New beginings

•February 2, 2014 • Leave a Comment

It’s been a  very long time since I wrote a post. I don’t really know what happened here and as with everything there are a few possible reasons/excuses I could use. The usual laziness combined with busy schedule, or lack of interest in anything to name but a few. Today I treated myself to a brand new laptop. To be fair I did need one because my old one has been now permanently used by my daughter; despite the fact she has a tablet also. But never mind, yesterday happened to be my first official day with new module with Open University, this time far away from creative writing. For next seven months I will be exploring the Worlds of English, its history, rots, changes and challenges, linguistics, grammar… The books arrived about two weeks ago and just from a fleeting look I can tell it is exciting and scary at the same time. As you may know English is not my first language and I still fight with it from time to time, much to amusement of my English friends. I don’t mind people telling me about any mistakes I make. On the contrary, I’d rather know and correct myself than look happy and totally oblivious (and I’m sure stupid :-)).

So hopefully for the next seven months I will be able to reflect on my studies, English itself, sometimes I might moan, sometimes I might laugh. But most importantly I hope I will be able to write again and not only because I have to but also for pleasure.

Yours (forever coming and going) Niina

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Long awaited day

•June 1, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Last November I bought three tickets to O2 Arena in London to see my favourite band Depeche Mode in concert. After they announced the world tour first I had to wait for their new album Delta Machine released in late March. Then I had to learn all the songs (yes, I really had to :-)) to be able to sing along with them. And finally this week the day had come. On Wednesday the 29th May my other half, my daughter and I travelled to London. The weather wasn’t as good as it could have considering we planned to spend the day in the city. But one cannot order the weather as yet. I made themed T-shirts with DM logo, we enjoyed Japanese food in Camden Market and by 4pm we arrived at the O2 Arena. A massive DM poster welcomed us so we took some photos.

Excited we stepped inside the globe and after a short wander around we settled in one of the bars, all playing DM songs. The atmosphere was fantastic already, surrounded by people with the same interest was overwhelming. We drunk beer and sung songs, we laughed and waited impatiently for the doors to open.

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Although this was my third concert I attended, it surprised me again how electrifying the atmosphere can be. The anticipation of the first sound, first song and the band performing is simply indescribable. Dave Gahan, the frontman of the band, hasn’t lost a bit of his stage presence and charisma. Martin Gore, the songwriter and singer, sung beautifully as always, and Andy Fletcher, third and as important part of the band as any of those two, stood firmly by the keyboards and put his arms up as and when required, wearing a seldom smile on his face. New songs carefully mixed with old favourites such as Personal Jesus or Just Can’t Get Enough were appreciated by all.

Twenty three songs later and with voices almost gone, 20,000 fans put their arms up and waved together with the last song Never Let Me Down Again, an epic finale. No wonder the band added extra dates in UK later this year. This tour might be classed as their best ever after all. It reminds me of ‘ripe as wine’ cliché. However, they are the real deal and far from any cliché.

I do hope Depeche Mode has enough strength and songs in them for at least two more albums. Even after over thirty years I feel they haven’t said (sung) their last words. Keep it going guys 🙂

Niina

It’s gone

•May 13, 2013 • 2 Comments

Only a quick update on how happy I am at the moment. I’ve managed to stop editing and editing, and finally pressed the ‘submit’ button. Here ends the journey of Advanced Creative Writing I begun last September. I’ve learnt that script writing is not for me ans I should stick with my biggest strength which is writing stories. Prose it is then. Now it’ll take three months for the results to come through but that’s something I can live with since I get some free time to write what I want. Yes, finishing my novel is on the top of my ‘to do’ list as well as researching and creating characters for a novel which idea came to me suddenly last week. It’s completely different story from the one I’m writing now but that’s even more exciting. I will also submit a few stories for the new Sea of Ink publication and if I’m lucky enough my effort will be in print soon.

I wish all my fellow students/scribblers the best of luck in their career whatever that might be.

Happy scribbling my dear scribblers

Niina

I can see the finishing line

•May 5, 2013 • 2 Comments

Yes, I can see the red tape in a distance, getting closer with every day that passes by. I have worked on my last assignment, in other words End of Module Assessment. From two style options and three media options (fiction, poetry, film, stage or radio) I chose to go with a fiction, this time using real events as a base of the story.

