Tag Archives: David McAdam

Carol’s face unlocked

sueThis haunting face with no more tears left to cry belonged to the woman who allowed me into her life. It inspired the cover for my book Unlocking Carol’s Smile. Carol is a fictitious woman. This woman was real.

The photo was originally intended – with her permission – to grace the cover. I took it whilst visiting her during one of her numerous hospitalisations for mineral and vitamin replenishment. With her understanding I opted for another image for the book.

Right from the first day she came to the day – centre I  was intrigued by her tight-lipped smile. I’d be flattering myself if I claimed I was the only one she smiled at though it seemed like I was. I was the team member she gravitated towards whenever she needed help or someone to confide in. A socially chaotic woman she was hopelessly addicted to a lethal cocktail that ravaged her body, mind and ultimately took her life. I was only ever spared glimpses of that life beyond sealed lips.

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The record store

Pink_Floyd_-_Dark_side_of_the_moonBack in 74 the shy nineteen year old stepped out of the record store clutching his copy of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. It was the last album he’d purchase as a single man. Its title was symbolic of where his life was headed from that moment.

For the next forty years this shy man was in orbit holed up inside a craft fueled by convention, steered by and viewed through the lens of ambivalence. The long at times arduous journey took him through myriad atmospheres of varying degrees of darkness. Suddenly the craft shuddered and landed with a splash. Wiping away the condensation, he peered through the clearing in the ambivalence and saw he had landed upon the surface of a wide lake. The atmosphere outside looked inviting. Disregarding convention he kicked open the hatch to investigate, immediately averting his eyes as he did so – he had arrived back on the bright side of the moon. With relief he leapt ashore and steadied himself. Hearing a loud gurgling sound he turned to see his craft sink into the depths of oblivion taking with it all he had brought but actually did not need any more. ‘Everything before today is now irrelevant,’ the confident sixty year old uttered as he ascended the lakeside and stepped back into the record store.

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The Garden Square – a short play

The following short play was read by participants at a playwrights group I attend. It is being considered by a Yorkshire based theatre company for inclusion in its program of short plays. I hope you enjoy reading it.

 

The Garden Square
By David McAdam

Theme: distraction

Ian is an Edinburgh based street homeless worker nearing retirement whose task is to rescue individuals who have dropped out of their support structure.
Other characters:
Sam, a schizophrenic with delusions of grandeur.
Duffy, an Irishman, who could be guaranteed to sing at least one verse of a song to suit the occasion.
Rab, a self-pitying man.
Figure, androgynous, something of the ethereal, neatly dressed

Scene 1

Night falls. Ian is standing on a busy street pavement somewhere in Edinburgh. His mobile phone rings. We only hear his responses that indicate something serious under discussion:

Ian: Not Carol again. She’s absconded from alcohol rehab? Suicidal? She’s threatened to do that before, yeah, she’s done the same with me… does it with everybody…exactly, squeezes us dry then…well you know the rest. What makes the threat any different this time? Banned from having any contact with her family whatsoever. Hmm, I can see why you’re taking her threat seriously this time. Any idea where she might be heading? Oh, you’ve searched as far out as that. Nobody’s seen her? Right…yeah, okay that leaves my district as the only other possible place she might be. Won’t be easy in the dark, no. Right, of course I will…if I find her. See
you…yeah, I’ve got the mental health team’s number as well. Right, I’ll…what? Yeah, you’re right, it’s the last thing I need with my retirement coming up. Such is life, speak later.

Scene 2

Ian is standing at a set of traffic lights facing a dilapidated garden square. Although it is dark he recognises the three men in the square that is partially lit up by a lamp post. Ian crosses the road and enters the gap in the low wall bordering the square.

