Island Blog – A Beetle, Selkie Song and Kitchen Units

I met a beetle last night in the middle of it. The night, I mean. He was rather spectacular with a long oval back, shiny black, indented white. I was sitting drinking a herbal knockout tea around 2am and he ran along the wainscot, bumping against it every few seconds as if he had forgotten where it was. I hunkered down to watch him and he saw me, rising his pincers at me, his body an oblique accent with waggles. I laughed a guffaw, almost blowing him right back to base, and then apologising as he had to do the whole journey again. So brave, I schmoozed, as he repeated the laborious thing. I wondered where he was headed, and my eyes followed him as I thinked. He likes the dark. I just turned on the sun, well, for him, anyway and he is freaking out. He scuttles, bumps and scuttles again his way to where the old kitchen units don’t meet the ground, a thing that seems legion in old houses build almost 200 years ago and with no thought for foundations nor levelling. At least not in inanimate things. I suspect there was a great deal of levelling going on between sentient beings. As he got closer to that perfect lift of warped unit and sinking floor about 6 spiders scooted down their silken ropes, their legs clutching and flailing. Oh don’t be silly, I said to them. Just look at you all, you skinny little things and look at him, armoured up and with a serious pincer waggle going on. They ignored me as they all pretended they had just popped out for air without any beetle-munch intention, performing a few trapezoid spins and then disappearing back into my units.

I wonder, often actually, about the wildlife inside my units. I have met plenty over the years. A family of slugs, no, a whole township. Spiders of every size and colour. Mice. There have been times, when I felt so compromised and overwhelmed that I might take a deep breath prior to opening a door in search of ordinary dinner plates for an ordinary dinner and been quite prepared to encounter some big predator, one that has grown weary of a spider/slug/mouse diet and is ready for change. It has never happened for real. Not yet. Living in the places I have lived, around horses, cattle, sheep and feral children, anything has always been possible and I am no fool. I am prepared. Have always been. Mostly I don’t mind at all but since the old man is gone, I am requiring myself to learn my own courage. Things can overwhelm even as I know for sure that I was always the bravest. However, being brave beside someone else, a husband, a wife, a child, is so much braver than mere courage for self and alone is a load scarier. My beetle encounter teaches me. I could imagine an infestation of waggling warriors or I could decide to marvel at the extraordinary beauty of both the chance encounter and the creature itself. I am just glad I turned on the ‘sun’ prior to entering the lift and luff of my kitchen, thus avoiding crunching this stunning creature under a careless foot.

Later I walked the Tapselteerie loop. As I rounded the point, the breeze caught my breath, salty, straight from the great wide ocean. I saw Sgeir Mhor rock, peaceful today. A singing came to me. My dog twisted and stopped dead at the sound. The Selkies, I said. No worries. I hear them, I tell her, the seal people singing. It is a beautiful song and we stand awhile to listen. I wander home in a smile. Ah wildlife! The one thing that is a gazillion things. Is that a collective noun? And if I am wild, does that make me a part of wildlife or do I need to grow more legs or feathers, or fur, or fins to join this glorious freedom?

I feather home. Open the mail box, deal with probate, answer emails, remindings of the duality of my life. Wild at times, unwild at others, and yet, and yet, if I am learning anything from my innovative (and feral) children, I am beginning to think that, although I have no plan to scuttle nor waggle, nor, if possible, inhabit the night, I can become conscious of both worlds, of all worlds. Being conscious is not about knowing what the hellikins you do next, but about just being open. Life can feel like boots stuck in mud, can it not? But we don’t have to stay stuck. I am learning and loving the learning even when it scares me. Remember the Selkies, I tell myself. They were there and you couldn’t see them but their song, their perfect pure song reached you and stopped you in your tracks.

I am learning. Curious. And learning again. Now, this is living.

