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Safe Space

The girl you once were never leaves entirely. Sometimes you catch a brief reflection of her walking past a mirror, glancing sideways as you move. It’s often an early morning, late night, veins thrumming with alcohol, kind of thing. 

And there are moments you stop in your tracks, shed the defences, the battered hide and social graces of adulthood as you look her in the eye. 

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The following day was my birthday. I would be five. Daddy had said that, as I was now a big girl he had decided I was old enough to get a very special present. I wondered what on earth it could possibly be. I thought and thought. I loved my dolls and the miniature cot that Dad had made for me. I neither needed nor wanted another doll. Mummy let me use the pretty little china tea set that had been hers when she was little and my cousin had given me her dolls' pram.

What could it be?

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Scissor Sisters

People say objects live somewhere, as in ‘the cups live in the cupboard’ but Lucy felt that her dolls could never ‘live’ anywhere, not even as objects. Four dolls, each an unwelcome gift, but still she kept on being given them. 

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Two leagues south from the knotted garden gate

a verdant ocean of occasionally cut grass

ebbed gently, to the main road – Stroud Road.

Upon such a swell one felt small, exposed, but never


adrift. We played football: full-blooded battles with no quarter given.

We played cricket: its mysteries revealed by an English castaway.

We played golf: Dad’s ‘borrowed’ iron, heaved like a cutlass,

with hands blistered and siblings pressganged as caddies.


On windy days, kites flapped and rippled like brightly coloured flags

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I can’t decide … was it one big moment or was it a series of small ones that woke me to my disillusion?

I never questioned, I never stopped to think, I just did what you told me to do as we sat on the thin metal strip that constitutes a bench. Despite the bus shelter being new, the air inside it still hangs with the stale odour of old rubbish and an accumulation of bodily odours.

'Don't zip your jumper that high,' my big brother scolds, grabbing the zip of my fleece and undoing it completely.

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‘Be not another, if thou canst be thyself.’ (Paracelsus)

I have always loved tales of successful forgery, of duped experts, of artistry overcoming authority. Although admiring the audacity of triumphant fakers, I felt no urge to join their ranks. Then, whilst reading Peter Ackroyd’s 1987 novel, Chatterton, I experienced an epiphany which resolved a professional snag.

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SHE hated me.

I could hear her steps struggling to keep up with mine. She had to choose between walking and speaking. Following me, frantically muttering breathless threats, but I could hear the fear in her voice. The acid fear that corrodes and distorts the voice was making her speak in a high-pitched tone. 

“Stop it!” She kept saying, and the more I heard it, the faster I walked. I was almost running up the last flight of stairs that led to the head’s office.

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Sick Insurrection

The USSR’s economy was in decline and failing. Even tourism was being encouraged to help build up the GDP. Intourist, the official travel agency, was organising cheap holidays. 

The air hostesses, as we still called them then, were big burly women, the embodiment of the state and geared only to delivering its requirements. The state was always right. Any customer who disagreed was wrong.

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Silent Vigil

“Mon the burgers!”

“D’you want a bacon roll while you wait?”

Cars honked at us continually as they hurried past. We received a couple of thumbs up. Even one friendly wave. I felt so bitter by then, however, that the few scattered smiles seemed insincere.

The residents of the flats opposite stared down at us unrelentingly. They must’ve thought we were completely mad, standing out there in the grim grey rain, but I stared right back. I’d much rather be outside getting drenched than living across the road from a slaughterhouse.

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animal rights, activism


What you rebelling against?

What you got?

It’s May Day 2018 and I’ve just tweeted the Scottish Book Trust to say that today’s the perfect day to start writing my Rebel story. I get a tweet of encouragement back and we’re off. 

This invitation has come at the perfect time as I seek ways back into writing after years rebelling against it. I really wanted to be a writer when I was young and got as far as an interview for a trainee journalist post at The Scotsman newspaper but not got the job.

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