Island Blog – An Old Lady and This Day

Today I watched, on a Zoom meet, a woman of almost 90 and obviously quite the thing around the interworld. She, elegant and with the bright eyes of a bird, was clearly confident. She uses WhatsApp, Facebook and other apps with strange names, although she didn’t announce it in search of a Goodlordwelldonehowamazingyouare response. In fact I suspect she might have looked astonished had any of us shown our resistance or lack of interest in being thus in touch with cyber space. I thought on her life, about which I know absolutely nothing. She knew war and deprivation, loss and fear, possibly hunger and cold. She knew flappers and bombs, new jazz and silent movies. What things she has seen in her long lifetime, what things! And she is not confused, not at all, nor has she lost her beauty, that soft-lined old face with more laugh lines than wrinkles and not a whine in sight. I suspect she was fierce, could be fierce and might yet be fierce and that thinks me. In her days of simple but harsh life, she had to keep her humour and her resilience, her softness and her fight. She needed both heart and claws. I imagine she was decisive and direct, unfearful as we are now fearful to confront rudeness, untruth, injustice and wrongdoings. She looks pint sized but never let a pint sized woman kid you into thinking you are stronger, because you are not. It isn’t about size nor physical strength but about courage, passion and backbone. I wanted to sit at her feet to hear her stories. I just hope her young ask her for I do regret not asking enough for stories from my own old ones.

So an ordinary morning was flipped on its aspidistra. Just like that. An invite to a zoom, to meet women I don’t know turned into a whole day of thinks and mind flips, memories and chuckles. Ah, when we greet the day with open hearts, what delights and sights await our looking eyes! If we are looking, that is. I am always looking so that every incoming thing catches my eyes. Was I born with this? Perhaps, but that perhaps can get subsumed by lifely demands, lists, children, workloads and drudge until it becomes something you can’t really taste in a tired sandwich. I’ve been lost there too. But there is this thing in me that refuses not to live, to really live, even on shambolic tricksy days. I can feel low and full of self-pity and there’s a word or two on that. Self pity is everywhere inside us. It is an easy go-to when life happens, when life throws the shit our way and laughs in our faces. I tried resisting, I tried reasoning, I tried logic and denial and not one of them ever worked. Ok, I said. This is not working. Let us meet, my unwelcome visitor, across the table, my table, and discuss. I soon saw it, Self Pity, for what it is and, after a few direct questions, its voice became skinny against my inner core strength, my own self. It surprised me at first, and then as confidence grew, I took my power back. I am taking my power back, I had said in my best strong voice and it bent and cracked and crumbled until there was nobody but me at that table. It was a gasp for me because I never felt any inner core strength, nor power, but just ran into the fight with heart and claws and with no idea of the outcome. I bluffed, basically.

I wonder how many times that long-living woman did just that right out on the street of her life, within her home, along her neighbourhood. These days we fight with ourselves. In her day there was no such thinking. The tough survived, the weak did not, although I bet she helped a few. Back then, thinking was for the thinkers and not for we ordinary folks. We just pulled on our stockings and got on with it, with all of the ‘its’ day after day after day. Not a bad way to live. Although I do bow to the thinkers, they have, unintentionally, opened up a can of worms because many of us stay with the worms and forget to live, to dance, to fight for injustice, to laugh at disaster because we know what we can do in the face of it. Like her, like that old lady who changed my day and not just this one.

Island Blog 140 Larks and Kate

 

dna

 

 

Singing is a lark don’t you think?

I feel like singing a lot of the time and sometimes in the wrong places such as the dentist’s waiting room or in a queue at the airport.  In my imagination I play out what would happen if I did sing.  That old lady over there would probably smile.  The kids would gawp and wonder if they had stepped into a movie and all the rest would study me from top to toe and think me bonkers.  None of that would matter if I could guarantee sounding good, which is never a given.  I would have to be travelling alone because being with someone else puts me in a situation of being One of Two, giving Two the right to an opinion and to take preventative action, neither of which boost conifdence.  I can feel very sure about a spontaneous decision and very unsure indeed about that same decision in the flip of one second when I am One of Two.  No, I need to be One of One if I plan to orchestrate my own flashmob without the mob.  I suspect this leaves me ‘flash’ and all my minders will roll their eyes and nod their heads at that association.

What, I wonder, is so wrong about bursting into song all alone whilst completely sober just because other people are around?  Other people are always around.  I would have to wander a desert or fly to the moon to find no people around.  It isn’t the same singing in the shower, or the car or when the house is empty and I don’t know why but it just isn’t.  There’s a sudden joy that pre-empts a desire to sing which I just don’t feel in the shower or the car or when the house is empty.  There is something about being out in the world, being among fellow humans, being alone among the crowds;  a sort of devilment, a pixie sense of fun, a frisson of excitement at absolutely nothing.  This is when I want to jump over the railings or tightrope walk a garden wall; when pavement squares threaten bears and, in their less dangerous moments, hopscotch.  I like sitting on the pavement and I do if I feel tired of the concrete seeping into my legs but rarely, if ever, has anyone joined me.  Why do we hate to stand out in a crowd when we so long to be individual and recognised as such?  It’s about looking foolish isn’t it. (not a question)

The thing is this.  We are a long time dead.  A boarding school best friend, lost over the years and found again quite recently has just contracted a wasting disease and died within months.  She was the same age as me.  When we unwillingly schooled together, we recognised a fellow scallywag immediately.  She didn’t want to knuckle down to ancient scratchy-knickered traditions any more than I did.  We found many ways to make life fun, and to make fun of everyone else.  She was wiry and fizzing with energy and always up for a lark.  And now she’s gone. But I did know her and I am remembering her and that time we hooked up in London and shared lunch and memories.  Our lives had been different and neither one a merry breeze but we were resilient, strong, feisty women who ‘sung’ our hearts out at every opportunity whether it sounded good or not.  If I had Kate behind me as my foolish imagination began to propel me into a flashmob without the mob, she would have joined me, not having a clue what to do but looking all enthusiastic about it anyway.  Perhaps we are born bonkers and perhaps this bonkerness is so deep within us that no man nor beast nor disaster nor catastrophe can even dent, never mind eradicate.  Well YAHOOO! to that is what I say.

When we talked, Kate and I about the other girls there, we discovered she had kept up with them whereas I had not.  She knew bits and pieces about each girl’s life and had met up with a few of them, even returning once to an old school reunion which I most definitely didn’t, not least because by that time I had 65 children and lived on the moon.  I wonder about their lives lived – what they really dreamed of.  We never talked that way at boarding school.  We talked about netball and ghastly cheese pie and who had fallen out with who, and why.  Most girls kept in line. The risk of being punished was way too great for any out-of-line-stepping.  It was all about the ‘Team spirit gels!’ – a team spirit structured by Them for Us, regardless of allergies or differences of opinion on the ‘how and why’ of such a structure.  Clomping to church in galoshes on a dry morning did little to encourage this team spirit and a whole lot for my inventive imagination.  In fact, I think it may well be precisely because I was grown in Boot Camp and then, at my most difficult stage, packaged off to Corntonvale au Sud, that I learned singing at all.  I don’t mean this literally, although I was a choir member and I did take my pianoforte exams, but more the sort of singing that comes from a deep place, one that won’t be stopped, one that doesn’t mind how it sounds when allowed to escape;  that singing that lifts and separates better than any playtex living bra; when one of two is suddenly one in a million and forever fixed in 999999999 minds, with adjectives various affixed; that singing you meet in another’s eyes, the one that tells you it’s ok now. There are two scallywags in this convent.

Singing is a lark.  Kate was a lark.  Therefore Kate was Singing.