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I have an old brown leather purse that belonged to my Nan. She died when I was 11 or 12. I;m 59 now and the purse is still in the drawer next to my bed. It has a certain smell and it takes me back to when I used to visit her with my mother. She was in her 80's then and I would sit in front of her patiently like a dog waiting for her to give me some sweets. She always wore the same brown zip up slippers and an apron and her hair would be tied back. A sort of Doris Lessing style although she would never have known that. I can see her wrinkled face now and see her hand dipping into her apron pocket. I used to play with her skin on her hand to see how long it stayed standing up. I do the same with my mother sometimes now. She had one of the old-fashioned hearing aids that she would turn off. Her apron smelled too but it was a good smell - one of warmth and love.

Inside the purse are some old pennies in tiny compartments held together by tiny clasps.

One day she was there and the next she was in a home and then she came home for a time and then she was gone. I was too young to see her in her last day or go to the funeral. She's still here in my heart and I'm starting to well up a little now as I type. I'm going to get the purse out again later and take a look and a smell. Go back and see her again. I miss her.

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Peter - what an incredibly moving piece, and so beautifully written. That tangible, loving quality I go back to again and again in Laurie Lee is here in your writing too. I read it aloud to my husband, who was as moved by it as I was. And it's your first piece for the project too I think! I do hope you'll try other prompts in the archive: all stay open for contributions.

I love all of it, and find this sentence particularly powerful, coming as it does with vertiginous as well as poignant perspective, after all the preceding ones which are so closely focussed in on your gran and all you loved about her and the purse: 'One day she was there and the next she was in a home and then she came home for a time and then she was gone.'

I will make the new month's page on the cure for sleep book site tomorrow all being well, and yours will be the first piece I curate on it. Once I've done that I will come back here to comments to give you your direct URL so that you can include in any posts you want to do or if you have a website or writing course application where having it will be of use to you.

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Heartfelt thanks. I think I've been waiting to write that piece for many years without the courage. I think seeing my aged mother, 95, brings back memories too. We used to visit my auntie who she lived with together on the bus. Happy yet poignant memories. Little do we know when we are at such a tender age how things come back to haunt us. Thank you also for being my first subscriber who is not a relative or a friend. Perhaps I have made a new friend in a way. I look forward to posting on your other prompts. Peter

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It really is a beautiful piece, Peter. And I will look forward to more contributions from you, as you have time and interest to take part. Here, as promised, is your direct link to your words in the story archive. Very best, Tanya

https://thecureforsleep.com/impossible-objects/#peterhamer

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Thank you for including me. I have posted another piece in the Stay This Moment part.I hope you like it.

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Oh I'm glad you told me that! My usually rigorous notification system for spotting all new stories has something failed me this week then as I haven't seen that other one come through. I've got tired eyes now tonight, but I will search for your other piece tomorrow mid morning! Something to look forward to! And then I will use the comments over on that theme to give your link and my response. Thank you Peter!

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Oh how beautiful Peter! I enjoyed reading this very much.

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Many thanks Tracey.

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Sep 1, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

59C

I spotted it with a kestrel’s eye. In a flash, I was on it. I’d been hovering in the museum shop – ‘Street Life’ they call it. It was on a trip ‘home’ with our then young children. A toy bus, but not just any toy bus. Navy blue and cream livery rushed me back to my childhood. EYMS: East Yorkshire Motor Services. And then I noticed the details. A 1970s Daimler Fleetline double-decker: my era. ‘59C Circular via Preston/Hedon’: my route. My ‘not my’ village named. Registration plate AFT 784C. I can’t be certain of that accuracy.

This bus took me home, every school day in the second half of the 70s. A circular route for people who never left. Dad’s patients. Shopworkers and shoppers. But a basket empty of school friends for this direct grant boy, the only one at the ‘posh’ school from my backwater village. Left to my top deck devices, I discovered a love of language forms and structures – irregular verbs, subjunctives, indirect speech. Yes, indirect speech, which I see now as a metaphor for a largely remote, if unhostile, teenage existence, where nothing seemed direct, close, or intimate. Instead, I found companionship in the reliable patterns of accidence, and security in the sounds of the ancients.

