Saturday, 5 April 2014

Poem: Last Sunset?

I sat and watched a sunset, the red and orange
And pink and… It covered me. It hurt my eyes.
I think I even enjoyed it, despite the blindness.
But it occurred to me; what if this were my last one?
I worried about whether it was the best I’d ever seen.
I worried about missing out on better.

I worried about worrying about sunsets
Because weren’t sunrises just as important?
So I vowed to see each one right at its conception.
I set my alarm and stumbled from my warm bed
Just to see the sun turning up for a day’s work.
Just to see the day turning on.

And then I’d wait all day to see it turning off again.
And I thought, it’s just a giant light switch and I was
Getting tired and bored and wondering who stares at a light?
Each time it wasn’t my last I became a little less
The sun set and it rose and I was still here.
The sun set and it rose and I wasn’t dead.

So I stopped setting the alarm, and I stopped watching
The sun do its thing. Because it was going to do it
Whether I saw or not. Maybe that’s the thing I was
Supposed to realise. In the end it doesn’t matter
If you see the sunrise for the last time,

If you see the sun set no more – you’ll never know.

ãLisamarie Lamb 2014

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Flash Fiction: Junk Mail?

Joan loved waiting for the post.
She sat on her chair in the kitchen – the chair that gave her a view of the street – so that she could see the postman trudging up the road, laden down with letters, bills, parcels, birthday cards. She could see who got what and when. She could imagine their reactions, and it made her smile.
It was, she realised, the highlight of her day.
The post came slip-sliding through the letterbox, landing with a hopeful, happy smack on the mat that sat behind the front door. Joan, ninety years old, alone and bored, stood with a grunt, the effort of leaving the hard pine chair lessened only by the thought that she now had something to do.
Joan shuffled onwards, through the hallway and to the door. Then she bent, her back aching and creaking, to retrieve her mail. Shiny envelopes that she knew were filled with rubbish; pre-approved credit cards (that required her to fill in a form and send off for that approval), pizza menus, curry menus, Thai and Chinese, and, of course, the letter that she and hundreds of other people had received, telling her that she had definitely, absolutely, positively won a huge sum of money.
That was it.
That was all.
That was more than enough.
Joan gathered everything up with only the slightest twinge now, her interest in what might have arrived in her home blocking anything else out. She returned to the kitchen, slumped back into the chair, and spread the junk mail out on the table. She poured herself a cup of tea from the pot and cut a slice of cake.
It was time. Finally. The postman had been a little late today, fifteen minutes, and Joan had almost, almost, had a sneaky slice of the jam and cream filled sponge. She had almost, almost, had half a cup of tea. But now she was glad she had waited.
It was worth it.
Joan always opened the post, whatever it was. Every envelope, even the ones addressed to The Homeowner. And then, when they were all open, when everything was spread out on the table, Joan filled in the forms.
A free trial of a hearing aid… That was a good one. The form was only short, but the hearing aid looked like quality. She carefully printed the details, a black block letter in each tiny box. She checked it over once, twice, three times, and then sealed it safely in the pre-paid envelope. Next was a subscription to a book club, and there was an offer of two free books as well (assuming more were bought within a certain period, of course, of course, nothing was ever really free). That form was longer, with lots of details asked for so that the people behind the books could work out which offers to send out, how to get the most money from their ‘customers’.
And so it went on. Life insurance, pet insurance, car insurance… Credit cards and holiday offer DVDs… Requests for brochures on curtains, carpets, whole house cleans…
Joan particularly enjoyed finding the fake cheques made out to her for ridiculous sums. She kept all of them. She added up the total and kept it in a little notebook, carried with her always. Her will, she called it. And she teased her family – the ones who never visited, who never called, who never even sent a letter – with the promise of money when she was gone. Oh, there was money, all right. Millions by now. But it was all pretend, just like their love for her. She often thought it was a shame that she wouldn’t be around to see their faces, her children, grandchildren, even the great-grandchildren, when they realised what fools she had made of them.
She pulled her coat on and popped all of the neatly filled in forms into her bag. Now to post them. Then she could sit back and wait. And laugh. In a few days’ time, the postman would be weighed down with packages. A free hearing aid (free until the bill came) for Mia, the girl next door who played her music so, so loudly. A curtain catalogue for old Mrs Jenkins across the road who loved to watch the street with her beady little eyes. Details on car insurance for the silly boy who so enjoyed whizzing up and down the street in his old banger.

