Earlier on Twitter:

“Instead of going to work I could be working on my horror novel about a golliwog doll that comes to life and two supernatural ginger kids”

So, I’m actually doing it.


The town was more industrial than the travel brochure suggested. Everything was covered in a thick layer of dirt and dust, save from the giant billboards towering above desaturated trees, advertising car dealerships cut-price hotel rooms.

The couple drove through the empty streets in silence. At some point one of them reached over and turned the radio down. There was factory smoke coming from the depths of the city, the only sign of life.

‘Can we stop to get a drink?’ the Girlfriend said. Her hand was on his thigh and he could feel her growing cold and tense.

The Boyfriend wanted to get to their hotel as soon as possible but he didn’t want to start the trip off with an argument. They pulled into a parking lot in front of a parade but the bleak neon signage only promised them pine furniture, second-hand fridges and Nails by Jenna.

The Girlfriend lit a cigarette, grimaced and threw it to the ground where a tiny wind started dancing with it. ‘I need a drink… hey, what about this place?’ she pointed towards where the Marlboro was rolling, a dirty glass front tucked between a pawnshop and a barber’s. The only handpainted sign in the parade read, ‘Mama Lazarou’s Curiosities’.

The Boyfriend said, ‘Well, I’m curious.’

‘If it’s a tourist type place then they might have a drinks fridge,’ she said, ‘come on.’ He watched her jerky gait as she headed towards the shop and felt irritation instead of pity for the first time. He wasn’t sure which was worse.

They threaded their way through the bead curtain as a bell signalled their arrival. Inside it was dark and musty, incense fighting with mildew for sinus space. The Boyfriend sneezed and jerked sideways, elbowing something soft off a shelf in a cloud of dust. It was a golliwog toy and a chill went down his spine.

‘Be careful,’ the Girlfriend said.

‘It’s just a toy,’ he gripped it by the legs and whacked it against the wall a few times. ‘I wonder what the Chinese child labourers thought when they were making this.’

There was no drinks fridge and no one came out to greet them. The Girlfriend wanted to browse through shelves of strange, twisted statuettes and organic matter but he took her by the hand and led her outside. ‘Not now.’

‘I have a voicemail,’ she said. Her face twisted as she listened. ‘This is odd.’


A voice crackled on loudspeaker, ‘Hi there, this is Catherine Laveau calling from Holiday Inn Orleans. Unfortunately due to the conference we are now fully booked and are unable to offer you a room. Please accept my apologies for any inconvenience caused and we hope to see you at Holiday Inn soon.’

‘When did she call?’

The Girlfriend looked at her phone. ‘I… I don’t know. There are no missed calls.’

‘You must have been out of range,’ the Boyfriend said.

‘I can’t believe they would do that. What do we do now?’

‘Drive over there and make a scene.’

‘No!’ her voice rose. ‘Don’t. Please. I don’t want anything to happen like the last time.’

He took his phone out. ‘We’ll find a different hotel. This is a big town, there must be loads available.’

The only place with vacancies was St Louis Bed & Breakfast. It looked like a charming family-run boutique hotel with just the right amount of shabby chic (overgrown hedges but also clean towels). But strangely the sat nav couldn’t find the destination… no, dear Reader, that would be too clichéd, wouldn’t it? It showed a perfectly straightforward route and the Couple drove away from the parade, neither of them wanting to mention the fact that they felt like they were being watched by someone in Mama Lazarou’s.

Brain Scribbles

“All the heat and fear had purged itself. I felt surprisingly at peace. The bell jar hung suspended a few feet above my head. I was open to the circulating air. ”
― Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

I’ve been writing again and generally feeling better about life. For the millionth time I’m starting on a semi-autobiographical novel that chronicles all the things me and my friends did and/or could have done when we were younger. It’s going to be funny and sad and witty and we will all learn a lesson about life at the end. Or I’ll get bored by the third chapter and it will stay in my ‘Fiction’ folder of abandoned Word documents.

Anyway, here’s the first couple of paragraphs:


Nicole came in to find me sitting on the sofa eating a Topic bar, still in my coat, hair unbrushed. She knew I’d been out last night but she didn’t know the details; sambuca, cocaine, hazy skin-on-skin in the bathroom with a guy with a gap year tan and tattoos. More cocaine, then a stumble home with a tight jaw and an unbearable nicotine craving.

‘You need to sort your life out,’ she said with a steely voice usually reserved for her asshole on-and-off boyfriend. She hung her coat – black wool, very clean, very smart – on the rack and stared at me.

‘I know,’ I said, mouth full of chocolate. ‘I will after I’ve had a shower.’ I kicked my boots off –fake leather, not very clean, slightly slutty – to prove that I meant business too.

‘I mean in general,’ she said. ‘You can’t keep living like this.’

I wanted to tell her about the permanent tightness in my head. About the constant slow trickle of irrational anxiety into my bloodstream. How doing anything other than self-destructing felt like trying to kickbox at high altitude. But I didn’t. I nodded my head and promised her that I would clean up my act.

I think she was disappointed that moving in with her didn’t automatically turn me into an upstanding citizen but, much like soldiers with PTSD, you can’t just stick someone into normal society and expect them to adapt straight away. You don’t just develop a healthy sense of self-worth when you’ve felt like vermin for so long.

At least I’d given up on trying to run away from my past and almost never felt suicidal anymore. When I did, I no longer had intense visuals of my body shutting down organ-by-organ from a massive overdose or rotting away in an overflowing bath with flayed wrists. I just imagined what it would be like to no longer be around. I didn’t think it would make people’s lives better but I definitely believed it wouldn’t make things worse. But I’d stopped planning it. I just promised myself that if by the age of forty I was a chubby suburban housewife with kids and an office rat husband, I would step in front of a train. Preferably the Eurostar, to fuck up more people’s days. Welcome to the UK.

I shook my head to chase away images of goggle-eyed lycée students live tweeting about my guts all over the tracks. Nicole and all the others were right; my life could be so much worse. And I’d always ranted about people who refused to help themselves get out of whatever bad situation they were in.

Now that I was one of them, it didn’t seem quite so easy.


This is a work of fiction.

It happens around that time of the year when morning mist clears to make way for crisp yellow light and the leaves began to ripen.

We are in London for the weekend. Things are tense. I pretend not to understand his jokes and catch him looking at me with a mixture of irritation and pity when he thinks I don’t notice.

It’s the third anniversary of our wedding.

That morning I am sitting outside a cafe, shivering lightly in the cool September air as I sip a cappuccino and smoke a cigarette. He is still in the hotel room half a block away. He hates me smoking. I am wearing a shift dress which he said he hates, opaque tights, brown ankle boots and a black wool coat that he bought for me on our first anniversary. The first and last thing he ever bought me for an anniversary.

Our eyes meet when she presses the traffic light button, panting slightly. She is in head-to-toe black Lycra, with terry wristbands and a red beanie. Her face is flushed, her dark hair pulled back into a neat ponytail. She is big – tall, solid but not fat, with a runner’s lean physique. She has a dog on a lead, a big German Shepherd who seems to be enjoying the run as much as she is. I learned early on that runners don’t like to be called joggers. Joggers are amateurs. No one wants to be an amateur.

She crosses the road, maintaining eye contact, and stops at my table. ‘His name is Lord,’ she says with a nod at the dog.

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