I’m looking at my toy bus now. It sits in pride of place on a middle shelf, beside a pot of raptor feathers, one of which is from a kestrel. I used to spot them from the top deck of the 59C, on the stretch beyond the lime trees. The bus is a quasi-talismanic die-cast treasure I’d give away last of my possessions. It tells me where I came from, where I went to, and – fittingly for a circular route – what I never managed to leave behind.

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Oh Paul. What a story - and so so beautifully written. All of it but especially these lines, where the beauty of description - a tale told - deepens and expands into new perspectives on past times:

'Yes, indirect speech, which I see now as a metaphor for a largely remote, if unhostile, teenage existence, where nothing seemed direct, close, or intimate.'

and

'It tells me where I came from, where I went to, and – fittingly for a circular route – what I never managed to leave behind.'

This feels like a piece you could publish beyond this project. I do hope you'll look for some print or online publications to send it to...

Your link below. Txx

https://thecureforsleep.com/impossible-objects/#paulgamble

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I love the energy of this Paul and how it changes too. Pulls one in and along for the very interesting ride!

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My mom and I would have terrible fights as is typical of most teens going through the growing pains between childhood and adulthood. Our fights would devastate me, leaving me feeling very unsafe. I would go to my grandparents house and spend the night often during our fights. I slept on a floral upholstered sofa in the living room, under a crisp white sheet, folded in half and a blanket. I would turn with my face towards the back of the sofa and pull my arms and legs up into a semi-fetal position, cuddling the back of the sofa. I would stare up at this painting in an ornate gilded frame. The painting was of several women and men dressed in Victorian clothing standing and sitting around a Victorian room talking to each other. I spent sleepless hours escaping into this painting. I wondered at the feel of the blue dress on one woman and what the man whispering in the ear of another was saying to make her look so engaged. Sometimes if I half closed my eyelids, through the blurry tears, I could see myself in that room, talking and laughing with those people. When my gram passed away, I took the painting and it hangs today over my sofa, where my little granddaughter looks up at it and asks me to tell her what the people are saying to each other.

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Hello again Charly. As promised, I'm back to give you your direct link to your beautiful piece in the book's story archive: https://thecureforsleep.com/impossible-objects/#charlys

It gave me another chance to read your words. How moving, how vertiginous, that you are now the grandmother, and able to share your gram's precious painting with a granddaughter of your own.

Txxx

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Charly.. thank you so much for joining the project, and with this fascinating piece. What a sense of time and place and emotion you've created in so few words. I will be very glad to add this to the story archive. Before I can, could you reply here please with a last name or last name initial I can use please? Tanya xx

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Hi Tanya, thank you, happy to be a part of it. Last initial S.

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I utterly adore this piece. The honesty and clarity of it, it's beautiful.

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Thanks Paul, I appreciate the feedback. Being vulnerable in my writing is new to me, it is encouraging to be heard and understood.

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Aug 31, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Written by Fran Pollard. I'm from Surrey UK, l live in Cambodia, but currently in Portugal for a couple of months.

Frayed and burnt at the ends, the red thread coils on the wooden table I sit at. I haven’t discarded it, but I don’t know why I keep it. It lays dormant.

Her eyelids flutter like she’s dreaming, plumbing the depths of another world, at end of the video call. She’s propped up on a pile of books to level the angle of my chin. It’s evening, moon rises in the darkening sky; shadows sweep the walls. She takes her time. She opens her eyes, trancelike, and shifts her focus to mine. “Your grandmother is here.”

I reach for the thread and spiral it around my index finger.

“She liked her freedom. Grey hair, slightly curly. Short; rounded figure. Eyes exactly like yours. She was a loner, like you.”

