Island Blog – Adventures

I adventure in my mind all of the time. I mean all of the time. Someone once said that the best adventures are always inside your head and he was right. Inside an imagination there are no boundaries created by A N Other. Only I can lay them down and I will never do that to stop me moving on, even if moving on is a lunatic idea, which it often is. Inside my mind I am brave, able, strong and the one who dares to defy the odds. However, when a real adventure beckons, and, by real, I mean one for which I need to pack my bag, I am a right ninny.

Today I catch the ferry for the mainland. The air is calm beneath a sky of cloud whitewash. There is no rising gale, no lashing rain to alarm me. All will be well, and, at the end of all that well-being, I have my daughter and her family to smile me into harbour. Three days of shelter, fun and someone’ else’s cooking. But, do I have the right chargers for the right workhorses? Laptop, phone, music speaker, blue tooth headphones for a talking book and so on. Do I take a big jumper or a small one? Shall I make a sandwich for the drive, or buy one en route? In the grand scheme of things, whatever that means, these questions are fretful nonsense. So what if I forget something? It’s 3 days for heaven’s sake.

At Tapselteerie, I adventured absolutely nowhere other than in my head. Oh what stories I spun, what worlds I visited and ventured through! Nothing went wrong, and, if a wraith appeared I could soon lift myself off the page, relegating said wraith to a nothing space which is where wraiths should be all of the time. In the real world, however, it is not quite so easy. For a start, gravity keeps me affixed to the ground, a definite limitation in the case of a wraith encounter. But my mind is strong, or that is what I tell myself, and this wraith of doom isn’t really standing (or floating) in my path. I look at the roadside flowers instead. They sing a much brighter song and I can sing along with them whereas I won’t even try to emulate the menacing shriek of a wraith. I would just end up with a sore throat and might even, inadvertently, call up a few of its friends.

I believe that being well stuck in this caring bubble is what strips me of wildflowers along my banks. It seems to drain my confidence for even the smallest of things and as for the big things, like driving a hundred miles or so with other cars on a wide road with no end of potential dangers lurking in the trees, I find myself ashake. When life pulls in her skirts and keeps a person contained for years, she brings both a prison and the chance to find (or relocate in my case) the rebel spirit. Seems odd, that, to present both. When a woman is contained for long enough, she will eventually grow sharp teeth and claws. It isn’t that she wants to pick a fight with A N Other, but with herself. The wimp must either tag along or leave the page because adventures are the breath of life to her. How she finds her confidence and her feet is by deciding that both have just been asleep for a while. They need waking up and she still has her voice and her imagination. She can do this. If she can fly in her mind, then she can fly out there and love the fizzing buzz of adventure ,wherever it may take her.

I make a sandwich, pack two jumpers and head for the ferry, grabbing my self-confidence as I go.

Island Blog – The Music of It

Birdsong. The mellow and sweet of it. The shrieks of panic (about everything) and the stone silence after a successful hawk attack. The soar of a violin, be it inside a symphony or a saucy leap into something new that surprises. I like something new and the Something Newers, those who take what is the establishment thinking and cut it up like the icon on a stunning church window which still shows the old and the acceptable but with lead lines of distance in between. lead. lead. 2 different ways of saying that word. One a noun, one a verb. I’m kind of fond of the verb, although I still pay homage to the noun. I often mix my nouns and verbs, intentionally, because the rebel writer in me just loves a feisty dance, which is what it becomes, if challenged. I remember yawningly dull dinner companions, (whose ties were tied so tight they could never have done ‘feisty’ nor ‘dance’) back in the day when dinners were social events and there was this fricken great list of all those you couldn’t not invite, and they always came onatop. It meant that the ones you actually liked, the ones with music in the soles of their feet, got slewed off like stones from a melting glacier. My only consolation in that thought was the fact that the glacier will eventually melt, whereas the stones will not.

