Posts Tagged ‘love’

Sometimes Your Face Just Doesn’t Fit…

October 2, 2016

Sometimes Your Face Just Doesn’t Fit…

You know the feeling – you’re qualified for the job, your application was first rate, you prepped for the interview, it went well. But you didn’t get the job and really what reason was there? Someone who had the slightest of edges, or simply that you didn’t quite fit with that company, that work-place; it’s ethos or something equally impossible to quantify. You’ll never know and all you can do is move on, get over it and start again.

Sometimes, through no fault of your own you simply don’t fit in where you are or where you want to be. This can afflict all parts of our lives and all stages – work, friendships, and of course, romance. It can be horribly upsetting but all too often there’s bugger all we can do about it, other than accept it and move on.

no-face

Remember school– the in crowd, or a group that you wanted to belong to? You hung about on the edges, sometimes invited into the centre but never truly a part of the scene. How many social occasions did you not get invited to, how many secrets were you not privy to? No, you weren’t the right stuff and more often than not, in hindsight, it’s probably a good thing. But at the time not being part of that group was soul destroying. What elusive element did you lack that made you not belong?

Pal's pals@GCSE

Work shifts too – are you really incompetent, unable to do your job or is it that there is something about you that management doesn’t like and they can’t quantify it (or maybe it’s illegal to do so – age, gender, race, sexual persuasion)? Instead you are under-mined, excluded, persecuted or over-looked for promotion again and again: effectively pushed, or even hounded out of your job. There may be all sorts of things you can do to address the problem; work harder, seek advice from your line manager; grievances, your union, legal advice, but in the end you have to face the fact that you can’t beat them, they have all the power and you simply have to move on. If your face doesn’t fit, if management don’t want you you’re better off out of there, before your health, self respect and self belief are battered beyond recovery.

A work-place where your face doesn’t fit is one of the most toxic environments you can be in. So, be smart and move on before it’s too late. But you need to remember that it isn’t necessarily about you – it’s as likely it’s nothing to do with your skills or your ability to do your job. (Indeed, I do speak from bitter personal experience!)

face-dont-fit

And let us not forget love. How often has our face not been the right face – not the one that the object of our affection has wanted to gaze adoringly upon? How our hearts have heaved and shattered as we see them gaze upon another in the way we gaze upon them. Oh, how devastating is that! But we can do nothing, we can’t change ourselves beyond recognition to make our face fit just to be loved by someone we love, or think we love. How could that ever result in happiness, in a deep and abiding love?

pt-love

Your face not fitting is not the end of the world, although it may very well feel like it at the time. Take the time to step back from the situation, from the rejection because really, that’s what we are talking about. Dealing with rejection is always difficult. The adult in us knows that rejection is a normal part of life, but the child in us is always hurt to the core and wants to lash out or hide away forever more. Neither is sensible.

 

What’s to be done then? Take stock, re-group, move on. When things don’t work out the smart thing to do is to reflect on your own actions or behaviour. Is there something that needs to change, are you approaching things all wrong? What can you learn from this rejection? It maybe something small, something you hadn’t considered before but it could be useful going forward. But it may be something bigger, more troublesome, something that you need to address to avoid future rejections.

It’s always useful to step away from a situation, ask for advice from someone you trust – how much of this rejection is down to you, or down to issues with the other party? God knows romantic rejection is a mine-field so be careful about how much self-loathing you indulge in once it’s clear your face ain’t never gonna fit. Sometimes you have to face the fact that you just don’t have the right stuff for this situation – yes, it is you not them! But, before you get carried away with self-indulgent self-pity, it’s just as likely that there is nothing wrong with you, it is simply the situation.

face2

Once you’ve had a good look at yourself, accepted the rejection, then you must move on. It’s imperative that you get back on whichever horse has thrown you off. But, if you’re wise, if you’re lucky and read the signals right, you’ll end up in a place where your face fits perfectly. Remember most of us have good friends, a decent job and someone who loves us as much as we love them. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of time and place, not a matter of you having the wrong face. (Images from Private Collection)

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Travelling Girl … 55

March 5, 2016

Travelling Girl – the latest in an occasional series.

Travelling Girl stood in her latest London lodgings, hands on hips, surveying its cosy comfort, its sweet views of the gnarled trees in the front yard, the cars parked cheek by jowl on the road, a brisk ten minutes from the mainline train station right into the heart of the metropolis. Was it home? Well it was sanctuary at the end of another day at the interface between civilization and brutality, where she toiled relentlessly with faint glimmers of hope. Hope that was all too often overwhelmed by the idiotic edicts from government mandarins who really hadn’t the first fucking idea about what she – and armies of other like-minded endurance machines – had to deal with each day.

New flat9

Not for the first time in her life, as she looked at her belongings, did Travelling Girl wonder about her life. A small but not entirely sad or hopeless sigh escaped her lips, which at least were not pursed in anger or annoyance. No, that seemed to have passed. Although when she looked in the mirror there were worryingly deep furrows above the bridge of her nose. She didn’t like them at all. She had, she noted with some relief, arrived at a place approaching contentment. Was that simply age, she wondered, or had some sort of karmic calm found her at last?

From time to time she wondered about paths and choices and how she really came to be here, just exactly here; not really where she had expected, nor, in truth, where she wanted to be. But who was? How many of her friends and colleagues were where they wanted to be? Lunch time conversations around the ‘ladies table’ focused on frothy things like children, houses, holidays, the latest BBC drama; but always returned to the dire nature of their shared profession, the decline of it, and the encroaching darkness of their professional futures. Too many days too many of them speculated about what else they could do, what other jobs could they turn their hands to?

In idle moments she thought about home. Home was a difficult word – operating on multiple levels at once. Home had been Hobart and Darwin all at once. She had cried when she’d left her house in Darwin, house of her children, swimming pool and palm trees, fruit bats and green tree frogs. But always she’d held her home in Hobart as home as well, or was it her dad’s place on the Huon; was that her natural Tasmanian home? Home was now this bright and airy flat, but so was Tasmania. Home was constantly shifting –London, Tasmania (including that terrible flat in Queenstown – never quite a home at all), the NT, even a cottage in France. But they were physical entities; bricks and mortar, weatherboard and corrugated iron: chunks of land with trees and flowers, vegetables and animals. Home was more than that. She knew that. She also knew her speculations were far from original.

deviot view

Ideas about home had changed, hadn’t they? Once they were simple, when the kids were young and the houses were homes full of noise and mess, love and tantrums. Home was easy, it was about love, about being together with the ones you loved best in the whole world. But travelling had unhooked home, unmade a natural physical base for the growing kinder to return to.

Home was here and now. This flat full of her things, put together and arranged exactly as she wanted. Home was an old cottage in France, where an important and special man made gardens and fixed plumbing and tiled all sorts of things. Home was with him. Home was when her children were with, when they all gathered for celebrations of one colour or another. But true home, real home was far away on the other side of the world, on riverbanks in white weatherboard houses, where memories and love lived and waited patiently for them to return.

Home was there. In her heart, she knew that. She had travelled across the world, had a family, seen and done a lot of things, with still more to do, but she needed to be back there – on a riverbank in a tiny obscure state on the edge of the world. She needed to stop moving, to face some facts, and find her way home, to the place, the physical place where she felt at ease, where it was warm and comfortable and she could sit on her verandah, drinking wine, nibbling Twisties, eating BBQ beef sausages and corn fritters, watching the river run; sitting with her family, whom she loved and missed more than anything in the world, until the end of time, until she was no more.

Travelling Girl knew it was time to make plans to get home – sooner rather than later. (Images from Private collection)

Love Your Children Well

February 27, 2016

Love Your Children Well

There’s no point having children if you’re not going to love them or do the right thing by them. Many people can’t have children and spend their marriages or reproductive years in torment trying everything they can to have children, so for those of us lucky enough to have children it is incumbent upon us to do the right thing: to love our children well, which does not mean indulgently, but right.

dad, dragon ,phoenix

Children can be simultaneously the best thing about your life and the worse. They can hold a marriage together or break it. Often children are not what we expect them to be, they do not do what we expect either, but we had them, we (mostly) wanted to have them, so we must do right by them and by extension our society.

