Words to stories

Words matter. As much as we may tell children that it’s only sticks or stones that have power, the truth is that words are loaded with it. It is why we love listening to stories so much. It is the reason that companies pay millions to advertisers to craft the perfect copy. It is why the words smother or strangle makes us shudder but the sound of ‘I love you’ makes us tingle. Yes, words matter.

Storytelling is recognised in every society across the world regardless of ethnicity, gender, religion, sexuality, or disability. They are a way of making sense of our cultural roots or identity, and an insight into the social reality we live in at this moment.

Life events, news, and stories that we share on social media enable us to share insights and enhance mutual understanding in a social, political, psychological and spiritual sense. We do not become any less by sharing; it can be therapeutic to give a voice to feelings that hurt us, make others consider something with fresh eyes or ears, and let another know they are not alone in their battles.

However, it can also leave us feeling vulnerable or even angry when someone question something we take for granted or never considered from another perspective, as can feel like a direct hit at something that is special to us.

This is because stories are part of the fabric of who we are, but only in sharing our life experiences do we develop a sense of self. After all, individuals are necessarily social. Stories cultivate the frequently forgotten yet uniquely human traits that are crucial in building solidarity.

For together we are stronger, and can drive out darkness, deafening those that spread fear and hate.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Memories

Memories are curious things, one song or smell and we are taken back to a time or event that is just a something from our past. I sit writing this in Aberdeen, at the campus of the university I attended for degree and first masters and finished almost fifteen years ago, but it is like a different world from my time at the university as now based by the River Dee as a very modern single site campus not spread out over the city. I have have visited twice briefly since my time living here, once for a job interview eleven years ago and seven years ago for a gig, making memories of the city mostly from when I lived here before.

Upon arrival by coach, just as I had when I first visited Aberdeen to an university open day in early 1997 the city’s grey stood out, it is not nicknamed the ‘granite city’ for nothing, one could say it had fifty shades of grey before it was cool! I wandered briefly around before taking the bus to my current destination with a mix of memories that flooded back and new ones being made. Sites like the Music Hall and His Majesty’s Theatre that brought back music to my ears from concerts to musicals I attended there and others that had been the soundtrack to my days living there. Street names jumped out in my memory of the events that took place on them, Market and Union Streets and others such as South Silver Street I finally knew the name of. I laughed upon seeing a bar called The Grill on Union Street that famously did not have a woman’s toilet until 1998 (it did not allow women at all until 1975) and smiled on remembering my project management lecturer saying he’d be propping up the bar if needed help with his course.

Shops and bars that were like friends but now had changed but not gone either; Ottakers bookshop where I sat many a Saturday afternoon with a tea and book is now Waterstones, and Triple Kirks the pub which was a firm favourite of many studying at Schoolhill and St Andrew’s Street without its pew seats. This in turn reminded me of an event forever ingrained in my memory – my friends doing a pub crawl with a 6ft inflatable alien called Hilary, who did it all from karaoke with Fraser to Iain’s attempts to keep it blown up before either Ewan or Rich put their cigarette out on it until they were no more. Nobody knew if Hilary was meant to be male or female, perhaps they were truly gender fluid before we mentioned such things as do now. There are also many statues in the city centre such as Edward VII and William Wallace but it is the lion war memorial that is the one I remember most as forever an almost unspoken right of passage by students in the near by Woolmanhill halls of residence to ride the lion during their fresher’s year when drunk (no reader alas I never did).

I come back to the university and sat in what is now where students would go to learn similar to I had in my day. One friend from my student days remained here and is now a lecturer. I had went to see the university library, which in my time had been a subject specific one in my part of the campus and remembered someone sneaking in fish and chips to it! I usually hid in the jurnal section so not to be disturbed but in later years  Alex and MC joined me with MC’s pile of biscuits and donuts that never got even a tut from the librarians! Computers around everywhere for students to use where as we had a few open access rooms in the building and one specifically for us within Applied Sciences; giggling at the thought of a lecturer searching for water sports but got the wrong kind, which led to a firm talk at the start of every year on being careful when surfing the internet. I thought of people I had known then and those I have contact with now, how life had panned out for us and what we expected it to.

Recently I read something that said our past is just stories we tell ourselves in the present, and being back in Aberdeen made that statement feel so very true. All the memories I have sat writing about are just stories of the five years I lived here, the city has changed but so had I in so many positive ways, equally there are many parts that remained just the same and can say the same of myself. The past may make us who we are now but the present is all we truly ever have, for the future is a whisper and not a promise. We do not skip to the end of a book to see what happens in the end, we take it page by page just as life is a page in the book of our life. Finally, life should be led like a piece of music, it can only be truly enjoyed in one direction with all that it brings with it, and dancing the rhythm of our life not anyone else.

