Friday, 27 January 2012

A Short Story

As you may know, one of the modules i'm studying at the moment is Creative Writing, as part of my degree. My second assignment entailed writing a short story of 2000 words. I personally find it cringe worthy and i'm not sure why I deemed myself qualified to write a Romantic story when i've been single for well over two years! Nevertheless, I scored a solid 76%, so can't complain. If you fancy a giggle, have a read!

One More Time
Despite it being a sunny afternoon in July, the sea was in turmoil, as the waves crashed against the Cornwall cliffs. In a quaint cottage nearby, mountains of boxes overflowing with memories circled thirty-five year old Sally Smith. It had been ten years since she had instructed that her belongings should be sent to storage. Now back in the country, her past was scattered before her eyes. Kneeling on the cold wooden floor, she felt her heart skip a beat, as she placed a trembling hand on a familiar, but now slightly crushed shoe box. Taking a sharp breath in whilst sweeping her fingers through her long curly blonde hair, she paused to consider whether she was ready to revisit the most important thing she left behind. Concluding that she had to face her demons at some stage, Sally blew the dust off of the battered shoe box and carefully removed the lid. A musty smell met her nose, as the contents hadn’t been disturbed for years. It was all there, she had kept everything from him, her first and only true love. Draped delicately at the top lay the napkin with his number written on in blotchy black ink, which he had purposely left on a table in the Cliff Top Cafe where she worked during her time at university. Slowly lifting the napkin to her lips, the memorable scent of coffee engulfed her nostrils causing her powder blue eyes to glaze over, she couldn’t believe she had given him up. Tears of regret streamed down her cheeks, as she sifted through the memoirs that lay dormant for a decade. Amongst the items; a cd of their song, valentine’s day cards, love letters and poems, tickets from their first cinema date and photographs of happy times. One particular photograph caught Sally’s eye, capturing them hand in hand at his brother’s wedding. Everybody said that they would be next. Letting out a deep sigh, Sally studied the picture more closely, smiling at his handsomeness and her youthful glamour. If only she hadn’t been so career driven, she taunted herself. It was totally her fault that they weren’t together, six years she allowed herself to throw away, just like that.

A little while later, the glow of the sunset shimmered through the open window situated behind Sally who could still be found sitting in the same place, reminiscing by re-reading all of the old cards, letters and poems. Mixed emotions filled her heart, as she laughed and cried at the keepsakes. Suddenly, the napkin grabbed her attention again, as the open window behind her let in a gust of wind. The snow white napkin fluttered elegantly across the floor, performing an intriguing dance. A teasing thought crossed Sally’s mind, as she pondered whether he still had the same number. Oh it was a crazy idea, the chances were a million to one and what on earth was she going to say to him if he did! He must despise her anyway or if not he’ll definitely be married by now and even have children. Sally kept toiling with the idea and based on the fact that the number would most likely no longer be in use she decided to give it a quick call.

Sally’s stomach jolted with shock when the phone line began to ring. She crossed her fingers tightly in the hope that if he answered, he wouldn’t immediately hang up when he discovered the caller was her.
‘Hello...’ his crisp voice filled her ears, he sounded exactly the same. ‘Hello...’ he repeated, as Sally froze with panic.
‘Tom?’ she found herself whispering in a shaky tone ‘it’’s Sally’ she blurted out.
‘Sally who?’ Tom replied blankly.
‘Sally Smith’. There was silence. ‘Tom? Are you there?’ her voice shook with fear.
‘Are you ok?’ he asked with serious concern.
Relieved at this caring response, Sally relaxed somewhat and the ex-lovers talked about what had been happening over the past ten years. Sally explained how she was back from teaching in Africa and Tom relayed how he got married, but now was getting a divorce after his partner fell out of love with him. Eventually, it was agreed that they would meet up the following Saturday for old time’s sake, which excited, yet petrified Sally both at the same time.

Saturday morning arrived and The Cliff Top Cafe was bustling with a combination of tourists and locals. Sally was surprised when she entered that the same candy striped table and chairs occupied the cafe. Peering around the room there was no sign of Tom, unless he had considerably altered his appearance or aged so dramatically that he was no longer recognisable. Spotting a vacant table in the far corner, over-looking the sea, Sally pushed her way through the crowd to claim it. Now all that was left to do was wait.

