Café Crem

Art, Music and Words around The Coffee Table

Someone’s watching me (a short story)

Someone’s watching me….

 

   As I turn onto Great Russell Street, the whole of Bloomsbury behind me seems to echo with my footsteps. There’s something about frosty nights that seem to make sound travel further and faster and for a second, I am sure that the echo is more than an echo and a second set of footsteps follow at a distance behind me.

   Nothing.

   The immense bulk of the British Museum looms, oddly bereft without the usual hoard of visitors milling around; a faint odour of old fried onions still fills the air as I approach the gates, but the hotdog seller is long gone and maybe the smell is my imagination, like those footsteps. I consider my route for a moment, and turn back a little and head along Museum Street.

   Click clack click clack…my heels would strike sparks if I walked any faster; little Segs nailed into them to slow the inevitable wear. I’ve only got one good pair of shoes for going out and they cost me far too much to let them wear down as quickly as they will otherwise do. I can’t bear seeing girls wearing heels that are half worn and uneven, stumbling because of the poor grip. I’d much rather wear good running shoes but out in my glad rags, they don’t exactly go, if you know what I mean.

   It’s also cold and I wish I had worn a proper coat instead of this excuse for a jacket. But you have to look the part, and I hadn’t originally intended to be coming home this late or on foot for that matter. I’m not the first girl to walk home because she’s run out of money for a taxi and I won’t be the last. At this time of the morning, the tube is still shut and I’d never go down there alone at night anyway. Brave I may be but I am not either fearless or stupid. Up here, I can hear anyone or see them before they see me. Or at least I think so. Those footsteps are beginning to bother me but it’s late and I’m tired. I worked a long day yesterday (or was it today when I got off shift? Can’t remember now).

   I cut across New Oxford Street and down into Shaftesbury Avenue and think about Shaftesbury the man, and how today’s London would thrill him. None of the dreadful, mind-blowing poverty is left; even our poor are better off than the poor of his day. I’ve gone past the turning for Neal Street now and I curse softly. I want the most direct route and if I continue down Monmouth Street I’ll be funnelled straight down to St Martin’s and Trafalgar Square. If I cut through Neal’s Yard, I’ll be back on track.

  Neal’s Yard is eerily quiet and unnerving; the massive potted trees rattle their twigs at me and I shiver as I pass through. At the other side of the yard, I pause, sure I have heard something, but a small black shape races across the gap and I relax. It’s just a rat; you’re never far from a rat in London (or any city) but you seldom see them by daylight.

   But daylight is a long way off, and I want my bed and I cut across Long Acre and down into Covent Garden. It’s deserted, as you’d imagine, and silent, how you could never imagine it being in the day. Litter blows across the cobbles and I can hear music somewhere. It’s past closing time for just about everywhere, so maybe it’s someone’s car stereo.

  Another rat darts across. Despite the best efforts, food waste attracts vermin and I wait to be sure the rat was alone. Something that might once have been a burger is so mashed into the cobbles; another small black shape detaches itself from its meal and starts to run.

  “Nothing to fear from me, mate,” I say, and begin to walk again.

  There’s traffic noise now coming from The Strand, but only intermittent and again I am certain I can hear footsteps. I still myself as I walk, willing myself to be calm and to listen. I’m going slower now, even though as my heartbeat begins to race I want to break into a run.

   Yes.

   There is indeed someone behind me, maybe thirty yards or maybe a bit more. They are keeping pace with me, keeping out of sight in the shadows. Oh crap. Whoever it is he (or she, because I can’t see them) is very good at this. When I stop, they stop. No wonder I thought it an echo. As I round the corner and come close to the shuttered Jubilee Market, I know that whoever it is will have to cross the open space and be visible, so I take the road next to the Market and walk down very fast till I get to the Strand, where the lights are brighter and there is a little traffic.

  It’s not a lot of use really, because as soon as I get there, I know that I can’t even hail a taxi. I have about thirty pence in my purse, and no means of getting more, so I can’t even say, “Take me to a cash point!”. I’ll just have to hope that my follower is slower than I am. I can run pretty fast if I need to, but in these shoes? I don’t think so.

  I cross the Strand and take the alley between buildings. I can sense someone behind me, the other side of the road but I’m damned if I give him the satisfaction of turning round to try and see him. The alley is steep and has a flight of steps, and I nearly fall as I negotiate the steps. It’s horribly dark down here and I wonder if I have made a mistake. But Embankment Gardens are at the bottom of this alley and once through those, I’ll be down on Embankment and into brighter light.