After at least five drafts, cutting, rewriting and the endless editing, I feel I have reached the last stage. To be honest, I can’t even look at the story and see anything is wrong with it. I read it so many times that even a glimpse makes my eyes go funny. It might be a self-preservation thing, who knows. As usual, I cannot share with you any details about the story before it comes back marked.

So what are my plans after I hit the submit button? Because I’ve missed an opportunity last year to submit some of my writing to a newly formed publishing house Ink Pantry, established by a few members of A215 Facebook group, I won’t do the same mistake this year. If you are connected with A215 or A363, you can submit your work between 1st and 30th June 2013 for consideration and be published in print and later in an e-book version.

After that I will take a break from studying until next February as I’ve signed up for another level 2 module Worlds of English which should be interesting enough to keep me on my toes. Writing wise I’m planning to finish my novel and re-draft and rewrite and re-edit until it’s ready to be shown to the outside world. In the meantime I will be here and there, updating my blog and hopefully doing some crafting and sewing as I’ve missed those activities.

Till later then

Niina

 

And back to Earth!

•April 11, 2013 • 2 Comments

How many time did it happen to all of us? Just when you thought everything goes the right way. You are succesful, you are being awarded for your efforts and you are flying high, thinking of being invincible and all that. And then it strikes. You are hit by an invisible hand, punched in the gut, your lungs are gasping for air and your head is about to explode. You have been brought back to Earth and reminded that not all you do is that great. Why do I talk about this today? Well, after my TMA5 assignment results, I flew high, just to be smacked in the face hard when I got the latest assignment score.

To explain it all, I needed to submit a first draft (up to 1000 words) of my final end of module assignment. My medium of choice was a short story. I submitted proposal two months ago, and my tutor liked it. To my surprise, she criticised it all, made a lot of comments about too much telling, the need of editing, and telling again. Well, I don’t have to tell you I did not like it a bot. In my opinion, first draft is a rough sketch, maybe a little bit edited, but definitely not transformed into a finished piece, obviously something my tutor was after even though the guidance notes said ‘first draft’. I’ve emailed her back and queried the score. Her first response was dismissive, but I resisted and told her my opinion on what first draft means to me. She has promised to have a look at it again and remark. That was two days ago and I’m still waiting.

The disappointment has eased off a little, and I’m planning to spend the weekend writing, or at least one day as we are expecting a heavy rain again so no gardening for me here. So far I have been happy with mu OU studies and already registered for my fourth module starting February 2014, however, I feel the need of taking break from this whole business. So roll on 15th May. After that I can write whatever and whenever I want.

Niina

PS: I read somewhere that an average English person moans three times a day. Although I’m Czech I’m fitting the bill tonight 🙂

If only Part II.

•April 7, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Hi everyone,

here’s the conclusion of my story as I promised yesterday. Enjoy.

Niina

 

A pair of tourists obstructed Marie’s view and pulled her back to reality. She shook her head and smiled. ‘What a fool you are,’ she thought and set off. Her thoughts went back to the boy’s face; so young, lively and handsome. She envied him the sparks she has noticed in his eyes when he tried to entice her with food. Marie recalled the way the corners of his mouth lifted up and uncovered his white teeth. The mess of his hair obstructing his eyes a little, the way he brushed a loose strand away from his face. She remembered how his hands had looked, thick blue veins running over bones. Without a coat, he wore only a grey long sleeved thermal shirt. She thought how cold he must have been.

Marie felt a forgotten pull in her stomach; a sensation she thought she would never feel again. Her mind raced back and forth, one thought fighting off the other. She realised the attraction towards this young man, granting her a little interest. Such an irrational thought ran through her head and she shivered. The thought of the boy being interested in her, surprised her just as much as the way her body responded to him. She stopped in her tracks, shocked by the discovery and the fact she even entertained the possibility.