Joan loved waiting for the post.

 ©Lisamarie Lamb 2014

Monday, 24 February 2014

RIP Harold Ramis

It feels so strange to think that one of the Ghostbusters has died. Harold Ramis, Egon, has gone.

Ramis wasn't just known for Ghostbusters of course - he was a talented, wonderful writer and director, but it is as Egon, the geeky genius, that I will remember him best. A ghostbuster. The ghostbuster. My ghostbuster - the one I always loved the most.

It's heartbreaking; a piece of my childhood has proved that my childhood is well and truly gone in the most final way possible. 

But as well as that, Ramis' Ghostbusters was a pivotal moment for me. It was the first time that I was completely, utterly, devastatingly terrified of a 'horror' film (comedy horror, but still...). There was one scene in particular, the library scene, that gave me thrills and chills for weeks afterwards.

She still scares me now.

It was after seeing Ghostbusters (probably aged around 7, probably thanks to a friend's older brother during a sleepover, although that might have been Nightmare on Elm Street), that I understood that fear could be fun. Even though I trembled at the thought of going anywhere on my own just in case a ghost leapt out at me, I liked it. 

I still do.

So thanks, Harold Ramis. I appreciate it. See you. 


Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Fairy Lights Excerpt...

Here is a little extract from my latest short story collection, Fairy Lights.

