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Gadabout Press June 2015

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Contributors

Tom Mellor, Alex Wright, Paul Hill, Angela Wilson, Charles Maclean, Ed
Brooks, Edward Wilford, Owen Leo Moore, Owen Moore, Gemma
Brosnan, Graham Tye, Camila Montiel McCann, Paul Hill, Elenor Ling.

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Introduction

Tom Mellor

Echo

A sound or sounds caused by the reflection of sound waves from a surface back to the listener.

A close parallel to an idea, feeling, or event.

I have always liked a good sound – the crunch of a footstep on fresh snow, the
plop of a pebble in water, the sound of an instrument being tuned. I once
compiled a list of top five sounds with a friend on the platform of Clapham
Common tube station. A list I have subsequently lost, but I remember that many
of the sounds to make that elite group were echoes. The use of echo provides
some of the great sounds in film: the echo of footsteps quickening down the
dimly lit street, the sound of the lone cowboys gun shot ringing out over the
western plains, the “Hello” of the adventurous soul calling out as they take their
first steps into the darkness.

Recording these effects for film or radio can be made using an Echo Chamber, an
enclosed space for producing reverberation of sound. It was only recently that I
was introduced to the concept of the Echo Chamber in the media. Wikipedia
describe it as a process where “information, ideas, or beliefs are amplified or
reinforced by transmission and repetition inside an "enclosed" system, where
different or competing views are censored, disallowed or otherwise
underrepresented.” I describe it as evil. The beautiful, atmospheric, emotive echo
has been co-opted.

We see this dark underbelly of the media echo chamber in full flow all the time.
Years of predictable online behaviour bounced back through laptop screens,
shopping habits monitored, coded and then fed back to us as suggestions for our
next purchase, positioned as personalized adverts just a click away. Opening a
laptop is now like being sent a daily newspaper that has been written just for you.
I don’t like it.

This edition is dedicated to the exploration of the echo in all its forms, free from
the constraints of the echo chamber. For this edition there were two phases.
Initially an open invitation was put out for people to create something connected
to the echo theme. In the second phase each contributor then received one of the
other submissions and had the opportunity to respond to this stimulus. Let's see
what came back…

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‘The story of an Educational echo’
By Alex Wright

When it’s quiet, you can hear everything.
3:40pm School staff meeting…
The silence was acknowledged by almost everyone – a silent committal of
agreement, that stamp of approval that was both ambiguous and telling. The
silence was enhanced by the sight of those soundless eyes and gestures giving
gravitas to the passing of time, a waiting and weighting amongst us all that pleased
some and unnerved others.
This was the response from the workforce after an announcement from above – a
typical response to typical announcements. If you looked around the room you’d
be lucky to make eye contact with anyone – eyes down, doodles and scurrilous
scribbles in diaries. You could feel the invisible incredulousness. There were no
echoes.
We shuffled out, scattering off to our own little safe environments that are the
centre of our purpose, the rooms where our time is given to educate, inspire and
repatriate lost PE kits. It was rare for groups to gather socially – so no one
encouraged it. The only echoes were echoes of emptiness.
Then there was sound. Stimulated by an alcoholic drink or two, of all predictable
things. People echoed back pent up frustrations, grumbles and sentiments that PE
kits could stay in the fucking lost property box.
There was a small, slightly perceptible change of behaviour. There would be
echoing in passing corridors, at the boiling kettle, on the stroll into work, over a
school dinner, aside an assembly. Meetings were called for, notices went up…
there was relief that we were supporting, justifying, developing each other’s ideas,
beliefs and principles.
An echo chamber had been created – it was just a shame we couldn’t hear the
sound outside.

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‘Echo’

By Angela Wilson

I’ve always considered myself to be quite a shy person.

I know this might cause guffaws from some. Those who know me.

But it’s true.

Meeting new people. Joining groups. Starting conversations. It doesn’t come
naturally. It’s often a struggle. And sometimes. I dread it.

I do. However. Work bloody hard at disguising it. Overcoming it.

I met up with one of my oldest and best friends recently. We’ve known each other
since we were 16. From way back in the good old oversized-lumberjack-shirt and
bomber-jacket days.

For some reason were were reminiscing. About those teenage years. Back in the
early 90s. Ah. The heady mix of White Lightning and Anais Anais.

She started to recount the story of how we first met. A memory that – I’m
ashamed to admit – I’d completely forgotten.

It was the first day at 6th form college. A room full of tense nervous teenagers.
Strangers.

We were told to move our seats into a large circle. So we could introduce
ourselves one-by-one to the group. Scary.

My now-good-friend explained that I went to sit down. But as I did. The chair
broke. I fell backwards on to the floor. Legs akimbo.

I still don’t have any memory of this. No wonder. I probably blocked it out. But
nonetheless it does sound like the kind of cack-handed thing I’d do. If Mr Bean
had a wife, it’d be me!

All the other tense nervous teenagers fell silent. Stared at the freckly short-haired
girl on the floor. No doubt with a huge sense of relief. That it was me doing my
best impression of an upturned beetle. And not them.

My now-good-friend said she’d been utterly mortified for me. How humiliating
she’d have found it if it had been her. That she’d have shrivelled up into a ball. Or
run crying out of the room.

I don’t remember. But I know I would have felt like doing all of that. And more. I

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would have been on the edge of tears. It would’ve felt like the worst possible
scenario. Like one of those anxiety dreams. When your teeth start to crumble. Or
you’re naked in TK Maxx again.

But. Instead. I got up from the floor. Looked everyone in the eye. Performed a
theatrical bow. And said ‘and for my next trick…’

Everyone had laughed. The tension dissolved. Day One and I was already the
class clown.

My now-good-friend said she’d been so impressed. At how confident and funny I
was. At how well I’d handled a potentially piece-crumbling moment. Little did she
know.

You may be wondering where on earth I’m going with this. A trip down memory
lane (albeit a bad memory, in my case) is all well and good. But what’s it got to do
with the price of fish?

Well. Hold your horses. I’m getting to that bit.

As she recounted this story we were walking along a narrow hill-path. She was
ahead of me as she explained it.

Because I had no recollection whatsoever of this event, I was listening along to
my friend as if it was a story about someone else. A nice gentle easy-going tale.
About the first day of college. Some clumsy teenage buffoon falling off her chair.

And then. She said the last bit. The bit at the end. My reaction. The precise way
she recalled it. How I stood up. The theatrical bow. The exclamation of ‘and for
my next trick…’

Bam!

I momentarily stopped. Held my stomach for a second. Winded

There it was.

That reaction. That exact reaction.

It was Mum.

Through and through.

Exactly the same ‘routine’ I’d seen her do. On more than one occasion. After
something similar had happened to her.

Just over two years she’s been gone.

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Two years since I held her hand. As she’d taken her last breaths. As that bastard
lung cancer had consumed her.

And now here she was. Out of nowhere. Completely unexpected. On a hill-path
walk with my friend. Inadvertently tucked away in her memory of me from 22
years ago.

It was like a very quick and sudden intense flash of Mum. Her essence. Inside my
reaction. Inside my friend’s memory.

A peculiarly beautiful set of Russian dolls.

My Mum was also shy. Far more than me though. Any new interactions.
Situations. Attention. She really struggled.

I always thought I managed my shyness better because of my sense of humour.

It’s got me through many an awkward moment. Just like that first day at 6th form
college.

But it’s also got me through many a normal-life moment too. Given me a way-in
to make friends. To connect with others. Understand myself.

It’s always been there. Lurking. It’s only since that awful 18 months – my ‘periodis
horribilis’ – that I started to realise how important it was: Mum’s terminal
diagnosis. My 10 year relationship falling apart. And then Mum’s death.

Along with my treasured friends, my sense of humour got me through that 18
months. It supported me. Gave me a way of coping. Understanding. Of having a
morsel of optimism and hope.

