Island Blog 40 – Show Yourself

Blog 40 - Goodly wives

 

I had three phone interviews yesterday about Island Wife, due to be published on March 28th by Two Roads.  I think there will be more to come over the next short while when I am new news as opposed to old news, which I will be by the second week of April.  By then the sound of running feet will be receding, not coming closer – such is our quick-quick world.  I will be standing here, open-mouthed and half way through the answer to a very personal question, laying down my words, one by considered one, only to find the room has cleared in a heartbeat.

So, it seems of the greatest importance that I use this platform with the respect it requires, for the legacy I leave behind will be the things I have said, that may be remembered, for life and death are in the power of the tongue.   Words will leave me and attach themselves to the hems of departing coats only to be re-assembled through the filters of a very different person, using a different emphasis, perhaps, a different tone of voice.  What I say may not be what is printed or spoken out.  What I mean may not travel the distance.

And so it is in relationships, those ships that fascinate me most of all.  Every one of us in one, like it or not.  Some of us are crossing oceans, through angry storms, turning our faces into biting ice winds that threaten to tear off our very skin; some bob gently across a mirrored calm, the sun warming our bones, and some just putter up and down the same claggy-banked strip of canal on an ancient barge with rusty screws, a draggletail posy of wild flowers in an old jam jar on the cabin roof.  But this is to stereotype and is not therefore the truth.  The truth is that we all travel storm wards at some point in our lives, and at others we bob across the mirror and in between, we deadhead the draggletailed posy whilst the endless ordinary banks pass us by.  And whilst we do all this, we bring that of ourselves to the table, to our relationships.  We bring likes and dislikes, opinions and phobias, passions and failings, gifts and skills.

In an ideal relationship, such as the one my neighbour has, or my sister, or that woman I read about

in last weeks Sunday magazine who lives beside the sea with a loving man and who has enough money to spend on whatever she wants to spend it on, neither person fights to control.  Neither person pulls rank, manipulates either by loud domination or weak dependency and neither wants anything less than to lift the Apple of their eye up to whatever light warms them.  My opinion of what you should or should not do, has no place in our relationship.  My only role is to love you, and to love you right I must remove myself.  My……Self.

This doesn’t mean I am silent and fuming in the corners.  It doesn’t mean I don’t tell you loud and clear when I am angry or upset with something you have done or said.  What it does mean is that I can be honest, create my own boundaries, speak with my own voice, make my own choices and leave you to do the same for yourself.  I expect nothing from you and you expect nothing from me, and both of us give and receive freely.  It sounds like perfection, you say, too perfect to attain, but it’s not perfection.  It is Love. Love for myself and Love for you.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and I am single-stepping right now as the Island Wife considers her response to another personal question.  There are often two answers to that question, two directions.   One choice.  Mine.

Island Blog 39 – The New Old

Me on the boat

Today I am 60 years old.

When I was a young thing, bouncing carelessly through my days and nights, my greatest concern was that I looked like everyone else whose stocking seams ran in a straight line all the way up to their sensibly clad bottoms, and whose mothers approved of them.

I never managed it.  In fact, it was rather fun to see just how many winds of seam I could wrap around my leg before I choked and fell over.  When tights came in, everything went to pot on the wrapping fun, for reasons I am sure you can quite well imagine.

Those women of 60, to whom I looked up, or so they thought, and, to be honest, some of them earned an upward look, seemed ancient as fossils.  They had looked like their mothers since they were 25 anyway, but somehow, at 60, it all set like concrete, in their attitudes, their faces and in their moral confidence.  I can still roll my eyes and want to hide up a tree just thinking about them, as they pinged my mother’s doorbell and were allocated seats for luncheon. It was there in those lips pursed for ‘a small sherry’ and in the hush of gossip.

Is this now me?

No flipping chance.

I and my 60 year old peers are breaking that mould.  We are no longer ‘mouldy’ nor are we up for being moulded.  Although we may have become shape-changers, we are doing it our way.  Not as a group, which is what the previous generation seemed to do, but as individuals.  It is not necessarily easy nor simple this being an individual thing, but the more I speak with my daft female friends, the more determination I hear and because we support each other, not to be the same as we are, but to be whoever they are, through the filter of their own life, their own heart, I do believe we are about to cause chaos.

I can see that such a change might not be too everyone’s taste.  After all, our mothers happily retreated behind mounds of fluffy scones at just the right time, allowing us to leap out of the conjurer’s hat and into a surprised world as the ones to watch from now on.  Our mothers’ sensibly clad bottoms became just bottoms, when ours invited conversation.  Their voices fell back into an appropriately domestic hum, whereas we say blow to baking on a regular basis (not least because our husbands might grow too fat), and the confident voice of the new olds reaches up and out and can silence a room of men.

