Get to know… Tony Lee

68 years old and (in my dreams) orchestrating Chelsea’s midfield as part of the same team as my all-time idol, the sadly deceased Gianlucca Vialli. When conscious I find that I am in fact a twice divorced father of five and grandfather, who used to run businesses at home and abroad, founded a children’s charity along the way, ran a sports federation, sponsored a project to get kids in State schools playing tennis and a theatre group to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe and (of course) ran a junior football club too, in Spain. I used to think I ran the planet and when I stopped, wondered how the world might get on without me (to be fair, not so good of late…). Today I try not to run anything at all, not even my own life if I can help it and I can’t tell you how relieved everyone else is about that. I’m an alcoholic (4 years sober) with a bi-polar disorder and a limp, although they don’t feature on my dating profile. I left school without academic qualifications, joined the university of life and had always assumed I couldn’t/wouldn’t be able to write. Turns out the better-educated people at Leeds Trinity disagree and I’m starting an MA in Creative Writing in September whilst working on an autobiography/memoir of some sort. It has been suggested by my university tutor that I might become ‘familiar’ with (such as) Virginia Woolf and James Joyce, which makes me smile to myself. I’ve also done a bit of stand-up comedy and improv and more recently some public reading events and haven’t been forcibly ejected yet. Best advice I was given: ‘If it’s going badly, get off. If it’s going well, get off’.

I joined the mercurial (and former Writing Room student) Emily Devane’s Moor Words writing group in Ilkley a year ago and read something out loud for the very first time. And they seemed to quite like it, so I’ve carried on. Emily recommended going on a Writing Room course, so I did and met the delightful and flamboyant Gio on Zoom for her Memoir and Flash Fiction courses, which I loved! And promptly signed up for more Writing Room adventures, both weekly and one off events and more recently a Short Story writing course with the brilliant and ever-optimistic Kiare (we do read the set texts sometimes, honest Kiare…). I didn’t write before because I have no education and didn’t believe my writing was any good and today I write because I have no education and I don’t believe my writing is any good. It’s incredibly liberating! Thanks for reading.

The God’s Almighty

According to legend, Hercules created this city of Modica. Yet he must have been restless in his sleep this night. Here on the south east corner of Sicily, where the Mediterranean and Ionian seas meet with the legends of mythical titans of the past.

I’m awoken well before the waking hour as strong winds lay a heavy hand upon Casa Malvarosa. The storm weather manipulates the centuries’ old structure’s shoulders and spine, almost as nature’s chiropractor. Rainfall is insistent yet intermittent, coming and going as if toying with the change in seasons.

The casa is shaped like an iron, the pointy end piercing sharp westerly gales like a ship through water, sitting proudly on a corner of this elevated and narrow street overlooking ancient Modica. Sending a message of defiance to the elements. The panoramic view from my roof terrace, takes in the magnificent baroque Chiesa di San Giorgio Cathedral, imperious, impervious and proud.

A discombobulated cockerel announces dawn an hour early, feathers ruffled by sudden and unexpected gusts of wind. There are too too many steps leading up here from the Main Street of Corso Umberto. I haven’t counted them, but my aching back and the interminable climb tells me there must be more than one hundred of them. Each windowledge with its own street cat, feline descendants of the nymphs that legend has it created this island of the gods.

Up on high, pipes rattle, floorboards creak, roof tiles sigh and birds squawk. Cast iron drain pipes that have stood for a century being replaced with ‘green’ alternatives. Lightweight and copper, yet no match for this assault from supernatural forces of nature. Prematurely twisted, battered and riven apart by an environment they pretend to be caring for. Hephaestos the original god of iron, would hang his head in shame. A sudden percussion erupts above my bedroom ceiling. A staccato tango of metal furniture, dancing across marble tiles. It’s five forty now and dawn mere moments away. Having taken one look at the inclement weather, dawn has turned the covers like a disgruntled lover and crawled back to bed.

Italian sparrows are having none of it though. They sound as though complaining about the state of the nation. Cockerels too, no Sicilian accents detected. Crows have their own language and dialect apparently, but there are none here to ask. Daylight creeps upon us more slowly than my aching bones might move nowadays. The turbulent changeable weather, so very English, perhaps that’s why the birds sound the same.

I close my eyes but the cacophony of sound continues. Eaves lifting, buttresses buffeted, watering cans sent scattering down myriad alleyways. Rainfall deposits residues of red clay dust, leaving vehicles in the street looking as though camouflaged and ready for combat against the elements. The San Giorgio bell chamber announces morning’s arrival eight minutes late, or twenty two minutes early perhaps? Sicilian bell ringers laconically tugging at bell ropes, dozy from semi-slumber.

The cockerels are still giving it rock all. The cathedral bells chime on the hour at eight and spontaneously the sound of thunder and distant lightning erupts. Just as suddenly the storms subside. The cathedral bells chime to welcome a new day. It’s eight thirty-seven and all is well.