Saturday, 29 March 2014

A young lady's diary

If there was only one chance in a lifetime, one opportunity and the rest of life was a barren waste, what would we be?

And the end of each day I meticulously record my thoughts, feelings and dreams - it was a habit I adopted as a child and have been burdened with since. Many times I consider re-reading my own creations, but the time required to work my way through the accumulated dross of the years leaves me with little incentive.

This I do know: in all of my writings I reflect endlessly on the mistakes I have made as if it is to some purpose! What does it matter if I tripped whilst waltzing with one gentleman? What does a full record of the mortification and regret achieve? Should I ever peruse these volumes I shall doubtless be mortified again by accidents, mishaps and slips long forgotten but to what purpose?

These moments cannot be undone. They have happened once and forever. So why leave this lurking memory committed to paper for any to read now or at an indeterminate point in the future?

I have a fancy that I could read through and pinpoint the moment at which my mistake caused my life to fail and diverge from its proper path. In all these musings and meanderings there is a single moment, fractured and recorded for posterity that tells simply how I missed my one opportunity through my own mistake.

Perhaps I slipped and my head dipped in the crowd at the precise moment the love of my life would have seen me. He instead perceived a peer at the moment Cupid's dart penetrated his heart and that moment is the reason why a beautiful, wealthy and reputable female is still unwed after 18 months of parading herself around Almacks'.

More likely the one point of divergence in my life was so innocuous and banal that I haven't recorded it at all. I would happily wager my earrings that the moments of shame so faithfully described herein were written off by others as unimportant and yet I torment myself; where in fact the one thing that has caused sensation and gossip in my small life hasn't earned a spot on these pages.

Today I learned that my "dear friends" have been in earnest consultation for weeks as to whether they should or should not share with me the truth of my recent notoriety. I do not recall the moment they described, but the surrounding circumstances were recognizable. A month ago I tilted my fan towards Lord Marksham and have been commonly held to be attempting to entrap the gentleman.

Every time I enter a room, whether it contains the gentleman or not, all occupants are in earnest discussion and supposition of my feelings on the matter of his attendance and the encouragement I am given or denied by such an event.

Such a petty thing. Such a misunderstanding.

And such a legacy I have been left with.

My mother has suggested a return to the family seat. Perhaps that would be for the best. I am not overly enthused about remaining for the rest of the season and although several individuals would be deprived of the entertainment I have provided them, it may at least allow me the opportunity to recover my own composure before I am obliged to repeat my role as prima donna of the evening.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Animation 1

I'm not writing right now.

Two reasons: 1) yet again I'm ill. I begin to believe I'm allergic to London, but the Phantom alone was worth every cough, every sinus blocked hour and every whiny headache. 2) I've finally committed myself to making this blasted animation.

For those of you who don't live in my head; I shall embark on a fuller explanation. When I listen to music I look for a story. All stories - however brief - will incite an emotional response in me. Some pieces of music have a stronger emotional grip on me than others and these pieces will often come with a more literal storytelling component - I'm sure I'm not the only one who bawls my eyes out every time I hear "Honey".

A while back, I heard "Let me Fall" and it hit me hard. It hit me so hard, in fact, that where the words weren't explicitly telling a story, my mind was still painting pictures. Since then I've developed the story each time I heard the song and small details have become so much clearer and I *really* want to share it.

I've got a solid storyboard in place and I've got a plan for turning my idea into reality - it principally occurred to me that I don't have to draw frame by frame, because for panning and zooming shots I can manipulate a single large image instead of producing several small ones. Action is going to be harder, but I'm not going for full professionalism here, I just want to get the bare bones of the story out.

This is not going to be quick. But I think it will be worth it - particularly for me.

For now, I think I need to nap.

Alicia

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Special request

I remember it well. The night was so cold and the wind chill was intensely painful, even through my coat, scarf, gloves and hat. I hadn't come out with a destination in mind but when I spotted the sign I dived straight in.

Instantly a blast of hot air made me glad of my choice. After the grey of the winter twilight, the warm orange tones and strong black and chrome outlines seemed almost homely.Spying a fireplace I staggered over, ripped off my gloves and extended fingers which had become cramped with cold. Despite the stylish appearance the fire was real and the warmth flooded into me. After a few moments I felt recovered enough to open my coat, then remove my scarf.

