A Sneak Peek…

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A big change is on the horizon; one I’ve been meaning to make for a while. ClaireBearThoughts is one of those naive names you create when you can’t think of anything else, but it played its part. Now, as I build my brand, a complete overhaul is required.
Here’s an obscure image of something that will probably mean nothing to you, but might whet your curiosity…

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Mayday

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Mike caressed the worn woodwork in a way that he had never caressed his wife. Each dent and patch of sticky varnish rekindled memories beneath his fingertips; the chip where the ladder had fallen whilst decorating for Paddy’s Day; the dark red stain where Beth had dropped an entire bottle of rioja over a customer; the shreds of silver tinsel still stapled to the underside. He looked around the empty pub with tired eyes.

He had purchased The Captain’s Wife when he was just thirty years old; a derelict pub on the brink of demolition. Mike remembered as a child sliding on his knees across the hardwood floors, begging his parents for another coke as they contributed to the heavy smog around them. The pub had been a regular scene of his childhood. But time had eroded the decor and the owner until he could no longer maintain it. Mike, on a whim, decided to buy it, and with love and hard work restored the bar to its former glory.

The Captain ran in his blood like his current dose of morphine. It was the reason he got up in the morning and he could never shake it from his mind. But it was also a disease, eating away at his brain and crippling his brittle bones. The Captain was an addiction, and without his permission, Mike was being thrown into rehab.

He heard banging outside and looked away from the empty optics. Outside, a man in a suit was hammering a sign into the flowerbed, its crude letters sending a stabbing pain through his chest. It was like an invitation for the world to come and peer at his loss. A few weeks ago his wife would have been ecstatic at the sight. Well, he thought, you got what you wanted after all.

“You got everything, dad? This is the last from the cellar.” Paula plonked a cardboard box on the bar and began sifting through the pile of mail next to it. He smirked at the irony of her question, but didn’t have the heart to make a joke. “Yes, thanks love.”

Paula tutted. “More of the same,” she said, holding up several envelopes with “URGENT” stamped across the top. “I wish they’d just leave you alone, they know the situation.”

“It’s fine, love.”

“It’s not fine, everything’s-”

“It’s fine.”

Paula sighed. She squeezed his shoulder and said, “I’ll be in the car when you’re ready.” He smiled gratefully as she picked up the box and backed out of the front door. Silence engulfed Mike, and he loathed it. This was a place of noise and raucous laughter; the clinking of bottles and the smashing of glasses, the roaring chants of football fans, the tinny din of the outdated games machine. He’d give anything to have those back. But the iceberg had already been hit. The ship was sinking with its captain, neither steering through the storm without the other.

With a resigned sigh, he flipped the lights off, gave a last fond gaze and locked the door.

The Shrunken Ship Dream

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tescoooooooo

Dictionary Definition:

Holiday

NOUN
  • An extended period of leisure and recreation, especially one spent away from home or in travelling.

Claire’s Dream Definition:

Holiday

NOUN
  • A period of time spent traumatised from nearly drowning with a boatful of passengers and all your belongings.

The holiday itself had been alright up until the near death experience. I’d been to this part of Greece before, but my companion had not. The hotel was lovely as always; the staff now knew me on a first-name basis, which probably suggests we should have gone somewhere new…

When it was time to go, we said our goodbyes and boarded the boat that would take us to the mainland to catch our flight. We were less than halfway across the ocean when I felt that something was wrong. There were two mini waterfalls to traverse in order to reach our destination, and I saw them in the distance with a fresh sense of foreboding. Well, I say waterfalls, they were more like water speed bumps. We were stood on deck at the front, and I watched as we went down the first one, but then the boat lurched forward and tackled the second vertically. It didn’t recover; we plunged into the cool water and didn’t come back up.

I looked at my friend and yelled “jump!” just in time and we abandoned ship. Treading water, I watched the boat sink further into the depths. I was hoping it would miraculously right itself and we’d just jumped overboard for nothing. It didn’t. I thought about how far we’d come and decided the mainland was still too far to swim. “Let’s head back,” I said, and we swam all the way back to the hotel.