Every time the cafe door jingled, Sally’s head shot up to see if it was Tom. After fifteen minutes of waiting, she started to become agitated, fiddling with the straps on her crimson coloured summer dress. He must just be running late she assured herself, he’ll be here in a second. Twenty minutes had gone by and Sally found herself torturing herself, thoughts of a no show must be revenge on her leaving him or he must have taken a single look at her and walked straight back out.

Half an hour later, Sally’s gaze was transfixed on the ocean, watching the waves gliding in and out of the bay. A warm hand touched her shoulder. Startled, Sally jumped out of her skin expecting to turn around and finally see his face again.
‘Excuse me dear, a gentleman has just asked me to give you this’ came the voice of the elderly waitress who had worked in the cafe long before Sally did, yet didn’t acknowledge that she remembered her.
Sally screwed up her face in confusion and took the napkin she was waving around like she was holding the tail of a dead rat. A single word was scrawled on the napkin ‘Sorry’. Without thinking, Sally scraped back her chair that screeched loudly causing heads to turn and the elderly waitress to let out a tiny shriek. She leapt to her feet, tottering as quickly as she could in her six inch heeled sandals. She wasn’t prepared to let him go again, at least not without a final goodbye.

Standing outside the cafe, arms flailing, Sally scanned the surrounding area. She had no idea what Tom looked like these days. The cliff side was heaving, couples taking morning strolls, groups of surfers ready to catch some waves, families with small children admiring the beautiful view. Then she saw it, in the distance striding at speed away from her, a dark haired man in a red t-shirt and jeans. It was the walk that gave him away, arms motionless by his side, as if he was wearing a straight jacket. Sally always used to make fun of this identifying feature about him, joking that he was the spitting image of a penguin, especially on weekdays when he wore a suit for work. At present, she was delighted that he had a trademark walk and began to trot in his direction. The July sunshine made Sally’s hair stick to her reddened cheeks, her mouth felt dry and her dress clung to her skin. As the striding figure enlarged, Sally took a deep breath in and yelled over and over again Tom’s name, as if her life depended on it. He was still too far away and didn’t turn around.
‘Tom! TOM!’ she screamed breathlessly in a panicked tone. Finally, he stopped dead and twirled around to face her. There he stood, forty years old, but not looking a day over thirty. Six feet tall, medium build, and chocolate brown eyes that melted Sally’s heart sixteen years ago and was doing exactly the same today. Sally tried to get her breath back before stepping any closer to him and at the same time was trying to think of what to say, whether it should be something witty like ‘I don’t normally chase blokes down the street’ or something serious. Before she had worked it out, Tom started smirking, giving him those cute dimples, which turned into a hearty laugh.
‘What’s so funny?’ Sally demanded.
‘You, look at you’ Tom stepped towards her and flicked her curls out of her face, sparking a thousand butterflies to flutter around Sally’s stomach and her knees to buckle ever so slightly.
‘Sorry I didn’t come in, I couldn’t do it when I saw you, the pain of you know, when you left and never came back hit me like a ton of bricks’ Tom confessed.
‘No, I’m sorry, six months turned into a year and before I knew it, ten years. I guess being out there with those kids in those appalling conditions, blinded my judgement, all I could see was that they needed me, forgetting that you needed me too’ Sally broke down as she spoke.
‘You did what you had to do’ Tom said with understanding in his voice. ‘Fancy that coffee now?’
Wiping the tears from her face, Sally’s eyes lit up like a child at Christmas and a broad smile followed, as she nodded to signal her approval.

Sitting back in The Cliff Top cafe where it all began, Sally and Tom ordered coffee and cake.
‘Let me guess, cappuccino with extra chocolate sprinkles and a slice of Molly’s Marvellous Mud Pie’ Sally announced confidently, she would be stunned if he ordered any differently, as he used to order the same thing every Saturday, Tom was a creature of habit.
‘Well, I’ve got to keep sweet somehow’ he winked cheekily.
‘What are those cakes with glitter on? They look pretty’ Sally asked pointing at a cup cake on someone else’s plate.
Raising an eyebrow, Tom replied
‘you really have been out of the country for a long time haven’t you’.