Ian: Hello, lads
Mumbled response from the men.
Duffy (tipsy): Hello, Scotland.
‘Scotland’ is Duffy’s nickname for Ian. He is standing by the brazier warming his hands.
Ian (joins him): Hello Ireland; keeping the home fire burning?
Duffy: What brings you to my home at this time of night?
Ian (glances around): I’m looking for Carol, have you seen her?
Duffy: You mean have I heard her? No, thank goodness.
Ian: I’ve been looking for her everywhere. I hoped, as a last resort, I could’ve found her here.
Duffy asks the other two.
Duffy: Scotland’s looking for Carol. Any of you seen or heard her on your travels?
Rab, seated on the wall lost in thought shakes his head. Sam, reading a paper, doesn’t respond.
Duffy: She’s not exactly in public demand as you can see, Scotland. What’s she been up to? Shouting the odds again with that mouth of hers?
Ian: I wish it was just that, it’d be a lot easier for me and the team. No, it’s more serious this time.
Duffy: You don’t mean…?
Ian: Fraid so.
Rab: Ach, I wouldn’t worry about it, Ian; you know how it is with her, she only ever talks about doing it…and even if she does, well…

Ian looks despairingly at his watch. Duffy notices and starts to half sing half mumble the opening to Pink Floyd’s Time:
Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day, Fritter and waste the hours in an off-hand way, Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town, Waiting for someone or something to show you the way…

As if the meaning of the lyrics hit him personally Duffy’s voice trails off. He stares silently at the fire continuing to warm his hands as he does so. Ian senses Duffy’s change of mood and noting the other two seemingly too pre-occupied to care, he makes to leave. Sam is seated by the exit straining to read a broadsheet newspaper beneath the lamp post beam.