Music. I listen to it all the day long. Could be classical, could be wild music, aka, the sound of the islands, rebel songs and tunes, could be great poetry in contemporary songs or it could be those songs that make absolutely no sense at all because the writers were stoned and in the back of a van returning from a gig and just let rip. I find solace in music. None in talk talk or skinny chat about the weather, nor in Love Island (sorry) or anything that shows me the world has gone quite bonkers. I read books on how it was/is to truly survive. Backdrop could be Cold War Russia, downtown Calcutta, booze soaked Greenland, A Home of Well Concealed Abuse, all sorts, all fenced off with something Rabbit Proof that stretches for hundreds of sandy sun-burned miles. And why is this? Because I want to learn how to survive. I want to hear through music and hawk attacks how sharp-witted I need to be. I don’t want more dresses or new lampshades or even a personalised number plate on Maz The Mini. All of this is dust in the wind.

Now this is not doom and gloom but the truth, and our children’s children should hear about it. Not in a way that tells them how it was in the old days; not, this is my only shawl and we hope it will rain/not rain kind of way. Not in the melting glacier misery or the manipulation of huge corporations selling poison as if it was hip. None of that. We should be teaching them (girls in particular) how to change a tyre on a wheelbarrow. How to recognise wild herbs on the banks of the road; how to replace a door handle. What stones work best when making a boundary wall. How to sew a hem (for goodness sake); how to create food for 8 when you only have enough for four.

Now that is music.

Island Blog – A Looking Glass

The air is still, the sea-loch a mirror. Through my window I watch a reflection of trees, unremarkable hazels turned into art on a saltwater canvas, painted by a master. To my left a little bay curves like the back of a new moon. I see deer running through the shallows, kicking up the still waters into a playful fun, their heads tossing carefree on this fine summer morning. They move more slowly now, heads bent to the saltgrass, soft brown velvet against the green. A family of divers paddle across the mirror, making echo ripples that won’t make land for some time. I go out to feed the birds and Jock is here, as Jock always is. I sit a minute just breathing in the gentle sunshine air and he runs up to me. Each morning he gets closer in response to my welcome voice. He looks at me and then back to the food bin, once, twice, as if to remind me of something I may have forgotten. Bird breakfast. Ok, Jock, I tell him, you win, I’ll bring it out. He follows me, landing with what must be known as a crash in ‘blackbird’ on the fence, like a startle, just inches away. I’m glad it wasn’t you the hawk got yesterday, I say, and he chirrups his own relief. Even though I know the hawk is also hungry and with young to feed, I live in hope that hawks will turn vegetarian.

It thinks me of looking; of what I see and of what that means to me, of how it alters my inner eye, the one that so often chooses wraiths over benign spirits. Those wraiths are always available and not just to me. I can listen (yawning internally) more than often to someone with the thinking that everything has the potential to go wrong all of the time. And they are correct, it does, but it can also go far right, even if we have no control over either. Or do we?

If I watch horror and cruelty on tv, the chances are I will hold those images inside. They can and do influence my quality of sleep, my way of seeing the world, life itself and the colour of the day around me. If I decide not to infect my head with horror and cruelty, even though I know it exists, and everywhere, I can make room for light and bright which also exist, and everywhere. Reading newspapers or listening to the news are two things I abandoned years ago. I can tell you who the prime minister is (for now) but I would rather bury my nose in a good and well-crafted book, thanks all the same, than I would fret my teeth down to a pavement worrying about the state of things in this world.

What I choose to look at and how much welly I give to that lookingness is up to me. Staring across a tidal sea-loch can take up a whole morning, give or take a few snatched coffees and when I do turn away, the image glows like warm embers within. I carry that image with me all day long, feeding it with music, conversation, good books. This image calms me as I breath it deep inside, watch the embers flare into new life. No matter what wraithlike turbulence or self-doubt, chaos or disaster comes my way, I have prepped for them all. I have a dream world inside me and nobody can get their mitts on any of it. Nobody. And, like Alice, I step right in.

Hawks will come. But somewhere in between attacks, there is the chance of sunlight on my back and the wind beneath my wings.

