The Artist

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She squeezed the cadmium in a bright yellow streak across the palette.

She had painted in every medium, every material possible, but she still loved the richness of oils – that wonderful buttery smear of vivid colour, the smell of the linseed, the texture of the paint as it glided across the canvas.

All of it seemed more real to her than anything else. A life of its own, raw, visceral.

She dipped the sable brush in her own concoction of white spirit and linseed, to thin the paint whilst keeping the gloss. Too much white spirit would dull the verdant hues, too little would make them too sticky, too slick.

Her movements were erratic, not the usual smooth motions of wandering mind and sparkling imagination. She’d often complete a commission in a daze, almost unaware of where she was or what she was doing. Her conscious self, the side of her that was always acutely cautious, would be suppressed, allowing her hands to take over, her fingers to find the form she wanted.

That was where the magic lay…not in the end result, but in its creation.

Today was different.

Today, she was painting for her life.

The music swelled to a crescendo, pushing her adrenaline forward, hurrying her hand. The mottled texture of the canvas swirled before her eyes, a flamenco dance of colours.

Titanium white, a flash of cerulean, a dab of burnt umber and then the thinning haze of vermillion, red as flesh, peering out at her, reminding her of her slowing heart, the constrictions of her arteries, the pulsating electricity through her veins, which told her she was running out of time.

She worked fast now, pounding the canvas until the wooden stretcher creaked beneath the pressure.

The outside noises had faded away. No traffic, no loud Saturday night voices and wailing sirens. It was silent everywhere but inside her head.

Mixing now, hurried new hues emerging from the clogged up mess. Phaltho blue enriching the green she had created, a hint of lemon, a sparkle of ultra-marine.

Throat dry now. Hands shaking, fingers slipping on the brush shaft.

She HAD to finish this.

Shadows clouded her vision. The music soared as eyes emerged from the canvas, eyes she knew so well, eyes staring into her soul, accusing her, condemning her, gloating at her demise.

“I won’t give in, I won’t!” she muttered feverishly.

Mars black, thick and glossy, impenetrable, unfathomable…she was losing the fight.

“Why did you leave me?”

Amber liquid pooled in the crevices, little streaks finding a route through the strokes, dripping in splashes at her feet.

She was always fighting gravity, as most women do. Always fighting, yes, her whole life she had been fighting.

Through the gloom, the full image stared back at her.

“So, you finally painted me? Finally… It only took you fifty years,” it sneered.

“I…I couldn’t do it before. I couldn’t see you,” she stuttered.

The painting smiled at her. “Are you pleased with yourself?”

“No…no…I, just had to see you. I had to say sorry.”

“But it’s too late for that now, isn’t it?”

She dropped to her knees. Her chest compressing in on itself, pain shooting through her shoulder, her arm, down her right side. She knew what this was.

“I need you to…forgive me.” She panted, fighting to breathe, her jeans soaking up the puddles of paint on the floor, seeping slowly through the fibres to her bruised knees beneath.

PLEASE!

The painting watched as she slumped forward, struggling to keep conscious, fighting as she had done her whole existence, fighting to try and hold onto something…love.

“Please…” her voice was raspy, desperate, forcing itself through closing valves, through density of flesh, through spasms of life.

The painting stared down at her as the music floundered.

Thump, thump, thump…

“You don’t deserve forgiveness,” it whispered to her coolly. “You know what you deserve.”

Thump, thump…

“Pleaseeee!”

“You let her die, didn’t you? What did you do to save her?”

“I tried…I…”

The painting took pity on the thing before it, crumpled like an old newspaper, suddenly a child itself, curling up as an infant, as her infant had been curled up when she found it, smashed by the roadside, barely recognisable. Her baby, her life, gone, snuffed out in a moment of stupidity and violence.

It had been her fault, she was late. She should have been there as she had promised. Instead her daughter had taken a ride with a friend, a drunken friend. What was left behind didn’t even resemble a car anymore.

It had been her fault.

“Pleaseeee…” she drooled, words slurred, barely audible.

The painting sighed, better to quicken her misery than give her hope. “No.”

Thump…….thump…………

Thump.

*

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Sophie E Tallis © 2013

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Farewell to Friends…

020 (2)Why do we set ourselves up for heartache? If you are a loving human being with half a heart, then why do we embrace having four-legged family members when we know that when the inevitable comes, the grief is terrible?