Where’s Celine when I need her most?’ Marie rummaged in her handbag feeling for the phone. She pulled out a battered Nokia with scratched display and pressed speed dial. Marie growled when there was no answer, even after the tenth ring and shoved the phone into her pocket in the hope Celine would notice a missed call.

She had to do something to distract her mind and forget about the thoughts she had in order to stay sane. She bought a cup of watered down mulled wine. Warming her insides, the remaining alcohol crawled through her veins. She rolled the liquid on her tongue, keeping it inside her mouth for longer than usual, just to enjoy the taste of cinnamon and orange. The sweetness lingered long enough to calm her senses and feed the hunger she felt. Her feet gave in and forced her to sit down on a bench. Surrounded by strangers passing her by as if she didn’t exist, she felt the pang of loneliness in her stomach, and her heart ached beyond recognition, regardless how much she tried to stay oblivious to this feeling.

Surrendering to her thoughts Marie got to her feet again and let them take her back to where the boy had smiled at her. As she pushed through the crowds, she felt her pulse racing in anticipation. She smiled as she approached the corner where she could stay unnoticed and watch the boy’s face. Her muscles softened as soon as she laid her eyes on him, shivering, rubbing his hands and breathing out the warm air from his lungs onto his frozen fingers. He stood behind the counter chatting to his colleague she hadn’t noticed the first time. She took a few steps closer, unconsciously biting the edge of the polystyrene cup holding the remainder of her now cooled drink. The boy laughed at something he heard and looked around. She liked the dimples she saw. She liked the sound of his voice, too. Marie’s feet were freezing as she progressed forward.

Now or never,’ she thought and with her chin up she set off and closed the distance between them.  Hands trembling, she wiped her palms on her jeans. The intensity of her stare would burn a hole in a curtain. She watched the boy, now calm as if in deep thoughts. She stopped, only meters away from the counter. Unexpected panic struck her and Marie spun on her heels to run away.

‘Hey! Are you OK?’ she heard his voice and halted, breathing heavily. ‘Are you OK?’

Marie slowly turned around, her shoulders hunched, as if she bore the weight of the whole world at that moment. She lifted her eyes and met his concerned face.

Oh, for God’s sake woman. You’re ridiculous,’ she thought and moved towards him with a resigned sigh.

‘Hi,’ he smiled as she reached the counter and skimmed the menu. ‘You look a bit lost, Miss?’ the boy hesitated, ‘Sorry, I don’t wanna be rude.’

‘It’s OK,’ Marie said and managed a smile. ’You’re right. I’m Miss.’ Still.

‘So,’ he said, looking at her as if assessing what he could say, ‘anything I can help you with? You’re hungry? I’m sure you know by now all’s for four quid,’ he said and laughed.

‘Well, I…I’m…’ Marie stammered, avoiding his curious eyes, ‘I’m sorry. I don’t know why I’m here. I’m not hungry, really,’ she said feeling her stomach rumbling.

He kept looking at her, smile on his face. She blinked and begun laughing. Marie recognized the situation she got herself into. He laughed with her, ignoring a couple of tourists standing next to her.

‘So, can I offer you something else then?’

‘Like what?’

‘I don’t know,’ he shrugged his shoulders and looked like a little boy. ‘You tell me.’

Marie’s cheeks filled with blood as she searched her brain for the answer. She smiled when the thought struck her. She could get out of this situation easily. She took of the scarf she bought an hour ago and handed it over to the boy. He looked at her, puzzled expression clouding his face. He raised left brow in a silent question.

‘Well, I thought you might need this. You’re cold.’ Marie stood there, looking into his brown eyes with her arm stretched, offering a gift to a stranger.

‘Oh.’

‘Take it. I don’t need it.’

‘Did you just buy it today? I’m sure you didn’t wear it when I saw you first.’

‘How…’ she trailed off.

The boy smiled at her and took the scarf. He put it to his nose and sniffed.

‘Definitely new,’ he said, ‘otherwise I would smell your perfume.’

She swallowed a lump, feeling her cheeks burning. She waved her hand, thinking of what she could say.

‘Oh my God. Where have you been? I’ve been looking for you everywhere. And where’s your phone? Honestly, you need to buy a new one so I can track you down, woman,’ Celine’s voice rang in her ears. Marie turned around, happy to be rescued and sad she got distracted.