Island Blog – Miss Shrimp and my Heartbeat

I find at times a hesitancy in my belly when I come to write. It isn’t block, as such, more like someone’s fingers on my arm pulling me away from the qwerty keyboard. Invisible fingers, head fingers, my fingers. A puzzlement. I ask the question. Are you advising me ‘not now’ or are you telling me I have lost the knack and must needs curl up in wordless silence like a hedgehog? When I worked on Island Wife, or, rather, when I first decided to begin at the beginning, I felt a fear at my back, like there were two critical eyes boring holes, right through my five layers of jumper and sending their aggressive beams into my brain and right through my body. Go Away, I said, flapping a tea towel over my shoulder. I will not listen to that claptrap. How do you know anyway? You haven’t written a book now have you? Oh no, you are just like Miss Shrimp in Eng Lit who also never wrote a book but considered herself God’s Eyes on all literary matters, most of which were none of her business. She was jealous. She wrote and I quote from my school report, the same report my mother flourished before my downturned face as if in rebuke:- ‘Judith has an inflated imagination.’ I smile at that now. If said Shrimp had realised just how much of a compliment that was, her with her thin lips, established scowl and clumpy brogues, she might have reconsidered her words. All it told me, and clearly, is that she didn’t have an imagination and was rather cross about such godly erratum.

In truth, this skinny sliver of self doubt is simply that, based on an almost complete absence of evidence and truth. It comes unbidden, unsought and to every single one of us in whatever area of our life is held most preciously dear. If I cannot cook salmon as well as my chef sister, it phases me not. She is a professional after all and cooking is her passion. It is only in the field, the world of writing that I am most vulnerable. If I cannot recite most of Roget’s Thesaurus in order to locate the best way to describe a thing, situation or person, I feel a frisson of panic. I remind myself, and quickquick, that the writers bible is sitting right beside me on the desk and it will take me a matter of seconds to find the word I have forgot, but the fear of ‘losing it’ remains like indigestion in my gut. Why can’t I remember today what I knew yesterday? Well, not quite yesterday, more about 100 yesterday’s ago, to be honest.

Mrs Sensible appears beside me. Listen you twit, you are not even widowed a year and prior to that you spent 10 years caring for himself as he, inch by inch, curled himself back into a foetal ball. You are just learning how to live alone, to conquer your fears, to redesign what life is left to you. Give yourself time, and a break. She rolls her eyes and heads off to tidy up the fridge, the state of which can only be described as chaos, even after checking Roget. She is right, I know she is and the indigestion eases. It thinks me, this self-doubt thingy, coming as it does just at the wrong moment, just when I think I am doing really well and moving on and all those other ridiculous cliched truths. In conversations this past weekend, we touched on this. As we get older we become more and more aware of our own mortality, of time passing too fast (and too slow), of losing it. Instead of life being something we never think about, we think about it all the time. We are expected not to lie back and take life for granted but instead to hold each precious moment like a heartbeat, the ultimate jewel. It makes me chuckle when I read on a death certificate that Jim Shortlife died of heart failure. Well who doesn’t?!

And so to the qwerty. If I sit here long enough as my self-doubts catapult about my ankles like naughty children, and if I allow the noise to turn white as mist, the momentum I create in writing words will whisk that mist away. I am taking action despite my self-doubt and fear. I am not curling hedgehogs. I am refusing to listen to Miss Shrimp. My heart is still beating.

Is yours?

Island Blog – This Day

I just have to write about it because it is fire in my heart and, as we all know, fire dies to embers in the grate, and in our minds it takes a smokey back seat if it is not captured immediately. So I am being ”immediately’. I am beginning to realise, is the only way to really live. Parked stuff melts into grey; other peoples demands rise like new flames into that grey and it will dissolute, diminish, and ghost and unfortunately that ghost takes a stand in the doorway of revelation, blocking it.

My little sister arrived today with her partner. It has been easy 2 years since I saw her, hugged her, looked into her eyes. They are bright, for the record, she who has braved massive stuff over the years. She is as wild as I remember, tousled haired, dancer body, feisty, bright, and so so very giving. A complete inspiration around small children because she can catch them and entrance and connect from nowhere and anywhere and they love her and remember her for life. When I watched her come in to see two of her nieces today, one of whom, aged 5 was unsure she would remember her aunt, well, it was a concerto of perfect music. There is something about the flow between ages and distance and she, my sister, has it in the bag. Not that she contrives it. No manipulation, just a gift.

And. It is her birthday. Managing to catch an earlier ferry, she and her man arrived early. Now, we had a plan. A seafood smash and grab thing around 5, pre this knowledge. Quick as squirrels grabbing nuts as they smell a frost, we set to, as they say here. Food was hurried up, tables laid, wine chilled, balloons ballooned and I watched her arrive. She is a tad glorious to watch arriving. We feasted on fresh caught seafood. We laughed and joked and shared, sorted little ones on the wet slide and in the paddling pool. It was a glorious celebration of my sister and also of ourselves. We needed this. As I dippled and scanted my way back down the track I thought this.