Sally looked up from her latté and let out a giggle at the sight of Tom modelling a foam moustache from his cappuccino.
‘It suits you’ she sniggered. Tom frowned. Sally picked up a napkin from the table and leaned forward towards him. She gently wiped the creamy froth from his upper lip. Their eyes met and the pair stared at each other intently. Sally felt overwhelmed by this exchange and was waiting for the let down from Tom. However, instead he took her hands in his, his warm touch made the hairs on the back of her neck stand on edge, then he squeezed them tightly. Waiting anxiously, Sally was convinced her bubble was about to be burst. She closed her eyes too scared to face the dreaded words head on. At least she had the opportunity to meet him again and share another precious moment with him she thought. Maybe it was time to move on and start afresh once and for all. Without Sally noticing, Tom had lifted her hands to his lips and softly kissed her finger tips. Sally’s eyes flicked open in response to this affectionate action, witnessing the passion in Tom’s face. He still cared, after all this time and no doubt the heartache she must have caused him. How on earth did she give such a good thing up all those years ago and why on earth did she deserve a second chance. Processing these questions in her mind, Sally pulled her hands free from Tom’s grip and slumped back in her chair feeling perplexed. Lost for words the ex-lovers sat drinking in silence for a while.

The elderly waitress came to clear their table and gave Sally a look that she interpreted, as don’t let him go again, maybe she did remember her after all. Tom requested another napkin, Sally assumed for him to wipe the crumbs from his mouth. Yet, Tom unfolded the napkin so that it was fully open and skilfully started to twist and twirl it, licking his lips, as he did so, deep in concentration. A few seconds later he sniffed his masterpiece with a thoughtful smile, revealing those dimples that Sally adored.
‘For you my lady, I’ve missed you’ he said presenting her with the origami rose. Sally willingly accepted it, allowing it to tickle her lips, whilst her body flourished with glee and she felt like the luckiest girl in the world. She had been given a second chance at love. She wasn’t certain she deserved it, but was definitely going to make the most of it and never let the man she let slip away once, slip away one more time.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Calvin the Con Artist

Earlier this month Calvin had his annual visit from Guide Dogs, which I have to say I had to chase up, as hadn’t heard a whisper from them. It was due last November. Usually, because Guide Dogs tend to visit in the day, my mum is at work, but she happened to have an extra week off work after Christmas and so was home on this occasion. The trainer had barely walked through the door when my mum began to express her opinion on Calvin. She highlighted facts, such as when she sees other Guide Dogs that they are nothing like Calvin, as they are well behaved and not in their own little world and how he is a great pet dog, yet lacking in guiding skills. Don’t get me wrong, my family adore Calvin just as much as me, but similarly get just as frustrated. I could tell the trainer was panicked by this information, even though I’ve been saying the same thing since I’ve had him!

We went on a walk around the village with the trainer following in close proximity. Calvin did sniff here and there, walk me into the road once and went up a driveway, but this was outstanding work by his standards! The trainer did acknowledge that he does seem to ignore my corrections even when he is wearing a halty and I lift his front paws off the ground, as I tug him so hard. She suggested that I should bend down to him before correcting him and demonstrated this, much to Calvin’s disapproval who whimpered like a big girl! As soon as the trainer stepped anywhere near him after this, he acted all submissive. The funniest had to be when a slice of bread was deviously left in his track that he of course felt the need to gobble up, I correct him, no reaction, so the trainer came charging up to him and he tried to leg it, paws in the air claiming his defence, ‘I swear it wasn’t me!’ ‘what bread?! I didn’t see any bread!’ he was an absolute coward! Yet coming back to the correction, every time I did it, Calvin couldn’t care less, in short he isn’t scared of me at all!

The trainer came out again a few days later and I was determined to show Calvin at his worst. So we went to my local shopping area where there is a food court. I regularly find myself dragging Calvin across the floor, as he ducks and dives for loose chips under tables and chairs. To give you a picture, the seating area is in the middle and the various food places lined around the outside. Calvin’s challenge was to walk around the outside without deviating or getting distracted. He has never been able to do this, so I was confident he’d show his true colours! Little did I know that Calvin always finds a way of surprising me. I thought someone had swapped my dog without me noticing, as he walked casually around the seating area, not even clocking any food, focused on guiding me, even daring to navigate around the Costa tables, which stick out with no prompts. If only he was like that all of the time, I’d have nothing to write about, as he was faultless! Whilst I did admire that he can be an amazing Guide Dog, which I’ve always maintained he could be, I wanted to shake him! The clever sod knew he was being observed. Guess it’s similar to when people get audited at work and pretend to be perfect!

