April May June

IMG_0204-0Hello. This is Mike. Auntie Doris’s ruddy stupid nephew. I have not let her manifest herself this week, because I wanted to talk to you without her feeling the need to put her two penn’orth in.
I wanted to talk to you about April May, Doris’s younger sister. Doris has told a few stories about April May in her time, and dropped a few hints too. Half of them are just her blend of fantasy, romance and nonsense. I learned to take everything she says with a pinch of salt shortly after she contacted me from the other side. I expect that anyone who has read much of her ramblings has come to the same understanding.
Doris and I have an agreement by which we change the names and circumstances of many of the people we talk about, to protect the innocent. We have altered the details of some people a lot, and others just a little. April May is our name for a woman called June. (Do you see what we did there?) June is Doris’s younger sister (never mind anything else she might suggest.) She is also my mother.
June shares a lot of characteristics with Auntie Doris; a no nonsense approach to everything, an unwillingness to suffer fools gladly, a determination to do things in her own way, on her own terms, and a brilliant, colourful East Riding of Yorkshire way of speaking, full of quirky phrases and funny put downs. Only the other day, she was telling me that someone was “no more use than a weightless rag.” Brilliant!
She is also similar to Doris in her good humour and real care for people beneath the tough “front.” I told her about my new relationship with her deceased sister, and she enjoyed the humour of it, and loved looking at photographs of Doris’s little ‘clairvoyant performances’ through me, and hearing about, sometimes even helping with the little stories that Doris tells.
Cyril is another character in those stories. He is April May’s husband, and my dad. Cyril is his real name, I couldn’t change that detail. He repaired watches rather than radios and televisions though. And he was no relation to anyone from Doris’s side of the family before he married my mother. But changing his position in the family allowed us to bring his brothers, Bernard and John into the story earlier in the century than would have been possible otherwise.
Cyril met June in 1960, he was a handsome 29 year old with a fashionable brylcreemed quiff, and she was a petite, dark haired beauty who was a star of the ladies darts team at the pub they both drank in. He married her that December, a month or so after her mother died. He then moved into the house that she had lived in since 1945 when she had been ten years old. A house that she has lived in ever since. I am travelling towards that house now, as I write this.
Cyril has lived in a residential home for the past few years. His mind is wandering a bit. More than a bit of the truth be known. Sometimes he is with us in 2014 and June is his wife. Sometimes he is back in the 1940s and June is his mother. Or he could be at any time in between and she could be either, but he still loves her. And she still loves him. Like she has done for the past 54 years. Theirs is an amazing love story, and I am proud to be a witness to it.
June was 79 this year, and even though old, frail and often ill, she has visited him in that home almost every day, often walking the half mile or so, in all kinds of weather. She would have kept him at home and cared for him there if she could have managed to, but she always has been that petite woman, and it takes some strength and effort to look after him these days.
Determined, devoted, good humoured, witty, beautiful, and loving. What a privilege to have a mother like that.
And why am I telling you this? Because I feel that, through my Auntie Doris, you already know something about my family. And because you are the sort of person who reads this far. I feel that I know you. So I want to share things with you.
My mother, June, referred to by her sister as April May, died on Monday morning. She had been ill for some time but was determined to tough it out, carry on as normal, and make as little fuss as possible. She died in that house that she had lived in for 69 years. She died with her daughter Sue (Pamela) looking after her as she has done for a long time now. Of course, I am devastated. But I have special insider knowledge. She lives on, just as my Auntie Doris does, in a better place, where Cyril, Sue and I will see her again someday, before we all move on into The Meld.
I know that this is true. Because Auntie Doris told me. And she wouldn’t go filling her nephew up with a load of old tripe. She’s not that kind of a person at all, deep down.
None of our family are. We just like stories.


Auntie Doris’s Road to Publication #5: Searching for the Sweetcorn


Writing is easy. As far as I am concerned. Or at least it has been since I passed over to the other side. All I have to have is an idea and off I go. Manifesting myself in the body of my nephew Michael, I just sit him down in front of his computer and the words just flow out. I don’t hold with all this “I can’t think of any ideas” lark either. Everyone’s heads are crammed full of ideas. Aren’t they?  They must be having ruddy thoughts otherwise they wouldn’t exist. It’s standard Cartesian philosophy: “I think therefore I am.” Therefore if you don’t think, you’re not. Seeing as you are, you must be thinking. So all you have to do is write down what you are thinking.  Don’t worry about waiting for the first thought that comes into your head. You had it ages ago. You are already thinking. Write that down. And away you go.

Clever clogs Michael calls that “Stream of Consciousness.” I don’t care if it’s a stream of pittle. All the best writers agree; write it down, and you can edit it later.

And that’s where the ruddy problem arises. If you get into the habit of relieving yourself of that stream in front of the computer, sitting down and letting it flow once a day for a long period of time, you end up with a right ruddy sackload of writing. And a lot of it will be shite. But within the shite there will be a few golden kernels of sweetcorn. If you are a particularly wise and knowledgeable person like me, there will be quite a few golden kernels of sweetcorn, but even I produce a fair amount of shite just to squeeze those kernels out. Searching for the sweetcorn is quite a task.

When you do finally decide that it is time to edit, you suddenly realise that you have set yourself a bit of a task. I am not saying that I have bitten off more than I can chew. Far from it. I always was a good chewer, ever since I got my National Health dentures in the 1940s. But it is a real chew, with loads of gristle, and one or two bones to pick out if you don’t want them to get stuck in your throat.

(I am so good at them metaphor things me, I hardly ever get them mixed either. With my hand on the steering wheel I can drive any Clapham Omnibus you like all the way down the Grand Union Canal. And you can put that in your pipe and smoke it!)

Any road. My first thought when faced with all that editing was to just let my nephew get on with it. After all, he is the one who is supposed to have gone to university. But I had overlooked one important factor. He is bone idle and the world’s expert at avoiding anything difficult. That’s why he hasn’t got much further than about 1903 over the last five weeks. So it looks like I am going to have to do more than just give him a boot up the back passage. I am going to have to take on some of the work myself. I should have known. If you want a job doing properly, ask a ruddy woman!

So… If there are any writers out there who follow the rule “write it all down and edit it later” and have a few tips and whatnots for the editing process. I would be grateful for the assistance. I will return the favour with a few of my own tips and whatnots for writing shite with extra sweetcorn.