It’s become very much a part of who I am. The lens through which I see the
world. A philosophy, even.

I used to think it was only as I went into my 30s that I started to become more
like my Mum.

But I realise now it was always there. Even as an oversized-lumberjack-shirt
wearing teenager. Her sensitivity. Her shyness. And now. The penny’s dropping.
Her humour.

In the past I’ve wished I had fewer freckles. Smaller hips. Less rabbit-caught-in-
the-headlight eyes. Well. You can forget all those. It’s pointless. Enhance me.
Augment me. Photo-shop me all you like. My sense of humour will still always be
my greatest asset. And that is something – another thing – Mum gave me.

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Back on the hill path. My eyes filled up. My throat went tight.

I carried on walking, behind my friend. I commented on something. My voice
cracked. We continued along the hill-path.

There’s something wonderful about knowing she’s still very much ‘there’. In ways
I’d never imagined. In other people’s memories of me. In hill-top walks. In my
behaviour. My strengths. Even in my weaknesses.

It’s also wonderful to know that other unexpected visits will probably pop up in
other ways. In the future. Something to look forward to. To take comfort from.
To help me feel she’s not really gone at all. Just lurking. Ready for her next trick…

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Opening paragraph of: The In Crowd.

By Charlie Maclean.

A Gothic cathedral chapel of monstrous proportions rose before his eyes on the
hill as the taxi traversed the windswept coastal road. A spire rising from its
western tower into the perfectly clear blue sky. It reached for the heavens in
prayer for the souls, past and present, whose names echoed round the red brick
building that sheltered behind the chapel: the school. It was here he would spend
the next two years.

Alex had left Oak Hall in darkness. His hastily packed suitcases in the back of
another taxi. At the bottom of this sweeping driveway, he could see ahead,
exalted, immaculately manicured lawns and sports fields, so green and new - full
of possibility.

Even its name evoked reverence in him. Eden College, after its founder Nathaniel
Eden; however, it was a sacred place then and now to him, even after innocence
was lost.

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‘Echo’

By Ed Brooks

There is a memory I cannot place, just one that is at odds with my childhood, it is
not so much a snapshot, more of a piece of silent footage. Where the memory
begins and ends is not clear, therefore I have crudely stitched it together into an
endless loop.

The predominant colour is red, pillarbox red, although perhaps a little faded, like
leather sofas in a well used lobby. The place is a theatre or auditorium, perhaps a
cinema from long ago. I am the voyeur, somewhere near the back, up in the stalls.
I am a child and I am in awe of my elevation, the occasion, the silence, the scale of
the space and the massive feeling of shared expectation.

Perhaps it is an intermission, I become aware of movement in the void between
the stage or screen and the first rows of the audience, the gap inhabited by the
orchestra. I am drawn more and more to the movement, almost able to zoom in,
focusing not on the space around me but solely on the movement, gradually
zooming in to the action. I note a small rectangular space set into the floor, the
space is big enough to contain perhaps two rows of benches, facing the front.

The movement is people, little people, dwarfs to be exact. I am not able to
pinpoint how many, I cannot focus on them, they are blurred. I am aware that
there is a kind of randomness, that one will get up from the bench walk around
the rectangle and get back in and sit down in a new location, meanwhile another
two get up and walk away, one more sits down, seconds later another rises to
leave. There seems no particular purpose, it is fascinating.

This memory often surfaces and I try and make sense of it, I want to file it away
like a utility bill, a receipt, a delivery note.

Perhaps I created this memory while in a fever, perhaps I have merely confused
memories of watching the umpalumpas in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,
perhaps I am remembering a trip to a cinema and at the time was not aware of the
concept of perspective. Perhaps it was taken from another life, another place, or is
it a glitch in my being, a mutation in my memory. Until I place it, I play it over
and over again in my mind.

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Echo

By Elenor Ling

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Fig.1  

 
  0            1      2          3  4    5      6        7          8          9        10  
                       Complexity  of  pattern  
 
 
I  would  argue  that  knitting  patterns  are  best  when  there  ​is  ​a  pattern,  i..e.  an  actual  
pattern  in  the  design,  with  each  row  in  the  instructions  broken  into  set  repeats.  So,  'K4  *  
p1,  k3,  rep  from  *'  or,  for  the  more  adventurous,  'K2,  k2tog,  *  yfwd,  k1,  yfwd,  k3tog,  rep  
from  *'.  Rhythms  form  as  your  brain  absorbs  and  memorizes  the  pattern.  For  me,  
however,  there  is  a  definite  tipping  point  when  the  pattern  is  too  complex  and  I'm  
unable  to  learn  the  pattern  by  heart  (see  fig.  1).  (There  might  also  be  a  third  factor,  
which  is  the  number  of  stitches  on  the  needle.  The  ideal  number  is,  in  my  opinion,  
somewhere  between  too  few,  so  that  you  aren't  forever  turning  the  piece  over,  and  too  
many,  with  increased  risk  of  dullness  and  the  chance  of  errors  early  on  the  needle.  But  I  
haven't  yet  decided  the  ideal  range,  so  we  won't  go  into  this  now).  Increased  complexity  
is  significantly  less  enjoyable  because  it  means  I'll  have  to  keep  referring  to  the  
instructions,  irritatedly,  my  eyes  repeatedly  scanning  the  page  to  find  the  correct  place.  
It  means  I  won't  be  able  to  carry  out  the  knitting  anywhere  other  than  at  home,  in  the  
relative  quiet,  forgetting  about  my  cup  of  tea  until  it's  gone  cold.  Much  more  satisfying  
are  patterns  with  a  distinctive  rhythmic  logic.  Picking  up  abandoned  knitting  mid  way  
through  a  row  is  no  problem,  because  it's  easy  to  read  the  stitches  and  fall  back  into  the  
familiar  rhythm.  Even  more  satisfying  are  patterns  with  a  rhythm  and  an  echo,  where  
knit  stitches  slide  easily  into  the  back  of  purl  stitches,  and  vice  versa.  Wrong  side  echoes  
the  right  side  and  ultimate  comfort  is  achieved:  
 
E.g.  
Row  1:  P1,  k2,  p2,  *  k8  (p2,  k2)  twice,  p2,  rep  from  *  to  last  13  sts,  k8,  p2,  k2,  p1  
Row  2:  K1,  p2,  k2,  *  p8  (k2,  p2)  twice,  k2,  rep  from  *  to  last  13  sts,  p8,  k2,  p2,  k1.  
...  
 
See  fig.2  
 

 
Fig.2  
 
Bliss.  
‘Diminished’

By Edward Wilford.

You can do this.

He said it to himself, without thinking it. He knew to say the words somehow;
instinct told him it would help. It did not.

You can do this.

He tried again, still without really comprehending.

You have to do this. This has to be done.

That was better. That was approachable. Obligation was easier to grasp than an
assumed strength.

This has to be done.

He pushed first, then pulled at the door. It swung open and he entered the
unnaturally cool corridor. He thought himself surrounded by footsteps, heading
off in every direction at different weights, different paces. He noted them and
then ignored them. The cool air didn’t touch him, not the heat behind his
forehead, not the redness on his ears.

His footsteps joined in the chorus, less determined perhaps but present and
counted all the same. One of many now; maybe there was support in that. His
trail led directly to the desk; he thought briefly about getting a glass of water or a
tissue or skipping madly away through the parking lot en route to somewhere not
here. Each option was dismissed in turn. Not too late to turn back, to be sure, but
he wondered now if he really wanted to. The young woman behind the desk
looked up at him with a single arched brow. A nurse? Did nurses work behind
desks?

‘May I help you?’

I have no idea, he thought, and started to smile. He stopped himself before the
sides of his mouth managed more than a quiver each; best not to smile. Rule for
the day, he thought. No smiling, no laughter. Just focus on what has to be done.