In the nothing of the last scary months, this was a very big something. And I am thankful, so very very thankful.

Island Blog – Twins and Laugh Lines

I wake this morning at 4 to one big golden star. Not in my head but outside my window. The morning smells fresh and cool and I say a big thank you that I live in this peaceful place. Nothing but bird squeaks and chirrups, for now. Later, happy walkers will happily walk by my gate and we will smile at each other as they move into the wild places. They will marvel at my ‘ordinary’, maybe talk about how lucky I am to have that view every single day. I rise and dress, make coffee, plan my hours. For some time now, I have allowed foreigners in to my head, those worries and fears that rumble and twist in my gut. Winter coming. Loneliness. Missing. And others. I realise we all have these. Different shapes, different rumblings and twists, yes, but we all have them and it is easy, as I have discovered, to allow these foreigners to take root, to settle in. But once this realisation lights up the attic of my chaotic head, I can see the old cobwebs, the dust, the decay and I know I must needs perform a clean-up. It laughs me, the state of things. I can do this. I am strong, protected and safe, if I decide to think that way. The foreigner dolls I have pulled towards me of late need a frock change, a jolly good scrub and bows tied into their hair. A dash of lipstick, perhaps.

There is not one of us who isn’t fearful right now. I have not been especially selected for racks of gloom and despondency. My circumstances may not be yours but you will have similar feelings. And that is somehow reassuring. Instead of focussing on little me and my ‘stuff’, I can stretch my mind, rearrange it, clean up the foreigners and turn them into friends. Every fear has a twin and that twin is the stronger by far. I cannot deny whatever fear because denying its existence merely pushes it to the back row where it will always find its way forward again. Fear is healthy, in balance. Fear warns us of danger and we need that fight or flight part of our brains for survival. However, in our current situation, fear can grow meat on its bones, flesh up, work out, strengthen unless we are duly diligent. Okay, so I do feel a perfectly understandable fear of being alone through a dark winter. Where is the twin? Hiding, undernourished and abandoned. Well that has to change. Hallo, I say to the scrawny twin. Come into the light, let me look at you. It moves towards me. Ah, now I see you, you poor thing. I am so sorry I have ignored you for this long. The twin smiles at me, wide and beamy and I can see the gifts it brings me and hear the gentle questions. What do you love? What do you have? What are you thankful for? Good questions indeed and I will busy myself considering them all, making a list and reading it back. I will add to it daily. I am thankful for the smell of this morning, for my faithful little dog, for my home, my family, friends and the happy walkers. For Tapselteerie wild places always open to me, for my garden, the flowers, the space in which I am safe. You will have a list too, the twin to all you don’t have and don’t love, but remember that each one of those also has a twin, one you might have been starving unconsciously.

We can live unconsciously. It is dead easy and the danger of such a way of being is that is creeps in like mould, silent and corrosive until we notice and take action. Sometimes, and I know this place well, the darkness can grow. Life feels chaotic, unpredictable, alarming and overwhelming. There is so much ‘don’t’ and doubt and confusion out there for all of us no matter where we live or what scary changes we may be facing. To remain absent from really living whatever life we currently live will only result in nothing changing. But the good and wonderful news is that we are wondrously strong creatures, inventive and powerful, way more than we may think. By making just a tiny change, such as deciding that this day I will look at all that I do have, all that I do love, and my eyes will hold that looking even as the fears niggle and chatter. I will drown out their voices for they are not helpful, not at all, not today.

And then, I will repeat this exercise the next time a morning rises. My inner talk will not be all about covid and fears and doubts. I will notice if this happens, if the words begin to spill out of my mouth and I will laugh and swallow them down. It takes practice, this practice, but you will be astonished at how quickly it begins to flow naturally. It’s as if my brain is bored of them too. After all, what do they bring but sadness and a downturned mouth. I want laugh lines, not wrinkles.

How about you?

Island Blog – Eighth Wonder

I am 68. My eldest boy is 48. His daughter is 8. I like 8 and it thinked me this day as I counted everything to get to 8. My footsteps to the washing line, the stairs on the stairs, the times I changed frocks although that is the fault of a haar that barrelled in just as we all thought the sun was in charge. It has come and gone this day, 8 times. We are currently enjoying a non-haar moment or eight. I hung 8 things on the washline. One duvet cover, one fitted sheet, two pillow cases, 3 pinnies and a dishcloth. I did so not plan that 8. Promise. I am not anal.