© Fi S. J. Brown

My story

Why are those things you admire most in others the hardest to find within yourself?
No matter matter how hard I try I am destined to be the one left unsold on the shelf.

I’m tired of endless searching high and low for what seems to be hidden from sight,
My place is stood shadows not to be hogging front of stage under a big spotlight.

For my expectations of life are not all that great with no dreams fame and fortune,
But a simple life with a job, dog and house by the sea with less tears and misfortune.

I watched the others flying, rising and soaring far and wide in the sunrise at dawn,
Perhaps I am meant to fly at night with the moon when the world is full of yawn?

For now I need to keep believing it again repeating the words that they taught,
And I’ll have to keep being patient, waiting a bit more and finalised my story’s plot.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Jack

Jack was a farmer’s son, sensitive and kind to all he met. One day he was sat in the corner of the hay barn, eating his lunch of curds and whey, when a spider appeared and made young Jack jump. His twin sister Jill was eating lunch with him, laughed at her brother, pointing at him for being so silly and started to call him “Little Miss Muffet”. For he was in her eyes the little girl not the boy for she was the one that climbed the trees and helped father with the animals, he preferred to be inside with their mum and make cakes. This made young Jack cry and run out the barn, hating the spider and his sister for hurting him so, he thought one day they’ll see I’m a brave boy.

That afternoon Jill suggested they climb hill near by, Jack usually said no but thought I’ll show her that I truly am a boy and will climb it with her. So together they set off with a pail to fetch some water for the farm. Jack loved all he saw and heard, suddenly a gust of wind caught his legs and sent him tumbling down, bumping his head as he did, with Jill tumbling down beside him. On arriving home Jack’s mum sent him straight to bed with a bandage of vinegar and brown paper upon his head. As he slept the vinegar leaked through the paper to his brain, for the next day Jack was changed bitter and angry to the spider that frightened him, his sister for laughing at him and the hill for falling, he would make them pay not just now but forever.

The older Jack got the more and more people became frightened to utter his name, even a simple “Hi Jack” led to an exchange many were keen to avoid. It was rumoured he murdered people in London but that was never proven it was really him at all although known for being a lad. On his death he vowed he would haunt the world from beyond, which he continues to do even now. He points a finger unseen by the naked eye but makes all it touches dance in a shiver; the innocence he lost he uses to paint the world in a white rage; making all slip and fall like he did on that hill; and freezing all like statues for they dare not mock him like his sister did or they will end up as one.

This winter we all see and feel Jack’s revenge upon all of Planet Earth cursing his name, which gives him great delight. However, just remember spring time will come soon and will make him retreat for a few months for his angry and jealous heart and mind cannot deal with the true beauty of spring flourishing and life being born a new. His revenge shows us that our actions at all ages have consequences and can have impact beyond our lifetimes. Revenge does not pay for it only hurts others and karma will have it bounce back our way. So do not be angry and bitter as Jack at the world, the world owes us nothing and hurting those closest to us hurts us too. So embrace the world with a loving heart filled with empathy and understanding, for even the most frozen of hearts can melt with love.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Dystopian Dreams

Wandering around the city, passing the financial district, I am suddenly aware 0f how closed in I feel. The invisible walls close in around me like a scene from a movie from which I must escape. My chest tightens and the claustrophobic air suffocating. Others walk around blindly with their heads in their mobile phones or holding a take away coffee from some global company. I look for some trees but the only ones I see are like standing twigs, as naked due to winter. I feel all is spinning and shaking around me as all at once it hits me what a world I am truly living in. Tears fall from my face as I fall to my knees and I realise there is no way to really ever escape from it all.

More and more we’re choosing to living in cities, far from the nature as more things to do and easier to get to/from work. The title of a British television show “Escape to the country” flurries through my mind; it is like escaping from these concrete cages that we call cities, trapping us in like we have already to other animals in the name of food from chickens to cows. Fracking I can only see degrading our beautiful countryside, so the only option left is to be like the cows that no longer chew on the fresh green fields but forced to live in these concrete mega cities like the mega dairies I campaigned against coming to the United Kingdom only a few years ago now.

