We all have those moments in life where we are taken on a completely different path. Some life events have the potential to change our points of view and some have the opportunity to wipe us out completely.
With everything going on in the world at the moment it makes me nostalgic. Thinking back I take time to consider those life changing moments. For me it was when I was aged twelve and I was just starting my second year of high school. As per usual I had arrived late and the first session was P.E. Across the road from my high school were playing fields where most of the outdoor classes were held. The few other stragglers and I got dressed into our kits and headed across. Between the school and the playing fields is a very busy road. Already a little shaken by the speed of the traffic and anxious that I was already late I crossed the road and was (perhaps inevitably) knocked down.
I spent months in the hospital recovering from the injuries, watching the opening game of the 1998 World Cup from my bed. Even to this day I don’t remember what happened. All I can go on was the stories told by my family as they were given the news and my school mates who were there to witness the event. The point is that when I came round some weeks later I was in a strange hospital with absolutely no clue as to how I got there. It was strange to not recognise the hospital because as a youngster I had pretty much toured all the medical facilities of the city.
As I recovered I was reminded by the physical pain I was in, the reactions of my loved ones and by the gifts and well wishes I was inundated with that I had come so close to no longer being around. To this day I would have been but a memory of some little girl who had once been part of the family. This sounds really morbid and I do have a morbid fascination with death but In times of trouble or when things get me down I think upon that moment and remind myself that there is still much life left to live. I am still here and as such I can still contribute. It stops me from wasting time and it helps me gain the confidence to reach out when I need help.
So I put it to you to think about those moments that changed you or changed the world around you. Let’s use those moments to push ourselves to do better and to remind us to make the world around us a better place in whatever ways we can.
For me the best gifts are those given with real thought in mind. I have always valued sentimentality in presents over monetary value. I mean, precious gems, fancy holidays and the likes are not to be sneezed at but for me it is far more important that someone gives some thought to why the one receiving the gift would love it. This is something I try and keep in mind when I’m buying gifts for others. With that considered it made me think of some of the beautiful gifts I have been lucky to receive over the years.
There was a time in my life when I needed that sentimentality more than ever. I was in my second year of medical school, I was battling depression, exam stress and was isolated hundreds of miles away from my family and friends. Christmas came and on the morning in question my dad presented me with a hand drawing he had made for me of Frankenstein’s monster. To put you in the picture not only is my dad an amazing artist but Frankenstein is also my favorite novel, favorite movie and – dare I say it – one of the reasons I was inspired to study anatomy in the first place. Not only was this incredibly thoughtful but it was also something I could take back to medical school with me, pin to my wall and remind myself of what I was working towards (the degree I mean not the ghoulish experiments …)
You see for me it really doesn’t matter how much was spent on a present. It doesn’t need to be expensive or flashy. Some of the best gifts are those little things that you see and think, ‘so and so would love this.’ It’s a cliché platitude but it really is the thought that counts. A gift should be something that shows a person that you were thinking of them. When it comes to big events it is too easy to get swept up moving from shop to shop to find something that meets a financial expectation. Birthdays, holidays and general moments of sharing should be about what the other person means to you. In my humble opinion the best way to show that is to show that you have been listening. I guess what it all boils down to is showing how much you really know them and want to make them happy with your gift.
So, what was some of your most thoughtful gifts? Are you a sop like me and love the sentimentality or is it the shiny things you enjoy most?
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This is one of my absolute favourite platitudes simply because it is so true. If I had the knowledge I have now as a woman in my thirties when I was a young teenager setting off for medical school things would have been so much different. I don’t doubt I would have made mistakes, no one’s perfect, and even as I get older and (hopefully wiser) I will still continue to make mistakes but the journey would most certainly be different.
With that in mind I decided to address my younger self. If I could go ahead and advise my teenaged self from my current perspective I would firstly want to urge that fire within.
Things will get difficult, that there can be no avoiding, but with the right frame of mind there isn’t anything you can’t handle. Don’t let the opinions, emotions or selfish needs of others dictate to what you are doing. Do right and good by others as much as possible but remember you are not responsible for their happiness. It is important to take a step back every now and again and examine your life. Know what you want and remember you’re a little fire cracker and can achieve anything you set your mind to.
