A SELF-IMPOSED EXILE

By: Safiyah

I have these intense fantasies of spectating my own funeral; that I would die today and be the object of your melancholic affections tomorrow as I lay in the pathetic fallacy of a dark gothic cathedral in the middle of an unidentified plain. My troubles would be known to you all and conveyed by an ordained stranger dressed for the occasion as he romanticised the tragedies of my soul into a eulogy that would make me into a martyr of the melodramatic problems which I cling to. The sound of birds singing and low mumbles begin to bleed through into my mental construction. I shut my eyes tightly, I refocus and I continue.

It is this narcissistic predisposition which I exhort my mind away from as the dependence on external social validation has caught me in its trap, and leads me to nothing but emptiness again and again. I see that they have constructed this for me, knowing the details of my childhood and having transmitted my psychological algorithms into the machine in order to construct the perfect hyperreality to keep me from the truth, keep me chasing the impossible situationalisms that will never come to be. Whilst I humour myself alone deep within my mind, the real world simply won’t have it, and it’s killing me.

I have no culture, I have no identity, I have no place, yet I am of all cultures, identity and place. The isolation and rejection has led me to a lonely place outside of their collective dwellings. In either state my similarity is rejected, for a part of me belongs to the enemy. They do not realize however, that I have a comprehensive view from the outside and see what both sides do – the good, the bad and what they wish to remain secret; and that is why I am a danger to them. I am of the Pan-Arab Amazigh who has seen the oppression. I am of the Arab Spring rebels and the witnesses of the US Iraq invasion so have learned to hate governing bodies of imperialism. I am a spoilt child of the West so am just as disaffected to the violence because of the gory video games I play when my parents aren’t watching. I am both the religious extremist of ethnic heritage and mentally ill outsider Caucasian with a gun and subjective vendetta against the popular kids. I am all yet I am none.

I find acceptance here on the plain. I do not have to seek out external acceptance; only absorb the posthumous affections of the unidentified attendees of my funeral. I do not have to try so hard to be, because here what I was is adored with the sweet sorrow of my passing. The celestial white noise from outside and soft murmur of my eulogy surrounds me; all is sound.

I now find myself here alone again in my post modern form. Waking up to find it was all a dream and being horrified by the quiet ordinariness of it all. Before the static makes me lose my mind I will take these sleeping pills as I have done many times before and have my transcendental and ectopic slumber here in the cemetery, drowning out the traffic of reality to the sound of The Cure; because to be sad in a beautiful dark place is everything, like being the lead character in a movie and having your deepest emotions be the forefront of the narrative and allowing them to characterise you into a tragic hero; this I pretend so that the pain is not in vain, and that it would seem that my emotions matter. The sky darkens, the rain falls, the scene is set.

HELLISH DELIGHT

By: Hammama Issa

 

Every morning after breakfast you always savoured your coffee,

One cup was all you needed to see you through the day,

‘You shouldn’t be out alone,’ I heard,

A dark, murky lake outstretched before me – still and lifeless,

The faint cigarette smell that lingered on your clothes,

Faint boomerang scars littered my pale arms,

Large trees stood hunched over in defiance,

You held my hands through the busy market streets,

As darkness loomed closer and the night grew older,

That throaty laugh and toothless smile,

Numbness stalks up the trail of my spine,

Eighty years young with a twelve-year-old mind,

A faint chuckle echoes throughout yet I know I’m alone,

Al Jazeera in the background ‘Subhan’Allah ála dunya’,

Bitter tears drowning my face,

Homemade lamb tagine and flatbread was your favourite,

I’m close to the end.

‘Let me see your smile,’ you say,

A pungent, ripe vinegar smell surrounds,

Lost in the moment –

Curling up in a nearby space I waited.

LUCILLE

By: Claudio Fedele

 

Disturbing silence darkens your sight

We’ll cast some light and you’ll be alright

We’ll cast some light and you’ll be alright

Lucy in the sky with diamonds

The maid had left the manor just a bit more than five minutes before. She had given the last, final touch of polishing to the silverware, thinking about how she had always done at her best at what she had been paid for. For years. Lucille, mother of three children and wife of a husband of sterling character, left Grant’s house in the middle of the afternoon. She had put the broom and the other tools in the cupboard under the staircase of the luxurious manor and, finally satisfied, she had headed towards home.