I realise that within a few of generations we will not know the ways of nature, it will be something grandparents talk of till nobody left ever remembers them at all. I recall meeting a man of twenty five from London that had never saw a sheep till the day we met, it hits me twice as hard remembering it. Gradually more and more conversation is dying, people reach for “friends” that live inside the goods they have bought and showing off with “look at me”. This leads to people wanting more and more, but cannot afford, and feel the world owes them. Food prices will increase too and people will end up fighting like I saw on images from Black Friday over manufactured food.

I resolve to spend as much time as I can with the world outside the city walls. Where I can climb hills to see it all, listen to the songs of birds, admire the beauty of the flowers that mark my path and know there is something else out there beyond the cages. I wonder if this is what it is like to finally wake from the sleep beyond the endless sleeps, as how do I know I am truly awake? Like an onion the more I peel back to try find the ultimate answer, but like Dorothy I find the wizard is no more than a fraud. Suddenly, I notice an evergreen tree in my line of sight, I do not care who sees me now, as I run up and hug him like an old friend and whisper to him “thank you, always”.

© Fi S. J. Brown

A Samhain Story

The trees are aflame with red, orange and yellow across the land, for today marks the Samhain ball. All season long the deciduous trees have prepared for this day, changing their leaves in celebration. All because today signals the end of the year to the natural world, as a new year starts tomorrow and will winter begin her song, a bittersweet and tearful lament.

Some humans spend the day in celebration of their ancestors past and those who left this year, making bonfires to match the glow from the trees, feasting and dancing till dawn to bring in the new year. Others dress up in costumes from witches to vampires and ghosts to trick or treat the neighbours with a song or dance, hoping to be rewarded for their efforts.

Whilst other animals, from squirrels to turtles and bears are also busy today, running around making their last minute plans as with the coming of winter marks the start of their deep sleep. All fear the laughter of Jack Frost, a hollow chill that freezes all that hear it and they don’t want it to be them he turns to ice forever. Remember nothing is safe from his laughter.

However, to keep the world is safe, some trees remain green, the evergreens. They act as the world’s guard from Jack Frost’s laughter, protecting all from hills and rivers, to pigs and horses who choose not to sleep but stay awake, is it insomnia or choice it is uncertain. As humans choose to carry on, till they realise even they are not immune to his laugh.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Memories of Plavecky Hrad

Plavecky HradDeparting from the village with a stream and air of times past I began my ascent. My journey was joined by cornflowers, clovers and cowslips marking a path with flashes of blue, purple and yellow lights to guide my feet to the edge of a forest.On entering the forest it was like I had completed level one of a secret test to locate the castle. The climb now because very steep and enclosed by trees, which were trying to prepare for their autumnal ball or awaiting a Prince Charming for a dance. Steeper and steeper every step seemed, I felt like I was missing an equine friend to enjoy the journey together. I stopped five times to rest and refresh, with each one my legs felt like they were climbing Everest five times over such was the distance and steepness climbed.

Then level two cleared as the ruins first caught my eyes and I felt at one with those who had made the journey before me. The light of the sun caught the remains of every window to the highest tower, giving each one their moment in the spotlight. The view with a hazy filter caught my breath, it then felt like it was that which covered my view. Through the haze were fifty shades of green, like soldiers standing guard over the land. The human settlement that shares the land appeared to be singing nature’s songs along with her, a far cry from the fifty shades of grey that I often saw back home. I then saw a solitary tree beside where I stood, he whispered in the wind he now guarded this view, which once human had; Mother Nature told him it was the most important role in all the land, so he took great pride in his work. Then I returned to the remains of the castle which glowed in the sun, almost showing off medals of past victories against an enemy now nowhere to be seen or heard. Looking out of her ruined windows was like looking into her soul and how much the view had long been part of her; she was as much part of the land as the tree who guarded her.

The descent felt like I was on fast forward, although watching for branches and roots with every step, the steepness seemed almost to have been a mirage, perhaps it really had been part of a test to see if I was worthy of rescuing a princess, which in this case was the castle herself. Soon I was met by the floral friends I met on my my ascent, who I felt were cheering my way for seeing what few of them ever could or would. My final step down was accompanied by the rushing of the stream, almost applauding and toasting me on behalf of the village as I had seen their princess. On meeting the mayor of the village I felt like I was meeting a relative or colleague of the tree in human form, a foot soldier at the the bottom of the hill. I smiled as I now knew a secret that the world did not of this village and her castle, which I then realised were twins as there would not be one without the other.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Sciurus and Me

Today I walked in the late summer sun, the leaves were chatting to each other to discuss the forthcoming autumnal ball and the birds were busy packing their bags for the journey to the south. As I looked to my left I saw a flash of grey dart past, which then settled down in front of me, as my eyes caught up they saw it was a squirrel. I swear he smiled before he was off again. I followed with my eyes and ears where he ran, up the nearest beech tree to the top, then looking down to see if I was watching him, he paused for just a few seconds but unlike an Olympic diver he did not jump off but run back down the tree and paused again to see if I would ever catch him with my camera lens or not.