I am pleased to say you will achieve your dreams but that will only come from a lot of hard work and sacrifice. Those sacrifices will be worth it but you won’t always feel that way and you will have your days of regret. However, just remember all the little glimpses of the future you always hoped for are there for the taking.
Look after your health. It is more important than anything. Without a healthy body and mind the rest is moot. Exercise and eat right. Pay attention to mental health too. You can find yourself slipping into your own head so easily. Don’t let yourself miss what is going on around you.
Finally, know that you are loved. If you forget that or don’t realise that just hug one of the little ones. They’ll soon remind you!
We have things we’d like to say to our younger selves, to warn them against or even encourage them into. What would you say? Would you do things differently if you had the knowledge?
Vivika is the author of various thriller books, graphic novels and short stories. Proceeds from her novels support Ragdolls UK who are helping Turner’s Syndrome girls achieve their full potential.
Her latest novel Harbour House is available now.
“Bring me your sick. Bring me your troubled. Bring me those society can no longer cope with for they will always have a home here at Harbour House.”
Being on lockdown has given me a lot to think about. Mostly I’ve been thinking about what I would love to do when we are able to move about freely again. So let me introduce you to my bucket list. The ideal situation would be to strike all of these off before I reach the age of forty.
SWIM THE ENGLISH CHANNEL This is something I’ve had in mind for a long time. Despite being a strong swimmer I do realise that in order to do it safely I have some training and preparation to do. One day will be greasing on the pig fat and running into the sea with the aim of reaching France. It seems lucky that I’ve never minded cold water then, doesn’t it?
VISIT PARIS Of all the places in the world with all the fascinating histories, sights and draws, Paris is one city I would love to visit. Again this is something I have been aiming to do for along time. In the course of a short flight I could be ready to experience the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and a whole host of other things. Over so many other places in the world, Paris has just had a draw for me.
VOICE A CARTOON This sounds like a strange one. I’m not an actor by any stroke of the imagination but ever since I was a little girl I have always wanted to provide a voice for a cartoon, especially a musical one like a Disney flick. I’m not saying I have the talent for it (speaking or singing) but I know I would be a very happy woman if I was given the opportunity to be part of an animated movie. Perhaps one day …
GET A DRIVING LICENCE This isn’t so much a bucket list item as it a necessity that my family keep begging me to do. It’s not that I have an aversion to driving I’ve just always managed to get wherever I need through public transport so I’ve never felt I need it that much. I’m a bit of a clumsy B at the best of times so I can only imagine what kind of menace I would be on the road. Besides, I do love just lying back on the train with my headphones on and losing myself in my own head. Can’t do that when driving. Can you? Ok mum and dad, I’ve added to my list.
BUY A BOAT Who needs a car when you can have an boat, right? This one is cheating a little because I did have a boat before but cutting a long story short it sunk (see above clumsiness). On my bucket list is to have one again, perhaps bigger, prettier and it would be named the Cooper Mare (see KNOCK KNOCK). The adventures I would have! The places I would sail to!
HAVE A PLAY PERFORMED I’ve been a writer/ author pretty much my entire life in greater and lesser extents. I have had written plays and I have been in discussion with the productions of plays and I have had performances but I am still yet to see an entire stage performance. I love the theatre and I would love the opportunity to see an entire play of mine performed.
So that is my list. What about yours? As you are held at home have you been thinking about what you plan on doing afterwards? What things do you miss the most? What are your dreams and ambitions?
A beautiful and rich area of what is for the most part a Shady City. Time Line main is filled with boutiques, high class coffee houses and most importantly jewellers and diamond merchants. The notable Bergman family have been housed there for generations. It is a vibrant area for all corners of the city to flock to and acts as the main access to CITY FACE. When you walk down Time Line Main in the early morning when the traffic is quiet and before the bustling visitors have flooded the area you can hear the noise of the City Face clock.
