Saturday, 7 January 2017

Prompt 7 - The Rocket Ship. "The Housewife and the Magazine"

The seventh writing prompt taken from

The aim is that each day I will free write - or write - something arising from the prompt given.  A week into the challenge I am enjoying myself immensely.  Even though I protest and complain!

Today what follows after the complaint and the delaying is a 2,500 monologue by a housewife who is given a special opportunity.  I'm sure it could have been longer.  Or shorter.  Apart from looking up a few things to check facts and returning to add a paragraph it's all pretty free-written as it fell from my head.  I haven't edited it.  At all.

The image below is a real photograph, taken from a climate satellite in orbit around us, one million miles away.

The Rocket-ship: Write about a rocket-ship on it’s way to the moon or a distant galaxy far, far, away.

Note:  Did you spot it?  I didn't put it there though I confess to have made a similar mistake in my life.  Yes.  It's there.  A misplaced apostrophe.  I am willingly writing from a prompt containing a misplaced apostrophe.  Were I perfect in typing I might have cause to complain.  But I am imperfect and my writing is filled with errors of spelling, grammar and style.  Sometimes the passive is even used.  And I have even let fly with a misplaced apostrophe when typing at speed.  Its becomes it's and I don't even notice though I know it's wrong.  Except there when it's is right.  I spot it when a café sells "panini's" and stand amazed when the expensive signage on a shop front says "BARGIN!"  A typo is one thing.  A typist who struggles with grammar or spelling or both, for whatever reason, is another.  Both are normal.  Both are acceptable.  But when that signage contains glaring errors - in Sunderland a shop sign says it sells "confectionary" - I pause to wonder.  Why don't people think to check these things before paying lots of money for a sign?  Why do they take such little care in what is the public face of their business?  Why do café menus often contain a dozen mistakes or more?  Is it a deliberate ploy, just for the entertainment of the happy customers?

Note:  Did you spot it?  I didn't put it there although I have made similar mistakes.  There's a redundancy in that writing prompt.  The galaxy is far, far away.  So naturally we may assume that it is distant.  It's not going to be a close galaxy far, far away.  Most people would understand that without too much strain.  It's redundant!  But that's okay.  Sometimes redundancy is a writing tool not an over-use of words.  Sometimes it builds on imagery.

All of which is a delaying tactic.  I'm currently sitting in the silent working room of the Literary and Philosophical Library in Newcastle.  I'm here because it's a location without distractions.  Except for one.  I am the distraction.  I made the mistake of coming here with myself.  I've been almost well behaved though.  I sat in one part of the room and decided it was far too cold.  I went back upstairs and decided that I wanted the silence after all.  So I'm back down here in a different part of the room and there's nothing to distract me.  Except for the internet.  Except for any game I choose to play.  Except for the books which surround me.   Nine shelves high on either side.  Close enough that I can reach to left or right and pull out a book.  These particular shelves are filled with literary biographies and histories.  To my right I see Siegfried Sassoon writing about the wealth of youth.  I think I squandered my own wealth and it's only now I am discovering a little of what remains.  I see the reminiscences of Joseph Conrad, the letters of J. M. Barrie, and the autobiography of W. B. Yeats and I wonder whether such works would help in my own desire to learn to write.  Someone suggested to me that the diaries of Robert Musil might be of use, that they form the greatest book on writing ever written.  They are not owned by this library.

I am highly skilled at delaying tactics.  I am here to remove distractions.  It's okay.  I'm not too distracted.  And so to the writing prompt.  Notes: I know that the events below wouldn't happen.  I don't know why the interview took place where it did.  And I know that this woman has a lot more to say about the mission and would dearly love a chance to explore her feelings.  She wants me to spend more time with her.  Maybe one day I will.

Image taken from this page.

The Housewife and the Magazine

Stone's the name.  Lucy Stone.  Twenty-seven years old and a housewife from Surbiton.  That's nothing to be ashamed of, being a housewife and all that.  Nothing at all so don't look at me like that as if I'm not a proper woman, as if feminism has passed me by and I'm a slave to some version of patriarchy.  I chose this life.  It suits me and I love it.  Me and Jill, well we've got three gorgeous children we have.  All adopted.  They're all little bundles of joy mostly and big handfuls of trouble too sometimes.

Sam's the oldest.  He's seven and we fostered him first.  He was in a children's home because his own parents had left him there.  They couldn't cope you see.  It's sad but it's not their fault quite.  Sam's autistic and that comes with a whole bundle of challenges.  But he's amazing and we love him and couldn't imagine life without him now.  He's in a good school, well suited for people like him and he's making lots of progress.