She had been in that job for fifteen years, so no one could teach her how to polish a lamp or clean a carpet, or even suggest her some basic tricks to do the chores at best. Lucille Jones was born to do what she had done her whole life, with commitment and elegance. She loved to breathe in the smell of “the great manor,” as she called it, but most of all she loved touching the luxuries she could not wish for herself, with her own hands. Ancient objects, treasures that had been bought in auctions in the furthest places around the world, collections of rare artefacts. Every time, she would completely fall for all that, almost as though she was entering for the first time into the British Museum. She was the daughter of two working class parents and had grown up in a British suburb as many others had. She had always wanted to become a literature professor, one day. This ambition had fallen because of the uncontrollable chain of terrible events that then forced her to leave school. Her father, a coarse man who drank too much, had left Lucille and her mother on a cold morning in January, many years ago, and he had never come back. Mr Jones had always been quite a bizarre bloke, at least, according to the neighbours and his colleagues, but no one could have suspected he would go that far.

The rest of the family was forced to make ends meet in disparate ways to survive poverty. Lucille learnt when she was very young, at her own expense, what it meant to starve to get a slice of bread, or to stop in front of doors of a restaurants and crave a bowl of hot soup.

The years that followed her father’s leaving were the worst. Her mother could barely find a job. Every now and then, she gave French classes to a guy that lived three blocks away, but she and her mother knew that a “je suis” couldn’t solve the financial problems they had, nor could it change a damn thing at all.

“My dear, please, go away. Go to London or Liverpool. Find a job and a good husband, that will love you and make you feel special.” These exact words, which her mother would utter in tears, were progressively more frequent in their small house. They were undesired guests. Day after day, from being murmured or cried in the worst moments, they became like a holy ritual that Monica Jones would repeat every time she sat for dinner, when she had the chance to actually eat something. She did not want her daughter to suffer or beg for money on the street to buy a stale piece of bread at the local bakery. She wanted her little daughter to live the best life, maybe not in sumptuous luxury, because she had never really liked it and it was also quite unlikely that her daughter could reach it, but she wished at least for the warm and comfortable serenity of having a family of any kind. She could not find this all in Righton, not now, not ever. It was not easy to convince Lucille to leave the place where she had grown up and where she had spent what she would always remember as the more turbulent years of her life. The opportunity came when her mother, a simple, but elegant woman, was lucky enough to find a job in a hospital, not that far from the town centre, as an assistant.

She had an unlimited contract of employment, an unexpected surprise. Every morning, Monica took bus number 4 and she headed towards the hospital, to come home tired, but satisfied, at 6 o’clock, when she started making dinner. “Times are a bit calmer now, Lucy, you can leave this place. You have a fixed wage; I can cope with everything by myself. Don’t renounce anything because of me. I know that your father and I did not manage to give you the life you have wanted since you were a child, but we did our best. I did my best. Now you can have a future by yourself and leave this infamous town. Don’t come back here, unless you want to come visit me when you want, or for Christmas. Go to London, find a job and always pray to be able to count on yourself only. If you are lucky, as nice and bright as you are, you won’t have difficulties in finding a husband, but please, please take this decision seriously. Don’t finish up like me. I have loved your father, only God knows how much I loved him, but I am still suffering. I am not angry at him anymore for what he did, mind you, it was his choice. Life taught me that fifteen years of marriage bring you nowhere. Times change people and show them for what they really are. Don’t dwell on illusions. Please, go, and when you arrive, send me a postcard or a note. I hope I’ll be able to come visit you soon and walk beside you in Hyde Park meadows, to visit Saint Paul’s and to go up and down the rooms of the National Gallery.”

