Island Blog – It’s okay that it’s not okay

I could have said that better, my English tutor would have told me, her huge bosom leaning over me so that the whole room went momentarily dark. I can still smell the tweedy smell of her fitted (very well fitted) jacket and hear the scritch-scratch of her thickly nylon-ed thighs as she travelled the distance to my desk, then home again jigetty-jig to the safety of her chalk blown upfront tutor desk. And she is right, was right then. I am very thankful for my English tutors down the ages, who challenged my brain to dig deep for words, old words, old ways of saying, poetically, what turned into street talk. Not that I mind street talk at all, for it has rhythm and beat to it and I am ever the dancer. But when writing it is important for me to stretch my brain, to find a way of saying an ordinary thing in an extraordinary way.

Forward to the point. I honestly believed I had got away with it, the grieving thing, this widowhood thing. At first, I felt only relief. 10 years of caring for a big man who was slowly falling away, was horrible, even though he himself was always positive no matter the declination. His peaceful and accepting dying brought relief to him, to all of us. I thought, maybe this lovely gentle leaving after all those years of angst and battle (on my part) would rub out the horrible, like my old India rubber did for my spelling mistakes. A foolish thinking. Here I am two months off the anniversary of his death and everything hurts. A bird caught in a fence (thankfully freed and flown), a child crying, the hearing of someone else’s pain, the fact that the stairlift has stopped working, the leaks in my ceiling, the stubbing of a toe en route to the wood pile. Sharp as needles, these ‘small’ things that were okay are not any more. I tell myself I am doing okay, that this is normal, that it will pass and myself rolls her eyes and goes “ya-di-ya”. What did we say before ‘ya-di-ya’ I wonder?

I know of others. Those who, since the Covid lockdown and the fear and fallacy this past year and more has brought to us, are scared of going out, unsure if they actually want to do the going out thing at all. I know I can be confounded at the gate of my gypsy home, in the so called middle of nowhere, if I see walkers moving up the tiny track on their way to Tapselteerie and her wild delights, her vision, her stretch right out into the Atlantic Ocean. And I pull back, hide, wait. This happening-to-us thing is what is happening to us. And, although it feels thoroughly not okay, it has to be okay. Our clenched teeth, our fears, our resulting flip into nowhere, well, owe have to find a landing. I haven’t yet, even here, even in this free, gentle land, and if I haven’t then how the heck is it for those who have survived in cities? I have no answer for that. Only respect.

And then there is the grief. Not mine, not just mine but the everyman, everywoman grief because it is loud in my ears and a strong part of the music that sentient composers will play into our future days, in our remembering days. As will poets and novel writers with their prose. They are working on it now, this omg (sorry) in our lives and they will come up bright, intelligent and colourful, I just know it.

Till then, I, and hopefully you, have family, siblings, kids, grandkids who lift us into ourselves, the ones we knew so well a year and then some ago. They are still with us as we are with them. This connection is rooted and unbreakable. Friends too, formed way back or even more recent. Roots grow quick and they need to.

I am thankful. I am broken. I am me. And, I am okay that I’m not okay.

Island Blog – Outfit, Outflit

One morning I awaken with a lightness in my step once I have connected my feets with the new carpet, found my ground and elevated into my height. I know it isn’t a dizzy height, but it is mine and I know where I start and where I end and that is completely fine with me. It is also reassuring, because the frocks in my wardrobe only fit the me I know and were the me I know to grow or diminish overnight, we would both be confounded, the frocks and me. Thankfully, this scenario only belongs in one of my fiction stories, the ones where worlds merge because some eejit has found a portal into another one and gone through leaving everyone else behind wondering whether or not said eejit will be home in time for tea. I have yet to be that eejit despite locating portals all over the place. Moving on.

I decide on an outfit. It is quite a sassy one for me, given that I have chosen full flowing billow-skirts for a longtime. It is cooler this morning, circa 10 degrees and I needs must address the coolth #scottishword. Pantaloons of a black and white scarpy slash pattern, elasticated just below the knee; long tee-shirt beneath longer frock in an arguing design; overlay, a thin unequally hemmed jersey, also not matching and a wrap-around tartan knee-length skirt fashioned from almost the same amount of fabric required for a kilt, which is, for the sassenachs, about 20 yards in old money. I need safety pins to secure the connecting lengths having lost weight since being widowed. I blame Himself for that. The finishing touch is a bead belt, hip hugging yet loose and well, quite the thing. I pose before my old cracked mirror and think, Yes, You Will Do, and scoot down stairs for a boiled egg.

It takes only 30 minutes for me to realise this outfit is not a long term thing. The bead belt keeps shucking up to my waist and I can bear nothing around my waist. Then the safety pins ping apart and stick my skin. I sit down to eat my breakfast and the skirt tangles with my body. The underneath tee rumples quietly beneath the frock and I now look like an un-made bed. I tolerate and breathe deeply. I know, as does my sassy outfit and my mirror that I will be seeing no-one today, not one soul and that this is all about me and how I feel about me, but that is not what confounds me, is not the thing that twirls me fastly back upstairs to wheech the whole thing off in a rather dramatic fling and to begin all over again with a more considered approach. No. It is that moment I need a pee. The undoing process of wrap around skirt, safety pins, layered tee beneath frock and pantaloons, no matter what the flaming pattern, all conspire to confound and I know when I am beat. T’is now. My dressing up is not working today.

It thinks me, reminds me of happy happy girl days and my absolute favourite of all games. Dressing up. My mum had a chest, or trunk filled to busting with outfits and these outfits were not made of paper or plastic. They were sewn quality and lasting and beautiful. I was Gypsy, my favourite, and mum would darken my face to a Norfolk tan with her powder (she was able to take dark, unlike freckled white skin me) and affix the hoop earrings somehow and I would flash my eye whites into the moment and dance and jingle the bracelets and anklets for hours. I also recall being the fairy, the clothing white and laced and cotton and fitted and beautiful and with wings. There was a sailor outfit but I ignored that one. I became the gypsy then, or the fairy. My friend Angela had to be queen and as I was not even remotely interested in being a monarch there was no contest. I remember watching her walk across the grass on a summer afternoon, straight-backed and completely absorbed in her queen-ness whilst I finagled around the shadows planning gypsy/fairy anklet jangling mischief. It worked for a long time. I think it still does.

So, after the wheeching myself out of the conflictions of an outfit that looked frickin great as long as I would spend the entire day standing still before my cracked mirror, I move towards my frock wardrobe with both interest and trepidation. I don’t want to lose the devil-may-care-let’s-astound-the-wildlife thingy but I do want to be able to move freely. Moving freely is a big thing for me. If I feel contained at any point on my body or in my mind I have this desire to explode. I haven’t done it yet and it could be messy but I am super aware of the exploding gene that figgles about in my DNA and which, if DNA could encompass feelings, would show in my ancestry, I am certain. So, choosing not the sameold and yet poking about with fingers of curiosity, I locate a layering option. Let’s try you, I say, kindly, because I am aware that this particular underlayer has not seen light of day for a while. It is quite hard to get it right for my mood, I say, muffled beneath the foof of the material as it falls over my head and lands around me. We look at each other, the underlayer and me. We agree. Okay so far. I go back again to the dark depths of the wardrobe and flip the hangers along. No, no, maybe but no, hmmm, okay, how about you? I can hear the excited squeak and I love it even as all my abundant frocks know the rules. I hate to disappoint but this may not be your day. Once selection is made I can go about my business. I still will meet nobody, and the frocks know this but together we swing through the day, through the ups and downs and all is well in our world.

I did wonder, only this morning, does everyone else have this much fun in such ordinary moments?