Island Blog 139 An Elegant Truth




139 is a Prime Number.

‘A prime number (or a prime) is a natural number, greater than 1, that has no positive divisors, other than 1 and itself.’

Now that is exciting!  The word ‘prime’ is enough to lift my shoulders and to fix my eyes on the horizon.  In fact I have decided that I, also, am a prime number,  with no positive divisors other than 1 (that’s still me) or itself (me again).  How can I lose with that positive thinking?

Although every moment of my life requires an involvement with A. N. Other, a relationship in other words, be it complex and thixotropic or easy and naturally flowing, I am still singular, just me, I, The Prime Number.  Of course, I can be far from such in another’s eyes.  I might, in fact, be entirely divisible by anyone who cares to divide me up, spinnable by anyone who fancies throwing me into one, but whatever Lady Life tosses my way, even she can never ever divide One into more than itself and, once I spot this dividing thing going on, I can stop it just like that.  If I have the power of one, then I have the power of one.

In my earthly woman life, I can spread myself too thin, stretching myself progressively flatter in an effort to play carpet for all those around me, regardless of any risks to my health, self-esteem or direction in life.  I can do all this thinking I am solving others’ problems, when what I am really doing is interfering.  Instead of me respecting A.N Other’s right to be a primary number, I am dividing him or her up, telling her what to do and how to do it because I would know, wouldn’t I!   I am saying she cannot do without my advice, when without my advice is precisely how she needs to be.

Is it a myth or were all us girls brought up to put ourselves last?  Outside the door is better, in sackcloth and ashes, with voice on ‘mute’ and all desires surgically removed, as a baby.  Well, maybe it is the truth, but why on earth do we perpetuate such nonsense?  There is a lot to be said for the new woman (many of them my own daughters-in-law) who refuses to wear a modesty vest and who bites off her mute button and spist into into the undergrowth, standing her ground like Boudicca.  But this situation still smacks of war to me, one the sackclothed little carpet-woman manages to avoid by obligingly upholding the pillars of household peace, like Samson in a frock.

There is a third way.  There has to be.

This leads me on to the next bit.

‘One, sometimes referred to as unity, is the integer before two and after zero‘.  Integer means either a ‘whole number’ or ‘a thing complete in itself.’  It comes from the latin verb ‘tangere’,  to touch, and from it we have the word integrity, which translates as ‘the state of being whole and undivided, or ‘having the quality of being honest and with strong moral principles.’

Zero is the first number, according to some but I am only giving zero a nod and a wink for now.  It’s the number 1 I am thinking about, because, although I am one of two or of many, from millions to a book club membership,  I will always be One, and within that understandng, acceptance and knowledge lie the seeds of a colourful unity.

Having strong moral principles is a wonderful thing, providing I don’t expect anyone else to have them.  If I do, and make such an expectation clear, I am laying down my baton of integrity to don the periwig of a judge. I have just made myself divisible and I deserve whatever comes my way.  I would be wiser to concern myself with my own dirty washing, of which I may have a considerable pile.  As I judge another, thus I show, loudly, that I am wondrous to behold in my perfection, and yet it is only wordish vanity somersaulting from my mouth.  When I turn to walk away I may feel smugly chuffed but I may as well have no back to my trousers for the fool I have just made of myself.

However, if I consider not others’ failings, but my own, and if I turn the beacon inwards to study each and every one of them, and begin to address them one by one by one, I am now a Prime Number.  I have just elevated myself through the dirty cobwebs of my secretest hiding place and I can see the sky.  I have nothing to lose from now on.

Well, that’s not true.

What I am about to find as I walk back into one or other of my relationships is that nobody likes change, unless they are the one doing the changing, in which instance, it’s fine and they can’t understand what the fuss is all about.  However, if change comes in the old garb, ie the old me who always used to join in the salacious gossip, or the deliberate rebuff of a ‘lesser mortal’, or if I ran about like a ferret after everyone else’s insecurities and am suddenly absent, or, worse, actually present but unmoving, then I am going to astonish and disappoint and what’s more, be told so.  If I decide I am going to walk the other way, against my own established direction,  I will undoubtedly find myself lonely, feeling foolish and wondering how big my bum really does look.  I might even feel a frisson of fear, because I have no map for this road, not yet. Someone is bound to mutter that I have been on the sauce, or maybe I’m going through a rebellious menopause thing, hmmmm?   But, if I keep doing this new thing by not doing the old thing, I will soon find a rhythm for my feet. As long as I simply concern myself with my own sense of integrity (the state of being whole and undivided) I may not save the world, but I am saving me from carpet heaven –  I, the Prime Number One, the only one for whom I am responsible.

When I am required to make a choice that involves another, I can still approach it with integrity.  After all,  I cannot concern myself only with what I want to do or achieve at any given moment, because I am part of two.  However I am still One within that couple.  I watch young folk pull and push for independence, negotiating deals for the smooth running of a shared life. Tried it myself now and again over the years, but I make a mistake here if I expect approval for wanting something the other person doesn’t want. So what can I do?  Do I just give in and lie down?  Or do I cut my losses, decide we are incompatible and head off to find someone else to be incompatible with?