When something comes into a mind, something that has resonance with whatever past or present complexicus or delusion, it can fix like a road block. You just can’t go forward, backwards or sideways without encountering this fix thingy. Usually, it lasts a day, dissolving into the dark of the night and foofing into the forgotten but occasionally it lasts. I have had a few of them in my time. However, I am confident that this 8 thing came from yesterday and will be gone the morra, as we say up here. As that rather lovely digit, art, to be honest, an endless line in a double scoop and with a great deal to say about itself, my mind wandered towards the 7 wonders of the world.

I know them , of course I do. The first is my Granny’s house in Edinburgh. The 2nd is the Eiffel Tower. Third is the day I knew I was expecting my firstborn. Fourth are the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and fifth is the view from my little island home. The 6th is/are, without doubt, my five children and 10 grandchildren, 7th is The lighthouse at Alexandria and the 8th is clear to me. It should be up there for all to see for it is indeed a world wonder.

I believe that had the world been emotionally intelligent at the time an importance of revered men got together to decide for the rest of us, this 7 wonders thing, or had there been allowed a woman in the selection committee (eye-roll) then this 8th wonder would have have listed high, before the Hanging Gardens, even before the Giza Pyramid, because although those wonders bring in sightseers, money, wows and gasps and tons of photos, the 8th wonder can change the world for the better, unlike any of them. The 7 can be blown out of the ground, destroyed, looted and reduced to rubble. The 8th cannot, not if it is handed down the generations.

Ok, I’m about to tell you. It came from a yesterday moment, one that stopped me in my tracks like a roadblock. I wanted to stop. I wanted to take it in, the think I thinked, to fully absorb how incredibly powerful this 8th wonder really is. It may sound simple. It may seem impossible. It may be an eye-roller, but I think the 8th wonder of the world is a man who can happily listen to a woman, hear what she has to say and then empathise without fixing.

I know 2 outside of my family.

We have a long way to go girls.

Island Blog – If this is how it is, then Act

I feel sad for our world today. I know I live in a tiny part of it, beautiful, stunning, peaceful but yet tiny. It doesn’t stop me noticing the rest. Although for many years I have busily inhabited the aforesaid beautiful, stunning and peaceful place, it seems like there is a loudspeaker on the others, on the bigger world. I know of corruption in governments, of hidden information in order to keep the ‘masses’ quiet and I have never been okay with that. It is as if the ‘masses’ are mindless idiots who don’t think and who don’t need to know. I am one. I am protected up here with the Gulf Stream and with lunatic winter gales the biggest threats to my survival. They don’t stop me knowing, even as I am able to turn off the news, ignore the ‘bad stuff’ that might infect my sleep.

In my busy young mother overthetopworkedout life, I ignored with impunity. After all, there were guests to feed, hospitality requirements (endless) and a family to protect and provide for, so I never had a scooby about wars and corruption and governments hiding pretty much everything. Now, there is silence, endless silence in my life and I finger my way into the light of outside information. I don’t understand most of it, which, by my way of thinking, is just the point, but I know when I hear, or don’t hear, something that butts against my gut, when something in me stands up. Hairs, goose bumps, those sorts of things. If you stood me up in a group and demanded explanation I could not find the words. Much as my dream job was to be a thoroughly difficult woman in all situations, I am not her. I loved to hear the confidence and courage from those who wore red shoes and lipstick and who stood to be noticed at great risk and just knew I would only ever be a choir girl to their solo.

Now I find myself needing to be that soloist. Not in a group, not in public, not on a soapbox on the corner of a dank lonely street but for my own self. I see, even from the aforesaid magical place, that I must make difficult choices, brave up and stand for myself. We would love to have had clear direction from our ‘leaders’ but even they had no idea how the virus would morph, develop and consume. Nonetheless I see good leaders and I see dithery ones. I still won’t blame. This is up to me, me is up to me and, you know what, it is how it was when people thought for themselves instead of waiting for direction in a crisis. We seem to have lost the use of that muscle.

I find myself listening to the news more now, just the headlines. There is fear and doubt in all our hearts. There is detail and posturing although how anyone can posture against an invisible enemy astonishes me. It’s a bit Scifi. But, I remind myself as I contrive a grin with my teeth, this is how it is now. My mail box is coloured with bright offers of ‘freedom’ through summer sandals to cheap flights to loans. The world has gone mad. The leaders are flagging (not all of them) and the country is sagging like an old woman tired of the fight. Another winter of fear? Maybe. Another lockdown? Maybe. Another slug of fear in our whisky? Maybe. Another endlessness of isolation and loneliness? Maybe.