At 23, Lucille Jones left her mother to her reassuring destiny. She took the train to King’s Cross and left the place where she had grown up and where she had learned what joy and pain meant. Now, a new beginning was waiting for her, a solitary adventure made of dangers and traps. She was ready, she knew she was, and she wanted to challenge herself. Still, she was as scared as she was excited. She had found a nice job as maid in an old house at the end of Zone 1. The wage was more than sufficient to let her rent a studio flat that was 20 minutes far from the heart of the City. She could not complain, she was lucky. But luck had never featured in her miserable life in the past, so she could not expect much. Therefore, considering herself as a privileged girl that had been touched by something as strange as luck provoked in her many emotions that she thought were too difficult to describe. She needed to be careful. Her destiny could try to rip her off.

A month after setting foot in the Tube for the first time, Lucy was already used to many of the areas that London could offer to her with generosity. The streets, the lanes, the complex webs of alleys and roads were a kaleidoscope; she spent her spare time trying to find places that could genuinely and vaguely take her breath away. She loved to hang out in libraries and churches, not to pray, but to experience their eternal stillness. Living by herself was very satisfying as well. No hours or limits, no running to be home for dinner or going to bed late feeling like a revolutionary rebel brat. Everything was simply before her eyes, waiting for her curiosity to penetrate that universe, rich in energy and constantly changing.

London wasn’t only the city that she had always loved as a girl. It was something more. It could be compared to a high-speed moving train or to a motorbike that could shoot up and down a beautiful boulevard full of trees. Every detail had an incredible appeal and every shop in Regent Street was just inimitable. Lucille was aware that all these sensations, as days, months and years passed, would fade away, and that the routine would make even the most exciting entertainment as flat and meaningless, but now she just wanted to enjoy the present. And she had a point.

Even her love life had an incredible improvement, to which she had never been used. At the beginning, it was weird to get to know the fact that she was so desired by men, but as time passed, she started being more at ease with guys of her age. During her first months in London, she had many relationships, which all started with nights spent at the pub and which ended with the first rays of light on the next day. Someone, in the old town, would think that her morals and self-respect had gone to pot, but Lucy had told herself more than once that, if she had found her soul mate, she would have committed herself to a solid and stable relationship.

The chance arrived quite early. It had Colin Hardy’s face. He was tall and slender, a perfect gentleman, produced by Britain to represent all the values that every respectable British citizen was worthy of. Everything began one night, in one of the most famous pubs of the City, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, that was also one of Lucy’s favourite places. It was said that, once, great writers would spend their nights sitting at the tables and on the sofas of that rest temple that was always packed with tourists during high season. High quality beer, comfort in every corner and a tranquillity that was quite unusual to find in London. The perfect place. There were also rumours that Charles Dickens had the habit of sitting in front of the fireplace and talking loudly about what he was writing, almost as though what he was jotting down on paper had the power to have a conversation with Oliver Twist’s father and many other characters. Another urban legend was about a famous movie star that one night, as he was tired, ordered a beer and never paid the bill. There was also someone that said that, during the night, the ghosts of the people who had owned the pub decades before would awaken, and that every now and then the alley would resound with the joyful cries that these people would utter when still drunk with life and light heartiness.

Lucille didn’t believe in everything that was said of that place, but Colin did. They met casually, in the most typical way: she was leaning on the door, waiting for a new friend she had met on her job. Colin was striding towards the door, trying to look for a comfortable spot where he could drink and eat something. He had his head in the clouds and was mumbling about his job as a part-time teacher. She was lost in the reading of an ordinary flyer, which had been given to her at the tube stop in Piccadilly Circus by a young man with a beautiful orange cat between his arms. Colin was completely in his own world. An unexpected bump in the road, caused by a badly placed stone, had provoked his temporary loss of balance, which led to a collision that was similar to two meteors crashing together.

And there it was, the perfect accident that began such a passionate and difficult love story.

He charmed her with his academic knowledge of medieval literature and his obsession for ancient books; she bewitched him with her seducing intelligence that made him want to listen to her for hours. That girl knew what she wanted, thought Colin, all the time. The casual encounters became dates, the dates became the beginning of a relationship that in which they spent hours telling each other their most intimate secrets. The wooden tables of the pub were substituted by the white sheets and the beers by glasses of wine of dubious quality drank with no reason at all. The habitual chitchat of the customers became the Beatles, David Bowie and Blondie heard on the radio on Sunday mornings. Lucille had difficulties in understanding how much she loved Colin, because her fear of not being loved back was like a threatening shadow that would stretch above her, but she had no doubts on the happiness she felt in his company.