In the course of my working world all too often I see the consequences of children who have not been loved well, in fact, who have not been loved at all. And while some teenagers are indeed terribly difficult to love, mostly the horrid ones are a product of their upbringing. This is an inescapable fact. I’m not going to embark upon a mother or father bashing tirade – Heaven knows I know how hard it is to be a parent. But we are all the products of our upbringing: like it or not, our parents made us who we are. Through love, neglect, fear or indulgence, we were all made by them. Of course we have the choice to unmake some of what they have done, but it is hard to fight against Nurture. Nature plays a monster part too but Nurture cannot be overlooked.

How do you love your children well? Would a list of do’s and don’t’s suffice?

Don’t

Be helicopter parents – let them simply be once in a while; they’ll never stand on their own two feet if you are always hovering, hovering creating all that down-draft, that simply keeps them down!

Be tiger mums – we don’t need to achieve through our children, they need space just to be

Buy them off with toys and gadgets – really, is that how you show love, is that how they learn the value of things?

Abuse them – either with words or fists or implements- shouldn’t even need to say this but children are still beaten by parents on a regular basis and it doesn’t work at all

Neglect them – it is a form of abuse and perhaps the worst – they feel the lack of love, affection and attention deeply- it does untold psychological damage

Allow them to eat so much shit – really, can’t you manage to cook, to provide them with the basics of care that is a diet that nourishes them and helps them grow? There’s nothing wrong with Maccas and KFC once in a while and a bit of chocolate or some Coke on a hot Sunday afternoon never killed anyone. Ah, but the everyday consumption of food laced with fat, sugar and all sorts of chemicals will.

nice in greece

Do

Let them know you love them – tell them, hug them, kiss them, show them

Spend time with them – this is the biggest act of love – be with them, do things with them, that they like, watch their favourite movie, play Lego, dress-ups, etc, etc

Take them places – go to museums, parks, the beach, travelling, show them the world through your eyes

Teach them things – how to cook, how to clean, how to mend things, how to plant a flower and look after it; how to build things; with wood, wool and all sorts of materials. Share your love of things with them, let them feel your passion for the ocean, for drawing, for fishing

Make them responsible – make them tidy up after themselves, clean their rooms, make their own lunch, pack their school-bag, do their homework, do some chores around the house

Read to them – right from the start! This is one of the most important things you can do as a parent. Then read with them, keep them reading, talking about books – readers are better people – all the studies say so!

Listen to them – oh yes, another biggie. Always take the time to listen to them. You must start when they are little, ask about their day, how was school, how are you – then let them talk and listen. If you do this when they are young they will talk to you through the difficult years, or at least, the difficult years won’t last quite as long. Listen to who they are, what they want from their lives. This will ensure that they are part of your life long after they have left home and have lives of their own.

Know who their friends are – this becomes very important as they get older. Remove undue influences from their lives when you can – don’t allow the sly under-hand child who ignores your instructions back in the house, don’t let horrible children be a part of their lives. If you know who their friends are, if they come to the house you meet them and can see if your child is keeping the right company. Believe me this is a crucially important matter as they get older – dubious friends are the gate-way to drugs, school refusal and failure and you could lose them altogether.

Respect their privacy – don’t go snooping in their rooms, on their devices (although there is a fine line here and you do need to know that they are safe in cyber-space) – allow them to be themselves, to have some secrets. But make it clear about time alone in rooms, time on devices – be aware of the dangers there.

Discipline them – you have to. Don’t beat them, but a well placed smack when they are old enough to understand is important. They need to know right from wrong. They need to know how to behave, about manners, about respect and decency. If you don’t teach them how to behave when they are young you have no hope when they are older and bigger than you. Set your lines in the sand and keep to them.

Just say no – they can’t have everything they want, or do everything they want. You can’t afford it and if you indulge their every whim you will create a monster that you don’t like, that nobody else likes much either.

Let them take risks – you can’t wrap them in cotton wool, why would you? Children run too fast, skin their knees, fall of their bikes. Teenagers take drugs, drive too fast, hook up with stupid boy/girl friends who break hearts. But you have to let them be, have to let them make their own decisions and take those risks. It makes them an adult and hopefully they learn from the stupid things and besides, do you really want them too spooked to try anything new, to never travel, never try new experiences?

my 3

I love my children, they are the best things about my life but they were made into people I like (as well as love) and want to be with by many years of effort; by my beloved and I taking care with them. Yes there were tears and regrets, sulks and the odd tantrum, a few disasters, but overall we have triumph. I think I am a good mum, but you have to ask the kinder, they are the only ones who really know if they have been well loved.

If you’re going to have children remember to love them properly. And that means taking care of them: they are not toys or pets, some accessory to drag out and display, not some prize or way to feel better about yourself. Having children is a serious matter, it is a life-time commitment, it really is and if you can’t do the right thing then don’t have them. Don’t make the world a worse place by creating children who have been abused and neglected because you can’t move beyond your own selfish needs.

Look around you, at the plethora of refugees and asylum seekers in our increasingly divided, destructive world and note how many children are in those terrible camps, on those sinking boats. Why are they there? Those children are in such terrible places because their parents care for them. Their homes and countries are destroyed, there is no life there anymore, only danger and death. Parents in Syria and other war-torn places who care about their children have no choice but to get their children out. They take terrible risks but they are good parents doing all they can for their children, hopeful that they can still have a good life. Wouldn’t you do the same thing for your children? (Images from Private Collection)

Stories: A Small Flirtation

February 14, 2015

A story for Valentine’s Day – a bit of romance and betrayal, passion and lust. This first appeared in Red on Red, an Anthology of Northern Territory Writing. Happy Valentine’s Day.

A SMALL FLIRTATION           

Jack.

I kissed her. Properly. Finally. Well, she kissed me and I didn’t hold back. Well, I did. A bit. I didn’t kiss her the way she wanted. I wanted to. When we were sitting in the pub I knew something was coming. She touched my hand a couple of times, kept looking at me, held my gaze: smiled. She’d grabbed my arse before we left work: I knew what she was thinking. Said she’d had another dream about me. Erotic again. She dreams about me a lot. I like that. I like that she dreams about me and tells me. I wonder how explicitly. She hints. I can guess.

So I went for a drink with her and Cam. I s’pose I shouldn’t have. I know she wants me. Would I fuck her? Perhaps if she was a bit thinner, perhaps if we weren’t married. I don’t know. I think about it. I like cuddling her, touching her, the smell of her. But anything else is too difficult. Judy would kill me this time. But we went for a drink – couldn’t hurt, not with Cam there too. But she played up to me, smiling, listening sympathetically to my woes, swirling her ice in, it sounds stupid, a very sexy way. I was really aware of Cam, like a chaperone, there with us. He seemed not to notice her attentions, but he’s used to her flirting: he has coffee with her every morning. Perhaps she doesn’t like me that much? Perhaps she plays us all like this? I watch her. She pays more attention to me than Cam: it’s my hand she touches, it’s my gaze she holds. She stays in her seat as Cam moves to go. So do I. Is she waiting for me, watching me? I expected us all to leave together. But Cam leaves and neither of us move so we’re left alone in the pub.

Her drink is almost empty. She wants another. I don’t. I’m frightened what might happen if I drink too much. I offer to buy her a drink. She will if I will. I won’t. She doesn’t. I feel nervous. I should go. Judy and the kids. It’s eight o’clock. She won’t stay without me. We leave together. I feel better that we’re going. It would be too easy to stay. Outside the door she slips her arm around me, tucking her shoulder under mine. My arm goes around her. I don’t even think about it. We walk like this so often. I like the way she feels tucked in close.

