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What have we learnt about pimped up learning in 15 years? Not enough

Symbolic Forms used in Education

How I assimilate the article’s content is founded on the profound engagement I’ve had with MAODE this last year, but a lifetime of reading and viewing … enhanced by, certainly brought to the surface and even put at my fingertips having kept a diary for 35 years. I can list, within 10/15% all the films I’ve ever seen (because I’ve kept a record). I might even achieve a list of 40% of everything I’ve ever read (though I’ve yet to try to assemble such a thing). I wouldn’t begin to list my television viewing, perhaps because it is at times no more engaging that watching clouds form shapes in the sky. This accumulation of education and entertainment has, theoretically, less impact as I grow older, the symbolic forms of representation having the greatest impact when I knew least as a child. I can recall the first TV programmes I ever watched, can you? But I doubt I can remember much of significance that I’ve seen on TV in 2011.

‘Mans mind’ has been thought of as potter’s wheel, a steam engineer, a switchboard or a film … though not in theatre, the authors forgetting Shakespeare ‘life is but a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and is heard no more.’… or the idea of the ‘Seven Stages of Man’ with its implicit developmental stages. I find myself disagreeing with the authors often, and collecting evidence for a paragraph regarding editorial matters. However, irritation and mistakes make for a spiky and more engaging learning experience. If you read something and agree and applaud all the way through, how much then sticks?

There will always be independence of human thought and as every generation starts with a blank sheet these multiple human minds will always be distinct. Computers are doing the opposite of what we expected, liberating and expanding minds, rather than reducing them to delivering perfect’ or ‘complete’ knowledge. To think not as others have thought, but to think in an original or creative way. Is this not inevitable if the way children are learning has changed so radically.

If thought of as a negative, metaphors could be seen as the equivalent of the leading question … they presume a way of thinking, a culture, history and belief system – they are intellectual containment … that to ‘think outside the box,’ is to think outside the accepted metaphor. However, given the thoughts on the role of language in learning, I wonder if common metaphors are the equivalent of expressing yourself in English, only to start using phrases from Welsh – i.e. you may lose your audience and the argument, even if you intrigue or engage some. On the other hand, if as they do in Germany you teach Geography in English, this additional challenge would better embedded the lesson. I don’t however envisage kids in England studying DT in German or Home Economics in French; but it’s an idea. ‘Content’, we know is important, though I start to wonder if is the context that is king’ …

Or should I come up with an alternative metaphor in order to avoid setting parameters? Creativity is a consequence of our ability to think in metaphors after all, an actual physiological trait of the brain. (V.J.Ramachandran, 2010).

Thinking in metaphors is an innate human characteristic.

We have always thought in metaphors, it is what defines us as human and what permits innovation, creativity and debate – we visualise concepts in our ‘mind’s eye’ we draw on our own experiences to invent ways of understanding of our own. Everything, we learn through all our senses, however much some of these are denied. Reading Shakespeare in class, taking it turns is different from seeing an RSC performance … and different again every time you see such a performance from a different actor.

We think in metaphors, analogies taught man to think, it is how we assimilate concepts by relating things we don’t understand to things that we do – though we can get our metaphors wrong, they can lead scientists ‘down the garden path.’

‘Attractively presented’ is a matter of debate as is the idea of ‘relative’ passive viewing

TV is ‘sit back;’ and passive and its attractiveness is a matter of opinion, and personal taste. Is David Attenborough age 80, as engaging when he speaks to camera as when he was in his thirties? Are any such ‘walk and talk’ presenter to camera globe-trotting lectures educational or just motivational? From an educational point of view is a bearded senior lecturer in Physics for in open sandals standing at a flipchart for the OU and broadcast in the dead of night any less attractive or effective lesson than Dinosaurs in 3d from the TV company Atlantic productions and shown on Sky HD/3D?

Is not all knowledge but a summation of a collective thought expressed by a person or people?

In relation to visualising nevertheless. Type in ‘nevertheless images’ into a Google search box, clicked on the images search and crashed the browser. On a similar note, I’d like to see ‘because’ can be represented as Ballet movement. The authors lack imagination if they think this can’t be done. And musical notation is a form of drawing.

Breakthroughs come when someone steps off the path, or reroutes from the top.

Multi-various experiences are the key and what is made possible by e-learning, the Internet, multiple digital channels and social networks, these are activities that engage several of the senses, or in the case of being there … all of them, are most effective at leading to a lasting physiological impact on a person’s mind.

In context, exciting to one or some, may be dull to another … and least exciting to someone who may have seen this film several times already. Different fields of reference … i.e. context and the person.

Are we saying that a rich, developed, symbolised and definitive expression of something being experienced by a mind that is equally busy and rich, is less of a learning experience?

That like minds, if they think alike, don’t think at all? That if someone sees the world as a red balloon and you give them a red balloon they gain nothing? Whereas I think any and of these situations will always ‘depend’ on a complexity of factors that are here grossly simplified. Our experience, and learning, is always the product of what we have been exposed to … indeed, this is a the definition of learning, without the stimuli and the physiological consequences on your mind, there is no learning, or experience to recall or to put into or let loose in the maelstrom of your mind.

What intrigues me about learning and perceptions is that much of what we are exposed to has obtuse effects, even bizarre ones

… that a surname cited in a report, if it is your mother’s maiden name, is going to tinge this report, that a phrase used that suddenly reminds you of a dead uncle … or online some novel interactive tool reminds you of an early computer game … or has occurred here, someone I found myself thinking in ‘films I’ve seem,’ which becomes an unstoppable process as a slide, like an avalanche into a memory set based on films, or certain actors, or an era where this actor was performing … electro-chemical activity that I cannot nonchalantly or willingly turn off.

And plainly put, ‘the less knowledge already available to the learner, the more the symbolic forms of representation will make a difference in the meanings the learner arrives at.’

You draw on an eclectic mix of experiences, hopefully – which is why the more a child is exposed to the better, from sport to music, reading and drawing .

How are these sets of mental skills and capacities gained?

From family, from your community and/or from formal education?

Variety is the way to educate a group … even with an individual, their interest and capacity to learn in certain ways will shift.

It says a lot for a film maker o have craft skills.

What I find fascinating about this is the benefit of taking different approaches, that teaching to a classroom assumes a one-size fits all, as does self-directed e-learning if it is largely asynchronous and done in isolation. The only way Web 2.0 learners can get this variety is by creating their own learning content, in which second and third year students may making ‘training videos’ for the first years, the entire exercise, repeated, mixed up and re-cut like an entry in Wikipedia. The difference I would suggest is that a multiplicity of responses is in time offered, for the reasons the author gives here. Think of a word (a noun), now Google with ‘images’ and see what you get. Now imagine this a ‘videos’, better still ‘learning’ and imagine being offered a plethora of learning videos on the subject that interests you, whether is diplomacy in the reign of Henry VIII or how to make a tea-tray.

More subtle differences are easy to achieve.

The same short story presented by very different voices. By very different voices with a different mood. A story illustrated in a multitude of ways, for example, a collection of representations of Alice in Wonderland from Tenniel’s original cartoons via Quentin Blake and many, many others

As I child we have an LP of Alice in Wonderland in which Bruce Forsyth played the Mad Hatter. Imbued with his career in Television I can only ever now envisage the Mad Hatter as a bloviating TG game-show host.

Throwing money at something doesn’t make it better?

There is so much more that comes into play. A good story told around a camp fire can be better that a Hollywood Blockbuster that has cost $100m. The coming of the rock band ‘uncut’, the likes of the Rolling Stones or Paul McCartney playing in the back of a club, is indicative that bells and whistles don’t improve something. My wonder often viewing e-learning that money has not been put into something that counts crucially: the idea … and then the script. Get these right and everything else is just a matter of budget?

I do think TV is too easy

From a learning point of view take notes. Better still, load it into iMovies and cut your own version, change the voice over or add captions. Make something of it. Interact with it. Make an effort.

Learning and memory, the physiological effect on the brain, requires a stimuli and response – the degree/scale and impact of this response is down to many things, association, shock, appropriateness, worth, timeliness, location, urgency and effort.

TV is entertainment and news. It is sit back. It is fall asleep. If there’s engagement these days it is via an Xbox … or with the laptop open.

I disagree that print is ‘generally perceived to be highly demanding’

Unless you are talking about the Yellow Pages compared to Google. Books have their role, they haven’t become redundant technology like the Telex machine.

The producers at Ragdoll productions, the creators of Teletubbies and In the Night Garden would argue the contrary to what the authors are suggesting, that very young children put in a great deal of effort when they view TV. We are less enthralled as we get older. As adults what they recall about children’s TV and you’ll be surprised at the detail of what they can recollect. And TV can validate a book, sending a reader to the TV, or someone who has watched something on TV to the book. The platforms are different and can be made to work for each other.

I hope TV can provoke interest; it can sell products.

It teaches some people, some thing – where to place their hand and therefore their choice when they go to the supermarket. But try and learn something from 45 minutes of TV? Try transcribing the script … this cannot and does not compare to a chapter in a book or a paper. It cannot help to be anything other than light weight. Naturally it must also pander to the visual, and to the event … even to narrative, some ideas clearly being shoehorned into such models.

All you have to do to get someone to sit forward in front of TV is to tell them they are going to be tested on it.

Didn’t Michael Aspel once host a kids’ TV show called ‘Screen Shot’ or some such in which guests were tested on what happened in a scene? Knowledge of a test encourages effort to retain the pertinent facts … even to take notes. I often find myself at workshops and there is only ONE person in a group of 30+ taking notes … me. I wonder how people expect to retain a single of word of what is going on in front of them.

It isn’t whether or not the TV is a serious medium, but the content ditto the stage. The Queen’s Coronation had people gathered around TV sets in 1957.

They do. So what as educators do we do?

A dozen versions to satisfy all the potential audiences?

Or, as an author does, by thinking about ONE READER … so that whoever reads knows the perspective that is being taken?

The answer is DIY TV. It is the way the creation and publishing process has been greatly expanded to allow many, many more people to have a voice, to be seen, to be heard, to direct and produce and publish. What is already achieved as text and words in Wikipedia and video on YouTube, and dialogues and discussion on blogs and in social forums will and is becoming e-learning mass-produced, by the expert and the inexpert. I do wonder if the less expert the response the better, that the foibles of a maverick educator may teach more than something that is highly polished or corporate in nature.

In terms of language I’d go further and say it is not the language per se, but who uses it and how it is spoken and used. We learn to understand, to speak and to read largely from our parents, siblings, grandparents and in due course our peer group and school teachers. In terms of making up words, we are in an age of considerable invention, both to describe concepts and software, but because of the spread of English as the Lingua Franca and each person’s, each culture’s, each country, continent and generation’s different take on it. I turn to Henry Hitchings for a fascinating insight into the English language.

Born and raised with one language I learn French in my late teens by living and working in France. I came to dream in French, to speak it fluently, read it well and write it badly. I felt I was a different person when I spoke French. My father in law, raised in Poland, learning German during the occupation then immigrating to England speaks nine languages. His wife, whose family had escape Mussolini places English as her third language after Italian and French. How is there thinking enriched because of the diversity of languages they have used, have read and thought in?

Of course exposure to anything may impact on its correlation or juxtaposition to something else.

Here we hear about children exposed to TV. I wonder with a mixture of amazement and despair at my son’s activities on an Xbox, how he forms teams with friends and strangers, how they learn from each other and teach each other … how they circumvent the rules at every possible moment, playing outside the fields of the game, finding a way onto set as it were and doing things that may be possible in the game that are in possible in reality. As a younger boy playing Age of Empires he insisted on repeatedly kitting his medieval knights with cars and rampaging across Europe flattening everything  It will be interesting to observe how this plays out in later life.

I take issue with the idea of ‘mindlessness’ in this context, because it is disingenuous to suggest that watching TV, or playing a video games is mindless when it patently is clearly the opposite. Mindlessness might be a state achieved by someone meditating or in a coma, but it is not a state when several of the senses are being engaged.

Of course they do, any and every stimuli on the sense are in some way or over embedded physiologically in the mind.

Stories work. It is all that human kind have had for millennia.

This idea of nodes is being realised through fMRI scans that show what parts of the brain are stimulated when different activities are undertaken or thought about, such as recent studies on the nature of leadership. It is extraordinary how many different parts of the brain get engaged, indeed this is how and why our responses to things and our abilities despite common or fairly common upbringings are so very different.

Schooling hasn’t favoured original thinking, but learning often by rote to pass exams which suits some types, but not others.

REFERENCE

Salomon, G 1997, ‘Of mind and media’, Phi Delta Kappan, 78, 5, p. 375, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 8 March 2011.

The Open University Merry-go-round. Join a course, do another and never get off their life-long learning ride

Were I back on the H807 Merry-go-round, I’d love to do the Innovations in E-Learning module over again … indeed, given the pace of change maybe a three year refresher is required.

I’d have loved some of this:

And this:

And this:


Which was my third e-book purchase.

I have read it, highlighted it, reviewed it, shared notes via Facebook on it as I went along and will blog about it at length in due course. And Twitter this, and that. And respond to comments.

Most important of all, I am acting on this books advice which means I now have feed from Google Alerts, and Technorati amongst many other suggestions on how someone who feel they have a voice can find like minds.

Is looking at this better than reading the chapter around it?

Best of all is to share it and discuss with those who know better, or want to know better. My opinion is your opinion put through the kitchen-blender.

On reading a book cover to cover – it can be an e-book, it is the extended and consistent voice that matters

I have no doubt that habit has something to do with it. My reading list before going up to Oxford perhaps. A stack of second hand books, a pen and notebook. I like reading a book cover to cover.

I am on my third MAODE module. You are pointed at a chapter here, a chapter there, loads of reports too, but no longer a book. We had books in 2001, a box of them and a CD-rom.

I have bought and read three topic related books. Do they now clutter up shelf-space? They are like oranges I have squeezed dry, for pulp, juice and pips.

I have bought eight e-books and have devoured two of these.

It was reading Vygotsky’s ‘Educational Phsycology’ that made me appreciate the value of reading a single author cover to cover. What is more, I enjoy the limitations of his own reading. This is 1926. How many people is he going to read and reference. Not that many, John Dewey stands out so will be my next read. There has to be value in engaging with a flow of argument from one mind over many thousands of words. Perhaps it is a relief where so much of my reading is prompted by Linked In Forum Messages, OU Tutor Group Forum Messages and feeds from blogs.

‘Rethinking Pedagogy for a Digital Age’ is a compilation piece.

The K-tell album of e-learning authors.

All our favourites get to sing their song.

I enjoy how the editors introduce each new chapter, at least there is some attempt to bind the contributors to a theme. I wonder from amongst them if I have heard a voice I am interested in hearing again? i.e. once again, this suggestion that you tune into a person’s way of thinking and expressing themselves and by doing so surely speed up the learning process?

What counts though are my highlights and notes.

Having read each cover to cover I am now going through the 350 highlights/notes on EACH. This gives me the chance to expand, delete, add and reflect. And for those poor people who Friended me on Facebook by accident rather than design, Tweet-like updates directly from the Kindle. I need to find a better way to manage these … sending them here would be an idea, at least there’s some relevance.

I am reading no fewer than FOUR what we might term ‘popular’ books on e-learning, the DIY books primarily aimed at teachers. One is brilliant, two are also-rans, but one is dreadful: Prensky gets headlines for his headlines (Digital Natives) … there is no substance to him and I heartily wish the OU would drop him as a point of discussion.

Or is this the point?

You know you’ve learnt something once you’ve gone from nodding along with all he says to consigning him to the bin?

REFERENCE

Vygotsky, L.S. (1926) Educational Psycholgy.

Beetham, H., Sharpe, R (eds) (2009) Rethinking E-learning Pedagogy.

How do you study if you are both a tutor and a student?

I guess if you are a chemistry tutor and you’re studying e-learning the two are complementary but you cannot, be both tutor and student of the same course (though interestingly this has/is occurring in our module with a tutor absent the OU failing to accommodate).

It’s rather making me think that student as tutor is absolutely possible.

Why not? All it requires is leadership and initiative. I don’t see tutors as subject matter experts. Can you cater for everyone? In communications you need to know your audience. Writers are meant to think of their reader as one person, not millions. How should teachers/tutors think? Of student, or students? Does it matter anymore?

Can we, knowing or indulging ourselves, choose from a plethora of ways into a subject?

I have to wonder, thinking in extremes, why we don’t have tutor groups by gender, by generation, even by profession … let alone our current professional status. Would for example all those working for the armed services benefited from being in a group of their own?

And how do we make such a choice?

Too late if you buy a book, even read a sample, only to find the rest of the content doesn’t deliver.

What about a course?

You pay the fees for a module only to feel or realise a week or so on that it is going to disappoint all the way to the end?

Do you choose by Brand?

Do you choose by awarding body?

And what say do we have?

Can we play-act the model online student?

Would it help to have such an image and then be this person?

Can we assume ourselves into a level of comprehension what we haven’t yet reached and as a result of such aspirations and performance become this more informed and ‘educated’ person?

With an interest and some training in sport and developing young elite athletes I’ve studied Long Term Athlete Development. With a sport, let alone studying, we can group children by gender and biological age. When or where do such groupings or any groupings become difficult to create, or politically incorrect to create? Should not institutions go to greater lengths to group people scientifically?

And to mix these groups up as we go along, if only to change and balanced the learning opportunities?

This is the OU’s show, their party. They are hosting an event, or series of events or have we simply taken a few steps beyond getting a box of books and CDs on the doorstep at the start of a module … to the set of railway tracks that is the like a cartoon, are laid before our eyes as each new week approaches? Who ‘owns’ this course? I get know sense of that, or someone leading. The tutors/authors of the course left years ago. Perhaps this is obvious and given the topic and the speed of change in e-learning is detrimental. I wonder, if given time, more ‘natural’ tutor groupings would form in the national forums of ‘General Discussions’ and the Café from which break-out tutor groups could be constructed (or they do?) I wonder if the solution is in the ways resources are presented, that there need to be multiple ways into a topic. That once size never did fit all.

That ideally we would each have a personal tutor, that all learning would be one to one and tailor to our needs, as they are and as they change … and as we are changed by the process and anything else that is going on around us.

Do we all want a take-away, or a pot-lunch?

The set menu and if so as a school dinner, or from a top restaurant? Home cooking or our own cooking?

Might I say with H800 are getting the ‘set menu,’ i.e. the choice is limited. All I’m discussing here is choice; the next point would be the size of helpings. How do we respond to either being hungry as a wolf (read everything) or not hungry at all (graze nonchalantly doing the bare minimum?) The answer, as I found in H808, was to have plenty of moderated activities in the General Discussion, Café and Supplementary Activity Forums … where like minds could meet, where if you found you had time or wanted to make time, you could get involved in a different group and therefore benefit from an alternative dynamic. I have found that with groups, even more so away from the OU, that are global in scope, that you find groupings that are topic specific and where you can, whenever you like, find a conversation to engage with that adds to your knowledge.

It is a vital part of the learning process I believe, where you form opinions and develop ideas as a result of your engagement, the only issue being that your voice comes out of the tips of your fingers rather than your mouth, which rather suggests we’d all have been better off communicating to our parents and siblings at home via a QWERTY keyboard from an early age so we had these surprisingly necessary skills in place.

Perhaps, as there appears to be so much inclination, whether desire or otherwise, to shift towards the Oxbridge tutorial system as a model, (small tutor groups), might not we also have junior, middle and senior common rooms?

Might we not also have a variety of virtual colleges? And taking just one idea from this … ought we not to have more than one tutor, even within a module, perhaps a different module for each TMA?

The Girl in the Garden (Treatment)

TREATMENT

Thirty seven years ago when I was at Prep-school in Northumberland I let a young girl die and buried her in the allotments we boys kept in the semi-derelict Victorian kitchen gardens.