Months passed. Lucy became a Hardy. He proposed to her in front of the door of Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, after a night spent discussing how uselessness and ugliness the umpteenth cover of an 80s masterpiece, recorded again for the new generation but lacking any artistic value. When he had finished his argument, Colin had taken her hand. He had bent down that much that he shivered, thinking of how his trousers could just rip open on the least noble part of his body. He felt a warm pleasure when it did not happen.

“Hey, little mermaid, will you marry me?”

The answer arrived late. What did marriage mean? Why did Lucille fear the facing of such a decision, a similar situation? Was it her mother’s or her father’s fault? Was it her own fault? Was it destiny’s fault? Was it worth trying?

“Yes.”

A murmur, almost more imperceptible to her than to him, who was on his knees before her. The moments spent in silence had contributed to a tense, unnatural atmosphere. The air was full with excitement, fear and indecision. They were facing the final proof, whose verdict would be the evidence of what they really felt. Still moments. Then the answer and a promise. It was done.

Lucille would not be a Jones anymore. Once more, she was in front of a decision and she had chosen to put her past behind her. She must, or better, she wanted to look forward. She often asked herself how her life would have been if her father hadn’t left her and her mother on that cold January day. Lucille loved to build up stories in which she was the protagonist, where she would imagine being in another place, with other people. It was a habit that, for years, she had indulged in every time she would get on the tube. The sound of the train in the galleries, the voices of the travellers, the mechanical voices. All those shades and details made it pleasant for her to lose herself in long digressions where, for a short period, she wished she was someone else, or maybe even herself, but in a different context.

When she would arrive home, though, Lucille really knew which were the reasons why, at the end, she couldn’t wish for a better life. Her house was a typically British, two floor house in London’s centre, which they had been able to buy because of Colin’s pay increase. Their wages, together, had allowed them to buy a small car and a motorbike. Now, both of them, after temporary fights, lived together with their three daughters.

They had everything they wanted. They had become a whole thing of many things. Nothing could challenge her serenity. At least, until it ended. After all, as she knew, life is nothing other than a poker hand with the goddess of luck. But, from the moment she had first left her house in Righton, good luck had never abandoned her.

SOCIAL BEINGS

By: Sagal Haji

 

They say that humans are social beings

But I can’t seem to conceptualise

The way we have to socialise

Vain talk and vapidity

Are thrust upon us

As if it isn’t toxic

To our hearts

Our minds

Searching for authenticity

In world filled with dishonesty

 

 

I feel out of place

 

 

I feel alien

Like a lion in the ocean

I look to the clones around me

Engaging in idle talk

Superficiality breeds

Into a collective consciousness

That is London

A city filled with dreams and hopes

That can only satisfy

Shallow beings

Social beings

THROUGH THE EYES OF A PAINTING

By: Leila Vignozzi

 

I was in the National Gallery the other day, and while I was wandering around I had some sort of deep connection with some of the paintings. I was in the Renaissance section, which is mainly composed of Italian works, the majority of which are from Florence, the city where I come from. I found myself in front of the Leonardo Da Vinci’s Virgin of the rocks and felt strange somehow, like we were sharing some sort of mutual experience.

It’s almost been two months since I moved to London and only now is life starting to feel real. I was always felt as though I was living in a movie. I don’t know how to explain it. Imagine you wake up one morning and everything is different from how it used to be. Imagine men are wearing skirts and ladies have beards, children wearing black suits, talking about politics and grownups playing with toys in the middle of Trafalgar Square. No, that doesn’t explain the feeling. Okay, just try to imagine you wake up one morning and everything is absolutely the same as usual but you don’t feel part of it. You’re on the tube, or in Oxford Street and it feels like you’re just watching it all, without taking part. Imagine you talk to people and it doesn’t feel like they’re actually talking to you, it’s not you when you smoke your British tobacco, when you have scrambled eggs for breakfast or scan your Oyster card at the station. It’s not you while you enter your University Campus and it’s not you when people ask you to describe yourself and you start saying all of those things that seemed to describe you once, but that now feel…so unfitting. And if this isn’t enough to give a portrait of this feeling, try to imagine having the need to stare at your figure in the mirror every morning, moving your hand to check if the imagine reflected is matching every movement, just to be sure that the person you see is actually you. It’s strange, isn’t it? And you find yourself living in some kind of reality in between your past at home, which is still present, and this new person you’re trying to know, with such a different personality.

