The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt … Sylvia Plath
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Flash Fiction: Words: 498: Title: Thailand Anecdote : Author: © Mikaella Lock
Visiting any country where the language is not one's mother tongue can be a little daunting. It is doubly daunting if the grasp of that language is, at best, that of a complete neophyte and you've a plethora of alien squiggles and wiggly lines that allegedly form an alphabet to contend with. There are in fact forty-four consonants, eighteen vowels and six diphthongs to wrangle in written Thai. Mercifully, the grammar is a little more basic. The spoken language itself is melodious and tonal: mastering it is a challenge formidable enough to drive you to the edge of insanity. If you thought pronouncing those awkward words in French class like anticonstitutionellement and coquerico was difficult, give Thai a go. If philologists say that French should be whispered in the dulcet tones of lovers and the likes of Oscar Wilde say that German should be spat out like throwing up in an aeroplane sick bag, then Thai should be sung. But how, pray tell, does one sing 'mai' in five different tones?
The usefulness of having conversational Thai under your belt is never more apparent than when you are spending an afternoon meandering around a Thai market, and there is no bigger Thai market than Bangkok's Chatuchak. You can purchase anything there if you know where to look and who to ask. Sprawling over thirty-five acres and operating every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, it accommodates row upon row upon row of touts, hawkers and vendors under its corrugated iron roof. It is always extremely busy and it is always blisteringly hot. There, you will find stalls selling silks and beautiful, rich textiles; little pop-up shops specialising in gold filigree jewellery and luxury handbags (just don't ask if they're knock-off, that's rude); the latest fashions and stylish footwear sold from the back of a pick-up; spices, spindles, decorations, doilies, pets, power tools, lamps, ladders, cacti, car parts, food, furniture, bras and buttons, and even knickers for grandma … you name it, it's there somewhere.
A morning at Chatuchak begins with a sharp intake of breath, closing your eyes and forcing your way into a heaving throng. You are then swept up in a wave of brown-skinned, black-haired people of Lilliputian proportions jabbering away in rapid syllables, pinching, prodding and poking the merchandise. After you have circumnavigated the elderly Thai gentleman wobbling about in front of you and narrowly avoided tripping over the scruffy street dog that insists on weaving between your legs, you will stumble across a stall selling something you simply have to have. It is at this moment that your mastery of the Thai language in combination with your honed bartering skills should come striding to the fore. It is these skills, and these skills alone, that will determine whether you will bag the deal of a lifetime or whether you will be trussed up, pettifogged and relieved of your baht notes quicker than you can say 'Good day to you, I'm a tourist'. Allow me to elucidate.
Flash Fiction: Words: 498: Title: Crime Story Extract : Author: © Mikaella Lock
Crime Story Extract
A wintry darkness had fallen over the city, wrapping its shadowy arms around the buildings in a tight embrace. City workers carrying briefcases and portfolios and umbrellas spilled out from office blocks as if they had been regurgitated. The chill wind whistled around their ears and pinched their noses maliciously as they pulled their collars up and marched determinedly onwards to their destinations. The streets thronged with bodies dressed in varying shades of grey with the occasional colour splash of eccentricity. The thrum of rush hour traffic had risen to a crescendo, and deep down in the city's veins tube trains rumbled through murky tunnels heavy with their human cargoes.
It was out of one of these trains that Maggie stepped, relieved to have finally escaped the suffocating confines that inexorably made her feel like a sardine in a tin can. She clipped her way along the platform on her best pair of stilettos and made her way towards the exit. She turned left out of the station and into the dusky night. A fine drizzle had begun to fall and it clung stickily to her hair and skin. She regretted not having worn her warm coat as the wind rudely shoved icy hands down her top and futilely tried to creep up her tight trouser legs. Shivering, she bowed her head against the elements and headed towards Kings Cross.
At thirty-seven years old, Maggie was still a very attractive woman. Her long, titian tresses flowed down her back like a fiery river and the wind whipped her cheeks into a rose blush. Her porcelain-white skin was unblemished and although the gentle wrinkles of life experience were showing, they somehow enhanced her beauty. She had a full, voluptuous figure and her aquamarine eyes shone as bright and clear as a spring morning sky.
She was oblivious to the other bodies around her as she walked, dimly aware only of the sharp ring of her own footsteps on the unrelenting concrete of the pavement. Empty shop windows gaped at her like the vapid eyes of the dead and the drizzle had transformed the streets into a Blake watercolour, bleak yet curiously beautiful. She was deep in thought, her mouth grimly set and her eyes cast downwards. She reflected on the boys and hoped that Angela was coping with them. Peter had just started teething and was apt to scream the house down. Sam had been in trouble recently for throwing stones at school…
Then she was standing in front of the 'Secret Garden'.
The narrow entranceway to the club opened maw-like before her, its flight of mean little steps stretching downwards and stopping abruptly at a heavy, black door. Maggie could just hear the muffled thump and trill of music behind it. Bathed in a sickly pink neon glow, she slowly descended, her hand clinging to the rusted metal banister attached to the wall. She pushed past the black door.