Island Blog – A Different Summer

Looking back on life, I imagine we can all remember one particular summer, for its joy or for its unjoy. Perhaps it was that one, as a carefree youngster, first in love, heady with dreams and hopes and madly keen to escape the confines of diligent parenting. Perhaps it was that memorable holiday, the colours, swirls and shape of which are ingrained in a mind, body and soul. Perhaps it was the birth of a child, the death of a loved one, the time the wisteria went crazy up the walls, dropping sweet perfume and amethyst blooms every time you walked underneath.

This one, the one we are welcoming right now will surely be a collective memory, one we will talk about, write about and think about for a very long time to come. By definition, ensuing summers will still be summers but might appear ordinary, now that we have met extraordinary. I love this time of year. Less clothing, more colour, bare feet and crisp salads; sunshine skin and long bright evenings; new life all around, birds, animals, flowers; brown babies, freckles, picnics and barbecues. Everything in me shifts with the rising warmth, reflections of green at the waters edge, the sound of Earth singing us back to life.

Okay so this summer is different and although each summer is different, in that we have all moved through the winter and, therefore, learned new learnings, this one is more different than most. But, even as we are refused access to each other, to dinners out, lunch al fresco at a local restaurant, long walks together or parties on the lawn, we can still summer. I know that the isolation can chip away at us, because, as humans, as social creatures, we long to share. Witnessing something wonderful, something new and delightful all on your own is just not the same. There will be many, like me, who are talking to themselves. I tell me many things throughout the day, share jokes and stories and me is a good listener, wise, too, sometimes irritatingly so. I remember learning once that inside me are as many as 25 others, all still me but different aspects of me. There is the Judge, of course, the poker-faced harridan with a lemon in her mouth. She is the most vocal, but as her repertoire is unimaginative and predictable, I can soon shut her up. There’s the little Alice in Wonderland and I am very fond of her. She always wants to play or shrink or sup tea with the Hatter and, together, we have great adventures. Then there’s Mrs Sensible. She is the wise one who keeps me from sailing out to sea without a compass. There is the Wife, the Mother and the Grandmother, and together we are quite a team. We are the ones who move through each day in acceptable clothing and with a well-ordered mind. Keeping a balance of the females inside my head is sometimes tricky. Sometimes I want to run riot, to disappear into my imagination, to break the rules of the well-ordered daily routine. And sometimes I do.

We are all having to search ourselves to find the fun, at times. And, for all the worries and concerns that have cut us off from each other, we have the chance to learn something wonderful from this summer. How we live thereafter will be directly aligned to what we have taken the time to study and consider. Great things will grow from the ashes of this, much like the flowers are doing right now, just outside the window.

Island Blog – A Crescendo of Growth

I can see it coming. The new shoots pushing through cold ground, like babies being born. One minute, safe, warm and dark, and suddenly thrust into the light, sharp, blinding. Flipped by the wind (or the midwife), smacked by the rain (ditto) and cold, so cold. It is understandable, the heartfelt desire to return to B4, but that option has been taken away for ever. Moving onto A1 is what Mother Nature insists we do, all growing things. If she is always moving on, then so must we. Instinct drives, timing is life or death. We must comply.

This, sadly, also goes for bodily hair. I think we women will all look like scarecrows with moustaches and caterpillar eyebrows by the end of this enforced lockdown. Unless we have a family member who can offer us smooth passage and who happens to own salon scissors. Ah…….there may not be many of those who inhabit such fortunacity. My word. But sticking to the subject, I wonder how we will grow through this time. The people I have talked to on Skype, messenger, WhatsApp and the Alexander Bell are all thinking we will grow better. I am with them on that. I know folk who have faced down death and returned to live a stronger, more focussed, more sensitive life, letting more unimportant stuff go and ferreting around for the things that really matter, but felt like ordinary and uninteresting. Before this. In a way we are all facing down death right now and it will teach us many things.

As I come down the stairs to see the moon face to face instead of letting her think that her sneak through the cracks in my curtains will ever be enough, I am thankful for the stairs holding up. There was a time when holding up caught a fever and wobbled a lot, requiring skilled assistance to de-wobble. I am thankful for my washing machine, car, ability to scrub the inside of those flaming mugs that will not let go of tea tannin, go for walks with my frocks always at odds with the capricious snatches of the west coast wind. I watch primroses push out more colour, a siskin or a goldfinch on the nicer seed feeder, the way my dwarf willow dances flamenco on the hilly back garden. I am thankful for the postmistress #suchacrazytitle delivering mail in her disposable gloves, smiling and joking with me through the window as I stand on the laundry basket from Nincompoo Laundry, Calcutta. I’m thankful for that too.

My finger nails have never been this clean. Neither has my husband. What I am learning in this time is what really matters, such as looking after him myself. I am cooking good food once more having absented myself from any meaningful connection with pots, pans, process and palavers. For what seems a long time I have served him one of his ready meals (good quality) from the microwave and then boiled myself pasta, added pesto and salad. One of my granddaughters was horrified, not about her grandfather’s ready meal thingy, but my pasta on repeat thingy. Granny… she admonished. This is not like you! But it was like me, back then. Now I am purposed up, my extra busy imagination coming up with all sorts of marvellousness just as I did when cooking for five hungry kids plus hangers on. There were always plenty of those, and nobody on this island ever sends anyone home without something in their bellies. It just isn’t done.

