It’s Only a Moment – A charity project in aid of Alzheimer’s

It’s Only a Moment.

Auntie Lizzie found me on the main street of my hometown (Bellshill), despondent and crying over something I don’t recall, but I’m sure it seemed world-ending to fifteen year-old me.

Auntie Lizzie took me into a little baker’s, (Dalziel’s) gave me tea and cake and just let me talk at her.

When I’d finished moaning, and sobbing and snotting, she simply took my hand and gently told me that ‘It’s only a moment in time, son. It’ll pass.’ We talked some more, had a laugh about some things and parted. It was probably one of the last times I saw Lizzie.

Many times through my life, happy times, hard times, heart break and emotional despair, I’ve recited Auntie Lizzie’s words to myself. To remind myself that it will pass, that it was only a moment.

 

Moments are something that defines Alzheimer’s, for those living with the condition and for those supporting someone they love through it. Moments of lucidity, or joy or anger or despair. Moments where the person is lost, or trapped deep inside themselves under the weight of misfiring neurones and jumbled memories, when their very sense of identity seems a distant chink of light in a dark tunnel.

A series of moments, where the present world seems alien, and unfamiliar and cruel…perhaps. Sometimes it seems wondrous, but not often. Moments where they return to themselves and smile at someone who loves them in recognition. Just a smile, but that moment reminds you that they are in there and still love you. That moment returns part of your soul to you as surely as it does theirs.

Moments that pass. Moments that are excruciating; but beautiful moments also that, despite the maze they walk in, makes you rediscover that part of them you thought may be gone. A squeeze of a hand. A wink, a smile. The words, I love you.

Moments. They pass even when sometimes we wish they wouldn’t.

Mark Wilson

May, 2017

 

Today sees the release of Ryan Bracha’s Thirteen Lives of Frank Peppercorn project. An ambitious undertaking, Ryan brought together a group of writers (me included) with the remit, ‘Tell a story about this man named frank who has just died’. At that point Ryan’s task was to weave these disparate voices and stories and writing styles into a cohesive, flowing novel. A task which he succeeded in, and with quite some flair.

By the project’s end, Bracha and I discussed which charities we’d like to receive all proceeds from the sale of this book. I proposed Alzheimer’s charities, as my aunt had died recently. Auntie Lizzie isn’t the only relative in my family to have endured this condition.

Whilst I hadn’t seen my auntie in a number of years, her death (as these things often do) brought back some long forgotten memories of a time when Lizzie helped me.

 

All proceeds from the sale of Prank Peppercorn will got to Alzheimer’s charities. You can find more information on Alzheimer’s here:

 

http://www.alzscot.org/

http://www.alzheimersresearchuk.org/

https://www.dementiauk.org/

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Blurb:

Thirteen ways to remember the dead. Thirteen histories of a loving husband.

Betty Peppercorn is burning her husband Frank today. Well, she’s burning her property. The corpse she was left with as a reward for loving somebody for better or worse. Frank exists only in her thoughts, anymore. To her knowledge, Frank had no friends. Betty’s not even sure he existed before they met. It comes as a major surprise, then, when several strange faces appear at the funeral, each of them bringing their own stories of what Frank meant to them. As the day goes on, it becomes increasingly apparent that Frank was not the man she thought he was. Thirteen new and established writers collide in this brand new novel-of-stories project from Ryan Bracha, the brains behind Twelve Mad Men, The Switched, and The Dead Man Trilogy.

All proceeds will be donated to Alzheimer’s charities. Featuring contributions from: Dominic Adler – The Ninth Circle Jason Beech – Moorlands Kevin Berg – Indifference Paul D. Brazill – A Case of Noir, Guns of Brixton, Kill Me Quick Robert Cowan – The Search For Ethan, For All is Vanity Craig Furchtenicht – Dimebag Bandits, Behind the 8 Ball Shervin Jamali – The Devil’s Lieutenant Jason Michel – The Death of Three Colours, The Black-Hearted Beat Allen Miles – This is How You Disappear Alex Shaw – The Aidan Snow series Martin Stanley – The Gamblers, Glasgow Grin, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Billingham Forum Mark Wilson (CP Wilson) – The dEaDINBURGH series, On The Seventh Day, Ice Cold Alice

 

 

The Thirteen Lives of Frank Peppercorn is available now from Abrachadabra books at Amazon in Kindle and paperback formats.