Boarding prep-school in a boys-only environment from the not-so-badly-off middle-class, upper-middle-class and landed-gentry was common then: professionals, ex-pats, execs & directors of various kinds – they all found a way or satisfied a need to have their boys away from home. There were plenty of broken families too, not a term used for this ‘class,’ but broken they were, separated & divorced, split largely by men having a mistress while the wifelet was at home with the kids … though a few were single-parent families from suicide – wives sticking their heads on a pillow in the gas oven when they found hubby had a mistress (or someone else’s wife) on the sideboard.

I don’t know the girls’ name, but I have a photo of the garden where we buried. We won the ‘Gardening Prize’ – a silver cup that was given out on Prize Giving at the end of the summer term under the marquee on trim lawn.

We gave her a name, she wouldn’t tell us who she was; I forget why.

I suppose by giving away the ending you may feel there is no point in reading on, but there are a number of issues and surprises that might intrigue you.

Visiting Scotty Hall for only the second time in several decades (I returned once as some old boys do the year after leaving) I went to the site of the allotments. The sheds had gone, with their stacks of pots, the changing rooms for the open air pool gone too and the whole complex now under brick, stone & glass, an edifice of financial deviousness that I contrived in the 80s in order to give the school an indoor pool and the capital to maintain it. I should have looked beyond the boundaries of the plans as the allotments or ‘gardens’ as we called them were now grassed over, the Victorian cold-frames long gone, along with the Victorian glass house. I had to wonder if we had dug her grave deep enough – deep enough not to be disturbed when the ground was skimmed over to lay turf. All of this a great shame as between them, swimming & gardening, were the loves of my life. And Kathy.

You see I’ve remembered her name. Or what we called her. She didn’t say much, this stray, this orphan, this lost girl, this fellow human being who came to us like a lost dog and sought sanctuary, protection and comfort.

We had to keep her from the prefects, and the teachers. We had to keep her from the other boys in others dens too. You can understand why then we protected our den with such vigour and deviousness at the end of that term. I was eleven.

Let’s roll it all back a few years to the trigger that perhaps set this all in motion. I am seven, pushing eight. I am with my brother and sister, and we have a photographer coming round. We are dressed in what might be described as our Sunday best … Sunday best for school that is as we had stopped attending Church, even at Christmas at least a year or two before. Probably timed with my late father’s bedding of first his secretary, then the wife of a friend. I think he, like me, felt that having committed a sin he could no longer attend Church (possibly why the Catholic introduce confession in the first place, to keep the numbers up, to get bums on seats). You’ve gathered from this I am an atheist, not the time of place to go into the details why be suffice it to say that as a chorister and ultimately the head chorister at school all my requests from the choir stalls for God to prove his existence to me failed. He does not exist. And my late grandfather who had survived the First World War – he had very good reason to curse god, kings & country and dam them all to hell. Or hells bells, somewhere not pleasant.

Anyway, my brother, sister & I are not only gathered to have this picture taken, we are also gathered to be told by my father, with my mother’s assistance, that he would no longer be living with us. We children burst into tears of incredulous disbelief and my father swore.

“ I can’t stand this.” And walked out. Boarding school seemed to follow uncomfortably swiftly after this. Getting to boarding school I should not have been surprised to discover just how many of my friends had divorced parents – for us, the children of the wealthy middle-class boarding prep school appears to be the dumping ground of the unwanted and unloved. It seemed that way, though I realise since that is was just a traditional thing.

It was in my third year. That first year I got used to the rules, habits & customs of the place: dorm-captains, bundles, fire drills, numbers and even how we were called, not by our first names, but by our surnames. If we had a sibling or cousin or some other unfortunate who shared the same surname that each of us had the prefix max, min or minimus. In this way I started as Harrison Min until my cousin, who never completed his final year, left and my older brother become Harrison Ma & I become Harrison Mi.

It is into the world of dorm-raiding, Sunday tuck, tuck-boxes & trunks, choir practice and lights-out that I need to bring you. Outside, beyond the gates in the world beyond there was a three-day-week. The impact this had on us is memorable, though we were never reduced to a three day week ourselves. We were nonetheless reduced to days without electricity and therefore without light. It became some enormous camping exercise with hurricane lamps in the common rooms and classrooms, with candles on the dinning room tables as if every night was Halloween.

There was sport every afternoon with a match of some kind on Saturday after morning lessons. On Sunday church was followed by Sunday lunch and the handing out of tuck, or what the real world might know as sweets or candy. The means by which us 110+ boys got to select a piece of tuck was grossly unfair and waited utterly to the whim of the teacher in charge. The preferred method was for them to call out a number somewhere between 1 & 31 until everyone with a birthday falling on the date called out had been covered. My brother and all the others born on the 3rd of the month got up and away earlier than everyone else time and time and time again … it is one of those numbers that is bound to be picked of the top of someone’s head early on … for me, with a birthday on the 27th more often than not, we’re be the one’s telling the teacher that our number had not yet been called. They never took notes. never used a Tombola. Never considered to be a lottery. There was a bias built into it with, I’m sure. some teachers knowing the birthdates of their favourite pupils.

Anyhow, there was more to this than ending up with a Mars Bar (the ultimate prize) or a Penguin biscuit (the duff end), getting out first meant you were also out first, changed into a boiler suit & outdoor shoes and off into the woods for the afternoon.

The woods were a boy’s dream, 35 acres of deciduous wood, mostly unmanaged. Boys formed gangs by age and form and took over dens from he previous year, building on their structures or starting again from scratch. These dens were castles, fortress, strong points. We had a dry spot, often lined with plastic fertiliser bags with ferns cut and piled onto the roof. We dug what we called trenches, even moats to defend out space. These might fill with water. We collected brambles too and let them dry sharp, then wound them around the boundaries of our territory. There would be a rare raid from one den against another and in the process maybe a few bombs and spears would be taken. Bombs were fern-corms while the spears speak for themselves. We had bows & arrows too. Very effective. Clearly dangerous.

It is into this environment that I must introduce Kathy. Her full name might have been Kathleen. Getting to our den after Sunday lunch one the third week of the Summer term in my third year all seemed untouched until we settled under cover of our shelter to dig into our tuck. Between us we had birthdays on the 3rd, 1st, 11th , 27th & 18th. We shared what we got – I often had the duff Penguin biscuit which also went into the pot so I’d get a couple of Opal Fruits, a piece of Mars Bar and maybe a mouthful of Curly-Wirly or Milky Way. So we’re doing this share out, the boys from Beamish Dorm, Saxby, Hardy, Ramsbotham and Blackett. And we find there is something in our den under a blue fertiliser bag.

We are taken aback by the creature. Too scrawny, scruffy and moth eaten to be human we thought.

We couldn’t keep pets, so we kept her. Some of us had sisters, but this girl was like no sister, like no creature we had come across before. She was a thing of the woods. She said nothing, was easy to please with pieces of food and fresh water and we could keep her warm too with clothes we brought out to her. We’d come out in two pairs of socks and give one to her. We’d put on two tops, and so on. Blankets we pushed out a dormitory window and collected in a wheelbarrow when on stone picking duties – for this we needed to pick up a minor punishment, running in the corridor was the simplest one.

In this way we looked after our girl. We took extra care with den security, the dried brambles for barbed wire and the trenches deep enough, I doubt deeper than 3ft feet, that contained water. We brought her things to do and read. Her favourite was Look in Magazine for the pictures and puzzles.

I got out at night. I couldn’t sleep well anyway. You’re in a dorm of 12 or more boys and there is always someone snoring or wheezing. I’d hold their nose, tickle their feet, put pillows over their heads. We’d target practice the asthmatics with slippers, which I can see now could only have made their dust induced wheeze worse. But after these games I’d not be able to sleep. I’d wandered around the school at night unspotted so taking the next step and leaving the school to go to our den and check on the girl was easy enough, in fact, the chances of me getting caught once I was into the woods, compared to wandering the corridors of school, were greatly reduced.

Radios weren’t allowed by Ramsbotham had made one with a kit which somehow had got around the rules; perhaps the headmaster had never expected anyone to get one of these kits to work. She had that so that she had company, Radio 1 did the trick.

She said very little but understood everything. She did not want us to tell anyone where she was, that was for certain. We stuck to this wish. Without radios (and never listening to anything local in any case) rarely catching TV unless it was deemed educational, like Tomorrow’s World and only getting national ‘quality’ daily papers we weren’t likely to learn if a girl had gone missing.

At home, when my parents were arguing hardest, shouting and even throwing things at each other, I took to getting into the dog basket with our black Labrador Morag. It was a warm, comforting & secure place to be. At school, if I felt lonely that term (because these events only latest one term) I would go out and cuddle up to Kathy. We kept each other warm, it was simple as that. The dorms were unheated. Strategies for keeping warm included wearing tow pairs of pyjamas, keeping our dressing gowns on, curling into a foetal ball, or the only one that worked for me was to lies as stiff and as straight as a knight on a tomb, my legs crossed, one foot keeping the other warm, my arms crossed over my chest. Clambering under a blanket covered in bracken to snuggle in with Kathy worked much better.

I never got caught and I never fell ill. Being asthmatic I might have been better off in the fresh air of the woods in any case.

During the summer term we had sports days, swimming in the outdoor pool, making rafts on the lake and competing around an obstacle course. We had gardens too, some flowers, some vegetable. Just as we would compete to stake out a plot for a den in the woods those who fancied gardening had competed for plots rarely larger than a double bed around the derelict Victorian kitchen garden. The vegetable plot I had produce cress, mustard, radishes and lettuce. I had peas too and cabbage. Carrots and beetroot. A little cash could be earned selling this to the wives of teachers who lived in cottages around the estate. Some of this went to Kathy.

My grandfather, in his late seventies, had been a machine gunner in the first world war. He had often told me how he had made a little bit of fire in a tin can to heat up some water, cutting thin shavings so as not to make any smoke. We produced a little heat for Kathy, taught her how to warm things up without making any smoke. She had to cope for long spells without us. We had lessons all morning, games all afternoon, more classes then dinner and prep. Getting out to her at all could mean an early morning visit in pyjamas … or a visit a night, also in pyjamas.

When she fell ill, we too fell ill, or rather we pretended to fall ill with her symptoms. We lined up to be looked at by the visiting GP and were fobbed up with an Aspirin or a Vick’s rub. Certain that what she had was a bit more serious all we could do was pilfer from the medicine cabinet. There was always someone in sick bay with something so a handful of something more powerful, antibiotics for example, could be had.

By now Kathy had been in our den for two months. As the term progressed our next problem was of course how we’d take care of her over the long summer vacation. None of us lived close, in was 15 miles to Newcastle for me, 25 to Alnwick, 11 to Hexham. Age 9 we couldn’t get chauffeured where we wished either. Perhaps we thought it was just as well that she was ill.

We respected her absolute wish not to be exposed, which is of course our crime, because her illness got worse and as we approached the last week of term she died. We had to do something with her and more than one of us having buried pets large & small in our gardens this is what we decided to do with her. With the gardens a bit of a cemetery in lay out in any case with they two dozen plots we decided to dig one of these up and put her at the bottom.

We chose my brother’s plot without telling him. It was 6ft long and a few feet wife with a little crazy-paving path along the centre, curved at one end and surrounded by rocks. In a way it was like a stained glass window. In a way it was like a grave without a tombstone. The idea was this, we’d all meet out at the garden at around 11.00pm one night and dig out my brother’s garden to the depth of the tallest boy, this would be a little over 5ft. Kathy would go in a school trunk, we all had these from Isaac Walton’s in Newcastle with our names on them. We drew lots for whose trunks to use. Mine was chosen, that had to come out of the attic where a hundred of these things were stacked, empty in former servants quarters, unused rooms above the dormitories.

We went unnoticed and unmissed. The night we were out all th staff, including Matey Ma & Matey Mi and any teacher who might have been on duty, were down by the pool having an end of term party. While an Australian assistant teacher strummed a guitar and sang songs we five boys were out.

We each placed an item special to us or something we thought that was special to Kathy in the trunk with her. I gave her my teddy. Ramsbotham put in his prize butterfly yoyo. Blacket gave up his cricket pads, that somehow looked right, like armour on a medieval knight. Smallwood, who’d got in on the act left six copies of Look and Learn and Saxby put in the radio he’d made from a kit that he’d been given by hid Dad when he’d come third in the school spelling competition.

We covered the box, replaced the plants, watered them and went back to bed.

The growth and splendeaour of my brother’s garden was spooky. Perhaps it was because we’d disturbed the ground and watered the loose soil. Perhaps it was because of out little angle in the ground below, but when it came to judging the garden for the Gardening Cup 1973 it was this garden that won.

And so I’m back thirty five years on. I can locate the site of the garden, just about, on a bank, now neatly grassed over. The boys and girls at the school don’t have gardens anymore, they make shared contributions to planters all around the school buildings. Its not the same. I want to leave a cross. I have one left over from Remembrance Day. I’ve removed the poppy and replaced it with a Breast Cancer yellow daffodil. I don’t expect that my placing this cross in the ground will draw undue attention; it doesn’t.

With time on my hands though I start to think about who this girl really was. There must have been some record of some girl going missing at some stage in the previous years. There was a home up the road for children, she might have run away from there, but surely they would have reported her missing? Of course they would. There had been a gypsy family behind the cricket pavilion who had more children than you could count. I dare say by digging her up DNA samples could be taken and records checked.

What I eventually came up with as a possibility was a girl who had been snatched from her bath in a downstairs bathroom of a cottage in Beadnell in 1966. How the family had disappeared with her no one could understand, yet proof of the abduction, with no child and no body, had dumbfounded the family and the authorities. I can’t imagine it would give any surviving relatives peace of mind to know what had become of the girl and if indeed this was their girl in a trunk five feet under a bank of neatly mowed grass by a swanky swimming pool complex at this posh boys school. The problem I have with it was that is was my sister who was snatched, I was five at the time, and unwell … my mother was on her own in the cottage. Could a boy of five with a fever be expected to recognise a sister who had been three years old when she’d been taken another five years down the line? A girl who didn’t speak, who was too dirty and scared to be recognisable, who behaved like a rabbit with mange yet was certain on one thing that we boys respected absolutely – she did not want anyone at all to know where she was.

The Contents of my Brain – A screenplay

‘The Contents of My Brain’

FADE IN:

I/E. AN OLD CAR/A BUSY MAIN ROAD – NIGHT

JAKE (early twenties) is driving an old banger along a busy main road. POPPY (early twenties) in a pea-green coat and jeans is at his side. There is light rain.

POPPY

Bacon.

JAKE smiles. This is a familiar game. There is a sexual overtone in every word they speak.

JAKE

Eggs.

POPPY

Mine.

JAKE

Wine.

POPPY

Drink.

JAKE

Swallow.

POPPY

Video.

JAKE

Photographs.

POPPY

Album.

JAKE

Store.

This gives POPPY an idea. She stops the game to try to get something out of her jeans pocket. JAKE takes his eyes off the road.

POPPY

Diary.

JAKE

Scrapbook.

POPPY

Two words!

JAKE

Not so.

POPPY struggles to remove something from her trouser pocket. JAKE tries to give a hand as he drives. Scene set to Public Image Ltd ‘This is Not a Love Song.’ JAKE does his best, the car jerks from side to side on this fast main road. JAKE’s fingers get stuck in POPPY’s jean pocket. He gives up. POPPY has a go. Her jeans are tight. Her seatbelt is getting in the way. POPPY unbuckles the seatbelt, raises her hips, gets a hand into the pocket of these ultra-tight jeans and pulls out some pieces of paper.

JAKE glances at what POPPY has found, then gets his eyes back on the road ahead. JAKE comes up behind a bus; there’s little chance of overtaking. POPPY puts the overhead light on and then carefully sorts out the scraps of paper she has found: chewing gum wrappers, receipts, cheque book payment slip … She smooths each one of them out. JAKE glances at what she’s up to. ‘Bonkers.’ We read on his face.

JAKE is distracted by what is going on in the bus. They must be rugby players (all early twenties) in the bus coming back from a game. Some of the young men in the back of the bus make crude jerking actions with their hands. One holds up a rugby ball and uses his tongue to play with its tip before throwing it down the bus. The bus sways left to right as if the driver has just been distracted. JAKE backs off.

POPPY leans into the foot-well and takes from her bag a hard-back note book and pen. She carefully places each scrap of paper she has sorted/collected between the pages of the notebook/diary and writes a note to go with it. JAKE worries about her but it doesn’t stop him taking his right hand from the steering wheel to reach into the side of the driver’s door to get an old parking ticket. POPPY is grateful when he hands it to her and she sees what it is. She finds a place for it in her note book and jots something down to go with it. It makes her giggle. JAKE wonders what her memory could be. They exchange a glance. These too are close and their relationship is fresh and loving.

Then a driver comes up hard behind JAKE and flashes his lights. It’s ANDY (early twenties) in a black Mercedes soft-top. JAKE is distracted by the antics in the back of the bus ahead as the rugby ball makes its return, hitting the window in the back of the bus and resulting in a scramble over the back seats. The car behind then makes a move to overtake, thinks twice and drops back.

A mobile phone rings. JAKE wants to take it. POPPY’s expression shows that she disapproves of JAKE’s taste in ringtones. POPPY grabs JAKE’s mobile instead. ‘Not in the car’ she tut-tuts. It is a text. She thumbs a quick reply. She then starts to thumb through the ring-tones. These irritate JAKE. Snapping, JAKE takes the mobile off POPPY, and turns it off. Annoyed at this, POPPY takes the phone and flings it out of the car window. JAKE is startled by this – their first row (if we can tell.)

At this point the Mercedes tries to overtake again. As it pulls out to overtake the Mercedes clips the rear of JAKE’s car. JAKE jerks the steering-wheel over to the left and bounces over the kerb. With a car coming in the opposite direction the Mercedes has to swerve too. Both cars skid over the grass verge. Jake finds a stonewall fast approaching. POPPY and JAKE brace themselves as the car smashes into the wall and jolts to a crunching halt. The Mercedes hits the wall too.

JAKE, held in place by his seat-belt, is dazed and cut. He sees people running towards him out of the corner of his eyes. He looks over at POPPY. She’s not there. The windscreen is smashed. JAKE pulls himself from the car.

The Mercedes is a right-off, the driver dead. JAKE looks for Poppy. He looks along the stonewall, then leans over it. There she is. It doesn’t look good. JAKE can’t see properly, he is suffering from concussion. Blood runs into his eyes. He sits down against the wall. Looking up he sees a stampede of rugby players coming his way – he doesn’t know if they are friend or foe – but no longer cares. JAKE passes out.

CUT TO:

I/E. AMBULANCE TRAFFIC ACCIDENT – MOMENTS LATER

JAKE sits with a blanket over his shoulders in the back of an ambulance. Another police car arrives. A POLICEMAN takes pictures of the approach to the accident. A FIREMAN records video of the rescue. FIRE CREWS tackle the burning car while a team of a dozen work on POPPY. She is put onto a stretcher and strapped in place. Several of the RUGBY PLAYERS help lift POPPY over the stonewall. The man in the Mercedes looks dead. There are two people, both oddballs in their way, taking particular interest in him, DR MUNROE and PROF DICKINSON. Shaking their heads, they right him off and go over to the other victim. There’s life still in Poppy. Straps hold her in place. JAKE looks around as someone takes his picture. The flash angers him and he swipes at them with a hand. It hurts to move.

Looking around he picks out people who are morbidly attracted to what is going on – not just looking but taking images of the activity, pics and video clips, with mobile phones, hand held devices and cameras. JAKE is startled to see a YOUNG WOMAN in the crowd who from behind could be POPPY. He watches her walk off down the road and feels the urge to follow. A VIDEO JOURNALIST approaches him.

VIDEO JOURNALIST

Anyone dead?

