We decided that the only way to find Zig-zag would be to make the Storey institute into a giant toy, cover it in flying tumbling streamers, frozen forever in a delirious dance of joy, breathing in the whole town, and breathing out the shy ghosts of a thousand plumbers, plasterers, and potters and carvers and unicorn-teachers buried in its fabric, and showing everyone the magic of art and love and loss, and that’s what we did and it worked.
Zig-zag appeared, slinking out of the record shop over the road where he’d been living, and he crossed Meeting House Lane and sat down on the pavement and looked up at the shiny metal streamers for a long time before returning to the vinyl 45s and LPs in the record shop where he was loved in a different way, a way he’d become used to and didn’t want to change.
(Am I Fern? Or am I Charlie? Or are we both the same? Have a look at Charlie’s blog for the answer)
Go back a bit. Back a bit more. That’s it. Back to before I died. That’s right just there. That’s exactly right. Stand there. Close your eyes. Close them now. Think about Zig-zag. Think about the cat. Picture him. Think about him living in the portico with Charlie. Finding Zig-zag will help us find the answer. If you can conjure him in your mind he’s alive somewhere.
Think about Charlie too. He has a hat now. A hat, and a beard, and glasses, plus he smokes a pipe. No one would be able to doodle on a photograph of him.
If it wasn’t for the 11 plus Charlie and I might have been together. I can’t understand how he ever passed that exam, though. For the following statement, find the best reason among the four given. A clock is useful in the house because:
1:We should be late for school without it 2: It often needs winding 3: It tells the correct time 4: It gives a cheerful tick
Charlie would have liked the sound of the cheerful ticking, and that’s why I loved him, because he was always so thrillingly and pointlessly wrong about everything, and maybe if everything hadn’t happened the way it did and we had got together sooner, that little chip of diamond he left in my heart would have melted away.
Find Zig-Zag please.
THE CHILDREN ARE CRYING
(In Charlie’s blog you can see in the words he uses, a glimpse of the poet he once was, bubbling up to the surface)
I don’t think Charlie’s poster will find the cat and I’m not sure mine will either. Charlie and I don’t have a very good record on written communication. It must have been love, because when he read that note fifteen years later he still came to find me.
But I wasn’t there, the lunchtime lectures ended a long time ago. I wasn’t at the storey, I wasn’t anywhere. A few weeks before the builder took the note to Charlie I was out with my husband, my second husband, and it was lovely weather and we decided to have a picnic out on the sands, near Silverdale. It was my fiftieth birthday and we thought it would be romantic, and we sat below Humphrey head on a blanket and we had fizzy wine and we kissed for a long time, and then it went foggy, out of nowhere, and you know the tides around here, and the waves rushed in, rushed towards our love, surrounded us and made us into an island, and that’s how we died; together. I guess it could just as easily have been me and Charlie in another existence.
I used to think about Charlie a lot. Once I saw him on his own walking slowly out of the lino factory, but I didn’t stop.
I thought about Charlie and our night in the Tasting Garden as the water crept up, the coldness numbing us, and we were crying and holding the mobile phone higher and higher and we kept dialing and redialing and looking for the lights, then we saw the smeary blues and whites and heard the shouting, the panic, and they really did seem to be trying, but it was all too rough, too stormy, and I remember thinking how I’d hate to be the rescuers, watching us, so helpless, and I remember thinking I had a new name and that when Charlie read in the papers that I had died, he wouldn’t even know it was me.
He used to live at the Storey institute. He is psychic and responds to you thinking his name. His name is Zig-zag. Stop for a moment and think of that name, Zig-zag. And if you hear a mewing sound it might be Zig-zag. If you do see Zig-zag please do not think about poetry because his owner was a sad man and used to write poetry to women then refuse to reply to these women’s notes. And these were women with good jobs, like delivering lunchtime lectures about unicorns at the Storey Institute. Maybe in some sick way this man, this Zig-zag owner thought this was funny – like it might be funny to dress as a giant eyeball and follow a woman home - but one of these women might have sent him a note as a reply, slipped it into his jacket pocket, and she might even have been married, yet still sent him this note saying how she felt, and that she felt exactly as he did, and that they should meet up, and this man, this poem-man, this poetry scribbling man just ignores her and stops coming to the lunchtime lectures like that. People like him are not worth anything. Please find Zig-zag. THE CHILDREN ARE CRYING
(He’s got some colourful ideas about mad scientists has our Charlie. That’s his problem, locked away in his own head, who knows what goes on. Have a read here)
Yes, we’re still searching. Zig-zag was the connective tissue between me and Charlie. I remember another cat at the Storey, years ago, when I was teaching calligraphy, and it would sit on the sheet of paper, getting in the way. I didn’t know Zig-zag very well, but I’ll bet he liked to sit on paper as well.
