My Daughters

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My sweetlings.
Commas wrapped in crochet shawls.
Cradled, they knew not what lay ahead
in this desperate world,
only the soft strokes and gentle voices
Of love.

Rosy cheeked
they fell into the rhythms of childhood,
with it’s classroom wars
and playground battles.
They learned to navigate their own steep road
And won.

Their prize?
Independence and freedom
from the happy home.
That cosy ancestral cave
Whose walls housed secrets, and memories,
And me

How they grew,
my little sweetlings.
Confident, funny and smart,
they are brilliance in these dark days,
shining their light on every distant path
they take.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What does fun feel like?

Fun is carefree, laughing, singing, taking risks, dancing, letting your hair down.  As I get older, the opportunities for that sort of fun seem to diminish.  Not because of any lack of ability or motivation, just that, somehow, life gets in the way, and convention says those sort of fun things are for ‘the young folk’. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I spend most of my life doing things I enjoy; yoga, writing, photography, painting, gardening… but am I having ‘fun’ exactly?

I’m young.  Not everybody would agree of course, but despite my ageing 1950s edition container, Me, the Me inside, is still in her twenties.  And this twenty something still loves music, rollercoasters, climbing trees, zip-wiring, fast cars, boats, yep, I’m still an adrenaline junkie whenever I get the chance.  But these days, the best fun I have is when my family are all together, stitching each other up over a board game, or playing something daft on our old games console (cow racing being a favourite), or just basically, being silly. And that’s great, but it doesn’t happen often as my two daughters live at different ends of the country (well, one is in Wales, so not even technically in this country), and their shifts mean they are not often ‘off’ to visit their poor old parents at the same time.  We’ve even had to postpone Christmas some years.

However, this week, after months of waiting, Monday 3rd July finally arrived. Finally, finally, I was off to see one of my all time favourite bands.  I was like an excited kid and the evening couldn’t come quickly enough.

What can I say… GreenDay were magnificent, epic, awesome, incredible…

Every single person in the arena were on their feet, dancing, singing, and shouting for the whole two and half hour set.  They played new stuff and old favourites and it was just fabulous.

And me, yeah, oh did I let my hair down!  I danced and sang til I was hoarse. I chanted and cheered and waved my arms about.  The years dropped off and, transported by the music to a world of my own, I was exhilarated and felt young and free and alive and beautiful.  Never mind that I had a 30 year old daughter dancing next to me, we were the same. Me and the slightly scary young bloke on my left. The one with the piercings and tattoos, yeah, we were the same too. In fact, everyone in that arena, no matter what age, or inclination, or colour, or faith, or difference of any kind, were all the same.  Troubles forgotten in that hot, loud world, we were moving with an energy that could have powered the national grid for a year.  And we were all having the best fun… and yes BillieJoe, I ‘ad the time of my life! Thank you xxx

Getting out of the car park afterwards, now that was quite another matter altogether…!

 

 

I could’ve been a star…

Posted in response to the Daily Post weekly photo challenge. This week’s them ‘The Road Taken’

To this day I don’t know why Dad was so furious when I told him I was learning to play the tambourine.  Well, I know it wasn’t particularly the tambourine side of things he didn’t like, I mean, who doesn’t like a tambourine, it was more where, and by whom, I was learning to play.

To be fair, most people don’t need lessons.  I understand that.

In a way it was his fault.  He was a collector of tat, and one day bought home a red tambourine, complete with long red, blue and yellow ribbons attached.  They swished as I banged and rattled. It was a joyful thing.

I don’t think my parents thought of it as joyful for long though. I’d march about our huge ‘over a shop’ flat, singing along to the tuneless bang rattle. 

I knew about marching.  We lived on a main road, so main that there was a bus stop right outside our front door, I used to have to navigate queues of people to cross over the road to the sweet shop to by my weekly jamboree bag.  I used to love jamboree bags, the blackjacks and the mojos, and the surprise cigarette card, sometimes a sugary lollipop, it’s a wonder any child of the 50’s has any teeth left at all.