51 days earlier, I’m in Nepal, looping string around my wrist. In the Linga Devi temple in Kathmandu, before the heat of the day, I make a promise: to honour the divine feminine- her strength, her power, her creative force. I make a 40 day commitment.

The medium speaks slowly, purposefully. “She wants you to put the red thread back on your left wrist.”

Shit.

“Put it back on as a sign of commitment: to yourself; to loving yourself, to protecting yourself; and as a sign of your connection to her in blood.”

I sit cross-legged atop a white washed wall. My back to the 50m cliff drop into the Atlantic a mere meter behind me. I face Maria: Senhora da Rocha, in Portuguese- the lady of the rocks. Mother Mary to me; the Virgin Mary to my grandmother with her Catholic upbringing. The snake of red thread in my hands. In a different temple this time, I reclaim the serpent as a sign of my commitment to myself, to her.

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Fran - thank you so much for joining the project, and with this soulful piece.

Among the deep roots of this project is a book called True Tales of American Life by Paul Auster, that meant a lot to me in the time of my own beloved grandmother going from me back in 2005/6: they were true stories the author collected from people across the US, with the brief 'true stories that feel like fiction' - having some element of fate, mystery and so on. I felt that one day if I wrote anything myself, it would have to be in that mode, as so much of my life has felt unaccountable by western rational standards. And once I became published myself, I wanted to make a project in the lineage of that book by Auster, feeling sure they were others out there with similar experiences to my own. Your story is so deeply the kind of experience I care about, in my own life and others. Thank you for sharing it.

It's also beautifully written. I do hope you will try other prompts in the archive from the last three years. All stay open without deadline.

Here is your link to your piece in the story archive...

https://thecureforsleep.com/impossible-objects/#franpollard

Tanya xx

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Lovely, absolutely lovely Fran!

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Sep 4, 2023·edited Sep 4, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

These objects, these pieces of clay, paper and stone. My talismen. My connections with the past, control of the present, and hopes for the future. Silent, inanimate objects, that scream for attention when I least expect it.

First is a palm-sized fragment of pottery I found on the beach, wave-washed between water and sand. Made from pale clay, it is unrefined, coarse grains visible in its thick broken edges. But once flipped, there’s the embossed face of a man crowned with thorns. I touch and hold it, though I’m not religious. I pray with it clasped tight in my hand. When all hopes seem extinguished, it’s my go-to ‘you never know’ lucky charm.

Beside it is a framed black-and-white photo. Four people standing at the brow of a hill, descending from left to right in size and age. First is mum, then my sisters, Christine and Diane. I'm on the end, the little one, half their size. We’re wearing flared jumpsuits, flower-power dresses and happy faces. Thumbs raised. It’s the way I want to remember us, ‘the girls’ posing for dad and his precious box-brownie.

Last is a cat. Tiny compared to the other objects, two-centimetres high, jet-black with ruby-glass eyes and a silver collar engraved with wiggly lines. It’s a nod to some hoped for Irish gypsy or witchcraft family blood. Carried everywhere by mum in a kid-leather purse as she dodged doodle-bugs during the London Blitz. Now it's mine.

Three ordinary objects with extra-ordinary significance.

But only to me.

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Gorgeous writing again from you Jane. How tangible you have made each of these three ordinary/extra-ordinary objects. Every detail vivid but in particular I got goosebumps at the thought of your mum as a girl carrying the little cat in kid-leather as bombs fell. And how you place that detail after describing such a delicate, intricate object - that's where a memory joins with story-telling to make art. I love how you and others make that alchemy happen so much within this very short form I invite you to try. Thank you.

