Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Bedtime stories

When my son was much younger, we would snuggle up together on the 'big bed' every evening and read his favourite picture books. I would put on my best silly voices, and he would join in the refrain. It never mattered how tired he was, he would force himself to stay awake for 'just one more'.
 This nightly ritual was evocative of a simpler  time and place; when it was my sisters and I who curled up under warm blankets whilst my mother perched, book in hand, at the edge of the bed.
By the dim glow of a bedside lamp, my mother's soothing voice would transport us to Narnia, to Asgard, to the hidden garden behind the ivy clad wall. We flew to distant lands with the Phoenix, and climbed sooty chimneys to discover the friendly ghosts of Green Knowe
Sleepy eyed, with teeth fresh brushed and newly bathed bodies pyjama clad; we would clamour for just one more page,  one more chapter, not wanting to leave those worlds behind.
 It was here, in these moments, that I found my love for words, and the deep satisfying language of well crafted stories.

Now my son is older there is no need for the bed time ritual, as he reads alone deep into the night; books precariously piled beside his bed with spines cracked and pages bent. Often I have to go up and turn out his lamp, feigning annoyance that he is not asleep; whilst secretly thinking how alike we really are ... but the other evening as I was putting fresh linen on my bed, he appeared in the doorway, book in hand, to read to me. It was a gruesome and gory story, beloved of young teens and as befits Hallowe'en; yet as he read, I recognised in the tone and cadence of his words the soothing bedtime story voice we all seem to share........

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Slow Sunday

For today I am the tin man, rusted and unmoving. Joints ache, and I stumble as I take the stairs.The cold and damp has seeped into every joint, swelling knuckles and knees; making my spine creak and groan. It is a day for swathing myself in soft tees and cosy knits, for snuggling on the sofa with borrowed lives from the well worn pages of 'The Night Circus'....  cocooned in my own little world, safe from the wind and rain, with a steaming cup of coffee and newly remembered bar of dark chilli chocolate; it strikes me that there is much to be said for a little Sunday self indulgence;

Friday, 25 October 2013

Fabulous fungi

I went walking in the woods today, accompanied by two small people who ran, scrambled and found joy in hollowed trunks and fallen branches; and a friend with whom I can relax and simply be. It was somewhere peaceful, away from the dirt, dust and disappointment of city streets; and the unproductive journeys that seem to make up the pattern of my new existence.

Meandering along wooded paths in the thin sunlight; though carpets of fading golden leaves and browning acorns that crunched underfoot; we stumbled across a feast of mushrooms, bursting with promise. Cocooned under their Autumn blankets, or standing proud in the open, the colours, patterns and textures called out to be photographed...... 

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Talking stones

When I was small, I found a pebble down by the shore. Tumbled smooth from the ebb and flow of countless tides, and warmed by the sun, it sat in the curve of my palm; a rough hewn heart shape, grey and somewhat insignificant. I stumbled across it in my box today; amongst those little things that follow us around which have small face value yet are intrinsically woven into the fabric of memory.

I love shingle beaches at the height of summer; winding my way on unsteady, unshod feet over sun baked stones; creating a perfect hollow in which to lie and drift away to the sound of pebbles relentlessly pulled and rolled by the waves.... and always the stones, smooth worn, patterned and plain, made glossy by the surf in those moments when the tide was high; or dulled by the sun and warm to the touch. Digging down amidst them, there was  sea glass to be discovered ; soft green and opaque like a frosted window. A small collection, carefully chosen, would be amassed by my towel to be used when the tide was low and the soft sand uncovered enough to build castles. The stones would play their parts dependent on size, shape and colour. A window, turret roof or portal would be carefully selected, and the shells by the shoreline used as a crowning decoration. If luck was with me, I would find the perfect flag of seaweed, and discarded lolly stick as standard bearer; or a gull's feather to anoint the tallest tower. A moat would be built, with a channel to the sea, and the hopeful promise of waves to do their work and fill it without crumbling the walls.

When the time finally came to gather belongings and set off for home, I would agonise over which of my treasures to bring back; a smooth pebble that smelled of seaweed and had the salt taste of waves, or the frosted sea glass from sunken galleons and times past. One day I must have chosen this heart pebble; and unlike the others that stayed on the shelf in my room, then dusty and forgotten found their way into the garden beds, this was put into my box of delights to lie still in the darkness holding on to memories.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Tongue tied

Today is a struggle; searching for the words and phrases stuck in blocked pathways or lying limp, heavy and defeated on paper. Music does not soothe, but jars against the sound of a pen scratch, a crumpling of notes, and the click of the off switch.
..... A run to banish cobwebs and fire up the sluggish synapses is in order. A deadline awaits and the clock is counting down.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Dipping my toes....

Yesterday I rejoined the world; city clothes, lipstick smile and genteel heels, a transformation from faded denim and cosy knits. I entered a new place, dry mouthed with the clamouring of pent up butterflies and the weeks of uncertainty,  to see if it were somewhere I could find a re-beginning.
Warmly welcomed , listened to and appreciated; the realisation that those skills I believed faded , jaded and lacking were indeed still sharp and current; breathed life into my shrivelled confidence.
Pitched against an internal candidate, I knew it was not to be; yet perversely it affirmed I am as capable as I once believed, before the maelstrom tumbled me over stones  leaving me battered and bruised.
My city clothes await the next sortie; which may bring me back to the world for good.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Letting go

It is said that when one door closes, another opens..... but what if there are no more doors? or those that remain, stay resolutely closed; tight locked and blank faced.
Words sent out into the ether spin and turn in space unnoticed, ignored or put aside.
The irons in the fire are darkening; connections crumbling to dust.
This is the beginning of the letting go.