Following this revelation, Calvin was deemed fixed and awarded a thousand doggy points for being a star! Unsurprisingly, he’s gone back to his distracted ways and I currently have twofat lumps on my forehead thanks to Calvin allowing me to head but a door frame and clothes rail.

Calvin, one in a million, a love hate relationship!

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Athletics Update

I can’t believe we’re already over halfway through January! At the moment I feel like I never get a chance to breathe. If I’m not training, I’m doing uni work and if I’m not doing either of those things I’m busy with Calvin, grooming, walking, playing, feeding, spending, it’s non-stop! Tonight however, I find myself with some free time on my hands, whilst Calvin gnaws on a bone and the rest of my family are out enjoying their social lives! So I can update you on my athletics.

Talent Squad Training:
On 7 January I went up to Manchester for a UK Athletics training day. This was the third in the series, but the first I could attend because of my previous guide runner issues. I’ve been invited to the training days based on the fact that I scored more than 650 RAZA points last season in competition. RAZA points are worked out on how close you are to the world record in your classification, the more points, the better you are.

The day was split into three sessions. The first was a talk on psychology, understanding the commitment required to become a top athlete and how goals should be achievable. Nothing I’ve not heard before. The second session was gym based and we did a variety of core work, which I felt I excelled at. The afternoon was a full on track session, 6x60m with walk backs, 2 sets. Every run was timed and we were separated into groups by classification. Obviously there were no other T11 athletes, so I was grouped with two visually impaired athletes who run without a guide and a T38 athlete, who I’ve never lost to in a 100m race. I was immediately disappointed with my performance when I was coming last in the runs, each and every one I was left for dead at the start. It wasn’t until towards the end that my endurance shone through, as I started to beat the T38 athlete. Nevertheless, I was frustrated that I wasn’t closer to the other visually impaired athletes who boast PBs around 14.5secs. I’m often told I’m too hard on myself, but with the amount of training I’ve been putting in, I was expecting more, I felt like I deserved to do better than I did. On the up side, it was a good opportunity to train with the people I usually race and who are of a similar speed to me. I just don’t do last very well!

The next training day is on 18 February and I hope I’ll be happier with my performance come then, but no doubt I’ll find some sort of fault! I look forward to it though, the social side was enjoyable.

On 5 January I did an hour long live interview with BBC Radio Leicester, on the Carl Cooper show. It was mainly related to my athletics, training, goals and the Paralympics, although more general topics were discussed too. I’ve done radio a few times now, but never live. The experience was a good one, I’m pleased to report.

I also need to do a few more thank yous, as despite my funding campaign being quite a while ago now, I’ve had further support. So a massive thank you to:
Keith Smith
Helen Lapidge
Thomas Estley Community College (my old school)
Westfields Tennis Club (my mum’s club)

I really do appreciate all of the on-going support.

Well that’s all for now, as ever I’ll leave you with an inspirational quote, nothing has changed for 2012!

Some people compare life to a marathon, but I think it is more like being a sprinter. Long stretches of hard work punctuated by brief moments in which we are given the opportunity to perform (Michael Johnson)

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Paralympic Year!

2012. 2012! The year we’ve all been talking about forever has finally arrived. So, by the time I’m writing my New Year thoughts next year, my dream, ambition, aspiration, ultimate desire, my single wish, whatever you want to call it, would have either come to a bitter end or had a fairy tale ending. Whatever the result, I know for a fact that I would have done everything in my power to make it a reality.

As per usual it didn’t quite go to plan. I didn’t achieve any qualification standards for the Paralympics, I only ran a PB at the end of the season and I have had to change guide runners yet again. Talking of change, I’ve changed guide ropes and the side my guide runner runs on too. A positive to take away from the year has to be that I was more consistent with regards to the times I ran in competitions in comparison to other years.

I was pleased to score a third Distinction in a row at university, as I continue to work towards my English Language and Literature degree. Calvin’s still Calvin, enjoying keeping me on my toes. Other highlights of the year have to be going to Morocco, seeing Westlife, Bruno Mars and Katy Perry in concert, along with a girly weekend away in Bognor.

Well, I think it’s pretty obvious what the year will entail. Work, work, work! So I’m going to leave it there!

Thank you to everyone who reads this blog and here’s hoping that 2012 will be magical for one and all!

If you believe it, you can achieve it!