Ian (slows down): See anything interesting in yesterday’s paper?
Sam ignores the joke and instead draws Ian’s attention to a passage in the paper.
Sam (matter of fact): Before you go, see this here, it says that EMI has lost £56 million in profit over the past year blaming falling record sales, cheap CDs and downloads. Not true. It’s them along there (nodding towards an unseen entity), they’re to blame; they’re the ones that suck the profit out of singers and musicians like me. True.
Ian: Yeah, well such is the free market.
He attempts to leave. Sam thrusts the paper in front of him blocking his path.
Sam (brusquely): I’m not finished yet.
Ian (aware of Sam’s potential for throwing tantrums): Sorry…er, suck the profit out of…did you just say ‘musicians like me…you?
Sam: Yeah, the company’s loss would be even bigger if it paid me the royalties I’m owed.
Ian is also aware of Sam’s delusions and plays along with him.
Ian (feigned amazement): Really?
Sam: Yes, if it paid me the money due since 1963.
Ian: As far back as that…1963? I was only 9 years old then.
Sam: That’s when the agreement was signed.
Ian cranes his neck to glance up and down the busy street. Sam notices.
Sam: Forget about her; she’s not going anywhere…listen to what I’m saying
Ian: You said an agreement was signed?
Sam: Yeah. When Dick James took control of the Lennon and McCartney song catalogue there was one other important signature on the agreement.
Ian subtly looking around this time.
Ian: Brian Epstein’s?
Sam: His name was on it, yeah, but no
Ian: Hmm, George Martin’s?
Sam (dismissively): Nah, he was just the producer. No, the other important signature was mine.
Ian (his attention divided): Yours? Wow! So what you’re saying is that EMI hasn’t honoured your part of the agreement?
He makes another attempt to leave. Sam thrusts his arm out in front of Ian this time.
Sam: Stand still. A fifth part, yeah. If you went to the EMI studios and asked to see the original document you would see five signatures: Dick James’s, Lennon’s, McCartney’s, Epstein’s and mine…five signatures.
Ian: Hmm, so when you said royalties does that mean that you recorded songs?
Sam: Not recorded, wrote but not for me to sing, for them.
Ian: Them?
Sam: The Beatles, who do you think? I wrote the songs not them; not Lennon and McCartney; it was me, true
Ian pauses to take this absurdity in. He decides to make another attempt to leave.
Ian: That’s, er, that’s, er, well what can I say. I mean, me, a die-hard Beatles fan in the presence of the man who wrote, nay, composed all my favourite songs. Listen, now that I know who you are I’d rather…
Sam keeps his arm in place, ignoring Ian’s sycophantic response
Sam: Help, Hard Day’s Night, Let it Be…you name it I wrote it.
Ian finds himself trapped; not confident enough to break free lest Sam explodes. He can only play along in the hope that a suitable gap in the interaction will enable him to leave safely.
Ian: So, erm, you wrote the songs; you wrote…I’m the Walrus?
Duffy (interrupts): I’m the Eggman (he chuckles)
Sam ignores him
Sam: Penny Lane, All You Need is Love, Get Back and all the other stuff plus their albums as well.
Ian: Astounding
Sam: I also wrote their solo stuff.
Ian: What, you wrote Imagine?
Rab interrupts
Rab: No, Ian, he simply imagines…you’re not taking in all that crap are you?
Ian looks at Sam for his reaction in the hope that this could be the gap. It isn’t.
Sam: My Sweet Lord.
Ian (momentary lapse in feigned interest): Did Harrison, I mean, you, not get into trouble for copying the Chiffons’ He’s So Fine with that song?
Sam: Harrison just acted the part.
Ian: Of the song-writer?
Sam: And plaintiff. What was ironic about that case was that it was me that wrote He’s so Fine as well.
Ian: Accused of plagiarising your own song? Not so fine, eh?
Sam, smiling at the comment, removes his arm and straightens up the newspaper. Ian, sensing this positive reaction, takes the opportunity to try and leave
Ian: And on that funny but compelling note, Sam, I’d better be g…
Sam: I’m not finished yet. They didn’t know that I wrote the song.
Ian: Er, who didn’t know?
Sam: The courts. I was forced to buy the copyright of that song through Harrison to stop me suing myself in future every time My Sweet Lord was played in public.
Ian: Hence the influence behind, his, er, I mean your song Sue Me, Sue You Blues?
Sam (smiles): You are a die-hard fan of mine, aren’t you?
Ian: Seems I’ve been all along without knowing it. How did you come up with all those classics…such a variety of styles?
Sam: Just ideas.
Ian: Just ideas? How modest of you.
Sam: That’s all music is, just ideas.
Ian (involved): Hmm, where did you get the idea for, say, A Day in a Life?
Rab interrupts again.
Rab: Try asking where he got the sanity for HIS day in a life
Ian gestures to Rab to temper the intrusions. Sam continues unabated.
Sam: I got the idea from this newspaper…I had read about a crash while I was having my breakfast. When I arrived at work one of the lads asked what I’d been up to. The crash was still in my mind so I said ‘I read the news today, oh boy,’ which gave me the idea for the rest of the song.
Ian (sings): ‘I read the news today oh boy’ Great song, Sam. Well, my friend, this die-hard fan of yours has to be going otherwise Carol will be news tomorrow, oh boy…
Sam: Nah, she won’t be. You heard what he said…she only talks about it. Listen, I’ve written other songs like that. You know the song Baker Street, don’t you?
Ian: That was Gerry Rafferty’s hit was it not?
Sam: Nah, people only think it was; it was my idea not his; my song. He stole it.
Ian: Stole it?
Sam: I was on holiday in London. While I was walking down Baker Street I jotted down ideas about the street. I was going to make a song about it then give it to McCartney or Harrison or maybe Tom Jones. A gust of wind blew the paper out of my hand, Rafferty must’ve found it because the next thing I know he had a hit with it and took all the credit.
Ian: And all the royalties.
Sam: They all did…him, Lennon, McCartney, Epstein, Andrew Lloyd Webber…I never received a thimbleful of credit or penny in royalties. They’re just like them along there…sucking the life out of me.
Ian: Hmm, tragic…did you say Andrew Lloyd Webber?
Sam: Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice.
Ian: Two more that hovered up your ideas
Sam: Phantom of the Opera, Whistle Down the Wind, Evita, Jesus Christ Superstar…all my ideas
Rab: Heh Ian, guess who was Michael Douglas’s idea for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, ha ha ha…
Sam (ignoring remark): When you’re a genius like me you have to learn to take those kind of insults. Oscar Wilde had to.
Ian: But unlike Wilde who received credit for his plays, you never received a thimbleful of credit for your musicals.
Rab: You mean a thimbleful of Librium.
Ian gestures to Rab to stop the remarks. He looks at his watch. Sam continues.
Sam: Nor my ten per cent cut. They live in their fancy houses by the Thames while I rough it here by the street.
Ian: A modest ten per cent cut that would have made all the difference to your life.
Sam: The cut that would bankrupt EMI altogether thanks to that lot along there.
Ian: They should be grateful that you’ve not gone public with this miscarriage of justice.
Sam: Nah, the Chiffons’ case was enough for me; it doesn’t really bother me. I know the truth
Ian: That’s magnanimous of you, Sam. I’m proud to know you.
Ian checks his watch again. An idea of escape enters his head.
Ian: I’d better be going, Sam, but tomorrow first thing I’m going to do something for you.
Sam: What’s that?
Ian (nodding towards the city centre): I’m going to go along there and tell that lot on your behalf just what I think of them and that they should do the right thing by you.
Sam withdraws his hand from blocking Ian’s path.
Sam (touched, nods with approval): Before you do, there’s another thing you should tell them.
Ian: What’s that?
Sam: You know the M8 motorway?
Ian: Yeah.
Sam: The money that EMI – and that lot – owes me has been invested there.
Ian (feigned disgust): You don’t say
Sam: I own all sixty odd miles of that road…from here to the other side of Kingston Bridge in Glasgow.
Ian: And no doubt that lot never gave you a thimbleful of credit for that either?
Sam: Not a single trowel-full.
Ian: Outrageous
Sam: Take it from me, Ian, before you ever sign an agreement make sure you get your ten per cent then sit back and let them take all the credit; it doesn’t matter then, you’ve got your cut.
Ian: And my house by the Water of Leith as well. Thanks for the advice, Sam.
Sam (straightens his paper): Don’t mention it
Ian: Just out of curiosity, Sam, what year were you born?
Sam: 1954.
Ian: Same year as me.
Sam: We were born in a vintage year you and me. The Chordettes at number one with a song I wrote.
Ian: Ah yes, Mr Sandman. And you said that you’re owed royalties since when?
Realising he is rumbled, without answering Sam folds his paper, places it in his bag, rises from the wall and brushes past Ian on to the street without saying another word.
Rab: You caught him out with that one, Ian. Ha! Mr Sandman…a pure Walter Mitty.
Ian (diplomatically): Well, Mozart was only six years old when he wrote his first symphony.
Rab: Aye, Mozart actually wrote it…Sam never writes anything other than a betting slip.
Ian ponders for a moment. He has long lost the momentum to look for Carol. He goes back to Duffy by the brazier.
Ian: And how is Ireland, Duffy, when was the last time you saw the old place?
Duffy looks up at Ian, smiles and begins to sing:
When first I landed in Liverpool,
I went upon a spree,
Me money alas, I spent it fast,
Got drunk as drunk could be…
A man must be blind to make up his mind,
To go to sea once more…

He lifts his glazed eyes skywards as his voice trails off once more. He looks down at the dying embers, solemnly shakes his head, turns and trudges over to the flattened earth, lowers himself upon it and reclines with his back to Ian. Rab is seated nearby with an outstretched hand where a beer can normally sits.

Rab (a single nod towards where Sam had been sitting): Yesterday he claimed that it was him and not Brunel that built the suspension bridge. He’ll probably come back tomorrow and claim the credit for Napoleon’s strategy that won the Battle of Austerlitz…mad.
He looks at Ian with a pitiful expression.
Rab: What a life, eh?
Ian: Aye, one could be ending right this minute
Rab: Carol?
Ian: Yeah, I’ve tried looking everywhere for her. I hoped she might be here.
Rab: Don’t worry about it; you’ve done your best. She only talks about doing it. You’re retiring next month. Forget about her.
Ian: I’d hate to retire with her sui…ach, maybe you’re right; she only talks about doing it.
Rab: Women talk about doing it; men do it.
Ian: Tragically, yes. Ah well, I suppose I’d better get going…Oops, better give Charlie a buzz first.
Ian pulls out his phone.
Rab: By the way, I heard about the hostel evicting her if she missed another night.
Ian: Hmm, you don’t miss a trick, Rab, do you?
Rab: Survival of the fittest out here, pal. Any chance of me getting the room if she’s topped herself?
Ian: She only talks about it, Rab, remember?
Rab chuckled.
Rab: I wouldn’t be considered anyway would I?
Ian (smiles knowingly): Now why would you think that?
Rab (pulls out a cigarette stub): Got a light?
Ian: Hmm, is the rent due?
Rab: They don’t charge rent for sleeping here…besides, I can’t burn this place down can I?
Ian produces a lighter and lights the cigarette
Ian: Once you’ve mastered the art of paying rent instead of burning down each flat every time it’s due then you might get considered for another one.
Rab inhales then exhales a cloud of smoke and chuckles at the same time as he stares across at Duffy who is now sleeping the heavy drinker’s sleep that is not sleep at all.
Rab: Hmm, what a life.
Ian is about to make a phone call when a female voice suddenly rings out.
Voice: Ian!
Ian looks across to the other side of the busy street and sees Carol standing at the edge of the pavement. She waves at him and steps onto the road. A truck comes careering round the corner at the lights. Ian sees it and shouts:
Ian: Carol, no!
He then runs out on to the road and pushes Carol back on to the pavement. Light fades.

Scene 3

Later back in the garden square we see Ian standing by the brazier warming his hands over the dying embers. As they dim Rab, who is seated on the wall, and Duffy lying nearby, gradually disappear into thin air leaving Ian alone. Suddenly a dying ember bursts into life sending a glow that shows Ian resplendent against the dark background of the dilapidated square. A figure appears out of nowhere and approaches him.

Figure: I thought I’d find you here.
Ian: Ah, it’s yourself; I thought you would too
Figure: It doesn’t take a genius to know where you’d be
Ian: I think we can safely agree that you’re more than a just a genius
Figure: The fire’s almost out.
Ian: Just about.
Figure: No need for me to ask why you’re still here
Ian: She only talked about doing it, they said
Figure: Yes, I know
Ian: It doesn’t make it any easier
Figure: I can only imagine that it doesn’t
Ian: What a question to ponder with my retirement coming up as well: did she or did she not deliberately step off the pavement in front of that truck?
Figure: At the precise moment you finally managed to step from the square
Ian: Yeah, and see where that step got me
Figure: On the one hand yes, but on the other see where it got Carol. She would not be where she is now leading a life of sobriety and back with her family had YOU not stepped out in front of the truck that night.
Ian: Not knowing whether I saved her from committing suicide or death by a terrible accident
Figure: An irony of that particular night was that for one split second you were not distracted from your original purpose to find her.
Ian: Yeah, as I say, see where that got me. Oops, the fire’s gone out now
Figure: Good, time for us to go out now as well; time for you to take that well-earned retirement.

The figure turns and slowly walks towards the exit, Ian follows. The brazier gradually vanishes into thin air. The figure and Ian also vanish into thin air. A sudden power surge causes the street light to momentarily cast its light upon the square revealing a garden that is not dilapidated but is actually a lush display of shrubs, trees and flora. A park bench stands where the brazier once stood. There is a brass plaque upon it bearing the inscription ‘In loving memory of Ian who sacrificed his life that I might live. Forever grateful, Carol.’

End

 

 

 

 

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The night the curtains fluttered

curtainIt was late. Hannah had a long day at work compounded by a hectic drive home through the evening rush hour traffic. She hung up her coat on the coat stand in the hallway and kicked off her shoes beside it then, too exhausted to prepare anything to eat or drink, she went straight to her bed room. The room was a little stuffy so she opened the small window to let in the fresh countryside air. She closed the curtains, undressed then climbed into bed. After staring into the darkness for a short while, her mind elsewhere, she turned over on to her side and closed her eyes.

“Hannah.” a voice whispered.

Hannah opened her eyes with a start, reached out, switched on the bedside lamp and looked over her shoulder. There was no one there though she noticed the curtains fluttering.

“Hmm, must be the sound of the wind.”

She switched off the lamp, lay down and closed her eyes again.

“Hannah!” the voice whispered once more, though this time it sounded familiar.

“Sean?” she asked as she strained to see in the darkness.

Again there was no one there and this time she noticed that the curtains were still.

“Tch, I must be hearing things.”

She lay down again and gradually fell asleep.

“Hannah, wake up; go to the tree.”

This time Hannah was sure about the voice and knew what the words meant. She looked at the clock: it was 2am.

“Hope I don’t wake the neighbours when I start the car up,” she muttered as she hurriedly readied herself and stepped outside to the car.

The journey to the picturesque village of Shade was just over half an hour away, half that at this time of night. The silhouetted village was fast asleep with its street lights out, and the only sound was from Hannah’s little car as it tip-toed its way over the gravel parking area beside the old church and parked. She turned off the headlights, quietly closed the car door and found herself almost in total darkness, the starlit sky providing the only glimmer of light.

She carefully made her way across the car park towards the dirt track that sloped up the length of the cemetery wall and beyond. The track was extensively used during the day by ramblers and people on horseback and therefore was quite muddy. Although it was dark, Hannah was familiar with the track and managed to negotiate its incline by keeping close to the wall and then the fence. Finally she reached the top that led into the open countryside. She was now only a few yards from the tree.

The sturdy majestic oak tree with its spreading branches was their secret place; their castle from where she and Sean stock-footage-misty-forest-steam-rises-from-frost-amongst-silhouetted-trees-illuminated-by-sun-rays-greensurveyed their make believe kingdom all around. Hannah approached the tree and placed the palm of her hands upon its rugged bark for a moment in order to feel its energy. After a few moments she turned and leaned her back against it, just as she and Sean always did together, and waited for him.

“Hannah,” a gentle voice suddenly spoke from the darkness.

Hannah turned to see Sean standing next to her leaning against the tree. He took her gently by the hand.

“Thank you for coming,” he said.

“Oh Sean, it’s been so long.”

“I’m so sorry.”

“Please, there are no sorrys between us, Sean.”

“Yes I know, this is the way it has to be.”

He turned to face her, placed his arms around her waist,pulled her close and began exploring her face with the tip of his nose and lips in turn, scenting and tasting her cheeks, the nape of her neck and her wild hair; tenderly biting her ear lobes and gently breathing into her ears making her both giggle and quiver. He ran his lips along hers to the corners of her mouth, then back to the soft, inviting centre  and paused for a moment to smell her sweet breath.

“Mmm,” he groaned.”

Sean stared into her eyes.

“So gorgeous.”

Their lips met in a deep long passionate kiss.

Sean finally pulled his head back and gazed at her.

“Oh Hannah.”

“I’m floating,” she replied, her face flushed.

Hannah closed her eyes as they kissed once more.

A breeze suddenly blew between them causing Hannah to open her eyes and find herself in bed with her arms wrapped tightly around her moist pillow. She looked at the clock: it was 3.30am, then scornfully looked across at the curtains – they fluttered to a halt.

‘You,’ she groaned.

She leaned over and switched on the lamp, opened the bedside cabinet drawer and pulled out her bible. She opened it at the Psalms where she found a newspaper cutting, which she held in her hand and quietly read.

‘On the 5th of February, Sean Harper aged 41 beloved son of Mary and Alan, loving brother of Celia and Margaret and dearly loved uncle to Oliver and Rebecca and beloved fiancé of Hannah, suddenly left us.’

“I must go to the cemetery this weekend and place flowers on his grave,” Hannah said as she carefully folded the cutting and placed it back in the bible then returned it to the drawer.

She rose and closed the window, straightened the curtains then went for a drink of water.

Stepping into the kitchen she stumbled over something on the floor. She switched the light on and was startled to discover that it was one of her shoes. ‘How did that get in here?’ Moreover, when she picked it up she noticed mud and grass on the sole. Her coat, which now mysteriously hung on the back of a kitchen chair, held the faint imprint of tree bark across the shoulder.

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