We stop at my bike. I put my helmet and gloves on the seat. She stands in front of me. Close. Expectant. We don’t often stand face to face. She’s quite short really. No heels. Her head fits neatly onto my shoulder. I know this from before. Before that scene in my office, when we used to cuddle too much. She puts her arms around me, around my waist. I know this is stupid. I should have got on the bike and just gone. I shouldn’t have put my helmet down. She’s waiting for something to happen. I put my arms around her. She looks up at me. She wants to kiss me. I want to kiss her. I’ve kissed her before, on her hair, her tinted blonde, soft hair. And a peck on the mouth, once. She wants more than a peck tonight. I bend down to her mouth and we kiss. Mouths slightly open, enough pressure. She tries to move her tongue into my mouth. I can’t do that. She pulls away. Pissed off. I’m glad. No, I’m not. Shit. I don’t know what I am. I want her but her tongue at my teeth scares me. I can’t open my mouth.

She rants and raves a bit. Understandable. Do I lead her on? Have I encouraged her? I don’t know. I do like her. I like the way she feels. But she’s married. I’m married. I know her old man. I tell her I like him too much, her too much. It’s not much of an answer. I put on my jacket and helmet. I can’t go any further with her. Although I probably want to. Where would we go for God’s sake – her car and have it stink of sex and Gary know something was up because that smell is unmistakable? I hug her and go. I don’t even look back to see the lights of her car or if she’s okay. She’s okay. She’s pretty tough really. Must be to like an arse-hole like me. I try not to think about her as I ride home. I lick my mouth tasting her lipstick. I don’t think about her body pressing into mine, her eyes on me. I put tomorrow out of my mind.

I wipe my mouth carefully before I go into the house, remembering the shit her lipstick on my shirt sleeve had caused last month.

***

Kim.

He kissed me. Properly. Not really passionately but it wasn’t a Platonic kiss. He held me and he kissed me. He just wouldn’t let his tongue respond to mine. I don’t know why. But as I think about it now it wasn’t all me. My mouth tingled from the stubble around his mouth, so the pressure was there. He tasted of beer and smoke, sexy, making me think of years ago. And as he’s so much taller than me and I wasn’t wearing heels and I wasn’t on tip-toe he must have bent to kiss me. So he kissed me as much as I kissed him.

I can’t remember how tightly he held me or where his arms were I just know he stayed behind when Cam left and he put his helmet down when we got to his bike. He’d spent the afternoon with me, sat with me at the function, got me drinks, told me stupid jokes. I told him I’d dreamed of him again. That always gets into him. But I was surprised when he agreed to go for drinks with Cam and me after work. He usually pisses off really early. I was pleased though. I knew something would happen. Six months of this, the year nearly over. Something had to happen.

I watched him when Cam made going home moves. He just sat. Cam seemed unsure. Didn’t seem to know what was going on. He sort of hesitated, then left. He waved at me through the window. Did he raise his eyebrows? Jack did not move an inch. He stayed still. Sat with me. Alone together. It was fine and then he seemed to get cold feet. Jabbered on about getting the kids to bed and getting home. Me too, I said. What’s the hassle, I thought. So we left. I put my arm around him and he hugged me to him. We walk like that a lot. I like it. I like the way he feels. Big, strong, but soft. He’s beginning to run to fat in there somewhere. Who am I to say! We stop at his bike. He puts his helmet and gloves on the seat. He stands there. Me in front of him. I can’t help but cuddle him. He puts his arms around me. Well he must have. I can’t really remember this bit. I didn’t have that much to drink, perhaps I should have had more, perhaps we would have fucked then!

But we kiss. Open mouths, some feeling, some fire, but he won’t respond properly. I feel stupid. Idiot. My mouth tingles from his stubble. I taste his beer and cigarettes in my mouth. I step back. Shout at him. Made a fool of myself again over you. How nice for your ego, how nice for you. What stops you? I want to know. He throws out come-ons, winks, smiles but won’t go the distance. Why have a drink with me, kiss me and then kick me in the face? I hate him. I feel so fucking stupid. Because I respect you and Gary too much he says. I almost laugh. What a fucking stupid thing to say.

He stays calm. I hate it that he does that. Gary does that too. He puts on his gloves and helmet. He puts his key in the bike. I hang about. I want this resolved. He comes back. His mouth is covered in dark pink lipstick. Mine. I think I should tell him to wipe it off but why bother. He hugs me. It sort of stems the discomfort I feel, the bile rising in my throat. He isn’t a complete arse-hole. Not quite. I go to the car. He roars past me. Gone. I can’t go home. Can’t face Gary after that. My head spins, my mouth still tingles, I can still taste him. I go and see Caitlin and get blind.

***

Kim

The day after the kiss was fine. He was easy with me, smiled a lot, chatted a lot. We seem to have a secret, a nice secret between us. There seems to be an understanding about Tuesday night, about us. I feel calm around him, sort of happy, like we’ve moved to the next phase of this idiotic non-relationship of ours. I feel like we’ll progress like this, slowly but inexorably towards fucking each other. It seems an inevitability of being around him. Things will happen if I don’t force anything.

Caitlin thinks I should talk to him. It didn’t work last time, why should it this time? I don’t want to talk to him in his office but he won’t come to mine. Patience. I shall try patience. Today I think I can wait forever for him. I assume this serenity won’t last.

***

Jack

I’m not sure what’s going on. Kim is all sweet and calm. No hassle about Tuesday night, yet we seem to have seen a lot of each other at work: intimate sort of chats. It’s like we have a secret. Well I s’pose we do. Where to from here? When she smiles at me and touches me I do want her. I’m sorry I didn’t fuck her the other night. I could do it now – take her into the photocopy room and fuck her there. Just do it.

I had a strange conversation with Cam. After Kim had been with us, discussing next year’s intake. I didn’t think we’d flirted at all, but he did. He was cryptic but I got the message. I’m not as thick as some think. Too much gossip, not good for the place, for me, for her. But I don’t want to talk to her about it. What do I say? Look as everybody thinks we’re doing it we may as well. There’s a thought. Listen, you’ve got to keep away from me. But she does. She only sees me when she has to, she just tends to stay for that extra five minutes. We can’t talk to each other at all? A solution, but not a preferred one.

I should have fucked her. Ages ago. Made all this shit and angst worthwhile.

***

Kim

He’s been transferred. I don’t believe it. He’s going.

***

Jack

They’re transferring me. I don’t want to go.

***

Jack

Kim came into my office after Cam announced I was going. She looked terrible. I felt terrible. She wanted me to shut the door. I said no. There’s been enough bullshit around here the last few days. No closed doors. She just left. I s’pose I was a bit harsh. I saw her about twenty minutes later in the corridor. Looking sad. I must have too. Our eyes met for a moment, a long moment but we said nothing. What is there to say now?

She was leaving work as I was, just in front of me. I called her back: Kimberley. Sometimes I call her that. She only lets Gary call her that. What does that mean? I want to talk, want her sympathy, her support. I want to know how she feels about me going. I feel absolutely shit-house. She’ll give me a hug, help me feel better, make leaving bearable. There’s no-one around.

Instead she savages me. What happened between yesterday and now? She’s pleased that I’m going. Personally, I’m glad you’re going. You’re such a bastard. You’ve tried to say this is all me. It’s not all me, not just in my head. It’s you too. You stayed on Tuesday. You sat with me. You kissed me too. You could have left. You know how I feel about you.

I can’t handle this. No hugs, no smile. No comfort here. How much truth in what she says? She’s hurt: about me going, about how I treat her? I’m hurt. Can’t she see that? I hate her for this. I don’t want hysterical scenes. Not as I’m leaving, not ever. I have done nothing wrong. I was just being friendly. I can’t see her eyes behind her ray-bans but she hates me too. Her chin is set against me. She gives up. Suit yourself. She’s gone. I drive away too fast, feeling bad about the whole mess. Fuck her, fuck her, fuck her.

Fuck the company too.

***

Kim

I cried as I left work. I didn’t want a scene like that. Not so close to the end. Not with him. But the bastard wouldn’t talk to me and then he was an arse-hole in his office, eyes all steel and cold, as I don’t know him. They went like that again in the car park. But in between they were soft and sad, lost blue eyes. Blue eyes I think I love.

No, I don’t. That’s just being sentimental, dramatic, so stupid.