I always see a ‘Maybe’ as a butterfly, or a moth. I have done since childhood, perhaps because the word was employed so often by my mother as I asked the endless questions that drove her crazy. And, the thing about Maybe is that she has two sides. Will and Won’t. Show and Hide. Run and Stay. And more. There are times for each side of her and we need to tap our own intelligence in order to know to react. Our own intelligence. Not the government’s, not that or our opinioned friends/mothers/relations, not that of our neighbours, but our own. Some of us have not gone there for years, maybe decades. Hallo Maybe…. But we have it people, strong within us. Ask yourself ‘What do I believe?’ What Do I think?’ And keep asking until the only right answer comes. Then Act.

Island Blog – The Other Side of Things

I thought this. Although my natural state of being is positive and upbeat, for which I am very thankful, it is not always the way and if I only write like Tigger, you might think there is no Eeyore in me and that is not the truth at all.

This past week I have been down on my uppers. I had two big teeth taken out recently and one big hole wasn’t happy. Because the goneteeth are, one up one side, and one down on t’other, eating anything has been a big re-learning curve. I was given antibiotics and I resisted for 10 days, doing it all naturally, but after that I just knew I was an old runner in a fast race and had to give in. I don’t think I have taken antibiotics for decades, nor made a visit to the doctor so this massive 1000 mgs of chemicals sent me into a gloopy fogbog. I barely slept, felt low, flat, miserable, tired with belly aches and more. Now, the thing is this. When such fogbog sucks a person down, it is very easy to add trouble, for anxieties to erupt into shape shifters, scatter-balling through the day but mostly the night. Giants are made of tiny winkles of doubt, morphing into bullies lying in wait behind every single hedge. There is fire in the attic and I can quite easily see where madness lies. I am more than glad the last pills are downed.

It thinks me. When we are compromised in any way, such as a family upset, a consistent backache, a niggling self-doubt, a bereavement plus Covid lurking behind a veil of confused information, it is understandable that our thinking narrows, funnels, tunnels and threats like big rats in a mine when you have a cut in your leg and can’t get out. As if we are holding on to nothing. What we need to do is to walk away from that thinking. Our minds are brilliant, inventive and loud with protective warnings, our legs too, but sometimes, when compromised, we can wander into the wild and volatile land of unreality, unless we hold tight to what we remember as our truth, our ground, the solid surety of the life we knew and trusted before we moved into a different state of affairs. And sometimes we might need someone else to show us the way. Drugs can knock you, as they did for me. I have never reacted so strongly to anything chemical before now and I do not like it at all, even though the infection is abating somewhat. I think of those in hospital right now, in a compromised and deluded state, battling like warriors against that loss of ground.

I went to visit my family and the little tousled headed girls who, although I didn’t realise it, were all ears. I told the short story of my tooth issue in a flat voice. The wee redhead said to me, she who had just lost a tooth and earned coin for gifting it to the Fairy Wall Project……Don’t worry, Gaga (patting my arm) your teeth will grow back! Then, she flourished as if with a wand.

Here’s the solid ground once again. She just gifted it back to me.

Island Blog – Little Adventures

I know, I know, that’s another oxymoron. Love that word, and it catches at my skirts oftentimes. It’s like a sudden Monroe wind, lifting things above gratings. Ach shoot. And, yet I love to trouble grammar and ‘the way it was’. Back to the aforesaid. There is no Little Adventure. All adventures are, by definition, Big. Just saying.

This morning I changed frocks 3 times. I showered and painted me up before a mirror that makes me look like I am Balloon Woman, which is necessary to ensure that my eyeliner and rouge (is it still called that?) are both in the right places. A woman could regret getting that wrong. I am heading to the streets. Well, to be honest, I am going for a hair trim in a harbour town/village on an island but as this place is what I know and have known for 40 odd years, this is my IT and still scary. England has come in. Squillions of England. The whole ‘staycation’ thingy means that this island which is only just abroad, allows in tons of camper vans and others who are longing for a break in a happy place. I get it. And I also get it, like full in the face, on our little skinny roads with swipes and flips and ups and scary downs, as big SUV’s pummel towards me with a punch and big faces and with no intention of reversing. Breathe.

