Shadow play

The last couple of days have been extradorinarily busy. I started out for Paris at 1.50am on Thursday morning but as I had been unable to fall asleep when I went to bed at 9pm on the Wednesday evening, I got up again at midnight and just pottered quietly around the house. I’d got up at 7am on Wednesday; you need to remember that. There will be a test.

We were driven to our meeting point at a service station on the way into London where we met our coaches and then on to the school. We departed the school at around 6.30am for Dover. I’m not going to talk about the journey much, because it was pretty uneventful. When we finally made it to Paris, we went immediately to the river and embarked on a short cruise with commentary. When this was over, we rejoined the insane Paris traffic and made our way to the hotel. We were running late at this point and it was a rush to get keys given out, bags dumped in rooms and down to dinner. I have a distinct suspicion we ate horse but I really don’t care and I certainly didn’t voice  any thoughts on that score. Now at this point all the kids were tired and really ready to just settle down to bed. It was after 10pm, after all. But no. We then piled back on the coaches for a trip round Paris by night. Very pretty and all that but I was almost dead on my feet. We got back to the hotel at around midnight. I did all the usual things and fell into my less than perfect bed at 12.45. By this stage, I’d been on the go since the previous morning…so over 40 hours without sleep. Let’s just put it like this: be glad I am not a junior houseman at a hospital. I’d have killed someone if I had been, no malice but I just wasn’t thinking straight. Or walking straight for that matter. I was punch-drunk and wired, all at the same time.

My alarm was set for 6.30, and I fell out of bed and got up and ready. By the time we were back on the coaches and en route for the Eiffel Tower, I was awake enough to begin the day. That’s when the trouble started.

I shall write more about the Eiffel Tower another time, but if you’ve read the poem Shadow Puppet, you may have a clue what was happening to me.

I think I was on the mic when it started. I think I was probably talking about Napoleon. You know when you’re in a big crowded room and you have an awareness of there being people behind you, talking in soft voices. You hear your own name mentioned and try as you might, you can’t help listening in. It was a bit like that.  Not literally voices. Just a kind of sound track. On repeat. Talking to me and talking about me. It’s hard to explain.

All the dark thoughts I have ever had seemed to have found a gang to hang out in and exchange ideas and thoughts. Critical words, self doubt, you name it, it was there, whispering away, pouring poison onto me.

I carried on with Napoleon. I metaphorically put my fingers in my ears: “lalalalala….I’m not listening!” But part of me was. Some of it was easier to ignore than other parts. The bits I found hardest were the voices that were telling me I was a fool to even think I could make it as a writer, that everyone was laughing at me secretly for publishing a book. The ones that were telling me I can’t write and no one is interested, they got the deepest blood.

Of course, I had better things to think about that dealing with this shadowy angst, like how in God’s name was I going to get myself up the Eiffel Tower when I am truly terrified of heights. Probably this was what stopped me from giving way to despair at this point. I swallowed down the tears I could feel forming and made myself get on with the day.

But when I woke up on Saturday morning, the house empty and my head pounding with the remnants of tiredness, the voices were there again. I must reiterate, I don’t mean literal voices; I may be slightly less sane than is considered normal but I don’t hear actual voices. I’m going to have to deal with them and I simply do not know how I can. I carry on and ignore the things that go through my head, like a background noise to the narrative of my life.

I can multi-task, for sure, but maybe one day, this task is going to demand more than a quick once-over.

Shadow Puppet


Shadow puppet


The shadows are there

Even when the sun shines

Even when there’s a smile on my face

The shadows are there

Even when everything seems fine

Even when I can see nothing but light

The shadows speak in dusty voices

Soft as the ghosts of feathers

With spines of steel and bones of ice

Cutting to the heart of my dreams

They speak with poison and sugar

With a kindness that kills

The shadows are there

Taking the joy from me

Spoiling the daylight

Thunder clouds on a summer

Threatening me with war

I push them back with patient hands

To the deepest corner of my mind

And let them whisper their dreadful lies

I’ll deal with them another time.











Me and my shadow in Paris


I had a thought; there’s a new Dan Brown due out in a few weeks time. The Lost Symbol, I believe it’s called.

I went to Paris for work last summer and took the following photo while walking round the outside of the Louvre; time didn’t permit entry. I was trying to capture the inverted pyramid where Dan Brown asserted Mary Magdalene’s remains were buried. I only got a good photo of my shadow.

But that’s the way of it. In trying to capture certain things, we see our shadow more clearly than anything else.