But I felt a real bitch after. I felt mean and nasty and low. In town after I’d done the order for next year and posted my Christmas cards I bought him a card. I thought a long time about what to write. I used my best black pen and wrote it out a couple of times before I wrote on the card. I left it on his desk first thing Friday morning, with a chocolate Father Christmas. He’ll be late. So he’ll get the card before seeing me. He’ll be softened and I’ll be half shot after the champagne breakfast. I’ll have to try not to cry all day. And not to make an utter idiot of myself. Not again.

***

Jack

The new place is horrible. I don’t want to go. Why can’t the bastards leave me alone? Why can’t they leave me here? Everyone is being so nice this morning. Lucy, the receptionist, cried. Sandra, Cam’s secretary, gave me a hug and a kiss good-bye; early she said, before the rush from the others. As if Kim could seriously think that I liked Sandy as I like her. When I finally got to my office there’s a range of packages, a fax from the department, official written notification and a card from Kim. Simple. Sweet. So she felt guilty about yesterday. “Love, Kim”. Oh, yeah. Does she love me? She’s never said. But she wouldn’t. Why would she, I’d just screw it back in her face. Shit, I’ll miss her.

I don’t want to go. Fuck ’em!

***

Kim

I didn’t see him until lunch time. He was cooking sausages on the BBQ. People everywhere. I’d had about two bottles of champagne since 7:30. He had a beer. I went straight out to him and hugged him. He kissed me. On the mouth, in public. Several times. I apologised for being a bitch. I asked about the new place. He’s resigned to it. I’m happy that we’ll end as friends. I still like the way he feels: so good to hold.

Lunch is a long pissy affair. I tidy up my desk slowly, wondering about saying goodbye to Jack. Caitlin is taking me home but she’s busy washing up. I don’t feel so desperate any more. By the time we start again next year this will all be forgotten: he’ll be gone, there will be no more gossip. Well, not much anyway.

I wander through the front office saying goodbye to people. I kiss Cam, hug Rob, then look for Jack, hoping he’s in his office. He’s not. He’s standing by Lucy’s desk. I don’t care any more. I’d like a private goodbye but it doesn’t matter. Not any more.

I’ve come to say goodbye before it’s too late. It’s 2:30. We hug close and tight. We kiss hard but friendly. I burrow into his neck. God, I’ll miss you. My head is buried in his shoulder. His face is in my hair. I love you, too, he says.

I walk away quickly, putting on my ray-bans so no-one can see me crying. Bastard! How dare he say that now! How dare he say I love you? How dare he say such a thing as he’s leaving!

***

Jack

It’s gone. The last box is in the car. I can’t believe I was only there for six months. I could have stayed forever. I’ll miss Cam, the others, Kim. I will miss Kim, but … If I’d stayed it would have got messier. She looked lovely today; all Christmas, balls in her ears, tinsel around her throat, her wrists. I watched her through lunch. I know why I want to fuck her- she uses her body the whole time, she smiles continually, she’s noisy and bright and I want her next to me, naked and lush with me inside her. I don’t care that she’s a stone over-weight, I don’t care that we’re both married. I care that she wants me. That she might love me. Christ! I should have fucked her when I had the chance.

She came to find me after lunch. I wondered if she would. I wanted to be in my office alone but I was talking to Lucy. I expected Kim would take me into the office. I was surprised when she didn’t. Perhaps I’ve been too rough with her. Not given her enough out of this strange game we’ve been playing.

So we said good-bye. I held her tight and she buried her head in my neck, kissing it as we were lovers alone. I kissed her hair and we kissed again, hard, too much feeling. God, I’ll miss you, she said. I hope she does. And I said, not thinking, not even sure if I meant it, but said it perhaps because finally it was the only thing I could say, I love you, too. I held her a moment longer. Close. Intimate. And she was gone.

As I left I over-heard someone say Kim was crying. I almost went to her. Almost held her tight. Almost took her away. Almost.

Stories: My Father’s Feet

January 24, 2015

Another story from my collection: Life Happens. This one has also been published in a couple of short story anthologies. Set in Darwin and Tasmania, a long time ago now. Hope you enjoy!

Life Happens

My father’s feet were quite remarkable, indeed unusual. A picture forms in my mind; clear, accurate, detailed: my father’s feet when he was a young man and I was but a toddler. My father’s feet are what I remember most accurately about him.

My father’s fee were ugly, deformed, strangely coloured, oddly shaped and held me fascinated for years as a child. When you were sitting near him on the floor you could not help but reach out to touch the unnatural lines and odd bumps that were his feet. Nor were they identical in their deformity. One foot – his left, I think – was more grotesque; the lump in the middle of his foot rising more angrily that the corresponding bump on the other foot. Both swellings were a reddish clay colour and looked sore all the time, as if they needed some balm frequently rubbed into them. The skin was drawn over them and seemed ready to tear at any flex of his foot. Both is big toes were long but one was at an awkward angle to the remaining toes, which also seemed abnormally long. His arches were high and pronounced. His souls were as tough as old boots and seemed impervious to pain.

There were other things about him that were memorable, unusual too. He had a strange voice, quite different to Mum’s and ours. (I didn’t realise how strange until I went to school and became a regular visitor in my friends’ homes.) His voice was deep and rich and melodious with hints of foreign places. In fact he was English but never sounded it to me and never owned up to it, often claiming to be Russian, or more frequently, Turkish.

Like some children I did not wish to be the same as everyone else so it was handy being able to claim a father who was different, and therefore claim that I, too, was of Russian (I preferred being Russian) extraction. I luxuriated in my ‘difference’ although I looked just the same as everyone else at school and despite my last name not being adequately awkward enough to pronounce. But then my cover was blown by my father’s appearance at school for a parent-teacher evening: the truth became apparent and my embarrassment was excruciating.

He never answered anything directly either. Although he knew a great deal, getting information out of my father was akin to dancing through a mine field – if you could pick and dodge your way through his enigmatic answers and reach safe ground you usually ended up with the answer of piece of information required, and often more-so. We could all think laterally and learnt how to phrase our questions precisely before any of us realised just how much we had learned.

And playing games! He never, not even once, let any of us win. He never deliberately lost to any of the children. He always played to win and expected us to do the same. And we did. Those early games of Monopoly, scrabble and chess were slaughters of epic proportions but we learnt quickly and effectively and despite never beating him at chess I could eventually make him fight for his victory.

We were a close family: evening meals together around the table, never – well the occasional Sunday night – in front of the telly. They both cooked – Mum and my father. His speciality was curry, usually a spicy sweet lamb curry with lots of pappadams (which Mum always cooked because my father made them too oily and she drained them on kitchen paper being efficient and fat conscious), pickles and sambals but never enough rice because my father didn’t like rice all that much and never made enough for us, believing that we felt as he did about the stuff.

We went out to dinner regularly from an early age. Not just pizza houses or cafes but proper sit down, behave-yourself restaurants. It was fun to dress up and have a late night out being grown up and vaguely sophisticated. (Very handy training ground for taking out sweet young things when I got old enough.) We were allowed a glass of wine and learned the difference between a good meal and an excellent one, knew how to behave in public and much later I appreciated the bravery of our parents taking us to such places when we were so young.

There were so many books in my house too – some for us but many belonging to Mum and my father. It was easy to distinguish his from hers but they were all interesting and held us spellbound at different stages of our childhood. Mum’s books were of greater interest to us than my father’s – too many involved, complicated, dry scientific books. But my father has read all the books in the house, including Mum’s of Egypt and Homer, myth and fantasy, history and Shakespeare and he would delight in telling us of the wonders therein as we sat at his feet mesmerised.

I think now that my fascination with my father’s feet should have died away long ago. But they never ceased to intrigue me, pull my eyes towards them, entice my fingers to touch them. It wasn’t as if they were often hidden from view. My father only wore shoes to work and when going out of an evening; and then he only wore lace up shoes because they were the only type of shoe he could wear day long without pain. For the rest of the time his feet were naked or thronged, exposed to the elements and our eyes.

