tell me if I’m a nuisance.’


She takes out various items from her handbag and gazes at her flawless complexion, dabbing imaginary crumbs from the corners of her mouth. After applying some luscious red lippy, she stands up and brushes creases off her skirt.

‘Right, I’d better go. I’m going to get some groceries in for us. I thought we could take it in turns; this week I’ll buy, then it’s you. Is that okay?’

She spins round and heads for the door, missing my guppy face surprise. ‘What?’ I mouth in silence. If that half eaten, single croissant is anything to go by, I’m going to starve this week.

Not long after she leaves, the phone rings but it isn’t the house phone or my mobile, unless I’d accidentally changed it in my sleep to some terrible Euro trash beat. Where is it? Too late, it rings off. I toss cushions in the air like I’m a juggler and there it is where Abigail was sat. I nearly hurl it behind me with the shock when it goes off again. What shall I do? It wouldn’t do any harm to answer it, would it?

‘Hi, it’s Abigail’s phone, Sam speaking.’

‘Is she available, it’s Bruce Kenworthy? Can you tell her I’m coming over with her stuff? Just tell her.’ He put the phone down.

He doesn’t sound angry, more agitated and I get the impression he isn’t going to hang around long when he arrives. I’ll just put the phone down on the table. I must resist the temptation to seek a peek at her messages. Yeah, that’s a bit low, isn’t it?

It’s goes off again.

‘Hi, its Abigail’s……’

‘You can cut the pretence or is she with you?’


‘Look, I can’t talk long. Just answer, yes or no, okay? Is she there with you?’

‘Yeah,’ I say, playing along.

‘Okay. I’ll email you or text you so you’re not put in an awkward position. I’m sorry I couldn’t meet you in person but the agency said you were excellent and I can see you’re experience is varied. I thought I should warn you though, Sam is very nosy and if she sniffs you out, just get out of there. Send me a weekly report and expenses and I’ll make sure you receive any enhancements promptly.’


‘Okay. See you later.’

I don’t believe it. I check the phone scrolling down to received calls. It is Phil. What’s going on?

I haven’t got time to think as there’s an impatient knocking at the door. When I open it, a short, stocky guy stands there looking around nervously, tapping a clip board with his pen.

‘Number sixteen, right? Just sign here,’ he says, keeping hold of the board as if I was going to run off with it.

I look down at the two tea chests and notice too late that he’s run off down the stairs without a care.  Great, I’ll drag them in myself shall I? What’s up with everyone today? Hang on a minute that was Phil on the phone. If anyone’s being fooled it’s not going to be me. What’s he playing at? Logic. Think logically. Facts. What are the facts? Well if he thinks I’m nosy I’ll be Little-Miss-Nosy-Parker. Let’s have a look in the chest shall we, all open and inviting.

So, A-bi-gail. What se-crets are you hi-ding in here? Books, books and more books. Interesting photo album; modelling shots if I’m not mistaken. Shoe boxes full of shoes? No chance. There’s a label on the front of one that reads nerdy jewellery and when I lift the lid I see chunky, florescent necklaces, earrings and rings, very much like those I own. Thanks, A-bi-gail. Love from Sam-the-Nerd. Another shoe box contains posh jewellery, another wigs and another make-up. All this stuff looks like a young girls dressing up box. What is she doing with costumes?  

The other tea chest appears to be securely sealed so I can’t tamper with it without Abigail realising I’ve been snooping, although the delivery guy could have done it. No, I’d better not. I need more clues.

I make myself a hot chocolate to keep my strength up and leaf through a book Abigail left in the table. I pick it up and flick the new book smell into my face when a business card falls out from a fifth of the way through. I call the number.

‘Hello, Artisan Casting Team. Rachel speaking, can I help you?’

‘Yes… I…er… wondered…er… what does your company do exactly?’
‘We cast models and actors.’

So, that’s the game; actress plays spy to catch out sister. That’s a red card for you Phil. Payback’s going to be as sweet as treacle sponge.