The Lure of the Dark Playground

I’ll admit it: Most of this week’s Writing Monday has been conducted in the Dark Playground. I didn’t mean for it to happen (honest Guvnor) – indeed for the past hour I’ve done an impressive job of convincing myself that spending time updating my book list on Good Reads couldn’t possibly be a form of procrastination (since it would, in fact, be furthering my reading and therefore also the development of my writing-no?). But here I am at 4.16pm with a paltry 549 words of new fiction to my name, when today’s goal was (a perhaps unrealistic) 4,000 words of new fiction, one script edit and a completed application for the fabulous Womentoring Project.

On the plus side I have at least selected a mentor and researched her sufficiently to know she is the ‘one for me’ (in an entirely non-creepy way, I might add. Don’t want to put her off before she has even read my application). I won’t name her lest my application be unsuccessful (as will most likely be the case), but suffice to say she ticks many of my boxes and I’d be beyond delighted were she to pick me. I have visions of her leading me by the hand out of the Dark Playground and through the Dark Woods into the Happy Playground, where we would frolic with the other mentors and mentees, exchanging witticisms and writing-related banter as the publishers beat a path to our door.

But, back in the real world, I must accept this fantasy may not happen, which means the only person who can find the way out of this particular Dark Playground is me. So back to the application it is…

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Change

The following fictional post was inspired by the certificate ceremony I attended today with work at a youth centre in Islington, where teenagers from four of the schools my charity works with were commended for their participation in the Teens and Toddlers programme:

Change

I never thought I’d amount to much. Why would I? My parents told me every day that I was useless. Then even my teachers started giving up on me. It’s like a downward spiral, see. You start acting up to get attention, but all too late you realise it’s not the right kind of attention you’re getting. You wanted to be popular, not the class clown – the one the other kids laugh at and the teachers label as a troublemaker.

Things at home weren’t great. Dad’s drinking was getting worse and Mum, well, she was so doped up on depression pills she hardly knew what day it was. I pretty much did everything; cooking, cleaning, looking after my baby brother. If I hadn’t been there I don’t know what would have happened to him. He’d probably have been taken into care. Sometimes I wondered if that would’ve been best for the both of us.

When my teachers told me about this mentoring programme that paired teenagers with toddlers in a nursery I wasn’t interested at all; I had enough experience of looking after children with my baby brother, why would I want more? I only agreed to do it ’cause it got me out of school one afternoon a week, and gave me something to do apart from hanging around the recreation ground and causing trouble with my mates because I was bored.

But when I started the programme things started to change. My toddler was a challenge, mainly because he was like me; hyperactive and angry. We even looked alike, with wild hair, dark skin and brown eyes. He didn’t trust me at first, but after a few weeks he started coming up to me when I walked in and holding my hand. It made me feel special, and in those moments the big ball of anger I carried around inside me would get a bit smaller.

I’ve learned a lot about myself through the programme. I realise now the consequences of my actions on others, and I’m not so hell bent on trying to hurt people, mentally and physically. I feel more responsible, more in control. I want to achieve in life. I want to be a success. But above all else I want people to look at me and, instead of seeing the clown, the troublemaker or the joker, I want them to see the responsible man I can and will become.

The beautiful sunset on the last night of my recent trip to Italy.