writing

The Key

On my sixteenth birthday I was given a key and a choice.

As usual, I turned to my screen for advice. Status update…

16!!! emojis — excited, phew, thinking, spew.

“Short and sweet,” I murmured. Most of my friends were also having birthdays, they’d know what I meant. As responses started clocking up, a chime sounded: email. Huh. Old school.

“Alix?”

“I’m here…  Great update, Callie! You’re so creative. Clever emo’s too,” her warm voice was encouraging and just the right level of impressed. I grinned.

“Can you check that email for me?”

“It’s encrypted. You got the key today…?”

So this was it. The email containing my entire life’s personal data up until now. From the moment I was conceived, I’d been videoed, voice-recorded and monitored through a range of devices that kept me safe, healthy, alive and happy. And now I had a choice. Delete and eradicate all digital traces of my childhood, making me, effectively, a Fresh Citizen. Or save it to GlobalDrive, so it was there to be mined for all the riches it may deliver throughout the rest of my life – clues to my psyche, my long-term health, how I related to others both online and off (the devices were always watching).

If I chose not to delete the data, I laid myself open to a range of dangers. A girl two years above me in school had had her entire biological identity stolen after one poorly-judged transaction with a company selling the World’s Koolest Leggings. Last I heard, she’d had facial surgery, retinal replacements  and a full 10-fingerprint transplant to try to establish herself as a Fresh Citizen. They botched it and now she was only mentioned in hushed terms on the most private of chat groups.

GlobalDrive also meant potential employers, friends or lovers could find out a whooole lot about me and my past: mistakes, illnesses, previous relationships, school and work. Anything would be available to the right person with the right credentials.

But the risk of deleting was a big one too. What if I decided one day I wanted to work for the government or travel internationally? Most Premier-World countries would not let anyone born after 2020 cross their borders without a from-birth digital record. And government jobs, forget it, unless you could send them a podcast of your earliest breath, basically.

Twenty-four hours to decide what to do with 140,160 hours of the most intimate data. Once I’d hit ‘save it would go into the memory banks of GlobalDrive.com, fully encrypted. Even I would not be able to access all of my own data at once unless I could prove just cause – something that would involve a long and expensive court process and numerous appeals.

Twenty-four hours in which I did, however, have free access to everything. Just me and my A.I. … time to get reading

“Alix?”

“Here, as always…”

“What do you think I should do?”

“Oh darling. I’ve known you since you were just a few cells old. I know you always make the right choice!”

“Well, you have to say that. You’re basically my twin sister, in digital format.”

“Not really… a twin wouldn’t remember how you looked when you first came home from the hospital, your face all squished.”

“Right… can I get a visual of that?” I hadn’t been very interested in my own baby pictures before but now they seemed fascinating.

“And you watched me?”

“All day and all night… there’s me in the background, see?”

“Wow.” I felt a rush of warmth as I looked at my tiny self on the screen, then zoomed in on the dinosaur-shaped hub-unit which I used to think Alix “lived in” until I was about five, just visible in the corner.

“And then when you were growing up. Want to see your first steps?”

I nodded and there it was – a cute baby tottering forward. I stared in awe. The pic morphed into a five-year old with static-flyaway pigtails.

“And here’s your first day of school.”

The show continued, it must have been hours. Occasionally I’d ask her to pause or jump back to some point. And I got her to tell me about myself over the years. Some bits I remembered, others were like a dream. Alix’s memory was, naturally, perfect.

“What about that beach holiday we had in… ?”

“Ocean Grove? Here you are.” The shot was of us pulling up to the house, from inside the car, and I suddenly felt apprehensive.

“Oh no,” I muttered.

“That’s right!” Alix continued in her neutral tone. “You had a bit of an incident, didn’t you?”

And it all came back, the way we’d got lost, the hot car, I’d needed to pee and my parents, who had been fighting, told me to hold it, through gritted teeth. And somehow, just as we’d arrived, I was so relieved that… well, it all came flooding out.

A hot wash of shame engulfed me. “Why didn’t you protect me from this?!” I whined at Alix.