Monday, 7 October 2013

"Me and my cousins...."

Vampire Weekend's Contra; formally the soundtrack to those seemingly endless sessions at the chemo unit, now small son's music of choice when riding shotgun in my car. I love the layered rhythms, he loves to sing along; songs from difficult times transformed into one of those easy connections between the two of us.

He invariably flips through to 'cousins', the chorus of which immediately conjures up images of my grandparents' garden, and an old photo of my siblings, maternal cousins and I lined in height order from eldest to youngest; standing on the low wall around the fishpond.
Clad in sensible brown shoes, wrinkled socks and party dress, my place for now is at the very end of the line; my brother absent, as yet unborn. It is easy to guess who my siblings are...with matching home sewn dresses of rich blue, wide white sashes and different coloured hair ribbons to identify us. My sash as usual is twisted the wrong way, as I stand solid, one sock up, one sock down, squinting into the lens.

This is just one of  many line ups that span across the years; order changing as our ages no longer define how tall we have grown, clothing reflecting the latest trends.
Now when we gather together, it is our sons who form the line ups with us; boys and parents intermingled as they tower above us on their way to adulthood.

I have often wondered how it would be if we were all to come together for the ultimate line up..... Cousins, spouses, offspring in size order as tradition dictates ; a long line spanning generations. We would, of course, have to find a very long wall!

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Solitary confinement

Today I am snail like; retreating from the world into my own small space filled with soft sounds and soothing familiarity. It is a day for curling up with cats, coffee in hand, to watch other peoples' lives play out on screen.  A stack of DVDs grows as I pick and choose ; but as to sit and watch all day would be the height of self indulgence I decide upon just one, with a vow to hoover the house before I start......leading to a flurry of activity and three very disgruntled cats.
 A thought strikes me that I am allowing myself to slump into lethargic mode; which is so alien to how my days used to be. To counter this I transform into a whirling dervish; starting at the top of the house, and with each descent, chasing away the dust with a roaring vacuum and keen eye. Bathrooms next, spray, scrub and mop and finally the kitchen.
Feeling less guilty, and with the justified excuse for skipping a gym visit, I settle down at last to watch 'Untouchable'.... A fabulous French film, filled with warmth, humour and stark realities. It is well crafted , and says a great deal about the human condition.
As the end credits role and the quiet of the house surrounds me , I am painfully aware that my days, once filled with the hum of conversation, the ringing of phones, and all the human interactions that make up the busy workplace; have fallen largely silent. I travel east or south to the bustling markets not only for the artisan and home grown ingredients to fill my pantry, but for the comfort of strangers; to be amongst people as they converse in the shops and caf├ęs, to be around the hustle and bustle of daily living once more.
My irons in the fire need to be stoked, and my career rebooted. I have to retrieve that sense of excitement and purpose that once drove my every waking hour, confront the daemons that dragged my confidence into the dust and give them a good kicking!

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Order! Order!

Today my husband looked on bemused as, pegs in hand, I ordered wet washing on the line. There is logic in my method, but a logic he does not quite understand.... the order of garments by item, size, weight and in pairs, means that when the wind and sun have done their work (or in the case of sudden showers) I can quickly unpeg and fold into the awaiting bag; heaviest to the bottom, lightest on top, socks together. It is a habit borne of a violent dislike of ironing, and the efficiency of returning clean clothing to their rightful places.
I need order amidst the clutter of family life; regimented laundry being just a small taste of my mild obsession.
Last evening we wound our way through the giant labyrinth of functional Swedish household goods to find that elusive of all grails; the perfect CD storage. I watched, with hands firmly in lap, and mouth silent, as CDs were transferred in haphazard manner to gloss red drawers. In my mind I catalogue how it should be; Eddie Vedder next to Pearl Jam,This Mortal Coil and Cocteau Twins sharing space, whilst Goreki and Arvo Part join the classics in their own bespoke compartment. My hands itch to rifle through and re arrange, but I stifle that thought for a time when the house is still and there is no one to judge this particular foible; the bookshelves a testament to longstanding differences in our methodology. How can I logically explain why Aiping Mu and Hong Ying can share shelf space; but must be followed by Achee Min , before Amy Tan and Bi Feiyu are placed? My husband categorises by size, and weight; I categorise by timeline, author, genre and  thoughts contained within. It leads to a higgledy piggledy interweaving, yet I can stretch out a hand and immediately grasp what I am seeking.....until it is moved, that is! I wince when I find Dante next to George Orwell, and Primo Levi looking out forlornly from a shelf bursting with Zola and Sartre ....

Loathe as I am to publicly admit it, yes, I am that person who surreptitiously rearranges books; re folds clothes in Zara, and who repositions those CDs and DVDs in HMV who have drifted far from home. I dread to think what a therapist would think of it all !!