TICK BOOM. TICK BOOM. TICK BOOM.
Although it is expensive to spend any amount of time there and rental prices in the area are some of the highest in Coldford it is still a highly sought after for tourists and Coldford natives to capture photos. A series of images titled TIME STANDS STILL by photographer DANIEL WEIR were awarded the Penn Photography Prize.
It is called Time Line Main because from the foot of the street which begins at the entrance into City Main lies modern stores such as Coldford City Sports stores and Rose Diamond but as you reach further you fall back in time to the golden age of diamond trading with the Bergman store until you reach City Face itself, one of the oldest pieces of established Coldford’s architecture.
Out Now. Daniel had turned his back on his life as the heir to the Weir Hotel empire in City Main. Sometimes its just hard to run from your true calling. His music teacher boyfriend, Vincent, knew that well and it led to those he loved being hurt.
Coming 2020. Despite its close proximity to the rest of the City, rehabilitation clinic Harbour House seems a world away. It seems the only way to get back to normality is to completely detach from it.
Kieran is the eldest Son of MACK AND SONS brewery. However, his age didn’t make him the natural successor of his father, BRENDAN MACK. Instead the distillery will pass to second born son, PADDY. The reason for this is that of his brothers Kieran is the most erratic. He has shirked responsibility for as long as he can remember and truthfully he too agrees that the lead of the distillery should fall to the more capable son.
The Macks had their reserved table at the Knock Knock waiting for them when a long hard day at the distillery had drawn to an end. Kieran would be especially excited when he heard favourite Knock Knock girl would be on hand. They called her Big Diane (or Double D) and her party trick was being able to serve drinks from underneath her large breasts. For Kieran’s 25th birthday THE BARONESS had treated him to having Diane use her breasts to break water melons on his chest, Kierans favourite part of the party piece.
That’s not to say that Kieran isn’t without his merit. The Mack and Sons form such a tight unit because of their loyalty to each other. Kieran may be the first to cause a headache for them but he is also the first there on hand to help when trouble arrives on Love Street. He will follow Paddy’s lead to the death if need be and should anyone believe he is a weak link in the Mack chain they would be mistaken. Brimming with the Mack spirit of fighting to the end Kieran may let his mouth run away with him most times but he will not go down without a fight.
It is no secret there is a strong bond between the KNOCK KNOCK club and theMACK AND SONS brewery. The Macks have supplied the booze and the club supplied the entertainment. For Kieran the bond was stronger than that. For him it was an extension of an already large family. As his father always told him, “yer an eejit but yer family and family is what is important.”
The Mack and Sons reserved table was filled. An attack on the Knock Knock club would leave the rehab facility HARBOUR HOUSE picking up the pieces.
Like a military parade the nurses of Harbour House were set in a neat line ready to hear their orders for the day. They were waiting for their super star doctor to begin his rounds. The polished wing tips, sharp, well tailored suits and neatly combed hair he was like a film star within the facility. Although, Beverly wished he hadn’t shaved his moustache. He looked so much better with the moustache. Without it his face seemed longer, more angular.
“Good morning ladies,” said he. Beverly handed him a clip board of notes.
“Good morning doctor,” they all rhymed off like obedient school children.
Winslow read through the notes quietly.
“Beverly?” he turned to the burly, middle aged matron. “We need some vitals and a urine sample from Mr Finn.”
“Yes doctor,” she replied.
“He can be a bit of a challenging rascal so if he gives you any trouble call a porter.”
Beverly set off to her task.
She glanced in the window of the room to see artist, David Finn, lying on his bed sketching on a scrap piece of paper with a blunt charcoal pencil. She knocked on the little window and he looked up. She pointed to the back wall. David grinned and raised his middle finger at her. She frowned and darted her finger more severely. David rolled his eyes but he stood and put his back against the back wall. It was rules in Harbour House that addiction residents had to keep away from the door when nurses were bringing in the carts. A nurse had been attacked recently when one of the addicts tried to steal medication from her trolley. Beverly didn’t feel unsafe around David. Having his back against the wall wasn’t going to make much of a difference anyway. If he really wanted to feed his addiction he would and the cameras watching wouldn’t stop him.