The Bridges over the Lune show was packed, you wouldn’t be allowed to cram so many people into the gallery nowadays - the doors open inwards which makes it unsafe – but this was in the days before health and safety.
Charlie is like that. His doors open inwards and he leaves heavy things leaning against them making it impossible to get in.
I did reply to Charlie’s poem. I wrote him a note, slipped it into his jacket pocket so he’d be sure to see it. It said everything he’d hoped it would. But I don’t know what he thought about it, because there was no reply, and from that point on Charlie just seemed to drift away, and then the waiting the waiting, and then the nothing, the nothing, and then everything just crumbled like dead cake.
(I'd completely forgotten about the night Charlie dressed as a giant eyeball. Read about it on his bloghere)
The last time I saw Zig-Zag was on the huge staircase that spirals through the centre of the Storey like DNA, next to a greasy streak caused by decades of kids running their fingers along the wall. I was one of those kids, I was in that grease mark, my DNA.
I can picture Zig-Zag now, his furry face stained rose and peach from the light spilling in from the stained glass window, and I don’t know if the idea of running away had entered its head, but if this story had a voice-over it would say ‘unknown to Fern and Zig-Zag this was the last time they would ever see each other…’
Fern and Zig-Zag was a long goodbye and Fern and Charlie’s goodbye was even longer, beginning fifteen years before. But the way he tells it, the poem, the absence of a reply, it’s very unfair. He should have made the running, set the pitch. He was the grammar school boy after all, with his blazer with piping and the special white cream for his pumps. It irked him that I studied here at the Storey and ended up at the university and he at the lino factory, and would brandish his fist and drawl ‘Power to the people,’ whenever I mentioned it. The 11 plus broke us all up. Two trucks rumbled up the street, one bound for the grammar school and one for the Storey Institute. I’m sure I passed the exam - girls performed better than boys so they used to fiddle the figures – but officially, I failed.
But The Storey did me proud. We got instruction in practical skills, like typing, plastering, plumbing, and the like, but we got science and philosophy and French and art as well. I remember Dave, my first boyfriend, posing for his passing out picture, holding up his plumbing piece, a Mondrian squiggle of welded pipes, like a work of sculpture.
Find Zig-Zag please.
(I like what Charlie says in his blog about the night at that art launch at the storey gallery. I remember it that way too. Have a look here.)
Charlie forgets in his last poster to say what Zig-Zag looks like. I mean, I didn’t either, but Charlie prides himself on accuracy. Charlie says that a strong emotional response can be achieved by an accumulation of incident, detail and fact, not flowery crap. Lean and snaky that magazine said about his poem.
I couldn’t believe Charlie didn’t do more with his poetry. It was good, went in somewhere and kind of came out again and made a difference. That’s all this Storey Institute educated girl can say, I’m sure a Grammar school boy like Charley could explain it better. He always said who’d be interested in a poem by a lino man? But I’ll tell you who - everyone is interested in being shown a new way to think.
His special poem had moved me, put a sparkle in my blood. I hadn’t seen him since we were at school together and he turned up at my unicorn lecture like that, and something went click click click, and then, there I was, reading a special poem written just for me, and getting me thinking about the days ahead, and how, in that far future, after we had kissed, we would inhabit a new planet with sounds, substances and distances beyond our imagination.
But weeks passed and nothing happened. In fact Charlie just grew more and more distant until finally he stopped coming to my lectures and I couldn’t believe it, I really didn’t know why because I thought there was a spark, and that’s what we are all searching for, the spark.
Now, fifteen years later, Charlie seems to be back at The Storey Institute, in the portico. I just wish I could be with him. But the best thing I can do is find his cat. Find Grimbles please.
THE CHILDREN ARE CRYING
You know what Charlie calls me in his blog? A Storey Institute girl. Have a look at what else he says here.
Section 3, 4
It was so cold out there in the Portico, Zig-zag and I used to freeze,
while in the basement there was a giant boiler where seven and a half
8 years ago
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