Tuesday, 27 October 2015

She and I

"Can you believe it?" she tells me outraged in a transatlantic Skype call. "She asked me if I was a grandmother."

This is the culmination of a call with one of my best and oldest friends. We laugh and make scoffing noises, give a virtual shrug to indicate that this question was obviously not serious. We send each other hugs. We hang up.

And so what of it that someone asked her that question. We both turned 50 this year - within two days of each other in fact and yes, ok I'll admit I'm the oldest. Logically, she and I could both have grandchildren - apart from the fact that we both decided that children were not our bag. It's not unheard of - many 50 year old women do. Yet when I speak with her, I don't think of her as this age. I see and hear her as the 18 year old girl that I came to know when we both started secretarial college - see that in itself dates us. Do secretarial colleges even exist anymore? Can you still learn shorthand, typing and office practice?

When I think of her, I still see the girl I knew then - looking a little coy and somewhat vulnerable but acting tough to get through those early years. When I speak to her, I still hear the voice of the girl I knew then. The one who shared her secrets, her dreams and passions and how she wanted life to be. She still does that. It's just that suddenly we've been doing that for over 30 years together. We've seen each other through divorce, relationship highs and lows, transatlantic house moves, career meltdowns, health scares, loss and love. I know her flaws and she knows mine. I've listened to her cry down the phone and she has done the same for me. We've shared birthday celebrations, told each other the truth when neither of us necessarily wanted to hear it, got each other home after too many drinks, listened to tales of exotic holiday trips and everyday routines and laughed when we found out that we'd both bought Doc Martens in our late 40s. We've come a long way and we've most certainly got each others' backs.

So hey - I'm happy to defend her. It really is outrageous that someone could think she might be a grandmother. She's surely not old enough, because after all if she is then I am too!

Friday, 16 October 2015

The Essence of Stillness

I have recently returned from a wonderful yoga retreat in France.  While I was there this poem arrived and requested I write it - so here it is!

The Essence of Stillness

Perhaps it is in the morning mists that swirl across the fields
Or in the petals of a flower waiting to unfurl
Perhaps it is in the rise and fall of the belly of a sleeping cat
Or in the bowing heads of sunflowers missing the summer sun
Perhaps it is in the echo of a dragon fly's wing
Or in a blade of grass swaying gently in the breeze
Perhaps it is in the weight of an acorn that falls from a tree
Or in the shimmer of a moonbeam reflected on the pond
Perhaps it is in the curl of a frond from a passion fruit plant
Or in the redness of an autumn berry newly formed
Perhaps it is in the iridescent light captured in a single moment
Or in the crisp leaves that snap underfoot
Perhaps it is deep in the centre of me, aligned to my beating heart
Or in the softness of my breath moving effortlessly in and out
Perhaps it is there as I lay in stillness
Or the stillness lays in me, ever patient, waiting

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Running from or running towards...

Last week I resumed an old relationship with - my running machine. We have, I think I would describe it as, a long distance relationship and that's nothing to do with running distances, but the fact that we just don't connect with each other that often. It's been on and off, on and off and for a long time off, but we had an unexpected meeting last week and it was ok. We decided we might meet up again.

Exercise seems to be something I like the idea of, yet in the grand scheme of my to do list each week, it's the item that stubbornly remains - carried forward to next weeks' list - staring at me long and hard and accusingly. If it were a Tamagotchi - it would have crawled into a corner and died long ago.

Yet last week, we connected three times. The first time, I thought I might actually have to have the break up talk - you know the conversation - it's me, not you which actually was the truth as five hours after my initial interval training - which for me actually means walk for three minutes, gently jog for two, walk a little more, jog a little, walk a little, jog a little, collapse in a heap a lot - my muscles seized up, my back ached probably due to the fact that I have zero core strength and walking up stairs in heels became a major feat.

My intention was to run every two days, but at the beginning of day two, I knew it was going to be impossible. But funnily enough at day three I was ready to go again. We can do this I thought. It's not over between us after all - that was just a minor blip in our relationship. And so we had another date. It was quite short as I had to head off to work afterwards. I like for us to meet first thing. I'm more inclined to make the relationship work at that time of the day. I'm at my best then - ready to engage and interact and be a willing participant. If we were forced to meet in an evening, I'd find it more challenging. Once I'm home, preparing supper and there's the though of a hot bath, a good book, and my PJ's, I'd definitely blow off my date. I also find that leaving my outfit on the bed in readiness for the morning helps. There's no deciding what I'm going to wear, what shoes? It's all ready to slip straight into and get going. It seems there are lots of tactics involved in this relationship.

And then there was day three. It seems that our relationship might actually be going somewhere. We've rekindled our affair. We've discovered that although it's still early days, we actually quite like each other. We actually rather like how we feel when we've spent time together.

We're not rushing things though...

Friday, 3 October 2014

The Magic of Stories

When it comes down to it, our lives are simply full of stories. The stories we share with our loved ones, our friends and family and of course the stories we tell ourselves. We all have our own stories, the experiences and moments that shaped us into who we are today. The hurts and losses, the happinesses and laughter.

Just think how many times we weave our stories into conversations with other people. Everyday work issues can become an elaborate drama. Relationships become a mini-series where we wait with anticipation for the next instalment.

Even complete strangers it seems will tell you their story, often (in my case anyway) in a very short period of meeting. It seems that the one life-altering moment cannot be held in - it leaks out either gently or spontaneously sometimes in such heartbreaking detail that upon hearing it you could sit down and sob.