Before I was fully comfortable a waiter approached and queried with a cynical shade if I would be staying to eat. Instantly swamped with guilt I knew I would not only be eating, but probably spending a lot of money to compensate for use of the facilities. Briefly reflecting on what faced me beyond the portal of this place, I decided there were worse things.

Acknowledging the basics of my thoughts - yes, I would be staying for food - I then fought for a way to buy time before my meal. First, I declared, I'd like a cocktail in order to warm myself up. Having seen my arrival and subsequent fire worshipping, the otherwise suspicious waiter was wholly prepared for the possibility that I might need to thaw a little and directed me to the bar "as soon as I was ready".

After two or three minutes alone, during which I regretted my lack of backbone in the face of challenge, I went to the bar. Wrapping around two walls of the establishment, lined with copious bottles of spirits in repeating patterns, it was clearly a busy place when there were clientele present. At this point of the night there were only the waiter, one bartender, myself and a man perched on a barstool with a ball glass of what looked like brandy. The discarded clothing to the stool on his right suggested that he had sought out the same warmth I had, and his casual picking at the bar snacks indicated that I really didn't want to be in the vicinity of his peanut breath.

I chose a stool four removed from his. Having worked bars myself, I couldn't see justification for making the poor bartender hike between us, and this was the closest I felt was safe when peanuts were in the mix. The bartender, Alex according to his nametag, entered into the usual banalities. The tome he produced when I asked for a cocktail menu made me sure I was in good hands. I looked at the first few pages to see if anything leaped out at me, but as it didn't I girded my loins and made the one request I have always wished I could of a cocktail maker:

"I want a drink that is beautiful, and very entertaining to watch being made."

He grinned, a wicked twinkle lighting up his eyes. "Ball park price?" My involuntary wince must have eradicated about a third of the options from the menu and he chuckled and waved his hand reassuringly as he ducked for a glass; "Not too expensive, got it!"

For the next five minutes bottles, tumblers, ice and liquids chased each other through the air in a spiral around his person. I was hypnotised. It was all I had ever dreamed it could be and more. By my count - although to this day I'm not sure - there were two juices, three spirits (although I think one may have been a liqueur), one mixer and a lot of ice - some of which was only used to cool the drink as it was sifted into the final glass! The masterpiece was a layer of juice and one spirit mixed, with a clear mixer layer, before being topped with the final juice and booze. At the last moment he spurted a jet of flame from an orange peel over the glass, dropped in two straws, an umbrella and a stirrer with a cherry on the top before sliding the glass with a final flourish, over to me.

I broke into well earned applause and was surprised to note that my fellow patron was also impressed. The mixologist extraordinaire declared it was his own invention - not too sweet, but very fruity.

With a premixed drink, you can take a cautious sip, but it has always been my practice with layered drinks to use the straw to suck a little from all separate layers at once so it still looks pretty when I have the first taste. The downside to this is that you will end up with a very full mouth and if you don't know what to expect flavour-wise, it can be shocking.

This time it tasted like whisky. I am not a whisky drinker. This actually tasted lovely, and I even managed to say "nice!" before my whisky face hit me. Nevertheless, hit me it did, and there are very few people who will be convinced you like something when they see that expression as you attempt to ingest it. I spent several minutes trying to ensure Alex's feelings weren't hurt. Eventually he escaped and I continued sipping and shuddering my way through the drink - which I cannot reiterate enough was much tastier than I made it look! - and my fellow patron drew me into conversation.

We chatted for a while - he confessing he was something of a whisky buff - and I offered him a taste of my cocktail. He took it happily and was very impressed with the drink. When Alex returned the two of us were still conversing and my new companion would not let me return to my prior occupation of grovelling. However, after a few minutes of observing me too scared to drink before the eyes of the thwarted artiste, he took the drink out of my hands, and requested a fresh one be made for him. "But first" he said with a grin, "please get the lady another cocktail that meets her requirements and has no whisky. This one's on me."

Five minutes later, the mixologist had wrested my entire library of alcohol and beverage preference and all of my favourite flavours, hobbies and interests. At the end of it he nodded and once more entered the fabulous world of failing to decorate the ceiling with the contents of the bottles he was juggling. The only bottle that didn't enter the whirligig was a champagne bottle which he laid reverentially in the ice box. Finally I was presented with a flute containing, amongst other things, chilli, lime, vodka and some form of champagne. It was amazing. It tasted like summer scented dry fire in a cold glass. 