Here is your latest link:

https://thecureforsleep.com/impossible-objects/#janeadam

Tanya xx

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Thank you. I sometimes spend days thinking about your writing prompts before putting pen to paper, remembering things, wondering about my opinion on something, playing with words and meanings as I walk. Occasionally, something happens and I think ‘ooo, I hope I can use that one day on Cure for Sleep’. See what an affect you’ve had on us! Take care xxx

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Ah!!! That's a lovely thing to know! xxx

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I enjoyed reading this piece Jane, it made me think about the ordinary things I have that have extra-ordinary significance. I find it so fascinating how these things can hold such stories within their energy! Beautiful, thank you.

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Yes, it's often the most ordinary things that mean the most. Not to others. Just to us. Thank you for your kind comments. x

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You are most welcome x

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Sep 3, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

I Left With Nothing

I brought nothing from that place, I wanted nothing from that place. What I did bring I have long since set aside, sentimental tokens that were quick to lose their value, false currencies from a previous world.

I could have taken a piece of glass, something from that tall cabinet where garish clowns looked out with mocking humour, but she had polished them weekly until there was nothing on their cold, smooth surface to offer any emotional purchase, no chip nor flaw that made them any easier to break.

I could have taken something from his box of tools, sweat-browned and polished by his hard and calloused hands, sharpened to a safer edge or point, better to cut and shape white pine or straight-grained hardwoods, but they had only ever been dull instruments that played music loud enough to drown the cries.

I searched the rusting biscuit tins of phtographs, looking for one that still reatined some sweetness, but they were bitter with dead relations who stared out at guilty cameras with eyes unblinking and unconscious of those years to come. There were some of me that I wanted to rip and scatter but chose to burn with scathing laughter.

In the end I left with empty hands, a hollow heart that boomed like the bell that warns of a dangerous tide, and skin that bit thicker than the one I wore before, better to contain what feelings might remain, impervious to cuts from the splintered glass of clowns or the strop-sharp points of ancient chisels.

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This is ferocious writing, Geoff, sharp with truth and pulsing with energy. I feel I'm getting a glimpse here into what you are working with in your memoir? Exciting if so. And the language! the sweat-browned tools. The strop-sharp points of ancient chisels. I'm rereading the early Lawrence novels like essential nutrients in these weeks after my mother's death, and although some of the references are precisely of their time and place, I'm astounded anew by his ability to describe a place, a people, through their work gestures and the words that go with that. I see that same energy running through your piece here. Yes, unnerving, exciting. Thank you. Here is your link: https://thecureforsleep.com/impossible-objects/#geoffcox

Txx

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Sep 3, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

‘The world was moving

She was right there with it

And she was’.

The dust sticks to the velvet, round and around. The needle glides on to the oil slick vinyl, a familiar crackle and the music builds quietly. It’s a satisfying ritual remembered.

My Auntie was the coolest. My mothers youngest sister, she was closer to me in age. My godmother, charged with looking after me if anything happened to my parents. To my 11 year old self, she was a confident whirl of red lipstick, leather pencil skirts and fishnets. Slightly punk hair, eyeliner. Musky perfume mixed with cigarette smoke. A red beret and bright 80’s jewellery. Sang in a band. She used to babysit me & my sister and bring her spanish boyfriend & her Talking Heads records. The vinyl was exciting, weighty, full of future possibility. They would sit and discuss the latest song and then she’d sing along in our lounge and I was amazed by her. I’d tell my friends about this band they’d never heard of. Super cool.

Years later, I took her to see David Byrne play at Brighton dome and it was joyous, alive elation.

She left suddenly, dramatically, horribly. Gone in a second. They said she wouldn’t have known. Cerebral haemorrhage at 49 while her husband walked the dog.

When she died, I needed to find a way to be close to her, to believe that she was real, that she existed. To hold on to something physical, to feel her. To hear her. To also remember myself before the violent shock of loss.

The Talking Heads vinyl with its musty yellow cover and dusty surface still felt exciting. Carefully slid out of its cover. Make sure you don’t scratch it as the needle goes down, a forgotten act. I hear the familiar crackle and opening notes and I am 11 years old, watching her sing in her red hat and lipstick, visceral and alive. Ready for the possibilities before death and tragedy took over.