I grew up in a childhood of stories. I lived alone with my mum from the age of seven, after my dad left. My mum worked long and unusual hours and we had little money although I didn't realise it at the time. It was only at school that I realised most people had a car, a home telephone and new clothes. The thing we did have though was stories. Mum made walks in the woods with neighbouring children an adventure when we all became musketeers. I being the youngest child was always allowed to be D'Artagne- my favourite. There was always someone chasing us, a threatened King or the Queen of Hearts, wanting to chop off our heads and we would run screaming through the woods with twigs as make-shift swords. Walks home from my nan's house were filled with word games and quizzes no doubt to take our minds off the fact that we were walking and not driving, but which in fact to me just seemed to be fun and entertaining.

And during times when mum was not able to be around because of work, books filled her absence. Enid Blyton was my favourite childhood author. I loved the thought of being able to find my own Magic Faraway Tree and be spirited away to new places by Moonface and friends. With a book in my hands, I always had company and didn't feel alone.

These childhood stories and experiences have helped form me into who I am today. My mum's love of books, poetry and writing have helped develop my interests in these subjects. I have always loved reading but more recently in the last five years have also come to love writing. I also believe that the imagination can take us to magical places and I wouldn't want to ever lose that pleasure.

Thank you mum for sharing these precious gifts with me as a child. We may not have had very much in material terms, but we were rich with the magic of stories.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

My tiny rebellion

I have a secret to share with you. I've discovered something that gives you confidence, makes you feel good, doesn't break the bank and brings out a different side to you or it did in me. What can this magical thing be I hear you cry.

Wait for it...

A little bit longer...

Keep waiting...

Ok, time for the reveal...

Yes, it's red lipstick

I was recently persuaded to give wearing red lipstick a go and when I say red, I mean real red, pillar box red - not pinks trying to act like red. As a woman fast approaching fifty (how did that happen?) I was a little unsure at first. Surely this type of red is strictly in the domain of younger women, surely red lipstick is for sirens, women of danger. I was thinking Bette Davis in All About Eve.

But then I thought hell yeah - why not. Why shouldn't I do it. And so I did.

The first time, I put it on, I felt transformed. I dressed up a little more than I usually would, found myself wearing heels. The lipstick demanded it.

I was sassy. I said things I wouldn't normally say. I felt powerful. I was like: "Yes, I'm wearing red lipstick - what of it? You want to make something of it." I felt glamorous and it was fun. I felt a little naughty. I was in touch with my inner Bette Davis.

Funny how something so inconsequential can make a difference. There are some great reds out there. I chose Maybelline's Color Elixir Up Lacquer in Signature Scarlet for a more glossy finish and a Bourjois one for a more matt finish.

So if you're feeling in need of a lift and want to engage with your inner Bette Davis, join me and head for red.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Being Thank Full

There are some days in life when everything goes your way. Life feels good and easy. Worries and concerns that you might have had a few days ago seem to roll off you. Today is one of those days.

I feel thank full. Full of thanks for the joy that has been today.

It is the first of October and here in the UK, the weather is exceptionally mild and I am on holiday in Cornwall.

I am rested and refreshed. Today I stood on the beach watching dogs frolick, surfers dipping in and out of the waves and felt the warmth of sunshine on my face. I've eaten great food, laughed loud, read books and stood under the stars with the man I love.

Yes today really was a great day and I am thank full.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Be more Kate

A few weeks ago I was in the privileged position of being at one of Kate Bush's concerts. My husband being a forever fan had managed to secure tickets for us. I didn't realise just how privileged until the night of the concert. Don't get me wrong, I like Kate Bush and have enjoyed many of her songs. 'Cloudbusting' and 'Running up that Hill' are long time favourites of mine. I was looking forward to seeing her in the same way I've looked forward to other artists. However, I had no idea of the impact of attending this particular concert. It did something to me. It moved me. I would even go so far as to say it changed my life.

How can a concert possibly change your life you may wonder. The thing that came across so fiercely for me was the honesty in Kate and her music. She came on stage and it felt like I was listening to the one and only concert she was ever going to give. It felt like the first time and the last time even though I knew she was giving the same concert at the same time the next day.

Her on-stage presence was spiritual, warm, trusting and surreal. She was humble and thankful for the fact that we 'the audience' were there and she smiled so often I was reminded of the Cheshire Cat. She was eccentric yet adorable because of it. She totally owned the show and herself. She made no excuses. She was authentic and completely congruent. These qualities sprung forth from her and I stood in the rays of her energy and let myself get soaked from head to toe.

The show was wonderfully theatrical. I'd deliberately not read any reviews so it would be fresh to me. And fresh it was, completely unlike anything else I'd ever experienced. I was surprised, thrilled, excited, unsure of what might come next. I found myself falling into it, within moments moved to tears and somewhere within it, I found part of myself. A tiny piece that had been forgotten, but was now awoken and eager for attention. At times, it was like I was in a dream, some sort of trance. Kate was the White Rabbit and I tumbled down the rabbit hole eager to follow wherever she wanted to take me - deep into this storybook fairy tale world of hers. I wanted to remain there forever and for this performance never to end.

Leaving the performance, I travelled back through London with other concert goers. We were all blown away, people for once happy to chat on the tube about what they'd experienced. I almost didn't want to talk about it - as if doing so would make it less real and disssolve it in some way.

Since the concert, her songs continue to worm their way into my head. I find myself quietly humming the first few bars or singing the chorus of one of her songs. Kate has hypnotised me in some way I'm sure.

And what have I taken from this experience. As I writer, I want to apply this level of honesty and authenticity to my own work. I want to be more Kate. I want to write things that will engage my audience in the same way - to take their hands and lead them somewhere that they never wish to return from. When I look at my work and I'm struggling for what to say next, I want to be more Kate. I want to own my creativity and my life in the way she does. I want to twirl and sparkle and smile at others. I want to work it so that you feel I've given you everything.

I want to be more Kate.