Pen To Print

Thursday Connectors: Invisible Colours

by Farzana Hakim

Hi everyone. It’s Farzana here – your host for your weekly dose of ‘Thursday Connectors’. This week we’re investigating invisible colours. These are colours we don’t necessarily see, but certainly do feel. As writers, we are constantly having to rely on our senses to create depth and emotion in our work. Although the ‘show don’t tell’ argument gets on my nerves sometimes, I know how important it is to keep conscious of good rules for the sake of the quality we want to produce. Being able to show invisible colours, to stir a reader’s emotions, is something every writer tries to perfect. I do. And as horrid as I may sound by admitting this, I do get a kick whenever someone who has read my Sweethearts Of Ilford Lane tells me it made them cry. For a writer, this is the biggest achievement!

Before we make our weekly connections, though, I’d like to reflect on why the impact invisible colours make on our lives can be as big as those bold paint, artist’s palette ones. A couple of weeks back, my son described my personality as the colour orange because of my joyful, bubbly personality. I took his description as a compliment. However, deep down, there are days and times when I feel completely devoid of colour. These colourless days are when I’m so run down and exhausted, juggling my illness and the reccurring pains of being an Achalasia patient, that nothing I do or see brightens me up. It’s only when the spasms and pain subside that I can smile again, turning back into the happy (orange) mum he knows.

Colours are like that, aren’t they? Like emotions, they can change and therefore randomly initiate change in our daily lives.

Thinking about this theme, I remembered an experience from three years back. I was going to the operating theatre for my Heller Myotomy and Dor Fundoplication. Even thinking about it and saying the procedure’s name makes my knees go funny and my heart race. It was the scariest moment of my life. I’d had surgery before this, having had my twins and my daughter via C Section. But this operation made me so nervous, it had to be rescheduled for later in the day because my blood pressure went sky-high with fear. Just imagine – my husband had to be called in to calm me down!

I was afraid of never returning. I was scared for my kids. What would happen if I didn’t wake up from the anaesthesia? I was silly. I even made my husband promise me a hundred times that he would never leave our kids alone in this terrible, dangerous world. I was so emotional, I made him cry.

It didn’t stop there. As I was finally being wheeled into the operating theatre, all I could see were those surgical white lights; so bright, clear and clean. My teeth began chattering. I could see and feel my fears: the white walls, the white lights, the white sheets on my trolley and over my body, the white gowns the doctors wore, the pale slacks the nurses were in, all made me think of death. And me, a hijab-wearing Muslim woman, normally modest and shy of close contact with the men, grabbed onto the nearest male doctor’s hand for comfort. I know! What was I doing?

I remember his calming words and his gentle strokes on my hand as if it were yesterday. He talked me through the anaesthesia and was with me as I went to sleep. And I remember how I was desperately praying all the verses from the Quran. I knew they would protect me, and begging Allah to forgive my sin so that I would wake up and be able to go to my children again. Big fat tears rolled down my cheeks. I remember how this doctor put his hand on my forehead to wipe the sweat away. Even though I was praying to Allah at the time, I was so grateful for the doctor’s warmth. Was he an angel sent down to calm me and whisper relaxing words in my ears? But then came a moment when everything started to become invisible and all I could see was nothing.

I woke up hours later. Shivering, cold and dead. I wasn’t dead though. I’d undergone major surgery. It took me months to recover from it. But hey, I’m still here to tell the tale.

Our emotions are a strange thing, aren’t they? How we respond and react to situations is even stranger. I would love to hear your stories too. Please send them in to pentoprint@lbbd.gov.uk

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It’s time to move on to our connectors now. Firstly, we are connecting with author and poet Patsy Middleton from Barking in the UK. Patsy has five interesting short stories to share with us. What is special about these stories is that, although they are only one hundred and one words long, they are still able to grip us, showing us that even something written in so few words can be thought-provoking and complete.

Hi, Patsy. Let’s connect:

This Too Will Pass

The sky is a hazy shade of grey. Winter winds litter London with loneliness.
December never felt so wrong, because he’s not where he belongs.
Snow falls. The eyes of my mind mist over.
I loved this winter light, when the reckless season makes its way.
But this December drags in silent fog. My dreams are dark.
A howling wind blows, and I’m cold. All I hear are lonesome sounds
like hounds baying, hunting prey.
All I see is crisp white snow choking under salt and dirty sand.
Then I remember how Spring swaps snow for trees trimmed with budding leaves.

