Thursday, March 01, 2012

30 Day Writing Challenge - Day 1

And so, it arrives at last. The first day of the 30 Day Writing Challenge...

Frankly, back at the start of February when I decided to create this the first of March seemed a long way away but it has arrived with such alacrity I've had absolutely no time to think about what I was going to write. Thus, last night, I spent some time umming and ahhing over what would be the right choice for the challenge of Day 1.

A place that you love.

There were so many places, so many possibilities but, at last, I decided that I wanted to write about somewhere from my childhood...

The Hill
We called it The Hill.

Maybe it had another name, a proper name, but as seven year olds we never knew it. To us it was The Hill and, when we sat at its summit, it felt like we were sitting on top of the world.

The fact that we had been warned by our parents never to climb it only added to the appeal. As we scrabbled on our hands and knees up the grassy slope, which began smoothly before angling up to something that seemed near vertical, we were always aware of the need to move quickly. The Hill overlooked the housing estate and could be seen from almost everywhere on the estate; all it took was for one of our parents to be looking out of their back window at the wrong moment and we would (and often were) caught in the act of climbing its forbidden slopes. But, if we were quick, if we could scurry up that final steep gradient undetected, then we could reach the top and be concealed from view, hidden from the estate by thick tufts of tall grass.

Sun baked mud beneath us, we’d share a paper bag filled with one penny sweets; aniseed balls and white chocolate mice, liquorice torpedoes and blackjacks; a can of warm shandy to go with it if our limited pocket money could somehow manage to stretch to it. We’d look down on the housing estate, on the rows and rows of semi-detached houses and gardens and we’d talk. The memories of what we’d talk about are blurry in my mind now; like looking through several panes of frosted glass, all I can see are vague shapes, nothing definite. I can still remember the things that were important to us though; bicycles (did you want a Chopper or a Grifter?) and Star Wars figures, football and stories.  We filled the gaps in our world with stories.

The summit of The Hill plunged sharply downwards on the right hand side and was swallowed up by woods and their dense canopy; it was a place that was shrouded in gloom even on the brightest of days.  To go into the woods, to set off down the steeply inclined mud path that led away from The Hill and into the darkness, was only ever done for a dare but none of us got further than fifty feet. It wasn’t just the light that died in the woods; the sound of the street faded away with every step you took and the layers of moss and pine needles deadened the sound of your footsteps until all you could hear was the pulse of your own heartbeat in your ears. We made up stories about the woods. About the creature that had made its home in the abandoned shed that you could see in the distance once you had descended into the shadows, about the werewolf that roamed amongst the trees and was ready to snatch up anyone brave, or stupid, enough, to find themselves alone here. Like this we filled in the gaps, fashioned the world with our imagination.

In the summer, we’d pick the wild blackberries and raspberries that grew on its slopes and eat them until our fingers were stained black and red with their juice. In the winter, when the snow fell thick enough, we’d drag our sledges through the estate and as far up The Hill as we could manage before careering madly down its slopes, not thinking (or caring) about the possibility that we might end up sliding all the way down and into the traffic that used the road that lay at its base.

The Hill was a chunk of rock and mud, little more than a grass slope thick with brambles and thistles, but it was a magical place to us.

It lies overgrown now.  In our absence, the bushes have grown wild and scores of trees have reclaimed its lower slopes such that you can no longer even see the summit from the road below. Maybe the world has moved on, maybe children no longer aim to scale its slope and look down on the world as if, for that brief moment, it was their own.

But the memory of the place lives on with me. I shall always remember the place we called The Hill.


Andy Roberts said...

Sunrise downtown was always beautiful; the temperature rose gently as the stark, concrete walls were illuminated by a rich, golden sheen that made the city look like an airbrushed painting. Lifting above the rooftops, the sun eventually glared rudely through the windows of the diner, a shock of light that was neither comforting nor practical.

The waitress apologized, leaned awkwardly to lower the dusty wooden blinds, then went about her business topping up coffees and collecting dishes.

“I love this place,” said Tony, smiling.

These were the first words he’d said since we’d ordered our food fifteen minutes ago; he had used his time to eat his eggs and down countless cups of coffee. I had used the time to nurse a milkshake and idly pick at a bowl of fruit.

“How do you do it?” I asked. Tony cocked his head.

“Kill someone?” He was way more perceptive than I had previously given him credit for.

“Yeah,” I said, sheepishly.

Tony smiled. I don’t have a thing for men, but he was particularly handsome, especially when he smiled. Tall, muscular, with a shock of jet-black hair, he could have easily passed for The Hulk’s younger, more successful brother.

“You pull the trigger,” he grinned. Reaching over for a piece of fruit, he added “May I?”

Manners. Good looks. Grace under fire. Tony was everybody’s friend, a family man. An infinite amount of monkeys, given an infinite amount of time, would never deduce that he shot people through the face for a living.

I stared at he finished chewing. He smiled again.

“I’m serious, Tony. You said you’d answer any questions I--”

“Lighten up, ok?” He reached over and clapped me on the shoulder.

I let out a deep, anguished sigh.

“You’re in a crowded bathroom. You need to pee, and only the middle urinal is empty. Hard to squeeze out a drop when there’s a guy on either side, right?”

I nodded.

“So do what I do: close your eyes, and think of your bathroom at home. Works every time.”

I ran through the scenario in my head.