Before my new friend had his new drink, I was almost halfway through mine and I expressed a reluctant need to order some food to ensure I didn't get drunk. As it happened, he insisted, he also needed food and would be glad to avoid eating alone. Once we had ordered our food at the bar he waved a card at Alex and must have instructed him to keep them coming because the moment I finished my amazingly delicious beverage a new one appeared before me.

When our food arrived I was provided with a delicate white wine and sadly waved goodbye to my cocktails. 

The truly sorrowful part of this story is that I eventually married the man who bought me those drinks and since our first date I haven't had another of those cocktails. Ever. I'm tempted to divorce him to see if he takes the hint and tries to find the recipe to woo me back.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Underneath

Teeth bared in delighted grins, the children hung from strings as the roof trammels pulled them up, endlessly cycling through the room. This trammel only raised by about twenty slats. In other rooms there were trammels of twice and almost three times that height which the children eyed with longing, not realizing the great solemnity they held. These great trammels were where the elders gathered; to create laws, settle disputes and make obeisance to those beyond.

At the high point of their minor trammel, the youngsters leaped off, the occasional one squeaking as they dropped, only to be rewarded with severe frowns and a banishment from riding the trammels for at least an hour. All children knew they must be silent. When they cried out too loudly, the trammels ceased to move and those beyond vented their displeasure by creating thunderous noise.

All knew of the terrible time generations before when all the trammels in their halls had ceased altogether and those beyond ceased to visit altogether. For a people who time their lives by the motion of the trammels, the stillness itself meant none were sure how long it lasted. The light from beyond faded into nothing and the food supplies dwindled into nothingness. The migration to and trade from neighbouring colonies kept their own population going, but even so, many of the elderly and newborns were dying rapidly.

The elders had gathered in the greatest of the halls and made pleas to the silence which had once harboured the mysterious echoing tones of those from the beyond. There was no relief from darkness and no sound to break the endless silence.

Traders began to recount tales of long dead halls which had been wholly abandoned and were now home only to rats and birds. The people became terrified. They spoke in whispers first then, as the fear that they had been forever abandoned built, they gradually turned to louder and more raucous cries.

Wild words were spoken and accusations flung as they sought someone to blame. They slaughtered the children last to ride on the trammels before they stilled and nothing changed. They began systematically murdering everyone who objected, everyone who cried in the night or who they accused of disbelieving their religious fervour. The body count grew and the traders became fearful. Soon there were none who would come to the halls.

The elders, reduced to less than a third of their original number, were frantically trying to recreate order from the horror and chaos. Nothing served. The ferocious declarations and impassioned attacks easily outweighed the moderated cries of those few elders who had survived the blitz.

Finally, one day a young woman rose and stood at the head of the crowds. It was she who had cried out the same few sentences, over and over, until they had been picked up by the rest of the crowds. It had built and built and built until suddenly she clamped her lips shut and never spoke again. Around her, all of the people fell equally silent. They fell into a silent witness, still and judging. All had their eyes upon her and she gazed stoically ahead. Time passed. The people passed beverages silently among themselves whilst the woman refused all succour.

Time passed and many slept, while others kept vigil. Still the woman sat.

Suddenly, after a time so long that many had begun to doubt, but recovered their faith in the pressure of the silence that surrounded them, a hum sounded high above and the light spilled between the slats in the trammels. A murmur arose and the light flickered. All was abruptly silent again. Minutes later the trammels began to move and the people below gazed at each other in awe. They continued to sit in silence, faith rewarded but now uncertain as to how to proceed.

One of the elders moved to the woman with gentle courtesy and gave her a small amount of his drink. With a few simple gestures he indicated that the woman should be taken to her place of rest and permitted to sleep. As she slept her identity was discovered. She had lost her three children in the slaughter and her husband, two brothers and one of her sisters in the following dissent. In honour of her loss and as a symbol of remembrance, the elders ordered a monument to be constructed.

They were speedy builders, not particularly artistic, and every spare hand worked upon it - some with pity and sorrow but the vast majority with guilt - so that by the time she awoke, the monument was a reality.

From that day to this, the monument has been continuously developed and embellished, but the central tenet remains the same.

"Our cries have annoyed those from beyond and they will return only when we are forever silenced. We must choose now: dissent and death or a silent life."