  At the bottom I realise my mistake too late. They lock the gardens at night. I consider my options. I could climb the railings and cross like that. But I am in a tight skirt and I don’t think it’s going to allow me to do that. Short of taking the damn thing off while I hop over the fence, I’m stuck.

  It’s then I make my big mistake. I turn right and start to follow the gardens roughly west. I’ve forgotten that if I turn left, I can cut through and join the Embankment near Waterloo Bridge. I am thinking that maybe one of the other gates will be open and I can cut through. Like I say, I’m tired. Turning right takes me between the Gardens and the backs of the properties in the streets behind the Strand. Once, hundreds of years ago, the Savoy Palace stood somewhere along here and further back in time, the Strand was indeed a sort of beach.

  My heart nearly bursts out of my chest; the footsteps behind me have got a lot faster suddenly and like an idiot, I instinctively begin to run, cursing both shoes and skirt as they impede my speed. To my horror, the way ahead plunges into a dark lane, leading to parking garages or something for the buildings that tower above me. Dim orange lamps make more shadows than light and as I stumble, I fall headlong into a darkened corner. I scramble onto my knees, poised like a runner at the start of a race, trying to see who’s there.

   I hear breaking glass and the dim lights vanish and I am in almost total darkness. All I can hear is my own breath rasping in my throat and the sudden slowing of footsteps. The bastard has broken the lamps so I can’t see him, and after a second, a bright light appears directly in front of me, ten or so yards away. He’s holding a powerful flashlight, shining it deliberately in my eyes so I can’t see him. I can feel bile rising in my throat and I think that maybe if I throw up on him, then he’ll be so disgusted he’ll let me go. I’m also feeling so angry that I could burst; some anger at myself for letting this happen to me but simple, atavistic fury at the old, old story of the subjugation of women by fear.

  Something glints as the light wavers and I know he has a knife. Oh well. The fury passes and I am left with resignation; if I can live through this, then maybe that’s something. There’s nowhere left to run after all. My mouth is so dry but I open it anyway to scream.

  “Don’t scream,” he says.

  His voice is flat and deliberately accent-less, as if he doesn’t want me to know his origins. That’s good. It might mean he intends me to live. I try to control my breathing but it’s coming out ragged and rough and I retch with fear and I sense him smiling. Don’t ask me how I know that, but when he speaks again I can hear his pleasure in my fear.

  “Throw your bag over there,” he says and with shaking hands I comply, fumbling a little.

  “Don’t hurt me,” I say, and am shocked. I sound like a little girl.

  He just laughs. The torch dips a little and I hear him moving towards me and then I hear the unmistakeable sound of a belt being undone. I swallow hard and brace myself for the inevitable.

 The next few seconds are chaos and yelling and even a bit of blood.

  But the blood is not mine. The knife clatters across the concrete; I even fancy it sparked a little, and my attacker stares at me in shock, clutching at the side of his head cut open when I hit him with the torch I retrieved from my bag. But he only has a second to investigate his wounds, before I wrench that arm into a firm hold behind his back and secure it with the other hand in cuffs, and because I am only human, and because my knee is in the middle of his back (my skirt has now ripped beyond repair), I lean over and press his face ever so gently into the dirty floor and whisper,

  “You’re nicked.”

   And I get to my feet and walk away and leave my other followers to drag this animal to the van waiting outside in the street.                     

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March 23, 2010 Posted by | Viv's Short Stories, writing | 12 Comments

But is it Art?

I did a day trip as part of my job, taking about 40 English kids to France. Our destination was Bologne-sur-Mer. All around Bologne-sur-Mer there are sculptures using old cars and bits of cars. It’s very amusing to see some of them but is it ART?

I like it but do you?

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September 12, 2009 Posted by | Art | , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Vital petition

I don’t usually get into the whole petition thing but this one is an issue close to my heart. Please go to the following link and add your name to the petition concerning urgent action regarding climate change.

 

http://www.avaaz.org/en/tcktcktck

July 7, 2009 Posted by | news, politics | | Leave a comment

Sharing a link

I was sent this link and found it very interesting so I hope you guys do too..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42E2fAWM6rA

May 11, 2009 Posted by | God in our life, life, love | 1 Comment

First haiku

I must confess this:

No haiku have I written 

 Till I wrote this one

May 11, 2009 Posted by | literature, poetry, Viv's Poetry | , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Lost art treasures

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I finally managed to retreive some film that had been jammed in my old camera and got the pics developed. I’d forgotten what was on it and was pleasantly surprised by the photos I found.