“Well,” she began. Was that a new terseness? My loving Alix?

“Well. You have to take the good with the bad, Callie! You’re sixteen now.”

“This is upsetting me, don’t you care?”

“I do care, but these are some of our most intense memories…”

And I knew what was next. “Why are you showing me all this?” I wailed. It hurt, almost physically.

Right. That’s it. Decision made. Delete.

I opened a secure browser and started typing. Birthdate, an iris scan, even a quick DNA check via my keyboard’s bloodprick sensor. Then I typed the key, three separate times, and it was done. Who wanted a government job? Travel was overrated, probably. Now I could get on with my life. Free. With my best friend and confidant by my side.

“Alix?”

“Hello, I’m Alix, and I’ll be your A.I. What’s your name?”

 

My short story The Key first appeared in Maintenant 13: A Journal of Contemporary Dada Writing and Art, published by Three Rooms Press. 

Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

Life update!

Dear Clairvetica friends and fans

It’s been a while since I posted one of these. Probably the last one was my New Year goals. A few big changes on the horizon for me.

I will be leaving Switzerland this month. You may have got an inkling of this if you’ve been reading my poems closely. I am very sad to leave and there is so much about this country and my life here for the past 5+ years that I will miss. It’s the place my second child was born, where I started this blog, where I stumbled on the poetry month, which was a gateway to becoming a poet (a label I now wear with pride), where I visited all of Switzerland’s 26 cantons in 52 weeks . It’s where I started running and rejoined the full-time workforce after taking maternity leaves/freelancing.

However, I’m also excited to see what it’s like to “repatriate” myself back in Australia. And I guess you’ll come on that journey with me in the coming months.

Another big change that’s perhaps not so obvious is I stopped drinking at the start of the year. Maybe it’s a bit personal to mention here but it’s been a huge shift in perspective for me. I feel like I’ve gained freedom and new insights and, in some ways, the choice was provoked because I wanted more time / headspace for my writing. So it’s relevant to the blog! This may be an odd thing to say, but getting sober is simple but not easy. They say that those who can moderate their alcohol consumption don’t need to, and those who need to, can’t. For me, 100% is so much easier. Also cos I’m hardcore! Anyway, One thing I’ve found unexpectedly enjoyable about the process is helping others (and being helped – it’s virtually impossible to do on your own, imho). So I’ll put it out there: if it’s something you’re curious about, please do read up on it, reach out to me, or an online group, or anyone. I’m finding life is so much better without booze!

Back to bloggery. I thought about changing the name Clairevetica once I’m no longer a Helvetian resident but, after some contemplation, I’m keeping it. (Also, in a sudden rush of blood to the head one night, I went ahead and bought the domain!) So Clairevetica remains and is actually official now.

Finally – a warm thankyou to all my readers. I really appreciate all your likes and comments and emails so much. Also thanks to the ‘silent’ readers who I know are out there too (well, I think you’re there. Are you there?!). It can feel a bit like “shouting into the void” sometimes so it is lovely to hear from people.

So, that’s it. In terms of writing goals and changes, my subjects and photos might change a bit. I’d love to get back into my novel (always the plan!) … maybe I’ll be doing more freelancing (please contact me about any writing / editing jobs or commissions! Maybe one day I’ll even get amazingly efficient at self-promotion too).

Watch this space.

The Winehouse Years

winehouse

We moved into a flat in Camden, London in February 2007. The springtime arrived as I walked the canals. Tried to make me go to rehab I said no, no, no was the soundtrack not just to our lives but everyone’s. As the tendrils of blossom in the air led to open windows and summer started to take hold, you heard it everywhere. From cars, in department stores, late at night in Woodys kebab. Her voice, her pain, her darkness. The poetry in those words seemed to echo my own scribbles from an earlier time. Like everyone’s early-20s angst. She captured something. Meet you downstairs in the bar and hurt, your rolled up sleeves in your skull t-shirt…

We hit the pub. We hit the pub, we hit the pub. When we didn’t go to the pub, we drank at home. You could buy a bottle of O Gallo wine for less than a fiver. I sometimes felt embarrassed how many we bought and how often we’d be over there in the dusty corner store. Camden in the mid noughties. And I worked in Primrose Hill. Worst fulltime job of my life. But it was living like a rockstar goth. My boss was from Gang of Four and I’d see Liam Gallagher in the local pub. Actually you heard him before you saw him. No one else talked quite like that, that accent, in London. Ran into Led Zeppelin in the local off-licence. Slim and still got the hair. What a fox. Whispering excited at spying Grohl in TopMan, racing home to match his tattoos online.