I remember the first time I felt like myself here. It was a rainy Sunday afternoon and I’d spent it with these two new friends on the bed, eating Pringles and playing music. It wasn’t a big deal, but it felt like home. We all experience this; it doesn’t matter if you come from Paris, Abu Dhabi, Cornwall, or just around the corner.

So, coming back to the paintings, I felt like that Madonna in the portrait was actually feeling like me. The canvases were all cheated, brought in another city, a place where they weren’t meant to be. But probably they did. A place where their colours, instead of conveying everyday life, gave the feeling of something exotic. Staring at the eyes of that woman, painted, still, tired, I saw the longing for an aged story. I saw the affection for a new life, rejected in the first moment. We love everything we take part in. We grow fond to every instant of life, even if brief. Every breath we take stays within us, motionless, as a memory. And with time, with distance, it becomes better in our minds, as good wine.

In two weeks I’ll be finally at home and after all, I’m having this strange feeling that somehow I’ll miss this.

A TALE OF THE CAT AT DOWNING STREET

By: Melissa Garrett

 

In large cities and small villages live many cats, as they do in England’s capital. One of these cats lived at number ten downing street with the Prime Minister. This cat’s name was Billy.

Billy, like any cat, spent time scratching behind his head, sending fur balls flying all over the door mat. It was one of those days, with a clear blue sky and a keen English breeze. But scratching didn’t seem to please him as much as it normally did. He could only feel what was missing, his collar.

Billy had always had his blue collar. He assumed it was a gift from his birth mother, who he had never been able to remember. And without it, he felt that a part of himself was stray with it. Billy sat up straight and looked up at the number on the door.

“I’ve checked all of number ten, even number eleven and nine too.” Billy gazed at the windows. “Where is it?”

As Billy was looking he heard fluttering wings coming from the sky. He knew those wings to be his friend, Peter Pigeon, who landed on the railing by the door. Peter Pigeon said to Billy, “good day, old chap!”

“Hello, Peter Pigeon!” Billy said to him. “How’s the weather up at Nelson’s column?”

Peter Pigeon cooed. “Truthfully, old chap, it’s much windier than it is down here.”

Billy nodded. “I thought so. It’s always cold at number ten too. I think our visitors bring it with them.”

“That’s a shame, old chap. Hetti Horse says much the same.”

Billy’s eyes widened. “Oh really?” he asked. Surely a police horse with a coat shouldn’t get cold.

“She passed through on her way to Leicester Square, and she said that there was a real nip in the air last night.”

“Her officer should give her a thicker coat.”

“True indeed, old chap. I have a message for you from her. She says that she saw something of yours yesterday.”

Billy’s ears rose. “Did she say what?”

“I’m afraid not, old chap. You’d better hurry along to her.”

“I can’t. The Prime Minister should be back soon, and after a long day at Parliament, I’ll be needed.”

Peter Pigeon frowned and asked Billy, “is the Prime Minister still there?”

“Yes. It seems there are many talks to be had these days.”

“That’s a pity. Still, I suppose it doesn’t affect the birds in the sky,” Peter Pigeon said as he flapped a loose feather from his wing.

“But what about the street cats, the ones on the ground? What about them?”

“Admiral Nelson had a keen saying before the battle of Trafalgar.”

Billy turned his head. “What’s that?”

“’Something must be left to chance; nothing is sure in a sea fight above all.’”

“That’s a curious saying.”

“It doesn’t seem so curious to me. Now hurry along to Hetti Horse, Billy, or you’ll miss her!”

“Thank you, Peter Pigeon,” Billy said to him as he flew over number ten, back to Nelson’s column.

Billy stood on all fours and thought hard. He liked to stand when thinking.

He knew he would have to go along Whitehall, then through a busy Trafalgar Square to reach Hetti Horse at Leicester Square. It wouldn’t be easy with all the people, but to him it seemed a risk worth taking if it meant getting his collar back.

