The Tramp

Published in Lasswade High School Writing Magazine 1984

Can you remember the first time your work was published in print? I don’t, but I have the proof. This is a photograph of a story poem that I wrote in 1984. At the time I appear to be a compassionate twelve year old, it’s good to see that the issues that bothered me then, still concern me today. But, current affairs aside, I wonder how excited I was at seeing my words in print. I wonder if I showed the publication to all of my friends and family. I wonder if I called myself a writer?

I doubt it

I knew when I was twelve year old that I wanted to become a writer. I knew it when I left school and began working in a frozen food shop for £24.50 a week on a YTS, I even knew it when I fell into the role of retail manager and somehow survived the role for twenty years. And throughout that time, even though I spent my happiest hours writing, I was never a writer, not a real one that is. I wrote. I wrote and wrote and wrote and began to see pieces of my writing appeared in magazines and newspapers. Yet when ever I introduced myself to someone, I was Eilidh, the retail manager, writing was just a hobby.

When is a writer a writer?

I began calling myself a writer half way through my undergraduate degree at Stirling University. That’s not to say I was comfortable with it. In fact, I would say it under my breath, quickly, and would try to hide my scarlet face. It felt uncomfortable, I felt like a fraud. By this time though, I had managed my way around an essay or two, I was getting decent grades and my reading had increased ten-fold. And as my confidence grew, I began to publish more. The writing itself was mediocre, the publications were small, but I was being published and more importantly – read.

I published a 42,000 word novella in 2014, (under a different name). It was a piece of work I had written many years before, and that was reflected in the writing style. Never the less, I sold over 1000 copies and made a small, very small amount of money. But I was still embarrassed to tell people that I was a writer, and even more so, published. Online was easier though, I marketed my book like hell. I went full on hard sell, talking to strangers, engaging with people who I couldn’t see, and hiding the fact that deep down inside I was terrified of the person I was becoming, the person I always wanted to be, I just wasn’t sure exactly who she was though.

In 2016, I began a Masters in Creative Writing. The course was okay, but it was the legitimacy I felt while doing the course that finally gave the confidence to say, ‘I am a writer,’ still, however, very quietly.

It was probably the year after graduating from university that I began to discover the answer to my question –When is a writer a writer? I was still working part time in the retail sector, but for a charity, and actually using my managerial skills to do some good. When I wasn’t at work, I was reading or writing, or at least thinking about writing. I began to send more and more of my work off to magazines, zines and competitions. I got plenty of rejections, but a small proportion was published and my confidence grew. I began to really enjoy my craft, I enjoyed putting new skills into practice and writing at my own pace. I felt connected to the work I was producing, passionate and I looked forward to it. I had read so many writing tips about when to write, how long I should spend writing, do I need to write daily, how do I find inspiration? I read articles on how to combat writers block, I was even told writers block doesn’t exist. And although all opinions are legitimate, they are only legitimate to the person writing them. In the end, I decided that the only advice I should listen to, is my own.

When I stopped putting pressure on myself to write a particular way, or at a particular time, or for that matter, act in a way that I thought a writer might act, I found I could just write. For me, and this is my opinion, a writer is a writer when they connect to their work, when they allow the writing to be part of them and them a part of the writing.

When I look back at the The Tramp, I see Eilidh the twelve year old writer, she is the writer I have been striving to become for all these years, connected, compassionate, self determined and confident, it just took me a while to find her again.

Dead in a Doorway

Photo by Alvin Decena on Pexels.com

The weight of the world smothers you

Like a wet wool blanket

On tired bones.

And you lie there as still as death.

Your eyes; dusted in grime

Follow my reflection along the ground

As my footsteps silence the sound

Of a town laid on its side before you.

A red umbrella flicks to the side

To hide you from a pigtailed child,

While a balding builder wipes pie grease

From his mouth.

I step into your space and listen.

And like a shell pressed upon my ear

All I can hear is the sea and my heart

Beating. Beating because

I’m afraid of you.

I’m afraid if I don’t shake you

Who will wake you?

But I won’t shake you

For fear of hearing you rattle

Like a bag of bones.

I find your cup, drop a coin and say

‘Sorry man.’ Just like the last time

And I wonder,

When the first freeze frosts the leaves

Will you see sparkles

When I see dust.

©EilidhGClark

This poem is dedicated to the man who died in the doorway of the old BHS in Stirling. R.I.P. Never forgotten.

My Name is Leon by Kit De Waal – Book Review

‘…he misses the photograph of Jake and he has to close his eyes to remember it. He holds on to Big Red Bear and thinks about all the things he didn’t say to his mum. How long will it be for her to get better? When is she coming back for him? […] Will she come back? Where is she? Where is Jake?’ (My Name is Leon. p.78)

Kit_de_Waal_—_My_Name_Is_Leon

Shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award, My Name is Leon (2016) by Kit De Waal is a heart tugging, sad yet hopeful book. Set in England the late 1970’s – early 1980’s, Leon and his baby brother Jake are living with single mother Carol.  Leon’s father is in prison and Jakes father is married and wants nothing to do with Carol or the child. Carol is terribly lonely and desperately unhappy. Struggling with deep depression, the mother’s fragile state leaves her  unable to care for her children :

Leon has begun to notice things what make his mum cry: when Jake makes a lot of noise; when she hasn’t got any money; when she comes back from the phone box; when Leon asks too many questions; and when she’s staring at Jake, (p.12).