We have always had animals, ‘pets’ seems the wrong word, too insignificant, too trivial somehow. Yes, you can tell I’m one of these soppy humans who deeply love my four-legged friends. For me and my family, they are not pets, they ARE family members and when the dreadful time comes, it is totally crushing. I know we are not the only people that feel this way, so why oh why do we put ourselves through the trauma of it all?

Well, we have been very lucky over the years that all of our four-legged friends have been long-lived and happy. 17 years seems to be the common denominator, as our last dog (Fluff) and our last cat (Kitty) both died at the age of 17. One by a reoccurrence of the cancer that had taken one of her legs three years prior, and the other was killed by idiot teenagers racing through our sleepy village at 80 miles an hour! If a child had been crossing the road at the time, they would have been killed too. One death we could prepare for, the other was shockingly quick with no-time to say goodbye, which does make it worse somehow. But nonetheless, when the end comes, it’s simply terrible.

Well, last Friday 15th November, our beloved cat, Mimi, who we had for 17 years, died after a shockingly quick illness. We weren’t prepared, any of us. 😦

17 years ago, only a day or so after a particularly horrific episode with my violent alcoholic father who had yet again attacked my poor mum, we were shopping at the local Tesco’s supermarket. It was a late Friday evening in early November, pitch black, full of smoke from the bonfires and fireworks going on around us. Everyone having fun, getting on with their lives, as we were trying to pick up the pieces of ours. A difficult time to say the least. We came out of the store to the mostly empty carpark. I was vaguely aware of some kids on bikes with firecrackers, shouting and hollering at each other, they seemed to be chasing something. Then, out of the darkness I heard what I thought was a baby crying. I couldn’t work out where it was coming from. The kids came closer, still chasing something. Then suddenly I saw this tiny black thing run across the carpark towards me. I bent down. It was a little cat, a poor half-starved thing, all bones and long black fur. She looked like a new-born, she was so miniscule.

I picked her up, and she immediately snuggled into me and started purring. It was then that I realised that this tiny little kitten was the thing that those awful kids had been chasing and throwing firecrackers at. She didn’t have any collar or tags, and clearly whoever owned her, had neglected her terribly. We took her into Tesco’s, really not knowing what to do. The security guard, a huge bear of a man, just melted when he saw her, but said that she wouldn’t belong to anyone there and that the best thing was to take her to the vets.

She was so emaciated, no bigger than the size of a grapefruit and as light as cotton wool, that we really didn’t think she’d survive the night. But, right from the beginning, she was a little fighter. We took her to the vets the next day and was shocked to be told that was at least six months old and could be nearly a year old, she’d been so starved that she was half the size she should be and if she survived, she would always, as a result, be a small cat. We decided then and there, that we had to look after her.

We took her home and this tiny thing immediately showed how much gutsy fight she had in her. Despite her size she boldly waltzed up to our soft-hearted Border Collie, Fluff, and showing no fear, hissed in her face! But, despite the bumpy beginnings, Fluff and Mimi soon became the very best of friends, an inseparable duo.

Two weeks passed and Mimi steadily gained weight and health and was fighting fit, albeit still tiny, and then the poor little thing went into season. Warned by the vets, that due to her initial starvation, she would never be big enough to carry kittens, we regrettably did the responsible thing and had her neutered. But my, what gorgeous kittens she would have had, a feisty half Persian, half Siamese constantly talking, long-haired beauty! 254

The strange reality of all this, is that, that little cat needed us and we needed her just as much.

After all the horrific things that had happened, Mimi may have been a rescue cat, but she had actually rescued us too.  She gave my Mum a much-needed distraction and something to love and look after when college called. She healed many of the wounds that had been inflicted on us by my monster of an ex-father. For me personally, after the death of my beloved cat, Kitty, I had sworn to never have a cat again, it was just too painful and Kitty was irreplaceable. But here, suddenly, was this little thing. She found us.

015Years passed, things change, sadly our dog Fluff died and so Mimi was the only family pet for a while. More bad times, more upset, more drama, but still she was there. Then two boisterous huge white wolves came along and we moved house and Mimi, now an old but lively lady, took it all in her stride. In fact, her last twelve months were her best. Suddenly she had a new lease on life, instead of spending her days eating and sleeping, she was a kitten again – climbing trees, running across the garden at full speed, jumping ever higher heights, playing games with the boys including lying in wait for them to poke their heads through the dog flap so she could pounce on them. She even put up with one of my dogs, Tolly, and his obsessive love for her, following her around like a love-sick stalker, only inches from her face, smiling and sighing at she passed, hoping she would reciprocate his affection.

