Miss You, Dad

Its 2 years since my father died.

Looking at those words feels like looking at a piece of fiction. I still haven’t really engaged in the grieving process, I’m just…frozen. Even though I kind of spent years trying to prepare myself for it. Him having retired to live in another country made it more bearable, because I’d got used to not seeing him every week.

Growing up, I was a daddy’s girl. He was part of that great generation that travelled from the Caribbean to England at the request of the British government after the war (World War II) to help ‘rebuild the mother country’. People nowadays are unaware we were invited. It was a long journey, by boat as it was before commercial flights. Into a strange, and often hostile terrain. I can remember as a small child, seeing the signs in front windows, about rooms to rent, but warning no dogs, no coloureds, no Irish…

He and my mother had planned to return Home after 5 years. Instead, their marriage didnt survive. But he remained a constant (saw him 2-3 times a week) presence in my life, and due to both parents’ belief and encouragement (e.g they bought me a complete set of encyclopaedias- which must have cost a fortune at the time. My mother sent me to ballet lessons, despite having only ever seen it on the telly). I got a good education and made the painful journey from poor(ish) working class to professional (lawyer) whilst also developing creative talents. Music (I got a scholarship. Dad reminded me that Yehudi Menuin came to our house to try to persuade them to send me to his music school) Writing (I was for a number of years a performance poet, and got published in a number of anthologies). They didn’t encourage the fashion design, though. That was because they both sewed for a living. Dad was a master tailor, who also designed and made incredible hats.

Coming from a people who slavery had marked, affecting how children were treated -hard physical chastisement was very much the norm, and dreams of future greatness were quashed in the name of pragmatic survival- I was aware that my parents were very different from those of my contemporaries. Openly affectionate, very encouraging.  Dad could never smack me. He’d been beaten so much and so badly as a child.

He used to come back to England every year, stay with us at my house for 2-4 months at a time. Some of my fondest memories, are watching  WCW wrestling and Walker Texas Ranger on a Friday with him, and my son. Then all of us going to the fantastic car boot sale in the school grounds in the street next door on a Saturday, wandering about for hours. We were both car boot junkies. His dry wit, astute observations, and sheer bloody mindedness, his doting on my son, his dearest grandchild who was struggling with a learning disability, made those family times special.

When he stopped coming over every year, our contact was by phone. I was desperate to get him to use skype, but… anyhow, something made me decide I had to go visit him, and I got on a plane after a friend invited me to her wedding in the same country that he was in. It was a shock, when I saw him. He was – finally- old.

He hadn’t become old in his 60s, 70s or even early 80s. But at 89 his spirit, his vitality was gone. I saw it in his eyes. A proud man all his life, he was somehow shrunken in spirit, even though physically he looked at least a decade younger (something i inherited from him). His interest in politics was gone. He spoke very little. He dozed, or was introspective.

As always, his inherent charm and charisma meant that those around him- family, friends, people in the nearby countryside town, even the bloody family pets-still gravitated towards him. I decided to pester him into engaging, saying I’d flown 10,000 miles to see him, so he’d bloody well better talk to me! Which would cause him to snort, and laugh. I cherish the time I had with him on that visit, told him to hang on, that his grandson -who adored him- would be coming to see him early next year (it was summer) My son had not been well enough to travel.

When I said goodbye to him at the airport, I wondered if I would see him again. But that’s something that I used to wonder every year I said goodbye when he used to fly over to visit me.

Six weeks later I got a phone call. Because of the time difference, I knew someone calling me at 8am my time, from the Caribbean, could not be good news. He’d had a heart attack, collapsed and died a few hours before. I just about registered the news, then went numb. I’ve…stayed numb to the grief ever since.

I flew back out for the funeral, and I spoke words at it. But the most important ones I spoke came from my son- still not well enough to travel. What do you want people to know about your grandad? I asked him. I knew it was important to my son to have some input. And the words he gave me to read out, were epic:

“He was wise, funny and supportive. And he was cool, always cool.”

Clyde Bruce Prescod: January 28th 1925 – August 30th 2014

 

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Reflections: Why I Love Libraries

I’ve been addicted to reading, since I taught myself to read- apparently at around age 4.

Growing up the only child of migrant parents, coming home from primary school and letting myself in with the key on the string around my neck by the time I was aged 7, books were my companions, were an entry into the strange new country and culture we’d landed in. They were the opening up of my imagination. I devoured them.

We couldn’t afford to buy books. My parents had enough bills to worry about. They bought newspapers. But they encouraged me. One of them must have filled in my library membership.The other taken me there the first few times. I can just imagine, how big my eyes must have been, the first time I saw all those books!