A Decent Wee Wummin

A Decent Wee Wummin

 My granny had a phrase for folk that gave more than they had the means or the time to. ‘She’s a decent wee wummin, that yin.’

(Occasionally she’d say it about a man).

She didn’t offer this compliment to everyone we met. Few had earned it, but those who did were clearly held in high esteem by my gran, judging by her respectful tone.

It’s a phrase I haven’t heard in a long time. Not since my Granny passed.

I was born and was raised in Bellshill Lanarkshire. The Lanarkshire of the seventies and eighties was a curious mix of affluence- people were paid well at out local steelworks- and deprivation- those same people struggled through periods of industrial action. In 1980 the workers stayed out for fourteen weeks.

That’s fourteen weeks without pay, without means, for working men and women and their families. They took this action out of principle. The hardship they endured in those long weeks foreshadowed the extreme decline and poverty that was to come to the area and its residents after the closure of these works and the loss of so very much from our communities.

During these periods of industrial action, our townspeople, showed those traits and characteristics that I’ll forever associate with the people of my hometown.

Butchers and grocers provided meat and food packages. Local coal merchants gave what they could. Social clubs filled halls with warmth and welcome. People looked after each other, even if that only meant a kind word or an understanding or supportive glance from a friend.

This is the Bellshill I frequently write of and the people I try to show to those few who bother to read my books. Funny people. Kind people. Hard, welcoming, gallus and good people.

Senior and young holding hands

In this modern world of Duck-faced selfies, grasping consumerism, and paranoia about our immigrants, it can feel as though those times, and the people who lived in them, are long gone. That the values our people held and demonstrated so readily have vanished forever to be replaced with blinkered self-absorption and hearts as black as our yearly Fridays.

The media feeds us a perpetual loop of doom and an image of ourselves that segregates each of us from the other. We look at each other with scorn and envy. We treat our neighbours with suspicion and mistrust. We fear foreigners when each of us is an immigrant to this little island. Facebook and Twitter seem filled with hate and disdain, cynicism hangs over us daily.

None of this is reality.

The people I populate my stories with, the kindness they exhibit, are not a relic of the past, Good people, decent wee people still exist.

 

An elderly woman was robbed in Bellshill recently. She lost her belongings at a time when few of us could afford to. Thankfully she seems to have been unhurt… physically.

This kind of incident can happen anywhere, in any town, village or city. People of any ethnicity or means can be mean-spirited enough to prey on those most vulnerable to them.

On Facebook today. A lady named Elaine Lyness Ramsay asked for donations with which she could perhaps replace the woman’s loss.

Elaine has done what I know most of us would like to think we would do… if only we had the time. Elaine put herself in the lady’s shoes. Felt her loss deeply enough that she couldn’t ignore it. She worried about an elderly woman who’d lost her money and a portion of her dignity. Felt how vulnerable the woman must’ve felt. Concerned herself with whether the lady would have money to pay for food, or electricity or heating.

She visited the police station, she found a route to getting any funds raised to the lady involved and she gave people a means to donate.  And our people did respond and donate what they could, just as their families did throughout the hard times of the past.

Thanks to Elaine, this lady will know for certain that there are still good people in her town who can’t see someone knocked badly. Who refuse to let someone suffer, or feel alone and uncared for. .

Isn’t that what Christmas is about?

Isn’t that what being from Bellshill means?

Elaine. A Decent wee Wummin.

 24th December. Update:

Elaine has to date collected over £600 pounds in cash and stacks of food and goods for the lady. 

We can all be incredibly proud of Elaine and those people who donated for this wee wummin.  

Alice – Tequila Mockingbird Blog Excerpt

The following excerpt is taken from Mark Wilson’s (under the pseudonym CP Wilson) upcoming psychological thriller ‘Alice’ due for publication via Paddy’s Daddy Publishing in Winter, 2016.

The primary character, Alice, is a serial killer who targets abusive spouses. After each kill she posts a blog entry. The following excerpt contains one such entry. Happy reading:

Alice-favourite copy

Tequila Mockingbird

Blog

Kill 17

Michael McKenna died tonight in his home in Edinburgh. His life was brought to a relatively peaceful end. A more serene exit than he deserved, and certainly more humane than the manner in which he treated his family for seventeen years.