JAKE is mortified. A TRAFFIC COP pushes the BUSY-BODIES away. A PARAMEDIC gets in with JAKE, another closes the rear of the ambulance and it drives off. Meanwhile, DR MUNROE and PROF DICKINSON (sixties or older), convinced there is hope to save POPPY call over young colleagues HILLARY and BEN (early twenties) to take a close look at POPPY. While the other emergency teams have a conventional array of costumes and kit according to their roles: fire service, police service, ambulance service. These two, HILLARY and BEN, are hi-tech and only interested in POPPY’s skull and its contents. Probes/monitors employed cause screens to light up in a near-by van kitted out like a TV Outside Broadcast Unit. This is no TV unit though, the images they gather are all related to medicine/neurology – its as if they are operating a portable CT scanner looking for brain activity.

CUT TO:

NEWS BULLETIN

Evening News. Various media outlets, TV and broadband, have a frenzy over the images of a nasty pile up.

TV ANCHOR

Death on the roads. Expect adult language and scenes that may distress some viewers from the start.

CUT TO: JAKE in the back of an ambulance.

JAKE

(Distressed. To himself)

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

We see the two cars involved. We see the dead and injured: one male fatality, one female seriously injured.

PRESENTER (V.O.)

One dead, the other fighting for her life.

There’s a picture of ANDY, then POPPY as she is stretchered away.

PRESENTER (CONT’D)

A notorious spot on the A66 claims its third victim this year. The driver of the vehicle which caused the accident had this to say.

JAKE

(To the camera crew)

Fuck off!

CUT TO:

INT. INTENSIVE CARE UNIT – NIGHT

POPPY is the centre of attention. Efforts are made to stabilise her condition by doctors/nurses. This is no normal intensive care room. One wall is a bank of mirrors. JAKE, medicated, an arm in a sling, a bandage around his head, approaches.

NURSE

Are you family?

JAKE

?

The NURSE won’t let him in.

NURSE

Only family.

JAKE

I was driving.

NURSE

You’re the one who did this?

JAKE

I’m her boyfriend.

JAKE is kept out of the room. The oddball couple, DR MUNROE and PROF DICKINSON enter. JAKE watches as PROF DICKINSON and DR MUNROE speak to the NURSE. A moment later PROF DICKINSON leaves and DR MUNROE motions to JAKE to enter.

PROF DICKINSON (V.O)

(Through a speaker)

We’re ready in here.

JAKE is hesitant. DR MUNROE & PROF DICKINSON are up to something and he doesn’t know what. DR MUNROE takes JAKE over to POPPY’s side. The NURSE leaves. All members of the medical team step away from the body. POPPY looks terrible. A machine like a CT scanner, a large doughnut of technology, sits behind her head. JAKE steps forward. It is like stepping under a spot light. ‘Where is this place?’ We see written on his face. JAKE puts his fingers on POPPY’s hand.

DR MUNROE

She’s in a coma.

JAKE leans over. He goes up close. He kisses her.

CUT TO:

INT. VIEWING ROOM – NIGHT

A team of specialists, more like a busy live news room, watch a bank of monitors that are like tiles filling a dome like room. Every person in the room gives the impression that they are passionately and intellectually gripped by what is going on. They work in teams or solo, tweaking monitors, adjusting screens, on keyboards, behind desks wiring in new hard drives. We pick out three members of the team, PROF DICKINSON, the team leader and the two youngest team members who work together at one of the desks, HILLARY and BEN. They have drawn a blank … within every set of two or three screens the ‘viewing panel’ is blank. PROF DICKINSON looks up at a bank of monitors. As JAKE kisses POPPY several screens light up: 3D mind maps complementing images that we just about recognise as being of JAKE. A couple of technicians (HILLARY & BEN) go to work on the images. Images of the 3D mind map are grabbed from various sources and assembled. Other members of the ‘team’ enter the room to contribute to the work. Fed back to the patient the image of JAKE changes hue and becomes sharper. PROF DICKINSON is impressed. He leans over to a microphone and speaks to the Intensive Care room.

PROF DICKINSON

We’ve got something.

CUT TO:

INT. INTENSIVE CARE – NIGHT

JAKE is invited to sit next to POPPY. As he does so JOANNA (fifties) enters followed by CLIVE (fifties). JOANNA is furious.

JOANNA

He shouldn’t be here.

(Indicating JAKE)

He did this.

JOANNA pulls JAKE’s hand from POPPY and tries to pull him out of the room.

JAKE

I did nothing of the sort.

JOANNA

You should not be allowed to drive.

JAKE

It wasn’t me.

JOANNA

I could see this coming.

JAKE

Meaning?

A HOSPITAL PORTER helps to lead JAKE from the room. CLIVE hangs back, letting JOANNA take the lead.

JOANNA

Meaning young male drivers like you should be banned from the road.

JAKE

Try saying that to the person who clipped the back of the car as they tried to overtake.

JOANNA won’t listen. She has made up her mind that JAKE is to blame.

CUT TO:

INT. VIEWING ROOM – NIGHT

PROF DICKINSON expresses dismay as the image of JAKE they have ‘coming’ from POPPY begins to bleach away as the argument next door in the Intensive Care Unit gets out of hand. The images on monitors of neuronal connections break up.

PROF DICKINSON

Get her out of there.

CUT TO:

INT. INTENSIVE CARE – NIGHT

DR MUNROE intercedes.

DR MUNROE

It was my idea.

JOANNA backs away from him.

JOANNA

You can’t make me leave. I’m her mother.

JOANNA slaps DR MUNROE’s hands away. POPPY goes into a cardiac arrest. The medical team rush back in. JAKE and JOANNA are ushered out of the room. The medical team have work to do if they are to save Poppy.

CUT TO:

INT. VIEWING ROOM – NIGHT

PROF DICKINSON, hearing all this and seeing it through the two way mirror is frustrated as sharp bright flashes burst onto the various monitors. HILLARY and BEN work on the neuronal connections to try and stabilise the image they have of Jake. All the screens go blank.

CUT TO:

INT. FARMHOUSE POPPY’S ROOM – NIGHT

A young woman/girl, mid teens, BETH sits on a single bed going through a hardback diary. Her actions are suspicions – she doesn’t belong her. She’s on edge. The bedroom is heaped to the ceiling with ‘stuff.’ Books, newspapers, cardboard boxes – the person whose room this is hoards things. BETH is startled by headlights on the drive. BETH slips all the inserts back into the diary, opens a desk drawer, pushes it under some papers and locks the drawer and hides the key under a collection of thimbles on a shelf. BETH leaves the bedroom as the door opens downstairs.

CUT TO:

INT. FARMHOUSE, FRONT LOBBY – NIGHT

CLIVE helps JOANNA off with her coat. They look haggard.

BETH

She’s alright?

CLIVE and JOANNA are too upset to say anything. BETH goes over to them for a family hug. The news is bad.

CUT TO:

I/E. DAY CAR/A BUSY MAIN ROAD – DAY

A taxi pulls over on the kerb. JAKE, pale, still bruised and cut gets out. He watches the busy main road as cars race passed. He spots people on mobile phones. He spots people eating sandwiches as they drive, a woman doing her lipstick as she drives. Up the road, Police accident scene tape marks the spot where the accident occurred. The wall is down. JAKE goes back up the road looking for something – the mobile phone Poppy threw from the car.

A police vehicle arrives and pulls up on the kerb by the stonewall. A POLICEMAN takes a portable roadside sign from the boot of the vehicle, marks it up with a fat felt pen and places it by the road where it can be spotted by passing traffic. “Fatal Accident. Wednesday 08/03/07 at 5.37 p.m. Any information contact Northumbria Police 0870 0191 999”

JAKE wanders over to the road-side shrine. There are bouquets of flowers left to ‘Andy.’ JAKE is so angry that he treads the flowers into the ground.

WPC

This yours?

JAKE turns to find a WPC watching him. She has his mobile phone.

CUT TO:

NEWS BULLETINS

Day Time TV. The accident scene, day light. Some flowers at a road-side shrine. We see photographs of JAKE and POPPY, and video footage of the young man from the Mercedes – Andy. Excited presenters, quick cuts, even a cut for children’s television. Andy, the dead one, gets the most attention.

CHILDREN’S TV PRESENTER

Promising fly-half Andrew Simpson lost his life in this tragic accident.

CUT TO: INTERVIEW with JOANNA by the stonewall.

JOANNA

The driver of the car my daughter was in should be locked up – he was using his mobile phone.

CUT TO:

INT. INTENSIVE CARE UNIT – DAY

POPPY is barely alive. Various pieces of medical technology are attached to her body and brain. Additional monitors are brought in to monitor brain activity. POPPY is watched over by a team of medical staff, especially DR MUNROE. JOANNA sits down at her side. CLIVE is here and so is BETH.

BETH

There’s nothing there?

DR MUNROE

She might recognise your voice – keep talking.

CLIVE

Why shouldn’t Poppy recognise her sister’s voice?

DR MUNROE

She’s in a light coma.

NURSE

The bloods are back.

The NURSE hands DR MUNROE a set of records that get his attention.

JOANNA

But she isn’t.

CLIVE

No more guinea-pig – rabbits, dog-sheep antics here. If there’s something you can do – get it right.

CUT TO:

INT. VIEWING ROOM – DAY

Efforts in the viewing room to recover or capture a ‘memory’ from Poppy come to nothing.

PROF DICKINSON

Nothing.

HILLARY tries to stop her tears. BEN comforts her.

BEN

If there’s nothing there – there’s nothing we can do.

HILLARY

Isn’t that our job? To find something?

BEN

She’s shutting her sister out.

HILLARY

Where’s the boyfriend gone? We had a response from him.

CUT TO:

INT. POLICE INTERVIEW ROOM – DAY

JAKE sits with the WPC and a PC. The WPC puts a cassette in the dual-cassette player and hits record.

WPC

Interview commenced at 15.27. Present. WPC Simpson, PC DODD and Jake Jeffries. This call you took.

JAKE

It was a text. I didn’t take it.

WPC

But it was on your phone.

JAKE

Poppy took the call. She wouldn’t let me. I was driving wasn’t I?

WPC

Does she always take your calls?

JAKE

Did this time.

WPC

Did you know who was calling?

JAKE

I do now.

WPC

Did Poppy throw your mobile phone out of the car?

JAKE

Ask her.

CUT TO:

INT. DR MUNROE’S CAR – DAY

PROF DICKINSON and DR MUNROE go together. Dr MUNROE drives.

PROF DICKINSON

We’ve got nine months, maybe a year.

DR MUNROE

If her parents approve.

PROF DICKINSON

We can get a court order if they don’t. There’s more than one life here.

DR MUNROE

Is it life?

PROF DICKINSON

There’s a debate.

DR MUNROE

Do we keep looking?

PROF DICKINSON

Our best hope will always be to take what there is.

DR MUNROE

And if there isn’t anything?

DR MUNROE takes out a coin. (DESPITE DRIVING).

DR MUNROE (CONT’D)

Tails we erase. Heads we … keeping looking.

DR MUNROE flips the coin.

CUT TO:

INT. FARMHOUSE, POPPY’S ROOM – DAY

CLIVE looks around. Sequence set to Elton John & Bernie Taupin’s ‘Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word.’ The bedroom looks cluttered. CLIVE looks in the drawers and finds one locked – where Poppy keeps her diaries. He looks around for a key but can’t see one. CLIVE keeps looking – not rummaging, but carefully studying what is in his daughter’s bedroom. It’s as if he has never taken any notice before – now he does. He feels her loss, yet as he goes through her things he feels he is coming to understand her too.

CUT TO:

INT. FARMHOUSE, KITCHEN – DAY

JOANNA indicates that DR MUNROE & PROF DICKINSON should come in. DR MUNROE takes out the papers. JOANNA looks through them. BETH watches from the other side of the room.

JOANNA

It sounds like a hair brained scheme to me.

BETH

Do I get a say?

The ‘adults’ look around. They are unanimous – ‘no.’

BETH (CONT’D)

Why not? She’s my sister.

CLIVE joins them.

PROF DICKINSON

Either we’ll find a stable memory, map it, then use this to stimulate other related memories … and build from there … or not.

BETH

I’m more related to her than anyone else!

The ‘adults’ look around. Beth should shut up is the expression on their faces.

DR MUNROE

Or we’ll ensure that her mind is clear … that we have nothing to go on.

PROF DICKINSON

And we’ll restore what she requires from another source.

BETH

You mean ‘replace.’

All FOUR adults turn to BETH. The expression on their faces is ‘who asked you?’

BETH (CONT’D)

I’d not let you do it to me.

JOANNA

We’re not talking about you.

BETH

What would Poppy want? I don’t think she’d want anyone messing about with the contents of her brain.

CUT TO:

INT. INTENSIVE CARE UNIT – DAY

JAKE sits close to POPPY. His head is so close to hers they could be in bed together.

JAKE

Remember when we first slept together? No sex, just slept. It was a single bed. That was the most exciting thing we’d ever done. Falling asleep together side by side.

CUT TO:

INT. VIEWING ROOM – DAY

BETH and HILLARY are working … so are a few technicians. Both are watching this exchange from various angles courtesy of cameras and monitors.

BEN

They should put this on television.

HILLARY

Shut up.

BEN checks for brain activity. Nothing.

CUT TO:

INT. FARMHOUSE, KITCHEN – DAY

PROF DICKINSON

It’s like this.

PROF DICKINSON takes from a kitchen cabinet three glasses which he fills with water. He then takes from Dr Munroe’s jacket pocket a fountain pen (with a familiarity that hints at their being personally close). PROF DICKINSON puts a few drops of ink into the first glass.

PROF DICKINSON (CONT’D)

A functioning brain acquires millions of pieces of information that make up trillions of connections.

He goes to an empty glass.

PROF DICKINSON (CONT’D)

With Poppy, all we have … regretfully … is this.

PROF DICKINSON puts the tiniest drop of ink into the glass of water. The ink fans out into a milky, inky spiral.

DR MUNROE

If we’re trying to see, then capture the complex pattern of active neurons and synapses.

PROF DICKINSON

To read it. Then match it. Or see it.

DR MUNROE

Then we need more to go on.

CUT TO:

INT. INTENSIVE CARE UNIT – NIGHT

JAKE continues his vigil by his girlfriend’s side. He whispers into POPPY’s ear.

JAKE

Eggs. [BEAT] Fertile. [BEAT] Baby. [BEAT] Us. [BEAT] Eggs. [BEAT] Bacon.

CUT TO:

INT. VIEWING ROOM – DAY

HILLARY and BEN watch.

HILLARY

Has he been told?

BEN shakes his head.

HILLARY (CONT’D)

Anything?

BEN

Not a sausage.

CUT TO:

INT. FARMHOUSE, KITCHEN – DAY

PROF DICKINSON squirts ink into the glass of water. BETH, cynical YR9 understands the analogy. Her parents struggle with it.

PROF DICKINSON

From a memory.

DR MUNROE

Or set of memories.

PROF DICKINSON

We hope to restore everything.

DR MUNROE

The alternative … we drain her brain.

BETH steps over to the glasses.

PROF DICKINSON

And use the brain map of another person to restore functionality.

BETH picks up the glass with the ink drop and the glass with lots of ink in it and pour both into the clear glass of water which overflows.

BETH

Result. A mess. Result. A guinea-pig that thinks it’s a rabbit. Or a dog that thinks it is a sheep.

BETH goes upstairs to her room.

CUT TO:

INT. SOLICITOR’S OFFICE – DAY

JAKE sits opposite a man in a suit, his SOLICITOR.

SOLICITOR

You could be charged with the greater offence of ‘death by reckless driving.’

JAKE

What about the bus? Hitting its brakes like that. Or this guy Andy in the car behind flashing his lights?

SOLCIITOR

Andrew Simpson?

JAKE

He clipped me as he tried to overtake.

SOLICITOR

Is there anything else I should know?

JAKE

Such as?

SOLICITOR

The rivalry between you two?

JAKE

I didn’t know him.

The SOLICITOR finds this hard to believe.

CUT TO:

INT. FARMHOUSE, POPPY’S BEDROOM – DAY

BETH, in school uniform, sits on a single bed with an A4, hardback notebook – Poppy’s Diary. BETH is tearful as she looks through the pages. The room is piled high with stuff. This is a room that belongs to someone who hoards, who collects. There is an array of boxes, small/large, cardboard/utility, stacked or placed around the floor.

BETH turns to the last written up page of Poppy’s diary. As she reads the last entry BETH is upset by the blank pages that follow. BETH is joined by a friend, ABI. Similar age. Also in school uniform.

ABI

Now what do we do?

BETH

We’ll make it up.

Beth takes Poppy’s diary through to her bedroom. ABI follows.

CUT TO:

INT. UNIVERSITY ROOM – NIGHT

JAKE cuts a sad figure. He’s in a bathrobe, at his desk, in front of a laptop, with a can of beer, clicking through online porn. As he clicks through webpage after webpage of scantily clad young woman we see a pattern forming: they are young woman who resemble POPPY – age, hair colour and cut, body size/weight. JAKE finds what he is looking for – a young woman who at a glance could pass for Poppy. He gets out his wallet, removes his credit card and signs up. A moment later the figure in the window waves. There is a passable likeness. They exchange messages. This’ll do for JAKE.

CUT TO:

INT. FARMHOUSE, BETH’S ROOM – NIGHT

The last entry of Poppy’s handwritten diary fills a reverse page – the facing page is blank. In amongst the text there is a passport photograph of a dark haired young man, this is ‘Andy’, the facing page is blank. BETH opens a webpage where there is another picture of Andy. BETH wonders what to write next – she’s at the keyboard.

ABI

How about, “Met dark haired Andy in the college bar and went for a ride. We had sex outdoors in the woods behind the Race Course.”

BETH

Do you mind. She is my sister. They’d have come back to his parent’s place. He lives just down the road.

BETH leans over to pull back the curtains and points down the road.

BETH (CONT’D)

That one on the corner.

ABI

What a letch.

BETH

Never did anything with him. Poppy hated him. She called Andy the “stinky perv.” Andy kept coming round here until he got the message.

ABI

?

BETH

She told him to ‘F’ off.

ABI

What about we say. “Had sex in the car.”

BETH

?

ABI

Affairs are good. That’s what people want to read.

BETH

?

ABI

We’re always juicing it up. Most of what she puts is so boring.

BETH

(persuaded)

“In the car?”

ABI

“In a car wash.”

BETH

“With the roof down.”

The girls agree on this. BETH types into the computer keyboard and the words come up in a dialogue box in Poppy’s blog ‘The Contents of My Brain.’

ABI

On “Premium Wash!”

The girls have fits of giggles over this.

BETH

Tesco’s?

ABI

Sainsbury’s.

BETH writes.

BETH

“It only took a few minutes. As the cycle began we unbuckled our seat-belts and climbed … ”

ABI

“Slid …”

BETH

“And slid… into the back of the car for an amazing ride.”

ABI

“Wet ride”

BETH

“Sticky ride?”

“And Bumpy” … a “bumpy and sticky ride!”

The girls crease themselves with laughter as they post the entry into Poppy’s Blog ‘The Contents of My Brain.’ A moment later they see that the STATS GRAPHIC giving the number of ‘visitors’ reading, commenting and revealing their presence is rising.

BETH

Look … we’re getting them back.

ABI/BETH

Suckers!!!

CUT TO:

I/E. JAKE’S CAR/A BUSY MAIN ROAD – DAY

People are working on the collapsed stonewall where the accident occurred. CONTRACTOR 1 knocks in a fence post while CONTRACTOR 2 attaches wire netting to put in place across the gap made by the collapsed wall. A hire car approaches and parks up at the accident spot. JAKE gets out and goes over to the spot where he thinks POPPY was found. The grass is chewed up where the two cars skidded over its surface, the grass is scorched where the cars burnt out and the stonewall where the cars hit lies toppled over. JAKE ignores the shrine. Cards, cans, pictures, a rugby ball and flowers. On the other side of the wall there’s a deciduous wood, and a stream. It is in sharp contrast to the busy road. JAKE looks along the stream to see where it goes. In the distance JAKE spots someone, a YOUNG WOMAN watching him. She steps out of sight. JAKE could swear it was Poppy, but that would be ridiculous. He runs along the side of the wall looking into the woods. He sees her again. This time he scrambles over the wall. Looking up again he finds she has gone. Ridiculous.