Island Blog – Precious

That word took on a whole different meaning once Golam turned it into a destructive obsession. Ok, he was consumed by greed. Like the worldly world. Love of money and all that. But I think me about the real meaning of that word and it plumped like a sclatch to my stomach after I spontaneously offered to drive 3 of my little grand-daughters through to the local town for an ice-cream and to deliver one, the eldest, back to her mama. I thought….here I am driving such a precious cargo on a switchback road with idiot tourists who have no reverse gear in their smart cars and, suddenly, I am aware of ‘precious’.

I was headed for a lip and eyebrow wax and tint. Not the lips but the eyebrows being as they are, curved ghosts above my eyes. We arrived early and found a parking space near the ice cream parlour, originally the public toilets but, thankfully no more, although those who hope for relief half ways around the curve of the Atlantic harbour town might think differently. Ice creamed up, we found an newly relieved bench overlooking the boats. Sailing boats, fishing boats, weirdo looking boats and commercial sea trip boats all bobbed or sailed or motored passed us as we all tried to help the 2 year old manage her fast melting cone. She had a lot to say which doesn’t help. About the shells and the fish and whatsthat of everything including purple-hearted jelly fish and upstanding kelp trees that shimmy in the tidal flow.

Once mopped up and back in the car, I strain my eyes to see if there was a space nearer to the salon. Och, we’ll just wing it, and we did and there is a god of parking opportunities because we found one just outside our destination. In we go, much to the aws and aahs of those within, with their hair in silver foil or their fingers extended for a rainbow nail touch up. Well, my grandchildren are stunners with their carrot red and strawberry blonde hair plus the fact that they, as little ones, are always so very precious to the community. I remember arriving here from Englandshire 40 years ago and marvelling at the adoration of little ones. Little ones came to absolutely everything, however late that everything ran into the night. It was, and is, the island way and my own children benefited from it on regular occasions. In the throwout far-flung places of the world true family includes community and nobody is an island. We are, at first, caught in the web of it, we might struggle to escape, but, eventually we can see the milk, bread and brandy of such a life, one where if you don’t decide to do something then it just won’t happen sort of life because when the storms hit, everyone turns for home and we, out here, must work our own way. I love it now. and this place isn’t even remote, not by remote island standards. We get our post every day, in the main, but I know of women running households where it isn’t just the post that doesn’t arrive, but essential supplies for family and beasts, and that, for a whole storm born winter.

So, we arrive at the salon. The only one on the island and born from a dream of a young girl who has turned her business into everyone else’s. Even the men come for a haircut, into the warm and welcoming easy-osy atmosphere. It’s like a hug. We snake into the little room, holding hands, the 2 year old nervous. I lie on the bed. you look tired Granny, says one. Just wait, I reply, I am about to be messed about with. Tint is applied to my brows and wax to my upper lip. Hahahahaha, the girls laugh. Granny, you look ridiculous! And so I do at this point, with purple wax across my face, and black eyebrows good enough for a goth. All the time, the woman with a dream chats to the little girls, still holding hands, as she puts me through a few ouch-ouchies. And, I am done. Ridiculous now? I ask. You look beautiful, they say. Well, that is wise, as I am the one driving them home.

Precious. Moments. Grandchildren. The trust of a mother who let me be spontaneous. Precious, this life, these times, this moment. Precious ‘not to be wasted or treated carelessly.’

I concur.

Island Blog – A Homecoming and a Peahen

I get throughly sogg-droggled walking back along the cliff path. Drops of rain are heavier beneath the canopy of trees but before I reach said canopy the rain is soft and warm on my face and I don’t mind getting wet at all. Ahead of me is a peahen. She notices me and keeps looking back. I am closing the distance between us. I can’t say it feels normal to go walking with a peahen in the rain on a path that runs from a lighthouse to the village, especially as this is not peahen country.

When I first arrived for my 2 day respite break with a friend, I met the peahen in the little garden, all freshly mown and protected by ancient stone walls that have probably kept the sea back since the lighthouse cottages were first built. There is no car access here, only a skinny clifftop path hewn into the rock face, one that rises into a sky that was blue yesterday and punctuated by soaring white tailed eagles. Today the sky is closed, yellowy clouds pulled across her face, not an eagle in sight. Only a peahen at ground level. But my friend does not own a peahen. This now bedraggled creature with a pretty face and a tantalising fascinator perched atop her head, just appeared one day. We feed her cooked chickpeas and boiled potatoes, although she would choose snakes and bugs over our offering any day. We tell her to find her own. Some day she will be captured, bagged and returned to whence she came, but, for now, she prettifies the place and is absolutely silent, unlike a peacock who would split the air with piercing cries and wake us all at dawn.