Try Before You Die

“Here, open it.”
The tattily wrapped present was thrust inelegantly into Jason’s face, narrowly missing his eye. He stepped backwards, instinct protecting him as it usually did. The boy looked up at his father who was swaying, not quite drunk but nearly, hoping to be soon, and half smiled. Unsure. Unwilling to do much more.
“What is it?” He did not reach for the gift as it wavered unsteadily in front of him. He did not want it. It reeked of something bad, something off and wrong. It appeared to be leaking. Something was seeping through the pink wrapping paper (Birthday Girl!) leaving an orange-brown stain over his father’s fat fingers. It was greasy and thick, the oil leaching out and spreading.
But Jason’s hesitancy was not noticed. Nothing was ever noticed when it came to Jason and his father, George, and again the thing was propelled towards him. “You’ll see when you open it.”
There wasn’t much else that Jason could do other than take the proffered offering. His fingers curled around the thing, uneasy. The slimy feel of the grease made his stomach roll over and the smell, now that it was closer, crawled up his nose and sat there, picking at his brain, poking at his senses, making sure that he was aware of it.
He was most definitely aware of it.
Jason’s nose crinkled and his forehead furrowed and he desperately wanted to wipe his hands on something, anything, the carpet, the walls, George’s face. Instead he looked to his father who was grinning, yellowing teeth like broken gravestones protruding from behind thin, cracked lips that had had too much alcohol poured over them down the years.
“Son, you’ve got to open it, I’m not telling you what it is.” The grin faltered, widened, stuck. “I got it right, didn’t I? It is your birthday, isn’t it?”
Jason nodded. Yes, it was his birthday. He was eighteen. Despite his father being a drunk and a waste of space, he had been expecting something more than this whatever it was that smelt strange and felt strange and was wrapped in pretty pink paper.
He could delay no longer. With one smooth riiiiiippp the paper was gone. It fell to the floor in a greasy heap, no doubt staining the carpet and creating another mess for Jason to clear up.
He looked down at what he had been left holding. Yes, it was his eighteenth birthday, and he had been expecting more than an ancient cook book caked in unidentifiable stains and smears and smudges. The pages, when he tried to leaf through them, when he tried to feign interest, stuck together with Christ knew what.
Jason clutched the book – Meals To Try Before You Die, the author’s name completely obscured now – so that he didn’t drop it. He felt his mouth open. He felt his mouth move. He had no idea what he had said.
But he had said something.
George clapped him on the back and laughed. “You’re welcome, son, I know how much you enjoy cooking, and when I saw it, I thought of you.”
Jason nodded and smiled and laughed and wished he could have a drink like his dad. He did not enjoy cooking. He hated it. Despised it. Begrudged having to do it. But, since his mother had died and his father had become a full time alcoholic five years earlier, he hadn’t had much choice.
It was either cook or starve.
Given the choice, Jason would have opted for a takeaway pizza or a bit of chicken chow mein. But money was tight since no one was working and now the only takeaways Jason saw were on TV.
“Wow, thanks, Dad.” The words felt flat in his mouth, and he couldn’t bear to look at his father in case the man’s face had registered that Jason wasn’t exactly pleased with the present. As much as he hated George, as much as he believed he was a useless slob who could have been so much more than he was, Jason also loved him, and didn’t want to hurt him. Not intentionally.
He couldn’t get excited about a dirty old book. Second hand wasn’t an issue – most of Jason’s clothing was pre-owned, most of everything in the house was – but the state of it. George hadn’t even tried to clean it up.
“Guess where I got it?” The man was almost bouncing on the balls of his feet where he stood, excitement and pleasure making his legs move of their own accord. Of course, he was still smiling, big and stupid.
Jason shook his head. A charity shop? A bin? A tramp’s trousers? “Where, Dad?” Play along, play along, and soon enough it will be over – George in a snoring heap, Jason watching TV, the volume up loud to dilute his father’s snuffles and grunts.
George stepped forward and wrapped his arm around his son’s shoulders. He pushed him gently towards the sofa, and Jason flinched at the sour beer breath that reeked out at him. He held his own breath, hating that he had to do it, hating that he was craving the same thing. So far he had resisted. But he had a feeling that it wouldn’t be long. Not if things kept going in the way they were going.
If you can’t beat them… What other choice was there? What else was there to do?
They sat together, father and son, closer than they had been in many a month now, even though neither noticed, the book lying on Jason’s knee, stale and stinking.
“I was given it.” There was pride in the voice that spoke the words. As though this was something of great significance, of huge importance. Something of meaning. It meant nothing to Jason. He almost shrugged but thought better of it, preferring instead to cock his head to one side and pretend to want to know more.
“You know that restaurant out by the beach? The famous one?”
Jason did know it. Because it was famous. Very famous. Ridiculously expensive and horribly exclusive, Jason hated it even though he had never stepped foot inside. Not that he would want to. Tiny portions of food, elegantly arranged on a massive white plate, all accompanied with a dot of jus that was so small you couldn’t taste it was not his idea of food.
“What about it?” Jason eyed the book again, started to touch the pages, to flick through. Unsticking them, pulling them apart and peeling them away from each other. There were no pictures, just lists of ingredients and step by step instructions on how to make whatever was intended to be made. His stomach growled. He hoped it wasn’t due to the dead food smell. 
Jason’s father sat up straight, and slapped his hands down onto his knees, leaving oily smears on his jeans. “That’s where I got it from. That restaurant. And, not only that, but it’s signed. By Louis Cutter himself.” The man slid the book from Jason’s grasp and opened it at the first page. There was a small dark scribble, a squiggle which may or may not have been Louis Cutter’s autograph.
Despite himself, despite his serious reservations, Jason was impressed. Louis Cutter was a celebrity. He was on television. Even though the mark in the front of the book could have been anything, he chose to believe his father’s story.
It was his eighteenth. He could believe whatever he wanted, just for today.
“Did you see him sign it?” Jason had to know more. He didn’t want to ask, just in case his father slipped up and the whole sad truth came out, a truth which wasn’t what Jason wanted to hear.
His father nodded, licking his lips, sucking at his tongue. Thirsty. Jason thought about getting him a drink, started to stand. It was so ingrained now, so much a part of things. They both knew what it was doing. And neither could stop it.
“I saw him do it. I saw him sign it. Outside his restaurant, right there, just as I was passing. He ran outside, jotted his name in the front, and handed it to me.” The man’s teeth were grinding now. He was getting to the end of his ability to put off the inevitable. “Didn’t say a word. But it was like he was waiting for me, you know?”
Jason smiled, patted his father’s hand, heaved himself off the sofa, struggling against the old, soft cushions that tried to keep him with them. “That’s a good story, Dad.”
It was a good story. It wasn’t entirely true, but it was good.