Now there’s a thing!

So get ready world, for we are coming and worse, much much worse, our daughters are watching.

A Point in Time

Island Blog 38 - Three Amigos

 

Last night I watched something on one of those TV channels that loves adverts – or, rather, the revenue they bring in.  I hate them.  Not only do I not want a deep pile shag wool carpet with drip-resistant fibres and enough depth for the dog to get mislaid in overnight, or a 6-seater sofa in ivory tweed for the six members of the family who can’t wait to sit very close together and in a dead straight line of an evening, but it’s the interruption that bugs me most.  There I am, trying to work out who committed the crime, or wallowing in the poignancy of a tragic drama, allowing myself to float away on a cloud of wonderful acting and exquisite prose, when my thoughts are interrupted mid-reverie by squeals of over-excitement about some new and luminous cereal that the whole family will adore including the dog – especially the dog, after a confusing night in the shag pile.

It got me thinking about what really matters in life, and not one of them can be purchased with a credit card.  Time, for example. Time for looking.  Time for loving.  Time to give away, to share.

Although time is the one thing that all of us crave and all of us lack to some degree, it is the last thing we seem to treasure. We say we are running out of it.  We say we haven’t any to spare, and yet, time is constant, dependable, a never-ending supply day after day, year after year, and we all have the same amount to spend, regardless of our situation.

I think we need reminding sometimes, of the important and lasting valuables of life, ones no online site or department store will ever sell.  In particular, a reminder about our family members need for our time, because from time freely given comes involvement, sharing, comradeship, bridge-building and, above all, the ability to see what makes someone happy, what makes someone sad.  It trounces loneliness.  It requires no particular skills, no clever techniques.  It is just sitting with another or walking alongside them and asking gentle questions, talking together about things you can’t buy, and sharing, listening and smiling.  It is about being there and being there again and again, stepping into their world, be they 5, 15, 50, or 150. It’s about saying no to ourself and our own busy schedule and throwing it into the air, asking the question ‘What is important here?’ and finding to our own surprise, that it isn’t what we thought it was.  Lunch can wait, the TV news can be missed today.  Someone needs us, and not tomorrow at ten, but right this minute.

We all want time with the ones we love and if it means we don’t get an expensive gift, or a new carpet/sofa/gadget, we honestly, honestly won’t mind.  In fact, we will find we didn’t really want them at all.  What we wanted is what we have; a loved one who wants to be at our side; one who cares deeply enough to turn from their own world and to step into ours; who feels our joy and our sadness; who never lets us down. Relationships can be saved this way.  All of them.

Island Blog 37 – New Road

Island Blog 37 - White Wood Sprite

 

Things are hotting up for the launch of my book, Island Wife, to be published by Two Roads on March 28th.  The Hodder team, of which Two Roads is an imprint, are working hard on press releases, magazine reviews, media opportunities and book signings.

As my penultimate son would have said when the excitement in him rose like a wave….’I can hardly bear my seating!’

People, friends, ask me ‘what does it feel like?’

Like champagne in my veins.

Like a moon flash on the sea loch as the storm clouds part.

Like the smell of sunshine after rain, or the first cuckoo in Spring.

And so much more.

Far more.

That’s my new name.  Honest, no kidding.

‘Farmor’ means Father’s mother in Swedish and it is the name my new little Viking grand-daughter will probably call me on her Swedish days.

I digress somewhat.

Over the next few weeks, my story will be heavying down the post-people and the carriers as the copies wing their way around the country.  E books will ding through space and time to settle into Kindles and Ipads and people in dentist waiting rooms will forget the tropical fish for as long as it takes to read some review on me and my book.

I will find my book in shop windows, or held in hands on a train, or a bus.  Will I say anything?  Will I bounce up all full of beans and introduce myself, offer to sign the copy and leave just knowing they will spend days buzzing with the excitement or will I slide past with a flicker of a look and hope I am not recognised?

Honestly, I just don’t know, for who is born for this, for a sudden chance at some level of fame, be it good fame or not so good fame?  Who knows, when stepping into new shoes (haven’t bought them yet) or onto a new path, what to do or what to say?  I won’t know my surroundings and we are always better when we know our surroundings.  And people will look at me differently once they have read the bones of me.  I wonder what that will feel like.  After all, for most of the year, I hide myself happily away on the island, sometimes seeing not one person all day long.  Now it seems I must walk this baby into the world, which is what I always wanted, always dreamed of.  Not the publicity, although I am sure I will enjoy it all, but to touch on another’s life, to make a connection through my story, with theirs, with yours, perhaps, and to tell you without telling you at all, that you can do it too, whatever it may be for you.