Anyhow, pretty much every other Sunday morning a parade would pass by our flat and the sweetshop and the garage and the pub over the road.  I never really knew where they marched from or to, or why, but the people were all ages, dressed in uniforms, marching smartly while being led along, by a pied piper of a brass band.  Some of them were scouts, some girl guides, but the band were special, smart black uniforms, shiny instruments, and… tambourines, four or five playing in unison.  Women with their arms waving, making shapes with the ribbons… across, down, up, across, down up, across, down, up…

This was the Salvation Army band in all it’s glory.  We could hear them coming for a good five minutes before they passed our door.  My sister and I would watch them from the eyrie of our second floor bedroom window, still listening even after they’d disappeared from view.  Oh how I wanted to march like that, all smart, and in a troupe, all in time… left, right, left, right…

As it happens, the Salvation Army headquarters was next door to our house.  It was a dingy long low building stretching back off the road, separated from our backgarden by a fairly rickety six foot brick wall.  I couldn’t see through the grilled windows, but occasionally heard singing coming from inside, other than that it was an off-limits mystery. 

Nevertheless, I snuck in one day when the big red doors were open.  I don’t really remember what got into me.  I must’ve been about nine.  The people there were lovely and welcoming. I told them I lived next door and that I’d got a tambourine, and that’s when they told me I could learn to ‘play it properly’.   So I had lessons. Two of them. Before my dad found out.

Goodness, he was spitting nails when he heard.  What he didn’t call those poor people, who had after all, treated me very kindly. He was thoroughly ag’in religion in any shape or form, and the Sally Army was, in his mind at least, one of the most heinous sects imaginable. I was forbidden to go anywhere near them again.  I’m quite sure I was punished too, but my main memory is my anger and disbelief at the injustice of it all.  He never did explain his reasoning to me.  Dad never needed a reason for anything.  He was his own man.  So without further ado my road to tambourine greatness ended.

I still remember the ‘Cricket stump’ move though (across, down, up etc..) and can play a tambourine with the best of ‘em. And every time I see a Salvation Army band playing carols at Christmas time (actually, the only time I ever see them these days) I remember the grim dark hall and the silk ribbons of my shiny tambourine.

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Not the Salvation Army! This was taken at Easter in Sorrento some years back 🙂

 

 

 

 

Close, but no cigar…

Posted in response to the Daily Post weekly photo challenge  – this week’s theme ‘A Good Match’

My twin daughters at about two years old.  They’re a pretty close match but not identical.  People often used to think they were, and were always getting them muddled, but really if they had taken the time to look properly they’d see many differences.  For instance, I could tell them apart, even from behind, just by the shape of their heads!

Amazingly to me, they will turn 30 this year, and though they live at different ends of the country, and have had different experiences, they are still the best matching pair I know!

 

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A bit of Christmas flash fiction

img_0791I was lucky enough to receive this exciting looking box for Christmas.  As you know, I love to write but, like most others, often have days when my mind can’t come up with anything worth writing.  Nonetheless, looking through some of the ‘tools’ in my ‘toolbox’ I admit I was a bit sniffy.  Their are sticks with random sentences, wheels with different protagonists, settings, obstacles etc, and ‘sixth sense cards’ which just seemed to have random ideas on.  In fact, my daughters and I had an hilarious half-hour trying to string these together into some sort of story.  It was rubbish of course, but fun.

However, once the Christmas festivities were over, and I was in a bit of a slump, I looked properly at the ‘instructions’.  Basically I should pick out three or four cards put them face down, turn over the first one and write about it for three minutes using the timer supplied, then the next and so on.  Not unlike some of the exercises we did on my creative writing course so ok, I’ll give it a go, I thought.

The cards I picked were:

I was dressed in a completely inappropriate shade of pink

Sticky raspberry yogurt

Yoga girls toenails

the sound of a garden hose

I honestly followed the rules, and amazingly I was quite pleased with the result.  So pleased in fact, I’m sharing it with you here.  Enjoy!

No Lady

I was dressed in a completely inappropriate shade of pink.  For my age that is.  Fifty year old women shouldn’t wear pink, or so my father used to say.  He’d know of course.  Women’s fashion was his thing.  He’d been a hairdresser in the 60’s, and met Mary Quant, or so he said.  She let him help design some of her collections, so he said.  He had an eye for fashion that’s for sure, especially the skimpy sort.