The staff were confused to see us again. Soaked through and crying, I explained what happened and they gave us food and drink. I was exhausted, both physically and mentally. All of my possessions, gone. Like a typical millennial, I was most upset about losing my phone. I thought about all the holiday pictures, my point of contact with the rest of the world, my home. How would my mum contact me? She would want to know I was okay when she heard the news about the boat capsizing…

We wandered around the hotel for the rest of the day, a bit lost. People were still sunbathing and enjoying themselves as if nothing had happened.

A random memory popped into my head; an old man once warned me to be wary on this holiday. “Whatever you do, keep your phone with you,” he’d said. “At all times.” For some reason I had listened to this man – I mean, I usually had my phone with me anyway, but this time I’d kept it about my person rather than in my bag. To my amazement, I checked my back pocket, and there it was; completely fine, not the slightest bit of water damage…

I checked it and went straight to the news, typing in words like “Greece, boat, dead.” Nothing. Was this a cover up? Had it just not been reported yet? There had been at least thirty people on the boat, so surely this was important? I turned my phone off to conserve battery and we went to reception to speak about a room.

Later, someone offered to go check out the boat, to see if there was anything salvageable. Despite our recent trauma, we decided to go with them and show where the boat had capsized. We were on a much smaller boat this time – more a speedboat than a ferry – and when we got to the waterfalls we managed them fine.

“That’s how you’re supposed to do it,” I said knowingly to my friend.

“It was just about here.” Divers jumped off the boat and searched around. They were gone for quite a while and when they came up, one guy brought a Tesco carrier bag with him.

Inside the bag was a model of the ship, exact in every detail to the larger version, even down to singular items on board. The man handed me the miniature ship and said, “that’s everything. Anything you want me to save?” I looked at the ship, with dolls house versions of my clothes, my money and my passport – the keys to getting me home, and the words that tumbled out of my mouth were, “my laptop and PS4 please.”

The Window Cult Dream

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I used to have slightly peculiar dreams, and for a long time these were documented via this blog (go check them out; from judgemental sheep to multiple homicide, there’s uh… something for everyone?)

And then I had to adult, and for some reason that destroyed my unconscious imagination. I went for months without dreaming – or at least without dreaming anything remotely memorable or exciting.

But it pleases me to say that the fucked-uppery of my brain has returned in full force! …Yay?

***

Nobody had noticed my breaking into the church. There had been reports of suspicious activity, news of some new cult in town, and the disused church on the hill was the source of it all.

It is no exaggeration when I tell you that hundreds of cloaked figures of varying height and size were scattered around the halls. Each knelt in complete silence, hoods over their heads and legs splayed on purple prayer mats. I tiptoed amongst them, and even though I was not perfectly stealthy, not one of them looked up.

I made my way to the second floor where there was more of the same. I crept along, weaving amongst the people. Still nothing. One woman, a nice lady by the name of Doris who had been intrigued by the town gossip, had come with me. I found her now, sat down amongst the others and smiling. As I approached she said her name out loud. Her voice echoed throughout the entire church, her ghost replying a hundred times across the vast ceiling. I shushed her, horrified that the cultists would awaken at any moment. Doris giggled and did it again.

A man built like an armoire stood up in the corner by the stained glass window. He walked menacingly towards us. He lunged. I dodged out of his way, dragging Doris with me. It all happened so fast but next thing we knew his gigantic frame was over the edge and falling to its death. Blood spattered across the railing, but the only other blood sprayed a considerable distance to the window. I hadn’t noticed it before, but down the intricate designs of the window, a singular line of deep red blood flowed from top to bottom. There was no starting point, nothing the blood was draining from; it simply existed. It had nearly reached the very base of the window, but the recently deceased man’s blood joined with it – just a single drop – and the stream began to reverse. I looked down to the ground floor of the church and saw no body. The prayers of the cultists remained undisturbed.

These people were sacrificing themselves for magic. I had to find out what it meant.