And then we adopted twins, Sara and Tara, both utterly gorgeous.  They're five now and just started school last term.  They're really bright and I was so proud of Tara when she played the part of the angel Gabriel in their school play.  She was brilliant and then on came Sara as one of the wise men.  They had six wise men they did.  They didn't just bring the normal gold, frankincense and myrrh.  It was just the funniest thing when they brought their gifts of shower gel, maltesers and a copy of the A to Z.

That's our family, five of us.  And a cat.  Oh, mustn't forget Speckles and Sparkles.  They're our rabbits.  We couldn't be happier.  We're not rich by any means but we have enough and try to make each day as colourful and bright as we can.  We like to try new things, challenge ourselves and in our house the word "impossible" is banned.  "Just go for it," we say.  "What's the worst that could happen," and we lift each other up and if it all goes wrong then never mind because we tried our best.  Our walls are covered in art made by our children.  Well, we call it art.  It might all look like a mess to you if you saw it.  It's all colour and it's all memories and our house might not be perfect and it might not get featured in any of those horrible programmes about how your house should look like this and have these styles and designs and a whole load of nonsense.  But it's our home and it's full of comfort and warmth and don't judge me that it's not all neat and tidy because we like it as it is.

And I love my housewife life.  It's just the best.  Jill would hate it.  She loves being out at work.  She's a natural therapist and to be honest I think a few of the things she's into are a bit woo, but she's popular and people keep coming back so she must be good at it.  I thought that once the twins were safely ensconced at school I might train up as something too.  After the last few weeks I know I'll find lots of new challenges.  I've got a college degree of course but two years into a politics course I decided that it wasn't for me.  I'm not going into politics no matter what.  I'd be awful and it would be awful for me.  At college I used to go to political meetings.  I tried to be one of the radicals, join in with the enthusiastic speeches about everything that was wrong and how we were going to fix it all.  Now I think that most of the people there couldn't fix a leaking tap let alone a society.  It was all just nonsense dressed up as clever words and discontent.  I couldn't fix a tap either back then but I can now.  I've taught myself to fix most things in the house and I learned to make furniture too.  Me and Jill, well we share a bed of course but I made the bed.  It's six foot wide in a strong wooden frame.  I have one single mattress.  A soft one.  And she has another.  She likes a hard bed.  Our bed is luxury and with two duvets nobody ever gets cold.  Can't beat our bed.

I'm not sleeping in our bed at the moment though.  I'm sleeping in a bunk that's not much wider than me.  I've left home for a while and I'm doing something amazing.  Looking forward to being back I am.  Another week and I'll be there again all being well.  It's been quite an experience but I don't want to leave my family ever again.  I miss them every second.  Every second.

You see, what happened was this.  Like I say, we always push each other to try new things.  Well it was Jill who saw it first and read it and thought about it and said to me that it might be for me, that I could do it.  She was joking of course.  It was a silly idea.  When she gave me the magazine and I looked at the advert I knew it was silly.  They wouldn't want someone like me.  Christ no.  Not like me.  I'm just a housewife, ordinary and happy.  But I joked back and said that I could give it a go if she thought I could.  She laughed and said I'd look good in a helmet.  But then as we lay in bed that night she said, "Well why not?  What have you got to lose?"  She told me to try.  Said I should apply.  And she was right.  What was there to lose?

So the next morning I retrieved the magazine from the recycling bin.  I keep thinking that we shouldn't put magazines in the recycling bin and that we should give them away to people.  They're not cheap you know.  If we all shared our magazines they could be read lots of times and we would have a lot more of them to read.  I should suggest it when I'm back home.  Back to normal life.  The last month has been anything but normal.  It's been amazing.  Stunning.  But I miss my kids so much.

I read the advert again and decided that I would apply.  They asked for a woman aged 25-30, of average build, and without any major health problems.  That was me.  I knew I wouldn't be accepted.  I wouldn't be the one.  I thought they would have thousands of applications and mine would be thrown out at the first hurdle.  But it wasn't of course else I wouldn't be here now looking out of the window at the moon in the sky and the earth beyond.

The advert could have been a joke in itself.  I thought it possibly was.  Some scam - although I didn't see what the scammers had to gain.  Or some prank from one of those comedies preying on the gullibility of the public.  But maybe it might be fun anyway even if it was all a sham and some version of Jeremy Beadle would jump out on me with a big microphone and everyone would laugh.  The advert asked for volunteers to be the first woman to fly solo around the moon.  I ask you, would you believe an advert like that?  I applied anyway and wrote and said yes, I'd love to fly around the moon and would be able to be free for the period specified.  I was sure my mum would help with the kids but pretty sure she wouldn't have to.

I couldn't have been more surprised when a letter arrived asking me to come to an interview, combine with a behind the scenes tour of Jodrell Bank.  It was ever so exciting and Sam's pretty obsessive about the hunt for aliens and he must know almost all there is to know about UFOs so I called them straight away and said I'd be there and asked if I could bring Sam on the tour, explaining about the autism and how much it would mean to him.