CUT TO:

INT. INTENSIVE CARE UNIT – DAY

Every piece of medical technology imaginable is attached to POPPY’s body and brain. Her skull bristles with pins and lines. A bank of monitors cover brain activity from every angle. Cables, like umbilical chords connect the Intensive Care Unit to the Viewing Room behind the two-way mirror. POPPY is watched over by a team of medical staff, especially DR MUNROE. BETH is at her side.

BETH

(Whispering to her sister)

I’m keeping you alive.

POPPY goes into cardiac arrest. Alarms sound. A medical team rush in. BETH is bundled out. She doesn’t understand how she could have done anything wrong.

CUT TO:

EXT. HOSPITAL – DAY

JOANNA, like several others at the hospital entrance, are using mobile phones.

JOANNA

You’re my local MP. You have to do something. A £60 fine and three points for using a mobile phone while driving is crap.

BETH comes looking for her mother.

JOANNA (CONT’D)

Sorry. But it is.

Seeing someone on a mobile as they leave the hospital car park JOANNA runs over and thumps on the window.

CUT TO:

INT. INTENSIVE CARE – DAY

TWO PEOPLE enter, police. WPC and PC. The WPC is more senior. They wait discretely in the corner of the room. All this is being watched from the other side of a two way mirror. CLIVE looks over. He joins them.

WPC

Your daughter was the last one to use the phone. She took the call. Not Jake.

CLIVE

How do you know?

WPC

She told a mutual friend. To ‘f’ off.

CLIVE

Who was it?

The WPC won’t say.

CLIVE (CONT’D)

Was it reckless driving?

WPC

Even if we can prove that … which isn’t currently the case. He hadn’t been drinking, he wasn’t on his mobile.

CLIVE

Was he to blame?

PC

Unless your daughter dies it can’t be the more severe charge of death by reckless driving.

WPC

She wasn’t wearing her seat-belt. Whose fault was that?

PROF DICKINSON enters the intensive care room.

PROF DICKINSON

We’re trying to get a clearer picture.

CUT TO:

INT. VIEWING ROOM – DAY

Several technicians look over from their desks to listen into the exchange in the intensive care room. PROF DICKINSON goes over to HILLARY and BEN.

PROF DICKINSON

Who made that last call? Find out!

HILLARY and BEN get up to leave.

BEN

Picture? Voice?

HILLARY

Might it work?

PROF DICKINSON

We’re looking for a trigger. Something that could help restore Poppy’s memory. It might be: a piece of music, a smell – scent, bath soap – who knows? The touch of something.

HILLARY and BEN are prepared to take up the challenge – they leave.

CUT TO:

I.E. INTENSIVE CARE UNIT – DAY

HILLARY & BEN leave.

BEN

We have to find out everything we can about her.

His car or her motorbike? It’s a nice day thinks BEN, he’ll go for the motorbike and takes the helmet offered to him by HILLARY.

HILLARY

We need to know her inside out.

CUT TO:

INT. FARMHOUSE, BETH’S BEDROOM – DAY

BETH sits at a desktop. She types with extraordinary dexterity. We see that she is online and that she is writing, creating & maintaining an online journal featuring Poppy called ‘The Contents of My Brain.’ Messages grab Beth’s attention. BETH raises her left foot so that it is under her desk light. ABI takes a picture of BETH’s painted toes. A moment later she uploads the image.

BETH

(Reading it out as she types)

This morning the nurse painted my toe nails. What do you think?

ABI and BETH split their sides when a ‘Sad Middle Aged Man’ pops up in a window and gives a wave.

CUT TO:

INT. JAKE’S CAR – DAY

The interior of the car is steamed up. JAKE is cuddled up under a coat in the back. He looks scruffy and unkempt. A young woman, ANGELA, taps at the window.

ANGELA

JAKE! JAKE!

JAKE wakes with a jolt. He feels groggy. There is a crick in his neck. He rubs away the condensation with his elbow. He knows ANGELA. JAKE eases himself forwards, unlocks the car door and pushes it open.

ANGELA (CONT’D)

Are you alright?

JAKE isn’t okay. He feels drugged, drained, and awful. But that wasn’t what she meant. Angela can see that JAKE looks dreadful.

ANGELA (CONT’D)

Don’t do anything stupid.

JAKE

Something stupid? Mmm. I hadn’t thought of anything stupid to do until now, but … Let me think.

JAKE looks away from ANGELA, down the road. There are several young people by the stone wall, some hold bouquets of flowers, some are reading the messages left by well wishers. JAKE recognises some of them.

ANGELA

Come over and say ‘hi.’

JAKE doesn’t get it.

CUT TO:

INT. INTENSIVE CARE/VIEWING ROOM – DAY

An iron lung is brought in to help Poppy breath. CLIVE is heartbroken at this. He understands the implications.

DR MUNROE

She can’t breath on her own.

CLIVE

Have you found anything? Any brain activity?

DR MUNROE shakes his head.

DR MUNROE

It’s like trying to take a photograph of a landmark in fog. We know it’s there, but we can’t see it. If we can’t see it, neither can she.

CUT TO:

INT. NEWSPAPER OFFICE – DAY

JOANNA is with a REPORTER and advertising sales person (ASP). She has a collection of photographs to show them of people on the phone, eating or doing their lipstick.

JOANNA

Look at these. They should be named and shamed. I’ve got their registration numbers …

The REPORTER and ASP share a glance. They think this woman is bonkers.

REPORTER

Next thing you’ll want to ban talking while driving.

JOANNA

Yes. ‘No talking to the driver while the vehicle is in motion.’ As they have on buses.

REPORTER

You’re serious?

JOANNA

Here’s my advertisement.

JOANNA hands an ad: picture, headline and copy, to the ASP.

JOANNA (CONT’D)

I believe you’ll write some copy if I place a quarter page advert?

The REPORTER and ASP of this local paper can’t argue with that. They’ll take her money, the ad and the copy.

CUT TO:

INT. JAKE’S CAR – NIGHT

JAKE is online. He too keeps a blog. Set to Nickleback’s ‘How You Remind Me.’ We feature elements of JAKE’s website/BLOG or online journal/diary. It is massive. The profile page in this generic, hosted site indicates that there are over 7,000 pages, over 3 million words and 1,000 pics and/or clips. It appears to be a living thing, always busy, being worked on an revised by others. His affiliated ‘Buddies’ top 300. The site is titled ‘My Mind Bursts.’

A webcam, or ‘car cam’ picks out JAKE in his car. The time is approaching 5.30 p.m.

CUT TO:

EXT. STONEWALL/BUSY ROAD – DAY

VARIOUS PEOPLE are at the crash site leaving cards and reading messages. JAKE recognises some of the people. He goes over and speaks to a young woman, ANGELA. JAKE looks at a photograph of ‘ANDY.’

JAKE

Was that the wanker?

Some of the people don’t like JAKE’s language.

JAKE (CONT’D)

You know what happened?

ANGELA

Not really.

JAKE

He rammed me up the arse. His car. He was on my tail.

ANGELA

Does it matter now?

JAKE

Yes, because he’s getting all the attention and I’m getting all the blame. Meanwhile, what about Poppy? Does anyone remember her?

JAKE sees the College Photograph. Four rows. 40+ figures in academic dress. He picks it up. He picks himself out. He spots Poppy. We spot Angela.

ANGELA

We can hardly leave flowers for Poppy. She isn’t dead.

Angela points out Andy on the College Photo.

ANGELA (CONT’D)

That’s Andy.

JAKE shakes his head.

JAKE

Didn’t know him. Did you? Looks a twat to me.

One of the male ‘mourners’ at the roadside shrine hears this and raises a fist as if he’ll give JAKE one if he doesn’t shut up.

ANGELA

Played rugby.

JAKE

A rugger bugger then.

The MALE MOURNER has had enough and lays into JAKE. There’s a scuffle/fight.

CUT TO:

INT. INTENSIVE CARE – NIGHT

JOANNA and CLIVE are joined by DR MUNROE and PROF DICKINSON. Some difficult decisions have to be taken.

DR MUNROE

She’s in a permanent vegetative state.

JOANNA

She’s alive. Isn’t she?

DR MUNROE

She could be.

JOANNA

?

DR MUNROE

Let’s talk with my colleague.

CUT TO:

INT. JAKE’S CAR/STONE WALL – NIGHT

JAKE can see the stonewall where he crashed. It’s as if everything has gone into extreme slow motion.

CUT TO:

INT. INTENSIVE CARE ROOM – NIGHT

The monitors show that there is no brain activity coming from POPPY.

JOANNA

Is there any brain activity?

PROF DICKINSON

We can’t guarantee that we’ll achieve anything.

CUT TO:

INT. JAKE’S CAR/A BUSY MAIN ROAD – NIGHT

JAKE’s car crumples in extreme slow motion as it hits the exact spot where there is a roadside shrine to Andy. POPPY holds up a College Photo. POPPY thrusts it in front of JAKE’s nose to get his attention. She points at a figure in the picture.

POPPY

What about Katie? She’d be good on the rebound.

JAKE can’t help but be preoccupied with the slow-mo crashing car in which they are sitting. He continues to exist in real time, while events around him are grinding to a halt.

POPPY (CONT’D)

Or Sally. She might be good for you. She is a nurse. You’re going to be injured of course. Worse than last time. Broken legs, gashes to the face.

POPPY takes an interest in the car as pieces of glass break from the vehicle and fly in JAKE’S direction. There’s something familiar about the look and feel of all of this – as if JAKE is floating in zero gravity.

POPPY (CONT’D)

It’s the air-bag that saves you. Hire car. You forgot about that.

JAKE glances at the stonewall as it approaches in slow motion and the bonnet as it crumples. He has time to brace himself. POPPY takes little notice of the crash occurring.

POPPY (CONT’D)

Or can I interest you in a little Julie?

JAKE looks at the College Photo. Julie is short. That was a cruel jibe. POPPY points at another face.

POPPY (CONT’D)

Take Fiona. She’ll be faithful. Ends up owning a chain of estate agents. A bit predictable. You end up having an affair with…. Katie.

JAKE despises POPPY’s presence. How could she come here and wreck his death? The air-bag deploys. In slow-mo it pops out of the central hub of the steering-wheel like time-lapse photography of a mushroom growing.

POPPY (CONT’D)

You got on great with Elizabeth when you were kids. Remember playing in the sand dunes when you were six? Like brother and sister you two. Can’t have kids though. If you want kids it has to be Jessica.

JAKE looks at the stone wall. The car appears to be moving, but is going nowhere. It’s as if it is caught between two phases, caught on pause in an old video-player with single heads.

POPPY (CONT’D)

Forget Angela…. you know she tried to kiss me? She tried to get off with your sister as well.

JAKE braces himself as a crack appears in the windscreen. He grabs for his seat belt but it won’t click into place right away.

POPPY (CONT’D)

Kathy sends her love by the way.

CUT TO:

INT.NIGHT. INT.DAY.INTENSIVE CARE/VIEWING ROOM

JOANNA sits by her daughter. DR MUNROE checks POPPY’s condition. PROF DICKINSON goes through to the viewing room.

JOANNA

She was one of the most popular in her year group. They don’t even come and see her.

CUT TO:

INT. JAKE’S CAR/BUSY ROAD – NIGHT

JAKE turns to face POPPY on hearing this name.

POPPY

She could have done this. But I was on your mind, so we thought it would be easier coming from me.

JAKE gets the seatbelt clicked into place then shields his eyes from slowly approaching shards of glass. POPPY keeps on about the College Photograph. She holds up the picture in front of JAKE to point at another girl.

POPPY (CONT’D)

Beverly? Don’t bother. She’s unfaithful. Ends up with your neighbour in Ponteland. Mary-Jayne deserves better than you. She does well for herself too. After she leaves you. Hannah’ll have you back, but she has high expectations.

JAKE lowers his hands. The shards of glass from the broken windscreen move so slowly through the air that he can turn his face away from them with ease. POPPY reaches over and gives a particularly nasty shard of glass a flick with her fingers – as if in Zero Gravity, the shard spins away from JAKE’s left eye. JAKE tries wrapping his head in his arms and ducking into a foetal position.

POPPY (CONT’D)

I know about your fling with Steph.

This gets JAKE’S attention. He looks over to POPPY.

POPPY (CONT’D)

I did something similar with Andy. Was I getting my own back? Or hedging my bets? A bit of both I suppose. Give Lucinda a go please. Please. Please.

JAKE finds the impact is yet to touch him and he finds he can move about freely for now. POPPY is determined to get through EVERYONE and all the possibilities on the college photo.

POPPY (CONT’D)

Lu and you have twin girls. You call them Kathy and Poppy. Sweet. After your sister and after your childhood sweetheart. We’re touched. They turn out nothing like us of course.

JAKE manages to press the seat belt into place and raises his arms to protect his face.

POPPY (CONT’D)

See. You don’t want to die after all.

JAKE is thrown forward, his body buckles and bends, but is kept away from the steering-column and windscreen by the now fully deployed air-bag. JAKE is in a bad way. POPPY, who is sitting next to him in the passenger seat, quite unharmed is not pleased with JAKE’s efforts.

POPPY (CONT’D)

Now what are you going to do?

A vehicle or two pull over in the background. POPPY remains sitting there. Someone approaches JAKE’s car. POPPY is angry. She tries to get his attention.

POPPY (CONT’D)

I’m pregnant.

CUT TO:

INT.NIGHT. INTENSIVE CARE UNIT

JOANNA is about to leave.

DR MUNROE

There’s one other thing. She’s pregnant.

JOANNA

She’s not keeping it.

JOANNA leaves.

CUT TO:

EXT. STONEWALL/BUSY MAIN ROAD – NIGHT

A minute after JAKE’s car hits the wall people come over.

SOMEONE 1

What are you supposed to do?

SOMEONE 1 sees JAKE slumped across the steering wheel. SOMEONE 2 sees the cans of drink in the front well of the car.

SOMEONE 2

I think he’s been drinking.

SOMEONE 1 reaches in and is about to move JAKE off the steering will.

POPPY

That’s it. He may live, but why not make sure his neck brakes by moving him.

SOMEONE 1 and SOMEONE 2 figure out how to get their hands on JAKE. They want to pull him out of the car.

POPPY (CONT’D)

Leave him alone!

A THIRD PERSON approaches.

THIRD PERSON

Stop! Don’t move them …

SOMEONE 1

Are you a doctor?

The THIRD PERSON nods.

THIRD PERSON

Don’t move him.

POPPY, invisible to them all, remains seated by JAKE. The THIRD PERSON reaches into the car and turns off the ignition. The THIRD PERSON looks around to see if the vehicle is safe … and looks in the back of the car to see if there are any passengers. The THIRD MAN looks straight through POPPY.

POPPY

Alistair Laidlaw. My first boyfriend. If I’d stuck with you none of this would have happened.

SOMEONE 1 takes out their mobile and phones the emergency serves. The THIRD PERSON reaches in to feel for a pulse then checks JAKE’S throat is clear.

THIRD PERSON

Coats, jackets, blankets. Anything to keep him warm. There’s no bleeding.

SOMEONE 2

He’s alive then?

The THIRD PERSON nods their head.

POPPY

You can keep him.

POPPY climbs out of the car.

POPPY (CONT’D)

For now.

CUT TO:

INT. FARMHOUSE, POPPY’S BEDROOM – DAY

BETH pulls out some of Poppy’s clothes. ABI pulls out a pair of knickers.

ABI

What about these?

BETH

To sell or wear?

ABI tries something on and looks in the mirror. BETH looks through POPPY’s books.

ABI

It won’t work.

BETH finds a recordable DVD hidden in the books. This gives her an idea.

BETH

Video clips!

The girls head off downstairs.

CUT TO:

INT. HOSPITAL WARD – DAY

There are scorch marks and scratches on JAKE’s face.

ANGELA

Plonker.

JAKE

It wasn’t a cry for help.

ANGELA

There are all sorts of strangers leaving messages – trying to find out how you are.

JAKE

Oh them.

ANGELA

?

JAKE

Buddies.

ANGELA

?

JAKE

Never mind. They’re only online.

CUT TO:

INT. INTENSIVE CARE/VIEWING ROOM – DAY

HILLARY takes CLIVE over to POPPY. He sits him down close to the bed. She then takes Poppy’s hand and runs her fingers over his chin. Nothing on the screens, nothing from Poppy. HILLARY then runs POPPY’S fingers over the back of her father’s hand. There is still nothing on the screens and nothing from Poppy.

CUT TO:

INT. FARMHOUSE, SITTING ROOM -EVENING

BETH and ABI have a DVD home video camera player plugged into the TV in the sitting room.

ABI

What is it?

BETH

Whoops.

The tape plays. There is no doubting the content – Poppy and Jake having sex – ’69’ or Poppy giving Jake a blow-job. JOANNA steps into the door.

JOANNA

What have you found?

BETH yanks out the skart.

JOANNA (CONT’D)

If it’ll help Poppy you should take it in.

BETH & ABI don’t think so. Or do they?

CUT TO:

INT. JAKE’S CAR – EVENING

JAKE is asleep in his car by the side of the road not far from the accident spot. He curses when he sees a police car pull up. The WPC gets out and comes over.

WPC

We could arrest you.

JAKE

?

WPC

How do we know you won’t do it again?

JAKE

I won’t. I can’t. Not here.

The WPC leaves.

JAKE puts the seat back. He hears singing – a woman singing. He looks at the radio. Not on. He looks about to see if anyone is around. No one. He gets out of the car.

CUT TO:

EXT. STONEWALL – NIGHT

JAKE is bugged by this lovely singing. He goes over to the wall. There she is. In the trees. In the distance. A young woman. JAKE feels compelled to go over to her.

CUT TO:

EXT. WOODS – NIGHT

JAKE is drawn to the singing and the girl. Then the girl disappears and the singing stops. JAKE returns to the stonewall.

CUT TO:

INT. VIEWING ROOM – DAY

BETH and ABI watch awkwardly as HILLARY views the ‘hot’ action of POPPY and JAKE at it. BEN feels awkward. HILLARY stops the playback.

HILLARY

Thanks girls. It could be something mundane. A dog barking. Her favourite hat. The mind’s a funny thing.

BETH puts her hand out for the DVD. HILLARY doesn’t understand. BETH wants it back.

BETH

Make a copy then.

HILLARY

How old are you?

BETH

!

HILLARY

This should have an 18 rating.

CUT TO:

EXT. STONEWALL/BUSY ROAD – NIGHT

JAKE sets off down the road. A minute later he doubles back. He keeps an eye on the time, holding back a little and causing a few vehicles to gather behind him. Someone overtakes. As JAKE approaches the scene of the accident he checks the time. It is approaching 5.37 p.m. He undoes his seatbelt, stamps on the accelerator and on reaching the spot where POPPY died he swerves across the road. ‘My Mind Burst’s’ viewing figures go ballistic. JAKE aims for the roadside shrine left to Andy. As he approaches he catches sight of someone sitting in the passenger seat, he turns to see POPPY. Just as she had been.

POPPY

I’m not dead yet.

JAKE

Don’t you start.

POPPY

Pervert.

JAKE

I’m not playing.

POPPY

I miss you.

CUT TO:

INT. FARMHOUSE, POPPY’S BEDROOM – DAY

JOANNA sits on Poppy’s bed in her room. She touches her daughter’s things and spots others, like the collection of thimbles, soft toys, books. Opening a box JOANNA finds receipts, another contains bus tickets, a third is full of sweet wrappers, a fourth full of used envelopes. JOANNA looks in a small utilitarian box on the floor. A few folded items of clothing. A set of keys. A wallet. A mobile phone. She picks up the phone. She turns it on. A moment later it rings. The dial tone is distinctive. Poppy has dozens of messages. BETH and ABI look around the open door.