The librarians in my tiny local library got used to the sight of this determined little, mocha coloured girl, her head full of tiny plaits, bundled up against the cold ( central heating wasnt in homes in Britain yet. And I was a child of the tropics) sitting with her nose buried in a book, taking new ones out, returning read ones.

I must have been one of their best customers. It was near enough to where we lived, for me to walk there and back safely. It was my second home. Especially in the school holidays.  Thank you, Maida Vale library!

Its That….NaNoWriMo Time of the Year!

I’m taking part in Nanowrimo, the international Writefest that exists just to get lazy, undisciplined writers like me to be productive. And feel part of the wider community of hardworking, disciplined writers like you (whoever’s reading this post!). There are great forums on the NaNoWriMo site, and special offers, and useful tips, and very useful writing tools.

Here’s urls to some helpful  tools for writers, that came via NaNo:

Erik Benson created a writing tool that lets you  set a gaol -say 50,000 words in a month like for Nano, add how many words you’ve written each day, which tells you how many days it will take you to reach your goal, charts morale, will calculate how many words you’re writing per hour etc etc. Its set up as an Excel spreadsheet. I dont know how to use Excel, but even I can use this.Latest version is 2011-you’l have to find it via Google, Ive got the 2007 one- but you can change the dates etc:

http://www.book-in-a-week.com/NanoReportCard.xls

Another great spreadsheet wordcount producer is here:
http://svenjaliv.com/spreadsheets-for-2014/
beautifully illustrated steampunk, pirate, fanatsy etc versions

Other writing tools, look here on Stephanie A Cain’s site:
http://www.stephaniecainonline.com/master-post-of-my-favorite-nanowrimo-tools/

And here, on Tracy Lucas’ site:
http://www.tracylucas.net/13-free-writing-tools-meter-tracker-word-counter-widget/606

Let’s get cracking!

PS: I’m adding a NaNoWriMo Widget!

Book Review I did on ‘GoodReads on ‘Twist Me’ by Anna Zaires

I read books. Lots. I’m trying to write books. But…I get distracted. because I’m…reading books. Circular, huh?

Anyhoo. I’m writing, scifi/fantasy. I’m reading…all sorts. And at times I cant resist going over to Goodreads. Looking at readers’ assessment of books. And sometimes, I cant resist doing a review. I’m seeing a worrying trend in romantic/erotic books written for a predominantly female readership. So, here’s one I just did on there.

‘   Alrighty then….
Ladies, we all know we have fantasies. Thats why we read books, right? I mean, we all have days where we daydream that we’d like a little caveman action. A gorgeous, super-dominant guy who just…instantly falls for us and captures us and takes us to his lair, and shags us silly um, discusses world peace. Because.

Hence, books like these.In that regard, this book delivers in spades.
But. Heres the thing.

Ever since Fifty (Shades of G) there’s been a lot of bandwaggon jumping. Writers going ‘Want me some of that 70 million booksales, movie rights action.’ So we get a ton of these post-Fifty books.
Dominant, stalkerish heroes, who are ‘damaged’ and into bdsm. But like with that book, the authors haven’t researched bdsm, and don’t realize that to work, it has to be a) consensual b) genuinely pleasurable for the submissive.

Also, stalking is not the new foreplay.
Also, damaged guys need therapy.

And each author-to get attention/sales- has to push the boundaries further.
So you end up with a book like this: Virginal heroine? Check. Superhandsome (anti)Hero? Check. Stalkerish behaviour? Check. You-are-the-only-one-for-me-I-must-take-you-away-from-everyone-you-know-and-love? Check
And to push it further, we have to get kidnapping, hostage taking, forced/coerced sex, beatings, mind manipulation…you get the picture.

Being ravished on a gorgeous tropical island, having fabulous clothes+food, and the overwhelming attention of Mr ‘I’ve-Got-Too-Much-Goddamn-Testosterone’ is all very well.But it doesn’t really disguise the fact that the heroine, Nora is an abused teen, and the hero,Julian is her abuser.

The sex is well written- thats why I gave it 3 stars. Well written sex is way harder to do than people realize (I’m looking at YOU, Laurel K Hamilton).

The writer has talent. But the basic premise steps over the line by trying to turn a guy who has sociopathic tendencies into a romantic hero. I mean, there’s Heathcliff…and then there’s this m@*&ker.

Srsly. Is this a thing, now???? ‘

Reflections of a Cinema Goer

Its so long since I’ve posted a blog entry, Im trying this as a warm up.  A form of writing that is easy for me. A film review.I happened to see a film I saw several years ago in the cinema. Van Helsing.