Yes, she had the perfect life. Log fires, roasting radiators, 2 acres to roam in, and a plethora of places to play, sunbathe, hunt and sleep in. Life was good. We were all convinced that we had at least another 5yrs with her. Even three months ago, the vets described her as amazing for her age, with brilliant health results. 705

So when she suddenly seemed off her food, we weren’t too alarmed. Nonetheless, we took her to the vets promptly. They seemed worried, she wasn’t eating and showed no sign of wanting to. Anything she did eat she sicked up again. She lost weight dramatically over just two days. She stayed in the veterinary hospital for three days. It was sudden liver failure, nothing we could have foreseen or prevented, but the sudden nature of it was shocking given how fit and healthy she had been only days before. By last Thursday we were told the worst, nothing they had done had worked, all the meds, all the procedures, nothing. She was dreadfully weak and jaundiced. The liver had failed completely and couldn’t be repaired. We took her home in a daze of tears. We stayed with her all night in the living room, in front of the open fire, just stroking her and trying to give her water.

Even at the end, she was such a fighter. She didn’t die peacefully in her sleep as we had hoped, she still kept fighting despite her body failing her. By Friday afternoon, there was nothing more we could do…she died in our arms in front of the fire she loved so much. 333

We placed her on her favourite pillow. The boys, who knew she was very ill and had been so gentle and calm with her, came in to say goodbye. Korrun immediately started whimpering when he saw her and backed away, but Tolly kept nudging her with his nose and pawing her, trying to wake her up. He misses her terribly.

In tears amongst the rain and the dimming light, we dug a hole in the garden, said a prayer and buried her beneath the flowering cherry tree, with her favourite toys and cushion.

A couple of days later, when we felt strong enough, we took the boys with us in the car and drove to a very special place, Teckels Animal Sanctuaries http://www.teckelsanimalsanctuaries.co.uk/ that take in and look after rescue animals. In Mimi’s memory we wanted to help other rescue cats like her, so we donated the remaining toys, food, litter and other items to them. They were very grateful for the donation and so very kind. But for us, it was also a way of recognising that we’ll never have another cat. Mimi is and was truly irreplaceable. 011

I’m sure for those of you who don’t have animals and perhaps even for some of you that do, this must all seem very silly and over-the-top. All this fuss over an old cat? But she has been such a central part of our family for so long, and though she only occupied a small space, the hole she has left is enormous.

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The household is quieter now. No constant cat chattering, no infatuated love-struck doggy. Tolly in particular has taken it very badly and whimpers, which he never did before. He still looks for her, convinced she is merely hiding from him, and cried when he saw her cat basket. It will take time and lots of hugs for us to all feel better and heal our sad hearts. But it certainly makes you realise how short all our lives are and how important it is to love and care for those dear to us, whether they have two legs or four!

So, in memory of a beautiful, small, determined, sassy, demanding, uniquely special little cat who ruled the roost and kept us all in line, I say thank you and I love you.

I should take this opportunity to thank our amazing veterinary hospital, Vale Vets http://www.valevets.co.uk/ and our wonderful vet, Ella Robotham, who has always taken such great care of the boys and Mimi, and who worked tirelessly to try to save her. Thank you for all your care, kindness and sensitivity, we owe you a debt of gratitude. xxx

Please support your local animal charities, particularly those who look after rescued and abused animals and take such wonderful care of them. For people wishing to help Teckels Animal Sanctuaries: http://www.teckelsanimalsanctuaries.co.uk/  Please donate as little as £1 by sending a text from your mobile phone. Simply text ‘PETS10’ followed by the amount you wish to donate (up to £10) to 70070 i.e. text ‘PETS10 £5’ to 70070 would donate £5 to Teckels Animal Sanctuaries.

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Rest in peace sweet girl. xxxxx

My Own Silver Linings PlayBook – The Road to Recovery and ReadWave.

Silver Linings

Firstly, I’m so pleased that after weeks of having blog technical problems, everything is sorted. So, hello again my lovelies! 😀 xx

Secondly, I simply cannot get my brain to accept that it is November already. All Hallows Eve has passed in a haze of heightened sugar and badly written hammy horror and suddenly the nights are full of smoke from blazing bonfires and the familiar shrill whizz of fireworks.