Instead of running he teased me walking slowly through the grass, posing briefly in the sun before running off once again up a tree. This time he chose a sycamore, going through a hole then stuck his head out from it, like a small child it felt like he was sticking his tongue out at me. As I went to take his picture, again he disappeared. Soon I felt a brush by my feet, as I spun round into the distance between to oaks I saw he’d run. He stopped again, but this time was to say goodbye. I held out my left hand aloft and waved his way but he was gone again for his next adventure. I hope one day we’ll meet again, even if we do not, I know I will always remember our all but brief encounter.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Sciurus

The Phoenix’s Story

In my hands lies the shattered remains of a vase,
Each piece pierced my skin to reveal a red blaze.
My tears fall to try put the fire but it is now a river,
Which sends my legs and arms into a deep shiver.
The fragments I cradle like a sick child needing aid,
As I fall to my knees all around me begins to fade.
Like a tree in the forest nobody hears the sound,
Of having a breakdown when lost but not found.

I wake with no sign of the vase pieces to be seen,
No scars or cuts showed where they’d once been.
Starting to rock in the position of a newborn baby,
I cry out for help from the walls in a muted plea.
I feel like a rock that has fallen down from a cliff,
Pushed over the edge after yet another miff.
As I move I realise I am the vase that shattered,
I wish I’d not been born a of glass but like a bird.

How do you mend a broken glass I ask of myself,
I have nothing left to read on the old bookshelf.
Stumbling to my feet I decide maybe once more,
The phoenix within me then rises so I can soar.
I laugh as I feel the wings that I never knew I had,
I will cope now with whatever in life makes me sad.
Three words I write on my left wrist to remember,
“Believe it again” they say and be my life’s anchor.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Phoenix vase

 

The number 11

Everyday I travel by bus, people young and old, filled with their stories to tell. Each one deserves to be heard, as to not stop and listen may mean never meeting that new partner or friend, to give hope to a strange that feels that nobody cares about them, or maybe a favourite teacher who’s teaching years past lay the foundations of today.

Sat beside me is a little girl of around seven. Her hair is blonde like Cinderella, and falls all over her face like a waterfall. It is her pink shoes that draw my eyes as have a name all over them, not a designer one I recognise. I discover Rachel herself did the writing. From then on she became Princess Rachel of the pink sandals.

Behind us are two older ladies talking of all the South Edinburgh gossip they know. Did Elizabeth know that Simon’s wife just gave birth to twins, no Margaret did not but she had heard the sad news that Nancy had died. They both remark on what a lovely lady Nancy was and recall one time at the Assembly Rooms they all went dancing.

It is now tourist season, so at the very front are the tourists sitting with at least two maps of the city centre that do not show where they are now. Frantically checking with guide books and mobile phones, where they are and where do they get off they cry! As if by magic five strangers ask them at once can they help and where are they going.

A group of three school boys sit to my right. Each eagerly showing off their knowledge of football, which seems far greater than any pundits’ script I have ever heard on television. One knowing that it was some Ukrainian, with an unpronounceable name, had now scored twenty four times this season for some obscure sounding Spanish team.

A girl with the fake tan, yes the older ladies noticed her too, talking loudly on her phone to her friend Stacey that she is on the bus now. It is not just the fake tan and shouting making the ladies tut, but her fake eyelashes and nails, and less clothing on than most of us wear at bed times. I can only say for me she is brave to do so in this climate.

Three seats down are two men singing, it would not be an Edinburgh bus journey without a drunk or two. Like all storytellers of days now long gone, they sing their sad laments, including the wife of one who ran off with their mate and taking the kids with her, and another wishing they were both still young in body as well as in their hearts and minds.

There is a lady of around my age who I meet eyes with as I go to ring the bell to depart. The empath in me reads her face like it is screaming out in hidden tears and pain. I send her a smile, to give her hope, and send light to shine wherever darkness or pain is hurting so. Sadly, I get an unwanted grimace not a smile back. Still cannot help everyone.

Now it is time for me to depart from what is but a snapshot of life in this city and it’s people. A journey filled with stories, people and events that will never be repeated the same way again; this is a bus not a time machine. Their stories may get repeated in years to come or forgotten in the mists of time, but that moment was shared by each of us.

© Fi S. J. Brown