Island Blog 63 – Silver Girl

Silver Girl

 

On June 1st Jenny  died.

We have been friends for over 4o years, the same as my years of marriage.

Our children knew each other as little ones and those children now have little ones of their own.  We had a bet going, she and I that her daughter-in-law would give birth before my own did.  The due dates hold hands, they’re so close.  I will see my new grandchild, but she won’t see hers.

Over the years, our roads travelled in different directions, but we kept in touch.  When she first got breast cancer, she was completely herself about the whole thing.  No time for this, she said, need to sort out treatment and keep moving.  She went sailing after that, for 7 months, she and her man, in a yacht to beat all other yachts with big-ass sails and comfort below deck, every comfort, and the wind in her hair and salt on her tongue, whilst I became an Island Wife.  But women who connect at a wild and deep level, who recognise each other’s spirit and love it, never lose touch, even if the contact is once a year.

We sailed with them once, meeting them on a Greek island.  We all wondered how it would work, four of us converging where Two Roads meet, after 30 years apart, and living in close quarters for a couple of weeks.

I could have been a big pain in the ass, I said.

You are.  She replied and handed me a beer.

In the evenings, moored in a little warm harbour, we would cook, eat and make music.  They taught me songs, and I them, and there was something magical about the candlelight, the warm nights, the laughter and song.

She did much with her life and was never still.  She was the second woman ever to command a Royal Navy warship.  A transatlantic skipper, a magistrate, a wife, mother grandmother, although that title sounds way too old for her.  She adored her family, and actively showed it.  She was feisty, impossible, decisive and noisy and there is a big hole left now she is gone.

But what will stay with me for ever, and this may sound selfish, is what she gave to me.  She never faltered and when I did, she whooped my butt.  I’m not saying, or even imagining, that she had life sussed, because I know she didn’t think that at all.  I saw, at times, such sadness in her big eyes, and she might tell me, briefly, or she might not.  When she knew she had only time left, she would still pick up if I called, or answer a text with humour.  She came to my book launch down south in a bright pink wig after aggressive chemo.  It was our last hug.

I salute her.  She is a woman who challenged me to be the best I could be, just as she challenged herself.

Sail on Silver Girl.

Island Blog 42 – A Tale to Tell

Island Blog 42 - pic

 

By now, my book is out there in the world and you may even be reading it.  You may be loving it, you may not, and over this bit, I have absolutely no control.  It is how it is.  My responsibility ended as I caught the words from the air around me and laid them down upon a blank sheet of A4.  The thoughts and feelings that will arise in you as a result of reading those words, in the order I chose, will relate to your life, not mine, and, in that moment of connection, become something new.

Over the years I have found such connections myself as I devoured the stories of many folk in many places and times.  Sometimes I have been tearful for the writer, the hero, or for myself as I become lost in a life that connects deeply with my own.  Sometimes thrilling with delight at the way a story bubbles and chatters over the stones like a clear fall of mountain water after new rain.  In a well written tale, I can hear the voices and see the landscape.  I can smell the wind and taste the grit of it in my mouth;  I can feel the warm skin of a dancing child and shiver at the ice cold of a closed mind or a bitter Arctic night.  I can twist and turn in the sweaty damp of an unfriendly sleeping bag and I can pull quickly back into the shadows to hide as a cruel drama unfolds before me.  I can waken in the night to remember, and then wish I could forget.  In short, I become part of the story, and yet play no part at all.  I may follow this person, or that.  I may long to go back, to see what happened to the child, or the old woman, even knowing that I may not;  not until the writer catches the words and lays them down for me on the page.  Sometimes I even forget to breathe, so lost am I in the story.

And every one is real.

Although it may be a work of fiction, you can bet that the writer is in there somewhere, for, if not, the tale would be as dull as a Monday shopping list.

But it is not just in books that I can connect with another life.  I can find stories in faces along the island roads and they can touch me just as deeply.  Of course, we don’t often get to this level on a daily basis – merely exchanging husband news or word of new additions to the family, new accomplishments, new sofas, new guests and so on, but the eyes are the windows to the soul and no mistake.  Some bright chirpy person can tell me one thing with their mouth and quite another through their eyes.  I do it myself, did it for years.

You are always so bright!  They told me, and because it was the done thing, I kept doing it.

Just like you do, or most of you.  There are some that might consider leaving their list of ailments and complaints at home, for we all have them to some degree or other and I have found from experience that those with most to complain about, usually don’t.  And when I meet those people, who have made a decision not to bore the bejabers out of the rest of us, telling us things we can do nothing whatsoever about and causing rain to fall on that precious moment of shared sunshine, I find my supplies of compassion and respect, verging on reverence, threaten to overwhelm me altogether.  My whole day changes as I guess my way into their life and out again feeling humbled.  Suddenly my load lightens, supposing I thought I had one in the first place.

There is always an argument between reality and fairyland.  I have always preferred fairyland, finding reality way too matter-of-fact for me, and, as we know, these Matters of Fact change daily according to the latest discovery/statistic/breaking news. Shifting sands I reckon, whereas fairyland is always fairyland and you can depend on it remaining so forever, for in that world (the real world in my opinion) we are allowed to be individual in our response to that which we observe.  All views are acceptable.  Nobody is right and nobody is wrong, for we all see things in different ways according to our creed, birthright,childhood and experiences. And we should stand tall and proud inside our own story, and sing it out, for it is the only one we can really tell.

Island Blog 41 – Yikes!

That’s what was in my mouth as I awoke this morning, for this is Book Launch Day for Island Wife and I am fizzing with excitement!

It’s not like a birthday fizz, something that comes anyway, whether I am good or bad, but more the fizz of accomplishment.  I have now, with considerable help and support, brought an idea to life and it is now packaged and ready to go out into the world.

At the beginning, when something is just an idea it can be caught and held, or lost in a single day.  I get ideas all the time and my head can feel like it’s full of bluebottles, buzzing and whizzing and banging against the windows in the way of all foolish things without direction.  At other times, it is just one or two ideas, that are not so hard to catch and pin down, until there is time to pay each one due attention.  This book was once an idea, but remaining an idea wasn’t going to do anyone any good, least of all me because it wouldn’t let me go.  Somehow I knew at the start, that writing my story was not just self-gratification – it was a body of work that other eyes needed to see.

In my life, I have found the strength at difficult times through the life of another.  Yes, for me, it has mostly been women writers, women’s stories, but not exclusively.  What I have sought, and found, in other’s tales, spun like fine webs across the pages, has been a voice to give me courage;  courage to do another day, to take another step.  I connect with that voice, that truth, that story in some way and at some level, and that changes me and brings me hope.  Many times have I risen from the pages and dried my own tears, refreshed my own war paint, chosen brighter clothes to wear and squared my own shoulders.  Many, many times.

I want Island Wife to do the same.  Perhaps for you.