‘I’m here to see...’

He started before he thought through how to finish. How much to tell? Did she
know he was expected? Was he expected?

‘...a patient. I’m here to see Andy.’

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The forename felt so strange. For obvious reasons he never used it, but he knew
the drill. ‘Call me Andy!’ would have boomed through the corridors every time a
stranger was introduced to him. He’d heard it a thousand times as a child, as a
young man. ‘Call me Andy! Call me Andy!’ Heard it, but still never used it.
Couldn’t remember the last time he’d said the name.

‘Andy? I don’t think...’ The nurse (he’d decided she must be a nurse) consulted a
noticeboard over her shoulder.

‘Andrews.’ He jumped in. ‘The surname is Andrews. He goes by Andy. He always
goes by Andy.’

The nurse smiled. ‘Mr Andrews, of course. And you’re his...his son?’ It was
phrased as a question, even though he knew it wasn’t. He nodded.

‘Of course,’ she repeated. ‘Mr Andrews is in Room 12. Bed...ah...Bed D.’ She
pulled these facts from memory, the second after only the briefest pause. She
knew him instantly, he thought. Didn’t recognise me, though. Didn’t see him in
me, or me in him. That’s fine, he thought. That’s actually fine.

You can do this. You have to do this.

‘I’m sorry….I’m sorry to ask this, but...how...how aware of you of Mr Andrews’s
condition?’

He looked at her dumbly. How aware was he? He had no idea how aware he was.

‘I...I know he forgets things.’ Jesus, that sounded stupid, he thought. Everyone
forgets things.

The nurse winced. Something was wrong.

‘I’m afraid it’s progressed beyond that,’ she said. ‘I’m afraid it’s significantly
beyond that now.’ Her tone was gentle and calm and perfectly judged, and it cut
him neatly in half.

‘Progressed?’ he said in a half-voice. He was going back in time. He was becoming
smaller and more helpless every time he opened his mouth.

‘The...well, it’s...I’m afraid it’s significantly beyond...what you might have
expected.’

I don’t know what I was expecting. I wasn’t expecting anything.

He tried to say something, and failed. She took his silence for shock and carried
on.

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‘Your father’s condition has progressed...deteriorated...to the point where his care
needs are advanced. Very advanced.’

They were walking now; he was following her to what he could only assume was
Room 12, Bed D. The nurse’s footsteps sounded just slightly off beat to his. The
coolness seemed to retreat even further from him as they went.

‘Mr Andrews?’

She got no response; he understood that she knew she wouldn’t. Of course she
wouldn’t.

Andy, Mr Andrews, Dad. He was lying on his side facing the wall, a thin sheet and
a pair of blankets up over his shoulders. His pyjamas were entirely unfamiliar; a
style, pattern and colour his father would never have picked out. Good lord, he
thought, he’s wearing institutional pyjamas.

His glasses were nowhere to be seen. In the bedside cabinet? He looked at the
man under the sheets, studied his face and eyes, studied his breathing. He
concluded, soundly, that it did not matter where his glasses were.

‘He’s like this most days,’ said the nurse. He wished he’d got her name.

He was stranded, silently breathless. He quickly checked his options. He could still
run away. He could throw himself weeping on the figure on the bed. He could sit
in the only chair in the room and wait.

Wait for what?

Wait for ideas. Wait for inspiration.

He slid towards the chair and sat far too properly...a candidate at a job interview,
90 degrees at the waist, shoulders pulled back, chin up. There was no comfort in
this room.

‘I’ll give you some privacy’ said the nurse through the door as she went.

He was alone with his father for the first time in...20 years? Near enough.

Memories are echoes. Memories fade a bit more every time they’re recalled.

You can do this.

He sat watching, moved and unmoved at once. He did not know how he felt.
He’d been through their meeting so many times, he’d rehearsed it, he’d planned
every topic, he’d gone over every angle. The silent figure on the bed was not an

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option he had considered. ‘Call me Andy!’ was not here. ‘Call me Andy!’ had
never been in this room.

His hands gripped his knees as his shoulders tightened. He tried to look around
the room. He couldn’t look away.

Memories are echoes. Let them come and let them go again and hear them fade a bit more each
time.

He had absolutely no idea what to do. He supposed he hadn’t expected to go this
far, to get this close. Why prepare for the utterly absurd? His jaw was tightening.
He flexed his fingers in sequence, right then left.

A catalogue of things to say and no one to say them to. A list of wrongs and
accusations and apologies and confessions and the audience sat a mile away, blind
and deaf and dumb.

But the audience he had sought, just the same.

He cleared his voice to speak. He was ready. He was finally ready.

The door opened.

‘OH!’

The nurse was older, and held carried a tray covered in a cloth. She paused in the
entrance.

‘Mr Andrews, you didn’t tell me you were having visitors?’ The smile washed
through her voice. She carried an accent but he could not tell from where. ‘Let’s
get you comfortable, and you can tell me all about your friend here.’ She was
gently turning his father to the other side, eliciting a soft moan, a double blink and
a small bubble of spittle at the elderly man’s mouth; three more reactions than he
was expecting.

He felt pressure to say something, to explain himself. ‘This is my...I’m Mr
Andrews’s son. I’m here...I’m here to see him.’

Her smile never faltered. ‘Of course you are.’ A cloth appeared from somewhere;
she used it to wipe the spittle away. His father’s eyes were in unfocused motion
now, following the nurse whenever she paused long enough in his limited field of
vision. He couldn’t tell if he noticed him or not.

‘Have you two been having a chat then? We love Mr Andrews around here.’

The corners of his mouth twitched again. Was that a joke? Two jokes? Did she
expect him to be chatting away to the still, silent man in the bed?

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‘Do you talk to him?’ he said, deflecting the question and ignoring the statement.

‘Of course’ she said. ‘I tell him about the weather, I tell him about the canteen, I
tell him about my children.’ She smiled at him. ‘Your father is an excellent
listener.’

She pulled the cover off the tray, revealing (what must have been) a carefully
designed meal of soft, clearly bland and probably inexpensive foods. The old man,
he thought, had better like cottage cheese these days.

A utensil was produced, and the nurse pulled up the head of the bed with one
arm. Partially upright, eye contact was unavoidable. He watched as some clear
soup was gently deposited in his father’s mouth, and was surprised by how much
was retained behind the thin lips when the spoon was withdrawn.

He’s awake, he can eat. He’s there. He’s here.

He sat on the edge of the chair, refusing to relax into it, as the nurse kept up a
steady patter of conversation as she carefully fed his father, spoon by spoon. The
older man’s hands were gently shaking the whole while, once or twice moving up
suddenly as if to take over; to reclaim the act of eating. They went back down to
the top of the folded blankets soon after. The feeding and the one-sided
conversation both continued at a steady pace.

He sat there and listened, with his monologue fading from his mind each time the
spoon touched his father’s lips. Each pained swallow, each tremor, pushed his
purpose further away from him. Where there had been fear and anger was
confusion and something else. Not quite pity, not yet. Regret? Embarrassment,
maybe. The feeling of something falling out of his grasp, of losing clarity. All his
purpose, his conviction, his obligation to march in here, and the only thing he
could do was sit and watch, and not quite listen.

The nurse paused her observations while she looked for the last bit of yoghurt in
the container. His father’s eyes found him again. He met his gaze briefly and then
looked away, the red returning to his ears. The eyes were still on him when he
looked up. He had no idea how much was behind them. He broke the silence.

‘Has he...has he mentioned me? Has he mentioned his son?’

The woman looked at him, not with sympathy, but with a dignified
professionalism he hadn’t heard from her thus far.

‘Your father hasn’t spoken at all since he’s been in our care. I’m sorry.’

He nodded at this. He tried to make sense of it, then gave up and returned to
nodding and failing to meet his father’s eyes.

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He had said so little.