“How are you feeling today?” she asked as a nurse’s general enquiry as she wrapped a blood pressure cuff around his arm.
“Been better,” David replied. “Been worse.”
The cuff began to inflate to the point he felt his arm was going to pop off. It made him self conscious of the track marks the needles had left behind. He found this strange because they never seemed to bother him before. When the blood pressure was taken and pulse checked she handed him a urine cup.
“I need you to fill this,” she instructed.
David made to take it from her and head to the bathrooms.
“Sorry,” she said stopping him. “You have to do it here. They weren’t happy with your last results.”
“That’s abuse,” David protested with some humour.
“When you are sufficiently clean and sober you can take it up with the city Medical Authorities. In the mean time fill the cup please.”
David wrinkled his nose. “I’m a nervous pisser.”
Beverly shook her head. A smile traced her rosy lips. “Hurry up Finn. You haven’t got anything I haven’t handled before.”
David giggled like a school boy. “Okay nurse kinky, you said just fill the cup.”
Beverly checked the watch clipped to her breast pocket. “And if you could hurry along I’d appreciate it.”
With raised eyebrows David filled the sample cup. The nurse wiped it, stored it and finished checking temperature and pulmonary rate.
Down the hall the beautiful cry of the violin sounded. A group of nurses sat along the bed listening.
‘So handsome,’ they cooed. ‘So talented.’
Vincent Baines had first picked up the violin at age six. It called to him in a way no other instrument did. It cried. It laughed. It covered a whole range of emotions and from the first time he struck the bow across the quivering strings there was love between them. His relationships with people were fraught with emotional turmoil but the violin always hit the right note when needed.
He loved to write concertos for the cry of the violin because only its soft strings seemed to understand him. Sure, the piano had a lot to say and they were well acquainted but it didn’t fill Vincent’s heart and mind they way the violin did. Even with everything that lead him to Harbour House the violin still made sense. It never changed. It never judged. Highs, lows, soft and harsh the violin concerto had it all and for as long as he could play it would always love him.
After the last note was drawn the emotion of the piece still lingered.
A nurse wiped a tear that was forming in her eye. Thy all applauded. Vincent, holding the bow in one hand and the instrument in the other bowed graciously.
“That was beautiful,” one of the nurses gushed.
“Thank you,” Vincent responded politely, storing the black violin with red trimming back in its case. “Just a little something I’ve been working on.”
A bell rang.
“Time to get back to work,” announced the self appointed leader of the group. They filtered out chatting merrily. Vincent followed behind them but took a right in the corridor towards the rec room.
In another part building lay a dressing table. It was old, well used. A special addition to make the occupant of the room feel at home. Tawny was a longer term resident so the good doctor gave some special allowances. The mirror was covered in old fliers from the Knock Knock club as well as photos of old friends, Agnes and a young Tabitha.
The lady herself was found on her way to the rec room. She had her arm linked in that of Glenn’s. “You spend way too much time in here,” she was saying. “You’re a big, handsome fella. You should be out there.”
Glenn smiled shyly. “Between two jobs and my wee lass to look after I don’t really have time …”
“You must be going blind old girl. He’s an ugly cunt,” Curtis teased, sauntering along beside them.
Tawny laughed. She patted Glenn’s arm. “Don’t you listen to him.”
“I don’t,” Glenn assured.
They reached the rec room. “Anyway boys, this is where I get off.”
Vincent was seated at the piano preparing to practice some exercises. Tawny wrapped her arms around him and kissed him as she passed.
“Good morning, gorgeous,” she said. Vincent smiled and patted her arm.
David was leaning over the sofa trying to find the remote so he could switch off a Coldford City football game. City were up three nil against Swantin and he couldn’t bear to watch the celebrations of the arch rivals of his beloved Coldford Athletic. Tawny slapped his backside.
“Good morning, handsome,” she winked. She held out a cigarette. “Ciggy?”
When he looked up he could see Beverly waving the remote at him.