A habitual abuser of his wife, Mike employed very few, but expertly-effective methods of torturing his children and spouse. Mike enjoyed his family’s fear. He thrived on their dread, gleefully and ruthlessly taking every minute scrap of independence or self-esteem from them.  A long-term gambler and adulterer, Mike McKenna created a domain in which he ruled supremely over his dependents. A child-man, Mike demanded and expected his every need and whim to be not only catered for, but anticipated. Mental and physical abuse his preferred tools; vindictive domineering and manipulation his most cherished entertainment.

Across fifteen years, Mike beat his wife on thirty seven occasions that I am aware of. During his tenure, Sadie McKenna suffered six broken ribs, a ruptured kidney and numerous arm breaks as a result of displeasing her husband, or failing to foresee one of his many and unpredictable needs. Most recently, Sadie was hospitalised due to a ruptured kidney, a vicious blow delivered with gusto by a coward, relieved her of an organ. Good thing you have two ay thum, Mike had sing-songed to her upon her return home. The damage to her internal organ was convincingly blamed on a fictional mugging in the park.

Sadie endured her husband, absorbed his blows, wilted under his deeply personal criticism of her body, her mind, her spirit.

She forced herself to survive, to remain in order to shield her children. Her eldest, also Michael, intervened more than once. A fractured cheek bone and a broken finger did not ultimately prevent the laddie from placing himself in front of his mother time and again. Mike’s control of the twins hadn’t graduated to physical yet, emotional blackmail and fear served him fine.

Sadie and her children played no role in his death. I acted alone. 

I know these things about Michael McKenna because I watched him for a long time. I saw how he controlled and victimised those he should have loved and cherished. 

Mike will never harm Sadie, or anyone else again. I opened his carotid artery and removed his eye. I looked into the remaining window to his rotten soul and watched the vindictiveness, his rage that Sadie had escaped his world colour his last moments.

Sadie and her children are safe. Never again will they flinch from a step on the floorboards or the voice of their jailer. 

Press In,

Tequila

End of Excerpt

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Mark is the author of ten works of fiction. You can find Mark and his books at Amazon.

Little Fella

My current project is a (sort-of) follow-on to last year’s On The Seventh Day.

Titled ‘The Gig’, the book weaves together a series of short-stories based on experiences and moments sent to me by friends. The following excerpt is uncharacteristic of the rest of the book in terms of tone and themes, but was a very important story for me to write.

Huge thank you to the family who inspired the story for the trust they placed in me.

Trigger Warning:

if you have been affected by mental health issues or the loss of a young child, you may wish to reconsider reading on.

The following (un-edited) excerpt, titled ‘Little Fella’ comes from Mark Wilson’s forthcoming publication, ‘The Gig’. Due for release in spring 2016:

Little Fella

 You feel light…you feel just… free. It’s the only way I can describe the change. Free.

Free from all that stuff you cared about before. Free from anything that hurt or worried you. Free from wanting things. Here, it just feels like everything you ever needed has been given to you somehow, even though you ain’t been given a thing. Being here feels like you’ve just been fed, or hugged and won’t ever need anything ever again.

The room I’m in is empty apart form a few things. It has some magazines and toys and a big comfy couch in front of a telly. I ain’t watched anything. Haven’t felt the need. I think I’ve been here for an hour, but there’s no clocks and I weren’t ever no good with telling time anyway. Not on a clock and not in my head.

A girl called Meg met me when I got here. ‘Splained how I got here and what would happen next. Only eight, years old, She’d said. Straight up to Level One.

S’good. I’d thought that even babies have sin in them they have to pay for. Meg said, No. Not anymore. Just need a signature and up you’ll go, she said.

Suits me fine, and I ain’t really that surprised. Never liked the idea that kids were bad just because they were there. Must be one of the changes the new guy brought in up there.

The door slides open and a girl comes into the room. I mind me manners and stand. She smiles at me. I like her straight away. Some people ya just do, don’t’cha.

She tells me her name is Beth. You are a very special boy, she tells me.

The old me would be thinking, what’s she after? But that boy is gone. Thank you, I tell her without asking why.

Beth puts a hand on each of my shoulders.

“You’re the first soul I’ve helped through this place,” she says. “That means two things.”

I like her. She’s cool. I like that she’s new here too.

“Firstly,” she says. “As you’re my first soul, I’ll never forget, you. Ever.”

She taps the side of her head like a mini-me is already in there, making himself at home. Despite feeling like I don’t need anything, something swells inside me, pleased at meaning something to her. Forever means something here in this place. I haven’t been here long, but I ain’t stupid. I know what eternity means.

“Secondly,” she says. “I have an offer for you, Craig.”