I might meet you on this new road.

New Road.  Two Roads.

Island Blog 36 – Pecking Order

Island blog 36

 

Woken by a bickering of crows outside my window, I leap out of bed to see what’s up.  I know they’re upset, I can hear it.  They sound like bad-tempered witches and sometimes that can mean a big bird of prey has flown into their air space.  This morning is fair and bright and the air quite still, belying the truth of the situation.

The sky is empty of all songbirds, so I know a predator is nearby, and I am right.

On the grass below me a fight is about to begin over the carcass of a large rabbit. Standing over it – a buzzard.

Two crows lunge at the big bird, like louts, juking back pretty quick as the beak comes down like an axe over their heads.  Positioning themselves either side of him, they dance around him, calling him all manner of names, much like thugs at a state visit, in an effort to wear him down until he tires of them and flies away.  Crows can do this for hours I know, so I turn away for just a moment to find some clothes to wear.  Suddenly the noise level escalates into a riot and I dash back to the window.

A second buzzard has landed inches away from the other, presenting a very real threat.  The two huge birds take their positions for battle, wings slightly out, necks thrust forward, feet two-square on the grass.  In the face of such power, the crows bounce off a few yards and watched from a safe distance, one of them pretending not to care by pecking at a cow pat.

For some moments, the buzzards charge at each other, claws lashing as they rise off the ground, as one, a little higher each time.  The crows jig about like hoodlums, calling out, excited by this clash of the Titans.  The sky, which had emptied when the buzzard first appeared, is now a swoosh of songbirds, looping across the morning sky like chiffon, to land on the fences and among the hazel scrub, chattering excitedly; spectators for the show.

The excitement is tangible.

One of the buzzards grabs the rabbit and tries to fly, but the weight of it defeats him and he only manages a couple of feet off the ground.  Buzzard number two lunges forward to grab the other end of the carcass in his beak.  Then all hell breaks loose as the two of them roll each other over and over in a tangle of claws and wings, of fur and feathers.

As they fall apart, one of them concedes defeat, and re-arranging his feathers he rises into the blue morning.  The victor tries in vain to lift the carcass, till he too gives up and, with a sharp cry, takes to the hills.

That’s breakfast for the crows,  I tell my little green teddy bear who was also watching.  But this time I am wrong.

Two sea eagles come from nowhere, graceful and silent.  They don’t even touch down.  One dips just low enough to pick up the carcass as if it’s a pocket handkerchief and then, together, and without a sound, they lift effortlessly into the empty sky and are gone.

Island Blog 35 – Speaking without Words

Island Blog 35

 

For the first time since beginning this blog, I really don’t know what to write.  Perhaps it is, as my youngest son used to say with all the confidence in the world, that my daily allocation of words has been quite used up.  He didn’t actually use that big long word, but in his ‘little boy speke’, he communicated clearly enough.

The conversation that morning had been about his brother who talked sometimes in his sleep.

‘It’s because he hasn’t said all the words he was given for the day’ said the tutfy-headed small boy as he munched on his toast and ‘hunny’.

Perfectly logical of course, and why not?

It also means that the converse is probably true as well.  So, when I cannot find a single thing to say, it isn’t necessarily because I know nothing of the subject under discussion.  It could simply be that I have used up my daily quota, sprayed words across a wasteland where they may just have fallen on stony ground and come to nowt.  Or, worse, launched them at some poor soul who couldn’t be less interested in whatever wisdoms I might think crucial to this point in their life.  Those words either fly off into the sky over their heads or they land in the wrong place and cause that person, who was fine thank you very much before I and my ego came along on our white charger suggesting they required certain repairs, much inner angst.

I’ve done it all, and may well again, in spite of all my good intentions.  My mind can fox me into all sorts of do-gooder situations. With heavenly choirs, soaring violins and a strong wind section,  I can ‘Mother Theresa’ anyone whether they want it or not.

And, often, they do not.  I can see it on their faces.  It’s either frustration or irritation, neither of which was in my plan.  What I foresaw, in the bestowing of my gracious wisdom, was, first, the early dawn light.  Then the epiphany.  Then, over time, the transformation.

Oh for goodness sake!

The good news is that, if I shut up and observe only, I won’t land in the poo.  If I come with no agenda of my own, such as a long list of easy things they can do to make their life so much better, but simply walk beside them, if indeed they have asked me to in the first instance, asking the odd question that relates directly to whatever they have just said to me, and then listen again, I may just help a fellow traveller a little way down their own road.

Not mine.