I think of his feet driving the car, his big toe resting on the accelerator; of his feet walking on beaches and leaving strange prints for the tide to wash away; of his feet walking toughly on tropical asphalt; of his feet aching back into shoes again after the summer holidays; of his feet giving shoes the most unnatural lines.

I remember my father’s feet when we went south to live for a year because Mum had become too homesick after the birth of the last of us and it was either split the family or all of us travel off together. It was cold down there in Tasmania. We all acquired endless pairs of thick footy socks and ugg boots but my father was still bare footed as often as he could. Often blue and orange but still uncovered against the cold. Some nights in the heart of winter we would find his bare toes stretching towards the open fire; letting them warm and helping the orange and blue fade to a soft pink. We all liked in down south, grandparents and four seasons to a year, stone fruit and cold rain, but we returned after a couple of years. I sometimes wonder if we returned to the tropics for the sake of my father’s feet.

My father’s feet were often to be found entwined in my mother’s. Her feet were normal; perfectly shaped, often with painted nails; frequently a broad white thong maker showing against the brown regular lines of her feet. Her natural, normal feet only accentuated his deformities even more. Yet they would sit on the couch of an evening, one at each end, reading or watching TV, or talking with their feet touching and stroking, enmeshing together.

There is a photograph I have of him. In it he is holding an enormous fish – a queenie, I think. There is a superb white cat snaking around his feet, inches from the fish’s head, eyeing it expectantly. In the picture my father looks bronzed and fit. His beard is long and bushy and he looks as if he has been out of doors all his life. Yet it is to his feet my eyes are inexorably drawn. They are as brown as the rest of him but his arches look too high and his deformed lumps stand out like flashing beacons. His feet are what I examine when I look at that photograph, not the sixe of the fish, nor his proud smile, not even the cat’s hopeful gaze.

He was a young man in that photo. It was taken before he married Mum, but they were together then. The cat in the photo was her cat. I remember that cat – it was old when I was a baby but it used to come and sit with me in the play pen and curl up against the corner bars. It used to sit on their feet too. Curled in contentment of an evening – more often on Mum’s feet than my father’s. Now I think it was because he was her cat, then I used to think because my father’s feet were too uncomfortable to lie on.

I used to worry about my father’s feet. Worry about them in a purely selfish manner. Worry that they sprang from a disease that would eventually manifest itself in us. I used to examine each new sibling’s feet for signs to see if they had been born deformed, and when they showed no signs I would watch and wait for the bones to erupt and the skin to stretch and for our feet to resemble his. I wondered how long it would take. For years I lived in fear. I should have sought the truth sooner instead of letting his feet fester in my mind.

My father’s feet were not the product of genetics or disease; they were the outcome of an accident, as you might guess. A car accident when he was young, where he was lucky not to be killed. When I finally knew what had happened I felt such a surge of disappointment – how could such a source of endless fascination emanate from such a predictable event? But my feeling of loss soon vanished, for as I listened to the story I watched his feet and my hand stretched out in its normal fashion.

My father had been sixteen at the time – so difficult to imagine him at that age – out and about with his mates on a Saturday night; drinking, whistling at girls; too young for the pubs, so driving around. Of course, they smashed; driving too fast, ran off the road and caught the edge of a telegraph pole. No one was killed but four of them were injured. Amongst them, my father, who had been sitting in the front seat with his feet upon the dash, idly quaffing beer. My father’s feet were smashed to pieces; steel pins inserted in his ankles, his feet rebuilt; months in plaster in hospital unable to walk; lying in a bed in a ward of broken bones, learning to walk again; being thankful he hadn’t been totally wrecked, like the car.

As he grew older, after we had left home, his feet began to hurt him. The highness of his arches would make walking a chore; the thinness of his ankles seemed barely able to support his slight frame. The arthritis in his deformities would wrack his feet and keep him still; limit his mobility, anger him as he had to swallow pills to fight the pain. The warmth of the tropics did little to ward off the pain; the joy of his books and the beauty of his garden did little to comfort him; and my mother’s younger, able, mobile feet did nothing but upset him.

My father’s feet are what I remember most clearly about him – more than his love for us, more than his unusual voice; more than his love of reading; more than his obsessive way with games or his enigmatic answers – more than anything else about him. My father’s feet are what I remember the day I found him as I walked in his garden and came upon his feet as they dangled, deformed and lifeless form beneath the foliage of the Raintree. They were still, white, bloodless, old now; the bumps and lumps and unnatural contours free from pain and intrigue. I touched them for the last time and cut him from the tree.

Stories – Walking

January 10, 2015

A change for a few weeks while I go hard on the final stages of the PhD, some stories from my  e-book collection Life Happens. This first one, Walking was written during my early years in one of the most magical places on the planet, Gove, and managed to win a prize in a short story competition. I hope you enjoy!

Life Happens

Walking

1.

The women in my street walk at night. They rarely sleep. When the children – those who have children – are safely in bed they slip from the house. Husbands, lovers – we are all escaping from them. They sit in the house, the particular room is irrelevant, engrossed in the cricket, the video, the book on calculus, impervious to us. They are shrouded, veiled, at a distance from us. They do not listen to us, do not hear us: they barely speak. We are barely there, in the room or in their consciousness.

Listen. I hear a door slam. There. It is Jane walking out this evening, cigarette in hand. I see her because I am sitting on the verandah, nursing my glass of wine while my lover sits inside, a million light years away. Even if I had not seen her I would still know who it was. Robert does not leave his house at night. He does not slam doors and walk away. Often I hear his voice – sometimes quietly as he talks to his boys; sometimes he yells, screams abuse at Jane. No wonder she leaves the house. More often I hear Robert fiddling; tapping away at something, fixing, mending, tending to his house. He does not leave.

I sip my wine and wonder where she is going. She is leaving in her car. Often at night, we leave in the car – late, quietly. Jane leaves quickly and vanishes into the night. Not so me. When I leave I make a noise. I whirl away quickly, slam doors, reve engines. I want him to know I am leaving unhappily, deeply troubled.

There is something that troubles the women who live on my corner. There are five of us now – one left, she could not handle the ebb and flow of life here. This corner, my corner, our corner of walking women. But we are not weeping women. We are strong women, we are brave. Foolish? Did you say foolish? Well, yes. That’s possible too. But what is it that keeps us from sleep, that causes this creeping restlessness? Sometimes it seems it visits different houses nightly – takes turns in disturbing us all.

Jane is still gone. I know she has not gone into work. It’s Saturday night – she doesn’t work Saturdays. She has left too quietly – as if she is sneaking away. I can’t help but wonder why, guess at how Robert has upset her this time. I do like Robert, don’t misjudge me, but he is just like the rest of the men in this street. Ah, why do we stay? What keeps us here?

Across the corner live a lesbian couple. Two women without men. Now I had always assumed – perhaps hoped – that same sex relationships were somehow better. That two people of the same sex would understand each other better and be more liberal, caring: be so much closer. But I have heard the smashing of plates and shattering of glass. I have seen the bruises, shared the pain. They too leave at night, race to the car and hurtle off into the blackness.

They are no happier than us. Our scars are not on the surface. I have heard some of Jane’s and she know of mine and realises there is worse to come. As do I. Why do we stay? She stays because of the boys. I stay because of love. We all stay for love. It is there. Sometimes.

Sue, who lives next door, is clearly happy. Well, she and Mick are young and enthusiastic and spend so much time together. Yet, I have heard shouting, the screams at night. Sue does not walk out at night. She is still too young. She still believes in love and happiness and a golden future. But wait. Things will change (and not very long now) and she will vanish into the darkness like the rest of us, urged on by some strange disease that infests the rest of us.

Perhaps it is this place? Jane was happy once. She was thinner, she didn’t smoke: she laughed, was happy, enjoyed her life. My lesbian friend was once engaged, never bruised or battered and her haunted expression never imagined. Once I too was thinner. I barely drank. I slept at nights and never lost my temper at work.

We were all so different once. Before. When? Before we moved here? Before we became involved. Before we thought we had found love?