This one is of a very special place indeed, Creswell Crags on the border between Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. We’ve been a few times and enjoyed every visit. As you can see from the picture, it’s a rather beautiful place but it hides extraordinary secrets. For thousands of years the caves on either side of the gorge were used by early man. Hundreds of artefacts and remains have been found but in 2003 something even more astounding was found.

13,000 years ago, this was the place for artists to hang out and work.

Yes, honestly. In 2003, a discovery was made that shook the world of archaeology and anthropology. Until then, it was thought that the earliest European cave art was to be found in the caves of Lascaux and others in France. Creswell Crags is the site of not cave paintings but engravings and relief work. These were probably painted as well; traces of ochre and other ancient paint pigments have been found in the art.

In 2006, there were limited tours being offered of the caves where the art was found. Needless to say, we went and marvelled. The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end at the sight of a carving of a sleeping bear, of a horse, a reindeer and others. Sadly, the light was too poor to take photos and I’d recommend having a look around the offical site, www.creswell-crags.org.uk to have a look at both the art and the history.

April 28, 2009 Posted by | Art, culture, painting, personal, photo, Viv's Art | , , , , | 5 Comments

View from a mountain top

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I walked through pouring rain through a Scottish forest and up a small mountain (you might call it a hill but my legs said it was a mountain). I stood against winds that nearly tipped me over. I gazed through mist and rain at the view of the Solway Firth, obscured and stormy. And then, having gone up, I needed to go down again. The bit I hate the most; I get occasional attacks of vertigo.

As we started our trek back off the mountain, we saw in the valley below us a sight that you can just make out in the photo above: a rainbow.

For me, the rainbow is a symbol as well as a scientific phenomenon. To me it means the storms are breaking and the promise of sunshine ahead has appeared. I had a bit of a shiver when I saw this one, as if it had personal meaning for me.

This winter has been an awful one for me; I’ve struggled with depression, mild paranoia, anxiety and a host of other delights. The winter is over but the causes of the issues remain and while I know that if I keep busy and focus on other things I can keep ahead of it, even so, the issues still remain, patiently waiting for me.

After we came back from Scotland, we went to stay with one of my oldest friends in north Yorkshire. A great time was had by all, but certain things came out of the visit, that I believe presage enormous changes for me. I’m hesistant to give details, partly because details are still scanty, but if I say that I had a strong feeling throughout of history being made. Maybe only my own history and maybe also hers, but even so, in a quiet way, something momentous took place.

I especially wanted to report it here first, because Cafe Crem is extremely important to me, and you guys have all been great. I will report more as time goes on but I can simply say that for me that Scottish rainbow is a sign that some of my storms are breaking and sunshine is beginning to appear.

April 12, 2009 Posted by | Easter, God in our life, life, nature, personal, photo, Viv's Art, writing | , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Unicorn

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Apologies for my absence but I’m now back at work and both the tiredness and the stress is taking its toll on my creativity… but I thought I’d share this photo I caught yesterday in London. I had one of those tearing-out-of-hair days but all was ultimately OK.

March 29, 2009 Posted by | personal, photo, photography, Viv's Art | , , , , | 6 Comments

Tree bien!

I found this extraordinary tree yesterday in the woods near the beach; I have no idea what sort of tree it is or how the marks got there, but it is “awesome”, isn’t it?pict03451

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March 8, 2009 Posted by | nature, photo, random, Viv's Art | , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Tree Gods

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Tree Gods

 

They wait, these trees.

Slender children of older gods,

Mighty as towers but long gone,

Fallen to ruin and leaf mould.

They wait, these trees.

Winters pass like melting snow;

The glades grow dense, with brambles

Hiding their burrowing feet.

Moss-furred stumps,

The bones of their ancestors

Remind them of past glories.

They wait, these trees.

Summers pass like blooming flowers.

The dells ring with song

And deer run in hidden paths

Of dappled sun and shade.

They wait, these trees.

The tiny child grows up,

Grows old and passes on,

Houses rise and houses fall

Towns boom, towns bust,

Kings and queens come and go.

The trees alone remain.

March 5, 2009 Posted by | Cafe Literati, nature, photo, Viv's Art, Viv's Poetry | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment