About Me

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London, United Kingdom
Holly Searle is a writer who was born in Westminster in the middle of London. She shares her birthday with Jarvis Cocker and David Seaman and like Jarvis Cocker she wears glasses but has nothing whatsoever in common with David Seaman. She is fascinated by words, people and their stories, and regularly spends hours fantasising about being offered a weekly column. She has a degree in Film and Television which she gained from Brunel University in 1997. She has been blessed with two quite remarkable children whom she adores. She enjoys the company of her friends and the circus that is life. Long Walk to Forever by Kurt Vonnegut is her favourite short story. She is the author of the published children's tale The Story of Balan Singh, and is currently working on her first book.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

The Fax By Holly Searle








Pixie Watkins had been a full time extra for the past ten years. Now however she was a part time extra and a full time mother to a 16 month old baby.

Although she loved being a mum, she was knackered and so when her agent had called her to say that she had a job for her, she jumped at the chance of a day away from it all.

She had been in the business for what seemed like a lifetime and although she reasoned that she would probably never win a BAFTA, she had been invited by them to attend the screening of a film that she had once had a small part in. How many people could make that claim she thought as she finished applying her make-up. She smiled at her reflection and thought with all things considered, she looked acceptable.

With her baby in the care of her mother, she made her way to the airport, where she boarded a small plane that took her on the very short blink or you'll miss it flight from London to Plymouth.

On arriving in Plymouth, she hailed a cab, gave the cabbie the address of the location and they set off to find the film crew.

A local regional news reporter's busy schedule had been her gain it would seem as her role for today was to act as her stand in so that the reporter could be released to read the early evening news.

Pixie didn't mind. It was just good to be able to have some time to herself for a few hours and to be part of the familiar buzz of a film set.

She always loved the way the passing public would stop to look to see what was going on. Did they wonder who she was she thought and smiled to herself. She was no great actress, but they didn't know that and it didn't really matter in the scheme of things, it was just exciting to be part of it all.

The filming was taking a little longer than anticipated and the assistant director came over to inform her that as it was now too late to fly back to London they had booked her into the local four star hotel for the night. She knew him from other jobs she had been on, so he suggested that she join him and some of the crew for dinner and drinks later that evening at the hotel.

After they wrapped, cabs were called and people were ferried to the hotel. Pixie checked into her room and plonked her bag on the floor and gave the en suite a quick once over before sitting on the bed.

She picked up the telephone to call her mother to see how the baby was and to inform her that she wouldn't be home until tomorrow afternoon.

She then called her boyfriend Stan, a photographer's assistant, life long Smiths fan and practical joker.

After two rings he answered. "Mark Redman and Associates, Stan speaking, can I help you?"

"Hellllooooo Stan, I am sure I can think of a few ways that you could."

"Well helllooooooo Miss Watkins, I am sure I could if I so wished, but I have to warn you that I am very expensive and charge by the hour. Whats up?"

"Oh, not much. The filming ran over sooooo, I am staying in Plymouth for the night. Shame you're not."

"Oh, I see, that's exciting for you. Are you in a hotel?"

"Yes I am. Why?"

"Oh nothing, just wondered. What are you going to do then?"

"Have dinner with Sean and the rest of the crew from Reels and enjoy myself."

"Oooooohhhh, get you! Well don't enjoy yourself too much."

"Oh give me a break!"

"Oh alright then. Look have a great time. Mark and I are off for a mince in the local, what's the number there? Actually, do they have a fax number?"

"Why?"

"Oh, never you mind. Maybe a fella might want to send his gal a special something later."

"Stan, don't muck about."

"I am not mucking about, I am being serious, just give it to me doll face."

"Okay, but I am trusting you not to do anything bloody stupid. It's 01752 661 610 for the hotel and the same for the fax accept that there is a one at the end of that number instead of a zero."

"Cool beans. Yeah, don't worry, I promise I won't."

"Okay. Don't drink too much. Love you."

"Yeah, laters."


Pixie replaced the handset and laid down on the bed. I am going to regret that she thought.


Later that evening she joined Sean and the others for dinner. It felt bloody odd to be sitting at a table with other adults instead of sitting at one and feeding the baby. At least this is evening she wouldn't end up with food all over her.

Sean told her to order whatever she wanted. She sensed that he felt at bit responsible for her being there, but after a few glasses of wine, she didn't mind. Just relax and enjoy it, she told herself, it's an evening off and when was the last time you had had one of those?

She couldn't remember. As a consequence, she ate and drank far too much. She thanked Sean and excused herself from the table and even though they wanted her to stay for more drinks, she doubted that she would still be upright after one more, so she made her way up to her room where she just managed to make it to her bathroom, before throwing up.

She sat on the bed. She had succeeded, she thought, in over doing it and that wasn't enjoyable. She turned her attention to the tv, staggered over to it and switched it on. There was laminated card resting on the top of it. She picked it up and returned to the bed which she proceeded to lay on in order to read it the card.

The card listed a selection of movies that could be accessed via the in house hotel film channel, most of which Pixie had seen. Her attention, however, was drawn to those listed under the Adult section and one in particular entitled Pinocchio made her raise her eyebrows. Curiosity got the better of her and she pushed herself off of the bed and gently made her way back to the tv. She found the remote, sat back down on the bed and followed the instructions on the card.

The film started just as the telephone rang.

She press pause and answered the phone.

“Hello?”

Hellooooooooo...”

“Oh, Stan, it's you. I am a bit drunk, no, I am a lot drunk..and I am just about to watch a film, so..”

“A film eh? Did you get my fax?”

“Are you drunk, you sound it. No, what fax?”

“I sent you a little something, just like I promised I would.”

Oh God! No! I haven't had a fax. Where did you send it?”

“To the number you gave me.”

“Well, I have no fax, but I have a film too watch. I shall let you know if I ever get it. Bye!”

Stan was laughing “Yes do, as I want to hear what you think of it. Byeeeeee!”


After several attempts, Pixie successfully replaced the handset. Where was I, ah, yes. She turned back towards the tv, located the remote and pressed play.

She focused her attention on the film. Porn was probably the best kind of genre to watch especially if you found yourself alone and drunk in a hotel in Plymouth as the storyline was pretty thin and the end result a given.

She was quite looking forward to it when there was a knock at the door. She frowned. She looked at the tv grabbed the remote and swiftly ended the movie.

“Hold on, I am just coming.”

She caught a quick glimpse of herself as she passed the full length mirror on the wall. God she looked rough and contrary to her earlier thoughts, she had ended up with food on her clothes post throw up. Jesus, she thought, one night away from home and your attempts to tick every box on the form entitled Human Degradation and Embarrassment is nearly full.

She opened the door to find two police officers standing there, one WPC and one PC.

“Yes, is everything okay?”

“Good evening Miss, no far from it. Do you know a Mr Mark Redman Miss?”

“Yes, my boyfriend works for him, why?”

The PC looked as though he was going to break out into fits of laughter, the WPC didn't.

“Well Miss, they have received a rather offensive fax in reception and they called us.”

Offensive? Do you have it with you?”

“No Miss, but if you could speak to your boyfriend and ask him not to send any further faxes Miss, we would appreciate that Miss.”

Pixie mentally ticked another box on the form.

“Yes, I shall do that right now officer.”

The WPC just looked at her.

If looks could kill Pixie thought, I would be toast. “Thank you Miss.”

She looked from one to the other and nodded at them both and then shut the door.

She made her way back to the bed and sat on it and dialled Stan's number.

“Hello?”

“Hello, what exactly was in this fax you sent me?”

He started to laugh.

“Why, haven't you got it?”

“No, I haven't got it, but two members of the Plymouth Police force have just paid me a visit and have informed me that it is rather offensive.”

He was still laughing.

“It's not funny Stan, now tell me what was on it?”

“Oh it was just a photo I thought you might like, that's all. A nice young man, just your type.”

“Right, well, what can I say other than cheers for embarrassing me.”

Oh, come on, don't be like that Pix, I thought it would make you laugh.”

“Laugh? Yeah, it's hilarious, enjoy the rest of your evening!”

She hung up. She was furious, not so much about the fax, but due to the fact that her evening off had been ruined with her over indulgence and because she would never get to find out what Pinocchio was capable of.

She decided just like Scarlet O’Hara that tomorrow was another day and went into the en suite to get ready for bed.

After cleaning herself up, she felt a little better. Snooze time she thought. She turned off the lights and snuggled down until she found her favourite sleeping position.

She was just starting to relax when she heard a shuffling sound outside her door. Her heckles suddenly went up. Then came the sound of muffled laughter as something was pushed under the door.

She got up and walked over to the door. There on the floor was a plain brown envelope. She returned to the bed, sat down and opened it. Inside there was a folded piece of paper. She unfolded it and there sitting on an Emmanuel styled round backed wicker chair was a man, a naked man. A naked man with a huge erection that you could have hung a coat on. Written across the top on the fax in magic marker were the words How about this boy then? Stan xxxxx

Everyone’s a comic she thought. She folded it and pushed it back in the envelope and went to sleep.


The following morning when she woke up, she suddenly developed a healthy attack of paranoia as she recalled in the cold light of the morning the events of the previous evening. God The team on reception would know all about the activities of the guest staying in her room and the fact that she had tried to watched Pinocchio. God The film crew that would be paying for her room would know about it as well. God

She switched on the tv. On the breakfast show they were running a feature on the 80's pop star Yazz. They were playing her hit The Only Way is Up.

Life mocks me once again she thought.

She got dressed and packed her things away and decided that the best course of action was to adopt the guise of a fleeing criminal. So she called reception and asked them to arrange a cab for her. When it had arrived, they called her to let her know, at which point, she made a dash for the lobby, left the keys on the front desk and jumped into the waiting cab.


She arrived home to find a bunch of flowers waiting for her from Stan.

The note with them simply read "Forgive me?"

She called him.

"Thanks for the flowers, you are forgiven, although I am still slightly annoyed with you."

"Ah, don't be annoyed, it was a well intended joke. I am sure you'll look back on it in a few days time and laugh about it."

"You think?"

"Yes, be guided by your conscious."

"What? Are you telling me to that I should always let my conscious be my guide?"

Pixie laughed.

"And why exactly is that funny?"








Saturday, 18 August 2012

Marmalade By Holly Searle









I love marmalade, especially Tiptree. I place my love for this bitter sweet jelly firmly at the feet of my father who introduce me to it many years ago. Even now, when I feel like treating myself I will spend quite a while pondering the vast selection on display at the supermarket until I select one that I either a) feel happy with or b) I have never tried before.

I then look forward to eating it, on toast, the following morning for breakfast. Bliss.

I was so taken with it, that one year I decided to make my own. How hard could it be I wondered ?

It was an exercise that I soon discovered required a lot of deconstruction in order to reconstruct something else.

It took a long time. The process involved sourcing not only the ingredients, but also vast amounts of jars into which the eventual product could be housed.

It was a labour of love, one that was hard work, but nevertheless, productive and enjoyable with a positive outcome in the end.

In May 2010, I became very unwell. At first, I didn't realise how unwell I was, but looking back now, I can clearly see just how sick I was. I suffered both a mental and physical breakdown. It wasn't nice and it was the bleakest moment in my life.

When something like that happens to you, you have no control over it at all. One moment you are spinning plates and juggling balls and then the next you are scratching your head and staring at the floor wondering why there are broken pieces of china and balls all over the place.

You have no recollection of who you are.

At that moment, everything came to a full stop in my life and I spent the days, weeks, months and years that followed, deconstructing it all, in order to reconstruct something else. I started making marmalade.

The day I first went to see my GP, I was on autopilot. She is and will forever remain the primary heroine of this tale to recovery, because without her help, I doubt I would be telling you this story today. She took me in hand and offered me all the support I needed.

I didn't want to take any medication as I was having trouble at that point even remembering where I lived. It was pretty scary stuff. I have no recollection to this day of the first few weeks after its initial occurrence at all. All that I had known, simply vanished.

Time passed and I returned to see my GP again. I was still raw and incredibly vulnerable and at that point she introduced the idea of speaking to someone that would assist me further. I agreed and it was arranged.

What you need to understand, is that I was this powerhouse of a human being. I had a well paid job in which, I was seen as a productive asset. My life was fixed and regimented and for five days a week, it was the same. Get up, get dressed, get my son ready, walk him to school, walk to work, work, walk home, collect my son from his after school club, walk home, make dinner, bed, sleep. Next day, repeat. At the weekends I cleaned up and prepared for the following five days.

I would take a holiday twice a year during April and August, months with only A's in I used to joke. I was a hamster spinning in a wheel, that span and span and span, until one day it fell off its axle.

When you suffer a breakdown, your mind goes blank. It is like your hard drive has been wiped clean and you have to learn how to function all over again.

A good day for me consisted of being able to do a load of washing successfully. I was so tired. I became scared of leaving the house as the thought of taking a bus or a train or even having to speak to other people was a nightmare. My actions became over exaggerated and I found it hard to even speak to anyone on the telephone.

I lost all sense of myself completely.

The appointment to see the counsellor was horrific. I walked into the office and felt ashamed for being there. I had no idea what to expect and I wasn't prepared for what did.