Myopia

When I was small, a misty, spiky, hazy halo glowed around street lights.
Distant shadows with tiny heads and elongated limbs drew near me, transforming into people—‘Read the words on the board.’
‘I can’t.’
She got angry.
‘They’re easy – read them.’
‘I can’t see them.’
Her frustration faded.
They sent me to a man who put a cage before my eyes. He slotted bits of glass into it.
Deep black letters on bright white light appeared.
When I put on my first glasses, the world awoke.
Letters and numbers shone everywhere. Far faces focused, vivid and vibrant.
I can see!

The New Girl

On her first day, the child stood in the middle of the playground. All the other children swarmed around her.
There were too many all at once, asking her name and where she lived. She was afraid.
She wanted her old school and her old friends.
A woman appeared and shooed the crowd away. ‘I’m Miss Carpenter,’ she said.
It started to rain and another teacher rang a bell.
The children hurried into the hall.
They all lined up then went to their classrooms. Miss Carpenter took her to her classroom.
So began the first day in the child’s new school.

The Importance Of Being Belinda

Slim, blond, and long, long legs, Belinda loved herself.
She wanted to be a model and applied for an interview at an agency.
Low cut short dress, four-inch heels, perfect makeup, she teetered towards Jane, the interviewer.
‘What’s your experience?’
‘None yet.’
‘Next’
‘But I’m Belinda give me a chance.’
‘Occupation?’
‘Dress shop assistant’
‘Next’
‘But I’ll be Important, I’m Belinda!’
‘You are not what we’re looking for. Next’
Years pass.
At a fashion show, Jane sat below the catwalk watching Belinda modelling the highlight of the show.
The now important Belinda looked down at her and gave Jane the finger.

Amber Eyes

I remember one day in the bank on a cold Thursday afternoon in February.
I was counting pennies into bags, thinking about a man –
And there he was, standing at my till. I filled with happiness.
His amber-brown eyes spoke better than his words.
We met that evening – fifty years ago.
On Saturday we travelled on a bus.
‘Marry me’ he said and I just laughed ‘I hardly know you,’ I said feeling shy.
‘We’ll get to know each other over time.’
And so, we did and still his amber eyes live in my memory and always will.

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Thank you so much, Patsy. These short stories are brilliant! I love how you are able to show varying emotions with very little words. The invisibility of colours and sentiments you evoked in each one is very impressive.

Our next connector is with Garry Parsonson, who wrote a poem for Barking and Dagenham’s ‘Summer Of Love’ Festival.

Dreaming Of Better Days

I’m scared, scarred
Never knew it would be this hard
This time alone is driving me round the bend
The constantly not knowing when it’s all gonna end

The barrage of news more bad than good
Takes over your head like you never thought it would
Try not to listen to everything the ‘experts’ say
Turn the world off…….but it don’t go away.

My chest hurts and occasionally I shake
If only it was a nightmare from which I’d wake
But no this virus is here and spreading its fear
Keep away from my family and friends I hold dear!

I try to keep busy and fill my day
But I have no routine, no real part to play
You see I cannot be with the ones I love
Self-isolation I’ve just about had enough!
The silence outside is deafening
Apart from the bark of a dog or noisy birds tweeting
It’s movie-like and truly feels very surreal
Like an eeriness starving my senses I feel

I step outside and see people with covered faces
The fear in their eyes still showing traces
I know that look cos I feel it too
You see the virus has no identity,
Could it be me, Could it be you.

I zig-zag ‘cross the road on my way to work
To avoid any people with germs that lurk
You’re not giving it to me or the vulnerable I look after
We are not your victims today, tomorrow or thereafter.

All this makes me wonder how some old folk live their lives
They must feel this numbness and the day to day strife
When’s the next chat, next real conversation
When someone shows interest in their situation.

Open the blinds, let the world in to see
Or get back under the covers, to my own company.
Pick up the phone, “talk to someone” they say
But who wants to hear “I’ve done nothing today”

The sooner we get back to normal the better
To have someone with me to whether the weather
But who knows what ‘normal’ will be that’s the thing
We can only hope it’s the best tomorrow can bring
When we can say hello to the world again with fresh eyes and heart
Say goodbye to this virus and leave it in the past.

(c) Garry Parsonson, 2020

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Thank you, Garry, for connecting with us through this poem. I’m glad I was able to include it on my page. It really is apt for these times we are in; times that are once again full of uncertainty and confusion.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s theme and connectors. See you again soon. Please do remain safe, remembering Boris Johnson’s ‘Hands, Face, Space’ all-important and vital message!

Click here to read Issue 5 of Write On! Magazine.

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Being able to show invisible colours, to stir a reader’s emotions, is something every writer tries to perfect.