Unfortunately, they knew we had been there, and wherever I went they had connections. Whilst visiting the shopping centre, random members of the public were called by name over the intercom. In each shop I entered, that named person would walk to the nearest window and, whilst looking me dead in the eyes, ensure that their blood ended up on the pane. The shoppers around us wouldn’t so much as flinch, continuing with their day to day lives. Was I the only one to see it? To watch as the one important drop of blood, the life’s essence, was wasted?

The worst thing was that the cult began to favour children for the sacrifice.

I was taking a night off from my cult investigations. Myself and a few friends went to the pub and had barely sat down when a young boy walked in. I watched in horror as he climbed through a window onto the ledge, and then the ledge began to move so quickly and shook him so fiercely that I expected his brain to explode. I would have intervened, but at that moment Tom Baker walked in, smiling. He was a well-known member of this cult now. I had begun to believe that celebrity endorsement had played a part in its popularity.

Tom was followed closely by a man with an extravagant crimson cloak. I knew this to be the leader. He towered above the rest, and had a presence that made you want to hide in a corner. He lifted his hood and grinned at us, this old man. I grinned back. Now we were in trouble.

Taxes and Taxis

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Dusters at the ready, kids; I’ve finally uncovered the blog from underneath the enormous stack of paperwork on my desk! Much has happened in the many months I’ve been away/too lazy to upload anything – predominantly adult chores like work and bills and crying. I won’t bore you with that. In fact, I’ll get straight to the awesome bit:

I’m back at Uni!

This time I’m tackling the MA Creative Writing, and it has finally prompted me to write again! Not only does that mean I get motivated towards doing something with my life, but it also means you wonderful people get a lovely story to read (or another lousy post to scroll past, depending on how you look at it). And expect many more to come!

 

Just Here is Fine

Rosie watched the wooden prayer beads swinging dangerously from the rearview mirror and thought, Christ, even the car needs God right now. She had been in this taxi for less than five minutes and was already regretting her decision. Evidently she’d been kidnapped by some psychopath who’d just forged his license and stuck an Eagle Cars sticker on the side of his Peugeot.  Although what was the point in kidnapping her just to crash the damn car?

She put her phone on silent and sent a quick text to Megan. The driver didn’t notice. Her bare arms stuck to the old brown leather and her hand slipped from the grab handle. Fog slowly crept up the back windows and Rosie held back the urge to write “HELP!” with her fingertip.

Oh my God, why were they going this way?

Her eyes darted around the taxi interior, trying to peel her mind away from what would happen when they stopped. If they stopped.

 The minibus had six seats; two foldable for wheelchair access. There was a step on either side by  the sliding doors. The plastic screen separating the passenger from (their demise?) the driver had a visible handprint on it. There were smears across the floor; mud – blood maybe? It was too dark to tell. The driver started humming tunelessly. Rosie closed her eyes and muttered under her breath.

The musky stench of the leather mixed with the stale smell of other people – (How many others has he killed?) – and her own anxious body odour. This, combined with another sudden jolt had her heaving. Was this really going to be her final memory? Her mind flashed through all the people she’d ever loved. How many would even know she was gone? Did she have time to text more? She dared a quick peep through the window and almost cried when she saw her street name.

“Just here is fine,” she whispered. The taxi came to an abrupt halt and Rosie shot forwards in her seat. Fumbling to remove her seatbelt with wet fingers, she froze as the driver, this hulking silhouette of a man, lifted his arm –

– and pressed the button on the meter.

“Six fifty darlin’.” His voice was low and gruff, disinterested.

She reached a shaking hand into her purse and held out a ten pound note. The driver flipped on the lights and turned to take the money. She saw him for the first time: face set in a scowl beneath a jail cell haircut. His clothes were scruffy, layered beneath an even scruffier beard. But his clear grey-blue eyes yielded their terrible secret; he was painfully, exceptionally ordinary.

“Keep the change,” she mumbled, half disappointed, and fled.

 

…I’m exhausted already!