Apparently, some of his clientele was sure he was gay because of his good looks and nice manners, at least that what he said. Though it was probably because of his delicate fastidiousness in all things, which may have been appealing in the fancy salon, but drove us all mad at home.

I remember the day I spilt sticky raspberry yogurt on the carpet in the living room.  He was livid. Pinker than the yogurt with rage.  Made me scrub at it for ages until any hint of spillage had been eradicated completely.  I was only six. I had sore hands when I finished and dad wouldn’t let mum put any cream on them or anything. I think she was sorry for that.  I think she was sorry for a lot of things.  Including marrying my dad.

She was a model in a department store.  Modelling the clothes for other, richer, people to buy. She was pretty in a fairly conventional way but had to work to keep the slim figure that Twiggy was promoting around that time.  Dad even cut her hair the same as Twiggy’s.  He really liked that boyish look.

She used to practice yoga. It was the only time she seemed at peace.  Sitting cross-legged on her mat on the bedroom floor, quiet, closed eyes.  Once I painted all her toenails bright red while she was busy meditating and she didn’t even seem to notice.

My brother and I must have been a handful for her, but she never really complained, just meditated and smoked her funny cigarettes to ‘keep her calm’.  Dad would’ve been furious if he’d have caught her smoking, and we were sworn to secrecy.  No dirty ashtrays in our house, no dirty anything. Except dad.

Once I remember my brother and I messing about in the garden after it had been raining.  It’s fair to say that we got a bit carried away and were making mud pies and throwing them at each other, and at everything else in the garden too. It ended up like the Somme.  When dad found us, he turned the hose on full blast and made us stand naked under its powerful spray for a full ten minutes.  We were frozen stiff by the end of it.  The sound of a garden hose still makes me shiver.

Anyway, I digress. Yes, I’m wearing an outrageous long and tight flamingo frock, complete with feathers and sequins.  I’m wearing a wig of shoulder length silky blonde hair, and I’ve made sure my make-up is impeccable.  My entire torso is squeezed into spanx, giving me the curves my mother would have had if it weren’t for dad denying her chocolate and pies for years. Despite dads opinion, I look fabulous, even though I do say so myself.

I’m neat, and clean. Dad would be proud.

Or maybe not.

I’m not sure that he thought the way he treated me (us, my brother suffered just as I did), that he’d turn me into a full blown queer old drag queen.  Shame he didn’t see it, I would’ve enjoyed that.

I squish my stub under my stiletto, hitch up my boobs, and head out to face the rowdy crowd in the grubby nightclub. Easy money.

 

 

 

I should be so lucky

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The one and only lucky tin!

 

While I was walking the dog this morning I found a penny on the pavement (note to my far flung friends: a pavement is what you should be calling your sidewalk!). 

When I was a kid, my nan always used to say ‘see a penny, pick it up, all the day it’ll bring you luck’. Some years ago now (gosh, probably 11 years now I come to think of it – my, how time flies, it’s terrifying!), when we were doing the rounds of University applications with my daughters, one of them had an interview at Bristol Uni.  We had to stay overnight and had some time to kill in the morning, so had a wander around town.

During our wanderings I found a penny on the pavement and quoted the ditty. After some discussion over who should pick it up, it was decided that although she was the one who needed the luck for her interview, since it was me who saw it first, I would be the only likely beneficiary of said ‘luck’

‘But’ she said and quoted ‘if you put it in your shoe, more good luck will come to you’

‘what about ‘if you give it to a friend, your good luck will never end’ I countered.

‘I’m your daughter though, I don’t count as a friend (?? ? I dispute this strongly!)

Suffice it to say, we debated the point for some time before I picked the darn thing up and ended up having it rattle about in my shoe for the rest of the day. (actually, for a good part of the day it was in her shoe on my foot, because she’d forgotten to bring anything but her manky old trainers to attend the interview in, so we had to swap. Though, please understand, I would only put my delicate, perfect feet in those manky things under exceptional circumstances).  I figured that I so badly wanted her to get the result she wanted, that my good luck would automatically transfer to her.