Billy shook his body, stretched his back legs and ran towards the gates of Downing Street.

Tourists cameras’ flashed at him as he climbed the gates. The officers on guard smiled, saying, “it’s that cat again.” Billy could never understand why they said that. After all, he had always been there.

Billy jumped down from the gates and ran past the clean white buildings of Whitehall, which always looked like palaces to him. Then he came to Trafalgar Square and sat at the lights, waiting for the man to turn green. A tall lady next to him bent down and rubbed Billy’s head, which made him purr. She looked in her bag for something to give to Billy, which he thought was kind of her, but the man turned green, so he had to run across the road.

People swarmed in Trafalgar Square. Billy ran beneath their feet, and he heard Peter Pigeon give a coo from Nelson’s column. He called down to Billy, “be careful, old chap!”

“I will, Peter Pigeon. Say hello to the Admiral for me!”

Billy ran along to Leicester Square, which too was full of big feet, and found Hetti Horse in the centre. Her officer stood in a group nearby.

“Hetti Horse!” Billy called to her.

Hetti Horse turned to Billy. “Hey, Billy,” she said to him, sounding rather bunged up.

“Are you alright, Hetti Horse?”

“It’s nothing. Only a sniffle.”

“Oh dear. Is it because of your coat?”

“Well it doesn’t make winter any easier. We’ve all been working long hours too, so I’m rather tired, and a tad hungry, and my mouth is very dry from walking all day…”

Billy said, “Well, Hetti, I’m sorry-”

He tried to finish his sentence, but Hetti Horse blindly carried on talking.

“…And I do get cold a lot, and I would like a nice sit down, and to breathe in some fresh air, like the air in Newmarket. And maybe some crisp hay too. That would be lovely. But other than that, I’m fine. Did Peter Pigeon talk to you?”

“Yes,” Billy said with bright eyes. “Did you find my collar?”

“Well, Billy… I’m afraid that…” Hetti Horse sneezed.

“Bless you,”

“Thank you.” She looked down to the pavement.

This worried Billy. “My collar?”

“Yes… well… when I was in Trafalgar Square earlier, I’m afraid that…”

“Yes, Hetti Horse?”

Hetti Horse sniffed and said, “…someone threw it into the fountain. I’m sorry, Billy.”

His ears fell down. He knew he couldn’t get it back now.

Hetti Horse lowered her neck down to Billy and rubbed her nose against his head.

“You might get my sniffle now,” she said to him.

“That’s okay, Hetti.”

“Is there anything I can do?”

He looked at her big brown eyes. He didn’t want her to see he was sad, so he shook his head, missing the sound of his collar rattling. “Thank you for telling me.”

Billy walked slowly along to Charing Cross Road. People tried to pet him, which he would never refuse, but knowing that his collar was gone, he didn’t feel like revelling in it.

And then he came to that fountain. Knowing that his collar was in there, but that the water was far too deep and frightening for him to get made his heart sink. Then above noisy chatter, Billy heard hooves.

“Hetti Horse, what are you doing away from your officer?”

She breathed deeply, and sneezed once more. “You looked so blue, Billy. So I thought I could help you get your collar.”

“But it’s lost in the water.”

“Perhaps if it’s close to the edge, then…” Hetti raised her head, waiting for another sneeze to fly out.

Billy’s ears rose. He said to Hetti Horse, “then perhaps we could reach it!”

Hetti Horse sniffed and said, “that’s what I was…” the sneeze was still trying to come out.

“Tip your head back,” Billy suggested. She did so, and an enormous sneeze blew out of her nose.

Her eyes watered and she sniffed some more, “ah, thank you.”

“Now let’s go!”

So Billy and Hetti Horse ran down the steps to fountain in Trafalgar Square.

People stared at them with shocked mouths and ready cameras.

Billy asked her, “where is your officer?”

“Never mind that. We have a collar to find.”

Hetti Horse reached the fountain before Billy. When he caught up with her he jumped up on to the edge, and they looked into the water. There were coins from all over the world, and someone had clearly tried to write on the ‘No Entry’ sign. Against the coins, a shiny gold ball stood out. It was the bell of Billy’s collar.