The man who I saw, asked me to explain to him why I was there. So Told him that several weeks before, I had been up a ladder clearing my loft. My daughter was helping me. I had been passing down boxes to her that needed sorting through and she observed how I much stuff there was. At that point, I thought “Well it is a good job I am sorting this all out now as I am not going to be here much longer.

I cried when I told him that. He then asked me to outline my life in the remaining forty minutes of the session. A big ask. I gave him the abridge version. We made another appointment during which he ripped me to pieces. How a person can do that after only spending just over an hour with a stranger is still beyond me.

However, out of a negative a positive follows. He gave me a booklet that listed all of the local Mental Health organisation and suggested I call one in particular as “They always answered.” So I did. I called them and that is how I started to get better.

Meeting my first counsellor was the best thing that could have happened to me. To be able to speak to someone who was not there to judge me, was the most liberating experience I have ever had. It enabled me to share with them things that I couldn't share with anyone else. I was astonished at the amount of stuff I had to get off my chest. My mind palace had become a rather unsavoury squat in which all sorts of insecurities and hoarded unwanted rubbish had began to pile up. It wasn't pretty, but speaking to her, helped me to make sense of it all and taught me how to tidy up and put things in order.

There were peaks and troughs, it wasn't a sprint, it was a long distance race with no clearly determined finishing line.

I was devastated when I could no longer see her as she had finished her six month intership at the institution. I still needed help and I eventually met the second person who enabled me to see that the end of my journey was both plausible and possible.

From beginning to the end, I spent over 18 months seeing my counsellors. When I arrived, my life was drained of colour, when I eventually felt ready to leave, the world looked bright and vivid to me like a new place that I had never seen before and I wasn't scared any more.

They extended an open invitation to me too return if I needed too and that was the most apt safety net that anyone could have strung below my tightrope wire.

And here is what I learnt. The recipe I had being following to make marmalade was all wrong and I had to find a new one. So I used my recovery time wisely. I did all the things I hadn't been able to do before because I was constantly caught in a series of ever decreasing circles. I reconnected with old friends, I went to places I had never been before, I made new friends, I started living again and more importantly I began to rebuild my life.

Even though I lost my job, I didn't loose my home and I am proud of the fact that throughout this whole process I never once miss a payment on my mortgage. The most import and astonishing thing I realised, was that certain aspects and functions of my old life were so unnecessary and without them, I still able to maintain a reasonable standard of living without all the stresses of the hamster wheel. The fear that had kept me imprisoned for years was just that, a fear, as the reality of no longer living under its regime was surprisingly manageable.

It has been a long journey that at times has been incredibly painful and relentless. It forced me to look at and to deal with situations I wasn't always ready or able to deal with. But, I am better and stronger now and if I ever feel indifferent, I recognise why straight away and by taking a mental deep breath, I am able work out how to deal with it.

I am now new and improved, a fresh batch of marmalade and a successful product of my own reconstruction and for that, I will always be, eternally grateful.









As a postscript, I would like to thank the following people, without whom I would never have got here.

Dr Lucas and Dr Pigett, my wondrous female GP tag team who put me back together.

Matt for calling me ever day to make sure I was okay. Tom for the cuddles.

The stupendous Margaret for listening and forming a super glue fixed bond that will remain with me forever.

Renee for all her vim and infectious view of the world.

All of those at the MCPS.

Yvonne for all of the support you gave me.

Red for all your endless longdistance support and love.

All of my friends who rallied around and checked in to check me out.

All my Cyberspace Pals.



And to my beautiful children, thank you for baring with me until I got all the water out of the sinking boat.



Saturday, 11 August 2012

The Foreign Correspondent Years By Holly Searle





Many years ago when Child One reached a certain age, I came to realise that as our offspring enter the Autumn phase of their childhood their hormones start to kick in yelling "Winter in coming!" At which point, it's best to be prepared for all that follows in spite of ourselves.

All that has bound us to them and them to us in the intervening years, monetarily becomes redundant as we find ourselves in the company of an individual that resembles our child but whose temperament we no longer recognise.

When this first happened, I was horrified. Where had my daughter disappeared too? Had she been kidnapped by those alien body snatchers and replaced by a doppelgänger that had been grown in a pod? She looked like my daughter, but she certainly didn't act like her.

It may be harder for the child of a single parent and the single parent of a child to deal with this transition, as the bond between them is often stronger than that of those formulated within the structure of the traditional family unit. I can only speak for myself, but ours was. We were two companions, a tag team adrift in the world, keeping it all together and exploring life on our joint adventures.