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Helen, this piece from you is stunning. Such a vivid, living portrait of your gorgeous-sounding aunt... which makes then the sudden loss of her shocking to we you readers, as it was to you losing her so fast, so soon. I'm moved that this month's prompt has given you a way and a place to celebrate her, and this object that holds her memory. Thank you. And I wonder how writing this piece has left you feeling afterwards: it's a rare and wonderful thing to write this kind of tribute to a person so long after their passing. Here is your link:

https://thecureforsleep.com/impossible-objects/#helenlouise

Txx

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Sep 4, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Ah thanks as ever Tanya for your comments & time- I find this project to be such a positive, revelatory experience. I was really moved also by the words about your mum & how she was buried with the hankerchief from her lost love - so beautiful xx

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Thank you - touched by how you think of this project. And for your words about Mum. Yes - beautiful that she was buried with it, but a bit poignant too. What a strange choice she made all that time ago, to turn away from him. She said more about that in her last days, so that I finally understood - even while wishing she'd thought differently. xxx

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Very evocative, I can imagine myself there too. Thanks for sharing.

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Sep 3, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Thanks! I found this topic quite a tricky one to write about!

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I can see your dear aunt so clearly, and almost feel her, such is the power of your writing Helen. I too had one very dear and quite magickal aunt who has now passed, she has also left such a mark upon me as your aunt has upon you. Thank you for sharing! x

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Thanks so much Tracey- it’s nice to write about her!

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Aug 31, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Thirty years ago I visited Skye with a friend. It was a raggle taggle holiday, we slept in a damp, wheelless camper van marooned in the garden of my friend's friends house. One day we visited the site of a cleared village, the people thrown off their land so the laird could bring in sheep. I got out of the car and was struck by a wave of sadness and longing so strong that I didn't want to go further, the residual emotional charge was like an elextric fence keeping me out. My friend went exploring. She came back with a strange piece of rounded granite with one shiny flat side. It was the size of a large egg. She gave it to me and for the next thirty years it was placed on a shelf in every one of the many, houses, flats, rooms and sheds I lived in. I felt a strange reverence for it, that small granite enigma.

One day watching some tv archeology programme I realised what it was. The knowledge was sudden, profound and immediate, I went over to the shelf, picked it up, noted for the umpteenth time how well it fitted my hand and knew it to be a hand quern. A woman on Skye had used it daily to grind grain on a flat stone, hence the flat shiny side. I could see the dark mark her thumb had made through many hours of holding it, her hands must have been about the same size as mine.

A few years later I looked at it one morning and had another sudden realisation - it wanted to go home. It was a struggle to let it go, we'd kept company for half my life, but i contacted a museum in Skye, picked at random. Wouldn't you know it they had just got funding for an exhibition of hand querns. It was part of a wider movement to acknowledge and document the daily lives of women on Skye through the ages. So I boxed it up carefully, wished it 'Mar sin leibh agus gabh turas sàbhailte' and sent it off. Now its back home in Skye, gone but never forgotten.

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Stevie! What an utterly compelling experience, and I love how you've written it. I rushed to find my husband and read it aloud to him - he shared my goosebumps-sensation. How soulful, how satisfying - for you experiencing all that, and for us here reading you. Thank you. Here is your link:

https://thecureforsleep.com/impossible-objects/#stevie

Txx

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This is fascinating Stevie! What a wonderful memory of something so special!

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Sep 7, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Thank you so much for your kind words, Tanya! They mean so much to me - your encouragement always does. I will act on your final nudge, be assured.

Of the many blessings since I committed to creativity and decided to do the Travel & Nature Writing MA, becoming a small part of what you do in this project has been one of the richest. Your example - it started with reading TCFS - has shown me what it means to write with bravery and sensitivity.

Either today or tomorrow my finger will hit ‘Submit’ - and send my MA portfolio to its destiny. Within it sit some pieces that began life as responses to your prompts. They are pieces which are dear to me. Thank you for inspiring them - you are their midwife, I guess. Paul x

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You will know how much your words mean to me, from having read my story of how isolated I felt for so long in my love of books, and the kinds of conversations about how to live and what to live for that I yearned to share with others beyond my husband, my diary, my communing with dead authors. To be part of our growing community of writers is a joy. So thrilled for you to have reached Submission day. Tan xx

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On the landing windowsill in my grandparent's house, there was a red glass chalice, shaped like a brandy balloon, but much larger. The light shining through pooled red on the white gloss sill. It was just the right size for a child to put a hand into – very carefully. This was precious.

And I have a memory of putting my hand inside it, and drawing it out covered in blood. My hand, gloved in blood. It’s one of the most vivid memories of my childhood.

The thing is, it’s not true. It never happened. None of the adults remember it, and there’s no way I could have hidden all that blood. Or not panicked and run for help. It’s a strange, false memory. I don’t know where it came from. A dream? A fantasy? A mixture of the image of red light on my hand and other memories of bleeding (I stood on a cucumber frame, I fell off my bike…). It’s strange that this image - so visceral, so real – has somehow inserted itself into my brain and lingered there. How did that happen, and why? Why?

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Oh my. This is the kind of story, and writing, that leaves me thinking about it long afterwards, like passages in Lawrence (who I'm rereading now compulsively in these weeks after my mother's death: he seeming to have the gift of writing about a person's unique set of compulsions and memories, from the youngest child to the eldest elders in a family line).

Have you approached this in your poetry too? If you haven't yet, and do, I'd be so fascinated to read it, and see how it alters from this compelling prose telling...

https://thecureforsleep.com/impossible-objects/#sarahconnor

Txxx

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Intriguing Sarah! The mind is so powerful, and it can be almost impossible to determine the truth of things sometimes. I haven't experienced anything quite like you have here however there have been countless times where memories and dreams have become interwoven, and I am left bewildered and unable to shake the feeling of it all.

A fantastic share, thank you.

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Sep 10, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

My parents were evicted from my childhood home in their fifties, rendering them homeless.

The object that holds most power for me from that house is a robust white jug with blue stripes and a pure white handle. Extracted from the texture of that house into my possession for years now, this jug is a kind of portal weighted with the love and pain of my childhood. There are times when I look at it and all I see is a void, a hollow glaze, a no thing thing.

My mother kept our baby bottles warm in this jug. It feels as though I have used it for nothing in particular and yet, it has had many uses. I have used it to rinse my children’s hair at bath time, I have used it to store their bath toys, to pour champagne from on my 40th birthday, and in latter years as a holding vessel to soak reusable menstrual pads.

Now it is an ornament I guess, and sits innocuously beside the bath.

I have guarded the jug closely, (despite myself as I thought I was above nostalgia), having announced more than once to my kids, “Careful of the jug!”

“Huh, why?”

“Because it means something to me”

How vacuous that must sound I think, how mealy and anaemic an explanation . And yet to tell them more would break my heart.

I know it doesn’t make sense but there are times when I will the thing broken. I suppose it’s something to do with the familiarity of loss, the inevitable finality of things, the desire to get it over with so I can add it to the grief section of my heart and stack it neatly among the bones of the other losses, quietly shushing it up.

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Aoife... thank you again for joining the project and with this very moving piece, in which you do so much with the few words I give you all to work with. What you say about the jug as portal as well as everyday domestic object... you haven't just told us that, you've shown it. It holds the story of your parents' eviction, your mothering years in a home of your own... and then you've also used that last paragraph to striking effect: so that I found myself agreeing with you. Even though I have a horror of breaking things after a childhood where too much was broken in temper or lost in too many moves with unhappy adults, yes there comes a time when we almost wish these containers for too much would break and us be no longer in loving thrall to them. I will be fascinated to read more by you and perhaps in some of the prompts to learn more about your parents lives before the eviction and afterwards... but for now, here is your link to your words in the story archive:

https://thecureforsleep.com/impossible-objects/#aoifeboyle

Tanya xx

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Sep 14, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Im humbled by your response Tanya , for the words and for the time you take and for your priceless encouragement; This is virign terrtitory for me sharing my words so publicly so a heart and soulfelt thanks to you. Your words "Containers for too much: and "in loving thrall" speak volumes to me in relation to this object I wrote about. Best wishes to everyone else here also xx

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Smiling. Humble is good and useful - I've made lots of fine work from that place - but never let anyone in the writing world humble you if you know what I mean! You've contributed a really strong and affecting first piece; it's going to be great to have you contributing to future themes and ones in the archive too xx

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Sep 14, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

i think i do know what you mean Tanya, thank you !

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May 13·edited May 15Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Christmas Day 1993. A present under the tree for me that is just from my Grandad. My Mum has a similar shaped present from my Granny. 


We open them to find a teddy-bear dog within each present.

My Granny had seen them in Littlewoods and thought my Mum would like one.

“You can’t buy Rachel one without getting Becky one too,” my Grandad had apparently said.

As I was only five years old at the time, he made a fair point and thus why he decided to buy me one too.

I would love him from the very moment of unwrapping him. I would name him Spike. He would become one of my most treasured possessions. Even more treasured when my Grandad passed away just shy of six years later.

Every year I bring Spike downstairs on Christmas Day. Christmas Day but also his birthday. He will be thirty-one this year.

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A teddy-bear dog - love that way of describing him rather than as simply a toy dog!

A little pang on realising I don’t have anything like that dating back so far. No real relics of childhood at all…

Here is your link:

https://thecureforsleep.com/impossible-objects/#beckyhandley

I’ll next be looking at any new pieces next Wednesday (just letting you know in case you try any more of the prompts before then, so you’re not waiting and wondering when I will be next here to curate work).

Txx

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May 15Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Thank you so much, Tanya. 🖤

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The Lucky Bean

"We'll come back here one day," he'd said.

And now, it was as if Dad had somehow finally kept his promise. There were barely any tourists and I gather that down the years the seafront shops became fewer and further between - even then, several were boarded up. I remember a dark souvenir shop with odd curios that looked like they may have been languishing in the baskets and jars for aeons. I lighted upon a strange pod-like thing that sat neatly in my palm. It wasn't unlike the chestnuts that I used to collect with Dad at Chetwynd when I was a tiny child but more wrinkled and flatter as if it had been trodden on while damp. I took it to the counter and the shopkeeper charged me the princely sum of "ten new pence." Given it was more than twenty years since decimalisation it suggested even more that this grey-haired, kindly faced man was very much living in the past and that his business was more about love than profits. I can still hear him asking, "Would you like your lucky sea-bean wrapped?" Ah, so that's what it was! I thanked him, yes I would, and he dutifully popped it in a brown paper bag, which he twirled several times as if it contained a quarter of bonbons, before twizzling the corners with a flourish.

My lucky sea-bean came with us whenever we moved but somehow, somewhere, it got mislaid. Perhaps that was when things started to go wrong. Who can say what powers these little amulets have over us. I have no difficulty recalling the shape of it, its warmth and texture. Perhaps the memory is just as much a charm.

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How much I love the way you’ve recreated that encounter with the mysterious shopowner - 'he dutifully popped it in a brown paper bag, which he twirled several times as if it contained a quarter of bonbons, before twizzling the corners with a flourish’: I love these kinds of very precise observations of gesture/habit in writing. Makes a time and place and person feel so near and present…

And I think you’ve made an observation about something in your own life that will strike a chord with others here as it did me: this sense of our lives running off course after the loss of a quite small object without monetary value. Yes, I felt goosebumps of recognition at that and remembered my own lost equivalent, after which a run of bad luck and bigger losses began.