BETH

What are you doing?

JOANNA

(Referring to ABI)

Hasn’t she got a home to go to?

BETH

She always comes round after school.

JOANNA

Yes she does. Doesn’t she.

ABI makes her excuses and leaves.

JOANNA (CONT’D)

(looking around the heaps of junk) What was it about your sister?

BETH

It’s the contents of her brain.

JOANNA

?

BETH

That’s what she calls this stuff. ‘The Contents of My Brain.’

JOANNA pulls a heavy duty refuse sack from a roll and starts to drop things into it.

JOANNA

You can help me. All of this stuff has to go.

BETH

You can’t. You mustn’t.

CUT TO:

INT. JAKE’S CAR/BUSY ROAD – DAY

JAKE accesses the webcam in the tree. With an edit controller he spins through the footage grabbing images and moments, giving them captions, naming the people. Filing them. Analysing them. Discussing them. It all goes online. Needing to go to the toilet JAKE pisses into an empty EVIAN bottle. He has his pecker in the top of the bottle when a motorbike pulls up. JAKE hasn’t time to deal with the bottle as the BIKER taps on the window. JAKE pulls a laptop over his knees. The BIKER removes their helmet.

HILLARY

Would you like some help with that?

JAKE

Not really.

HILLARY

I could give you a hand.

JAKE is still holding the EVIAN bottle with one hand. He lowers it to the bottom of the car and grips it between his feet so it won’t fall over.

HILLARY (CONT’D)

She’s a lovely girl. I can see why you loved her so much.

JAKE

I wish everyone would leave me alone.

HILLARY

I’ve seen your website. ‘My Mind Bursts.’ [BEAT]Is it you keeping Poppy’s site alive?

JAKE

?

HILLARY

Someone’s keeping her blog up to date.

JAKE

She never put anything on line. She had a handwritten diary. Everything went into it. That or it went into a box of some sort.

CUT TO:

INT. FARMHOUSE, BETH’S ROOM – DAY

BETH and ABI have a little business going. There are Post Office boxes, Jiffy bags and masking tape in the room. BETH checks something online.

BETH

We’ve sold her coat. Look £79!

ABI

Which one?

BETH clambers over the mess in their ‘post room’ like clutter of her bedroom and picks out a pea-green coat and hands it to ABI who folds it and begins to wrap it.

BETH leaves.

CUT TO:

INT. FARMHOUSE, POPPY’S ROOM – DAY

CLIVE looks around. The place is looking less cluttered than before. He looks on the shelves, looks in the cupboards and looks in the drawers. Then he spots the collection of thimbles. He takes them.

CUT TO:

EXT. TOWN TRAFFIC – DAY

JAKE makes his way out of town some late afternoon in spring. Kids in various school uniforms dismount from buses. JAKE gets onto the main road out of town. It begins to rain. He takes a call on his mobile.

JAKE

Hi. Is it? Oh you sweet thing. I’ve got away early. Love you too.

A bus pulls out of a layby and JAKE has to ease up and give way. It is next to a stone bus shelter. They pass under a pedestrian footbridge. In front the road opens out into a dual carriageway.

POPPY (V.O.)

Toothpaste.

JAKE shakes his head. He doesn’t want to play this game. He looks over to the passenger seat. She isn’t even there.

POPPY (V.O.) (CONT’D)

Toothpaste.

JAKE

Brush.

POPPY

Frequently.

JAKE shakes his head. It always turns crude. He looks over to the passenger seat. There she is. JAKE looks up the road. He comes to a fly-over. All familiar stuff. He could drive it with his eyes shut. She always pops up somewhere along this stretch.

JAKE

Of course.

POPPY

Very.

JAKE

Shit.

POPPY

That’s not nice.

JAKE

This is complete shit and has to stop! When will you leave me alone?

POPPY

When you stop wanting me.

JAKE

What?

POPPY

When you stop wanting me.

JAKE

When will I ever stop wanting you?

CUT TO:

INT. INTENSIVE CARE UNIT/VIEWING ROOM – DAY

CLIVE puts a thimble in Poppy’s hand. Nothing. BEN looks on from the viewing room. You can tell he is sympathetic to CLIVE.

CLIVE

Anything?

BEN

Nothing.

CLIVE looks around the I.C.U. There are things belonging to Poppy around the room.

CLIVE

Can we take her home? Being in her own room would help.

BEN and PROF DICKINSON have the same thought. They go through to the I.C.U.

PROF DICKINSON

How about you bring her room to her?

BEN

Recreation of the whole experience, not a single element.

CLIVE

I’ll bring it all. Every bit of it. You’re sure? She was a hoarder.

CUT TO:

EXT. FARMHOUSE, GARDEN – DAY

Joanna throws the last box of books/bric-a-brac onto a pile of household junk and sets a match to it. BETH and ABI watch from a window. BETH curses her mother’s actions.

BETH

They said we should keep this stuff. Don’t you see … this is all we have left of her. Mum! Stop it!

BETH makes a phone call.

BETH (CONT’D)

Dad. She’s doing it again.

BETH listens, then reads out the number of the skip hire company to her father.

CUT TO:

EXT. STONEWALL/BUSY ROAD – DAY

A delivery van parks up on the kerb behind JAKE’s car. JAKE is sitting with HILLARY chatting. The DELIVERY MAN checks the address again – seems to have it right, and goes over.

JAKE

Yep. That’s me.

JAKE takes the package, signs for it and opens the thing. It’s Poppy’s pea-green coat. He lays it in the back of the car with a collection of other things of Poppy’s that he’s bought off the internet from Beth.

JAKE (CONT’D)

They thought I was texting.

HILLARY

Were you?

JAKE looks HILLARY over. She seems genuine.

JAKE

That lot on the bus were lying.

HILLARY

?

They would wouldn’t they.

HILLARY

?

JAKE

They were his mates. They were making faces at him when he came up behind.

HILLARY

Where do you live?

JAKE looks around the interior of the car, as if to say this will do for now. HILLARY leans in and kisses him on the cheek.

HILLARY (CONT’D)

I like you. Don’t go to waste.

HILLARY leaves. JAKE reaches between his legs, takes out the EVIAN bottle and pours the contents out onto the grass next to the car.

CUT TO:

I/E. FARM HOUSE – DAY

CLIVE and BETH go through the things in the skip. As they do this JOANNA comes out with a pile of boxes from Poppy’s room and chucks them unceremoniously into the skip. She sees that CLIVE is watching her disapprovingly.

JOANNA

What?

JOANNA goes back to the house for more. CLIVE hopes to find something of value in the piles of papers, receipts and tickets. He can see what JOANNA means. BETH pulls out some clothes.

BETH

Can I keep some of these?

CLIVE

I don’t think your mother will want to see you wearing them.

BETH

You can’t just throw them out.

A mobile phone rings.

CLIVE

What’s that?

BETH looks guilty. She takes a mobile phone from her pocket.

BETH

It’s Poppy’s. Hideous ring tone. It’s enough to wake the dead.

BETH wishes she hadn’t said this. CLIVE wishes she hadn’t said it. They start to cry, then laugh, then they give each other a massive hug.

BETH (CONT’D)

I was going to change it. But it’s so her.

CUT TO:

INT. JAKE’S CAR – NIGHT

JAKE goes through porn online. The search criteria are clear – he is looking for ‘Poppy’ types. He finds a livecam of a girl who looks right. She is Slovakian. He gives his credit card details. She is impatient to perform for him. Jake wants her to chat. He calls up a Slovakian dictionary.

JAKE

I am your English boyfriend

SLOVAKIAN LIVECAM

You English. Much good. You want show?

JAKE

How old are you?

SLOVAKIAN

I twenty three.

JAKE

Where do you live?

SLOVAKIAN

You want full show. I am hot for you.

The SLOVAKIAN holds the edge of her panties and implies she might remove them.

SLOVAKIAN (CONT’D)

You want? You buy a gift.

JAKE

Yes. I buy. If you do something for me?

SLOVAKIAN

I do girl on girl with friend?

JAKE

No.

SLOVAKIAN

Just sit? I no like. You must buy more credits.

JAKE

Just like that. Sit still please.

The SLOVAKIAN girl sits. JAKE controls the viewing experience. We can see that by operating the controls in the online window he is able to nudge the camera in as he tries to match the SLOVAKIAN to a picture of Poppy.

SLOVAKIAN

You like? I am your girlfriend? I look like her?

JAKE

Yes.

SLOVAKIAN

She pretty?

JAKE

Yes. She’s very pretty. Just like you.

SLOVAKIAN

She like toys?

The SLOVAKIAN has to do her performance. She picks up a dildo.

JAKE

Do you have a banana?

CUT TO:

INT. FARMHOUSE, POPPY’S BEDROOM – DAY

CLIVE looks through Poppy’s things. He comes across the ‘diary’ drawer – instead of being locked it is open and empty.

CUT TO:

INT. FARMHOUSE, BETH’S ROOM – DAY

BETH sits at a computer screen. Set to Pink’s ‘Dear, Dear, Diary.’ BETH is wearing Poppy’s clothes. As much as we can tell, she has changed her ‘look’ to be more like her sister. POPPY’s diary is open by her side. A mobile phone rings – Poppy’s ring-tone. BETH takes the call.

BETH

I’m online now. Come and join us.

BETH closes the phone then copies out text and pastes it into the online diary. When she comes across a piece of ephemera, a bus ticket or sweet wrapper, she scans it in and uploads it.

A message is sent to Poppy’s website. ‘How are you?’

BETH gives it a moments thought. She clicks on a map that identifies the person as a ‘buddy’ in North America. BETH opens her webcam. The light isn’t good, the webcam shows the top of her head and her fingers as she works on the keyboards. BETH types. ‘I nearly died. It’s a new experience. How are you?’ As she looks down at the keyboard a second webcam opens on her screen. A young Hispanic girl looks back. HER message reads. ‘What do you think of the layout?’ BETH sees the puppy, smiles, clicks a button, leans towards a mic and barks while typing.

TYPES: Just sending more. Bus tickets.

BETH reaches into a shoe box stuffed full of bus tickets. She finds a particular torn ticket.

BETH (CONT’D)

This was the first time I ever took a bus. The 45 from Polworth drive. I was eight.

There’s a knock on BETH’s door. It is locked. Someone tries the door. BETH types/speak a message. ‘Got to go,’ then closes the web page.

CLIVE(V.O.)

Can I come in?

BETH pushes the box full of bus tickets under her bed, closes POPPY’s handwritten diary and puts it under some school files.

BETH

I’m doing my homework.

CLIVE bashes on the door.

CLIVE

Don’t lock me out.

BETH pulls some homework files down and spreads them on her desk, clicks to open a spread sheet then goes over and opens the door.

CLIVE (CONT’D)

Have you seen Poppy’s diaries?

BETH

?

CLIVE

We all know she kept a diary.

BETH wonders what she means.

CLIVE (CONT’D)

We could publish them: her drawings, her thoughts, poems and stories. We could give them a life. Make them into a book.

BETH

No one would read it.

BETH cuts her online link and uses a hand to make a yawning action then barges past her father as if she was leaving her room anyway.

CUT TO:

INT. JAKE’S CAR – DAY

JAKE is alone as he drivers passed a bus top and under a foot bridge.

POPPY (V.O.)

Pants.

JAKE turns. There she is.

JAKE

Ants

POPPY

Itchy.

JAKE

Scratch.

POPPY

Yes.

JAKE

Where?

POPPY

There.

JAKE

Where?

POPPY

Just there.

POPPY rests her hand on JAKE’s, lifts it off the gear stick and places it between her legs.

JAKE

There?

POPPY

Just there.

JAKE tries to concentrate on the road ahead. POPPY opens her legs and feels the pleasure. She reaches out and places her hand on JAKE’s erection. He enjoys it. JAKE is distracted. Up the road, out here on the dual carriageway there is a girl, a young woman, in her teens. For a moment he thinks it could be POPPY. She is walking along the side of the main road. It is raining, she has no coat. She wears the familiar green school blazer and green tights. JAKE takes his hand off POPPY, she tries to hold it there. JAKE drives past and takes a good look in the rear view mirror. POPPY has gone. As JAKE approaches a sliproad he checks his rear view mirror, indicates then pulls over. He doubles back onto the main road. As he passes the spot where he saw the girl he notices a white van parked up on the kerb. There is a conversation. The girl shakes her head and walks away. The van drives off. JAKE speeds up, finds another sliproad, comes off the main road and once more double backs. As he sees the girl in front he carefully checks his rear view mirror, indicates and pulls over. The girl looks fed up, mid teens. A young woman. You never know their age at this age. The girl knows what the bloke is going to ask. She comes over. He doesn’t look so bad.

JAKE

You need a lift? What’s happened?

GIRL

Where are you going?

JAKE

Where do you need to go? We live on the other side of Corbridge.

The GIRL looks inside the car, in the front and the back. Nothing dodgey. The guy looks sort of familiar. It looks okay.

GIRL

Wylam will do.

The GIRL gets in.

GIRL (CONT’D)

Do I know you?

JAKE

I was at the R.G.S.

The GIRL shakes her head. That’s not it.

JAKE (CONT’D)

You’re Church High I suppose?

GIRL

So.

JAKE

My first girlfriend was at the Church High.

GIRL

So.

JAKE

I have a studio near the school.

GIRL

So.

JAKE

Or I could have been having my lunch in the Exhibition Park.

GIRL

So.

JAKE

I wish you’d stop saying that.

The GIRL looks away, ahead, then out of the passenger window. The last thing she wants is a conversation.

JAKE (CONT’D)

You said I looked familiar that’s all.

GIRL

I thought you were a teacher or something.

This disappoints JAKE. Does he look like a teacher? He sees a familiar landmark on the road.

GIRL (CONT’D)

I don’t want anyone reporting me for hitching a lift home.

JAKE

It’s not still Mrs Cox?

The GIRL shakes her head. There’s a resemblance to POPPY. Age and the uniform help. There’s more though, an attitude, an expression on the face.

JAKE (CONT’D)

You weren’t hitching. It looked like you were walking.

GIRL

You’re not some sicko are you?

JAKE takes both his hands from the steering wheel and crosses his heart back and forth.

JAKE

Cross my heart and hope to die

The car jerks about. The GIRL grabs the wheel. She gets it into the lane. JAKE lets her steady the car then he takes the steering wheel from her.

GIRL

That was NOT funny.

JAKE’S glad to have the girl with him.

JAKE

No coat. No bag. What happened to you?

The GIRL mutters something, raises her eyes to the roof of the car. She doesn’t want to talk about it. She’s going to get the third degree from her parents eventually anyway so why indulge this bloke.

JAKE (CONT’D)

Wylam is it?

The GIRL looks at him. Gives him the once over. Not that old she supposes. Not that bad. They drive on in silence. JAKE gives up on the girl and reaches over to the radio to turn it on. The girl reaches over to stop him. Their hands touch.

GIRL

I’m sorry. I can’t think with that on.

JAKE

What’s bothering you?

GIRL

My mother.

JAKE says nothing.

GIRL (CONT’D)

She doesn’t understand. She’s just …

JAKE says nothing.

GIRL (CONT’D)

Just … just.

JAKE feels uneasy about this. This exchange, this word play rather than conversation, is starting to sound familiar. JAKE looks in the back of the car. There she is POPPY. She is smug. Thinks JAKE is onto a good thing. JAKE would like her to leave. She has no intention of going anywhere.

POPPY

You can’t make me. You’ve tried. But you can’t make me. You want me, so I’m here. It is as simple as that.

JAKE

I don’t want you.

GIRL

What?

JAKE

Your mother. She’s just … ?

GIRL

Rubbish.

JAKE says nothing. POPPY speaks up. Only he hears it of course.

POPPY

Garbage.

GIRL

She’s rubbish about everything.

POPPY

What a waste.

GIRL

What a waste.

JAKE

What is?

GIRL

Life. It’s a waste of time.

JAKE

I wouldn’t say that. I know someone who’d love to have their life back.

The GIRL hasn’t a clue what JAKE is talking about and isn’t that interested. The GIRL wants JAKE to listen to her problems, not the other way around. JAKE checks in the rear view mirror. POPPY has gone. He’s pleased she’s gone. It appears he can get rid of her if he wants to.

GIRL

She was supposed to meet me after school.

JAKE

And?

GIRL

And …

JAKE

And?

GIRL

And she didn’t.

JAKE

And you spent your bus money.

GIRL

Don’t you start. Anyway, I usually get the train.

JAKE says nothing. He looks up the road. He knows every road sign, every tree, every gate, every building.

JAKE

If you take the train, what were you doing out on the main road?

GIRL

I was having a driving lesson.

JAKE

And?

GIRL

And we got into an argument.

JAKE

Who with?

GIRL

With my mother, who else?

JAKE

I thought you said …

GIRL

I know what I said. Look it’s none of your business anyway.

The GIRL looks out the window as they drive passed her turning.

GIRL (CONT’D)

It’s just … just.

JAKE tries to focus on the road ahead misses the turning for Wylam.

GIRL (CONT’D)

There. It’s just there.

JAKE

Sorry.

CUT TO:

I.E. JAKE’s CAR/RESIDENTIAL STREET – DAY

JAKE drops the GIRL. JAKE offers her Poppy’s pea-green coat.

JAKE (CONT’D)

Take it.

GIRL

?

JAKE

Really. She won’t miss it.

The GIRL refuses the coat.

GIRL

Next time.

CUT TO:

EXT. STONEWALL/BUSY ROAD – DAY

The shrine to POPPY is growing now: flowers, cards, cuddly toys, photographs. JAKE watches. He objects. No one else says anything, no one offers to comfort him. JAKE gets some odd looks … as if he is not being himself.

ANGELA

They’ve not seen you around for months.

JAKE picks up bouquets and cards and cuddly toys and takes them to his car. People object.

JAKE

She’s not dead yet.

People feel sorry for him. He’s deluding himself.

CUT TO:

INT. INTENSIVE CARE/VIEWING ROOM – DAY

POPPY sleeps. There is a stuffed spaniel puppy toy close by her side. HILLARY calls BEN over.

HILLARY

Watch this.

HILLARY goes in, picks up the soft toy and places it against Poppy’s face. That instance fresh images begin to appear in the viewing room. We make out images of her mother, JOANNA, and her father, CLIVE.

HILLARY (CONT’D)

Her mother.

BEN

Her father.

Then the ‘sheep dog.’

CUT TO:

INT. INTENSIVE CARE/VIEWING ROOM – NIGHT

HILLARY gets up as she sees DR MUNROE enter the intensive care room where POPPY is being held. BEN stares at the console. HILLARY leans over a mic and speaks.

HILLARY

It’s about THREE gigabytes. Uses 73 paths. Nearly mapped.

DR MUNROE makes some adjustments to the apparatus attached to Poppy’s head then gives her an injection. PROF DICKINSON looks at screens that match those that HILLARY and BEN are working on. They show the image of a new born baby in one screen while in the second they have a three-dimensional representation of a series of neurons and synapses and their interconnectivity.

CUT TO:

INT. VIEWING ROOM – NIGHT

As PROF DICKINSON studies the images and as HILLARY and BEN make their adjustments we see that there is a relationship between the image of the baby and the 3D representation of the neurons and synapses – adjust one and a change occurs in the other and vice versa.

PROF DICKINSON

This is all we have to work with?

BEN

So far. We lost her mother and father.

PROF DICKINSON

Are we likely to find anything else?

HILLARY gives a Gallic shrug of her shoulders. BEN shakes his head. PROF DICKINSON can see him through the glass. He gives it a moments thought.

DR MUNROE

(From the intensive care room)

How far? How much?

HILLARY

(Using the mic)

We’ve got 99.37%. We’ll need a week to improve that by half a per cent.