The three took seat at their usual table by the fireplace. Winslow watched them from the door way. Like a fine, oiled machine his beloved facility ran. It was his passion project and like all his other pursuits, Harvester Farm for example, things had to run a very particular way.
Time is ticking by for the residents of Harbour House. A unique rehab facility with standards, laws and regulations all of its own.
He’s the man with the Muse but like most artists there is a deeper side. This may contain some spoilers for MUSE. If you haven’t read yet click the link. Ready to move on? This is ten things you perhaps didn’t know about artist, David Finn.
1: Daddy Issues.
Growing up with his mother and younger brother Adam, readers of MUSE will find that no mention is ever made of his father. David doesn’t know his dad, he has never met the man and doesn’t care to. Like many of the one parent families in the Shanties where David grew up absentee fathers were considered a way of life.
2: Award Winning.
At age sixteen, David was granted the Junior PENN Prize for a piece he had submitted titled ‘Long Roads; Short Walks’. His submission was anonymous and he hadn’t even told the Ferrald family who practically raised him. The prize was granted and the money received donated to Rita Penn’s community fund. To this day no one knows the winner was a David Finn. His addiction was taking over his life and he barely remembered himself.
An artist is a passionate being. Passion burns hot but it can also burn fast. David finds himself easily swept in the company of a beautiful woman. He has been engaged several times over the years but never has actually been married. Perhaps one day the wayward artist will settle down but in the meantime he has bigger problems to work through. The beautiful JULIA HARVESTER makes the perfect Muse. It is so easy for him to lose himself in her divine but earthy beauty.
4: Fan Boy
COLDFORD ATHLETIC football team call the Shanties their home. It is the pride of the poorest in the city and David is no exception. He is a die hard and attends Starkland Park whenever he can.
5: old school chums
David attended the public school in City Main known as the grange. There he shared classes with a girl named Lisa. Lisa would later go on to become the bubbly bar maid that reporter SAM CRUSOW meets when he begins uncovering the story of the KNOCK KNOCK CLUB.
6: Eye catching
You don’t make a name for yourself in the Shady City without attracting some unwanted attention. After a very public fall David certainly turned heads. Julia Harvester steps up as his new Muse but he also pricks the ears of the eminent DR WINSLOW, the Penn family and even as far as the HIGH COURT!
He would spit at the idea of becoming a tortured artist cliche but that – in a lot of ways – is what he is. He carries a lot of emotional scars but he tries to do so with good humour and a no nonsense attitude that is typical of the people of the Shanties.
He blames his allowing his scars to cover his emotions for his work becoming mundane. He lost his vision and slipped too much into a cliche leaving him with only drugs to turn to. It all changed when he met his new muse.
8: Painting the whole picture
David accepts people at face value. He is naive in this sense. He fails to see when he is being manipulated. This makes him a target for the vagabonds and drug dealers he finds himself in company of.
One such dealer, Joe, managed to take the profit from David’s first ever substantial sale. Not being money focused David never did get back.
9: The Shades of Coldford
It’s easy enough for mayors, high court judges and even club owning Boss Lady’s to fight over what is best for the City. They stand above it looking down with a good view. They don’t have the perspective of of someone on the ground who has witnessed first hand how Shady the Shady City can actually be.
The poor are desperate but no one in high office saw just how desperate David’s neighbour Fergie was when her son died of a heroin overdose. Fergie was unable to pay for a funeral for her son. The social services failed to respond immediately. The body was left to rot until the people of the Shanties put together their money.
10: Resident 1310
David’s drug addiction is no secret. Before his breathtaking art work, before the loyalty he shows to his friends and before the steps he is taking to try and better himself it will always be the first thing the public will recognise about him. His horrific upbringing by an abusive mother, the trauma he faced in childhood are no excuse for him.
The city’s best rehabilitation clinic has opened its doors for him and the next stage of his journey will continue in 2020. Welcome, Mr Finn, to Harbour House.
David finds his vision again with the help of a coy, farm girl. With his new MUSE he is making shades in the city again.