Frocked up, I am heading in for a hair trim. No parking, like no parking. I anticipate this and park early. Walking is no problem for me. I also have a mission. I am to collect something nourishing for a bench lunch with a dear friend. I have to mask up and go in. Cover me. I stand outside in the sunshine, quivering. A young dad shunts in behind me. I ask him, Are you on holiday? He is open and responds with an unfearful smile, mask on. He tells me he is here for the week. I tell him he picked a good one. Sun is forecast. A faithful collie waits at the door for the ‘only four’ people in there, and we have a chat. No lead, just leadership for the that collie. I love to see that trust.

I see so many people without masks, hear their voices, know they are not from here. I walk down the centre of the skinny road, waving at the locals who drive past, meet other locals who also choose the mid road walk. I am guessing there are many places like ours full of locals who are wondering.

Later, once home, I walk my wee dog. She welcomes me as if I have been gone for years, as she always does. Then my faithful not-son comes to strim my overblown garden, topping the clover and the wild flowers that still have time to come again. He smiles at me, knows what I like in my garden, and can answer every single question. I am so lucky.

I think this virus is still alive and kicking. It will affect my choices from now on. I also see that, was I younger, I might think differently, my fingers holding onto life well into denial. I know it. But not now. This is a different world. We have this and we need to accept and deal with it, not in thirsty denial as I met today on the island streets. Even with two jags, we can carry it. I don’t want to do that. And I was always a Get Real woman. Life is as it is. Those who hide or run away never solve things. I like the whole ‘solving things’ thing. I want to be there, as a frontliner, solving, or, at least, helping.

So many adventures today. Actual and thinkingful.

Island Blog – Fairy, Dragon, Princeling

Yesterday I had two granddaughters with me for a short while. I collected them, backpacked up with games, toys, pens, snacks and we wandered down the track to my home. I watch them pause, flip off shoes, respectful. Once inside the door, enthusiasm skids beneath their feet as if they were on ice. Just a doorway change. I remember noticing that their grandfather’s mind wiped as he moved through a doorway. The anger, frustration and, well, the whole rant thing, disappeared as he shuffled through. It seemed as if he forgot all of it. I saw it on his face, knew it, relaxed.

We, no, not we, for I was distracted, I had email to check, fuss to fuss over, initially. As I heard them plant, root and bring out Deep Sea Bingo, I was a doorway away but listening. One was losing and causing a mini explosion until her older sister talked her down. All the usual. There is no pain in losing. We all need to lose now and again. It doesn’t mean you are a loser. That sort of 8 year old wisdom. The wails subsided and I kept schtum. Let it be, let them be, I said as I fiddled another tricky tapestry stitch. I am watching. I am hearing.

Then I join in. What in the heck is a Fiddle Fish? I put my specs on. Oh, I quite like the look of you. And there were many more with names and images that left me lost on the land. But what really intrigued me was the interest of the wee ones. It was a loud thing, of course. Loads of chat and chatter, arguments rising like tiny fires and then dying back into a concentrate of calm. I watch the redhead and the strawberry blonde. The girls are quicker than I at seeing whether or not they have a Lesser Spotted Cattlehead or a Snub-nosed Dinky Bird. It takes me a while to scan my bingo board, to read the words. I realise I am better at this thing if I get a visual. Show me the card, I ask the Strawberry blonde. Better. My brain works on visual i.d. I don’t win, of course. Gaga, you did have the Yellow Beaked Fake Dolphin……look! Silly Gaga. We all chuckle. Maybe I did win after all. I consider the names of these extraordinary creatures. Who ever thought the prefix ‘Common’ would sit well with something completely uncommon? I always feel sorry for the ‘Commons’ in both the animal and flora/fauna worlds. It sits like an insult. Nothing and no-one is ever common, not in my story.

After they had gone, I heard the silence. With little ones around there is never silence. If you can’t hear children, then there aren’t any. My name flies into the air a hundred times an hour. Questions too. Gaga, did you know that all dogs are round? Are they, I raise my eyebrows and cast a glance towards the Poppy dog, asleep and indeed curled into a donut. Yes, she says. They like being round. People can’t be round. They’re straight. Daddy is straight. Excellent observation, I tell her and her smile beams. But Mummy can be round, she says, her red curls bobbing. Ice blue eyes lock with my own. She is expecting correction, I think, and here it comes but not from me. No she isn’t, snorts her older sister, laying out the chips for a second round of Bingo. She is straight too. But she can curl into a round, I say. I’ve seen her do it. Your mummy is made of elastic. She can stretch and ping anywhere. They erupt in hysterics.