‘Well, Mr Andrews, I hope you enjoyed your meal?’ The nurse was preparing the
bed again, folding it back down. His father’s eyes never left him. A bubble of spit
was trapped just outside the corner of his mouth.

He rose out of his chair and moved across the small room until he was directly in
front of the bed-ridden man. The blankets were back around him, the pillow
spreading out on either side of his head. He stood and watched, as dispassionately
as he could, and he thought. He imagined. He argued with himself, with his past.

He reached down and picked up the small cloth produced by the nurse upon her
entry. Pinching it between his finger and thumb, he reached down and softly
wiped the old man’s mouth. His father’s eyes closed.

‘Fathers and sons’, said the nurse, quietly. ‘I bet that’s the first time you’ve
touched his face since you were a baby.’

The tightness between his shoulders broke. He dropped the cloth, picked it up
and then immediately set it down where he found it. He looked away, looked at
the floor. The thoughts still came thick and fast but not as sharp as they’d been
just briefly before.

Memories are echoes. Memories fade each time they come back.

‘I’m finished here,’ the nurse said. ‘You’re welcome to stay a little longer if you’d
like. Visiting hours are over, but I don’t mind. No one here minds.’

‘No’, said the man. ‘No, I don’t...I don’t need to be here right now. I mean, I can
come back. I’ll come back when there’s more time. When we have more time.’

The sounds of quiet breathing, of a light sleep, came from the bed. ‘Well, then,’
said the nurse. ‘Good night to you. And good night, Mr Andrews’.

‘Call him Andy,’ the younger man said. ‘He’d want that. He’d really like that.’

The nurse smiled again, or maybe had never stopped smiling, and left with her
tray.

He gathered his breath but not his thoughts and stepped out after her into the
still-bustling corridor. His footsteps blended in with the chorus that had carried
him into the room.

The cool fell over him as he walked to the door.

16
Echo

By Paul Hill

17
‘Echo’

By Fran Jones

Blossom drifts on wind

Spirits lift in the warm air

Hope echoes our dreams

18
‘The Echo’

by Gemma Brosnan.

The day replays itself on a loop in my soul for the rest of the year. It’s like
watching a movie, except parts have been damaged so badly I must reconstruct
the missing frames from the wreckage of my memory, once so sharp and fresh,
bursting with rosy delusion.

It is possible I was at the office, deciphering meaningless financial jargon
squashed into different shapes via a hundred hungry emails. It is possible I was
enthusiastically listing the calories of every ingredient in yesterday’s superfood
salad, calculating how many pounds I’d need to lose before I lost him completely.

Or perhaps it was a few hours before that? Was I aimlessly lapping the floors of
HMV in a circuitous fashion, seeking solace in familiar beats and swerving a sea of
strange new sounds that didn’t make any sense?

Was I holding a pair of headphones in my hands, deciding between beige and
black, as he walked past our bed, my shoes and his grandmother’s favourite lamp?
Was I waiting to checkout, eyeing the bins of unnecessary objects bordering the
checkout aisle, as he wheeled out his world and kicked ours behind him into the
trash?

Was I just entering the tube at Green Park, pleased there was money left on my
Oyster as I touched the barrier with apprehension then a bullet of glee? Was I
heading North on the Victoria line, singing along to Springsteen, the vibrations
soothing my screeching nerves and washing away the grind every step I got closer
to home?

Was I stalling in the local supermarket, fumbling with the bass on my new
headphones and hunting down his favourite guacamole, when he pushed his keys
through the letterbox and gave me away for good?

The day after or maybe the same day, nauseated from grief and starvation, I lay
on the sofa in a catatonic haze. My eyes crawled over the empty space, but my
mind couldn’t handle the gaps. I tried desperately to tune out, falling into a fitful
sleep and then waking with a start every few minutes to a world in which he no
longer existed.

I struggled to forget him physically. The details of his body—the taste of his
mouth, the texture of his skin, hands that looked like they could fix or break
anything, the graze of his stubble - tortured every breath.

19
I spent hours trying to erase him completely, but the walls were unkind, throwing
back echoes of his footsteps, his laughter and his whispers. Was everything he
ever said really just a lie?

I began replaying, in my imagination, the circumstances around his disappearance.
Was it early morning or late afternoon? Was he listening to music or daytime TV?
Did someone help him take my bookshelf apart?

For six months after he left me, he left me again every night in my dreams. Every
night, a new and different betrayal. Sometimes, we were in a park, luminous grass
and luscious shrubbery sloping in every direction. I would go looking for him and
find him, a bunch of naked limbs tangled up with a tanned, waifish girl pressing
against a tree.

Sometimes, we were at a party and I would see him exchanging glances with the
same girl across the room. And I would find them, sweating out lust in a tiny
coatroom, oblivious to anything less than gratifying each other’s pleasure.

My response to the betrayal was always the same: I would collapse at his feet,
hyperventilating and pleading in brutal wails, wrapping my arms around his leg
and he would cast me off like a demented tramp and lead the girl away.

I will have more dreams now and I will try to save us. I will beg him to say a word
of kindness to me, a word of affection, but he will not recognise me. I will get lost
amongst the strangers at a dozen more parties, from warehouses in Hackney to
flowering rooftops in New York, trying to find someone to come and help him
recognise me, but each person will dawdle and take me to some other person,
who just needs to get this one thing before they can take me to the person who
can help me, and they will lose track on the way there, stopping to chat with a
friend, and I will never make it back to him.

Eventually I will find him in some strange apartment, in the bed of some new,
strange girlfriend, another echo of his ego that sounds just like him.

In the next dream, she’ll sound just like me.

20
‘The Desert Mourns’
By Millie Montiel

The desert of Chile is weeping,
tears have burst their banks.
Copiapó cries for you,
the Atacama moans for you.
The sun hides her face in despair,
and drops tears from stormy clouds.
Chile has heard what it has lost,
it cries out in pain,
for you will not walk its streets again.

So for who will the sun shine?
You will return only in dust,
an echo shivering in the wind,
ashes to ashes. Chile weeps for her
son, it will be seen no more.
The brightness has gone forever,
Copiapó joins with my uncle’s tears.
The sky storms and rages,
‘He will not return!’

And the desert bathes its people
in floods of salty tears.

He has gone
He has gone
He has gone

21
Echoes
by Owen Leo Moore

“Are we fucked?”
I opened one eye and turned to look at him.
“Is it all decadence and decline from here on in?” he continued “Decay? Are all
our greatest achievements behind us?”

“Are you talking about us in particular? Because it's a bit fucking early for that
kind of chat.” I screwed up my eyes against the light, of which there suddenly
seemed to be loads, then expressed my annoyance by lifting my head off my
rolled-up jacket and letting it crash back down.

“I'm talking about the whole species, the human race.”

“Well it's definitely too early for that” I sputtered, exasperated, as I gave up the
pretence of remaining asleep and sat up. I slid out of my sleeping bag and
stretched to grab the lute. It wasn't my lute, it was merely the lute, and it belonged
to the family that ran tours in this place. I twiddled a tuning peg and started to
play. My hope was that a little authentic acoustic music would ease my companion
out of his disenchanted state and allow us to put this conversation to rest. Failing
that, it would make absolutely clear my lack of enthusiasm for the subject and
cause him to stop or, at the very least, it would distract me and excuse me from
providing responses to his rhetorical musings when he inevitably continued.

Inevitably, he continued. “I mean, how long have we been around? Generations.
Aeons. Years and years of learning, creating, communicating... And what've we
got to show for it? A few bits of tech and an inflated sense of self-importance? I
mean... Shit, I don't even know what I mean.”
He looked quite dejected. I looked away, wondering what had gotten into him.
This was a recreational excursion, scheduled as a sort of unofficial reward from
our NGO. We'd been working flat out for months. It's a shame to freak out now,
I thought, as I gazed across the sands towards the valley wall; a shame, after all
that. The desert does strange things to people, I supposed. Whether it was the
isolation, the heat, the thirst, the hardship... or whether it was just the sheer stark
majesty of these places, they seemed to inspire a lot of strange thoughts, a lot of
religion.