As I walk back through the rain, I think over the past two days filled with laughter and chat and a bit too much wine. It shined on us, the sun, and we sat on a driftwood bench in the warm garden talking over pretty much everything, including peahens. I also think, as I near the end of the 2k path, having met not one soul, of homecoming. I always need to come home again, wherever I escape to and for however long. Like the peahen I am out of my environment and that ‘outing’ revives me and alters my thinking. 2 days ago I was exhausted and diminished. Now I am feeling stronger and those things that burst me into tears just smile me. They will pass, after all, as everything always does. I will deal with the things I can and ignore the things I cannot and, although that balance is hardly Libran, I can choose to stand on the high side until the scales are level once more.

One day this peahen will be returned to the farm whence she came. What her story is, her reason for leaving is only a guess. She seemed happy there and this place is a long walk away. I think of those who must have met her on her journey and been surprised, astonished, even. It’s a wild place, this, all rock and ocean and skinny unpeopled paths. But she is here. For now. I look back and see her pick her delicate way down to the shore. And then, I turn, and head for home.

Island Blog – Elephants Will

When a child is born, nobody can be certain of the outcome, of who that child will become. Children are not, after all, tailor made, nor are they clones of their parents. Some children go so far off piste as to be barely recognisable when they land on the runway of adulthood. A nice well-under-control parent pair can birth a rebel in tooth and claw with piercings and green hair, one who marches with banners in full view of the neighbours in bright orange doc Martens and a tassel frock. Sometimes a rebel spirit grows quietly in the darkness of her developing mind, speaking nothing out, lips sealed as she appears to worship at the shrine of Good Behaviour and Expectation with the rest of the well-under-control family.

Then, one day when nobody is paying much attention she revolts. I’m going out, she says from a decent doorway distance. It may be Sunday, when nobody goes out if they’re wise. Lunch together on this day is not a matter of personal choice. But that is precisely why she chooses it. She may face opposition, but she has made up her own mind, possibly for the first time ever. And out she goes, her back ablaze with fiery darts, her eyes on the horizon. Coming home again is a tad scary but she has shown her true colours and now everything changes. There is an elephant in the room. She can see it and so can they, even through the mist of hurt and rejection.

The first time I heard the saying ‘there’s an elephant in the room’, I laughed out loud. Just the picture in my head was enough to rise me a guffaw. Obviously, nobody in the same room as an elephant has the option to move. We are all, in effect, pinned to the walls unless one of us acknowledges the elephant, which is not the problem, although the poor thing may well consider itself to be just that. Elephants are free roaming, given half a chance, and are accustomed to their eyes on a horizon that may well be hundreds of miles away, a horizon punctuated by the odd tree, as yet un-elephanted. They are less at home if surrounded by armchairs and people who seem to be pinned to the walls, mouths empty.

Growing olden, I am less and less able to accept an elephant in the room. Issues that used to be something ‘we don’t confront’ just irritate me out of sotto voce and resignation. I name the elephant. And then there is silence and a whole lot of empty room. It feels weird. I consider all those times I have let something go and I wonder where those somethings end up. Do they dissipate in the winds of time, providing they are kept quietly in the dark and not fed? I don’t believe so. I think they grow like mushrooms. When a person has the courage to name an elephant, they extend an invitation for talk, for conversation and resolution. It is extremely uncomfortable when someone names an elephant I have led in, so I know that feeling well, but it is tinged with relief. It’s out there now. The name is spoken and heard and the elephant desperately wants to get back to the tundra and the broiling sun. However, there is no going back for the people involved. There is only change afoot and it is one that can make or break a friendship.