Listen. Jane is home again. She shuts the car door quietly and moves to the house. I cannot see her face. It is too dark. She has seen me. Her cigaretted hand moves in salute. I imagine a tired smile has crossed her face. She knows. I know. We suffer together: alone. She is inside now. Perhaps she feels calmer, perhaps the pain has eased. I hope so.

I finish my drink and return inside. He is still on the phone. Still talking to her. He thinks me unreasonable. I cannot explain. He believes it is enough that he is with me and not her. But it is not. He smiles at me. He expects me to stay. I have no resolve. I have no strength. I have walked outside but only sat this evening. I feel no better. I will stay: stay until I can bear no more.

 

11.

It is hotting up now. The weather is steamier, muggier; we all feel it. Here on the corner we have moved ahead with the season. Now we are sweatier: we strain more, our burdens seem more unbearable. The ceiling fans are on high but their pathetic draft is not enough to cool us, to comfort us. The air is heavier, expectant. As are we.

The season has changed. We have changed; taken steps towards our own specific futures. Here on the corner our futures are changing. I rarely sit on my lover’s verandah now of a night: the insects are too thick, too bothersome. It is cooler outside, but now it seems more comforting and welcoming inside. Well, it has been. Tonight I am sitting outside. I need some fresh air. I have no glass of wine to nurse.

There are footsteps across the way. Jane is moving about within the house. She is going from room to room looking, assessing; gathering in. Packing. Jane is leaving. She has had enough. Now she is going. She has been smiling again lately. Having made her decision she is now resolved, now calm and almost happy. Things are not about to become easier but they shall become smoother, easier for her to manage.

Outside a bright light blazes. Robert is up on his roof. Tap-tap, mend-mend; taking care of his house, his home; his soon to be empty home. He says very little to any of us. He is getting on: he is getting by. He is staying put. Why do women always leave and take their children? Why do men leave and disown their children? Ah, generalisations: I am good at them

Tap-tap goes Robert’s hammer as he hammers his home.

Tap-tap go Jane’s shoes as she takes all she owns. She will not be there tomorrow night. The tapping will cease for both of them, I imagine. She is moving through the house like a dynamo. She must pack it all, not leave anything behind. She cannot come back. She must forget nothing. This is the end. I am sad about this. But it is the sadness about death, about waste.

Jane is doing what she must to stay alive. She must go before she and Robert kill each other.

A quiet night except for the tapping. Next door Sue and Mick are watching the television. I imagine them curled in each other’s arms, smiling at the same things on the screen. Even the heat, the sweat of close contact will not deter them from their closeness. Sue has spent the last week away, some course in Darwin. They have missed each other; they touch each other all the time. Not a cross word has passed between them in the three days since she returned. They are still young, still in love. They believe in it, and in happy endings. I hope the sickness in Jane and Robert’s house does not jump the fence and breach their walls of love. They should not be invaded by foreign germs. Not yet. Not ever. Let them discover diseases of their own, if they must. It has been good of late not to hear Sue and Mick’s raised voices or slamming doors. Perhaps they will last?

In fact, the corner has been very quiet of late. Perhaps it is the weight of the air, the oppression in the atmosphere that keeps us quiet? Across the corner there has barely been a sound now for weeks, or is it months? Of course, I am rarely on my verandah these nights, but we used to hear our lesbian lovers from inside behind the noise of the air conditioner. They worry me. They are too quiet. I see my friend of the two very rarely these days. We have not chatted for some time now. We are both becoming quite isolated. Probably we are caged by the same things. Yet I hope their qualities are different because when I look upon her face I see death. There is something in her eyes – or is it that there isn’t something in her eyes – something missing; something lost. Her smiles are vacuous, meaningless. She is vague, missing. Slowly she is being extinguished. It will be a lingering and painful death. I consider her weak for not doing anything: for not getting out when she had the chance. And she had it, by God. But am I any better, any stronger? I doubt it.

Jane has found strength. It is good to see. At least one of us has some determination, some courage. At least one…

I listen for voices within my house. It is silent now. He has finished on the phone. Still he needs to talk to her. I had thought that would change, stop, go away. But it hasn’t. I think I understand more now. But still I do not like it. I say very little these days; it only causes arguments. At least he understands me more now. My patience, my stoic perseverance, is winning through. There is more to keep him here now. That makes me safer, secure: even happy. I have not walked for a long time; I have not disappeared into the night in a fit of tyre black or petrol fumes. I do not disappear from his bed before dawn. I stay.

Jane is going. Happiness is returning to us all. Perhaps she is taking away this disease of disquiet, this revolution of unrest with her? Perhaps in her final waking she will drag away the blackness of our nights and leave we, who remain, in peace and contentment? A night thought. A good thought. But I have my doubts. Our happinesses are momentary, fleeting. We rejoice in Jane’s decision, in her courage, and we smile, hoping for the best for her in her new life. But we know, or at least I do, that the walking is not over. It is very far from over. It is never over. Troubled minds, unquiet hearts stay with you; they are the part of you that does not remain in the house as you leave. No, you are their house and they stay with you wherever you go.

Soon the rains will torment out of the sky. Soon this corner will be drenched with rain and the sounds of tears and fists and glasses smashing will not be drowned out by the rain: they will simply accompany it.

The coolness of the night soothes my mind. My aches are slowly dissipating. The screen door is sliding open. My man has come outside, ostensibly to look at his garden in the silver black of this night. But really, I know these things now, he has come to bring me back. I am more precious now. He does not want to lose me, so he does the right thing. He has learnt that a little reassurance goes a long way.

There is a future. A future for us all on this corner. Perhaps we cannot stay here? Jane has to go. Sue is safe for now, but wait a few years. Our alternative couple take their troubles wherever they go. I shall be gone soon, too, from this corner. But I am not like Jane. I do not plan to go alone.

111.

Time has passed. All is still and quiet on my corner. The season is cooler; the oppression and expectation has left the air, left the corner. The nights are almost cold: the fans are off; we lie entwined in each other.

Listen, you will hear nothing. There are no women left on this corner now. Jane left long ago; Sue and Mick moved before the tired air of this corner invaded their hopes and future; even our lesbian couple have found a new house and peace and harmony, if only for a short while. Robert is left and I remain.

But we are going to. Our house and contents are all but packed – this is our last night here. My last night on this verandah. We have found a quieter place where our neighbours do not impinge upon us, and their midnight screams do not float through the darkened air into our lives.

Listen. All is quiet here now. There is no flood-light on Robert’s roof: he is not working, tapping or mending now. There are no footsteps echoing through his house, no cries, no slamming doors, no walking out. There is no breaking crockery or screams from across the corner – all is dark there too. Silent.

Inside here is quiet too. There are no voices over the phone now. No more long and detailed conversations from which I must escape. Now I sit on the verandah because I wish to. Now I sit here under this frangipanied night listening to noises from the past.

Hush. All is quiet. All is dark. All is peaceful on this corner. No longer my corner. We sit together, my husband and I, on our last night here. He ruffles my hair and goes to stand in his garden, inhaling the perfumes of his vegetables and flower for the last time.

Listen. All is quiet now. No one walks at night any more. All our despair and hopelessness has gone – has been taken away. Hush. All is quiet. We are going, leaving this corner, leaving it in peace; letting it recover from us all. Ssh. Listen to the peace while you can.