I was still squinting against the light. It was only going to get brighter. Seeing this
place for the first time, having arrived after dark the evening before, I was quite
impressed by the scale of it. In the distance I began to make out some shapes
through the haze. Horsemen. They were attending to their morning business of
checking the perimeter and delivering their sisters' kids to souvenir stands all over
the site. They shimmered dark blue against pale sky, pink valley and orange sand.
“What about them?” I stopped playing for a moment to indicate the mounted
men filing slowly along the horizon, “they must have rode horses around this

22
place for generations, wearing their traditional dress, playing their traditional
music...”

“Of course they have, aye, riding around supplying plastic battleaxes and bottles
of coloured sand to the ancients!” he chuckled darkly, “Look at them. Bored
stallions; sickly, inbred kids... Sure they’ve held on to a few scraps of the past, but
they aren’t themselves anymore, they’re just…” he trailed off, searching for
something. At that moment the sounds of the nearby camp came filtering along
the valley. They were wealthy foreign students, ostensibly here to learn the local
language, but from the arrogant way they behaved it was clear that they’d learn
nothing. They had just woken up, and their obnoxious shrieking and giggling
echoed through the valley.

“Echoes!” he’d found what he was looking for, “Yes. Echoes. That’s what they
are.”

I could see what he was getting at. I shrugged and raised both eyebrows to register
my vague approval, then went back to the melody I’d been picking out on the
lute. It was quite a nice melody, and it was helping me to come to terms with
being awake.

“How old is this place?” said my companion, warming to his theme and irritating
me once again, “How old was this civilisation, this place, these people? And look
what it all came to. Is this what becomes of all human endeavour?”

The man was touching on some pretty dark shit, and he was making it hard to
keep the optimistic character in my playing. The melody changed subtly. The
effect didn’t go unnoticed.

“So look at that lute for example. It’s their traditional instrument, but can any of
them play it?”

As much as he was ruining my morning, I had to concede that he had a point. I’d
heard there was one guy here who had a souvenir tent in one of the higher places
who could really play. However, this particular instrument was never played by
him. When we’d arrived and sat down to dinner the previous night there’d been
about forty tribesmen gathered around the fire. They’d all been passing the lute
around and trying to play it, with very little success. They could barely get it in
tune. Eventually it had found its way in to my hands.

The tribesmen had been plucking the strings with the yellowed foam filter from a
cigarette butt, which I’d politely declined to use. I had rummaged in my rucksack
for a loose plastic cable-tie, which was closer to the traditional quill plectrum. The
instrument was basically a crude version of the four-course cittern that was used
in traditional music back in our country, so I’d managed to get it tuned up and
wring some convincing music out of it. Our hosts had been impressed, insisting I
carry the lute around with me for the duration of my visit. I would have to work

23
out how to avoid being given it as a gift when I left, by these proud but struggling
people.

Out of the glare of the sun stepped one of them now. His many sons most likely
established in their pitches (ready to tout illegally excavated local artefacts
throughout the day to the less scrupulous tourists) he’d kindly come to invite us to
join the rest of our tour group. He reminded us of our itinerary in the local dialect,
which sounded like granite blocks being smashed into gravel. Few people here
spoke the Eurasian Pidgin that was used almost everywhere else in the world. This
was a feature common across the entire island. In the lands to the south they even
had a peculiar collective delusion that had them show genuine surprise and
indignation when foreigners didn’t understand their language. Perhaps once upon
a time people did, and this was some vestigial trait left over from that time, but
that must have been a very long time ago, because they didn’t any more.

These people were more understanding though. It seemed they had trouble
talking to the southlanders as well. Their dialect was closer to our own Norse
language, so we were able to communicate. I regarded him for a moment. He
really did cut an astounding figure; deep red skin, orange beard, massive frame.
His thick plaid woollen skirt and plumed fur hat struck me as better suited to less
sunny climes, but to balance things out he wore little else, except a bandolier of
homemade rifle ammunition and a ceremonial axe. Just then a boy and a girl came
running from the students’ camp. They were Central Asians, rich scions of the
Oil-Khanate, laughing and shouting in their Turkified Russo-Mandarin as they
chased about the sands.

The girl was very scantily-clad for a female among this conservative community. I
was of a liberal tendency myself, but I’d been around tribes like this for long
enough to feel affronted on their behalf. The tribesman watched them, obviously
not approving of their behaviour. His face had gone hard as stone and he growled
out a string of oaths at a volume that made it clear he didn’t expect either of these
so-called “language students” to understand a word. Even I could only pick out a
fraction of what he said. Noisy tourist-types were referred to as Yanks in these
parts, and I also recognised a few of the lower curses that we’d been warned
during our initial cultural orientation never (ever) to use; Faslane, Tory, Trident... He
remembered himself and stopped, then apologised with uncanny good grace. We
waved him off, amused, assuring him that no apology was necessary as he turned
to march away and the students shot off in the opposite direction, leaving we two
Norse alone once more.

The tour group was meeting at a place further along the valley. We packed away
our sleeping bags and kicked dust into the embers of last night’s fire. I swung the
lute on to my shoulder and we began to walk. As we turned a bend there came
strains of the region’s traditional rudimentary bagpipe, known as the Skirl, keening
on the breeze. An outcrop appeared in the distance, on which was perched a
mighty black tower.

24
It was the Scotts-Spijke, the tallest surviving structure of the Embra site. Neither of
us had ever seen it except in books. Seeing it appear so suddenly before us in this
manner stopped us in our tracks. I could just make out the native piper at the base
of the tower, dwarfed by it. We stood there speechless as the cry of the pipes
echoed from the valley walls. The unearthly sound seemed to have silenced the
frolicking youths who remained somewhere back the way we came. I listened to
this new melody. It was simple, but raw and rousing. I felt the urge to lilt a little
something over the top; a nursery rhyme I’d heard from a vanishing people who
spoke a language inexplicably similar to that of this island, on my last
humanitarian posting when we’d sailed across the treacherous Western Ocean:

“And when he’d beat those dirty apes
To the Lady he did yell
You maniacs! You blew it up!
Oh Damn you all to Hell”

“What was that?” asked my faithful fellow countryman, laughing.

“Not sure,” I said, “one of your ‘Echoes’ perhaps.”

25
‘The Echo of Him’

By Graham Tye

I decided on this Japanese Haiku style of poetry as I approached the imminent arrival of my
first-born child, a son. My dad had been helping me loads with decorating and preparing the
nursery so I decided to treat him by paying for a short stay in some Mongolian Yurts in the
Meon Valley. We walked a lot, and talked about life and birth and everything in between. The
idea for my take on ‘Echo’ came when I started thinking about Fatherhood and how from a
Father, a son could be seen as an echo of that man – a copy, but with its own individual
characteristics, a continuation of the original. Perhaps from the first man we are all echoes.