Well, wouldn’t you know it.  She didn’t get offered a place in Bristol, so it didn’t work.

Or did it?

In the end, she was offered a place at Cardiff, which she loved.  If she had ended up in Bristol, she would never have met her lovely boyfriend, or bought their perfect little house.  She may never have experienced some of the great things she’s done since moving there.   Indeed, it could be argued that the ‘good luck’ was in not getting the place at Bristol.

You see, I figure that luck is one of those things that we experience in different ways depending on our state of mind. In fact, on the whole, I believe it’s the little, seemingly insignificant things that ultimately make us the lucky ones.

Just like the one and only time I won a raffle prize.

It was an ‘own brand value’ tin of rice pudding.

Yay!

Yeah, how lucky am I??

Whilst I was bemoaning the fact that it was not a bottle of champagne, or a yacht, to cheer me up, my other daughter ventured

‘Well I like rice pudding’ she was probably about twelve at the time.

‘It’s yours’ I said

‘I don’t want it, I was just saying…’

‘nope, it’s yours now’

And it sat in our cupboard for years, waiting for her to eat it.  It became a standing joke in our family.

‘Helen, do you want rice pudding for afters?’

Eventually, I told her that if she didn’t eat it I’d sneak it into her bag when she left for university (there were still several years to go) and that she’d be glad of it then.  Though she pooh-poohed my threat, I did indeed sneak it into her bag when she left home, and eventually she sheepishly confessed she’d eaten it’s seven year old contents, and brought me back the washed out tin to keep as a souvenir.

Ok, our family is weird, but I still have the tin (see above!), and it still makes me chuckle that we kept that particular in-joke up for so long.  I’m not sure a bottle of champagne (or a yacht) would have given us so many laughs. So yes, I was indeed, very lucky to have won it.  I’m also lucky to have a daughter that still loves me despite my endless teasing.

Now, can someone tell me how long I have to keep this penny in my shoe? Do I have to keep the shoe on all day? Does the luck stop as soon as I take my shoe off? Will it still work if I quickly transfer it to my slipper?

Oh, and by the way… It’d still be nice to win a bottle of champagne…or a yacht! 🙂

As you see me

IMG_0312Posted in response to the Daily Post weekly discovery challenge – this week’s theme ‘Portrait’.

Ok, I’ll fess up… I didn’t take the portrait, but I did take the picture of the portrait, if you see what I mean!

When my daughter told me that she’d received an old polaroid camera for her birthday, I was quite jealous. Enchanted by the idea of ‘instant pictures’ I remember badly wanting one when I was younger. Of course, that was way, way, before the digital camera age and now photographs are ten a penny and disposable so  I was surprised at how excited she was.

The film thingy’s are very expensive, and she was still getting used to the camera, and she warned me that the results were not so much ‘sharp’ as ‘interesting’ but in fact I love this shot.

I love the fact that, although you get the gist that its me, my features are blurred, and that she’s captured my expression of thoughtful bemusement at the world exactly how I would like it to be captured.  To put it bluntly – how I want other’s to see me.

The thought has been growing in my mind ever since it was taken.

I’ve always had problems trying to find a ‘suitable’ profile picture which encapsulates my overall demeanor without showing me baring my wonky teeth in an insane grin, or wrinkling up my eyes, or losing my real chin amongst the others.  Problem is, in my head I am still youthful, slim, and lovely so it’s always a bit of a shock to see the reality captured in a snap.

I have the same problem at the yoga studio, the one where there is mirrors.

‘oh blimey, who is that baggy old biddy who looks like a squishy sack of potatoes?’

‘oh poop, it’s me.’

I guess a lot of people of my age feel the same, and really, I’m fit and healthy so I shouldn’t worry about what I look like, right?

It sounds like a cliché, but speaking to my friends I gather I’m not alone in still feeling young on the inside whilst my body tells the bitter truth in photographs. It’s depressing.

So from now on I’m steering clear of the lens and you’ll just have to take my word for it that I’m a happy soul who moves my sylph like body with the grace of an angel and whose face is as blemish, and wrinkle free as an Egyptian sheet in a five star hotel. 😉