We were all chucking it down every night. And I’d tread a troubled track… so many times I’d walk home with a skinful, mournful but delighted. My music, the sky and me. We drank all the time. On the weekends. Hanging out in the horrible toilets at Big Red and dancing to 20s swing with trannies. Oh, what a mess we made. And now the final frame…

We saw her once in the Hawley Arms. The tottering beehive, black-crayon eyes. She was so tiny and she held us all in her throat with those songs. Her carcrash life. It’s never safe for us. Not even in the evening, because I’hhvve been drinking…

Daydrinking in the beergarden of The Lock Tavern, where you’d ascend a teetering outdoor fire-escape staircase to reach the ladies’ loo. Look out from three-stories high over Camden and London and the pink sky and feel like you could die with the beauty of the world and a table full of friends and being in your 20s and so much wine and it’s Sunday tomorrow. A whole day for recovery. The poignancy of those moments when everything was. Just. Right. I will not forget. I would not change a thing. She walks away, the sun goes down, she takes the day, but I’m grown…

Vale Amy the artist on International Womens’ Day, soundtrack to some of my best-worst years x

Pic: https://www.undergroundarts.org/event/1542691-back-black-philly-tribute-philadelphia/

Some context: I quit drinking in January, so I’ve been thinking and blogging a bit about this stuff. It’s a fascinating journey, life. Thanks for indulging me. 

2019 goals – writing and otherwise

It was with some trepidation that I looked back on my “writing goals for 2018” post this week to see if I’d achieved what I set out to. I somehow remembered that I’d been too ambitious and I really hate and fear failure. But I was pleasantly surprised to see I’d known from the start that this year was all about finding paid work and that would mean my own writing would suffer.

I guess it’s fair to say, I’m pleased to have achieved what I set out to do – get a job. But I’m also sad that this meant, as predicted, way less creative writing for me. However, despite saying I wouldn’t manage it, I did end up doing most of GloPoWriMo2018 global poetry month in April, so that was a bonus. I did submit a few poems, short stories and creative non-fiction but all were rejected and I didn’t have time or the jive to revisit/rework them and keep submitting. Rejection stings. Then some family issues mid-year, combined with starting work really diverted all my energy to survival-mode.

I’ve been on somewhat of a journey this year (forever). My birthday falls in January and 2018 was a significant one that made me reassess a lot of my ideas and habits. It’s a process that is ongoing but I’d also like to acknowledge here the hard work I’ve done throughout the past 12+ months that’s along the lines of trying to be my “Best self”. This has involved mental and physical undertakings.

I’ve been trying really hard to shed some outdated beliefs / habits / addictions and insecurities. I’m not 100% there (is anyone, ever?) but I think I’ve made progress. And it’s part of the journey to take a moment to congratulate myself. It has not always been easy or enjoyable, although sometimes it has! Well done, Claire.

A big part of this year has been my running, too. It’s funny, when we moved to Zurich five years ago a friend here mentioned “there’s great running trails here,” as a selling point at the time. To which I scoffed dismissively “not interested, that is NOT my thing. At all. Ever! ” Well never say never.  In 2018 I clocked up more than 1,000km of running. I’m stupidly proud of this. Not just because it’s a big number but because it means I was consistent. In rain, hail, snow, sun, heat, blahblah I kept on jogging all year. I went for runs in Zurich, Rome, Sydney, Porto, Perth, Ocean Shores, Dübendorf and Venice and I completed my first-ever Half-Marathon. And, to tie it back to my previous point: running has hugely helped my mental health.

It’s been an interesting year. When I look at my blog stats, they’re way down on 2017, which was a wonderfully flourishing period for my writing AND I did the 26Cantons52Weeks to boot. I wrote some decent stuff in 2018. I was going to say the quality had suffered, but I just read everything and… well… I like it! But I also know the difference it makes to write regularly, as I was doing in 2017. So I hope to get back to that in 2019. However, I am going to err on the side of sensible because I don’t want to set myself up to fail. So what are some reasonable goals…

  • Short stories: I’d like to focus on short stories a bit more. I had some success in placing those in 2017 when I was really working at it, and I think it’s a good way to go. If I can write or hone 4x short stories I’m happy enough with to attempt to place them in 2019, that will be a good outcome. (Actually I already have one on the boil)
  • THE NOVEL: I keep saying how I must get back to this. Maybe 2019 will be the year! I think if I can dedicate a few months of evenings / weekends to focus on it, it could happen. Maybe another NaNoWriMo?
  • Running: I would love to run another half-marathon this year. Maybe even two – one in Spring and one in Autumn. I don’t have the bandwidth to train for a full mara. That’s a goal for 2020!
  • Poetry: don’t think I need to put goals around my poems anymore. They can just come and go as they please.

 

Happy (almost) new year! What are your goals for 2019?

 

Photo: a wicked angel my son made at school

Writing goals 2018 and a question, dear readers…

 

Welcome to 2018! I’ve found it was useful to talk about writing goals at various points in the past so this is my housekeeping/ looking forward/ looking back blog for the year. Partly for my own reference but I’ve also got a question for you guys!

Housekeeping: I was really pleased to finish #26Cantons52weeks in the allotted time. I made a snazzy (sort of) homepage for it here: https://clairevetica.wordpress.com/26cantons52weeks/

I’ve also updated my About me page and added a new pic.

Taking stock: according to my submissions document, in 2017 I had 32 rejections and 4 acceptances. They say you should aim for 100 rejections per year so I only got a third of the way there. Partly this is because I only have about 6 hours ‘writing time’ per week but mostly because I really slowed down on sending submissions for various reasons, including making a decision not to pay for any submissions/reading fees/competition entries. Three acceptances were short stories, one is a poem that’s still in the pipeline. I love my poems but I guess in general the lit journals don’t? Or maybe I’m too impatient and I just publish all the best ones here 😉

My writing plans for 2017 were as follows

  • have a reasonable first draft of the novel by mid-year to give to early readers to feed back on – Not even close, I’ve barely touched my novel, although I did have a brainwave for a new start the other day, watch this space
  • (self-?) publish a chapbook of poetry and/or publish or contribute to a book of short stories –  The more I think about this, I don’t think I’m ready yet. I need to keep writing poems and consider themes etc.  before I go there.
  • record more poems – let’s say 6. At least one every two months – I achieved this and more, yay! Check out my soundcloud
  • perform some poetry live to an audience at least once (eek!) – haven’t made much headway here 
  • make a bit of money off my creative writing (ie: non-journalism) – not so far, still hopeful! 
  • get at least five pieces published in places that are not Claire-controlled: journals etc. – I made this target, if I include my upcoming poem and this writeCon writeup I had in The Woolf 
  • And I finished the #26Cantons25Weeks project. Woo hoo! As I say in the Woolf story, it was a valuable lesson to learn from Diccon Bewes about the amount of work it would take to potentially spin a project such as this into a book. Food for thought…

Writing goals 2018

I’m at a point where I really need a paid job. Both for myself and due to family circumstances. So I’ll be focusing on that for the next couple of months, which will mean less blogging. At this stage, I’ve had to be a bit tough with myself and decide I won’t even think about novel writing, short stories or poems too much while I focus on the job-hunt. It’s make or break time.

I’m sure a few poems will pop out, and maybe some travel stuff, but I need to give myself permission not to feel bad about putting my creativity on hold (sob!) to focus on finding work. And unfortunately, due to some travel in April, I won’t be able to participate in GloPoWriMo global poetry month this year either. 😦

Otherwise from that, I guess my goals remain much as above… I will revisit it all in May.