‘I called you.’

‘Yeah, once. Anyway, you wanna eat? Let’s go somewhere warm. I don’t fancy eating standing up, do you?’

‘I don’t mind, really,’ Marie said and looked at the boy. ‘I’m sorry, thanks for everything.’

‘What for? I haven’t done anything,’ the boy wondered and waited for explanation.

‘You have, trust me,’ she smiled, took Celine’s arm and dragged her away from the stall and the handsome boy.

‘Hey! What about the scarf? Come back next week. I’m here every Saturday. Come back for it. Will you?’ She heard him shouting over the voices of hundreds of visitors.

She turned around, hanging onto her friend’s arm. ‘Maybe I will,’ she said and gave him one last smile as he waved.

‘Wow. What was that all about? He could be your son,’ Celine raised her eyebrows being pulled away by Marie’s firm grip. ‘I leave you for a while and look at you,’ she pinched her. ‘Maybe I should do it more often.’

‘Don’t be ridiculous. He was cold and I felt sorry for him. That’s all,’ Marie lied and couldn’t look at her friend.

‘Yeah, right. You tell that to someone else, dear. I know you too well. Are you coming back next weekend then?’

‘Why?’

‘You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to. But let me tell you one thing. At least you know you’re not dead, honey,’ Celine winked and gave her a kiss on a cheek.

As they were leaving the market, Marie listened to Celine’s rumbling about the clothes she bought and could have bought. But at the back of her mind the boy’s face was smiling at her and warming her soul. She even entertained the thought of coming back next week. If only.

If only Part I.

•April 6, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Hi all,

I’m going to share with you my latest story I wrote for my assignment. It scored the best mark so far and because it’s a wee bit long I will split it into two halves. Second part is coming tomorrow. Enjoy

Niina

If only

‘All you want for four quid. Try some. Fried chicken, fried chicken,’ the stall holders were shouting one over another. Most Chinese, some Mexican, Marie hardly saw a face with European features among them.

The sun shone above the rooftops of Camden town, morning traffic easing with every hour in this part of London. Saturdays were usually quieter than weekdays. Crowds of curious tourists and visitors flooded the streets, eager to buy a bargain, find forgotten treasures in the antiques market, or just have a browse through endless stores and stalls, offering all sorts of goods. If one wanted to stand out from a crowd, Camden Markets were the right place to go; and Marie loved the place. It offered a trip back in time to days she used to force her hair up with sugar and water solution and wear heavy combat boots, dressed in black from head to toe including her fingernails. She felt at home, surrounded by odd people, who seemed to take a little care of what others thought of them. On the other hand, she knew, she looked insignificant, like millions of others.

‘What freedom,’ she thought and a pang of jealousy poked her ribs.

‘I need to get to the shop that sells all vintage clothes. Do you remember where it is?’ Marie got distracted from her daydreaming by a voice that belonged to Celine. Her friend kept looking around desperate to find a way to a store she once discovered and spent a little fortune on clothes from sixties. She was different; she dared to stand out from the crowd.

‘Oh, I don’t know Celine. It’s always a matter of luck with me, I’m afraid. You know my sense of direction is useless,’ Marie sighed and adjusted her handbag strapped around her shoulder, clutching it hard to her body. Last thing she wanted was to come home without her purse and a bag with a long slit. The pickpockets were ever so present and seduced by the amount of visitors taken aback with the atmosphere they got lost themselves in enthusiasm and were caught off guards.

‘I have to find it. I have to,’ Celine kept mumbling, jumping up and searching the maze of Camden Market.

‘Calm down, for God’s sake,’ Marie muttered and rolled her eyes. Although Celine was her best friend, she hated her sometimes. She took it as a price for their twenty years’ long friendship; working together, sharing their secrets and mistakes, heated discussions they led and flat they shared. Sometimes Marie wondered if their lives would ever get their separate ways. And sometimes she envied her friend’s open mind and adventurous character. Celine seemed to have much more fun in her life.