Or………..maybe I might take a hold of myself, my integrity as a Prime Number, the Number One, divisible by nothing, and take a good long look into my own shadows, and then, with the intelligence of my own heart, quietly and lovingly begin to walk my own path, the one that runs beside yours at times, and not at others, thus embodying both unity and singularity at once, without any divisor.

Such an elegant truth.


Island Blog 48 – Mother Love

Island Blog 48


This morning way too early I wake and step through the automatic doors of the hotel to say hallo to the new day.  The sky is closed, a thick pale grey over the wasteland which calls itself an industrial estate, perhaps in the hopes that it will be once industry moves in.  Outside a young woman smokes a cigarette and shivers.

I live here, she tells me, as I am homeless.  I must have looked surprised, thinking, as I did, that a hotel is not where I would expect to find a homeless anyone.  She says she has a little boy, aged six and the council have lodged her here temporarily whilst they find her a place to live.

I know my jaw drops, for it suddenly seems so huge, being homeless with a young son.  I ask her about his father and she tells me that he had hit the boy, just once, but once was enough, especially as she gave him 3 days to show remorse before leaving.  She says in that split second, what love she might have felt for him left her and stayed gone.

Her family lives in Cornwall which is light years away from here, but she won’t go home as it would disrupt the child, who loves his school, and, by the way, his father lives up here.

I thought about mothers.  What we do, what courage we find, what love we show.  We may get it all wrong, but that strong protective fire deep inside us burns bright from the moment of birth and stays with us for the rest of our lives.  Nobody, not even the child’s father, stands a chance against such a powerful energy.  We would give up our freedom, our quality of life, our life itself for our children and, if asked, we could not explain why that is.  It is both a gift and a life sentence and we have no defence against it, nor can we escape its hold on us.  Most of us, regardless of personal cost, wouldn’t want it gone anyway.  It becomes our drive, our reason for waking every morning to bring out the sunshine, even if the sky forgets to.

She finds herself some breakfast and eats alone among a scattering of strangers, all dressed crow black for the working day ahead.  I’m going back to bed now, she says… boy cries at night, doesn’t sleep good and I stay awake to hold him.

The cleaners will wake her around 11 and she will wait here, beneath the wide screen set to silent, with the hotel muzak beating out its quick fixes, until school is out.

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.

Island Blog 34 – To Rise and Fall and Rise again.

Today I spent a happy time with 3 other women over lunch.  We talked of many things, and sometimes all at the same time, but the theme that wound its way through all our conversations, was the ‘how’ of living.  How we each manage it.

Some of us walk a steady, even path, although it wasn’t always so steady.  Another is young, and she will take many paths, mainly out of youthful curiosity.

Do we lose that curiosity I wonder?  Or have we found that it doesn’t only kill cats?

The way we germinate the seeds of our own personal existence, it seems to me, is decided by the choices we make as we live out our life.  But if we felt we had no choice, or if choice was made on our behalf, does that mean that those seeds never grow and bloom?

There is a theory that we make our own choices, whether it looks like it or not.  Actually, I do agree with that theory, but I also hate it at times.  It is so much more pleasant to present myself as a victim of circumstances, or of some overbearing ‘other’ in my life.  After all, I could have been this or that, had I been allowed to make my own choices.

Couldn’t I?

When you live like I do, on a daily roller coaster, you are allowed to cast envious glances to those marching steadily along their level path of choice.  It’s fine when I am riding on point break, towering over the world and shouting ‘Woohoo, Look at Me!’  but quite another as I sink into the troughs and nearly drown.  And I do it every single day.  It is, in a word, exhausting to be me, but I am me and that’s that.

So, Me, how are we to accept that we made this choice very early on in life?  Our sisters seem very sorted, our brother too, and we all came from the same nest.  What, or who decided that we would think too much about every flaming thing, lifting up the carpet of life over and over again until the tacks give up and ping off into the unknown, leaving a permanent curl for everyone else to trip over?

Enough questions.

I have found that my first important decision each day lies not in what I do, or where I go, but in how I see what I see.  This doesn’t mean I should spend all my time looking inward but quite the opposite. When I have heard that someone is off to find themselves, in India or some such place, I have to conceal an inner snigger. In order, it seems, to feel ok, no, better, good about being a volatile lunatic, like I am, is to look at the world of which I am an essential part.  I know that sounds a bit cocky, but to be honest, it works for me.  If I can tell myself that I am here for a specific purpose, just as I am, with my own seeds to nurture and grow, then my roller coaster begins to make some sense.  After all, I can see higher and lower than the ones on the steady path.  I can spin among the clouds and swim in the deeps and I can use those powers of observation to help another.  I can take what looks like a heavy load and call it a gift. And I need to do this exactly where I am, because to flip off to India would be fine, but only if I could leave me behind.

Which I cannot.

If I am the one who has to surf the biggest waves, then let me learn how to surf.  If it is I who must sink into those troughs, then I must learn to be a cork.