The chef had come out of the restaurant, and he had been clutching the book, but he hadn’t signed it. His wide, desperate eyes had scanned the street and come to rest upon Jason’s father. With a wave and a whistle he had called him over. “Do me a favour,” he had said, holding the book out to the other man. “You don’t look like a cooking kind of man. Take this, keep it safe, give it back when I ask. If I ask. And don’t use it. Never use it.”

If you want to know what happens next, the full collection is available from (Kindle and paperback) and (Kindle and paperback). Enjoy! 

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Poem: Her Eyes

Her Eyes

Her eyes are dull, but living

Fury shining, he thinks.
And all because of him,
Now she is pining, he thinks.

Her mouth is tight, lips bitten,
And he wants them, he thinks.
But moving one step closer
Will condemn him, he thinks.

He watches from a distance,
Hidden from her, he thinks.
He hopes she’s never see him,
She’s too pure, he thinks.

Her eyes are dull, but knowing,
And then know him; she sees
His shadow stalking

When the light dims… she sees. 

©Lisamarie Lamb 2014 

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Piecing Together The Past

I used to collect everything. No matter where I went, what I did, who I was with, I would gather together the remnants of the trip and keep them. I called them my 'souvenirs'. These items were anything from napkins to train tickets to leaflets to feathers to stickers... Anything and everything that could hold some memory of the day.

I stuck these treasures into scrapbooks (and the larger items, those that wouldn't bend or fold, went into my 'souvenir box'). I had an image in my mind of myself in decades to come, looking through the brittle pages, being transported back into the past, to happy days and fun times. I imagined sharing these memories with my children, perhaps even grandchildren.

But time marches of and things change and life gets too busy to collect little treasures. Sometimes life gets too busy to even go anywhere or do anything that makes collecting things worthwhile. That's how I felt for a long time. Years. My scrapbooks grew thinner and thinner, and finally around six years ago, I stopped filling them at all.

Recently, however, things have changed. My daughter is now three, and she attends a wonderful nursery school (Combe Bank in Sundridge, Kent). They are looked after there, they are taught well. And they have each - every single student - been given a scrapbook to fill in. These scrapbooks are given out at the beginning of each year, and are used as focal points for classroom discussions - a kind of show and tell. Helping Alice to complete her scrapbook has been fun. It reminded me of my own, and I even dug some of them out, and teared up looking through the - yes, slightly brittle - old pages.

Memories resurfaced, and it was wonderful.

So now, Alice and I are working on scrapbooks together. I hope in years to come, we will both be able to look back through them and remember the wonderful days we spent together.

Why not try it for yourself?

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Audio Books - Any Good?

I live in a place where the buses are infrequent, he nearest station is ten miles away, and if you don't have a car you're pretty much stuck. And everything - absolutely every place I need to get to - is about an hour away from my house by road.

The problem with having to drive everywhere is that it is really very dull. Very. Really. Especially when it's the same old routes all the time. 

So this year, in an effort to stem the boredom, I thought I would give audio books a try. My daughter received one for Christmas containing a number of Beatrix Potter stories, and I put it on in the car ostensibly for her... But I discovered that I really enjoyed it to! The CD is a great one, and the stories are read by Renee Zelwegger, Emily Watson, Ewan McGregor, and Lloyd Owen. It is available here:

Alice enjoyed it so much that she wanted to hear it on every car journey. 

It was time to try something different. Which is when I decided that Harry Potter was the way to go. Stephen Fry's unabridged telling of all seven tales was just begging me to listen to it... So I did. We did. 

Halfway through the first book and neither Alice nor I mind the long car journeys anymore. In fact, we rather look forward to them!

What are your favourite audio books?