Around children, truth will be told. Questions require answers, observations are made and they have a canny knack of getting right to the core, one you may well have kept hidden for good reason. Where is Popz now? One asks. he is flying about up there, I tell them. Like a bird? Well, not quite like a bird. More a spirit. What’s a spirit? A spirit is mostly air and scoot. Like a cloud? Sort of. I would be a spirit, says the older one, if I could. No, not a spirit, a good fairy. I warm to this change of subject. I would be a dragon, I announce, a good one, a luck one. Pink? Yes, naturally. Well I would be a princeling says the redhead, straight-faced and I haven’t the heart to tell her that princelings are usually boys. After all, who knows what will be possible when she moves out into the world?

Island Blog – The Sky, Skerries and Staying

Today it is falling, the sky I mean. Earlier the pocks of deeper grey sat like skerries in a white sea. A few spots of soft rain fell, hardly worth a mention, but the wind was cooler than of late. Now the sky is leaking down onto the land, covering the hills, blanking out the trees, undefining contours of a land I know like I know myself. But do I know myself, I wonder? I think I do, and yet, there are times I catch my reflection and stop, mildly astonished (oxymoron). You do know, I tell myself in my best English student remonstratory voice, that it is impossible to be mildly astonished. This is lazy ‘speke’. Astonished, is, after all, a superlative and ‘mildly’ does little more than dilute with too much milk. It blands itself. And it thinks me.

I studied and loved language. English, French, German, even Latin, and am still a devotee of the way language flows like a river. Or it can do but, if I am honest, less and less nowadays in the ways learned by me. I remember my old dad with his linguistic brilliance, puffing like an old pipe should he encounter poor English, poor grammar, the ‘wrong’ use of punctuation. I also recall a conversation with him about acceptance. As cultures collide and collude, language shifts. We adopt and adapt and before we know it, words fall away like birds. When I read a classic novel, superbly crafted and written, it seems effortlessly and in lingual confidence, I can see that without incursive verbalism such writing would indeed flow like a river for a creator of stories. So do we, the now ‘we’, who must work with the fast moving changes of our world, go with what is, or resist and remain in academic slippers? We could, but we would risk losing a load of readers because language is changing. We might find ourselves moving up a floor, and up again, until the only person left is a lonely one. All the rest have died off, and their slippers are too worn for a charity shop, and burned as litter.

I find new language dynamic and fascinating, even as my eyes roll at much of what I read. Get with it old woman, I tell myself, because if you do, you remain in the game, the game that is life in motion. To refuse to abdicate the throne of those torn and floppy slippers is to choose loneliness. As writers, and we can all be a writer if we just pick up a pen and are ready to learn and grow in the world of words, we are duty bound to be gymnasts. Not actually gymnasts, the thought exhausts me, but acceptance gymnasts. There is another type, the one that holds on to the slippers for grounding, and who does a lot of eye rolling and pipe puffing and shuffles from room to room as if there is no world out there and if there is then I want none of it. I am not this person.

We live with danger, threat and menace. We are hacked and hi-jacked. We are compromised, surprised, confined and defined. Out there racial and sexual prejudice is alive and kicking, literally. The sky is falling. But wait. Look at how the sky reaches down both to confuse and to alter our perceptional lens. See how, in the not-seeing of what we know invites us to look at something another way. We can dismiss this as an opportunity, ignore it, even, say Mist, say Fog, say Close the Curtains. Or we can actually look and if we do, we will marvel. It is the same with words, with language, with change and with people. I get that it is exhausting (nearly said pretty exhausting #oxymoron) to be always required to adapt and adopt, but it is the way the world is spinning, faster and faster. New technology brings both healing and death, the whole circle, and the greys in between are like the skerries in a white sky sea. There are millions of them and each one offers footfall. They are like stepping stones. We might not know where they lead but if we don’t keep leaping from one to the next, we remain lonely, in slippers and pipe puffing at what only we consider lost.

I can write into the mist, or it can blind me. I can see banks of clouds or I can see skerries in a white sea. I can allow new cultures to enhance me or inhibit. I can hold to the old or I can estew the new, allowing myself to simmer and to blend with whatever comes in. Together we can make a delicious meal. I am not a new writer. I am honed from past teachings but I am curious and interested and I want to stay in the game.