I have often wished for more congruence in my life, more connection between the inside and the out but my historical hang-ups have strong monkey arms and no plan to let go. It is and always has to be a considered choice of action, a decision to be congruent. I remember asking a friend once if I could visit and she said no, it’s not convenient. I was shocked and hurt and yet now I see her just being honest, being congruent. It didn’t mean she was dumping me. We, as humans, are so easily hurt and that hurt can become a poor driver. We are always 50 per cent of both the problem and the solution and there are times when our hang-ups can have us believing the world as we know it has just ended when all someone said is no, it’s not convenient. We create a monster from a little hurt. It’s ridiculous and it’s human. Had she said ‘yes, come’ just because her parental teaching and expectations rose from their graves to crowd her head, she would have been false to herself and on edge with me. I would have clocked it regardless of her TV presenter performance. I would have waved goodbye to both her and the elephant and probably not called her again for ages, if at all, because she obviously doesn’t like me any more. Ridiculous indeed. However, that is not how it went and that friend and I are closer than ever.

Not being honest to self or honest to others may sound and feel like politeness but it drains and exhausts over time. Finding the self-love to name an elephant is not easy but so very freeing. Discovering that a friendship is no longer of value (too many elephants) is no discovery at all for it probably never was an honest one anyway. I just couldn’t extricate myself from it before because I was unable to see my own value. I knew this person made me feel uncomfortable, wanted me to be what they wanted me to be, but I thought so little of myself that this seemed like a challenge I ought to meet. Ok, I’ll be the person you want me to be. It’s ok. But it isn’t ok over time and we can barely see each other for elephants. And, remember, confined elephants will trample.

Island Blog – Snap Tight

I like my sheets crispy. Towels too. Not for me a soft towel. I like things to snap when I fold them, like gunshot. I am a snap tight sort of woman and that applies to many things, things I can control. I like a tidy desk, not a muddle of ignored papers, pens that don’t work or those things found on the floor that tell me nothing of their usefulness. I have thrown much away during my lifetime, sometimes with a twinge of regret once I discover, after the bin men have been, that the red knob with the shaft of a screw is, in fact, part of a wonky chair, one that will remain wonky for the rest of its days. I am not perfect. I like honest conversation and find the murk and fog of incongruence baffling. I like clear sounds and clear vision. I like to know what I am doing next and then to do it without having to stumble through the mists of explanation and justification.

When things happen inside a life, bringing associated clutter, I feel the rise of claustrophobia. However, when a girl is in a relationship with another who has no problems at all around clutter, this claustrophobia demands middle management skills. Oh lawks, more inner work. In the olden days when I was young and full of a determined conviction that I could change anyone through adult negotiations, I ricocheted between frustration and hope. Now I know better. Leopards and spots.

The kit and caboodle needed for a failing body and mind is enough to halt anyone in their tracks, middle management aside. There are zimmers, grabbers, walking sticks, a mobility scooter the size of a small cafe, and a quad bike. All essential aids for as much independence as possible and quite right too, but there is one person who never uses any of the above and yet who must learn to accept their looming presence, the poor parking and what look like railway tracks etched into the shagpile. A small child could get lost in the furrows. Mostly, I can do it, be patient I mean, even if it does infuriate when the small cafe is blocking the back door and I want out. Fortunately we have other doors. The quad can be squinty parked across the shingle place for my car. It isn’t done to upset me, of course not, but just abandoned in the most convenient place. Sometimes I can’t even get to the bird feeders for abandoned kit. Lucky I am slim. However, this is not a moan but really an observation of what is. Others will feel as I do. The desire to make things as easy as possible for the disabled one is natural. They were independent once, after all, and all this stuff was for ageing grannies and grandads. It didn’t really affect anyone on a visit. But, living with it does affect, however marvellous a woman’s attitude may be. The most demanding part of caring lies not in the physical demands, but in the mental and emotional requirements for each day.

I rise early, come downstairs and snap the house into order. Early, there is no kit over which to trip and in minutes my lovely island home is ready for the day. I breakfast, make coffee, feed the birds and tidy the dishes away. Soon I will hear sounds of life and himself will float down on the chairlift, down into the snap tidy house. And me? Well, I will go back upstairs to dive into a good book in order to immerse myself in someone else’s story.