And there we were, just a few weeks later, taking the train up to the north.  Sam couldn't have been more excited and when he first saw the big dish he screamed with happiness.  Couldn't contain himself and the taxi driver nearly had a heart attack I think.  Sam had a brilliant day.  They gave him the full tour and he got to press buttons and see what they do and before we left they gave him a big bag of souvenirs.  Not just a hat and a badge from the visitors centre but some really special space things from the scientists and a soft toy of an alien they had found somewhere.  He's still cuddling it every night and the souvenirs are all lined up neatly on a shelf in his room.

There were maybe a dozen other women there that day being interviewed for the role.  We were all pretty excited at the prospect of winning but I saw those women and thought that surely some of them were far more suitable than me.  They would want a scientist, not a failed politician.  They would want someone in peak physical fitness, someone with a gym membership they actually used.  I'm not unfit but I'm hardly an Olympian.

I was just there for a good day out so I didn't worry much at all about the interview.  That was in a well lit office and I sat before a panel of three judges.  I'd had to leave Sam which was a bit of a worry in case he had a meltdown but he was okay and spent that time sitting happily while one of the scientists showed him pictures of Jodrell Bank and the things that might be discovered there.  They asked me a lot of questions they did.  About my life, about my family, about why I wanted to be an astronaut and why I'd applied.  The thing is, I'd never wanted to be an astronaut and didn't think I'd be wanted.  I just wanted to push myself a little and see what happened.  I said I knew I wasn't suitable at all and said how shocked I was to be thought of for an interview.  I was just ordinary and happy that way and happy to be giving my son such an amazing day.  I thanked them for the opportunity and then left.  I was pretty sure that a woman called Lisa would be chosen.

Then Lisa wasn't chosen was she?  And neither was confident, clever Crystal with the perfect teeth and the degree in physics and a body carefully honed to perfection in a thousand gyms and on a thousand sun beds.  None of them were chosen.  They chose me.  Little me.  Housewife from Surbiton.  Queer.  With three happy kids.  With reasonable GCSEs in science.  And content to keep house and love my family.  They chose me.  Well you could have knocked me over with a feather I was that shocked.  They phoned to tell me and I had to sit down and kept asking them if they'd made a mistake because what about Lisa and the rest?  I told the man on the phone that he must have got it wrong and to check again and asked him if he was having me on.  Well it wasn't a mistake was it?  They really had picked me out of all those other talented women.  Me.  Lucy Stone.  I was going to be an astronaut.  I was going into space and I would see the dark side of the moon.

And here I am.  Half way through the journey.  I'm in orbit about the moon.  It's sixty miles away and every two hours I'm back where I began.  I won't be getting any closer.  I won't be landing or anything like that.  I've seen the dark side of the moon now and I can let you into a secret.  It's not dark.  At least, no darker than the light side.  You probably know the science so I won't bore you with all that stuff about rotations and revolutions and how it is that only one side ever faces the Earth.  Well the other side gets sunshine on it too.  It's just that we don't normally see it.  I've seen it and I can tell you this.  It's just a load of bare rock.  Just like the light side - the near side.  Just with different craters.  It's all a bit ordinary really once you've seen it a few times.

All a bit ordinary.  But I'm still as excited as anything.  Apart from when I've had a job to do on the capsule I've been pretty much glued to the window.  This ordinary piece of rock is the most extraordinary thing I'll ever witness.  This dead thing contains more life in my mind than anything else I've ever seen before.  Except my family of course.  I'm the luckiest woman in the world I am.  Can't deny that because it's true.  I don't want you to think I've got a downer on the moon or anything like that.  It's awesome and when I see the earth too that's even more awesome that all us billions of people live on that little circle in space and that we haven't got another home and that we don't look after the one we have.

Having seen the earth from space I will never again recycle a magazine that only I have read.  Yeah I won't will I?  None of that waste if I can help it.  Ha ha.  Come to space and decide to reuse things.  Because the world deserves it.  It's not just going to be that though is it?  It can't be.  Not now.  I don't know quite what I'm going to do.  So many choices but I've got to do something to help the planet survive our craziness.  It doesn't matter though.  It's not as if I can start any projects right now, not when the moon is so close I can almost reach out and touch it.

Well, I'm going to be out of range again in a minute, back on the dark side.  See you again soon my lovely planet.  Thanks for listening.  This is Lucy Stone, space housewife, signing off for now.  I'll be here another couple of days hanging in the vacuum above the moon.  I can tell you this.  Sam's going to be disappointed.  There's no sign of aliens here.  He knows the moon is a rock not a spaceship really but he likes the idea that it's artificial.  He's so clever.  And he's important.  We all are.  Take care of each other until the next transmission.  I'm waving.  Love you all.  Be good.

And don't throw away a magazine if you can give it away.

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