The Health(ier) Week: Part 3

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The final countdown! I can almost taste the fry-up at the end…


Day Five – Doris Day

Breakfast: Honey Nut Cornflakes
Second Breakfast: Berry granola yoghurt, banana
Lunch: Leftover stir fry
Dinner: Lemon and dill salmon with sour cream and chive mash and steamed veg


Today began like an ordinary work day, albeit a bit windy – though I thought nothing of it at the time. I ate quite healthily and really enjoyed my leftovers lunch.

Then someone said a tree had fallen down on the tracks at Bedford and I realised that would have a direct impact on my journey. And it wasn’t just that tree; in the end I watched as every single train I could possibly get home was cancelled. Luckily, a colleague gave me a lift most of the way there, but the stress of not knowing if I could get home nearly drove me… to McDonalds.

But I held out. By the time Storm Doris had had her Day (heh) I couldn’t be bothered doing anything except going home. I didn’t make anything extravagant for dinner, but I did stay healthy. I used the remaining salmon fillet from the pack-of-two and cooked it with veg again. This time with lemon and dill, like the best Season & Shake bag. It wasn’t as good, but still nice.

The mash however, is excellent. If you have never tried using sour cream in mash, I highly recommend it. And everyone knows you can’t have sour cream without chives.

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Day Six – Hash It Out

Breakfast: Honey Nut Cornflakes
Second Breakfast: Brown toast
Lunch: Salami and salad wholegrain wraps
Dinner: Beef hash with jacket potato and sour cream


Standard boring breakfast to keep me going on the train. Followed up with some brown toast to get me through the two hour conference without my stomach growling. Might have had a cheeky cookie too. Hey, they were free…

For lunch I made a simple salami and salad wrap which, although somewhat boring, was pretty nice and still a vast improvement on my boring ham sandwich.

I managed to get home tonight without any angry weather trying to keep me in work. So despite the past two previous failures, I decided to give Jamie Oliver one last shot at redemption with his Beef Hash recipe; and it was worth it.

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Once again, I made substitutes for the ingredients I didn’t have; leeks instead of red onions, my trusty friend soy sauce instead of Worcester… although most unforgivably I forgot to add bacon bits… However that isn’t exactly healthy, so uh… yeah…

This is also the first jacket potato I’ve eaten without a pebble of butter for as long as I can remember. Sour cream and chive though, it’s all about the sour cream and chive!

Overall, it was pretty damn good. Don’t worry Mr. Oliver, your cookbook shall remain on my bookcase. For now.


Day Seven – Failure

Breakfast: Greek yoghurt and honey with crushed walnuts and banana
Lunch: Leftover hash wholegrain wraps
Dinner: ………….Frozen pizza


So today went well. As you can guess by today’s menu, it didn’t go to plan. Pipped to the post. Ruined. Today I went home to visit my parents for a few days. I used up as much as I could in the fridge, so the last of the Greek yoghurt:

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Then the last of the hash with the wholegrain wraps, and then I set off on the two and a half hour journey home. I didn’t even eat any snacks on the way! All was going well, I could see the finish line in the distance, and then…

My parents fed me pizza.

Ruined.

Pizza night was always a tradition when I lived at home though, and it was quite nice spending it watching Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway like old times (which coincidentally Jamie Oliver was on). But goddamnit one more meal!!


Overall, this experience has been easier than I thought (despite falling at the last hurdle). I thought it would cost a lot more to eat healthier, but a £25 shop isn’t much more than what I would normally spend in a week.

I think in the future I shall try to limit myself to two unhealthy meals a week, so that the craving for a greasy burger or good ol’ fish and chips doesn’t get to me. I’ll definitely be experimenting with drinks with the blender (milkshakes in the Summer!) and cannot stress enough the importance of a good working lunch. It’s what gets me through the day!

The Health(ier) Week: Part 2

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So I survived two days of healthier eating. (Holy Hell, you must be thinking sarcastically. You must be a God!) Well I can assure you I’d think the same in your shoes. But I have no willpower when it comes to food, so making it this far without reaching for the Doritos is a breakthrough. Instead, my hand is wandering towards the banana.The fruit, guys, take your mind out of the gutter.