Another one bites the dust… Ruminations on the year that was

December 20, 2014

It is at last the holidays and we have arrived battered and bruised at the last epistle of the year as I am off to France for the festive season to drink a small ocean’s worth of champagne in Champagne and will not be back until the new year. It is time to consider the year and its usual trials and tribulations, its continuous tricks and treats and be pleased to have made it to the end of another one. As one ages, one becomes more appreciative of this increasingly amazing feat.

france

I am pleased to end the year, especially the work year in one piece. This has not been true for many years in the UK and I am grateful to be away from the extreme pressure and unpleasantness of some of my former colleagues. But that meanness of spirit, that streak of nastiness resides in many in the work-force, too many in management, who seem to take pleasure in delivering bad news on the eve of the festive season. It’s as if they deliberately set out to Grinch Christmas for people, that it’s okay to leave bitter and sour tastes in people’s mouths and usually pain in the pocket for Christmas. I wonder at that, at the lack of compassion for others, especially in my profession that is meant to care about others! I’ve often wondered how we are expected to care for the kiddies if the management don’t care for us…

This year, as I plan for my children’s visit this weekend and prepare for my Eurostar voyage on Monday I feel as if the year, on balance hasn’t been too bad. It has, as ever, been all over the place, literally as we moved house again and ended up apart with moi in a pleasant flat in London and beloved in the house in France, which is an interesting thing to do for a while. I think it is making the heart fonder. Certainly it’s pushing thoughts of murder and divorce way off the agenda! No, a bit of married separation is a good thing. It helps you see the other in a better light, it helps you get to know yourself again as you stop being opposite sides of the one coin. It makes you remember why you got together in the first place all those years ago on the other side of the world in one of the secret magical places of the world – Gove.

dear

I am, as ever, pleased and proud of my brood, their achievements and on-going evolution into adults who are fine people who make the world a better place. Soon there will be another teacher in the clan, sensibly a primary one and training back home where teaching is not the veil of tears it is in England. Soon there will be a qualified artist, doing strange and wonderful things to compliment or perhaps off-set the robotic engineer who may very well being planning to take over the world, not just turn Tasmania into a theme park. Tomorrow will be a hoot as they gather to celebrate another Christmas.

minerva

I am sadly aware of losses, both of my beloved and devoted woof, the much missed Zanzibar, and of others who have passed. It is one of those truths that pet owners know, how hard the loss of your dog or cat, or horse, or any creature that shares your life, is felt. It is like a body blow and while we move on, we mourn and miss him and are thankful he was such a core part of our lives for nine years.

Zanz

For my friends who have lost loved ones this year this Christmas will be especially hard as the gap that has been sort of closing will yawn widely open, and the wound that has been scabbing open will weep and bleed as the previous years full of their smiles and words and love will hover in the air and attack again and again and it will be hard to smile in the face of the loss and look forward to a happy new year. So my love goes to them and I also remember those close to me who left too soon.

Christmas is a time to be with those we love and remember those we loved and have lost. It is the time to cherish what we have. Loss reminds us what we have and should make us more mindful of the joy and love we have.

france fam

So, the year is dying, it is fading away, as it should. We look to the New Year for hope, fresh starts and new chances. It is incumbent upon us to consider our good fortune in reflecting on 2014, to accept the shit-bits – they are a part of being human and do, whether we like it or not, make us strong – but try to avoid them if we can and if we can’t then get through them as best we can and not be too embittered and brutalized by those who would brutalize us. It always sounds trite but it is good to count your blessings, to be aware of the good in our lives and appreciate it.

T&P love

Do these simple things this holiday:

Love and cherish the ones you’re with.

Honour and remember the ones who have gone.

Make the most of your life because no matter how long it lasts it is but a short time we are here.

Learn from your mistakes but don’t dwell on them.

Look forward to the future and make it as good as you can.

Travel well, my friends, this Yuletide period – embrace life and live it large. (Images courtesy Private Collection)

My Family – nearly all grown up now

November 8, 2014

This morning I am alone. This is an unusual occurrence given I am married with three children and a full time job. But this weekend, with my beloved ensconced in France and my big two long flown, the youngest has spread her wings and gone to Holland for the weekend – her first solo OS trip.

I am left to think about this situation. She won’t be here for much longer – tis really a matter of months now until she leaves home to finally become an independent adult. It is as it should be. The other two have been long gone – nine years and six years. I thought at the time that they left too soon – 17 and 18 – and was somewhat bereft, but consoled with my fluff bucket full of cuteness and energy, who also thought he ruled the house.

Zanz

But I would feel a failure as a parent if my grown children were still at home, still tied to us, unable to function in the world. Yes, I know there are mitigating financial issues for some, especially in the UK, and from time to time, when the situation arises, they should come home to re-charge batteries, recover from life’s bruises. But for all concerned, children need to leave home. They need to live their own lives.

My three have gone far and wide and from much younger ages. They are braver and stronger, fiercer and smarter than I was at their ages. But that’s as it should be, isn’t it? Don’t we want our children to have more opportunities, better lives? Don’t we want children we are proud of – who we can skite about, as well as love and cherish?

But in order to have adult children who can do things, who you like as well as love, you have to put in the work from the start. I don’t think it matters how many children you have – one or a dozen – as long as you do the right thing by them, as long as you take care of them and I don’t just mean physical, material things. It is about time and tough love; it is about sleepless nights, school concerts, parent-teacher evenings (oh yes, they’re fun on the other side of the table!), birthday parties, smacks and tears, stories and homework, fairness and consequences.

Good parenting also about rejecting any ideas about perfection. Banish stupid shit about what good mothers do, that working damages children, that childcare is the devil’s playground. Ignore people who tell you staying home is not needed for you or your child. Ignore those who say single parents can’t cope, that all boys must have their fathers around. Parenting is a highly contested, visible area, and just like Education, seemingly everybody has an opinion on how it should be done. You need to trust yourself, ask for help when you need it, but make decisions for you and yours based on what is best for you, not anyone else. It can be hard, but it’s your family and you can make it any way you want. But make it good – we need decent people, well brought up and properly loved.

I have epically failed as a parent. There were days when mine were young when I did wish them away. When I wondered what the other life would have been like – where I was thin and not always worried about money. I was chronically unable to say no to my baby. She never seemed to need it, being such an easy child, but her causal easiness evolved into a casual refusal that became intransigent stubbornness that perhaps should have been addressed earlier. I broke promised to all of them at some time, didn’t do things I said I would, didn’t see lots of movies; borrowed pocket money from my boy but mostly paid him back. I passed the too hard stuff with my big girl over to her father, who really did save her life. Thank God he did, as she’s now one of the best things in my life.

But I knew when I’d stuffed up. I apologized to them. I was human and real. I lost my temper and swore in the car when they were in the back seat – glossing over it by saying it was okay to swear in the Murray car (we had a blue Subaru and a red XJS Jag, which became Wiggles coloured cars, thanks to the young pad-wan). Now they are real with me and confide in me and ask for help or advice when they need it. I ask them too!

But a very wise woman, who worked and had six children of her own, offered a life-saving piece of advice – if you’re getting it right eighty per cent of the time, then you’re doing well. She reminded us that doing the best you could, that stuffing up things with your children was what happened. At the end of the day, it would be all right. And you know, she was right.

Having a child is the ultimate experience. If you have a child with someone you love the intensity of the experience is overwhelming. It blows you away. You made this amazing tiny thing, that hopefully will be the best of both of you. You watch it grow, look after it, love it the best you can and, if most things go right, you end up with amazing young things that you adore, that you could not imagine your life without.

I am a lucky woman. Is luck the word? I work at being a mum. I know how I felt about my own mum and I want mine to feel the same about me. My father had failed as a parent. Sadly he ended up with both of his children estranged from him at his death, not a good place to be. Not a place I intend to be.

So, mine are grown and almost all gone, soon spread across the world, but my family is strong – we like being together, we enjoy each other’s company, we take care over birthdays and Christmas, we keep in regular contact. My big two are hilariously funny when together. My children like each other and that’s a triumph too.

The next phase is upon us – my beloved and I will be alone again, just us. It will be very strange, but good too. Weddings loom and I guess grandchildren will appear in due course. As it should be. We will gather together again to laugh, take the piss, and enjoy our family as it grows and changes. And my beloved and I will indulge in our favourite topic of conversation: our wonderful and utterly lovely three. (Images from Private Collection)

Count Your Blessings

April 5, 2014

As I sit here this morning it’s warm, the sun is doing its weak British Spring thing and there’s a smell of promise and hope in the air, as bespokes the warming and lighting that happens in Spring. So, I turn my mind not to all that is wrong in my life, to the range of things that worry and beset me but to the things that I need to count as good in my life and appreciate what I’ve got, not what’s missing or entirely screwed up.