BEN

Another month to be within a hundredth of a per cent of 100 … and we’ll never reach a hundred per cent as you know ..

DR MUNROE understands all this.

PROF DICKINSON

We need to delete everything.

HILLARY

Not here. Not yet.

PROF DICKINSON

The experience of her labour will act as a milestone … something on which she can peg the rest of her existence.

HILLARY

What tripe.

DR MUNROE

We need to give it time.

CUT TO:

INT. CHURCH HALL – NIGHT

First used as a polling station, now to count votes. JOANNA is with husband CLIVE and daughter BETH to get the outcome of the local elections.

LEADER OF THE COUNCIL

Congratulations … Mrs Joanna Laing. Councillor for Stocksfield Ward.

CLIVE

What next?

BETH is not impressed by her mother’s achievement.

BETH

She’ll ban everything.

CUT TO:

INT. VIEWING ROOM – NIGHT

HILLARY and BEN animated. Making the final touches to the image of this new born and its ‘mind map signature.’ There are other teams in the room, in twos and threes, working at consoles … a blank screen and static 3D ‘mind map.’

CUT TO:

INT. INTENSIVE CARE UNIT – NIGHT

POPPY is slotted into an CT scanner. Teams and specialists attend to her. DR MUNROE makes sure everything is ready then gives the nod through the glass dividing them from the viewing room.

CUT TO:

INT. VIEWING ROOM – NIGHT

As soon as the image of the new born has been ‘entered’ monitors across the viewing room begin to pick up images, some washed out, some clear. Most of the images have something to do with this face – the same face, eyes open, the same face from a different angle, then at its mother’s breast. Then other faces … JOANNA and CLIVE when they were younger.

PROF DICKINSON speaks to BEN and HILLARY.

PROF DICKINSON

Sister?

HILLARY

Beth. The day she was born. Poppy was there at the birth. It must have registered. She was five years old.

PROF DICKINSON

And from this?

BEN

There’s nothing else.

HILLARY

It won’t stick.

BEN

She’s got a brain like Teflon.

CUT TO:

INT. JAKE’S CAR – DAY

Jake has a copy of the College Photo pinned to a notice-board. All the young woman are circled in red. Several have now been crossed out.

JAKE

(To himself)

Who are you kidding?

JAKE phones.

JAKE (CONT’D)

Lu? I wondered if you fancied doing something tonight? What about next week? [NO JOY] Oh. Alright.

JAKE puts a line through another face. He phones another.

JAKE (CONT’D)

Beverly? Is she there? It’s Jake. Poppy’s boyfriend.

(Cursing his stupidity for saying this)

JAKE (CONT’D)

What do you mean you’re not a mattress?

She cuts off.

CUT TO:

INT. COUNCIL CHAMBER – DAY

A busy Council Chamber listens to the words of Cllr Joanna Laing. JOANNA holds up a small black box gadget.

JOANNA

I therefore put to the chamber that all provisional driver’s in the county MUST have a black box, such as this, installed, to prevent the vehicle they are insured to drive from at any time, exceeding the speed limit.

Cries of ‘here, here’ and applause suggest that the motion is passed.

CUT TO:

INT. JAKE’S CAR – DAY

JAKE gets out a can of lager and switches on the TV. Holby City. Anything’ll do. He flicks through different channels. More medical dramas. Nothing worth watching.

CUT TO:

EXT. BUSY ROAD OUT OF TOWN – DAY

JAKE heads out of town. He’s in a state. As he drives he drinks a can of beer. He drives under the footbridge. He’s on his way out of town.

CUT TO:

EXT. FARMHOUSE – DAY

JAKE pulls up in his car.

CUT TO:

INT. FARMHOUSE, BETH’S ROOM – DAY

ABI

He’s there again

BETH

?

ABI

Your stalker.

BETH

That’s Jake. Don’t you recognise him?

BETH goes out to him.

CUT TO:

INT. COUNCIL CHAMBER – DAY

JOANNA has the attention of the council.

JOANNA

Tracking devices should be fitted as standard. The authorities have a right to know who is on the road and where they are.

CUT TO:

EXT. JAKE’S CAR/BUSY ROAD – DAY

Bright sun. Spring (if we can tell). The same road. Sometimes duelled, often not. JAKE drives. He’s alone. There’s no one in the passenger seat. He’s in a T shirt and shorts.

POPPY (V.O.)

Bacon.

JAKE smiles. He’s been here before. It feels good to have her around. She has this habit of turning up as he passes on the same footbridge, by a bus stop, on the way out of town. He turns his head, as if he is addressing a passenger … there’s no one there – not yet. He’s not bothered by this. He then turns back to look up the road.

JAKE

And eggs.

POPPY (V.O.)

Hundreds and thousands.

JAKE

Millions.

POPPY (V.O.)

Loads.

JAKE

Bag loads.

POPPY (V.O.)

Healthy.

JAKE

Fertile.

POPPY

Mother.

CUT TO:

EXT. STONEWALL/BUSY ROAD – DAY

JAKE pulls up. He finds a couple of COUNCIL CONTRACTORS clearing away the shrines – putting stuff in boxes and bags. He walks back and forth along the wall. A motorbike pulls up. It is HILLARY.

JAKE

How come you always know where I am?

HILLARY

I’m your No.1 fan.

JAKE

?

HILLARY

Buddy.

JAKE

?

HILLARY

Friend.

JAKE

I don’t recognise you.

HILLARY

How could you. Who do you think I am?

JAKE

Out of thousands?

HILLARY nods.

JAKE (CONT’D)

Ghanima.

HILLARY gives JAKE a kiss.

HILLARY

Trying to kill yourself again?

JAKE

If you can die from boredom.

HILLARY

Come and work with me. You’d be good the technical side. You’d be helping Poppy too.

JAKE

Do you know what you’re doing?

HILLARY

Poppy has a right to have her life back.

JAKE

It won’t be her life.

HILLARY

It’ll be a life.

JAKE

She’ll be someone else. The very thing that defines us is the way we are wired and the way we experience and respond to life as we grow up.

HILLARY

The way she’s wired is genetic. We can’t change that. She’s lost the contents of her brain, that’s all.

JAKE

That IS all. THAT is everything.

HILLARY

You’ve not been to see her recently.

JAKE spots POPPY in the woods.

JAKE

I don’t need to. She’s all in here.

JAKE taps the side of his skull. JAKE finds an old jam jar. This is where it all happened. JAKE picks it up and flings it against the stonewall. It brakes into pieces and shards.

CUT TO:

INT. HOSPITAL LOBBY – DAY

BETH takes a call on Poppy’s mobile as she walks through the hospital. A MATRON spots her and says something. BETH turns the mobile off.

CUT TO:

INT. INTENSIVE CARE/VIEWING ROOM – DAY

POPPY, still in a coma. BETH sits with her holding the baby.

BETH

You’re getting thousands more hits. I’ve been transcribing your diaries. And uploading pictures. The world knows about the baby. Top choices for a name are Abigail, Beth, Kate, Laura and Zoe. What do you think?

CUT TO:

INT. VIEWING ROOM – DAY

The viewing room is busy. HILLARY and BEN are more interested in listening in on BETH.

CUT TO:

INT. INTENSIVE CARE UNIT – DAY

BETH

Jake said he might come in with his parents. Everyone wants to see you get better.

CUT TO:

INT. VIEWING ROOM – DAY

The image of a new born baby appears. Then it changes. Its face turns into that of a JAKE.

BEN gets up as if to go out. HILLARY stops him.

HILLARY

It’s alright. I’ll go.

She picks up her motorbike helmet.

BEN

You know if you have an accident on a motorbike you’re more likely to end up dead than in a coma.

HILLARY doesn’t need to be told.

CUT TO:

EXT. STONEWALL/BUSY ROAD – DAY

JAKE goes over. He stands for a while by the wall. He has been here so often before. Anger. Joy. At peace. He no longer knows what to feel. He looks at his College Photo. He takes out his mobile. He sits by the wall, the College Photo in his lap. He sends several text messages.

JAKE

Let’s start with Angela. Then … Julie. And Fiona.

JAKE is distracted by singing. Someone is singing. He stands up. He strains to figure out where the singing is coming from. JAKE looks over the wall into the wood beyond. The voice comes from somewhere off in the wood. JAKE clambers over the wall. He heads into the woods, not caring about getting his feet soaked, or brambles snagging his trousers.

CUT TO:

EXT. DAY. WOODS/LAKE

JAKE steps out into a clearing. There is a lake surrounded by trees. It’s a beautiful spot. The singing stops. He feels as if he is being watched. POPPY is in the woods. She watches as JAKE leaves then slips into the water.

CUT TO:

INT. COUNCIL CHAMBER – DAY

JOANNA has the floor.

JOANNA

The top speed of all cars and motorbikes will be capped at the National Speed Limit.

‘Here, here’ from the audience.

CUT TO:

INT. INTENSIVE CARE UNIT/VIEWING ROOM – NIGHT

POPPY looks no better. Her body functions. She is being watched inside the Viewing Room by BEN. HILLARY is at her side. BETH comes in carrying a bag of things, as if she’s going on holiday. She hands the bag to HILLARY.

BETH

Don’t tell my Mum. She’d murder me. These are some of Poppy’s things. My Mum wanted to throw everything out.

A mobile phone goes off – Poppy’s familiar ring-tone.

CUT TO:

INT. VIEWING ROOM – NIGHT

BEN hears the ring-tone and sees something new coming up on his viewing room monitor in relation to Poppy’s brain activity.

BEN

I’m getting something.

HILLARY looks over. The three screens on which BEN is working might look at home on the desk of a hedge fund manager. There are dates, there are charts, there is movement. And then there is an image … as if taken through a steamed up window.

HILLARY

What’s the number? On the mobile?

BETH

07789 172707

HILLARY goes to a phone and rings. Poppy’s mobile rings again. The sound sets off a chain-reaction. Inside the viewing room there is a cascade of activity as screens light up and Poppy appears to recover her memories.

HILLARY

What’s that ring-tone called?

BETH shrugs her shoulders. HILLARY & BEN work together on enhancing the images, storing them, backing up ‘mind maps’ etc: BEN reaches for and presses a red emergency call button.

CUT TO:

INT. THE TWO GEORGE’S BEDROOM – NIGHT

DR MUNROE and PROF DICKINSON, who are in bed together, are woken by the telephone. DR MUNROE takes the call.

DR MUNROE

We’ll be over shortly.

DR MUNROE gives PROF DICKINSON a nudge.

DR MUNROE (CONT’D)

They’re working on a data burst from Poppy. We should go over.

CUT TO:

EXT. THE SAME BUSY ROAD – DAY

A busy road. Sometimes duelled, often not. Cars get caught behind slower vehicles. Some passing opportunities. A dangerous road. A fast road. A road full of impatient drivers. It is summer – if we can tell. And dawn. All the cars appear to be driving in the same direction. JAKE has the local radio station tuned into the breakfast show.

MALE VOICE OVER

No problems with the traffic on the A69 this morning and no road works to report.

POPPY (V.O.)

Twazzled.

RADIO MALE (V.O.)

‘Men think about sex every three minutes.’ Keep those calls coming in. We have JAKE on the phone.

POPPY (V.O.)

Twazzled.

JAKE holds a mobile phone to his ear as he talks.

JAKE

Yes. Mike Morrison?

RADIO MALE (V.O.)

Yes, mate. You’re through to Mike at Metro Radio.

JAKE

I think about sex … when I’m driving. Every few minutes.

There’s a toot of a horn as JAKE drifts into the outside lane of the dual carriageway.

POPPY (V.O.)

Twazzled.

JAKE

I put the radio on to take my mind of it.

RADIO MALE (V.O.)

So you’re thinking about sex at the moment, JAKE?

POPPY (V.O.)

Twazzled.

JAKE

Shut up, I heard you the first time.

RADIO MALE (V.O.)

You’ve pulled over to make this call have you mate?

JAKE cuts the call off and drops his mobile into the glove compartment.

RADIO MALE (V.O.) (CONT’D)

That was JAKE. Pulling over for a quick fiddlededee …

JAKE turns the radio off.

CUT TO:

I/E. INTENSIVE CARE UNIT

A skip containing Poppy’s stuff is delivered to the car park next to the intensive care unit where she is kept.

CUT TO:

EXT. THE SAME BUSY ROAD – NIGHT

JAKE is wearing a suit. We pass a road sign. Some familiar road mark like a footbridge that puts us in the same spot as before. He is sitting with POPPY. She is wrapped in a towel. A second towel is wrapped around her hair as if she has just got out of the bath.

POPPY

I was having a bath. I got into a water fight with Mum.

JAKE has heard this story before. She’s run out of new things to say. He’s bored with it. Tolerant. Unable to stop it.

POPPY (CONT’D)

I was getting out of the bath and wrapped myself in a towel. Mum was being annoying so I threatened to sit down in the bath with the towel round me. She said, ‘just you dare.’ She filled a jug that we use to rinse our hair with freezing water and threatened to tip it over me.

I/E. JOANNA’S CAR/BUSY MAIN ROAD – DAY

JOANNA drives into town. She is agitated. She dials on her mobile phone and makes a call.

JOANNA

If we can’t put drivers who use their mobile phones in jail for a night, then I quit the council.

CUT TO:

I/E. JAKE’S CAR/BUSY MAIN ROAD – DAY

JAKE is enjoying POPPY’s story as he drives along that stretch of road where the accident occurred.

POPPY

I sat down so she tipped the water over me. Soon we were throwing water all over each other. When she wouldn’t stop I picked up the back scrubber and threw it at her. When she went to pick up the brush she found an unopened Durex behind the radiator. She said to me, ‘You do know how to use one of these I suppose.’ I think that was when I got pregnant.

JAKE sees a car coming straight towards him in the opposite lane. It is trying to pass a lorry.

JAKE

Shit.

JAKE eases off the accelerator while the car coming towards him speeds up. Conscious of a car behind him and what few options he has JAKE swerves to the side of the road. They just miss hitting each other. To JAKE’s dismay and disbelief he sees that it is JOANNA on the phone. JAKE hits the brakes. The car behind slows down then pulls in behind him. JAKE is sitting catching his breath when there is a tap on the passenger windscreen. It is young woman, JESSICA.

JESSICA

I think I got her number. Are you alright?

JAKE isn’t all right. His heart is racing. He’s faint if anything. And tired. And fed up.

JESSICA (CONT’D)

Can I ring anyone for you?

JAKE shakes his head. He looks at the passenger seat. Work. Briefcase, laptop, files and papers. Sweet papers. A can of energy drink.

JESSICA (CONT’D)

Where are you headed?

This brings a smile to JAKE’s face. It reminds him of something or someone.

JESSICA (CONT’D)

What? Why are you smiling?

JAKE dismisses it. He shakes his head, and takes a deep breath. He looks over his shoulder as if he intends to get out. A bus rattles past at speed. JESSICA holds the passenger door for him. JAKE clambers over. He gets out. Standing next to JESSICA something strikes him. She is gorgeous. And in that instant he knows he will love her forever. JAKE tries to control his shaking. He then cries because he feels so happy. In what light there is from headlights and traffic he sees exactly where he has stopped. There’s the stonewall again and there’s the wood behind.

JESSICA (CONT’D)

Can I give you a lift?

JAKE takes a few more breaths to get himself sorted.

JAKE

Chollerford.

JESSICA

It’s not out of my way.

CUT TO:

I/E. THE SAME BUSY ROAD AUTUMN – DAY

JAKE is in a great mood. He drives fast. He doesn’t let himself get stuck behind anything. He owns the road.

JAKE

Nothing.

POPPY

Never mind.

JAKE

Emptiness.

POPPY has blood on her face. Her clothes are burned up to her waist. JAKE notices. This is a version of POPPY he has never seen before. She is in pain. JAKE wants to stop. He can see he is coming up to THAT spot. He wants to hold her in his arms. He can’t do it though. He must keep on driving. The distance from town. The spot by the side of the road. He knows exactly where he is.

JAKE (CONT’D)

Spot.

POPPY looks round at JAKE and smiles cheekily. It is hard for JAKE to feel warmth for her given that she looks like the victim of a traffic accident today.

POPPY

Button.

JAKE

Touch.

POPPY

Gently.

JAKE

Gently?

POPPY

Very.

JAKE

Gently.

JAKE takes his left hand from the steering wheel and places it on POPPY’s thigh. As he drives past ‘that spot’ the car goes up on the kerb, but quickly recovers and he drives on. This irritates POPPY, the fact that he kept control of the car. She tugs at the steering wheel, she tries to get him to crash, JAKE is having nothing of it.

POPPY

What about us?

JAKE

What about us?

POPPY

What about us!

JAKE

What about us?!

POPPY

We said we’d speak to each other first if one of us ever decided to get married.

JAKE

You’re dead.

POPPY

No. I’m dead … ish.

JAKE

We can NEVER get married. Would we ever have? Anyway what’s it do with you anymore?

POPPY

She doesn’t even look like me.

JAKE

Good!

CUT TO:

INT. INTENSIVE CARE/VIEWING ROOM – DAY

POPPY gives birth by caesarian. There is a constant interplay between the viewing room and the intensive care room. The entire team are there – in the viewing room and intensive care room. A constant stream of data is being recovered – the entire contents of Poppy’s brain. Images, ides, connections … all must be downloaded, stored, referenced, catalogued.

CUT TO:

INT. COUNCIL CHAMBER – DAY

A busy Council Chamber listens to the words of Cllr Joanna Laing. JOANNA holds up a breathaliser gadget with electronic attachment.

JOANNA

I therefore put to the chamber that all cars be fitted with the ignition authorising unit.

JOANNA blows into the tube, as if she is testing her breath for alcohol.

JOANNA (CONT’D)

A driver will not be able to start the vehicle if they have been taking drinking alcohol or taking drugs.

Cries of ‘here, here’ and applause suggest that the motion is passed.

CUT TO:

INT. FARMHOUSE, SITTING ROOM – DAY

BETH feeds POPPY’s baby a bottle.

BETH

We have to give her a name. What’s wrong with Poppy?

JOANNA

She can’t be called Poppy.

BETH

We should ask Jake.

JOANNA

How do we know he’s the father?

BETH

So, you’re now saying your daughter was a slag.

JOANNA storms out, gets in her car and drives off.

CUT TO:

INT. FARMHOUSE, BETH’S ROOM – DAY

BETH takes the BABY up to her room. She gives her keyboard a nudge to lose the screensaver. She positions the baby so that it can be seen by the webcam.

BETH

Survivor! Her name is going to be Zoe which means ‘the meaning of life.’

CUT TO:

EXT. ROAD OUT OF TOWN – DAY

JAKE pulls into a layby/bus stop. There is a stone bus shelter and a pedestrian footbridge. JAKE spots the GIRL. She comes over and gets in. It’s as if they’ve done this a few times now. The GIRL is wearing Poppy’s pea-green coat.

GIRL

This could get me into so much trouble.

JAKE

Why?

GIRL

Getting into a car with a strange man.

JAKE

I’m not a strange man.

The GIRL thinks about this. She looks at JAKE. What is he? Mid-twenties. Older? Younger.

GIRL

You’re young enough …

JAKE

And you’re old enough.

GIRL

It would never work.

JAKE

It never has to.

GIRL

My parents would never approve.

JAKE

Neither would my girlfriend.

GIRL

Your girlfriend?

JAKE doesn’t have an answer for this so he doesn’t offer one.

JAKE

What do they do?

GIRL

Who?

JAKE

Your parents.

GIRL

My Dad’s the Commissioner of Northumberland Police. My mother’s the head teacher at the Church High.

JAKE takes this in. The chances that having her in his car could lead to trouble has suddenly become extremely high. JAKE looks up the road. He sees a bus stop coming up. It is an isolated spot, but there’ll be a bus along. He pulls over.