Up time, alarm buzz
Slow release carbohydrates
Coffee, coffee go

Cool wind on bare legs
Not for long, hills in distance
Preparation fine

Sun peeks in and out
Telling ghost stories, goosebumps
Stop, so he can rest

Tiring, but still strong
See the man I will become
The echo of him

Dead corn husks scattered
Natural burial site
England’s rolling land

Buzzard swoops, dips, feels
Butser hill in the distance
Wind her friend today

Laughter, Hang Gliders
Remote Controlled Aeroplanes
Hikers, hiking on

Stop, pause to reflect
Salted beef and Chicken rolls
Ready for our home

26
Bluebells still flourish
Patchwork fields all Gold and Green
Perfumed flowers drift

Back in camp, fire starts
Marshmallows melt, homemade sticks
Laugh and reminisce

Shake his hand, man hug
Smell his smell, feel his dad strength
One day soon, my time

Tiring, but still strong
See the man I will become
The echo of him

27
BY Alex Wright

INT. OF PSYCHIATRIST OFFICE. DAY. A wizened old psychiatrist
sits behind a large
desk scattered with large dusty books. The patient lies on a couch opposite.
Psychiatrist
Thank you for coming in Mr Brooks, I’ve carefully read all your notes and I must
say that your case is intriguing. However, you will be pleased to know that I think
that I have a solution that will help us get to the bottom, yes… the bottom of
your strange recurring memory.
Mr Brooks
Thank you, Doctor…
Psychiatrist
Please, don’t thank me… yet. We have much to discuss. Let me first refer to some
specific moments of your memory. You say that you feel as if you are viewing the
happenings from above? An elevated point, that correct?
Mr Brooks:
That is…
Psychiatrist
Please don’t interrupt Mr Brooks. Lets see, dominant colour red, possibly in a
cinema or auditorium of some sort. Dwarfs or small people come and go.
Hmmm, yes it is clear. Clear Mr Brooks… and this may come as a surprise… or
perhaps you always knew…. Mr Brooks, I don’t know how to say this to you but
it is quite clear to me that you were abducted by aliens at some point in your past.
This memory of yours, this faint recollection is the left overs, the remnants, the
slowly decaying half-life of the fall-out, that is the debris of the aliens mind-wiping
technology. Designed to erase all memory of the traumatic experience. However,
they were unsuccessful at removing every small connection that your neurones
made.
Mr Brooks
But,
Psychiatrist
No interrupting Mr Brooks, please! Now where was I? Ah yes! These alien beings,
these visitors of an advanced civilisation would have had a great purpose - do you
realise the effort needed for intergalactic travel? It’s no troll in the dark. Yes, they
chose you. YOU. Of all humans, you were their purpose, their objective, their
mission. Mr Brooks, I propose to you that once inside their alien vessel you were
suspended in some kind of alien force field - this accounts for your elevated

28
perspective. You did not witness dwarfs coming and going – these were the alien
overlords swarming about and busying themselves with their objective. And you
don’t even realize their epic objective. They were harvesting your DNA man,
scraping your genes, collecting your cells. You have been cloned Mr Brooks.
These beings returned to their dying galaxy with a mission to create new lifeforms;
new life forms in your image. Now there are countless copies of you, engineered
to re-populate their worlds. Do understand the implications?

Mr Brooks
But…
Psychiatrist
Mr Brooks! Please do not interrupt! Can’t you hear the horses whinnying? I must
also note that that is the second time you have interrupted me with that word –
most interesting. Now where were we? Ah yes, the implications… Mr Brooks –
they have made a new species of human being, using your DNA sequence and
genes. For all intents and purposes - you are a god.
Now, let us explore the little matter of the probing…

Stimulus piece by Ed Brooks

29
‘Monty Don’ by Angela Wilson

Monty Don's on telly again
With earth beneath his nails
His talk of soggy beds makes me blush
It almost never fails

'Cause Uncle Monty's talking dirty
We love it when he does
Not just because it's funny
But 'cause it's part of us

That soil he likes to finger
The earth he can't help caress
It's where we've all come from
And to where we will regress

The natural cycle of it all
Of life, its ebb and flow
It's all right there in Monty's palm
Ripe for his large hoe

So don't dismiss his salad crops
Or his water-logged clay bed
Monty is the key to life, like God
And heaven - his potting shed

Stimulus piece by Graham Tye

30
Photograph by Paul Hill, stimulus piece by Charles Maclean

31
!
By Charles Maclean

Tick tock. Tick tick. His face. My face. His face. My face. Blank.

The empty hollow sound of vacant stares falling to earth. Lost wanderings down
overgrown pathways. Roads ending abruptly at the edge of abandoned woods.
Standing looking into the impenetrable darkness of a deep water pool at
midnight.

Pin pricks of light break though threadbare hospital curtain. I reach to gather
them in my frail hands, my mind, my memory.

When he finally turned and left, there was something about the way he walked. As
the door swung shut I called out, the words echoed round the tiled walls, "My
son, come back, my son."

Stimulus piece by Edward Wilford.

32
By Ed Brooks

I found myself studying the concave structure, the dark and receding cavernous
vault, an amalgamation of sedimentation that had formed long before our first
ancestors. It dripped slowly through the eons, stalagmites formed, rock slowly
heaved, and the waters calcified the cracks, all this imperceptible in time, in our
lives it appeared motionless, stirred only by the incessant drip and our own
heartbeat. The cold silence reinforced a black wall, hiding more space enveloped
in rock. Like a prehistoric cathedral spewed slowly from the earth.

As I gazed from my time worn pedestal like a pathetic priest, roughly central
overseeing this lost landscape, I thought back to a moment in my not so distant
past. On a night out, a social occasion, in a nameless bar in a nameless part of
London a friend known for his quick wit, and fast tongue chose one of his old
favourites. ‘I think you have a bit of toilet roll stuck on the back of your foot’ he
innocently remarked. His prey, lifted his foot and tried to look over his shoulder.
The friend rather than delivering his ‘Hello Sailor’ punchline looked at his prey
with a look of great satisfaction and said nothing, just smiled to himself
contentedly. His prey had merely halted whatever story he had been in the midst
and was slightly baffled.

With this in mind and with the great cavern spreading out from me, I quietly
retreated, careful to make no sound and utter no word. I too smiled to myself
contentedly, enjoying the colossal reverb in my mind without the limitation of the
actuality.

Stimulus by Paul Hill

33
By Edward Wilford

James tore the tape on the last box before stepping back to grade his work. Solid
B+, he thought, carrying the box toward the front door. Of course he ended up
dumping whole drawers full of junk into boxes in the end, but he was fairly
certain that held true for every house move. A B+ for effort. A B+ for good
intentions.

Stripped of its furniture and carpets, the house had an echo; one it never had
when it was full (too full, most of the time) and noisy (ditto). It had been a good
house, but never a great one; a house that served its purpose and had its time.
One they’d outgrown some time before they had the resources to leave it.

Alice pulled out of the drive and disappeared round the corner without a wave;
not because she was upset, but because everyone was too tired for politeness. The
rear axle of the car was riding low with the collection of boxes and bags filling the
rear; the next-to-last trip. James absently picked up a broom propped against the
front door and looked around for something worth sweeping up. Surprised to
find nothing of note, he turned down the passageway between his house (was it
still his house? The bank’s house? Someone’s house?) and the neighbours, and
headed towards the garden.

Swinging round the bend in the passageway, he was struck by the smell of the
cherry tree; struck both by the scent of the now-faded blossoms, and by a tinge of
regret. The tree would have to be left behind. It was his only real act of gardening,
a task he loved but was on the whole appalling at. The tree had thrived, against all
expectations, his most of all.

‘Daddy?’ Ruth looked up to him from the bench under the larger maple tree. She
had refused to move from it when her mother had loaded the car, proclaiming
herself ‘bored to death and sick and tired’. Of everything, James silently decided,
but of moving most of all. There was nothing fun about moving at any age, he
thought, but for a seven-year-old, it was simple torture.

“Almost time, sweetie,’ he said, anticipating her question.

‘Mummy said there’d be pizza,’ Ruth said in response.

‘And pizza there will be.’ He looked out over the garden. The daffodils were
bowed and the tulips had lost their petals; spring had given over, leaving behind a
few faint and fading echoes as summer crept in to take its place. The pathway
under his feet was carpeted with blossoms from the cherry tree mixed with a
variety of other drying petals. He started to push the broom over them, gathering
them into a small mound, pushing from all sides until the path and the bordering
patio were clear. He looked around again. Not a leaf out of place, he thought, not
an unwatered plant. Inside the house, every surface was clean and every room was
wholly empty. Not a trace remained that could be removed. Just a cherry tree and

34
a small hill of blossoms. He pulled a crumpled carrier bag out of his jacket pocket
and began to fill it with his sweepings.