And then, let me have the presence, the absolute engagement with where and who I am, to find one who fears their own sinking, and to show them that they can do it too.

Island Blog 22 – Colour me Purple

A young friend, half my age and still scampering through her life, arrived the other day with perfectly painted toenails, a crisp bright red and not a single mistake.  I had to put my specs on to be sure.  Not only was the polish perfect (she had painted them herself, whilst her children ate their coco-pops), but so were her toes.  I looked down at my own unpainted, bent battered toes and had a little sigh to myself, but only a little one.  I remembered carrying all those babies, those half hundredweight sacks of potatoes, and all that marching up and down the hill, all that stomping around in various stages of outraged indignation and I thanked my bent battered toes for their unquestioning loyalty to the rest of me.  She, of the perfect toes, is careless with her youthful vitality, just as I was.  I never thought, for one minute, I would cascade into a heap of wrinkles, because it just seemed impossible. It seemed so unlike me.

Well here I am, and it’s hilarious most of the time.  What I have found, in these purple years, is the wonderful humour of women. More precious than any jewels, we are born with it and we can always access it when faced with challenges.  We can rise, as we always have, to the occasion, joshing with each other, encouraging and teasing, propping each other up, accentuating the positive.  Even when this ageing process brings us up short and sharp and sore, there is a woman near to hand to help us laugh at ourselves, in a gentle and sensitive way, because she knows exactly how we feel about our five stomachs and the cold in our bones, and our rheumatic fingers that used to play Rachmaninov and now have trouble peeling an orange.

Well I say this to all of you fabulous women.

Firstly, you really are fabulous, every single one of you, and younger women need to see us plucky old girls with a smile on our faces.  It takes longer, I agree, to elevate the wrinkles, but it’s still possible, and, besides, we can smile with our eyes, our humour, our experience of life.   Getting older is getting better, if we decide it is so, and what about this childlike sense of devil-may-care?  That desire to jump on sandcastles and run a stick along someone’s railings, or pinch an apple from their tree.  Where did that come from?  I think it arrived when I turned 50 and I believe it to be the Great Consolation.

So, I’m going to make the very most of this delicious ageing process, and, when I am really old, which is a very long way off, I don’t want to be a sweet old lady.  I want everyone to be saying……….oh glory, what IS she up to now?

Dance as though no-one is watching....

Dance as though no-one is watching….

Island Blog 20 – On Relations and Ships

Island Blog 20 - Dude Dog


I’ve been thinking about relationships recently, about the width and length and depth of them, about their shape and colour.  They are randomly dotted throughout our lives like wild poppies in a cornfield; bright, nourishing, individual and personal; at work, at home, at school, in our village street and every relationship unique as a snow flake.   Relationships matter from the moment we rise until the moment we lay us down to sleep at night, and, without them, or with destructive ones, we humans falter and weaken in spirit and confidence. We wander as lost souls in what looks like a cold and unfriendly world.

Which it isn’t.

As a child I don’t worry about the dynamics of any of my relationships for the language is not yet grown in me,either to explain or understand.  I just am.  I run and play my way through my days, trusting (although I don’t even know that word yet) that I will be dressed and fed and loved and cared for.  As I move into the angst-ridden and angry teenage years, I begin to question, I begin to understand, but I have not yet learned how to communicate, other than with my peers in ways that cause my elders considerable puzzlement.  If I am a boy, I grunt in varying keys and laugh in staccato bursts, often rather unsure of the joke. And that’s about all I can say about boys, not being one myself.

If I am a girl I learn to talk a lot and giggle infuriatingly every time anyone opens their mouth. I have a little more awareness of the world I have arrived in, but fight a daily battle with myself over the size of my bottom or the spread of my toes, or the fact that my girlfriend is allowed to turn the tv on without having to make a request in writing, giving due notice.

I am full of envy of pretty much everyone else in my group and I run the very real risk of turning green.  If I am lucky enough to have a mother who remembers her own uncomfortable struggle with hormones, and who can watch me through compassionate eyes, I am one of the lucky ones.  If, on the other hand, my mother never concerned herself much with the discomforts of teenage life, then my relationship with her will be a very different one, defining, to some degree, all future ones.  I seek understanding and I don’t get it, and so I turn away into my lonely self or out to my peer group to forge friendships that may not be healthy ones.

Then I grow up (in theory) and everyone thinks I’m an adult because I now look like one, but my outward appearance belies the inner truth.  I am as insecure as I was in sentient childhood, but I must keep it a secret, or I might appear to be too small for my skin.

If my primary relationship is all the right colours and the perfect shape, I find I can do anything, go anywhere, flow naturally, be myself, but relationships, any of them, need both parties to be aware and interested in the collective result.  Otherwise, we are just tumble-weeds in the desert, at the mercy of every capricious wind.

I like to divide up the word.  Relation and Ship.

One sounds grounded, one wild and free and fizzing with adventure.

Too caught up in worldly cares and I grow brown and dull.

Too wild and colourful and I may find myself  locked up.  I need to be the link between the two and hold on tight.

What I want is a ladder to the moon.

Blog 20 - Full Moon

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)