Watching it on DVD brought it all back.

I remember, my Movie Buddy ™ had been looking forward to seeing it. I had been lukewarm. I mean, I like Hugh jackman, and all. His talent is huge. Most of us who saw him in Xmen didn’t know he was actually a star of stage musicals.

No, liked him, but wasn’t confident as to whether the film would be any good- the trailer didn’t thrill.

 But, I went. And the film was a huge disappointment. HUGE.

Now, it wasn’t Hugh Jackman’s fault. Hugh Jackman was doing his Hugh Jackman thing. Which meant he was awesome.

And, it wasn’t Kate Beckinsale’s fault.

Now, I like Kate Beckinsale. I think she can act. But not in scif fi stuff. Unfortunately, she only has two mode in scifi/horror/fanstasy stuff. Pouty, moody teenager- as in the Underworld series. Or pouty, shouty teenager, with a bad middle European accent. As in Van Helsing. Though, when I saw how tight they made her clothes in that, I instantly understood the character’s bad mood.

 Between the basque like belt, and the thigh high, high heeled boots? Pfft! Can we say impractical for vampire hunting? Or even for shopping in Tesco’s for that matter. No woman would go out armed with weaponry to take down supernatural beings, in gear like that. Only a guy, who reads online fetish ‘zines would design something like that.

 But Kate B wasn’t the reason this film falls in the ‘So bad, its..BAD!’ category, as opposed to the ‘So bad, its GOOD!’ category, that it should have been.

Its because of Dracula.

Now, call me old fashioned, but I like my draculas in films to be scary. Or it they cant be scary, to be intense in a camp way, so I can make derisive noises and throw popcorn at the screen. But either way, the actor’s performance should keep me in his film.

 But here, that didn’t happen. Here I kept being jolted out of the film. I kept being distracted. At key moments, my mind went off what was being said on screen. And its wardrobes fault. They should have fired the costume designer.

Because Dracula, all dark haired, hooded eyes, ludicrous eastern European accent as he should be, had his long hair held back with… barrettes. Barrettes, people! That is, little girl hair ornaments! Clipped in the sides!

For real!

So, the entire film I was distracted.

Every time the guy playing Dracula appeared, I wasn’t having a frisson of unease. Or an enjoyable moment of sneering at the campery. I was distractedly muttering ‘…but why is Dracula wearing barrettes in his hair’ And I’m sorry, but no credible villain leaves his house, of a morning, with his hair like that.

Dracula would come on. And I wouldn’t be thinking ‘Oh nos! What will he be doing to Van Helsing? What is his nefarious plan?’ or even,

‘Sheesh! Is he clichéd or what?’

No, I’d be sitting with my mouth open going,

‘Dude! They’ve got Dracula with  ****ing barrettes in his hair! Really? REALLY?’

And Id completely miss a plot point.

This had me in its grip the entire film, had me in thrall.

Up to now, I couldn’t tell you about the climactic fight between Van Helsing and Dracula. Just whether the hair clips survived the smack down.

Tragic.

 Months later, if someone were to ask me about the film, I didn’t go

‘Hugh Jackman, all badass with a crossbow!’ or ‘Kate Beckinsale! Every dodgy ethnic stereotype of Transylvanean accents you can imagine! Whilst wearing a basque!’ but would clutch the person and say solemnly

‘They had Dracula wearing barettes! They had the world’s most notorious vampire wearing school girl clips in his hair! Can you believe it?’ And we would both shudder.

So, yeah.

Van Helsing.

A New piece of writing Up: And hello to NaNoWriMo!

A new piece of writing is up on my free fiction page, a reflective piece, called ‘Saturday Women’. Its a small recollection, about the women I remember from my childhood. I’m still learning Twitter, still learning how WordPress works, and finding out what I need to know, so I can launch a Kindle novel on the world as soon as possible!

Boy, I’ve had a steep learning curve.🙂 I have to give a big shout out to John Locke. Both as someone whose writing helps entertain and relax me as a reader when I come home from work. And as a person who gives some good advice to new writers on how to get ahead in the self-publishing world. Check him out here http://lethalbooks.com/.

Over the next few days, I’ll be engaging in NaNoWriMo. A National Novel Writing Competition, – actually, international- 50,000 words in 30 days. Its fun, being participated in writers all around the world, its free. If you want to find out more, well…http://www.nanowrimo.org/

Keep watching my Free Fiction page. Follow me on Twitter!@MarshaPrescod (hee! Now I know what that actually means)