GIRL (CONT’D)

What have I said? You’ve got to take me home now. This is the middle of nowhere. It’s not true about my Mum and Dad.

JAKE

What’s not true?

JAKE leans over the girl to push open the passenger side door and let her out.

GIRL

He works for the council and my mum’s a teacher.

JAKE is leaning across the GIRL. There is no doubt that she is highly desirable. But who is going to make the first move. That will define the relationship if it is a relationship that they are going to have. The GIRL sticks her tongue out, sticks it into JAKE’S face. Her tongue accidently touches his nose. His mouth opens. Her mouth opens. They take a few breaths, they breath each other in. They lean into each other, noses touch, they adjust themselves for the kiss … and kiss.

GIRL (CONT’D)

Now you’ve done it.

JAKE pulls away. Cars drive past. JAKE thinks about this. He waits for a gap in the traffic, indicates and pulls out.

GIRL (CONT’D)

There’s no one in.

JAKE

Where?

GIRL

There’s no one at home. They’re not back ’til six. You could come in for a coffee.

JAKE

No.

GIRL

No as in ‘not ever’ … or

JAKE

Not ever.

GIRL

I thought you liked me?

JAKE

I do. You remind me of someone.

The GIRL takes this as a slap in the face. He’s right. It is going no where. They sit in silence. They approach the WYLAM turn off. The GIRL reaches up and tries to steer JAKE away from turning in.

GIRL

We don’t have to go straight back do we?

JAKE forces the steering wheel around. They say nothing as he drives into the village and parks at the bottom of a steep drive away from the houses.

GIRL (CONT’D)

What was she like?

JAKE

Nothing like you.

GIRL

You’re lying.

They sit. The GIRL doesn’t get out. They say nothing. Much to JAKE’S irritation he sees POPPY is sitting in the back of the car looking very smug with herself. The GIRL gets out, takes her bag from the back seat and leaves. JAKE tries not to watch her go. But he does. He desires her without a doubt but lacks the will to pursue it.

POPPY

You want her really.

JAKE

I want YOU really.

POPPY

You can have me if you like.

JAKE looks around. POPPY is naked. He still loves her. It is hopeless.

CUT TO:

EXT. STONEWALL/BUSY MAIN ROAD – DAY

JAKE stands by the wall. He hears someone singing. He looks into the woods. There is someone there. He leaves the car by the side of the road and goes into the woods.

CUT TO:

EXT. WOODLAND LAKE – DAY

JAKE sees POPPY. There is a resemblance. The GIRL and POPPY do look alike. She is by the lake side. He approaches. She is in the water up to her waist. JAKE approaches. She is up to her neck. He slips into the water. JAKE swims into the middle of the lake. POPPY continues to sing, but he can’t see her. He ducks beneath the water. The singing stops. His head emerges, it starts again. He ducks his head beneath the water and the singing stops. He lets himself drift beneath the water, between the weeds. It is peaceful. It is an escape from her down here in the water.

CUT TO:

INT. INTENSIVE CARE/VIEWING ROOM – DAY

The images downloading into the system slow up. PROF DICKINSON is agitated.

PROF DICKINSON

Get more memory. We have to back this up.

The screens go blank. In the intensive care room POPPY collapses. MEDICS run to her assistance.

CUT TO:

INT. COUNCIL CHAMBER – DAY

A busy Council Chamber listen to the words of Cllr Joanna Laing. JOANNA holds up a webcam that has two lenses, one pointing in each direction.

JOANNA

I therefore put to the chamber that all cars be fitted with the Janus webcam.

JOANNA holds the camera in front of her face and shows on two monitors how the ‘Janus’ records images in front and behind.

JOANNA (CONT’D)

This will monitor continually the actions of the driver inside the vehicle, and record episodes in front of the vehicle which could be used as evidence should an accident occur.

Cries of ‘here, here’ and applause suggest that the motion is passed.

CUT TO:

I/E. JAKE’S CAR/GIRLS’ SCHOOL – DAY

JAKE is parked up opposite a girl’s school at going home time. There are girls in a green uniform just the same as POPPY’s. Just the same as the GIRL’s. JAKE has the window down. He doesn’t notice the two men approaching or the women pointing towards his car. The FIRST MAN pulls the car door open.

FIRST MAN

Out!

JAKE

What?

FIRST MAN

We know your sort. Hanging around a girl’s school.

SECOND MAN

Fucking Pervert. That’s what.

JAKE

I’m just waiting for someone.

SECOND MAN

Who?

JAKE

Poppy

FIRST MAN

POPPY who?

JAKE

Poppy Laing. She’s at the school.

The two men do a double take. JAKE says this with such conviction. Perhaps they have got it wrong.

JAKE (CONT’D)

Poppy Laing.

FIRST MAN

What are you to her? Father? Brother? Uncle?

JAKE can’t answer. The men let JAKE be. They cross the road. They approach a couple of women parents too) who are standing with their daughters – girls of various ages from 11 to 17. You can see that no one has heard of POPPY Laing.

JAKE

She was at the school. I was her boyfriend.

It slowly dawns on JAKE where he is and what he is doing. The men approach again. The GIRL comes out of school and recognises the car. It is too late to go over. JAKE doesn’t wait. He drives off.

FIRST MAN

Pervert!

SECOND MAN

Wanker!

Parents and girls alike turn to see what is going on. Some of the girls giggle at the use of strong language. The parents disapprove.

CUT TO:

I/E. JOANNA’S CAR/BUSY ROAD – DAY

Joanna is on the phone as she drives.

JOANNA

It is important. Which is why we must act now.

JOANNA comes up to a T Junction. She lets a car passed then pulls out. She doesn’t see the motorbike. The motorbike hits the car. The driver is flung across the road. JOANNA is horrified by what has just happened.

DISSOLVE TO:

EXT. ROAD OUT OF TOWN BY T JUNCTION – MOMENTS LATER

The Paramedics secure a brace around the victim’s neck then remove the helmet. It is HILLARY.

CUT TO:

I/E. AMBULANCE -DAY

HILLARY dies on the way to hospital.

CUT TO:

EXT. JAKE’S CAR – DAY

JAKE, smart, looking as if he’s had a normal working day, drives towards the spot where the accident occurred. He has a baby carrier in the front seat. POPPY makes her appearance in the back seat. JAKE turns to look at POPPY. She is there. As gorgeous and desirable as ever.

POPPY

Mother.

JAKE

Baby.

POPPY

Child.

JAKE

Children.

POPPY

Small.

JAKE

Little.

POPPY

Large.

JAKE

Big.

POPPY

Thump.

JAKE

Head.

POPPY

Top.

JAKE

Bottom.

POPPY

Cheeks.

JAKE

Kiss.

POPPY

Lick.

JAKE

Tongue.

POPPY

Twister.

JAKE

Entangled.

POPPY

Us.

JAKE is more himself today. He checks his rear view mirror, indicates to pull in and then pulls over on the side of the road, mounting the kerb to park partly on the grass verge to keep out of the traffic. Once again he is looking at a stretch of dry stone wall. There is a wood beyond. A few daffodils pick out a spot. The road is busy so JAKE unhooks the baby and clambers out of the passenger side of the car.

CUT TO:

INT. LECTURE ROOM – DAY

PROF DICKINSON and DR MUNROE address their substantial team. TWO screens are used to illustrate what they wish to attempt – merging the partial mind maps of two different people to allow the one who is still ‘alive’ top function once again.

PROF DICKINSON

Our task is to take the mind maps of these two people, our colleague – Hillary, and the patient, Poppy Laing and construct a set of functions and memories that will allow Poppy to have a life …

DR MUNROE

To restore the behaviour, instincts, and acquired knowledge that will enable her to … pick up the pieces.

CUT TO:

INT. MASSAGE PARLOUR – DAY

JAKE lies stark bollock naked on a towel on a double bed. He looks round when a young woman (KERRY) enters. She is not a patch on POPPY or the GIRL, but she is good looking, in her twenties and ready to play JAKE’s game. JAKE twists his head round to watch. KERRY takes off a silk robe to reveal silk knickers and bra. She removes the bra and panties. She then pulls on a pea-green coat. She pushes her arms through the sleeves as she climbs onto JAKE’S bear backside. She lifts the coat and rubs her sex against him. JAKE loves it. KERRY rolls her client over, his erection sticks up under the coat.

KERRY

Oh. What’s this?

KERRY takes JAKE’S boner in her fingers.

KERRY (CONT’D)

So big. So strong.

JAKE puts a finger to his lips. He doesn’t want her to spoil it by talking. She mustn’t say a thing. KERRY understands. She knows how to please a man. She rides his shaft, but doesn’t put it in. She then crawls down the bed, as if to take him in his mouth. She unpacks a condom, puts it in her mouth and with great professionalism uses her lips to put the condom over his erect penis. They have sex with her sitting on, with him sitting over the bed and her in his lap and they have sex doggie style. Through out KERRY keeps the pea-green coat on.

CUT TO:

INT. VIEWING ROOM – DAY

PROF DICKINSON leans forward to speak through the mic.

PROF DICKINSON

Your perceptions of things will be different.

POPPY/HILLARY

Can I go now?

BEN catches POPPY’s eyes as she leaves.

BEN

It was nice working with you.

POPPY steps over to BEN. She tries to understand him.

POPPY/HILLARY

Did you work on me? Or with me?

BEN

?

POPPY/HILLARY

Why did we ever think we could unscramble an egg.

CUT TO:

EXT. FARMHOUSE HOUSE, FRONT DOOR – DAY

JAKE stands at the door. JOANNA won’t let him in.

JOANNA

She doesn’t want to see you.

JAKE

Something’s wrong. Of course she wants to see me.

JOANNA

Not any more.

JAKE

After all we’ve been through.

JOANNA

What you put her through more like.

JAKE

You’re not on about that again?

JOANNA closes the door in JAKE’s face. JAKE calls up to a bedroom window. There is no response.

CUT TO:

I/E. ROAD IN FRONT OF FARMHOUSE – DAY

JAKE looks up the road towards POPPY’s house. He spots BETH coming down the drive. He lifts up a paper. A moment later BETH taps on the window. She has a cup of coffee for him.

BETH

She won’t see you.

JAKE

Why not?

BETH

Not feeling herself.

JAKE is put out when BETH opens the passenger door and climbs in.

JAKE

It was you doing her website wasn’t it?

BETH

She couldn’t care. Won’t look at it.

JAKE

There’s a lot of stuff in there that isn’t true.

BETH

The truth is boring. I made her life more interesting.

Beth gets out. She turns to Jake.

JAKE

She was fine the way she was.

BETH

You’re right about one thing.

JAKE

?

BETH

This isn’t Poppy.

JAKE

Do you fancy going out?

BETH

Pick on someone your own age.

JAKE

Just a thought.

BETH

I don’t look like her. I don’t think like her.

JAKE

You’re the next best thing.

BETH

Exactly.

BETH leaves.

CUT TO:

INT. VIEWING ROOM – DAY

POPPY/HILLARY is at a console in the viewing room flicking through material related to Poppy’s life. She isn’t pleased with her situation.

POPPY

Did the dog receive counselling? I sure as hell need it.

BEN approaches with a coffee for her. As he comes from the door into the Viewing Room we see that JAKE is watching from the other side.

POPPY (CONT’D)

Which of me like’s coffee?

BEN

Hillary liked coffee. Poppy preferred mint tea. You choose I can hardly mix the two together.

POPPY

Exactly.

POPPY/HILLARY goes back to watching through material on the monitors.

CUT TO:

INT. HOSPITALITY ROOM, HOSPITAL – DAY

POPPY/HILLARY is introduced to some strangers, a MAN and WOMAN in their 50s and a young man, TOBY – these are HILLARY’s family.

POPPY/HILLARY

Dad? Mum? Toby? This feels as strange for me as it does for you … but I am in here.

POPPY/HILLARY taps her skull. Then refers to her body.

POPPY/HILLARY (CONT’D)

Even if I’m not quite looking myself.

The group gingerly embrace. JAKE looks in from outside, still reluctant to make his presence known.

CUT TO:

EXT. VIEWING ROOM – DAY

POPPY/HILLARY is upset as she leaves the Viewing Room and heads down the corridor followed by JAKE.

JAKE

Did she have a boyfriend, is that it?

POPPY

I’m not the same person.

JAKE chases POPPY/HILARY down the corridor. She goes into the Lady’s. JAKE thinks nothing of following.

CUT TO:

INT. FARMHOUSE, POPPY’S BEDROOM – NIGHT

POPPY/HILLARY, naked, throws everything out of her bedroom. She wants nothing that reminds her of her old self. BETH pushes open the bedroom door.

BETH

Mum thought you should put something on.

BETH holds up some clothes.

POPPY/HILLARY

I’m not wearing anything of hers.

BETH

They’re mine.

POPPY takes a look. They’ll do.

BETH (CONT’D)

You should see Jake. He wants to see you.

POPPY/HILLARY

I can’t see the attraction.

BETH

You two were so close.

POPPY/HILLARY

Really.

BETH

Very close.

POPPY/HILLARY

Why don’t you have him then?

POPPY gets up and pushes BETH out of her room.

CUT TO:

INT. LADIES’ LAVATORY – DAY

POPPY/HILLARY locks herself in a cubicle. She is upset. JAKE stands outside. A little self-conscious. Keen to have his say now that he has cornered Poppy.

JAKE

We were so good together.

POPPY/HILLARY

Go away.

JAKE

We were inseparable. No one could imagine us apart.

POPPY/HILLARY

So.

JAKE

I love you.

[BEAT]

The cubicle door unlocks. JAKE and POPPY/HILLARY embrace. JAKE wants to make it more tender. POPPY/HILLARY Pushes him away – tearful, wanting to sob.

POPPY/HILLARY

That was one human being to another. We just feel so alone.

POPPY/HILLARY embraces JAKE a second time.

POPPY/HILLARY (CONT’D)

You have no idea. We have no idea who we are. What I am. Who we are. These two people in my head argue about everything.

JAKE

We all have our doubts about who we are.

POPPY/HILLARY

If they had met would they have seen eye to eye on anything?

JAKE

You’d have liked her.

POPPY/HILLARY

Was I at the accident?

JAKE

I think you were. Both of you.

POPPY/HILLARY grins from ear to ear. She gives JAKE the hugest, wet snog.

POPPY/HILLARY

I’ve just figured this out. It’s like flicking between two channels on TV … looking for the good bits. This is a good bit.

POPPY/HILLARY and JAKE kiss passionately. They are together again big time. Pulling apart they give each other a ‘dare we’ kind of look.

JAKE

Let’s.

The make love in the cubicle.

CUT TO:

INT. HOTEL – DAY

POPPY/HILLARY looks gorgeous, in her wedding dress, hair done, soon to be married. She is there with several bridesmaids: sister BETH, friends FIONA, JULIE and ANGELA. CLIVE puts a gold locket on a chain around POPPY’s neck.

CLIVE

It’s your grandmother’s. There’s a picture of her with you as a baby.

POPPY studies the picture.

POPPY

I remember this.

BETH

You couldn’t remember it. You were only a baby.

POPPY

Of course.

There’s something odd about POPPY still – an emptiness.

CLIVE

Should I call a car?

POPPY

No. We’ll walk. It’s just down the road.

CUT TO

INT. HOTEL LOBBY – DAY

The entourage of POPPY, CLIVE, JOANNA and BRIDESMAIDS leave through the lobby of a Five Star Hotel. On seeing a motorbike courier POPPY goes over. POPPY fancies a ride on the motorbike. She approaches the RIDER.

POPPY

Will you take me to the Church?

CUT TO:

EXT. ROAD – DAY

The entourage of CLIVE, JOANNA and BRIDESMAIDS leave the five star Hotel to cross a main road and walk round to the church. They stop the traffic at a Pedestrian Crossing. POPPY appears cling to her dress sitting on the back of a motorbike and waving.

CUT TO:

INT. CHURCH – DAY

JAKE looks up the aisle. The guests wait. The church is packed. This is going to be a great event.

POPPY

I’m back.

To JAKE’s horror he turns to find ‘Poppy’ at his side.

JAKE

I can’t marry you.

POPPY

Why not?

JAKE attacks her with his arms as if he is wafting smoke than gives his head a tap.

JAKE

I don’t even know if you exist except in here.

JAKE taps his head.

POPPY

Something’s happened to me.

An USHER appears at the church door. He looks ashen. JAKE knows there is something up – he runs down the aisle.

CUT TO:

I/E. CHURCH ENTRANCE/LOBBY – DAY

JAKE looks up the road where a motorbike has been hit. JAKE thinks the worst and runs over. There are a couple of USHERS at the scene. POPPY/HILLARY leans over to JOANNA and kisses a two year old child she is carrying. JAKE turns on his heels. POPPY/HILLARY is okay.

POPPY/HILLARY

He gave me a ride to the church.

They watch as the USHERS help the driver up. He is going to be alright. He thanks the USHERS and drives off. JAKE turns to POPPY/HILLARY.

POPPY/HILLARY (CONT’D)

What do you think?

JAKE

Stunning.

JAKE leans in to kiss his bride. She won’t let him … not just yet.

POPPY/HILLARY

You can wait a few more minutes?

Of course he can. JAKE goes back into the church. As he walks up the aisle he makes reassuring noises to the guests.

Two men, CLIVE and ANOTHER MAN (50s), step forward. POPPY/HILLARY turns first to one, then the other.

POPPY/HILLARY (CONT’D)

Given away by two Dads. Now there’s a first.

POPPY/HILLARY takes each by the arm and is led up the aisle by both men – both her fathers.

ANOTHER MAN

You look gorgeous.

CLIVE

You haven’t changed a bit.

POPPY/HILLARY smiles. Either way she is happy to be alive.

CUT TO:

INT. CHURCH – DAY

JAKE steps forward to greet POPPY/HILLARY. They gaze into each other’s eyes – JAKE in particular is looking intently into her eyes.

POPPY/HILLARY

Two for the price of one. You lucky man.

JAKE so wants to give her a kiss. A peck on the cheek even. POPPY/HILLARY won’t let him.

POPPY/HILLARY (CONT’D)

In a minute. When I’m married. I’m a good girl.

JAKE

Not.

POPPY/HILLARY

Snot.

JAKE

Nose.

POPPY/HILLARY

Blow.

JAKE

Job.

The VICAR has been there all the time. So still, so much part of the scenery that you could forgive POPPY/HILLARY and JAKE for ignoring him. He now wants their attention and gets it.

VICAR

We have come together today, to witness the marriage of two people.

JAKE

Three people.

The VICAR clocks the two year old being held by JOANNA – he assumes that it is this that they are referring to. POPPY/HILLARY and JAKE are so absorbed in each other they find it hard to hear a word the VICAR is saying. The guests love the moment. We pick out the usual suspects: DR MUNROE & PROF DICKINSON, BEN, CLIVE, JOANNA, BETH, ABI … the entire cast list.

VICAR

And do you Poppy Anthea Laing take Jake Ferguson Jeffries to be your lawfully wedded husband.

POPPY/HILARY

We do.

JAKE and POPPY/HILLARY try to hold back their giggles – two people have never been so much in love.

POPPY/HILLARY

I do.

FADE OUT.

THE END

CUT TO:

CREDIT SCENE:

EXT. FARM YARD – DAY.

JAKE and POPPY/HILLARY (heavily pregnant) stand with CLIVE at a farm gate. CLIVE takes a dog whistle and blows. Looking across the fields/hill we see sheep turn, break into a canter and then run down towards the farm. The sheep, without a dog to handle them, come into the paddock. A few of them bark, none of them bleat.

Director as talent nurturing gardener?

Is it my nurturing nature?

This is how I see myself. My role is to create the right environment, to nurture talent, to bring out the best in people – to help them be the best they can be.

There are parameters of course, they have chosen to be on this course, to swim with our club (where I am a coach). They ought to have some interest, some motivation to attend. Having directed a number of successful short films it surprises me how often I am doing exactly this. I take a chance on new comers, new to costume, new to art direction and make-up, new actors too. I like to give people this ‘break.’