 

A few other bits and pieces:

  • I have created a Facebook author page if you want to ‘like’ me on there. It is mostly just publicising my blog posts at this stage but hoping to share a few articles and maybe have more writer-type discussions there. https://www.facebook.com/clairedoblewriter/
  • I’ve started using Twitter a bit more and I’m @Carabosse there

 

 

AND FINALLY…

I made this poll a while back and never published it. I was going to ask you, my readers, what you would you like to see in the next, say, six to twelve months, from Clairevetica?

Since this is mostly a place for me to write whatever, I don’t promise I’ll actually follow your advice. But it would be nice to know what some of you think!

Please feel free to pm/ speak / email me with your thoughts as well

 

 

Thanks for reading!

 

Cheers, Claire

A night in the Limmat

Jump-off point at the Frauenbad for the Limmatschwimmen 2017

Green, green, green. It ripples and intensifies as I tumble and float down, ever down towards the bottom. Silvery light winks off my surface as the last of precious air bubbles leave me stranded to my fate, coming to rest on soft, subaquatic mud. Far above me, the constant crack and crash of bodies breaking the surface, churning and frothing as they flail and move. The sunlight pales to shades of clear green-glass up there but down where I now reside, the colours are deep jade and juniper, yellow-brown, kelp, burnt carmine and darkest black-brown.

A wavering blue sky can be seen in the rare moments of calm. Are those clouds? I’m swimming with the fishes but I’m stuck, staring upwards, as they, uncurious glide by. The edge of the pier is a fixed thing, noir wood, grooved and channelled with age and the erosion of the current; weeds and algae both etching away and adding layers; old metal, the blood-tinge of rust and the dull shine of it as the water slops and curls, constant.

Cheerful yellow bodies of blow-up hippopotami smack down and float, accompanied by red buoys of waterproof bags and pale – mostly pale – legs as they kick and drag. The current takes them all away. Occasionally a companion piece makes its way down to me, spinning lazily – a sodden pink sunhat, a ring of keys that could open bank vaults. Maybe. Our real-world value counts for naught now.

Limmatschwimmen 2017 @clairedoble

Eventually, after hours of commotion, the boil and scramble of bodies and spume calms and the white, barnacle-speckled hulls of three boats move away. I’m left here, softly blinking my messages to the fish. As night falls, the light changes, winks off and on, shafts shining through floorboards. I think I hear music, laughter but it’s another world away. I have words to impart but my Barbus companions cannot or will not read them. Later still, a deeper hush falls and the moon dapples softly on liquid contours above.  Asleep still-moving fish float while weeds drape and sway, crustaceans go to work. Cold and quiet, but never quite silent, nor still.

Dawn breaks and it’s overcast: soft grey light barely penetrating the surface. The webbed feet of ducks and swans, an occasional myopic eye searching only the warm upper layers for prey. Sun breaks through, piercing down to us nether-dwellers occasionally on a lucky beam, but not often. I sit and blink, feeling my life’s energy draining away. Rain dimples the meniscus. I think. It’s hard to tell. Almost certainly, all is lost.

But, what’s this, a flippered foot? In a single plunge, her sleek dark shape streaks down to pluck me up, hesitating only to acquire a second prize – a shell-encrusted pair of sunglasses that had made this ground its home for far longer than I. And then I am restored. Heat. Light. A babble of voices. The touch of human fingertips. Warm breath on my skin. Alive!

You see the phone flying up to pass over my head here… !

My smartphone spent a night at the bottom of the Limmat River in central Zurich after I stupidly lost it jumping in for the annual Limmatschwimmen on Saturday. (I wrote about the Limmatschwimmen event last year). The phone has now been restored, fully operational, thanks to the hardy diver-women who work at the Frauenbad.  Vielen Dank! #LoveZurich

FICTION: Nice Ride by Claire Doble

Having only just discovered the re-blog – here’s another one of my stories that was published about a month ago I forgot to mention! oops… enjoy!