After Carol takes to her bed, Leon, at just nine years old,  takes on the role of carer and parent. Through the eyes of this young boy, the reader watches his world fall apart, fragment by fragment.

Eventually the boys are taken into care and find solace in the home of Maureen, an experienced foster carer with a deep love for both cakes and children. Maureen is a lovable character who feels a deep affinity for Leon, even though Leon is highly suspicious of anyone in the care system, but when Jake is adopted, it is Maureen who picks up the pieces.  It is perhaps her honesty rather than her role as parent that soothes Leon in his most difficult times:

‘Now listen carefully because I want you to understand something and I don’t say this to all the children because it’s not always true but with you it’s true so you have to believe it. And when you believe it you will stop grinding your teeth […] You will be all right, Leon.’ (p.55-56).

But when Maureen is taken into hospital, Leon is left with Maureen’s sister Sylvia, a less motherly role model than Maureen but with a desire to please her sister none the less. Their relationship is strained and often uncomfortable, but soon enough Leon finds comfort in a new friend, Tufty. Tufty is a young man who looks after a plot in his father’s allotment. The man and the boy form a friendship that grows alongside the seeds that they plant in the garden, so when they both find themselves in the midst of the Birmingham riots, they naturally come together to save each other. 

This is a coming of age story unlike any other, it is not a happy ever after but hope for a child and his future. 

I love this novel, it is clearly written with believable characters and honest emotions. At the start of the novel I was concerned about the character’s point of view – a third person limited perspective from the child’s perspective – but it is cleverly done. While the reader gathers glimpses of emotions from inside Leon’s head, there is still enough distance to feel the tug of the story from the outside. It is as if the reader is holding the child’s hand and experiencing his life with him as it unfolds. Brilliantly done and brilliantly written. Go Leon. 

I Knew You Were Weary

I wrote this poem in response to finding out an old friend and work colleague had died. While I never actually found out the cause of his death, I do know that in the months, maybe years leading up to his death, he was lonely. I spoke to him on social media on rare occasions, but never allowed myself to get close enough to ask the simple questions- are you okay, or, do you need help. I guess over the years we had drifted apart as friends, and for that reason I felt that it wasn’t up to me to respond to his very obvious cries for help. Now I wish I could turn back time and not scroll by his social media posts. Now I wish I could talk to him and remind him that he is loved and that he has brought happiness to so many people in his life time. Perhaps those words might have saved him. Perhaps those words would have given him peace in his final moments.

R.I.P my friend. A fragment of your life is imprinted on mine.

Samaritans – for everyone
Call 116 123
Email jo@samaritans.org

Papyrus – for people under 35
Call 0800 068 41 41 – 9am to midnight every day
Text 07860 039967
Email pat@papyrus-uk.org

Childline – for children and young people under 19
Call 0800 1111 – the number will not show up on your phone bill

lost-places-pforphoto-leave-factory-162387.jpeg

I Knew You Were Weary

I knew you were weary. I saw
Bold, Black words repeated. Graphited
On a hundred walls. I scrolled

Past your weeping lines, ignoring
The beats. Broken sighs, dripping

Dripping morbidly into saturated
Sentences. I knew you were trapped;
Bouncing madness inside your own
Head. Half alive, half way dead – Hanging

Tap, tap. I knew it, yet I paused
I paused. Liking your profile shot,
A ricocheting lie – a knot. My conscientious mind
Wrought, wrung, tangled in a world-wide web;

I searched and found a better you, impressed,
Pressed on the back of my eyelids.

I never heard you scream your final scream.

©EilidhGClark

I published ‘I Knew You Were Weary’ with Anti-Heroin Chic on 25th May 2017.

Window Pain

pexels-photo-190589.jpeg

Window Pain
Not a paper bag
Or a terracotta mask
Can erase this face,
Or misplace
The dug-out lines,
The outlines,
the valleys sketched
Like map markings, marking my skin.
Or the thin
Unconventional smile, forced from
A gully of pain
That rises to the tip
Of a pin like nerve

To my lip.
Does this body deserve
To mask these aging bones

With leather skin
Smoothed out,
Like putty on a window pane
With pain.

Or will night,
When dusk coughs
The light from the sky – celebrate,
and wait
until the moon is a silver eyelash
on a violet sheet
and the self –
erased.

©EilidhGClark

I published Window Pain with FTP Magazine on 7th April 2017 – click here to see the original. This is one of my favourite poems to date.