“There’s something deeply comforting about your own bathroom,” he said, leaning forward as if not to give his secrets away. “Face it: you spend a lot of time naked and vulnerable in that room. It’s where you clean yourself, empty your bowels, shave, jack off --”

I winced. Tony’s eyes remained fixed on me.

“It’s the same when you need to pull the trigger, sunshine. You need to shut your eyes and picture somewhere comfortable. Somewhere safe. A place that you love.”

A place that you love, I thought.

Tony’s watch let out two faint beeps. It was 8 a.m.

“Let’s go sunshine,” he said, tossing a $20 bill on the table. “You’re up.”

Oliver Davies said...

I am really looking forward to seeing what else you come up with this month, Andy...

Gemma Neeleman said...

Olivers writing challenge day one
A place you love

Imagine... A sun shining upon your head, the warmth absorbing in your feet from the sand you are standing in... You press your eyes together because the sun is blinding your sight a bit. If you look next to you, you see some people playing beach games, but what you are really focussing on is the sea in front of you. In this heat all you want is to go into the water, luckily it isn´t just the being in the water. You brought your surfboard with you and that isn´t just to show off.. The water look bright blue and you walk in, with your lycra and shorts on. The desire of feeling the wave under your feet while you are in control starts to well up. You slide the board upon the water, keeping it in control while the waves hit every 10 seconds. After you are deep enough you jump on and duckdive your way through the waves, the blast of the feeling of water all surrounding you makes your adrenaline go up even more.. Once you get through you see the breathtaking view of an open ocean with the sun glowing on your skin. First you look where everyone is to make sure you keep yourself to the unwritten rules of surfing.. Your adrenaline takes it up once you ´read´ the waves and you see that there is a wave coming you can take. You turn your board around and start paddling with all your strength and your heartbeat raises... You feel you will catch this wave, it takes you and you stand up, make it go the way you want it, push up the speed by placing your bodyweight.... THAT! Is the place I love....

Oliver Davies said...

Gemma, where I am right now seems rather miserable and grey in comparison to the place you love! :-)

Jeroen Bloemhoff said...

The night is young. We have just entered the city by train, and after a short walk, entered our destination. The place for our debauchery of the coming hours. The place for our transforming into something more. Into something that breaks stuff. And people, maybe. As we enter the establishment, the smell of beer enters our nostrils, like an old friend that doesn't shower quite as much as others. But, a friend nonetheless.
We walk up to the girl behind a counter and give her some cash to look after our belongings. Stuff we don't need until we leave: coats, bags, sanity. We leave them behind and head for the bar, where we replenish ourselves with a nice, cold beer.
Well, a cold beer at least. After some talking about what was and what is about to be, a loud sound enters the room, welcome by hundreds of screams. A guitar plays a chord. A second guitar joins in. The bass joins in. The drums start the rhythm and finally the singer enters the stage. The room starts moving. People jump and bounce about, not caring who or what they hit. If someone falls down, he gets picked up, like a comrade in battle. The singer starts chanting his magical words. The audience sings along, or reacts when he wants to. A chemistry, a bond is born within the room, and after a few hours, the smell of beer gets mixed with that of sweat. Manly sweat. The band is finished, the room slowly emptying, people still talking excitingly about what they just experienced, catching a breather with a last beer. After picking up our belongings, we head home again. We leave this place of magic to return another time. To return to De Melkweg in Amsterdam, where legends play and myths are born.

Esther Zuidgeest said...

30 day writing challenge:
day1: A place you love

My back is hugging the earth. I'm lying motionless on the ground. When I play dead, the world around me seems more alive. I close my eyes, i hear the birds, i hear the leaves rustle in the wind. The last sunrays of autumn keep me warm. I'm lying on a blanket next to my best friend. We stopped at this spot bathed in light after we had a nice walk trough the woods. Tried to catch a frog, spotted some beautifull tiny mushrooms. When you photograph them with a macro, they seem big and easy to spot, but actually you have to look for them to find these little treasures.
Lying off the path makes me feel like I am surrounded by nature, asif I'm a prehistoric human wandering trough the woods. The sun is really warm when there is no wind to cool it down.
Lets take a nap!

redacted said...


Yasen said...

Have to say, mr. Davies, you've turned this March into something interesting!

Anonymous said...

30 Day Writing Challenge
Day 1 - A place you love

For you, this place might not seem so special. Its entrance would be just another door in an identical-looking row of houses. This house may change in location and appearance, but for me, it would be the same place. A place that has always been there and that will never cease to exist.
The more time I spend not there, the more meaningful it gets when I come back. I used to be there quite a lot, but as time went by and I got older, the time I spent there decreased. I started going to other places, meet other people, and gain new experiences. But always in my life there was this place I could return to. Or perhaps I had to? I needed to be fed, I needed to sleep, and I needed a roof over my head.
Presently, I spend most of my time away from that place, but when I return, I open the door with a smile on my face, happily saying “hello” to the people who live there. These are the people who are dear to me, who trust and love me unconditionally, are interested in what I’m doing and in what I have to say. More and more I begin to realize the importance of family. I feel like I’ve been blessed with these people around me, in the place I call home.
I’m currently writing in this place, relieved that I was able to write a piece like this. However, I’m still a bit unsatisfied, because how could I ever fully describe how it feels to get home after a long time of being away? I can only hope that somewhere you have a door to open to experience this feeling. I guess this is an ode to my family, who are very important to me. This is where I close “day 1”, while my father does the same.