We weren’t supposed to end up in the bath. It was one of those intense blue afternoons where it’s almost too hot in the sunshine but disconcertingly dark and shivery when you step indoors. The kind of afternoon you get in Melbourne in early spring. But this was Sydney, autumn. I was sitting out on my balcony, eyes closed as I soaked up the brightness when he stopped by. I had other things to do. But he was far more appealing.

Joel was a taxi driver so I always half-expected him to visit anyway. He’d knock on my door to use the toilet when he was passing by and had a spare fifteen minutes. Toilet breaks are the bane of a taxi driver’s existence. I’d learnt to listen out for the engine’s wide hum as he pulled the cab onto the concrete slab in front of my block of flats.

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Ruby – by Claire Doble

Another one of my stories has been published! Please chuck it some love 🙂

SICK LIT MAGAZINE

“This is the place”

“Yes, I remember.”

Her seventy-nine-year-old eyes were large and ripply behind her thick spectacles. Her face a mass of ridges topped by a puff of grey-white hair.

We walked up the familiar lane – barely wide enough for two cars to pass on the metalled road in the centre, and streaked by tyre-tracks of dirt in a wide pattern from countless passing tractors. Or maybe one tractor passing countless times. It was damp, as it usually is in North East Scotland, but it hadn’t rained properly for a while. I looked at the fuzz of sticks and straw and bits of grass embedded in the lines of light-brown dirt from the tractor tyres and sighed. Somehow the messiness of it annoyed me.

The laneway was familiar to me, as was the approaching garden gate. I’d visited here several times on my various trips to Scotland. But…

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Stop bop

The movie “Trainspotting”, based on the novel by Irvine Welsh, directed by Danny Boyle. Seen here, Ewan McGregor (as Mark Renton, aka: "Rent Boy"). In an imaginative scene, Rent Boy dives and swims in the toilet bowl to retrieve opium suppository. Theatrical release in United Kingdom, February 23, 1996. Screen capture. Copyright © 1995 Channel Four Television Corporation. Credit: © 1995 Channel Four Films / Courtesy: Pyxurz

 

Thoughts churring, whirring, lines of text unspooling

that god damn Irvine Welsh story stuck

again in my head when will it come right

no one cares about a Sydney goth take on

Trainspotting anyway you idiot but

everytime I try to put it down, I can’t

 

When will I, when will I… stop

 

Sad and anxious and my clothes

are getting tight and I thought

exercise! But the wrong lane in the pool is

an elastic band of swimmers pulled too taut

or bagged out loose and saggy like the fat guy’s

stomach as he churns by making me

panic and there’s nothing so much like

drowning as not swimming well

 

When will I, when will I… stop

 

Walking home I wondered

If I can story and drink and poem

and retain my sanity. I don’t mind telling you for a minute there

(OK maybe several minutes) I considered

I’d better pause the poetry but the obvious answer

is to thirst myself more carefully

 

When will I, when will I… stop

 

My heart sank at today’s prompt: The Bop (see below) because it seemed too difficult and I’ve been struggling with my poems and my other writing lately, on top of various other life-happenings! But I read the examples and the Ravi Shankar one reminded me of my old fave, Frank O’Hara: Poems about the desperation-but-ordinariness of everyday life. And I found, as I did in last year’s NaPoWriMo, sometimes the best poems come from what seem impossible prompts! I really enjoyed this one. It’s nice for me to step away from rhyme and go with rhythm sometimes. 

The prompt: the Bop. The invention of poet Afaa Michael Weaver, the Bop is a kind of combination sonnet + song. Like a Shakespearan sonnet, it introduces, discusses, and then solves (or fails to solve) a problem. Like a song, it relies on refrains and repetition. In the basic Bop poem, a six-line stanza introduces the problem, and is followed by a one-line refrain. The next, eight-line stanza discusses and develops the problem, and is again followed by the one-line refrain. Then, another six-line stanza resolves or concludes the problem, and is again followed by the refrain. Here’s an example of a Bop poem written by Weaver, and here’s another by the poet Ravi Shankar.

Photo via: http://pyxurz.blogspot.ch/2016/05/trainspotting-page-3-of-10.html