We’ve had a mild Autumn, a thankful tiding given the rare and gloriously sun-drenched Summer we enjoyed this year, with its bounty of flowers, butterflies and bees, its azure skies and hard-baked earth. Ah…what bliss!

But, as the clocks have now gone back, reminding us that Winter is truly at our doorstep, and the dull days linger less and less, with darkness descending earlier each day, there is no escaping that yet another year is drawing to a close.

So, where has it gone?

Have you achieved the goals you set yourself at the beginning of the year? – in those heady moments of New Year’s Eve, when everything is exciting and fresh and the year ahead seems like an endless Pandora’s box of possibilities and opportunities? Or, has the year passed you by in a blur? pandora's box

For me, it’s definitely been the latter, but I have optimism for the next year, after all, 13 has never been a lucky number for me, so 2014 should be fine, eh?

But, there have been some good things this year, apart from the lovely Summer, and the support of family and friends (you know who you are!) and my adorable white wolves… earlier in the year, while on Goodreads, I was contacted by a rather nice chap called Rob Tucker. He had just co-founded a new website, ReadWave, http://www.readwave.com/ dedicated to showcasing new writers and the best short stories for readers to enjoy and share. He kindly invited me to join ReadWave as he liked my work and asked me to spread the word, which I did, diligently telling all my mates about this amazing new site which many of them have now also joined. readwave_full_logo[1]

The beauty of ReadWave, unlike other writing sites, is that there are no forums to get embroiled in petty arguments with infantile minded trolls cruising the net to pick a fight because they have nothing better to do. It’s just all about the stories. Read what you want, comment if you want, like and share if you want, it’s entirely up to you. They have some truly great stuff on there. I’m thrilled and rather humbled that all my work seems to be popular and is well received, http://www.readwave.com/sophie.e.tallis/ and I’ve even had the honour of having a piece ‘Staff Picked’, they now call it the ‘Editor’s Choice’, reserved for the very best work. Woo hoo!

This has been a particular solace to me this year, as due to this damn illness and the strange mental effects it has, my short-term memory and concentration are totally shot to hell, which means that I really am incapable at the moment of being able to focus on anything long enough to sustain a thought through to its conclusion. (I won’t tell you how long it takes me to do each one of these posts, it’s truly embarrassing).

In other words, novel-writing is totally IMPOSSIBLE. The plain truth is, that since I got sick back in Jan/February, I haven’t been able to touch any of my book projects. As weeks became months, I stopped crucifying myself over it and just had to let the frustration and anger go, I could no sooner do it than fly to the moon. My physiotherapist told me to take things slowly, in my stride, that part of my re-cooperation after such a huge vestibular collapse, was to do small things. Try to read. Try to write a sentence. To take the mental challenges as slowly as the physical rehabilitation. Walk before you can run kind of thing. walk before you can run

Reading was impossible for the first couple of months due to swirling text, then I simply kept zoning out, reading the same page over and over like some zombie or a toy whose battery had stopped. Over the summer though, I had a breakthrough, I was able to read my first book since February, it took me a LONG time, but I did it and I retained what I read…well, most of it. Then I read another book, and another, and another, all great mental exercises (also my friend Lindsey Parsons fantastic debut novel, Vortex, was such a pleasure to re-read). Again, over the summer I tried writing and kept zoning out again. A simple thing like writing a letter, would take hours and hours of stopping and starting and resting. But weirdly, one thing I found I was able to do, as I had done before I got ill, that somehow didn’t require that heightened level of concentration but just simply flowed naturally out of me, was write poetry and short stories!

And so, after the frustration and failures of not being able to do anything, I found after many long months, that I could still do one thing and do it well. So, I have a HUGE thank you to say to Rob Tucker. That unexpected encounter on Goodreads gave me a creative life-line, like this blog, which in turn has helped me in my recovery. Rob doesn’t know any of this, but if he reads this and I hope he does, THANK YOU!

The icing on the cake, was when he recently asked me to become a Staff Reviewer on ReadWave, which I gladly accepted. Then finding out that another short story I’ve written is going to be published next year by a lovely UK-based publisher (unlike my last one!) and that I’ve been asked by several authors to provide illustrations for them for their books, all wonderful small things I can do!

All this has taught me, that although times can get very tough and bleak, there is always a silver lining out there, you’ve just got to keep going and look for it!

😀 xxxx

English: Silver Lining The end of a cold storm...