It takes a second for me to remember that my name was Craig, when I was alive. I smile back at her. Thirty seconds after meeting Beth, I’d do anything for her. She catches something in my eyes, they all do that in this place, like they know what you’re thinking. P’raps they do.

“Don’t rush to agree. You’re not beholden. You have your place on Level One, but I want you to consider helping me out around here.”

I nod. If I had a tail it’d be wagging. She smiles warmly at me. Patient, like.

“Craig, come with me and I’ll show you what you’re needed for before you decide.

I follow Beth out of my little room, out onto a large office complex full of little pods. Me mam worked in a place like this, probably still does, I dunno. I loved running around and between pods, using her workplace as a maze, imaginary snipers round every corner.

Beth closes her hand around mine, pulling me gently along. She leads me into another room off of the main office space.

There’s a baby’s crib in the centre. One of them Moses baskets, like me little brother has…had. It’s got blue sheets and a little soft toy, a gorilla, sitting inside, but no baby. Beth gives my hand a squeeze.

“Wait,” she whispers.

A light fills the basket. The same light I felt when I came here, to Sheol. From where I’m standing, I catch sight of a little foot jabbing into the air, then a hand. A happy gurgle follows. Beth lets go of my hand and walks towards the basket. She places a hand into it and beckons me with the other.

Inside there’s a little boy, tiniest baby I ever seen. He looks fresh out the station, like me brother Harvey did when he were new, but much smaller and very red. He’s a little bruised and bashed, like they all are at birth, but no gunge. He ain’t crying. I suppose he’s feeling satisfied, happy and content, like I did when I got here.

As soon as I think it, I feel a tear run along my cheek. Beth, tickling the kid’s chins, puts an arm around me.

“It’s hard. Isn’t it?” She asks. I don’t know what to say, I don’t even know why I’m crying, so I just nod. I don’t feel any less content than I did before, but there’s something; a skelf of need jabbing me.

“Where’s his mum”, I ask. “Or his dad. Ain’t they here yet?”

Beth shakes her head. The kid in the basket coos at her as she runs a finger along his chubby cheeks. The bruising and denting, all the signs of his delivery, are fading. He looks fuller, more healthy. Beefy, me Gran would call him.

“They won’t be here for a while…Earth time,” Beth says kindly.

I move towards his cot and run my finger along between his eyes and down his nose. His eyelids droop. I do it again a second time and watch the little fella fall asleep. Beth grins at me.

“You’re good with him, Craig.”

I shrug.

“Worked on me brother,” I say. I nod at the little fella. “Why’s he here?”

Beth’s smile disappears for the first time. “He’s the reason I need you, Craig. Him and so many other babies.”

I reach into the basket and pull his blankets around him, careful to not wake him.

“He doesn’t have anyone here?” I ask.

“No,” Beth says. “All of those who would know him are still on Earth. He needs a friend, someone to take him up to Level One, get him settled in until his family arrives.”

“When will that be?”

Beth smiles again.

“Won’t be long. Almost by the time you arrive upstairs,” she points a finger up, “His people will have passed over.”

I must look a bit puzzled, cos she puts a hand on my arm and lowers herself to my height.

“Time moves different up here, Craig. A few minutes passing here can be many, many years on Earth.”

I nod. “So you want me to take him, to his new digs. Why me, anyone can do that. You could do it.”

Beth laughs at my cheek. “Yes, I could, Craig, but I have many roles to fulfil here. This isn’t one of them. This job, takes a special kind of person. We only use kids for it.” Beth looks a little sad as she stares at me.

“They…the babies, they only trust other kids, and only kids have the mental strength to do this job properly.”

I must have the face on again, cos she grins again before continuing.

“It’s not a delivery job I’m offering you, kid. You have to bond with this baby before you can take him where he needs to go. You have to witness his life, his thoughts, his pain, and then take him to his new, eternal home.”

Beth places a hand on my cheek.

“It’s…difficult, Craig. Not everyone can do it. It takes a special kind of child; a caring child. One who knows empathy but is resilient enough to take part in the bonding and not be destroyed by it.

“What’s empaffy?” I ask.

“It means that you’re the type of person who understands someone else’s feelings and even share them sometimes.”

I nod, thinking of Harvey.

“Living someone else’s life through their eyes can be painful, especially a baby’s. But that’s what it takes to get these little souls where they need to be. Someone has to take their pain in and process it for them.” Beth’s eyes fill with tears.

“Because they cannot do it for themselves.”