It’s rewarding

If everyone is a seasoned pro I hope I create the same atmosphere.

I’ll even put the watering can down and get my hands dirty.

Is all this e-learning to hands-off?

Students as seeds in a packet scattered on distant ground.

Vygotsky would approve. ‘The gardener affects the germmination of his flowers by increasing the temperature, regulating the moisture, varying the relative position of neighboring plants, and selecting and mixing soild and fertilizer, i.e., once again, indirectly, by making appropriate changes in the environment.’

REFERENCE

Vygotsky, L.S. (1928) Educational Psychology

Reflections on 12 months of e-learning – roller-coaster or white-water rafting?

How goes it?

Like a roller-coaster, merrily going along, like the C4 ident:through the loops of a roller-coaster though the shapes I see are ‘H’ and ‘800’ and ‘807’ and ‘808’ as I pass by.

Then I switch track and venue and find myself on the Mouse-Trap. Blackpool Pleasure Beach. Here there is a rise and dip where you are convinced you will hit a girder. I just did, metaphorically speaking. (Diary entry, August 1980)

Illness changes things

Nothing more than a rubbish cold made uncomfortable by asthma.

It is a set back of sorts. I can sleep and read. But the spark has gone (for now).

To use a different analogy, if I often think of my mind as a Catherine-wheel, this one has come off and landed in a muddy-puddle.

We’re in the week of metaphors for learning

I can draw on any notes I’ve taken on this here and in my eportfolio. This is more than an aide-memoire, it favours the choices I made before at the expense of anything new. So I widen my search. The OU Library offers hundreds of thousands of references in relation to ‘Education’ and ‘Metaphor’ going back to 1643.

Gathering my thoughts will take time

There are 26 pages (nearly 12,000 words) to read (course intro, resources). Far, far more if I even start to consider ANY of the additional references or reading.

Give me three months. We have, or I have left, three days

My approach is simple. Tackle it on the surface, drill into an author or topic that is of interest and expect to pick up on and pick through this again later this module, later this year … or next existence. (I believe in multiple existences and flux. We are transitory and changing)

As well as tapping into the OU Blog and e-portfolio the blog I’ve kept since 1999 might have something to say on metaphor. If I care to I might even rummage through A’Level English Literature folders from the 1970s, just to trigger something. Engaged and enabled by Vygotsky and others in relation to memory and learning I value this ability to tap into past thoughts/studying with ease.

(Ought others to be sold the idea of a life-long blog?)

Otherwise I have gone from learn to swim in the training pool, to swimming lengths in the main pool … to observer/coach who will participate, but has a towel over his shoulders and is looking around.

The next pool? Where is that?

I’m not the same person who set out on this journey 12 months ago.

On the other hand, having a Kindle makes me feel more like a teenager swotting for an Oxbridge examination; I like having several books on the go. I’ll be through ‘Educational Psychology (Vygotsky) by the end of the day and am already picking through and adding to copious notes.

Piaget next?

Then a little kite-boarding as I head away from the swimming pool that has been an MA with the OU?!

The War of Art: Winning the Inner Creative Battle

The War of Art: Winning the Inner Creative Battle

by Steven Pressfield

I’m unsure now where this recommendation came from. My apologies. I’m sure it came from out there in Diaryland. A recommendation to read this book. The reviews in Amazon were encouraging too. Failure to purchase the thing from the bookstore in the real world that magic set of numbers known as the credit card delivered the book to my door step within 24 hours. The silver hardback cover with its flecks of mirrored glass leave you suspicious – all front and no substance. Its justified though, rather like ‘The Little Book of Calm’ – I’m glad Steven Pressfield didn’t write a Tome, in fact, had he the nerve he may have trimmed out thirty pages of the hundred and sixty five.

I took notes. There are a number of points over which I’d like to dwell, points I’d like to share.

Each of the quotes I’ve grabbed from the book will sit beneath a page title, sometimes there is only a paragraph or two, never much more than two pages per title. The key word through-out to get your head around is ‘Resistance’ – i.e. that which prevents us from doing. The key instruction is to sit down and do it like a pro. Here we go:

What I Do

I sit down and plunge in. When I start making typos, I know I’m getting tired…All that matters is I’ve put in my time and hit it with all I’ve got. All that counts is that, for this day, for this session, I have over come Resistance.

From this I take the point that the hardest thing is to get on with it, to do it, as Steven Pressfield says further down the page, the hardest thing to do is sitting down to write’. This can be all that is required. This is what Roald Dahl did going down to his shed in the garden every morning to work, this is what Frederick Forsyth does going down to his office. This is what I’d like to do. On time, every day, without fail. As if the school bell has gone or the exam has begun,. I got a sense of this (and a kick from it) doing the Twenty Four Hour Writing Marathon at the beginning of May. That was like having to sit down and ‘do it’ on the hour, every hour for twenty four hours. It might have been twenty four days, indeed, it might have produced more words for each of us in a twenty four hour period than we were likely to produce continuing as we had done, over twenty four days. Some seeds were planted then that I am yet to harvest.

Resistance will bury you

Tell me about it. Heh, let’s play Devil’s Advocate, he’s playing the fortune tellers game here, listing characteristics with which I cannot fail to identify. Or is he? He might not embrace human kind but he has a good crack at encapsulating ‘the frustrated creative’. Here’s one. Right through acting, writing (poetry, lyrics, stories, a journal, stories, TV plays and series and screenplays), composing songs, painting and drawing, singing and performing. I have buried myself deep beneath a heap of problems and neurosis. Reading ‘The War of Art’ is like looking in a mirror. It don’t mean to be vane by making the comparison, but as I creep through my fortieth year I leave in my a wake a mess of easily identifiable obstacles, flotsam and jet some I must learn to doge, not manufacture or cling to.

Resistance is infallible

The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.

Why does this sound less encouraging than it should? My problem is this, Steven Pressfield appears to see the soul as a weapon, spear-like, but when I call to my ‘Muse’ I turn out to be a throwing star, I have no single point, I want to perform (to act and sing), I want to paint (draw portraits) as well as to write (and cook, and garden). Which need not be a problem. Come to think of it I am happiest when I indulge a bit of each daily, with a reasonable run or swimming training thrown in.

Resistance is most powerful at the finish line

Here Pressfield gives us the story of Odysseus in a few paragraphs. He then warns us that:

The danger is greatest when the finish line is in sight. At this point, Resistance knows we’re about to beat it. It hits the panic button. It marshals one last assault and slams us with everything its got.

Reading this brings back a most painful recollection. Age sixteen I decided I would join the BBC in London; I even got to visit the place through the daughter of a friend of my mothers. I was told to study hard, which I did, passing through Oxford University five years later with a C.V. listing achievements that said my life was dedicated to T.V. I had my panic after the first interview, I was thrown by my poor general knowledge and quit before I could be told I hadn’t made it. I quit by turning up at my ‘Final Board’ to tell the panel I had taken a job elsewhere. This was arrogance, it was fear. Fear that I had failed to achieve all that I had set out to achieve. Dick Head. I did something similar five years ago. By circumstances I found myself a week away from directing actors in a reconstruction of a bank raid, but I shy away from doing what I had claimed until then that I did (and wanted to do), which was to direct drama. I never acted professionally, though a university like Oxford gave me ample opportunity to audience and secure parts. A recurring dream (that can become like a nightmare) is to find myself on a stage not knowing my lines, not knowing what the play is, not even having a copy of he play to read from. Is it this what I fear as the curtain goes up, just as I am about to take centre stage? It feels like that. It might explain why so many nearly finished and completed pieces (yes, I can finish) sit on shelves on discs. Remind me what happened to: ‘Escape from Alien Zoo’, ‘Rewind’, ‘Sardines’, ‘The Watersprites’, ‘Fortune Photobooth’, ‘The Little Duke’, ‘Bodyguard 943’, ‘Adam & Evie’, ‘The French Test’, ‘Adam’s Camera’ and ‘Excuse My Frenchman’, to name a few screenplays … and what about short stories, ‘The Trap’ and ‘The Cuckoo-Clock’ and all those kids stories, such as ‘Hapless Harry’, ‘CC & Suzi’ …

How else do I respond? I panic and get a job. At least I don’t get ‘Broadcast’ anymore, I would apply to anything I felt remotely suited too. I’ve even stopped looking at the Media Job pages of the Guardian.

Resistance recruits allies

The best and the only thing that one artist can do for another is to serve as an example and an inspiration.

This is what I will say at tonight’s meeting of ‘The Grange Writers’, which in part is why I got up at 3.15 a.m. this morning to finish reading ‘The War of Art’ and to make these notes. The group is meeting to decide how we go forward. I was getting pissed off at amateurishness, failure to complete tasks or to contribute comment, lack of nerve or commitment and the weakness of some of contributions that would embarrass a teenager. I’m glad that I am leaving my mark by saying nothing other than submitting my work. It is surprising how lucid and journal like some of the writers have become (they may be secretly posting diaries in Diaryland by now too).

I think Dale Carnegie in his ‘Golden Book’ from the 1950s has some advice too on how to handle the work of others, as does Naomi Eppel in ‘The Observation Deck’.

Resistance and sex

Sometimes Resistance takes the form of sex, or an obsessive preoccupation with sex. Why sex? Because sex provides immediate and powerful gratification.

I admit it. I go through phases of being obsessed with ‘pleasuring myself’ – when you’re in your twenties and thirties chasing fanny (or pussy as you will say in North America) is attractive and doable. A good marriage is an outcome of this, at first it quenches the pain, feeds it, then children, life, and all the rest of it comes along blah blah … I am guilty of seeking this ‘quick fix’ – like alcohol, like chocolate, like meat and until I ditched the stuff, Ritalin. I think what Steven Pressfield is saying is that the overriding obsession should be one’s art. I can understand why being celibate is in itself a way to guarantee that energy is given a different direction. Turning this on its head though I also reflect the sex, or lust or desire is often for me the greatest drive, the greatest rush that pushes my writing forward. I admit that the idea of ‘inter sex’ or ‘cyber sex’ fuelled me for a while. The first entry I posted in Diaryland, an episode from the twenties, called ‘Lucinda Gets Naked’ is an expression of it too – I feel the fire now, of that sylph like nineteen year old naked in my bedroom as I stood behind an easel in a dressing gown to draw her. I am naked too, beneath a robe, to make her feel more comfortable. Laugh. My hard-on ached for months, at the time it fed my arm the held he charcoal that produced the drawings I recently had framed. I’ve not resolved this one have I? Maybe sex will continue to get in the way, whether or not I consummate any of the many affairs I toy with and fantasize about.

It goes without saying that this principle applies to drugs, shopping, masturbation, TV, gossip, alcohol, and the consumption of all products containing fat, sugar, salt, or chocolate.

Touché.

Resistance and Victomhood

Casting yourself as a victim is the antithesis of doing your work. Don’t do it. If you’re doing it, stop.

I had come of Ritalin and stuck two fingers up at A.D.D. by the time I came to ‘The War of Art’. This little tome helps me accept the blame. I’ve been blaming everything and everyone for too long. I’ve made my father out as some kind of ogre which is cruelly unfair. As if he is to blame for my current circumstances (or those of my older sister). Most recently because he surely has A.D.D, and my sister and I do too (or not). So what! Mark Spitz had asthma but won seven golds at the Mexico Olympics. (He was fishman and my hero from the 1972 Olympics; I was ten). I’m saying I blame myself for making a thing into a problem, it is too easy to latch onto something like alcoholism or A.D.D. and say they are to blame, they are not, I am. In any case, I am not alcoholic and have doubts about the A.D.D. thing too.

Resistance and criticism

If you find yourself criticising other people, you’re probably doing it out of Resistance.

This gives me an excuse to say nothing, however angry it may make me, at future meetings of ‘Grange Writers’ – or does it? IT is how I correct/mark/judge something. I decimated a piece recently because there was a mess of poor English getting in the way of the story. I am struggling to think of any redeeming points even now. What I do think though, and this has come from Pressfield, is how when it comes to swimming, I can offer enthusiasm to someone (a child) who is floundering, even if they are sadly behind in their swimming and are clinging to arm bands. What this writer needed was encouragement, instead I mocked his arm bands, his cockeyed-doggy-paddle that barely kept him afloat, and would have gladly seen him drown. Ooops. My wicked streak again. There comes a point though when you have to say to a guy in his fifties wearing arm bands that he should not be in the ‘big pool’ yet as it is neither good for him or the rest of us.

Resistance and isolation

It is a commonplace amongst artists and children at play that they’re not aware of time or solitude while they’re chasing their vision.

Some months ago I picked up a piece by Terry Gilliam complaining that writers today were afraid of isolation, of being alone. That our being flooded by the same news, same films, same books was producing a predictability and sameness in all that we wrote. Being alone matters. This is timely. Will I be more alone at home next week, at the desk, the family away for a week while I write, or in an attic room at my Mother’s house being fed and allowed out for exercise? I’m worried how much might distract me if I stay here (home), yet worried how distracting it might be to be alone with a keyboard in a spare bedroom.

‘It is one thing to study war and another to live the warrior’s life’.

Telamon of Arcadia, mercenary of the fifth century B.C.

I fancy a Spartan life, the discipline, the attack, the commitment.

Professionals and amateurs

The word amateur from the Latin root meaning ‘to love’. The conventional interpretation is that the amateur pursues his calling out of love, while the pro does if for money. Not the way I see it. In my view, the amateur does not love the game enough. If he did, he would pursue it as a sideline, distinct from his real vocation. The professional loves it so much he dedicates his life to it. he commits full-time.

This is familiar territory. I heard it first from Nelson E Bolles in ‘What Color’s Your Parachute?’ You become a professional by behaving like one. Pressfield is derogatory about amateurs who toy with their art and blame the way they toy around for their failure. I’m afraid many of the recently departed members of the Grange Writers group were exactly this – amateur. They were dragging me down; there are still others, three out of the remaining seven, who have to wake up to the reality of their amateurishness. Sorry, must add this statement of fact as a jibe, they are all single women in their forties (even him). Not that being ‘single and a woman in your forties’ implies that you are amateur. But there is bagged there to shake off if you are joining a group of people who wish to be professional.

We’re all Pros already

Resistance knows that the amateur composer will never write his symphony because he is overly invested in its success and over terrified of its failure. The amateur takes it so seriously it paralyses him.

Yes and no. And yes. I have an excellent track record of sitting down and doing it … I get stuff written. My problem is sending it out. This goes back to a set of songs I composed in my teens and reordered … one mail out, one rejection, stick it on the shelf. Really! The only time anything I have written has been seen by more than one producer (this is back in my TV days) was when I had an agent.

A Professional is patient

Resistance outwits the amateur with the oldest trick in the book: It uses his own enthusiasm against him. Resistance gets us to plunge into a project with an over ambitious and unrealistic timetable for its completion. It knows we can’t sustain that level of intensity. We will hit the wall. We will crash.

Whether or not I have A.D.D. I am learning, now that I have had the chance, to be more patient. A novel does not get written in a week, or a few weeks … especially not when your circumstances require most of your day elsewhere. I got hung up over getting these ‘three chapters’; out when I knew I’d have to write far more than this to feel comfortable about ever completing the entire novel. I’m now at that stage. The goal of this week writing I am about to take is to come out of it convinced I can make it to the end of the novel and with three chapters that when sent out will do their job.

A professional accepts no excuses

He knows if he caves in today, no matter how plausible the pretext, he’ll be twice as likely to cave in tomorrow.

Fiction writing has to take priority over Diaryland, my journal, ‘Morning Pages’ and other excuses that have me sitting here tappy tappy typing away in the belief that this is work, when work is a different folder a glance away. IF I can’t work on that with the distraction of this … then I’ll need to take a tent up a mountain and use a pen and notepad until I finish. (Am I making an excuse again?)

A professional does not take failure (or success) personally

Resistance uses fear of rejection to paralyse us and prevent us, if not from doing our work, then from expositing it to public evaluation.

Touché

Invoking the Muse

Ref: ‘The Invocation of the Muse’ from Homer’s Odyssey, the T.E. Lawrence translation.

It doesn’t do anything for me. Or was I reading something else?

The Magic of Making a start

Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation) there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.

W.H. Murray. the Scottish Himalayan Expedition.

I have never found starting a problem. I have made the beginning a t art. I can have an idea and give it a title, write some of it, then have another idea and give it a title. I have a hardback notebook of short stories. There are three or four completed stories, a dozen or more titles with a line or two giving me the gist of the story … and then a book of titles. One per page. Not one of those titles means anything to me, nor do many of the stories. So. Starting can be easy, however hard it might be for some. For me finishing ,,, i.e. sending the fucker out, is, without a deadline and a pay check an extraordinarily hard thing for me to do.

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has a genius, magic, and power in it. Begin it now’.

Goethe.

See above. Starting is not my problem. Starting something else is my problem. Being distracted is my problem.

The hierarchical orientation

A pecking order can hold only so many chickens.

As a new boy at Mowden Hall Preparatory School I had the number 105. Five years later I made it to No. 2. (I should have gone to NO. !, but I won’t dwell on this for now). Public School was similar, in fact, ‘watch your nip’ was the expression that one boy used to put another down if he were in any way ‘senior’ to you … the most junior boys of the year above (who may have been younger than me), were most prone to this. At the Royal Grammar School were I eventually flourished hierarchy was based on academic merit alone. Oddly, I floundered at Oxford because the strictures of hierarchy were taken away. OR I never had the chance to feel them. I was a ‘free lance’ a free operator. So I drifted. Out here in the real world, especially in our circumstances, I feel that I am too beholden to a hierarchy based on income (or total lack of it). I couldn’t attend a reunion of my year group alumni because I know those who will attend are so massively successful. Really. I’m glad that Pressfield invites us to float free of all of this, something I find easy to do as an ‘outsider’ as an ‘observer’.

The artist and the hierarchy

The artist must operate territorially. He must do his work for its own sake.

The definition of a hack

The hack … is scared of being authentic in front of his audience, scared of writing what he really feels or believes, what he himself thinks is interesting.

Whenever I have tried to be a hack I have failed. I can write for a mould, or money, when I am asked to do so … anonymously.

The feeding frenzy of our digitised world – a mobile maelstrom of information overload

There is something of a feeding frenzy when it comes to consumption of digitised and other media; there’s a constant maelstrom of activity that engenders adapted behaviour by those who indulge it.

The answer is a hobby!

‘How can anyone become a thinker if he does not spend at least a third of the day withou passions, people and books?’ Asked Neeitzsche.

Does racing a Fireball count? Does challenging yourself to ski an unchartered couloir on skiis? Or does these mean yoga and meditation?

All I can manage to escape at present is teaching and coaching swimming. It engages much of my brain … though even here, if I am dreaming up a mobile-learning course for fellow teachers, or how to engage my athletes with the sessions they are doing there is no escape.

Swimming, sailing, painting, cooking, soccer … learning a musical instrument, and still, reading, which might be a book, but could be an e-reader.

I take the view that my education is life-long, sounds like a cliche, but I never chose to divorce myself from needing or wanting to learn more after university. Some of the habits of learning require reading, chunking of information and developing it in different ‘sizes’ for your own consumption, let alone for others.

Are we not, or have we not, simply created many different entry routes into a subject? From a piece on the radio or in a paper, or in a blog or emailed to us, that leads to something on iPlayer, or on terrestrial TV … or Freeview, that can be read about in popular journals (print or not), or academic … and if there is interest taken up as a course at a point of entry of your choosing?

Does this suggest anything to you?

My thinking is to play to what is possible, making information available in a multitude of sizes and forms. Suddenly I feel like a brand manager for Kit-Kat biscuits 😦 Though there is much more educators should be learning from commerce.

(I was an advertising agency account manager for Kit-Kat, Polo, Walnut-Whip and Dairy Box in a former, distance life)

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