Now I am about to start finding out how to make face masks. This should be interesting. I wonder if I will be able to stick with the J Cloth plus ribbons rule? What…..no macrame flowers or beads and bobbles? Abso- flipping-lutely NOT. Rats. I am also knitting dog blankets for our dog. She is currently the lucky owner of 3 colourful/wool and easy wash blended reaches of bonkers colour. The easy wash part washes, well, easy. The wool part is obviously sulking and retreating into itself, so that a part of the blanket looks more like a ploughed field, but Poppy doesn’t seem bothered all that much. She just turns a few circles and flops down on the easy wash, resting her delightful black nose on the ploughed field, so she can see out all the better.

I am daily delighted by all the entrepreneurial posts on social media. People are doing things they probably always wanted to do, but didn’t consider their work to be of notable value. Now it definitely is and this is what the human race is all about. I remember, as you will, the oldies saying that what the world needs is a jolly good war. Although there is nothing jolly about any sort of war, they had a point, one that now makes sense to me. What they meant is that, during wartime, a family, a community, a village, a city, a country, the world has to pull together, as we are all now doing. How does it feel to you? I think it is marvellous partisan excellent quiddity. In fact, I am quite astir just thinking about how wonderful folk are. We are learning to care outside of our boxes and demonstrating that care in ways that fulfil and nourish the givers as much as it does the receivers. In short, we are finding a new currency.

Hats off to all of you doing whatever you are doing for others. I am just waiting for that balmy summer evening inside a city when all those musicians, isolated in their own homes, communicate with each other, fix on a song or a piece of music and open their windows to delight a whole street, to lift, just for a short while, the anxiety and the fear, turning them into birds and butterflies and telling us all that together, we will grow through this.

Island Blog 19 – On Character and Wheedling.

They say that we are born with our own personality and that we grow our character.  I am watching ‘character’ appear daily in a little baby. Each little ‘quirk’ lands on me like a feather, the tickling kind, and I laugh out loud.  Even at this early stage of life, it seems, a human creature has something personal to say in response to the world, to us who care for her, and her statements lift into the air and become a new piece in the puzzle.  Not that we are puzzled, but more, captivated and enchanted at the way this child is sinking her flag into the land, claiming her stake in it, singing her own song.

I know that the world will affect her growth, that stuff will block her chosen flight, or hem her in and limit her choices, but that is an old chestnut in my opinion, for we can all fly if we just open our wings, whatever life we land in.

 

As my five kids appeared and began to show their colours, I wondered, not a little, how much colour any mother could take on.  It sometimes seemed as though the whole house was like a wild abstract multi media canvas and I needed shades to look at it.  How, I asked myself, as nobody else was listening, can there be five completely different characters born from me and their father, when we are just us with limits and baggage and issues and no time to talk about any of them?

 

I never got an answer, but I can tell you, that life was both hilarious and scary at one and the same time.

The way to work with such an abundance of personalities was in the collective, or so I thought.  We called them ‘the children’ and stuffed them into the Landrover along with the dogs and sometimes, a pet lamb or two.  When the older ones (by a short leg) made their claim on later bedtimes, or specific opportunities, denied the ‘little boys’ it seemed like a very big deal, not least in the required explanation and subsequent justification of this new treat.  Stretching the day a little, a later bedtime, a larger portion of supper, an excuse from washing dishes because of Important Homework (as opposed to reading 3 more pages of Enid Blyton out loud with particular attention to commas and full stops) required a brain shift, well-toned arms and one of those calm strong voices that always sounded like a sqwalk from my mouth.  I remember having to stand on a chair as they lurched uncomfortably into the teenage years, just to look like I was taller and therefore, in charge.  But I never felt ‘in charge’, not really, and often, when I looked back, after an encouraging wheedle or two, the only living things following me were the faithful collies, the pet lambs and Isabel the hen, not one of which had the slightest clue what I was wheedling about.

 

Now I look at my five rebels and see fine young adults, with buckets of humour, common sense and character.  So maybe they were following after all.

 

Blog 19 (V2)

Island Blog 12 – As you sow, so shall you reap

I love that saying, although it is written in a rather old fashioned way.  To me, it means I put everything into everything, from cooking supper on an ordinary Monday, to dressing up for a book launch.  Haven’t got to that bit yet, but when it comes, I know I will give it wellie.  Its not always easy to do, especially around the dull to-do list, month after month, nor is the ‘sowing’ part always obvious to the naked eye.  For example, as I spend my days with my son and his wife and very new baby, quietly in the background, just helping as best I can at this time of immense change in their lives, I notice things.  I notice that he orders baby clothes with great care and enthusiasm.  I notice that he changes nappies and takes the baby out to give his wife time to sleep, for her nights are no longer her own.  I notice he bothers to shop for groceries after a long day at work, and these are just 3 things I notice.

What he is doing, is ‘sowing’.  He is investing, not only in his child, but more importantly, in his wife, in the woman she really is and this investment will pay off for the rest of his marriage.  Not that he has planned it this way, of course not, but he is doing it because he is unafraid of looking soft in the head.  All the young fathers I have met nowadays are similarly unafraid.

So Hallelujah say I for this ‘informed’ generation! They must have read all the right books, for they have certainly U-turned on their own fathers technique, or lack of it.  Or, is it simply that Love will ‘out’, no matter what, given enough time?

Either way, my heart is smiling for the little ones of today.  The big ones too.