“There it is!” Billy said. “My collar!”

But it was near the middle. Hetti Horse had a long neck, but Billy knew she would not be able to reach.

She leaned as far as she could, stretching her neck and her head and even her tongue. Flashes from cameras and laughter surrounded them. Then came a whistle, but it was not one of Peter Pigeon’s.

Billy turned and saw Hetti Horse’s officer running towards them, but she paid no attention as she carried on reaching for the collar.

“Your officer is coming,” Billy told her.

She held back another sneeze and raised her front legs. Then, to everyone’s shock, especially Billy’s, she climbed in the fountain, and put her head under the water. Billy called for her to come out, but she didn’t listen.

Seeing Hetti Horse like this pulled on Billy’s heart strings. So, ignoring his fear, he jumped in after her.

She raised her head. “Billy, what are you doing?”

“Going for a dip, Hetti Horse. What do you think?!”

“Get out of the water!”

But then the whistles got louder, and a horrified officer stepped into the fountain after Hetti Horse. She put her head under Billy’s body and lifted him up. All he could do was look down at his collar.

They both sat by the fountain. The sun was going down over Trafalgar Square.

“I’m sorry, Billy.”

He looked up at a shaking Hetti Horse. “Your cold will get worse now.”

“I don’t mind. My officer will find me a dry coat.”

“Thank you for trying,” Billy said to her. Even though his collar was gone, a part of him smiled on the inside. It came from knowing that he said such true friends in Hetti Horse and dear old Peter Pigeon, who had flown away to visit friends in Hyde Park.

Hetti Horse’s rider pulled on her reins.

“Will you be alright, Billy?”

“I will. Thank you again.”

She smiled at Billy and walked away with her officer. Before he left, Billy sat by the fountain for a moment. He thought that at least he had somewhere to visit the collar, or more, somewhere to visit the memory of it. It wasn’t really gone at all.

He waited at the lights again, where he was nearly stood on and then apologised to. He ran past his palaces at Whitehall and came to Downing Street’s gates. At least he still had his home. He climbed them and ran to number ten.

After some visitors left, he walked through the door and up the stairs. Then he saw, the Prime Minister was back!

The Prime Minister gleamed. “Billy! Come to me.”

Billy ran to the Prime Minister, who knelt before him and rubbed behind his ears.

The Prime Minister pulled Billy close. “Hey there. I think you’re missing something.”

Over the Prime Minister’s wrist was a new collar. It was blue, like the old one, and had a gold bell. But this one had a tag on it. The tag had ‘Billy’ with the number ‘10’ on it.

The Prime Minister put the collar on Billy, not too loosely and not too tightly, just as he liked it. He rubbed his nose against the Prime Minister’s cheek. The number on it meant that no one could ever question it. Billy was the cat at Downing Street.

 

 

THE MAN BENEATH THE BRIDGE

By: Abbie Dunn

 

There is a man who lives beneath a grey, decaying bridge.

Of all the days I passed beneath this bridge, always in a rush,

I had not once thought to take notice of him.

Until one day, when the man beneath the bridge was gone.

 

I recall walking at my usual impatient pace,

Fumbling around in my bag for my Oyster Card,

I noticed the stained duvet that had sheltered him was now abandoned,

His bag containing all that he owned in the world, forgotten.

 

There was suddenly a void,

An indescribable emptiness that filled the dank space beneath that bridge.

My thoughts became clouded with concern,

Every day I hoped for his return, unable to distract myself from thoughts of him.

 

There was a man who lived beneath a grey and decaying bridge.

Isolated and forgotten by our ignorant and fast paced society.

As though it were an effigy, his belongings still lie in a heap,

Reminding us that this was his refuge, the place where he was not so out of place.

WOMAN OF DUST

By Yasmin Rahim

Gathering along the sill
At dusk
Collecting
Like fibres of dust
Falling, floating silently
My figure wrapped
In a blanket
Of dust
My being comes and goes
Swells and disperses
Swept away, by a soft blow
Like dust
The city is roaring
Outside my window
Yet I am here
Aggravating dust
Silent,
Like the arrival of dusk
I am made of
Dust