So when she did disappear I didn't know what to do or who to turn to. I thereafter came to refer to this period in our lives as the foreign correspondent years, as while she was still there in body at least, her mind was elsewhere and communication was limited. She would report back from time to time, but more often than not, it was strained and at best, we were held at the mercy of a dodgy satellite connection.

At times this was incredibly difficult to deal with for both of us. She was spreading her wings and bridging the gap between childhood and adulthood and I couldn't help her. I became a hindrance to her, the target for all of her contempt. It was heartbreaking.

When this situation first arose I panicked, but then I found it was probably best to just sit back and ride along with it in the hope that she would return relatively unscathed from her trip. Just like Steve Martin's character Gil Buckman in Parenthood, I began to see that being a parent was not dissimilar to boarding a roller coaster ride. There are ups and downs, twists and turns and sometimes you feel excited, while at others you just feel sick. But like all rides, as sure as it begins, so must it end.

I have a huge amount of respect and love for my daughter. She is an intelligent beautiful woman and the first love of my life.

After it was over, she did eventually return to me and although our relationship had altered, we became stronger for it.

In light of this experience, I have reminded myself recently that I am about to embark upon it once again with Child Two. He is after all on the verge of of this journey and I feel that the remembrance of his earlier event, will at least prepare me (and him) for it.

The early signs have already started to appear, but unlike before, I am ready, but will our forthcoming experience, mirror that of the previous one?

There are a lot of urban parental myths about babies and children. It starts from before they are even born. If you are carrying a child a certain way, you are told by the matriarchal members of your tribe that this predicts the gender of the child. I don't believe any of that. Unless you ask during the course of one of your scans, you do not know until the midwife tells you after you have delivered the baby. At which point, even though you are so tired from pushing a huge baby out through a small hole, if she doesn't, I am sure you will ask.

When I had Child One, she was the perfect baby. Even though my labour was long, she was so chilled out and relaxed, that she actually fell asleep whilst being born. She was and is so good natured, that I thought that all babies were like her. She also has a fantastic sense of humour which I put down to all of those episodes of Batman staring Adam West I watched on Night Network while I was pregnant with her.

Child Two however was a very different story altogether. He was a wriggler even before he was born. And when he was born, he was born very quickly and made such a fuss that even the midwife took offence.

Child One overhearing my labour screams later confided in me that she was “Going to adopt."

One thing I can say for absolute certainty is that their personalities are the same today as they were on the days they were born (and possibly before).

After such a long labour, Child One was taken away from me for the night so that I could get some rest. Within half an hour, the nurse returned with her saying that she just wouldn't settle, so she snuggled up with me and we both fell asleep together.

Even though she is the eldest and very independent, she will revert to this initial mode of behaviour when she needs me and that is something, that I believe was established from that moment on.

Child Two on the other hand wouldn't settle after he was born. He set a patten thereafter as being a baby that never slept. For a while he was upside down and slept during the day, but never at night. I didn't even know that I was capable of functioning on so little sleep. I don’t think I slept properly for the first two years of his life. When he righted himself, he never took a nap and when he did, he was always a fretful sleeper and still is today. He choose not to speak until quite late. He would just point at things and as we had created a language based upon his actions, I always knew exactly what he wanted or needed. Many hearing tests later, I was told that there was nothing wrong with him, he just didn't want to speak. When he did eventually start talking, it was a pleasure to hear his voice at last, especially one that was full of so much inquisition at every opportunity.

While she is the very essence of serenity, he has always been busy and not unlike the robot from Short Circuit, Johnny 5, has always required continual input. So Child Two has been filled to the brim with input and just like Johnny 5 is very smart due to the natural curiosity of his nature. Which in my mind, is a good thing and explains why he was always exploring, rather than sleeping.

He is the second love of my life and I am blessed to have two such remarkable children.

And the most remarkable thing about my children, are how these aspects of their personalities compliment mine. While I can spend a pleasurable comfortable silence in the company of my daughter, I am always able to learn something new in the company of my son.

In the Jekyll and Hyde karmatic fabric of the universe, I do therefore wonder if he will in fact coast through this forthcoming event without any disruption at all having had so many earlier on in his childhood. It is a possibility (fingers crossed).

Knowing your children is in all probability what will assist you most when they are off in the wilderness of their own foreign correspondent years.

As I have been there once before, I am blessed at least with the knowledge that something may or may not alter soon. But just to be on the safe side, I am already in the queue waiting to board the ride once more. At least from this angle I can see the roller coaster from where I am standing and it doesn't look as scary as it did before, this time it looks manageable.