Day Three – The Honey Monster

Breakfast: Honey nut cornflakes
Second Breakfast: 9Bar and an apple

Lunch: Pita bread strips with tzatziki dip
Dinner:
 Jerk Chicken… sort of.


Breakthrough people, breakthrough… I’m eating whole fruit! Without anything with it! Without it being mushed down into a smoothie!

…I didn’t enjoy it though. Apples hurt my teeth and are incredibly messy without bringing a knife to work…

For dinner I gave Jamie Oliver another chance. After trying and enjoying it at Turtle Bay, making my own jerk chicken seemed like a good idea. At the time.

Having not read the recipe properly before I went shopping, I had to make a few alterations. For one, I don’t own a grill pan. I didn’t have any rum. Or chillis. Or white wine vinegar. Or all spice. I didn’t really have a lot of anything, so I switched the rum for sake, the all spice for Chinese 5 spice and the white wine vinegar for normal vinegar. And then went mad scientist and added some lime juice, soy sauce and a dollop of mustard. Goodbye Caribbean, hello China. I had plenty of honey though, so that’s good.

I served the Cherk chicken with roasted sweet potatoes and steamed veg.

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Basically… Don’t try this unless you can follow the recipe properly. It was edible, but it wasn’t enjoyable, so I followed it up with some honey roasted peanuts and camomile and spearmint tea.

Hint from a friend: If you detest the weird, greasy taste of flavoured tea like I do, stir a spoonful of honey in. Somehow it takes the grease away and makes it taste much better.


 

Day Four – You Bokin Wok M8!

Breakfast: Honey Nut Cornflakes
Second Breakfast: Brown toast and coffee (Oops)
Lunch: Ham, salami and salad pita, banana, 9Bar
Dinner: Chicken stir fry


I got hungry and gave in to some toast. Bread practically makes up most of my diet. There have been days where I’ve had toast for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch and pizza with garlic bread for dinner. At least this toast was brown!

After the disaster of last night’s meal, I decided to stick to something I know I can cook well; stir fry.

Don’t forget to take notes, kids! My own recipe for once:

Ingredients:

  • Chicken breast (1 per person)
  • Noodle nest (1 per person)
  • Vegetables.* In mine: carrot, baby corn and broccoli
  • Bok choy, or ordinary cabbage as a substitute
  • Spring onion and regular onion
  • Ground ginger
  • Chinese five spice
  • Sweet chilli sauce
  • Dark soy sauce
  • Garlic clove, chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • Half a lime (Leftovers)
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter

*All veg are subject to taste and you can use as many or as few as you like. I would’ve had beansprouts but once again my trusty friend Tesco had sold out.

Method:

  1. Dice the chicken into cubes and fry off in hot oil in a large wok.
  2. Meanwhile, chop the garlic and prep the broccoli, baby corn and any other harder veg you want to cook. Once the chicken has browned, add all of this to the wok.
  3. Boil some water and leave your noodles to cook, swirl with a fork occasionally.
  4. Keep stirring the wok (it ain’t Stir fry for nothin’) and multitask like a champion to get your onion, spring onions and cabbage chopped, as well as coat your chicken with a layer of ginger and Chinese five spice.
  5. Add the chopped cabbage, stir for a while, then all of the onions. Peel carrot shavings into the wok.
  6. Carefully pour in the soy sauce. Not too much that it drowns out every other flavour; maybe a tablespoon? I don’t really measure, just wing it! Experiment with how much you put in and learn the hard way. I certainly did…
  7. Add sweet chilli sauce and lime juice, and as a surprise twist (that I plopped in the wok on a last minute whim) add a tablespoon of peanut butter! It was so, so good. It makes the sauce like Chinese satay, but much more subtle.
  8. Lastly, drain off the noodles and add them into the mix, stirring thoroughly until the sauce is mixed and everything is mixed in the sauce.

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You’re welcome. 🙂


So far so good, I think. Definitely craving pizza right now though. Only three more days…!