Here is your link:

https://thecureforsleep.com/impossible-objects/#claireeverett

Txx

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Jan 27Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Thanks Tanya, glad you liked it. I have not received any indication when my piece on Holloways will be published by MagNorth. I will email Colin to make sure all is well concerning the piece.

Steve.

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Jan 25Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Board Perfect

The board leans angle perfect, dead weight against my study wall. It's soft wooden flesh pocked marked with schoolhood secrets; a carved out diary of adolescent anguish and unease, coded with emotional angst. It's been a constant travelling companion down the decades, resting innocently in plain sight; a reminder of someone I used to be. Whilst the technical drawing board stays young, I grow older, but the memories are Spring fresh.

This wooden mnemonic loops me back into a frozen-still-silence of a classroom with Mr "T" Square finger thumping my sheet of pristine white paper with his fleshy, aged skin smudges and my eraser frantically rubbing them out. Then his disarming, stern punch of a face slamming into my loose grip on self confidence. A tongue lasher warping and bending my straight lines.

Two years of double technical drawing forged permanent-elemental-memories, peppered with invective shrapnel from a barbed sneer bent on teaching pencil etiquette. Knocking a pencil on the floor was a capital offence. Double day dreaming for me was a soul cleanser, but also a graphite breaker. My musings and inattention created a wreck of lines, inaccuracies and the inevitable dropped pencil, the graphite bone suffering multiple fractures; damage beyond repair. All was lost.

"Hand Out!" barked the sneer. My finger bones rattled from the blows of a twelve inch, calibrated wooden cudgel.

"A plague on your pencils!" I whispered. I grew a skin of wood and took the blows.

Rescuing me from these thwacks of encouragement were the initials, LW carved into the heart of the wooden board. A first love lexicon sculpted in the top right hand corner, a totem to a teenage romance.

When my secondary education finally collapsed, I took the board as a trophy against adversity and here it leans.

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Wow! This was a blast come through from you, Steve. Such density & sensation of memory conveyed through it… and read by me, who has two pieces of furniture in my house made by father-in-law and estranged father respectively when they were each 14 and in similar technical classes at secondary modern. Love the ‘plague on your pencils’ defiance.

Here is your link:

https://thecureforsleep.com/impossible-objects/#steveharrison

I hope I haven’t missed a link to your piece for MagNorth? Do send it when you have it or resend, as it will be so exciting for me to see your distinctive voice being published now beyond this project as well…

Tan xx

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Hessian jewellery box on the dressing table

As a child I remember dusting my mum’s dressing table every week. Placed in front of the bay window in my parents’ bedroom, it contained all her treasures.

I gingerly lifted each ornament, her gilt-edged mirror, brush and comb set and her bottle of Blue Grass perfume, wiped them with the duster and rearranged them.

I liked all the ornaments, but it was the cylindrical hessian box, edged with lace and pink roses, that stayed in my mind. I had crafted it at Sunday School. Made from a toilet roll holder and a piece of cardboard, I recalled my mum smiling as I gave it to her. It symbolised my love for my mum who was and is always there for me and my family during happy and difficult times.

As an adult I found a similar jewellery box. My ear-rings were stored in it until Ace the dog discovered it one day. At first she chewed the edges, so I put it back together. After she chewed the base I hid it in my drawers.

It would be easy to blame Ace for the messy situation involving my son and his ex-girlfriend, but she is only one factor.

After several months in our care, she has settled down and become a loving dog with minor issues. Instead of chewing every piece of paper and object of value to me, she merely grabs something and releases it.

Let’s hope the situation my son is experiencing will loosen soon too.

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I was so moved by this Joanne: that movement through time - you as the loved and loving child, enjoying things being in their right place... and now you as the mother, concerned for you son but not able yourself, directly, to make, mend or arrange things that can directly ease that. Thank you for sharing it with us here. Here is your link:

https://thecureforsleep.com/impossible-objects/#joannebaker

Txx

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