‘I think I found it. Can you see that figurine at the back? Isn’t that the shop? It must be, mustn’t it? Look at the dress. The colours are just right for sixties. And the design as well,’ she turned to Marie, her rounded face lit with joy and sparks twinkling in her brown eyes. Marie wondered if Celine was ever going to grow up and be sensible.

‘Wait for me,’ Marie shouted watching her friend’s back disappearing in the crowd, heading with a bull’s focus towards the shop.

What do I care? She’s a grown up,’ she thought and stopped in her tracks. If Celine lost her, they could always call each other and meet somewhere. Or they could split up for the day and Marie could be left on her own, just walk around, watch people and relax with no need to follow Celine, wait for her or do things together she didn’t want to do. The thought excited Marie.

She turned around and fought her way back to the entrance of Camden Stables Market. The smell of oriental food, spices and mulled wine tickled her nose and made her stomach rumbling. She rubbed her hands together, regretting she forgot her gloves.

‘Fried chicken, try our chicken. Four pounds only. Eat what you want,’ the sellers chanted their mantras, smiling at first to twist their expressions into anger if they didn’t sell. Marie often wondered what happened with the leftover food. She hoped the sellers fed the homeless but a doubt clouded her mind. She just hoped and didn’t want to try to find out the truth, for it might hurt and take her romantic ideas she held about people away.

‘Hi, how are you?’ she heard an English accent among other languages. The mixture of Italian, German and French buzzing in her ears almost pushed out the language she spoke and understood. Marie searched for the voice and found a smiling face of a boy, hardly twenty, looking at her.

‘Oh, hiya, I’m fine. Thank you,’ she stammered, ‘how are you?’

‘I’m OK, thanks. Fancy something to warm you up? It’s all for four quid,’ he said, smile not leaving his smooth face.

‘No, I’m OK. Thank for asking, anyway,’ she said and forced herself to look away. She felt her cheeks burning and her stomach trembled.

‘I’ll be here all day, hope to see you later,’ he shouted after her and Marie struggled to keep her eyes in front of her, although she wanted to smile at him and let him know she appreciated his interest.

‘Oh God, get a grip,’ she mumbled under her breath and hurried through the crowd.

Marie treated herself to a new scarf she wrapped around her neck. She took a glimpse of herself in the antiques shop window. Red nose dominated the picture. She studied her reflection for a while, searching her face for wrinkles, spots and other imperfections. She turned forty last autumn and tried to forget the reality of getting older. Her slim figure helped to mislead others but not herself. Celine often laughed at her for the pure fact Marie made herself look and sound older than she was.

‘You’re not ancient, you know. So stop dressing like an old bat. Look at you. You could pass as my mother, at least,’ Celine joked.

‘Yeah, like you’re twenty, ay? I have no desire to look ridiculous. I’m not gonna pretend I’m young when I’m not. Who are you kidding?’

‘Say what you will, Marie. You know me. I don’t care what anybody says. And that’s part of your problem. You put too much of weight on people’s opinions. They don’t live your life.’

‘Exactly. You’re right. It’s my life and I’ll do whatever I want with it. If I want to look like your grandmother, I will. All right? And stop lecturing me.’

‘Touchy, aren’t you? I just wish you would relax a bit. Take a risk, for God’s sake. Look at you.’ Celine forced her to stand in front of the mirror. ‘What do you see? Tell me. Describe who you see in that mirror.’

Marie reluctantly lifted her eyes and watched her reflection. Dark hair intertwined with occasional streak of silver. Pale skin was slightly discoloured under her eyes from the lack of sleep she suffered since she was in her teens. Her arms just hung off the shoulders, as if they were attached by a loose string. She saw an old woman. Old and sad, at the end of her days, regretting things she hasn’t done. Regretting things she has done. Regretting… What was it? She couldn’t remember. Marie’s brain stumbled upon the memories, blurred, insignificant and grey. Tears stung in her eyes and she fluttered her eyelashes to fight them off.

‘Oh, come on, Marie. I’m sorry,’ Celine put her arms around Marie’s waist and pulled her towards her. She patted her back, and stroked Marie’s stiff shoulders. ‘Don’t cry, honey. I didn’t mean it like that.’

 
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