Category Archives: Uncategorized

American Housewife – Helen Ellis

Like the look of this one.

The Writes of Womxn

The women of American Housewife tell their stories in tales that range from between a page and forty pages in length. Some, anonymously, tell us about themselves:

I shred cheese. I berate a pickle jar. I pump the salad spinner like a CPR dummy. I strangle defrosted spinach and soak things in brandy. I casserole. I pinwheel. I toothpick. I bacon. I iron a tablecloth and think about eating lint from the dryer, but then think better of that because I am sane.

Others give instructions about the ‘Southern Lady Code’, ‘How to Be a Grown-Ass Lady and ‘How to Be a Patron of the Arts’, the latter seemingly a guide to Ellis herself as much as to the reader.

The first real gem in the collection, ‘The Wainscotting War’, is told entirely through emails between two neighbours in an apartment building. Beginning with passive-aggressive lines: I’ve returned your basket…

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Street scene – for Write Around Town

This is an exercise in preparation for the Write Around Town online writing course which I have just embarked on. Draw a map of any street you know well and then write about it. 

This is not a destination street. It’s an “on the way to somewhere else” street. Leading from the Market Square, the centre of town, the focus of the city and down to the destination shopping streets how could it fare in the face of old ladies wanting Marks, the young after bargains in Topshop and H&M? It wasn’t always like this, but then the men’s clothing store moved premises, the bookshop closed and the record emporium went into administration. Opportunity and convenience took their place, leaving perhaps one shop that people make a beeline for but the rest sit, hoping to attract with window offers, impulse buys and luck. Their windows reflect this. Browse the holiday deals, the latest house on the market, the special offers on bags, purses, necklaces, watches.

The girl handing out flyers for the beauty treatments knows this. She’s not putting much effort into her role, standing passively, not smiling in case it cracks her foundation, not talking to people as they go by, just pushing the flyer out in front of her in case they take pity and grab it. I bet she didn’t think this task would take so long.

The passers-by are diverse, young and old, workers at lunch, shoppers, students, retirees, young mums. Some take a leaflet, glance at it and shove it in their handbags. No one litters, they’re too polite. Later some of them may recycle or the leaflet will live in the depths of their bag, softening at the creases, gathering crumbs and fraying until they pull it out one day, not remembering how it got there.

The pavement is wide and interspersed with trees. A few are losing their leaves and scattering them on the ground but not many. It’s early yet, many leaves are still green. Look up and you get a contrast in architectural styles – on one side, an attractive row of (possibly Georgian?) buildings housing offices, on the other a Sixties behemoth dropped in to obliterate the old Moot Hall that once stood there. The window frames of the behemoth sport pigeon spikes, collecting dust and leaves. The pigeons are unperturbed, trying their luck below instead, pecking between the slabs and stones. Sandwich boards and street furniture line the pavement sides, flower arrangements left over from the summer sit alongside benches where older people have a rest and workers grab a sandwich before returning to their air conditioned desks. The phone booth is rarely used.

The road is closed to traffic except taxis. Once in a while you get a lost soul, having taken a wrong turn, peering at the signs from behind their steering wheel, or someone defiant in grabbing a shortcut, impatient at the zebra crossing. The taxis line the side of the road, black beetles with drivers slumped over a red top while they wait, or taking turns to pop into the back of each other’s cabs for a chat.

I know this street. I watch it as I sit with my Americano, having been greeted as a regular by the barista, and I sit and scribble for a while each lunchtime. I like its transient feel, the constant foot traffic, the attempts to brighten it. Things could happen here.

Diary entry: a rainy Monday morning

The bus is late and the heavens, not content with soaking us for the last three days, have yet more rain to offer. I don’t usually work Mondays but I have non-negotiable training today and a trip to Birmingham awaits. When it turns up, the damp bodies and gloomy atmosphere make the crowding seem worse. I head upstairs, inadvertently step on someone’s foot (he apologises, as do I) and stand staring at a man who reluctantly moves his bag from the seat so I can sit down.

I left them behind at home, safe and dry in the warmth and light. As we pull away I am engulfed by a feeling of longing for them both. I wonder how mad he would think I was if I called him up, 10 minutes after I left the house, to tell him I missed them?

I walk fast to the railway station, marvelling at the number of women who thought it was sensible to wear ballet pumps or canvas shoes this morning. A generation with trench foot. Or perhaps they have webbed feet and don’t notice.

The train is blessedly not crowded. We scatter, one person per table, per duo of seats, and enjoy a feeling of relief that we’ve made it on time and can now relax for 90 minutes. But our reveries are interrupted by tinny music from a phone, no earphones. I look up, British to the core, glare my annoyance and go back to my reading. I look up again, a woman is also looking. She gets up and walks down the carriage.

She starts politely: “is that your phone ringing?”

“It’s music,” he says.

“Do you have headphones?” She continues.

“Why?”

“Well, it’s annoying.”

“What?” She suddenly looks very alone standing there and I am conscious that she is wearing a headscarf. For some reason I get nervous that something is about to kick off. I rise above my usual timidity and pop my head up.

“It is a distraction,” I say.

“Oh right,” he replies and turns the phone off. She sits down and I turn to smile at her and offer my thanks.

The view from the window does nothing to alleviate my feelings of separation from my girl. We pass a farm with a large flock of geese, grazing on the lawn. She’d love to see them. A woman leads a horse out to a paddock and birds fly overhead, forming a net rippling across the clouds.

 

Writing advice often mentions keeping a diary. This will be an occasional entry on this blog.