I crack my knuckles. Part of me expects my mum to tell me off for it, but like the little fella, me mam ain’t here yet.

I stand quiet for a while. Beth don’t say a word, just looks into the little fella’s basket.

“What’s his name?”

“Findlay.”

“Okay,” I tell her. “Show me.”

Beth smiles sadly at me. “Thanks Craig.”

She places my hand on Findlay’s forehead, my palm gently resting there and then I’m gone.

 

 

∞∞∞

 

 

It’s dark where I am, but warm…safe. I feel the limits of Findlay’s body, my body now. I’m floating in liquid. It’s…wonderful. I pull on something and kick my leg out in joy, moving something soft. A hand shape moves over where I kicked, pressing it’s gentle, loving reassurance to me. Happiness fills my little heart at the contact.

Findlay’s mum…my mum.

I can hear her voice. Singing as she moves around, making me giggle as I slosh around inside her. Her voice is everything good in my world. I tumble and kick and sleep and dream; her words the soundtrack to my entire existence. She speaks to her friends, to her workmates, to strangers and to me. Always to me. It gives me hiccoughs when she talks to me.

I love you, little one. I can’t wait to meet you.

I get excited and do roley-poleys.

Sometimes Dad speaks too. I like him, he makes me laugh and he makes my tummy fizz when he talks. But, mum. She’s there with me, always.

I breathe the liquid around me. I pee into it and laugh to myself. Mum rubs the walls around me.

Behave yourself in there, I’m sleeping.

She doesn’t care, not really. She’s giggling along with me. I slosh around in her belly as it moves with her laughter, making me laugh harder with the tidal surge.

 

Something…something feels…..So tired.

Mum. I’m so tired. Mum?

She’s there. I feel her but I can’t kick anymore to let her know I hear her. Something rushes into her blood making her heart race. The sound is deafening. She’s crying. She’s talking to me, but not like before. Not gentle, not happy, not calm.

I’m okay. I’m here, mum.

It’s a lie. I’m not, I’m going somewhere else, but I want to speak to her, kick her, one more time. She’s in so much pain, she needs me.

I leave her. I’m not inside her anymore. Not the real me. My body is still in there, but it’s following me out her into the room. Awareness crashes into me.

I look down on a woman pushing my body from herself. My mummy.

I’ve never seen her face, we’ve never seen each other’s faces until now, but I know her better than anyone else ever has. We have a bond. I know her well enough to know that she’ll endure. Even this.

Peace washes over me. All fear vanishes. I try to tell her. Mum, I’m up here. I’m fine. Look up. Just look up.

I watch as part of her leaves along with my limp little body.

Joy.

I scream with my immaterial voice.

Mum, don’t, don’t let that leave. Keep it. I’m here, be happy, I’m fine. You’ll be with me too soon. Don’t lose yourself.

She can’t hear me.

Like always she finds something in her. Something that pushes her pain aside only slightly, just enough to focus on my sleeping face and talks to me anyway. Not to the real me, I’m leaving, going elsewhere, but to part of me that’s left behind.

“I love you Findlay. My beautiful son. My boy.”

I love you too mummy, I smile down at her. My new form begins to tear.

It’s not painful, it’s wonderful actually. Part of me leaves my spirit and rockets towards her. It joins with her soul. It plants a seed that might become happiness for her in the weeks to come.

I take one last look and smile, satisfied that a part of me will always be joined to the soul that made mine, before taking my leave.

 

 

∞∞∞

 

I blink hard a few times, accepting that I’m me again, Craig. I’m on the floor, on all fours. Beth stands beside me, one hand on my back for reassurance, the other wrapped with its arm around her own body. She’s obviously worried about me.

She needn’t.

I take her hand and give it a little squeeze, but that’s it. I’m focused on Findlay now.

His face has changed so much already in the few seconds I was away. He’s a toddler now, maybe two years old. Blonde hair, healthy, ruddy cheeks and his mum’s smile in his sleep. I place a hand on his cheek, waking him. His blue eyes brighten in recognition when he sees me.

Sitting up, he raises his arms. “Cwaig,” he says smiling his rascal smile.

I reach into the basket, already too small for him, and lift him out, to place him standing onto the floor.

He laughs.

“Mummy?” he asks.

I take his hand and lead him to the elevator.

“She’ll be here very soon, little fella. Here with you and free. C’mon.”

End of Excerpt

  gig

You can find Mark Wilson and his books at Amazon.