 

I am happy I have had my beloved fluffy boy for nearly nine years, that Zanz has brought me love and joy, loyalty and comfort, peace and protection, fun and laughs. I am so happy to have had such a dog, such a prince of a dog, even if not for as long as I wanted. So I am going to make the most of his much shortened time with us, and thank the sky for him being in my life and enriching it beyond measure.

Zanz

 

I am happy I have children, who have become amazing young people. I look at them and wonder and marvel and forget the tears and tantrums, the struggles and frustrations, and know my life is infinitely richer for having them, even if my body has never quite recovered! It is not possible to imagine a life without them and I am so pleased they are in my life and will be forever. They have brought infinite joy. And I quietly, but without any urgency or rush, look forward to grandchildren.

Pal, Pi & Me

 

I am happy to be married. Amidst the disagreements, the conflict, the changing, the never ending challenge of being with one person, there is a love that has mutated and changed but remained, and remains still in the kindness and consideration we show each other. A long marriage means compromise and sacrifice, but it mostly means companionship, understanding and acceptance, and someone to talk to endlessly about the things you love most – the kinder and the woof.

Us-27Dec

 

I am happy to have friends, near and far. People to let off steam with, to be yourself with, to moan to, to laugh with, to trust and confide in. I love FB because it keeps friends in your circle, makes it so much easier to keep in touch, to stay in contact. And there’s nothing like a good chat with a mate, long distance or, even better if, in some bijou café somewhere, with wine a tapas and the day stretching before you, full of laughter and stories and wonder and amazement at the foolishness of yourself and the world.

Judy, Jen, Jac & Kim

 

I am happy that I live in a part of the world that, despite its injustices and idiocies, allows me and those I love to live in relative peace and freedom, even at increasingly exorbitant charges. I am glad we are not bound by the tyranny of fear and insanity that others live with daily, fearing for their very lives. I know it could be better, and therein lies one of life’s frustrations, but it is not as debilitating as so many other parts of the world, and for that I am grateful.

Trafalgar Sq

 

I am happy to be alive. To have survived ill health, major loss, career disruptions, disappointments and still be here, looking forward, making plans, living a hopeful life. I appreciate that I can make choices about my life, that, given a range of loose parameters, I am in charge of my life.

Jackie S

 

Finally, I am happy I am a reader, that I know the bliss of books, the pleasure of the page, the wonder of the word. I can happily spend a day, or more, lost in space and time in some other world, there on the page. I am so happy that there are writers who continue to make stories to share with us, to enrich us and challenge us and make us better people.

books & work room

What are you grateful for this weekend? Probably being a teacher, as we begin the Easter Holidays, which makes all the other rubbish we endure worthwhile! (Pictures from Private Collection)

The Sudden Impact of Loss

February 22, 2014

Most of you know me to be a positive, up-beat type of person where the glass is always half full, where the future is in our hands, and we can make our lives better by facing up to who we are, and how we want to be. My most popular posts are my education rants and my life-style – live better – be strong posts. You may not be aware of the extent of struggle and loss in my life, but that’s as it should be, I don’t blog to whine and moan too much without offering some sort of solution, some way to learn from adversity. But, like many of you out there, I have struggled and I have lost.

Last Saturday night I was suddenly and unexpectedly laid low by the impact of loss. By something terrible and deeply distressing that happened many years ago, that I never forget, but that does not reside at the forefront of my existence. I know that many of you out there have similar losses, something that tore you apart at the time, that you struggled to come to terms with, that changed you and your life, that bobs up from time to time to remind you, to never let you forget – as if you ever could…

In my long and extensive life of turbulence, of love and adventure, of wins and losses, there are only two things that I would change: the death of my mother when I was 17 and the loss of my baby, Grace, before she even got a chance to get started. I know, my dear friends, that many of you have trod in shoes like mine: a miscarriage, a still birth, a lost baby to SIDS, or something similarly devastating. We look at ourselves, feel our failure more keenly here than anywhere else in our lives: failure as a mother is a primal failure, the most severe stab at our essential being: how can we not bring a child safely into the world, not care for it enough? It threatens our sense of self, our sense of womanliness and it can destroy some of us. It is the hardest burden to bear: to go on living when our child does not. It is the worst punishment for any parent.

dad, dragon ,phoenix

Grace died nearly twenty years ago. She was stillborn after I spent six weeks in hospital trying to hang onto her. A tiny-tiny hole, less than a pin-prick in the amniotic sac led to a slow leak which meant the fluid was draining away and she would not have enough to grow to term. The doctor said she was doomed once the diagnosis was in, but we persevered. I lay in hospital, still and quiet, trying my best to keep her long enough to grow to be big enough to survive. But the amniotic fluid was gone at 24 weeks and she was too small, and her lungs and brain were probably already irretrievably damaged. The equipment needed to keep such a premy baby alive wasn’t in Darwin at the time, so it was hopeless. But she was a tiny perfect baby. No imperfections, nothing to say why she died, why she couldn’t make it. She had soft blonde downy hair, perfect little fingers and toes but her eyes never opened. She never drew breath, never saw us, never knew how much she was wanted or loved. She was held and sang to and baptized. But she never lived amongst us, never knew her brother or sisters.

This is not a unique story – this, or a version, of this, happens again and again across the world. Babies die and families grieve. But we move on. We love what we have more and the final addition to my family made most of the sadness in my heart evaporate. Her smile, her breath and small perfections made the ache in my heart stop and slow, her joy in life and her calm serene being made it possible for me to face the world again, not such a failure, not so heart-breakingly sad all the time.

younguns

Time passes and life moves in different directions. Children grow and the pain heals, but the memory stays, it just doesn’t hurt any more. This is what life does. It heals, slowly, without notice, and here we are in the midst of grown up daughters, having dinner and drinks, half a world away from the worst day of my life. I am happy, I am sitting on the sofa drinking champagne, having had a lovely meal prepared by my eldest daughter, my beloved sits happily beside me; life is in a good place. The girls are singing and laughing along to Bastille and there’s a lyric, a mention of Grace, walking with her, or acting with her. And it’s repeated. I look at my grown up girls, enough alike to be obviously sisters, blonde hair and smiles, hugging each other, and then I saw a space between them, a girl sized shape where Grace should have been. And I could see her, I could imagine her there, between her youngest and eldest sister, like them but unlike them – herself, smiling and happy too.

I was hit in the heart. It broke. There was joy and love in the room but my heart was empty and shattered by loss, by what should have been. Not two but three. Three golden haired girls laughing and smiling and hugging. My tears felt slowly and I couldn’t stop them. My heart was so full of love for what I had but full of pain and sadness for what was lost, what could never be. How can you be so happy and so sad at once? Out of the blue I was hit by the sudden impact of my loss, like a comet hitting the earth, reeling me off course, shattering my orbit, leaving an impression the size of the Gulf of Carpentaria in my being. Suddenly, for the first time in years, I was brutally aware of my loss, of the gaping hole in my life. A hole that has to be ignored, otherwise you go mad, you cannot go on. A hole that is, on most days, filled by what I have.

3 bewsherswans

Nowadays I don’t often wonder about Grace, about what she might have been like, how our lives might have unfolded. Like my mother, I can’t spend too much time wondering what if. Those sort of thoughts do your head in. You have to put those things behind you. It’s why we must grieve properly and fully for our losses, so we can return to our lives and live them fully, more alive because of the pain, because of what we have lost. But sometimes, like on Saturday our loss hits us in the face and we are undone by the strength of our feelings; our emotions wash over us again, drowning us.

It’s the suddenness of the experience, the unexpectedness of it that really throws you. No matter how neatly we put away our experiences, how well we package up our pain and loss and tuck them away in the darker recesses of our minds, they are always there and it’s the simplest of things that can set them off – a smell, a song, a sudden trickle of memory. But it’s nothing to be ashamed of, nothing at all. It’s one of those things that tell us we’re human after all. People die, and it is right that we miss them and feel something and express it.

Zanz-rug

Love your family. Cherish them and hold them close. Make the most of what you have, every day of your life. Oh, and your pets too, because they mean the world to us as well and losing them can be too much to bear too. (Images from Private Collection)