‘What are you doing?’ Ruthie’s voice was more than curious; anxious, maybe?
Overtired?

‘I just want the garden to be nice for the new people, honey’.

‘I think it looks nice with the flowers where they were.’

He laughed. ‘I do too. But maybe the new people don’t want blossoms on
everything.’

‘But what if they do?’

He laughed again. ‘I don’t know. They’ll figure something out, I imagine.’

She bit her lip. ‘I want to help?’ She phrased it as a question, as if she didn’t know
herself.

James knelt down and Ruthie followed, sitting on her heels. He held the bag open
wide as she gathered handful after handful of blossoms, putting each into the bag
he held open. She didn’t fill her cupped hands, he noticed; each time, her hands
were maybe half full, maybe less. No, less. No, less again...the handfuls were
decreasing. And the blossoms weren’t being dumped into the bag, but lowered in
all the way. Ruthie’s lessening handfuls of blossoms were being placed with care in
the bottom of the bag. She couldn’t have been more careful if each blossom were
a china cup, he thought. I wish I’d packed half the boxes half as carefully. Finally
she reached the last wilted one. Ruth held it between two fingers and twirled it
back and forth.

‘What are we going to do with them?’

That took him aback...he was, he found, unable to answer that question. He had
planned on putting them in a larger bin liner he had left out front, but that answer
seemed impossible now, after Ruth’s direct question. It had never occurred to him
that his daughter might care about the tree. Had she come back here on her own
to say goodbye? What else was she leaving behind, alongside her first bedroom
and her cherry tree?

‘I...I’ll be honest, sweetheart, I don’t know. I don’t know what to do with them’.

He reached into the bag and plucked out a blossom of his own. It felt vaguely
papery; he had to be careful not to tear it.

‘I really would like to know what you think, though. I think you should decide
what we do with them.’

35
She looked down at the petal she was twirling between her fingers, but didn’t
speak. James couldn’t tell if she was thinking or avoiding answering.

He smiled at her. ‘What do you think we should do? Should we...’. He was briefly
stuck for ideas. ‘...should we bury them? Maybe in the park, so you could come
visit them?’ A blossom funeral? The idea sounded ridiculous to him as soon as he
said it.

She shook her head. ‘No. I don’t want them in the ground. I don’t want them to
be cold.’

He nodded, then looked away and tried to force himself to frown as solemnly as
possible. She wouldn’t understand that he wasn’t laughing at her, that his smile
was something else entirely.

Ruthie paid him no attention. ‘But we should take them to the park. They’d like to
be in the park.’

He stretched and stood up. ‘Then let’s go to the park. But your mum’s going to be
back in a few minutes, and it’ll be time to...to say good-bye to things around here.’

She nodded. Her eyes went from him to her shoes to the cherry tree. Her tree.
Their tree.

He looked at her, watched her watching the tree, and at last couldn’t contain his
smile. He decided to make as graceful an exit as he could manage. He gently
picked up the carrier bag and folded it across the top third, to keep the contents
safe. ‘I’ll be waiting out front. We’ll go together.’

‘Daddy? Do think I’m being very silly?’

Yes, he thought, pulling her into a hug. Yes, in the best, most wonderful way, and
I never want you to stop. I never want this season in you to change.

He kissed her on the head. ‘No’, he said. ‘I don’t think you’re silly at all.’

Stimulus piece by Fran Jones

36
Photograph by Elenor Ling, stimulus piece by Gemma Brosnan

37
Full Stops
By Owen Moore

Picture an airport
An airport!
You've flown
Yeah
So picture it
There you go
Remember all those faces?
Course you don't.
You'll remember this one
If you'll only look.
So look
...
Told you.

Brunette, white dress
Just off that Jumbo
Pale skin, needs rest
Overnight from Santiago
Black eyes, looks stressed
More to it than that though
Look
Look
Don't scare her
But look
Yes
Tears down her cheeks
Cut through the sweat
Salt water, Hell's daughter
Keeps the sands refreshed
Hate's ladder
Has dragged her
As far as she can stretch
We're sorry
Her story
It's sadder'n yours
Accept

Stimulus piece by Millie

38
By Gemma Brosnan

I’m always cold, parts of me numb, but this time feels different.

No matter how much I tighten the skein of blankets holding me in, a constant
chill haunts my bones, spasmodically freezing my limbs and pulse on a rotating
loop.

I slide two fat pillows out from under my spine, hug them and flip over,
cocooning my hips and ribs as I wriggle to the edge of the frame and peak
through a gap in the curtains.

Powdery sunlight brightens an industrial bin eight floors below. I search the trees
for winter, but the blossoms suggest spring.

A door clicks and the crowd move in like agitated serpents. Heads shaking, arms
waving, hushed plans falling apart. All my attempts to reason with them have long
since failed. I’m not afraid of governments or what they’ll do to me next.

I sink back and let the chaos sweep over me, trying to catch a glimpse of him in
the periphery of my vision, but when I turn to face it, I find only the nurse with
her bouncy flesh, rambling malicious orders.

I ask her if she’s stalked by this chill or if something’s wrong with the heating.

“It’s boiling, Annie.” she says, leaning in like a tight, tense knot. Her voice sounds
like a tube announcement sinking underwater.

She takes off my gown and measures my blood pressure, willing another bruise. I
shift my gaze and notice a film of white fur coating my torso. It doesn’t extend to
the cigarette burn tainting my left breast.

I shiver down to the scales, rubbing my hands hard to try and get back some
feeling. She adjusts her specs and carries on scrawling loopy notes. Disdain creeps
over her face as the needle starts to falter. The drill is painful and pointless,
smearing rapidly into routine.

Some mornings, out of blind boredom, I disconnect the clips and wires tracking

39
my fading heart, pad out the wheelchair with a pillow to protect my papery skin
and work my way along the corridor, my mind pushing me on as my muscles
protest each movement. Rooms on either side, all doors open.

I don’t have any friends here, but I like to observe the others. There’s a twisted
hierarchy among them. A detailed code of respect and sympathy, nature versus
nurture. They spend their days comparing notes and their evenings in front of the
screen, flicking through neon drivel, suppressing hunger, thoughts, life outside,
the odd hypoglycaemic rage.

I weave my way through them, onto the glossy tiles then a final push past the
Custard Creams out into the courtyard. There’s no hint of warmth in my coat and
my veiny fingers vibrate as I light a cigarette, watching the smoke spin out in front
of me as I replay the circumstances surrounding my arrival.

It’s like watching a film, except parts have been damaged so badly I must
reconstruct the missing frames from the wreckage of my memory, once so sharp
and fresh, now a scattering of struggling cinders.

An evening in early October in Cambridge, nothing out of the ordinary. Tom
Petty, Coldplay on the jukebox, arguments over change for the pool table, my
heels getting sticky from the cider on the floor.

I remember his dilating pupils, but I don’t remember his face. A tiny window
through which rusty light spilled, a rancid sticky smell on his breath and
trembling, fleshy hands. A Zulu statue with a missing arm propped up against the
wall. An industrial door with scabby teal paint and a calendar of Jack Russells.
Shrieks fading from the revellers above, his pale, oniony skin. The back of my
skull hitting a wall, slamming the night out of focus. The flying cars that whipped
my hair up, headlights skimming and swerving my screams as I ran and bled,
puking raw liquid. Everything goes black.

These days I’m rarely allowed to leave the room. They’re afraid if I venture too far
from it that my skin will ice over and my blood will freeze for good. It’s similar to
a standard prison - humourless guards, no razors, poor heating – with a few
humiliating twists. No caffeine in case it speeds your metabolism, no exercise to
wipe out the bulk they pour into you, monitored showers, sleeping, breathing,
threats of force-feeding and shocks.

