Big Heat

It started off as another aimless, drfiting sort of week. I was irritable at work, irritable at home. Couldn't concentrate whenever I tried to read anything. I had a day off on Friday, but the week until then was long and drawn out. It seemed that it was all I could do to drag my bones into work; I certainly didn't take my brain with me.
The heat was intolerable. London, away from the tourist areas, is especially squalid. Everyone, including me, goes around half-dazed. Where I'm posted, there are no open spaces, only streets and streets of wedding cake houses or council estates. There's nothing to capture the imagination. All children can do is hang around the kebab shops- which they do.
There are shops, but they are of the grocer's/off-licence/dry-cleaners variety. No bookshops, no record stores (not that they exist any more), not even a W.H. Smiths. It's easy to condemn people, but when their horizons are limited like that, you ever give up and become a zombie, or you become mindlessly anti-social.
One thing which really gets my goat is shopkeepers talking on their phones when they're meant to be serving you. That seems to be the height of bad manners to me. In fact, there's something about the mobile phone which seems to sap people's intelligence. They walk along as they dial, without looking at anything but their keypads. They broadcast intimate details on the top decks of buses. There seems to be no occasion when you don't have it switched on- even during funerals. It seems to me that, unless you are James Bond, nothing in your life is that important.
I used to think that the people who go on The Jeremy Kyle show or Big Brother were specially selected for their mental illnesses. Someone asked me once, incredulously, why I didn't watch Big Brother; I said it was too much like being at work. But more and more, I seem to bump into people who regard life as The Dave Show or The Maureen Show, into which you are merely making a guest appearance.
Not at all like bloggers.
I remember Michael Philpott appearing on the Jeremy Kyle show with both his wife and mistress, before he deliberately set fire to his house, causing the deaths of his children. Jeremy was patronizing him for all he was worth, and Philpott was shedding tears and saying that he repented, he would go out immediately and find a job. With hindsight, though, you realize that Philpott was simply giving a performance. For him, at last, The Philpott Show had gone before the cameras.
A storm was threatened/promised, which never seemed to come. I could barely sleep, neither could my wife. One night, I upset her by not realizing she had left the bedroom because of my snoring. I'd gone out to the toilet at three in the morning, and when I got back into bed, I didn't immediately realize I was alone. It was an hour later, when I woke up again, that I realized; by which time, she'd been sitting in the front room, furious.
I'd heard about a website called Paragraph Planet, which publishes, daily, flash fiction of no more than 75 words. It was at the back of my mind for a couple of weeks, but I kept thinking I can't do it, I can't do it, I can't do it. All the while, I was on the lookout for story ideas, which never seemed to come. I researched "facts" about the supernatural, ghosts, demons, etc. Actually laying down seeds for future stories, although I never thought of them as that. The thing about seeds is, you have to let them grow. I've actually got loads of ideas at any one time; it's just that I never feel like I've got any.
Finally, I remembered Julia Cameron's advice in her book The Sound Of Paper, which she actually wrote during a severe drought, and which she used throughout the book as an extended metaphor. It's a terrific book if you've got writer's block.
Julia Cameron says that, at such times, you be kind to yourself, and create small projects. You work regularly, but for short periods of time, and you keep your expectations small; just as farmers, tending to their crops, are sparing with their water, and water them at nights when the temperature is lower.
So, on Saturday evening, as I travelled home from work, I set out to write something for Paragraph Planet. Incredibly, it worked. A whole story- beginning, middle, end- in under 75 words.
That night, when I got home, it started raining...


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