When my sister comes in with her husband – my nephews have said their
goodbyes - I try to be grateful for their concern, but I can’t see them as anything

40
other than the enemy. A gaggle of deluded whispers, reducing me to numbers;
kilos, pounds, calories, days here, how many days I’ve got left. Too scared to
speak at a normal pitch in case the volume breaks me.

I huddle back into the blankets and let the chill freeze my frustration. The probing
lights hurt my head and I will the night to come and bring me the dissolution of
reality I crave, a kaleidoscope of glistening dreams defying my truth and form.

Soon I’ll find his face somewhere in the corkscrew of my mind and stare into
those kilowatt eyes as they watch the fire fade from mine, the memory of him,
that night, that self, finally extinguished for good. The shackles are starting to
loosen. They need to keep me warm.

Stimulus piece by Alex Wright.

41
The Day She Told Me
By Graham Tye

And I recall where we were, what we wore and the weather that day
As I stood there my mouth open wide, what the hell did she say?
This cannot be happening, please make ‘that word’ go away
I look in her eyes and expect her to show she’s afraid

But she just winks and smiles that smile
Takes a bow and says “I’ll be here for a while”

That’s how she told me
On the, day she told me
And I won’t forget how she told me
Because that’s how she told me

As we moved through the months I could sense that the change would come
See her smile turn to frown see the tears make mascara run
See her strength become frail see her laughter lose all sense of fun
And I thought to myself if this happens then I’m gonna run and run

But she just laughs and holds my hand
Takes a bow and makes me understand, and…

That’s how she told me
On the, day she told me
And I won’t forget how she told me
Because that’s how she told me

Stimulus piece by Angela Wilson

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Graham&Tye&in&response&to&Angela&Wilson&
!
!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yWJ7sRH3b9g&feature=y
outu.be!
Response to Echoes

By Camila Montiel McCann

We sat around an oak table, with my uncle at the head, in an oak room, in an oak
house. My uncle had insisted on building his house in the desert as the houses on
his native island in the south were built. My father constantly told him how
foolish this was: the wood would just rot, but my uncle was determined. And
now, here we were, over from England, all assembled in his wooden bungalow in
the desert. They were all talking, my uncle and aunt and cousins, chattering away,
deep in a conversation I could never really understand.
My father had never spoken to us in Spanish, said it was too strange for him. We
were English. But, the thing is, we weren’t. Half of our blood is Chilean, the
Spanish language should run through our veins and float out of our mouths into
music. For a long time I thought my uncle’s name was ‘Tiotito’, Not until I did
GCSE Spanish did I realise Tio meant uncle. God, the arguments we all had when
we had to learn Spanish as teenagers. I would rage and thunder around the house,
boiling and burning with anger that I had been shut off from my country and
culture. To then be forced to have the language drilled into me through text books
and interactive games on the BBC Bitesize website, when it was already too late,
was insulting.
And now, here we were again, lost in the conversation. I sat picking at my food. I
would always try to follow the beginning of these conversations my family would
have around me. Understanding always comes easier than speaking. But, soon I
would drift off. They would speak too fast and the words would blend into one
and the sound out of their mouths became just that, only that – sound. An
indistinguishable shadow, I could see it resembled something, but I could never
quite put my finger on what that something was. Mainly, I just sat in silence.
It would happen often. Many of my father’s friends at home were Chileans and,
when I would see them, they would start to talk to me in their own musical
language and I would drift off again and get lost in the sound.
‘Ah, sorry, I always forget to speak in English with you’ they would say, in their
thick and heavy accents.
And I would bow my head in shame.
I felt like a traitor, impersonating a Chilean girl, acting a part. Never fully accepted
as Chilean, but never feeling completely British.
I mused on this as I excused myself from the oak table in the oak room and
wandered out of my uncle’s oak house.
‘You will be cold, no, niña?’ My uncle called out after me.
It was twenty-eight degrees and I was wearing denim ripped shorts, a white V-
neck t-shirt, and Haviana flip-flops with butterflies on that my sister has brought
back from Brazil for me. I raised my eyebrows at my uncle and looked at him
incredulously as the birds sang somewhere in the bright blue sky.
‘Ow-kay…’ he said, sounding unconvinced and furrowing his brow in concern,
probably thinking I was going to come back with pneumonia, or something. This
was winter for them, on the other side of the Pacific Ocean. The locals walked
around in big coats and jeans, even hats and scarves when the weather plummeted

43
drastically to the low twenties. It was always a strange sight for me – people
dressed in winter clothes in this heat, and yet all wearing sunglasses. It was the
type of heat where you could see waves ahead of you, rippling through the air.
No, I would not be cold. In fact, I was sweating as soon as I stepped out onto the
porch.
I jumped down the steps and walked down the concrete path that cut to the left
of the courtyard that my uncle’s wooden house stood at the head of. On my left
was my aunt’s brother’s house. He was a famous folk singer and had white hair
and always carried his guitar. Next to his house was a bakery, always smelling
beautifully of fresh bread. At the bottom of the courtyard and to the right was my
aunt’s sister’s house. She always came for lunch and kept her sunglasses on all of
the time so you never saw her eyes. More people I could not talk to. In the middle
of the courtyard was a patch of green grass where lemon and olive trees stood. I
walked to the bottom and opened the wooden garage door that sealed this little
garden off from the world and hopped out onto the pavement.
I turned left and walked towards the old train station. It was quiet now, after
lunch everyone had their siesta, so I walked undisturbed. Silence I could
understand, silence is the same in every language.
I often dreamt of learning Spanish fluently, of coming to live in Chile for a while
and picking it up. Surely it must run in my blood somewhere, maybe if I was just
exposed to it enough it would unlock some sort of hidden potential within me. I
would instantly be reciting beautiful poetry in Spanish and having long, in depth
conversations about politics and the-state-of-the-world. Maybe. It’s always a lot
easier to say you’ll learn a language than to actually do it. Most people speak
English when they hear your accent, thwarting your attempts to stammer your
way through you order. Maybe it’s too painful for them to hear their language
being butchered like that.
I thought of the conversation I’d had with one of my father’s Chilean friends in
London not long ago. We had been in a pub for a big party, there were loads of
Chileans there. I always felt out of place at events like this, like everyone must
know us as the ones who didn’t even speak Spanish. It always felt like everyone
else was part of an exclusive club and were the best of friends, and I was just
hanging around on the outside. My father’s friend, Reynaldo, always comes up
and talks to me though. I was a little tipsy, so when he started to talk to me in
Spanish I had the confidence to think I was understanding for longer than usual. I
should have really stopped him, but I didn’t want to expose myself, and then it
was too late. It would be too rude to stop him after so long. So, inevitably he
continued. Then he paused, it was my turn to speak, to offer some sort of
response. Social etiquette require I said something.
‘Uh…’ I stammered, and I coughed, and spluttered. I didn’t want to blow my
cover, I wanted to be in the club.
‘Si’ I offered, nodding ferociously to make it seem I was assured of what I said
and had been listening attentively.
It seemed to work, he continued and his words started to blend and move into the
background. They grew foggy and distant. I was between understanding and
confusion, half-knowing, catching some of the words as they fell into my ears.
Half-understanding what was said, but missing the true meaning. The meaning

44
that lies at the root of all we say, deep in the recesses where our language and our
heart melt in our minds. I moved further and further away – away from Chile,
from my father, from my uncle – until I fell off of the precipice and into the dark
greyness of translation. I stood lost there, listening to echoes of a language, of a
place, that could never be mine.
I stopped at the train station, turned, and flip-flopped back to watch North
American shows on cable TV, with Spanish subtitles.

Stimulus piece by Owen Moore

45